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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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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

The ever-interesting Ryan Jo Summers bringing us her Homemade Alphabet Soup and a sweet, southern romance of forgiveness & second chances, love & fun kids, Rainbows in the Moonlight. Be sure to get your copy today!

Koda Jacobs urgently needs a nanny–right now. Fresh from prison, Dalton Clayton needs a job–and just about anything will do.

Divine Intervention steps in and tosses Koda and Dalton together. Koda struggles with the conflicts of her impulsive decision to leave her babies with an unknown, convicted felon. That just can’t be wise, can it? But she can’t help but see how quickly the children bonded to him and trust him. Or the reassuring sense that this is just right. Meanwhile, Dalton stumbles through the spills and thrills of two young children, and his growing interest in their mother. A chance meeting brings him back to his estranged family as well.

Over time mutual attraction forms between Koda and Dalton as the bond between Dalton and the children deepens. A sweet, southern romance full of forgiveness, second chances, and fun kids.

Koda Jacobs is a widow, a single mother of two young children. She has a mama with Alzheimer’s disease, and a full time job outside the home. She tries to cook good, nutritious meals and spend quality “table time” with her children. Except it’s hard. So she relies on quick recipes she can make from scratch, with a few modernized shortcuts. One example is Homemade Alphabet Soup. Perfect for a chilly night when time is short. And like most busy moms, Koda likes recipes that items can be subbed if she is out of something without requiring a run to the store. This one takes a mere 30 minutes or less.

1 Lb ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
2 quarts tomato juice
1 can (15 oz) mixed vegetables, un-drained–or frozen equivalent
1 Cup water
2 Beef bullion cubes or 2 tsp. bullion granules
1 Cup alphabet pasta or small pasta
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. In large saucepan, cook ground beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink. Drain. Add tomato juice, vegetables, water and bullion; bring to a boil. Add pasta.
2. Cook uncovered, for 6-8 minutes or until pasta is tender, stirring frequently. Add salt and pepper.
Yield: 10-12 servings, (2 3/4 quarts)
* Can also be topped with shredded cheese or sour cream dollop and chives, etc.
* If there is no small pasta on hand, substitute instant rice or quick cooking barley.
Nutritional Facts 1 cup: 148 calories, 4g fat (2g saturated fat), 19mg cholesterol, 858mg sodium, 19g carbohydrate (7g sugars, 2g fiber), 10g protein.

Source: Taste of Home Ground Beef Cookbook 1999

Excerpt:

Finally she reached her road, then her driveway. Pulse racing, she parked and approached the front door. Swinging it open, the utter quietness greeted her and made her pulse sky rocket. The house was never quiet when she returned with Mandy in charge. It was noisy with the kids playing or fighting. The television would be blaring or the radio cranked. Or else they’d be out in the yard, drop what they were doing, and race to meet her.

Now, the eerie silence chilled her as blood roared in her ears. Goosebumps popped up along her arms. She reached for her cell phone. That still, calm quietness persisted, telling her to go slow. Huffing a breath, she replaced the cell phone. She could still call 9-1-1 in thirty seconds when no one answered her greeting.

“Hello?” she called out, moving along the hallway to the living room. “Is anyone here?” She cast about, searching for evidence to tell the police. Both back packs lay on the floor. Terry’s school work was stacked on the table. A sparkle caught her eye. Ruthie’s red sparkly shoes peeked out from the full curtain.

A rush of breath left her feeling weak as she swept the curtain aside, revealing Ruthie glaring up at her.

“Mommy, we’re playing hide-and-seek. He’ll find me if I don’t re-hide.” She stoutly tugged the curtain back in place.

Re-hide? Hide and seek? She watched the drape settle back, with just the tips of her red sparkly sneakers extending. About to cover them, she heard footsteps. Looking up, Dalton came into the room.

“Okay, ready or not, here I come.” Seeing her, he slammed to a halt, color flooding his face. He jabbed his hands in the pockets of his faded jeans and rocked backward. “Hi. We’re, um, playing hide and seek.”

She nodded, a bit distracted by the sight of his obvious embarrassment. “So that explains why I don’t see the kids.” What else could she say? “How’d it go today?”

He lifted a shoulder in a shrug, looking around the room. “Okay. Ruthie creamed me in Candyland. Terry’s homework is all done. They’ve had something to eat and the kitchen is cleaned up.” He paused, looking around harder. “And now I’m supposed to find them. Somewhere.”

She smothered her smile. It sounded like it went well. She had to admit, she was impressed. And thoughtful. Mandy didn’t always clean up after meals. And Terry might sometimes still have homework for her to help with. Mandy tried but Koda guessed she hadn’t been the best student when in school. Terry said she tended to give up too soon on things like math and science. And Dalton’s perplexed expression slowly lit a fuse inside her that had long been extinguished.

