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Friday Features

Guest blogger is

Leigh Goff

In my newest young adult fantasy, Bewitching Hannah, Hannah’s Aunt J promises sixteen-year-old Hannah a sweet surprise. The young witch hopes the surprise will be her favorite sugary treat—Lavender Honey Macarons. As she describes them, “They were the most amazing little delights; a melt-in-your mouth combination of whipped egg whites, honey, and French lavender…”

LAVENDER MACARONS with HONEY BUTTERCREAM

Macarons
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tbsp. dried lavender buds
¾ cup almond meal
2 egg whites
3 tbsp. sugar

Preheat oven to 300° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Blend the confectioner’s sugar, lavender, and almond meal in a food processor until fine, then whisk everything into a large bowl.

Use an electric mixer to beat egg whites and sugar together until you create a stiff meringue in a medium-sized bowl. This can take up to 10 minutes. Scrape any meringue clinging to the beaters back into the bowl.

Add the almond meal mixture into the bowl all at once.

Fold the dry ingredients into the egg whites and also rub the meringue against the side of the bowl to knock the air out of it. This is not a mixture combining that you need to baby. You want to deflate the egg whites don’t be gentle. By the time it’s ready, its consistency will be runny, closer to pancake batter than cake batter.

Fill a pastry bag with the batter. Use a pastry bag with a coupler or with a tip. Pipe your shells onto the parchment-paper lined baking sheets, about 1 inch. Space them 1 inch apart.

When you’re done piping, lift the pan and whack it down hard against your counter twice. Rotate the pan 90 degrees and repeat. You might see tiny air bubbles appear on the top of the rounds, a good sign. Do the same with the other pan. Slide the pans into the oven and bake about 15 minutes, at which point the shells should be able to be cleanly picked off the parchment paper.

Let the shells come to room temperature, then fill your macarons with the honey buttercream (recipe below). Use a pastry bag or a spoon.

Honey Butter Cream
½ cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp. honey

Beat the butter using the whisk attachment for about 2 minutes. Slowly add the confectioner’s sugar, and whisk until well incorporated.

Pour in the honey. Beat until well mixed.

Makes about 40 shells, or 20 macarons
Adapted from Brave Tart

While the shells come to room temperature here is something to pass the time.

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?”

AMAZON BUY LINK

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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Friday Features

Sweet Romance at its finest is what

Marci Boudreaux

promises and delivers with style. Her books receive top marks for drawing readers into the story with well rounded characters and a plot you can’t help but love. Here is a little from Marci’s new release.

Now serving second chances.

Jenna Reid purchased the Stonehill Café to prove to herself that her ex-husband was wrong…that she could make her dreams come true. Three years later, all she has is a crumbling building, no social life, and her bruised pride.

Pride is something Colonel Daniel Maguire lost long ago and isn’t likely to find living in the alley behind the café. He just needs a little time to get on his feet. In the interim, keeping an eye on the overworked café owner gives him a sense of purpose. He has no intentions of making his presence known until he hears the woman screaming late one night.

He rushes into the café but instead of finding her in dire straits, he finds a broken pipe and Jenna—soaking wet and holding a wrench. With her last bit of hope fading, Jenna accepts Daniel’s help to fix up her building, but it doesn’t take long for them to start trying to fix each other.

This Old Café is available at these retailers:
AmazonB&NiBooksKobo

As a teen, Marci Boudreaux skipped over young adult books and jumped right into the world of romance novels. She’s never left. Marci lives with her husband, two kiddos, and their numerous pets. Until recently, she was a freelance writer appearing monthly in a variety of local magazines. She now focuses on writing and her work as a content editor.

Romance is her preferred reading and writing genre because nothing feels better than falling in love with someone new and her husband doesn’t like when she does that in real life.

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

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Friday Features’

Guest talks about

Leftover Delight

by

HL Carpenter

Some days we like to prepare delicious, artistically-plated meals fit for royal company, like the meals served in our cozy mystery A Cause for Murder.

And some days we look in the refrigerator and find half-empty jars of gravy, dollops of extra veggies, bits of cheese, and slices of cooked chicken. On those days, we eat – and enjoy – leftover leftovers. To get your imagination working on your own version of Leftover Leftover Delight, here’s a quick and easy recipe that recently graced the Carpenter Country table.

Leftover Leftover Delight
½ package cooked lima beans
¼ carton feta cheese
¾ jar chicken gravy
1 cup leftover cooked chicken
2 cups crushed potato chips

Preheat oven 350° F.

