#BookSale “Becoming Richard Pryor” by Scott Saul

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A major biography—intimate, gripping, revelatory—of an artist who revolutionized American comedy.

Richard Pryor may have been the most unlikely star in Hollywood history. Raised in his family’s brothels, he grew up an outsider to privilege. He took to the stage, originally, to escape the hard-bitten realities of his childhood, but later came to a reverberating discovery: that by plunging into the depths of his experience, he could make stand-up comedy as exhilarating and harrowing as the life he’d known. He brought that trembling vitality to Hollywood, where his movie career—Blazing Saddles, the buddy comedies with Gene Wilder, Blue Collar—flowed directly out of his spirit of creative improvisation. The major studios considered him dangerous. Audiences felt plugged directly into the socket of life.

Becoming Richard Pryor brings the man and his comic genius into focus as never before. Drawing upon a mountain of original research—interviews with family and friends, court transcripts, unpublished journals, screenplay drafts—Scott Saul traces Pryor’s rough journey to the heights of fame: from his heartbreaking childhood, his trials in the Army, and his apprentice days in Greenwich Village to his soul-searching interlude in Berkeley and his ascent in the “New Hollywood” of the 1970s.

Becoming Richard Pryor illuminates an entertainer who, by bringing together the spirits of the black freedom movement and the counterculture, forever altered the DNA of American comedy. It reveals that, while Pryor made himself a legend with his own account of his life onstage, the full truth of that life is more bracing still.

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#BookSale “Cuckoo Uncaged: A fast-paced suspense thriller that will keep you hooked. (Cuckoo Series Book 1)” by Julia Derek

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ONLY SHE CAN PROVE HER INNOCENCE

Yvonne Landis has escaped from a mental institution, where she was treated for psychosis. Accused of murder, she will stand trial once psychiatrists deem her fit enough to understand her charges. Only Yvonne knows that she didn’t kill her husband; her son Gabe did. Because she was onto him, he tricked the authorities into believing that Mom killed Dad. Having been traumatized in his tweens, he suffers from extreme anger issues. In order to deal with them, he must kill on occasion.

Yvonne is determined to prove to everyone that not only did Gabe kill his father, but that he’s the one who’s truly dangerous, not she. That’s easier said than done, considering her fugitive status and the psychotic episodes she still experiences…

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#BookSale “On Top Of The World: African-American Romance Fiction” by David Lamb

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Winner of the Pacific Book Award for BEST FICTION.

“Highly ENTERTAINING! Incredibly FUN! HILARIOUS!” ROMANTIC TIMES


Belle has it all, a powerful entertainment lawyer at the top of her game. So beautiful she causes traffic accidents from men sneaking peeks at her radiant chocolate skin.

It would seem her life was tailor made. Her father a prominent judge and her mother a famous civil rights era jazz singer always encouraged her dreams, even if sometimes they weren’t her own. Like when her mom insist she join her sorority in college, but Belle just wasn’t a sorority girl, and instead she instantly fell in love with Scrooje, the biggest nerd on campus.

Now, years later not only is he tall, dark and handsome, but he’s music’s biggest star.

There’s just one problem—he’s lost his damn mind!

Will Belle forgive Scrooje for a betrayal worse than cheating? Her savvy best friend, Camille who has more NY style in her pinky finger than all of the stores on 5th Avenue, tells her it’s time to move on, but Belle still loves Scrooje, and besides, every date Camille sets her up on ends in hilarious disaster.

Now, it’s been three years since Scrooje shattered Belle’s heart, and tonight they are bound to run into each other at the glamorous Hollywood Black Entertainment Awards. Will Belle be tempted by Scrooje’s charismatic charms and luscious smile?

Don’t worry girl, help is on the way, the Ancestors have got your back! As tonight, they’ll lead Belle and Scrooje on the journey of a lifetime to discover the power of love.

From college dorms to concert stadiums, Belle and Scrooje’s journey absorbs readers with a fast paced, hilarious, poignant insight not only of race, class and celebrity worship but of the eternally fascinating dance between a man and a woman who seek to unite but events and people get in the way.

What readers are saying:

“HILARIOUS! David Lamb hit a home run for me. This was nonstop fun! There was something I could relate to at every turn”

“Grabs Your Attention and KEEPS YOU WANTING MORE PAGE AFTER PAGE!”

“I was FLIPPING PAGES FASTER THAN I KNEW IT!”

“Got a copy of On Top Of the World and finished it in 2 days! It took me through a gamut of emotions with laughter being at the forefront. Great book. Loved the retelling in a manner I could relate to. Thank you!”

