Guest Post: Writing horror and supernatural stories by Robbie Cheadle #DarkVisions #HorrorAnthology #NewRelease

I’m happy to welcome guest blogger and author, Robbie Cheadle, today with a look at how she became interested in writing horror and supernatural tales. Already an accomplished children’s book author, Robbie is now venturing into other genres. Her stories, The Haunting of William, and The Willow Tree,  are featured in the new anthology, Dark Visions. Perfect reading at this time of year, this goose bump-inducing collection is high on my TBR. Please welcome Robbie with her first guest appearance on my blog!

banner ad for Dark Visions, a collection of supernatural stories

As a pre-teen I was fascinated by horror and supernatural books and stories. At the age of ten I read Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. It scared me to death, but I loved the thrill. I steadfastly read my way through all the horror and supernatural books I could get my hands on.

I started writing in 2015 by accident. I had been writing poems for many years and made up stories from time to time for my children, but I had never consciously sat down and tried to write a story. The Sir Chocolate series of books evolved with Michael through a process of joining our ideas together and creating rhyming verse stories to help him to learn to read and write and practice his spelling.

During 2017, I decided to write the story of my mom’s early years growing up in the town of Bungay, England during WWII. That was the first time I actively plotted a story line. A lot of historical research was required for the book to establish the setting and enable the reader to understand the historical facts of the time and follow the timeline of the war. I completed While the Bombs Fell in May 2018 and it has recently become available on Amazon.

This historical research for my mom’s book resulted in my discovering a lot about the folklore of her hometown, much of which is steeped in superstition and mythology. Bungay abounds with ghosts and other mythological creatures and these gave me a lot of fodder for my imagination. The idea of trying my hand at a darker story emerged. I have written four short stories in the supernatural and horror genre. I submitted two of these for Dan Alatorre’s Word Weaver competitions this year and I received an excellent critique in respect of both. I implemented Dan’s advice and resubmitted the two stories to him and was very thrilled when they were accepted for his new horror anthology, Dark Visions.

BLURB:
Book cover for Dark Visions, a horror anthology shows cloaked, hooded figure holding a glowing sphereFrom the creators of the #1 bestseller The Box Under The Bed horror anthology comes Dark Visions, 34 horror stories from 27 authors.

Tag along on a con man’s New Orleans vacation where he gets more than he bargained for from a mysterious voodoo shop. A collection of family photos reveals an eerie secret about a beloved grandmother’s true nature. A child’s horrifying memories haunt her into adulthood. A new camp counselor learns that the camp has secrets she might not live to reveal.

Edited and compiled by Amazon bestselling author Dan Alatorre, this anthology of horror brings together the minds and pens of more than two dozen amazing authors.

Dark Visions will take you into the realm of the eerie and macabre, with thrills and chills from:

bestselling author Dan Alatorre (The Navigators),
bestselling author Jenifer Ruff (Everett),
bestselling author Allison Maruska (The Fourth Descendant),
bestselling author J. A. Allen,
award-winning author MD Walker,
award-winning author Juliet Nubel,
award-winning author Dabney Farmer,
award-winning author Sharon E. Cathcart,
award-winning author Heather Kindt,
award-winning author Bonnie Lyons,
award-winning author Sharon Connell,
award-winning author Geoff LePard,
award-winning author Anne Marie Andrus,
award-winning author Christine Valentor,
award-winning author BA Helberg,
Ernesto San Giacomo,
award-winning author Alana Turner,
Nick Vossen,
award-winning author Robbie Cheadle,
Betty Valentine,
award-winning author Frank Parker,
award-winning author Bonnie Lyons,
award-winning author Lori Micken,
Chuck Jackson,
Ellen Best,
Victoria Clapton

Perfect for Halloween or any time, these stories will make you think twice before spending the night alone, planting a tree in your garden, or even visiting your mother.

Consider yourselves warned.

Purchase Dark Visions from Amazon

Connect with Robbie Cheadle at the following haunts:
Twitter | Facebook | Blog 

Guest blogger Julie Holmes: Writing by the Seasons

It’s finally starting to feel like fall in central Pennsylvania after an unseasonably warm October. That change in temps is the perfect intro for my next guest who takes an in-depth look at using the seasons to influence the plot of your story.

Julie Holmes blogs at Facets of a Muse and is an uber supportive friend and blogger. She’s got a fun and quirky sense of humor that shows in posts about her muse (who is always drafting mine for pub crawls), the writing life, gardening and cats. You can’t go wrong with cats. Just saying.

Hop over to Julie’s, check out her blog, then show her some comment luv below. She’s placed her own wonderful spin on writing for the seasons. Take it away, Julie…

~ooOOoo~

Hello! *waves* A hearty “Thank You” to Mae for once again inviting me to guest on her blog. This is a nice place, Mae. Can’t wait to hear more about your new series (hint 🙂 ).

Since Mae left me up to my own devices when it came to a subject for a guest post (insert evil laugh here 😀 ), I shuffled through my mental idea bag as an October rainstorm poured outside. Not to mention Mae’s recent post about writing by the seasons on Story Empire. Well, it seems Mother Nature is trying to get my attention.

Living in Minnesota allows me the privilege of experiencing all four seasons. Each season seems to have its own attitudes and personality. Spring is hopeful and happy—most of the time. When Spring is moody and rainy, she often makes up for it with rainbows.

beautiful rainbow over open field

Summer is brilliant and fun-loving, but sometimes likes to be the center of attention a little too much with blasting heat or angry storms.

golf course backed by lake

Autumn is quiet, the friend you call when you want a companion on a walk. Sometimes she can be a blowhard, which just ruins her dye job.

autumn bank and tree in fiery colors over dark lake

And winter, well, they don’t call it the Old Man for nothing. Winter’s attitude swings from peaceful stillness to howling bluster.

cluster of trees covered with snow

Okay, I know not everyone has all four seasons, and if they do, they may not be as distinct as they are in the upper Midwest. When you experience one or more of the seasons, using the seasons as part of your setting is almost second nature. The fun comes in when you use the season as more than just the backdrop for your story.

Say you’re writing a romance. Summer just begs to be the backdrop. Think walks along the beach or summer dresses or lounging in the sun. Eating dinner on a patio. Barbeques. Pretty typical fare, right? Well, unless it’s one of those holiday romance stories about Christmas parties and sleigh rides and cuddling by the fireplace. Still, pretty typical.

Okay, now give the season a bigger part in the story. Maybe switch it up a bit. Spring rains, thunderstorms, and wind. The heroine gets stuck in the mud, and the hunky neighbor guy stops to tow her out. If it hadn’t been spring and rainy, it wouldn’t have been muddy, and the hunky neighbor would have to have another excuse to cross paths with the heroine.

Let’s try autumn. Falling leaves, apple cider, pumpkin patches, harvest, Halloween. Our heroine is helping her grandfather get the harvest in. Her grandfather has a heart attack, and can’t finish getting the harvest in. She can’t do it alone. Along comes the hunky grandson of her grandfather’s “arch enemy”, who offers to help bring in the harvest.

Hmm. What about winter? Winter’s easy. PIck anything: furnace goes out, roads blocked by a snowstorm, the holidays. It’s a gimmee, that FREE space on the bingo card.

