Swashbuckling tale coming soon

 

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Betrayed by king and country, the life of a nobleman is a distant memory for Captain Stone. All the man needed in life was wine, wenches and song between skirmishes with sovereign ships, which resulted in riches and many soiled britches, to inconvenience England. That is until he met his alluring new captive.

Magdelena de Monterroso had expected to be swept away on her wedding night in a pair of big strong arms. What she didn’t expect was those arms to belong to pirates raiding the lands of her new husband! Enslaved aboard the Devil’s Pride, Magdelena refuses to give her captors the satisfaction of seeing her fear. However, she finds the pirates, led by the smoldering Captain Stone, are not the vicious bloodthirsty mob she took them for and soon the young bride’s urgency to return to San Sebastian is fueled by something altogether different.

COMING SOON!

*working title

Hear ye! Hear ye! A major announcement…

1_herold

Conquest of a Queen, the very first book of my Courtships of Quendaris series is published at last! It was a long and hard journey and I look forward to writing more adventures featuring Isabel, Nancy, Prince Alaric and the rest of the crew. The ebook is now available on Smashwords and is coming soon to a bookstore near you. In the meantime, you can buy it in print here.

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I’m stepping away from the realm of Baelcrest for a bit but I’ll be back with more adventures soon. Stay tuned for news about my next book already in progress.

Independence Day update

Greetings and salutations!

First, Happy Ramadan to my Muslim readers, Happy Canada Day to all you Canucks out there and Happy Independence Day my fellow Americans!

It’s been a hectic few weeks for me here in the Sunshine State but I’m happy to say I finally finished the revisions to Conquest of a Queen. I’m working through the publishing process now and hope to have it available for sale in your local retail outlet via Smashwords very soon.

I’m already hard at work on my next project and will post about that very soon. In the meantime, have a safe and dry weekend everyone.

Theme music

Today Pitch Slammers will be tossing out songs that go with the theme of their books, characters, scenes etc. I’ll be jumping into the fray with songs for Conquest of a Queen.

Main Characters

Isabel Kendra – Power Inside Me by Richard Marx

Isabel has always prided herself on being a strong, independent woman but her adventures in Baelcrest show her exactly how much strength she really has. Even in moments of fear and doubt, Isabel constantly struggles to come out ahead. Failure is not an option.

 

Leticia Kendra, Mirror Mage and mother to Isabel – Fighter by Christina Aguilera

Leticia went through Hell and back since her husband disappeared but rather than collapse under the strain of it all, the woman rose above it and became a shining example of strength to her growing daughter.

 

Alaric, Prince of Lothiari – Hero by Nickelback

Every bit the fairy tale prince, Alaric is ready to ride to the rescue of a damsel in distress and do battle with the forces of evil. However, when he finds Isabel is usually able to get herself out of danger he doesn’t know what to do with himself. When he finds himself falling for the strange woman, he questions if he could ever be worthy of her.

 

Ilythia, Dowager Empress of Lothiari – You Gotta Be by Desiree

The Dowager Empress has lived through war, the loss of her beloved and not just running a kingdom but heading the Crystal Palace Alliance as well as raising a future king. Throughout it all, this graceful elderly woman has remained poised and strong even during moments of fear and uncertainty. I think this song falls in line with a belief system she would pass on to her children and grandchildren.

 

Nancy Harrington/Valeska, Queen of Rune – She’s Country by Jason Aldean

Having idolized her brash pillar of a father, Nancy relies on her Texas upbringing to take the enemy by storm and get back the kingdom her family had lost. 

 

Iskander, King of Shayn’del – Something Inside So Strong by Labi Siffre

Iskander puts the needs of his people before himself. He is duty bound to do the right thing but when he thinks he must step down because of an injury, he discovers what’s necessary to become a true leader.

 

Secondary Characters

Lennox, Man at Arms – Indestructible by Disturbed

Prince Alaric’s right hand man and defender of the kingdom of Lothiari, Lennox takes his duties very seriously. He will fight to the death for his kingdom, his friends and the woman he loves.

 

Nerissa, Princess Regent of Rune – Bad Mama Jama by Carl Carlton

This princess has been holding down the fort from a very young age and no matter how many times she’s knocked down she just doesn’t know the meaning of staying down. Nerissa does what she has to do and drives men wild while she does it.

 

Lavinia, Princess of Abiloth – Let the Bodies Hit the Floor by Drowning Pool

This petite poised beauty is a tiny bit upset about her life in Abiloth.

 

Villains

Phaedra, sorceress – Lady Evil by Black Sabbath

Crossing paths with this sorceress is a bad idea. Even when she’s cordial and smiles she’s most assuredly planning your death. 

 

Rakad, Lord of the Underworld – Death, Death by Voltaire

The Lord of the Underworld is incredibly dark and snarky. His very gaze make those he comes for tremble until they pee. He doesn’t really give a damn about anyone or anything and his favorite part of the job is screwing with people’s heads.

 

Torquil, King of the Goblins – Evil Fantasies by Judas Priest

This song is the embodiment of the dark and twisted mind of the Goblin King.

 

Writing playlist

And now l bring you a playlist of songs I listen to that inspire me while I’m writing. In general I typically listen to classical and new age instrumental music to open my brain and get the creative juices flowing. However, when I want to focus on love scenes, fighting or the mindset of a villain, I change things up a bit.

General inspiration

I love listening to light and gentle music that won’t exactly put you to sleep.

Love scenes

When I’m writing about my characters doing the horizontal mambo and scenes leading up to it, I tend to lean towards funky rhythmic songs with smooth beats and sultry sounds.

Battle scenes

When my characters are locked in battle or chewing each other out, I like to write with some adventurous music in the background.

Villains

When it comes to writing my villains I tend to lean towards the darker synthy sounds of New Wave/New Goth/Goth Core/Dark Wave or whatever the hell else they’re calling it now

Pitch Slam Manuscript Music

Greetings and salutations!

This week you will see many posts and tweets from me regarding my novel, Conquest of a Queen, for a contest called Pitch Slam. With any luck these efforts will land me some representation. *waves frantically* Hullooo judges! Anyway, today participants have been asked to blog about music that would accompany their manuscripts. Like say, our babies were brought to the big screen so here is the soundtrack I would choose for Conquest of a Queen. I don’t want to give too much of the story away so if you don’t mind, I’ll have to be a bit vague in places. Pasta banana, folks!

Opening Music – I’m a Believer by Smash Mouth

Picture if you will, a young woman in chef whites meeting with a bunch of suits, calling out commands in a busy commercial kitchen, then rolling up in a yellow jeep into the driveway of a house as the sun sets

 

Isabel has dinner at her mom’s – Animal by Bitman & Roban

Poor Isabel cringes as her mom’s latest fix up attempts to put the moves on her before she escapes into the kitchen to fight with her mother.

 

Isabel enters her ransacked house – Lizard at school by James Horner

Lightning flashes and thunder rumbles announcing a coming storm. The power is off and Isabel discovers that her home has been broken into.

 

Fight scene between Isabel and Rakad – Invasion by Alan Silvestri

Isabel encounters a large formidable looking man who wants her to come with him. Isabel has another idea.

 

Leticia tells Isabel about her father – Breathe Me by Sia

Isabel learns the truth about her parents’ identities

 

The Coronation Ball – Dances from Terpsichore: Courante

Pretty people in pretty outfits congregate in a magical setting

 

The palace is attacked – Tilt by Thomas Newman

The Goblins are coming! The Goblins are coming!

 

Dragon flight – Night wind by David Arkenstone

Picture yourself soaring through the clouds courtesy of a fleet of dragons

 

The Temple of Nerys Island – Whisper by Kitaro

Magic and mystery abounds

 

The prophecy – Teardrop by Massive Attack

The Oracle’s words fill Isabel’s mind with visions of impending doom

 

The Eagle Lord’s party – Water Music Suite #1 in F 

Elegant but unusual scene with people who resemble… birds?

 

Battle over the amulet – Buster Voodoo by Rodrigo y Gabriela

Isabel and friends have overstayed their welcome and their host insists on taking a trinket that isn’t his.

 

Isabel in the forest – I Still Believe by The Call

Isabel has a mission but has no idea how to accomplish it. She discovers a wish can be a powerful thing in Baelcrest.

 

Battle with the Shumi king – Sons De Po by Dazkarieh

Isabel throws down with a powerful enemy.

 

Activating the Silver Fleet/Journey to the Shumkarja Outlands – Rotation by Herb Albert

 

Shumi ceremony – Marco Polo by Loreena McKennitt

Isabel becomes a queen

 

Isabel and Alaric love scene – Semilla Negra by Marlango

 

Goblin attack and escape/Battlefront – Ebla by ES Posthumus

 

Nancy and Iskander in the woods – Dice by Finley Quaye

 

Bath scene – Think Twice by Groove Armada

Nancy and Iskander get chummy while she helps him shave

 

Nancy and Iskander love scene – God Gave Me You by Blake Shelton

 

The scrying ring – The Mystic’s Dream by Loreena McKennitt

The gods bestow a gift on Nancy that allows her to see her birth parents in their final moments.

 

A Traitor in their midst/Confrontation – Broken by Depeche Mode

 

Rescue/Mirror Mage fight/Isabel battles the sorceress – Neckbrace by Ratatat

 

Confession – How Deep is Your Love by The Bird and The Bee

Isabel and Alaric have a final confrontation

 

Closing – Music Cannons by Youth Lagoon    

The Adventures of the Pitmad Virgin

The other day I was introduced to a concept called PitMad. It’s things like this that truly make me feel my age even though I’m only in my mid-30s. PitMad, I thought, what the hell is that? Well, it’s an event that happens twice a year on Twitter where writers pitch their novels to interested publishers and literary agents in 140 characters or less including the phrase #pitmad.

I never understood the point of Twitter and never really learned how to use it. I mean I have a Twitter account but it usually sits in the corner mumbling while nursing a glass of whiskey. There were so many things about this concept that frightened me. First there’s the whole learning how to use a new social media aspect that can be pretty jarring. Since Facebook, which I use religiously, appears to be slowly turning itself into Twitter with its own use of hashtags, the ability to post on both forums at the same time and their recent facelift that’s had everyone screaming in recent weeks, I discovered Twitter wasn’t as difficult to use as I’d thought. So that was one hurdle down.

My relationship w/Twitter

 

Then there was the more daunting task of writing that perfect pitch to get people interested again in less than 140 characters. For those of you who don’t understand just how short 140 characters actually is, check this out:

This is the name of my book. It is about this, set in this time period and the characters do this. The story is in this genre 5left #pitmad

See that? That is 140 characters. So the object of Pitmad and campaigns like it is, again, to make your novel appealing enough to get an inquiry from a literary agent or publisher. Not only that but because Twitter won’t post duplicate postings, you can’t just constantly post the same great over and over again. This means you need to come up with several decent pitches. At first I thought, oh hell, I can’t do that! Then I realized you’d better be able to do it because if you can’t figure out at least 10 different ways to show your creativity to entice someone enough to want to represent you or peddle your product, you don’t need to be writing!

So I did some research since I never experienced a Pitmad type of event before and found the following tips helped.

The following are abbreviated hashtags recognized by the literary community. They also attract agents and publishers who are interested only in certain genres and who don’t feel like wading through thousands of tweets that don’t pertain to them.

#YA = Young Adult
#MG = Middle Grade
#A = Adult
#NA = New Adult
#PB = Picture Book
#CB = Chapter Book
#NF = Non-fiction

Before tweeting make absolutely sure your manuscript is completely finished. Many times writers will tweet a pitch for a work in progress and when contacted, disappointment abounds for 9 times out of 10 these people are only interested in a finished product and now the aspiring writer has wasted an opportunity. Also, be sure to proofread your finished manuscript for typos, grammar and spelling errors. If your manuscript isn’t polished upon submission, it makes you look like the amateur you are and provides a lot of extra work that many agents and publishers may not want to do.

Don’t bombard the twitter verse with your pitches. Yes, with the hundreds of tweets marching past your feed, there’s the fear that yours will get swallowed up if you don’t. However, this is considered bad form and can be downright annoying. People searching for writers will find you via your hashtags and often times will scan the tweets once the event is over and the smoke has cleared. Your best bet is to tweet your pitch twice an hour and at less congested times. I noticed activity jumped on the hour, half and quarter hours so I chose to tweet during odd minutes like 2:17 or 4:49.

Also, while taking part in these pitch events you’re going to see a LOT of good tweets that you will like. Whatever you do, DON’T FAVORITE THEM! When an agent or publisher see a pitch they like they signal the writer by favoriting that pitch. The writer should then follow up by checking the submission preferences of said agent or publisher if the person didn’t already make that indication in a tweet. So when you, as a reader or another writer, favorite a tweet you get some aspiring hopeful jumping around, screaming, doing cartwheels etc. because ZOMG SOMEBODY WANTS TO REPRESENT ME only to find it was just some random Twittererer (Tweety?) who liked your pitch. Once the campaign is over, feel free to go back and favorite it otherwise, as one writer it happened to wrote, don’t give someone an unnecessary heart attack.

A publisher wants to read my baby!

If you are lucky enough to get a legitimate favorite and that person didn’t tweet what their submission preferences or guidelines are, look up their agency to get that information. Then send an email with the subject PitMad Request: TITLE. Whatever you do, don’t send an unsolicited query unless of course an agent or publisher tweets that you can do so. Before doing this though, research the agent or publisher who contacted you. You want to make sure that #1 the person is legitimate since there are a lot of vanity presses masquerading as agents and publishers. You also want to know that the person you’re contacting can actually represent you and is interested in your genre.

I’m happy to say that on this, my very first pitmad experience, I was pinged by four different agents and publishers. While this put me on cloud nine for the rest of the day, upon further review I realized two of them just wouldn’t have made a good fit and would be a waste of both mine time and theirs to send a submission. The other two seemed to be more up my alley though so I contacted them. It’s times like this that I’m thankful for my 10 years as a military spouse for I am now well-versed in the game “Hurry up and wait.” The average wait time in the industry is two months.

So, as I wait to hear a yay or nay by Mid May (hey, that totally rhymes;) I shall busy myself with other things. I am currently working on a work of fiction focusing on the mother/daughter relationship under my new nom de plume, Vera Colon. Once I turned my attention to a new body of work the sequel to my manuscript, Conquest of a Queen, decided to speak up so I have also started writing that one. With my brain actively engaged I am also torturing my body while helping my husband train for the cycling trials of the upcoming Wounded Warrior Games. I recently discovered I could ride 13 miles without dropping dead. Go me!

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed popping my pitch party cherry with the PitMad party and, should I not actually get a bite this time, I look forward to taking part in many more events like this.

 

 

Good news everyone!

Just a quick update before I return to the abyss of my writing cave. I’m still writing for all you romance buffs out there but I’d like to announce that I will also be writing fiction as Vera Colon. Check out all the details here. Meanwhile I hope to have an update on the release of Conquest of a Queen very soon!

 

Luck o the Irish

It seems everyone has it this weekend. So in honor of St. Patricks Day I’m happy to present a sexy little Irish tale inspired by a flash fiction contest. Enjoy and stay safe out there!

Chapter One

This is the story of two Irish sisters, twin sisters though you couldn’t tell by looking at them. Though the babies shared the same womb, when they were born one was the epitome of beauty. The other was so ugly that their father, having stumbled in from celebrating at the pub exclaimed “Faith and Begorrah!” before releasing a loud belch and dropping dead on the floor. Faith grew to be a lovely creature with hair like copper, eyes like the hills on a summer day and skin pale as moonlight. Her voice was rich as honey when she sang and she never had a harsh word to say to or of anyone. It was lucky that Faith was so lovely and fair for she was also dumb as a stump.

Begorrah, on the other hand, lived in her sister’s shadow. Dark and plain was she with hair dark and wild as a midnight gale and eyes deep as mud. Having spent most of her days frolicking in the sun, her skin was ruddy and dark and she barely spoke at all. Where her sister was loved and adored, Begorrah was met with uneasiness and disquiet. It was often whispered that the girl was a changeling brought in the moment of the father’s death. Still, Begorrah was shrewd and while she kept her mouth shut, her eyes were always open. She knew who in the village could be trusted and used her shrewd mind and intimidating manner to love and protect her little family.

One night as the household slept, Faith was gazing from her window up at the bright full moon and the star-filled sky above. The most beautiful of stars seemed to dance and float down to her from the heavens. Never had she seen anything so enchanting.

“Dance with us!” They seemed to say and so she did.

Out the door and down the path Faith danced with the stars. So happy was she that she sang out which woke her sister from her slumber. Begorrah gasped and called out, “Faith no! Tis the Teine Sidhe, the Fairie Fire, ye be dancing with!”

But her call went unheeded and the beautiful maiden disappeared into the woods. Begorrah swore, threw her shawl about her shoulders, and raced into the woods after her sister. Though she couldn’t see them, she was able to follow her sister’s song as it floated through the trees. Finally, she saw a brightness up ahead and stopped at the edge of the clearing. The girl frowned and ducked down, peering through the brush at the sight before her. It was a marketplace where no marketplace should ever be. Makeshift stalls lined the brightly lit clearing, showing their weird and exotic wares to the various creatures, beautiful and hideous alike, that strolled before them. Begorrah scanned the scene but could find no sign of her sister. Oh where could she be?

Suddenly, a great commotion drew the crowd’s attention to the opposite side of the clearing where a large and gaudy patchwork tent had been raised. Begorrah gasped and shook her head violently. Stalking out of the tent was a little man dressed in a bright green suit. A large green top hat sat jauntily upon his fiery brow and a crooked smile formed a chasm within his thick red beard. The jingle of the chains he held behind him echoed as the din of the crowd died down and on the other side of those chains was wrapped firmly around the dim and beautiful Faith.

“I must do something!” Begorrah thought. But what?

The crowd began to murmur and somewhere somebody shrieked.

“A human! He’s brought a human!”

“Pipe down all o’ ye!” The leprechaun spat. “This human is me prize. I won her fair and square!”

“Aye, and just this morning I suckled the Morrigan’s tits until she screamed me name with pleasure!” Someone called followed by raucous laughter.

“Twas me uncle disguised as a Buar Sidhe amongst the old farmer’s cows ye suckled again!” Came another voice followed by more laughter.

“Shut up all of ye!” The leprechaun shouted again. “We have ourselves a visitor.”

All eyes followed as the little man pointed to where Begorrah had been hiding. Drawing her most intimidating manner, she stood bringing gasps and more screaming from the crowd, and stepped into the clearing.

“Welcome to the Bodacha market, lass. I believe this is what ye have come for?” He yanked the chain and Faith stumbled forward with a jingle.

Begorrah stepped forward, causing those Fe closest to her to stumble back, and glared at the leprechaun.

“Ye will hand my sister over to me now!” She snarled even as her heart pounded with fear in her breast.

The leprechaun smiled. “Hand over me prize? Me prize which I’ve won fair and square? I think not!”

Begorrah smiled. “Fair and square? Pull the other one, even ye friends don’t believe that!”

A few of the Fe tittered in spite of themselves.

“Believe it or not, it happens to be true.” He laughed with a glint in his eye that heightened Begorrah’s suspicions. “But if ye be wanting your sister back I’ll strike a bargain with ye.”

Begorrah folded her arms over her breast. “Only a fool would bargain with a leprechaun!”

“Suit ye self.” He shrugged and turned.

Faith’s wide eyes pleaded to her sister as tears streamed down her face. Begorrah gritted her teeth and she silently cursed her sister’s foolishness.

“Wait!” she called. “What is the bargain?”

The leprechaun turned back, grinning ear to ear. He violently yanked the chain, pulling Faith to her knees, and dragged a stubby finger down her tightly drawn, trembling face.

“Your sister is quite lovely, even for a human. She will make a perfect teind for the demon Scathach, don’t ye think? Now if ye can find an even better tribute by the next full moon your sister is free.”

Begorrah shook her head. “No, I will not leave her with ye for so long!”

“Then ye best be moving on.” He smiled again. She was beginning to hate that smile.

“Be well, Faith, I will return.”

To her credit, the beautiful girl released a sob but threw back her tiny shoulders and nodded silently. Begorrah hated to leave her behind but what other choice did she have?

Chapter Two

“Ye left her there, with those monsters?” Her mother wailed. “Oh a thaisce, my treasure! What will become of her?”

Mamai, I promised to rescue Faith from the leprechaun and I will.”

“Begorrah, ye cannot trap another person to take Faith’s place! Tis an evil thing!”

“I know it but I will do what I can to free Faith.”

“Well, if ye must but find her replacement elsewhere. The last thing we need is to have the whole village upon us with pitchforks!” Her mother sighed, angrily.

So with a bundle of provisions and her traveling cloak about her, Begorrah set off to find a tribute fitting enough to release her sister from the clutches of the evil leprechaun. She wound her way through hills, forests and villages. It seemed word of her search journeyed ahead of her for soon the girl found herself facing boarded up homes and taverns. This was bad enough but being chased from town to town by angry torch wielding crowds was worse. Soon she found herself shivering beneath bushes, sleeping in ditches and living off nuts, berries and whatever small woodland creature she was able to capture and kill.

After one particularly bad encounter with a group of angry villagers, Begorrah sat beneath a tree deep in the woods, catching her breath and nursing a nasty cut on her leg where a pitchfork had gotten her.

“May I be of assistance?” She heard a man say.

She looked up, terrified that she had been discovered, to find a man standing before her so handsome it made her heart ache. He was tall and broad shouldered. His midnight hair danced in a breeze she herself did not feel. His grey eyes glimmered like pure silver as they peered at her kindly, almost caring. He wore the garb of a nobleman and Begorrah wondered what a member of the highborn would be doing in the deep dark woods at this time of night. She was met with a heady, intoxicating aroma when the man dropped to one knee and gently placed a broad hand upon her calf.

“May I?” he asked, his eyes seeming to burrow into her soul.

She nodded, unable to find her voice and he lifted her skirts over her knee to get a better look at  the injury. Her skin tingled where he ran a finger along side the long jagged cut. He whistled softly and shook his head.

“This must hurt a great deal.”

It should have hurt, in fact, Begorrah had no doubt she would bear an ugly scar the rest of her life but it didn’t. All she could feel was a delicious warmth creeping up from where the nobleman touched and stroked her leg. Her nipples tightened as she throbbed below. He smiled at her then and she thought she would burst.

“No pain? Ah, the maiden is brave as well as beautiful.”

Begorrah gasped as her heart trilled. “Ye think me beautiful?”

“Aye, a stóirín, gentle as a lamb ye are with eyes like the down of a fawn and skin as soft. How I wished to taste the wine of your sweet lips when first I saw ye!”

He had drawn closer to her and buried his hand in her curls while cupping her face. Softly, he ran his thumb over her lips as he spoke, causing her to shiver. Begorrah realized she wanted this man, wanted his hands and lips on her body, and forgot all else.

“What is your name?” she croaked.

“Ye may call me a Ghrá mo Chroí.” He murmured and kissed her.

My heart’s beloved. It was a term of endearment, not a name but Begorrah didn’t care. His tongue tickled and tugged at hers and even as he pulled her to him, her body craved more. In the distance she heard a strange sound but dismissed it. The heat of his body met hers through their clothing and she wanted more than anything to lose that barrier between them. Her fingers fumbled at the ties on his blouse and trousers as he loosed her gown and pressed his lips to her throat. She threw her head back and moaned as he tasted his way down to her shoulder and cupped her breasts. A curious heat built up within and she whimpered with pleasure as he circled a nipple with his tongue. His mouth closed around it and suckled and she arched her back crying out and clawing his back as lightning raced up and down her belly.

The sound came again, like some kind of horn, but again she ignored it. He continued to lick, kiss and tease her breasts as his hands moved to caress her backside sending wave after wave of pleasure coursing through her body. Only when she collapsed, panting on the ground, did the man move his kisses down her belly.  He slid her gown off completely as he nibbled her hips and continued lower still. Impossibly the sensations began again, a pair of pink buds rose upon her breasts as her hips moved to meet his lips of their own accord.

