Monday, November 29, 2021

You Can't Candle the Truth - A Spotlight & Giveaway

 You Can't Candle the Truth (Glenmyre Whim Mysteries) by Sarah E. Burr

About You Can't Candle the Truth

You Can't Candle the Truth (Glenmyre Whim Mysteries)
Cozy Mystery 1st in Series
Independently Published (November 16, 2021)
Digital Number of Pages: 267 pages

Candlemaker Hazel Wickbury has a secret. She knows when someone is going to die.

Welcome to Crucible, a small town with a storied history. Founded by five prestigious families, Crucible has been tucked away in upstate New York for centuries under the protection of a shield enchantment cast by Jedidiah Glenmyre, Hazel's revered ancestor. The enchanted barrier is meant to protect Crucible from anything bad ever happening to the town. No crime, no awful weather, no natural disasters…a haven from the greater world.

Until the heir to a billion-dollar company is found dead in his home. With the help of her uncanny power, known as a "whim," Hazel realizes foul play is involved. But more than being concerned about a murderer running loose and Jedidiah Glenmyre's protection shield deteriorating, Hazel and her aunt Poppy are worried the town's kindhearted art teacher will be charged with the sinister crime.

Hazel and Poppy team up with an internationally acclaimed mystery author visiting Crucible to figure out who had it in for the victim. Their fledgling investigation has them questioning if long-time friends have turned into foes and whether blood is really thicker than water.

Determined to prove her friend innocent, Hazel is ready to shine a light on the real killer…if they don't snuff her out first.

About Sarah E. Burr

Sarah E. Burr lives near New York City. Hailing from the small town of Appleton, Maine, she has been dreaming of being Nancy Drew since she was a little girl. Since she wasn’t stumbling across any crime scenes in corporate America, Sarah left her career in healthcare technology to write mysteries of her own.

You Can’t Candle the Truth is Sarah’s first foray into the paranormal cozy genre, and there's even more murder and mystery in the works for Sarah. #FOLLOWME FOR MURDER, first in the TRENDING TOPIC MYSTERIES, shines the spotlight on a social media PR expert after she discovers a dead body in her clients' store, forcing her to untangle a web of secrets in her small, beachside town. This title is expected in February 2022 by Level Best Books. Sarah is also the author of the Court of Mystery series, where murder is always a royal affair for her heroine, Duchess Jacqueline.

Sarah attended Elmira College and graduated with degrees in Political Science and Philosophy & Religious Studies. She loves to weave these themes into her writing. When she’s not spinning up new stories, Sarah is off seeing Broadway musicals, reading up a storm, video gaming, and enjoying walks with her dog, Eevee. She is represented by Blue Ridge Literary Agency.

Author Links: 

Webpage: https://www.saraheburr.com 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorsaraheburr/ 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/authorsaraheburr/  

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SarahEBurr  

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/saraheburr  

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/sarah-e-burr  

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/authorsaraheburr  

YouTube: https://bit.ly/bookstabundlesbooktrailers 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/authorsaraheburr/  

Purchase Links: Amazon - GoodReads Link

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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Danger at Dunhaven Castle - An Interview & Giveaway

I'm pleased to welcome Nellie H. Steele to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Nellie writes the Cate Kensie Mystery series. Danger at Dunhaven Castle is the fourth book in the series and was released this past week.


Kathy: In Danger at Dunhaven Castle Cate Kensie begins to slip in and out of different time periods. If you had the chance, would you travel through time? If you could pick when and where you'd visit, where and when would you choose?

NHS: I think I would, as long as I could return to this time. I’m pretty sure I’d quickly tire of the lack of creature comforts we have become accustomed to in this century! I’ve got a laundry list of times and places I’d love to visit, so in no particular order: colonial America, Victorian England, 1920s, 1940s. I’m sure there are a lot of others, but those are my top picks.

Kathy: I've always wanted to live in a castle. In fact, when I was a kid I would check out this magazine from the library which had castle and manor homes for sale. If you had the chance, and the financial ability, would you live in a castle?

NHS: Absolutely. I can’t imagine how entertaining it would be to live in a castle. I’m certain I’d spend at least a decade exploring my own home like it was a museum! I’ve always been fascinated by castles and large manor homes!

Kathy: Cate is also busy researching the castle's history. Do you enjoy doing research? Is history a favorite subject for you?

NHS: I’ve always liked history. I considered a minor in it during college, but I had a dual major (in completely unrelated topics) so I couldn’t fit it in. But I picked up history classes when and where I could and I’m intrigued by what life was like in past eras and how different things are between now and then!

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

NHS: I love mysteries. I grew up reading Nancy Drew and graduated to Victoria Holt. I’m not too squeamish so I can read some of the more gritty mystery novels, but I truly love the easiness of cozy mysteries. They are light and fun with just enough intrigue to keep you interested. It’s a really nice blend of pleasant story with mysteries that won’t turn your stomach or make you lose sleep (unless, of course, you can’t stop reading!).

