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.

Now Available for Preorder

Hey, Readers. There were times when I thought this day would never come. Many of you have followed me on this journey. More than likely, you never thought it would happen either.

Today, I’m happy to announce Menagerie, my collection of short stories, is available now for preorder on Amazon.

Because I’m not superstitious, there are thirteen stories. The release date is Friday, January 13. Thirteen generous bloggers have offered to host me on a thirteen-stop tour. By the way, my black cat Little Bit approves of this. Come to think of it, so does my Tuxedo cat, Tucker.

If you’d like to preorder your copy, just click on the link below. Thanks in advance for your support.

Preorder Link


King’s. The Tower of London. Glass. What do these have in common?

Each is a famous menagerie.

While this Menagerie doesn’t focus on exotic animals, it does contain a collection of stories that explore various trials people face and how their reactions shape their worlds.

Survivors of a haunted bridge. Women who wait while their husbands fight a war. Former partners reuniting to solve a cold-case murder.

These are just three of the thirteen stories in this compendium, encompassing past and present, natural and supernatural, legend and reality. The genres and timelines are varied, but there’s a little something for everyone who enjoys reading about simpler times and small-town life.

Guest Author @StaciTroilo #NewRelease

Hey, readers. I love having guests on my blog, and there’s no better way to kick off September than with a visit from my friend and fellow author, Staci Troilo. She and I go back a few years, and it’s largely because of Staci that I’m writing fiction today.

It’s always exciting when she releases a new book, and this time is really special because she has collaborated with another friend and author, Mae Clair. Doesn’t get much better than that.

I’m honored to host the first stop of their promo tour. Please welcome Staci to tell you all about The Haunting of Chatham Hollow.

Ciao, amici! Joan, thanks for hosting me today. I’m so happy to be here and so excited to tell you and your readers about The Haunting of Chatham Hollow, a dual-timeline novel I co-wrote with talented author, Story Empire colleague, and long-time friend Mae Clair. This was the first either of us attempted a collaboration, and I have to say, it went beautifully. So well, in fact, I think both of us would be up for a second project sometime in the future.

But now isn’t the time to look forward. It’s time to look into the past. More specifically, 1793 and 1888, the historical periods in the novel. And to the present, where the rest of the mystery unfolds. This story encompasses ghosts, curses, missing treasure, arson, and murder, with a cast of characters whose descendants cross paths continuously throughout the ages. Our short tour will introduce you to a few of the major players via a discussion between one of them and a medium.

Today’s post takes place in the present. The psychic is Julia Hale, a resident of Chatham Hollow and a descendant of famous spiritualist Victor Rowe. The character she’ll be speaking with is her grandson, local reporter Aiden Hale.

Without further ado…



Julia: Thanks for joining me today, Aiden.

Aiden: You didn’t really give me much of a choice, Gran.

Julia: Watch your tone, young man.

Aiden: (frowning and mumbling) Sorry.

Julia: So, you’ll be writing multiple articles about the Founder’s Day Festival this year.

Aiden: You know I will.

Julia: And you’ll be part of the séance reenactment.

Aiden: You know that, too.

Julia: (staring pointedly at him) I know many things. For example, I know you’re going to regret talking to me that way.

Aiden: (nostrils flaring) Yes, ma’am. Won’t happen again.

Julia: I also know you don’t want the Spirit Search crew filming here. Now, why is that?

Aiden: Anything fueling the flames of that ridiculous curse is a bad idea. Best case scenario, we’re overrun with ghost hunters all year long. Worst case? We’re overrun with ghost hunters all year long.

Julia: Increased tourism is good for our economy.

Aiden: But not our way of life.

Julia: Are you sure that’s all that’s troubling you?

Aiden: I’m sure.

Julia: There’s not even a small part of you worried about awakening Ward Chatham and bringing his wrath onto the town?

Aiden: Of course not. Because ghosts don’t exist, and even if they did, no one living could talk to them.