“Are they supposed to be just in here? Or anywhere in the house?” She knew the rules usually changed with each game they played. He shrugged, as if not sure himself.

“Ah-ha! Got ya!” Striding to the window, he pulled back the curtain, smiling down at Ruthie’s frown. “Hello there.”

“How’d you find me? Was it Mommy?”

He blinked. “No, I just got lucky. Now let’s go find your brother.” He extended his hand and she automatically reached for it. Watching them marching off, something slammed in Koda’s heart. Dropping her purse, she sank to the sofa, hand pressed to her fluttering chest. It felt like wings of a caged bird, desperate to fly.

“Ruthie,” she called, clearing her throat. “What are the rules? Where can you hide?”

“Terry said we got to stay here in the living room.”

Dalton shot her an appreciate glance, warming her all over. Still holding Ruthie’s hand he stopped. “Okay, I give. Where are you at, Buddy?”

Buddy? He just called Terry Buddy? A thud sounded, making everyone look at the closet near the hallway. The door swung open and Terry tumbled out, landing in a pile of assorted toys, umbrellas, and a bunch of stuff she’d forgotten about.

“No fair, Terry! You didn’t say we could hide inside stuff.”

He stood up, dusting himself off. “Well duh, Ruthie. Think about it. Hide and seek.”

Koda bit back a groan. Dalton knelt at his side, pushing stuff back inside. “Great spot, Buddy. Good thinking. Ruthie, now you’ll know for next time, right?”

“Can we play again?”

Dalton shot a look at Koda. “Now that your mama’s home, I should go.”

“Tomorrow?”

Chuckling, he tipped her nose with his finger, then stood up, turning to Koda. She jumped to her feet. “We never discussed your payment.” She cleared her throat again. “Would you prefer daily or weekly? It seems you survived your first day so I assume you are open to the rest of the week?” Not only did he survive, clearly better than she had, he seemed to have created a firm bond with the kids. They clustered around him, not ready to say good-bye.

“Daily is fine. If that’s not a problem for you.”

Color touched his cheeks again. The man sure could blush easily. She reached for her pocketbook. “Not at all.” She handed out the bills, glad she’d gone to the ATM at lunchtime. He held her hand a moment, the heat searing her skin. An intensity darkened his brown eyes, making her breath race away like a fluttering bird, finally freed.

“There’s something I’d like to talk to you about if I could. Alone.”

She licked her lips, nervous at his somber tone. “Sure. Kids, stay here a minute.” She motioned him out toward the porch.

“Are you coming back tomorrow, Dalton?”

He smiled, and then looked over to Koda. “I sure hope so.”

Her heart raced ahead, caught on the ache in his voice. What could he want to talk about that would affect him coming back? He was incredible with the kids. Far better than she had assumed. She led him back outside, heart thumping. Realizing he had stopped following, she looked back, then smiled. He stood, hands back in his pockets, staring at her favorite painting. The silent angst on his face knocked at her heart. This, at least, she understood.

A full three feet wide, and almost as high, it was an imposing piece of art. A mountain scene, a dark and stormy night, with a semi-truck barreling down the steep mountain road. Hard, merciless rain fell, pummeling the rig. White lightning sliced through the black sky. A driver peered out, anxiety lining his face. Headlights swept the rocky grade, illuminating the storm’s fierce onslaught. How many times had she felt like she were caught in the same storm?

The saving grace was the superimposed white-robed, bearded man painted over the top of the truck and trailer, pointing the way, calmly and steadily guiding the driver safely down the mountainside. A light penetrated the darkness, illuminating the way to safety. The plaque beneath simply read ‘Fear not, I am with thee.’ Those words never failed to calm her racing fears.

Dalton’s lips moved, as he read the words slowly to himself. Yes, she understood. Stepping to Dalton, she rested a hand gently on his shoulder, noting when he jumped a little.

“It’s Isaiah.”

He looked over at her, blush touching his face again. “Sorry, I’m not familiar with his work.”

“No, it’s from the book of Isaiah. In the Bible. He was a prophet in the Old Testament. I don’t know who painted the picture. But it’s very powerful, isn’t it? Now was there something you wanted to talk to me about?”

By the way– this painting is real. We had one hanging on our wall when I was growing up, complete with Isaiah quote plaque. It’s been lost over many moves and us kids growing up. I am not sure what happened to it, but would dearly love to get another copy of it someday.

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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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

REDEMPTION, Book Three of the Sun God’s Heir trilogy, the latest action adventure novel by Elliot Baker . This exciting book ties up the series with the same punch and pizzazz as the previous books and is sure to captivate you. Be sure to get your copy today!

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.

