Friday, February 22, 2019

Beware of The Little Black Dress! It May be Murder! According to Debra Sennefelder...

Her shop. That still sounded weird to her. She never thought in a million years she’d own a business, much less a consignment shop. Yet, there she was. Bernadette turned and caught Kelly staring. Not cool, Kell. Bernadette probably thought Kelly was some kind of stalker. Time to act like the professional she was supposed to be. Kelly smiled as she set forward to introduce herself. She extended her hand. Hopefully, Bernadette would receive her better than Irene Singer did earlier. “Hello, I’m —”
“Kelly Quinn.” Bernadette shook Kelly’s hand. Her grip was firm. “Very nice to meet you.” Her dark eyes with flecks of gold held Kelly’s gaze. “I’m sorry for your loss. Your grandmother is at peace now. She wants you to know that. She’s…she’s proud of you and your decision.”
Her granny was proud of her? All the weight that had been crushing Kelly’s shoulders eased up for a moment. Her granny was proud of her. Wait. Did Bernadette just read her? 
“I see you two introduced yourselves.” Liv returned with an armful of clothing. “Carly wants me to hold these for her while she checks out the back room.” Kelly nodded absently. She was entranced by Bernadette, who still held on to her hand. “Passing over to the other side is often a welcome relief for people.” Bernadette’s voice was soothing and confident. 
“Would you like to try the dress on?” Liv asked Bernadette, gesturing to the garment draped over the psychic’s arm. 
Bernadette blinked. “Oh, yes.” She let go of Kelly’s hand and gave Liv the dress. “I was immediately drawn to it.” 
“The dressing room is right there.” Liv turned and walked just a few feet to pull back a curtain and hung the dress in the small space outfitted with a mirror and a stool. 
Bernadette followed and stepped into the dressing room. She pulled the curtain closed. Liv returned to Kelly’s side. 
“Cat got your tongue?” 
“What? No.” 
“Don’t tell me you’re falling for her routine? Lucky Cove is small and people talk. Especially about your granny. There’s nothing she can tell you she couldn’t have learned from the gossip mill.” Kelly wouldn’t agree that she was falling for Bernadette’s routine, but she was curious...

The dressing room curtain swept back, and Bernadette stepped out wearing the black dress. Kelly struggled to find a word to describe how amazing Bernadette looked, because she was blown away. Stunning was the first word that popped into Kelly’s head. Bernadette had pulled her long hair up into a messy bun to show off the scalloped eyelash-trimmed lace bateau neckline, which showcased her elongated neck. The bodice and skirt of the dress, intricately sewn pieces of fabric and lace, skimmed her lean torso and hugged her hips, and the scalloped lace hem gave a tease of her long legs.
Kelly stepped forward. “It’s beautiful on you.” 
“Kelly’s right,” Liv agreed. “Exquisite. The dress is meant for you,” 
Pepper said. “I can’t see how you wouldn’t want to buy this dress. If it looked that good on me, I’d buy it in a heartbeat.” 
Kelly wasn’t trying for a hard sell. She really meant the compliment. Though, Bernadette didn’t look as excited about the dress as Kelly felt. Bernadette’s face should have been all lit up. Women knew when they looked darn good in a dress. Heck, Kelly had done her fair share of happy dances when she’d found a dress her body rocked. But not Bernadette. The expression on her face was void of any emotion. 
“If I were twenty years younger, I’d buy the dress.” Pepper laughed.
Both Kelly and Liv knew Pepper meant thirty years younger, but what woman didn’t want to shave a decade or two off? 
“You don’t like it?” Kelly’s brows furrowed. Bernadette hadn’t moved since coming out of the changing room. She stood there as if frozen in place. 
“We’ll find you another dress,” Pepper suggested. 
Bernadette shook her head and then shut her eyes. She swayed as she dragged in a deep breath. “There’s something wrong. Wrong with this dress.” Kelly, Liv, and Pepper exchanged looks. There wasn’t anything wrong with the dress. It was perfect. “I feel it. It’s happening far away.” Bernadette’s soft and lyrical voice captivated them.
“If she starts to levitate, I’m outta here,” Pepper quipped. 
“I’ll be right behind you,” Liv agreed. 
Bernadette’s hand flew up and pressed against her chest. And her eyes opened suddenly; her gaze was set dead ahead. “There’s a man. I see a man. He’s far away.” 
Kelly, Liv, and Pepper looked around the shop. There weren’t any men. In unison, they asked, “Where?” A chill skittered along Kelly’s spine. This was getting weird. 
“What’s going on?” she whispered to Liv, who replied with a simple shrug. 
“Do you think we should call someone?” Pepper asked. 
“Who?” Kelly looked around, and customers started to turn their attention to the sideshow playing out in front of the dressing room. 
This wasn’t good for business. 
“An ambulance,” Liv suggested. “Let’s just get her changed out of that dress and out of the store.” 
Kelly stepped forward and stopped when Bernadette stretched out her arm, her palm facing Kelly. 
“No! No! No!” A look of stark panic flashed in Bernadette’s eyes just before she screamed, “He’s dead,” and then she collapsed to the floor.

