How to Write Realistic Female Characters by Bryan Cole – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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How to Write Realistic Female Characters
One of the overriding goals that I had for myself was to ensure that I included female characters in Beginning of Arrogance. Including them is easy but making them meaningful and realistic is something altogether different. As I researched this subject, I learned a great deal about not just the predominant archetypes for female characters that exist today, but also how flawed those representations can be.

The existing categories that exist can be broken down into five major groups: the damsel in distress, the sexy one, the child-like silly one, the maternal one, and the macho tough-girl. It isn’t even that any of these categories are wrong, per se, but rather that they define entirely who the character is. Having a sense of childlike wonder at the world does not preclude someone from also being tough or maternal (or both!). Likewise, having an awareness of their own sexuality does not limit them in any way either.

One of the common solutions to the problem of too few female characters or characters that have only a single narrative role is to take a male character and turn them into a female character. This can work, but often reads strangely on the page for reasons that are not immediately obvious. Often when I read these characters, imagining them as a man makes them click much more with their dialog and narrative choices, which is a sure sign they started out that way and were swapped later. These dialog options are most common in the macho tough-girl persona. I can’t count the number of times I’ve read female characters saying things like “Don’t be such a girl!” or “No time for rest, princesses!” or something similar. Big Hero Six had a subtle subversion of this when Go Go said “Woman Up!” to the team.

Identifying things to avoid is one aspect of writing female characters, but how do you identify what you should write? For that, I simply looked at the various women I know in real life and took attributes from their personalities to flesh out my characters. I came up with the major themes of who the various characters are – Dahlia being very private, for example – and found real-world examples of those attributes and how they manifest.

By far the best example I found was my wife. She is the most complex, beautiful, and dynamic person I know (warning: I may be letting my personal bias show). Aspects of her personality are found in many of the female characters I wrote, but particularly the three ladies introduced in Chapter 16. Each of them has a core identity of who they are, inspired in no small part by my wife.

Using Dahlia as a case study, she dislikes being the focus of attention in social situations. This personality trait influences her skillset and behavior, as well as her interactions with others in the story. She’s content to be in the background, but that isn’t the same as being unable to stand up for herself or inject her opinion when it matters. Some of my female friends here in the real world have very clear ideas about when something is important to them, and that is when they engage in the conversation. On those subjects that matter, the strength of who they are should shine through.

This takes us to the subject of femininity. One concept that I disagree with is that women should only have feminine interests, and men should have masculine interests. Part of the reason I made Krell the way he is was so that he could look at these areas with clear eyes and discover that he enjoys aspects of living that others may mock him for. As an example, he’s never really slept in a comfortable bed before. Likewise, the female characters can have likes, preferences, and desires that need not align with any gender stereotype. One of the recurring themes with the three ladies is that they are all competent warriors. That means, as a rule, they are not going to wear impractical footwear or dresses when trudging through forests or swamps, but it also doesn’t mean they are going to ignore their appearances either. They take pride in their appearance because that is who they are, and the practical application of self-care in-story is something I hope people resonate with. Magic is awesome, and people in fantasy literature don’t use it casually often enough.

Strength without masculinity, femininity without weakness, and their own likes, dislikes, interests, and passions, just like every other character – this is how I approached writing female characters in Beginning of Arrogance!

Paladins are nothing but trouble. Stories about paladins are everywhere, noble warriors riding magic steeds into battle against terrible foes. Champions of their gods. Heroes to everyone, except those who already have everything. Paladins are notorious for upsetting the balance of power, to the detriment of any who don’t worship their deity.

So when Krell is called to service by the capricious god of the seas and skies, ReckNor, those with wealth and power can’t help but be concerned. ReckNor hasn’t called a paladin in years, and his nature is ever-changing and erratic. The fact that Krell is also an uneducated nobody with a stubborn streak as wide as the sea turns their concerns into fear.

All of which matters less than the threat clawing its way from the waves, ready to turn the ocean red with spilled blood…

Enjoy an Excerpt

Krell’s sword struck the pell.

His heavy breathing couldn’t disguise the dull thunk from the blade as it hit, bits of wood breaking off. Krell twisted his wrist and pulled, disengaging the blade. He struck again, the blade sliding along the wood, leaving a fresh scar. Once again, he failed to cut through the post.

Krell recovered his stance, his shield raised as Olgar taught him while his sword moved back into proper striking position. His next strike was high and carved another sliver of wood. Without waiting, Krell swung again. The sword hit lower than Krell wanted. He pulled back into the proper stance, and his next strike was on target, carving deep into the wood.

“All right, lad, I think we’ve seen enough,” a voice said from somewhere ahead of him.

Krell took a step back from the pell. An unsteady step, he was forced to admit. The sun was still high in the sky. Sweat ran into his blue eyes, causing him to blink in irritation. He glared at the wooden post. No more than halfway through. His chain mail armor was heavy on his shoulders.

He looked over at the town council, seated at a long table under an awning. They had comfortable chairs for the most part, and were sipping on what looked like cool drinks in the shade. Krell wondered how much attention they were actually paying to this test.

Amra Thort was the leader of the town council, and owner of one of the largest fishing fleets in Watford. She was a formidable- looking woman with steel gray hair, whose hands bore the signs of hard work done many years ago. People in the town respected her, Olgar had told him.

Seated next to her was Daylan Plintform, a wealthy merchant who owned many trading and fishing vessels. His long face was handsome, but he always looked irritated, even when he wasn’t. Olgar detested him, but refused to explain why. He was popular in town, since he paid for numerous festivals and banquets when the catch was good.

About the Author:

Bryan is an avid reader, and has loved the fantasy genre since he was a child. His love of stories of mighty knights, terrible dragons, and noble steeds has inspired him for decades.

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Hopepunk by Branwen Oshea – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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You describe your series as hopepunk sci-fi. What does that mean to you?

Hopepunk is a new genre, so for those not familiar with the term, it’s often described as a rebellion against the book world’s social/political norms (the punk part), but a rebellion of hope and love, rather than the desperate violence that often characterizes grimdark. Of course, hopepunk contains violence, but it’s wielded in a manner that holds that people can be good and humanity is worth saving. I can’t remember who said it, but someone once described it as a story where characters face horrible situations but refuse to lose their humanity no matter what happens. I really resonate with that.

