Before the Ruins by Victoria Gosling


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Lore by Alexandra Bracken


From the Publisher:

From the #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Darkest Minds comes a sweepingly ambitious, high-octane tale of power, destiny, love and redemption.

HER NAME WILL BE LEGEND

Every seven years, the Agon begins. As punishment for a past rebellion, nine Greek gods are forced to walk the earth as mortals, hunted by the descendants of ancient bloodlines, all eager to kill a god and seize their divine power and immortality.

Long ago, Lore Perseous fled that brutal world in the wake of her family’s sadistic murder by a rival line, turning her back on the hunt’s promises of eternal glory. For years she’s pushed away any thought of revenge against the man–now a god–responsible for their deaths.

Yet as the next hunt dawns over New York City, two participants seek out her help: Castor, a childhood friend of Lore believed long dead, and a gravely wounded Athena, among the last of the original gods.

The goddess offers an alliance against their mutual enemy and, at last, a way for Lore to leave the Agon behind forever. But Lore’s decision to bind her fate to Athena’s and rejoin the hunt will come at a deadly cost–and still may not be enough to stop the rise of a new god with the power to bring humanity to its knees.

This new vision of the Greek gods and heroes is an imaginative, pulse-pounding tale for the 21st century. Drawing on a deep knowledge of the old gods and new knowledge of pretty much every action-adventure-quest video game out there, Alexandra Bracken has created a dangerous world where the players breathe loyalty and betrayal. The fact that the protagonist is a young woman who kicks ass makes this even more appealing.

The ass-kicking isn’t all that’s special about Lore, though. She’s got very human feelings and morals, believing that doing good for others is far more important than power. Like any good hero, she struggles with the concept of power throughout the story, and nearly perishes while trying to defend the city at the end.

This will appeal to readers who enjoy fast-paced action-adventure blended with mythology. Well done.

Publication Date: January 5, 2021
Published By: Hyperion
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Winter Witness by Tina deBellegarde

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Winter Witness by Tina deBellegarde Banner

Winter Witness

by Tina deBellegarde

on Tour November 1-30, 2020

Synopsis:

Winter Witness by Tina deBellegarde

When a beloved nun is murdered in a sleepy Catskill Mountain town, a grieving young widow finds herself at the center of the turmoil. Bianca St. Denis is searching for a job and seeking acceptance in her new home of Batavia-on-Hudson. Agatha Miller, the nun’s closest friend and the ailing local historian everyone loves to hate, shares her painful personal history and long-buried village secrets with Bianca. Armed with this knowledge, Bianca unravels the mysteries surrounding the death while dealing with the suspicions of her eccentric neighbors.

However, Bianca’s meddling complicates the sheriff’s investigation as well as his marriage. Can Sheriff Mike Riley escape his painful past in a town where murder and infighting over a new casino vie for his attention?

Danger stalks Bianca as she gets closer to the truth. Can the sheriff solve the mystery before the killer strikes again? Can the town heal its wounds once the truth has been uncovered?

Fans of cozy mysteries with an edge will enjoy this engaging debut set in upstate New York. There is a bit of everything here: a good, cleverly plotted mystery, some romance, history, and a colorfully drawn small town and its inhabitants.

Often in small-town mysteries, the quirkiness of its inhabitants is exaggerated almost to the point of caricature; that doesn’t happen here. The author has followed the most common of writing advice – write what you know. She lives in this world and she has created what could be any number of small, upstate towns and villages and filled it with real people. This provides a solid foundation for the protagonist to sit upon while she struggles with significant changes to her own life.

The mystery here is intriguing and well-paced as old sins come back to bite. I’ll be recommending this to mystery fans and waiting for the next installment!

Book Details:

Genre: Traditional Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: September 29, 2020
Number of Pages: 282
ISBN: 978-1-947915-76-3
Series: Batavia-on-Hudson Mystery, #1
Purchase Links: Amazon | Apple Books | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Goodreads | Oblong Books and Music

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

Thursday, December 15

She could have been sleeping, were it not for the gaping gash in the back of her head and the bloody stone next to her limp body.

Sheriff Mike Riley stood alone on the shore of the near-frozen lake. At his feet, Sister Elaine Fisher lay face down, ice crystals forming around her body where it met the shoreline. The murmuring water of the nearby stream imparted a peacefulness at odds with the scene. In the waning winter light, he paused ankle deep in the snow illuminated by the beat of red strobe lights.

Murder seemed so extreme. The villagers would be baffled. Murder didn’t happen in sleepy Batavia-on-Hudson. An occasional stolen bicycle, some were paid off the books, but that was hardly worth mentioning. Lately, there had been a handful of amateur burglaries. Murder was another story altogether.

