#Excerpt “Dark Secrets of the Bayou” by Kim Carter

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Mystery, Suspense

 

Date Published: November 2020

Publisher: Raven South Publishing

Catherine “Tink” Mabrey, an up and coming attorney, is shocked by her recent inheritance from her estranged family on the bayou. After her mother died during childbirth, Tink’s father had quickly relocated them to the big city of Atlanta, Georgia. With no memory of her mother, she is determined to learn more about her lineage and decides to visit the bayou town of Kane, Louisiana. Candace, Tink’s co-worker and best friend, agrees to make the trip with her.

Before she has time to explore her family’s history, or decide what to do with the declining property, local murders plague Tink’s homecoming. She quickly finds herself caught in the middle of a multiple murder investigation – and quite possibly, the prime suspect. When Candace retreats back to Atlanta, Tink, with the support of an unlikely cast of characters, sets out to discover clues that have haunted and tormented her family for generations.

Could a concealed crime from the 1800’s, or the family’s estate itself, harbor keys to unlocking the past? The more they learn, the more they question whether some secrets are best left buried.

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Other Books By Kim Carter:

 

Sweet Dreams, Baby Belle (2017)

Murder Among The Tombstones (2017)

No Second Chances (2017)

Deadly Odds (2018)

And The Forecast Called For Rain (2018)

When Dawn Never Comes (2018)

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KANE, LOUISIANA, 1859


EMMANUEL SINCLAIR STOOD BACK and surveyed the sprawling plantation that had encompassed his life for the past two years. He nodded with pleasure as if someone were there awaiting his approval. Placed perfectly amidst rows of river oaks, magnolias, and sycamores, the estate was breathtakingly beautiful. The well-designed landscape surrounding the home contrasted sharply with the bald cypress and coastal willows rising prominently from the waters in the bayou.

Emmanuel had no doubt, Lucretia, his soon-to-be bride, would be delighted with her stately new home. Within the next twenty-four hours, she was scheduled to go by train from Baltimore to the Ohio River.

Lucretia would then travel by steamboat via the Ohio and the Mississippi to New Orleans, where Emmanuel would be waiting for her. Lucretia’s trip would be grueling, but she’d experienced many challenges over her eighteen years. Her grandparents had been part of the Expulsion of 1755 when the British ejected all French-Acadians refusing to pledge allegiance to the King of England. Originally settling in Maine, her family relocated to New York before putting down permanent stakes in Baltimore.

Young Lucretia longed for consistency, and it had been Emmanuel’s stability that’d won her over. By the age of thirty-five, he’d already made his fortune in the cotton business. His father had died seven years earlier, leaving Emmanuel a sizeable concession of land and a fledgling cotton crop, which, at best, kept the plantation self-sufficient. But it was the combination of Emmanuel’s business savvy, the increase of cotton production, and Louisiana’s strategic ports that’d quickly increased his wealth.

AS EMMANUEL HAD BEEN STEADILY BUILDING a prosperous empire, Thaddeus Jackson had been constructing a flourishing kingdom of his own, on an equally expansive plantation a few miles away. Thaddeus had his father, Mathias, to thank for being born a free man of color. He had caught Andrew Jackson’s eye as a standout on the battlefield during the War of 1812. His grueling work ethic and leadership skills played pivotal in constructing breastworks, later referred to as Line Jackson.

Thaddeus had quickly tired of the story, even as a young boy, and considered his father nothing more than a yes-man who’d covered cotton bales with logs and mud to protect the white army. However, Andrew Jackson had been quite impressed— enough so, in fact, that he’d facilitated Mathias’s freedom. Not one to take any blessing for granted, Mathias had chosen to acquire Jackson’s surname out of gratitude.

Thaddeus had found much to dislike about his father, but he’d inherited many of his most admirable traits. He was a powerful leader and quick learner with a sense of adventure. These characteristics had led to his success as a Mississippi River privateer. His tall frame and good looks didn’t hinder him either. Both his appearance and self-confidence had also captured Fatima Lambert’s attention.

Fatima came with quite the story of her own. With a shortage of white women in the state of Louisiana and laws forbidding interracial marriage, the institution of plaçage enabled her to be a mistress to the very wealthy, and incredibly old, William Lambert. She’d been merely a teenager when he’d spotted her working his fields and had quickly arranged for her to be a kept woman.

Accustomed to hard labor and the unrelenting heat, she hadn’t objected to being at his beck and call and his bed when he’d insisted. Fortunately for Fatima, she’d only had to suffer through a few sessions of his sexual desires before he’d dropped dead of a heart attack at the ripe age of seventy-eight.

With William being a childless widower and having no other heirs with whom to split his fortune, Fatima had become the proud owner of not only his cotton plantation but his slaves as well. It wasn’t her attractiveness as a mulatto that’d lured Thaddeus to pursue Fatima; it’d been her property and the glorious cotton fields that promised a lifetime of financial security. Once he’d set his sights on her, there was little Fatima could do but concede to his advances. After all, who wouldn’t want a bright, handsome husband to take care of things?

A RABBIT SCURRIED beneath some underbrush, drawing Emmanuel’s attention to the cool, damp breeze and dark clouds promising an impending storm. He walked to the front porch, paused long enough to grab his oil lamp, and made his way inside. Emmanuel hesitated briefly to take in the magnificence of the grand staircase winding its way, like an ornate ribbon, up to the second and third floors. One of his slaves, who’d been trained as a blacksmith, had spent the past few months creating it, and he hadn’t disappointed.

It would surely take Lucretia’s breath away. Aside from a bed and some office necessities, the remaining furnishings would be left to Lucretia’s desires. Yet another of Emmanuel’s wedding gifts to her. Although it was midday, and the many windows gave way to ample light, thunder clouds had begun to darken the home’s interior. Emmanuel made his way up the stairs, down the corridor leading to the west wing, and entered his office. He slid the mantel a smidgen to the left.

This released the mechanism holding the entire faux fireplace intact, enabling him to unlock the steel door leading to an array of complex tunnels, and ultimately, his concealed vault. THIS WAS where the lives of two greedy and shrewd businessmen merged.

This was the beginning of a tale older than time, filled with greed, lust, superstition, and murderous secrets they’d both take to their graves.

It was a story meant to be locked away forever…

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About The Author

Kim Carter is an author of suspense, mystery and thriller novels. She was a finalist in the 2018 Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award and recipient of the 2017 Readers’ Choice Award for her book Murder Among The Tombstones. This is the first book in her Clara and Iris Mystery series. The characters in this series are a couple of overly curious widows who become private investigators and were inspired by Kim’s mother and her mom’s best friend.

Her other titles include: When Dawn Never Comes, Deadly Odds, No Second Chances, And The Forecast Called For Rain, and Sweet Dreams, Baby Belle.

Kim’s writing career started after she suffered an illness that made her housebound for a couple of years. An avid reader of mystery novels, she embarked on writing as a means of filling her time. Kim shared those early writings with friends and family who encouraged her to pursue writing professionally. Her health struggles and successes have been chronicled on The Lifetime Television in early 2000, The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, Women’s Day Magazine, and Guideposts.

