A New Release, Yearly Wrap, and New Plans

2020 in bold white on starry purple background with words happy new year in smaller gradient text beneathHappy New Year and Happy 2020, my friends! It’s hard to believe we are in a brand new decade. Have you seen the 20/20 commercial with Barbara Walters and other celebrities? I get a kick out of it every time it airs.

Here’s hoping everyone had a fantastic New Year’s. It’s the one holiday my husband and I spend at home. We stopped the party thing years ago and now have a nice quiet evening topped off by a lobster tail dinner, and a champagne toast at the ball drop. It’s a tradition we’ve kept up since the year 2000. Surely, you remember Y2K, LOL.

Another tradition I have involves blogging. As many of us do, I like to look back at the previous year, plus share a glimpse of what I plan moving ahead.

2019 REVIEW

BOOK RELEASES
I started the year off by releasing End of Day,  book 2 of my Hode’s Hill Series, and I closed out the year with the release of  Eventide, book 3, on New Year’s Eve.

That’s right—Eventide is now available! Didn’t you see all that confetti drop in Times Square? Okay, so there might have been some minor thing about a ball drop, but I like to think they were all celebrating along with me 🙂 Hey, a writer can dream, right?

Joking aside, if you haven’t grabbed your copy of Eventide yet, just click the handy link I’ve shared and you can purchase it from the bookseller of your choice. Several readers have commented that this is their favorite of the series, and early reviews on BookBub, Goodreads, and Amazon are off to a great start. A huge thanks to my ARC and Net Galley readers! If you haven’t read Cusp of Night, and End of Day, no worries. Early reviewers are saying it reads fine as a standalone. I was thrilled to see that sentiment shared by so many!


Banner ad for Eventide, a mystery novel by Mae Clair, features a dilapidated old house

BlURB:
The darkness is coming . . .

The old house near Hode’s Hill, Pennsylvania is a place for Madison Hewitt to start over—to put the trauma of her husband’s murder, and her subsequent breakdown, behind her. She isn’t bothered by a burial plot on the property, or the mysterious, sealed cistern in the basement. Not at first. Even the presence of cold spots and strange odors could be fabrications of her still troubled mind. But how to explain her slashed tires, or the ominous messages that grow ever more threatening?

Convinced the answer lies in the past, Madison delves into the history of the home’s original owners, only to discover the origin of a powerful evil. An entity that may be connected to a series of gruesome attacks that have left police baffled. No matter where she turns—past or present—terror lingers just a step away, spurred on by a twisted obsession that can only be satisfied through death…


WRITING
In 2019, I completed a one-hour story (more on that later) and a collection of short stories. Both will appear in 2020. I also participated in NaNoWriMo with a mystery/suspense novel entitled Belladonna Cottage, and although I did manage to “win” NaNo, that book will most probably be scrapped. I made a complete mess of it—though I do intend to salvage three of the characters and possibly the setting for use in a later tale.

READING
I’ve been doing the Goodreads Reading Challenge since 2013, and this was the third year I  met my goal (more confetti). I had hoped to read 70 books but managed 89. Not all of them appear on Goodreads, but—wow!—what an excellent year of reading.

My shortest read was Voodoo or Destiny by Jan Sikes (25 pages) and my longest was The Betrayed Wife by Kevin O’Brien (544 pages). My first review of the year was Final Girls by Riley Sager, and my last review was The Whisper Man by Alex North. I’ve already got several books lined up that I hope to read in January, and I’ve signed up for the Goodreads Reading Challenge again. I’m pledging 70 books, but hoping for more. If you’d like to participate, you can sign up from your Goodreads profile. Any number is acceptable, and no amount is too small.

BLOGGING
2019 was my first year sharing book reviews on my blog, and I am so thankful I started. I can’t imagine why I didn’t before. I also introduced Wednesday Weirdness as a regular feature. At Story Empire, my colleagues and I completed our third year and passed 500 posts on Christmas Day. Many thanks to all who continue to make that blog successful for all!

