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Thursday, September 30, 2021

Fantasy Author Jayson Jolin: Inkwell - One writer's process explained for the reader. + excerpt

Writing is a deeply personal process. That being said, there are certain habits that can make the craft easier. I have already given a brief rundown of my pre-manuscript process
elsewhere. Here, I’d like to focus in on one particular aspect of that process: scene structure.

Scenes can be classified in a variety of ways, but for the purpose of scene structure, I use two basic scene types: Confrontation and Resolution. By oscillating between these two scene types, you create a flow that neatly carries you through your story.

Confrontation scenes have three basic elements. At the start of the scene, the character through whose point of view we see the scene starts with a Goal. That goal is opposed by some source of Conflict, which the POV character must overcome in order to achieve their goal. As the scene draws to a close, the character has success in sight, when some unforeseen, but story-sensible Disaster stops the character cold. This disaster could be physical, but often it is emotional, and the character cannot proceed until they have regrouped and dealt with the disaster.

Resolution scenes pick right up from Confrontation scenes. Here, the character has a Reaction to the prior scene’s disaster. This reaction could be instant, happening right after the disaster hits, or it could be set years or decades later, with the character having lived with the problem created by the disaster, until now unable to cope with it. Once we’ve seen how the character has been reacting, they face a Dilemma; how are they planning to overcome the consequences of that disaster? Once the character has committed to a Decision, they set out with a new Goal, and a new Confrontation scene starts.

The potency of the disaster in each Confrontation scene grows in intensity from the start of the story. But there are three disasters that have to be particularly hard-hitting. The Inciting Disaster breaks the status quo and prompts the main character to take the main story problem on. The Midpoint Disaster, which normally hits in the middle of act two, results directly from the main character’s attempts to solve the main story problem and forces them to reconsider their path. Finally, the Climactic Disaster, at the story’s climax, gives the main character their sadistic choice; choose the easy path that seems to give them what they want but forces them to compromise their principles, or take the moral high road that seems to deny them what they want but leaves their principles intact (we of course reward the latter with victory and the former we punish with defeat).

After the climax, the disasters should grow less intense rather than more, winding the story down until the end, where no disaster presents itself and the main character’s goal is achieved. You can use this same ramping and decline for secondary character subplots as well. Using this structure helps ensure dramatic flow in your story.

Soul: Part One: Fate Of The Forged, Book One
by Jayson Jolin
Awakened from an ancient slumber, a warrior of the old gods finds his immediate future bound by fate to the failures of his past. As he struggles to gather allies amongst the untrusting denizens of this oppressed new world, the ancient warrior seeks to secure the plans for the weapon his unit died trying to destroy, only to find himself hunted not only by those who stole those plans but by the very people and deities that he seeks to save.

Copyright © 2021 Jayson P. Jolin

Axe and shield in hand, Sassacua charged past Clank at the coalescing cloud of embers and tried to cleave it in two. The axe passed through the thick concentration of soot to no effect. As she spun around, arcing her axe above her to land a killing blow through its head, the creature continued forward towards Clank, the path the axe had taken through its form vanishing as the two halves melded together.

Clank rushed to the left, frantically adjusting the setting on Junker. The metal bear positioned itself between the apparition and its master, growling ferociously. “Damnit, Sassy,” Clank yelled angrily, “you can’t hack and slash your
way through this one. This thing isn’t alive.” 

Again with the ‘Sassy,’ she thought angrily. Her body glowed brighter, casting the chamber in a red glow. She charged forward, bringing her axe down hard. “You could have fooled me.”

Clank brought Junker up to fire, the interior of
the barrel glowing white. “Get clear so I can get
a shot.” But Sassacua was too blinded by determination
to heed him. She stepped up for another swing.
The cinder wraith turned its head suddenly to regard her. Its arm shot up, and then a blast of embers surged out. The white dust gushed into Sassacua’s mouth as she roared a battle

She felt it fill her lungs, breathing instantly impossible. Helplessly, she dropped her axe and began clawing madly at the stream of soot, as if somehow that would stop the influx of
powdery corpse remnants into her airway.

Her whole body felt cold. Her muscles slacked. The rage inside her intensified even as her sense of place and self dispersed. The whispers were blotted out by unyielding, universal hatred.
There was a sound like a shout that she barely registered. And then everything went brilliant white.

With a rush of exhaustion the light tore the hatred harshly out of her. She was awake again and aware, her body falling and then slamming hard, left side first, onto the ground. Exhaling
from her lungs on its own, the torrent of ash gushed out of her mouth and nostrils. Her mouth tasted like burnt death. She coughed up soot and she spat blood. Her lungs burned as
though she’d inhaled a campfire.

“Mandla,” Clank called out as he took aim on the recoiling wraith. “Go do that healing psychic touch on Sassy and then give me a hand.” He pulled the trigger and the barrel erupted with brilliant, burning light. The wraith recoiled and shifted out of the way as the searing glow struck it. But then it resumed its rapid track back towards the sergeant. As Sassacua found her weapons and struggled to her feet, Mandla burst forward at a run, leaping over Clank, grabbing him by the neck
with both hands as she did so. With all of her might, Mandla tried to hurl Clank directly at the cinder wraith.

However, the monk had not accounted for the sheer weight of her enemy. Several hundred pounds of G.R.U.N.T. was lifted off of his feet, rotated head-over-heel, but never quite made it
more than a few feet off the ground. Instead of sailing across the room into the wraith, Clank slammed into the bear’s side, causing the beast to howl in surprise, then turn ferociously towards Mandla. The monk rolled from her throw, then
backpedaled several steps as the metal bear stalked towards her.

“Keep him back, Scrapyard,” Clank shouted over his shoulder as he fired again. The shot was true, but the creature’s advancement continued, forcing Clank to backpedal and shift direction to avoid being cornered. “This thing’s only getting
tougher. It’s absorbing the magic from my attacks.” He switched the dial again, the light vanishing from the gun, the barrel widening. “If this were a zombie that holy light would have dusted it in one shot.”

The cinder wraith was right on top of him. He jammed Junker’s nozzle right inside of its swirling vortex. The burst of thunder that erupted from the barrel scattered the wrath far
and wide, the dust settling all throughout the room.

Clank adjusted the setting of his gun again and aimed at Sassacua. “That only bought us a few seconds,” he said, firing.
She tensed, her instincts screaming at her to dodge, but her trust in Clank forced her to remain still. She was rewarded for that trust as the soothing warmth of a healing blast washed
over her. Her wounds mended some, but the beam could not soothe her nerves. She rushed to Clank, axe gripped in both hands. “How do we kill this thing?”

“Not easily,” Clank replied. Already the embers were beginning to reform. He reset the gun again. “Cinder wraiths are the cremated remains of beings so evil and so powerful in life
that even burning it cannot prevent it from returning. They’re all instinct and hate, with a loathing for the living that can’t be sated.”

Sassacua, feeling pain within her burning lungs with each breath, gripped her axe tighter. “What did it do to me?” she asked hatefully. Clank took aim and fired the thunder again,
scattering the dust once more. But it didn’t blow the reforming creature apart nearly as much as it had before. “Reproducing. It was trying to burn you from the inside, and turn your rage into hate, steal as much of your burning, charring flesh from you as it could to grow itself, leaving whatever was left as a new cinder wraith.”