For example, in my upcoming book, I use winter as my season character. One of the key scenes between the main female character and main male character takes place only because of a blizzard. The blizzard forces them together, because the female protagonist can’t easily get to a safe refuge, and the male protagonist won’t let her stay alone. (You’ll have to read the book for the rest—mwahahahaha!)

In the second book, spring is my chosen season, because the snow melt of spring causes rivers to run high and fast, perfect for disposing of a body. And they’re cold, which hampers the M.E. determining time of death. On a less morbid note, the awakening of spring flowers and fresh leaves on the trees has a romantic effect on the story. Sudden spring storms can also toss wrenches into plans.

Summer offers possibilities beyond outdoor concerts and swimsuits. How about a gardener who has a family emergency and asks the neighbor to water the garden. Guess what? The neighbor either forgets and the garden dries up, or the neighbor remembers, but it rains for three days straight, and the garden drowns. What does the gardener do upon returning home? If they got along before the emergency, do they still get along? What if the gardener was growing his prize-winning dahlias? Or a special tomato hybrid he was betting on to help him win first place at the state fair?

Use the season as more than just window dressing. Use it to enhance conflict. The key is to use the season to affect the choices the protagonist or antagonist must make in the story. Those choices can take the story in one direction or another. Use it to make solving the crime more difficult, to force two opposing characters together, to make characters take alternate routes that take them to no-man’s land or paradise.

Try to utilize the season in a way that is unexpected. A sudden summer deluge can cause a mudslide that can keep the bad guys from getting to the hero, or strand the heroine with no way of contacting help. A fall bonfire can get out of control, a hay ride can be the vehicle of romance, or a leaf pile can cover a body. And there’s Halloween. Let your imagination run.

Another hearty thank you to Mae for hosting me. I’m off to check out the changing leaves and figure out how I can cast my favorite season in a story.

 

Update and Book of the Month #ADesolateHour

Weekends are too short, but this one was productive. Hubby and I grabbed breakfast at Panera’s Saturday morning, then hit Home Depot followed by the grocery store. Afterward, he worked on home projects while I hit eight—yes, count ‘em EIGHT—stores for various items I needed. Two of them were furniture stores (I need new dining room furniture) where I snapped photos on my iPhone to share with hubs later. I’d planned to make a veggie pie and chicken for dinner, but the evening ran too late so we ended up ordering pizza instead.

two cats in silhouette with tails twined into a heart, sitting on branch above lake in autumn setting

I got to see the first episode of the new Once Upon a Time—my absolute favorite show on television. I wish I could say I’m gonzo about it, but it’s too early to tell. I adore Lana Parilla and her character, the Evil Queen/Regina Mills/Roni, but I’m not sure how she’s going to fare in this new setting and storyline. Time will tell.

Book cover for A Desolate Hour by Mae Clair shows a small town overlooking a river at night, full moon overhead, cover in wash of green red and black with white letteringI spent Sunday working on an author presentation I have to do later this week. I still have a lot more to do on it, but the worst is behind me. I was also gobsmacked to learn that A Desolate Hour was chosen as the Book of the Month by book reviewer Kevin Cooper of the blog Books and Music. If you’d like to take a looksee at what Kev had to say about ADH and my Point Pleasant series, you can find his post here.

I’ve got a busy and exciting week ahead, including shopping for a new iPhone. In two weeks, I leave for Florida and vacation. In the meantime, I’ve got some cool guest bloggers coming up along with a few posts from yours truly. Stay tuned!

Happy October and Happy-Almost-Halloween!

 

Guest Blogger Carmen Stefanescu: The Qualities of a Good Book

Today, I’m delighted to welcome my good friend, Carmen Stefanescu back to my blog with a post about the qualities that go into a good book. I’d love to get your opinion in the comments, and I know Carmen would too. So….

To be or not to be a good book?
By Carmen Stefanescu

The question What makes a good book? has been popping up in my head quite a bit lately while reading, and especially, writing my own books.

I stop writing only to reread what I’ve written and wonder, “Is this good?”

Now, what is a good book? I think it’s a legitimate question to ask ourselves. What defines good? Should it be my own definition, someone else’s, or based on popular opinion? The opinion of what makes a good book is almost entirely subjective.
Think of an old favorite book you’ve read again and again. Can you picture it in your head, almost as if you had a copy in your hands, ready to open and start reading right now?

A woman sitting on the beach reading a book. Her back is to the camera, with ocean in front. Done in a wash of faded colors

Think about it for a while. Pick the story apart and mull it over a bit. What makes  you love the story? What makes you keep coming back to it time and again? What makes your mind wander back to the story and muse about it? What qualities of that book do you love and cherish?

What are the elements of a good book for me? Well, here’s what I have in mind, speaking from a reader’s POV:

PLOT
The best kind of plot is one that keeps people reading because they are so engrossed and intrigued that they just can’t put the book down. Personally, I like when I don’t know what’s going to happen in a plot. Predictability is something I tend to dislike because, in my eyes, nothing kills a story faster than too much predictability. Predictability in small doses is fine – but readers don’t want to be right all the time. Unnecessary scenes that don’t add to the plot or character growth in any way, shape, or form should be edited – or cut out completely.

ELEMENTS YOU RELATE TO
It doesn’t matter whether I’m reading  mystery, paranormal or fantasy as long as there are realistic and relatable elements to the plot and characters. Realism may not apply to realms of fiction, but elements of realism always should. Nothing is perfect, not even in a utopian setting, because people are not perfect. The imperfections add a relatable element whatever story is being told.

Emotion is probably the highest relatable factor for me when I’m reading. I may never have met a vampire or kissed a shapeshifter, but I know the tugs of love and the irrational thoughts and passions that come with it. The circumstances don’t matter as long as readers feel along with the characters. It’s a challenge for writers, yes, but it leads to more of a deep and meaningful story.

CONSISTENCY
Storytelling needs to have a flow to the writing – and there’s nothing that breaks a flow in storytelling like inconsistencies in characters, backstories, or the writing style itself.

Don’t you hate it when you’re reading a book that’s keeping you guessing – only to hit a snag and get thrown out of the story completely because you read something that just didn’t make sense?  Writers need to know their worlds, the worlds’ rules, and the characters inhabiting said worlds. Readers will settle for the  easy resolution but they don’t like them because they don’t reflect real life, which almost always bears struggle and conflict. Happily ever afters are preferred by readers, but they’re much more meaningful if the characters have ‘paid their dues’ to earn the HEA.

conceptual idea with an open book standing on a hillside, with clouds above and 3D images of a chair and trees within the bookWRITING
I often know a book will be good if I am envious of the writing. While that sounds a weird thing to say, keep in mind that I am a writer myself. If I can read a first passage in a book and think, “Wow, I wish I could write like this,” then that’s saying something, isn’t it?

Though tastes vary, descriptions aren’t a bad thing since a writing style can help give a book its own specific kind of atmosphere. The point, is less is more. Not many readers like to barrel through paragraphs of description, no matter how beautifully written, because it slogs down the story.

CHARACTERS
I may be a bit critical, but I always fall hard for characters. I look at it this way: why read about characters I don’t like? I want to root for that character no matter what. I want to stand behind him/her and his/her decisions. I want to follow him/her on whatever journey is unfolding in his/her life.