2020 PLANS

Quill pen and inkwell resting on an old book with green background concept for literature, writing, author and history

BOOK RELEASES
Remember the one-hour story, I mentioned above? I plan to release In Search of McDoogal, in time for Valentine’s Day. The story is already written, edited, and formatted for ebook, with the blurb and cover ready to go. If it weren’t for Eventide, I’d probably release it now.

McDoogal is going to be released as a standalone because it doesn’t fit the theme of my short story collection. Actually, McDoogal doesn’t fit with anything I’ve written before. When I release the blurb and cover later this month, you’ll understand why. It’s a a road trip, comedy of errors, buddy tale. Yeah—me doing humor. Shocker, I know 😉

WRITING
I’ve returned to work on The Keeping Place, a straight murder-mystery novel with just a smidgen of folklore about an old shack and a derelict rail line. Not a ghoul, creepy-crawly-thing or Mothman in sight.

READING
As stated above, I’ll be doing the GR challenge in 2020 with 70 books as my goal. I am always on the lookout for good reads and am thankful to have so many talented author friends who have plenty to choose from. Keeping writing!

BLOGGING
I will be continuing Tuesday Book Reviews and Wednesday Weirdness as we move into 2020. Thursday are always open for guest bloggers and friends with new releases or special promo, so please reach out to me whenever you need a spot. I am always happy to help!
(If you’re a new follower of my blog, I’m offline each week from Friday afternoon through Sunday evening/Monday morning).

At Story Empire, we will continue to bring you helpful content for all things writing, bookish, and promo-related. We have a few new and exciting things to roll out as the year progress, so stayed tuned.

Whew! That was a lot to cover in one post. Thank you for staying with me to the end.

Are you ready to tackle 2020? I’m in and sending cheers to all! 🙂

Last Minute Christmas Shopping? Preorder an ebook!

In many ways, December is a double-edged sword when it comes to book releases. On one hand—prior to Christmas—many are looking to gift books as presents. After Christmas, there is usually a huge pool of readers who have received gift cards for books, and are considering what to purchase.

The downside?

Not a lot of bloggers and readers are online during the week leading into Christmas or the week after. So, what’s an author to do?

If you’re like me, you take a chance, and float a post in the blogosphere anyway.

The last book on my publishing contract with Kensington is being released on December 31st. In one respect, it’s a cool way to close out the year. In another, I fear Eventide may get lost in the shuffle. I’d love if it launched with New Year’s Eve fireworks and a lot of rah-rah-rahs to pave the way. It’s been on pre-order for a while now, and I know many of you have already clicked that button (THANK YOU!). If you haven’t, here are a few snippets from pre-release reviews that I hope may entice you.

Book cover for Eventide, a Hode's Hill novel by Mae Clair shows an old abandoned house in a wash of blue tones

“Mae Clair has an unparalleled voice. Her writing is lyrically beautiful and powerfully evocative. She sets a sinister mood like no other author on the market. She’s on my auto-buy list, and with good reason. Just when I think she can’t possibly top her last work, she does. I’m eagerly awaiting her next title, and it is without reservation I give this novel five well-deserved stars.”
…Author and editor, Staci Troilo

“Once again, Mae Clair makes things that “go bump in the night” come to life with devilishly detailed scenes, a plot that encompasses decades and a mystery that begs to be uncovered . . .Great characters, a touch of the paranormal, and a rollercoaster ride to the end!”
…Tome Tender Book Reviews

“The plot runs both in the past (1800s) and in the present day and gives you plenty of mystery, suspense, and twists in both timelines. While I sussed out that something was up with the historical brothers early on, I completely failed to work out what it was, so kudos to the author for that bit of cunning. A solid five star read.”
…Author and editor, Harmony Kent

“I liked the entertaining and gripping plot that kept me on the edge, the well thought cast of characters and the world building. Even if it’s the last in a series I had no issues with the plot or the characters. I look forward to reading other books by this author as I really liked her style of writing.”
…Anarella, NetGalley Reviewer

“Mae Clair paints her stories with masterful imagery and a host of lovable characters just as imperfect and flawed as the rest of us. That makes walking beside them within the story, all the easier! If you love a great mystery with a touch of the paranormal, you won’t be disappointed in Eventide!”
…Author, Debbie Peterson

These are only snippets from a few of the reviews that have already surfaced on Goodreads. I’ve been really happy with them, and especially from the number of people who commented how easily Eventide read as a stand-alone, despite it being the close to my Hode’s Hill series. That’s always a concern for an author, but apparently, not something I need to be worried about.