EXCERPT
The four swivel cannons fired simultaneously in an earsplitting crack. The four two-man crews reloaded the breech, loading cannons quickly and efficiently. Their survival depended on their rate of fire. Each two-man team loaded a premade chamber filled with explosive and grape shot. The chambers, which had been prepared in advance, could be loaded quicker than a similar bore loaded weapon. This rapid fire as well as its swivel mount was what gave this weapon its incredible lethality.

René was about to order the cannons to fire again when the smoke cleared enough for him to see the first shots’ results. One weapon was capable of clearing the men from a ship’s deck in a naval battle. Four fired at once literally created a quagmire of blood and body parts out of the fifty men and horses that had exited the ravine first. For a moment, there was absolute silence. No matter how disciplined the troops, it would take a while for whoever remained in command to organize the next attack.

“Move the right hand wagon to its flanking position.” René pointed east.

Moving swiftly and efficiently, Walid had the men reattach the already hitched horses and move the wagon along its prepared path. A flanking maneuver would encounter a very nasty surprise. Minutes later, Walid returned to René’s side. “We are set. They will not succeed in flanking our position. With your leave sir, I will recheck the elevations of these cannons.”

“As you will, Walid. What do you think of firing the guns successively rather than simultaneously?”

“I will make it so. We must inflict greater casualties on each charge to increase the time between charges. To do that we must allow more troops to exit the ravine. By firing successive shots, we can maintain a near continuous rate of fire if necessary.”

René expected another attack within the hour and he was not disappointed.

The Bukhari erupted from the ravine. And the ‘murderers’ began to fire. The result was the same only now there were more men and horses. The number of dead and dying on the field created an additional barrier for the troops to overcome. The next attack would be a flanking attempt. The Bukhari’s horses were more of a disadvantage in this particular location so snipers scaled the rocks.

“Let us make climbing those rocks a little more precarious.”

The men aimed their muskets and began picking off the outliers that were in sight. The battlefront quieted. The Bukhari would wait for the cover of darkness before attempting to flank them. The afternoon hours passed slowly. Waiting for battle was always difficult. René was confident the routines followed by Ismail’s troops were similar. You ate, you rested, you remembered.

“Walid, have the men unhitch the horses. Tie them up next to the trail a half mile back. We will not move the wagons and if needed, we can retreat faster on horseback. The forest grew dimmer as the sun sank. The giant cedar trees were silent. All the animals had deserted their homes when the first cannon fired.

Flashes of light and explosions erupted from the cannons on the right flank, a burst of light in the growing darkness. As expected, the Bukhari had first attacked their right. Men charged out of the ravine on foot. They tried to find cover behind their fallen comrades, and failed. At such close range grape shot shredded both the cover and the men. A musket ball whizzed past René’s head blowing a chunk from the backside of the wagon. The Bukhari scaled the rocky gorge to the left and managed to come around on that side as well. Walid detailed the left most cannon to swivel and focus on the men coming around the left flank. One cannon in each direction was not enough. In the three minutes it took to reload the cannon, Screaming scimitar wielding men reached the wagon.

René moved in front to protect the gun crews. With a sword in each hand, he met the first black giant of a man who managed to reach the wagon. Ducking below a vicious strike tasked with removing his head, René plunged his sword into the man’s chest and disengaged, allowing the man to drop to the earth. More men challenged him. None survived. The two men on the forward gun yelled and he hit the dirt, the red hot metal exploding out over his head. The sound beneath the gun was deafening. The Bukhari pulled back to regroup. René’s men could not withstand another attack. They were nearly out of preloaded chambers for the guns.

“Walid, spike the guns and then take these men and collect the other gun crew. Fall back to where the horses are. Make sure that all four cannons are rendered useless”

“What about you?” Walid asked.

“I will be right behind you. Leave a horse for me, but do not wait. Ten men cannot stand against hundreds.”

“I cannot leave you, Captain.” Walid’s face constricted as if horrid memories flooded his mind. “I will not fail again.”

René put his hand on the man’s shoulder. “There will be times when we fail each other. No man is invincible. But I am confident that this will not be one of those times. I am not sacrificing myself. I intend to create a diversion that will afford us the time to escape”

“I will help you.”

“In what I am about to do you cannot help. You do not have the training. Trust me and go quickly for our enemies will move soon.”

“Do not die, El Muerte, for I cannot face the sheikh’s daughter without you.”

There was a hint of a smile on his face, but he was deadly serious.

“Do not worry. I am not ready to leave yet. I will be there.”

Walid gathered the two gun crews and they disappeared into the trees.

