Pondering the Muse by Darby Harn – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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Pondering the Muse

I rarely think about a muse, but I’m always thinking about craft. How do I start a story? How do I finish? How do I sustain myself through periods lacking inspiration or motivation? My experience being autistic mirrors my writing process in many ways. I want to go out and be social; I also really don’t. I want to write the story in my head, and I don’t know how. My worst moments come in literally standing in the door, on the threshold of going out, but never leaving. Many of my stories exist in this space, unrealized.

This tension generates enormous anxiety and exhaustion from the same, eroding the energy I have to do anything, including write. Producing In Between: Stories of the Eververse represents a major accomplishment for me. When I settled on the idea of creating this series about Kit Baldwin, fighting to simply help people in a world where superheroes charge for their services, I had some strong ideas and goals. I knew I wanted to do nine books, and I knew I wanted to do a story collection that would land in the pause between books three and four. I knew this collection would serve both as a bridge and an entry point for readers, as much as it would serve to build out the world even more.

Despite the inspiration guiding me, getting the collection to print took years. The stories and novellas that make up the collection, loosely linked together in a kind of parenthetical novel, first emerged in 2018. I often think a long time on a story, write it fast, and then think on it more for ever longer. I’ve gotten better recently, as I’m more aware I’m threading into this loop, but I still do it. That requires me to apply enormous focus on my work. Inspiration always guides me, and my muse – such as it is – plays a role in seizing on an idea in the first place. But for myself and perhaps for other writers, hard work and dedication are what gets you through to the end.

The final novella in the collection, “The Other Kit,” lingered in my head for years as I teetered on the brink of what the story would be. I had an idea, and an ambition, but I also feared writing it. This novella acknowledges Kit’s autism in the text for the first time and I struggled with whether or not to do so. Many neurodivergent writers leave this aspect of their characters unacknowledged, but I felt for Kit and for myself, I needed to say. I didn’t know how for a long time.

Book five in the series, which I’m writing now, similarly gestated in my head for years. It will be years before it sees the light of day. Some stories come quick. I wrote a new short story recently in just a day, but it too will simmer for a long time before seeing print. I accept this. I understand now the inhibition in my writing, and I work toward taking those steps knowing inspiration will get me off the ground, but won’t keep me in the air.

Telepathic wolves. Zombie gangsters. Sentient houses. Just another day for Kit Baldwin.

Fifty years after an alien ship crashed in Break Pointe, the only protection in a strange new world is Great Power, a corporation of superhumans. If you can afford them. Most people can’t.

Enter Kit Baldwin, a young woman who helps people to help people. Except her power is the alien’s power, and she may be more of a danger to her city than she is a help.
This collection of stories and novellas follows Kit’s journey in a series that’s been called ‘the next logical step after Watchmen.’

Enjoy an Excerpt

Post Credits Scene:

“Bring my girlfriend back to life,” the old man says.

Since I got my powers, I get all kinds of strange requests. A fair number of them are curiously sexual, but mostly people ask me to do some good in the world. Catch asteroids. Cure cancer, end hunger, please and thank you. You know.

Little things.

This one might go up on the fridge. Bring his girlfriend back to life? He could do with some help himself. Seventy, maybe. Liver spots. A rattle in his chest like a bad engine. Still, he got up here on the roof. He knew it was me, warming my feet with the other birds.

Sometimes, I don’t know when I’m me.

About the Author: Darby Harn studied at Trinity College, in Dublin, Ireland, as part of the Irish Writing Program. He is the author of the sci-fi superhero novel EVER THE HERO. His short fiction appears in Strange Horizons, Interzone, Shimmer, The Coffin Bell and other venues.

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Last Star Standing by Spaulding Taylor – Q&A and Giveaway

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What are your favorite TV shows?

Either live tennis or else MasterChef. Am addicted to tennis!!! It doesn’t have to be the French Open, with Nadal v. Djokovic… but hey, it helps!!!

What is your favorite meal?

Anything at Malika’s, my fav. taverna near our Crete house.

If you were to write a series of novels, what would it be about?

I’m already doing a series, here

Is there a writer you idolize? If so who?

There are about a zillion writers who I idolize!!! In this book’s context, those would be: Tolkien, le Guin, McCarthy, Orwell, Liu Cixin, Iain Banks… And what I think they all have in common is that their books would still be amazing even if they hadn’t world-built so resonantly. Their characters have depth to start with – their dialogue flows – to the futuristic bit deepens the plot and magnifies the characters further.

How did you come up for the title of this book?

I’m terrible at titles. This one took longer than most.

It’s a “buddy” movie, with Bully and Pavlina, but it’s also a personal journey: Aiden still has growing up to do. And, despite all the action/adventure in it, he suffers a long night of the soul. So I wanted to get a sense of all that: the rebellion, his past, his having to learn to trust others, his recklessness – into the title. I didn’t, of course! – no one could.

But I did my homework, and Last Star Standing hadn’t been used. But guess what? – about a month after Last Star Standing was published, a silly book about a singing competition entitled THE Last Star Standing appeared.

Titles are just sooooooooo annoying!