Place all ingredients except chips in an 8×8 pan. Mix well.

Cover with chips.

Bake until warmed through, about 30 minutes, or use your toaster oven on days when you don’t want to heat up the house.

The best feature of this recipe is the variations – you can add any veggie, substitute cream soup for the gravy, use beef or pork instead of chicken, and crush corn chips for the topping instead of potato chips. So go crazy with those leftovers!

And while you’re waiting for your Leftover Leftovers to heat up, enjoy an excerpt from our cozy mystery, A Cause for Murder.

Septuagenarian sleuth Emma Twiggs thinks her neighbor’s death was an accident – until her friend Arnie says he suspects murder.
Arnie is convinced he knows the killer’s identity. He wants Emma to prove it.

Is Arnie right? And is he right in his belief that Emma’s best friend is the killer’s next target?

As Emma navigates madcap mayhem, multiple mysteries, and murderous motives, she discovers more than one person is hiding deadly secrets.

The question is, who has a cause for murder?

EXCERPT
It wasn’t the food. Happy Haven Retirement Community’s chef prepared delicious, artistically plated roast beef and mashed potatoes every Sunday evening.

Emma Twiggs set down her fork. No, the food wasn’t the problem.

It wasn’t the chatter or the whispers in the dining room, or the sidelong glances of other Happy Haven residents. Happy Haven was a hotbed of gossip and rumors. Being the topic du jour was familiar territory.

It certainly wasn’t her dinner companion. Arnie Bracken was always charming, kind, and intelligent, no matter what her best friend Olli thought.

No, food, chatter, and Arnie, combined or singular, were not the cause of her uneasiness.

The problem –

“I know what you’re thinking, Em,” Arnie said.

“Do you?” She picked up a glass of lemon-spritzed water and tried to swallow past the tightness in her throat. She could only hope he had no idea of what she was thinking.

“Sure.” He leaned forward and lowered his voice. “You’re wondering how someone as fit as Jo accidentally drowned in the swimming pool.”

Emma froze. Her fingers tightened on the glass. The chatter in the room faded into muted background noise. She had deliberately not been thinking about Jo. She would not think about Jo. How did Arnie know she’d been thinking about Jo?

“I’ll tell you how,” he said. “Jo was murdered, and Cahan murdered her.”

“I am not thinking about – Murdered?” The lump in her throat expanded to the size of the Brussels sprouts on her plate. “By Todd?”

“Murdered. By Cahan. And we need to prove he did the deed.”

“Arnie.” Emma set the glass on the table and uncurled her fingers from it. She coughed to clear the non-existent Brussels sprout from her throat. “The paramedics told us Jo’s death was accidental. An accidental drowning.”

“Yeah, I know all the euphemisms they used.”

Emma did too. The headline in Harmony Notes, the local daily, had read TRAGIC ACCIDENT AT HAPPY HAVEN. Unfortunate was the word murmured most frequently at the funeral service, followed closely by regrettable.

She said, “Harmony’s police department and the district medical examiner agreed with the paramedics.”

“They’re wrong.”

A trickle of condensation wept down the side of the glass and puddled into a teardrop on the table. All the words used to describe Jo’s death were wrong. Wrong and inadequate. Words were inadequate now too.

Because this was the problem she had been avoiding.

Her role in Jo’s death.

Amazon Buy Link

Florida-based mother/daughter author duo HL Carpenter write sweet, clean fiction that is suitable for everyone in your family. The Carpenters write from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, is unreal but not untrue. When they’re not writing, they enjoy exploring the Land of What-If and practicing the fine art of Curiosity. Visit their website to enjoy gift reads and excerpts and to find out what’s happening in Carpenter Country.

Stay connected on Pinterest, Linkedin, Google+, and their Amazon Author Page.

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Friday Features

Blockbuster conclusion to the Sun God’s Heir trilogy

REDEMPTION

by

Elliot Baker

Coming October 18, 2017 a new action adventure novel by Elliot Baker. REDEMPTION, Book Three of the Sun God’s Heir trilogy, ties up the series with the same punch and pizzazz as the previous books. REDEMPTION does not fail to capture you.

Death is not life’s final stop. There are worse ends.

Two brothers, once disciples of the Pharoah Akhenaten, reincarnate in seventeenth century France. From Spain to Morocco to Egypt, one is determined to rule, the other to protect.

