Book Review Tuesday: Means to Deceive by Alex Craigie, Between the Vines by Staci Troilo #bookish #bookreviews @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 image

Hello, and Happy Tuesday! I’ve got two wonderful books to share today, both of which kept me flipping pages. One is a twisty slow-build suspense novel, the other a snappy, breezy romance novella with a villain you’ll love to hate. You can’t go wrong with either!


book cover for Means to Deceive shows a white daisy with part of the petals torn away

MEANS TO DECEIVE
BY ALEX CRAIGIE

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is an intricately plotted mystery/suspense book that builds from simmer to a slow boil. Gwen Meredith moves home to care for her elderly grandmother who suffers from dementia. Gwen has always viewed their relationship as strained, mostly due to a tragedy in Gwen’s past for which she harbors crushing guilt. The reader sees bits and pieces of that tragedy unfold a little at a time as Gwen periodically recalls the event, allowing layers to become exposed as though she is peeling a metaphorical onion. It is this past event, an episode that has shaped her life, that factors so brilliantly into the plot, particularly the ending.

Complicating matters, Gwen has crossed paths with two men who hold a grudge against her, each for different and alarming reasons. Her home life is disrupted when she becomes a target for harassment. The attacks grow in frequency and become frighteningly malicious. While the police are involved the culprit is never pinned down. Fortunately, Gwen has the benefit of an attentive older brother who moves in temporarily, and a new neighbor with whom she begins a tentative relationship. Gwen is a strong character, constantly standing up for herself to the chagrin of both brother and suitor, yet at the same time the past has burdened her with inner fragility she doesn’t allow to show.

Characters are realistically portrayed, reflecting all the ups and downs, doubts, and sacrifices that play out between them. Gwen’s relationship with her grandmother is thorny but a delight to read. I couldn’t help developing a soft spot in my heart for Granny. I also appreciated how Gwen’s relationship with Ben developed over time with plenty of hiccups along the way.

Red herrings and curve balls lead to a lot of second-guessing when it comes to the culprit. Although I did finger that person correctly (after waffling more than once) the motive left me dumbfounded. The ending was brilliant and wholly satisfying. A polished, well-written tale for fans of intelligent mysteries and slow-build suspense.

AMAZON LINK

Book cover of Between the Vines shows silhouette of couple embracing, large bunch of grapes with leaves and vine in the background

BETWEEN THE VINES
Keystone Couples #3
BY STACI TROILO

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Elena is a wedding planner who doesn’t believe in love thanks to the jerks who have been sniffing around her door since high school. Aaron is her cousin Rick’s longtime friend, a cop who’s recently been dumped by his fiancée, Heather.

Heather is now engaged to Jarod, a one-time friend of Rick, until he tried to take advantage of Elena. Sound like a romantic merry-go-round? Oh, just wait until the complications/fun begins!

From the start, the underlying attraction between Elena and Aaron is clear, but several obstacles stand in their way—foremost, Heather, who decides she was hasty in leaving Aaron once she sees him take down a robbery suspect. This woman is the pinnacle of self-centered and shallow. Troilo writes her in such a way that the moment she appears in a scene, you cringe. Heather is a character you love to hate.

But all Troilo’s characters are well developed. Elena is a walking bundle of doubt buried under a core of outer strength. Aaron seesaws between exasperation and attentiveness. Poor guy has his work cut out for him, but bring out the pom-poms because you’ll be cheering for him and Elena from their very first spark of chemistry.

This is a fun novella with snappy dialogue, perfectly paced scenes, and breezy writing. It leaves you with a warm feeling and a happily-ever-after smile. All three Keystone Couples stories are superb, but I think this clever gem might just be my favorite.

AMAZON LINK

Book Reviews by Mae Clair: Pour it On by Staci Troilo, Jagged Feathers by Jan Sikes @stacitroilo @jansikes3 #romance

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

Happy post Hump Day! To off set your mid-week winter blahs (for those of you in the northern hemisphere), I have two romantic reads sure to perk you up. If you’re in the southern hemisphere, enjoying sunshine and warmth, these are perfect companions to take to the beach or pool. Both are new releases and both were penned by Story Empire colleagues. How cool is that? Naturally, I am super excited to share!

cover for Pour it On, by Staci Troilo shows silhouette of couple in foreground, wine glass in back ground

POUR IT ON
Keystone Couples #2
by Staci Troilo


One of my favorite types of stories are those built around misunderstandings, especially when it involves mistaken identity. Staci Troilo has penned a gem that dishes up—an appropriate pun for a tale centered in a restaurant—generous servings of humor and romance.