But there was no denying it. Elaine’s body was there before him, lifeless on a cushion of snow at the edge of the lake.

Sheriff Riley ran his chapped hands through his salt and pepper hair. A knowing person might have noticed that he used this motion to disguise a quick brush at his cheek, to eliminate the one tear that slipped through.

He feared this day, the day his lazy job would bring him face to face once again with the ugly underbelly he knew existed even in a quiet place like Batavia-on-Hudson. Mike Riley wasn’t afraid of death. He was afraid of the transformation a village like this was bound to go through after an act of murder.

He cried for Elaine; though he barely knew her. But also, he cried for the village that died with her that morning. A place where children still wandered freely. A village that didn’t lock doors, and trusted everyone, even the ones they gossiped about. Now, inevitably, the villagers would be guarded around each other, never quite sure anymore if someone could be trusted.

He thought he could already hear the locks snapping shut in cars and homes as word of the murder got out. Mothers yanking children indoors, hand-in-hand lovers escaping the once-romantic shadows of the wooded pathways, and old ladies turning into shut-ins instead of walking their dogs across the windy bluff.

Sheriff Riley steeled himself not just to confront the damaged body of the first murder victim of Batavia in over seventy years, but to confront the worried faces of mothers, the defeated faces of fathers and the vulnerable faces of the elderly.

He squatted in the slush, wincing as his bad knee rebelled, and laid his hands on Elaine’s rough canvas jacket, two-sizes too big—one of her thrift shop purchases, no doubt. As reverently as was possible in the muddy snow, Mike Riley turned over her body to examine the face of a changing village.

Sister Elaine had no one left, she had no known siblings and of course, no spouse or children. Only Agatha Miller, her childhood companion, could have been considered next of kin. How Elaine had tolerated her grumpy old friend was a mystery to everyone.

The sheriff knew that Elaine’s death would rock the community. Even a relative outsider like Mike understood that Elaine had been an anchor in Batavia. Her kindness had given the village heart, and her compassion had given it soul. No one would be prepared for this.

Mike knew from experience that preparation for death eases the grief. You start getting ready emotionally and psychologically. You make arrangements. You imagine your life without someone. But Mike also knew that when the time comes it still slaps you in the face, cold and bracing. And you realize you were only fooling yourself. Then somehow, in short order, work becomes demanding, bills need to be paid and something on the radio steals a chuckle right out of your throat. For a brief second you realize that there are moments of respite from your grief and perhaps someday those moments will expand and you may be able to experience joy once again.

But for now, Elaine’s death will be a shock. No one had prepared for her death, let alone her murder.

***

Excerpt from Winter Witness by Tina deBellegarde. Copyright 2020 by Tina deBellegarde. Reproduced with permission from Tina deBellegarde. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Tina deBellegarde

Tina deBellegarde lives in Catskill, New York with her husband Denis and their cat Shelby. Winter Witness is the first book in the Batavia-on-Hudson Mystery Series. Tina also writes short stories and flash fiction. When she isn’t writing, she is helping Denis tend their beehives, harvest shiitake mushrooms, and cultivate their vegetable garden. She travels to Japan regularly to visit her son, Alessandro. Tina did her graduate studies in history. She is a former exporter, paralegal, teacher, and library clerk.

Catch Up With Tina deBellegarde:
tinadebellegarde.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 

The Book Collectors by Delphine Minoui


An urgent and compelling account of great bravery and passion.” —Susan Orlean

Award-winning journalist Delphine Minoui recounts the true story of a band of young rebels, a besieged Syrian town, and an underground library built from the rubble of war.

Reading is an act of resistance.

Daraya is a town outside Damascus, the very spot where the Syrian Civil War began. Long a site of peaceful resistance to the Assad regimes, Daraya fell under siege in 2012. For four years, no one entered or left, and aid was blocked. Every single day, bombs fell on this place—a place of homes and families, schools and children, now emptied and broken into bits.

And then a group searching for survivors stumbled upon a cache of books in the rubble. In a week, they had six thousand volumes; in a month, fifteen thousand. A sanctuary was born: a library where people could escape the blockade, a paper fortress to protect their humanity.

The library offered a marvelous range of books—from Arabic poetry to American self-help, Shakespearean plays to stories of war in other times and places. The visitors shared photos and tales of their lives before the war, planned how to build a democracy, and tended the roots of their community despite shell-shocked soil.