Horemheb, driven to destroy his brother and end their ancient rivalry, invites an African shaman to assist in recovering ancient artifacts of power that will ensure his dominance. Twice before, these artifacts have raised and then destroyed civilization.

The other, Rene Gilbert, escapes from the murderous sultan of Morocco, closely followed by the sultan’s personal guard, the Bukhari. Trained from childhood, these assassins live to kill.

Now, in the blockbuster conclusion to the Sun God’s Heir trilogy, Rene must find a way to fulfill a commitment made lifetimes ago. His long journey across the ages hurtles toward its climax, with the fate of his soul, and perhaps our very world, in the balance.

Award winning novelist and international playwright Elliott Baker grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. With four musicals and one play published and performed throughout the United States, New Zealand, Portugal, England, and Canada, Elliott has turned to writing novels. His debut novel, The Sun God’s Heir: Return, Book One of the trilogy, was released this past January.

A member of the Authors Guild and the Dramatists Guild, Elliott lives in New Hampshire with his beautiful wife Sally Ann.

Learn more about Elliot Baker on his website. Stay connected on Twitter and Facebook. Like Elliott’s Author Page or Facebook Page to learn all his latest news.

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Friday Features’

Coming September 25, 2017

a LitRPG by

Chris Pavesic

For those who may not be familiar with the genre, LitRPG is a subgenre of science fiction and fantasy which describes the hero’s adventures within an online computer game. Here is a glimpse of this fascinating new story.

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.

PROLOGUE
I was born into a world where silicone still ruled. Where the products of the earth outshone those of the sea. Integrated circuits ran all electronic equipment and scientists strove to make the conducting lines smaller and smaller. Silicon Valley tried, and failed, to make chips fast enough to upload human consciousness.

The Revelation came a few years later from the hydrologists. They designed a system that did not use silicone, but instead worked with water molecules. The hydrologists managed to imprint the consciousness of a human mind on a single drop of water.

The water was to be kept in self-contained, sealed aquariums—pure, undiluted, eternal—where virtual realities were constructed to meet every need and desire. All of human knowledge encoded and stored in literal pools of data and integrated with the drops of human consciousness. It was, the hydrologists claimed, utopia achieved.

The obscenely rich were the hydrologist’s first clients, many taken near the end of their lives. The procedure did not always work, but there were enough successes to spur people’s interest. People suffering from terminal illnesses volunteered to be inscribed, and the hydrologists worked and refined their process. Private companies formed and competition forced price wars. Hundreds of customers grew to thousands, and then to millions. There were landmark court cases arguing whether or not health insurance should cover the cost of the inscription—whether or not this was a medical procedure designed to save lives or a form of physician assisted suicide. The law struggled to decide if life ended when the body was drained to a dry, leathery husk, or if life continued inside those glowing, sealed aquariums.

I was thirteen when the governments seized control of the laboratories, first in the Eastern European countries. Then the labs of Europe and the Middle East were swallowed up. Terrorist attacks soon followed and destroyed most of the civilized world over the next three years. The United States, Canada, and Greece, those bastions of democracy, did not fall until the very end. Of course, by then no one cared whether or not the government or the private companies ran the uploading programs. Many of the aquariums ruptured in the strife and the droplets, imbued with human consciousness, re-entered the water cycle of the planet.

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

Gingerbread cookies

by

Chris Pavesic

Many people tend to think about gingerbread around the winter holidays with good reason. The tradition of decorating a gingerbread house began in Germany during the 16th century and was associated with Christmas. Queen Elizabeth I is credited for the idea of making ornaments out of gingerbread men, gilding the dough with gold leaf and decorating them to resemble the dignitaries visiting her court. Yet during this era gingerbread was also served in the spring and summer with shapes that changed with the seasons. Spring cookies were shaped into flowers while summer cookies featured birds.

Why is this type of dessert so popular? The fact that ginger has a history of relieving digestive problems, such as nausea and indigestion, may be a factor, especially since it’s served on traditional “feast days” after a large meal. So these cookies could be a nice addition to your next backyard barbeque or picnic when your guests have overindulged.

These cookies go great with coffee or French vanilla ice cream!

Spring Fling Gingerbread Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground cloves
¼ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup (1 Stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
⅓ cup brown sugar, packed
⅓ cup unsulfured molasses
1 large egg
decorating sugar or sprinkles

In a medium-sized bowl, sift the dry ingredients together into a medium-sized bowl.