I finished the draft of The Calling long before the term “hopepunk” was coined, so I’d say it’s more the way I naturally live and write than a genre choice. When I was writing it, YA multiple POV novels (like Six of Crows) had not yet hit the lists and I was told no one would ever read mine because of the POV and genre choices I had made. But, it took me so long to write it, lol, that the readers’ interests changed by the time it was published.

The Calling (book one) starts out appearing dystopian, where humans are surviving a new ice age by sheltering underground. Their world has grown dark and controlled, and the mysterious Sickness has killed so many teens that extinction is looking inevitable. This starting point was a clear choice, as I wanted to show a world that looked bleak and troubled. However, it is juxtaposed against the star beings, who live on the ice age surface and live in harmony with each other and the planet. As usual, humans attempt their typical “this is our land” but are met with a new type of resistance. The Chasm (book two) deepens that resistance with a new threat that meets the humans’ violence and attempts at control head-on with equal violence. The series explores what it would take for us as a collective to change their basic beliefs about violence, ownership, connection to nature, seeing other species as equals, etc., but in a way that presents all sides of the issues and hopefully challenges us all to look at the situation a bit differently.

I know for myself, writing all the different points of view has definitely challenged my own beliefs.

As for the science fiction part, I once heard someone define science fiction as stories where science is used to solve the story’s main issue. To me, the genre does much more. It has often predicted scientific discoveries and new technology and exposed possible risks to society of such discoveries. Science fiction often challenges social and political beliefs through the use of aliens, humans colonizing other planets, or other worlds with unique social, political, and economic systems. I also think science fiction can expand what we consider to be possible, both in science and societies. It’s the mind-expanding nature of sci-fi that has always drawn me in as both a reader and an author.

They thought the biggest problem they faced was each other.

After Bleu, Rana, and their new friends narrowly prevent war between the star beings and humans, they hope the upcoming negotiation will secure the peace. Newly emerged from their subterranean haven, the Northern Haven humans are clearly not suited to Earth’s ice age, and require assistance from the enlightened star beings to survive long term on the Surface. But Commander Savas doesn’t trust the suspiciously kind star beings and their unexplainable abilities. When both sides reluctantly negotiate a joint mission to find the other Havens, Bleu must somehow cooperate with the manipulative commander to keep his friends safe.

As their team confronts unexpected dangers, Bleu and his teammates begin to suspect the star beings don’t know as much about the Surface as they claimed, while Rana is torn between remaining true to her nonviolent ways or becoming more human to survive. When an unnatural predator attacks, even the nearly all-knowing Kalakanya can’t explain it. Now the team must pull together or their new discovery will pull them apart, limb by limb.

Enjoy an Excerpt

As the sun descended behind the mountain and darkness crept across the frozen field, a strange dread seeped into Bleu’s bones. It felt like a warning, an alarm that danger lurked nearby.

He had known safety in Rana’s village, and he’d lost the spatial anxiety caused by the wide-open spaces of the Surface that differed so much from the cozy walls and tunnels of home. No, this unease wasn’t spatial anxiety to the openness of the sky and horizon.

This was different, and perhaps a bit similar to what Kahali feared. Bleu had never faced the possibility of other humans with guns. His team sat out in the open, exposed. The meager light from the cooking fire did nothing against the shroud of blackness surrounding them. No safe walls protected them from physical attacks or bullets. And then, there were the unknown predators of the region.

His earlier excitement of finding the footprints evaporated, leaving behind a gnawing awareness of their vulnerability. The darkness beyond the campfire could be punctured any moment by monstrous claws or gunfire. Childhood tales of the evil Undescended crowded his mind with images so ludicrously terrible that he wanted to laugh at himself.

Instead, he checked that they were all armed and sent Savas and Neviah to make sure the helicopters were locked. Animal calls and crunching footsteps drifted down the mountains as if something were encircling them. Even the confident star beings kept glancing out into the night. They should be comfortable in such wilderness, right?

About the Author: As a young girl, Branwen wanted to become an ambassador for aliens. Since the aliens never hired her, she now writes about them.

Branwen OShea has a Bachelors in Biology from Colgate University, a Bachelors in Psychology, and a Masters in Social Work. She lives in Connecticut with her family and a menagerie of pets, and enjoys hiking, meditating, and star-gazing. Her published works include Silence of the Song Trees, The Calling, The Cords That Bind, and The Chasm.

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Buy The Calling (Book 1), The Cords the Bind (Book 1.1), and The Chasm (Book 2) on Amazon.

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How to Handle Negative Criticism by e rathke – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. e rathke will be awarding a $50 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.

How to handle negative criticism

To publish at all is to invite criticism. No matter what you write, someone will hate it. Even if you end up as celebrated as Cormac McCarthy or sell as many copies as JK Rowling, people are going to hate every single word you write down. The bigger the audience of fans, the larger the number of haters. Ideally, the haters will always be outnumbered by fans or at least those who appreciate what you’re trying to achieve. But the reality of publishing is that people are going to tear apart your book in Goodreads or Amazon reviews.

The trick, I think, is understanding which criticisms to take in. My own fiction always bends towards the weird and the wild, the caustic and ecstatic. Try as I might to write a simple tale with broad appeal, I find myself always twisting the narrative towards those ancient dark trees and the cold caves where those with a commonsense dread of danger are unlikely to follow.

With that comes those who will not follow. They’ll see the way the road bends and they’ll realize this is a path they’d prefer not to see the end of. Some who do will wish they hadn’t and they’ll tell anyone who will listen that they should avoid those woods, those caves, for there are monsters lying in wait.

Some, though, will hear of these strange dark forests and feel compelled to see them, to experience them. They may go with great trepidation and they may be shaken by the experience. But they may also find something there—a sensation, a new perspective, a burgeoning desire—that makes them seek other dark forests, other abandoned caves. They may spend the rest of their lives hunting out monsters, not to kill them, but to bask in their monstrousness, their weirdness.

We invite criticism when we publish anything, but we don’t need to give every criticism equal weight. Often the reviewer will let you know within a few sentences whether they were the target audience or not. If someone who was never going to like your novel tells you that they didn’t like your novel, should you be surprised? Should you take that criticism to heart?

But there will be those who came to your book with open eyes and open arms, excited for the weird and the wild, the uncanny and the ecstatic, and they will find your attempts lacking. They’ll find your words stilted and your world flimsy, your characters automatons without personality, and every joke you spent hours perfecting will leave them cold.

