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Title: BRUSHED OFF
Author: M. Lee Musgrave
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Pages: 186
Genre: Murder Mystery

BOOK BLURB:

Artist James Terra and his married lover Nicole find themselves in a tangled web while searching for the killer of LAs hottest artists. Homicide detective Cisco Rivas ask James for help with LAs zany art community. The case quickly turns into a quagmire of intrigue and vicious jealousy amongst the dazzling talent and wealth of schizophrenic Los Angeles. James wants Nicole to leave her husband. When another artist is murdered, she joins the hunt for the killer. A leading art collector is attacked. Cisco is pressured by influential city movers and shakers. Young emerging socialite Camille is up to her neck in strife so James and Nicole make a deal to protect her. Cisco discovers a smuggled exotic drug used by all the suspects including a stealthy porn star. James keeps everyone from knowing his health is precarious. The killer and a secret accomplice targets James, Nicole and Camille.

PRAISE

“Who is killing the contemporary artists of L.A.? Why are they shoving paint brushes down their victims’ throats? Who’s next on the killer’s list? In Brushed Off artist and public-TV art show host James “Sketchy” Terra finds himself smack in the middle of things, racing to help his homicide detective buddy unravel a puzzle as urgent as a splatter painting and as complex as an M.C. Escher drawing. Lee Musgrave’s swift and energetic novel pulls its readers through the studio doors into a brash and entertaining world of big ambitions, bigger egos, love and sex and secrets and shady wheeler-dealing. Calling on his long experience as an artist and curator as he cruises from the beaches and bars and galleries of L.A. to the hidden havens of the Santa Monica Mountains, Musgrave creates a compelling collage of mystery-novel action and art-world exposé as he paints a portrait of the Art of Murder.”

—Bob Hicks, two-time Pulitzer nominee and Senior Editor, Artswatch  (orartswatch.org)

“Brushed-Off is a unique, atmospheric work of Los Angeles mystery fiction. Not only does author M. Lee Musgrave provide an engaging case, which ends in an explosive climax, but he also paints a vivid portrait of the city’s beautiful but dangerous art scene from an insider’s perspective. A welcome addition for those who enjoy contemporary L.A. noir.”
— Rick Treon, award-winning author of Deep Background and Let the Guilty Pay

Brushed-off by Lee Musgrave paints an interesting and revealing series of passages about the Los Angeles art scene. The opening picture of LA’s beach community, its oddball characters, mixed with homeless wanderers draws the reader into this story as Sketchy and Duie (his dog) discover a friend dead under a pile of destroyed paintings and a totally wrecked studio. Sketchy, an artist-videographer, and his homicide detective friend set off to find answers. More suspicious deaths in the art community pressure the duo to find the killer. Looking for a link to the murders, Sketchy takes the reader deep into the lives of the artists, collectors, and beautiful people who inhabit this world of creativity. With his video documentary work as cover, the threads he discovers unravel a tapestry of crime that only an artist could perceive in the glare of so many colors.

Musgrave uses a number of conventions to depict details of color, texture, and location to convince the reader that this is a plausible tale told by an observant artist. The twist of a detective using a well-connected artist to investigate leads plays well in this adventure. Musgrave takes the reader on trips through LA and its several neighborhoods with Sketchy chasing leads, dead ends, and discoveries. He hides the motive for murder until the final segments and this lets the reader enjoy the scenes he composes in this montage of Los Angeles from its world renowned beaches to the mansions overlooking them. Brushed-off is an enjoyable mystery, especially for fans of the art world.

Review Rating: 5 Stars – Cecil Brewer, critic Readers Favorite

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Amazon → https://amzn.to/2ZzWiCj

Meet The Author

M. Lee Musgrave

 Author/Artist, M. Lee Musgrave holds a Master of Art degree from CSU, Los Angeles. He is the recipient of a National Endowment for Arts Fellowship. His artwork has been in solo and group exhibitions world-wide. As a Professor of Art and curator he organized hundreds of exhibitions involving artists, collectors and a variety of related enthusiast. Those many experiences and his ongoing personal art activities inform his writing about LA’s exciting art community.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

Website: www.leemusgrave.com

Facebook: Lee Musgrave | Facebook

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“To hope is normal, to expect is naïve”

—wise advice that Rosemary Mild’s psychoanalyst father taught her, and which she too often ignores. 

Rosemary is an award-winning writer of personal essays that have appeared in the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Chess Life, Generations, and elsewhere. As a retired editor, she’s a long-time member of the Society of Professional Journalists and was a Silver Owl (twenty-five-year member) of the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Rosemary grew up in Milwaukee and graduated from Smith College. In 2013, she and Larry moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, where they cherish time with their daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren. When not dreaming up outrageous ideas for her essays, she and Larry stalk villains and solve crimes as coauthors of more than a dozen mystery and suspense novels and story collections. They’re members of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime (Larry’s a Mister), and Hawaii Fiction Writers. 

Visit her website at www.magicile.com

Congratulations on the release of your book, In My Next Life I’ll Get It Right. When did you start writing and what got you into nonfiction?

About twenty-five years ago, after leaving my career as an editor (which I started at Harper’s Magazine in New York). My second husband, Larry, and I lived in Severna Park, Maryland, a bedroom community between Baltimore and Annapolis. I had a chance to write four articles on “Artists of the Chesapeake,” for the Baltimore Sun. Then I felt inspired to write essays about my own life: Playing Barbie Dolls with our little granddaughters. My run-in with a bank because I accepted a new credit card just to get a free T-shirt at a baseball game. I published a bunch of those in Washington Woman and Washington Parent. 

What is your book about? 

My essays reflect my quirky, sharp, often laugh-out-loud view of life, like taking the wrong cart at the grocery store. My senior “decade.” Auditioning to become a contestant on Jeopardy! Medical mishaps pushing Larry in his wheelchair. The risks of a grandma’s bragging rights. I also encompass the opposite spectrum, poignant and appreciative, including our son-in-law in the Honolulu Marathon and delivering Meals on Wheels. 

In “Life with Larry” I tell how, on our first date, he asked me to write a novel with him—even though neither of us had ever written a word of fiction. I have another chapter on our writing murder mysteries together. And haven’t killed each other yet!   

The last chapter is the most heart-rending, about our twenty-year-old daughter Miriam Luby Wolfe. We lost her in the terrorist bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. She was a superb writer. I end the book with her inspiring words, beautiful advice we can all use.   

What was your inspiration for it?

My mother was a professional writer. She wrote feature stories for The Milwaukee Journal, Parents Magazine, American Home, Colliers, and elsewhere. She was my role model. 

Who is your target audience?

Adult women probably. When I wrote the back-of-the-book copy, I gave it to our two granddaughters here in Honolulu for their opinions. I said that my essays were a combination of Nora Ephron and Erma Bombeck. Our granddaughters, ages twenty-two and thirty-two, had never heard of either one. I deleted the reference, even though in some ways they still influence me.   

What type of challenges did you face while writing this book?

Trying to weave my own personal writing in between coauthoring fiction with Larry. It’s tough on both of us. Larry is extremely focused. When we have a new book we’re working on, it’s hard for him to sit back and wait until I finish a nonfiction project. It’s hard on me, too. Mystery and suspense novels require tremendous concentration—intricate clues; fleshed-out characters; convincing, logical solutions.

I’ve also taken infinite amounts of time to write three memoirs: Miriam’s Gift; Miriam’s World—and Mine; and Love! Laugh! Panic! Life with My Mother. 

What do you hope readers will get from your book?

I hope readers will agree with the Readers’ Favorite review. “A wonderful heartwarming collection of stories that you instantly resonate with. I could not put this book down. Rosemary takes us on such a rollercoaster of emotions, from laughter to tears and everything in between. A highly recommended read.”

Did your book require a lot of research? 

Yes. My “Close Encounters…” with famous people sent me to research on what made them famous. My essays on “Renoir and Raphael”; “Pearl Harbor and Punchbowl”, etc. But I also included threads of research throughout, such as the number of participants in the 2013 Honolulu Marathon; and facts about Jazzercise, my amazing exercise program that satisfies my desire to be a Rockette.  

What was your publishing process like?