“I Can Totally See It Being A Movie”

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#BookTour “Pierre the Peacock” by Jocelyn M. Lacey

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Children’s Book

Date Published: Dec. 11, 2017

Publisher: Jan-Carol Publishing, Inc.

Pierre the Peacock is delightfully illustrated with a valuable message. It is about acceptance, friendship and a valuable lesson in how we should treat people. Come with us as we meet Pierre, a peacock who thinks that he will get friends just from his pretty looks. When he meets Jerry, a colorblind little boy, he teaches Pierre that what matters is how you treat people, not what you look like. A lesson for all of us!

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About the Author


Jocelyn Mooneyhan Lacey is a native of Johnson City, TN, where she graduated from Science Hill High School and East Tennessee State University with a B.A. in Mass Communications. She met her husband, Steven Lacey, at ETSU, and they have since lived in Maine, Rhode Island, the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and now have settled in New Jersey for the time being. She also shares her home with two dogs, a cat, and three fish.

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#BookSale “A Death in the Islands: The Unwritten Law and the Last Trial of Clarence Darrow” by Mike Farris

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Lies, murder, and a legendary courtroom battle threaten to tear apart the Territory of Hawaii.

In September of 1931, Thalia Massie, a young naval lieutenant’s wife, claims to have been raped by five Hawaiian men in Honolulu. Following a hung jury in the rape trial, Thalia’s mother, socialite Grace Fortescue, and husband, along with two sailors, kidnap one of the accused in an attempt to coerce a confession. When they are caught after killing him and trying to dump his body in the ocean, Mrs. Fortescue’s society friends raise enough money to hire seventy-four-year-old Clarence Darrow out of retirement to defend the vigilante killers. The result is an epic courtroom battle between Darrow and the Territory of Hawaii’s top prosecutor, John C. Kelley, in a case that threatens to touch off a race war in Hawaii and results in one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in American history.

Written in the style of a novel, but meticulously following the historical record, A Death in the Islands weaves a story of lies, deception, mental illness, racism, revenge, and murder—a series of events in the Territory of Hawaii that nearly tore apart the peaceful islands, reverberating from the tenements of Honolulu to the hallowed halls of Congress, and right into the Oval Office itself, and left a stain on the legacy of one of the greatest legal minds of all time.

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#BookBlitz “Dark Secrets of the Bayou” by Kim Carter

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Mystery, Suspense

Date Published: November 2020

Publisher: Raven South Publishing

Catherine “Tink” Mabrey, an up and coming attorney, is shocked by her recent inheritance from her estranged family on the bayou. After her mother died during childbirth, Tink’s father had quickly relocated them to the big city of Atlanta, Georgia. With no memory of her mother, she is determined to learn more about her lineage and decides to visit the bayou town of Kane, Louisiana. Candace, Tink’s co-worker and best friend, agrees to make the trip with her.

Before she has time to explore her family’s history, or decide what to do with the declining property, local murders plague Tink’s homecoming. She quickly finds herself caught in the middle of a multiple murder investigation – and quite possibly, the prime suspect. When Candace retreats back to Atlanta, Tink, with the support of an unlikely cast of characters, sets out to discover clues that have haunted and tormented her family for generations.

Could a concealed crime from the 1800’s, or the family’s estate itself, harbor keys to unlocking the past? The more they learn, the more they question whether some secrets are best left buried.

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Other Books By Kim Carter:

 

Sweet Dreams, Baby Belle (2017)

Murder Among The Tombstones (2017)

No Second Chances (2017)

Deadly Odds (2018)

And The Forecast Called For Rain (2018)

When Dawn Never Comes (2018)

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About The Author

Kim Carter is an author of suspense, mystery and thriller novels. She was a finalist in the 2018 Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award and recipient of the 2017 Readers’ Choice Award for her book Murder Among The Tombstones. This is the first book in her Clara and Iris Mystery series. The characters in this series are a couple of overly curious widows who become private investigators and were inspired by Kim’s mother and her mom’s best friend.

Her other titles include: When Dawn Never Comes, Deadly Odds, No Second Chances, And The Forecast Called For Rain, and Sweet Dreams, Baby Belle.

Kim’s writing career started after she suffered an illness that made her housebound for a couple of years. An avid reader of mystery novels, she embarked on writing as a means of filling her time. Kim shared those early writings with friends and family who encouraged her to pursue writing professionally. Her health struggles and successes have been chronicled on The Lifetime Television in early 2000, The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, Women’s Day Magazine, and Guideposts.

