SNEAK PEEK: Betrayal

“I understand that, Mayor, but I have an 11:00 I cannot miss.”Betrayal High Res (2)

Commissioner Jackson Saunders’ phone was tucked between his broad shoulder and his barrel neck as he rolled his eyes at the voice on the other end. He’d barely had a chance to finish his morning coffee and the mayor was already on his ass. About what, he couldn’t tell. Closure rates in the city were improving. Public opinion had… well, improved wasn’t the right word, but at least the locals weren’t taking to the streets en masse for one reason or another anymore. The vigilante had even kept a low profile in recent weeks, and as much as Saunders wanted her behind bars, he had his reasons for leaving that alone.

Reasons the mayor didn’t need to know.

Leaving the Bishop L. Robinson Sr. Police Administration Building, known in some circles simply as The Bishop, and hanging a left on the sidewalk, Saunders approached a black SUV idling at the curb. His 11:00 was on the other end of downtown, and traffic was more of a mess than usual thanks to blocks of road work and construction. The end product was touted as a way to further revitalize downtown Baltimore, but in the meantime, it meant hassle and traffic jams for everyone.

Even important people like the police commissioner.

“Fine. I’ll call you when I’m finished.”

Saunders hung up without another word, cutting the mayor off and stuffing the phone into his coat pocket. He ignored the greeting the man in the three-piece suit whose name he forgot gave him, sliding into the back seat and slamming the door shut himself. Saunders hated being chauffeured around like he was a damn king. Last Saunders checked, he could still drive his own pickup truck, and he was still capable of opening and closing doors himself.

The security detail he understood, useless though they sometimes were, but the rest of it? Needless crap. Crap that never would’ve flown in the Army. At least, not back in the Vietnam days.

“Use the siren,” he ordered as the SUV rolled into traffic. “Don’t have time to waste on this damn traffic.”

Something cold and metal poked against the side of Saunders’ neck and he froze. The window separating the front of the SUV from the back lowered with a low-pitched whirr, and Saunders glanced into the rearview mirror — only to be greeted by the sight of a pair of green eyes staring back at him.

His driver did not have green eyes.

Other than the man’s eyes, the rest of his head was covered in a black mask. Saunders shifted his gaze to his right, finding another black mask and military fatigues. A handgun Saunders didn’t recognize pointed in his direction, the silencer digging into his neck.

“What the –?”

Silence.” The masked man’s voice was distorted, probably digitally altered. It sent a chill down the commissioner’s spine, and his hands went up on pure instinct. The man with the gun chuckled and his shoulders relaxed, but he didn’t lower the weapon. “You’re a smart man, Jackson. More than you get credit for.

A thousand retorts flew through Saunders’ head, but he kept his mouth shut. Whoever these men were, something told him they wouldn’t take kindly to sarcasm. He stole a glance at the front again. The driver was focused on the road ahead, and the SUV swerved to the left. Saunders looked out the window in that direction, his arms slowly returning to his sides. Wherever they were going, it wasn’t where his 11:00 would be waiting.

He hoped kidnapping was a good excuse for not showing up.

Ah-ah.” The masked man with the gun shook his head. “Push that button and I pull the trigger. I’d hate to ruin these fine leather seats.

“Fair enough.” Saunders pursed his lips and stared out the window, his left hand inching away from the red panic button on the side of his seat. “Don’t suppose you got a name?”

Not one you get to know.

Saunders shook his head. “Where I come from, if someone’s gonna kill you, you at least deserve to know who’s doin’ it.”

Who we are isn’t important.” The masked man waved the gun around before the silencer jabbed itself into the commissioner’s neck again. “All that matters is the mission. The message.

“This wasn’t part of the deal.” Saunders arched a brow but kept his gaze straight ahead. Given recent events, he had expected one of his long-held associations to come home to roost. Not all of his friends over the years had been on the up-and-up, and considering one of his captains knew of his ties to both the Russians and the Ukrainians, Saunders would’ve been naive to think one of them wouldn’t come calling sooner rather than later. After all, he was technically a loose end.

