Book Spotlight: Mystra by Crystalphoenis



Science Fiction/Fantasy
Date Published: July 15, 2016

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In the wake of the Kryllidar war, creatures of myth and legend, the elder races, and the psychically gifted fled the telepath phobic Alliance worlds in search of sanctuary. They found their safe haven on the planet Mystra. It was a paradise world, then something went horribly. A great cataclysm unleashed a storm of deadly energy that threatened to tear the planet apart. Cut off from the rest of space by a barrier of destructive force, all appeared lost. Then from despair came hope. The energies unleashed by the cataclysm had an unexpected effect. Dormant genes carried by women of an ancient Druidic line were suddenly activated, giving the women the ability to control the elemental forces of nature. The elementals saved Mystra from destruction, but their newfound power came with a price. The incredible forces they wielded, in time, destroyed them. Only by bonding with a male, who also carried the dormant gene, could an elemental be saved and her powers safely harnessed.
An elemental’s power reaches maturity on midnight of her twenty first year. If she is not bonded before the midnight hour, the elemental will go mad, lose control of her powers and destroy herself and everything around her. Tivonna, daughter of King Arcus of Aquilla is nearing her twenty first year. A level four elemental, her father has searched the planet for a bondmate, a kiosan, that can match his daughter in power. Searched and failed. He is left with no choice. For the good of Mystra, at midnight on her twenty first birthday Tivonna must die.
Meanwhile, high above Mystra’s skies a golden starship takes up orbit around the shrouded world. Jasen, telepath and last of his kind, has come to Mystra seeking answers. Beings of fire and light appeared from nowhere and swarmed across the galaxy before disappearing as mysteriously as they had appeared. In the creatures’ wake three star systems lay in ruins. Nothing survived except for one lone world. The planet Mystra was untouched. Now Jasen and his friend Hawk will do what no one has done in centuries. Penetrate the planet’s deadly energy barrier and reach the surface below. What they find there will change their lives forever and may hold the key to saving more star systems from destruction. For the fiery invaders are not gone … only sleeping.


Excerpt
Prologue

The planet Mystra …a world as beautiful as she was mysterious.  Pulses of multicolored lightning flashed through the dense white clouds that shrouded the planet’s surface, hiding her secrets from prying eyes.  Once sister world to a multitude of planets, she is now alone.  Surrounded by the debris of what at one time were viable worlds, she is the last vestige of life in an otherwise barren system.  In solitude, she waits for those who would come to unlock her mysteries…those with the skills and courage to breach the flashing clouds surrounding her and reach the surface below. 

With a rippling of space, the sleek golden starship dropped out of hyperspace and settled into orbit around the jeweled planet.  At long last her wait was over.


Chapter One


2605 Day 232


The exploration vessel Ourora smoothly exited hyperspace and settled into orbit around the nearby planet.  The dark haired young man sitting trance-like in the pilot’s seat, hands resting on the two glowing plates set in the console before him, stirred and opened his eyes.  It was a perfect run.

Breaking his mind‑link with the starship, he stood and stretched.  The Ourora was shaping up to be a sweet ship.  Once the strangeness of joining his mind to the ship’s instruments and controls had worn off, he had found piloting by thought as natural as breathing.  This was not really surprising, considering that his people had built the vessel. In fact, it was on this very ship that he had been found adrift in space as a child, the last survivor of his race, of his entire planetary system.


2590 Day 143


Jake Blackthorn watched as the image of a golden starship grew on his ship’s monitors.  The Wanderer had been returning to Earth after a profitable trading run when they had stumbled upon the derelict.  The ship’s golden skin and graceful lines were like nothing he had ever seen.

“She’s beautiful, but where did she come from?  That’s no Alliance ship.”

Jake had been so engrossed in studying the alien vessel that he had not heard anyone approach.  Turning, he found Dr. Nicole Wright standing at his side.  “I have no idea Nikki but I intend to find out.”

“Uh oh, you have that explorer look.”  She teased feeling the excitement radiating from him.

“Once an explorer always an explorer.  Take us in Pete,” he instructed the pilot.  “I want a good look at this lady.  Any energy or life sign readings?” 

“It’s hard to get a fix, some kind of energy dampener,” came the reply from the science station.  “It’s scrambling our sensors.”

“Captain,” Pete called, “you’d better see this.”

Returning his attention to the view screen, Jake stared as the Wanderer approached the far side of the derelict ship.  A sick feeling began in the pit of his stomach as he saw the gaping hole ripped into the golden metal of the ship.

“No survivors then.”  Jake said sadly, “all right let’s get a tractor beam on her¼”

“Captain, I think I’m getting a life sign reading.”

Jake turned to the science station.  “What do you mean you think you’re getting a reading?”

“Well, it’s faint and it keeps drifting in and out.  The dampener field is playing hell with the sensors, but there is something over there.”

After a heated debate, which Jake naturally won, he and Dr. Wright boarded the damaged ship.  As they explored the craft Jake felt his excitement grow, much of the vessel’s interior appeared to be intact.  The bridge, engine room, and cargo holds seemed untouched.  It was only as they explored the damaged area of the ship that his excitement waned.  As they entered what appeared to be crew quarters Jake froze, nausea rising in his throat.  “Oh, my God, they’re children.”  Jake barely heard Nikki’s anguished whisper.  He was staring at the rows of bunks crammed into the room.  The ship’s passenger and crew cabins were filled with children, children of diverse races, some of which he had never seen before.  They were all dead.  Their lifeless bodies still strapped to their bunks.

