About Mae Clair

Hi, I'm Mae Clair, an author who writes tales of mystery and suspense, flavored with folklore. In addition to writing, I'm an avid reader who loves discussing books and anything writing related. I'm also passionate about cryptozoology, legends, and cats!

Guest Post: Menagerie by Joan Hall #newrelease #shortstories @JoanHallWrites

Welcome friends! I have a special guest on my blog today—good friend and Story Empire colleague, Joan Hall. I’m super-excited to be taking part in the blog tour for her newest release, Menagerie, a collection of short stories that spans multiple genres. Trust me folks, this one is a gem you don’t want to miss. I’ll be sharing my five star review at the end of this post, but in the meantime, please give a big welcome to Joan!

red quill pen on a piece of old parchment paper, with an ink well with words Welcome Guest in script

A Moment in Time

Thank you for hosting me today, Mae, and helping me kick on the tour of my latest release. It’s always a pleasure to visit with your readers. Menagerie is a mixed-genre collection of thirteen short stories. For each tour stop, I’ll feature one story and tell what inspired me to write it.

A Moment in Time is a dual timeline story set during the American Civil war in the 1860s and the Vietnam War in the 1960s. Two women, Joanna and Maggie, deal with life as their husbands are away fighting. Despite living a century apart, Joanna and Maggie have much in common. Both are young wives left on the home front to face the realities of war, and they live on the same farm.

The idea for A Moment in Time came from a childhood memory. In the late 1960s, there was a nearby farm that was once known as the County Farm. At one time, people could drive through the place, but it’s now privately owned. 

The owners raised cattle, but there was also a large grove of pecan trees. In the fall, when the pecans were mature, area residents were able to help with the harvest. One year, my parents decided to take part. I went to the farm a few times after school while waiting for them to finish the day. 

The property had an old two-story building that I later learned served as a jail. As I recall, it had stucco sides and a covered front porch with ornate railings. Although it didn’t date as far back as the 1860s, for some reason I always envisioned it during the time of the American Civil War. 

Maybe it was because I’d recently seen the movie Shenandoah, but I felt connected to those days. Almost like I was back in time. I would sit on the porch looking over the farm and imagine what life was like during the war. 

About a year ago, the idea came to write a story with a similar setting. Instead of an unused building, I decided on a house. My 1860s character, Joanna lived in the home. While it was still standing in the 1960s, Maggie could only dream about what it was like a century earlier. After discovering an old family cemetery, Maggie feels bonded to Joanna, particularly when she sits on the steps of the old house.

What Maggie couldn’t know is that Joanna often sat on the porch, reading letters her husband wrote to her while he was away at war. The two women shared many things—fear their husbands wouldn’t make it home alive, worry the wars would drag on forever, and loneliness.

I wish I had photos of the old building I remembered as a child. Writing A Moment in Time enabled me to recall fond memories of that time and place.

Banner ad for Menagerie, short story collection shows jungle landscape with army helicopters overhead, book cover to right

Excerpt:
Joanna observed her husband’s expression as he absorbed everything the officer said. “You’re enlisting, aren’t you?” 

Caleb nodded. “Do you understand why?” 

“I want to.” 

“It’s the only way we’re going to save this country. I can’t, in good conscience, not do my duty.”

They had talked at length about the possibility but hearing him say the words made it real. 

“I have to do this. It’s only for three months.” 

Ninety days a wasn’t long time. But even as Joanna mulled the idea, she couldn’t shake the feeling this war would last a lot longer.

Banner ad for Menagerie, a short story collection by Joan Hall shows Civil War cannon on autumn battlefield, book cover to right

><><><>< 

Lloyd pulled a letter from his pocket as he sat opposite her.

Maggie feared what it said but ignoring it wouldn’t make the problem go away. She took the envelope from him, opened it, then began to read.

You are hereby ordered for induction into the Armed Forces of the United States and to report to Centerville Greyhound Bus Station on June 10, 1968, at 6: 00 a.m. for forwarding to an Armed Forces Induction Station. 

“You’ve been drafted?” 

“Honey, we knew this was a strong possibility. College is the only thing that kept me out of the war this long.” 

Tears filled her eyes. “I know, but I hoped they wouldn’t call you so soon.” 

“I’m not the only one. Two others in my class got their notices today.” 

Maggie looked at the letter again. “June 10. Lloyd, that’s only three weeks away.”

Book cover for Menagerie, a collection of short stories by Joan Hall shows close up of old fashioned street lamp at night

Blurb:
King’s. The Tower of London. Glass. What do these have in common?

Each is a famous menagerie.

While this Menagerie doesn’t focus on exotic animals, it does contain a collection of stories that explore various trials people face and how their reactions shape their worlds.

Survivors of a haunted bridge. Women who wait while their husbands fight a war. Former partners reuniting to solve a cold-case murder.

These are just three of the thirteen stories in this compendium, encompassing past and present, natural and supernatural, legend and reality. The genres and timelines are varied, but there’s a little something for everyone who enjoys reading about simpler times and small-town life.

PURCHASE LINK

About the Author

Social Media Links

Website   |   Blog   |   BookBub   |   Goodreads


REVIEW FROM MAE CLAIR:
This wonderful collection offers thirteen tales spanning multiple genres, the heart of each rooted round strong characters and up-close glimpses into small-town life. Several are set in earlier decades evoking simpler times, others are twinned around legends. One even involves a tale told around a campfire. The writing is polished, and the scenes flow easily, packing fully formed and satisfying stories into gems that can be read over coffee breaks, a long afternoon, or as a way to wind down in the evening. 