Flaws  and ambiguity. They’re necessary. Why did so many of us Pride and Prejudice fans come out loving  Darcy, arrogant man that he could be? Because he was flawed and ambiguous only to show greater depth and emotion than any reader had likely imagined.

To conclude – I leave the question to all your followers: what makes a good book for you? Make it a big question of the day, because, honestly, isn’t a good book what anyone is hoping for any time they sit down and open a book to read?

Keep your reader reading.

Author, Carmen Stefanescu smiling for cameraAUTHOR BIO
Carmen Stefanescu resides in Romania, the native country of the infamous vampire Count Dracula, but where, for about 50 years of communist dictatorship, just speaking about God, faith, reincarnation or paranormal phenomena could have led someone to great trouble – the psychiatric hospital if not to prison.

High school teacher of English and German in her native country, and mother of two daughters, Carmen Stefanescu survived the grim years of oppression, by escaping in a parallel world that of the books.

Several of her poems were successfully published in a collection of Contemporary English Poems, Muse Whispers vol.1 and Muse Whispers vol.2 by Midnight Edition Publication, in 2001 and 2002.

Her first novel, Shadows of the Past, was released in 2012 by Wild Child Publishing, USA.

Carmen joined the volunteer staff at Marketing For Romance Writers Author blog and is the coordinator of #Thursday13 posts.

Books by Carmen Stefanescu

shadowsofthepastbkBook cover for Till Life Do Us Part by Carmen Stefanescu shows a trees at night framing a full moonShadows of the Past
Paranormal/light romance/light historical/light mystery

Till Life Do Us Part
Paranormal/light romance/light historical/light mystery


You can stalk the author at the following haunts:
Blog | Twitter | Pinterest | Facebook | Goodreads | Google+ | Amazon

BONUS THOUGHT:
I don’t know about where you live, but here, in Romania we experienced a heat wave this past summer with temperature over 45 Celsius degrees. Hot! The weather brought thunderstorms and lightening strikes. Did I say I was happy for summer to end, even though I don’t really like autumn? Here are my feelings about autumn:

AUTUMN AGAIN 

Autumn has turned up

on my doorstep.

Again !

country lane on a wet rainy autumn day,Drenched, tempestuous, frowned.

Rusted leaves are coiled

in her dripping hair,

a gray, foggy cape

wrapping her to the ground.

She pierces my soul with

cold, distant eyes.

Her breath smells of

rottenness and rain.

Dejected I bend my head,

and I sigh.

My hopes she forgot

where I lived were in vain.

Guest Blogger: Staci Troilo on Love Stories and Fathers

I’m super excited about today’s guest blogger. Staci Troilo has become a good friend in a short time, and wow, does she have a great post to share today! I was excited when I saw the title. Why? Because, as a writer, all of my books place a strong emphasis on family relationships, with the vast majority involving a father-figure in one manner or another. And if that isn’t enough, Staci discusses the difference between…well, you’ll just have to read and see for your yourself, as I don’t want to lessen the impact of this marvelous post.

Please welcome back Staci Troilo with Love Stories and Fathers

~ooOOoo~

Hi, Mae. Thanks for asking me back. And hi, everyone. I appreciate you giving me a few moments of your time today.

The working title for the first novel I wrote was Daddy Issues. I say “working title” because the publisher didn’t like it for a mystery. At the time, I thought they were insane. That title was perfect. Now I’m on the fence. True, it’s not the standard mystery title, but given the humor in the book, its originality could work in the story’s favor. But it’s a moot point. They changed the title to Mystery Heir. That title doesn’t really do anything for me, but what’s done is done.

Why am I telling you all this?

a surgeon in cap, mask and gownMy first novel had all kinds of dads—from the idyllic Brady Bunch dad to the epitome of a deadbeat. In my new release, Out and About, I’ve got two domineering fathers. A doctor and a lawyer, both successful, both opinionated, and both with definite thoughts about their kids.

I call this series mainstream fiction, but the novels in it are really love stories. Not romances, but love stories.

What’s the difference?

Some say a romance has a happily-ever-after ending, but love stories endings aren’t so cut-and-dried. Others say romances start before the couple is together and end when they commit to each other, where love stories start with a couple who is already together, but in a troubled relationship.

I don’t know that any of that matters. In my romances, there is often a lot of other stuff going on, but the story couldn’t exist without the relationship arc. In my love stories, if we took the relationship out of the equation, we would still have a story. Possibly a different story with a different focus, but still a story.

I always identified myself as a romance writer. But a few years ago, my agent told me the NY market was saturated. Editors said my writing was sound, but they just didn’t have an opening for me. So she asked me to switch genres. I was sad. Then angry. I resisted, then I acquiesced, only to feel like a sell-out. I finally fired my agent and started working with a small press who loved the concept of my Medici Protectorate romance series. But I had made so much progress on my mainstream novel, I decided to finish it. Not that it was easy. I resisted that story from nearly beginning to end.

Then the most amazing thing happened.

I fell in love with it. Once it wasn’t a requirement for me to complete but a labor of love, I was hooked. The result was Type and Cross, a love story that went on to receive a 5-star rating from Readers’ Favorite. Fans adore that story. And I got hooked on those characters.

That begrudged standalone novel became the first book in one of my favorite series to write.

Out and About, book two of what is now called the Cathedral Lake series, was a joy to write. The words just flowed. And yes, it’s another love story. Why not a romance? Because the real story is about two people with daddy issues, who get caught up in a dangerous situation, who have to address their relationships with their families and their positions in their professional fields.

Two people who may be in love. But that’s not really what the story is about.

Silhouette of a couple embracing on the shore of a lakeWhat is it about? Here’s the description:

Freedom from jail. Freedom from family.

Jensen Keller covets freedom. Probably because he doesn’t have any. He’s abided by his father’s every whim for years. Until the one time he rebelled. And nearly lost his family. Now he’s been summoned back to Cathedral Lake only to discover freedom has been granted to the one person who should be eternally denied it—Wade Unger, the man responsible for his sister’s death.

Bella Perish wants nothing more than to be free from her domineering father. In an unexpected turn of events, she’s not only granted freedom from him—autonomy is forced on her. And her budding relationship with Jensen looks like collateral damage. As she works to repair the relationships that matter most to her, her new found independence is compromised. Worse, her very life is threatened.

An account of repression, revelation, bravery, and contrition, Out and About chronicles the merits and miseries of freedoms denied and gained.

If that interests you, perhaps you’ll enjoy this brief excerpt:

Book cover for Out and About by Staci Troilo with open handcuffs and a bullet blast hole“Why didn’t you tell me you were a defense attorney?”

“Why didn’t you tell me your family was a victim of a crime?”

“Who walks around saying that?” His words, too loud for a private discussion, carried through the hallway and caused people to turn their gazes on him. He grabbed her arm, pulled her aside, away from the crowd, and lowered his voice. “Seriously. When people first meet, they discuss their careers. They don’t mention the most horrible events in their histories. That’s at least a third date discussion.”

She scoffed. “That’s not my understanding of what happens on a third date.”

He gritted his teeth, clenched his fists. “Now’s not the time, Bella. You should have said something.”

