#CoverReveal “Hiding Cracked Glass (Perceptions of Glass Book 2)” by James J. Cudney

main cover

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About the Book

An ominous blackmail letter appears at an inopportune moment. The recipient’s name is accidentally blurred out upon arrival. Which member of the Glass family is the ruthless missive meant for?

In the powerful sequel to Watching Glass Shatter, Olivia is the first to read the nasty threat and assumes it’s meant for her. When the mysterious letter falls into the wrong hands and is read aloud, it throws the entire Glass family into an inescapable trajectory of self-question. Across the span of eight hours, Olivia and her sons contemplate whether to confess their hidden secrets or find a way to bury them forever. Some failed to learn an important lesson last time. Will they determine how to save themselves before it’s too late?

Each chapter’s focus alternates between the various family members and introduces several new and familiar faces with a vested interest in the outcome. As each hour ticks by, the remaining siblings and their mother gradually reveal what’s happened to them in the preceding months, and when the blackmailer makes an appearance at Olivia’s birthday party, the truth brilliantly comes to light.

Although everyone seemed to embrace the healing process at the end of Watching Glass Shatter, there were hidden cracks in the Glass family that couldn’t be mended. Their lives are about to shatter into pieces once again, but this time, the stakes are even higher. Someone wants to teach them a permanent lesson and refuses to stop until success is achieved.

Series Name: Perceptions of Glass

Book #1 Name: Watching Glass Shatter

Book #2 Name: Hiding Cracked Glass (cover reveal for this one)

Publication for Book #2:

Next Chapter, October 8th, 2020

PreSale / Amazon Link

Goodreads

 

 

double ebook

 

 

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Author BioJay_suit

Writing has been a part of my life as much as my heart, my mind and my body. At some points, it was just a few poems or short stories; at others, it was full length novels and stories. My current focus is family drama fiction, cozy mystery novels and suspense thrillers. I think of characters and plots that I feel must be unwound. I think of situations people find themselves in and feel compelled to tell the story. It’s usually a convoluted plot with many surprise twists and turns. I feel it necessary to take that ride all over the course. My character is easily pictured in my head. I know what he is going to encounter or what she will feel. But I need to use the right words to make it clear.

Reader & Reviewer

Reading has also never left my side. Whether it was children’s books, young adult novels, college textbooks, biographies or my ultimate love, fiction, it’s ever present in my day. I read 2 books per week and I’m on a quest to update every book I’ve ever read on Goodreads, write up a review and post it on all my sites and platforms.

Blogger & Thinker

I have combined my passions into a single platform where I share reviews, write a blog and publish tons of content: TRUTH. I started my 365 Daily Challenge, where I post about a word that has some meaning to me and converse with everyone about life. There is humor, tears, love, friendship, advice and bloopers. Lots of bloopers where I poke fun at myself all the time. Even my dogs have had weekly segments called “Ryder’s Rants” or “Baxter’s Barks” where they complain about me. All these things make up who I am; none of them are very fancy or magnanimous, but they are real. And that’s why they are me.

Genealogist & Researcher

I love history and research, finding myself often reaching back into the past to understand why someone made the choice he or she did and what were the subsequent consequences. I enjoy studying the activities and culture from hundreds of years ago to trace the roots and find the puzzle of my own history. I wish I could watch my ancestors from a secret place to learn how they interacted with others; and maybe I’ll comprehend why I do things the way I do.

Websites & Blog

Website   |    Blog   |    Amazon   |   Next Chapter

Social Media Links

Facebook       Twitter

Facebook      Facebook

Pinterest      Instagram

Goodreads      LinkedIn

Genres, Formats & Languages

I write in the family drama and mystery genres. My first two books are Watching Glass Shatter (2017) and Father Figure (2018). Both are contemporary fiction and focus on the dynamics between parents and children and between siblings. I’m currently writing the sequel to Watching Glass Shatter. I also have a light mystery series called the Braxton Campus Mysteries with six books available.

All my books come in multiple formats (Kindle, physical print, large print paperback, and audiobook) and some are also translated into foreign languages such as Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and German.

paperback

GOODREADS BOOK LINKS

Watching Glass Shatter (October 2017)

Father Figure (April 2018)

Braxton Campus Mysteries

            Academic Curveball – #1 (October 2018)

             Broken Heart Attack – #2 (November 2018)

            Flower Power Trip – #3 (March 2019)

                Mistaken Identity Crisis – #4 (June 2019)

               Haunted House Ghost – #5 (October 2019)

          Frozen Stiff Drink – #6 (March 2020)

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#FREE “Academic Curveball (Braxton Campus Mysteries #1)” by James J. Cudney

The debut book in the Braxton Campus Mysteries, Academic Curveball, is available as a FREE Kindle download from 6/5 thru 6/9. This book won a Best Fiction award and was the #1 downloaded Kindle book in the highest possible category in February 2019 during the initial promotion. There are now 6 books available in the series, so why not start reading them by getting this one for FREE!

Download for FREE via Amazon

academic download

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Overview / Description:

When Kellan Ayrwick returns home for his father’s retirement, he finds a body in Diamond Hall’s stairwell. Unfortunately, Kellan has a connection to the victim, and so do several members of his family.

Soon after, the college’s athletic program receives mysterious donations, a nasty blog denounces his father, and someone attempts to change students’ grades. Something is amiss on campus, but none of the facts add up.

With the help of his eccentric nana, Kellan tries to stay out of the sheriff’s way and solve the mystery. But can they find the killer before he strikes again?

Praise:

★★★★★ – “I read a lot of murder mystery and whodunit books, and this was one of the best I’ve read in a while. The story is full of twists and turns, and the characters are relatable. If you like cozy mysteries, you should definitely give this series a try.”

★★★★★ – “Fantastic writing and witty dialogue. Awesome.”

★★★★★ – “An exciting, cozy mystery.”

★★★★★ – “Full of twists and turns, and an ending you won’t see coming.”

Purchase Links for Academic Curveball

Kindle: http://mybook.to/ACurveball

Paperback: http://mybook.to/academiccurveballbrapb

Large Print: http://mybook.to/academiccurveballbralp

German Translation: http://mybook.to/acbde

Portuguese Translation: http://mybook.to/bolacurvapb

US Audiobook

UK Audiobook

academic cover

Braxton Campus Mysteries Overview

A new mystery series debuting in October 2018 focusing on amateur sleuth, Kellan Ayrwick, a 32-year-old single father who solves crimes in his Pennsylvania hometown while attending to his day job as a professor at Braxton University.

  1. Academic Curveball(Oct 2018)
  2. Broken Heart Attack(Nov 2018)
  3. Flower Power Trip(Mar 2019)
  4. Mistaken Identity Crisis(Jun 2019)
  5. Haunted House Ghost(Oct 2019)
  6. Frozen Stiff Drink(Mar 2020)

Check out the Blog Tour

https://www.escapewithdollycas.com/great-escapes-virtual-book-tours/completed-tours-2019/academic-curveball-braxton-campus-mysteries-by-james-j-cudney/

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academoc tour

Read an Excerpt – Chapter 1

I’ve never been comfortable flying. My suspicious nature assumed the magic suspending airplanes in the sky would cease to exist at some master planner’s whim. Listening to the whirr of a jet propeller change speeds—or experiencing the mysterious pockets of rough air jolt you up and down—equaled imminent death in an aluminum contraption destined for trouble. I spent the entire flight with my jaw clenched, hands clutching the armrests, and eyes glued to the seatback in front of me impatiently hoping the diligent crypt keeper didn’t claim another victim. Despite my uncanny knack for grasping anything mechanical and Nana D always calling me brilliant, I was entirely too doubtful of this mode of transportation. My gut promised I’d be safer plummeting over Niagara Falls naked and in a barrel.

After landing at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport on this miserable mid-February afternoon, I rented a Jeep to trek another ninety miles south into Pennsylvania. Several inches of densely packed snow and veiled black ice covered the only highway leading into or out of my secluded childhood hometown. Braxton, one of four charming villages fully surrounded by the Wharton Mountains and the Saddlebrooke National Forest, was nearly impenetrable from outside forces.

As I changed lanes to avoid a slippery patch, my sister’s number lit up the cell phone screen. I paused Maroon 5 on my Spotify playlist, clicked accept, and moaned, “Remind me why I’m here again?”

“Guilt? Love? Boredom?” Eleanor said followed by a loud chuckle.

“Stupidity?” Craving something of substance to squelch the angry noises radiating from my stomach, I grabbed a chocolate chip cookie from a bag on the passenger seat. The extra tall salted caramel mocha—free, courtesy of a pretty red-haired barista who’d shamelessly flirted with me—wouldn’t suffice on its own. “Please save me from this torture!”

“Not gonna happen, Kellan. You should’ve heard Mom when I suggested you might not make it. ‘He’s always coming up with excuses not to return home more often. This family needs him here!‘ But don’t worry, I calmed her down,” shouted Eleanor over several dishes and glasses clanging in the background.

“Did she already forget I was here at Christmas?” Another cookie found its way into my mouth. I must confess, I’m powerless to desserts—also known as my kryptonite—hence, why I’ve always thought they should be a major food group. “Two trips home within six weeks is one too many by my count.”

“How did you let our darling siblings find acceptable excuses to skip the biggest social event of the season?” Eleanor said.

“Me? I gave up trying to compete with them years ago. It’s easy to get away with things when they’re not disappointing our parents like the rest of us.”

“Hey! Don’t take me down because you can’t escape the awkward middle-child syndrome.” Eleanor put me on hold to deal with a customer complaint.

My younger sister turned thirty last month and is unhappy about it given she still hadn’t met the right man. She also insisted she’s not morphing into our mother despite every hour of every day steamrolling those figments of her imagination into oblivion. Truth be told, Eleanor was the spitting image of Violet Ayrwick, and in one of those ways where everyone saw it but the two of them. Twinsies, as Nana D always said with the cutest lilt to her voice. Eleanor will definitely be at our father’s retirement party as there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in you-know-where of me going to that boondoggle by myself. The man of the hour had been the president of Braxton College for the last eight years, but upon turning sixty-five, Wesley Ayrwick stepped down from the coveted role.

Eleanor jumped back on the line. “Was Emma okay with you visiting by yourself this time?”

“Yeah, she’s staying with Francesca’s parents. I couldn’t take her out of school again, but we’ll Facetime every day I’m gone.”

“You’re an amazing father. I don’t know how you do it all on your own,” Eleanor replied. “So, who’s the woman you plan to meet while gracing us with your presence this weekend?”

“Abby Monroe. She completed a whole bunch of research for my boss, Derek,” I said, cursing the slimy, party-going executive producer of our award-winning television show, Dark Reality. Upon informing Derek I needed to return home for a family obligation, he generously suggested adding extra days to relax before everything exploded at the network, then assigned me to interview his latest source. “Ever heard the name?”

“Sounds familiar, but I can’t place it right now,” Eleanor said in between yelling orders to the cook and urging him to hurry up. “What’s your next storyline?”

Dark Reality, an exposé-style show adding splashy drama to real-life crimes, aired weekly episodes full of cliffhangers along the lines of reality television and daytime soap operas. The first season highlighted serial killers, Jack the Ripper and The Human Vampire, causing it to top the charts as a series debut. “I’ve got season two’s massive show bible to read this weekend… ghost-hunting and witch-burning in seventeenth-century American culture. I really need to get a new job. Or kill my boss.”

“Prison stripes wouldn’t look good on you,” Eleanor said.

“Don’t forget, I’m too handsome.”

“I’m not gonna touch that one. Let Nana D weigh in before I crush you for saying something so pathetic. Maybe Abby will be normal?”

“With my luck, she’ll be another bitter, scorned victim rightfully intent on justice for whatever colossal trauma Derek’s caused,” I replied with a sigh. “I vote she’s another loose cannon.”

“When are you gonna interrogate her?” asked Eleanor.

I’d meant to schedule a lunch to get the basic lowdown on Abby, but I barely made the flight cutoff at the gate in all the last-minute rigmarole. “Hopefully tomorrow if she isn’t too far away. All Derek said is she lives in central Pennsylvania. He has no concept of space or distance.”

“It’s getting busy here, I gotta go. Can’t make dinner tonight, but I’ll see you tomorrow. Don’t commit any murders until we chat again. Hugs and kisses.”

“Only if you don’t poison any patrons.” I disconnected the phone, begging the gods to transport me back to Los Angeles. I couldn’t take the stress anymore and devoured the last two remaining cookies. Given my obsession with desserts, the gym had never not been an option for me. Some form of exercise happened daily unless I was sick or on vacation—which this trip certainly didn’t count as. There would be no beaches, cabanas, or mojitos. Therefore, I wasn’t going to enjoy the immediate future.

I navigated the winding highway drive with the heater set to die-from-sauna max and the wiper blades on maniacal passive-aggressive mode to keep the windshield clear of heavy sleet and snow. It was the dead of winter, and my entire body shivered—not a good thing when my feet needed to be ready to brake for deer or elk. Yes, they were common in these parts. No, I hadn’t hit any. Yet.

No time like the present to call Abby and suggest a meeting. When she answered, I wasn’t surprised at her naivety regarding my boss’s underhanded approach.

“Derek never said anything about meeting anyone else. You got a last name, Kellan?” Abby whined after I’d already explained who I was in the first minute of the call.

“Ayrwick. I’m Kellan Ayrwick, an assistant director on the second season of Dark Reality. I thought we could review the research you prepared for Derek and discuss your experience working in the television industry.”

There were a few seconds of silence on the phone. “Ayrwick, you said? As in… well… aren’t there a few of them working over at Braxton?”

I was momentarily stunned as to how a groupie girl would even know anything about Braxton, but then I speculated she currently attended the college or previously went to school with one of my siblings. “Let’s have lunch tomorrow to discuss it. Would one o’clock be okay?”

“Not really. I wasn’t prepared to chat this weekend. I thought I’d be flying out to meet Derek in the next few days. The timing is off.”

“Can’t we meet for a brief introduction?” Derek sure knew how to pick the dramatic ones. I could picture her twirling her hair and blinking her eyes despite not knowing what she looked like.

“I’m in the middle of an exclusive exposé about a crime happening here in Wharton County. Might be something to pitch to Derek for… well, it’s too early to say anything.” Her voice suddenly went cold and limp. She’d probably forgotten how to use the phone or accidentally muted me.

“Is this what you mentioned to him about topics for a future season of Dark Reality? I’m more interested in true crimes and investigative reporting. Maybe I could help with this scoop.” Once I realized she was in the same county as me, I tried all angles to snare a meeting.

“Are you Wesley Ayrwick’s son? I heard he’s got a whole slew of kids.”

My mouth dropped two inches. Nana D would’ve counted the flies as they swarmed in given how long it remained open. Who was this girl who knew something about my family? “I don’t see how that’s relevant, but yes, he’s my father. Do you attend Braxton, Abby?”

“Attend Braxton? No, you’ve got a few things to learn if we’re going to work together.” She laughed hysterically, reaching full-on snort level.

“Great, so we can meet tomorrow?” The woman’s tone annoyed me, but perhaps I’d misjudged her based on Derek’s normal taste in women. “Even thirty minutes to build a working relationship. Are you familiar with the Pick-Me-Up Diner?” Eleanor ran the joint, so I’d have an excuse to step away if Abby was too much to handle. My sister could arrange for one of the waiters to dump a bowl of soup on Abby, then lock her in the bathroom while I escaped. There’s nothing more I disliked than foolish, clueless, or vapid people. I’d had enough of them dating my way through a sorority’s sisterhood years ago. If I ran into one more LA valley girl, I’d consider letting Francesca’s family, the Castiglianos, take control of the situation. Scratch that, I never said those words out loud.

“No, sorry. I’m gonna be tied up for a few hours investigating all the nonsense going on around here. But I’ll see you on campus tomorrow night.”

I shook my head in frustration and confusion. I clearly heard her stifling an obnoxious laugh again. If she weren’t a student, why would she be on campus? “What do you mean tomorrow night?”

“The party celebrating your father’s retirement. Nothing’s ever as it seems, huh? You can properly introduce yourself and set up a time to talk. I hope that’ll work.”

Derek was going to owe me big-time for this ordeal. If he didn’t watch himself, I’d give her his real cell phone number and not the fake one he gave to people the first time they met.

“How exactly do you know my—” The next thing I heard was a click as she hung up the call.

I continued on the main road directly into the heart of Braxton tooting the horn as I passed Danby Landing, Nana D’s organic orchard and farm. I was especially close with Nana D, also known as my grandmother, Seraphina, who’d turn seventy-five later this year. She kept threatening to bend our town’s councilman, Marcus Stanton, over her lap, slap his bottom silly, and teach the ninny how things ought to be done in a modern world. It’s my second job to keep her in check after the incident where she was supposedly locked up in jail overnight. With no official records, she could continue to deny it, but I knew better given I was the one who had to convince Sheriff Montague to release Nana D. I hoped never again to go toe-to-toe with our county’s ever-so-charming head law enforcer, even if it’s necessary to save Nana D from prison. I felt certain that was a one-time card I could play.

The sun disappeared as I pulled up to my parents’ house, parked the Jeep, and walked toward the trunk to get my bags. Given the temperature had slipped to the single digits, and the icy snow wildly pelted my body, I tried my best to hurry to the front door. Unfortunately, fate opted for revenge over some past indiscretion and came back with the vengeance of a thousand plagues. Before long, I skated across a sheet of ice like an awkward ballerina wearing clown shoes and fell flat on my back.

I snapped a selfie while laughing on the frosty ground, to let Nana D know I’d arrived in Braxton. She loved getting pictures and seeing me make a fool of myself. I couldn’t decipher her reply given my glasses had fogged over, and my vision was worse than that of a secret lovechild of Mr. Magoo’s. I searched for a piece of a flannel shirt untouched by the falling sleet or the embarrassing crash to the ground and wiped them dry. A glance at the picture I’d sent caused the loudest and most absurd guffaw to erupt from my throat. My usually clean-cut dark-blond hair was littered with leaves, and the four days of stubble on my cheeks and chin was blanketed in mounds of white snow. I dusted myself off and rushed under the protection of a covered porch to read her text.

Nana DIs that a dirty wet mop on your head? You’re dressed like a hooligan. Put on a coat, it’s cold out.

MeThanks, Captain Obvious. I fell on the walkway. You think I’m normally this much of a disaster?

Nana DAnd you’re supposed to be the brilliant one? Have you given up on life, or did it give up on you?

MeKeep it up, and I won’t visit this weekend. You’re supposed to be a sweet and loving grandma.

Nana DIf that’s what you want, go down to the old folks’ home and rent yourself a little biddy. Maybe you two can share some smashed peas, green Jell-O, and a tasty glass of Ovaltine. I’ll even pay.

After ignoring Nana D’s sass, I ran a pair of chilled hands through my hair to look somewhat presentable and entered the foyer. Though the original shell of the house was clearly a wood-framed cabin, my parents had added many rooms over the years, including a west and east wing bookending the massive structure. The foyer ceilings were vaulted at least twelve feet high and covered in endless cedar planks with knots in all the right places. A pretty hunter-green paint coated three of the walls where the entranceway opened into a gigantic living room. It was anchored by a flagstone fireplace and adorned with hand-crafted antique furniture my parents had traveled all over the state to procure. My father was passionate about keeping the authenticity of a traditional log cabin while my mom required all the modern conveniences. If only the Property Brothers could see the results of their combined styles. Eleanor and I referred to it as the Royal Chic-Shack.

I dropped my bags to the floor calling out, “Anyone home?” My body jumped as the door to my father’s study creaked open, and his head popped out. Perhaps I had the paranormal and occult on my mind knowing Dark Reality’s next season was unfortunately in my foreseeable future.

“It’s just me. Welcome back,” replied my father, waiting for me to approach the study. “Your mother’s still at Braxton closing on the final admissions list for the prospective class.”

“How’s the jolly retiree doing?” I asked, walking down the hall toward him.

“I’m not retired, yet,” my father said with a sneer. “I finished writing my speech for the party tomorrow evening. Interested in an early preview?”

Saying no would make me a bad son. Eleanor and I had promised one another at Christmas we’d try harder. I really want to be a bad son today. “Sure, it must be exciting. You’ve had a bountiful career, Dad. It’s undoubtedly the perfect example of oratory excellence.” He always loved when I stretched my vocabulary skills to align with his own. I shuddered thinking about the spelling bees of long ago.