“They never had a chance.” He whispered.  “Let’s get the hell out of here.”

“Wait,” Nikki grabbed his arm and pointed to the scanner she held clutched in her hand.  “I’m getting that phantom signal again.”

“Can you get a fix?”

“Yes!  One deck down and to the rear.”

Following the faint signal, they made their way to the rear of the ship.  Rounding a corner, they froze.  Standing in what appeared to be a galley, surrounded by a golden glow, was a raven haired, golden eyed boy about ten years old.

“Hello,” Jake spoke softly and held out his hands in what he hoped was a friendly gesture.  “We’re here to help.”

The boy studied the two space-suited figures intently, but made no move.  Encouraged, Jake slowly approached the still youth.  Suddenly, the glow surrounding the boy intensified and a strong forced hurled him back.

“Please,” Nikki begged.  “We only want to help you. You’re all alone now.  Let us help.  We mean you no harm.”

“Nikki, we have to go,” Jake whispered.  “I think I cracked something, my suit’s losing air.  I can’t stay much longer.”

“We can’t just leave him.”

Keen golden eyes seemed to bore into Nikki’s soul as the boy studied her intently.  She almost gasped in relief when he turned to scrutinize Jake in turn.  Whatever he saw must have reassured him. Indicating that they should follow, he led them into the next compartment.  Nestled in the chamber was a large golden sphere.  Jake and Nikki watched as the boy placed his hand against the side of the globe. A portal suddenly appeared.  Motioning for them to follow, he entered the sphere.  Once inside, the portal closed, leaving no sign it had ever existed.  Gazing around in amazement, Jake turned to find the boy, minus the golden glow, sitting on a plush looking couch against the far wall watching them curiously. 

“A life pod.  Jake, I read a breathable atmosphere, constant temperature… the works.  This is how he survived.”

“Yeah, but that doesn’t explain how he can walk around out there with no suit, and what about that glow?”

“That doesn’t matter now, the main thing is getting him, and us, back to the ship.”

A sound of rustling caused them both to turn.  The boy was standing a few feet away holding a silvery suit in one hand and a metallic capsule in the other.  Seeing he had the adults’ attention, he offered the suit to Jake.

Taking the offered garment, Jake examined the delicate material. “I think it’s a spacesuit.”

“You’re right, “Nikki examined the now open storage cabinet, “there’s a whole rack of them in here, but they’re all for adults.  What do we do about him?”

“The capsule must be some kind of carrier.  We put him in there and carry him across.”

With the boy’s help, Jake removed his damaged suit and donned the alien garment.  The suit molded itself to his body and Jake marveled at the freedom that it gave him.  Excitement stirred in him, what other marvels did this ship and its lone occupant hold?  

After checking to make sure Jake’s suit was working properly, the boy opened the life support capsule and stepped inside.  Once more he studied the two adults, then calmly closed the carrier, entrusting himself to the strangers’ care.

Returning to the Wanderer without incident, Jake ordered the derelict ship taken in tow and set course for his most secure research center.  This was too important a find; he was taking no chances.  Leaving the boy in the doctor’s capable hands, he wasted no time in staking his claim to the alien derelict. 

Jake Blackthorn was a powerful man and he now used that power.  By pulling a few strings and cashing in a few favors, he obtained exclusive salvage rights to the alien vessel.  The bodies of the deceased children would be turned over to the authorities, but no mention was made of the boy.  Satisfied that he had taken every precaution to protect his find, Jake headed for sickbay.  He couldn’t say what had made him keep the boy’s existence a secret from the authorities, but his gut told him the kid was special.  There was no way he was going to let some government social worker get their hands on him.  Besides the kid had trusted him, Jake shivered as he remembered the boy’s golden eyes staring into his, searching his soul.  The child was as unique as his craft.  Jake usually had little use for children, but there was something about this one that stirred all his protective instincts.  The kid was his, by God, and nobody was taking him away.


Six months later, Jake was ready to consign both the ship and its golden- eyed master into the fiery depths of the nearest sun.  After six months of intensive study, the starship was still an enigma.  Even his best experts could not fathom how the strange vessel operated.  There were no noticeable controls, just panels of colored crystals set into the consoles.  The engines consisted of smooth sided boxes and crystal globes.  No dials, switches, or knobs were to be seen.  There was no sign of power, though they knew that it existed.  Jake fumed; all that power, all that technology just out of reach, it was enough to drive an entrepreneur mad.

The boy was proving to be as impenetrable as his vessel.  The shock of the accident had severely damaged the kid’s memory, erasing any knowledge of what had happened to him or his ship.  Quiet and reserved, he cooperated fully with the scientific team examining him but volunteered nothing.  Except for a few unknown factors in his DNA and body chemistry, he was remarkably similar to humans.  Yet, it did not take the team studying him long to realize that he was not your typical ten- year old boy.  His golden eyes held wisdom beyond his years; and he always seemed to know what was wanted of him, even before he was shown or asked.  He proved to be extremely bright and learned at an amazing rate.  In a very short time, he mastered enough Galactic-Standard to communicate.  Yet, nothing they tried could unlock the memories buried deep in the boy’s mind.  It was as if every thought concerning his home world or his flight to this system had been locked away behind an impenetrable barrier.  He was a blank slate, which could soak up knowledge, but offered none in return.

