My Top Five Reads of 2022

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

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

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

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

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

By Suzanne Woods Fisher

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

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

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

By Alice Feeney

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

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

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

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

By Jennifer McMahon

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

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

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

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

By Jaime Jo Wright

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

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

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

By Jaimie Jo Wright

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

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

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

By Jill Eileen Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Book:

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

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

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

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

Universal Sales Link

Hi, Mae.

Thanks so much for hosting me today.

It’s always wonderful to visit with you.

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

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

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

From Part 3: Guilt

(From Broken Blossom)

All petals wilt

When torn

From the soil

Too much guilt

Can’t be borne

Like water and oil

Atop the stagnant silt

Of blame and scorn

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


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

Author, Harmony Kent

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

The Battle for Brisingamen (Fantasy Fiction) AIA approved

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

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

Finding Katie (Women’s Fiction)

Slices of Soul (Soul Poetry Series: Book 1)

Life and Soul (Soul Poetry Series: Book 2)

Sorrowful Soul (Soul Poetry Series: Book 3)

Interludes (Erotic Short Stories)

Interludes 2 (Erotic Short Stories)

Moments (Short Stories and Poetry)

Jewel in the Mud (Zen Musings)

Polish Your Prose (How to Self-Edit)

Creative Solutions (Creative Writing Inspiration)

Backstage (Erotic Romance and Thriller)

FALLOUT (Post-Apocalyptic Dystopia) BRAG Medallion Honouree

The Vanished Boy (Psychological Thriller)

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

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

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

Harmony’s Amazon Author Page:

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

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

Shock and Disbelief
Anger and Bargaining
Depression, Loneliness and Reflection
Working Through

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

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

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

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

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

Universal Sales Link


If you haven’t already grabbed a copy of this anthology of mystery stories, here’s your chance! I was thrilled to be included in this collection. My story focuses on a murder at a Medieval gala, but the offerings span time periods, genres, and literary style. Grab your copy for free and get lost in this fun collection of whodunits!

Judi Lynn

Just a quick note to let you know MURDER, THEY WROTE–an anthology with short stories from D.P. Reisig, C.S. Boyack, Mae Clair, Kathleen Palm, Julia Donner, Rachel Sherwood Roberts, and me is FREE from Sept. 20-24.

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Book Tour Day 1: The Haunting of Chatham Hollow #newrelease #ghoststory #spiritualism #mystery @maeclair1 @stacitroilo

Promo ad for The Haunting of Chatham Hollow shows book in various formats beside old fashioned ink and quill and rolled parchment paper

Hello and happy Tuesday! If you live in the U.S., I hope you had a wonderful Labor Day weekend and holiday. Today kicks off the short blog tour Staci Troilo and I are unrolling for our new release, The Haunting of Chatham Hollow.

Staci is starting things off with a visit to Joan Hall.

Joan is a good friend and a sister blogger at Story Empire. She’s also a talented author with a roster of fabulous releases that encompass mystery and romantic suspense with a splash of folklore. I highly recommend her Driscoll Lake Series and Cold Dark Night, book one of her new Legends of Madeira Series. You can find all of Joan’s titles on her Amazon Author Page. Pick a title and you’re certain to swept away in the small town settings she creates.

Comments are closed on this post, but I hope you’ll hop over to Joan’s blog where Staci will be introducing her protagonist, Aiden Hale. Just follow this LINK!

Taking a Blogging Break

Hello, friends. I know I haven’t been all that visible lately, and I apologize for not being able to keep up with your blog posts. We all deal with the intrusion of real life issues now and then. I guess it’s my turn.

My husband and I lost his mother in May after a difficult time of hospital stays and hospice. The remainder of the month was a blur for various reasons. Early in June, we took a much needed vacation to Cape Cod. It was a beautiful relaxing time, but I haven’t been able to stay on top of things since returning. Thankfully, we have another vacation coming up in early July, but then I go into another whirlwind of situations that will demand the bulk of my time. I plan to hop online now and then. I’ll keep up with my Story Empire commitments, and also visit blogs as time permits, but for the most part you likely won’t see me until August.

