Sunday, March 31, 2019

Bedlam & Breakfast at a Devon Seaside Guesthouse by Sharley Scott





Bedlam & Breakfast
at a Devon Seaside Guesthouse

Katie is desperate to leave her stressful job, so she doesn’t think too hard about moving to Devon to run a B&B, even if it means uprooting her family. She is certain that she and Jason have a strong and loving relationship which can weather any storm.






Hooked by the beauty of Torringham with its quaint harbour and stunning coastline, they purchase Flotsam Guesthouse which needs more than a lick of paint to keep it afloat. Soon, Katie finds that renovating and running a guesthouse is taking its toll, especially when dealing with challenging guests and madcap neighbours, Shona and Kim. Katie comes to learn that trouble is afoot whenever Shona begs a favour.

However, when her adored daughter moves back to their old hometown, she wonders if they’ve made a huge mistake, especially when cracks begin to show in her marriage.

Her seaside idyll is crumbling along with her relationship. Should she let Flotsam Guesthouse founder while she salvages her marriage? Katie needs to decide where her priorities lie. The only issue is, she doesn’t know.
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Sometimes you just want a good book to escape into. We all have had dreams of packing everything up and making a huge life change.
Katie and Jason knew that their dream of living seaside would take some work.  Their girls were pretty much grown and their old jobs were no longer satisfying. When they got a "deal" on a bed and breakfast, needing just a little TLC and some special handling, they were obviously nervous but felt up to the challenge. Why were the sellers so eager to move on, and so open about not being able to be reached after the sale? It doesn't take long to figure this out.

Filled with wonderful characters and amusing (to those of us looking in from the outside) anecdotes of new adventure and unexpected things to tackle every time one turns around,  Katie and Jason did not deserve the further complications brought about by sellers Maureen and Jim.  From a new life meant to bring the family together to stress designed to drive this couple apart,  weather, over which we know no man has control,  and an assortment of visitors and guests,  and a force to be reckoned with at a guest house next door, this book will make you take a second look at your own life and appreciate your own troubles. They could be much more challenging.


Author Bio
While 'Bedlam & Breakfast at a Devon Seaside Guesthouse' is fictional, I am a guesthouse owner. Thankfully, we have been blessed with lots of amazing and kind-hearted guests, who are nothing like some of the characters featured in this novel and the subsequent books in the series. I would be a lot greyer if they were.

Likewise, Jason is quite different to my husband, who I sometimes nickname Victor Meldrew. He is lovely though and has a fab sense of humour, although some of his dryness has rubbed off on Jason.

Bedlam & Breakfast is set in South Devon, in the fictional town of Torringham, which is loosely based on Brixham. If you've been to Brixham you may recognise some of the local features, including the seals, fishing industry and the fantastic lifeboat crew, but the businesses, people and a number of settings are fictionalised.

The same applies to the B&B owners featured. Many guesthouse owners undertake work when they move into a property and our current B&B was not an exception. While, thankfully, our previous owners were nothing like Jim and Maureen, this also means we don’t get to live next door to the fabulous Shona and Kim. But we do have many lovely B&B friends. B&Bers are a wonderful and hardworking bunch, although the ones we know have a perchant for parties in the low season. That's why I had to end Bedlam & Breakfast at a party. 
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Saturday, March 30, 2019







Reflected Destinies

Laura is happy and content, she has a new boyfriend and loves her job teaching primary school pupils in London.  

But when she inherits a rundown house from a stranger on her 30th birthday, memories of her prom night come flooding back, memories of a scary encounter and an antique mirror in the very same house.

Laura visits the house with all its secrets and as she unravels the clues she reveals the biggest secret of all: her own destiny.  But how can you change the future if it’s already written in the past?


To celebrate Mother’s Day, Reflected Destinies will be half price from 29th March to 1st April.






About Florence Keeling
Florence Keeling adopted for her pen-name her Great Grandmother's name, chosen because of the shared birthday of April Fool's Day.  She is married with two teenage chidren.  Born and raised in Coventry, England she now lives just outside in Nuneaton.  Reflected Destinies is her first novel.

Florence Keeling also writes for children under the name of Lily Mae Walters.


Friday, March 29, 2019

Love and the Mystery of Betrayal




LOVE AND THE MYSTERY OF BETRAYAL by Sandra Lee Dennis, Relationships/Spiritual/Self-Help, 290 pp., $19.95 (paperback) $9.99 (Kindle)


Title: LOVE AND THE MYSTERY OF BETRAYAL
Author: Sandra Lee Dennis
Publisher: West County Press
Pages: 290
Genre: Relationships/Spiritual/Self-Help



Betrayal of love inflicts a unique, unprecedented pain you can only comprehend once you have experienced it. If you are suffering from an intimate betrayal, you know. Betrayal is stunning. It is mind-boggling. You feel paralyzed, mystified, enraged, panicked, bewildered; but, mostly, you hurt. Betrayal is a make-or-break event that marks a cataclysmic divide in your life. It changes you. When you believe in someone so completely and then realize they have been deceiving you about their love and loyalty, the worst thing happens: Your faith in yourself crumbles. The shock lifts a veil from your eyes, and you can never see yourself or the world in the same way again.

