Friday Features’


Carol Browne

Talks about hugging trees.

I’m a tree hugger and always have been. There’s something in my nature that draws me to them like old friends. How gratifying it is for me to see so many other people waking up to how important and precious trees are.

Photo by Studio Dekorasyon on Unsplash

Every oxygen-breathing organism on Earth benefits from the work done by these forest denizens. Their fallen leaves not only nourish the ground they stand in but also feed a network of fungi, plants and small critters essential to the circle of life. The trees hold the land in their roots, preventing soil erosion and landslides. They suck up water and protect the land from flooding. They provide shade, shelter and homes to countless animals, birds and insects. They give us fruit, nuts and medicine; wood for building and fuel. In the rainforests they even create their own weather.

Trees are amazing. And now we need them more than ever. Their ability to capture carbon from the air, to use and store it, while releasing life-affirming oxygen, is vital in the battle against climate change.

We must plant more trees. Anyone with a garden can do that. If you can’t, donate to an organization that will plant trees on your behalf and support campaigns to protect ancient woodland.

We have lost our connection with Nature, that fellowship experienced so profoundly by our ancestors. For far too long we have looked down upon primitive cultures that talked about nature spirits and the wisdom of trees. We dismissed the Druids for worshipping trees. It was all superstition. But we were wrong. The trees have been our allies all the time, even when we turned our backs on them. They remained the guardians of the planet and quietly went about the business of preserving its ecosystem. Now it is imperative we embrace them again as our friends and rediscover that lost connection, before it is too late.

There is a close relationship between trees and writers; don’t they provide us with the paper on which we write our stories? They can even give us the ink to write them with. Ink made from oak galls was favoured by scribes during the Middle Ages and Renaissance because of its permanence and resistance to water and it still enjoys a niche market today among artists.

It is fitting, then, that my fantasy novel The Exile of Elindel opens with the main character, Elgiva, asking an oak tree for advice. As an elf she is fortunate in being able to understand the language of trees and she knows that ancient oaks are steeped in wisdom. It is this encounter at the beginning of Chapter One that determines everything that follows.

Without the tree there would be no story. Here’s an a brief intro for you.

Elgiva, a young elf banished from Elvendom, must seek shelter among the Saxons as her only hope of surviving the coming winter.

Godwin, a Briton enslaved by the Saxons, is a man ignorant of his own inheritance and the secret of power he possesses.

A mysterious enemy, who will stop at nothing to wield absolute power over Elvendom, is about to make his move.

When destiny throws Elgiva and Godwin together, they embark upon the quest for the legendary Lorestone, the only thing that can save Elvendom from the evil that threatens to destroy it.

There is help to be found along the way from a petulant pony and a timid elf boy but, as the strength of their adversary grows, can Elgiva’s friends help her to find the Lorestone before it falls into the wrong hands?

The night was waning when Elgiva woke, wondering where she was. The dark ceiling of Joskin’s cave hung above her, and everything had a reddish glow, cast by the embers of the fire. She slid from under the fur coverlet, her skin tightening at the loss of its warmth, and searched for her leather sandals.

Something had woken her, something that waited outside the cave. A runnel of dread ran down her spine.

She had an inexplicable sense of impending danger, but it was too insistent to ignore. An unnamed instinct stopped her from alerting her companions. She must face this menace alone.

She left the cave as quietly as she could. Her heart pounded in her throat as she peered between the rowan trees and searched the night. Whatever had awakened her, it beckoned. She held her breath and listened, but her ears detected nothing, save for a silence as dark and empty as an abandoned crypt.

It would soon be daybreak, but the sun had yet to rise, and the dark beyond the cave swarmed with potential horrors. She stepped out from among the rowans, relying on her acute senses to make out her surroundings. An unnatural calm gripped the night and as her sandals whispered against the cold grass, they sounded abnormally loud. She feared they would betray her presence.

After a while, she came to a stop and searched the trees. Thin strands of mist curled along the ground, cold and clammy, like an exhalation of sickness.

She hugged her shoulders, knotted her fingers in the cascade of her hair, and shivered in her ragged robe. All around her, the silence seemed to be drawing into focus.

“Who is it?” Her throat was too dry for her purpose. She swallowed and licked her lips. “Who’s there? I know you’re there. I can . . . I can feel you!”

Feel you.

A flash of silver sliced through the dark, and Elgiva gasped in fear. Her arms came up to shield her face as the beam struck a rock several yards ahead. It exploded with a whoosh and sent up thousands of splinters of light, which fell to the ground and sizzled in the mist.