Aiden has always felt like an outsider. After the rebel assassin is captured and imprisoned by the world’s galactic overlords, he awaits execution. Then a mole working for the occupying regime alerts him to a plot that could destroy the entire resistance…

Engineering a daring escape, Aiden’s growing feud with the new rebel leader leaves him out in the cold and smouldering with resentment. Faced with deceit and betrayals on every side, he recruits a group of overlookedoutcasts and stakes everything on one last mission.

Can the restless, reckless Aiden take a stand long enough to save humanity from enslavement?

Enjoy an Excerpt

Nothing. Clean as a whistle. Until my massive hand grasped hold of something, something which must have blended into its background so perfectly that I hadn’t even spotted it. Something alive, nestling under the co-pilot’s seat. I couldn’t believe it. A live gromeline. Trembling, possibly with fury, and trying in vain to squeeze back. Grabbing my trophy – I could feel its hot little heart throbbing like an injury against my palm – I hopped out of the plane so fast that my wound protested.

‘Bully!’

Bully raised one eyebrow. Two would have been overkill.

‘Bully, you are not going to believe this. I found a gromeline!’ The gromeline – only about fifteen centimetres – bit my finger, hard, even though I could have easily crushed its entire body with my fist – and probably would have, had I been a tester, and not merely disguised as one.

Feisty little gromeline. I flicked it lightly with my sausage-sized finger. When it protested, I growled, ‘Cheese it, munchkin,’ though I could feel it struggling obstreperously against my palm.

Bully was intrigued. ‘Is it genuine?’ ‘Of course it’s genuine. It just bit me, didn’t it?’

Bully probably considered this no proof. But they’re rarer than clean air these days and his fascination was obvious. Now gromelines come from the farthest galaxy so far discovered, can speak any tongue and own enviable mental powers. They are also brave to the point of stupidity and ludicrously small. This one was mouse-coloured – they can be spectacular – with tiny red eyes. Few humans have ever seen one.

About the Author:

Alice (Spaulding Taylor) McVeigh has been published by Orion/Hachette in contemporary fiction, by Unbound Publishing in action/adventure and by Warleigh Hall Press in Austenesque fiction. Her novels have won Gold Medal/First Place is the Global, eLit and Pencraft Book Awards, been runner-up in the Independent Press Awards, finalists in the Eric Hoffer, Rone and Wishing Shelf Book Awards and selected by Shelf Unbound as one of the “top indies” of 2021. Two of her novels are currently finalists in the CIBA Book Awards (the Cygnus and Goethe Awards). Her most recent novel (Harriet: A Jane Austen Variation) was just selected as Editors’ Pick “outstanding” on Publishers Weekly.

A professional London cellist, Alice lives in London and Crete with her professor husband: their only child is completing her Masters in Chinese Literature. They also share two miniature long-haired dachshunds and an incurable addiction to tennis.

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Tarot in The Starfolk Arcana and Starfolk Falling by Martha Dunlop – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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Tarot in The Starfolk Arcana and Starfolk Falling

I have long been considering writing a book using tarot. I learned to read the cards years ago, and I’m always inspired by their rich imagery.

Although tarot is largely known as a divination tool, it is more helpful for personal development than for telling you what’s going to happen next week. It can help you get a feel for what’s coming, and which path is likely to work out best for you, but specifics tend to come from the reader rather than the actual cards.

I considered writing a book where I allowed card pulls to dictate the story, but who know where that would have ended up? I can hear my structural editor gasp as I write this, and I’m sure she’ll be grateful I haven’t followed this idea through … yet!

In the end, I decided to use the tarot archetypes different characters. This starts simply, with the main characters each personifying one card, but becomes more complicated as some of them start to switch.

Beth, my main character, is the first card in the deck, The Fool in traditional tarot, or Potential in The Starfolk Tarot, the deck in the book. Beth comes across The Starfolk Tarot in a local bookshop, and is drawn to the deck even though she doesn’t know how to read the cards. She buys it on a whim, and when she opens the box she finds that one of the cards, Intention, or The Chariot in traditional tarot, has a picture of someone she knows.

Just before she bought the deck, she was in a TV studio and was challenged by the guest on stage, Amelia, who was trying to frighten her audience with stories of paranormal attack. Beth could see through the stories. She knew they weren’t real, but the rest of the audience were pulled along by Amelia’s charisma and drawn into the trap. Amelia started off with the same Tarot card as Beth, Potential, but by the time the book begins she has already changed card. She is now represented by Fear, or The Devil, which asks us to face our own fears and learn through them. Amelia tries to build a following by inspiring fear in others, but will they learn through the experience or will they get drawn in by the hype over and over again?

Also in the TV studio is Jonan, the mysterious man with the violet eyes, the man on the Intention tarot card. Beth feels instantly drawn to him. She feels a connection she can’t explain, and although he looks completely normal, she knows he is different in ways most people can’t understand. His role is to help Beth wake up to the path she incarnated for, and to help her realise the importance of her own intention in life.

As Beth becomes more involved, and meets other members of Jonan’s family, the mystery of the tarot deck deepens. At the beginning of the book Jonan explains that he knew the deck’s illustrator and she used his family as models. But how did Beth’s own image end up in the deck as Potential? As the story progresses, more characters from the deck arrive in their lives, and even Jonan can’t explain it.