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______________________


In the messiness and ignorance of our humanity we struggle to cope with the demands of being human. We all make mistakes, especially in our closest relationships. Everyone can recall times of disappointment with friends, companions, family members, advisors, teachers, or coworkers when we have felt betrayed or betrayed others or ourselves. We gain self-knowledge and learn to apologize and to forgive as we work through the many ways we let each other down. There are minor, everyday betrayals, and then there are the life-exploding disclosures that I explore in this book, the ones that break your heart, fracture your world, and threaten to destroy your soul. I specifically address betrayal in love—a shattering of trust by the one you have been most
intimate with and relied on to protect you from harm.

If you are suffering from an intimate betrayal, you know. Betrayal is stun-ning. It is mind-boggling. It traumatizes you and upends your life. Mostly, it hurts. Betrayal inflicts a unique, unprecedented pain you can only compre-hend once you have experienced it. Interpersonal trauma changes you. It lifts a veil from your eyes, and you can never see the world in the same way again. Yet we live in a culture that is blind to both the depth of wounding and the heart-expanding potential of such a blow.

Before your trust was shattered, you lived shielded from the indescribable pain you feel now that the veil has lifted. Such havoc betrayal wreaks, the multilayered torments of body, mind, and soul are so extreme that it can feel like nothing less than torture. No wonder we tend to turn away, minimize, and bury the hurt. If you are like me, you also do not want anyone to know what is happening to you. It is humiliating and maddening to be in pain, obsessing about someone that has left, deceived, or cheated on you. You can begin to feel like a character in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Friends and family tend to look the other way, too. No one likes to see a person so out of control of their destiny.




I know because I had the veil lifted from my eyes, in a familiar way known to many. The man I loved left me. With virtually no warning, my partner of six years walked out a few weeks before a big wedding we had planned. When he went from “I’ll love you forever” one day to “I’m finished with you” the next, it stopped my world. His wholly unanticipated exit from our home and my life led me to suffer more than I believed was humanly possible. At the same time, the distress awakened depths of my heart that took my capacity to love into uncharted territory.

Meanwhile, friends and family advised me to get over it and move on as quickly as possible. They were right, I reasoned, I would move on…I tried, but it was not to be. Once the initial shock lessened, I began to grasp that my trust in life had disappeared. My entire world had suddenly turned hostile, or so it seemed, because of the faithlessness of one person—albeit one very central person, the one I had counted most in the world to be there and care for me. His abrupt about-face marked a cataclysmic divide in my life.

Prior to the moment he walked out, I had considered myself a together, self-aware person. After he left, I was more like a delusional broken heap. I put on a self-assured face, but wandered around like a Swiss cheese, shot full of holes, bewildered, with a secret, stabbing pain in my heart. I vacil-lated between rage, panic, and bouts of grief. Often I could not stop crying. Falling apart was to be expected—“everybody has been there”—after a tough breakup. But the problem was, as time went on, my condition got worse, not better. Instead of a few weeks or months, it went on for years.

I could not comprehend why I had gone from competent professional to terrified, whimpering child, unable to do much of anything, let alone “move on.” It was only later that I realized this was no ordinary breakup. Eventually, I realized how deeply I had been traumatized, and that the nightmare of post-traumatic stress had set in.

Mine is not an obvious or sensational horror story of betrayal and abuse. I was not hit, or cheated on, raped or stolen from, yelled at, or bullied into submission, not even abandoned dramatically at the altar. I wrote this book to help show how relational trauma these days is often not obvious. Many of us have become too educated, smooth, or sophisticated for such overt aggres-sion. The damage to my trust and the erosion of the quality of my life came from mind-bending subtleties, primarily half-truths concealed as exceptional honesty: from bouts of seduction and warmth laced with withholding and withdrawal; insincere profusions of praise, affection and loyalty, interspersed with blame and criticism; important omissions of personal history; sexual manipulation masked as the deepest love; systematic devaluation; and finally



a complete Jekyll-and-Hyde character reversal. Abandonment and replace-ment were only the final and most obvious blows to my sanity and stability.

Emotional abuse and mental cruelty can be more damaging than blatant physical abuse because, at least when someone beats you, or cheats on you, it is clearly their problem. When you have a dagger plunged into your heart while being held in a loving embrace, on the other hand, you do not know what hit you. When you are betrayed with charm and a smile, it is stunning and crazy making. If you have given the benefit of the doubt to and believed in your partner, it can take a long time to get the hook out and make sense of your world again. Meanwhile, you wonder if you are fit any longer for human company, or if you should have yourself committed for observation.

