Saturday, December 27, 2014

Joyland Review

5 out of 5 stars

This is my first Stephen King book and it is not at all what I was expecting. I guess I was expecting It or Cugo. What I got was thoughtful, emotional, funny, and smart. Joyland is part mystery, part ghost story, part coming of age story, and part drama.

Twenty-one year old Devin Jones takes a summer job at Joyland, a small amusement park along the Eastern Coast. During that summer and fall he meets new friends and uncovers an old murder.

Joyland is more about relationships than suspense. King tells a story about who we connect with and how they impact us. Even a brief true connection with someone can have a lifelong impact. I would definitely recommend Joyland.


Stand giveaway!

I am running a Goodreads giveaway for 10 signed first edition paperback copies of Stand!

Charlotte Marshall survived a nightmare. But moving forward past the trauma is a daily battle. Self-defense training, a high security home, and a trusted circle of family and friends help her improve. But fear still lives. Charlotte can’t lean on ritual and routine forever. She must stand on her own.
Desperate to move on Charlotte finds hope in volunteering with FindMe, an organization dedicated to finding people who are missing and helping their families. Her first case ends up being more than she bargained for and Charlotte soon learns that a little hope can be a dangerous thing.
She is strong. She is smart. But new threats come. A new danger lurks. Someone evil wants to destroy her.
The FBI has no answers.
A man is missing. His family deserves the truth.
But Charlotte is not alone in this new quest. Her sparring partner, Skeet, is far more complicated than he appears. Together they search for a missing man and discover that death is never far away. Death haunts, the truth taunts, and answers are just out of reach.
Charlotte will have to choose to stand and fight or to give in to the fear that waits for her.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Stand by Becky    Johnson


by Becky Johnson

Giveaway ends January 23, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Run is on sale!

Run is on sale today! Today through 12/24 you can get Run for $0.99. Also Stand will be released on 1/2/2015! I can't believe it is almost here. It has been such a journey to get to this point. I am kinda amazed that I am even at this point. I'm a published author! With another book on the way! This is the greatest thing ever.

I included the first two chapters of Run. Enjoy!!


It’s ironic really, the chain of events that led me here, kneeling in the dirt with a gun to my head.
My tale of woe, if I can be so bold as to call it that, started innocently enough. It started with spelling words and dinner.
As a student I was smart, but a horrible speller. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, my mother was a school teacher. In order to get me through my spelling test every week she worked with me every night. While I sat at the table working on my assigned words, she watched the news and made dinner. This was by far, the least favorite part of my day. I sat at the kitchen table wanting to be outside or really just about anywhere else. I wrote out my words for the week ten times each, used them in a sentence, and then tested myself with flashcards.
Certain, certain, certain. I am certain I do not want to be doing this. However, however, however. However, I don’t have a choice.
“Earlier today, police responded to a call in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Children playing at a local park discovered …” The newscaster’s voice droned on in the background.
Balance, balance, balance. What sentence could I use for balance? The seal balanced a ball on his nose. Stupid, but it would work.
“… the body of an unidentified female adolescent …”
My attention was caught. Spelling words forgotten.
“…sources say the victim was raped and tortured before she was murdered. Her body was mutilated. Police are asking that anyone…”
What? A strange feeling twisted in my stomach. The words of the newscaster left me feeling unsettled. I knew something bad had happened. For the first time in my life the world felt scary. It left me shaken. Why would someone kill a girl?
“I don’t get it, Mom, what happened?”
Once my mom realized I was talking about the story on the news, the television was quickly turned off.
“Charlotte Marshall, are you done with your spelling words? No? Then worry about finishing them.” My mom scolded.
I knew I wasn’t really in trouble because my mom hadn’t used my middle name. I also knew she wasn’t going to talk about the news story. I looked down at the papers spread before me, but I didn’t see them anymore. My mind whirled. Instinctively, I knew there was something different about this news story. The unknown girl stuck in my head.

Chapter 1: March 14, 7:00 a.m. – March 15, 11:30 p.m.

