BOOK BLITZ: The Omen of Crows Nest by Cathrina Constantine #Fantasy #YoungAdult @cathconstantine @XpressoTours

The Omen of Crows Nest
Cathrina Constantine
Publication date: May 4th 2022
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

No blood. No body. No murder.

That’s what the police found after Penelope spun her bizarre tale. In a hysterical state, she said her father was butchered and eaten by a mob of birds ~ in her bedroom.

They claim she’s crazy.
That she suffers from delusions.
Penelope is dead set on proving them wrong.

After being institutionalized for eight months, Penelope is out and more determined than ever to find answers to her so-called hallucinations. With her father’s untimely disappearance, she’s convinced her family is hiding something sinister.

THE OMEN OF CROWS NEST is the latest masterpiece by the award-winning author Cathrina Constantine, and is sure to leave fans of fantasy gasping!

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EXCERPT:

The electrodes in my brain were like a loop recorder, continuously dredging up the past. And problematic for the psychiatrist at Green Fields Sanitarium, who was in the process of rewiring me.

Bear with me as I digress: I witnessed the gruesome death of my father by a mob of birds. I know what you’re picturing: A scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s horror movie The Birds. Not exactly like the movie, it happened in my bedroom. An aberration that my brain conjured, so they say.

Gramma had reinforced Dad’s untimely disappearance to the police. After the thunderstorm he’d raced to catch a late flight. An overseas business trip. Lacking evidence of any misdeeds, no mutilations as I’d described, the police had nothing to go on besides a batshit crazy kid. I experienced a daymare, a delusion, and it hadn’t been the first time, so said Gramma.

Afterward, Mom spent a week in bed, purporting she had a bug. She couldn’t keep anything down and stopped eating. I noticed her yellowy sick skin and hair matted as if a brush hadn’t made contact in weeks.

Thirteen days passed at a snail’s pace since that night. I was in the library’s alcove, my daily vigil, half-expecting Dad to come strolling up the cobbled walkway. My fretfulness heightening because I’d spilled my guts to my best friend, Hillary, telling her everything. If she repeated it to anyone, the repercussions would come back to bite me.

Author Bio:

I am blessed with a loving family and forever friends. My world revolves around them.

I grew up in the small village of Lancaster, NY, where I married my sweetheart. I’m devoted to raising 5 cherished children, and now my grandchildren.

I love to immerse myself in great books of every kind of genre, which helps me to write purely for entertainment, and hopefully to inspire readers. When not stationed at my computer you can find me in the woods taking long walks with my dog.

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BOOK TOUR: From the Ashes by Danielle M. Orsino #fantasy @birthofthefae

FromtheAshes copy

Welcome to the 3rd exciting instalment in the Birth of the Fae series, From the Ashes by Danielle M. Orsino. Read on for more details and a chance to win a fantastic giveaway!

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From the Ashes

Genre: Fantasy/ Fae

Publication Date: January 20th, 2022

Queen Aurora and King Jarvok are finding that there is a thin line between love, hate, and Oblivion.

The war between the Court of Light and Dark has finally ended, and peace reigns. The Court of Light continued advising the human monarchs of Europe while the Court of Dark kept to themselves, intervening only to act as the humans Dark Gods and Goddesses.
The two Courts were both upholding their respective duties as written by the Treaty of Bodhicitta, until Queen Mary the first of England reneges on a Changeling contract with the Court of Light. This unfortunate act puts events in motion which led to the last Fire Drake, Bishop Awynn, making the ultimate sacrifice. Awynn loses his light while saving The Dark Fae King during a tense standoff with Queen Aurora.
Queen Aurora swears revenge upon Mary for Awynn’s death and issues the same warning she gave her Father, King Henry the Eighth, so many years ago. However, King Jarvok had his own point of view on Queen Aurora’s vengeance and pays Aurora a visit to deliver his critique of her technique, leading to a knock-down drag-out fight between the two Fae monarchs.

Both Leaders refuse to bow even if it means certain Oblivion…

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Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at the Bookshop.org

About the Author

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Danielle M. Orsino is a fantasy novelist whose lifelong vision to create whimsical realms that her readers can escape to. Her compelling word-weaving pays homage to a multitude of personal muses, from Chris Claremont and George Pérez (both famous comic book writers), to Anne Rice and Wonder Woman.

The creative spark of storytelling has been with Danielle ever since she was a child, but martial arts and her nursing career took center stage into adulthood. Then, on a day like any other, it was reignited during the most unexpected of moments: while treating one of her patients. Seeing that they longed for a distraction during their arduous treatments, the floodgates of inspiration soon burst forth. So, Danielle took it upon herself to tell them a story; a fantastical narrative that would leave the confines of that IV room’s walls and land upon a page. Before she knew it, what started as an imaginative tale to pass the time, turned into book, followed by an entire series: The Birth of Fae. This awe-inspiring series includes Locked out of Heaven (Book One), Thine Eyes of Mercy (Book Two), and From The Ashes (Book Three), all of which are published by 4 Horsemen Publications, Inc. And with an unwavering passion for cosplay and comics, it was a unanimous decision to place her on the cover of each book in all her Fae cosplay glory. The Birth of Fae also features Los, an affable chameleon dragon inspired by her fun-loving Yorkie named Carlos.

When writing wasn’t at the forefront of her mind, Danielle was a successful Martial Artist. Some of her achievements include “1999 World Martial Arts Hall of Fame Inductee”, “Female Martial Artist of the Year”, “WKA World Champion Silver Medalist 2008”, and numerous more. She has also garnered hundreds of martial art tournament wins, various other national and world titles, and features on big-name channels like TLC and CBS. She even had the rare opportunity to perform for former U.S. President Bill Clinton and collaborate alongside Vincent Lyn and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. From there, she pursued her Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology and Exercise Science, and she is now a Licensed Practical Nurse who focuses on Lyme disease research.

This “New Queen of the Fae’s” unmatched world-building and masterful Fae-origin retellings have led to an ever-growing queendom of “Fae-natics”. To begin embarking upon a quest in an epic world unlike any other, visit Danielle M. Orsino’s official website at http://www.BirthOfTheFae.com. You can also connect with her on Instagram (@BirthOfTheFae_Novel) and Twitter (@BirthOfTheFae).

“After summoning this world into existence through an imaginative force of will, Danielle has scoured every inch of the landscape several times over. Critics often praise a story’s world building by saying that it feels “lived in.” Well, the world of the Fae certainly seems like that because Danielle herself has happily lived there for years as she worked to put all of this together… My favorite part of this story is that it is gloriously depicted in vibrant images.”