He fired again, but this time the coalescing ash barely budged. It was forming together more quickly this time, as well.
Sassacua knew time was short. But one question needed answered before she resumed the fight. “Why is it after you?”
Clank took a knee, withdrew some tools from his belt pouches, and opened a hatch in Junker’s magazine. “These things are particularly hateful of the thing that killed them. Maybe this was the lich in charge here when my unit blew the place up.” He looked at the nearly reformed monster and then at Sassacua. “It’s absorbing my attacks faster than I can damage it. I have to hot-wire Junker for more output. Keep it busy,
preferably without eating any more soot.”

Her chest tightened around her burning lungs as she watched the wraith reassemble, and her heart began to pound. Her legs felt like jelly. Her throat constricted, making it hard for her to breathe. She backed away.

About the Author:
I started out writing for myself when I was a pre-teen, during long hours running Sunday open houses for my father's apartment building, writing mainly to keep myself entertained. My interest in storytelling helped shift my attention to acting, leading to my getting my bachelors of arts in theater. Even after entering more mundane employment, I would often write and draw short sketches and occasional short stories, as well as adventures for role-playing games. After years of dancing around my love of storytelling, I finally sat down in front of my computer and got serious, producing my first trilogy of novels, the first book of which I hope you will find compelling enough to represent.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Coming Soon: The Ancient Ones (The Ancient Ones Trilogy Book 1) by Cassandra L. Thompson

POSSIBLE ULTIMATE TOUR EXPERIENCE TICKETS: It’s All About The Journey, Snark It Up, Love Actually, The More The Merrier, The Pack Is Back In Town, Blood Suckers, A Villain You Love To Hate, The Wings Of Change, Here Be Dragons, I’m Not Crying You Are Crying, Storyteller In The House, Valhalla Awaits, Bring On The Magic, Simply Mythical, A Gate To Another World

The Ancient Ones (The Ancient Ones Trilogy Book 1)
by Cassandra L. Thompson
October 31, 2020
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Gothic Horror
Pages: 288
Publisher: Quill & Crow Publishing House
CW: Death, Violence, Sex, (Light, mainly vampire) Gore
When David stumbles upon a tragic young woman in a sordid Limehouse pub, he has no idea she’d recognize him as the last vampyre alive, nor that she’d be the one to pull out his story. Yet as he recalls his life from the sweltering vineyards of Ancient Rome to the cold horrors of Medieval Romania - as well as his tumultuous past with the mad and mysterious Lucius - he realizes she is much more than what she seems.

Gothic horror and mythological fantasy blend seamlessly together in this thrilling adventure, breathing new life into vampire lore as it reveals its true origins. The Ancient Ones is a tale of myth, mayhem, and magic … with a dash of romance that bites.

About the Author:
Gothic horror writer Cassandra L. Thompson has been creating stories since she got her grubby little hands around a pen. An Ohio native, she earned her BA in History from Cleveland State and her MLIS from Kent State. When she is not busy managing a house full of feral children (human and canine), you can find her wandering around cemeteries, taking pictures of abandoned things, exploring lonely patches of woods, or in the library doing research. She is the founder of the gothic fiction press, Quill & Crow Publishing House and she writes short horror stories for her blog, Tales From the Shadows. ​

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Fantasy Author Cate Pearce: Adding Layers of Danger to the story + giveaway

Layers of Danger

When I was building the world for Traitors of the Black Crown, it was important to me that my protagonists Raena and Aven didn’t have a relationship filled with unnecessary conflict. One of the things I can’t stand in romance plotlines is when the two characters keep shying away from being together, when they are clearly interested in one another. It gives you that sense that the writer is creating obstacles to their happiness on purpose and can pull you out of the story. That being said, there are consequences to rushing too fast, and we see those play out (minor spoiler!) in the second book of the series, Defenders of the Black Crown.
I also wanted to keep the focus on the hurdles of their relationship limited to external factors, not conflict between them. Raena and Aven are young, attractive, and available. From their perspective, why shouldn't they be together? But the world they live in has more than one reason, hence the "layers of danger".

In Raena’s home kingdom of Candor, she pretends to be Sir Rowan, a man. If it were revealed that she was a woman, she would be imprisoned or put to death for it. But when Raena and Aven fall in love, this danger is extended to Aven for knowing the truth and not revealing it. We learn it’s possible that their love puts both women in danger of grave consequences.

Additionally, their stature and position complicates things. As Sir Rowan, Raena is a Knight without much authority or renown. Aven, a duchess, is common-born. Even if they choose to have a relationship, they would be outcasts in multiple kingdoms. In Candor, the lack of Aven’s “noble blood” would be the issue. In East Shore, where Aven is a duchess, she may not be punished harshly but her citizens would be displeased with the pairing.

All of these layers add elements to their romance that go beyond the typical pining, misunderstandings, and conflict resolution that usually constitute a romantic subplot. There is constantly an element of looming risk.

In Chapter 13, Raena and Aven are beginning to recognize the clear signs of attraction growing between them. Raena reflects on what it might mean for her, in this excerpt:
Without a word, Aven stepped forward, taking Raena’s arm in her hands. Aven inspected the site where Raena had been gashed, pulling at the cloth sleeve.

“It’s not as bad as it seemed,”Aven whispered, “but still needs to be dressed. I’ll get a clean cloth."

Before Aven could set to her task, Raena grabbed hold of her hands. Their eyes locked, and Raena whispered something she meant very deeply. “I am glad I was there, to protect you.”

Aven’s eyes narrowed. “What were you doing, away from your own camp?”

The pause between them was unnatural. Aven’s countenance was curious and open. The weight seemed enough to shift the very air, giving Raena a chill. They were staring, breathing in tandem, connected in a magical pulse. Raena didn’t understand what she had said or done to ignite it, but she recognized the blatant fire. She knew she didn’t have to explain or give any answer, at all.

Aven didn’t wait longer than a few seconds. She turned away, leaving Raena feeling breathless and exposed. Had the men around them noticed the air thick with heavy glances between the knight and the Duchess? If they had noticed, would they punish Raena for it? In Candor, the knight would be held accountable. Raena had not been able to bring herself to ask anyone how such a pairing would be treated in East Shore, as she felt it would ring too suspicious.

“We should prepare to leave this camp, or we risk another raiding party,” Guon said, kneeled over another bandit. “Go on and make yourself useful, Rowan.”
Social standing and nobility status are overarching themes in Traitors. Therefore, the trials of the romance between Raena and Aven run parallel to the main plot. Raena’s alias as “Sir Rowan” protects her and allows her to move about the world on her quest to avenge her family. But Raena’s adoration for her duchess jeopardizes her self-appointed purpose, as well as both of their lives. The reader feels the graduated tension as the characters drive the story forward, until it all comes together at the end.

You can currently find Traitors and expect a sequel, Defenders of the Black Crown, releasing in September of 2022. Additionally, Cate Pearce has contributed another sapphic love story to Elixir: Stories of Hope and Healing from Hansen House, available January 2022.

Traitors of the Black Crown
by Cate Pearce
September 22, 2021
Publisher: Hansen House
Cover Artist: Elizabeth Jeannel
Genres: Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Medieval
Three women will betray the black crown. A Knight. A Duchess. A Queen.