Restaurant owner, Romy Chandler, has lost her sommelier right before a huge meet-and-greet, and I do mean RIGHT before. Plus, Valentine’s Day is lingering around the corner. Rick Santucci is a vintner who needs to get his wine into the right establishments to grow his winery. Do you sense the stars aligning?

That’s all well and good, but Troilo, who has a deft touch with couples’ romance, isn’t about to let things proceed smoothly. I don’t want to give away spoilers, but let’s just say this short tale will warm your heart while tickling your funny bone. The dialogue is fast and flirty, the scenes stacking like dominos that tumble into a brilliant HEA ending.

Grab a glass of your favorite pinot or merlot, settle into a comfy seat, then Pour it On with this enchanting story that will leave you laughing on the sidelines and rooting for the characters. Troilo is a master of her craft who always delivers a polished tale. I can’t wait for the next Keystone Couples novella!

AMAZON LINK


JAGGED FEATHERS
The White Rune Series #2
By Jan Sikes

Book cover for Jagged Feathers by Jan Sikes shows a dream catcher with feathers, two large blue feathers in the center

Vann Noble is an ex-solider, suffering from PTSD, living off the grid in an isolated cabin. His companion is a stray dog nearly as damaged as he is, but with the same stalwart and loyal heart as Vann’s.

When Vann crosses paths with Nakina Bird—a woman clearly fleeing a dangerous situation—he’s determined to help her. Soon both are on the run, fleeing gunmen bent on retrieving a mysterious package Nakina was given by her former boss.

What stands out in this slick romance most is the time the author invested in her characters. It’s wonderful seeing how Vann and Nakina, both damaged in their own way, find themselves drawing closer together. Nakina also has a psychic gift and is tuned into the metaphysical. Symbols and signs are deftly woven into the plot, including a white rune stone that appeared in Ghostly Interference, book one in this series.

I liked seeing familiar characters return and meeting new ones. Champion, Vann’s dog, stole my heart with his devotion to Nakina. Most of all, the message of love over adversity and the commitment of two souls joining together shines through. The HEA is well-deserved and left me with a warm smile. I’m already looking forward to Colt’s story in the final book of the series. If you love romance woven with suspense and characters who will have you cheering, Jagged Feathers is an ideal read. Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention I love how the author wove the title into the story. A thoroughly enjoyable and romantic read.

AMAZON LINK

New Release: No Such Luck by Staci Troilo #sweetromance #holidayromance #novella

Happy Tuesday! Although I’m mostly offline this month to concentrate on NaNoWriMo, I’ve made several exceptions to host new releases on my blog. First up, is No Such Luck a sweet holiday romance from Staci Troilo.

Staci is a dear friend and one of the founding members of Story Empire. She’s also a super talented author who always delivers a phenomenal story. Her latest is no exception. Look for my five star review at the end of this post, but in the meantime, say hello to Staci!


I appreciate you inviting me here today, Mae. Hi, everyone. Thank you for chatting with me about my new release, No Such Luck. It’s a fast and fun clean romance perfect for the holiday season.

Piper Seidel’s life-long best friend is Jack Rhodes. He’s always been there for her, and even though she moved away right after high school—first for college, then for her career—he never stopped staying in touch with her. When he says, “I’ll always be there for you,” he means it. They have history, even if she can’t remember it. This brief excerpt shows how far back it goes.

Teaser Graphic for or No Suck Luck by Staci Troilo shows couple in silhouette with background of red carnation, teaser text over top

“Where’d you park?”

“At the lodge.”

“At the—How do you get the tree down there?”

“We drag it.”

“You and your father drag a tree down the side of a mountain?”

Piper nodded and smiled.

“It’s no wonder it takes you so long.”

She shrugged.

“Grab the top, Pea.” 

“Stop calling me that.”

“Never. You earned it.”

“Did not.”

“Did, too.”

“How?”

“Third grade.

“How?”

“Guess you don’t remember that one.” Jack shook his head and sighed. “Grab your end.” When she complied, he hefted the trunk, then started down the hill. He called over his shoulder, “Come on, Frank.” 

She worried about her Dad. He was still on the phone with Pam and didn’t look happy. 

The three of them made their way back to the lodge. 

While her father paid for the tree and got it loaded in the bed of his truck, she thanked Jack again. “I’m really sorry about Pam. You didn’t need to come here.”

Jack got a bottle of water and bandana from his center console, then turned to her. He dabbed at the cut on her head, cleaning the blood off her face. “I’ll always come for you if you need me, Pea. Always.”

“Stop calling me that.”

He smiled. “No.”

She shook her head, but he kept wiping at it. 

“There. That’s better.”

“What are you doing?”

“Taking care of you. The way you should be cared for.”

“I don’t know what to make of that.”

