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Wednesday Special Spotlight

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FINDING FAITH

by

April A. Luna

THE LEGEND OF THE SOUL MATE TREE:

I am old, I am ancient, my purpose is clear
To give those who are needy a treasure so dear.
They who come to my roots, touch my bark, stroke my leaves
Find the soul of their lives if they but believe.
When I call and you listen, your prize will be great
If your heart remains open and you don’t hesitate.
Do you yearn? Be you lonely? Is your time yet at hand?
Reach for me and I’ll give to you. I’m yours to command.
For your trust, for your faith, keep my secrets untold
And I’ll gift you forever, to have and to hold.

An ancient legend spanning eras, continents, and worlds. To some, it’s nothing more than a dream. To others, a pretty fairy tale handed down through the generations.

For those in critical need of their own happy ending, a gift.

FINDING FAITH
By
April A. Luna

 Faith Kometo cleans out the church coffers of a quaint village, flees on foot from pitchfork-wielding townsfolk, and ends up entangled in the veil between parallel worlds by a primordial spirit with Hayden Cox, an elite scout with the Order of Hunters, hot on her trail.

It’s taken Hayden two years and three timelines to trap his gargouille prey—a member of the Kometo clan. Now that he has his target in hand, he’ll stop at nothing to unearth the truth behind the order, genocide, and love’s pull.

Buy Link Finding Faith

Book Trailer for The Soul Mate Tree Series:

Bio:

April A. Luna (also writes as Michelle L. De La Garza) is an American freelance writer and poet, who lives with her husband and children in Texas. She has an extensive background as an operational training specialist writing corporate curriculum and facilitating training sessions, which brings a realistic quality to the human emotions and personality characteristics in the fiction stories she breathes life into.

Find April at:

Author Page

Twitter – @AprilALunaWrite

Other blogs/info on The Soul Mate Tree books:

Soul Mate Tree Page

Book One: Realm of the Dragon, by CiCi Cordelia, Blog post

Book Two: Can’t Stop the Music, by C.D. Hersh, Blog post

Book Three: Between Venus and Mars, by S.C. Mitchell, Blog post

Book Four: The Trail to Love, by Tina Susedik, Blog post

Book Five: Make Me a Match, by Mackenzie Lucas, Blog post

Book Six: A Promise Remembered, by Erin Riley, Blog post

Book Seven: Never Give Up On Love, by Maggie Mundy, Blog post

Book Eight: Once Upon a Lady, by Addie Jo Ryleigh, Blog post

Book Nine: Sweet Sacrifice, by L.D. Rose, Blog post

Book Ten: Soul Song, by Mikea Howard, Blog post

Book Eleven: The Storm Within, by Cerian Hebert, Blog post

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Friday Features’

Author

Rebecca E. Neely

Talks about her

CROSSING REALMS paranormal romance series

The CROSSING REALMS paranormal romance series by Rebecca E. Neely ~ Sacrifice or salvation? A chosen psychic few may be both. As Keepers battle Betrayers to save the human race, all’s not fair in love and war.

THE KEEPER, Book 1 – A tortured leader of human guardians must join forces with the one woman in the city who can save his clan from destruction: an anxious – and psychic – accountant who has no memory of him. http://amzn.to/2fOZEIC .

THE WATCHER, Book 2 – Can a Keeper hell bent on avenging his own death find the answers the clan so desperately needs in the seven days he’s been given, or will he be forced to abandon the woman he loves and his clan, leaving them all to face imminent destruction? http://amzn.to/2j1ethN.

THE BETRAYER, Book 3 – Can a Betrayer with a mysterious ability, ousted by her brood and left for dead, fight alongside the Keeper who saves her—and falls for her—in the throes of the second rebellion, or will she forsake herself and the man she loves as the clan wages what may be its final battle to save the human race?

Welcome to my world, er…realm!

SOME JARGON TO GET YOU ACQUAINTED

WATCHERS – Beings that exist in their own realm, guiding and guarding the Keepers through missions called Compulsions.

