Today we're sitting down with author Marlene M. Bell for a short little chat. Welcome,Marlene!
SC. Tell me a little bit about your main character of this book series.
MMB: Annalisse Drury is a thirty-year-old antiquities appraiser and gallery owner in Soho, New York— with a mixed up past. She has learned that she isn’t who she thought she was, literally, while uncovering those who’ve been hiding her true identity. Reclusive in nature because of trust issues, Annalisse is afraid to commit completely to anyone, including the man she loves, Alec Zavos, her gallery partner’s sinfully amazing son. This romantic mystery series follows Annalisse’s path into a take-charge woman, and how she uses her intuitive gifts and love of history to unlock the mysteries that surround her.
SC: . Do you believe in the paranormal and if so, do you have an experience you can share?
MMB: Most definitely! There are spirits and beings around us at all times. That includes alien off-worlders, but I’ll stick with humans who have passed on for now so that I don’t come off as too kooky for some.
My husband Gregg in involved with a corporate training center 4 hours from our ranch. On that company facility, they have a cafeteria with 6 chefs. The entire training center is built on 5,000 acres founded in the 1800s by several families who migrated to Texas from Arkansas. To the best of his knowledge, Gregg has found no information of any homesteaders who might have lived exactly where the training area is now. The closest town with a meager population is 7 miles away.
When Gregg overheard the kitchen staff talking about the ghostly visits in the kitchen and women’s restroom, five staff members told him they’d viewed a woman who periodically appears with her back to them, slowly turns, then disappears. She comes and goes in the early morning hours or late at night. This same woman also shows up in the women’s restroom coming out of stall number 2. For that reason, none of the staff uses that stall. At that point, no one recognized this ghost, but she clearly wanted to see the staff. (I’ve been told that spirits do not believe they can be seen.) On her last visit, the security camera caught sheet pans with fried bacon move across the stove on their own, and hit the floor while the staff were outside on a break. I saw the remarkable video. The sheet pans were definitely pushed by something. No vibrations or any other earthly reasons were found for the pans to land on the floor in that manner.
It wasn’t until my husband gave the kitchen staff their first tour of the corporate Lineman’s Museum that the identity of this ghost was uncovered. The historian for this area researched all of the people who lived near the training center and had several large cardboard mockups and photos of each person made for the museum. When the head chef strolled into the building for her tour, she immediately noticed the woman from the kitchen, and said, “That’s her!” The rest of the staff crowded around the picture and they all agreed that the woman called “Bettie” was indeed their visiting ghost.
Bettie, the youngest sibling in her family, lived in the closest town to LaGrange, TX with her widowed sister who passed at 100 years old. Bettie died in the 1970’s, the last member of her immediate family. Something brings Bettie back to the kitchen. A paranormal writer friend of mine believes there is a portal where Bettie comes and goes. Only Bettie knows the reason why.
I plan to revisit this story and perhaps write a standalone mystery about Bettie someday. I have my own ideas why Bettie is so interested in that landmark. Thanks for asking for this interesting paranormal experience!
SC: Love it when there's a video of the spookiness! What titles are you working on now that you can tell us about?
MMB: Book four in the Annalisse Series is in its outline stages. I use 3 x 5 cards to make scene notes and separate the chapters from my imagination to the cards. The majority of the next book will take place in New Zealand on a sheep station. I won’t give away the ending to Scattered Legacy, here, but the jarring last page will lead to Annalisse take a break from Alec. (Don’t read the last pages first, please. It will spoil the book for you.) In book four, Annalisse ventures off on her own for another mystery while savoring the place she longs to visit— spending time with the sheep and mysterious new characters.
This author has a fondness for sheep too!
SC: Thanks for visiting. Let's take a look at Scattered Legacy now.
AN EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER ONE-SCATTERED LEGACY
“We believe Josh falsified invoices with certain clients and moved money to offshore accounts without my consent. I was so angry I removed him without hearing his side of it. As far as I’m concerned, he’s totally responsible whether he was directly or indirectly involved. I wish I’d handled the situation differently. My short fuse got in the way when I felt Dad’s business was being used illegally as a giant retirement fund for Josh. He would know whether Dad used illegal monies from the racing team. We’re waiting on the board’s decision to prosecute Josh.”
“We have to find him.”
“He found me,” Alec grumbles. “Josh called me while I was in Mom’s office. I haven’t heard from him since I let him go.” He shakes his head. “He wants my help.”
