Alec Sillifant and Why Writing will make you mental


A while back I misread an advert for a writing course which I thought, at first glance, said: ‘Write yourself to a new carer’. Too true, I thought, this writing lark has twisted my mind enough so I need someone to look after me. In fact the actual wording was: ‘Write yourself to a new career’, but I think my initial reading still holds valid.

What other job, hobby or passion sees you sitting alone for hours while you make up characters, situations and even whole worlds over which you play puppet master? You jump into an environment of your own making, with ne’er a look back, and once there you let your imagination run wild. You create vivid scenes, conduct a choir of voices, make people fall in love or commit murder, maybe you choreograph a car chase through the suburbs of Paris as falling hail turns the roads into an ice rink. Come on, you’ve got to admit it, that’s slightly mad isn’t it? Great fun, but mad all the same.

However, the real ‘maddening’ comes when your characters fall dumb or the sun doesn’t rise over the mountains that morning or the car in Paris stalls as surely as your will to carry on writing has. Whether you believe in writer’s block or not, there are days when you can’t get going and all too quickly days can turn into weeks and the weeks…you can see where I’m going with this. Hands up who’s got at least one unfinished novel in a drawer or tucked away in the corner of a hard drive? Me too, several of them, and I think that is much more mental than the act of writing itself.

So, other than us getting ourselves an actual ‘carer’, what can we do about this hiatus? How do we get the words flowing again? Some say, just write. Whatever comes into your head, put it down and keep going. Good advice, but it may not work for everyone. What I try to do is walk away and do something else. If I sit there, on my own, struggling to carry on I can dig myself a mental pit so deep I need a ladder to get out and all I’ve got is a spade.

Exercise is good. There’s nothing like building up a sweat and having a near death experience to clear your mind. It can also help you sort out a problem because you’re not consciously thinking about it. You may get that flash of inspiration you need to get the story moving again.

Take some time to socialise. After all the internalising we writers do it’s good to get some external input from family or friends, it also expands our experiences of the world which we can feed into our work. If you decide you want to go to a bar, do bear in mind that hangovers are not always the best incentive to write…unless you get lucky and type something really special while your head rests on your keyboarddddddddddddddd.

Talk to other writers. The thing we have chosen to do is not common; there will be few people you know in your social circle with the same desire to write. They may be interested in your efforts and ‘have always wanted to write a book’ but they won’t understand fully. You need to seek out other writers, they’re easy to spot, they usually have a slightly manic, yet haggard, expression on their face. If you’re not sure what I mean, check in the mirror.

You could join a writing group, they will have regular dates for meetings and not only does this tick the socialising box it also puts you in touch with people who can help you with your work and you with theirs. No one is above good advice and constructive criticism.

Then there’s the internet, not only can we search to make sure our hero’s shoes are made in Milan but it’s also a great place to meet other writers. One of the best sites I have found is WEBook ( It is a community driven site, where you can offer your work – ongoing or finished – for appraisal by, and advice for improvement from, the other site users. There’s not enough space here for me to explain it fully, best you check it out to see if you think it might help you.

Obviously none of my thoughts are going to cure your madness, you’re a writer, it goes with the gig but I hope my suggestions keep you away from the rubber room with your name on it for a little while longer.

Right I’m off to the gym to see if I can get a breakdown truck out to that car in Paris and to stop myself staring at a blank screen with dribble running down my chin.

Stay mad, keep writing.

Visit Alec          Goodreads         Jake Highfield: Chaos Unleashed on Goodreads     Amazon

Chaos runs through the dark night; head down, teeth clenched, eyes peeled. The rain lashes his face, thick clumps of mud fly up as he runs, but nothing will stop him discovering the dark secret of the Academy, nothing.

Alec Sillifant’s first novel will drag you in and hold you hostage in a world of tension, fear, treachery and adventure, refusing to let you go. The ransom? A dare to make it through until the very last page. Enter the double life of Jake Highfield: school boy, operative, fugitive.

When the Academy turns against Jake, he finds himself outside of any authority, forced to put his training and his past to use in a deadly situation, tainted by corruption, where enemy and friend could be one and the same.

Killing Off Beloved Characters and giveaway with Cheryl Bolen

I promise I haven’t killed off any more characters in my popular Brides of Bath series of Regency-set historicals. While the fourth book in the series was a big hit with readers, they were also saddened that the hero’s story was possible because his first wife died. Readers had loved her since she had a secondary role in the series’ inaugural book.

That’s the thing about series, the readers feel an attachment to these characters and enjoy keeping up with them in subsequent books.

My newest Brides of Bath book, Love in the Library, allows readers to revisit many of the characters whose stories were told in the first four books of the series. But none of those characters will star in this new book. In fact the heroine, who is a good friend of the heroines in the first two books, has never before appeared.

Catherine Bexley is desperate to find an almost priceless Chaucer manuscript which happened to be the only thing of value left to her by her scoundrel late husband. She persuades a scholar, the “smart” Steffington twin, to assist her in the quest.

The Steffington twins were minor characters in the second and fourth Brides of Bath books, and since I’ve always yearned to create a hot nerd hero, Melvin Steffington seemed the perfect choice.

Like all the Brides of Bath books, this is very much a stand-alone novel.

Let me give you a little history of the series. Zebra (Kensington Books) published the first three books in 2002. They proved so popular my publisher asked me to pen one more, and it came out in 2004. That’s when I killed off the beloved character.

All of those books were only available in mass-market paperback. Two of them immediately sold out their initial print runs.

            Years passed, and I got my publishing rights back on these, and in 2011 they became available as ebooks (with new covers) and have proven to be even more popular. Now they are also available in trade paperback.

Please don’t be confused about a couple of title changes. My title for Book 4 was To Take This Lord, but my publisher changed it to An Improper Proposal. While I think Improper Proposal sounds pretty intriguing, it had absolutely nothing to do with my story. Therefore, when I got my rights back, I insisted on changing it back to its original title.

My publishers gave the third book the title A Fallen Woman. I thought—and still think—it’s a great title (and far superior to my original title, Beleaguered Bride). Apparently, though, readers are not keen to read a book about a fallen woman. Despite that many readers adored that story, sales lagged the other titles. I know I personally like to have extremely sympathetic heroines, and I believe readers are prejudiced against ladies they feel are amoral. While the A Fallen Woman heroine’s reputation was a bit blemished, she was not really a loose woman. I renamed that book The Bride’s Secret. Not a great title, but more sympathetic.

Now, a full decade later, the series will continue because of popular demand. Love in the Library will also be available in print. Unlike the first four in the series, though, Love in the Library will not feature a fully-consummated love scene. My nerd hero is much too noble to try to bed the woman he’s falling in love with. Though it’s not a “hot” book, it is deeply romantic.

And no one gets killed off.

Cheryl is generously offering a print ( U.S. only, sorry) of MARRIAGE OF INCONVENIENCE or an ebook, winners choice.  How do you feel about killing off characters?  Giveaway ends @12am est 2-3-14.  Good luck!

Cheryl Bolen is the acclaimed author of more than 20 romance books, both historical and mystery. Many of her books have placed in writing contests, including the Daphne du Maurier for romantic suspense. They have been translated into 11 languages and have become Barnes & Noble and Amazon bestsellers. She was named Notable New Author in 1999. In 2006 she won the Holt Medallion (Honoring Outstanding Literary Talent) for Best Historical, and in 2012 she won Best Historical in the International Digital Awards for ebooks published the prior year. Her 2011 novella was named Best Novella in the Romance Through the Ages competition.  

A former journalist, she holds a dual degree in English and journalism from the Universityof Texas, and she earned a master’s degree from the Universityof Houston. She and her professor husband are the parents of two sons, one who is an attorney, and the other a journalist. Her favorite things to do are watching the Longhorns, reading letters and diaries of Georgian Englishmen, and traveling to England. She invites readers to her website or her blog.    

The Stuff Dreams are Made of and giveaway with Avery Flynn

I love a good pun. Like, really love them. It’s sad I know (and the Fab Mr. Flynn keeps telling me), but I am just THAT big of a dork. So when I had to name a detective agency for the hero in High-Heeled Wonder and that hero’s name just happened to be Tony Falcon there was only one choice. Hence, Maltese Security was born.  

I know, I know, you’re barely holding in your laughter right now. This is you, right?

I hope it’s not crying.  Really, that would make me feel bad.  Ok, that’s a lie.  I would be pretty much like this because puns are too awesome not to love like a crazy person.

So where were we? Oh yeah, The Maltese Falcon. It’s a great Dashiell Hammet book published in 1930 and made into a movie starting Humphrey Bogart in 1941.

 A classic film noir, Bogart is private detective Sam Spade, who is drawn into a web of lies by a femme fatale played by Mary Astor. At the heart of the mystery is a jewel-encrusted falcon statue. I can’t give out any spoilers but it is an amazing movie with twists and turns that keep you glued to your seat. Go check it out on Netflix. It has one of the most killer lines in all of film.

