I'm proud to welcome Author Judith Sterling and Silver Dagger Tours!
Ashling Donoghue has almost lost hope of finding her missing parents. As her faith wanes, her love for two men waxes, rending her heart and causing friction in the Breasal household. The time has come to make a choice, to create a future untarnished by doubt. But how can she embrace the light when lured by the soft seduction of shadow?
At last, her brother Conall channels the Spear of Illumination. He's a natural shapeshifter, and he sees through illusions in both the material world and the Otherworld…not a moment too soon. An ancient evil has surfaced, and it threatens all worlds.
Only the Donoghues can save Ireland. They must face their greatest fears and act as one to fulfill their destinies as guardians of Erin.
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Excerpt from The Spear of Light
Freeing my hand, Kian grinned. “Welcome to the fourteenth century.”
I lifted my gaze to the top half of the stone keep. A shuttered window caught my attention. Aengus is there.
Hugh had given us a good idea of where to go, but how I determined his son’s precise location, I can’t say. Maybe I knew because I needed to know. Or maybe our souls were bonded in a way that defied all logic.
I pointed to the window. “Up there, right in the middle. Let’s jump up and go through the wall.”
We leapt into the air and paused at the third-floor level. Like ghosts, we floated through stone and entered the medieval bedroom. Then we lowered ourselves until our feet touched the plank floor. Tapestries, oak furniture, and a crackling fire on the hearth made the chamber feel homey and inviting.
“Awesome,” Kian breathed.
Aengus’s sleeping form drew my gaze. He lay on his back, with his bare and beautifully sculpted arms and chest visible above the fur coverlet. His golden hair was longer, touching his shoulders. I couldn’t look away.
Fortunately, my brother could. “I think the manuscript is over there.” He went to investigate.
I crept toward the bed. Aengus. I’m so sorry. I love you. Compelled beyond rhyme or reason, I leaned over and pressed my lips to his.
I’d intended a quick kiss, but my mouth lingered, savoring an experience it might never have again. His lips were softened by sleep; his breath was warm with a trace of spices. Mulled wine? Maybe.
“Ash, I got it. We have to go.” Kian waited close by.
Regretfully, I ended the kiss and straightened. I’ll always love you.
Aengus stirred beneath the covers. “Caer,” he murmured. His eyes opened.
Crap! Any second, he might shift into the Otherworld and see me. I seized my brother’s hand as Aengus sat up in bed. “Hurry, Kian!”
The next instant, the room was quiet. The Otherworld twilight remained, as did the medieval furnishings, but the fire and the man were absent.
A sense of loss swept through me. “Funny how empty a room can seem.”
“I’m sorry, Ash.” Kian squeezed my hand, then released it. “It’ll be okay.”
I turned to him. “Will it?”
Judith Sterling is an award-winning author whose love of history and passion for the paranormal infuse everything she writes. Whether penning medieval romance (The Novels of Ravenwood) or young adult paranormal fantasy (the Guardians of Erin series), her favorite themes include true love, destiny, time travel, healing, redemption, and finding the hidden magic which exists all around us. She loves to share that magic with readers and whisk them far away from their troubles, particularly to locations in the British Isles.
Her nonfiction books, written under Judith Marshall, have been translated into multiple languages. She has an MA in linguistics and a BA in history, with a minor in British Studies. Born in that sauna called Florida, she craved cooler climes, and once the travel bug bit, she lived in England, Scotland, Sweden, Wisconsin, Virginia, and on the island of Nantucket. She currently lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and their identical twin sons.
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Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!
I'm pleased to host Tena Stetler and Silver Dagger Tours!
It takes a Warrior Angel and Native American Shifter to save the past and create their future.
Angel Killian Dugan’s annual trip to the family castle in Scotland is shattered by the arrival of Legion Commander North. Killian’s skills are needed for an urgent time travel assignment. A rogue demon has escaped back in time. He must discover the why and where then stop the demon before it can damage the past and change the future.
Killian’s girlfriend Chinoah Grace, a Native American shapeshifter is included in the mission, which takes them to the wild west town of Wylder, Wyoming in 1878. She will have her hands full fitting in and making friends. Nothing is as it seems. They encounter visions, spirit quests, and a mysterious shaman. On top of it all, blending in as a blacksmith is more physically difficult than he imagined. But not as challenging as keeping his hands off his undercover wife. Will they complete their assignment or run out of time?
The brass door knocker echoed through the castle announcing visitors.
With a raised brow, he peered at Chinoah. “Expecting guests, are we?”
“Not as far as I know.” She got to her feet and padded across the stone floor.
“Wait.” Grumbling, he pushed up from the cozy warm couch, slipped his socked feet back into his boots, and clomped toward her. “Best let me answer the door since we don’t know who's waiting on the other side.”
She slowed her pace to allow him to catch up with her. “This castle is huge. By the time we get to the door, the visitors may be gone.” She giggled.