Prior to her illness, Kim worked in many different capacities in county government ranging from Park Director with Parks and Recreation to the Grant Department with Human Services. But, ultimately, it was her job as a correctional officer that provided her the opportunity to interact with a variety of people from all walks of life. Her experiences ran the gamete of inspiring success stories to tragic endings, much like her mysteries.

She self-published her first book No Second Chances. One of the guest speakers at the launch party she had at the Performing Arts Center in Newnan, Georgia included her close friend retired Atlanta Police chief Eldrin Bell. This connection would become helpful as she started doing more research for other books, this time working with a small publishing house.

Kim started networking and made connections with the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office. Her research has taken her many places including morgues, death row and the occasional midnight visit to cemeteries.

She is a college graduate of Saint Leo University, has a Bachelor Degree of Arts in Sociology. Kim and her husband have three grown children and live just outside of Atlanta, Georgia.

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#TeaserTuesday “Eat Your Heart Out” by Shirley Goldberg

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Starting Over Series, Book 2

Romantic Women’s Fiction / Romcom / ChickLit

Date Published: March 17, 2021

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press

When a tyrant in stilettos replaces her beloved boss, and her ex snags her coveted job, teacher Dana Narvana discovers there are worse things than getting dumped on Facebook. Time for the BFF advice squad. Alex—hunky colleague, quipster, and cooking pal extraordinaire is Dana’s staunchest ally. So what’s with the smooching after hours? And why won’t this grown man make up his mind?

Actor turned teacher Alex Bethany craves a family of his own. Newly hotified, he’s now got the confidence to try online dating. Meanwhile he’s sending Dana mixed messages in the kissing department. After a surprising event rocks his world, Alex panics, certain he’s blown his chances with his special person.

Funny and bittersweet, Dana and Alex’s story will have you rooting for them all the way to dessert.

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Excerpt

So, this is what it’s like being on a date with you.” Dana hesitated—caught herself. “This isn’t a date, is it?

Her voice flattened and she took a sip of wine. “Oh, I’m not belittling your gesture, bringing me to this fine establishment. But it isn’t a date because you’re seeing that woman, aren’t you? The one you asked me for advice about.”

Alex fidgeted. Idiot. Asking Dana how to recognize the signs a woman was interested––what had he been thinking? What could be more awkward? This. This was definitely up there on the list of more awkward moments.

You’ve always been straight with me,” she said, holding the wine glass in midair.

That little flash of skin whenever she raises her arm. He picked up his wine glass. At this rate, he’d have to order a second bottle, simply to block his mind from going where it shouldn’t.

Alex, do it again, be straight.”

He leaned in, took the glass from her hand and put it on the table. “Come closer,” he said. “I want to whisper sweet somethings in your ear.”

She bent toward him, a puzzled but amused expression percolating, her face glowing in the subtle lighting.

Yes?” Her voice throaty, challenging.

This is a date,” he said and tilted his head, brushed her lips with his, pulled back slightly, and did it again.

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About the Author

Shirley Goldberg is a writer, novelist, and former ESL and French teacher who’s lived in Paris, Crete, and Casablanca. She writes about men and women of a certain age starting over. Her website http://midagedating.com offers a humorous look at living single and dating in mid life. Eat Your Heart Out is the second book in the series Starting Over. Middle Ageish, the first, is available now and Shirley’s friends like to guess which stories in the book are true. Her characters believe you should never leave home without your sense of humor and Shirley agrees.

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#AudioTour “Queen to Ashes” by Mallory McCartney

QueenofAshesAudio

Exciting news folks!!! Queen to Ashes by Mallory McCartney is now available as an audiobook!

Read on for more details and a chance to win either your choice of a hardcover edition of Queen to Ashes, or an advanced reader’s copy of Kingdom of Iron (Black Dawn #3)!

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Queen to Ashes (Black Dawn #2)

Publication Date: April 21st, 2020

Genre: YA Fantasy

“You lived your entire life feeling like half of you was missing. Fight for the missing part. Fight for this.”

Emory Fae has abandoned everything she thought she knew about her previous life on Earth. Stepping up to her role as Queen of Kiero she makes a startling sacrifice- feigning her allegiances to Adair Stratton, the man who murdered her parents and casted Kiero into ruin. Emory’s memories slowly piece together, and she soon realizes the Mad King may not be all he seems— and the man who was once best friend, may be fighting beneath the surface.

With the King’s attention on her, can she buy Black Dawn Rebellion enough time to recuperate their forces? And when the times comes, will she be able to kill Adair, ending his tyranny and rising herself as the rightful Queen? Fighting to hide her secret, Emory navigates the brutal trials of the Mad King, trying not to lose herself in the process.

Sequel to Heir of Lies, now a bestselling series, the sparks are ignited, as Emory learns the cost of freedom, and her heritage. Will the rebels unite in time? A sinister force has spread across the land, stripping everyone bare- their betrayals, their secrets, their intentions. But above all, what will their decisions cost? By refusing to give in to the darkness, will Emory rise as Queen?

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Excerpt

All she could hear was buzzing. Tight, unrelenting buzzing. The world dipped, and she was a ghost amongst the living.

Her mind screamed that she was going into shock as the color drained from her skin, as her limbs trembled harder. Her body betrayed her for the briefest of seconds as Adair looked at her hungrily, his dark gaze ravaging her.

The room seemed to tilt, and her mind felt thick and constricted. The bloodied sword was still in her hand, and Brokk’s body splayed out lifelessly between them: Life and Death. Love and Loss. Light and Dark. This is the divide her life had taken, and one that she was completely and utterly lost in. Suffocated in.

What had she done?

What. Had. She. Done?

Before Emory could take another look, to convince herself that it wasn’t him—it couldn’t have been—a strong hand gripped her arm and Adair said something she didn’t register. Then, she was ushered out with the promise of tomorrow on his gaunt lips, and the burly guard led her away from the king.

The door shut, sealing away the gory scene.

Breath lodging in her throat, Emory tried to adjust to the world around her. It was numbing, her senses overloaded, the bustle of Adair’s world seeming too sharp and loud as they moved through it. Her pulse roared, and beneath the grime and blood she held on, trying not to give in to the panic tearing through her

Available on Audible

Other Editions: Amazon | B&N | Indigo

For your chance to win your choice of either a hardcover edition of Queen to Ashes, or an advanced reader’s copy of Kingdom of Iron (Black Dawn #3), click the linl to enter!

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About the Author

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Mallory McCartney currently lives in Sarnia, Ontario with her husband and their three dachshunds Link, Lola and Leonard. When she isn’t working on her next novel or reading, she can be found day dreaming about fantasy worlds and hiking. Other favorite pastimes involve reorganizing perpetually overflowing bookshelves and seeking out new coffee and dessert shops.

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#BookBlitz “Dragon Lad: Wand of the Black Sphere” by J.C. Stevens

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Dragon Lad: Wand of the Black Sphere

Juvenile Fiction, Middle Grade, Middle-Grade Fantasy

Publisher: Dragon’s Egg Books

A shapeshifting magic fantasy adventure filled with dragons, witches, wizards, fairies and fun.