By the time you get to that line, it’s a real kick in the gut.

I love red herrings and plot twists and surprise endings, which is why I try to include as many twists and turns as possible in my romantic suspense books. And when I get to include silly jokes that make me laugh, like Tony Falcon owning Maltese Security? Well, that just makes it all the more fun.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Enter the High-Heeled Wonder Shoes, Swag and Books Extravaganza Giveaway for your chance to win a $100 DSW gift certificate, books from Entangled Ignite authors releasing in January (Avery Flynn, High-Heeled Wonder; Jody Wallace, Angeli; Julie Rowe, Molly Gets Her Man; Caridad Pineiro and Cathy Perkins, Love International Style box set) and more!


 High-Heeled Wonder by Avery Flynn 

“When a fashionista and her bodyguard get tangled up together, watch out for sizzling sex and surprising plot twists.”  New York Times best seller Rebecca York

Tony Falcon, an investigator from the other side of the tracks, is the olive oil to fashion blogger Sylvie Bissette’s Evian water, but it’s not just her temper he’s inciting. When Sylvie’s stalker almost runs her over in broad daylight, Tony must pose as her boyfriend to infiltrate the close-knit fashion community. In a world full of overblown egos and cutthroat ambition, Sylvie and Tony must work together to find her stalker before she ends up with a literal knife in the back.

Avery Flynn loves a hockey-addicted husband, has three slightly wild children and is desperately wishing someone would invent the coffee IV drip. Find out more about her on her website (, Twitter (@AveryFlynn) or Facebook ( She posts all sorts of fashion, reading and hero inspiration pictures on Pinterest (

THE POT THIEF MYSTERIES by J. Michael Orenduff

 Have you discovered Hubie, Susannah & crew yet?  The mysteries are set in New Mexico with the cuisine, peoples, and history playing a large role in the series.  Hubie is intelligent and just quirky enough to be entertaining and endearing. Start with the first, THE POT THIEF WHO STUDIED PYTHAGORAS, and find out what you’ve been missing.

4.5 stars

THE POT THIEF WHO STUDIED PYTHAGORAS centers around two Mogollon pots.  The Mogollon’s mysteriously disappeared about a thousand years ago.  Most people, with the exception of archaeologists and scholars, are unaware of them.  When Hubert Schuze is asked to liberate the pot currently residing in the Valle del Rio Museum he seriously considers the offer.  However, other events, including murder, put Hubie in the unenviable position of having to solve the murder and mystery surrounding the two Mogollon pots; with the assistance of a friend or two of course.  

Hubert Schuze stars in the Pot Thief series of mysteries. Hubert, or Hubie as he’s affectionately known, is a pot shop owner and pot thief.  The latter is open to interpretation depending on your views regarding artifact reclamation. Hubert is one of the most unique and interesting characters I’ve come across in a mystery in quite a while. I love his SAP’s ~ Schuze’s Anthropological Premises.

The supporting cast is just as interesting as Hubie himself.

Susannah, his best friend with a Basque surname I won’t even attempt, is a perpetual student.  They meet evenings at 5 at Dos Hermanas for margaritas and maybe dinner, margaritas definitely.  I love the dynamics between Hubie and Susannah.  Their dialog is warm, witty, and a delight to read.  The fact that they care about each other is reflected in their conversations and actions; absolutely wonderful.

Tristan, Hubie’s cousin/nephew is the techno/computer whiz and heartthrob.  Their relationship is also warm and funny as Tristan tries to bring Hubie into this century regarding technology.

Ms.Gladys Claiborne also owns a shop in Old Town Plaza. Ms.Gladys always seems to have a casserole or some other unique recipe to share.  She’s quite fun and endearing.

Whit Fletcher, Detective First Grade with the Albuquerque police department, is an old acquaintance of Hubie’s.  Hubie often assists Fletcher in supplementing his income.

Martin Seepu lives in a pueblo on the reservation.  Hubie often buys pots from his uncle. He wants to his people to educate themselves while retaining their culture and assisting each other.  Get an education and come back to the reservation.

Consuelo Sanchez was housekeeper for Hubie’s parents and second mother to Hubie.  Emilio is the man she married after she left their employ.  Hubie is close to Consuelo and Emilio and credits her with teaching him to cook Mexican and to speak Spanish.  

THE POT THIEF WHO STUDIED PYTHAGORAS is an intelligent, witty, warm, and erudite read. New Mexico, the cuisine, peoples (past and present), and history play a large part in both the mystery and the lives of the characters, particularly Hubie.  I learned a lot that I was unaware of.  Not just about New Mexico but also Pythagoras, I had no clue he wrote poetry among other things.  I also learned a new word.  That’s always a thrill for me.

If you desire an intelligent mystery that educates; with a protagonist that has just enough quirk to make him fun and interesting combined with endearing secondary characters, look no further than THE POT THIEF series.  It scores on every level.  I’m so pleased to have discovered them and look forward to Hubie and Susannah’s next adventure.

J. Michael Orenduff on Open Road Media            Amazon            The Pot Thief Blog             FB


Colette Freedman and THE CONSEQUENCES with giveaway

Consequences.  Everything in life has consequences – a price.  The real question of course is if the price is worth paying.  

If you look the word Consequence up in the dictionary, its meaning is twofold: 1. a result or effect of an action or condition and 2. of importance or relevance.  

In The Consequences, (the direct sequel to The Affair), both definitions are apropos as all three principal characters, the wife, the husband and the mistress, are reeling from the results of the affair as well as taking important and relevant steps to rebuild their lives in this new world.  But how can one rebuilt a life when one discovers that everything they believed in and trusted is based on a foundation of lies?  

When we are children, we often act impulsively, rarely knowing or caring about the consequences of our actions. We are forgiven because we are young, immature and not well versed in propriety and social rules. We also have parents, teachers and mentors to guide, instruct, educate and reprimand us if we “mess up.”  

But who guides, instructs and reprimands us when we mess up as adults?  Grownups no longer have the justification of childhood ignorance to protect them from the consequence of their actions.  Of course, they have family, friends and colleagues to talk to, but ultimately, everyone is responsible for their own actions.  

In The Consequences, we see a man who is having trouble accepting that responsibility. Like most cheaters, he wants to have his cake and eat it too. And while we can forgive him for having the affair and empathize with his contrition, we cannot forgive his continued lies, both to the women whom he loves and, of course, to himself.  

Continuing the convention of threefold storytelling used in The Affair, The Consequences explores from the three perspectives of mistress, husband and wife, the culture of lies, love and the nearly impossible juggling act one must master in order to have it all.

Colette is offering a print copy (sorry, U.S. only) of THE CONSEQUENCES to one (1) lucky commenter.  What do you think, is an affair the end or can you learn to trust again?  Giveaway ends 1-31-14.  Good Luck!

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THE OUIJA BOARD MYSTERY with Penny Lane Chpt. 2

Chapter 2


Some weeks after the funeral, Alicia’s friends, who had been involved in the incident which caused her death, decided to get together at the tearooms after school.  

Penny couldn’t help but notice, that when she went to serve them, they started whispering so that she couldn’t hear what they were talking about. They also appeared to be acting strangely. Each time they would start to talk to each other, they kept looking round to make sure no one else could hear what they were talking about.  

“I don’t know,” said Daisy, “I don’t think it’s a good idea.”  

“Nonsense,” said Annie, “if we don’t try it we’ll never know.”  

“Well,” said Polly, “I’ve heard good and bad stories about these things and I’m not sure whether I want to get involved. We’ve been in enough trouble with the nuns at school because of Alicia’s death. I’m sure they still blame us for what happened and I feel guilty.” 

“It’s not going to harm us, is it?” asked Clara.  

“Look,” said Sadie, “I’ll make the Ouija board and we can try it out and see what happens.” 

After a long discussion they agreed that Sadie would construct the Ouija board, she was very creative. Her father had a landscape garden business and she was going to be a graphic designer once she had left school. Once it was ready, they would all go to nearby Sefton Manor Hall to try it out.  

The Hall, which was located about a mile away from the village, was a ruined manor house, built in the late 15th century. It was well known as being haunted and was popular for people to go out there ghost hunting. 

Most of it had been destroyed by a mysterious fire in the 18th century. 

Legend said that it was a place of witchcraft and was struck by lightning which had been the work of the Devil!! All of the wooden parts of the building were reduced to ashes. What remains now are the outer walls and the interior stonework.  

It was a former home to Earl and Countess Ravensdale and their twin daughters, Lady Margaret and Lady Eleanor.  

Locals say that Lady Margaret was in love with a dashing young man, Earl Buchanan, and Lady Eleanor was jealous of her and wanted him for herself.  

