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Spotlight – Linked

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About the Author

Judy Serrano

Judy Serrano holds a Master of Arts in English from Texas A&M University, Commerce. She is the owner of Make Cents Editing Service, and was an adjunct professor at a local college. Currently she teaches high school English and is a freelance writer for certain on-line publications. Judy also writes romantic suspense and paranormal romance novels. She is the author of The Easter’s Lilly Series,The Linked Seriesand Ivy Vines, Visions.

Although originally from New York, Judy resides in Texas with her husband, four boys, four dogs and now two cats. She sings and plays guitar when she has time and enjoys singing with her very musical family in church when she is able.

Her latest book is the paranormal romance, LINKED.

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About the Book

Title: LINKED
Author: Judy Serrano
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 265
Genre: Paranormal Romance

Linked

BOOK BLURB:

Daphne Foster is a substitute teacher stuck in an English class, waiting for that dreaded parent-teacher conference. With much preparation and anxiety, she encounters the unforgettable Charlie Cross. His charm and good looks, win her over but rumors of his involvement with organized crime make his continued disappearances disturbing. In walks Heathcliff Vanderpool, creating a love triangle of unusual sorts. Unknown to Daphne, Heathcliff and Charlie are old friends: Older than she could have imagined. With Charlie away on business, Daphne and Heathcliff discover a passion between them lying beneath the surface. As their souls link, pulling away from Charlie becomes next to impossible. Will his involvement in organized crime consume them both before she’s able to get free? When you become “linked,” the choice may not be your own.

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Book Excerpt

The blood was pulsating through my veins and when I looked down, my hands were shaking. All that schooling and relentless training still did not prepare me for what was coming next. What would I say, and how would they react? All the uncertainty was driving me mad. Sometimes I doubted my very own motives. I took this job out of necessity, not out of a passion for my craft, and with every passing day, I grew just a little more disheartened.

I am a substitute teacher and this is my very first parent-teacher conference. Sometimes the meager pay that I bring home for this incredulous journey hardly seems worth it. I earned my degree, got my certification, and couldn’t find a job as a teacher. So, the principal promised me a teaching position if I would just do this one last thing… be a long-term sub for a high school English class. This has not been my finest hour. The teacher I replaced had already made a mess of things and the students were failing left and right. One of the moms called and demanded to know why her little Michael was failing. Maybe if he did his homework… is of course what I wanted to say, but now I have to face her and tell her why little Michael is my least favorite student in the class.

I got all my papers together and sat back down at my desk when Michael walked through my door. “Michael,” I started. “What are you doing here?”

Just then a very handsome man walked in behind him. He was about 5ft. 10, blond and blue-eyed, wearing faded jeans and a button-down, powder blue sports shirt. When he smiled, my knees went weak and I’m sure my face flushed. “I’m Charles Cross,” he said, putting out his hand to shake mine. “My friends call me Charlie.” He smiled. “You look surprised. We do have an appointment today, don’t we? I hope I didn’t get the date wrong.”

“I’m sorry, I was expecting Michael’s mother,” I told him. “And yes, we have an appointment. I’m Daphne Foster.”

“She was unavailable,” he continued. “So now I guess you’re stuck with me.” He pushed Michael ahead of him so that he would move farther into the room. I’m sure my face was still red.

“I don’t mind,” I told him. Little did he know that my insides were doing somersaults. “Please, sit down.” I motioned to the two chairs that I had strategically positioned in front of my desk.

“I understand that you’re not even really a teacher,” was his icebreaker.

“I’m certified,” I replied, trying not to sound too defensive. “I have just been unable to find a full-time position. But I assure you, Mr. Cross, I am more than qualified to teach your son’s class.”

“Good to know,” he answered, sitting back and starting to relax. “Michael is generally a good student,” he continued. “But he appears to be carrying a 60 in your class. Tell me what you think the problem is so that I can help him fix it.”

Michael was staring down at the floor with his baseball cap on backwards. I’m sure if he was standing up, we’d both be able to see his boxer shorts, peeking out beneath his sagging pants. “For starters,” I bravely began, “he can lose the baseball cap.” Michael sneered at me. “He’s not allowed to have it on during school hours, yet he always walks through the door with it on his head. This is a continuous waste of my valuable time, since we seem to need to argue about its importance, daily.” Charlie laughed, which frustrated me a bit. “He hasn’t turned in one homework assignment since I’ve been here, and he is very disruptive during class.”

“Well, Miss Foster,” he responded in a condescending tone, “sounds to me like you have a problem with my son.”

“Mr. Cross,” I replied, trying to conceal the agitation in my voice, “you are the one with the problem.” He sat up, giving me his full attention. I must admit that I began to feel my blood pressure rise. “I suggest that you get a handle on this boy before I fail him and do not underestimate me, because I will do it.”

“Miss Foster, do you know who I am?” he asked. Michael smiled at this point and looked me square in the eyes.

“I don’t care if you’re Obama’s long lost son. He doesn’t do his work, he fails… pretty simple, really.”

He stood up and motioned for his son to stand. “I suspect that you will change your mind.”

I stood up at that point and put out my hand. “Thank you for coming in to see me, Mr. Cross… Michael.”

“Daphne.” My name glided off his tongue like music. “Such a beautiful name.” He shook my hand. “The pleasure was all mine.”

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Book Blast – Sunset Beach

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About the Author

Christine Donovan

Christine Donovan is an International Bestselling Author who writes romance that touches the heart, soothes the soul and feeds the mind. She is a PAN Member of RWA and belongs to Novelist, Inc. and Rhode Island Romance Writers.

She lives on the Southeast Coast of Massachusetts with her husband, four sons, four cats and one spoiled golden retriever. As well as writing contemporary romance, she also writes historical and paranormal. All her books have some degree of suspense. In her spare time, she can be found reading, painting or gardening. She loves to tackle DIY projects. 