Dirk is a budding boy wizard who hatched as a dragon and has a ring that turns him back into one. For his summer vacation, he’s leaving Roman Britannia on a secret journey to tell the dragon who raised him she’s free from a curse.

He doesn’t realize he’s being tracked by his worst enemy, the sorceress who abducted him as a baby and blames him for her husband’s death. Treacherous Ethelda thinks Dirk has her fiendishly powerful wand and she’ll do anything to get it back.

The Roman Army wants the Wand of the Black Sphere, too, worried Ethelda will use it against them, and they’re looking for Dirk, the last one seen with it. But Dirk’s halfway around the world dealing with monsters and magic they couldn’t imagine.

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Praise for Dragon Lad: Wand of the Black Sphere:

“The third volume of Stevens’ middle-grade series is a perfect balance of education and entertainment. … Detailed illustrations by the author enliven scenes throughout. … The lively final volume of a charming series.” – Kirkus Reviews

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Other Books in the Dragon Lad Trilogy:

Dragon Lad: The Thirteenth Egg

Publisher: Dragon’s Egg Books

Fly through page after page of adventures with Dorg as the young dragon discovers an astonishing truth about himself: he may not be a dragon after all.

Dorg hatches small due to a magic curse. A tough start in the biting, clawing, flame-spitting world he lives in. At first, all he wants to do is end the curse, so he can be like the other dragons. But friends and enemies help him see that being a big, mean dragon isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

Along the way, he encounters a mysterious pendant, shapeshifting dragons, a grouchy witch who loves wildlife, an absentminded wizard, and a swarm of friendly insects.

Heartwarming and humorous, this book is the first in a trilogy of stories about learning to live in harmony with one’s self as well as with nature. An egg-straordinary fantasy awaits the reader.

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Dragon Lad: Tale of the Talisman

Publisher: Dragon’s Egg Books

Magic and adventure abound in this second book in the Dragon Lad trilogy.

Tale of the Talisman” follows our young, dragon-hatched hero as he seeks his parents, his past and his destiny in Roman-ruled Britannia. A boy without a history — at least one that he can remember — Dirk turns to his shape-shifting friends for help. They launch him on a quest involving the one clue he has to his previous existence: a magic talisman.

The wizard Beldor gives Dirk a ring that allows him to re-enter the realm he thought he’d left behind. Armed with this ring and a magic map, he travels a trail leading to a raging dragon, a slippery mermaid, two grasping sorcerers and a legion of Roman soldiers. He also rediscovers a long-lost friend and powers he never imagined.

Fast-paced and funny, “Dragon Lad: Tale of the Talisman” is a modern classic that can be read alone or as a companion to the first novel in the trilogy, “Dragon Lad: The Thirteenth Egg.”

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Excerpt

Chapter Nineteen

Dorg tried to pull up. It only reduced the speed of his impact. He hit the ground hard and blacked out.

He regained consciousness in a daze of pain. His ears were ringing, jaw ached, wing burned, shoulder throbbed. Turning on his side to touch the inflamed shoulder, he dislodged the raven perched there. He grimaced at the bird as it squawked to the ground, then took in his surroundings.

He lay on a mat of animal skin in one of the human dwellings. Dug into the ground like a burrow, with stonework above and below the level of the ground, it had a domed, willow-frame roof covered with skins. In the center, some sort of animal fat burned in a soapstone trough with moss wicks, illuminating a short entry tunnel, benches, clothing hung from leather cords, and

baskets full of herbs, plants and tools made of antler, stone and bone. The dwelling was crowded, yet they’d managed to fit a dragon with large wings and a body the size of a small bull inside. As he wondered how, the raven demanded his attention.

Tok!”

Sorry, I don’t speak raven,” Dorg responded in the hawk language. “Do you speak hawk?”

The raven uttered a “pruk” that reminded him of a human sigh. Then, revolving on his claws, he transformed into a handsome hawk with brilliant eyes and glossy feathers.

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About the Author

J. C. Stevens began writing fiction, nonfiction and poetry at age five. The author’s first and favorite stories were about ghosts, witches and other spooky creatures. As an adult, Stevens served as a newspaper reporter, editor and teacher.

Dragon Lad: The Thirteenth Egg, the first book in the Dragon Lad trilogy, debuted in 2015. The second book in the trilogy, Dragon Lad: Tale of the Talisman, appeared in 2017. The third and final book, Dragon Lad: Wand of the Black Sphere, was published in 2019. Stevens lives in Southern California. To learn more, visit http://www.dragonseggbooks.com.

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#BookBlitz “Secret Valentine” by Cherry Christensen

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Secret Series Book #2

Contemporary Romance

Date Published: January 27, 2020

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Professor Hannah Wagganer spends her days teaching history, and her nights dating Glen Arbor’s new mail carrier, Jasper Morgan. Not only does he spark Hannah’s heart, but he has become best friends with her cat, Jingles.

As Hannah happily prepares for the church Valentine’s Day potluck and makes cards for local veterans, a snowstorm sends her plans, and her relationship with Jasper, on an unexpected detour. She seeks refuge from the storm at Jasper’s cottage, and finds him to be a warm and gracious host. But, at the same time, the spark is gone—when it comes to romance, he’s turned as cold as the February wind. Doubt creeps in, leaving Hannah worried that she’ll end up spending another holiday alone.

Then, once again, unexpected blessings abound in town, when an anonymous donor pays to have the church pipes repaired, and other locals suddenly find solutions to their problems. Is it coincidental, or the work of a secret valentine?

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Excerpt

Sorry I snapped at you. I don’t want people getting the wrong idea about Jasper and me.”

What’s the right idea?”

Hannah’s lips twisted to the side. “I don’t know. I’m crazy about him, and the way he loves Jingles, but…”

But what?”

What if he grows tired of small-town living? I’m not sure I could handle him leaving. I guess I want him to be my valentine forever, not just one predetermined day out of the year.”

Bree exhaled and shifted her weight from one foot to the other. “I’ve never seen you this serious about a guy before, especially one you’ve only known for a short time.” She lifted her gaze. “Are you positive he’s the one?”

My heart thinks so.”

Bree squealed and hugged her friend. “I call dibs on being maid of honor.”

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About The Author

Cherry resides in the Mitten State with her husband of 19 years and a tabby cat named Caden. A true Michigander, she points at the palm of her right hand when telling people where she lives, drinks Vernors ginger ale when she’s under the weather, wears shorts and a sweatshirt at the same time, and measures distance in minutes, not miles. She also cheers for her favorite football team, the Michigan Wolverines. Go Blue!

A confirmed night owl, Cherry wholeheartedly agrees with whoever said, “I could be a morning person, if morning happened around noon.” It’s no surprise then she prefers to write in the evening. She’s a bit of a pantser writer, meaning she dreams up stories without using an outline, so every day is an exciting adventure as she waits to see where the characters lead her next!