Prior to her illness, Kim worked in many different capacities in county government ranging from Park Director with Parks and Recreation to the Grant Department with Human Services. But, ultimately, it was her job as a correctional officer that provided her the opportunity to interact with a variety of people from all walks of life. Her experiences ran the gamete of inspiring success stories to tragic endings, much like her mysteries.

She self-published her first book No Second Chances. One of the guest speakers at the launch party she had at the Performing Arts Center in Newnan, Georgia included her close friend retired Atlanta Police chief Eldrin Bell. This connection would become helpful as she started doing more research for other books, this time working with a small publishing house.

Kim started networking and made connections with the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office. Her research has taken her many places including morgues, death row and the occasional midnight visit to cemeteries.

She is a college graduate of Saint Leo University, has a Bachelor Degree of Arts in Sociology. Kim and her husband have three grown children and live just outside of Atlanta, Georgia.

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#Excerpt “Krampusnacht” by James Drummond

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Book 4 in the Shadow Tales Series

Supernatural Action-Adventure

Date Published: 11/17/2020

 

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 In a small Austrian town, Krampus Night turns real. 

The yearly celebration of Krampusnacht is one of Bad Gastein’s most
cherished traditions. Rachel Chochopi arrives right in the middle of the
festivities to investigate an unexplained atmospheric disturbance and soon
realizes that something else supernatural has arrived in town as well.

Children are going missing.

The recently turned vampire puts her own dilemmas aside and sets her mind
to rescuing the kidnapped kids. Her first faceoff with the kidnapper leaves
no question that she’s outmatched. The rest of the European
Huntsman’s Network can’t reach her due to a once-in-a-lifetime
storm, so Rachel must team with some new acquaintances to defeat a
Christmastime monster.

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EXCERPT

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

Caroling was Felix’s favorite Christmastime tradition. Had been ever since he was five years old. He still really C enjoyed it at fourteen but had begun pretending to be weary of the activity to avoid persecution from his peers. As the troupe he was a member of walked from house to house, he’d roll his eyes with pretend exasperation or occasionally give the chorus’s chaperon a fake scowl. Whenever he saw someone he knew, he’d trudge through the snow dramatically, dragging his feet while complaining that his parents had once again goaded him into participating.

He couldn’t let others know how he truly felt.

However, when it came time to sing, Felix couldn’t hide his true sentiments. He enjoyed the act too much. Multiple people had told him he had a good voice, and who in their right mind didn’t relish doing something they were good at? Felix wholeheartedly enjoyed it. He’d belt out the carols exuberantly, often with a big smile. This was especially true when performing his two favorites: “O Holy Night” and “Good King Wenceslas.”

But this year was different. This year his reluctance to go caroling was sincere. For starters, it was no fun being out in such extreme weather. The town was slowly sinking into a sea of gray 1

and white, and the biting cold caused his lips to go numb, making it difficult to sing. It also felt odd to be caroling in the early afternoon hours, even though the sky was overcast enough to give the appearance of late evening.

Then there was the Krampus.

Felix had begged his parents to let him stay home. His father had responded by giving him an extra scarf and a short speech about the importance of honoring one’s commitments. Due to the weather and the two kidnappings, the caroling had been rescheduled for the afternoon, easing the concerns of the carolers’ parents. Most of them had agreed to let their children spread some much-needed cheer after being assured by the group’s chaperon that he would escort each child home afterward.

No one spoke of monsters.

That included Felix, who hadn’t mentioned the fabled beast since giving his statement about Simon’s abduction to the police.

He wished he hadn’t mentioned it then either. Neither the police, nor his parents, believed his story. Instead, Felix was sure they were questioning why he’d made up such a wild tale. Soon they might question why he and his friends had been in such close proximity to Simon when he was kidnapped. They might start making connections Felix didn’t want them to make. For that reason, he’d not raised his concerns about the monster when begging his parents to let him skip caroling.

It certainly wouldn’t have helped, and even though he was frightened and half-frozen, Felix had to admit that now that he was out, he wasn’t completely hating it. There was a small part of him that was starting to appreciate that his parents had forced him to participate.

The community did seem to welcome the distraction. Many of the families they visited stepped outside, onto their front stoops, closing the door behind them so as not to let any heat from their fireplaces escape. Bundled up in coats and blankets, they laughed, sang along, and applauded, happy to experience the joy of the season.

