Guest Authors Blogging on Manic Readers!


Interested in guest blogging on Manic Readers? Please contact Ivy.
ivydtruitt at gmail (dot) com.

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LIGHT UP THE NIGHT and giveaway with M.L. Buchman

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Trisha O’Malley rebelled against her affluent family by joining the U.S. Army’s secret helicopter regiment, the 160th SOAR. Now a Chief Warrant Officer, she found her toughest fight yet in the pilot’s seat of an MH-6M attack helicopter.

William Wallace Bruce is an undercover CIA agent who doesn’t trust the military. But when the Horn of Africa is threatened by Somali pirates, Trisha flies out to recover ships and hostages…including one very ungrateful Will. Everything about Trisha triggers his mistrust: her elusive past, her wild energy, and her proclivity for flying past safety’s edge. Even as the heat between them turns into passion’s fire, Bill and Trisha must team up to confront their pasts and survive Somalia’s pirate lords.

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Trisha looked up at Billy. His narrowed eyes revealed that he was indeed totally perplexed.

It was perfectly clear to her, and she just figured out that meant she was too damn stupid to live. She shrugged to herself, feeling the warm weight of his large hands still resting on her shoulders.

Well, stupid is something I’m really good at, she had to admit to herself. With one foot she shoved the door to her cabin closed until the latch clicked. Then putting a hand on either side of his neck, Tricia pulled his face down to hers.

His hesitation didn’t last long, then the kiss became everything she remembered from the first one. Power, heat, strength.

And then it became more. When he folded his arms around her and held her tight against him as they teased each other’s lips, she was just gone.

She’d never felt such a thing before. In Billy’s arms, Tricia O’Malley felt … safe. As if someone else would take care of the world, just for awhile. That was so foreign, she almost pushed away. Then she changed her mind and leaned closer because it felt so damn good.

Trisha wished she was still wearing the stupid towel, so that she could just let it slide ever so slowly to the floor like some heart-fluttering romance heroin. But she was dressed now, so she went for plan B.

Sliding her hands down to his waist, she tugged Billy’s T-shirt free and dragged it off over his head. If she could have shredded it with her teeth, she would have.

When she reached bare skin, rather than throwing herself against it, she hesitated. A desecration of multiple scars ran across one of the most beautiful chest she ever seen. Two obvious bullet holes, one by his waist another terrifyingly near his heart. A third, old one deep on his arm, just below the shoulder — the one Ralph of Detroit had given him. Thin white lines crisscrossed as if he’d been whipped or dragged over rough ground.

And one deep line that matched the scar across his face, as if a knife had been dragged diagonally down from his ear, over his chin, then sliced him from clavicle most of the way down his ribs below one breast.

Tricia look so slowly back up to his eyes, which watched her intently from just inches away.

Awaiting her reaction.

She didn’t know what to think. She’d been all freaked out over a bullet that hadn’t even penetrated her armor. He appeared to have been tortured and clearly been close to death several times.

At her continued inspection, he shrugged slightly as if to say, “It’s who I am.”

She watched a shiver ripple over the skin as she stroked a single finger down the long line of the deep knife cut.

Then she leaned in and kissed it. The shiver turned into a soft groan that rippled across his magnificent chest.

It was the last sound they made.

MLBuchman

M. L. Buchman has over 25 novels in print. His military romantic suspense books have been named Barnes & Noble and NPR “Top 5 of the year” and Booklist “Top 10 of the Year.” In addition to romance, he also writes contemporaries, thrillers, and fantasy and science fiction.

In among his career as a corporate project manager he has: rebuilt and single-handed a fifty-foot sailboat, both flown and jumped out of airplanes, designed and built two houses, and bicycled solo around the world.

He is now a full-time writer, living on the Oregon Coast with his beloved wife. He is constantly amazed at what you can do with a degree in Geophysics. You may keep up with his writing at www.mlbuchman.com.