Until then, happy summer—I’ll be back before it’s over! In closing, below are a few shots from the beach front cottage we enjoyed in Cape Cod. I did zero writing, but I read 3.5 books (didn’t make it through the fourth) while sunning on that gorgeous deck)!

Comments are closed, but I promise to get back to regular rounds soon! 🤗 ❤️

Book Reviews by Mae Clair: In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware, The Midnight Man by Caroline Mitchell #suspense #mysteries

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

Today’s reviews are for books that had been on my reading radar for some time. I’d read Ruth Ware before, but for some reason hesitated on snatching up In a Dark, Dark Wood. I eventually grabbed it through Libby.

The Midnight Man intrigued me the moment it was released, but I had so many other books on my reading plate, I kept putting it off. Then BookBub sent me notice of a .99c deal, and I had to snatch it up. Apparently, it’s the first book in a new crime series, and if this one is any indication of what lies ahead, I can’t wait for the next!

bookcover with black and white illustration of tree branches, white branches on black background


Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

This book wasn’t exactly what I expected. Leonora agrees to attend a hen party for an old friend—one she hasn’t seen or spoken to in ten years. Because of last minute cancellations, the group ends up being very small, just six people, including the intended bride. The setting is a large contemporary home tucked deep in the woods.

I loved the descriptions of the house which features walls and walls of glass windows. Because the author drives those images home in scene after scene, I was really hoping for those towering windows to have more impact in the story. The atmosphere of both home and woods really pervades the first half of the book, which held me enthralled. There are squabbles during the hen party, old wounds reopened, even a few moments with a Ouija board.

The second half of the book deals with Leonora waking up in the hospital, trying to recall the events that led to someone being killed. That half is a bit plodding and I found myself wishing things would move at a faster pace.

The author does a good job of making each person a suspect in the killing, so I really had no idea who the culprit was prior to the reveal. Kudos for that. Kudos too, for placing the answer in plain sight but nestling it so cleverly I never picked up on the obvious. When the revelation comes it’s an “ahhh!” moment. So… great first half with a fantastic setting, clever close, but some plodding to get there. Also, I feel like the Ouija board incident was left hanging. Overall, 3.5 stars rounded to 4 for review purposes.


Slayton Thrillers #1

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Oh, the creep factor! Give me a spooky abandoned old house with a name like Blackhall Manor, an infamous history involving a grisly murder/suicide and an urban legend twined with a game played on Halloween, and you’ve hooked me as a reader. That’s exactly what Caroline Mitchell did with The Midnight Man, a crime thriller with a supernatural twist. From the first chapter—suspense on steroids—to the mind-boggling and thoroughly satisfying conclusion, I was riveted.

Detective Sarah Noble has returned to the force after a long absence and a ruined marriage that negatively impacted her job. She struggles with the censure of her peers while trying to adapt to a lesser role in the department.

On Halloween, fifteen years after the murders in Blackhall Manor, five girls receive an anonymous invitation to play a game in the old house which will summon the Midnight Man (think ghostly games, like Bloody Mary). Only four of the girls make it home.

Despite trying to keep a low profile, Sarah has ties to the old house she’s managed to keep secret from most everyone. As the danger ramps up, she’s caught up in a net that tangles her past with the game the girls played and Blackhall Manor itself. In addition, her friend, Maggie, has a seven-year-old son who has the gift of sight. Elliott sees visions he doesn’t understand, dark and macabre images that terrify him. With Elliott’s help, Sarah must piece together the mystery and put an end to the darkness of Blackhall before it claims more victims.

This is a creepy, atmospheric story that oozes suspense with every scene. There’s a full roster of suspects to keep you guessing about culprits. Everyone’s life overlaps in various ways for a plethora of knots in what makes a twisty little thriller. The reveals at the end come like a stack of dominos, one toppling upon the other for a staggering conclusion. I read this book in two days, irritated when real life intervened and pulled me away from the story. The best news—although this is a complete tale, it’s also the first in a new series by the author. I eagerly look forward to the next!