“Way to keep in shape.” Chuckling, he kissed her. “Apparently, my cousin made the original great hall into their family living space.”
He smiled at the thought. “Besides, I didn’t hear you complain last evening when you thundered through the castle for a couple of hours on four paws.”
“That was different. My wolf needed the exercise, and you didn’t want me to go outside.” Her lips formed a pout that he found irresistible.
“Didn’t want to spring you from a trap.” He turned his attention out the window where the snow swirled in the howling wind. “Besides, who in bloody hell would be calling at this time of night and in this weather?”
She raised an eyebrow and shrugged. “Only one group of individuals I know.”
“Oh, no. I’m on leave. They didn’t know where I was going. Besides, they wouldn’t expect me to be here.” The ancient wooden door groaned then made a squeeing sound when Killian yanked it open. “What in tarnation are you doing here?”
Tena Stetler is a best-selling author of award winning paranormal romance with an over-active imagination. She wrote her first vampire romance as a tween, to the chagrin of her mother and the delight of her friends. Colorado is home; shared with her husband, a brilliant Chow Chow, a spoiled parrot and a forty-five-year-old box turtle. When she’s not writing, her time is spent kayaking, camping, hiking, biking or just relaxing in the great Colorado outdoors.
Her books tell tales of magical kick-ass women and mystical alpha males that dare to love them. Travel, adventure, and a bit of mystery flourish in her books along with a few companion animals to round out the tales.
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Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!
Can love break through their firewalls?
I'm delighted to host author Jennifer Wilck, who recently released the second book in her Scarred Hearts series. I highly recommend reading the excerpt. Swoon! I can hardly wait to read the rest!
Thank you so much, Anastasia, for hosting me today. I am so excited to share my latest contemporary romance with you. Unlock My Heart is a standalone romance but is the second book in my Scarred Hearts series. And it combines two of my favorite things—wounded heroes and brilliant heroines.
Ted, the hero, is the billionaire founder and CEO of his computer security firm, Sentec. He’s hard of hearing and goes to great lengths to keep people from treating him any differently than anyone else. So of course, the first time Abby, my heroine meets him, she stares at his hearing aids! That’s only one of several reasons why he doesn’t want to hire her—the second reason being that she’s gorgeous and he’s lusting after her—but since she’s by far the most qualified for the job, she joins his company anyway. Despite the rocky start, he recognizes her talent, enjoys her company, and loves how she accepts his hearing loss.
Abby, the heroine, has risen above her poverty-stricken childhood by learning computer coding and is now one of the best in her field. She values her independence—especially her financial independence—more than anything and doesn’t want to depend on a man for anything. Especially when that man is her boss and could crush her career. But the longer she’s around Ted, and the more she gets to know him, the easier it is to fall for him.
I love writing wounded heroes because it gives me a chance to show their vulnerable side. That vulnerability adds dimension, while also giving them motivation for the things they do—both good and bad. And it gives me a chance to explore the psychology behind the behavior, which I think is fascinating.
Brilliant heroines are a no-brainer (ha!). I can’t stand the “stupid female” trope and want to smack some of these characters when I read about the idiotic things they do. That’s not the kind of heroine I want to read or to write. Love is important, but it shouldn’t be what makes the character. It might polish her. It might add to her happiness. But I want her to be complete without a man.
I hope you enjoy reading about Ted and Abby in Unlock My Heart. If you’re interested in the rest of the series, you can also read A Reckless Heart, as well. Please let me know how you like them!
They walked with care up the icy steps, Ted taking Abby’s arm. His concern for her touched her. Desire flared. At the top of the steps, she leaned against one of the gray stone columns and caught her breath, but he joined her, arms on either side of her, his body shielding her from the few brave tourists who entered or left. This close to him, his eyelashes provided a dark outline to his eyes, his cheeks were ruddy from the cold, and his minty breath warmed her face. Out of reflex, she curled her hands around his hard biceps. His jeans brushed against hers, an invisible string tangled between the two of them, pulled her toward him. The air crackled.
She blinked. His lips were parted, pale, and looked like silk. She wondered what they’d feel like against hers, her neck, her...with a huge effort, she dragged her gaze away from his lips.
His neck enticed her more. The skin was a bit rough, and right below his Adam’s apple was the hollow she wanted to touch. More than anything, right now, she wanted to touch it. She lifted her hand off his arm and stopped in midair as he swallowed. Was he as turned on right now as she was?
His pupils dilated until they were outlined in electric blue. He tipped toward her, his nose brushed against hers, and he paused.
He was going to kiss her.
One of his hands moved to her cheek, stroked it, and sent shivers down her neck. He brushed a strand of escaped hair and hooked it behind her ear. She whimpered at the touch of his fingertip on her earlobe and turned her face into his hand. Cupping her neck, he drew her closer to him, angling his face as he brought his lips toward hers...
