Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Shadow Stalker Part 3 (Episodes 13 - 18) by Renee Scattergood

Renee Scattergood lives in Australia with her husband, Nathan, and daughter, Taiya. She has always been a fan of fantasy and was inspired to become a story-teller by George Lucas, but didn't start considering writing down her stories until she reached her late twenties. Now she enjoys writing dark fantasy, and she’d dabbling with paranormal thrillers under a pen name.

She is currently publishing her monthly Shadow Stalker serial, and she has published a prequel novella to the series called, Demon Hunt. She is also working on a new series of novels, A God's Deception.

Aside from writing, she loves reading (fantasy, of course), watching movies with her family, and doing crafts and science experiments with her homeschooled daughter. Visit her site for more information and a free copy of Shadow Stalker Part 1 (Episodes 1 – 6)

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About the Book


Things go from bad to worse when the Galvadi Empire develops a new technology to use against the shadow stalkers. Now Kado and Makari are more determined than ever to keep Auren away from their enemies, but Auren decides enough is enough and takes matters into her own hands. She turns herself over to the Galvadi to get close to Drevin and Makari has no choice but to play along. He is forced to either torture Auren to prove his loyalty or die knowing she will be tortured and enslaved anyway. Somehow they have to get close enough to Drevin to bring him down and put an end to the Galvadi’s tyranny once and for all.

Pre-order it today!


If you haven't read the Shadow Stalker serial yet, get Part 1 (Episodes 1 - 6) free!


Keep reading for an excerpt:


Cali gave me a nudge as she took a seat next to me. "Do you have any idea what's going on?"

"No idea," I said, moving over a few inches so she had space to sit between me and Shai on the log someone had converted into a bench.

Shai slung an arm around her cousin and Cali returned the gesture, then wrapped her free arm around me. I smiled at her. Cali was the only one who had helped me maintain my sanity over the years. It drove me crazy never knowing what was happening to Makari. Kado kept me busy, as usual, but any time I had a free moment, all I could do was wonder if he was safe. I would know if he died. I would sense him again in the shadow world. He had been blocking me to keep me safe, though I had no idea how it was supposed to help. All it did was make me want to go to him, which would be more dangerous.

Of course, Kado would never allow that. He saw my thoughts as I had them most of the time, and he would know as soon as I made the decision. I learned quickly not to allow my thoughts to go down that path too often. That's where Cali came in. She distracted me by helping me forget the war and making me feel like a normal person once in a while. She was as good a friend as Jade, except she didn't encourage me to disobey Kado when I was angry.

"Maybe the Galvadi have decided to give up," Shai said, pulling me out of my thoughts.

Cali snorted.

"I know. It's wishful thinking."

I smiled at Shai. "I want this to be over too."

"You'll figure it out soon." Cali gave my shoulder a squeeze.

All the shadow warriors knew the end of the war would not come until I stopped Drevin. The only problem was I had no idea what I was supposed to do, and no amount of training helped. Each day it seemed like I was further from my goal instead of closer.

After everyone had taken their seats, Kado held up a hand calling us all to silence. "Makari has just given me some disheartening news. The Galvadi have developed a—"

I tried to listen, but I couldn't get past the fact that Makari had been here. "He didn't even bother to see me?"

Kado glared at me, and I suddenly realized I'd blurted it aloud.

"Makari has to keep a low profile for his own safety, and they were not aware he had left. He couldn't stay away long."

"I think it's time he left the Galvadi all together," I said, folding my arms over my chest.

"It would be the healthier option," Cali added on my behalf.

"Makari's work has been invaluable to us, and would not be possible if he weren't living among them for the time being," Kado said, then leaned in my direction looking straight into my eyes. "And he knows what he is doing."

Kado watched me, and I was sure he was waiting to see if I would continue to interrupt him. I remained silent, but neither he nor Makari would be able to convince me the man I loved wasn't taking an unnecessary risk. They could get whatever information they needed from their missions.

When he was sure I wouldn't interrupt again he finished explaining that the Galvadi had developed a new recinder and how it worked. "You will need to avoid capture at all costs. Once these recinders are placed on you, there is no known way to nullify its effects even after removal. Auren, I want you to visit Makari's unit to steal the schematics, and if possible, one of the recinders along with any other information you can find about new technologies. Makari suspects there is more, but they are keeping him in the dark."

I stood quickly, smacking my hands together. "When do I leave?"

"Wait a moment. I have other things I need to discuss with you first."

I sat again, hoping I wasn't in for one of his long lectures.

"The rest of you are dismissed. Sephir, you and Shai are clear to leave on that special mission you've been training for as soon as you're ready, but please be careful."

"We will," Sephir said, bowing.