“I told you I work for my father. That’s he’s difficult. If you were really interested, you could have looked us up. Then you would have known.”

“How? You never even told me your last name.”

That left her momentarily speechless. When she finally spoke, her tone sounded resigned. “You’re right. I guess I didn’t. I felt like I was really getting to know you. It didn’t occur to me that I never gave you my full name. Or asked yours. Which, by the way, you never volunteered.”

Jensen sighed. “Yeah, well, that part’s not all your fault.”

“So, are we good?”

His mouth popped open, and he had to make a determined effort to close it. “You’re kidding, right?”

“What? It was just a little misunderstanding.”

“A little—” He ran his hand through his hair. “Bella, I’m here to try to keep a man behind bars. A man who killed my sister and nearly destroyed my family. How can I possibly be involved with the woman working to set him free?”

So that’s a glimpse into Out and About, available now on Amazon and iBooks, and coming soon to Barnes and Noble. If you like drama, mystery, and of course love, I hope you’ll check it out.

About Staci:
Author Staci Troilo in a candid pose
Staci Troilo has always loved fiction, ever since her parents read her fairy tales when she was little. Today, her interest are much more eclectic. She loves getting lost in sci-fi battles, fantasy realms, horror worlds, suspenseful intrigues, and romantic entanglements.

As goes her reading, so goes her writing. She can’t pick a single genre to focus on, so she doesn’t even try. She’s proud to say she’s a multi-genre author.

When she’s not reading or writing, she’s spending time with family and friends, possibly cooking for them, or maybe enjoying an afternoon in the pool. To learn more about her, visit http://stacitroilo.com, sign up for her newsletter, or connect with her on social media.

Facebook | Facebook Group | Twitter | Google+ | Pinterest | LinkedIn | Goodreads

Guest Blogger Staci Troilo on Alchemy, Michelangelo, and the Protectorate

I’ve got a super fun treat for you today with guest blogger Staci Troilo. We originally connected through Twitter and realized we had a lot in common: We’re both Pennsylvania girls and we both come from a strong Italian background. And, of course, we both love to write–and read. Staci’s latest release, BLEEDING HEART, is a fabulous 5-Star mix of supernatural and contemporary, political intrigue, history, familial bonds, mystery and more. She’s written a really cool post about the basis behind it, which I think you’ll enjoy. She’s also got a fun question for you at the end.

Please welcome Staci Troilo!

~ooOOoo~

Thank you, Mae, for inviting me to talk to your readers today. I’m excited to be here.

Hi, everyone. I was so excited when Mae told me you guys are fans of the paranormal. I write many genres, but paranormal is one of my favorites.

The paranormal genre covers a wide range of topics—everything from witches to werewolves, vampires to Valkyries. I seem to like it all. But for one of my current series, I decided to combine my love of the supernatural with my heritage. I’m Italian, and probably obnoxiously proud of it. So when I think “Italy” and “supernatural,” I naturally came to one conclusion.

open book with candle and alchemy pestleAlchemy.

The Renaissance always fascinated me. The art, the architecture, the culture… absolutely captivating. So after a little bit of research and a lot of imagination (or maybe the other way around), the mythology of the Medici Protectorate series took shape.

I never really wanted to write historical novels, so I’ve based this story in the present, but with a heavy focus on the past. Without giving too many spoilers away, I’ll say that in this world, the Medici didn’t die out, despite what people believe. Generation after generation, they are watched over by a secret society. Until the day when Michelangelo’s prophecy comes to fruition and they are poised to rise again to rule Italy.

Sounds pretty realistic—prophecy aside, anyway. So where does the alchemy come into play?

The Protectorate who protects this line? They’ve been given marble daggers that Michelangelo created from his personal quarry, daggers that have been sculpted by the artist himself and forged in alchemical rituals to provide their wielders with specific powers.

Yep, that’s right. In this world, Michelangelo was an alchemist. Quite a successful one, at that. He achieved an alchemist’s ultimate goals—mutating metals and conquering aging. Can you imagine what that means in this world?

It means the man is still alive. Centuries later. And he has untold wealth, experience, and knowledge. Seems that would make him a formidable opponent. Unbeatable, even.

Wait until you see who rises to oppose him, though. It’s not going to be easy for the Protectorate.

The first book of the series, Bleeding Heart, just scratches the surface of the prophecy and the history. Here’s a description of the novel:

Cover of Bleeding Heart, a novel by Staci TroiloIn the heart of Pittsburgh awaits a secret half a millennium in the making.

After her father’s brutal murder, Franki discovers she and her three sisters are the only surviving, secret legacy of the Medici. The same people who brutally murdered her father now target her and her family for assassination. Unprepared to battle an unknown enemy, she finds her safety depends on the Medici Protectorate, the warriors who guarded her bloodline for centuries, but who failed to protect her father.

Gianni, Franki’s protector, blows his first meeting with her, but knows he must garner the trust of not only Franki, but also her sisters. Without that, he fails too, and that is unacceptable—not only to him, but also to the Medici Protectorate. His troubles grow larger, for as he assumes his new role, he also undergoes inexplicable, explosive physical changes… transformations he can’t control. One of those is his uncontainable desire for Franki.

Their worlds collide in passion and violence, and Franki struggles to trust Gianni. When her life is on the line, Gianni will have to conquer both her fears and his own personal demons to rescue her in time.

Shot of Pittsburgh with riverThe story takes place in Western Pennsylvania, where I was born and raised. It’s chock full of Italian traditions and familial relationships based on the culture I grew up in. Honestly, there’s something for almost everyone in there—good food, family bonds, steamy romance, political intrigue, secret societies, alchemical rituals, historical research, supernatural powers. Here’s an excerpt for you to check it out:

“Outside,” Coz was saying to Gianni, tentatively taking his arm. “I think we should get you outside.”

“No,” Vinnie said. He crossed the room quickly and everyone turned to look at him. He grabbed Franki’s hand and dragged her over to Gianni, throwing her into his arms. “Kiss her.”

“What?” Gianni shook violently, tried to back away, but couldn’t. He seemed somehow rooted to the spot. “Are you crazy, V? I’m losing it, here. I can’t be near anyone, let alone…” He looked at Franki and pain seized him.

“Trust me. It will settle you.”

“We need some help in here,” Toni called from the kitchen.

“Please! The bleeding won’t stop!” Donni cried.

“Go ahead, Francesca. He will not harm you, and he needs your help.”

“Who the hell said that?” Jo shrieked.

Gianni knew where that voice came from, and who it belonged to, but he was far from willing to trust it. Franki seemed hell-bent on listening, however. He shook his head, but she took his face in her hands and pulled his mouth to hers. Then something inside Gianni exploded. 

Yeah. As the description said, Gianni is struggling to get a grip on his new powers. And as you might have guessed, when the sisters and the Protectorate get together, there’s often a little tension and a lot of action. The word “chaotic” comes to mind. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The second book, Mind Control, is in final revision now, and picks up where Bleeding Heart ends—with the sisters’ being hunted and the Protectorate still coming into their powers. It will be available in the spring.

I hope you enjoyed this brief look at the Medici Protectorate world. Clearly, the Italian culture and potential of alchemical rituals fascinate me. But now I’m curious. What are your favorite supernatural creatures or powers to read about? Leave a comment; I’d love to talk about it.