So, Lady Eleanor tricked Lady Margaret into following her into the south tower of the Manor and locked her in the cellar there.  

She was left to die of hunger in the rat infested cellar and rumour has it that her body was never found and that she haunts Sefton Manor Hall searching for her lost love.  

Earl Buchanan rejected Lady Eleanor so, she committed suicide by throwing herself from the very same tower where she had kept her sister imprisoned.  

Now, locals and tourists believe that the place is haunted by the ghosts of the two sisters. It is said that if anyone sees the ghost of Lady Eleanor, they, or someone in their family will die!! 

The spectres are known as the White Lady and the Blue Lady.  

People believe that the White Lady is Lady Margaret and that the Blue Lady is Lady Eleanor.  

The BBC went there on one occasion to film a documentary about it in what was to be called “The Most Haunted Place in Englandseries. 

Apparently, none of the cameras or sound equipment would work when they arrived there so they had to call it off. It seemed strange because as soon as the BBC had left the place, all the equipment started to function!!  

The Manor is maintained by English Heritage and it costs 40p to go inside.  

The following Sunday afternoon, Alicia’s friends all met up at the tearooms and Polly’s boyfriend, Tommy Croft, agreed to take them to

Sefton Manor Hall in his old banger of a car.  

They drove down the narrow winding lane, which held a sense of excitement, towards their destination.  The lane had a tarmac surface but one could have imagined what it must have looked like back in the 15th century when it was only a dirt track used by coaches and horses.  

It snaked its way down through the densely wooded valley in a setting that would have appeared very unwelcoming during the hours of darkness. 

They also had a feeling of apprehension about the place as the trees on either side of the road seemed as if they were trying to cross over and touch each other, or perhaps even meet and form a barrier to prevent them from reaching their journey’s end. Tommy hoped that he wouldn’t meet another car coming in the opposite direction because it would have been virtually impossible to pass. Sleeping policemen had been strategically placed along the lane to prevent vehicles from speeding.  

The odd shaft of daylight flickered through the thick foliage, which made the rays of sunlight appear to dash in and out of the forest, as if playing hide and seek.  

The tranquility of the surroundings was suddenly interrupted by a wild rabbit which scurried in front of the car.  

The atmosphere was so electrifying, that they were expecting to see a headless cavalier or some other wandering spectre materialise out of the undergrowth and scare them away.  

Then, as if from nowhere, it appeared.  

So, this was Sefton Manor Hall. Right in front of them stood the ruins of what is reputed to be one of the most haunted places in England. It certainly looked very daunting, suddenly appearing out of the blue in a clearing in the woods. Just gazing at it made them shudder as it looked so cold and uninviting.  

It was situated in a clearing in the middle of the dense woods.It seemed very strange as it stood there in silence. No sound of any birds could be heard!  

The grey stone walls seemed to be urging them to stay away!!  

There was moss and various other types of lichen cascading from the building and ivy was clinging, as if in sheer terror, to the walls of the

infamous haunted tower.  

What must the place have looked like in its glory days and what dark sinister secrets did it hold?  

It seemed as if they had been lost in a time warp.   

It had a reputation for attracting visitors because of the ghostly goings on.  Local legend says that apart from the story of the two sisters,

kidnappings and dark deeds went on there and that an evil force still prevails.  

Tommy parked the car and they all got out.  

“We need to go inside,” said Polly, “and find a place where nobody will see us, so we can use the board.”  

“Are you all sure you want to do this?” Tommy asked.  

“Yes, we are,” replied Sadie, “we all voted last week and the vote was unanimous.”  

They paid the 40p admission charge and entered the Manor.  

There weren’t many people around that afternoon, so they went through the ruins looking for somewhere out of sight.  

They approached the tower where Lady Margaret had been held prisoner and stopped.  

A sign, which read NO ADMISSION, was hanging on a chain barrier to prevent members of the public from going down the steps leading to the dungeon.

“Now what are we going to do?” asked Annie, “I thought it would be the best place to go and use the Ouija.”  

“Do stop fussing,” said Sadie, “we can go through, no one will see us or hear us if we keep our voices down. This is the perfect spot to try and contact the dead.”  

“What happens if we get caught?” Annie asked.  

“We won’t,” said Sadie, “Tommy can keep a watch out for us and if anybody comes near he can give a whistle to warn us. Once the coast is clear we can all leave. And anyway, if we are caught they’ll only throw us out.”  

So, Tommy stood guard while the girls went down into the dungeon at the bottom of the tower.  

It was dimly lit, but light enough to see, because a shaft of sunlight had entered the windows above. There were no floors in the tower because the fire had destroyed all of the wooden construction and only the bare stonework could be seen.  

The place was like something out of a Dracula movie with spider webs and a musty smell and they could see that this part of the building hadn’t been maintained at all.  

Suddenly they all jumped in fright. A rat had scurried in front of them and disappeared into a crack in the wall.  

“Come on let’s hurry up and get this over with,” said Polly, “I don’t want to be in here long, especially with rats, I hate them!”  

They found a dry, dusty nook and Sadie took out the Ouija board from her rucksack.  

She had made the board out of a piece of a tree trunk. It was an irregular oval shape with the alphabet in two lines at the top. At the bottom of the board were the numbers 1 to 10 carved in Roman numerals.

They placed it on the dirt floor, which was sprinkled with gravel, and were about to start when Polly asked, “What are we going to use for a pointer?”  

“Oh, shit!” said Sadie, “I forgot about that.”  

“Well,” said Annie, “we can’t have a séance if we don’t have a pointer, so we’ve come all the way out here for nothing!”  

Then, Clara noticed something twinkling on the wall opposite them. A shaft of sunlight was playing on one side of the tower wall, causing something to flicker.  

She went over to find out what it was.  

“Look what I’ve found,” she said, “it looks like a piece of broken glass.”  

The others went over and used a pair of eyebrow tweezers, that Polly had in her pocket, to gently prise the piece of glass out of the wall.  

To their amazement, the piece of glass wasn’t glass at all. It was some kind of crystal which had a strange blue glow!  

“We can use this as the marker,” Sadie said, “come on let’s get started.”  

So, they placed the crystal in the centre of the board and started to ask questions.

“Are there any spirits with us today?” Sadie asked.  

Nothing happened so she asked again. Still nothing happened. On the third time of asking, the crystal started to quiver and then spelled out Y-E-S on the board.  

“Who are you?” Sadie asked.  

The crystal slowly moved around each letter of the alphabet spelling out the name A-L-I-C-I-A.  

Clara couldn’t believe what was happening and accused Sadie of moving it.  

“I’m not moving it!” Sadie said angrily, “it’s doing it itself.” 

She continued by asking it, “Are you Alicia, our friend who died?” 

“Y-E-S,” the board replied. 

“There’s something bad about this place,” said Annie, “I’ve got goose pimples, and the hair on the back of my neck is standing up. I don’t like it and I want to get out of here.”  

“Wait,” Sadie said, “let’s ask it another question.” 

“We’re sorry for what happened,” continued Sadie, voice trembling, “it was an unfortunate accident and hope you understand. We beg you to forgive us.”


The crystal then went on to spell out a message in reply to Sadie’s plea for forgiveness. It said, “I will never forgive you. You robbed me of my youth and my parents of their only child. Now three of you will pay with your own lives. I will never be satisfied until you pay the price I had to pay. Beware!”  

“It was an accident, an accident,” screamed Polly.  

Suddenly, the crystal shot off the board and the girls screamed in fright. Just as it happened, they saw a dark shadow pass across the dungeon wall and disappear through the window into the sunlight. 

They ran up the steps of the dungeon, in terror, and out into the courtyard of the Manor. 

“What happened down there?” Tommy asked.  

“Let’s get out of here,” said Polly shaking, “I never want to go down there again.”  

They needed to calm down and pull themselves together, so Tommy suggested they have a coffee at the cabin outside of the ruins which was open for snacks and refreshments.  

The cabin was a former woodcutter’s hut, made out of logs taken from the pine trees in the forest, and had been turned into a café and gift shop, where it sold souvenirs and postcards of the Manor. It looked like something out of Hansel and Gretel.  

They came out of the ruins as quickly as they could and found a vacant table outside the cabin. 

A wrinkled old lady, who was the owner of the café, came out and asked them what they wanted. Tommy ordered a Coca Cola for Polly, a coffee for himself, and the rest had teas.  

While they were trying to calm down, Annie pointed to the entrance to the Manor and said, “Look at that silhouette on the wall above the archway.”  

None of the others could see anything.  

“You’re seeing things,” Tommy said, “you’re still scared and are imagining things.”  

“No, I’m not,” said Annie, “I can see the silhouette of a woman on the wall where the coat of arms must have once been.”  

She got up and left the table and walked towards the entrance. When she got there she looked up at the spot where the family crest used to hang and there was absolutely nothing.  