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

NHS: I do! I’m a literary split personality and love to write different types of mysteries. In addition to cozy mysteries, I also write supernatural suspense mysteries (magical realism, think Dark Shadows), adventure mysteries (like Indiana Jones), and historical mysteries!

Kathy: Tell us about your series. 

NHS: The Cate Kensie Mysteries series is my cozy mystery series following Cate Kensie as she discovers she is the heiress to a fortune and a Scottish castle. The series starts with Cate’s journey to Scotland and surprising discovery about what makes her castle unique. Cate will then use her new found time traveling ability to solve mysteries in the past.

Book 4 of the Cate Kensie series involves a few characters from my Shadow Slayers supernatural suspense series. This series follows a set of supernatural creatures and their human friends who work to prevent evil from seeping too far into the real world.

The Maggie Edwards Adventures series is a high-octane, globe-trotting thrill ride following Maggie Edwards as she solves archeological mysteries.

And last, but not least, my historical mystery series, Duchess of Blackmoore Mysteries, follows Lenora Fletcher as she solves mysteries using her unique ability: she can communicate with the dead.
 

Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?

NHS: Yikes, that’s hard! I enjoy most of my characters and picking a favorite is like picking your favorite child! Some I love to write, like Marcus Northcott, because he gets to say things no one else can. And Cate Kensie will always hold a special place in my heart since she was my first published character and is named after my grandmother.

Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?

NHS: Nothing beyond I wanted it to have a really cool castle in a beautiful setting and I didn’t want it to be your average “ghost” story.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

NHS: I wrote The Secret of Dunhaven Castle for my mom’s birthday. After she completed a scavenger hunt and solved a puzzle, she got the book to read. It was up to her if I moved forward to publish it. (She said yes!).

Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?

NHS: Since I’m an introvert, hosting a dinner party probably isn’t up my alley! But on the off-chance I decided to, I think I’d invite some of the fantastic authors I’ve encountered on my publishing journey (and there’d be a lot more than four!). I’ve met some wonderful people and made great friends on my journey and I’d love to celebrate the work we do together!

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

NHS: I’ve got a few reads on my Kindle right now. I’m reading Murder in the Christmas Tree Lot, Jack of Spades, and Laird of Drumlychtoun.

Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?

NHS: I’m really passionate about animals. I’ve got a rescue home for abandoned and abused animals. Right now, I’ve got 14 pets in the house. They take a good amount of care since some of them have several issues, but I enjoy doing it and seeing the difference in them from the time we begin working with them until they really settle in.

Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.

NHS: Eggs, bread, cheese, chocolate.

Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?

NHS: Yep! Cate 5 will soon be underway! Book 4 in the Shadow Slayers series is working its way through the editing channels. And I’ve got a first draft of a new series starter written. Duchess of Blackmoore 2 is also about 1/3 of the way complete. Look for all these (and more!) coming in 2022!

Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?

NHS: There’s so many great things but my favorite is creating characters and worlds to slip into. I absolutely love to escape into my stories and I really hope readers do, too! 

**********************************************************************

 Danger at Dunhaven Castle: A Cate Kensie Mystery by Nellie H. Steele

About Danger at Dunhaven Castle


Danger at Dunhaven Castle: A Cate Kensie Mystery
Cozy Mystery 4th in Series
Publisher: A Novel Idea Publishing, LLC
Number of Pages: ~400

Frightening nightmares. Aberrations in time. Who is haunting Cate’s nightmares?

Months after solving two mysteries involving her ancestors, time-traveling, castle-dwelling Countess, Lady Catherine Kensie, still suffers from haunting nightmares. Chased by a mysterious man, Cate ponders who could be haunting her dreams and disturbing her sleep. She’s also smack dab in the middle of a brand-new research project, having found journals belonging to the Scottish castle’s original owner.

As Cate digs into the castle’s history, not only do her nightmares become more frequent and more frightening, but Cate also begins to experience strange phenomena with the time portals enclosed in the castle walls. Controlled by the mysterious heirloom timepiece she received as part of her inheritance, Cate is shocked when she begins to slip in and out of other time periods despite not activating the mechanism that controls them!

Can Cate learn the secret to control the time portals and discover who haunts her dreams before she finds herself lost in time?

 

About Nellie H. Steele

 

An Indies Today finalist for Best Book of the Year 2020 with Cleopatra’s Tomb, Nellie H. Steele made the leap from science to art with her first book, The Secret of Dunhaven Castle.

An animal enthusiast, Nellie often features a version of one of her fourteen rescue animals in her stories, though the fictional pets are usually better behaved than her own fur-babies! A literary split personality, Nellie’s work ranges from cozy mystery to supernatural suspense to riveting adventure.