By about the fifth or sixth house, Felix found that he was 2

actually feeling some of that joy too. So much so that he was able to relax and nearly forget about the creature he’d seen in the forest. Then, on the way to the seventh house, the group’s chaperon announced they’d be singing “Good King Wenceslas” next.

This was the moment he’d been waiting for. Felix did his best to shake off the cold. He stamped his feet and clapped his hands together while he waited for the home’s occupants to appear.

The second the door opened, he and his fellow choristers broke into song.

“Good King Wenceslas looked out upon the Feast of Stephen,” Felix sang joyfully. “When the snow lay ’round about, deep and crisp and even.

Brightly shone the moon that night, though the frost was cruel. When a poor man came in sight gath’ring winter fuu-u-ell .”

 

About two hundred and ninety-three miles northwest of Bad Gastein, Toby Hoffman was also starting to feel more positive about things. After only two hours of research, he was confident he’d identified the beast Rachel had sensed in the woods. He marched into Frederick’s office and plopped a large, leather-bound book onto his employer’s desk. It was already opened to the chapter he wanted everyone to see.

Tapping the page several times, he pointed to the title. “I think this might be our monster.”

Frederick turned away from his computer screen, peered at the text Toby was pointing to, and then gave his hunter a dubious look. “The Krampus?”

“You asked me to look into any legends or myths associated with the area,” Toby replied. “This thing comes up every time, in every book. It’s the most infamous creature from that part of Europe.”

Henry, who was sitting off to the side of Frederick’s desk, studying a few books of his own, picked up the one Toby had brought and started leafing through the pages.

“I was hoping for something a little less . . . yuletide,”

Frederick said, returning to his computer screen. “A legend or myth not so tied to the season. Even better, something we have 3

record of as being more than just a legend or a myth. Something a hunter has actually encountered.”

Toby’s certainty crumbled a little bit. “You’re saying nobody has ever seen one of these things before?”

“I’m saying nobody we have reason to trust has ever seen one of these things before.”

Toby hadn’t been aware that there was no record of any hunters encountering a Krampus. He still wasn’t even totally clear on what the heck a Krampus was. The only reason the creature had seemed like a worthwhile lead was the fact that he, or it, was known to annually beset Austrian towns right around the holidays. Truth be told, Toby had been anxious to present even a semi-promising lead to his employer because he was eager to jump ahead to the part where they discussed sending him to Bad Gastein to help.

“Krampus, whose name is derived from the German word krampen, meaning claw, is said to be the son of Hel in Norse mythology,” Henry stated, reading from the book. “According to the folklore, he begins surfacing each year on Krampusnacht, or Krampus Night, which is traditionally the night of December sixth.”

“That was the night of the disturbance,” Frederick noted, not offering any additional details on what sort of disturbance he was talking about.

“He then continues his work throughout the holiday season,” Henry continued. “Up until all the bad children have been punished or until he’s successfully banished by Saint Nicholas.”

“I worry we might have trouble enlisting Saint Nicholas’s services,” Frederick said dryly. He rolled his wheelchair over to where Henry was sitting and took a look at the book. “Perhaps we should see if there’s another way to defeat the beast, and, while we’re at it, continue looking for a more feasible culprit than Santa Claus’s dark equivalent.”

“I want to go down there,” Toby stated. “It was a mistake to send Rachel on her own.”

“It was what she needed,” Frederick answered.

“She needs help. Some support from those who care about her.”

“Not if she isn’t ready for it.”

“That’s a bunch of B.S.”

Frederick looked up from the book and asked, “After your mother died, did you eagerly accept all the support others were offering?”

He sure hadn’t. Toby wanted to volley back some sort of protest but realized he didn’t have a leg to stand on. His employer had swiftly and adeptly swept both out from under him. Still, this wasn’t just about self-pity or giving Rachel the time she needed to work through things on her own. There was a very good chance that she could be in danger.

“I’m sending Jack,” Frederick continued. “Only Jack. Until I have reason to believe a larger team is needed.”

Toby held his tongue. The truth was, they simply didn’t yet know enough about the threat to determine if it was an all-hands-on-deck situation. If Frederick was going to send others to Bad Gastein, he was going to need a clear-cut reason for doing so.

