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Friday Features’

We’re talking about

How To Write The Next Book

by

C.D. Hersh

At some point, in the beginning of every writing journey, we authors wonder if we can really write a book. We ask ourselves: Can I do this? And if I can, will I be able to write a second book? Will my next book be as good as the first book? Will an editor love book number two as much as the first one? And, heaven forbid, what will I do if no wants the next book I write— assuming I can even finish it?

When we started our publishing journey back in 2012, with the pitch of the first book in our paranormal/urban fantasy series The Turning Stone Chronicles to Soul Mate Publishing, we had some of those questions. Book One, The Promised One was taking a maiden journey into the editorial world of queries. And after the rejection stories we heard from other aspiring authors, we truly thought we’d have our first rejection slip. We had ideas about where the remaining books in the proposed series were going, but not much more than nutshells of ideas and a few paragraphs written in a black-and-white school composition book. Book number one didn’t even have a contract, and here we were bold enough to assume we could write and sell a six-book series.

Four years later (2016), with the release of book number four in the series, The Mercenary and the Shifters, we were now more than halfway through our series. Ah, but life had some interesting twists planned for us as we started on book number five. More later.

The journey has an interesting one. We’ve had a few surprises along the way. We never expected our series to sell on the first toss over the publishing world transom. And we certainly didn’t expect the editor would want all six books without ever seeing them. We also didn’t expect the overwhelming learning curve of marketing that came crashing down on us. But somehow, we figured it all out—including the total replotting of book 4 when a minor character in book 3, Son of the Moonless Night, suddenly decided she wanted center stage and took over the plotting process. We also learned, thanks to a lovely review we received, that we can write without the dreaded sophomoric slump in our later books.

If you’re just beginning your publishing journey and you’ve answered “no” and “I don’t know to the questions in the opening paragraph, you are starting your journey off stifling your creativity. If you can finish a single book that has all the elements an editor wants, then never fear. You can write another book as good as the first and maybe even better.

Now for the “more later” promised above. With the release of book four in July 2016 we started on plotting for book five. However, we got asked by our publisher to join a group of twelve other authors and to write a book in the series of The Soul Mate Tree. That happened in February of 2017 plus then a lot of promotion for the rest of the year as we tried to get back to plotting book five. The next three years proved to be a health challenge plus being asked to write and direct three Easter dramas at our church. Book five is plotted but still being written. Maybe this year? Now back to writing the next book in a series.

Here are some tips to help you make your goal of book number 2, 3, and more.

  • Keep a positive attitude. A lot of people want to write a book. Many say they’re going to write a book SOME DAY. You have written a book. You’ve slapped those all-important two words on the last page—THE END. Additionally, if you got a contract from an editor, you have validation that your book was good. So don’t let doubt get in your way.
  • Don’t wait until your creativity well runs dry to begin the next book. Writing stirs up our muses, and there’s no better time to start thinking about the next book than while you are working on your current book.
  • When you have an idea for the next book, let the need to write it spur you on. Having a second story waiting in the wings compels us to finish the WIP.
  • When you get that nutshell of an idea for book number two, write it down! Don’t say, “I can remember that.” Chances are you won’t. Instead, drop it in a computer file or paper file, whichever works for you. Read it often. Think about it before you go to bed, but not if it makes you an insomniac. Let it bubble and stew in the back of your mind until a full-blown story is born.
  • Capture ANY wild story ideas that come your way. No tidbit you find remotely interesting should be ignored. You never know when inspiration for the next book will hit. The plot could be residing in a snippet of conversation you overhear at your favorite restaurant, a story you read in the newspaper, or even an interesting road sign. The Turning Stone Chronicle series originated from a road sign for a place named Turning Stone that we passed on a long road trip. We said, “What an interesting town name. Could we write a story with that title?” And the rest is history.
  • Learn from your mistakes. Continued practice of the craft makes you a more skilled writer. Keeping a weasel word list, noting the places where your editor or beta readers say you are weak, and continuous education in the craft will improve your writing skill and storytelling ability. The more we write, the more second nature the job becomes. So, when the next book comes along, you’ll have an easier time putting it down. And who doesn’t want that?
  • Planning on writing a series be sure to keep a world book. Nothing slows the writing process faster than trying to remember someone’s eye color from book one or any other character’s feature or a place name.

For all the readers out there, here’s an excerpt from book four of The Turning Stone Chronicles, The Mercenary and the Shifters. We hope you’ll like it.

“My home is perfectly safe. It’s my business I’m concerned about.”

Fiona crossed her arms over her chest, her body language closing off to further suggestions. Mike followed her motions. As he did, he spotted a red dot on her chest. The dot wiggled.

“Get down!” Mike shouted as he dove for Fiona.