20 years later
Beep, beep, beep. I swatted blindly for my alarm clock. Morning is not my best time of day. Every morning at seven, it’s always the same routine. I hit the snooze button several times until the whining of my dog reminds me to get up, be a responsible pet owner, and let poor Max out. Fifteen minutes later, wearing sweats and a hoodie, I greet the morning with a grumble and my dog at my side.
Max is a great dog. Two years ago, I went to the shelter with a vague idea of what I wanted: something big, something sweet, and something that wouldn’t eat my nine-year-old calico. I found Max. He was sitting in the far corner of his cage. I watched several people approach him – he never even looked at them. A mix of Pit Bull and mutt, Max is a handsome, mid-sized dog – black with dark eyes and a white patch on his chest. Now, I often think Max has a sixth sense, and he knew me when I walked up to his cage. He seems to know things about people or places. When I crouched down and talked to him, his tail gave a quick wave, and he turned to look at me from his corner. In those big brown eyes, I saw a friend for life. I fell in love. A week later, I brought him home from the shelter. He has rarely left my side since.
That morning, just like every morning, Max was energetic and eager to walk and play. Much more eager than I was. Not only am I not a morning person, but this particular week I felt the pressure of my current book contract. I had two published books, both doing moderately well. Now with a contract for my third novel, I felt a little overwhelmed. This next book needed to be good. Consequently, I was far behind where I expected to be. I had started and rejected multiple stories; now my agent was expecting several chapters to review and I had nothing to show her. As Max and I walked back to my condo, my thoughts were scattered. I had too many alternate story scenarios swirling in my head. I had to get writing done today. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a clue what exactly I should write about.
Back inside, Max settled down next to me and Kitty, my calico, perched on my lap. Kitty is truly a horrible name for a cat. Like Max, she was a rescue. By the time she came to me, Kitty already knew her name. Consequently, I am stuck with a cat with the most embarrassing name ever. Embarrassing name or not, Kitty is my baby. Placing her on my lap, I started writing that next great book by staring resolutely at my computer screen. This was it, I told myself. Today was the day. I wasn’t moving until I had a story started. Three hours later the cursor blinking from a blank page mocked me. I had nothing.
I wasted time writing things that wouldn’t go anywhere. The story about the mermaid who wanted to be human – already done. A boy discovers something magical living under his bed. Yeah, I seriously am not destined to be a children’s writer. Pathetic. Ohh, I know a good one. I’ll write about a western school teacher, who does what, teaches? No good. I justified my pathetic ideas by telling myself that at least I was writing. In truth I had nothing. My day wasn’t totally wasted. I organized my shoes, watered my plants, okay my one plant, and I called my BFF. By three, I hadn’t written a single usable word.
Then it came to me.
To be honest, I am not sure what gave me the idea. One minute I was staring at a blank screen, the next I was typing away. The words flowed. I remembered this news story from when I was young, a news story that had stuck with me all of this time. A story that was shocking and sick and made me realize the world wasn’t safe. A young girl murdered, raped, tortured, her nipple removed, and the murderer was never caught. The vague concept of a story started to form. Two hours later I had a prologue completed.
After a brief break, where I realized Max was dying to go outside, I reviewed what I had written and decided the story needed more detail. I dove into the Internet to research. I wanted to find out everything I could about a twenty-year-old murder.
By nine-thirty the next morning I was still searching. My Google skills had failed me. I couldn’t find anything about a murder in Camden County, New Jersey in the 1990s. It was like it never happened. I tried searching for murders of adolescent girls and did a broad search for all murders that were committed in Camden County during the years I was still in school. Still nothing. Frustrated, I was tempted to throw in the towel and rely on my imagination. I had to complete the story cooking in my mind. Something drove me to keep on. Something inside me wanted answers.
Then I stumbled onto a collection of websites that gave me more than I had bargained for. Not just one murder in one town, but the sites were listed by state, showing all unsolved murders. I found my girl. She was a sixteen-year-old girl, five feet and two inches tall, one hundred and three pounds, named Emily Carmichael. Emily. The site had her picture. Her innocent, brown eyes laughed out at me from my computer screen. Emily would have been thirty-three if she had lived. Just two years older than me. She was killed in May of 1992. Her killer had never been found.
I was shocked. I had gone looking for details about the murder that I vaguely remembered. It was just a story to me; nameless and faceless. What I found was a girl. It wasn’t just a story anymore. My story had a name and a face. I found myself studying her picture, memorizing her dark hair and eyes. She looked so young and innocent. Emily. The opposite of me in many ways, but I felt connected to her. I can’t explain it. But the fact that I remembered her news story from when I was a child and the fact that I was now looking at her face made this feel personal. I had to know more.
Hours later I sat back in my seat, shocked. Emily wasn’t alone.
I had expected to find unsolved murders. What I didn’t expect was all of the lost girls. Girls just like Emily. When I had typed “unsolved murder New Jersey” into the search engine I did not expect the list of victims to contain so many young girls. I couldn’t help but feel the need to find out more about them all. Emily was one of many. I had to find out what had happened to all of these girls.