As characters change and decisions are made, some of them change their card allegiance. Amelia changes from Potential to Fear, but this has a domino effect and other characters shift then and in the future.

The deck doesn’t tell all, but it does give an insight into the energy of the character experience and a roadmap of their journey.

Do you know the tarot? Which card would represent you and your journey right now? And how do you think that knowledge might help you to make the best decisions in your life?

Destiny calls. Soulmates draw closer. One woman stands in the way.

Beth trusts her psychic senses. So when her birthday visit to a daytime TV talk show takes a weird turn, she knows something is wrong. Amelia, the celebrity on stage, is oddly fixated on Beth and the man with the microphone is hauntingly familiar. Things become even stranger when she buys a tarot deck, and they are all pictured in the cards.

Jonan has waited an eternity to be with the woman who haunts his dreams. When he finally sees her at the TV studio, he hopes life with his soulmate is within reach. But as Amelia refuses to let go of their past together, his hopes fade.

Amelia stands between Beth and Jonan. Spinning tales of supernatural threats to her adoring fan base, she builds a personality cult through fear of the paranormal. As her power grows, she does her best to scare Beth away from Jonan and plans to reclaim him for herself.

United by a destiny that spans lifetimes, Beth and Jonan are determined to stop Amelia’s fear-mongering. But Amelia has more than one card to play. Even though they are fated to be together, Amelia’s destructive nature may once again tear them apart.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Beth sighed and slouched down in her front row seat at the TV studio. If she’d known she was going to be subjected to this drivel, she wouldn’t have come. She’d been here for two hours already, and not one of the stories had been genuine. Her so-called friend and flatmate had a lot to answer for. She was pleased Laura loved her new job, and it had been obvious her friend’s enthusiasm about the chat show was overblown, but this was worse than she’d expected.

She caught a movement out of the corner of her eye and turned. Laura was standing off to the side of the set, waving her clipboard at Beth. She shifted on her mile-high spikes. Her feet must have been so uncomfortable, but Laura had been determined to make an impression today. Her eyes were bright as she scanned the set, drinking in her world. This job was her triumph. Beth couldn’t fault her enthusiasm, she just wished Laura had left her out of today’s charade.

Seated on the dais, Katherine Haversham waited for a moment, eyebrows raised, bright red lips pursed.

‘Thank you for staying with us over the break. I know this is the moment you’ve been waiting for. Model and It girl Amelia Faustus is here, live, on Deep and Dark to break her silence over the horrific out-of-body attack that took her from the media spotlight. After weeks of fear and soul-searching, she has decided to step back into the public eye. Amelia, welcome. Tell us what happened.’ Katherine leaned forward. ‘Start from the beginning.’

About the Author:Martha is a dreamer and lover of stories who likes nothing better than spending her days getting to know the characters in her head.
She is a tarot card reader and reiki master, and loves to chat reading, writing and all things mystical on social media, as well as posting pictures of her fellow pack-member, Bertie the Cavalier.

A fiddle player, Martha fell in love with traditional music, particularly Irish, and is also teaching herself to play the Irish Bouzouki. She played her way through her English degree at York and remembers that time as much for the music as the books.

Martha is the author of three books: The Starfolk Arcana, Starfolk Falling, and standalone Wild Shadow. She is currently working on Book 3 of The Starfolk Trilogy, Starfolk Rising.

You can keep up with Martha’s news, book releases and extra content at www.marthadunlop.com, or on her Amazon page.

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Head shot by Gene Genie Photography, www.genegenie.photography

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How I Handle Negative Criticism by C.M. Sage – Guest Blog and Giveway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. One randomly chosen winner via rafflecopter will win a $50 Amazon/BN.com gift card. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

How I Handle Negative Criticism

If you ask me what scares me most about writing, it is negative criticism. Not constructive criticism which is not the same thing at all and is beneficial to a writer. Sometimes constructive criticism might sting a little, but then you suck it up and look at it as an opportunity to improve your story. You make that lemonade!

On the other hand, negative criticism is vicious and cruel, and not at all meant to help. It’s usually personal and on social media it is used to score coveted likes. It’s a contagion that by careless people who cannot even imagine the pain they cause.

I know of what I speak because I am very close to a writer who was subjected to negative criticism. I watched the person suffer as they struggled to work their way through it as best they could. Many of us tried to help the writer see that it was an aberration, and it would pass, and they’d make it to the other side. Gradually things got better, and the author started writing again, but it left a deep psychological scar. And not just on the writer.

After that I vowed that I’d stay away from places where that kind of toxic negative criticism thrives. I also have asked trusted readers to manage my accounts so that they can filter out the voices that aren’t there to make the world a better place.

I’m not the only one it seems; a professional writing group that I belong to recommended that authors never go to certain sites. It’s really hard to stay away from the fire because we’re drawn to it like moths to flames, but I think that’s the healthiest way to handle negative criticism.

Sometimes things are lost for a very long time…and then they are found.