KEEPERS – ‘close to human as you can get’ beings who guard humans, live in the human realm and exude and exist on light energy.

BETRAYERS – Keepers turned bad. Banished from the Watchers’ realm after the Rebellion, they too live in the human realm, wreaking havoc on humans, from which they harvest dark energy to feed on.

VITALITY STONE – a bright green stone hewn from the Watchers’ realm that gives the Keepers their amazing powers, and defends against Betrayers dark energy…

SIMILITUDE STONE – The antithesis of Vitality stone, this deadly black stone is a conduit for dark energy that enables Betrayers to drain Keepers’ energy…

The Geary clan of Keepers lives and works in Pittsburgh, PA as carpenters. They’re almost exactly what they appear to be: blue collar Irish Catholics, born and bred in the ‘Burgh. Their M.O.? Humans forget their interaction with them, so they’re able to go about their Compulsions more easily…

The Pittsburgh brood of Betrayers lives in the recesses of the city, and can be found wherever human pain, violence and suffering exists…

SOME CHARACTERS YOU’LL MEET ALONG THE WAY

Haenus Vickery – brood master of the Betrayers, who’s hell bent on destroying both humans and Keepers, and reclaiming the Watchers’ realm as his own…

Nick Geary – Jaded clan leader of the Keepers, who seems doomed to love a human woman who’s forgotten him, time after time, for thirteen years…

Libby Klink – a skittish accountant who’s as terrified of her recent and strange intuitions as she is of her mundane existence…

Dev Geary – a former Keeper, hell bent on avenging his own death…

Meda Gabriel – a cagey, street smart bar owner with a unique skill set…

Curtis Geary – A Keeper/computer guru whose neat, logical world is about to tilt on its axis…

Jordan – A Betrayer with a mysterious ability, ousted by her brood and left for dead…

Tan – Meda’s German Shepherd, a rescue who’s got an uncanny sense about people…

TATTOO, MOTORCYCLE OR GERMAN SHEPHERD FAN? I also blog about cool stuff from each story. I invite you to stop by and have a read. https://rebeccaneelysite.wordpress.com/.

THE KEEPER, Book 1 in the series, is a finalist for the RONE award for Best Paranormal short, sponsored by InD’Tale Magazine.

Both Book 1 and THE WATCHER, Book 2 are out now and available in Kindle and print, on Amazon.

Stay tuned for news about THE BETRAYER, Crossing Realms Series Book 3. My Street Team will have an opportunity to read it before anyone else does – JOIN NOW!.

REBECCA E. NEELY, AUTHOR ~ Romance. Paranormal. Suspense.

A sucker for a happy ending, Rebecca strives to write the kind of stories she loves to read—gritty, suspenseful and featuring authentic, edgy and vulnerable characters, smack dab in the middle of action that explodes from page one.

Careers, past and present, include freelance writing, accounting, mother, problem solver, doer and head bottle washer.

Rebecca is a member of Three Rivers Romance Writers (TRRW), a PAN member of Romance Writers of America (RWA), and is proud to serve as a judge for several writing contests each year.

CONNECT WITH REBECCA

Website
Blog
Mailing List
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Twitter
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Wednesday Special Spotlight

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A version of caramel corn that is truly the easiest, and most foolproof recipe you’ll ever find by Sharon Ledwith

Package this treat for gifts to friends and neighbors and you’ll be the most popular person on the street. Perfect for hostess gifts too! Tie a bag of caramel corn to a bottle of wine, or fill a decorated mason jar for party favors. The gift-giving possibilities are endless!

Not-Your-Usual Caramel Corn

Photo by Georgia Vagim on Unsplash.com

7 quarts plain popped popcorn
2 cups dry roasted peanuts or cashews or your favorite nuts, optional
2 cups brown sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
1 cup margarine
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 250° F (120° C).