I leaned over Cali to give Shai a quick hug. Cali wrapped her arms around both of us. Shai stood as soon as we released her, and Sephir, who had been standing next to her, wrapped an arm around her as they headed off.

"Good luck," Cali said, winking at me before following Sephir and her cousin.

Kado sat next to me. "Auren, you have been the most adept at overcoming the effects of the beryllonium. That's why I'm sending you on this mission, but you need to be extra careful this time. Makari believes even you wouldn't stand a chance with this new recinder. If they are looking for test subjects, they may also have new ways of detaining shadow stalkers that Makari might not be aware of. If you are discovered, do not take any risks. Makari will not be able to help you. You will need to leave immediately. Understood?"

"Yes, Kado. I'll be fine." I only just managed to stop my eyes from rolling.

"I'm serious, Auren. We can always return at a later time, but if you are captured, you may be lost to us for good this time."

The fear in Kado's eyes sobered me. Things came easily to me now that I had completed my training, and though I had discovered abilities not even Kado had known about, I wasn't foolish enough to believe I was all powerful. Sometimes my foster father seemed to worry more than he should, but I was beginning to think that wasn't the case here.

"I'll be careful, Kado. I promise." It wouldn't hurt to pay Makari a little visit too if he was alone.

Kado gripped my arm and tilted my head with his free hand so I was looking directly at him. "Under no circumstances are you to seek out Makari. If you attempt something so foolish, Auren, you will be punished and banned from future missions."

My shoulders sagged. "It was an errant thought, Kado. I will focus on my mission."

"The mission and nothing else, Auren. This is important."

I nodded and averted my eyes. I just missed him. That's all it was.

"I know you miss him, Auren, and that it's been hard for you both to be apart, but it won't be forever. You and Makari will have your time in this world if the shadow people will it, but not if you risk both your lives on foolishness."

"I know. I'm sorry." Makari was being the more foolish of us both, and yet Kado supported him. It didn't make sense, but whenever I brought the subject up with either of them, they redirected the conversation.

Kado pulled me into a tight hug and whispered, "Come back to me in one piece, please."

I returned his embrace. "I will."

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Locksmith's Journeys by Paul Briggs

Paul Briggs learned to read and write when he was two, about the same time he learned to talk. He then spent the next twenty years learning that most people don't talk the same way they write.

He lives in Maryland, has a master's degree in journalism, worked for a daily paper for 12 years and is also an editor, proofreader and ghostwriter. He is the author of several short plays, including the award-winning "The Worst Super Power Ever" and "The Picture of Health."

In his spare time he is a stage actor.


Connect with Paul on Goodreads!


About the Book


In the second book of the Locksmith Trilogy, 12-year-old Lachlan Smith and his family and friends travel back and forth between the present and the future in hopes of preventing the extinction of the human race. It becomes increasingly clear that they will need help if they're to succeed — but who do they turn to for help? And how can they do this while keeping the time portal a secret?


Get it today on Amazon!


Keep reading for an excerpt:


“I know this is going to sound like a dumb question,” said Tara, “but… if we were actually going to solve this mystery and save the world… why can’t we just look in the future and see how we did it?”

“Nothing wrong with the question,” said Gary, “but the answer is, it doesn’t work like that.”

“Why not?”

“Yeah, why not?” said Brandon.

Gary looked a little embarrassed. “I haven’t had much luck explaining this stuff to people,” he said. “I’m not sure if I can help you understand.”

“Can I make a suggestion?” said Lock.

“Sure.”

“This time, try leaving the cat out of it. It doesn’t help.”

“Okay. Give me just a minute. Let me think.”

They waited. After a long moment, Gary spoke again.

“If you think about it,” he said, “we see into the future all the time. When you walk down the street, or ride your bike, you look ahead, and you’re seeing where you’re going to be a few seconds from now.”

“Yeah,” said Tara, “but that’s not really seeing forward in time, that’s just… seeing forward.”

“Time and space are all part of the same thing,” said Gary. “Like, the event horizon of a black hole is where time and space rotate into each other. That’s why nothing can get out — once you’re in, the past becomes up and the future becomes down.”

“I thought it was because there was… too much gravity down there or something,” said Lock.

“That’s another way of saying the same thing,” said Gary. “Wait… is any of this making sense?”

The rest of them shook their heads.

“Okay,” said Gary. “My point is… suppose you’re riding your bike and you see a pothole in the street up ahead, right where you’re about to go. You don’t just go ahead and hit it, right?”

“No,” said Tara. “If you see it in time, you go around it.”

