Tuesday, November 14, 2017

FROM ROGUE PHOENIX PRESS: You Enter a Room by Nancy Dafoe

Advena Goodwin didn’t set out to become a detective. She would rather write her dissertation and fall in love, but her friend has been murdered. 

EXCERPT: You Enter a Room

“Yeah, well, they meant business, so I knew something was going down there. After circling the house, the cops pounded on the door again, then one of them looks through a window he’d already passed and returned to, standing on his toes, and yells something. The other one comes back to the front, or I guess, really a side door, and starts kicking at it. Then both of them were smashing their boots against the door. I mean, I’ve seen this kind of smash in the door on TV, but to actually see these guys break something down is damned impressive.”
Suddenly, I wanted him to slow up and not say the next part out loud, but Sam urged him on. “Then?”
“They went in, and I ran across the street like I was still jogging and looked in the open doorway because I guess I wasn’t thinking about anybody having guns, and I realize that wasn’t the smartest thing for me to do—see, I wasn’t even thinking about myself at that point.”
“Andrew!” I wanted to slap him.
“It was awful, really. This guy, he was hanging from the ceiling fixture at the top.” I covered my face and Sam gripped my arm, her painted nails digging in and leaving little impressions. “They were trying to get him down, so they didn’t see me. One cop grabbed his legs and pulled him back to the top of the stairs to check for a pulse. Then he let him go, accidentally, I think, and the guy starts swinging back and forth like a pendulum. I stepped back then because I’d never seen a dead person hanging like that, and that’s when I saw his boot at the bottom just inside the door. One of his boots was still on, but the other had fallen. I was so close that I could have picked it up. I went back to the other side of the street and called my friend Jay to come get me. I was starting to feel sick.”
At first the detail of the boot seemed pointless and then I saw the image as clearly as Andrew had, marking the death of the individual. Michael’s boot, the worn, old leather ones that he wore every day. “How do you know the shoe or boot was Michael Lawler's?” Sam asked. “Did you know him?”
“No, never heard of him, but when an ambulance pulled up and the EMTs went in, I was still waiting for my friend. Jay had been sleeping in that morning because he didn’t have class, so he wasn’t there yet. See, I didn’t feel like running anymore, I was nauseous, like you.” He looks at me, then said, “Just like you. Another cop came and took pictures, then they brought out his body covered up like on a TV show. One of the cops said to the other, ‘Anything in his pockets?’”
““License says Michael Lawler,” I’m pretty sure the cop said. “Student ID on him too. University of Rochester student. Suicide.” I didn’t want the cops to notice me, so I stepped back further and ducked around behind a house. Thinking about what I did now, maybe it wasn’t such a good idea because they might have thought I had something to do with it, like I was involved in a murder or something. I mean, he was hanging, but who knew how he got there, even if he did say suicide?”
“Oh, no,” was all I could get out. Sam was crying. Looking back later, I realized Andrew might have been the one to put the word 'murder' in my head.
“You’re sure?” Sam asked, and he nodded. I liked Sam a little bit more during those moments we were drawn together in horror. Whatever else life held for either of us, we experienced a temporary bond in that claustrophobic space where breathing becomes more difficult.
Andrew waited a few minutes but saw that neither one of us was up to questioning him further, so he walked off, ready to repeat his tale. He probably had friends back home who had yet to hear of his dramatic morning. That would be all the experience was for Andrew, an opportunity to enlarge his life.
Sam hugged me, and I took that solace greedily. We finally stopped holding one another. “You okay?” she asked.
I nodded, “I can’t believe it.”
“Me either. I’m so sorry, but I’ve got to go,” and we parted. As soon as I left the bookstore, I was hit again, my whole body aching. By the time I reached my apartment, my head hurt so badly that I turned off the lights, pulled the curtains, and rolled into a fetal position on my bed where I stayed for hours. It didn’t help and changed nothing. Hours later, I woke to restless fear and more nausea.
Although I didn’t know Michael well, I was aware of his peculiarities, his withdrawn silence, his intelligence and gentleness. What was certain was I wanted to know him better. What I recognized him best for, however, was his talent. We had read each other’s work on multiple occasions, wrote a few comments that were generous rather than critical. I couldn’t quite believe that Michael had taken his own life, that he was gone. Logically, my search should have ended there with his death and certainty. We were told he had hanged himself. Everything should have been obvious, as related circumstances appeared to be to nearly everyone around me, but suicide and Michael did not fit, would never fit.
My mind kept seeing Michael’s worn boot at the bottom of the stairs and then him swinging when the cop let go of his body either accidentally or deliberately. Unlike Andrew, I was not a witness, had not been at the crime scene, but I might as well have been because I conjured up the sight as clearly as if I had been standing outside in the snow, looking through that open doorway. My eyes followed a line of dread up narrow stairs in disbelief, but I kept turning away before seeing his distorted face, as if I couldn’t bear to look at him in death, even in imagination.