-Clete Barrett Smith, New York Times Bestselling Author of If We Were Giants, Aliens on Vacation series, and Magic Delivery

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BOOK TOUR: The Star Children Saga by Palmer Pickering #ScienceFiction #Fantasy @PalmerPickerin1

Moon Deeds

Star Children Saga Book 1

by Palmer Pickering

Genre: Adult SciFi Fantasy

-Chanticleer’s Paranormal award

-Readers’ Favorite General Fantasy award

-Foreword Indies awards

-Killer Nashville Silver Falchion awards

-Chanticleer’s Cygnus Science Fiction award

-SPFBO Fantasy award

“The path to power is cloaked in shadows, so if you avoid all the shadows, you’ll never learn anything.”

It’s 2090: the last outpost of freedom is the moon, the best defense against technology is magic, and the only hope for humankind rests in the hands of the Star Children. Twins Cassidy and Torr must save Earth from a ruthless enemy at a time when the only force more powerful than alien technology is magic. Moon Deeds launches the siblings’ journey across the galaxy, where they must learn their power as the Star Children, claim their shamanic heritage, and battle dark forces that threaten humankind.

The Star Children Saga follows Cassidy and Torr as they slowly awaken to their destiny as the twin Star Children, born every millennium to reconnect with the source of all life. They come to discover the sheer enormity of their task: to find our ancestors on a lost planet across the galaxy and save humanity from a spiraling descent into darkness. The powers they must wield to accomplish this task are truly frightening and put at risk everything they love.

Come along with twenty-year-old twins Cassidy and Torr, who inherited deeds to land parcels on the moon. They want to use their moon deeds to get off Earth and escape a brutal dictatorship. But first they must unlock their shaman powers. A rollicking yet poignant adventure in the not too distant future, when we have colonized the moon and nearly lost Earth to a dictatorship. Only the shamans remain free, plus the lucky ones who escaped to the moon.

Join the adventure! An addictive space opera, science-fantasy series.

“Evocative, wholesomely absorbing, and thematically rich, Moon Deeds is a must-read for all science fiction fans … Stunningly written, filled with magic, science, and intrigue, and featuring fascinating, endearing characters and a brilliant ravaged setting, this ambitious sci-fi novel is one of few books that once started are hard to put down and will make fans eagerly wait for the next installment in the series. It’s a novel that deserves to be read by every science fiction lover. Highly recommended.” -THE PRAIRIES BOOK REVIEW

“A highly recommended read for fantasy fans everywhere … There are some powerfully adult themes at play in this epic-length space opera, making the character-driven emotional plot just as important as the galaxy-wide savior story at play in the wider story arc. Fantasy and science fiction fans will enjoy the combination of alien sci-fi elements, super tech, fantasy magic, and old mythologies, which are all woven into the everyday plot with great credibility. Author Palmer Pickering handles the balance of interpersonal drama and plot progression well, and fans of series like Star Trek and Doctor Who are sure to appreciate such craftsmanship.” -K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite

“Intelligent, high science fiction at its finest … I found this novel to be as much a psychological thriller as it is a science fiction adventure, and the draw-in happens almost instantly. This is unquestionably one of the best books I’ve read this year and Pickering has roped in an entire family as new fans. I’d give Moon Deeds a whole bucket of stars if I could.” -Asher Syed for Readers’ Favorite

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Light Fighters

Star Children Saga Book 2

Sequel to Palmer Pickering’s award-winning Moon Deeds

“Enthralling.”
– A. Muir

“This is one of the best fantasy books I’ve read in a long time.”
– T. Govender

In Light Fighters, Cassidy and Torr are trying to survive on the moon while facing threats from all sides. As their shamanic heritage surfaces and they hone their magical skills, they are hunted for their power, escalating into a tension-filled game of cat and mouse.

Ridge is stuck between the sadistic Balty and the desire to control his own life. His magical gifts become entangled with those around him, pulling him between opposing forces. When his path crosses that of the Star Children, he must decide whose side he is on.

Meanwhile, we learn that while the twin Star Children are hoping to find the Star People, the Star People of Turya are desperately seeking the Star Children as well. Their stories interweave as the mythology of the Star Children unfolds.

A compelling expansion of the Star Children Saga.

Adult content: 18+

starchildrensaga - guest post

#1 – Adult Science-Fantasy Genre

Q: Welcome to Palmer Pickering, author of “The Star Children Saga:” “Moon Deeds” and its sequel “Light Fighters,” which was recently released. These books are science-fantasy, correct? Are they for adults, or young adults (YA)?

A: Hi, thanks for inviting me to share with your readers. These books are definitely for adults: 18+. Some people think they are YA, but the books are long and the material gets very graphic and gnarly, especially in “Light Fighters.” I specifically targeted an adult audience because I wanted the freedom to explore tough topics without censoring myself too much.

Q: So what makes the books science-fantasy?

A: Well, it’s pretty much magic in space. Or another way to say it is it’s fantasy in a science-fiction setting. Kind of like how “Star Wars” or “Dune” seem to be science-fiction, but the intriguing stuff is the mysterious and mystical aspects of the stories—the magical or spiritual traditions and practices.

Q: Can you give a really brief synopsis of your series that illustrates the science-fantasy aspects?

A: Sure. The long arc of the series is that we are descended from a humanoid race on a lost planet across the galaxy. This alien race colonized several planets, including Earth, and every thousand years the planets are connected by pathways of light, by which the ancestors and descendants reconnect with each other. It’s up to Cassidy and Torr to figure out how to open the pathways of light. This quest “probably” will involve quite a bit of “magic.”

So, the science-fiction part involves our moon, other planets, alien races, space travel, space colonization, etc. The challenges and solutions involve a variety of shamanistic practices and magic systems.

Q: Thanks for that. Sounds interesting. When is the next book coming out?

A: Book Three of the series, “Anaximenes,” is in development now, but it’ll take a while to finish it. I have another book, “Heliotrope,” coming out soon. This is a completely different world, and the genre is Heroic Fantasy/Sword & Sorcery.

Q: Looking forward to it. Best of luck.

 

Palmer has been writing fiction since she was eight. She received her BA in American Studies from Wesleyan University, with concentrations in Religion and Race Relations.

She currently works in Silicon Valley in the gaming industry and high tech. In addition, Palmer holds a certificate in Chinese Acupressure, is a certified solar panel installer, and studied Tibetan Buddhism with the 14th Dalai Lama.

She lives and writes in the magical redwood forest of the Santa Cruz Mountains, California.