Each reader will find their personal favorites. For me, those include A Moment in Time, in which 
two women in different centuries try to remain strong during the long years while their husbands are away at war. 

The Dare is a brilliant take on a town legend. Add an old cemetery, a skeptical journalist, and a dare on Halloween night, and I was glued to the pages. Storm Rider also resonated with me by tapping into my love of urban legends.

In an entirely different vein, The Homecoming is a moving story spun around several generations of a military family who have gathered to honor a fallen hero. Told from several POVs, it’s both a family drama and a beautiful salute to military veterans.

Finally, at the top of my list is Hot August Night in which the author skillfully captures a snapshot of small-town Americana—especially when she delves into a past decade. From the sultry summer air to the odor wafting from a nearby paper mill, to railroad tracks, old records, and family relationships, this is a superb story. The descriptions alone make it a delight to read, and the characterizations are pure gold.

I highly recommend this thoroughly bewitching collection of tales!


I love learning how authors develop their ideas for stories and books. Isn’t it great how we can take a memory from childhood, hold onto it for years, then use it as a springboard for a tale decades later? I’m so glad to be able to host Joan today, and hope you’ll take a moment to drop her a comment.

Afterward, don’t forget to hop over and grab your own copy of Menagerie. It’s a gem!

PURCHASE LINK

Mae Clair’s Cabinet of Curiosities: Feline Direct Registering #cats

Stack of books with round eyeglasses on top, brass vintage candle, and carnivale mask in background

Are you as dumbfounded as I am? It seems like it’s been forever since I ran a Cabinet of Curiosities post. I used to have set days for these, but with my new crazy schedule, you’re apt to see these posts pop up any day of the week.

So here we are on Monday, kicking off a brand new week, and I’ve got a fun oddity to share. Many of you may already know about this marvel, but I was gobsmacked (love that word) when I stumbled over it.

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know I suffer from OCD—obsessive cat disorder. Yes, I am gonzo about felines. Especially my gorgeous girl, Raven.

That’s her in the photo, looking like the majestic creature she is. Yet as regal as she appears, the word people mostly frequently use to describe her (even those at the vet’s office) is “sweet.”

Photo of gorgeous black cat with large larges and long tail facing camera

She really does have an utterly charming disposition. She has the cutest little meow along with an extensive vocabulary of sounds. We have been known to hold lengthy conversations, and those bright intelligent eyes show exactly how inquisitive and attentive she is.

Yet as much as I love cats, I was astounded when I stumbled across direct registering. Wildlife aficionados, and likely even hunters, may already know all about this phenomena. Felines aren’t the only animals who possess the ability. Bobcats, coyotes, foxes, and even giraffes and camels also have a lock on it.

So what exactly is direct registering? It’s an animal’s ability to place their back paw in exactly the same spot as their front, leaving less of a trail. Seriously, how uncanny is that? Domestic house cats may not need that edge as a predator, but what an amazing advantage in the wild!

To see direct registering in action, check out this vid.

What a slinky, graceful way of moving. Cats are incredible creatures, and discovering this astounding ability just made me love them all the more. They make walking this way seem so effortless. If I tried it, I’d probably end up a twisted pretzel on the floor

Am I the only one who was clueless about this phenomena? Did you already know about direct registering? Either way, don’t you think that is one incredibly intriguing video?

Guest Post – The Last Drive by John W. Howell #newbook @HowellWave

Hello, and thanks for joining me today while I welcome Story Empire colleague, and fantastic author, John Howell. I’ve enjoyed all of John’s books but when he wrote Eternal Road, an unusual blend of history and the supernatural, which addresses the conflict between good and evil, I was smitten. So much, that I hinted around—erm, repeatedly—that the characters needed a sequel. I’m happy he agreed.

Today, I’m delighted to host John during his tour for The Last Drive, the long-awaited sequel. You can find my five-star review at the end of this post. In the meantime, please welcome, John!


Book cover for The Last Drive by John W. Howell,  shows dirt road headed toward sea, greenery on either side

I am so pleased to be with you today, Mae. First, I want to thank you for helping to spread the word about The Last Drive. Although I had not planned to write a sequel to Eternal Road, I have you to thank for pushing me to return to the characters and the situation. It was an advantageous experience, and I must take a moment to thank you for convincing me it would be a good thing to do. As a result, I could explore additional areas of the relationship between Lucifer, Sam, and James. So, thank you, Mae.

Here is the blurb, and then we can get to a short excerpt from the book.

The Blurb:
In the sequel to Eternal Road – The final stop, Sam and James are reunited to look for two souls, Ryan and Eddie. Ryan was killed in Afghanistan, trying to avoid a schoolyard with his crippled plane. Eddie Rickenbacker, Ryan’s hero, is to guide Ryan to his Eternal Home, and now both are missing.

The higher-ups believe that there has been some interference in Ryan and Eddie’s journey by Lucifer, so Sam and James have the task of finding Ryan and Eddie to get them back on the road despite the evil interference. Unfortunately, the machinations designed to prevent Ryan and Eddy from completing their journey take the pair to horrifying testing grounds. The places visited represent the best work of the Devil. They are the trenches of World War I in France, gladiators at the Roman Coliseum, the sinking Titanic in 1912, Hiroshima 45 minutes before the bomb, and the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1943.

This book is for you if you like plenty of action, strong characters, time travel, and a touch of spiritual and historical fiction. So, join Sam and James as they try to find the missing souls while staying one step ahead of the Prince of Darkness, who is determined to destroy all that is good.

Banner ad for The Last Drive shows tablet with book cover beside cup of coffee and cell phone

An Excerpt:
The Archangel touches his temple. “I’ll come right to the point.”