A shape now stood upon the rock, its form concealed in a black, hooded cloak.

Elgiva clutched the amulet to her breast. Her hands were white with terror. “In the name of Faine, who are you? What sort of trick is this?”

A soft, sly voice spoke back to her. “Why should you fear magic?”

“What do you want?” she pleaded, her voice a croak of fear.

“To see for myself.”

“To see what?”

The dark shape sniggered, but made no answer. Instead, it swept its cloak aside, and a cloud of sparks flew out and covered the ground with beads of light.

Elgiva stepped back unsteadily, resolved to flee.

“Stay!” commanded the creature.

It raised a skeletal hand, and the forefinger swung towards Elgiva and pinned her against the darkness, holding her like a rivet of bone. No elf, no wilthkin, ever owned such a hand. Her legs threatened to buckle beneath her. This had to be a nightmare; she was still asleep in the cave. But no, it was all too real.

“Who are you? What do you want?” she cried. “I have . . . I have an amulet!”

The creature laughed derisively. “I am Death, and I have come for you.”

It began to radiate a sickly green light, enveloping itself in a caul of brilliance that pulsated with force. The light grew in size until the trees behind it were bathed in its angry glare. It reached for Elgiva, like a foul stench creeping along a breeze, and she was helpless. The creature’s power throbbed in the darkness.

Within the taut coils of her fear, her instincts screamed at her to run, but her limbs had turned to stone.

Siriol, Siriol, help me . . . help . . .

With a shriek of glee, the creature increased the throb of its power. Elgiva’s mind was suddenly invaded by an inexplicable force. She became divorced from herself and watched from a great distance, waiting for the horror to unfold.

Born in Stafford in the UK, Carol Browne was raised in Crewe, Cheshire, which she thinks of as her home town. Interested in reading and writing at an early age, Carol pursued her passions at Nottingham University and was awarded an honours degree in English Language and Literature. Now living and working in the Cambridgeshire countryside, Carol usually writes fiction and is a contracted author at Burning Willow Press. Her non-fiction book is available at Dilliebooks.

Stay connected with Carol on her website and blog, Facebook, and Twitter.


Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

The emotion of writing from Marci Bolden who brings us her insightful thoughts.

For authors, our books are like our children and we aren’t supposed to pick favorites. Apparently I’m a terrible book mama because I absolutely have a favorite, and it was released August 13. I don’t even feel ashamed saying that.

A Life Without Water is easily the most emotional book I’ve ever written. Despite all the re-reads, re-writes, and rounds of editing, I still cry reading this heartfelt story. This is women’s fiction, a break from my usual genre of romance, and I poured my entire heart and soul into the journey these characters take.

We all have ghosts in our past that we have to face eventually. Whether we face them on our own or stare down that one person who we feel betrayed us, we have to deal with past pain in order to truly forgive and move forward.

That reckoning of the past is what this book is about and it is definitely a roller coaster ride.

Carol Denman divorced her husband over twenty years ago and has never looked back. But on the day before their daughter’s thirtieth birthday, John barges back into Carol’s life with a request that threatens the fragile stability she has built.

John Bowman is sick. Very sick. While he still can, he has some amends to make and some promises to fulfill. But to do that, he not only needs his ex-wife’s agreement…he needs her.

With the past hovering between them like a ghost, Carol and John embark on a decades-overdue road trip. Together they plunge back into a life without water…but which may ultimately set them free.

Carol Denman blinked. The long and slow kind that gave the brain a moment to process unexpected information. When she lifted her lids, her assistant still stood on the other side of her desk. Tiana’s near-black eyes filled with a million questions. The rich umber skin above her nose crinkled as she drew her brows together.

The words she’d spoken lingered in the air between them.

There was a man standing outside Carol’s office asking to see her. Not just any man. Her ex-husband.

“You were married before Tobias?”

Tiana’s voice was low enough that no one outside the office could possibly hear, but to Carol’s ears, the words sounded as if they had been announced through a bullhorn. The question spun her tightly held emotions out of control. The skin above her brow prickled with the first signs of nervous sweat. Clenching her fists, digging white acrylic tips into her palm, she took a breath to calm herself before the telltale sign of anxiety—bright red creeping up her pale neck until it settled over her face—could start.

She blinked again. This time the rapid, mind-clearing kind. She dislodged the knot in her throat before finding her voice. “Yes. A long time ago.” A lifetime ago. “Did he say what he wants?”

“No.” Confusion faded to what appeared to be concern. “He looks nervous. Should I tell him to leave or…I can call security.”

