Book Review Tuesday: The Stones by D. L. Cross #Aliens #AstralConspiracySeries

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 imageHappy Tuesday! I’ve missed a week or two of book reviews, but it’s not because I haven’t been reading. I’ve been immersed in the Harry Dresden series and haven’t been posting reviews of those books since there are so many. Recently, I came up for air to branch into something different and–OH MY FREAKING WORD!–what a diversion it turned out to be. I can’t praise The Stones enough. It ticked all my reading boxes, but I’ll let the review speak for  itself…

The StonesBook cover for The Stones by D.L. Cross shows two monolith stone slabs with space ships in background
D.L. Cross

If you’re looking for a fast paced, adrenaline fueled novel with stellar writing, breathless adventure, and a highly diverse cast of characters, look no further. In The Stones, book two of the Astral Conspiracy Series, aliens have arrived on Earth and they’re far from friendly. Nor do they resemble little green men. Creepy, bizarre, vividly imagined, these are beings you DO NOT want to cross. I don’t want to say too much for fear of spoilers, only that the titans freaked me out as much as, or more than, the reptars.

Professor Landon Thorne, once ridiculed for his theories about alien life, comes into possession of two “firestones” that may be tied to Atlantis and the aliens, but before he can discover more about their properties, he loses possession of both. With various factions vying for the firestones, aliens roaming the planet, an underground resistance movement, government agents, crosses and double crosses, D. L. Cross sets a breathless pace for readers. There are characters to love, characters to DESPISE, and plenty of nail-biting action. The chapters are energy fueled, most ending on jaw-dropping hooks, making it all but impossible to put this book down. With its complex plot, I could easily see The Stones/ Astral Conspiracy a Netflix series or a blockbuster movie. One of my favorite reads of 2020.

5 Honking Big Luminous stars!

Genre: Alien Invasion Science Fiction > First Contact Science Fiction

Ready to embark on a phenomenal reading adventure? Then hop onboard. I highly recommend getting lost in the Astral Conspiracy Series. Once engaged, you won’t want to leave.

As for The Stones, I have one word: Titans.

Let’s just say I’m equally enthralled and freaked out by them! You’ll have to read the book to learn more 🙂

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! 🙂

Pre-order: Interludes 2 by Harmony Kent @harmony_kent

Today, I’m hosting my friend and Story Empire colleague, Harmony Kent, who is here to share her upcoming release, Interludes 2. I know you’ll roll out the red carpet for her! 🙂

Banner ad for Interludes 2 by Harmony Kent shows sexy red shoes on a black background,

Thanks so much for having me over at your place today, Mae.

Hi everyone. It’s great to be visiting with you all.

While I’m here, I’d like to talk about my latest book, Interludes 2. This is a book of short erotic romance fiction. As with the original Interludes (which you can find HERE), the book contains 10 short stories, with the first tale totalling 1,000 words, the second one totalling 2,000, and so on up to 10,000 words in the final story.

For each story, I used prompt cards from a great creative tool called Storymatic.  Here’s what the set gave me to work with:

  1. person with a very poor memory, b) daydreamer … c) person with a tail … conflict = first day of school

A and B relate to the main character. C relates to the secondary character. And the final prompt gives us the conflict.

From the above set of prompts, I came up with Initiation—a contemporary romance in 6000 words.

A pretty daydreamer arrives for her first day at university. A brutal initiation, and a man with an unusual issue, leave her reeling. Strange, the places you find true love.

Interludes 2 by Harmony Kent shows close up of sexy red shoes on a black backgroundExcerpt from Initiation:
Distracted, Willow failed to respond. She’d been idly watching his tight butt, and then a strange bulge had caught her attention. What the hell? Did he need to wear some kind of incontinence pad? Willow stifled a giggle. Probably, he’d made a hash of tucking in his shirt tails. As they walked through the crowded and noisy foyer, she imagined that Anders was an alien in disguise and that the bulge came from him having to fit a tail into his tight jeans. Another giggle bubbled up, and this time it escaped.

Anders stared at her and raised his brows interrogatively.

Willow sought a plausible excuse. ‘Um, sorry. I get nervous in … in a crowd. And this is all … so …’


‘Yeah. That.’

He gave her another stare and then pressed the button to call the lift. The car held a maximum of only four people, and those estimates always seemed on the optimistic side. Hence the two of them and her bulky suitcase made for a cozy fit. Willow tried to look anywhere but at Anders. Her heart rate sped up, and her breaths came in shallow pants. What was up with her? He was just a guy. Granted, a hot one, but still only a regular bloke.