They hit the floor as the pottery on the raised fireplace hearth exploded, sending shards across the room. Mike shoved Fiona behind the nearest chair then scrambled across the rug to the blown-out window. Removing his gun from his back-of-the-waist holster, he peered over the windowsill. Seeing no one in the driveway, he swiveled around to check on Fiona. The red laser point danced around the room, searching for a target.

Mike followed the trajectory of the beam. The shot came from across the street in something high. He remembered seeing a tree house in the yard across the road from the mansion.

“Who lives across from you?” he asked.

“No one right now. The house is for sale.”

“I didn’t see a ‘For Sale’ sign.”

“We’re in an exclusive neighborhood. The HOA forbids sale signs.” Another shot rang out.

Mike whirled around in time to see Fiona’s head sticking out from behind the chair. The image of her head reflected in the fireplace mirror. “He’s using the mirror to target us. Do these curtains close?”

“Yes. The cord’s on the other side of the window.”

“I’m going to crawl under the window and close them. He’ll probably see my reflection in the mirror and start shooting, so stay hidden. As soon as the curtains close, crawl to the window as fast as you can and follow the wall to the entryway. Then get the hell out of the front of the house. Got it?”

“Got it.” Fiona’s voice quavered up the scale.

“You okay?”

“Scared, but okay.”

As Mike crawled along the floor, a volley of shots rang out. The remainder of the pottery displayed on the hearth shattered. When he reached the other side of the window, he yanked the drapery cord. The curtains billowed closed.

“Now, Fiona!” he shouted.

As she belly crawled across the floor, Mike held his breath. Bullets sprayed the room, punching through the heavy draperies, the shots veering from floor to ceiling.

Don’t ricochet! he commanded.

Fiona reached the cover of the exterior wall, and he let his breath out in a whoosh.

“Hurry!”

When she came within arm’s reach, he grabbed her hand and yanked her the rest of the way across the room and into the entry.

“Do you have a panic room?”

She nodded, her eyes filled with fear. “In the basement, behind the trophy wall.”

“Get in it, and don’t come out until I tell you to.”

“Where are you going?”

“To get the SOB who’s trying to kill you.”

Amazon buy links:
The Promised One (The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 1)

Blood Brothers (The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 2)

Son of the Moonless Night (The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 3)

The Mercenary and the Shifters (The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 4)

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

A Yorkshire pudding recipe from Carol Browne today!

These Yorkshire puddings are easy to make and taste great even if you aren’t a vegan. Leftovers are wonderful when reheated in the oven at 200ᵒ C (400ᵒ F) for a few minutes. Don’t use a microwave as that makes the puddings soggy and chewy. This recipe serves 6.

Image by Shutterbug 75 from Pixabay

Vegan Yorkshire Puddings

    360ml (1½ cups) vegetable oil
    190g (1¼ cups ) self-raising flour
    ¾ tsp. salt
    ¾ tsp. baking powder
    270ml (1¼ cups) soya or almond milk

Preheat oven Gas Mark 7 (215ᵒ C) (420ᵒ F).

Pour 2 tablespoons oil into each cup hole of a 12 cup muffin tray. Put tray in the oven at least 15 minutes so oil becomes really hot.

Sieve flour, salt, and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Gradually add plant milk, whisking constantly.

Remove tin from the oven and quickly pour the batter into the holes – about 2 tablespoons each. Fill them as evenly and smoothly as possible for the best shape.

Bake 20 minutes.

Here’s a peek at my latest epic fantasy. I hope you enjoy it.

His adventures in Elvendom left Godwin a changed man, and now bereavement has darkened his world.

In another dimension, a new Elvendom is threatened by the ambitions of a monstrous enemy. But who – or what – is the Dark Lady of Bletchberm?

And what has become of Elgiva?

Reeling from the loss of their Elwardain, the elves ask Godwin for help.
Transported into a strange world of time travel and outlandish creatures, will he succeed in his quest against impossible odds, or will the Dark Lady destroy everything the Elwardain fought to preserve?

EXCERPT

His heart thumping in his throat, Godwin took in all the details of the goblin’s appearance. The creature was probably four feet tall at most and was wearing a sleeveless leather tunic and short leggings over his skinny frame. His arms and legs were hard with thin bands of muscle; sinews moved like taut wires beneath the scant flesh. Godwin fancied that the goblin’s skin had a sickly, greenish tint, but in the firelight it was impossible to be sure.

The goblin moved in an awkward manner, not upright like a man or an elf, but slightly stooped and with bent knees, as though on the verge of pouncing. The dome of his head was as bald and smooth as a pebble, and his very long, pointed ears were attached on either side like those of a lynx. His large eyes glittered like wet malachite and between them a long, sharp nose protruded with all the aesthetic attributes of a small parsnip.

