A Year of Wordle

Partway through the second week of February 2022, a global phenomenon named Wordle captured my attention. At first hesitant, I dismissed the word game as another millennial fad. But I couldn’t ignore the growing number of people—many in the over-fifty group—who flaunted their successes in my Twitter feed.

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Interview with Sally Basmajian

I’m happy to welcome author Sally Basmajian. Today, Sally shares interesting details about her creative journey and new release, So Hard to Do.

Interview

What was your inspiration for your book?

In my writing group, we sometimes give each other prompts to encourage the creative flow of ideas. On one occasion, our assigned task was to write about an unconventional break-up. For no particular reason, I chose to make it a split between a mother and her adult daughter. Eventually, that scene became the opening hook for the novel.

A deeper inspiration came from the strong attachments I cherish, as a daughter and as a mom. I wanted to celebrate the mother/daughter bond in the book, even elevating it above the traditional romantic love connections that both my young and older heroines develop. I can’t tell you how pleased I am that some of the early Goodreads reviewers have commented favorably on this twist to the traditional rom-com approach!

What’s the best part of being an author? The worst?

When a reader tells me I made them laugh out loud, I feel my efforts have been worthwhile. Really, I’m aiming for is to provide people with much-needed diversion from the everyday trials of life. If I can help make their day brighter, I feel I’ve achieved my goal.

The worst part is letting someone down. A Goodreads reader wrote something along the lines of “I think she’s trying to be funny,” and it made me feel like an abject loser! If I failed to make her smile at least once or twice, I fear I haven’t done my job correctly. Fortunately, though, the vast majority of reviewers have appreciated my humor and cracked a grin, if not a hearty guffaw.

Describe your writing space.

I live in an eccentric house in the historic town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. The front of the house was built in the 1830s; the more livable back section in the early 2000s. My writing office is upstairs in the old part of the house, where the insulation is nonexistent. I freeze all winter and broil all summer! You can’t beat its charm, though. The ghosts up here are friendly, and I have an arsenal of fans and heaters that I deploy when the weather decides to go all Canadian on me!

Which authors have inspired you?

As a kid, I loved Lewis Carroll, and I can still recite most of “Jabberwocky.” Probably a lot of my love of the ridiculous can be traced back to the two Alice books, and to this very day, I am vigilant in shunning the frumious Bandersnatch!
In more recent years, I’ve been inspired by the fantastic Neil Gaiman, who tells stories like no one else, and Terry Pratchett, who makes me chuckle. In the rom-com category, it’s Sophie Kinsella, all the way!

Besides writing and reading, what are some of your hobbies?

I have so many! I religiously walk my dog—a sheltie that barks at virtually everything and still hasn’t learned that skunks are not his friends—around the gorgeous Niagara region. I encounter all kinds of chatty townspeople and the occasional wild animal, including a turkey that used to chase us down the parkway with murderous intent. I wrote a short story in his honor, but he was eventually offed by the local constabulary, poor bird. I also go to Line Dancing classes every week, and I even get called upon to lead a couple of the numbers. It brings out the martinet in me, and I find myself shouting orders at my co-dancers, as if our failure to perform “Uptown Funk” properly might result in permanent expulsion from the local community center. I golf three times a week in the summer, and never improve, but my teammates are amazingly supportive. Then there’s music—I was once an aspiring pianist, and I love to listen to music by Ravel, Chopin, and Bach. Oh, and so much more. It’s weird I write at all, come to think of it.

Any advice for aspiring writers?

Visualize your success, however you define it—and don’t be discouraged by rejections. The important thing is to keep writing and submitting. Do listen to constructive feedback from people whose opinions you value, and apply what you learn. Then carry on! Even if you’re being rejected 90% of the time, you’re ahead of the game, according to the Duotrope stats. Just keep submitting.

Blurb

Suze Foster has always been devoted to her daughter. As a child, Jannie required extra support in school, but now-at age 29-she’s a rising executive. Suze, thrilled with Jannie’s success, is finally free to follow her own dreams.

Without Suze’s dedicated attention, though, Jannie flounders. In a careless moment, she floods her apartment. Enter our hero, Aram-her hot but significantly older neighbor.

He saves the day, and for Jannie, it’s love at first sight.

Not so much for Aram, though, who falls head over heels for Suze when they accidentally meet. Unaware of Jannie’s feelings, Suze is equally smitten.

In this twisted triangle, can a happily-ever-after be achieved? Or will someone’s heart break and the mother-daughter bond be severed forever?

Excerpt

He was the most good-looking man she’d ever seen. Luxuriant locks. She bet that’s how a Harlequin Romance would describe his hair. And under the full beard, maybe even a cleft chin. And most definitely, a sensuous lower lip. Ooh la la.

As she mused in an X-rated way about his mouth, Jannie remembered something from a book she’d read where the heroine had a habit of biting her lower lip. It drove men mad.

So she tried it. Nibble, nibble.

Aram just looked at her. His breathing didn’t accelerate. His chest didn’t heave.

She tried again. Nibble, nibble. The prolonged silence was beginning to be uncomfortable.

“Are you all right, Jannie?” Aram finally asked. He studied her.

Well, that hadn’t gone so well. But she’d never tried to flirt with an older man before. Maybe they needed something more obvious.

She attempted to look coyly up at Aram through her eyelashes. This wasn’t as easy as all those romance authors made it sound. She felt her forehead contract, her nose wrinkle and her upper lip pull away from her teeth in her effort to do the impossible.

“Jannie, are you having an allergic reaction? Shellfish, maybe? Isn’t that crab I smell coming from your condo? Do you carry an EpiPen?”

She stamped her foot in frustration. It was supposed to look fierce and cute, but she could tell from Aram’s face that he was way more startled than turned on.

Author Bio and Links

After leaving the corporate world, Sally Basmajian discovered the joy of writing. Her fiction and nonfiction stories have appeared in newspapers such as The Globe & Mail and in several anthologies. In 2022 she won prizes for memoir pieces (Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop, Gulf Coast Writers Association), and was thrilled to have a poem selected by the journal Antithesis. She expects to be busy in 2023, when her first two novels appear: in January, a light-hearted romance, So Hard to Do (published by Creative James Media) and in October, a much darker one, Fountain of Evil (Moonshine Cove Publishing, LLC).