“Oh, excuse me.” Someone knocked into them, waving an apology as they continued down the stairs.
He pulled away, and she rested her head against the stone pillar, gulping great amounts of cold air.
“What are we doing here?” Ted jammed his hands into his pockets.
There were many ways to answer his question, and they all depended on her bravery. “It’s supposed to be a beautiful building. I thought we’d go inside where it’s quiet and explore.”
He stared at her for several beats of her heart. She couldn’t read his expression. Did he not understand her? Did he wish she’d talked about their almost kiss? Did he admire the stonework behind her?
Without a sound, he took her hand in his and led her into the library. His stride was longer than hers, and she raced to keep pace with him. They’d never held hands while they walked, and all the while she jogged next to him she thought about his palm touching hers. It was maybe thirty degrees outside, yet his bare hand warmed hers.
And the other parts of her he’d light on fire with his touch.
He pulled her through the main lobby, up the stairs, and to the left, giving her no time to admire anything. They raced along the long hallway and stopped outside of one of the rooms. It was empty. He opened the door and pulled her inside. Finding an out-of-the-way nook, he led her over and leaned her against the wall.
Determination and desire burned as he lowered his mouth and claimed her lips for his own. One hand cradled the back of her head, the other rested on her waist. He pulled her closer. Finally. His mouth was soft and firm and sure. She whimpered against his lips, and he pulled away.
“Did you say something?”
She bit her lip. “Don’t stop.”
His nostrils flared, and he covered her mouth again with his own, tasting, nipping, licking, until she parted her lips, and he thrust his tongue into her mouth. He was minty and warm, and she was going to turn into a puddle. She moaned. Relief and desire mingled together, filled her with a need strong enough her knees wobbled. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she held on, stroked the soft skin below his ear, and ran her hands through his hair. His body against hers formed a wall of solid muscle. She was safe and warm.
When he pulled away, hours or days could have passed. Foreheads touching, they both panted and neither one let go.
“Wow,” she said.
Ted pulled back, took his finger, and pressed it against her mouth. He pulled her against him and wrapped his arms around her. They were like bands of steel, and she burrowed into him.
“Don’t talk,” he whispered. “I don’t want to hear you say this won’t work. I want to hold you against my heart. Feel how hard it beats? That’s you. I’ve wanted you for so long.”
Her eyes prickled at the emotion in his voice, and she gripped him tighter. It wouldn’t work. She couldn’t be this lucky, but she’d never felt this way, and she’d denied her attraction for so long... She would give anything to try. When she thought she could control her voice, she tapped him on the back. With a sigh, he pulled away.
“I won’t say it,” she said. He closed his eyes as her hand touched him, and he kept them closed until she reached his jaw. “I want you too.”
Jennifer started telling herself stories as a little girl when she couldn’t fall asleep at night. Pretty soon, her head was filled with these stories and the characters that populated them. Even as an adult, she thinks about the characters and stories at night before she falls asleep or walking the dog. Eventually, she started writing them down. Her favorite stories to write are those with smart, sassy, independent heroines; handsome, strong and slightly vulnerable heroes; and her stories always end with happily ever after.
In the real world, she’s the mother of two amazing daughters and wife of one of the smartest men she knows. She believes humor is the only way to get through the day and does not believe in sharing her chocolate.
Jennifer Wilck is an award-winning contemporary romance author for readers who are passionate about love, laughter, and happily ever after. Known for writing both Jewish and non-Jewish romances, her books feature damaged heroes, sassy and independent heroines, witty banter and hot chemistry. Jennifer’s ability to transport the reader into the scene, create characters the reader will fall in love with, and evoke a roller coaster of emotions, will hook you from the first page. You can find her books at all major online retailers in a variety of formats.
Set me as a seal upon your heart,
as a seal upon your arm;
For Love is as strong as Death,
longing as fierce as Sheol.
Its arrows are arrows of fire,
flames of the divine.
Deep waters cannot quench love,
nor rivers sweep it away.
Were one to offer all the wealth of his house for love,
he would be utterly despised.
--Song of Solomon 8: 6-7
Unwinding a long, lace table runner, she removed layers of tissue paper. As the last of the wrappings fell away, she choked back tears and stared at the face of her farmer, a face she had known all her life.
The small, framed drawing was one of the few things of value she possessed. Faded and fragile, it was a bona fide and precious antique, handed down through her father’s family for generations, placed in her keeping by her grandfather. It had hung in the great room of the farmhouse. She’d stood looking up at it so often that Gramps had finally moved it to her room. She couldn’t have been more than eight years old.
After that, she’d shared every sadness, every disappointment, and every joy with her farmer. She gazed at the beloved face.
No one knew who he was, but he’d been the impetus for her chosen career, the very reason she’d wanted to study medieval history. In her studies, she’d come across drawings of medieval farmers guiding their teams of oxen, but hers stood alone, strong and sure, facing the artist.
