Monthly Archives: October 2013

Found Innocent — Carolyn Arnold

In celebration of the release of Found Innocent  by Carolyn Arnold you can enter for your chance to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card. You can enter as many times as you like and various ways. The contest lasts until October 31st.

Enter here


author Carolyn Arnold

Carolyn Arnold

Carolyn Arnold started to take writing seriously six plus years ago when a co-worker said “tell me a story”. Since then she’s written nine novels and has plans to write many more. She has a love for the canine world and has two beagles that are affectionately named Max and Chelsea. Like her female protagonist Madison Knight, she loves her chocolate and has been known, on occasion, to speak her mind.


The Madison Knight Series is a clean, murder mystery series meaning mild graphic violence and language. Each book is self-contained so you can read any of the books, and out of order, if you wanted to.  Books in the series in released order: Ties that Bind, Justified, Sacrifice, Life Sentence (Prequel in which Madison has a cameo role), and Found Innocent.

If you haven’t already, meet Madison Knight, the chocolate-loving detective, who is determined to solve murder and find justice for the victims—even if that means coming into contact with the sight of blood.

However, in Found Innocent, the latest release in the series (releasing October 16th!), she doesn’t have to face too messy of a crime scene, at least in one sense. What she does have to deal with is whether or not she’s willing to jeopardize departmental relationships and cross the wall of blue.

Found Innocent

Here, this is what it’s about:

There’s one code when it comes to the wall of blue…and Madison Knight may have to cross it.

Any good cop knows you never report a brother for mishandling a case or accuse him of misconduct, but in order to find justice, Madison may not have a choice.

Lacy Rose had one goal for her twentieth birthday—to be found innocent of past sins—but her life is cut short.

When Lacy’s remains are found in a garden and the investigation becomes connected to a closed case, Madison must face her past. The lead detective on that case was Madison’s ex-fiancé. At the risk of jeopardizing departmental relationships, and churning up the attention of an old flame at the same time, Madison must push hard before the guilty are found innocent.

Excerpt, Chapter 1:

“He didn’t do it!”

The hysterical shouting pulled Madison’s attention from her monitor to a woman rushing toward her.

The station was supposed to be quiet today. Sunday. She wasn’t required to be there, and that made it the perfect day to dig into her cold case.  She was so close to getting answers.

With one more longing look at her screen, Madison rose from her chair and held up her hands to stop the woman.

“Detective Knight.” She stated this as if they had met before.

Officer Ranson, the female officer who manned the front desk, came up behind them. “Come on—”

Another officer brushed past Ranson and slipped his hands under the woman’s arms. “Let’s go.”

He pulled on her, but she stayed still. Her eyes steadied on Madison.

“Please help me.” She attempted to shake loose from the officer’s grip.

Her frown lines were deep burrows, her eyes were sunken, and the flesh around them was puffy.  She appeared to be rough-edged, but there was something desperate about her, and she didn’t seem to be a threat to the lives of anyone here.

“I’ve got this,” Madison said.

“All right, your call.”  The male officer let go of the woman, and he and Ranson left.

“I saw your face in the paper.” The woman held up the Stiles Times. “It’s you, isn’t it?” Her lashes were caked with mascara, and she blinked slowly. Madison wondered if the cosmetic had sealed her eyes shut.

Madison passed a glance to the paper. It captured a moment she wished to forget. A day when she had been forced to speak in front of a crowd and to take pride in the job she had done. The thing was, though, a good cop couldn’t care less about the recognition.

The woman sobbed, yet her tears didn’t affect her makeup. “He wouldn’t do this…”

Madison summoned patience.  A list of envelope-printing companies—which could prove to be a vital link in the chain of evidence against the Russians—would be on her monitor, right now.

She took a deep breath, passed another glance to her computer, and turned back to the woman.  “Come with me.”

Madison kept the woman to the side of her. Her first impression was the woman didn’t pose a threat, but she still wasn’t willing to sacrifice her back by leading the way into the room.

Inside, Madison gestured to a chair.

The woman dropped her red bag heavily on the table. It was large enough to serve as a duffel bag. She pulled off her jean jacket, folded it over the back of the chair, and revealed a pink sweater that displayed more cleavage than Madison could ever hope to see on herself. The woman went rooting through the duffel bag and she stuffed a stick of gum in her mouth.  She worked at chopping it into a soft, pliable distraction. It snapped in her mouth.

“Let’s start with your name—”

“Vilma with an ‘i’. Vilma Thorne, well, it would have been. My God, Kev!” She raised her face upward as if calling out to a Greater Being. Her gum chewing paused only momentarily.

“Vilma—” Madison had to tune out the noise and the display of her open-mouth chewing.  “Let’s start at the beginning. Why are you here?”

