A corn maze on one of the spookiest nights of the year sounds like fun, right?
But once you get inside those tall stalks there’s no breeze. The air gets thick and heavy, despite the fall weather. And be sure to watch your footing. Those big fat rain drops might turn that path your on into a slick mud slide. But that’s all okay, too, right? One hour to get out of this maze, and the last one out buys the beer for the rest of the night. All you have to do is NOT be the last one out.
But what if you don’t come out at all?
Hidden deep within this corn maze is a magical portal, and on the other side…? A realm full of creatures of myth and legend and campfire stories. If you’re lucky, you’ll make it through the forest and into the city.
Let me be the first to welcome you to Clayridge, with this informative, albeit, unnerving guide.
A mortal’s guide to surviving in Clayridge:
Clayridge: Generally a safe place, protected by a large stone wall, enchantments, and the Guard. Wander outside of this city and you could find yourself in peril quite quickly.
Witches: Generally helpful, good for purchasing spells and enchantments to keep you safe. They can also read your fortune via cards, runes, tea leaves or a palm reading, though they tend to think that sort of thing is for the tourists.
Werewolves: Don’t be in the forest after nightfall or these beasts will surly find you. They walk on two legs, transform at will (so long as the moon is in the sky), and enjoy hunting.
Vampires: Beware of these seductive creatures, they can lure you in with a Blood Lust spell and spend days, months, or even years keeping you as their pet and pleasure snack. Dangerous creatures. Be wary.
Sirens: Okay, so you may want to keep a safe distance from the fountain in the center of town. Those half-fish, half-woman creatures that live inside it will lull you in with their song. They’ve been known to break up marriages, ruin relationships, and cause all kinds of trouble. If you value your relationships heed the warning signs and avoid these hormone driven creatures. You’ll likely just become addicted.
Dwarfs: Small in stature, great skill at building weapons, toys, and pretty much anything. They make great drinking buddies too.
Harpies: If you see one of these half-bird, half-woman creatures, well, you’re likely already dead.
Demons: Their appearance depends on their sub-species. Winged, horned, black mist. Does it look dark, dangerous and deadly? Then it probably is. Also, they generally work for vamps, and are often up to no good.
Gargoyles: These guys are cool AF. Stone through the day, flesh and blood after dusk. Generally work as nighttime labourers around the town, particularly at the theater, but don’t be fooled, they possess wicked warrior skills.
Fairies: Cute. Helpful. Playful. Strong work ethic.
Pixies: About as fun as a nest full of hornets. You don’t want these pests in your home. They’re difficult to get rid of without the aid of Pixie Repellant. You can pick up a bottle at The Broomstick.
The Divide: A nasty town full of undesirable creatures. Vamps, demons and werewolves are commonly found here. For a steep price you can purchase your very own mortal, for whatever wicked purposes you might devise.
The Guard: Hellhounds make up the guard, serving as peacekeepers and law enforcers. They’ll protect the people of Clayridge with any means necessary. Huge hounds with matted black fur, ghostly tails and glowing eyes, they look scary AF, but that’s only because they are. Dangerous? Only if you’ve don’t something wrong.
Love Spells, Full Moons, and Silver Bullets
Love Spells, Full Moons, and Silver Bullets is available for pre-order. I hope you enjoy the following excerpt. I’ve also included a link to my newsletter. Subscribe now and you’ll be gifted a FREE short story, Arrested Valentine, which has an exclusive sneak peek for Love Spells, Full Moons, and Silver Bullets, that’s currently only available at the end of Arrested Valentine.
What the story is about…
What do you do when your ex’s werewolf boss wants to feast on the mortal you’ve sworn to protect?
Quinn was unaware of the love potion her meddling cat dumped into her tea, so when Ian Hannigan ends up injured on her property, she thinks she’s dealing with another mortal, not the man who can help mend her heart. Her life becomes a balancing act as she attempts to keep him safe, while hiding secrets better left buried with the dead.
In a realm filled with things that go bump in the night, Ian didn’t expect to find security and happiness in the arms of a green skinned witch, yet for the first time since his parents tragic car crash, he’s found some measure of peace. The rumors he hears in Clayridge aren’t pleasant, but Ian knows there’s more to Quinn than what people would have him believe. If he’s placed his trust in the wrong hands he’ll be paying with more than just his heart. He’ll pay with his life.
Contest: comment on this post for your chance to win a super cute tea cup bookmark!