Take Gracie for example, a woman who lost everything, her life, her family, even her name, but now she is a Cathalian warrior of Antecede blessed with powers, which aren’t yet fully realized. Her elder and nemesis, Donavan, finally granted the former professor an opportunity to train a new warrior. Her joy turns to shock when she meets her great, great, great, great grandson, Henry, accompanied by his wisecracking best friend, Milo. Henry recognizes his long dead ancestor right away, and it doesn’t take the Cathalians long to realize that this meeting was no accident.

Gracie and the warriors of Antecede soon discover that they aren’t the only ones laying a claim on their new charges. Menacing enemies from the South and their hired mercenary assassin, Revilan, the Bowman, have also taken an interest. Come along with Gracie, Donavan, and their fellow warriors on a perilous quest to protect all that is good and right from the evil that threatens it, and along the way discover what else was lost.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Gracie tapped his shoulder, “Milo, did you notice anything unusual before I arrived to meet you? Did you see anyone on the shore, even from a far distance?” Milo reached down to ruffle Rosie’s ears before he answered, which was fortunate because at that exact moment a vicious arrow barely missed grazing his ear before flying by into the tall grass.

Gracie heard a sound like a muffled curse far off in the distance. The language wasn’t one she recognized. She knocked Milo flat to the ground, so that he was no longer a target and signaled for her little ones to stay down. Several more arrows flew in quick succession from the same direction. Gracie managed to pull a long dagger from under her coat before she also went down. Blue fell onto her back next to Gracie, a knife in each hand. Gracie looked at Obi, who knew what to do. He crawled away to search for and retrieve an arrow.

In the interim Blue and Gracie rose to their knees, keeping their heads down, and signaling for Milo to stay down. He nodded, and muttered in a shaky voice, “You don’t have to tell me twice. I may never get up!”

About the Author: Lost and Found is author C.M. Sage’s first book in the Chronicles of Antecede fantasy adventure trilogy. She loves writing, reading, and traveling. Most of all she loves spending time with her beloved family and friends…and yes, that includes her furry friends. Life would have been much less sunny without them.

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Advice for aspiring authors by Chris Koehler – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Chris Koehler will be awarding a $15 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Advice for aspiring authors

1. Start now.

While classes can help, and advice is great, the only way to improve your skill in writing,
is to start writing. I know shocking, but if you wish to write, then write. Classes will have you do much of the same thing. You can figure out what you are doing good, and bad, and hone your skills by making flash fiction stories. I would say write stories that take place in five pages or less. Often this is hard because you need to introduce characters, setting, and conflict, and then resolve the conflict in five pages. But if you can do that, then you can make a novel or novella.

2. Read.

I know, shocking idea, writers should read, I hear your sarcastic comments. But it is not
just about passion, or knowing why you are doing it. It is also a way for you to see how others have done it. How have other authors written their stories? You can get an idea of style, how they approach conflict, and how they describe their sense. More than that, and even other forms of fiction can help here, you can be inspired. One post-apocalyptic story might inspire your own version of a post-apocalypse. Or perhaps a fantasy setting, or maybe a story about life on a distant world cut off from earth. Or one of many other ideas.

3. Take some classes.

While your teacher may have you doing the same thing, find a class on fiction writing.
Then take said class, you can probably find one at a community college, if not then you might find one online. With time and practice, they can get you up to speed. You will be better off for it. They can give you hints you might have otherwise missed. Figure out what kind of writing you can do best, and even give you some challenges. In a class I took one challenge was to bring in a picture, and then make a story about that picture. I did a story about a family on vacation from a tough life, others did a picture that they only wished existed or a final picture with the family.

4. Author support group.

I have said it elsewhere, and you may have heard it elsewhere, but an author support
group is important for any aspiring author. When I joined mine, my work went from ideas of publishing to real actual publishing. I won’t name any, as you might have different needs than I do, but they can help you in many ways. They will contain authors with expertise in areas you lack. They will help you with editing and drafting. They will get on your tail to “Do something”. And they will keep you from going insane. Find one that meets regularly, has some sort of schedule, and go to their meeting.

5. Don’t give up.

It will be hard. You will face rejection. You will be lost. You will wonder if it is worth it. As a new author myself, I still wonder if it is worth it. But you haven’t lost until you have given up. Giving up does not mean you keep trying to publish the same way, you might find a better way. Sometimes not giving up means redoing entire chapters, or rewriting an entire novel from the ground up, because you just got a better idea. Sometimes it means staring at a screen or piece of paper. But do not give up. It was drilled into me, so I will now drill it into you, keep trying, even when it’s hard.

Dr Avery Hutton lives in good times. All of humanity now lives under the Global republic, a democratic government that works hard to protect the rights of their citizens, expand orbital infrastructure and explore space. The last of which is helped by the relatively new Warp Drive, allowing probes to travel to and from the nearest stars over the course of a few years.

This is part of Avery’s job, helping organize the missions form the ground, his specialty being the analysis of microorganism form other star systems. But this most recent mission will change everything. For while every return mission previously had gone well, and few issues were observed, this time one of the returning samples is a bit… nastier than any previous sample. This time something has returned that could wipe out all life on Earth.

Enjoy an Excerpt

“You’re worried management has gotten complacent?” I asked “And this will be the one time it matters?”