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Giveaway

Sally Basmajian will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Find out more here.

Follow Sally on the rest of her Goddess Fish tour here.

Follow the Clues to Act 2

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

I’m happy to welcome author Darlene Dziomba. Today Darlene, shares her reinvention story and new release, Up Close And Pawsonal.

Here’s Darlene!

I am running the final lap of my first career act, thirty-four years working in Finance for the University of Pennsylvania. Working in Higher Education comes with some tremendous non-work benefits. Amongst them is that once you reach age fifty-five, if you have twenty years of work service, you can take retirement. It is not a retirement with a lifelong pension or lifelong paid medical benefits. However, I can buy health insurance at the University’s rate from the University providers. An essential requirement for my second act.

I reached the years of service long before I reached the age requirement, and I used the intervening years to assess options. It was vital for me that my second act be something I would enjoy. I had spent decades employed at a task for which I had an aptitude. Now I wanted work that would give me satisfaction.

I made a list of the top things I enjoyed: travelling; gardening; reading and talking about books; being around animals. Then I thought about what careers could include those things and what training I would need for those careers. I ruled out attending Veterinary School because of the time and financial commitments, but becoming certified to raise and train service dogs was an option.

I conducted a lot of research. I made a lot of lists. I spent a lot of time figuring out potential earnings and when I could realistically transition from my salaried job to a job where my earnings would be substantially less.

Then a friend and I went to Bouchercon in Toronto. We are huge mystery fans and have been to many Bouchercons. I was listening to a panel of authors talk about mysteries where the protagonists were pet groomers, pet sitters, and pet walkers, and this idea came to me. I was a volunteer at an animal shelter and learned a lot about shelter operations. I love animals and books. I decided to write a book where the protagonist works in an animal shelter.

Animals and talking about books were some of the things I enjoyed doing. I had been told all of my life that I am good at telling stories. I set out on my path.

I participated in a Writing Workshop to get feedback on my draft. I joined Sisters in Crime and took a dozen courses, listened to numerous webinars, and lurked on listservs following writers’ thoughts about the craft and the business of writing. I meekly asked friend after friend to read my drafts and give me feedback.

It took years to go from an idea to a finely crafted book. Then I spent years trying to obtain a literary agent while writing the second book in the series. I eventually decided to self-publish my work. In 2022 I self-published Clues From The Canines.

In March, 2023, I will publish Up Close And Pawsonal. I have planned out my publicity and promotions by applying all that I have learned in the past year from other self-published authors and the SinC Grand Canyon Writers Marketing and More Network.

My advice to those pondering a second act is to be open to exploration. Your second act may not be the first, the fifth, or the fifteenth thing you think of trying. You may get an idea that requires you to develop skills you have never used or to use your skills differently. Keep going. From “I wonder if I can write a book where the protagonist works in an animal shelter?” I arrived at published author.

I’ve had to work hard, and I’ve had to learn new skills. There have been times when I was frustrated. However, I have enjoyed learning to write and crafting the Lily Dreyfus series and enjoying what I do is my top priority in Act Two.

Blurb

A casual evening of listening to music by a local cover band turns into a murder investigation when a drive-by shooting destroys the tranquility of the night and critically injures two of the band members. Lily Dreyfus stressed and unsettled from having been at the concert, is informed that one of the dead band members is the nephew of her coworker at the Forever Friends Animal Shelter. Lily will leash together a set of seemingly unrelated events to seek the perpetrator and make them heel.

Author Bio and Links

Darlene is a member of Sisters in Crime National and several regional SinC groups. She combined her passion for the written word and animals into the Lily Dreyfus series. Darlene volunteers at the Animal Welfare Association, a New Jersey animal shelter, where she chats with the dogs while completing her assignments. She has a 30-year career in Finance at the University of Pennsylvania and is an avid reader, gardener, and traveler. Darlene lives in New Jersey with her four-legged best friend, Billie.

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Blurb Blitz: The Seafarer’s Bride

I’m happy to welcome award-winning Wild Rose Press author Laura Strickland. Today, Laura shares her new release, The Seafarer’s Bride.

Blurb

A year ago, Magnus Tolljursson helped repel a treacherous attack from his father’s enemies, and discovered he carries the berserker’s seed of madness. Now he must sail to the settlement from whence those attackers came, and fulfill a promise to a friend. He doesn’t know what he’ll find in Husavik and never suspects he may lose his heart.

In her father’s absence, Embra Fritisson has been engaged in a desperate battle to keep leadership of the settlement. When Magnus arrives saying her father is dead, she fears her unstable family will splinter into factions and destroy one another. She must retain control, but how can she hope to keep her head while falling in love with the enemy?

Excerpt

The walk to the great hall displayed Husavik’s splendor in full. The rain had cleared and new light slid in from the east—the direction of home—lighting the fine buildings. Such wealth displayed here! They knew nothing like it in Sorvagur.

As he went, he tried to calculate the number of raids it might have taken to amass such a fortune. The voyages launched. The lives spent.

Fadir traded. Their settlement had to, if they wanted to survive. Magnus had accompanied him on voyages and, ja, loved it. And things had become sticky a few times when deals had gone bad. But Fadir was an honest man.

Magnus feared he would have to employ a measure of deception here, if he wished to accomplish his aim.

He paused before the great hall. Last night, Mistress Embra had sent a messenger—an older servant—bidding him to meet her here early.

Well, early it was and—

The door swung open before him. “Come in.”

Not the servant but the lady herself.

Tall she was, this daughter of Friti Gunnarsson, though she might only reach Magnus’s ear. He outstripped his own father in height. This morning she wore her dull-gold hair only half braided with the rest of it spilling all the way down to her—well. As Magnus saw when she turned to lead him inside, she had a very nice bottom indeed.