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Release Blitz: Queen of Shadows by Britt Copper & Erin Dulin #Fantasy #Fairytales #YoungAdult @firstforromance @write_sisters

Queen of Shadows by Erin Dulin & Britt Cooper

Word Count: 85,689
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Pages: 334

GENRES:

ACTION AND ADVENTURE
CLEAN AND WHOLESOME
FANTASY
FANTASY AND FAIRYTALES
ROMANCE
YOUNG ADULT

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Book Description

Why be a princess when you can rule the shadows?

Rejecting the senseless demands of her wicked stepmother, Ella of Locksley shares her family’s abundance with the people of her land. Yet, the desperation of her community has only begun.

When the nation of Llundyn is brutally attacked, Princes Ric and Johan begin to fight for their right to rule, leaving the kingdom’s very heart to hang in the balance as subversive forces emerge. Taxation drives the citizenry toward hopelessness, with the absence of leadership taking its toll.

Striking out on her own, Ella takes up the nation’s cause, making a name for herself as the infamous Hood, and leads her cunning crew, stealing from the rich to provide for the poor. But the return of the rightful heir, along with a forbidden romance, changes everything—with artifice and betrayal leading to an unlikely alliance that unites prince and thieves.

The passion and true love of a king leave Ella torn between duty and loyalty when, at the stroke of midnight, her identity is exposed. She’ll face the ultimate choice—enduring as the Hood or sacrificing it all for the ones she loves.

Reader advisory: This book contains some scenes of violence, a maiming and a death.

Excerpt

Fitful cries from the Carvers’ infant son pierced the silence, cleaving away Ella’s remaining shreds of calm. Trekking through the village was a dubious task on the most temperate of evenings. Doing so in the biting gales of waning wintertide was sheer idiocy, but she had little choice.

Ella tugged the hood of her cloak, attempting to keep it in place atop her head. The wind swirling around her had other ideas, whipping her mantle with vicious ferocity and nearly knocking her onto her backside as she crouched beneath a narrow window. She gripped the rotting sill, cursing under her breath before digging her heels into the frozen earth.

“Be grateful.” Much met her gaze, his eyes alight with suppressed mirth as he observed her predicament. “The weather should provide us a little more time.”

It was true. Ella glanced skyward, where the silvery haze lingering above conveniently veiled the moonlight. “Would that it could also grant us more provisions to share,” she whispered as Much tossed a small bag of grain in her direction. She wedged it neatly between the pile of cordwood and the decaying shingles sheathing the exterior, the burlap sack catching on the splintered timbers of the ramshackle cottage. “Another?” She held out a gloved palm expectantly.

“We cannot spare it.” Much’s words were but a breath, born both of necessity as well as grief. “If we double their portion, we’ll leave another family with nothing.”

Ella rose, making her way toward Much with a muted stride. “I filched an extra sack of grain from the lovely Lady Margaret before we set out.” She loosed the pouch from her horse, Monroe, with nimble fingers. “The Carvers will put it to far better use. They have five children now, you know.”

“Indeed.” Much folded his arms across his chest for warmth. “But Lady Margaret is apt to skin you alive if she catches you.”

“Tosh.” Ella waved his concern away with a dramatic sweep of her hand. “My stepmother would never sully herself over the likes of me. Doubtless, she’ll task you with that burden in her stead.” She grinned, waggling her eyebrows in amusement.

Much groaned. “You are as delightfully morbid as ever.”

Ella ignored him as she scurried toward the shanty for a second time, pairing the modest sack of grain with its twin nestled beside the kindling. The bags were always well hidden from passersby so as not to be stolen but quickly found by the tenants seeking firewood for their hearth. “It shouldn’t make any difference,” she groused, mounting her horse as Much followed suit. “It all belongs to me.”

“Ah, if only, Lady Locksley. It shall be yet another two years, for until the age of—”

“Twenty, I know. I know.” Ella sighed. It was an inconvenient fact she wished desperately to change. Thus far, her finest efforts in evading the ill-conceived lineal law of Llundyn included skulking through her hamlet in the wee hours before dawn, distributing food from her manor.

In the simplest of terms, she was stealing from herself, though with great care so as not to be discovered by her insufferable stepmother—the rightful heir of her lands and fortunes until she was finally of age.

Ella was discreet in her thieving endeavors, pinching items that would not be missed. It didn’t hurt that Cooke willingly turned a blind eye. And, as luck would have it, Lady Margaret wasn’t much for kitchen duty. It was a task she viewed as too menial for a woman of her stratum, even if she had only managed to achieve her status via a wholly undeserved union with Ella’s father.

Heavens, how she missed him, God rest his soul.

“Where’s the good in my title if I’m unable to use my station? I’m a member of the gentry with no more authority than that of an entitled rat.” Ella urged her mount toward their next destination, gritting her teeth against the brisk air as her horse picked up speed. Plucking an arrow from the quiver on her shoulder, she turned, aiming at the weather-worn door behind her, her drawn bow taut. Her bolt found its mark, despite Monroe’s bounding gait, announcing the presence of a delivery—the handmade arrow a telltale sign of her brief visit.

Much scoffed. “Nonsense. A rat would never share the spoils of its domain as you have. Neither would it have your impeccable aim.”

Ella glanced at Much, expecting to see him smiling as he often did when he teased her, but his handsome face was surprisingly austere.

No. There was no humor to be found in these circumstances.

Two years of poor, drought-riddled harvests had taken their toll on the kingdom of Llundyn. The dearth of crops had failed to significantly affect the nobility, of course, with many a lord and lady inclined to take advantage of the bountiful imports from neighboring realms. But the paltry yield was nothing short of devastating for the commoners who had little coin to spare. Many had begun to exhibit its brutality outwardly, the sharp planes of their faces and bone-thin frames a startling illustration of the land’s insufficiency.

Yet wealth poured into Locksley in the form of generous taxes, collected by Lady Margaret from the tenants surrounding the estate. As residents of the Locksley lands, they paid their due and worked the countryside in addition to their regular employment in the borough of Coventry, some five miles south of the manor.

Shame grieved Ella’s conscience as she observed the growing disparity, convicting her of something far worse than her newly established hobby of larceny.

Abundance.

Attempting to shed her sense of guilt was worthless. It merely required action. Thievery paled in comparison to the atrocity of starvation and poverty. And, as far as Ella was concerned, it wasn’t truly theft if she were merely pilfering from herself.

Much’s eagerness to be complicit in her scheming had been all the sanction she’d needed. She’d considered him the more reasonable of the two of them for as long as she’d known him. If he could rationalize the madness in her subterfuge…well, then perhaps it wasn’t madness at all.

As an orphan of some four years now, Much was far from his natural element. His father had been a man of the sea, captain of the king’s navy, his young son serving as a boatswain under his command and following in his footsteps. But his untimely demise had left his widow and son at the beneficence of the kingdom.