The ringing of my phone made me jump. I had been totally focused. But the annoying “Droid” ring of my phone is nearly impossible to ignore. In a move totally against my character, I picked up my cell from beside me and answered without even looking at the caller ID. I always look. That shows how focused I had been on those murders.
“Char, how are you sweetie? I wanted to make sure we were still on for dinner tonight?” My mother, as usual, did not pause to hear my answer, but got straight to the point. In other words, her call was an important motherly reminder. It was her tone that said I better be a good daughter and remember our dinner tonight.
In truth, I had forgotten. I was so buried in the world of Emily that time and the outside world had ceased to exist. My mother’s voice intruding in those thoughts felt shocking. Her tone jolted me back to reality. I glanced at the clock. It was five-fifteen. Close, but I could still get ready and be at the restaurant by six.
“Of course I remembered Mom; I’m looking forward to it.” Lie, lie, lie, lie.
“All right darling, I’ll see you soon. Don’t forget to bring the casserole dish I gave you leftovers in. I need it for a potluck at church.”
“I won’t, Mom. See you soon.”
I hung up the phone. Looking back at the case files and faces still showing on the computer screen, my obsession seemed strange and macabre. I was embarrassed that I had spent the whole day researching the death of a girl I never knew. I rationalized that it gave me a working idea for my book. I saved my rough draft, and without thinking about why I did it, I saved my internet searches, closed down my computer, and started to get ready.
At six on the dot I was at the restaurant, clean casserole dish in hand, wearing mom-approved clothing of a casual pink skirt, tank, cardigan, and flip-flops. I spotted my mother sitting at a table dressed in a beige button-down top and matching slacks. No matter when I meet her, she is always there first. Scanning me, her eyes disapproved. No matter what I wear, it is never the right outfit.
“Sweetheart, it is so good to see you wearing a nice bright color.” This was a subtle dig about my love for the color black. Right now, attired in a brightly colored pink skirt and matching tank and cardigan set, I am out of my comfort zone. But I did it for her.
My mother embraced me with the familiar scent of Gardenias. Her nails were tipped with the customary petal pink nail polish she always wears. Pink and Gardenias are my mother’s signatures. It’s one of the many things she does not understand about me. I’ve never had a signature anything. I’ve tried, but I always end up bored with one particular scent or color, except for black. I don’t wear black in a trendy, hipster sort of way. No, I just tend to avoid color. It’s neutral.
My mother pulled back with a cheery smile. She loves me dearly, she just doesn’t understand me, but then I don’t understand her, so I guess we are even. We both try, so that has to mean something.
When I was a child, I used to imagine that I was adopted and somewhere out there I had parents who were just like me: internal, moody, intellectual, thoughtful. Looking across the table, I wonder how I could have ever thought that. My mother and I look so much alike. There is no mistaking the family relationship – same light blond hair, same dark blue eyes, same oval face with unfortunate round cheeks, and the same mouth with full lips and a slight overbite. Main difference? My mom is petite and slender, and has never weighed more than one hundred and fifteen pounds – except when she was pregnant. I often feel like a giant next to her. I am only a few inches taller – but the difference between her one hundred and fifteen and my one-forty seems huge. If I say anything about my weight, my perfect mom is always happy to give me advice on losing it.
Over a dinner of pasta for me, what can I say I love carbs, and a light salad without dressing for her, we both tried to communicate around the landmines of differences between us. Politics, religion, emotions are all hot topics to avoid. So we stuck to general topics like cleaning. Apparently, vinegar will keep those pesky ants I get every year from bothering me. Who knew? In the midst of the polite conversation, I found myself wanting to talk to her about today, about Emily. Despite our differences she is my mom, and I felt the need to share what I found and how it captivated me.
“I wrote some for my book today.” It was an easy and innocent start.
“Oh, that’s lovely, I was sure you would have written soon.” A mother’s eternal optimism.
“Actually, my writing today reminded me of a news story from when I was little. Do you remember hearing about Emily Carmichael on the news? She was found in Cherry Hill. It’s such a horrible story. A couple of kids found her body.”
My mother paled and interrupted, “Oh darling, I don’t know why you focus on such dreadful things. A murdered girl! It’s a wonder you get any sleep at all with all those ideas in your head. Really.” Then she neatly switched gears. “Did I tell you that I spoke with Helen Roberts the other day? You remember Helen. Her daughter Lindsey is a few years younger than you. Well Lindsey just had her second child, a boy.”
My mom’s voice faded to the background. I have heard versions of this for years. Apparently, everyone I know is happily married with children. My mother’s message was subtle but received. Okay, sometimes it’s not so subtle. I should be worried about my single status. I should be working on getting married and having children. Sometimes it’s easier to just let her ramble on.
At the end of our dinner, mother and I hugged before I drove home. We get together once a month, and the evening of catching up has exhausted me. When I got home I took Max out, showered, and then fell into bed.
I dreamt of Emily.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