What do we do with this?

Well, first we shatter, fragile creatures that we are. We shatter and moan and maybe rage a bit at the unfairness of it all. And why did they have to write the review publicly anyway? Why couldn’t they have just rated it two stars and moved on?

The first thing: do not respond to the review. If you feel you must respond, definitely don’t argue. There is no way for this to work out well for you, even if you’re right. It’s an argument you lose the moment you engage.

Give yourself time. Try to forget about the review for a while. Read a book. Play a video game. Go for a run. Walk your dog. Cuddle your cat. Cry in the shower. Whatever you need to do to get past the fact that someone hated your book in public for good and real reasons.

It may take a week or a month or a year, but eventually you should look at that review again. With the distance of time, you’ll hopefully be able to acknowledge where this person had a point and where they missed or misunderstood something or where they simply didn’t like something for reasons so unknowable or personal that it may have nothing to do with your writing or book. But pick through these criticisms and find the ones that may apply. The ones that make you nod along or accept that, yes, they had a point.

Use this to write the next book.

“My name is Ineluki. I come from past the mountains and ice. It took me many days to reach here. All I know are dead. Will you take me in?”

And so begins a calamitous year at the edge of the world.

Chief for the year, Aukul’s life has never been better. His people respect him, he spends his nights with the love of his life, and his skills as a butcher and chef improve every day. Then Ineluki, a young stranger, wanders into town with nothing but an empty book. He begins telling stories of the world beyond the one they know. His stories challenge their reality and lead to a summer of unprecedented disasters.

One by one, the villagers begin dancing. Dancing tirelessly, as if in a trance, until they die. Believing Ineluki is to blame, Aukul confronts him on the worst night of his life.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Umok was the first to see the boy. There was nothing special about the boy except that he wasn’t one of us and didn’t seem to be an Uummanuq. Not that anyone really knew, then, what the Uummanuq looked like. Not really. But he was too tall to be one of them and much too short to be one of us. Maybe strangest of all, he was dressed as a woman. One of ours, not the Uummanuq women, assuming anyone knew, then, what the Uummanuq looked like when they weren’t smashing our homes down. But he wore a loose, open vest, his trousers tight and reaching just past his knees. In his hands, a hidebound book.

It was a clear day, just past spring, and though the edge of the world is known for its deathly cold, our summers are quite warm. Warm enough to wade out into the sea and gather crabs or lobster. Or even to swim out to where the leviathans burst through the water, spraying the skies with their misted breath.

Umok was so distracted by the boy that she dropped her arm, accidentally flinging her gyrfalcon, Feo, to the ground. When Feo shrieked the way she does, the boy turned to Umok and smiled a big toothy grin. To hear Umok tell it later, the boy had fangs like a wolf and eyes that glowed with menace.

We’re not prone to superstition, but much changed that summer and especially come winter, when the days last barely a blink and the nameless ones call out to us in the long night, and mothers wake to missing children, never to be seen again.

But the boy didn’t stop when he saw Umok. It was like he had a set destination. Like he knew where we were. And maybe that’s the most shocking of all. That he just wandered out from the dark green summer mountains and walked right to our little village at the edge of the world with nothing but the clothes he was wearing, an empty book, and a mouthful of words that would change the shape of all our lives.

About the Author:e rathke writes about books and games at radicaledward.substack.com. A finalist for the 2022 Baen Fantasy Adventure Award, he is the author of Glossolalia and several other forthcoming novellas. His short fiction will appear in Queer Tales of Monumental Invention, Mysterion Magazine, and elsewhere.

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How to Handle Negative Criticism by Rachel Graves – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. A randomly drawn winner will be awarded a $50 Amazon/BN GC. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

How to handle negative criticism

It happened. Someone, somewhere hated your book. They hated it so much, they didn’t just stop reading or throw the book across the room. No, they went online and wrote on a long screed about every problem in your story. You got the werewolves all wrong, everyone knows that’s not how they shift. The big relationships in your book are flat and one-dimensional. The scheming villain is clearly stolen from a famous tv show/play/another book. You want to scream that werewolves are fantasy creatures, they can act however they want, that the relationship is built on your own very happy marriage, and that you’ve never even seen that tv show/play/other book.

The first and most critical step to handling criticism is to cry. Or eat some chocolate. Maybe a glass of wine? Whatever mourning ritual you engage in, spend time on it. Think about the hours and hours you spent on your book. Remember all those day dreams you had about it being the next viral hit to become an international bestseller. Mope. Curl up on the couch and feel all your feelings. There may be anger at the reviewer, shame that you never realized how close that character was to the character in your favorite tv show, and worst of all, exhaustion. You worked so hard, and your book still wasn’t beloved by all.

Once you’ve gotten over that, I have to remind you of a not very nice fact. Your book was never going to be beloved by all.

There will always be someone who hates what we write. Maybe they hate all characters with blue eyes, maybe they work in an industry that gives them inside information rendering all your research useless, or maybe they don’t have a good reason, they just hate it. Whatever the case, you have to decide how to deal with that. When you have some distance, think about the criticism itself. Is it valid? Criticism is a gift that can make your writing better. It won’t feel that way at first, and it may take literally years for you to see that, but use your pain as a way to improve. Look into your critic, what books do they love? Read them. What do those books do right? What makes your critic happy?

Do you care?

Some negative critics come not from the mechanics of your work but from the ideas in it. If you’ve improved your storytelling, hired a better line editor, improved your marketing so the story matches the promo, and well, written a book you’re proud of, you might not want to give the critics any energy. If they hate your book because of the ideas in it, maybe they aren’t the right reader. In the end, authors have to make a decision – first fix what needs to be corrected, things like grammar, word choice, the mechanics of your story. Then consider things you might be willing to change – maybe you should add more diverse characters, maybe your heroine needs to stand up for herself. Finally, decide what you’re willing to fight for, some parts of your book make the story work, they matter to you. There will always be critics, but once you get over the sting of their words, you can use them to change your writing for the better or fortify it against things that would make it worse.

A dragon terrified of being discovered by the government, Ravenna Drake is constantly on the move. When the woman who raised her gets cancer, Ravenna trades her nomadic work restoring black market magical goods for a steady job. But her cautious life ends after her name is found at the scene of a werewolf murder.