Toby needed to find him one.

~~~

About the Author

James Drummond is the author of chilling supernatural action-adventure. A lifelong fan of scary stories and hero’s journeys, he’s put his own spin on familiar folklore with his Shadow Tales series. He lives in Chicago with his wife Angela and two former shelter cats named Snowball and Suzette. In
between early morning and late-night writing sessions he works as a Senior
Instructional Designer at an e-learning development company where he often
employs storytelling techniques to convey new concepts to different learning
audiences. You can visit http://www.jamesdrummondwrites.com to learn more
about James and his four-book (one day to be seven-book) series.

 

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#BookSale “The Unspoken: An Ashe Cayne Novel” by Ian K. Smith

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In this new series from #1 New York Times bestselling author Ian K. Smith, an ex-cop turned private investigator seeks justice on the vibrant, dangerous streets of Chicago.

Former Chicago detective Ashe Cayne is desperate for redemption. After refusing to participate in a police department cover-up involving the death of a young black man, Cayne is pushed out of the force. But he won’t sit quietly on the sidelines: he’s compelled to fight for justice as a private investigator…even if it means putting himself in jeopardy.

When a young woman, Tinsley Gerrigan, goes missing, her wealthy parents from the North Shore hire Cayne to find her. As Cayne looks into her life and past, he uncovers secrets Tinsley’s been hiding from her family. Cayne fears he may never find Tinsley alive.

His worries spike when Tinsley’s boyfriend is found dead—another black man murdered on the tough Chicago streets. Cayne must navigate his complicated relationships within the Chicago PD, leveraging his contacts and police skills to find the missing young woman, see justice done, and earn his redemption.

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#Excerpt “Death in Champagne Shores (A Champagne Shores Cozy Mystery, Book 2)” by Amie Denman

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A Champagne Shores Cozy Mystery, book 2

Cozy Mystery

Date Published: November 20, 2020

Champagne Shores, Florida, is a beach town in need of a paint job.

What it doesn’t need…is a murder.

Champagne Shores, Florida, is poised to become a tourist magnet, but a murder in the marina threatens the town’s sunny reputation. Sure, the marina’s owner had been a thorn in the local chamber of commerce’s side, but he hadn’t really made serious enemies…had he?

Millie Silver wants her True Colors Paint Store to inspire a makeover for her hometown, and she’s busy leading the Champagne Shores Revitalization Committee. But when she and her dog Sunshine discover the body of the marina’s owner, they find themselves on the trail of a murderer. The clues and suspects stack up and include an estranged wife, surly fishermen, and a flashy group of treasure hunters flaunting the Spanish gold they find offshore.

While the town repaints and reinvents itself using Millie’s color inspiration, Millie recruits her family and friends to help the police chief uncover secrets, grudges, and even sunken treasure along the Florida coast.

~~~

Excerpt from Chapter One

Champagne Shores, Florida, was a beach town in need of a paint job. I rolled out a diagram of the town and spread my paint swatches in front of me. Golden October light poured through the wide glass windows of the True Colors Paint Store and my yellow Labrador slept peacefully inside the front door, nose on her paws.

The paint shaker provided the swish-swish background noise that was the heartbeat of my shop on Atlantic Avenue while I challenged myself to choose the future palette of my hometown. Because I own the town’s paint store and have a reputation for sharing my opinions when it comes to paint colors, I was being offered a golden opportunity. Champagne Shores straddled the line between Old Florida postcard town and big bucks tourist stop, which meant orange stands mingled with boutiques. New hotels towered over the beach and the new town management wanted to attract more tourists.

“What do you think?” I asked my brother Darwin. “I could repaint the store fronts in a random pattern or in a sequence from dark to light or hot to cool.”

“There’s no such thing as a random pattern,” Darwin said. “It’s a contradiction.”

He picked up his kitten and set him on the counter, smiling as the black and white cat batted a paint card off the counter. Tony, whose original name was Saint Anthony, had come to us four months earlier in the middle of a murder investigation—the only murder known to have happened in the peaceful town. Tony had quickly endeared himself to all of us, even when he swiped things off counters like the paint card Darwin picked up and put back in my lineup.

I curled Tony’s tail around my finger as I glanced at the card labeled Sunrise Blush. “I do like this one and I think it has the fresh look the town committee wants. If I paint the downtown shops in shades of blush, though, it might look too planned.”

“But it is planned,” Darwin said.

Tiffany came through the front door, bent down and gave Sunshine a dog treat, and made her way to the counter. “It looks too planned,” my sister said after a cursory glance. She rearranged the paint cards several times, placing samples on top of each business depicted on the town plan until she smiled at the order.

“Nice,” I said.

“Like a good set of highlights,” Tiffany said. “Makes a statement without shouting.”

Darwin scooped up his cat and shook his head as he retreated to his computer at the back of the store where I knew he would ponder how paint colors could possibly shout.