Jake was not prepared to give up his discovery without a fight.  Every day, their guest was becoming more relaxed and comfortable with his new home.  With time, Jake hoped that his memory would start to return.  It was another month before the first breakthrough occurred.  Since he could not remember his name, the young castaway had been christened “Kid” by the researchers studying him.  For seven months, the boy answered to the name “Kid”, so Jake was surprised when the youth fixed him with a golden eyed stare and said, “My name is Jasen, not Kid.”  After that, snatches of memory began to return.

On a hunch, Jake decided to see what would happen if Jasen was reunited with his starship.  Maybe the sight of the vessel and the familiar surroundings would jog the boy’s memory.  At least, he might be able to show them how the ship operated. 

It was soon obvious that returning to the ship was a shock for the youth.  He wandered through the vessel as if in a daze.  With each section of the ship revealed and explored, his face grew paler.  By the time they reached the bridge, Jake was afraid the boy was going to collapse.  On one side of the bridge was a large console inset with a panel composed of some type of blue crystal.  Jasen went to the console, placed his hands palm down on the crystal, and closed his eyes.  The panel immediately began to glow and flash.  After a few minutes, the glowing stopped and Jasen opened his eyes.  Removing his hands from the console, he began to tremble uncontrollably and then to cry.  Rushing to him, Jake held the sobbing child as delayed trauma finally hit.

Viewing the information contained in the ship’s library computer, as the console turned out to be, and reliving past events through the psychic traces left in the ship, had broken through the mind block the boy had erected.  Later, when he had calmed down and been reassured that he was safe among friends, he freely answered Jake’s questions.  The ship was totally thought controlled.  It had been built by a race of telepaths, from a planet in the Gamma3 planetary system.  It was a type of ark, a last ditch effort to save a remnant of the people of that system.  Creatures of fire and light had appeared out of nowhere and attacked their worlds.  The attacks had been quick, unexpected, and vicious.  Caught off guard, most planets stood no chance against the invaders.  Jasen’s world was the oldest and most advanced of the system.  They were able to hold out long enough to launch three ships before being destroyed by the attackers.  Only Jasen’s ship had made it out of the system, but not without taking damage.  An energy blast had hit the ship severely, damaging its shields and compromising a large section of the hull.  The ship’s crew had been working to repair the damaged section when they had been caught in an unexpected meteor storm, most likely debris from the destroyed worlds.  The ship’s compromised shielding had been unable to stop one of the huge projectiles from striking the damaged hull and ripping it open. The two adults on board had been caught in the impact zone and killed.  Jasen had been attending to some minor repairs on the side of the ship farthest from the rupture. His telekinetic abilities had allowed him to protect himself long enough to reach the safety of an escape pod.  The others on board had not been so gifted.

The Gamma3 system was an old system with a high level of technology.  They were not novices at space travel or exploration and had even visited the Alliance worlds to observe.  That they could be wiped out so quickly and completely boded ill for the Planetary Alliance.  After hearing the news Jasen brought, Jake became obsessed with the attackers.  Who were they?  Why did they attack?  Had other systems fallen?  He devoted a good part of his empire to finding out the answers.  Jake soon lost his heart to the courageous child.  He was determined to protect the boy, and the unusual gifts he had begun to display once freed from the mind block his fear had created.  In time, Jake adopted him, named him his heir, and helped train him to use his gifts and hide them from the outside world.


Adapting to his new home proved difficult for Jasen.  His planetary system had been on the opposite side of the galaxy from Alliance controlled space.  The people of his world had enjoyed strong, friendly ties with the other sentient races of the nearby systems. They had been respected and honored for their technology and for their roles as peacemakers and diplomats.  Things were far different in this new land.  The Alliance worlds had an inbred, almost manic, fear and hatred of telepaths.  Jake had tried to explain it to him once.

Many generations ago the Alliance worlds had been invaded by a race called the Kryllidar.  The Kryllidar were a militant, barbaric insect-like race that possessed a high level of technical skill and little regard for other sentient life forms.  They were a race that lived to conquer and enslave the populations of other worlds.  The Kryllidar loved order and insured that the worlds they conquered adhered to their concept of obedience.  Using drugs and machines, they subverted the minds and wills of those they invaded, turning them into perfect drones fit to serve the elite Kryllidar race.

The Kryllidar invaders swept across the galaxy like a plague, leaving worlds of mind-controlled zombies in their wake.  Almost half the galaxy had fallen before the Alliance armada had been able to rally.  Joined by ships from the outer fringes, they had been able to turn and repel the attackers.  Once freed from the invaders’ mind-controlling apparatus, the enraged Alliance inhabitants had hunted down and exterminated every Kryllidar they could find, then followed up with an all-out attack on the Kryllidar home world.  The Kryllidar race was totally wiped out, along with a number of neighboring planets that possessed similar life forms.  The drugs and machines used to enslave the conquered worlds were rounded up and destroyed.  The Alliance vowed never again to allow their people to be controlled in such a manner.  A deep phobia of mind-control in any form sprung up among the sentient races within the Alliance systems, which was carefully passed down and instilled in each succeeding generation.  From this phobia, a dread of telepaths emerged, which grew in strength with each retelling of the past atrocities. Telepaths were viewed as the ultimate masters of mind-control.  Machines could be broken, drugs could be neutralized, but the only way to stop a telepath was to kill him.  Also, unlike the Kryllidar, a telepath could blend in with the populace of a given world.  They could lurk unknown and undetected among the citizens of the Alliance.  One could never be sure if his thoughts were his own or being manipulated by another.

