Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Spent Identity~ Book Tour & Giveaway

Annalisse Series, Book 2
A small amount of Romance 
(not the focal point of the story)
Date Published: 12-11-2019
Publisher: Ewephoric Publishing

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Antiquities appraiser Annalisse Drury drives to her family farm in upstate New York to consult with Aunt Kate about her troubled relationship with Greek tycoon, Alec Zavos. When Annalisse arrives, she learns the beloved farm she expects to inherit is for sale.

That same morning, they find a stranger’s body decaying in the barn. Then her aunt vanishes.

In Spent Identity, Annalisse and Alec join forces for the second time. They must find the mastermind behind her aunt’s abduction before Kate’s health issues worsen. Was the corpse in the barn a coincidence or a warning? The clock ticks for Annalisse to find her aunt and repair what she has left with the man she loves.

RABT TOUR 2019/2020

Chapter Two
(Partial of this chapter–1,834 words.)
Split rail fencing whizzed past Annalisse in a blur. Hundreds of stained boards melted into each other in her sprint to catch up to Ethan. He ran yards ahead in the long breezeway leading from the house to the big barn. Kate was breathing heavily behind Annalisse.
Closer to the barn, the air was heavy with the undeniable odor of advanced decomposition, a ripe chemical cocktail so powerful she had to stop to cough and cover her nose.
Who died in the barn?
She stumbled in the dirt tracks left by farming equipment and twisted her ankle in a hole. Reaching for the nearest post, she held on, closing her eyes, unable to take another step.
Ethan trotted back to her. “Annalisse, did you hurt yourself?” His words heated her neck.
“Need a minute.” Her forehead rested against the grooves where she welcomed the rough edges and oily scent of treated wood. “Sprinting on a cup of Kate’s coffee wasn’t too swift.”
“Got a case of the colly-wobbles myself.”
Ethan’s tight-lipped smile offered little sympathy.
“Colly-wobbles?” Annalisse smiled back, guessing his slang meant he felt as horrible as she did.
Kate appeared behind her, out of breath. “No time to dally. Don’t like tracing my steps twice. It’s supposed to be over ninety today. That person isn’t going to smell any fresher by noon. Step it up.”
“Remember what the doc said. I don’t keep the AED in the barn.” Annalisse backed against the post, rubbing the soreness out of her ankle.
“I don’t plan to use one, and the guy over there’s too dead to need one.” Kate pointed toward the barn, then she asked Ethan, “Anyone we know?”
“Shouldn’t we call the coppers?” He lifted his phone from a pocket.
Just like Ethan—straight out of a Dick Tracy flick. Ethan’s little house was a museum of action heroes and crusaders. Pristine comic books—American, Japanese, and nineteenth-century penny dreadfuls from the UK—were in clear protective sleeves on every tabletop and free counter space. The mark of a true collector.
When Ethan wasn’t trimming feet, feeding the stock, or sitting on a tractor, he lounged on his futon with a detective thriller or mystery, keeping up with his book club’s newest releases. Instead of typical items like canned goods and dishes, paperbacks lined his kitchen cabinets. Annalisse worried about his terrible eating habits and brought him meals. Especially on summer days when he sweated off his weight. He rarely accepted Kate’s food because he found her cooking too rich.
The fact that they were on their way to view a corpse wouldn’t phase Ethan or her aunt. People with livestock have a pragmatic attitude toward death. The countless lambing seasons where Kate lost ewes from uterine prolapses and multiple births put death on a list of the expected for Walker Farm. One winter, a pair of domestic dogs jumped into the pasture and slaughtered twenty-eight head of sheep in a matter of minutes—the loss of life in volume toughens a person’s psyche. That 2:00 a.m. predator attack cemented how Annalisse dealt with the dying and dead. She frequently heard Kate explain it best: “When you have livestock, you have dead stock.”
Kate reached out, her eyes mournful. “I haven’t forgotten what you went through with the Freeman girl. A look-see and we skedaddle. I promise.”
“Do you want me to call?” Ethan waggled his phone toward Kate.
“Not yet. We’ll check it out first. I don’t tolerate trespassers, especially those who drop dead on my property.”
Annalisse’s limited enthusiasm for an impromptu viewing had faded. She walked past the stall, barely acknowledging the pair of legs in the doorway. “We’re contaminating a homicide or suicide scene. Aren’t you worried about stepping on clues?”
“I didn’t say we’d manhandle the guy. Stay there if you want.” Kate shrugged and spun a one-eighty.
“Who’s the Freeman girl?” Ethan arched his brows.
“Never mind, young man.” Kate cut him off.
“Annalisse has a point—we should stay here. Our footprints in the dirt could implicate us.”
Kate shrugged. “What’s a few more? You work here, and I live here. We’ll be careful.”
Annalisse knew changing Kate’s mind was an exercise in futility. A stranger had died on Kate’s property. Auntie was damned sure going to find out who and why. But for Annalisse, the memory of finding Samantha Freeman’s buried body last fall didn’t help in the motivation department.
“No one touches him without gloves.”
From the vet chest inside the barn’s entry, Annalisse jiggled disposable obstetric gloves over her hands and arms to the shoulder. Gloves they used when a ewe or cow needed help during delivery. What they were doing was wrong on so many levels, but she never said no to Kate. She’d learned that from a young age. Annalisse intentionally turned her back on the pair of legs sticking out of the first stall, praying they’d miraculously disappear like they had for the Wicked Witch of the East in Munchkin land.