“And,” Tiffany added, “with this arrangement, our building has the prettiest color. Beach Rose. Almost as if I accidentally planned it that way.”

“Hazel, too,” I added, noting the Peaceful Harbor Blue that had landed on Hazel’s Front Porch Bakery across the street.

“Everyone’s a winner,” Tiffany said.

I saw Darwin’s head come up as if he wanted to explain the necessary balance between winners and losers, but I gave him a reassuring smile and he returned to his work. Darwin is the most literal member of my family, but he’s slowly learning not to flinch when people violate the laws of logic.

Tiffany and I see the world in color—hair color for her and paint color for me—but our younger brother is more a black and white guy.

“The town hall meeting is tonight,” I said. “I’m going to present several options, but I hope they go with this one.”

“You should get to the other committee members first and plant the seed,” Tiffany said. She put both elbows on the counter. “I hope no one gets all grouchy and rains on the parade like last time.”

I shrugged. “Almost everyone likes the idea in theory.”

“Even Richard Croy?” Tiffany asked. She tilted her head and gave me the look that said she was ready to listen. Whereas I had a reputation in town for strongly advising people about colors, Tiffany had a reputation for being a good listener. It was a trait that served her well as the town’s only hair stylist, and by the end of any given day she’d heard everything from parents celebrating their kid’s place on the swim team to dark secrets involving affairs, family squabbles, and questionable paternity.

“I’m working on Richard Croy,” I said. “Deep down, I’m sure he wants his marina to look just as nice as the rest of the town is going to look, even if we have to be creative in prying the money out of him.”

Tiffany grinned. “You could tell him that anything he spends is less money his wife gets in the divorce settlement.”

I laughed. “I don’t think I’ll lead with that argument, but I could save it for the kill statement if I get desperate.”

“Even though it’s not even that much money since the town is supplying the labor and you’re providing the paint at cost,” Tiffany said. “I wonder if we’ll really be overrun with tourists someday because of all the improvements.”

We heard Darwin grunt behind us. The idea of being overrun with anything probably made him uncomfortable. As the official tech nerd for many of the enterprises in Champagne Shores, he already stayed busy maintaining websites and keeping up with computer updates. He was currently revamping the site for the Chamber of Commerce, which would include proposed plans and colors as soon as I got a consensus from the committee.

“I’ll settle for steady business and a very nice write-up in a travel magazine. Or five travel magazines,” I said. “And if tonight’s town hall goes well, these colors will transform Champagne Shores before Christmas.”

Tiffany blew a kiss to Darwin, gave me a little wave, and patted Sunshine on the head. I heard the bell tinkle on her beauty shop door as she slipped into her business next to mine.

****

The moment I walked in the door of Hazel’s Front Porch Bakery that evening, I felt the little shiver of excitement that only one man I know causes. Last spring’s murder of real estate mogul Ransom Heyward had divided the town and threatened its sunny reputation, but that tragic event had also introduced Champagne Shores to the deceased’s nephew. Grant Heyward had all the charm and personality his uncle hadn’t, so when Grant announced he was making Champagne Shores his official home whenever his documentary filmmaking allowed him to work in the area, no one had been disappointed.

“You have your camera with you,” I said, skipping a hello and pointing to his tripod.

“I have ideas.” Grant put a hand on my upper arm and leaned close. Our relationship was well beyond the handshake-greeting type, but not quite the kiss-hello type, either. Most days, it was hard to define. I’m sure he was leaning in so I could hear him over the voices in the room that were—unexpectedly—loud. “Do you think small-town politics would make a good film?” he asked.

“No,” I said. After serving on the spruce-up committee for a month, I was sure there was nothing entertaining about fighting over streetlights, flower boxes, and paint colors.

“Even if there’s a nice angle like a revitalization project that brings out long-simmering bad blood between business owners?” Grant prodded. He was lucky to have a dimple that made him endearing even when his grin was more devil than angel.

I cocked my head. “I thought you stuck with nonfiction for your film subjects?”

“I’m evolving. Drama is hard to resist.”

“There’s no drama,” I said, trying to sound certain despite the buzz of tension in the room. “We’re discussing the plans in a public forum, inviting comment, and voting on colors. I hope. I also hope Hazel plans to sweeten everyone up with baked goods so there’ll be no bad blood simmering anywhere tonight.”

Grant sighed. “Disappointing.”

I fanned out a full deck of paint cards and held them up for his camera. “These are beauties. The real story is the transformation of fabulous Champagne Shores.”