Soon the slogan, “The only good telepath is a dead one,” became common.  It was into this climate of hate that the young Jasen had been thrown.  He was the last surviving telepath in the galaxy.  He lived in constant fear of exposure and death.  He was looked upon as a monster, a demon; he was fair game for all.  No one would hesitate to destroy him if he were discovered.

There were few people in his life that he dared trust implicitly.  Fortunately for the young telepath, it was Jake who discovered him.  Jake was a shelter of love in an otherwise dark and hate filled universe.  The explorer did not share the rest of the Alliance’s loathing and terror of telepaths.  He had been born in a remote sector far from the alien invasion.  When that cluster’s sun went nova, Jake had brought his thriving corporation to the Alliance worlds.  Most of those on Jake’s personal staff were refugees from his home system.  Like Jake, they viewed Jasen as different but not horrible.  He was a bright and charming boy and they soon grew to love and admire him as Jake did.  They vowed to protect the vulnerable youth and his secret.  Jake raised the boy as a son and taught him how to survive in his new home.


2605 Day 232


With a shake of his head, Jasen shook off the thoughts of the past.  He was no longer a frightened boy of ten, but a man of twenty-five and he had work to do.  Jake was dead and it was up to him to finish what his adopted father had begun.  He gave the instruments another quick metal scan to assure that everything was as it should be then left the bridge and headed for the ship’s lounge.  Hawk.  He wished his friend had not insisted on coming, but nothing he had said had dented Hawk’s resolve to accompany him.




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Box Set: Kisses, Kids and Bundles of Joy

Christian Romance Box Set
Date Published: September 20, 2016

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Snuggle up with seven brand new, never before published Christian winter romances from bestselling and award-winning authors. Kisses and kids abound in this collection of novellas that will warm your heart all winter long.

One Winter Kiss - Lindi Peterson 

Deena Ross travels to Ohio to try and sway her grandfather from making a big mistake, a mistake his neighbor Andrew has been encouraging. When a winter storm hits, and Deena is forced to stay with Andrew and his young son, Evan, Deena's vision of love is tested and she might lose her heart in one winter kiss.

Childish Ways - Jenn Faulk 

Kevin Peterson, a teacher at a small town elementary school, is unexpectedly reunited with Lisa Walker, a girl who spent most of their childhood tormenting and bullying him, when she comes back to town where she helps organize a winter carnival to benefit her niece's school. Lisa has no idea who he is, though, and as they work alongside one another and Kevin sees how much she has changed, he begins to question whether or not he can really trust her and let her into his life.

The Baby & the Bachelor - Cindy K. Green

Playboy bachelor, Alec, discovers a baby on his doorstep only days away from being appointed to a political office, prompting him to appeal his assistant, Jane, for help. Misunderstandings and accusations from the press abound, leading Alec to wonder, even if he were prepared for a ready-made family, could sweet, church-going Jane ever find it in her heart to marry a sinner like him?

For Tracy - Trisha Grace

One phone call led to Sarah Carter becoming the guardian of her favorite student, Tracy, while waiting for Tracy’s Uncle Keith to show up. But Sarah has no idea Uncle Keith was Keith Sutton, Hollywood’s most eligible bachelor, and doesn’t realize how much trouble she is heading for.

Tropical Kiss Or Miss - Liwen Y. Ho

Therapist Olivia Chan can’t wait to escape it all—a failed marriage, a struggling practice, and her son’s recent health scare. The Hawaiian getaway she planned, however, gets rained on—quite literally—by a tropical storm and the unexpected arrival of her estranged husband Matthew, who’s determined to win her back.

To Gain a Mommy - Tanya Eavenson

When Hope Michaels decides to face her past, she unknowingly purchases the house across the street from her former fiancé—the man her twin sister married, then widowed. Fire Captain Carl McGuire can put out any flame, except for the one Hope sparks within him—some things never change.

Foolish Heart - Cindy Flores Martinez

Judy and Graham have feelings for each other, but they won’t admit it. After all, she lives in America and he lives in Scotland with his daughter, Mairi, who he could never leave to be with the woman he loves.