“Think about it. Think about third grade, too. You need a better good luck charm.”


I have to admit, I’ve sustained an injury or two Christmas tree shopping. But I never walked away with my forehead bleeding. Good thing Piper had help. 

I hope you enjoyed that quick sneak peek. No Such Luck, the first installment of the Keystone Couples series, is available now on Amazon.

Book cover for No Suck Luck by Staci Troilo shows couple in silhouette  with background of red carnation

Blurb:

Seeds of luck usually wither. The rare one grows and blooms.

Piper Seidel has one thing going for her—a red carnation given to her by Tommy Burnett in the tenth grade. It might have dried over the years, but it’s still her good luck charm. Losing it sets her life in a downward spiral, forcing her to return to her hometown where she comes face to face with her high school crush.

The years have been kind to Tommy, who looks better than ever. Unfortunately, Piper is at her worst, continually embarrassing herself whenever he’s around. The only plus? Her long-time friend, Jack Rhodes, still lives in town. Since she last saw him, his legs have grown longer, his biceps thicker, and his shoulders broader. He was always the brother she never had, but now she can’t help noticing him in an unsisterly way. Jack is every bit as caring as he’s ever been—until her bad luck drives him away, maybe forever.

Piper needs a new good luck charm, and fast, before she loses her final chance at happiness.

PURCHASE FROM AMAZON

Bio box for Staci Troilo

Website | Blog | Social Media | Newsletter | Amazon ​| BookBub ​| Goodreads

MY REVIEW

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is a sweet, breezy romance that instills a feel-good glow. Piper Seidel has lost her job as a journalist and ends up returning to her hometown for an extended winter vacation, uncertain of her future. Reconnecting with her past includes crossing paths with her old high school crush, Tommy Burnett, and her childhood best friend, Jack Rhodes. Both bring complications into her life and have her re-examining what matters most to her.

This is a short read, but one that is tightly written with a fully fleshed out plot. I loved the near-to-Christmas time frame (especially when Piper and her dad go searching for a Christmas tree) and the small-town feel. Piper grows over this story, learning truths that she was too blind to see previously, but I like to think the other characters (one in particular) experienced personal growth, too. Definitely a charmer!


Thanks for joining Staci and me today as we celebrate the release of No Suck Luck, Pop the virtual bubbly, and drop a comment to cheer on Staci with her newest book, the first in the Keystone Couple Series. I for one am definitely looking forward to more!

Book Tour Day 1: Things Old and Forgotten by Mae Clair #speculativefiction #magicalrealism #fantasy #newrelease

Kindle featuring cover of Things Old and Forgotten by author Mae Clair on top of open paperback book surrounded by dried red roses

Hi, friends! Welcome to the kick-off of my book tour for Things Old and Forgotten. Today, I am visiting Staci Troilo, one of my oldest and dearest blogging friends. Staci is also a colleague at Story Empire, and one of its founding members.

She is a fabulous writer and highly supportive of other authors. I devour her books immediately whenever she has a release. I especially love her Medici Protectorate Series and Cathedral Lake Series. The first involves a secret brotherhood, alchemy, and an ancient bloodline, while the second offers a compelling family saga.

Staci always delivers quality stories with compelling characters and polished writing. If you haven’t already discovered her work, you’re missing out on something special. Check out her Amazon Author Page for all her titles.

I’m going to be sharing an excerpt from the short story Father’s Day, while visiting with Staci. I hope you have a chance to hop over, say hello, and check out the excerpt. See you there!



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!

AMAZON LINK
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 🙂

Serpent Mound Lore #SomethingWickedTour @stacitroilo @storyempire

Hello and welcome to the first day of Story Empire’s Something Wicked Blog Tour! The SE authors will be sharing posts all week long, visiting the blogs of our colleagues  with posts and books offering shivers and goosebumps. We hope you’ll join in the fun and, hopefully, discover some chill-inducing reads along the way. You can find the complete tour schedule here.

But don’t expect all of those goosebumps to come from creepy-crawling things or ghosts and ghouls oozing from the crypt. As my first guest, Staci Troilo, explains, darkness comes in all shapes…


Thanks for welcoming me here today, Mae.

The Gate

Ciao, amici! When my SE cohorts came up with the idea for a Something Wicked tour, I was initially concerned about how my current writing would fit into the theme. Sci-fi felt like a far cry from malevolence. Then I realized aliens with a nefarious agenda were just as wicked as demons; they just had a different origin. I don’t think it matters if a being is from a star in the Hydrus constellation or from Hell… evil is a matter of intent, not origin.

My Astral Conspiracy series is a combination of futuristic tech and ancient history. If you (like me) are obsessed with—or even aware of—Ancient Aliens, you’ll understand where I’m coming from.