Goodreads Button

Academic Curveball – Book Links

Kindle: http://mybook.to/ACurveball

Paperback: http://mybook.to/academiccurveballbrapb

Large Print: http://mybook.to/academiccurveballbralp

German Translation: http://mybook.to/acbde

Portuguese Translation: http://mybook.to/bolacurvapb

US Audiobook

UK Audiobook

About The Author

Background

James is my given name, but most folks call me Jay. I live in New York City, grew up on Long Island, and graduated from Moravian College, an historic but small liberal arts school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with a degree in English literature and minors in Education, Business and Spanish. After college, I accepted a technical writing position for a telecommunications company during Y2K and spent the last ~20 years building a career in technology & business operations in the retail, sports, media and entertainment industries. Throughout those years, I wrote some short stories, poems and various beginnings to the “Great American Novel,” but I was so focused on my career in technology and business that writing became a hobby. In 2016, I refocused some of my energies toward reinvigorating a second career in reading, writing and publishing.

Author

Writing has been a part of my life as much as my heart, my mind and my body. At some points, it was just a few poems or short stories; at others, it was full length novels and stories. My current focus is family drama fiction, cozy mystery novels and suspense thrillers. I think of characters and plots that I feel must be unwound. I think of situations people find themselves in and feel compelled to tell the story. It’s usually a convoluted plot with many surprise twists and turns. I feel it necessary to take that ride all over the course. My character is easily pictured in my head. I know what he is going to encounter or what she will feel. But I need to use the right words to make it clear.

Reader & Reviewer

Reading has also never left my side. Whether it was children’s books, young adult novels, college textbooks, biographies or my ultimate love, fiction, it’s ever present in my day. I read 2 books per week and I’m on a quest to update every book I’ve ever read on Goodreads, write up a review and post it on all my sites and platforms.

Blogger & Thinker

I have combined my passions into a single platform where I share reviews, write a blog and publish tons of content: TRUTH. I started my 365 Daily Challenge, where I post about a word that has some meaning to me and converse with everyone about life. There is humor, tears, love, friendship, advice and bloopers. Lots of bloopers where I poke fun at myself all the time. Even my dogs have had weekly segments called “Ryder’s Rants” or “Baxter’s Barks” where they complain about me. All these things make up who I am; none of them are very fancy or magnanimous, but they are real. And that’s why they are me.

Genealogist & Researcher

I love history and research, finding myself often reaching back into the past to understand why someone made the choice he or she did and what were the subsequent consequences. I enjoy studying the activities and culture from hundreds of years ago to trace the roots and find the puzzle of my own history. I wish I could watch my ancestors from a secret place to learn how they interacted with others; and maybe I’ll comprehend why I do things the way I do.

Websites & Blog

Website: https://jamesjcudney.com/

Blog: https://thisismytruthnow.com

Amazon: http://bit.ly/JJCIVBooks

Next Chapter Pub: https://www.nextchapter.pub/authors/james-j-cudney

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/james-j-cudney

Social Media

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jamescudney4

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

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

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

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jamescudney4/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jamescudney4/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/jamescudney4

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamescudney4

Genres, Formats & Languages

I write in the family drama and mystery genres. My first two books are Watching Glass Shatter (2017) and Father Figure (2018). Both are contemporary fiction and focus on the dynamics between parents and children and between siblings. I’m currently writing the sequel to Watching Glass Shatter. I also have a light mystery series called the Braxton Campus Mysteries with six books available.

All my books come in multiple formats (Kindle, physical print, large print paperback, and audiobook) and some are also translated into foreign languages such as Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and German.

Goodreads Book Links

Watching Glass Shatter (October 2017)

Father Figure (April 2018)

Braxton Campus Mysteries

 

#BookSale “Haunted House Ghost (Braxton Campus Mysteries #5)” by James J. Cudney

Not only were many of the books in the Braxton Campus Mysteries discounted to .99 this week, but the 5th book, Haunted House Ghost, is also available as a Kindle download for only .99 from 5/29 thru 6/2. To take advantage of this discount, visit Amazon via this link.

downloadFic

Overview of Haunted House Ghost

It’s Halloween, and excitement is brewing in Braxton to carve jack-o’-lanterns, go on haunted hayrides, and race through the spooky corn maze at the Fall Festival.

Despite the former occupant’s warnings, Kellan renovates and moves into a mysterious old house. When a ruthless ghost promises retribution, our fearless professor turns to the eccentric town historian and an eerie psychic to communicate with the apparition. Meanwhile, construction workers discover a fifty-year-old skeleton after breaking ground on the new Memorial Library wing.

While Kellan and April dance around the chemistry sparking between them, a suspicious accident occurs at the Fall Festival. Soon, Kellan discovers the true history and dastardly connections of the Grey family. But can he capture the elusive killer – and placate the revenge-seeking ghost.

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Haunted House Ghost Purchase Links

Kindle: http://mybook.to/hauntedhouseghost

Paperback: http://mybook.to/hauntedhouseghostbrapb

Large Print: http://mybook.to/hauntedhouseghostbralp

US Audiobook

UK Audiobook

Goodreads Button

In the book, we quickly learn about a fire that occurred on campus during a 1968 Vietnam War protest. I imagine it looked a little bit like the one below…

btb

Buy the Book Today Here

Below are the key details to find the blog tour… it was so much fun. There were character posts, guest posts, interviews, and giveaways!

tour

Visit Blog Tour Here

Early Reviews

Lost Knight

Dear Readers: I deeply appreciate the author for having sent this book on over. The character development is superb. As these books progress, the characters come alive. Kellan has a great sense of humor. If this book were made into a Halloween movie or TV show, I would enjoy seeing Kellan’s responses to various things. In addition to his great sense of humor, Kellen has a knack for finding crime scenes and the putting pieces together and solving the mystery.

Interestingly, this one is a part of a whole series of cozy mysteries. Each can be read as a stand-alone and are connected at the same time. There are a lot of twists and turns along with a good many story lines within the book. Amazingly, the author managed to see all the adventures through, and tied everything up in a neat and tidy bow.

…. And these leave the reader wanting more. Yes…. There is a cliff hanger and now, I will wait patiently for the next book. I thank the author kindly for having written this book. Everyone enjoys a good mystery. This one satisfied that urge to read a good mystery. It is greatly appreciated that one can read this book into the wee hours of the morning and still be able to sleep, and not fight off horrible scary nightmares!

Shalini

“I went to the Land of Braxton
Met up with Kellan and Ulan
A cousin from Africa he was
Wanted to move to New house
But a ghost haunted that place
A skeleton was found in old library space
A confession, an attack on the side
A new murder too on the hayride
Who was the victim no one knew
The suspects were old but still new
Father and son were present
Ex and new, old and psychic were sent
A priest and his family were shaken
Kellan and April, their time was taken
A breakthrough occurred in Kellan’s mind
He showed James J Cudney is one of a kind.”

The magician has done it again. A brilliant whodunit!! James J Cudney brought out a pack of cards from his top hat and constructed a house so deeply layered that the clues were hidden in the sleight of his hand.

Brilliant in his writing, it all started with a nightmare, the words had a haunting smoothness to it. If you listened carefully, you would hear the grim reaper with the scythe.

I have never seen autumn and Halloween in real life, the author made them come alive for me with the power of his writing. Red herrings were placed strategically amongst the orange pumpkins and the Halloween props. They blended in so smoothly that guessing the killer was beyond me.

The old characters returned, romance between Sheriff April and Kellan had its sexy moments before a skeleton and murder rudely interrupted them. The plotline had many twists as this author’s books often do, and the finale was a perfect amalgamation of real and unreal.

I repeat – a fun whodunit with shades of autumn, Halloween, and ghostly sightings.

Candace

This series is so much fun! And when I saw this title and this cover, I just knew it was going to be my favorite. I’m a huge Halloween fan and would seriously just like this holiday year round! Anyway, now that I’m going off course, let me get to my boy Kellan!

Kellan’s life is full of so much drama and I love it! There’s a ton of mystery to these stories, but what I like just as much is the family dynamic with the side characters. Kellan’s such an awesome dad, and I’ve always wanted that bond he has with Nana D. Seriously, I want my own Nana D! Also, there is some awesome chemistry between April and Kellan in this one! They need to catch a break!

There was talk about Halloween costumes, food, and an entertaining mystery that needed to be solved! Can I also mention that this book had me at skeleton being found in the library! I literally finished this one in less than 24 hours because I wanted to know what was going on! Andddddddd of course there is a cliffhanger, so that leaves me yearning for the next book! Side note: can there just be a Netflix series on Kellan’s mysteries? That would be amazing!

Anne

I’m a huge fan of Cudney’s and of course love this series! Protagonist Kellen is moving into his new home that is rumored to be haunted and the first scene will scare you enough to compel you to finish. It’s the same quirky family, featuring his sweet young daughter, feisty Nana D as well as the rest of his family and relatively new love interest, April. There are several murders and lots of characters, layers and layers of plot and history surrounding the house. Even though I recommend reading the entire series, each book can stand alone as Cudney gives us plenty of background on each. This one is a little different as it brings in some spooky and macabre elements that gives it a little bit of a gothic feel. But there’s also Cudney’s charming humor that makes you laugh out loud and now has me wondering which Halloween socks to wear! This series just keeps getting better and better so now I’m awaiting #6!

Laura

This season we are back with Kellan as he’s once again pulled in a million different directions what with parenting not only Emma but his cousin as well, along with teaching, other family obligations with Nana D, Violet, Eleanor, etc., and being co-chair of a Halloween/Fall Festival being held at Danby Landing, all while trying to complete fixing up his newold house so they can move in. But all is not smooth sailing for the Ayrwick family as strange things have been happening during the renovation process. Conveniently, Gabriel has been away so they’ve been able to stay in the cottage. And the possibility that these things are being caused by the supernatural causes Kellan (though he doesn’t believe) to agree that Eleanor can contact her psychic friend Madam Zenya to see if she can help.

The renovations for the Braxton Campus library also get underway in this book but those are put on hold when during the demolition a body is discovered in the foundation. So now Kellan feels compelled to investigate that situation as well.

I quite enjoyed reading this story, and it’s always good to catch up my friends in Braxton. I also often emulate Nana D, as I also bake pie the first weekend of October. And I think this story has just enough suspense and mystery and humour and just Fall fun to make it the perfect read to curl up with on a cool Autumn night, along with a blanket and a hot chocolate.

Book Excerpt

Hunkering behind a weathered, illegible headstone in Wellington Cemetery’s oldest and scariest graveyard, I remained silent and stationary amidst a slew of exhumed corpses. Though surrounded by tall, slender white pines, a gnarly and knotty willow tree’s sweeping canopy of dying branches furtively brushed my neck. After an onslaught of howling winds furiously whipped my quivering skin, I peered over the loosened tomb marker and gawked at the mounds of freshly flung dirt. Why had a ruthless monster dug up so many coffins near the Grey mausoleum?

Skulking two rows away, the determined villain’s soulless eyes glowed like burning coal. The chilling tone of St. Mary’s somber church bells blasted—midnight’s fortuitous arrival. Its ominous beckoning prompted my unsteady feet to falter, crunching a pile of decaying leaves and foolishly revealing my secret location. Suddenly enshrouded in fog and hovering near the nameless gravestone, the rogue’s flowing black and gray robes resembled billowing smoke from an overworked chimney. “I hear you breathing, Ayrwick. Come out, come out wherever you are. I’m not finished with this game.”

“I don’t know who you are, but your obsession with me has spiraled out of control.” As an aloof moon cast an eerie luminosity, I cursed my new modern, sporty aviator eyeglasses for clouding over. Apparition or figment of an overwrought imagination, I couldn’t be certain; nor did I care at that moment. “You can’t be real. My mind is playing tricks on me.”

The ethereal bogeyman glided inches above the churchyard’s hallowed ground. The soles of its feet would vaporize upon stepping in the sacred dirt of the meandering pathways. “Are you ready to die?” the menacing, shrill voice taunted while hunting and cornering me in the darkness of my desolate hiding spot—the cold, melancholy resonance frightening all the bats, owls, and other nightlife creatures into hurried seclusion. The masked phantom narrowed a sinister gaze and brandished a mammoth-sized, razor-sharp scythe that cut swiftly through the crisp air and aimed with precision for my neck.

My arms floundered like gelatin as I struggled to push the heavy cement slab to the ground, then jumped feet first into a vacant grave with my hands and arms protecting my soon-to-be decapitated head. The stealthy tormentor cackled wildly and seized my forearm with an uncannily strong and bony grip, delivering a blast of pure ice that raced through my veins and barreled toward my erratically beating heart. My body froze as though a glacier engulfed and preserved me for all eternity.

It was then I heard myself bellow like a rabid coyote, feverishly rolling off the uncomfortable couch toward the wooden floor in the house I’d recently renovated. My petrified body trembled uncontrollably and sweated profusely. Only a nightmare, I reminded myself while rubbing sand from my weary eyes and concentrating on the conspicuously soundless room. Ever since undertaking the massive remodel, a recurring dream about a creepy grim reaper’s intent to kill me had reared its ugly head.

The vacuous, gloomy memory of the previous night had mercifully disappeared. Hopeful rays of sunshine blasted through the living room’s new bay windows and moored on the precipice of the foyer. Sparkling collections of construction dust and a pungent combination of mothballs and musty old clothes abruptly materialized in the stifled air. When a light breeze curiously swept across my startled skin, the hair on the back of my neck tingled. A willowy shadow lingered in the adjacent central hallway, confirming someone hid inside my home.

I blinked at what was hopefully a mirage, then startled again. An eerie squeak and pervasive thump echoed in the rafters of the foyer’s vaulted ceiling. Had one of the nearby heavy wooden doors just opened and closed? I leapt to my feet and rushed through the hallway to catch the troublesome lurker, but the basement ingress was as permanently sealed as it’d been on my first tour of Judge Hiram Grey’s former abode. For a multitude of reasons, we still hadn’t located the key to the sub-level of my newly acquired, antiquated, and historic home.

The nightmare I’d just awoken from must’ve incited me to imagine the whole series of events. No one lurked inside the house, which unnerved me far worse than the half-dozen times someone had surreptitiously followed me to the new neighborhood. It was as if a stalker tracked my every move, always two steps behind me in the shadows yet never in clear sight. I never asked for this.

Three months ago, my impulsive uncle begged Nana D to raise his fifteen-year-old son, Ulan, for the foreseeable future. Uncle Zach had extended his year-long expedition to protect an African elephant species nearing extinction, but my grandmother was too preoccupied with winning Wharton County’s mayoral election to acquiesce to his request. As an alternative solution, without my consent, they’d designated me Ulan’s temporary guardian. This would force me to vacate the small cottage at Danby Landing, Nana D’s organic orchard and farm, where my daughter Emma and I lived.

Due to my snarky yet generous grandmother’s aid over the summer, I’d bought The Old Grey Place and partnered with a contractor to address the most crucial repairs and optimal redesign options. Residing on a two-acre lot, the charming Victorian home offered excellent bones but had been left in disrepair for far too long. A central hallway divided the dilapidated dwelling in half, with an imposing flight of steps leading upstairs and a basement door whose contents would apparently be a future surprise. Two large rooms anchored the left side, and two more of equal size flagged the right. The home’s original owner had spread all the quarters requiring plumbing across the rear of the house, connecting them via a circular mudroom that presented exits to a detached three-car garage and well-proportioned yet overrun backyard.

Luckily, because of the condition of The Old Grey Place and lack of any other interest, we’d brokered an impressive deal; otherwise, I couldn’t have afforded it. Throughout the last month, we implemented a major facelift to the first floor to ensure a short-term, livable place to call home—three temporary bedrooms, a functional bathroom, makeshift kitchen, and comfortable living room. Since I hadn’t yet moved in my furniture, the grand relocation would occur next weekend. Over the forthcoming months, extensive renovations on the second floor would build modern bedrooms, a private home office with state-of-the-art filmmaking technology, and a traditional formal library.

Nana D had volunteered to let Ulan and Emma sleep at her farmhouse the previous night, enabling me to tick off an entire page on the extensive to-do list gnawing at my sanity inch by inch. I’d stayed behind to paint all the remaining bedrooms, then crashed on an old couch in my provisional living room. While I wasn’t as skilled in carpentry as my younger brother Gabriel, I insisted that I could roll a brush on the walls with the best of them. Other than the tight schedule, my most terrifying concern was identifying the mischievous devil who’d snuck in and out of the house when no one else was around, attempting to frighten us with childish pranks. Thankfully, the shenanigans amounted to nothing more than harmless inconvenience.

Shaking the distress off my dampened body, I searched for my cell phone. It was nine in the morning, and a critical town meeting required my humble presence on what should’ve been a relaxing Saturday. After a text demanding status on my progress, Nana D informed me that Ulan was studying for his upcoming history exam on the Salem witch trials and Emma was helping to prepare brunch.

My mother verified she was en route to chauffeur me to our planning meeting for Wharton County’s annual Fall Festival. I say our because Nana D had announced to the entire population in her first Notes from the Mayor newsletter that my mother and I would chair the much-anticipated autumn spectacular. Again, she achieved this task sans any input or agreement from us beforehand. With only days under her belt as the county’s new mayor at the time of the proclamation, we couldn’t exactly decline Little Napoleon’s flattering nomination. My barely five-foot-tall spitfire nana, known as Mayor Seraphina Danby to everyone else, had energetically earned the nickname after seeking control over every majestic or infinitesimal item within our north-central Pennsylvania county’s jurisdiction.

I located my overnight bag and fled to the bathroom to determine the extent of the damage. Noticeable splatters of red paint marbled my wavy dirty-blond hair and narrow forehead, reminiscent of pig’s blood dripping on Carrie’s unsuspecting body at the prom in the infamous Stephen King thriller. A piece of masking tape awkwardly clung to the side of my face, hiding one half of my normally well-defined, high cheekbones and irresistible, roguish dimples. I screeched as several facial hairs adhered to the tape like ants on a sugar cube when I tore it off in one rapid, painful motion. “Ouch! How the devil did that get there?”

From my sleepy and distraught body, I stripped off a pair of worn low-rise jeans, snug striped boxer briefs, and my favorite hunter-green t-shirt emblazoned with a sarcastic quote I always preached: I’m not done recovering from perfection. Though painstaking, last month’s workouts had generously chiseled out the flawless V-shape I’d sought; and if I kept at it, those six-pack abs would become a respectable eight-pack again. Staying in shape was important to me, and not just because I was a mite vain like my mother. I also wanted to live forever like Nana D.

A quick shower scrubbed off the stains and the embarrassment over my foolish appearance, enabling me to greet my mother in the driveway. She sprung for what turned out to be the most fantastic three-bean blend of morning joe that either of us had ever tasted. She also gallantly whisked us off to the downtown civic center to verify the Fall Festival was in tip-top shape. Several arguments and compromises—concerning the overly ridiculous rules for the haunted hayrides and jack-o’-lantern carving contests—detained us longer than expected. After relenting to an exceedingly caustic fellow team member and addressing a budget deficiency, we hightailed it to Danby Landing for brunch.

“I’ll bet Nana D is baking a traditional apple pie, complete with a crispy lattice crust and gooey cinnamon sugar filling. Impeccably uniform slices, no misshapen fruit chunks either,” I repeated for the third time, salivating on par with Baxter, my daughter’s always-hungry and constantly-begging-for-food six-month-old puppy. “The loser pays for lunch next week. That is, you’ll be buying me an enormous, expensive meal, Mom. And we’re heading off campus this time.” I laughed raucously, praying Violet Ayrwick didn’t accidentally steer us into a ditch on the drive home.

“You’re on, Kellan. I know your grandmother better than you do. When the weather cools down, she always ushers in autumn with a caramel and chocolate pecan pie.” My mother brushed a clump of flyaway auburn hair from her eyes so she could see the road. A torrential thunderstorm had swept through Braxton the night before, littering the slick blacktop with dangerous wet leaves and branches. A fine mist still sprinkled from the clouds, carrying an earthy scent and foreshadowing my glib future.

“I love you to pieces, but you’re wrong.” I rolled my piercing baby-blue eyes—at least that’s what others frequently deemed them—shook my head emphatically and raced into Nana D’s main farmhouse. Only two weeks shy of my thirty-third birthday and with the well-primed body of an avid runner, I’d easily beat my enthusiastic mother into the kitchen to certify my pie-guessing talent.

“I gave you life. I can take it away, my son,” she melodramatically and affectionately chastised while clambering up the path in five-inch pink pumps. Despite sinking a heel in a puddle of thick gray mud and flopping around like a drunken, one-legged pelican, she trailed behind by only seconds.