So…If you’re looking for a book to gift, or even scouting out a read of your own, it’s the perfect time to pre-order Eventide. It will have the distinction of popping onto your e-reader on the final day of 2019. A close to a series, and a close to the year. Not such a bad match, when you think about it 🙂

Banner ad for Eventide, a mystery novel by Mae Clair, features a dilapidated old house

BLURB:
The darkness is coming . . .

The old house near Hode’s Hill, Pennsylvania is a place for Madison Hewitt to start over—to put the trauma of her husband’s murder, and her subsequent breakdown, behind her. She isn’t bothered by a burial plot on the property, or the mysterious, sealed cistern in the basement. Not at first. Even the presence of cold spots and strange odors could be fabrications of her still troubled mind. But how to explain her slashed tires, or the ominous messages that grow ever more threatening?

Convinced the answer lies in the past, Madison delves into the history of the home’s original owners, only to discover the origin of a powerful evil. An entity that may be connected to a series of gruesome attacks that have left police baffled. No matter where she turns—past or present—terror lingers just a step away, spurred on by a twisted obsession that can only be satisfied through death…

UNIVERSAL PRE-ORDER LINK

Wednesday Weirdness: Legends of Christmas Eve

pathway between large, gnarled trees with words "on the path of Wednesday Weirdness" superimposed over imageHi, friends. Given next Wednesday is Christmas, this will be my last Wednesday Weirdness post until we enter the New Year. I love the holidays, and am pretty much a sap the entire month of December. With that in mind, I thought I’d share legends related to Christmas Eve. But be warned—not all are warm and fuzzy.

The celebration of Christmas touches each of us in different ways. For me, it is a religious holiday. Also a time for gathering with family. There is a special magic that occurs at Christmas, an enchantment of being that is spiritual and mystical. The power of believe!

The Eve of Christmas is noted for many old world superstitions and beliefs, among them the idea the veil between worlds grows thin allowing the departed to return to the homes of loved ones.

Old table in front of a hearth laden with bowls of food, lighted chandelier of candles hanging above tableIn Scandinavia, people prepared feasts for the spirits, setting a table laden with holiday fare. They had their own festive celebration first, then before retiring for the night, made certain all the bowls and platters were refilled and heaped with food. Jugs brimmed with Yule ale, and a fire was set in the hearth. Chairs were wiped clean of debris with a white cloth. The following morning the cleaning process was repeated. If a bit of earth was discovered, it was considered proof-positive a visitor from the grave had stayed to enjoy the repast.

Another myth related to Christmas Eve involved animals. At the stroke of midnight many believed animals could speak in human voices. The downside? Whoever overheard an animal talk usually met with an untimely end or some other dreadful circumstance.

In Europe it is said cattle kneeled to worship the new-born King, and that bees came together in great numbers to hum a Christmas hymn.

The creepiest legend I found involved a blacksmith. On Christmas Eve a bell tolled, beckoning all the people of the man’s village to midnight mass, but he ignored the summons and continued to work. Not long after, a stranger arrived. Tall, but stooped over, he asked the blacksmith to add a nail to his scythe. When the blacksmith finished the task, the stranger told him to summon a priest for the work would be his last. The next morning the smitty perished, never realizing he had repaired the scythe of the Grim Reaper.

Are you familiar with any of these legends? Do you have others to share? Let me know in the comments. Whether you discover talking animals, friendly phantoms come to call, or just the good cheer of family and friends, I wish you a blessed and merry Christmas Eve!

Book Review Tuesday: Haunted House Ghost @jamescudney4, My Girl @JacqBiggar, Through the Nethergate by Roberta Eaton Cheadle, Moonlight Becomes You by Mary Higgins Clark

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

I’m back with my second and final Book Review Tuesday post for the month of December. As mentioned in last week’s post, I won’t be sharing reviews on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve, as I fear many readers won’t be online and I’d like to give the authors of the books I’ve read as much exposure as possible. Today’s variety includes a cozy mystery, a second-chance romance, and young-adult horror.