Security was a seventy-three-year-old overweight retired police officer who was far more invested in completing the Houston Chronicle’s crossword puzzle than he ever was in doing his job. Carol suspected even if she did need help, old Charlie Turner would call 911 and offer crowd control long before he’d intervene with some kind of physical altercation in her office. Not that she was worried about what her ex would do to her.

Just the opposite.

She was more concerned she’d grab the sterling silver scissors from her desk drawer and shove them repeatedly into his chest.

Outside her window, early summer sunlight reflected in a blinding starburst off the man-made pond where geese liked to gather as they migrated. This time of year the water was smooth. Still. Deceptively calm. As she stared at the water, memories of her life with John flashed through her mind like an old 8-mm film on a loop.

Laughter, singing, playing.

Screaming. Crying. Begging.

Tiana’s quiet voice cut into Carol’s thoughts. “Should I tell him to leave?”

“Um… No.” God, I’m going to regret this. “It’s fine. Show him in.”

Purchase A Life Without Water here.

Netgalley Reviews
This story will push your emotions to the limit, make you realize how much damage you do to yourself by holding onto anger and refusing to let go and help you to walk through the process of learning who you really are and what life has done to make you that person. – cindy r.

This book was everything. It made me FEEL so much. I cried so very much at times. Beautifully and realistically written. Life is fickle and here and gone in a minute. Learn to forgive and remember to live! –Dineen M.

This book – A Life Without Water – basically ripped my heart out – smashed it into a million pieces and put it back together again. – Beth S.

As a teen, Marci Bolden skipped over young adult books and jumped right into reading romance novels. She never left.

Marci lives in the Midwest with her husband, two teenaged kiddos, and numerous rescue pets. If she had an ounce of will power, Marci would embrace healthy living but until cupcakes and wine are no longer available at the local grocery store, she’ll put that ambition on hold and appease her guilt by reading self-help books and promising to join a gym “soon.”

Learn more about Marci Bolden on her website. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter.

Tell Again Tuesday

A blog series where we shamelessly share posts from others that we have enjoyed.



The Things Bookworms worry about when reading book series

By Lucy Mitchell

As a bookworm I enjoy reading a good book series, I love the excitement of finishing a first book and making a frantic dash onto Amazon to buy the second. I am a big fan of watching an author’s Twitter feed like a hawk for news on when the next book in their series is coming out.

Book series demand a different sort of . . .

For the rest of the blog go to:

BlondeWriteMore blog

Friday Feature

Looking for a refreshing meal to beat the summer heat?

This healthy sandwich and smoothie duo has you covered!


Chris Pavesic

This peanut butter sandwich forgoes jelly for fresh sliced pears.

Open-Faced Nut Butter Sandwich

    1-2 slices of your favorite bread
    Peanut butter or almond butter
    Sliced pears

Toast your favorite bread; one slice to eat open-faced or two for a sandwich. Spread on nut butter and drizzle with honey. Sprinkle on a few raisins. Add sliced pears, enough to cover bread. Sprinkle top of pears with cinnamon and enjoy.

When the weather gets warm, is there anything more refreshing than a smoothie? This one sneaks in some healthy vegetables and chia seeds.

Ginger-Berry Smoothie with Chia Seeds

    1½ cups frozen or fresh strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries (extra for garish if desired
    ⅓ cup canned sliced beets (save extra beets for next smoothie) or leftover cooked beets
    ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
    1 tbsp. honey
    2 tsp. peeled and grated fresh ginger
    Chia seeds

Combine all ingredients in a blender except chia seeds. Blend until smooth. Top with chia seeds and extra fruit if desired. Makes 1 serving.

Books available at Amazon.com or wherever books are sold.

4eee6-chris2bpavesic2bauthor2bphotoChris Pavesic is a fantasy author who lives in the Midwestern United States and loves Kona coffee, steampunk, fairy tales, and all types of speculative fiction. Between writing projects, Chris can most often be found reading, gaming, gardening, working on an endless list of DIY household projects, or hanging out with friends.

Learn more about Chris on her website and blog.

Stay connected on Facebook, Twitter, and her Amazon Author Page.

Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

The enigmatic Sharon Ledwith who brings us her latest Tales from Fairy Falls.

The second installment of Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls, Blackflies and Blueberries, features Hart Stewart—a teenage psychometrist who has no problem reading the energy imprints from an object like a ring or watch, but struggles with the most basic reading skills. In world-renowned, late psychic Sylvia Browne’s book, Phenomenon, she explains—“Psychometry is the ability to sense and interpret the living energy that’s been absorbed by inanimate objects. Perceptions of that energy can come in the form of visions, smells, sounds, emotions and even specific empathic physical sensations like pain, heat and cold.”