But if these people were to come for Saunders, then there was no telling what was in store. These masked men, they were going out of their way to keep their identities secret. Somehow, Saunders would’ve rather the Ukrainians had gotten him.

“The message,” he finally repeated once it was clear he wouldn’t get a response. “You ever try throwing a bottle into the ocean?”

In one swift motion, the masked man flipped the gun in his hand and smashed the butt end of it against the commissioner’s temple. Saunders grunted in pain, his head snapping back and bouncing off the window. He slumped forward, unconscious, both temples bloody.

The driver glanced at the rearview mirror as the SUV merged onto Interstate 83. “Shall I get the studio ready?

Yes.” The other masked man wiped the blood from his gun before returning it to its holster. “But not for Saunders. We have other guests to attend to first.


Pre-order Betrayal today! Available on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Apple iBooks, and paperback. Betrayal comes out Tuesday, April 14!

Want sneak peeks up to five days before everyone else, and other exclusive goodies? Sign up for my newsletter — which will also net you the short story Boundless — FOR FREE!

About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books and art, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard, scratching a pencil over a piece of paper, or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.

Follow J.D. on FacebookTwitterGoodreads. and DeviantArt.

Saying No to Audiobooks… For Now

In 2017, I made the decision to take my books out of the Kindle Unlimited program and start offering them on a variety of platforms. Today, you can buy my ebooks on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and Apple iBooks, and my paperbacks are available on a variety of platforms, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s website.32372874_10155518469998581_5987555298229878784_n

One format my work isn’t available is the audiobook.

Now, don’t take that to mean I’m against audiobooks, because I’m not. I’ve never utilized them myself, but I know they’re popular with a lot of readers — whether because they’re time-strapped, always on the run, or taking in the printed word is difficult for them. In a perfect world, my work would be available for those people as well.

Alas, such a world does not yet exist. In fact, the cost involved in turning a book into an audiobook — the investment, if you choose that word instead — would be prohibitive.

Let’s be frank here: my work is not selling in the formats that are currently available. I’m not swimming in ebook sales, regardless of platform, and the boxes and boxes of paperbacks in my den don’t paint any prettier a picture. I’ve poured a lot of money into those, not to mention marketing efforts overall, and to this point have found limited success.

So I’m already doing this self-published author thing at a loss (and I figure that’s true for most of us). The production costs of converting even one of my books into audio — to say nothing of paying someone to record it — I can’t currently justify that cost.

Sure, I could do the profit-share thing, where whoever records my book as an audiobook gets a cut of my sales as their payment. But a) my sales as they are don’t amount to much, and b) talking to people who have converted their work into audiobooks, selecting that payment method is a good way to guarantee you’re not picking from the best audiobook recorders.

If I’m gonna do it, I wanna do it right (which is also why I won’t be recording them myself… to quote a meme, ain’t nobody got time for that).

This is by no means set in stone. Maybe someday I’ll be in a position where this is an economically feasible option for me. I pride myself in having my work available in as many different formats and as many outlets as possible; I hated being exclusive to Kindle when I was enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, because while the vast majority of my sales are on Kindle, I felt like I was missing something by not being on other platforms.

Even now, I wish my work was available on Google Play.

But I can’t justify the production costs or paying the talent (and I would pay them up front — they deserve to be paid for their work, much like any other artist). Not when the versions that are available are operating at such a loss. With me trying to refocus my efforts in 2020, I can’t justify a distracting side project that would put me even deeper in a financial hole.

But maybe my sales improve some day to the point where I can invest that kind of money. Maybe I’ll find my audience, and then the demand for J.D. Cunegan audiobooks will exist to the point where I can put the time and effort into creating them.

Right now, though, my writing career is very much a case of prioritizing. And right now, my priority is creating new content in the hopes that that entices people to check out the rest of my work. I have to make what I have work before I can go chasing after other things.