Read an excerpt…
“You didn’t have to send your….” Alec paused, a grin in place as he seem to search for the right word, “…pet away. Is that what the mortal is, Quinn? A pet?” Before Quinn could jump to Ian’s defense, Alec kept going, every word stoking a fire in her. “You’ve never kept a mortal before. That’s not like you. Getting a little bored and lonely way out here by yourself?” He used his hands to brace himself on one of her Adirondack chairs, leaned closer, and whispered suggestively, “I could have helped you with that.”
Quinn blinked, then narrowed her eyes. He was baiting her. “Cut the bullshit. What do you want Alec?”
His shoulders slumped and he released an exaggerated sigh. “You Quinn. I’m here for you.”
“Aww,” she said with as much mockery as she could muster. “Let me just kick Ian out and you can come on in.”
“Your sarcasm is noted. Give me a chance Quinn. We could be great.”
“Could have been great. Past tense, Alec.” Turning to her fire, she dismissed his offer. “You’re the one who walked away.”
He was stealthy when he moved. His hands came to rest on her shoulders as his lips caressed her ear. “I still remember the way you feel, the look on your face when you come.”
The creaking of her front door told her that Alec’s overfamiliarity hadn’t gone unnoticed by their audience. Quinn spun away from him. “Well, you should forget it. What happened between us is over and there’s no going back.”
He was silent for a long moment. Behind him the door to the cabin closed again. Inside the curtain fluttered. She hoped they couldn’t hear the conversation. Maybe Lucifer had directed Ian to a different activity to keep him occupied.
Finally, Alec met her gaze. “I never stopped loving you.”
Seventy-five years ago a confession like that would have made her weak in the knees. Even in the height of their passion he’d never told her he loved her. She’d been the only one to utter those words, and then he’d crushed her silly infatuation. Grandma had warned her. The pack always came first.
With her grandmother’s voice in her ear, she straightened her spine and took a deep breath. “What do you want, Alec?”
She saw his jaw clench, in that same way it had whenever he had to do something he didn’t want to. But like a good little beta he followed orders. “Draven wants the mortal.”
Hands on her hips, she stood immobile. “No.”
“He’s willing to trade.”
Quinn huffed. “Oh, this ought to be good.”
“You give up your pet and I promise you’ll never be alone again.”
“Because you’ll stay with me?” She laughed. “Is that it? That’s Draven’s big trade? You for the mortal?”
That jaw, the one she’d once kissed and fawned over, clenched even harder. “Come on, Quinn! Think this through. You get what? One year with your mortal. Then he’s going back through that portal. Okay, maybe he stays. Best case scenario you get what? Sixty years before he’s worm food.”
Quinn swallowed. She didn’t want to think about that. Of course she’d out live him, but what about all the time they’d have together. They could both enjoy that.
“How long afterwards would you renege on your bargain? How long before Draven calls you back to the fold?” She crossed her arms over her chest, and stepped closer to the fire. “I’d rather die alone in this cabin than spend eternity with you.”
His jaw tightened so much that Quinn worried he’d break his teeth. Baring those pearly whites, he snarled, “Careful, Quinn, or you’ll end up a bitter old hag just like your grandma.”
“Get off my property!” She waved her hands, shooing him off the platform. “Get lost or the next time you transform you might just find yourself turning into a toad. A great big fat one with warts.”
Alec snickered, and stopped his backward momentum. “You always were a spitfire, Quinn.”
She was unprepared for his next move. With wolf-like reflexes he grabbed her arms and pulled her to him. Her chest hit his with such force her breath flew from her. His lips crashed against hers. In an instant she pushed him, shoving him with all her strength.
If not for his animal agility, he would have fallen on his ass, but instead he landed stealthy on his feet. “Think it over, Quinn. We were amazing once. We could be again.”
“I’m not turning him over to be slaughtered like some lamb.”
All traces of humor and anger fled his features. With severe sobriety, Alec’s gaze drilled into hers. “Seriously, Quinn, watch out. Draven is relentless in this. He will get your mortal. I don’t want to see you get hurt in the process.”
His concern was worrying, and as Quinn watched his retreating back she had to wonder just how far Draven would go in his attempts to get Ian. Her land was protected, and when he was with her she’d keep him safe. The town was secure enough, but still Alec’s visit was alarming.
Quinn doused the fire with a few shovelfuls of snow, before marching to her cabin.
Once inside she ripped off her boots and tossed her cloak on a peg. She stalked across the floor, tossed the rug aside and using a chant, unlocked the safe hidden in a compartment beneath the floorboards. She lifted out an old six shot, double barrel revolver, two pistols with double-stack magazines, and a sack filled with gold coins, setting it all on the floor before closing and securing the safe. Next she went to the cabinet near the door that housed her rifles. Unlocking it she pulled out a long barreled rifle. She set each one down on the counter top next to the mug of coffee that Ian had been sipping from when she’d walked in the door.
