Book Review Wednesday: Eternal Road, The Emissary 3: Love Hurts, The Choice: Unexpected Heroes. @HowellWave, @MarciaMeara, @gmplano

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

If today’s post seems a little out of place, that’s because I’m a day late with my book reviews. I already had a post in place yesterday, so I moved my reviews to Hump Day this week. Every now and then you just have to go with the flow.

I have three titles to share, all from authors I admire. I’m pleased to say I’ve read and enjoyed every book each of these fabulous authors has released to date, so it’s no surprise I found their latest offerings equally up to snuff. All three are also Story Empire colleagues. That’s right–if you haven’t already heard the news, Gwen Plano has joined SE, and we couldn’t be happier! So today, it’s a blog 3-FER for SE reads, all recommended with plenty of fanfare and applause! 🙂

book cover for Etneral Road by John W. Howell shows blue and white 1965 Oldsmobile on road heading into cloudsEternal Road
John W. Howell

A combination of paranormal suspense, fantasy, and time travel, Eternal Road delivers on multiple levels. James dies in a car accident and finds himself on the “eternal road” where his soul offers ripe pickings for Lucifer. James hooks up with Samatha (Sam) a soul he knew in grade school, now a woman, who partners with him through numerous learning experiences that take them through various moments in history–the OK Corral, the Alamo, WWII–and even decades into the future, where the human race is at stake.

What stood out for me in this story was the spiritual aspect of good vs. evil, the love and protection of God, and the choices the characters have to make. The love between James and Sam transcends that of mortal scope, and many of the scenes related to their family (when they’re able to reach those moments) are beautifully written and heart warming. Eternal Road delivers adventure, history, fantasy, and spiritual warmth in equal measures. Although the ending delivers a solid wrap to the events, I could easily see this becoming a series, and would eagerly sign on for future stories! 5 Stars.

Genre: Historical Thriller > Supernatural Thriller

book cover for The Emissary 3 by Marcia Meara shows silhouettes of couple gazing an ocean, angel wings over skyThe Emissary 3: Love Hurts
by Marcia Meara

In The Emissary 3: Love Hurts, author Marcia Meara returns to the world of Jake, Dodger, and Azrael—two emissaries and an angel whose job is to keep humans from making poor life choices. Azrael is in charge (or “Boss” as Jake calls him, to the non-amusement of Azrael) with Jake and Dodger working as his emissaries. Jake and Dodger have physical bodies, but they have previously passed from this life—which becomes a problem when Dodger falls for Juliet, a girl he sees at the library.

Azrael is willing to give Dodger a chance to explore his feelings and develop a relationship with Juliet, but the complications far surpass those of a normal couple, especially given Dodger is unable to share with Juliet who he really is or what he does.

As in past Emissary novellas, the story abounds with warmth and humor. I never tire of Azrael suddenly appearing and giving Jake a jolt. There is plenty of banter between angel and emissaries, but also plenty of near-parental type guidance and sternness from Azrael. That big angel has a huge soft spot for his recruits!

The story is polished with spot-on dialogue and emotions that tug on heart strings but ultimately leave the reader with a feel-good finish. This is a beautiful story, and a beautiful wrap to an enchanting series! 5 Stars.

Genre: Paranormal and Urban Fantasy

Book cover for The Choice by Gwen Plano shows silhouettes of man and woman from back holding hands on rocky beach, helicopter with search beam in starry night skyThe Choice: the unexpected heroes
by Gwen Plano

If you enjoy military fiction and political intrigue, you’ll enjoy this well-polished and plotted novel. The sequel to The Contract: Between Heaven and Earth, the story delves into the murder of Brad and Sarah (from book one) and who ordered their deaths. The author does provide a forward which helps cover what occurred in the first novel if you are new to the series.

In The Choice, new characters are introduced, including two who set up a romantic theme. I liked how the relationship grew and flourished between Jim and Donna. The bulk of the story, however, focuses on the investigation and political twists and turns as our “unexpected heroes” work to stop a power-hungry man known as “the Lion” from creating a one-world government. The pace moves steadily throughout with a few unexpected and well delivered twists at the end. 4 Stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Military Policy > Mystery Action Fiction > Action and Adventure Romance

Thank you for checking out my latest round of reviews. As always, I hope you have your nose buried in a good book and I wish you happy reading!

Book Review Tuesday: HMS Lanternfish by C. S. Boyack, The Twins by D.L. Cross @Virgilante @stacitroilo

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 imageWelcome to another Book Review Tuesday. I have two five-star reviews to share today. Both of these books are wildly imaginative and engrossing from start to finish. If you enjoy ingenious fiction, you’re sure to love both of these!

book cover HMS Lanternfish by C. S. Boyack shows clipper ship on stormy seasH.M.S. Lanternfish
Lanternfish Series Book 2
By C. S. Boyack

C. S. Boyack delivers another colorful adventure with HMS Lanterfish. I loved the first novel, Voyage of the Lanternfish, which introduced us to James—pirate captain Bloodwater—and his crew. The gang is back again (including the scene stealing root monsters), along with new characters, imaginative creatures, and plenty of action. James is drawn from a peaceful retirement to act as privateer for the war effort.