Pre-Order Links



About the Author

Lindi Peterson, USA Today featured author, lives in north Georgia, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, with her husband and a lively array of cats, dogs and birds. She loves sharing life with her family and friends. Her passion for reading led her to writing, and then God spoke words of love into her heart and changed her life forever.
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Jenn Faulk is a native Texan who enjoys reading and writing chick lit. She’s a pastor’s wife, a stay-at-home mom, and a marathon enthusiast who loves talking about Jesus and what a difference He’s made in her life. She has a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Houston and a MA in Missiology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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Cindy K. Green has worked as a middle school history & English teacher, a frozen yogurt server and a golf magazine employee. Today she’s a multi-published, award winning author, a mother, a wife, and a homeschooler too. This native Californian now resides in North Carolina with her husband, two sons, and their two cats Chloe & Kassey.
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Trisha Grace graduated from Bradford University with an Accounting and Finance degree. She has always been an avid reader and has a passion for writing. After being a tutor for over six years, she finally sat down and penned her own novels.
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Liwen Y. Ho works as a chauffeur and referee by day (AKA being a stay at home mom) and a writer by night. Her work has appeared in various online publications, including LiteraryMama.com and MomLifeToday.com, and she is a contributor at StartMarriageRight.com. In her pre-author life, she received a Masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Western Seminary, and she loves makeovers of all kinds, especially those of the heart and mind. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her techie husband and their two children, and blogs about her adventures as a recovering perfectionist at www.2square2behip.com.
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Tanya Eavenson is an inspirational romance author of the series Unending Love. She has also written several Bible studies that have been translated and published into different languages with Christ to the World Ministries. Tanya and her husband have been involved in ministry for seventeen years, teaching youth and adults. She enjoys spending time with her husband and their three children. Tanya is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Word Weavers International. Her favorite pastime is grabbing a cup of coffee, eating chocolate, and reading a good book.
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Cindy Flores Martinez is an Amazon bestselling Spanish romance author. She writes sweet romantic comedy and Christian romance. She has an MFA in Creative Writing with an emphasis in Screenwriting. Her debut novel, Mail-Order Groom, started out as a screenplay and movie project, which she shopped around Hollywood, New York, and other parts of the world.

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Book Spotlight: Ashia by L.E. Thomas


Science Fiction/Fantasy
Date Published: August 13, 2016

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Plagued by nightmarish visions of apocalyptic battles and burning victims crawling across the desert sands, the slave girl known as Shanda has been trying to keep her growing gift hidden from her abusive master as she knows being able to see images of the future is a cursed gift carrying the King’s ultimate punishment.
But as her tribe seeks solace from the deadly raids by the Mazomi Clan in their magical airships by moving toward the legendary Spire of Ashia, Shanda discovers her past will soon clash with a dangerous future.
A new epic tale full of adventure and discovery by the author of Star Runners, Ashia brings you a story of a world mired in secrets, oppression and a decades-old cover up that could alter the course of events for the entire planet.
This book is a sci-fantasy novel.





Excerpt


The Royal Guard surged forward like a living wave. Grev cut through the men, his sword slashing through their flesh like a rabid animal. He ignored his tiring muscles. He couldn’t feel the wounds from counter attacks, his blood igniting like the fires of the stars.

Spinning, he hurled guards into their comrades, using the close quarters of the hall to his advantage. He yelled as a knife penetrated his bicep. Without stopping, he yanked the weapon from his body and hurled it through the face of an attacker.

A force hit him from behind—an arrow piercing his back. He fell to his knees, swinging his sword with his remaining strength. A blade hit his forehead, splitting his skin. Warm blood spilled into his eyes. Strong hands clasped his shoulders, preventing him from falling into darkness.

“At least, you cannot have my wife,” Grev breathed, his muscles failing as the guards restrained him to the floor. “She has fled beyond your reach.”

The Baron stepped forward, a torch in his hand.

“Oh, no, my dear Captain, we already have her.” He held the fire close to Grev’s face and laughed. “The Captain of his Royal Guard. Bah!”

Blunt force thumped into the back of his head and darkness took him.



About the Author



L.E. Thomas lives in Georgia with his wife and rescued dog where he is currently working on his next novel.


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Book Spotlight: Lady of the Bridge by Laura Kitchell



Historical Romance
Date Published:  September 2016


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Forbidden love between a warrior princess and an elite samurai makes for an adventure set during the early days of the Tokugawa shogunate. Join this couple in a race across 17th century Japan where political unrest has created dangerous ronin, civil uprisings, and war-ravaged castles. Caught in the middle of the struggle between Shogun's rise to rule and the old regime, this warrior princess is forced to battle for her life.
In the end, she must choose between family honor and her heart's desire.
Other Books by Laura Kitchell:




Lady of the Imperial City
Published: May 2015
Historical Romance

Love isn’t forbidden to Lady Kirei as long as it’s with a proper gentleman of Kyō and she doesn’t mind sharing him with his wife. Her provincial upbringing makes her socially unacceptable as a true wife, yet as a lady by birth and a court favorite, her position makes it impossible for her to seek a match below her station. She’s trapped.

When a nobleman of similar provincial upbringing arrives in town and becomes an instant favorite of the emperor, he is sent to Lady Kirei for tutoring on city ways. Lord Yūkan is smitten, but she’s not a conquest to be won. She’s a woman of substance and worth, and she’s off limits.

Despite his unrefined manners, Lord Yūkan’s aristocratic bloodline shows through his fine taste and quick mind. It doesn’t hurt that he’s handsome, too. As he begins to touch her heart, Lady Kirei is ever mindful that they can’t commit, especially when her uncle schemes to make her a consort to a prince.

Will her family’s honor relegate her to the shadow-life of a consort, or can love find a way?


About the Author

Laura Kitchell lives in Virginia. She is a member of Romance Writers of America and Chesapeake Romance Writers. She lived in Japan as a child and has a love and respect for Japanese history and culture.