Dr. Ian Chen, a sorcerer bonded to a powerful relic, works for the government treating supernatural citizens. He insists on investigating when his patient’s body is discovered completely drained of blood. His search leads him to the beautiful but frustrating Ravenna Drake, who refuses to stay away from the case or follow his instructions.

As more bloodless bodies surface, threats from secret societies and corrupt politicians force the dragon and the sorcerer to work together. If Ravenna and Ian can’t catch the killer, the people they love the most may be the next to die.

Enjoy an Excerpt

His foot reached out to blur the circle and the ghost changed. Agony forced every other emotion aside. He couldn’t breathe, a heavy weight settled on his chest. Panic set in as he wheezed, his heart racing the way hers had raced. Was he experiencing her last minutes or just panicking at the emotions? Could he trust himself? Darkness started to crowd the edges of his vision. Not enough air. Sweat broke out along his back. Somewhere, Cloak was saying something, but he couldn’t hear it over the pounding of blood in his ears. He was going to die here. The blackness got closer.

“No.” The flood of emotions stopped immediately, as Drake stepped in front of him. “That’s not how this works. You don’t get to scream at him.”

His head throbbed, stinging like acid dripping down his face, but he could breathe again. The darkness receded. The first thing he saw was Drake moving into the center of the stain, acting as if the blood wasn’t there.

“I’ll give you enough energy to manifest, but start screaming again and I will end you, even if we haven’t heard a damn thing you’ve got to say. Understand?” She paused, then reached her hand out. A shaft of sunlight came in through the window and her hand seemed to glow. Then the end of it disappeared, replaced with a chest. The shape grew outward, a filmy light turning into a woman. The process took less than a minute, and he heard the sheriff whisper to God.

“Dr. Chen, she can talk to you now.” Drake said it with a very deliberate emphasis on the word talk. Whatever the ghost intended, it wasn’t going to stand up to her. A deep surge of gratitude coursed through him.

About the Author: Rachel Graves writes mysteries that blend the supernatural with steamy, sexy scenes. Her work explores the many shades of gray found between the lines of right and wrong. Rachel’s books focus on strong heroines who take charge of their own fate, their friends, and their families. Rachel is a member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and uses research skills honed getting a graduate degree in psychology to seek out rare folklore and magical creatures. Her writing incorporates popular monsters like vampires and werewolves as well as diverse creatures like selkies and yuki onna. Rachel has lived in a cursed town, taken far too many ghost tours, and counts down to every Halloween starting in November. You can read short stories and learn more about her on her website.

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The Place I Write by Ross MacKay – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Ross MacKay will be awarding a $10 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.

The Place I Write

Roald Dahl famously wrote from a shed in the bottom of his garden. I used to live in Edinburgh, so I know all the places where tourists are told JK Rowling wrote (and the places she actually wrote in). For me, I have my attic. I live in a cottage that was built in the 1890s and the roof space has been converted into a little secret bedroom.

The stairs that lead up to the attic are hidden in a cupboard. They are very compact and resemble the type of stairs you might find on an old ship. Once I am up there, I am in my own little world. Nestled into the sloped roof of the house at one corner is my desk. The place where I can dream up new worlds.

My only occasional visitor is our cat, April. She is quite elderly now and she sleeps a lot. I really love when she nestles down on my lap, and purrs away. She is like a little hot water bottle keeping me warm, especially in the winter months. However, occasionally she does like to climb up onto the desk which looks a little like this:

‘And finally, I can reveal to you the murderer is fnfjfhuiweiownhdolewqnfolngwlrtengj;ekoaj’o[fiqmlknLKJd”

It is very annoying. But it is great to have someone you can blame when your editor spots silly spelling mistakes.

Beside my desk are four small bookcases, all within an arm’s reach. This is great as I refer to the works of authors who inspire me a lot when I am writing.

On the left-hand side of my desk is a little wall where I hang pictures and paintings. These are usually paintings that are close to me. They might be work from a friend, or work about a show I have made (I also work in theatre). But at the moment, there is a small battle in the house. My wife now can at times also work from home. As I said, it is a small little Scottish cottage so there isn’t room for a second desk.

Now my artwork has been replaced with a very organized and sensible looking calendar. I am looking forward to my artwork sneaking back in one day soon.

The space is cramped, my chair is a bit broken and the desk wobbles. But I love it. This is the place I first got to meet Will, The Whisp, Gaby and all the other characters who live in this world I have created. I love them very much and so this place will always hold a special place in my heart. I can’t wait to see who else I meet up there for my next book which will be called…fh9gthioewuhnf; lqwm;fqejlkmGHSFAIDGSkjelw’q

Oh April!!

“The voice was coming from inside him … But it wasn’t his.”

The Whisp is a fugitive. Living in between worlds, she flees from veteran hunters and the General who wishes to corrupt her power. For Will Devine, nothing could be worse than someone else knowing his thoughts. When an unfortunate incident in the boy’s toilet mysteriously binds the two souls together, Will is horrified to find he is no longer the only voice inside his mind. With no way apart, the two of them must work together to find a solution.

But with one teacher dead and another student’s life on the line, can they survive long enough to escape from each other?

Enjoy an Excerpt

The Whisp hurtles down a side street and then spins to the left.
Faster and faster, as fast as she can.

She hears heavy boots on the damp cobbles and the howls and whoops behind her. A glance back shows some of the Hunters grasping electric spears, running them against the granite walls. The sparks crackle in the air as they singe the old stones black. The rain lashes down onto the old slate roofs making the whole city bristle with noise.

Amongst all of this chaos, she keeps running, tries hard to concentrate on the sound that beckons. It’s fragile, like fine thread unwinding from a spindle. She knows if she loses it, inside the noise of the chase, it might never be found again.

The sound is hope.

The Whisp propels herself forward. She has never heard the song of the Thresholds until this night. She didn’t even exist when they were last open. But if a Threshold was open and singing to her, then there was a chance … A small chance, she might escape with her life.

The city is woven like a tightly gnarled knot through which she twists and turns, doubling back on herself when she comes across another squad of Hunters in the alleyway ahead of her. They are systematic, cutting off streets, encircling her, trying to pen her in. She works fast to plot a new route in her mind, turning towards the sound whenever she has the chance.

The Hunters are like a pack of wild dogs catching the scent of prey in their nostrils. They will not lose her. She is quicker than them, but they are relentless. And while she may be invisible, the lashing rain runs down her body, making her shimmer.

