Come As You Are—Horror Palace Review

I am so excited to share this with you. Here is a review of my new collection Come As You Are, which is available for preorder at Amazon. Enjoy!

And for those of you who haven’t taken the opportunity, you can download a free copy of Book One of my horror thriller trilogy, Tell Me When I’m Dead. Just visit my homepage for details.

[Come As You Are Feature Image]

Come As You Are: A Short Novel and Nine Stories is a collection, featuring a short novel and several short stories. Steven Ramirez is the capable voice behind the supernatural gloom and thrills, and you will quickly learn that this author has a very subtle skill. His target audience for the short novel and I assume the anchor for the collection, is clearly young adults, although Ramirez does not shy away from the graphic details. He is clearly experienced in conjuring up a wonderful story, even if they are all drenched with innocent blood.

The collection starts with Come As You Are, the short novel based on a kid called Ivan. He is in the seventh grade and faces a daily routine of getting bullied with his best friend, Ollie. That is until Ivan comes across an old locker at school, and it holds a strange list. When Ivan starts reading from the list, the seats of power take a dramatic change. All of a sudden the bullies are taken down a step, with fatal consequences. Unfortunately, Ivan does not realize what he unleashed until it is too late.

The stories that follow are a blend of different horror/thriller themes, which I can not really connect other than by being within the horror genre. For example, Nailed It sees a writer waiting for his flight to take off, then gets bothered by a kid sitting next to him. The writer notices the kid is very organized and neat, so he tells him the story of a guy he knew with the same neurotic habit. The guy eventually went over the edge and did things I can not reveal without divulging any spoilers. Then there is A Bone in the Throat, which is based on a scam artist becoming the victim of a crazy surgeon.

All-in-all, the collection features ten powerful and very different stories.

To read the rest of this review, please visit Horror Palace.

Preorder Come As You Are Now!

Book Review—The Memory Box

[The Memory Box Cover]This is the story of a madwoman—an unreliable narrator par excellence who creates more twists and turns than a plate of linguine. All the while, I was laughing my ass off at the wry observations of stilted suburban life, and the hilarious inner dialogue comebacks directed at the parade of boobs and morons who actually had the temerity to get in the way.

Am I exaggerating? Possibly. But I can’t help it. Eva Lesko Natiello has given us a story that defies logic—and worse, sends you halfway to the looney bin as you try to sort through the protagonist’s anxiety-ridden bitch of a day-after-day. Halfway through, you almost wish Caroline would just pop and be done with it so you could get half a breath, for crying out loud.

All I can say is, read The Memory Box at your own peril. But first, make sure you’ve got a stiff drink close by. And a pillow to scream into. You’re probably going to need them.

You can find this review at Amazon US.

Book Description
NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY Bestseller

A psychological thriller page-turner with twists and turns until the very last page.

WHAT IF YOU GOOGLED YOURSELF & DISCOVERED SOMETHING SHOCKING?

In this gripping psychological thriller, Caroline Thompson Googles herself and discovers the shocking details of a past she doesn’t remember.

A HOUSTON WRITERS GUILD MANUSCRIPT AWARD WINNER

A fast-paced suspense where a group of privileged suburban moms amuses themselves by Googling everyone in town, digging up dirt to fuel thorny gossip. Caroline Thompson, devoted mother of two, sticks to the moral high ground and attempts to avoid these women. She’s relieved to hear her name appears only three times, citing her philanthropy. Despite being grateful that she has nothing to hide, a delayed pang of insecurity prods Caroline to Google her maiden name–which none of the others know.

The hits cascade like a tsunami. Caroline’s terrified by what she reads. An obituary for her sister, JD? That’s absurd. With every click, the revelations grow more alarming. They can’t be right. She’d know. Caroline is hurled into a state of paranoia–upending her blissful family life–desperate to prove these allegations false before someone discovers they’re true.

The disturbing underpinnings of The Memory Box expose a story of deceit, misconceptions, and an obsession for control. With its twists, taut pacing, and psychological tenor, Natiello’s page turning suspense cautions:

Be careful what you search for.

