The Culmination #NewRelease #MilitaryThriller @gmplano

Hello, friends. It’s been a full month since I’ve blogged, but taking time off for NaNoWriMo made a huge impact on my WIP. I hope to get back in the swing of things eventually, but December will likely be sporadic for me. The company I work for is undertaking a physical move to a new location and life is chaotic right now. If you don’t see me about in the blogosphere for a few days, I’m likely up to my ears in packing and unpacking, LOL.

Today, I’m super excited to welcome friend and Story Empire author, Gwen Plano, with her latest release, The Culmination. I read the first two books in this series and enjoyed them both. I’ve already grabbed my copy of The Culmination and am looking forward to seeing how this adventurous series ends. Please welcome, Gwen!

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

Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog, Mae, and for helping me launch The Culmination, a new beginning. Just a couple of days ago, it went public on Amazon and I’m super excited. To celebrate, the Kindle edition is on sale at 99¢ through December.

So, what’s the book about? The Culmination can best be described as a military thriller. It tackles difficult topics such as denuclearization, the power struggles over oil in the Middle East, as well as the ever-present danger of war. Readers will find themselves sitting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, walking in the historic Red Square, and laughing with children in an orphanage in Turkey. They will glimpse the horror of war and watch the give and take of a negotiated peace. Readers will also meet the two Heads of State who fall in love and subsequently commit themselves to creating a world in which all are family.

I never expected to write this book, but in some ways, I had no choice. The characters crowded into my office and insisted that I listen to them. In a very real way, they wrote the book. I simply tapped the keys.

kindle reader with book  The Culmination, a military thriller shows silhouettes of couple holding hands with young girl, military chopper in background

BLURB:
The Culmination, a new beginning is the third book in The Contract thriller series. After an assassination attempt on an Air Force base in northern California, tensions mount. Heads of state meet to craft a denuclearization agreement. The meetings between these nuclear powers take a murderous turn. A nefarious conspiracy re-emerges and leads the characters into the heart of the Middle East, where they encounter the unexpected and find a reason for hope.

EXCERPT:
Margaret Adler, the Vice President of the United States, has flown to Moscow at the request of Russia’s president. She is met by his son, Ivan. Upon seeing him, Margaret flashes back on her experience as a soldier in Afghanistan and wonders if they crossed paths at that fateful time. Margaret begins the conversation…

“It’s possible we were there at the same time. Maybe we were in the same locale.”

“Are you serious? Really? Why would anyone willingly recall such bloodshed?” Ivan’s eyes lower, and he glances to the side.

She presses, “I keep thinking we’ve met. Would you humor me and think back with me?”

“I don’t like such games.” Ivan’s response sounds gruff, and Margaret steps back as her agents step nearer. “Besides, I’m not sure what that would accomplish. This is one nightmare I choose not to recall. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.” He glares at her.

Margaret nods. “I understand, of course. But if we can travel back in time, perhaps we might decide if we can trust one another.”

He shakes his head and scoffs, “I can’t imagine that to be possible.”

“Isn’t it worth the effort to find out?”

Her persistence wears down his obstinacy, and begrudgingly, he agrees. Ivan stares off into the distance.

Margaret notices his grimace and realizes he’s gone back to the battle.

She lowers her voice and says, “A shell hits the building I’m in, and I rush outside. I can’t see through the clouds of dust and debris. People scream. People run. I hate this place, and it hates me.

“I call to my men, ‘Let’s get out of here.’ There’s gunfire, and we’re unsure which direction to run. I can smell the blood, the sweat, and the fear. It’s musty and thick; it lingers and gags me. Sand and bodies lie beneath my feet. I stumble and recoil at the horror that I meet. I see a female soldier among the masses. She moans from the hit she received. I reach for her arm to pull her up, but the limb is all that follows me. I retch and call for my men.”

Kindle book The Culmination beside map of Middle East with magnifying glass over map

Pomoch’ yey!” Ivan yells. “And my men help her. They put a tourniquet on her arm, and we move on.”

Margaret holds back the shock that she feels and looks at Ivan. He keeps his eyes closed, and he appears to be caught in a battle.

Margaret says, “Another explosion. The shell lands close to me. My face is on fire, and I get thrown backward. I can’t move.”

Ivan reacts with a gasp and reaches for his face, now frozen and white and trembling.

Margaret says, “I’m being moved—my body dragged. The Afghan Northern Alliance is helping me.”

Ivan’s jaw clenches, and he holds his shoulders rounded and slumped. Resignation floats across his face.

Margaret notices his instability. He teeters. She calls out, “Soldier, lean in. Lean in!”

Ivan leans into Margaret. She wraps her arm around him, and time becomes fluid. Ivan chokes out tears, first in agonizing bursts, and then in sobs—loud and wrenching.

Margaret draws Ivan closer. They now stand cheek to cheek, tears blending. “Ivan,” she says. “Ivan, what do you feel?”

He doesn’t respond.

Again, she asks, “Ivan, what do you feel?”

His words are halting, “Failure. I could do nothing. I was only there to arrange for more armaments.”

“All right, what else do you feel besides failure?”

He holds her tighter. “Useless. I’m barely a man now. My body has betrayed me; it is broken.”

“There’s more, Ivan. Tell me what else you feel.”

“Sadness. So many are gone. My friends, my enemies. Gone. And for what?”

“The remorse of a soldier. I understand. There’s more.”

He flounders and struggles to regain composure.

“Ivan,” Margaret says. “What more do you feel?”

He pulls her close and whispers, “I feel hope—hope that maybe the treaty will work. It has to. It must. Maybe the countries are serious about ending this horror. That is my hope.”