Social Networking Links

Website: http://www.matthewlieberbuchman.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/M_L_Buchman

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mlbuchman

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mlbuchman

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/mlbuchman

L is for Lavender & giveaway with Jenna Jaxon

Lavender is one of my favorite flowers. I love the color, the look of the flowers, and of course, the smell of lavender has the power to soothe us to sleep with little trouble. Since the days of the ancient Egyptians, lavender has been used for medicinal and helful purposes. It was also a “miracle plant” during the Middle Ages. So there is little wonder that I used lavender extensively in my medieval novel Time Enough to Love.
The scent of lavender has been associated with medicinal uses for centuries. The ancient Romans used it in their baths, the Middle Ages saw it used to help ward off plague, and our culture uses it today in a variety of ways, but especially. I’ve noticed, in laundry detergents and fabric softeners. In fact, I must confess that I use a lavender/sweet cotton scented fabric softener for my laundry.
Early on in Time Enough to Love, the hero, Sir Geoffrey Longford, remarks on the scent of lavender that surrounds the heroine, Lady Alyse de Courcy:
He reached out to capture a tendril of her hair. Rubbing his face against it, he inhaled deeply. “You smell so sweetly. ’Tis like flowers in summertime all about you. Even your hair smells like the meadows near my home.”
Alyse smiled at that, her breath coming more normally. “’Tis lavender, my lord. My mother has it cut in our fields, and dries it to make sachets to keep the clothes and linens fresh. She says it gives us good health.” With a shy glance at him she continued, “I do bathe in it too, for it calms and soothes the soul.” She gave a rueful chuckle. “I fear I will require such a bath when I return to my room.”
I wanted to have this olfactory marker for Alyse so I could play with its use in several ways throughout the course of the novel. Not only does Alyse have this scent clinging to her, but she gives Geoffrey a token, a small bag with a lock of her hair in it. The bag smells of lavender because it’s made of part of an old gown of hers that’s permeated with the scent. I also have Geoffrey send Alyse a sprig of lavender as a token of remembrance.
One thing I was excited to discover is that lavender is also used as an insect repellent. Its use as a sachet tucked into linens and clothing helps repel fleas, the major carrier of the Bubonic plague. So the fact that Alyse and Geoffrey have so much contact with lavender explains why they are protected, to an extent, from the plague. To highlight this, I made lavender sachets and gave them out as swag at this year’s Romance Writers of America National Conference. I hope it gave everyone sweet dreams.

Jenna is giving away an ecopy of TIME ENOUGH TO LOVE to one (1) lucky commenter.  What’s your favorite flower? 

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When Lady Alyse de Courcy is betrothed to Sir Geoffrey Longford, she has no choice but to make the best of a bad bargain. The hulking knight is far from her ideal man, and although he does possess some wit and charm, he is no match for the sinfully sensual man she secretly admires, Thomas, Earl of Braeton, her betrothed’s best friend.
From the first, Sir Geoffrey finds himself smitten by Lady Alyse, and, despite her infatuation with his friend, vows to win her love. When Geoffrey puts his mind to wooing Alyse, he is delighted to find her succumbing to his seduction. But when cruel circumstances separate them, Geoffrey must watch helplessly as Thomas steps in to protect Alyse—and falls in love with her himself.
As the three courtiers accompany Princess Joanna to her wedding in Spain, they run headlong into the Black Plague. With her world plunged into chaos, Alyse struggles with her feelings for both the men she loves. But which love will survive?

 

 

 

 

Jenna Jaxon is a multi-published author of historical and contemporary romance. She has been reading and writing historical romance since she was a teenager. A romantic herself, she has always loved a dark side to the genre, a twist, suspense, a surprise. She tries to incorporate all of these elements into her own stories. She lives in Virginia with her family and a small menagerie of pets. When not reading or writing, she indulges her passion for the theatre, working with local theatres as a director. She often feels she is directing her characters on their own private stage.

Jenna is a PAN member of Romance Writers of America as well as a member of Chesapeake Romance Writers. Her debut novel, Only Scandal Will Do, is the first in her House of Pleasure series, set in Georgian London. Her medieval novel, Time Enough to Love, is a Romeo & Juliet-esque tale, set at the time of the Black Death.

She has equated her writing to an addiction to chocolate because once she starts she just can’t stop.

http://jennajaxon.wordpress.com/

THE HOOK UP Spotlight and giveaway with Kristen Callihan

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The rules: no kissing on the mouth, no staying the night, no telling anyone, and above all… No falling in love

Anna Jones just wants to finish college and figure out her life. Falling for star quarterback Drew Baylor is certainly not on her to do list. Confident and charming, he lives in the limelight and is way too gorgeous for his own good. If only she could ignore his heated stares and stop thinking about doing hot and dirty things with him. Easy right?

Too bad he’s committed to making her break every rule…

Football has been good to Drew. It’s given him recognition, two National Championships, and the Heisman. But what he really craves is sexy yet prickly Anna Jones. Her cutting humor and blatant disregard for his fame turns him on like nothing else. But there’s one problem: she’s shut him down. Completely.