All she could see was a part of the wall that had been filled with cement. No coat of arms, no silhouette, nothing!!  

She was now even more afraid than before and returned to the others to finish her tea.  

Then, as she was looking towards the haunted tower, she saw a lady in white waving to them from an upstairs window. She told the others but they couldn’t see anything.  

“How can someone be sitting in the window upstairs?” Sadie asked, “We’ve just been in there and there are no floors in the tower. All the woodwork was destroyed by the fire years ago.” 

When the old lady came out with the bill, Annie told her what she had seen above the archway and in the window of the tower.  

“Oh,” the old lady said, “I’ve been running this cafe for the past thirty years and I’ve never experienced anything before here. You must be

one of those who can sense things like this. You do know that this is supposed to be the most haunted place in England?” 

“Of course, we know,” said Annie, “we’re locals from Buckleigh.” 

“Well then,” the old lady continued, “you must be psychic or something because there’s nowt on that there wall!”  

They paid the bill and left.  

On the way back to Buckleigh, Sadie asked Clara if she had still got the crystal or if she had left it in the dungeon.  

“I still have it,” she said, “it’s in my pocket.” 

“Can I have it?” asked Sadie, “I’ll keep it with the Ouija board.” 

“Sure, it’s only a piece of glass. Here you are,” Clara replied and handed it to her.  

It was strange because the crystal wasn’t glowing blue anymore. It had now turned transparent.  

“When we get back to Buckleigh,” Tommy said, “let’s go to The Bale of Hay. We can sit outside, have some drinks there and relax.”  

The girls thought it was a good idea. Tommy was eighteen so he could drink alcohol, but as the girls were only sixteen, they had to make do with soft drinks.  

They arrived at the pub around 7.00 pm. A few people were sitting outside but there were still tables free so the group could enjoy their drinks there. It was a warm August evening so they wanted to make the best of it.

The Bale of Hay is a 16th century inn and the interior has oak beams and low ceilings. The landlords, Tom and Beryl Potts collected antique clocks and the walls in the bar were adorned with all sorts of them, each one of them with a different time. They all worked and the sound of clocks ticking away was all anyone could hear. The pride of the bar was a big three hundred year old grandfather clock on one side of the open fireplace, just in the corner. It was made out of heavy oak and had a stained glass panel where one could see the heavy pendulum slowly swinging back and forth. On the hour the chimes sounded like those of Big Ben.  

During the winter months there would be a crackling log fire which made the place welcoming and cosy for the locals.  

All the villagers would gather together at the pub on Christmas Eve after the mass at the church and Tom and Beryl would provide a free supper.  

There wasn’t a juke box in the pub because Beryl wanted it to be a place where people could enjoy their beers, or especially the local cider, and have a game of darts or dominoes, or just chat without being disturbed by loud music.  

It also served good pub food as there wasn’t a restaurant in the village.  

Tommy took the drinks to the girls outside and noticed that Daisy had, what appeared to be, blood stains on the back of her T shirt.  

“What have you done?” Tommy asked her, “It looks as if you’ve scratched yourself, either on some thorns on one of the trees, or something when you were down in the dungeon.”  

“What do you mean?” Daisy asked.  

“Well, it looks as though you’ve been bleeding,” Tommy replied, “looks like bloodstains on the back of your T shirt. As if something has scratched you.”  

The other girls took a look and agreed that she had been scratched.  

“Let’s go to the toilets,” Polly said, “you can take your T shirt off and I can see what you’ve done. We need to wash your scratches or they could get infected.”  

The two girls went into the pub to use the toilets. When they were inside, Daisy took off her T shirt. It was pale blue and it was the first time she had worn it.  

“That’s strange,” said Polly, “I can’t see any scratch marks on your back. There are no marks on your back at all!”  

“Well, where have these bloodstains come from?” Daisy asked fearfully.  

When they inspected the back of the shirt, the marks looked like someone had hit Daisy with a three thronged whiplash. There were three dried blood stained lash marks on the shirt!! Something wasn’t right. How could bloodstains appear from nowhere?  

“It must be connected to Sefton Manor,” Polly said, “this is too much of a coincidence. I suggest we say nothing to the others and make up some story that you remember brushing against some brambles as we were leaving the building. We don’t want to go around scaring the shit out of them until we can think what caused these marks. We’ve had enough scares for one day.”  

Daisy agreed and they returned to their friends outside.  

The stillness of the evening was broken by a sudden clap of thunder. Within minutes it was raining heavily so the friends hurried to Tommy’s car and they all went home.  

The long sultry summer had come to an end.

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THE OUIJA BOARD MYSTERY with Penny Lane Chpt.1

Chapter 1


Penny Lane had been orphaned as a child when her parents, Steve and Grace, had been tragically killed in a car accident on the M6 motorway. She was only three years old when it happened and her aunt Molly, her mother’s sister, took her into care and finally adopted her.  

She is an attractive young woman in her late twenties, with big blue eyes, and shoulder length ash blonde hair.  

She suffered meningitis when she was six years old and it was touch and go whether she lived or died. During her recovery she came into contact with the Spirit world. She couldn’t understand or explain what was happening and when she told her aunt Molly, she told her that she had been blessed with a gift from God.  

Penny always used to say, “You don’t contact the dead. When spirits want to contact you, they will!!”  

She always avoided the word “dead” as she said, “We don’t die, we pass on to a spiritual plain.”  

It had been a hot summer so far, which was unusual for the English weather. There hadn’t been any rain in southDevonsince the middle of May and now it was the middle of June. The residents of Buckleigh were taking advantage of the nice weather and it was good for Penny’s aunt Molly because the visitors – grockles as they were called by the locals – could sit outside in the typically English country garden and enjoy their cream teas in the warm sunshine.  

“I remember when I was a girl,” her aunt Molly said as she was

preparing the scones for the cream teas, “we could always guarantee a long hot summer when school finished for the summer holidays.  

Nowadays you never know what the weather’s going to be like. It’s all this global warning!”  

“Global warming, Aunt Molly,” said Penny.  

“Whatever,” replied Molly, “I blame the Americans for sending up all those spaceships. It’s bound to have some effect on the world. I don’t understand why they want to go investigating and interfering in other planets when they should be spending more money looking after our own planet. All governments are the same. A waste of time and money!”  

Aunt Molly was a small lady in her sixties, very old fashioned, and held her beliefs to high esteem and nothing would budge her. If she thought she was right, then she was right, and no doubt about it.  

She had been a widow for some years, before Penny was born, and had used the insurance money from her husband’s death to buy the cottage and turn it into tearooms, which kept her occupied. She always said, “As long as you are doing something useful, you never turn into a grumpy old cow!!”  

So, Molly continued preparing the scones, they were all home-made, so was the strawberry jam. Everything was homemade and this is what attracted the tourists who would be holidaying on the English Riviera and pass through Buckleigh on their way to visit Dartmoor.  

Penny, meanwhile, was making the tea.  

The rustic, wooden tables outside in the garden, covered with white cotton tablecloths, which had yellow primroses printed on them, had already been prepared. 

Aunt Molly chose these tablecloths because “they look more summery,” she always used to say.  

The teas were always served on china crockery. “My customers only deserve the best!” Aunt Molly would say.  

The tearooms were open during the tourist season, which was from late May to early September. Opening times were from12 noon to8.00pm daily.  

During the long days of summer, and if the weather was nice, the tearooms were always busy and full of grockles.  

Meanwhile, the Dartbrooke Girls School, two miles away, was preparing for the end of the summer term. There had been a buzz of excitement that day because the exam results were going to be posted.  

During the break, six young girls, in particular were running down the corridor towards the playground area.  

Polly Nash, was a skinny, but very attractive girl, with long auburn hair, and wore Harry Potter type glasses.  

Annie Archer, was short, with mousey hair, and had a heart shaped birthmark on the back of her neck.  

Clara Browne was a typical country yokel, who always had her hair in a ponytail.  

Sadie Mortensen, the ringleader of the group, who always got her own way with the others,  was a very strong minded person, always putting the blame on the others when she caused trouble. She had black shoulder length hair, and dark brown eyes, which gave her a Morticia Adams look.  

Daisy Parker, was a very studious young girl, she was of average height, with short, curly, blonde hair.  

And finally Alicia Keays, who was very shy, and quiet.  

As they got to the steps leading down to the playground, Alicia got pushed and she lost her balance and hit her head against the cornerstone of one of the brick pillars.  

As she was losing blood from her injury, the others called out to one of the nuns. She attended Alicia and got one of the other nuns to call for an ambulance, which took Alicia to hospital.  

Back at the tearooms in Buckleigh, Aunt Molly and Penny continued preparing the food.  

“You can’t beat homemade scones and strawberry jam,” commented Aunt Molly, “it’s better than all that stuff the Potts sell. Stuff in jars is full of chemicals and that’s no good for you. Eat naturally and you live naturally.”  

