#BookBlitz “Cowboy to her Rescue” by Pam Mantovani

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Contemporary Western Romance, Small Town Romance

Date Published: May 2021

Publisher: Bell Bridge Books

Once betrayed, twice shy…

When a young soldier home on leave rescued Sydney Bishop from attackers, he also stole her heart. But, when he returned to active duty without saying goodbye, she was shattered.

Now years later, fate–and a little matchmaking–has brought them together again.

As a way of overcoming his own wartime nightmares, Ryland built a ranching retreat in Montana. His goal? To give traumatized military families a place to heal. But the ranch desperately needs funding. Luckily, help comes through, in the form of Sydney’s mother, who’s kept tabs on her daughter’s first love over the years. Her foundation is more than willing to give him the cash he needs, but there’s a catch.

And if Sydney finds out, she might never think of Ryland as her hero again. . .

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Excerpt

He slammed the truck to a stop. The seat belt, tight against his chest, jerked him out of the fantasy. His heart pounded, exactly as it had when’d felt her close tight around him when he’d eased inside her for the first time.

Swearing, he whipped his head around, saw her studying him. Her cheeks were flushed, her eyes wide, not with surprise, but with wonder. Exactly as they had been that single night.

God help him, he wanted her with a hunger he hadn’t felt in years.

They stared at one another, neither wanting to make the first move, both afraid of the consequences if they reached out and acted on the desire that stretched between them. How was it possible to be so powerful after all the years? After the way they’d parted?

I think you missed the turn-off,” she finally whispered.

They sat, figuratively and literally, at a crossroads. If they went straight ahead, if they acted on this need pulsing between them, would it be a short trip filled with speed and rush? Or, if they turned right, would it prove to be a detour that eventually led to a roadblock?

Sorry. I was daydreaming there for a moment,” he finally said, not attempting to keep the direction of his thoughts out of his voice or gaze.

Were you?” she asked with a boldness that surprised him.

I’m not sure it’s wise for us to go down that road again, Sydney.”

I suppose you’re right,” she said, turning away from him. But not before he heard her soft whisper, “And that’s a damn shame.”

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About the Author

An author of passionate, emotional romances with heart, Pam loves crafting stories about independent women and men who discover the thrill and joy of falling in love. After years of moving as both an Army brat and corporate wife, Pam and her craftsman husband settled in Atlanta, close to family and friends. When not writing, Pam enjoys quilting, planting beautiful flowers, home improvement projects and spending time with her wonderful family.

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#BookBlitz “Seven Little Secrets” by K.L. Gore

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Seven Little Secrets

Young Adult

Publisher: Reedale Karma Press

Seven popular high school cheerleaders. Seven distinctive lives. Seven little secrets. And the truth that haunts them all.

The Janes have everything: beauty, brains, a secure future. So why did co-captain Natalie Greene trade her perfect life for eternal sleep? Her teammates hold pieces of the puzzle, but putting the parts together means revealing defects and vulnerabilities.

And when you’re a Jane, you’re flawless.

An afternoon of mourning turns into a day of disclosures. A day that challenges the teammates to discover the true meaning of friendship.

WINNER OF THE YOUNG ADULT NOVEL CATEGORY IN THE 2018 NEXT GENERATION INDIE BOOK AWARDS

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EXCERPT

I suck in a breath. “Hello?”

Gigi, it’s me.”

It’s not Daddy calling to make things square after all. Instead, Danni McCarthy’s voice is an arrow slicing through my heart.

My throat’s got an invisible python squeezing it. I swallow hard. No one’s ever heard me cry over weeds in my garden before, and I’m keeping it that way.

It’s still morning. Some people sleep in, you know.” I cradle the phone under my chin. My hands are scaly as lizard knees, so I reach for the jar of hand cream sitting on my nightstand.

Did you hear what happened?” she asks all high-pitched and nasally, like she’s gonna sob.

What?”

About Natalie?” Her voice cracks.

I drop the jar into my lap. Grab the receiver with both hands, heart flopping like a fish on dry land. “No. What?”

Oh my God, Gigi. She’s dead.” Danni sniffles. “Some hunters found her in the woods early this morning.”

I squeeze my eyes shut. Feel them grow coal hot beneath the lids. Keeping my voice steady, I ask, “How’d she do it?”

Do it? What do you mean?”

How’d she kill herself?”

There’s a pause, and then Danni blurts, “How do you know she killed herself?”

I’m like a burglar caught in a cop car’s headlights. No way I can explain myself without casting a guilty shadow. Every Jane on the cheerleading squad thinks she knows the others right down to their blood type. We should. For one thing, we spend most days swapping sweat and sharing the same stale gymnasium air. For another, Stony Grove is a small town. 4,500 people, including a bunch buried in the cemetery. You’d think we’d know each other well enough to read minds. But that’s not how the Janes work. Every one of them has a secret they don’t wanna let out of its cage. Even me.

