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!

Guest Author Thursday: Sue Rovens with Rage #suspense #crimethriller

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

Welcome to another Guest Author Thursday. Today, I’m delighted to feature Sue Rovens, who has brought along her latest release, Rage, in addition to an intriguing post about her characters and plots. Personally, I’m a huge fan of character-driven fiction. Check out Sue’s post then drop her some thoughts in the comments.

Take it away, Sue!

Thank you so much, Mae, for having me as a guest. The opportunity is most appreciated!

Anyone who prefers suspense over hardcore horror/gore should find my books to their liking. My characters are people who have faults, problems, and at times, heavy baggage. I don’t shy away from polarizing issues and taboo topics. However, at the same time, I don’t glorify these facets. The people in my stories are as “real” as those we meet everyday (or read about in the papers). The various situations I put them in is what drives the narrative.

Rage, my newest novel, follows two main characters – Wilbur Weston and Lyndsay Yager. Wilbur is a depressed and bitter man who hates the world almost as much as himself. Lyndsay is his therapist who is a train wreck of an alcoholic on the brink of divorce.

While Rage casts a dark shadow over itself, the reader will discover the characters’ reasoning for the choices they make – both good and bad. It’s a suspenseful tale full of hurt and desperate people who see themselves as doing what they must – righting their wrongs.

Rage comes in at 232 pages and is available in paperback and in Kindle format from Amazon.


Weston Cross is a bullied and abused man who wants nothing more than to escape from his agonizing mental anguish and excruciating misery. After a harrowing brush with death, he discovers a better way to twist his depression and self-despair into something different…something sinister.

Lindsay Yager, the therapist assigned to help Weston with his internal battles, is fighting her own demons. On the verge of a nasty divorce, she finds solace at the bottom of a bottle. Her anger and vitriol take no prisoners, even when lives are at stake – including her own.

Depression sets the stage, but RAGE will have the final say.


Sue Rovens is an indie suspense/horror author who hails from Normal, Illinois. She has written four novels and two books of short horror stories.

Track 9, her second novel, snagged a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly (May 2018), her short story, “Coming Over”, from her book, In a Corner, Darkly (Volume 1) was turned into a screenplay and short student indie film by the theater department of Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, and another short story, “When the Earth Bled”, won 2nd place in the Support Indie Authors short story contest earlier this year. Her two most recent books (Buried and Rage) are under Plump Toad Press.

Sue owns a blog (suerovens.com) which includes interviews with authors, musicians, podcasters, and artists. She is an Executive Producer for an indie (short) horror film which is currently in production called “Let’s Do Things that Make Us Happy”. Sue is also a co-host and story writer for the new horror podcast, Ye Olde Terror Inn.

Sue is a member of The Chicago Writers Association and the Alliance for Independent Authors (ALLi).

Blog: https://suerovens.com | Email: srovens@yahoo.com

I also want to let your readers know that I interview authors (and artists and musicians) of ALL genres and professional levels. Currently, I have 179 author interviews, as well as a handful of music folks and artistic people.

Everything is done through email and on YOUR schedule/timeframe. If you are interested in being a part of the Meet & Greet (author interviews), Spotlight (artists), and/or Flipside (music folks), please send me a quick email. ALL are welcome on my blog. Thanks!

What a nice invitation. Not only has Sue brought her latest release to share, but also an opportunity for all creative sorts out there. I hope you’ll reach out to her—and don’t forget to hop over to AMAZON to pick up your copy of Rage!

Book Reviews by Mae Clair: Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins #psychologicalthriller #murderthriller

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

Happy Wednesday! It’s Hump Day and the perfect time to trot out a five star read. I’ve had a couple of clunkers lately, including a near DNF (in retrospect, I wish I’d followed through), so I’m happy to share a book I can recommend. Thanks to Kim of By Hook or by Book for bringing this one to my attention!


From the New York Times bestselling author of The Wife Upstairs comes Reckless Girls, a deliciously wicked gothic suspense, set on an isolated Pacific island with a dark history, for fans of Lucy Foley and Ruth Ware.

When Lux McAllister and her boyfriend, Nico, are hired to sail two women to a remote island in the South Pacific, it seems like the opportunity of a lifetime. Stuck in a dead-end job in Hawaii, and longing to travel the world after a family tragedy, Lux is eager to climb on board The Susannah and set out on an adventure. She’s also quick to bond with their passengers, college best friends Brittany and Amma. The two women say they want to travel off the beaten path. But like Lux, they may have other reasons to be seeking an escape.