She touched the glass, tracing him with her finger, feeling that, somehow, he reached through the centuries to comfort her.
“I wish you were here,” she whispered.
I'm so pleased to welcome author Margot Johnson, who is going to tell us about her new holiday romance. She's also sharing an excerpt from the book and a wonderful Christmas cookie recipe. I have to say, it's put me in a festive mood! Enjoy!
Margot Johnson grew up in a family of writers and has always loved books and writing. She is the author of two, sweet romance novels--LOVE TAKES FLIGHT and LOVE LEADS THE WAY and the Christmas novella LET IT SNOWBALL. Her characters can't possibly find their happy endings...or can they?
Before turning her focus to the fun writing life, Margot held leadership roles in human resources and communications. Her motto is "Dream big and work hard." When not writing, she loves to connect with family and friends, volunteer with SK Writers Guild, and walk at least 10,000 steps a day (except when it's minus 40!)
She lives in the Canadian prairies with her amazing husband and beloved golden retriever.
From the Author
My writing tip: Don’t wait for the perfect idea or ideal moment. Just sit at your keyboard and write!
Inspiration for this story: I live in a place where winter storms and frigid weather are common. I also love Christmas.
Last year during lockdown, my husband and I couldn’t visit friends and family in person, so we delivered Christmas light necklaces to their doors and then connected online. We also bundled up for a walk on a minus forty degree day. I can imagine my characters Merilee and Ross sharing similar adventures.
One wish: I love hearing feedback from readers. I wish everyone who reads Let it Snowball would post a review.
I write feel-good stories about women who chase their dreams and bump into romance along the way. They live in small communities near my home in the Canadian prairies, and they count on an eclectic mix of family and friends to make their lives interesting and fun.
My new release is available as an eBook on Amazon and major online bookstores. I hope you agree it’s a fun way to celebrate the Christmas season!
In my story, the heroine, Merilee, shares her famous cookie recipe for chocolate snowballs – see below). Maybe you’ll want to add it to your Christmas baking list.
Website: margotjohnson.ca Facebook: MargotJohnsonAuthor Twitter: @AuthorMargot
Christmas tours brim with lights, cookies, and…unexpected romance?
Divorced, empty nester Merilee is on a roll. Filled with scrumptious cookies and old-fashioned fun, her Christmas bus tours aim to add festive spirit to her hometown and new meaning to her lackluster life. Too bad her reserved driver slams the brakes on fun.
Widowed farmer Ross needs a little joy to combat his December blues. Behind the wheel, he wears a Santa suit but can't muster a convincing ho-ho-ho. Too many memories block his road to happiness…until irrepressible Merilee sparks a snowstorm of unexpected feelings.
In two weeks of holiday tours, Ross might drive Merilee crazy…or will romance snowball inside their lonely hearts?
Excerpt from Let it Snowball
After a short drive, the busload arrived at their first stop. “You’re in for a treat.” Merilee leapt up, leaned over, and gave directions on where to park. Absorbing Ross’s delicious scent, clean like snow infused with a trace of peppermint, she jerked back and steadied her breath. Sudden, shocking warmth flooded her insides. Now where was she? She paused to gather her wayward thoughts.
“These rules apply for each stop so we can all enjoy the goodies inside and still keep the tour on schedule. You are free to choose from several platters of cookies. If you would like to sample other kinds or take some home, you can purchase as many as you’d like. We’ll stay for thirty minutes, and then I’ll jingle.” She demonstrated with a string of bells. “Last one back on the bus has to tell a joke or lead a song. If you agree, shout snowball.”
“Snowball.” In a chorus of voices, the group hollered back the right answer.
She lowered the mic. “What about you, Santa?”
He shifted the gear into Park. “Nobody’s going anywhere without me.” He straightened his hat and quirked a fluffy eyebrow.
She smiled, folded her arms, and tapped a foot. Her boots were pretty eye-catching covered in green and red toppers with bells on the toes. Maybe she could cajole him into some good-natured joking. “Santa, you know what happens to kids who don’t behave. You don’t want to end up on the Naughty List, do you?”
“Snowball.” He kept a straight face.
Let it Snowball
Love Takes Flight
Love Leads the Way
Merilee’s Famous Chocolate Snowballs
3/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1/4 cup 2% or whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup baking cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
Add egg, milk, and vanilla and mix well.
Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.
Gradually add to creamed mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Shape into 1 inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets and bake until tops crackle (7-8 minutes).
Remove to wire racks and cool. Roll in icing sugar.
A remarkable post from author Anna M. Taylor. Welcome, Anna!
The Past Is Always With Us
One of the last times I was able to visit New York, I stood on the Brooklyn Promenade and gazed across the East River to where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center once stood. As I did, a line from William Faulkner’s Requiem for A Nun struck me: “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.” As a lover of history I've always known this to be true. The question is what effect should it have on the present?