Book cover for cozy mystery Haunted House Ghost by James J. Cudney shows cartoon sketch of old house on hillside in front of full moon with cartoon ghost aboveHaunted House Ghost
A Kellan Ayrwick Cozy Mystery (Braxton Campus Mysteries Book 5)

by James J. Cudney

This is my first Braxton Campus mystery. It was a delight discovering these characters—and there are many. When you join a series in progress, it’s easy to get lost, but not with the Braxton series. The author did an excellent job of establishing who was who, as well as explaining the relationships that connected all the people in this fabulous fictional setting.

College professor and amateur sleuth, Kellan, moves into an old house only to discover it may be haunted by ghosts of the past. Set during Halloween, this cozy relies on past connections, family histories, plenty of secrets, and a cast of suspects that keeps the reader guessing. Toss in a fifty-year old skeleton, an eccentric psychic, plus Halloween happenings, and you can’t go wrong.

Kellan’s family is a delight—especially Nana D who is fond of calling him “brilliant one.” His developing romance with town sheriff, April, adds a nice hint of romance to the layers of mystery. Grab your scorecard, tally up the suspects, and take your best guess. If you like cozies, you’re sure to enjoy this charmer! 5 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Psychic Mysteries > Mystery Series > Ghost Mysteries 


Book cover for My Girl by Jacquie Biggar shows couple sharing a kiss behind a bouquet of flowersMy Girl: Gambling Hearts—Book Three
by Jacquie Biggar

Jacquie Biggar does it again! If you love second chance romances, you’re sure to love this story! Trish is a city girl from a corporate background, Aaron, a Texas rancher. Romantically involved for a time, family conflicts forced them to part. Now Trish, her parents, and her fiancé, are the first guests at the ranch Aaron owns along with his sibling—a place now opening as a dude/guest ranch.

Sparks fly right from the get-go, but there is plenty of trouble in the form of Trish’s slimy fiance (her father forced the arrangement) and her interfering parents. There’s also a surprise or two tucked into the plot, including how some of these characters end up. But one thing you can count on is the HEA at the end. It’s a sweet journey getting there with plenty of ups and downs, but the conclusion will leave you with a fuzzy feeling and a sloppy grin. I love everything Jacquie Biggar writes, but she really hit a home run with this charmer. Of special note: although this is the third book in a series, it easily stands on its own as well. 5 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genres: Western Romance > Women’s Romance Fiction


Book cover for Through the Nethergate by Roberta Eaton Cheadle shows young girl standing in open doorway at top of dark staircase descending downThrough the Nethergate
by Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Margaret is a girl with a special gift that allows her to see ghosts who are trapped in an overworld between Heaven and Hell. She’s able to help them regain life, then help them move on in the hereafter. When she moves in with her grandfather after the death of her parents, Margaret encounters a number of ghosts, and a particularly nasty black dog that is actually the embodiment of Hugh Bigod, an evil spirit who has held the ghosts trapped for centuries. Hugh has his own ideas how Margaret’s gifts can be used to his benefit.

This is a YA horror novel that will also appeal to adults, especially with the deep research the author layers into the historical aspects of the book. I found those the strongest and was enthralled by how skillfully Cheadle brought the past to life. There are a few POV issues and a good deal of internal thought, the latter which occasionally bogs things down, but for the most part this is a quick and easy read. Margaret’s grandfather is also a strong character, and the background of many of the ghosts adds a fascinating aspect. Most of the spirits are based on historic figures. I don’t usually read books that employ Lucifer as a character, and admit to skimming some of those chapters, but overall, I found this a compelling story on multiple levels. 4 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Young Adult Horror


Book cover for Moonlight Becomes you by Mary Higgins Clark shows full white moon on surrounded by clouds on dark skyMoonlight Becomes You
by Marry Higgins Clark

It’s been a while since I’ve read a book by Mary Higgins Clark. I was anxious to try this one because of a plot thread regarding Victorian burial customs. Maggie Holloway reconnects with her stepmother, Nuala, at a cocktail party. The two women haven’t seen each other since Maggie was a child but their connection is immediate. Shortly afterward, Nuala is murdered by an unknown assailant and Maggie inherits her home.