René backed deeper into the lush cedar grove. Being late fall, the trees all had cones filled with sap. He walked over to a one hundred and thirty foot patriarch of the grove and kneeled. With his hands opened in reverence to the trees and with regret at what he was about to do, he took a deep breath and sank deeper into the levels of consciousness. As he moved through the energy centers that control the physical body, his consciousness enlivened those centers that connected him with the wider universe of energy and matter. He began to know the tree. Not just the image his physical senses brought to him, but its life and spirit. He thanked the tree for its sacrifice and began to speed up the tiny packets of energy that made up the tree’s physical presence. Faster and faster their movement, invisible but manifest until a wisp of smoke was present on the outside of the tree’s bark. The smoke increased, becoming a small flame and then larger until the entire tree burst into flame with an explosive crack. The intense heat spread the fire quickly. The tree’s cones exploded like musket fire, sending arcs of flame into neighboring trees. René went to the other side of the trail and ignited another tree and then another. The winds coming off the mountains fanned the fire and in minutes a conflagration raced from one side of the grove to the other. René sprinted for the horses. The fire would not delay the Bukhari forever.

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 to learn when new books are available.

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shares

THE STORM WITHIN

by

Cerian Hebert

Note from Donald: I got to read an advance copy of this book and finished in one day. The characters were believable, well developed and the story did not let me put the book down. Another excellent addition to the collection.

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.

THE STORM WITHIN
By
Cerian Hebert

Healed from her own loss, Juliana Hopkins wants nothing more than to mend reclusive artist Aidan Byrne’s heart, and help close a chapter in his life that has haunted him for over twenty years. Risking their newfound love, Juliana is determined to release the ghosts he can’t let go.

Aidan has been in love with Juliana since the first moment he saw her, but if she can’t leave the tragedies of his past alone, he won’t be able to make a life with her.

She offers him a love he never dared to want, but loving her could rip open all the old wounds he’d never been able to heal.
Available now for pre-sale. Releases: November 15, 2017

Buy Link The Storm Within

Book Trailer for The Soul Mate Tree Series:

Bio:

It’s all about the romance. Since the age of twelve, Cerian has believed this and has wanted nothing more than to write stories with a Happily Ever After. Countless notebooks are filled with her stories written over the years while she’s worked jobs like cleaning stalls in New York to booking cruises in Maine. Currently she’s happily settled in southwestern New Hampshire, working for a company that offers professional development for educators. In her spare time, she’s busy weaving stories and continuing to pursue her dreams.

Bio picture

Find Cerian at:

Website Facebook Twitter Goodreads Pintrest Amazon Author page

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:

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

Carol Browne

Burning Willow Press is excited to present the epic fantasy The Exile of Elindel, The Elwardian Chronicles Book 1, by Carol Browne. This exciting novel is filled with action and adventure and will keep you glued to your e-reader to the last page.

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.

Bio

Born in Stafford in the UK, Carol Browne was raised in Crewe, Cheshire, which she thinks of as her home town. Interested in reading and writing at an early age, Carol pursued her passions at Nottingham University and was awarded an honours degree in English Language and Literature. Now living and working in the Cambridgeshire countryside, Carol usually writes fiction and is a contracted author at Burning Willow Press. Being Krystyna, published by Dilliebooks on 11th November, 2016, is her first non-fiction book.

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

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

Sharon Ledwith

When we lived in cottage country, we’d visit the local bakery in Baysville, a small, tourist town five minutes south of us. The smell of fresh baking does something to a body. Sometimes it takes you back to when life was simpler. Today, cottage and camping life have changed. Cell phones are getting better reception, and seeing satellite dishes on cottage roofs has become the norm. But sometimes it’s nice to just unplug, and let nature stir your soul.

In my new series, Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls, I uproot a troubled teen with a complicated life—he or she also possesses a psychic ability—and place them in the serene setting of Fairy Falls. These kids then have to deal with the fact that they’re different, and try to fit in, which as you can imagine isn’t that easy. Welcome to Fairy Falls. Expect the unexpected.

The following moist and spicy recipe is geared to enjoy with coffee on the dock, snacks around the card table, or a hot cup of tea in a hammock. With a prep time of 15 minutes, and cook time of 50 minutes, this pumpkin bread actually tastes even better the day after it is baked, and the smell of it coming out of the oven may take you back to your favorite tourist bakery shop while vacationing with your family.

Lakeside Pumpkin Bread
1 (15 ounce) can of pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
⅔ cup water
3 cups white sugar
3½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp. ground cloves
¼ tsp. ground ginger

Preheat oven to 350° F (175° C). Grease and flour three 7×3 inch loaf pans.

In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger in a medium bowl. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.

Bake about 50 minutes. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

So while those loaves are baking, and filling your kitchen with the most amazing smells, 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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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

Another superb novel from author Chris Pavesic . As a gamer, Chris took a successful giant leap into LitRPG. 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.

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.

AMAZON BUY LINK

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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