Recent Happenings

Las Cruces author publishes ‘Eye of Newt, Skin of Toad’

Fenton R. Kay

Posted Tuesday, February 1, 2022 12:30 pm

Bulletin Report

By Mike Cook

Las Cruces Bulletin

“Eye of Newt, Skin of Toad” is the latest in Las Cruces author Fenton R. Kay’s O’Flaithearta Biological Consultants mystery series.

In this book, which was published in 2021, “a musician is found dead in an archaeological site pit in a Las Vegas park. The man was attending a Wiccan celebration at a power center in the park. An autopsy reveals he died of toad poisoning. A shady casino owner is found executed in a canyon in the Red Rock National Conservation Area (near) Las Vegas. The casino owner owed the musician money. An Ayahuasca shaman seems to be connected to both of the men. The herbster, an authority on desert amphibians, is hired by the Las Vegas Metro Department to help determine what kind of toad provided the poison. Herb finds himself in Peru’s Amazon Forest collecting skin swabs from poison dart frogs and is nearly murdered.”

Kay is a biologist with more than 50 years of experience. He has a Ph.D. in biology from New Mexico State University and a master’s of science and a bachelor’s of science, both from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He retired from Zia Engineering & Environmental Consulting, LLC of Las Cruces in 2011 and self-published his first book in 2019.

Kay will be one of the featured authors, selling and signing copies of his books, at the Las Cruces Writers Group’s Book Lovers Book Signing and Sale, 2-4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 6, in the Good Samaritan Society Social Center, 3011 Buena Vida Circle in Las Cruces.

Kay’s other books are “Bear Market: An O’Flaithearta Biological Consultants Mystery,” “Le Cochon Volant: The Flying Pig,” “The Jaguar Drum,” “The Old Courthouse: Carol Montgomery  No. 1” and “Chipmunk Jumped Over Him: A Coming of Age Story,”

Kay’s books are available on amazon.com.

Freebie at Amazon – The Old Courthouse

The Kindle version of The Old Courthouse will be available free at Amazon.com from Feb 5 to Feb 9, 2022. Great Valentine’s day read and the price is certainly right.

Here’s a little blurb from the book –

Carol locked the truck, and she and Ami walked around the south side of the courthouse. As they passed the walled courtyard, they noticed what looked like a broken window behind the shrubs that lined the area. Carol fiddled with the lock on the temporary gate until it opened. The pair walked into the courtyard, closing the gate behind them.

“Hmm – if someone is or was in here, they must have climbed over the wall.”

“Carol, look over there, by that shrub. That looks like a shoe.”

“So it does, and it looks like that shoe is enclosing a foot.”

Carol and Ami walked slowly and quietly to where the shod foot stuck out from under the large oleander shrub. Carol moved around to one side and pulled the oleanders apart. Under the shrub, next to the wall, and right below the broken window, was a person. The person did not seem to be breathing.

“Oh, shit, Ami, I think we may have a corpse. This person doesn’t have the pink flush of life about them.”

Ami looked over Carol’s shoulder.

“Damn.! I think you are right, boss. Here, let me tap on the shoe and see if we get a response.”

Ami carefully tapped the sole of the protruding shoe with her foot. Nothing happened.

“Ami, I’m going to check for a pulse,” said Carol as she crawled behind the shrubs.

Carol put her fingers on the side of the person’s neck and pressed lightly. She felt no pulse.

“Ami, call 911 and report a possible dead person. Request an ambulance.”

The Old Courthouse is Live on Amazon – Update 12-31-21

At long last, the first Carol Montgomery mystery, The Old Courthouse, is available in the Kindle version on Amazon. The paperback version is now also available on Amazon.

Here’s the blurb that will be on my author page (Amazon.com/author/fentonkay)

at Amazon.

The old county courthouse, a WPA project from the 1930s, is said to be haunted. A paranormal tour group leads regular night-time ghost tours of the courthouse. Among the haunts they claim are a screaming woman who died suddenly in her jail cell and a judge that died in his office. A developer has purchased the building and plans to renovate it and make it a hotel and convention center. The paranormal tours and purported haunts scared off his early investors. The developer has hired Carol Montgomery to evaluate the old adobe building’s structure as he seeks new investors. Carol Montgomery, Ph.D., is a structural engineer specializing in adobe buildings. A city councilman, and friend of Carol’s, tells her that he heard strange noises coming from the jail one night and asks her to see if she can determine the source while she is doing her evaluation. Carol discovers a dead man outside the building and that someone lives in the old jail. She needs to examine the building’s foundation inside the basement vault. The developer suddenly cannot find the combination.