She lives in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. When she isn’t writing or engaging in animal care, she enjoys teaching Statistics and Data Science at a local university.

Check out all Nellie offers at www.anovelideapublishing.com/novels or at her blog, Nellie’s Book Nook, available at www.nelliesbooknook.com!  

Author Links

Publisher Website: www.anovelideapublishing.com  

Blog: www.nelliesbooknook.com  

Facebook: www.facebook.com/nelliehsteele  

Instagram: www.instagram.com/nelliehsteele 

 Twitter: https://twitter.com/nelliehsteele1  

Tiktok: https://www.tiktok.com/@nelliehsteeleauthor  

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19769743.Nellie_H_Steele  

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/nellie-h-steele  

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Nellie-H.-Steele/e/B07Z9PD3YN  

Purchase Link: Amazon

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Friday, November 26, 2021

A Counterfeit Suitor - A Spotlight

On this Black Friday I'd like to shine a spotlight on an upcoming release that's on my TBR pile. A Counterfeit Suitor by Darcie Wilde is the fifth book in the Rosalind Thorne Mystery series. It will be released November 30, 2021.

BLURB:

Among the ton of Regency London, one breath of scandal can be disastrous. Enter Rosalind Thorne, a young woman adept at helping ladies of quality navigate the most delicate problems—in this charming mystery series inspired by the novels of Jane Austen . . .

It is every mama’s dearest wish that her daughter marries well. But how to ensure that a seemingly earnest suitor is not merely a fortune hunter? Rosalind is involved in just such a case, discreetly investigating a client’s prospective son-in-law, when she is drawn into another predicament shockingly close to home.

Rosalind’s estranged father, Sir Reginald Thorne—a drunkard and forger—has fallen into the hands of the vicious scoundrel Russell Fullerton. Angered by her interference in his blackmail schemes, Fullerton intends to unleash Sir Reginald on society and ruin Rosalind. Before Rosalind’s enemy can act, Sir Reginald is found murdered—and Fullerton is arrested for the crime. He protests his innocence, and Rosalind reluctantly agrees to uncover the truth, suspecting that this mystery may be linked to her other, ongoing cases.

Aided by her sister, Charlotte, and sundry friends and associates—including handsome Bow Street Runner Adam Harkness—Rosalind sets to work. But with political espionage and Napoleon loyalists in the mix, there may be more sinister motives, and far higher stakes, than she ever imagined . . .

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading The Seer by Eva Shaw. 

Dr. Thomas Ling has a plan, he's going to deliver the package as requested, then disappear. In February 1942 anti-Asian sentiments are running high. Never mind that Thomas is Chinese and not Japanese, life could become very difficult for him. Beatrix Patterson is a seer and a finder of lost things. When Thomas decides to enter Beatrix's home to avoid the police he's concerned he's encountered a witch, and he's not a superstitious man. Beatrix saves him from the police...but just what is her intention?

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

A Secret Never Told - A Review & Giveaway

 Review


A SECRET NEVER TOLD by Shelley Noble
The Fourth Lady Dunbridge Mystery 
 
It's the summer of 1908 and Lady Philomena Dunbridge is bored. Not even Coney Island's Loop the Loop can shake her ennui. She quickly returns to the city when Godfrey Bennington requests she act as his hostess for a dinner with a psychoanalyst, his wife, and their former colleagues. With the War Department involved, surely there's more to it than merely hostessing and when she sees Mr. X on the scene she's certain there will be some action. After an evening of guests doing nothing but argue, Phil is more than ready to call it a night, but as the group is waiting outdoors a shot is fired and one of the party is grazed by a bullet and another falls dead. Who was the intended victim? What's really going on? Detective Atkins, and Mr. X each have their own agendas, but so does Lady Dunbridge. 
 
Bickering psychoanalysts, a vulnerable sister, and several secrets collide in the fourth Lady Dunbridge Mystery. Phil is drawn in several directions, trying to investigate and assist Detective Atkins without giving away the mysterious Mr. X. There is plenty of action, lots of humor, and a gripping storyline.

The Lady Dunbridge Mystery series has a phenomenal cast of characters. Everyone, even the minor characters like Just a Friend, and even the Plaza doorman, are well developed and integral. The camaraderie between Phil, Preswick, and Lily is heartwarming. They are no longer master and servants, but a little family, dedicated to each other and eager to investigate whatever comes their way. Phil is smart, capable, and willing to go after what she wants. I'd like to think we'd be friends. Mr. X remains a thrilling romantic enigma and Detective Atkins adds to the sexual draw. This may be 1908, but women are women whatever the time and I enjoy seeing both Phil and Bev appreciate the male form while keeping their independent spirit.