As a tried-and-true gentleman, I waited on the classically decorated rustic porch and held the fake-spider-covered door for her. Nana D had gone all out with cinnamon and pinecone aromas. I might hold a penchant for teasing my mother, but she was entirely too special not to demonstrate the loving respect she deserved. Wispy bales of yellow-brown straw and overgrown green and orange gourds adorned both sides of the entryway. “Hey, look, it’s The Hampster,” I quipped, showing one of the oddly shaped, ridged, and warty freaks of nature to my mother. She cast a disapproving glower in my direction over the wisecrack about my older brother Hampton, who’d just moved back to Braxton. Don’t ask how he earned that nickname. As if it weren’t obvious, I tended to be a tad sarcastic, but only in a clever way.

Several wooden barrels, strategically bursting with hearty goldenrod, burgundy, and burnt umber mums, dazzled our eyes as we strolled into the farmhouse. My seven-year-old daughter, dressed in a silk cape and wearing plastic vampire teeth, soared into the living room to greet us. Long, curly dark hair framed her slightly chubby cheeks and bounced feverishly on her shoulders. “I’ve been baking up a storm all morning, Daddy. Nana D insisted we couldn’t eat brunch until we finished the pies.” Although my height had reached an unimpressive five-nine, not considered remarkably tall by any measure, Emma would surpass me. Her mother’s family, easily cast as giants by most normal-sized folk, had blessed her with the imposing stature.“Monster Mash” blasted through the background speakers.

“Tell me, sweetheart. What kind of pies are you treating us to today?” After kissing Emma’s cheek, I turned to my mother. “You’re so going down.” I giggled like an immature teenager and rushed into the kitchen, dragging Emma at my side despite my nose suggesting a loss in the latest wager. Given my commitment to round-the-clock renovations, I’d recklessly forgotten Nana’s true autumn welcome. At least I had an excuse; my defenseless mother had racked up way more years of experience than me.

“Everyone knows Nana D bakes a pumpkin pie this weekend, silly,” Emma cooed, kneeling in front of the oven and grinning widely at a golden, bubbling concoction that oozed with deliciousness.

My mother sighed loudly, then impatiently snatched a knife and scurried toward the opposite counter, where two steaming dishes cooled on wire racks. “I guess we both lost, huh?”

“Don’t touch those pumpkin pies, Violet. You might be over fifty—” Nana D headily warned but was speedily silenced before revealing my mother’s true age.

“You better put a lid on it, Mom, or I’ll convince Dr. Betscha to sedate you for your own good. Don’t you dare say how old I am in front of those two.” My mother flashed a wicked smile, then flicked a hand in Emma’s and my direction. “They’ll tell the rest of the family, and you’ll be in big trouble.”

About The Author

Background

James is my given name, but most folks call me Jay. I live in New York City, grew up on Long Island, and graduated from Moravian College, an historic but small liberal arts school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with a degree in English literature and minors in Education, Business and Spanish. After college, I accepted a technical writing position for a telecommunications company during Y2K and spent the last ~20 years building a career in technology & business operations in the retail, sports, media and entertainment industries. Throughout those years, I wrote some short stories, poems and various beginnings to the “Great American Novel,” but I was so focused on my career in technology and business that writing became a hobby. In 2016, I refocused some of my energies toward reinvigorating a second career in reading, writing and publishing.

Author

Writing has been a part of my life as much as my heart, my mind and my body. At some points, it was just a few poems or short stories; at others, it was full length novels and stories. My current focus is family drama fiction, cozy mystery novels and suspense thrillers. I think of characters and plots that I feel must be unwound. I think of situations people find themselves in and feel compelled to tell the story. It’s usually a convoluted plot with many surprise twists and turns. I feel it necessary to take that ride all over the course. My character is easily pictured in my head. I know what he is going to encounter or what she will feel. But I need to use the right words to make it clear.

Reader & Reviewer

Reading has also never left my side. Whether it was children’s books, young adult novels, college textbooks, biographies or my ultimate love, fiction, it’s ever present in my day. I read 2 books per week and I’m on a quest to update every book I’ve ever read on Goodreads, write up a review and post it on all my sites and platforms.

Blogger & Thinker

I have combined my passions into a single platform where I share reviews, write a blog and publish tons of content: TRUTH. I started my 365 Daily Challenge, where I post about a word that has some meaning to me and converse with everyone about life. There is humor, tears, love, friendship, advice and bloopers. Lots of bloopers where I poke fun at myself all the time. Even my dogs have had weekly segments called “Ryder’s Rants” or “Baxter’s Barks” where they complain about me. All these things make up who I am; none of them are very fancy or magnanimous, but they are real. And that’s why they are me.

Genealogist & Researcher

I love history and research, finding myself often reaching back into the past to understand why someone made the choice he or she did and what were the subsequent consequences. I enjoy studying the activities and culture from hundreds of years ago to trace the roots and find the puzzle of my own history. I wish I could watch my ancestors from a secret place to learn how they interacted with others; and maybe I’ll comprehend why I do things the way I do.

Websites & Blog

Website: https://jamesjcudney.com/

Blog: https://thisismytruthnow.com

Amazon: http://bit.ly/JJCIVBooks

Next Chapter Pub: https://www.nextchapter.pub/authors/james-j-cudney

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/james-j-cudney

Social Media

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jamescudney4

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

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

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

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jamescudney4/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jamescudney4/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/jamescudney4

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamescudney4

Genres, Formats & Languages

I write in the family drama and mystery genres. My first two books are Watching Glass Shatter (2017) and Father Figure (2018). Both are contemporary fiction and focus on the dynamics between parents and children and between siblings. I’m currently writing the sequel to Watching Glass Shatter. I also have a light mystery series called the Braxton Campus Mysteries with six books available.

All my books come in multiple formats (Kindle, physical print, large print paperback, and audiobook) and some are also translated into foreign languages such as Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and German.

 

Goodreads Book Links

Watching Glass Shatter (October 2017)

Father Figure (April 2018)

Braxton Campus Mysteries

#BookSale “Father Figure” by James J. Cudney

Father Figure is a .99 Kindle download from 5/23 thru 5/27 – help yourselves! Thank you so much for your support in sharing, downloading, reading, and reviewing. I appreciate it! You should pick it up before the virtual book club coming up soon… check it out @

Download @ http://mybook.to/FatherFigure for only .99 this week

FF download

Overview of Father Figure

Between the fast-paced New York City, a rural Mississippi town and a charming Pennsylvania college campus filled with secrets, two young girls learn the consequences of growing up too quickly.

Amalia Graeme, abused by her mother for most of her life, longs to escape her desolate hometown and fall in love. Contemplating her loss of innocence and conflicting feelings between her boyfriend and the dangerous attraction she’s developed for an older man, Amalia faces life-altering tragedies.

Brianna Porter, a sassy, angst-ridden teenager raised in New York City, yearns to find her life’s true purpose, conquer her fear of abandonment, and interpret an intimidating desire for her best friend, Shanelle. Desperate to find the father whom her mother refuses to reveal, Brianna accidentally finds out a shocking truth about her missing parent.

Set in alternating chapters two decades apart, the parallels between their lives and the unavoidable collision that is bound to happen is revealed. FATHER FIGURE is an emotional story filled with mystery, romance, and suspense.

FF 3D

Father Figure was officially launched for sale on Amazon on April 2, 2018 as both an e-book and a physical book. Reviews have been extremely positive between Goodreads and Amazon since the 5-day free download and 5-day book blitz.

  • Book Blitz: For 5 days, (4/30 thru 5/4) we posted promotions, hints, and feedback
  • Blog Tour: For 5 days (6/4 thru 6/8) we posted reviews, interviews and a giveaway

Goodreads Button

Reviews

★★★★★ – “The book deals with abuse, identity, acceptance, overcoming obstacles, crime, sexuality, family secrets, and knowing who you are. Another great story to read, especially if you love emotive, suspenseful family dramas.”

★★★★★ – “Gripping and emotional… Mr. Cudney has written a book full of twists and turns that kept my eyes glued to its pages.”

★★★★★ – “Amalia and Brianna are fully developed characters with all the fears, naivety, anxiety and angst of teen, young adults; full of questions and doubts… Can’t wait for James Cudney’s next work.”

***

Book Excerpt

Chapter One – Amalia, August 1984

“I didn’t raise no harlot, Amalia. When you’re done with softball practice today, you will go directly to the hardware store and help your father manage that cash register.” The stagnant air, sealed tightly like an old glass jar of long-forgotten jelly, refused to dissipate in the Graeme family home—even it was afraid of Janet’s wrath.

“But Momma, I’ll be home to cook dinner before sunset.” The strains in Amalia’s voice weakened with each of her mother’s refusals to let her live the normal life of a teenager.

“Didn’t you hear me the first time, child? Only little whores go to the lake.” Janet’s stern voice emptied through thin lips stained from devouring a blueberry cobbler before they’d started cooking breakfast. “Are you a little whore, Amalia?”

Retribution for daring to break any of her mother’s rules was always swift and fierce. Amalia had obeyed every word since her mother locked her in the storm cellar for ten hours when she was a toddler —punishment for spilling juice on an antique lace tablecloth. “No, I’m sorry. I thought you might let me celebrate just this once…”

The plea had barely escaped Amalia’s hesitant lips before the clammy grip of Janet’s bony hands shoved her down the hallway. “Stop your sass talk, girl. We can take another trip downstairs if you don’t care to mind me.”

Amalia’s left arm grazed the wall when stumbling from the kitchen into the dark mudroom. Dingy white paint chips rained to the floor and clung to her favorite new red blouse while passing through the dilapidated archway. She cradled her elbow, flicked off the last few flakes of her mother’s venom, and firmly held her ground. “It’s not fair. You let Greg hang out with his friends all the time.”

“Leave your brother out of this conversation. Your responsibility belongs first to this family and then to the hardware store. Who said anything about friends? Now get yourself off to practice.” Janet’s one good eye stubbornly left behind after diabetes stole the vision in her other glared while Amalia reluctantly marched toward the back door. “You’re a spiteful little child.”

“I’m taking out the trash, Momma.” Her voice carried the defeat of a soul unable to find the words or summon the strength to defend herself anymore. As she leaned over, the scoop neck on Amalia’s blouse revealed the slightest hint of cleavage between her ample breasts.

“Stop right now. What are you wearing?” Janet’s tone lingered thick over such insubordination. A special brand of disdain had been developed by watching her daddy preach to his Southern Baptist congregation for nearly forty years before he anxiously married her off to Amalia’s father.

“It’s just a pretty shirt I found at a yard sale. I’m not showing too much skin.” Amalia dropped the trash bag on the mudroom’s gray linoleum and recalled the similar, previous lectures. She refused to turn around to face the woman. “I’m not a child anymore, Momma.”

Janet stampeded through the kitchen and kicked the garbage into the far corner. Though the vinyl flooring had peeled away from the walls as the house settled, it was still not one of the more noticeable improvements desperately needed in their home. “It’s lesson time, girl.”

Amalia yelped and dashed to safety after a cast iron frying pan full of hot grease collided with bare skin on the back of her arm. “No, Momma, please…” She dropped to her knees, scooted across the mudroom floor, and cowered behind the pantry door to protect herself from any further blows. An acrid burnt plastic odor from a fiery singe on the linoleum beneath her wafted through the air as she shuddered in pain. The nerves in her forearm and elbow convulsed when the wound began to blister from the impact of her mother’s lesson.

“Someday you’ll learn how to behave yourself.” Janet grudgingly placed the frying pan on the washing machine and lifted Amalia by the curls of her hair. She tightly squeezed her daughter’s breasts while trying to raise the blouse over Amalia’s head. “I don’t know where you got these girls from. You’re hoping to entice all the boys to put their dirty little hands where they don’t belong.”

Amalia pushed away her mother’s sticky fingers willing to risk more punishment if she kept them off her trembling body. The putrid smell of Janet’s three-day-old sweat and decaying teeth littered the air between their lips. “Leave it. I’ve got a bra on underneath to keep them strapped down. I know the rules.”

Amalia’s breasts had begun to develop when she turned eleven years old. By thirteen, a custom-size bra was bought to contain them. Dresses were never allowed given the attention they’d drawn to her body’s hourglass shape. Though Janet’s words were enough of a rebuke, reduction surgery was still threatened should Amalia’s breasts grow any larger.

“I pray every night for them to stop getting bigger and for God to teach you some morals. It’s like you’re rubbing my great Aunt Tilly’s rose garden’s Miracle Grow on those dirty pillows. Tramps like you get themselves into some mighty trouble when they don’t protect their bodies.” Janet stomped back to the kitchen with the now-emptied frying pan and quickly snapped her fingers. “Cover yourself up or forget about going away to college this summer.”

“Yes, Momma.” Amalia heaved herself from the floor with the help of the door handle and collected the remains of her veiled dignity.

“And put out the trash already. It smells like a sewer in here,” snickered Janet.

Fighting back the tears brimming on the surface of her weary eyes, Amalia sighed with relief upon noticing the frying oil hadn’t ruined her blouse. In a rush to tend to her wounds while running through the living room and up the flight of stairs, Amalia crashed into her father, Peter. At sixty, he’d begun to settle into a grandfatherly presence contented by a quiet and ordinary life. He’d aged quickly in the Graeme household. Everyone did.

“Daddy, I’m so sorry. I was…” Amalia hugged her father, rested her head against his narrow chest, and listened to his enfeebled lungs wheeze with exertion.

Peter fell toward the wall and knocked over the family portrait they’d photographed during Greg’s high school graduation. “Oh, my pet, what’s wrong?” He pulled Amalia closer with one hand and adjusted the brass picture frame with the other. A thin layer of ashen skin on his face failed to cover years of misery being married to Janet. He’d long-accepted divorce would never be permitted by the daughter of a Baptist preacher and that his life would be fraught with reproach. “Did you have another squabble with your mother?”

Amalia sniffled and concealed her burns, desperate to splash cold water on the pain. “She hates me, Daddy. Momma never loved me the way she loves Greg.”

“That’s not true, honey. She’s tougher because you’re leaving later this month.” Peter brushed away a few loose curls from Amalia’s face and smiled with a fatherly love that hadn’t receded over the years. “What happened this time?”

A cherubic expression brightened her pale face with the hope he would understand but disappeared once she remembered begging had never helped before. “I asked if I could go to the lake today with the rest of the softball team for Brant’s town fair, but Momma says I have to work at the store like I do every other day.”

The population of their hometown, Brant, Mississippi, founded in 1784, hovered around five hundred inhabitants, the majority born and raised in the surrounding isolation. The Graeme family, still considered outsiders, had arrived in the mid-1800s settling about a half mile from Lake Newton—the livelihood once used to transport goods to the neighboring settlements. Over the years, as the county paved new roads to share crops more efficiently among all the nearby villages, the lake became a gathering place for the local families and visitors to enjoy each summer. Store owners had organized a bicentennial celebration for the upcoming weekend where all the citizens would barbecue ribs, hold square dancing lessons, and play various outdoor games. Amalia looked forward to it every year believing she always had the chance to find a new friend who might make the rough days pass by a little easier.

“Your momma knows best, honey. We need to be available for our customers.” Every penny was important to Janet Graeme, especially with two kids attending college—they could never close the store early. Janet often reminded them how pitching in around the house or store was impossible on account of her many illnesses. Peter nudged Amalia away and kissed her cheek. “You can leave work early to meet your teammates at tomorrow’s picnic. Will that make you happy?”

“It helps, but I’ll be the only one not going tonight.” Amalia buried her flushed cheeks into the crook of his left arm. He always smelled of Old Spice. She’d bought him the same cologne for Father’s Day every year since shopping on her own.

If Peter noticed the stinging red color or the slight favor of her left arm, he either ignored it or thought she’d injured herself in a recent softball game. He adhered to an insulated belief that his wife’s normal way of parenting didn’t include hurting or abusing their daughter. It wasn’t the first time he’d misjudged a situation. Peter once took Amalia to a movie theatre as an early birthday present telling Janet they’d stayed behind at the store to count inventory and order stock, but she found a few popcorn kernels on the floor of the family Dodge the next morning while driving to church. Janet waited until Amalia arrived home from school later that week to teach her daughter a lesson about lying. Though Amalia had only been trying to catch a schoolboy’s attention by lightening the color of her hair with lemon juice, it was a vengeful wrath she’d unexpectedly invited as Janet took a pair of shearing scissors to her daughter’s golden mane. The emotional scars from an abusive homelife were profound, but Amalia never regretted sneaking off to watch the movie. She was proud of being a daddy’s girl. He was her hero, the father she’d always treasure, the man who made it easier being the daughter of the wicked Janet Graeme.

Peter patted Amalia’s back offering any chance to ease her disillusion. “I know, but tomorrow when you go to the lake, everything will be back on track. Bring some clothes to change into so that you don’t have to come back home in between. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

“I can’t wait. I love you, Daddy.” She hugged him again and raced up the stairs to change her shirt before her mother had another outburst. Amalia applied cream to her wounds, then chose a long-sleeve button-down sweater she fastened two inches above the dip in her neck. After checking the mirror and wishing a bit of foundation could hide the uneven colors, she splashed water on her face to erase the evidence of her pain. One of Janet’s more ridiculous judgments echoed among Amalia’s numbed thoughts. ‘Only the vile women in this town wear makeup!’

Amalia flew back down the stairs and searched for the trash bag she’d left behind, realizing it would mean another lashing if her mother had stumbled upon it first. As she rushed into the living room, her father handed her a banana and elbowed her out the front door. “I already put it in the outside bin. Get to softball practice, my pet.” His voice barely audible, his expression as loud as a parade.

Amalia smiled and released an uncontrollable giggle as her countenance relaxed for the first time that morning. Although the tense nerves in her neck retreated into partial hiding, her body remained hypervigilant and always waited for the next blistery strike from her mother. She left the house flickering with excitement for the town’s festivities over the weekend but frightened at what her teammates would say about her missing the lake party. No one ever declined their much sought-after invitations without hazardous repercussions.

Although she’d graduated high school two months earlier, Amalia continued playing in the county’s summer tournaments to keep her pitching skills primed for college games. Risking a loss of the unexpectedly received scholarship—as it was the only reason she could afford to go away to school—was not an option. After practice, where she conveniently forgot to tell her teammates about missing the upcoming lake party, Amalia worked side-by-side with her father for a few hours and avoided any further trouble with her mother at home. Once Amalia climbed into bed that evening exhausted from an emotionally and physically grueling afternoon, she drifted asleep clutching her pillow and wished things would somehow improve the next day.

****

The following morning, Janet took the family’s only car to the First Baptist’s services leaving Amalia and Peter to trudge the two-mile distance to the center of town. Graeme Hardware Store was part of the town’s original train depot when first built in the mid-nineteenth century. Shortly before World War I, the train line was re-routed to a larger city a few miles away. This prompted Brant’s town council to vote in favor of converting the train depot into a lunch café and expanding the footprints of local shops hoping it would draw more income from surrounding villages. The loss of the train station left Graeme Hardware Store with far fewer customers managing barely enough to keep afloat during a good year.

Peter unlocked the store and began his morning routine to review the previous day’s sales and prepare the inventory. While he dragged a rolling stand filled with buckets of nails and screws to the exterior porch of the store, Amalia brewed a fresh pot of strong coffee. She retrieved a starter till from the safe under the desk and counted a hundred dollars in small bills and coins, then placed it in the cash register atop the laminate countertop. She grabbed a few dollars to buy breakfast from the local café and strolled to the front of the store. The sharp clank of the bell loosely hung by a nylon cord on the door bounced off all the metal tools and reverberated throughout the building. Amalia held the outer screen door to prevent it from slamming shut and made a mental note to convince her father to repair the hinge that afternoon. Customers didn’t appreciate buying tools from a hardware store with a broken front door.

“I’ll be right back, Daddy.” Amalia bounded down three short steps and traveled the building’s main wooden pathway. Frustrated by the inability to meet the girls from the softball team the prior night, Amalia recoiled at how much of an encumbrance Brant had become to her over the years. She often daydreamed of leaving it all behind but remembered no one had ever escaped. She scoffed at her emotions, slid her fingers across the pathway’s splintered handrails, and ignored the desire to run deep into the woods.

Father Figure Purchase Links

Kindle: http://mybook.to/FatherFigure

Paperback: http://mybook.to/fatherfigurepb

Large Print: http://mybook.to/fatherfigurelp

About The Author

Background

James is my given name, but most folks call me Jay. I live in New York City, grew up on Long Island, and graduated from Moravian College, an historic but small liberal arts school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with a degree in English literature and minors in Education, Business and Spanish. After college, I accepted a technical writing position for a telecommunications company during Y2K and spent the last ~20 years building a career in technology & business operations in the retail, sports, media and entertainment industries. Throughout those years, I wrote some short stories, poems and various beginnings to the “Great American Novel,” but I was so focused on my career in technology and business that writing became a hobby. In 2016, I refocused some of my energies toward reinvigorating a second career in reading, writing and publishing.