Ella’s father, Robin, had taken them on, providing steady work until fever had suddenly taken him away, with Much’s mother following quickly behind. The staggering loss had left Much and Ella reeling, grappling for some fragment of hope, an element of security—qualities that they’d had the great fortune of discovering in one another, bonding them at once in heartache as well as mercy.

Then, in a startling turn of events, tragedy had taken a turn for the positive. Lady Margaret had deigned to agree with Ella, who’d insisted that Much be permitted to continue his employment assisting the manor’s only carpenter. Whether due to genuine benevolence on her stepmother’s part or some peculiar sense of duty, Ella was never certain. Still, it was a small victory that she and Much readily welcomed.

“Blast this wretched wind,” Much grumbled, his complaint a swell of haze in the frigid air. “Remind me to wear several more layers of clothing for our next outing.”

“And you dare to deem me the foul-mouthed one between us?” Ella demanded, bringing about a reluctant smile from her surly partner in crime. “Perhaps you should reconsider.”

“Your words are well received, milady.” He raised his brows in satisfaction, well aware that his use of the highborn term was profane to Ella’s sensibilities. While he knew his place in Llundynien society, Ella had never treated him as lesser than an equal and always took his ribbing in good humor.

“Well, you’re a fiend, James Much. Cease your peevishness at once so we may complete the task at hand,” Ella intoned in a haughty impersonation of Lady Margaret, giggling with pleasure as his features crumpled in annoyance.

“Oh, but you do that too well, my friend.” Much laughed, shoving her playfully in the shoulder. “How many more deliveries?”

“Only two.” Ella patted the satchel that had been replete with various dried meats, grains and hard cheeses only hours ago. Now it was close to empty, bringing about a sobering reality. “How does it go so quickly? What we have will never suffice.”

“You’re doing your best. Your father would be proud,” Much said with reverence, warming Ella’s aching heart. “I don’t know of many nobles who give one thought to the peasants occupying their lands, and here you are, feeding yours from your own stores. It’s far better than doing nothing.”

“Yes, but also not nearly enough,” Ella agreed. “And besides, I thought the food didn’t belong to me yet.” Recalling Much’s previous assertions, she couldn’t help elbowing him in the ribs, nearly tumbling from her horse in the process.

“Careful!” Much hissed, grasping her arm and righting her before she slipped too far. “What good can you do for your hamlet if you meet your end beneath your horse’s hooves?”

“Worry not.” Ella resettled into her saddle as she adjusted her grip on the leather reins. “I do believe I’d live forever, simply to spite the lovely Lady Margaret.”

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About the Authors

Britt Cooper

Brittany has been a cosmetologist for over a decade, an occupation that continuously explores fresh avenues of creativity and beauty. She is a new mother, learning to balance the reality of what it means to be a mom, wife, stylist, and author. Reading has always been one of her passions and writing an endeavor she refuses to leave behind.

Follow Britt on Instagram and check out her website.

Erin Dulin

Erin is a wife and mother who loves spending time with family. She’s an enthusiastic fan of all things sports, experimental baker/chef, and amateur gamer in her free time. Writing has been a passion since her childhood, and while finding peace and quiet in which to write never comes easily, she knows it worth every ounce of chaos when the stories take shape.

Follow Erin on Instagram and check out her website.

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Release Blitz: Heart’s Ease by Mimi B Rose #eroticromance #PNR @totally_bound @firstforromance

Heart’s Ease by Mimi B. Rose

Word Count: 70,954
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Pages: 286

GENRES:

BILLIONAIRE
CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
FANTASY
PARANORMAL
WERESHIFTERS

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Book Description

 

Her mysterious past holds the key to protecting his clan.

Between helping teens at an After-School Art Club and trying to publish her granny’s fairy tales, Chantelle’s life still feels somehow unfulfilled.

When his father and older brother died, Charles was forced into the role of Alpha. Three years later, he still hasn’t dealt with the loss. Now a rival pack is stirring up trouble in his grandmother’s hometown, and he must investigate.

But that is only where the mystery begins. There’s something else going on and it starts with the mysterious and beautiful Chantelle. The secrets of her past and her untrained magical abilities hold the key to the rival pack’s attacks. And when they discover that sorcery is behind the violence against women and children in the territory, they have to trust each other and forge a connection.

But is their bond strong enough to protect the pack and fulfil a Fated Mates prophecy, or will they lead the pack, and their love, to ruin?

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of racism, violence and attempted/threatened sexual assault. There is reference to past memory modification and the off-screen death of a teen.

Excerpt

Chantelle Mizuki didn’t want to die today.

I’m wearing old underwear. With holes. Nobody is going to see them. No nurse, no doctor, no coroner. Nobody.

Chantelle’s footsteps crunched in the autumn leaves of the mountain forest. Night was falling. Wolves were howling.

Real wolves.

Granny Ceci’s voice rang in her ears. “Don’t go in the forest at dusk, mon chou.”

Too late, Granny.

She hadn’t planned to be out this late. It was light when the After-School Art Club finished at the library. She had asked her student Alfonso to stay and talk about his application for art school. By the time they were done, the sun was low in the sky. Only after Alfonso had left did she discover she’d locked her keys in the car.

In the daytime, everyone used the path through the woods to get to the other side of the village in the Laurentian Mountains of Quebec. She loved the soft pine needles underfoot, tall trunks stretching their branches to the sky, soothing fragrances of moss and fern. During the day Chantelle expected to stumble across Snow White singing and dancing among the trees.

Night-time was different. Every noise was menacing, every shadow a predator waiting for her to stray off the path.

Chantelle kept to the darkened trail, wishing those howls and barks were getting fainter. The sounds of the forest were soothing when she was tucked into Granny Ceci’s gingerbread cottage—her cottage now. This evening, those sounds took on ominous undertones.

She remembered Granny Ceci telling her, “Ma cocotte, the Laurentian Mountains are home to many creatures, some fair, some foul. Be prepared for both.” Tonight, it was the foul creatures. Why couldn’t it be chipmunks or raccoons?

Another howl wailed over the tops of the trees. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up. One step in front of the other. You can do this.

Soon she reached the edge of the village. Only a quarter of a mile left. Past Marie’s big house on the hill, through the ravine, then up the path to the top of her street.

No problem. She had survived book signings with dozens of cranky children and their bad-tempered parents. She had run off her cheating no-good boyfriend. A wolf or two? No sweat.

She picked up her pace to a jog. Her legs were aching, her chest heaving. At the very least she’d have a funny story to tell Yvette and Kat. Well, it would be funny if she made it home in one piece.