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

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!


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.


Wreck of the Lanternfish by C.S. Boyack #newrelease #pirateadventure #fantasy #seastories @Virgilante

Hi, everyone! I’m super excited to welcome long-time friend and Story Empire colleague, Craig Boyack to my blog today. Craig’s here to share news of his latest release Wreck of the Lanternfish, the conclusion of his pirate adventure Lanternfish series. 

I read and thoroughly enjoyed the first two novels and am looking forward to seeing how Craig wraps everything up in book three. Lanternfish is set in a highly imaginative world, populated with intriguing creatures and characters, but as Craig explains in his post below, even when writing fantasy, you have to dive deep in research. Take it away, Craig!

Thanks for the invite to talk about ‘Wreck of the Lanternfish.’ I try to keep each post unique, and research is always a popular topic. The series is a trilogy, so there’s been a lot of research over the years. Add in the supporting story, ‘Serang,’ and it stacks up.

I started with basic data about tall ships. Rigging, number of guns, just the basics of what to call certain parts of the ship. I had to learn the difference between iron cannon and bronze, port vs starboard, and more.

There was a lot of research into Asian culture and beliefs. One story of how a Koi fish evolved into a dragon led me to create the Child of the Dragon in Serang. I spent time figuring out how to forge weapons and how various cultures included meteors in their steel.

Another one involved a Japanese belief in how old and revered objects can develop their own soul. This led me deep into various haunted items, and caused me to create Mule’s haunted knife which the pirates call the black spot.

In the new story, I needed some land based military tactics along with some river based movements. I researched singing stones and trench warfare. I relied on previous research to include data about travelling via beast of burden. Animals need time to eat and drink. They aren’t the same as automobiles, and aren’t as fast.

Quite a bit of research went into the Lanternfish books. As the final volume crosses your e-reader, it might be fun to spot some of these things. I hope readers will enjoy it.

Wreck of the Lanternfish purchase link

Trilogy link

Cover Blurb:
James Cuttler created a peaceful spot for he and his wife to settle down. Far from the war that ravages their homeland, far from the reputation he earned as the notorious pirate Captain Bloodwater, and far from responsibility.

A royal Prelonian houseguest is a constant reminder of what’s at stake half a world away, of the friends he put ashore to fight the war. He lives in a dream world that’s temporary, at best. It’s only a matter of time before his guest is identified and the black assassins come for her.

He mortgages his precious vineyard to pay for repairs to his ship. If nothing else, Lanternfish will be one of the most powerful ships in the war, if he’s not already too late.

James will have to merge the skills of commander and con man into something new to make this work. He’ll need to avoid those on his own side who would hang him for piracy.

Serang is half a world away, leading her army of mercenary swordsmen toward the Fulminites. Mistrusted by both sides of the war, she appears as a third combatant on the battlefield. She may eliminate the mysterious order, only to succumb to the demons of her own tragic past.

Strap on your swords and hoist the colors one more time as the thrilling Lanternfish Trilogy comes to an end.

bio box for author, C.S. Boyack

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

As an author, I always enjoy doing research, and if it involves delving into something unusual, so much the better. I appreciated learning how some of the oddities in Lanternfish developed. If you like high seas adventure, imaginative worlds, intriguing characters and colorful creatures, hop onboard and set sail with Lanterfish! I know I’m looking forward to the journey!

Welcome to Day 5 of The HYPE Blog Tour @YvetteMCalleiro #Hype #NewRelease #BookPromo #YAFiction

Today, it’s my pleasure to host Yvette M. Calleiro with her new release, HYPE. She’s brought along a compelling guest post and is offering a giveaway. See below, and please welcome Yvette!

Tour banner with QR code for HYPE by Yvette M. Calleiro

GIVEAWAY:  3 e-book copies of HYPE!
Leave a comment below for your chance to win! 