The plot involves residents of Latham Manor, a luxury living center for seniors, complete with medical staff on the premises. Maggie becomes friendly with one of Nuala’s friends, only to have that woman die unexpectedly. She soon realizes that several residents of Latham Manor have passed away in a short amount of time, and while visiting their graves discovers Victorian burial bells by their tombstones. Although this isn’t the main thread of the story, it adds an interesting twist.

There are a lot of characters to keep track of, and the book bogs a bit as each are introduced and their connections to the others become apparent. The story starts with a bang then slows down for quite a while before gaining momentum again, but it’s worth sticking with. While I deduced the identity of the killer around the 60% mark, it was entertaining to see the mystery unravel. The suspenseful ending, along with a nice wrap for the various plot threads made for a satisfying read. 4 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Psychological Fiction > Psychological Thrillers
(Note: I think this reads more like cozy despite the tags on Amazon)


I’ve seen a few of these books getting a lot of attention in the blogosphere within the last few months, so my guess is that some of you have read them, or have them on your TBRs. Either way, I’d love to hear your thoughts about today’s reviews!

Book Review: Eventide (Hode’s Hill #3), by Mae Clair

I’m delighted to find such a stellar advance review for Eventide from Dandelions Inspired Book Review blog. If you get a chance, I hope you’ll hop over and check it out.

Make sure you hang around long enough to read the “embarrassing moment” at the end. Had me cracking up, LOL!

Dandelions Inspired

Eventide (Hode’s Hill #3),

by Mae Clair

Publication: Lyrical Underground; December 31, 2019

eventideAbout the book: The darkness is coming . . .

The old house near Hode’s Hill, Pennsylvania is a place for Madison Hewitt to start over—to put the trauma of her husband’s murder, and her subsequent breakdown, behind her. She isn’t bothered by a burial plot on the property or the mysterious, sealed cistern in the basement. Not at first. Even the presence of cold spots and strange odors could be fabrications of her still troubled mind. But how to explain her slashed tires or the ominous messages that grow ever more threatening?

Convinced the answer lies in the past, Madison delves into the history of the home’s original owners, only to discover the origin of a powerful evil. An entity that may be connected to a series of gruesome attacks that have left police baffled. No…

View original post 1,038 more words

Presenting: Oh, Baubles by @harmony_kent #NewRelease #ChristmasNovella #ChristmasRomance #CleanRomance

Are you in the holiday spirit? I’ll be the first to admit I turn into a sentimental sap for the entire month of December. I’m kind of a sentimental sap the whole year, but I’m extra sappy during the Christmas holidays. Among other things, I love reading Christmas stories (and watching holiday movies). Which is why I’m excited to be part of Harmony Kent’s blog tour for her new release, Oh, Baubles. I’ll let her tell you about the book, but be sure to check out my review at the end of this post!

Book cover for Oh, Baubles, a Christmas romance novella by Harmony Kent shows Christmas bulbs with silhouette of embracing couple in a large bulb topped by a red bow

Hi everyone, Harmony here. I’m so thrilled to be visiting with Mae today to tell you about my latest book, a Christmas Romance Novella. It’s a fun, quick read at around 80 pages, and I had fun crafting this one. Below is a ‘sneek peek’ from Chapter 3 of ‘Oh Baubles.’


The line rang once, twice, three times, and more. On and on. Eventually, after sixteen full rings, it went to voicemail. Flustered, John hung up and cursed himself. How stupid could he be? If she reported him, he wouldn’t just lose his job but his whole career. Was some woman worth that? No. But then Charlie wasn’t just some woman, was she? No, she was a whole lot more than that. And John felt as though he would never feel happy again unless he at least took this chance and told her how he felt. So, with another heave in of air, he redialled—ready for the voicemail this time.

‘You’ve reached … Charlene Matthers … She cannot take your call right now. Please, leave a message after the tone.’

