Book synopsis (back cover blurb) –
Aside from the occasional kitten in a tree, Stanley Grace’s biggest challenge as Sheriff of the tiny town of Merit has been his heiress wife and her thinly veiled attempts to speed up the ‘til death do us part’ clause in their wedding vows. However, that peace ended when the national news picked up a local story about a violent gang war in Merit. Unfortunately, the story ignored that the rival gangs are in the 4th grade and actually best friends. Stanley and the town get shoved unwillingly into the spotlight as national media, celebrities (including the recently dead), and a visiting circus pounce on them wagging the national finger in shame over the supposed race-related violence.
But when danger follows behind the chaos in the form of a bloody uniform found just outside the town, Stanley finds himself facing bigger problems than just the entire country calling his town racist. Armed with a cup of luke-warm coffee, his smelly dog, and a little supernatural help, it’s up to Sheriff Stanley to save his town from newshounds, killers, and circus clowns alike.
Not terribly far across town was a dog that was having second thoughts, or would be, if dogs could have second thoughts. They would have been big ones, too. Just this morning he’d been the king of his domain; he knew where the best trash could be found, he knew he could find cold water at the fountain in the park anytime he was thirsty, and he had the whole world to play in if he wanted it. All of that withstanding, it was a very good thing dogs had such a short memory, because now Mr. Cuddle Face’s only concern in the world was with getting his new blue collar off before someone saw him wearing rhinestones.
“Oh, look at oo, Mr. Cuddle Face! What did ums do?” A new concern was firmly etched into the animal’s short term memory as the big loud face showed up again with, he was certain, some new horror for him. As it was, he’d managed to slip his back paw up underneath the collar and was now struggling to both extract his paw and push off his collar at the same time while rotating on his free legs. The result was something that resembled a dog losing a ferret fight on top of a tripod.
Isabelle leaned over the pup, pulled his paw from the offending collar, and brought him up nose to nose with her. This was far more terrifying for the average dog than one would imagine. Another positive deficiency here for Mr. Cuddle Face was the fact that he could not see color; if he could he’d have been rather more alarmed by the bright red lipstick puckered up at the end of his snout which matched the curly mass of red hair that kept tickling his ears.
Already today he’d been tossed into a bathtub and scrubbed no less than three times with a tropical bubble bath, despite his howls and hopeless growls. The end product was that he now smelled less like a sewer and more like a trash bin behind a daiquiri bar. It was a marked improvement as far as Isabelle was concerned, but the only response it provoked from the dog was that his tail now smelled far more interesting than it used to when he chased it. After the baths he had been left on the bathroom floor, a wet soppy mess, while she ran out to find him the perfect leash and collar. On her return, Isabelle also had the unkind idea to use the blow-dryer and a comb to hurry things along in the drying department. That caused no small amount of uncustomary fluffiness to his coat. Then, as if the humiliation hadn’t been laid on thickly enough already, he’d been paraded around the street at the end of his shiny new leash and collar. He’d spent the entire time being mostly dragged as he was too busy gnawing at the leash attached to him to pay attention to unfamiliar commands like stay, heel, and don’t poo there.
Isabelle carried the cowed creature with her into the kitchen, where she’d begun preparing Stanley’s dinner. She couldn’t stand meatloaf, but she knew he was expecting to come home and find his traditional Tuesday meatloaf with his favorite dish of green bean casserole next to it. She set Mr. Cuddle Face down in the corner of the kitchen nearest the door, where she’d already placed his food dishes. Fortunately for him, the speed with which she had managed to get personalized dishes with his new name on them was a miracle that was lost to Mr. Cuddle Face. At any rate, he was certainly not grateful for the brown lumps of high fiber diet dog food he found therein. He turned his nose up at the dishes and sauntered over to her side at the stove, where he could smell the signs of some certainly non-high fiber activity going on. He affected his best hungry puppy whine to get her attention.
“No, Mr. Cuddle Face, this is people food. You go back over to your bowl and eat your yummy beef and gravy.” His look as he walked back to the bowl said that he was not yet willing to concede that the gray gelatinous matter in the bowl was indeed gravy.
“That’s a good baby boy, yes you are!” Isabelle turned back to the meatloaf that she was heavily salting, as was her habit. A second look at the white canister she’d been shaking liberally over the meatloaf had a picture of a smiling puppy, which she didn’t remember seeing on the salt shaker before. She turned it over in her hands and read the words Mr. Scratchy’s Flea Powder, For Contented Canines! Another turn revealed a skull and cross bones design indicating that it should under no circumstances be consumed. A small smile danced across her lips.
“Silly me! I must have set it right next to the salt and didn’t realize it.” She accidentally knocked a little more into the mixture with a minor exclamation of “Oops!” and set the flea powder down and picked up the similar salt canister next to it. “Well, Mr. Cuddle Face, I’ll bet if we put enough salt in here he’ll never notice it. You won’t tell on me, will you sweetums?” Her smile swirled with a mixture of innocent sweetness and slightly homicidal intent as she hummed happily to herself.
Somewhere in the vicinity of her feet Mr. Cuddle Face was busy expressing his feelings about the beef lumps and gravy paste in his bowl by piddling on the kitchen rug.
Author bio –
Ashley Chappell is the author of Of War and Taters (World Castle Publishing), an irreverent paranormal romp set in the fictional deep south. She is also the author of the young adult fantasy Dreams of Chaos series (Alice Will, Tilt and A God of Gods) which has been hailed by readers as “Darker and more entertaining than the Heroes of Olympus Series.” The series is set in the sentient god-universe Chaos where a teenage goddess is forced to contend with the destructive habits of her dysfunctional godly elders.
Upcoming releases include: The Hotting, a Dreams of Chaos spinoff adventure for younger readers; and The Editors, a new adult urban fantasy. Other works in progress also include outlining the script for her first comic The Harrows, a gritty adventure in which Hell is a job. She is also the creator of Core: A Game of Gods, the pivotal game played by the immortals in Tilt: Dreams of Chaos #2 that combines the best parts of Risk and poker with an element of role playing. The board game will be debuted in Spring 2015 (est) and downloadable boards and instructions will be available on her website for anyone adventurous enough to test their skills against the gods.
Ms. Chappell currently resides in Huntsville, AL with the love of her life. During her writing time her cats sometimes share her lap with her computer, should they choose to allow the usurpation at all. When not writing, reviewing, or burying her nose in one of her well-worn Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaiman novels, she can be found sailing with her fiancé on their boat ‘Dupracity’ (Fans of Kurt Vonnegut will want to ask her what that means).
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