Margaret nods. “You’ve identified your purpose.”

Ivan clasps her left arm, and at the firm feel of the prosthesis, he jerks away.

He opens his eyes and looks into hers. “You’re the one, aren’t you? The one we stopped and helped.”

“Yes. You saved my life.”

Contact with Gwen at the following haunts:
Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon Author Page

Bio box for Gwen Plano

Book Links:
Letting Go into Perfect Love
The Contract between heaven and earth
The Choice: the unexpected heroes
The Culmination, a new beginning

Whether you’re new to this series, or have been following from the start, I hope you’ll join me in celebrating with Gwen on her release. And what a deal at .99c! Please use the sharing buttons and help us spread the word about The Culmination. Don’t forget to GRAB YOUR COPY and drop Gwen a comment. Thanks for visiting today. I wish you happy reading!

Happy Halloween and a Break for NaNoWriMo

Illuminated home garden path patio lights with halloween pumpkin lanterns

Happy Halloween! Wishing you plenty of treats and no tricks!

As I mentioned earlier this week, I’m going to take a break from blogging for the month of November. I’m focusing on NaNoWriMo and attempting to finish a WIP that has been languishing far too long (wish me luck!).

I’ll be popping in at Story Empire from time to time, and hopefully, can make a few rounds of the blogosphere as well–especially if I get stuck. Although I’m hoping that won’t happen…er, the getting stuck part. Please pardon my absence.

Here’s wishing everyone a Happy Halloween. Regardless if you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, or working at your own pace, I hope your muse is extra generous. See you in a month. 🙂

Guest Author: Mark Bierman @mbiermanauthor #spooky #halloweenpoem

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

Hello, friends! I hope you will welcome first time guest, Mark Bierman, to my blog. I’ve reviewed Mark’s book, Vanished on my blog, and he often pops in to comment on posts and guest posts, but he’s never actually been the guest before. We’re changing that today.

If you’re not familiar with Mark, please check out his blog, Adventures in Writing. He always has something interesting to share, and is a wonderful person to know. And now, here’s Mark!


It’s an honor to be here! I can’t thank Mae enough for inviting me to be a guest on her mazing blog. I’ve read a number of her books and declare myself a fan. In light of her penchant for penning the superntaural and a nod to upcoming Halloween. I took a shot at writing a short poem based on this photo. Thanks for taking the time to read it and please have a look around Mae’s site.

spooky deserted room with fireplace, rocker and chandelier, ghostly hands and shadows on walls

Sit down a spell, your hosts await,

Mere Shadows, they’ll possess you, ten deep

Your mind is naught more than their slate

The soul is the prize, and it’s snatched for keeps

Oh, don’t be shy, cozy up to the fireplace

A dark finger, carves your name in the ashes

The letters turn bloody, you feel a cut on your face

A mirror reveals a black mass from chin to lashes

It spreads quickly over, and you’re now a host

The other Shadows glide through each other, and you

All substance gone, you drift aimlessly, like a ghost

Trapped for eternity, no portal to pass through    


That definitely induced the creep factor! I love that photo and Mark’s poem is a perfect goosebump match! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did and will drop Mark a line with your thoughts. 

Also, be sure to check out his book, Vanished. You can find my 5-Star Review HERE.

Book cover for Vanished by Mark Bierman shows a white hand print on a red backgroundVANISHED
by Mark Bierman


Tragedy . . . heartache . . . how much more can Tyler Montgomery and John Webster take? This missions trip, the “healing” one, has only added fresh layers of pain. Construction of an orphanage in Haiti’s northwest . . . yes. But a doomed rescue operation, human traffickers, human anomalies, extreme personal danger . . . risk of death? They hadn’t signed up for those.

Turning their backs on the crisis, however, is unthinkable, it’s just not who they are.

PURCHASE LINKS: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | iBooks

photo of author, Mark BiermanAbout the Author:
Born and raised on a farm near Brockville, Ontario, Mark Bierman’s childhood consisted of chores, riding horses, snowmobile races across open fields, fishing trips, and many other outdoor adventures.

Transitioning into adulthood also meant moving into large urban areas that introduced this country boy to big city life.

Drawing upon his many experiences as a private investigator and later, a correctional officer, Mark combines his unique experiences and imagination to create stories and characters.

Connect with Mark at the following haunts:
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Blog | Goodreads | Instagram

 

                                                                           

Book Review Tuesday: The Last Pilgrim by Noelle Granger, Pretty Evil New England #truecrime @SueColetta, Magical Whispers #Poetry @BalroopShado

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 missed doing a Book Review Tuesday last week. Hubby and I have started a new remodeling project so my reading time took a hit. Today, however, I’ve got some great books to share. Two are based on historic accounts and actual events, the third is a soothing and mesmerizing book of poetry. Take a look . . .


Book cover for The Last Pilgrim by Noelle Granger shoes girl in colonial dress standing on shore looking to clipper ship at seaThe Last Pilgrim
by Noelle Granger

The Last Pilgrim is an amazingly researched historical novel detailing the life of Mary Allerton Cushman, the last survivor from the Mayflower. Mary was four years old when she arrived at the Plymouth Colony. She lived to be 88, dying in 1699. During her lengthy life she experienced the hardships, upheaval, and struggle to survive in a new land. Her growth from curious, wayward child to strong, intelligent woman takes the reader on a remarkable journey populated by historical figures and events.

The author delves into multiple issues ranging from political disputes, relations with neighboring tribes, even religious disagreements. Everyday life is presented in such engrossing detail it’s easy to lose track of time as Granger immerses her readers in a world all but unfathomable today. Her passion for those she has undertaken to write about, along her meticulous research, shines through in every passage. I found myself reluctant to stop reading at night when sleep called.