Place popped popcorn into two shallow greased baking/roasting pans. Add the peanuts or your choice of nuts (mix’em up if you wish) to the popcorn. Set aside.

Combine brown sugar, corn syrup, margarine, and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring enough to blend. Boil for 5 minutes. Stir constantly.

Remove from heat. Stir in baking soda and vanilla. The mixture will be light and foamy. Immediately pour over the popcorn in the pans, and stir to coat. Don’t worry too much at this point about getting all of the popcorn coated.

Bake for 1 hour, removing the pans and giving them a good stir every 15 minutes. Line the counter top with waxed paper. Dump the popcorn out onto the waxed paper and separate the pieces.

Allow to cool completely, then store in airtight containers or resealable bags.

So while the corn is cooling, and maybe you’re doing a few taste tests, why not relax on the couch, and visit the small, tourist town of Fairy Falls, starting with Lost and Found, Book #1 of Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls? Just don’t forget the bug spray.

Imagine a teenager possessing a psychic ability and struggling to cope with this freakish power, all the while trying to lead a normal life. Now, imagine being uprooted and forced to live in a small tourist town where nothing much ever happens. It’s bores-ville from the get-go. Welcome to Fairy Falls. Expect the unexpected.

The Fairy Falls Animal Shelter is in trouble. Money trouble. It’s up to an old calico cat named Whiskey—a shelter cat who has mastered the skill of observation—to find a new human pack leader so that their home will be saved. With the help of Nobel, the leader of the shelter dogs, the animals set out to use the ancient skill of telepathy to contact any human who bothers to listen to them. Unfortunately for fifteen-year-old Meagan Walsh, she hears them, loud and clear.

Forced to live with her Aunt Izzy in the safe and quiet town of Fairy Falls, Meagan is caught stealing and is sentenced to do community hours at the animal shelter where her aunt works. Realizing Meagan can hear her, Whiskey decides that Meagan just might have the pack leader qualities necessary to save the animals. Avoiding Whiskey and the rest of shelter animals becomes impossible for Meagan, so she finally gives in and promises to help them. Meagan, along with her newfound friends, Reid Robertson and Natalie Knight, discover that someone in Fairy Falls is not only out to destroy the shelter, but the animals as well.

Can Meagan convince her aunt and co-workers that the animals are in danger? If she fails, then all the animals’ voices will be silenced forever.

BUY LINKS
Amazon KindleAmazon PaperbackBarnes & NobleMirror World Publishing ebookMirror World Publishing Paperback

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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Friday Features’

Guest talks about

a perfect sweet for the holidays or any time of the year the desire for something sweet and cool strikes your fancy

from

Vonnie Hughes

COCONUT ICE

Taryn Navarro on Unsplash.com

3 breakfast cups (mugs) of white sugar
1 ounce of butter
¾ breakfast cup (mug) of desiccated coconut*
½ breakfast cup (mug) of milk
Pinch of salt
Coloring if wanted

Put all the ingredients, except the coloring, into a saucepan and boil for 10 minutes.

Add coloring.

Beat until thick. This won’t take long, it sets quickly.

Pour into a greased tin and mark into squares.

* Dried coconut may substitute if desiccated isn’t available.

Here is a peek at Vonnie’s latest romantic suspense.

Who can you trust if you can’t trust your own mother? Through the clammy fog, Celie Francis hears the chilling message. “I know who you are, Celie. I know where you live.” And in the terrifying aftermath she reconnects with her dysfunctional family in ways she had never imagined.

BLURB:
Abused and abandoned as a child, Célie Francis knows better than to trust anyone. But after she witnesses a murder, she’s placed in the Unit “New Zealand’s witness protection program” where she’s expected to trust strangers with her life.

It’s psychologist Brand Turner’s job to ease witnesses into their new identities, not to protect them, but Célie stirs feelings in him that are far from professional. When it appears someone is leaking critical information that could endanger Célie, Brand will do anything to protect her. But first he has to convince her to trust him.