Suddenly a vision flashed upon him—that of her standing naked before him, wrapped in naught but that curtain of hair.

By Odin’s eye, he dared not entertain such thoughts. Not now.

“I thought it best we meet early, Master Magnus, before any others of my siblings are astir. None of them tends to leave his or her bed early.”

“Ah.”

“And I wished the two of us to speak together as plainly as possible.”

She turned to face him. She wore a simple woolen dress like Modir usually wore, pale green with a white overdress. The fabric clung to her long limbs and emphasized her narrow waist. And a pair of breasts that—nei, they were not lush and heavy, like her sister Vanja’s. but ja, they would make two generous hands full.

He had to make sure this woman did not prove a distraction.

And yet—as she stood there facing him, did she not eye him with similar interest? With speculation? Ja, sure her gaze lingered on his shoulders and at other, more intimate places.

Author Bio and Links

Multi award-winning author Laura Strickland delights in time traveling to the past and searching out settings for her books, be they Historical Romance, Steampunk or something in between. Her first Scottish Historical hero, Devil Black, battled his way onto the publishing scene in 2013, and the author never looked back. Nor has she tapped the limits of her imagination. Venturing beyond Historical and Contemporary Romance, she created a new world with her ground-breaking Buffalo Steampunk Adventure series set in her native city, in Western New York. Married and the parent of one grown daughter, Laura has also been privileged to mother a number of very special rescue dogs, the latest being a little boy called Tinker, and is intensely interested in animal welfare. Her love of dogs, and her lifelong interest in Celtic history, magic and music, are all reflected in her writing. Laura’s mantra is Lore, Legend, Love, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Giveaway

Laura Strickland will be awarding an ebook of the first book in the Viking Brides Series, The Berserker’s Bride, to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Find out more here.

Follow Laura on the rest of her Goddess Fish tour here.

Interview with Natalie Cross

I’m happy to welcome Wild Rose Press author Natalie Cross. Today, Natalie shares interesting details about her creative journey and her new release,
Ballroom Blitz.

Interview

If You Had a Superpower, What Would It Be?

This is always so tricky to answer. I vacillate between invisibility (but not the creepy kind of invisibility, the cool kind where I could bust some sort of spy ring) and flying. Obviously, invisibility would have its drawbacks. I hope it wouldn’t become permanent, like in a “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” episode. But it would be interesting to hear what other people are thinking and saying. Clearly, I am an eavesdropper at restaurants.

Flight would simply be fun. Except for avoiding the flight paths of other birds and insects aiming for your mouth. I imagine that would take some getting used to.

Describe your writing space.

In my house, where I live in serfdom under four and eight-year-old tyrants, I do not have a defined writing area. Typically I write at our kitchen island in the wee hours before the empresses wake and demand sliced bananas and/or bowls of sprinkles. I have the microwave to my left, the sink before me, and a pile of craft scraps or dried-out spikes of play dough on my right-hand side. The main benefit of writing in the kitchen is that I can drink as much tea as I want.

What was your inspiration for this book?

During year approximately 222,000 of the pandemic, I really needed an outlet. On a normal day, I balance a full-time demanding day job, helping my parents, and being a mom to my two young kids. When lockdown happened, I still had to go out to my day job as a first responder.

I needed a break. At night, after everyone had fallen asleep (finally, after much coaxing), I spent hours watching ballroom dance videos on YouTube. Before the pandemic, I had taken ballroom dance lessons on and off for almost twenty years. Now, without even the potential for lessons, at least I had YouTube.

Somewhere in the midst of all of this, Anita Goodman, the main character in Ballroom Blitz, started talking to me. Not literally, though in quarantimes, things like that were entirely possible. But Anita kept appearing during quiet moments in my day. I dreamed about her and Patrick dancing, and choreographed parts of their story before I ever wrote a word.

Around this time, too, I was having a difficult time finishing projects. Evidence of my failures surrounded me at home: a half-knitted scarf in a bag, a folded pile of sheets that had been sitting out for three months, cleaning the house.

So I decided I needed to finish something, and since Anita wouldn’t stop talking to me about how much she liked Patrick, but wasn’t sure he felt the same way, I figured she deserved a chance to find out.

Since then, I’ve finished eight other drafts, two of which are also published (a Ballroom Blitz prequel entitled Ballroom Prom, and a standalone novella, Ballroom Blind Date). More will be published next year once they’re edited to my satisfaction. That half-knitted scarf still mocks me, but hey, cable patterns are tricky.

What Is Your Favorite Quote?

“Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.” It’s from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and though it is not an accurate Latin translation, I’ve always appreciated the sentiment.

Margaret Atwood herself has said that it was a joke in her Latin class. I took Latin in high school, but we were never quite so witty.

What are you working on next?

Thank you for asking! I am currently in the editing stages for Ballroom Fever, the sequel to Ballroom Blitz, which hopefully will be out in 2023. I am also editing a standalone novella for a clean sports romance anthology that will be released November 2023, as well as two other standalone romances that might come out next year if I get them in shape in time.

The best way to keep track of what’s coming up is to join my mailing list. It’s a fun place. I share pictures of my dog, great books, freebies, and other fun things.

Blurb

In the glamorous world of ballroom, love and dancing do not always mix.

Professional dancer Anita Goodman has learned that lesson the hard way. With her studio and her reputation on the line, she has to take a chance on the last person she ever wanted to partner with: her best friend.

Patrick O’Leary has loved Anita since high school, but he has languished in the Friend Zone for long enough. He will take this last chance to prove to her that love is greater than winning.

Neither of them realizes that conquering their rising attraction won’t be their biggest obstacle. Someone does not want them to be together, and will stop at nothing to get their way.

Love, dance, and danger. It’s a Ballroom Blitz.

Excerpt

The ballroom still thrummed with the clack of heels and the slide of suede, though its last inhabitants had vanished over an hour before. Applause and cheering from the final night party echoed across the hallway. The tables were strewn with hair pins, empty water bottles, and sweaty towels tossed with exhilaration before another heat. The perfume of sunless tanner and hairspray drifted toward the apex of the ballroom’s ceiling, and it almost seemed that a few notes of a Viennese waltz still clung to the utilitarian white hotel tablecloths.