Thanks again for letting me visit today. It’s been a blast!

Author Staci TroiloAbout Staci:
Staci Troilo has always loved fiction, ever since her parents read her fairy tales when she was little. Today, her interests are much more eclectic. She loves getting lost in sci-fi battles, fantasy realms, horror worlds, suspenseful intrigues, and romantic entanglements.

As goes her reading, so goes her writing. She can’t pick a single genre to focus on, so she doesn’t even try. She’s proud to say she’s a multi-genre author.

When she’s not reading or writing, she’s spending time with family and friends, possibly cooking for them, or maybe enjoying an afternoon in the pool. To learn more about her, visit http://stacitroilo.com, join her private Facebook group (Staci Troilo’s Novel Idea), subscribe to her newsletter, or connect with her on social media.

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Mae Clair Presents: Choosing the Highlander by Jessi Gage #giveaway

Before I introduce my guest author today, just a quick note to say MYTH AND MAGIC is still touring and you can find me at the BooksChatter blog if you’d like to pop in and say hello. I’m doing a Giveaway on this tour, for a $15.00 Amazon or B&N gift card, so be sure to enter while you’re there.

And now, I’m delighted to have long-time friend Jessi Gage back on my blog today with the third novel in her Highland Wishes series, CHOOSING THE HIGHLANDER.  Jessi’s time-travel highlander books have been a hit from day one, burning up the romance charts. If you haven’t already discovered these fun, adventurous and romantic stories, you’ve got a treat in store. Please welcome, Jessi back to my blog!

Book cover for Choosing the Highlander by Jessi Gage depicts an isolated castle on a bluff with a pendant in the foreground

~ooOOoo~

Fifteenth-Century Highland Warrior Listens to Billy Joel… And Likes It

Thank you, Mae, for hosting me on my release day!

I’m really excited about my new release CHOOSING THE HIGHLANDER. This one is #3 in my Highland Wishes series, and it features a hero and heroine readers might remember from WISHING FOR A HIGHLANDER, Constance and Wilhelm.

Writing this one was super fun, because Connie is from 1981. As I researched this era, I remembered so many fun things about the 80’s.

Remember when a Sony Walkman was the height of technology? If you had one that could record as well as play back, you were one of the cool kids. As a child of the 80’s I remember those days well.

I remember the day I got my first Walkman and I wanted to play it for everyone at our family gathering. I was completely unprepared for the fact that there was no speaker, only headphones. I was like, “What? You can’t use it like a boom-box?”

I remember sharing music with a friend by detaching one of the headphones and holding it out in invitation. I remember making mix tapes by hovering over my father’s boom-box and hitting record and play as quickly as possible when a song I love started up on the radio. I would go through packs of batteries listening to mix tapes on my Walkman.

This little miracle of music delivery is by FAR my favorite product of the 1980s. In fact, a Walkman plays a pivotal role in CHOOSING THE HIGHLANDER.

To celebrate release day, I’m hosting a Rafflecopter giveaway on my blog. Drop by to enter the giveaway and take a fun 1980’s toy quiz. Skip directly to the giveaway here, if you want to enter with minimum clicks!

Here’s the blurb & buy links:

CHOOSING THE HIGHLANDER

As a mechanical engineer in 1981 Chicago, Connie designs plumbing systems. She has also designed her life to perfection, right down to the man she hopes to marry. But when Mr. Right proposes, she can’t say yes. A head-clearing vacation brings her to the Scottish Highlands, where her free-spirited twin wishes for Connie to find true love. Neither sister expects the wish to send Connie hurtling five hundred years into the past.

Wilhelm Murray, heir to the barony of Dornoch, hopes to one day hold a seat in parliament and bring urgently needed reform to Scotland. But everything changes when a woman slated for execution proclaims her innocence using the most peculiar language. Powerfully attracted to the brave beauty, he rescues her even though it means becoming a fugitive and forfeiting his dream.

As Connie and Wilhelm evade capture, she discovers his passion for justice. Scotland needs his ideas. It needs him. And so does she. But in order to clear Wilhelm’s name, she will have to turn her back on everything she’s worked so hard for and embrace the magic of love. 

EXCERPT

“Tell me your name,” he commanded.

Her eyes flashed in that way of hers that told him she didn’t make a habit of following orders. Och, her brazen spirit drew him from the moment he first saw her, when she’d been demanding Ruthven let her go despite being nude, bound, gagged, and outnumbered. Such bravery! Such intrepid determination!

“You told me no questions tonight.” Her voice scratched like sun dried wool not yet tamed into softness. The damage to her tender throat and lungs made him lust to slay her abusers all over again. Noticeably absent was her feigned English speech.

He suppressed a grin, wondering if she’d done it intentionally. “Simply telling me your name would have required fewer words than the rebuke, my lady, if your throat pains thee.”

“It wasn’t a rebuke.” A look of affront tugged her eyebrows low over those captivating eyes. How was it her every expression affected his viscera? With each change in her features, his stomach leapt and dove like a hawk in pursuit of prey. “Only a reminder.” The briefest flicker of nervousness belied the stubborn lift of her chin.

The kiss had made her uncertain. Before, she’d approached him as an adversary, though why she should do so, he could not guess. Now, she recognized the connection between them, but, if he guessed correctly, she feared it.

The lass needed time. She needed food and rest. He would ask no more of her tonight. Not even her name. It mattered not. His heart knew her regardless of what she called herself.

“Consider me reminded, sweet lady.”

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Thanks for having me, Mae! Thanks in advance to anyone who shares or tweets using Mae’s nifty blog buttons. And don’t forget to enter the giveaway!

ABOUT JESSI GAGE 

zz_Jessi Gage headshot2USA Today Bestselling Author Jessi Gage is addicted to happy-ever-after endings. She counts herself blessed because she gets to live her own HEA with her husband and children in the Seattle area.

Jessi has the attention span of a gnat…unless there is a romance novel in her hands. In that case, you might need a bullhorn to get her to notice you. She writes what she loves to read: stories about love.

Do use the contact page on jessigage.com and drop her a line. There is no better motivation to finish her latest writing project than a note from a happy reader! While you’re visiting her website, sign up for Jessi’s newsletter so you never miss a new release.

Website | Blog | Facebook Fan Page | Twitter | Goodreads | Newsletter

Mae Clair Presents: Wytchfae World-Building with Flossie Benton Rogers

I’m delighted to welcome Flossie Benton Rogers, author of the Wytchfae series back to my blog today. One of the things I love best about Flossie’s books is the amount of world-building she does. Characters, creatures, and mythical elements are so vivid and engagingly crafted, they leap off the pages. Today, she’s going to share some of the inhabitants of her fantastic world, including those who populate her new release, DEMONESS DREAMS. Please welcome Flossie Benton Rogers!

~ooOOoo~

Hi, Mae! Thank you for featuring Demoness Dreams today. Since you and I are both interested in mythology and folklore, I thought we’d start by talking about the fae dimensions in my books and a few of the beings that inhabit them.  