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About the Author

K.L. Gore lives in a small New York State town with her two amazing children and two semi-annoying cats. When she’s not writing books, she’s baking cookies. So once a year she eats homemade cookies. Although K.L. wrote her first unpublished novel at thirteen, she only began considering writing as a profession when her play, Something Blue, was performed on the college stage to an enthusiastic audience. Since then, she has spent years studying the craft of writing while penning several more novels. Her short stories have appeared in Beginnings and Cicada. She has taught creative writing through Greece Community Education and facilitates a monthly writer’s workshop at her local Barnes and Noble bookstore. You can find her on Twitter: @K_L_Gore and on her K.L. Gore Facebook page or read her posts and sign up for her newsletter on her website: http://www.klgore.com.

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#BookBlitz “Sing to me of Rain” by E.B. Dawson

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Middle-Grade Fantasy

Date Published: 5/22/21

An innocent naiad. A wounded boy. An adventure that will change their lives forever.

Plip is a naiad of the Great Waterfall, destined to one day sing the songs that send rain out into the world.

Akino isn’t destined for anything but trouble. His father long gone, his mother working on a plantation far away, he doesn’t really belong in the village below the Waterfall. And the villagers don’t let him forget it.

When Akino convinces Plip to travel down the mountain with him, for his own selfish purposes, he launches them into a world more dangerous than either of them could imagine. A world where people are not always what they seem and the rain does not fall evenly across the land.

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Excerpt

The Great Waterfall

The village of Fells stretched up and down for nearly a kilometer on either side of the Great Waterfall. Its crooked little houses perched precariously one above the other, bolted to the mossy rock face in a manner that would seem quite miraculous to the rest of the world but was the least interesting aspect of life in Fells.

From here the weather of the world was sent out by the Weather Masters, wizened old men and women who plucked threads of water from the cascading falls and wove them deftly into clouds, guided by the song of the naiads, who danced in and out of the falls like fish in a river.

Plip had lived in the waterfall since she was no bigger than a water drop. She was now nearly grown, almost a full eight centimeters long with a powerful tail that propelled her up the falls and long, blue-green hair like her mother. But her singing voice had not arrived yet, even though she had been wrapping her throat in orchid leaves according to the exact instructions of her best friend Lua.

Plip’s mother sang the song for rain-that-would-fall-on-the-flowers. It was clear and sweet. One had to be gentle with rain that fell on delicate petals, so as not to bruise them.

Plip’s father sang the song for the rain-that-fell-in-the-woody-marshlands of the south. Mother’s gentle rain would not last long in the marshlands, Father used to say with a teasing laugh. Plip did not exactly know what a marshland was, but Father said there were great creatures with fierce teeth who swam through those waters, and fierce men who hunted them. “My rain must be strong if it is to give courage to the creatures of the Woody Marshlands.”

Plip did not feel fierce enough to sing for the Marshlands, or gentle enough to sing for the flowers. What if she was not fit for a song? What if the rain she sang came out all wrong?

Be patient,” her mother said. “Your song will come when it comes.”

It was difficult to be patient when one grew up in a waterfall. The water certainly seemed to be in a hurry to reach the earth. Perhaps that’s why the naiads were rarely still themselves. When they weren’t singing, they were playing in the frothy fingers of the falls or chatting with the people of the village.

The Weather Masters were peculiar people, so very solemn and still, and incredibly old. They had wrinkles on their hands and around their eyes. They needed a great deal of sleep every day and only the young ones really wanted to play. But the old ones would talk and tell wonderful stories, and Mother and Father said that they held great wisdom.

This month, Plip’s favorite was a man called Tsomo. He had lost his sight several months ago but still wove the most beautiful clouds in the village through the memory of his fingers.

Where does your rain fall today, Tsomo?” Plip would ask as she perched on his porch.

On the just and the unjust, child,” he would reply.

But that was your answer yesterday!”

It is also true today.”

You have such strange answers,” she would laugh.

They only seem strange because you do not understand the questions,” he said with a smile.

I am almost of age,” she protested. “But you make me feel as if I know very little of the world.”

He chuckled. “You have never left the waterfall, little one.”

Father says that we are not meant to go out in the world. When the water returns to us from the corners of the earth, it tells us where it has been. But the water does not speak to me yet. Mother says that when I hear it, I will find my voice. Only it seems to me that day will never come.”

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About the Author


E.B. Dawson was born out of time. Raised in the remote regions of a developing nation, traveling to America was as good as traveling thirty years into the future. Now she writes science fiction and fantasy to make sense of her unusual perspectives on life. Her stories acknowledge darkness, but empower and encourage people to keep on fighting, no matter how difficult their circumstances may be. She currently lives in Idaho with her family and her cat Maximus.

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#BookBlitz “Semper Indomitus” by Robert W. Brady, Jr.

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Semper Indomitus

The Fovean Chronicles, Book 5

Epic Fantasy

The surprising conclusion to the Fovean Chronicles – Randy Morden has taken on the world, and now the world is fighting back! Enemies must now become allies, and friends enemies, as Randy fights not just to appease the god War, but to keep his family intact and, no matter what direction he turns, it looks like he must lose it all.

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Other Books in The Fovean Chronicles:

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Indomitus Est

The Fovean Chronicles, Book One

I’m Randy Morden – welcome to my world. A world named ‘Fovea,’ where magic is real, technology the stuff of fantasy, and warriors with swords ride horses into battle, trying to stay one step ahead of their gods’ will. I didn’t ask for this life, but I promise you: before anyone ever knocks me down again, I’m going to have their blood on my knuckles, because a man can only be pushed so far!