Finding this on the wall at Reviewers Roundup, i was struck by this being a new mystery series...and sometimes I buy a book just because a cat sits on the front cover! LOL There will be many who are interested in this--Chick Lit Lovers...those who are interested in fashion (and reselling name brand clothes) and, of course, amateur investigator mystery lover fans--that's me and the mystery was quite fascinating...

Of course, it all starts during the first week sales as Kelly opens her own shop, inherited from her grandmother. It was perfect timing for Kelly and she was thrilled to actually be in control of her own shop--a resale boutique, no less...

The first customer was a little hard to deal with, but they were able to have her happy by the time she left...the second was a woman who had consigned clothes and was not too happy with the resale price...But nothing topped the customer who walked in, said she was drawn to a certain black dress and tried it on... come out into the show room, go into a vision, and see a man, dead...

Nothing much can kill clothes sales than having a dress that might be haunted... Actually, it was explained that it was the individual wearing the dress that had committed the murder. But before long the entire town was talking about the new opening of a shop that could be haunted, sold haunted clothes, or had been worn by criminals! Kelly came back to her shop one day and found that a seance was being held!

Bernadette had fainted upon her vision and immediately people surrounded her to try to help. Before long her cousin, who was really a double of Bernadette came into the shop and took over... But things did get better when, during the investigation, it was found that Bernadette's cousin was a scam artist and played the game to fleece clients... Was Bernadette doing that too?

But, of course, when there is a possible murder, often a second occurs! Kelly was right in the middle of it all! And soon was in danger as she tried to help get through the murders so that she could go back to square 1 to get her shop moving in the right direction...with nothing haunting the building...

Because the dress belonged to one of the women who had consigned her clothes at the shop...and wanted it back! Kelly, for some reason on her own decided to hold on to it! Would it be useful in discovering what happened?

Pepper had been working with her grandmother but Kelly assured her that she wanted and needed her to stay on. Pepper was hesitant, thinking Kelly was going into something she wouldn't be comfortable with--changing the name of the shop to boutique had her worried, but she and Liv prove to be a delightful group of women that keep the shop going, no matter what... And luckily, Pepper's son, Gabe was now a cop who was willing to help deal with all that was happening.

One more issue was making it difficult for Kelly... Her grandmother had given the shop to her, while her uncle felt that it should have gone to him... Dealing with the family issues naturally led to wondering whether he was doing things to scare Kelly into selling...

And while all that is going on, clothes are going in and out of the shop, names are dropped left and right and even a little pretension of available clothes to be consigned becomes a concern... Wow, I know one thing, it's going to take a fashionista to be able to understand every word/name brand thrown into the mix, but I was quite content just working on the whodunit! 

At the same time, I had a problem with the main character who seemed to be unable to deal with her responsibilities, yet was supposed to have been experienced. That wouldn't have been so bad, but I admit I got hung up on two things: a hanging activity that was to be handled but never was... And a continued repetitive reference, too many times--why not have a todo list--of needing to get decorations for the front of the story. Which she never did--somebody else did... The author will need to ensure that Kelly improves in not only handling her responsibilities, but in working her way into the heart of her readers. For a new series, though, the book was interesting and fun to read. But her main character does need to meet her readers halfway in our warming to her personally... Toward the end she was "growing into" her new career, so I, for one, will be expecting more in the next in series.. Do check it out and read other reviews...It's certainly worth your consideration if this genre is one you enjoy...