“You know how to shoot?”
Ian frowned. “You’re scaring me, Quinn.”
Lucifer leapt onto the counter. “Me too. What’s going on? I didn’t think that kiss was shotgun worthy.”
Straightening, Ian glared. “He kissed you?”
Quinn checked the chamber of the revolver, stalling as she thought through her answer. “He’s my ex, and he’s not the one I’m worried about. The kiss was not welcomed.” Her gaze was hard when she repeated. “Do you know how to shoot?”
“No.” He looked down at the guns. “Who are you worried about?”
She snorted. “Draven.”
Ian’s face paled. “The one who slashed me?”
Nodding, Quinn looked away. “He’s going to come after you, and we need to be ready.” She glanced at Luce. “Can you apologize to any customers that might come by today? Ian and I need to make a shopping trip.”
“We went to town last week,” Ian objected, with visible confusion.
“We’re not going to town.” She pocketed the sack of gold. “We’re going to see a dwarf about some silver bullets.”
Pre-order Love Spells, Full Moons, and Silver Bullets by clicking here
Romance author Cameron Allie grew up in a small town north of Toronto. As a child she loved stories, and after reading her first romance novel at age fifteen, her dreams of writing became singularly focused on the love story. She is currently living in Ontario with her husband, their young daughters and with their cat, who is constantly trying to interrupt the writing process.
October 12th is fast approaching! Have you pre-ordered your copy of Cowboys? It’s going to be huge! 15 sexy stories by some familiar names and by authors you’ll want to get to know real quick! Did I mention it’s only $0.99?!Crazy, right? The point is, this is a book we want EVERYONE to read, because there’s literally something for everyone inside it.
Right now, you can only pre-order it on Amazon, but it will go wide soon. If you want to pre-order your copy now, here’s the link: COWBOYS
Cowboys: A Boys Behaving Badly Anthology
Get ready to fall in love with sensual tales filled with the earthy scent of horses, cows, and crisp, clean sweat; the sight of sun-leathered skin and crow’s feet; the feel of work-hardened thighs and arms; and the sound of a deep-voiced drawl…
Inside Cowboys: A Boys Behaving Badly Anthology, you’ll find the following stories by some of the hottest romance writers out there…
Sweet Home Cowboy by Jamie K. Schmidt – A runaway bride returns home to visit her father in the hospital only to discover her jilted groom has taken control of the family’s ranch
Free Rein by Elle James – Former Delta, now rodeo security cowboy, rescues a barrel racer on a runaway horse, rekindling an old flame in the process
Eight Seconds by Margay Leah Justice – At the rodeo, sometimes all it takes is eight seconds to fall in love
Sweetgrass Summer by Reina Torres – A rock-steady rancher, determined to give his love a slow traditional courting, is surprised when she takes the reins
Cowboys & Zombies by Cindy Tanner – Nothing can keep me from my cup of coffee—not the threat of zombies or a double-shot of sexy cowboy…nothing venti-ed, nothing earned
Carry Me Home by Kelly Violet – Down on her luck, a city girl travels back to Kansas and the boy she left behind
East of the Rift by January George – A family tragedy reunites a lonely rancher with his estranged wife
Tying the Knot by Jennie Kew – A city girl, with a submissive streak a mile wide, falls fast for a dominant, dirty-talking cowboy
Second Chances by Megan Ryder – Overwhelmed trying to hold onto her dead husband’s ranch, a lonely widow turns to the one man she can’t have for a night of passion
The Patience of Unanswered Prayer by Michal Scott – Kidnapped and destined to be another victim of Reconstruction-era violence, a feisty shop owner is rescued by a trail boss whose dark secret might save them both
Something to Talk About by Izzy Archer – When a grad student takes a job as a nanny to two motherless children on a cutting horse ranch, she catches the eye of her sexy boss
The Scoundrel by Natasha Moore – A lonely widow finds her strength when she indulges her attraction to a weathered cowboy on his last night in town
Solar Flare by Ava Cuvay – An interplanetary rancher recruits hired guns to help herd her livestock and falls into the arms of their sexy leader
Hunk of Burning Love by Delilah Devlin – A woman accidentally sets her kitchen on fire while trying to catch the eye of a Texas firefighter
Thoroughbreds and Thermodynamics by Sukie Chapin – A nerdy vet weathers a snowstorm to help a hot-as-hell rancher deliver a breach foal; save a horse, ride a cowboy, indeed!
