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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

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Friday Features’

Guest talks about

Easy Vegan Fruit Cake

by

Carol Browne

We Brits love our traditions, especially at Christmas when plum puddings or fruit cakes grace the tables after a hearty meal. Many times the lady of the house serves both cakes. That is a great deal of work for her. In the Browne household we are partial to the fruit cake I’m sharing with you today. I hope you enjoy it.

Easy Vegan Fruit Cake

1½ lbs (675g) mixed sultanas and currants
¾ pint (450ml) water
¼ pint (150ml) vegetable oil
12oz. (350g) 100% self-rising wholemeal flour
2oz. (50g) blanched almonds, chopped
1 tbsp. molasses/black treacle
2 tsp. grated lemon rind
2 tsp. ground mixed spice
3oz. (75g) brown sugar
3 tbsp. sherry or rum (optional)

Preheat oven 150C – 300° F – Mark 2

Grease and line a 7 ½ inch (19cm) round cake tin.

Place all the ingredients (except the sherry) in a basin and beat well until evenly mixed. Pour into the prepared tin.

Bake about two hours or until the cake rises and is firm to the touch. Allow to cool slightly in the tin, then spoon sherry over the top and leave in the tin until completely cold.

This cake doesn’t keep for very long. There are two reasons for this! The lack of fat in the recipe is one. The fact that it is delicious and you won’t be able to leave it alone is another. But the cake does freeze extremely well if you do want to save some for another day!

How about curling up with an epic fantasy while your cake is baking?

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?

EXCERPT
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. 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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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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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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Friday Features’

New book

Wild Whispers

by

Ryan Jo Summers

Set against the exciting backdrop in the chase for the Triple Crown and filled with mystical surprises. Season is not a witch, but she can make a horse run and Ty’s heart race.

Season Moriarty is part fey and part druid. She can see the future and alter it. She welds control over the natural elements of earth, wind, fire and water as well as manipulating life and death. And she is an accomplished racehorse trainer, able to get any horse to run like the wind. Now Season has landed the dream job that will test all of her skills and abilities.

Ty Masters runs his horse racing business with an iron fist. No one dares to question him. He hires Season based on her reputation. Then they meet. Immediately, she questions him, challenges him, infuriates him, intrigues him, captivates him, and even intimidates him a little. Then she spellbinds him. But can she make a Triple Crown winner out of his willful colt?

Mysterious threats to Ty’s racehorses bring him and Season together in another kind of race against the clock. As the stakes for the Triple Crown rises and the identity of who wants to destroy Ty, so does the undeniable interest and fiery sparks between them.

Buy link for Wild Whispers

Bio:


Ryan Jo Summers writes mashed romances. Sweet love stories that include any combination of contemporary theme: Christian, humor, mystery, paranormal, shape shifting, suspense, or time travel. She writes non-fiction pieces for various magazines. In addition to a full time job, and a full time writing career, she also has a pet sitting business. She comes from a family of wordsmiths, with members who have been song writers and poets.

In her limited free time, she likes to read, escape to the wilderness and rivers, visit with friends and family, or just hang with her pets. She enjoys chess, crafts, painting, poetry, and word find puzzles. She lives in a century-old mountain cottage in North Carolina with a menagerie of rescued animals and way too many house plants.

My social media links:

Website Blog Facebook Twitter

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Friday Features’

Guest shares background of

Ghosts of Christmas Past

by

Jessica Aspen

Today we turn our blog over to an author friend, Jessica Aspen, who’s books we enjoy reading. She is going to share some background on her new book and has a gift for you.

Hi all,
I’m Jessica Aspen and I write twisted fairy tales, fantasy romance and paranormal romance. First of all, I want to thank C.D. Hersh for having me on their blog. And to show how excited I am, I’m offering each and every one of you a free copy of my book, Ghosts of Christmas Past.

I wrote Ghosts of Christmas Past because I love all the thrills, chills and danger of Gothic romance. I was brought up reading classics by authors like Daphne Du Maurier, Victoria Holt, and Phyllis Whitney and when I had the opportunity to write my own modern Gothic, I jumped on it. There’s nothing like writing spooky stories where heroines get to explore old creaky houses. Why, just thinking about it sends shivers down my spine.

I did have a chilling experience a few years ago, not at Christmas, but just before Halloween. I live in Colorado, and the Boulder Historic Society usually does some kind of spooky tour the last weekend in October. It was one of those dark, windy fall nights, and this tour ran from house to house through a neighborhood just outside of the Boulder Downtown. This tour covered the houses of the workers who built the big mansions for the rich people and these craftsmen had put their own special skills into their own small houses. Lovely woodwork and hand-crafted windows made each house special and we could tell they were built with love.