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Indomitus Vivat

The Fovean Chronicles, Book Two

I was brought to Fovea, a land where magic is real and justice is found at the point of a sword, with a mission from the god, War: Live a successful life.

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Indomitus Oriens

The Fovean Chronicles, Book Three

To say that Randy Morden had an effect on Fovea is an understatement. More than ten years after his arrival, the Fovean High Council is in a shambles, the supremacy of the Uman-Chi is a memory, and Eldador is an Empire, not a kingdom.

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Indomitus Sum

The Fovean Chronicles, Book Four

The battle for Fovea is on, and a girl named Raven and a man named Jack aren’t even sure of which side they should be on.

Amazon

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EXCERPT

I tugged on Blizzard’s reins and we turned east toward the trail that would lead to the road. It was approaching noon, and we wouldn’t be moving at Blizzard’s speed any more. We’d be lucky to make camp before dark.

I expected my son, Eric to ride up next to me, but he hung back with Nina of the Aschire. It turned out that my daughter, Dagi, was the one who rode up next to me, that shield of hers over her back and her sword in a scabbard attached to her saddle. She looked for all the world like an Andaron warrior in Volkhydran clothes.

We stayed silent for a while. I think she might have been waiting either for Shela, my wife, to replace her or for me to send her back, but neither happened and Shela was actually pretty deep in discussion with our daughter, Lee.

My mother married a Long Manes warrior,” Dagi said, finally. “She has two sons.”

I nodded. “Have you thought of adult names for them?”

She looked at me. “So you know our traditions?”

Hard not to,” I said.

She nodded and was quiet for a while. We were coming up on the main road.

Did she stay with Chesswaya’s mother after her tribe dissolved?” I asked. Chesswaya was my daughter as well, by another Andaron woman.

After you destroyed it, and formed your Wolf Riders, you mean?” Dagi accused me.

Yes,” I said, looking straight at her.

She met my eyes. Hers were every bit as cold as I knew mine could be. She was going to feel me out and decide if I was worth staying with. That’s what I would have done as a kid, too.

No,” Dagi said. “Chesswaya’s mother went to the Sure Foot, then the Hunters when they had no women. I met Chesswaya at the Long Manes’ tribe last year, when she came to learn her craft. We didn’t know that we were sisters until the demigod Steel told us.

Whoa – didn’t see that one coming.

Steel?” I asked. “The Savior. Steel came to you?”

Dagi nodded.

In a dream?”

She shook her head. “While we were playing chunkee with Nanette and Thorna,” she said.

I looked back at Nantar’s daughters, riding side-by-side with spears in their hands, just ahead of Eric. If there were a fight, they were positioned to come charging into it.

We turned onto the road. The sun overhead gave me a little warmth, but not much. I was going to need to go somewhere and buy furs.

What did Steel have to say to you?” I asked. “Can you tell me?”

Dagi was silent for a moment. She looked up at me from her horse and she said, “He came to see the daughters of the Daff Kanaar. I thought that He meant Nanette and Thorna, and He said, “No, the other daughters. He meant Chesswaya and me.”

I nodded and stayed quiet.

He told us that it was a new age, and that we needed to go north and to learn a song from a Druid in Volkhydro. He warned us that nothing would be the same.”

That was news.

We waited for the men to come back from Toor, and most of them did. We went north on strong horses and we found our brother, Agtani Chewla, and then our other brother and his wife.

We saw the war come to our land, and we heard Eric, whom we named Usdi Waya, tell us that if Chatoos fell, then our land would never be the same.”

Usdi Waya meant ‘Little Wolf’ in Andaron. Eric had a lot of foresight.

Then we met you, our father,” she said. She was looking straight forward now. “We would have known you, if Steel had never met us.”

Really?”

She nodded, still not looking at me. “Chesswaya has your eyes,” she said. “I have your lips and your nose. Mother had described you without naming you – and Chesswaya felt your presence before she met you.”

Chesswaya has great power,” I commented.

That got a look from Dagi. “As does Lee,” she said. “Vulpe can sing, and singing is important. Lupennen speaks with animals – I can’t imagine a more powerful gift.”

And Eric is Daff Kanaar,” I said, “and you wonder, ‘What of poor Waya Daganogeda? What does she inherit from the Emperor?”

She looked up at me again, and this time I thought I could see some hurt in her eyes.

Yes,” she said. “What of Dagi, who has nothing but her mouth?”

An Andaron who ‘has nothing but her mouth,” is usually a woman who’s a gossip, or a complainer. It’s a derogatory term for a spinster, or one who is going to be a spinster if she doesn’t change her ways, because no one wants a woman who’s always giving her opinion.

Maybe you’re more my child than any of them?” I told her.

She regarded me but said nothing.

I can’t speak to animals,” I said. “I can’t cast spells. I can’t stun a crowd with my song, and I had to go to Conflu to get the mark of the Daff Kanaar – no one clashed swords with me and put it there.

I’ve never had anything but my mouth,” I said. “It served me well.”

You forget the horse you ride,” she said. “The sword you carry. You forget the stories about you, sung in every language.”

I nodded. “But I got them without magic,” I said. “Without song.”