Rapid footsteps broke the waiting silence. Stilettos from the click click click, glimmering with crystals, a few of which scattered from the shoes with a brackish clatter as the heels struck the parquet of the ballroom floor. Heavy breathing, panting. “No!” A stumble as one heel of the red satin crystal-encrusted stilettos snapped. Sobbing.

Then another pair of footsteps, flats, fashionable. Something hard, with an edge that might draw blood. These footsteps were measured. No panic. No anxiety. Calculating.

The sobs intensified. “Please, please, please, no, I didn’t do anythi—”

A gurgle, a grimace, a thud. The wash of silk from a bone-white evening gown susurrated along the cold parquet floor. The scent of copper flooded the air.

A grunt, a vicious exhale, an audible sneer.

Then the ballroom closed upon itself again. The tables, the cloths, the chandeliers, the lights. All waiting for its new secret to be discovered.

Author Bio and Links

Love is an adventure.

Natalie writes romances and cozy mysteries featuring women who want to be seen and the men and women who cannot look away from them.

Natalie lives in Los Angeles, where writing is an acceptable way to avoid sunburn. She is mom to two lovely young munchkins who despise brushing their hair and eat way too much cake. She is unapologetically terrible at taking selfies.

Ballroom Blitz playlist available at https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7LHlIjrZEKsD1aDyJAxLAU

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Giveaway

Natalie Cross will be awarding a $25 Amazon/Barnes & Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Find out more here.

Follow Natalie on the rest of her Goddess Fish tour here.

Interview with Linnea Tanner

I’m happy to welcome award-winning author Linnea Tanner. Today, Linnea shares her creative journey and new release, Skull’s Vengenance.

Interview

What is the sweetest thing someone has done for you?

I went on a riverboard cruise on the Mississippi River with my elderly mother and sister. My mother tired easily so we arranged a wheelchair for her to get around. She knew I had my eye on a white casual jacket as we browsed the gift shop on board. After lunch, she would rest in her room while my sister and I did other activities. One afternoon, I was alarmed not to find my mother in the cabin when I returned. After searching about thirty minutes, I finally found her with a big smile as she shuffled down the corridor, carrying the white jacket in her arms.

Two months later, she had a stroke and could not travel afterward. I’ll always remember my last venture with my mother and the big smile on her face when she surprised me with her gift.

How would you spend ten thousand bucks?

I would like to travel overseas to do more research, which I’ve not done since the pandemic.

Where do you get your best ideas?

Sometimes, when I’m driving by myself, ideas come into my head about how to resolve an issue in a plot or to devise a twist. In addition, I write my first draft by hand because creative ideas flow more easily and I don’t have the temptation to edit.

What comes first, the plot or characters?

Main characters in the Curse of Clansmen and Kings series have lived in my head since childhood and evolved during my adulthood as I faced challenges in my life. A warrior queen, Catrin was inspired by the Amazons in Greek mythology and actual Celtic warrior queens. Her love interest, Marcellus, is inspired by the legacy of Mark Antony and Cleopatra but with a Celtic twist.

However, most of my secondary characters come to life as I incorporate them in the plot. They insist that I tell their stories as I develop the plot. For example, I introduced Marrock’s deadliest assassin, Gawain, in Skull’s Vengeance as one of the formidable enemies whom Catrin has to overcome. As I wrote scenes with Gawain, he kept insisting that he had scruples and questioned orders to kill defenseless victims. I began to embrace this smart-mouthed, defiant character and thus developed a bigger role for him in the series. He will continue into the next book, Dragon’s Anvil, and will have a major role in a turning point for Catrin. I’ve considered doing a separate series that provides Gawain’s back story and the various missions he has undertaken as an assassin.

Ultimately, readers must first engage with the characters before they are willing to invest the time to read their stories.

What does your main character do that makes him/her special.

At the beginning of the Curse of Clansmen and King series, Catrin is the youngest teen daughter of King Amren of the Cantiaci tribal kingdom in Britannia. Her father has arranged for her to be trained as a warrior. Her greatest strength is that she is loyal to those she loves. However, she is torn between her duty to her people and her growing love for a Roman hostage, Marcellus, under her charge. Though Catrin appears vulnerable and blinded by love for Marcellus, she is nonetheless resilient and will fight with bravery without hesitation to protect her kingdom.

Catrin has learned a dark secret about herself that could lead to her people’s success or their downfall. The former queen cast a curse on King Amren at the time of her execution for treason. She foretold King Amren’s future queen would beget a daughter who would rise as a raven and join her son, Marrock, to overthrow him. To her dismay, Catrin learns she is the raven foretold in the curse. She has an unnatural connection to a raven spirit that has shown her how to change the future by reweaving life threads on the Wall of Lives. But she can’t predict how changing the future will impact other events. The raven guide has also shown Catrin how to shapeshift and summon dark forces of nature, but she can’t always control her magical abilities.

At the beginning of Skull’s Vengeance, Catrin has survived slavery in the Roman legion and in the gladiatorial games in Gaul (modern-day France). Freed by Marcellus, Catrin is determined to return home in Britannia and strike vengeance again her evil half-brother, Marrock, who mercilessly beheaded her parents and eldest sister.

Blurb

A Celtic warrior queen must do the impossible—defeat her sorcerer half-brother and claim the throne. But to do so, she must learn how to strike vengeance from her father’s skull.

AS FORETOLD BY HER FATHER in a vision, Catrin has become a battle-hardened warrior after her trials in the Roman legion and gladiatorial games. She must return to Britannia and pull the cursed dagger out of the serpent’s stone to fulfill her destiny. Only then can she unleash the vengeance from the ancient druids to destroy her evil half-brother, the powerful sorcerer, King Marrock. Always two steps ahead and seemingly unstoppable, Marrock can summon destructive natural forces to crush any rival trying to stop him and has charged his deadliest assassin to bring back Catrin’s head.