Our original self-publisher was not respected in the industry. If I had done my homework I would have learned that the company had the reputation of publishing the telephone book if you submitted it. For Boston Scream Pie we did have a reputable commercial publisher, but, sadly, we submitted it at the time the business was falling apart. Of course, we had no way of knowing that. 

We’re our own “indie” publisher now, under the imprint Magic Island Literary Works. For printing, we use Lightning Source, Inc. in Tennessee (owned by Ingram). We submit every book already formatted. Larry does the formatting using Lightning Source’s InDesign. He’s a retired engineer, so he’s excellent at using their program, which is all in code! (I could never do it.)  We like LSI’s printing quality. We have a friend who’s an excellent proofreader; she proofs all our final drafts for us.

What is your advice for aspiring authors? 

1. Don’t be intimidated, first drafts are never perfect anyway.

2. Fear of the blank page is something to be skirted. Don’t give up, go on to the next scene,  and come back later.

3. Write about what you are comfortable with.

4. Develop clear mental images of your central characters.

5. Become more aware of people and places. Carry a notebook with you and jot down observations. Tune into both the unusual and the commonplace.

6. Take a community college writing class. Maybe also join a critique group.

7. Subscribe to The Writer or Writer’s Digest. (Either print or online.)

What has writing taught you?

Writing is like my right arm; it comes naturally to me. But there‘s no end to the learning process. My favorite authors are always teaching me something. Some are superb at descriptions. Others specialize in clever plotting. No matter how zealously I work on a project, no matter how satisfied I am with it, I always feel afterward, Well, maybe I could’ve said that in a slightly more vivid way.  

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Acclaimed novelist Rosemary Mild pulls back the curtain on life, love, loss, and everything in between in her new book, In My Next Life I’ll Get It Right.  In this charming, entertaining, and heartfelt collection, Mild dances to her own captivating tune. With a keen eye, wicked wit, and sparkling delivery, she produces a collection of essays ranging from the hilarious to the serious, from the practical to the irreverent. Clever, pitch-perfect, and polished, Mild’s conversational tales are destined to strike a chord with readers.

Mild writes with candor, compassion, and honesty in a voice that brims with humor and wisdom. Her essays run the gamut from gritty observations on everyday life to laughing at her own wishful thinking tempered with tough reality. In My Next Life I’ll Get It Right has it all.

No subject escapes the pen of Rosemary Mild—wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother. Readers will delight in her Hawaii adventures; “Senior Decade”; brief encounters with the famous; medical mishaps; and her rocky road from blind dates to lasting love. Join her as she takes on sailing, skating, Jazzercise, football, marathons, and more—and come along as Mild lays bare a mother’s heart-wrenching loss. A collection that is at once timeless and timely, In My Next Life I’ll Get It Right is utterly irresistible.

About The Author

Rosemary is an award-winning writer of personal essays that have appeared in the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Chess Life, Generations, and elsewhere. As a retired editor, she’s a long-time member of the Society of Professional Journalists and was a Silver Owl (twenty-five-year member) of the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Rosemary grew up in Milwaukee and graduated from Smith College. In 2013, she and Larry moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, where they cherish time with their daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren. When not dreaming up outrageous ideas for her essays, she and Larry stalk villains and solve crimes as coauthors of more than a dozen mystery and suspense novels and story collections. They’re members of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime (Larry’s a Mister), and Hawaii Fiction Writers. 

Find out more at www.magicile.com


From Rosemary Mild’s new book IN MY NEXT LIFE I’LL GET IT RIGHT

Other people have senior moments. I’m having a senior decade.

          Unable to sleep, at 2:00 a.m. I shuffled into the kitchen for a few sips of diet tonic water, hoping it would relax me. No need to put on my glasses. I saw a creepy crawly cockroach high up on the cabinet over the fridge. After fumbling under the sink for the can of Raid, I sprayed the invader good and hard. Next morning I strolled into the kitchen for breakfast. Now that I had my glasses on, I saw that I had sprayed an exposed, unpainted cabinet screw.

Larry got out the little tub of margarine for lunch, opened it, and discovered a coffee filter filled with used coffee grounds. It was garbage I’d prepared to throw away. At breakfast I’d been rushing to get ready for my Jazzercise class and I put it in the fridge instead. Does that mean I threw away the actual tub of margarine? Mercifully, I’ve forgotten.

In 2003 we were driving Emily, our five-year-old granddaughter, to a roller-skating birthday party. Ah, I thought, a chance to try in-line skates. The man behind the counter scowled. “You don’t want those. They’re for racing, they have no brakes.” He handed me a pair of four-wheelers. I spent the next half-hour churning round and round the indoor rink just trying to keep my balance. The skates were so clunky.

The birthday girl’s dad came gliding up beside me, the friendly host. Maybe the spinning strobes had taken a few decades off my face.

“How long has it been since you roller-skated?” he asked.        

His question caught me off guard. I had to count back to 1948 when I was thirteen. In my Milwaukee suburb of Whitefish Bay, we strapped on ball-bearing skates and tightened them with a square key. Finally, I reported: “Fifty-five years.”

“Oh,” he said, and skated away.

I’m so well organized that I have a red folder on my desk labeled URGENT BUSINESS. The problem is, some of the stuff in it is from 2015.

Woody Allen’s play title You Know I Can’t Hear You When the Water’s Running is sheer brilliance. I’m always saying it to Larry. We do a lot of grousing, especially if we’re in different rooms: “What did you say?” Recently, at a Zoom meeting during COVID-19, we were all chatting. “Bill” mentioned one of his favorite authors, and asked us what books we were reading. He addressed “Howard,” who had joined the meeting while eating his breakfast.

“Howard? What are you reading?”

“Oatmeal.”

That could’ve been me.

My pet peeve in restaurants is an overzealous waiter asking me, “Are you still working on that?”

“No,” I’m tempted to snap. “I’m eating.” I’m quite sure he’s about to pull the fork out of my mouth.

We were in the waiting room of our doctor’s office in Annapolis, and in walked Marty and Sheila Litzky. With her incomparable insight, Sheila said, “You know you’re getting older when you meet your friends of forty years in the urologist’s office.”

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Title: HIS KILT DROPPED HERE: A MAGICAL REALISM SCOTTISH ROMANCE
Author: Kathleen Shaputis
Publisher: Clutter Fairy Publishing
Pages: 170
Genre: Magic Realism Scottish Romance

BOOK BLURB:

Rogue Bruce enjoys running a Scottish castle turned bed-and-breakfast with her Aunt Baillie from America. They specialize in hosting romantic Elizabethan-themed weddings, complete with resident ghost, Lord Kai. But love is something Rogue is not the least bit interested in. Content with her work, she requires no male accompaniment for happiness.

A new delivery service brings Bruce MacKenzie, a Thor look-alike in plaid and denim, fetching more than the usual number of groceries from town, while Jonathan Olson, a snobbish, dark, Rhett Butler type, arrives at the castle to administer a writing seminar for aspiring authors. With two men after the heart she’d thought safely locked away, Rogue is flattered and confused. But when things start to take a sinister turn, danger befalls Rogue and those dear to her. The musical soundtrack of Rogue’s life flares from complacent, to dizzyingly romantic, to heart-thumping scary in this sizzling triangle.

Chapter One

“Who created these torture devices for women?” Rogue Bruce muttered as the high-heeled ankle boots her glittery Seattle friend, Rafael, had picked out for her squeezed her toes. Her steps made soft clicks on the temporary polished flooring as she dashed around the white-silk-draped chairs inside the reception tent set up on the castle grounds. She lifted her floor-length emerald skirt of fluff and ribbons and screamed internally about her aching feet. “Spike heels make my legs look better, she tells me. Heels? Seriously? Buried under twenty yards of bloody material, who will even notice? I swear, and this dress weighs a ton.”

And why must my bloody underwear be authentic if no one knows or sees it? Seriously, another full day of endless agony in this restrictive Elizabethan costume of layered torture is maddening. You know an evil man must have created the corset. No woman would have designed something so miserable and called it fashionable. How many times had she pleaded with Aunt Baillie to let her wear something soft, something comfortable like pants and a jacket during these events? Her aunt’s normally sweet face would transform into a stony glare, forcing Rogue to relent and don one of the many costumes made specifically for her as owner of the Scottish estate.

“The Baillie Castle Bed and Breakfast promises a fairy-tale environment for couples in love and bridal parties creating a stop-time fantasy for families and guests,” Rogue mimicked her American aunt and business partner. “Remember, these expensive weddings pay the taxes and daily upkeep of your renovated castle.”

Rogue could barely breathe in the tightly wrapped bodice as she rounded out of the heated white tent, her eyes on the temporary stone path placed in the soggy Scottish mud. Plowing into something solid, Rogue cursed and frantically reached out, wobbling on the spiked heels. Grabbing at anything, her fingers found soft, crushable flannel before warm, strong hands wrapped around her wrists. Staring at the manly fingers holding her steady, Rogue’s eyes traveled up the long, chiseled arms of a young man to his concerned face, locking eyes with her.

“Ya be all right, miss?”

His baritone voice tickled her ears, causing the breath to catch in her throat as the heat from his grasp flushed in a wave across her face. All she could handle was a weak nod. Staring at his serious face framed with shaggy blond hair, a chill breeze lifted the bangs from his ruddy forehead. His oddly green eyes blinked above a well-freckled nose and broke the spell.

Rogue stiffened her body and checked her balance before pulling her arms away. “Of course, I am. Just dinna expect anyone to be in the reception area this time of the afternoon.” Rogue brushed her trembling fingers against the flounce of her skirt. “It’s the middle of May, and the paying guests are huddled by the fireplaces inside as if it were bloody January, wondering why the wedding isn’t in some tropical place like Hawaii.” Trying to control her nervousness but having trouble drawing breath in front of such a gorgeous male creature, she asked, “Who are you?”

“Aye, sorry, “My name is Bruce, Miss Rogue, Bruce MacKenzie, delivery service from the village.” The man pulled gloves from a back pocket. “I was checking with Putney one last time to be sure she has all she needs for today before I leave.”

“Ya seemed a wee bit familiar, but we’ve a crowd of local security today on the grounds. Ya could have been one of the guards. You’ve the size and all.”

“Aye, I’ve had to show credentials a few times today.” The edge of his full lips pulled into a crooked grin. “I’ve been delivering vegetables, breads, and such to Putney from town over the last nine months since my da passed away. I’ve seen you now an’ again in the stable door, I have, with your hands full of currycombs or muckrakes during my times here. Nice to see there’s a lady side of ya.”

Rogue steeled herself not to bark something rude at his personal remark. Who admitted to watching someone without her knowing? And what did he mean about her lady side? Wearing some historical costume had nothing to do with who she was inside. The man had the manners of a goat. She took a slow, deep breath, forcing something polite. “Putney has mentioned good things about ya and, uh, ya service.” She bowed her head, clenching her teeth.

Keeping her head down, willing her pounding heart to return to normal, Rogue clutched her skirts. “Well, I, uh, I have much to do before the wedding. I best be going.”

Bruce tugged on his gloves, shuffling his feet. “I hear everyone has to clear the premises before the ceremony. Is some big movie star taking vows this time? I dinna bring near the crates of caviar or champagne Putney usually orders for the fancy events ya hold here. Seemed a bit odd.”

“Aye, this inna our typical wedding booked at the Baillie Castle, but the oldest daughter of some actor trying to dodge mass publicity if ya must know. The family requested utmost privacy for their ceremony, a simpler affair.” Her voice dropped to a loud whisper despite herself. “I’m thinking she’s in a family way and alcohol will be limited.”

Nodding his head, Bruce wiped a gloved hand under his nose. “I need to get back to the shop. Tell Putney to call me if she needs something.” He scuffed the toe of his worn boot against one of the stepping stones. “See ya, Miss Rogue.”

The sight of his retreating backside in tight jeans sent a warmth of fiery hormones cloaking her against the dampness of perspiration. Rogue’s mind blanked; with no idea what she was originally going to do before the sudden run in with the delicious jerk of a delivery guy, she picked up her skirts with a swish and headed toward the castle’s kitchen.

She had never felt such an intense frustration and intrigue talking to a strange man, let alone a local one. With the castle being a romantic spot for weddings and celebrations, she had met gorgeous, rich men from around the world. Yet the flash of his green eyes while he held her hands, sent irritating bolts inside her thumping heart. Blowing her cheeks out, she wrinkled her nose. “‘Nice to see there’s a lady side of ya’ he has the nerve to say.” She pounced across the moat’s wooden bridge, ignoring the dancing caps of windblown onyx water below, and into the kitchen. The heavy oak door closed against the outside coolness as aromas of spices and sweet bakery smells wrapped her in a warm, soothing hug.

“Child, you’ll be snapping the heels right off those shoes, clunking that way. Dinna Miss T-Cup and Rafael show you better than that?” Putney looked over her thick shoulder, her plump cheeks red from the heat of the oven, a strand of damp, gray hair dangling from her tight bun. “Did ya learn nothing ladylike from those glitzy drag queen friends of yours and them spending so much time trying to coach ya?”

Rogue blinked at the feisty cook, a natural foundation of castle life since the first day she’d arrived years ago. “Ah, Putney, donna I wish the girls were here this very minute.” She pinched a broken piece of scone and popped it in her mouth. How she would love to pick Rafael and T-Cup’s glittered brains right now about a certain delivery guy she’d run into, literally. Why would he think clothes made a difference, a lady? What was wrong with the jeans and boots she typically lived in? Local chauvinist.

“Ya had your way, they’d live here full time. Poor wee things would wither away if stuck out here in the wilds as they say of the hielands, from sheer boredom if nothing else.” Chuckling, she smacked her hip. “They exhaust me during their visits from America. And donna get me started on the smooth-talking Mr. Gillian Nation and his plume-waving ways. He’ll get no mocha, whatcha, latte crazy coffee from me just for his bit of flirting.”

Rogue gave a single nod, staring beyond the cook’s shoulder, her motionless hands still holding a scone. The delivery guy had seen her often during his trips to the castle? Why had she not noticed this local hottie before? Why hadn’t Putney said anything? She nearly slapped her hand against her forehead. Putney had done nothing but talk about Bruce MacKenzie. The old woman had given speeches and passionate soliloquies all winter long about the new single businessman Rogue should be concentrating on, as she wasn’t getting any younger. She’d pretty much ignored the cook’s deluge. Good-looking single men came in and out of the bed and breakfast, but that didn’t mean she needed to introduce herself to each one. She was quite content between her work here at the castle and taking care of her horses.

“Girl, the bloody sky’s falling.” The cook kept her voice even, not changing her tone. “The moon will be full and purple with stripes tonight, I hear.”

Another vacant nod to whatever Putney was rambling about would tide her over. Rogue popped a bite of scone in her mouth. He must get those muscles from lifting and carrying such heavy bags of flour and sugar for all the baking going on around town every week. And who knows how many other deliveries he makes in a day? An independent man at least, inheriting his work much like I did.  

Rogue stared at the cook without focus, watching the older woman turn back to the pastries and silver platters, running a work-reddened hand across her damp forehead.

An ancient looking man with angel-white hair shuffled into the room, wearing fancy black suspenders against the crisp white shirt his wife, Putney, forced him to wear on these occasions. Before speaking a word, his eyes caught Putney’s, and Rogue caught the cook tilting her head back toward her on the other side of the room.

Robbie twisted to peek around the vision of his hefty bride of forty-five years, then shrugged, and moved to grab a biscuit. The noise of her slapping his hand away with a snort broke Rogue’s concentration, and she let out a long sigh.

“Sounds like the weight of the world is nestled on those young shoulders,” he said in her direction. “Ya havena looked so begotten since them flouncy diva women ya make such a fuss over left last summer.” He rubbed his weathered cheek. “But they’ll be back in a few weeks, aye?”

Rogue cleared her throat; had she sent up red flags of concern? She didn’t want the old couple nosing around in her direction. She gave the couple a brilliant smile, as if she’d just entered the room. “Yes, you’re most right, Robbie. It’s but a blink of the eye before they return in all their splendor and glamour.” She snapped her fingers in a z-motion like T-Cup had shown her. “And we got a wedding today.” She marched out of the room, her floor-length skirt rustling, and heard Putney whisper as she left.

“Lost, I tell ya, mooning like a she-wolf in heat she was.”



Baillie glanced over the final lists and papers for the celebrity wedding taking place in a few hours. She’d found a quiet spot in the library to concentrate on the last-minute details when her cell phone vibrated. The caller id noted Olympia, Washington, and she snatched it by the second muted ring.

“Sally,” she said with a smile. “Happy Valentine’s Day to my best long-distance assistant.”

Sally laughed. “Your only assistant over here. How’s the special V-Day celebration going?”

“So far, so good. Just another over-the-top extravaganza, my dear. But the security on this one is nearly strangling the staff.” Both women chuckled. “How’s your divorce going?”

“George has been amicable about everything, I guess,” Sally sighed. “I can’t imagine what I would have done without you letting Casie and I move into your apartment upstairs at Pen and Pages. It’s been a godsend, Baillie. I will never be able to repay your generosity.” Baillie heard sniffling. “Casie even gets to stay in her school district and catches the bus right in front of the shop. I can’t tell you how much this means to me as a new single mom.”

Baillie closed her eyes and conjured her beloved bookstore nestled in firs and maple trees in her mind. She knew Sally was taking good care of her business. The woman was a Godsend.

“And, of course, your cat, Sebastian, is being spoiled something awful. I swear he knows what time the bus arrives and greets her at the shop door after school. He’s like her own Lassie.”

Baillie looked out the library windows patterned in black iron, the rectangles of leaded glass showing the glint of obsidian movement in the dark moat below as Sally continued talking. Mesmerized by a single ray of light breaking through the quilt of soft gray across the sky, Baillie moved closer to the window. A siren’s call from the water filled her heart with familiar song, a soothing contentment to her excited soul.

Outside she watched the wind ripple the white monstrosity’s roof panels in a gentle rhythm, the reception area for tonight, a few of the white-draped chairs barely visible. A smile played on her lips as she watched her inherited niece, Rogue, smack right into that gorgeous local delivery kid Putney always raved about. She let out a sharp noise, hoping the girl didn’t fall on her rear in the mud from the bodily impact.

“What was that? Are you listening to me? Have you heard anything I’ve said?” Sally’s voice increased in volume over the phone’s speaker. “What did that ghost of a Highlander do now? Lord Kai can’t hog all of you just because it’s Valentine Day. I deserve some too, you know. This is not a favorite day of mine right now.”

A quick tingle down her spine at the mention of Kai’s name pulled her away from the activity beyond the window, and she concentrated on Sally. “No, no Kai around, truly, just Rogue blindsiding the cute delivery boy down below. Putney swears they would be the perfect couple, but I don’t think this is quite the romantic introduction Putney was hoping for, though pretty memorable, I guess, as first meetings go.”

“Seriously?”

“She plowed right into the guy coming out of the reception tent. Rogue’s not the most graceful thing in heels though Gillian and his girls keep working on her every chance they get.” She peeked out the window again, the two were talking, always a good sign and no stains or tears on her dress. “See, my distraction was all about Rogue, no mushy stuff from Kai this time.”

Baillie stifled a laugh at her vision of Sally settling her ruffled feathers on the other side of the world. “Sweetie, I have to finish these lists and get out there or it will be off with my head by the bride’s father. The fee from this one event is more than we made last year. Some people and their bottomless checkbooks are a nice reward, especially after the hard work and obnoxious secrecy this one has caused.”

“Must be nice hobnobbing with the rich and famous while I slave away at the old bookstore.”

Baillie snapped a group of the papers into a clipboard while rolling her eyes. “I hear the world’s tiniest violins in the background, dear.” Both women giggled. “You’ll be out here before you know it for my wedding.” She heard the tinkling of bells from the shop’s door in the background. “See? You have a customer, go make us some money and I’ll talk to you soon. Tell Miss Casie hi for me.” She tapped the screen disconnecting her call.



Bruce stopped his Ford delivery truck at the empty crossroads a mile before town, looking left and right for clearance, when his vision blurred into the tantalizing image of the local celebrity Rogue Baillie Bruce in a dress. Not any style of dress you’d see in church or a fancy restaurant on the girls in town, but like she’d stepped out of an epic movie about ancient times. Like royalty, with her hair done up off her shoulders with ribbons—a bewitching style, he noted.

The temperature inside the truck cab increased as he replayed their brief conversation, her nearness as he steadied her from falling. After the months of seeing her out by the stables in boots and jeans, his heart had pounded at the view of her plowing into him. The tight top half of the dress hugged her slight figure, showing her cream-colored neck and cleavage; her russet-brown hair pulled into fancy curls atop her head made her more beautiful than he could have imagined. He’d wanted nothing more than to pull her closer and caress the smooth curve of her exposed neck with his lips, like a knight of old claiming the princess after a joust, a crazy split-second notion of make-believe.

Bruce snorted. Like he had a chance in the world of dating the richest woman in the county. Word in town, as well as stories from Putney herself during his deliveries, confirmed that Rogue and some American relative of hers had made the haunted castle into a popular bed and breakfast concept. Their business had practically put their town on the international map. And he’d also heard the vineyards next door belonged to Ms. Bruce; after all, she’d started her own wine label, so it made sense.

Yet time and again, Putney cooed about the young woman, filling his head and dreams with romantic notions like some matchmaker witch, she did. None of them exaggerations, mind you. The woman was everything and more Putney had described her as. But why in the world would a bloody wealthy, gorgeous heiress be interested in the likes of him?

Though she hadn’t run away from him today, hadn’t bit his head off to let her go, the look on her face seemed to say otherwise. That was something, aye?  

“Da,” he whispered aloud, “I met the most incredible woman today. I think she’s the one, I do, like you told me as a boy how I’d ken when I found her, a woman like Ma.” His hands gripped the steering wheel making the dry, rugged lines of his fingers almost white. “A woman of grit and softness, she is, in one fair package. As Ma took your breath away, aye, so does Rogue do mine, Da.”

A montage of images over the last months rolled through his mind: her stepping out of the barn holding a leather harness of the four-legged black beast Putney called Dougal while he crossed the bridge with a case of groceries in his arms. The cook told him stories of the indelible bond between the monster of a black stallion and Rogue, raising a heat of ire in his heart, almost a jealousy of their friendship.

“She’ll no bother with a lowly businessman, though. She’s the closest thing our town has to a princess, with her name and photo showing up in the daily papers. Da, what am I gonna do? The beautiful enchantress has stolen my heart.”

The blast of a horn behind him knocked Bruce from his heavenly conversation. Stomping the gas pedal, he bolted back toward the village, leaving his fantasy for bland reality once again.

Order your copy at Amazon → https://amzn.to/3oSL72D!

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Our guest today is Devon Greene, author of UNNATURAL, Book One of the Erica Rosen MD Trilogy. Deven lives in the San Francisco Bay area. Ever since childhood, Deven has been interested in science.  After working as a biochemist, she went back to school and became a pathologist.  When writing fiction, the author usually incorporates elements of medicine or science. Deven has penned several short stories. Unnatural is the first novel the author has published.

Would you call yourself a born writer?

Yes, I was a born writer. That doesn’t mean it comes easily, though.

Unnatural by Deven Greene

What was your inspiration for Unnatural, Erica Rosen MD Trilogy Book 1?

I was forced to write this book the day I started, around two years ago. No, I wasn’t held at gunpoint, but the idea came in a flash, and I couldn’t suppress it. I was getting ready to start another novel, one I’d been thinking about for some time, when I felt compelled to write this novel, Unnatural, Eric Rosen MD Trilogy Book 1, about human embryonic stem cell gene editing. Being interested in all things science, especially medically-related science, I’d read quite a bit about CRISPR/Cas9 and genetic engineering, a real game-changer in medical research. I loved the idea of introducting the effect of a genetic change by way of a Chinese girl with blue eyes. To use that in a thriller, I needed to think of a nefarious use for this technology. The novel took off from there.

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

I finished the first draft in around eight months. It took more than a year after that to actually get it into print.

What do you feel is one of the most exciting parts of your book?

I don’t want to divulge anything that takes place late in the book, so I’ll mention something that happens fairly early on. I think the event that leads the protagonist, Dr. Erica Rosen, to realize someone is trying to murder a child in order to cover something up is very tense. How’s that for describing a plot point without saying too much?

What other genres have you thought about writing? What genres would you personally never consider writing?

I’ve thought about writing mysteries, which is close to the thriller/suspense genre I write in. I can’t see myself writing horror. I like to put people on the edge of their seats, but I don’t want to give them a heart attack.

What do you love most about being an author?

I love being in control of the storyline. Maybe that means I’m a control freak. I also enjoy the feeling of finishing that first draft.

What’s next for you?

I’m planning to travel to Mars. Just kidding. I get all the adventure I need through my characters. Right now, I’m finishing up my second novel in the Erica Rosen MD Trilogy, titled Unwitting. It is due to be published in October 2021. There is still a lot to be done—cover design, final editing, etc. Next, I will work on completing the third installment of the trilogy.

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An extraordinary middle grade mystery novel for kids 10+…. 

The Mystery at Turkelton Manor

Twelve-year-old Nathaniel Jones wants to be a detective. Though his imagination tends to run wild, Nate knows something strange is going on and he is determined to figure it out. Hearing noises at night, the young detective sees a strange figure lurking about. The Turkeltons are rich and Nate’s grandfather is their groundskeeper. As a result, Nate gets to spend the summer on the manor grounds. With priceless art and expensive jewelry in the mix, and someone creeping around at night, Nate becomes determined to catch a thief. There’s just one problem; nothing seems to be missing.

Chapter One
A Shipment Arrives
Mid-day Friday     
Picasso, Dali and Monet were just a few of the artists whose works graced the walls of Turkelton Manor. The museum-like display was worth a small fortune, but no ropes or security guards kept visitors from getting too close.
     Around mid-day on Friday, Nate was riding his bicycle along the long paved driveway of the manor when he noticed a small white delivery van enter through the open gates of the estate.
          Usually closed and controlled by remote, the twelve-foot double gate was currently broken, along with many other things at the estate, which its new owners were in the process of fixing.
     The day could never be boring if Nate’s imagination had anything to do with it, but it seemed he rarely had to depend on his imagination to keep him busy for long, and this sunny summer day was no exception.
     The vehicle had no windows except for the ones up front and, at first, Nate thought it might be Fed Ex, but a sharp glint of sunlight bouncing off the hood of the van kept him from seeing it had no Fed Ex markings, until it got closer and the glare went away.
     Nate was always paying attention to the little things, and his observation skills often amused his family, but it never surprised them as Nate’s father was a police detective and his grandfather on his father’s side of the family was a famous private investigator. Family members commented that it ran in his blood.
          The delivery van stopped just before it reached the  detective and the driver got out and buttoned his suit jacket. The idea that he wore a dark suit struck Nate a little odd, as he was driving a delivery van. The man was small, around five feet, eight inches tall, and very lean. He looked to be in his late forties or early fifties as his hair was beginning to gray above the ears and recede at the top, but it was possible that premature graying made him look older than he was.
     “Hello,” the stranger said politely as Nate stopped his bicycle and stood with it balanced between his legs. “I have a delivery of art for the Turkeltons. Do you know if they are at home?”
     There was something in the man’s tone that made Nate think he sounded like a bit of a snob, but he wasn’t able to put his finger on it. The man spoke as though he had an accent, though only with certain words.
     “I’m not sure,” Nate replied. “I know some people are working at the house though. Just follow the drive straight down,” Nate said, as he looked the direction of the house and pointed.
     The man smiled at him. “Of course,” he said, looking down the drive. The man gave him a little bow and then he unbuttoned his suit jacket before hopping back into the van. As he slowly pulled away, he waved and smiled again.
     The boy turned his bike and followed the vehicle down to the huge house looming in the distance. Pink Dogwood trees lined both sides of the driveway which ran pretty much straight down to the manor. The trees offered, aside from their visual beauty, an aroma that varied from day to day. This day they smelled as pretty as they looked, while other days the odor was downright unpleasant. Nate was familiar with these trees, but didn’t dwell too much on why their smell changed.
     Through the trees, Nate could see much of the grounds. To his right, as he rode toward the manor, was a thick batch of woods. The many oaks and maples intertwined with various other trees struggling for sunlight through the thick canopy. Where the woods ended, a lush green paddock for the horses began. On the opposite side of the driveway was a large pond, or a small lake depending on who was referring to it.
     The boy’s curiosity started getting the best of him and he wanted to see some of the art that was in the van. When the vehicle approached the circular round about in front of the house, the driver was careful not to hit the various other work trucks parked there or drive on the grass in the center. The house was under renovation and the construction crew was still hard at work.
     Nate rode around the circle a couple of times after the man found a place to park. An empty water fountain sat in the center of the grass circle and Nate couldn’t help but think it was big enough to swim in, if it were full. He watched as the man made his way up the curvy brick walk that had low flowering shrubs on either side of it, and then climbed the steep wide stairs leading to the large front door of the manor.
     Nate continued to ride around the circle and watch as the man waited for someone to answer the door. Typically, Nate would be helping his grandfather work on the grounds, but today Grandpa William was running errands and Nate opted to stay behind to help his grandmother with household chores. Nate’s grandfather, on his mother’s side, was the groundskeeper for the estate, which afforded him the opportunity to live on the property, which in turn meant Nate was able to spend the summer enjoying the surroundings.
     After a few moments, the main door of the manor opened, and the man entered, but Nate couldn’t see who answered the door. Aside from the family, there was a part-time staff of helpers plus the construction workers. He hadn’t yet met the Turkeltons as summer had just begun and the family was usually busy, but he knew there were four of them. The two children, one boy and one girl were about his age, but Nate was in no hurry to meet them as he didn’t feel comfortable around people his age and much preferred talking to adults. Nate was shy and this tended to trip him up in conversations. Kids at school often teased him, which is why he usually spent the summers with his grandparents, away from his hometown, alternating between them every other year.
     Nate was from a little town called Crape Myrtle Cove, just forty-five minutes north of Sleepy Shores, where Turkelton Manor is located. This was much closer than his other grandparents who lived just outside of Los Angeles, which was all the way across the country.
     Nate stopped his bike near the delivery van and put the kickstand down. The boy walked up to the van and looked inside through the driver side window to see how much art was in there.
     Though he couldn’t see the entire back of the van, he could see a couple of large pieces still in wooden crates and a dozen or so smaller framed pieces set in racks. There were also four small sculptures and a couple of busts, none more than a couple feet tall.         
     After a few minutes, the man exited the manor with a couple of the construction workers following him. One of the men was at least six foot, two inches tall and very muscular while the other man was smaller, but still in good shape.
     Nate quickly moved away from the van without the men seeing him and repositioned himself nearby, behind one of the other work trucks. He was close enough to hear the construction workers as they spoke and as long as he stayed crouched down, they wouldn’t be able to see him, though if anyone looked out the second floor windows of the manor, they would have no trouble spying the curious boy.
     “I don’t know why we have to unload this stuff,” the smaller one said.
    “Just do it Bobby,” the other replied without looking at his co-worker. “Get it done and we can get out of here for the weekend. The boss said we could cut out a little early today.”
     The three men approached the back of the van. The driver of the van opened the back doors and latched them to the side of the vehicle.
     “Gentlemen,” he said. “Please be very careful. Some of these pieces are priceless.”
     “Really,” Bobby said sarcastically. “I’m sure you put a price on ‘em when you sold ‘em.”
     The man held his tongue and smiled, while nodding toward the construction worker, acknowledging his correctness. The other worker seemed to take everything in stride where the smaller man seemed mad at the world. Nate watched the men as they unloaded the truck. They would have to make several trips up the stairs, which didn’t seem to make Bobby very happy. With each trip, the worker seemed to become more displeased with the task. At one point, he nearly dropped one of the busts and Nate could see the deliveryman flinch when it almost hit the ground.
     “Please be careful my good man,” he said as the man struggled to regain his hold.
     Nate wasn’t sure, but the bust looked like Mozart. The worker hosted the piece to his shoulder.
     “Don’t worry pal, I got it,” he replied sarcastically.
     The deliveryman disappeared inside as the workers came back for the last of the art in the van. They still had no idea Nate was watching them.
     “I wonder how much this stuff is really worth,” Bobby said.
     “Don’t know, don’t care,” the other man replied.
     “I bet these guys wouldn’t even know if something was missing,” Bobby commented. “They’re so rich; this is probably like us buying groceries or something.”
    “Whatever man, let’s just get it done,” the other man said. “I just want to go home.”
   As the two men made the last trip up the stairs, Nate got back on his bike and headed up the driveway toward the gate. After a few minutes, the man in the delivery van left. He saw Nate near the end of the drive and waved to him as he pulled out.
     A few minutes after the deliveryman left, the construction workers filed out, four trucks in all.  Nate saw the one named Bobby in the passenger’s seat of one of the trucks. The man had a scowl on his face as though he was still upset that he had to unload the art.
     Shortly after the workers left, Nate’s grandfather returned from running his errands and Nate spent the afternoon helping him with some odd jobs.
     “You trim the hedges by the manor and along the walkways while I prepare some of the flower beds for planting,” Grandpa William instructed.
     “No problem, Grandpa,” Nate replied.
     Hours passed with the two hardly seeing each other. Around five o’clock Nate and Grandpa William went in for dinner. The boy loved his grandmothers cooking and the three would often have lively discussions about their day. William and Beatty Livingston, both in their mid-fifties, just recently moved into their new home on the same grounds as the Manor, which was a benefit associated with being the groundskeeper.
     “So, what did you do while I was running around today?” Nate’s grandfather asked him. “I could have used your help in town gathering supplies.”
     “After I helped around the house a bit, I rode my bike for a while,” Nate replied. “The Turkeltons got a delivery of art today.”
     “Really?” Grandpa William replied. “Anything interesting?”
     “Yeah,” Nate said. “One of the construction guys wasn’t too happy about having to unload it,” Nate responded with a smile.
     “And how would you know that?” Grandpa William asked.
     “I overheard him talking,” Nate said.
     “Overheard or spied on?” Grandpa William asked with a scowl.
     Nate didn’t respond as he stuffed some mashed potatoes into his mouth and averted his eyes.
     “What have I told you about eavesdropping?” Grandpa William asked.
     “I know,” Nate replied after swallowing. “I shouldn’t go snooping around.”
     “That’s right,” Grandpa William replied. “I know grandpa Jones encourages the matter seeing he was your age when he got started in the private investigation business, but I don’t think it’s appropriate behavior for someone so young.”
     “I’m almost a teenager, Grandpa,” Nate replied.
     “You still have ten whole months to go,” Grandma Beatty replied. “Don’t be in too much of a hurry to grow up Nathaniel. There are a lot of experiences for you to have and you have plenty of time to figure out what you want to be when you get older.”
     Nate already knew what he wanted to be. Though he was twelve at the time of starting his investigation firm, Nate’s Grandpa Jones, with the help and support of his friends and family, quickly made a name for himself and for almost fifty years, his firm, “The Three Investigators,” named for him and his two partners, has been going strong.
     Though Nate didn’t really have much in common with William, and he preferred the summers in California, he still loved William and Beatty very much and they loved him.
     After eating, Nate retired to the basement for a while and crawled into his secret fort to read. Nate built the fort out of the excess furniture and some old blankets and tarps, which were plentiful as the groundskeeper’s house was much smaller than where the Livingstons lived before. Still, the ranch style home was more than they needed and Nate had the basement to himself, unless his grandmother was doing laundry. Piled nearly to the ceiling in some areas, boxes and furniture cluttered what would normally be a family room.       Nate arranged the items so that he would have to crawl under a table piled high with boxes to get inside. A blanket hung to the floor on the inside of the table so it would take great effort to peek inside. This was the only way into his sanctuary and he knew neither his grandfather nor grandmother would crawl underneath to get into the area. Inside the fort were his books, a laptop, a writing desk, some old newspapers and magazines, a television, a chair, a couch and a lamp. The only thing missing from this space was his bed, so when he had free time, this was where he would spend it in the evenings, unless he was playing board games or cards with his grandparents, which they did often to appease him.
     The boy liked to keep up with the world through books, however, on this occasion, he decided on something a little more adventurous and read an Enola Holmes mystery. He had read all the Sherlock Holmes mysteries and, after hearing about several of his grandfather’s old cases, Nate thought reading about a mystery from the female perspective would broaden his senses. 
     Just before dark, Grandpa William yelled down the stairs to his grandson.
     “Nate, can you go out and close the front gate and lock it?” Grandpa William asked.
     “Sure, grandpa,” Nate replied.
     “Make sure you don’t actually lock it though,” Grandpa William shouted.
      “I know, Grandpa,” Nate replied.
     Nate walked out to the gates, as they weren’t far from the groundskeeper’s home. They could be seen from the front windows if it weren’t for the trees that stood in the way. He closed the metal gates and ran a chain around them at the middle. He didn’t lock the gates in case of an emergency, but Nate looped a paddle lock through the chains to give the appearance of a locked gate. When the gate was fixed, they wouldn’t need the chain or lock.
     The sun was just setting over the horizon and the street lamps came on in the cul-de-sac outside the gates. Nate looked around at the other homes in the neighborhood, most of which sat much closer to the road than did the manor. This was definitely a much nicer neighborhood than he was used to.
     No matter where he stayed for the summer, Nate always called his mother every evening. Usually he was too busy to miss home, but he was never too busy to miss his mom and dad.
     Nate returned to the basement of the home, using the outside door on the side of the property that gave him direct access to the basement. It wouldn’t take the boy long to drift off to sleep, when the time came. He read a little more of his book and instead of drifting off in his chair, he opted for the comfort of his bed, not knowing that he wouldn’t be asleep for long. 

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Kraig Dafoe was born in New York.  Kraig went back to college at the age of 42 earning his BA in English writing, and graduating cum laude from Washburn University in 2017. Deciding to continue his education, Kraig received his Master of Liberal Studies degree in 2019. Kraig is a member of Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society and The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi.

Visit his website at http://www.kwdafoe.com.

OTHER BOOKS BY KRAIG DAFOE

The Rise of the Reaper: Duty Calls

Search for the Lost Realm

Skorch the Bounty Hunter

A Collection of Twisted Tales

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BANEWIND

Title: BANEWIND
Author: M.B. Chapman
Publisher: Light Messages / Torchflame Books
Pages: 268
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Fiction

Almost two weeks ago I was just a normal girl getting ready to start my senior year of high school, deciding where I wanted my life to go. And now?

I’ve kissed a boy. I’ve been to another world. I’ve seen death.

And I don’t know what my life’s become.

Banewind tells the spellbinding story of 18-year-old Genevieve DeWinter, a typical high school girl who finds herself entangled in the throes of adventure, romance, and survival after discovering the existence of a group of magical beings known as Formulists and their co-existing world, Banewind.

With the arrival of several mages in her hometown of Parma, Ohio, Genevieve soon learns that these extraordinary secrets are rooted deep within her family’s history when it is revealed her deceased mother was a heroic warrior in a long lineage of female protectors called the Holy Guardian. Now, a vengeful group of Formulists known as the Voidweavers have returned and set their sights on Genevieve, believing she might be the next Holy Guardian and the key to awakening their fallen leader, the Void King, who had been destroyed by Genevieve’s mother when she sacrificed herself a decade earlier to save Banewind and all of humanity from an unthinkable evil.

With the help of new allies, Genevieve must fight to stay alive as she unravels the mystery and danger that have shattered the stability of the life she once knew before the Voidweavers succeed in shadowing the world in chaos and darkness once again.

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FIRST CHAPTER

“Are you ready, Blaine?” A man stands in the middle of a darkened lab, staring at a metal platform rising from the concrete ground. With dark, beady eyes he looks to the woman who just spoke, before averting his gaze back to the contraption welded to the floor. “Are you ready?” she repeats. The large bird skull adorning her head obscures her face. “Perhaps he’s having second thoughts,” another woman sneers, from the lab stool she sits on. Her silver curls cascade past her face, barely allowing her emerald eyes to sparkle through. “What’s wrong, Blaine?” she says. “Is the mighty Magician afraid?” “If you’re more confident in this working, Valkryn, then why don’t you volunteer to do it yourself?” Blaine continues gazing at the platform, his hands buried deep in the pockets of his orange trench coat. “Of the few occasions I have constructed makeshift portals without connecting to a specific endpoint, the results have been…less than desirable.” “You sent the orphan through without issue last time.” Valkryn’s black amethyst latex suit squeaks as she crosses her legs. “How do you account for that?” “Dumb luck.” He pulls at his black goatee, the gears in his mind churning. “Perhaps there’s a better way.” “I don’t have time for any more foolishness,” says the woman with the bird skull. “The boy has already informed us that Sadie Hawthorne and Jensen Saint Clair are in town, ready to protect the girl. With every moment we waste, there is less of a chance we can capture her.” She points to the platform. “Get on there now, or the only thing going through that portal will be your lifeless body.” Blaine grunts, adjusting the orange, pointed hat atop his head, before stepping onto the metal. His black boots clang, echoing through the room. “I’m ready,” he says. The woman with the bird skull nods and picks up an octahedral-shaped crystal from the lab bench nearby. “Do not fail me.” She moves forward as her purple cloak glides against the floor. “The girl is the only key we have to breaking the spell.” “If she’s even what you say she is,” Blaine says. The woman turns the crystal in her hand, and he vanishes. “You really think this will work?” Valkryn looks at where Blaine stood just moments before. “Addisyn DeWinter never told us about the existence of her daughter,” says the woman with the bird skull. “The Holy Guardian’s bloodline has always been passed on through the female lineage. The next paladin would have to be her.” “But she’s not from this world.” Valkryn frowns. “She was born outside of Banewind.” “That makes no difference.” The woman with the bird skull turns toward the lab’s exit. “You cannot escape destiny, Valkryn.” She pauses at the door. “I have learned that all too well.” She leaves Valkryn alone, in silence, as she disappears into the darkened corridor.

The evening sky above the forest is splotched with stars, reawakening to blanket the world in their beauty once again. The faint breeze in the midsummer night’s air carries with it the woodland’s melody—a cacophony of chirping crickets and singing nighthawks. In the trees’ hollows, the majestic owls arise from their slumber, ready to cast their watchful gaze over the land. And there, in the center of the forest, stands Blaine. Alive. Relief washes over his mind. He looks around at the trees and shrubbery, taking a hesitant step as if testing the muddy ground. When he seems content with his surroundings, he steps through the foliage, pushing the branches and twigs out of his way. Within minutes, he has broken through the forest’s edge and finds himself at the top of a hill. From there, he sees the quaint cityscape that lies below, dotted with specks of light from the streetlamps and car headlights that speed through the dark. Blaine treks down the hill and continues toward the city’s outskirts. He finds himself outside of an abandoned church. As he approaches the wooden doors, he sees a plaque adorning the nineteenth-century brick wall, the remnants of its founding date having rusted away with time. A thick metal chain is wrapped around the handles, preventing him from entering. He clears his throat and grips the padlock in his calloused hands. An orange glow radiates from his fingertips, evolving into flames that dance until they are chewing through the metal lock. The fire reflects off his face, illuminating his worn, pock-marked skin. Soon the metal glows molten red as it melts into a mound of gelatinous goo, dripping through the cracks between his fingers. Hisssssssssssssss! Snap! The chain unravels through the handles as it clangs to the ground. He forces open the doors, shielding his face as a thick cloud of dust billows out into the night air. His footsteps echo through the church’s vaulted ceilings as he treads across the marble floor with his black boots. He pauses at the altar, slowly turning in a circle to take in his surroundings. He removes his orange, pointed hat and clutches at its brim, rubbing it between his fingers while grunting. “Hmm. This could work.” He taps his foot against the marble floor. “Yes, this could work.” As he stands there thinking about the project ahead of him, his memory stirs back to the first time he ever created a portal. “You’re never going to amount to anything, Blaine,” his father had jeered, taking a hammer to the metal structure he’d worked so hard on. “The opportunity to study at the Academy, and you waste it on meaningless projects like this? You’re no engineer. I’m disappointed to even call you my son.” Blaine shakes the image from his head. If he could only see me now. A sardonic grin spreads across his face. The feared Magician, chief tinkerer to the Voidweavers’ army. He pulls out a cell phone and dials a number. “Hello?” a young man answers. “I’m here, Scythe. Do you have the girl?” Outside, a murder of crows soar into the night sky, startled awake by the church bell’s thunderous roar resonating from the belfry tower.

About the Author

M.B. Chapman

Matt Chapman grew up outside of Cleveland and now lives in St. Louis, Missouri where he is completing his residency in Psychiatric medicine at Washington University in St. Louis. He is a graduate of Creighton University School of Medicine where he obtained his MD and a graduate of Saint Louis University where he majored in Biology.

Matt has had a passion for writing and reading since childhood and continues to find time for these interests among his other pursuits, including medical education and leadership studies. He is currently working on his next novel in The Banewind Series.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

Website: https://www.lightmessages.com/mb-chapman

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/mbchapman90

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/banewind_series

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mbchapman90/

GIVEAWAY!

M.B. Chapman is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

Terms & Conditions:

  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive your gift card
  • This giveaway ends midnight March 31.
  • Winner will be contacted via email on April 1.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!

ENTER TO WIN!

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From the pen of talented historical novelist Joan Schweighardt comes another well-crafted, meticulously researched story about family, community, immigration, oppression, the environment, and having to face the consequences of one’s actions.

It’s 1928 and the Great Depression is looming around the corner when two impoverish but talented mixed-raced—Amerindian and European—Brazilian immigrant cousins travel to NYC to find a better life and fulfill their dreams. Estela, a singer of arias and a product of the Teatro Amazonas during the time of the rubber boom, has a beautiful voice and dreams of becoming a famous opera singer; Jojo is a fisherman and a gifted artist. As a start, Estela is offered a seamstress position at the Metropolitan Opera House while Jojo is offered a scholarship at an art school. Will they achieve their dreams against all obstacles? If yes, at what price?

River Aria is the third installment in this author’s series and is focused on the next generation of the family featured in the first book. There is so much I enjoyed about this novel! The worlds of art and music in 1920s NYC come together engrossingly. The multifaceted, original characters—you don’t often read stories about indigenous people from Brazil—and their struggles to find purpose and meaning in a complex, ruthless city that is a character all on its own, kept me riveted. Parentage and identity are big themes with both Estela and Jojo as they struggle with their origins and how it affects their lives. Having read other books by Schweighardt, I’ve become familiar with her literary prose. She always strives for depth, and she pays great attention to detail.

The author visited the rainforest, as well as Manaus, the Amazon, and Rio Negro as part of her research, and considering the authentic feel of the plot and characters, I’m not surprised. In spite of this, however, the writing doesn’t get too heavy-handed, which is sometimes a problem in this type of book. I particularly recommend River Aria to historical fiction fans who have a special interest in the rubber boom that took place in Brazil in the early 1900s and how it affected the fishing villages and the indigenous people living there.

Find out more at www.joanschweighardt.com

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The Inspiration Behind The Shade Under the Mango Tree

By Evy Journey

 Do you have trouble throwing stuff? I do—those no longer of current importance but that meant something to me in the past. These are what I found in a couple of garaged boxes I

opened one weekend.

Mostly, they were loose sheets of paper, a few of them wide, printed, holey-edged computer paper used on mainframe computers. On them were hurried scribblings of certain things that happened, and how I reacted to them. Things that made me angry, sad  or unusually happy. There was also a tiny notebook half-filled with my musings about life, lyrics of a couple of songs, and a few passages from poetry—all written or collected when I was a teen-ager.

A few weeks later, seeking inspiration for a new novel, I thought: Why not an epistolary novel?

What is an epistolary novel? If you’re a Jane Austen fan and have read Lady Susan, you’d be familiar with it. It’s a narrative device seldom used nowadays. In the past, it consisted of letters, as in Lady Susan, written in Ms. Austen’s juvenile years. Now it can use journals or—in our tech-driven society—emails or text messages.

A more recent epistolary novel is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, published in 2008. I read it as part of my research into this literary form while writing The Shade Under the Mango Tree. I also watched the 2018 film (on Netflix) that was based, not too faithfully, on the book.