I had so much fun writing this one, and I hope you’ve enjoyed this little teaser. I’d love to hear what you think via the comments at the bottom of the page. Thanks for stopping by.

Author, Harmony KentAuthor Bio
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 adorable husband, ever-present sense of humour, and quirky neighbours.

Harmony is passionate about supporting her fellow authors.

Connect with Harmony at the following haunts
Website | Story Empire (co-authored) | Amazon Author Page | Twitter | LinkedIn | Goodreads | BookBub


Interludes 2 Blurb

From author, Harmony Kent, another best-selling collection of short erotic fiction that will tickle more than your taste buds and wet [sic] more than your appetite.

With a range of genres and styles, this book has enough steam for everyone.

WIGGING OUT—contemporary romance in 1000 words. Two strangers. A crowded platform. A collision. And a wig on the floor.

STORM CHASER—ménage à trois in 2000 words. A sabotaged tire. A raging storm. Passion mounts.

MOON-STRUCK—shifter romance in 3000 words. Trapped on a ship orbiting the moon, a horny astronaut falls for a hunky author who has a secret.

THE CLUB—contemporary romance in 4000 words. An invitation and a host, who is so much more than he seems, bring excitement, enticement, and a choice to make.

NUDIST CAMP—contemporary romance in 5000 words. An older woman. A younger man. A gossip discovers their secret tryst. What will happen when it all gets laid bare?

INITIATION—contemporary romance in 6000 words. A pretty daydreamer arrives for her first day at university. A brutal initiation, and a man with an unusual issue, leave her reeling. Strange, the places you find true love.

THE INCOMER—contemporary romance in 7000 words. A divorced beekeeper has spent her whole life in or around her local village. Then a city-slicker architect comes to town. When two worlds collide, a big bang is sure to follow. Can you have a frenemy with benefits?

DOWN AND DIRTY—contemporary romance in 8000 words. On the run from a sadistic ex-husband, Ellie flees to a remote mountain town and takes a job in the mines. Wary of men, she resolves to keep herself aloof, but mother nature has a way of having the last word and will, quite literally, make the earth move if she has to.

REUNION—contemporary romance in 9000 words. A school reunion looms. Not wanting to arrive sad and single, Molly talks her long-time friend Adam into going with her. While the music plays, the sparks fly.

SOUL MATES—supernatural romance in 10,000 words. A bereaved woman seeks solace in remote woodland. All too soon, she discovers that she’s not as alone as she’d expected. And her heart isn’t the only one that needs to mend.

READER ADVISORY: This book contains explicit sex scenes and language hot enough to melt your book. For mature readers only.


Thanks for visiting and checking out Harmony’s upcoming release. I think it’s so intriguing that she used Storymatic for this collection. Don’t forget to share her news with the buttons below!

“Fiction In A Flash Challenge” Week #11 NEW Image Prompt. @pursoot #IARTG #ASMSG #WritingCommunity.

Happy Wednesday! I am back again and participating in the Flash Fiction challenge Suzanne Burke has shared on her blog. This is my third week in a row, and I’m having a blast enjoying these prompts. Below is the photo for this week and my take on it!

Waterfall spilling into verdant valley, stark, barren, leafless tree in foregroundMrs. Conway

Jarrod Hamilton was not a rich man but considered himself a talented one. For the last eight years he’d made a living teaching the upper crust ladies of Victorian London the finer arts of painting with oils. During that time, he’d often had to bite his tongue rather than offer advice­. On other occasions, he fawned over inferior work all the while cringing at the substandard quality his students produced. But catering to delicate egos paid the bills and helped him maintain his lifestyle, mediocre as it was.

Perhaps that was why Mrs. Conway so surprised him. Unlike the other ladies who breezed in each Wednesday, chattering like magpies, Millicent Conway arrived early and alone. A quiet woman widowed for over a year—if gossip was to be believed—she rarely engaged with others. Of the near dozen students in his class, she was the only one with a dram of talent. He’d observed the growth of her painting for weeks, maintaining his silence on her progress. Now, with the final brushstrokes applied, he could no longer contain his thoughts.

“Very striking, Mrs. Conway.” Jarrod stood with his hands behind his back as he looked over her shoulder. “The assignment was to paint a representation of self. I’m curious why you chose a waterfall.”

