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!

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

New Release: Jagged Feathers by Jan Sikes @jansikes3 #RomanticSuspense #MilitaryRomance #WhiteRuneSeries

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

Happy Guest Author Thursday! It’s my pleasure to welcome friend and Story Empire colleague, Jan Sikes with her newest release Jagged Feathers.

Jan has been burning up the blogosphere with the launch of book 2 in her White Rune Series, and I’m delighted to participate in her tour. You can find my review of Jagged Feathers (which BTW, reads perfectly fine as a standalone) HERE. I was smitten with her two leads, Vann and Nakina, and Vann’s dog, Champion. I also enjoyed the layers of symbolism and folklore in the book. Today, Jan shares how some of that came about in her post below. Take it away, Jan!


Thank you, Mae, for inviting me to your blog site today to talk about my new book, JAGGED FEATHERS! I appreciate your generosity.

I have always been fascinated by Native American Folklore and spent a lot of time reading and researching different beliefs, especially concerning animals. Birds are believed to be messengers between worlds. My late husband had a strong connection with owls. To some tribes, the owl is an omen of death while to others it is a sign of wisdom.

In my story, Nakina Bird spent many summers of her youth on the reservation with her grandmother, so it was natural that she’d adhere to some of the Native American beliefs and traditions. The blue jay held special significance for Nakina. Not only are the blue feathers striking, but they are unique songbirds in that they mate for life. She recalled many of her grandmother’s teachings throughout the book, but this one seemed to stand out.

Banner ad for Jagged Feathers by Jan Sikes on shows book on chipped, painted wooden floorboards

EXCERPT:

“Tell me about the shooting incident in your past that freaked you out so much.”

Nakina recounted the incident when the boys taunted her, and then how she accidentally shot the bird. “It made me physically sick. When the blue jay fell to the ground after I fired, it took every ounce of energy in me not to throw up right there in front of those boys.” She drew in a sharp breath. “After they left, I performed a sacred ceremony and buried the bird, but not before taking a special feather from him.” She twisted her hands together on her lap. “And now you understand why I reacted the way I did when you found the blue feather in the bottom of the boat. Ever since that day, blue feathers have been a good sign for me. Almost like the bird’s way of forgiveness.”

Vann whistled. “I can understand how you felt when you shot the jay.”

She stared out the window. “When I told Grandmother what happened with the bird, she said that to Native Americans, the blue jay represents trickery or mischievousness. Then she told me that blue jays mate for life, and that was symbolic for me. Of course, as a teenager, I dismissed all of it as folklore. But I did keep the beautiful blue feather to always remind me of what I’d done. And I never painted on it.”

“That’s quite some story. I’ve observed plenty of jays, and they’re generally aggressive and noisy birds, but I never thought of them as being symbolic of anything. I’ve watched them run off birds twice their size to get a ripe berry.”

“The Native American people have a story or some sort of symbolism for most everything, and they believe in spirit animals that walk with us and help us on our journey.”

***

Have you ever had a spirit animal or an experience with an animal that went beyond the norm? I know D.L. Finn has with bears and C.S. Boyack with Eagles. I’d love to hear about your affinity to a certain animal and what it means to you.

BLURB:
Vann Noble did his duty. He served his country and returned a shell of a man, wounded inside and out. With a missing limb and battling PTSD, he seeks healing in an isolated cabin outside a small Texas town with a stray dog that sees beyond his master’s scars. If only the white rune’s magic can bring a happily ever after to a man as broken as Vann.  

On the run from hired killers and struggling to make sense of her unexplained deadly mission, Nakina Bird seeks refuge in Vann’s cabin. She has secrets. Secrets that can get them all killed.

A ticking clock and long odds of living or dying, create jarring risks.

Will these two not only survive, but find an unexpected love along the way? Or, will evil forces win and destroy them both?