Debra Sennefelder and is an avid reader who reads across a range of genres, but mystery fiction is her obsession. Her interest in people and relationships is channeled into her novels against a backdrop of crime and mystery. When she's not reading, she enjoys cooking and baking and as a former food blogger, she is constantly taking photographs of her food. Yeah, she's that person.

Born and raised in New York City, she now lives and writes in Connecticut with her family. She's worked in pre-hospital care, retail and publishing. Her writing companions are her adorable and slightly spoiled Shih-Tzus, Susie and Billy. Find out more about her at her website,

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Coma Confidential by Uvi Poznansky - Simply Amazing!

Growing up, I didn’t care for fairytale characters. The one I disliked the most was Sleeping Beauty. Unfortunately, now I’ve turned into one. 
This may sound like vanity, so let me be more precise. I don’t know about the Beauty part, because at the moment I have no idea how I look, and even if I did, I doubt I would like it. It’s the Sleeping part that frightens me. 
I can’t stand the prospect of being trapped here, in this miserable state, in hopes that one day I may be saved, somehow, by a kiss. My life—the little I know about it—is no fairytale, so what’s the point in waiting for magic? Anyway, I refuse to rely on what others do. Whenever Ma hears me say that, she clutches her breast and sighs, because she needs to baby me. I remember the softness of her hand when she runs it over my forehead. Why isn’t she here already? I miss her, but part of me hopes that she doesn’t know I’m in trouble. Helpless is not a good look for me. Neither is confused. 
With the exception of knowing that I’m in a hospital, there’s a thick fog in my brain. I can’t recall my own name, nor can I bring back the name of the man I love. But the memory of his lips on mine does quicken the heart. Even so, the idea of waiting for him to come to my rescue sounds dumb. Doesn’t it? 
I’d rather snap out of this interminable slumber of my own accord. Unfortunately, doubts keep weighing me down. And not only doubts: I’m pinned down by nightmares, too. They always start with me blacking out. Then, in a flash, shadows emerge from the haze around me and back away into it, just before I can figure out who they are. 
From time to time, when I take my eyes off of them, they creep in, and their breaths come alarmingly close to me. After that comes silence. It makes me doubt I’ve heard anything in the first place. 
A shriek rings in my ears. It must have been mine. The air flutters in my throat as one shadow reaches, suddenly, for my neck. “Say you vant me,” demands a hoarse voice, in a heavy Russian accent. His fingers squeeze my vocal cords till I can’t even cry, can’t call out for help. His eye bores into me with a malicious look as I struggle, as I fight for a breath. 
At first, I explain the whole thing away as some odd hallucination, perhaps the result of morphine, or other meds that are trickling—with a slow drip, drip, drip through the plastic tube—into my veins. 
But meds or not, what’s the point in denying what I see? In a blink, a ray of light slides across his temple. The white of his eye, marbled with tortuous veins, becomes incredibly vivid. The thug reaches for my scarf—the scarlet one, which I thought could be used only as a fashion accessory, nothing else. To my alarm, he stretches it across my mouth and tightens it, knotting it around the back of my neck, yanking the ends till I pass out. 
I tell myself, this can’t be real. Can it? Does this moment of terror come from my imagination—or else, from memory? 
I must wake up. Can I? 
Talk about my heart quickening, it’s now at full charge ahead, pounding so hard that it hurts. Out of nowhere, footfalls start playing a rhythm against the floor. They rush towards me.
“Hurry,” says a male voice. “Look at her heart rate...”
The nurse checks the catheter at the back of my hand. It is then that something strange begins to happen. A part of me seems to separate into the air. It floats up to the panels of acoustic ceiling, hovering next to that shiny curtain track. From there, I spot the top of her white cap as she tidies the sheets under me. There I am, crumpled on them, bandaged beyond recognition. I may have the appearance of a mummy, but not the history of one. Without the story of my past, this gauze around me encapsulates a vacant existence.