Millicent set her brush aside with a graceful movement, as dainty and refined as a delicate bird. “Your praise is most kind, sir.” She seemed reluctant to say more.

Undaunted, he peered closer. “A more cynical man than I might guess the waterfall is not the subject of your painting.”

She blinked, wide-eyed and curious. “Pardon?”

“I suspect the true focus is the tree in the foreground. Desolate and barren while the waterfall feeds a valley rich with life.” He eyed her sharply, prying beneath the buttoned-up layers of her personality. “The tree is Isolated and alone.”

Her spine stiffened. She fingered her collar. “How observant of you. Sometimes people are much the same.”

“Only by choice.”

She looked away.

“Do you know what I see, Mrs. Conway? Despite the fact the tree doesn’t embrace the vibrance of the valley, its roots are deep. Steadfast. A strong force in the face of adversity.”

She relaxed, her smile wan. “Ah, but you don’t see beneath the surface, Mr. Hamilton. Sometimes there is a reason for that distance. The exterior is gilt and flash, while the inside has been poisoned with disease.”

His gut clenched. The chatter of his other students created a buzz like the constant drone of honeybees in the background. He wanted to swat them away. “Disease?”

She wiped her hands on a rag. “It destroys from the inside out. You can’t see the damage until it is too late, and there is nothing to be done.”

“Like a cancer?”


Bile burned the back of his throat. “Then there is no hope?”

She squeezed his hand, her fingers cold. “There is always hope. Especially when those who suffer have made peace and no longer feel the need to be part of the valley. They have their own verdant dell waiting, guarded by loved ones who have passed.” Warmth touched her eyes. “The tree must bend. Break at last.”

His throat grew tight. He nodded toward the painting. “What will become of this?”

“It matters not to me.”

“May I have it?”

She appeared surprised. “Of course, but I fail to understand why you would want it.”

How could he tell her? Finally, after years of teaching petticoats, dowagers, and debutantes, someone in his class had spoken clearly through canvas and oil. It may not have mattered to her, but even as disease shortened her life, she’d found a way to instill meaning in his work.

It made him believe he could find his own waterfall and valley.

At the very least, she’d taught him how to be a tree.

I hope you enjoyed my short fic. If you’d like to try your hand, visit Soooz’s blog each Friday for a new prompt. You have until Thursday of the following week to post something. Lots of time to get creative! 🙂


Book Release: The Memory by Judith Barrow #familylifefiction

I have a new guest on my blog today. I “met” Judith Barrow through Story Empire, then invited her to share her latest release The Memory. Please make her feel welcome as she gives us a behind the scenes look at what inspired her to write the book.

Thank you so much, Mae Clair, for hosting this guest post and promotion for my new book, The Memory.

Many people have asked what was the inspiration for The Memory and my answer is always – memories: memories of being a carer for two of my aunts who lived with us, memories of losing a friend in my childhood; a friend who, although at the time I didn’t realise, was a Downs’ Syndrome child. But why I started to write the story; a story so different from my other four books, I can’t remember. Because it was something I’d begun years ago and was based around the journal I’d kept during that decade of looking after my relatives.

But what did begin to evolve when I settled down to writing The Memory was the realisation of why I’d been so reluctant to delve too far into the manuscript. The isolation, the loneliness, that Irene Hargreaves, the protagonist, endures; despite being married to Sam, her loving husband, dragged up my own feelings of being alone so much as a child. That awareness of always being on the outside; looking in on other families, relationships and friendships had followed me; had hidden deep inside my subconscious. And now, as a contented wife and mother, with steady enduring friendships, it unsettled me. Many people, and as a creative writing tutor I’m one, say that writing is cathartic. Working through Irene’s memories; especially that one memory that has ruled her life, made me acknowledge my own. And that’s fine. I always say to my students, if you don’t feel the emotions as you write, then neither will your reader. In The Memory I’m hoping the reader will sense the poignant, sad times with Irene, but will also rejoice with her in the happier memories

Book cover for The Memory by Judith Barrrow shows woman's legs crossed, woman sitting on stone wall, visible from waist downBlurb
Today has been a long time coming. Irene sits at her mother’s side waiting for the right moment, for the point at which she will know she is doing the right thing by Rose.

Rose was Irene’s little sister, born a chromosome short, an unwanted embarrassment to their mother Lilian but a treasure to Irene. Rose died thirty years ago, when she was eight, and nobody has talked about the circumstances of her death since. But Irene knows what she saw.