UNIVERSAL PURCHASE LINK

Connect with Jan Sikes at the following haunts:
Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Goodreads | Bookbub | LinkedIn | Amazon Page


bio box for author, Jan Sikes

I had no idea blue jays mated for life. Yes, they can be aggressive and noisy as Vann points out, but they’re also amazing birds. I always liked watching them flit around the feeder in my rear yard.

I hope you enjoyed today’s post as much as I did, and will help me in cheering on Jan with her new release. Drop her a comment, then hop over to Amazon to ONE-CLICK your copy of Jagged Feathers!

New Release: Brother of Interest by Karina Bartow @KarinaBartow @WildRosePress #mystery #familylifefiction #detectivefiction

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

Hello and thanks for joining me today as I welcome Karina Bartow to my blog. Karina is a first time guest who reached out to ask if I would be interested in taking part in her blog tour. Of course, I said “yes!” I hope you’ll make her feel welcome as she shares a story I think all writers can relate to…


The Power of Perseverance in Publishing
By Karina Bartow

Yesterday, The Wild Rose Press released Brother of Interest, the sequel to my debut novel, Husband in Hiding! This was the culmination of five years of waiting, hoping, and yes, a little crying. But a lot more work went into it than that.


I’d already finished the sequel when Husband in Hiding was released in 2015. My publisher at the time seemed eager to continue the mystery series, so I thought I was set to have a new installment out every year like the big-time authors do. I broadcasted it to just about everyone who bought the book, which began an endless game of hearing, “When’s the sequel coming out?” The anticipation thrilled me, but as matters started to fizzle out with the company and the sequel’s publication appeared ever more unlikely, the question became wearisome to discuss.

At a crossroads, I decided to shift my focus until the dust settled and pursue my second novel, Forgetting My Way Back to You. In fact, I first discovered Wild Rose when I was shopping that to companies in 2017, but it didn’t end up being the right match for them. I proceeded with Vinspire Publishing and hoped they might be a good home for the Brother of Interest, but they didn’t feel that it was right for their catalog. Nonetheless, they gave me input that helped the plot along. While it changed the way I originally wanted the beginning to unfold, I saw the advantages of implementing their advice and how it would better attract readers and prospective publishers.

Fast-forward a year, I came across Wild Rose again and realized they also publish mysteries, so I figured I’d give it another shot. After reading the first three chapters, the editor wanted me to make some tweaks but said she’d be willing to look at it again once I did so. When I resubmitted it to her, she complimented me on my adjustments, but she felt the story still needed some work. She suggested I read Revision and Self-Editing for Publication as I continued to sculpt it further, so I ordered the book that day.

Between its guidance and hers, I looked at the plot with clearer vision and adjusted elements I may never have thought to without it. I didn’t even intend to submit it to her again, but I didn’t want to waste the insight she gave me. I knew it’d benefit me regardless.  The week I resumed sending out queries, I mustered the nerve to contact her to thank her for her help and ask if she’d like to review it once more. To my surprise, she did, and it led to a long-awaited acceptance letter.

I wanted to share this experience for the hard-working, often frustrated, aspiring authors like me—and dreamers of all sorts. Perseverance and persistence does pay off, but it involves more than pure willpower. You can’t close the door on a company just because of past rejections. You also can’t squander the wisdom the right people provide. When it comes to publishing, very few editors/agents give you anything past a straightforward rejection, so you should appreciate it when someone takes the time to give you tips. They could give you just the leg-up you need to find success…sometimes where you least suspect it!


Book cover for Brother of Interest by Karina Bartow shows old-fashioned baby buggy with handcuffs dangling from handle

Brother of Interest
(Unde(a)feted Detective Series Book 2)

BOOK BLURB:
When Minka Avery left the police department and her life as a deaf detective, she thought chasing after her toddler daughter and keeping tabs on her mischievous husband would be the extent of her excitement. Before long, however, her brother lands on the list of suspects in a high-profile crime and throws her world into chaos.