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Book Review—Stillhouse Lake

[Stillhouse Lake Cover]Let me start out by saying that Rachel Caine is an excellent writer. Her prose is concise, controlled, and chillingly violent when the occasion calls for it. This is the first book of hers I’ve read, and I enjoyed it immensely. I especially liked her protagonist, Gina Royal, who is single-minded in her determination to protect her children and herself from the memory of her soulless ex-husband and the thousands of trolls now pursuing the family on social media. Quite a challenge for a former housewife whose main concerns used to be centered around seeing her children off to school and putting dinner on the table.

If you like tense thrillers, I can say with confidence that you will enjoy Stillhouse Lake—with one caveat. For me, when someone says “serial killer,” I expect a high body count. I mean, that’s kind of what they do, right? And though Gina’s ex-husband, Mel, does live up to his reputation, most of it is in backstory. In fact, Caine spends most of the first half of the book on Gina’s inner life. By the time we get to the new peril she finds herself in, we know her intimately—a good thing if you enjoy believable characters. I only wish the author had peppered the introspection with a bit more action, that’s all I’m saying.

All in all, a terrific read. Can’t wait for the next book in the series.

You can find this review at Amazon US.

Book Description
Gina Royal is the definition of average—a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two adorable children. But when a car accident reveals her husband’s secret life as a serial killer, she must remake herself as Gwen Proctor—the ultimate warrior mom.

With her ex now in prison, Gwen has finally found refuge in a new home on remote Stillhouse Lake. Though still the target of stalkers and Internet trolls who think she had something to do with her husband’s crimes, Gwen dares to think her kids can finally grow up in peace.

But just when she’s starting to feel at ease in her new identity, a body turns up in the lake—and threatening letters start arriving from an all-too-familiar address. Gwen Proctor must keep friends close and enemies at bay to avoid being exposed—or watch her kids fall victim to a killer who takes pleasure in tormenting her. One thing is certain: she’s learned how to fight evil. And she’ll never stop.

Where to Buy
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Come As You Are—Available for Preorder

[Come As You Are Cover]

Preorder Now!

For lovers of horror, mystery, and suspense, this is your chance to preorder a copy of my new collection, Come As You Are, on Amazon. The eBook and print versions will be published on September 7th. Here are the details:

ISBN: 9780999079102
Price: $4.99 (USD)
Edition: Kindle
Preorder Now!

Book Description

Some things are better left alone.

Ivan Stein isn’t sure he can survive seventh grade, let alone middle school. Living in a town known for its poverty and violence, he is regularly bullied along with his best friend, Ollie. But fortunes can change. One day, Ivan finds an old notebook in an abandoned locker at school. Despite a stark warning, he takes the book and unleashes powerful magic he can use to punish his enemies. But demonic forces control the book’s pages—a terrifying evil that will inflict suffering on the good as well as the bad and take his soul as payment.

Come As You Are is supernatural horror reimagined as Young Adult fiction. But don’t be fooled. Its violence will disturb you and its depiction of people living in a gloomy, desolate town without hope will make you cry. Pray that Ivan and his family can survive this dark, perilous journey.

Also in this collection:

“Nailed It”
“Brown the Recluse”
“I’ve Been Better”
“A Bone in the Throat”
“Regino Sings”
“A Proper Revenge Takes Time”
“Something to Hold”
“The Widow and Her Magician”
“Walker”

[Awarded 4 Stars At SPR]

Book Review—Little White Lies

It’s not often I say this, but Little White Lies by Elizabeth McGregor blew me away. What starts out as a sad, curious mystery festers like sepsis, driving you to high fever and delirium until what you are left with is shock and a sickening truth that speaks to the worst human frailties. All through the book, the author is both careful and relentless. Her writing is unfailingly English, and she doesn’t brook impatience. You must wait for the revelation. And, dear Lord, when it comes you almost wish it hadn’t.

By nature, I am an impatient person. And, for better or worse, my writing reflects that. But in this brilliant novel, McGregor has taught me that sometimes it’s better to breathe and let the pain wash over you like a rinsing agent mixed with blood. Beth March never had a clue that a dead bird would lead to such misery—not just hers—and when she accepts the reality that has always surrounded her, it’s as if she is acknowledging not just one but many deaths.