To have the slightest chance of beating Marrock, Catrin must forge alliances with former enemies, but she needs someone she can trust. Her only option is to seek military aid from Marcellus—her secret Roman husband. They rekindle their burning passion, but he is playing a deadly game in the political firestorm of the Julio-Claudian dynasty to support Catrin’s cause.

Ultimately, in order to defeat Marrock, Catrin must align herself with a dark druidess and learn how to summon forces from skulls to exact vengeance. But can she and Marcellus outmaneuver political enemies from Rome and Britannia in their quest to vanquish Marrock?

Excerpt

Chapter 1 Portals to the Otherworld

Antonii Villa in Gaul, Eve of Samhain, 31 October, 27 AD

Exasperated, Catrin drew in a sharp breath. Then, she considered Trystan’s impassioned plea to meet with two of her most hated enemies. Recalling how her father had respected his second-in-command’s advice, she reluctantly conceded and squeezed her legs against her horse’s flanks to move toward the campfire’s glow.

The night’s chill mysteriously transformed into an embracing warmth as they neared a roaring fire with a black cauldron hanging over it. Sitting behind the crimson flames were two obscured figures.

“Welcome, Apollo’s Raven,” a woman’s deep voice intoned. “Come to our fire. Join us in the dance of souls.”

Though Catrin hesitated to join them, the fire’s radiance mesmerized her, luring her closer to the orange flames. She dismounted and handed the reins to Trystan, who quietly remained with the horses as she sat down on a fallen log near the roaring campfire.

“Drink the magic from the cauldron,” the woman offered. “It empowers all who partake with the knowledge of mystical mysteries from the ancient druids.”

“I already have that power,” Catrin proclaimed, trepidatious that perhaps Rhan had dropped hallucinogenic ingredients into the bubbling mixture. Thick steam flowed over the cauldron’s edge and down its metal surface in a thick, greenish fog.

“We know, my love, but you have only had a taste,” Rhan replied in a hypnotic voice. “You do not know how to control this dark magic. But we do.”

Suddenly light-headed from the smoky fumes emanating from the cauldron, Catrin struggled to maintain her wits. “Once before you said this, when you tried to trick me into revealing how I can travel to the Otherworld.”

“Believe me, this is no trick,” Rhan said soothingly. “I’ve seen your father’s spirit wander the top of cliffs, near a dagger embedded in a serpent stone. It is the blade on which my curse was etched.”

“I sense the curse has altered again, but I can’t see how the etched wording has changed on the blade,” Myrddin interjected. “You must help us solve the riddle of how the dagger got there.”

Catrin inhaled sharply, realizing Myrddin and Rhan had discovered the location of the dagger she had thrust into the stone. The image of her running away from the Romans played in her mind, and her thoughts transformed into words.

“After the final battle, I tried to escape the Romans, but…but there was nowhere to go, except jump off the white cliffs. At that moment, I chose to die rather than be captured.”

Rhan rose to her feet, walked around the fire, and sat next to Catrin. “But you didn’t die, did you?” she said, touching Catrin’s arm.

“No. A riderless horse galloped to me, stopping in front of me. My father suddenly appeared and told me not to jump,” Catrin disclosed, reliving the supernatural moment in her mind. “I couldn’t believe my eyes that Father was there. I knew Marrock had beheaded him. Yet, I felt his essence and his love radiate into me.”

Tears swelled in Catrin’s eyes as remorse that she had been unable to save her family from Marrock’s brutality overwhelmed her. She swallowed down a sob before continuing her story.

“Father told me to lift the cursed dagger toward the sky. To my amazement, sunlight flashed through the dark clouds, almost blinding me. He then ordered, ‘Thrust the dagger into the serpent stone that I create.’ What I saw next was not a vision. It was real.”

Catrin grimaced as she recalled the burning pain she’d felt as she’d held the hilt of the dagger.

“The blade turned orange, as if it had been taken out of a furnace. Father’s spirit burst apart into gold dust and melted into the blade’s etching. Serpents massed together on the ground. The venom dripping from their fangs hardened into stone. Somehow, I was able to push the dagger into the hard rock, like it was butter. And, and…”

“And what, my dear?” Rhan pressed.

Catrin’s voice cracked. “I was collared by the Romans and put on a warship.”

Author Bio and Links

Award-winning author, Linnea Tanner, weaves Celtic tales of love, magical adventure, and political intrigue in Ancient Rome and Britannia. Since childhood, she has passionately read about ancient civilizations and mythology. Of particular interest are the enigmatic Celts, who were reputed as fierce warriors and mystical Druids.

Linnea has extensively researched ancient and medieval history, mythology, and archaeology and has traveled to sites described within each of her books in the Curse of Clansmen and Kings series. Books released in her series include “Apollo’s Raven” (Book 1), “Dagger’s Destiny” (Book 2), “Amulet’s Rapture” (Book 3), and “Skull’s Vengeance” (Book 4). She has also released the historical fiction short story, “Two Faces of Janus.”

A Colorado native, Linnea attended the University of Colorado and earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry. She lives in Fort Collins with her husband and has two children and six grandchildren.

Website | Amazon Buy Link

Giveaway

Linnea Tanner is offering a $50 Amazon/Barnes & Noble gift card to a lucky winner in a Rafflecopter giveaway. Find out more here.

Follow Linnea on the rest of her Goddess Fish tour here.

Spotlight on Guinevere: Bright Shadow

I’m happy to welcome poet, screenwriter, playwright, and novelist Sarah Provost. Today, Sarah shares her new release, Guinevere: Bright Shadow.

Blurb

“You may think you know my story. My name has been bandied in ballads and jests, for good and (mostly) for ill. High Queen, priestess, adulterer… but first and always a woman. Courage and honor shaped me; ecstasy transported me; grief, betrayal and terror tempered me.

“My loyalty to the Goddess was supreme. But as the new religion took hold, the pagan way was threatened with extinction. There were those on both sides who would use me as a pawn in that battle, even if it meant taking my life.