Diane nodded.

“Also, the Beta Strain does appear to be particularly tough,” added Tone.

I nodded in agreement. It took an insane amount of effort to kill Beta Strain microbes. They just don’t seem to care, still active in environments where comparable Earth microbes might try to escape with suspended animation. They survived in suspended animation where Earth microbes, or the microbes of the other strains we found, died.

About the Author:I am a new author and this is my first book. I started working on this story around 2016 and have been refining it ever since.

I first got interested in writing years ago, I took part in a junior writing fare, and wrote as a volunteer from a teenage perspective at a local newspaper. My parents loved Science Fiction and Fantasy and passed on that love to me.

While this is my first book, I hope it’s not my last, I hope you enjoy it!

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Blood of Azure Series by Jonathan J Michael – Q&A and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. One randomly chosen winner via rafflecopter will win a $50 Amazon/BN.com gift card. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

What group did you hang out with in high school?

High School? Meh… I can’t really say I hung out with a group. I was casual friends with many stereotypes. Nerds, jocks, gamers, stoners, partyers…it didn’t matter. What do you call the group that played some sports, got good grades, went to parties, and occasionally broke the rules? That’s the group I hung out with. We all snowboarded, but none of us skated, so we weren’t skaters. I don’t know. Maybe I don’t have a group.

What are you passionate about these days?

I’m passionate about being outdoors. Camping, hiking, exploring, that’s what I enjoy. There’s a chance I might start participating in an annual vacation run, running a half marathon in a different national park each year, which is not only good for my health, but should be extremely inspirational for writing.

If you had to do your journey to getting published all over again, what would you do differently?

There are too many things I’d do differently. Hindsight gives you the wisdom of a thousand yous. The primary thing I’d do differently is building a writing network prior to finishing the first book. I didn’t even know what a Facebook Group was. I didn’t know anything about marketing. I didn’t know how to create or find an artist to create a marketable cover. I knew nothing about publishing. Had I started that process as I was writing the first book, I would be leagues ahead of where I am now. But…hindsight. We can only change how we approach the next one, and I’ve learned from each of those thousand mes by looking back at where I came from.

Ebook or print? And why?

I prefer eBook only because my eyes can read the screen easier than the pages of a book. Otherwise, a physical copy with the smell of the paper and having a bookmark to drop in…that is ideal. I’ve always wanted a vast library full of books, but my eyes just don’t tolerate the words on a piece of paper without the proper lighting. And the proper lighting for me seems to only be sunlight. Anything dimmer, and my eyes struggle. So, I’ve shifted to eBooks.

What is your favorite scene in this book?

I have four main characters and follow many different points of view through the Blood of Azure series, so it’s difficult to choose a favorite scene. But if I must, I have one character, Goose Greyson, who has a bit more of a light-hearted journey as he becomes more in tune with nature and learns to converse with animals. In doing so, he is forced to broaden his mind to tolerate the intelligence of a variety of different beasts.

There’s one scene in Season of Suffering where Goose has found himself stranded on a sheer cliff with a daunting thunder blizzard on its way and a snow leopard looking for its next meal. It’s a dire moment for Goose. A life-threatening moment. An unexpected savior comes to his rescue in the form of a mountain goat, and Goose struggles to grasp the nonchalance of the mountain goat as the beast easily traverses the sheer cliff. Goose already thinks himself a great hero, and to have to rely on a shaggy, dumb beast is beneath him. It’s a great moment because of the duress Goose is under, the minor character growth, and the ridiculousness the mountain goat brings to the scene.

BLOOD OF AZURE SERIES

Four races with powers dictated by the seasons seek balance and prosperity. However, life instinctively primes itself for survival, and when one race commands the touch of death, all others fall in line. Tyranny plagues Azure as an immortal ruler governs the knowledge of the seasons and those wielding its power.

Four young protagonists, Stone, Jaymes, Goose, and Astor, each navigate their way to escape his shadow and reclaim their freedom. Simple ambitions for young souls. But little did they know, they would uncover the secrets the realm is built upon, and the unique talents they each carry. Their ignorance allows the knowledge of the seasons to escape into the world around them little by little, and with it, a power loosing anarchy upon the realm. A power most aren’t worthy of wielding. It is up to Stone and his companions to tame that power and reclaim the balance.

Four seasons to balance the land. Four sages to balance the life.

SEASON OF SACRIFICE, BOOK 1

Courage is for the bold. It is not for Stone McLarin. He’s been in hiding for four seasons after being orphaned by the Taoiseach. He doesn’t care for the heroic antics of avenging his parent’s death or securing his freedom. He only desires one thing—to protect his sister’s life.

This proves challenging when his sister, Jaymes, possesses a rivaling power of decay to that of the tyrant ruler’s. She’s a threat to his dominance, and there will be no escaping his shadow.

When the Taoiseach manipulates his way into Jaymes’s life and steals her away, Stone has no choice but to follow. He must venture into the heart of the tyrant’s domain and figure out how to penetrate the impenetrable. And if he succeeds there, he will have to slay the most powerful man in Azure.

In a world ruled by decay, what chance does life stand?