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Book Spotlight: Till The Rivers Run Dry by Jim Lester


Coming of Age, Historical Fiction
 Date Published:  July 27, 2016

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In 1941, when thirteen-year-old Ricky Parker’s family is uprooted from their home in Arkansas and relocated to Venezuela, Ricky thinks his life is over. But what he finds in a rough and tumble oil camp on the banks of Lake Maracaibo is the adventure of a lifetime. An adventure filled with Nazi spies, treachery, betrayal, true love, and even murder.
While touching on issues that remain relevant today, such as racism and America’s reliance on foreign oil, this coming-of-age novel is a page turning, high-octane suspense tale of star-crossed young lovers set in exotic wartime Venezuela.


 Excerpt

One Friday evening right before the Fourth of July in the summer of 1941, I answered the front door and my whole life changed.  
Two men in suits stood on the porch. One of them was an older fellow, wearing a cheap brown suit and a high starched collar that was wilting from the summer heat. The band in his rumpled fedora was stained with sweat. He had a droopy mustache that was part black and part white and an Adam’s apple that looked about the size of a baseball.   
The other man was younger and had on a nicer suit. He removed his hat and showed off a thick head of blond hair. His face was pasty white, and I knew right off that he’d never done a lick of farmwork in his life.  
“Is Mr. Chester Parker at home? We’d like a word with him if it would be convenient.” The younger man sounded like Mr. Hunter who taught English over at El Dorado Junior High, where I had just finished the seventh grade. They both talked real educated and proper-like.  
“I reckon he’s out back,” I said. “Y’all come on in and I’ll get him.” I looked past the two men on the porch and saw some angry-looking dark clouds gathering off to the east, promising a summer rain.   
The two men stepped into the living room. The older man removed his hat and scratched his bald head.  
Before I could fetch Daddy, Mama stepped into the living room from the kitchen. She was wearing her big red apron that was dusty with flour from making the biscuits for supper. She had a dot of flour on her nose. “Who is it, Ricky? Did you . . .” She pulled up short in the doorway and drew in a quick breath.  
“Howdy, Dixie,” the older man said. “How you been?”  
Mama eyed the man like a dead garden snake she’d found on the back porch. “Evening, Mr. Taggert. I reckon I’m fine.” Mama’s tone filled the living room with a chilling frost.  
The older man ignored Mama’s coldness. “This here is Mr. George Quinn. He’s from Washington. We need to have a word with Mr. Ches if we might.”  
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Washington? What on earth would some stranger from Washington, DC, want with my father?  
Mama wiped her hands on her apron. “Ricky, run on out to the shed and fetch your daddy. Be quick now.”  
I scampered back through the kitchen and out the screen door and sprinted across the yard to the shed. I found Daddy hunched over his worktable lost in thought, staring at the parts of a radio he had spread out in front of him.   
Daddy could fix anything as long as it was mechanical. Big machines, little machines. It didn’t make any difference. My father could fix all of them.  
His pipe was clinched tight in his teeth and the sticky sweet smell of his burning tobacco filled the tiny shed.  
“There’s a pair of fellows in suits here to see you,” I said, a little breathless from the ru
n across the yard. “I don’t think they want you to fix anything. I think they just want to talk.”   
 Daddy smiled and stood up from the worktable. “Then I guess we better go in the house and see what’s going on.”  
My father was a tall man, skinny as a rail as the saying went. He had black hair slicked back with Brylcreem. Some folks said he looked Italian, but that was mainly because he’d spent so much time out in the sun that his skin was all brown and leathery looking. He always wore a blue work shirt with the sleeves rolled up past his elbows even in the summer.   
Daddy had been a drilling supervisor at Murphy Oil and a real good one from what everybody said, but one day back in ’39 something happened out on one of the rigs and Daddy came home, put his lunch pail on the high shelf up in the pantry and announced that he’d never work for Murphy or any oil company again. And that was that.  
My father didn’t do much but hang around the house for a few weeks. He’d sit at the kitchen table and take old radios apart and put them back together. Finally other folks started bringing him their busted radios and percolators and mix masters and stuff to fix and Daddy cleared out a space in the old shed out near the chicken coop and went into the small appliance repair business.  
Daddy never hurried anywhere. Even after I told him about the two visitors, he ambled across the yard as if he were just heading up to the house for a drink of water.  
Back in the living room, Mama had served ice tea to the two men, who were sitting on the blue sofa when Daddy and I came in. They stood up and shook hands all around. Mama brought Daddy a glass of tea. He drained half of it in one gulp.   
“It’s good to see you again, Mr. Ches,” Taggert said.  
Daddy nodded. “What can I do for you?” He sounded unfriendly and I could tell my father didn’t have much truck with the Taggert fellow.  
The first plunks of the summer rain hit the roof. The smell of Daddy’s tobacco overpowered the living room.  
Taggert and Quinn sat back down, balancing their hats in their laps. Mama leaned on the doorsill, wiping flour off her hands with her apron.  
“Mr. Ches,” Taggert said. “We need to talk some business if you have a few minutes.” Daddy shrugged.  
Taggert turned and looked at me. “Son, why don’t you run outside and play for a while. This won’t take long.”  
“It’s raining,” I said, indicated the front window where the summer storm was pelting the glass. 
Taggert gnawed on his lower lip.  
“Come on, Ricky.” Mama came to Taggert’s rescue. “Let’s you and me run out to the henhouse and fix up those stalls like we been promising to do since school let out.”  
 I didn’t want to leave the living room. Something was going on. Something big. You could just feel it in the air. You could see it on Daddy’s face, hear it in Mama's voice. This was important. And I had to go out and fix up the stalls in the henhouse. I was not happy.  
 But I went.  
 By the time Mama and I hammered all the loose boards back into the chicken stalls, replaced the straw, swept out the walkway, and went back to the house, Taggert and Quinn were gone. 
Daddy sat in the chair in the living room, staring out the window at the rain. The drops pounded the glass and ran down the panes in fast flowing rivulets.   
It was getting dark, but Daddy hadn’t turned on any lights. He just sat there in the chair, smoking his pipe and staring out the window. He didn’t even turn around when Mama and I came back into the house. He just sat and stared and smoked. I’d never seen him look like that.   
“Daddy? Are you all right?” I stood in the doorway to the kitchen, fighting back that awful sense that something was bad wrong.   
My father didn’t say anything. Blue smoke drifted out of his pipe and floated toward the ceiling. The room got darker and darker.  
Two weeks later, he and Mama and I took a train down to New Orleans, got on a big ship, and headed for Venezuela.   
            