Adrift in a frightening world, Célie would like to believe the handsome psychologist is everything he seems, but as witnesses are murdered and danger swirls around them, Célie must decide “can she trust Brand with her life? 

Please click a vendor’s name to read more from Lethal Refuge The Wild Rose Press and Amazon.

Vonnie Hughes is a multi-published author in both Regency books and contemporary suspense. She loves the intricacies of the social rules of the Regency period and the far-ranging consequences of the Napoleonic Code. And with suspense she has free rein to explore forensic matters and the strong convolutions of the human mind. Like many writers, some days she hates the whole process, but somehow she just cannot let it go.

Vonnie was born in New Zealand, but she and her husband now live happily in Australia. If you visit Hamilton Gardens in New Zealand be sure to stroll through the Japanese Garden. These is a bronze plaque engraved with a haiku describing the peacefulness of that environment. The poem was written by Vonnie.

All of Vonnie’s books are available on The Wild Rose Press and Amazon.

Learn more about Vonnie Hughes on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Goodreads.

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

A Cozy Mystery is like a Family Christmas Puzzle by

Janis Lane

For me, pulling together the pieces of a cozy mystery dictates the same patience an after-Christmas family puzzle requires. I listened to my daughter teach her young son a technique.

Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplas.com

“First,” she said, “we look for the straight edges. That tells us how far the picture (or story) can go. See? The waterfall ends right here. Next we look for colors that tell us something about the center of the puzzle. Isn’t this dark blue part of someone’s skirt? And here is another piece the same color. Now we have half a person. There’s a lot of red. Perhaps it’s a different person. (Our characters.) Perhaps that light blue is the sky (setting). Are there green trees? (Summer) Is that grass? Is there a storm in the sky?” (Trouble looms.)

Step by step an author pieces together clues to make a whole. Especially important for a mystery is the process that leads us finally to the answer of the ultimate puzzle. Who did it? How do we catch them? How can we keep innocent people from harm?

Murder on Blake Hill is the third in the series of Detective Kevin Fowler Mysteries. In this story we join a group of neighbors and friends who all live in a small town in typical American fashion. When certain events go awry, the detective starts to systematically pair clues and events with a time line to solve the puzzle. On the way we can enjoy the interaction of our favorite characters as they live and love in this particular setting (the edge pieces). With the richness of an exquisitely woven tapestry, we join in sharing their emotions: happy, exciting, and sad. Sometimes they are frightened and other times filled with astonishment.

The detective has gained the trust of the townspeople and feels the pressure to find the answer to the puzzle. Who is the disruptive visitor at the church barbecue? How do we catch a stalker? Are we finally going to enjoy a wedding celebration? Who killed two old men up on Blake Hill Cemetery and why?

Detective Kevin Fowler is baffled by the wall of silence that greets him from the relatives of two septuagenarians whose bodies are discovered in a country cemetery called Blake Hill. Even more upsetting is the unusual rash of vandalism reported nightly by the citizens in his peaceful community. Have the teenagers declared an uprising? Night patrols reveal a totally unexpected and shocking situation. When a poignant secret is revealed, Beverly Hampton weeps over the sadness of a long ago tragedy, but soon wedding bells are heard for the home town princess and the popular detective. At the local diner the alluring fragrance of fresh-baked, cinnamon sticky buns continues to reign over the peaceful citizens of Hubbard, New York.

Read more of the cozy mysteries by Janis Lane on Amazon

Janis Lane is the pen-name for gifted author Emma Lane who writes cozy mysteries as Janis, Regency as Emma, and spice as Sunny Lane.

She lives in Western New York where winter is snowy, spring arrives with rave reviews, summer days are long and velvet, and fall leaves are riotous in color. At long last she enjoys the perfect bow window for her desk where she is treated to a year-round panoramic view of nature. Her computer opens up a fourth fascinating window to the world. Her patient husband is always available to help with a plot twist and encourage Emma to never quit. Her day job is working with flowers at Herbtique and Plant Nursery, the nursery she and her son own.