On that same trip I visited the African Burial Ground National Monument and Federal Hall National Memorial in lower Manhattan. This is history which people took the time to erect solid reminders to so the past would be with us in a concrete way. But I also did a walking tour of African and African-American historical sites in the area which don't even have a plaque to mark the spot where that history happened. Spots like the corner of Ann & William Streets where nothing remains of the African Free School founded in 1787 for forty boys and girls. Not even a plaque. For years I had walked those streets surrounded by the ghosts of that history and the unsung stories of others who inhabited those streets long before I did. What would I be sensitive to if I had walked those streets to and from work aware of the ghosts who still lingered there? Would my outlook on life be different?
In Requiem For A Nun one character tries to escape her past by claiming she’s no longer the person she was. But the lawyer who speaks the line is telling her you can’t escape the past. It’s always present. For my mind that’s not always bad. Energy from the past can be used for good or ill; which one depends on your level of awareness. It’s no wonder then that as Anna M. Taylor I enjoy writing stories dealing with spirits or supernatural energy to be more accurate. Humans enter a situation, oblivious to or in denial about the past that is not dead, that is not past. Their level of awareness, i.e. ability to accept that alternate and concurrent reality, determines if things are going to end up good for them or ill. That level of awareness or denial is what I write about in my Haunted Harlem series.
Having been a minister I’m already predisposed to accept realities that go beyond the five senses. After all, the core belief of my religion is that over 2000 years ago a man named Jesus was crucified, died and was buried only to live again. It’s not just the knowledge of that sacrifice that gives the Christian power, but the belief that the energy released through that act reaches through time and enables me to heal through the laying on of hands or cast out demons by invoking Jesus’ name. It’s as if a nuclear bomb had been set off 2,000 years ago and the aftershocks from the blast are still being experienced. The energy of unrequited love leaves its own aftershocks that only love fulfilled can dissipate.
I bring this view on the world to bear in my ghost story/romances because I believe only actions motivated by love have the power to right all wrongs, see justice is done no matter how long it has been denied. I know that’s also why second chance is my favorite romance trope and shows up in all my stories. In coming back, repenting, forgiving, trying again we harness the energy of that past and can affect positive change in the present. The past is always with us, but I hope you agree with me and my romances that doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact it can be a mighty force for good.
Only love can face down those things not dreamt of in our philosophies
Ten years ago no one -- not even the man who said he loved her -- believed Sankofa Lawford's claim that she had been brutally attacked by a ghost. Ten years later an assault on a new victim brings her back to Harlem to a mother going mad, a brother at his wits’ end and a former love who wants a second chance. Sankofa longs for her family to be whole again, for love to be hers again, but not if she must relive the emotional pain created by memories of that night.
Mitchell Emerson is convinced science and reason can account for the ghostly happenings at Umoja House. He resolves to find an explanation that will not only satisfy him but earn back Sankofa’s trust and love. Instead, his own beliefs are shaken when he sees the ghost for himself.
Now reluctant allies, Mitchell and Sankofa learn her family was more than a little in love with death. Their search for the ghost draws them together but discovering sixty years of lies and secrets pulls them apart. As their hopes for happily ever after and dispersing the evil stalking Umoja House slip beyond their grasp, Mitchell and Sankofa find an unexpected source of help: the ghost itself.
Available at Amazon.
Excerpt: A Little in Love with Death by Anna M. Taylor
They all jumped at Wanda Lawford’s high pitched squeal. He strode in and pulled up a chair.
“Good afternoon, Wanda. It’s so good to see you.”
She clasped his hand against her cheek. Her rocking stilled and calm descended. She stroked his hand and repeated his name with each stroke.
“Mitchell,” she purred.
He gentled her into a hug as he glanced toward the open door. Relief registered on Langston’s face; shock on Sankofa’s. He eased back and placed a hand on Wanda’s shoulder.
“Now, what’s this I hear about you not wanting to take your medicine?”
“Can’t…mustn’t.” She closed her eyes and snuggled against his chest. “Have to be awake, have to be ready.” She sat up suddenly and stared at him. “Are my pastor now?”
“No, Wanda. Still awaiting my lay pastor commissioning.”
She teared. “But, soon?” Her voice quivered.
“Good. Can’t trust my memory sometimes.” She surveyed the room. “This isn’t my room.”
“Not your bedroom, no. Wanda, we want you to come home. Don’t you want to come home?”
She shook her head. “No. Can’t go home…don’t want to go home. Only death there. Only death. I’m not in love with death anymore. Not even a little.”
She clutched his lapel and pointed a shaky finger at Sankofa.
“Keep her safe, Mitchell. Only you can keep her safe.”
Mitchell glanced at Sankofa. Tears he longed to wipe away shone in her eyes. Wanda clutched his hands, shook them until she had his attention.