Author

Writing has been a part of my life as much as my heart, my mind and my body. At some points, it was just a few poems or short stories; at others, it was full length novels and stories. My current focus is family drama fiction, cozy mystery novels and suspense thrillers. I think of characters and plots that I feel must be unwound. I think of situations people find themselves in and feel compelled to tell the story. It’s usually a convoluted plot with many surprise twists and turns. I feel it necessary to take that ride all over the course. My character is easily pictured in my head. I know what he is going to encounter or what she will feel. But I need to use the right words to make it clear.

Reader & Reviewer

Reading has also never left my side. Whether it was children’s books, young adult novels, college textbooks, biographies or my ultimate love, fiction, it’s ever present in my day. I read 2 books per week and I’m on a quest to update every book I’ve ever read on Goodreads, write up a review and post it on all my sites and platforms.

Blogger & Thinker

I have combined my passions into a single platform where I share reviews, write a blog and publish tons of content: TRUTH. I started my 365 Daily Challenge, where I post about a word that has some meaning to me and converse with everyone about life. There is humor, tears, love, friendship, advice and bloopers. Lots of bloopers where I poke fun at myself all the time. Even my dogs have had weekly segments called “Ryder’s Rants” or “Baxter’s Barks” where they complain about me. All these things make up who I am; none of them are very fancy or magnanimous, but they are real. And that’s why they are me.

Genealogist & Researcher

I love history and research, finding myself often reaching back into the past to understand why someone made the choice he or she did and what were the subsequent consequences. I enjoy studying the activities and culture from hundreds of years ago to trace the roots and find the puzzle of my own history. I wish I could watch my ancestors from a secret place to learn how they interacted with others; and maybe I’ll comprehend why I do things the way I do.

Websites & Blog

Website: https://jamesjcudney.com/

Blog: https://thisismytruthnow.com

Amazon: http://bit.ly/JJCIVBooks

Next Chapter Pub: https://www.nextchapter.pub/authors/james-j-cudney

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/james-j-cudney

 

Social Media

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jamescudney4

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

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

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

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jamescudney4/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jamescudney4/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/jamescudney4

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamescudney4

Genres, Formats & Languages

I write in the family drama and mystery genres. My first two books are Watching Glass Shatter (2017) and Father Figure (2018). Both are contemporary fiction and focus on the dynamics between parents and children and between siblings. I’m currently writing the sequel to Watching Glass Shatter. I also have a light mystery series called the Braxton Campus Mysteries with six books available.

All my books come in multiple formats (Kindle, physical print, large print paperback, and audiobook) and some are also translated into foreign languages such as Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and German.

Goodreads Book Links

Watching Glass Shatter (October 2017)

Father Figure (April 2018)

Braxton Campus Mysteries

 

#BookSale “Mistaken Identity Crisis (Braxton Campus Mysteries)” by James J. Cudney

The 4th book in the Braxton Campus Mysteries, Mistaken Identity Crisis, is available for only .99 as a Kindle download from May 21st thru 25th. If you haven’t experienced this mystery and family drama, get it now via Amazon.

MIC download

Overview:

A clever thief with a sinister calling card has invaded Braxton campus. A string of jewelry thefts continues to puzzle the sheriff given they’re remarkably similar to an unsolved eight-year-old case from shortly before Gabriel vanished one stormy night. When a missing ruby is discovered near an electrified dead body during the campus cable car redesign project, Kellan must investigate the real killer in order to protect his brother. Amidst sorority hazing practices and the victim’s connections to several prominent Wharton County citizens, a malicious motive becomes more obvious and trickier to prove.

As if the latest murder isn’t enough to keep him busy, Kellan partners with April to end the Castigliano and Vargas crime family feud. What really happened to Francesca while all those postcards showed up in Braxton? The mafia world is more calculating than Kellan realized, and if he wants to move forward, he’ll have to make a few ruthless sacrifices.

Election Day is over, and the new mayor takes office. Nana D celebrates her 75th birthday with an adventure. A double wedding occurs at Crilly Lake on Independence Day. And Kellan receives a few more surprises as the summer heat begins to settle in Wharton County.

Mistaken Identity Crisis Purchase Links

Kindle: http://mybook.to/mistakenidentity

Paperback: http://mybook.to/mistakenidentitycrispb

Large Print: http://mybook.to/mistakenidentitycrislp

US Audiobook

UK Audiobook

Blog Tour

MIC tour

Check out the 2-week blog tour with great reviews, interviews, and posts.

Both character evolution and character delineation well populate the Braxton Campus Mystery Series by James J. Cudney. In this installment, the atmosphere gains a strong twinge of Noir . . .
~Mallory Heart’s Cozies

 

I really love the style of this author, since the first pages he manages to completely involve you in the adventures of the protagonists and keeps you in suspense until you solve the case with them.
Highly recommended.
~LibriAmoriMiei

 

The well-plotted and complicated mystery keeps a steady pace and provides red herrings and twists, turning the focus on one then another of the many characters involved in the storyline.
~Rosepoint Publishing

 

The mysteries are resolved with some clever sleuthing and nosy snooping, which result in secrets revealed and red herrings cleared. All this makes Mistaken Identity Crisis an engaging page-turner, one that I didn’t want to put down.

~Jane Reads

 

The well-plotted mystery and complicated story keeps a steady pace throughout. There are some red herrings and twists that had me focusing on various characters in the story and I did not figure out who the murderer was until the final reveal.
~Carla LovesTo Read

 

Mr. Cudney has blended together an amazing story that I just could not read fast enough.
~Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book

MIC cover

Book Excerpt

“The first time we met, I knew you’d cause me to gray prematurely,” April griped while clawing at clumps of her brassy blonde hair and squeezing her golden badge until a star-shaped imprint marked her left palm. “But I honestly thought I’d have a better chance at predicting the Pennsylvania state lottery numbers before guessing you’d paint a bullseye on your own forehead for the Castigliano mob family. Seriously, Kellan, you’ve made a royal mess of this situation. Are they gonna take potshots at me next?”

We bantered steadfastly in her downtown office at the Wharton County administrative building with the door glued shut. Very few people knew what’d happened to my supposedly dead wife, Francesca. I shrugged and offered my best apology face, which unintentionally resembled a confused puppy in search of a warm place to sleep, rather than a truly sorrowful man who’d never intended to wreak such havoc. “We’ve covered this several times in the last three weeks. I should’ve immediately informed you that Francesca’s family faked her death. I didn’t know what to do until that last note from Cristiano Vargas confirmed they’d kidnapped her as a revenge tactic to punish the Castiglianos.” I rested both hands and my chin on the heavily papered desk, grinned widely as if my jaw were about to unhinge, and blinked twice through stylish glasses to endear myself to the sheriff.

At least she’d stopped calling me Little Ayrwick. Of all the nicknames I’d heard during my thirty-two years, that was the most insulting. There was nothing little about me anymore. Upon graduating from Braxton a decade ago, I’d transformed from an awkward middle child in a complex, overachieving family into what many women eagerly deemed a devilishly handsome and well-built guy blessed with clever wit and a charming personality. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an egomaniac. I’ve merely settled into myself and accepted the positive and the negative. Lately, there were tons more negative than I cared to tolerate. At least Nana D still called me brilliant one, which melted my heart every time.

“That’s your apology?” April vigorously shook her head and slammed a Tweety Bird coffee mug on the desk’s smooth metal surface. Drops of cold, muddy brown liquid splashed across it and landed on my upper lip. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to do that,” she whined repentantly while handing me a napkin from a squeaky drawer. “Oh, and in case you forgot, that’s how you ask for forgiveness.”

Had it not been for the tiniest of curls at the sides of her sarcastic mouth, I wouldn’t have known April was teasing me. We’d spent an inordinate amount of time joined at the hip, organizing everything that’d happened in the last two-and-a-half years since the accident. Okay, backstory time—Francesca and I had arrived separately at a Thanksgiving party because I’d been working out of town earlier in the week. Our daughter, Emma, begged to ride home with me—a monumental blessing in disguise—rather than her mother. Little did I know at the time, Francesca’s parents, Vincenzo and Cecilia Castigliano, had orchestrated the entire façade. When I received the call that my wife had been struck and killed by a drunk driver, I did my best to rally with the help of Nana D, my five-foot-tall spitfire grandmother. Meanwhile, Francesca lived covertly in the Castigliano mansion until her parents could divine a way to resolve the turf war with Las Vargas, the rival mafia family controlling much of the West Coast. Two years had zipped by without a viable solution or anyone learning their secret.

A few months ago, Emma and I moved back home to Braxton, the small town in north-central Pennsylvania where I’d been raised and now worked as an assistant professor specializing in communications and film studies. Francesca chose that moment to materialize from hiding, jealous and angry about the sudden inability to watch her daughter grow up in LA. After I refused to hibernate in captivity, she took off, letting her parents and me think she was visiting all the places we’d once vacationed in—a blissful trip down memory lane. At some point, Cristiano Vargas had discovered Francesca was alive, captured my not-so-dead wife, and forced her to mail postcards from every location to dangle us in a state of confusion. Now, we pondered their next move.

“I’m sorry, April. I know you intended to leave this spectacle of intense drama when you relocated from Buffalo, but I’m confident we’ll find a solution.” I wiped the coffee from my lip and internally chuckled over her persnickety comments. “I should teach you to brew a better cup of joe. I guess it’s true that cops will drink any sludge someone—”

“Don’t continue with that stereotypical, inflammatory insult unless you want me to handcuff you to my desk and head out for the day!” April released a long pent-up sigh and shuffled through stained papers in a worn manila folder. “Let’s focus on our next steps. The Castiglianos will soon arrive in Braxton, and they better have answers. I agreed not to formally include the FBI until we received an official ransom request. We also need proof Francesca is alive before they’ll get further involved.”

April and I hadn’t been friends previously, especially because I’d unexpectedly solved four murders sooner than she had—not a helpful icebreaker for our relationship. She mostly viewed me as a prickly thorn that irritated every nerve in her body. We’d brokered a tepid alliance in the last three weeks, and I convinced myself that the intense display of awe-inducing fireworks in her office, when our fingers had accidentally brushed against one another, was only a freakish blip on the radar. Then, a visceral flash of lightning surged inside my body and a sensual, steamy dream left me quite flushed and bewildered. I was technically still married and shouldn’t have welcomed those types of thoughts about other women, right?

Once the war ended between the two families, Francesca could reveal herself to the rest of the world, and we’d deal with the repercussions. I only cared about the impact on our seven-year-old daughter. Emma didn’t deserve this level of pain and confusion. Neither did I, but in the few encounters I’d already had with Francesca upon her triumphant reincarnation, it’d grown clear we were both different people. As a good Catholic—my family attended church on Sundays—divorce was a tricky solution. I knew I loved Francesca, but I was no longer in love with her. After all the lies and deception, how could I forgive her? Yes, her life had been in danger from Las Vargas, but she could’ve told me the truth years ago. I’d only discovered the reality of her shady family business by accident after she ‘died.’

“Cristiano’s latest update said he’d contact me soon with next steps. Maybe he’ll offer easily attainable ransom terms for the Castiglianos. Then, this whole mess will blow over.” All remaining confidence drained from my body with each reticent word. “Ugh! Why am I in the middle of this quandary? Las Vargas should work directly with Francesca’s parents for her safe release.”

“Excellent point. Perhaps your uniquely innate charm just begs for more attention? Regardless, I’m collecting evidence on the Castigliano drug-trafficking exploits to put them away for good. Someone will go to prison over this entire ordeal. I won’t be able to protect her, you know,” April said convincingly with a pointed stare. “I get she’s your wife, but the mafia princess committed several crimes. I’m glad you never collected any insurance payments upon her death.”

“I was a fool not to ask more questions about her background when we’d met.” Although my immediate family members were a fantastic crew, the Ayrwicks also liked to pry into each other’s business much too often. When I’d moved to Los Angeles to escape their clutches, an all-encompassing, powerful first love had blinded me from recognizing the truth. Francesca and I married way too quickly, and before long, I’d obtained my PhD, gotten a job as an assistant director at a Hollywood television show, and become a father upon Emma’s arrival in this world. We lived a good life, but I’d always known something important was missing between Francesca and me.

“We’ll sort it out, Kellan. You’re going through a lot, but you can’t tell anyone else until we dismantle Las Vargas. Anyway, I have to follow up on another jewelry heist that happened last week.”

“I’ve been meaning to ask Nana D about those pesky robberies. Anything you can share?”

April swallowed heavily. “Jewelry was stolen. Victims are unhappy. Is that what you need to know, oh holy meddlesome one? Don’t even think about inserting yourself into another one of my—”

“Blah, blah, blah. I read the papers and have some clue, April. I’ll just ask Nana D. She tends to dig up the latest facts. I vaguely recall something about an unusual calling card being left behind, right?”

“I’d rather not discuss it. The ineptitude of the former sheriff still infuriates me. My predecessor had a penchant for burying facts from his townspeople.” April grunted and shook her head.

“Nana D claims he took bribes to hide petty crimes,” I said, hoping to keep her talking about it. “Maybe you and I should compare notes about the case. I have been helpful in the past.”

“And we’re officially done here,” April muttered as she advanced toward me with alarming concentration in her eyes. “Let’s talk tomorrow about your wife’s kidnapping.” Moist, hot breath from her lips passed over mine, and her skin smelled like black peppercorns and coriander—spicy yet fresh.

Although tempting comfort swayed between us like a pendulum jam-packed with uncertainty over its destination, I retreated before April and I approached a line we weren’t prepared to cross. Too many intimate moments had encircled us lately, and I couldn’t fathom how to properly interpret them. “Sure, I’ll update you as soon as I hear from Cristiano.”

Leaving her office, I noticed my reflection in the shiny glass pane of the door. Several days of dirty-blond stubble peppered my cheeks and chin, and dark circles occupied the sunken spaces below my disconcerted blue eyes. At least I’d managed to comb my frequently untamable hair, so I didn’t look horribly disheveled. Nana D would slap my bottom silly—her words, not mine—for drawing shame to her, especially now that she’d won the election to become the new mayor of Wharton County.

***

Later that Saturday afternoon, I drove to Wellington Park in Millner Place to celebrate Nana D’s seventy-fifth birthday in style with the party of the century. Millner Place and Braxton made up two of the four towns in Wharton County—the others, Woodland in the northwest and Lakeview in the northeast. Ninety miles south of Buffalo, New York, our county was one of the earliest settlements in Pennsylvania and had been founded by my ancestors.

“Is today the double wedding, Daddy?” Emma asked as I steered the SUV into a narrow spot.

Aunt Deirdre, a famous novelist and one of my mother’s siblings, had returned from England and coordinated Nana D’s party while simultaneously planning her own upcoming nuptials to Timothy Paddington, an international business mogul.

“Nope, that’s in two weeks on Independence Day,” I reminded my precocious daughter. Timothy’s sister was also engaged, prompting their family to suggest a double wedding to make it easy on all the guests. Both couples had only recently met one another, and it made more sense as a way to reunite the Paddington family who’d experienced several traumatic events earlier in the year. “Do you know what Independence Day is about, honey?”

When Emma nodded with enthusiasm, mahogany-brown pigtails bounced feverishly against her slightly chubby, olive-tinted cheeks. My mother had located a picture of seven-year-old Nana D and designed a matching outfit for my daughter since Emma looked so much like her at that age. “We talked about it on the last day of school. It’s when we shoot firecrackers into the sky!”

“Yes, that’s part of it, but it’s also when we became our own country. Aunt Deirdre thought it would be amusing to shed her independence on the same day America officially separated from England two-and-a-half centuries ago,” I explained. Having lived there for half her life, Aunt Deirdre deemed herself British for all intents and purposes. She also lived inside her head where she dreamed up Victorian romances all day. Ply my aunt with more than two glasses of wine and her American roots were more obvious than the henna rinse in Nana D’s wild, three-foot-long braids.

“That sounds like an adult joke. I don’t get it.” Emma gave a thumbs-down symbol. “When will Nonna and Nonno be here?” My daughter referred to Francesca’s parents by the Italian words for a grandparent. Her hazelnut-brown eyes were darkening this summer, highlighting how much she also resembled her mother before my wife had adopted various disguises. Emma was being kept far away from any conversation about her not-so-dead mother, something even the Castiglianos had easily agreed to with everything exploding around us.

“Monday evening.” I grabbed her hand and rambled toward Wellington Park. Nana D had chosen the cherished location across the Finnulia River, touting it as a critical place to rebuild. She’d also promised free ice cream every weekend in her campaign speeches during the mayoral election. “Look, here’s Uncle Gabriel,” I added when my brother caught up with us at the tree-lined entranceway.

At a complicated and sentimental family dinner earlier in the month, Gabriel had announced his unexpected homecoming and the not-so-earth-shattering news that he was gay. Not surprisingly, the Ayrwicks openly welcomed him back into their fold with minimal concern. My mother cried the entire time at her youngest son returning to the roost. Our older siblings couldn’t visit for that dinner or for Nana D’s birthday party, but I hadn’t expected them to travel. When both had mentioned they would come back for the birthday party or the double wedding, Nana D vehemently insisted on the wedding.

“Emma? It can’t be! She’s grown two feet in the last few days,” Gabriel teased while picking up my best girl and swinging her from side to side. In observance of the warm late June weather, Gabriel donned a pair of dressy long shorts and a collared, black polo shirt. One of his many tattoos peeked out from the shirt’s sleeve as his taut, muscular arms carried Emma in near-perfect circles.

“It’s too fuzzy! Does it hurt?” Emma giggled as she touched his lip piercing and trim, dark-blond beard. He was four glorious years younger than me, as he always reminded me, but our semblance remained uncannily similar. Although he projected a mysterious and rugged appearance, I erred toward the clean-cut side—except for days like today when I hadn’t shaved. I secretly clung to the worthy excuse of dealing with a back-from-the-dead wife. Also, Gabriel had been accepted by the family and was currently the favored, treasured sibling whom our parents and Nana D couldn’t stop fawning over. Even our father, the resolute Wesley Ayrwick, seemed overjoyed at his prodigal son’s return.

 

About The Author

Background

James is my given name, but most folks call me Jay. I live in New York City, grew up on Long Island, and graduated from Moravian College, an historic but small liberal arts school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with a degree in English literature and minors in Education, Business and Spanish. After college, I accepted a technical writing position for a telecommunications company during Y2K and spent the last ~20 years building a career in technology & business operations in the retail, sports, media and entertainment industries. Throughout those years, I wrote some short stories, poems and various beginnings to the “Great American Novel,” but I was so focused on my career in technology and business that writing became a hobby. In 2016, I refocused some of my energies toward reinvigorating a second career in reading, writing and publishing.

Author

Writing has been a part of my life as much as my heart, my mind and my body. At some points, it was just a few poems or short stories; at others, it was full length novels and stories. My current focus is family drama fiction, cozy mystery novels and suspense thrillers. I think of characters and plots that I feel must be unwound. I think of situations people find themselves in and feel compelled to tell the story. It’s usually a convoluted plot with many surprise twists and turns. I feel it necessary to take that ride all over the course. My character is easily pictured in my head. I know what he is going to encounter or what she will feel. But I need to use the right words to make it clear.

Reader & Reviewer

Reading has also never left my side. Whether it was children’s books, young adult novels, college textbooks, biographies or my ultimate love, fiction, it’s ever present in my day. I read 2 books per week and I’m on a quest to update every book I’ve ever read on Goodreads, write up a review and post it on all my sites and platforms.

Blogger & Thinker

I have combined my passions into a single platform where I share reviews, write a blog and publish tons of content: TRUTH. I started my 365 Daily Challenge, where I post about a word that has some meaning to me and converse with everyone about life. There is humor, tears, love, friendship, advice and bloopers. Lots of bloopers where I poke fun at myself all the time. Even my dogs have had weekly segments called “Ryder’s Rants” or “Baxter’s Barks” where they complain about me. All these things make up who I am; none of them are very fancy or magnanimous, but they are real. And that’s why they are me.

Genealogist & Researcher

I love history and research, finding myself often reaching back into the past to understand why someone made the choice he or she did and what were the subsequent consequences. I enjoy studying the activities and culture from hundreds of years ago to trace the roots and find the puzzle of my own history. I wish I could watch my ancestors from a secret place to learn how they interacted with others; and maybe I’ll comprehend why I do things the way I do.