Close up of a 19th century woman from nose to chest, with blood splatter over imagePretty Evil New England: True Stories of Violent Vixens and Murderous Matriarchs
by Sue Coletta

In Pretty Evil New England, author Sue Coletta takes a look at five 19th century female serial killers and their victims, including how these women—all who moved within genteel society without arousing suspicion—perpetrated their crimes. In some cases, the killers were highly respected individuals and often times, the victims were members of their own family. Coletta’s meticulous research provides detailed backgrounds of each killer, along with glimpses into the disturbed workings of their mind and how each sought to justify their actions. There is insanity, narcissism, and heartless manipulation, among other twisted motivations. I found Coletta’s explanations of how female serial killers differ from their male counterparts surprisingly eye-opening.

The book is divided into sections, each devoted to a particular killer and her victims. But it isn’t just the actual crimes Coletta focuses on. She also shows us how each woman was apprehended, then places the reader in the courtroom for an in depth look at her trial, and the outcome. The subject matter, while grim in nature, is in no way gruesome to read, and Coletta’s manner of delivery is thoroughly engrossing, the writing flawless. I highly recommend Pretty Evil New England to fans of true crime, AND crime fiction and suspense novels. The author held me spellbound from cover to cover and I finished this book in two days.

I received an ARC of this book for an honest review.
I give Pretty Evil New England 5 Stars!

Pre-Order from Amazon (Releases November 1)
Genre: Biographies of Serial Killers > History of New England U.S.


Book cover for Magical Whispers shows waterfall tumbling over rocksMagical Whispers
by Balroop Singh

This beautiful collection of poems focuses mostly on elements of nature, offering stunning verses that speak to heart. The author uses words like a paintbrush, conjuring images that seep with tranquility, ebbing like a gentle tide into the spirit and mind. Spend time with each exquisite verse. These are poems to absorb and savor. Poetry is personal and touches each in a different manner. Verses resonate differently with each individual, but I have no doubt there is something mesmerizing for each in this collection that varies in tone from serene, to mystical, to thoroughly enchanting. Those that particularly resonated with me included Life is much More, Magic, A Concert, and A Moon Fairy (among others). I am frequently in awe of this poet’s skill with weaving words on a loom. If you love words…if you love deftly layered verse, this collection is not to be missed.

AMAZON LINK
Genre: Poetry

I give Magical Whispers 5 Stars!


Thanks for joining me today. This will be my last Book Review Tuesday for quite some time, as I plan to go dark during the month of November to concentrate on NaNoWriMo. I’ll still pop in on Story Empire, as I have responsibilities there, but otherwise you won’t see me online much, if at all. I’ll miss everyone but hope you’ll understand my need to focus on my WIP—I really MUST get it done! Hopefully, when I resurface in December, I’ll be sharing the wonderful news that I met my 50K goal and finished the thing 🙂

I do have a guest scheduled this Thursday and hope you’ll return to chat and wish him well.

‘Fiction In A Flash Challenge’ Week #21 NEW Image Prompt! Join in the fun! #IARTG #WritingCommunity #flashfiction #writingprompts @pursoot

It’s that time again! Suzanne Burke chose a great photo for her most recent flash fiction photo prompt—a perfect fit for autumn weather, Halloweenish happenings, or things that go bump in the night. As always, I enjoyed playing with this prompt and giving my muse free rein. To learn more about Soooz’s weekly fiction challenge, click HERE to join in the fun.

This time I came in at exactly 750 words (the limit) when including the title.

Old abandoned, boarded up two-story home in autumn woods at sunset

Image by Peter H from Pixabay

I’ve Got a Plan

“You really bought this?”  Mason shook his head as he surveyed the derelict property. In its day, the house had probably been grand. Now, it was nothing more than a weathered, ivy-encrusted shell. Gilded by the last rays of the setting sun, the old two-story appeared part of the barren woodland surrounding it. “I hope you can get your money back.”

“It was dirt cheap.” Jeremy’s face glowed with pride. “Besides…I’ve got a plan.”

There was always a plan with Jeremy—another fanciful idea or dragon tail. It had been that way since he was a kid. “Okay, I’ll bite. What’s the plan?”

“A Halloween Haunt. Picture it.” Jeremy spread his hands, framing the house. “It won’t take a lot of money. Just enough to shore things up and make certain they’re sound. We add a few fog machines, cheap vintage furniture, and I’m telling you, Dad, it can’t fail.”

“You’ll need actors.”

“I’ve got that covered. We add to the existing atmosphere and play up grim and creepy.”

Business would be limited to a few months in the fall, but that wasn’t entirely problematic. Plus, it would be good experience if the kid pulled it off. At twenty-eight, it was time he managed something. 

“Maybe.” Mason wasn’t ready to commit. “Let’s see inside.”

~ooOOoo~

Isabelle rolled her eyes at the agonized creak of the front door. It had started screeching like that somewhere during the last century. “Dearest, we have company.”

Liam flipped a page in his book. “Two men. I saw them standing out front.”

“Don’t you think you should go downstairs and see what they’re about?” She lowered her embroidery hoop to her lap, the soft folds of her saffron gown, a color match for the flames in the hearth. As cozy as their sitting room was, she understood why Liam was reluctant to leave but one of them had to address the situation. “You’ve already read Moby Dick numerous times.”

“But I never tire of it. We could send Chloe.”

“That strumpet?” Isabelle clucked her tongue. “I think not. I don’t even know why the fool girl insists on lingering.”

“She did love me.” Liam set his book aside. “Probably still does.”