“Promise, Mitchell. Promise me.”
“Good. Good.” Wanda laid her head against his chest and sighed. “Sankofa still loves you. I know it. I know it. I know—”
She stiffened, then cupped his face in her hands and pinned him with her gaze.
“Them that tell don’t know and them that know don’t tell.”
Sankofa sobbed and hurried from the room.
Mitchell laid his cheek against the top of Wanda’s head. Her scented talc took him back to Easter hugs and Christmas kisses that made the holidays of his youth bearable. He lowered his voice.
“Wanda, I’ve got a secret to share with you. Can I?”
She nodded and pulled him closer. Mischief twinkled where madness once gleamed. He cupped his hand so it sheltered her ear.
“I love Sankofa, too.”
“But you left her.” A frown distended her lips. She gripped his arms so tightly he cringed. “You left her.”
“And have regretted that decision every day since.” He swallowed, the truth of his betrayal still bitter.
Wanda’s frown transformed into a teary smile. “But you came back. The others didn’t return, but you did. You did. I knew you would.” She searched his face then nodded for emphasis. “I knew you would.”
He looked to the nurse who held the pill cup and water to her.
“Here, Wanda.” He pointed to the pill cup. “Won’t you take them for me?”
She sniffed at the cup, eyed the nurse with a frown but took the pills. One by one she swallowed each capsule with a sip of water.
“Thank you.” Mitchell kissed her forehead. “They’ll help you rest. We can talk some more after you’ve rested.”
He helped her lay down on the bed. She sighed then smiled.
“Mitchell. You marry Sankofa. Married to you, she’ll be safe. Promise me. Promise.”
He held her hand. “There’s nothing I’d like better, Wanda. But that’s not up to me.”
Displeasure lined her tiny face. “She won’t be protected without marriage, Mitchell. I know. Marry her. Marry her...”
The repeated phrase faded to a whisper then ceased when she fell asleep. He eased his hand from hers and stood. How many times had she comforted him during his troubled teen years? He smoothed the sheet around her, grateful to be able to return the favor.
Langston stood at the door but didn’t enter. “Now I know she’s crazy.”
Mitchell started, angered by the look of contempt on Langston’s face.
“Don’t talk about your mother like that.”
Langston ignored him. “No way in hell Sankofa would have you now. Not after what you put her through.”
Mitchell let off an unsteady breath then moved so he and Langston stood nose to nose.
“After what I put Sankofa through, there’s no way I’d let her, even if she wanted to.”
Available at Amazon.
About the Author
A native New Yorker now a relocated-to-the-Southwest romance-writing retired minister. I came across a saying which I’ve framed: do more of what makes you happy. That’s writing. I write in three romance subgenres: as Anna Taylor I write Christian inspirational, as Anna M. Taylor I write gothic and as Michal Scott I write erotic (mainly historical). I’ve had nine works published since I debuted with Through A Glass Darkly, my first Christian inspirational in 2008. Last year I dove into the self-publishing waters with my Haunted Harlem novella series. This year I’ve participated in Falling Hard, my second Passionate Ink anthology and Cowboys, my third Delilah Devlin Boy’s Behaving Badly anthology.
Anna M. Taylor website
Anna M. Taylor Amazon Author Page
Anna M. Taylor FB Author Page
I LOVE Ella Shane!
What a beautifully cozy mysteryI The setting is interesting, the mystery solid, and the characters absolutely wonderful. These are people I look forward to spending more time with.
We are introduced to the mystery almost immediately. The story begins in New Haven, 1899, but quickly moves on to New York City. As it progresses, we get to know Ella, an opera star from humble beginnings, and those closest to her. Ella is kind, talented, self-possessed, self-educated, yet humble. She not only sings, she's an excellent swordswoman. If she wasn't as awesome as she is, I'd have a hard time choosing my favorite character. There's her Irish cousin Tommy, former prizefighter, who left boxing to become her manager. There's the outspoken, poker-playing Father Michael and Hetty, a rare, female reporter. Montezuma, the foul-mouthed parrot, is absolutely hilarious. There are still other endearing characters who add to the coziness of the story, but I won't list them all here. Of course, this romance fan is not about to leave out Ella's possible romantic interest, the gorgeous Gilbert Saint Aubyn, Duke of Leith. Every character bursts with personality, and you cannot help but love them.
The author sumptuously presents the cultural/societal atmosphere of the time. The story has a deliciously historical flavor, but the main characters are forward-thinking. It's the first novel I've read featuring an opera star, and I found that aspect to be very interesting as well. Of note, there's a subtle, beautiful dignity and morality to the book that match the fineness of the characters.
When you can spend time with characters you love, enjoy a solid mystery, sigh over a hint of romance, learn a little something, and overall feel uplifted by a book, well, that's saying more than a little something.