She wasn’t looking at me, so I reached down and I stroked her long, brown hair. She looked back up at me and I asked, “Do you want to learn these things?”

She frowned and looked forward.

Finally, when I thought I wasn’t going to get an answer, she said, “Yes. I want to know everything.”

Good enough, then!

~~~

About the Author

Robert W. Brady, Jr. is the author of ‘The Fovean Chronicles.’

Born in Connecticut in 1964, he graduated from University of Connecticut in 1986.

He worked his way through college as a construction worker, an infant swimming instructor, a bartender, a waiter, a secretary, the manager of a dry cleaning store and a security guard.

While in college, he began the first version of the ‘The Fovean Chronicles.’

After college, he lasted exactly three months in the insurance industry as an Assistant Annuities Analyst, and then enlisted in the Naval Nuclear Power Program.

He served in the Navy from 1987 – 1994, receiving the Navy Achievement Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the Southeast Asia Service Medal, and Good Conduct Medal during the Gulf War. He was certified as an Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist, a Reactor Operator, a Radiological Controls Shift Supervisor and achieved a rank of Petty Officer First Class while serving onboard the USS Truxtun, CGN-35 and the USS Cape Cod, AD-43.

He has two children, Billy and Jennifer. He and both of his children are born on the same day of different months. Billy enlisted in the US Navy, following in his father’s footsteps.

Since leaving the Navy, he’s been in sales, pest control, auto repair and .Net programming. He ran his own company specializing in add-on software and then sold it to focus more on his writing.

He’s very involved in animal rescue, and has two dogs, a cat and several horses which he’s rescued and rehabilitated.

Although born in Connecticut, he has lived in Orlando, FL; Bremerton, WA; San Diego, CA; and then for fourteen years back in Florida. He currently resides on a horse farm in Tennessee.

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#TeaserTuesday “Someone Like Me” by Marian L. Thomas

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Women’s Fiction | Sweet Romance

Date Published: June 1, 2021

Publisher: DartFrog Blue

Since her mother’s death, Mýa has been no stranger to loss. But with a budding new singing career on the horizon and help from Jack and Mary Tanner, a couple that understands from experience how a troubled past can prevent someone from having a better life, Mýa finally gets a fresh start.

Courageously touching on issues of race and the importance of self-love, Someone Like Me serves up a cast of relatable characters, each searching for that moment in life when you’re flying down Love Lane with your heart open wide.

Someone Like Me is a captivating novel of acceptance and forgiveness that will have you lingering over lessons learned long after the last page is turned.

Excerpt

Prologue

You started as an assignment for me, but became my way of life—a daily task that wouldn’t let me rest unless I’d shared my innermost thoughts, be it at two in the morning or eight in the evening. You have been my savior on dark and lonely nights.

You have been like a second mother, allowing me to tell you everything that happened during the long hours of the day, everything that ripped my heart open with joy and laughter, or pain and tears.

No judgment you gave, only a listening ear to my scribbling. My wild talk.

Frankly, I don’t know if I would have survived this year without you.

I can’t say that I love you; you are not a person, although I suppose one can love a thing, too.

So, I say to you, my dear journal, thank you.

You have been a good friend and my closet, as Jack once said.

Thank you for understanding. For understanding everything.

Even today, as I sit here with only minutes left to write in you, you understand why I’m wearing this dream of white and lace, and why the person I gave my heart to told me that he could love…someone like me

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About the Author

Born in Illinois, Marian L. Thomas wouldn’t say that her first career choice was writing novels. She saw herself working as a journalist for a local newspaper. In college, she served as a sports editor for the student paper, and later as the news editor. But Marian’s writing path took a detour when she drafted her first completed manuscript. Now, she can’t imagine not crafting stories for women that bring characters to life-characters who face real obstacles, cross difficult barriers to find love, and discover all the wonderful possibilities that life can offer. Marian has been featured on television stations such as Fox, NBC and CBS, and in many print and online publications including USA Today. She currently resides in Atlanta with her husband, enjoys a big bowl of popcorn every night, and believes that pasta should be a vegetable. Readers can stay connected to Marian through her website and active social media accounts, so stop by and say hello or join her mailing list for new release updates.

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#Excerpt “Faye’s Fortune (Second Sight Romance, Book 1)” by Emily Tidning

 

Second Sight Romance, Book 1

Paranormal Romance, Romance

Published: April 2021

Publisher: Applied Divination

FREE on Kindle Unlimited


Despite being a skilled fortune teller, Faith is unable to predict what will become of her floundering occult shop, Faye’s Fortunes. Between apologizing to her disappointed business partner, struggling to pay the bills, and dealing with a surprise eviction from her apartment, she’s barely able to put one foot in front of the other, let alone predict a customer’s future. If she had any customers, that is!

When she awkwardly stumbles over a sidewalk crack, the help of a friendly construction worker seems much more embarrassing than fated. Then his girlfriend showing up confirms for Faith that it was just another clumsy fall, not a sign.

But when worlds start to collide and Faye’s Fortunes reveals a dark secret about Jasper’s relationship, will their fates prove to be destined, or doomed?

Excerpt

“Speaking of pavement,” Faye sang, as if their conversation had never strayed from the broken sidewalk, “let me see what kind of damage was done out there.”