Season of Sacrifice is part one of the Blood of Azure series—an epic fantasy full of grim encounters, heroic adventures, unique magic, and a captivating world to explore.

Author’s Note: Contains explicit language and some graphic descriptions.

SEASON OF SUFFERING, BOOK 2

A villain in his own mind, Stone McLarin is labeled the hero for murdering a man.

Not only is Stone weighted down as a hero, but he’s idolized by the dominant religion, and he’s the sole protector of the knowledge of the ages. The pressure of the entire realm is on his shoulders.

Carib Reign, a shapeshifter building an army of immortals, plans to purge the Crimson Capital to find this hidden knowledge. His motive, to give the people of Azure the freedom they deserve.

With many adventures along the way, Stone will lead the charge to defend the Crimson Capital against the Immortal Army. Should he fail, anarchy is inevitable. Death for all Azure, a possibility.

Where there is life, death anticipates. But what if death is abandoned? Life will rebel.

Season of Suffering is part two of the Blood of Azure series—an epic fantasy with both light and dark hearts. You’ll experience many fantasy tropes, clashing swords, unique magic, fantastical beasts, and a wide range of Azure’s scenic terrain.

Author’s Note: Contains explicit language and some graphic descriptions

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The foul beast plows through the underbrush, giving none of his obstacles a chance for survival. And I’m in line to be one of them.

Its aroma swoops into my nostrils, and dizziness strikes momentarily. I cannot see straight. I don’t remember the last encounter being this severe. I suppose, like any living thing, we’re not all made alike. And this one reeks.

The Cryptid hardly acknowledges me as I wobble in place. He pushes off me as if I were a tree and he were trying to get some leverage to burst forward. His meaty claw shoves right through me and lashes at my lower shoulder. A loud sound curdles from my throat. It’s an odd feeling these days—to use my vocal cords.

The beast stops in its tracks and turns to face me.

“Friend.” I speak, hoping it understands this language.

Its dark eyes glaring. Its teeth baring. Its smell daunting. It stands rigid and unmoving. An apex predator. A long moment passes as we both maintain eye contact.

“No time. Friend.” It finally replies, then turns to leave.

“Wait! I can help. Are there more of you? In danger, I mean.”

It looks over its shoulder with a subtle nod. Teeth still baring. Aroma still daunting. But its eyes are sad.

“Let me help.”

“Run.” It turns and hurdles through the undergrowth in a rush, disappearing behind the wood giants.

About the Author: Jonathan J Michael was born and raised in the greater Seattle area in the scenic state of Washington. Jonathan is an advocate of science, nature, and exploration, which has a heavy influence in his debut series, Blood of Azure.

When I drive down the freeway, I often want to veer onto the backroads and head for the mountains. When I’m at an evening gathering, I’m eager to step outside and gaze at the stars. When I’m on a ferry, I’m at the guardrail staring into the depths wondering what kind of leviathans lurk below. I’m an explorer, and since I’m not on the next Crew Dragon headed for the ISS, fantasy novels let me have what I seek. I write to explore a world of wonder.
~ Jonathan

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Toxic Beer by Simon Bullock – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Simon Bullock will be awarding a $20 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Unemployed computer engineer Sidney Ramsbottom inherits a small fortune from his late father’s business investments after he is found dead floating face down in a large vat of beer accompanied by two scantily-dressed Polish pole dancers and their three performing sheep Brittany, Lulu, and Michaela.

Before Sid has a chance to enjoy this unexpected windfall, however, he is abducted by a group of thieving alcoholic aliens who have been bumping and burping their way across the universe while on the run from the Intergalactic Police in a stolen spaceship.

Sid is left unconscious in the spaceship’s smelly cargo bay and left to rot while the aliens set forth to carry out their plans for the planet Earth.

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Newly promoted, Harry now found himself with an additional problem. Before the chief had got himself shot, he’d explained the situation with the spaceship’s propulsion system, which was helpful, but not how to solve the problem, which was far from practical. Harry knew that they’d needed additional parts to fix it. Harry racked his brains for a suitable solution. He then did the only thing he could think of that would help by suggesting that they land on the nearest planet before the ship blew itself to pieces. Once he had explained the problem to his senior officer and the captain, Harry went ahead with their blessing and started searching for a habitable planet.

However, after searching for intelligent life and not having much luck, Harry was about to give up when one of his junior engineers, a chap called Chas, came running in one afternoon with some good news. ‘I found a planet that’s habitable, Harry.’ He could hardly keep the excitement out of his voice. However, Harry wasn’t convinced. ‘Where?’ ‘I checked the planets several times for intelligent life, and the computer came up blank every time.’

‘Look, Harry, I’m not messing you about.’ ‘It’s most definitely coming from the planet earth. You need to come and listen to it yourself if you don’t believe me.’

Harry followed his engineer to the ship’s main communication room to see all the fuss was about. The engineer was correct in his calculations, and the signal came from the earth. It overjoyed Harry when he heard the good news, realising that this would mean they could get the vital spare parts they needed to make for repairs, perhaps some alcohol. Harry rushed back to the ship’s bridge with the good news of his discovery. Dick was equally excited and informed the captain.

Harry suggested landing the spaceship on a small abandoned planetoid that orbited the planet earth.