The goblin’s large eyes widened as they swivelled in Godwin’s direction, making his stomach curdle in fear and revulsion.

“Only two of you, then?” said the goblin with a smirk. “Not much of a challenge, is it?” He beckoned with his sword and others of his kind began to creep into the circle.

Godwin glanced around. There were six more of them, each carrying a sword of a curious design, the blade like a thin, metal spiral with a very sharp point. A visceral fear welled up inside him at the sight of these weapons, but he didn’t know why.

Amazon Buy Links USAUK


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 but has also taken a plunge into non-fiction with Being Krystyna. This story of a Holocaust survivor has been well received.

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

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

The meal made from the pantry by Chris Pavesic who shares her recipe with us today!

This is a good “pantry” meal–which is a dinner where you use items from your refrigerator/pantry to create a healthy, tasty dish.

My recipe was created for substitutions. Any type of vegetables will do. You can even use canned vegetables if you drain them well. Also, any type of cream soup works. I am fond of cream of celery and mushroom for pot pies.

If you do not have fresh turkey/chicken, substitute chicken in a can or even tuna in a pouch.

Let your creativity be your guide.

Pantry Pie

    2 cups frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
    1 cup cooked turkey or chicken, cut up
    1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
    1 cup milk, divided
    1 cup Bisquick Original Baking Mix
    1 egg

Preheat oven to 400° F.

In large bowl mix vegetables, turkey, soup, and ½ cup milk. Pour into ungreased baking dish.

In medium bowl whisk together Bisquick, ½ cup milk, and egg until blended. Spread over vegetable mix completely.

Bake 30 minutes or until golden brown.

After you enjoy your meal, why not read a good book? May I suggest one of the books from my LitRPG series The Revelation Chronicles?

In Starter Zone Cami kept herself and her younger sister Alby alive in a post-apocalyptic world, facing starvation, violence, and death on a daily basis. Caught by the military and forcefully inscribed, Cami manages to scam the system and they enter the Realms, a Virtual Reality world, as privileged Players rather than slaves. They experience a world of safety, plenty, and magical adventure.

In the Traveler’s Zone magic, combat, gear scores, quests, and dungeons are all puzzles to be solved as Cami continues her epic quest to navigate the Realms and build a better life for her family. But an intrusion from her old life threatens everything she has gained and imperils the entire virtual world.

Time to play the game.

Above the tree line floats an airship close to three hundred feet long with a slightly rounded wooden hull. Ropes attach the lower portion of the ship to an inflated balloon-like aspect, bright white in color with an identification symbol, a red bird with white-tipped feathers extended in flight, inside a round yellow circle in the center of the canvas. The deck is manned with archers and swordsmen. There are two sets of fore and aft catapults.

What I don’t see are cannons or any other type of a gun large enough to account for the sound of the explosion.

The ship pivots in the air, coming around to point directly at what looks like an oncoming flock of five large birds. Or creatures. They are too big and too strange looking to be birds. They drift closer, flapping their wings.

A moment passes before I realize that they are not creatures either. They are some sort of gliders. A person hangs below each set of the feathered wings, which flap and move with mechanical precision in a sky washed out by the morning sun.

The archers nock their arrows and aim at the flock.

The gliders draw in their wings and dive toward the deck, covering the distance in a few heartbeats. Most of the arrows fly uselessly past the attack force and fall like black rain from the sky. The archers aimed and released the volley too late.

The forward catapult releases a torrent of small rocks at the lead glider. It is a scatter-shot approach that proves effective. There are so many missiles that it is impossible to dodge them all.

But at the moment the stones strike, the other four let loose with fireballs. Spheres of crackling flame spring from their hands, glowing faintly at first and then with increasing brightness. The balls of fire shoot from their hands like bullets from a gun and fly toward the ship, exploding. Pieces bounce off the hull and fall to the ground, throwing hissing, burning globs of magic-fueled fire in all directions, setting everything they touch aflame.

Want to learn more about The Revelation Chronicles? Click HERE for updates on this and the other series by Chris. Watch the video on YouTube.

Chris 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.

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Friday Features’

Guest talks about

History – the Most Important Timeline of All

by

Carol Browne

Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

Covid-19 is a game-changer in so many ways. It is making people rethink their lives, their jobs, their relationships, their aspirations, even their diets and the way they treat the planet they live on. The virus landed like a bolt out of the blue, illuminating the dark places in our lives and altering our perceptions. Many things that were thought of as important are now shown to be superficial and shallow. The way we structure our days has also come under intense scrutiny. Two areas of human activity in particular are undergoing a much-needed overhaul, and they are employment and education. People who can work from home during the lockdown can see the benefits of making this permanent. Meanwhile, many parents who have been home schooling their children are wondering if they should continue with it.