Murder mystery; Woman amateur detective

Blog URL: info@dafoenteachingwriting.com

Facebook page: Nancy Dafoe, Nancy A. Dafoe, Dafoe Writing and Consulting

Twitter handle: temporarily disabled

Thursday, November 2, 2017

North of The Azores by Ruth Danes

EXCERPT: North of the Azores

I slept well and when I awoke I felt very weak but no longer ill. The doctor was present when I opened my eyes. He examined me, asked me some questions and gave me something to drink. Mr Lastman knocked and entered the room. Both men sat in front of me.
“Well, young lady, you are one of the lucky few who will be able to say you wore red lace and rubies and survived but we will have the truth now, if you please. Who are you?”
I looked at their solemn faces. There was no way I could lie anymore. I ran my tongue over my teeth to moisten my terror-dried mouth.
“My name is Nebula, I am a low princess from the Devil’s Isles and I am the last of the House of Beaumarch. I was given that name when the High Queen called me to her court when I was seven years old. I was born Adeliza and I turned thirteen in May.
“Every Islander knew about the plot to blow everything up on the night before the treaty was signed. I didn’t want to take part so I swam to the Mermaid and told all. I dressed as a boy, a boy from the streets of Arx, because I heard women are not well treated on ships and I needed to be disguised before I left land. I also recognised some of the men and knew they might have recognised me if I was dressed as a low princess.”
There was silence. I hung my head, my stomach churning and my palms sweating.
At last the doctor spoke. His voice was like granite.
“When you inhabited the Devil’s Isles, you and your ilk were responsible for the death and torture of many good, honest men and indeed, many good, honest women too. We all know the female royalty of that accursed race openly controlled everything that took place in that godforsaken land.
“As Gowther, you did indeed save many lives but your real motive was to save yourself, was it not? You could kill but you never had the courage to endure what you have inflicted on others. You also made an attempt to seriously injure Mr Lastman, and no, I do not want to hear it. You have repeated yourself many times stating you only wanted to escape and never meant to do any harm but you cannot be so stupid as to realise a face full of boiling soup is excruciatingly painful at best and deadly at worst. Besides, you should never have tried to escape in the first place. We all trusted you not to and you broke our trust.
“Finally, you wandered about the Mermaid when you knew you were ill, aye, maybe you did not know quite what ailed you, but you must have felt very ill for a good few hours before we saw your rash. The rash is never the first symptom of red lace and rubies. You knowingly spread that sickness and in doing so, you defied your captain, whose word is law on this ship, for a second time. It is impossible to know for sure but you can never clearly square the question with your conscience of would more men have been spared if you had obeyed your captain and reported your sickness immediately. Or was that part of your plan? A last attempt at causing mayhem and taking a few souls before being dispatched to Bristol and then to hell?”