About the Author


Jim Lester is the author of two previous coming of age novels-Fallout, which Booklist called " a fast paced, clever coming of age story, Salingeresque in spirit and The Great Pretender, which received consistently excellent reviews on Amazon. He is also the author of the sports history book Hoop Crazy: College Basketball in the 1950s.

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Teaser Tuesday: Icarus Rising by N.W. Moors

Paranormal Romance
Date Published: 9/6/16 
Publisher: Sunday Morning Publishing

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After his fall to Earth, Icarus has been in Hell, punished for his hubris. When he wins a chance at parole, he's thrilled - except for the set of wings attached to his body. 

Eve Gregory runs a small bookstore in northern Connecticut. When she hires the handsome stranger to work for her, she doesn't know the secrets he's hiding. Or that becoming involved with him will embroil her with the Greek gods and goddesses. 

Icarus and Eve must perform a quest set down for them by Zeus. If they are successful, will that be end of their relationship? Or will love teach them a new way to soar?

Teaser

Athena sat on the edge of the bed, going through her purse. Icarus grimaced, but went to his bag and pulled out a shirt and pair of jeans that weren't too wrinkled. Athena was right—he did need some new clothes—but he was not going shopping with her looking over his shoulder. He grabbed his shaving kit and the clothes and headed for the bathroom.
The shower was hot and worked surprisingly well. Once Icarus had finished washing, shaved, and dressed in his clean clothes, he felt much better. He came out of the bathroom to find Athena had opened his laptop and was typing away. Apparently, passwords were not a problem for ancient Goddesses of Wisdom.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
"I'm updating my Wikipedia page. Some of this information is incorrect," she replied absently.
Icarus laughed. "Don't you think they might find it odd if you add material that the modern world doesn't know about you?"
Athena pouted. "I have added it before, but they keep removing it since it doesn't have proper sources." She shrugged and closed the laptop cover. "Ready?"
"I guess so."
Athena waved a hand, and he was back in front of the bookstore. No one on the street seemed to notice his sudden appearance.
Icarus was abruptly nervous. He was not worried about the job; he was pretty sure he was more than qualified for making lattes and recommending books. Eve Gregory was the object of his concern. Petite little Eve with her golden eyes and black hair framing her oval face. Pretty, too-trusting-for-her-own-good Eve. Whatever scheme Athena had in mind also involved Eve, and that was worrisome. He straightened his shoulders, opened the door, and walked into the store.


About the Author

N.W. Moors lives in Portland, Maine, the land of lobster and pine trees. She grew up in Connecticut and retired north(it's nice along the coast in winter). She's a voracious reader and avid traveler - she loves to visit Great Britain and Ireland. Researching trips meant that she tries to learn as much about the area as possible and listen to great Celtic music. She's also a knitter and hiker/walker with two cats(the cats don't walk). She truly appreciates you sharing this adventure with her. She will continue to write about magic, love, and the small town of Antrim, Maine. Please leave reviews and like her Facebook page or follow her blog or twitter feed for further updates.

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Twitter: @antrimcycle
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Release Day: Hostile Workplace by A.M. Madden


Contemporary Romance
Date Published:  September 6, 2016

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Sam Stanton knows these simple facts:

~ He is a great catch―successful, smart, gorgeous…but the wrong woman caught him.
~ He has the perfect girl who is madly in love with him.
~ He wasted six years of his life by playing it safe.
~ He is damn good at his job and intends to keep climbing the ladder.
~ He can’t get her off his mind or out of his heart―no matter how hard he tries.

But, what he doesn’t know is just as important:

~ Will he ever really move on and forget how badly she broke his heart?
~ Should he settle for a sure thing, even knowing it’s the wrong thing?
~ Can he give up his career for a chance at happiness?
~ Does he correct one mistake with another?
~ What would he do if she were to return?
Confused yet? Welcome to Sam Stanton’s life.

Excerpt
  
“Where are we going?” she asked breathily as I literally dragged her toward the back of the bar.

“I don’t know yet.”

“We can go to my place.”

“Later.”

She clutched my hand as we passed the billiard room, the bathrooms, and an office. The narrow hallway had a few more doors before it ended with an exit door, which I assumed led to the back alley. We turned each doorknob we passed along the way, and the last one before the exit finally opened. I cut my eyes to the right to be sure no one saw us and pushed her inside, firmly shutting the door. As I fumbled on the wall for a light switch, my hand landed on the plastic toggle and I flipped it on.