That is until a chance encounter leads to the hottest sex of their lives, along with the possibility of something great. Unfortunately, Anna wants it to remain a hook up. Now it’s up to Drew to tempt her with more: more sex, more satisfaction, more time with him. Until she’s truly hooked. It’s a good thing Drew knows all about winning.

All’s fair in love and football…Game on

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KristenCallihanKristen Callihan is an author because there is nothing else she’d rather do. She is a three-time RITA nominee, and winner of two RT Reviewer’s Choice awards. Her novels have garnered starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and the Library Journal, as well as being awarded top picks by many reviewers. Her debut book FIRELIGHT received RT Magazine’s Seal of Excellence, was named a best book of the year by Library Journal, best book of Spring 2012 by Publisher’s Weekly, and was named the best romance book of 2012 by ALA RUSA. When she is not writing, she is reading.

Website: http://www.thehookup.kristencallihan.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KristenCallihan

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Kris10Callihan

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4971535.Kristen_Callihan

Joy Avery’s HIS UNTIL SUNRISE Blast & giveaway

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Contest Giveaway: Author is offering a “His Until Sunrise Goodie Package” for One Winner
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Author: Joy Avery

Publication Date: 8-2-2014

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Age Group For Your Book 18+

About The Book
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After learning her boss has scheduled a mandatory team-building excursion, financial planner Nona Rogers panics. What does she know about camping? Nada. Zilch. Heck, she doesn’t even like picnics. And the thought of sleeping amid bugs and wild animals knots her stomach.

No way can she risk looking like an idiot in front of her colleagues. Taking proactive measures, she acquires the services of a guide to give her a crash-course in camping. Seven days living off the land. How hard could it be? Nona swallows those words when she meets the sexy titan tasked with leading her into the wild. Getting mauled by a bear quickly becomes the least of her worries.

Mason Tinsdale’s first love has always been oil rigging. But a horrible accident has him doubting the job—more importantly, himself. Seven days in the Indigo Falls wilderness is just what he needs to sort out his thoughts. Then he meets Nona Rogers. He’s convinced the gorgeous woman is going to be far more trouble than she’s worth. And he’s right. However, there’s something about the feisty vixen that makes her irresistible.
Two guarded hearts. Seven days alone. An attraction that can’t be denied.

About the Author

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Joy Avery is a North Carolina native with a passion for penning contemporary romances. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, cake decorating, pretending to expertly play the piano, driving her husband insane, and playing with her sixteen-pound peek-a-poo and hundred-pound Rottweiler.
There’s plenty of emotion in a Joy Avery romance. Sometimes there are obstacles and hurdles in love, and she enjoys showing this in her novels. Her stories guide readers along the rutted roads of love, delivering them to a gratifying happily ever after.

Romance is Joy’s genre of choice, because she enjoys the experience of characters overcoming the barriers that have held them back from finding true love. Plus, she loves happily ever afters.

HIS UNTIL SUNRISE is Joy’s second novel. Her first novel, SMOKE IN THE CITI, garnered attention for having well-developed and believable characters, as well as refreshing humor. She is currently working on Book 2 of her Indigo Falls series.
Joy is a member of Romance Writers of America and Heart of Carolina Romance Writers

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Buy Link

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TAKING CONTROL & gemstone giveaway with Jen Frederick

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The hotly anticipated sequel to Losing Control. To celebrate Jen is giving away a Tiffany & Co. gemstone ring!  Enter via the rafflecopter.  
Taking Control
 
 
I thought I needed only one thing in my life–the money and power to crush one man. But the moment I laid eyes on Victoria Corielli, my thirst for revenge was replaced by my craving for her.
No rule would keep me away; no obstacle too large to overcome. Not her will, not our differing social positions, not my infamous past. When she lost everything, I helped her pick up the pieces. When she trusted me with everything, she sealed her fate.
I’ve convinced Victoria she can put her heart in my hands. Now I have to protect it–from her shady stepfather and my business rivals, from enemies known and hidden. I’ll do anything to keep her. And I might have to prove it, because now Victoria’s risking more than her heart to be with me; she’s risking her life.