Torn between her conflicted feelings for him and her desire to see justice carried out, she decides to unofficially explore the matter on her own. She begins to see that the case is bigger than it seemed at first glance, but before she can unravel it further, she discovers Robin using her garage as a hideout from the authorities! Now forced together, can Minka overcome the many distractions to figure out the massive scheme that’s really playing out? And can the bizarre circumstances somehow improve her and Robin’s chilly relationship?


PURCHASE FROM
The Wild Rose Press | Amazon | Walmart | Books-A-Million

Author, Karina Bartow

AUTHOR BIO:
Karina Bartow grew up and still lives in Northern Ohio.  Though born with Cerebral Palsy, she’s never allowed her disability to define her.  Rather, she’s used her experiences to breathe life into characters who have physical limitations, but like her, are determined not to let them stand in the way of the life they want.  Her debut novel, Husband in Hiding came out in 2015, followed by Forgetting My Way Back to You, 2018.  She may only be able to type with one hand, but she writes with her whole heart!

To learn more, visit https://karinabartow.com/

Social media:
Blog | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads


I love celebrating new releases, and am delighted to be hosting Karina just a day after the release of Brother of Interest. Don’t you just love that book cover? And how about that post? We all know this is a tough business with a lot of ups and downs. I’m glad Karina stuck with her dream and didn’t give up. It just goes to show that bridges are never burnt, doors are never closed, and there’s always room to keep trying. Happy book birthday to Karina!

PURCHASE BROTHER OF INTEREST FROM
The Wild Rose Press | Amazon | Walmart | Books-A-Million


Book Reviews by Mae Clair: The Perfect House by R.P. Bolton, Kittens and Kisses at the Cat Cafe by Kris Bock @RachintheFax @Kris_Bock #fictionreviews #bookish

Striped kitten lying on open book, eyeglasses resting on pages. Book and kitten on white blanket

Today I’m sharing two books I read toward the end of 2021 (yes, I’m still catching up). These are on opposite ends of the fiction spectrum, but both deserve a splash in the spotlight for keeping me entertained and flipping pages!


THE PERFECT HOUSE
by R.P. Bolton

Book cover with key on key ring with a house-shaped fob

Ellie and Tom move into what they believe will be the house of their dreams. It’s in a great neighborhood and the price can’t be beat. Sure, the property requires fixing up and the garden is overgrown, but as new parents of a beautiful baby girl, it’s the perfect place for them to raise Trinity and be a family. If only Tom’s job as a police officer weren’t so demanding, often leaving Ellie in isolation with the baby in an empty house. It isn’t long before Ellie learns the property has a history, one that has made it a pariah in the neighborhood.

Ellie starts experiencing strange happenings, hearing things and seeing things, all instances that escape Tom’s notice. Then she begins sleepwalking and begins to question her sanity—especially given she’s never made peace with a tragic incident in her past that left her suffering from PTSD ten years ago.

The book shifts chapters between “Then” and “Now” gradually unfolding the history of the house and the incident from Ellie’s past. If you enjoy a mystery with supernatural elements, this book delivers. It’s easy to read, moves at a fast clip and ties everything together neatly at the end. Ellie and Tom are both good characters and the history of 6 Moss Lane (the house they bought) makes for interesting backstory.

There were times I grew frustrated with Ellie for not speaking up, and some of the “happenings” felt repetitious after a time, but the mystery kept me flipping pages and reading late. An intriguing supernatural mystery.

AMAZON LINK


KITTENS AND KISSES AT THE CAT CAFE
by Kris Bock
#2 Furrever Friends

As someone who has always loved cats and kittens, I was drawn to this book the moment I saw it. Single mother, Marley, is a baker at a cat café—a coffee shop/eatery/bakery that also has a set-up allowing patrons to mingle with cats which are awaiting adoption (real cat cafes exist in a number of cities though I have never had the good fortune to visit one).