Wait, what? One good wreath deserves another? Isn’t that supposed to be one good turn deserves another? True, that’s how the old saying goes. A good act leads to another, and thus goodness is spread. Well, this year for me this came true this past Christmas. Let me explain.
I go all out decorating my house inside and out for Christmas. With the uproar and upset caused by waiting for the 2020 election results I decided to started my Christmas decorating in November. I wasn’t alone. My neighbors were doing the same.
The good feeling then extended through the neighborhood to the beginning of the new year. I didn’t want the feeling to end so for the first time I created a wreath for New Year then decided to leave it up for the whole month of January. As February approached, I wanted to keep the positive vibes going through Black History month as well. Needless to say, Women’s History month and St. Patrick’s Day couldn’t be left behind.
Nor could I slight Easter in April. I then created a wreath with the May flowers brought by April showers and the rainbow created by the showers of love in Pride Month.
I was on a roll, so I made a July 4th wreath for my house and for my sister too, as well as a special wreath in honor of my 32nd wedding anniversary.
I’m up to August, celebrating summer and designing a birthday wreath for reaching the 65th year milestone.
You see what I mean? I’m such a regular at the Dollar Store, Michael’s, and Hobby Lobby I ought to look into buying stock. I’m looking forward to keeping the good feeling going to the end of the year as ideas for wreaths for the remaining months are on the drawing board. The additional benefit is all I need to do is rinse and repeat these wreaths in 2022. So for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card, share in the comments how you honor or celebrate special days or seasons.
The Patience of Unanswered Prayer from Cowboys featured in Cowboys
A feisty businesswoman about to become the next victim of Post-Civil War revenge receives rescue from an unexpected source
Excerpt from “The Patience of Unanswered Prayer”
Eleanor Taylor lay on her side, kinks knotting her back, cramps burning her thighs. Her muscles strained with each attempt to ease her discomfort. Instead of relief, the movement tightened the rope pinning her arms to her body. The blanket beneath which Sheriff Radcliffe concealed her smelled of horse sweat. Its scratchy wool surface set her cheeks afire.
Dirt coated the cloth he’d stuffed into her mouth. She moaned, unable to avoid swallowing the grit now smeared across her teeth and tongue. Afraid she’d wretch, she raised her head, an action that forced the grimy gag further down her throat.
“Keep still, you uppity mulatto bitch.”
She shuddered at the menace in Radcliffe’s tone. The same menace glinted in his icy blue eyes when he’d entered her cell and tried to violate her. He’d covered her mouth, but she’d sunk her teeth into his hand, eliciting a satisfying pain-drenched yowl from the bastard. A well-placed kick to the balls had laid him low. His groan flooded her huntress spirit with joy.
If his deputy hadn’t rushed in, she’d have gotten away.
The coppery tang from Radcliffe’s blood renewed her desire to be the hunter, not the hunted. Tapping carefully into that desire had enabled her to thwart the hostilities all independent Black business owners faced in this post-Reconstruction era. Acting on that desire now, however, could lead to her death. She had to find another avenue of escape before that desire resurfaced and revealed what no one should know about her.
“Seems your fears about the jail being overrun by her foes was misplaced, Sheriff.”
Radcliffe snorted. “Better safe than sorry, Jim. Something could’ve happened before we got her on the stage in the morning.”
The sounds of horse hooves clopping, drunken laughter, and saloon music had faded long ago. Only chirruping crickets, croaking bullfrogs, and Sheriff Radcliffe’s lies penetrated Eleanor’s covering. Where were they taking her?
The wagon wheels creaked with every rut they hit. Eleanor wheezed, desperate for fresh air. Nausea roiled at the base of her throat. Would she die choking on her own vomit? Fear squeezed her chest as yes flit through her mind like a lightning bug.
The wagon lurched to the right. Her nausea intensified.
“Mind how you go there, boy. We don’t want to be accused of mistreating the prisoner.”
Being arrested on false charges didn’t count as mistreatment? How about being abducted by ones sworn to uphold the law? Eleanor’s agony mirrored that of Christ’s on the cross.
My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?
She moaned, her spirit smothered by despair. The pressure at the small of her back eased only to be followed by a sharp jab to her spine.
“Shut up, damn you,” Radcliffe snapped. “Your days of troubling me will soon be over.”
“What was that you said, Sheriff?”