John waited for the tone, and sweat pooled in his arm pits and palms, and a cold droplet oozed down his spine. Then he caught an unpleasant whiff of man-pits. He’d have to do something about that as soon as he’d hung up. At last, the beep sounded.

‘Hey, Miss Matt—Charlene … Charlie, erm, this is John. John Andrews? Erm, oh god, I … er …’ He cleared his throat, determined to see this through before the damn machine cut him off. ‘Charlie, this is John. I’m sorry I haven’t called. Idiot that I am, I completely forgot to give you my number. The thing is … I want to see you again. Um, not in clinic. Oh, hell. I like you.’ He took a breath and wiped sweat from his brow. His words were all wrong.

‘Charlie, I don’t know what else to do, so I’m just gonna blurt it out … I love you. There, I’ve said it now. If you never want to hear from me again, or see me, I get it. Just don’t, please, report me. Lol. Ahem … I’m sorry I left things so long. I was a stupid damn coward. But I love you and want to get to know you better. The real you, not the hospital you.’ Flustered beyond belief now, and out of breath, John hung up, disappointed with himself. He’d messed that up badly. And only after he’d disconnected did he remember that he could have pressed the hash key and done a re-record. Too late now.


Book Description:
After a tragic accident one Christmas, Charlene loses her husband and her leg.

Scarred and damaged, the losses leave her lost and reeling, and a long recovery lies ahead of her.

When John, a hot young physiotherapist, comes into her life with his ripped abs and good-god good-looks, she can’t imagine he’d give somebody like her a second glance.

Then she falls for him.

Can Charlene overcome all obstacles to gain back her life and find true love once more?

Find out in this fun-filled, clean Christmas romance novella from award-winning author Harmony Kent.

Oh Baubles is available on Amazon for just 99c/99p And the link is: http://mybook.to/OhBaubles


This is a short, enchanting story sure to warm the heart. Charlene, a young widow, requires physical therapy due to a tragic accident in her past. She feels an immediate connection with John, her PT, but can’t believe he’d spare a second glance for her. Although this is a romantic story, I really enjoyed seeing the progression in Charlene’s character from beginning to end. The author delivered that change—and the build up of romance—in a believable manner. Watching Charlene transform as the book progresses is like watching a beautiful buttery emerge from a cocoon. With its holiday setting, Oh, Baubles makes a charming novella for the holidays, but it will leave you with a warm feeling any time of year. Lovely! MY REVIEW:
This is a short, enchanting story sure to warm the heart. Charlene, a young widow, requires physical therapy due to a tragic accident in her past. She feels an immediate connection with John, her PT, but can’t believe he’d spare a second glance for her.

Although this is a romantic story, I really enjoyed seeing the progression in Charlene’s character from beginning to end. The author delivered that change—and the build up of romance—in a believable manner. Watching Charlene transform as the book progresses is like watching a beautiful butterfly emerge from a cocoon. With its holiday setting, Oh, Baubles makes a charming novella for the holidays, but it will leave you with a warm feeling any time of year. 5 Lovely stars!


About the Author:
After spending around thirteen years as an ordained Buddhist monk, living in a Zen Buddhist temple, and six years after a life-changing injury following a surgical error, Harmony Kent returned to the world at the tender age of forty.

Now, she is famous for her laughter, and has made quite the name for herself … she’s also, um, a writer … and fairly well known for that too. She’s even won a few awards. Harmony lives in rural Cornwall with her ever-present sense of humour, adorable husband, and quirky neighbours. Harmony is passionate about supporting her fellow authors.

To Learn More About Harmony Check Out:
WebsiteStory Empire (co-authored) | Amazon Author Page | Twitter | LinkedIn | Goodreads | BookBub | bio box for author, Harmony Kent

Wednesday Weirdness: Black Cat, a White Hair, and a Wish

pathway between large, gnarled trees with words "on the path of Wednesday Weirdness" superimposed over imageWelcome to the first Wednesday Weirdness of December. At the mention of black cats, most people immediately think of witches, familiars, superstitions, and Halloween. But there is another legend, and because I love both cats and folklore, I couldn’t resist spinning both into a tale called Food for Poe.