One morning, someone leaves a box with five, week-old kittens on the doorstep. Adam, who has carried a flame for Marley since his tween years, when he knew her as the older sister of his best friend, volunteers to take the kittens to the vet. When all is said and done, Adam becomes their caregiver. He recruits Marley, her nine-year-old son, Brian, and other friends to help him in nurturing the kittens. In the process, Adam finds opportunities to reveal his feelings to Marley, and she begins to see him in a new light.

Naturally, there are complications, as the path to true love is never smooth, but the reader knows an HEA awaits at the end. This is a sweet romance in which the kittens have almost as much page time as the characters. There are several secondary threads, involving a restaurant reviewer, a singing contest, and Adam’s passion for writing. The way in which Marley finally reveals her feelings to Adam is flirty and clever, guaranteed to leave the reader with a smile.

This is the second book in a series in which characters cross over, but each story is complete. I had no problem being grounded in this book despite not having read the first book. After finishing it, I immediately bought three more. I could do no less as someone who loves books and cats—a match made in Heaven!

AMAZON LINK

Book Reviews by Mae Clair: Pour it On by Staci Troilo, Jagged Feathers by Jan Sikes @stacitroilo @jansikes3 #romance

Striped kitten lying on open book, eyeglasses resting on pages. Book and kitten on white blanket

Happy post Hump Day! To off set your mid-week winter blahs (for those of you in the northern hemisphere), I have two romantic reads sure to perk you up. If you’re in the southern hemisphere, enjoying sunshine and warmth, these are perfect companions to take to the beach or pool. Both are new releases and both were penned by Story Empire colleagues. How cool is that? Naturally, I am super excited to share!

cover for Pour it On, by Staci Troilo shows silhouette of couple in foreground, wine glass in back ground

POUR IT ON
Keystone Couples #2
by Staci Troilo


One of my favorite types of stories are those built around misunderstandings, especially when it involves mistaken identity. Staci Troilo has penned a gem that dishes up—an appropriate pun for a tale centered in a restaurant—generous servings of humor and romance.

Restaurant owner, Romy Chandler, has lost her sommelier right before a huge meet-and-greet, and I do mean RIGHT before. Plus, Valentine’s Day is lingering around the corner. Rick Santucci is a vintner who needs to get his wine into the right establishments to grow his winery. Do you sense the stars aligning?

That’s all well and good, but Troilo, who has a deft touch with couples’ romance, isn’t about to let things proceed smoothly. I don’t want to give away spoilers, but let’s just say this short tale will warm your heart while tickling your funny bone. The dialogue is fast and flirty, the scenes stacking like dominos that tumble into a brilliant HEA ending.

Grab a glass of your favorite pinot or merlot, settle into a comfy seat, then Pour it On with this enchanting story that will leave you laughing on the sidelines and rooting for the characters. Troilo is a master of her craft who always delivers a polished tale. I can’t wait for the next Keystone Couples novella!

AMAZON LINK


JAGGED FEATHERS
The White Rune Series #2
By Jan Sikes

Book cover for Jagged Feathers by Jan Sikes shows a dream catcher with feathers, two large blue feathers in the center

Vann Noble is an ex-solider, suffering from PTSD, living off the grid in an isolated cabin. His companion is a stray dog nearly as damaged as he is, but with the same stalwart and loyal heart as Vann’s.

When Vann crosses paths with Nakina Bird—a woman clearly fleeing a dangerous situation—he’s determined to help her. Soon both are on the run, fleeing gunmen bent on retrieving a mysterious package Nakina was given by her former boss.

What stands out in this slick romance most is the time the author invested in her characters. It’s wonderful seeing how Vann and Nakina, both damaged in their own way, find themselves drawing closer together. Nakina also has a psychic gift and is tuned into the metaphysical. Symbols and signs are deftly woven into the plot, including a white rune stone that appeared in Ghostly Interference, book one in this series.