December Newsletter

Wow! I can’t believe it’s almost the end of 2014! What a year it has been. I wrote two books. I published my first novel and have my second novel ready to be published in 2015. 2015 promises to be a busy year. Stand will be released January 2nd. I have a blog tour scheduled for January. The third book in the Charlotte Marshall series is due out in mid-2015. Phew! I have a lot to keep me busy. I couldn't be happier!

Stand is available now for pre-order on Amazon.

Here is a preview of the first chapter. Enjoy!

Chapter 1

My own scream woke me.

Zero to sixty in less than a second. One second I was sound asleep, and the next I was bolt upright in bed with the sound of my scream still echoing across the bedroom. My heart thundered in my chest, and my panting breaths sounded loud in the silence. My shaking hands gripped the blanket in tight fists. Kitty looked up at me from her cozy spot at the end of the bed. Yellow eyes blinked. Then she meowed in sympathy and dropped her calico head back down onto her paws. She used to love sleeping curled right up against me. But my regular nightmares disrupted her. Unfortunately nightmares are not an uncommon occurrence. I have suffered from them ever since Lawrence Pheares.

Nine months ago I faced a monster, a murderer responsible for the deaths of twenty-three innocent girls. At night he haunts me. Sometimes the dreams are a reenactment of the events. I see Pheares choking me. Or I remember Jack and Pheares fighting. Sometimes the nightmares are filled with images of my lost girls. I watch helpless as Emily runs from a mad man. I cannot save her. The worst ones though, the dreams that make it impossible for me to go back to sleep, are the ones like the nightmare I just woke up from. They leave me with a jumble of images and tangled feelings. Nothing concrete that makes sense. When I wake up screaming, I am overwhelmed with terror. That’s the only feeling or sense I get from these dreams, bone deep fear.

According to my therapist I am suffering from PTSD. Simple letters for a life that is changed by trauma. Nine months ago I had lived the nightmare. It all began so simply. I was doing research for my next novel when I stumbled onto a serial killer and twenty-three girls who were abducted, raped, tortured, murdered, and then thrown away. When I found the killer, he found me. I almost didn’t survive. In the end I beat Lawrence Pheares, but in doing so I was forever changed.

Without conscious thought, my hand reached over to cover the E tattooed on the inside of my right arm, a daily reminder of what I had survived and a tribute to those innocent girls who did not.

In the months since I discovered evidence of a serial killer and my life became entwined with those lost girls who were heartlessly killed by a madman, I had become a different person, scared of my own shadow. At first it wasn’t so bad. I was still cruising on adrenaline. Now every day is a battle.

When I let myself really think about it, thoughts of Georgia frighten me the most. I never learned from Pheares what role she played in the killings, but I knew in my heart that she had one. Pheares was dead. But I knew Georgia was still out there. There was no evidence of this, but my gut told me different. I knew she was alive. I could feel her watching me.

I looked over at my bedside clock. It was four forty-three in the morning. There was no point in trying to go back to sleep. My body was slick with sweat and the hands I ran over my face shook. Max, my black Pit Bull mix, looked at me from his spot beside my bed. His ears were perked. Brown eyes focused on me. He looked ready to get up with me or go back to sleep, depending on my next move. These days Max rarely leaves my side. He is a good friend.

I swung my legs over and sat on the edge of the bed. A few deep breaths later my heart was no longer racing, and I was ready to get up.

I start every morning with yoga. It is one of my therapies. Sometimes I think if I don’t do the little things like yoga, running, and journaling, I will plunge into a well of terror that will dominate me. So every morning, no matter what, I make myself stick to my routine, as though that alone will save me. That morning my poses were a little shaky from my nightmare, but I made it through them. Mountain pose. Forward bend. Down dog. I could feel myself steadying. Warrior two. Down dog. Tree pose. I finished with two sun salutations then stood in mountain pose just breathing.

Max knows my new pattern. When my routine was finished he was ready to go. He leaned his big body against me and gave that look dog owners everywhere know – outside please.

