the series Hearts in Hazard & Into Death

the series Hearts in Hazard & Into Death
Last in Series Coming Soon!

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1st draft of The Hazard with Hearts (book 12 in the Hearts in Hazard series)

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Celebrate a Book Birthday!

On this day in 2017, Old Geeky Greeks published to a few page-flickering fanfares.

With the clunky subtitle of Write Stories using Ancient Techniques, it was bound to take off. Not.

As part of the changes in my nonfiction books for writers, at the end of last year, Deranged Doctor Design created a wonderful new cover while I proofed (again) and re-formatted the original manuscript.  Here's the result, located on Amazon as well as many other online ebook distributors like Kobo and Apple and others.

Here's the Amazon link:

Friday, May 8, 2020

Glimpse the Danger from *The Hazard for Spies*

Evans had flipped down the box step of the coach. “This is Sir Henry Morgan,” he said before he steadied her climb into the coach. “Miss Josephine Darracott, sir.”
A grunt came from the recesses of the forward-facing seat. Phinney settled onto the opposing bench as Evans shut the box door and flipped up the step. She heard him give the address to the mission. The coach lurched as it rolled forward.
“I thank you, Sir Henry,” she said clearly, determined to be polite. The tremor had left her voice, helped on its way by the humor she found in receiving help from a man with the name of England’s famous pirate nearly two hundred years before.
Another grunt was her answer. A flash of light in the dark box startled her. Then came a double rap on the ceiling of the box, and she realized the flash was light reflecting off the silvered head of Sir Henry’s cane, used to signal the coachman. The coach was gaining speed. She clung to the bench.
“We will not travel far,” Sir Henry said.
“It is not a great distance,” she replied. His voice sounded familiar, yet she couldn’t place it. She wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to claim an acquaintance, but she could swear they had met.

The coach slowed for a turn onto a main thoroughfare then again picked up speed. The passing lamp posts helped her identify the buildings although they cast little light into the coach box.
When the coach turned again, long before Phinney expected, she leaned toward the window, the better to identify the street. “I am not certain—. I do believe your coachman has taken a wrong turn.”
“I would disagree, Miss Darracott. He knows exactly where he is to go.”
Sir Henry’s voice had changed, casting off the deep grumble and becoming more recognizable. Surprise landed her against the back of her seat.
“Fate is remarkable, isn’t it?” Kennedy Montjoy remarked. “I am sent to fetch Miss Josephine Darracott, masquerading as a cleaning maid in my office, no doubt to find evidence to use against my partner and me, and the chief constable in charge of the case hands her into my carriage. May I ask what occasioned his appearance at my building?”
She stared at the passing street. The carriage wasn’t flying. Two horses could certainly turn to speed, but at this pace, she wouldn’t hurt herself too much when she leaped from the box.
“Stop,” he ordered, and she knew he’d seen her hand reaching for the door latch. “I have a pistol aimed at you, Miss Darracott. I would prefer not to have blood spattered all over my carriage, but I will not hesitate to shoot. Unlike my late partner, I do not hesitate to take any bloody action necessary.”
“Does that include ordering the deaths of my sister and my brother-in-law?”
“A tigress! Is that what motivates you?”
She didn’t answer.
He remained in the deepest shadows, but the occasional glint of light revealed that he did have something brightly metallic pointed at her.
She watched the passing lamp posts. The streets seemed deserted. No one would come to her aid. “Where are you taking me?”
“Your presence is requested by the man most concerned by your … shall we call it an attempt to spy in my office? He is looking forward to meeting this little spy causing trouble for him.”
“I wasn’t spying. I was searching.”
“For evidence. About Peter DeChambeaux’s death.”
“And my sister’s!”
“Content yourself, Miss Darracott. Very soon you will have the answers you seek. Then we shall see what he intended to do with you.”
“Who is he?” When he didn’t answer, she added, “Is Richard Malbury his minion, just as you are?”
“Malbury is. I wouldn’t call myself a minion.”
“Is this about French spies?”
“Save your questions. Do nothing foolish, and you may see your little imps.”
“My imps? Are you talking about the children?”
“A boy and girl.”
“No. They are safe in their beds.”
“No. They chose to return to the warehouse.”
He could have said nothing else that would prove his words—and to guarantee that Phinney would make no further attempt to escape.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Meet Vic, the young lockpick helping find Murderers in *The Hazard for Spies*