When the beautiful stranger started to nuzzle the down between her thighs, Begorrah sat up gasping with fright. “No, ye cannot! Ye must not, tis a sin!” she cried.

The gorgeous man looked up and smiled. His eyes practically glowing as he responded, “O, a Shearc, It would be sin to not!”

He dropped his head and ran his tongue softly, slowly, up her throbbing slit. Begorrah dropped her head and slipped back to the ground with a low drawn out moan as she was overcome by a most delectable bliss. He continued to lap at her, long and slow at first, then quicker. His attentions grew more firm as he twirled, teased and dipped his tongue inside her. Begorrah was panting and slick with sweat, calling his name over and over again as the sensations grew stronger and more powerful. Somehow, he was able to bring her to the peak where she felt as if she might explode, then stifled her urgency, drawing out her pleasure so that it became more sweet before building it up again. Just when Begorrah felt she could stand it no longer, her entire body feeling like jelly, he plunged his tongue inside and she burst. Screaming as pleasure sprang from every limb, rushing from her fingers and toes like a bright light, the strange sound grew louder. Begorrah started to become irritated. What was that?

The man knelt between her legs, his impressive member hovering towards her. Even as she thought, yes, fill me! She noticed the clay pipe clutched between his teeth. Why would she notice that now? The sound grew louder still. The pipe, he was puffing on the pipe but there was no smoke? How?

EEEEYAAAAW!!!

Begorrah sat bolt upright. Sunlight trickled through the trees and she lay, fully clothed, at the foot of a donkey. She scrubbed her face and looked about her, confused. She was dreaming. The donkey had woken her up and she had been dreaming. Oh but what a dream! Begorrah blushed to think of it. Her mother would have her horse whipped if she knew but when did she fall asleep? She pulled back her skirts to check on her leg and gasped. Her injury was gone! There was no blood, no scar, no sign that she had ever been hurt at all.

A realization hit her then, she had encountered a Gancanagh! All women were warned of the handsome silver tongued faerie who carried a clay pipe but didn’t smoke it and seduced women that traveled alone. Any woman foolish enough to lie with a Gancanagh spent their remaining days pining for their lost love. Their days of suffering were often short as these women had a tendency of throwing themselves into the sea when they didn’t die of heartbreak. Like others her age, Begorrah had dismissed the tale as an attempt to frighten women into never venturing anywhere without a chaperone.

She looked up at the donkey that had saved her life. Where had he come from? It was no matter for it appeared to belong to her now. As she made her way out of the woods the donkey followed close behind. At night, it seemed to watch over her. It even let her ride on its back when her feet grew weary. Still Begorrah wept as she watched the moon disappear from the night sky. Time was running out and still she didn’t know how to save her sister.

Chapter Three

One night, having made camp amongst the soft rolling hills, she was awakened by the sound of galloping horses and the shouts of men. Her heart thundered in her breast as she leapt to her feet and looked around. Begorrah gaped as she spied an army of men riding circles around the largest mound. She rubbed her eyes and smiled as the land shimmered and a door suddenly appeared. She only had a vague idea where she was and had hoped she traveled in the right direction. Now she knew for she stood before the fabled Hill of Mullaghmast, home of Georoidh Iarla, the Earl of Fitzgerald!

Cautiously, the girl approached the hill wondering how she could enter without being trampled by the silver shoed steeds that raced past. Suddenly, a large gloved hand clamped over her mouth and powerful arms seized her and dragged her behind another hill. Being large and strong, Begorrah struggled and screamed, even biting the hand over her mouth but her captor made no indication of being harmed. Only when she tired and closed her eyes, expecting the worst, did her captor speak.

“That’s better. Now if ye would settle down I can help ye!” A deep male voice breathed into her ear.

Aye, even an ugly duck like she knew what kind of help he was thinking and she wanted no part of it. She relaxed her body and when he released her she spun around and brought her knee up to connect with the most masculine part of her captor. He growled and Begorrah suddenly found herself on the floor, her head feeling as if she’d been kicked by a mule. She looked up, fists balled, to find the man on his knees glaring back at her . So she had managed to hurt him.

Never hit a man like that!” he snarled.

“Well ye can’t use it on me now, can ye?” she bit back.

The man looked startled.

“Ye thought..” He blinked and then chuckled. “Fear not, cailin, I will not ravage ye.”

Begorrah looked at the man and suddenly felt foolish. Dressed as a warrior, his dark hair brushed his shoulders and fell into sharp green eyes that twinkled when he laughed. Of course he wouldn’t ravage the likes of her.

“Who are ye, laoch?” she asked the warrior.

“I am Ethal Anbual of Ulaidh.”

Begorrah blanched at the name and felt doubly stupid about her assumption then.

“Ethal Anbual,” she stammered, “The king of the Fe of Ulaidh?”

Ethal nodded. “The same.”

Begorrah stumbled to her knees with apologies but he held up a hand to silence her. His eyes bore into hers and suddenly her mouth went dry.

“Now, who are ye and what are ye doing in a place like this?”

“My name is Begorrah, sire, I have come to ask the Earl of Fitzgerald for help.”

Ethal looked at her oddly.

“Alone? Tis a dangerous undertaking for a girl such as ye.”

Begorrah blushed and nodded. “Aye, but my sister is in even graver danger than I. Tis for her sake that I am here.”

Ethal rose to his feet and held out a hand which Begorrah took, hesitantly at first. He pulled her to her feet and said, “Then we shall visit Georoidh Iarla and see what he has to say.”

They approached the massive hill and watched as the army continued galloping. Begorrah jumped as Ethal placed an arm around her waist and pulled her against his hip and took her hand in his. She looked up and realized they were walking faster.

“What are ye doing?” she asked.

“There is a small break amongst the riders that comes once every few days. We must use it quickly or prepare to make camp.”

“Oh but I don’t have time for that!”

“Nor I, which is why we must hurry!”

They seemed to rush headlong into the men and suddenly she saw it, the slightest sliver of a space between galloping horses. Begorrah would never have known to look for it but the two of them charged through and into the doorway. She bent forward to catch her breath as Ethal released her. She couldn’t be sure whether her breathlessness was entirely from the breakneck speed in which they ran into the hill or if her close proximity to the king had anything to do with it. She could still feel the heat of his body where it had been pressed against her own.

The interior of the hill was made up of vast archways and furniture that looked to have been carved entirely out of stone. There appeared to be symbols and pictures chiseled in the stone of the archways and across the room on a vast throne sat a man garbed like the soldiers who circled the hill outside. He gazed at the couple with eyes of ice as they approached. Ethal slammed a fist to his chest and bowed.

Go dtaga do ríocht!” He greeted the Earl. May thy kingdom come.

Gurab amhlaidh duit.” The reply came like the sound of leaves on the winter wind. And to you.

The Earl looked at Begorrah, who gave a courtesy, and asked, “A young maid, here?”

“Forgive my lowly presence but I need your help.” She said, unbidden.

“How may I assist you, child?”

Begorrah glanced at Ethal who gave a quick nod and replied, “My sister, Faith, has been captured by a leprechaun who is holding her as his teind. He won’t release her unless I find him a replacement he thinks suitable. I have no wish to subject another poor soul to her fate, to be sure. How can I stop him?”

A smile played on the Earl’s lips while Ethal simply gawked at her.

“Tis an arduous undertaking especially for a maid. Can your young man not help you?”

Ethal started while Begorrah’s face grew hot.

“Begging your pardon, this man is not mine.” She stammered. “That is I have no young man, I am alone in this.”

The Earl clucked. “Tis a shame. I shall appoint this man as your guardian in this quest. Tis dangerous to venture alone even for a man.”

Begorrah was horrified. Surely a king of the Fe had his own reasons for visiting a man who woke once every seven years hoping that the sleeping spell that held him would at last be broken so he could take his rightful place as ruler of all the Eire. She opened her mouth to object but Ethal was already speaking.

“It would be my honor to assist the young maid in her quest.”

“Excellent!” The Earl turned his gaze back to Begorrah. “Child, to rescue your sister ye must find something to entice her captor and bargain for her freedom.”

“If we journey to Connacht we’ll come upon the mound of Cnocc Midh where Iunadh, a queen of the Fe, dwells.” Ethal spoke up. “Queen Iunadh’s hair looks to be made up spun gold and is strong as it is fine. A single strand would lock and hold any doors shut that may guard the leprechaun’s beloved treasure against the strongest blade and the most nimble of thieves.”

“Good man!” The Earl said again, clapping his hands, “Fare ye well.”

When they left the hall, Ethal and Begorrah realized they didn’t need to rush at the door the way they had come in and they settled behind a distant hill.

“I thank ye for speaking to the Earl in my stead but I cannot ask ye to grant me any more of your time.” Begorrah said.

“Tis my honor to aid ye in your quest, Begorrah.”

“Ye have said as much to the earl but why?”

Ethal blinked. “Why?”

“Let’s not pretend ye are not so much more important than I, sire.” She said matter of factly. “Ye were waiting to see the Earl yourself yet ye only concerned yourself with my business. We have never met before today so why do ye wish to help me?”

Ethal looked into those deep brown eyes that flared gold as she spoke. This was no ordinary peasant woman. There was a sharpness in those eyes, determination, even anger. The women in his life swooned and flirted with him. A simple peck on a dainty hand and a quick but steady gaze in the eyes and a maid became soft and pliant in his hands. Begorrah, however, was guarded. Dare he say, she was even suspicious of him? Him, the dashing hero and king of the Fe of Ulaidh! Of course she had every right to be since they were strangers but it was a bit unnerving to find an untrusting woman. He took her hand in his and gazed into her eyes again.

“Would ye be more at ease if I said because it is my noble duty to aid damsels in distress?”

Begorrah stared back. “No.”

Ethal bit back a smile before pulling her close. He could feel her heart flutter as their bodies crushed against each other. Their breath mingling and he suddenly found himself falling into the amber pools of her eyes. He grew heady. What was wrong with him?

“What if I told ye your beauty has captivated me and one such as yourself should not suffer such slings and arrows?” He breathed.

Holding his gaze she replied flatly. “I’d tell ye to pull the other one.”

Ethal barked a laugh and released her, surprised by her candidness. It appeared Begorrah was a force to be reckoned with. He knew then that he would like her.

“So what can I tell ye that would ease your mind?”

“Ye can tell me why ye want to travel to Cnocc Midh. Tis at least a two day journey, nearly a week from where ye hail. So why there?”

Begorrah couldn’t believe her own insolence. She, a lowly human peasant woman was challenging a faerie noble! She tried not to think of all the stories the elders had told about the consequences of crossing the fe. Still, she knew enough about the sneaky nature of people from observing the people of her own village, never mind the untrustworthy nature of the fe, to suspect Ethal was using her for his own devices. She’d rather run the risk of being turned into a snail than fall into a trap she wasn’t prepared for. Ethal stared at her silently for several moments and Begorrah steeled herself for the man’s wrath but he merely chuckled and shook his head.

“Alright. The king of the Fe in Connacht, Fin Bheara, has been stealing from my people and ravishing our women. He has been a thorn in my side since I took up the crown and I intend to do away with him once and for all. His wife, Queen Iunadh, is rumored to be the most beautiful woman in the world. She wears a silver veil so no one living can say for certain but what is certain is she is fed up with her husband’s dalliances. I will gain audience with her and ask for her aid.”

Begorrah gaped at him. “You’re going to ask the queen to help you kill her own husband?”

“There are other methods for doing away with a nuisance besides death, Begorrah.” Ethal’s smile made her blood run cold.

Chapter Four

The pair traveled for several days before arriving at Cnocc Midh. Not surprising, Fin Bheara was not in residence but his wife received her royal guest and his shabbily dressed companion. As Ethal began his elegant speech to the lady, Begorrah was able to slip away and searched for the royal bedchamber as they had discussed earlier. Ducking into the shadows when she heard someone come down the hall, she was easily able to find the heavily perfumed room and slipped inside. Multiple swathes of silk of varying colors and transparency drifted down from the ceiling over a plush round bed. Dainty gold and ebony furniture dotted the room and a gilded covering had fallen over it all. Upon closer inspection Begorrah discovered the film to be hair shed from the head of the queen as Ethal had mentioned. She stuffed a handful into her bundle and turned to find a pair of tall guards hovering over her.

***

Iuradh yawned as she listened to the pretty words spilling from the perfect lips of the beautiful king standing before her.

“Pray, be silent!” she interrupted finally. “Ethal Anbual, ye are my enemy and the enemy of my people yet here ye stand plying me with words of woo. What is it ye want of me?”

“Nay,” Ethal responded dropping to one knee in a dramatic pose, “I and my people have no quarrel with ye and yours but with your husband, the king.”

The golden queen smiled behind her shimmering veil. “Ye and every other male in the land.”

Ethal Anbual was no fool, she knew, and would tread lightly as he ventured into dangerous territory. Iuradh was no fool either. The Fe were free and easy. Sex was a pleasurable way to pass the time. It allowed her people to express their devotions to deity and noble alike. When Fe men went off to war they often sought solace in the bed of another, being separated from their partners for a length of time. Men strayed, as did women, it was a part of life. Even the queen of the Fe took a lover when it suited her, though unlike her husband, she was much more particular. At the moment she could think of any number of things she’d like to do to the hard, well formed specimen kneeling before her now. It was the choices her king made in his dalliances that irked her. The man had no discretion, no tact in who he laid with and it was becoming an embarrassment to her. Iunadh knew of the recent troubles caused by Fin in Ulaidh and Ethal’s visit had been expected. Like him, the queen grew weary of her husband’s antics and she wanted a long respite. As she saw his plain and disheveled companion slink off into the shadows, she put her plan into action.

“Aye, the countless dalliances of the king of the Fe of Connacht is no secret, my lady.” Ethal was saying, “If I may be so bold, the man is a waste of the attentions of an enchantress such as ye.”

Iuradh smiled in a way she knew would make her eyes sparkle like sapphires.

“Are ye proposing to take his place, Ethal Anbual?” she cooed.

Ethal bowed his head in deference. “Aye, though I am not worthy of such an honor.”

The sound of scuffling drew their attention and Ethal started and grew pale as his accomplice was dragged into the room by her guards. The queen watched with interest as the girl struggled against the men before being thrown to the ground. Rising to her knees, the wild haired girl lifted her head and regarded her with keen eyes that seemed to glow with gold. She noted the change in Ethal’s stance and demeanor as the girl had been brought in and heeded her movements as she bade the prisoner to stand. Though appearing as a common human peasant, Iunadh could sense there was much more to the girl. There was a determination in her face, even power, as she stood upright and proud before the queen. Iunadh laughed to herself. The girl had been caught stealing from her bedchamber yet stood before her like the bravest of knights. How interesting.

“Ye have been caught stealing from the royal bedchamber.” Iunadh boomed. “What say ye?”

“Aye.” The girl responded quietly.

No denial? No tears? No begging for mercy?

The queen smirked. “Theft of such a degree is an offense punishable by death. What say ye now?”

“There are other methods for doing away with a nuisance besides death, Highness.” She replied smoothly.

Ethal started at the remark and turned to Iunadh with a look of desperation she never thought to witness on the man.

“My lady, tis only out of desperation that this girl was found in your bedchamber.”

“Clearly, the girl hoped to take away a trinket or two to sell or trade for drink. Can she not speak for herself?” The queen barked.

“Aye.” She said again quietly.

Her expression was almost defiant. Iunadh smiled, the peasant had pride and she had managed to insult her.

“So, what was it ye hoped to swipe for your prize? My jewels, some silk, a vial of perfume, perhaps? What was so vital that ye would risk your life in such a foolish endeavor?”

“A lock of your hair to gain my sister’s freedom.”

The queen frowned, confused, and looked at Ethal who nodded solemnly.

“Explain.”

The girl poured out a tale of woe like nothing she had ever heard. Damn leprechauns were never a favorite of hers, like her husband they caused more trouble than they were worth. Ordinarily a queen of the Fe wouldn’t interfere in the trivialities of man but she was impressed by the girl’s bravery and determination. She was fueled by the love of her family and a need to protect them. Iunadh rarely ventured into the human world and rarer still, encountered a human with loyalty and integrity. She was moved to help the girl, especially as in helping her she would help herself.

“What is your name, child?”

“I am called Begorrah.”

“Ye are correct. There are other methods to do away with a nuisance besides death and ye shall aid me in doing away with the nuisance in my life.” She leaned forward. “Begorrah, ye shall find my husband, Fin Bheara, and seduce him.”

Begorrah flinched. “I am to seduce him?”

The queen smiled. “Aye. Ye shall appear to him luscious as a nubile nymph riding my prize steed. He will be thoroughly enticed by you and he will turn on his charms but do not let him seduce you. Instead, bade him to tame the beast on which ye ride for she abhors all men. Tell him only then will ye let him bed ye.”

Begorrah’s mouth fell open. “But I do not wish to lay with your husband.”

“That is good. Remember that when he sets your loins aflame and consumes your mind with thoughts of him inside ye.”

She chuckled as the girl reddened deeply from head to toe. Such innocence. Yes, she could see why Ethal was so smitten with her, even if he himself didn’t know it yet.

“Fear not, if ye do as I say ye will not have to lay with him. The beast on which ye will ride is Capall Sídhe, a shapeshifter in the form of a horse. Once Fin Bheara climbs upon her back he will be captured until I deem him worthy of release. My husband is a little too hot-blooded for the form of other females and needs to learn to be more particular. A few centuries beneath the waves should cool him off.”

***

Begorrah still trembled as she and Ethal left the hill. The queen of the Fe was as cold and frightening as she was beautiful. There was a reason humans were advised never to tangle with Faerie folk. Once all this was over Begorrah intended to have as little to do with the Fe as possible. She hoped Faith would learn the same lesson.

“Ye were wonderful!” Ethal beamed. His optimism was beginning to irritate her.

“Wonderful? I was caught by the queen’s guards. I was almost killed and now I have to seduce her husband. How could I possibly manage to do that?”

Ethal stopped walking and turned. His eyes roamed her form so intimately that Begorrah could feel herself flush.

“Tis not the impossible task ye may think.” He said finally. “Once we locate the Capall Sidhe ye shall bathe and shed your garments. The vision of ye upon a brilliant white steed would make any man yield his senses.”

Ethal’s words and the expression upon his face made Begorrah’s heart thud in her breast. She had seen such a gaze from the many men who adored her sister, her lovely, gentle, graceful sister. Never her, she must be going mad.

“Sire, I have never been seen by a man and it will be difficult to ride in such a state before Fin Bheara. I cannot allow myself to be seen by ye as well.”

Ethal smiled and her heart fluttered. He reached out and stroked her hair, rolling the unruly curls between his fingers, and Begorrah forgot how to breathe.

“Aye, the temptation would be far too great. However, when arranged strategically, your tresses shall preserve your modesty.”

They traveled to the lake and valley Queen Iunadh had directed them to find the Faerie horse. To their surprise, the queen herself appeared from the mountainside guiding a beautiful white horse with shimmering mane behind her. Begorrah had never ridden a horse and knowing what the beast truly was had frightened her. What was she doing? How could she hope to pull this off? Begorrah frowned as the half moon rose in the sky. She had to be brave, she was running out of time.  The queen sent Ethal to confirm Fin Bheara’s whereabouts while she insisted Begorrah bathe in the lake. Frightened at first, the girl realized if the queen of the Fe had wanted to harm or kill her, she wouldn’t have gone through such lengths to do so.

The water was much warmer than Begorrah had anticipated. As she ducked beneath the surface, shaking her head so her hair could fan out above her, she reveled in the smooth comforting feel of the water. This was no ordinary lake. No doubt it was the magic of the water Queen Iunadh intend to use to make the girl attractive enough to lure her husband to his fate. When she reemerged, her skin seemed to glow in the moonlight. Her frizzy curls had settled down and cascaded to her hips. Feeling self conscious standing naked before the lovely queen of the Fe, Begorrah arranged some of her hair down the front of herself as she stepped on shore.

“Wonderful!” The queen nodded approvingly as the girl approached. She brought the Faerie horse forth and Begorrah hesitated.

“Come now,” the queen laughed and held out her alabaster hand. “I am gifting this beast to aid ye in doing my bidding. No harm will come to ye.”

Begorrah managed to mount the horse with the queen’s help and had just finished putting her hair to rights, all the time listening to the queen’s instructions, when Ethal returned. He stood fast, his eyes on her as she approached on horse back, blushing furiously.

“Ye are a vision!” Ethal said in awe.

“Take hold of yourself, Ethal Anbual.” Iunadh admonished him. “Did ye find my husband?”

“Aye, he is sleeping off the drink on the edge of a clearing a short distance from his men who also slumber.”

“Then it is time.” The queen turned to Begorrah. Her eyes seemed to glow as she said, “Remember girl, ye are to entice him to ride the horse. Lay with Fin Bheara and I will end ye!”

Begorrah shivered and swallowed hard. “I will remember.”

Begorrah didn’t need to know where to direct the horse as she appeared to know exactly where to go. She wondered if she would be successful. She had no interest in bedding the queen’s husband and being already cautious from her encounter with the Gancanagh, Begorrah was determined not to let her guard down a second time. Perhaps when all was said and done she would do well to watch Faith more carefully. While she herself often went ignored by the opposite sex, the men of the village flocked to her beautiful and elegant sister yet she never succumbed to any of their wiles. The wagging tongues of the mens’ wives and intended held more of a threat to Faith and Begorrah knew how to handle the situation for her. She herself knew not how to defend against the attentions of men and had been caught off guard twice in recent weeks. She knew not what magic the lake in which she bathed contained but it appeared to be working judging by Ethal’s reaction in the clearing. She was determined to make this work. She had to get the lock of hair from the queen so she could rescue her sister and end this nightmare. She longed to return to her quiet life sitting by the fire in the cottage with her darning while listening to her mother spin tales as she stroked the hair of the gentle pretty girl who rested her head on her knee.

She knew those days were numbered. Soon Faith would marry the chieftain’s son and start a family by her own hearth. Her mother, still a beauty in her own right with gold streaking her red hair, pale blue eyes and lithe figure, had the attentions of the widower blacksmith. Once Faith was married, Begorrah knew it would only be a matter of time before her mother and the blacksmith tied the knot. As always when the questions came unbidden, Begorrah didn’t know the answer. What would become of her? She could serve as Faith’s handmaiden in her new home. She could continue studying with the medicine woman and hope to take her place in the village one day. At worst she could find herself wed to the old butcher. The man had managed to lop off a hand due to a combination of losing part of his sight and all of his mind but that didn’t stop him from grabbing at Begorrah with the other whenever he paid a visit to the blacksmith. Begorrah had been careful not to venture too close to the man but as best friend to her mother’s intended and soon to be man of her family, it was almost certain that the butcher would ask the blacksmith for Begorrah’s hand.

Though she was plain to look at Begorrah ached to be loved by a man who was good and kind. She knew she would never catch a wealthy or handsome man like her sister and mother but she didn’t need to in order to be happy. Her fickle heart had leaped at the attentions of Ethal Anbual but the man ruled over the Fe of Ulaidh. He wasn’t even human himself and Begorrah had had her share of magical beings. Still, if he ever asked for her… Concentrate girl, she shook her head, focus on rescuing Faith.

Chapter Five

The rustling leaves caught Fin Bheara’s attention and he sat up peering into the trees. More rustling made him stagger to his feet as a belch escaped him.

“Who’s there?” He called, drawing his sword. “Show yourself!”