“Thank you, Sir.” Sam’s eyes lock on the Archangel’s.

“We’re missing a soul and his guide.”

Sam’s hand goes to her mouth. “Missing? How is that possible?”

“Before we get to that, please have a seat, and let me give you the preliminary details.” He points to a chair.

Sam perches upright on the seat’s edge.

“You can relax, Samantha. This may take a while.”

Sam eases back into the chair. For the first time, she notices small lines on the Archangel’s forehead.

The Archangel sits heavily in his chair, sighs deeply, and looks Sam in the eyes. “The soul belongs to an American Air Force pilot. His aircraft got disabled over the Afghanistan countryside.” He pauses. “A lucky shot from an insurgent hit a vital place in his machine. Long story short, the damage forced him to bail out of the crippled craft, since it was on fire and no longer viable.”

A Link to the Trailer

Buy Links

The Last Drive is available in paper and Kindle editions on Amazon.
Here are the universal links.
The Kindle edition is on sale for 99¢ through mid-February.

Kindle  | Paper

Author, John W. Howell

Author Bio:
John is an award-winning author who after an extensive business career began writing full time in 2012. His specialty is thriller fiction novels, but John also writes poetry and short stories. He has written Six other books that are on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions. 

John lives in Lakeway, Texas with his wife and their spoiled rescue pets.

Author links
Blog: Fiction Favorites  | Facebook  | Twitter | Goodreads Amazon Author’s page | BookBub

Eternal Road Buy links
Kindle Universal link  | Paper Universal Link 

I hope you enjoyed this post from John. Before you hop over to Amazon to snatch up your copy of The Last Drive, check out my review below and be sure to drop John a comment to wish him well. Thanks for visiting!


My Review of The Last Drive
In this follow up to the Eternal Road, departed souls, Samantha (Sam) and James are reunited to help a recently deceased pilot. Airforce captain, Ryan Sanders, died in a selfless act. Eddie Rickenbacker (yes, THAT Eddie Rickenbacker) is assigned as his guide on the Eternal Road but when the two veer off course, it’s up to Sam and James to get them back on track.

The four eventually connect, but their problems are far from over. Determined to claim Ryan’s soul, Lucifer lays trap after trap as the four hop through time using a 1956 Buick Oldsmobile as transport (trust me, the car is a brilliant touch).

It’s obvious Howell did his research—and there was certainly a lot! The reader visits Super Bowl I, the Battle of Britain, Gettysburg, Hiroshima, the California Gold Rush and ancient Rome, to name just a few of the highlights. I found the scenes onboard the Titanic remarkably touching, especially when Sam and James interact with the captain and crew.

S & J have excellent chemistry and their devotion to each other (especially when pitted against Lucifer) is part of what makes them such excellent characters. Captain Sanders also gets a personal spotlight, when the four journey into his past to discover what became of a woman he loved before entering the service.

An entertaining mix of history and the supernatural, The Last Drive offers a unique journey with four great characters as guides. The ending is wholly satisfying and left me with a wonderful warm feeling. If you’re ready for adventure, sit back and buckle in while James revs up the Olds. Next stop—history!

My Top Five Reads of 2022

Okay, I lied—one two counts. If you read my post yesterday, you know I said I was going to close comments today, but I’ve decided to keep them open. I hope to pop online during my lunch break to catch up.

Secondly, this list contains more than five books, but I don’t believe I’ve ever had a harder time choosing favorites.

As usual, I did the Goodreads challenge and ended the year at 108 books read. From those 108, I’ve highlighted six. Since I’ve previously shared full reviews for most of the books listed below, I’m only resharing snippets. You can find my full reviews on BookBub, Goodreads, or Amazon along with the blurbs for each book. Click the links to connect to each book’s dedicated on Amazon.

HONORABLE MENTION
I just couldn’t fit this book into my top five, but it’s so dang good, I have to give it an honorable mention at number six.


Cover for Te Moonlight School shows woman in old fashioned gown holding lantern in field at night, full moon behind her

THE MOONLIGHT SCHOOL
By Suzanne Woods Fisher

I have a fondness for stories set in Appalachia. The setting is always so rich and the characters wonderfully authentic. In this case, the year—1911—adds to the vibrancy of the novel. I was unfamiliar with Cora Wilson Stewart prior to reading this book but am now enamored of this woman who made it her mission to bring adult literacy to the backwoods of Kentucky and beyond.

In this fictional account, woven with fact, Cora’s cousin, Lucy agrees to spend six months as Cora’s assistant, unaware of the hardscrabble conditions she’ll encounter. From its colorful assortment of characters, including Brother Wyatt, a singing school master, to Finley James, a young man unconvinced education is for him, and Mollie McGlothin, an elderly woman who knows the history of the surrounding hollers better than any other—the lives of each individual effortlessly sweeps the reader into the pages.

Cora’s defining moment is in creating “moonlight schools”—teaching geared toward illiterate adults, held in the evenings. There is a moment at the end that brought tears to my eyes.


NUMBER 5
DAISY DARKER
By Alice Feeney

Book cover for Daisy Darker shows old house on cliff overlooking sea at night

Each year on Halloween, Daisy Darker and her two sisters, along with her divorced parents, gather at Sea Glass—an old mansion cut off from the mainland every high tide—to celebrate her grandmother’s birthday.

Most of the characters (including an old friend who arrives unexpectedly by boat) detest each other and have closets full of skeletons, but they make a tantalizing melting pot. Reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None,” we’re treated to one puzzling murder after another, tension and suspicion ramping up among the surviving family members as each death occurs.