A lifelong avid reader, Cherry turned to writing as a creative outlet. Drawing partly from her own experiences, and partly from her wild imagination, she weaves romantic tales with a smidgen of religion and a hint of mystery. Cherry’s first novel, The Fearful Heart, debuted in 2014, and she has never looked back. She continues to grow as an author, learning more about the writing craft with each book.

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#BlogTour “Road to the Breaking” by Chris Bennett

Road to the Breaking

Welcome to the blog tour for Road to Breaking by Chris Bennett! Read on to learn more about this riveting historical fiction and enter for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card!

Road to the Breaking - PaperbackRoad to Breaking (The Breaking Saga #1)

Publication Date: January 5, 2021

Publisher: CPB Publishing

Nothing survived ‘The Breaking’ unchanged; lives and fortunes, love and hate, freedom and slavery …
It’s early 1860, and war hero Captain Nathaniel Chambers, commander U.S. Army Fort Davis in the west Texas wilderness, has received shocking news – his father is dead. He must return home to Virginia and claim his inheritance before a maniacal neighbor can murder his widowed mother and seize the family plantation.
But he’s torn by a terrible dilemma – to stay in the army and turn his back on his fortune, his mother and his beloved childhood home, or become the thing he despises; a slave master! Is there no other choice?
Meanwhile, a woman desperate to redeem her family’s fortunes schemes to marry her beautiful but troubled daughter to the handsome young heir. But will Evelyn’s own plans break his heart instead?
An epic journey across a young nation seething with debauchery, brutality, corruption, and political intrigue, unwittingly on the brink of an unimaginable disaster; the American Civil War. Nathan Chambers has left the violent army life behind in Texas, never imaging he’s on the very ‘Road to The Breaking’.

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Excerpt

“Hey, Billy. Why is it the Comanche hate the Tonkawa so much?” he called out. The Captain’s bowed head looked up, startled by the sudden noise.

“What … the Comanche? Oh, it is a very long, old tale. Would you like to hear it, Sergeant Clark?”

A long tale, Tom thought. Just the medicine the Captain needs.

“Yes, Billy, if you please.”

The other men started to perk up. Billy rarely spoke much, but when he did his stories tended toward the bizarre and supernatural, with plenty of his own special brand of odd, dry humor thrown in. This typically made for highly entertaining stories.

“There once was a time, very long, and long, ago. Back before the grandfathers of our grandfathers were even conceived by their grandfathers’ grandfathers. So long ago, in fact, it is said it was almost the very beginning of time—whenever that was.” He shrugged his shoulders and grinned.

“Anyway … in that long-ago time it was different between the Comanche and the People, those of us you white men now call Tonkawa. Back then we did not hate each other and fight always, the way we do now. We didn’t love each other either, of course; there is no amount of time going that far back, ha!

“In that time the People and the Comanche knew each other, but lived apart, sometimes seeing each other when they shared the hunting grounds. The land was not dry as now. It was filled with a great greenness. It is said the water was abundant, and fell from the sky so often, it flowed carelessly, wandering across the land, heedless of its proper places in rivers and lakes.

“And so, the land was filled with so many animals the People did not have to hunt long or hard for their daily meat. And never did they give thought to saving anything for tomorrow. Both the People and the Comanche were wasteful in their excess, never having known want.

“But there came a time when the People were led by a great and wise man. His name was Tchezse—um … Tchezselkeizl … well, it would mean nothing in your language, anyway. You would say something like ‘Sun-and-Moon-in-Sky-Together-and-Wind-in-Stars,’ but that is not quite right either. For my story, I will just be calling him ‘Sun-Moon’ and you will know who I’m talking about.

“Sun-Moon was very wise, as I have already said. One day he called the People together saying, ‘I have had a mighty dream of the gods, and they have made my eyes to see many great and terrible things.’ And the People listened as Sun-Moon told his seeing—of a time to come when water would stop falling from the sky and would no longer flow heedless across the land. It would return to its ancestral home in a few, shallow rivers and lakes or sink deep into the ground. And the land would change from green to brown, and the animals that once provided the People with their daily meat would hide away in far-off lands.

“Then the People were afraid, and asked Sun-Moon what would become of their children, and their children’s children, if there were no greenness and no meat. But Sun-Moon said, ‘You needn’t worry about your children’s children, or even your own children; this time the gods have shown me is coming even unto the lives of you who sit before me. If the People do not prepare to face the evil time coming, all will perish from the earth.’
“And so, Sun-Moon led the men high into the hills, or deep into caves under the Earth. There the animals were few and fierce, so the men must become great hunters and trackers. And he taught the women and children to cure the extra meat they did not eat daily, with salt and different herbs growing in the earth. In this way their meat might be saved for many months in time of want. And he showed them where to find roots growing under the ground, for water, and food, at greatest need in time of dryness.

“But the Comanche had no great leader like Sun-Moon. They laughed at the People for making their hunts so difficult when meat was so plentiful. And they mocked them for digging in the earth for roots when food and water were so easily had on the open earth.

“But Sun-Moon was not angered by the cruel laughter of the Comanche. You see, he was a truly great and wise man—but I think I have already said that. So he went to them and told them also of his dreams, by way of warning they should prepare for the evil days to come. But still they would take no heed and sent him away with great scorn.

“And so, you will not be surprised to hear there came a day when the water stopped falling from the skies. And then the land turned all to brown, even as Sun-Moon had foretold. And though the People had been warned, and had prepared as best they could, still the greatness of this evil time was even greater than any had imagined. So although they had practiced hard to become mighty hunters, and great trackers of animals, still, bringing home the meat was hard. Though they ate little, and salted and kept back what they could, still many, and many died. And all suffered great want.

“This story was told me by a wise, old man when I was just a young boy, and he called this terrible time The Breaking.”

“The Breaking?” Nathan asked, having become absorbed in the tale. “What does that mean?”

“He said it was called that because it was a time of such suffering and death, it caused the breaking of all the old ways. Some for the good, and some for the worse. Nothing came through The Breaking unchanged, and all that once was, even to the greenness of the earth, was broken during that time, and was never again the same.

“Well … it is said while the People suffered greatly in The Breaking, the Comanche suffered more. They had not heeded the words of Sun-Moon, of course. So they had never learned the skills to hunt the few animals remaining, and to dig the roots from the earth. Their need was great, and they became desperate, and dangerous.

“They saw the People still had the meat they had preserved, and a store of the roots they had pulled from the ground. And they became angry the People had food, and they had none. So they came to the People and demanded they be given the food the People had saved.

“But Sun-Moon took pity on them. He said, ‘There is not enough of the salted meat and roots for both the People and the Comanche, so we cannot give it to you. But we will teach you to hunt that you may bring home your own meat. And we will teach you to save your meat by salting, and how to find roots living under the ground that you might dig them up.’

“But the Comanche were hungry and did not want to wait to learn these things. Instead they decided they would take the food from the People by war. So they returned to their village, put on their war paint, and collected their hunting spears. By the time they had made ready for war it was becoming dark. They lit torches and carried them to see their way back to the camp of the People.

“But Sun-Moon had foreseen this as well and made ready the People for the war that was coming. The Comanche came, carrying their torches. They have always been larger, stronger, and more fearsome than the People, so they carried their deadly spears with confidence of easy victory. They could already taste the precious food that would soon be theirs.