“Don’t fuss with the gloves. Covering the hands is good enough.” Kate erupted into a smoker’s cough and staggered back. “His smell’s about to knock me over. Did he crap his pants?”
“Maybe. Carbon dioxide from ruptured membranes—fluids leak from every opening.”
Annalisse burped. Her mouth tasted like she’d fought the sheep for their cud and won. “Can’t stay here long.”
“It’s called autolysis. I can take over if you want.”
Ethan’s statement rang with the authority of a bookish sleuth. As if he’d actually investigated crimes before, which, of course, he hadn’t.
In the distance, a driver skidded its car’s tires, raising the urgency of the task at hand. Focus and move. Annalisse jumped into the next stall covered in fresh pine shavings and grabbed a breath, then another. Do this. It’s not Sam.
She joined Kate next to the open stall. The man was facedown and shoeless, in unmatched socks—athletic on one foot, a dark dress sock on the other. Both with holes in the material. He could’ve arrived at the farm alive—committed suicide or murdered or was dropped off after death with outside help. Common sense made the latter more likely from rigor’s grip on the body and his wet clothes.
Annalisse knelt, grabbed an ankle with two fingers, and shook.
“Whew, ripe.” She waved the air and held her nose with the clean glove. She glided a hand lightly along the slick fabric. The body looked frail, and his stained T-shirt and floral pants could’ve belonged to a woman. “Where are his shoes, and why is he soaked through?” Annalisse held up her palm smeared with moisture.
“Check pockets for ID.” Kate gave Annalisse a gentle prod. “Hurry.”
Instinct warned her to leave and let the authorities handle the corpse, but the tone in Kate’s voice pushed Annalisse on. Careful not to rumple the fabric too much, she searched the man’s torso.
“Something here.” Annalisse hardly recognized her strained voice.
Behind her, Kate rolled the stall door wider. “Grab it.”
Annalisse slid a glove inside the back pocket and came up with a billfold. Turning from the body, she flipped through the compartments of the chintzy wallet.
“No money or driver’s license, just this.” She extracted a damp, faded card and showed it to Kate.
Kate drew Annalisse’s wrist closer. “City of New York. Thomas Taylor.” She gasped and withdrew. “Thomas? God no! I need to see his face. Ethan, get a glove on and show me his face.” Her chartreuse complexion left Annalisse with more questions.
“I’m already down here. Who’s Thomas?”
Kate turned away speechless, making it impossible to read her.
A creep of unease gripped Annalisse’s muscles. “Auntie?”
“Huh. I have an Uncle Tom Taylor, but he’s a journo in Europe somewhere.” Ethan tossed the remark out matter-of-factly, and Annalisse caught Kate passing him a dirty look.
“Annalisse, put that card back and stick it in his pocket like you found it. Get away. You’re done with this unfortunate gentleman.” Kate’s sharp tone and movements loosened a wisp of hair from her bun. “We’re wasting time. Glove up now, Ethan.”
Annalisse mused how Kate had changed the body from an intruder into a gentleman. The dead man, Thomas, had triggered her sympathy or perhaps a happier memory. Kate drenched the name in intimacy. Annalisse sensed that her aunt had tucked away an earlier trauma much deeper than selling the farm or finding a body on the premises.
The formal letter from Jeremy nagged her. And in the mix, a dead man inside the barn—on the same day. Coincidence? Jeremy connived, but murder to prove a point wasn’t his style. Subtle trickery was more like him. And anyway, he had the legal right to liquidate an asset instead of frighten his mother from the farm.
Struggling against her gag reflex, she returned the wallet and made room for Ethan.
He slowly lifted the corpse by the shoulder, turning it over so Kate could see his face.
The first signs of bloat disfigured the body but not enough to obscure his features. Annalisse didn’t recognize him, but she couldn’t be sure about her aunt. Thomas Taylor meant something to Kate.
Ethan bent over the man’s neck. “Purplish lines. Maybe ligature strangulation. Check out his eyes. See those dots on the white part? Petechial hemorrhage. The bloke’s been strangled all right.” He exposed the dead man’s gums. “Yeah. Missing teeth. I found dentures not far from the barn. They’re probably his. Let’s gap it.”
A satisfied hum passed Kate’s throat. “Agreed. Set him the way he was. Everyone out. Gloves off and in the garbage. We’ll have to tell the police we touched the body; they’ll find our gloves anyway. I’ll mention the teeth you found. I’m calling them now. Meet me at the house.”
Kate and Ethan left, and the barn fell silent. In fact, the only sounds inside since they’d arrived were human noises. Annalisse jogged near the end stall where pine shavings freshened the air, and she stripped the crackling gloves from her arms. She’d forgotten about Maggie.
“Maggie girl?” She peered into the dim stall for the old farm horse.
The buckskin mare moved deeper into the corner; her ears pinned back.
“Mag, don’t worry. I know it smells bad in here.”
The horse smelled death. Most animals shied from it, but predators were drawn to it. On kill days when the slaughter truck arrived, every sheep downwind moved to another part of the pasture. Blood and death couldn’t be scoured from the traveling slaughter van, no matter the effort.
“You heard Miss Walker. Gap it.” Ethan approached from out of nowhere and took her gloves. He placed them in an empty feed sack along with his own and shoved the bag down the side of the garbage barrel. “Come on.” He gently nudged Annalisse’s shoulder. “I’ll move the mare when the bloke’s gone.”