A black cat sitting on red ribbon and surrounded by Christmas decorationsIs it weird? Oh, yes. It’s been compared to a cross between Night Gallery and Hallmark. For even more of a mash-up, it’s also a Christmas story.

But what about the legend? I’ll let that unfold naturally. In the scene below, Quinn Easterly, encounters a strange old woman in the grocery store, where she has stopped to pick up food for her newly adopted cat, Poe:

“There’s a legend about black cats.” The woman eyed her critically, continuing as if she hadn’t spoken. “Not the witch legend or the Halloween stuff you hear as a kid.”

What an odd discussion to be having on Christmas Eve with a snow storm brewing outside. “I’m sorry, but I don’t have time to talk.” Quinn started to withdraw, then stopped. There was something in the woman’s manner that made her hesitate. The store bustled with activity, but no one drew near. Not a single person ventured into the aisle where they stood conversing over colorful plush mice, boxes of dried meal, and sparkly ribbons adorned with bells.

“Every pure black cat has a single white hair.” The woman’s voice was low as if she dispensed a timeless secret. “Remove the hair without being scratched and you’re permitted a wish—health or wealth, but you can’t have both. And you must make the wish before midnight on Christmas Eve. Health or wealth. Do you understand?”

Quinn felt caught in a twisted dream. “I—”

The woman pulled her closer. “Beware, girl. Healing often attracts one of the Dark Things. Changelings. Creatures that pattern themselves from the thoughts of others. They live in cesspools, drainpipes, and hollow logs. Anywhere that’s dark.”

The hair prickled on the nape of Quinn’s neck. She glanced over her shoulder hoping to find someone else in the aisle, but it remained eerily deserted as though she stood in a corridor severed from the rest of the store.  What she needed was an escape route.

“I’m sorry, but I have to leave.”

“So go already,” a disgruntled male voice chided.

Quinn blinked, startled to find the old woman gone, the aisle behind her suddenly overflowing with people and shopping carts. A mother and two children shuffled past, the youngest trailing a caramel-colored stuffed bear by the arm.

“Look, lady, either pick something or get out of the way.” The grating voice acted like a chisel on the edge of Quinn’s thoughts. The speaker was squat and barrel-chested, pushing a cart loaded with ten-pound bags of dog food.

Quinn smiled politely and shuffled aside.


I admit to twining three separate legends together to suit my own purposes, but the folklore about black cats, a white hair, and a wish for health or wealth is from an old wive’s tale. There’s nothing involving Christmas Eve or midnight, but both seemed like a good fit.

As one reviewer said:

“It is a tale of love, hope, compassion, faith, superstition, and suspense with a touch of horror… I was hooked from the start. If it was up to me, I’d make it into a Christmas movie and watch it every year.”

Cover of FOOD FOR POE with cute young couple and a black cat.And here’s the blurb:
When a blizzard strands Quinn Easterly at a handsome stranger’s house on Christmas Eve, she doesn’t realize her newly adopted cat, Poe, is the catalyst responsible for bringing them together.

Breck Lansing gave up on relationships after his wife, unable to cope with their daughter’s illness, left him. But the pretty blonde he rescues from a snowstorm has him rethinking his stance—especially when Quinn’s arrival coincides with a dramatic change in Sophie’s health.

Unfortunately, that change also attracts something only whispered about in folklore. Together, Quinn and Breck must defeat a sinister creature intent on claiming the ultimate payment.

Warning: A clever black cat, Christmas magic, and paranormal trouble


I rarely promote this little Christmas novella, but can’t resist splashing it around a bit in December. If you’re interested, you can grab it from Amazon for .99c through this LINK.

Are you familiar with the folklore I used in this story? It’s also been said the reverse is true—every pure white cat has a single black hair, although I don’t know what wish is granted should the hair be removed. If you like Hallmark Christmas stories and cats, along with a bit of the bizarre, I hope you’ll give Poe a try.