In The Gate, the first of my five-book series, the characters visit the Great Serpent Mound in Adams County, Ohio. They’re there to steal a buried artifact, which is absolutely fiction. But the lore behind the effigy is pure fact. And it’s fascinating. Serpent Mound (aerial view)

Photo Attribution: Timothy A. Price and Nichole I.; uploaded by the authors. [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Serpent Mound was built by Native Americans. I wish I could tell you when, but that’s still up for debate. A set of charcoal pieces was found in 1996. Two of the pieces were carbon-dated to 1070, which would make the builders the Fort Ancient society (a mound-building culture from the Late Prehistoric era, 900-1650 AD). But the third was dated two thousand years earlier to the Adena culture (2920 +/-65 years BC). The current theory, and the one that makes the most sense to me, is that is was built during the Adena period and then renovated by the Fort Ancients. Adena graves nearby strengthen that theory.

The Great Serpent Mound is a 1,348-foot long, three-foot-high earthwork of a snake. It’s the largest known serpent effigy in the world. It’s located on an astrobleme (an asteroid impact structure whose center is raised sedimentary strata). At the west end, the snake’s tail is coiled into a spiral; at the east, its mouth is open as though eating an egg, the sun, a giant eye, or the body of a frog (experts can’t decide). There are seven curves to its body.

But what was it built for? The oval and head area of the effigy is aligned with the summer solstice sunset while the tail is in line with the winter solstice sunrise. It’s also been suggested that the undulations of the body are correspond to certain lunar events. So, the mound may be a calendar marking the seasons.

The sculpt mimics the constellation Draco, with the star Thuban mapped to the first curve of the body. Thuban was used as the North Pole star from the fourth to second millennium BC, so there is an argument to be made that the effigy was a compass of sorts.

And nearby graves suggest this may have been a mortuary of sorts, a place that would help guide spirits to the great beyond. (It’s worth noting the graves were nearby, but none were found at the site itself.)

Whatever its true purpose, it has a great significance in my novel, The Gate, book one of my Astral Conspiracy series. If you’re curious about how I used it, I encourage you to read the book.


The Gate

He lost his job. Lost his girl. Now it’s all he can do not to lose his life.

Landon Thorne is a disgraced archaeologist, a laughing stock in his field because of his unconventional beliefs – he’s an ancient astronaut theorist. No one takes him seriously.

Until an alien armada targets Earth.

Now Landon’s in high demand – by the US government and someone far more sinister.

They race across two continents to the Gate of the Gods, the one place on Earth that might give humans an advantage over the aliens. But no one is prepared for what they’ll find.

And not everyone will make it out alive.

The Gate is the first of five novels in the Astral Conspiracy Series, part of Sterling and Stone’s Invasion Universe.

Universal Purchase Link

Other Links:

Staci’s Amazon Page | Staci’s BookBub Page | D.L.’s Amazon Page | D.L.’s BookBub Page

Bio box for author, Staci Troilo

I found this fascinating, just like the book. The Gate is an excellent story that moves at a break-neck pace. I highly recommend adding it for addictive reading.

Finally, in closing, Joan Hall is hosting me today, where I’m sharing a scary historical encounter. Hop over if you can and check out Red Eyes and Winged Beasts.

D.L. Cross Talks Aliens and Alternate Identities

Can you believe we are already over two weeks into August? Summer is speeding by on a rocket ship.

Speaking of rocket ships—and by default space travel—it isn’t a stretch to make the jump to aliens. Today, my guest, Straci Troilo, is serving up two crazy good books, written under her pen name, D. L. Cross. How do I know they’re crazy good? Because I’ve read them both and gave them resounding 5-star reviews!

Staci is a good friend, a talented author, an editor, and a colleague at Story Empire. If, by some impossible hiccup in the universe, you’re not already following her blog, I encourage you to visit her corner of the blogosphere and hop along for the ride.

And now, that I’ve jabbered enough, here’s Staci to tell you about her latest CRAZY GOOD books! 😀


Hi, Mae. As always, I appreciate the warm welcome. And everyone else, hello! Thanks for giving me a few minutes of your time to talk about the Invasion Universe.

If you know me and my early body of work, you know me as Staci Troilo, author of suspense fiction mashed up with romance, paranormal, legal, medical, and/or family drama. I can’t help adding anxiety-ridden situations to the works I write, regardless of the genre.

Which brings me to my latest endeavors. I’m now writing sci-fi.

Splash graphic foe The Gate, a science-fiction novel by D. L. Cross

When I made the jump to science fiction, my publishers insisted on a pen name. (They’re much more conscious of the “also-boughts” on Amazon than I am.) I used to resist writing with different pen names for different genres because I write in so many of them and didn’t want to manage several identities. Turns out, it’s not that difficult. And (if their theories are correct), it’s probably beneficial. At least on some level.