“Yes, I bear my portion of blame. I loved Arthur, and I loved Lancelot, will I or no. But that was only one element in the impending chaos. Britain was divided, my love was divided, and such divisions cannot endure. I did everything in my power – and learned new powers – to prevent an all-out war. But would it be enough?”

Excerpt

I was torn from my peaceful sleep by a sense of foreboding so dire, so overwhelming, that I could not stop screaming, even when Catlin and Wynyth and others burst in. “What, lamb, what is it?” Catlin folded an arm around me and smoothed back my tangled hair. “Shh, shh. What, my dove?”

“I don’t know I don’t know!” I babbled. “A snake. A sword. We are lost!”

She pressed my head to her shoulder and rocked me like a babe. “Only a dream it was. That’s all, only a dream…”

At last I calmed. The sky was greying quickly, so I was about to start the day, but Catlin insisted I take a while to gather myself. She went off to bring me a cup of wine. I was lying on my pallet, drained, when I heard her returning. Her footsteps stopped. She gasped. And the cup hit the stone floor.

She stood like a statue in the passageway, staring out the casement. Far to the east, we could see a great cloud forming, but from the ground, not the sky. Faintly, a whisper, a murmur, a rumbling was carried to us on the morning breeze. It was the sound of men and horses screaming, of clash of arms, of pain and fury and destruction, all gentled by distance. Then the sun sent a finger of light over the horizon, and the great cloud turned red.

Author Bio and Links

Sarah Provost is a poet, playwright, screenwriter and novelist, currently living and working in upstate New York. A collection of poems, Inland, Thinking of Waves, was published by the Cleveland State University Press. Her stage plays have been produced off-Broadway, in London, Los Angeles, and states beginning with K. No screenplays have been produced, but she made a decent living writing for Paramount, Disney, HBO and others until Hollywood broke her heart. After a period of recuperation and relocation to a place with much worse weather, she began writing Guinevere: Bright Shadow, her first novel. A second novel, The Real Girl, is in progress.

Twitter | Goodreads | Facebook | Between the Lines | Amazon Buy Link

Giveaway

The author will be awarding a $25 Amazon/Barnes & Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Find out more here.

Follow Sarah Provost on the rest of her Goddess Fish tour here.

Book Blast: Any Fin for Love

I’m happy to welcome back multi-published author Petie McCarty. Today, Petie shares her new release, Any Fin for Love.

Blurb

She could almost hear the fish laughing at her . . .

Cody Ryan’s father never missed fishing the annual Loon Lake tournament until his unexpected passing. So this year, Cody packs up her how-to fishing videos and her dad’s old johnboat and gives him one final entry.

Gage Connor needs some R&R away from his coast guard deployment catching drug smugglers along the Louisiana coast, so he borrows a bass boat from his buddy and heads to Loon, Alabama to do some fishing.

When Gage and Cody meet at Loon Lake, their attraction is immediate and intense—until the two discover there is only one boat slip left on the lake and they both need it, and there’s only one vacant hotel room left in Loon and they both want it. Thus, their competition begins. Both vow to keep their distance from the other to fight the temptation, but fate has other plans. The tournament pairing party picks the two-man teams and chooses Gage as Cody’s partner.

For two days.
Alone on a boat.
Working as a team.

Good things come to those who bait . . .

Excerpt

Billy then addressed the audience. “There is a three-rod limit. Y’all will have to make do. Absolutely no live bait. The first flight of ten boats goes off at 7:00 a.m., so don’t be late. There will be ten minutes between flights. If both contestants on a team have boats, flip a coin to see whose boat you use the first day, and then use the other boat the second day.”

“What?” Gage thundered, suddenly coming to life.

Cody wanted a hole to open in the stage and swallow her up. She knew whoever got stuck with her as a partner would be mad about her johnboat. She just didn’t think the stickee would be Gage.

Billy smirked at Gage. “That’s right. You flip a coin to see which day you fish from her johnboat.”

“No way,” Gage bellyached.

A rumble of laughter swept through the tent, and Cody fought back tears. She swallowed three times to get the lump back down her throat until she caught sight of Lila’s ear-to-ear grin, and then her blood simmered to a boil.

“That’s the way it is,” Billy said, clearly as pleased as his daughter. He turned back to the crowd. “If there’s only one teammate with a boat . . .” His sideways smirk at Cody had her hands balling into fists. “Then you use the same boat both days.”

Great. Now Zeke and Alvin were grinning ear-to-ear, and Gage looked ready to explode. Big surprise there. The man had finally shown his true colors.

Billy hadn’t finished. “We start at seven both days. Y’all will have exactly eight hours to fish. I repeat, the first flight of ten boats leaves promptly at seven. The weigh-in each day will commence at three o’clock, and you’ll be given your weigh-in bags just before your flight in the morning. If your flight leaves at 7:10 a.m., then you must be back to weigh-in at 3:10 p.m. You will be docked one pound of fish for each minute you are late for your weigh-in. If you are more than fifteen minutes late, you will be disqualified.” He glanced around the tent to be sure all entrants paid attention. “Each boat must have a live well, and no more than five fish can be held in the live well at one time.”

He hesitated and then looked as though a light bulb flicked on. He spun around to face Cody. “Do you even have a live well?”

Every face in the tent focused on Cody.

“Yes, I do,” she said indignantly. “I wouldn’t have entered your tournament if I didn’t. I read the rules.”

“What is it? An Igloo cooler with an aquarium pump?” he taunted.

She gulped. “Yes.”

A rumble of laughter shot through the crowd.

Eyes narrowed, hands fisted at her sides, Cody stared them all down. She spotted the two rows of females smiling in the back, all giving her the universal thumbs up sign, and her chin notched up higher.

Billy couldn’t resist a final jab. “Well, Mr. Connor, it looks like you’ll spend one day in a johnboat.”

Buy Links

Amazon US | Amazon CA | Amazon UK | Amazon AU

Author Bio and Links

Petie spent a large part of her career working at Walt Disney World—”The Most Magical Place on Earth”—where she enjoyed working in the land of fairy tales by day and creating her own romantic fairy tales by night, including her new series, The Cinderella Romances. She eventually said good-bye to her “day” job to write her stories full-time. These days Petie spends her time writing sequels to her regency time-travel series, Lords in Time, and her cozy-mystery-with-romantic-suspense series, the Mystery Angel Romances.