As always, Boyack delivers a story that brims over with adventure and explosive action. There are exploding monks (and that’s only part of the “explosive” action, LOL), a possessed weapon, a shogun, con artists, terrifying creatures, a beautiful princess, and a crew of thoroughly unique characters. Some standouts for me are the relationship between James and his adopted son, Mule, and Serang, a fiercely loyal female warrior who can kick butt like no other and who gets her own ship this time around. It’s hard to catch your breath when Lanternfish sets sail.

If you enjoy fast-paced fiction, a good sea yarn and a fun time, you’ll love this book and this series. And if you have no clue what a root monster is, grab your copy of HMS Lanterfish and prepare to be enchanted, as these guys have plenty of tales to tell, and they are not shy about it as the crew can attest. When a root monster earns a name, it is really something special, just one more highlight in this wildly entertaining book!


Genre: Sea Stories > Pirate Adventure > Epic Fantasy

Book cover for The Twins by D. L. Cross shows black sun with fiery corona above ruins of city, UFOs and Ying and Yang symbols The Twins
Astral Conspiracy Series Book 4

by D. L. Cross

I’ve been following this series since book one. The Stones has been my favorite to date, but The Twins comes in a close second. Once again, the action is nonstop, following different POV characters through separate pulse-pounding situations, all coming to a head in the closing quarter of the book. For fans who have followed the series, there are several surprises in store, including one jaw-dropping revelation that sets up book five, the closing novel in the series. That revelation is sheer brilliance on the part of the author, and I can’t wait to see how it plays out. I also really loved Cross’s slant on Roswell with what took place there and why. Yet another perfectly lobbed plot grenade.

There is strong cast of characters in this series, and by now I’ve spent a good deal of time with all of them. As their loyalties change, and circumstance reveals news sides to their personalities and underlying motivations, I found my own loyalties changing—including grudgingly admiring more than one character I once detested. Although each chapter is a constant adrenalin rush, it’s almost impossible to catch your breath in the closing quarter of the book. I fully expect The Lab, book five, to deliver a nail-biting and riveting finish to this stellar series. If you enjoy alien invasion stories with exceptional character development, polished writing, and an engrossing storyline, The Twins, and the Astral Conspiracy series are not to be missed! I would love to see Netflix turn this into a series.


Genre: Alien Invasion > Colonization Science Fiction

Book cover shows two figures in black silhouette in an empty room with large windows and curtains behind, gunman shooting victim in backI also read Murder They Wrote last week, a murder mystery anthology in which I have a short story. It was great to sit back and enjoy tales my co-authors created. C. S. Boyack, and Judi Lynn set up murder mysteries that allowed me to revisit with characters I love.

Boyack used Jason Fogg to tell his story, and Judi Lynn brought back Jazzi and Ansel from her popular series. Both were stellar mysteries.

I enjoyed every offering in this collection, but must give a special shout out to Julia Donner for  Murder at a Garden Party or The Unpleasantness in the Study, a Regency tale full of dry wit and humor. I enjoyed it so much, I want to track down more stories with these characters.

Genre: Anthology > Murder Mystery

As always, I wish you happy reading and hope that a title I’ve shared will spark your interest. I am also still reading the Harry Dresden series, and recently finished book 14 of the 16 that are currently in release. Book 17 releases in October, so I’ve got to read fast to catch up. Most of the Dresden books run 500-600+ pages, so it’s taking me a while, LOL!

And if you’d like to learn about Murder They Wrote, and the story I wrote for the anthology, I invite you to visit Marcia Meara’s blog today, where I’ve got the spotlight for Guest Author Tuesday. Marcia is a good friend, a Story Empire colleague, and a fantastic author. If you’re not already following her blog, you’re missing out on something special. You can find today’s post, HERE.

New Release: Liars and Thieves by D. Wallace Peach #fantasy #swordandsorcery

red quill pen on a piece of old parchment paper, with an ink well with words Welcome Guest in script
It’s my pleasure to have D. Wallace Peach on my blog today with her newest fantasy release, Liars and Thieves which is book one in a brand new epic fantasy series. Diana’s books are always rich in world building with intriguing, fully-fleshed out characters and plot lines that leave me in awe of their complexity and dexterity. I love that I can step into a vividly imagined world and lose myself in the beauty of her writing. She has a remarkable gift with words, and I’m honored to be taking part in her blog tour.