Don’t go looking for heroes in Little White Lies—they don’t exist. Some, however, do act heroically at times, including Beth. There is no doubt I will read this book again. But I’ll have to wait until the fever subsides. In the meantime, I’m going in search of the 1998 TV movie version, which was produced by the BBC and co-written by the novel’s author.

You can find this review at Amazon US.

Book Description

[Little White Lies Cover]

Any other year, summer arrived with the swallows. But this year, the broken body of a bird, left on the porch, serves as an omen of deception, a shadow cast over the days to come…

Beth March’s life seems unexceptional: she and her husband, David, have a conventional, quiet marriage.

The opening morning of the nightmare seems like just another day, aside from the unexpected body of the bird…but while Beth showers and prepares for the day, David drives his car at full speed into the path of a lorry. He is killed instantly.

From the moment that Beth learns of his fate, her world begins to shatter around her. Nothing in her life can ever be the same again.

No one can be trusted. No one is telling her the truth.

Was David having an affair?

Why did he go behind her back to sell his shares and take out another mortgage — and where is that money now?

What dark secrets lie beneath the picture-perfect image of the family down the lane?

As she unravels the chain of tragic events that preceded her husband’s death, Beth finds herself tossed from side to side on a sea of continually shifting information, never sure what is true and what is not.

What seem like little white lies gradually begin to build and build until Beth truly begins to realise the horror of devastating betrayal experienced by everyone involved…

Little White Lies is an intriguing tale of suspicion, deceit and the quest for the truth.

Where to Buy
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Book Review—Before You Leap

[Before You Leap Cover]In many ways, Before You Leap is a book I admire. I’ll mention two. The author has a way of describing things that, frankly, is bound to make me work harder as a writer. And indeed, he has taken to heart the notion that it’s better to start in the middle of things, leaving the reader in a dizzying confusion of places and events that—ever so slowly—become more apparent as you wend your way through a pulse-pounding maze of violent emotion. It’s a technique I’ve used myself, and it’s very effective in the mystery thriller genre. The other thing is, the characters ring true to me—especially Greg. Although after finishing this book, I’ve come to the sad conclusion that he is more than a little disturbed.

Regarding the plot, I felt the story was a little convoluted and could have benefited from some simplification. Don’t get me wrong—I have no problem dealing with characters whose motives are mysterious and who consistently act in ways that deceive. But there were a few times when I found myself wishing for more of a straight line as Greg is forced to confront his painful past.

Overall, I liked Before You Leap and recommend it to fans of the genre. It’s a solid piece of work and definitely worth exploring.

You can find this review at Amazon US.

Synopsis
Peace of mind is all Greg Cole has wanted since the murder of his twin sister, Scarlett. 

In his new sun-soaked Florida life, he thought he had found it. But when Scarlett’s killer is released early from prison with a cast-iron alibi, Greg realizes that his past is about to explode into his present, with terrifying consequences.

To expose the truth he must open up old wounds. As a talk therapist, Greg knows all about dark secrets, but when a childhood friendship comes to the fore and the police turn their spotlight on him, the thought of analyzing his own psyche is a disturbing prospect. How far can he trust his own memories?

With his life coming apart at the seams, and his grip on reality beginning to unravel, Greg must face the ghosts of his past if he hopes to prove his innocence and live to see another day.

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Movie Review—‘Arrival’

[Arrival Poster]
Photo courtesy of IMDb

Arrival’ (2016)
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writers: Eric Heisserer (screenplay), Ted Chiang (based on the story “Story of Your Life” written by)
Stars: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker
Drama | Mystery | Sci-Fi | Thriller
Paramount Pictures
PG-13
Log Line: When twelve mysterious spacecraft appear around the world, linguistics professor Louise Banks is tasked with interpreting the language of the apparent alien visitors.

Boy, did I need to see this! 2016 was a tough year for many reasons, both generally and personally. It’s not often I watch a movie twice in a row, but after seeing ‘Arrival’ the first time the other night, I couldn’t wait to put it on again. I’ve always been a huge Amy Adams fan—two of my favorite movies of hers being ‘Enchanted’ and ‘Julie & Julia.’ She’s one of those rare actors who can exhibit both vulnerability and strength at the same time and break your heart in the process. And as a professor of linguistics trying to solve an impossible mystery, she is at the top of her game.