The recent wolf sightings had everyone in town worried. The wolves were larger than usual, more vicious. They had even killed some dogs. Villagers were warned to stay away from the woods at night. She knew her woodcraft and carried her multi-tool at all times, but that wouldn’t be enough to stop a feral wolf.

Of course, today was the day she’d locked her keys in the car. She’d forgotten to take her ADHD medication. And her publisher called in the afternoon to say they were passing on her “passion project,” as they’d called it. Illustrating Granny Ceci’s stories and having them published were a way to honour her grandmother’s legacy. But her reputation as a children’s story illustrator was not opening doors for the collection of folk tales. Her usual collaborator hadn’t helped at all. He didn’t want his favourite illustrator distracted from his own book projects.

Was the howling closer now? Or was it her imagination? She crouched by a small cluster of sumac bushes. Her heart raced. The wind whistled through the treetops, clattering in the dying leaves.

There was a clearing ahead. What a relief! It was the small field behind her neighbour’s house. Marie, a dear friend of Granny Ceci’s, lived on the edge of the village. The little meadow divided the forest from her garden, which was enclosed by a stone wall.

There would be a large blue spruce at the northern edge of the clearing. The conical silhouette of the tree stood tall against the dying light. Three shadows, large and shaggy, skulked at the base.

She spared half a breath for one of Granny’s favourite curse words.

Could she make it to Marie’s house? She should move slowly, deliberately, not run. But rabid or savage wolves would still attack. If they came for her, she would have to run along the perimeter.

She was stuck. Sweat trickled down her back.

I need a plan. If she got out of this, she could move back to Montreal. There was nothing keeping her here. Granny had died last year. Why was she still here? Pull yourself together, girl!

The moon burst out from behind a cloud.

One of the wolves looked up, the cool light illuminating his outline. He cocked his head and looked in her direction. He howled, long and low. The other two wolves nosed him, turning towards her. Could they see her?

She sent a silent prayer up to Ceci. Wherever you are, please help me.

The wolves paced at the edge of the clearing, whining and sniffing the air.

She had to move. Maybe make a commotion once she got closer to the garden wall. Marie might hear.

She breathed in and out. Now. She took a cautious step.

One of the wolves inclined his head. Had he seen her? Another step.

He pointed his muzzle at her, his tail arching over his back. Two steps.

The lead wolf pushed off on his hind legs, padding towards her position. The others followed on his tail.

Ben l’on! Granny would have said. Oh, come on!

She sprinted towards the wooden gate in the middle of the stone wall.

They reached her in the clearing. The largest one growled, ears and tail erect. His eyes looked odd—orange, almost glowing. Impossible. It must be a reflection of the moonlight.

These wolves were big. And their faces looked funny—no, not funny, just strange. Almost human-like.

Heart racing, Chantelle took a step back.

The wolves advanced, circling her. They weren’t acting like regular wolves. What was going on?

The leader surged forward, snarling. She backed up and bumped into another wolf. The wolf behind her made a huffing noise that sounded almost like a laugh. Goosebumps broke out on her arms. Was this the end?

The largest one snapped at her leg. As she stepped back, her knees buckled and she fell to the unforgiving ground beneath her. Tears stung her eyes as she scrabbled in the grass and dirt. He descended on her and sunk his teeth in her calf. She batted at him, a shrill scream erupting from her throat. She had to get away.

The other wolves nipped at her arms as she pulled back, dodging their snouts and paws. She searched for purchase on the ground. They dragged her across the ground, away from the wall.

Fear churned in her stomach. Her heart beat fast as she struck at the wolves. Then something changed, fear turning into anger in her chest. Tingling sensations erupted into a warmth across her chest. Her ears buzzed.

What’s going on?

Some kind of energy bubbled from her middle. Rising up, it surged from her core out towards her arms and legs. It felt strange, yet familiar somehow.

The buzzing increased, changing into a burning sensation. A shooting pain in her leg snapped her attention back to the wolves. Sliding along the ground, she reached for the wolf attached to her leg. She smiled as she caught hold. His fur was matted, his bulk solid beneath her fingers.

The low droning made her ears itch and blocked out the growls of her attackers. Her field of vision telescoped into her hands, legs, and torso in front of her.

Anger surged within her. She pushed out from her diaphragm. Energy tingled and sparked, hot and strong. It poured down her arms and into her hands. When she shoved against her attacker, something blue zapped out of her palms.

The wolf let go when the blast hit him. Falling back a few inches, he shook his head and coat.

Growling, ears back, he pushed forward. The lights in his eyes glowed. The wolves regrouped and closed in.

I’m going to die here. With no one present to hear a snappy parting line.

A spotlight came on, almost blinding her. A rifle shot rang in the air and the creatures froze. Out from the garden gate stepped a small figure.

Marie!

The ancient woman leaned forward, hefting a rifle that was almost as tall as she was. Her red plaid jacket was three sizes too big and hung down to her knees. She peered out from thick glasses beneath a dark green hunter’s cap.

“Allez-y vous, sales chiens!” The old woman’s Québécois accent was thick but her tone was unmistakable.

Chantelle sucked in a big breath. She shuddered and turned to her attackers. The larger brown wolf swung his head towards her.

Another shot grazed the attacker’s mud-coloured fur. Yelping, he jumped out of the ring of light. He whined, pawing the ground, the other wolves huffing beside him. He glanced over at the old woman.

A new growl, low and menacing, rumbled by the gate. Beside Marie was a large dog, ears back, tail up. They moved forward in unison. The wolves backed away from Chantelle.

The lead wolf slunk towards the trees with his two companions. Looking back, he howled once before the trio disappeared into the night.

Chantelle pushed up from the ground, relief warring with the fear and pain. She tried to stand but her leg throbbed. The bite marks oozed blood. Her feet shuffled forward as she held her elbow against her side. Had they bitten her arm too?

She reached towards Marie by the gate.

Then she was falling.

Strong arms wrapped around her. A low voice murmured and Marie’s voice answered. She was being lifted up, arms carrying her to warmth. The voices faded away.

Her fingers touched a soft blanket. How long had she been out? A fire crackled nearby. Gentle hands prodded at the bite.

She faded out again.

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About the Author

Mimi B. Rose

Mimi B. Rose writes fantastic tales filled with steamy enchantment and tender-hearted fulfilment to thrill strong women. As a teen she read V.C. Andews’s Flowers in the Attic and Anne Rice’s The Vampire Lestat and she was hooked on fantasy romance and paranormal romance. Some of her favourite tv shows are Sleepy Hollow, Grimm, and Once–and the reboot of Beauty and the Beast starring Kirstin Kreuk (does anyone remember that series?).