I’m usually pretty good about figuring out the killer but was caught off guard by the twisty turns at the end of this novel. Once I reached the end, I had to reanalyze what I’d read, revisiting earlier passages in order to appreciate the cleverness of the plot. I enjoyed Feeney’s Rock Paper Scissors but she outdid herself with Daisy Darker.


NUMBER 4
THE CHILDREN ON THE HILL
By Jennifer McMahon

Book cover for The Children on the Hill, shows house at top of hill on fire at night

I devour anything written by Jennifer McMahon, and consider this (along withThe Night Sister) one of her two best releases. Everything about this book appealed to me—the use of dual timelines, a mysterious treatment center, children playing at monster hunting, and a quasi-celebrity cryptid/monster hunter who scours the country in search of creatures for her podcasts.

Perhaps it’s the subject matter of monsters—real and imagined—that made this tale resonate so strongly. McMahon continues to prove she is a compelling storyteller with a deft touch for characters and atmosphere. I consider this tale, story gold!


Book cover for The Recooking at Gossamer Pond shows row boat near shore on foggy lake, tree limb in background

NUMBER 3
THE RECKONING AT GOSSAMER POND
By Jaime Jo Wright

A positively gripping story! This is my third book by Jamie Jo Wright, and it certainly won’t be my last. As usual, she’s created a complex plot spanning two timelines (1907 and present day), and characters who lingered with me long after I’d closed my Kindle. Both mysteries are intriguing, but the characters from 1907 and the strange occurrences that took place—obituaries sent to a newspaper prior to the actual deaths of two town citizens, the appearance of unorthodox twin revivalists, and a town steeped in secrets—were mesmerizing.

It took me several days to read the first half of the book (other commitments kept interrupting), but I blew through the last half in a single sitting. If you like twisty mysteries with historical overtones, amazing characters, and detailed genealogies, don’t miss this riveting novel.


Book cover for The Premonition at Withers Farm shows old barn at dusky sunset, cornstalks in front

NUMBER 2
THE PREMONITION AT WITHERS FARM
By Jaimie Jo Wright

I requested an ARC of this title because I’m addicted to dual timeline mysteries, and I loved the idea of the early twentieth century setting (for the past timeline) and the hint of spiritualism woven into the plot. Goosebumps abound! From the descriptions of carriage rides and nighttime walks on country roads lined by towering corn stalks, to the eerie use of the nursery rhyme Cock Robin, my skin prickled.

After finishing, I immediately looked up the author, signed up for her newsletter, bought the paperback copy, and ordered more of her previous books.


Book cover for The Prince and the Prodigal shows close up of Egyptian-looking man over looking setting with pyramids

NUMBER 1
THE PRINCE AND THE PRODIGAL
By Jill Eileen Smith


I read this book in February of 2022, and it had a lot of challengers during the year, but it still holds as my favorite. A retelling of Joseph’s story from the Old Testament, it parallels his life with that of his older brother Judah.

This is a story of family. Of brotherhood, forgiveness, and redemption. Strength in the face of adversity, healing, and most of all, the belief that God is ever faithful and will deliver. Old Testament fiction is one of my favorite genres. I rank this book as a favorite, not only in the genre, but among my favorite reads of all time. I will certainly go back and read this again. A superb retelling of Joseph’s story and one I highly recommended. 


I’ve already finished my first read of 2023 and am still mulling over how I feel about it. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the above.

Have you read any of these books? Do any of them appeal to you? What was your favorite read of the past year?

A lot to share . . .

Hello, friends, and Happy New Year to all of you! I have several updates I want to share with you, but first off, I’d like to apologize for vanishing for most of the month of December.

On the ninth of the month I came down with a horrid sinus/bronchial infection, a repeat of what I had in the spring after my mother-in-law passed away, only worse. I was so sick I lost four pounds in four days, lost my voice for three days, and never got it completely back for a full two weeks. Fortunately, I didn’t have COVID, and I was mostly recovered by Christmas, so I was able to enjoy the holiday. But even now, in January, I’m still troubled by a cough and have an occasional rasp in my voice.

There is a lot of nasty stuff circulating around out there. I pray you all stay healthy and well!

jack russell dog sleeping in bed with high fever temperature ice bag on head thermometer in mouth covered by a blanket

In other news, most of you know I had a job change over the summer. Although I’m adapting, it’s been an adjustment, and I’m still undergoing training for my new position. My online presence has suffered—both my blogging and visiting blogs—and my writing has taken a hit. During the last few months, I’ve had to make some hard decisions.

My Search for A Literary Agent
I’ve decided to abandon this. I only submitted to six agents with mixed results, but the changes in my employment have made me realize I don’t have the time to invest. Some things just aren’t meant to be, and I can live with that. The problem is, I have two full completed manuscripts ready to publish. I’ve been sitting on them way too long.

Publishing Plans
I have thought about working with a small press again. There is one particular house that I’ve long considered a class act, so a few months ago I sent them a manuscript of my mystery novel, The Keeping Place. They responded by offering me a contract. Unfortunately, after reviewing it, there was one item we couldn’t agree on, so I declined the offer. I could look for another small press, but I think the better road at this point might be to embrace indie publishing. With that in mind, you may see two releases from me in the coming year.

A notepad with pen under the word Write in large letters


My Blog
I’ve always loved blogging, and have kept a steady online presence since 2012—up through late summer of this year when I had to step back. I’m really going to make an effort to get back in the swing of blogging for 2023, but with some adjustments.

I mentioned in the past that I planned to schedule posts but close comments—making my blog more of a newsletter than an interactive platform. I wish I had time to respond to comments, but if I hope to visit and comment on the blogs of my friends, then I need to cut engagement on my own—except when I’m promoting a guest. I will always be available when I schedule someone on my blog.