I was discussing this with a close friend of mine who has been working from home and is considering home schooling. She was concerned about peer pressure at the school one of her children attends and how it has had a detrimental effect on the child’s self-esteem. It is always hard to be different. It’s equally hard for an adult to do something different from what is considered normal. We often stick with the status quo for fear of being criticised. But, as the memes insist, the virus has shown us that normal wasn’t working. It’s time to create a new paradigm for living and my friend has seen the beneficial effects that home schooling has already had on both her children.

But this isn’t a blog about home schooling! When my friend and I were discussing different ways of educating her children, I reminded her of how we used to be taught history. We started as far back as the dinosaurs and moved forwards incrementally to the present day. As a result, I have had a mental image in my mind of every century down the ages with major events recorded on this timeline of history, so that I know where I am in the great scheme of things. I can see how mankind got to where it is today. It is like belonging to the timeline of humanity where everything makes sense, even the bad things, because wars have causes that can be traced back and great transitions, like the one we are experiencing now, can be anchored in time and better understood.

Do children still learn history this way? I meet so many young people who have no idea what happened before World War II (and don’t see the socio-economic and political factors that brought about that global conflict). Yes, they know about the Romans and perhaps the Ancient Egyptians but can’t pin them down to a particular era.

Photo by Fauxels from Pexels

And here in the UK how many of the people who are so proud to be British know anything about the history of the British Isles? Why do we use the words British and English; what’s the difference? We were a nation of immigrants long before the Roman occupation, during which time we really were British but not English. If everyone understood that we have all migrated here from other countries, would we rethink our current attitude to immigration? And if we knew more about our imperialist past with its horrors of slavery and oppression, would we see how racism developed and be better able to reject it?

Everything that happens is a lesson and the lessons of history will keep repeating on the timeline until we decide to take a stand and say no more. Only by understanding the timeline of the past can we see the need for change in the present. Allowing children to grow up without reference points or connections to ancestral knowledge, is not giving them freedom. It leaves them adrift in the modern world not knowing why things are the way they are. To teach children the lessons of history is to give them the tools they need to make their world a better place and create a brighter future.

History is important. In my book Being Krystyna – A Story of Survival in WWII I showed how intolerance for other people’s differences can lead to persecution and conflict. Krystyna herself always feared the Nazis would return, and looking at world events today I think she was right. One way to stop the resurgence of such evil is to make sure that the lessons of history are never forgotten. But first we have to learn them.

Here is a brief introduction to my book. Thank you for reading it.

It’s 2012, the year of the London Olympics, and for young Polish immigrant Agnieszka, visiting fellow countrywoman Krystyna in a Peterborough care home is a simple act of kindness. However, the meeting proves to be the beginning of a life-changing experience.

Krystyna’s stories about the past are not memories of the good old days but recollections of war-ravaged Europe: The Warsaw Ghetto, Pawiak Prison, Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, and the death march to freedom.

The losses and ordeals Krystyna suffered and what she had to do to survive, these are horrors Agnieszka must confront when she volunteers to be Krystyna’s biographer.

Will Agnieszka find a way to accomplish her task, and, in this harrowing story of survival, what is the message for us today?

Buy Links

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. Being Krystyna, published by Dilliebooks on 11th November, 2016, is her first non-fiction book.

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

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

Eris Field who brings us her recipe for “Pink Bean Salad”.

I love to create recipes using foods I’ve never before eaten. This salad leans to Mexican cuisine and is always well-received by my family and friends. It’s easy to prepare and delicious to eat. I hope you like it too.

Pink Bean Salad

1 can Goya pink beans
½ cup Vidalia onion, chopped fine
½ cup roasted red pepper strips
½ cup olives, chopped
½ cup mozzarella pearls, more if desired
½ cup celery, chopped
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar, Artiston is my preferred brand
1 tsp. dried thyme
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼ teaspoon ground red pepper
Provide a bowl of coarse sea salt for those who want salt on top of their salad

Drain beans and rinse with cold water. Let them drain again while you mix other ingredients together in a bowl. Add beans to mixtures. Serve in a clear glass bowl.

Note: chick peas, croutons, or pepperoni minis can be added as desired.

Here is a brief intro to my latest contemporary romance novel for your reading pleasure.

For Laury, growing up on American Naval Bases in the Middle East resulted in a fluency in languages and a wariness of men. Now, after completing a psychiatric nurse practitioner program, she faces a mountain of student loans. While waiting to learn if she’s been accepted for her dream job, she works as a private duty nurse caring for Roberta, an elderly matriarch living alone in a 30-room mansion on Billionaires’ Row. Roberta’s granddaughter had agreed to stay with her while she recovered from eye surgery, but she has disappeared along with Roberta’s money and credit cards.