The business made enough money for both of them to live on, but Penny had also written a series of children’s books called Spick and Span, a story about two squirrels that kept the countryside neat and tidy, and free from litter. She had made some income from that. Apart from writing books, she also helped people who claimed that they were having problems with the paranormal. Most of the time there was nothing paranormal about some of them. But she was always on hand to help. She also assisted the police if someone had gone missing without trace and her paranormal instinct usually helped them solve a case. 

She wasn’t famous, by all means, but she was well known and respected for her gift of clairvoyance.  

Most of the time she was ready to help those grieving for someone they had lost and was a great help in giving comfort and hope.  

“Look out!” said Aunt Molly, “the News of the World is coming up the garden path. I wonder what she wants.”  

Peggy Baldwin came strutting up the garden path, looking as if you couldn’t touch her with a bargepole, but before she reached the front door, Aunt Molly stepped out.  

“Mornin’ Molly,” Peggy said in her thick West Country accent, “how be things today?”  

“Just fine,” replied Aunt Molly, “It’s almost opening time and by the looks of things we’re in for a busy day.”  

“I’ll be quick,” said Peggy, “just thought you’d better know what’s happened in Dartbrooke. Don’t suppose it’s had time to be on the news yet. That’s if they mention it.”  

“What are you talking about?” asked Aunt Molly.  

“It’s young Alicia Keays,” came Peggy’s reply, “She’s been murdered by her school mates.”  

“What on earth are you gabbling about Peggy?” Aunt Molly asked.

“As I said, she’s been murdered by her schoolmates,” said Peggy, “if you ask me, they should all be sent to jail!”  

“Well, we’re not asking you,” said Molly.  

Penny couldn’t help but overhear the two women. She came outside and greeted Peggy and asked what was going on. After the explanation Penny assured Peggy that she must be mistaken. But Peggy insisted that she had got it right. She always exaggerated any news she had heard so, of course, Penny and her aunt took it with a pinch of salt.  

“Got to go now,” said Peggy, “have to put my pinnie on and feed my babies,” referring to her cats.  

Aunt Molly and Penny were confused at what they had heard but were expecting to hear the real story once it had gone around the village.  

It was now opening time at the tearooms and the first customers had started to trickle in. One of them however, wasn’t a client. It was Father Gordon.

“Good afternoon ladies,” he said as he approached them, “I’ve just bumped into Peggy Baldwin, so I suppose you’ve heard the news about young Alicia? With all due respect, I wish that she would mind her own business. She loves to meddle in others affairs, but I don’t suppose she means any harm.” 

“Well Father, she’s just told us an amazing story, but we prefer to hear your version,” Penny replied.  

“There’s been an accident involving young Alicia at the school,” he said, “You know,Dartbrooke Girls School. Apparently, some of her friends were fooling about and she got pushed down some steps leading down to the playground. Unfortunately, she fell and hit her head on the corner of one of the concrete pillars at the bottom of the steps and very sadly died on the way to hospital.”  

“Good Lord!” said Aunt Molly, “and Peggy told us that Alicia’s friends had murdered her!”  

“No, that’s insane,” said Father Gordon, “it was a tragic accident. Nobody is to blame. I’m on my way to Torbay hospital to console her parents and find out what’s  happened.”  

The news came as a shock to Penny and her Aunt Molly because Alicia was a well-liked young girl of sixteen and very popular in the village. She would always come for a cream tea on Sundays during the summer break. She always looked up to Penny and they had become good friends. Penny had also attended the Dartbrooke Girls Schoolwhen she was a young girl. It was a very prestigious school run by nuns.  

“Once things have settled down,” said Penny, “I’ll go and visit her parents.”  

“That’s right, my dear,” said Aunt Molly, “take your mind off it and help me serve these customers.”  

“Yes, I know but I have to see her parents,” said Penny, “maybe Alicia will come through to me in Spirit, but it’s too early yet for her to make contact with me, that’s if she wants to, because I have to wait for her to contact me. You know, Aunt Molly, I can’t contact Spirit, Spirit have to contact me! And anyway, I’d like to know the details of why she died. She was so fit and healthy apart from being so young. It’s so tragic and such a waste of a young life.”  

“That’s life,” said Aunt Molly, “here today and gone tomorrow!” she continued, “During my lifetime I’ve been struck by pain many a time, but pain has never broken me!”  

The tearooms, by now, were filling up with a mixture of tourists and a few of the locals. Unaware of what had occurred, the tourists were chattering away about this and that, but the locals were solemnly discussing the tragic accident and obviously giving their own version of the real story.  

Just then, Amy Gentle from the post office arrived at the tearooms.  

“Oh, Molly,” she said, “I’ve just popped out of the post office and thought you’d like the early edition of the Herald.”  

The Herald was the local newspaper.  

Amy continued, “Look! The front page has the story about young Alicia.”  

Aunt Molly and Penny had served all the customers and nobody was waiting so they took advantage and read the news.  

The headlines read:  Local teenager killed in tragic accident!  

The details were given that Alicia had been fooling around with some of her schoolmates on the steps leading down to the playground. During the course of the tomfoolery, one of the other girls pushed Alicia a bit too hard, causing her to fall forwards and she hit her head against the corner of one of the concrete pillars situated at the bottom of the steps.  

She was rushed to Torbay hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival. Apparently, she had a thin skull and the injury caused her to have a brain haemorrhage, resulting in her death.  

It had been tragic, because the end of term was approaching and the girls were finishing their last year.  

The police were still questioning those involved.  

An inquest was going to be held, in Torquay, on the Wednesday of the following week.  

“Well,” said Penny, “now we have the real story. No funeral plans can be made until after the inquest.”  

The following Wednesday came and went quickly and the verdict of the inquest was that Alicia had died accidentally and no one was to blame.  

On the following Friday, Buckleigh was in mourning.  

The village green was covered with floral tributes to Alicia and the church was packed full with all the villagers and every one of the students from Alicia’s school were there to say their final farewells.  

There wasn’t a dry eye in the church.  

As a sign of respect, the local shops, including the pub, had closed until after the funeral service.  

Pinned to the pews inside the church were small cards which read:  

You don’t need a mobile phone to contact God. Please turn them off.  

The coffin arrived on a horse drawn cart. It lay on a bed of hay and was surrounded by flowers.  As it entered the church, the song “Another Day in Paradise,” by Phil Collins, was playing. It had been Alicia’s favourite song and she had been a big fan of his.  

“Today is a very sad day for Buckleigh,” said Father Gordon, “a young life has been tragically taken from us and Alicia will be sadly missed. Now she is out of her suffering and is with the Lord. May she find eternal light and rest in peace. Our prayers go out to her family in their time of grief.”  

She was an only child so her parents were obviously devastated at their loss.  

The service was plain and simple.   

The coffin was taken out of the church, again to the same song, followed by Alicia’s sobbing parents. She was finally laid to rest in the churchyard.


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Achieving my dream after thirty years with Graham J. Wood and ZEIN

Thanks for this opportunity to blog on this excellent website. It has been a long, frustrating and emotional journey to the release of my first novel, Zein – The Prophecy.

Where do I start? Well it is probably best to start where it all began. Where did this crazy urge to write come from? When I was only nine years old I still struggled to form my words. I knew what to say but the words did not come out correctly. It was here that my parents introduced me to a speech therapist and I was given the advice to read and read and read. So I did.

It was from this that I read voraciously, reading everything and I mean everything. I read my books like Robinson Crusoe and Treasure Island, my Dad’s books including Count of Monte Christo and every Alistair MacLean book going and even my two sisters’ books. I also loved the Commando War and Science Fiction magazine books and still have a massive collection today in the loft/ attic.

I remember starting my first novel when I was fifteen just before my History ‘O’ Level exam, yes I am that old that I don’t say GCSE! The novel forecast the fall of the Berlin Wall a good ten years before it did. The story was about a father worried about his daughter whom had joined a peace movement in Eastern Germany. But the story remained unfinished as life got in the way. Imagine my shock when the Berlin Wall did fall in the manner I had captured in my story. One day I will finish it.

Other attempts to pen my first novel crashed and burned on the heady roller-coaster of life. After marriage to Rachel, two kids, Joe and Becky, and a busy successful career mainly at Barclays Bank, then Halifax Bank of Scotland, I became a freelance IT Procurement Consultant specialising in outsourcing. I mainly undertake projects, and do so today, for a firm called Efficio Consulting in London. My job has taken me to some fabulous places around the world, all experiences I pull into my writing.