Shimmering on the horizon after days at sea, Meroe Island is every bit the paradise the foursome expects, despite a mysterious history of shipwrecks, cannibalism, and even rumors of murder. But what they don’t expect is to discover another boat already anchored off Meroe’s sandy beaches. The owners of the Azure Sky, Jake and Eliza, are a true golden couple: gorgeous, laidback, and if their sleek catamaran and well-stocked bar are any indication, rich. Now a party of six, the new friends settle in to experience life on an exotic island, and the serenity of being completely off the grid. Lux hasn’t felt like she truly belonged anywhere in years, yet here on Meroe, with these fellow free spirits, she finally has a sense of peace.

But with the arrival of a skeevy stranger sailing alone in pursuit of a darker kind of good time, the balance of the group is disrupted. Soon, cracks begin to emerge: it seems that Brittany and Amma haven’t been completely honest with Lux about their pasts––and perhaps not even with each other. And though Jake and Eliza seem like the perfect pair, the rocky history of their relationship begins to resurface, and their reasons for sailing to Meroe might not be as innocent as they first appeared.

When it becomes clear that the group is even more cut off from civilization than they initially thought, it starts to feel like the island itself is closing in on them. And when one person goes missing, and another turns up dead, Lux begins to wonder if any of them are going to make it off the island alive.


Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for my ARC!

Lux and her boyfriend, Nico, are hired to charter Brittany and Amma, two college friends to Mereo, a deserted island for a two-week excursion. When the four arrive, they’re shocked to find a couple, Jake and Eliza, already there with a luxury catamaran.

Despite the oddity of finding others on the island, the two groups become friendly, enjoying parties on the beach, days of sunning, swimming, and exploring the surrounding jungle. Later, the arrival of another man causes cracks to form in the new and tenuous friendships. It’s obvious from the start there’s something “off” with Brittany and Amma, but as the story progresses it’s clear they’re not the only ones keeping secrets.

Timelines shift between past and present, slowly unraveling the backstories of Lux, Eliza, Brittany and Amma. The island becomes a character, at times beautiful and lush, others creepy and claustrophobic. A virtual Eden, it has a sinister past involving marooned soldiers and rumors of cannibalism. The author does an exceptional job with setting, making everything from the hot sun and warm salt water to cool jungle shadows come alive. It’s the chapters on the island that kept me the most enthralled.

I did waffle on how I felt about several of the characters due to their chameleon like personalities. And while I was able to ferret out part of the ending twist before the big reveal, I still enjoyed seeing myself proved right.

This is an entertaining read, quick and easy, perfect for beach or poolside. The ending is highly satisfying yet at the same time may leave you torn. It’s hard to say more without leading into spoiler territory, but the author definitely delivered a movie-worthy conclusion. 4.5 stars rounded up to 5 for review purposes.



Book Review Tuesday: The House Guest by Mark Edwards, Not a Happy Family by Shari Lapena

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! I have two books today, both from authors I depend on for awesome stories. Sadly, both fell short of what I’ve come to expect from them, based on knockouts they’ve written in the past. As always, my reviews are opinions only, and others might rate these five stars. I consider each a three star read, or an average diversion, just not something I’ll shout about from the rooftops, or read again. That said, both of these authors will remain auto buys for me.

I’m not including blurbs for brevity, but feel free to follow the Amazon link to check those out in detail.


This is a quick mystery read with a few twists along the way. I’ve always enjoyed Mark Edwards, and while this book kept me interested, I wasn’t fully enamored, especially of the last half. The story wasn’t on par with what I’ve come to expect from this author.

A lot of that is personal preference. I’m not a fan of the central plot thread (no spoilers). By the time I realized where the story was headed I was too invested to back out.

Adam, an aspiring writer, and his girlfriend, Ruth, an up and coming actress, are house sitting for a couple they met on a cruise, when a stranger (Eden) shows up at their door, claiming to be friends of the couple. In short order she inserts herself into Adam and Ruth’s life. After a night of heavy drinking, Adam wakes up to find Ruth and Eden have disappeared. 