Damon, Roberta’s grandson who is volunteering with Doctors Without Borders, requests emergency leave to fly home from Iraq. After his wife divorced him, Damon had vowed never to marry again, but with only days to find a way to safeguard his grandmother, he offers Laury a bargain—a five-month marriage. She will protect Roberta while he returns to perform reconstructive surgery for child refugees and he will pay off her student loans. What could go wrong?

Readers who like novels with characters who must find strengths within themselves to overcome their difficulties will enjoy this story. They’ll learn different cultures’ approaches to families, marriages, and finances, about the Kurds who fought beside Americans in Iraq, about refugees, and about abuse. They will also learn about the power of love.

Eris Field was born in the Green Mountains of Vermont—Jericho, Vermont to be precise—close by the home of Wilson Bentley (aka Snowflake Bentley), the first person in the world to photograph snowflakes. She learned from her Vermont neighbors that pursuit of one’s dream is a worthwhile life goal.

As a seventeen year old student nurse at Albany Hospital, Eris met a Turkish surgical intern who told her fascinating stories about the history of Turkey, the loss of the Ottoman Empire, and forced population exchanges. After they married and moved to Buffalo, Eris worked as a nurse at Children’s Hospital and at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

After taking time off to raise five children and amassing rejection letters for her short stories, Eris earned her master’s degree in Psychiatric Nursing at the University at Buffalo. Later, she taught psychiatric nursing at the University and wrote a textbook for psychiatric nurse practitioners—a wonderful rewarding but never to be repeated experience.

Eris now writes novels, usually international, contemporary romances. Her interest in history and her experience in psychiatry often play a part in her stories. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Western New York Romance Writers. In addition to writing, Eris’s interests include: Prevention of Psychiatric Disorders; Eradicating Honor Killings, supporting the Crossroads Springs Orphanage in Kenya for children orphaned by AIDS, and learning more about Turkey, Cyprus, and Kurdistan.

Learn more about Eris Field on her website. Stay connected on Facebook.

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Tell Again Tuesday

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

 


 

Marisa on Marketing

By Marisa Dillon

As a professional marketer, I’ve learned some of the best ways to craft and place great ads, and how to design them to be “sticky.” Not gum on your shoe, “eew” sticky, but how to curate strong creative content that stands out, resonates with consumers, and ultimately, motivates them to interact with a product.
Lo and behold, though, when I turned my professional eye to . . .

For the rest of the blog go to:

Soul Mate Publishing blog

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Friday Features’

Guest talks about

fantasy settings

by

Jaycee Jarvis

One of my favorite things about writing fantastical settings is the excuse to research anything that strikes me as a cool world building detail. I’m a bit of a world building magpie, in that I’ll collect cool factoids or interesting discoveries to incorporate in my writing. I’m a natural history hobbyist, and always amazed by the rich natural world around us. Of course, I also sometimes need to seek sensory details to bring a fictional world to life.

For example, there is a bridge in Secret Courtship connecting two settlements on opposite sides of a river. While the bridge only appears in a few scenes, I wanted to understand what such a structure would look and feel like, particularly in my low tech setting. It was quite fun to go down the research rabbit hole, looking up various ancient techniques for crossing rivers. I was lucky enough to be in Washington DC last summer and visit an exhibit about the Inka empire in the National Museum of the American Indian. The Inkas built ingenious woven grass suspension bridges over vast chasms in the Andes. The museum had a life-sized partial bridge on display with a full explanation of the process of making it, along with stunning photos of the completed bridges from different time periods. I was enchanted, and knew I’d found the perfect inspiration for the bridge in Trimble. I modified the manuscript to add a few rich details, and was thrilled with the result.

Getting the setting just right is very satisfying to me as an author, and I hope my readers enjoy it too. To be totally immersed in the land of Destin, check out my recent release, Secret Courtship.

Blurb:
Devoted to the Goddess of the Future, an elegant beauty is blessed–or cursed–with near-perfect foresight.

Han-Mystic Ophelia d’Marana lives a rich life as the strongest seer in the bustling tropical town of Trimble, but still she feels alone. She aches for a family with every beat of her heart. She would take comfort from a prophesy predicting the birth of her child, except the foreseen father is Han-Builder Ulric.

The rude, crude earthworker has no place in her pious life, and has never seen her as a woman worthy of a tumble, until a passionate night proves him susceptible to her beauty. Emboldened, Ophelia hopes to share her destiny with him. But Ulric can’t risk his heart, not again. Instead, they enter into a loveless arrangement to beget a child, each keeping painful secrets close.

When Ophelia’s most ominous prophesy comes to pass, the uneasy lovers overcome their differences to work together against a mysterious plague threatening the city. As their passion burns hot, Ophelia finds she has more in common with Ulric than she ever dreamed. She’s in danger of losing her heart to a man in love with a ghost . . .