In the midst of the siege, the journalist Delphine Minoui tracked down one of the library’s founders, twenty-three-year-old Ahmad. Over text messages, WhatsApp, and Facebook, Minoui came to know the young men who gathered in the library, exchanged ideas, learned English, and imagined how to shape the future, even as bombs kept falling from above. By telling their stories, Minoui makes a far-off, complicated war immediate and reveals these young men to be everyday heroes as inspiring as the books they read. The Book Collectors is a testament to their bravery and a celebration of the power of words. – From the Publisher

As a life-long reader and after 35 years in a library career, I know and believe in the power of books. Reading this story of how that power was recovered, nurtured, and grown in the middle of a war was one of the most powerful and affecting reading experiences I’ve ever experienced.

Minoui communicates an odd and exhilarating blend of danger and joy in this gritty story of the creation of an underground library. This should be required reading for every librarian out there – it will remind you why you chose the profession. I am also planning to recommend this to every book club leader I know.

Absolutely stunning work.

Publication Date: November 3, 2020
Published By: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman


In an unforgettable novel that traces a centuries-old curse to its source, beloved author Alice Hoffman unveils the story of Maria Owens, accused of witchcraft in Salem, and matriarch of a line of the amazing Owens women and men featured in Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic.

Where does the story of the Owens bloodline begin? With Maria Owens, in the 1600s, when she’s abandoned in a snowy field in rural England as a baby. Under the care of Hannah Owens, Maria learns about the “Unnamed Arts.” Hannah recognizes that Maria has a gift and she teaches the girl all she knows. It is here that she learns her first important lesson: Always love someone who will love you back.

When Maria is abandoned by the man who has declared his love for her, she follows him to Salem, Massachusetts. Here she invokes the curse that will haunt her family. And it’s here that she learns the rules of magic and the lesson that she will carry with her for the rest of her life. Love is the only thing that matters. – From the Publisher

Alice Hoffman is an author I recommend all the time, and I have enjoyed her past stories about the Owens women of Magnolia Lane. In Magic Lessons, Hoffman takes us back to the beginning of the Owens curse and fleshes out the life of Maria Owens, who started the whole thing.

Hoffman skillfully blends historical elements with lush and lyrical writing, telling stories of the women of the time and how their actions shaped the future of their descendants. All the emotions are here: love, loss, heartbreak, jealousy, betrayal, rage, compassion, tenderness – which all come together in a whirlwind of a story that starts in Essex England and ends in Essex Massachusetts.

Fans of Practical Magic will thoroughly enjoy this prequel; Hoffman fans in general will enjoy.
Publication Date: October 6, 2020
Published By: Simon & Schuster
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Heroes by Stephen Fry


In this sequel to the bestselling Mythos, legendary author and actor Stephen Fry moves from the exploits of the Olympian gods to the deeds of mortal heroes.

Perseus. Jason. Atalanta. Theseus. Heracles. Rediscover the thrills, grandeur, and unabashed fun of the Greek myths. Whether recounting a tender love affair or a heroic triumph, Fry deftly finds resonance with our own modern minds and hearts.

One must acquire a taste for Fry’s versions of age-old myths and stories and once you have it, it becomes a thirst to be quenched by his clever and irreverent prose. Here, it’s the human (or mostly human) heroes who get the Fry treatment. Heroes, demi-gods, half humans, beasts – they all benefit from the wit with which Fry tells these stories. What a way to introduce a new generation of readers to glorious mythology of Ancient Greece! Well done.

Publication Date: June 2, 2020
Published By: Chronicle Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Reader Profile – Adam Traub


mendozaAdam is the Associate Director of the Monroe County Library System. Before joining MCLS in 2019, he had spent the past 15 years in academic libraries, primarily interested in consortial programs around resource sharing. He’s worked at the University of Rochester, RIT, St. John Fisher, and Strong Museum of Play. Adam grew up around Rochester and has been living in the city since 2005, currently living in the South Wedge with his partner. When he’s not working or advocating for libraries, you can find him cooking, running with his dog, or playing Ultimate (frisbee).

 

Write a one-sentence description of yourself as a Reader.

Sporadically voracious – that is not a sentence, but it’s accurate.

What are you reading right now?

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

The desert island question – What 5 books would you have to have with you if you were stranded on a desert island?

Are you a finisher? In other words, are you compelled to finish a book even if you hate it? What are some books that you’ve had to force yourself to finish, or which you’ve bailed on?

It took me many years to be able to put down a book but I’ve decided my time is too precious to waste on a book I don’t like. “The Savage Detectives” is one I bailed on that comes to mind.

Do you ever read the end of a book first? Why or why not?

Never! I hate spoilers so much, I avoid any summaries. For example, I had no idea what Station Eleven was about when I picked it up just before the COVID crisis hit us. Ugh – this will be a tough one to get through right now.

What is at the top of your To Be Read pile?