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About the Book:

Title: SUNSET BEACH
Author: Christine Donovan
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 328
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Sunset Beach

BOOK BLURB:

Until Sarah Kennedy is 17 she spends her summers at Sunset Beach with a close-knit group of friends. They are young, carefree, and just a tad wild—as teenagers tend to be. They share secrets, love, and a deep connection. But that final summer life as the friends know it begins to unravel. Domestic violence plagues one family, one of their group becomes a criminal. Sarah severs all ties with her friends and disappears.

Fifteen years after the summer that changed Sarah’s life forever, she receives a letter about a reunion. Can she bury her fears, curb her anxiety enough to attend and finally unearth who attacked her and changed the trajectory of her life forever? She also hopes to reconnect with the one man she gave her heart and soul too—Jake Ferroli. She wonders if his life faired any better than hers after his family tragedy and his downfall into drugs and alcohol.

Sarah locks down her demons and rents a cottage for the summer. To her surprise Jake is still single and they slowly reconnect. But so does her attacker. He is good at eluding the police. Somehow he has gone on attacking women for fifteen years without so much as being a suspect. Pictures, letters, and threats against Sarah now come on a daily basis. Jake and Sarah hire a private detective and as they get closer and closer to revealing the identity of the perpetrator, he strikes. Can Jake rescue Sarah before their so-called friend rapes her, or even worse, kills her as he did to his last victim?

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Book Excerpt

When he stepped close to her, he could sense rather than see her retreat. Her eyes darted toward the door then back to him, suddenly full of panic. Why? It tore at his heart to know someone or something traumatized her.

“Why don’t you take a seat and relax.” He reached out to touch her arm and she all but flinched. It appeared ever so quickly, but he noticed it. On an exhale, he let his arm fall, frowned at her behavior, and sat down. She slid into the chair opposite him.

“So, tell me why you’re so jumpy? Is it me, or are you always like this?” God, please don’t let it be me.

She shot him a look of disbelief. “I’m not jumpy.”

Clearing his throat, he said, “If you say so.”

“Have you kept in touch with everyone?”

The desperation he witnessed flash in her eyes nearly broke his heart. “Yeah, I have. You know about Drew and Alyssa. Tom’s a doctor. He works at Mass General and he’s still single. Dylan lives in his mother’s old house. He’s a local cop here. Had a nasty divorce a few years back, but I don’t know all the details. I believe he has one kid, a daughter. Mitch is a detective with the Boston Police Department. He married a fellow police officer and they have two kids. Heather married some guy last year, I haven’t met him. Tracy’s single and I think she’s the only one not coming.”

“I had no idea what became of anyone.” Tears pooled in her eyes. “Except Charlotte.” She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “You took me by surprise when I saw you pull up today.”

Exhaling, he said, “Likewise. I didn’t expect you to come after fifteen years of silence.” He ran his hands threw his hair and asked, “Why did you come?”

“I don’t know. I thought it was time.”

She had a strange, vacant look on her face, so Jake decided to drop the subject. He would push for more answers later. And he wanted answers. Something had been eating a hole in his heart all these years, and he wanted to know why.

GIVEAWAY!

Christine Donovan is giving away five free e-copies of SUNSET BEACH!

Terms & Conditions:

  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.

  • Five winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter

  • This giveaway ends midnight June 29.

  • Winner will be contacted via email on June 30.

  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!

ENTER TO WIN!

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VBT – Conch Shell Confessions

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About the Author

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Dax Marie was five or so, when the man that she would otherwise call, “father” gave Dax her issues. What’s the medical terminology for that? Oh, Daddy Issues! For nearly the whole of her life she has tried to deny this grave medical condition and up until about seven years ago, she was doing alright. By no means was she swimming through the world with ease, but she did like a’ight (that’s hood talk for alright).

It was not until sometime in high school when she discovered her self-diagnosed condition. Sigmund Freud (you may have heard of him, he’s like a coke-head genius) told Dax (in a text book) that she has Penis Envy. Poor thing, she was absolutely flabbergasted!

“Me, Dax Marie? Associated with male genitalia?” she thought to herself.

So, it was then and there, her junior year of high school that she knew what

she was destined for…MEN.

Dax’s latest book is the memoir, Conch Shell Confessions.

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About the Book

Title: CONCH SHELL CONFESSIONS
Author: Dax Marie
Publisher: Author House
Pages: 202
Genre: Memoir

Conch Shell Confessions

BOOK BLURB:

This is a book about love: hunting it, chasing it, losing it, tripping, and falling into it.

And yes, it’s a book about sex: hunting it, chasing it, losing it, tripping from it, and falling onto…ahem…it.

But more than anything, it’s a book about self-discovery, navigating the learning curve of adulting, and learning the kind of tough lessons that only come when you have to pick yourself off the floor, block a guy’s phone number (for the second time), and clean some curious stains off your dress.

I dove headfirst into love and sex, and for better or worse, they have taught me that sometimes you just need to try the world on for size to really understand what it is you want and learn who you are. So here’s my experience in the world of men.

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Book Excerpt

Epigraph

Because lord knows I need one.

    Ladies, this is a book about men (or maybe they could be more accurately defined as boys…little boys). So, if you have ever found yourself with the wrong guy (or guys as I have mistakenly done), I am so sorry. If you have ever had to deal with heartbreak, frustration, or immaturity due to boy-kind, I would like to apologize for their actions, too, because lord knows they never will. Can I do that? Just apologize for the inferior gender like that? Oh well, I’m going to anyway.

    The dating struggle is real, and I feel your pain. Know that you don’t stand alone in your dating of dipshits and DEFINITELY know that I understand (and that it’s okay) if sometimes you’re the dipshit because of the men you choose for yourself. As some cliché somewhere once said, you live and you learn. So let’s start making our way towards finding ourselves and learning about love. Oh, the happy struggles of vagina-hood.