She loves all kinds of shifters and vampires. Her all-time favourite authors are Faith Hunter, Ilona Andrews, Nalini Singh, and more recently Richelle Mead.

Mimi likes a sassy heroine who is independent but finds a strong hero who can keep up with her and treasure her for their uniqueness–including her flaws!

Check out Mimi’s website.

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BOOK REVIEW: That Wolf-Boy Is Mine! (Omnibus Vol 1) by Yoko Nogiri #fantasy #romance #manga #bookreview

Don’t miss the hit shojo fantasy romance, now available in two handy 2-in-1 omnibus volumes! Find out why Fruits Basket fans fell in love with a shapeshifting wolf-boy, and the girl who discovered his secret.

Includes Vols. 1 and 2 of That Wolf-Boy Is Mine!

After some traumatic experiences, Komugi Kusunoki transferred from the city to start a new life in rural Hokkaido. But on her first day of school, the school heartthrob Yu Ogami blurts out, “You smell good!” Despite the hijinks, Komugi tries to adjust to her new school, but it’s not long before she stumbles across Yu dozing off under a tree. When she attempts to wake him up, he transformed…into a wolf?! It turns out that Yu is one of many other eccentric boys in her class year–and she’s the only one who knows their secret…!

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MY REVIEW – 5 stars

I picked up this delightful manga (and the next volume) during my last trip to the bookstore, and I’m so glad I did.

If you’re looking for a fantasy manga with a sweeter romance, That Wolf-Boy is Mine is an excellent choice. I had so much fun getting to know the characters and found myself reading the book cover to cover in one day. Each of the boys in this story has their own appeal, but Komugi only has eyes for Yu. Despite the fact he tries to keep an emotional distance between them, the tension builds as Komugi struggles to only be his friend.

There was so much happening with Komugi, Yu, the other boys, and their Sensei. I was so disappointed when it ended and immediately started the second omnibus. And then the most horrific thing ever happened — I ran out of story! Yes, I binge-read both in one day and wanted more.

My fingers are crossed we’ll see more of Yu and Komugi’s friends and they’ll each get their own tale. I’m off to find more manga by this author because I simply can’t get enough!

*Disclaimer: I purchased a copy of this book from Barnes & Noble. Neither the author nor publisher requested a review The review above is only my opinion.

BOOK REIVEW: Rosen Blood Vol. 1 by Kachiru Ishizue #manga #vampires #bookreview

Rescued from a horrendous carriage accident, Stella awakens at a gothic manor in the company of her saviors—a group of impossibly gorgeous young men. Their gentlemanly manners conceal a brutal, inhuman thirst. Can she unravel the mystery of their condition and escape before it’s too late to tell danger from passion?

En route to a new job that she hopes will turn her fortunes around, Stella almost loses her life! If not for the intervention of Levi and the other mysterious young men who inhabit an impressive mansion guarded by roses, she surely would have perished. With nowhere to go, and having caught the eye of these handsome men, Stella takes a job as their maid. But danger from the mansion’s denizens lurks around every corner…

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MY REVIEW – 4 stars

I recently fell down the manga rabbit hole… In the span of one week, I binge-read more than five different series. While I was trying to find my next obsession, I ran across Rosen Blood. As someone who’s loved vampire books for as long as I can remember (thank you Bram Stoker & Anne Rice!), I was anxious to dig into this one.

I loved the artwork! And I found the male characters intriguing. The heroine seems typical of this sort of manga and doesn’t particularly stand out. In fact, there were times I wanted to yell at her. She seemed a little too accepting of her situation.

This particular story won’t be for everyone. There’s a creepiness to it that I enjoy, and the cliffhanger has opened up so many possibilities. There’s enough going on (tons of drama!) that I’m curious and need to know more. I’ll be ordering book 2 shortly, and can’t wait to find out what happens next.

Overall an enjoyable manga.

*Disclaimer: I purchased a copy of this book at a comic shop. Neither the author nor publisher requested a review. The review above is only my opinion.

BOOK TOUR: Nobody’s Road by Vera Jane Cook #SciFi #Fantasy @verajanecook @RABTBookTours

Sci-fi fantasy

Date Published: 01-19-2022

Publisher: Indies United

In 2045 America is ruled by ‘The Brain’. It’s a country of dried-up rivers, computer project educations, holographs, and robots. Most species have died off and even fresh air is scarce. Children don’t form bonds and therefore can’t love. They become drones – dangerous killers. The answer lies on a road in Pindar Corners but to find it is to risk the loss of your soul.

In need of a hero, Harry Erin Cooper steps up to the plate and, along with his wife, Adina, they restore what should have been.

Excerpt

My last memory from that time? That I was never to return to it.

As I ran to the rhythm of my breath, the beat of my heart provided the music of being alive. I took a hill, not as bad as it looked; steep but short. Chestnut was a single-lane road that cut through the back of town and led me onto Bishop Farm, where I picked up Maple Lane.

Dotted with sugar maples, Maple Lane wound out ahead of me, and like a lazy letter S, it snaked around for two long shaded miles. The sycamore trees had limbs that reached across the sky like Rorschach spills. The sweat on my back saturated my T-shirt, clinging like a second skin. The road had been nothing but dirt for over a hundred years; though the town kept threatening to pave it, they probably never will. A good part of the trail was a long narrow easement that took me past a mile of farmland. The dirt kicked up a gentle cloud of dust under my feet, soft and dry. The smell of freshly hoed hay and country pine lingered in the air.

Maple Lane begins and ends at Pindar Corners, a fork in the road with a blinking light. I picked up Robin’s Nest Road from there, turning left at the traffic signal, as I always did. How many times? I’m not sure. But I do know this, or thought I did: Robin’s Nest is the road I lived on with my wife, Adina, and our children, Teddy, who was eight at the time and Lindsey, who hadn’t yet turned six.

The scent of flower gardens hit me like a perfumed galaxy, overwhelmingly intense, from the abundance of flowers hidden behind picket fences and green bristly privacy bushes, odiferous and colorful. I saw irises, lilies and peonies that tilted in the breeze and slipped their scents toward me with flirtatious artistry.

Hundreds of times, I have picked up fragrances whispering from the mountains. You see, for me, one of the pleasures of jogging on a country road was catching smells. Even running through traces of horse manure carried in the wind, or the mysterious scents of unrecognizable plants and animals just behind the weeds, scents like that thrilled me. Might be perceived as such a small thing but it isn’t, not when sweet, scented air was such a new thing for me.

I breathed in deeply. I took in passionflower vines climbing up trellises, a cacophony of color. Sometimes I can catch freshly cut grass and the sizzled scent of meat lingering on a barbeque, whetting my appetite for lunch.