Use an electric mixer to beat butter and brown sugar in a large bowl until smooth. Beat in molasses and egg. Set the mixer on low, and then add dry ingredients slowly. Mix until dough is formed.

Place dough on floured plastic wrap. Wrap well and chill in the refrigerator until firm. (Between 1-2 hours)

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Divide dough in half. Working with one half at a time (rewrap and refrigerate other half), place dough on floured parchment or waxed paper. Roll it out to ⅛ inch thick, turning, lifting, and flouring dough (and rolling pin) as needed. Freeze dough (on paper) until firm, about 20 minutes.

Repeat this process with the second half of the dough.

Loosen dough from paper. Cut out shapes and transfer to baking sheets. Decorate as desired.

Bake until firm and edges just begin to darken, 10 to 18 minutes, depending on the size of the cookie. Cool completely on baking sheets.

What’s Next?
I am currently working on two projects. I have a two book epic fantasy in the draft/beta reading stage and I am working on a LitRPG novel concept. For those who might not be familiar with the genre, LitRPG is a subgenre of science fiction and fantasy which describes the hero’s adventures within an online computer game. Finally my love of gaming and writing are coming together! I knew all of those nights I stayed up playing MMORPGs would pay off someday. Right now my LitRPG is in the hands of my editor.

It all boils down to more time in front of the computer and putting words on the screen. Over the next few months I will make more announcements as events warrant. Until then my short stories are available on Amazon.com and are free if you have Kindle Unlimited.

Praise for Heart & Mind
“The author has managed to weave an intricate web about being true to yourself. One shouldn’t be guided or led by others. Above all, feel the magic in your own heart. As the fairy godmother believes sometimes it is best not to mess with destiny.” –Chief, USN Ret…VT Town—a Top 500 Reviewer on Amazon.com

Praise for The World In Front of Me
“Picked up this short story because I noted it was previously published in Penumbra, which was a pretty high quality publication. And this story lived up to my expectations for a professional quality piece.

The story’s main idea reminded me a lot of the Lakeside community in Neil Gaimon’s American Gods, but I won’t say anymore about that for fear of giving away spoilers. But fans of Gaimon should really enjoy this story. Fans of strong women who make tough choices should enjoy this as well”—KSluss—Review on Amazon.com

Praise for Going Home
“This is an excellent short story that is full of surprises for the reader. Martial law is about to be imposed in the colony.

A secret room, trips on a train and a clandestine meeting are all part of this superb short story.

Most highly recommended”—Off Grid . . . And Loving It—a Top 500 Reviewer on Amazon.com

Praise for Wonderland
“The writing is beautiful, the characters are complex and thoroughly developed and the story is fascinating. All of it together creates a world you don’t want to leave when the book ends. I am so glad I discovered this author and I cannot wait for her next book”—Mary—Review on Amazon.com

Read excerpts from all of the books written by Chris Pavesic on Amazon.

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.

Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter.

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Friday Features’

Canadian author

Dianna Gunn

is here today to discuss her hot-selling YA fantasy and what the future holds for her. So let’s get to it.

Welcome, Dianna. Please describe Keeper of the Dawn in three words.
Passionate, hopeful, magical.

What part of the story came to you first?
Lai started out as a character in a fantasy parody project which will never see the light of day. She quickly became the most interesting thing about the book, so I scrapped it and wrote her story instead.

What was the biggest surprise when you were writing Keeper of the Dawn?
That it was a book at all. I started with a short story of about 6,000 words, focused mostly on the priestess trials that are now the first third of the book. Every draft made it longer, sometimes only a couple thousand words longer, once or twice 10,000 words longer. The final edits brought it almost to 40,000 words. So it’s still a short book, but it’s a book. It’s still kind of weird to me, to be honest.

If you could have lunch with any one person, alive or dead, who would it be?
Definitely Sir Terry Pratchett. I haven’t read anything close to the entire Discworld series, but I’ve read enough to be astounded by the quality of his work. Being funny in fiction, especially novels, is hard, which is why I never wrote that parody project. I am astounded by his ability to remain funny until the very end.

What’s next for you?
I’m currently editing Moonshadow’s Guardian, an adult fantasy novel that wavers between sword and sorcery and dark fantasy. I’m really excited about this book and I plan to release it next fall.