    Some of you men out there might be worried that you’re going to show up in these pages. Some of you will be right––but not to worry my sweet boys, I have changed your names to ones that I find more befitting of you. So if you don’t like it, I’m sorry, but you shouldn’t have been so deserving of such colorful nicknames.

Guest Post – Dax Marie

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Dax Marie & The Disappearing Tampon

Oh me, oh my, I think I’ve lost something between my thighs.

You should take out your tampon, gurgled my last two unsaturated braincells.

Ri Ri almost hits the nail on the head, “White girl wasted on that brown liquor.” Only Don Julio and I are besties and he would never do me dirty, despite the glorious fountain of puke I’ve been. Ehh, but I barely remember those countless times so they hardly count. I mean, I guess RiRi’s “white girl wasted on that brown liquor” pegs me with the rye whiskey and rum but even then, I just blackout; get cut on random glass in the backseat of the Uber; shove my gushing bloody finger in the bouncer’s face; somehow am still able to talk my way into the dive bar; spill my drink on the dance floor only to slip on my own spilled drink seconds later; get ditched by everyone in my party (probably because my dance moves were so sick); realize I’m about to be too drunk and decide to call Uber but then start to cry when I realize that I don’t remember how to operate Uber; and then when I finally find my babysitter—I mean boyfriend, we leave and I find kitties (not pussies) to pet. But even then, I consider myself to be sexually responsible on the brown liquor. Yes, you can be sexually irresponsible when you’re in a monogamous relationship…protection, anyone?

Vodka on the other hand is a CLEAR liquor and that bitch makes me a sex-crazed psychopath. Confused? Yeah so was I. Here, let me backtrack…

I’m at the stage in my life where everyone I know is getting married, having babies, buying houses, embracing their inner weekend warrior, and paying for their own health insurance…you know, they’re adults and I’m not there yet but I pretend to be. I mean, my boyfriend is, but I’m still playing fake-it-till-I-make-it as a writer. Even my friends that aren’t doing all of these expected adult things, they do other adult things like, invite you and your significant other over for a dinner party with all of their other mature adult friends. That’s A LOT of adulting…

Here’s what I’ve only recently discovered about being a couple who adults together: There may actually only be ONE adult in the couple. How do you know if you’re the mature adult in the couple? Well, you’re definitely not the mature adult in the couple when you frequently, by which I mean never know your limit. Hi, that’s me! You’re also not the mature adult when you keep pounding pulpy grapefruit infused vodka shots because you can’t taste the alcohol. Despite the fact that vodka always makes you gag. Oh, wow, also me!

Grapefruit, I can dig it. Vodka, not my jam. But grapefruit infused vodka…maybe I misjudged vodka? Fast-forward through a glass of rosé, shrimp tacos, three or four vodka grapefruit concoctions speckled throughout the evening, a forgotten car ride home, all the way to my bedroom seven hours later, What the fuck? Where’re my clothes?

I slid my hands down my body to my underwear—Oh my god, my tampon! I jumped out of bed, frantically running to the bathroom…no tampon. Fuck me.

“Hey…hey,” I whisper to my slumbering boyfriend.

No response.

“HEY!” I gently (violently) nudge him.

“What?” He moans as he rolls over to face me.

“What do you mean what? What happened? Where’s my tampon?”

“What tampon? You nearly attacked me to have sex.”

My stomach sank to my big butt. We had sex?

He continued, “You ran into the room when we got home and then you came running out to the living room with nothing but your underwear and your pink blanket draped around you.”

“No I didn’t.” I retorted as if I could actually remember what the fuck had happened.

“Yeah, you did and then you grabbed me off of the couch, took me to the room, and pushed me down on the bed.”

Wow, aren’t you a lucky man—but seriously, where the fuck is your tampon, you idiot!

“Baby, you were super aggressive last night. You jumped my bones and then passed the fuck out.”

“Okay, but where’s my tampon?”

“What?! You were on your period?”

“I was…I think my uterus ate my tampon…Or you shoved it way up in me.”

“That’s not on me, how was I supposed to know?”

“I’m going to get toxic shock syndrome,” said the hypochondriac me.

“What the hell is that?”

I rolled my eyes and rolled back to sleep. I’d go fishing in the morning.

Two hours later, it was showtime, time for me to go searching for something that I wasn’t too sure I had lost. Nothing. A couple more hours and I’m imagining cramps. Oh shit, here comes the TSS. I check again. Nothing. Some more hours pass. I feel feverish. Check again and again nothing but slippery uterus. Debated calling out of work to take myself to the ER but the ridiculous medical bill coupled with the cognizance of my overactive and imaginative hypochondriac imagination told me to spare my mula and myself.

For three whole days I fished for that allusive vagina plug. Morning, afternoon and night, every search and rescue mission leaving me empty-handed. So eventually, I gave up. If this non-existent tampon wanted to be embedded in my uterus, then who was I to deny it? It was my fault in the first place…or maybe vodka’s fault?

Two weeks later, it’s still missing and I am still without Toxic Shock Syndrome. Moral of the story? Vodka makes me a sex-crazed psychopath who “loses” tampons inside of her. Although, I’m still not too sure if there was ever a tampon in there to begin with. I guess I’ll have to get back to you on that one.

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VBT – Nurse to the Marquess

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About the Author

Katy Walters

USA Today Best-Selling author, Katy Walters e.books, and paperbacks are purchased and read in their thousands on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited. Katy lives in the midst of Regency towns on the South Coast of England. Her main interests are historical; contemporary suspense romance, and time travel. She is equally drawn to the paranormal based on mythology and the Dark Ages.