The Wytchfae World: The realms encountered in the Wytchfae series of paranormal romance / urban fantasy novels are closer to us than a hair’s breadth. These mysterious places are populated with faeries, witches, demons, angels, goddesses, dark guardians, ghosts and other magical beings. The beings dwell in multiple dimensions parallel to our own earth dimension. Some of the worlds are welcoming, others dangerous and forbidding. Through the darkest night and the fright of unchained chaos, love will always shine.  

Wytchfae: Trained witches who possess a smattering of fae blood. Although they live on our regular earth plane, some of them visit other worlds as well as other times. Different Wytchfae have different abilities.  

Warriors: Some warriors live on the human earth plane and some in the fae dimensions. In the latter, warriors are charged with carrying out plans for powerful magical beings such as goddesses and dark guardians. They sometimes gain prestige for their bravery, such as Bane Heughar’s acclaim as Odin’s Warrior, and obtain a domain of their own.  

Salamander Fae: Fire elementals that assist Helle, the Goddess of the Underworld, in spells and ritual work deep in the recesses of her dark abode.  

Ice Trolls: Huge bluish beasts that look like a cross between a lumbering lowland ogre and a gigantic highland snow beast. They live in the mountains and attack travelers in the snowy dark.  

Grims: Creatures contained in a certain area of the Underworld.  Unfortunately for humans, their nourishment comes from sucking out a person’s life energy via memories. Grims also relish the taste of human blood.  

Remnants: Grims who have degenerated into mindless, zombie-like slugs due to not having access to enough “food.”  

Dark Guardians: Powerful male demigods who are in charge of various domains, such as the undersea realm and the empty void between dimensions.  

Book cover for Demoness Dreams by Flossie Benton Rogers showing a young blond woman and wing only of a large black bird

Demoness Dreams – Wytchfae 6
Desperate to escape her hellish nightmares, Neva Jaxony falls into the arms of rugged Bane Heughar. Is the mesmerizing man more dangerous than darkness itself?  

Blurb: Heaven or hell? Dream or nightmare? Where passion is concerned, the veils are thin.

As her Wytchfae powers intensify and nightmares invade her waking reality, Neva Jaxony seeks answers in the shadowy past. Then a mysterious stranger enters the picture, and she falls hard. Is he the man of her dreams or part of the darkness that threatens to consume her?

Acclaimed warrior Bane Heughar has orders to prove Neva is not dangerous– or kill her before she can turn demon.  He never expected to find her so bewitching, or so damn desirable. He has until the Solstice Moon to carry out his mission. All he really wants to do is take Neva in his arms, kiss her senseless, and for the two of them to disappear off the radar. But when the Underworld is involved, no one can hide.  

Desperate to escape her hellish nightmares, Neva Jaxony falls into the arms of rugged Bane Heughar. Is the mesmerizing man more dangerous than darkness itself?  

First Line Teaser: Hell was the last place Bane Heughar wanted to visit.  

Teaser: He was hard pressed to remember his mission, when all he wanted to do was stash her in his bed and make love to her all night long.  

Book Video 

Excerpt:
Underworld, Modern Day

Hell was the last place Bane Heughar wanted to visit. When the Goddess of the Underworld summoned, you never knew whether it was for tea and scones or to scourge you bloody. Maybe you’d get out in one piece, or maybe twelve. The pulse in his throat thudded at the sight of Helle’s grim expression.

The tautness of her face indicated disturbing emotions rippling beneath the surface. Her flaxen hair framed strong cheekbones, and her wintry grey eyes glittered. She reminded him of one of her showcase fountains—an icy lake with fiery jets that spurted upward and then crashed in startling and unpredictable abandon.

Stern looking soldiers flanked her.

She extended the tips of her fingers. “Warrior.” The scent of jasmine wafted into his nostrils.

He bowed his head to bestow a respectful kiss. “Goddess Helle. How may I be of service?”

“Come with me.” She swiveled, and a bodyguard advanced beside her. She thrust out a palm. “Halt! You shall remain here.”

The uniformed man appeared bewildered. “But Goddess, your safety is my utmost responsibility. I beg you—”

Her visage turned thunderous. “Stay, I say. I will speak to the warrior in private.”

Beckoning for Bane to follow, she led him beyond the entryway of her palace, past her abode and deep into the tunnels of her cavernous domain. The pathways wound around until he doubted even his well-honed sense of direction could extricate him if she left him to find his own way.

What did she have to discuss with him that her own trusted guard could not hear?

A surge of adrenalin sizzled throughout his body. He had never ventured this far inside Helle’s mysterious netherworld. She appeared to be leading him deep into one of her innermost sanctums.

At last they came to a rounded crystal enclave where gleaming spears of quartz grew in wild abandon from the rocky walls and ceiling. The crystal luminescence created a dazzling bombardment amid the strategically situated torchlights. The power generated in the room heated his blood until his ears pounded. He cleared his throat to alleviate the pressure.

Helle made her way to a great tripodal cauldron perched on an array of low rocks. “Salamander fae, forged of earth’s blood, ye living fire, be at peace.” She fluttered her fingers, leaving a shimmering ripple in the air.

The flames beneath the tripod curled blue tendrils around the edges. Bane stepped closer. The tiny salamander fae, tenders of the sacred element, faded into the shadows, giving way to the Goddess. Their movement resounded in the enclave like the faint whispers of hissing steam.

The Goddess Helle swirled her hands back and forth over the cauldron and recited a strange incantation.

Even with his magical fae ability to understand foreign tongues, Bane couldn’t make out all the words. The language probably died out before humanoids rose on two limbs.

The water in the ancient cauldron churned and spewed in the presence of the Goddess of the Underworld. A shape formed in the vessel. The image blurred with the movement of the liquid and then stilled to reveal a stunning face. The woman’s hair glimmered like a halo of spun gold. A light kindled her exquisite features as if she looked upon a dazzling sight. A pleasurable thrill thrummed in the middle of Bane’s chest. When he spoke, his voice came out a whisper. “Who is she?”  

Demoness Dreams Buy Links:
Amazon
Secret Cravings Publishing 
Barnes & Noble 
All Romance eBooks 
Bookstrand 

Author , Flossie Benton Rogers, holding several of her Wytchfae Series novelsAuthor Bio:
Flossie Benton Rogers shares her passion for mythical realms by giving you sizzling dark fantasy romances with fairies, witches, goddesses, angels, and demons. Her writing buddy is the zany calico, Mistress Marigold. Reiki, tarot, runes, and gemstones are sometimes part of the magical mix. Flossie’s birth chart features sun in Sagittarius with a Taurus moon and Libra ascendant, as befits a 5th generation Floridian and freedom loving mystic.

Connect with Flossie at the following haunts:
Website 

Facebook 
Twitter 
Pinterest 
LinkedIn 
Goodreads author page 
Amazon author page 
Tumblr 
Tsu  

Other Books by Flossie Benton Rogers: 
Wytchfae Runes 
Guardian of the Deep – Wytchfae 2 
Mind Your Goddess – Wytchfae 3 
Time Singer – Wytchfae 4 
Dark Guardians – Wytchfae Anthology 1 (Print Only) 
Lord of Fire – Wytchfae 5 

Coming Soon: Soul Weaver – Wytchfae 7 

Mae Clair Presents: Deadly Curses by Donna Shields #BookTour

Today, I’m happy to participate in the blog tour for Donna Shields and her new romantic suspense release, DEADLY CURSES. I’ve enjoyed Donna’s previous releases, THE SWAN COVE MURDERS and SECRETS OF JENKINS BRIDGE, so I’m delighted to have her here today. Please help me in welcoming Donna Shields!