A SECRET NEVER TOLD is a compelling historical mystery that bridges politics, high society, and murder. Taboo subjects are hinted at and exposed while the intriguing, fast paced story kept me reading well past my bedtime.

******************************************************************

 A Secret Never Told (A Lady Dunbridge Mystery) by Shelley Noble

About A Secret Never Told

A Secret Never Told (A Lady Dunbridge Mystery) 
Historical Cozy Mystery
4th in Series
Publisher: ‎ Forge Books; 1st edition (November 23, 2021)
Hardcover: ‎ 336 pages

Miss Fisher meets Downton Abbey in A Secret Never Told, the fourth installment in the critically acclaimed mystery series from New York Times bestselling author Shelley Noble.

Philomena Amesbury, expatriate Countess of Dunbridge, is bored. Coney Island in the sweltering summer of 1908 offers no shortage of diversions for a young woman of means, but sea bathing, horse racing, and even amusement parks can’t hold a candle to uncovering dastardly plots and chasing villains. Lady Dunbridge hadn’t had a big challenge in months.

Fate obliges when Phil is called upon to host a dinner party in honor of a visiting Austrian psychologist whose revolutionary theories may be of interest to the War Department, not to mention various foreign powers, and who may have already survived one attempt on his life. The guest list includes a wealthy industrialist, various rival scientists and academics, a party hypnotist, a flamboyant party-crasher, and a damaged beauty whose cloudy psyche is lost in a world of its own. Before the night is out, one of the guests is dead with a bullet between the eyes and Phil finds herself with another mystery on her hands, even if it’s unclear who exactly the intended victim was meant to be.

Worse yet, the police’s prime suspect is a mystery man who Phil happens to be rather intimately acquainted with. Now it’s up to Lady Dunbridge, with the invaluable assistance of her intrepid butler and lady’s maid, to find the real culprit before the police nab the wrong one . . .

About Shelley Noble

Shelley Noble is the author of the Lady Dunbridge Gilded Age mysteries beginning with ASK ME NO QUESTIONS, and The Newport Gilded Age mysteries. As Shelley Freydont she has written several amateur sleuth series.

She is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of nine novels of women’s fiction. WHISPER BEACH and BEACH COLORS, were Amazon and Nook bestsellers. The latest, LUCKY’S BEACH, was published in June 2020.

A former professional dancer and choreographer, Shelley lives at the Jersey shore where she indulges her passion for lighthouses and vintage carousels.

Author Links: 

Website - https://www.shelleynoble.com  

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/ShelleyNobleAuthor/ 

 Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/shelleynobleauthor/  

GoodReads - https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5560617.Shelley_Noble  

Purchase Links - Amazon - B&N - Kobo - Google Play - Indie Bound -

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Sunday, November 21, 2021

Witches, Spiders, & Schemes - A Review

 Review


WITCHES, SPIDERS, AND SCHEMES by Elizabeth Pantley
The Fourth Destiny Falls Mystery 

Hayden's father should only have been gone for a day, but two weeks later he hasn't returned to Destiny Falls and things are getting strange. The normally puffy white clouds in a blue sky have become grey and threatening, the park is plain and nondescript, and Poppy's camping store looks like any other department store back in Seattle. When the bodies of two men are pulled from the water Hayley and her friends know that the murder has to do with the illegal ferry scam, but who killed the pair and why? Hayden is determined to learn more about Destiny Falls, Gladstone Island, and her own destiny. With the help of her family and friends, including a coterie of cats and a ghost, Hayden will learn more about herself as she helps discover the truth behind her new home.

WITCHES, SPIDERS, AND SCHEMES is a captivating story. I enjoy finding details that shape Hayden's new world. I love her relationship with her family and friends, and particularly her budding romance with Han. The cats are fantastic and I'm smitten by little Lola who is learning to talk. There's always something new-I love Bob, although his motives concerned me until I discovered some major clues.

WITCHES, SPIDERS, AND SCHEMES is a truly unique mystery. It's a feel good story, but with plenty of twists and turns, and "Oh!" moments that keep you interested and yearning for more. There are laughs, and sighs, and an ending that makes you crave the next book in the series.

*********************************************************************

 Witches, Spiders, and Schemes: Destiny Falls Mystery & Magic Series by Elizabeth Pantley

About Witches, Spiders, and Schemes

Witches, Spiders, and Schemes: Destiny Falls Mystery & Magic Series
Paranormal Cozy Mystery 4th in Series
Publisher: ‎ Better Beginnings, Inc. (November 5, 2021) 230 Pages

A magic mirror to an enchanted world... A mysterious ghost... A hilarious, perpetually annoyed witch... A brave, sassy cat... Two unexplained deaths and a mysterious community filled with secrets... Can Hayden and the people of Destiny Falls solve the mystery and return the community to its peaceful, enchanted existence?