Here he paused. I did not dare speak, I could only shake my head, trying desperately not to give way to the tears and the hysteria which were rising inside me.
The doctor resumed speaking in the same cold, hard voice.
“The orders that we received at Westmarnoch are clear. As soon as we dock at Bristol, you are to be handed over to the commissioners there, after which you are to be kept safe until you are hanged with as much pomp as possible in the heart of the city. We have docked at Bristol, with just over half of the men that set sail from here two years ago, and we will be released from quarantine tomorrow.
“Look at me, Adeliza.”
I forced myself to meet his gaze. His eyes were unforgiving but his voice had softened somewhat.
“That will not be your fate if you obey Mr Lastman and me.”
My heart seemed to stop and my face expressed the astonishment that my tongue could not. I scarcely dared believe my ears.
“Neither of us agree that anyone should be executed for who they are as opposed to what they have done. You have indeed committed many crimes but none that should be punished by death.
“Neither of us trust you, nor do we like you, but we are willing to save you.
“As you already know I am a doctor and a magistrate in a large village, a few days ride from Bristol, called Swanford. I am a bachelor but also a very busy man. On my return, I will take on two apprentice physicians and I will need a maid to help the man and woman who have been my servants for more than twenty years.
“If you swear to obey both Mr Lastman and me on anything and everything, I will take you back to Swanford with me to join my household as that maid. I will treat you as I have always treated my servants, with kindness but also with firmness. You will receive board and lodging along with anything else absolutely necessary until you are at least seventeen, at which point I may consider paying you wages. My word will be law and you will obey the upper servants, Mr and Mrs Dottey, as you will obey me. You will treat the apprentices with every respect and courtesy, as indeed you will treat everyone else with whom you come into contact.
“You will only ever speak, read and write English. You will make no attempt to escape your new life nor will you ever speak of your past life. We will think of some story and stick with it.
“You will stay within my household until you turn one-and-twenty. After this point you are free to leave my service if I believe you to be harmless. If you give any reason to cause either of us any worry, you will regret it. Neither of us are disposed to be merciful twice and you might remember the order for your execution stands until you die.”
I fell to my knees in gratitude and disbelief.
“Sir, I don’t know what to say… Thank you, thank you very, very much. I will be your maid and I will do whatever you say.”
The doctor nodded, satisfied but not softened. Mr Lastman snorted.
“I’ll believe you if you keep your word for the next eight years. Here.” He handed me a comb. “You might as well tackle the knots in your hair before you start your new life.”
I thanked him inarticulately but from the depths of my heart for his kindness as I took the comb but his coldness soon stopped my tongue. With a heavy heart, I realised nothing I could then say or do would change either man’s opinion of me and it was on their opinion of me and my behaviour my life rested.