Thank you for a great read, Kathleen Marple Kalb. I look forward to more Ella Shane mysteries!
Today, I'm pleased to feature this delightful Christmas novella -- first of the season! The holidays are nigh upon us!
Hair stylist Scarlett Kerrigan lost her job and her apartment. To alleviate a touch of self-pity, she succumbs to her stepmom’s pressure to attend a wedding in the New Hampshire White Mountains. Unfortunately, she runs into the vacation fling who promised the moon but disappeared without an explanation. Months have passed, but she is not ready to forgive and forget.
After a chaotic year, executive Wes Harley settles into his family's event venue, The Timeless Manor. His carefully structured world is shaken to its core when Scarlett arrives for the Victorian Christmas wedding weekend. The feelings he never quite erased flood to the surface.
When secrets are revealed, will a magical chateau and a sprinkle of tinsel be enough to charm Scarlett?
Excerpt from Tinsel and Tea Cakes
Lights flashed in the side view mirror. Another car parked behind them, but snow blocked all visibility through the back window. Boots crunching through snow announced the hulking figure before he appeared at the door. A scarf and hat covered most of the stranger’s face, and only a pair of emerald-green eyes peered in.
Scarlett inched down the window a crack. The possibility of this person being a deranged lunatic couldn’t be overlooked.
“Scarlett?” The man stepped back and tugged down the scarf.
She knew that face and opened her mouth to speak but couldn’t find a word. This day just kept getting better. Those eyes should have been the first clue, but never in her wildest dreams did she expect to see him again. The blur of memories racing through her mind dropped a throat-constricting concoction of confusion, hurt, and vile hope on her chest. “Wes.”
“What are you doing here? Aren’t you a little far from home?”
A line formed between his eyebrows. Clarice leaned forward to get a better glimpse of their potential knight in shining armor.
“More than a little.”
Coherent thoughts took shape in the form of questions and accusations. Every fiber in her being burned at the thought of asking him for help, but alternative options were few and far between. Who knew how long before roadside assistance arrived? Fine, maybe he’d get her out of this mess, but making small talk didn’t need to factor into the exchange.
About the Author
Jill Piscitello is a teacher, author, and an avid fan of multiple literary genres. Although she divides her reading hours among several books at a time, a lighthearted story offering an escape from the real world can always be found on her nightstand.
A native of New England, Jill lives with her family and three well-loved cats. When not planning lessons or reading and writing, she can be found spending time with her family, trying out new restaurants, traveling, and going on light hikes.
Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram
I've been going on and on about how cozy mysteries have joined ranks with my all time favorite genre, romance! But this is the first time I've ever hosted an actual cozy mystery writer on my blog -- so exciting! Following her very fun and interesting post, you'll find an excerpt from her book Death by Sample Size, as well as a link for a very useful swimsuit fitting guide. Enjoy! Susie Black, thank you. The post is yours!
How I Became a Cozy Mystery Writer
by Susie Black
As a newbie author, I was advised by those far more experienced than me that the best way to build a following is to develop a relationship with readers by sharing personal things about myself with them and let them get to know me. The marketing webinars all preached show your vulnerability, your humanity, who you are, and the readers will lap it up. Truthfully, I didn’t see why anyone would be all that interested in my bio. Trust me, other than the possible exception of my mother who was compelled to find my life story fascinating or risk admitting she had been a failure by having raised a bore, even I didn’t find it particularly riveting. But enough colleagues I respect all suggested I do the same thing, so when people began asking how I became a writer, I realized I’d been wrong. I would be foolish not to put myself out there, right? What’s the worst that could happen? Ok, maybe we won’t go down that rabbit hole. This is it, so buckle up; it’s gonna be a heck of a ride. Like most journeys of mine, this one’s a bit convoluted; sort of like going to Cleveland by way of Cairo. That said, I hope you enjoy the ride.
With its ups and downs, hills, valleys, and sometimes unexpected curves, life itself is the ultimate story. What makes us all storytellers stirring the stew in the cauldron, is a point of view. Life is all around us. Sit in the food court at the mall and pay attention to the crowd. In the time it takes to order and consume a burger and soda, an observant people watcher will have enough subject matter to write a series.
Like the protagonist in my Holly Swimsuit murder mystery series, I am a ladies’ apparel sales exec. From the start of my career, I have kept a daily journal that chronicles the quirky, interesting, and often challenging people I’ve encountered as well as the crazy situations I’ve gotten myself into and out of. The journal entries are the foundation of all my writing. The most critically important skill a sales exec must have in order to succeed is to be a good storyteller. Fortunately, I’ve been telling stories since I learned how to talk. Since I’d never written a novel before, the only thing I knew to do was to apply the same story-telling skills I’d successfully used hawking bikinis to writing a tale. So, where did my story ideas come from? My mother didn’t raise stupid children. I paid attention to the mantra. Write what you know. With a dollop of imagination, a pinch of angst, and a decades-long career chocked to the gills with juicy characters, I had more stories itching to be told in my daily journal than time to write them.