But what I found surprising is my work didn’t change. I’m still writing suspense. Only now, instead of megalomaniacs or serial killers stalking my heroes, aliens are. Actually, that’s not entirely true, either. Sometimes the villains are aliens. Other times, they’re still humans with nefarious agendas.

I have to tell you, I don’t read much sci-fi. But I love it on screen (small or big). Especially space-oriented shows and films. TV series like Lost in Space, Star Trek (original and TNG), Stargate (SG-1 and Atlantis), Roswell… I get lost in them every time they’re on. And movies? I’m hooked. All the Star Wars episodes (even the bad ones), Star Trek (yep, it’s on both lists), Stargate (yes, it made both lists, too), Independence Day, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., Avatar, even Mars Attacks (there’s nothing wrong with humor—even ridiculous humor). The lists are endless. I watch as many as I can. And I love most of them.

Splash graphic for The Scout: Dark Crossings, a science-fiction novella by D. L. Cross

The cinematography is usually engaging; the world-building enthralling. But what really draws me in is the characters. Regular people fighting larger-than-life enemies against impossible odds. Who wouldn’t want to watch that?

Who wouldn’t want to read it?

That’s why I made the switch to science fiction—because the genre is wonderous. I was still able to tell my kind of stories with my kind of characters. But now, I get to do it in an alien-rich world.

If you read my Astral Conspiracy series, you’ll find aliens—beings with all kinds of advanced tech and inhuman abilities. You’ll also find a lot of history. I have to admit, Ancient Aliens is a guilty pleasure of mine. Not because I believe their theories, but because of all the amazing places the show’s hosts go and the lore they uncover. I know, it’s weird to think of ancient history melding with futuristic science, but I did it. And early reviews suggest the combination is working.

I hope it is. And I hope you agree. If you give it a try, please leave a review and let me know what you think.

If you like the Twilight Zone, you might enjoy The Scout, my Astral Conspiracy prequel story.

And if you like ancient astronaut theories, you may like The Gate, the first novel of my quintet.

Book cover for The Gate, a science-fiction novel by D. L. CrossBlurb:

He lost his job. Lost his girl. Now it’s all he can do not to lose his life.

Landon Thorne is a disgraced archaeologist, a laughing stock in his field because of his unconventional beliefs – he’s an ancient astronaut theorist. No one takes him seriously.

Until an alien armada targets Earth.

Now Landon’s in high demand – by the US government and someone far more sinister.

They race across two continents to the Gate of the Gods, the one place on Earth that might give humans an advantage over the aliens. But no one is prepared for what they’ll find.

And not everyone will make it out alive.

Universal Purchase Link | More Information | Invasion Universe Newsletter

Book cover for The Scout, a science-fiction novel by D. L. CrossBlurb:

The aliens have landed. The humans are panicking. The scouts have been sent.

J’s mission is clear — find an alien outpost, observe, report back. Simple enough. It’s what he’s trained to do. But he’s always worked with his team, never as a party of one. Now he’s been sent out alone to blindly navigate a dense, dark forest until he finds his target. The dynamics are foreign to him, the stakes never higher. He’s completely isolated. Resources are scarce. Comms are down.

And he’s found the enemy.

It’s imperative he’s not caught, but clandestine spying doesn’t yield enough intel. J needs an ally, someone on the inside of the camp who can feed him information. And he finds one. But he gets more than he bargained for with Aria.

Their relationship grows complicated. Her people get defensive. His superior becomes suspicious. He doesn’t know who to trust. His loyalty’s divided, and pressure’s mounting from all sides.

J is shocked when everyone’s true allegiances are revealed. And the consequences of betrayal will be deadly.

Universal Purchase Link | More Information

Bio:
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.

Other Links:

Staci’s Amazon Page | Staci’s BookBub Page | D.L.’s Amazon Page | D.L.’s BookBub Page


I loved so many of the television shows Staci mentioned in her post, plus many others. I remember reading my first science-fiction novel in the fourth grade and being immediately smitten. As someone who’s loved science-fiction from a young age, it’s been a pleasure to discover a new universe populated by remarkable characters and riveting story lines. As I said in my review of The Scout, “You can’t go wrong with anything from the pen of D.L. Cross!” Still not sure?