A hand dropped on Vic’s shoulder. He stopped scratching his picks through the lock’s resisting tumblers.
The round moon cast her silvery eye over the alley. Soon she would drift beyond the narrow walkway between the buildings. The silvery light would travel with her, leaving the alley dark except for the golden gleams peeking through the cracks of Elise’s shuttered lantern.
Her light hand lifted from his shoulder, and he returned to his work, figuring out the tumblers on the heavy lock safeguarding the warehouse side door.
She bent close, her breath a warm wisp across his cheek. “How much longer? That’s the third pass by the watchman.”
“Nearly there,” he lied. He didn’t know if he could get past this lock, rusted after long months in rain and cold. He fumbled for a heavier pick.
She huffed, and Vic knew she hadn’t believed him.
Times like this, the job chancy and the watchman vigilant, Vic missed the known of Liverpool. The
escape routes, the likeliest hiding places, refuges from stout fists, the constable who would turn eyes elsewhere. He didn’t like London’s crowded buildings and sooty streets, the seething markets, the constant noise even in the deeps of night. He’d stay, though, till they found the information that Elise and her aunt Phinney hunted.
The pick Bessy worked past Hook and Fine to reach the last tumbler, stiff with rust. Vic gave a jerky twist. The tumbler resisted then “creached”, the word Ollie had taught him, for the soft screech of metal giving way to his picks. As the lock swung from its shackle, he caught it, cold in his hand, rough with rust.
Elise snatched up the shuttered lantern. Her sharp elbow moved him aside. The door opened into darkness with a glow of light off to their left. That was street-side, where the front office would be. The light lured the unwary, but Vic knew better than to head for it, for the light meant watchmen resting between their patrols.
High windows admitted the moonlight. The silvery radiance might illuminate the night sky, but they would need stronger light to find their way through the warehouse. Stacked crates formed haphazard walls, and piled on and around them were boxes, trunks, and barrels, too many to count.
Elise glided over the bricked floor, smoothed by years of use. She didn’t open the lantern shutters, but light streamed around the metal plates, joined badly, repaired worse, but still better than candlelight that would signal a watchman. Cautious skittering started off to his left. Rats, the big London ones that stared before running to hide, considering attack rather than flight. A good mouser would have a battle against London rats.
She reached back, grabbed his coat, and hauled him inside. He shut the door gently.
“Lock?” she hissed.
She dragged him a few steps before Vic planted his feet. “Come on,” she demanded.
“Where to?” he retorted, keeping his voice equally low. “Can’t see nothing.”
“We’ll use the lantern upstairs. The windows are shuttered there.”
“Steps or ladder?” He didn’t like ladders. Rickety things weren’t kept in repair until someone fell and died.
Elise snorted, “Stairs. In the middle,” but she didn’t sound sure.
“This the right warehouse?” he questioned, not for the first time.
“Come on,” she ordered, and he followed because she still had his coat bunched in her fist.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Meet Conrad, after the murderer in *The Hazard for Spies*

