Friday, May 31, 2019

Drinks with Reads: Kristin Kisska

May is short story month and to celebrate our guest on Drinks with Reads is short story writer Kristin KisskaKristin used to be a finance geek, complete with MBA and Wall Street pedigree, but now Kristin is a self-proclaimed fictionista. Kristin contributed short stories of mystery and suspense to seven anthologies, including Malice Domestic’s MYSTERY MOST EDIBLE (2019). She is a member of International Thriller Writers, Vice President of Sisters in Crime-Central Virginia, and James River Writers. 

Deadly Southern Charm, published this spring from Wildside Press, is a mystery anthology with each story set somewhere in the southeast region of the United States. Known for its friendliness and charm, the South can be deadly. Southerners pride themselves on their iconic hospitality, but what if dark deeds were hidden inside an ice-cold glass of sweet tea or behind a seemingly innocent, “Bless her heart?” Eighteen short mystery stories explore such camouflaged crimes in Deadly Southern Charm.

My short story, “Unbridled” probes the lengths a desperate person will go to keep a deadly secret. When an equestrian rider goes missing, her bestie searches for her, only to discover that old secrets may fade away, but never die. "Unbridled" is set in an equestrian center in South Carolina’s Low Country. As a life-long horse enthusiast, I’ve always wanted to set a mystery within the richly textured environment of riding stables.

The following is an excerpt from the opening scene of “Unbridled:

Wet gravel crunched under my tires as I approached the Lowcountry Equestrian Center from the old oak-tree-lined entrance. Though still early, horses already trotted around the training rings and I even glimpsed a flash of a horse’s tail as someone rode into the woods. Ah, I lived for Saturday mornings at the stables! It was the home of my pride and joy gelding—Baymont Blues, or as I affectionately called him, Bay.
Though the rain had finally tapered off, it didn’t soften the edge of South Carolina’s notorious spring humidity. I’d already swatted a couple mosquitos this morning. Outfitted in leather boots and breeches, I hauled my grooming bucket into the stable. Parker, the head trainer, had agreed to meet for a private session this morning to polish my dressage techniques.
The stable’s residents greeted me with their chorus of neighs, meows, and a stray bird tweeting from the rafters. I inhaled the cocktail of leather, brass, and hay—the most intoxicating scent on the planet—then walked the length of the wide hallway.
“G’mornin, Mia. You’re here early.” I winked at Parker’s daughter.  The teen slid Bay’s stall gate open and stroked his muzzle, keeping his nose out of the bag of carrots I’d brought. “Did you ride your bike?”
“Hey, Courtney. Nope. Dad dropped me off before running errands. I wanted to clean up this messy boy. Dad would kill me if he knew I’d ridden him through the mud.” As Parker’s daughter Mia brushed D’Artagnan, each swift stroke revealed more of his dappled coat. Though tethered only by a halter and rope, the eighteen-hand Irish draught horse behaved like a gentle giant in her expert care.
“Don’t worry. I won’t tell,” I said.
The empty stall and a quick glance at my friend Gina’s tack box showed her horse Spade’s saddle, bridle and girth were gone. Hardly the usual weekend routine for Gina who’d relocated from Virginia last autumn. “Gina got here early. Did you see her?”
Mia shook her head. “Maybe she’s nervous about Tryon and already practicing.” Next weekend, many of our stable’s horses and riders would caravan to Tryon International Equestrian Center for the opening of their Spring Series. Bay and Spade were entered in the dressage and jumper events—this was my first time ever competing against Gina.
“Maybe.”  I noticed the teen’s smile didn’t quite reach her soulful dark eyes. Poor thing looked haggard.  “Did homework keep you up late?”
“Final exams are in a couple weeks. Calculus is the worst.” Mia nodded, perking up a bit. “Only one more year till college.”
Studying into the wee hours was not how I spent my Friday nights when I was in high school.  “Where do you want to go?”
“South Carolina. Mama studied there.”
Almost two years ago, her mother had departed for a weekend with her college girlfriends in Charleston, but had never returned. She’d died in a hit and run car accident.
Forcing a smile, I said, “I didn’t know that. Go, Gamecocks!” I leaned my weight against Bay’s shoulder to move him to the far side of the stall so I could muck it. “Gina graduated from USC, too.”
“She mentioned that two days ago.”
“Gina recognized Mama from the photo I keep in my wallet. Turns out they were good friends in college. Gina hadn’t realized Mamma and I were related.”
Brave girl, on so many levels.  “Does Gina know …” Yikes, I didn’t mean to remind her of her mother’s death. It must be hard enough living with a new, moody stepmother who was a couple of weeks shy of giving birth to her half-brother. But I’d already ventured down this path, so I softened my voice and continued, “Hard to believe it’s been almost two years since your mom died.”
“Seventeen months. Three weeks. Two days.” Mia paused combing D’Artagnan’s mane and glanced away, exhaling before continuing. “Gina was there. In Charleston.  When Mama died.”
We both turned at the sound of footsteps approaching.
“Hey, have y’all seen Gina?” Scott, Gina’s husband, asked.  “Spade’s stall is still empty. I’d call but she left her cell phone in the car when I dropped her off an hour ago. Didn’t notice ‘til I got home. Figured she’d need it.”
“I can give it to her,” I said.
“Thanks,” Scott said.
I slipped it into the back pocket of my riding breeches as Scott strolled away.
Activity in the stable picked up as more horse owners arrived. Finally, I had Bay brushed, bridled, padded, and saddled. While I summoned every ounce of strength I could muster to tighten the buckle straps on Bay’s girth, a large, dark shadow entered the far side of the stable and trotted toward us.
Spade’s saddle was empty, his stirrups bounced drunkenly, and his broken rein scraped the brick floor. He slowed to a walk as he entered his stall, and then nipped at his hayrack, content to be home.
But no Gina.

Since “Unbridled” is an equestrian-themed short mystery, I found the perfect cocktail to pair it with—Horse’s Neck (With a Kick).  Not only does it fit with my stable setting, when Courtney, my point of view character, races along a trail through the woods to search for her missing friend, she has to grab her horse’s neck in order to save her own from a low hanging branch.

Horse’s Neck (With a Kick)

2oz Blended Whiskey (I used Dewar’s Scotch)
Ginger Ale
Whole Lemon

Peel rind of whole lemon in spiral fashion and put in Collins glass with one end hanging over the rim. Fill glass with ice cubes. Add blended whiskey. Then fill with ginger ale and stir well.

You can find Kristin on Twitter @KKMHOO & Facebook – KristinKisskaAuthor


  1. I love this post—and the drink sounds good! ....but I am in no way talented enough to peel a lemon that way..... (Guess I'll just need to stop over sometime!)

    1. Art, many thanks. Maybe I'll give a lemon-peeling workshop to the Chessie chapter of Sisters In Crime next time I'm in the D.C. area. LOL