Category Archives: New and Upcoming Releases

Excerpt from The Skeleton Paints a Picture


Flakes had just started falling out of the slate gray sky as I walked to the faculty parking lot Friday afternoon, but since students were within earshot, I waited until I was inside my minivan to express my opinion of the swirling bits of frozen aggravation. The fact that only a couple of inches were expected that evening was no consolation.

It’s not that I have anything against snow. I was born and raised in New England, and while my so-called career as an adjunct English professor has involved moving all too often, I’ve never lived anywhere that didn’t require a winter emergency kit that included a fold-up snow shovel, a blanket, and a bag of cat litter for traction on icy roads. But not only was Falstone in the snowiest part of Massachusetts, with an annual average snowfall second only to nearby Ashburnham, this year was turning out to be one for the record books.

I felt as if I were driving through a tunnel as I pulled onto the street that ran past Falstone College of Art and Design—FAD to its friends. There had been five major storms in the past month, and the weather hadn’t warmed up enough for appreciable melting, so the exhausted snowplow drivers were running out of places to push the snow. That meant the piles on the side of the road and in every available median strip were getting higher and wider, and the roads were getting narrower and narrower.

As I drove, I could see brush, rocks, even shopping carts partially buried in the icy piles. My students were starting to make jokes about missing classmates who wouldn’t be found until the next thaw.

I just wish they’d been the only ones to get that idea.

Finally, I made it back to the bungalow I was borrowing from one of my parents’ friends for the semester. Snow was still falling, and it was already half an inch deep on the long driveway I’d cleared just the day before, meaning that another session with the snowblower would be due in my near future. I trudged up the sidewalk—which would also need clearing—and was cheered to see two big packages waiting for me on the front porch. Both had my parents’ house in Pennycross as the return address, but the labels were typed, so I didn’t know if they were from Mom, Phil, or my daughter, Madison. Nobody had warned me they were sending anything, which was unusual, but maybe they’d wanted to surprise me.

I grabbed the box on top and left the other on the porch while I divested myself of the coat, hat, scarf, and gloves that winter in Falstone required. I was about to go back for the second box when there was a ping on my phone. I pulled it from my pocket and saw that my best friend, Sid, was texting me.

SID: Hi, Georgia. Did the packages arrive?

GEORGIA: Good timing. They came today.

SID: Open 1 of 2 first!

I checked the box I’d lugged in. It was labeled 2 of 2. Of course. I dropped the phone on the table in the hall, opened the door just long enough to drag the package inside, and went to track down a pair of scissors. I was on my way back to the front hall when I heard my phone ping again.

SID: Aren’t you going to open the box?

GEORGIA: Give me a minute!

There was another ping, indicating that yet another text had arrived. Only, it wasn’t from my phone. It had come from inside Box Number One. I , then sent another text.

GEORGIA: I’m trying to find the scissors.

BOX: Ping.

I briefly considered shoving both packages back out onto the porch, but I knew that would only be delaying the inevitable. So I slit the tape on the top of the cardboard box and lifted up the flaps. Inside, nestled in a bundle of old T-shirts, was a pile of clean white bones and a cell phone. Plus a skull with a very big smile.

As I watched, the bones snapped together with an uncanny clatter, and within seconds, a human skeleton was standing in front of me with bony arms flung wide.

“Surprise!” Sid said.




It sounds scarier than it was. I admit that it would have been trauma-inducing for most people, but most people hadn’t grown up with an ambulatory skeleton for a best friend. Sid had come to live with—or at least to stay with—my family when I was a child, so I was blasé about Sid walking, talking, and assembling himself at will. Mailing himself to me, however, was new.

“Sid, what are you doing here?”

“I came to keep you company!”


“Don’t I get a hug?” He gave me puppy dog eyes, an impossible feat for a bare skull that he was really good at. So, of course, I hugged him.

Hugging a skeleton is kind of like hugging a coat rack—only, a coat rack doesn’t hug back.