Conrad slowed as he approached the open door to the offices of Titterstone and Montjoy.
Smoke hung, heavy and choking, but the light was steady, not the chancy flicker of open flames.
Coughing from the inner office masked his entrance into the anteroom, and the swearing that followed covered his last few steps. “Dammit. I knew she had it. I should have strangled her when I had the chance.” A book flew through the doorway and thudded to the floor.
Conrad stepped into the doorway then past it.
Squatting beside the desk, Malbury spotted him and flung a handful of papers. They scattered and fell harmlessly. He laughed, a manic edge removing all humor. Blood streamed from a cut on his brow. “Give me a ledger,” and he reached for a thick book laying open on the floor.
Conrad leapt. He knocked Malbury flat. Hauling back for a punch, he realized the man lay still, eyes rolled back and arms flung out. The man groaned and rolled his head sideways.
He reached for the rope twist he used for grips, tucked into his left pocket.
And Malbury surged up, grabbing Conrad’s coat while he aimed a punch.
Conrad scrambled back. More papers followed him, then the heavy ledger. As he dodged, Malbury shoved to his feet. He staggered a step then kicked out. His shoe glanced off Conrad’s shoulder. He followed with a two-handed blow that would have floored Conrad if the kick had landed.
Then he ran.
Cursing himself, Conrad slipped on the scattered papers. From the outer office came a thud, a louder thump, and more cursing.
He caught Malbury by the shoulder as he heaved up from the floor. “Not so fast.” He clipped him
hard on the ear. Malbury yelped. He threw a wild punch and drove in behind with a better one. He landed several more punches to Conrad’s unprotected ribs.
Conrad got his own punches in. Blood gushed from the nobleman’s cut temple and soon from his nose, his face becoming a gory mask. They grappled, the younger man’s skill a match for Conrad’s strength and dirty tricks gleaned in his nine years on London’s streets. He hooked his heel behind the slighter man’s and shoved.
Malbury staggered over a chair then tripped. Conrad caught a flailing forearm, twisted it around to spin him then pushed it high up Malbury’s back. He forced him to bend forward. And it was done, both of Malbury’s hands caught behind his back, held high on the edge of pain. When Conrad compelled him forward, and the younger man stumbled out into the main hall and toward the stairs.
Timothy Gibbons met them on the flight between the first and second floors. “You got `im!” Excitement stole his H’s.
Malbury slowed, but Conrad kept pushing, and they passed the young constable.
“There was a fire in the open office on the fourth floor. Be certain it’s out, Gibbons. Is the building clear?”
“Aye, sir. No one else inside. The chief’s waiting.”
As he propelled his captive to Chief Constable Evans, Conrad didn’t try to hide his satisfied grin.
The chief stared at the blood still streaming. “Not quite the condition I expected, Hoppock.”
“Only the nose is mine, sir. Phinney did his brow for him.”

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Meet Phinney, Disguised to Spy in *The Hazard for Spies*