So how does this psychic ability actually work? By handling objects, the psychic receives impressions through clairvoyance, telepathy, retrocognition (knowledge of a past event that could not be learned or inferred by normal means), and precognition (future sight). The act of reading an object in this manner is called ‘psychometrizing’. The term ‘psychometry’ comes from the Greek words psyche, ‘soul’, and metron, ‘measure’. It was coined in 1840 by Joseph R. Buchanan, an American professor of physiology who saw psychometry as a means to measure the ‘soul’ of objects.

Supposedly the best ‘psychically’ conductive materials are metals. So jewelry would be great picks for a psychometry reading. If an object has been owned by more than one person, such as an antique, a percipient may pick up information about different people. Psychics who specialize in psychometry when working with law enforcement, for example, can hold an article of a missing child’s clothing or piece of jewelry and, by reading the child’s energy contained in that clothing or jewelry, receive images or smells or sounds from where the child is, sense whether the child is feeling frightened or is with someone who makes them feel secure, and/or perceive any injuries the child might have. Cue The Twilight Zone music.

Believe it or not, you’ve used psychometry at one time or another. Think about when you’ve shopped for a purse or article of clothing—you pick up the desired item, and depending on whatever feeling it gives you, there might be something about it that makes you put it back and keep looking. An odd feeling. A weird thought. A shiver. That’s psychometry. Or you’ll be house-hunting or apartment-hunting and walk into a place that’s perfect and ideal in every way, with the one exception that for some reason you can’t wait to get out of there. That’s psychometry too.

You may think of psychometrists as modern day time travelers. With one touch of an object in an antique shop or museum, they can be whisked away into another time period. Oh, think of the things we could learn about history and historical events. And think of the cold case crimes that could be solved. So the next time you pick up an object, remember that it always has something to say. Even if you don’t like it.

Ready to receive a little foresight into Blackflies and Blueberries, the second installment of Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls teen psychic mystery series? Here’s a glimpse…

The only witness left to testify against an unsolved crime in Fairy Falls isn’t a person…

City born and bred, Hart Stewart possesses the gift of psychometry—the psychic ability to discover facts about an event or person by touching inanimate objects associated with them. Since his mother’s death, seventeen-year-old Hart has endured homelessness, and has learned ways to keep his illiteracy under wraps. He eventually learns of a great-aunt living in Fairy Falls, and decides to leave the only life he’s ever known for an uncertain future.

Diana MacGregor lives in Fairy Falls. Her mother was a victim of a senseless murder. Only Diana’s unanswered questions and her grief keeps her going, until Hart finds her mother’s lost ring and becomes a witness to her murder.

Through Hart’s psychic power, Diana gains hope for justice. Their investigation leads them into the corrupt world threatening Fairy Falls. To secure the town’s future, Hart and Diana must join forces to uncover the shocking truth, or they risk losing the true essence of Fairy Falls forever.

Sharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/YA time travel series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, and the teen psychic mystery series, MYSTERIOUS TALES FROM FAIRY FALLS. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, exercising, anything arcane, and an occasional dram of scotch. Sharon lives a serene, yet busy life in a southern tourist region of Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, one spoiled yellow Labrador and a moody calico cat.

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Smashwords. Look up her Amazon Author page for a list of current books. Be sure to check out THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS TIME TRAVEL SERIES Facebook page.

Tell Again Tuesday

A blog series where we shamelessly share posts from others that we have enjoyed.



How to define themes in your novels

By Lorraine Ambers

Under the surface of every story is a Theme. But what is a Theme? And how do we develop one for our novel? You may have already drafted the novel without much thought to Theme, and that’s fine. This post will help you identify them so that they can be used to . . .

For the rest of the blog go to:

Lorraine Ambers blog

Friday Features’

Guest talks about

Creepy, crawlies


Anne Montgomery

This little guy lives by my dog’s water bowl. 
We’re all good with that.

I faced the webs on my porch. You see, when it’s fall in the desert, it’s time to clean our yards and outside living areas. To those who’ve grown up understanding the concept of spring cleaning, note that we perform that chore in the fall. It makes sense, since we spend the summers cooped up with our air conditioning – hiding from blast-furnace temperatures – and the winters basking blissfully outdoors.

I gently moved the broom across the ceiling and into the corners, careful not to harm any of the arachnids who’ve made camp by my door. I admonish the tiny ones to run, since I don’t want to injure them.