Vilma stuck a finger through one of the large gold hoops dangling from her ears and leaned in.

Madison detected the blend of cheap perfume and cigarettes. Maybe—she inhaled deeper, trying not to appear obvious—it wasn’t perfume but whiskey. It was hard to discern. Her eyes appeared normal, except for the abuse of eye makeup. Besides the thick mascara, her lids were weighed with the color purple. Her pupils weren’t dilated or pinpricks.

Still, she didn’t respond to Madison’s question.

“Okay, Vilma, if you need my help, I need you to talk to me.”

Possibly this woman was on a new line of drug that disguised itself behind brilliant colors? Maybe this was a mistake and Madison should have let her get hauled away.

“My family is against what he did. But he didn’t do it!” Her voice rose, tears flowed. She stopped chewing and, sniffling, went rooting in the duffel bag again. She came out with a bunched up tissue and wiped her nose.

Madison’s tolerance level had almost reached its limit. “You keep saying he didn’t do it.  Do what?”

A tissue still pinched on the tip of her nose, Vilma said, “He didn’t kill himself…someone killed him.”

Interested in reading more?
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble

And here is, again, the link to the giveaway:
Enter here



The Haunted House in Jericho- a Thinning Line Between the Worlds

I thought a little Halloween tale would be appropriate for us in the writing tribes. You might call this an epilogue to the Supernatural post I sent in earlier, where your belief in the Alleged Real World momentarily breaks down. We pretend, at this time of year, that the elements of classic horror tales are “living” among us- and we pretend that we’re not pretending with each other. This is a tale of an older time- by which I mean, the 1960s- where let us just say the options were more limited. Maybe we were narrow-minded as well. I think with so much less choice around us, we pared down to the things that really mattered. Like feeling and inflicting terror.

You need to picture the scene. The mid-1960s in rural northern Vermont: Jericho at once quaint and Biblical, site of the famous Red Mill and birthplace of Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley, who between them populate two-thirds of all greeting cards exported from New England. More dirt roads, fewer TV channels, and simply acres of open space between houses. Less to do, more to imagine- snow on the ground by Halloween. Our house, a sprawling manse of bricks and white shutters, looms on a small rise just off the road where the first settlers came through in the 1600s. Nine people live inside- five sisters, two parents and “Uncle Don” staying with us in those days- and everyone knew the Hahns of Jericho. We decided- no, give credit, Uncle Don talked us into one of his many harebrained and hilarious acts of creation- to host a haunted house for the trick-or-treaters. No one did that in Vermont in the 1960s. It would be ten more years before any of those classic slasher movies came out (and then, only in the theaters, not on TV or your phone or projected on the wall by a kid with some snazzy new wristwatch). But late night walking on rural Vermont roads, holding hands and seeing your breath better than what was behind that bush: we were IN the movie.

Everyone had a part to play and honestly, any kid today old enough to walk would have just laughed at us. Again, remember it was the 60s- if you weren’t alive back then,  think of the Stone Age and add bad suits with thin ties. And one more thing- high school kids did NOT trick or treat like they do now. Slouching up to your door with their hands out, saying, “yeah- huhuhh, I’m dressed as a public school student, huhhuh”. Approaching the house in Jericho was a line of kids- and pretty soon a stream of them, and the next year a rising tide- all under 13. And it was the 1960s, and no one had ever had a haunted house. We used cardboard and tin foil, and lipstick and candle-light. And we scared the stuffing out of them.

Uncle Don greets you at the door, dapper and delighted, directing your attention to the closet opposite, where my youngest sister Frannie thrashes about under a wool blanket that felt scratchy and in the lantern-shadows looks reasonably like Cousin It from the Adams Family TV show. Guided to one side, they see my eldest sister Stephanie in a white gown, lying in state on the couch- while nearby the piano plays on its own, thanks to a miracle of modern technology in the form of our cassette tape recorder inside the bench. “Her last concerto” Uncle Don mournfully intones- and indeed she had played it herself. Suddenly up jumps the ghost, my next-youngest sister Monica under a plain sheet, running from the corner of that room into the next, when she simply hides behind the door and where not a single one of the dozens who come through ever thinks to look for her.

They are no doubt distracted by the dragon on the bed in there. Me, age eight I think, green pajamas, red work gloves with cardboard talons, and a painted box over my head with teeth and flames- but I roared real good, and some kids squeal. On into the bathroom that connected back to the main hall, where my sister Mary in a black leotard posed as a cat in the tub. So perfect! Just black tights and a few pipe-cleaners for whiskers, but Uncle Don says “oh no, we have to cross its path” and some kids won’t go unless older siblings hold their hands.

In the final room, my sister Michele flits past dressed as a harmless butterfly, on and up the stairs while next to the back door stands my mom holding a bowl of candy, dressed as the nicest witch since Glinda. I usually trail along behind the pack (without my box-head I’m just Billy Hahn), and I can see everywhere kids starting to relax.