Coma Confidential
Ash Suspense Thrillers - Book 1

By Uvi Poznansky

Uvi Poznansky has created an amazing no other! Many have known people who are in comas. Some believe they can hear while in that coma, so talk to their loved one, or plays music... It is the not knowing, the waiting, that taunts each individual. Will she wake up? Is she in pain? Can she really hear us?

The answer for Ashley was unique, perhaps, but, nevertheless, a creative endeavor on the part of the writer to answer the question... What if...

From the very first when she had awakened and listened, she heard the sounds around her and realized that she was in the hospital. She must have tested movement immediately, perhaps to feel if her face, her eyes, were covered... She had no ability to move... But she was totally able to hear, to think, to listen, and to remember how she would normally react... She didn't immediately know names, but she remember her loved ones, wishing they were here. Or, deciding it might be better if they didn't know that she was, actually, perhaps hovering between life and death...

What she did remember, though, was what had happened to her to get her there in the first place. Her nightmares were vivid, she heard him speak, using a Russian accent, and she struggled with him in her mind, if not with her body...

That was to come later...

For now, nobody knew she was alive and thinking in her body. It probably would be a lot easier, if she didn't actually have that active mind...if that, too, had been silenced... Because, soon, among the people's voices she heard, was the man who had attacked her...and more...

Writing from the point of view of the coma victim, Ashley, readers are able to learn about what actually happens, and who is behind it, as Ash listens, and starts putting things together. As visitors start coming in, first her mother, who of course is most concerned, then Michael, who her mother tries to prevent him coming in... 

Her mother was always a shy, quiet woman, but the doctor must have told her that she needed to have people talk to her. Once her mother started, Ash was surprised by all that she was being told. But as she went on, her mother started talking about the power outage both at home and across the town and how it had affected her. Of course, the hospital had backup generators...until they couldn't handle everything...

Michael tried to explain that he had been interviewed by the police and certainly had been found not guilty. It was Ash who was emotionally traumatized seeing the attitudes of those she most loved, who were so estranged. But eventually, Mrs. Winters does leave for him to have time with Ash... After his normal expressions of concern, love and vows to find out who did this, he starts to confess that it might be something that he has done to have caused what happened. Ash figuratively sat up to find out more, but they were interrupted...

Mrs. Winters was arguing with the police guard who had not been there when Michael had come and not stopped him. Michael and Ash knew that their time was ending... Two things were left hanging: A tingle of Michael's lips on Ash's mouth, the first feeling she'd had... And...what had Michael been about to say about possibly causing her assault!?!

I think one of the most enjoyable parts of the book for me was Ash's internal thoughts and/or her "potential" responses to what was being said, if she could speak. Poznansky has created Ash as a warm, caring, and quite humorous woman who, even in this situation, finds the ability to speak back in her mind or to talk to herself about this or that. I don't think I have so quickly learned about the personality of a character, without her speaking one word... Obviously, the writing was exceptionally well done in order to have produced such a response from this reader!

It started with the movement of a little toe...and by the time she is placed into danger, by having her attacker somewhere in the hospital, she begins to learn more as a woman visits who claims to be an old friend...and talks to that attacker at a place where Ash can hear... Ash is kidnapped and forced to move out of her coma state, having lost her connection to the morphine that was keeping her stable while her body healed...

WOW! The latter part of the book moved into so much action, as lights went out in the hospital, Ash is moved out and then on to another location...and, yes... all because of Michael... I read this in one setting, loving every minute of it. Mesmerizing is the best adjective possible, as the power of the mind moves to respond to various emotions that, if awake, most of us would find incomprehensible and unable to deal with. 

I've already read the next book in the series, Virtually Lace, so check out my review. But, for me, I'm anxious to see another novel with Ash as the main character--with her fully alert and ready to move! Poznansky is making a name for herself in her multi-genre sphere. For me, she really has upped her efforts in the romantic thriller genre that will take her quickly to comparable heights of many well-known authors. After meeting Ash in Coma Confidential, I'm a fan of this series!

I have to add that with her skills as an artist, and her book covers, plus her nonfiction novels, Poznansky just might be the most versatile, extraordinary artist/writer you may ever find! Try this book first if you haven't yet read her! Highly recommended.