Robin’s Nest Road is paved and wide, and I liked it because it dead-ends; the only drivers who take it know exactly where they’re going, and trucks are rare. Sometimes, I could run right down the middle with my arms outstretched. Feeling good for me was sweating hard … feeling good for me was pushing up the last half mile, knowing I’d make it.

Jogging kept me centered ─ going at my own pace, my thoughts a free association of expression. No race to win, just moving through the silence of my mind, despite the rare chatter of birds or the occasional challenge of estival winds.

The only smells picked up back in New York City were mornings drenched in the stench of garbage and the rancid, putrid odor of the homeless inhabitants who lined the streets of midtown. I tried not to think about that because I was one of the lucky ones: I wasn’t there. And I was where I was because of the foresight of a man a lot smarter than I am. I was in Pindar Corners. A place you might want to be a hundred years from now, or maybe a hell of a lot sooner.

The reasons why I was there, in Pindar Corners, were too complex to fathom. Mistakes too great to lament. There was no sense dwelling on the past at all. Best to just breathe in deeply and try to let it go. Besides, there was nothing we could have done about it. No, nothing. Just concentrate on the aroma of gardenias, orchids and the delirium of lilac, and forget about everything else. We still had flowers, some species of birds, animals like skunks and rodents. We had life, and most of all, we had the solace and the surety of Pindar Corners.

However, the luxury of forgetting was the one thing I couldn’t accomplish. I was a generation too late for that. And as I jogged that day, the sound of a distant gunshot jarred the aromatic titillation of my senses. So loud, it practically threw me off my feet. It certainly wasn’t hunting season. I knew that well enough, but there were those who didn’t give a damn about laws. Could have been someone wanting to frighten off a black bear. Then again, plenty of people liked target shooting in their back yards. It might have been some bored jerk shooting cans off a fence. Or it might have been one of the children. I don’t think I was able to let in that fear. As far as I knew, there had only been one murder in Pindar Corners committed by a child. Maybe the shot I heard was just random and unintentional. That was my thought that day: that was my prayer.

About the Author

Vera Jane Cook was born in New York City and has been a city girl ever since. As an only child, she turned to reading novels at an early age and was deeply influenced by an eclectic group of authors. Before Jane became a writer, she worked in the professional theatre and appeared on television, in regional theatre, film and off Broadway.

At the age of fifty Jane began to write novels. Some of her titles include Dancing Backward in Paradise, winner of an Eric Hoffer Award for publishing excellence and an Indie Excellence Award for notable new fiction, 2007. The Story of Sassy Sweetwater and Dancing Backward in Paradise received 5 Star ForeWord Clarion Reviews and The Story of Sassy Sweetwater was named a finalist for the ForeWord Book of the Year Awards. She has published in ESL Magazine, Christopher Street Magazine and has written early childhood curriculum for Weekly Reader and McGraw Hill.

Jane still lives on the upper west side of Manhattan right near Riverside Park where she takes her delightful dogs for a jog, Peanut and Carly. She comes home to her spouse of thirty years and her two cats, Sassy and Sweetie Pie.

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BOOK TOUR: Daemon Blood by Mary Maddox #Fantasy #Horror @Dreambeast7 @XpressoTours

Daemon Blood
Mary Maddox
(Daemon World, #3)
Publication date: March 8th 2022
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Horror

Our war will not unfold in your imaginary heaven. We will fight on Earth with human beings as pawns and weapons.

Lu Darlington is a seer, bound to the daemon Talion through ritual and blood. It’s not a role she enjoys, but she has little choice: daemons take what they want and destroy whoever stands in their way.

So Lu’s surprised when Talion doesn’t punish her for her newfound ability to keep him from possessing her whenever he likes. In fact he’s pleased. The stronger she is, he explains, the more powerful he becomes.

And he needs that power, because a war is brewing in the daemon world, a war that will be fought by—and through—humans.

Lu’s friend Lisa Duncan can’t see daemons but she’s seen what they can do and so has stayed far away from Lu for years. After a bizarre attack on Lisa leaves half a dozen people dead and she learns it’s just the first skirmish in the daemon war, Lisa realizes the safest place to be is with Lu.

Then Talion sends Lu away to teach her skills to another seer and Lisa must stay behind to look after Lu’s son Solly, conceived through a daemon ceremony with Talion. At four years old Solly’s seer abilities are already so strong Lisa is sometimes more afraid of Solly than for him.

As Talion’s enemies grow bolder, Lisa and Lu face attacks from every direction. There seems little hope any of them will survive—until Talion and his allies devise a plan.

The only problem is how much it will cost.

“With Daemon Blood, Mary Maddox has crafted a timeless tale of good against evil. With compelling characters and a keen sense of the darkness that lurks within us all, Daemon Blood will stay with you long after you turn the final thrilling page.”

— David Sodergren, Author of The Forgotten Island

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The talented Ms. Maddox answered a question for us… Is there a particular book or movie that sparked your interest in fantasy and horror? How did it shape who you are as an author?

I was fascinated by horror movies as a kid, especially movies about vampires. As a grownup I transferred my fascination to books. Among my favorite authors are Shirley Jackson, Charlaine Harris, and Stephen King. But two books especially inspired me to write in the horror genre: Thomas Harris’s Silence of the Lambs and Karen Marie Moning’s Darkfever.

You could argue that Silence of the Lambs isn’t horror since it lacks supernatural elements. It does have a bona fide monster, though, in the character of Hannibal Lector. The novel sparked my interest in serial killers. I read around twenty nonfiction books on notorious killers and on the topic of serial murder in general. The result was Talion, which began as a thriller with Conrad “Rad” Sanders—a.k.a. The Professor of Death—as the villain.

I ran into a problem with the fifteen-year-old protagonist, Lu Jakes. The unwanted child of an alcoholic father and an abusive stepmother, she was defined mainly by her victimhood. And then she becomes Rad’s victim. She needed a source of inner strength, and I needed a way of making her more complex. So I gave her the gift (or delusion) of seeing spirits. One of them, Talion, tells her she is loved. Another one, Black Claw, offers her a means of killing her stepmother.

I let readers decide whether the spirits are real or the delusions of a troubled girl. The uncertainty bothers some readers—a lot. Ambiguity is common in all kinds of stories. It allows for different interpretations of a book or movie. But the ambiguity in Talion is just too much for these readers.

The nature of the spirits in Talion might have remained uncertain if I hadn’t found Darkfever. It wasn’t the kind of book I usually read, and I downloaded the ebook mainly because it was free at the time. I was hooked from the start and read the series through book five. MacKayla Lane appears to live in the ordinary world until she goes to Dublin to investigate her sister’s murder and discovers she can see the Fae. She is one of only a few human beings with this gift, which places her in immediate peril.