Over the course of 24 hours their moving and tragic story is revealed – a story of love and duty, betrayal, and loss – as Irene rediscovers the past and finds hope for the future.

Extract from The Memory
There’s a chink of light from the streetlamp coming through the vertical blinds. It spreads across the duvet on my mother’s bed and onto the pillow next to her head. I reach up and pull the curtains closer together. The faint line of light is still there, but blurred around the edges.

Which is how I feel. Blurred around the edges. Except, for me, there is no light.

I move around the bed, straightening the corners, making the inner softness of the duvet match the shape of the outer material, trying to make the cover lie flat but of course I can’t. The small round lump in the middle is my mother. However heavily her head lies on the pillow, however precisely her arms are down by her sides, her feet are never still. The cover twitches until centimetre by centimetre it slides to one side towards the floor like the pink, satin eiderdown used to do on my bed as a child.

In the end I yank her feet up and tuck the duvet underneath. Tonight I want her to look tidy. I want everything to be right.

She doesn’t like that and opens her eyes, giving up the pretence of being asleep. Lying face upwards, the skin falling back on her cheekbones, her flesh is extraordinarily smooth, pale. Translucent almost. Her eyes are vague under the thick lines of white brows drawn together.

I ignore her; I’m bone weary.

I wait by the bed. I move into her line of vision and it’s as if we’re watching one another, my mother and me: two women – trapped.

‘I can’t go on, Mum.’ I lift my arms from my side, let them drop; my hands too substantial, too solid to hold up. They’re strong – dependable, Sam, my husband, always says. I just think they’re like shovels and I’ve always been resentful that I didn’t inherit my mother’s slender fingers. After all I got her fat arse and thick thighs, why not the nice bits?

I’ve been awake for over a day. I glance at the clock with the extra large numbers, bought when she could still tell the time. Now it’s just something else for her to stare at, to puzzle over. It’s actually twenty-seven hours since I slept, and for a lot of them I’ve been on my feet. Not that this is out of the ordinary. This has been going on for the last year: long days, longer nights.

‘Just another phase she’s going through,’ the Irish doctor says, patting me on the shoulder as she leaves. ‘You’re doing a grand job.’ While all the time I know she’s wondering why –why I didn’t give up the first time she suggested that I should; why, by now, I’ve not admitted it’s all too much and ‘Please, please take her away, just for a week, a day, a night. An hour.’

But I don’t. Because I have no choice. Mum told me years ago she’d sorted it out with her solicitor. There was no way she’d agree to our selling this house; as a joint owner with Sam and me, she would block any attempt we made. There’s no way we could afford to put her into care either; over the years, we’ve ploughed most of Sam’s earnings into the renovation and upkeep of the place. So here I am. Here we are.

Author Judith Barrow holding her book, The Memory

Author Bio
I was born and brought up in a small village on the edge of the Pennine moors in Yorkshire, but, for the last forty-three years I’ve lived with my husband and family near the coast in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, UK, a gloriously beautiful place.

I’ve written all my life and have had short stories, poems, plays, reviews, and articles published throughout the British Isles. But only started to seriously write novels after I’d had breast cancer twenty years ago.  Four novels safely stashed away, never to see the light of day again, I had the first of my trilogy, Pattern of Shadows, published in 2010 by Honno , the longest-standing independent women’s press in the UK. They then published, the sequel, Changing Patterns, in 2013 and the last, Living in the Shadows in 2015. The prequel, A Hundred Tiny Threads was published in August 2017.

The Memory was published in March 2020, and my next book, The Heart Stone, is due to be out in February 2021.

At the moment I’m working on two books; a story set in the 1950s of three women who work in a cotton factory during the declining years of the industry. It’s told from the three points of view; each have disparate and difficult home lives. As friends, they come together in their place of work to share the troubles within their families; problems that will be worsened by the crisis within the cotton trade and their inevitable unemployment.

My other WIP is a more contemporary book again and is the story of two sisters who grow up sharing a lie, and the subsequent consequences that brings.

I have an MA in Creative Writing, B.A. (Hons.) in Literature, and a Diploma in Drama and Script Writing.  I am also a Creative Writing tutor for Pembrokeshire County Council’s Lifelong Learning Programme and give talks and run workshops on all genres.