He was a distinguished man with a smattering of gray in his hair, his eyes the dark blue of midnight skies. Isabelle was sometimes overcome by her devotion to him. She couldn’t term the affection love—not any longer—but her emotion ran strong. She’d been naïve when they’d wed, but after a decade discerned his wandering eye. Especially after Chloe came to live with them, lending a hand with domestic chores.

“Her love is irrelevant. I do not share.”

“As you proved.”

Isabelle flashed an innocent smile. “You always enjoyed my tea in the past.”

“Minus the poison.”

“At least I followed you to the grave by drinking it myself.”

“Not quite the grave.” He motioned to the room at large.

“Which brings us back to the problem downstairs.”

“Very well.” Liam heaved a breath. “I’ll scare them off like the others.”

~ooOOoo~

“It has potential.” After exploring the main level, Mason was almost ready to commit. It would take an outlay of cash, but nothing he couldn’t raise. Maybe this time Jeremy would finally turn one of his pipedreams into gold. “We should look upstairs.”

He started toward the staircase, halting abruptly when he spied a figure at the top. “What the—” 

The man’s face appeared chiseled from granite. Dressed in outdated clothing, he looked much like a Dicken’s character, wearing a short waistcoat, silken cravat, and high-topped boots. 

He speared a finger in their direction. “Trespassers! You do not belong here!” The walls shook at the boom of his voice. The floor heaved and cracked. Behind him, lightning exploded from the ceiling, filling the air with ozone. “Leave while you can.”

“Holy shit!” Mason stumbled backward, colliding with his son.

Jeremy caught him by the shoulders. “Don’t mind him, Dad. That’s just Mr. O’Conner.” He hustled past, climbing the steps two at a time. “Hiya, Mr. O’Conner.” He flipped a wave to the stunned apparition. “Chloe told me all about you and your wife. You’re going to fit right in. Aren’t they, Dad?” Jeremy glanced over his shoulder. “Dad?”

Mason stood rooted to the landing, knees quavering, heart thundering. “J-J-Jeremey…” He couldn’t seem to find his voice. “Th-that’s a ghost.”

“Yeah, I know.” The idiot kid grinned ear-to-ear. “Didn’t I tell you we wouldn’t need actors?”

Book Review Tuesday: The Ballad of Mrs. Molony #UrbanFantasy #SuperHeroFantasy @Virgilante

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 imageIt’s pumpkin weather and I have a great pumpkin read to share today. Craig Boyack has a new Lizzie and the Hat adventure, and it’s a perfect fit for this month. The great thing about Lizzie and the Hat novellas is that you can read them in any order. Each story is complete to itself. They’re also an ideal size for a fairly quick read.

And let’s not forget the Hat or his trademark snark. I LOVE that character! 🙂


Book cover for The Ballad of Mrs. Molony shows straw cowboy hat on wooden table with cobwebs, pitchfork beside tableThe Ballad of Mrs. Molony
by C. S. Boyack

C. S. Boyack’s unique crime fighting duo is back in a new Lizzie and The Hat adventure. Not familiar with these two? Lizzie is a twenty-something who wields a mean pistol and plays the upright bass in a cover band with the help of the hat. He may look like a fedora (or whatever hat style he chooses), but he’s actually a being from another world—capable of zinging some of the best snarky dialogue you’re likely to encounter. These two play off each other with witty banter and plenty of adventure as they go up against supernatural bad guys. This time, it’s a group of vampires haunting the rodeo circuit.

That makes for a lot of colorful happenings as Lizzie, the hat, and their band take on the country music scene, mingling with broncobusters and cowboys. Boyack treats us to plenty of rodeo experiences in addition to Lizzie and the hat working to track down the vamps. Some of the moments that stood out for me included Lizzie target-shooting ghouls in a cemetery, egged on by the hat’s snarky asides; a vampire with a speech impediment; the hat’s addiction to “my internet” and his ongoing insistence the band should have a fog machine. And then there’s Mrs. Molony—but you’ll need to read this supernatural romp yourself to find out just how she plays into the story. Clever, clever, clever!

AMAZON LINK
black bat with wings outstretchedGenre:  Superhero Fantasy > Superhero Science Fiction > Paranormal & Urban Fantasy

I give The Ballad of Mrs. Molony 5 Stars, and 5 Spooky Bats


And speaking of spooky things—if you’re out and about the blogosphere, you can find me at Teri Polen’s place today. Want to find out what book scared me so much, I threw it in the trash? Hop on over for my turn on Teri’s Halloween-themed Bad Moon Rising.

Guest Author: Balroop Singh with Magical Whispers #poetry #newrelease @BalroopShado

red quill pen on a piece of old parchment paper, with an ink well with words Welcome Guest in scriptToday, I am delighted to have a first time guest on my blog. Balroop Singh has a knack for painting words on canvas in the form of beautiful poetry. When I learned she had a new release, I jumped at the chance to host her, especially when I learned this collection focuses on elements of nature. Take a look:


Book cover for Magical Whispers shows waterfall tumbling over rocks

Thank you for hosting me, Mae

Book Blurb:
I wait for whispers; they regale my muse. Whispers that can be heard by our heart, whispers that ride on the breeze to dispel darkness and ignite hope. I’m sure you would hear them through these poems if you read slowly.

‘Magical Whispers’ would transport you to an island of serenity; beseech you to tread softly on the velvety carpet of nature to feel the ethereal beauty around you. The jigsaw of life would melt and merge as you dive into the warmth of words.

In this book, my poems focus on whispers of Mother Nature, whispers that are subtle but speak louder than words and breathe a quiet message.