Author Bio

Ruth currently lives in the heart of England and works in administration. Writing novels forms her secret life.


Alternative history; historical thrillers; 18th century historical fiction; historical romances

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Rogue Phoenix Press Presents: The Power Club by Greg Gildersleeve

In The Power Club: Some kids play piano. Some kids make hook shots. Some create darkness…or teleport…or fly. Damon has what ordinary kids want: a power. Ords have what he wants: freedom.

The Power Club is a middle grade Sci/fi Adventure

Buy at: AmazonBarnes and Noble

EXCERPT: The Power Club

Two agonizing days passed before Damon’s leg healed enough that he could walk into the Evanses’ backyard. He approached carefully.
“HEYDAMON.” Vee’s words ran together as he sped by. Damon looked left and right. He barely caught a glimpse of the super-fast kid.
“Glad ya made it.” Danner’s voice boomed from overhead. Damon looked up to see Danner towering at a height of fifteen feet.
Kyle waved to him from across the yard and turned to Denise—yes, Denise was there, after all. So was another girl. Ali Reeves lived up the street. She possessed one of the most coveted powers in the district: the ability to fly. Ali gracefully swooped above Danner’s head. He reached out to grab her with his massive hands, but she flitted higher, out of his reach.
Her long brown hair flowed over her face, partly masking an exhilarated smile. “You can’t catch me,” she teased.
“I can if I grow bigger,” Danner boomed, “but I wanna give ya a fair chance.”
“Oh, you’re so sweet.” She swooped down between his arms, mussed his hair, and took off again.
“Hey, Danner—catch me!” Vee ran circles around Danner’s tree trunk-size legs. Danner ignored him.
Damon, unsure what to do, walked over to Kyle, who called, “Hey, Denise. What am I going to do next?”
The blonde girl stood several feet away near the stoop of the back porch. Her arms were folded as if she were bored by it all, but when Kyle called her name, her face lit up. Then her eyes glazed over, and she did something Damon did not expect. She raised her arms to the sky.
A football appeared in the air several feet above Denise and dropped into her arms. She held up the football and laughed nervously as if catching it were a great achievement.
“Where’d the football come from?” Damon asked.
“My room,” said Kyle, finally turning to acknowledge him. “I can now teleport things without seeing them if I know where they are.”
“Cool,” Damon replied. Everyone knew powers got stronger as kids grew up. “But how did Denise know what you were going to do?”
Kyle leaned closer. “Can you keep a secret—” He stopped himself and rolled his eyes at his own mistake. “Of course you can. You’re one of us now. Denise can see the future.”
A light turned on somewhere in the attic of Damon’s memory. The jar of peaches! Denise didn’t make him drop it. She predicted he would drop it. Damon felt badly for misjudging her. Trying to cover his embarrassment, he joked, “I wonder if she can see how I’ll do on my math test tomorrow.”
“A big fat F!” Denise yelled from the stoop.
Damon felt exposed. “She heard me?”
“Or she predicted you were going to say it.” Kyle smirked. “Don’t listen to half of what she says. She sometimes jokes about predicting our futures.” He reached out to Denise and clapped his hands.
She raised the football to throw it. “I predict Damon’s going to catch this one.” A blur rushed behind her and the football disappeared from her hand. “VEE!” she bellowed. “Give it back.”
“Stopmeifyoucan.” The voice came from everywhere, some syllables from halfway across the yard, others hitting Damon in the face. Twice the blur rushed right in front of him, nearly blowing him off his feet.
“Vee, stop it!” Denise shouted. “You’re getting carried away.”
The backyard spanned an area large enough to allow Vee to run around the perimeter, creating what appeared to be a blurry fence, boxing everyone in. He darted between Kyle and Damon, zoomed behind Denise, and circled Danner’s massive legs, creating a powerful wind which assaulted everyone from all sides.
The wind pushed Ali higher and higher. “Help me! Her arms and legs flailed about in the air.
Danner grew another five feet and reached out his hand. Ali grabbed his giant fingers and thumb and held on for dear life as he guided her back to the ground.
Still, Vee did not slow down.
“He’ll tire himself out eventually,” Kyle shouted over the wind storm.
Damon remembered something he’d learned in science class. “Won’t he burn himself?” he shouted back. “The friction—”
“He’s got a speed aura. Almost nothing can hurt him while he’s running.”
Another light went on in Damon’s brain. He knew how he could both impress the others and join in the fun. The timing would have to be just right. He carefully studied every object in the backyard and noted Vee’s pattern. At just the right moment, he exhaled.


Greg Gildersleeve grew up in the northwestern corner of Missouri, where comic books and science fiction caught his eye at an early age. In addition to writing, Greg teaches writing at an online university, and won the 2013 Publication Award at Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, KS. He earned a bachelor's degree in English from Missouri Western State University and a master's in English from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. His work has appeared in Show & Tell, Teenagers From the Future, The Teaching Professor, Faculty Focus, and the Grantham Blog. He lives in the Kansas City area, where he hangs around too many coffee shops, listens to classic and modern rock, and daydreams a lot.