If she doesn’t become a ghost herself first.

 

Excerpt

Ulric slowed as they approached their home. Only a lonely meal warmed by the house charmaid waited for him inside.

Fighting the melancholy dragging at his feet, he scratched the top of Racon’s head. In return Racon bumped his skull against Ulric’s hip, a happy sound in his throat. A spark of warmth lightened Ulric’s heart. At least with his waccat at his side, he was never truly alone.

A shadow moved behind the stained-glass window on the ground floor. Ulric frowned. He expected Gracie, the charmaid, to be resting in the heat of the day. Curious, he took the three steps into the house in one stride, Racon trailing behind him.

“Ophelia.” A tightness in his chest relaxed. He wouldn’t be alone after all.

Han-Mystic Ophelia had trained to become a Hand the same season as Ulric. She and Ulric’s roommates, along with Han-Bursar Quintin, had formed a tight-knit group of year-mates. Ulric often felt on the outskirts of their comradery, tolerated more than understood, yet he welcomed even their backhanded affection.

Ophelia looked up at the sound of her name. Radiant as always, her blue sari covered her hair and drifted over her shoulder. The embroidered fabric glimmered in the light from the window. With her grace and elegance, she brought to mind the Goddess she served.

“You’re home,” she said, relief clear in her voice. Her gold and white waccat Felice rose and padded over to sniff his fingers. “How is Racon?”

“Racon?” As pleased as he was to see his year-mate, he suddenly realized the oddity of her presence. On Maranasday, Ophelia had a duty to cast fore-tellings at the temple scrying pool from dawn to dusk. How had she managed to escape? “Why are you here?”

“The Goddess sent me.” She stood and gestured at his waccat. “For Racon.”

Apprehension shivered down Ulric’s spine. There was no reason for Marana, the Goddess of Water, to take an interest in his waccat.

“Racon’s fine,” he said, refusing to believe otherwise. “You want to eat?”

A frown marred her perfect features. “I’m not here to dine with you.”

He grunted and headed to the courtyard at the back of the house. He was hungry even if she wasn’t.

Ophelia sighed, somehow managing to make the tiny sound more exasperated and condescending than any scold.

Bio:


Jaycee Jarvis has been an avid romance reader since devouring all the Sweet Dreams books her middle school library had to offer. Also a fantasy fan from an early age, she often wished those wondrous stories had just a bit more kissing. Now she writes stories with a romantic heart set against a magical backdrop, creating the kind of book she most likes to read.

When not lost in worlds of her own creation, she resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three children and a menagerie of pets.

Jaycee is a Golden Heart® finalist and author of the Hands of Destin series. The first book in that series, Taxing Courtship, released in June 2018.

Where to find Jaycee:
Amazon
Website
Twitter
Facebook
Bookbub

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

Gazpachio recipe fromSloane Taylor who brings us her version of this summer cold fresh vegetable soup.

When the days are muggy and hot, cool down with this light and refreshing meal. Add a loaf of crusty fresh bread and a bottle of chilled, crisp white wine to make dinner complete.

GAZPACHO – Cold Fresh Vegetable Soup

Image by Яна Тикунова from Pixabay
    1 large cucumber, peeled and chopped
    5 medium Roma/plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped
    1 large onion, chopped
    1 medium green pepper, seeded and chopped
    1 tbsp. garlic, chopped fine or pressed
    4 cups French or Italian bread chunks, crust removed
    4 cups cold water
    ¼ cup red wine vinegar
    2 tsps. salt
    4 tbsps. olive oil
    2 tbsp. tomato paste

Combine cucumber, tomatoes, onion, green pepper, garlic, and bread in a large bowl. Stir in water, vinegar, and salt. Ladle mixture into a blender or food processor. Be careful not to overload either appliance. Set on high speed until you have a smooth puree. Pour the blend into a clean large bowl and whisk in olive oil and tomato paste.

Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 2 hours minimum. Just before serving stir well to recombine ingredients. Ladle into a chilled tureen or large soup bowls.

May you enjoy all the days of your life filled with good friends, laughter, and seated around a well-laden table!

Sloane

Sloane Taylor is an Award-Winning author with a passion that consumes her day and night. She is an avid cook and posts new recipes on her blog every Wednesday. The recipes are user friendly, meaning easy.

Learn more about Taylor’s cookbooks, Date Night Dinners, Romantic Meals to Dine al Fresco, and Recipes to Create Holidays Extraordinaire on Amazon.

Connect with Taylor on Facebook and Twitter.