Sometimes, it’s best to know what’s not possible to help create what is possible.


Sign up for my newsletter! If you do, you’ll get a copy of Boundless FOR FREE!


About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books and art, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard, scratching a pencil over a piece of paper, or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.

Follow J.D. on FacebookTwitterGoodreads. and DeviantArt.

Mark Your Calendars: LEGENDS OF THE GEM is Coming!

Legends of the Gem is almost here. Two weeks.Legends of the Gem Final (2)

Tuesday, Jan. 15, to be exact.

That’s right — Legends of the Gem, a collection of short stories expanding on the Gem of Notna and the universe established in the novel Notna, is just two weeks from being released.

Even better? Pre-orders are now live for the ebook!

Millions of years ago, the Gem of Notna was created. A race renowned for its peace birthed the ultimate weapon—and it paid the ultimate price.

Eons have passed. The gem found its way to Earth, leaving a path of bloodshed and destruction in its wake. From ancient Greece to the Vatican through the Civil War to more recent events that saw the gem tucked away in a little-known tomb in the Amazon, there is no shortage of legends related to the Gem of Notna.

Building on the mythology established in NotnaLegends of the Gem takes readers on a journey through time, both in and out of this world. After all, the Gem of Notna has plenty of stories to tell… if you live long enough to hear them.

Here are the stories you’ll find in this volume:

  • Legend, the First: Lagos, Narazniya’s brightest scholar and mystical mind, is tasked with creating the Gem of Notna, but nothing goes as planned.
  • Legend, the Second: Ares, Head Elder of Narazniya, faces the reality of what he wrought, what his obsession did to the people he rules.
  • Legend, the Third: Divine warriors Michael and Damien fight off an Underworld invasion, only to discover an ulterior motive. Michael’s new obsession leads to his downfall.
  • Legend, the Fourth: A young girl named Vita finds herself in the middle of ancient Greek politics, whether she wants to be or not.
  • Legend, the Fifth: A young man named Pious III, who once would’ve been Pope, is on the run from the Vatican. His journal chronicles his descent into madness.
  • Legend, the Sixth: Union soldier Ferdinand Jackson is fighting in Gettysburg, but the Confederacy is the least of his worries.
  • Legend, the Seventh: Cian Kotzias pens his thesis on the Gem of Notna during his studies at Aristotle of Thessaloniki.
  • Legend, the Eighth: A secret task force discovers the Gem of Notna’s power, and a mysterious entity decides the crystal is better off out of humanity’s grasp.

Go ahead and reserve your copy today for just $1.99 — in Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and Apple iBooks! Paperback edition will be available on release day.

And if you haven’t already, snag a copy of Notna as well.


About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.

Follow J.D. on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads, and you can also become a Patron.

RELEASE DAY: Behind the Mask


Behind the Mask

Behind the Mask, the fourth installment in the Jill Andersen series, is now out! This entry promises to change everything going forward, and after the events of Behind the Badge, things are about to get even more intense.

About Behind the Mask

It’s hard to be a hero when everyone’s out to get you.

Once upon a time, Jill Andersen considered herself a hero. Not just because of the badge handed to her by the city of Baltimore and the pledge she once made to protect and serve. Her secret life, as the vigilante Bounty, had allowed Jill to protect her native Baltimore in ways her day job never could.

But all that has gone to hell now. One case pushed Jill past her limits, to the point where she made choices she can’t take back. As a result, the entire city is on the lookout for her. Allies can no longer be counted on. People who were once in her corner might very well be trying to bring her down… to say nothing of those she has crossed along the way.

But that is the least of Jill’s problems. A shadowy figure emerges among the chaos, and his link to Jill’s past has the potential to be her ultimate undoing. Jill thought every link to Project Fusion has been settled once she solved Dr. Trent Roberts’ murder almost one year ago, but if she’s not careful, her past might just kill her.