Raena Schinen narrowly escaped when the Queen’s guard murdered her entire family. If Raena’s survival is exposed, she’ll be next. For fifteen years Raena has hidden as a male Knight, “Sir Rowan”, consumed by her vengeful desire to assassinate the Queen.

The moment Raena is close enough to exact her revenge, she is unexpectedly exiled to a foreign land. There she serves the common-born Duchess Aven Colby, whose suspicious kinship with the Queen further threatens Raena’s delicate secrets.

Just as they become united in a common goal to curb a looming invasion, unexpected heat and romance blossoms between “Sir Rowan” and Aven. The peril demands they set out on a journey to form clandestine political alliances, risking the Queen’s wrath, and drawing Raena and Aven closer together.

But no one in the kingdom could have imagined the sinister foe rising from below the surface. In order to save themselves and those they love, Raena, Aven, and the Queen must recognize who are the oppressors and who will unite against the Black Crown.

“Knights of Hawk’s Keep. Come with me, you’re next.”

Raena and Finn stood from the wooden bench and left behind their weapons and armor. Clad in fighting pads over their tunics, they followed the man into a sitting room. The humble space held nothing but five chairs and was lit by candle sconces on the stone walls.

“Sit.” The man gestured.

Finn and Raena’s chairs scraped the stone floor as they settled into them.

Raena studied the man as he paused to look through a scroll bearing the Prince’s mark. Like most elder men of Candor, he had chestnut hair to his shoulders and a clean-shaven face. Raena thought his countenance was pleasant, though his skin was marked with deep crimson blemishes as if wine had soaked into it. He wore a decorative silk tunic of emerald and gold, the colors of House Payton; colors of the Queen’s house. It made Raena’s chest clench.

The man spoke with a low timbre. “You two are the only knights from Hawk’s Keep? I thought Lord Sylas was sending three.”

“Aye, we are the only two,” Raena answered. “I am Sir Rowan, son of Brande. This is Sir Finley, son of Wain. Sir Cames was the third, but he fell from a horse yesterday and has broken his arm.” Raena took care to deepen her voice and speak with authority, as she had practiced. There was an art and science to passing as the man she claimed to be, and confidence made all the difference. She disliked the notion that she may appear arrogant upon a first introduction, but better to be represented as an arrogant man than to reveal her secret.

“I see,” the man grumbled, “did he at least come with Lord Sylas, to spectate the events today?”

Raena glanced at Finn, whose eyes narrowed with concern.

“No, sir,” Finn said. “He was told to stay in the tents and rest. He was given several teas of nightflower from the healers.”

“Hmm. Very well, but the Prince will be informed,” the man retorted. “Let's begin. I'm called Sir Han'gahan, I'm a personal guard and knight to Queen Zarana and Prince Zander. I'll be explaining the events of the Knight's Trials to you, and I'll also be getting your history so we may tell it to the crowd."

"Our history?" Finn asked, scratching at the russet stubble that coated his cheeks.

"Aye," Han'gahan nodded, "there will be the greatest crowd you've ever seen, probably the greatest crowd ever assembled in all six kingdoms. The Prince wants every knight to have a story to excite the spectators. You should tell me all your achievements so I may share the details the Prince prefers. He is rather particular, as this is the first Knight’s Trial he’s ever conducted.”

Raena resisted the urge to look again at her friend Finn at the mention of sharing “everything”. She felt a ball of worry growing inside her gut, clenching her insides.

“Alright, both of you are a bit young,” Han’gahan said. “How long have you been knights for Sylas?”

“Two years,” Finn replied. “We are the same age, twenty-three.”

Han’gahan shrugged. “As I thought, you are barely men. Well, it might be a short tale of your conquests, as we haven’t seen war in Candor since you were likely born. But we’ll do our best. Let’s start with you, Finley, since you are apt to sharing. Was your father a hero of the Equinox battles?”

Finn rubbed his hairy face again, an anxious tic. “Not particularly, no. He was a guard for Hawk’s Keep, so he stayed and defended it from any chance of invasion by Ediva. He would have fought for Candor, if he’d been needed in the legions.”

“Hmm,” Han’gahan grunted. “Well, Ediva didn’t make it that far into Candor’s borders since the soldiers held them off at the Calam mountains, didn’t they? That’s all right though, lad. Anything else your father did, of note?”

Finn shook his head.

“Very well,” Han’gahan said. “How about your own notable achievements, what have you done as a knight? Have you killed any bandits or…whatever you do, in Hawk’s Keep?”

“We have seen bandits and the forest-raiders; the Ruvians,” Finn bit his lip. “I haven’t killed any, no. They are usually scared away, back into the pines. We do train for war, spar, and fight one another. We learn about the kingdoms and the famous battles of the Equinox.”

“As all knights do,” Han’gahan muttered. “Maybe you hunt, then? Have you killed anything at all?”

Finn shrugged. “I’ve killed boars.”

Raena grew restless with Finn’s simple humility. “We have a demonstration, sir. Every year Lord Sylas hosts a festival and we display our skill for combat. It’s swordsmanship, poleaxe defense, and archery. Finn, er, Sir Finley, has taken second prize. Many knights compete from a variety of Candor’s noble families.”

“There you go, lad,” Han’gahan clapped. “We can use that. Let’s talk about you then, Rowan. You’re a Boen-looking thing, aren’t you? Pardon me for saying it, but I haven’t seen golden hair and hairless pink flesh like yours in twenty years or more. You must have some Boen ancestors, long ago?”

Raena straightened up and raised her chin. She had never been in a position to tell her false origin story alone. Lord Sylas had always introduced her as Rowan to visitors, and answered if they had questions about her heritage. Telling it now to one of the Queen’s knights, no less. “Perhaps. I’m a bastard, so there’s no telling.”

Han’gahan smiled. “Aye, nothing wrong with being a bastard. Your mother must’ve been Boenish. I’ve met your father, Brande, and he is as dark as any Calamytan. What a dog then, to go after another woman’s bed. I know he fought in the Equinox, so we will mention that when we speak of you. How about you? I don’t suppose you’ve killed bandits, or anything bigger than boars?”

Raena shook her head, “I haven’t. I trained as a squire under Lord Sylas and was knighted by him, the same as Finn.” Those were easy words to say, as all of them were true, at least.

Han’gahan waved his hand. “No matter. Perhaps you boys can prove yourselves in the Knight’s Trial today and have something to start telling tales about.”

“Rowan is being humble, sir,” Finn said. “He shared that I was second in the knight’s demonstrations, but he neglected to mention that he was first.”

About the Author:
Website-FB -Twitter
Cate Pearce was homeschooled on a Christmas tree farm in rural Western Washington. At age eight she was fed-up with a plotline on Star Trek TNG so she wrote her own episodes on a Commodore 64. She has been a writer ever since, but only recently decided to share that information with you and the world.

Cate has two children which she delivered at-home with the assistance of saintly midwives. Cate is unapologetic in her fervor for feminism, queerness, and Christian faith. Aside from writing, her "day job" is to prepare organizations for response and recovery from catastrophic disasters. She lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Excerpt: Grave Watch (Soul Reader, #3) by Annie Anderson + giveaway

Grave Watch (Soul Reader, #3)
by Annie Anderson
September 28th 2021
Genres: Adult, Urban Fantasy
Meeting long-lost siblings should be awesome, right?