I liked seeing familiar characters return and meeting new ones. Champion, Vann’s dog, stole my heart with his devotion to Nakina. Most of all, the message of love over adversity and the commitment of two souls joining together shines through. The HEA is well-deserved and left me with a warm smile. I’m already looking forward to Colt’s story in the final book of the series. If you love romance woven with suspense and characters who will have you cheering, Jagged Feathers is an ideal read. Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention I love how the author wove the title into the story. A thoroughly enjoyable and romantic read.

AMAZON LINK

Book Reviews by Mae Clair: The Body in the Buick, The Wreck of the Lanternfish, Searching for Home @judypost @Virgilante @JillWeatherholt

Striped kitten lying on open book, eyeglasses resting on pages. Book and kitten on white blanket

Hello, and thanks for joining me for my first book review post of 2022. It will take me a few posts to catch up with the books and novellas I’ve read this month. Today, I’ve got three five-star reads in a variety of genres. To prevent the post from being too long, I won’t be sharing blurbs, but I encourage you to click on the Amazon link to explore the blurb and other reviews. Happy
reading!


The Body in the Buick
by Judi Lynn
Jazzi Zanders #8

This is another great entry into an entertaining series. All the main characters are back, including the growing and extended roster of secondary characters and friends. Jazzi and Ansel are expecting a baby and Ansel moves into father-to-be protective mode when it comes to Jazzi. That doesn’t stop her from becoming involved in investigating another murder when the body of mechanic turns up in a Buick. At the same time, she and Ansel, along with their house-flipping partner, Jerod, are working on converting a barn to a residential property. And, of course, there are the usual big family dinners each Sunday, complete with a cast of characters I have grown to love.

I was surprised that one murder eventually led to three which broadened the list of suspects. The reason and motive were also a surprise. As always, the writing is breezy, and Jazzi and Ansel are a fun pair. I always enjoy their interactions and the relationship they have. It was fun seeing Ansel trying to come up with the perfect baby name. I’ve spent so much time with these characters over eight books, I feel like they are family. Judi Lynn really has something special going with this series and I highly recommend it to fans of cozies.

AMAZON LINK


The Wreck of the Lanternfish
by C. S. Boyack
Lanterfish #3


I’ve followed this series from the start, so the ending is somewhat bittersweet. I’m going to miss these characters. I’ve been through numerous sea battles with them, have been swept up in warring factions, confronted by exploding monks, and a bevy of creatures from dangerous to intriguing, each and every one a fantastical invention of the author’s creative mind.

This time around core characters are split, each group engaging in separate strategies while caught up in the war between the Hollish and the Prelonians. The Palumbo’s are still running cons (this time along with the help of an older woman posing as Camilla’s mother), Serang, now a general, is in the thick of the fighting, and James Cuttler risks everything to make Lanternfish seaworthy again. The action is non-stop, with all three plot arcs merging perfectly at the end. I grew particularly fond of the Palumbo’s during this third novel, and who knew I would develop such a soft spot for a snubhorn? (If you don’t know what a snubhorn is, you’re missing out on something special—and truly bizarre).

James is a clever, fair captain who rises to circumstance and finds himself in a surprising new role by the end of the book. Of all the characters, he remains my favorite. For fans of the series, the root monsters are back. I especially loved the section when a group in search of papers “and other crap” receive names—always a fun event.

Boyack deftly mixes dollops of humor into the story, to offset the political maneuvering and battle scenes. Underneath the bigger picture, this is also a tale about relationships. Of special note, I love the father/son relationship between James and Mule and how that wraps at the end. The title sits a little heavy on my heart, but the way in which Boyack addresses what becomes of each character (even the root monsters and Serang’s Fu dogs) left me thoroughly satisfied. Wreck of the Lanternfish is a fantastic conclusion for an engaging series. Bravo to the author!