Blog tour banner for Deadly Curses by Donna Shields

I’m happy to be here today doing a guest blog. Speaking of blogs, sometimes it can be so frustrating trying to write a simple blog. For example, I had to write 7 blogs for this blog tour. And I gotta say, I felt so overwhelmed. All I could think was, what in the world was I going to talk about? It’s like writer’s block all over again. I can’t be the only one who can sometimes dread writing a blog whether on my own blog or someone else’s. My brain just wants to rebel and freeze. So, if there are more like me out there worrying about what to write about on their blog, I’ll give you five ways to unstick your brain to find something to blog about:

1) Write about what you know. Cooking, sewing, raising babies, pet lovers, etc. That’s what will make your blog your own. Share a favorite recipe. Just finish reading a book? Write up a review.

2) Read others blog. (Not steal their posts) Just get a sense of what everyone is blogging about. You’d be surprised what might spark your mind.

3) I’ll take the dictionary and randomly open a page to see what words are there. 9 times out of 10, I’ll find something to write about. Or watch tv. It is amazing what silly things spark my mind.

4) Lots of bloggers do the ‘Six Sentence Sunday’ or ‘Fun Facts Friday’ or there are a host of others out there. Try something like this.

5) And when all else fails, do whatever you would for writers’ block. Mine? I’ll do something totally unrelated to writing and an idea will pop into my mind. Or scribble and doodle on a notebook. It’s a right brain, left brain thing and it really works. Just don’t think while doodling. The mind is a mysterious but wonderful thing the way it works all on its own without us forcing it.

ABOUT THE BOOK:
Deadly Curses (Magnolia Valley Series)

Book cover for romantic suspense novel, Deadly Curses by Donna ShieldsDr. Trent Moore’s life is complete – a no-strings relationship, financial security, and great health – until he is summoned to his father’s grave and discovers a grave robber stole one of his father’s bones … a finger bone. From there, Trent’s seemly perfect world spirals out of control. Strange occurrences happen, and the sexy lead detective informs him a grief stricken mother has placed a curse upon him. As his near death experiences ramp up, and he finds himself falling in love, he’s beginning to believe there may be some truth to it all. But, will he run out of time before he can tell her he loves her?

When Detective Ciarra Pacelli is assigned to a prominent judge’s suspicious death, she doesn’t know her little world is about to be turned upside down. She discovers other possible victims of a deadly Voodoo curse, one being the gorgeous and stubborn doctor. As she becomes wrapped up in protecting him at all costs, she finds she’s fighting against her developing feelings for him. Once she realizes she can’t, she gives her all in finding a cure against the curse that promises to take him away from her for good.

EXCERPT:
Ciarra straddled the chair close to Trent’s bed resting her head on her hands. His cheeks lacked color. His eyes appeared sunk in. It seemed as if he’d aged within the last two hours.

Gregory came in from the hospital, which was where Trent was attempting to point out through the window just before he passed out, and said Trent probably had a touch of the flu as it was going around, and he was dehydrated.

Flu her ass. More like a damn curse. Ciarra called Tiesha back in. He wasn’t protected. Ciarra looked for the amulet he’d received last night, but never found it.

Trent’s sister in law, Sammy, prepared chicken noodle soup downstairs.

“Oh wow,” Tiesha said upon entering the room. “He doesn’t look very good. About as bad as the other one. I must say your partner’s unbelievable. He’s over there wearing gloves and a mask. I tried to explain to him he couldn’t catch it. But, he won’t listen to a crazy ape like me.”

Ciarra rolled her eyes. High time to give Rick some eye opening life lessons. “What do you think?”

“You should try a shaman or a Vodun priestess. You need to break the curse.” She placed the back of her hand against his cheek. “No fever. If anything, he feels cold and clammy.”

Ciarra eyed her best friend. “So, you know a Vodun priestess I suppose?”

“And a shaman. Which do you prefer? You don’t have a lot of time left.” She pulled out an amulet and handed to Ciarra. “Here is a new one. Place it under his pillow.”

“Thanks for the reminder . . . and the amulet. I guess the best bet would be Voodoo.” Ciarra reached out and ran her hand across the top of his head. She swore she wasn’t going to fall for this man. Yet, she teetered on the edge of a very high cliff with Trent. If only she could just let go and fall.

Jack, oh Jack. What do I do?

Her heart ached, being torn between the dead and the living. How had it happened? Trent lived like a playboy.

But, she could see a side of him he didn’t let out too often. One he wouldn’t really show. But then did a couple of times without knowing, he had.

Ciarra and he were like night and day. They could never last. But, the same could be said for Princess and Brutus. Yet, there the two misfits lay. Brutus the big baby on the rug and precious Princess curled up near his head, as if they had been the best of friends forever. Animals could teach humans a thing or two.

“Hello, Ciarra?” Tiesha waved her hands in front of Ciarra’s face. “Where were you just now?”

Ciarra shook off her thoughts. “Nowhere promising.”

“Oh boy.”

Ciarra raised an eyebrow. “What?”

“Oh this isn’t good. You have fallen flat on your face, huh?”

Ciarra turned away and back to Trent.

Then, it hit her. The whole Florence Nightingale syndrome thing. She only cared for him as a human being. “Nope. There will never be another Jack.” Silly little liar.

“Go ahead and lie to yourself. But Ciarra Pacelli, you are not, and I mean not, fooling me. I know you.”

Ciarra crossed her arms over her chest. “It’s only because I have to protect him.” Finally, something to cling to besides love. Maybe, she wouldn’t be tumbling off the cliff after all. She was lying to herself, but it was the only way to protect her from Trent.

“Again, go ahead and twist it any way you want. You have fallen for him.”

View the book trailer

Purchase DEADLY CURSES from Amazon

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Author, Donna ShieldsI’m Donna Shields, author of paranormal romance and romantic suspense – published with Soul Mate Publishing, mom of six, gramma of four precious cuties and wife to an imperfect, yet amazing husband of fifteen years and counting (He’ll say a hundred, roll his eyes, and smile). Psss…I’m imperfect too, but don’t tell him that….

We call the beautiful state of South Carolina our home where there isn’t much hustling and bustling going on, where people are friendly (for the most part-it’s called that Southern Hospitality), strangers wave and say hello with a smile. And it doesn’t hurt being centrally located where the ocean is a mere three hour drive and the mountains no more than an hour and a half away.

I’ve been writing for five years steadily, but have always dabbled with writing short stories here and there. I’m a sucker (no pun intended) for all sorts of paranormal. And when suspense and adventure is thrown in the mix, I’m a truly happy girl. I enjoy writing both genres and at times the lines between the two blur, combining to make paranormal romantic suspense. My heroines are strong, even if quiet. They are independent, yet scarred and in need of a true love. A real hero, one who understands they need their space, but will love them fiercely. The hero may have a hard exterior, but inside he’s a mush ball. And the hero needs that woman who can tame him down a little and love with all her heart and soul.