This is a fun read, and it’s not too long – actually, it’s a novella in length. I think you’ll really like the cat – Rogue. I sure enjoyed writing her.

Just for grins – here’s the opening chapter –

Good evening, folks. Welcome to the Old Courthouse Paranormal Tour. As you all probably know, this building, the jail, and the courthouse provide a home for several astral presences. In our many tours, we have often felt the presence of beings from the other side. As part of your visit tonight, you will be given devices to measure the electromagnetic variations that astral beings cause. In addition, we may hear from the madwoman that died here in one of the cells. She is known to wander through the cell block and whisper and sometimes shriek, as she did when she died. You will also witness the activities of the judge that died in his office next to the courtroom. He is said to open and close the door to the courtroom, much as he did when he was alive. We may also stir up some mischievous sprites that like to roll balls around the hallways. Please don’t forget your flashlights. You will want to view some of the prisoner art found on the walls of some of the cells, especially the solitary confinement cells. My assistant has prepared the way for us by carrying out some exercises with incense. Certain incenses are known to attract astral beings, and my assistant has been trained in the art by practitioners from the Far East.”

“I thought that patchouli smell was from some hippies,” said a voice from the group.

A few titters came from the group as the tour guide responded, “Incense is older than the hippies, young man, and has been used by yogis and others in the East for millennia to both attract and appease those on the other side.”

“Excuse me, sir, will my boy be safe here tonight? I mean, I have heard that there are sometimes things touching and feeling in some of the places.”

“Yes, ma’am, rest assured, my staff will be close at hand at all times, and there are cameras in all of the cell blocks. One of my staff will be monitoring those cameras at all times. Your youngster will be quite safe. But, if you are concerned, simply keep hold of his hand. Now, let’s all take a look at this floor plan of the jail area. It shows where we will be going and indicates places that are most likely to be occupied by those from the other side.”

“Hey, mister, will we hear any chains rattling? My friend says that is what ghosts do.”

“Well, young man, there are reports of such sounds coming from this building, but the astral beings don’t seem to do that when we living folks are here. However, they do try to communicate with us.”

“What do they do?”

“We feel their presence as cold air in a room, and our detectors will light up. We sometimes hear them whispering to us. The spirits of dead prisoners do occasionally open and close cell doors, which do clang. Are there any more questions? No – Ok, then let’s get started. Oh – yes, Happy Halloween.”

The tour leader adjusted his headlamp, signaled to the person standing outside the door. He walked out of the room and into the hallway, followed by the tour group. As they walked out of the room, the lights in the jail went out. It was pitch dark. Several sharp intakes of breath and a low moan rose from the tour group. The tour leader switched on his headlamp and proceeded toward a door at the end of the hall. The hall on the other side of the door was dimly lit by streetlights that shone through the narrow windows that lined one side of the hall. The other side of the hall had several cells, with their doors closed, and a large cell with dormitory-looking steel bunks lined up in it. As the group walked past the cell, a low moaning sound issued from somewhere ahead. The group stopped, and the leader turned on the device he was carrying. The green light on its top flickered several times, then went out. No one noticed a slight shimmering of the air inside the bunk-filled cell. As the group walked past the large cell full of bunks, two kids ran down the hall and banged on the cell bars with their flashlights and making loud groaning sounds. The flashlights promptly went out.

“Please, folks, restrain your children. We want to discover the real presences that are here, and banging on the cell bars and making loud noises is not conducive to that,” stated the tour guide, “We wouldn’t want to scare off our apparitions, and now their flashlights don’t work. Very inconvenient.”

Carol Montgomery #1

I’m almost ready to publish the first Carol Montgomery mystery, “The Old Courthouse”. It’s taken a tad longer to get out than I anticipated. My BetaReader-Editor made several really good suggestions that are going to take a bit of re-writing to bring to life.