Uvi Poznansky is a USA TODAY bestselling, award-winning author, poet and artist. Her boxed set, A TOUCH OF PASSION, became the 2016 WINNER of The Romance Reviews Readers' Choice Awards. Her romantic suspense boxed set, Love Under Fire, reached #44 on the USA TODAY bestselling list.

“I paint with my pen,” she says, “and write with my paintbrush.” She received a Fellowship grant and a Teaching Assistantship from the Architecture department at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where she earned her M.A. in Architecture. Then, taking a sharp turn in her education, she earned her M.S. degree in Computer Science from the University of Michigan.

Uvi writes across a variety of genres: Coma Confidential and Virtually lace (suspense); Apart From Love and Apart from War (family saga); The White Piano (literary fiction), My Own Voice (women's fiction), The Music of Us (romance), Dancing with Air (romantic suspense), Marriage before Death (thriller), Rise to Power, A Peek at Bathsheba, and The Edge of Revolt (historical fiction with a modern twist), A Favorite Son (biblical fiction), Home (poetry), Twisted (horror), and Now I Am Paper and Jess and Wiggle (children’s books.)

Monday, February 18, 2019

Four ways and three reasons for praising the Lord - Excerpt/Review from My Daily Devotions for Facebook by James Thomas Lee, Jr.

Four ways and three reasons for praising the Lord
(16 January) 

Bible Passage: Psalm 100:4-5 Today's Reading: "Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations." 


The author and the purpose of psalm one hundred cannot be known for sure because it does not have an inscription. But the psalmist had obviously had an attitude of gratitude for all of the positive benefits to those who have come to the Lord by faith to be saved. 
In the above quoted passage, he had identified four ways and three reasons for praising the Lord. The first way is with a thankful heart. That is what the psalmist had meant when he had written to enter the Lord's gates with thanksgiving. The Hebrew word that he had used for "thanksgiving" literally means to praise something or someone with a thankful heart. 

The second way to praise Him is with praise. The Hebrew word that had been used for "praise" in the above passage actually means to praise something or someone with a hymn of praise. So the psalmist's idea of praising the Lord had been to sing praises unto Him. 

The third way is by being thankful. The Hebrew word that had been used for "thankful" literally means to praise something or someone with uplifted hands.

Finally, the fourth way to praise the Lord is expressed by the word "bless." That Hebrew word means to praise something or someone by bowing down before it. So the psalmist had written to praise the Lord by falling prostrate before Him. 

The three reasons for praising Him in those four ways are because of His goodness, His mercy, and His truth. So according to the psalmist, every saint of God has those three reasons for praising the Lord. 

First, God is good. That does not just mean that He does good things. It means that He is by definition everything that is good. He is also worthy of much praise because He is merciful. Every person who has ever been or who will ever be born enters this existence separated by sin from the Lord.

 So God gave His only begotten Son to die on the cross to pay the human sin debt so that lost sinners can come to Him by faith and receive His mercy. The psalmist had written that the Lord's mercy is everlasting simply because it lasts forever. The third reason to praise Him is because He is truth. That means that one can come to Him by faith and then be in a personal relationship with Him as the "Creator of Everything." 

I have been thankful for having this and at least two other daily devotional books as ebooks which I can easily access. This one I bought just out of curiosity as to why Facebook was part of the title... Since I'm on that site every day, I was curious...

What I found, in format, was not too different from other similar books. There is a topic heading, a scripture, and then a short discussion of the scripture by the author.  I don't bother with the dates. Whenever I begin, I just read daily from that point on...

Today's scripture was about Praising the Lord. My mind immediately went to the song based upon that scripture, I Will Enter the Gates... For me, music has always been part of any worship event. So as I read/listened to the devotion leader, I was overwhelmed with songs in support of his words...Do you do that, I wondered. It doesn't matter. Because the words are there to guide you in spending time, perhaps just a few minutes for each day, in dedicating time for daily communication.

Sometimes when you have no words to begin praying, this type of book is a wonderful way to turn away from the world and consider How Great Thou Art and tell him so...

Sometimes you may need to read more than just one page...maybe you will continue reading on until you have fulfilled that need. Each of the devotions can be read, considered, and explored as long as you wish...and the value of having them as an ebook allows you to take a break often from other daily matters.