I already have two guests scheduled this month and I hope you’ll join me in welcoming them when those posts appear.

So that’s the plan for now. I know I’m not the alone in struggling to find balance between family, work, writing, and online commitments. It’s just gotten a bit more difficult for me of late.

My prayer is that 2023 will be kind to you in all aspects of your life. May you find enjoyment in all things, and may health and prosperity enfold you wherever your are. Tomorrow, I will be headed back to the office and plan to share the first of my comments-closed posts. I’ll be sharing my top five reads for 2022—a bit late, but hopefully, still intriguing!

New Release: Sorrowful Soul by Harmony Kent #poetry #poems #griefsupport @harmony_kent

Banner ad for Sorrowful Soul by Harmony Kent, soothing graphic with book cover in various sizes, cover features calla lily, teddy bear to side holding book

Hello, and happy Thursday! Today, I am delighted to share a new release from friend and Story Empire colleague Harmony Kent. In addition to being a first-rate novelist, Harmony is also a gifted author of poetry. She’s here with her latest release, Sorrowful Soul, volume three of her Soul Poetry series. I’ve read all three volumes and highly recommend them. Look for my 5-Star review at the end of this post.

About the Book:

Book cover for Sorrowful Soul by Harmony Kent features soothing tones, and calla lily dripping tears

If we’re lucky, we meet twilight at the front door and old age creeps in on the night breeze.

Even if we make it to our twilight years, the more we age, the more loss we must endure as part of the cycle of life. Many of these poems lament death, but they also relate to broken relationships, severed friendships, and the loss of youth. This book of grief poetry is as much about saying goodbye and working through loss as it is about death and love split asunder.

This heartfelt collection provides company and compassion through the devastating journey of loss and shows us we do not travel this lonely road alone. Within these pages we share shock, numbness and denial, catapult into anger, bargaining, depression, loneliness, and guilt, and—eventually—make the seismic shift into testing the possibility of a new normal and finding acceptance.

Universal Sales Link


Hi, Mae.

Thanks so much for hosting me today.

It’s always wonderful to visit with you.

Here’s a little bit I’d love to share about my latest book of poetry, Sorrowful Soul.  Full of freestyle poems, which provide company and compassion through the devastating journey of grief and loss and onward, this heartfelt collection shows us we do not travel this lonely road alone.

Since Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s excellent book on the stages of grief, we now have an established set of seven stages to the grieving process. Although these stages are non-linear and can be revisited at any time, it’s helpful to have a rough idea of what we might expect during this difficult period of transition. The third stage is commonly known as Guilt.

Here’s an extract from the opening lines of a poem about blame …

From Part 3: Guilt

(From Broken Blossom)

All petals wilt

When torn

From the soil

Too much guilt

Can’t be borne

Like water and oil

Atop the stagnant silt

Of blame and scorn

If you’ve ever felt trapped beneath the crushing weight guilt and remorse, how did you work your way through? Chat with me in the comments. I hope you enjoyed this poetic excerpt and would love to know what you think. Thanks for reading 😊

BUY NOW

AUTHOR BIO:
Harmony Kent spent 13 years in a Zen Buddhist monastery, where she faced her demons and overcame devastating low self-esteem and found freedom. After a life-changing injury, Harmony returned to the world at the tender age of 40, and her life as a writer began.

Author, Harmony Kent

Harmony is an award winning multi-genre author, and her publications include:

The Battle for Brisingamen (Fantasy Fiction) AIA approved

The Glade (Mystery/Thriller) AIA Approved/BRAG Medallion Honouree/New Apple Literary Awards Official Selection Honours 2015

Polish Your Prose: Essential Editing Tips for Authors (Writing/Editing) New Apple Literary Awards Top Medallist Honours 2015

Finding Katie (Women’s Fiction)

Slices of Soul (Soul Poetry Series: Book 1)

Life and Soul (Soul Poetry Series: Book 2)

Sorrowful Soul (Soul Poetry Series: Book 3)

Interludes (Erotic Short Stories)

Interludes 2 (Erotic Short Stories)

Moments (Short Stories and Poetry)

Jewel in the Mud (Zen Musings)

Polish Your Prose (How to Self-Edit)

Creative Solutions (Creative Writing Inspiration)

Backstage (Erotic Romance and Thriller)

FALLOUT (Post-Apocalyptic Dystopia) BRAG Medallion Honouree

The Vanished Boy (Psychological Thriller)

As well as being an avid reader and writer, Harmony also offers reviews and supports her fellow authors. Harmony is always on the lookout for talent and excellence, and will freely promote any authors or books who she feels have these attributes.

Harmony’s Website | Twitter: @harmony_kent | Goodreads: Harmony Kent

BookBub: Harmony Kent | Story Empire (co-authored blog): Harmony Kent

Harmony’s Amazon Author Page: author.to/HarmonysBooks


If you’re not already intrigued by this heartfelt book, I offer my five-star review of this as further recommendation:

In book three of the Soul Poetry series, author Harmony Kent tackles a challenging subject—grief. I’ll be the first to admit that some of the passages are difficult to read, but each and every one resonates with heart. Often that heart is shattered, struggling to heal, always laid bare. The author divided her free verse selections into various stages we experience when confronting loss and grief:

Shock and Disbelief
Denial
Guilt
Anger and Bargaining
Depression, Loneliness and Reflection
Working Through
Acceptance

This allows the reader to peruse the emotion that speaks loudest to them at a particular moment. Each section had specific poems that stood out for me. I was drawn to The Lie of the Night, The Waiting Place, Circles, Triggers, Night Train, Christmas Cheer, and Seasons.