After studying at various universities Katy was awarded a B.A Hons (psych) B.A.(Soc.) B.A. Eng Lit & Creative Writing and an M.A. She was also awarded a Doctor of Science (Hon) for research into pain control. She pursued a fulfilling career as a research psychologist and psychotherapist and gained a fellowship in hypnotherapy. She now enjoys writing over several genres. At present Katy is working on a novel based on psychology and hypnosis.

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About the Book:

Title: NURSE TO THE MARQUESS
Author: Katy Walters
Publisher: Celtic Circle Publishing
Pages: 181
Genre: Regency Suspense/Romance

Nurse to the Marquess

BOOK BLURB:

Under pressure from her aunt, Lady Rosamond Whitney agrees to attend the Little Season in support of her widowed friend Lady Harriett Templeton. 

Still mourning for her young husband, Lady Harriett also has no desire to marry again. Yet they both give in to their beloved aunt who fears for their future if they do not meet worthy husbands. 

After visiting the modiste who is preparing their ball gowns and riding habits for the Little Season, they go to a local coffee house, unaware of the danger ahead. 
Enter the Lord Sebastian, 6th Marquess of Delmoor, once a renowned rakehell and hero of the Battle of Waterloo suffering from war wounds that make it highly unlikely he will win the love of a woman. His friend, Lord Charles Roberts, 10th Viscount Morhampton intent of finding a bride, begs Sebastian’s support as he attends the Little Season. 

On their way, to Bath, they stop for coffee at the local coffee house little realizing they would be fighting a rapacious group of drunken dandiprats intent on dishonouring Lady Rosamond and Lady Harriett.

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Book Excerpt

Chapter 1

‘Cassie, you’re badgering me again.’

‘Dearest, I’m only thinking of you. The Little Season is upon us. We’ve put it off too long.’ Her Grace, the Duchess of Taunton, stood in front of a baronial stone hearth, the carved features of leaping gargoyles menacing in the flickering firelight. ‘There will be such splendid balls. So many suiters will attend looking for a suitable wife.’

‘I’m happy as I am.’ Defiantly, Rosamond crossed her arms across her chest. ‘Tis not a joking matter Cassie,’ she muttered, seeing her sister bite back a smile.

‘Look, it‘s only a few balls and soirees.’

‘But it’s all so belittling – a sham. The truth is, we’re not going there to enjoy the dancing, we’re parading ourselves, like stuffed dolls on a shelf.’

‘If you want to marry, you’ll have to attend more social events.’

‘Cassie, I don’t want to wed – not yet. I’m so caught up with the horses. Really.’

‘Time is running out Rose. Look, you’re now one and twenty and you haven’t attended a season. Don’t let your chances slip away.

‘Cassie, I told you I’m not interested. I have too much to do.’

Tutting, the Duchess crossed to her side, as she spoke. ‘You’re still young and beautiful – please think about it. Surely you don’t want to live your life alone? Any suiter would go on his knees for your hand. Just think you could meet the man of your dreams, and be wed at Christmas. Oh yes, imagine – a Christmas wedding. Don’t throw it away.’ She patted her sister on the arm and sitting down on the chaise longue picked up her embroidery.’

Rose beetled her brows. ‘I cringe at the thought of it. Endless boring hours doing those country dances. Don’t laugh.’ She scowled at her sister. They’re trying to ban the waltz, honestly the only dance where you can have some fun. ‘Nay, I’m not waiting for a titled runt.’

‘I would not describe the men as—’

‘I will know the man for me at first glance, and it won’t be in an Assembly Room. I want a hot-blooded gallant, not some bacon brained twit, mincing to the minuet.’

‘Come on Rose, what novel are you reading? You have to have presence, be seen to —’

‘I’ll wait.’

‘So you want to wait for some unknown beau who might happen to come along?

‘Yes, if you put it that way.’ Rose frowned, trying to look interested in the builders working in the castle bailey.

‘I know, but it rarely happens – ouch, darn it.’ Cassie sucked on her finger. ‘I’ve pricked my finger on the needle.

‘Hmm, maybe you’ll stop needling me.’ Rose could not suppress a grin, and pulled out her handkerchief from her pocket. ‘Here, use this.’

Cassie hissed, ‘funny, you’re very quick today. But don’t change the subject Rose; you do need to think very seriously on what you could be throwing away. Next season you will be two and twenty and….’ she let her words trail away.

‘And I’ll be too old; I’ll become an ape leader, cooing after my nieces and nephews.’

‘Rose it’s not a joking matter. Even one year in your age makes all the difference. Men are looking for a wife, the future mother of their heirs.’

‘Oh Lord, don’t Cassie, now I’m a brood mare.’

Cassie bent her head wrapping the handkerchief around her finger. ‘It’s life dearest, life, and I want you to have one with the man you love. Darn it, will you tie this up for me please.’

Bending, Rose tied the handkerchief in a knot. ‘Honestly Cassie … I really hate those assembly rooms, queuing up and writing their name on my dance card when I don’t even like them.’

‘Well … look, why don’t you just try? Attend a couple of the dances. The Assembly Rooms at Bath are spacious, with beautiful crystal chandeliers, a huge ballroom. I’ve heard they have so much fun there. And there’s a scrumptious buffet. It’s not at all like the preening pomp and lifted noses of the Big Season.’

Rose chuckled. ‘If a man twinkle toed his way across the room to me, I’d run. Honestly Cassie, they’re all so effeminate, waving fingertips, pointing toes and—’

Putting the embroidery aside, Cassie looked earnestly at her sister. ‘The right beau may just attend this time, you never know.’

‘The right beau?’ Rose tossed her head. ‘A man who spends his time at dances, and soirees? I have no time for dandies.’

‘Don’t exaggerate. They’ll be lots of handsome men attending, It’s the only way for them to find a wife really.’