AMAZON LINK


Searching for Home
by Jill Weatherholt
Love Inspired Inspirational Romance


What a heart-warming story! I fell in love with the characters immediately.

A physical therapist, Meg has inherited a B&B and become guardian to her two nieces and nephew—triplets of her sister who took off and left her children behind. The children’s father did the same, abandoning them before his wife did.

Meg and Luke were a couple back in high school, but then he took off to find fame in the rodeo circuit, believing he had to prove himself before he could ask her to marry him.

My heart broke for these kids, especially for Tucker, who felt he was somehow responsible. Enter “Cowboy Luke” who has returned to his hometown to heal from an injury, never realizing his PT is going to be Meg.

What follows is a mix of misunderstandings, plus a beautiful path about learning to forgive, and making family where you find it. Luke is such a strong father figure, and he has a heart of gold. Meg is selfless, constantly putting the kids before herself, all the while managing a plethora of potential problems and hurt.

I read this book in one day, I was so caught up in the story. There is heartache and joy, an adorable puppy, a fun rodeo experience, a scary venture at a river, and a wonderful HEA at the end that left me with a big ‘ole sloppy grin. I’ve read several of the author’s books, but this one is my favorite to date. I especially loved the epilogue, which shared an extra glimpse into how everything wrapped up for these charming characters. A true gem!

AMAZON LINK


Have you read any of these? Hopefully, I’ve tempted you to add to your TBR yet again. Starting today, I hope to return to one review post per week. I’m glad to roll out that commitment with these three wonderful authors.

Limited Time 99c Sale: A Thousand Yesteryears by Mae Clair #mystery #suspense #thriller #writingcommunity #mothman #pointpleasant #urbanlegends

Hi, friends. I hadn’t planned to blog today, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share news of a limited time sale. My publisher has placed A Thousand Yesteryears, book one of my Point Pleasant series on sale for 99c. You can read this as a stand-alone novel, or as the first of three books comprising the series.

Book cover for A Thousand Yesteryears by Mae Clair, depicting a wooded thicket at night

New York Times best-selling author, Kevin O’Brien called this book “Masterful, bone-chilling fiction…one intense thriller. A Thousand Yesteryears will keep you guessing, gasping and turning the pages for more.”

I honestly don’t know how long the sale will last (it’s likely a 1-2 day flash sale), so if you’d like to sink into a novel where “A woman’s homecoming is met with death threats, a treacherous killer, and a legendary monster” now is your chance.

I’ll be taking a closer look at the urban legend behind this book in 2022, as part of a new series I’m planning called Mae Clair’s Cabinet of Curiosities.

A Thousand Yesteryears is a fictional account of historic events and established folklore, involving the tragic collapse of the Silver Bridge in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, and sightings of the Mothman. I made two weekend trips to the actual town and surrounding areas while writing this series in order to visit areas firsthand and talk to the locals. I’ve been honored to have many book reviewers who live/lived in the area remark on how well I captured the town.

I’ve closed comments, but invite you to meet the Mothman and learn the history of a once thriving river town!

Teaser ad for A Thousand Yesteryears, a novel of suspense by Mae Clair

PURCHASE LINK

New Release: No Such Luck by Staci Troilo #sweetromance #holidayromance #novella

Happy Tuesday! Although I’m mostly offline this month to concentrate on NaNoWriMo, I’ve made several exceptions to host new releases on my blog. First up, is No Such Luck a sweet holiday romance from Staci Troilo.

Staci is a dear friend and one of the founding members of Story Empire. She’s also a super talented author who always delivers a phenomenal story. Her latest is no exception. Look for my five star review at the end of this post, but in the meantime, say hello to Staci!


I appreciate you inviting me here today, Mae. Hi, everyone. Thank you for chatting with me about my new release, No Such Luck. It’s a fast and fun clean romance perfect for the holiday season.