As I tried to make sense of what happened, my mind flooded with ques-tions. Perhaps the most painful was, “How could I not have seen this com-ing?” When you believe in someone so completely and then realize they have been deceiving you about their love and loyalty, the worst thing happens: Your faith in yourself crumbles. The instincts you relied on to perceive and under-stand your world have misled you, and you do not know how you will ever be able to trust yourself again. It alarmed me when I realized I had lost faith, not only in myself, but also in other people—and, most disturbingly, in life itself.

My heart goes out to you if you are in a similar situation. Perhaps what I share will help you sort through the bewilderment and confusion, regain trust in your own perceptions, and get through the worst. I had lived a lot of life and had a lot of psychological experience and inner resources when this ax fell. If anyone “should” have seen this coming and been prepared when it did, it was I. But I was not at all prepared.

To make it through this ordeal, I turned instinctively to my spiritual prac-tices: mindfulness meditation, inquiry, yoga. I coped by sitting for hours each day, breathing and watching the chaos, tracking sensations, thoughts, and feelings. I was astonished at how much I learned—more, I thought, in two years than I had in the ten previous. As a former college psychology professor, and a teacher at heart, passing on what I learn comes almost as second nature.

I did a lot of research in the effort to understand what I was going through. I read hundreds of books and talked to scores of people. I researched a wide range of subjects and touch on many here—trauma, posttraumatic stress, domestic violence, subtle-body experiences, attachment theory, projection and splitting, death and dying, faith and conscience, grief and forgiveness, Buddhist meditation and Christian contemplation and prayer. I found that prescriptions and advice abound on how to survive the loss of love, to heal from a broken heart, to endure a dark night of the soul, to put your life back




together, and to move on after being betrayed or abandoned. But for a long time, I found little that validated my extreme experiences.

Those around me, and even I, considered being abandoned by the person I intended to spend the rest of my life with an unfortunate, but minor event to be swept aside and forgotten, the sooner, the better. After all, people readily recover from far worse things. Conventional wisdom, I discovered, was way off with its clichéd treatment of heartbreak and betrayal as minor blips on the screen of life that you tend to for a while before moving on to better things.

The shame I felt about the depth and duration of the pain, along with the fact my friends, family, and even counselors did not understand, encour-aged my silence. The lingering effects on those of us who receive such a shock become a secret we do not want to share with anyone. We even want to hide the life-changing repercussions from ourselves. Amidst my struggle to recover, I recognized that many who had undergone similar experiences had simply shut down. For a time, I feared I would do the same. The continuing torment of having my heart torn out by someone I believed loved me deeply and to whom I had committed my love and life was just too much to bear.

When you hurt this much, instinctively you want to help make it less difficult for anyone else in pain. I never set out to write this book, but once it started pouring out of me, I felt how much I wanted to bring more light to the facts of what an experience like this actually does to a person. There was so much to learn about this underrated trauma—the “most difficult of all woundings,” as one author put it. I decided to base this book first on immer-sion into the lived experience, a type of phenomenological research. I believe this approach led to the emergence of a more nuanced perspective and a deeper understanding than a study based on analysis and theory alone could offer.

The orientation that guided me was to turn with curiosity toward the suf-fering, rather than stifling the pain or distracting myself. This approach will be familiar to many spiritual seekers and to those who have struggled to come to terms with great loss—the way out is through the darkness. What it takes to make this turn, to go from theory to practice in the midst of prolonged psychological pain, tells an unforeseen story for each of us.

Taken to heart this way, I found betrayal to be an initiation into an unknown self. The shock launches the betrayed on a “night sea journey,” that stage in spiritual growth known in mystical traditions as a dark night of the soul. In this mythological descent you are taken suddenly into deep waters and swallowed up by a sea dragon. Like Jonah, you are stripped bare and robbed of what is dearest to your heart. The metaphors of darkness and night apply because you do not know what is happening. You feel as if you must be dying



and you are. Some part of your old nature is being shorn away to make way for the new you cannot imagine, and over which you have no control.

Ultimately, we each have to find our own way in the dark, until we are thrown back onto land and the light of day. I share my truth, knowing no one can tell another what it takes to welcome this unwanted journey. It took me years to recover myself, and I fought it all the way, but I finally came to recog-nize that betrayal and trust form two poles of experience. Apparently, we can-not embrace one until we have drunk deeply of the other. Through destroying my trust, and taking me into more suffering than I had ever known, betrayal catalyzed a transformation inside that awakened qualities of faith, compas-sion, and love I barely imagined were possible.

During the long days and nights of blame and rage, of tears and star-ing off into space, beneath my awareness, strange mystic moments penetrated through the pain. These elusive flashes of truth, fleeting at first, but arrest-ing, planted seeds of renewed faith and trust in the ground of my own raw heart. With time, against all instinct, I learned to embrace the humiliation and heartbreak as the terrain I needed to pass through in order to deepen into secrets of a love my soul was hungry to taste.