I started Zein – the Prophecy, when out of the blue, my 14 year-old daughter was diagnosed with a serious congenital heart condition and required surgery. It was during her stay at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, recovering from the open heart surgery, that I started piecing the story together. The way I was able to immerse my mind in the developing plot helped take my mind of the worry and kept me occupied through the long hours that I sat at her bedside. This was June 2012 and my incredibly brave daughter faced it with little fear and no small amount of determination. This determination helped me to focus on and create something from the chaos. On the 15th January 2013 I finally sat down to write my first novel with an aim that the first three years of profits will be split between Alder Hey and Ronald McDonald House. The latter providing a room for both my wife and I to rest during our shifts, where one of us was always there for Becky.

So how did I approach my writing? I have a hut at the bottom of my garden with heat and power; this is where I like to write. It’s quiet, no kids asking for lifts, no phones…just the sound of birds singing. Sounds romantic and out of a novel doesn’t it? Oh and I forgot to say my favourite time to write, strangely, is 5am in the morning. I must be mad….


What have I learnt about being a self-published author?

My five key lessons I have learnt are:

  1. Start writing. Don’t procrastinate and think of a hundred reasons why you can’t start writing today.

  2. Never give up on your dream. It is a fantastic feeling when you realise that you have the finished article in your hand of the idea you had years or months before.

  3. You are never too young or old to write – you just need desire and passion for writing

  4. Keep an open mind to the process and keep patient, especially through copy edits and typesetting periods.

  5. Don’t be afraid to ask the simple question and seek expertise to help you through the process.


More about Zein the Prophecy

Zein started as a young child’s book many years ago, over the years it grew darker and darker and more violent, gradually moving into the Young Adult fiction arena. Whilst in the hospital my emotions were running high and fed into the character development and scenes.

I wanted to create a new world and an alien race that are similar to us in looks but also sufficiently different. There are five clans, all with different capabilities that are collectively called ‘magics’. The clans have fled their home planet due to a hostile indigenous race and to seek the powerful raw material zinithium. The story of their return is captured in Book 2 of the series. In Book 1, the alien race attempts to live peacefully above us in quadrants, with the humans below none the wiser due to the advanced alien technology. Everything is thrown into disarray when Zylar shows his hand. Each of the clans has a different magic unless they dabble and look to develop others. This control of all magics has significant impact and eventually creates the monster called Zylar.

The trilogy focuses on a set of companions from different worlds. The age group of the companions is between 18 and 21 years-old. Young but growing up fast and faced with difficult and deadly tests of both bravery and resourcefulness. They are supported by a number of seasoned warriors who add their experience and knowledge to the quest.

This is a good versus evil story with epic battles in new and exciting environments – especially the battles in the Core (a mining settlement on the seabed below the Arctic – protected by a radar shield and powerful perimeter wall which holds back the ocean) and the battle at Manchester United’s ground at Old Trafford – the first time the humans become aware of the aliens.

The story centres on the troublesome relationship between Kabel Blackstone, a member of the strongest clan and Tyson Mountford, a human with no awareness of his own destiny. Supporting them is the wisecracking Bailey, a long standing friend of Tyson’s and Bailey’s sister, the spiky Gemma. Tyson has a crush on Gemma but the arrival of the enigmatic Kabel throws a spanner in the works. Add Amelia, a friend of Gemma’s and a mixture of Zeinonian characters supporting Kabel and the mysterious Changeling, you have many sub-plots as relationships form in the group.

I enjoyed the all action approach interlaced with sometimes spicy and touching formulating relationships. Zein – The Prophecy has excitement, intrigue, epic fights and complex relationships that I feel would be attractive to wider fictional and science fiction fans as well as the Young Adult followers.

The book is due out towards the end of January / early February 2014. Please take a look safe in the knowledge that the story will, I hope, provide the excitement you are looking for and at the same time help support the children’s hospital who gave my daughter a great new outlook on life. Enjoy.

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JEWEL OF THE EAST Sneak Peek and giveaway with Victoria Vane


(The Devil DeVere #5)

Victoria Vane

Having once lived his life only for larks, laughter, and ladies of easy virtue, Captain Simon Singleton has returned from the war with the colonies a shambles of a man. Now free from six years of captivity, he’s still fettered by irrational fears that confine him to a life of seclusion.   

Once the crowning jewel of the most lavish brothel in London, the exotic Salime finds her reputation and livelihood destroyed by a bitter rival. With a closely guarded secret stripped away, Salime fears no man will ever desire her again. Seeking aid from one who once saved her life, Salime accepts a proposition to repay her debt by becoming a companion to his war-scarred friend. 

 Circumstance brings these two damaged souls together; but fate ignites a love story worthy of the Arabian Nights.

Excerpt (in which the stage is set)

         Medford Abbey, Kent- 1785


A sharp rap soon sounded on the door. Ludovic, Viscount DeVere glanced up from his periodical to the entrance of a liveried footman. “A message for you, my lord.”

The servant offered the wax-sealed missive on a silver salver. “It was delivered by a most…unusual…courier.” The footman gave a sniff of disdain.

“Indeed? What do you mean?” Ludovic asked in a bored drawl.

“‘Tis a behemoth blackamoor, my lord.”

“Mustafa?” Ludovic threw down his periodical and snatched up the missive. “What the devil?”

“He awaits in the kitchen. Insufferable rude creature he be. Just stands all akimbo. Refuses to speak or to depart without an answer from your lordship.”

“The man cannot speak. He has no tongue. They took it when they castrated the poor devil.”

The footman’s eyes bulged. He involuntarily crossed his legs. Ludovic broke the seal and scanned the contents with a deepening frown.

Most honored Efendi,

It is with the greatest humility that I appeal to he who once safeguarded my life. It is with exceeding distress that I must entreat you once more, being much in need of a friend and protector.

Your most devoted and obedient servant,


Ludovic read the cryptic note once more. Salime in want of a protector? What a sticky situation that created. At first he wondered why she’d appealed to him, but then again, there were few people she trusted. Given their shared history, he would never deny her aid. Moreover, Salime had been instrumental in helping him to achieve his present state of connubial bliss. For that alone he owed her his undying gratitude.

“Tell him I shall be in touch with his mistress shortly…and that she should notify me at once should her circumstances become any more…distressed.”

“Aye, my lord.” The much-chagrinned footman departed.

Ludovic glowered after the departing servant. Salime had never been in want since coming to London. He wondered what could be behind her request, but then abandoned both letter and the dilemma the moment another surprise came bursting into his library. “Ned?” Ludovic leaped up to greet his best friend. “What the devil has brought you all the way from Yorkshire to Kent?”

“I have most portentous news, DeVere,” Ned sputtered with excitement. “News I could hardly relay by messenger. So I came down myself.”

“What kind of news? Out with it, Chambers,” Ludovic commanded.

“Mayhap you should pour us a drink first.”

Ludovic lifted a sardonic brow. “A drink? Not so urgent after all?”

“‘Tis fortification you’ll need for the shock you’re about to receive.”

“Shock? Me? You know I am not easily shocked, Ned.” Ludovic paused with his hand on the brandy decanter and a slight frown marring his face. “Come to think of it, I’m damned if I can recall a single occasion that has wrought from me such a profound reaction as shock.”

Ned flung himself into Ludovic’s favorite chair. “There’s a first for everything, DeVere. Now that drink?”

Ludovic sloshed amber liquid into two glasses, handing one to the would-be herald, who downed it in one draught. Ludovic quirked a brow.

“It was a devilish long ride,” Ned explained.

“All to deliver this shocking report of yours?” Ludovic perched a hip on the corner of his mahogany desk.

“Yes! It’s Lazarus all over again!”

“Lazarus? Am I to surmise that someone has been miraculously raised from the dead?”

“Actually, he might as well have been,” Ned declared. “I can hardly countenance it after all this time.”

“You are trying my patience, Ned.”

“It’s Simon. He’s returned.”

“Good God!” The glass slipped from his hand to shatter at Ludovic’s feet. “You can’t mean Sin is alive after all this time? He was pronounced killed in action six years ago.”

“I mean exactly that!” Ned exclaimed. “He is indeed alive and may even be in London as we speak. I have the news straight from Baron Singleton. His ship was expected to arrive several days ago.”

“Why am I only hearing of this now? I see the bloody Singleton regularly at Parliament.”

“Probably because the good baron doesn’t like you, DeVere. He believes you were an abominable influence on his son.”

“Then he would be right.” Ludovic smirked and then stared at the shattered glass at his feet.

“Looking a bit white there, my friend. This is known as shock.”

“Admittedly, I am incredulous. How can this be? Where the devil has he been?”

“Interned as a prisoner of war for the greater part of six years.”

Six years? In all that time there were no exchanges?”

“Very few. The colonials refused to give up ours when they claimed their men were only released on the point of starvation and death. I daresay ’tis no exaggeration. I’ve seen a number of reports on the deplorably inhumane conditions of our prison hulks. Indeed it’s said that the colonial prisoners set fire to the Whitby, choosing to go down in flames, rather than die of starvation and disease.” Ned shook his head. “What a hellish business war is.”