I helped him step out of the box. “Do Mom and Phil know you’re here?” I couldn’t imagine my parents would authorize this shipment without checking with me.

“Not exactly, but… Hey, we can catch up later. I want a tour of your new digs!” He dashed away, rushing from room to room. I suppose it was pretty exciting for him. Sid only rarely left my family’s home, for obvious reasons, and his opportunities to explore other houses had been limited. So he oohed and aahed over everything as we roamed through the eat-in kitchen and the living room. The bungalow had been intended as a summer cottage, and the decorations were determinedly rustic: exposed wooden beams, braided rag rugs, and vaguely Native American patterns on the upholstery.

“Is there an attic?” he asked.

“There is, but it’s packed full of the owner’s things.”

“That’s all right. I can bunk in the living room. Or the kitchen. I don’t need a bed, right?”

“There’s a spare bedroom, but—”

“Perfect!” He trooped down the hallway, opening doors as he went. “Just one bathroom? Well, it’s not like I ever use it. I can tell this is your room. I recognize your mess. Maybe I can clean while you’re at work. And this is my room! Kind of small—”


He held up one hand. “No worries. I don’t need much space. And bonus! The curtains are nice and thick, so nobody will see me in here. I’ll just go get my things.”

“Sid, why don’t we sit down and talk first?”

“Just give me a minute to unpack.”

“Sid! Sit.”

He plopped down onto the bed, and I sat next to him.

“Now talk.”

“Okay,” he said, with the tone of voice my daughter, Madison, uses when I catch her doing something she shouldn’t have. “No, your parents don’t know I’m here. I printed out postage and put the boxes in the front hall, then left a note asking Dr. T. to finish taping up the box and leave me on the porch for the mailman to pick up.”

“And he didn’t want to know what it was you were sending me?”

“He may have thought the note was from Mrs. Dr. T.”

“Why would he have thought that?”

“Because I signed it ‘Dab.’”

“But why—No, first things first. I need to let them know you’re here. They must be worried sick.”

“I doubt it,” he said with a sniff. “They probably haven’t even noticed I’m gone.”

That didn’t sound good. I got my phone from the front hall and texted home.

GEORGIA: Sid is safe with me. I’ll explain later.

Then I went back to the bedroom that Sid had laid claim to. “So what’s going on? Have you guys been fighting?”

“You have to talk to somebody to fight with them.”

“Oh. Then they’ve been working long hours.” My parents had only recently returned from an extra-long sabbatical and had restarted their jobs at McQuaid University after the first of the year.

“No, they’re home plenty, but since they’ve already started collecting grad students, the house is always full of strangers. I think they’re feeding a dozen students breakfast and dinner, and I’m pretty sure a couple of postdocs are spending half their nights on the living room couch.”

My parents had always attracted and ministered to needy grad students, a hobby that had gotten more pronounced once I’d moved out. And of course that meant Sid was stuck up in his room in the attic, or if he got caught downstairs, he was trapped in the armoire in the living room where he could listen in but couldn’t exactly socialize.

“What about Madison? Isn’t she spending any time with you?”

“I’m sure she would, but you know how brutal sophomore year is. Between rehearsals for Drama Fest and choral ensemble, she’s barely home, and when she is, she’s got homework. And the mutt to take care of.”

I suspected it was the time Madison spent with her Akita, Byron, that bothered Sid the most. He was never going to be a dog person.

“Deborah?” I asked.

“The only time I’ve seen her is when she came up to the attic to get one of her storage boxes.”

My sister and Sid had never been as close as he and I were. “I thought you guys were getting along better.”

“It’s not that. It’s because she’s busy, too. Juggling two boyfriends is taking up a lot of her time.”

“So what you’re saying is that you’ve been lonely.” After years of mostly being confined to the attic, circumstances had finally changed enough that Sid could hang around with the rest of the family. Having to go back to isolation must have been harder than ever.