“Right. And when you move, it’s not in front of you any more. You’re not going to hit it. It hasn’t disappeared — it’s still real — but your worldline doesn’t intersect with it anywhere. And if you were never going to go down that stretch of road again…”

“Yeah, but if you’re on a bike, you can stop or turn around,” said Tara. “You can’t stop going forward in time.”

“But you can still steer,” said Gary. “We do it all the time — we just don’t realize we’re doing it. Philosophers call it ‘free will’ only they’re not sure if it exists or not. But what Lock and I found out is, you can change the future. But you can’t go to the future and see the changes you make until after the point where you’ve already made them in the present. Does that make sense?”

There was a long pause.

“So… the end of the world is… like… a really big pothole?” said Brandon.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Shadow Stalker Part 1 (Episodes 1 - 6) by Renee Scattergood

Renee Scattergood lives in Australia with her husband, Nathan, and daughter, Taiya. She has always been a fan of fantasy and was inspired to become a story-teller by George Lucas, but didn't start considering writing down her stories until she reached her late twenties. Now she enjoys writing dark fantasy, and she’d dabbling with paranormal thrillers under a pen name.

She is currently publishing her monthly Shadow Stalker serial, and she has published a prequel novella to the series called, Demon Hunt. She is also working on a new series of novels, A God's Deception.

Aside from writing, she loves reading (fantasy, of course), watching movies with her family, and doing crafts and science experiments with her homeschooled daughter. Visit her site for more information.

Connect with the Author



About the Book


Auren learns she is destined to enslave the people of her world, and Drevin, emperor of the Galvadi Empire is determined to end her life before it happens. Her foster father, Kado, has sworn to protect her and trains her as a shadow stalker. But her training is cut short, when their people are overrun by the Galvadi Empire. Now she has to find a way to help her people without succumbing to the prophecy.

The Hidden Truth (Episode 1)


A young shadow stalker is destined to enslave the people of the Serpent Isles, and the Galvadi Empire want this child of prophecy dead. Auren Trasks perfectly normal life is disrupted when the Galvadi invade, and she learns a startling secret about her past. A secret that will change her life forever.


The Delohi-Saqu's Fate (Episode 2)


Auren is being targeted by the Council of Elders, and the only one who could put an end to their corruption is her father. But leaving the Dark Isle would turn Kado against her.

Shadows' Betrayal (Episode 3)


After seeing the monster she will become, Auren swears not to leave the Dark Isle. Despite that, the elders are conspiring against her. To escape their scheming, she and Kado decide to explore the Dark Isle. But worse things await them in the forests.


Forbidden Love (Episode 4)


Kado and Auren survive a deadly storm, but when Auren is forbidden from pursuing love with another young shadow stalker, will it be enough to drive a wedge between her and her foster father?

Destiny Reconciled Part 1 (Episode 5)


Auren and Kado accept that they may not be able to avoid her leaving the Dark Isle. Now they have to prepare for that eventuality. Will the training be more than Auren can handle?


Destiny Reconciled Part 2 (Episode 6)


Cathnor has been arrested and is facing a death sentence. The Dark Isle is out of control, and Kado is the only one who can help his people. So he prepares Auren for the possibility that she may have to leave the Dark Isle without him and face her destiny alone, but can she leave him and do what must be done?

Get it FREE Today!


Shadow Stalker Part 2 (Episodes 7 - 12) is also free to my newsletter subscribers!


Be on the lookout for Shadow Stalker Part 3 (Episodes 13 -18), which will be available for pre-order starting the 31st of August! Get it half price for a limited time!


Keep reading for an excerpt:


"Eyes forward," Dosien said, at the same time Obeir placed his hand on my head and gave it a twist. "As the elder of this village, I will be presiding over your hearing. Etan, you are aware of the rules, but I'll need to explain them to Auren before we continue."

"You didn't know?" Etan asked, his voice cracking.

"Know what?" A hearing? This made no sense. I had broken no laws.

"You will not speak unless spoken to," my uncle told us. "Now, Auren. This is all new for you, so you won't be punished, but I need to make you aware of the rules regarding mating."

Heat rushed to my face, and I was glad for the dim lighting in the room. Mating? We had done nothing wrong. We touched lips. It wasn't even a kiss. Well, it might have been if we hadn't been disturbed, but still.

My uncle continued. "We shadow stalkers do not choose our mates. They are chosen for us."

"By who?" I asked, my voice raised and my fists clenched. I wasn't a child. No one was going to tell me who I could and couldn't have a relationship with.

"Do not interrupt again, Auren," Dosien warned. "I understand you know little about our people and where we come from. We expect you to make mistakes, but you must learn our ways and respect them. The shadow people created the shadow stalkers for a specific purpose. Only the Foramar knows what that purpose is. He is sworn to keep the shadow stalkers on the right path. Since he is not with us for the moment, that responsibility falls to the elders."