Behind the Mask, the gripping, hard-hitting fourth novel in the Jill Andersen mystery series (Bounty, Blood Ties, Behind the Badge), gives readers yet another taste of author J.D. Cunegan’s comic book-inspired brand of fast-paced prose, with chapters that fly by and plot twists that will leave readers guessing and waiting for more.

About J.D. Cunegan

J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.

Pick up Behind the Mask today in the following formats: Paperback | Kindle | Nook | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Indigo | Angus & Robertson

Check out the rest of the Jill Andersen Series.

Behind the Jill Andersen Relaunch

Bounty FinalIf you’ve been paying attention to my social media presence in recent weeks, you’ll know that I’ve been in the midst of relaunching the Jill Andersen series. The impetus behind this relaunch was removing the books from Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s subscription service that allows readers to read books on their Kindle devices and apps without paying the price to buy the books.

In short, KU readers could read my work without paying $2.99 for each volume.

But, to put it mildly, my KU numbers were always either pathetic or nonexistent. Even the times when my actual sales were good, I would have pitiful KU numbers. So from a financial standpoint, I wasn’t gaining anything out of KU (particularly given that any book enrolled in KU has to be digitally exclusive to Amazon — meaning any Nook, Kobo or iBooks reader who wanted my books either had to use the Kindle app, buy the paperback, or go without).

Not to mention the scamming rampant within KU.

Blood Ties Final

So in the interest of protecting my work and wanting to make it available to a wider range of potential readers, I thought this would be the perfect time to give the series a more uniform visual identity. The slate of covers I had for BountyBlood TiesBehind the Badge, and even Behind the Mask were great — but there was nothing identifying them as installments in a series.

Fortunately, one of my biggest fans — author S.E. Anderson — also happens to do cover design work (you can see her premade covers on SelfPubBookCovers, and she’s also the cover designer of R.R. Virdi’s Grave Report novels and Dangerous Ways).

In short, she does really good work, and something told me she’d be excited to put her stamp on books she loves.

Behind the Badge 2Boy, was she.

The new covers look fantastic, and I love that this series now has a look that’s uniform throughout — something that you can look at and think to yourself, Yep, that’s a Jill Andersen book. The design of the covers for Behind the Badge and Behind the Mask remained the same; she just changed the font to match the rest of the series.

But look at the cover to Bounty. There is now an official canon representation of what Jill looks like. The eyeplate, the black lipstick, the katana… all of her trademarks are there. And Blood Ties… I think that cover is some of Anderson’s finest work. I particularly love the dueling skylines (trivia: one of those is downtown Baltimore today, while the other is downtown Baltimore from 100 years ago). This cover perfectly embodies the series: it’s a little bit mystery, a little bit sci-fi conspiracy, a little bit of the shadowy unknown…

If this series finally takes off in the near future, I think these covers will be a big reason why. As much as we like to think “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” the faBehind the Maskct is a lot of people — potential readers, especially — do.

So in the coming days and weeks, this series will be available not only on Kindle, but also on Kobo, Apple iBooks, Google Play and Nook. I’m in the process of updating the paperbacks as well, and I hope to have new editions of the physical books with me come Hampton Comicon on Oct. 21. Keep checking back; as each new edition goes live, I’ll be updating this site accordingly.

And if you haven’t given Jill a try yet, there’s no better time than now.


It’s been a while, but it’s time for another Author Spotlight! Today, I bring you all one of my favorite self-published urban fantasy authors, E.A. Copen. She is the author of the Judah Black series, as well as the Fairchild Chronicles, and she has even more projects coming in the next few months.

Let’s talk to E.A.

What was your inspiration behind writing the Judah Black series and its offshoot, Kiss of Vengeance?

They came from two very different places! When I started writing the Judah Black novels, I knew I wanted to have a heroine who was real. She’s got problems. Some are supernatural, bust most aren’t. Most importantly, I knew I wanted to write about a mom because too many stories just end when the female lead gets married or gets pregnant. Stories don’t have to end just because your heroine is a parent. I wanted to write about a mom who could still kick ass and somehow managed to raise a son in the process.