He hung his skull. “I know I should have asked first, Georgia, but I was afraid you’d say not to come. And from your e-mails and all, I thought maybe you were lonely, too.”

“Are you kidding? With texting and e-mail and Skype, it’s practically like I haven’t gone anywhere. And for the first time in years, I get to be on my own! I can set mealtimes by my schedule, go out whenever I want, stay up as late as I choose, pick what to watch on TV, and play my music extra loud. I can even use real cuss words, instead of skeleton-related euphemisms.”

As I spoke, Sid’s bones loosened, which was a sign that he was unhappy. Since he holds himself together by pure force of will, weakened will means weakened connections.

I went on. “And I have never been so miserable in my life.”

It took a second for that to sink in. “Really?” he said tentatively.

“Really. Yeah, I’m glad to have a teaching job, and it’s great that Madison didn’t have to switch high schools, and I know my parents love having her to themselves. But I hate this. I know almost nobody in town and there’s not much town anyway. I had no idea how much snow they get around here, and the weather has been so awful that I don’t dare drive home on weekends for fear of not making it back in time for Monday classes and getting fired. Of course, we’re going to have to establish some ground rules while you’re here, but I cannot tell you how glad I am to see you!”

Sid’s bones were tightly connected once again. “I’ll go get my stuff.”

It didn’t take us long to unpack Sid’s belongings because he hadn’t brought much. He didn’t wear clothes and didn’t need toiletries, so all he’d brought was his laptop and accessories, a few books, and his favorite DVDs: The Nightmare Before Christmas, the Toy Story trilogy, and The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra. All of that was packed neatly in a small rolling suitcase that I used to tote Sid around when the need arose.

“Planning a field trip?” I asked, looking at the suitcase.

“I figured it wouldn’t hurt to have it around. Just in case.” He looked at me hopefully.

“We’ll see,” was all I’d commit to.

Just as we got everything put away, my parents called back for an explanation of why Sid had gone AWOL. That got tricky because Sid was at my elbow insisting that I not put the blame on them, but they finally accepted my excuse that he was feeling restless. The fact that there were three grad students at their house during the phone call provided a good explanation of why he’d felt hemmed in.

Once that was addressed, the evening was one of the best I’d had since arriving in Falstone. We made dinner—which only I ate, of course. Then we settled in to watch TV and I caught Sid up on my not-overly-thrilling adventures teaching Expository Writing at a school dedicated to visual arts.

When the snow wound down, we went outside to shovel. This was a new experience for Sid. My parents’ house was in the middle of town, and though it had a good-sized yard, the fence wasn’t high enough to allow him to move around safely out of doors. The bungalow was much more isolated, on a large lot with no neighbors within easy view. The grounds behind the house were filled with trees and stretched out for yards. Not that I had any interest in going back there, since the snow had already been too deep for easy access when I moved in at the beginning of the semester.

Just to be extra careful in case somebody randomly decided to venture down the driveway, I had Sid swaddled in a spare parka, jeans, boots, gloves, and ski mask so he looked semi-normal.

I expected him to fuss about having to wear all that, but he’s always loved costumes. Even if he hadn’t, he was having too much fun playing in the snow to mind. Sid actually enjoyed shoveling snow and liked running the snowblower even more. His snow angel didn’t work out very well, but he loved throwing snowballs and was just as happy when I returned fire.

It was with the greatest of reluctance that I finally dragged him inside so we could thaw out. Or rather, so I could. Bare bones don’t feel the cold.

After a cup of hot chocolate to warm me up, I headed for bed, and since Sid doesn’t sleep, he settled in for an all-night session with the stack of books I’d bought since I’d been in Falstone. I didn’t know about him, but I felt happier than I had in weeks. What with being kept inside so much by the weather, the house had been starting to feel claustrophobic. Now, with Sid in residence, it felt like home.

With one thing and another, we didn’t get around to establishing any ground rules for his stay, which I had cause to regret at three thirty in the morning. That’s when I woke up with Sid’s skull hovering over me.