“Thank God this trouble’ll soon be over. We’ll have delivered her safe and sound to the county seat tomorrow.”
“Safe and sound,” Deputy Jim Flyte said. “Thank the good Lord.”
His tone, full of innocence and ignorance, penetrated Eleanor’s cloth prison and killed all hope that he’d be of any help. She stifled a groan lest her tormentor kicked her again. Flyte was too young to know that safe and sound to Sheriff Hobart Radcliffe meant only one thing: Eleanor’s death.
UPDATE: The winners are…Eniko, Misty, Colleen, bn100, Debra, and Fedora!
I’m a Sci-fi Romance Writer. Or, at least, I was.
But then an Earth-bound dragon-shifter story idea knocked at my brain, and I had to write it. Because, you know… dragon-shifters!
The idea was a Viking shifter and a Chinese shifter come together to battle a prophesized World Destroyer. An East-meets-West story with a strong emphasis on the concept of yin and yang (and fortune cookies) and rich with references to the two cultures.
No biggie, right? Except for the small detail that, aside from my avid support of a local Chinese restaurant, I know nothing about that culture. And even less about Vikings. Or Minnesota, where the Viking clan now live. Or LA, where my story takes place…
When I write my alien-planets-filled-with-alien-creatures books, I get to just make stuff up for the most part. But not with What a Dragon Wants. Oh, my… I was going to have to research for my story. Not just a quick Google of a few details, either. This was gonna involve intense research. I had to be thorough. I had to be accurate.
And most importantly, I had to be sensitive.
I wasn’t crafting some culture from the weird synapses in my brain; I was trying to convey cultures that actually exist (or have existed) on this Earth. The suspension of disbelief would be narrower and the readers less forgiving if I got it wrong. And there are soooo many ways to screw up!
Critique Partners were important, and Sensitivity Readers were crucial. I inquired around my small network and found several kind souls willing to help in this endeavor. Heck, one day subbing at the local High School, I walked into the Mandarin teacher’s room during passing period and did the whole “you don’t know me, but I have a huge favor to ask” awkwardness. Probably not my finest five-minutes, but I was desperate to get the Chinese culture right.
I’m so grateful for all the comments and suggestions I received from my Critique Partners and Sensitivity Readers. I always am, as they help make my story the best it can be. And in the particular case of What a Dragon Wants, they certainly caught several places where I had proverbially stepped in it.
Did we catch everything? Probably not.
Will someone with a greater or more astute knowledge of these cultures find fault in my story? Possibly.
Did I attempt to craft an interesting, sexy, multi-cultural paranormal story that is entertaining, sprinkled with humor, and not grossly offensive? Absolutely.
The theme of yin and yang—of balance—runs through my story. The same theme also applies to how well I incorporated the aspects of my various cultures with the made-up story of my dragon-shifters and their world-ending-prophesy. And, while only time (and my readers) will tell if I accomplished this balance, it was a fun challenge and an exciting, somewhat nerve-wracking, endeavor.
G I V E A W A Y!
Comment on this blog, and I’ll pick five random winners to receive either a Kindle ebook or a signed paperback (US only) of my What a Dragon Wants novella. Then you can tell me how well I managed to balance it all. 🙂
Ava Cuvay writes out of this world romance featuring sassy heroines, gutsy heroes, passion, and adventure… often set in a galaxy far, far away. She resides in central Indiana with her own scruffy-looking nerfherder and kiddos who remind her daily she’s not as cool and hip as she thinks. She believes life is too short to bother with negative people, everything is better with Champagne, and Han Solo shot first. When not writing, Ava is thinking about writing. Or wine. And she’s always thinking about bacon.
First, I’m going to spill the tea on myself. I published On a Red Horse, the first book in my Paranormal Romance Series titled Revelations, back in 2015. On a Pale Horse, the fourth and final book in the series, just released here in 2021. For a traditional publication this schedule wouldn’t be so uncommon…but for the indie market where readers value quicker turn out from their favorite authors, it’s ages.
I’d like to say I don’t know what happened to make me stall out so hard on OAPH, but I found the last book in the series to hold so much pressure. It started by re-reading the other books and marking them up by category (plot loops I needed to close, random character descriptions I’d forgotten) and by the time I sat down to work on OAPH I sort of froze up. Information overload. Sadly, a common occurrence with ADHD suffering folks like myself.
I’d put so much pressure on finishing the book, on getting it done, that I tricked my brain into thinking it was a much more momentous task than it really turned out to be. Will my readers love the end? Dang I hope so. Will this happen to me again? Probably. Can I overcome it? Absolutely.