Kiss of Vengeance rose partly out of my frustrations as a writer (mundane things like writer’s block and deadlines), as well as something personal I was going through. I knew I wanted to explore the world of the fae, which Judah doesn’t interact with much, and to also tell a story from the other side of the law. While discussing something completely different with a friend of mine, he uttered the phrase “reluctant white knight” and the idea is sort of born from that.

You’re one of my favorite urban fantasy authors. What draws you to that particular genre, and – specifically in terms of the Judah Black series – what made you combine that genre with elements of other genres, such as mysteries?

Aw. Thank you.

Mostly, I started writing urban fantasy because I love to read it. I write the books I think I’d like to read. As an adult, I watched Supernatural and fell in love with the monster-of-the-week type story, but also with the writers’ ability to use the small plots to create a larger plot.

And they have elements of other genres too, like westerns and dystopia. Mainly that’s my own fandoms bleeding through. I love a good western, and dystopia is my favorite book genre to this day, aside from urban fantasy.

So many of my favorite characters anymore are female – Buffy Summers, Kate Beckett, Sydney Bristow, I could go on and on and on. What drove you to create Judah Black, and what stood out to you about her even from the day you first created her?

I wanted to write about a mom and it wouldn’t be far off to say I was inspired at least in part by my love of Dana Scully in X-Files who could be feminine while still being a force to be reckoned with. She had her career and she was very serious about it.

Judah’s a little different, though. She gets thrown into fighting things way outside of her weight class. Instead of upping her powers all the time so she can go kill all the baddies by herself, I give her a team. The people who love and support her throughout the series is really what makes her unique. Lots of heroines out there can defeat monsters and play the lone gunman. Judah’s strength comes from the people she has in her life.

Character vs. plot: the seemingly endless debate over which is more important for a good story. Which side of that debate do you fall on?

Character, definitely. There are probably hundreds of werewolf murder mysteries out there. What makes a reader stick around isn’t plot. Most plots have been done before. You stay for the characters. When a reader finds a character they connect with, it’s like magic. You’ve got to have someone to root for.

Are you a heavy plotter, or do you just let the story take you where it will?

The only plotting I ever do is a one- or two-sentence summary that names the protagonist, antagonist, and their goals. I used to try to outline, but I found that once I plotted everything all out, I lost interest in finishing. To me, once it’s down on paper it’s done. I like having the excitement of not knowing everything that’s going to happen.

Kiss of Vengeance takes place in the same universe as the Judah Black novels, but it has a completely different feel and sometimes feels like it’s an entirely different genre. How did that book come about, and what are your broader plans for this universe going forward?

Kiss of Vengeance is about finding who you are when your back’s against the wall and everything you’d normally use to define yourself is stripped away. When I was writing it, that’s sort of what I was going through in my personal life. I had to find a way to describe who I was without resorting to my go-to list of mother, wife, writer. Plus, I just love film noir and wanted to see if I could pull it off.

The universe can certainly expand. I’d like to do more Fairchild books, but it is a little harder to write Dal’s stories because he lives in a brutal criminal underworld. Because of some events that happen in upcoming books, I also opened up the possibility of doing another series in the same world set in Alaska and leaning heavily on Inuit mythology. There’s also a prequel novella and some prequel short stories I’m working on to eventually release. One day, I’d love to go back and explore all that happened during and before the Revelation. I hope I get that chance.

Without giving away too much, where do you see the Judah Black series going from here? I understand Playing With Fire’s coming sometime this fall?

Well, there’s always been something of a political sub-plot in the series. As the crimes get more publicity, regulations will get tighter. Eventually, that kind of treatment can only lead to one thing. That is, if the werewolves, fae, and vampires can figure out how to get along long enough to fight back. They are monsters, after all. They just can’t seem to get along. And of course, Judah can’t ever keep out of trouble. Whenever she sees a loose thread, she has to unravel it. It’s going to get her into even more hot water in the highest echelons of government, both on Earth and in the fae.