As Adam tries to discover what has happened to Ruth and who Eden really is, he’s met with obstacles at every turn. Many of his actions frustrated me, especially when he was interacting with the detective investigating the case. There were times I had to grit my teeth.

The ending has a clever wrap, but even then I’m not certain how I feel about the final resolution, especially as related to Eden. Many fans of mystery and suspense will certainly gobble this up. It reads quickly and has more high notes than low, but having read Edwards before, this one didn’t quite deliver on the scale I expected.


This is a good murder mystery with plenty of subjects. Fred and Shelia Merton invite their three children, along with their spouses (or in the case of the youngest, a boyfriend) to Easter dinner. The next morning both Fred and Shelia are found dead, Fred’s murder particularly gruesome. Because the Mertons were extremely wealthy the case is thrust into the spotlight, along with the surviving children, each of whom (along with others) has motive to want their parents dead.

The premise is great, and the pace is swift but be prepared the characters are highly unlikable, especially the parents. Unlikable characters aren’t always a problem for me when I read a book, but the more this one progressed, the more frustrated I grew with the behaviors of each.

If you enjoy a soap-opera type book with greedy, money-hungry siblings (and others), this is for you. The title speaks volumes about the family and the resulting relationships. There was really no “oomph” when the murderer is unmasked, but that revelation is followed by a quasi-clever twist which makes the ending a bit more satisfying. I will continue to read anything Shari Lapena writes, but this particular book didn’t resonate with me.

Book Review Tuesday: Falling by T.J. Newman #thriller #suspense @T_J_Newman

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

Hoo-boy, hoo-boy! I just finished a book that has to be the BEACH READ OF THE SUMMER! It has “blockbuster movie” written all over it, and I have no doubt Hollywood is already knocking at the author’s door. Falling is definitely one of my top reads of 2021. The hard copy was just a few dollars more than the Kindle version, and with a cover like this, I couldn’t resist indulging. I’m pleased to say the story lives up to the amazing cover and the hype. I’ve been seeing this one all over the place and couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. What a thrill ride!



“T. J. Newman has written the perfect thriller! A must-read.” —Gillian Flynn
“Stunning and relentless. This is Jaws at 35,000 feet.” —Don Winslow
Falling is the best kind of thriller…Nonstop, totally authentic suspense.” —James Patterson
“Amazing…Intense suspense, shocks, and scares…Chilling.” —Lee Child

You just boarded a flight to New York.

There are one hundred and forty-three other passengers onboard.

What you don’t know is that thirty minutes before the flight your pilot’s family was kidnapped.

For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die.

The only way the family will survive is if the pilot follows his orders and crashes the plane.

Enjoy the flight.


Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Beach Read of the summer!

I’m already anticipating the blockbuster movie. This is a story that keeps you enthralled from page one, but continually ups the stakes with each successive chapter. During the last half, I couldn’t flip pages fast enough, annoyed by the slightest distraction that threatened to pull me from the book.

Captain Bill Hoffman has taken a last minute flight from LA to NY, much to the chagrin of his wife, Carrie. She was counting on his presence at their son’s Little League game but Bill’s decision quickly spirals into a nightmare for both of them–and countless others.

Targeted by terrorists, Carrie frantically tries to keep her family alive on the ground while Bill faces impossible decisions in the air, every choice impacting the lives of the passengers aboard his flight.

This is an adrenaline-fueled, emotional roller coaster. Be prepared to gnaw your fingernails and teeter on a seesaw of right vs. wrong. Many lives comes into play–not just Bill, Carrie, and their children, but Bill’s flight crew, FBI personnel, and those on board. I especially loved senior flight attendant, Jo and her courage in the face of impossible circumstances.

Some reviewers have called a few specific scenes corny, but I loved them. I saw them playing out on the “big screen” complete with gasps and cheers from a movie-going audience, myself included.

The author said she had forty-one rejections before finding an agent to take a chance on her manuscript. His vision is our gain. Newman, a former flight attendant, wrote this book on red-eye flights over a ten year period. I’m thankful she stuck with the manuscript. The finished novel ranks among those books I consider my top reads of the year. I can’t say enough about the frantic pace in which the last half plays out. I have no doubt that Hollywood will scoop this one up quickly.