Begorrah took her cue and burst into the clearing, a raven haired goddess riding sideways on the bare back of a magnificent white horse. As they circled the swaying man, Begorrah got a better look at her intended prey. Fin Bheara was tall and lanky with hair that showed like a golden halo in the moonlight. His elegant garb was stained with wine. His dark eyes attempted to focus on her as she rode closer and she could see fine stubble along his lip and chin. Even if she had entertained the idea of seducing the Fe king for her own devices, she knew she would have no problem keeping herself in check. Though Begorrah suspected the man was more attractive when he was sober, he still didn’t hold a candle to Ethal. She gave herself a mental shake and smiled at the confused monarch, now was not the time to be thinking about Ethal.

“Good morrow, my lord.” Begorrah said.

“Where dost thou hail, lady fair?” Fin asked, his eyes roaming her body.

“I ride from yonder vale as I do every night.”

He stepped closer. “Alone? Tis a dangerous undertaking.”

Begorrah threw her head back and laughed, “I have my gentle steed to protect me from harm.”

The movement allowed Fin a peek of the side of her breast and navel. His eyes widened slightly as a smile played upon his lips.

“Aye but a steed can only offer so much protection for a beauteous maiden.”

Begorrah imitated the gentile grin she had seen Faith employ many times and fluttered her eyes. “My lord, would ye be offering the services of your protection?”

Fin’s eyes twinkled as he stepped beside her and placed a hand on her bare knee. “Aye, as king of the Fe tis my sworn duty to assure all female folk of the realm return home safely.”

Begorrah dipped her head, allowing the king view of her other breast, “Ye honor me, highness. Will ye come with me now?”

She lowered a hand down to the king who took it and hoisted himself up beside her. The horse began to dance sideways and Begorrah tamped down her fear as she tightened the reins to settle hher again.

“My apologies, sire.” She turned her head and peered at him from beneath her lashes. “The beast does not hold favor with men, whatever their pedigree.”

“Mayhap it would take the firm hand of a king to tame the beast. Shall we find out?”

“Would ye not rather see me safely home first?” Begorrah’s eyelashes fluttered again and she leaned closer to him this time allowing the king full view of all that lay hidden beneath her tresses.

“Of course, lady fair, forgive me.”

Fin placed his arms around her waist as she turned the horse around and headed back into the trees. As they rode, Begorrah discovered just how talented the great Fin Bheara was at seduction, even drunk. He let his hands relax so that they caressed her hips and thighs with every movement of the horse. Slowly they traveled and slipped down to stroke her nub and behind until Begorrah was nearly undone. Fin chuckled softly when she shifted her hips and tightened her legs. His hands roamed up her back and belly and along her sides until he had reached up and pulled her hair away from her ear as the other cupped her breast. His teeth closed gently on her earlobe and tugged, sending a tingle through her body. She closed her eyes as his palm teased her nipples erect while his tongue tasted the sensitive skin behind her ear. She moaned, a mixture of relief and disappointment, as she saw they were nearing the vale.

Fin glanced up a moment as he smiled and said, “Odd. I know this vale.”

“Is it not so that the king should have intimate knowledge of every crevice within his kingdom?” Begorrah asked hoarsely, shifting her behind so that it rubbed against her passenger’s growing bulge as they rode.

“M’fhíorghrá, a chuid den tsaol. Tabhair póg dom!” He hissed into her hair, growing harder against her, and bit her neck. You are my true love, my everything, kiss me!

The horse took the couple into the vale and strode along the shore of the lake as Begorrah locked Fin in an embrace and he crushed her lips with his. She had to drive him to a frenzy before slipping off the horse as he entered the water so he couldn’t tell what was happening until it was too late. If her timing was off she too would be pulled down, the queen had warned her. She wanted to make the king as heady as the Gancanagh had made her. As his hands and lips roamed her body she closed her eyes and thought of Ethal. Her body responded to his touch as if it was the king of Ulaidh not Connacht that caressed it. She moaned as Fin pressed his trembling length against her pulsating warmth.

“I must have you!” He groaned, biting her shoulder.

A cold wetness brushed her toes and Begorrah’s eyes flew open when she realized they were riding into the lake. She also saw Queen Iunadh standing in the distance behind them glowing in the moonlight, her hair waving in all directions. Fin shifted and she saw he had released his manhood from his trousers and was preparing to enter her.

“No!” she cried and struggled against him.

Fin smiled and held her fast. “Fear not, little one, it will only hurt for a moment.”

“No, no! We can’t!” She screamed, pushing away from him and trying to slide off the horse as they ventured further into the water.

“Have a care, you’ll knock us both into the water!” He laughed then blinked.

He glanced around, noticing their surroundings, that he was knee deep in water, for the first time and turned to see his wife standing on the beach. His face twisted into a snarl as he turned back to find Begorrah was sliding herself into the water.

“Oh no ye don’t, ye little cunt!” Fin growled, pulling her across the mare’s back by her hair.

“Let me go!” She screamed, dragging her nails across his face.

He tugged her hair hard enough to make her yelp and pressed his dagger to her throat.

“Ye may have thought ye was clever, falling in league with my wife but if ye notice she isn’t coming to help ye. No one is coming to help ye. If I go down I’m taking ye with me!”

Begorrah could feel the water rising still and knew that soon she and Fin both would sink beneath the waves on the back of the Capall Sidhe. She had seen the queen fuming by the water and knew that she had gone too far with the king even though she had been thinking of another. In a matter of days her darling sister Faith would be sacrificed by that accursed leprechaun. Neither of them would see their mother, their people or their village again. She had failed!

Suddenly, Fin’s body jerked. They exchanged glances before both looked and saw a pool of blood spreading from the point of a blade sticking out of his chest. Begorrah felt a hand grab her and tug her off the horse as Fin slumped forward just before man and beast slipped beneath the waves. Ethal wrapped an arm around her and swam with her to shore. Numb and trembling from terror and the temperature of the waves she allowed herself to be dragged on to the sand. He saved her! The man she loved had saved her! Begorrah knew then that, even if he did not return it, her love for him was true. She pulled herself up to her knees and dropped her head, her curls shielding her modesty. After a moment a pair of silver slippers stood before her.

“Forgive me, highness. I went too far.” Begorrah said, closing her eyes and bracing for the queen’s wrath.

“Nonsense!” Iunadh giggled. “Ye did everything perfectly.”

Begorrah gaped at her, realizing the beautiful queen did in fact looked pleased. She glanced at Ethal who did not look pleased. His eyes glittered and his jaw set as he looked down at her. If she had been successful then why was he so angry with her?

Chapter Six

Inside the Hill of Mullaghmast, Begorrah was bathed and dressed in fine silks with flowers weaved into her curls. Her faithful donkey had been transformed into a fine black stallion and another donkey had been laden with sacks of gold, jewels and fine fabrics for her to take back home. True to her word, Queen Iunadh gave Begorrah a lock of hair from her head and allowed her to keep the hair she had picked up from the floor of her bedchamber. Much to the girl’s surprise, Ethal insisted on journeying home with her.

“Leprechauns are tricky and devious. I will make sure he does not go back on his word and releases your sister to ye.” He said.

He had shown her nothing but kindness since they met and she knew she had no reason to doubt him, especially as he no longer seemed angry with her. She also realized that her village was on the way to his home in Ulaidh and that Ethal was doing her yet another kindness.

It was the eve of the full moon when Ethal and Begorrah appeared in the Bodacha market. This time the patrons bowed and scraped, some even trembled as they passed and approached the large tent. No one dared interfere in the business of a king of the Fe. When the leprechaun emerged he blanched before growing angry.

“What is this? How dare ye involve the highborn of the Fe in our business!” he screamed, waving a fat little finger in Begorrah’s face.

“Where is the maiden, Duoan?” Ethal bellowed and the leprechaun winced at the sound of his given name.

“She is here, highness, but we have an agreement, this maid and I.”

“She has told me of your agreement and she has fulfilled her part in it.”

The leprechaun eyed the stallion and pack mule greedily and rubbed his hands together.

“That remains to be seen, sire, although she has made a valiant start.”

He started towards the animals when Ethal held out a hand. “Hold leprechaun, there is nothing to concern yourself with there.”

The little man frowned, confused, and glared at Begorrah. “What have ye brought me then as a fit tribute to Scathach that I may release your sister to ye?”

The crowd gasped as Begorrah drew forth a single strand of gold.

“Tis a hair of Iunadh, queen of the Fe of Connacht. No weapon is strong enough to break it, no fire is bright enough to burn it. Where ever it is ye hoard ye treasure, this strand can be used to protect it from theft.” She told him.

A low whistle escaped from the leprechaun’s fat lips and Begorrah smiled. She had done it. He reached for the hair but Begorrah pulled her hand back and when he shot her a nasty look she met his eyes with a steady gaze.

“Is it satisfactory?”

The little man chewed his lip for a moment before giving a brief nod.

“Now where is my sister?”

The leprechaun snorted then disappeared into the tent. After a moment, Faith emerged. Her clothing was a bit tattered, her hair disheveled but she looked otherwise unscathed. Tears erupted from the eyes of both sisters as they fell into each other’s arms and kissed each other senseless.

“O Begorrah, you’ve returned!”

“Silly goose, I said I would, didn’t I?”

They giggled and looked each other over. Begorrah had completely forgotten about her fine attire until Faith began to moon over it. A voice interrupted the reunion.

“And now may I have me prize?”

Faith’s eyes widened when they saw Begorrah’s grow dark and her jaw set. She knew what that look met but stayed silent and stepped to one side.

“Oh yes,” Begorrah replied, “Ye shall have your prize.”

She and the leprechaun approached each other. He held his hand out as she reached inside her bag and drew a much larger shinier strand of hair. She grasped his arm, spun him around and started whipping him with the hair. The throng of onlookers screeched with laughter and cheered as the little man howled and jumped about. Begorrah held him with an iron grip and whipped the leprechaun until her arm grew tired. Then she switched hands and continued to beat him soundly. At last, she threw him to the floor and tucked the hair away again. This time she drew the original strand of hair she had shown him, one of the few she had picked up from the floor of the queen’s bedchamber, and tossed it to the floor beside him.

“That is to ensure ye never take a human as your teind ever again!” Begorrah told him as he whimpered. “If I ever hear that ye are even entertaining the idea of tricking another human that way again, ye had better leave the country for ye will get more of the same!”

The leprechaun trembled and crept back into his tent, cursing all humans. Ethal placed Faith upon the back of the stallion and he and Begorrah made their way back to the village.

There was much rejoicing when the sisters returned. Their mother hugged her daughters with equal gusto and the villagers cheered. The Chieftain held a special feast in Begorrah’s honor and Faith married his son that very afternoon. The village was most honored by the presence of a king of the Fe and bestowed many gifts upon him for helping rescue their beloved Faith.

***

A weary Begorrah slipped away from the festivities later that evening for the sanctuary of her room in the loft. The couples had paired off and Ethal Anbual was being regaled by tales of the bravest warriors of the village while prettier maids than she fawned and blushed over the man. Life in the little village would return to normal soon enough and Begorrah would fade into the background once again.

“There ye are!” Her mother said, her head popping up from the floor. “Tis not polite to keep guests waiting, Begorrah.”

Begorrah furrowed her brow. What guests? Everyone was still celebrating in the square. She climbed down the ladder after her mother and smoothed her skirts as she turned. In the main room stood her mother, the blacksmith, Faith and her new husband along with the chieftain himself and Ethal.

“What’s happening?” she asked as she looked from one face to the other.

“Tis a momentous occasion.” The chieftain, a large hairy ginger, boomed. “Ethal Anbual, king of the Fe of Ulaidh, has asked for your hand.”

Begorrah blinked. “Who’s hand?”

“Yours silly!” Faith giggled.

Begorrah blinked again. “He did?”

Ethal crossed the room, his eyes shining as he took her hand in his.

“He did.” He replied softly.

Begorrah forgot to breathe.

“Why?” She whispered.

He leaned his forehead against hers and gazed into her eyes.

“Táim i ngrá leat.” He whispered back. Because I am in love with you.

Tears welled up in her eyes and he pulled her to him and kissed her. Her heart swelled and as his kiss deepened, his hands grasping the fabric of her gown into fists, she could feel parts of him swelling as well and her body answered.

“So will ye marry him?” Begorrah heard her sister say. “Will ye take him for your husband?”

Yes, her heart answered. Forever and always, yes!

 

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY FANS!

one year anniversary

Wow, how time flies! It has been one full year since I started this blog. I’ve read and reviewed some great and not so great books. I’ve gotten to learn the ins and outs of the publishing and self publishing industry and met some great people along the way.

So what will 2014 bring us? Well, as you may have already seen I have pulled down the original renditions of Heroes and Hearts and Descendants of Quendaris. I’ve merged both stories and, after talking to some other writers and reviewers I’ve picked up a lot of great tips and insight that I am now using to revamp the new novel. I have spoken to a few publishers and agents who are interested in reading the finishing product and I hope to have it ready for submission by the Spring. In the meantime I will also be flexing my writing muscles via contests and short stories. It’s been years since I’ve actively picked up a pen and paper (hey I’m old school, I don’t write on computers;) but I feel confident that I’ve brushed away all the cobwebs and I’m now ready to throw down!

So keep watching this page for updates, stories, articles and of course feel free to fan or like or whatever my fan page.

Most romantic cities in America

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Recently Amazon put out a list of romantic cities based on sales of romance novels and relationship books. Not only is the list kind of a shock to most people but the cities named seem to be the antithesis of romance (hence the high rate of romance novel and relationship book purchases I guess). I mean of all the cities in Florida alone when I think of romance Orlando, Miami and Clearwater don’t exactly spring to mind. So, just in time for Valentine’s Day, here is my top 5 favorite romantic cities in America in no particular order.

1. St. Augustine, Florida

This is one of my most favorite places in the US. As the oldest city in the state (possibly even the country) St. Augustine has old world charm of cobblestoned streets, quaint shops, and great restaurants.

Visit the fabled Fountain of Youth or the local winery, San Sebastian. Take a historic tour via horse drawn carriage or ride across a beautiful sandy beach on horseback!

2. Seattle, Washington

Probably the one selection on Amazon’s list that I agree with. Located in a valley surrounded by beautiful snowcapped mountains, Seattle is ideally located for those who like to hike, go berry picking, swim, sail and like a bit of night life.

Pike Place Market is a must see but so is the sweet little Waterfall Garden in Pioneer Square. There are plenty of great places to stay in the city but if you want to snuggle by a cozy fire in the mountains head to the Salish Lodge and Spa in beautiful Snoqualmie.

3. Savannah, Georgia

You just can’t have a romantic city list without Savannah, the most beautiful city in Georgia. Visit old cathedrals, quaint markets, ride on an old fashioned riverboat and take part in the annual Valentine’s Day vow renewal ceremony.

4. Charleston, South Carolina

Again, no list would be complete without Charleston. History fanatics can stroll through plantations or take a pirate tour.

Culture buffs will enjoy the various wine, art and music festivals that occur throughout the year while foodies have their pick from an array of dining choices.

5. Poconos, Pennsylvania

Adventure seeking outdoorsy types will love it here. There’s skiing, tubing and snowboarding in winter and boating, rafting and horseback riding during the warmer months. I have a soft spot in my heart for the Poconos as it’s home to my favorite cheesetastic romantic getaway Caesar’s Cove Haven.

Flush with 70s style decor, heart shaped and champagne glass tubs and private swimming pools and starlight ceilings, this all inclusive romantic resort is great for a long weekend. You’ll feel like you’ve been there for a week.. in a good way!

Whatever your price range, whether you’re in a high priced resort or feeding each other strawberries and sparkling wine at home, your romantic adventure is what you and your significant other make of it.

 

Body Image and the Romance Novel

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It never fails. When reading a romance novel, the men are always well built and muscular with enormous genitalia while the women are gorgeous and well proportioned with smooth skin and smell of either some type of flower or confection. Some say this sets the reader up for unrealistic expectations and the beautiful characters can’t be related to. I agree however, there are a few things to consider.

 #1 A large majority of women hate how they look

It doesn’t matter how beautiful, thin or curvy a woman is, most of us absolutely hate how we look. I won’t get into the whole debate about body image in society, impossible expectations portrayed by the media etc. because we’ll be here all day. The fact of the matter is women are our own worst critics. Personally, I look in the mirror at least twice a week and frown at my graying hair and extra flab. Meanwhile my husband can’t seem able to keep his hands off me and I have friends who tell me I’m gorgeous. This brings me to my second point.

 #2 The hero will always find the heroine attractive 

That’s just the way the formula goes or at least that’s how I use it. If you notice, in many novels the heroine hates her body or doesn’t feel she measures up to the goddesses who surround her yet the hero absolutely adores her. The same traits she might hate seem to drive him crazy with desire. Even if she appears homely to the hero at first, it isn’t long before he takes a good look at her and realizes, wait a minute, this woman is beautiful! In my opinion this is where fantasy and reality meet. No matter what any of us looks like the person who makes your heart skip, your pulse race and causes butterflies to flutter in your stomach with a simple touch or look is the loveliest person you will ever meet.

 

#3 How do you write a “realistic body”?

She stood framed in the doorway, her satin robe caressing her figure. He approached her, a goofy look on his face as he undid the sash and slipped the robe down to her feet. He smiled, noting how the corn pads drew his attention to the shimmering polish on her toenails. The varicose veins, born from hours of standing on her feet as a waitress, fanned out like a roadmap on her legs. He massaged her cellulite dimpled behind as he kissed his way up and around her panis. He relished in the feel of her swollen nipples brushing his forehead as he kissed his way up to her bare breasts. As he stood upright, his soft belly jiggled and slid against her body. She groaned, caressing his bald spot and running her hands through the thick hair of his back. She squeezed the extra cushioning along his waist.

“Your love handles drive me crazy!” she murmured.

****

Not too sexy is it? At least, not as sexy as a scene describing a more perfectly formed couple anyway. Reading in general is a form of escapism and the romance genre especially so. While the hero and heroine don’t have to be underwear models, I think there is a growing tendency to make these couples to be a little more realistic while still maintaining artistic license. There’s not as much call for washboard abs and perky breasts and I can’t remember the last time I’d read of a virginal heroine gasping when her hero unleashes an appendage the size of a tree trunk. There are writers who specialize in BBW romances which feature plus sized women and men and I applaud those writers. I understand they’re doing very well and I intend to study those books as I’m curious how they handle the descriptive scenes. There’s also the growing trend of books featuring men who are physically or emotionally damaged and so far the books I’ve come across in this trend are very well written. I’ll encourage anyone to seek out and pick up books featuring these types of characters if you haven’t already.

Some day we may see romance novels featuring people who look just like you and me but to be honest, wouldn’t it be more fun to pretend to be a beautiful enchantress who is driving some gorgeous hunk absolutely wild, even for a little while?

Short Story Preview: Romancing Mrs. Claus

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Happy Holidays to all!

Well my novel is finished but I’m still having an issue with naming the thing. Usually I leave the title until the end hoping the flow of the story will inspire me but this time it’s just not working, maybe because it’s a hybrid, I don’t know. Anyway, I’ve also decided to try the traditional route to get the book published so I’m actively searching for literary agents to help smooth away any rough edges I missed and help get my book out there. So, if you know of (or are) any literary agents who’s not afraid to push the envelope and are genuinely interested in fantasy romance that doesn’t involve vampires, werewolves, zombies, ghosts etc. feel free to drop me a line!

In the meantime, I’m working on a few new projects and short stories to gather more readers and continue to hone my writing skills. Recently, a story idea jumped ahead of the cue with so much enthusiasm that I just had to give it my undivided attention. It’s a sweet romantic story about how Mrs. Claus feels unappreciated by her husband and is whisked off on an adventure by the suave and sexy Jack Frost. Can old St. Nick win his wife back? Here’s a sneak preview of my new short story: Romancing Mrs. Claus.

***

Damaris sighed as she stood in the back of the room, waving though she knew the gesture went unseen. Her husband rode off on his sleigh pulled by a team of reindeer and cheered on by a multitude of ecstatic workers. The din barely died down as the little men and women rushed off to have their own celebrations in the village, their work for the year now complete. Damaris had to smile. The elves worked diligently from dawn to dusk with smiles on their faces and a song in their hearts. Their only compensation was the smiles on the children’s faces Christmas morning and the stories Santa brought back with him after his long night of delivering gifts to the world’s recipients. Often Damaris wondered how much the man embellished and how much he kept to himself. She knew that while he thrived on delivering gifts to the world’s children, there were times when he entered a home to find a much older, curvier and scantily clad occupant waiting for him to arrive. Nikolai sure got a kick out of these occurrences the first few times they happened and, in his usual jovial manner, he would relay to his wife how he would tip his hat and respectfully decline the lady’s offer before leaving again. Sometimes the woman wouldn’t take the hint and Santa became adept at gingerly dropping gifts beneath the tree while being chased around it. While these adventures tickled her husband immensely, Damaris was not amused and after seeing how upset they made her, Nikolai had stopped telling her about them. This of course made matters worst for not knowing made her believe he was being accosted in practically every home he entered. Then of course she began to wonder when amusement turned to desire and how often he was receiving more than cookies and milk on these treks.

The portrayal of the magical couple made Damaris laugh. She never understood where the idea that they were an elderly couple came from, perhaps the fact Nikolai had been doing this for so long, but the fact of the matter was the jolly old man was simply a disguise he took on to satisfy convention. Old St. Nick was actually a big bear of a man standing nearly 6 foot tall with dark curly hair and a closely cropped mustache and beard. He did have a good heart, a deep belly laugh and the most beautiful blue eyes she had ever seen to date, at least that much the stories had gotten right. Damaris, on the other hand, was a slender woman whose head barely reached her husband’s shoulder so that she had to stand on tiptoe to kiss him. Her ebony hair flowed down to her waist and her eyes were, as Nikolai once said, as green as the Mediterranean before a storm. While she used to travel with him often when they first married, Damaris couldn’t actually remember the last time she had left the North Pole and was anxious to see this strange new world Nikolai described.

Damaris sighed again as she realized there was a lot that she and Nikolai used to do together. While he was still courteous and kind to her, she often felt more like a maid or housekeeper than a wife. She missed the feel of his arms around her, the electricity of his kisses, the smell of him. Each were so submerged in their duties that they barely spoke any more and often times, Damaris would fall into an empty bed at night and awaken alone in the morning. The warmth of the wrinkled sheets beside her was the only confirmation she had that her husband still slept by her side. It was a far cry from when they first met.

Damaris hailed from the thriving metropolis of Pompeii. Her father had owned and operated the largest hotel in the region, located on the edge of the city with sprawling views of the sparkling Mediterranean Sea. He often boasted of the wealthy and important clientele the hotel attracted though they rarely seemed worth the hoopla to Damaris. If they weren’t incredibly rude, yelling at and hitting the staff, they were very stingy and constantly haggled prices down below the rate of even the worst hovels. Perhaps this was the reason their male guests insisted on taking liberties with the staff during their stay making it necessary for Damaris to intervene between a flustered employee and drunken official. She also had to face irate wives who accused the young woman of enticing these grabby men herself! It was often miserable work and on extra rough days, she would seek solace on her rooftop garden.

The day had been extraordinarily hot for the season and Damaris stood behind the reception desk brushing away the hair that had escaped her long braid when he walked in. She looked up as the doorway darkened and her breath caught in her throat. He practically filled the entire room by himself and Damaris shivered. She thanked the gods for the feast of Vulcanalia, without which they would have had a vacancy. If he was as hands on as most of their guests, she would have a hard time fighting him off. He was dressed oddly, wearing thick black boots instead of sandals. His tunic was made of material far too warm for the current climate with long sleeves and was closely cropped to the neck. He was incredibly pale compared to the olive complexion of the locals. Damaris tried to speak but only a squeak came out. She composed herself, cleared her throat and tried again.

“May I help you, sir?”

“Yes, I require a room for myself and my horse.” He replied, a thick accent colored his clipped rendition of her language.

Damaris swallowed a smile as she told him,

“I’m sorry sir, while we do have space in our stables for your horse, the hotel is full for the holiday.”

The man looked confused for a moment and Damaris wondered if he understood her. She opened her mouth again when he asked,

“Would it be possible to share the stable with my horse?”