About the Author: Simon, who works as a medical engineer, has had a lifelong passion for writing as well as a sci-fi comedy.

Toxic Beer has been a decade in the making but, as readers and critics alike attest, has been worth the wait. Simon’s zany, joke-rich and earthy storytelling will appeal to anyone who loves the likes of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide, the writing of Robert Rankin, as well as classic British TV sci-fi comedy, show Red Dwarf and the cult sci-fi comedy film Galaxy Quest.

With his first, critically acclaimed novel having gone down better with readers than a cool pint on a scorching day, Simon is now working on a follow-up to Toxic Beer–a prequel revealing the bleary-eyed aliens’ escapades during their extended inter-galactic booze cruise.

A hoopy frood who always knows where his towel is, Simon also plays blues harp in the rising Dutch blues band, BluesShack.

Originally from the UK, Simon currently lives in Utrecht, Netherlands, with his wife Chrissie and two cats. In his free time, he enjoys cooking and likes to brew homemade Beer with more kick than an Arcturian MegaDonkey.

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Like a Lily Among the Thorns by Karen S. Bell – Spotlight and Giveaway

 

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. The author will award a copy of the book to a randomly chosen winner. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

There are those who are born into loving families and then there are the less fortunate who must forge their own families through strong friendships. At a local small library in New York City, one such family was born. And just like so many capricious happenstances in life, this family unit embraced newcomers and grew exponentially. But this clan was also charged with far more than spreading love and joy and a sense of belonging. This clan was formed by divine Providence to help save the planet.

Gabrielle Bernstein, the MC of Like a Lily Among the Thorns, is a woman in her twenties and has started her career as a librarian at a NYC public library. Abandoned by her father as a young girl and now orphaned by her deranged mother, Gabby longs for a family connection. Coincidentally, she finds this connection at the same time she inherits a B&B in Vermont from her estranged and now deceased father. This enchanted inn is under the watchful eye of goddesses of myth and legend who have been tasked to save mankind from destroying itself and this planet. These goddesses will use their powers to try and stall the onslaught of the effects of droughts, floods, and rising temperatures. But as a safety net they have collected human saviors all over the planet to erect safe havens at high altitudes away from flood waters and blistering temperatures.

This one group of saviors are ordinary people who have some extraordinary abilities and enjoy a higher consciousness. They are brought together to join forces in Vermont to create one such refuge. Along the way there is romance, misunderstandings, conflict, and internal growth. Locations are Manhattan, London, Brooklyn, and Rutland, Vermont. Woven through this tale is Gabrielle’s inherent understanding that she must be grateful, mindful, and present in this journey called “life.”

The impending devastation that will be brought about by the effects of global climate change is the underpinning of this Cli-Fi/speculative fiction novel. Like a Lily Among the Thorns focuses on how this potential disaster will have dire consequences for us all and is currently becoming more top of mind as people are waking up to strange weather events such as the scorching temperatures that have gripped the Northwestern states and torrential rains in the Northeast.

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On this ordinary day, we find Gabby Bernstein going about her daily ordinary chores. A lass of modest means, she hummed as she tidied up her small studio apartment. Although bereft of material accoutrements typical of a twenty-something New Yorker, she didn’t dwell on it. Rather, she chose to focus on being grateful for all the kindnesses bestowed upon her by the universe and the miracle of life with the richness and diversity of the flora and fauna that blessed this planet. She was so attuned to the preciousness and beauty of all living creatures that she never was inclined to harm even the smallest insect preferring to capture it and send it out her window to climb down the fire escape or fly away. But most especially, she was grateful for her life, which she never took for granted. In fact, at this very moment, she paused to acknowledge her joy of just being alive and to mark her calendar with the #gratitude entry, giving thanks for each and every day she had her wits and her health.

As she went about her light chores, an unexpected random play on her music app added a spark to her usual sense of wonder and bliss. A coincidental gift from the cosmos of a cherished performance of Luciano Pavarotti singing the aria Addio, fiorito asil from Madama Butterfly, a captivatingly wistful melody that was one of her personal favorites. She gleefully acknowledged this gift and said a silent “thank you.”

About the Author:

All my work is inspired by social issues to which we all can relate. Work/ life stresses, the loss of a spouse and how marriage can sometimes swallow a woman’s identity, and the prevalence of greed in modern society.

Walking with Elephants is my first novel, although I am not new to writing. I was a theater critic and celebrity interviewer for a weekly tabloid in Jacksonville, Fl and I earned a Master’s in Mass Communication from Oklahoma State University. For 15 years I worked in Corporate America as a technical editor/editor/writer. I experienced first hand the politics and intrigue that goes with that territory and the balancing act that comes with being a working mother. I salute all those mothers who are the glue that holds their families together while pursuing the nine to five brass ring and were the inspiration for this work. Audible book is available and narrated by me.

With my second novel, Sunspots, I continue to be in awe of the magical and wondrous phenomenon called life. As an observer and obvious participant in feminine values and approach to our human challenges, I bring this perspective to my work. Fascinated by the mysteries of the unseen forces that perhaps play a role in guiding our choices, I search for answers in the mundane as well as in the cosmic forces that surround us.