Gen’s sitting at her desk in front of her favorite collection of astronomy books, staring at the wall. Her eyelids are rimmed red, and she’s grasping a wadded tissue in her hand. My stupid fear of a blackbird’s feather placed in an envelope pales against her sadness at the reminder of a lost soul mate. She witnessed her husband’s head explode, as I did, when Pearce fought gunmen on the yacht. It’s surreal when someone you know has died in front of you. Dreamlike, until their life jolts away and a body is left in place of a vibrant human being, like the man with his grin on the tabloid cover. Gen loved her husband deeply. No matter how many times I assure myself it wasn’t my fault what happened, Pearce might still be alive if the Mushasha jewel—Stop it. Samantha Freeman, my best friend, wouldn’t give up her matching horse bracelet either. The curse was powerful, and it pulled us along. Pearce’s fate was sealed the day he was born. Only God knows what’s in store for us. I have to show Alec and Gen that Pearce’s short existence was meaningful. His record must remain untarnished for Gen and her son.
“Has anyone been smoking? It smells like something’s burning.” I check the wastebasket for cigarette butts and find it recently emptied. “Alec, please sit before you fall down.”
His chair squawks along the tile in front of the Victorian pedestal desk. “Mom, I’m sorry.” Alec pats his mother’s hand across the blotter. “I didn’t think what seeing Dad again might do to you.”
“He’s gone, dear. There’s no bringing him back. Believe me, I’ve tried.” Gen smiles and dabs the corner of her eye. “Honey, how do we get in front of this bad press? Signorile’s sale must go forward. It’s decided. You and Annalisse are to be freed of the corporation to enjoy yourselves. Phooey on this bad timing, before your trip and all.” She glances at me and points to the armchair.
“Have you heard from Global Star Class yet? What’s the best move?” I ask Alec.
“Embezzlement matters. Serge LeBlanc is a straight-up guy, so he won’t peddle the Signorile acquisition to his board while there’s a scandal hanging over it.” He rubs between his brows and takes out his phone. “We need Bill’s expertise on this one.”
The call is made via speakerphone so we can all be a part of it. It’ll be great to hear Bill’s voice again. After Kate’s mysteries were solved a few months ago, Bill returned to his other investigations with his partner, Dan Chappell. Bill’s a good friend to Alec, and he helped us both cope with Kate and Ted’s nightmare at Walker Farm and in Massachusetts. The uncle I thought had committed suicide came back for revenge. Ted is being held in jail now for the plot to ruin Kate. Bill doesn’t know where Kate went, which was our hope when he dropped her at the airport, so she’s in charge and determines when she makes a return. That mother-daughter talk will have to wait until she’s ready. She left me with only a letter explaining that she is my birth mother, and I have a father who doesn’t know I’m alive. It’s little wonder my decision not to marry Alec at this time is frustrating for him. I’m so afraid something in my past will hurt Alec or his mother.
“Hey, I was about to call you. Have you heard mainstream news?” Bill Drake asks.
“You’re on speaker with Mom and Annalisse. I’m at the gallery, and yes, we’ve read the gossip rag’s trash.” Alec lays the phone on the desk.
“Good morning, Generosa, Anna. I hope you’re both well.”
“Hi, Bill,” I chime, imagining what color palm tree shirt he’s wearing with his chinos. “Did we catch you at a bad time?”
“Not in the least. I’m in Connecticut, finishing up a case. What’s up?”
“Can you break away to join us in Lecce?” Alec looks away from the speakerphone.
“Lecce… Where’s that?” Bill asks.
“Italy,” he says, staring at an imaginary spot above my head.
Gen whips around to glare at Alec. “Son, where are you going?”
I’m just as shocked. It’s stifling enough to have Brad, Alec’s bodyguard and chauffeur, along on the trip. Since there’s already three of us, one more will ensure zero privacy with Alec. Not the trip of my dreams. We’ll put off the romantic venture for another time.
“Do you want me to reopen the earlier investigation on the Signorile accounts?” Bill asks.
“What investigation? You never mentioned this before.” Gen grabs another tissue.
Alec raises a palm toward his mother. “It’s more complicated than that, Bill. I spoke to Josh already.”
“Is that right? Wow. Surprised he’d take your call after being fired.”
Alec erupts into mirthless laughter. “Bring all you’ve got on Josh Jennings before, during, and after his tenure with Signorile. Go deep, really deep into the slimy mud if you have to, and meet us at the Challenger hangar.”
“Text me the address and gate. When and what time?”
Alec whispers to me, “What time will you be ready in the morning… six, seven?”
“Name it.” This is Alec’s mission, and I’m along for support, even though our beautiful, scheduled destination is a smoking pile of rubble blown up by an ex-employee I’ve never met.
“We don’t have time to waste. Can you make it from Connecticut to the hangar, say, by seven thirty a.m.? You’ll be able to get your beauty rest on the plane. Pack for at least a week. The ocean air is nice during midday and a little cool at night.”
Lecce must be near the coast. Alec notices my confusion because he walks by and sits on the arm of my chair.
“Anything else?” Bill asks.
“Yeah. A woman was found murdered in Josh’s office, wrapped in concertina wire. He’s the suspect.”
Alec’s admission triggers the weird visual in Gen’s office. Is that the woman I saw? I don’t know whose silence is more deafening, Bill’s, Gen’s, or mine.
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