They are swooping upon her, again and again. Each trying their best to seize the Whisp in their talons. But agile and quick, she darts across a city square into another crumpled heap of side streets.

The Whisp tries to turn another corner but misjudges the pivot and crashes hard into a wooden door that rattles on its hinges. Trying to correct her balance, she slips as the wet gravel beneath her gives way. Landing in a heap, she looks up and notices a looming shadow in front of her.

The only humans ever out at this time of night are Hunters.

About the Author:Ross MacKay lives in the village of Aberdour in Scotland with his wife and young son, Noah.

Ross previously worked in theatre as the artistic director of Tortoise in a Nutshell. His productions toured all over the world. His shows have received numerous prestigious awards including a Scotsman Fringe First for New Writing and a Critic’s Pick from The New York Times.
In 2020, Ross was the recipient of the William Soutar Award for Poetry and a Tom McGrath Trust Maverick Award. He has been commissioned to write poetry for libraries in Fife, to open a festival in Perth and for two books published by Tippermuir.

Ross’ first picture book, Daddy’s Bad Bed Day will be published in 2022 by Curly Tale Books. The book has been created to help young children with parents with poor mental health. Research for the book has been supported by numerous children’s charities in Scotland.

When Ross isn’t writing or making shows, he spends his time in his inflatable kayak, trying to steer it as best he can. He loves gardening and is currently engaged in a fierce battle with a collection of snails who seem to love the rhubarb and potatoes just as much as Ross.

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Salvation by L.C. Conn – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. L.C. Conn will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour to see the other stop on the tour.

Their final battle has come, and Chaos will not surrender.

The danger and risks have never been more real for Claire. She has spent her adult life fending off his relentless attacks, and now only wants to protect those she loves, but in doing so, she places everyone at greater risk.

Born of two sacred lines created by Carling, generations before, Aroha must face Chaos. Young, and unsure of herself, Aroha looks to her godmother for guidance, but is it enough? Claire must prepare her for the moment Aroha was born for.

Can Claire keep those she loves safe and reunite those that were once lost?

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Standing in the centre of the circle, the couple waited. Beyond the stones the wind and rain that blustered in the darkness did not affect them. Inside it was calm and warm. Matt clasped her hand in his and was growing impatient. Claire turned to face him, her arms going about his waist as she drew him into her. He looked down at his wife and smiled, his bright blue eyes sparkling in the fleeting moonlight and showing the love he felt for her. He reached up and pushed her blond hair away from her face and kissed her.

There was no need for words, they had been together for twenty-eight years and knew each other too well. The connection between them ran deep inside their minds and was unbreakable. Claire rested her head on his chest and closed her eyes, taking comfort from his arms and his presence. Memories of their times at the stones came floating up and she smiled at the ones that meant the most to her.

“Claire,” Matt said, softly bringing her out of her memories.

Pulling away from the warmth of his body reluctantly, she watched the Guardians enter the circle. Each figure took their place once more in the gaps between the large stones and faced the couple. With increasing nervousness Claire waited for the Guardians to begin.

“Greetings to the One True Child, daughter and sister of the Sentinels, Staff and Sword of Order, Guardian of the Stones and wife of Galen the Protector,” one of the hosts proclaimed, as he stepped forward from his place.

About the Author:L.C. Conn grew up on the outskirts of Upper Hutt, New Zealand. Her backyard encompassed the surrounding farmland, river, hills and mountains which she wandered with her brothers and fed her imagination. After discovering a love for writing in English class at the age of eight, she continued to write in secret. It was not until much later in life that L.C. turned what she thought was a hobby and something fun to do, into her first completed novel. Now married, L.C. moved from New Zealand to Perth, Western Australia, and became a stay at home mum. While caring for her family and after battling breast cancer, a story was born from the kernel of a dream. The first book of The One True Child Series was begun, and just kept blooming into seven completed stories.

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Stairway to Heaven by Alex Stevens – Q&A and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. A $50 Amazon/BN GC will be provided to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

What is something you’ve lied about?
Being in love with someone.

Who is the last person you hugged?
My fiancee

What are you reading now?
The Silent Blade, Eight Dates, US

How do you come up with the titles to your books?
This is a very difficult process. In this series every title is a song, so the music creates an actual ballad, and the title has to be appropriate for the book, as well as something I’d actually like listening to over and over again. Still haven’t picked the third book’s title yet.

Share your dream cast for your book.
So Jack Graven for me is always going to be my buddy Brad Hackworth. Michael Fassbender for Tyler Graven. Idris Elba as Lucifer, who might be able to play Richard as well, not sure if this should be two different people or not. They look different in the book, but they’re the same person. I have no idea who could play Masha. And Jeong Ji-hoon for Jin, as long as he still looks young.

Corporal Jack Graven should be dead. Murdered by a vengeful angel at his own father’s funeral, Jack is resurrected and returns to life carrying a terrible secret: he is the Archangel Gabriel reincarnated.

Jack’s not the only one with secrets. His older brother, Lieutenant Colonel Tyler Graven “Demon of Kyoto”, has just inherited his father’s fortune and legacy as Lord of War, with no intention of stopping there: Tyler will someday rule the world.

The brothers reunite their elite military unit, “The Four Horsemen,” with Tyler’s longtime flame Colonel Diana Levitas and the mysterious Lance Corporal Jin Xialong. Together they seek to uncover the truth of Jack’s past life and propel Tyler to his impossible destiny.

Thrust into a supernatural war, the Gravens find salvation through the Black Muramasa, a cursed black katana and the only weapon that can destroy immortals. As they uncover more mysteries behind the ancient blade, they come face to face with the Devil himself, but in the most familiar of faces. Their pasts, presents, and futures all linked, the Four Horsemen must end the war once and for all to survive with their souls intact. Failing could mean the end of the world.

A follow up to the explosive first book in the Ballad of Fallen Angels series, “Sympathy for the Devil,” Book 2 is an action-packed, gun-slinging adventure that packs the punch of a military thriller with high-stakes supernatural intrigue.

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Her body reclined before me in the soft satin sheets as a pale canvas draped against blood-red curtains. The early morning rays of light warned me that our time together would soon finish, this thought leaving a sadness in me stronger than the sadness of being with her. This sadness rose and fell like her bosom with each breath taken, eating away at my lustful desire to touch her. Instead, I gazed at her slumbering form, wondering if our time together was simply another adventure or if she harbored true feelings for me. Perhaps it was simply revenge for the lies she had been told. Another breath, another desire, then sadness. Then again.