I thought at once of Lu and her spirits and decided to write Daemon Seer, a sequel to Talion. Moning draws upon Celtic mythology for her novels. I went a different route. Talion and the other daemons are spirits who need the bodies of living beings to tether them to the physical world. Lu can tether any number of daemons without them having to possess her body. Seers give daemons freedom to move about the world, increasing their power. The seers in Lu’s family have belonged to Talion for many generations, and he intends to keep things that way.

In Daemon Blood, Lu’s powers have grown stronger. Although she still can’t escape Talion, he now treats her with respect.

Author Bio:

Mary Maddox is a suspense, horror, and dark fantasy novelist with what The Charleston Times-Courier calls a “Ray Bradbury-like gift for deft, deep-shadowed description.” Born in Soldiers Summit, high in the mountains of Utah, Maddox graduated with honors in creative writing from Knox College, and went on to earn an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She taught writing at Eastern Illinois University and has published stories in various journals, including Yellow Silk, Farmer’s Market, The Scream Online, and Huffington Post. The Illinois Arts Council has honored her fiction with a Literary Award and an Artist’s Grant.

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BOOK TOUR: The Queens Keeper by J.L. Vampa #darkfantasy #fairytales  @VampaJl @RRBookTours1 #RRBookTours

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Welcome to the second book tour for The Queen’s Keeper by J.L. Vampa! The first tour went so well, we just had to do another! Read on for details about this gorgeous dark fantasy!

TQK Omnibus Cover

The Queen’s Keeper

Publication Date: October 12th, 2021

Genre: Dark Fairy Tale/ Fantasy

What if I told you that everything you knew about your life was a lie and that you’re being hunted?
What if I told you that you were prey?
This is the reality for Luvenia Rousseau. Amidst the struggle to survive in a famished, war-torn country and the fight against the phantoms of her past, her family is brutally ripped apart by a tyrant queen’s venomous army. Just when all hope seems lost, she stumbles upon an enchanted realm while the queen hunts for the one who got away.

A page-turning debut novel among the likes of Hunger Games, Snow White, and Throne of Glass, this dark fairy tale adaptation will have you on the edge of your seat.

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Excerpt

The Queen of Aureland strode into her castle’s training hall like an ancient warrior comprised of bone crushing strength and the breathless wonder of snow-capped mountain air. Rarely did she wear riding pants and a tunic—for she believed one’s attire should reflect one’s character and she was a leader of others into excellence and virtue—but today her leading required a different sort of approach and a gown would not do. Granted, her tunic glistened with fine jewels—there was no need to look like a peasant. Her protégé thought she’d seen fierce opponents in her training, but she hadn’t seen Nuria. The queen’s most guarded secret may be of an entirely different nature, but her hundred years of honed battle skills came in at a close second.

“Hello, Luvenia,” she said to get the girl’s attention, her voice silken. “No need to look so shocked, darling. I will be conducting your training this fine morning. Darius needed to sleep. Though achieving his agreement on that fact was a battle in and of itself.” She rolled her eyes and smoothed her bejeweled tunic, then clapped both hands together. “Right, then, let us get to it. You are weakest in hand-to-hand combat, yes?” Veni nodded mutely, feeling as though she were about to discover the queen’s beauty and gentle spirit had merely been the adorned scabbard sheathing a powerful blade. “Very well.” The queen eyed the girl. “I will not hold back. Your training will not be complete until you are capable of disarming and defeating me. That will not happen today. There is no need for unrealistic expectations. Though you, my dear, will beat me one day. Recognize your potential without masking it in obscured reality.”

Veni’s mind spun. She’s going to run me into the ground, physically and mentally. “Use your words, dear. Are you prepared or not?” Veni smirked and sighed a breathy laugh. “Ready as I’ll ever be, I suppose.” Nuria’s beauty turned lethal as she lunged for the wide-eyed girl. Before Veni could even get her hands up to defend herself, the queen nicked her chin with her bare knuckles, enough to stun her. In an instant, she had Veni’s own arm twisted behind her and forced her to her knees. The queen released her captive and Veni stood as her vision swam a bit from the blow to her chin. Nuria wiped the blood from her split knuckle on her pants. “My Hordemen go easy on you and spar with you.” She shook her head. “You have had enough of that. Sparring is unrealistic and you have grown used to how it works.” The queen put a finger to her temple. “Your mind is quick, dear heart, but wits alone will not win a battle. A sparring session, perhaps, but not a battle. Darius has taught you well how to predict your opponent’s next move, this is wise. However, most of the people you come across in a fight will not be calculated. They will be ruthless. There is a fine line between noble ferocity and ruthless ferocity. The truth of it is you will need to dance on the edge of that line in order to get your sister back. We will help you stay on the noble side, but you must embrace the ferocity. You can spar and train all day long, learning all the perfect maneuvers and defenses, but until you can take a true blow and get back up, you are not learning what you will need to succeed in bringing Ester home. Do you understand?

” Veni’s jaw stung, and her heart pounded, but she knew Nuria was right. It was time to cease pretending that she was learning to fight and to truly take hold of it. “Yes,” she told the queen. “Again. Let’s go.” Fast as lightning, Nuria came at her with no mercy over and over. The girl’s blood was splattered on the queen’s sparkling tunic and Nuria’s knuckles continued to bleed. Veni forgot everything she’d learned in routine sparring sessions and had little success discerning Nuria’s next move. That is, for the first half of their session. Once she’d taken several hits and tasted self-preservation as well as a sense of wildness, her training came back to her in a new way. She ended up on her back or rear or face countless times, but it would only take one hit. Luvenia had to hit that beautiful queen one time and she would be satisfied for the day.

“Are you certain you would like to continue? Your eye is beginning to swell.” Nuria watched her protégé struggle to stand, yet again. “I’m sure,” she said through gritted teeth. “Again.” Her eye was indeed swelling shut and her mouth was thick with blood and saliva, but she was going to hit that perfect face. Just once.

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About the Author

Screenshot_20210810-200359_Instagram

J.L. was born and raised in the great state of Texas. After attending college in Oklahoma, J.L. became a bookkeeper and office manager. She swiftly discovered she was to be a Keeper of Books and a Manager of Fantastical Worlds, instead. Thus began the unfolding of her literary journey,

J.L. now lives with her husband and two children, penning her next masterpiece for you to enjoy, while running her own bookish shop, Wicked Whimsy Boutique.

JL Vampa | Instagram | Twitter | Wicked Whimsy Boutique

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