I won’t recount the story here—you can watch the trailer for that. But I will point out a few things I felt made this film—nominated for eight Academy Awards at the time of this writing—brilliant. First off, the writing. The story by Ted Chiang is filled with a profound sense of human longing—a longing to connect with something bigger. Many people interpret this as a search for God in our lives, and I happen to believe that. But I think, in general, people want to feel a part of something outside ourselves. Something that gives life meaning and us a purpose. The screenplay, based on that story, captures this feeling beautifully and reinforces it throughout so that by the time you arrive at the end, you can see.

The direction and cinematography were perfect for this kind of storytelling. Everything that happens is seen through Louise’s eyes, and we unravel the mystery with her. As if things weren’t difficult enough trying to decipher an alien language, she is always surrounded by strangers—army personnel and CIA operatives—whose purpose she can’t fathom and who seem to be in opposition to what she’s trying to accomplish. Inside the massive floating spacecraft, we lose our sense of direction. And the playing with time itself throughout is hypnotic.

Of course, any good movie has lots of conflict, which in this case is presented in the form of people’s paranoia about the aliens. The armies of the world all want to know what the aliens’ purpose is in coming here and, judging from their actions, they are all on a hair trigger. The director Denis Villeneuve captures this intense struggle with simplicity and clarity. And to balance things out—because not everyone in the military can be bad—we have the character of Colonel Weber, who is just trying to understand. Oh, and that soundtrack! Pay attention to the horns every time we see the aliens.

In the wrong hands, ‘Arrival’ could have turned into ‘Independence Day.’ Thank goodness cooler heads prevailed! No doubt, I will see it again.

You can find this review at IMDb. Now, check out this featurette.

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Free Fiction—Something to Hold

[Rotting Peach] Photo courtesy of Steven Depolo via Creative Commons

Free fiction has an expiration date—and this one has definitely come and gone. Please feel free to explore this site for more great stories.

COLD FEET FEVER—the Story behind the Story

[Maureen Fisher]Guest post by Maureen Fisher

Truth be told, Cold Feet Fever, a spin-off from Fur Ball Fever, was my most difficult book to write so far. This may be partly because my new protagonist’s backstory was already established in the previous book. I had no choice but to define his goal (pull off a kick-ass grand opening for his paranormal nightclub), a great plot providing seemingly insurmountable obstacles (a goofy dog, exploding trucks, an unfortunate synchronized swimming episode, homicidal thugs, a corrupt building inspector, disappearing corpses, a kidnapping, not to mention the threat of live cremation), and the perfect heroine (a bossy mortician-turned-event-planner with criminal ties) to ensure suitable character growth in a serial womanizer with commitment issues, albeit he’s smokin’ hot, funny, and irresistible.

But that’s not the main reason I had difficulty writing Cold Feet Fever. Nope. Although it was never diagnosed, I’m pretty sure I suffered a brain injury that affected me for close to three years. I only put this together after talking to a friend who’d experienced shaken brain injury.

Here’s the thing. Every winter, my husband and I flee Canada to enjoy Puerto Vallarta weather. Sidewalks in the Mexican seaside town are notorious for causing injuries. You wouldn’t believe the tourists limping around the city, balancing on crutches, sporting casts, or renting portable wheelchairs. One day, I decided to take inventory. For half an hour, I sat on the Malecon and counted four arm casts, five walking casts, three knee braces, two pairs of crutches, and one tensor-encased wrist.

At first glance, those sidewalks look innocuous—mostly paved and surprisingly level. Hah! If you take your eyes off those suckers for one split second, an unexpected slant, or a two-inch metal bolt cunningly camouflaged as part of the sidewalk, or, my personal favorite, a rogue crevice roughly the size of the San Andreas Fault takes out the unwary tourist. And don’t get me started on the stairs, which are everywhere given that Puerto Vallarta is built on the side of a coastal mountain range. Seemingly normal-looking stairs invariably have one tricky step that is either higher or shorter than all the rest. Always. I believe it’s written into every construction contract.