We live in unprecedented times right now. No matter where you stand in the world things are not running at your usual normal. So I wanted to take a tiny moment to give you permission to extend yourself some grace. Give yourself a hug, make yourself some tea, and know that when accomplishing something is difficult, take a minute and you’ll figure it out.
And cue segue into talking about OAPH. In this book, Hades (yes that one you are thinking of) wants to move his relationship to the next level with his long-time partner, Death (the horseman of the apocalypse – but she’s a lady). So, against a backdrop of lots of end of the world shenanigans, Hades enlists the help of Death’s (Cloris’s) ex-girlfriend, Persephone. And obviously, sparks fly all around.
See what I did there…I needed to finish my book…Hades needed to finish er…well…anyway.
Here’s a bit of an excerpt for you to try out…
Hades made coffee with shaking hands. They quaked so hard; he had to press them into the cold granite countertop to steady himself. He would have finished it with Cloris last night. He wanted to. He needed her in a way he couldn’t express. And yet, she still held back, still feared hurting him, or that he might equate her with Hel. He swallowed the flash of images that rose to his mind at the thought of Hel’s name and focused intently on making his espresso.
He hadn’t been able to stop the flashbacks, but he was learning to deal with them. A couple years ago, he even started therapy, but not a soul knew that other than his therapist. They’d been working through his imprisonment. Obviously, he’d changed the story for a human audience, and it had been helping. Now he couldn’t figure out how to convince Cloris he was ready for her. And he feared making her wait a thousand years for him had threatened whatever future they might have together.
Moments like this made him want to be human.
People’s reactions to him unsettled him, and Cloris had stopped reacting to him within weeks of them being locked together as horseman and seal. So, he could barely get a read on her in any situation. Hell, she could have stopped wanting him ages ago and simply maintained a façade to avoid conflict. Cloris would fight when it came down to it, but she did not enjoy conflict. If Cloris got involved, it would be to put a stop to whatever was going on.
Charon, the middle-aged, hulking former boatman, shuffled into the kitchen in his bunny slippers, and Hades handed him a mug. “I already made it,” he said, pointing to the pot.
Charon narrowed his eyes at him
“What? I can make coffee,” Hades said in a huff.
The man stood and waited, and when Hades poured the coffee, Char gave a satisfied nod before wandering away. Charon had nowhere to go once the Underworld changed into Hel’s realm. He considered himself a servant of Cloris and Hades, but they never saw him that way. Occasionally, he’d play security at the club since his shoulders were the width of most doorframes and his height unsettled most. Other than that, they left him to his devices, which included Netflix binges of Gilmore Girls and reading Manga.
It was a simple arrangement. Cloris entered the kitchen past Charon and squeezed his arm on the way. She stopped dead in front of Hades and eyed his hand holding the coffeepot.
“Did you make that or did Charon?”
Hades suspected they didn’t like his coffee. “Charon did.”
She raised one perfect eyebrow, calling him out on the lie without a word.
“Fine. I did. What’s wrong with my coffee?”
“Nothing at all, My Love.” She grabbed his mug off the counter and took a sip. “One just needs to brace for impact when drinking it.”
The Revelations Series is now complete and Books One through Three are all on sale until the end of the week. The first book is FREE!
I realize when I ask, “Do you believe in ghosts?” I’m really asking, “Do you think there’s anything stronger than the grave?” A Roman Catholic colleague of mine had someone ask her why she prayed to her dead grandmother. Her response was she didn’t believe death could kill all that love. No way was that connection gone. I agree with my friend. I believe love is stronger than the grave and that love wants to work to our benefit. That love is stronger than the evil often attributed to ghosts by the likes of Henry James and Edgar Allen Poe. Even phenomena like poltergeists are considered rare and tied to the unresolved issues of the living.
I was always attracted to the idea of friendly spirits who want to be helpful. Be they the ghosts from the TV show Topper or cartoons like Casper the Friendly Ghost. As a kid, my heart always broke for Casper when the kids he was playing with were dragged away from him by scared screaming parents. Maybe growing up in the turbulent ’60s and knowing people rejected people like me because of the color of my skin had me identify with Casper on a level I wasn’t aware of.
I know my belief in help from beyond the grave is firmly rooted in my belief in the resurrection. But I’m also sure my belief in helpful ghosts has been shored up by the various movie versions of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Published in 1843 as “A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas” Dickens had a similar themed story in his 1836 novel, The Pickwick Papers, entitled “The Goblins Who Stole A Sexton.” In that story a selfish sexton is visited by goblins who help him see the error of his ways much like the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future helped Ebenezer Scrooge see the light. Between you and me ghosts are much more appealing than goblins.