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I want us to get married. Soon. Do you want a big wedding?”
“Married? I mean, I guess I thought you were serious but I figured…I don’t know.” Her voice trails off.
“That my proposal of marriage was somehow insincere? I’ve never wanted anything more. I just didn’t want to pressure you because of all the emotional upheaval you’re experiencing now.” Rolling over so she can see me and judge the sincerity for herself, I declare, “I want you to be my wife. The mother of any children we have. My partner in life. I want that to happen now so that I can introduce you as Mrs. Ian Kerr.”
Her eyes close for a moment and beneath the lids, silent tears leak out. Her words, though, are classic. “Maybe you should take my name. You can be Ian Corielli and I’ll introduce you as Mr. Victoria Corielli.”
“As long as it means you’re mine in the eyes of the world, I’ll be Mr. John Smith.”
She wraps her arms around my neck and clings to me. This time the shudders I’m soothing are from maybe, possibly, hopefully joy for our future. “I’m okay with Victoria Kerr,” she chokes out. “You better give me a big rock and lots of flowers since you’re proposing to me while we’re naked.”
“I proposed to you when I first took you to the house on the Long Island Sound.”
“You didn’t propose. You said that you wanted me to be your wife and fill your big house with lots of little people.”
“That’s a proposal.”
“It was a demand.”
“It was a request couched as a demand.”
Her body is shaking with laughter. “You’ve been in charge for too long. That was no request.”
Pushing to my knees, I reach into the nightstand and retrieve the box I bought before Sophie died. Her eyes grow huge and her hands come up to the cover her mouth. I flip the box lid open, pluck the ring out and toss it aside.
Lifting her shaking hand in mine, I slide the ring down her finger.
“When I was fifteen I made a hundred different stupid vows. I’d avenge my mother. I’d rise to the top of Wall Street and smite everyone down. I’d crush Richard Howe beneath the sole of my boot. I’d win at everything. But I never wished for happiness because I didn’t know what it was until you came into my life. How could I want something I didn’t know was missing? Now, everything I’ve achieved pales in comparison to having you love me. When I say that you’re my heart, my everything, those aren’t just words. They are the only truth in my world. I’d give up money, revenge, success, as long as I could lie down next to you at night and wake up with your face beside mine.
There is no greater achievement in my life than having you fall in love with me and I recognize on some mysterious level that is pure luck. I need you to marry me and be my wife. I need you to be the mother of my children. I need you because without you I am nothing. I am a pile of bones and flesh filled with misery. You bring me to life. Love me, marry me, be with me in this life and into all the ones we live from this point ever after.”
“Well, since you put it like that, I guess I must.” She rises and kisses me. Our mouths sealing the promises we’ve made to another one another.
I make love to her again then, slowly. We barely move. I just slide in and we rock together and allow the strength of our emotions to carry us into the heaven.
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Bestselling author Jen Frederick lives with her husband, child, and one rambunctious dog. She’s been reading stories all her life but never imagined writing one of her own. Jen loves to hear from readers so drop her a line atjensfrederick@gmail.com.
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How Babylon 5 influenced the creation of The Scope series and “A 38 Day Education.”