Never before had I felt such intimate kinship with life around me. Never had my heart beaten in such rhythm with others in pain. Never had I sensed such a fervent need not to harm anyone else with my actions. Never had I felt the vast sadness I had carried in my bones my entire life. Never before had I sensed the touch of the “hands of light” comforting me, or the gentle power of the earth and sky supporting me, or the tender stirrings in my heart of what I could only call divine love flowing toward me.

All this took time, much more than I approved of. Meanwhile I thought the pain would never end. A turning point in my struggles came when I began to question the true source of my torments. One day, in one of those flashes, I intuited that the obvious villain—the person who had hurt me so griev-ously—had been but an instrument in the hands of an unseen destiny. I real-ized the peace I needed to make was not with my errant partner, but with my own heart, my fate, my God. The insight came and went, but the truth had touched my core.

While each story of love’s betrayal is unique, as are the individuals involved, betrayal is an archetypal experience. It is an event that we each carry in our collective memory, from the moment of being born into this world. Because of its archetypal core, the study of betrayal’s dynamics and impact has something to teach us all. If, however, you have been spared the trial of an intimate betrayal, what I describe may not make much sense to you. It may seem extreme, exaggerated, even melodramatic. That would have been



the case for me before I passed through this ordeal. I would not have had the slightest interest in a book such as this one. I had no idea.

For this reason, I offer this book primarily, and believe it will be most help-ful, for those who have been betrayed, now or in the past, by someone they loved and trusted; and for those wishing to help another navigate these waters. I offer my story and my perspective, along with the results of my research, not as an authority, but as a fellow traveler. I offer companionship, validation, and solace if you are going through this harrowing time. I admit right now that in the extended darkness, I despaired of ever trusting or caring enough to engage life again. While I hoped against hope that the proverbial “pearl of great price” was waiting to be found in the ruins of my torn-up heart, my doubts were grave. I chronicle many of those doubts here.

I can report that finally the miracle of saying yes to what I wanted least in my life did take root in my soul. To my surprise, the shattering of my world had magnetized a grace that was teaching me how and what to trust. As I write now, nearly five years later, recovering myself is a work in progress. But I have learned the greatest lesson in my life to date. Deep suffering invites us into mystery: The pain speaks a message we need and long to hear. The rage and yearning are prayers for truth, for love. At the point of utmost brokenness, I did indeed find a golden pearl—the longing cry of my own heart for a love that endures, a greater, divine love that cannot and does not die.

Please let my words resonate with your own experience where and how they will. I know I cannot speak for what anyone else is going through. But I trust that the universal core of this journey into and through the heart broken in love will ring true for many. I wish for you, too, to find your gold.

*  *      *          *          *

This book is divided into four parts, some of which may only be of interest to certain readers. Part I revolves around the shock and shattering of intimate betrayal. In terms of a rite of passage, this section deals primarily with the radical separation from one’s past life a traumatic betrayal initiates. Included in this section is the overall narrative of “my story” (chapters 1 and 2) and of my early efforts to cope with the trauma and make sense of what happened. Some may be inclined to skip the story segments. Starting with chapter 3, I discuss the psychological dynamics of betrayal and introduce a number of themes, such as recognizing and coping with the ego-shattering trauma, and the spiritual perspective that will be developed more fully later in the book.

Part II shifts the focus to the mystery of relationship itself. I explore the impact on the subtle body of intimate relationship through the lens both of my husband’s death and of the abandonment that impelled me to write this


book. This is a section that I imagine will be most accessible to other women. Sexual bonding, wounds to the etheric body, adultery, the role of psychologi-cal projection in intimate relating are all considered. This section also includes a discussion of the cultural blindness to betrayal.

Part III focuses directly on the dark night or threshold phase of initiation: the shock and suffering. I begin with an in-depth discussion of the trauma and dive into the details of the dark night passage, including the opening up of earlier trauma, infantile and existential, the unloading of the unconscious, a travelogue through isolation, fear, shame, rage, helplessness, meaninglessness, and more. The spiritual perspective emerges as acceptance of pain becomes a prayer of the heart.

By Part IV the book moves more directly into the shift to the awaken-ing heart that is taking place. I chronicle the grief that pours forth as the deep heart opens, explore the role of conscience, and grapple more fully with forgiveness. The desperation of the dark time leads gradually to surrender, to prayer, to the acceptance of grace and love, and finally I discuss the challenges of the return to ordinary life coming back from the descent. If you are inter-ested in the narrative, read the book from the beginning. Otherwise, please just dip into topics of interest to you.

*  *      *          *          *

Because I write from personal experience, I speak from the perspective of a woman betrayed by a man. I am, of course, aware that women play out this same dynamic with men and other women, and that men betray other men. I have chosen the orientation of a woman speaking to other heterosexual women for the sake of consistency, and because it best reflects what I have lived. I believe that our common humanity transcends gender, and that the descriptions of betrayal as an often unwitting abuse of power on the psycho-logical level, as well as an initiation into the mysteries of heart on the spiritual, will also resonate for those in same-sex relationships and for men betrayed by a woman. That said, please forgive whatever gender bias has slipped into the telling.