Connect with Donna at the following haunts:
Website
Twitter
Facebook
Google+
Goodreads
Amazon Page

Purchase DEADLY CURSES from Amazon

GIVEAWAY ALERT!
Enter Donna’s Rafflecopter Giveaway for a $20.00 Gift Gard to Amazon
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Mae Clair Presents: Gemma Brocato with An Ancient Introduction to Christmas and MISSION: MISTLETOE

It’s always a pleasure to have Gemma Brocato, friend and Kensington/Lyrical Press sister author on my blog. Not only does she have a great post today about the ancient traditions of Christmas, and her new holiday release MISSION: MISTLETOE, but she’s also brought along a special treat.

Gemma’s novella A WINTER WEDDING is FREE today on Amazon! A continuation of her HEARTS IN HARMONY novel, it’s an ideal holiday read. Grab your copy, then make sure you come back to read Gemma’s post and get the deets on her other holiday romance!

A Winter Wedding Free

Saturnalia — An Ancient Introduction to Christmas
By Gemma Brocato

When I first thought about writing my holiday science fiction novel, I knew I didn’t want to make the story about Christmas per se. I wanted to detail a celebration that went much further back. I began researching the Winter Solstice and discovered Saturnalia, an ancient Roman celebration that laid the foundation for our present day Christmas celebrations. It seemed a perfect solution.

Originally a one-day festival, Saturnalia soon evolved to a full week of celebration due to its popularity. The Emperors Augustus and Caligula tried to reduce the number of days, but the mass populace resisted their efforts. The event was more than just fun, feasting and games. It was a festival to honor Saturn, the god of sowing and the harvest. During the banquet, an effigy of the god could be one of the honored guests.

The best part of the festival was the temporary reversal of roles between masters and their slaves. Masters served meals and slaves were granted luxuries such as gambling and lazing around the house for a change. Their style of dressing tended to be more relaxed during the event. Santa’s hat supposedly originated at this time, a peaked woolen cap that symbolized a freed slave. This is also the time the Lord of Misrule made his first appearance in history. A family member was appointed to serve as host for the celebration.

Many of the traditions of the festival are still visible today. Decorating outdoor trees, placing greenery over doorways, merry-making pranks and gift-giving.

particular tree bare of white poplar and shrubs in the branches of mistletoeMy novella, Mission: Mistletoe is set in the future, where religious celebrations have been outlawed, but a festival for the harvest was allowed. So I set the story on a space station in orbit around Saturn, in December. It’s a story about the medicinal properties of the parasitic plant which is one of the symbols our present day holiday celebrations. The plant thrives off the nutrients of its host, usually an oak or apple tree. Kissing under the mistletoe was first associated with Saturnalia. People revered the plant as the bestower of life and fertility. Ancient Celts worshipped the plant for its mystical powers. It was also believed that Loki used the plant to poison Balder, the god of the summer sun, plunging the world into winter. Balder’s mother, Frigga, goddess of love, wept for her son, and it is said that her tears became the sticky white berries of the plant. She managed to bring her son back to life and in gratitude, kissed everyone who passed beneath the tree on which mistletoe grew.

mistletoe isolated on a white backgroundNow, here’s the sad part. Generally, when you are researching Mistletoe, you’ll come up with sites that display pictures of holly. The holly plant features sharp, pointy leaves and red berries. Mistletoe has white (and sometimes red berries) but its leaves are smooth, elliptical-shaped. So don’t be fooled. Kissing under the holly might be fun, but under the mistletoe, it’s magical.

~ooOOoo~

MISSION:  MISTLETOE
Genre: Science Fiction romance
Publisher: Gemma Brocato
Date of Publication: Nov 19, 2014 
Number of pages:
120

Mission_Mistletoe_Cover_CompressedBook Description:
In her quest to find a cure for the disease that killed her father, Rhayne Drake accepts a position as a researcher on a remote space station. Once in orbit around Saturn, she uncovers the true intent of the study: the ruling political party plans to use her research to kill, instead of cure, anyone carrying the genetic marker for the disease. Including Rhayne herself. 

Griffin Cooper, the station’s recreation manager, is charmed when he meets Rhayne. First he saved her from death by cargo-mover. Now he’ll fight to save her from a worse fate.

Set against a Saturnalia, a winter holiday festival, Rhayne and Griffin must find a way to defeat the political Coalition’s sinister plot before it’s too late.

Excerpt:
Rhayne froze as the over-laden Airfloat bore down, her mouth opened in a silent scream. Holy Titan! She’d die on this transport without ever stepping foot on the space station, not to mention Saturn.

Her breath squeaked out in a rush as someone grabbed her around the waist and swung her out of the path of crushing death. Her body went one direction while her briefcase flew the other. The screeching sound of the airbrakes engaging on the cargo float rang in her ears. A cacophony of other sounds erupted—men roared warnings to watch out and glass broke as boxes crashed to the floor with the sudden stop.

Rhayne’s body came to rest between the solid wall behind her and a hard, man-sized body that covered her, protecting her from falling containers and shattering glass. The aroma of Cassini Ale tainted her olfactory cavities, bitter and astringent, as broken bottles released their contents onto the floor in front of them.

“Are you okay? What in Titan’s name are you doing in the cargo bay? This area is off limits.”

The deep voice was velvety smooth in her ear. Warm breath tickled her cheek, and she rubbed the spot as she nodded her head. The large man eased away enough to give Rhayne her first glimpse of his rugged features.

The flow of his face was mesmerizing. From the top of his perfectly-shaped and completely bald head to strong brows, poised over eyes the color of Earth’s sky just before leaving the atmosphere. A shiny gold earring winked on his earlobe, an oddity in a society that had ceased mutilating their bodies with piercings and tattoos generations ago. He was the kind of rebel she’d fantasized about while at university, where she’d been forced to conform to a regimented curriculum with no room for individuality. Sharp cheekbones and a square, stubbled jaw completed the look. This man was beautiful and dangerous. Rhayne’s breath caught. She cleared her throat attempting to appear less awestruck.

“I turned right when I should have turned left. I’m looking for the off-load bay.” Rhayne frowned at the raspy quality of her voice.

Suddenly aware of her rescuer’s body pressed intimately against hers, she put her hands on his chest and pushed. “You can back away now. The danger is past.”

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Author, Gemma BrocatoAbout the Author:
Gemma’s favorite desk accessories for many years were a circular wooden token, better known as a ’round tuit,’ and a slip of paper from a fortune cookie proclaiming her a lover of words; some day she’d write a book. All it took was a transfer to the United Kingdom, the lovely English springtime, and a huge dose of homesickness to write her first novel. Once it was completed and sent off with a kiss, even the rejections addressed to ‘Dear Author’ were gratifying.

After returning to America, she spent a number of years as a copywriter, dedicating her skills to making insurance and the agents who sell them sound sexy. Eventually, her full-time job as a writer interfered with her desire to be a writer full-time and she left the world of financial products behind to pursue a vocation as a romance author.

Connect with Gemma at the following haunts:
Website and Blog 
Facebook
Twitter 

Goodreads 
Wattpad
Google+ 

Also By Gemma Brocato:
Cooking Up Love
Hearts In Harmony
Exposed To Passion
A Winter Wedding