Shame.

The word echoed repeatedly through my mind.

Seconds morphed into minutes, minutes into hours. I stared cautiously at the beauty of her backside, and her lean body inhaling and exhaling. My own breathing harbored a more physical pain than the betrayal I had wrought, the bullet wounds and cracked ribs popping painfully with every exhale. My pain soon blended into a chaos of emotion that swirled within me, a lustful desire for her competing against the shame of betrayal the act brought.

How can I look Tyler in the eye after this?

Perhaps the betrayal came from Tyler himself.

Did he know it was a trap?

About the Author:Alex Stevens is a Marine Corps Veteran with two deployments and a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Interdisciplinary Studies program, a unique undergraduate degree that caters to students with various interests of study. He is also an advent traveler and philosophy enthusiast who has spent a lifetime studying religions, with a focus on Non-denominational Christianity. Alex spends most of his time going for walks, spending time with loved ones, and when the juices are flowing, writing. Fantasy fiction is his great escape from the mundane and he likes to create fantastical realities that are blended with non-fictional people, places, and events.

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Small Stories by Rob Roy O’Keefe – Q&A and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Rob Roy O’Keefe. Leave a comment or ask the author a question for a chance to win a copy of his latest book.

What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?

Whatever advice I gave, I would follow it up with “Don’t pay any attention to anything I said. What do I know? I spend all my time sitting in front of my computer, subsisting on Wheat Thins and sparkling water, and shunning virtually all human contact so I can churn out as many words as I can in a day. Does that sound healthy to you? If you want advice, go talk to your auto mechanic. They’ll give it to you straight: change your oil and rotate your tires. Now those are words to live by.

What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

I’ll go with consonants. Don’t get me wrong, vowels are important too. However, you can still make a good guess as to what “wrtng” means without any vowels. But strip away the consonants and all you’re left with is “ii.” What are you supposed to do with that?

On a more macro level, I suppose pages are important, although now that I think about it, we could just revert to scrolls.

So yeah, I’m going to stick with consonants.

How do you develop your plot and characters?

I start with a concept. The plot, characters, tone, and structure all need to support the concept. For example, with my current book, Small Stories: A Perfectly Absurd Novel, the concept is literally outlined in the title. Yes, it’s a story about two characters whose surname is Small, but it’s also constructed in a way that allowed me to share small stories throughout, which, while connected to the plot and character development, could also stand on their own. As for tone, if you have the adjective “absurd” in your title, well, it’s quite apparent what you need to do.
By the way, did you notice I actually answered the question this time? Don’t get used to it.

Tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.

One of the supporting characters is a potted fern. His name is Norman. He doesn’t say much, but even so, his presence becomes a catalyst for one of the more dramatic moments in the story.

For those who are wondering why he’s not more of a central character, there’s just not that match precedent for plants as leading figures. Sure, you’ve got your Ents, but other than throwing boulders, catching on fire, and carrying hobbits around, what do they really do? As for triffids, they’re kind of one-dimensional.

Are you working on anything at the present you would like to tell us about?

I’m working on the second novel in what I call the Small World series. The working title is Small Secrets: A Predictably Absurd Sequel. I realize however, that in keeping with my response to the question about plot and characters, being true to the concept means I can’t tell you anything about it.

I’m also considering a couple of children’s books and have the concept for a black comedy about climate change that I’m tentatively titling Oops: A Climate Apocalypse in Three Parts. We’ll see.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Here’s the scene. Eighth grade English class. We’ve been given an assignment to write a story with no parameters other than it must be four or five pages long and we have to read it in front of the class. It’s exactly the kind of anxiety-fraught situation that every 13-year-old dreads.

I come up with a weird story about a criminal whose conscience comes alive. Despite my shaking so much and stumbling over every word, everyone sems to like it. My two best friends accuse me of stealing the idea from a TV show – I think the Twilight Zone, a show I never watched.

Three takeaways: I can write, I hate standing up in front of a crowd, and Junior High School English teachers are sadists.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

How much I despise semi-colons. Yes, I said despise. There are two of them in my book, and the only reason they’re there is as a favor to a first reader who really likes them. Semi-colons are the embodiment of indecision. It’s like starting your car and shifting to neutral because you can’t decide what direction you want to go in. It’s like choosing none of the above in a survey. It’s like becoming a competitive speed walker. Stroll or run. For God’s sake, just commit already.

What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your book(s)?

How liberating it was. You have to understand that while I’ve always been a professional writer, the vast majority of my experience was with an advertising agency. Don’t get me wrong, it could be challenging and enjoyable, but you were always writing to fulfill someone else’s objective. When I started writing outside of that environment, poetry first and then prose, I felt completely unrestrained. I believe that feeling comes through in my book.

Have you ever eaten a crayon?

What kind of question is that? Who wants to eat a crayon after chewing on a pencil all day? Ow, splinter.

If you were stranded on a desert island and were only allowed to have five modern conveniences with you, what would they be?

If I had five modern conveniences on an island by myself, I wouldn’t consider myself stranded, I’d consider myself on a luxury holiday. Of course, one of the conveniences would have to be a wind or solar powered generator, but after that, it’s all fun in the sun. The only kink would be if the desert island wasn’t tropical. Five conveniences or not, being stranded on one of the smaller Aleutian Islands probably isn’t getting a write-up in Conde Nast.

Let’s round out that list just to drive home my point. Solar-powered generator, sailboat, fishing pole, microwave, and a good sun hat. Yep, I’m all set. Ouch, another splinter.

Tell us about a favorite character from a book.

That’s easy. Walt from my own novel. He runs the local Welcome Wagon and he’s one of the first characters we meet in the story. He’s insecure and riddled with anxiety, but he also has some surprising traits like sneezing in multiple languages (triggered by anxiety of course), he speaks fluent Latin, and is a top-flight debater.

Don’t tell the other characters what I said. I can’t have them getting angry with me as I need them for the next book.

Do you listen to music while writing? If so what?

I listen to Iron Man by Black Sabbath.

What was the scariest moment of your life?

Finding out that William Shatner did a cover version of Iron Man by Black Sabbath.

If you could apologize to someone in your past, who would it be? What makes you happy?