Chapter Four
(Partial of this chapter—1,075 words)
Annalisse tightened her grip on Alec’s hand when they found the slider door closed at the barn entrance. She was sure the door was open when she drove the BMW across the street. Maybe Kate had closed it to keep the wind and rain out. Talking herself out of being worried, she shuddered as the door squeaked its way along the rails. The noise always grated on her nerves.
“Kate?” Alec called out into the dead air.
Annalisse hurried past him. “Auntie!” she yelled. “Alec, check the office and tack rooms. I’ll peek inside the arena.” The barn was eerily quiet. Too quiet. She pushed dread aside, along with the dull headache behind her eye sockets.
“No.” He snatched her hand back and pulled her next to him. The look that passed over his face was one of deep concern. “We stay together. Walk with me.”
She hated to admit her stubborn streak was similar to Kate’s. Alec could attest to that. She’d left their Turkish hotel on her own to save his mother from the Russian mafia after she was told to stay put. Almost twenty years living with and around her aunt had made Annalisse more independent and less afraid in dangerous situations. It was hard to know if that was a good trait to have.
Not a single horse snickered or whinnied, and the barn’s air hung heavily in clean bedding. Annalisse’s blouse stuck to her arms underneath the jacket from fear or mugginess, or both. Alec must have moved the mares into the lower barns or pastures. She glanced into Kristol Magic’s and Harriet’s vacant stalls.
“Harriet’s running with the mares? Are any of the thoroughbreds here?”
Alec shook his head. “If Kate planned to spend time with the horses, she won’t find ’em here.”
“Damn. I should’ve taken her to the house.” The flutter of regret couldn’t rewrite what Annalisse had done. “Is it hot in here?”
She shucked her jacket and whispered under her breath, “Aunt Kate, why didn’t you come back to the house?” She ran to the end of the aisle where brick and concrete stopped and arena started, searching for her.
“Slow down, art lady.” He stopped her from going deeper into the covered arena that was groomed and perfect, without a single shoe or hoof print marring the soil.
“She must have walked down to the broodmare barns. Where else would she be? In that soaking rain, she wouldn’t stand at the fences.” Annalisse wrapped an arm around Alec’s waist. “It’s logical she’d go to the horses.”
“Hard to believe she’d walk there in that muck. Let’s go back and get the ATV.”
“Isn’t your breeder manager working today?” Annalisse planted her feet on the bricks. “Can’t you call him to check down there?”
“I told him to take the weekend off.”
“You go. I’ll stay here in case Aunt Kate shows up.”
“We go together. We’ve checked this building already. She’s not here.”
Annalisse stomped her boot, feeling like a spoiled little kid. “I’m not moving from here. I dropped her here. I’m staying here.” She folded her arms and glared at him.
Alec softened. “Fine. Here.” He reached around and extracted his pistol, handing it to her. “Don’t give me that look. Take it. You don’t have your phone on you, and neither do I. One of us needs a cell phone with our contacts. Promise me you’ll stay in the office.” He showed her again how to use the Glock. “If Kate returns—keep her here.”
The hair stood up on the nape of her neck. Alec was being dramatic. After all, they were alone in the barn. Why would they need a gun out here?
“I’m not taking your gun, Alec. When you come back, bring my purse, then we’ll both have a weapon.”
He had cleared the end of the barn before she’d finished her sentence.
“Stay in my office,” he hollered over his shoulder in the strengthening wind.
“Great. Just great.”
Annalisse slid the Glock into the jacket she carried and wandered the length of the barn, taking more time inside each stall. Heaven forbid, Kate had collapsed in one of them. She found nothing but fresh shavings and a halter left behind by someone too hasty or lazy to put it back with the rest. She checked the office in case Alec returned and found she hadn’t listened to his instructions again.
The heat inside his sanctuary was stifling. Laying the jacket over the chair back, she fluffed her blouse, sending air between skin and sticky polyester. She plopped down in the chair, skidding backward on the plastic desk mat. Her stomach roiled with acid, which hardly helped her headache.
The refrigerator was fully stocked with water, and she helped herself to a bottle, spending a few extra moments in front of the open fridge door. The cold air recharged her. Annalisse helped herself to ibuprofen from Alec’s desk drawer and sat down again, spinning a three-sixty in her chair. She admired the tall crystal trophies with golden horses frozen in time. Multicolored rosettes scattered about attested to Brookehaven’s successes on the racetrack. Glass cases with Alec’s achievements in the world of horseracing lined two walls. He’d surrounded himself with the things that were important to him, but not a single tchotchke or photograph of his dad, his stock car days, or the sports cars that kept Alec on corporate planes so much.
Memories of Alec’s statesmanlike father, a charismatic man she’d met briefly in Greece, were still too painful for everyone who’d lived through the attack on the Gen Amore. Time couldn’t wipe away those hateful men and the devastation they’d caused to the Zavos family on the Aegean Sea.
Annalisse’s first time in the ocean on the most beautiful yacht—Gen, forced to witness her husband’s murder, and Alec mercifully knocked out where he’d missed the gruesome display. Annalisse had seen it all, and she wished she hadn’t. There were disturbing details of Pearce’s battle with the mafia that she still kept from Alec to this day. She hoped by keeping them tucked away, the images would eventually fade from her nightmares.
At least being with Aunt Kate on the farm had spared Annalisse the firsthand knowledge of her own family’s final moments. Kate had saved Annalisse from her parents’ and sister’s fate, albeit by accident.