The author is a prolific writer on the study of the Bible. This is my first book but I have found his messages of value, either guiding you to praise Him or to study a specific subject... I think you will gain wonderful insight in studying the scripture and devoting time to God during each day. Develop the habit and then move on to prayer or more... Highly recommended.


I became a Christian on 12/14/67. I have been married for 47 years. My wife and I have 5 grown children, 17 grandchildren, and 9 great-grandchildren. I received an undergraduate degree from Old Dominion University in 1972. Additionally, I have received graduate degrees from the College of William and Mary in 1975, Liberty University in 1993, and Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in 2001. 

Of all of the books that I have written, my favorite and still the one that I would most like others to read is my personal testimony. The name of that book is "Finding My Way Home."

Saturday, February 16, 2019

William Rubin,,,Disappoints... Disgusts...

I admit that when I got a notice of new books from William Rubin, I was immediately interested.  I had read Forbidden Beginnings and Forbidden Birth, respectively about 200 and 400 pages...So I never thought to check the bad... I had bought both of the books of the new book and started to read yesterday...

The thing is, I knew that Rubin could write an exciting thriller novel. What had happened?

Michele's Captivity, moves into action immediately, introducing the series main character and his wife. Then he moves into the actions of his villain(s).

The thing is, I, for one, had read the other books years ago. And if a reader had never read any previous book, they would be almost immediately wondering... Who is this guy? Why is he after Ravello? And his wife? For it is his wife who first finds she is being followed... There is absolutely no flashbacks into the earlier story to help the reader know who the characters are...It was like entering into a home where you knew nobody, but was expected to enter into their lives without even an introduction. I was disappointed... For me, I kept wondering. Who is this villain? What had happened? And I refused to go back to my earlier reviews to find that information...

When I'm reading an ebook, I use the percentage completion line at the bottom to help decide when to take a break. I was shocked when I looked and found it at just under 50%... I had barely started reading. So I quickly finished the book, which was just over 30 pages...

I immediately moved on to Part II, a different book...Again, action began without any explanation of how characters were related. Obviously there were bad feelings...But...nothing...

Once you know what the villain is doing, the remainder of the book, for another total 30 pages or so, moves into action, once again... and then before you even take a tea break...two books have been read... The concept was, of course, not new; however, if there had been more narrative about the goals of the villain, or why he was so focused on Ravello and his wife, it might have salvaged what became, quickly, to be boring...action with no value of story...

And the second again stops within the action and refers you to the next part, another book!

At that point, I was disgusted...and no way was I going to buy another book no matter that the action was good or not...

Ok, it was only $2 that I had spent...but, to me, it was a total waste of money. Why can I buy complete books with hundreds of pages of exciting, well-written stories, and then get caught with two totally unsatisfying, incomplete books, for which I was asked to proceed on, perhaps, Ad infinitum... And why did it bother me so much? The idea of dividing books is also not new...but, surely, if you're going to do it, the page length should be sufficient to get your readers totally involved and willing to proceed to the purchase of another book.  Fooled Once, Fooled Twice...Not Again... I am quite willing to easily forget I read about 60 pages of action without a conclusion... But I won't be reading this author again...

Needless to say...not recommended...


Thursday, February 14, 2019

Enjoy Valentine's Day With Fabulous Tenor, Andrea Bocelli With His Beautiful Love Songs!

Andrea Bocelli, born 1958. Bocelli is an Italian singer of beautiful voice, who was blinded by a childhood soccer accident. He sings to the new millennium as a man from Tuscany who rose to stardom during the 1990's as an opera star and popular singer, with his records selling in the millions. A Golden Globe heads his list of awards.
--Bravo by Guy Graybill

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Paperclip - A Paranormal Thriller Based Upon History - By Dan Woll and Walter Rhein!