School Counseling

It’s hard for anyone outside of the school system to understand how vital school counselors are for our youth. Students cannot leave their problems at home. They carry them everywhere they go, including school. When a child is struggling emotionally or physically, they cannot focus on learning. Teachers are the first level of comfort for many students, but there are certain areas that need more in-depth help, and that is where our counselors come in.

At my middle school, we have two regular counselors, a TRUST counselor, and a mental health counselor. A TRUST counselor is a special counselor that focuses on being a beacon of help for our students. Our TRUST counselor is amazing. I could spend pages trying to explain all the ways she helps our students, but I’m going to focus on the one that applies to my novel, HYPE. She listens with no judgment and helps keep the student physically, mentally, and emotionally safe. I cannot tell you how many lives she has improved (and has saved) because of the work she does with our students.

In HYPE, Cici is referred to the TRUST counselor by her best friend when Cici’s behavior changes. Here is an excerpt from the story:

Mr. Cooper comes from around his desk to shake my hand. The first thing I notice is his happy eyes. They seem to smile all on their own. Curly, brown hair curves around the sides of his head, leaving the top bald. His bushy mustache almost completely covers his mouth; it’s good his eyes smile for him. I want to relax around him. He has this positive energy about him, but I keep my guard up.

“Come in. Come in. You must be Cecilia.” He shakes my hand and points to a chair in front of his desk. Instead of going to sit in his chair, he closes his door and sits in the chair next to me. “I’m Mr. Cooper, the school’s TRUST counselor. A friend of yours is worried about you and asked me to meet with you.”

Dee. It has to be.

“I’m not sure if you know who I am or what I do.”

I shake my head, although I have a pretty good idea what he’s about to say.

He smiles. “I am not a regular counselor. I don’t handle schedules and high school credits. I deal with more sensitive issues. Students come to me when they want to speak privately about issues such as homosexuality, relationship problems, anorexia, bulimia, suicidal thoughts, physical or emotional abuse, rape, problems with friends, etc… You can talk to me about anything. You and your thoughts and words are safe here.”

I like Mr. Cooper, despite what his job is, and I really want to let it all spill out of my mouth. “And everything I say is confidential?”

“Yes, everything is kept private between us. However, there are three details I cannot keep private for your own safety. One is if you want to harm yourself. Another is if you want to harm someone else. And the last one is if you are being abused or have been abused in any way. Your safety is the most important thing to me, and to keep you safe, I cannot keep those details confidential. I would have to get additional help, but I would be with you through every step.”

I shut down.


“Cici,” I correct him.

The smile again. “Cici, I work with plenty of troubled teens. The teenage years can be the most difficult in anyone’s life. I can help you get through whatever seems to be troubling you. Each person’s problems always seem bigger than they are. Sometimes, sharing them with a stranger who will not judge you and will hold what you say in confidence can help you work through it.”

I say nothing and stare at him. What I want to share is something he could not hold in confidence, so I stay quiet.

It isn’t easy for a student to open up to a complete stranger, but TRUST counselors know how to create those safe spaces to allow students to have a place where they can share their struggles. I know this from my own experiences in high school.

During my junior year, I became very depressed. I stopped eating and had difficulty sleeping. My parents tried to take me to a psychologist, but my stubborn self refused to talk to him. A teacher referred me to the TRUST counselor. At first, I was hesitant about speaking with him, but he slowly showed me that he was there to listen to me. I felt seen and heard, without judgment or expectations, for the first time in a long time. It was a turning point for me, as it is for many students.

The dramas of my yesteryears still exist, but today’s teens have so many more issues to deal with: school shootings, COVID, social media bullying, and so many more. Counselors are needed more than ever in the schools, and I hope this story shines a little light on them and their vast importance to our youth.

book cover for TYPE by Yvette Calleiro, two teen girls in front of pen and ink drawing of a girl's face, masking tape in form of X across her lips

Cici’s junior year in high school is going to be the best year ever. Popular co-captain of the varsity cheerleading team, she’s dating the starting quarterback. Even her jealous co-captain’s attempts to steal her boyfriend can’t curb her enthusiasm.