Guest Author Thursday: D. L. Finn with Tree Fairies and Their Short Stories @dlfinnauthor #newrelease #children’sfantasy #children’sliterature

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

Hello, friends! It’s time for another Guest Author Thursday. Today, I am delighted to host my friend and Story Empire colleague, D.L. Finn. Denise is sharing her latest release, a positively delightful sounding children’s book that should appeal to readers of all ages who love whimsy and magic. Take it away, Denise!

Thank you, Mae, for having me here today to share my latest children’s release, “Tree Fairies and Their Short Stories!”

The first story in this collection, Tree Fairies, is told from Daniel’s perspective, both as a boy and father. The storyline follows Daniel’s life and why the fairies came to him. Then the fairies, Roselle and Goldie wanted to reveal their perspective— or the last two short stories that I added in later. 

This is the final children’s book that I have planned, and it might be the one that lives within me the deepest. I believe a part of us wants that magic that fairies offer, and the ancient wisdom from the trees. Although the stories touch on poachers, polluting, and greed, they don’t criticize legal hunters or take away from the reality of how expensive and difficult hazard waste disposal can be. 

Sometimes we miss what is right in front of us, which is why this story insisted on being written. We should never forget the magic that lives inside and around us.

Fun Finn Facts
I believe fairies and angels reside around me
Nature is my happy place


When reality and magic meet in the forest

It’s 1969, and twelve-year-old Daniel Burns is camping in the redwood forest with his family. Danny wants to listen to his music and read, but his family has other plans. S’mores around the campfire and stories end their first day. The family is sleeping soundly in their secluded tent when Danny wakes up and finds his sister, Colette, is missing. Assuming she went to use the outhouse, he goes after her. When he finds his sister, they discover there is a thin veil between reality and fantasy. 

Two bonus short stories offer a glimpse into the magical world that finds Danny and Colette. These hidden beings not only share our world but have a role in protecting their forest.




The full moon filtered down through the giant trees, bathing the forest in a glow that made it easy for the fairies to see. A woodpecker had done its job clearing out the insects it found in the old redwood. As the tree grew, so did an opening that became an animal den. A fisher—a member of the weasel family—nestled there with her four babies. Her long, fluffy tail, half the length of her sleek body, was protectively curled around her brood.

Goldie and her little brother, Oren, quietly watched them sleep. It had become Goldie’s habit to check the animal dens to make sure they were safe. The fishers, who were no bigger than the cats humans kept as pets, held a special place in her heart. They were adorable, with their big, bearlike ears, pointed faces, and huge eyes. Their dark brown fur was so soft it was hard not to pet them. They didn’t trust tree fairies, and she didn’t blame them. The fairies would zap animals, birds, or insects that developed too much curiosity or mistook them for food.

Oren spoke in a voice Goldie strained to hear. “I’m watching for owls.”

Not wanting to wake the fishers, Goldie responded in a softer tone. “Thanks. They are pests.”

Oren nodded solemnly and looked behind him. They’d seen a brown-and-gray horned owl hunting earlier in the evening. Its yellow eyes had widened in hunger as it dove at them. A quick jolt was all the discouragement it needed to stop bothering them. Would those birds ever learn fairies weren’t on their menu?

Oren had settled in a holding pattern, looking over Goldie’s head into the den. They made eye contact, and she jerked her head in a motion to leave. Their silver wings glowed at night, making the fairies easy targets if they weren’t careful. They rested briefly on a lower branch of the redwood.

Oren smiled as he swung his bare feet, making the branch sway. “Thanks for bringing me along this time, Sis.”


Author Bio:

D. L. Finn is an independent California local who encourages everyone to embrace their inner child. She was born and raised in the foggy Bay Area, but in 1990 she relocated with her husband, kids, dogs, and cats to Nevada City, in the Sierra foothills. She immersed herself in reading all types of books but especially loved romance, horror, and fantasy. She always treasured creating her own reality on paper. Finally, surrounded by towering pines, oaks, and cedars, her creativity was nurtured until it bloomed. Her creations include adult fiction, poetry, a unique autobiography, and children’s books. She continues on her adventure with an open invitation to all readers to join her.

Connect with D.L. Finn at the following Haunts
Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | D.L. Finn blog

bio box for author D.L. Finn

Isn’t that book cover gorgeous? And I thought the excerpt was positively enchanting! We all need a little magic in our lives along with a big dollop of whimsy. Please help Denise spread the word of her lovely new release by using the sharing buttons below then drop her some cheer in the comments!