Hayden’s adventures in Destiny Falls continue in book four of the Destiny Falls Mystery & Magic series. Starting with a strange old woman at a cave and her father’s mysterious ferry journey, there are secrets to be unwound.

The enchantments in Destiny Falls are showing cracks, and Hayden suspects that it is tied directly to her family, which has a history that’s more complex than she realized. When two bodies are found floating in the bay it’s clear that the mysteries surrounding Gladstone and the ferry are more dangerous than people realize. And then . . . those spiders.

Luckily, Hayden and her sassy sidekick, Latifa have developed a group of family and friends in this enchanted place who are all ready and willing to help solve the mystery, and release Destiny Falls to resume its normal, amazing, enchanted existence.

Hayden’s many adventures in Destiny Falls will keep you guessing with each book in this intriguing series.

About Elizabeth Pantley

 

Elizabeth Pantley is the internationally bestselling author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution and eight other books in the No-Cry Solution series of books for parents. Her books have been published in over twenty languages. She is also the author of the well-received magical cozy mystery series, The Destiny Falls Mystery and Magic books. She lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Author Links: 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/24811.Elizabeth_Pantley  

Website: https://www.nocrysolution.com/books/  

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ElizabethPantleyNoCryAuthor  

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/elizabethpantley/  

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/nocrysolution/_saved/  

Blog: https://elizabethpantley.com/  

Purchase Link Amazon ~ Kindle Countdown on the first book in the series (Falling into Magic) for FREE from November 10-14 ~ Kindle Countdown on book 2 (Disappearance of Emily) for 1.99 from November 15-21

Friday, November 19, 2021

The Last Speaker of Skalwegian - A Review, Excerpt, & Giveaway

 Review


THE LAST SPEAKER OF SKALWEGIAN
By David Gardner 

Professor Lenny Thorson is up for tenure. Sure, the college is a two bit school with a gerbil for a mascot, but there are lots of PhDs who would take his job in a heartbeat. So he puts up with a horrible dean, as well as a lousy girlfriend. At least he has something meaningful in his life. He's working with Charlie Fox, the last known speaker of Skalwegian, in order to document that language, thereby saving it from extinction. Things start to get dicey for Lenny when he learns a horrible truth. Soon tenure won't be the only thing he's fighting for!

Cons, scams, and errant hitmen make life difficult for Lenny, but make reading fun. Lenny is a likeable fellow and a great protagonist. I love how for the majority of the book he is clueless about everything being done to him. He just goes on, lost in a daze of linguistic musings, doing his best, but most times settling for what he thinks he deserves, which isn't much. It's wonderful to see how his low self esteem and self deprecating ways change as events in his life become clear. 

While THE LAST SPEAKER OF SKALWEGIAN doesn't take itself too seriously, there is some depth here. It looks at bad relationships and good ones and shows why it doesn't pay to settle. There's a focus on friendship and gathering together for a good cause no matter the danger, or perhaps, in some cases, even because of the danger.

My favorite parts of the novel involved the hitmen. Admittedly, they were often foiled, not by their own ineptness, but rather Lenny's sheer dumb luck. I still chuckle at how his reputation grew even to the development of a nickname, The Lobsterman, that struck fear in the bad guys who didn't know him and confusion in the one who did.

THE LAST SPEAKER OF SKALWEGIAN is part caper, somewhat bildungsroman, and all fun. So don't be a weegan, instead be a custolo ak lopica and grab a copy of this entertaining and very humorous thriller.

**************************************************************************

The Last Speaker of Skalwegian by David Gardner Banner

The Last Speaker of Skalwegian

by David Gardner

November 1-30, 2021 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

The Last Speaker of Skalwegian by David Gardner

Professor Lenny Thorson lives in a defunct revolving restaurant, obsesses over word derivations, and teaches linguistics at a fourth-rate college with a gerbil for a mascot. Lenny's thirty-four years have not been easy—he grew up in a junkyard with his widowed father and lives under a cloud of guilt for having killed another boxer as a teenager.

Desperate to save his teaching career, Lenny seizes the opportunity to document the Skalwegian language with its last living speaker, Charlie Fox. Life appears to have finally taken a turn for the better...

Unfortunately for Lenny, it hasn't. He soon finds himself at war with Charlie, his dean, a ruthless mobster, and his own conscience.

A genial protagonist will keep readers enticed throughout this amusing romp.
~ Kirkus Reviews

Book Details:

Genre: Humorous Thriller, Academic Setting
Published by: Encircle Publications, LLC
Publication Date: September 8th 2021
Number of Pages: 308
ISBN: 164599239X (ISBN13: 9781645992394)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

 

Book Trailer:

 

Read an excerpt:

“Why document the Skalwegian language?” Charlie Fox asked. “The answer to your question should be obvious: I want to save the language of my Scandinavian ancestors and preserve their culture for future generations. I’m no longer young, and if I don’t act soon, Skalwegian will disappear forever. And give Professor Lenny Thorson a lot of the credit. He’s a linguist—I sure couldn’t do the job without him.”