One thing I’d been told over and over as a sales exec was to know your product inside out. I heard the same thing when I started writing cozy mysteries: write what you know. If you don’t know it, either do the research and learn it, or don’t dare to write it. Whether you’re an author or a sales exec, you’re selling yourself, and readers, like buyers, can sniff out a phony in a heartbeat, and then you and whatever kind of story you’re telling are toast.
I came to write in the cozy mystery genre because I love solving puzzles. My parents would certainly confirm I have always asked a lot of questions, and I am naturally curious (some narrow-minded people say I am nosy…go figure…LOL). So, writing mysteries was the natural next step for me to take. Who could push a sales exec to dream of murder and mayhem? Who else but a buyer? After completing a rather challenging conversation with an important, but difficult account, I imagined how good it would feel with my hands around her scrawny neck, squeezing the life out of her. While the notion of knocking off my annoying customers was wildly appealing, a horizontally striped prison uniform making my four-foot, nine-inch body look like a barbershop pole and a fire hydrant had a child wasn’t a pretty sight. The viable alternative? Writing humorous murder mysteries set in the Los Angeles garment center. Brilliant and cathartic! In one fell swoop, eliminate a pain- in- the- patootie buyer, avoid life in prison and still get the order. It doesn’t get any better than that.
About the Author
Born in the Big Apple, Susie Black now calls sunny Southern California home. Like the protagonist in her Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series, Susie is a successful apparel sales executive. Susie began telling stories as soon as she learned to talk. Now she’s telling all the stories from her garment industry experiences in humorous mysteries.
She reads, writes, and speaks Spanish, albeit with an accent that sounds like Mildred from Michigan went on a Mexican vacation and is trying to fit in with the locals. Since life without pizza and ice cream as her core food groups wouldn’t be worth living, she’s a dedicated walker to keep her girlish figure. A voracious reader, she’s also an avid stamp collector. Susie lives with a highly intelligent man and has one incredibly brainy but smart-aleck adult son who inexplicably blames his sarcasm on an inherited genetic defect.
Looking for more? Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
To connect with Susie:
Everyone wanted her dead…but who actually killed her?
“The last thing swimwear sales exec Holly Schlivnik expected was to discover ruthless buying office big wig Bunny Frank’s corpse trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey with a bikini stuffed down her throat. When Holly’s colleague is arrested for Bunny’s murder, the wise-cracking, irreverent amateur sleuth jumps into action to find the real killer. Nothing turns out the way Holly thinks it will as she matches wits with a wily killer hellbent on revenge. Get ready to laugh out loud as Susie Black’s Death by Sample Size takes you on a rollicking adventure ride through the Los Angeles apparel industry.”
Excerpt from Death by Sample Size
Angela Wellborn and I nodded politely to one another as we entered A Jolt of Java together the next morning. I cautiously wished her a good morning and took it as a good sign when Angela told me to have a nice day. With any luck, maybe I’d save the account.
I worked my way around the table distributing the group’s coffees. When I handed Sonia her cup, the good vibe I had from Angela quickly disappeared. Sonia’s complexion was gray as day-old oatmeal. Her red-rimmed eyes said it all.
I squeezed her arm. “What happened?”
Sonia’s eyes filled. “I didn’t get it.”
“Did they tell you why?”
Sonia twisted her lips into a bitter smile. “My references didn’t pan out.”
Bunny Frank sat at a table across from us sipping a latte and reading the West Coast Apparel News. Sonia walked the short distance to Bunny’s table. Bunny folded the paper and gave Sonia a shit-eating grin.
Sonia growled, “You’re a miserable excuse for a human being. You couldn’t bring yourself to do the right thing for once in your life. You had to lie and destroy a fabulous opportunity because you could.”
Bunny drew a circle in the air and put her index finger through it. “Bullseye, Wilson.” She wiggled her thumb and flashed an evil smile. “Gotcha right under here and I always will.”
Sonia grabbed the latte out of Bunny’s hand and poured the drink over Bunny’s head. The concoction flowed slowly like lava down Bunny’s face and meandered into her cleavage. Too stunned to react, Bunny sat still as a statue as the foam seeped from her décolletage and stained her white knit top.
Sonia crushed the empty paper cup and threw it on the table. The crowded room was silent as a tomb as all eyes swiveled to Bunny’s table. Not a soul missed Sonia snarl, “I promise I’ll get even with you. I will make you pay if it takes me forever.” Sonia spun on her heel and stomped back to our table. She pointed to the barista’s station. “Anyone for a refill? This round is on me.”
A Gift from Susie: Choosing the Right Swimsuit
It's no secret that I prefer fat HEAs. Where better than in a beautiful romance?
From me to you with a smile.
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