Playing with Fire is sort of the kick-off book for that. It’s the first glimpse I give my readers into how deep the rabbit hole goes. I’m hoping to have it out in October of this year.

What are some of your favorite books?

In no particular order, my current top 5 books would be:

Dangerous Ways by R.R. Virdi
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Turn Coat by Jim Butcher
River Marked by Patricia Briggs
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Ask me again next week and I’ll have a new list. Books tend to rotate in and out of it depending on my mood. When someone asks me my favorite book, my answer is always “the one I’m currently reading.”


Beasts of BabylonIn addition to the Judah Black series and Kiss of Vengeance, Copen will have a new release on Aug. 1: Beasts of Babylon. This entirely new story is already up for pre-order on Amazon.

Gunslinger Anastasia Thorne won’t stay dead.

Ten years ago, monsters murdered Anastasia and her children. Now, she’s back to hunt down the monsters responsible. She knows their names, their faces, and even where they’re hiding.

There’s just one problem. No one in town believes her.

When the sheriff refuses to help, Anastasia strikes a deal with the notorious outlaw, Jesse Gallagher instead. The pair ride into the mountains in search of vengeance, but the hunters quickly become the hunted. With the sheriff hot on their trail, ghouls on their heels, and werewolves and skin stealing monsters in the mountains, Jesse and Anastasia quickly find out they’re outgunned and in for a long night.

It’s going to take more than silver bullets to put these monsters down.


Now let’s see what I think of Copen’s work so far.

Guilty by Association (Judah Black #1)

Three things I love:Guilty by Association

1) Kickass ladies;

2) Genre mash-ups; and

3) Stories that start off as one thing and end up being something else entirely.

Guilty by Association, E.A. Copen’s debut, checks all three of those boxes. Special Agent Judah Black, new to a middle-of-nowhere stretch of Texas stuffed to the gills with the supernatural, finds herself staring a classic whodunit in the face — only this time, the victim is a werewolf. Before long, though, the case turns into something much larger than even the victim, and the result is an entertaining, engrossing read.

Copen treats us to an entertaining cast of characters, and even though I’ve never been a particularly big fan of werewolves, a few of them wound up being personal favorites. Judah Black sometimes reads as a cross between Buffy Summers and Kate Beckett (two of my all-time favorite female ass-kickers), and I can already tell she’s a character who’s going to stick with me.

Part murder mystery, part urban fantasy, part conspiracy thriller, Guilty by Association does a masterful job of creating and laying the foundation for a rich, vibrant supernatural world. Even if the setting makes Sunnydale seem like a bustling metropolis, Copen has done a fantastic job of showing us just enough of the world to get us interested; I’m beyond glad that I already have the next two installments in my collection, and hope there will be even more down the line.

Books like this are why I will vehemently defend independently-published books. Indie authors are some of the most creative, most daring individuals I’ve met, and when they create stories like this, we’re all the better for it. To me, Judah Black is every bit the equal of, say, R.R. Virdi’s Vincent Graves, and I’m glad to count myself among one of Copen’s biggest fans going forward.

Okay, enough blabbing; I’ve got to read Blood Debt. If you haven’t read Guilty by Association yet, do yourself a favor and change that. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Rating: *****

Blood Debt (Judah Black #2)

Blood DebtConsidering how much I loved Guilty by Association, despite my distaste for werewolves, I was chomping at the bit to read Blood Debt given my affinity for (…almost) all things vampires. And as I suspected, E.A. Copen’s second entry in the Judah Black series doesn’t disappoint, offering yet another action-packed mystery and enough character moments to add depth as well as bite.

Yes, that was totally intentional.

To my pleasant surprise, a fair number of players from the first book also appear in Blood Debt giving Judah’s admittedly small world a much larger feel. Even so, there are enough newcomers to keep things fresh, including magick wielder Mara and the mysterious vampire-but-not-really-sorta-kinda Abe. As much as I enjoy Judah as a protagonist, having interesting side characters along for the ride turns an entertaining read into a certified page-turner.