But I have to make special mention of No Words (under Anger and Bargaining) and Winter of Discontent (under Depression, Loneliness, and Reflection). The imagery and the flow in the latter is particularly stunning as evidenced by this short glimpse:

But, perhaps, in embracing the abyss,
I’ll find you where the molten sun
blurs the horizon of night and day
I’ll tear that unforgiving veil asunder.

I recommend all three volumes in the Soul Poetry series for a journey through life, loss, and healing.


Thank you for visiting today. I hope you’ll take a moment to congratulate Harmony and drop a comment below. After you’re through, don’t forget to grab your own copy of Sorrowful Soul. Just follow this link . . .

Universal Sales Link

Blog Tour & Giveaway: Saddled Hearts by Jan Sikes #NewRelease #RomanticSuspense #HorseSanctuary #Rodeo @JanSikes3 @wildrosepress

Banner ad for Saddled Hearts blog tour shows book beside closeup of horse in a stall

Hello, and happy November! I’ve got a great way for you to kick off the month—with a fabulous book that combines romantic suspense, horses, rodeo, music, and even a murder mystery! Jan Sikes is visiting today with her newest release, Saddled Hearts.

Jan is a dear friend, a sweetheart of a person, and a talented author. Saddled Hearts is the final novel in her White Rune series, but reads perfectly as a stand alone. Look for my five-star review at the end of this post. In the meantime, please welcome Jan!


I am thrilled to visit your blog today, Mae, to talk about my new book, Saddled Hearts. Thank you so much for allowing me to take it over. I deeply appreciate your generosity and support! 

When Colt Layne decided to visit the New Age Life Center and consult a medium for communication with his grandfather from beyond the grave, he was in for a shock. I loved writing this scene so much because I could easily recall the first time I stepped inside a New Age store. I’ll share a little bit of his first impression.

EXCERPT:
Inside a small metaphysical shop that led into the New Age Life Center, incense tickled Colt’s nostrils while flute music filtered through small wall-mounted speakers. Crystals and other gemstones lined one wall, while books, tarot and oracle cards, essential oils, and incense lined another. 

He twirled his Stetson and shifted from one booted foot to the other as he waited for Sage Coventry. 

Maybe this was a bad idea. He couldn’t be more out of place if he’d landed in the middle of a foreign country that spoke an entirely different language. 

A young girl with a long, tie-dyed scarf wrapped around her head perched behind the counter, munching on an apple. “You can have a seat if you want, Mr. Layne. Sage will be with you shortly.”

Colt glanced around the space and spied no chairs, only colorful cushions scattered on a rug in front of a bookcase. “I’ll just stand if that’s okay.” 

The girl shrugged. 

In the uncomfortable silence that followed, he meandered to the bookcase and perused the titles. Every subject, from learning to harness the energy of gemstones to reading tarot cards and something called akashic records, filled the shelves. He cleared his throat, put his hat under his arm, then slid out a book entitled Animal Speak by Ted Berner. Now there was something he could relate to.

How much longer? He glanced at his watch. It was already ten minutes past his appointment time. Even though Jag thought highly of the woman’s talents, Colt had his doubts. Sage Coventry was probably an old crone with a pointed witch’s hat and moles on her chin. One of those con artists that tricked desperate folks out of their money. 

Yes, this was a bad idea. He slid the book back onto the shelf and headed toward the door. 


Have you ever visited a metaphysical store? If so, what were your first impressions? The first one I walked into was in Austin, Texas, in the seventies. I remember being a little overwhelmed but oh, so very curious. Let’s chat.

BOOK BLURB:
Colt Layne owns the Layne Horse Sanctuary. He lives an idyllic life between caring for the animals and playing music with his band. That is until a stranger appears with unreasonable demands. When someone murders the man, Colt is arrested. He’s been framed, but by whom and why?  

He needs to talk with his deceased grandfather. But that’s impossible. Or is it?

Sage Coventry is gifted with the ability to communicate with the deceased. Skeptical but desperate, when Colt consults with her, he gets more than messages from beyond the grave as she breezes into his heart with sweet patchouli fragrance and tempting lips he longs to kiss. 

The race against time to clear his name and save the ranch launches them on a mission that brings shocking revelations.


Bio box for Jan Sikes

SADDLED HEARTS
UNIVERSAL PURCHASE LINK

Awesome, right? If you’re not already intrigued by Jan’s excerpt, and the blurb, let me entice you further with . . .

MY REVIEW:
Saddled Hearts wraps up Jan Sikes White Rune series in spectacular fashion. Colt Layne, who had a small role in the previous novel, takes center stage along with Sage Coventry, a young widow who can communicate with the dead. When a stranger shows up on Colt’s ranch claiming to have won it in a card game from Colt’s uncle years ago, Colt contacts Sage to try to reach his uncle beyond the Veil. 

Although the novel has a supernatural thread woven throughout, it’s the mystery in the physical world I found most compelling. Colt is framed for murder, then freed on bail, but his troubles don’t end there. The ranch—which he uses to run a horse sanctuary—is plagued by a series of unexplained mishaps and accidents. If that’s not enough, his estranged father, an alcoholic who deserted Colt when he was a boy, shows up claiming to be a changed man thanks to his new wife.

From romance to family dynamics, friendships to rivalries, old grudges and buried secrets, there are a plethora of threads twined throughout this engaging novel. I loved the strength of the character relationships, as well as the care and attention the author put into showing the daily operation of a horse sanctuary. I was enchanted with Ghost, an abused horse who arrives part way through the story and was on pins and needles until that thread resolved itself. The overall arc of who framed Colt played out in a manner I did not suspect. A wonderful blend of romance, mystery, danger, and even music, Saddled Hearts is the perfect ending to a wonderful series. Highly recommended! 