‘Hmm like cats feeding on mice.’

This could be your season for love.’

‘I abhor the Assemblies Cassie; I can’t imagine sitting on wallflower row, all fluff and feathers twiddling a stupid fan. Many girls sit there all evening praying some male will ask them to dance. How debasing. No, I will not attend.’

‘I shall let the dowager loose on you.’ Cassie smiled, raising her eyebrows.

Rose lifted her hands in defense. ‘You wouldn’t? Not the dragon; you wouldn’t?’

‘Alright, but it’s six months since Harriett’s period of mourning ended. The dear dowager told me, she’s now discarded her black gloves. It’s time Harriett entered the society again. Your sister-in-law needs you. She dreads attending the Assemblies. Truly she needs you. You know how she suffered.’

‘Now it’s emotional blackmail.’

‘Pray relent, if not for her, then for your own sweet sake. At this rate, you’ll never experience a man’s touch, his passion, his love. I don’t like to repeat this but you may not have another chance. Most young women wed at seventeen and mothers with two children at your age.’

‘But you were four and twenty before you met Max, and you didn’t attend one formal ball or assembly, yet you urge me to sell myself on the Marriage Mart?

Exasperated, but amused, Cassandra rose to her feet and walked over to the fire warming her hands over the glowing embers of the logs. Today would be quite busy with groups of tourists arriving to view the castle and the ongoing rebuild. ‘Rose, the dowager is forcing our gentle Harriett to attend, but I will not do that to you. I just ask that you try, if only for two weeks.’

‘Oh … alright – but just a week.’ Rose stood up; her mouth set defiantly.

Cassandra drew a breath of relief. Privately, she too did not agree with the Marriage Mart; of young women literally posing to catch a future husband. However, pray God, there would be a man to meet Rose’s expectations. She was a head turner, with her amber eyes, an abundance of golden hair and cream complexion. However, to Cassandra’s despair, the girl preferred mucking out the stables to tiaras and dances. It would be a lonely life for her, a spinster doting on her siblings’ infants. In time, she would regret it.

VBT – The Banished Lands

About the Author

Me

Benjamin Mester is native of San Diego but can often be found wandering the woods of northern Minnesota.  He fell in love with language at an early age – the eloquence of poetry or the grandeur of an epic story. Fantasy is his favorite genre, crafting new and magical places of heroism and adventure.  When he isn’t writing, he’s often taking long walks through nature or wondering about his place in the wide world.

Benjamin is the author of The Banished Lands series.

You can visit him on Goodreads.

About the Book:

The Banished Lands

Title: THE BANISHED LANDS (BOOK ONE)
Author: Benjamin Mester
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 384
Genre: Fantasy

BOOK BLURB:

A kingdom in danger. A prophecy that will change everything. But will they understand it in time? The old world is gone, and barely even histories remain. But something from that time is returning. The closing lines of a farewell poem, written centuries ago by the last great king of the age to his slain wife, might be more than just a poem:

The world and all its light shall fade,
I’ll stay with her beneath the shade
And wait until the world’s remade…

Join us in this epic fantasy adventure as three friends plunge into the great mystery of their age, twelve centuries in the making. A mysterious fog blankets the forest just outside the sleepy town of Suriya. A dark plot unfolds as Durian and his friends discover ties between a strange wanderer and the warlike barbarian kingdom far to the north. Are the mysterious things happening in the forest a prelude to invasion? What happens next will propel Durian and his curious friends into the middle of the oldest riddle in the history of their kingdom, a dozen centuries old.

The Banished Lands series

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Book Excerpt:

Dismissing hours as they pass

Soft upon the windswept grass.

The hopes of men have come to naught.

Nothing fair for eyes or thought.

For Sheyla lies on golden plain,

Of Cavanah, the fairest slain;

Who met her last and final day

When all was brought to disarray.

Of gladful things now nevermore –

Now bitter wind, now salty shore.

The peaceful world bound to unrest

And darkness looming in the west.

The world and all its light shall fade.

I’ll stay with her beneath the shade

And wait until the world’s remade…

Suriya

The town of Suriya awoke in usual fashion, with thin bands of smoke appearing one by one over the scattered chimney tops, rising to a dawn still flecked with starlight.  Few were stirring this early hour, in this small town in the corner of the kingdom, at the edge of the known world. An autumn wind picked up, pulling at the gray smoke and signaling the discovery of each hidden crevice in the stone cottages with a shriek of cold.

Durian woke to the whistling wind, but his mind was still full of the dream of a woman lying slain in a field.  He thought she was only sleeping, but something kept him from drawing near her. A rider approached, dismounted, and took her into his arms.  The figure pressed her head against his chest, and even from a distance his despair was evident. Then carrying her to his horse, they rode for the horizon.  He’d had this dream once before, and every detail was the same: the woman, the rider, the lingering stab of loss when he woke.

Sleep had almost found him when he snapped back awake – a promise to his best friend, Baron, in mind.  Groaning, Durian pushed himself from bed. Baron was competing in the Sea Games this morning. Though why was beyond him. This was the worst time of year as far as Durian was concerned, with no reprieve from the roving wind that swept up from the south.  With winter at least came snow, piled like a warm blanket against the drafty cottages. But the first heavy snows hadn’t yet fallen and the wind moved as it willed.

Durian ambled to his fireplace and blew slow, hopeful breaths.  But clouds of ash were all that greeted him in return. Reaching for the woodpile beside him, he seized some kindling but hesitated, knowing he’d soon be leaving.  Thob Forest, a two day’s walk westbound, was Suriya’s only source for timber. Abundant as trees were, strange things had been happening there that were keeping the woodsmen at bay.

It brought images of the dream back to mind.  The first time he’d had the dream was just before things in the forest started changing.  Every morning for the last three months, a fog had gathered, remaining throughout the day.  And in the mist were faint hints of perfume and smoke. None knew what caused it.