“But if Sin was a prisoner, he should have been released nigh on a year ago when the treaty was signed.”

“Apparently he was too ill to travel. Only made it as far as Bermuda before he was struck with the bloody flux or some such and required months of convalescence…poor sod.”

“We must go to him, Ned. At once.”

“He’ll not be the same man,” Ned voiced what they were both thinking.

“No,” Ludovic shook his head. “Likely never again.”

Victoria is giving away 2 ecopies of THE TROUBLE WITH SIN to two (2) lucky commenters.  What do you think of soldier heroes?  Giveaway ends @12am est on 1-27-14 with the winners announced shortly thereafter.  Good Luck!


Victoria Vane is an award-winning author of smart and sexy romance. Her collective works of fiction range from historical to contemporary settings and include everything from wild comedic romps to emotionally compelling erotic romance. Her biggest writing influences are Georgette Heyer, Robin Schone, and Sylvia Day. Victoria is the founder of Goodreads Romantic Historical Fiction Lovers and the Romantic Historical Lovers book review blog. Look for her sexy new contemporary cowboy series coming from Sourcebooks in 2014.


Twitter: @authorvictoriav

STUBBORN and giveaway with Jeanne Arnold

Lovesick?  I’ve been there. Obsessed?  Haven’t we all?

Have you ever waited with breathless anticipation for that special someone to notice you? Have you lost your appetite overthinking the possibilities that the person may or may not like you? Have you lingered in the hall with a pounding heartbeat and sweaty palms, trying to catch a glimpse of that certain someone in between classes? Most of us have been consumed by love and longing at some point in our lives. In fact, I go there every day in my writing. I recall those overwhelming emotions from experience, from my imagination, and pour them onto the pages of my young adult romance novels. The impulsive actions of my characters drive me to write about their hopes and dreams, unknowns and fantasies. I create their endless possibilities, their tension, their break-ups and their hook-ups. I write their catastrophic meltdowns, their reunions, the moments when they finally get it together. I write with angst. I write with the teen voice that speaks to me.

I write about girls kissing boys…and a little bit of everything else.

I adore my job because I’m able to relive my teen years through fiction writing. My specialty is first love, the explosion of emotion that comes when a character finds that person they believe is their soul mate. I was blessed to have met mine at seventeen and married him after college. Sharing my life with my high school sweetheart allows me to write from my heart. I’m able to draw on my greatest experiences and spin them into dreamy love stories. However, naturally, as in reality, they’re never without conflict or struggle. Writing satisfies my urge to create and exaggerate. I give readers of all ages an escape to a time of innocence, heartache and bliss—their first kiss and the fluttery butterflies that go with it. I want my characters to become book friends, to make my readers swoon. I write young adult romance for the reader that wants to fall in love for the first time all over again.

STUBBORN is my debut young adult romance. Thank goodness there are boys in the middle of nowhere…because that’s where Avery Ross is headed when she’s sent away in punishment to help her aunt run a boarding house for oil field workers. As soon as Avery disembarks her unsettling train ride from New York to North Dakota, she’s climbing onto an endless, emotional rollercoaster where she encounters her first true love and a whole lot of drama.

With a train ticket, a bad attitude, and an unfortunate scribbling of obscenities across her forehead, seventeen-year-old Avery Ross is tossed out of the frying pan and into the fire when she’s sent from New York to the vast oil field region of North Dakota. When a green-eyed boy with a sultry Texan accent comes to her defense, Avery has no clue that his actions will lead her into a passion-charged summer, full of temptation and loss.
Defiant and relegated to work at her aunt’s boarding house, Avery discovers a connection between her aunt and the striking boy. He and his brothers are seeking revenge for the wrongful death of their sibling, and Avery becomes entangled in their battle over oil rights, loyalty, and love. Avery falls for the brooding, younger brother, Gabriel Halden, against her aunt’s forewarnings and creates more tribulations than any of them could anticipate.

The morning breeze was remarkably pleasant. It was early bright. I didn’t recall leaving the window open, or pulling up the shade. My legs were hanging off the bed because something was taking over the bottom half.
“Finally,” exclaimed Gabe. “I thought you were pretending to be Snow White.”
“Why are you still here?” I asked groggily. “Are you looking to get kicked out of the coop?”
My eyes followed his as he stood up and stretched his hands as high they would go. Then he slapped his toned chest. His shirt was in a ball on the ground. I liked it exactly where it was.
“That was like sleeping in a clothes dryer with a pair of sneakers. You kicked me all night long. And it’s still hot as hell up here.”
I gazed absently as he lifted up the shirt with his toes and kicked it in the air to catch it.
“The ladder’s gone. That’s why I’m still here.”
I sat up tall.
“What?” I nervously ironed my hands over my hair.
“You heard me,” he said and moved his eyes all over me.
“Omigod. You’re going to get kicked out, Gabe! You’re going to have to do some serious butt kissing.”
Meggie would tell my mother I let a boy sleep in my room. That alone would send her into therapy. Maybe getting caught wasn’t so bad.
“Naw,” he told me as he pulled his wrinkled shirt over his middle. “I’m betting one of the guys took it.”
“See if Meggie’s truck’s here. Maybe she went out,” I suggested.
I crouched over my bag on the floor and selected the only clean shirt I had left. Gabe crossed the room in two strides and stooped at the window. I watched him in my side view as my heart began to attack me.
He looked so good standing in my room.
“It’s gone. We’re safe.” He spun around and eyed me. “You gonna change?”
“Turn back around. Don’t peek. I’m serious.”
He turned and placed his hands on the wall, posing for a pat down. My heart had to work so hard around him.
“You done?” he asked immediately. I fumbled as I tried to locate a pair of shorts.
“No!” I faced the other way, peeled off what I was wearing and practically jumped into the new clothes. I guessed he was going to try to sneak a glance so I twirled around and snapped the button on my shorts. Sure enough he was standing there watching.
“God, Gabe!”
“You got that right,” he said smirking. “Now I’ve seen almost everything.”
“Omigod. You’re just as bad as Caleb,” I scolded.
A small and secret part of me was rather okay with his watching.
“Caleb’s not your boyfriend,” he said childishly.
My heart vaulted into my throat and stuck.
Did he say boyfriend?
I didn’t have time to analyze. It was urgent I got him out of my room before Meggie returned home. My brain had turned to Jell-O. As I reached for the bolt and fumbled with the lock, Gabe came to stand at my back. I spun around all flustered.
“Your bag, don’t leave it.”
Gabe shot his head back.
“Oh. I thought you might wanna steal some more of my dirty shirts.”
He lifted his hand to my cheek and grazed it with his thumb. Then his hands slid behind my ears and cupped my head.
I drew a shaky breath. He mimicked me. I sighed and he copied.
“What are you doing?” I whispered.
He tightened in for a close-up. A slow grin crept over his face, reaching his eyes and forehead. “Claiming my reward. I waited all night. Actually days. You owe me double now,” he murmured.


Jeanne is offering an ecopy of STUBBORN to one lucky commenter.  Do you remember being “in love” as a teen complete with all the drama and passion?  Do tell a bit!  🙂  Giveaway ends @12am est 1-26-14. Good luck!



Jeanne Arnold is an author of young adult romance. At a young age she found her creative outlet in art, and for years her fictional characters came to life in drawings and paintings, until they demanded a voice. Now they grace the pages of her stories. Jeanne shares her time with her fictional teenage counterparts and her human family in Central New York. Her young adult romance Stubborn is available now. The Haunt of Thirteen Curves will be released in June.
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Book Hoarding, REPOSSESSED, and swag giveaway with Shawntelle Madison

Proud Book Hoarders Unite  

Hey, Manic Readers! This is my first time here, but I’m so excited for the opportunity!

In my latest paranormal romance release, REPOSSESSED, I’m adding another adventure to my Coveted series, which features a werewolf hoarder. Yep, you read that right. A werewolf hoarder. In REPOSSESSED I have a lot more zany characters including a witch matchmaker and a warlock repo man. Toss in a Korean talking satchel and a biker wizard and you’ve got fun waiting to happen.  

I’ve had time to collect books so I thought I’d share the top five signs you’re a book hoarder. If you’re one too, then be sure to enter my contest for a swag pack so you can get a button to display your…addiction proudly.  

1. You need to buy more bookcases to store the books.

I just sort of toss the books into boxes until I get the bookcases. When I run out of places for more bookcases I’ll have a big problem.  

2. If you have a laptop, tablet or other mobile device, you have every reader application know to mankind.
Okay, here goes. I got Nook, Kindle, iBooks, OverDrive, Adobe Digital Editions, and Kobo. I did have the Sony e-reader app, but I don’t buy from there as often. Am I missing any? Just go ahead and tell me. I’m not ashamed. Shame ran out screaming a long time ago.  