Website URL: powerclubheroes.com
Blog URL: greggildersleeve.com

Sunday, October 1, 2017


EXCERPT: The Fort Providence Watch

The office was located on the fourth floor of the Royal College of Surgeons near Lincolns Inn fields. Located in the corner of the granite building the office housed the head of surgeons, Doctor Barrows Winfield, and allowed a wonderful view of the grounds and a garden encompassed by a wall topped by iron spikes.
Sunlight flooded into the office through two large windows illuminating the room from floor to high ceiling, then spread across the carpeted floor to a wall covered by books complete with ladder for the unreachable volumes. This wall converged against another also gorged with a large array of text and journals. A large fireplace was prominently set into the third wall, its hearth cold after winter, use but ash and blackened stumps of burned logs remain on the grate.
Between the open windows and the fireplace sat the massive polished cherry desk. Its surface not visible from the papers, journals, and medical texts heaped upon it. Behind the desk in reflective thought sat Doctor Winfield. A clay pipe between his lips spewed the aroma of Turkish blend tobacco in a swirl of grayish smoke.
His hands folded under his somewhat doubled chin with fingers touching at the tips. His eyes were darker than usual by the sunlight enhancing the neatly brushed gray atop his head and matching muttonchops. His gaze was on the man seated in front of him, past student, Paul Barnet.
“I remember you as a hard worker, Mr. Barnet. One who studied feverishly as if certain to achieve a greatness yet unrealized. You easily took a quick grasp of procedure and protocol and performed with excellent surgical skills. Frankly, I for one, considered your future assured. It is such a pity to lose a brilliant talent at the commencement of one’s career.”
Doctor Winfield sat back into the comfort of his upholstered chair and puffed on the pipe. “I have considered your request, Mr. Barnet and although I am deeply sorry for the blow fate has befallen upon you, I cannot grant such a practice.”
Barnet’s expression changed from a hopeful softness to a tense, irritated tightness. “But sir, as I have explained, the cadavers would not be used for other than the suturing of incisions already made by students. I wish merely to practice clamping, prodding, suturing, no amputations or organ removal. I would not interfere with the studies of any student or the theory and practical application displayed by the professors within the surgical theater, lecture halls, or classrooms. I need to practice to become proficient once again in their application.” Barnet slapped his knee with his gloved right hand in frustration. This was his last hope to regain use of the nearly stagnate hand.
It had been four months since the attack and his argument with Farness in the hospital ward. He would never forget the joyous expression upon Farness’s face as Detective Sergeant Hayes gave testimony at the General Medical Councils inquest detailing the argument and incriminating statements he heard concerning the hospitals, or should he say Farness’s procedures on appendectomies, and Barnet’s insistence to go forward with the surgery on Seaman Theodore Henderson against policy.
“A clear case of insubordination and display of unprofessional behavior,” cited Detective Sergeant Hayes. “We will be applying to Her Majesties prosecutor for a charge of culpable negligence against Paul Barnet, herewith, the failure to remove the suturing needle from the patient causing his untimely demise.”
The Council’s decision was swift and final. The lowering of the gavel sounded throughout the meeting room, echoing in Barnet’s ears like the final salvo of an enemy hitting him broadside with all guns.
“Paul Barnet is hereby stricken from the register and the Con Joint Board of Surgeons and Physicians along with the Society of Apothecaries will be informed of our decision and recommendation of license suspension.”
That was that. Years of study and hard work, numerous surgeries, lives saved, all for not. Now, all just memories. The GMC held regulatory function over physicians and surgeons but only the Apothecary Society could reinstate a removed license. Barnet first must deal with the prosecutor and convince the barristers at the Old Bailey that the broken vial had caused the unfortunate accident before anyone would consider his renewal request.
Still his vision of the future seemed bleak. If he did not have his freedom from this charge, it would be ludicrous to continue his campaign to win his skills back.
A pain shot across the back of his neck to his eyes. The product of stress and tension from all this legality rubbish, mixed with the thought of somehow finding suitable therapy in the art of manipulating his fingers on a human body.
He felt scared muscle reaction in the hand, rekindled from pulling in, pushing out and gripping objects. Even in sleep, the arm pulled at the hand trying to receive a normal response. Barnet knew actual practice on cadavers seemed the logical course to follow, also he knew he was out of line talking angrily to Winfield. It was desperation, his last hope.
“I’m sorry, sir.”