Damaris barked a laugh before slapping a hand over her mouth.

“I’m sorry, sir, that’s not a request we’re used to hearing around here. I’m afraid Father wouldn’t approve.”

He leaned across the desk and winked.

“Perhaps you could tell him I’m the stableboy looking after a guest’s horse.”

“No one could believe that you were a stable boy.” Damaris giggled as she ran her eyes over the man’s large frame. “Besides, I make it a habit never to lie.”

He regarded her for several moments with sparkling eyes and smiled,

“Good girl, if only there were more women like you.”

She blushed deeply. Keep it together, she thought.

“I am sorry, but it really wouldn’t be seemly to have you bed down in the stables with the animals.”

He waved his hand, cutting her off.

“I assure you, Miss, the scent of an animal does not offend me and Quicksilver is one of my oldest and dearest friends. The truth of the matter is I am in desperate need of rest and there is no space anywhere in the region. If you wish, I will pay double the rate of your best room for the use of your stables for the night. That should appease your father, no?”

Damaris gasped and she shook her head.

“Oh no, I couldn’t ask you to do that!” She pursed her lips and continued. “Alright, come with me. I will deal with my father.”

She led him into the back corner of the stables where she watched him remove a large black saddle edged with gilded bells from his white horse.

“This area has just been cleaned and fresh hay laid down so there’ll be less fleas and vermin and you should be warm and comfortable, not that you’ll freeze in this heat,” she sighed, brushing loose strands of hair from her face again.

“Thank you very much, I appreciate your kindness, Miss…?”

“Damaris.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Damaris, I am Nikolai Klaus.” He replied, taking her hand and kissing it.

Damaris blushed again. Suddenly the ground rocked beneath her feet tossing her against him as he stumbled back against the wall. The animals inside the stable began to stomp and scream and the bells on Nikolai’s saddle jingled maddeningly as the building shook. After what seemed like an eternity, the shaking stopped and Damaris found herself pressed against her new guest, the feel of his breath on her cheek sent shivers through her. She pushed herself off him and straightened her tunic.

“Are you alright, Mr. Klaus?”

The man was visibly shaken but he nodded as he righted himself.

“What was that?”

“An earthquake. I must warn you, they’re fairly normal in this area, although they seem to be coming more frequently of late. That’s why this year’s Vulcanalia is extra special. The priests say the volcano god grows restless and we must send two willing brides this year to appease him.”

Nikolai started and asked, “Anyone I know?”

Damaris laughed,  “No, these women are beautiful, pure and goddess like. They have been bred specifically for this honor. No ordinary woman will suffice.”

Nikolai reached out and brushed loose strands from Damaris’ face. His fingers brushed her cheek and lingered for a moment. She gazed into his eyes, brilliant pools of blue, and her mouth went dry as her heart pounded in her chest.

“Well, I can’t say I’m not glad but I think the priests missed out on something.” he said, hoarsely.

Damaris took a step back, taking a shuddering breath, and as professionally as she was able replied,

“I must check on the staff and make sure everything is in order. Dinner is at 7.”

Nikolai nodded, a slow smile spread across his face that made Damaris’ heart flutter again and she turned and hurried out of the stable. She stopped outside the door of the hotel and gasped. Earthquakes were a part of life in Pompeii. Some said it was the price to pay for living in a beautiful location with abundant food and wine and pleasant weather more often than not. Still, the earthquakes were becoming more frequent and more violent in recent years and the government had been slow on repairs. Damaris knew from her staff that the poorer parts of town had yet to receive any help, the citizens having to rely on each other to rebuild and start over. The most recent quake managed to knock down a few buildings down the street and off in the distance she could see smoke rising and hear the screams of people rushing to put out fires and rescue those trapped in the rubble. High above the city, Mount Vesuvius had started smoking and terror gripped the girl in the pit of her stomach. She hoped the priests were right and that Vulcan would find this year’s sacrifice acceptable.

*****

While I know it’s far too late to catch anyone’s attention this year, I’m hoping the story will get picked up in a holiday romance compilation very soon :) Wishing you all a safe and happy holiday season!

New Release Announcement

Greetings and salutations!

Apologies for the silence but as I mentioned in July, I have been hard at work on revamping the Crystal Palace Chronicles series. Originally the stories I had in mind for Heroes and Hearts and Descendants of Quendaris were one and the same but I figured I would expand the story into two books, giving Isabel and Nancy their own stories. Well, the ladies and their heroes made it abundantly clear that they did not like to be separated and I was unable to work on book 3 until I went back and fixed a few things. So the couples are together again in an even bigger, more elaborate adventure!

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Chronicles of Quendaris, Book One: The Heart of Kendra. Estimated release date: November 15, 2013 in ebook and paperback form!

Synopsis

She wanted help from no man, yet she had a vulnerability that drew him to her.

For a quarter of a century, war has ravaged lands, torn families apart and destroyed lives. It even affected those oblivious to the fact there even was a war. Isabel Kendra, a chef raised by a single mother in New Jersey, flees from her home after being attacked on a dark and stormy night. She soon finds herself embroiled in a battle against fallen deities, witches and monsters bent on her destruction while finding the balance between drawing on inner strength and accepting help from a dashing prince insistent on coming to her rescue.

She was no one’s pawn!

Groomed to be the perfect Southern belle, debutante and trophy wife in Texas, Nancy has had every aspect of her life dictated to her and she’s sick of it! The sudden death of her parents sets Nancy on an adventure filled with spies and intrigue, magic and of course, an arranged marriage she wants no part of.

Deep within the dark depths of the earth an ancient enemy awakens from his slumber…

Determined as ever to conquer the world, the Goblin King wakes to discover his chance to win the war, and only an ancient and powerful magic can defeat him. Do Isabel and Nancy have what it takes to lead the Crystal Palace Alliance to victory, reveal a traitor, and bring peace to Otherealm once and for all?

 

Review/Guest Post: The Serpent’s Tooth Trilogy by Kathy Fischer- Brown

Good morning folks! Apologies for my silence lately but I’ve got all kinds of balls in the air at the moment. So to make up for it, today’s post is a long one but very good. I’ll be reviewing the Serpent’s Tooth Trilogy with excerpts from the books and you’ll also hear from the author, Kathy Fischer-Brown, on how she did research for the subject matter. It all makes for an interesting read so grab that cup of coffee and get comfortable.

Historical Fiction
Date Published: 6/13/2012
 

Lord Esterleigh’s Daughter (Book 1)

As a child, Anne Fairfield dreams of the father she never knew, the hero who died fighting the French and their Indian allies in a land across the sea. Her mother’s stories, and fantasies of her own devising, sustain and nurture her through a poor and lonely existence. Until one winter night, a strange man comes to call, and the life she has known comes crashing down like shattered glass.

Forced to confront sordid truths, secrets and lies, the headstrong young woman begins to learn that, like generations of women ruled by their hearts, she is destined to follow in their footsteps.

Set against the backdrop of 18th century England, Lord Esterleigh’s Daughter is the first book in “The Serpent’s Tooth” trilogy, which follows Anne from the rural countryside, to London society and into the center of the American Revolution.

Excerpt

“Are you hurt?” He bent toward her.

She flinched away. “No thanks to you, I think I’ve escaped permanent injury.” She turned her eyes on him, a glowering look that held a trace of fear.

The look took him aback. “Forgive me, I was afraid that you—”

Her eyes softened, a rush of color surged in her cheeks. She turned away, as if embarrassed. “Is it your custom to go around sneaking up on people?” She rose gingerly, flexing her left ankle.

“To be quite truthful, it’s not.” He smiled sheepishly and scrambled to his feet. “Is it your custom to go climbing over walls?” He found her shoes in the grass and deferentially offered them to her. “Sensible people would use the gate.”

“Perhaps I’m not sensible!” Without a word of gratitude, she snatched the offering from him and winced as she slipped her left foot into the boot. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I must go.”

She hurried off, but soon moderated her pace to a hobbling limp. He followed with caution.

“Stealing off to see the old witch, are you?” Relief coursed through him that she had not seriously injured herself.

She stopped and half-looked up at him, a flickering smile spreading over her full, ripe mouth. “Hetty Powell is not a witch!”

“I wouldn’t be so sure of that,” he teased. “And I wouldn’t make it a habit of calling upon her without an escort. Old witches have a special fondness for saucy young maids. Feed ’em lots of tea and biscuits, they do…soften ’em up, make ’em sweet and tender!”

She looked up at him fully. “Are you offering me your protection?”

The candor expressed in her voice and those clear, violet eyes left him momentarily speechless. “I wish only to accompany you.”

“You are an ill-mannered young man!”

“And you’re an impetuous young woman. You’ll not go far on that ankle.”

“That remains to be seen!” She turned from him and walked lamely away.

“I can’t help feeling responsible,” he called out and hurriedly overtook her.

“You are responsible!”

“What possessed you to climb that wall?”

“It’s none of your concern.”

“An impressive display of skill and daring, I must say.”

“Would you?”

“Indeed! Not to mention agility and—”

Anne stopped suddenly and gazed hard at his face. A shiver of apprehension vibrated up her spine. For all his seeming sincerity, he was not to be trusted. Surely he would find a way to return her to the hall and inform her father of her attempted flight. “What do you want? Why must you pester me so?”

His gaze turned searching, steady. His voice was almost pleading. “Allow me to walk with you and I’ll promise not to speak another word.”

An uncomfortable heat rose in her face. She glanced away. “Then I might as well walk alone,” she said softly.

Date Published:  8/31/2012

 Courting the Devil (BOOK #2 May contain spoilers)

Four years after a near fatal blunder uproots her from her home and inheritance, Anne Darvey, daughter of the Marquess of Esterleigh, finds herself an indentured servant on a farm near Fort Edward in New York, as the British army advances toward Albany. Driven by guilt over the pain she has caused her father and grief over her lover’s death, she sets out to deliver a message. The consequences lead to the discovery that all is not as it seems, and sets in motion events that lead to love and danger.

Set against the backdrop of the American Revolution, Courting the Devil is the second book in “The Serpent’s Tooth” trilogy, which follows Anne from her childhood in the rural English countryside, to London society, and into the center of the American Revolution.

Excerpt

His memory had not failed him. Summer nights were infinitely cooler by the pond near the creek. Brighter as well, with milky flashes of light reflecting off its smooth surface and a riot of fireflies darting among the reeds, twinkling over the water like so many stars. Had there been a moon, it would have floated on the water, sending glimmers of light up to the treetops.

He would have seen her then by moonlight.

Rather it was the dull light of the ill-smelling flame of his lamp that revealed her there at the edge of the pond in the tall grass, sitting in nothing but her damp shift, her back against the trunk of a sycamore, as she applied a towel to her hair. Had he’d arrived moments earlier, he might have seen her emerge, dripping from the creek like some water nymph. He paused where he stood and watched for a moment, then he cleared his throat and continued closer.

The brush crackled under his feet. He slowed his steps when she turned, a startled look on her face, her fingers frozen in the wild tangle of thick, dark hair tumbling over her shoulders and down the length of her back. At the sight of him, she quickly covered her chest with crossed arms.

Harris hesitated, holding up the lamp so that its light revealed his face, causing her to blink into the brightness. “No reason for alarm,” he reassured, and hung the lamp on a bough just above her head. “I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

She turned away and on her knees quickly gathered up the objects spread out on a towel in the grass. He leaned on his hand against the tree, and regarded her with interest. In the light of the swinging lamp, drops of water shimmered on her bare arms. The smell of milled soap with a hint of lavender emanated from her hair, mingling with her own sweet, warm scent on the heavy air. Though coarsely made, her damp chemise clung to her like second skin, revealing the soft, round contours of a supple body. He imagined his hands holding her close, the feel of her, lithe and wet, against him, and fought back the stirring in his groin.

He licked his lips. “I didn’t expect to find anyone here at this hour of the night. Forgive the intrusion, I–”

She glanced up at him, a look of uncertainty in her eyes, along with the flashing sky. “No need for apologies, sir. I was just about to leave.” She rolled her hairbrush and a small, well-used sliver of soap in its original paper wrapper into the frayed huckaback towel. After slipping into her shoes, she snatched the coarse-woven skirt and linen bodice from the low bough from which she had hung them. Having wrapped everything in the skirt, she rose with the grace of a goddess and turned toward the path back to the house, the bundle clasped to her breast.

He stepped away from the tree and blocked her escape. She halted just short of him, but did not avert her eyes from the ground before her. “I wish you wouldn’t go,” Harris said through the dryness in his mouth.

Maintaining her focus on the dark path beyond the circle of light cast by his Betty lamp, she drew in a slow breath. In spite of the heat, she shivered. “There is nothing to keep me, sir.”

He laughed softly. “I hope that was not meant to be a gibe at my vanity?”

She shook back the mane of dark, wet hair that had fallen over her face, but kept her eyes averted. “It was not my intention to appear so bold.”

“Then I’m very much relieved!” His gaze wandered over her wet, scantily clad form, at the soft rise of her breasts before they disappeared under the cover of her infringing bundle. “But I forget myself. It is your modesty and virtue that–”

“Excuse me, Mr. Harris. It’s been a long day, and I’m tired.”

“It’s too hot to sleep. I thought I would—”

“You needn’t explain yourself. Not to me, sir. Now, if you will kindly let me pass …”

“You don’t like me, do you?”

At that she raised her eyes fully upon his face with a slow and deliberate stare, as if the impulse to look at him had been spontaneous and she resisted its appeal with all the self-control at her disposal. “My feelings are of no consequence, Mr. Harris,” she said in a soft voice, devoid of expression.

 “But you do have them. Are you dismissing them as insignificant, or is it that you have no desire to discuss things of a personal nature?” Her soft, full lips were enticing. Even in the sweltering night air, the heat emanating from her body wrapped around him like a caress.

“If you really must know, sir, I have no time for such diversions.”

“Nor anything else, I dare say.” Fighting the urge to clasp her to him and taste her mouth, he stepped aside to let her pass. “You push yourself far too hard. It’s a sure sign.”

Just beyond the spill of light from the hanging lamp, Annie stopped and raised her head. For a long while she stood in silence, as if waiting for him to speak.

He sensed he had struck a nerve. “A sure sign of what, you might ask. Then again, I would be presuming to know your mind, which, I assure I do not… All right then, I’ll tell you. I notice things about people who labor for a living, Miss Annie.” He stepped toward her, outside the circle of dingy light. “Those who work for their own subsistence tend to perform their duties with an honorable sense of purpose. For when successfully accomplished, the task at hand yields its own reward. From my own observations, I’ve also noted that those who are obligated to toil in the service of others tend to do only that which is expected of them. No more, no less.” He paused. Again the sky flickered, revealing her standing with her back to him, head lowered. “Where rewards are few, there is nothing to be gained by working one’s self to an early grave. That would leave one unable to savor the freedom earned by such senseless toil.”

She turned slowly and swept his face with her gaze. “Do you not work for your living, Mr. Harris?” In her soft voice, he detected a note of challenge.

“I am a schoolmaster, Miss Annie.” And then he vacillated, his mouth twitching into a smile. “I was a schoolmaster…until I lost all my students! For the life of me I can’t fathom why…” She did not appear moved by his attempted levity. “But, no, I never had a reason to earn a living. My father was…well-connected.”

Her eyes shimmered in the darkness. “It is said, Mr. Harris, that the Devil finds work for idle hands.”

He laughed softly. “It is also said, Miss Annie, that to speak of the Devil is to court his presence.”

She lowered her face until shadows once more enveloped her features, her hands tightening around the bundle. “If that is so, then I hope he finds me busy. Good night, Mr. Harris.” She vanished quietly into the darkness.

 

Date Published: 2/6/2013

The Partisan’s Wife (BOOK #3 May contain spoilers)

Faced with an impossible choice, Anne Marlowe is torn between her husband’s love and the hope of her father’s forgiveness. As American forces follow up on their tide-turning victories over the British at Freeman’s Farm and Bemis Heights, Peter is drawn deeper into the shady network of espionage that could cost them both their lives.

Is his commitment to “the Cause” stronger than his hard-won love for Anne? Will her sacrifice tear them apart again…this time forever? Or will they find the peace and happiness they both seek in a new beginning?

The Partisan’s Wife follows Anne and Peter through the war torn landscape of Revolutionary War America, from the Battle of Saratoga to British-occupied New York and Philadelphia, and beyond.

Excerpt

At last, she stopped pacing and leaned against the wall, arms crossed over her breast. “My God, Peter! How could you?”

He forced a sheepish smile but made no attempt to answer.

“You lied to me! Shipping trade indeed!”

“I swear I never lied.”

“Half-truths, then!” She pushed away from the wall. “‘I’m finished here. I’m done with that!’ Why didn’t I see?”

“LeClair will find a way out of this.”

She looked at him in challenge. The candle flame shone in the mirror of her eyes. “You seem so assured.”

“I have the utmost confidence in LeClair. When he returns, we’ll ferry across the river into Paulus Hook. We’ll be safe in New Jersey.”

“And then…?”

He stood and regarded her, his mouth a taut line. “Didn’t you say in no uncertain terms that you wished to go to Philadelphia?”

“I never said I wished to go. I said I had to go.”

He paused for a long moment. “You know I can’t go with you.”

“You can’t come with me…?” she said with astonishing composure. “Or, more precisely, you won’t come.”

“I can’t.” He reached for her hand; she yanked it away. “I can’t go with you.”

“Why? So that you may continue to play at your little game of masquerade and intrigue, exposing yourself to danger? For what purpose? Have you no concern for my—”

“You are not the only one blessed with a cause!” He glared at her. “It would appear that we are each compelled to do as our conscience dictates.”

Steadily she met his gaze through the candle light. “And if you could come with me…?”

Her wide-eyed face betrayed her apprehension, as though she already knew his answer yet hoped against hope for the response she longed to hear. It could have been so simple to play along and accommodate her wishes and, for her sake, make promises he could never keep. For his own sake, he chose not to respond.

 

REVIEW

In book 1, Annie finds that the father she’d grown up believing was a war hero who died in battle is actually an English lord who abandoned her mother because his family didn’t approve of the match only to return 16 years later as her mother lay upon her deathbed. She’s made to promise her mother she’d go with him to Esterleigh Hall and to try to love him but this is a tall order. While already dealing with her resentment for the mythical hero turned louse, she also must contend with the bitter ex-wife and a disinherited brother as well as learning and adapting to the heartless, cutthroat ways of London Society.  To further complicate matters, she loses her heart to a dashing young servant who’s bound for America in order earn his fortune and be worthy of her hand. In book 2, Annie is kidnapped by what is essentially her wicked stepmother and shipped off to a farm in Upstate New York where she toils as an indentured slave during the American Revolutionary War. With the farm being right smack in the middle of the battlefield, Annie takes the opportunity to escape and seek out the best friend of her sweetheart. In book 3, ties up all the lose ends left in the first two books as Annie finds herself embroiled in the rebellion thanks to her husband, Peter, while at the same time trying to find her estranged father after discovering he had traveled to New York to find her.

It’s difficult to review a series because I don’t like to drop any spoilers but I found The Serpent’s Tooth Trilogy to be a very interesting series. It isn’t often you find an author tackling the subject matter of the American Revolutionary War in this way and it was very nicely done.  Katy Fischer-Brown immerses you into the time period and you learn a lot of little details about life in the 18th century without bogging down the story itself. Although each book is a bit slow to start, the pace isn’t excruciating and it really is worth waiting for the story to pick up. Once it does, well…

Researching the Historical Novel Then and Now

When I started writing seriously in the dark age before computers, researching the historical period in which I had chosen to set my books was no easy task. The local library didn’t always have a particular resource on its reference shelves and if the book was long out of print, it was unavailable at any cost (no Alibris back then). Inter-library loan was the only way to go and even that didn’t always pan out. Travel was not always possible, especially on a limited budget. Letters to experts was a practical resource, as were phone calls, but in the days before the breakup of Ma Bell, calls from Indiana to New York were expensive.

Today, those same resources and more are just a few key strokes away. Many of the same research materials I used to wait weeks for have been scanned and uploaded to the web. In addition, there are hosts of fabulous materials I would never have dreamed of back then. Old maps and documents, in addition to diaries and other first-hand accounts are all available online if you know how to find them.

When I pulled “The Serpent’s Tooth” trilogy out of mothballs and dusted it off for an overhaul, I found myself tapping in to these resources. With all of the material I was able to find, I scrapped entire portions of the story in favor of rewrites based on information I was able to discover.

As a native New Yorker, I was especially fascinated to learn of the vast changes that made Manhattan what it is today. From street names to the layout of the streets themselves as the population grew and expanded north of Wall Street, the old city of the mid-eighteenth century can no longer be found. There are a few photographs from the late 19th and early 20th centuries of long-gone buildings from the period and some extraordinary descriptions in old books. Paintings and maps of the period also give us glimpses. Land fill long ago altered the shape of lower end of the island (where the Dutch established their first settlement in North America on land inhabited by the Native Americans who lived and hunted there). Creeks and streams, hills and forests were plentiful on Manhattan, serving the hosts of indigenous animals that made their homes there. The creeks, streams and fresh water ponds were later filled in, becoming (to name just one) Canal Street.

Street names were especially interesting. During and after the Revolution, many streets, such as King Street, King George Street, and Queen Street, were renamed, remapped, and/or rerouted. Today you’ll find Pine, William, and Pearl Streets. In The Partisan’s Wife, the area in which Peter and Anne’s house stood, then called Wynne (or Winne) Street between Bayard’s Lane and St. Nicholas Street, is now Mott Street in the heart of Chinatown, which was basically unsettled in the mid-part of the 18th century as was pretty much everything to the north. The West Village was farmland and rolling hills. Many streets and avenues in old New York evolved from long driveways belonging to huge mansions with gardens, orchards, and expansive lawns. For example, the long drive that belonged to the Bayard homestead in the late 1700s was for a time called Bayard’s Lane. It’s now part of Broome Street on the Lower East Side.

Unfortunately, few buildings from the period remain standing on lower Manhattan — Fraunces Tavern and St. Paul’s Chapel being a couple of exceptions — as a multitude of fires and later human development over the next century or so led to the destruction of pre-Revolutionary War era buildings…many in the name of progress.

To write historical fiction is, to a large extent, to live there for a while and become comfortable with the clothes, attitudes, and customs of the time. It’s also my desire to take the reader along and hope they enjoy the journey.

Kathy Fischer-Brown

Author Bio:

As a child Kathy wanted to be a writer when she grew up. She also wanted to act. After receiving an MFA in Acting and playing the part of starving young artist in New York, she taught theater classes at a small college in the Mid-West before returning home to the East Coast, where over the years, she and her husband raised two kids and an assortment of dogs. During stints in advertising, children’s media publishing, and education reform in the former Soviet Unions, she wrote whenever she could. Her love of early American history has its roots in family vacations up and down the East Coast visiting old forts and battlefields and places such as Williamsburg, Mystic Sea Port, and Sturbridge Village. At the same time, she daydreamed in history classes, imagining the everyday people behind all the dates and conflicts and how they lived.

Claiming her best ideas are born of dreams, Kathy has written a number of stories over the years. Her first published novel, Winter Fire, a 1998 Golden Heart finalist in historical romance, was reissued in 2010 by Books We Love, Ltd.

When not writing, she enjoys reading, cooking, photography, playing “ball” with the dogs, and rooting on her favorite sports teams.

LINKS:

Website:  http://www.kfischer-brown.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KathyFischerBrownAuthor?ref=hl

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/KFischerBrown

Blog: http://illsay.wordpress.com/

BooksWeLove (Publiisher) : http://www.bookswelove.net/kathyfischerbrown.php

Book Review: Lady Gwendolyn by Magnolia Belle

Historical Fiction
Date Published: July 2013
In early medieval days, bandits beset a caravan taking Lady Gwendolyn Hampton of England to marry Angus Dewar in Scotland. In the confusion, she escapes, while the bandits think her maid, Madeleine, is her. From one peril to another, Madeleine must keep the ruse in order to stay alive. Lady Gwendolyn’s brother, Lord Richard Hampton, wants Madeleine as his consort, and tries to rescue her. Through betrayal, intrigue and murder, she becomes a woman of title, and must decide if she wants the life he offers.