Book Review Tuesday: Out of the Shadows by Emily Midorikawa @EmilyMidorikawa @CounterpointLLC #spiritualism #nonfiction #biographies

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Today, I’m sharing another NetGalley read, although this book was released shortly after I reviewed it, and is now available for purchase. Ever since researching the spiritualism movement of the late 1800s and early 1900s for my novel Cusp of Night, I’ve been fascinated by the subject. When I saw Out of the Shadows offered on NetGalley, of course I had to request it!


Queen Victoria’s reign was an era of breathtaking social change, but it did little to create a platform for women to express themselves. But not so within the social sphere of the séance–a mysterious, lamp-lit world on both sides of the Atlantic, in which women who craved a public voice could hold their own.

Out of the Shadows tells the stories of the enterprising women whose supposedly clairvoyant gifts granted them fame, fortune, and most important, influence as they crossed rigid boundaries of gender and class as easily as they passed between the realms of the living and the dead. The Fox sisters inspired some of the era’s best-known political activists and set off a transatlantic séance craze. While in the throes of a trance, Emma Hardinge Britten delivered powerful speeches to crowds of thousands. Victoria Woodhull claimed guidance from the spirit world as she took on the millionaires of Wall Street before becoming America’s first female presidential candidate. And Georgina Weldon narrowly escaped the asylum before becoming a celebrity campaigner against archaic lunacy laws. Drawing on diaries, letters, and rarely seen memoirs and texts, Emily Midorikawa illuminates a radical history of female influence that has been confined to the dark until now.


Thank you to Counterpoint Press and NetGalley for this wonderful ARC. The moment I saw it, I knew I wanted to read it, and I was not disappointed.

I developed a fascination with the workings of spirit mediums of the nineteenth century while conducting research for a series of novels some years back. Since that time, I continue to read anything I can find related to the Spiritualist movement of the Victorian age. I’m fascinated by how these mediums commanded fervent followings and packed lecture halls. Many were gifted theatrical performers able to communicate through spirit rapping, table tilting, channeled writing, and conjuring. Some were escape artists. When Spiritualism was at its peak during the Victorian age, it clashed with medicine and science, fields dominated by men.

The author of Out of the Shadows, doesn’t set out to judge one way of another if the women in her book were fraudulent swindlers preying on a gullible public, true believers of their cause, or a little of both. She examines their lives from family background through the rise of their fame—for each of these ladies certainly obtained it—and, in two cases, to their ultimate downfall. Throughout, we see the mark these women made on society during a time when females were relegated to existing in the shadow of men. Or, as Midorikawa says in the book—in the attitude of the day, men were the “lofty pine,” women viewed as the “clinging vine.”

Anyone familiar with the Spiritualist movement knows it began with the Fox sisters in Hydesville, New York. Two young teenage girl—Maggie and Kate—who began communicating with spirits through rapping sounds. Thus it’s only fitting Midorikawa starts her research there, fleshing out how both girls went from obscurity to fame under the guidance of their older sister, Leah (who would eventually join their act when the sisters packed lecture halls for their performances). We see the growth of the movement as other mediums follow, not only in America but across the Atlantic in Britain, too.

As the author shows us, Spiritualism gave voice to women who were able to combine the supernatural with more pressing concerns of their day. We meet Emma Hardinge Britton who addressed the need for equality between men and women along with her talks on spiritualism. Georgina Weldon championed the Lunacy Laws of Britain, after almost being unjustly incarcerated in an asylum herself (anyone associated with spiritualism could easily be seen as demented). Georgina’s relentless pursuit of those who sought to have her committed would ultimately help bring reform.

Each woman’s life is meticulously detailed, yet shared in a manner that keeps the reader flipping pages. This is a fascinating and in-depth look, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in the development of spirit mediums, or even the morals and attitudes of the Victorian era.

Book Review Tuesday: The House Keeper by Natalie Barelli, Possession by Katie Lowe #psychologicalthriller #psychologicalfiction #bookreviews

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Happy Tuesday! Once again, I have two books to share today. One held me riveted the other was…eh.

I have mixed emotions about the second book because it had plenty of good points. I’ll let you judge from today’s reviews. I will mention that Natalie Barelli is an author I discovered last year, and she immediately went on my auto buy list. I’ve scooped up several of her back issues as well. If you enjoy psychological suspense, she always delivers a good tale. Sometimes the circumstances require a suspension of belief, but for sheer entertainment value, they always deliver.