Websites & Blog

Website: https://jamesjcudney.com/

Blog: https://thisismytruthnow.com

Amazon: http://bit.ly/JJCIVBooks

Next Chapter Pub: https://www.nextchapter.pub/authors/james-j-cudney

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/james-j-cudney

 Social Media

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jamescudney4

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

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

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

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jamescudney4/

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LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamescudney4

Genres, Formats & Languages

I write in the family drama and mystery genres. My first two books are Watching Glass Shatter (2017) and Father Figure (2018). Both are contemporary fiction and focus on the dynamics between parents and children and between siblings. I’m currently writing the sequel to Watching Glass Shatter. I also have a light mystery series called the Braxton Campus Mysteries with six books available.

All my books come in multiple formats (Kindle, physical print, large print paperback, and audiobook) and some are also translated into foreign languages such as Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and German.

 Goodreads Book Links

Watching Glass Shatter (October 2017)

Father Figure (April 2018)

Braxton Campus Mysteries

 

#BookSale “Flower Power Trip (Braxton Campus Mysteries)” by James J. Cudney

The 3rd book in the Braxton Campus Mysteries series is on sale for only .99 cents from 5/20 thru 5/24. You can download it to your Kindle here. This book was released on March 30th, 2019 and has been getting rave reviews from mystery fans all around the world. You can visit all the posts from the blog tour the book went on last year.

FPT download

Flower Power Trip (Braxton Campus Mysteries)
3rd in Series
Next Chapter Publishing (March 30, 2019)
Print Length: 270 pages
Digital ASIN: B07NDK76WF

FPT cover

Description of Book

At a masquerade ball to raise money for renovations to Memorial Library, Kellan finds a dead body dressed in a Dr. Evil costume. Did one of Maggie’s sisters kill the annoying guest who’d been staying at the Roarke and Daughters Inn, or does the victim have a closer connection to someone else at Braxton College? As Kellan helps school president Ursula bury a secret from her past and discover the identity of her stalker, he unexpectedly encounters a missing member of his family. Everything seems to trace back to the Stoddards: a new family who recently moved in. Between the murder, a special flower exhibit and strange postcards arriving each week, Kellan can’t decide which mystery in his life should take priority. But unfortunately, the biggest one of all has yet to be exposed – and when it is, Kellan won’t know what hit him.

Flower Power Trip Purchase Links

Kindle: http://mybook.to/FlowerPowerTrip

Paperback: http://mybook.to/flowerpowertripbraxtpb

Large Print: http://mybook.to/flowerpowertripbraxtlp

US Audiobook

UK Audiobook

***

FPT tour

I appreciate watching his character evolution, and as always, his rowdy adventurous grandmother Nana D is a delight.
~Mallory Heart’s Cozies

 

The characters are all a bit quirky and eccentric, especially Nana D and her friends. They speak their mind and often had me laughing out loud.
~Carla Loves To Read

 

. . . a fast-paced, fun and enjoyable academic cozy mystery, one that is highly recommended!
~Jane Reads

 

I love this series! The characters, the setting, the plot lines, everything. This book was no exception. Between the twists and turns of the plot and the subplots becoming more and more mysterious, I was riveted to this book!
~Valerie’s Musings

Excerpt

A postcard with an image of lush sprawling foliage and a rust-covered antique carriage taunted me from the cushy passenger seat of my SUV. I almost veered off the road twice on the drive to campus because I couldn’t peel my eyes away from its persistent glare and blatant reminder of Mendoza. It had to be from Francesca. No one else knew about the remote South American vineyard we’d visited on our honeymoon many years earlier. I shook my clenched fist at the spooky vision of her vanishing in the rearview window. Was she following me everywhere now?

It was Francesca’s seventh message since leaving town and failing to inform anyone she wasn’t returning to Los Angeles. A torturous weekly mystery highlighting her whereabouts but leaving no way to contact her. At first, I thought she’d accepted my decision to remain in Pennsylvania and would wait until her parents, the heads of the Castigliano mob family, discovered a way to bring her back from the dead. Let me clarify—she wasn’t truly dead, but everyone thought she was. Upon getting caught in a vicious war with Las Vargas, a rival crime family, Francesca’s parents had faked her death as the only way to keep her safe. No one else besides Francesca’s parents and my sister knew Francesca was alive.

My wife just needed space to adjust to the changes. For two-and-a-half years, she’d been sequestered in a Los Angeles mansion watching from a distance as I raised our seven-year-old daughter on my own. Emma stayed with her nonni a couple of nights a week which made Francesca feel like her daughter was never too far away, but she couldn’t actually talk to Emma. Once I moved back home, Francesca lost her ability to see Emma and materialized from seclusion hoping to reconcile. Based on the postcards, she was visiting all the places we’d once traveled to together. Perhaps she needed to feel close to me since I’d refused to participate in whatever game her family was embroiled in with Las Vargas. Unfortunately, now that the Castiglianos blamed me for Francesca’s inexplicable disappearance, I anticipated their goons lurking around the corner and following me all the time. Dramatic stuff, huh?

I drove along Braxton’s main street cutting through the center of our charming, remote town and parked in the South Campus cable car station’s lot near Cambridge Lawn, a large open field filled with colorful flowerbeds, bright green blades of thick grass, and moss-covered stone walkways. It was Saturday, which meant graduation day at Braxton College—also my first one as a professor at the renowned institution. Although I’d only been back for a few months, it felt like I’d never left given my mother, Violet Ayrwick, was still its director of admissions and my father, Wesley Ayrwick, had just retired from its presidency. He would co-lead the ceremony with the new president to complete his responsibilities, thus allowing him to concentrate on converting the college into a university.

Although I’d been apprehensive in accepting my professorship, I grew excited about the opportunity to reconnect with family and friends whom I’d hardly seen since originally leaving town a decade ago. When my cell phone vibrated, I clicked a steering wheel button to display the text message on the SUV’s dashboard screen. The previous owner, a family friend who’d been murdered earlier that year, had added all the bells and whistles making it easy to remain hands-free. Was I the only one slightly unnerved by driving a dead woman’s car?

Nana DAre you still coming by after the graduation? I’ve got sticky buns and a broccoli and Gouda quiche for a late brunch… and I’m getting nervous about the race.

My grandmother, known as Seraphina Danby to everyone else, had finished the third and final debate in her surprise quest to become the next mayor of Wharton County, the larger geographical area encompassing Braxton and three other villages in north-central Pennsylvania. She was neck and neck with Councilman Marcus Stanton, her dreaded enemy for reasons she refused to share with anyone. I secretly suspected she was angry with him because of a bad date or his failure to flirt with her once Grandpop had left us for the great big afterlife in the sky.

Me: You’ll be the new mayor. I’m confident. Focus on the numbers. Emma doing okay?

Nana D: Yep. She’s in the stable talking to the horse groomer about finding her a puppy.

Me: Never committed to it! You told her she could have one if we moved into Danby Landing. Not me.

I’d been living with my parents in the Royal Chic-Shack, a huge modernized log cabin they’d built before I was born thirty-two years ago. When it became clear I needed my own space, Nana D thoughtfully suggested a move to her farm’s guesthouse to provide Emma and me some privacy. We’d agreed to give it a chance for the summer, but if it didn’t pan out, I’d look for our own place posthaste.

Nana D: Emma loves it here. She keeps me out of trouble. You and your mother should be grateful.

She was right. Without a chaperone or extensive supervision, Nana D often found herself skirting too close to disaster. I parked the car and told my seventy-four-year-old cross to bear—I mean that as lovingly as possible—to expect a two o’clock arrival. The graduation ceremony would last longer, but I was only making a brief presentation to declare this year’s cable car redesign winner.

Between North and South Campus ran a one-mile electrical track transporting students and faculty back and forth to dorms, academic halls, administrative offices, and other student buildings. The old-fashioned cable car was the only one of its kind in the area and often brought in visitors—and much-needed surplus income—from all over the country. Braxton’s graduating class voted each year to redesign the interior as its outgoing gift to the college. There was a surprise victor this year which would make my friend and colleague, Dean Fern Terry, quite relieved. At one point, she worried an apocalyptic dystopian world of aliens would litter the inside of the two-car transportation system she used daily. It was not happening under my watch. I checked the time, stole one last glance at the ominous postcard, and walked across Cambridge Lawn.

As I approached the last stone pathway, I heard my name being called in the distance. I turned to see Ed Mulligan talking with an unknown bald man in his mid-to-late forties. Dean Mulligan, the head of all academics at Braxton, wore an impeccably tailored three-piece suit—his normal highbrow approach to dressing—and scuttled toward me as if he were in a desperate rush to the finish line.

“Kellan, I’d like you to meet George Braun, a visiting professor who arrived in town a few weeks ago to teach a summer course,” Dean Mulligan said. When the sunlight landed on George’s face, it highlighted the rippled, leathery texture of his skin. Perhaps he suffered from the effects of a recent sunburn or battled a case of rosacea.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Kellan. Dean Mulligan tells me you recently joined Braxton and might lend a new guy some pointers about how to survive on this exquisite campus,” George replied with an unusual accent. Although I was adept at picking up common enunciations, his was a mixture of too many unbalanced inflections to be certain of its origin. There were hints of a gruff Midwest tone with drawn-out vowels, yet I sensed a cultured European style as he finished each of his words.

When Dean Mulligan nodded to confirm George’s statement, his jowls jiggled like Santa’s belly. “I can think of no one else more qualified,” he added with an exaggerated wink.

“Certainly, happy to play tour guide. I’m late at the moment, or I’d stay and chat. I have ceremonial duties for this morning’s graduation.” Upon shaking George’s hand, I noticed he wore a pair of thin leather gloves despite the warm temperatures making it unnecessary. Germaphobe?

I wanted to ask what area he’d be working on given my boss, the indomitable Dr. Myriam Castle, head of the communications department, had brought in a new professor for curriculum redesign and expansion. It was supposed to be a chunk of my role at the college, but she’d quickly made a play for additional money to hire someone other than me to prepare the future vision. Now that my father was no longer the president, but Myriam’s wife Ursula Power was in that role, things were changing.

“Perhaps we could have breakfast on Monday morning? I’m due on campus at ten o’clock to meet with Dr. Anita Singh about the courses,” George explained. A dark gray sportscoat covered broad shoulders and attempted to slim his stocky figure. Given he was noticeably several inches taller and wider than me, it didn’t appear to help.

“That sounds like a plan. Let’s meet at eight thirty at the Pick-Me-Up Diner?” I proposed, knowing it’d lend me an excuse to judge the eatery’s latest renovations.

Dean Mulligan haughtily teased,” Ah, George, you’ll soon come to learn the Ayrwick family has a long-standing establishment in and around Braxton. Eleanor, Kellan’s sister, owns the diner, a favored restaurant by most employed at or attending our fine institution.”

As Dean Mulligan provided directions to George, I caught a puzzled expression on the visiting professor’s face. He muttered something unintelligible before his gaze narrowed and highlighted two ultra-thin blond eyebrows. “Pardon?” I inquired.

“Ayrwick, you said?” he added, cocking his head to the left and focusing on the pastoral landscape behind me. He wouldn’t look me in the face without glancing away. Was he sensitive about his skin condition or his funny way of speaking? I hoped I hadn’t offended the man with my transitory stare and state of confusion.

“Yes, Dean Mulligan’s correct. My family’s been in Wharton County for close to three centuries. I look forward to speaking with you on Monday,” I replied, excusing myself and dashing toward the backstage area to locate Dean Fern Terry. Since she oversaw the graduation as head of student affairs, Fern could tell me when I was needed for the ceremony.

George Braun not only seemed familiar with the name Ayrwick, but I was certain that was concern or alarm etched on his face. After a quick catch-up with Fern, I found a spot on the east side of the stage as the ceremony began. I could stand there until it was time to declare the winner of the contest. Although I knew a few students in the graduating class, I hadn’t been at the institution long enough to serve as an announcer of graduate names nor to deliver any inspirational departing speeches.

Fern initiated the ceremony by reminiscing about the school’s history and highlighting the graduating class’s accomplishments. She introduced Ursula who took the stage to congratulate the outgoing students, then turned it over to my father for his last opportunity to say goodbye to the future alumni. As he spoke, Ursula navigated the stage’s steps like they were a catwalk and headed toward the back of the seating area.

Once my father finished boorishly riffing about something in Latin, Fern commandeered the stage and announced my name. I walked to the center and stood behind the lectern looking out at a mostly unfamiliar sea of people. With over two hundred graduates, the audience teetered around a thousand guests including their families and nearly all the college’s administrative and academic staff. I talked about the process to nominate and vote for different cable car designs, then explained how it was an awfully close race. Only two people had been told the final winner. Ursula and I agreed to surprise Fern with the results given how disappointed she’d be if the apocalypse had won. She’d tried to bribe me with a homemade coconut cream cake at Easter, but I stood firm. Where desserts were my weakness, keeping secrets was my strength.

“It gives me immense pleasure to reveal today’s winner,” I said, pointing and clicking the button on a tiny remote toward the digital screen. “I’ve been a huge fan of these two larger-than-life characters since I was a small boy, and I often find myself involved in solving a few mysteries of my own.” A series of conversations between Agatha Christie’s famed detectives, Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, materialized on the large screen behind me. Various quotes and images from the books, movies, and PBS shows would appear inside the cable car to share different interpretations of the characters.

“It’s because you’re our inspiration for solving those two murder investigations,” Jordan Ballantine shouted followed by a bunch of cheers. “We wanted to honor your service to the campus!” Jordan was one of the graduates who’d be leaving Braxton to attend an MBA program in New Orleans.

In my three months at Braxton, I’d solved a couple of murders and been deemed a campus hero. I looked at Fern, Jordan’s aunt, and smiled with humility. We’d come a long way from her disciplining me when I’d been the president of my fraternity pleading forgiveness after various mischievous activities. Fern beamed back at me and lifted her hands in the air as if to say ‘holla’ like the bellowing students. Somehow the image of a sixtyish woman built like a quarterback in a gray pixie-style haircut performing such a move was frightening beyond any comfort.

As I thanked everyone for their votes, I noticed one of the graduates, Sam Taft, speaking with my brother, Gabriel. I’d caught the two of them in a cozy embrace last March shortly after someone had killed Gwendolyn Paddington to ensure an inheritance of the family fortune. I’d been shocked to see my brother after eight years but even more astonished to learn he might be gay. If you’d seen that kiss, there wouldn’t have been any question of might be, but until I spoke with him, I didn’t want to assume. Neither one had realized I’d seen them that day, and for the last seven weeks, I’d kept the information to myself. I didn’t know whether to ask Sam about it or hire a private investigator to track Gabriel.

Once I finished my speech, I sprinted down the steps to interrogate or to hug my brother—still hadn’t decided which one. I tried to reach him, but Gabriel winked and escaped in the opposite direction. Before I could rush off to beg Sam for help, Ursula stepped in the way. “Kellan, I’m glad we ran into one another. I was curious if you found out anything new?” she said with a gleam of hope.

By now, Sam had lined up on stage to receive his diploma, and Gabriel was long gone. I breathed a gulp of warm air and felt my body begin to wane. For the third week of May, the heat had come from nowhere and grown inordinately stagnant. All the comforting breezes were blocked by tall fir trees surrounding one side of Cambridge Lawn and the massive church holding firm on its southern border. I liked the hot weather, but this was intense.

Ursula had recently pleaded for help with a problem involving the past finally catching up to her. I’d learned a lot about my new boss during our conversations, some of which explained the reason she was taciturn about her history and some of which shocked me to the core. Not even Myriam knew about her wife’s tragedy or the years she’d been running and hiding from the truth about her real identity. While I felt the palpitating fear emanate off Ursula’s normally serene exterior, I tried not to judge her for the damage her prior actions had caused.

 

About The Author

Background

James is my given name, but most folks call me Jay. I live in New York City, grew up on Long Island, and graduated from Moravian College, an historic but small liberal arts school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with a degree in English literature and minors in Education, Business and Spanish. After college, I accepted a technical writing position for a telecommunications company during Y2K and spent the last ~20 years building a career in technology & business operations in the retail, sports, media and entertainment industries. Throughout those years, I wrote some short stories, poems and various beginnings to the “Great American Novel,” but I was so focused on my career in technology and business that writing became a hobby. In 2016, I refocused some of my energies toward reinvigorating a second career in reading, writing and publishing.

Author

Writing has been a part of my life as much as my heart, my mind and my body. At some points, it was just a few poems or short stories; at others, it was full length novels and stories. My current focus is family drama fiction, cozy mystery novels and suspense thrillers. I think of characters and plots that I feel must be unwound. I think of situations people find themselves in and feel compelled to tell the story. It’s usually a convoluted plot with many surprise twists and turns. I feel it necessary to take that ride all over the course. My character is easily pictured in my head. I know what he is going to encounter or what she will feel. But I need to use the right words to make it clear.

Reader & Reviewer

Reading has also never left my side. Whether it was children’s books, young adult novels, college textbooks, biographies or my ultimate love, fiction, it’s ever present in my day. I read 2 books per week and I’m on a quest to update every book I’ve ever read on Goodreads, write up a review and post it on all my sites and platforms.

Blogger & Thinker

I have combined my passions into a single platform where I share reviews, write a blog and publish tons of content: TRUTH. I started my 365 Daily Challenge, where I post about a word that has some meaning to me and converse with everyone about life. There is humor, tears, love, friendship, advice and bloopers. Lots of bloopers where I poke fun at myself all the time. Even my dogs have had weekly segments called “Ryder’s Rants” or “Baxter’s Barks” where they complain about me. All these things make up who I am; none of them are very fancy or magnanimous, but they are real. And that’s why they are me.

Genealogist & Researcher

I love history and research, finding myself often reaching back into the past to understand why someone made the choice he or she did and what were the subsequent consequences. I enjoy studying the activities and culture from hundreds of years ago to trace the roots and find the puzzle of my own history. I wish I could watch my ancestors from a secret place to learn how they interacted with others; and maybe I’ll comprehend why I do things the way I do.

Websites & Blog

Website: https://jamesjcudney.com/

Blog: https://thisismytruthnow.com

Amazon: http://bit.ly/JJCIVBooks

Next Chapter Pub: https://www.nextchapter.pub/authors/james-j-cudney

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/james-j-cudney

 Social Media

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jamescudney4

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

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

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

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jamescudney4/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jamescudney4/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/jamescudney4

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamescudney4

Genres, Formats & Languages

I write in the family drama and mystery genres. My first two books are Watching Glass Shatter (2017) and Father Figure (2018). Both are contemporary fiction and focus on the dynamics between parents and children and between siblings. I’m currently writing the sequel to Watching Glass Shatter. I also have a light mystery series called the Braxton Campus Mysteries with six books available.

All my books come in multiple formats (Kindle, physical print, large print paperback, and audiobook) and some are also translated into foreign languages such as Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and German.

Goodreads Book Links

Watching Glass Shatter (October 2017)

Father Figure (April 2018)

Braxton Campus Mysteries

 

#BookSale “Watching Glass Shatter” by James J. Cudney

May is a big month! All of James J. Cudney’s books will be discounted for a few days at some point. This week, it’s Watching Glass Shatter, his debut 2017 novel about a family drama imploding from a bounty of secrets. Download the Kindle format here as it’s only .99 from 5/17 thru 5/21. Rumor has it that the sequel will be coming out this fall… maybe it’s time to get on board the Glass family train!

Book Overview

After 40 years of marriage, Olivia Glass thought she could handle the unexpected death of her husband. But when Ben’s will reveals a life-altering secret, she suffers a blow no widow should ever experience.

Olivia learns that she gave birth to a baby who later died in the nursery. Instead of telling his wife what happened, Ben switched the child with another. And as if that’s not enough, Ben’s will doesn’t reveal which of their five sons is truly not hers.

While an attorney searches for answers, Olivia visits each of her sons to share a final connection before facing the truth that will change their family, and discovers that each of them has been harboring a painful secret, just like their father.

Olivia challenges herself to re-assemble and save their relationships. But will the secrets destroy their family beyond repair?

Blog Tour

  • The book went on a 17-day blog tour at the end of 2017. You can read all posts via this one location by clicking here.

Radio Interview

  • The author was a guest on the Artist First radio segment on Tuesday, November 14th from 6 to 7pm. To listen to the recorded 1-hour broadcast for news on the book and author, click here.