“Fact or Fiction?” Grant asked.

“You decide,” I said.

I made my way toward the table where the three other members of the Champagne Shores Revitalization Committee sat. Hazel owned the bakery, Vera owned the BeachWave Motel, and Chester was the newest business owner in town. He took over the antique store when its previous owner had to move to Jacksonville to keep her seventy-five-year-old sister out of trouble at her nursing home. Chester had almost discontinued the yarn sales that had taken up half the shop so he could have more room for antiques, but my Aunt Minerva had persuaded him to change his mind and he’d won the hearts of the town yarn club.

I wished there were more knitters in attendance tonight. They loved color and personal expression. My aunt and my sister were in the front row. They smiled encouragingly as if whatever I was going to say was going to be brilliant. Most of the other town residents in attendance looked as if they’d rather be home watching television. Except Poppy Russell. She wore a red sweater-dress that was already covered in white fur from the cat on her lap.

“Saint Mary of the Snow,” she said, offering me the cat as I walked past. I paused and stroked the soft fur under the cat’s chin instead of taking her.

“Is she new?”

Poppy nodded. “She was sacrificed when someone left a home empty in Champagne Circle.”

I smiled. All Poppy’s cats were named after saints, and most of them came with a tale of persecution. Poppy leash-trained them all, and they took turns accompanying her around town as she watched out for gossip and the inevitable invasion of the Russians she’d been predicting for years.

“Here we go,” Hazel said as I sat between her and Vera.

“Tension,” I whispered.

“Mostly just one person,” she said. Hazel nodded toward Richard Croy, the owner of the Champagne Shores Marina. Never the master of subtlety, Hazel’s nod was exaggerated and obvious, and the marina owner’s grimace deepened.

“Oops,” Hazel said.

“I’ll try to win him over with Ocean Sunrise Blue,” I said. “It’s perfect for his marina storefront.”

Cecil Brooks stood at the end of our table and raised a hand. After the former mayor was charged and convicted of murdering Ransom Heyward months ago, Cecil had run for the empty office. As the owner of the BrewPub downtown, he had skin in the game. And he made French fries I’d be willing to fight someone for.

“Thank you for coming,” he said to the two dozen people in Hazel’s Front Porch Bakery. Most of the attendees had a beverage and a plate of sweets, and I suspected the venue was part of the reason some of the good citizens had left their easy chairs on an October evening. “First of all, I’d like to thank our committee for all their good ideas so far. The hanging baskets along the sidewalks are even nicer now that the heat of summer is past.”

There was a little polite applause, mostly from my aunt and my sister.

“So far,” Cecil continued, “the committee and the town leadership have done the work and covered the costs, but we’re here tonight to ask local businesses to get on board and help us out.”

A short silence followed during which I heard an electronic beep that indicated Grant’s camera was rolling. He was set up on the side, and I wondered what the good citizens of my hometown would look like in profile.

“I’ll say it,” Richard Croy blurted into the silence. “Prettying up the town isn’t going to do much good unless we get more tourists in. And those tourists are probably just going to cost more money than they’re worth. I say we keep things just like they are.”

An audible sigh came from a row behind him, and I glanced over in time to see Lisa Croy roll her eyes at her husband. My sister had told me about the Croy marriage problems she’d overheard in her beauty shop, and it sounded to me like the issue boiled down to Lisa having bigger dreams and desires than Richard.

I wondered if Grant had caught the exchange and what he would do with those five seconds of dramatic film. I wanted to believe everything was fine with the Croys, but Lisa wasn’t sitting with her husband or even near him.

“You could at least look at the pretty paint colors Millie brought,” Vera Rivers said. She smiled sweetly at me and I wanted to hug her.

“Right,” Richard Croy said. “Says the owner of the ugliest orange motel in town.”

A few gasps followed that statement. It was true that Herb and Vera Rivers were married to their vintage motel’s orange color scheme, but I had gotten them to improve the shade and add a nice accent color last spring. They were happy and excited about the new look of the BeachWave, but Richard Croy had just ground the Rivers’ pride in their motel under the worn-down heel of his deck shoes.

“Their motel is lovely,” I said. I was glad Darwin wasn’t there to hear my fib because he would have had a hard time going along with it. My aunt and sister nodded emphatically, backing up my generous characterization of the BeachWave Motel. “And all our businesses could use a fresh color. If we work together, the palette works.”

I directed my words at Richard, almost daring him to criticize my expert color skills.

“Maybe I like my place just like it is,” he said.