Petie shares her home on the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee with her horticulturist husband and an opinionated Nanday conure named Sassy who made a cameo appearance in No Angels for Christmas.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | BookBub | Amazon

Giveaway

Petie McCarty will be awarding an Autographed paperback copy of Cinderella Busted (US only) to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Find out more here.

Follow Petie on the rest of her Goddess Fish tour here.

Blurb Blitz: Bloodstains and Candy Canes

I’m happy to welcome Wild Rose Press author Marla White. Today, Marla shares her new release, Bloodstains and Candy Canes.

Blurb

Attending a swanky cookie exchange is the last thing on veterinarian Dr. Mandy Brown’s holiday to-do list, but she agrees to help a friend out. The party comes to a screeching halt after a body turns up on the kitchen floor, a carving knife jutting out of his back.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Mandy comes face-to-face with Officer Dylan Shaw, a man she thought she was dating until he ghosted her. Tensions escalate as motives for murder come out of the pantry as fast as guests scarf down the pot-spiked brownies, making everything all the merrier.

Although the case seems open and shut, Mandy doesn’t believe the evidence. Can she and Dylan put their differences aside and find the real killer, or risk one of the bakers getting away with murder?

Excerpt

“Call him.”

Dolores is right. Shaw once told me 911 calls are automatically routed to the Highway Patrol where they get sorted to the appropriate agency. If you know the local police number, you’ll get a faster response by calling them directly. But I also know the last person I want to see right now is Officer Dylan Shaw.

“Who cares?” I ask. “The dead guy isn’t going anywhere.”

Dee narrows her eyes and gives me an icy gaze. “No, but the killer is. The police need to get this place locked down fast if they’re going to have a shot at finding them.”

Well poop, I hadn’t thought of that. My head is too far up my own butt to think past my broken heart. “Fine, I’ll call him.”

She nods, pulling the sobbing Bethany under one arm and uses the other to guide, coerce and otherwise wrangle Agnes, the guests, and caterers alike back to the veranda. Very few people have the strength to refuse Dolores’ will of iron.

When everyone is gone, I slip into the den and grab my phone. Stomach lurching with dread, I hit the button for Shaw and wait the tension-filled five seconds as it rings once before he answers. “Hey Mandy, what’s up?”

His cheerful tone surprises me until irritation sweeps away the pleasure his voice brings. Does he not realize I’m mad at him for ghosting me? “This isn’t a social call, Shaw.”

Buy/Read Links

Amazon | Apple Books | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Books2Read | BookBub

Author Bio and Links

Marla White is a story analysis instructor at UCLA and writing coach who lives in Los Angeles. She graduated from the University of Kentucky where she took her first horseback riding lesson. After dabbling in hunters, barrel racing, and weekly trail rides, she fell hopelessly in love with the sport of eventing. She conquered Novice level before taking a break to pursue novel writing but hopes to return to the saddle some day soon. When she’s not writing, she’s out in the garden, hiking, putting together impossibly difficult puzzles, or (of course!) baking.

Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | TikTok

Giveaway

Marla White will be awarding a $15 Amazon/Barnes & to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Find out more here.

Follow Marla on the rest of her Goddess Fish tour here.

Interview with Victory Witherkeigh

I’m happy to welcome award-winning author Victory Witherkeigh. Today, Victory shares interesting details about her creative journey and new release, The Girl.

Interview

What was your inspiration for this book?

I wanted to write a book for young brown girls like myself who felt they couldn’t identify with most of the female characters in the novels, especially if they were of the fantasy or dark fantasy genre. I wanted a heroine to help me add a layer to my question as a young girl — what does being “likable” have to do with being a hero? Can you do good if you come from something terrible where you’re told repeatedly that nothing “likable” can come from? Be Good? I wanted to help expose the dangers of the idea that “likeability” or even “popularity” means “goodness.” I want future readers who hear this story to have another voice added to those who have been “othered” or considered “unlikeable” and how those labels don’t always mean what we think they do.

What’s the best part of being an author? The worst?

The best part of being an author is that it has a targeted funnel for my creativity and a place to express myself. Writing was always my safe place. It was something I enjoyed doing, even simply for therapeutic purposes. Something is thrilling about putting the puzzle pieces together or feeling like your emotions are flowing out through your fingers at lightning speed when you’re in the zone, so to speak. Which is the double-edged sword of what I think can be the worst parts – mining and milking the most traumatic moments of your life, knowing that industry will then reject most of them while still struggling with diversity issues, can be very painful. As a writer, any scene that explores feelings of vulnerability or emotional struggles, especially in coming-of-age stories, is heart-wrenching to write, imagine, or empathize with. After the “bombshells” of the publishing industry for BIPOC authors came out in the past few years, the anxiety of getting into this business only increased. The last count I had in 2021 when I was querying the manuscript for The Girl, was something over three hundred agents or publishers had said no to it, so it’s definitely a process that is not for the faint of heart.

Describe your writing space.

I finally have a personal writing space that I can call my own, though it is pretty spartan. I keep a writing desk and a couple of bookcases to hold a few things that help spur my imagination or are key professional life mementos. These include some of the essential YA series or novels I remembered being inspired by as a kid and a small section of shelf for my author’s copies of various horror anthologies or horror and/or dark fantasy magazines I’ve been a part of previously. There is a shelf dedicated to more nonfiction works from my childhood hero, Kobe Bryant, and an entire series of books devoted to the pre-colonial era of the Pacific Island cultures. Interspersed through, there are some art pieces I’ve collected through the years, scented candles I love, and some crystals with older hula and Tahitian performance items from my previous dancing days. It is a work in progress, though, as my cat still does not approve of me not having a sitting area for anyone else, so she refuses to come into my office.

Which authors have inspired you?