Book Reviews & Interviews

  • In addition to Goodreads and Amazon, you can find a central link to some very fun and in-depth book reviews and author interviews here.

Get to Know the Glass Family

sale banner

Book Excerpt

Present, Memorial Day Weekend

Sitting in the backseat of his steel-gray Mercedes-Benz sedan, Ben switched the mobile phone to his other ear and removed the seatbelt out of his way, loath to strap himself in for any length of time. When its band rested tightly across his chest, he struggled to breathe, preferring instead to trust in his long-time chauffeur’s driving abilities more than a piece of nylon fabric hinged to a pulley. “I’m in the car heading toward you. I should arrive in twenty minutes.”

“Still happily married to the woman of your dreams?” Olivia’s lyrical voice echoed on the phone.

“Ah, my beautiful Olivia. The last forty years have been amazing. There’s so much ahead of us and still to come.”

“I love you more than yesterday.”

“But not as much as tomorrow.” He played along enjoying their frivolous banter.

“Please get to the party soon. It’s not any fun when I’m dancing a rumba by myself. Remember when we crashed into the instructor while taking those silly dance lessons, and she yelled at us for being fools? Oh, I never laughed so hard.”

“Ha, yes! We are quite the pair. No wife of mine should ever dance alone. At least not while I can prevent it.” Ben glanced through the car window, surprised by the speed of the muddy water cascading down the mountains as his chauffeur took the exit to their country club in Brandywine, Connecticut. “I believe tonight is the first time the whole family has been together since last Christmas. Am I right?”

“Yes, they’re all here now reminding me so much of the you I remember from our early days.” Olivia sighed and waited for Ben to respond.

Ben’s thoughts drifted while lightning crackled in the sky, and rain pounded the black-tarred roads around him. “Time flies by too quickly, Olivia.”

“You’ve got a few months left, then you’ll retire and have nothing but time to be a grandfather and a father doling out advice. Even if they don’t want to listen to us. They never do, do they? Wishing you could turn back the clock. At least we can finally take our trip to Europe…” She paused. “Are you still there, Ben?”

Ben snapped from the storm’s hypnotic trance upon hearing Olivia’s rising voice. “I’m sorry. Recalling their antics over the years distracted me. I don’t know how we survived five boys.”

Ben heard her beautiful snicker–about to tell Olivia he loved her–when the car swerved as it neared the final exit on the slick asphalt curve, unaware traffic had come to a full stop ahead. He dropped the phone from the unplanned change in direction, grabbed it from under the front passenger seat, and raised his head.

Ben’s heartbeat and breath paused significantly longer than usual, enough to recognize the encroaching overpass column directly in his purview and to accept the impending fate laid before him.

Whoever said life flashes before one’s eyes in your final moments never lived to truly describe it. In Ben’s case, although they only lasted ten explosive seconds, those moments managed to include all sixty-nine years of his existence, each image punctuated by a blinding flash of pure white light and deafened by the harsh snapping sound of an old-time camera shutter.

CRUNCH. Grinding squeal. Bright light glimmers in a dark vacuum.

The enchanting depth of Olivia’s cerulean blue eyes the night they first met at the opera. Their wedding day when he truly understood what it meant to find one’s soulmate.

SNAP. Utter blackness, followed by a perforated vibrant glow.

The Thanksgiving feast spent at the hospital when his sister-in-law, Diane, broke her foot trying to avoid dropping the turkey on Bailey, their ten-year-old Shiba dog. Seeing his granddaughters nestled in tiny pink blankets when his sons brought them home the first day.

POP. Sharp, dark void. High pitch release of pressure, then a translucent shining flash.

The white-water rafting adventure on the Snake River in Yellowstone National Park where his boys rescued him from falling into the cold water only to stumble upon an angry moose searching for dinner. The final family portrait taken the prior year when everyone wore shades of black and white for a retro-style Christmas card setting.

BOOM. Screeching whistle. Bright light fades to total darkness.

The parchment letters which held the secret he kept from Olivia, pawned off on his attorney to handle once anxiety and fear defeated any chance of Ben telling his wife the truth in person.

The car hydroplaned atop a few inches of the warm, pooling rain and crashed into the steel overpass. The collision immediately torpedoed him through the front windshield, shattering what was the well-lived but haunted life of Benjamin Glass.

A final burst of the bulb’s filament into jagged shards.

* * *

Despite Olivia’s tendencies to lead and control, she’d little ability to plan Ben’s funeral services on her own. Diane recognized her sister’s fragile grip on reality teetered on the edge, volunteering to go with Olivia to the funeral home to manage most of the phone calls, selections, catering, and organizing.

Choosing Ben’s burial clothing served as the only funeral activity Olivia handled without any help. After pocketing an hour’s worth of sleep and waking up alone the morning after the accident, she accepted his death was anything but a dream. The restless night highlighted a comfort she didn’t know how much she had relied until stolen by fate. Olivia thrust her tired body out of their bed, walked to the closet, and pushed a slew of hangers across the sleek metal rod reminiscing while passing each suit as though every year of their lives disappeared before her weary eyes. She searched for the one he’d worn to the Met’s opening opera the prior year. After weeks of shopping that summer, she’d finally convinced him to expand his horizons with a new designer, selecting a modern-cut, three-button black wool suit adorning him better than any other had fit in the past. Even Ben had admitted she chose correctly. And he’d rarely admit so, given she’d laud it over him teasing Ben for days. They enjoyed their game of one-upmanship over the years, but now days later, she knew it was lost forever.

The final burial service ended thirty minutes earlier, and although everyone else had left, she stayed behind for her own last goodbye. Olivia’s memory focused on the somber tones that had serenaded the lowering of Ben’s casket six feet into the ground. Once the skirl of the bagpipes blasted its sorrowful resonance, Olivia, standing a few feet from Ben’s freshly open grave, could no longer thwart the wrecking ball that planned to decimate any remaining strength. The slow, melodic sound sliced away at the newly loosened threads once tasked with keeping her heart intact and sheltered from acknowledging a widow’s pain. Her battered eyes betrayed any remaining fortitude she’d stored deep within her body, and as the chords of “Amazing Grace” resounded from the chanter pipe, the cords of her soul, once intricately woven into Ben, ripped from Olivia’s chest. The flood of tears from her stinging red eyes trailed her cheeks as she walked to the car leaving behind a single set of prints that marked an unknown future.

As she stepped off the cemetery’s grassy path, she pulled a black cashmere sweater closer toward her shivering skin to halt the biting frost growing deep within her bones. Ben always said her true beauty glimmered when she wore black and gray, complimenting her on the elegant silhouette against her ivory skin and dark sable hair. She kept her shiny locks shoulder length, usually tied back with a clip, and although gray had appeared the last year, the varying shades were regal and striking on her patrician face.

Olivia pressed her palm to her chest and lowered her head until she’d emptied a few layers of grief. She opened the car door and slid across the back seat next to Diane.

All that remained before her impending post-Ben world began was to tell her driver he could leave the cemetery, but uttering those words felt impossible. As if Diane sensed the struggle within her sister, she leaned forward and motioned to the driver to start the car, allowing Olivia a few moments to accept the beginning of her new life. While the car served as a false protection from the reality waiting outside the doors to its passengers, it also evoked a budding nostalgia.

“I’m so sorry, Mrs. G. He was a good man.” Victor had been her driver for twenty-five years taking her to each child’s pediatric appointments, all her charitable foundation work, and every dinner with friends and family. “I’ll take care of you today, Mrs. G.” He checked the rearview mirror and nodded when he saw Olivia’s eyes, a quiet acknowledgment she’d heard his words. They sat in silence as Victor released the brake and inched the car away from Olivia’s latest prison.

Olivia and Diane had come from a poor upstate New York family where they shared a bed until they were nine years old, later pushed out of the door to work as housekeepers by age thirteen. Their parents told them only enough money existed for one to go to college, even if they could secure a scholarship to pay for most of it, and Olivia earned the lucky windfall. Diane believed school held no importance to her appearing content to remain in the small comforts of her home. Supporting her sister seemed easier for Diane than choosing her own path in life, focusing on anything but what she ought to do for herself.

“It was a beautiful ceremony.” Diane relaxed into the car seat. “The cherry tree you planted alongside the grave was touching, Liv. You’ve created a lifetime of memories for your family.”

“Is everyone else at the house?” Olivia pressed her fingers to her temple, pacified by the warm blood swimming through each one under her clammy skin.

“Yes, they’re setting up lunch. Only your boys will be there. We’ve spent enough time with friends and neighbors. I even asked George to stay away, so I could help you without worrying about him.”

George, Diane’s soon-to-be ex-husband, had attended Ben’s funeral service and conveyed his sterile condolences to Olivia. Though he’d been married to Diane for thirty years, George barely knew his wife’s family, not ever having an interest in other people’s children nor any of his own. Diane had finally grown tired of his cavalier attitude and vigilant penchant for ignoring their marriage, requesting a divorce earlier that spring.

“That was a good idea. You really should have dumped that unfortunate man years ago.” Olivia placed her hand on Diane’s noticing the age spots more prominently displayed on her sister’s than her own. Her voice stammered, but she held firm until finishing her thoughts. “Thank you for everything you’ve done for me these last few days.”

Despite being a few years younger, most people assumed Diane was at least a decade older than Olivia. She’d grown out her hair the last few years and tightly braided it to her lower back, wearing the same dress as she had to her nephews’ weddings and other recent funerals. She hated to spend any time fussing with her appearance. “It’s a shame Ben’s brother couldn’t make the funeral.”

Ben was the youngest of several siblings. When Olivia called her brother-in-law, he could barely even speak on the phone from the impacts of grief and his aging mind. His children stopped in for the wake but chose not to stay for the graveside burial.

“No, his family has withered. Ben only had us left. It’s unbearable for our children to go through this agony. You first focus on your own pain but watching them suffer steals all remaining breaths.”

Diane fumbled with the clasp on her purse and handed Olivia a tissue. “And without any warning. It’s awful, but you’ll know how to help them through it.”

“I can see the pain in Ethan’s eyes, but he’s strong and will grieve privately. He’ll miss Ben the most. Ethan’s always been so focused on spending time with all of us, his grandparents… oh, I can’t…” Olivia dabbed her eyes with the tissue.

“It’s such a shame to lose his father when he’s so close to becoming a doctor. Ben would have been so proud when Ethan fulfills his dreams.”

Olivia nodded. “Matthew had to tell his daughters their grandfather died. They’re too young to understand, but it was dreadful for him to show them Ben’s casket. He keeps talking about all the father-son weekends fishing and camping at Lake Wokagee. They’d planned another one this summer.”

“They loved those trips. Well, maybe not all of them.”

“That’s true. Theodore has alienated himself from us even more than usual the last few months.”

Theodore was Ben and Olivia’s eldest son, and though she would always call him by his proper name, everyone else chose Teddy. Ben had groomed him to take over the law practice at the end of the year, coaching his son on how to act as a stronger, more respected leader and to become a less antagonistic man. Teddy’s actions were always packaged with a rough edge, and the tone of his words and speech pattern sounded robotic. Although Teddy had shown up to football Sundays and movie nights, interacting with his family always resembled more of an obligation rather than an enjoyment.

The car turned passing the corner where Ben had always dropped off the boys for the school bus in the morning on his way to work. A few heavy drops fell from Olivia’s eyes. She let them roll across her cheeks, reluctant to grant them total control. She imagined Ben lining each son side by side, inspecting his loyal soldiers, and patting their heads as he christened each one ready to begin his day.

“At least Caleb is back for a few more days.” Diane rubbed her sister’s shoulder. “You’ll get to spend more time with him.”

Caleb had only agreed to attend the anniversary party the prior weekend after much pressure, but he stayed in Connecticut for the funeral to grieve for his father’s passing. Olivia once thought Caleb would stay home with her and Ben when they grew older, but abandoned hope when he disappeared to Maine ten years earlier.

“Caleb’s hurting. I know my son. I wish he weren’t all alone. He needs someone to lean on… a girlfriend, a wife. The guilt over living so far away must be consuming him.”

“Caleb is strong like you in so many ways holding back to protect himself from the intensity of it all. I’m sure he’s got friends to look out for him. What about Zach? Are you still worried he’s using…”

Olivia interrupted. “He drove back to Brooklyn last night for work. I heard him arrive early this morning. Zachary’s actions are always unclear.”

Olivia thought Zach often spiraled out of control when he left his five-year-old daughter in her and Ben’s care unsure of what trouble he’d engaged in. She and Zach hadn’t been close the last few years, and despite a few attempts at a reconciliation, it always proved futile.

“Five boys without a father. We should have had more time.” Olivia leaned forward and reached a hand to the front seat to sturdy herself. Her head sloped toward the floor of the car when her voice cracked.

Diane rested her head on her sister’s back. “I know, Liv, but you’ll support them. You’ll remind them of Ben, and they’ll find a way to get through their grief. It takes time. Pain is different for everyone. You need to replace it with memories of something positive.”

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Watching Glass Shatter Available Formats & Languages

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About The Author

Background

James is my given name, but most folks call me Jay. I live in New York City, grew up on Long Island, and graduated from Moravian College, an historic but small liberal arts school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with a degree in English literature and minors in Education, Business and Spanish. After college, I accepted a technical writing position for a telecommunications company during Y2K and spent the last ~20 years building a career in technology & business operations in the retail, sports, media and entertainment industries. Throughout those years, I wrote some short stories, poems and various beginnings to the “Great American Novel,” but I was so focused on my career in technology and business that writing became a hobby. In 2016, I refocused some of my energies toward reinvigorating a second career in reading, writing and publishing.

Author

Writing has been a part of my life as much as my heart, my mind and my body. At some points, it was just a few poems or short stories; at others, it was full length novels and stories. My current focus is family drama fiction, cozy mystery novels and suspense thrillers. I think of characters and plots that I feel must be unwound. I think of situations people find themselves in and feel compelled to tell the story. It’s usually a convoluted plot with many surprise twists and turns. I feel it necessary to take that ride all over the course. My character is easily pictured in my head. I know what he is going to encounter or what she will feel. But I need to use the right words to make it clear.

Reader & Reviewer

Reading has also never left my side. Whether it was children’s books, young adult novels, college textbooks, biographies or my ultimate love, fiction, it’s ever present in my day. I read 2 books per week and I’m on a quest to update every book I’ve ever read on Goodreads, write up a review and post it on all my sites and platforms.

Blogger & Thinker

I have combined my passions into a single platform where I share reviews, write a blog and publish tons of content: TRUTH. I started my 365 Daily Challenge, where I post about a word that has some meaning to me and converse with everyone about life. There is humor, tears, love, friendship, advice and bloopers. Lots of bloopers where I poke fun at myself all the time. Even my dogs have had weekly segments called “Ryder’s Rants” or “Baxter’s Barks” where they complain about me. All these things make up who I am; none of them are very fancy or magnanimous, but they are real. And that’s why they are me.

Genealogist & Researcher

I love history and research, finding myself often reaching back into the past to understand why someone made the choice he or she did and what were the subsequent consequences. I enjoy studying the activities and culture from hundreds of years ago to trace the roots and find the puzzle of my own history. I wish I could watch my ancestors from a secret place to learn how they interacted with others; and maybe I’ll comprehend why I do things the way I do.

Websites & Blog

Website: https://jamesjcudney.com/

Blog: https://thisismytruthnow.com

Amazon: http://bit.ly/JJCIVBooks

Next Chapter Pub: https://www.nextchapter.pub/authors/james-j-cudney

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/james-j-cudney

Social Media

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jamescudney4

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

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

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

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jamescudney4/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jamescudney4/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/jamescudney4

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamescudney4

Genres, Formats & Languages

I write in the family drama and mystery genres. My first two books are Watching Glass Shatter (2017) and Father Figure (2018). Both are contemporary fiction and focus on the dynamics between parents and children and between siblings. I’m currently writing the sequel to Watching Glass Shatter. I also have a light mystery series called the Braxton Campus Mysteries with six books available.

All my books come in multiple formats (Kindle, physical print, large print paperback, and audiobook) and some are also translated into foreign languages such as Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and German.

Goodreads Book Links

Watching Glass Shatter (October 2017)

Father Figure (April 2018)

Braxton Campus Mysteries

 

#GermanTranslation “Academic Curveball (Braxton Campus Mysteries)” by James J. Cudney

The German translation of the debut book in the Braxton Campus Mysteries, Academic Curveball, is available as a .99 Kindle download from 5/15 thru 5/19. This book won a Best Fiction award and was the #1 downloaded Kindle book in the highest possible category in February 2019 during the initial promotion. There are now 6 books available in the series, so why not start reading them by getting this one for FREE!

Download Kindle German Translation for .99 via Amazon

German Kindle

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Overview / Description:

Wer tötete Professorin Abby Monroe?

Als Kellan Ayrwick zur Pensionierung seines Vaters, dem Präsidenten des Braxton Colleges, nach Hause zurückkehrt, findet er im Treppenhaus der Diamond Hall eine Leiche. Leider hat Kellan eine Verbindung zu dem Opfer, ebenso wie mehrere Mitglieder seiner Familie.

Bald darauf erhält das Sportprogramm des Colleges mysteriöse Spenden, ein fieser Blog denunziert seinen Vater, und jemand versucht, die Noten der Studenten zu ändern. Irgendetwas stimmt auf dem Campus nicht, aber keine der Fakten passt.

Mit der Hilfe seiner exzentrischen Oma versucht Kellan, dem Sheriff aus dem Weg zu gehen und das Rätsel zu lösen. Aber können sie den Mörder finden, bevor er wieder zuschlägt?

Academic curveball cover

Braxton Campus Mysteries Overview

A new mystery series debuting in October 2018 focusing on amateur sleuth, Kellan Ayrwick, a 32-year-old single father who solves crimes in his Pennsylvania hometown while attending to his day job as a professor at Braxton University.

  1. Academic Curveball(Oct 2018)
  2. Broken Heart Attack(Nov 2018)
  3. Flower Power Trip(Mar 2019)
  4. Mistaken Identity Crisis(Jun 2019)
  5. Haunted House Ghost(Oct 2019)
  6. Frozen Stiff Drink(Mar 2020)

Check out the Blog Tour

https://www.escapewithdollycas.com/great-escapes-virtual-book-tours/completed-tours-2019/academic-curveball-braxton-campus-mysteries-by-james-j-cudney/

***

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Read an Excerpt – Kapitel 1

Ich habe mich noch nie beim Fliegen wohlgefühlt. Meine misstrauische Natur ging davon aus, dass die magischen schwebenden Flugzeuge am Himmel nach einer Laune eines Meisterplaners aufhören würden zu existieren. Wenn man das Surren eines Düsenpropellers hört, der die Geschwindigkeit verändert, oder wenn man die mysteriösen Turbulenzen erlebt, die einen auf und ab schleudern, ist das gleichbedeutend mit dem bevorstehenden Tod in einem Aluminiumgerät, das für Schwierigkeiten vorgesehen ist. Ich verbrachte den ganzen Flug mit zusammengepressten Kiefern, die Hände an den Armlehnen und mit an die Rückenlehne geklebten Augen vor mir in der ungeduldigen Hoffnung, dass der eifrige Gruftwächter nicht noch ein Opfer fordert. Trotz meiner unheimlichen Begabung, alles Mechanische zu erfassen, und obwohl Nana D mich immer als brillant bezeichnete, hatte ich an dieser Art der Fortbewegung allzu große Zweifel. Mein Bauchgefühl sagte mir, dass ich sicherer wäre, wenn ich mich nackt und in einem Fass von den Niagarafällen stürzen würde.

Nachdem ich an diesem elenden Nachmittag Mitte Februar auf dem Buffalo Niagara International Airport gelandet war, mietete ich einen Jeep, um weitere neunzig Meilen nach Süden nach Pennsylvania zu fahren. Mehrere Zentimeter dicht gepackter Schnee und verborgenes Glatteis bedeckten den einzigen Highway, der in meine abgeschiedene Heimatstadt meiner Kindheit hinein oder herausführte. Braxton, eines von vier bezaubernden Dörfern, die vollständig von den Wharton Mountains und dem Saddlebrooke National Forest umgeben waren, war von äußeren Einflüssen nahezu uneinnehmbar.

Als ich die Spur wechselte, um eine rutschige Stelle zu vermeiden, leuchtete die Nummer meiner Schwester auf dem Bildschirm meines Mobiltelefons auf. Ich hielt Maroon 5 auf meiner Spotify-Wiedergabeliste an, klickte auf Akzeptieren und stöhnte: »Erinnerst du mich daran, warum ich wieder hier bin?«

»Schuld? Liebe? Langeweile?«, sagte Eleanor, gefolgt von einem lauten Glucksen.