Once published, the third book in the Kingkiller Chronicle. Though, the second in the Founders Trilogy is supposed to be out shortly – I imagine I’ll tackle that ASAP.

Who is your go-to author when someone asks you for a recommendation?

Depending on the someone, I’d go for Patrick Rothfuss or Robert Jackson Bennett. Though, it really depends on what they like. If they aren’t into fantasy, I’d probably suggest Chabon or Winters.

Would you rather be your favorite author or your favorite character?

Well, my favorite author is dead and most of my favorite characters are pretty flawed. I’m content being me and enjoying them from a nice armchair.

Has any book defined your life, as in you would be a different person if you hadn’t read it?

The Hobbit. I was – decidedly – not a reader until high school. If it wasn’t for my uncle introducing me to Tolkien, I don’t think I’d be a librarian today.

Is there a genre or type that you are over and wish would just go away?

No – Ranganathan’s Third Law: “Every book its reader.”

Describe your favorite place to read.

My skin warmed – either by a campfire or equatorial sun, preferably with a dog nearby.

Book or movie? Is there a movie that you think was better than the book?

I enjoy both so much, I don’t know I can make a blanket statement. Casino Royale, perhaps?

What is your preferred format? Hardcover, paperback, digital, audio, doesn’t matter?

I prefer physical books, though I’m not too picky on their binding. One day, though, I’ll be thankful for a nice e-reader where I can make the text bigger.

Share a favorite quote from a book you’ve read. Why is it meaningful to you?

“Not all those who wander are lost.” – JRR Tolkien
It reminds me to enjoy life’s detours, but also to reserve judgment when someone else takes a different path.

What book are you recommending that everyone read right now?

I loved Foundryside and I’m really looking forward to the next in the series. Though, if I’m honest, “Name of the Wind.” Not only is it a great fantasy story, but I hope the increased sales urge the author to finish the series!

What book challenged you the most when you read it?

Native Son by Richard Wright. Growing up in a predominantly white middle-class neighborhood, in a predominantly white middle-class school district, surrounded by predominantly white middle-class – well, I had – and do have – a lot of learning to do. I’m grateful for my teachers who selected that as a part of the curriculum.

Reader Profile – Rachel Y. DeGuzman


thumbnail_rachel headshotRachel Y. DeGuzman is the award-winning president and CEO of 21st Century Arts and
founder/executive director of WOC ART COLLABORATIVE. The focus of DeGuzman’s work is decentering whiteness in arts/culture by centering the art, narratives and voices of people of color – especially women and marginalized LGBTQ+ communities. Her professional focus evolved from a traditional career in the arts to work that is more rooted in both art and community – that values experimentation, innovation, creativity in all its forms, social justice, and equity. In fulfillment of that vision, she established “At the Crossroads: Activating the Intersection of Art and Justice” in October 2017 – which began with the collaborative ARTS POWER SYMPOSIUM and continues with a series of intersectional Long Tables and Installations. DeGuzman is the founder, producer, and host of UP CLOSE AND CULTURAL, a weekly radio show on WAYO 104.3 FM in Rochester. She is a fund and organizational development advisor to The Avenue Blackbox Theatre and a member of the Rochester Museum Science Center’s 2020 “Inspiring Women” content committee. A 2019/20 VSW Community Curator, DeGuzman is an in-demand speaker, panelist, and collaborator.

Write a one-sentence description of yourself as a Reader.

Reading is on a short list of things I can’t do without, an essential, but somehow, it is also one of my favorite indulgences.

What are you reading right now?

I am rereading “Fordlandia” by Greg Grandin. I am also reading “A Treasury of African-American Christmas Stories,” by Bettye Collier-Thomas, and “The Nutcracker of Nuremberg,” by Alexandre Dumas, in preparation for a Christmas Eve special on my radio show.

Do you ever read the end of a book first? Why or why not?

Never. It would defeat the purpose of reading the book. I enjoy taking the journey even when I don’t like the writing style and/ or content.

What is at the top of your To Be Read pile?

Set the World on Fire” by Keisha Blain. I am interested in it as research for a book I am writing, and artmaking project focused on my great-grandmother Belle Hawkins Eubanks who was a Garveyite.

Has any book defined your life, as in you would be a different person if you hadn’t read it?

When I was 11 years old I read “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” by Maya Angelou and decided that if I ever had a daughter, I would name her Maya (I did!) because I would want her to be a strong, creative and able to overcome tremendous adversity and still thrive. Or, since I’m referencing Angelou, I would want her to still rise.

Describe your favorite place to read.

In my family room, in front of a fire, or in the summer – with a warm breeze coming through the screen door at the back of my house.

Book or movie? Is there a movie that you think was better than the book?