Mort LeFrance was conceived in the cab of a pickup truck in the parking lot of Folsom prison in the spring of 1946. His dad, Lenny, had been doing five for aggravated assault but secured an early release when he was offered the option of taking an experimental drug in exchange for an early parole. He never asked about the risk, and called the situation nothing more than “tossing back some shots for a bunch of skinny, limp-wrist, government pencil-pushers.” 
Lenny was never much on details, so he neglected to ask the contents of the tincture he imbibed. Upon his release, as he stumbled through the Folsom gates he recalled seeing what years later in Haight-Ashbury would be called chem trails. 
He paid little attention, intent on expelling two years of pent-up frustration on his long-suffering wife, Sissy. Whatever drugs he’d been given came along for the ride and something was passed to his firstborn and only son, Mort. 
Very early in his life, Mort began seeing things that weren’t there. Generally the visions came to him in the form of smoke. He saw a haze invisible to others. The black mirage would twist and dance in the air like ink poured into water. Mort could watch the show for hours, and sometimes his mother would find him with a far-off look that seemed to focus on everything and nothing all at once.
The toughening of Mort began early. The more he was beaten, the angrier he became. He was a hellion with everyone except his mother. To the rest, he was a malevolent force of nature, just like his dad. That worked fine on the playground because he was bigger and tougher than all the other kids. No one ever made fun of his club foot more than once. 
He grew tall and lanky with shoulder-length hair and knuckles perpetually scuffed from work or fights. Mort was in his late teens when he rolled in to watch the 49ers game at the 81-Z where his mother worked. He should have been in school, but he’d been kicked out. He was too young to drink but that had never stopped him before. 
“What’ll ya have?” asked Sissy with a tender smile. 
“Anchor Steam,” Mort replied. Sissy winked and lifted the selection from behind the bar. She’d had it ready. Mort kept one eye on the smeary screen and the other on Sissy as she strolled away to the other customers. There was a drunk sailor down at the end who was watching Sissy with more intensity than Mort cared to allow. The screen above crackled as the announcers began to spout their endless verbal refuse. “They should play these games without narration,” Mort mumbled. “All I want to hear is the sound of helmets crashing and cries of impact. I can’t take the false poetry of these TV punks.” Nobody answered. That meant nothing to Mort; he was used to talking to himself.
He glanced to the end of the bar just in time to see the sailor slap Sissy on the behind. Sissy jumped as if stung and the sailor flashed her a lecherous smile. Mort made sure to look away before Sissy glanced in his direction. He wanted to allow her the dignity of pretending it had never happened, but he clenched his jaw so tight his teeth hurt. He took a flavorless swig of his Anchor Steam and tried hard to keep his hand from trembling. Over the course of years, Mort had lost all tolerance for any sort of physical aggression against his mother. Mort’s old man, Lenny, was never slow to raise his hand against either mother or child. Mort’s early attempts to defend Sissy were successful only in drawing attention onto himself. After those beatings, Lenny would usually take off to this very bar. In those moments, Sissy would hold Mort close and try to quench the fire inside him. Rinse, dry, repeat. Comfort was harder to come by when Mort reached puberty and became too big to cuddle. Sometimes Mort feared his rage was so insatiable that he might take it out on his mother, so he took to leaving the house... 
Riding with the Angels brought a sense of purpose for a while, but it didn’t last. Around the fringes, Mort always had a vision of the smoke. With time, the dancing ink became clearer, more sinister, and impossible to escape. He could see faces, he could see acts. Mort came to understand that Lenny was pure evil. Sissy was not. Mort suffered an unbearable tension caused by enjoying his father’s gift of bullying and hurting on the one hand, and nursing a love for his mother that went so deep that when he thought about it, emotion welled up inside him as if he were going to throw up. He took his inner conflict on long strolls down by the dock and tried to let it out in low, haunting whistles. Most men were bad. The smoke showed him that. Striking first became self-defense when you had premonitions of what was to come. They all had it coming, and would respond tenfold if given the chance.

I felt it was important that potential readers know up front that this fantasy/ scifi novel was based upon "true events" with "possible" results... Having the book pop up at Reviewers Roundup was a challenge to read that I'm glad I responded to...

This is an extraordinary story. In many ways... For instance, Operation Paperclip was exposed as true in 1915...Scientists had brought over Nazi German scientists after the war, given other names and provided safety as they moved into society. We also know that tests were being made of the effects of LSD on people... This story is based upon those events.

At the same time, paranormal abilities of children, or results of earlier tests on people, were being watched...