»Dummheit?« In meinem Verlangen nach etwas Substanz, um die wütenden Geräusche zu unterdrücken, die von meinem Magen ausgingen, griff ich mir einen Schokoladenkeks aus einer Tasche auf dem Beifahrersitz. Der extra große, gesalzene Karamell-Mokka-Keks, den ich von einer hübschen rothaarigen Barista geschenkt bekommen hatte, die schamlos mit mir geflirtet hatte, würde allein nicht ausreichen. »Bitte erspare mir diese Folter!«

»Das wird nicht passieren, Kellan. Du hättest Mom hören sollen, als ich ihr nahelegte, dass du es vielleicht nicht schaffst. ‘Er lässt sich immer Ausreden einfallen, um nicht öfter nach Hause zu kommen. Diese Familie braucht ihn hier!’ Aber keine Sorge, ich habe sie beruhigt«, rief Eleanor über mehrere Teller und Gläser, die im Hintergrund klapperten.

»Hat sie schon vergessen, dass ich an Weihnachten hier war?« Ein weiterer Keks hat den Weg in meinen Mund gefunden. Ich muss gestehen, dass ich gegenüber Desserts – auch bekannt als mein Kryptonit – machtlos bin, weshalb ich immer der Meinung war, dass sie eine wichtige Nahrungsmittelgruppe sein sollten. »Zwei Reisen innerhalb von sechs Wochen sind nach meiner Rechnung eine zu viel.«

»Wie konntest du es dann zulassen, dass unsere lieben Geschwister akzeptable Ausreden finden, um das größte gesellschaftliche Ereignis der Saison zu überspringen?«, sagte Eleanor.

»Ich? Ich habe schon vor Jahren aufgegeben, mit ihnen zu konkurrieren. Es ist leicht, mit Dingen davonzukommen, wenn sie unsere Eltern nicht enttäuschen, wie wir alle.«

»Hey! Mach mich nicht fertig, weil du dem unangenehmen Mittelkind-Syndrom nicht entkommen kannst.« Eleanor stellte mich in die Warteschleife, um eine Kundenbeschwerde zu bearbeiten.

Meine jüngere Schwester wurde letzten Monat dreißig und ist darüber unglücklich, da sie immer noch nicht den richtigen Mann getroffen hat. Sie bestand auch darauf, dass sie sich nicht in unsere Mutter verwandeln würde, obwohl sie mit jeder Stunde des Tages diese Fantasievorstellungen in Vergessenheit geraten lassen würde. Um die Wahrheit zu sagen, Eleanor war Violet Ayrwick wie aus dem Gesicht geschnitten, und zwar auf eine Art und Weise, die jeder außer den beiden sah. Twinsies, wie Nana D immer mit einem süßen Lächeln auf ihre Stimme sagte. Eleanor wird auf jeden Fall bei der Pensionierungsparty unseres Vaters dabei sein, denn es gab nicht die geringste Chance, dass ich allein zu diesem Fest gehen würde. Der Mann der Stunde war in den letzten acht Jahren Präsident des Braxton College gewesen, aber als er 65 Jahre alt wurde, trat Wesley Ayrwick von der begehrten Funktion zurück.

Eleanor kehrte wieder zurück auf die Leitung. »War Emma damit einverstanden, dass du sie diesmal allein besuchst?«

»Ja, sie bleibt bei Francescas Eltern. Ich konnte sie nicht schon wieder aus der Schule nehmen, aber wir werden jeden Tag, an dem ich weg bin, auf Facetime sein.«

»Du bist ein erstaunlicher Vater. Ich weiß nicht, wie du das alles alleine schaffst«, antwortete Eleanor. »Also, wer ist die Frau, die du treffen willst, während du uns an diesem Wochenende mit deiner Anwesenheit beehrst?«

»Abby Monroe. Sie hat eine ganze Reihe von Recherchen für meinen Chef, Derek, durchgeführt«, sagte ich und verfluchte den schleimigen, partyfreudigen Executive Producer unserer preisgekrönten Fernsehshow ‘Dark Reality’. Nachdem ich Derek darüber informiert hatte, dass ich wegen einer familiären Verpflichtung nach Hause zurückkehren müsse, schlug er großzügig vor, zusätzliche Tage zur Entspannung hinzuzufügen, bevor im Sender alles explodierte, und beauftragte mich dann mit einem Interview mit seiner neuesten Quelle. »Hast du den Namen schon mal gehört?«

»Das klingt vertraut, aber ich kann ihn im Moment nicht einordnen«, sagte Eleanor zwischen dem Schreien von Befehlen an den Koch und dem Drängen, sich zu beeilen. »Was ist deine nächste Story?«

‘Dark Reality’, eine Show im Exposé-Stil, die den Verbrechen im wirklichen Leben ein spritziges Drama hinzufügt, strahlte wöchentliche Episoden voller Cliffhanger nach dem Vorbild des Reality-Fernsehens und Seifenopern am Tag aus. In der ersten Staffel wurden die Serienmörder Jack the Ripper und The Human Vampire hervorgehoben, was dazu führte, dass sie als Seriendebüt die Charts anführte. »Ich muss an diesem Wochenende die große Showbibel der zweiten Staffel lesen… Geisterjagd und Hexenverbrennung in der amerikanischen Kultur des 17. Jahrhunderts. Ich muss mir wirklich einen neuen Job suchen. Oder meinen Boss töten.«

»Gefängnisstreifen würden an dir nicht gut aussehen«, sagte Eleanor.

»Vergiss nicht, ich bin zu gut aussehend.«

»Ich werde das nicht weiter kommentieren. Lass besser Nana D sich einmischen, bevor ich dich wegen dieser erbärmlichen Aussage zermalme. Vielleicht wird Abby normal sein?«

»Mit meinem Glück wird sie ein weiteres verbittertes, verschmähtes Opfer sein, das zu Recht auf Gerechtigkeit bedacht ist, egal welches kolossale Trauma Derek verursacht hat«, antwortete ich mit einem Seufzer. »Ich glaube, sie ist eine weitere tickende Zeitbombe.«

»Wann wirst du sie interviewen?«, fragte Eleanor.

Ich wollte eigentlich ein Mittagessen einplanen, um mich kurz mit Abby vertraut zu machen, aber ich war spät dran. »Hoffentlich morgen, wenn sie nicht zu weit weg ist. Derek sagte nur, dass sie im Zentrum von Pennsylvania lebt. Er hat keine Vorstellung von Raum oder Entfernung.«

»Es wird hier gerade ziemlich voll, ich muss los. Ich schaffe es heute Abend nicht zum Essen, aber wir sehen uns morgen. Begehe keine Morde, bis wir uns wieder unterhalten. Umarmungen und Küsse.«

»Nur, wenn du keine Gäste vergiftest.« Ich trennte die Telefonverbindung und flehte die Götter an, mich nach Los Angeles zurückzubringen. Ich konnte den Stress nicht mehr ertragen und verschlang die letzten beiden verbliebenen Kekse. Angesichts meiner Besessenheit mit den Desserts war das Fitnessstudio für mich nie keine Option gewesen. Es gab täglich irgendeine Form von Bewegung, es sei denn, ich war krank oder im Urlaub – was diese Reise sicherlich nicht als solche zählte. Es würde keine Strände, Cabanas oder Mojitos geben. Daher würde ich die bevorstehende Zeit sicher nicht genießen.

Ich navigierte durch die kurvenreiche Autobahnfahrt, wobei die Heizung auf ‘Tod durch Sauna’ eingestellt war und die Wischerblätter auf wahnsinnig passiv-aggressiven Betriebszustand, um die Windschutzscheibe von schwerem Graupel und Schnee freizuhalten. Es war mitten im Winter, und mein ganzer Körper zitterte – was nicht gut war, wenn meine Füße bereit sein mussten, für Rehe oder Elche zu bremsen. Ja, das war in dieser Gegend üblich. Nein, ich hatte keine getroffen. Noch nicht.

Kein besserer Zeitpunkt als der jetzige, um Abby anzurufen und ein Treffen vorzuschlagen. Als sie antwortete, war ich nicht überrascht über ihre Naivität bezüglich der hinterhältigen Vorgehensweise meines Chefs.

»Derek sagte nie etwas über ein Treffen mit jemand anderem. Haben Sie einen Nachnamen, Kellan?« Abby wimmerte, nachdem ich bereits in der ersten Minute des Anrufs erklärt hatte, wer ich bin.

»Ayrwick. Ich bin Kellan Ayrwick, ein Regieassistent der zweiten Staffel von ‘Dark Reality’. Ich dachte, wir könnten die Recherche, die Sie für Derek vorbereitet haben, noch einmal durchgehen und über Ihre Erfahrungen in der Fernsehbranche sprechen.«

Es gab einige Sekunden der Stille am Telefon. »Ayrwick, sagten Sie? Wie in… na ja… arbeiten nicht ein paar von ihnen drüben bei Braxton?«

Ich war einen Moment lang fassungslos, dass ein Groupie-Mädchen überhaupt etwas über Braxton wissen würde, aber dann spekulierte ich, dass sie derzeit das College besucht oder zuvor mit einem meiner Geschwister zur Schule gegangen war. »Lassen Sie uns morgen zu Mittag essen, um darüber zu sprechen. Wäre ein Uhr in Ordnung?«

»Nicht wirklich. Ich war nicht bereit, an diesem Wochenende zu plaudern. Ich dachte, ich würde in den nächsten Tagen zu Derek fliegen, um ihn zu treffen. Der Zeitpunkt ist schlecht gewählt.«

»Können wir uns nicht zu einem kurzen Kennenlernen treffen?« Derek wusste, wie man sich die dramatischen Themen herauspickt. Ich konnte mir vorstellen, wie sie mit den Haaren wirbelte und mit den Augen zwinkerte, obwohl ich nicht wusste, wie sie aussah.

»Ich bin mitten in einem exklusiven Exposé über ein Verbrechen, das sich hier in Wharton County abspielt. Vielleicht ist es zu früh, um Derek etwas vorzuschlagen… Nun, es ist noch zu früh, um etwas zu sagen.« Ihre Stimme wurde plötzlich kalt und schlaff. Sie hatte wahrscheinlich vergessen, wie man das Telefon benutzt, oder mich versehentlich stumm geschaltet.

»Ist es das, was Sie ihm gegenüber über Themen für eine zukünftige Staffel von ‘Dark Reality’ erwähnt haben? Ich interessiere mich mehr für wahre Verbrechen und investigative Berichterstattung. Vielleicht könnte ich bei diesem Thema helfen.« Als mir klar wurde, dass sie im selben Bezirk wie ich lebte, probierte ich alle Möglichkeiten aus, um ein Treffen zu arrangieren.

»Sind Sie Wesley Ayrwicks Sohn? Ich hörte, er hat eine ganze Reihe von Kindern.«

Mein Mund klappte fünf Zentimeter auseinander. Nana D hätte die Fliegen gezählt, als sie hereinschwärmten, wenn man bedenkt, wie lange er offen blieb. Wer war dieses Mädchen, das etwas über meine Familie wusste? »Ich verstehe nicht, warum das relevant ist, aber ja, er ist mein Vater. Gehen Sie nach Braxton, Abby?«

»Braxton besuchen? Nein, Sie müssen noch ein paar Dinge lernen, wenn wir zusammenarbeiten wollen.« Sie lachte hysterisch und schnaubte bis zum Anschlag.

»Toll, also können wir uns morgen treffen?« Der Tonfall der Frau ärgerte mich, aber vielleicht hatte ich sie aufgrund von Dereks normalem Frauengeschmack falsch eingeschätzt. »Nur dreißig Minuten, um eine Zusammenarbeit aufzubauen. Kennen Sie das Pick-Me-Up Diner?« Eleanor leitete den Laden, so dass ich eine Ausrede hätte, wegzugehen, wenn mir Abby zu viel zumuten würde. Meine Schwester konnte dafür sorgen, dass einer der Kellner eine Schüssel Suppe auf Abby kippte und sie dann in der Toilette einschloss, während ich fliehen konnte. Nichts mochte ich mehr als törichte, ahnungslose oder schlampige Menschen. Ich hatte genug davon, als ich mich vor Jahren durch die Schwesternschaft einer Verbindung verabredete. Wenn ich noch ein Mädchen aus dem L.A.-Valley treffen würde, würde ich erwägen, Francescas Familie, den Castiglianos, die Kontrolle über die Situation zu überlassen. Streichen Sie das, ich habe diese Worte nie laut ausgesprochen.

»Nein, tut mir leid. Ich werde ein paar Stunden damit beschäftigt sein, den ganzen Unsinn, der hier vor sich geht, zu untersuchen. Aber ich sehe Sie morgen Abend auf dem Campus.«

Ich schüttelte frustriert und verwirrt den Kopf. Ich hörte deutlich, wie sie wieder ein unausstehliches Lachen unterdrückte. Wenn sie keine Studentin wäre, warum sollte sie dann auf dem Campus sein? »Was meinen Sie mit morgen Abend?«

»Die Party zur Feier der Pensionierung Ihres Vaters. Nichts ist jemals so, wie es scheint, hm? Sie können sich angemessen vorstellen und eine Zeit für ein Gespräch vereinbaren. Ich hoffe, das wird klappen.«

Derek war mir für diese Tortur viel schuldig. Wenn er nicht aufpassen würde, würde ich ihr seine echte Handynummer geben und nicht die gefälschte, die er den Leuten bei ihrem ersten Treffen gibt.

»Woher wissen Sie eigentlich, dass ich…« Das nächste, was ich hörte, war ein Klicken, als sie den Anruf beendete.

Ich fuhr auf der Hauptstraße direkt in das Herz von Braxton und hupte, als ich an Danby Landing, Nana D’s biologischem Obstgarten und Bauernhof, vorbeikam. Ich stand Nana D, auch bekannt als meine Großmutter Seraphina, die später in diesem Jahr fünfundsiebzig Jahre alt werden würde, besonders nahe. Sie drohte immer wieder damit, den Stadtrat unserer Stadt, Marcus Stanton, über ihren Schoß zu beugen, seinen Hintern zu versohlen und dem Trottel beizubringen, wie man in einer modernen Welt vorgehen sollte. Es ist meine zweite Aufgabe, sie nach dem Vorfall, bei dem sie angeblich über Nacht im Gefängnis eingesperrt war, in Schach zu halten. Ohne offizielle Unterlagen konnte sie es weiterhin leugnen, aber ich wusste es besser, da ich derjenige war, der Sheriff Montague davon überzeugen musste, Nana D freizulassen. Ich hoffte, nie wieder mit dem so charmanten obersten Gesetzeshüter unseres Bezirks auf Konfrontationskurs gehen zu müssen, selbst wenn es notwendig ist, Nana D vor dem Gefängnis zu retten. Ich war mir sicher, dass dies eine einmalige Karte war, die ich ausspielen konnte.

Die Sonne verschwand, als ich zum Haus meiner Eltern fuhr, den Jeep parkte und zum Kofferraum ging, um meine Taschen zu holen. Da die Temperatur auf weit unter den Gefrierpunkt gesunken war und der eisige Schnee wild auf meinen Körper prasselte, versuchte ich mein Bestes, zur Haustür zu eilen. Unglücklicherweise entschied sich das Schicksal für Rache für eine vergangene Indiskretion und kam mit der Vergeltung von tausend Plagen zurück. Bald schon lief ich wie eine unbeholfene Ballerina in Clownschuhen über eine Eisfläche und fiel auf den Rücken.

Ich machte ein Selfie, während ich auf dem frostigen Boden lachte, um Nana D wissen zu lassen, dass ich in Braxton angekommen war. Sie liebte es, Fotos zu bekommen und zu sehen, wie ich mich zum Narren machte. Ich konnte ihre Antwort nicht entziffern, da meine Brille beschlagen war, und meine Sicht war schlechter als die eines heimlichen Liebeskindes von Mr. Magoo. Ich suchte nach einem Stück meines Flanellhemds, das weder vom herabfallenden Graupel noch vom peinlichen Aufprall auf den Boden betroffen war, und wischte es trocken. Ein Blick auf das Bild, das ich geschickt hatte, ließ das lauteste und absurdeste Gelächter aus meiner Kehle hervorbrechen. Mein normalerweise sauber geschnittenes dunkelblondes Haar war mit Blättern übersät, und die vier Tage Stoppeln auf meinen Wangen und meinem Kinn waren von weißem Schnee bedeckt. Ich klopfte mich ab und eilte unter den Schutz einer überdachten Veranda, um ihren Text zu lesen.

Nana D: Ist das ein schmutziger, nasser Wischmopp auf deinem Kopf? Du bist angezogen wie ein Raufbold. Zieh einen Mantel an, es ist kalt draußen.

Ich: Danke, Captain Obvious. Ich bin auf dem Gehweg gefallen. Meinst du, ich bin normalerweise eine so große Katastrophe?

Nana D: Und du sollst der Brillante sein? Hast du das Leben aufgegeben oder hat es dich aufgegeben?

Ich: Mach weiter so, und ich werde dieses Wochenende nicht mehr kommen. Du solltest eine süße und liebevolle Nana sein.

Nana D: Wenn es das ist, was du willst, dann geh runter ins Altersheim und miete dir eine kleine Mieze. Vielleicht könnt ihr euch ein paar passierte Erbsen, grüne Götterspeise und ein leckeres Glas Ovomaltine teilen. Ich werde sogar bezahlen.

Nachdem ich Nana D’s Frechheit ignoriert hatte, fuhr ich mir ein Paar gekühlte Hände durch die Haare, um etwas vorzeigbarer auszusehen, und betrat das Foyer. Obwohl der ursprüngliche Rohbau des Hauses eindeutig eine Holzhütte war, hatten meine Eltern im Laufe der Jahre viele Räume hinzugefügt, darunter einen West- und einen Ostflügel, die die massive Struktur buchstäblich umrahmen. Die Decken des Foyers waren mindestens zwei Meter hoch gewölbt und mit endlosen Zedernholzbohlen bedeckt, die an den richtigen Stellen verknotet waren. Eine hübsche jagdgrüne Farbe überzog drei der Wände, wo sich der Eingang in ein riesiges Wohnzimmer öffnete. Es war durch einen Kamin aus Steinplatten verankert und mit handgefertigten antiken Möbeln verziert, für deren Beschaffung meine Eltern durch den ganzen Staat gereist waren. Mein Vater war leidenschaftlich darum bemüht, die Authentizität eines traditionellen Blockhauses zu erhalten, während meine Mutter alle modernen Annehmlichkeiten benötigte. Wenn nur die Property Brothers die Ergebnisse ihrer kombinierten Stile sehen könnten. Eleanor und ich nannten es den Royal Chic-Schuppen.

Ich ließ meine Taschen auf den Boden fallen und rief: »Ist jemand zu Hause?« Mein Körper hüpfte herum, als die Tür zum Arbeitszimmer meines Vaters knarrte, und sein Kopf herauspoppte. Vielleicht hatte ich das Paranormale und Okkulte im Kopf, weil ich wusste, dass die nächste Staffel von ‘Dark Reality’ leider in absehbarer Zeit stattfinden würde.

»Ich bin’s nur. Willkommen zurück«, antwortete mein Vater und wartete darauf, dass ich mich dem Arbeitszimmer nähere. »Deine Mutter ist immer noch in Braxton und macht die endgültige Zulassungsliste für den zukünftigen Kurs zu Ende.«

»Wie geht es dem fröhlichen Rentner?«, fragte ich, als ich den Flur auf ihn zuging.

»Ich bin noch nicht im Ruhestand«, sagte mein Vater spöttisch. »Ich habe meine Rede für die Party morgen Abend fertig geschrieben. Bist du an einer frühen Vorschau interessiert?«

Nein zu sagen, würde mich zu einem schlechten Sohn machen. Eleanor und ich hatten uns an Weihnachten versprochen, uns mehr anzustrengen. Ich möchte heute wirklich ein böser Sohn sein. »Sicher, es muss aufregend sein. Du hattest eine glänzende Karriere, Dad. Es ist zweifellos das perfekte Beispiel für rednerische Exzellenz.« Er liebte es immer, wenn ich meine Vokabularfähigkeiten an seine eigenen anpasste. Ich schauderte bei dem Gedanken an die Buchstabierwettbewerbe von vor langer Zeit.