His wife huffed, the small sound obvious in its meaning. No one could say the Champagne Shores Marina was perfect just as it was. The paint had once been lime green but it had faded and peeled until it looked like a rotting head of lettuce. The docks jutting out in long rows were crooked and weathered, a few of them partially sunken. Even the sign over the entrance to the office and store looked as if it just wasn’t trying.

“We all love Champagne Shores,” Cecil Brooks said. His tone was neutral and pleasant, the kind of tone he might use to persuade two drunkards to put away their fists after a few too many brews at his pub. “But sometimes a fresh viewpoint is just what we need. Take my BrewPub for instance. I thought the menu was just fine, but when I added some new burgers and sauces to the summer menu, I upped my sales.”

“Our hotel has been almost one hundred percent occupancy since we remodeled,” Vera Rivers said, her voice defiant as she directed her words at Richard Croy.

“That could be because you got rid of those bedbugs,” Richard muttered.

I heard at least three people gasp at the mention of the thing no one discussed out of respect for the Rivers’. Their infestation months ago forced a temporary closure of the family-owned motel but also gave them time to remodel. I was thankful I had chosen a shade of orange for the BeachWave’s exterior that would coordinate with the rest of the colors I was presenting.

Chester Bucks rose slowly from his seat on the other side of Hazel. Despite the warm evening, he wore a blazer that was at least three decades old and would have blended in with the wares in his antique shop. His white eyebrows and patient smile seemed to erase the rude comment from Richard and the discomfort of the audience.

He raised one hand, professor-like in his movement. “If I may interject a newcomer’s viewpoint.” He paused, but no one said anything. Since moving to town in July, Chester Bucks had become everyone’s grandfather, even if they already had one. “This town has welcomed me with open arms,” he said, his words slow and measured. “But it’s not just the people. Not at all. It’s also the location, the history, and—dare I say—the potential that has convinced me to make Champagne Shores my home.”

His sincerity was such a contrast with Richard Croy’s petulant assertions about his run-down marina that I glanced over at Grant to gauge his reaction. He gave me a wide-eyed head nod that seemed to say take your opportunity.

I stood and held up my deck of paint cards. “Speaking of potential, I doubt any of us want to stay here all night debating the next phase of the revitalization.” I saw Chester graciously lower himself into his chair out of the corner of my eye. “As you recall, when we started this project, we agreed that a common color scheme would pull us all together and give us a magazine-cover look.”

“We’ll get on a cover,” Vera interjected. “A really good one.”

I smiled. “I certainly hope so. I invite you all to come up here and see the colors I’ve suggested for your businesses. Of course it’s open to some changes, but I also hope you’ve learned to trust my judgment. I’m providing the paint to you at my cost, and the city will provide the labor. Some of your shops will only take a few gallons to do the outside, but I know it will be a bigger investment for larger businesses.”

I rolled out the banner showing the downtown stores and placed the paint cards according to the numbers I’d written on the backs. People vacated their chairs and crowded the table with the samples. The evening light coming through the bakery’s front window combined with low overhead lights hardly did the plan justice, but there were still enough murmurs of satisfaction to calm my nerves.

“Ocean Sunrise Blue,” Lisa Croy said to her ex-husband. “If you ask me, it sounds too good for you.”

“You’re just as delightful as the day I married you,” Richard sneered. He crossed his arms and reviewed the paint swatches along the table.

I focused on the other owners of shops, restaurants, motels, and beach rentals. They seemed happy. My sister gave me a reassuring wink.

“If anyone wants to view their paint suggestion in daylight, I’d be happy to come by tomorrow morning.”

“That’s a good idea,” the owner of a retro souvenir stand said.

Richard Croy tossed the paint card on the table and turned toward the door, but I wasn’t giving up on him or that beautiful color. His marina deserved to be prettier. It was practically crying out to me. I decided he’d be my first stop the next morning. Maybe I could persuade him to like the color—especially if he wasn’t being goaded by his wife in front of an audience.

“So lovely,” Chester Bucks said as he picked up a paint sample with his arthritic fingers. “I don’t know how you do it.”

His words were punctuated by the bakery door slamming as Richard Croy left.

~~~

About The Author

Amie Denman lives in a small town in Ohio with her husband and sons. She has published more than 40 novels—romance, mystery, and women’s fiction. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s walking and running outside. The victim of a lifetime of curiosity, she’s chased fire trucks on her bicycle just to see what’s going on. Amie believes that everything is fun: especially roller coasters, wedding cake, and falling in love.

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