When I’m not writing or teaching, I’m researching for my books, walking the Pembrokeshire coastline or reading and reviewing books for Rosie Amber’s Review Team #RBRT, along with some other brilliant authors and bloggers.

Again, my thanks, Mae Clair, for hosting this guest post and promotion for my new book, The Memory. It’s been great fun and I appreciate your generosity.

Learn more about Judith at the following haunts:
Hono | Amazon | Website | Facebook Author Page  | Twitter

It was my pleasure to host Judith today. Thank you for visiting and making her feel welcome. Please don’t forget to use the sharing buttons to help spread the news about The Memory! 🙂

“Fiction In A Flash Challenge” #10 @pursoot #IARTG #ASMSG #WritingCommunity

Hey, friends! I’m  jazzed to be participating for the second time—yes, second—in the flash fiction challenge that Suzanne Burke has posted on her blog. The rules are simple: write a creative piece (fiction or non-fiction) related to the photo prompt she posts using 750 words or less. Here’s the photo Soooz chose for this week’s prompt:

A wooden pier with a life preserver on the railing leads to a calm lake

I wasn’t sure I would be able to play two weeks in a row, but my muse was cooperative 🙂

Down Deep

“Don’t do it,” Jake said. “We’re tourists, and they say it has no bottom.”

Sampson eyed the life preserver before looking to the lake. It seemed like a straight shot. Grab the ring and jump off the end of the pier. Everyone knew the water was deep—all the pamphlets he’d studied said as much—but how bad could it be with the preserver to keep him afloat? He wasn’t a novice. He’d been in rough waters before, and the lake was placid. A little cloudy, but he’d take milky over a rough current any day. Jake, on the other hand, was predictably cautious. More scholar than adventurer. They might be twins, but his brother lacked a sense of adventure.

Sampson fingered the preserver, feeling small imperfections like tiny scars, cut into the surface. How many others had given it a try and failed?

Squaring his shoulders, he shot Jake a sideways glance. “Scared?” Bravado was a familiar friend.


Sixteen-year-olds didn’t need more than one-word answers.  Even so, Sampson considered it prudent to eye the lake a second time. He swept a hand through his long hair, proud of the shoulder-length locks that connected him to the biblical strongman. And like that Sampson of old, he had faith he could prevail.

Would prevail.

It was time to prove himself to his parents. His mother, the senator, and his father, a high-profile lawyer who hobnobbed with the jet set. Jake never felt the need. Why should he? Already two years ahead in college, he was the golden child, the favored son. Sampson had little more going for him than gut instinct.  

Right now, that intuition told him he could make a name for himself by diving into the lake. Screw it all and take a chance. His name would go down in history as the person who discovered what scientists, conspiracy theorists, and countless tourists had failed to prove.

With a backward glance for Jake, he grabbed the life preserver, bolted to the end of the pier, then jackknifed into the water. It parted on impact, leaving the scarred white ring bobbing on the surface. He forced himself deeper into the cloudy depths, pressure building in his ears, his lungs tightening with each downward thrust of his legs. Icy cold and impossible dark enfolded him. There was no up, no down, his sense of direction obliterated within a few frantic heartbeats.

He’d wanted to prove himself the hero but sensed he’d embraced something fatal. He’d never be able to propel to the surface before cold and gloom sucked the breath from his lungs.  

Freaking stupid, a hundred times over.

But then as despair slithered closer, something moved below him. A sinuous shadow that flowed through the water with a flick of its mammoth tail. He barely had time to register the movement before it sent him rocketing toward the surface.

Sampson emerged, spitting water.. He clung to the preserver, limp and exhausted, his heart railroading like a locomotive. How had a simple dive left him so depleted? Insight whispered numerous swimmers and explorers had felt the same draining pull before. He wasn’t the first. Wouldn’t be the last.

A slow smile stretched his lips. Raising a hand, he waved to Jake who raced to the end of the pier, eager to haul him back to dry land.

Sampson no longer cared about proving himself to his famous parents or his Brainiac brother. He’d found far more than he’d searched for—not the fame and fanfare of a celebrity, but the quiet wonder of someone who’d been shown a treasure that deserved to remain a mystery—now, forever, and always.

The Lochness Monster.

Thanks for reading. I couldn’t help myself—my love of creatures, beasties and legends came through in this micro fic. I hope you enjoyed the excursion. If you’d like to play, check Soooz’s blog each Friday for a new picture prompt and join in the fun. The more, the merrier!