Almost always the book and though I love Amy Tan’s writing, I did in that case enjoy the movie “The Joy Luck Club” even more than her fabulous novel.

What is your preferred format? Hardcover, paperback, digital, audio, doesn’t matter?

All of the above. I appreciate the experience of reading a printed book and I prefer hardcover, but I also love the luxury having my library with me on my iPad or phone wherever I am. If I purchase a book, I generally buy both the printed and electronic versions. A couple of years ago, I was commuting to New York City weekly. Driving. And I found that if I really wanted to take a deeper dive in a book I already read, then I would listen to it in the car as I drove.

Share a favorite quote from a book you’ve read. Why is it meaningful to you?

I reread Audre Lorde’s “Sister Outsider” for a book group at the Library earlier this year. I was struck by the following quote because it is germane to so many conversations I am having.

“Some problems we share as women, some we do not. You fear your children will grow up to join the patriarchy and testify against you; we fear our children will be dragged from a car and shot down in the street, and you will turn your backs upon the reasons they are dying.”

What book would you love to see made into a movie? Who would play the lead role?

Showman: The Life and Music of Perry George Lowery,” by Clifford Edward Watkins. Mahershala Ali.

What book are you recommending that everyone read right now?

The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and The Making of American Capitalism” by Edward E. Baptist. It should be essential reading.

Why do you read?

I am very, very curious and interested in a lot of different things.

Author Spotlight – Robin L. Flanigan


RobinRobin L. Flanigan grew up among the red rocks of Sedona, Arizona, and launched a writing career in the early ‘90s while living in a Baltimore graveyard.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in language and literature from St. Mary’s College of Maryland, where she studied for a semester at Oxford University’s Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Robin worked in newsrooms for eleven years, winning several national awards. Her essays have been published in various literary magazines and anthologies.

Her children’s book, M is for Mindful, uses inspiring verses to help children cultivate self-awareness, compassion, respect for diversity, and other practices—for an intentional, balanced, considerate life.

How did you get started as a writer?

I wrote my first story when I was seven, and have been writing ever since. As a newspaper reporter, I came up the old-school way—-writing for free to get bylines, then using those bylines to sell stories to various publications. That led to jobs at newspapers in Maryland, North Carolina and eventually, Rochester, New York. I have been freelancing now for 14 years, working mostly for newspapers and magazines around the country. When it comes to writing, I feel like I’m never off the clock. If I’m not on deadline, for example, I’m usually drafting a personal essay or jotting notes about future book ideas.

Who has influenced your writing career?

One of my friends from the Little Italy section of Baltimore is Rosalia Maria Scalia, and she raised three children on a freelancer’s salary. A former Baltimore Sun reporter named Rafael Alvarez, who taught me about persistence and the importance of place, introduced me to her. Good mentors are critical. For me, these two offered detailed instructions on how to turn my passion into a career. I’ve always wanted to make them proud. Other writers I admire and use as inspiration include Julia Cameron, Jo Ann Beard, and Sonja Livingston.

What prompted you to write M is for Mindful?

The idea for the book started because I wanted to be a better mother. When my daughter was three, I’d wake up early, do a yoga session by streetlight in the living room, and read a book passage or online article about mindfulness. I wanted her to grow up understanding what mindfulness is, instead of having to learn about it as an adult like I was doing, so I started creating poems to help her. This went on for years. At bath time, in the grocery store, we would play with countless versions of verses. I would discard a concept because it didn’t feel right to me; she would reject a rhyme because it didn’t sound right to her. The manuscript spent years in my desk drawer. My daughter just had a birthday—she’s 14. Now that M is for Mindful exists in the world, as the parent of a teenager I’m finding myself relying on many of the verses in the book—especially “A is for ATTITUDE.”

accept what comes
your way with grace
lessons come
from every place

There’s irony here somewhere…

What is your favorite story from your writing past?

Unfortunately, it is a tragic story, one in which a friendship ends in tragedy. I wrote a series of stories for the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper more than a decade ago about a boy who accidentally killed one of his best friends with a bow and arrow. It’s odd to use the word “favorite” here, but the reason I chose this story is because this boy, his family, and his friends let me spend months with them learning about what it’s like to go through something so horrific. Their honesty and bravery live with me and, from my perspective, spotlight how difficult it can be to be human—and how we all can help each other heal.

Praise for M is for Mindful:

“This is the kind of book I want on my shelf, and when I have grandchildren I will read it to them daily—for them and me too.” —Andie MacDowell, Golden Globe-winning actress

M is for Mindful will teach children values and attitudes that will give them a positive direction to live their lives.” —Temple Grandin, PhD, award-winning author of Thinking in Pictures, autism spokesperson, National Women’s Hall of Fame inductee

Robin Flanigan’s book, M is for Mindful, is available from online retailers.