Excerpt

Madeleine, her maid and companion since childhood, interrupted her reverie.  “Can you believe it?  You’re to be married into such a grand house.  I’d be nervous.”

“I am, a bit,” Gwendolyn admitted and stretched her hand out to clasp Madeleine’s.  “I wonder,

though, why Father made Richard stay behind.  It seemed a sudden decision, and I wanted both my brothers to attend my wedding.”

“Your father has his reasons, I’m sure.”  The maid’s smile did not reach her eyes.

“Of course.  I’m most grateful my father allowed you to accompany me.”

“He knows better than to separate us.”

Gwendolyn squeezed her hand once and sat back. Madeleine returned the squeeze, but they both knew where the line had been drawn. Everything Gwendolyn learned, Madeleine did as well.  She knew how to run a great house, how to dress and conduct herself as a lady, and how to use house politics to her advantage.  But she would never need those things.  She was, after all, a companion, a maid—not highborn.

A scream stopped their conversation.  Another scream of pain followed. The litter shuddered to a stop. Yells and curses washed over the women in a cacophony.  Swallowing hard, Gwendolyn raised her hand halfway and paused.  In a burst of courage, she jerked the curtains open, daring to look.  Arrows whistled through the air, puncturing men and animals alike.  Ill-clad ruffians leapt from behind the bracken, brandishing arms and giving offense, attacking anyone within reach.  Lord Hampton fell, mortally wounded, his shield splintered.  Not far from him lay her brother, Phillip, pierced by arrows. She understood instantly as she ducked back in.  Her father and younger brother were dead.  Now only her oldest brother, Richard, and she carried the Hampton line.

“They’re slain!”  Her eyes, wide and alarmed, fixed on Madeleine while her mind whirled.  “Richard must be warned!”

Links to Buy 
About Magnolia Belle
My pen name “Magnolia Belle” came from a dream of one day owning a riverboat that offered dinner, sultry jazz and hot R&B while floating down the Mississippi. Realizing I didn’t have the millions it’d take to get that dream off the ground, I took the name to write under. I figured it’d be one hard to forget. Plus, it’s as southern as I am.
 
I live in Texas with my husband and our ‘pack’ of fuzzy children (aka dogs). Before that, I grew up in a military family and lived all across the US and in the Orient. In 1977, I got married and in 1978 I graduated with a degree in Accounting from Tarleton State University. Yeah, I know. BIG leap from accountant to novelist.  As editor of the University paper, I won first place in the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association Editorial competition in 1977. I was also a member of “Who’s Who Among Colleges and Universities” in 1977-78, and graduated with high honors. A singer/songwriter and guitarist, I played with a band in the 1980s that made 3 albums.
 
I started my company, “Black Wolf Books” in 2005 as a venue to publish and sell my work. The name “Black Wolf” comes from the first series of 5 novels I’ve written (and am still working on).
 
My heritage includes at least two Indian nations, one on my mother’s side and the Iroquois on my father’s. Because of that, I write about American Indians with great respect. I also spend inordinate amounts of time in researching history, facts and personalities in the era they are presented.  Historical events and documentation (such as treaties) are cited in my novels, so readers can see what really happened.
 
My characters become very real to me, and I often find myself not writing, but rather taking dictation as they tell me their stories. That’s also why I tend to write in series of novels. My characters are a gabby bunch!
 

Things I Think About: Movies whose happy endings are bogus

When I’m not working on my novels my brain tends to go in odd directions in an attempt to keep itself occupied so I figured I’d share these thoughts from time to time in a segment I call Things I Think About. Today, I post about how the happy endings of some movies just don’t sit right with me. Bear in mind these aren’t necessarily movies I hate, it’s just that sometimes even your favorite movies can have holes big enough to drive a truck through.

The Running Man

Loosely (as in copied the title of the book before tossing it into the shredder) based on the Stephen King novel, this movie covers the story of Ben Richards, a cop who goes against orders to fire on a crowd of hungry unarmed civilians and is sent to prison for insubordination. He manages to escape and comes across some old friends who are planning to overthrow the corrupt government but all he wants to do is spend the rest of his life basking on a beach in Hawaii. Because when you’re an escaped convict with the knowledge that the government gave you orders to kill thousands of innocent people, moving to an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with no where else to go is an excellent idea.

Anyway, he goes to his brother’s house (because again, the government would never think to find him there) where he finds the man has been taken away to be brainwashed/killed and a hot Latin chick who writes jingles for ICS is living there now. Knowing Amber believes what she sees on TV (like the rest of the country) and isn’t about to help him, he decides to kidnap her and drag her to the airport to board a plane to Hawaii with him. It’s at this point Ben Richards confirms he’s a moron.

She blows the whistle on him at the airport, he’s recaptured and the news broadcasts about how he went on a bloody rampage before getting caught which has Amber wondering if she made a mistake in not helping him since she realizes officials are lying about the incident. He ends up being a contestant on The Running Man where he meets up with two of his rebel friends who tells him they can get to the station’s satellite from the playing field and jam the signal to broadcast the truth to the public and STILL Ben wants nothing to do with it because not only is he a moron but possibly even a coward. Meanwhile Amber starts snooping in the company files where she finds the real video of the massacre Ben was blamed for, and subsequently shoves said videocassette up her snooch for future use, before getting busted and thrown into the game with Ben and his friends.

Long story short they manage to get to the satellite and the rebels take over the station with the help (FINALLY) of Ben Richards. The people are disillusioned, the game show host is killed and Ben and Amber walk off into the sunset and all is right with the world. Right?

Erm. No.

As we’ve witnessed throughout the movie, the government is seriously corrupt, crime and the economy are really bad and the people aren’t happy. Rather than actually trying to solve these issues the government decides to distract the public with a series of super violent and malicious tv shows on the ICS station which apparently the people lap up like mother’s milk because their mindset is in Jerry Spring on Steroids mode. Yes, there is every possibility that this little uprising set off many others as many people wake up from their fog and realize they’ve been deceived and over the coming years society rights itself again. However, there’s also the possibility that in the meantime while the group of teenagers and the old man who led them as well as Ben and Amber are mowed down the instant they leave the building by the leagues of Swat teams waiting for them outside and/or storm the building since it never occurred to anyone to put the damn building on lockdown!

Wall-E

Another futuristic movie this time brought to you by Disney and Pixar. A Walmart type company essentially destroys earth and ships the inhabitants into deep space for several hundred years while they attempt to fix the damage only to give up when it got too hard and leaves everyone out there for generations. The last working robot on the planet is apparently little Wall-E who happily works to clean up the planet while jamming to the movie Hello Dolly until he meets the sleek and sexy Eve who’s sent to Earth periodically to find any sign of biological life. She slowly warms up to Wall-E and they zip back to the ship when he shows her the plant he rescued from the broken refrigerator. On the ship we discover mankind has evolved into a bunch of puffy boneless couch potatoes who drink their meals while staring at TV screens all day. When the captain gets news of the plant he’s ecstatic to be going back home, especially when he realizes that the Earth needs some TLC to help it come back to life. Unfortunately the main computer has other orders and gets downright mean in its attempt to prevent the ship from returning to Earth. In the end though, they make it back, Wall-E gets the crap kicked out of him but survives and all is right with the world. Right?

Erm. No.

During the end credits we discover that the ship’s computer didn’t actually go into full-blown Hal mode and decide to murder everyone onboard because they wouldn’t follow its prime directive and the people manage to kick start the planet into a clean and livable place again. However, I doubt everyone was as excited to climb off their chairs for the first time in their lives in order to not just take care of themselves but to start the labor intensive farming and clearing activities necessary to get Earth back on track.

As we saw in the film, exposure to artificial gravity has caused everyone’s bones to shrink, which made them more reliable on the floaty chairs. This coupled with the fact that none of them have actually done anything physical in at least a century and it’s virtually impossible that these people would have been able to walk very far on the planet never mind doing anything else without a great deal of pain and bruising. Add this to the level of fear and uncertainty many of the passengers would have felt at this sudden change in lifestyle and mix with the very nature of some humans to just be outright lazy and we have a problem.

You can’t tell me there wasn’t a faction of people on that ship or any of the others floating around that said “To hell with this! Why should I bust my ass to save a planet I know nothing about? This life was good enough for my parents and their parents before them etc. and it’s good enough for me!” And assuming this faction didn’t just up and fly away with the ship while everyone else was toiling in the fields leaving them to fend for themselves and probably succumb to all kinds of injuries and illnesses as their bodies get used to life on Earth, how did they procreate? Did they keep using the lab or did John and Mary discover that inserting Slot A into Slot B = Baby and were put in charge of Sex Ed by their fellow Weebles?

Um well, that’s not exactly how it… oh hell knock yourself out!

Of course I never really expected the movie to cover this last bit since Disney’s idea of a sex talk is this:

This seems to be a common issue with futuristic movies involving the overthrow of a Dystopian society/lifestyle change and is the same beef I have with movies like Logan’s Run and V for Vendetta. They end with the celebration of freedom for the people but in reality the societies in these stories are in for years, perhaps decades of unrest and hard times as new ways are established and civilization is rebuilt. It’d be nice to see at least one Sci-fi story address this.

Book Review: Over The Rainbow by Brian Rowe

Brian Rowe, author of Over the Rainbow, talks about the difficulties he faced in getting this interesting book published.

Over the Rainbow marks my ninth self-published novel. I love the control I have over my work in self-publishing, and no book I’ve ever written has needed as much control as Over the Rainbow. This is a book that incorporates science fiction, fantasy, action adventure, and coming of age; it’s a book that deals with lesbianism, the rapture, The Wizard of Oz, and dinosaurs. I queried agents with this book between August 2012 and March 2013, and even those who liked it said that the book would never see the light of day without some of the creative elements being toned down a little, or eliminated completely. One agent, for example, told me I should cut out the dinosaurs. I knew from the beginning Over the Rainbow was going to be a difficult book to sell to agents and publishers, and in the end, I decided it was best with this one, probably more than any book I’ve written, to ultimately go the self-publishing route.

I’ve self-published many young adult books before, including the Happy Birthday to Me trilogy, but I’ve never written a book I care about more than Over the Rainbow, and this time, I really wanted to do it right. Not only have I pulled out all the stops with the marketing of the book, and worked hard to make sure the book had a beautiful cover, I’ve done all I can to ensure the manuscript is the best it can be. Many are wary of self-published books because they’ve been burned before, with so many typos and inconsistencies in the texts. But such is not the case with my new book. Not only have I done ten full drafts, twice the amount I usually do, but Over the Rainbow has been professionally edited by a traditionally published author, and copyedited by two different professional copyeditors. I’ve worked tirelessly night and day for the last few months in making sure the book reads just as professionally as would a traditionally published novel. The reader, every time out, deserves only the best.

Over the Rainbow is the first book I’ve self-published that will be appearing on five different platforms—Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple iBookstore, and CreateSpace. For too long I stayed exclusive to Amazon, and this summer I decided to branch out to all the various platforms customers use to read their books. I’ve never been, and am still not, against traditional publishing, and will start querying my next young adult novel Magic Hour later this year. But self-publishing should never be looked at as a last resort. It is a viable option for all authors, and can be loads of fun. And in the case of Over the Rainbow, it proved to be the best route to go.

YA Fantasy
Date Published:  8/6/2013 

16-year-old Zippy Green never meant to fall in love with a girl, but when she does, her ultra-conservative father tries to send her to anti-gay camp. At the Kansas City airport, however, she hides inside a giant suitcase and sneaks onto an airplane headed not to the camp, but to Seattle, where her online love Mira lives. Halfway through the flight, the plane barrels out of control and crashes into the ground, knocking her unconscious.

When Zippy awakens, she finds that most of the passengers have vanished. She doesn’t know what’s happened, but she’s determined to find out. She begins a quest on foot toward Seattle, and along the way, she meets a teenager with a concussion , a homeless man with a heart condition, a child without a shred of bravery, and a terrier named Judy. Together the group discovers that more than two-thirds of the world’s population has mysteriously disappeared. But that’s only the beginning…

All Zippy wants is to find her Mira, but before she can she has to contend with two outside forces. The first is her homophobic father, who does everything in his power to keep her from the girl she loves. And the second is extinct creatures of all shapes and sizes, including living, breathing dinosaurs, which have replaced the missing population.

 

Excerpt

            When I came home from school, my dad was in the living room, alone, sitting upright. He wore a fancy gray business suit. Papers and brochures were sprawled out over the table.

He turned his head toward me in a slow, robotic fashion. “Sit down.”

I stared back at him. “What’s wrong?”

“Do what I ask.”

“But I have homework to do—”

Zipporah Green! I’m not going to say it again!”

I sat down and tried to pinpoint my crime. And then there it was, at the edge of the table: my most recent e-mail from Mira, the one in which she said she wanted me to come visit her this summer.

Dad turned to me, an expression on his face that suggested I wouldn’t escape this little chat alive.

“I know about Mira. I know all about your little friend from Seattle.”

The immediate pain in my gut almost doubled me over. For my father to be so condescending to call her “my little friend” made me want to pick up the living room table and throw it against the wall. “I’ve been meaning to tell you about her—”

“You’ve been talking to her online for two years? Zippy, I know you’ve struggled trying to follow the righteous path of Jesus Christ. But never in my wildest nightmares could I have ever conceived you, my own flesh and blood, as the most blasphemous of sinners.”

“Dad, it’s not like that.”

He wiped his sweaty fingers against his chin. “What’s it going to look like if my own child is a…” He struggled with the word. “A homo…”

I didn’t want to have to finish the word for him; he was a big boy. “A what, Dad?”

“A homosexual.”

I should have been cordial. I should have sat with my little hands in my little lap and pleasantly agreed with every statement he made. But it was time to be strong. “I don’t understand why you have to come down on me for this. Why can’t I have this one thing in my life that makes me happy? Mira makes me happy, Dad.”

“I can’t have a gay child,” he said. He hadn’t locked eyes with me since the start of our conversation. I always thought my dad to be close-minded, but I never knew him to be a wimp. “I can’t have a lesbian daughter. I love you, sweetheart, you know I do—but what you’re doing is wrong.”

I leaned toward him and whispered, “But it’s the only thing to me that’s right.”

I don’t think he heard me—at least, he pretended like he didn’t. “Promise me, here and now, that you will suspend all communications with this girl.”

“No.”

“No?”

“Dad, please—”

“I’m not asking.”

“You don’t even know her.”

“I don’t want to know her.”

I tried really, really hard not to cry. “If you could just look past your hate for one second, you’d be able to see that she’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

“You can’t mean that.”

“I do,” I said. “She’s my best friend.”

“Your best friend? But you’ve never even met her. For all you know, she could be—”

“I love her.”

He finally looked at me. His neck turned so slow I heard his bones twisting. “What did you say?”

“I love her, Dad. I do.”

My dad sighed and pushed away from the table, like the closest he could sit was a yard’s length away. He shook his head and stood up, his hands shoved into his pockets.

“Connie and I had a long talk about this,” he said. “We’ve decided to send you away this summer. To a camp.”

“A camp?” I shuddered. I didn’t know what to think. “What kind of camp?”

“It’s called Moral Inventories. It’s in Memphis. And it’s for teenagers like you who suffer from…” He searched for a word. “…abnormalities.”

Abnormalities?” I looked away. I didn’t want my father to see me cry.

He turned to me. His chiseled face emitted strobes of anger and resentment. “I’ve tried to guide you on the righteous path, but clearly I haven’t done enough. You need proper, around-the-clock assistance if you want to have any chance of being cured of this… disease.”

I sat there stupefied. I tried to think of something to say. I had nothing.

“You’re young, honey,” my dad said, in a calmer tone, “and I thank the Lord for that, because there’s time for you to be set free through the power of Jesus Christ. When our Lord and Savior returns to Earth and takes the Chosen up to Heaven, I don’t want you to be left behind.”

I narrowed my eyes, tried to make sense of his madness. “Are you talking about the rapture?”

“It could happen any day, sweetheart. You have to be prepared. We all do.”

My dad had officially passed over from closed-minded to completely nuts. “You really think this camp is going to make God love me more?” I breathed in deeply, then asked the most pivotal question of all: “You really think this camp is going to make me not gay?”

“It better.” My dad finally looked at me. “Because if it doesn’t, I’ll see to it you never come back.”

I ran upstairs to my bedroom, slammed the door so loud my framed Spice Girls poster fell and crashed against the carpet.

I wanted to write to Mira. Tell her what had happened.

But my computer was gone.

Review

This was a fantastic book! As a long time fan of the Wizard of Oz I’m always interested in alternate versions and inspired works and Over the Rainbow just made my list:) When Zippy escapes from her domineering religious fanatic father in the airport she begins her journey to find her long distance love in the Emerald City (Seattle). Along the way she meets Frankie, a man with a head injury who jokes he doesn’t have a brain, a frightened little black girl named Elle who doesn’t know what courage is and Mr. Baum, a Vietnam Vet with a bad heart. Did you catch the play on names there? Frank Elle Baum? Get it? FYI for those who are staring at the screen like a deer in headlights, Frank L. Baum is the author of the Oz stories. Oh and there’s also a little terrier named Judy who I’m guessing is a nod to the great Judy Garland.

I found myself speeding through the pages with my mouth open as Zippy and her friends face encounters with prehistoric animals, dinosaurs and Zippy’s crazy father but the ending was incredibly satisfying and I truly hope there’s a sequel in the future.

Well done Mr. Rowe! Six Ruby Slippers cuz cmon, what can you do with five?

Brian Rowe

Brian Rowe is a writing fiend, book devotee, film fanatic, and constant dreamer. He’s written nine novels, dozens of short stories, five feature-length screenplays, and hundreds of film articles and essays. His fiction has appeared in Dreamspinner Press, Mobius Magazine, and Wilde Oats Literary Journal. He is one half of the YA book blog Story Carnivores, where he reviews the latest in books and film. He is currently pursuing his MA in English at the University of Nevada, Reno, and is hard at work on his first New Adult novel, which will be released in November 2013.

Website: brianrowebooks.com

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17792829-over-the-rainbow

 

LINKS TO BUY 

Amazon Author Page

New Publication Launch Dates!

Heroes+Hearts_Noemi-Betancourt-1Final_Crystal_Palace_1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greetings and salutations to all!

I had a dilemma. I’ve been working hard on getting book three of The Crystal Palace Chronicles going for several weeks now but I wasn’t getting much cooperation from the characters. I couldn’t figure out why that is. While I’ve experienced writer’s block in the past, this was something else. I knew what I wanted to say and how I wanted the story to go but it just wasn’t happening. Then suddenly they all turned and screamed out in unison. The reason I couldn’t get book three going was because books one and two still needed my attention.

My records indicate thousands of you downloaded Heroes and Hearts and Descendants of Quendaris since their release earlier this year. Many of you have posted reviews online and contacted me expressing how much you love the story and characters and can’t wait for more. Others however have indicated disappointment in some aspects of the books. Believe it or not, these critiques did not upset me. As a writer and avid reader I know you can’t please everybody, not everyone will be fans of my work and negative feedback is perfectly normal. In fact authors who have nothing but positive reviews tend to come across as sketchy. Even books and movies appreciated today as classic literature and masterpieces had their share of critics and seeing nothing but positives tends to make they buying public wary, as it probably should.

What’s my point? Ok here it is in a nutshell. I appreciate all my readers and their feedback. Without you I’m just another poor schlub posting a block of words on the internet. I take into account every interaction I have with my readers, both good and bad, and the negative feedback I have received have two glaring issues in common.

#1 The books are too short. Happily I can say people haven’t complained about not getting their money’s worth but they are complaining that the stories end too soon. While I understand the old adage “Leave them wanting more” I’m hearing this complaint way too often.

#2 Isabel, the heroine of Heroes and Hearts, is too accepting of all the craziness happening around her in the other realm. While this issue did come up during the publishing process and I had made efforts to add scenes and dialogue to circumvent this, many of you are expressing that I just haven’t done enough and it still seems to be an issue.

Both issues have nagged me throughout the writing and editing process and I know them in my heart to be true. So, I am announcing that as of August 5, 2013 Heroes and Hearts will be pulled while I work to improve and expand the story. Prince Alaric, Isabel and the others are extremely happy with this turn of events and the words have just been flying from my pen. It is my intention to have a larger edition of Heroes and Hearts available for sale in both ebook and paperback form by October 2013 under a new name!

Of course, I’m not doing this in an attempt to please everyone and I won’t be continuously pulling the books off the shelves to revamp every couple of months. This action is simply because as a writer and reader of fantasy and romance, I wasn’t entirely happy with the end product but figured it was the perfectionist in me screaming to get out. We are, after all, our worst critics. However, as so many of you echoed dismay with the same points that I myself wasn’t happy with, I feel a revamp is due. Once the new version of Heroes and Hearts is out I’ll start working on expanding Descendants of Quendaris into a full sized novel as well and hope to have that version ready by the end of the year. Once this task is complete I anticipate placing my full attention on Book 3 and hope to have that novel ready for release by January 2015.

So, long story short (too late) if you’re interested in seeing the changes between versions you have two weeks to download a free copy of Heroes and Hearts. Updates on publication dates will be forthcoming. Enjoy the rest of your summer folks! :-D

Writing Playlist

In conjunction with a featured post on Me, My shelf, and I here is a list of just some of the songs I listen to while writing in no particular order.

Sweet Lullaby – Deep Forest

Die Without You – PM Dawn

Children – Robert Miles

Icarus – Mythos

Live at the Acropolis album – Yanni

Sadeness Part I – Enigma

Why – Annie Lennox

Aquaria Album – Diane Arkenstone

Clair de Lune – Debussy

Moonlight Sonata – Beethoven

Charlie Brown Christmas Album – Vince Guaraldi Trio

Now We are Free – Lisa Gerrard

Put Your Records on – Corrine Bailey Rae

Island in the Sun – Weezer

Violator album – Depeche Mode

Over the Rainbow – Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole

Jashn-E-Bahaaraa – Jodhaa Akbar

Bad Mama Jama – Carl Carlton

Enya (too many to name)

Erykah Badu (too many to name)

GUEST POST: The Granite Key by N.S. Wikarski

 

The talented author of The Granite Key gives some insight on writing in one of my favorite subjects, historical fiction.

TIPS FOR WRITING YE OLDE HISTORICAL FICTION

 

“My God, they can’t expect to put ‘Ye Olde’ in front of anything they want and get away with it.”

 

If, like me, you’re a fan of The Big Bang Theory, you’ll immediately recognize Sheldon Cooper’s complaint about the historical inaccuracies of a Renaissance Faire, California-style.

 

As much as I’d like to distance myself from most of Sheldon’s opinions, I’m forced to agree with him on this point. As a writer, I’ve penned five books that are either historical (Gilded Age Chicago Mysteries) or have a strong historical element (Arkana Archaeology Thrillers). As a critic for Deadly Pleasures, I’ve reviewed my share of historical fiction (some good, some not) so believe me when I say that you can’t just put “Ye Olde” in front of anything and expect to get away with it. Authors of contemporary fiction have to juggle plot, pacing, and character development. Historical fiction writers wish it was that easy.

 

Timing Isn’t Everything

 

The first thing to consider as a historical fiction writer isn’t simply when something happened but what the world surrounding that event was like. We all know that Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 but it’s a good bet that when he first landed in the Bahamas, he didn’t head for the closest Tiki bar to order a boat drink. Objects and places we take for granted in the 21st century may or may not have existed in the corner of the past an author is exploring. To make that fictional world believable, the times as well as the timing need to be understood.