Check out my review of The Gate, too, then go forth and one-click these wonderful titles! 🙂

Release Day Excitement: Tortured Soul by Staci Troilo #Mystery #RomanticSuspense

Hi, Everyone! If you’re a regular visitor to my blog, you know I enjoy hosting other authors—especially when I’m a fan of their work. Today, it’s my pleasure to welcome my good friend, Staci Troilo, with her latest release, Tortured Soul. This is the final installment of her Medici Protectorate series, and as sorry as I am to see these fantastic stories come to an end, I can’t wait for the world to discover this book. I got to read it in the development stage and highly recommend you go forth and one-click. First, here’s Staci to tell you a bit about the series and the characters who populate Tortured Soul.


Ciao, everyone. Nice to be here today. Mae, once again, thank you for hosting me.

If you promise not to judge me, I’m going to admit to a guilty pleasure. My husband and I love watching Ancient Aliens. I know how absurd many (most? all?) of their theories are, but we are avid History Channel viewers and love to learn about ancient civilizations. While I seriously doubt the veracity of the show’s claims, we do learn many irrefutable facts—things about the societies, beliefs, art, and architecture of these peoples.

One fact I learned while watching the episode called “The Da Vinci Conspiracy” (season 4, episode 8) was that Leonardo disappeared from society for a couple of years, and when he returned, he became the Renaissance genius we know him as today. This disappearance is fact.

Writings of Leonardo da Vinci [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Leonardo da Vinci [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The British Library in London has his Codex Arundel, his collection of writings, notes, drawings, inventions—thousands of pages of his thoughts on all sorts of topics. Of all that work, very little recounts details of his personal life. Yet one of the earliest entries is of the cave.

He describes standing at the mouth of a dark, vast cave and feeling a profound sense of terror at what might be inside. Conversely, he also experienced an insatiable desire to know what secrets were hidden within.

The show theorized that his documented retreat from society (1476 to 1478) occurred when he found the cave—and he spent those missing years with aliens, learning things centuries beyond what people of the time could even conceive of. When he returned to society is when he began demonstrating his brilliance and talents, qualities he gleaned from his time in the cave (or when “beamed up” from it) with the extraterrestrials. And of course the show goes on to offer “proof” of their claims.

Why am I telling you all this? Certainly not because I want you to think I’m a conspiracy theorist. (In fact, I’m far from it.)

I bring it up because the mention of his two-year disappearance and his specific notes about the cave sparked an idea in me. (See? Writers really do get inspiration from all kinds of places.)

What if the cave wasn’t a portal to aliens but rather a private retreat? A secret lab of sorts, where the forbidden practice of alchemy could be explored without interference or fear of discovery?

Furthermore, what if those alchemical experiments yielded success?

That spark of an idea blossomed into a full-blown plot point which, combined with my own family history, formed the basic concept of my Medici Protectorate series.

This four-book saga follows one of Leonardo’s contemporaries, Michelangelo, who practiced alchemy in secret and mastered both immortality and transmutation of metals. Still alive and wealthy beyond comprehension, he endeavors to fulfill a vow he made centuries earlier to the Medici family—to protect their descendants from harm, something he’s done for nearly half a millennium. The Notaro sisters are now the sole heirs to the Medici legacy, and because of an impending revolution in Italy, they are positioned to try and recapture the throne. It’s something none of the girls would ever consider.

Unfortunately, a nefarious organization has learned of their lineage. And they want to use the girls’ hereditary rights for their own benefits—or eliminate them.

Michelangelo formed the Medici Protectorate to keep all the Medici descendants safe throughout the years. And four of the members—the Brothers—were selected to serve as personal bodyguards for the latest generation. The fourth and final book, Tortured Soul, is the culmination of this battle between the Medici family line and the evil power hoping to usurp their rights and rule the country. And ultimately the world.

To think it all stemmed from a few simple ideas, like my own family history and a two-year retreat in a cave.

Book cover for Tortured Soul by Staci TroiloBlurb:

Protection is safety. Until it stifles.

After months of clandestine battles, the Brothers of the Medici Protectorate finally know who is responsible for the assassination attempts on the Notaro family, the secret descendants of the Medici line. And they’ve never faced such a formidable foe.

Roberto Cozza—Coz—faces this new reality with surprising pragmatism. His powers may make the difference in winning their covert war—if only he can master them in time. It would just be so much easier if he could get his emotions under control, but neither his Brothers nor their charges are making things easy on him.

Toni Notaro appreciates the security provided by the Brothers, but she knows she has her own role to play—and it terrifies her. She is the missing link in Coz mastering his emerging abilities, yet she struggles to bridge the gap between what he needs and what she can offer.

As the Brotherhood hurtles inexorably toward the climactic final showdown, Coz and Toni must find the strength within themselves and each other to master the secrets of his powers, or risk death and defeat for all they hold dear.