“But they had forgotten the men of the People had become great hunters. Because their prey had been more fierce and cunning, the People had learned to use the bow, and shoot arrows with deadly aim. And they had learned to use lightweight throwing spears to hit prey from a distance, rather than short, heavy spears the Comanche used to butcher their easy kills.

“Many Comanche were killed, and the rest fled in fear. But those who fell, and those who fled, all dropped their torches, and the dry earth was set afire. It burned all that night with a great flame that lit the sky.

“When the sun rose in the morning, the People found all their food had been destroyed by fire. They were hungry but were also very tired from the fighting and the fire and had no strength left to hunt. Also, all the animals they might have hunted had been driven far away by fear of the flames.

“And so the People did the only thing left for them to do. They ate the Comanche they had killed.”

“They … ate them?” Georgie asked.

“Yes. Sun-Moon told them it was the only sensible thing the People could do so they would not all starve and die. And so that is what they did.

“It is said the great flames of the fire sent smoke high into the sky. It climbed so high it mingled with the scant clouds, and caused the water to start falling again, though never so much as before.

“The war with the Comanche, you see, was the end of The Breaking, but it was the beginning of the hatred of the Comanche for the People.”

“Well, I don’t see why the Comanche should hate the Tonkawa. Sounds like they lost the war fair and square, and after they started it!” Jamie said, and Georgie nodded in agreement.

But Billy shrugged his shoulders and said, “Guess Comanche don’t like being eaten. Ha!”

The men chuckled and even the Captain smiled.

“I’ve heard people say the Tonkawa still eat their enemies,” William said.

Billy turned toward him and grinned, “Then best hope I never have to kill you, William!”

William shook his head “No,” emphatically.

Billy continued, “I have heard of it being done. When the enemy is not of the People and is killed in man-to-man battle. Some say it is to honor those who fought the war of The Breaking. Others say the fighting spirit of the dead is taken into the living that way. I don’t know … seems to me the one left alive had more fighting spirit than the dead one! Ha!”

Though he seemed more alert after Billy’s tale, by the time they’d made camp that evening Nathan was already laid down and asleep, as if from utter exhaustion. Tom was still concerned and sat up long into the night watching over his Captain. At first, Nathan tossed in his sleep and seemed to moan as if in pain. But then at some point, it seemed to Tom he began to rest more at ease and sleep more at peace.

Available on Amazon

About the Author

Bennett Author Photo

Chris Bennett grew up on the shores of Klamath Lake in southeastern Oregon. For a young boy it was a dream world of water, hills, forests and abundant wildlife. His love for action and adventure morphed into a lifelong love for books when his Mom read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to the family on a long road trip.

It was routine and normal for the family dinner table discussions to involve history, politics, and anything interesting going on in the world. So, when he attended the University of Oregon it seemed perfectly natural (and easy) to study history and political science. But everyone said you couldn’t make a living in those fields, so he decided to try his hand at Computer Science. He’s been writing professionally, in the software development business for more than 35 years now.

However, Chris’s thirst for adventure never faded and he began to live out his love of history onto the pages of his first book, The Road to the Breaking. Once he started writing he just couldn’t stop and the result is The Road to the Breaking series; an epic journey across a young nation seething with debauchery, brutality, corruption, and political intrigue, unwittingly on the brink of an unimaginable disaster; the American Civil War.

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Blog Tour Schedule

February 8th

Reads & Reels (Spotlight) http://readsandreels.com

@esmeralda_lagiggles18 (Review) https://www.instagram.com/esmeralda_lagiggles18/

Meli’s Book Reviews (Spotlight) https://melisbokreviews.wordpress.com/

February 9th

Breakeven Books (Spotlight) https://breakevenbooks.com

Didi Oviatt (Spotlight) https://didioviatt.wordpress.com

The Magic of Wor(l)ds (Spotlight) http://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com

Jessica Belmont (Review) https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/

February 10th

Book Dragons Not Worms (Spotlight) https://bookdragonsnotworms.blogspot.com/?m=1

Nesie’s Place (Spotlight) https://nesiesplace.wordpress.com

Tsarina Press (Spotlight) https://tsarinapress.com/blog/

February 11th

Book Review Crew (Spotlight) https://bookreviewcrew.blogspot.com

@tabz_talks_tales (Spotlight) https://www.instagram.com/tabz_talks_tales/

The Faerie Review (Review) http://www.thefaeriereview.com

February 12th

@brendajeancombs (Spotlight) https://www.instagram.com/brendajeancombs/

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Rambling Mads (Spotlight) http://ramblingmads.com

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#BookBlitz “Illicit Intent: Bishop Security Series Book 2” by Debbie Baldwin

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Bishop Security Series, Book 2

Romantic Suspense

Date Published: January 2021

Publisher: Gatekeeper Press

Calliope Garland’s newsdesk assignment was fairly straightforward—dig up the dirt on the sketchy CEO of a Wall Street hedge fund. But when the man is murdered and valuable data destroyed, a simple investigation turns deadly. Calliope is unwittingly in possession of vital financial information and a priceless work of art; either of which may get her killed. With an ever-growing list of people who want to harm her, Calliope must set aside her reservations and turn to the one man she knows can trust. Miller “Tox” Buchanan is a study in contradictions: kind but lethal, passionate but distant, self-possessed yet hesitant. He knows he should keep his distance, but when Calliope is hurled into danger, Tox will stop at nothing to protect her…

Her first instinct wasn’t to dial 911 but rather to call a certain Navy SEAL. She forced down the antiquated damsel in distress fantasy floating around in her head and rationalized the police would surely ask questions she was unwilling or unable to answer. She brought up her contacts. At the bottom, she touched the entry labeled, Tox, and the call rang through.

A grizzly bear answered. “This better be good.”

Tox?”

Calliope?”

I need your help…”