It took a while for me to learn that if I wanted to sightsee, I must stop walking before gawking. But by then, it was too little, too late. Over the course of three winters, I not only twisted an ankle and sprained my wrist, but also cracked my head not once, not twice, but three times on Puerto Vallarta concrete. Suffice it to say that when the brain, which has a consistency similar to Jell-O, suddenly collides with the skull, which is as hard as cement (at least I’m told mine is), bad things happen to nice people.

The end result? For three years I was unable to focus on anything requiring brain activity, namely my writing. Whenever I sat down at the computer and tried to resolve a plot twist or write a sexy love scene, my brain fogged up. Immediately, I grew exhausted and crawled away for a nap. This, from someone who never napped a nanosecond in her life.

Slowly, things improved. I started writing again and managed to finish a book that I’m proud to publish. I hope you will enjoy Cold Feet Fever as much as I did while writing it.

Book Blurb

[Cold Feet Fever Cover]

Amazon US
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Smashwords

Cold Feet Fever
A Romantic Crime Mystery with Tons of Humor

Secrets and Crime Have Never Been So Much Fun—or So Romantic!

A bad boy gambler with a lazy streak and commitment issues:
Owning Kinki, Atlantic City’s first paranormal nightclub, isn’t as easy—or as much fun—as Sam Jackson anticipated. Someone’s trying to shut him down before he opens, he’s on the verge of bankruptcy, and his matchmaking granddaddy has hired a sexy event planner with a mysterious background, bossy disposition, and criminal ties.

A mortician-turned-event-planner with big secrets:
A job as event planner offers single mom, Katie Deluca, her last chance to escape her past. Turns out party planning is more difficult than organizing funerals. Plus, the nightclub owner, although perfect for awakening her sensuality, couldn’t be more wrong for the stability she craves.

Forced to collaborate, they overcome obstacles and fight crime:
Katie is the one person who can salvage Kinki—and heal Sam’s emotional wounds. Together, they tangle with a goofy dog, exploding trucks, an unfortunate synchronized swimming episode, homicidal thugs, a corrupt building inspector, disappearing corpses, a kidnapping, and the threat of live cremation, all to deliver a kick-ass grand opening.

Excerpt

With growing desperation, Katie managed to pry her purse from Rex’s jaws. He registered his disapproval with another howl ending in an eerie, wolf-like falsetto.

She prayed the couch’s occupants were far enough along in their bliss to ignore the interruption. Purse to chest, she silently backed away. She’d reached the main office when a man’s drawl flooded her entire body with apprehension.

“Much as I hate to break the mood, darlin’, I’d better check up on Rex. I don’t trust him near the pizza.”

Before Katie could flee, or dig a hole for herself, or better still, throw herself out the window, Sam Jackson, playboy and, if she believed the Internet gossip, all-around heartbreaker strolled out of the alcove. Buttoning an amber silk shirt the same color as his eyes and wearing a Stetson, he halted and scrutinized Katie across the gleaming expanse of conference table.

The grainy newspaper photos she’d studied online didn’t come close to doing justice to his masculine glory. Everything about him screamed sexy, from that chiseled jaw and those sculpted lips, to his streaky blond hair framing a face that belonged on the big screen.

Fortunately, pretty packaging didn’t interest her in the slightest. Nope. The man was a degenerate who enjoyed booze, gambling, and women, not necessarily in that order.

As he closed in, his gaze took a long, leisurely tour of her body before settling on her mouth. He exuded a hint of cologne, all woodsy and spicy and delicious, not that she cared. Was it her imagination, or did his expression hint at amusement?

“Howdy, ma’am. I apologize if my dog scared you, but I’m afraid you’ve got the wrong office.” His voice was a little raspy, steeped in moonlight and magnolias.

Katie cleared her throat. “I’m in the right place, thank you.”

One side of his mouth kicked up a notch. “You must be here for our job fair. Try Room 204. That’s our HR department. In that outfit, you’d make a perfect Dracula’s Lair attendant.” A broad grin creased his cheeks, causing the corners of his eyes to crinkle.

“No, but thank you anyway.” Katie studied his face. “It’s obvious you didn’t touch base with your boss this morning.”

“Really? And all this time I believed I was the boss.”