He glanced to the book lying idle on the mantle, one he’d rummaged through his room to find when the fog first arrived.  Titled Tales of the Prosperous Age, among its grand histories and stories, it contained the farewell poem of King Euthor to his wife, Sheyla – a poem that always touched him.  He’d been struck then, how similar his dream was to the poem and how vivid the images were. It felt connected to the happenings of the forest, but he didn’t know how that could be.

He took the book in hand, remembering fondly how the stories had consumed his imagination as a boy.  All he had wanted then was to go to the capital city, Eulsiphion; wander the great hall and visit the archives to learn whatever he could of the old world.  

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VBT – Circumvent

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About the Author

S.K. Derban

Born in the United States, S.K. Derban moved to London within the first three months, and remained in England until the age of five. Her mother was involved with the London Royal Ballet Company, and a great fan of the arts. Even after returning to the United States, S.K. Derban’s life was filled with a love of the theatre and a passion for British murder mysteries.

Her personal travel and missionary adventures also help to transport readers virtually across the globe. S.K. Derban has smuggled Bibles into China, and has been to Israel on seven missionary trips. When writing, she relies on all aspects of her life, from a strong faith in the Lord, to her unique combination of professional experience. The many personal adventures of S.K. Derban are readily apparent as they shine through into her characters. Circumvent is the third mystery novel for writer S.K. Derban.

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About the Book:

Not An Ordinary Woman

Title: CIRCUMVENT
Author: S.K. Derban
Publisher: Touchpoint Press
Genre: Mystery

BOOK BLURB:

Imagine living in a quaint, beach front cottage on the Hawaiian island of Maui. You have an amazing job, combined with the pleasure of working from home. Lunch breaks become a daily picnic on the sand. Dessert is always included because of your marriage to a famous pastry chef. Life could not be any better. Or so it seems… When French born, Nikki Sabine Moueix travels to Hawaii for a special work assignment, her job of writing an article about a famous Swiss pastry chef generates more than a magazine piece. They fall in love, get married, and Nikki becomes Mrs. Ruggiero Delémont.

When another assignment calls for Nikki to spend three weeks in France, Ruggiero’s schedule prevents him from joining her. She travels alone, advancing straight into danger. After a threatening confrontation, Nikki wakes up in a French hospital with no knowledge of her past. When she fails to check in, Ruggiero panics and pushes for an immediate investigation. But as he closes in, Nikki’s new found friend moves her to another city. It becomes a game of hide and seek with Nikki as the prize.

CIRCUMVENT allows readers to form a bond with Nikki as they yearn for her to remember. They will cheer for Ruggiero and his relentless determination to locate his beloved wife. This is a story about two people who never lose their faith in God, and find amazing friends to help them along the way.

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Book Excerpt:

Prologue

Last Monday in October

Lyon, France

Nikki

Outside of the Metro Cordeliers subway station, Nikki descended the cement ramp with plans of hailing a taxi. She towed a duet of stacked, attached suitcases with her right hand, and carried a leather tote on her opposite shoulder. Nikki used her free hand to brush the curls away from her eyes and caught the attention of one particular driver.

The driver leaned against his idling vehicle with one foot casually crossed over his standing leg. Nikki watched him watch her as he adjusted his gray flannel driving beret. When she reached the sidewalk, he spoke.

“Bonsoir, mademoiselle,” he said in French. “I am Philippe Golmard, absolutely the best taxi driver in all of Lyon.” He side stepped to open the rear car door.

“This is your lucky night, beautiful mademoiselle. I am available and at your complete service.”

Nikki’s delicate shoulders quivered as she chuckled softly. Frenchmen, she thought. They will never change. “Merci beaucoup,” she spoke the language flawlessly. “Your offer is hard to resist.” With slim fingers, she adjusted the strap of her black tote and continued her explanation, “But my hotel is so very close, and after sitting for such a long time, I need to stretch my legs.”

“But, mademoiselle, even by such high French standards your beauty leaves me breathless. It is not good for you to walk alone.”

“You are very kind, but I am not going far.”

“If you are staying at the Grand Boscolo, I can have you there in two minutes. Then, you can stretch your legs without carrying the weight of your bags.”

With a polite, but dismissive motion of her hand, Nikki smiled at his perseverance. Fortunately, she was extremely familiar with the many one-way streets and pedestrian-only areas. With or without luggage, walking would be the fastest way to go. She renounced his offer with a turn of her head. “Merci, but perhaps another time,” she murmured while continuing by.

As Nikki rounded the corner of the first street, a gentle breeze blew several strands of her long, free-flowing hair. The curly wisps tickled her nose until a row of trees diverted the current’s path. She followed the natural windbreak as the street curved away from the direction of her hotel. Nikki had a passion for shopping but was purposefully avoiding the busy pedestrian area. Instead, she opted to walk around, knowing an attempt to navigate through the crowds while carting her luggage would only cause a delay. Besides, she thought. I will need two free hands to do any real shopping damage.  Nikki’s facial expression loudly announced her mischievous expectation of spending her first full day hitting the French stores. Work would come soon enough.

Finally, she made the necessary left turn and began negotiating the downward slope of a quiet side street. Nikki never expected her route to be completely void of people, and yet, surprisingly her neck hairs bristled when she heard footsteps from behind. While keeping her pace constant, she quickly glanced over her right shoulder and spotted a man who looked vaguely familiar. I know him from somewhere, Nikki thought. Still not certain, and feeling a strange vulnerability, she increased her stride and continued pressing ahead. From the sound of his footsteps, Nikki could tell the man had also sped and was gaining on her. Fear galvanized her when she suddenly heard him break into a run.