About the Author

Marlene M. Bell is an award-winning writer and acclaimed artist as well as a photographer. Her sheep landscapes grace the covers of Sheep!, The Shepherd, Ranch & Rural Living, and Sheep Industry News, to name a few. SPENT IDENTITY is the second book in the Annalisse Series.

Her catalog venture, Ewephoric, began in 1985 out of her desire to locate personalized sheep stationery. She rarely found sheep products through catalogs and set out to design them herself. Ewephoric gifts online can be found at Her books at:

Marlene and her husband, Gregg, reside in beautiful East Texas on a wooded ranch with their dreadfully spoiled horned Dorset sheep, a large Maremma guard dog named Tia, along with Hollywood, Leo, and Squeaks, the cats that believe they rule the household—and do.

Contact Links

Twitter: @ewephoric

Purchase Links

RABT Book Tours & PR


  1. Thank you for being part of the Spent Identity Tour!

  2. Thanks for hosting

  3. It really sounds like an attention keeper and a book I couldn't put down

  4. Another great book to discover. Thanks so much for sharing this with us.

  5. I love mysteries and this sounds like it would be a good one to figure out

  6. I like that she is in antiques, and the murder mystery and what happened to her aunt kind of draws you in.

  7. I like mysteries. Thanks for the chance to win it!!

  8. "What interests you about this book?" This book sounds like it has mystery, romance, and excitement!