Book Review Tuesday: Serang @Virgilante, If Darkness Takes Us @bsmithnovelist, My Baby Wrote Me a Letter @JacqBiggar

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 imageHello, and welcome to my first Book Review Tuesday of December! Bear with me, because I plan to share several books I read in November today and next week. After that, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve pop up on Tuesdays and I know many people go offline until the first of the year. Because I want to ensure the authors have exposure for their hard work, I won’t be reviewing on those days. Hopefully, that makes sense. :)

I’m pleased to say all of today’s books earned 5-Star reviews from me. Now, let’s get started!


Book cover for Serang by C. S. Boyack shows young female monk with shaved head in martial arts poseSerang
by C. S. Boyack

A vivid story that follows an orphan’s path as she matures from a child adrift, to a confident young woman and warrior. Serang is a character from Boyack’s popular Voyage of the Lanternfish tale, but you needn’t have read that book to enjoy this story. It stands on its own, allowing the reader to grow with Serang.

Through the course of the story she learns valuable lessons—many from a wise monk—faces multiple challenges and discovers herself along the way. There is danger and adventure. Heartbreak as well, but there is also plenty of humor, and the ending delivers a beautiful reward. As a reader I loved seeing the growth of Serang’s character. Enjoy this as a backstory to Voyage of the Lanternfish, or as a brand-new tale. Either way, it is a wholly entertaining read!

Amazon Link
Genre: Coming of Age > Travel Adventure Fiction


Book cover for If Darkness Takes Us by Brenda Marie Smith shows high tension utility tower shrouded in darknessIf Darkness Takes Us
by Brenda Marie Smith

I’ve always had a weak spot for apocalyptic novels. What makes this one so intriguing is the author confines the action to a single suburban neighborhood. A solar pulse is responsible for wiping out the power grid, turning life upside down. Bea Crenshaw is a 70ish woman who has her four grandkids for the weekend when the disaster strikes. As the world she knows falls apart around her, she steps up to take charge, not only in protecting her family—teaching them how to function in a world without internet, cell phones, or even refrigeration—but also taking on a leadership role in her neighborhood. Fortunately, Bea has been stockpiling goods for some time, preparing for the day when tragedy strikes, though she never expected it to come from the sun.

The kids vary in age from grade school to older teens, and each are forced to do some serious growing up before the book is over. Bea is a strong character who does what she can in an impossible situation. There are plenty of hardships including balancing the need to help others with caring for your own family. Bea has a huge heart, but she can also be secretive and controlling when she needs to be. She makes a unique MC, especially in a novel of this type. Her oldest grandson, Keno, is also particularly strong, as is neighbor Jack Jeffers. The characters lodge in your heart, including many of the secondary ones who arrive halfway through the book. The pace moves swiftly, and the author’s easy style of writing will keep you flipping pages to find out what happens next. The ending is rather surprising and not one I expected. As an apocalyptic novel this one is unique in its approach and characters, and well worth reading.

Amazon Link
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic Science Fiction > Thrillers > Dystopian Science Fiction


Book cover for My Baby Wrote Me A Letter by Jacquie Biggar shows young woman in front of old manual typewriting, sepia-tone wash over coverMy Baby Wrote Me a Letter
by Jacquie Biggar

This is a beautiful, heart-warming story of family, long-ago secrets, and healing. When Grace Freeman discovers a letter from her mother–a woman who abandoned her, her brothers and her father many years ago–it opens a door to the past and wounds that have never quite healed. Impacting the emotional level even more—Grace is expecting her first child, and her Navy husband is overseas.

I love Jacquie Biggar’s stories. She knows just how to tug on a reader’s heartstrings, and she does it again in this tender short story that touches on so many levels—fathers and daughters, sisters and brothers, fathers and sons, husbands and wives. The warmth in this story is like wrapping yourself in a cozy blanket, then settling in front of a fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa. Sheer bliss!

I particularly enjoyed the thread regarding the names Grace chose for her unborn baby. Each one made me smile and appreciate the effortless warmth in this beautiful tale. A true gem!

Amazon Link
Genre: 90-Minute Literature and Fiction Short Reads > Family Life Fiction > Contemporary Short Stories


Have you read any of these? Are they on your TBR? Did you have a hard time balancing NaNo and reading, like I did? I can’t wait to get back to my regular patterns, LOL!