 

Clothes Make The Man (Or Woman)

 

Period costume is something that most historical authors (good and bad) get right. The only difference is that bad writers fail to think about the impact costume can have on conduct. For example, everybody knows Victorian women wore corsets. What most people don’t realize is that a woman who is laced tightly enough to give her an eighteen inch waist can’t bend, stretch, or engage in anything more strenuous than lifting a tea cup. Most of her conscious attention is focused on the struggle to breathe. She’s probably a very uptight, cranky creature for no better reason than that her underwear feels terrible. People who wear whalebone corsets or chain mail armor are going to think and feel very differently from people who wear sweat pants all day long.

 

The Past Is Another Country

 

It’s often been said that human nature doesn’t change over time. Perhaps not, but cultural values can shift radically in a heartbeat. The contemporary fiction writer has the luxury of writing about people who are immersed in the same cultural soup as she /he is. Not so a historical fiction author. Cultural values are absorbed much like the air we all breathe–invisibly and with very little conscious effort (unless, of course, you’re wearing a corset). The greatest mistake a historical fiction author can make is to believe that people in ancient times thought and felt exactly as we do today.

 

To write effective historical fiction you have to immerse yourself without condescension in the values of the past no matter how odd they might seem to a modern sensibility. So if you’re planning to write a historical novel any time soon, be prepared to walk around in your character’s high-button shoes. And if the shoe pinches, write it.

 

Archaeological Thriller
Date Published: 2/12/2011
 

“Think ‘MEDIUM meets THE LOST SYMBOL’ and it only begins to describe the pleasures of THE GRANITE KEY – 5 Stars.” (Kindle Nation)

A Wake-Up Call 
In a nightmare, nineteen year old Cassie Forsythe sees her sister attacked by a man in a cowboy hat who demands something called “the key.” Her nightmare mutates into reality before the night is over. Cassie is called to identify her sister’s body–murdered exactly as her dream foretold. Cassie dismisses her vision as a fluke and fights to get on with her life. Disconnected and aimless now that her only family is gone, she drifts until the evening when she catches the man in the cowboy hat ransacking her sister’s apartment. He bolts with an odd-looking stone cylinder–the granite key. From that moment, Cassie’s normal world evaporates.

A Secret Society 
She learns that her sister led a double life–retrieving artifacts for a secret organization called the Arkana. The Arkana’s leader, an elder named Faye, explains that her group performs a controversial kind of archaeology. They scour the globe for evidence of ancient pre-patriarchal civilizations in hopes of salvaging the lost history of the world. Their network of troves safeguards artifacts from highly sophisticated goddess-worshipping cultures on every continent. Cassie’s sister had the psychic ability to touch an artifact and relive its past. Cassie has now inherited this gift. Faye wants the girl to take over her sister’s role in the organization. Cassie doubts her powers but agrees. Now an insider, she is transported to the Arkana’s mysterious underground vault in the countryside outside Chicago where the group tackles the mystery of her sister’s murder.

A Dangerous Cult 
The Arkana learns that the man in the cowboy hat is a hired mercenary named Leroy Hunt and that he is working for a fundamentalist religious cult known as the Blessed Nephilim. He takes his orders directly from the cult’s domineering prophet–Abraham Metcalf. The granite key which Leroy stole is inscribed with hieroglyphics revealing the location of a mythological artifact reputed to have mystical powers–the Sage Stone. Although skeptical of its legendary capabilities, the Arkana is still afraid to allow the relic to fall into the cult’s hands. Abraham’s fanatical belief in the power of the Sage Stone could be the catalyst to start a war of religious genocide.

Unlocking The Key 
Before she died, Cassie’s sister took photos of the strange markings on the granite key. The Arkana decodes the hieroglyphics which point to the ancient ruins of Minoan Crete as the hiding place of the Sage Stone. Faye hastily assembles a retrieval team including Cassie, her newly-appointed bodyguard Erik, and a British researcher named Griffin. The band of treasure hunters is mismatched and wildly dysfunctional from the start. Griffin has never gone on a field mission, Erik treats his inexperienced colleagues with contempt, and Cassie second-guesses her psychic hunches. She battles to prove herself to Erik at every turn. Their internal clashes rival the bigger crisis of what to do when they come face to face with their enemies.

A Matter Of Life Or Death 
Even as they rake through megalithic tombs and Minoan palaces for clues, Abraham dispatches his son Daniel and hired gun Leroy Hunt to recover the Sage Stone. The Nephilim operatives won’t hesitate to kill anyone standing in their way. Will Cassie and her teammates avert global disaster or find themselves casualties of Abraham’s mania to exterminate the world of unbelievers? The Granite Key holds the answer.

Nancy Wikarski

“There’s a 52% chance that the next Dan Brown will be a woman … or should we just make that 100% now?”

–Kindle Nation

Nancy Wikarski is a fugitive from academia. After earning her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, she became a computer consultant and then turned to mystery and historical fiction writing. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, the Society Of Midland Authors, and has served as vice president of Sisters In Crime – Twin Cities and on the programming board of the Chicago chapter. Her short stories have appeared in Futures Magazine and DIME Anthology, while her book reviews have been featured in Murder: Past Tense and Deadly

She has written the Gilded Age Chicago History Mysteries series set in 1890s Chicago. Titles include The Fall Of White City (2002) and Shrouded In Thought (2005). The series has received People’s Choice Award nominations for Best First Novel and Best Historical as well as a Lovey Award for Best Traditional Amateur Sleuth.

She is currently writing the seven book Arkana Archaeology Thriller Mystery series. Titles include The Granite Key (2011), The Mountain Mother Cipher (2011), and The Dragon’s WingEnigma (2012). The fourth volume in the series, The Riddle Of The Diamond Dove, is scheduled for publication in December of 2013. Ms. Wikarski’s work on the Arkana books has prompted Kindle Nation to call her one of its favorite authors.

BUY LINKS

Amazon

 

Book Review: Riverbend by Tess Thompson

In this follow up to River Song, Miss Thompson transports us back to the sleepy Oregon town now revitalized and the colorful characters who live and work there. This time we follow the story of Annie, talented chef of River Song whose sordid past involved an abusive ex-boyfriend, alcoholic and junkie with two strikes. When she discovers she’s pregnant and is given assistance by Planned Parenthood she makes a desperate attempt to escape and send the man to jail.

Ten years later the success of the River Song brings her past to her door as the father of her child is out on parole and hell bent on revenge. She finds solace from a wealthy recluse who’s new in town and in need of a personal chef. While both parties are wrapped up in their own problems they find themselves drawn to each other and Drake ends up acting as her protector.

This story had a kind of Beauty and the Beast feel to me which I loved. I also loved getting to know the people of River Valley better in a Return to Mayberry kind of way and I understand book 3 is now out.

Buy Riverbend on Amazon

Book Review: Riversong by Tess Thompson

Today it’s all about Ms. Tess Thompson! In this post I’ll be reviewing the first of Ms. Thompson’s books, Riversong as part of her virtual tour. Later, as a two for one special I’ll also review the sequel, Riverbend. So let’s begin shall we?

Lee Tucker lives a miserable existence. The death of the grandparents she never knew leaves her with a depressed alcoholic mother who she needs to cut away from in order to survive. With the urging of a teacher and family friend, Lee heads for Seattle where she dreams of becoming an artist. Of course life seems to like kicking Miss Tucker around and we find the young woman has abandoned her study of art for a degree in business and now has her hands full dealing with an aggressive loan shark who wants his $1 million now thanks to her husband who just committed suicide without telling her anything. Oh yeah and did I mention she’s pregnant?

Dun dun duuuuuuun!

After selling everything she has and only coming up with half the money owed, Lee flees back to her hometown in Oregon where she hopes to sell the house and property her mother left to her when she died the year before. Just like her life, Lee finds the little podunk town crumbling, dilapidated and struggling to stay alive. In search of work she finds herself face to face with the richest man in town, who desperately wants to save it, and is hired to turn his restaurant around and restore the town. As she struggles with her own personal fears and desperation to raise the rest of the money before the loan shark can find her and start over in a new town she finds herself becoming more and more endeared to the place she once grew up in and making friends. One especially hot and scrumptious friend, Tony Gonzalas, is compelled to come to her rescue and protect her and while Lee is still mourning the loss of her husband, blaming herself at times for not seeing the warning signs of his depression and suicidal tendencies, she’s also dealing with guilt for being attracted to Tony.

This is a very good book with compelling characters and a story that just draws you in. You can’t help but want to hug Lee, Linus and Annie and yes even Zac at times. The inner strength that many of these characters show as they pull together and battle their demons separately and together makes you root for them even harder as the story goes on and the romance is very sweet. My only complaint is that Tony seems to also smell and taste like chocolate. I don’t know if the author is equating chocolate with his being Latin or because she likes chocolate that much but as a Hispanic reader it’s a bit disconcerting  and took me out of the story every time I read that.

Other than that I really liked the story and dove straight into Riverbend. That review will come this afternoon:)

*As part of the virtual book tour, I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review*

Book Review: The Disappearing Girl by Heather Topham Wood

New Adult Contemporary
Date Published: 5/7/2013
 

Kayla Marlowe is slowly vanishing…

Last year, Kayla’s world imploded. Her beloved father died, leaving her alone with a narcissistic mother who

is quick to criticize her daughter’s appearance. During her winter break from college, Kayla’s dangerous

obsession with losing weight begins.

Kayla feels like her world changes for the better overnight. Being skinny seems to be the key to the happiness

she has desperately been seeking. Her mother and friends shower her with compliments, telling her how

fantastic she looks. Kayla is starving, but no one knows it.

Cameron Bennett explodes into Kayla’s life. He’s sexy and kind—he has every quality she has been looking

for in a guy. As Cameron grows closer to Kayla and learns of how far she’s willing to go to stay thin, he

becomes desperate to save her.

Kayla’s struggles with anorexia and bulimia reach a breaking point and she is forced to confront her body

image issues in order to survive. She wonders if Cameron could be the one to help heal her from the pain of

her past.

 Review

College junior Kayla Marlowe has her share of personal demons. Since her father’s sudden death two years earlier she’s been fighting guilt over leaving her sister with her crazed mother, a former pageant princess obsessed with appearance, while she goes off to college. Everything comes to a head when criticism of her weight over Christmas vacation sets Kayla on a downward spiral with anorexia and bulimia. Even when she meets the delicious Cameron who falls head over heels for her, she can’t get it into her head that she’s too fat and worthless to be loved by anyone.

The Disappearing Girl is a damn good book! Not only does it cover how a young woman could seem completely normal while battling with psychological and emotional problems but also how eating disorders affect friends and family as well. You’ll absolutely fall in love with Cameron, the sweet, sexy and intelligent man who stands by Kayla through thick and thin from telling an old girlfriend to piss off after her pathetic attempt to make Kayla believe the two had just slept together to telling off her the evil Mrs. Marlowe for warping her daughters’ minds and nuking their self esteem. Whether you’ve suffered or are suffering from an eating disorder or know someone who is or you just want to read a really good, well written story, The Disappearing Girl is a must read. Just make sure to have lots of tissues ready!

Excerpt

I was gasping for air when I moved my mouth away from his. Kissing his neck, I said in a teasing voice, “You do realize I never got to see that tattoo you told me about.”

His laughter was choked with desire. His eyes were feverish as he stared down at my body, watching how I straddled his waist. My hands inched under the edge of his t-shirt and he helped me remove it. This was the first time I had seen Cameron shirtless, and I was desperately trying not to drool.

Every part of him was cut and lean. My eyes were immediately drawn to the hard muscles of his abs. His arms and chest were toned as well, and I imagined how it would feel to have my lips on his exposed skin.

The tattoo was on his left side, placed inches above his hipbone. The tattoo was of a tombstone, and it held the epitaph, “Everything Was Beautiful, And Nothing Hurt.” The words resonated with me and it brought upon feelings I’d tried to bury. I swallowed audibly as I searched my memory for the source of the quote.

“I didn’t realize you were a Kurt Vonnegut fan. It doesn’t fit with your cheerful persona,” I said.

“It’s my mom’s favorite quote. I’ll warn you again about how it’s never a good idea to get a tattoo after you’ve been drinking.”

I leaned down closer to get a better look, but snapped back up when I realized the suggestive position I’d put myself in. Cameron lightly gripped my hair behind my head and gazed at me intently. “You have no idea how badly I want you right now, but please tell me if we’re moving too fast. I’m trying to show restraint and not rip off your clothes and haul you off to bed.”

I was instantly aroused by the growl in his voice. I couldn’t resist anymore and ran my hands slowly over every hard plane of his sculpted upper body. Stopping at his tattoo, I mindlessly began to trace the outline with my fingertips.

“I want to be with you,” I said, but I couldn’t meet his eyes. “But I’m a reserved person and I’m nervous about getting undressed in front of you.”

His hand rested against my cheek. “You have nothing to be nervous about. I think you’re absolutely beautiful, but I get the sense …” he hesitated. Then he said, “That you don’t realize how gorgeous you are.”

I ducked my head shyly. “You don’t have to say those things; you’ve already won me over.”

Cameron didn’t let me finish. “Kayla, stop. I’m serious. I’ve noticed how little you eat and how much weight you’ve lost since we first met. I have a younger sister, and I understand how extreme some girls can get about their weight. She’s always trying some sort of crazy diet.”

He was scratching at the truth, getting too close to the heart of the matter. I was suddenly ashamed, understanding I hadn’t been able to hide my weaknesses from him after all. Cameron wanted to know all of me and he wasn’t going to permit me shutting him completely out.

Standing up, I felt myself at a crossroads. I could leave, run away from the only happiness I’d known since my father died. Or I could try to work through my issues and trust Cameron not to break my heart.

“You never showed me the rest of your place,” I whispered.

He rose from the sofa and held me tightly. I rested my head against his chest and listened to the frantic racing of his heart. I smiled to myself and found myself falling more and more for him.

 

New Adult Contemporary-Ages 17+ due to language and sexual situations.

Virtual Book Tour – May 27 – June 21
 
May 27 – Reading Addiction Blog Tours – Meet and Greet
May 28 – The Book Divas – Guest Post/PROMO
May 29 – Kindle Obsessed – Review
May 30 – Mama Knows Books - Review
May 30 – Pink Fluffy Hearts - PROMO
May 31 – Hooked in a Book – Review/interview
June 1 – Simply Me - Review/Interview
June 2 – The Selkie Reads – Review/Guest Post
June 3 – Book Referees – Review/Interview
June 4 – My Cozie Corner-  Review
June 4 – Paulette’s Papers – Guest Post/PROMO
June 5 – Faerie Tale Books - Review/Guest Post
June 6 – A Bibliophile’s Thoughts - Review
June 7 – Laurie’s Thoughts and Reviews - Interview/PROMO
June 8 – Busy Mom Book Reviews-  Review
June 8 – Must Read Faster - PROMO
June 9 – Uttleys Take – Guest Post/PROMO
June 10 – Bean Counting Mommy – Review
June 11 – Bunny’s Reviews – PROMO
June 12 - Romance Book Addict – Review/interview
June 13 – My Devotional Thoughts- PROMO
June 14 – Debbie Jean – Review/Interview
June 15 – Bookishly Devoted - Review
June 16 – The Muse Unleashed - Review
June 17 - Book Bunny’s Burrow – Guest Post/PROMO
June 18 – Bianca2B – Review/Guest Post
June 19 – Noemi Betancourt – Review
June 21 -RABT Reviews - Review
Heather Wood

Author Bio

Heather Topham Wood’s obsession with novels began in childhood while growing up in a shore town in New Jersey. Writing since her teens, she recently returned to penning novels after a successful career as a freelance writer. She’s the author of the Second Sight series and the standalone The Disappearing Girl.

Heather graduated from the College of New Jersey in 2005 and holds a bachelor’s degree in English. Her freelance work has appeared in publications such as USA Today, Livestrong.com, Outlook by the Bay and Step in Style magazine. She resides in Trenton, New Jersey with her husband and two sons. Besides writing, Heather is a pop culture fanatic and has an obsession with supernatural novels and TV shows.

Book Review: The Reluctant Goddess by A.F. Firebird

Metaphysical Fiction
Date Published: March 2012
 

Ellena Ripley is a bookshop owner from a rural town in the south of England – or so she thinks. But lately, she has a growing sense that life is not as it seems. At night, she dreams of a serene man who appears to be trying to tell her something; In the day, she can’t shake a feeling of expectation. But of what?

Meanwhile Hector, servant of LIFE and the man from Ellena’s dreams, has a dilemma. How do you tell someone they are a goddess? His previous attempts have met with disaster so he must be cautious, particularly when his new trainee, Boudica, formerly Queen of the Iceni tries to help. The question is can they succeed before it is too late?  

Excerpt

Look, said the large blue book on practical magic. We’re not going to get anywhere like this. We all need to work together. Let’s focus on one book and see if we can get her to pick it up.

But which one of us… she needs to learn so much said a pale yellow book called “Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui”. His general demeanour suggested he was pretty sure that it wasn’t going to be him.

“It’s me”, said the copy of “Spiritual Growth for Beginners”.

“I have a chapter on change that’s absolutely perfect for this occasion”. There was a general murmur of agreement as Spiritual Growth for Beginners continued, “Okay, so if you can all point to me than maybe our combined intention can catch her attention”.

The books gasped and grunted as they focused all their will on the little blue and gold book.

***

Ellena felt a peculiar sensation, like the ocean with no breeze. She shook it off and scanned the books. A small gold and blue book caught her eye. She picked it out. Spiritual Growth for Beginners. The book attempted to nuzzle her, which isn’t easy with a hardback cover, and purred. Ellena did not notice. The rest of the section cheered but Ellena did not hear them.

She opened the book at random, whereupon page two hundred and twenty two leapt at the chance, revealing to Ellena the seventh chapter: Change – Mission Impossible or Trial by Chocolate Cake?

Promising title, thought Ellena as she read on.

Mission impossible, or trial by chocolate cake? It’s your choice, so choose wisely. The fact is, change is going to happen if you like it or not, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that change is causing you pain. It is not. Your resistance is what causes discomfort. The more you resist, the more difficult your life will become and the more painful your daily experiences will be. The only reason you change is because part of you wants to progress, so to resist is simply fighting with yourself….

Ellena could hear a customer entering the shop. She hurriedly replaced the book. She walked to the front of the shop, oblivious to the celebration going on in the New Age section.

 Review

While the stories were fairly riveting, figuring out how they connected was a bit confusing at first. I don’t know whether or not the pacing was intentional, but once you realize where the story is going The Reluctant Goddess really takes off. This is definitely an interesting read with a nice use of mythological and religious figures and concepts. The characters are endearing and the little plot twists Firebird sprinkles throughout the book keeps the reader guessing. Fans of Fantasy and mythology should find this a very enjoyable read:)

Virtual Book Tour June 10 – June 28
June 10- Reading Addiction Blog Tours - Meet and Greet
June 11- Gothic Angel Book Reviews – Review
June 11 – Whatever You Can Still Betray- PROMO
June 12- Jody’s Book Reviews – PROMO
June 12 – Books, Authors, Blogs – Interview/PROMO
June 13- Reviewing Shelf - Review
June 13 – Must Read Faster - PROMO
June 14- Busy Mom Book Reviews – Review
June 15- In This World of Books - Review
June 15 – Laurie’s Thoughts and Reviews - Interview/PROMO
June 16- Andi’s Book Reviews - Interview/PROMO
June 17- Playing Jokers – Review
June 18- Word to Dreams -PROMO
June 19- Noemi Betancourt – Review
June 19 – Read-A-Holicz – PROMO
June 21- My Cozie Corner - Review
June 21 – Snifferwalk Books - Interview/PROMO
June 22- The Luv’n – Interview/PROMO
June 23-Bunny’s Reviews - Interview/PROMO
June 24- Queen of All She Reads – Review
June 25-Bibliophilia, Please - Interview/PROMO
June 26- The Book Maven – Review
June 27-Wintry Words – Interview/PROMO
June 28- RABT Reviews – Review
A. F. Firebird

A.F. Firebird is the alter ego of a sociologist/psychologist turned web developer from the UK. While A.F. Firebird has worked in several fields her primary focus is the exploration of six virtues: appreciation, forgiveness, compassion, humility, understanding and valour. Her first novel, The Reluctant Goddess, numerous short stories and children’s books, all investigate aspects of these virtues.

Website

Buy Links

paperback or kindle at Publisher Site: http://www.posegroup.org/books/trg/buy/index.html#buy

paperback or kindle at Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com

http://www.amazon.co.uk

An Update on Father’s Day

Greetings and Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there!

Apologies for the lag in posts but I’ve been plugging away at a couple of new stories which I’ll be revealing shortly. I’ve also been working on getting my cafe off the ground but it’s going to be an extremely long process. In the meantime I’ve resurrected an old blog that focuses on food and the hospitality industry so that this blog can focus more on writing, romance, fantasy and women’s issues. So hang tight folks. There’ll be new content posted here this week including two new book reviews but in the meantime why not head over to my other blog A Heaping Helping of Hospitality.

A breakthrough for women’s health in third world countries

While it’s no secret that mortality rates for women in third world countries are far worst than in developed countries, scientists and researchers are making strides to change this. For the past 12 years women living in the slums of India have had access to a simple vinegar test that successfully detected cervical cancer in lieu of expensive Pap Smears and HPV tests resulting in cutting the number of cancer deaths in women by 1/3!

The doctors who presented their findings at the latest cancer conference in Chicago believe tens of thousands of lives could be saved in developing countries with this cheap test which would allow for early cancer detection and treatment. Reportedly the test can be conducted by locals with only two weeks of training, swabs and diluted vinegar which causes abnormal cells to change color for a short period of time. It’s estimated death by cervical cancer could be slashed by 31% preventing 22,000 deaths in India and about 73,000 deaths annually worldwide.

Indian officials are now making plans to expand the new vinegar test to more people and two companies who produce the HPV vaccine has announced they would be dramatically lowering the prices of their vaccines in Asian and African countries with the intent to vaccinate over 30 million girls in more than 40 countries within the next 7 years.

Book Review: The World Below by Mike Phillips

The following is a guest post by Mike Phillips who talks about the all important book cover. Keep reading for my review of Mr. Phillips’ new book, The World Below.

Why Book Covers Are So Important

         There’s this saying, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover,’ but let’s face it, it happens.  When searching for a book the first thing someone is going to notice is the cover.  The cover can then draw that person into reading the synopsis.  If the synopsis and the cover draw the reader in, they could possibly buy it or put it on their to-be-read list.

My own personal experience with a cover design came with Uniquely Unwelcome.  The first edition cover was a hand drawing of a girl looking up at an eagle.  While it was a nice drawing, it just wasn’t up to par with other Fantasy covers.  It became very apparent to me, especially after a few readers recommended that I change the cover, that a change was indeed needed.

Why did I decide to use a hand drawing?  Well it was kind of a dream of mine.  My husband is a great artist.  He’s also my support system.  Whenever I’m frustrated, stuck on an idea, or just at a complete loss, he’s there.  I wanted to pay some tribute to his support and so I thought I would have him do my first cover.  From there, I would go with the “traditional covers” but for my first publication I wanted to incorporate him in some way.

My lesson from that, sometimes we have to let go of the smaller dreams/goals to reach the bigger ones.  I felt guilty I guess you could say when I told him I thought it was best if we changed the cover.  Being a great supporter like he is, he agreed.  He was honored that I had tried and that I had even used his art to begin with.  So together we picked out the cover for Uniquely Unwelcome and then again with Blood Burdens.

So yes, books are judged by their covers.  I’m not saying that every person does this, but most probably do.  I’m happy with the new cover for Uniquely Unwelcome and have a paperback edition of both the first edition with my husband’s cover design and the newer edition so I at least have a small token of my little dream.