Oh, and I’m working on a setting for Tiny Dungeons, a tabletop RPG on Kickstarter RIGHT NOW. Last year I worked on their Tiny Frontiers, the science fiction version of Tiny Dungeons, and I’m thrilled to be working on another RPG. I hope to work on many more!

Here’s a little about Keeper of the Dawn for your reading pleasure.

All Lai has ever wanted is to become a priestess, like her mother and grandmother before her, in service to her beloved goddess. That’s before the unthinkable happens, and Lai fails the trials she’s trained for her entire life. She makes the only choice she believes she can: she runs away.

From her isolated desert homeland, Lai rides north to the colder, stranger kingdom of Alanum – a land where magic, and female warriors, are not commonplace.

Here, she hears tales about a mountain city of women guardians and steel forgers, worshipping goddesses who sound very similar to Lai’s own. Determined to learn more about these women, these Keepers of the Dawn, Lai travels onward to find their temple. She is determined to make up for her past failure, and will do whatever it takes to join the sacred order.

Falling in love with another initiate wasn’t part of the plan.

Keeper of the Dawn is a story of new beginnings, second chances, and the endurance of hope.

EXCERPT
Lai practiced until well after dark, ignoring the call for supper. She tore a massive hole into one of the dummies with a training sword in her rage, but it didn’t make her feel better. She had spent most of her life training for this day, and Kaiden ruined it with a few words about their father.

Eventually she gave up and collapsed in a heap on the ground, pulling her knees up to her chest so she could rest her chin on them. She forced herself to breathe deeply, using all her willpower to push the rage into the ground. Bit by bit it drained into the soil around her, dispersing harmlessly.

She sat like that in the clearing until clouds engulfed the stars and rain started pouring, one of the last rains before the dry weeks of summer. Lifting the hood of her robes to cover her head, she rose and hurried towards the temple.

Her left foot caught on something and Lai flew through the air, losing her grip on her sword and landing face first in a puddle. Her nose shattered when it smashed into the tough ground, and when she grabbed it to feel the damage her hand came away covered in equal parts mud and blood. Her stomach churned as she picked herself back up, her whole body aching.

Something sharp pierced her back, tearing into her skin and muscles like sharp fire. She screamed and fell face first to the ground. She caught herself on her forearms, avoiding bashing her head against the rocky path.

Lai’s attacker pulled the knife out of her shoulder. She screamed as warm blood flowed freely down her back, mixing with the rain. Fiery agony filled her body, blurring her vision. She gritted her teeth and flipped over to face her attacker.

She froze at the familiar sight of white robes with golden cuffs. Another initiate. Her hood hid her face completely.

Lai gathered her strength with a deep, ragged breath and reached for her training sword. The initiate kicked Lai in the back then stomped on her wrist, grinding bone under her boot, sending sharp waves of pain up Lai’s arm.

“You understand, it has to be me.”

Lai knew that voice, but she couldn’t focus on it through the pain, couldn’t remember who it was.

The initiate seized a clump of Lai’s hair and yanked her head backwards. She knelt and raised her knife towards Lai’s exposed throat.

Something knocked the initiate into Lai’s back. Black spots appeared at the edges of her vision as agony surged outward from her wound. The other initiate didn’t move, suffocating Lai with her weight. Lai tried to lift herself up with her elbows, but a fresh wave of pain knocked the wind out of her. She col¬lapsed onto her stomach and closed her eyes, willing her body to die quickly.

BUY LINKS
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Dianna L. Gunn is a freelance writer by day and a fantasy author by night. She had known she wanted to be a writer since she was eight years old. Dianna wrote her first novel for Nanowrimo at the age of eleven years old, but quickly discovered that writing books is not an easy way to make a living. So she decided to broaden her horizons, seeking another career that still allowed her to work with words.

Her freelance writing career started when she became a marketing intern at Musa Publishing(now defunct) in September 2011 and quickly became a staff writer in charge of multiple imprint blogs. Since then she has worked with a variety of small businesses and non-profits to improve their online brands and create long term marketing strategies. Some of her most notable work has been for the tech education non-profit STEAMLabs and natural dog care company ProPooch. She is dedicated to helping her clients build successful brands and making their dreams come true.

Need help creating awesome content for your business? Send an email to diannalgunn@gmail.com explaining what your needs are, and she will help you.

When she isn’t helping her clients bring their dreams to life, Dianna can be found working on her own dream of being a successful fantasy author. Dianna blogs about writing, creativity, and books at The Dabbler.

Learn more about Dianna on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

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