I ask your forgiveness also for whatever blame, harshness, or hurt may still accompany my tone with regard to “the betrayer.” I have tried my best to restrain the impulse to character assassination, and, I think, have at least partially succeeded: but I have plenty of blind spots, I am sure. Opening to the compassionate heart that can hold it all in love is a work in progress, the work of a lifetime.


Please be forewarned that I often use the word God in this writing. I use God to refer to the unknowable mystery that animates our world. Other terms that point to the same indescribable source of life include: Spirit, cre-ator, Christ or Buddha nature, the Divine, Atman, Allah, Holy Spirit, source, Higher Power, Divine Mother, the Tao, the mystery, love, truth, silence, still-ness. Maybe these words should all be capitalized to indicate a compelling, alive presence, both independent and yet part of us. Some people by tempera-ment experience this reality as a presence or a being, others as a place, or a state of mind. My inclination is toward the personal. In this writing, they are all pointers—to the living love that surrounds us, the creative source of all that is.
 



Spring is a time of renewal and fresh starts, rebirth if one is fortunate. 
Before rebirth, unfortunately, comes death and often betrayal, both frequently associated with pain.
Pain is subjective, making it difficult to judge. No two people experience it at the same level. It is personal and perceptive. It is also sneaky and ever changing.
This book is well researched and presented from a perspective that may appeal to readers of various spiritual understandings.
Using her own betrayal by a man she thought she would spend life with, the author explains phases one must pass through and techniques that may assist in rebuilding a life for the injured and betrayed. 
Betrayal comes in many forms and various levels. It could be by a person or a group, loss of a job or situation, that helped form one's self image and sense of worth. My own betrayal shattered my world and left me afloat for years, never to trust in the same way or depth again.

The book is divided in four parts, beginning with a description of the author's personal betrayal situation. Chapter 3 introduces some psychological distinctions and themes of betrayal trauma.
As a result of betrayal and the lingering and retriggered PTSD "you no longer speak the language of those you knew and no longer understand who or what to rely on to guide you." 
This is a result of having given up our power to another, allowing them to hurt us so deeply. We had been lead to believe that to live life to the fullest we need to be open and vulnerable. After betrayal we never want to put ourselves in that position again. The only way we know to remain protected is to cut ourselves off from the world. This takes away our ability to experience joy, passion and give meaning to even being alive. A sense of powerlessness sets in and extends beyond out external circumstances to our internal and eternal expectations and experiences.
No matter when or how you come out the other side, you will be changed and no longer view the world the same.
The question comes to can we create a new life with the ability to love and trust again?
Should we forgive and or forget? Will sharing our story help others or even ourselves? Does it matter what people think about our reactions to our perceived betrayal? 
Can we adjust and grow beyond the activities required for basic survival, can we learn to trust and give way some of our power again?
The author seems to have found a way to move forward.
I read this book because I still struggle.


SANDRA LEE DENNIS, PhD, is an author, teacher and explorer of the interplay of depth psychology and spirituality. She holds an MA in Psychology and a PhD in Integral Studies/ Psychology and Religion. She has been on the faculty of several universities, as well as the San Francisco Jung Institute.

Sandra’s writings bridge the world of scholar and visionary. She loves to bring light to those subtle interior spheres that defy description, and can appear frightening or unreal to the logical mind.  Her deep-diving explorations have helped many to “translate their darkness” — to name and bring compassion to their grief, anger, confusion and pain.

She was a teacher in the Gurdjieff tradition for many years, an Ananda Yoga instructor, and a long-time student of Diamond Heart work.  Currently, she is enjoying life in the Bay Area.

Website Address: www.sandraleedennis.com
Blog Address: http://www.sandraleedennis.com/healing-a-broken-heart-blog/
Twitter Address: https://twitter.com/Sandraleedennis
Facebook Address: https://www.facebook.com/SandraLeeDennisAuthor



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Thursday, March 28, 2019

THE HIDDEN CORPSE


The Hidden Corpse (A Food Blogger Mystery) by Debra Sennefelder

About the Book

 
Cozy Mystery 2nd in Series
Kensington (March 26, 2019) 
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages 
ISBN-10: 1496715934
ISBN-13: 978-1496715937 
Digital ASIN: B07F5YS5XR

Former reality TV baking show contestant and recent divorcée Hope Early is trying to find her recipe for success as a food blogger—but murder keeps getting in the mix . . . When Hope’s elderly neighbor perishes in a home fire, she can't help but feel somewhat responsible. Only the day before, Peggy Olson had called her over, having burned a pot on the stove while she was sleeping and filling the house with smoke. In fact, she couldn't even remember cooking. Clearly, it was dangerous for the woman to live alone. But it turns out she wasn't alone. When a second body is discovered in the basement of the burned house, suddenly what appeared to be a tragic accident is beginning to look like premeditated murder. As rumors spread like wildfire, Hope is determined to sort out the facts and smoke out a killer, but she might be jumping from the frying pan straight into the fire . . . Includes Recipes from Hope’s Kitchen!