Banner ad for Liars and Thieves by D. Wallace Peach shows book, plus Kindle and e-reader versionsAt one point, the story suggests that all people are changelings. Diana explains what that means:

I’m intrigued by the idea that our choices define who we are, and that we have the ability to remake ourselves every moment of every day. We have the power to “change.” This applies to our appearance but, more importantly, to our thoughts and beliefs, how we speak and behave, whether we approach others with defensive hostility or kindness and compassion. We have the choice to seek a better world, a healthier planet, or to contribute to chaos. And simply by changing out choices we can become whole new people. That’s powerful!

I know the book will be powerful, too. Check out this trailer!


Behind the Veil, the hordes gather, eager to savage the world. But Kalann il Drakk, First of Chaos, is untroubled by the shimmering wall that holds his beasts at bay. For if he cannot cleanse the land of life, the races will do it for him. All he needs is a spark to light the fire.

Three unlikely allies stand in his way.

A misfit elf plagued by failure—

When Elanalue Windthorn abandons her soldiers to hunt a goblin, she strays into forbidden territory.

A changeling who betrays his home—

Talin Raska is a talented liar, thief, and spy. He makes a fatal mistake—he falls for his mark.

A halfbreed goblin with deadly secrets—

Naj’ar is a loner with a talent he doesn’t understand and cannot control, one that threatens all he holds dear.

When the spark of Chaos ignites, miners go missing. But they won’t be the last to vanish. As the cycles of blame whirl through the Borderland, old animosities flare, accusations break bonds, and war looms.

Three outcasts, thrust into an alliance by fate, by oaths, and the churning gears of calamity, must learn the truth. For they hold the future of their world in their hands.

Liars and Thieves Global Purchase Link

Author Bio:Author, D. Wallace Peach
D. Wallace Peach started writing later in life after the kids were grown and a move left her with hours to fill. Years of working in business surrendered to a full-time indulgence in the imaginative world of books, and when she started writing, she was instantly hooked. Diana lives in a log cabin amongst the tall evergreens and emerald moss of Oregon’s rainforest with her husband, two dogs, bats, owls, and the occasional family of coyotes.

Connect with the author at the following haunts:
Website/Blog | Website/Books | Amazon Author’s Page | Facebook | Twitter

Are you ready to get lost in this richly-layered fantasy world? Then I highly suggest you go forth and ONE-CLICK Liars and Thieves. Thanks for visiting today and joining in the launch excitement of Diana’s release. Please don’t forget to use the sharing buttons and help spread the news!

‘Fiction In A Flash Challenge’ Week #15 NEW Image Prompt. Join in the fun! #IARTG #ASMSG @pursoot #WritingCommunity

Suzanne Burke came up with another wonderful image for a flash fiction prompt, one that thoroughly enchanted my muse. If you’d like to participate, check out the rules and deadline HERE. In a nutshell—-750 words or less in the genre or format (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, etc.) of your choice. I always seem to come in right at the 750 word mark, or just under. Today’s count is 746.

old door with shattered glass stands open to weathered stairway, discarded junk and trash on floor

FREE Image by  Peter H  from Pixabay


Julian St. Croix. stood on the first step, testing the weight of the rotted tread. Behind him, Rexmont kicked through detritus littering the floor­—slivers of wood, dried leaves, tattered scraps of paper. Small puffs of dust wafted from his shoes, tickling the sensitive tissue of Julian’s nose.

He sniffed and dragged a sleeve across his face. “Second floor’s off limits.”

Rexmont stopped long enough to raise his head. “How come?”

“This step feels like rice paper and the others look as flimsy. Too much dry rot to risk it.”

“That sucks.” Rexmont wandered closer. He craned his neck to gaze toward the landing where shadows nested in a pocket of charcoals and grays. “Up there’s where he hung himself.”

“You’re sure?” They’d only been in the abandoned house forty minutes, and already Julian felt the drain on his energy.

“I did the research.” Rexmont swiped a paw over the back of his neck. He was a big man, twice Julian’s size, with massive hands, a chest like a double-wide freezer, and close-set eyes the color of motor oil. Most people labeled him a gorilla, but he was every bit as gifted in intellect as brawn, which was why Julian valued him so highly. If there was friendship between them, it straddled the line between employer/employee, still too new to venture deeper.

“No choice then.” Julian gripped his cane, the anchor that kept him from crumpling when spirit energy deserted him and all that was left was mortal stamina. “You stay here.”

“You’re the boss, but…is that wise?”

“The steps would never hold you.” Julian tested the first one. He was a trim man, not quite six feet, all lean muscle and bone, but still the wood groaned its fragility. Using his cane, he prodded each tread before adding his weight. When he reached the second-floor landing, he paused to glance down at Rexmont. “It’s an old house, but the structure is sound.”

His hired muscle snorted. “You’re two centuries older, at minimum. What’s that say about you?”

Julian’s lips curled. On his worse day, he could still pass for late thirties. “Let’s pray my fortitude is every bit as resilient as this structure.”