3. You rarely loan out signed books.
Well, they are made out to me, why loan them? Okay, I do but I make sure whoever gets it knows I want that puppy back. 

4. You have an account on Paperback swap to get older books to add to your “collection”.

Guilty as charged. There are many books I love and I’m more than willing to give them a home.  

5. You have Amazon Prime or some other service to get your books ridiculously fast. For cheap.
I’m addicted to Amazon Prime. Just seeing books show up two days after I bought them for pre-order is golden.  

So how many of these can you relate to? Well, I fit the bill for all of these. Matter of fact, I’ll probably add a free book to my iPad before this blog post is done. Don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone if you’re like me.  

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment to let me know if you’re a book hoarder. A winner will be chosen on January 28th for a Coveted swag pack.  


Supernatural matchmaker Tessa Dandridge knows a little mist here and a little magic there will help reckless werewolves and precocious pixies find love. That is, until her magical Smythe scroll is lost in her repo’ed car and she can’t contact her V.I.P. clients. To connect with an important client cavorting in the fifth dimension, Tessa must depend on handsome Rob Shin, a warlock repo man, to enter Limbo and find her Smythe scroll.

Rob has money problems of his own, thanks to the bank determined to foreclose on his elderly aunt and uncle’s home. Repossessing magic wands and cursed pianos from disgruntled warlocks isn’t the best pay, but the Navy SEAL works well as a repo man to pay off his family’s debts. Rob’s repossession jobs catch up with him when a powerful warlock seeks to end his life for his constant meddling, drawing Tessa in the middle.

Find Shawntelle Online:

Visit Shawntelle       FB       Twitter       Amazon      B&N

About Shawntelle:

Shawntelle Madison is a web developer who loves to weave words as well as code. She’d never admit it, but if asked she’d say she covets and collects source code. After losing her first summer job detasseling corn, Shawntelle performed various jobs–from fast-food clerk to grunt programmer to university webmaster. Writing eccentric characters is her most favorite job of them all. On any particular day when she’s not surgically attached to her computer, she can be found watching cheesy horror movies or the latest action-packed anime. She lives in Missouriwith her husband and children.

THE ECONOMY OF YOU and giveaway with Kimberly Palmer

Thanks for taking the time to visit Manic Readers, Kimberly.  

Thank you for having me!

With all the scholarships available now what attracted you to the Henry Luce Scholarship?  

The Henry Luce program offers American college grads the chance to live and work in Asia for one year. The whole point is to introduce young Americans to Asian countries, so they can take that experience and knowledge with them throughout the rest of their careers and lives. It was an honor to be part of that kind of cultural exchange. 

Can you tell us a bit about your experiences as a Henry Luce Scholar?  

I lived and worked in Tokyo for one year, at the Asahi Shimbun. I wrote for the English-language section of the paper and wrote about everything from why birth control pills are hardly used in Japan to why the diet industry is so big. I also made incredible friends and spent a lot of time visiting local onsen (hot baths), hiking routes, islands and, of course, sushi restaurants.  

With degrees in public policy and history how did you transition to personal finance and money expert?  

When I was in Japan writing about culture, I quickly realized that business and economics has a profound impact on culture. My stories on the birth control industry, diet industry and other industries clearly covered culture and business at the same time. I knew I needed to dive more deeply into the economic side of things, so I could ask more probing questions and cover culture and trends more fully. 

What prompted your development of Palmer’s Planners and how are they different from traditional planners?  

I was browsing Etsy one day, looking at some of the calendars currently offered, and I suddenly realized that I could create money-themed planners, that help people reach specific financial goals, from preparing for a baby to paying off debt to launching a business. I realized it was a niche that, with my background in writing about money, I could fill. That idea hit me like lightning and within two weeks I had launched my shop.  

In your expert opinion what is the biggest financial challenge facing twenty somethings?   Thirty somethings?  Forty somethings?  Is there hope after forty? 

Twenty-somethings are facing a lot of under-employment right now and many people are forced to take jobs they don’t love. That’s why launching a side-business – which one in three millenials do – is so essential to building a full career. They get more experience and also more money. For 30- and 40-somethings, which is my demographic, we’re in crunch period. Our costs are climbing while often our paychecks level out. So we need to find a way to augment those paychecks while also still feeling creative in our careers – launching a side-business can do this for us. For the after-40 crowd, the biggest challenge looming is retirement. How will you continue to make some money and also find some satisfaction? A side-business based on your vast wealth of experience and skills is a great place to start.

What, in your opinion, is the biggest financial mistake most people make? 

Failing to think about your money enough. I made this mistake myself when I was younger. I grew up thinking money wasn’t important, and that it was selfish or even wrong to think too much about earning more of it. But the fact is, if you’re not spending time on your own money management and maximizing your earning power, you’re leaving yourself financially vulnerable. If we all spent a few hours a month on our money, we’d be better off.

A bit about Generation Earn, please?

I wrote Generation Earn as a guide for young professionals looking to get on top of their money. I was tired of the condescending talk aimed at my generation from more experienced money experts and I wanted to offer an alternative – a feel-good, empowering way to think about money.

What, exactly, is a micro business?  

A micro-business is a small, even tiny business that often starts off as a hobby and turns into a serious money-making venture. Even if you’re earning a modest amount, say a couple hundred dollars a month, it adds up over time, and even more importantly, proves that you can create something of value that other people find useful.  

I like to think of it as a the reverse Latte Factor effect. The Latte Factor was made famous by David Bach, who warns that spending a few dollars a day on a latte can add up to a loss of over a million dollars over the course of their lifetime. Well, the same thing is true in reverse: Earn a few dollars a day and you’ll make yourself a million dollars richer over time.

What prompted THE ECONOMY OF YOU and what sets it apart from other hobby/interest how to’s?  

The Economy of You gives readers a game plan for building their own side-business – one that will not only give them extra financial security, but also a great sense of meaning and satisfaction by launching their own business. I cover how to get the perfect idea for you, how to flesh out your business plan, where to find your first customers, and how to build your online tribe. It’s perfect for people looking to add some creativity to their careers through a new entrepreneurial venture.  

How difficult is it to put THE ECONOMY OF YOU into action?  

It’s always challenging to launch a new business and there is going to be some setbacks and even failure along the way – a bad customer reaction or slow sales period. But as long as you are prepared for that and ready to work at it, it’s so easy. It really is. Given the existing e-commerce sites out there, like Elance, Etsy, Freelancer and Fiverr, you can literally set up your shop this weekend and start earning money this month.

Do you have a WIP you can share any details about?  

I’m currently expanding my Etsy shop to focus more on custom planners, which include half-hour coaching sessions, so I can make the planners as individualized as possible. I’m really excited to build that out. 

Thanks for visiting, Kimberly.  It’s been very informative.

Fortunately Manic Readers has a print copy of THE ECONOMY OF YOU to give away to one (1) lucky commenter (sorry, U.S. only).  If you started your own micro business, what would it be?

Don’t wait around for your job to disappear….Take back your financial future!

The biggest trend in business is the microbusiness! Handcrafted jewelry, artisanal eats, life coaching, app development, you name it—entrepreneurial side ventures are everywhere. Weary of pink-slip anxiety and the endless money squeeze, millions of people are taking the leap. They’re adding to their incomes and creating safety nets in case the ax falls at work. In the process, they’re unlocking their creativity and finding a sense of fulfillment they never dreamed possible.

Financial columnist Kimberly Palmer illuminates the everyday faces behind this growing movement, starting with her own journey. Recognizing that journalism offers little job security these days—and with a baby to provide for—she decided to develop a series of financial planners. This supplemental business was soon providing a reliable income stream.

The Economy of You recounts story after story of people who—like Kimberly—are liberating themselves from financial strain. A deli employee who makes custom cakes at night. An instrument repairman who sells voice-overs on his website. A videographer who started a profitable publishing house on the side. Interwoven in the profiles are concrete guidelines for readers looking to launch rewarding businesses of their own, including:

• Tips for figuring out the ideal side gig

• Ideas for keeping start up costs low

• Advice on juggling a fledgling enterprise and a full-time job

• Strategies for finding your “tribe” and building a social network

• Branding and marketing basics that bring results

• When and what to offer for free

• And much more

Companies guarantee nothing but today’s wages. It’s up to YOU to build stability by becoming a money-making engine. It’s empowering, gratifying, and easy to do with The Economy of You.

Read an excerpt

Visit Kimberly     Amazon   B&N      Indiebound     Powell’s     AMACOM

Kimberly Palmer is the author of the new book, “The Economy of You: Discover Your Inner Entrepreneur and Recession-Proof Your Life,” and senior money editor for U.S. News & World Report, where she writes the popular Alpha Consumer blog. In addition, she is the creator of Palmer’s Planners, her own line of digital financial guides and money organizers for major life events and goals.

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