Universal Purchase Link

Bio and Links:
Author, Staci Troilo
Staci Troilo writes because she has hundreds of stories in her head. She publishes because people told her she should share them. She’s a multi-genre author whose love for writing is only surpassed by her love for family and friends, and that relationship-centric focus is featured in her work.

Web | Blog | Tortured Soul Info | Medici Protectorate Info | Amazon Page | BookBub | Goodreads | TwitterOther Social Media Links

New Release: Gamble by Staci Troilo #Thriller #Romance #ExMilitary

Hey, everyone! I’ve got another goodie to share with you today. Staci Troilo has a new release in her high-octane Nightforce Security Series. I devoured Password, the first book, and promptly did the same with Gamble (cheating here: I got to read this one before release).  

Once again, Staci has hooked me with her characters, plot cyclone (it moves that fast) and clever mystery. Today, she’s introducing Gamble’s hero, Noah Crawford. Trust me—this is one guy you’ll want to meet.

Take a look . . .

graphic teaser for the novel Gamble by Staci Troilo


Hi, everybody. Thanks for indulging me today. I promise I won’t take up too much of your time.

I consider myself a multi-genre author. My novels are broadly categorized as romance, mystery, and mainstream. The subgenres vary considerably, and my short stories add even more options to the mix.

I started writing romance because I have a thing for the alpha male. Yes, he can be (and often is) in many genres—crime fiction, western, sci-fi, paranormal, etc.—but I initially associated that type of character with the romance genre. I liked to read about this guy. Only stood to reason that I’d enjoy writing about him.

That brings me to my new novella Gamble (part of the Nightforce Security Series), and its hero, Noah Crawford. Noah is ex-military (former SEAL, to be specific) and he works with a bunch of guys whose histories are similar to his. We don’t learn too many specifics; those missions are classified, after all. But we know there were some dark days in their pasts. And whether these men served together or not, that kind of shared experience forms a bond. These guys are tight.

I’m not related to any SEALs, but many of my family members (and my husband’s) have served. Some are still active. I wanted to write a series that paid homage to these heroes, putting them in settings we could all recognize rather than in combat theaters in countries we’ll never see. So, my heroes have retired from the military life. You know alpha males, though. They’re never far from action. The Nightforce guys are no different.

We meet Noah at their hangout—One Ugly Mug. The bar is owned by another veteran, so far only known to us as Cap. It’s a special night because a friend of theirs is in town. The drinks are flowing as liberally as the stories. Noah is comfortably buzzed and not thinking as clearly as usual.

That’s when she walks in.

Noah is interested in his one-night stand becoming so much more. But there are hurdles to jump, games to play, and gunmen to thwart. That’s right, I said gunmen. But we’re not talking about the bad guys today. We’re talking heroes.

Noah fits into this group so well not just because of his history, but because he can hold his own when the barbs start flying. These guys talk fast, act faster, and always have a sarcastic comeback. Heck, they often are the ones who start with the insults.

Noah’s no different.

If you like fast-paced stories with quick-witted, sharp-speaking, fearless, and (sorry, guys) drool-worthy heroes, I think this novella is for you. Noah might just become your next book crush. I know he became mine.

book cover for Gamble, a Nightforce Security novel by Staci TroiloBlurb for Gamble:

Sometimes stakes are too high to gamble. Other times they’re too high not to.

Noah Crawford is a consummate bachelor—until a one-night stand piques his interest in something more. The only problem is, she wouldn’t give him her name, and he has no way to find her.

A week later, resigned to forgetting her, he accompanies his friends to a casino. Floor traffic promises to be light while everyone clusters at the sportsbook for the college basketball championship game. But Noah isn’t in the mood for frivolity and sets off on his own. No one is more surprised than he is when he bumps into his mystery woman.

He’s playing a far different game than cards when armed criminals take over the poker room. Noah is separated from his friends, and somehow the room has been cut off from security. Help isn’t coming. It’s up to him to keep everyone safe while he tries to thwart the gunmen.

Noah quickly realizes he’s trying to prevent more than a simple heist. And he doesn’t know who he can trust. The stakes have never been higher, and he’s all in. But one of the thieves might have an ace up his sleeve, and that could cost Noah everything.

More Information | Universal Purchase Link

Author Staci Troilo in a candid poseAbout Staci:
Staci Troilo writes because she has hundreds of stories in her head. She publishes because people told her she should share them. She’s a multi-genre author whose love for writing is only surpassed by her love for family and friends, and that relationship-centric focus is featured in her work.

Web | Blog | Newsletter | Facebook Group | Twitter | Facebook | Other Social Media Links

Welcome to One Ugly Mug #Password #NewRelease #RomanticThriller

Welcome friends! Today, Staci Troilo is back with her latest release, Password. She’s got a great behind-the-scenes glimpse of the fictional bar she created for use in the story (how can you not love a place called One Ugly Mug?).