Here’s the proposed cover for the book.

Strange noises are coming from the jail section of the old courthouse, which is said to be haunted. A man is found dead under a shrub outside the building, with a broken window above him. The building is scheduled for redevelopment as a hotel and conference center. Carol Montgomery, a Ph.D. structural engineer, and adobe specialist is hired to evaluate the stability of the WPA-built adobe building. Carol, a Wiccan, and her telepathic cat familiar get involved in solving the mystery of the noises, the purported haunts, the dead man, and they discover a person living in the jail.

I’m well into the sequel for Carol Montgomery #1, with a working title of “A Piano In The Night”. An old house is said to be haunted and neighbors see strnge flickering lights in the dormer windows and the sound of a piano being played during the night.

Book Signing in Las Vegas

I just did a book signing in Las Vegas. I took a batch of my books to my 60th high school reunion. I sold and signed several of them and it was a lot of fun. I especially enjoyed telling people about the content of the books as a way of answering their question – “Which one is best?” or “Which one would I like?”.

The most common question I got, as I sat at my table, was “Are you the author? Did you write all of these?” Another common questions was “Where do you get your ideas?” Where, indeed?

The former French and Spanish teacher bought ‘Le Cochon Volant: The Flying Pigafter I told her why the title and that it had English, Spanish, and French in it. One guy bought ‘Chipmunk Jumped Over Him’ for his grandson and another bought ‘Eye of Newt and Skin of Toad’ for his nephew that is crazy about reptiles. A long-time acquaintance and one of the folks I hung with in high school bought two copies of each of my books to read and to donate to a group that he supports. A retired math teacher and computer programmer bought ‘Bear Market’ because she liked the cover. The reasons why folks select books is a never-ending mystery.

With any luck at all, some of those folks will read the books, enjoy them and tell their friends or relatives. I might even get some online sales as a result of my trip, who knows?

Halloween is Coming – and So are Three Free Mysteries

In honor of Halloween, I am putting my three current mysteries up as Amazon Freebies.

Eye of Newt, Skin of Toad will be available free from October 9 through October 13.

Bear Market will be available free from October 10 through October 14.

Le Cochon Volant: The Flying Pig will be available from October 11 through October 15.

So cuddle up with a good mystery, listen to the wind howl, enjoy!

Book Signing Coming Up

I am going to be in Vegas on the 6th and 7th of October for my 60th High School Reunion – Go Rams. While there, I’m going to do a book signing at the reunion picnic on the 7th, not sure yet about the venue for the BBQ on the 6th. My plan is to have all five of my books there and available – we’ll see if I actually peddle any of them.

I am still fiddling with “The Old Courthouse”. Actually, I’m still waiting for my wife/editor/beta reader to get done with it and get it back to me for repairs. I’m maybe half way though the sequel, which I am tentatively calling “A Piano In the Night”. Between teaching two online classes and getting two teenage boys off to school, my muse is sitting there yawning. I’m not writing anywhere nearly as quickly as I might like, but I think the story will be better for all of the long thinking sessions (naps).

Here’s a recent picture of some yellow sulfur butterflies working on the purple-flowered Vitex along our driveway. Took it with my phone out the van window while sitting, waiting for my wife to come out so we could go to the store.

Yellow sulfur butterflies on a purple Vitex flower stalk

I’ve been too quiet.

Hey – I’ve been very quiet on here and I guess I need to say something.

Eye of Newt has six good to outstanding reviews – I appreciate those.

I nearly have the first Carol Montgomery Mystery ready to go to press and I’m well into the sequel. Writing about witches, haunts, and telepathic cats is a different world for me, so I find it sometimes rather slow going. Besides, my muse took a vacation – but it’s back and nicely refreshed.

I’m thinking about including some stuff about the Piro Tribe of Native Americans in the sequel to “The Old Courthouse”. They resided in the Las Cruces/El Paso area for millennia before the Spanish and English Entrada’s and have been trying to get Federally recognized for decades. I have to do some research on their cultural and religious traditions. That should be interesting and fun.

I may have a new O’Flaithearta Biological Consults mystery in the cooker. We’ll see how the new Carol Montgomery book goes, then move forward from there.