Question: Do you think you are one of my greatest fans? Have you read more of my books than any other reader? Well…then prove it! I’m looking for the reader who can make the best case for being my greatest fan. The winner will receive a copy of my upcoming mystery at Amber, called The Angel at the End of the Road…out December 22nd…which I’m going to talk about here on the blog.
Writing the mystery Novel:
I’d never seen myself as a mystery-thriller writer until I wrote Blood Pond. Frankly, I was surprised Blood Pond and the sequel, Blood Pond Revisited, struck a chord with so many individuals. Sure there were two dynamic gay men, and some hot sex, but mostly Blood Pond was a mystery, a story or loss and pain and murder, with a romance simmering in the back ground. It is what is known in the writing world as a cross-genre story. Indeed to the purist in the field writing mystery, it isn’t advised to mix mystery and romance, but once I wrote Blood Pond, I was addicted. I wrote a few more mystery/romances after that. And then, last summer, I wrote The Angel at the End of the Road.
I have to tell you about this book because I am super excited about it. The story came to me in a dream. It woke me up and compelled me to write it. The entire story and the characters came alive and everything fell into place like a stack of cards. I’m still not sure why.
After I wrote it, I held onto to it, debating which publisher should have it, reluctant to let it go. Once I made my decision to give it to Amber, I told my publisher how I felt about it and of course, he understood, gently prying it away while my heart held on.
The following is the synopsis and an excerpt. But don’t go away, after that, I want to tell you about what it’s like at my house for Christmas.
Synopsis of The Angel at The End of The Road
Colton can’t wait to finally end it with the rich and shallow Martin. Their relationship has been a mistake from the beginning. But just when Colton feels that he’s made it clear to Martin it’s over, he gets a phone call that will change his life forever.
Whitfield, Vermont is the sleepy little town where Colton grew up, a town he couldn’t wait to leave, a town where one of his high school friends was murdered years before, left on a road that goes nowhere. The murderer was never found, yet a stoic old man named George Hill was the main suspect, the man who lived in the only house on that road.
But now another boy is dead, the boy found at the end of that lonely road, laid out the same way his best friend was.
This time the victim is Colton’s fifteen year old nephew.
The old man whom everyone suspected of the first murder died a few years back which means the murderer is still out there and Colton won’t rest until he finds him.
Whitfield. Population, 3024. Colton's parents had grown up in this town, were high school sweethearts. All their family and friends had been here but then times got hard and people moved away in search of work or adventure.
Colton could never see himself spending his life here. From the time that he was an adolescent, he dreamt of getting out, seeing the world. That was one of the reasons he'd joined the military right out of high school. The military gave him the chance to complete university and then go to journalism school.
As Colton drove down the main street, he got a stab of nostalgia. He'd spent a lot of time hanging out at the Whitfield Café. When he was a teenager they still had an old jukebox and he used to love to thumb through the metal layers and check out the song titles. The post office was still there with the old clock that never told the right time. The grocery store was now three times larger, with the drug store inside and a bakery. It took up the entire corner block. There was once an old black smith shop there. The thing was practically falling down. Finally the town tore it down.
The medical building lay across the way, a dental office side by side with the clinic. The town hall attached to the fire hall and police station down the street, and the flower shop where his mother worked part time.
Houses and a few apartment buildings mixed with assorted small business paved the way to the residential side streets. Brenda and Clifford lived near Whitfield School, which was both elementary and high school, the wings separated by a fence. Brenda taught tenth grade. Clifford was a long distance trucker and was only home about four days a month. He'd had his own truck a few years back but had to sell it when he couldn't make the payments. After that he went to work for a trucking company in Newport.
As Colton passed his sisters' house on Bell Street, which was across the street from the Whitfield Baptist Church, he noticed all the lights were on and there were several vehicles parked outside, one of them a squad car.
Clifford's family, the Warehouses’ were church going Baptists. Colton was sure that Clifford's mother had already gotten the Pastor John Price involved.
Colton pulled into the church's parking lot, unable to find any other place along the street. He knew Brenda probably was in need of escape. He took a chance, pulled out his cell phone and dialed her cell. It rang a few times then Brenda picked up. "Colton, please God, tell me it's you and you're outside my house."
"I'm here, honey," he told her. "I'm across the street in front of the church."
"I'll be right out."
She hung up. Colton shoved the phone back into his pocket.
Seconds later he saw the front door of the house across the street swing open and his sister came across to him. He stepped up to meet her. She threw herself into his arms and hugged him tight to her. She didn't cry.
Colton swallowed, the air stinging his eyes and she whispered in his ears. "Thank God, Colton, thank God you're here. I can't go back in there." She stood back and looked at him. "Everyone is telling me that my boy is dead. I can't…" She bit her bottom lip. "I can't, Colton."
Colton took her hand. "Come on, let's walk a little."
Their steps echoed against the pavement as they walked hand in hand. There were no words he could say, nothing that would make it better. So he said nothing. Her hand tightened in his, assuring him that was enough. She'd heard enough words.
They turned onto Main Street and she said, "Do you remember when we were kids and we used to think that this place was so dull. Nothing ever happened here and when it did, it was always such a big deal."
"Well," she said, looking at him, "I never wanted to be the big deal when it happened, Colton, but I am. I'm the big deal that never happens in this pissy little town."
He swallowed hard.
They walked again, past the florist and the medical building, past the grocery store and the café. It was after nine. Already closed. The cemetery lay up ahead, that peaceful place surrounded by trees.
"No, don't," He stopped her as she kept walking. "Brenda, please don't."