I’m always jazzed when Staci has a new book, because I know I’ll get to disappear into the pages of a riveting tale. Password is no exception. You can read my complete 5-star review on Amazon, but I’ll leave you with this snippet of my impressions:

“The twists and turns in this novel really surprised me. Not only do we get two great lead characters who experience plenty of romantic ups and downs, but the story is chock full of suspense, and a mystery that will keep you guessing right up until the end.”

And now, here’s Staci with . . .

Welcome to One Ugly Mug

Thanks for inviting me here today, Mae. I appreciate having a chance to talk to your readers about my new novel. Hi, everybody!


You remember how pretty much every Cheers episode had a scene showing Norm walk in.

He says, “Hey, everybody.”

And they all say, “Norm!” in return.

It is, after all, the place where everybody knows his name.

Keep that image in mind. Now, make the bar a little darker, a little edgier. Dangerous enough that families don’t stop in for the chicken wings but clean enough that feet don’t stick to the floor and the bathrooms don’t look like crime scenes. Imagine many of the patrons are affiliated with the government, but they’re not postal worker Cliff Clavin types. Rather, they’re current and former special forces types.

You’re picturing One Ugly Mug.

shot of bar with with stools, glasses, bottles, beer signs

This fictional bar, set in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is the local hangout for the guys of Nightforce Security and their military buddies who sometimes come to town to visit.

The waitresses wear whatever they like. Most choose jeans or shorts and button-downs or t-shirts. Even the youngest, flirtiest of them doesn’t wear Hooters-style clothes, but you can be darn sure no one would dare proposition a waitress who chose to. Bouncers aren’t necessary at One Ugly Mug. The patrons take care of each other. And if it happens to be a slow day, the bartender has it covered.

What’s his story, you ask? Well, we’ll learn more about him as the series goes on. He’s only in the periphery in Password. Not named, not even referred to. But we know he’s there… someone has to mix the drinks. He’s a mysterious and compelling guy. I’m looking forward to digging into his background.

When the Nightforce guys get antsy, they can play pool or shoot darts. There’s never a live band, never karaoke (God forbid), but there is the occasional rendition of a song belted out by a too-tipsy barfly. The retro jukebox in the corner is regularly fed quarters. Classic rock is pretty much the only choice. Rap is only allowed if the guys are celebrating the end of a mission or if the bartender has the day off. (For the record, that doesn’t happen often.) Because the guys respect him so much, they never play rap at One Ugly Mug when he’s there. Well, it’s part respect and part the fact that the most recent rap track put in the jukebox was the Beastie Boys’ “Fight for Your Right”. In fact, no songs, rap or otherwise, have been added since the bar opened in the 1980s.

There are private booths, semi-private tables, and of course there are always stools where a patron can belly up to the bar. The lighting is dim, the banter is smart, and it’s a good thing One Ugly Mug is so compelling. Why? Because it’s going to be a frequent location in the Nightforce Security series.

book cover for Password, a romantic thriller by Staci TroiloBlurb:

Some passwords protect more than just secrets.

Danny Caruso was glad to be back in the United States, back to his regular job. Back to his comfortable routine of all work and no play. But when his friend Mac asks a favor of him, he can’t refuse. He owes the guy everything. So he accepts the job, even though it means a twenty-four/seven protection detail guarding a particularly exacerbating—and beautiful—woman.

Braelyn Edwards is careful to stay out of the spotlight, preferring to hide in the background and skip the trappings of a vibrant social life. But her privacy is threatened when there’s an attempt on her life and a bodyguard is foisted on her. Compounding problems? He doesn’t just want to protect her. He wants to investigate every detail of her life, starting with her top-secret job.

Danny casts his sights on Charlie Park, her coworker, her partner… the one man who knows all Braelyn’s secrets. She’s frustrated by the distrust until she realizes jealousy fuels Danny’s suspicions as much as instinct and proof. One of them is right about Charlie—but by the time they figure it out, it may be too late to save their relationship. And Braelyn’s life.

Universal Purchase Link

Password is the first story in the Nightforce Security Series. A sequel is already in the works. The next installment will be a novella released in March as part of Susan Stoker’s Special Forces Kindle World. So if this series interests you, you won’t have long to wait.


Author Staci Troilo in a candid poseAuthor Bio
Staci Troilo writes because she has hundreds of stories in her head. She publishes because people told her she should share them. She’s a multi-genre author whose love for writing is only surpassed by her love for family and friends, and that relationship-centric focus is featured in her work.

Connect with Staci on Social Media:

Web | Blog | Newsletter | Facebook Group | Twitter | Facebook | Other Social Media Links