It’s Release Day!

Hey, Readers. Happy Friday the 13th. I hope you’re not superstitious (I’m not) because today is the release date for my short story collection Menagerie.

If you don’t already know, it’s a collection of thirteen multi-genre stories. I’m kicking off a thirteen-stop book tour beginning next Tuesday, January 17, and continuing through February 28.

In the meantime, if you haven’t grabbed a copy, you can do so by clicking below. I’m excited about this release and I hope you’ll enjoy this collection.

The tour stops will be on various Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. I’ll post links each day, but I’ll be here each Monday with more mysteries, legends, and lore.

Cover Reveal and Request #newrelease

Good morning, readers. There were times I thought this day would never arrive. I’ve wanted to publish a book of short stories for who knows how many years. When I began writing them in the fall of 2021, I expected to publish them in the spring. Then came summer, then fall, and… You get the picture.

The working title of this collection was A Book of Shorts, but I needed something better. A huge thanks to Staci Troilo for brainstorming with me to come up with something that would fit this mixed-genre collection.

When I think of the word, menagerie, a group of animals first comes to mind. Merriam-Webster also defines a menagerie as a varied mixture. Hence the title.

And now, for the cover reveal.

Menagerie is a collection of thirteen short stories. The shortest is around 3000 words, and the longest is around 9000. The genres include mystery and suspense, contemporary/family fiction, and ghost fiction. There is one dual-timeline story. While some are set during the present day, several of the stories take place during the 1960s, 70s, and 80s.

It’s my hope this collection has a little something for everyone.


  • Understand a young girl’s confusion when she suspects her brother is hiding a dark secret
  • Share the suspense as two partners reunite to solve a thirteen-year-old murder
  • Visit a neglected cemetery at dusk where a ghost is said to reside
  • Discover the reason for a family’s mysterious disappearance
  • Feel the bond between a lonely cowboy and a solitary wolf
  • Realize that life in the music world isn’t always what it seems
  • Learn the legend of a haunted bridge
  • Find out progress isn’t always for the best
  • Experience the emotions of two women while their husbands are away at war
  • Pay tribute to a fallen hero fifty-one years after his death
  • Take a whitewater rafting trip and meet a woman with a mysterious past
  • Spend a week away from the everyday pressures of life
  • Accept a ride from a friendly truck driver

Release Date and Blog Tour

Because I’m not superstitious, I plan to release this collection of thirteen stories on January 13, 2023. In case you’re wondering that’s on Friday.

I also plan a blog tour of thirteen stops beginning the following Tuesday, January 17, which will continue through February 28.

I already have ten of those slots filled. If you are interested in hosting me for one of the last three posts in late February, just drop an email to Thanks in advance to anyone who can host.

Coming Home #WIPWednesday

Hey, everyone. Autumn is in full swing, and it’s my favorite time of the year. Of all the seasons, I think this one is the one that seems to bring about the most change—the cooler temperatures, changing leaves, and migrating birds. While we haven’t yet had “frost on the pumpkin” in Texas, it’s only a matter of time.

Like the changing seasons, it’s time for me to refocus on writing. That means less reading, fewer book reviews, and an occasional WIP Wednesday post.

For a couple of years now, I’ve wanted to write and publish a book of short stories. I put the project on hold last year to focus on House of Sorrow and Cold Dark Night.

The short story project will be a mixture of genres, including mystery and suspense, contemporary fiction, and ghost fiction. Today I want to share an unedited excerpt of Coming Home (working title). I was inspired to write this after hearing the true story of a Vietnam Vet who went MIA in 1967. Fifty-two years later, his remains were identified and returned to his family.

I don’t normally write in first-person POV and certainly not in present tense, but it seemed the way to go for this story. There are scenes from the perspective of four different family members. Not only does a missing Navy aviator come home, but his “homecoming” becomes a time to mend family relationships.

Today’s excerpt comes from Brady, the youngest grandson of the fallen hero.


I didn’t want to come today. Having to see all the Navy brass, including my father and my “oh so perfect” older brother, only serves to remind me that I’m the black sheep of the family.

The only Atwood in four generations not to serve in the military. The only one who didn’t make good enough grades to be accepted into the Naval Academy.

The only one who didn’t give a damn, but I’ll never admit that to anyone, least of all my father.


A large group of spectators stands behind a chain-link fence adjacent to the runway. Some wave American flags, while others sport banners that read “Welcome home, Lieutenant Atwood.” A few take photos with their cell phones. News reporters are gathered in a designated area.

Vietnam is something I read about in the history books. An unpopular war that happened a half-century earlier. Many of those watching today weren’t even born at that time. It’s hard for me to understand their fascination. I’m here only because my family expects it. Don’t these people have anything better to do? Surely the local news station has more interesting stories to cover.

As the jet carrying my grandfather’s remains rolls to a stop, I see my family standing off to the side. They’re all here—Dad, Mom, Chris, his wife Faith, their children, Aunt Grace, and her husband. Despite the warm October day, my father dons a three-piece suit. My mother, ever the tasteful dresser, wears a short-sleeve black dress.

Chris wears his dress blues. I can’t help but notice he has had additional ribbons added since the last time I saw him. There’s also another stripe on the sleeve of his uniform, signifying his promotion to full lieutenant.