“Dressed like that?” Charlotte eyed her conspicuously.

For a darkened fortune telling sanctuary, Faye was perfectly, majestically adorned. But for a bright Saturday morning on the streets of Fallstaff, Missouri, she was extremely out of place.

She faked a commanding bellow, “I am the all-knowing oracle of a divination shop, and I declare that walking outside to survey my lands shall invoke the great spirit to send customers my way.” Her robes danced as though an invisible breeze had struck only her.

Truthfully, a small twist of her wrists shifted the fine robe material just enough to make it look like a mysterious wind had caught it.

Charlotte had seen this trick done many times before. She shook her head and retorted, “alright then, magic lady. You go outside and use your psychic powers to create some customers. I’m going to prep my massage table. Maybe if I sprinkle it with extra love I can invoke the spirits to send me some customers, too.”

“Watch it with the love sprinkling,” Faye teased, “we run a clean business here.”

Faye danced herself over to the shop door and whisked it open with another fake flourish designed to entertain Charlotte.

She almost danced right into Kelsey, who stood prepped with her hand ready to grab the door handle.

Kelsey’s jaw drop could have hit the already busted pavement. She gushed, “how’d you know I was here?”

Although startled, Faye composed herself quickly and lowered her voice, “I know everything.” She stepped backward into the shop and waved her robed arm, “Please, do come in again my child.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Faye caught Charlotte shaking her head as she ducked into her massage studio. Faye didn’t need to be a psychic to know there was an eyeroll, too.

About the Author


Emmy Tidning lives in a magical fantasy world called the Pacific Northwest, where anything is possible but no one is real. She has two cats, a dog, a husband, some kids, and a widowed crow she befriended using peanuts. Emmy reads Tarot cards, writes paranormal romantic fun, and loves love!

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#BookTour “Technopaladin: Clarity’s Edge” by Elizabeth Corrigan

Techno

Welcome to the tour for this exciting new YA Sci-Fi/ Fantasy, Technopaladin: Clarity’s Edge by Elizabeth Corrigan! Read on for an exclusive excerpt and a chance to win a $25 US Amazon E-Gift Card!

Technopaladin_500x800-Cover-Reveal-and-Promotional

Technopaladin: Clarity’s Edge

Publication Date: May 17th, 2021

Genre: YA Sci-Fi/ Fantasy

Clarity’s paladin order forbids her from entering the Azure District, the one location in her high tech city that refuses paladin rule and technology. When she receives an illicit invitation to violate the prohibition, spurred on by rumors of suffering in the district, she passes through the crumbling brick entryway into no-man’s land. Within, she finds the residents lack not only the ocular implants and three dimensional computers she takes for granted, but also medicine to fight a disease infecting the children.

Clarity knows her order isn’t perfect—after all, they stole her from her parents when she was a small child to raise her with their values—but she cannot believe they know what’s going on in the Azure District. When she confronts the head of the order, he refuses to aid people who have rejected his help in the past, even the children. Unwilling to take no for an answer, Clarity enlists the help of the leader’s son Cass and takes matters into her own hands.

Desperate both to cure the children and keep her place in the order that is her only home, Clarity engages in increasingly questionable behavior—deleting official records, lying to her friends, and manipulating people who can help her. As the nefarious nature of her actions tarnishes the purity of her cause, she must determine what it truly means to be a paladin, in both name and action.

Excerpt

“Come on, Clarity!” Hope grabbed Clarity’s hand and dragged her down Londigium’s main thoroughfare. The bright glare of the morning sun glinted off the silver skyscrapers and made some of the light-up signs in the storefronts difficult to read. Nonetheless, Clarity could make out the image of a dress on the digital placard of Hope’s destination.

Clarity dodged to avoid running into some people going in the opposite direction from her. She tried to wrench her hand free of Hope’s grasp to give herself better maneuverability, figuring she could follow her friend’s gleaming, red-gold hair through the crowd, but Hope held tight. “Remind me again why we’re doing this? I don’t care about going to the gala, and I don’t see why I can’t just wear my official paladin armor.”

“I swear, for someone so invested in her career, you can be dense about the things you need to do to advance it.” Clarity’s other friend Zeal tossed her black braids over her shoulder as she gave Clarity a scathing glance. “You have two weeks left until the gala, and Hope has convinced Steady Threads to make an exception to their usual deadlines and take an order for your dress. Try to be a little grateful.”

“I’m a warrior.” Clarity cringed at the petulant tone in her voice but continued her line of argument anyway. “My job at the moment is just conducting training for the non-warrior paladins, but if and when I get promoted, I’m going to be a Citadel guard or a peacekeeper in the city. None of this has anything to do with looking pretty at a gala.”

“Do I have to remind you why you put that ‘if’ in there?” Zeal asked. “You beat out the Grand Conductor’s son during graduation trials for a position at the Citadel.” Zeal was right. Steadfastness Hughes ran the Order of the Amethyst Star, and he hated Clarity. “You need to go to the gala and do some networking among the other warriors to make yourself popular in other circles. Or at least look appropriate so as not give him an excuse to send you off to the boondocks and install his son in your place.”

“I know, I know. You’re right.” Clarity stumbled as Hope came to a sudden stop in front of the tailor’s shop. “I just feel more comfortable in my armor. The paladins already spent a lot of money getting us high-tech, retractable armor. I don’t see why they’re bothering to pay for dresses and tuxedos as well.”