Silent Meridian by Elizabeth Crowens

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on Tour August 18 – September 21, 2019

The Time Traveler Professor, Book One: Silent Meridian by Elizabeth Crowens

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is obsessed with a legendary red book. Its peculiar stories have come to life, and rumors claim that it has rewritten its own endings. Convinced that possessing this book will help him write his ever-popular Sherlock Holmes stories, he takes on an unlikely partner, John Patrick Scott, known to most as a concert pianist, but a paranormal investigator and a time traveler professor to a select few.

Like Holmes and Watson trying to solve a mystery, together they explore lost worlds and their friendship is tested to the limits when they go back in time to find it. Both discover that karmic ties and unconscionable crimes have followed them like ghosts from the past, wreaking havoc on the present and possibly the future.

The historical figures are presented differently than ever before, which adds new life to some worn out tropes. My experience here with Sherlock Holmes was similar to the first time I read The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King – a completely new way of imagining the Great Detective. The real star, though, is John Patrick Scott, by turns infuriating, brilliant, and endearing. 

This book will be devoured by fans of steampunk/historical/time-travel fiction. It’s a dense reading experience that requires attention and commitment, but the end result is worth it. This is an adventure that makes you think and then re-think everything you know about history. 

The Time Traveler Professor, Book One: SILENT MERIDIAN reveals the alternate histories of Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, Houdini, Jung and other luminaries in the secret diaries of John Patrick Scott, in an X Files for the 19th century. First Prize winner of Chanticleer Review’s Goethe Award for Turn-of-the-Century Historical Fiction and First Prize for Steampunk in the Independent Press Awards. Stay tuned for A POCKETFUL OF LODESTONES; Book Two in the Time Traveler Professor series by Elizabeth Crowens.

Book Details:

Genre: Alternate History, Mystery, Fantasy Noir
Published by: Atomic Alchemist Productions LLC
Publication Date: June 12th 2019
Number of Pages: 384
ISBN: 9781950384 (ISBN13: 9781950384044)
Series: The Time Traveler Professor #1
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Edinburgh, 1898

Scotland was just barely crawling its way out of the nineteenth century. I was a naïve, but ambitious student studying music at the University of Edinburgh hurrying over to meet Arthur Conan Doyle, the man who would change my life forever.

“John Patrick Scott, sir,” I said and approached Mr. Doyle, who was already seated at a back corner table of the Deacon Brodie, the pub that inspired the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

I extended my hand to greet him and removed my rain-soaked hat, while my overcoat slipped out of my hands and fell on the floor by accident. It was still hard to believe that good fortune finally brought us together, but we were both nervous. “Mr. Conan Doyle, or should I call you Doctor Doyle?” I was unsure how to address him.

Doyle scrutinized me from top to bottom as he signaled the waiter. “John, call me Arthur.”

“Sir, I’m so honored that you agreed to discuss this matter. Perhaps you can enlighten me in a way that I’ve failed to comprehend.”

I wanted to ask him about my unusual turn of events straight away but he caught me off guard and was dead set on pulling me into the swift current of an unexpected conversation.

“Can I assume you believe in the transmigration of souls?” he asked.

“Until now, I haven’t given it a lot of thought,” I said, unsure as to which direction he was leading.

“Did you ever read those books about that Swiss doctor who felt his body and soul had been taken over by a Benedictine monk? That presented a curious case. He claims that he was approached by the spirit of an elderly monk before he died, and that the monk needed to rent his body to continue his spiritual mission.”

“Rent?” I choked in disbelief.

“We truly don’t take anything with us when we pass on, do we? This monk knew he was dying and therefore needed to replace his physical body with something more youthful and vital.”

“That’s incredible. It debunks the theory that you need to die and be reborn as an infant to carry on your spirit.”

Mr. Doyle had the tinge of excitement in his voice.

“John, here’s another instance. I’ve had my suspicions about a famous musician who had an obsession about a notorious and controversial mystic. You’d surmise by his overwhelming attraction to that person he might’ve been him in a previous lifetime, but facts were clear he was born three years before the mystic died. My understanding is the mystic was aware he didn’t have long in his present incarnation. Therefore he made plans for some sort of partial soul transference while he was still alive to imprint his essence upon the child. That would’ve allowed him to carry on and accomplish unfinished business, which couldn’t have been executed otherwise. Essentially he had the ability of being two places at once.”

“Sounds more like Spiritualism,” I replied.

“Honestly, John, I don’t think there are any steadfast rules when it comes to this matter. That’s what makes it so intriguing.”