Without waiting for an acknowledgement, he ambled down the hallway. Over moldy carpet, once a rich burgundy, now frayed and discolored by grime. Fat cobwebs clung to the ceiling and sprouted in the corners. He followed a pulse of dark energy to a room on the right. The furniture had been cleared out years ago, but Sight allowed him to see the area as it had once been—a king-sized bed, ebony bureau, standing wardrobe, and roll-top desk.

His stamina wavered and he closed his eyes. When he looked again, the desk lay face down, papers and books scattered over the floor. A toppled ink well left a stain like blood on the paisley carpet. Above, suspended from the rafters, hung the body of a thirtyish man with white-gold hair. He had not died easily, his face bloated and purple.

Julian drew a breath to center himself. He bowed his head then murmured a prayer in middle English. When his voice faded, the specter’s form shimmered, outlined by tiny points of light. Within seconds, it vanished.

“Boss?” Rexmont appeared on the threshold. He glanced around the room. “That was quick work.”

Julian nodded, unwilling to say more. The ritual of releasing a spirit in bondage resurrected ugly memories. “How did you manage the steps?”

“I didn’t. I found a second stairway off the kitchen. Are we done?”

“For now.”

Rexmont frowned. “I still don’t understand why it’s your job to hunt down these ghosts and release them.”

“Because they deserve the peace that eluded them in life.” Something he’d yet to achieve.

Thoughts of his young wife and her lover filled his head. Visions of the blood he’d left them lying in before he’d flung a rope over a crossbeam and hung himself. Julian walked toward the door, his cane thumping hollowly against the floor. There was no erasing the sins of his past. Penitence would have to suffice, along with the hope that someday his spirit—like those he freed—might move on.

He paused and faced Rexmont. “I do it for atonement.”

“For you?”

“And them.” For the wife who’d broken their marriage vows, the brother who’d betrayed him by sharing her bed. He did it to erase the violent killer he’d once been. “I do it for my soul.”

This prompt really resonated with me. BIG TIME! I could easily see myself expanding on the characters and the plot line, spinning them into a novella or something longer. Now, if I could only find the time 😉

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed my latest flash fiction! 

New Release: Murder They Wrote #whodunit #mystery #anthology

Book banner ad for Murder They Wrote shows ebook lying on sweater, old watch nearbyHappy hump day! I’m super excited to announce a new anthology in which I have a short story. Murder They Wrote is about….well, murder. Makes sense, right?  Seven authors (including moi) have come together to deliver whodunits with plenty of mystery and dead bodies. Here’s the best thing—you get a mash up of different settings and sub-genres.

Check out the blurb:Book cover shows two figures in black silhouette in an empty room with large windows and curtains behind, gunman shooting victim in back

Murder comes in 7 different genres. By 7 different authors.

Are you a fan of courtroom drama? In the anthology’s first story, Abraham Lincoln defends a friend’s son against a charge of murder.

For lovers of speculative fiction, Jason Fogg dissolves into mist to sneak through open windows and snoop for clues.

How about a cozy? Jazzi, Jerod, and Ansel discover a dead body while renovating a kitchen, dining room, and half bath.

Have a craving for a Regency? Lord Peregrine and his wife, Elizabeth, use their sharp minds and quick wit to solve a murder at a garden party.

Need a bit of literary fiction? A young, lonely widow must deal with the theft of a valuable butterfly collection.

And what about a little psychological horror? Twin sisters discover that their attic is haunted by not one, but two ghosts.

Last, but never least, the anthology concludes with a historical mystery. A young, newly married knight is accused of murdering his obnoxious host at a holiday gathering in his castle.

I am so excited to be part of this collection. Most readers know me as a writer of supernatural suspense and mystery but in my short story, A Winter Reckoning, I’ve foregone the supernatural element. One of my favorite mystery tropes (thanks to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None), is to take a group of characters/suspects, plop them in an isolated location—in this case, a snowbound medieval castle—stage a murder, then let the suspicions, tension, and finger-pointing begin.

My protagonist is a mercurial knight with a short temper and a highly refined sense of honor and loyalty. Sir Richard Essex is recently married to the daughter of his father’s rival. He has little patience for the catty aristocrats he’s forced to rub elbows with at a holiday gathering, and even less for the father-in-law who despises him. When the host of the gala is murdered, and most everyone has a motive, Richard realizes no one is really who they seem. If he doesn’t discover the killer in time, his own life may be forfeit. All the while the line between friend and foe grows increasingly blurred.

A Winter Reckoning is just one story in this suspenseful anthology. All of the authors deliver tales that will keep you flipping pages while transporting you through various time periods and sub-genres. So set aside your game of Clue, grab your magnifying glass and detective’s notebook, then ONE-CLICK this engaging anthology that will have you chasing red herrings, confronting suspects, and examining evidence.