“Because it would be ridiculous to try dancing at a ball with your armor clanking everywhere, and the purple microfiber bodysuits underneath are not nearly as flattering as you all think they are,” Hope said, her voice containing an uncharacteristic tartness. “Besides, don’t you want to look amazing enough that Valor regrets breaking up with you just because you beat him in that silly contest?”

“Don’t say that so loud.” Clarity glanced up and down the street, but no one she knew was nearby. “You guys are the only ones who know we broke up. Besides, I don’t think—”

Before Clarity could finish her sentence, a man ran into her, practically shoving her into the store’s forcefield window. She and her friends turned in sync to watch a man in a fine suit run past them, knocking the crowd aside to get through. Behind him came a pair of men in armor as shiny as Clarity’s own, sufficiently far behind that the recovering throng on the street would be an impediment. By the time the paladin peacekeeper she recognized as Diligence noticed her and called, “Stop that man!” Clarity was already racing after him as best she could.

The pursuant looked behind him and noticed a much closer paladin. With a curse, he tried to pick up speed, and when that failed, he turned a corner into what looked like a small alley. He must not know the city very well, Clarity thought. There’s an open air market on the other side of that building. He’s going to be easy to spot there.

Indeed, as she chased him between the skyscrapers, she could easily see his head bobbing amid the stalls. Realizing his mistake, he pushed over a table full of crates of apples, sending the green fruit rolling across the ground. Clarity didn’t miss a beat, leaping into the air above the overturned boxes and landing on her quarry in a tackle.

The crowd had erupted into shocked gasps at the chase, but as Clarity pulled the man to his feet and twisted his arms behind his back, the crowd burst into applause. She heard the word “Azurite” murmured a few times, so she glanced down at his chest and saw that he in fact wore the telltale diamond-shaped, blue patch that marked him as a resident of the city’s Azure District. Everyone knew the Azurites hated paladins and the order they represented so much that they refused paladin technology rather than follow paladin laws. Clarity had heard rumors that people in the walled-off part of the city lived in abject poverty, but the man standing in front of her looked well-fed and clothed.

Diligence and his partner jogged up behind Clarity. “Thanks for the assist,” Diligence said as he handcuffed the criminal. “We caught him trying to buy a slew of weapons on the black market. The dealer was smart enough to try to make a deal, but this idiot ran.”

Wow. Clarity had known she was chasing down a criminal, but she’d had no idea he was such a dangerous one.

“If you want paladin tech, all you have to do is submit to the laws of the city,” Diligence said to his prisoner. Then he turned to the farmer whose apple crates remained upside down on the ground. “If you file a report with the Citadel, the order will reimburse you for your damaged merchandise. We apologize for interfering with your business.”

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About the Author

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Elizabeth Corrigan has degrees in English and psychology and has spent several years working as a data analyst in various branches of the healthcare industry. When she’s not hard at work on her next novel, Elizabeth enjoys playing tabletop role-playing games and cooperative card games. She refuses to watch most internet videos and is pathologically afraid of bees. She lives in Maryland with two cats and a very active iphone.

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#Excerpt “Coldwater Revenge” by James A. Ross

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Mystery

Date Published: 4/27/2021

 Publisher: Level Best Books (S&S)

 

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COLDWATER REVENGE is the story of two brothers involved with the same woman, and the ensuing crisis when one brother begins to suspect the other of helping her cover up a murder.

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EXCERPT

Billy Pearce was still alive, though neither he nor his killer knew it. The plunge into the icy darkness of Coldwater Lake brought Billy back to consciousness, but not awareness. His body filled the narrow sleeping bag. Cement blocks at his feet ensured that it found bottom and stayed there. Where his face filled the opening at the top of the bag, strobes of sparkling moonlight made prisms of the bubbles that could well be his last mortal breath. But Billy didn’t think about that. His mind was somewhere else. This had happened to him before, a long time ago, and his mind went back there now.

When Billy was thirteen, he’d decided to break into a golf course clubhouse on the far side of Wilson Cove to steal liquor that he’d heard had been left in the basement storeroom over the winter. Temperatures had been unseasonably warm for most of the month. But Billy had decided to chance the walk across the late winter ice, rather than risk being spotted along the lake road at an hour when boys his age were presumed to be in school.

The frozen ice crackled and popped beneath his feet like a bowl of breakfast cereal. Billy imagined the party he would have with the liquor he was going to steal. And while he busied himself with a short mental list of who he could invite that would not rat him out, the snap, crackle pop went WHOOSH! and he plunged like a clown through a trap door into the freezing lake. In an instant, his heavy winter jacket sponged its weight in brain-numbing ice water, boots filled like pails and the whole soggy weight of it dragged him rapidly toward bottom.

But Billy didn’t panic. His egghead family may have thought him deficient because of his constant troubles in school and his indifference to books, but Billy was brighter than they knew, and a childhood of disapproval had made him stoic and unflappable.

As his body drifted toward bottom, Billy methodically removed everything that was weighing him down: jacket, boots, shirt and trousers—everything but underwear. That done, he looked for the halo of light that would mark the spot where his fall had punched a temporary hole in the rotting ice. When he found it, and before his breath could give out or his mind succumb to the numbing cold, Billy had kicked and clawed his slim, nearly naked body through the hole and onto the ice.