And, now, you might think me strange, because I could never hurt a spider. Why this is the case, I’m not quite sure. Perhaps it was growing up with Charlotte’s Web. Or maybe it was watching my parents deposit spiders who had found their way inside outside, instead of crushing them into little blobs of spidery goo.

I never thought this behavior odd, until faced with folks who felt differently. There was the tough US Marine who hailed from Trinidad who was my housemate for a while. I had explained about Mathilda, the black widow who resided in a low corner of the kitchen who only came out at night.

“Just don’t walk barefoot by the sink after dark,” I explained.

Then, one day I heard him howling in the kitchen. “You need to come in here! Now!”

I complied and was delighted by gossamer silk threads floating in the air, each speckled with dozens of tiny golden babies holding on like wee surfers. I grabbed some newspapers and corralled the infants and released them outside.

The big brave Marine recoiled.

Then there was the evening stroll in the Costa Rican rain forest. My sweetie pie and I joined a small group searching for night creatures with a woman entomologist.

“Oh! Look at what we have here!” She reached into the leaf litter and produced a large long-legged spider. Eyes wide, she grinned like a grandma with a newborn babe. “These are the ones they use in horror movies. Who would like to hold it?”

No one moved. She frowned, disappointed in our little group, so I stepped up and held out my hand. Her eyes sparkled, one of those perhaps-she’s-not-quite-sane looks that made me reconsider our decision to follow her into the jungle in the dark. She placed the beast in my palm.

“So cute. Just like a kitten,” she cooed.

OK, I admit I had a sudden urge to flee, an impulse that had nothing to do with the spider. In fact, the little guy was rather sweet. I silently said goodbye as he scampered off into the undergrowth.

Then there was the football spider and that rascal cemented my love affair with spiders.

Late in the first half of a high school game, Phil, my line judge, ran toward me, blowing his whistle, and waving his arms overhead, killing the clock.

“Tarantula!” He stared wide-eyed and pointed downfield.

My first thought was that the home team had a spider mascot, but that idea was quickly dispelled when I saw a fuzzy creature moving in a strangely robotic motion near the 20-yard-line.

The barrel-chested coach, who’d been on me the whole game, grinned and crossed thick arms. “What are you going to do about it?” he yelled.

As we crouched over the beast, I envisioned some hapless kid with a fist-size spider wriggling from his facemask. I bit my lip and glanced at the players who eyed me from midfield.

Phil and I stared at one another. He raised both palms up.

“What are we going to do?” I asked.

“What are you going to do?” he mimicked the coach.

I took a deep breath and watched the hairy beast inch forward, moving all eight legs in a silent ballet. Did I hear the coach laughing?

I shot my arm into the tarantula’s path. And, without pause, the spider crawled onto the back of my hand and up my wrist, fuzzy feet tickling my skin.

Phil stood and backed away.

“Please don’t bite me,” I silently pleaded over and over, as visions of old horror movies played in my head. While the tarantula traveled up my arm, I walked slowly toward the end of the field. When I reached the outer edge of the track, I bent over and gently dropped the creature near a patch of rocky desert. The tarantula landed upright and marched on.

I swallowed several times, then turned and ran back up field past the coach. I herded the players to the line of scrimmage and took my position behind the quarterback. I blew my whistle, putting the ball into play.

But no one moved.

Then Phil’s whistle sounded and he signaled time-out. He doubled over and I thought he might be ill, but then I saw he was laughing.

“What?” I stared as he ran toward me.

Phil leaned in, then looked around to make sure no players were nearby. The coach said, “She has a pair hangin’ and they ain’t tits.”

I eyed the coach. He nodded toward me, deferential, all remnants of his previously condescending attitude having disappeared with the spider.

For the rest of the game, no matter the situation – whether a flag went for or against his team, whether he agreed or disagreed with a ruling – the coach only addressed me with two words.

“Yes, ma’am,” was all he said.

Perhaps now you can understand my love affair with spiders.

Here’s a little from my suspense novel based on a true incident. I hope it intrigues you.

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon.

When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers.

And then the girl vanishes.

While the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born deep in the wilderness.


Anne Montgomery has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. She worked at WRBL‐TV in Columbus, Georgia, WROC‐TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP‐TV in Phoenix, Arizona, ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE award‐winning SportsCenter, and ASPN-TV as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Montgomery has been a freelance and staff writer for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archeological pieces.

When she can, Anne indulges in her passions: rock collecting, scuba diving, football refereeing, and playing her guitar.

Learn more about Anne Montgomery on her website and Wikipedia. Stay connected on Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter.

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