 

About the Author
Transplanted from Scotland to Canada at the tender age of seven, Maureen Fisher now lives with her second husband in Ottawa, Ontario. Besides writing, she is a voracious reader and volunteer for an addiction family counseling program. In addition, she’s a bridge player, yoga practitioner, seeker of personal and spiritual growth, pickle ball enthusiast, and an infrequent but avid gourmet cook.

You can find Maureen on Twitter, on Facebook, at Goodreads, and at booksbymaureen.com.

Interview with M. J. Williams, Author of the ON THE ROAD Series

[MJ Williams]Today, I’m pleased to have as my guests Peggy Williams and Mary Joy Johnson, who together write under the pen name M. J. Williams and are the authors of Books One and Two of the “On the Road …” mystery series, On the Road to Death’s Door and On the Road to Where the Bells Toll.

Q. Welcome to you both. Mystery is a genre that seems to appeal to both young readers as well as adults. Personally, I love them, though I haven’t written one myself. So, tell us what’s unique about your stories.

A. Our “On the Road …” mystery series features a retired couple, Emily and Stan, who travel in an inherited, second-hand RV. The most frequent comments we get about our main characters are that they are the kind of people our readers would “love to sit and have a drink with.” We’ve sort of flipped traditional roles and put Emily in the lead when it comes to investigating, because of her law enforcement background. Stan, a retired history professor, is research oriented and more contemplative than his action-oriented wife. They are also grandparents, and in our second book, On the Road to Where the Bells Toll, which takes place in Boston, reviewers have consistently mentioned enjoying the interaction between Emily and Stan and their granddaughters, one of whom is a typical—if moody—teenager.

Q. That’s funny. So, it sounds like you are really contrasting the two generations which, I’m sure, makes for some interesting conflict. Since there are two of you, can you tell us a little bit about the writing process?

A. The process of writing is actually an evolving process of learning how to write as a team. We do all our initial brainstorming and plotting together, something we happened onto while writing our first book, On the Road to Death’s Door. We depend hugely on outlining—using a day-by-day and scene-by-scene outline format that we’ve designed. And we’ve just started using Google docs so that we can work simultaneously side-by-side or from wherever each of us happens to be at the moment. However, once we have a detailed enough outline, we each take a chapter and begin writing solo, often leapfrogging one another from one chapter to the next. When the first draft is done, we sit down together again and our individual voices pretty much automatically meld into one voice as we revise and edit subsequent drafts, just as we’ve done for this interview.

Q. Wow, you’re both way more disciplined than I am! In terms of the theme, what are the one or two things you are hoping the reader will come away with in each book?

A. Because we set our stories in colorful, current-day settings with the mysteries having historical connections, we hope the reader comes away with a deeper curiosity of a time and place, as well as the satisfaction that comes with a good whodunit. Relationship is another important theme for us. We find ourselves exploring the transitions that come later in life. However, readers of all ages can empathize with the interactions between Emily and Stan and between the couple and their friends and family.

Q. What are you working on now, and is it in the same vein as your current mystery series?

A. We are hard at work on the third book in our series, On the Road to the Deadly Apostles, which takes Emily and Stan and their RV up to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Lake Superior, just off northern Wisconsin. There they become ensnared in a sting involving Native American artifact trafficking. We are not quite sure how it all turns out yet.

Q. That sounds exciting! Best of luck to both of you, and thank you.

Book Blurb

[On the Road to Where the Bells Toll Cover]

In this second book in the “On the Road …” mystery series, Stan and Emily pack up the RV and head to Boston for some R & R with the grandkids and a chance to immerse themselves in colonial history. But their Fourth of July celebration comes to an abrupt halt when they stumble over a body on the Boston Esplanade and then another hanging in the tower of the Old North Church. Now the couple must unravel a tangle of forged clues and flush out the perpetrator before their own untimely epitaphs are written onto the historical landscape.

Where to Buy
Amazon US
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About the Authors
M. J. Williams is the pen name of sisters-in-law Peggy Joque Williams and Mary Joy Johnson (nee Williams). Peggy is an elementary school teacher and freelance writer. Mary Joy is a retired college professor and professional quilter. Their “On the Road…” mystery series features RVers, Emily and Stan Remington. Both writers live in Madison, Wisconsin.

You can find Peggy on Twitter, and both Peggy and Mary Joy on Facebook, as well as on their Amazon author page.