The Last Speaker of Skalwegian, Newsweek

Chapter 1

Weegan

A word in the Skalwegian language loosely translated as butthead (impolite usage)

Lenny Thorson watched the red pickup roar into the parking lot, a statue propped up in back. It was the Ghurkin College mascot, an eight-foot-tall gerbil.

Charlie nudged Lenny. “You sure you want tenure at a college with a rat for a mascot?”

“It’s a gerbil. And yes, I do. Jobs are scarce.”

Gerry Gerbil stood on his hind legs and stared into the distance, a football clutched in his right front paw, his rat-like tail draped over his left. He looked hot and humiliated.

Lenny too felt hot and humiliated, and he guessed that Gerry hated parades as much as he did. Lenny tugged his sweaty shirt away from his chest. It was a sunny September afternoon, with heat waves shimmering off the blacktop in front of the building where he lived. He badly wanted the day to be over.

The pickup swung around with a screech of tires and backed up to Lenny’s beat-up Chevy. Two college students in matching black muscle shirts stepped out. Brothers, Lenny guessed. They were a wide-shouldered pair with mussy brown hair and long ears.

Lenny reached out his hand. “I’m Lenny Thorson and this is Charlie Fox.”

“Yeah, I know,” the taller one said, glanced at Lenny’s outstretched hand, then climbed onto the back of the pickup and untied the statue.

Lenny and Charlie dragged the wood-and-papier-mâché gerbil from the bed of the pickup, boosted it atop Lenny’s car and stood it upright.

One brother thumbed his phone while the other fed ropes through the open doors and around the mascot’s ankles.

The boy was careless as well as rude, Lenny told himself, and he was tempted to order him to untie the ropes and start over, but Lenny hated confrontation. Once he was around the corner and out of sight, he would stop and retie the knots. He didn’t want anything bad to happen to Gerry Gerbil.

On second thought, did he really give a damn?

Charlie threw his right leg over his motorcycle, gripped the handlebars and bounced once in the saddle. He wore jeans and a T-shirt that read ‘So Are You!’ He nodded toward Gerry. “He looks like a weegan, and so will you when you parade him through the center of town.”

Lenny hadn’t yet learned that word in Skalwegian. “Weegan?”

“‘Butthead.’”

Lenny nodded. He was a weegan.

Charlie looked particularly worn and shrunken today, Lenny thought, especially astraddle his beefy black Harley. His hair was gray, his skin leathery, his chin neatly dimpled from Iraqi shrapnel. He was fifty-one—seventeen years older than Lenny—and eight inches shorter.

At six feet four, Lenny was always embarrassed by his size. He wished he could go through life unnoticed. He wondered if Gerry Gerbil ever felt the same.

The shorter brother slapped the mascot’s foot. “Have fun at the parade, professor.”

Both brothers laughed.

Lenny didn’t expect to have fun. His gut told him that the day would go badly.

* * *

Bob One wasn’t happy about whacking a professor. He specialized in crooked bookies, wise guys who’d flipped, and casino managers caught skimming. But never a civilian. Bob One believed in upholding the ethics of his profession.

He parted the tall tan grass at the side of the road, pinched a mosquito off the tip of his nose and peered westward. No cars yet, but the guy who’d hired him had said his target always took this route on his way into town and would have to slow to a crawl here at the switchback. Bob One figured he’d have plenty of time to pop up, rush forward, blast the guy at close range, then get the hell back to Chicago where he belonged.

* * *

Lenny eyed the brothers, now slouched against his car’s front fender, both lost in their phones. He couldn’t remember ever seeing them on the Ghurkin College campus, the fourth-rate institution an hour west of Boston where he taught French and linguistics. “I didn’t catch your names.”

The taller one glanced up. “You don’t know who we are?”

Lenny shook his head.

The boys exchanged puzzled looks. The taller one said, “I’m Tom Sprocket, and that’s my brother Titus.”

The names sounded familiar, but Lenny didn’t know where he’d heard them. He could memorize entire pages of the dictionary in one sitting, but he was terrible with names.

Tom pocketed his phone and looked Lenny up and down. “Did you play football in college?”

“No,” Lenny said.

Tom snickered. “Afraid of getting hurt?”

“I was afraid of hurting someone else.”

Tom snorted. “Man, that’s all the fun.”

No, it’s wasn’t, Lenny told himself. Hurting someone wasn’t fun at all. Twenty-one years ago, while fighting underage with a fake name, he’d killed an opponent in the boxing ring. Guilt still clung to Lenny, ate into his soul.

Tom gestured with a thick thumb over his shoulder toward the office building behind the parking lot. “You live on top of that thing?”

Lenny nodded.