A series that has all the wonderful elements cozy readers look forward to visiting again and again.
Food blogger Hope Early is trying to keep her blog fresh and relevant. She enrolls in a photography course taught by Cal Barnhart. Cal's wife is missing and Hope has a feeling that this will not have  a acceptable outcome.
Suspects are many and the clues are well dispersed. I love the great cast of characters author Sennefelder has created.  She once again takes my emotions on a ride.
The pace flows smooth and steady and this book can be read as a stand alone.
Add in a darling dog and some cookie recipes and you are sure to have a winner in my heart.

About the Author

Debra Sennefelder, the author of the Food Blogger Mystery series and the Resale Boutique Mystery series, is an avid reader who reads across a range of genres, but mystery fiction is her obsession. Her interest in people and relationships is channeled into her novels against a backdrop of crime and mystery. When she’s not reading, she enjoys cooking and baking and as a former food blogger, she is constantly taking photographs of her food. Yeah, she’s that person. Born and raised in New York City, she now lives and writes in Connecticut with her family. She’s worked in pre-hospital care, retail and publishing. Her writing companions are her adorable and slightly spoiled Shih-Tzus, Susie and Billy. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, Women's Fiction Writers Association and Romance Writers of America.
  Author Links: WebsiteFacebookGoodreads 
Purchase Links - Amazon - B&N - Kobo - Google Play - IndieBound

 

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Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Old Man’s Request

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THE OLD MAN'S REQUEST by Joab Stieglitz, 
Historical Suspense, 117 pp.
 $11.99 (paperback) $2.99 (Kindle)


Title: THE OLD MAN’S REQUEST
Author: Joab Stieglitz
Publisher: Rantings of a Wandering Mind
Pages: 117
Genre: Historical Suspense



An Innocent Favor for a Dying Old Friend…

Fifty years ago, a group of college friends dabbled in the occult and released a malign presence on the world. Now, on his deathbed, the last of the students, now a trustee of Reister University enlists the aid of three newcomers to banish the thing they summoned.

Russian anthropologist Anna Rykov, doctor Harry Lamb, and Father Sean O’Malley are all indebted the ailing trustee for their positions. Together, they pursue the knowledge and resources needed to perform the ritual.

Hampered by the old man’s greedy son, the wizened director of the university library, and a private investigator with a troubled past, can they perform the ritual and banish the entity?

ORDER YOUR COPY:

______________________






CHAPTER 1


June 18, 1929

Final papers in hand, Anna  emerged from the Edison science building and made her way toward Olson Street to catch the trolley to the house she was renting on the other side of the river. She was petite, with dark bobbed hair, and smooth pale skin, and wore a fashionable blue, knee-length skirted suit, white blouse, and a loose, black necktie which flapped gently in the breezes blowing eastward off the slow-moving Woolley River.
It was another typically beautiful day, warm and dry, in Wellersburg.  About halfway across the quad, she spied Father O’Malley approaching hurriedly.  “Hello. Father,” she said with a smile, her Russian accent revealing her origins. “Is it not a fine day?” O’Malley, a tall, slender man with short, curly brown hair, usually had a warm, engaging smile, but today his expression was grim.
“Jason Longborough is in the hospital again,” O’Malley said. “It doesn’t look good, and he’s asked to speak to you with some urgency.”  Anna was concerned and a little surprised. The ailing trustee of the university had been her champion in the faculty selection committee last summer, but she had neither seen nor spoken with him since that time. He was directly responsible for her appointment to fill Dr. McMahon’s chair for three years while he and his team were on their expedition to Australia. Longborough was also instrumental in Father O’Malley’s appointment to the Ancient History department to fill similar vacancies during the Egyptian expedition, which was to occur concurrently.
“Of course,” Anna replied without hesitation, “I will just drop off these papers in office.”
“He may not hold out that long. Please come with me now. It may be your only opportunity.”  With that, the priest took the pile of exam papers from her and led the way toward the Reister University Hospital.