Each day reminds us
It’s the symphony of surroundings
That whisper life into us.

Book Information:
Title: Magical Whispers
Author: Balroop Singh
Genre: Poetry
Available at AMAZON
US | UK | DE | FR | ES | IT | NL | JP | BR | CA | MX | AU | IN

Excerpt:

A Concert

Misty mountains beckon
Slippery stones scare
Where clouds adorn the valley
Illusionary world comes alive here

Rivulets dance with abandon
Sunbeams play a dazzling game
Songs of nature mystify you
Tricky pathways meander

Dew never dries here
Fragrance floats forever
Positive vibes permeate around
Seeping within your soul

Where we could touch the mist,
Inhale tranquility of waning light
Be one with the dreamy duo –
Earth and sky

Heaven below our feet,
grandeur above
Purging all our doubts
Concert only senses could hear!


Meet the Author:
Author, Balroop SinghBalroop Singh, a former teacher and an educator always had a passion for writing.  She is a poet, a creative non-fiction writer, a relaxed blogger and a doting grandma. She writes about people, emotions and relationships. Her poetry highlights the fact that happiness is not a destination but a chasm to bury agony, anguish, grief, distress and move on! No sea of solitude is so deep that it can drown us. Sometimes aspirations are trampled upon, the boulders of exploitation and discrimination may block your path but those who tread on undeterred are always successful.

When turbulences hit, when shadows of life darken, when they come like unseen robbers, with muffled exterior, when they threaten to shatter your dreams, it is better to break free rather than get sucked by the vortex of emotions.

A self-published author, she is the poet of Sublime Shadows of Life and  Emerging From Shadows, both widely acclaimed poetry books. She has also written When Success Eludes, Emotional Truths Of Relationships Read FREE with Kindle Unlimited and Allow Yourself to be a Better Person.

Balroop Singh has always lived through her heart. She is a great nature lover; she loves to watch birds flying home. The sunsets allure her with their varied hues that they lend to the sky. She can spend endless hours listening to the rustling leaves and the sound of waterfalls. The moonlight streaming through her garden, the flowers, the meadows, the butterflies cast a spell on her. She lives in San Ramon, California.

You can visit her blog at: http://balroop2013.wordpress.com

Connecting links:
Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon


I’ve already grabbed my copy of Magical Whispers, and plan to immerse myself in the tranquility and reflections of nature. I don’t read poetry that often, but I have “go to” authors when I want to unwind with a book of poems. Balroop is definitely one of those authors! I hope you’ll drop her a line in the comments. Help us spread the word about Magical Whispers with the sharing buttons and join in her new release excitement!

Guest Author Thursday: Hiding Cracked Glass by James J. Cudney #newrelease #giveaway @jamescudney4 @Shalini_G26

red quill pen on a piece of old parchment paper, with an ink well with words Welcome Guest in scriptWelcome to another Guest Author Thursday. Today is release day for James J. Cudney’s newest novel, Hiding Cracked Glass (Perceptions of Glass book 2). To celebrate, Jay is offering a GIVEAWAY to two lucky winners!  Just CLICK TO ENTER.

I read the first in this series, Watching Glass Shatter and was enthralled by the depth of character development Jay brought to each member of the Glass family. You can find my review for Watching Glass Shatter HERE.

I asked Jay for a post that would address family dynamics and how they factor into his books, and boy did he deliver. I hope you enjoy his post today as much as I did—then don’t forget to grab your copy of Hiding Cracked Glass and ENTER THE GIVEAWAY!


logo for Digital Reads Blog Tours has banner with business name over the spines of old books

Some of us are obsessed with good plots. Others connect with strong characters. When you combine the two, and you toss in the family dynamic, it’s almost as if a book explodes with boundless drama. As readers, we often search for ourselves or those we know in the characters of our favorite books. Even when it’s a science-fiction or fantasy novel, and the story is not at all realistic, it is still a place where we want to be. To me, perhaps since I grew up surrounded by family, I find myself drawn to the core relationships in our lives.

I’ll begin with saying I am an only child; however, I have ~15 first cousins who basically spent a lot of time together while growing up. I am probably best as an only child, but at the same time, it has always made me sad too. I often feel so unique and independent that no other person shares the same set of parents as me… that when they are gone, because I don’t have children, I am thoroughly alone in this world. That said… I’m not at all looking for someone to make me feel better. But what this did in my childhood was force me to be creative and imaginative with how I developed relationships. I closely monitored characters on TV and in books. I wrote stories about the relationships. I asked a lot of questions of all my friends and cousins who had siblings.

In the end, this experience helped cultivate my ability to write books with extreme family situations… in both my Perceptions of Glass and Braxton Campus Mysteries series, there are five siblings, lots of extended family members, and a focus on people’s connections with one another. All those nicknames the Glass brothers share for one another? All the competition among the Ayrwick siblings? Then consider my stand-alone novel, Father Figure: Brianna is desperately searching for her father because she only has her secretive mother and no other family. Amalia wants to escape her abusive family and finds herself ending up in a situation she intentionally tried to avoid.

These are the destinies people face in my dreams, and so they become the stories of my characters. When I began writing the outline for Hiding Cracked Glass (HCG), I knew it had to be very similar to Watching Glass Shatter (WGS), but it also had to be very different. In WGS, Teddy (the eldest) deals with the betrayal of a loved one and a desire to quit his job. In HCG, he’s facing the result of his decision but he’s had to battle something far worse he never expected to happen. In WGS, Matt tried to dig himself out of a serious life-and-death situation. In HCG, we learn that he’s likely brought a major impact on his family that he never knew happened. In WGS, Caleb finally tells his family the truth. In HCG, we learn that he might’ve done something very bad and hurt his relationship. In WGS, Zach dazzled us with his attitude toward the others. In HCG, he’s now the one who’s changed the most after what happened at the end of the first book. In WGS, Ethan suffered a devastating loss. In HCG, his wife is learning how to deal with the aftermath of so many secrets.