Now, on a starless October night a dozen years later, his mind went back to that time where his body knew what to do and his brain was confident that everything would be all right if he just didn’t panic. Inside the sleeping bag, his hands methodically removed a coat that was not really there, kicked off a pair of heavy boots that were not there either and lastly slipped-off the trousers that were. Then, as his face turned to find the wall of white where memory told him a patch of brighter white would guide him to a hole he must find and climb through if he were to survive, he abruptly ceased to remember, or to think at all. Because this time, Billy Pearce was dead.

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About the Author

James A. Ross has at various times been a Peace Corps Volunteer, a CBS News Producer in the Congo, a Congressional Staffer and a Wall Street Lawyer. His short fiction has appeared in numerous literary publications and his short story, Aux Secours, was recently nominated for a Pushcart prize.

 

 

 

 

 

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#Excerpt “The Watcher Girl” by Minka Kent

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A woman’s suspicions about her ex-boyfriend become a dangerous obsession in a twisting novel of psychological suspense by Washington Post and Wall Street Journalbestselling author Minka Kent.
 
Eight years ago, Grace McMullen broke Sutton Whitlock’s heart when she walked away. But it was only to save him from the baggage of her own troubled past. Now all she wants is to make sure he’s okay.
 
Only everything she learns about him online says otherwise. According to his social media accounts, he placed roots in her hometown, married a look-alike, and even named his daughter Grace. He clearly hasn’t moved on. In fact, it’s creepy. So Grace does what any concerned ex-girlfriend would do: she moves home…and watches him.
 
But when Grace crosses paths with Sutton’s wife, Campbell, an unexpected friendship develops. Campbell has no idea whom she’s inviting into her life. As the women grow closer, it becomes clear to Grace that Sutton is not the sentimental man she once knew. He seems controlling, unstable, and threatening. And what a broken man like Sutton is capable of, Grace can only imagine. It’s up to her to save Campbell and her baby now—but while she’s been watching them, who’s been watching her?

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“So . . . what brings you back?” My father’s tone is pleasant, but his eyes squint as he studies me in the blue-green twilight of early evening.

The truth is complicated.

“Been gone long enough,” I say on a long exhale. “Thought maybe it was time to come home.”

Home.

I use the word for his sake. It makes him smile.

While I resided at 372 Magnolia Drive the first ten years of my life, calling it “home” would be a stretch at this point.

His dark eyes turn glassy, and his fingertips twitch at his sides. He wants to hug me, I’m sure, but he knows me too well. At least that part of me.

“Your room’s exactly how you left it,” he says instead of asking more questions. I imagine he’ll space them out, fishing casually for tidbits until he has the whole picture. An investigational paint-by-numbers. “Good to have you back, Grace. I mean that. Stay as long as you need. We’ll catch up whenever you’re ready.”

I thank him before grabbing my roller bag and climbing the winding staircase in the sweeping foyer. Every step rustles an unsettled sensation in my center, but I force it down with tight swallows.

I’m here on a mission, and as soon as it’s over, I’m leaving again.

Stopping at the top of the stairs, I’m greeted by an outdated family portrait—the original McMullens dressed in coordinating navy-blue outfits, the children hand in hand, grinning against the autumnal backdrop of some local state park.

There we are.

Frozen in time.

Blissfully unaware of fate’s cruel plans for us.

We were beautiful together—enviably happy from the outside.

Hashtag blessed.

My attention homes in on my parents, the way my mother gazes up into my father’s handsome face, her golden hair shining in the early evening sunset, his hand cupping the side of her cheek. If I didn’t know better, I’d think their love for one another was equal and balanced.

I trace my fingertips against the burnished-gold frame before pressing it just enough that it tilts, off-center. Noticeable only if you stare too long.

I have no desire to rewrite history, and I have little patience for those who feel the need to do so.

When I reach my old room, I flick on the light and plant myself in the doorway.

My father’s right. It’s exactly how I left it: Dark furniture. Blue walls. Pile of stuffed animals in the corner. Perfectly made bed complete with an ironed coverlet and a million pillows.

Aside from the fresh vacuum tracks in the carpet, no one’s set foot in this room since the last time I was home my senior year of college.

I lock the door and collapse on the bed, digging my phone from my bag and pulling up the Instaface account for my ex from college and staring at his profile picture for the tenth time today—the hundredth time this week. Same coffee-brown hair trimmed neatly into a timeless crew cut. Same hooded, almond-shaped eyes the earthy color of New England in autumn. Same dimples flanking his boyish smile like parentheses. He’s exactly how I remember him, only with a decade of life tacked onto his face. Shallow creases spread across his forehead. A deep line separates his eyebrows. Maybe there’s a little more hollowing beneath his jovial gaze. But other than that, he’s the same as I remember.

I could describe Sutton Whitlock fifty thousand ways, but at the end of the day, I can sum him up in five words: he was a good man.

Eight years ago, I broke his heart—and not because I wanted to.

I had to save him from a lifetime of disappointment.

I had to save him from me.

But a handful of things have come up online recently—things that indicate he’s not okay.

I need to rectify what I’ve done. I need to apologize for hurting him. Explain my reasons. Give him permission to move on, to be happy.

And then I’ll disappear . . . again.