Anna was born Tatyana Trevena, the sole daughter of poor Russian immigrants. In exchange for passage to Brooklyn, the sixteen-year-old was married to the much older, exiled Fyodor Rykov shortly after their arrival in America in 1912. Rykov was an old world man. He treated his young wife as his property and she lived in submission to him until he died of a heart attack two years later.
Tatyana inherited a modest fortune. Wanting to be more American, and having the means to do so, she adopted the name Anna and attended Columbia University, where she studied Anthropology. She completed her degree in three years and went on to pursue a doctorate. In 1924, she did field research for the Russian archaeologist Aleksey Sergeyevich Uvarov in Gnyozdovo, a part of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, the site of a ring of 10th century Viking settlements.
Upon returning to the United States in 1926, Dr. Anna Rykov, expert in the Varangians, or Russian Vikings, found that there was little interest in a female professor, especially one of Russian descent, who had done field work in the Soviet Union and could have potentially been a Bolshevik. When Jason Longborough reached out to her with a temporary position at Reister University filling in for tenured staff while they were on a three-year expedition, she gladly took the offer.
There were many new instructors at Reister. Among them, Anna met Harry Lamb and Sean O’Malley. Dr. Lamb had just completed his residency at Reister University Hospital and was teaching Basic Anatomy to first year medical students. Father O’Malley was well-versed in Middle and Far Eastern history and served as an Ancient History instructor. Anna, Harry, and Sean were all new to the area, and the three quickly became friends exploring their new home together.
She was enjoying the small college-town life in Wellersburg and its uncrowded streets. The people of Wellersburg were courteous and friendly, even to a Russian immigrant, on account of the more cosmopolitan influences of the university. She enjoyed the peace and tranquility of a small town where everyone knew everyone, and no one locked their doors.