Look for information about writing and plants on Emma’s new website. Leave a comment or a gardening question and put a smile on Emma’s face.

Stay connected to Emma on Facebook and Twitter. Be sure to check out the things that make Emma smile on Pinterest.

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Friday Features’

Guest talks about

When Good Yeast Goes Bad, It’s Time for Dessert!

by

Chris Pavesic

In baking, the primary function of yeast is to make dough rise. By partially consuming the sugars in the flour the natural metabolism of these microorganisms produces carbon dioxide and ethanol that cause an increase in volume during baking.

Yet yeast can get old. If it is exposed to air or humidity, it may not function correctly. Even a bread machine cannot produce a light, fluffy loaf if the yeast has “gone bad.”

But the loaf is still edible, if somewhat “heavy” or “dense.” It might be a bit misshapen, but it generally tastes good. So what can someone do with a lumpy loaf?

Bread puddings are a great way to transform the unfortunate loaf into a delicious dessert. Add some chocolate and fruit and suddenly the lumpy loaf is the star of the meal!

Note: This can also be prepared with a regular loaf of bread, but it won’t provide as much humor.

BREAD PUDDING

5 large eggs
¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 cups milk
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 loaf of bread (about 10 ounces) cut or torn into 1-inch cubes
1½ cups dried fruit (my family loves blueberries or cherries.)
9 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Mix eggs, brown sugar, milk, and vanilla extract in a large bowl. Add handfuls of bread cubes, fruit, and chocolate chips in alternating layers, stirring with each addition.

Now it’s time to get busy. Roll up your sleeves and mix everything together. You want to get some of that flavorful liquid onto every scrap of bread. The mix may seem a little dry. Resist the urge to drown it in more milk or you will end up with a soggy dessert.

Coat a 13 x 9 inch baking dish with butter. Press the mixture into the pan. If you like a dense, heavy bread pudding, keep pressing until there is no air left. If you prefer yours fluffier, just pile it in and spread it around.

Bake uncovered for 45-55 minutes. The top will become a wonderful crunchy brown while the middle stays moist.

Be careful when you remove the pudding from the oven. It’s easy to pick away at the entire dish—whether you are going after a piece of the crusty top, a chewy berry, or a melting chunk of chocolate.

While you indulge in this fantastic dessert, enjoy a brief glimpse into my new novel, Starter Zone.

When hydrologists inscribe the consciousness of a human mind onto a single drop of water, a Revelation sweeps the land. The wealthy race to upload their minds into self-contained virtual realities nicknamed Aquariums. In these containers people achieve every hope, dream, and desire. But governments wage war for control of the technology. Terrorist attacks cause massive destruction. The Aquariums fail. Inscribed human minds leech into the water cycle, wreaking havoc.

Street gangs rule the cities in the three years since the fall of civilization. Sixteen-year-old Cami and her younger sister Alby struggle to survive. Every drop of untreated water puts their lives in peril. Caught and imprisoned by soldiers who plan to sell them into slavery, Cami will do anything to escape and rescue her sister. Even if it means leaving the real word for a life in the realms, a new game-like reality created by the hydrologists for the chosen few.

But life in the realms isn’t as simple as it seems. Magic, combat, gear scores, quests, and dungeons are all puzzles to be solved as the sisters navigate their new surroundings. And they encounter more dangerous enemies than any they faced in the real world.

Time to play the game.

CHAPTER ONE
As the sun hovers near the horizon, ready to dip below and plunge the world into darkness, the weather changes for the worse. Clouds gather. Peeking out my window and over the outline of rooftops in the distance is what looks like thunderheads moving toward me in the invisible polluted gusts of wind.

I try not to think about the coming storm as I methodically pull on my boots and zip up my jacket. It is supposed to be waterproof, but I would not risk going out in anything above a light drizzle. Water has a way of seeping through even the best defenses. There’s also a lining that’s overly warm for a summer evening. I’m already sweating and the discomfort adds to my nerves.