In the end, all of the authors hope you will agree on the same verdict—Murder They Wrote is a collection of mysteries you need to read and solve! 🙂


Thanks for visiting and checking out the post!  I wish you happy reading 🙂

Book Review Tuesday: Survival (Muddy River 6) by Judi Lynn, The Nine (Astral Conspiracy 3) by D.L. Cross

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

It’s the last Tuesday of August and my summer reading season is winding down. I always seem to read the most during the summer, because I get all those lazy days by my pool with a paperback or my Kindle. Today, I have two 5-star reads that kept me entertained last week. Both are continuations of series that have me hooked and waiting for more releases.

Book cover for Survival: Muddy River 6 shows sun in full eclipse shining down on a large outstretched hand, palm forward, image of skull on hand, clouds in backgroundSurvival (Muddy River 6)
by Judi Lynn

In the latest Muddy River adventure, Raven and Hester and their town of supernatural residents, are threatened by ancient powers from Europe. Big, bad nasties that have decided to move across the pond and subjugate supernaturals in America. The best way to do that is to wipe out the strongest among them.

Raven and Hester are looking forward to a relaxing week at their lake house for spring vacation, but they no sooner arrive than they’re targeted by vampires, witches, and shifters of a very old order. Muddy River comes under the same assault as the leaders of ancient factions set their sights on wiping out the most renown community of supernaturals, sending a message to others who would attempt to stand against them.

Muddy River unites against this new and powerful foe. As always, Judi Lynn delivers a story with heart, danger, and adventure. I love how the town bands together—Hester’s witches, the shifters, fae, neighboring druids—there is even a phoenix and a banshee, each with their own unique powers. The clash of magics is riveting, but what makes this story—and all the Muddy River books—so engaging is the relationship among characters and their fierce loyalty to one another. Another great entry in a fabulous series.


Genre: Paranormal and Urban Fantasy > Amazon Short Read

Book cover for The Nine by D. L. Cross shows mammoth circular stone covered in hieroglyphics, spaceships in background, eclipsed sun overhead with fiery umbra The Nine (Astral Conspiracy 3)
by D. L. Cross

D.L. Cross delivers another pulse-pounding entry in the Astral Conspiracy series. By now, the Astrals (aliens) have made their presence known on Earth and haven’t been shy about abducting humans. Landon Thorne, one-time discredited professor, is the single person who may be able to decipher how overcome them. But as Landon struggles to understand ancient artifacts contained in “the vault” others—including members of his own team—stand in the way. Alien tech comes into its own with the reader learning more about the Titans, Reptars, and Mullahs. The science-fiction aspects are cleverly presented, and the plot intricately layered through several simultaneous story arcs that shift between the U.S. and Iceland.

As in the first two books, Cross gives us characters to cheer for, others who will make your skin crawl, and those who straddle a world of grays. There are scenes that made me squirm, including a character arc I found difficult to read and had to skim. It’s a skilled author who knows how to write scenes so vividly as to evoke such emotion. The continuation of plot held me riveted, and once again, scenes end in constant fast-forward making the book impossible to put down. This is a writer who knows how to deliver a powerhouse story. I can’t wait to see what happens in book 4!


Genre: Colonization Science Fiction > Alien Invasion Science Fiction

Thanks for checking out my latest reviews. As always, I hope I’ve piqued your curiosity for new fiction and excellent authors. I wish you happy reading!

‘Fiction In A Flash Challenge’ Week#14 NEW Image Prompt. Join in the fun! @pursoot #IARTG #ASMSG #WritingCommunity

As we wind down to the end to August, and summer—sob!—I hope your week is off to a good start. My muse was cooperative this weekend, allowing me to churn out ten pages on my WIP, plus play with a flash fiction prompt. Suzanne Burke shares a new photo each Friday. Should you like to play, you can find the rules HERE. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy my take on the photo below.

Singer holding microphone with hand raised in the air, stage fireworks in background.
FREE Image by StockSnap from Pixabay


Clay Rocket downed a double shot of Scotch. Stupid name, Rocket.

He remembered when he’d been Clay Clodfelter, but Clodfelter had no star power. His managers had stripped him of his Pennsylvania Dutch surname, packaging music with his looks and a shiny stage name when he was only twenty-three. He thought he’d landed in Utopia, long days of plowing fields in Adamsville behind him.

His parents had fretted over his contract, but Mary couldn’t have been more excited. She’d baked him a cake, a simple confection of airy white layers with peppermint icing. They’d toasted with champagne and talked about their future long into the night. He’d wanted to make it permanent, proposing marriage despite the lack of a ring, but she’d insisted he establish himself.

His gut twisted.

He guzzled another shot, the alcohol burning his throat, pumping his courage. Even after thirty-four years, he knew her number. Couldn’t forget the familiar seven digits etched in his memory, though they hadn’t spoken since his screw-up at The Plaza.