I’m combining these two questions because I know for certain that not having to apologize to anyone in my past would definitely make me happy. Do you know how much time that would take up? Sorry, Grandpa, I shouldn’t have sold your house while you were away on business. Sorry, Town Library Director, I know I promised to return that book after two weeks, but two weeks, two decades, what’s the difference? Yes, Mom, I probably should have told you I moved to Tanzania five years ago. My bad.

See what I mean? Apologizing is exhausting.

What would we find under your bed?

Um, the floor, I hope. When I was a kid, there was a time when I slept on the top of a bunk bed, so if that were still the case, I could say another bed. Absent the presence of a floor or the bottom bunk bed, the only remaining logical response would be a spinning vortex with gravity-defying properties likely generated by the confluence of wormholes and the anti-matter version of Chipotle. We get a lot of that where I live.

You have to be careful when you have a spinning vortex under your bed. It’s so easy to lose your socks. Then there’s the opposite problem: finding sox that aren’t yours. Like the other day, there was three pairs of argyle sox, and I never wear argyle.

Do you write in multiple genres or just one? If just one, do you ever consider straying outside your genre?

I don’t write in multiple genres, but I do write with multiple personalities. No, I don’t. Yes, I do. Are you two arguing again? Hey, keep it down you three. I’m trying to get a nap in here. Ouch, these splinters really hurt!

What is something that you absolutely can’t live without? (Other than family members)

Is this a science question?? Ugh, I thought I was done with High School. Can I be dismissed?

Could you ever co author a book with someone? If so, who would you choose, and what would you write?

Sure, I do it all the time. See my response to the previous question.

If you could spend a day with anyone from history, dead or alive, who would it be, and what would you do? What would you ask them?

Our ability to communicate is exceeded in importance only by our tendency to do it badly, so if I was going to spend a day with someone from history, it would be with whatever proto human started speaking in something other than grunts and gestures, and implore them to please, stop.

For all of the benefits of language, there are just as many, if not more, detriments – misunderstandings, fights, wars. No matter how precisely we attempt to communicate, no matter how many words we have at our disposal, there is always something missing, something that has to be inferred. And when that becomes all convoluted, you get the Jerry Springer Show.

I figure after subjecting the aforementioned proto human to a few hours of daytime television reruns, the whole language idea would disappear, and we’d all be communicating through charades right now.

A little tale of trial and error. Okay, mostly error.

Duncan and Maya Small have just moved to an out-of-the-way town filled with odd characters, quirky customs, and a power-obsessed local official who one day hopes to be declared emperor. Duncan is sharp enough to know something needs to change, and delusional enough to believe he’s the one to make it happen. The only thing standing in his way are feral ponies, radical seniors, common sense, and Duncan’s inability to do anything without a list.

Small Stories: A Perfectly Absurd Novel, is a tale of power, bake sales, manipulation, the Welcome Wagon, and diabolical forces at work in the shadows (mostly because they can’t afford to pay the light bill), although the Smalls soon discover nothing is at it seems. One thing is certain, however – there’s something funny going on.

About the Author: Rob Roy O’Keefe was raised in the Antarctic by a colony of emperor penguins, which explains both his love of fish and his intense anxiety when in the company of sea lions. At the age of 12 he left to go on walkabout, but upon learning that Australia was over 3,000 miles away, he took the more expedient route from Cape Melville, Antarctica to South America’s Cape Horn.

He wandered north through the Andes, accumulated an abundance of practical knowledge, such as how to convince a hungry condor that you are not carrion. He eventually stumbled upon the hut of an Incan shaman who took him on as an apprentice. After a decade of immersion into the mysteries of the unseen world, Rob departed, fully prepared for his eventual success in the fields of talking, commuting, and sitting behind a desk.

Today, Rob resides in New England’s Merrimack Valley, where he lives in a tree house made of Good Humor popsicle sticks held together by the discarded dreams of retired sailors.

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Advice for Writers by Diane Hatz – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Diane Hatz will be awarding a $20 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.

Advice for writers

I self-published Rock Gods of Acht in 2008 because I couldn’t find an agent or publisher. I had incredibly low self-esteem around my writing and took all the rejections personally. It was so painful!

Last spring, a friend reconnected after many years. She shared that she quit her office job immediately after finishing my book. She also said I had the novel all wrong. Rock Gods is set in a record company, but it’s about the search for self and understanding that our dreams can sometimes be delusions. And we are the only ones that can do something about it.

It took a little (okay, a lot) of encouragement from her, but I decided to update the book and re-release it as Rock Gods & Messy Monsters. I indie published the work under my new publishing imprint Whole Healthy Group LLC.

I’ve learned so much that my next book will be on indie publishing. Writing it will be worth it if I can help one person avoid the drama and difficulties I experienced with Rock Gods.

Some quick tips I can give any aspiring or new writers include:

● Write. I read many years ago that writing is rewriting. That is so true. If you’re writing a novel, the first draft is usually a brain dump. Just get your thoughts out. Don’t stop to edit; don’t stop at all. Just write, write, write. That will give you a manuscript to mold and edit into a novel.

● Be consistent. I write every day. It might not always be a book I’m working on, but I’ll journal or write an article for my Substack Next Draft with Diane Hatz. Writing is like any form of exercise. You get out of shape if you stop doing it for a while. Develop a routine – even if it’s ten minutes a day. Write.

● Rewrite and edit. You’ll have to cut parts of the manuscript you love. If the scenes or characters don’t move your story forward, you must cut them. I cut out the words, but I save the writing in another folder to possibly use later. You’re not getting rid of the work; you’re keeping it for another time.

● Join writing groups. You must find people to support you. I had such low self-esteem with writing because I didn’t have enough supportive people in my life. There are writing groups everywhere. Start one if you can’t find one. And make it a requirement that any critiques are positive.

● Ignore the negative. I know this is hard, but you’ll face rejection with your work at some point. I recently did my first tabling event at a comic con in Las Vegas. I went in all bright-eyed, with visions of the masses buying all my books. That didn’t happen. But I ended up having a great time because I shifted my attitude about being there. It became a weekend of market research and meeting other indie writers. And how many people get Batman and Robin to take a photo with their book? Because I could shift my expectations, I made the most of my time there. And I enjoyed it.

My final advice is to take your writing career one step at a time. If you’re still writing your book, focus on that. Worry about publishing when you feel it’s at least ninety-five percent done.