Book Review Tuesday: I Wouldn’t Be Surprised @dlfinnauthor

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 imageGood morning, friends! Happy last Tuesday of July. I only have one book review for you today, but it is a wonderful short read that I highly recommend. I give five fantastic stars to I Wouldn’t Be Surprised by D.L. Finn

Book cover for I Would Be Surprised by D. L. Finn shows title text over flames on black backgroundI Wouldn’t Be Surprised: A Short Story
by D. L. Finn

This is a short, quick read, that delivers creepiness and suspense. Janice and her husband Dale live in an isolated location, surrounded by woods. One night over dinner, Janice makes jokes about things that wouldn’t surprise her (Bigfoot, UFOs, etc. ) if they suddenly showed up. The next morning, her husband finds something unexpected outside–a possible “gift” from an unknown “someone.”

After that, the oddities multiply. It’s hard to say much without giving away the plot, but I found all the strange things that kept happening, and the sense of steadily mounting danger to be very well done.

When Janice finds herself alone in the house, circumstances go from eerie to outright menacing. Elements of the supernatural combine with an old mystery for a satisfying conclusion. I could also see this becoming a ongoing series. I read this over a lunch break and was sad when it ended. Well-written and suspenseful!

Genre: 45-Minute Literature & Fiction Short Reads

As always, I wish you happy reading, and adding to your TBR! 🙂

Fiction in a Flash Challenge #9 @pursoot #IARTG #ASMSG #WritingCommunity

My friend, Suzanne Burke (Soooz) has been running a flash fiction challenge on her blog for several weeks now. Although I always check out the prompts, I’ve never made the time to participate. This time, as soon as I saw the prompt, I hopped over to Word on my Mac and started writing. No idea where I was headed, or what would come of my meandering, but I ended up with something to post. Below is the photo prompt, and my take on it.

Yellow Bird

Joel said it would be fun, so we picked our way up a free-standing rope ladder, then hiked across a flimsy bridge to the house in the trees. Once inside, I dropped my backpack, bent double, and sucked in lungfuls of air. After the climb, my legs felt like water. “Tell me again why I agreed to this?”

My boyfriend grinned. “Because you can’t resist a challenge.”


I’d resisted ziplining when he wanted to send me careening over a gorge large enough to house the Goodyear Blimp. I’d put my foot down when he’d suggested crawling into a shark cage for a photo op with great whites, and I’d drawn the line at cave-diving in Mexico. So why had I agreed to spend five days in a treehouse tucked in the middle of nowhere?

Okay, so maybe said treehouse came complete with a rollout bed, mini fridge, camp stove, and side deck, but I wasn’t the nature type. My idea of roughing it involved an ocean front hotel with a swim up bar and jacuzzi.

I stole a glance at my cell phone. “No bars.”

Joel rummaged a bottle of water from the refrigerator. “You weren’t supposed to bring that. No cell service, internet, radio, or TV.” He took a swig from the bottle then dragged the back of one hand across his mouth. “Five days of nothing but solitude and nature. You’re going to love it.”

“I think I’m going to hate it.”



A yellow bird with green stripes splayed over its wings woke me just after five in the morning. Joel rolled over with a sleepy grin, undisturbed by the chirp-tweetle-chirp that had me grumpily searching out coffee. I carried a mug onto the deck overlooking a massive blue lake and watched the sun rise.

Joel got up in time for brunch.


The same yellow bird pulled me from sleep before I was ready. Morning had barely settled, the lake overlaid with a fine silver mist. Pretty stuff. Quiet, too. No bleat of car horns or squeal of tires. I’d grown up in the city, but the solitude was comforting.

Joel slept too long, and woke with a backache.


I named the bird Claude. For all I knew, he could have been Claudia, but the little guy (or gal) seemed okay with the moniker. I got up before he could wake me, humming a tune while I made coffee. Joel pulled a pillow over his head and grumbled I was being too loud. By the time he finally crawled from bed, I was busy drawing trees in a sketchbook I’d found in the cupboard.

Claude chirped his approval.


Joel is a jerk. If he’s not sleeping, he’s pacing. And if he’s not pacing, he’s moaning how bored he is, cut off from everything. Most of the time I ignore him, especially now that Claude makes a habit of visiting morning and night. He perches on the deck railing and we discuss our day.