Well, when you happen to be on the wrong side of the law and have every intention of staying there, having a cop for a sister isn’t exactly ideal. And teaming up with said sister? Well, that is just the cherry on top of the craptastic pie that has been my life.

But when our brother decides to attack us head on, banding together is the least of our problems.

Because in our family? Being the hunter also means being the hunted.

Simon wiped at his leaking eyes before striding across the grass and pulling me up by my biceps. “He gave you an hour and we’ve wasted enough of it. You have to get ready.”

Dumbstruck, I allowed him to pull me by the forearm back to the house.

“Clem, get their leathers ready,” he called over his shoulder as we crunched over broken glass and fallen books.

The house looked no better than it had a week ago after our little invasion, and I had to wonder how many times it had broken apart and been put back together by magic over the years. Simon muttered to himself for a second before picking through the debris, yanking me behind him to the staircase. An irritated trill pulled my gaze to my feet, and an angry set of glowing green eyes pierced me with an annoyed glare. Simon yanked me again, and Isis wound around his feet nearly tripping him.

“Damn and blast, Isis. It’s not my fault you went and hid under the bed. The whole bloody house was going to fall on us, you mangy feline, and you can’t die.”

She couldn’t? Well, that was new information—and sort of comforting if I was being honest. The world without a little skeleton kitty in it seemed just a bit awful to me. I pulled my arm out of Simon’s hold and picked up the bone cat, cuddling her in my arms as I continued following him up the stairs.

“Did evil Simon leave you behind, my sweet girl. What a bad daddy.” Scratching at her nonexistent fur, I smiled evilly when Simon shot me a look over his shoulder as he muttered something about children these days.

About the Author:
website-FB-twitterAnnie Anderson is a military wife and United States Air Force veteran. Originally from Dallas, Texas, she is a southern girl at heart, but has lived all over the US and abroad. As soon as the military stops moving her family around, she'll settle on a state, but for now she enjoys being a nomad with her husband, two daughters, an old man of a dog, and a young pup that makes life... interesting.

Blitz-wide giveaway (INT)
2x $50 Amazon gift cards

Book Review: The Orphan Witch By Paige Crutcher

The Orphan Witch
By Paige Crutcher
September 28, 2021
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
ISBN: 9781250823632ol
ISBN: 9781250797377
A deeper magic. A stronger curse. A family lost...and found.

Persephone May has been alone her entire life. Abandoned as an infant and dragged through the foster care system, she wants nothing more than to belong somewhere. To someone. However, Persephone is as strange as she is lonely. Unexplainable things happen when she’s around—changes in weather, inanimate objects taking flight—and those who seek to bring her into their family quickly cast her out. To cope, she never gets attached, never makes friends. And she certainly never dates. Working odd jobs and always keeping her suitcases half-packed, Persephone is used to moving around, leaving one town for another when curiosity over her eccentric behavior inevitably draws unwanted attention.

After an accidental and very public display of power, Persephone knows it’s time to move on once again. It’s lucky, then, when she receives an email from the one friend she’s managed to keep, inviting her to the elusive Wile Isle. The timing couldn’t be more perfect. However, upon arrival, Persephone quickly discovers that Wile is no ordinary island. In fact, it just might hold the very things she’s been searching for her entire life.

Answers. Family. Home.

And some things she did not want. Like 100-year-old curses and an even older family feud. With the clock running out, love might be the magic that saves them all.

Persephone May has had problems her whole life making eye contact with anyone. If she does, something bad happens to the person. Her life is lonely. Until one day, she goes to a seaside village in Wile, North Carolina. She finds out she is a witch and other female witches living there are related to her. She finally has a home and a family. Except there is a curse connected to the place and her family along with a family feud. 

She discovers she may be a World Walker, one who can walk through worlds, and she finds a Library of the Lost and a male librarian, who she can make eye contact with and nothing bad happens, she is attracted to. But time is running out and Persephone hopes she is the walker that may save them all.

I give The Orphan Witch 4 sheep.

Reviewed by Pamela K. Kinney

About the Author:
Paige Crutcher is the author of THE ORPHAN WITCH. Her work appears in multiple anthologies and online publications, and she is a former Southern Correspondent for Publishers Weekly. She is an artist and yogi, and when not writing, she prefers to spend her time trekking through the forest with her children, hunting for portals to new worlds. 

Monday, September 27, 2021

Book Review: Horseman: A Tale of Sleepy Hollow By Christina Henry

Horseman: A Tale of Sleepy Hollow
By Christina Henry
September 28, 2021
Publisher: Berkeley
ISBN: ‎9780593199787
In this atmospheric, terrifying novel that draws strongly from "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," the author of Alice and The Girl in Red works her trademark magic, spinning an engaging and frightening new story from a classic tale.

Everyone in Sleepy Hollow knows about the Horseman, but no one really believes in him. Not even Ben Van Brunt's grandfather, Brom Bones, who was there when it was said the Horseman chased the upstart Crane out of town. Brom says that's just legend, the village gossips talking.

More than thirty years after those storied events, the village is a quiet place. Fourteen-year-old Ben loves to play "Sleepy Hollow boys," reenacting the events Brom once lived through. But then Ben and a friend stumble across the headless body of a child in the woods near the village, and the discovery makes Ben question everything the adults in Sleepy Hollow have ever said. Could the Horseman be real after all? Or does something even more sinister stalk the woods?

Ben Van Brunt is the grandchild of Brom Bones and Katrina. Ben plays “Sleepy Hollow Boys” with her only friend, Sander, a boy from the village. They find a dead, headless boy, and soon after other deaths in the section of woods near where they play. Once talks of the Headless Horseman and other things that inhabit the woods start, Ben begins to investigate if it is the Horseman, or something else.

If you always wondered what happened to all the characters from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and the village, this Young Adult novel is the perfect imagining of another spooky tale for reading during the cooler wisps of October.

I gave Horseman: A Tale of Sleepy Hollow 4 1/2 sheep.

Pamela K. Kinney

About the Author:
CHRISTINA HENRY is the author of the national bestselling BLACK WINGS (Ace/Roc) series featuring Agent of Death Madeline Black and her popcorn-loving gargoyle Beezle. She is also the author of the forthcoming dark fantasy ALICE (Ace Trade).

She lives in Chicago with her husband and son.

Cover Reveal: A New Queen (A History of Vampires, #1) by Amanda Lewis

A New Queen 
(A History of Vampires, #1)

by Amanda Lewis
October 31st 2021
Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Romance
When a mysterious outsider shows her the impossible, can she unveil old secrets… and step into destiny?

Angelina Arbonne is obsessed with history. Driven by a passion for travel, the thirty-five-year-old archaeologist has no time for love. But she can’t resist knowing more when she’s stalked by a hopelessly gorgeous stranger who claims he’s a vampire king.

With her handsome suitor leading her through the hidden society of the long-lived, Angelina’s heart begins to beat to an intriguing new tune. But with an ancient magical war brewing, dating a two-thousand-year-old is giving her second thoughts about becoming an immortal queen…

Can they bridge their improbable age gap and enjoy an eternal happily ever after?

A New Queen is the compelling first book in the A History of Vampires paranormal romance series. If you like intelligent characters, original storylines, and historical themes, then you’ll adore Amanda Lewis’ enthralling tale.