He paused and gazed at me as if checking to see I was paying attention. "As part of ensuring things go as they need it to, the shadow people choose our mates when our training has been completed. There is a reason for everything they do even if we don't understand it or agree with it. Some shadow stalkers are not given mates, Auren, and if this happens with you, you will be expected to accept it and not attempt to mate. You must also refrain from being with someone before a mate has been chosen for you. Do you understand this?"

"No, I don't." I couldn't believe what I was hearing. All these years I spent believing Kado stifled my social life because he was being overprotective. Now I wondered how much of it had to do with rules set by the shadow people. What if my difficulty in making friends had more to do with his interference rather than my differences?

My foster father scowled, but relaxed when my uncle gave him a pat on the shoulder.

"What don't you understand?" Dosien asked.

Everything, I thought. "Why it matters? All we did was kiss, and we didn't even manage that much, really."

My uncle nodded. "Kissing isn't a problem on its own, but it leads to deeper feelings. It's clear you and Etan have a connection."

"So? Kado and I have a connection. Why is it such a bad thing?" My voice raised in pitch.

My foster father gave me a warning look, though he still didn't speak.

"The bond you share with Kado is different. What you share with Etan will elicit strong romantic feelings. It's best if you don't see each other again."

I took a deep breath and bit my lip to keep from screeching. "What? We can't even be friends?"

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Preparing to Write Settings That Feel Like Characters by J Lenni Dorner

J weaves fantasy with lore to unhinge your mind. Speculative Fiction, especially fantasy, is the focus of this author's quill. 

  • A Write Club 2014 and 2016 chosen competitor. 
  • Creative Writing Institute published one of J Lenni Dorner's short stories in December 2014 in WRONG!: A themed anthology 2014 (available on Amazon). 
  • Winner of the Write Edit Publish Now flash fiction "Youthful Frights versus Adult Fears" Halloween challenge 2015. 
  • Signum University's Mythgard Institute's autumn 2015 "Almost an Inkling" Popular Vote Winner in week 6. 
  • Operation Awesome Flash Fiction Contest 12 win in April 2016 went to J Lenni Dorner. 

When not writing or reading, J enjoys pinning dragon pictures and watching funny cat videos.

The best advice J has heard: "Even if you make a mistake, it's better than making no attempt at all."

Connect with the Author



About the Book


This reference guide is a tool to help you organize your thoughts and ideas to obtain the goal of making a setting that feels like a character.

This valuable reference guide is useful in revealing a simplified way to create settings that feel like characters by using an organized sketch sheet. This practical approach will help focus your writing. The challenge of making a setting into a character is easily conquered with this informative guide. Make your story more interesting in today's competitive fiction market by giving your writing this edge.

Get it today on Amazon and Smashwords!


Keep reading for an excerpt:


If your setting is not on Earth, it becomes illogical to use Earth time measurements. In our own solar system, if one character is from Earth, and is 30 years old, and another character was born at the exact same moment, but on Saturn, the second character would only be 1 year old. This gets worse on planets that spin slowly. For example, if another character was also born at the same moment, but on Mercury, they could be 125 years old, but only 185 days old! Or suppose the setting is a generational space ship, and the characters have never been near Earth or our Sun.

For ancient historical fiction, be sure to research how time was measured during your setting. There were places that once used phases of the moon, rather than trips around the sun, to determine the date.

Minor details like this will make your setting more realistic for readers.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Unleashing Desire by Brooklyn Ann




Formerly an auto-mechanic, Brooklyn Ann thrives on writing romance featuring unconventional heroines and heroes who adore them. Author of historical paranormal romance in her critically acclaimed “Scandals with Bite” series, urban fantasy in the cult favorite, “Brides of Prophecy” novels, and the New Adult winner of the 2016 Reader’s Choice Award, “Hearts of Metal Series,” she provides love for the broken and strange.

She lives in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho with her son, her cat, and a 1980 Datsun 210.

She can be found online at brooklynann.blogspot.com as well as on Twitter and Facebook.

For exclusive updates, sneak peeks, and giveaways, sign up for Brooklyn Ann’s Newsletter!







A setup so perfect… it might just be fate.

Radu Nicolae has spent centuries in a guilt-induced hibernation beneath the ruins of his family castle. The only time he awakens is to feast on the occasional vampire hunter. When Lillian Holmes invades his lair, trying to kill him for a crime he did not commit, he decides it is time to rejoin the world. As he feeds on the inept, but delectable hunter and sees her memories, he realizes that he is being used as a weapon to murder her. Radu does not like being used.