Julia: So, you sit here in my kitchen, denying my powers? Denying yours?

Aiden: (rolling his eyes) Not this again.

Julia: Yes, this again.

Aiden: Well, look at the time. I’m on deadline and need to get my draft uploaded before Greer fires me.

Julia: She’d never do that. You’re the best reporter she has.

Aiden: (standing) Gotta run, Gran.

Julia: We weren’t done discussing this.

Aiden: (plants a kiss on her cheek) I was. Later!

Julia: (shaking her head as he runs out the door) This isn’t over!



One founding father.
One deathbed curse.
A town haunted for generations.

Ward Chatham, founder of Chatham Hollow, is infamous for two things—hidden treasure and a curse upon anyone bold enough to seek it. Since his passing in 1793, no one has discovered his riches, though his legend has only grown stronger.

In 1888, charlatan Benedict Fletcher holds a séance to determine the location of Chatham’s fortune. It’s all a hoax so he can search for the gold, but he doesn’t count on two things—Victor Rowe, a true spiritualist who sees through his ruse, and Chatham’s ghost wreaking havoc on the town.

More than a century later, the citizens of the Hollow gather for the annual Founder’s Day celebration. A paranormal research team intends to film a special at Chatham Manor, where the original séance will be reenacted. Reporter and skeptic Aiden Hale resents being assigned the story, but even he can’t deny the sudden outbreak of strange happenings. When he sets out to discover who or what is threatening the Hollow—supernatural or not— his investigation uncovers decades-old conflicts, bitter rivalries, and ruthless murders.

This time, solving the mystery isn’t about meeting his deadline. It’s about not ending up dead.



Thanks again, Joan, for hosting me today. I hope this little exchange gives you and your followers a bit more insight into the Hale family. A paranormal cable show—Spirit Search—is coming to the Hollow to search for ghosts, and Aiden tries his best to avoid them. He denies his gift (if such a thing exists) while Julia happily embraces her powers. I hope you’ll all consider reading the story to find out which of them is right. The answer to that mystery, and many more, can be found in The Haunting of Chatham Hollow. Mae and I truly appreciate your support. Grazie!


Connect with Staci:

Website | Blog | Social Media | Newsletter
Amazon ​| BookBub ​| Goodreads

Connect with Mae:

Amazon| BookBub| Newsletter Sign-Up
Website | Blog| Twitter| Goodreads| All Social Media

Staci, it’s been a pleasure to host you today. I wish you and Mae much success. Readers, be sure to pick up your copy of this one. You won’t be disappointed!

January Book Reviews

Is one month of the new year already over? Surprisingly, or maybe not surprisingly, it is. And since it’s a Tuesday, it’s time for my January book reviews.

I’ve set my Goodreads challenge at sixty books this year. I’m right on track to complete that goal. These are the books I read last month.

Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper

My first read of the year had been on my Kindle for several weeks.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Ellie Jordan is a ghost trapper. She and her sidekick, Stacie, set out to help the Treadwell family remove a ghost from their home. Once there, they encounter the ghost of a past resident who tells them to leave. They successfully “trap” the ghost and take it to another location, thinking that will be all.

It isn’t. Turns out the house has multiple hauntings. Their boss insists on bringing in a psychic medium to help. What follows is a night of terror where they attempt to rid the home of the malevolent spirits.

I liked the fact that not only was Ellie a “ghost trapper,” she also investigated the history of the home. The author has her using more scientific rather than supernatural means—something I wasn’t too fond of. There was also one thread regarding Ellie’s past that I hoped he’d wrap up, but maybe he’ll cover (or has covered) that in one of the subsequent stories. I also think he could have done a better job with character development—something male authors writing female protagonists often fail at doing.

Overall, the story flowed well, and it was entertaining—not scary or gory. Three and a half stars rounded up to four for review purposes.

Two Shorts and a Snort

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Two Shorts and a Snort is a quick read that is easily done during a lunch break.