Kindle and paperback covers of Hiding Cracked Glass, dramatic shattered glass over old envelope on wood grain surfaceI haven’t even shared much about Olivia, the matriarch of these five boys. She’s rude. Abrasive. Distant. Aloof. But she’s also smart and learns the biggest lessons of all. So why is it that she can make a complete change between books? When she receives the blackmail threat in Hiding Cracked Glass, a series of events is kicked off that challenges everything she thought she’d fixed recently. My own mother is nothing like Olivia, but as you dig deeper, you realize Olivia is a compilation of so many strong women who often get a bad rap for being tough and direct… while a man in her position would be considered powerful and a strong father figure.  When my mother read Watching Glass Shatter, besides squirming over two scenes that I included (who wants to know their son / mother is aware of sex or curse words!), the first thing she said to me: “Wow! You put a piece of your personality in each of the 5 brothers. It’s like you selected a trait about yourself that we’ve always talked about and made it a big piece of each brother’s life.”

Yep, go ahead and try to guess those characteristics! Those who’ve met me can easily figure it out. 🙂

I love taking personalities and flipping them around, mostly to show how we all have a perception of ourselves that is a bit like looking through glass. It’s shiny but distorted. It’s smooth but once it cracks, the repairs are almost impossible without professional help. Families are kinda like that too. Relationships are brittle, and they change at the slightest pressure once people communicate poorly. Imagine a father dying in a car accident and leaving behind a will that changes everything. Then imagine hiding that secret and it being found out 9 months later by someone you never thought would’ve been involved. While I have no personal experience with this… and my family wasn’t very big on keeping secrets… there is one that I hardly tell anyone. Now, I think it’s kind of amusing though, and it actually is another family drama story I’m playing around with as a future book.

book cover of Hiding Cracked Glass, dramatic shattered glass over old envelope on wood grain surfaceWhen I was fifteen, my grandfather passed away. During the planning of his funeral, I learned that one of my parents had another sibling I’d never met. Then I learned this sibling living in our same small town (under 3,000 people). Then I learned this sibling had two children who were just a couple of years older than me. Then I learned I went to high school with both of them. First, you’re probably thinking “OMG, that’s so weird and scary!.” You’d be right… but then here’s where my mind went next at fifteen in a conversation with some friends: At fifteen with two slightly older cousins… what would’ve happened if one of those cousins and I had met and gone out on a date or hooked up! We don’t always tell our parents the name of a guy or girl we go on a date with. Our last names were different. Could you imagine the drama if something had happened between us? Yikes, I could almost be the subject of my next book.

Secrets. Lies. Family Drama. Broken Relationships. These are the events of our daily lives. We all have a bit of a soap opera / daytime drama running around in our families. I love exploring the psychological and physical impacts of these connections, and that’s why my books will almost always have the elements of family–past, present, and future–woven into its binding. And perhaps now you might know a little bit about me that you never thought you’d learn. NO, I never actually connected much with my cousins other than the funeral… thought we did socialize for a few years… but then the family fell apart again. Now you can see how I incorporate reality into my literary world! Any crazy stories in your family you’d like to share?


Wow! Did that blow you away? I actually met cousins I never knew I had roughly seven years ago. They’re scattered over the map, but now we hold a family reunion every year. It’s a long story, but I can so relate to Jay’s tale.

And speaking of tales, I’ve got my copy of Hiding Cracked GlassIf you aren’t intrigued from that fabulous post, I know you will be after reading the blurb:

ABOUT THE BOOK:
An ominous blackmail letter appears at an inopportune moment. The recipient’s name is accidentally blurred out upon arrival. Which member of the Glass family is the ruthless missive meant for?

In the powerful sequel to Watching Glass Shatter, Olivia is the first to read the nasty threat and assumes it’s meant for her. When the mysterious letter falls into the wrong hands and is read aloud, it throws the entire Glass family into an inescapable trajectory of self-question. Across the span of eight hours, Olivia and her sons contemplate whether to confess their hidden secrets or find a way to bury them forever. Some failed to learn an important lesson last time. Will they determine how to save themselves before it’s too late?

Each chapter’s focus alternates between the various family members and introduces several new and familiar faces with a vested interest in the outcome. As each hour ticks by, the remaining siblings and their mother gradually reveal what’s happened to them in the preceding months, and when the blackmailer makes an appearance at Olivia’s birthday party, the truth brilliantly comes to light.

Although everyone seemed to embrace the healing process at the end of Watching Glass Shatter, there were hidden cracks in the Glass family that couldn’t be mended. Their lives are about to shatter into pieces once again, but this time, the stakes are even higher. Someone wants to teach them a permanent lesson and refuses to stop until success is achieved.


PURCHASE LINK


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Author James J. Cudney in professional shot with suit and tieBackground
James is my given name, but most folks call me Jay. I live in New York City, grew up on Long Island, and graduated from Moravian College, an historic but small liberal arts school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with a degree in English literature and minors in Education, Business and Spanish. After college, I accepted a technical writing position for a telecommunications company during Y2K and spent the last ~20 years building a career in technology & business operations in the retail, sports, media and entertainment industries. Throughout those years, I wrote some short stories, poems and various beginnings to the “Great American Novel,” but I was so focused on my career in technology and business that writing became a hobby. In 2016, I refocused some of my energies toward reinvigorating a second career in reading, writing and publishing.