Agent Lillian Holmes, of the Abnormal Investigation Unit, is sent on a mission to kill the vampire who murdered her father. But when she tries to stake Radu, he awakens. When his fangs sink into her throat, she thinks she’s a goner. To her surprise, she wakes up a prisoner. Furthermore, Radu did not kill her father. The AIU killed Joe Holmes and sent Lillian to Radu to die.

Together, they strike a bargain: Lillian will help Radu travel to the United States to reunite with his long lost twin brother. In return, he will help her take down the men who killed her father. As their relationship deepens on their journey, so does the danger. Not only must they keep government agents from finding out that Lillian is alive, but she also has a secret that will rock the foundations of the vampire world.

Get it today on iBooks, Amazon, Nook, and Kobo!

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Saturday, 13 August 2016

From the Riddle Me Collection Volume One: A Stone's Throw by Jack Brutus Penny

Jack Brutus Penny was born in September 1986 in London, England, and grew up in the north London area. At school, under the advice of his English teacher, he was tested and diagnosed with dyslexia. Not held back, after graduating with a degree is Psychology, he moved to Kanagawa, Japan. Since then he has had a variety of jobs, including: English lecturer, private interpreter, free-lance graphic designer, writer and illustrator. His works, all in the nonsense genre, include volumes from the Riddle Me Collection, In Truth Stories (in editing), and The Allegaurus (in editing).

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About the Book


The Riddle Me Collection is a consortium of conundra that rather than relying on the metaphorical or allegorical, present a word in its idiomatic context. It is, for instance, a book. You may therefore judge it, though you can’t imprison; have reservations, though they’ll only hold for a period; or read it, as you would a person. The latter being the most enjoyable. Only Jack Brutus Penny, nonsense author, illustrator and English lecturer, could bring such boundless imagination speckled with fascinating etymologies and trivia, and scattered with poems and illustrations to tie the whole read into a wonderful experience.

Volume One: A Stone’s Throw contains 200 riddles from the collection, meticulously delivered for the first time. The volume is divided into three parts: the riddles, the answers, and the explanations provided. Though you’ll find nothing is quite as easy as it sounds.

Get it today!


Keep reading for an interview with the author:


Why did you decide to be a writer?


In fact I consider myself an illustrator before a writer. As opposed to most who balance the professions, I tend to start by making an illustration, and then write the fanciful story around it. This rather aids in my spontaneous genre of nonsense.

Do you have a "day job"? If so, what do you do?


I have a variety of jobs at the moment. Writing and illustrating my work is in fact my full-time job. But I am also a head English lecturer and English-Japanese interpreter among other things.

What genres do you write?


I write in nonsense, the dreamlike world where the inexplicable is everyday, and that which makes no sense becomes rather sensible. I take this genre further as a linguist, as words themselves aren't bound by any definite laws.


What are your goals as an author? Where do you see yourself in five years?


As an author I suppose my ultimate goal is to create the kinds of worlds of Lewis Carroll, or as depicted by Bruegel, that people of all ages can become lost in. Worlds that both feel uncomfortable yet utterly thrilling, and that challenge the readers both mentally and emotionally.

What made you decide to self-publish?


As an illustrator as well as writer, I wanted the freedom to shape the book exactly as I saw it. I decided to self-publish to keep as much of the creative control as possible, to bring my readers books of intimate designs riddled with tidbits and surprise amusements.


What is your writing process?


I start with an idea. It may be the answer to a question I haven't yet asked. It may be a slip-of-tongue that evoked a feeling of real satisfaction. Or it may be an illustration that I was inspired to draw. I then start the slightly more methodological process of explaining it, at least in as much as I must within my worlds. The character in one of my stories for instance, ends up seeing their reflection in the water from the bank, having gone there to speak to the bank staff, for as tellers they may be wise, but must surely at least be able to tell him something.

How long does it take you to write a book?


It takes me, as perhaps it does many, an insurmountable, or at least indefinable, amount of time to come up with an idea that I like, and moments for the story to flow from it. Since I write all sorts of stories from short novella, collections of riddles or proverbs, to full novels, each book naturally differs in length and time. The latest book, an illustrated collection of 200 riddles, took perhaps half a year.

Do you write about real life experiences, or does everything come from your imagination?


As an Englishman in Tokyo I'm surrounded by the peculiar, and having been here so long, when I return home I even see things that I think should not be. I write stories of worlds full of things that should not be yet reasonably are. Naturally the world and people around me inspire characters and story arches. That being said, my biggest inspiration is language itself.


What are you working on now?