“Georgia, wake up! You’ve got to come right away!”

Excerpts from Crooked as a Dog’s Hind Leg


Gift of the Murderer

I was glad I had saved Liz’s present for last. Maybe it would help make up for Mrs. Hamilton’s earlier abuse. “I believe this is for you,” I said, handing her the glittery gift bag.

“For me?” she said, looking pleased. “Who did this come from?”

“A good elf never tells,” I said solemnly. “Union rules.”

She smiled and opened the bag. I could see my cousin Clifford watching from where he was playing Christmas carols on his guitar. The present was from him, but he was too shy to want Liz to know that. Liz reached into the bag and pulled out a long knife, the blade smeared with something dark.

“What on earth?” she asked.

“I don’t know.” I looked over at Clifford, but he seemed as confused as I was. “I think there’s been some kind of a mistake,” I said, but was interrupted by a shriek from a few feet away.

Mrs. Hamilton had keeled over in her wheelchair, and one of the other residents pointed at her and shrieked again.

Liz dropped the knife back into the bag and thrust it toward me so she could run to Mrs. Hamilton. I was only a few steps behind her, though I didn’t know that there was anything I would be able to do.

Liz put her hand on Mrs. Hamilton’s back as if to straighten her up and then jerked her hand away. I was the only one close enough to see that her hand was covered in blood. A hole through the canvas back of the wheelchair matched the old woman’s bloody wound.

I think Liz and I realized at the same instant that the smears on that knife had to be blood, which meant that I was carrying the weapon that had been used on Mrs. Hamilton.


Marley’s Ghost

The Walters family of Walters Mill might be Scrooges for most of the year, but when it came to the Christmas party, they really did it up right: fancy decorations, an open bar, plenty of tasty refreshments, and a disk jockey to play dance music. Even though I was there with my cousin Thaddeous instead of my husband Richard, I would have had myself a good old time if I hadn’t been so concerned with trying to figure out who murdered Fannie Topper.

Instead of having fun, I was devoting my attention to the three men that could have killed her. I didn’t really expect any of them to confess, of course. The idea was to try to figure out a motive for the killing.

First I chatted with Joe Bowley over plates of ham and roast beef. He looked like a man who enjoyed his food, but didn’t mind talking while he ate. Of course I couldn’t just casually bring up the subject of a murder that happened twenty–five years ago, so I got him to discuss barbeque. I thought that it would eventually lead to Fannie Topper’s barbeque place, but no such luck. I don’t know if he avoided talking about Fannie on purpose or not, but he went on and on about Buck Overton’s in Mt. Airy, which he hadn’t even been to since before Fannie was killed.

Next I tried dancing with Bobby Plummer, and I had to admit that he was a real good dancer. He was light on his feet and smiled gallantly when I stepped on his toes. He didn’t hold me so tight the way some men try to do, which made me wonder if the rumors about him being gay were true. Maybe he was just being polite. Bobby was in much better shape than Joe, so with him, I asked about exercise. Specifically, playing baseball. I thought sure that he’d mention the championship the Walters Mill team had won all those years ago, the party afterwards, and the murder after that. Nope. He talked about NordicTrack.

Finally I sat on the edge of the hall with Pete Fredericks. Getting him to talk about death was no problem, but it wasn’t what I had in mind. It seemed that Pete was going to be leaving the mill soon to work with one of Byerly’s morticians. I learned lots about what happened to people after death, but nothing about how one particular woman came to die.

When the party ended, I didn’t know a bit more than I had before I got there. And it was only two days before Christmas.

If I had had the sense God gave a milk cow, I told myself, I would have just bought Aunt Edna a sweater or a nightgown when I drew her name that Christmas. But no, I had to get it into my head that I was going to give her something she really wanted. That meant solving a twenty–five–year–old murder and laying Marley’s ghost to rest.