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When I first set out to writing A 38 Day Education, my mission was that of making The Scope, a fictional newspaper based loosely on my own college newspaper, a character unto itself which could provide a sense of continuity for a story arc lasting several years – possibly up to a generation.
Now that I am fully into writing the finale of this series, Countdown to Eternity, I believe this mission is well on its way to being accomplished.
Strangely, I have one of my favorite science fiction series, Babylon 5, to thank for the inspiration for this arc. A 90s-era television drama, Babylon 5 redefined the whole concept of science fiction. For years, sci-fi had been the realm of Star Trek, Star Wars and myriad robo-action flicks, from Robocop, to Terminator, to Short Circuit. Despite being entertaining and often compelling stories, gimmickry was commonplace and, Star Wars and Star Trek aside, originality was often sorely lacking.
Then along came Babylon 5.
Never before had a television series taken on such an ambitious approach to storytelling; a time-limited, five year story arc which would have a definitive start and end. Never before had science-fiction explored, on television, concepts such as reincarnation, interstellar diplomacy, and the legends of ancient races considered god-like in such detail. It set the standard for future series (Star Trek: Enterprise), as well as some reboots (Battlestar Galactica).
How did J. Michael Straczynski succeed an arena in which so many others had failed? He did something remarkably unique – he reoriented the storytelling concept from an action-adventure style serial into a more soap opera-style model. Rather than using gimmicks to solve continuity problems, those gimmicks became conflicts themselves. One example, time-travel, was first used by Star Trek as a storytelling device, then frequently recycled, almost gimmick-like, to resolve continuity glitches. Babylon 5 did the reverse; in “Babylon Squared” and “War Without End, Parts 1&2,” rather than plot tool, time travel used almost as an antagonist itself; it was part and parcel to the conflict, rather than an actual means to a resolution.
Where this figures into my novel series is that the goal of my series is to redefine the way a media-based story is portrayed. Rather than take on the concept of a news anchor moonlighting in another job, a reporter turned superhero, or a radio host who is a psychiatrist or attorney by trade, The Scope series takes the newspaper itself and molds the characters to the organization, rather than mold the story to the character. While Jay Ferragamo, Anshana Davis, Layna Dearforth, Craig Johannson, Cassie Owinger, and the rest of the staff are central to the story, with The Scope newspaper itself is the true continuing character which experiences the story, with the staff expressing the will of the newspaper. Yet it is their lives which are affected by The Scope, and whose decisions actually allows for the newspaper’s evolution as a character.
The Scope series will redefine fiction set in the world of media by showing readers what life as a member of college media really is like – how some wash out and why, and the reason others excel and choose it as a passion. The mission of this series is not just to show the how of college media life, but why some journalists of today may have turned out as they have. Like Babylon 5, the characters each have their strengths and weaknesses. Jay’s reliance on his instinct and intuition is juxtaposed to his extreme insecurity and loneliness. Craig’s wisdom and experience is countered by his fiery disposition and near-plodding decision-making process. Anshana’s conservative politics are belied by her fear of being judged by not just fellow African-American students, but her family as well. Cassie Owinger and Layna Dearforth’s common strength, a gritty determination to tell the whole story, is often offset by the impulsive nature of their personalities, though Cassie is a bit more measured than Layna. While Andy Halston’s own laid-back attitude is offset by his somewhat indifferent attitude to important issues, it is his cohort, Kenny Strasburg, who experiences the truly relatable pain of the series, fighting a nascent battle with alcoholism while demonstrating a true desire to change his ways and attitude as the series progresses.
Even the antagonists are relatable. Dr. Earl Falconer, the President of South Central College, is a classic academic-turned-politician who is in over his head, and is frequently shown speaking out of both sides of his mouth. His successor, Dr. William J. Harting, will be revealed to be far, far worse, as well as egomaniacal. Danny Winters, President of Student Government, is a well-connected fraternity brother whose spine is weaker than the will he outwardly displays. His successor, Natasha Davidson, is a prototypical “old money” daughter in attitude and appearance, but whose family now must rely on their name for success rather than any real fortune, as the latter was destroyed in a long-running local legal dispute.
The Scope series will explore all sorts of issues, ranging from race relations to small-town politics, to the individual issues of lost love, depression, substance abuse, and bigotry. This series will be real as college can get, show the world was American university in the 1990s south was really like, and how, as the titles suggest, changes always rises, history always awaits, madness must be reflected upon, we must bid farewell to our memories at times and, in the end, it’s all about our countdown to our own personal eternity.
Like Babylon 5 was to science fiction, The Scope series is high literary risk, but the hope is that reading it will bring the reward of enlightenment and better understanding thanks to compelling stories with characters who personal twists and turns keep you turning the page.
Amazon

REBEL WING with Tracy Banghart

 High above the olive groves and blinding white roofs of the village, Aris danced. She twisted and
dove, guiding her wingjet straight out over granite cliffs and the glitter of the ocean. As she did,
she imagined its wings were her arms, reaching far out into the blue. Her fingers would knife
through a wisp of cloud, and the moisture would linger against her skin, like a kiss.
Her father wouldn’t approve of such thoughts. To him, flying was a practical pursuit, for
dusting crops or traveling from place to place. Their village was built high on carbonate stilts, so
wingjets were the easiest form of transportation unless you were working the land or hiking
down the steep paths leading to the narrow beach below the cliffs. Most everyone here could fly.
But no one flew like Aris did.
At least Calix understood what flying meant to her.
She pressed the pedals under her feet and twisted the hand controls, diving in a last tight
pirouette before nosing the tiny two-seat wingjet toward home.
A flicker of light caught at the edge of her vision. She glanced out to sea and steered the
wingjet in the direction of the movement.
Suddenly, the flash became a speeding wingjet. It hurtled toward her, its silver sides
reflecting the sun. Aris hovered just off shore, the beach a golden crescent beneath her, waiting
for the wingjet to change course or slow to land. Instead, it grew larger, advancing quickly.
Surely the flyer saw her? Her hands tightened on the controls. She moved farther from the cliff.
The other wingjet shifted too, keeping her directly in its path.
Aris nearly waited too long. She jerked the controls down, the force of the other wingjet’s