Be advised: this story contains scenes of violence equivalent to an R-rated movie and explicit sexual situations.

~~~

Other books in the Bishop Security Romantic Suspense Series:

False Front

Bishop Security Series, Book 1

Romantic Suspense

Published: April 2020

Publisher: Gatekeeper Press

 a steamy romantic thriller

a fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat suspense novel

a timeless romance

Emma Porter is not real. She is an accomplished young woman, living a fulfilling life in New York City, working for an online news agency, and striving toward normalcy. The truth, however, is something else. She was once Emily Webster, a child of privilege, and the twenty-first century Lindbergh Baby. Her high-profile, unexplained abduction and subsequent rescue led to a childhood of paranoia and preparedness, as her kidnapper remained at large and still on the hunt. With her father’s guidance and resources, Emily became Emma Porter, living each day in her new identity, vigilant and unattached. Unattached but for the seemingly unbreakable tether that connects her to the man who, as a young boy, lived next door.

Like Emma, Nathan Bishop is not what he seems. Preparing to helm his family’s defense contracting company, Nathan is better known for his womanizing and reckless behavior than his business acumen. His striking image peppers the pages of society tabloids and police blotters, but beneath the facade of a rake, lurks a warrior. When an arms dealer procures a lethal bioweapon and is rumored to be selling it on U.S. soil, Nathan and his team must use every resource at their disposal to stop the threat.

With danger closing in, fate, once again, puts Emma in Nathan’s path, and the two must determine if the weathered bond between them is enough to find the truth behind their false fronts.

Fans of Nora Roberts, Linda Howard, and Jayne Ann Krentz will love False Front.

Be advised: this story contains scenes of violence equivalent to an R-rated movie and explicit sexual situations.

Amazon

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Excerpt

The biggest of the three goons, the one in the painter’s clothing, pointed, and the other two men took off in different directions. Painter goon stood facing the building, hands on his hips. For a solid minute, he didn’t move. Calliope didn’t move either. She suddenly regretted her fuschia yoga tank and hoped it wasn’t visible through the window covering. Painter man moved toward the stairs, and Calliope backed out of sight. She spied her hiding place, a hole in the wall waiting for a panel of drywall, but something else caught her attention. The entire floor, which at one time had been bedrooms, was blown out into a large open space with areas taped off for the new floor plan. Attached to a window at the back of the building was a construction chute, a giant, yellow caterpillar dropping straight into a dumpster below. Calliope wasn’t an idiot. Inside a chute or out, a fall from the third floor would not be healthy. However, as she stepped closer, she saw that the chute was segmented; pieces of debris had caught in the joints. If she could slow her descent, dropping segment by segment, she could escape the building.

I just want to talk to you.” The voice came from the floor below. The boards creaked beneath her feet as she moved to the back of the building.

I’m not here to hurt you.” The sound of a chambering bullet said otherwise.

Yeah, right. Calliope moved toward the window with the chute attached. What was happening? Did they have the wrong person?

Calliope Garland, You have something my employer wants.” Well, that answers that question. “This can be very easy if you let it.”

She didn’t dare turn her back on the staircase that ended at the front of the house on this level. A balding head came into view, moving slowly up the stairs. Then shoulder, then torso. He was looking down, probably texting his goon buddies. She sat on the sill and twisted her lower body so her legs dangled down the chute, and her midsection rested on the sill. She slid a bit more, and she was hanging from the window with her arms and shoulders hooked on the sill. She chanced a glance down the chute and immediately regretted the plan.

As with so many things in Calliope’s life, what she imagined was far from the practical reality. That was a long drop, and those joints she envisioned slowing her descent seemed little more than seams. She started to hoist herself back into the room when she saw the man standing in the middle of the space and staring right at her with a malevolent smile.

Going somewhere?”

Calliope hesitated for only a moment. The last thing she saw was the thug’s shocked face as she let go of the windowsill and disappeared into the chute.

Calliope clawed at the yellow plastic and managed to slow her fall twice as she plummeted almost vertically to the ground. Less than three seconds passed when she hit the top of the pile of trash in the dumpster with a thud. She felt a stabbing pain in her hip and realized she must have scraped her side on the broken lid of a toilet tank.

No time to dwell on it. Painter goon was no doubt barreling down the stairs to cut her off. Calliope vaulted out of the dumpster, ran to the narrow walkway separating the houses, and emerged out onto the street. To her right, the other two men were heading straight for her. Behind her, painter goon appeared in the front doorway of the house. Looks like left.

Calliope started to run when around the corner, moving like a jungle beast, Tox appeared. She ran straight to him and hugged him tight around the waist. He briefly returned the hug, then rotated her around so she was behind him with her arms still ringing his middle. Tox stood calm and still, facing the men who continued to approach but now warily. One man pulled a retractable baton from his coat. The other grabbed his taser. Tox reached into his hoodie and withdrew the Magnum from his holster. He held it at his side, pointed down, but it was impossible to miss.

The three men stopped and kind of stumbled over each other. In an attempt to save face the head thug looked at Tox with a grin. “I’ll see you again soon.”

Tox remained stoic. “Notify your next of kin.”

The crash of a dumpster lid startled the men into action and they bumped and scurried, finally disappearing around a corner.

Tox rotated Calliope around so she was in front of him again. “You okay?”

I really want to know the story of your tattoo.”

Tox tipped his head back and laughed. He pulled her to his side and they started walking.

Happy to share, but I have a few questions of my own first.”

Yeah, okay. I seem to have gotten in over my head.”

~~~

About The Author


Debbie Baldwin is a successful print media and television writer. She is a graduate of Princeton University and the University of Virginia School of Law. Debbie and her husband live in Saint Louis, Missouri with their puggle, Pebbles. They have three children in college.

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#BookBlitz “Between Love and Murder” by Chris Bedell

BetweenLove

Today we’re celebrating the upcoming release of Between Love and Murder by Chris Bedell!

BLandM Digital coverBetween Love and Murder

Expected Publication Date: February 26th, 2021

Genre: YA Thriller/ LGBTQ+

Publisher: Between the Lines Publishing

17-year-old Chad has a problem when he finds himself attracted to the new kid Archie. He’s over the moon when Archie flirts back. Chad’s excitement is short-lived when his best friend, Mallory pursues Archie as revenge for Chad rejecting her. Chad doesn’t want to lose his chance with Archie and decides he needs to eliminate the competition by implicating Mallory in the disappearance of her boyfriend Tommy months earlier.

Three months later, Tommy mysteriously shows up and is accidently killed by Mallory, with Chad and Archie as witnesses. Mallory convinces them they have to stay quiet or they’ll all go to jail for murder. Wanting to protect his new relationship with Archie, Chad agrees, but doubts about Mallory’s motives linger. Fear of losing Archie to Mallory plagues Chad until he decides he has to find a way to get her arrested, while keeping Archie and himself out of trouble. Will love lead to betrayal or murder?

If you like the nonlinear storytelling of ABC’s HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER and the toxic love triangle of WINK POPPY MIDNIGHT, then BETWEEN LOVE AND MURDER is the book for you.

Excerpt

BEFORE

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 4, 2018

Expecting complete honesty was pointless.

Like with Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy, or when a friend got a questionable haircut. Both the kid and friend could discover the truth without anyone playing the villain. Or like right now while I stood next to my locker in the school hallway. My best friend, Mallory, couldn’t have said what she had. Yet I didn’t have an ear wax problem, so the chances of her comment being misheard were slimmer than time travel happening.

I blinked. “Come again?”

She tugged at her backpack strap. “I’m sorry, Chad; I’m not trying to be awkward. I just couldn’t lie anymore.”

“Don’t apologize for your feelings.”

Telling her not to feel bad shouldn’t have been the best response I came up with. Doing so only prolonged the inevitable: deciding about whether honesty or a fib was best. However, there was no right reaction to finding out Mallory had a crush on me. Some events—such as her revelation—couldn’t be anticipated no matter how many A’s I earned in school.

Mallory bit her lip. “We’ve been spending a lot of time together since July.”

I chuckled. “We’ve always been close.”

“Not since I started dating Tommy.”

I scratched the side of my head. “What’d you expect to happen?”

Available on Amazon!