The Death of Erik the Redneck

I’d known Erik Husey ever since we were in grammar school, but when I looked at the smoking mess that had been Erik and his dog, Lucky, all I could think of was that I never thought he’d be that dumb. To go out in a rowboat and set yourself on fire with a cigarette when you’re so drunk that you don’t even think to jump into the water, is just out–and–out stupid.


An Unmentionable Crime

If Sue had been anywhere else, talking to anybody else, she’d have said, “Now don’t get your panties in a bunch,” but she knew Ida would fire her on the spot if she dared say such a thing to Annabelle Lamar while working at Petticoat Junction. Especially when it was her salmon pink panties that Miz Lamar was mad about.


Bible Belt

It took Wynette a while to find the Ten Commandments in the Bible Reverend Sweeney had left for her to read while she was in the hospital. She thought they’d be marked, but they were just stuck in with the other verses. Finally she found them in the book of Exodus. There were commandments about stealing and killing and coveting, but nothing against hitting your wife.


Old Dog Days

“When did you last see him?” Andy asked Payson Smith, but instead of answering, Payson glared at his wife Doreen.

“Around five–thirty, when I got back from Hardee’s with dinner,” Doreen said. “I cook most nights, but it was so hot that day that I hated to get the kitchen heated up.”

Andy nodded understandingly, which he’d done for so many years that it looked pretty convincing. “Five–thirty yesterday evening.”

Then Brian piped up with, “It couldn’t have been yesterday. We had Kentucky Fried Chicken yesterday, and pizza the night before that. It must have been Wednesday.” The boy smirked, pleased with himself for proving his stepmother wrong, not to mention the dig he’d gotten in about her cooking.

“Jesus Christ, Doreen!” Payson exploded. “Are you saying my dog’s been missing for three solid days and you didn’t even notice?”

“You know I never go out back,” she whined, “especially not as hot as it’s been. Maybe if we got one of those above-ground pools…” Then, probably realizing that it wasn’t a good time to bring that up, she said, “Besides, it’s Brian’s job to take Wolf his food and water. He’s the one who should have figured out he was gone.”

Payson turned his glare onto his son, and it was Doreen’s turn to smirk.

“Well?” Payson prompted.

“You know I was over at Earl’s every day,” he said, whining just like his stepmother. “She knew that.”

“Since when do you tell me where you’re going to be?” Doreen shot back.

Andy could tell this was an old argument, so he spoke over them. “Then the last time either of you saw Wolf was Wednesday night, and since Payson was gone until late Friday night, nobody noticed he was gone until this morning. Is that right?”

Doreen and Brian nodded while Payson tried to decide which one deserved to be glared at more.

Andy wouldn’t have minded glaring a little himself, but his target wasn’t handy. Deputy Mark Pope was probably still at the police station, sitting at a desk he didn’t deserve.

If Andy’s wife had been there, she’d have told him it was his own fault.


Lying-in-the-Road Death

Dan Jackson was as dead a man as I’ve ever seen, and as long as I’d been Byerly’s police chief, that was saying something. As far as I could tell, a heavy set of tires had rolled right over his head, and even though I’d known Dan my whole life, if it hadn’t been for the ID in the wallet in his hip pocket, I’d never have known it was him. I decided I’d lost my taste for watermelon for a while.

“You want me to check his other pockets?” my deputy, Belva Tucker, said, but I could tell she wasn’t thrilled by the idea.

“Don’t bother. Dr. Connelly can take care of it when he gets here.”

Belva nodded, relieved.

If I’d been a spiteful woman, I’d have made her do it because of the way she’d held back while I retrieved Dan’s wallet, which was one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever had to do. But since Belva hadn’t seen as many bodies as I had, I was willing to cut her a little slack.

“I better talk to Cole.” Belva turned to go, too, but I said, “You stay here and keep the critters away from the body.” That wasn’t spite–it was payback.

Where are they now? Available again!