She looked straight ahead. "We can't bury him. He's lying in some cold place. They've taken him to Newport to look for …" She heaved. "My boy. In Newport on a slab."
The tears that had stilled in Colton's eyes began to move slowly down his cheeks but he didn't make a sound. He held it inside for her.
"What good does it do for them to poke and prod him now, Colton?" She looked at him. "It won't bring him back." She shook her head. "Even if they find who did this, it won't bring him back."
"I know," he said softly. His words just seemed to float away in the night sky.
"Let's go back," she said.
Colton was relieved she wasn't going to go the cemetery. He felt as if his emotions were hanging by a thread as it was. It was the last place he wanted to be.
"I'm going to stay with Mom and you tonight."
He put and arm around her and hugged her. "Okay."
"I hate him," she whispered under her breath.
Colton knew who she was talking about.
"He made me go there all alone. I sat in the back of the police car. I thought I'd die, not knowing. And then when I saw him, saw Nathan on that ….in that room…when they took the sheet off, I died again. He was drunk, Colton," she turned and looked at him, indignation on her face, "he was drunk! He cried like a child, told me to forgive him, told me he was weak. But I know. I know he's weak and…I despise his character. He's always drunk."
She was right. He remembered Clifford even being drunk on his wedding day. His friends had taken him out the night before and gotten him wasted. He was in bad shape at the wedding and even though he was only seventeen when Brenda had married Clifford, Colton had told her she was making a mistake.
He wiped at his face when she wasn't looking and thought of how much pain his sister was carrying. He wanted to take it all away. He wanted to find the one who did this and tear them apart. Anger rivaled his pain, deadened it somehow and allowed the pain to stay in check.
As the house came into view again, Brenda turned, and grabbed his hand. "I'll go upstairs and get some things. Go find Mom. I want to leave."
"Okay." He followed her into the house.
His sister walked directly upstairs to the second level leaving him to enter the living room.
The first person he saw was Clifford. He was sitting beside his mother, Sally Waterhouse, and the minister at Whitfield Baptist, the Pastor John Price.
It must have been a good three years since Colton had seen Clifford last. He was home about seven months ago but Clifford had been on the road. His job as a long distance trucker kept him away six days a week. The eight years Clifford had on Brenda had started to show. He'd put on some weight, and his hair had gotten greyer. The fine lines around his eyes were deeper.
Clifford spotted Colton and got up to come over. Colton could tell by Clifford's expression, he hadn't missed him. The feeling was mutual.
He came forward, hand extended.
"Colton," he said, smile tight. "You just get here?"
"Yeah," Colton replied, shaking Clifford's hand briefly. There was no use asking how he was. He'd just lost his son. There were several empty bottles of beer on the coffee table which meant he was well into making use of his crutch. He reeked of beer.
"You seen Brenda?" he asked.
"Yes," Colton nodded. "She's upstairs getting some things together. She's going to stay at Mom's tonight with me."
His face changed. "The hell she is."
Sally Waterhouse came trotting over now with the Pastor in tow. She was a plump woman in her mid sixties always bathed in cologne and heavily made up. Sally Waterhouse had never had any problem expressing exactly what she thought and Colton know she was about to do just that.
"What’s this I hear now?" she demanded. She had the hint of a Southern tang, being a native of South Carolina. Her attention was centered on Colton. "Bolton," she announced, "Brenda belongs with her husband at this time."
"Ah, it's Colton," he reminded her.
She turned to the Pastor. "John," Sally Waterhouse said to the tall, heavy set man in his fifties at her side, "this is Bolton West, Brenda's brother. You remember," She lowered her voice, "the one I was telling you about."
Colton sighed inwardly and took the hand the Pastor offered. "Colton," he said, "and yes, I'm the fag brother."
Christmas chez moi!
So if you were invited to my house for Christmas, you wouldn’t go away hungry. There is a tree, nicely decorated, and some lights outside on the porch, or and Santa is out there, lit up as well. I have a nice wreath on the door. Inside is my kitty, Oliver, also known as Ollie Bear. He’s a love nut, will kiss you to death, and he’s getting old now. Can’t stand the thought of being without him. He is my baby. I rescued him as a kitten. He was two days old, abandoned. I tried to save five of his siblings but only he survived. He is truly my baby.
On a lighter note, for sure you’d have a present under the tree. There would be plenty of red wine and turkey, cranberry sauce, plum pudding and stuffing. Chocolate and nuts of course and all kinds of pies… not sure what kind yet. Not pumpkin this year… maybe cherry. The house is filled with music, a lot of classic rock. There is only so much I can take of Christmas music.
You would be treated like a king…or ah…queen…and we’d laugh and watch movies. I’m a movie buff. I also love to walk in the snow and we usually have quite a bit of the white stuff. I do see friends over the holidays so chances are you’d meet some of them. One of my friends lives about two hours away. We’ve been friends since we were kids. Others live closer and will drop in.
You may need to help me deliver little gifts to my elderly neighbors, Santa always brings them something. My employees need to be taken out as well, so you can join us at the hotel where I will spring for a buffet and we will exchange gifts.
So it’s pretty quiet, just people around me and small gift exchanges. Lots of music, movies, turkey and good conversation…and of course red wine. Lots of red wine.
That’s a D.J. Manly Christmas. No disco balls or dancing all night, just lots of love and smiles and good cheer. And I wish you that, my dear friends and readers, health, happiness and love…lots of love.
Don’t forget, convince me that you’re my greatest fan and win a free copy of my December 22nd release at Amber…my cherished Christmas gift to you.