When her mom moves in with her fiancé, a handsome, wealthy man, only one small detail threatens Cici’s perfect life. The school’s social pariah is about to become her stepsister, and Cici wants nothing to do with her.

Everything changes when someone Cici cares about throws her life into a tailspin, and the one person Cici couldn’t stand becomes her only ally.

Warning: This story contains scenes of sexual assault.

Available on Amazon and Smashwords


author, Yvette M. Calleiro

Yvette M. Calleiro is a heavily addicted reader of both young adult and adult novels. She spends most of her time pseudo-living in paranormal worlds with her fictional friends (and boyfriends). When she’s living among real people, Yvette M. Calleiro is a middle school Reading and Language Arts teacher. She’s been sharing her love of literature with her students for over twenty years. Besides writing about the various characters that whisper (and sometimes scream) in her head, she enjoys traveling, watching movies, spending quality time with family and friends, and enjoying the beauty of the ocean.

Yvette lives in Miami, Florida, with her incredible son who has embraced her love for paranormal and adventurous stories. She also shares her space with an assortment of crazy saltwater animals in her 300-gallon tank.

Social Media Links:

Author Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Visit Yvette’s AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE for a complete list of all her novels


To follow along with the rest of this tour,
please visit Yvette M Calleiro’s tour page. 

Thanks so much for visiting in celebration of HYPE. Teen years are especially difficult, but I can’t imagine what it must be like today with the added pressure of social media and 24/7 scrutiny. I thought Yvette wrote an excellent post about the importance of TRUST counselors. To participate in the giveaway, don’t forget to drop her a comment, then help spread the word about HYPE with the sharing buttons! 🙂

Book Tour Day 4: Things Old and Forgotten by Mae Clair #speculativefiction #magicalrealism #fantasy #newrelease

book Things Old and Forgotten by Mae Clair on leaf covered brick walk, blurred image of autumn trees in background

A new week, and a new round of visits for Things Old and Forgotten. Today, I’m visiting Story two wonderful friends. Story Empire colleague, Gwen Plano, and my “PenderPal,” Marcia Meara.

Gwen is one of the kindest people you’ll meet online, an all around generous and giving person who is also a talented author of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. I first encountered Gwen’s optimism and resilience through reading her memoir Letting Go Into Perfect Love. She has an amazing life story.

Her versatility as an author really comes through in her Contract series. I found the most recent release The Culmination particularly strong, but highly recommend them all. The entire series can be found on her Amazon Author Page.

While visiting Gwen, I’ll be sharing an excerpt from my short story, Resurrecting Merlin. If you have a moment, hop over and JOIN US. 🙂

Marcia Meara is a sweetheart with the best sense of humor I know! She is highly supportive of other authors, and has regular features to promote them on her blog The Write Stuff. We both share love of the fictional character Aloysius X. L. Pendergast (hence PenderPals) and Harry Dresden (which makes us Dresdenphiles).

I’ve devoured everything Marcia has written. Her Riverbend Series is highly engrossing, and her Wake-Robin Ridge Series features a character named Rabbit who is guaranteed to steal your heart. You can find both series as well as novellas and more on her Amazon Author Page.

Because Marcia has such a fun sense of humor, I’m sharing an excerpt from my short story Miss Lily Makes A Wish (the singular comedic tale in the collection) while visiting her today. HOP OVER to see what it’s all about!

And an update:
The wonderful and uber-supportive Sally Cronin is featuring Things Old and Forgotten along with an early 5-star review of the book on the Smorgasboard Cafe and Bookstore. If you’re not familiar with Sally, you’re missing out connecting with one of the sweetest, friendliest, kindest, and as I said—uber-supportive—bloggers you’ll find online. Sally is also a talented writer with a vast collection of books you can find HERE. I wish you happy reading!