I have recently released a book of 200 riddles, called From the Riddle Me Collection Volume One: A Stone's Throw. It presents riddles, to quote, 'some rather difficult and others unreasonably so.' It is a book. You may therefore judge it, though you can’t imprison; have reservations, though they’ll only hold for a period; or read it, as you would a person. The latter being the most enjoyable. So if you enjoy a few meticulously detailed illustrations, revel in the use of language, and covet chances to stretch your mind and challenge your elasticity of thought, it's a book written for you.

What was the hardest part about writing your latest book?


The hardest part for this piece is rather specific in fact. The hardest part was working out how to display the answers. I didn't want to spread the answers out, I wanted to use them as a breaker in the middle of the text. However, if they were all presented together, seeing one would reveal them all. I tackled this by asking my channel for advise, and together deciding to use a cryptograph. Well you'll just have to see what that means, but suffice to say, even checking the answers is a challenging befuddlement in itself.

Do you have anything specific you'd like to say to your readers?


If you enjoy logical nonsense. If you enjoy mentally challenging yourself with devilish linguistic conundra, then please do support my work by following the links and order a copy today. Also, feel free to explore my website and even contact me directly through it. So while this may be a plug, it is fitting is it not? Since it is intended for the brightest of sparks.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

A Portrait to Die For by Radine Trees Nehring

For more than twenty years, Radine Trees Nehring's magazine features, essays, newspaper articles, and radio broadcasts have shared colorful stories about the people, places, events, and natural world near her Arkansas home.

In 2002, Radine's first mystery novel, A VALLEY TO DIE FOR, was published and, in 2003 became a Macavity Award Nominee. Since that time she has continued to earn writing awards as she enthralls her original fans and attracts new ones with her signature blend of down-home Arkansas sightseeing and cozy amateur sleuthing by active retirees Henry King and Carrie McCrite King.

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About the Book


Carrie McCrite, a volunteer librarian at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, discovers two versions of a portrait on loan to the museum. When a reporter writing about that portrait disappears, Carrie must choose between honoring Henry's request that she stop jumping into danger on behalf of people in trouble--or work to find the woman who was a college friend of her son's.

Get it today on Amazon!


Keep reading for an excerpt from "A Portrait to Die For" by Radine Trees Nehring with two sentences with spoilers removed:


At 8:20 the next morning Catherine sat in her car outside the workshop at Fred's and wondered who was inside the building. There were two trucks parked in the lot. She supposed the newer pickup with the business name and logo on the door was Freda's.

The other truck was unmarked. Maybe it was the older pickup she had seen here yesterday. She hadn't paid much attention to it then, and wasn't good at identifying trucks unless an automaker had displayed their company name and vehicle style prominently on the tailgate.

8:25.

Well, nothing ventured. Daddy had said that. "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."

Zero hour. Catherine opened her car door and slid out, putting her cell phone in her pocket. 

Twenty steps to the open shop door, and then Catherine was inside. It was very quiet. Should she say something? No, not yet at least.

Two steps. Lots of stuff, but no person, no sound, no movement but her own. 

Two more steps.

Something on the concrete floor caught her attention. Blobs of oil? She stopped to stare, bent over to look more closely.

Drops of blood. Fresh enough to be red. Oh, dear God, NO.

Catherine started to turn back toward her car and run. Panic had her breathing like a steam engine though she was trying to be quiet, to give no sign she was there. She must get to her car and hurry to safety, to be with Carrie and Henry. Get away, Get away! Get to Carrie and Henry, get them to come back here with her.

A groan stopped her, freezing her steps as she started toward the door.

Her mind tried to work sensibly. Someone groaning probably wasn't going to attack her. Someone was hurt and needed help.

She turned around again and took two more steps into the building, avoiding the drops.

Step. Step.

A weapon! She should have a weapon in case something horrible and dangerous faced her on the other side of those boxes. The workbench next to her offered a huge hammer. She started to lift it, found it too heavy for one arm, re-enforced her grasp with her other hand and, hammer raised, moved forward again.

End of the row of boxes. With the hammer held as high as she could lift it, she went around the stack.
A shriek. Oh! That was her voice.

A choked laugh came from someone propped up against the back of the box stack. Another person faced her--Freda, with a raised hammer.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Cow in the Doorway by Gino Bardi

Gino B. Bardi was born in New York City in 1950, and lived on the South Shore of Long Island until he attended Cornell University in 1968, during the tumultuous era of Vietnam War protests. Armed with a degree in English/Creative Writing, he diligently sought work in his field and soon wound up doing everything but. For the next forty-four years he cranked out advertising copy, magazine articles, loan pitches and short stories while running a commercial printing company in Upstate New York. Along the way, he married his college girlfriend, became father to three lovely daughters and decided that winter was an unnecessary evil. In 2008 he sold the printing business, retired, and now writes humorous fiction in his home on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Two signs hang above his desk: "Bad decisions make good stories," and Mel Brooks' advice that "You only need to exaggerate a LITTLE BIT." 