About the Author:
**The Weight of Birds - 2020 Silver Medal Winner - Contemporary Christian Romance, Reader's Favorite Awards**

Amanda lives in Alabama, with her husband and cat. She enjoys IKEA cinnamon rolls and trying new recipes of macaroni and cheese.

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Sunday, September 26, 2021

Excerpt: The Soul of Love (The Soul of Love, #1) by E.X. Alexander + giveaway

The Soul of Love 
(The Soul of Love, #1)
by E.X. Alexander
August 31st 2021
Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Romance
For generations, the Greek gods have been at war with each other; fighting to sit on the throne of Mt. Olympus.

Eros, the god of love and the most powerful of the ancients, has been waging his own secret war. For eons, he has been looking for his lost soul mate, Psyche; her return marks the beginning of the end of the reign of the Olympians, and the restoration to power by the primordial gods. But she has been reborn as a mortal, with no memory of him.

Psyche holds the key to the throne of Mt. Olympus. With her and Eros’ enemies coming out of the shadows to stop them, it is a race against time. If she cannot reunite her soul with Eros, her powers, memories, and the lives of the gods and mortals alike will be forever lost.

Content Warning: This book contains some scenes with mild violence, sexual situations, and references to suicide.

She lay still in his arms, allowing the heat from his body to lull her back into a semi-relaxed state. When he made no move to resume the intimacy of their wedding night, she turned slightly toward him.

Burying his head in her hair, he breathed in her scent as if committing it to memory. “I will leave you alone if that is your wish. We can wait until you are ready to consummate our marriage.” Feeling a heavy sorrow at the thought of leaving her, he nonetheless did not want to cause her any more turmoil. He would wait, even as it threatened to dim the joy he felt at finally having her back in his life.

He pressed a kiss against her temple and released her. As he turned away and made his way out of the bed, Psyche was gripped with fear at the thought of him leaving her. It was so strong it overwhelmed her with a desire to keep him by her side in spite of her reservations.

Not understanding her reaction to his departure, she cried out, “Wait!” Reaching out to stop him, she was shocked to discover what her hand was gripping. “You have wings,” she said in startled amazement.

Eros stopped and shuddered at the touch of her hand on his wing. It was the first touch she initiated between them of her own volition, and it devastated him. Holding still, for he did not trust himself, he waited to see what she would do.

Psyche was too stunned to do anything but hold on to his wing for several moments. When he did nothing to repudiate her touch, she slowly slid her hand down his wing, marveling at the soft texture and heat. Repeating the caress, she inched closer and brought her other hand to press against his other wing. Feeling emboldened by his continued silence, she pressed against his back and continued to stroke his wings.

Then Psyche laid her cheek against the center of his shoulder blades, where his wings grew out of his back. She continued her slow caress. The feel of his wings seemed strangely familiar, as if she had run her hands over them hundreds of times. Frowning, she tried to remember, the memory teasing along the edges of her mind, but no matter how hard she tried, the knowledge danced away from her. Before she could chase the phantom memory, she was distracted by the hiss of pleasure that her new husband released at her touch.

Eros could barely restrain himself from turning around and pinning her to the bed as lust consumed him. The feel of her bare breasts pressed against his lower back sent shards of pleasure directly to his groin, where he tightened painfully as she continued to pet him. But it was her breath teasing the sensitive nerve endings of where his wings emerged from his back that was his undoing. When she started to nuzzle him, Eros knew he had to warn her before he lost total control. “Psyche, make your choice now. I only have so much control, and I have waited so long for you that I cannot continue to let you touch me without taking you. So choose, do I stay or do I go?”

Psyche stilled at his words. Faced with the power to control even a small part of her destiny gave her courage. Feeling that something fragile and precious would be lost if she allowed him to leave this night, she made her decision. “Stay.”

About the Author:
E.X. Alexander is a romance author who loves to tell a good romance story: the hotter, the better. A proud Greek American (no My Big Fat Greek Wedding jokes or she'll be forced to pull out the Windex ;) who loves to spend time with her family and friends. There is no better way to relax than to curl up with a steamy romance novel with purr babies under a blanket. Okay, a spa day would be a close second. If she is not reading or writing she can usually be found in her car listening to heavy metal and rock music in pursuit of her two favorite fruits: coffee and chocolate. (Yes, they are fruits.)

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Saturday, September 25, 2021

Excerpt: Silver Lining by Viola Tempest + giveaway

Happy publication day to author Viola Tempest! Check out her new novel Silver Lining, and enter the giveaway for a chance to win a paperback copy of this genre-blurring book!

Silver Lining
by Viola Tempest 
September 26th (Today🎉)
Genre: Dystopian/ Dark Romance
Tired of one-night stands and failed relationships, Marissa Sinclair sets out to change her luck by creating Silver Lining, a revolutionary contact lens that matches people with their one true love.

Like Marissa, Bethany Rose, among others, is hopeful the lens will help her find the love of her life. But soon, the perfect solution becomes her worst nightmare…

A major malfunction blurs the line between reality and disaster. Bethany, a once bright, beautiful young woman, loses touch with reality. Her life spirals out of control and leads her down a dark tunnel between madness and the consequences of gambling with her love life.

Witnessing the disturbing transformation, Thea is convinced the technology is to blame. The only problem is, no one believes her. With her desperation growing stronger and her desire to pull her friend out of the abyss, she risks everything to let the world know the truth. But will she succeed in her mission, or will the desperate all fall victim to the Zetas?

Add to Goodreads

Bethany wasn’t safe though. She thought it would be easy to just forget, to just immerse herself in the fantasy world and ignore the real world, because it’s not like she was happy in it anyway. But the façade kept falling apart.

Haven didn’t have a job, so he was around her all the time. She needed space, needed to breathe, needed somebody she didn’t have to babysit or take care of.

And then when he did get a job, she wanted him back in the apartment, back in her life all the time, because they no longer spent any time together. So, he got a part-time job as a waiter, but part of her knew that wasn’t real. She didn’t know what she wanted anymore.

And then when he was at home all the time again, the cycle started all over. And he never called her out on it, just bent to her will. And the more he did, the more the logical part of her brain piped up, saying that this couldn’t be real. She was living in some sort of love-sick nightmare.

“Honey, please stop pushing me away.” Haven looked up at her from the couch. “Let me say this, no matter how much you try and push me away, I will never leave. You can’t argue your way out of this relationship by nitpicking at me. I love you too much for that.”

“But that isn’t healthy! You need to be your own person, not let me walk all over you!” Bethany finally screamed.

She heard a thump somewhere in the background, but when she tried to focus on it, she couldn’t register where it had come from. Bethany looked around herself, and her eyes fell on the remote. She walked over.

“Please, don’t hurt yourself with that anymore. You know how you feel when you turn it off,” Haven said.

She glared at him and clicked the button. The smell hit her nostrils, and Bethany screamed, trying to get the crawling bugs off her skin. She needed to turn on the lens again; she couldn’t live like this.

“Miss, open the door,” someone banged on the entrance to her apartment.


A heavy thump sounded, and a man shoulder-pounded against the door so hard that the lock broke. Bethany clicked the remote on instinct.

She managed to register the police uniform right before her world shifted, and Haven returned. Then, she saw nothing but him, sitting in the middle of the couch, smiling as the sunlight streamed through the open windows.

“What’s wrong with me?” Bethany asked.