I sensed he had a secret agenda.

Doyle reloaded his churchwarden pipe with fresh tobacco and continued, “This is not at all like anything you’ve ever read from H.G. Wells or Jules Verne. We’re poking holes in every treatise written on the subject — the idea of being able to reincarnate a part of yourself while you are still alive into another soul.”

Our conversation was quickly becoming like a speeding train ready to jump the tracks. Realizing this, Doyle slowed down the pace and took a deep breath. He carefully composed his next statement.

“Fiction it may seem to be but it’s not hocus pocus. Don’t you also find it strange that you somehow found yourself initiated into a mystical order on a commuter train bound from London to Edinburgh when the instigators kept on mistaking you for me? There are no accidents.”

I became silent for a moment, stalling for time as I slowly raised my glass of ale to my lips. As soon as I fished a small red book out of my coat pocket and placed it on the table in front of us Arthur eyed it intently. It had been the source of intrigue, which led me to Doyle in the first place and piqued his curiosity as much as it did mine.

“Could I have done something terrible in my youth that caused this to happen?”

“You have no recollections, John?”

“I remember so little of my childhood. I wish I could.”

“You’re a smart young man. I’m sure you’ll come up with a clever deduction.”

Mr. Doyle paused to relight his pipe. He had an unnerving look in his eye, which I vainly tried to read into, but he took me for a spin when he brought up the next topic.

“On another note, John, have you ever considered that people are capable of communicating without speech, and I’m not talking about writing letters?”

“Pardon me?”

“Imagine communicating by mere thoughts. I’ve always wanted to experiment with someone open to these concepts. God knows — my brothers at the Society for Psychical Research certainly talk enough about it. My wife, Touie, has been an unwilling subject and is not the most objective choice.”

I looked at him, somewhat perplexed. “Are you asking me to accurately guess what you’re thinking?”

“Come now. We’ll play a game. I’ll form an image in my mind, and for the next minute I will try to project it into yours. Clear your thoughts of any distractions and be as receptive as possible,” he explained.

As much as I tried, I couldn’t have been more preoccupied. Images of that fateful event flashed through my brain. My recollections revealed my rain-soaked train ticket. I kept arguing with the steward about putting me in the wrong cabin. An erroneous judgment had been made when three strangers insisted I was Arthur. We were so different in physical appearance. He was a large, athletic man with a distinguished moustache. On the other hand, I had baby smooth skin and couldn’t grow facial hair to save my life. I was nearly twenty years younger and much shorter with wild auburn hair that resembled Maestro Beethoven’s with the exception of premature strands of gray.

So why was I singled out? Was there laudanum in my brandy? Details spun like a whirlwind. I must’ve been in a drug-induced stupor but I was initiated into some secret Masonic-like society, and when it was all over those mysterious men were gone. What remained were an engraved silver ring on my finger and an ominous red book on the seat beside me.

“Looks like you’ve seen a ghost.” Arthur broke my trance and realized my thoughts had been elsewhere.

“I felt like I had.” Barely able to articulate, I tried to tame my wild mane in place. Visions faded in and out. Timelines jumped. So I gulped down another swig of ale to focus on the present.

Arthur leaned in closer. “I can see you’re still worried about that event on the train. Those men have been after me for some time. Why? It’s hard to fathom. I’ll dilly dally with notions here and there about Sherlock Holmes and his partner, Watson, who fancy themselves as detectives. Me? I’m just a simple doctor and writer with interests in Spiritualism trying to find scientific explanations for the unknown.”

“Arthur, what would anyone want with an unassuming music student like me?”

“Personally, I don’t think this was A Case of Identity,” Arthur replied with a smile.

Obviously he meant to say my dilemma was not a case of mistaken identity, not the name of one of his famous Sherlock stories. He was pleased I caught the humor of his play on words.

“Perhaps it has something to do with that book,” he said pointing to the one I brought.

“I’m concerned it’s dangerous, that it’s a curse. I wish I had never found it.” I shoved it back into my pocket and drained my glass.

* * *

One week later as I was returning home from school, my landlady, Lydia Campbell, yelled from the kitchen as I trudged my muddied shoes through the front door of her boarding house. “John, a letter from Undershaw arrived for you today! I wonder whom it could be from? You don’t know anyone from Undershaw, do you?”

Oh, yes I did. I grabbed the letter and ran upstairs so fast I nearly tripped on my muffler and fell on my face. I poured myself a glass of port to calm my nerves, doffed my wet garments and sank into my most comfortable brass-studded leather chair I affectionately named my thinking chair, where I created many a melody in my head, could think deep thoughts, and drift off to dreamland.