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Friday Features’

Guest talks about

her unruly book September’s Song

by

Ryan Jo Summers

September’s Song was a problem child from the very start. The inspiration for this book came from a photo (aren’t many stories rooted in a picture? Mine tend to be.) A friend had emailed me a series of loosely connected pictures many years ago. There was one photo, showing the back view of a young boy offering a Styrofoam box to a man huddled against the cold. It appeared the man might be a homeless vet, and he seemed genuinely puzzled why the boy was offering him the box. For reasons unknown, that photo resonated with me and I buried it in the back of my mind.

My hobby is word find puzzles. Years later I was working a puzzle themed Sinatra songs. There was one called “September Song”. I remembered the photo of the boy and man and inspiration struck. The very rough bones of the story came to be, and I modified the name of the story to be “September’s Song”.

My research led me down so many rabbit holes, and much of what I learned I never used. I had about three original ideas of where I wanted the story to go, what it should be. The characters would have not none of it. I would sit down to write, and it was like opening a gift each time; and never knowing what to expect.

My plotter personality of writing went out the window. I followed no outline. I wrote, usually without having a clue where I was going. I ended up in so many corners. I was almost through writing the story before I even knew what genre to call it! Characters came and went, without much input from me. The one character I fell in love with—besides the hero!—was Father Patrick. Everyone needs a Father Patrick in their life!

It took about three years to finish the story that defied me at every stage. US Review of Books gave it a Silver Seal of Recommendation, InD’tale Magazine gave it a 4 ½ out of 5-star review and it was a finalist for the RONE award.

Like the problem child who frustrated their parents and end up graduating Valedictorian, I could not be prouder of how “September’s Song” turned out. I decided to self-publish it on my 48th birthday as a present to myself.

Genre: Women’s Fiction/ metaphysical

Blurb:

Ivey London was told her military husband died on a mission overseas. She buried him as a war hero and tried to move on with her life by raising their young son, dealing with her vengeful brother, and coping with her mother’s Alzheimer’s. Five years go by and one day she learns of a secret underground chamber were special soldiers are imprisoned to recover. Further, one amnesiac soldier managed to escape. When her son begins to display unusual behaviors, she goes to investigate. All evidence points to finding her late husband. If it is him, back from the dead, Ivey refuses to give him up again.

Keegan London awoke in a hospital cell with no memories. Fleeing, he finds himself in a strange, unknown world, with no one to turn to. Until he finds a friendly Priest who runs a homeless shelter and he stumbles across the woman who claims to be his wife. While she can fill some gaps in his lost memories, she cannot explain his curious abilities. Pursued by someone determined to get him back, Keegan has few options but to trust the woman who makes his heart fire like a cannon. Ivey has dibs on him, but first they have to uncover who—and what–Keegan really is before they can recover what they had.

Excerpt

“No, that’s okay. I can do this by myself.” She spun around, blinking. Picking up the paring knife again, she began peeling. She gasped as his arms gently encircled her waist and his breath fanned her bare neck. His lips nuzzled her ear and she closed her eyes. His hand took the knife from her fingers and she leaned into his touch.

“Keegan,” his name came out in a throaty rumble as her eyes slid closed.

“I don’t know what we used to do, Ivey, but I can tell you miss it bad. I’m willing to try and be your husband again, if you’ll help me.”

Hot tears stung her eyes. She swallowed hard. “So many times you said I was unforgettable. I…I guess–.”

The comment died unfinished, and his fingers reached down and caressed her back. Electric jolts shivered along her spine.

“Don’t push me away, Ivey. Let me be in each part of your life.”

Her breath hitched. This should be easy. Just tell him how they used to cook, what his favorite foods were, what they shared, how they made wonderful love. And miraculously all his memories will reappear. Except it hadn’t worked yet.

From the distant reaches of her mind, Ivey heard the phone ringing. Before she could pull herself away from the counter, it stopped. Assuming Jory answered it, the whole episode passed from her mind. Right now, Keegan took all her focus.

His fingertips trailed lazily up and down her back, igniting tiny fires in their wake.

“Keegan….I….” Words failed her. Heart beating frantically like a wild bird locked in a cage, her mind surrendered.

He gently turned her around, cupping her chin and tilting her up. Drawing a husky breath, he lowered his lips to hers, winding his fingers in the tangle of her hair. Her arms moved to encircle his waist, slipping under his shirt to feel the raised scars and corded muscles. A guttural moan escaped her.

Finally, having lost all concept of time, she pulled apart. Noble, he would not go further with a woman he did not remember making love to. She might respect his intention and restraint, but the unmet need was also killing her. Pulling in a shaky breath, she ended the kiss, stepping away and picking up the paring knife again.

She ran her tongue over her lips, more to steady herself, and rested one hand on the counter for balance. “I can work on this if you want to go see what Jory and Mom are doing.”