The Gregorys completely overset Phinney’s plan. She had to agree but prayed that an opportunity to enter Mr. Titterstone’s office presented itself before the night ended. She gathered her basket and broom and dust bin. He grudgingly agreed to carry the lantern.
She sighed every time Mr. Gregory fumbled to unlock an office door. Since many of them had additional interior rooms with closets, she felt a little light-headed from all of those sighs. Several times she pointed out small side rooms then sighed all the louder. When he grumbled at the time she spent in each office, she clanked her broom handle against doors then dropped her dust bin which caused a careful sweep-up of the dust and waste.
He grew impatient before she’d finished the third floor. When she began sweeping the stairs down from the third floor, he protested, “Here now. That can wait until you’ve finished the offices.”
“But this is the order that Mrs. Gregory told me to follow.”
He huffed and patted his foot.
She didn’t speed up. She even swept the outer edge of the banisters, a task she hadn’t previously done. As she came up the stairs, she carefully dusted every banister rail. Then she began the flight to the fourth floor. At the landing, she picked up her basket with its cloths, the broom, and the large dust bin. She had a vague plan to spill it again, but he gruffly said, “Here” and took it from her.
As she started the anteroom of Mr. Fulbright’s office, Mr. Gregory lost patience. “I can’t keep nursemaidin’ you. I got the coal to deliver. I’m going to unlock all the doors for you, Mrs. Coates, all but the door to Mr. Titterstone’s office.”
She dampened her jubilation. “Of course, Mr. Gregory. Shall I do that office next, so that you can lock it up first when you come back with the coal?”
“I got the first and second floors to deliver. I’ll be lucky if I finish before Mr. Bannockburn arrives.
That old cuss is always early.” Muttering, he stomped off with that curious quick-step from a smashed knee healed stiff.
Phinney continued to dust Mr. Fulbright’s outer office as footsteps and jangling keys faded. She heard the master key scrape open several locks, but the sound faded as Mr. Gregory worked through the more distant offices. She did hear him reach the outer door for Titterstone & Montjoy, Solicitors. The lock was stiff, and he grumbled until it turned. His footsteps faded, paused, returned then faded again before returning.
When he found her, she was dusting shelves in the closet of Mr. Fulbright’s inner office. “They’re all opened now, Mrs. Coates. I remembered every door.”
“Thank you, Mr. Gregory.”
He stood there, but she whisked her cloth over several files. He turned and stomped out.
When a door banged shut, she reckoned it led to the back stair. She finished the little closet then began Mr. Fulbright’s inner office. She skipped the baseboards and windows. She dumped his dust bin into hers, swiped a rag over the obvious surfaces, then packed up and headed for her whole reason for coming tonight.
Phinney held her breath as she crossed the threshold, but no ghost rose to drive her away.
She propped her broom in a corner. Tucked into her bun, well hidden by the mobcap, were the lockpicks that Vic had loaned her. She reached for them—but cold gusted over her, as if someone opened a door to a winter wind—or a ghost swept past.
Crouching before Mr. Titterstone’s door, new fear landed on her shoulders. She tried to shake off superstition by listening, concentrating hard to hear any distant sound. All was silent. No stomping, no grumbling, no jangling keys.
She would wait a few seconds more. And the crumpled paper in her pocket would be her excuse. She drew it out, unfolded it then smoothed the crumpled creases again. Then she turned the paper to the light cast by her lantern.
It was a portion of a letter—the third page if she believed the number on the top right. She recognized Mr. Titterstone’s handwriting. He had stopped in mid-sentence, crossed out a few lines. Then the other writer penned his list. After that, someone wadded up the paper and pitched it to the dust bin. And missed.
A rental agreement, and the lessee in arrears. She wondered who the lessee and lessor were and where the rental property was. She hadn’t thought either solicitor concerned themselves with such mundane matters as property leases. Yet they served wealthy clients like Mr. Bennett Parton of Parton March. Perhaps rental agreements were part of their duties.
She tossed the paper into the dust bin. Then she listened again and still heard nothing.
She fumbled for Vic’s lockpicks. The first pick went smoothly into the lock. She slid it around, getting a feel for the lock as Vic had instructed, then she inserted the second pick and set to work. The boy swore most locks were simple, “fixed up to send thieves off to easier prey.” This lock fit that description, turning easily.
The only problem was that Vic hadn’t taught her how to lock the door back.
If she left the door shut, Mr. Gregory might never check it. By dawn she would be gone, never to return. Mr. Gregory would connect her to Olivia Stowbridge and the mission, but she doubted he would pursue her.
Nor would he mention the opened door to Mr. Montjoy, for he would risk the solicitor’s wrath for disobeying orders.
Dawn would see her safe.
She snatched up her cleaning basket and lantern before she entered. And closed the door behind her.
Her gaze skittered past the ledgers and documents on the floor, straight to where Mr. Titterstone had lain. A browning stain circled where his head had been.
Phinney looked away. She set her basket and lantern on the desk. Then she headed for the painting, the Thames in flood, high waters under the London Bridge. Hope was a physical pang as she lifted it off its nail.
The artist was good, not great. The buildings were slightly out of perspective. The tumultuous storm clouds looked muddy rather than threatening.
Holding her breath, she turned the painting over.
Tucked between the two nails that held the right side of the canvas in the frame was an envelope. She snatched it up. The envelope bore no name or direction. Plain wax had sealed it, but someone—Mr. Titterstone?—had carefully lifted the seal to keep it intact.
Do I dare read it now? No. Mr. Gregory might return. She didn’t want to be interrupted when she read this document, so important that Mr. Titterstone had stolen it from an office in Liverpool and hidden it in his office here. And someone else thought the document important—and had sent Richard Malbury to retrieve it and kill Mr. Titterstone when he refused to give it up.
Into her pocket the envelope went. She patted her skirt over the pocket, ensuring that no bulge would betray her. Then she replaced the painting on its nail, straightened it with the tip of her finger.
Now, to leave.
The outer office door opened.
She froze—then snatched a damp cloth from her basket and slid to the bloodstain. Her back was to the door, but she didn’t change position. She dropped down. As her cloth touched the stain, the door opened.
“What are you going here?”
Phinney froze at his voice, the last one she wanted to hear. Her strangled throat managed, “Cleaning, sir.”
“Get out.”
“I got to finish here, sir.”
“Curse you, I told you to get out.”
Keeping her chin tucked, she climbed to her feet. She didn’t want Richard Malbury to recognize her. She reached for her basket.
“Wait. You were here last night. What did you see?”
The basket was solidly in her hand. “Me, sir? No, sir. I come to work just this night. T’other girl didn’t came. Scared of ghost.”
She’d said too much. His sharpened attention was a tangible weight. He stepped between her and the door. “I know you.”
“Sir? No, sir.”
“Yes. I never forget a pretty face. Yours was in a rose garden.”
That old memory startled her into looking up.
“Yes, I do know you. Which means you know me. You can identify me to the local constables.”
“No. No, sir. I didn’t work here last night.”
He grinned. “Keep talking. Every word sharpens the memory. Especially with all of those ‘no’s’. Say something else. I almost have the memory.”
That memory was the last thing she wanted. The basket had little weight. If she struck him with it, she would only anger him, not escape. But—.
She saw the lantern as he reached for her.
Phinney swung the basket at him. He recoiled. That gave her the inches needed to snatch the lantern. She swung that around. It struck his arm. The metal casing collapsed. The candle, still burning by a strange miracle, spilled to the floor. Onto the documents and the open ledgers. Little flames saw fuel and leaped to feed.
He grabbed her arm. “What have you done?”
The lantern was reduced to the bail and the square plate that formed the top, but she slung it back then over, a roundhouse, Vic had called it. The blow completed the lantern’s disintegration.
And Richard Malbury staggered away, clutching his head, blood gushing under his fingers. He swore and reached for her again.
Phinney jumped away. Mindful of the pistol he’d used last night, she fled for the door. She slammed it behind her, slammed the outer door, then picked up her skirts and ran for the front stairs, closer, wider, and better lit.