I will admit I am afraid of becoming agoraphobic. It would be so easy. But I make myself go outside. If I didn’t, I think I could live a very content and safe life, never leaving the safety of my home. But that would mean that Pheares won. I can’t let him win. So, every day I force myself to venture outdoors. I stand outside and consider it a small victory in the midst of many battles. Max helps.

I grabbed Max’s leash from the hall closet and layered on warm winter gear. Coat, gloves, hat, boots. December in New Jersey is cold. It was so early that it was dark outside and very still. It had already been a rough icy winter. There were several inches of snow on the ground. I paused at my front door, Max waited patiently on his leash beside me. A few deep breaths, and I was able to convince myself to open the door.

My last home burned down, part of the drama I endured nine months ago with Pheares. He burned my home and destroyed everything I owned. He took so much from me, but at the end I was still standing. After a brief stay in a temporary condo, courtesy of my agent, my new home is comfortably located in a quiet development with lots of space between the houses and a big fenced backyard for Max. The small two story home has a nice open floor plan downstairs and two bedrooms upstairs. It backs up to trees and a lake, so it is quiet.

It feels like too much quiet sometimes, but I like it.

The only nice thing about taking Max outside in the winter is that he is as happy to move quickly and get back inside as I am. He is not a fan of the cold. My breath left cold puffs of fog in the air and I shifted in place to stay warm. It was eerily quiet out, still too early for most of the world to be stirring. As I waited for Max to finish his business, headlights flashed over my front door. A car turned the corner onto my street. I tensed. As it rolled closer I recognized the logo of the security company hired to patrol my neighborhood. It was one of things that attracted me to this development. I was looking for a sense of security, wanting to feel safe. It hasn’t worked, but I gave the security car a wave as it slowly moved past my house. Looks like Carl. I had made a point to know every guard that patrolled. I know everyone who is a help or a possible threat in my fragile world.

Max finished his business, shivered from the chilly air, and whined to go back inside. We ran toward the door. After the cold the first wave of warmth was almost too much. I didn’t really relax until I heard the locks click. I was glad to be out of the cold and the dark. I always breathe a little easier when I am safely locked inside my home.

I striped off all the winter gear I had piled on and put them back in their respective places in the hall closet.

After a shower to wash away the sweat from my nightmare and yoga, and then a bowl of Cheerios, I felt almost ready to face the day.

I stood facing the mirror wearing a pair of yoga pants and a sports bra, my other daily ritual. I took stock of my body and its changes. Same long light blonde hair pulled back into a sensible ponytail, same dark blue eyes and overbite. The differences from nine months ago are obvious. I’ve lost over twenty-five pounds. Anything less than a hundred and twenty on my frame is too skinny. I was too skinny. The dark circles under my eyes were almost permanent. The biggest change though is my eyes. I used to be innocent, innocent to murder and cruelty. I’m not anymore. My eyes now are old. The changes were obvious. However, they were not all negative. I was strong. My arms had muscles they never had before. I was tough, inside and out. Looking at my reflection I repeated the same positive mantra I said every morning. You are strong. You are a survivor. Then I finished getting dressed and drove into Philly.

Happy Holidays!
Becky Johnson

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Face of Fear Review

5 out of 5 stars

The Face of Fear is roller-coaster ride of a read. I could not put it down. From the very first chapter Dean Koontz builds the suspense and tension all the way until the end.

Graham Harris is a mountain climber injured in a fall. Now he has a severe fear of heights and clairvoyance which allows him to see into the mind of a murderer. Working late in a high rise in New York, Graham and his girlfriend Connie come face to face with the killer known as the Butcher.

I would highly recommend this book to fans of suspense/thrillers. It was amazing!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Hazardous Duty Review

4 out of 5 stars

Gabby St. Claire is a crime scene cleaner who wants to be a forensic scientist. While cleaning a murder scene she finds a new piece of evidence. She soon finds herself in the middle of a mystery surrounded by arson, bomb threats, and dead bodies.

Hazardous Duty is a fun, fast paced, enjoyable read. The main character Gabby has a great voice, and the supporting characters are in turn funny and touching.

As this is the first in a series I would definitely enjoy reading the others. Christy Barritt created a great story with great characters.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Innocent Review

5 out of 5 stars

This is only my second book by David Baldacci, but I may have to put him on my to read author list. I loved it. I found the first few chapters slow because I wasn't sure why I was getting so much detail about things that didn't seem important. But David Baldacci crafts an intricate story. He builds layers and depth. The characters are believable and moving. The pace keeps building till at one point I had to get up and walk around because I had all this energy from the book!

I would recommend The Innocent to fans of thrillers and political intrigue.