She could feel a pressure on her arms, but she had no idea why.

“Relax, honey, you’re okay.” Haven got up and hugged her. His fingers carded through her hair.

“I’m still mad at you.”

“I know, but everything will be fine. You’ll see.”

“Miss, miss, can you hear me?”

About the Author
Rising author, Viola Tempest, yearns to find truth in the modern world. She loves to write dystopian fantasy and dark romance novels depicting human reality.

Paperback Edition of Silver Lining (Giveaway ends on September 29th)

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Movie Review: The Devil Below (2021) Netflix

The Devil Below
(Streaming): Mar 5, 2021
Director: Bradley Parker
Producer: Alejandro De Leon, Diego Hallivis, Julio Hallivis, Andres Rosende
Writer: Stefan Jaworski, Eric Scherbarth
Cast: Adan Canto, Will Patton, Alicia Sanz, Jonathan Sadowski, Chinaza Uche, Zach Avery
Genre: Horror, Mystery & Thriller
Runtime: 1 h 28 min
There is an abandoned place nestled deep in Appalachian country where underground coal mines have been ablaze for decades. When a team of researchers try to find out how the fires started, they soon discover something more startling than the mystery that sent them there: they're not alone.

Okay, Rotten Tomatoes didn't even give this a rating...and the audience score is 13%. And if you are comparing it blockbuster movies then that would be fair. But this isn't that kind of movie. I don't know if it was supposed to be like a low-budget movie or if it actually was one, but it should be judged on a different scale.

Whether by choice or not, it has a 70/80s creature feature vibe. Instead of CGI, they went old school with two guys in monster suits (the credits showed two people as monsters 1 and 2). And using fuzzy camera shots, night vision, suspense music/sound effects, and some cheap video tricks, they still managed to build a lot of suspense. The acting wasn't terrible.

My biggest complaint was the conveniently stupid decision on where to cut the rope...

Here is the situation. 
Where do you cut the rope? You cut it between last guy and the monster, right? No! He cuts it between him and the last girl to sacrifice himself to save her because that makes her backstory revalent.

If you enjoy B-movie horror/monster movies with little special effects, then give this one a look. Make sure to watch it with someone so you can riff on it.

3 "creepy" Sheep


Friday, September 24, 2021

Book Review: The Witch and the Stag (The McKinley Women Book 1) by Victoria Rogers + giveaway

The Witch and the Stag (The McKinley Women Book 1)
by Victoria Rogers
August 27, 2021
Genre: Paranormal Romance
As a solitary witch, Maddy McKinley’s job is to ensure her community is safe from paranormal harm. When a routine neighborhood exorcism goes wrong, Maddy finds herself haunted by a poltergeist that has been hounding her family for generations.

With the help of the hunky godling across the street, Maddy must learn to set aside her family traditions and work with another before the poltergeist destroys her.

Book Trailer:

If you had told me this was a debut author, I would have laughed out loud and walked away thinking you were smoking something. And if so, what and can you share? I kid, I kid. But really, this was a super fun, fast novella that had a ton of fun character interactions and romance to fill your magical cup right up.

I will say that the only downside was not enough comedic interactions. There is a lot of room to grow the voices and maybe add a little more snark. Characters that can give and take that kind of banter really sit well with me personally. However, that’s just my nit-pick, and the story reads well without it.

Perhaps we can get introduced to some hot vampires in the coming stories. Maybe snarky hot vampires? Either way, this was a ton of fun and very enjoyable for the Fall season.

Getting 4 Sheep


Chapter One
Maddy felt the cool air on her nostrils, and the rising and falling of her chest as she deliberately regulated her breath. In, two, three, four, out, two, three, four.

Her mind’s eye focused on a circle of light dancing on the backs of her eyelids. With practiced discipline, she kept her focus and her stomach settled as her spirit rushed dizzily up her astral cord and to the astral plane.

The park was quieter here, in this space. Gone were the sounds of barking dogs that should have been on a leash but weren’t. Gone were the children’s squeals and parents’ plaintive shouts to be careful. Instead, there was a sea of glowing green grass and grayish blobs she knew to be playground equipment. Her inner eye searched carefully for the telltale sign of the poltergeist. This one would be brown. Or maybe red, she thought to herself. Come out, come out, wherever you are.

In the end, she heard the sound before she saw it. It let out an ear-piercing screech and rushed at her from behind. The poltergeist stopped just short of the circle of salt she had drawn around her, its shrill voice hitting decibels her physical ears would never have been able to detect.

She winced. I bet every dog within two miles is howling now.

The thing clawed at the invisible barrier separating the pair of them. Maddy took in a deep breath and pulled on the iron bell she had clipped onto her belt. “Silence now, my wayward soul. Rest, I bequeath to thee. Silence now, my wayward soul. Rest now, so mote it be.”

She rang the bell three times. At each clear ring, the poltergeist screamed into the plane and raked at the salt barrier. She flinched at the ferocity of it. Unconsciously, she reached for the locket filled with protective dill she wore around her neck. She swallowed and firmed her jaw. “Silence now, my wayward soul. Calm, I bequeath to thee. Silence now, my wayward soul. Calm now, so mote it be.”

By the time she rang the bell twice, the poltergeist charged the barrier with such force that Maddy fell backward and out of her protective circle.

“Witch!” it accused, throwing itself at her.

She used the impossible physics of the astral plane to her advantage and pushed off the poltergeist with her feet, flying away from it. She managed to ring the bell for the third time before it was on her again. Its cold talons raked across her spirit form. Down in the grass, her physical body shuddered.

“Silence now, my wayward sou --” Maddy screamed as it slashed at her astral cord. An intense cold radiated through her. She held up her locket in front of her and the poltergeist hissed and backed away. “Silence now, my wayward soul. Quiet, I bequeath to thee. Silence now, my wayward soul. Quiet now, so mote it be!”

The spirit retreated farther away from her, sneering. “Witch! Witch!” it cried.

She rang the iron bell three times, and with each melodious chime, the poltergeist shrank in size until it was nothing at all, its cacophonous wail fading with its form.

Maddy’s spirit slammed into her body as something bashed against her cheekbone. She blinked back stars and held her face in her hand, shocked more than anything. The poltergeist wasn’t supposed to be able to do that. In all her twenty-eight years of life, she had never been physically hurt by a poltergeist before. What happened? What was that?

“By the gods, are you all right?”

Maddy opened her eyes and saw a bright red Frisbee lying on the ground next to her. A Frisbee? She had been hit by a Frisbee? She touched her cheek and frowned at how puffy it felt. Of all the damn things that could happen while she was putting a damn poltergeist to rest, she was hit in the face by a Frisbee.

“Yeah,” she said without looking at the speaker. She picked up the Frisbee and shoved it in their direction. “Watch where you’re throwing the damn thin --” She stopped short when she looked up. A shirtless man -- a shirtless muscular man -- crouched next to her. He wore blue Serenity State joggers, silver aviators, and one hell of a smile. His dimples were --

“Ouch,” he said, interrupting her thoughts. “I really got you there. I’m so sorry. I’ve got a first aid kit in the car, if you just wait here, I can run over and grab it.”

Maddy stared at his plump bottom lip. “Uh… What?” she shook her head. Get a hold of yourself, Maddy. “Oh. No. No, thank you. That’s fine. I’m right around the corner.”