* * *

Dear John,

I wholeheartedly enjoyed our conversation at the Deacon Brodie and kept my promise of a prompt reply. By now, you are well aware of my passion to explore the realms of Spiritualism and related paranormal phenomena far surpasses any personal interests involved with Sherlock Holmes. Public demand for my writing, however, exerts a strain on how much I can overtly reveal to even my most trusted colleagues. Whenever I indulge in any activity, be it a simple séance, investigating a revered medium or attending a meeting of the British Society for Psychical Research, it never fails to raise the eyebrows of my wary publishers and critics. It’s God’s honest truth that I believe in many of these inexplicable accounts. Even my father painted beautiful renditions of fairies, which I trust he witnessed with his own eyes. The betterment of mankind rests on embracing such theories once they are proven to exist by the scientific community. Thus, I’ll have to continue more controversial and debatable endeavors in utmost secrecy, or at least for the time being until more evidence can be brought to light.

Since you seem to be an open-minded young man who has already experienced some effects of the preternatural, this is my proposal: At midnight every night, we should conduct a variety of remote operations with the primary purpose of communicating through means of telepathy. Since I have a tendency to travel, we’ll have to make some sort of adjustment to take into account the different time zones. Of course, you must share this secret with nobody. Besides us, only my wife will know, although she will not participate.

When you shared the account of the strange commuter train incident that was enough to convince me that you would be the perfect partner for this private undertaking. Most assuredly, there was something you did in the past in the realm of the arcane to warrant such a chain of events. That was not mere happenstance, and now since you possess that enigmatic red book, I’m sure it will affect your life in ways you’ve never imagined.

My intentions have been to perform similar trial and error enterprises with Harry Houdini, a rising star whose stage performances have been astounding audiences, but his busy schedule has made it nearly impossible to coordinate such engagements with any sort of regularity. One of these days we’ll catch up. Meanwhile, I collect whatever news comes from across the herring-pond. At one point, he and I will develop a special relationship based on mutual interests.

Regarding the two of us, however, we’ll back up our observations with letters or telegrams as often as possible as proof of results, but those must be destroyed as soon as they are read. Once again, I cannot over emphasize the importance of confidentiality. Regardless, we must keep a faithful agreement, as skill will come with practice.

If you are willing to put aside any apprehensions regarding trains, I’ll pay for you to travel down to Undershaw and visit me on weekends whenever possible. My driver can meet you in London at a pre-arranged time. You’ll stay in one of our guest bedrooms, and as long as you don’t mind the children and can tolerate what our kitchen staff provides, you’ll be well taken care of. That’ll give us the opportunity to expand our repertoire and commence further psychical experimentation with ectoplasm, spirit photography and astral projection. And bring the red book. I’d like a chance to look at it.

I’ve also desired a partner to accompany me for ghost sightings and occult investigations. For all we know with the knowledge gained, we might even break through the barriers of time. That would certainly give Bertie (H.G. Wells) a shock to the senses, proving his imagination does not merely dwell in the realm of fiction. We’ve been at odds on this topic for years.

Regarding telepathic technique, I can only suggest you conduct yourself in a way as you see fit. Personally, I don’t give credence to things like magical amulets, but if it helps to have an etheric link, use this letter you hold in your hand, as it contains my heart, soul and signature with a drop of blood, which I added to the ink. You might wish to reciprocate.

Let’s raise our glasses to honor the quest of conquering the unknown.

Arthur Conan Doyle

* * *

So, Arthur was serious when he first brought up the subject. When he and I left the pub, I really didn’t know what to think. After all, he was a famous author, and I was merely a student. What possessed him to choose me for such an engagement?

I shuffled through my schoolwork to find my pen and ink and a fresh sheet of paper. Blood, I needed blood. Ah, my razor! That would work. I fetched my shaving kit and winced as I drew a few drops. I scribbled a swift, affirmative reply with the blood-tainted ink, mailed the letter the following day and looked forward to our first otherworldly encounter.

***

Excerpt from The Time Traveler Professor, Book One: Silent Meridian by Elizabeth Crowens. Copyright © 2019 by Elizabeth Crowens. Reproduced with permission from Elizabeth Crowens. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Elizabeth Crowens

Crowens has worked in the film and television for over twenty years and as a journalist and a photographer. She’s a regular contributor of author interviews to an award-winning online speculative fiction magazine, Black Gate. Short stories of hers have been published in the Bram Stoker Awards nominated anthology, A New York State of Fright and Hell’s Heart. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America, The Horror Writers Association, the Authors Guild, Broad Universe, Sisters in Crime and a member of several Sherlockian societies. She is also writing a Hollywood suspense series.

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