Thanks for visiting today. Don’t forget Jan has a scavenger hunt going on for extra fun (see block after the blurb for details). You can connect with Jan at all her social media sites.

WEBSITE | BLOG | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | PINTEREST | GOODREADS
BOOKBUB | INSTAGRAM |  AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE

SADDLED HEARTS
UNIVERSAL PURCHASE LINK

Happy Halloween!

It’s pumpkin day, and for the first time in forever I don’t have a pumpkin. Somehow, I didn’t manage to purchase one this year. I’m bummed because I normally go on an excursion each year to find the perfect plump orange gourd.

I did check a few places, but by the time I got around to my search, there were few offerings left. I did, however, manage to fill a basket with assorted funky gourds. Those bumpy, silly things have made me blissfully happy since I was a kid. Did you know they’re among the oldest cultivated plants, and were once used as water containers by the Egyptians?

In my neck of the woods, I will be handing out candy to little ghosts and imps tonight since it’s time for trick-or-treat. My husband and I were on vacation all last week (more on that later this week), but I did manage to stack up on chocolate bars for my little visitors. When I was a kid, I loved this night. Even as an adult, I find it fun and filled with magic.

I’ve closed comments as I expect to be crazy busy today (first work day back from vacation) and tonight (handing out treats), but I couldn’t let the moment pass without wishing everyone a . . .

Happy Halloween graphic with cute black cat, jack-o-lanterns, own in tree and spider

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Guest Author, Sandra Cox with Geller’s Find #newrelease #timetravel #western

It’s exciting to have so many new releases coming out among friends! Thanks for joining me for the third guest author visit of this week. Today, I’m happy to welcome Sandra Cox with her latest release, Geller’s Find. Look for my review at the end of this post, but in the interim, sit back and enjoy as Sandra share’s an excerpt and tells us a little about this fabulous time-travel western!

Banner ad for Geller's Find by Sandra Cox shows book cover superimposed over rugged mountain background

Excerpt:

“Dammit.” 

The hair on the back of his neck rose and his nerves twitched. He’d never seen anything like that rock before. He nudged it with his foot. When it didn’t budge, he bent to pick it up. 

The ground under his feet trembled. 

The chiastolite glowed. The markings shimmered. 

What the hell?

He flapped his arms, trying to balance himself as the ground dropped an inch.  A perfect circle below his feet gave way.  The stone stayed in place.

He fell into a cylinder of rock and stone. 

The bottom dropped.

His stomach flopped and he swirled down.  

The wind whistled in his ears as he tumbled into a deep black hole that went on forever. The chill in the air fell away. The further down he went, the hotter the air. The rocks around him began to glow. Good God. Either he was heading for hell or the earth’s core, and neither was where he wanted to be. His grip on the rifle tightened as he bounced off the hot stones that closed around him as he whirled in a tube of rock. 

Time had no meaning. Seconds, minutes, maybe more passed as the cyclone of air spun him around. His stomach pushed up to his throat and he fought off nausea.

With a scraping sound, the spinning lurched to a stop.

Then as if an elevator button was punched, he started upward. Only unlike an elevator there was no floor, just rough rock gravity glued him against.

Up. Up. Up. Faster and faster. Then momentum stopped. His body quivered. A force thrust upward and opened.

He dropped.

Hard earth rose to meet him. 

With a thud, he landed.

Photo on cowboy hat under the woods "Character Facts"

Doctor Luke Geller is a full-time history professor and part-time archeologist. 
His specialty is Native American artifacts.
Instead of a gun, he carries a Hopi throwing stick.
He likes cats, horses with a sense of humor,

and women who aren’t looking for a commitment.

Author Sandra Cox in a candid shot

Bio:
Sandra, who also writes as S. Cox, is a vegetarian, animal lover and avid gardener. She liveswith her husband, their dog and cats in sunny North Carolina.

An award-winning author, her stories consist of all things Western and more.

Foodie Facts:
She spent a number of years in the Midwest chasing down good Southern BBQ. By the time she moved to North Carolina where Southern BBQ is practically a staple, she’d become a vegetarian.

Pineapple is a must-have on pizza, along with black olives and onions.

She loves pumpkin waffles. Pumpkin cream cheese, not so much.

Connect with Sandra at:
https://sandracoxwriter.com | https://cowboytrivia.blogspot.com

MY REVIEW:

Geller’s Find is pure, delightful escapist reading.

Dr. Luke Geller is a history professor with an interest in archeology. While digging for potsherds, he stumbles across an old Winchester rifle that inadvertently tosses him back in time to the No Gold Ranch, owned by Lily Winter Tremaine. The ranch is run by Lily and her two closest friends. Luke soon finds himself hired on as a ranch hand, helping the three women defend the property against possible takeover. If that sounds like the set up for an old fashioned western mixed with time travel–yes and no.

Some things play out as expected but there are several surprises along the way. The strength of the book lies in its characters, its feel good vibe, and a huge heartwarming HEA ending. There’s even a cat who factors into the action! You can’t go wrong with this one. It’s guaranteed to leave you with a contented and sloppy grin at the end. A winner!

PURCHASE GELLER’S FIND

The Midnight Rambler by C. S. Boyack #newrelease #paranormal #urbanfantasy #halloween #lizzzieandthehat

Happy Tuesday! I’ve got a great guest for you today, but before we kick things off, I need to mention that I am over at Teri Polen’s place for Bad Moon Rising. Staci Troilo and I are joining in the Halloween bash Teri throws every year.