About the Author

Author Pic

My previous publishing credits include Thought Catalog, Entropy Magazine, Chicago Literati, and Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, among others. My debut YA Fantasy novel IN THE NAME OF MAGIC was published by NineStar Press in 2018.

My 2019 novels include NA Thriller BURNING BRIDGES (BLKDOG Publishing), YA Paranormal Romance DEATHLY DESIRES (DEEP HEARTS YA), and YA Thriller COUSIN DEAREST (BLKDOG Publishing). My 2020 novels include my YA Thriller I KNOW WHERE THE BODIES ARE BURIED (BLKDOG Publishing), YA Contemporary I’LL SEE YOU AGAIN (Deep Hearts YA), YA Thriller BETWEEN LOVE AND MURDER (Between The Lines Publishing), YA Sci-fi DYING BEFORE LIVING (Deep Hearts YA), and YA Thriller LOVE HIM/HATE HIM (Between The Lines Publishing). I also graduated with a BA in Creative Writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 2016.

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#BookTour “Communicating Through Change” by Alicia Sedgwick

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Self-change, Self-empowerment, New Thinking, Communications Skills, Change Management, Conscious Living

Date Published: January 2021

Publisher: Growth Media AI, USA

 

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This life-changing book will show you how to communicate through major changes in your life and to best express yourself when you need to be heard. It is packed with real-life stories, practical exercises, insightful tips and uplifting affirmations. Addressing relevant challenges, which everyone meets at one time in their life, this book will give you hope, resilience and clarity about how to move forward. By sharing her vulnerability with authentic openness, the author helps you to find your inner strength and to speak up for yourself.

Change Challenges

The one thing we can be sure of – in this life – is that there will be change.”

This is a truth I have never wanted, or liked and yet my life has been full of it. In this collection of chapters of my personal experiences, specifically related to change, I hope you will learn from my experiences to deal with your own and to be able to also share your story. As you dip in and out of the chapters, you may feel that the experience is not relevant to you right now. However, I trust when you return to the book, a certain story will be highly pertinent for you in that moment.

A dear friend reminded me recently how I had agonised about changing my job from one legal partnership to another; spending hours deliberating on the decision; and talking and talking about it! I have always found it difficult to let anyone, or anything go. But I have had to learn to deal with change in my life and to adopt a different approach, which is what I share with you in this book. I provide you with my life learnings about managing and communicating through each change and challenge that life throws at us all, so you can benefit from the best result for you, each time.

Wherever you are in your life, this book provides you with an insight into my life; sharing with you what I have learned and showing you how you can deal with your experiences of change, coming through them with strength and courage. It provides you with practical guidance and applicable exercises to enable you to take conscious actions that will help you communicate your way through a variety of different changes. While the chapters can be read in isolation, the exercises can be applied to more than one change challenge. This book will also help you to understand that you are not alone and whenever you face these challenges, there is support from the insight shared here. Plus, the opportunity to belong to Team Alicia, a supportive group of like-minded people where you are free to be yourself without inhibition, worry, anxiety or fear. Where you will not be judged; you will be nurtured and cared for and what is said and shared in Team Alicia, stays in Team Alicia!

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EXCERPT

Chapter 13: Pandemic

What I have learned is … that this is a period of immense uncertainty and instability. Now, more than ever before, when health and mental health is the most important part of our lives, we must protect ourselves and our loved ones in any way we can to stay well. Think about doing all the activities you have not had the time to consider before. Read. Talk to family and friends and be grateful for all the means that you have to do that. You may be forced to re-evaluate your priorities. You may be forced to work differently, or not to work at all. See this period as an opportunity. You can re-invent yourself. You can create a new world for you and your family with a new set of values and goals.

Share Your Loss Exercise  

Step 1. Acknowledge that this is a time of loss. We have lost our usual way of living, that was familiar and known. This is all unknown. Never deny the pain you may be feeling, or the anxiety. It is acceptable and helpful for you to acknowledge it and recognise it.

Step 2. Give yourself permission to feel grief for the life that has changed so drastically and for the uncertainty that pervades.

Step 3. Write a list of all the activities you are missing and you feel that you cannot do any more, however small or large.

Step 4. Share your list with someone close to you and see if they have a list and if it is the same.

By sharing your feelings of loss, you will help yourself to express the way you are responding at this time and you will see that it is acceptable for you to feel that way.

Affirmations

I take control of my world and adjust it for my benefit, despite this enforced change.

This period without structure and routine, gives me time to restructure, rebuild and redevelop new ways of being.