Alexa’s pact with the Devil in When a Stranger Comes…is an allegory for the evil lurking in our midst. The social decay of modern society with its excessive greed, the ignorance of our political leaders, and our indifference toward the survival of all species from the effects of climate change, among other environmental pressures, are perhaps brought forth by the darkest forces of human nature. The audible book narrated by me is in production.

The genre of magical realism appeals to me and all my work has elements woven in. My current project is focused on a Bed and Breakfast that becomes a safe haven from the effects of climate change while celebrating the Feminine Divine and is set squarely in that realm.

I am working on my next novel in Ponte Vedra, Fl. where I live with my husband and our two furry kids. Our human kids have flown the nest and are scattered far and wide, alas.

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The Wielder Diaries: My Crystal by Ashley Scheller – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Ashley Scheller will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Please…Please come back… Those words ring in her ears as she awakens. A strange band of characters call her Kayla, a name she’s forgotten along her life filled with transforming animals, magic, and dragons. Anybody would want to remember such an exciting life, yet there seems to be a truth no one wants to share, WHY it’s important Kayla remembers. With a mystical book in hand, she races against time to recall her adventures she shared with her family and friends in this first installment of ‘The Wielder Diaries’ series, ‘My Crystal.’

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“P-Please come back…”

When the first light seeped in, I awoke with a jolt. There was a quick blur from brown to green when a sharp pull upwards tugged around my shoulders. Blinded by green fabric, I could faintly smell a smoky, sweet aroma while held tight into someone’s shoulder.

“By all that I am, you sure took your sweet time,” a young male voice cried.

Held tight from the earnestness of his embrace, I, sounding muffled, tried to ask what was going on. I wriggled and pushed the man away. When released enough to bring my head back a bit, there was a smiling face. Though he appeared young, his face was still rather hazy with my sleep-clouded vision. Not heeding my questions, or asking what I meant to say, for that matter, he lifted me off the bed into his arms and carried me out the door. Taken aback, still at a loss as to why this was all happening, I couldn’t utter a word of objection.

“Oi, has the meeting begun? Look who’s awake! Get King Basi in here!” the green-clad stranger shouted.

Although my surroundings were still blurry, I felt we were going down a set of stairs. The stairs were along the sidewall of a large room made out of what looked like wood and maybe black marble along with a high ceiling. There were also bright, twinkling lights hanging overhead, appearing somewhat tiered altogether, but I could barely stand to look at them for any length of time.

About the Author:Ashley Scheller has many hats. An educator by day and artist by night – if she isn’t sketching new creations in her notebook, she loves to create stories. Residing with her family in Iowa, Scheller enjoys connecting with her community about art, books, and games. In 2021, Scheller published book two of The Wielder Diaries series, Shattered. She invites you to an exciting adventure and looks forward to publishing book three soon.

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When Earth Shall Be No More by Paul Awad and Kathryn O’Sullivan – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Paul Awad and Kathryn O’Sullivan will be awarding a $50 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Environmental scientist Constance Roy is one of forty-nine refugees rescued from Earth’s destruction and transported to the ark spaceship Orb by an automaton race called the Curators. Twelve months have passed since their rescue. But now, with the ship’s orbit decaying, the refugees seem doomed to crash into Jupiter’s fiery belly.

In a parallel universe on present-day Earth, another version of Constance seeks answers to the questions that have haunted her since childhood: How and why did her mother die? The head of a mysterious corporation housed at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility can give her the answers, but not without a price.

Two timestreams collide when the Constance on Earth discovers that Nicolas, her son, has the ability to save the Orb and its inhabitants. Now she must battle treacherous Curators wishing to destroy Nicolas, while on the Orb, another Constance must fight to save the ship from Jupiter’s fatal pull. Only together can they save their son – and future generations of humankind.

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Constance Roy cupped her hands around her eyes, pressed them against the cold window glass, and peered into the dark vista. She squinted at the sea of stars and spotted the constellations Ursa Major and Minor, Cygnus, and her favorite, the Dog Star, Sirius. She wiped away condensation and focused on the ferocious red eye in the distance. Although she was safe in her cabin, Jupiter’s massive storm, the Great Red Spot, gave her pause. She pictured herself tumbling through Jupiter’s clouds, her suit ripped away by the three-hundred-mile-per-hour winds, her breath squeezed from her chest by the enormous pressure, gasping for air, for life, as she was wrenched into the planet’s cyclone. This terrifying event was only in her imagination—for now. She had survived the nightmare of the migration. She was one of the “lucky” ones. Unless something changed, however, in three days the ship’s life-sustaining resources and their luck would run out, and her alarming imaginings would become inevitability.

About the Author:

Paul Awad and Kathryn O’Sullivan are an award-winning husband and wife writing and filmmaking team. They have collaborated on feature and documentary films, screenplays, and a web series. WHEN EARTH SHALL BE NO MORE is their first book collaboration. Paul is a cinema professor and Kathryn is a theatre professor at Northern Virginia Community College. Kathryn is also the author of the Colleen McCabe mystery series.

Paul Awad Website | Kathryn O’Sullivan Website | Goodreads

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