»Ja, ich glaube, das ist es.« Mein Vater blinzelte mit den Augen und kratzte sich am Kinn. Zweifelsohne beurteilte er mein grenzwertig ungepflegtes Aussehen. Ich hatte vergessen, mich zu rasieren, und hatte den klassischen Nasentauchgang auf dem Boden gemacht. Verklagen Sie mich. Manchmal zog ich den schmutzigen Look vor. Offenbar tat das auch dieser Flughafen-Barista!

Ich ging zu seinem Schreibtisch und studierte die zusätzlichen Zornesfalten, die sich um seine Lippen bildeten. »Alles in Ordnung, Dad? Du siehst ein wenig angeschlagen aus.«

»Ja… ich habe ein paar Dinge im Kopf. Nichts, was dich belasten sollte, Kellan.« Er nickte und schüttelte meinen handüblichen Ayrwick-Gruß. Mit 1,83 Meter war mein Vater nur drei Zentimeter größer als ich, aber die dominanten Ayrwick-Gene ließen ihn im Vergleich dazu gigantisch aussehen. Schlaksig und drahtig hatte er noch keinen einzigen Tag in seinem Leben trainiert, aber das war auch nie nötig. Sein Stoffwechsel war aktiver als bei einem Vollblut, und er aß nur die gesündeste aller Nahrungsmittel. Ich hatte das Glück, die rezessiven Danby-Gene zu erben, aber ein anderes Mal mehr über diese grausamen Hinterlassenschaften.

»Ich bin ein guter Zuhörer, Dad. Sag mir, was los ist.« Ich fühlte, wie sich seine knochige Hand wegzog und sah zu, wie sich sein Körper in den abgenutzten, senfgelben Ledersessel vor dem Bücherregal senkte. Es war wahrscheinlich das Einzige, was meine Mutter noch nicht ersetzt hatte, und das nur, weil er mit der Scheidung drohen würde, wenn sie es versuchen würde. »Es ist schon eine Weile her, dass wir miteinander geredet haben.«

Mein Vater starrte aus dem Fenster. Ich wartete darauf, dass seine rechte Augenbraue zuckte, um den Beginn einer Schlacht zu signalisieren, aber das passierte nicht. »Wir haben in Braxton einige Probleme mit einem Blogger, der versucht, Ärger zu machen. Ein Haufen Artikel oder Post-its, wie auch immer man sie heutzutage nennt… Müll ist das, wie ich das gerne nennen würde.« Er schloss die Augen und lehnte sich in den Sessel zurück. »So habe ich mir meine letzten Wochen vor der Pensionierung nicht vorgestellt.«

Ich habe mir das Lachen verkneift, in der Hoffnung, nicht noch einen entscheidenden Keil zwischen uns zu treiben. Er hatte sich ein wenig mehr als gewöhnlich geöffnet, und es war egal, ob er die falschen Begriffe benutzte, als er versuchte, die falsche Nachrichtenpropaganda zu erklären, die sich in Braxton entwickelte. »Was sagt der Blogger?«

»Jemand hat ein Hühnchen zu rupfen mit der Art und Weise, wie ich bestimmte Teile des Kollegiums unterstützt habe. Er behauptet, dass ich die Leichtathletikabteilung bevorzuge, indem ich ihnen in diesem Semester mehr Geld gebe«, antwortete er.

Mein Vater schlug die Beine übereinander und presste die Hände zusammen. Seine marineblaue Kordhose und die braunen Slipper schienen unpassend zu sein, aber vielleicht nahm er den Ruhestand ernst. Normalerweise hatte ich ihn in Anzügen oder gelegentlich mit einem Paar Dockers und einem kurzärmeligen Polo gesehen, wenn er sich mit Freunden im Country Club zu einer Runde Golf traf. Ich hoffte aufrichtig, dass das nicht bedeutete, dass er in nächster Zeit Jeans tragen würde. Der Schock der plötzlich eingetretenen Normalität könnte mich vor diesen verdammten Flugzeugen in ein frühes Grab bringen.

»Ist der Blogger speziell hinter dir her oder hinter der Administration von Braxton im Allgemeinen?«

Mein Vater tippte schnell ein paar Worte auf die Tastatur seines iPads und reichte mir das Gerät. »Das ist der dritte Beitrag innerhalb von zwei Wochen. Die Links für den Rest befinden sich unten.«

Es sieht meinem Vater nicht ähnlich, sich über diese Art von Unsinn Gedanken zu machen, aber vielleicht ist er mit zunehmendem Alter sensibler für die Meinungen der Menschen geworden. Es schien das Gegenteil von dem zu sein, was ich normalerweise im Alter erwartet hätte. Nana D war die Erste, die alles, was sie auf dem Herzen hatte, ausspuckte oder lachte, wenn andere etwas Negatives über sie sagten. Sie freute sich fast über deren Kritik an ihrem Verhalten. Ich kann es kaum erwarten, alt zu werden und so zu reden, wie sie es tut!

Ich habe den letzten Beitrag durchgeblättert. Was mich am meisten beunruhigte, war der Grund, warum er sich ausdrücklich an meinen Vater zu richten schien.

»Wesley Ayrwick hat in seiner archaischen und egoistischen Art einen weiteren Schlag ausgeführt, um den wahren Zweck von Braxtons Existenz in dieser Welt auszulöschen. Seine anhaltende Unterstützung für eine gescheiterte Leichtathletikabteilung bei gleichzeitiger Vernachlässigung der richtigen Ausbildung der Studenten unseres geliebten Colleges hat es mir unmöglich gemacht, mich zurückzuziehen. Vor kurzem wurde dem Grey Sports Complex eine sechsstellige Spende leichtsinnig übergeben, um die technische Infrastruktur der Sportanlage zu verbessern, das Baseballfeld zu sanieren und einen moderneren Bus für die Spieler zu beschaffen, wenn sie zu gegnerischen Mannschaften reisen. Gleichzeitig leiden die Kommunikations-, Geistes- und Musikabteilungen unter minimalen Softwareprogrammen, sich verschlechternder Ausrüstung und dem Mangel an modernen Räumlichkeiten für Live-Aufführungen. Auf die Frage nach der Entscheidung, die anonyme Spende zu neunzig Prozent zugunsten der Leichtathletikmannschaften aufzuteilen, erklärte Präsident Ayrwick, dass wenn sie länger gewartet hätten, Gefahr liefen, in der kommenden Sportsaison nicht mehr antreten zu können. Dies ist der dritte Vorfall seiner Günstlingswirtschaft in den letzten zwei Monaten, was klar erklärt, warum der Antrag, Ayrwick früher als zum Ende dieses Semesters aus dem Amt zu entfernen, an Dynamik gewinnt. Hoffen wir, dass wir uns von diesem krummen Aushängeschild verabschieden können, bevor Braxtons Schiff zu weit von seinem eigentlichen Kurs abgekommen ist. Der Ruhestand muss dem alten Kauz schon im Kopf herumgehen, oder vielleicht ist er einfach einer der schlechtesten Präsidenten, die wir je hatten. Mein größter Wunsch ist es, dass das Andenken an Wesley Ayrwick bis zum Ende der Amtszeit begraben und längst vergessen ist.«

»Was hältst du davon?«, fragte mein Vater. Das Zögern in seiner Stimme ließ mich fast ersticken.

Ein kurzer Blick auf die früheren Beiträge zeigte, dass mein Vater ähnlich dargestellt wurde, weil er ein ungerechtes Verhältnis zu den großzügigen Spenden an Braxton zeigte. Die letzte Zeile las sich wie eine Todesdrohung, aber das könnte meine Fantasie gewesen sein, seit ich die alarmierende Wahrheit über die Castigliano-Seite meiner Familie erfahren habe. »Wer ist der anonyme Spender? Bist du dafür verantwortlich, wohin die Gelder verteilt werden sollen?«

Mein Vater hatte die Nase gerunzelt und die Augenbraue hochgezogen. »Nein, du weißt es besser. Wenn es anonym ist, soll nicht einmal ich es wissen. Manchmal hat der Wohltäter eine konkrete Bitte, wo das Geld verteilt werden soll. Ich kann meine Überlegungen und Vorschläge einbringen, aber der Stiftungsrat und sein Haushaltsausschuss haben letztlich die Entscheidung, wohin die Gelder gehen.«

»Ich meinte nur, dass du wahrscheinlich einen gewissen Einfluss hast«, antwortete ich. Mein Vater sah verärgert aus, weil er nicht sofort meine bedingungslose Unterstützung hatte. »Sollte es an die Leichtathletikabteilung gehen?« Ich ging in den Flur, um meine Schlüssel und meine Brieftasche auf einer Bank in der Nähe abzugeben.

»Ja, ich stimme zu, dass der Zweck einer Hochschulausbildung darin besteht, dich auf das Leben in der realen Welt vorzubereiten, einen Beruf oder eine Fertigkeit zu studieren und zu lernen, aber es geht auch darum, zwischenmenschliche Beziehungen zu entwickeln und deine Augen und deinen Geist für mehr als nur die Sammlung von Fakten zu öffnen.« Er ging zum Fenster und schüttelte den Kopf hin und her, eindeutig durch etwas abgelenkt. »Sport baut Kameradschaft, Teamarbeit und Freundschaften auf. Er bietet der Hochschule und der Stadt die Möglichkeit, sich zur Unterstützung ihrer Studenten zusammenzuschließen. Schließlich führt er zu einer stärkeren Grundlage und Zukunft für alle Beteiligten.«

Ich konnte seiner Logik nicht widersprechen und ertappte mich beim Nachdenken über die Vergangenheit, als ich meine Schuhe im Saal auszog. »Du hast das ziemlich gut ausgedrückt. Ich glaube dir, Dad. Ich will nicht das Thema wechseln, aber ich habe eine Frage zu Abby Monroe an dich. Sie erwähnte die Teilnahme…«

Ich glaube nicht, dass er mich gehört hat, als die Tür zu seinem Arbeitszimmer zugeschlagen wurde, bevor ich zu Ende gesprochen hatte. Ich war zehn Minuten zu Hause gewesen und bin schon ins Fettnäpfchen getreten. Zwischen unserer ungewöhnlichen Intelligenz und unseren arroganten, hartnäckigen Tendenzen konnte keiner von uns genug nachgeben, um eine normale Beziehung zu entwickeln. Ich glaube nicht, dass ich jemals lernen würde, wie ich mich mit dem unbezähmbaren Wesley Ayrwick anfreunden könnte. Zumindest könnte ich mich auf meinen schnellen Witz und mein teuflisch schönes Gesicht verlassen, um die Dinge besser erscheinen zu lassen!

Ich schleppte das Gepäck in mein altes Schlafzimmer, das meine Mutter sich geweigert hatte, es zu ändern, weil sie dachte, ich würde eines Tages wieder nach Hause ziehen. Glaubte sie wirklich, dass ein Zweiunddreißigjähriger in einem noch mit Jurassic Park und Terminator-Utensilien tapezierten Raum schlafen wollte? Bevor ich mich für die Nacht einrichtete, um einige der von Derek gesandten Showmaterialien zu verdauen, ging ich nach unten, um mir eine leichte Mahlzeit zu besorgen. Der Vorfall im Arbeitszimmer hinterließ bei mir wenig Lust, an diesem Abend mit meinen Eltern zu essen. Ich war gerade um die Ecke gegangen, als ich die Stimme meines Vaters am Haustelefon hörte.

»Ja, ich habe den letzten Beitrag gelesen. Ich bin mir unserer misslichen Lage bewusst, aber wir haben das bereits besprochen. Die Kündigung eines Mitarbeiters ist im Moment keine Option«, sagte mein Vater.

Es schien, dass die Beiträge alle möglichen Probleme verursachten, aber mein Vater tat zuvor so, als wüsste er nicht, wer hinter dem Blog steckt.

»Ich verstehe, aber ich habe nicht die Absicht, dieses Geheimnis zu verraten. Ich schweige nur wegen des Nutzens, den es für Braxton hatte. Wenn die Wahrheit entdeckt wird, werden wir die beste Lösung finden. Im Moment kann ich mit etwas heißem Wasser umgehen. Sie müssen sich beruhigen«, sagte mein Vater.

Es klang eindeutig so, als ob der Blogger die Wahrheit über hinterhältige Schikanen sagte. War mein Vater in eine potenziell illegale oder unethische Situation bei Braxton verwickelt?

»Sie hätten darüber nachdenken sollen, bevor Sie sich so töricht verhalten haben… jetzt warten Sie mal… nein, hören Sie mir zu… drohen Sie mir nicht, sonst ist es das Letzte, was Sie tun«, sagte mein Vater verärgert.

Als er den Hörer auflegte, schlich ich in die Küche. Zwischen den schwer fassbaren Verbindungen von Abby Monroe zu Braxton, dem skrupellosen Blogger, der meinen Vater öffentlich anprangert, und dem feindseligen Anruf, den ich gerade gehört hatte, könnte dieses Wochenende ereignisreicher werden als erwartet.

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Academic Curveball – Book Links

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About The Author

Background

James is my given name, but most folks call me Jay. I live in New York City, grew up on Long Island, and graduated from Moravian College, an historic but small liberal arts school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with a degree in English literature and minors in Education, Business and Spanish. After college, I accepted a technical writing position for a telecommunications company during Y2K and spent the last ~20 years building a career in technology & business operations in the retail, sports, media and entertainment industries. Throughout those years, I wrote some short stories, poems and various beginnings to the “Great American Novel,” but I was so focused on my career in technology and business that writing became a hobby. In 2016, I refocused some of my energies toward reinvigorating a second career in reading, writing and publishing.

 

Author

Writing has been a part of my life as much as my heart, my mind and my body. At some points, it was just a few poems or short stories; at others, it was full length novels and stories. My current focus is family drama fiction, cozy mystery novels and suspense thrillers. I think of characters and plots that I feel must be unwound. I think of situations people find themselves in and feel compelled to tell the story. It’s usually a convoluted plot with many surprise twists and turns. I feel it necessary to take that ride all over the course. My character is easily pictured in my head. I know what he is going to encounter or what she will feel. But I need to use the right words to make it clear.

 

Reader & Reviewer

Reading has also never left my side. Whether it was children’s books, young adult novels, college textbooks, biographies or my ultimate love, fiction, it’s ever present in my day. I read 2 books per week and I’m on a quest to update every book I’ve ever read on Goodreads, write up a review and post it on all my sites and platforms.

 

Blogger & Thinker

I have combined my passions into a single platform where I share reviews, write a blog and publish tons of content: TRUTH. I started my 365 Daily Challenge, where I post about a word that has some meaning to me and converse with everyone about life. There is humor, tears, love, friendship, advice and bloopers. Lots of bloopers where I poke fun at myself all the time. Even my dogs have had weekly segments called “Ryder’s Rants” or “Baxter’s Barks” where they complain about me. All these things make up who I am; none of them are very fancy or magnanimous, but they are real. And that’s why they are me.

 

Genealogist & Researcher

I love history and research, finding myself often reaching back into the past to understand why someone made the choice he or she did and what were the subsequent consequences. I enjoy studying the activities and culture from hundreds of years ago to trace the roots and find the puzzle of my own history. I wish I could watch my ancestors from a secret place to learn how they interacted with others; and maybe I’ll comprehend why I do things the way I do.

 

Websites & Blog

Website: https://jamesjcudney.com/

Blog: https://thisismytruthnow.com

Amazon: http://bit.ly/JJCIVBooks

Next Chapter Pub: https://www.nextchapter.pub/authors/james-j-cudney

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/james-j-cudney

 

Social Media

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jamescudney4

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

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

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

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jamescudney4/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jamescudney4/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/jamescudney4

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamescudney4

 

Genres, Formats & Languages

I write in the family drama and mystery genres. My first two books are Watching Glass Shatter (2017) and Father Figure (2018). Both are contemporary fiction and focus on the dynamics between parents and children and between siblings. I’m currently writing the sequel to Watching Glass Shatter. I also have a light mystery series called the Braxton Campus Mysteries with six books available.

All my books come in multiple formats (Kindle, physical print, large print paperback, and audiobook) and some are also translated into foreign languages such as Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and German.

 

Goodreads Book Links

Watching Glass Shatter (October 2017)

Father Figure (April 2018)

Braxton Campus Mysteries

 

FREE KINDLE DOWNLOAD: “Academic Curveball (Braxton Campus Mysteries Book 1)” by James J. Cudney

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Overview / Description: When Kellan Ayrwick returns home for his father’s retirement from Braxton College, he finds a dead body in Diamond Hall’s stairwell. Unfortunately, Kellan has a connection to the victim, and so do several members of his family. Could one of them be guilty of murder?

Soon after, the college’s athletic program receives mysterious donations, a nasty blog denounces his father and someone attempts to change students’ grades. Someone is playing games on campus, but none of the facts add up.

With the help of his eccentric and trouble-making nana, Kellan tries to stay out of the sheriff’s way. And if that wasn’t enough already, his own past comes spiraling back to change his life forever.

KINDLE UNLIMITED

AMAZON US

AMAZON UK

AMAZON CA

AMAZON AU

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Audiobook GIVEAWAY Contest

In honor of the FREE Kindle version, I’m also giving away an audiobook to one lucky winner. All you need to do is leave a comment about the Braxton Campus Mysteries on this post.

All you need to do is leave a comment about the Braxton Campus Mysteries on this post.

The contest is open to anyone who can download an audiobook from the US or UK site. It will run through midnight on 3/10, then the winner will be announced on 3/11. The winner will be picked randomly based on date/time stamp.

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#CoverReveal “Frozen Stiff Drink (Braxton Campus Mysteries #6)” by James J. Cudney

 

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Book Blurb

A winter blizzard barrels toward Wharton County with a vengeance. Madam Zenya predicted the raging storm would change the course of Kellan’s life, but the famed seer never could’ve prepared him for all the collateral damage. Nana D disappears after visiting a patient at Willow Trees, leaving behind a trail of confusion. When the patient turns up dead, and second body is discovered beneath the snowbanks, Kellan must face his worst fears. What tragedy has befallen his beloved grandmother?

Kellan’s brother Hampton learns essential life lessons the hard way after his father-in-law accuses him of embezzlement. While trying to prove his innocence, Hampton digs himself a deeper hole that might lead to prison. Sheriff Montague wants to save him, but she receives the shock of her life as the past hurtles forward and complicates her future.

Between locating Nana D and solving the scandalous murder of another prominent Braxton citizen, Kellan and April’s worlds explode with more turmoil than they can handle. Too bad neither one of them knows what to do about the psychic’s latest premonition. The suspicious deaths happening around town aren’t ending anytime soon.

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6th in Braxton Campus Mysteries

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#BraxtonCampusMysteries #NextChapterPub

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Author BioJay_suit

James is my given name, but most folks call me Jay. I live in New York City, grew up on Long Island, and graduated from Moravian College. I spent fifteen years building a technology career in the retail, sports, media, and entertainment industries. I enjoyed my job, but a passion for books and stories had been missing for far too long. I’m a voracious reader in my favorite genres (thriller, suspense, contemporary, mystery, and historical fiction), as books transport me to a different world where I can immerse myself in so many fantastic cultures and places. I’m an avid genealogist who hopes to visit all the German, Scottish, Irish, and British villages my ancestors emigrated from in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Writing has been a part of my life as much as my heart, my mind, and my body. I decided to pursue my passion by dusting off the creativity inside my head and drafting outlines for several novels. I quickly realized I was back in my element growing happier and more excited with life each day. My goal in writing is to connect with readers who want to be part of great stories and who enjoy interacting with authors. To get a strong picture of who I am, check out my author website or my blog. It’s full of humor and eccentricity, sharing connections with everyone I follow—all in the hope of building a network of friends across the world.

When I completed the first book, Watching Glass Shatter, I knew I’d stumbled upon my passion again, suddenly dreaming up characters, plots, and settings all day long. I chose my second novel, Father Figure, through a poll on my blog where I let everyone vote for their favorite plot and character summaries. It is with my third book, Academic Curveball, the first in the Braxton Campus Mysteries, where I immersed myself in a college campus full of so much activity, I could hardly stop thinking about new murder scenes or character relationships to finish writing the current story. Come join in the fun!

 

Websites & Blog

Website   |    Blog   |    Next Chapter

Social Media Links

Amazon      Twitter

Facebook      Facebook

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List of Books

KINDLE UNLIMITED

Watching Glass Shatter (October 2017)

Father Figure (April 2018)

Braxton Campus Mysteries

            Academic Curveball – #1 (October 2018)

            Broken Heart Attack – #2 (November 2018)

            Flower Power Trip – #3 (March 2019)

            Mistaken Identity Crisis – #4 (June 2019)

            Haunted House Ghost – #5 (October 2019)

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