The side stories are plenty — almost too much so, as it felt like one of the side stories got dropped around midway through the book in favor of the main plot — but again, they help flesh out Judah’s character and world.

A common critique of the mystery genre (and a valid one) is that it often feels paint-by-numbers, that it hits all the typical notes without offering anything that would provide depth and/or resonance. Copen’s series doesn’t fall into this trap, and the result is a world that is simultaneously otherworldly and intimate. She’s knee-deep in a world of monsters, yet the reality of her life is so intimately personal that the scope never once overwhelms the reader.

Blood Debt was a fantastic follow-up to Guilty by Association, and Copen has quickly established herself as one of my favorite indie authors. I’m anxious to read Chasing Ghosts and hopeful that the wait for the series’ fourth installment is a short one.

Rating: *****

Chasing Ghosts (Judah Black #3)

Chasing GhostsIf Guilty by Association and Blood Debt, the first two novels in E.A. Copen’s Judah Black series, were worldbuilding affairs, the third book — Chasing Ghosts — puts all the puzzle pieces together in an emotionally fraught, highly intense adventure that wraps up the initial arc and sets up what promises to be an exciting future.

Everything that made Guilty and Blood fantastic novels is back for Chasing Ghosts; Copen is clearly growing and maturing as a storyteller, and she’s fine-tuned each of the characters’ voices. Judah is quintessentially herself, but she is so much more, as she progresses both on her own and with regards to several of the relationships she keeps.

Chasing Ghosts is, fair warning, an emotional gut punch. There are at least three occasions where this book practically moved me to tears, and there’s something viscerally satisfying about that. Yes, we often read to escape, but we also read to feel. Copen gets us to feel for several of the key players in this tale, while simultaneously taking us on a journey that twists and turns far more than I had anticipated.

The depth Copen has given not just Judah, but several of the other important characters, really helps flesh out Paint Rock — a world that, on its own, doesn’t really amount to much. Paint Rock makes Sunnydale seem like a bustling metropolis, but the reservation’s inhabitants more than make up for the lack of scenery.

I’m excited to see where this series goes from here, even though Chasing Ghosts would make a fitting end to a trilogy. Judah Black is one of my favorite characters, and Copen has established herself as one of my favorite independently-published authors. If TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayerand Supernatural tickle your fancy, then this is a series you should be reading.

And if not? Hell, read it anyway. Cause it’s really, really good.

Rating: *****

Kiss of Vengeance

Kiss of VengeanceKiss of Vengeance might take place in the same universe as E.A. Copen’s Judah Black novels, but it is a much different story. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and the worldbuilding this short story offers alone is worth the price of admission. Fortunately, Copen gives us a solid story and memorable characters to go along with this.

First a caveat: there will be a few passages that might be uncomfortable for some readers. The violence is graphic and there are occasional moments and mentions of sexual violence, both against adults and children. Nothing explicit, but it exists, so it’s worth mentioning.

In short, this is a mafia revenge story with a supernatural flavor. Dal is an enforcer for a fae crime family in Boston, and he finds himself on one hell of a revenge kick after he finds his wife and daughter murdered. The rest unfolds like you would expect such a tale to unfold: lots of blood, lots of anger, lots of angst.

But Copen still manages to weave a satisfying tale, because the characters are what drive everything. Dal is very much a Frank Castle-like figure, and those allied with him and those opposing him are each memorable in their own rights. The characters (even a pleasant cameo from the Judah Black series) make this tale.

If you’ve read Copen’s Judah Black books, Kiss of Vengeance is a chance to revisit that universe and find something different. If you haven’t, this isn’t a bad place to start. It’s a short, quick read, and I’d like to see what comes next. Copen is quickly becoming one of my favorite indie authors, and this is another strong entry.

Rating: ****

All of Copen’s works are currently available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats; be sure to visit her Author Central page to pick up your copies. Also, be sure to check out the new audiobook version of Guilty by Association.