The enormity of work behind Bad Moon Rising boggles my mind, but Teri gladly tackles it each year, showcasing the work of other authors. She’s a fantastic teller of tales herself. I can personally vouch, as I’ve read everything she’s released—from her spooky ghost story, Sarah, to her sci-fi adventure, The Gemini Connection, and dystopian duology Subject A36 and The Insurgent, they’re all wonderfully entertaining. You can find Teri’s complete catalog on her Amazon Author Page.

And now . . . Drum roll, please!

‘Tis the season to kick back with Halloween, and I’ve got just the read for you! The Midnight Rambler is the latest entry in Craig Boyack’s Lizzie and the Hat series (look for my review at the end of this post). I’ve enjoyed all the entries in this highly imaginative series.

Although each of these novellas are standalone, there are some reoccurring characters and themes for long time followers. My absolute favorite is something called Night Bump Radio. I love the whole conspiracy theory element and most especially, the callers. I could go on about this little gem that pops up in each Lizzie and the Hat novella, but I’ll let Craig take it from here. Craig is a long-time, good friend, so I felt fine in specifically asking him for a post on Night Bump Radio.

He delivered . . .


Spooky full moon with bats, bare tree branches and a blackbird illuminated in front
image courtesy of Pixabay

Thanks for inviting me over, Mae. I’m always willing to return the favor and am thrilled to be here. Mae requested a specific topic for this stop and it kind of surprised me. Today, we’re talking about Night Bump Radio.

I have to drop a little history, because The Hat Series includes a lot of cameos and Easter eggs. Nobody has to be aware of what came before, but it’s kind of fun for long-term fans. Pete Rogers originated in a novel called Will O’ the Wisp. Eventually, I recycled him and wrote a short story called Night Bump Radio.

This involved Pete broadcasting a late-night show about things that go bump in the night. As a Nevada native, I’m not embarrassed to admit I designed it after a broadcaster from Pahrump, Nevada whose show was kind of like Sea to Sea. If you know, you’ll get it.

Anyway, I was looking for crazy things to include in The Hat Series, and the hat is kind of technology impaired. He understands the radio, and found this broadcast. Pete interviews people about the craziest conspiracy theories I can discover online. I’m always looking for a good conspiracy, but it has to involve aliens, cryptids, or the paranormal.

Eventually, the locals invented a cryptic monster to blame for the actions of Lizzie and the hat. Things that seem crazy in their locality are blamed on Hellpox. (Kudos to Staci Troilo for that one, because she was always poxing those annoying things in our top secret Story Empire fortress.)

The fictional Hellpox is about as far from Lizzie as you can get. He’s a towering monster covered with boils and sores. She’s a cute girl in her twenties. This provides a lot of fun when she gets annoyed by the comparisons.

I try to have Pete interview people who are way off base, but also some that are pretty close to the mark about the capers my heroes get involved in. The hat thinks Night Bump Radio is a good source of evidence.

In the new story, Pete gets to talk about Reptile Blood, which is a kind of alien takeover conspiracy. There’s a bit about the big storm being a government conspiracy involving black planes and mind control drug that get blamed for rising inflation. I enjoyed that caller lamenting the price of malt liquor and hope you will, too. The hat even tries to call in this time to get Pete to help gather evidence.

Night Bump Radio has a lot of fans, but the stories are about Lizzie and the hat fighting against monsters. Night Bump is a fixture in these tales.

book cover for The Midnight Rambler shows close up of spooky halloween scarecrow with jack-o-lantern face and witch's hat

Cover Blurb:
Something evil is after the hat. The ageless enemies have battled many times, but this time Lizzie is wearing the hat. She’s also up against a ticking clock, in that if she can’t find the maker of her new friend’s medicine he will die.

The Rambler has kidnapped the only witch capable of making Ray’s medicine in an attempt to make the hat sloppy in his efforts. He’s also flooded the streets with deadly minions to impede any progress our heroes might make.

As if that weren’t enough, Lizzie is facing more of life’s struggles, both financially and mechanically. This all goes down in the middle of a huge flood event that she’s ill equipped to handle.

Join Lizzie and the hat as they battle the elements, the paranormal, and a being of pure evil. Lizzie might be battling some personal demons along the way as she and Ray grow closer.

GET YOUR COPY HERE

bio box for author, C.S. Boyack

Connect with Craig at the following haunts:
Blog | My Novels | Twitter | Goodreads | Facebook | Pinterest | BookBub

MY REVIEW:

If you enjoy good, campy fun you’re sure to be entertained by the latest entry in the Lizzie and the Hat universe. This time an old nemesis of the hat shows up to wreak havoc and even scores. In order to flush the hat from hiding, “the rambler” kidnaps the only person capable of producing medicine for a new friend of Lizzie’s—well, maybe a little more than a friend. Ray is a Frankenstein-like monster, and like Frankenstein’s monster, he has a great heart.

Long time followers of the series will recognize certain repeat characters and elements (like Night Bump Radio), but this, like others in the series, is designed to be read as a standalone. There’s plenty of monster-hunting, music (Lizze and the hat front a cover band), great snarky dialogue, and even a few moments to tug heartstrings.

Highly imaginative, this is a great Halloweenish-adventure that can be read any time of year, but is guaranteed to make an extra splash during jack-o-lantern season.


Now that you know all about Lizzie, the Hat, and their latest challenge, are you ready to go Rambling? Hop over to Amazon and one-click to join in the Halloween fun!

GET YOUR COPY HERE