I check the hunting knife strapped to my left leg. It was one of the first weapons purchased for me by my dad back when the sporting goods stores were still open for business. He didn’t think I was ready to handle a handgun at thirteen, but he taught me to shoot a rifle in the open fields by our house, helping me hold the weapon steady until I grew strong enough to support the weight. Now, three years later, I have a handgun, a Ruger semi-automatic, but bullets are scarce and loud noises are problematic. My small ammo stash sits in the bottom of my backpack next to the gun.

Instead of the gun, I carry an extra-light crossbow as my go-to weapon. I can hand-make the bolts so I don’t worry about running out of ammunition and the shot is relatively silent. I carry the spare bolts in a quiver strapped to my right leg. It’s awkward when running, but I can draw the bolts fast when needed.

My little sister, Alby, has loaded her own backpack. I lift it to test the weight and then pull a few things out. I place them in my own pack without comment. I help her position the lighter pack over her shoulders, tightening the straps so that it will stay balanced. She always tries to do more than she should, but I don’t like the way her face has a perpetual pinched, strained look or the deep shadows under her eyes. She looks far older than her seven years. This scares me more than everything else and that fear threatens to register on my face. I force myself to stay calm.

I check her raincoat and boots, making sure everything fits snugly. I help Alby pull up the hood of her coat, tucking in a strand of dark hair that has escaped her ponytail. As frightened as she is, she manages to give me a smile. I smile back, trying to present a brave front. As my dad used to say, “fake it till you make it.” Over the last few years, I’ve been faking confidence more and more often for Alby’s sake.

“Ready to go?” I ask with all the false cheer I can muster in my voice. I take one last glance over the motel room that had served as a temporary home for the last few days, looking for anything that we might have left behind. The room is swept clean. No trace whatsoever that we had ever been there.

Alby nods. “Ready, Cami.”

“If we get separated, remember to keep going north,” I say. “Follow the road till you get to the park, then take the walking paths. No matter what happens, keep going. Stop when you get to the Stone River. I’ll meet you at the bridge in the center of the park where we used to feed the ducks, okay?”

She nods again, looking up at me with those dark eyes so full of trust. I hug her, because if we do get separated, there isn’t much hope we will ever see each other again. I need to keep up the pretense of hope, though, because that’s all we have to keep us going.

Stone River Park is at the very limits of the city and the area surrounding it is relatively unpopulated. I figure that once we are out of the city, our chances of survival will dramatically increase. After reaching the park, we can follow the Stone River north. There’s bound to be deserted houses in the country and less chance that any of the gangs would be interested in the meager pickings outside of the city. We might even be able to find a place to stay before winter.

I crack open the door of our motel room. It is still light enough to stain everything with graying shades of color. The setting sun casts long shadows between the buildings, so I depend more upon my ears to find signs of other humans. I hear no motorcycle engines and no voices, only the wind, blowing and moaning, and the far-off call of a bird. The coming storm appears to have cleared the streets. They are deserted except for empty, crashed vehicles abandoned in every lane.

Alby and I had been lucky to reach the motel a few days ago. The single-story building is on the outskirts of the main town and catered to big rig truck drivers and other traffic from the interstate. I had found the skeleton key in the motel office after climbing in through the bathroom window. Alby and I spent the nights scouring every room for supplies.

No one had broken into it before we got there. Too many other rich targets to go around. But inside each room was a mini-fridge filled with snacks. Even though the electricity had been turned off, the chocolates and small bags of honey-coated nuts were edible. The tiny bottles of alcoholic beverages in each fridge did not seem useful, but I kept a few. They might be helpful in starting a fire someday when we made it outside the city. We even discovered coffee filters and a small bottle of chlorine bleach—a major score for treating our drinking water.

If I hadn’t spent days secretly peering out the dark windows of the motel, I might believe my sister and I were the last two people left on earth. But I know that out there, behind the ruined buildings and boarded-up windows, there are at least a few pairs of eyes whose owners would kill us without a second thought. My eyes flick toward the two bodies hanging from the traffic lights in the nearby intersection. They hadn’t been moved. Good.