“You’re weird, man.”

Lenny stiffened. He did feel weird for living in an abandoned rotating restaurant atop a ten-story insurance building, but didn’t particularly enjoy being told so.

But in spite of Tom’s rudeness, Lenny wouldn’t let himself get angry with the boy or even with Dean Sheepslappe who, for some reason, insisted he participate in the Gerry Gerbil Alumni Day Parade, even threatening to block his tenure if he refused. Lenny had grown up angry, had fought with rage in the ring, but after that last fight, he’d promised himself he would never again lose his temper. Some people found this strange, Lenny knew, some sweet. Others used his good nature as a way to take advantage of him. Lenny knew that too.

Titus Sprocket smirked and said, “I heard the place starts up running sometimes all on its own.”

The Moon View Revolving Restaurant had failed financially in just six months, when its motor took to speeding up at random moments, knocking staff off their feet and sending diners sliding sideways off their booths and onto the floor. Lenny moved in shortly afterwards. He was paying minimal rent in the abandoned restaurant in return for serving as its live-in caretaker. He found it oddly comforting to be the world’s only linguist who inhabited a rotating restaurant. “Sometimes it makes a couple of turns in the middle of the night,” Lenny said, “then shuts down. It’s no problem.”

It was in fact a problem. When the deranged motors and gears got it into their head to noctambulate, they did so with a terrific bellow and jolt that made Lenny sit up wide awake, and which frightened Elspeth so badly that she’d stopped staying overnight.

But Lenny wasn’t bothered by the smirking Sprockets. In fact, he felt sorry for the boys, regarding them as underprivileged lads from some sunbaked state where children ran barefoot across red clay all summer and ate corn pone for breakfast.

Lenny wondered what corn pone tasted like and—more importantly—what was the origin of the word pone? A Native American term? Spanish? Skalwegian even?

He turned to Charlie, astride his motorcycle and fiddling with one of its dials. “Is pone a word in Skalwegian?”

“It sure is,” Charlie said without looking up. “It means ‘He who makes a big weegan of himself by driving an eight-foot rat through the center of town.’”

“You’re no help.”

“I’ve heard that before.”

Lenny drifted off to ruminate on pone. The campus newspaper had labeled him the most distracted member of the faculty—misplacing his briefcase, forgetting to show up for class, walking into trees. But he’d also been one of the most popular until he’d flunked a pair of star football players. The school newspaper excoriated him, and fans called him a traitor. A few students considered him a hero, however. Lenny wanted to be neither.

Charlie tightened his helmet and slipped the key into the ignition. “I got to get back to the farm because Sally must have lunch ready by now. Besides, I don’t want to stick around and watch my good buddy make a big weegan of himself.”

“Can you come over tomorrow? We got only halfway through the G verbs this morning.”

“Tomorrow I got to work on the barn roof. Maybe the day after. Or the day after that.”

Charlie started the engine, leaned into the handlebars and roared away in a blast of blue smoke.

Lenny watched him go. There were times when Lenny felt like quitting the project. Charlie used him as resource—“What’s a gerund? Where do hyphens go? What in hell is a predicate complement?”—but had given him no real role in documenting the language itself. Although this was frustrating and puzzling, it was never quite enough to force Lenny to drop out. He took great pride in helping save a language, not to mention that it was a hot topic in linguistic circles and would go a long way toward saving his teaching job.

Tom and Titus simultaneously tucked their muscle shirts into their waistbands. Titus said, “We was football players.”

“Oh?” Lenny said. He paid no attention to team sports but closely attended to subject/verb conflicts.

“Yeah, that’s right,” Titus said. “But we got cheated and ain’t never going to get our whack at the NFL.”

Distracted, Lenny tugged on Gerry’s ropes. Yes, they’d definitely need retying. It pleased him to hear someone say ain’t so naturally and not merely to make an ironic point. He said over his shoulder, “NFL—that would be the National Federation of… uh…?”

“Holy shit on a shingle!” Titus said. “I’m talking about the National Football League—big money, fame and all the poontang a guy could ever want.”

Lenny had read somewhere that poontang descended from New Orleans Creole, from putain, the French word for prostitute, but he wasn’t absolutely sure. He would look into this later, along with pone. He turned to the brothers. “Something went wrong?”

The Sprockets looked at each other in wonder. “Yeah, you could say that,” Titus said. “We got screwed.”

“Yeah, screwed,” Tom repeated.

Lenny said, “That’s a shame.”

“Yeah, well, we’re gonna get payback,” Titus said and patted Gerry’s foot.

Lenny climbed into his car and eased out of the parking lot. Ropes squeaked against the door frames, the statue’s base creaked on the Chevy’s roof, and Lenny was sure he heard Gerry groan in anticipation of the dreadful day ahead.