I considered the character Mort LeFrance as, perhaps, the most important character. He was the result of a double-whammy. His father was a victim of tests as a prisoner, with subsequent results given to his son... Later, without being aware of what he was doing, He drank a pitcher of lemonade, not knowing it was laced with LSD... Although the researchers feared he would soon be dead, he lived...

Mort LeFrance was given a gift of smoke, which allowed him to decide who was good and evil... Most were evil in his eyes...  They died...

His mother had been the only person he loved and who loved him. She died...Somebody had to pay...

During his search, he discovered a young girl who also had powers...

There was strength in how she stood defiant, but not enough to disguise her inherent vulnerability. The young girl wore a white spring dress with green embroidery over the heart and a blue ribbon in her hair. Twelve years old, she still had the elfin-like build of a small child. Throughout her neighborhood she was known to be polite and kind. An air of joy surrounded her and her presence brightened any gathering. Strangers felt a pull to assist her in moments of distress. Unfortunately, at that moment, the street was empty save for one dark figure and his creature.
Before her stood a snarling beast. The animal was a savage German Shepherd, with feral muscles rippling under greasy hair. Time slowed for the girl as the beast focused its considerable blood lust upon her. The dog’s ears peeled back, its hackles raised. Ridges formed in its face, and teeth flashed beneath curled lips. Worst of all, its eyes shone like lasers; bloodshot red, they bored deep into the girl’s soul and reflected no hint of mercy or compassion. Next to the dog the stranger stood with long hair protruding from beneath a black Stetson hat like strands of a soiled mop. A self-satisfied smirk was plastered across his face and he seemed to draw pleasure from beholding the girl’s terror. He waited, neither commanding the dog to attack nor to heel; savoring the moment, fixated on the girl’s terrified trembles. The cowboy stood over six feet tall, thin with hard muscle. 
Darkness emanated from him. The girl could sense something beyond the lurking rot of a corrupt adult. She often saw things others could not, things that existed on a plain of reality between sleep and consciousness. Through the filter of her special vision, midnight smoke billowed from the sockets of the cowboy’s eyes.

Mort had found the location of the family involved with his mother's death. They all would pay. He'd moved into the neighborhood to plan and had met the daughter, Carlie. She was afraid of Mort and his dog, but she also was able to see the smoke coming from the cowboy's eyes... Her abilities were not yet developed but she realized who he was and what he could do...

Mort chose the night and did the work to ensure the entire family burned, but with Carlie's awareness, she was able to get out of the first floor bedroom she had, while her family were trapped on the second floor. She knew who had done this, but had no way to prove it. But she knew they would meet again...

Mickey was just 10 years old at the time. He enjoyed showing how he was able to predict coin tosses with an older friend...After he had shown his special skills, Curly advised him to not be so willing to let people know what he could do.... Even then as Curly spoke, Mickey had chills run down his spine as he sensed what his friend was trying to tell him. He stopped trying to share his predictions with his parents or anybody, but he kept a notebook of all that he was able to know in advance...

But nothing explained to him how and who had written in his notebook to be aware of the Cowboy... Mort...

Dan Woll had written this book years earlier and had decided to try to finish it by asking Walter Rhein to consider whether it could be made into a co-authored novel.  Obviously, they were successful and is presented to readers as an edgy, strange, and scary story about how, potentially, scientific tests have resulted in terrible changes to humans... Whether this is a plausible story, we don't know, but, just the awareness of what occurred in the past, related to drug trials with LSD and more, provides an awareness of the reality of what has or could have happened in our lives, especially to those in jails or in military service...

How the story moves forward and ends is fascinating... Can the power of good succeed through the paranormal experience? The book is thought-provoking, imaginative and exciting to consider as we read... It's not exactly an easy book to read, especially about Mort, who is both the victim and the villain. I found his backstory made a memorable statement about physical abuse in the family. On the other hand, the two children who had gifts, some of which neither had yet known about it, until they "happened" was fun to watch. I enjoyed the book and recommend it highly for your consideration...


MYSTERY MEN. Local writers Walter Rhein, left, and Dan Woll collaborated on Paperclip, a thriller inspired by real-life weirdness, including MKUltra.