The hospital room was small and dark, illuminated by a lone window on the far side of the room. Jason Longborough lay in his bed. The withered old trustee was frail beneath his shock of gray hairs. He had looked much stronger when Anna had seen him last. Now his yellow complexion and paper-like skin clearly indicated his infirmity. Dr. Harold Lamb stood over the patient, taking his pulse. Lamb was taller than average and muscular, with broad shoulders and short, black hair neatly parted on the right. He wore a blue, pinstriped suit and a yellow tie under his lab coat. The doctor smiled slightly when the two entered the room. Longborough was alerted to their presence by the closing of the door.
“It was good of you to come,” the patient said with some effort. “My time draws to an end soon, and there is a grave matter from my past that must be addressed.”  Some strength returned to his voice. “I fear I have become too feeble to attempt it myself, and wish to enlist your services in this matter.”  He sighed heavily.
“How can I be of service to you, sir?” Anna asked. While she was indebted to Longborough for her position at the university, she was hardly acquainted with the man. What could a businessman like Longborough need of an archaeologist?
“Sit. I have a story to tell you.”  He gestured to two chairs by the side of the bed.
“I’ll be back to check on you later,” Dr. Lamb said as he started for the door. Suddenly, with uncharacteristic dexterity, the ailing trustee reached out and grasped his wrist.
“I wish you to aid me as well, Doctor.”  His gaze was fixed on Lamb’s eyes. The physician left the room, and a moment later brought a chair in from the hall.
“I can spare a few minutes, but then I must complete my rounds.”
“This is not a long story.”  The trustee cleared his throat and Anna poured a glass of water for him. He took a few sips from it, and then cleared his throat again. “Back in the spring of ‘71, when I was a freshman here at Reister, I came upon an interesting upperclassman named Brent Hanke, an amateur occultist.”  He coughed painfully.
“Five of us formed a group to explore the secrets of the unknown. We called it ‘the Cabal.’ It was quite innocuous at first, but after a while other students became disturbed by our activities, and so we bought an old farmhouse in Stuckley for some privacy.”  He coughed again and took another drink of water.
“It was at the farmhouse that things grew out of hand. Brent Hanke’s family was in shipping, and as a result, he was able to obtain rare and unique items from the Old World. He used these trinkets to keep us interested. Among these was a small gold box of Russian origin,” he indicated a length of about eight inches with his bent fingers, “that contained a piece of amber. According to a ritual he found in an ancient tome, this amber could be used to contact a powerful oracle. Being precocious lads, we set out to cast the spell at the farm and seek our fortunes.”
Longborough’s subsequent coughing fit caused the onlookers to jump, and Dr. Lamb went to call a nurse, but the old man recovered quickly and motioned for them all to sit again. After a few fairly deep breaths and another drink of water, he continued his tale.
“It was clear that night in March of 1871. I remember the full moon illuminating the living room of the farmhouse so brightly that Brent was worried that there might be too much light. Still we continued, lighting the fire in the fireplace as well as several candles, and drawing a pentagram in chalk on the floor. In the center, Brent placed the amber. As designated observer, I sat in a corner and wrote down the events of the evening in my journal. The others sat in a circle and recited the incantation while Brent threw some foul-smelling powder into the fire.”
“This continued for nearly two hours. Finally, something happened. A plume of smoke arose from the amber and it began to melt. Then it came!”  Longborough began to hyperventilate. Dr. Lamb sprang to the bedside and adjusted his position, putting the patient’s head back to open his throat. After a moment of coughing and wheezing, Longborough recovered.
“It was insubstantial.”  The trustee’s voice was still agitated. “Barely perceptible in the moonlight, but it was there. And it made a horrible growling sound. Brent threw some of the powder on the creature, and all chaos broke out. Most of us were paralyzed by the sight. John Dalton, however, rose to his feet and stepped forward to embrace the entity. The creature grasped his head in its indescribable appendages and twisted it with a terrible snap. Then it threw the head back to land in Homer Cunningham’s lap. Homer's face turned white and he began making that chirping sound.”  Longborough stared off into space for a moment.
“Roger Furlong apparently doomed us all,” he continued after a pause. “He destroyed part of the pentagram. Free from the bonds of its confines, the creature burst from the house with the force of a hurricane and was gone.”  He stopped to catch his breath. “Nevertheless, Hanke believed there was still hope. The spell bound the creature to the house, so it would have to return, and the many glyphs and warding symbols Hanke had previously carved into its structure allowed the creature to only inhabit the attic.”
“Mr. Longborough,” Doctor Lamb said with skepticism, “this kind of superstitious fantasy is probably what caused your condition in the first place. You were probably enjoying the effects of some hallucinogenic drugs this Hanke character threw into the fire.”
“John Dalton was found decapitated the next morning.”  The aged and frail patient bore down on Lamb with a look of rage. “We staged an accident with a carriage and said he was run over. The authorities believed us, and they took Homer Cunningham to the Old Oak Sanitarium. He was never released. Brett said that if the spell is cast again in reverse, the creature could be destroyed, or at least sent back to where it came from . That is what I want you to do.”
“Still,” Dr. Lamb continued, “you can’t expect us to believe that reciting some ancient poetry will lay a ghost to rest?”
Anna was divided. The story was completely unbelievable, especially by a scientist such as herself, but how could she deny the request of a dying man?
“You want us to cast this spell?” Father O’Malley asked indignantly.
“Yes,” Longborough said, his features calm and sharp, “I do.”
“By all that is holy, that is the worst kind of sacrilege.”  But Sean O’Malley was not a typical parish priest. He was a Professor of Ancient History specializing in the Dark Ages. His training had been under the tutelage of Father Christophé, the exorcist from Martinique regarded as the Church’s leading “expert” on the activities various “nameless cults.” O’Malley was more than prepared to accept Satan’s intervention in the sorry affairs of this once gullible youth. The sly smile from his lips surprised his two colleagues. Finally, he said, “But I accept your request.”
“Are you crazy?” Lamb exclaimed. “This delusion has gone far enough. It’s nearly killed this man. Father, I think we should let this matter, and this patient, rest.”  He rose and started off to return his chair to the hall.
“What difference does it make?” Anna asked in earnest. “Mr. Longborough believes that there is threat to all in Stuckley. If it is just a fantasy, then all that will come of it is the easing of his conscience for the unfortunate incident with his friends.”
“Then you’ll help me?” the old man inquired of Anna with hope in his eyes.
“Yes, sir,” she said, holding his hands in hers. “I owe it to you for all you have done for me.”  He smiled.
Rykov and O’Malley cast questioning glances at Dr. Lamb. He looked at them incredulously, and then back at Longborough, who returned his gaze with a pitiable look. After a moment, he sighed and said, “O.K., I’m in. But nothing is going to happen. You’ll see.”
“You don’t understand,” the patient started. “You must believe in the innate power in all of us. You must tap into that power to perform the ritual. Only if you are committed will the spell be successful. If you fail, the creature will be released from the house!  The little remaining power I can still muster won’t be able to keep it there much longer. Whenever I let my guard down, it got out and killed someone.”  He started to gasp and wheeze. Immediately, Dr. Lamb burst from the room to get assistance.
Longborough indicated the drawer of the nightstand beside Rykov and she picked up a locked metal box from it. Then he removed a key from around his neck and handed it to her.  “Take these,” he said with the last of his breath, “it is all the help I can give you.”  With that, his breathing became erratic. Moments later, Lamb returned with some orderlies and a nurse and ushered the pair from the room.



This book reminded me of the horror novels I read back when I was in high school. Dark, brooding, paranormal with a Gothic feel.  Do not read this book if you will be alone in the house for the rest of the night.
Great characters and enough plot twists to keep you consumed with curiosity.
This is just the beginning of a trilogy.



Joab Stieglitz was born and raised in the Warren, New Jersey. He is an Application Consultant for a software company.  He has also worked as a software trainer, a network engineer, a project manager, and a technical writer over his 30 year career. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia.

Joab is an avid tabletop RPG player and game master of horror, espionage, fantasy, and science fiction genres, including Savage Worlds (Mars, Deadlands, Agents of Oblivion, Apocalypse Prevention Inc, Herald: Tesla and Lovecraft, Thrilling Tales, and others), Call of Cthulhu, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, and Pathfinder.

Joab channeled his role-playing experiences in the Utgarda Series, which are pulp adventure novels with Lovecraftian influences set in the 1920’s.

Website Address: http://joabstieglitz.com
Twitter Address: @joabstieglitz





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