Horror/Urban Fantasy
Date Published: 4/1/2013

In ancient times, magical creatures inhabited the earth. They lived on mountaintops, in trees, at  the bottom of lakes and rivers. But that was long ago, before the human race declared war on the creatures they feared and hated. Now the enchanted peoples are all but gone. Those few that remain fear being stretched out on an examination table in some secret, governmental facility.

The only place they can hide from the ever increasing number of satellites and smart phones is in the World Below.  Mitch Hardy is going through a hard time in his life. In his early twenties, he was working his way through college when he suffered an accident that left him flat broke and physically deformed. When Mitch decides to make a fresh start in a new town, things start looking up. He finds a place to live, a decent job, good friends. He even meets a nice girl. Unknown to Mitch, his new girlfriend is one of the Elder Race, what some call the Faerie Folk. Mitch doesn’t know that Elizabeth is looking for a father she never knew. The key to finding him is somehow tied up with the mysterious Blade of Caro. Desperate, she steals the Blade from its protector, the despotic ruler of the World Below, the Dragon of Worms, Baron Finkbeiner. When Elizabeth is kidnapped by the Baron, Mitch is pulled into a world or magic and monsters he never imagined.

 REVIEW

 This was a very riveting book. I really got to feel for Mitch and started rooting for him early on. He’s a hero in every sense of the word, his instincts kicking in any time a friend, stranger or animal is in trouble without giving any thought to his own safety or wellbeing. Some may think Mitch is an idiot since his sense of self preservation appears to be broken but this actually endeared him to me. Hume is another character I grew to love almost immediately. He’s essentially a bad guy for going out to do the Goblin King’s bidding but as his sister is being held captive and it’s obvious the man doesn’t like what he has to do while at the same time trying figure out a way to rescue her from his enemy you start rooting for him too. All the characters are likable, with the exception of Elizabeth, who I found to be fairly manipulative and scheming personally, and I adored the story. It’s a nice blend of fantasy and reality and I can’t wait to start reading the rest of the series. If you’re a fan of Sci-fi/Fantasy stories like Mercedes Lackey’s Elemental Masters series I think you’ll love The World Below.

*This review is part of Reading Addiction Blog Tours who supplied me with a free copy and is unbiased, unsolicited and unpaid.
Virtual Book Tour – May 6 – June 2
 
May 6 – Reading Addiction Blog Tours – Meet and Greet
May 7 – Logikal Blog - Guest Post/PROMO
May 9 – Kindle Obsessed - Guest Post/PROMO
May 10 – Laurie’s Thoughts and Reviews - Interview/PROMO
May 12 – Bunny’s Reviews - Interview/PROMO
May 14 -My Reading Addiction – Review
May 16 – Texas Book Nook – Review
May 18- Playing Jokers - Review/Guest Post
May 20 – Bea’s Book Nook – Guest Post/PROMO
May 21 - Author Ever Leigh – PROMO
May 22 - Bibliophilia, Please – PROMO
May 24 – Must Read Faster- Guest Post/PROMO
May 26 -Mythical Books – Guest Post/PROMO
May 27 – Books and Needlepoint – Interview/PROMO
May 28 - My Cozie Corner- Review
May 30 – Faerie Tale Books - Review/Guest Post
May 31 – Noemi Betancourt- Review/Guest Post
June 2 – RABT Reviews - Review

Mike Phillips is author of The World Below and Reign of the Nightmare Prince. His short stories have appeared in ParAbnormal Digest, Cemetery Moon, Sinister Tales, Beyond Centauri, the World of Myth, Mystic Signals and many others. Online, his work has appeared in Lorelei Signal, Kzine, Bewildering Stories, Midnight Times, and Fringe. He is best known for his Crow Witch and Patrick Donegal series.

 mikephillipsfantasy.com

Excerpt

Magic sigils were hidden all over the city, but along the Riverwalk powers of earth and water converged. Magic here was strange and unpredictable, but always strong. A star was carved on the nearest of the old cottonwoods. It was ancient magic, made perhaps by the native tribes who once inhabited this place.

Hume could not guess what its purpose was. For all he knew, it would take him away to some desperate corner of the underworld to be forever enslaved. He did nothing to protect himself. He had to let events run their course.

Finding Lady Elizabeth proved impossible. If this stranger had information, then he would surrender himself to free his sister.

A breath of chill air interrupted his thoughts. He shivered.

It was his humanity giving him warning. People who didn’t know any better would attach some old wives’ tale to the feeling, but he was not so blinded by the mundane. No one tread on his future grave. Evil approached.

In the world outside the reach of the cottonwood, the sun escaped below the horizon. Night had come.

Darkness coalesced; growing deeper in this haven below the trees, gathering until the river and the bay and everything beyond the sphere of darkness was lost. A black bird flew to a nearby piling. The crow was mangy and looked only moments from death by old age. It ruffled its ancient feathers and stared at Hume, penetrating his mind.

Unafraid, he stared back, filling his thoughts with a variety of deaths the crow might suffer at his hand. The bird cawed angrily, its harsh voice a show of defiance.

“Let’s get on with it,” he said. “Sunset was an hour ago.”

“Nightfall is now,” snapped the bird.

“Point taken. My mistake.”

The crow’s voice was as harsh as its call. “Patience Hume, your eagerness does you no credit. A lesser being than I might take it as a sign of weakness, but no advantage will I press. I know what it is to have a loved one in danger.”

“Oh? So, is that why you are here? How nice.”

“Yes, I wish to help you, and I have other reasons.”

“What are they?”

“Patience, Hume. Patience” The crow laughed. “We’ll get to that later.”

“Lovely.”

Another crow flew to the piling. Soon the place within the dark was full of crows. They raced to the piling, circling Hume like a cyclone. He stood still, and though the impossibility of safety seemed assured, he wasn’t touch.

The birds fused together, forming something in the shape of a man. The man was covered in black feathers. He had a crow’s head with a sharp beak and beady eyes. A mantle of greater feathers ringed his neck.

“That’s a little much,” Hume said. “Who are you trying to impress?”

“I must admit I’ve always had the knack for the dramatic. As a show of trust I appear to you as my true self.”

“Does that make you a murder or a man?”

“Ha, ha, quite clever,” said the crow man. “I shall have to remember that one. Yes, quite clever indeed.”

LINKS TO BUY

Amazon Link

Barnes & Noble Link

Damnation Books Link

Relationships and the couples retreat/workshop

Throughout the 13 years my husband and I have been married we’ve had our trials and tribulations. At one point things were so bad that we actually considered counseling. Personally I’ve never been a fan of Psychologists but I have to admit that the counseling helped. By utilizing workshops by groups like Marriage Encounter, CREDO and the Wounded Warrior Project we like to fine tune our relationship every couple of years or so as you would a car. Over the years we’ve discovered there are a few similarities that always seem to pop up with couples having problems.

Somebody didn’t get their tuneup

The biggest issue is communication. Yeah I know, my male readers are rolling their eyes and shaking their heads but the fact of the matter is, whether you’re in a hetero or homosexual relationship you are two people who are steadily involved in each other’s lives and neither of you are mind readers. Male or female if there’s a problem you need to speak up about it and the other party needs to listen and I mean actively listen. Many people don’t actually listen to what the other person is saying because they’re too busy formulating their rebuttal to throw in as soon as the other person stops speaking rather than actually stopping to consider what that person is saying. In doing so you’re disregarding your partner’s grievance which is probably why you find yourselves talking in circles. Stop, listen and consider what your partner is telling you. Rather than feeling insulted immediately, think. Do you see any grain of truth in your partner’s complaint?

Also if you have an issue, don’t keep it bottled up so that it can fester and grow until you end up blowing up about it and it becomes a whole big thing in your relationship. People keep issues bottled up inside for a majority of reasons, usually because they don’t want to rock the boat or upset their partner. First why are you so concerned about upsetting your partner? Remember your feelings count too. If your partner doesn’t want to talk about anything they don’t actually respect you or the relationship enough to want to make you happy and work on the problem whether it’s a simple miscommunication or misunderstanding or a legitimate problem. If you’re afraid of your partner becoming violent that’s a whole new issue you need to think about and ask yourself why are you with this person? Violence is NEVER ok and it’s never the answer!

Lack of respect and consideration is also an issue that seems to be evident in both sexes. I’ve seen women who get upset that their partners take no interest in their favorite activities yet they won’t try to take an interest in their partner’s favorite activities either. While couples don’t have to be joined at the hip, occasionally taking part in each other’s hobby or interests isn’t going to kill you.

Unless your partner is an amateur knife thrower…

When a couple decides to go to one of these workshops or retreats, it should be because both parties want to go. Everyone should be willing to examine their relationship. There should not be any “sacrificing” or anyone being dragged to anything against their will because I guarantee that couple will not get anything out of it. You’re wasting your time, the time of the people running the event and taking up space that a couple who actually wants to be there. I’ve seen things get downright nasty among couples like this and one guy was such a festering asshole that he was making fun of the other guys taking part in the event. The man was bored, didn’t hide the fact he did not want to be there, didn’t even try to make an effort and created a hostile environment for everyone involved. For anyone reading this, male or female, if you’re this much of a douche that you consider the fact your other half is unhappy with the state of your relationship is a joke and not worth your time to explore, do the world a favor and stay your happy ass home! In fact, if this is the way your other half behaves, consider why you’re putting up with it and realize you deserve so much better.

Being in a successful relationship takes work from both parties.  If you and your partner have never ever argued about anything ever in the course of your whole relationship, I hate to say it but there’s definitely a problem. Never arguing about anything doesn’t mean you have a picture perfect healthy relationship, it means someone is holding something back. Now I’m not saying that arguing all the time is essential because it’s not but unless the other person is your clone or vice versa, you are both completely different individuals with your own mindset, thought process and vices and from time to time you will clash over something, be it major or minor. Arguing over something doesn’t mean your relationship is over if that relationship is healthy. Even if you guys are happy and have been going through a really great patch in your relationship, it doesn’t hurt to visit a retreat or workshop from time to time. This weekend my husband and I visited a workshop and when asked prior to attending what issues you’d like to work on, we sat there and honestly couldn’t think of a single thing. We attended anyway, had a nice relaxing time together and enjoyed ourselves which we found to be a much needed opportunity since our daily lives tend to focus around his medical issues, VA appointments and the military retirement process and we don’t get as much downtime as we would like. Bottom line, the couples retreat or workshop isn’t a bad thing and your marriage or relationship doesn’t need to be in trouble for you to attend. It’s a great way to approach any issues you might have with a new perspective and helps to circumvent any possible issues that may come up in future and get to know each other a little better while becoming closer.

Disclaimer: Noemi Betancourt is a romance novelist. Relationship opinions and advice is based on personal experience and should not be taken as professional advice. If you have any relationship issues and need counseling or intervention, please seek out a professional.

WTF books

Sometimes in my search for the next great or at least enjoyable book to read I come across a book that makes me do a double take and I’m compelled to take a further look to see whether or not said book is (hopefully) satire. Usually they are and the joke is just so good that I actually end up picking the book up. Here are a few that recently caught my attention:

Cookbooks

Now when i think cuisine Coolio isn’t the first person who comes to mind but apparently he’s been cooking since he was 10 and invented what he calls “Ghetto Cuisine.” Learn how to make quick recipes that are easy on the waist and wallet such as Soul Rolls and Finger-Lickin’, Rib-Stickin’, Fall-Off-the-Bone-and-into-Your-Mouth Chicken. The book contains chapters like “Chillin’ and Grillin’ and introduces the reader to fusion cuisine categories like Blasian (black Asian) and Ghettalian (ghetto Italian).

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a book that’s been placed firmly on my wish list. It’s a hilarious take on the popular series only between a young innocent wide eyed chicken and a wealthy sexy chef. The book contains some filthy yet delicious sounding recipes like Dripping Thighs, Bacon-Bound Wings, Learning-to-Truss-You Chicken, and Mustard-Spanked Chicken. Here’s an excerpt:

 
“I want you to see this. Then you’ll know everything. It’s a cookbook,” he says and opens to some recipes, with color photos. “I want to prepare you, very much.” This isn’t just about getting me hot till my juices run clear, and then a little rest. There’s pulling, jerking, stuffing, trussing. Fifty preparations. He promises we’ll start out slow, with wine and a good oiling . . . Holy crap. “I will control everything that happens here,” he says. “You can leave anytime, but as long as you stay, you’re my ingredient.” I’ll be transformed from a raw, organic bird into something—what? Something delicious.

Comics

I LOVE this book! I’ve always been a fan of Garfield growing up but this book   displays the comics with the fat lasagna loving cat completely erased so you get to witness Jon having psychotic episodes throughout. Awesome!

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’ve ever perused the Book of Faces you may have come across a post or two featuring texts between a dog and his annoyed owner. Well, the creator of this phenomenon has a hilarious book that will have you rolling, especially if you’re a dog owner. I know I could see my dogs doing this :)

 

 

 

 

 

Children

Written and drawn like a sweet little bedtime story, this book follows the saga of a poor little alligator who’s tired of fruit and desperately wants to chomp on a nice pudgy child but he’s just too small.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you haven’t heard of this book yet you’re probably either living under a rock or come from outer space (in which case I welcome our robot overlords;). This is an actual real life book that parents can relate to as they follow the saga of a father who is desperately trying to put his daughter to bed. And now for your viewing pleasure, here is Samuel L. Jackson reading Go the F*** to Sleep. G’nite folks!

WARNING: Language NSFW

Book Review: Angel by Johanna Lindsey

Today we head to the Old West in Johanna Lindsey’s Angel.

Cassie Stewart is a professional meddler. Having caused havoc at her childhood home of Wyoming she heads down to visit her estranged father’s ranch in Texas where she manages to make a feud between two families even worst when she convinces the daughter of one family to fall in love and marry the son of the other family. However, unlike the famous Romeo and Juliet, the two star-crossed lovers don’t commit suicide together but get yanked apart by their respective families before turning their venom on Cassie and give her a deadline to get out of town or face her very own Texas BBQ.

Break out the weiners, ma!

With her father out of town and the mother who usually cleans up her messes still in Wyoming, Cassie doesn’t know what to do except she has a strong desire to finish what she started for once and sends for a man known as the Peacemaker. Unfortunately, the Peacemaker gets badly injured in the line of peacekeeping and sends a man who owes him a favor in his stead. This man is the tall dark and silent gunslinger known throughout the West as the Angel of Death! After Cassie gets over her initial terror she tries throwing her weight around and ordering him to leave first because she tells him the problem he came for was already solved and then because his presence will only make things worst. Angel won’t budge and over the coming weeks Cassie gets to know the man behind the legend and finds him to be warm, sweet and sexy while he comes to the realization that the woman who drives him absolutely insane has also managed to steal his heart.

Angel is action packed with likable characters and tame but sweet love scenes. I’m not crazy about the meddling empty headed heroine often portrayed in romance novels (it’s my biggest peeve about Jane Austen’s Emma) but Cassie’s ability to defend herself and her loyalty to her family and friends compensates for any irritability I felt about the character. Angel reminded me of a cross between Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef so I couldn’t picture him being attractive or sexy but the man’s sense of honor and his restraint not to kill as many challengers as he could have earned my respect for him so I was glad to read their HEA. There’s also a pretty cool little twist at the end but I’ll leave that for you to discover.

All in all it was a nice enjoyable read that has put me in the mood to hunt down more Romance Westerns:) PS look out romance fans, this book was published in 1992 so we’ve got a few turgid things puckering throughout the story.

******

And now a quick update. To celebrate the launch of Descendants of Quendaris, my first book Heroes and Hearts will now be FREE for a limited time! Witness Isabel’s rise to greatness and her smoldering love affair with the Prince of Calfragor before journeying with the couple as they join forces with Queen Valeska and King Iskander save our worlds from the forces of evil!

Great Writing in Movies

Yesterday I had the privilege of venturing to the movies with my best hubby to watch Star Trek into Darkness which, being a fan of the original series, I adored. I especially loved Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance but that’s nothing new because I adore him too. His delicious performance actually made me smile and I thoroughly enjoyed hating the villain while cheering for the heroes. That got me thinking. It’s rare that we go to the movies because there never really seems to be anything out there that makes movies today very memorable. Terrific special effects and music score are wonderful things but they can only take a movie so far. Terrific acting skills are also beneficial to the story especially when coupled with good meaty writing that presents moviegoers with memorable lines, speeches and scenes.

Now I’m going to refrain from including great infamous lines like Chief Brody’s “We’re gonna need a bigger boat” and “Come down here and chum some of this shit” from Jaws, “Frankly Scarlett, I don’t give a damn” from Gone with the Wind or memorable speeches and moments like Network’s “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore.” Today I’ll be covering lesser thought of, but still great lines and scenes from movies throughout the years in the hopes that it’ll bring you memories of those great films and the people who wrote them as well as introduce you to movies you haven’t seen or haven’t considered seeing:)

Moonstruck

If you’ve taken a stroll around my blog, you already know that Moonstruck is one of my favorite movies of all time so of course one of my favorite lines and movies come from this movie and no, I will not be covering the slapping scene, sorry. In this scene, the family has sat down to dinner and is trying to talk about Loretta’s upcoming wedding except Cosmo doesn’t want to do anything but eat and guzzle wine. Rose is already dealing with the fact she think’s her husband is screwing around on her and his behavior at the table is stressing her out. Throughout the scene, Cosmo’s father keeps leaving the table to feed his spaghetti and meatballs (I think that’s what they’re eating) to the pack of dogs he takes with him everywhere he goes. Finally, Rose has had enough.

The Ten Commandments

I’m not a religious person but I grew up loving Cecil B. DeMille’s Ten Commandments. The movie showcases why the cast was so legendary (although I personally believe Edward G. Robinson was seriously miscast) and has lots of great scenes, speeches and lines. My favorites both involve confrontations between Anne Baxter’s Nefretiri and Yul Brynner’s Ramses.

For some reason I can’t find the scene featuring another confrontation between Ramses and Nefretiri where he informs her “You will be mine, like my dog, or my horse, or my falcon, except that I shall love you more – and trust you less.”

Steel Magnolias

This movie made me laugh and cry and is packed full of great lines and scenes. The following clips are at the cemetery when my favorite lady, Olympia Dukakis, tries to make Maline feel better and then makes up with Ouiser.

Uncle Buck

In this movie John Candy plays the low brow uncle who turns the lives of his nieces and nephew upside down while their parents are away. In this scene he takes on the battle-axe who insists his 6 year old niece isn’t taking her career as a student seriously.

The Heiress

A fantastic old movie starring Olivia deHavilland and Montgomery Clift. She is a plain heiress alienated by her father because she didn’t grow up as lovely as her deceased mother and who is practically invisible to all eligible men. She falls madly in love with Clift who her father rightly suspects is a fortune hunter and refuses to give consent to their marriage. They plan to elope but when he discovers she’ll be virtually penniless if her father cuts her off he drops off the face of the earth only to return when the old man drops dead and she inherits it all. Now wiser and understandably a little bitter, she sets the man up to be bounced harder than Jerry Sandusky from the gates of Disneyworld.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

This movie is just loaded with great lines and scenes but the following is what I consider to be the best scene in the whole movie.

Old Acquaintance

This is one of my favorite Bette Davis movies. She and Miriam Hopkins play two old friends whose relationship gets tested over a 25 year span, usually by Hopkin’s character’s jealousy. It finally comes to a head in this scene when Kit gets tired of Millie’s drama.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

A fantastic movie featuring my favorite onscreen couple, Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, as well as a young Sidney Poitier. In this movie the daughter of a white wealthy couple with progressive unorthodox views announces her intent to marry a young black doctor she met while vacationing in Hawaii. While this isn’t a big deal for most people today, back in the 1960s this was actually illegal in many parts of the country (the same parts that are fighting so hard against Marriage Equality FYI). In this clip, Katherine Hepburn terminates an employee in the most epic of ways!

Double Indemnity

While this movie doesn’t really have any lines that are overly memorable (except maybe for this corny one that says how murder can sometimes smell like honeysuckle) but as the movie that essentially birthed the crime/femme fatale genre I think everyone who doesn’t know about this movie should run and see it. I especially love that the concept and story was inspired by both a conversation the author of the book had with an insurance salesman one day who told him how when you work the game long enough you sometimes start trying to figure out the angles so you could actually get away with killing someone for the insurance policy and by a murder in 1927 where a wife convinced her boyfriend to kill her husband after he took out a large policy.

And finally here’s a famous skit from the movie Naughty Nineties: Who’s on First with Abbot and Costello

Book Review: Katherine Irons’ Atlantis trilogy

Today I’ll be reviewing Katherine Irons’ three books focused on the Atlanteans. These are fantasy romance stories centered on the crown prince and his brothers but also gives some insight into the life and enemies of the people of Atlantis.

Seaborne

Claire Bishop was a wealthy athletic and beautiful young woman whose life was changed forever when a drunken boater crashed into her and her friends. She has spent the last two years wheelchair bound and wallowing in serious pain and self pity and has managed to escape her controlling father to Seaborne, the seaside Maine home her grandmother left her when she died. She meets Morgan, crown prince of Atlantis, on the beach one day and it’s love at first sight. Morgan is already in trouble with the High Council for violating one of the cardinal rules of the land, make no contact with humans. Having already gotten off for rescuing a drowning boy in a storm, it is absolutely vital that Morgan keep his strong attraction to Claire a secret. He knows he should avoid her at all costs but her pull is just too strong. On top of everything else Morgan and his brothers, Alexandros and Orion, also have to deal with one of their father’s concubines and mother to their half brother, Caddoc, both of which want to kill the immediate family and take their places as rulers of Atlantis.

This story starts out a bit slow but really picks up steam and you can’t help but fall in love with Morgan. Claire can be a bit annoying but when you figure everything she’d been through and having absolutely no support network, except for people who insist on treating the 29 year old like a child because of her injuries as well as a husband who screwed around on her and now wants her for her vast settlement from the accident, you can kind of begrudge her a little self pity and low self esteem. Thanks to her interactions with Morgan however, Claire develops the strength she needs to fight back when she’s hospitalized against her will and tells her greedy murderous ex-husband to take a hike. I especially love the villainous shades that the Atlanteans battle and how Irons incorporates the old mermaid stories and mythical elements to her world.

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and dove (heh) straight into the others.

Oceanborne

Elena Carter is an underwater archeologist on a mission. With her father disgraced in the field, she aims to prove herself by excavating an ancient Phoenician ship sunk off the coast of Greece. Unfortunately for her, Melqart, Phoenician god of war and ruler of the shades, doesn’t take kindly to a bunch of humans crawling around a ship loaded with his tributes and so Orion finds himself constantly coming to the aid of the beautiful woman who rescued him.

Unfortunately, this book didn’t thrill me like the first one did and I had to struggle to finish it. There were just way too many things wrong for me to enjoy the story and it just went from bad to worst!

First of all, why would Poseidon not only forgive the son who was involved in a plot to kill him and take the throne but allow him to return to Atlantis to do still more damage? He also has a nasty habit of believing every accusation that flies out of the schmuck’s mouth despite the fact that he oh y’know TRIED TO HAVE HIM KILLED AND USURP HIS THRONE!

We’re treated to more displays of Halimeda’s wrath and pension for octopi as her being rescued by Melqart and being in league with him seems to consist of her throwing fits because her servants are undead monsters and her being unable to eat anything even though she doesn’t actually need to anymore. To me, the sorceress seems less like a powerful witch to be feared and more like a spoiled bitch who needs to lose some teeth.

Will you STOP SCREAMING?!

Then there’s Elena who aggravates the hell out of me. First of all, this chick is just out of college and yet her entire career rides on an excavation that’s being interrupted by weather all because her father was a nutjob who claimed to have discovered Atlantis but later couldn’t provide proof before he disappeared? Really? Also, she’s the ultimate damsel in distress whose only reaction to frightening things is to panic and run or scream, freeze and close her eyes waiting for imminent death or to be rescued. Frankly I can’t imagine how she managed to get this far in her career without being eaten by a shark! And don’t even get me started on that time traveling BS where things happened one way and then suddenly everything changed or changed back or whatever. This was the third time this book flew out of my hand. Yet for the sake of this review I persevered.