The Cow in the Doorway is his first full-length novel and won the statewide Royal Palm Literary Award for best unpublished New Adult novel for 2015.

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About the Book


Cornell University, Ithaca New York, 1968: The barking megaphones of the antiwar protests never seem to shut up. The cafeteria food is awful and the coffee even worse. Tony Vitelli doesn't feel properly dressed without a STRIKE! T-shirt and an Iron Butterfly album under his arm. He can't see the top of his desk for all the books and papers. And his new roommate won't acknowledge his existence. Tony's first year at college is a complicated and bumpy ride. And very, very funny.

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Keep reading for an excerpt:


This education thing was not working out. The lousy weather, loneliness, crappy food and cranky roommate were ganging up on me. My Blonde on Blonde songbook rested beneath the big twelve-string. What should I play? What was the perfect song? The picture of Bob Dylan on the cover looked just like I felt. I turned the pages to Visions of Johanna, a song with about a hundred verses. Okay, it has five verses—but five long ones, about pain and loneliness and awkward silences—it matched my mood perfectly. There are only three chords, which you can learn to play the same day you get a guitar. I didn’t know anyone who could remember all the words. That’s why I had a songbook.

The twelve-string was a little out of tune, which was normal. It was impossible to tune perfectly. I got it close, then began to play, carefully fingerpicking each note, working myself up to a genuine plaintive Dylan wail. “Ain’t it just like the night?” I asked the ghosts in the empty room, “To play tricks when you’re trying to be so quiet?” My voice bounced back from the stone walls.

The oak door opened with an ancient creek followed by a blast of cold air sweeping in behind a girl I hadn’t seen before. She carried a guitar case. I stopped playing but she nodded and smiled as if she wanted me to keep going. She slipped off her fur coat, sat on the steps and took out her guitar, a well-worn Gibson, a vintage six string with an orange macramé guitar strap. She didn’t look anything like the hippie folksinger types who filled the Echo Chamber on a weekend. Small and compact, she had long, straight brown hair, the color of roasted chestnuts, perfectly brushed, flowing to the middle of her back. Dark eyes. Big silver hoop earrings, tailored store-bought bell bottoms, not homemade from an old pair of dungarees. A beige turtle neck sweater just the right amount too big.

She put her ear against her guitar and tuned it to mine, so quickly and quietly I didn’t believe it would be in tune, but it was. Then, she watched my hand form a chord and she began to play, her long fingernails striking the strings more clearly than any finger picks, hitting each note precisely. She played with me note for note, then strayed off the melody and played new ones, like little songs, melodies that worked like they were written for it. As if she had discovered the only copy of an unpublished Bob Dylan songbook. Then she began to sing. And I stopped. My hand felt paralyzed. I couldn’t force a sound from my throat.

“What’s the matter?” she asked.

“You sing like an angel. I can’t sing with you. I’ll ruin it.”

“That’s silly. You sound fine. Keep playing. Please.” So I did.

She started to sing again, in a soaring voice that filled the room, a voice that didn’t need the echo. She never looked at the songbook. She knew all the words, the lyrics to all the verses, complicated obtuse poetry, that seemed to make perfect sense in her voice. Then a shudder went through me…for the first time, the lyrics made sense to me also, though I don’t think I could explain why. Somewhere deep in the song, I sang too, and we harmonized. I felt like I was auditioning for the Queen. Somehow it all worked.

I realized something, something big. I knew right away that everything had just changed: God had put me on this earth just to sing and play with this girl whose name I didn’t know—not yet. We rolled into the last verse. On the last line, she bent the note and her voiced sailed up the scale to land a full octave above mine...a full octave! The song ended and an icy chill ran down my back as if someone had dumped a bucket of Ithaca slush on me.

The echo took forever to fade. She sat, hugging the guitar across her knees and smiling, waiting for me to say something. I realized I was suddenly, desperately in love with her. I had never felt this way before. Not with anyone, not ever.

“What’s your name?” I finally managed.

“Melissa.” 

For the first time since leaving home I knew exactly what I wanted.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Tompkin's School by Tabi Slick

Tabi Slick was born in Chanute, Kansas, and grew up in the country where she was homeschooled for the greater part of her childhood. In middle school, her family moved to Davis Oklahoma where she attended public school for several years. Here she began her writing adventure and soon the world of Tompkin's Academy came to life. After graduating from high school in 2008, she spent a few years in Puerto Rico and wound up in Texas where she graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Linguistics from the University of Texas at Arlington. She was born with an immense appreciation for literature and continues to dedicate her time to her passion of writing.