Keegan stiffened, hesitated and studied her. For a chilling moment, she hoped he ignored her request and lifted her bodily to carry her away to the bedroom. Then a darkness entered his eyes, a sadness that cut into her chest.

“Yes. Of course.” Spinning, he exited, leaving her alone with the ghosts of what had been.

Damn, damn, damn.

Buy Links (paperback and ebook)

Lulu
iTunes
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Kobo

Ryan Jo Summers writes romances that blur the lines of subgenres. She mixes contemporary with time travel, Christian, suspense, sweet, and paranormal like blending a fruit and yogurt smoothie. Her non-fiction works have appeared in numerous trade journals and magazines including ‘WNC Woman Magazine’, ‘Critter Magazine’, ‘Journey Devotions’, and ‘Vet Tech Journal’. She is a regular contributing author for the ‘Asheville Pet Gazette’.

Her hobbies include baking, crafts, gardening, enjoying nature, and chess/mah-jongg/word-find puzzles. She pet sits/dog walks when she’s not busy writing and she fosters homeless pets for area animal rescues.

She lives in a century-old cottage in North Carolina with her own menagerie of rescued pets and way too many houseplants. “September’s Song” is her second self-published work, the first one being the chronicles of the first two years with her adopted PTSD rescue collie.

Where to find Ryan Jo:

Website

Blog

Facebook

Twitter

Google

Amazon

Bookbub

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

An Author’s Comfort Zone by Sharon Ledwith who brings us her thoughts that authors need to learn to structure their writing life.

This post could have also been dubbed ‘Balance 101 for Authors’. It’s been almost eight years since the first novel in my young adult time travel series hit the cyber bookshelves. To this day, I remember that there was so much to do, and it felt like there wasn’t enough time to do everything. Sometimes, I still don’t. I needed a time portal just to get all my marketing and promoting put in place or at least a diary. This included getting a website up and running, ordering promotional giveaways, setting up blog hops (are they still a thing?), writing a multitude of blog posts, and joining the appropriate social media networks. The lists seemed endless, and when the date finally arrived for my book release, I was wearing my shoulders as earrings.

Needless to say, by the end of my first book blog tour, I was exhausted, spent, and bent out of shape. Even my eyelids ached.

What I learned from the whole experience years ago is that authors need to learn to structure their writing life, or their writing will take a nose dive. We need to learn to create balance so that the task of being a writer plus a marketer plus a promoter doesn’t wear us down. So, how do we do this when so much is expected of a writer nowadays?

Start with finding your comfort zone. Find your personal comfort level with promotion or marketing, do that and do no more. That’s it. Do it. Or you’ll get burned. If you don’t heed my advice, then sure as shooting, negativity will leach into your writing. And that’s the last thing a writer wants!

Need help finding your comfort zone? Go to the dollar store and buy a timer or download a timer app on your phone. It will be one of the most important investments (and cheapest) as a writer you will make. For less than two dollars you can purchase a piece of sanity to help you organize your writing life and keep you in your zone. Set your timer to check emails. Fifteen minutes? Twenty minutes? Then do the same for Facebook and Twitter. But keep in mind which activity will help you as an author in the long run. Apply the 80/20 rule. Write (produce) for 80%, promote and market for only 20%. After all—social networking is a marketing strategy—as long as you treat it as such. Then, once you have laid the timer law down, set it for how long you want to sit and just write, with no interruptions (unless the dog or you really need to pee).

So, stop pushing the zone. Relax. Let go. Breathe.

That doesn’t mean writers shouldn’t learn or try new things. By all means learn and try. Get your hands dirty if you must. But don’t burst a vein in your brain doing it. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself that you collapse into a quivering mass of writer goo. As writers, we must protect our work—and ourselves. It takes time to build an on-line (and off-line) marketing presence in this publishing world. Learn this, cut yourself some slack, and prosper.

Thank you for reading my article! How do you find balance as a writer? Do you use a timer, or have you tried other ways to create balance in your writer’s life? Love to read your comments!

Ready for a trip to Atlantis? Here’s a brief intro to one of my time traveler books.

There is no moving forward without first going back.

Lilith was a young girl with dreams and a family before the final destruction of Atlantis shattered those dreams and tore her family apart. Now refugees, Lilith and her father make their home in the Black Land. This strange, new country has no place in Lilith’s heart until a beloved high priestess introduces Lilith to her life purpose—to be a Timekeeper and keep time safe.

Summoned through the seventh arch of Atlantis by the Children of the Law of One, Lilith and her newfound friends are sent into Atlantis’s past, and given a task that will ultimately test their courage and try their faith in each other. Can the Timekeepers stop the dark magus Belial before he changes the seers’ prophecy? If they fail, then their future and the earth’s fate will be altered forever.

AMAZON BUY LINKS


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.

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