Looking for a book to download to read during vacation? Curse of the Kissing Cousins and Who Killed the Pinup Queen?, the first two books of the Where are they Now? series, are once again available as ebooks, with brand new covers! Both are available from Amazon, Kobo, and iTunes. CurseKissingCousins A Killer Performance The cult classic sitcom, Kissing Cousins, lasted only a few seasons, but its cast is having an even harder time surviving. In the past three months, three Kissing Cousins costars have died under suspicious circumstances. Boston-based celebrity journalist Tilda Harper would way that’s a wicked big coincidence. As a freelance reporter for entertainment magazine Entertain Me!, Tilda already has good reason to investigate the deaths. But she’s also a fan of the show, and if the killer’s pattern holds, Tilda’s favorite actress, Mercy Ashford, will be the next to die. Tilda wants to warn her, but Mercy has been off the air—and off the grid—for decades. With the help of a super fanboy and a sexy bodyguard, Tilda must get to the bottom of the so-called curse of the Kissing Cousins. Is the killer someone tied to the show? A deranged fan? Or could it be Mercy herself? One thing’s certain: if Tilda doesn’t solve this case soon, the only Kissing Cousins reunion she’ll see…will be in the obituaries.


A Killer Figure The last thing entertainment reporter Tilda Harper expects is for one of her feature articles to suddenly become an obituary. But when the subject of an upcoming piece—former 50s pinup queen Sandra Sechrest—is brutally killed, Tilda’s story quickly develops into a murder investigation. There are few leads and many questions. Was it the work of greedy relatives? An obsessed fan? Or perhaps a jealous lover? Adding to the puzzle are the startling confidential connections between Sandra and the Hollywood stores of her day that Tilda uncovers while research a different project for Entertain Me! magazine. As Tilda focuses on the case, she unwittingly becomes a target herself. It seems someone has a secret they’ll do anything to keep, and Tilda’s getting a little too close to the truth. If she doesn’t pin down this pinup killer soon, Tilda could be the next to die.

Upcoming Releases

games creatures play finalGames Creatures Play
Coming in April 2014, the next outing from Charlaine Harris and myself is all about unusual athletics and paranormal pastimes, and you’re invited to play, too. The cover isn’t available yet, but the amazing Lisa Desmini is hard at work on it. Charlaine and I have assembled an all-star team with stories from Jan Burke, Dana Cameron, Adam-Troy Castro, Brendan DuBois, Caitlin Kittredge, William Kent Krueger, Ellen Kushner, Mercedes Lackey, Joe R. Lansdale, Laura Lippman, Seanan McGuire, Brandon Sanderson, and Scott Sigler. Charlaine’s story features Manfred Bernardo from her new book series visiting a familiar blonde telepath in Bon Temps, and mine introduces a witch who just can’t get enough noise.

Dead But Not Forgotten
As fans of Sookie Stackhouse already know, Charlaine Harris finished up the best-selling series in 2013. What people may not know is that there are an awful lot of writers who are ardent fans of Sookie and the other denizens of her world. So Charlaine is letting us play in her sandbox to create an anthology of stories set in the world of Bon Temps. Contributors included MaryJanice Davidson and Seanan McGuire, with more to be announced closer to the publication date (May 2014).

The book is being released first as an audio book from Audible, with print editions to follow later.

Recent Releases

appleforthecreatureAn Apple for the Creature
Both Ace Books in the US and Quercus in the UK released this one, the latest anthology edited by Charlaine Harris and myself. If the idea of going back to school scares you as much as it does our contributors, this is the book for you. It includes stories by Ilona Andrews, Amber Benson, Rhys Bowen, Mike Carey, Donald Harstad, Steve Hockensmith, Nancy Holder, Faith Hunter, Marjorie Liu, Jonathan Maberry, and Thomas Sniegoski; plus a Sookie Stackhouse by Charlaine and my story “Pirate Dave and the Captain’s Ghost.”

Home-Improvement-Oz-Cover-148Home Improvement: Undead Edition and Death’s Excellent Vacation
Both of these are now available as trade paperbacks from Ace. They’re also out as ebooks and audio books.