*sob* It’s just SO bad!!!

Another thing that bothered me was how friggin easy it was to kill Melqart! The insipid Elena, who seemed to grow more childlike and brainless as the story went on, stands there in the temple and actually LAUGHS and makes fun of the big scary hulking roaring beast that just finished bursting out of his own statue and pulls a maneuver straight out of Peter Pan which results in Melqart doing an impression of the Wicked Witch of the West!

Lookit me, NOT believing in Phoenician gods. You can go ahead and die now!

He dissolves into a steaming puddle of goo and turns to dust out of which appears “a warty toad.” Seriously, these are the words a grown woman uses to describe the animal later on, and hops into a fiery chasm.

Finally, Orion isn’t nearly as interesting as his brother Morgan but then you kinda saw that in the first book. I’m actually looking more forward to picking up the next one as Alex always struck me as the most interesting of the three.

Waterborne

Ree O’Connor is a trained assassin with special abilities such as clairvoyance and setting things on fire. While targeting a rich Russian bastard who makes his money causing destruction both above and below the surface of the ocean, something goes wrong and she’s nearly killed. Luckily for her Prince Alexandros is onboard, also tasked with a mission to kill the rich Russian bastard and he takes her under the water and saves her.

Alex meanwhile is having serious issues clashing with the queen of the Lemorians who, in an attempt to sire a princess to sit on the throne after her, is banging Prince Caddoc like a screen door in a hurricane. Caddoc meanwhile is tired of his mother’s abuse so when the Lemorian queen declares their goddess needs a sacrifice he offers her up in his place to fling into an underwater volcano.

Alex also can’t understand why, despite his own aversion to humans that led him to lecture his brothers against taking human mates in the first two books, he can’t suppress the urge to plow Ree. There’s more trouble in store for poor Alex because while he’s fighting along side Ree to kill the rich Russian bastard, who apparently has a fleet of helicopters to rush him to safety at any given time, his brothers are playing hot potato with the crown.  It seems nobody wants to be Poseidon since daddy bought it in book 2.

Sadly, this series started out promising but just ended in colossal disappointment. The sex scenes actually become fairly dull especially in Waterborne and just happen way too often. In fact, you kind of get the feeling that even Irons starts getting bored with them because she stops giving details, which is a shame since there really isn’t much variation to the scenes she does describe in the whole series. I also don’t get why Irons insists on giving her heroines boyfriends when none of them actually become important characters. The only reason I could think of is the only way she could convey the sex appeal of her heroines is to saddle them with a boyfriend, fiance or husband which is pretty damn sad if it is true.

One thing I did take away from reading this series is writing style and plot devices NOT to use. I don’t mean this to be harsh or insulting, I’m actually serious. As I write my own series and books I will be keeping in mind not to have easily killable enemies, tedious sex scenes and secondary characters the plot could do without. I’m honestly hoping Katherine Irons’ writing improves with time because she’s incredibly imaginative and I do like her use of myths. I would actually prefer to read something that was an absolute train wreck from page one than descend into a spiral of dismay as I witness the demise of a promising storyline.

RIP Ray Harryhausen

Yesterday the world lost a cinematic legend. Ray Harryhausen, the master of stop-motion animation and a pioneer in the world of special effects, died in London at the age of 92.

Harryhausen was fascinated by the original King Kong when he was 13 years old and later got to work with the beast’s creator, Willis O’Brien, as a technician on the set of Mighty Joe Young in 1943. Ten years later he made his debut by designing the giant lizard that ate New York City in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.

Harryhausen continued creating monsters for sci-fi and fantasy movies throughout the 50s and 60s including Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, Mysterious Island and, one of my personal favorites, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. He receives most notoriety as creator of the monsters and effects of Jason and the Argonauts and the original 1981 Clash of the Titans. Ray Harryhausen was once asked to choose which of his creations was his favorite and he just didn’t have an answer. “I can’t.” he said, “The others get jealous.” Personally I’ve always adored the skeleton/human fights in J&A, and Charon and Medusa from COT which remains one of my favorite movies and favorite Harryhausen flick of all time!

With CGI and 3D taking over the special effects market, most people today don’t seem to appreciate the art and innovation that Ray Harryhausen put into his creations and how they enhanced movies and moviemaking, usually writing them off as low-budget and cheesy. However low budget and cheesy was enough to inspire other great moviemakers of our day. George Lucas and Peter Jackson admit there would have been no Star Wars or Lord of the Rings without the influence of Ray Harryhausen and James Cameron adds, “If not for Ray’s contribution to the collective dreamscape, we wouldn’t be who we are.” In 1992, Harryhausen received a special Oscar commemorating his lifetime of work and influence in the special effects industry. 

RIP Mr. Harryhausen. You were the best!

News in Food

From time to time I’ll be posting about food related items I find in the news or magazines. I warn you now this may sometimes include gorgeous pictures of scrumptious food:) However, that is not the case this week so on we merrily stumble!

First up is the shindig happening along the Florida/Georgia border known as the Suwannee River Jam which features such acts as Sheryl Crow, Easton Corbin and the Eli Young Band. You can visit for a day or the whole weekend and you can even camp out if you want to stay for all four days. There’ll be a Mrs. Suwannee River Jam which is reportedly a “Daisy Duke style” beauty pageant of Floridian ladies and the piece de resistance, The Ultimate Redneck Wedding! A couple from Douglas, Georgia will be married in “true Redneck fashion” with the bride riding in on a lawn mower while the groom is carried to the altar in a Porta-Potty. The fun continues at the reception where guests are treated to a mound of Twinkies and RC Cola. Yeehaw!

Brings a tear to your eye, don’t it?

As a native Jerseyan (Jerseyite?) I adore a nice hot plate of fries smothered in gravy and melted cheese that we call Disco Fries. I was recently alerted by friends living further North near the Canadian border that they too enjoy a similar delicacy called poutine. Well poutine lovers rejoice.. or not. The makers of Jones Soda, known for their crazy holiday concoctions, have just announced a new poutine flavored soda. Inspired by success with past flavors like Bacon Jones soda and the Turkey and Gravy Jones soda often seen in the Thanksgiving pack the company decided to honor their Canadian heritage with a soda that has “a nice balance of rich, savory gravy over a starchy potato base, and accented with those fatty, cheesy notes you expect in a plate of poutine.”

In other news from our neighbors in the North, the midway of the Calgary Stampede is unveiling some brand new snack food to poison erm kill uh feed the masses this July. Visitors will be treated to such delights as the Double Bacon Corndog (which is wrapped in bacon, dipped in bacon infused batter, deep fried twice, and served with maple syrup and more bacon), Deep Fried Butter (butter cubes wrapped in pie crust and deep fried), Deep Fried Bubble Gum (puffy bubble gum flavored marshmallows dipped in batter and deep fried), Chocolate Dipped Jalapeño, Pickle Shooters (actual shots of straight pickle juice), and Western Cake Pops (cowboy boot and hat shaped chocolate cake dipped in milk chocolate).

I think I felt my arteries harden reading that :-p

Harlequin Book Reviews & Operation Paperback

Today I’ll be reviewing two short romance novels, one I liked and the other well, not so much. The first book is a Harlequin Blaze anthology called Once Upon A Valentine with authors Stephanie Bond, Leslie Kelly and Michelle Rowen.

I’ve always been a sucker for alternative retellings of fairy tales and popular stories and this book definitely delivered. The book starts with Stephanie Bond’s All Tangled Up which is an incredibly loose take on Rapunzel. Busy NY ad exec Andrew McMillan returns to his native sleepy hamlet of Tiny, Tennessee to bury his father and drives into a tree to avoid running into a horse he didn’t see because he was too busy being captivated by the sight of his neighbor’s beautiful long golden hair. Summer Tomlinson has had a longtime crush on Andrew and of course now that she’s a beautiful woman with hair so strong he keeps getting tangled in it throughout the story, the feeling soon becomes mutual. Andrew hates small time life and after helping Summer market the hair product she and his father developed, which is responsible for the length and strength of her hair, he needs to decide whether to return to life in the big city or spend the rest of his days in the arms of his beautiful neighbor.

Sleeping with a Beauty by Leslie Kelly is another interesting story that involves a historian from an alternate fantasy universe trying to complete her father’s lifelong search for the elusive mythical castle from the story of Sleeping Beauty. She soon finds herself under the protection of an adventurer from our world hired by her uncle to keep her safe from the clutches of ruthless parties also interested in the castle. I love Ashlynn’s reactions to what we take for granted in this world, such as missing Chunky Monkey when she goes home once she realizes the ice cream doesn’t actually contain animal chunks, and I think this story is my favorite out of the three.

The final story is a very cute take on the Gingerbread Man story called Catch Me by Michelle Rowen. Ginger and her best friend Stephen work in his book publishing business and have to tackle a very difficult author who also happens to be their cash cow. After yet another disastrous blind date, Ginger is approached by an employee of the Valentine Cafe who gives her a magic gingerbread man and tells her to make a wish when she eats it. Shrugging, Ginger wishes she would be wanted by men before devouring the cookie. Suddenly she finds herself dealing with lots of unwanted attention, which includes getting screamed at by a couple of wives, before facing her ultimate dilemma. When Stephen is unable to control himself and confesses his love for Ginger, she wonders whether or not the words she’d always wanted to hear came under the influence of the cookie.

I don’t usually read holiday based books but this one centered around Valentine’s Day is a light and pleasant read and I highly recommend it:)

Monarch of the Sands by Sharon Kendrick

Francesca O’Hara is a pretty useless heroine. Her mother abandons the family because her father is a boring old scientist or something and her daughter didn’t turn out to be the bombshell she’d hoped she would be. With her father now dead, Frankie becomes engaged to a stranger who appears at her door trying to get her to sell her house and land and offers her a job at his agency. When sheikh and king of Khayarzah, Zahid Al Hakam, appears on her doorstep he turns her world upside. Apparently their fathers had been old friends because Frankie’s dad discovered oil in the country which boosted their economy to the moon and so Zahid is kind of a family friend except being royalty he seems incapable of being a douche. Actually since the man’s a king he wouldn’t just be any old douche, he would be Super Douche!

Well it takes one douche to sniff out another and Zahid is unimpressed with Frankie’s fiancé Simon. He soon discovers Simon is a fortune hunter and has another woman and breaks the news to Frankie who breaks the engagement. Of course this means she’s out of a job so this young woman who despite growing up around scientists and working by her father’s side in the lab (I wasn’t very good at it so I gave it up cuz science is hard TEE HEE!) has absolutely zero job skills or education. So Zahid decides to hire her to type up his dead father’s diaries but she has to come back to Khayarzah to do it because (I assume) there are no typewriters or computers in modern day England and the postal service doesn’t exist.

Even before they arrive, Frankie starts experiencing culture shock and is ticked off by various aspects of Zahid’s country such as the fact women aren’t allowed to go to college or drive and when she confronts him about it he merely shrugs and tells her how his advisors are old fashioned and aren’t open to modernization. After this he takes Frankie to a racetrack so she can check out the women’s facilities before starting on the diaries. Seriously. What one has to do with the other I have absolutely no idea but when he tells her of his plans to attract international clientele to the race track she informs him that if the wives of the wealthy men he’s hoping to attract aren’t happy, they won’t be happy and won’t do business with him because clearly all successful businessmen are pussy whipped.

After this blow up, which is one of many, they drive off to his secret little bungalow or whatever in the desert and finally have the sex they’ve been dodging throughout the story. Frankie hasn’t even caught her breath when Super Douche makes his appearance and starts bitching her out for not telling him she was still a virgin. This is after he spends half the book pissed off at her because he assumes she’s been sleeping with other men now that she’s a beautiful woman and not the awkward tomboy he knew when he last saw her five years ago.

I’m sorry but I hated this book and flung it across the room at this point. I found it so unbelievably stupid that it actually pissed me off! Kendrick spends half the book establishing how Frankie basically spent her entire life in her father’s laboratory with the sheikh and his father being constant visitors to her home and spending a considerable amount of time with the family yet she knows absolutely nothing about anything! She says how her father always told her stories about the country, their cuisine etc. yet she’s astonished when she finds out things about the culture that’s different from Western society. Zahid meanwhile has such a hard time dealing with his attraction to Frankie that he develops a tendency of being nice to her for 3 seconds before turning into an explosive asshole for the rest of the week. This is what I hate about certain romance novels. As I’d said in an earlier post, my pet peeves are an insipid and useless heroine and a hero who’s nothing but a colossal schmuck but because he’s rich and handsome all is forgiven. Ladies and gentlemen, this book has both along with plot holes so large you could drive a tanker truck through them. I advise you to stay away from this book with as much enthusiasm as I say to pick up Once Upon a Valentine.

By the way, I thought I’d take a moment to do a shoutout to a fantastic organization. Being a military couple for 10 years and with my husband about to be medically retired from an injury he sustained during a deployment, we’re not exactly rolling in dough. We both love to read but can’t always afford to buy the books we’d love to read and sometimes the selection at our local library can be seriously lacking. Thanks to the good folks at Operation Paperback, we both receive lots of free books that appeal to our interests every month or so.  The books that go to our troops at home and abroad, both in the field and recovering in the hospital, come from donations from people like you. If you’re interested in sending in a monetary donation or have some books you’d like to donate click here.

Huzzah! And the peasants rejoice!

At last, the day you’ve been waiting for is here! The sequel to Heroes and Hearts and book two of the Crystal Palace Chronicles is now available for sale on Amazon/Goodreads:) As the days and weeks go by Descendants of Quendaris will also become available on iTunes, Kobo and Barnes and Noble. Don’t forget to check out my page on Authorgraph to get your ebook signed by yours truly free of charge and finally RABT Reviews wraps up our virtual book tour for Heroes and Hearts. I hope you had fun and will keep coming back for further adventures in romance, fantasy, writing and cooking. Have a great weekend!

Final_Crystal_Palace_1

Buy Now!

A week of reviews

Well folks, it looks as if our tour is coming to a close. Today’s review of Heroes and Hearts comes from Book Maven. Tomorrow Fairy Tale Books gives their review and on Friday we wrap up with RABT Reviews. Of course we still have the big announcement of who won BookRix’s major giveaway to look forward to next week and the release of book two of the Crystal Palace Chronicles: Descendants of Quendaris!

If you haven’t entered the big giveaway now’s the time!

Aaah!

You can also still enter the smaller (but still important) giveaway by clicking the rafflecopter link on the bar to your right.  Good luck to all!

PROMO: An Unplanned Lesson by Beth Rinyu

Good morning all! As we mosey along on the Heroes and Hearts’ book tour this is the part when we pass another tour going in a different direction and wave to each other:) Today we say hello to Beth Rinyu’s book tour and ooh and ahh over her giveaway where you can win a $10 gift card from Amazon and a signed copy of Ms. Rinyu’s first book!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Contemporary Romance
Date Published:3/9/12
 

Nicole Morgan, the new second grade teacher at Pineview Elementary school, has it all together in the classroom; it’s her personal life that she can’t find peace with. Unable to let go of the guilt that she is harboring from her past, she punishes herself by running from all potential relationships.

Her patience is put to the test when Dailan O’Maley the obnoxious but very sexy uncle of one of her students enters her life. She slowly cracks away at Dailan’s crude, crass exterior when they are forced to work together for the sake of his nephew. The two of them learn a lesson in love that neither had planned as they discover that the guilt they are hiding deep inside isn’t the only thing they have in common. Unbeknownst to her, he holds more than just the key to her heart.

Excerpt

I looked over, forgetting that Ryan was even there. He was coloring the picture on the back of his placemat, not paying any mind to the bantering going on between me and his uncle. I picked up a crayon and began coloring with him in an effort not to make any more conversation with his uncle. I finally looked up when I could feel him staring at me.

“What?” I asked in annoyance.

He was laughing and trying to play innocent. I had to admit that he looked absolutely adorable at that particular moment with his cute boyish grin.

“Why are you staring at me?” I asked.

“Because I think you’re hot,” he said as he chewed on his straw and his smile became even wider. Ryan started to giggle, never taking his eyes from his coloring.

I pursed my lips and shook my head. “What, are you twelve?” His only response was the arrogant smirk that I had become so acquainted with over the past few months. “You know what – why did I even agree to come out with you tonight? Oh wait—that’s right, I didn’t agree, you just took it upon yourself to barge into my classroom and demand that I go,” I said, not finding any humor in his immature behavior.

“Do you always take demands like that from a man, darlin’? If so, I think I need to get you in the bedroom,” he said as he rubbed the scruff on his cheek.

I couldn’t take his obnoxious behavior anymore. I shook my head and shot him a dirty look before giving him a swift kick in the knee.

“Ouch, that wasn’t very nice,” he said as he rubbed his knee under the table.

“Keep it up and I’ll aim just a little higher.”

“Then that would be your loss.”

“Oh, I’m sure it wouldn’t be,” I snapped.

Ryan seemed unfazed by it all as he continued to color. I realized now exactly where Ryan got his colorful vocabulary – from the immature, arrogant male chauvinist sitting across from me. Did I mention incredibly sexy as well?

Virtual Book Tour – April 29 – May 3
 
April 29 – Reading Addiction Blog Tours – Meet and Greet
April 29 – My Bookmark Blog
May 1 – Noemi Betancourt

Beth Rinyu

Author Bio

Ever since I can remember, I have always enjoyed Creative Writing. There was always something about being able to travel to a different place or become a different person with just the stroke of a pen – or in today’s world a touch of the keyboard. I have been writing poetry for years and finally got the inspiration to write my very first novel about a year and a half ago. Once I started the idea’s kept flowing, my fingers kept typing – and here I am Two books later! An Unplanned Lesson is a humorous, romantic read with a few deep undertones. I hope all of you fall in love with Dailan O’Maley, the same way I did when I created him!

LINKS TO BUY

I’m too sexy for my country!

In what could possibly be the epitome of first world problems, poor Omar Borkan Al Gala a photographer/actor/poet could be deported from Saudi Arabia because officials are concerned that he and two other men are too irresistible and Saudi women would fall for them and be tempted to sin.

Welp, guess I’m going to Saudi Hell;)

While I wouldn’t exactly throw this cutie out of bed I think I can refrain from turning into a blithering idiot in his presence and I’m pretty sure the women of Saudi Arabia could say the same. Although I have to say, dude is definitely a poet. Check out what he wrote on his Facebook page recently: “Last night I looked up into the stars and matched each one with a reason why I love you. I was doing great untill I ran out of stars.”

ZOMG! :p

Come along on a fantastic voyage!

So how are you enjoying the tour so far? Would you like another pillow? Coffee, tea? We’ve had a few hiccups but today we journey Inside BJ’s Head for a review of Heroes and Hearts and another chance to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card and a free copy of my eBook. Tomorrow the tour takes us to another review of Heroes and Hearts and an interview at The Serial Reader.

SEVEN DAYS!!!

Final_Crystal_Palace_1

She was no one’s pawn!

Groomed to be the perfect Southern belle, debutante and trophy wife her entire life, Nancy Harrington refuses to marry her intended, prophecy or no! Still, would being bound for all eternity to a gorgeous man so devoted to his people be such a sacrifice?

He has a duty to his kingdom and his people!

Always the kind ruler, loyal to the needs of his people, King Iskander always has the good of his kingdom in mind even if it that means taking a wife he doesn’t love in order to fulfill a prophecy. So when his future bride, a completely unsuitable firebrand, refuses to marry him why is he not relieved?

Deep within the dark depths of the earth an ancient enemy awakens from his slumber…

determined as ever to conquer the world and only an ancient and powerful magic can defeat him. Do Nancy and Iskander have what it takes to lead the Crystal Palace Alliance to victory, reveal a traitor, and bring peace to Otherealm once and for all?

Descendants of Quendaris 

Crystal Palace Chronicles: Book Two

 Available May 3, 2013

 

Reviews, promos, more chances at free stuff and finding the perfect man!

This week the tour rolls along as we pay a visit to YA Bookish News for today’s PROMO. Tomorrow My Cozie Corner reviews Heroes and Hearts and Words I Write Crazy hosts another giveaway on Friday for a $25 Amazon Gift Card and a copy of my Heroes and Hearts eBook.

Why, this isn’t creepy at all!

What’s your idea of the perfect man? Is he warm and cuddly? Do you prefer the soft silent type? Do you like a man who’s a bit flexible? Well you’re in luck for the good people of Holland have developed My Knitted Boyfriend! There are two sizes, Artur and Steve, that you can accessorize with items like a knitted mustache, glasses, a watch, bow tie or tattoos. You even get a book that gives you ideas about what to do with the man of your dreams once you’ve created him.

“My Knitted Boyfriend is a cushion with a story. A cushion with a personality. A cushion to kiss! Or, well… to cuddle, to caress, to hug, and to smile with. Because this man is always happy. He likes to sit on your floor, on your couch or at you dinner table. But most of all he likes to lay down next to you in bed. With your head on his chest and his arms wrapped around you. This way you will never feel alone ever again. With this man you can be sure, he will never leave you.”

Giveaway Take Two

Heroes+Hearts_Noemi-Betancourt-1

Ladies and gentlemen, after a slight hiccup I bring you today’s giveaway! Enter now through the end of the tour for a chance to win a $25 gift card from Amazon and a free copy of Heroes and Hearts. I should also have this widget post on the sidebar throughout the rest of the month just as soon as I finish doing battle with WordPress as I am not very tech savvy;)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Visiting with The Avid Reader and another giveaway!

UPDATE AND EDIT: Unfortunately today’s tour stop did not play by the rules and today’s giveaway had been closed prematurely so I’m forced to yank her link from my blog. From the bottom of my heart, I do apologize for this turn of events but there will be more giveaways and I’m trying to find out if we can re-establish today’s giveaway at another time.  The big giveaway I posted yesterday is still open so feel free to enter that as well.

Twelve Days Left!

Have you entered the great BookRix giveaway yet?

The grand prize is a $100 gift card from Amazon

Ooooh!

Official Heroes and Hearts swag

Aaah!

Aaaaaah!

a pre-release copy of Descendants of Quendaris

Eeeeeeeee!

and the BookRix sampler pack featuring several free ebooks

OH!

Just 12 days left for the drawing!

Weekend of Reviews

 

Good evening folks!

All stops on my tour this weekend will feature reviews of Heroes and Hearts. Today we visit with the good lady at Texas Book Nook, tomorrow’s review comes from Busy Mom Book Reviews who is also hosting a giveaway for a $25 Amazon Gift Card and copy of Heroes and Hearts. Monday looks a bit more cheerful than usual as we stop at Feed My Need, For a Good Read for yet another chance to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card a copy of Heroes and Hearts.

Descendants of Quendaris, Book two of the Crystal Palace Chronicles and sequel to Heroes and Hearts, comes out in less than two weeks so if you haven’t picked up your copy of Heroes and Hearts just yet, get thee to Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, and Barnes and Noble!

PROMO Post: Jagged Little Edges by Lorelie Rozzano

 

 

Synopsis
British Columbia author Lorelie Rozzano has taken her own life experience shackled by the chains of addiction and is turning it into a series of fictional novels that weave first-hand experience into compelling stories. The book takes you on a ten year journey, through the depths of despair, as Lyndsey, a darkly fascinating protagonist, looks for her happily ever after. This story will move and inspire you. It will leave you on the edge of your seat wanting more. The first in the series – Jagged Little Edges is now available.
Excerpt
 That was how it had felt for her as long as she could remember. Like cuts, coming first in words, as they tore little pieces of her innocence, trust and self worth. Evolving into the physical form, with a smack to the head, a cuff to the ear and at times, welts and bruising on her back side. But by far, the greatest damage of all was what you couldn’t see. A soul, torn asunder, left with an open wound, a vast emptiness and a hunger that screamed to be fed.