In addition to the historical person, each of the houses had a psychic to give the tour and tell us if they felt any ‘vibes’. We went to the first few, and everything was fine, but just outside of one of the houses I got a chill. It stuck to my back, tracing tension over my skin. We entered the house and got the regular history of the tour, but when the psychic spoke she told us that there was a dark, male energy lurking on the front porch. Yes, this one was haunted, and not only that, to get inside we’d walked right through that heavy, threatening darkness.

We finished the tour, but I couldn’t shake that feeling that some kind of energy was touching the entire skin of my back. I even took it home with me. Brrr!

I’ll never forget that feeling. It took a few days to shake, and boy, was I glad when I finally woke up with it gone. If that was just a lurking memory of a ghost, can you imagine running into the real thing?

I had to write about it. So, that’s how Jen and Nate’s story was born. I hope you enjoy my style of romance, and just to give you the chance, you can download your free copy of Ghosts of Christmas Past HERE, at Amazon.com.

But act fast! This deal will disappear like a ghost on 12/11/17.

And, just so you know what you’re getting into, here’s a sneak peek into the book.

Enjoy!
-Jessica

Ghosts of Christmas Past

By: Jessica Aspen

Gothic romance with a New Adult and Christmas flair.

Jen turned, gazing over the bare winter fields to the tangle of trees. No explanations, no obligations, no complications. For two whole weeks she could just hide here, and write.

The first genuine smile she could remember since April spread her face wide.

Then the pickup arrived.

Black, large, and full of male attitude it parked right next to her vacation house, dwarfing her small car and taking up the entire drive.

“Oh, there’s Nate now.” Mrs. Castlebury waved at the man pushing an eager black Labrador back into the cab while trying to exit the vehicle.

He got the door shut, faced them, and grinned. Dressed in New England casual of laced-up work boots, jeans, and plaid shirt under a denim jacket, Nate Pierce, striding across the snow, hand out in welcome, was a commercial for settling down. Tall. Good-looking in a rugged, works-for-a-living kind of way. And he had a dog. A big, sloppy, super-cute dog, wagging its tail and drooling on the driver’s side window.

For one impulsive moment Jen wished this was her life. She loved big dogs, the country, and secretly, men in plaid shirts, but she hadn’t had the opportunity for any of it since her dad’s death. Their daddy-daughter fishing trips, where he’d gotten to get out of his suit and she’d gotten to be free of her school uniform, had stopped cold the year she’d turned twelve.

This was the first time since then she’d ventured outside of somewhere hot and warm with a very clean, very controlled hotel. Her mom’s idea of a vacation. Of course, neither her mom nor her ex, Jason, tolerated dogs of any size. And as for living outside of the Boston city limits?

Neither of them would consider the horror.

She squashed the sudden surge of loneliness and desire for something she’d probably never have, and pasted on a smile.

Mr. Good-Looking Country Boy tramped through the snow to the porch, pushed his overlong forelock of sandy brown hair off his face, and held out a hand. “Hi, I’m Nate Pierce, your landlord.”

“My what?” She shot a quick look at Mrs. Castlebury.

“Your landlord, dear. I’m just the listing agent. Nate owns the house and he’ll see to any upkeep you need.”

“In fact, I’ll be back in an hour or so after you’ve gotten settled and bring the Christmas tree.”

“The Christmas tree?” She’d forgotten. She’d purchased the Christmas in New England package because it had been cheaper than renting by the day. “That’s not necessary,” she said, her voice chillier than she’d intended.

“I’ve already cut the tree down.” Nate’s friendly grin wavered as did his hand hovering in the air between them. “It would be a shame to waste.”

She didn’t want to be friendly with the neighbors. She wanted to hide out and recuperate. Make up her mind as to what in the world she was going to do next. But good manners won out.

Jen repressed a sigh, reached out, and slid her bare hand into his. As it disappeared into his tan callused grip, her hand seemed slim and small. He squeezed gently and a tingling warmth spread across her skin.

Hot caramel sensation slid from the connection between them, up her palm, along her arm, and through her entire body. Her hand tightened automatically, and a responding spark lit in his eyes.

Jen swallowed. Shoot! She wasn’t ready for this. She was here to lick her wounds, not some guy’s abs. And given the strength in his hand and his wide shoulders, she’d bet he had some killer abs.

She gazed up into Nate’s warm chocolate brown eyes and his face blurred. For a moment she saw another face superimposed over his. Same brown eyes, same tanned, rugged New England skin, but more boyish, broad-boned and black haired.