Piper Seidel’s life-long best friend is Jack Rhodes. He’s always been there for her, and even though she moved away right after high school—first for college, then for her career—he never stopped staying in touch with her. When he says, “I’ll always be there for you,” he means it. They have history, even if she can’t remember it. This brief excerpt shows how far back it goes.

Teaser Graphic for or No Suck Luck by Staci Troilo shows couple in silhouette with background of red carnation, teaser text over top

“Where’d you park?”

“At the lodge.”

“At the—How do you get the tree down there?”

“We drag it.”

“You and your father drag a tree down the side of a mountain?”

Piper nodded and smiled.

“It’s no wonder it takes you so long.”

She shrugged.

“Grab the top, Pea.” 

“Stop calling me that.”

“Never. You earned it.”

“Did not.”

“Did, too.”

“How?”

“Third grade.

“How?”

“Guess you don’t remember that one.” Jack shook his head and sighed. “Grab your end.” When she complied, he hefted the trunk, then started down the hill. He called over his shoulder, “Come on, Frank.” 

She worried about her Dad. He was still on the phone with Pam and didn’t look happy. 

The three of them made their way back to the lodge. 

While her father paid for the tree and got it loaded in the bed of his truck, she thanked Jack again. “I’m really sorry about Pam. You didn’t need to come here.”

Jack got a bottle of water and bandana from his center console, then turned to her. He dabbed at the cut on her head, cleaning the blood off her face. “I’ll always come for you if you need me, Pea. Always.”

“Stop calling me that.”

He smiled. “No.”

She shook her head, but he kept wiping at it. 

“There. That’s better.”

“What are you doing?”

“Taking care of you. The way you should be cared for.”

“I don’t know what to make of that.”

“Think about it. Think about third grade, too. You need a better good luck charm.”


I have to admit, I’ve sustained an injury or two Christmas tree shopping. But I never walked away with my forehead bleeding. Good thing Piper had help. 

I hope you enjoyed that quick sneak peek. No Such Luck, the first installment of the Keystone Couples series, is available now on Amazon.

Book cover for No Suck Luck by Staci Troilo shows couple in silhouette  with background of red carnation

Blurb:

Seeds of luck usually wither. The rare one grows and blooms.

Piper Seidel has one thing going for her—a red carnation given to her by Tommy Burnett in the tenth grade. It might have dried over the years, but it’s still her good luck charm. Losing it sets her life in a downward spiral, forcing her to return to her hometown where she comes face to face with her high school crush.

The years have been kind to Tommy, who looks better than ever. Unfortunately, Piper is at her worst, continually embarrassing herself whenever he’s around. The only plus? Her long-time friend, Jack Rhodes, still lives in town. Since she last saw him, his legs have grown longer, his biceps thicker, and his shoulders broader. He was always the brother she never had, but now she can’t help noticing him in an unsisterly way. Jack is every bit as caring as he’s ever been—until her bad luck drives him away, maybe forever.

Piper needs a new good luck charm, and fast, before she loses her final chance at happiness.

PURCHASE FROM AMAZON

Bio box for Staci Troilo

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MY REVIEW

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is a sweet, breezy romance that instills a feel-good glow. Piper Seidel has lost her job as a journalist and ends up returning to her hometown for an extended winter vacation, uncertain of her future. Reconnecting with her past includes crossing paths with her old high school crush, Tommy Burnett, and her childhood best friend, Jack Rhodes. Both bring complications into her life and have her re-examining what matters most to her.

This is a short read, but one that is tightly written with a fully fleshed out plot. I loved the near-to-Christmas time frame (especially when Piper and her dad go searching for a Christmas tree) and the small-town feel. Piper grows over this story, learning truths that she was too blind to see previously, but I like to think the other characters (one in particular) experienced personal growth, too. Definitely a charmer!


Thanks for joining Staci and me today as we celebrate the release of No Suck Luck, Pop the virtual bubbly, and drop a comment to cheer on Staci with her newest book, the first in the Keystone Couple Series. I for one am definitely looking forward to more!