~~~

 
Minka Kent has been crafting stories since before she could scribble her name. With a love of the literary dark and twisted, Minka cut her teeth on Goosebumps and Fear Street, graduated to Stephen King as a teenager, and now counts Gillian Flynn, Chevy Stevens, and Caroline Kepnes amongst her favorite authors and biggest influences. Minka has always been curious about good people who do bad things and loves to explore what happens when larger-than-life characters are placed in fascinating situations.
 
In her non-writing life, Minka is a thirty-something wife and mother who equally enjoys sunny and rainy days, loves freshly cut hydrangeas, hides behind oversized sunglasses, travels to warmer climates every chance she gets, and bakes sweet treats when the mood strikes (spoiler alert: it’s often).
 
Want to hear about sales and new releases? Sign up for her non-spammy newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/cwOMSD

 

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#Excerpt “When the Smoke Clears” by C. Chilove

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WHEN THE SMOKE CLEARS

by C. CHILOVE

Lieutenant Colonel Brenden Jasper lives a life of secrets, danger, and clandestine missions. As commander of the most elite Black Ops unit in the world, nothing is more important to him than protecting the country he loves. But there’s a reason only the toughest, battle-tested, alpha men can call themselves members of the Black 2131 brotherhood. None but those in the highest realms of government even know of its existence, and it’s Brenden’s job to avoid emotional entanglements so he can keep it that way. Dr. Paige Nichols has spent her life ruled by logic and reason, teaching and analyzing art history, so nothing could have prepared her for the completely overwhelming attraction-at-first-sight when she sets eyes on Brenden. Their chance encounter at a party opens her up to a tantalizing dark side she never knew she had—and leaves her wanting so much more. But a man with a dark side often comes with way too many secrets…ones that could put her life in danger. Though their chemistry burns hotter than ever, when danger comes knocking on Paige’s door, Brenden will have to walk a fine line between duty, honor, and love.

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EXCERPT

“Are you done hiding from me?” The smooth tenor jump-started her heart.

Paige whipped around to see Brenden leaning in the door frame. A smile curved his lips as she struggled through heavy breaths. “Hi… Hiding from you?” She gulped down a mixture of fear and excitement as butterflies began dancing in her stomach. She wasn’t sure if she wanted them to stop because at least the fluttery feeling confirmed she wasn’t dreaming.

He slid his hands into his pockets while his eyes intently scanned her face as if he were committing every inch to memory. “You didn’t give me a chance to tell you Happy New Year.”

A flush crept along her neck before stinging her cheeks. She peeked up, afraid of how the energy in her body was responding to Brenden. “Ditto,” she muttered. “Happy New Year! I guess chivalry does exist.”

He shrugged and began moving towards her. Face to face, he looked upon her, again studying her like a work of art. “Not sure if the thoughts I’m having of you would be deemed chivalrous, Paige.”

She felt her mouth form a little “o” while her heartbeat triple timed. The sincerity etched across Brenden’s face and the want laced within his husky voice began casting a spell, unraveling inhibitions she’d clung to for fear of failure or rejection.

“Why are you here by yourself?” He shifted his gaze beyond her to the ocean before taking a few steps to claim the space at the balcony rail.

“I could ask you the same,” she replied before returning to her place along the rail that was now a few feet from the sexiest man alive.

“True, but I suppose neither of us wants to share what we’d rather forget.”

Paige nodded. How did he know? She’d been trying to forget for the last twenty years. And now, seeing the sliver of tension twitch at Brenden’s jaw, it made her curious to learn what he wanted to forget.

“Forget?” she asked out loud, and not on purpose.

He faced her. Sweet Jesus, the man’s eyes could read a girl’s soul and betray her most private thoughts. “Don’t you want to?”

Something in him whispered to her deepest, darkest desires. Her body slowly began overriding her mind. “How?” she asked, desperate for her next breath. She then swallowed an inhale and reached up, pushing strands of his tousled hair from his face.

Brenden stepped in, closing the distance between them. He looked down into her eyes, lowered his head, and brushed his lips across hers. His fingers threaded the strands of her hair before he tilted her neck and pressed his lips to her bouncing pulse.

Her breaths became more unpredictable, fueling the sharpening ache between her legs that halted rational contemplation. Mind versus body. Never before had she been uncertain of which would win.

Another stuttering breath escaped her lips, and her eyes closed as Brenden’s teeth sank into her skin. “Mmmm…feels good.”

“Tastes good.” His body pressed harder against hers. “And now you know my most indecent thoughts.”

~~~

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C. ChiloveABOUT C. CHILOVE

C. Chilove is the current Secretary for Romance Writers of America (RWA) and past President of CIMRWA. She is a southern girl writing sexy, thought-provoking romance that explores the human condition while proving love transcends societal clichés. Her characters are strong, witty, and prove that diversity is beautiful. When she’s not writing, she’s living out her personal happily-ever-after by rockin’ the stands for her Volleyball star, cheering on her future MLB slugger, or celebrating date night with her hubby.

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