Obsessed is the story of a West Texas oil field worker who comes to a decision regarding a woman in his life.

Maggie is a wonderful story about a couple who longed for a child. The husband, a rancher, finds a special gift in the snow thanks to a wayward longhorn cow.

Friends Instead of Lovers is a poem that reads like a song. And knowing Jan’s love of music, I suspect she may have had that in mind.

Jan Sikes has mastered the art of short stories, packing powerful messages into these pieces of fiction.

Lightning Strike

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I read my first William Kent Krueger book last year and vowed it wouldn’t be my last. Iron Lake was one of my top books for 2021. If you missed that post, you can read it here.

Lightning Strike is the eighteenth book in William Kent Krueger’s Cork O’Connor series. While I want to read the books in order, Lightning Strike is a prequel to the series, set in the summer of 1963.

Cork O’Connor is a twelve-year-old boy who makes a gruesome discovery—the body of a man hanging from a tree at an abandoned logging camp. The victim, Big John Manydeeds, was a man young Cork admired.

The death was initially ruled a suicide, but it’s up to Cork’s father, Sheriff Liam O’Connor, to discover the truth. The Ojibwe who live on the reservation are convinced Big John didn’t kill himself. Most of the white people of Aurora believe otherwise. When a young Native American girl from another town goes missing, her disappearance only serves to further divide the two sides.

In the meantime, young Cork senses Big John’s spirit is still present, and that he has unfinished business. Cork, along with his friends Billy Downwind (nephew of Big John), and Jorge, set about on their own investigation. Their excursions into the woods near Iron Lake leads them to discover important clues and help Cork’s father ultimately solve the crime.

The book is not only a murder mystery but also a wonderful coming-of-age story with strong family dynamics. Krueger’s vivid descriptions made me feel as if I was right there along with the characters in Northern Minnesota. There was a brief mention of a historical event that wasn’t accurate time-wise, but since it was a minor, it doesn’t deter from the story.

Four and a half stars rounded up to five for review purposes.

Now that I’ve read Lightning Strike, I plan to read all the other books in order.

The Hay Bale

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’ve never been much of a horror fan, but after reading reviews of The Hay Bale, I was intrigued.

After suffering several miscarriages, failing adoption criteria, and separating from her husband, Claire needs to get away for a while. She rents a rural Virginia home for the summer.

The town has an assortment of weird people and the house she rents, Smallclaw, has a sinister history. There’s also a strange, solitary hay bale that people warn her to stay away from.

Although the story is less than fifty pages, Bettis packs a lot within the contents. The book is chilling and creepy, but light on the gore. Claire is a strong person, her character well-written. The ending leaves me wondering not only about her, but the other people in the town as well. I’ll be thinking about this story for a while.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles was Agatha Christie’s first book. She began writing it in 1916, and it was first published in 1920. It’s also the book where she introduces us to Detective Hercule Poirot.

The book is the classic murder in a locked room, something that has been overdone in recent years. However, Christie had a gift of keeping readers guessing up to the end. You think you know, but you really don’t.

Despite the differences in literary styles from a century ago, I enjoyed this book. One can easily see why Agatha was known as the Queen of Mysteries.

That wraps it up for January. Pretty good start for the year, don’t you think?

The Dare #shortstory @vocal_creators

Hey, everyone. I learned about Vocal Media a few months ago from my friend Staci Troilo. If you aren’t familiar with the site, it’s a platform where writers can share stories, enter challenges, and earn money. I debated for a while before deciding to join, and I’ve just submitted my first story.

With Halloween almost upon us, it’s natural to think about ghosts and hauntings. The Dare is a short story in the ghost fiction genre.

If you like to read my story, click here. While this submission isn’t part of a challenge, I can earn money based on the number of reads. Also, if you like the story, I’d appreciate a (♡) and any shares on social media.

The Dare is based on a family story and the legend of La Llorona. I wrote about the legend in a Mystery Monday post a couple of years ago. If you’d like to read “the story behind the story”, click here.