passage rattling the bones of her machine as she locked into a downward spiral. Heart beating
wildly, she waited until the last second before pulling up and skimming the water. Beneath her,
waves rolled from deep blue to white, ruffled by her jet wind.
The other flyer followed, matching her move for move. Her stomach twisted as the
wingjet drew up alongside, giving her a clear view of its needle nose and the Atalanta flag decal
stretched across its sloping tail. No solar panels curved above its wings like on her wingjet.
Instead the whole thing shimmered a silvery gold, the hallmark of new-tech solar material. Aris
had only ever seen Military wingjets on news vids, never up close.
What was it doing here, so far from the front lines of the war?
Without warning, the jet shot upward, piercing the cloudless sky like a shining arrow.
She slowed to watch its progress, waiting for it to disappear. But with a flash of reflected
sunlight, it dove again, straight for her.
What is he trying to prove? Her apprehension shifted to annoyance. She darted out from
under the jet and flipped through the air to face him. It had to be a him. All members of the
Military sector were male.
For a moment they hovered in a strange standoff. Then the other wingjet rocketed
forward, forcing her into a series of evasive spins and loops. At first Aris dipped and whirled
away in anger and frustration. But gradually, his movements lost their aggression and she relaxed
into the dance, pushing farther and twisting faster until it was suddenly her chasing him across
the sky. She, who flew the most intricate patterns, she who nipped at his jet wind, whooping as
she tumbled toward the flashing waves below.
Eventually, the other flyer slowed and headed back to the cliffs, tipping his wings in a
“follow me” gesture. She watched him land, her heart still hammering, then followed suit.

 

 Kirkus has called REBEL WING “reminiscent of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games (2008)…part mystery, part romance, part sci-fi.” Banghart’s e-book beings as a story in which a young woman sacrificies her identity to fight for her homeland and the man she loves but quickly turns into an examination of gender roles and self-discovery as Aris is challenged both mentally and physically in the heat of a war zone. Eighteen-year-old Aris is heartbroken when her boyfriend is drafted into the military, as tradition forbids women from participating in combat. But Aris is an ace pilot, and this talent permits her entry into a secret search-and-rescue unit in which she must disguise her female identity. With each person she rescues, Aris finds she is discovering a little more of herself.

Award-winning author, army wife, and mom, Tracy Banghart has an MA in publishing and an unhealthy affection for cupcakes. Her quiet childhood led to a reading addiction, writing obsession, and several serious book boyfriends. Rebel Wing is her third novel.

Visit Tracy’s Website: http://www.tracybanghart.com
Follow Aimee on Twitter: https://twitter.com/tracythewriter