Monday, May 4, 2020

4th the May with you Be

The Hazard for Spies

Disguised to Spy.

A young constable tracks treacherous traitors. A spinster hopes to find a killer. Will murder destroy their chance for love?

Conrad Hoppock left his village and the girl he secretly loved for a chance at a better livelihood. He joined the London constabulary and began working with the Bow Street Runners. Now he hunts the master spy stealing information for Bonapartist France. His search sends him undercover in a lawyer’s office.

When Phinney Darracott’s sister and brother-in-law died, their children whispered “murder”. She dismissed that claim as unreasonable terrors caused by the tragic loss. Yet after repeated burglaries and an arson that destroyed their home, Phinney believed the whispers. Now she wants justice for their murders.

The clues lead her to London. There, she disguises herself as a cleaning maid for the very law office where Conrad is disguised as a clerk. Phinney’s young niece Elise and the street urchin Vic secretly pursue a different tangle of clues to the murders.

In the night hours, when all is still, Phinney prowls for the evidence. Then she encounters Conrad.

And the lawyer at the center of the tangle of clues is shot dead while they watch from their hiding place.

Can Conrad discover the identity of the French mastermind? Will Phinney’s single-minded pursuit lead her into the murderer’s snare? Will the children be caught and sold into London’s underworld?

Will they discover the connection between past and present murders?

Or will two bullets allow the murderer and the French master spy to continue their work against the British government?

The Hazard for Spies is Book 11 in M.A. Lee’s Hearts in Hazard series of Regency mysteries and suspense. The novels are loosely connected, and each story is complete in one book.
Vic the lockpick and Phinney (disguised as Mrs. Coates) were minor characters in The Hazard of Secrets. Chief Constable Hector Evans, who returns here after his inclusion in The Hazard of Secrets, had his introduction in The Dangers to Hearts and received his own story in The Key to Secrets. The fight against French spies on British soil began with the first Hearts in Hazard books: The Game of Secrets, The Game of Spies, and The Game with Hearts and continued with The Dangers for Spies.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

The Danger of Secrets ~ Paperback Now Available

A baffling murder interrupts a charming romance in The Danger of Secrets . Too bad for Maddy and Gordon that secrets can kill.