He picked up the phone, fingers like ice. Huffing out a breath, he paced to the wall of windows overlooking New York City’s skyline. The sleek lines of his penthouse gleamed in the night-blackened glass, overlayed by strings of lights from towering hotels and bridges ablaze with traffic. Before he could lose his nerve, he punched out Mary’s number.

“Hello?” The voice on the line was young, childish.

“Uh…” His tongue felt thick. “Is Mary there?”

“Grandma.” The boy gave no warning, just left Clay hanging while he shouted into the background.

A shuffle of footsteps.

“Hello.” Her voice.

He struggled to swallow the char in his throat. “Mary?”

“Who is this?”

“I…it’s…” He lost the power of speech, forced his cumbersome tongue to move. “It’s Clay.”


“Clay Clodfelter.”

“You mean Clay Rocket.”

He sank into a chair. “How are you?”

He wondered what she looked like now. If her hair was still glossy and dark, her figure trim, eyes like shaded pools at twilight.

“Why are you calling me?” Her voice was cool, not frost or ice, but frigid enough to take him down a peg. “Now, after all this time.”

He swallowed, wished he had another Scotch. “Do you know what day it is?”



“I have no clue.”

Was she lying? “It’s the anniversary of the day we met. All those years ago. You were carrying a basket of peaches from the general store. I tripped and sent them tumbling.”

He expected her to laugh at the memory. Him fumbling and apologetic, her forgiving and accommodating. Such innocence before the world grew jaded.

“I’d forgotten.” No change in her tone.

He inhaled through his nose. Knew he was getting nowhere. “That girl at the Plaza…she meant nothing.”

“And you don’t see how that made it worse?” A long pause. “Your first major concert. First success, and you abandoned me.”

His gut tightened. He’d been such an ass. “I’m sorry.”

A burst of static came over the line. He imagined her shifting, pacing as she digested his decades-too-late apology.

“I could never hold a candle to the girls who tempted your fidelity.” Her voice was thready. “You proved that as soon as you had success. It’s why I left.”

He considered the empty glass in his hand, the crystal as barren as his heart. He needed something to fill it. Ease the sting, if even only temporarily. “Are you married?”

“Happily.” Warmth now. “I have three children and seven grandchildren. My husband and I are nearing our twenty-eighth wedding anniversary.”

All the things she couldn’t have with him.

He glanced to the framed photographs on the wall. Image after image of his successes on the stage, hand thrust in the air, microphone high, fans clamoring to embrace their idol.

“I’m happy for you.” He didn’t know what else to say. When she didn’t answer he cleared his throat, apologized for disrupting her evening, then made noise about needing to call his manager. Mary bade him well before leaving him listening to a dial tone.

He’d always thought happiness came with fame, but he’d left any chance behind with his one-night stand at The Plaza hotel all those years ago. Strange, how it had taken him decades to realize what he’d lost.

Clay slumped onto the couch. He poured himself another Scotch and toasted his success.

Tomorrow, when he wasn’t drunk, maybe he’d mean it.

It’s always fun when my muse cooperates. I was especially pleased to weave a flash fiction and move my WIP ahead this weekend. With summer waning, autumn is a season that beckons me to write. I’m going to miss my pool and the long, lazy nights watching fireflies, but I do love the cool, crisp days of fall and the creativity the change in temperature ushers in. I wish you happy writing, and an abundance of inspiration from your muse.

Thanks for reading! 



Book Release: Against All Odds by Jacqui Murray @AskATechTeacher #prehistoricfiction

Hello, friends! Please welcome Jacqui Murray, who is here to share her latest release, Against All Odds. The amount of research and detail Jacqui puts into her books is stunning—as is her writing. I’m happy to participate in her launch tour for book three in the Crossroads Trilogy.

Xhosa’s extraordinary prehistoric saga concludes, filled with hardship, courage, survival, and family.

Book cover for The Quest for Home by author, Jacqui Murray, shows prehistoric woman with long dark hair holding spear, wolf by her sideSummary
A million years of evolution made Xhosa tough but was it enough? She and her People finally reach their destination—a glorious land of tall grasses, few predators, and an abundance that seems limitless, but an enemy greater than any they have met so far threatens to end their dreams. If Xhosa can’t stop this one, she and her People must again flee.

 The Crossroads trilogy is set 850,000 years ago, a time in prehistory when man populated most of Eurasia. He was a violent species, fully capable of addressing the many hardships that threatened his survival except for one: future man, a smarter version of himself, one destined to obliterate all those who came before.

 From prehistoric fiction author Jacqui Murray comes the unforgettable saga of a courageous woman who questions assumptions, searches for truth, and does what she must despite daunting opposition. Read the final chapter of her search for freedom, safety, and a new home.

 A perfect book for fans of Jean Auel and the Gears!

Available digitally (print soon) at: Kindle US   Kindle UK   Kindle CA   Kindle AU

Author, Jacqui MurraryAuthor bio:
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for  NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Laws of Nature, Book 2 in the Dawn of Humanity trilogy, Winter 2021.