My interest in ghosts has led to loads of research about the parapsychology realm. For instance, I learned there are five types of ghosts: the interactive personality, ectoplasm, poltergeist, orbs and funnel ghosts. Who knew? Most stories naturally focus on the interactive personality, but I’m intrigued to learn more about the other four. I came across the Louisville Historic tours has some cool photos of each if you’d care to check them out: https://louisvillehistorictours.com/the-5-different-types-of-ghosts-with-photos. They’ve even got a video purporting to capture an orb: https://louisvillehistorictours.com/ghost–orbs.
It’s also nice to know I’m not alone in my interest in manifestations from the other world. I went to ParanormalSocieties.com and have discovered thirty-five paranormal societies I intend to check out here in New Mexico.
So how about you? Do you believe in ghosts as a quantifiable reality or the stuff of fantasy and wishful thinking? Share your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to give someone a chance at a $10 Amazon gift card. Hope your holidays have been merry and bright.
A Little In Love With Death
Ten years ago no one — not even the man who said he loved her — believed Sankofa Lawford’s claim she had been brutally attacked by a ghost. Ten years later an assault on a new victim brings her back to Harlem to a mother going mad, a brother at his wits’ end and a former love who wants a second chance. Sankofa longs for her family to be whole again, for love to be hers again, but not if she must relive the emotional pain created by memories of that night.
Mitchell Emerson is convinced science and reason can account for the ghostly happenings at Umoja House. He resolves to find an explanation that will not only satisfy him but earn back Sankofa’s trust and love. Instead, his own beliefs are shaken when he sees the ghost for himself.
Now reluctant allies, Mitchell and Sankofa learn her family was more than a little in love with death. Their search for the ghost draws them together but discovering sixty years of lies and secrets pulls them apart. As their hopes for happily ever after and dispersing the evil stalking Umoja House slip beyond their grasp, Mitchell and Sankofa find an unexpected source of help: the ghost itself.
Excerpt from A Little in Love with Death…
Mitchell swallowed hard. Ten years hadn’t lessened the effect of Sankofa’s beauty on him. Photos in various alumni newsletters showed the gray in hair that had once been charcoal, the roundness in a face that had once been slender, the tiredness in a gaze that had once been energetic. He’d expected his ex-lover’s effect on him to be just as diminished. His shoulders suddenly drooped, weighed down with the loss of what might have been.
Harlan Montgomery Jr. clapped Mitchell on the back.
“Here he is, Langston. I told you Mitch would respond to our S.O.S.” He peered into Wanda Lawford’s room, shuddered then addressed Langston again. “How’s Auntie doing?”
Langston shrugged and averted his gaze.
Sankofa crossed her arms and glared. “As well as can be expected.”
Mitchell cleared his throat. Ten years hadn’t changed how emotion colored the Lawford siblings’ light complexions. Embarrassment darkened Langston’s. Anger still set Sankofa’s ablaze.
Harlan smiled, unfazed by the hostility she poured on him. “It’s good to have you back in Harlem, Sankofa.”
Sankofa uncrossed her arms. “I’m not glad to be back.” She turned her sharp glare on Mitchell. “And I won’t be staying long.”
He touched the side of his face where her scowl scraped his cheek, half expecting to find blood. He remembered how her eyes sparkled like sunlight through honey when she smiled. He would receive no smiles this trip. And rightly so. She had no reason to be glad to see him.
A girl goes into the forest in search of a cannibal witch and comes out with a skull lantern full of magic coals.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
If you haven’t, don’t feel bad about it. Popular culture has been so thoroughly saturated with Disney-goggled fairytales, that anything outside the scope of televised fables naturally flies under the radar. Naomi Novik and Katherine Arden, among other fantasy writers, have been doing magnificent work bringing forth Slavic and Russian-influenced tales to the mainstream book market, but so much remains unexplored.
Especially within the realms of Romance and Erotica genres. Nobody likes a raunchy adaptation of Beauty and the Beast better than I do. But Little Red Riding Hood has been ridden by the Big Bad Wolf so many times, no wonder the poor dear can’t find her way to her Grandmother’s house. I’m not saying these trusty, good old fairytales should be forsaken, gods forbid. But while Cinderella and Hansel and Gretel continue to fuel fine taboo tales, why not take a peek at another pantheon of fairytale characters?