Author
Writing has been a part of my life as much as my heart, my mind and my body. At some points, it was just a few poems or short stories; at others, it was full length novels and stories. My current focus is family drama fiction, cozy mystery novels and suspense thrillers. I think of characters and plots that I feel must be unwound. I think of situations people find themselves in and feel compelled to tell the story. It’s usually a convoluted plot with many surprise twists and turns. I feel it necessary to take that ride all over the course. My character is easily pictured in my head. I know what he is going to encounter or what she will feel. But I need to use the right words to make it clear.

Reader & Reviewer
Reading has also never left my side. Whether it was children’s books, young adult novels, college textbooks, biographies or my ultimate love, fiction, it’s ever present in my day. I read 2 books per week and I’m on a quest to update every book I’ve ever read on Goodreads, write up a review and post it on all my sites and platforms.

Blogger & Thinker
I have combined my passions into a single platform where I share reviews, write a blog and publish tons of content: TRUTH. I started my 365 Daily Challenge, where I post about a word that has some meaning to me and converse with everyone about life. There is humor, tears, love, friendship, advice and bloopers. Lots of bloopers where I poke fun at myself all the time. Even my dogs have had weekly segments called “Ryder’s Rants” or “Baxter’s Barks” where they complain about me. All these things make up who I am; none of them are very fancy or magnanimous, but they are real. And that’s why they are me.

Genealogist & Researcher
I love history and research, finding myself often reaching back into the past to understand why someone made the choice he or she did and what were the subsequent consequences. I enjoy studying the activities and culture from hundreds of years ago to trace the roots and find the puzzle of my own history. I wish I could watch my ancestors from a secret place to learn how they interacted with others; and maybe I’ll comprehend why I do things the way I do.

Websites & Blog
Website | Blog | Amazon | Next Chapter Pub |
BookBub

Social Media
Twitter | Facebook Author | Facebook Braxton Campus | Facebook ThisIsMyTruthNow | Pinterest | Instagram | Goodreads |
LinkedIn

Genres, Formats & Languages
I write in the family drama and mystery genres. My first two books are Watching Glass Shatter (2017) and Father Figure (2018). Both are contemporary fiction and focus on the dynamics between parents and children and between siblings. I’m currently writing the sequel to Watching Glass Shatter. I also have a light mystery series called the Braxton Campus Mysteries with six books available.

All my books come in multiple formats (Kindle, physical print, large print paperback, and audiobook) and some are also translated into foreign languages such as Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and German.


Goodreads Book Links
Watching Glass Shatter (October 2017) |
Father Figure (April 2018)

Braxton Campus Mysteries

ENTER GIVEAWAY FOR HIDING CRACKED GLASS


Welcome Guest: D.L. Cross with Astral Conspiracy Series #AlienInvasion #AlienEncounters @stacitroilo

red quill pen on a piece of old parchment paper, with an ink well with words Welcome Guest in scriptIt’s my pleasure to host Staci Troilo today. Staci is a Story Empire colleague, one of the best writers I know, and a close friend. Her books never disappoint. Her Astral Conspiracy series (written under the pen name D.L. Cross) is pure gold. These aren’t just science fiction stories, but combine elements of thrillers, suspense, mysteries and fast-paced adventure—with character development that pings in the stratosphere.

And now, here’s Staci to tell you more!


Ciao, Mae. Thanks for having me here today. I’m really glad to visit with you and your readers again. Hi, everyone!

file folder marked top secret with name of agent Halpern, Natasha

I’m here today to talk about my Astral Conspiracy series. It’s technically science fiction, as it’s part of the acclaimed Platt and Truant Invasion Universe, but my saga is as much thriller as it is sci-fi, so I thought I’d have a little fun with my marketing and include pages from the top-secret government files on my main characters. Today, I’m sharing info on Tasha Halpern.

DOSSIER

Name: Natasha (Tasha) Halpern

Occupation: Special Agent for US Government AATIP (Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program)

Of Note: A modern-day Mata Hari, her expertise is in asset recruitment

TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW BETWEEN AUTHOR (Staci Troilo a.k.a. D.L. Cross) AND CHARACTER (Special Agent Natasha Halpern) ON ASTRAL DAY (the day the world is alerted to the approach of alien ships) via video conference. (Video is eyes-only, file #7161998-V, director’s approval required.)

Subject photo available, file #7161998-G

Staci: Tasha. How are you?

Tasha: Well, the cat’s out of the bag now. Should make life easier once things calm down. But who knows when that’ll happen, so we’re in Chicken Little mode.

Staci: Even people in the upper echelon of the government are panicking?

Tasha: Maybe more than the general public. We’re responsible for keeping everyone safe. It’s a big responsibility. (looks around, ducks her head, whispers into the mic) And between you and me, the people at the top never like to think their positions are going to be compromised.

Staci: You’re telling me we’re about to meet aliens for the first time, and our elected officials are more worried about power than protecting us?

Tasha: Who says this is the first time?

Staci: (gasping) They’ve been here before?

Tasha: Before? Or still?

Staci: You’re kidding?

Tasha: You didn’t hear that from me.

Staci: So, can’t you talk to the… visitors… and ask them for help? They could be a mediator, bridging the gap.

Tasha: That’s assuming they aren’t hostile toward us.

Staci: Are they?

Tasha: If our… guests were here as friends, don’t you think we’d have announced their presence years ago?

Staci: Years? How long have they been here?

Tasha: A while. A very, very long while.

Staci: Is that how you met Landon? You never told me the meet-cute story.

Tasha: I’m sure I did.