EVERY UGLY WORD with Aimee L. Salter

Chapter One
As the psychiatrist enters the room, he offers me a patronizing smile. I return it in kind.
He indicates for me to take a seat, then sinks into a worn leather chair, looking just like a
doctor should: graying hair, well-trimmed beard, and wire-rimmed glasses I suspect he doesn’t
actually need.
We face each other over a glossy, mahogany coffee table. While he flips through my file,
I scan the room. Shelves of creased paperbacks line the walls. The single window is framed by
subtle drapes. There are doilies under the table lamps and two doors on opposing walls. This
office resembles a living room—if I ignore the bars over the shatterproof windows. Kind of kills
the good-time vibe.
Doc clears his throat. I take a deep breath and turn back to him.
“How are you, Ashley?” His voice is too loud for the muted tones of the room—all
earthy browns and soft corners. The quietly ticking clock in the corner tells me it’s 9:34 a.m.
That gives me about five hours to prove I’m normal and get out of this place once and for all.
Five hours until her life goes to hell, if I don’t make it home in time. I focus on him, try to smile.
It’s already been a rough morning, but I can’t tell him that, not yet.
“I’m okay.” I shrug, then freeze. My stitches are only memory now, but searing pain
lights up along the hard, pink lines spiderwebbing across most of my upper body. I breathe and
wait for the jagged bolts to fade. My surgeon says I’m healing. But he forgot to mention that to
the layers of mangled nerve endings beneath my fractured skin.
“Pain?” Doc’s eyes snap to mine. The benign disinterest was an act. He is measuring me.
“It’s fine. I just moved wrong,” I say breezily.
My physical scars aren’t the reason I’m here. He can’t fix those. But he can help me by
letting me out. As head of this facility, no one leaves without his approval.
I mentally shake myself. He will let me out today. He must. If I can get home in time, I
can fix . . . everything.
Doc’s lips press together under his perfectly trimmed mustache. After a second he smiles
again.
“I see you brought your bag.”
The duffel bag my mother packed before dumping me here six months ago sits on the
floor like a well-trained dog, as ready to go as I am.
“Yes.”
“So you’re confident about today?”
“I’m confident that I’m not crazy.”
Doc’s smile twists up on one side. “You know we don’t use that word in here, Ashley.”
There are a lot of words they don’t use in here. See you later, for example.
I take another breath. Cold. Calm. Sane. “Sorry.”
He returns my stare, face blank. “I’m glad you feel confident. However, I do have
concerns.”
“Concerns?”
He smiles in a way I’m sure is meant to be reassuring. But when he sits that way, with the
overbright anticipation in his gaze, it kind of makes him look like a pedophile.
“Ashley . . . you’ve changed therapists three times during your stay. Do you know what I
think when I hear that?”
I think the question is rhetorical, but he waits, expectant.
“Um . . . no?”
He hasn’t looked away. “I think as soon as anyone gets close to the truth, you flee.”
I can’t break my gaze without confirming his suspicions. So I swallow and wait.
His calm is maddening.
When he speaks next, it’s in the cool tone of a professional shrink. “I’ve read your file,
spoken to your nurses, and been briefed by your therapists. Now I want to talk to you. About
this.”
He makes his way to a closet in the corner, then pulls out a massive full-length mirror. It
stands taller than I am, with a wrought-iron frame that is hinged in the middle, allowing it to
pivot. He rolls it in front of the shelves in the corner of the room, far enough behind me that I
can’t see into it without turning my head.
A kindness? Or a challenge?
Doc returns to his chair and I force myself to follow him, to keep my eyes away from the
glinting surface.
“I have a hunch if we examine whatever it is you see in the mirror, we’ll find the truth
about the rest, Ashley,” he says. “I’d like you to stand before it and tell me what you see.”
Panic lights up my veins. “What? Now?”
Doc raises a brow. “Unless you have a better idea?”
I don’t. I’d expected this session to be like all the others—a glib exploration of my past,
patronizing questions about my psyche, along with self-congratulatory compliments when I
make a “breakthrough.” I was prepared to do whatever it took to get out of here by 2:30, but I
can’t look in that mirror—not now.

What if she’s there? She won’t understand why I’m ignoring her. She’s been through
enough today already. We both have. And breaking her heart is breaking mine.
“The mirror won’t make any sense without the rest of the story,” I say, trying to buy time.
If I can get him talking, show him how normal I am otherwise, maybe he’ll decide I don’t need
to look.
His face remains impassive, but his head tilts to the side just a hair. He’s onto me. “I
know the story you’ve fed your previous therapists. If there’s more, I’m willing to put the mirror
aside for a time—”
I slump with relief.
But he raises a single finger. “—if you tell me everything. There’s only one route to
getting my signature on your release forms, Ashley. And that’s it.”
His patience is a marble rolling along a slim edge, precariously balanced between hearing
me out and sending me back to that cell they call a bedroom.
Swallowing again, I try to make myself pitiful. I drop my head into my hands. “Okay,” I
breathe into my palms.
“Okay, what?”
“I’ll tell you the truth.” As much of it as I can, anyway. I’ll let him think he’s gotten
through where others failed. Hell, I’ll even consider what he has to say if it means he won’t make
me look in that mirror.
“Excellent.”
“So . . . where do you want me to begin?”
He crosses his leg over his knee, pulling up his pant leg slightly. “Nothing too dramatic.
Start with the night you planned to give Matt the letter.”
I feel the grin slide off my face. Nothing too dramatic. Right. I can’t help glancing
sideways at the mirror. Doc follows my gaze, and when he sees where I’m looking, he frowns.
For a moment the magnitude of what I’m trying to achieve is overwhelming. I cannot breathe.
But I force my muscles to loosen. I swallow my fear—and begin to speak.

 
Salter’s e-book draws on her past experiences as a bullied teen to create this truly gripping novel. Katie Sise, author of The Boyfriend App, called this “a gripping story…a chilling and heartbreaking debut with raw emotion searing every page.” This powerful story exemplifying just how deep scars from hateful acts can run has spurred an anti-hate movement, #StopTheHate. Join as individuals all over Facebook, Twitter, and everywhere else spread the message to stop the hate, spread positivity, and promote a zero-tolerance policy towards bullying.

Aimee L. Salter writes novels for teens and the occasional adult who, like herself, is still in touch with their inner-high schooler. She never stopped appreciating those moments in the dark when you say what you’re really thinking. And she’ll always ask you about the things you wish she wouldn’t ask you about.