There are damsels, there is distress, and sometimes they are coupled, but often in unexpected ways that make you raise your brow, thoroughly intrigued. (I’m looking at you, Marya Morevna! Who has the most powerful warlock in Russian folklore locked up and chained in one of their rooms? And why? I have so many questions!)
There are Bird-Princes, and Grey Wolves, and Baba Yagas, and clever, tough heroines that deserve a chance to shine.
I hope I’m doing my (small) part in the short story, “Vasilisa and the Tale of Tales,” published in the collaborative project Perfect Potions: An Anthology.
Interested in a sneak peek of “Vasilia and the Tale of Tales”? I’ve got you covered:
Suddenly, Lisa felt a chill run down her spine. Leaves rustled above their heads and she slapped a hand over John’s mouth to keep him quiet. But she could feel him tense as well, his body preparing for a fight, his heartbeat receding into a quiet drum. It’s been three years, but she was still attuned to the slightest shift of his body.
She tried not to think about his body.
The air was full of a new smell – feral fur, sweat, the scent of death, and endings. Softly, a rumble rolled through the treetops. Thunder, Lisa thought at first, but something was off. It was alive.
And the sound of chafing chains.
“Carrion-eater,” John hissed.
“Skoromokh,” she whispered, her eyes trying to pierce the dark foliage above her.
She had never met one in person. Supposedly, one — or many — have visited her mother when Lisa and her sister were born. But mother never spoke of that.
All Lisa knew was common knowledge — they took many shapes, had sharp teeth and a silver tongue, and an uncanny tendency to appear when tales were about to start or end. They fed off tributes offered by hopeful or fearful parents, or, if no tribute was offered, on the dead bodies left in the wake of the Tale. They were the Order of Skoromokh, the Tale-tellers, the Witnesses. They took no sides but carried the Tales to the end.
The air hummed with static electricity, raising the small hairs on the back of her neck on end.
“I prefer Scholar Cat,” said a dark voice.
The voice was followed by the appearance of two rows of sharp glistening teeth stretched into an impossibly wide grin. Then, out of the darkness slowly emerged an enormous striped body of a feline. It sprawled along a branch high up in the tree, a golden chain looping from its neck all the way around the tree trunk.
“What are you doing here?” John asked.
The Cat smiled unpleasantly but said nothing.
Lisa felt her heart tighten in her chest. There were no tributes to feed it here. But soon, there will be dead bodies aplenty. “Our tale is coming to an end,” she said softly.
The Cat’s smile widened further, and she grew nauseated. She looked at John, finding him watching her, his face pale but his eyes steady. He tore his eyes from hers and looked up at the creature.
“It’s not over yet,” he stated.
The Cat cackled, standing up and stretching sluggishly, its body rippling with grace. Finally, with a flick of its tail, it slipped along the branch further into the darkness.
Lisa swallowed hard, apprehension creeping into her heart. She tried to shove it down, looking at John in hopes of reclaiming the anger that’s been driving her for the past years. Instead, she saw something dark in his own eyes, familiar and unnerving. She looked away, squeezing her eyes shut. Not now.
“Was this what we were supposed to find? The Carrion-eater?”
She shook her head, looking down at the stalling app on the screen. “I don’t know.” She looked up at the tree, but there was no trace of the sinister feline. His chains, however, were still in place, spiraled around the trunk and from hanging from the higher branches. Lisa frowned.
“Yeah,” John murmured. “Weird.” He took a step forward, as if he would go around the enormous tree, to follow the Skoromokh.
Lisa instinctively jerked on the chain, pulling him back. “Where do you think you’re going?”
He stumbled for the umpteenth time and then righted himself. When he turned to her, it was obvious he had had enough. She saw him plant his feet apart, and when he pulled on the chain, she realized she’d made a mistake. She tried to pull back, to keep her footing, but he was stronger than her, and no magic chains undid that. He pulled her slowly, methodically, watching her.
Something dark coiled in the pit of her stomach, dissolving into a burst of butterflies. She was already too close, but he gave one final yank on the chain and caught her deftly, pressing her body to his with an arm around her waist. His blue eyes were midnight black, full of promises made, full of purpose, and the intoxicating nightshade of desire.
When he spoke, his voice was rough and low and reached out into the dormant nooks of her heart with practiced ease. “Where can I run from you, Lisa?”
Together with 14 other writers, we explore potions in all their glory, and I dive headfirst into the world of Russian folktales. The anthology may not be erotic, but it’s chock full of romance of the finest kind, guaranteed to make your heart flutter. Who knows, maybe you’ll meet your new favorite author among the line-up?