The daytime usually belongs to looter-gangs, each with spray-can marked territories in bright displays of color that start on the buildings and drip down toward the pavement. The gangs wear something marked as well, usually a jacket or bandanna that will stand out from a distance. The snipers hole up in their nests and target anyone who encroaches on their gang’s territory. They particularly looked for members of other factions trying to increase their terrain.

Paint tags don’t show up well after dark, though, so the gangs have started leaving their victims as warnings to others not to encroach on their holding. These bodies have been hanging undisturbed in the intersection for several days, indicating a lack of activity in the area. I can only hope that the gangs have moved inward, toward the center of the city and more supply-rich targets.

No one is ever going to catch the murderers, or the ones who strung up the bodies like macabre trophies, and put them in jail. They’ll just go on and do it again and again. Like animals in the jungle—except that animals are not cruel.

We were lucky to go unmolested by the local gangs. Heaven knows we don’t look like we have much of anything, and we don’t look threatening, but that will only last for so long. Someday someone will try to kill us, possibly for no other reason than wanting to watch us die. The whole world, it seems, is at war, and no one is on my side except Alby. We only have each other.

A streak of lightning splits the sky almost directly overhead, making me wince. It is followed by a heavy clap of thunder. As frightening as it is, the bad weather is to our advantage. No one wants to be caught outside in the rain. Everyone is more afraid of fresh, untreated water and what it can do than they are of each other. But I believe we can make it out of the area and to shelter before the rain poses any danger.

In fact, I’m betting our lives on it.

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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Wednesday Special Spotlight

If paranormal and urban fantasy are your thing then you are sure to enjoy this debut novel from Yasmine Phoenix. Years of plotting and planning and rewriting gave life to Resurrection, Book One in the Witches Brew series. We hope you enjoy this introduction.

Sometimes to do good you have to do bad.

Sophia Sullivan is a dedicated doctor who is also a powerful but untrained witch. Sophia has worked hard to keep her two worlds apart. Recently her older brother died and her best friend committed suicide. Gabrielle’s mother is furious over her child’s death and holds Sophia’s womanizing brother responsible. Lady Morgan plots to use dark magic to open the portal that separates the living and the dead. She will return Sebastian to life and save her daughter’s soul. Two acts that mean either immediate death or the destruction of Chicago.

Sophia tries to stop the witch, fails, the portal opens, and her brother escapes. Now Sebastian needs a body. And that body becomes that of a young black man. Neither man is delighted.

Now Sophia has hard choices to make that include using her fledging magic. Choices she spent her life avoiding. Can she save her friend’s soul, return her brother to the other side of the portal, and free the young man all within forty-eight hours and not be discovered by the Pagan leaders? She must decide to either honor her oath as a doctor and save a life, or her oath as a witch to protect Chicago even if it means her death.

EXCERPT
“I’m going to save my daughter’s immortal soul. She’s been denied an afterlife because of her suicide. If anyone is unfit, it’s your brother. What did he get for his transgressions when he died? Perpetual reflection. He’s just as much responsible as if he’d poured those pills down her throat. Again the rich and powerful get away with murder.” The word dripped sarcasm and disgust from her lips.

“Lady Morgan, you’re not listening to me. You haven’t thought through what could go wrong.”

“I found an ancient spell that will allow me to save my child.”

“Opening the portal is dangerous and forbidden.”

“I don’t care.”

“You could release him…”

“I don’t care.”

“You could kill yourself and William.”

“I don’t care.”

“You could fail to save Gabrielle’s soul.”

“Then we all die.” She shrieked and raised her knife at me. Then she calmed down and smiled. The type of smile that told you the person believed what they were doing was right and they were crazy.

William mouthed, ‘Sorry’ as tears streamed down his ashen face.