Visit Aimee’s Website: http://www.aimeelsalter.com

Like Aimee on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AimeeLSalter

Follow Aimee on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Aimeelsalter

Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS

THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS is available now in HB, PB, & digital. Have you gotten your copy yet?  Amazon and B&N.

She begins life as a baby with “a face like a bowl of porridge . . . pale as a painted floor” (p. 2). She is to end it as a biologist of unique accomplishments, mentioned in the same breath with the great evolutionists Alfred Russel Wallace and Charles Darwin. In the more than eighty years in between, she will know extraordinary wealth and almost total deprivation. She will experience the heights of passion and the utter depths of loneliness. She will very nearly circle the globe in search of answers, both to scientific mysteries and to the inexplicable riddles of the human heart. She is Alma Whittaker, the heroine of Elizabeth Gilbert’s panoramic novelThe Signature of All Things, and she is one of the most memorable creations in the current generation of American fiction.

Alma is the only biological daughter of Henry Whittaker, an Englishman who has used every means within his grasp to rise from poverty to wrestle wealth from a scornful and resistant world. The ticket to Henry’s success has been an almost instinctive knowledge of plants, passed down to him by his own father, a master horticulturist at the court of King George III. Unlike his threadbare father, Henry has learned how to make plants pay; he comes to dominate the market for the trees used to produce quinine and becomes the wealthiest man in his adopted home of Philadelphia. Alma inherits her father’s fascination with botany, as well as his love of argument and confrontation, but she also has what he does not have: an unquenchable sense of wonder and a zeal for knowledge that is driven not by the love of profit, but by the love of life and all that makes it function. Lonely and misunderstood, but also brilliant and intensely curious, Alma studies the humblest forms of plant life, unwittingly embarking on a path of inquiry that will lead her to the darkest mysteries of evolutionary theory. On the way, she falls in love with Ambrose Pike, a uniquely gifted artist whose airy idealism and spiritual light attract her like a moth to a flame. Body clashes with spirit and science intertwines with religion as the two unlikely lovers journey, together and apart, toward their strange and improbable destinies.

Brilliantly researched and lovingly crafted by the internationally renowned author of Eat, Pray, Love, The Signature of All Things carries the reader breathlessly across the globe. The novel also covers equally vast spaces in human consciousness, ranging from the coolly rational to the pitiably insane. It is a work of extraordinary faith and of deep scientific reflection. Perhaps above all, it is the story of an irrepressible woman, determined to satisfy her most powerful urges toward both love and knowledge. A novel immersed in all the great questions of the nineteenth century, The Signature of All Things is also very much a novel for our times-and for all time.

signature of all things

Born in Waterbury, Connecticut, Elizabeth Gilbert grew up on a family Christmas-tree farm and went on to study political science at New York University. Her first book, a short-story collection titledPilgrims, was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award. Her first novel, Stern Men, was named a New York Times Notable Book. Her first nonfiction book, The Last American Man, was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Gilbert achieved superstardom with her 2006 memoir Eat, Pray, Love, which has sold more than ten million copies. Her follow-up memoir, Committed, also topped the New York Times bestseller list. Gilbert lives in Frenchtown, New Jersey.

Catching up with Xavier Axelson

What have you been up to since we saw you last?
Mayhem, chaos and creation…in that order. I’ve been recovering from a nasty shoulder injury (rotator cuff tear) and writing as much as I can.

I really enjoyed your interviews at The Examiner ((did I remember right?). What happened to those & will you be resuming them? Actually I gave the Examiner column up because of my shoulder injury/surgery…I just couldnt write and they need a certain amount of columns per month and I was out of commission for three months, so…bye bye. I’ve been thinking about picking it up again but in the end everything not writing or contributing to my passion for fiction is a distraction and I have enough of those already…

What’s your latest & greatest? My werewolf novella, Lily has been reissued with a fresh coat of paint and some extended scenes and I couldn’t be happier or more grateful to Seventh Window Publications for bringing Lily back. It’s even better that I remember.

What’s coming up for you in the near future? Latest WIP & can you share any details? It’s funny, I’m shocked at how much I actually wrote during my year of shoulder drama. I have three anthologies coming out each with a new story by me, and also the first in an epic dark fantasy/horror novel coming out in August…fingers crossed…or early fall (realistic) The anthologies include an erotic bear horror story, an Upstairs Downstairs themed erotic story, and a short story to be included in a best of Gay Erotica anthology.
lily

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