Clump- Clump!CLUMP! Booted steps on the basement stairs, a door across from the rear exit. Again, Uncle Don makes the mood, shouting that we have forgotten to chain him up. The last step, every kid frozen- an endless moment’s pause, then the door slams open to reveal my father- a strapping fellow around 6’2″, his arms thrust a half-foot through short jacket sleeves, and two bolts on his neck.

The panicked rout was audible for miles. In the country, everyone CAN hear you scream: they just don’t care. A wave of waist-high humanity, urged by the friendly vampire, ran from our back door, flooding past the queue waiting out front, thus setting the stage for their own visit. One group fled into the night where the line between worlds had been thinned to near-transparency. The others waited on bobbing feet, eager to have that barrier shaved for them next. Lather-rinse-repeat, probably forty times in one night.

And the following two years we did it again, with variations in theme but not budget. When we finally stopped, we still got more door-ringers than anyone in the village, disappointed the way only rural folks without Sci-Fi channel could be.

This is the life we are still living, I firmly believe that. We look around this Alleged Real World, eagerly seeking places where the line is thin, and just another step, or a turned page, takes us before the heroes of the past, or monsters from another planet, or nameless horrors crusted in grave-dirt and longing to drag us back with them. Someone goes to a little trouble, like Uncle Don- my godfather and one of the most creative influences in my life- a bit of effort recruiting us to his mad scheme of terror, and what happens. We eagerly assist, letting his mind guide us to the same master plan; and little kids practically beat down our door to get in and be sent forth screaming- no really, screaming their lungs out- a few minutes later. I could see them back on my bed through the side window, as I waited for the next crew. No laughing, no rib-pokes of “gotcha”, just throats and feet at full throttle. After reaching our driveway, a few split off from the rest, did a hairpin-turn, and came back to wait on line.

We write fantasy, and science fiction, romance, horror, mystery- for those kids who turned back for more. It’s a noisier world; I’ve been in a mood to complain about the competition this summer (and hey, no writing on my WiP- coincidence? I think NOT). But I still believe there are many- maybe most- who really enjoy being carried away, across that thin line between the worlds. We don’t have the flash-paper, the CGI, the crowds of extras. By comparison to movies and the internet, we writers are working with cardboard and tin foil. But a book is not unlike a rural road, right from the first page it brings a separation from the comfort zone of the world’s noise and choices. And once you get them alone, or in small groups, your pen or fingers on the keyboard are like a plane, shaving that line between this Alleged Real World and the one that’s yours.

They want to go there. Do it well, they’ll come back. Stop and they’ll miss you. But if you just sit and complain, eventually there will be other choices. And THERE’s a scary tale, if you’re in the writer’s tribe.

Happy Halloween!

The (Super)Natural Touch: Make them Feel What You See

I start out with a surrender to pop culture and the meme of the day. It’s been everywhere already, but it’s just too good for someone in my shoes to ignore.

I wanted to, I resisted the urge to click on the link. But people I respect started to share and recommend and rave, so I gave in. Wow. Even though the last seven seconds kind of ruins it, you really need to see the Telekinetic Coffee Shop Prank. So take a look. I’ll wait. {Already have? See it again, you know you want to}

{Quick note: the embed keeps going blank but if you search YouTube look for Telekinetic Coffee Shop Prank and there will be a half-dozen links}

This is the high-tech low-laugh version of the 1960s Candid Camera TV show- old enough to remember that? Of course not, but it was this same idea, focused on lighthearted comedy. The guy in the mailbox pushes your letter back out, or reaches up from the depths and snatches it from your hand- that sort of thing.

But this! I said Wow, right? I thought so many things at once- who could not be affected by this? Was it cruel to do this to people? Um, wait a moment- do grown adults getting coffee have so much Heroes and Once Upon a Time or maybe Agents of Shield in their blood that they never questioned for an instant what their eyes were telling them? Evidently not- you can see their reactions, their instinctive retreat though not threatened, and hear their heartfelt cursing.tcsp1

Those people in the coffee shop, the ones who weren’t acting- they felt a touch of the supernatural right there. Not ghosts, or at least not just ghosts- they backed away like a hair-bristling cat from a world they did not understand. Their skin crawled. They wondered if their lives were over.