I lowered my head and closed my eyes. Our families had been close for years. Gabrielle and I grew up together. We shared vacations and secrets. She cared for me during my med school days. I found her body. She addressed her suicide note to me. If anyone had the insane idea to save her soul, “t should have been me.

“You aren’t strong enough to open the portal.” I made one final desperate attempt.

“Well look around sweetie. The portal is opening. It seems the all mighty Pagan council and the legendary Peregrine coven don’t know everything.” Lady Morgan tapped her temple with her finger.

Don’t call me, sweetie.

I clenched my fists as anger and sympathy jockeyed for control. My magic raged to be turned loose and battle the witch.

Lightning struck the brick. Bits exploded on the ground. My eardrums throbbed with its loud crackle. Lady Morgan returned to her ceremony and ignored me. I was no threat to her as long as I remained outside the circle. I had to convince her invite me in, and then…. The fog closed in on the circle. I stumbled forward and placed myself between it and Lady Morgan.

Richard offered his arm for support.

“Well she’s gone old school,” he said.

“Resurrection spell?”

He nodded.

“Enlighten me. My knowledge of ancient dark rituals is rather light. And make it quick.”

“If you want to save the soul of a witch who has committed suicide, she must confront the reasons for taking her life. Once they do and beg forgiveness from the person her death hurt the most, she could be forgiven, her soul cleansed, and she might be granted an afterlife.”

“Might? Could?” I tried to dissect the components of the spell. Something was off, missing. Gabrielle had been dead five days. She wasn’t inside the portal – yet.

The fog whirled faster. Its low moan morphed into a high screech. Richard’s mouth moved but I couldn’t hear what he said.

“What?”

“Gabrielle isn’t on the other side. Lady Morgan wants—.

“Sebastian!” She held him responsible for Gabrielle’s death. She was going to make him pay for all the pain she’d suffered.

“No Lady Morgan, don’t release him. I demand you stop.”

I stepped closer. Perspiration sizzled on my cheeks. She ignored me. Richard reached for my arm.

Lady Morgan smiled as if she were winning. Her smile waned when she looked at the fog. Her eyes lit up with fear. A skeletal leg stepped out and then its fleshless bony body.

The immense magic was mesmerizing.

It was beautiful.

Hypnotic.

Deadly.

“Lady Sophia Sullivan.”

Richard’s voice snapped me back. The skeletal figure strolled past me. Its preternatural presence pulled me close. Its confident stride, arrogant demeanor reminded me of my brother. I sensed Sebastian’s presence.

“Lady Morgan’s shoulders slumped. She tried to catch her breath. She’d pushed her magic to the brink and it was killing her. There was no way she could finish, but she’d opened the portal.

“Lady Morgan, I offer my assistance.” The words tumbled out of my mouth.
]
“What? Are you kidding?” Richard squeezed my arm.

I rubbed his fingers and then stepped away. “Trust me and follow my lead,” I whispered. I swallowed the urge to vomit. I wasn’t going to let anyone die tonight and I wasn’t going to let him out.

“I… don’t… don’t… need …your help.”

There was fear and doubt in her voice. I used it, convinced her I was on her side, at least until she granted me entrance.

“Yes you do. You’re weakening under the power of the portal. William can hardly hold himself upright. You need….” The name seared my tongue. “You need a Peregrine. You need — me.”

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Yasmine ‘Yas’ Phoenix was born and raised in Virginia but calls Chicago home. She loves tennis, professional and amateur and plays in local leagues. Her writing block is the four major Grand Slams, Indian Wells, and other tournaments. No, she can’t tape then watch. Yas loves to read, especially murder mysteries. She is a Terry Pratchett, Discworld fan, and scans the news for potential plot ideas. Melding romance and paranormal in her stories is her goal. Yas always asks the question, “What if?” She is a sucker for old black and white movies like Casablanca on one hand, and Deadpool on the other. She believes her family is her greatest gift and support.

Learn more about Yasmine Phoenix on her website. Stay connected on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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