“I’m not a heartless monster, Paul,” Winfield stood, walking to the front of the desk where he sat on the corner, “and I feel terrible refusing your request but you must see things from my perspective. First, we do not have the amount of cadavers as when you studied here. I must get the most from each body that is possible. Do you recall the case of Burke and Hare?”
Paul relaxed somewhat seeing that Winfield was not going to send him packing because of his tirade but would continue the discussion. Maybe there was hope?
“Grave robbery, I believe.”
“Precisely, they were well established in the resurrection trade, the supplying of fresh corpses to medical colleges and private institutions, but before Burke and Hare there were two bloody murderers named Bishop and May who sold bodies so fast they couldn’t keep up with demand, so they took live ones. Hung both of the buggers. Their bodies went to a school for dissection, bloody ironic, what?”
Barnet looked confused.
“My point Barnet, is that because of grave robbers and the Anatomy Act, we are no longer overwhelmed with a supply of cadavers as we would like to be, or allowed to have. Oh yes, we still have bodies delivered from prisons, hospitals, military, homeless and those poor souls who perish without the comfort of family or kin but the supply is limited. The amount of available cadavers has dwindled and don’t forget we have to share with other institutions.”
“I understand Doctor Winfield, but I still remain in the position that the ones you do have could be made available, perhaps once a week?”
Barnet sat closer to the edge of the chair pleading his case, hoping his request granted. Winfield went to the open window breathing in the warm air of summer.
“My second concern is your loss of license. Why on earth, do you wish to regain your skills with no license? Could you not seek a professorship? Perhaps I could inquire...”
Barnet lowered his head. Shame, guilt, or defeated he did not quite know from what.
“I am innocent of the charge, it was an accident,” he interrupted, his voice rising, “I will not only reinstate my license, but I will regain my good name and reputation. No, I love surgery, Doctor Winfield. I could never accept nor commit myself to a career in medicine other than surgery.”
“Things occur at times that cannot be justified or explained and the innocent are caught in the turmoil,” Winfield stated, “I should think if the GMC recommends your license be removed then that just about does it?”
“I will reapply to the Apothecary Society after I clear my name and refresh my skills,” Barnet answered remembering the words of that miserable feign Farness as he handed him his letter of resignation.
Sorry, Barnet. Perhaps after a time you will see fit to reapply, new license, new man and all that. The bastard.
Barnet realized Winfield could not and would not help. All he could think to do was to run and leap from the window, dash his body against the iron spikes of the fence below and be done with it. Winfield turned to the window again as Barnet continued.
“It is humiliating to have lived through those occurrences without revisiting them with the man who taught me my skill, a man I admire and respect. I must appear before you as the greatest buffoon in all of the university’s history?”
He leaned onto a stack of The Lancet medical journals atop the desk.
“Was it not enough suffering to watch the auctioneer accept ridiculously low bids on the furnishings of my home, sold to appease creditors? Was it not enough to have watched the woman of my dreams, my sweet Jean, the love of my life decide I was not stable nor financially secure to marry...and could you blame her? I have nothing! Neither future nor security!”
He looked down to the carpet, frustrated and at his wits end, he continued, “Was it not enough to live day by day with the agony of a useless limb, a ruined future, reputation and broken heart? How much can a man endure after being the unwilling messenger of death? Why has my fall into the abyss of oblivion continued for so long? I have moved to Spitalfields. I will leave my address with your secretary...in case.”
Barnet stepped quietly to the office entrance and closed the door behind him.
Doctor Barrows Winfield turned from the window ashamed to let his honor student see the tear on his cheek.
“Godspeed, Paul,” he whispered to the closed door.


Jack the Ripper, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Victorian England


The Igloo Boys
Henry P. Gravelle

By Jeffrey Ross 
4 stars out of 5

This tidy tragicomedy pits two-bit thieves (the newly-minted Igloo Boys) against some very angry and frustrated veteran members of the mob. Oh, the story also contains hard-core gangland violence, a fallen angel, dreadlocks, and a few tender moments. The language is a little rough, but the action is epic. You will thoroughly enjoy this read!


A few disgruntled friends working at a manufacturing company in financial hardship, plan to rob the payroll office before they are laid off. Unknown to them, the money they take is mob money just loaned to the company. Now the thieves have more than the police after them, and no one has any idea where the money is.


Doc Jacobi, a Civil War veteran surgeon, travels the territory serving medical assistance to towns between the Noel mountain range and Sessions River Indian territory. Along the way, the doc and his trusty Appaloosa named Bell encounter thieves, murderers and hustlers. In Black Knife, the Doc and Bell face two killers, renegade Indians and a rogue marshal.