“Are you sure?” he asked, his brows furrowed in concern. “The car is right there.”

It was true. The parking lot was only a hop, skip, and a jump away. She shook her head again. “No, thank you. Just… be careful, huh?”

He stood up and offered her a hand. Hesitant, she took it. His grip was firm but not overpowering. For that brief second at the top of the pull, they were so close she could feel his breath on her forehead. She stepped back and held out the Frisbee.

“I’m really sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to --”

“It’s fine,” she said, waving her hand. It wasn’t fine. Not really. It hurt. A lot.

He nodded, gave her a small wave, and left her to pack her suede crossbody bag with her exorcism implements. They didn’t amount to much. She had never been one for pomp and ceremony, just like her mother, and her mother before her. The McKinley family was a straight and unbroken line of solitary practitioners known for their efficiency, knowledge, and speaking their minds.

She put away the rosemary incense, a crystal salt cellar, and her bell. Luckily, it was only a five-minute walk to her shop, Ceridwen, which was situated on a cobbled, pedestrian-only side street smack dab in the center of downtown Serenity.

The jingle of the wind chimes on the front door alerted Felicity, Maddy’s only employee (she worked half days twice during the week and all day on Saturdays), of her arrival. Felicity was a full head shorter than Maddy but made up for her lack of size with the number of words that came out of her mouth. The sight of Felicity’s gorgeous blonde curls piled effortlessly atop her head made Maddy pull her hair down from its pineapple so it would fall in rich mahogany waves about her shoulders. There. Less rumpled.

“What is that?” Felicity said almost immediately coming out from behind the counter.

Maddy frowned, letting out a hiss from the movement.

“What on earth happened? Did you get mugged? Tell me you didn’t get mugged.” She leaned in as if she were about to touch Maddy’s face.

Maddy waved her aside and continued to the back of the store to her office. She dropped her purse onto her chair, pulled open the bottom drawer of one of the tall gray file cabinets, and grabbed the first aid kit.

“I didn’t get mugged,” she said as she flicked on the desk lamp for more light in the windowless room. “Got hit by a Frisbee.” She finally looked into the mirror hanging crookedly on the wall. “By the gods, he did get me, didn’t he?” She peered closer and poked at it, wincing.

“Well, what do you expect if you poke at it?” Felicity said from the doorway.

Maddy rolled her eyes and continued to examine her cheek. “Just a bad bruise. Doesn’t look like the skin was broken at all. Guess I’ll just look like I was in a fight for a while.”

“I bet those kids learned their lesson.”

Maddy glanced up at Felicity. “Not kids. Grown man. Early thirties, I bet.”

“Oh! Even better. What’s his name?”

Maddy put the first aid kit back in its drawer. “No idea. I was too busy trying not to tear into him.”

“Oh, come on, Maddy! You need to live a little. You can’t just stay in here or that tiny little box you call an apartment all your life. You shoulda got his number.” Felicity arched a brow and shook her head in disappointment.

“Home. I call it home.”

“Whatever. It’s a rectangle above your store.”

“I own that rectangle. It’s my home, Felicity.”

“I still think you should just rent that place out and get a house.”

“I don’t drive. I like it here. It’s convenient. Everything I need is within walking distance. I’m fine. Isn’t your shift over?”

Felicity grinned at the reminder. She grabbed her purse from its hook in the office and walked back to the storefront with Maddy.

“Anyway,” Felicity continued, “All I’m saying is you need to go out on a date once in a while. Next time a guy comes barreling into your life like that, you should take the chance the universe is giving you.”

“Mmm-hmmm.” Maddy sat down on a stool behind the counter and began to shuffle through the day’s mail.

“I’m serious, Maddy. Promise me you’ll do something tonight, eh? It’s Friday.”

This month’s utility bill was higher than last month’s. She frowned. They hadn’t been doing anything differently. This summer was cooler than usual. It couldn’t be the central air.

“What are you doing tonight?” she asked, to get Felicity off her back. If anything could sidetrack Felicity it was getting her to talk about her own love life.

“Date with Nate.”

“Nate… I don’t remember a Nate.” Maddy sighed and tossed the bill onto the counter. The next piece of mail was from her old alma mater, no doubt trying to sell her insurance.

“You wouldn’t. First date. How’s my teeth?”

“Your teeth?”

Felicity nodded and grinned wildly, bearing her pearly whites for all to see. “He’s a dentist. I’ve been using those whitening strips all week.”

“I’m sure if you floss, you’re fine.” The rest of it was junk mail. Coupons to the shawarma place a couple of streets over, an internet provider flyer, and an optometrist brochure.

“Yes, good idea.” Felicity turned around and headed toward the door. “Go and make me proud tonight!” she called over her shoulder as she left.

* * *

Maddy lay on her overstuffed microfiber sofa, one leg hanging off the edge while the other rested comfortably over the cushioned back. Her eBook reader propped on her chest, she reached for the bowl of buttered popcorn on the wood plank coffee table. She grabbed a handful and stuffed it into her mouth, popcorn falling down her T-shirt and into her bra. As she fished out the rogue popped kernel, Felicity’s parting words came resonating in her head. She snorted. Somehow she didn’t think reading romance novels and pigging out on popcorn would count as ‘doing Felicity proud.’

Maybe Felicity was right. Maybe she was boring. Here she was, twenty-eight years old, single, attractive and… lying on her couch in her PJs on a Friday night. Even in her younger days she never would have had the stamina to keep up with Felicity’s party life, let alone now. Bars were where she had escaped her randy dormitory roommate and did her reading homework. Growing up in a large family had conditioned her to loud spaces and being able to read in a crowded bar came naturally to her. She had found it nice to take periodic breaks from studying to chat with the bartender or whoever sat down next to her.

Maybe she could go out to read? A change of scenery might be nice. There was that cute new bar with the black-striped awnings that opened up across the street a few weeks ago. She still hadn’t gone to check it out. Its opening night had been a rowdy one and kept her up through half the night. The hubbub had thankfully died down in subsequent weeks as the newness of the place wore off.

Maddy glanced at the old analog clock on the wall. It wasn’t even eight. It wouldn’t be too busy at this hour, which was perfect for her.

Right, then. To the bar! Whatever its name was. The Stag and the Fox? The Fox and the Stag? Something like that. Maddy heaved herself up off the couch and frowned down at her buttery tee. All right. Shower first.

She showered, put her wet hair up in a quick two-strand twist, and put on minimal makeup: winged liner, mascara, blush, and a pale red lip gloss. She avoided foundation. Nothing was going to hide her shiner, no matter how hard she tried. After she puckered her lips in the mirror a few times, she threw on a white linen sundress, cute leather gladiator sandals, and tossed on a dangling silver necklace with a beautiful chunk of amethyst hanging off the end. There. She had put in an effort. She took a selfie for posterity and texted it to Felicity with the words, Ok! Ok! I’m going out!

A series of emojis came flashing on her phone. Three hearts, heart eyes, and lips. Maddy didn’t think Felicity ever used actual words in a text. At least, she had never experienced words in Felicity’s texts, even when she was calling in sick for work.

She looked at the clock dominating the far wall of her loft apartment. Eight-thirty. All right, she made good time. She grabbed her faithful suede crossbody, dropped her eReader in, scooped up her keys from the pottery dish her sister had made, and headed out.