Every hair on her scalp tried to climb out of its slicked back, ponytailed restriction.

Then her new neighbor’s sharper, more intense features came into focus. Jen panicked and jerked her hand away. Wiping her buzzing palm on her long red wool coat she backed up, nearly running into Mrs. Castlebury.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Pardon me.” She circled around, putting the older woman between herself and Nate Pierce.

What the hell just happened?

Blurb:

When Jen MacNamara flees the Christmas wedding of her best friend to her cheating fiancé she runs to the country to spend the holiday alone. It’s the perfect plan. Until her unexpectedly sexy neighbor and landlord, Nate Pierce, insists on bringing the holiday to her—complete with a Christmas tree, hot chocolate, and an unexpected kiss.

And that’s not Jen’s only problem.

The cozy country farmhouse is already occupied…by something evil. Now Jen’s nights are spent wrapped in sensual dreams of a past life, and her days growing closer to Nate, as they solve the mystery of the malevolent ghost that haunts not only the house, but also wants Jen dead.

Dare to discover Jessica Aspen’s spicy, new adult, contemporary, Gothic romance, today.

Available at: Amazon.com

Add Ghosts of Christmas Past to your Goodreads shelf.

Short Bio:

Jessica Aspen always wanted to be spirited away to a world inhabited by elves, were-wolves and sexy men who walk on the dark side of the knife. Luckily, she’s able to explore her fantasy side and delve into new worlds by writing spicy paranormal romance. She loves indulging in dark chocolate, reading eclectic novels, and dreaming of ocean vacations, but instead spends most of her time, writing, walking the dog, and hiking in the Colorado Rockies.

Click HERE to claim your FREE book today.

To get your exclusive Jessica Aspen Starter Library please go to: http://eepurl.com/zs4Sj

Find Jessica at:

Website
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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

Leigh Goff

A holiday drink all adults will enjoy.

HOLIDAY PUNCH

1 750-ml bottle orange vodka
2 750-ml bottles Prosecco
2 1-liter bottles of orange-flavored seltzer
½ gallon orange juice
½ gallon lemonade
2 pints orange sorbet

Gently mix vodka, Prosecco, seltzer, orange juice, and lemonade in a large punch bowl.

Scoop the sorbet into the punch bowl, so it has time to melt. Add the ice ring to keep the punch cold and colorful.

ICE RING
Water
15 seedless red grapes
10 maraschino cherries, halved
1 orange, peeled and sliced thin

In a 6 – 6½ cup ring mold, arrange thin citrus slices and grapes or cherries in an attractive design. Pour water into mold to partially cover fruit. Freeze.

When frozen, add water to fill mold ¾ full. Refreeze. At serving time, unmold and float fruit side up in punch bowl.

If you prefer, freeze ring without decorations. Or, instead of water, freeze with orange juice. This will keep punch cold without diluting it.

Serves 12 – 15

Here’s a little from my latest novel to enjoy as you sip your punch.

Hannah, the thirteenth great-granddaughter of the Wizard Earl Fitzgerald, has always known she was descended from a troubled legacy of alchemy and dark magic. Although a stranger to her coven in Annapolis, she is no stranger to grief and denial; however, when an ancient prophecy reveals the rise of a young, powerful witch and the impending death of another, she realizes she can no longer afford to suppress the magic that has taken away so much. She seeks out the frighteningly scarred, yet mysterious W who is destined to change her life, but even he cannot prepare her for the secrets she must unlock – including one that reveals the location of an unimaginably powerful elixir.

Enemies will hurt her. Loved ones will make her vulnerable. And the impending prophecy that drives her to unleash her magic will cause her to unearth the sins of the past and doubt any promise of a future. Without knowing whom her true rival is, Hannah isn’t certain she’ll survive the game Fate is playing, and if she loses, she may lose everything, including the ones she loves.

EXCERPT

The imposing entrance segued into the main part of the old family chapel. Shadows flickered across the white walls as candlelight streamed down from an ornate iron chandelier cradling clear-colored hurricanes. Angelic sculptures hung between the arched windows and beneath the cloud-painted ceiling that Michelangelo himself would have envied, four wooden pews graced each side of the aisle.

I tiptoed farther in and spotted another black-lined white envelope on the altar. I was definitely in the right place.

My fingers trembled as I traced the letters that formed my name. This was way beyond ordinary, but why and—more importantly—who?

“W?”

A hint of the Shadow’s amber and woods scent mixed with the faint candle smoke of the chapel. “No. Way.” I spun around ready to stomp right out of there.