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About the Book


Izara Torvik thought her life was over the moment that her father sent her and her twin brother to a boarding school in the middle of nowhere Oklahoma. She soon discovers that the school is not as ordinary as she thought and finds herself thrown into a battle against her inner demons that only have one desire...the desire to kill.




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Keep reading for an excerpt:


Once my body stopped trembling, I picked myself up. It felt strange, my feet seemed to fall much lighter on the ground than normal. My head also felt a bit fuzzy. I turned and froze as I caught myself in the reflection of a full-length mirror. I glided forward to get a closer look. My eyelids had sunken into my skull and my eyes were red! I reached up to touch my pallid skin only to gawk at my hands. My fingernails had been replaced with dark, black claws.

"I'm a monster," I hissed.

My eyes flashed up to meet my reflection once again and soon my clawed hands were the least of my worries. Two black, very large things were moving ever so slightly, blocking the reflection of the rest of the room. I looked over my shoulder to find large, black feathered, wings...length mirror. I glided forward to get a closer look. My eyelids had sunken into my skull and my eyes were red! I reached up to touch my pallid skin only to gawk at my hands. My fingernails had been replaced with dark, black claws.

"I'm a monster," I hissed.

My eyes flashed up to meet my reflection once again and soon my clawed hands were the least of my worries. Two black, very large things were moving ever so slightly, blocking the reflection of the rest of the room. I looked over my shoulder to find large, black feathered, wings...

Monday, 1 August 2016

Best in Show by Maria Grazia Swan

Award winning author Maria Grazia Swan was born in Italy, but has also lived in Belgium, France, Germany, in beautiful Orange County, California where she raised her family. She is currently at home in Phoenix, Arizona. 

As a young girl, her vivid imagination predestined her to be a bestselling author. She won her first literary award at the age of fourteen while living in Belgium. As a young woman Maria returned to Italy designing haute couture. Once in the U.S. and after years of concentrating on family, she tackled real estate. These days her time is devoted to her deepest passions: writing and helping people and pets find the perfect home. 

Maria loves travel, opera, good books, hiking, and intelligent movies (if she can find one, that is). When asked about her idea of a perfect evening, she favors stimulating conversation, Northern Italian food and perfectly chilled Prosecco.

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About the Book


Mina Calvi, Italian transplant to Southern California, thinks her love life might finally come together, just as her professional life has. Her Furry Friends Foundation, a no-kill shelter for rescued cats and dogs, is a success, and Mina hopes she may find a loving forever home for her-self, in the arms of Diego Moran, her elusive, frustratingly mysterious, on again-off again, lover. When a seemingly innocent night out with friends lands Mina in a hospital bed and Diego undercover, and not the covers Mina wants him to be under, Mina has to draw on all her new-found maturity, and all her supportive friends for strength. Meanwhile, a Best in Show cat takes up residence at the Ritzy Cats B&B, Mina’s other venture, setting Mina on the trail of a suspicious character who might not have the cat's best interests at heart. Add a Matchmaker to the Stars, a temperamental Italian chef and the usual menagerie of people and pets, stir it all up and you have an entertaining, hard to put down romantic tale of suspense.

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Keep reading for an interview with the author:


Why did you decide to be a writer?


This wasn't a decision, more like natural progression. I won my first literary award at the age of 14...the old fashion 14..not like today's social media savvy teens...and i didn't even owned a typewriter.

Do you have a "day job"? If so, what do you do?


I am a Real estate Agent in Phoenix, Arizona

What genres do you write?


Mystery in general, chick lit mystery according to the experts.

What is the biggest obstacle you face as an author and what do you do to overcome it?

Sadly the biggest obstacle is marketing in this ever changing world of computers and social media.

What is the best compliment you've ever received as an author?


A review, I assume from a school teacher??? Five stars and A++

What made you decide to self-publish?


The state of the publishing world. And...Amazon.

Are you a pantser or outliner?


I'm a total panster, if i already know the story I lose interest.

How do you come up with the titles for your books? Do you find it difficult?


This is a bit peculiar, but I usually start with the title first...yeah..i know...

Do you write about real life experiences, or does everything come from your imagination?


All my stories have a % or reality. You can't beat real life.

What are you working on now?


A new series it has some cooks, some crooks and a corpse. Also recipes aimed at seniors on restricted diets.

What was the hardest part about writing your latest book?


I'm working on it...had to move...that's the hardest part, you lose your concentration ans sometime your lap top also.

Do you have any advice for other authors?


Follow your dreams, never surrender.

Do you have anything specific you'd like to say to your readers?


I am extremely thankful and grateful that people who were once perfect strangers have become my friends through my stories. It's the most wonderful sense of validation in the world. Mille grazie.

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