Nikki gathered her inner strength, then stopped, and turned to confront the man. She focused on his features and finally remembered. “It’s you! You’re from Maui,” she accused. “You drove my airport shuttle. What are you doing here in France, and why are you following me?”

“I, uh.” The man’s clouded eyes darted nervously in their sockets. “We gave you the wrong bag,” he responded anxiously.

“What do you mean? I don’t understand.” Nikki looked down at her bags and instantly recognized her custom brass identification tags. With a creased forehead, her dark eyebrows dipped inwardly. “What is really going on here?” she demanded.

The man stepped closer. “Look, lady, I—”

Nikki instinctively moved backward. “Get away from me!” she shouted. “Dear, God!” Nikki screamed for help as his thick palm closed around the lower carrying handle of her rolling, ground suitcase.

“Just give me the bag,” the man growled between clenched teeth.

Making the instant decision to give up the suitcase and relinquish a few clothes, Nikki immediately released her grip on the rolling handle. But, as she attempted to run away, Nikki’s arm jerked painfully backward.

The man continued to tug at the suitcase, forcing her feet to slide toward him along the cement walkway. “Let go!” he insisted.

“I can’t!” she screamed. “My bracelet is caught!”

With one powerful yank, the man tore the bag from Nikki’s outstretched arm causing her to lose balance. Blinding pain shot through her system as Nikki’s head smacked against the concrete sidewalk. She moaned softly while straining to see through the rapidly collecting haze. Nikki’s eyelids continued to flutter as the gray turned to black, and she slipped from consciousness.

Pre-Publication Blitz – Strayed

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About the Author

KristaLyn

KristaLyn A. Vetovich is the internationally published author of seven books and one short story, including the upcoming Prelude of the Reyn Gayst series releasing in 2018 from Glass House Press. She graduated in 2011 from Susquehanna University with a degree in English Literature and began traditionally publishing her novels the next year. KristaLyn is also a certified health and life coach and enjoys infusing her stories with motivational themes and characters from all walks of life.

KristaLyn lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and their corgi, Jack.

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About the Book:

woman dancing

Title: STRAYED
Author: KristaLyn Vetovich
Publisher: Glass House Press
Pages: 72
Genre: YA/NA Fantasy

BOOK BLURB:

In the struggle between good and evil, humans don’t stand a chance—not on their own.

Which is why, for every living soul, there is a Firn: a spirit assigned to guide and defend humans from demonic spirits like the Aropfain. But earning a place in the fight is a process that requires several lifetimes—of service, experience, and sacrifice.

Having just returned from her most recent life as an Ancient Roman martyr, Anaya is only one step away from achieving that goal. And if she succeeds, she might become the Firn with the most important mission: guiding the human that will either save—or end—the world.

But when she’s paired with the notoriously difficult Jordin, her chances of success suddenly start to slip. Because Jordin isn’t like other souls. He’s strong, volatile—and a prime target for the Aropfain. And he almost immediately falls for an Aropfain ploy that could not only jeopardize his chances of becoming a Firn, but also endanger the entire world.

As his partner, Anaya is the only one who can save him. But will she succeed? Or will she fail—and take the world down with her?

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Book Excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

Well, it happened again. I died.

The bloodied sand of the colosseum shivers out of focus as my soul shakes off its physical limitations in favor of a higher vibration. Instead of centurions and weeping family, I’m now surrounded by snowy white noise and quiet.

They came for me at dawn. I can still hear my mother’s sobs. I was only twelve.

I blink the memories away just as a man bends and pulls into view before me, then straightens with a blithe sort of smile. “Welcome back,” he says in an excessively soothing tone. He wears glasses I know he doesn’t need, and behind them, his unearthly blue eyes trace my face, looking for signs of stress.

And it comes back to me like the snap of fingers. An Advokat. Here to help me adjust to the trauma of crossing over from life to death.

Suddenly I wonder how he sees me. Do I have blue eyes now? In life, they were brown, but here in death I’ve always imagined others see me with crystal blue. I guess it would depend on how much they like me. Appearance is entirely based on impression here. We see what we feel. Feelings are real, vision an illusion.

And this Advokat must be new, I realize a moment later. If he’d been here for any length of time, he wouldn’t be using the sappy voice they put on for the newer souls. The ones who don’t understand how it works. He’d know that I’m something of a regular in the transition between life and death—that I’ve lost count of how many of these interviews I’ve had to sit through. I’m sure I know the process better than he does.

Because I’ve had his job before, mastered it long ago.

I skim him, searching the endless trove of memories trying to break through the fog of earthly business still clouding my mind. I don’t remember him. And I can see that he doesn’t know me.

Definitely new. Which means he’ll play the interview by the book. I groan.

The Advokat reaches out as if to comfort me, like my groan was one of anxiety and not disdain. “Try not to panic.”

I resist the urge to roll my eyes and flatten my gaze at him instead. I understand it’s his job to help me recover from the shock of death, but honestly, I’m fine. So I died—so what? There are many things worse than death, and one of them, if anyone ever bothered to ask me, is living. I’m actually thrilled to be back here—and I don’t need an Advokat to counsel me through the transition.

Also, I’m in a bit of a hurry. I have important business to attend to, even higher vibrations to achieve. I’m so close now, and he’s the only thing standing in my way.

I tap my foot and glance around for someone—anyone who might recognize me and give me an opportunity to walk away from this unnecessary formality.

“Everything will make sense soon.” The Advokat’s voice echoes through the white expanse around us. Clearly, all other souls are keeping their distance to allow me to transition without any added shock. Or—I narrow my eyes at the Advokat—he’s followed protocol by requesting they give us space.

And do we ever have it. As far as the eye can see, there’s nothing but static white. But I smile, and my shoulders relax—because this is my true home.

Just the way I remember it.

The Advokat leans into my line of sight. “Do you know your name?”