Staci: No. You didn’t.

Tasha: Well, I can’t tell you now. Beck’s bellowing. Gotta run. Stay safe, Stace.

Staci: You, too. (gives a half-wave to an empty screen)

Tasha makes her debut in the Astral Conspiracy series in book one, The Gate. You can read a brief synopsis of all five books below, and each one has links to its product page and a purchase link.

Book covers of all five novels in Astral Conspiracy series by D.L. Crossa

The Gate: When the hypotheses of disgraced ancient alien theorist Landon Thorne prove to be true, he travels across the globe in search of a way to communicate with—and perhaps stop—the approaching alien armada.
Full Blurb | Purchase Link

The Stones: The invasion couldn’t be prevented, but there is a chance the Astrals can be driven away… if Landon Thorne can reach the Georgia Guidestones, unearth its secrets, and decode the mystery before the aliens stop him.
Full Blurb | Purchase Link

The Nine: Landon Thorne and his team of resistance fighters seek a cipher to decode the message accompanying a cache of alien artifacts they’ve unearthed, but the government, a clandestine cabal, and the Astrals themselves stand in their way and might not only put an end to their plans—they might put an end to their lives.
Full Blurb | Purchase Link

The Twins: When all factions converge for a human-versus-alien showdown, resistance fighter Reverie Sterling gets help from the least likely source. But even then, it may be too late for everyone she loves to make it out alive.
Full Blurb | Purchase Link

The Lab: In the final showdown between Earthlings and Astrals, twins Asha and Vonn insist their long-lost grandfather has a plan to save humanity. It’s a long-shot, but the resistance takes it—and no one is prepared for the consequences.
Full Blurb | Purchase Link

Author, Staci TroiloAbout Staci Troilo/D.L. Cross

D.L. Cross has loved science fiction ever since she was a young girl and fell for Major Don West on television’s Lost in Space. To this day, she still quotes the show, though her favorite lines were spoken by the robot and the antagonist. Parallel universes or alternate realities, aliens or dinosaurs, superpowers or super viruses, time travel or AI… no sci-fi theme is off limits and all of them fascinate her. D.L. Cross also writes other genre fiction under the name Staci Troilo, and you can find more information about all her identities and all her work at her website: https://stacitroilo.com.

Connect online:

Website | Blog | Troilo Amazon |  Cross Amazon | Troilo BookBub | Cross BookBubTroilo Goodreads | Cross Goodreads | Social Media

Thanks again for having me here today, Mae. And thanks to all of your fans for indulging me. This post was as fun to write as the stories were, and I appreciate you taking the time to read it. Grazie!


What a great post! If you’ve been following this blog tour, you know each stop has provided a behind-the-scenes look at key players in the Astral Conspiracy series. I’ve been enjoying the heck out of it, and hope you are too. Please use the sharing buttons below to help spread the word about Astral, then drop Staci a few lines in the comments. I gave each of these phenomenal books 5-Stars and count them among my top reads of 2020!

Book Review Tuesday: The Lab by D.L. Cross #AlienInvasion #AlienEncounters @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 imageHappy Book Review Tuesday! Today, I’m sharing my review of The Lab, the closing chapter in the Astral Conspiracy Series by D.L. Cross (a.k.a. Staci Troilo). I’ve been glued to these books from the moment they released, reading one after the other as soon as new titles became available. All five books and the prequel are now available for download, so you can start at the beginning and read straight through, back-to-back. Trust me—you’ll be glued to the pages!


book cover for The Lab by D.L. Cross shows flying saucer hovering over an one story building at night, emitting ray of light into buildingThe Lab
Book 5 Astral Conspiracy Series
by D. L. Cross

After breathlessly following this series from Book one (and the prequel), I found myself riveted to the closing novel. The Astrals have found humanity lacking and it’s only a matter of time until they release their judgement on Earth.

Each chapter and each plot thread—of which there are many, expertly woven together—are ticking time bombs. Catch your breath on one, and Cross plunges you into another maelstrom of danger, action, and double-crosses. The sense of urgency in this novel is a pot-boiler.

All of the plot lines that have been steadily building through the previous books meet head-on in an explosive conclusion. It’s difficult to say much without giving away spoilers, but I find myself startled to note how my opinions altered regarding certain characters.

It’s difficult to name a single standout character (each are deftly drawn and multi-faceted with plenty of gray areas) but the relationship between Nadia and Beck—how it changed and grew over the course of the books—was a highpoint for me. By book five, I’d also started to look at reptars differently, especially one in particular. Journeying through five books in a world populated by Titans, Mullahs, the Separated, the Nine, Reptars, Lightborn, and humans has been a astounding adventure.

In the end, not everything is wrapped up with a tight bow. It makes me wonder if there is more planned, or if the author chose to leave certain elements open to the readers’ imagination. All of the major storylines and events are concluded, but there are a few surprises that leave the door cracked slightly ajar.

For anyone who enjoys intelligent and fast-paced science-fiction mixed with vast dollops of mystery, suspense and brilliant character development, I highly recommend this series. It stands among my top reads for 2020!

graphic of flying saucer emitting a beam of lightI give The Lab 5 STARS and 5 BIG GLOWY UFOS!!

AMAZON LINK
GENRE: Alien Invasion Science-Fiction > Colonization Science-Fiction


Thank you for joining me for another Book Review Tuesday. I know several of you are reading this series or have it on your radar. With the weather turning colder (at least in the northern hemisphere), it’s a great time to curl up inside with a book. And if you’re lucky enough to be in the warmth of the southern hemisphere, there is nothing like a good read by the pool or on the beach. Just watch out for the reptars!