I suddenly feel out of place in my short-sleeved polo shirt and chinos.

Mom glances in my direction. She nods, ever so slightly. I’ve put it off long enough. Ignoring the queasiness in my stomach, I walk the short distance to stand beside her.

Hope you enjoyed today’s post. And don’t think badly of Brady. He has some lessons to learn, but he’s a good guy.

Also, I’ve resumed my newsletter. My plan is to send one every other month, with the next one in early December. If you’d like to receive updates, enter your address in the form located on the sidebar.

Book Review: The Lighthouse

I’ve always been fascinated with lighthouses, so the title and cover of this book drew me in. After reading the blurb, it sounded like a good read, so I obtained an ARC.


Amy Tucker is struggling to put her life back together following the death of her mother. The loss has left the eighteen-year-old heartbroken, and she doesn’t know if her world will ever be whole again.

Meanwhile, in Seabrook, a small town famous for its haunted lighthouse, Ryan Porter lives a simple but busy life, maintaining the ranch which he shares with his father.

Separated by hundreds of miles, yet drawn to each other by forces they can’t understand, Amy and Ryan spend a magical day together and quickly forge a deep connection. But all is not what it seems in Seabrook and when strange events begin happening around town, they question if their meeting really was an accident at all.

Trusting in themselves and in each other, they attempt to unravel the mystery of why fate has brought them together, and in doing so they embark on an unforgettable journey of self-discovery, a journey that leads straight to the heart of Seabrook’s mysterious lighthouse where they uncover the most shocking secret of all… a secret that will change the course of their lives forever.

My Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Not what I expected, but…

Eighteen-year-old Amy Parker is trying to come to terms with her mother’s unexpected death. She and her father have never been close, and in the month since her mother’s death, she thinks he’s trying to micromanage her. This puts a further strain on their relationship.

Kevin Parker, a detective with the Criminal Investigation Division of the Oregon State Police also struggles with his wife’s death. Kevin’s brother Jack, also with the CID, sends him to the town of Seabrook to meet with the family of a missing person to inform them they are closing the case. Jack suggests Kevin take Amy with him, thinking the overnight trip might be good for both of them.

Once in Seabrook, strange things begin happening. The town is gearing up for its annual Lighthouse Festival. The derelict structure is the source of dispute—some believe it should be torn down, others think it should remain. Several people in the town believe the ghost of a former keeper still inhabits the place. And Amy finds herself caught in the middle.

The morning after arriving in Seabrook, she’s unable to find her father—or reach him by phone. She meets a young man, Ryan Porter, who lives on a nearby ranch with his ailing father. Amy and Ryan set about trying to discover the secret of the mysterious lighthouse.

I expected this to be more of a mystery, but it was a coming-of-age story with a blend of contemporary, a bit of magic, and a touch of romance. I loved the setting—the small town, the Porter ranch, the nearby forest, beaches, and cliffs. Amy and Ryan both had issues to overcome but they were both well-rounded and likable. And there was a mystery—just not what I expected.

I found it refreshing there was no graphic violence or excessive use of foul language (something a lot of authors often tend to do). A well-written debut novel for Christopher Parker.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Beacon Press for an advanced reader copy.

Book Review: Finding Riley

A couple of weeks ago, I reviewed Rescuing Finley the first book of Dan Walsh’s Forever Home series. After reading Mae Clair’s reviews of books three and four of that series, I decided to purchase and read the second one.


An unexpected surprise brings the Mitchell family of Savannah a chance to experience the vacation of their dreams. An unexpected disappointment threatens to turn it into the worst trip of their lives. John Finch and his friend Alfred have been living off the grid in Florida for several years. But given the cold winter months, freezing rain, and terrifying lightning storms, John’s thinking his lifestyle could use a total makeover.

A new friend enters the picture and changes everything. Kim Harper (the dog trainer introduced in Rescuing Finley), is contacted by a billionaire philanthropist seeking help with a new dog training project to help the poor. She wonders if he’s for real or if this rich, handsome man’s interest in Kim goes deeper than her dog-training skills?

My Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Finding Riley is the second book of Dan Walsh’s Forever Home series and I enjoyed it as much (or maybe more) than the first one.

Riley is a high-spirited canine who travels with his family for a December vacation in Florida. John is a homeless person who has come to live in a camp with his friend Alfred. When they stop in a remote area, Riley breaks free of his leash and escapes into the woods. As it turned out his young owner, Jeffery, fastened the least to the ring holding Riley’s ID tags, enabling him to easily break free.

A few days later, Riley wanders into the camp where John lives and the two of them become fast friends. John begins to call him Smiley and his entire demeanor changes because of the dog. On the advice of Jenny, another homeless person who has worked in animal shelters, he takes “Smiley” to a local shelter to be scanned for a microchip to see if his family can be located.

I had mixed emotions. While I was saddened for Jeffrey, I also recognized the bond John had formed with Riley and my heart went out to him.

I won’t provide any spoilers, but I’ll say I teared up at the end. (Happy tears.) A perfect Christmas story suitable for reading any time of the year. Needless to say, I will be reading the other books of this series.