In his rearview mirror, Lenny watched the diminishing Sprocket brothers waving and laughing. What an odd pair, he thought.

Lenny decided to take his usual route through the arboretum on his way downtown. The beauty and isolation of the place soothed him. He hoped it would today.

* * *

Bob One spotted a car approaching and got to his feet. It was an old black Chevy with a maroon right front fender. Don’t all professors drive Priuses?

But it had to be the guy on account of the statue on top like he’d been told to look for. What was that thing? A squirrel? A rat? Look at how the damn thing wobbles! About ready to tip over.

Bob One slipped closer to the road, crouched behind a bush, pulled his pistol from his belt and slapped a mosquito off his forehead. He examined the bloody splotch on his palm. Shit, stick around much longer, and the damn insects would suck him dead.

* * *

Lenny was scared.

In two days, he had to go on live television with Charlie and discuss their Skalwegian project—not easy for someone wanting to go through life invisible. Would he make a fool of himself? Say dumb things he’d later regret?

Probably.

Lenny’s thoughts turned back to the Sprocket brothers. Strange last name. Scholars could trace sprocket back as far as the mid-sixteenth century as a carpenter’s term but hadn’t yet located an ancestor.

Tom and Titus Sprocket!

Of course!

He’d flunked them in first-year French because they never showed up for class, which cost them their eligibility to play football. The dean had been furious with him but not with the errant guard and tackle. Jocks normally took Spanish with Juan Jorgenson—the other candidate for the language department’s one tenured slot. Juan automatically gave A’s to athletes just for registering.

Lenny reached over and cranked up the radio for the boisterous ending of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, then glanced up to see he was driving much too fast into Jackknife Corner.

Panicked, he jammed on the brakes and twisted the steering wheel hard left.

He felt the car tilt to the right and heard a loud Thunk! just as Beethoven’s Fifth swelled to a crescendo. Puzzled, Lenny drove on, with the Chevy pulling to the right. Probably something to do with tire pressure, Lenny guessed. He’d have that checked later.

* * *

Bob One lay on the side of road. Blood flowed out his left ear and down his cheek. His head buzzed, and his eyes slipped in and out of focus. He pulled himself to his feet, wobbled, then toppled into the ditch. He crawled into the marsh, still gripping his unfired handgun. Puddles soaked his knees and elbows. A possum trotted past. An airplane roared low overhead. Or was that inside his skull?

Bob One’s left temple hurt like a son of a bitch. That damn rat had toppled over and whacked him on the side of the head. Or was it a guinea pig?

Bob One curled up beside a bog. Half-conscious, he watched a fat snapping turtle waddle toward him, stop two feet from his nose, look him up and down, then open its jaw. Shit, Bob One said to himself, the thing’s got a mouth the size of a catcher’s mitt. Bob One didn’t like animals or much of anything else in nature. He tried to crawl away, but things started going dark—warm and dark—not such a bad feeling, actually.

Bob One awoke to see the turtle biting his right forefinger off at the second joint. Bob One felt no pain and noticed that one of his shoes was missing. As Bob One slipped comfortably into his final darkness, he wondered if a missing trigger finger would hinder him professionally.

* * *

Lenny reached the parade route late and swung in behind the school bandsmen in their sky-blue uniforms with “Skammer’s Fine Meats” embroidered in bright yellow across the back.

Spectators to Lenny’s right shouted and pointed. Some ducked, some knelt, some even dropped to their stomachs. Lenny shook his head in disbelief. Had students and townspeople taken to prostrating themselves before the college mascot? Did he really want tenure at a batty place like this?

At the end of the block, a policeman holding a Dunkin’ Donuts cup stepped into the street, raised his palm, and forced Lenny to brake.

As Lenny stepped from his car, he realized that he’d forgotten to retie the ropes.

Gerry Gerbil lay sideways across the car’s roof, projecting five feet to the right, the ankles tied precariously in place. Someone took a photo. Someone fingered the slack ropes and spoke of slip knots. Lenny touched a patch of something red and damp on the mascot’s forehead. Lenny rubbed thumb against forefinger. The stuff looked like blood.

Since when did gerbil statues bleed?

***

Excerpt from The Last Speaker of Skalwegian by David Gardner. Copyright 2021 by David Gardner. Reproduced with permission from David Gardner. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

David Gardner

David Gardner grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm, served in Army Special Forces and earned a Ph.D. in French from the University of Wisconsin. He has taught college and worked as a reporter and in the computer industry. He coauthored three programming books for Prentice Hall, wrote dozens of travel articles as well as too many mind-numbing computer manuals before happily turning to fiction: "The Journalist: A Paranormal Thriller" and "The Last Speaker of Skalwegian" (both with Encircle Publications, LLC). He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Nancy, also a writer. He hikes, bikes, messes with astrophotography and plays the keyboard with no discernible talent whatsoever.

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