In that moment, a heavy gaze fell on me and the air felt charged with electricity. I searched right and left, seeing no one. “W? Whoever you are, show yourself.”

“This will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done.” His potent voice reverberated off the walls and seemed to come from everywhere, including the inside of my head.

I locked my wandering gaze on the loft above the entrance where I spotted his silhouette. “Was leaving me in a burning wreck the hardest thing you ever had to do? Was it?” I raised my volume. “Who are you? Why did you leave me for dead?”

His intake of breath was audible. “I would never. I mean. I didn’t want to do that. I don’t.”

“Oh, lucky me.” I stuck my hands on my hips and tapped an impatient foot on the floor. “If you don’t want to finish me off, then you lured me here to do what, exactly?”

“To help you. I want to help you.”

“Ha!” The sarcastic laugh burst out before I could stop it. “You’ve done a bang up job inspiring my confidence and trust in that department.”

He simmered in silence for a moment. “What do I have to do to inspire you to follow my directions?”

Following someone else’s directions was definitely not my strength. I grimaced, but curiosity got the better of me. “What do you want?”

“You read the note.”

His desire to remain in the shadows was increasingly irritating. “I consider myself a very smart girl, so when a guy who left me in a burning car tells me he wants to help me take on a different deadly problem, I have to wonder if he’s not setting me up to fend for myself again. What’s your motive?”

I dropped my eyes to the envelope, turning it to and fro.

“Emme Blackstone is a mutual enemy and means us both harm.” A tinge of anger laced his tone.

The anger, I understood. After all, we were talking about Emme, but there was also a hint of sadness that intrigued me further. “Why do you think Emme means you harm?”
“It’s inevitable—because of what I am.”

What was he besides completely contemptible?

“It’s in her blood and I believe it’s in her destiny to wreak havoc, especially against someone who can challenge her in talent like you can.”

I dropped my hands to my sides, still clasping the enveloping. “Whoa. Like me? You don’t know me. You don’t know anything about me. How could you? I’ve been gone for the last year.”

A chortle caught in his throat. “What’s a year when you come from a bloodline with hundreds of years of history? A history that’s written down and available to certain people with the right—pedigree.”

Confused, I creased my brow as I continued to stare at his silhouette. “Have you been cyber-stalking me on Ancestry.com or something?”

“Hardly.” There was disdain in his voice as if he considered cyber-stalking to be worse than leaving a girl to die.

“Look, whatever you think you know about my family, I’m not like them. I’m not talented, and I don’t want to challenge Emme. I just want to live a normal life. Normal.” My voice escalated. “Do you hear me all the way up there?”

He huffed. “Normal? You don’t get to pretend to be normal when you’re not. It doesn’t work like that. Not in Annapolis. Someone always knows. Someone always unravels your secrets.”

I thought of the Witch’s Grave. I pictured the women’s slender figures dangling from sturdy, gnarled branches. Their tragic endings proved what I already knew. Magic only brought suffering and death. “You make it sound like I don’t have a choice. I’m telling you I do, and I won’t be a part of this.” I stomped my foot hard on the floor.

He shifted from the shadows into a dim ray of light, seething. “You read the note and you know Emme won’t stop. You need my help.”

I glared, trying desperately to make out the details of his face. “I don’t need anything from you.”

“You don’t have to like it, but that doesn’t change the fact that you are a part of this. You know you are or you wouldn’t have come here. However, if that’s how you feel then you should leave.” The cold in his voice crystallized.

My pulse escalated. “Yup. That’s how I feel. And I’m only leaving because that’s what I want to do, not because you suggested it. Bye.” I marched to the door and wrapped my hand around the knob. I yanked it open. From the moment I’d first laid eyes on him, he’d been nothing but trouble. Horrible, awful trouble. However, as much as I hated to think it, he knew about me and the other witches in town. He was full of answers—answers I needed. I shut the door and turned back around. “How do you know all this about Emme and me?”

Leigh Goff loves writing young adult fiction with elements of magic and romance because it’s also what she liked to read. Born and raised on the East Coast, she now lives in Maryland where she enjoys the area’s great history and culture.

Leigh is a graduate of the University of Maryland, University College and a member of the Maryland Writers’ Association and Romance Writers of America. She is also an approved artist with the Maryland State Arts Council. Her debut novel, Disenchanted, was inspired by the Wethersfield witches of Connecticut and was released by Mirror World Publishing. Leigh is currently working on her next novel, The Witch’s Ring which is set in Annapolis.

Learn more about Leigh Goff on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

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