It was a warm evening. The sun still hung on the horizon washing everything in indigo and orange. All the outdoor tables at the bar were full, so she pushed open the door and went inside, fearing it would be packed in there as well. Surprisingly, it wasn’t. A few tables were full of late diners, but the bar was nearly empty. The inside was just as cute as the outside with its awnings and wrought-iron tables. Wood and leather dominated the décor, and while it was decidedly masculine, it was warm and inviting. Not a single television on a wall, she noted, grateful that she wouldn’t be regaled with sports. Not that there was anything wrong with sports. It just wasn’t her thing. Unless it was yoga. Or Pilates. She doubted she’d ever find those activities on bar television screens.

She made a beeline to the wood-and-iron bar and took a seat on an unoccupied stool off to the corner and away from the other patrons. She eyed the beer on tap. She didn’t recognize any of them.

A young woman, maybe twenty-two or three, dressed in low-rise skinny jeans and a Fox and the Stag T-shirt wandered over.

“What can I get you?” the bartender asked.

Maddy squinted at the beer labels. “What do you have for a pilsner on tap?”

“We carry only local microbrews, so right now for a pilsner, it is the Locomotion Czech.”

Microbrews. Of course. Maddy smiled to herself. “Sure. I’ll try that. I’ll start a tab,” she said, sliding her credit card onto the bar top.

The bartender picked it up and nodded. “You got it.”

Maddy got out her eReader and tapped the screen awake. Time to settle in.

It took nearly forty minutes before someone interrupted her. That was impressive. A woman reading a book in public usually meant interruptions every five minutes.

“What’re you reading?”

Maddy looked up over the edge of her reader. The man had slicked back graying hair. Far too much gel, dude. “A romance,” she mumbled. She counted to three in her head before he came back with the expected reply.

“Why read about romance when the man of your dreams is right here in this bar?”

“Oh, is that right?” She hid her smile in her pint.

“Why don’t I buy you another?”

“Oh, that’s kind of you, but I --”

“There you are! I was looking for you,” entered another male voice.

Maddy looked up at the approaching man. It was the same guy who hit her with the Frisbee! He wore a shirt this time -- a formfitting, blue button-down with a pair of dark wash jeans. The color brought out his brown eyes. He looked good, though truth be told, he looked better when shirtless. She kept her surprise in check when he slid in between her and the creep and gave her a light kiss on the cheek. Okay. That was forward.

“The Frisbee really got you, didn’t it?” His fingers brushed the bruise lightly.

“Mmm-hmm,” she got out. He wore a wonderful cologne, not too overpowering as she found most to be. His boldness, while a bit frightening, was boiling hot. Hoo boy, Maddy. Get it together.

“Is he gone?” Frisbee guy whispered.

Maddy glanced over his shoulder. Her would-be suitor was sidling away toward the other end of the bar. “Yes, he’s gone.”

Regretfully, Frisbee guy pulled away. He waved at the bartender who immediately began pouring a glass of bourbon. Top shelf. Maddy arched a brow. The bar had only just opened, and he was already a regular, was he?

“Do you always perform exorcisms in the park?”

Maddy choked on her beer. “Only at lunch,” she said, wiping her mouth with the napkin she had been using as a coaster.

Her remark got the hoped-for laugh. “I’m really sorry about that. I hope the ghost didn’t get away.”

“Poltergeist,” she corrected automatically. “And no. I got it before the uhh… incident.”

“I’m glad. Even so, I know that would have been a rude awakening coming into your body like that. I’m really sorry. The least I can do is get you another beer.”

So, he knew about astral projection. Maybe there was more to Frisbee guy than she’d originally thought. She was just about to focus on his aura when a light through the front window caught her eye.

“What the --” She squinted past the patrons and watched in horror as a flashlight, or something like it, flashed in the paned windows of her store. “Someone’s in my shop!”

She shoved her e-reader in her bag and hopped off the stool.

Frisbee guy grabbed her arm. “You can’t just go over there. What if they’re armed?”

“So what? That’s my store they’ve broken into. It’s probably just kids.” She pulled her arm out of his loose grip and rushed toward the exit.

“I’m coming with you,” he said.

Fine. Whatever. He could come in handy. She wouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

She marched out the front door, across the cobbled street, and straight to her shop door. The window was dark. She fumbled for her keys and unlocked the entrance. Strange. No sign of a forced entry from the front. Maybe they came in through the back of her office?

Maddy took in a sharp breath from her nose, steeling herself for what was to come. Frisbee guy’s presence reassured her as she wasn’t going into this alone.

She threw open the door and hit the light switch. “Got you!” she yelled, not really knowing what she was saying. Got you? What are you doing, playing peekaboo?

There was nothing there. Not a thing was out of place.

“What the hell? I swear someone was in here.” She walked to the back and hit the switch in her office. The office door was bolted as usual. No one there either. Well, this was embarrassing. She turned around and faced Frisbee guy. What was his name, anyway?

Blushing, she shrugged. “I don’t know what to say. Someone was in here.”

He smiled and stood aside for her to pass him in the doorway. Her hip brushed his thigh. She felt the heat rush up to her cheeks.

“I believe you,” he said.

“Even when the evidence says otherwise?”

Something whizzed by their heads. A cellophane-wrapped tarot deck crashed into the doorframe.

An ethereal and raspy hiss filled the room. A light flashed near the standing display of a selection of tarot and oracle decks. “Wiiiiitchhhhhhh!”

Another tarot deck went flying toward them. Frisbee guy was ready this time. He pulled her against him just as the deck would have connected with her head. She felt his chest expand as he filled his lungs with air.

“BEGONE!” he boomed, throwing out his hand toward the poltergeist. His hand glowed a pale yellow for a moment before a rush of light radiated from his palm.

The poltergeist squealed and fled through the window in a brownish flicker. Maddy swore it was the same poltergeist she had banished in the park. But it had worked! Her exorcisms always worked. Maybe being hit in the head had interrupted things after all.

“Are you all right?”

She nodded into his chest. “Yeah. I’m fine.”

“Good,” he said resting his hands on her shoulders and gently separating the two of them.

She shook her head. “Who are you? What was that? Not the poltergeist, I mean what you did. That wasn’t witchcraft.” That was some powerful magic he had demonstrated. She would have needed to complete a ritual in order to have done what he did with one command.

His phone buzzed. He glanced at the name on the screen and chuckled. “I’m sorry. I’ve got to get back. You’ll be safe. It won’t come back. Not for a while, at least.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. He slipped out a card with his thumb and pressed it into her hand.

“Thank you for the interesting evening,” He paused as he picked up one of her business cards from the holder next to the cash register, “Madeline. I’m sure we’ll run into each other again.”

Bewildered, Maddy looked down at the card in her hand. Cedric Bligh, Fox and the Stag, owner. And that was definitely a cell phone number.

About the Author
Victoria Rogers is an award-winning podcaster, game designer, and storyteller known for their immersive worlds and strong female characters.

Witches, warlocks, gods, and spirits fill their dreams and stories. Consent and healthy communication are two major aspects of their work – after all, you can’t have what you want unless you ask for it.

Victoria can be found in the garden and in the kitchen making fruit wines, brewing beers, and infusing spirits. When not feeding friends, they attend tabletop gaming conventions and sit on storytelling and world-building panels, teach about online marketing, and produce live events.

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