Connect with Jacqui at the following haunts:
Amazon Author Page | Blog | Instagram | LinkedIn | Pinterest | Twitter | Website


Thanks for visiting with me and Jacqui today. Please help spread the word about Against All Odds by using the sharing buttons below!

New Release: HMS Lanternfish by C.S. Boyack #pirates #fantasy #adventure @Virgilante

I’m delighted to have good friend and SE colleague, Craig Boyack, on the blog today with his latest release, HMS Lantenrfish. I had a sneak peek of this in the development stages, and it’s a gem of an adventure—-pirates, creatures, high seas adventures, and root monsters! If you don’t know what a root monster is, you’re missing out on something special. 😉

And Craig not only has a splashy new release, but he’s running an incredible special to promote it. I’ll let him tell you the details, along with the deets of some thoroughly fascinating research he did.


Book cover for Voyage of the Lanternfish by author, C. S. Boyack, shows bow of old clipper ship with glowing lanternfish headThanks for having me over, Mae. I’m here to talk about my newest publication, HMS Lanternfish. This is part two of an intended trilogy that began with Voyage of the Lanternfish. This is a pirate fantasy series, and I’ll get more into that at the end.

Right now, I want to get into some of the research I did for this book. I always have research, but a trilogy is a new situation for me. This means parts of the original book placed some limitations on what I could create here.

In the original story, Serang is from a country that is a stand-in for China. I mentioned this is a fantasy world, right? Her home country is at war with something they call the Island Prefectures. My intention all along was that this is pseudo-Japan.

I never intended to go much deeper, but the ship winds up stopping here and quite a bit happened. First was the name. The people there don’t see themselves as subservient to anyone else. Their country is Giapon.

Giapon was a no-brainer, because that’s what the early Portuguese sailors called Japan many years ago.

Then it occurred to me that Japan has some scary assed ghosts. This is where the research got kind of intense. There are many that are humorous as well. There’s one that approaches sailors and asks for a ladle. When someone gives it one it scoops the ship full of water and sinks it. Might not be your idea of humorous, but it is kind of outrageous. These didn’t make it into the story.

Honestly, there are so many I had to pick and choose. I went with some creepy tsunami victims. They mourn for their lost loved ones, and take the living back to wherever they came from as a kind of substitute. I made mine look pretty creepy, too.

The more important one is called tsukumogami. There is a belief that really old items can develop their own souls. As a result, the Japanese are extremely careful with personal possessions. They repair them and take care of them. They don’t want to irritate whatever might occupy the item.

There are all kinds of these. There are haunted baskets, water vessels, tea pots, and everything else. Some of them are embarrassingly humorous, some are scary. At this time, I needed to make up my own for my fantasy world. The research was kind of addictive, though.

I don’t want to spoil anything here, but I’m going to mention the samurai. Theirs was a life of servitude and loyalty. They served a master. Honor was everything to them. I used some of this to infuse the mentality of my own tsukumogami. It chooses a master and becomes fiercely loyal.

There is a conversation after it first reveals itself. Dishonoring it could be deadly. In this way, it becomes a responsibility and a bit of a trap. It was helpful, but is kind of like owning a pitbull. You need to know what you’re getting in to.

I couldn’t resist having my pirates refer to it as the black spot. It has absolutely nothing to do with the old pirate mark of the black spot, but in a fantasy world, this term kind of helps shore up the setting.

I hope I’ve piqued your interest in HMS Lanternfish. Just so you aren’t afraid of this being the second book in a trilogy, I’m running an incredible deal right now. You can get the first book free this week, and the new one for 99¢. Amazon won’t let me run a BOGO sale, but this is pretty darned close. 99¢ for two books.


book cover HMS Lanternfish by C. S. Boyack shows clipper ship on stormy seas

The Lanternfish crew completed their original mission, but got exposed to a more global problem. An entire continent is at war, headed up by a head-strong young king with dreams of power, and pushed from behind by a mysterious religious order known as the Fulminites.

Rather than let their country fall under the iron boot of conquest, James and his crew set sail once more to see what kind of muscle Lanternfish can lend to the war effort. Acting precariously under an unofficial charter as a privateer, even his allies aren’t always his friends.

HMS Lanternfish explores new worlds on its way to war, and drifts considerably off course. It features an international crew of characters, and for fans of the first book, the root monsters are back, too. Tall ships, a few con games, martial arts, and everything you loved about the original book is all returning.

Hoist the colors and wheel out the guns. Lanternfish is taking to the high seas once more.

HMS Lanternfish: 99¢ for a limited time.