There is always hope in uncertainty.

~~~

About The Author

Alicia Sedgwick began her career as a lawyer, specialising in family law. This was her first step in helping people who were experiencing difficult changes in their lives. When she moved to the South of France, she began working in radio, as well as in event management, taking care of talent and celebrities. She also created her own internet television show, Asking Alicia, to help families dealing with impactful issues and the profound changes those challenges brought with them.

Alicia began teaching at the International University of Monaco, in Public Speaking and Presentation Skills, Leadership and Managing People. Her communications courses are based on her belief that when you can communicate effectively and with impact, you will be successful in your professional and personal relationships. Soon, her training was extended to the International School of Monaco, and for businesses, individuals, associations and corporations. She is currently helping people to be brilliant online, where communications are so focused in this Covid climate.

Alicia is also a professional MC for events, such as TEDxMonteCarlo, where she brings her individual talent of making everyone feel embraced, included and involved, with humour and empathy.

Hailed as The Communications Guru by her global followers, Alicia specialises in training and coaching for all age groups and backgrounds. She develops her international student’s communications skills and builds their confidence, as well as empowering, motivating and inspiring them. She also helps people navigate their way through the challenges that life throws at us, with the backing and support of Team Alicia, which she created for her students as a place where they can go to feel cared for and nurtured.

This book is her opportunity to share more of herself and tell her story to help more people with their lives. She knows from her life experiences that when we share our story and communicate effectively through change, we can be stronger people and make a more significant contribution in the world.

Contact The Author

Please contact me via my website, as below and let me know which experiences of change you have embraced and how the chapters about those challenges have helped you the most. Please share your experiences with me and how you have used the communication exercises to support you. I am always delighted to receive your feedback and comments, and to welcome more change communicators into Team Alicia.

Also, please contact me for personal coaching and training in communications, and for your company, foundation, association and organisation.

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#ReleaseBlitz “Beyond Power” by Connie Mann

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Florida Wildlife Warriors, Book 2

Romantic Suspense

Release Date: January 26, 2021

Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca

Sultry romantic suspense set in Florida’s untamed wilderness…

When your heart’s involved…

If you dare venture beyond Disney’s magic and Miami’s high-rises, you’ll find yourself in Florida’s untamed wilderness.

A bush pilot and officer for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Josh Tanner is one of the tough cops needed to manage these rugged areas. And the minute he finds Delilah Atwood deep in the woods without a good explanation, he knows something is very wrong…

All the stakes are raised…

Delilah barely escaped her ultra-fundamental militia family years ago. Now she’s back to save her sixteen-year-old sister, and no government man is going to stop her. Josh isn’t going to stand by and watch Delilah risk her life, but unless he can get her to trust him, she may end up being the next victim.

Other Books in the Florida Wildlife Warriors Series:

Beyond Risk

Florida Wildlife Warriors, Book 1

Release Date: January 2019

Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca

Author Connie Mann delivers clean romance with a side of intrigue and suspense the likes of which you’ve never seen. Florida’s untamed wilderness beckons with its beauty and mystery, but this paradise has a dark side that’s waiting for you to step off the path…

Former Florida Fish & Wildlife Officer Charlotte “Charlee” Tanner still carries the guilt of a tragic drowning accident that occurred on her watch. She hoped moving back home to central Florida would provide a safe haven―until she learns that her beloved wilderness is full of twisted lies and deadly secrets, including the fact that the death that’s haunted her was no accident…and she was the intended target.

Tough and decisive, Lieutenant Hunter Boudreau has just been promoted as a law enforcement officer with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, though not everyone on the force is happy about the change. Despite the friction at work, Charlee is his best friend, so when she comes under fire, he’s not letting her out of his sight until the killer is caught. But Hunter has secrets of his own, and Charlee is determined not to let anyone else die for her.

As danger closes in and Charlee and Hunter’s attraction threatens to consume them, Charlee has to decide whether she can trust Hunter. And to save Charlee, Hunter will have to trust her, too.

Amazon

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Excerpt

Delilah raced after Mary, ignoring the gunshots spitting sand up at her. She’d pulled her weapon from her waistband, but she didn’t fire, wouldn’t risk hitting Mary by mistake. She just had to find her, fast.

If Mary disappeared now, Delilah might never see her again. Her family would disappear, and their like-minded friends would make sure no one could find them. She couldn’t bear the idea of her sister going through what she had.

She ran despite the bullets that just kept coming. Some part of her brain was surprised she wasn’t down on the ground, bleeding, but whoever it was knew exactly where they were placing those shots. They were trying to keep her away, not kill her.

The moon slid behind some clouds, and Delilah momentarily lost sight of her sister. One minute, Mary was ahead of her, and the next, she’d disappeared.

Delilah ran farther, heart pounding, until the gunshots stopped and the silence told her Mary was gone. Panting, defeated, she collapsed against a live oak tree and slid down to the ground. Bark scraped her back, but she didn’t notice. “Oh God. Mary.”

She’d hoped once her sister knew she’d come to rescue her, she’d meekly follow and they’d get the heck out of Dodge. Easy-peasy. She snorted at her own naïveté. What had made perfect sense in her Tallahassee apartment she now saw for the same childlike thinking that had gotten her trapped eight years ago.

Frustrated, she climbed to her feet. She wasn’t that scared girl anymore, but she understood Mary’s thinking. Her sister had no doubt been rigorously indoctrinated into the importance of family and sticking together against the outside world. Her reaction tonight said she’d also seen enough to want to protect Mama.

But given the gunshots, Mary’s cooperation was only part of the equation. Either Aaron or John Henry obviously didn’t want her to leave. They didn’t go to that much trouble for a “mere woman” without good reason.

Which meant she not only had to find them, she had to find out exactly what they were planning so she could use that as leverage, too.

Q

When Delilah stopped behind a tree, Josh deliberately made noise as he approached so as not to startle her. He was shocked to his toes when she stepped into view, Glock held in front of her, hands rock steady on the grip, eyes hard. “Hands up and move closer so I can see you,” she ordered.

He froze, stunned. Her confidence hit him square in the gut and made the attraction he felt for her burn even hotter. Damn, she looked good like that.

It’s Josh Tanner, Fish and Wildlife. Please put down the gun, Delilah, for my safety and yours.”

Through his night-vision goggles, he saw her eyes narrow in surprise and suspicion, but she immediately holstered the gun.

He stepped into the small clearing, hands on his utility belt, in reach of his own weapon.

She gave his uniform a quick once-over, then fisted both hands on her hips. “What are you doing here?”

I was going to ask you the same question,” he responded, her attitude fueling his own. He pulled off his goggles. “Why are you sneaking around out here in the middle of the night?”

She huffed out a breath. “Seriously? Since when can’t people go outside at night without being interrogated by Fish and Wildlife?”

He almost laughed at her belligerent tone. Almost. But then he noticed the pain shadowing her features. He softened his voice. “Who were you meeting with?”

Her chin came up, lips pursed. “I’m not sure that’s any of your concern.”

She was dressed in black from head to toe, the fabric of her T-shirt clinging to her curves, her hands propped on a utility belt that looked a lot like his own. He’d thought her beautiful when she was sipping coffee. But whoever the girl was, she’d sent Delilah into full-on protective mode, reminding him of Xena, the warrior princess. He felt the jolt all the way to his toes.

He took a step closer, and she stilled. When he reached out and plucked a leaf from her hair, she captured his wrist, questions swirling in her huge blue eyes. Seconds ticked by as they watched each other, her mix of strength and vulnerability drawing him closer. He ran his thumb along her jaw, and her grip on his arm tightened. He studied her lips, lush and full, and the urge to taste had him inclining his head. Inches before their mouths touched, their eyes met, held. She blinked, effectively breaking the spell as she eased out of reach.

He shook his head to clear his muddled thoughts. Focus, Tanner. “Who was the girl?”

She crossed her arms over her chest and regarded him steadily. “And if I said, again, that it was none of your business?”

I would say I was making it my business, since you are considered a person of interest in a recent death here in the forest.”

Her eyes narrowed right before she huffed out a laugh and called his bluff. “Seriously? You and your FWC buddies have declared me a person of interest because some poor hunter got killed by a bear?”

Josh had to tread lightly. He couldn’t discuss an active investigation, but that death scene wasn’t right, which was why he was out here in the middle of the night to begin with.

Who is she?”

I don’t like being backed into a corner, Officer Tanner.”

Josh propped his fists on his hips. “Are you going to make me drag this information out of you one word at a time?”

Never answer a question you haven’t been asked. And never offer more information than what is required.” She tossed the words out in a way that made Josh think they had been drilled into her from childhood.

He pulled back his irritation. There was something else at play here, something that clearly worried her. “I am not your enemy, Delilah. Talk to me. Let me help.”

By the light of the moon, he saw myriad emotions cross her face. “I appreciate that, but you can’t. This is a family matter, something I have to deal with myself.” She squared her shoulders and set off again.

He easily caught up to her and matched his steps to hers. “You don’t have to say a word to me if you don’t want to, but if you’re heading back toward your camper”—he hitched a thumb over his shoulder—“you’re heading in the wrong direction.”

~~~

About The Author

Connie Mann is a licensed boat captain and loves writing romantic suspense stories set in Florida’s small towns and unspoiled wilderness. She is the author of the Florida Wildlife Warriors series and the Safe Harbor series, as well as several stand-alone titles. When she’s not dreaming up plotlines, you’ll find “Captain Connie” on Central Florida’s waterways, introducing boats full of schoolchildren to their first alligator. She is also passionate about helping women and children in developing countries break the poverty cycle and build a better future for themselves and their families. Besides boating, she and her husband enjoy hanging out with family and friends and planning their next adventure. Connect with Connie online at: www.conniemann.com

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