Let’s not forget the actress by the way- she was not just displaying her powers in this prank. She was discovering them- it was her first moment, she panicked, and then that banshee wail. She’s feeling this horror as well- trust me, it’s an actor thing, she’s into it. Watch how some of the people, incredibly, give a mundane look as they back away: “sheesh, a real mutant, I’d better scram and get my bagel somewhere else or I’ll be late”. But the lovely African-American woman with long hair- that face says “I am no longer in my world”. She has given over, with all her intelligence to the existence of another reality. Disbelief suspended, check.

tcsp3And that’s the deal right? We have to craft stories that carry people away. With horror- a genre very closely related to epic and heroic fantasy- we need this transportive experience to come across or else it’s just vapid camp. For magic, or monstrous beasts, the undead, psychic powers- we have to punch through the reader’s mundane world and reach from their eyes back into their spines. And yank.

And our competition is video. Whatever your genre, the reader can go SEE something- comedy, chick lit, mystery and suspense, erotic, and even fantasy. It’s not just that the motion picture has come so far- I can reel off the names of movies made before even I was born that still affect me. The visual medium achieves so much- they run music and sounds by your ear, and let’s not forget the nice advantages that come with fake walls, counterweights and fellow actors to create the mood. But even on the other side of the screen, movies and TV have an advantage- the audience is multiple. Look at the reactions of all the customers- what’s beautiful about this prank is that they created an entire world inside a coffee shop. And that world was one where the supernatural became real, for several of the longest seconds of their lives.

The other day my esteemed eldest sister Stephanie posted that she had seen World War Z and was, shall

And four more just as gorgeous, seriously.

And four more just as gorgeous, seriously.

we say nonplussed to discover that the adversary was actually zombies. She hates the undead. I do not recall ever hearing her say this to me. That’s the kind of guy I am, if Steph had ever mentioned repugnance for the walking dead it would stick. {One of my other sisters is so averse to arachnids she refuses to hear their common name pronounced in her presence. See, I never forgot THAT.}.

That which must not be named...

That which must not be named…

But as soon as Steph wrote about her experience, I DID remember something from my own writing.

In Judgement’s Tale there’s a scene where the heroes are menaced by gaunts, what the Lands of Hope call a zombie. As soon as I first started to chronicle that scene, all the time I was doing it, and every time I go back and read it, I always thought about Steph. For some reason, it was her reaction I pictured, her face stricken with- what, revulsion I guess, and a bit of fear. And more than that, Steph could appreciate the scene if it was well done. She was the reader I had in my mind, the one I wanted to affect, whose Disbelief would go poof at my words. Why her, unless I had heard her mention it before and just forgot? But I would never just forget that, not me… a little spooky, I must tell you.

Here’s part of the passage, narrated by a gentle sage named Cedrith who has been dragged along on the biggest adventure the Lands of Hope have seen in five hundred years. Trapped in a corridor of unbreakable glass, the trio has already prepared as best it can for the onslaught of the unliving. Nothing to do but wait:

“They are- the living dead.” Cedrith whispered.

“And we shall defeat them,” Alendic returned. After a moment, he added for explanation, “You see with the undead, it is very simple- either you beat them, or you join them.”

“You make the situation marvelous clear,” Cedrith managed, and Alendic laughed, quite literally in the face of death.

The very slowness of the risen became their greatest horror to the elf. Each step or drag seemed to take an eternity, giving Cedrith ample time to absorb every horrid facet of their appearance. The broken jaw of one, a missing foot of another stumping nervelessly on an ankle; armless, toothless, heedless, they came on. For centuries they had awaited the party, knowing neither patience or its opposite, and now they came on to tear and chop and be destroyed in turn.

As a learned Elf, Cedrith had spent more time than any human contemplating eternity: he knew his body would stop aging at some point, and instinctively he felt that moment had not yet arrived for him. He believed, as all Hopeful Elves, that a truly great Moment, one in which he chose the manner and proper time for his death, was ahead of him. But as he stared into sightless sockets, smelled charnel shreds and heard the scrape and step of the undead, Cedrith faced the horror of a moment removed, stolen, raped from sentient beings who once lived. As it could be stolen from him. Unwitting and unwilling, their bodies kept coming; his mind slid by the thought that their souls still watched and the sage nearly screamed.

I know, the video was better. But I can’t muster any ill-will. Well, not much. After all, those customers in the prank, they were convinced. The touch of the supernatural came to them once. Maybe a few will get hooked. We’re both selling something. And success will be measured in the distance the customer feels drawn away from the Alleged Real World, into another one filled with wonder, awe, yes some fear of course because things of consequence are happening.


When you’re trying to thrill them, is it possible to cheat?

Then they will return to that normal life with a little bit of a tingle in their spines, from where they got tugged. And the feeling will never leave you, not completely. Who’s ever going to feel quite the same way walking back into that coffee shop again? With a tale in a book, you reach one reader at a time; there’s no one else around to help amplify the shock. But then too, even on a crowded bus your audience is alone- there’s no one to comfort them when your words succeed in sending the touch of the supernatural their way.

And after all, it does seem odd that I only now hear my sister hates zombies…

%d bloggers like this: