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darklullaby_facebook_webAt a tavern one Friday night, astrophysicist Gabriel Diaz meets a mysterious young woman. Captivated by her beauty as well as her views on good and evil, he spends the next several days with her. After a while, however, he begins to notice a strangeness in her…especially the way she seems to take pleasure in toying with his conscience.

The young woman, Kamilah, invites him to Rize, Turkey, where she claims her family owns a cottage in the woods. In spite of his heavy workload and the disturbing visions and nightmares about his sister’s baby that is due to be born soon, Gabriel agrees to go with her.

But nothing, not even the stunning beauty of the Black Sea, can disguise the horror of her nature… In a place where death dwells and illusion and reality seem as one, Gabriel must now come to terms with his own demons in order to save his sister’s unborn child, and ultimately, his own soul.

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Dream Realm Awards Finalist!

Reviews:

“Mayra Calvani is a masterful storyteller… Dark Lullaby is complex and compelling…” –Habitual Reader

“Dark Lullaby is an atmospheric paranormal horror that grips you from page one and refuses to let go until you’ve raced, breathless, to the end.” –ePinions

“Dark Lullaby is a page-turner. A horror story from the top shelf! You’ll love it.” –5 stars from Euro-Reviews

“This is a terrific horror…” –Harriet Klausner

“Dark Lullaby will capture you with its rich descriptions, its exotic location, and the need to uncover the dark secrets hidden within its pages.” –Cheryl Malandrinos, The Book Connection

“I loved this story, which started as a romance, then quickly evolved into a spine chilling horror, transporting you back to a land where folklore legends, based on truth are alive, and unimaginable creatures walk the earth.” -Susan Keefe, Amazon Reviewer

“…this story is exactly the kind of creepy tale that’s given me a new reason to keep the light on at night.” -Relasped Catholic

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Excerpt

 

Late that night, sipping red wine on the second-floor balcony after a mouth-watering meal of barbequed fish, Gabriel was overwhelmed by the feeling of impending doom.

He gazed at the woods surrounding them. Far away from city lights and civilization, he had never experienced such perfect darkness before. Only the full moon illuminated them with its clear silver light. His eyes turned upwards to the sky and he held his breath. There, crossing the southern sky in all its splendor, was the Milky Way. An arm of it, anyway. Layers upon layers of stars created that milky effect. Never before had he seen such a magnificent, clear sky, not even in Arizona or New Mexico.

“Look!” Kamilah leaned forward, pointing with her finger to the woods.

And for the first time, Gabriel saw the little lights.

This was no trick played on his vision. There they were, going this way and that with uncanny rapidity, to and fro, making a little witch’s dance in the distance, as if they were electrons and neutrons trying to collide inside an atom. Unpredictable, erratic, volatile.

“Do you believe me now?” Kamilah quivered with excitement.

“The lights are real, no doubt. But your explanation of them is something else. Fairies? What did you call them—cin? Spirits of the forest?”

“That’s what people here believe. You know, two years ago a team of foreign scientists came here to study these lights, but they weren’t able to find any explanation for them. They were trying to compare them to similar lights seen in the mountains of Peru. The Peruvian villagers, though, believe them to be aliens. Spiritual beings from another world.”

Gabriel remained silent as he studied the strange phenomenon. For a moment the lights  vanished. Then they re-appeared.

Kamilah began humming a soft melody.

Gabriel felt goose bumps rise on his arms and legs. That music…. He listened, entranced. He began to feel sleepy.

“Stop singing,” he said.

“I did.”

He could still hear the lullaby, though the sound had now turned very distant. But it was no echo. It felt as if something deep within the forest itself sang.

“I’m going to take a closer look,” Gabriel said, standing up with the glass of wine in his hand.

“No! Don’t bother them! Sometimes they don’t like the intrusion. They might get mad.”

“Don’t be ridiculous!” He was surprised at the sudden anxiety in her voice.

“I mean it!”

“You’re such a superstitious fool! I’m going to have a closer look.” He downed the rest of the wine and put the glass on the floor. A protesting Kamilah followed him.

“You don’t know what you’re doing!” she kept saying.

Soon he was outside striding to where the lights hovered. For somebody who had felt so ill this morning, his body felt marvelously supple and strong. The mountain air was cold, but his limbs were infused with an inner warmth, a warmth that wasn’t just physical, but also came from his intellect. Gabriel needed to know what these lights were. He needed to understand them. He couldn’t really explain his fervor to comprehend.

“They’re gone,” Kamilah said.

His pulse raced. Midway down the clearing he halted, his eyes searching. Darkness enveloped him. Then he saw them again, right in front of him at the edge of the woods, as if they had moved closer in order to greet him.

He approached them, his pace quickening with each step until he was practically underneath the magical light dance. He had to bend his head back to look at them. He wasn’t aware of Kamilah behind him or of anything else. The trees, the grass beneath him, the cottage…everything disappeared. He was alone with the twinkling magical lights.

The lights seemed to lower themselves closer to him, the pinpoints dancing right above his eyes. Immobilized by the thrill of it, he was overcome with palpitations. He forced deep breaths, while never moving his eyes from the lights.

Once again a gentle, lovely lullaby reached his ears, distant at first, and then closer and closer, until the sound became deafening, and he had to cover his ears with his hands.

“Go away! Leave him alone! He’s mine!” Kamilah shouted behind him, anguish and misery warping her voice into an inhuman rumble.

The lights began swirling around his head. He felt his mind swimming in light, immersed in it. There was no feeling of malevolence, but there wasn’t benevolence either. He tried to define the emotions involved, but couldn’t. He lifted his hands and tried to touch them, but realized there was no matter to touch. His hands went through the lights as if going through a spectrum. In this illumination, oddly divine in nature, everything around him became visible with absolute clarity, as if the sun had abruptly risen and washed the world with iridescent white radiance. He had the sudden, bizarre feeling that the lights were trying to send him a message.

The lights vanished suddenly.

Absolute silenced reigned. Only Kamilah whimpered softly behind him.

He was stunned. He turned around slowly, unable to see her. When his vision adjusted to the blackness, he tried to speak, but couldn’t.

Kamilah was sitting on the grass with her legs tucked under her, her hands covering her face. Finally she rose.

“Why are you crying?” he asked, his voice shaking.

She threw herself at him and cried, hugging him like a lost waif.

“What’s the matter?”

But she cried harder, squeezed him harder.

“I thought they would hurt you!” she wailed.

He wrapped his arms around her, instinctively responding to her obvious fear and pain.

“I’m fine,” he murmured, staring in wonder at the darkness.

“What happened? What do you feel?” she asked, drawing away from him, her eyes pleading and probing.

“Nothing happened. I feel…. I can’t really explain. It’s indescribable.”

“But what happened when the lights covered your face? What did you feel? What did you hear? I need to know!”

“I cannot explain my feelings right now. Nothing happened. The lights…” He was at a loss.

“What did they say?”

“Say? The lights didn’t speak.” But he wasn’t a skeptic anymore. He didn’t have the right to mock her. He was awed, and deeply respectful of the unknown. All his beliefs had come tumbling down. He was unable to explain with his five senses what he had seen or felt. Yet it had been real, there was no question about that. He instinctively knew it had been real, and he had to accept that. The experience had involved other senses beyond the accepted five ones. Different concepts and ideas swirled in his mind, concepts and ideas which until now he had deemed impossible. Words like ‘spirit world’, ‘psychic’, ‘sixth sense’ raced through his mind as quickly as the dance of the lights.

“Are you sure? You didn’t hear anything?” Kamilah insisted.

“I’m sure.” The warmth had left him, and he felt very cold now. “Come, let’s go back inside.”

Together they crossed the clearing, Gabriel’s arm around her shoulders, Kamilah’s arms circling his waist.

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IMG_2453aaCatherine Astolfo retired in 2002 after a very successful 34 years in education. She can recall writing fantasy stories for her classmates in Grade Three, so she started finishing her books the day after her retirement became official. Her short stories and poems have been published in a number of Canadian literary presses. Her story, “What Kelly Did”, won the prestigious Arthur Ellis Award for Best Short Crime Story in 2012.

In the fall of 2011, she was thrilled to be awarded a four-book contract by Imajin Books for her Emily Taylor Mystery series (previously self-published), and has never been happier with this burgeoning second career!

Catherine’s books are gritty, yet portray gorgeous surroundings; they deal with sensitive social issues, but always include love and hope. They’re not thrillers, but rather literary mysteries with loads of character and setting. And justice always prevails.

Website: www.catherineastolfo.com

FB: http://tinyurl.com/kc4n5xw

Twitter: www.twitter.com/cathyastolfo

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, SWEET KAROLINE. What was your inspiration for it?

A: Thank-you! Sweet Karoline explores the mindset of a psychologically fragile character throughout a journey of self-discovery that involves universal themes of beauty, racism, love, treachery, family history, and crime. There were several points of inspiration for Sweet Karoline. The first one is a theme that runs through all my books. I am fascinated by evil, by the psychopathology that leads people to harm others. How is a monster created? Are they born or developed? How can we recognize them? For Sweet Karoline, I explored that theme through the complicated relationship between two women. My second inspiration, which I have to admit also runs through my other books, is my children’s background. They are a combination of white, black and native ancestry. I find the history unique and intriguing, in particular the family’s undocumented connection to Joseph Brant. As for Anne, the main character, she was very strong and inserted her personality into the book right from the beginning.  In addition, one of my children and his wife live in Los Angeles, so I am somewhat familiar with that area and was inspired to place Anne in the film industry, as my children are filmmakers.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist.

A: In the first sentence of the book, my protagonist tells use that she killed her best friend. But did she physically murder her? Or is she just feeling guilty about Karoline’s suicide? Anne is a very beautiful woman. She’s part native, white and black. She’s so gorgeous that the attention is actually a problem for her. She builds protective walls around herself. Her world shrinks to two best friends whom she trusts implicitly. She’s very complicated. Sometimes she calls herself the “Ice Queen” because she has a mean side to her; sometimes she’s sweet and loving. I don’t think Anne’s much different from most of us, but she endures some traumatic events that threaten to send her far off course.

Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way?

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00070]A: The hardest part of writing Sweet Karoline was choosing a path for Anne, my main character. She kept resisting the storylines I gave her! Not surprising, since she’s a complicated, feisty, intelligent woman who is undergoing an enormous trauma. She has an emotional breakdown after the death of her best friend. Anne falls in love for the first time. She discovers a trail of manipulation and betrayal that would send anyone into shock. Naturally she was a little taciturn and resistant to her writer. As a result Sweet Karoline went through several permutations.

The creative process for this one taught me a lot about patience. The novel developed very slowly in comparison to my other four, taking almost three years to complete. It was like the taciturn child after giving birth to several placid babies. I learned to let go. Follow my subconscious muse that was directing me away from the ordinary. When I finally gave in to that mode, it was exhilarating. I believe it has changed my writing forever.

Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel?

A: Part of what I do is to give out sections of the novel to my daughter as it evolves. She’s a producer/casting director and has a terrific visual sensibility. If the narrative is not exciting, she’ll let me know, but she will also give me some suggestions on how to keep it going. As well, I read parts of it aloud, either to myself or to my critique groups. Reading aloud gives an entirely different dimension to the writing. You can hear the mistakes, as well as the cadence of words that are beautifully arranged.

Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it?

A: I don’t usually feel anxious until I’m part way through the novel. The anxiety sets in when I’m afraid it’s not good or I won’t have the inspiration to keep going. I try very hard to soothe my tension by rereading particularly good sections. Sometimes I even allow myself to edit. Lots of my writer colleagues tell me that editing causes their anxiety, but for me, the process often alleviates it.

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?

A: I don’t have a set schedule, though I try to set a goal of 500 words a day. Some days I’ll get a lot more than 500 completed and the next day, maybe none. I write when and where I can, whether I’m sitting in a waiting room, out in my backyard or in my office. That’s why I love the freedom of the laptop! Bless you, little MAC. In some ways, I’m fortunate because I didn’t start writing until I retired from my career as an educator. My time is very much my own, so I can build in family and other work without too much trouble. I wasn’t able to write much when I was younger and juggled children and a job. But waiting ‘til now means I’m a little older than many authors.

Q: How do you define success?

A: I equate success with joy. To me, joy is a state of satisfaction, peace and love. In my writing career, success is having a reader like my books. Just one reader who really understands my vision can make my day a success.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?

A: Oh my. I could cruelly say that you have the wrong partner. However, if someone is determined enough to keep the relationship as well as pursue the art, s/he must find a way to make compromises in order to fulfill both partners’ needs. Get up very early in the morning, when everyone else is asleep, to write. No one’s time is being intruded upon.  Or keep a diary in the bathroom.

Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?

A: I don’t, actually. I’m a pretty selfish person and probably wouldn’t keep doing something that was horrible or like a painful illness. I LOVE writing. I can’t wait to sit down at my laptop and create. I miss it terribly if I’m unable to write for a while, so I’ll even cook scenes in my head. Now that I’m retired, I experience joy pretty much every day because I can imagine I’m standing on a mountain or cuddling a baby all while sitting at my desk.

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

A: Since one of the greatest joys for a writer is feedback, I encourage your readers to write reviews for their favorite authors. As a writer, I’m interested in your reaction to my novel. This is your opportunity to write two or three sentences giving your opinion. You are not bound by the old rules of book reviews that you might have learned in school. You are relieved of the summary task! You don’t have to prove any expert literary skill to anyone, although you may want to demonstrate correct spelling and grammar to be taken seriously. Your only goal is to tell other readers what you thought of, reacted to or how you felt about this particular book. I’d also love emails from my fans! My email address is cathy@catherineastolfo.com.

Catherine Astolfo’s Bibliography

The Emily Taylor Mystery Series:

The Bridgeman. Imajin Books, October, 2011

Victim. Imajin Books, November, 2011

Legacy. Imajin Books, April, 2012

Seventh Fire. Imajin Books, July 2012

Awards:

Winner, Arthur Ellis Best Crime Short Story Award, 2012

Winner, Derrick Murdoch Award, 2012

Winner, Bony Pete Short Story Award, First Prize, 2010

Winner, Bony Pete Short Story Award, Second Prize, 2009

Winner, Brampton Arts Acclaim Award, 2005

Winner, Dufferin-Peel Catholic Elementary Principal of the Year, 2002, the Catholic Principals Council of Ontario.

Winner, Elementary Dufferin-Peel OECTA Award for Outstanding Service, 1998

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I want to thank THE DARK PHANTOM for having me as a guest blogger today. I’m excited to tell you about my book, THE MARRIAGE CONTRACT, book 2 in my Fate with a Helping Hand series.

Today I’m going to talk about setting. When I started writing THE MARRIAGE CONTRACT, I knew I wanted to set the story in a place that had meaning to me. Growing up near Westport, MA, I always visited Horseneck Beach during the summer. Cape Code is beautiful. But there are just as many beautiful places to visit along the Massachusetts coastline. Westport was a perfect seaside town for romance!

In THE MARRIAGE CONTRACT, Cara is struggling with change. Her biological clock is ticking. Her parents are moving from her childhood home to go live thousands of miles away in Florida. And she’s not feeling complete in her relationship with her current boyfriend, who her mother just happens to hate! While she loves her career, she’s at a crossroad that many women and men face in their lives. Add a mother who is so ready to become a grandmother, a free-spirited grandmother who goes skinny dipping on a public beach, a sexy old friend who just happened to scribble a marriage proposal on the back of a birthday card, the charm of a seaside home, and an inept boyfriend who “just doesn’t get it” and you have a recipe for laughter and romance.

While writing THE MARRIAGE CONTRACT, I went home to Westport in my mind many times and reminisced about walking the beach, picking up shells, camping on the beach and walking along the jetty with my boyfriend who is now my husband of 21 years. As I remembered my good times there, I could almost feel the sand between my toes, the smell of the ocean and the sound of the waves.

In THE MARRIAGE CONTRACT, Cara reminisces about long ago times as well as she navigates her way through her crossroad until she finally realizes what she really wants. Is there a setting from your past that you revisit in your mind from time to time? Tell me about it. I will be giving away a copy of THE KNIGHT AND MAGGIE’S BABY to one commenter today. So don’t be shy. Leave a comment for a chance to win!

BIO:

Lisa Mondello is the bestselling author of 13 published books. Her first published book, the award winning ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS YOU, was recently reissued as an ebook and has had over 350,000 downloads worldwide. In addition to publishing her Fate with a Helping Hand series, which includes THE MARRIAGE CONTRACT and THE KNIGHT AND MAGGIE’S BABY, she is releasing her popular Texas Hearts Romance series as ebooks, which include Her Heart for the Asking, His Heart for the Trusting and The More I See. She currently writes for Harlequin Books and is collaborating with a film producer/screenwriter on a screenplay.

She loves to hear from readers. You can email her at LisaMondello@aol.com, find her on her blog talking about writing, movies and music at http://www.lisamondello.blogspot.com or chat on Twitter at @LisaMondello.

BLURB for THE MARRIAGE CONTRACT

They were destined to fall in love. But sometimes fate has other plans… Cara Carvalho and Devin Michaels became best friends one distant summer. No two people were more in sync about what they wanted their lives to be. But fate and their own inner need for success forced them to separate. But sometimes love needs a helping hand… Now both are approaching that magic age of 35 and are seeking more from their lives. When Cara’s mom finds a glib promise on the back of Cara’s 17th birthday card, she decides to take matters into her own hands and bring Devin and Cara together again. With a little help and “creative” planning, can they have a second chance at happiness?

LINK to Excerpt of THE MARRIAGE CONTRACT: http://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/2216604-the-marriage-contract-blog-tour-read-an-excerpt

Buy links:

AMAZON

Barnes and Noble

KOBO

iTunes


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Christine Amsden’s second novel, The Immortality Virus, raises an intriguing question: Is it really all that wonderful to find the secret of immortality and live forever?

It’s the 21st century and the world is being ruled by The Establishment, a totalitarian government made of an elite few. People don’t age anymore. As a result, overpopulation has created poverty, hunger, violence, and chaos. People don’t even have empathy for their fellow human beings anymore and cruelty and murder abound. Only the elite few can afford to eat normal food; the rest feed on suspicious, high-protein nutri-bars believed to be made up of human flesh.

At the beginning of the story, our feisty 130-year old PI protagonist, Grace Harper, is hired to complete a mission: she must discover the whereabouts of Jordan Lacklin, the scientist responsible for the ‘virus’ that started The Change about 400 years ago while working on the cure for Alzheimer’s. The secret mission puts Grace’s life in danger. On one side, there are those who want to undo The Change to improve the quality of life and the world; on the other side, there are those who want to keep living forever because they have the means to live in luxury… and they’ll go to extremes to make sure Grace doesn’t complete her mission.

The Immortality Virus is an entertaining, dystopian/science fiction novel with an interesting premise. Grace Harper is a sympathetic, kick-ass heroine: strong, spirited and opinionated. She also has a kind heart that stands out in the cruel society she inhabits. I personally loved her witty comebacks and quirky sense of humor. Although the story gets a bit slow somewhere around the middle, Amsden offers enough action, twists and turns to keep most readers turning the pages. The dialogue is crisp and natural and helps to keep the pace moving. Amsden uses a lot of dialogue and action scenes, and keeps description and narration at a minimum. She also throws in a bit of romance for good measure. I also enjoyed the way she depicts the future, presenting us with a grim and realistic glimpse of what society could become as a result of greed and medical technology. If you love dystopian novels with strong heroines and you’re attracted to the subject of immortality, I recommend you give this one a try.

Title: The Immortality Virus
Author: Christine Amsden
Author web site: http://www.christineamsden.com
Publisher: Twilight Times Books
url: http://twilighttimesbooks.com/
ISBN: 978-1-60619-003-6
Genre: Science Fiction
Format: trade paperback & ebook
Chapter excerpt:
http://twilighttimesbooks.com/ImmortalityVirus_ch1.html

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