Voyage of the Lanternfish: Free until Friday.

bio box for author, C.S. Boyack

You can contact Craig at the following locations:
BlogMy NovelsTwitterGoodreads | FacebookPinterestBookBub

WOW! Talk about a steal! A 2FER .99c can’t be beat, folks. I highly recommend going forth to one-click both these fun, fabulous tales. Hoist sail and join the adventure! Finally, don’t forget to use the sharing buttons below to help spread the word about HMS Lanternfish and Craig’s 2FER .99c deal! 🙂

‘Fiction In A Flash Challenge’ Week #12 NEW Image Prompt. @pursoot #IARTG #ASMSG #WritingCommunity

Happy Monday, friends! Once again, I’m participating in a the flash fiction challenge Suzanne Burke is running on her blog. Below is this week’s photo prompt as posted by Soooz. I let my muse run with it and eventually came up with something that passes as a flash fic. Erm…more or less…

Old looking bubble brass clock, four faces, time at 11:53

Yesteryear Treasures

The antique store was small, tucked into a side street beside a dried herb emporium. Charlene studied the faded brick façade and low hanging wooden yardarm. The sign creaked in a slight breeze, its flowery blue script proclaiming Yesteryear Treasures. A man with long white hair greeted her when she stepped inside.

“Good afternoon.” He had eyes the color of midnight and long-fingered hands.

“Hello.” Charlene offered a smile then wandered away to browse aisles of pale milk-glass and cameo pins. Bone china teacups, vintage greeting cards, feathered hats and opera glasses, rag dolls with black button eyes. There was too much to take in.

She paused to finger an ornate four-sided clock.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?”  The white-haired main appeared behind her.

“My great grandmother had a clock like this when I was a child.” Strange how she hadn’t thought about it in years, but now she could see it nestled atop a dresser in Nana Ruth’s bedroom as though it was yesterday.

What are you doing?” The reprimand in her mother’s voice echoed in her ears. So long ago, yet powerful still. “You shouldn’t be in here.”

 “But, Mama.” She couldn’t look away from the stark numerals and gilded brass casing of the clock. “It has four faces.”

 “It’s not for you to worry about.” Her mother knelt in front of her, lightly gripping her arms. “This doesn’t concern you.”

 “But I’ve never seen a clock like that.”

 “And you won’t again. Forget this one while you can.”

Charlene drew a breath, a bird beating in her chest. The floor felt spongy, like she might slip through into a realm where matter weighed little and thought was tangible. “Why? Is it special?”

“In ways you can’t imagine.” Her mother stood. “Come, child.” Taking her hand, she drew Charlene from the room.

Charlene looked at the man beside her, his white hair a waterfall of ivory. She touched the clock, a barely-there brush of fingertips. “I’ll take this.”

“You should know it doesn’t work. The time has been stuck at 11:53 since I acquired it.”

“That doesn’t matter.”

His smile thinned, sliding into something liquid. Later, when she returned to her small studio apartment, she set the clock beside her bed. Weary, she made a meager dinner of tomato soup and olive toast, then settled in front of the TV. The day caught up with her and she drifted off shortly after 8:00 PM.

When she woke hours later, the apartment was dark, needles of moonlight splayed across the floor. Her bed was only a handful of steps away, the old clock on the nightstand stuck at 11:53.

She grabbed her iPhone, illuminated the face, and saw the time was an exact match for the bubble clock with four faces. Slowly, she stood—half of her drawn to the window overlooking the moon-silvered grass to the rear of her apartment, the other pulled by the clock. Four different faces, all reading 11:53.

She closed her eyes. Heard the sound of her great-grandmother’s voice. Her grandmother’s. Her mother’s. Three spirits bound together in a prison of brass and glass, collared and penned by time. Her mother’s voice was strongest. Not words as much as a sad, keening hum of regret.

“You wanted to keep me out of it.” Charlene set the clock on the kitchen counter, her pulse wildfire in her ears.

She grabbed a hammer from the storage cabinet beside the sink. Without hesitation she bludgeoned the time piece. Spurred by anger and fear—a malice so strong each strike grew in ferocity until there was nothing left but cogs, broken gears, and scattered springs. The spirits of her great grandmother, her grandmother, and her mother soared free.

Calmly, she rounded up the scattered pieces of the clock, then dumped them in the trash. The next day she returned to the antique shop, but found the place boarded up. She caught a stooped over gray-haired woman opening the herb emporium and asked about the shop.

Yesteryear Treasures?” The old woman shook her head. “Hasn’t been here for over twenty years. Nothing has. The place has been abandoned for as long as I can remember.”  With a tired shake of her head, she disappeared into her shop.

Charlene stared at the building. At the space where the weathered sign had hung.

As she walked away, she was certain she heard the old wood creaking behind her.

And….that’s a wrap!

I hope you enjoyed it. Many thanks for visiting and reading. If you’re ready to try one of these prompts, just visit Soooz’s blog for the rules. She posts a new image every Friday. Basically, any creative form 750 words or less is acceptable. 

Thanks again for reading. I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to keep this up, but for now I’m having fun. Thank you, Soooz! 🙂