If you’re ready to publish, go indie. Indie books now make up 43% of the market, which is only increasing. You keep total control, and you get a much, much larger royalty on each book sold.

I hope to be reading your book in the not-too-distant future.

Rock Gods & Messy Monsters is one woman’s search for herself among the blood-soaked walls, dangling body parts, and alien-hatched explosions inside Acht Records.

It’s the 1990s. Alex arrives to work at Acht, her improbable blonde hair streaked stress magenta and anger black. Her first duty is to wipe blood off her boss’s walls, to clean up his blood vessel explosion. It goes downhill from there.

On the surface, Rock Gods & Messy Monsters is a story about life inside an entertainment company. A cast of comedic characters exemplifies the inner workings of Acht, where power and greed mask incompetence.

A series of escapades involve Alex, a hard-working, lower-level employee desperately trying to get promoted. When she does, she realizes her dream is a nightmare. Corporate executives are busy working with aliens to manufacture a half-human, half-robot superstar. At the same time, one of the doubly-named Senior Senior Executive Presidents attempts to overthrow the Deity in charge.

Underneath and between the lines of exploding body parts and brain extractions, Rock Gods & Messy Monsters is a cautionary tale. It reminds us that our dreams can be illusions, and learning who we really are takes courage and a commitment to self-love.

Enjoy an Excerpt

The blood didn’t bother Alex but cleaning it up made her angry.

“Damn it,” she cursed aloud as she surveyed the red stained walls and coagulated mounds of Langley ooze around her boss’ corner office.

Alex returned to her desk, her wildly improbable blonde hair already streaked stress magenta and anger black. It was coming to an end; Alex had to get out of her job. But with the worldwide recession and lines of job applicants she saw every day on her way into the building, she was lucky to have a job, especially in a major record company.

Alex put her backpack on the floor and unzipped the side of her head. She reached in and pulled out her brain, placing the throbbing gray matter in the customized, faux crystal cerebrum urn Acht Records had supplied her with her first day at the company. She had fought the procedure at first, refused to sign the Cerebrum Extraction Release form, but with times being as hard as they were, and with the knowledge that she had spent over six months unemployed before being offered this job, Alex knew she had no choice.

And after wandering through the homogenous maze of Acht, up and down forty floors of identical gray hallways and glaring fluorescent lights, she had realized she would be better off if she removed all traces of thought and intelligence before commencing employment at the company.

About the Author Diane Hatz worked at major and indie record companies, managed a band, and freelanced as a music publicist. She is co-founder of The Relay, a fanzine on The Who, which is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She’s attended thousands of concerts.

Diane has a Masters in Creative Writing and is currently focused on writing fiction. Her book Rock Gods & Messy Monsters is currently available from most online retailers. Her substack “Next Draft with Diane Hatz” is a newsletter for creatives looking inward. And some writing stuff.

During her sometimes-surreal career, Diane founded the nonprofit Change Food, worked to shut down factory farms, organized & spoke at major TED/TEDx events, and executive produced The Meatrix, a Webby Award winner. She has studied with many spiritual teachers, including The Dalai Lama.

In late 2020, after 30 years living in downtown Manhattan and the East Village, Diane moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico. When not at her computer creating, you can find her hiking, road tripping, or breathing in all the beauty the Southwest has to offer.

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God of Summer by Kat Chant – Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Kat Chant will be awarding a $25 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.

Back in the Bronze Age, Angus McCraggan sacrificed his life to break the Celtic curse laid on his kind. He failed. Millennia later, he returns to modern Ireland to find his people have become feral, vengeful shadows. With his hollow hill now packed with tourists, he uses his power to keep his past hidden.

Until an American calls him out.

Since a banshee attacked her as a teen, Erin De Santos has been tormented by dreams of a boy she’s never met. Armed with a new identity, she returns to the Emerald Isle determined to face her nightmare. But her discovery turns fatal.

When the banshee strikes again, Angus surrenders his heart—and his hope of freeing his people—to save her. With his life now hers and his curse descending, Erin must make a terrible choice: kill her savior or share his doom.

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The banshee whirled around her head, turning the bubble of fog into a maelstrom for one. The force of it pulled at Erin from all sides. She wanted to sink down to the ground, as if facing a storm that might blow over. Bits of her would scatter to the four winds if she tried that. She was already falling apart, her composure disintegrating in tune with the high wavering wail.

The wailing eased for the banshee to draw breath for another blast. In the sudden silence, from somewhere far away, came a voice. It poured over Erin with the rich, sweet grace of molasses, warming her from the inside out. Maybe she’d died after all—died and gone to heaven.

Beneath her feet, the ground rippled with the sickening shudder of an earthquake and the spiderweb tufts binding her broke apart like cotton candy, returning to a pea-soup fog.

I can move.

The pub. The people. The man who sang with all his heart.

She staggered forward, stumbled over a step, and would have fallen had she not crashed into the door. Where was the handle? She had to get in.

Through the wood, the man’s words rang with gospel truth. The singer was in love with some girl and, oh God, she wanted that girl to be her. She palmed the cracked paint in every direction, blind and frantic, her pulse knocking in her ears.

The banshee screeched and drew in the fog to reform around eyes now the pale blue of ice.

Shivering uncontrollably, Erin pressed into the doorframe, as if it might hide her from the death coming for her. The banshee would use her name to gut out her heart, the same as she’d done to Da. If only Erin was more collected, more centered, more together somehow, she might somehow hold on.

“Mmmaureeeen O’Neilllll,” the creature called in cracked and wavering glee.

The name cut through Erin like shards of crystal. Or maybe that was her enemy, arms straight and fingers crooked, coming straight in for the kill. The banshee’s claws hooked into her scalp and pulled, while she stood frozen, arms locked at the wrists as if chained. She fought her immobility, straining until it seemed her chest would burst. Her muscles refused to budge. Not even her lips moved enough to curse her own stupidity.

About the Author:Kat Chant is an award-winning writer. A bookworm who grew into a history buff, she swapped beaches for castles and moved from Australia to the UK. When studying medieval history, she fell in love with a lad from Ireland…and fell in love with his country, too.

She and her family live in the heart of Ireland, surrounded by fields in forty shades of green.

Kat is a keen cook and often experiments with traditional farmhouse foods such as making bread, cheese, jam and liqueurs. She also decorates the occasional cake.

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