My smile drops.

In life, my name was Agnes. In this life, anyway.

There have been so many lives, so many names, but between them all, just one feels like home.

When it comes, my voice sounds like a lost, cherished memory. “Anaya.” My first word after death. The truest word I know.

The Advokat smiles and nods. He doesn’t take any notes or write anything down, and I know about that, too. The answers are in his mind, ready when he needs them, downloaded into his head from the source of all truth on the highest plane of vibration there is: El Olam, our master and creator. He sits so high none of us can reach him, above laws and structure. The world is as he makes it, and we are simply stewards of his creation, here to serve.

And today I’ll go one step further in the process of becoming a defender of creation. I’ll become a Firn.

The Advocat, who is becoming more annoying by the moment, interrupts my thoughts with yet another question. “Good. And do you know where you are?”

Where I am? Well it’s a much better place than where I was…

I was in Rome, in the fourth century. I rejected a boy, and he sold me out as a Christian. It took them forever to kill me—first with shame, then with flames. But all I gave them was a blank stare through the numbness. They couldn’t shame me. I wouldn’t burn when they strung me to the stake and lit the fire—even the flames knew not to touch me. But the Roman officer’s sword through my throat did the trick in the end. I was gone before I felt anything. So I guess the joke’s on them. There was darkness, then a burst of light—

And now I’m home, where none of that matters anymore. I’m free here. Because no one can shame or kill the dead. I’ll be safe as long as I stay.

“This is Lemayle,” I say quietly. “The afterlife. The real world.” And I have no intention of ever living again.

He rocks back and grins. “Wonderful!” Then his face stiffens. He swallows and his eyes shake as he looks me over for a second time, now scanning for any truths beneath the surface, anything I’m hiding from him. If souls could sweat, he’d be a mess as he prepares for the most important question of the interview.

I used to have his job, so I know what comes next. My answers from here on out will decide my final destination.

“All right.” He clears his throat. He doesn’t have to. It’s the nerves. I will be his enemy if I answer poorly, but he has to remain objective. He’s a professional, after all, and he doesn’t know whose side I’m on yet—what changes this most recent lifetime might have made in me.

I was martyred, and not all martyrs come back home the way they should. Martyrs go into life as warriors for El Olam’s cause … but don’t always return feeling their suffering was justified. Some turn against him and defect to the one who seeks to depose him.

And me? How do I feel about the suffering I was put through? Have I changed my mind about who to serve? And how dangerous does that make me to the fragile balance of the world? That’s what the Advokat needs to find out.

“Do the names El Olam and Narn mean anything to you?”

Good and evil. That’s what they mean. Free will and slavery. But which is which? Is El Olam good … or is he evil? Are Narn’s plans for less service to living souls and more dominion over them more appealing? Are they justified? No soul chooses evil.

They simply choose what they believe is right.

I hide my laugh with a cough at the tension in the Advokat’s hunched shoulders. If he’s new—and he wants to stay—he’ll need a stiffer a spine than he’s got now. I might as well be the one to give it to him.

I level my gaze at him, eyes wide open to appear just a little less threatening. “Yes. I know them.”

He nods, more rigidly this time, and rubs the back of his neck as he braces for my response to his final question.

“And … your allegiance?”

I stare at him for a long moment, watching the anxiety build behind his bright blue eyes. He doesn’t want any trouble, but his other hand twitches at his side, ready to summon the support of a slightly higher power—just in case I came back tainted.

Just in case I’ve decided I hate the way the world works … and want to serve the one trying to turn it upside down.

“Oh calm down,” I finally chide him. This has gone on long enough to bore me. I have business to attend to, and honestly, after fifty lifetimes, a soul should be able to just skip this process. “I chose El Olam lifetimes ago. I’m bound to be a Firn. This was my last run.”

His whole body wilts as the tension releases. Had I said Narn, the Advokat and I would have had a few issues. Because it would have meant I was a soul with eyes toward flipping the script, turning the world upside down—force living souls to do as we say, and ruling over them as gods.

He’d have had to immediately summon one of Lemayle’s second-highest authorities—a Malekh, El Olam’s archangels—to deal with me. And it wouldn’t have been pleasant. The Malekh don’t like jokes. Most of them, anyway.

“Well that is a relief.” The Advokat’s hand slides from the back of his neck to clutch his chest, steadying the phantom sensation of a palpitating heart.

And I grin, even though I shouldn’t. But what’s the fun in seniority if you can’t mess with the rookies?

“We need as many Firns as we can get,” he admits, “events accelerating as they are.” I perk up at that. Accelerating events is much more my speed—though it gives me less time to meet the final criteria for joining the Firns’ ranks. “The living souls need all the protection we can give them,” he finishes.

I couldn’t agree more. And that’s where I come in—where all the Firns stand and serve El Olam. Without Firns to guide living souls and protect them from temptation and harm, Narn would flip the script. And humans would walk right into their own slavery.

But El Olam won’t allow it.

So neither will I. I’m so close now. Just one step left, and if I impress the Malekh and El Olam enough in my next job as a soul collector, then I’ll become a Firn, and one day I’ll be even more than that. If I perform well enough, I’ll be chosen as the Firn who oversees El Olam’s plan to defeat Narn once and for all. It has to be one of us, so it might as well be me. And I won’t stop until I see it happen.

Meanwhile, the Advokat extends his hand to me. “Best of luck to you. I hope you make the cut.”

I glance at his hand and back up to him. So he really hasn’t heard of me, then. I may not be a Firn yet, but I have made a name for myself as the one to watch for earning the coveted position in El Olam’s plan.

Well, if he hasn’t heard of me yet, he will soon enough.

“Thanks.” With a smirk, I grip his hand and shake it firmly enough to knock him off balance. “But I really don’t need luck.”

GIVEAWAY!

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