Book Review Tuesday: Solstice Retribution by Judi Lynn, The Dime Museum Murders by Daniel Stashower #muddyriver #harryhoudini

Warm and cozy window seat with cushions and a opened book, light through vintage shutters, rustic style home decor. Small cat on window seat, along with coffee cup by pillow, Words Book Review Tuesday superimposed over image

Happy Tuesday, and happy September! If you reside in the U.S. or Canada, I hope you enjoyed your long Labor Day weekend. Today, I have two books to share. I’ve been a fan of Judy Lynn’s Muddy River series since book one–a cozy, sometimes not so cozy mystery series that combines supernatural elements with a cast of intriguing preternatural characters. I also discovered a new series starring a man who has long fascinated me–Harry Houdini. See below.

BOOK BLURB:

Hester’s close friend, Carlotta, has gone to a witches’ solstice festival with Jason, the young neighbor she took under her wing. When she learned that he had cancer, she sent him to Hester and Raven to be “changed.” He chose to become an owl shifter, but is still very new at being a supernatural, so she wants to introduce him to her witch friends. The festival is close to Muddy River, so Carlotta plans on stopping to visit Hester after the ceremonies are finished.

But Jason calls Hester to tell her that Carlotta has disappeared, so have two other witches, and Hester suspects foul play. She and Raven race to the isolated, wooded area, only to find a dead body near the parking area. Not Carlotta’s. Once they start seriously looking for Hester’s friend, they discover that someone has come to the ceremonies that honor Hecate with plans of revenge that date back to the witch trials at Salem. Hester’s family died there, and she thought she knew the truth. But she was wrong.

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Another entertaining story in this wonderful collection that combines mystery with the supernatural. Hester is a powerful witch who heads her coven in Muddy River—a community of shapeshifters, vampires, witches, fae and other supernatural creatures and beings. Raven, her mate, is a fire-demon and the Enforcer for their town. In this tale, they travel to a nearby area where a solstice celebration among witches is taking place. Unfortunately, it also includes murder. Not one, but multiple victims.

As Hester and Raven dig deeper into motive and suspects, Hester’s own past during the Salem witch hunts come into play. For long-time fans of the series, we learn a bit more about her background, but this is easily read as a standalone. There are numerous potential suspects, a number of whom I loathed. The mystery is nicely contained until the end with the motive something I would never have suspected. Even Hester’s ocelot familiar, Claws, has moments to shine.

There are several new characters, some whom I suspect will settle in Muddy River. As an added bonus, there’s also a short Yuletide story at the end of the book that acts as an introduction to Jason, one of the secondary characters in the tale. All around, a thoroughly engaging story.

BOOK BLURB:

Harry Houdini and his brother, Dash, are called to solve the murder of a toy tycoon in this first locked room mystery starring the legendary real-life magicians
 
New York City, 1897: Young escapologist Harry Houdini is struggling to get the recognition he craves from the ruthless entertainment industry. But when toy tycoon Branford Wintour is found murdered in his Fifth Avenue mansion, detectives call upon Houdini to help solve this mysterious crime, ushering in a new era of Houdini’s career: amateur sleuth.
 
When Harry and his brother Dash reach the scene of the murder, they discover Wintour was found dead in a room that was locked from the inside out—the result of a cruel magic trick. Together, the brothers Houdini launch their first ever investigation, venturing into the bizarre world of rare curios and the collectors who will pay any price to own them.

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The first book in the Harry Houdini mystery series, this certainly kept me entertained. Harry is still struggling for recognition as an escape artist, assisted in his act by his wife, Bess, and brother Dash. It’s Harry and Dash who become involved in solving the murder of a toy tycoon. The two brothers play off each other well, and the author portrays Houdini in a manner that rings true. I loved the 1897 setting and definitely plan on reading other books in this series.