She’s a liar. She’s a stalker. She’s in your house.

When Claire sees Hannah Wilson at an exclusive Manhattan hair salon, it’s like a knife slicing through barely healed scars. It may have been ten years since Claire last saw Hannah, but she has thought of her every day, and not in a good way. So Claire does what anyone would do in her position—she stalks her.

Hannah is now Mrs. Carter, living the charmed life that should have been Claire’s. It’s the life Claire used to have, before Hannah came along and took it all away from her.

Back then, Claire was a happy teenager with porcelain skin and long, wavy blond hair. Now she’s an overweight, lazy drunk with hair the color of compost and skin to match. Which is why when Hannah advertises for a housekeeper, Claire is confident she can apply and not be recognized. And since she has time on her hands, revenge on her mind, and a talent for acting…

Because what better way to seek retribution—and redress—than from within the beautiful Mrs. Hannah Carter’s own home?

Except that it’s not just Claire who has secrets. Everyone in that house seems to have something to hide.

And now, there’s no way out.

This is a quick read and an easy one, but highly entertaining. Despite how messed up the main character is, you get sucked into her life. Claire had it all when she was young. A happy home life, rich parents, tennis lessons, pony rides. Then Hannah waltzed into her world as a nanny for her younger brother and her life took a nosedive. I’d say more about why, but that’s part of the story, and I don’t want to spoil anything.

Fast forward ten years and Hannah is now married to a wealthy doctor, living the high life in a beautiful house. She’s in need of a housekeeper who will also help care for her infant daughter from time to time. Through a series of pretty “out there” circumstances, Claire changes her appearance, assumes another identity, and lands the job. She’s there to upend Hannah’s life and exact revenge.

This is a juicy read which alternates for the reader between disliking Claire and cheering for her. Written in first person POV, there is plenty of snarky asides sprinkled throughout, as well as a steady build of suspense and tension. There aren’t many characters to keep track of, but all play an integral part in the story, and the ending is well worth the ride. This is my second book by Natalie Barelli, but I like her work so much, I’ve already picked up another two for my Kindle.


Ten years ago, Hannah’s husband was knifed in their bed. Hannah was questioned but was unable to recall anything about the night of Graham’s death. Someone else was charged with his murder and sentenced to life in prison. Now, ten years later, Hannah is living with her boyfriend, Dan, and her teenage daughter, Evie. A true crime podcast with a reputation for overturning wrongful convictions begins to pick Hannah’s story apart, determined to get to the bottom of what really happened ten years ago.

Talk about a compelling plot! The premise of this book immediately intrigued me. Hannah’s life begins to unravel when she’s judged in the court of public opinion, one sensationalized podcast episode at a time. This is a slow-burn suspense read with several elements that play exceptionally well, including Hannah’s spotty memory. Did she or didn’t she? Even she doesn’t know if she’s a killer. That keeps the reader wondering, too—right up until the end.

Another thread involves the ruins of a Gothic insane asylum where Hannah’s grandmother was incarcerated for killing her husband and daughter. Hannah is drawn there when she learns someone is interested in renovating the property. The scenes in the shell of the old building are some of my favorite, played heavily for atmosphere.

There are numerous snaking plot lines that weave together at the end. Kudos to the author for juggling so many intricate puzzle pieces. I thought the ending was brilliant.

What I didn’t like, and found implausible, is that Hannah—a professional psychiatrist—would be such a doormat for her husband and her ex-boss. Her behavior, especially in the past, didn’t ring true. Though most of the book takes place in the present, there are numerous scenes where the reader is treated to Hannah’s married life with Graham. The more I was exposed to her past, the more annoyed I became. In the present, some of the actions of the police left me scratching my head. I had some other issues as well, but it’s hard to say more without giving away spoilers.

The overall tone of the book is dark. I honestly found it depressing. This is one novel that will come down to a matter of personal taste. If you like dark, twisty reads, this is well-written and well-plotted though it does moves slowly. For me, it didn’t quite work.


I can’t believe it’s the last Tuesday of April already, and somehow I’m still not caught up on sharing my book reviews. I’d love to hear your thoughts on The House Keeper and Possession. Intrigued or pass? As always, happy reading!