Some snippets from the nearly-forgotten writings in my garage found their way into my novel. For instance, the heroine’s Grandma didn’t wear perfume but tucked fragrant flowers into her bun. My grandmother did that. The heroine, in her teenage years, wondered why she was here on earth. I obsessed about existential questions when I was seventeen. The poetry quoted in the book were directly lifted from the collection in the little notebook.

Those scribbles from my past were often cathartic. I didn’t realize this benefit until a few years ago when I wrote a blog post about how writing can heal you. I used to evaluate mental health programs and was aware of writing therapy. But until I did that blog post, I didn’t realize how cathartic those scribbles had been for me, as well.

The healing potential of writing is a theme woven into  my novel. From the heroine’s journal started when she was fifteen to the memoir she intends to work on to help make sense of what she went through.

About the Author

Evy Journey, SPR (Self Publishing Review) Independent Woman Author awardee, is a writer, a wannabe artist, and a flâneuse who, wishes she lives in Paris where people have perfected the art of aimless roaming. Armed with a Ph.D., she used to research and help develop mental health programs.

She’s a writer because beautiful prose seduces her and existential angst continues to plague her despite such preoccupations having gone out of fashion. She takes occasional refuge by invoking the spirit of Jane Austen to spin tales of love, loss, and finding one’s way—stories into which she weaves mystery or intrigue.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK

About the Book

After two heartbreaking losses, Luna wants adventure. Something and somewhere very different from the affluent, sheltered home in California and Hawaii where she grew up. An adventure in which she can also make some difference. She ends up in place where she gets more than she bargained for.

Lucien, a worldly, well-traveled young architect, finds a stranger’s journal at a café. He has qualms and pangs of guilt about reading it. But they don’t stop him. His decision to go on reading changes his life.

Months later, they meet at a bookstore where Luna works and which Lucien frequents. Fascinated by his stories and his adventurous spirit, Luna volunteers for the Peace Corps. Assigned to Cambodia, she lives with a family whose parents are survivors of the Khmer Rouge genocide forty years earlier. What she goes through in a rural rice-growing village defies anything she could have imagined. Will she leave this world unscathed?

ORDER YOUR COPY

Amazon https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08KFMR9SG

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HELLALYLE AND HILDEBRAND
Tagai Tarutin
Silverwood Books
Medieval Romance

Hellalyle and Hildebrand, were drawn into a relationship engineered by those same unseen forces who had selected her bodyguard; their purpose, to thwart the devil, incarnate in Prinz Paulus, in its attempts to kill the princess.

A downs-syndrome girl of mysterious origins, named Ethla, emerges out of the wildwood. She is taken care of by Princess Hellalyle. and plays a crucial part in the narrative.

The king, while away, learns of the developing relationship between his daughter and the leader of her bodyguard, and feels betrayed by the English knight, and so dispatches his champions – his seven sons, and Paulus – to arrest, and execute Hildebrand, and confine Hellalyle until the king`s return.

The eleven, remaining protectors of the princess, leave the kingdom, believing their contract has been nullified by Thorstiens edict, leaving Hildebrand alone to face Hellalyle`s brothers and step-brother. The Englishman takes the fight to his adversaries, and slaughters all the unfortunate siblings of the princess, except Paulus, who after surrendering to Hildebrand, turns about and treacherously kills him, and then brutally, incarcerates his step-sister.

As these occurrences were unfolding, in another part of the continent, one of her bodyguards, the Teutonic knight, Karl von Altenburg, now living in a monastic order, experiences a vision, informing him of Hellalyle`s plight, and sets out to for Castle Preben.

Meanwhile, in her prison, Hellalyle gives birth to Hildebrand`s son, now sole heir, whom she names Hagen. On a fateful day, Ethla, at the princess’s urging, flees into the wilderness, taking to safety, the infant crown prince, to save him from Prinz Paulus, who, feeling outwitted mortally wounds the princess in revenge.

“A beautiful love story of a medieval knight and a noble princess written by Tagai Tarutin. The book allows us to go back in history and hear more about the exploits of the legendary Hildebrand and his beloved Hellalyle. The book is full of picturesque scenes of the events in Medieval Europe and it gives us the opportunity to immerse in the spirit of those times. It will be a good read for those interested in history, literature and romance…” – Alexandra Suyazova, Teaching Fellow of English, Saint Petersburg, Russia

“A fabulous story that could be easily transformed into a screen version, about a truly romantic relationship beyond any prejudice, driven by pure intentions at the times when the chivalry and nobleness made the difference in survival of a human life.” – Anatoly Leonidovich Rasputin, graduate in English from the University of Linguistics, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia.

Amazon → https://amzn.to/3mcbyi3

B&N → https://bit.ly/2TgAJnj

CHAPTER 26

In the great hall, Hellalyle, on hearing the news that her brothers were coming to arrest Hildebrand, pleaded with him to leave. “Hildebrand, you must leave – my father has dispatched my brothers to seize you. Our relationship has set in motion a fait accompli, and now your life is in great danger.”

However, Hildebrand, staring into the fire, was in no mood to listen to her pleading, saying, “Whatever the other knights decide to do, I cannot in all consciousness allow myself to abandon you to an uncertain fate, as I feel responsible for this dire situation.”

Hellalyle, in desperation, pleaded, “Will you, please, be sensible! You cannot defeat eight armed men! Remember, these are my brothers, and at the end of the fight you will lie dead, and so will most of my brethren, and for what end? My family destroyed, and

Prince Hildebrand ignominiously buried in a foreign field, which will be a tragedy for the English nation, and it will not end there, as I feel further calamity awaits those remaining at this fortress.”

“Fate must run its course!” exclaimed the defiant knight, raising his voice. “If you think I will deliver you into the hands of Paulus, you gravely underestimate me. No greater evil walks the land, and he will surely die on the blade of my sword! As for my remains lying beneath the woodland floor, that holds no fear for me, as you have introduced this knight to the beauty of nature, and honour awaits if wild creatures should walk across my grave!”

The soldier’s expose of his inner self prompted Hellalyle to gently grasp his forearm, in a gesture of empathy to his plight, with a pained expression etched on her face. The other bodyguards met to decide on what action to take considering the king’s command, knowing that they must not obstruct. All – save one – agreed that they should depart, convinced their contract with the monarch was severed by these unfortunate events. Von Altenburg, at first, declined to abandon his friend. He was fearful for the safety of the princess, but he eventually conceded, opting to join his comrades in arms.

News of their impending departure reached Hellalyle, who decided to visit them. In a fractured voice, she addressed the company.

“Honoured knights, whom I might almost regard as my brothers and such gallant men, warriors of the Christian church…my heart is about to break. I stand here now imploring you to persuade Hildebrand to leave at once with his fraternal fighters, for if he were to stay, I fear that some tragedy may befall him and my family.”

Her impassioned speech prompted the knight von Streitz to say, “He appears to be deaf to our pleading, Your Highness! What more can we do to sway him?”

Hellalyle, almost in despair, raised her hands to her face and burst into tears. All eleven knights, embarrassed, kept their eyes fixed on the ground before stealing past her prostrate figure, anxious to avoid an uncomfortable situation.

As they rode from the castle, von Altenburg lingered to pay one last visit to Hellalyle and Hildebrand. Entering a chamber, he observed them by the window, Hildebrand pacing up and down, stabbing the floor with his sword, in apparent frustration, the princess standing in sombre contemplation of the densely wooded prospect below. They were all alone as she had sent her staff to the safety of the kitchens. As they turned to face him, von Altenburg became struck by their dramatically altered demeanour. The once-resolute Prince of England now despondent and downcast; and Hellalyle, her face once so radiant now shut down, her eyes that brightly sparkled now eclipsed. She appeared almost lifeless.



‘Hellalyle and Hildebrand’ is Tagai Tarutin’s first completed novel.There are two others of a completely different genre, that lie unfinished, awaiting inspiration.He has worked most of his life in sales but has always had an interest in Arts and Humanities. Things that are beautiful and appealing play an essential part in his imagination.Besides travelling in West Europe, he has journeyed to the far South Atlantic, and European Russia, anxious to see parts of the world that are for many mystical destinations on a historical map.You can visit his website at www.hellalyleandhildebrand.com.

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