I enjoyed reading R. L. Stine and Christopher Pike to Tolkien and C. S. Lewis as a kid. The first dark fantasy series I fell in love with was Garth Nix’s Abhorsen Series and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics. Once in high school, a friend recommended the Game of Thrones series as it felt the most realistic for a change. Once I was out of college, I had more time to pick up works by Leigh Bardugo and Erin Morgenstern. Books like I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sanchez and The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke are other contemporary favorites I’ve discovered over the years.

What is your favorite quote?

“Everything -negative, pressure, challenges – is all an opportunity for me to rise.”
Kobe Bryant

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

I’m going to pick something utterly obscure that I don’t know if many people will get, but if I had a choice, I’d want the superpowers of Cloak and Dagger from Marvel Comics. They were a crime-fighting duo that became friends as runaway teens. One ended up with powers of intangibility and teleportation. He’d give people sensations of numbing cold and experiencing terrifying visions of their greatest fears and nightmares. If they were exposed for too long, they could be driven insane. He could also see the fears of certain people he touched. The other could create a multitude of light daggers that drain living beings of life, and she could see the hopes of certain people by touching them.

Besides writing and reading, what are some of your hobbies?

Traveling! I love traveling because it is a great inspiration and, at times, a much-needed kick in the pants for my mental health and ego. Having fresh adventures and seeing/learning about older cultures just does something for me that gives me a feeling of inner peace, especially trying new foods.

Any advice for aspiring writers?

The first thing any aspiring writer should do is be honest with themselves about their writing journey goals. Do they want their work to be on shelves? Do they want awards? Do they want to interact with their readership, and how often? And maybe who do they see as their’ readership?’ The next step would be to write AND finish what they are writing – a short story, novella, script, or novel. Then, I would recommend learning all they can about the particular niche of the publishing industry they are trying to target. Joining writing or critique groups is a great way to get third-party feedback on your writing and some pros or cons about a particular genre. Various writers’ or authors’ guilds can help writers find groups or even offer courses on improvements that writers can do for their own skill set – world-building, editing, emotional scenes, etc. There are writing conferences that provide a variety of current industry topics, and even the streaming platforms of Masterclass or YouTube carry older material, like lectures from previous speakers, that are available for minimal cost.

What are you working on next?

I recently saw an anthology calling for fiction stories based on songs by David Bowie that sounded interesting to me, so I may pull something together for that. I still try to monitor short fiction calls even though I may only have time to do some of the ones that interest me. I’m an overthinker, so I have to have some other ideas on the back burner all the time. A couple of my scary short stories are coming out in December 2022. One will be in a magazine called A Coup of Owls. Diet Milk Magazine will release another on Christmas Day as part of a theme called “In Bleak Midwinter.”

Blurb

The parents knew it had been a mistake to have a girl. At birth, the girl’s long, elegant fingers wriggled and grasped forward, motioning to strangle the very air from her mother’s lungs. As she grew older, she grew more like her father, whose ancestors would dream of those soon to die. She walked and talked in her sleep, and her parents warded themselves, telling the girl that she was evil, unlovable, their burden to bear only until her eighteenth birthday released them.

The average person on the streets of Los Angeles would look at the girl and see a young woman with dark chocolate eyes, curly long hair, and tanned skin of her Filipina heritage. Her teachers praised her for her scholarly achievements and extracurricular activities, from academic decathlon to cheer.

The girl knew she was different, especially as she grew to accept that the other children’s parents didn’t despise them. Her parents whispered about their pact as odd and disturbing occurrences continued to happen around her. The girl thought being an evil demon should require the skies to bleed, the ground to tremble, an animal sacrifice to seal the bargain, or at least cause some general mayhem. Did other demons work so hard to find friends, do well on their homework, and protect their spoiled younger brother?

The demon was patient. It could afford to wait, to remind the girl when she was hurt that power was hers to take. She needed only embrace it. It could wait. The girl’s parents were doing much of its work already.

Excerpt

She smoothed the wrinkles down on her black Hermès slacks and shirt before turning the crystal hotel doorknob.

“You bring nothing good into this world,” her mother said, baring her teeth. “You just corrupt and destroy everything. You’re a catalyst, a demonic catalyst. You’re only fit to annihilate. One day you’ll understand the destructive nature of your power. You’ll see the damage you’ll bring to those around you when it’s too late. All those people who tell us you’re amazing, they’ll figure it out. You’ve fooled them for now, but they’ll learn.”

The mother slammed the door as she walked out with that last statement. The tears flowed from the girl’s face as she looked at the door. Her breathing sped up as her stomach roiled, sending her sprinting to the toilet. Her hands were shaking, clammy, as she collapsed to the floor, chills running through her body as she looked up at the ceiling. The orange and bergamot scents of the soaps mixed with the stark, white porcelain tile floor were the only anchors she could focus on to stop herself from throwing up again. Deep in her gut, at the core of her being, there was only one thought she could grasp: she’s right.

“I don’t want to be evil,” she said, whimpering to herself. “I don’t want to be alone.”

“But you aren’t alone, pretty girl,” a voice said with a throaty laugh.

Author Bio and Links

Victory Witherkeigh is a female Filipino author originally from Los Angeles, CA, currently living in the Las Vegas area. Victory was a finalist for Wingless Dreamer’s 2020 Overcoming Fear Short Story award and a 2021 winner of the Two Sisters Writing and Publishing Short Story Contest.

She has print publications in the horror anthologies Supernatural Drabbles of Dread through Macabre Ladies Publishing, Bodies Full of Burning through Sliced Up Press, and In Filth It Shall Be Found through OutCast Press.

Her first novel, set to debut in Spring 2024 with Cinnabar Moth Publishing, has been a finalist for Killer Nashville’s 2020 Claymore Award, a 2020 Cinnamon Press Literature Award Honoree, and long-listed in the 2021 Voyage YA Book Pitch Contest.

Instagram | Facebook | Website | Twitter | Amazon Buy Link

Giveaway

Victory Witherkeigh will be awarding a $10 Amazon/Barnes & Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Find out more here.

Follow Victory on the rest of her Goddess Fish tour here.