For the first time since we’ve arrived, Joel got up early. He shoved everything he’d brought into his backpack then hunkered by the door, waiting for the hour when he could scurry down the rope ladder, back to civilization—to a maze of car horns, business meetings, bus fumes, and ringing cell phones. Just the thought makes me sick. I haven’t worked up the nerve to tell him I’m not going.


It’s far more peaceful since Joel left. Blissful. He said I was crazy for staying. Said I’d run out of food and water, but he doesn’t understand what I’ve found with Claude. I wish Joel well in his fast-forward world. Deep down, I know this is where I was always meant to be.

It just took a wakeup call and a treehouse challenge to make me realize it.


Joel took a final look around. He was sure after two weeks Angie would be ready to abandon the treehouse, but she’d disappeared. Most of the provisions that had been stocked in the refrigerator were still there, her backpack with clothes set out by the bed.

He walked outside to the deck, disturbed by the heavy silence. A small yellow bird with green stripes perched on the railing, studying him with keen eyes. As he watched, a second bird joined the first, huddling by its side. Two souls snugged together like one.


I hope you enjoyed my little short story. There is still another day to play. If you’d like to participate. Check out the link and instructions over at Soooz’s place. Poetry, haikus, microfics are all welcome–any creative endeavor using the prompt. Pretty cool, huh?

And, because, this is a weekly challenge, be sure to follow Soooz’s blog while you’re there. You won’t want to miss the next prompt. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to play again. 🙂

Book Review Tuesday: Brazos Wind, Brother’s Keeper @JanSikes3, What She Found by Emerald O’Brien

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

Welcome to another Book Review Tuesday. I have two short reads and one novel for you today. As of now, I am officially caught up with all the books I read during lockdown, plus my most current reads–with the exception of an urban fantasy series which has held me enthralled since May. More of that in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these reviews.

Brazos Wind
by Jane Sikes

Two damaged souls cross paths in this short story set in the American West years after the Civil War.

Jack McClean is a drifter who has still carries scars from the War Between the States. When he saves widow, Savannah Logan, from her burning homestead he discovers purpose in helping her find a reason to live. Savannah has been grieving the loss of her husband and children from illness for over a year and can’t find the strength to continue. But when Jack saves her, he does more than save her from physical harm—restoring not only her life, but his own in the process. The realization that dawns for both of them brings the story full circle.

A sweet tale, with well-drawn characters, Brazos Wind will warm your heart. Although short, the message is strong, and even secondary character, Molly, shines in this charmer!

5 Stars

Genre: Western Short Skip > One Hour Short Reads

Brother’s Keeper
by Jan Sikes

Stories about families, particularly brothers always intrigue me. In this case, older brother Quentin has been made to feel responsible for his younger brother, Rowdy, throughout their lives. Quentin has saved Rowdy from one scrape after another, as Rowdy continues to make wrong choices and their mother coddles him. Only this time, the mess Rowdy finds himself in is one that carries a potential jail sentence.

The author did a great job of making me sympathetic for Quentin, and highly ticked at both Rowdy and his mother. I was surprised how the story went in the end. It certainly held me captive to the way the plot unfolded. A surprising and intriguing look at human nature.

5 Stars

Genre: 45 Minute Mystery Short Read

What She Found
by Emerald O’Brien

A group of friends get together for a weekend party at an isolated house. With a plot like that, I was immediately drawn to this story. Add the fact that a mysterious stranger (a woman) shows up after a car accident, then disappears, and the foundation of the book is strong. I couldn’t wait to dive in! The night of the party everyone is drinking, and no one has a clear memory of what happened the next morning. There are conflicting stories about what took place, and soon the police are involved, along with whispers of murder.

I wanted to love this book, but I had problems with how most of the characters behaved, especially how easily they believed lies that were put forth about other members of their group. I just couldn’t believe friends would behave that way–turning on each other so quickly, after knowing one another for years. Maybe one or two people in the group, but the majority, if not all?

Pretty much no one (with the exception of Tabitha, the narrator, who is going through a divorce) is who they seem. Each has an agenda, many are up to their necks in lies or coverups. Admittedly, there were several places where I couldn’t read fast enough to discover what happened. The book is well-written, but when the ending arrived, I found the plot too far-fetched and the behavior of the characters unrealistic. I’m sure many other readers will enjoy this story. I would read this author again, this story just wasn’t quite right for me.

3.5 Stars

Genre: Psychological Fiction > Psychological Thrillers

Whatever book you have your nose buried in this week, I wish you happy reading, my friends!