We were standing in a storage closet lined with shelving. It was so small there was barely enough room for the two of us. Her pale eyes landed on mine, adjusting to the dim light.

What was I doing?

Doubt began to fester until I witnessed a stunning smile slowly spread across her face. My eyes watched her hands skim my chest to land on the waistband of my jeans. Our foreheads touched when both of our eyes focused on the motion her hands made, first unbuttoning and then unzipping.

Before my zipper hit the last tooth, my doubt took a hike.

It was hard to wrap my drunken brain around the fact that I had her with me for the taking in a supply closet. Just as her hand slipped inside the waistband of my briefs, the switch that controlled me for so fucking long flipped in my head, causing all hell to break loose.

I grabbed her hands and pushed her back against the door. The sudden shift in our bodies forced a gasp just before I crashed my lips to hers. Every moan she made I swallowed with my mouth. Our tongues frantically danced with the many years’ worth of pent-up sexual tension between us.



About the Author



USA Today bestselling author A.M. Madden achieved Amazon Best Selling status with her debut in contemporary romance, The Back-Up Series. A.M. Madden is a wife, a mother, an avid reader of romance novels and now an author. In Back-up she aspired to create a fun, sexy, realistic romantic story. She wanted to create characters that the reader could relate to and feel as if they knew personally. A self proclaimed hopeless romantic, she loves getting lost in a good book. Using every free moment of her time while raising teen-age boys, A.M. Madden plans to continue writing, as it now become a second career.


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Book Spotlight: Full Circle by Kevin E. Hatt


Crime, Mystery 
Date Published: September 1, 2016
A Haszard Narrative

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When asked to look into the death of a man in a town known for pagan connections, Haszard quickly makes progress, and it isn't long before matters become dangerous. With little to work with, Haszard makes progress, yet the task is a daunting one, and not everyone he encounters is friendly.
Collating interesting and significant information from various sources along the way, Haszard has to link factors linked with the past, and as he does so, he realizes that in order to save someone from certain death, he is in a race against time.
Other Books in A Haszard Narrative Series

A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS

Unfortunate in life and unlucky in love, the mysterious Haszard is intrigued by the death of an acquaintance at the local hospital, in which he works. Suspicious about the circumstances, he begins to look into the matter, meeting the woman of his dreams along the way.

After joining forces a local businessman, he speaks to a number of people, discovering irregularities in the life of the murdered woman. As he makes progress, he realises that the key to the matter lies in the dark and murky world of drug dealers, and has to face the possibility that the killer may well be someone he knows . . .

MAPS, LEGENDS AND MISDEMEANOURS

When asked to frame an old map, Haszard discovers that it’s linked to lost valuables from the past. Intrigued, he begins looking into the legend, discovering there to be cryptic clues on the map that must be deciphered. Unfortunately, though, Haszard isn’t the only person interested in the whereabouts of the missing items, and the other contingent resorts to violent tactics, which leads to a chilling climax . . .

PHOENIX FROM THE FLAME

When told by a former colleague that she saw her dead husband walking around a quaint market town, Haszard’s curiosity is engaged. As he begins to look into the matter, he unearths a number of facts that lead him to believe that there’s more to the sighting than merely a dead man walking. Also, there are people who are prepared to kill for something that’s worth a lot of money . . .

THE HEIRLOOM REPOSITORY

Haszard is asked to look for a family’s missing inheritance. Guided by words provided by a medium, he goes about the case with his typical fervour. Side-tracked by other matters, and spooked by a mysterious man in the woods, Haszard soon comes to realise that he isn’t alone in his quest, and persons unknown are not afraid to kill . . .

RACE FOR THE PRIZE

When on holiday with his friends, Haszard sees a girl who went missing a number of weeks previous. Fuelled with his usual determination, he sets about looking into the matter, although all is not as it appears, and it isn’t long before matters become eventful.
Having befriended a local artist, Haszard moves closer to an answer, yet the odds are stacked heavily against him. In order to win through, he must endure his most arduous and perilous challenge yet . . .

NO REASON FOR INSANITY

Intrigued by the bizarre events surrounding the murder of a friend, Haszard is asked by the family to look into the matter. Against the advice of his friends, he begins making enquiries, and is disturbed when he realizes that it may well be someone he knows. As progress is made, further events occur, endangering the life of Haszard and his friends, and he is forced to delve into the deepest recesses of his resourcefulness . . .

Excerpt 


     Driving away we agreed that a chat with Ed Loughmann, a friend of ours who owned a number of pubs, clubs, and gyms, along with a security protection service for the local businesses, would be of value. My immediate thought was to look obviously at what had been said, therefore finding out something about Paul Tudor should be the first move. If anyone could find out anything about him, it would be Ed. Once we had some facts on the table, we’d then be able to look at the situation differently.
     Another immediate thought was the fact that Dean had been in Lamesford, a place that he was unfamiliar with. With him being a creature of habit, this threw up a major question, possibly even being the key to the entire affair; however, it was far too early for blind conjecture.
     Our destination was a pub owned by Ed—the Railway Tavern, the jewel in Ed’s crown. A grand old building in the area of the main rail depot, the Tavern stood out as out of place. Ed had refurbished every aspect of the establishment, from the interior and exterior decor through to the catering, which was among the finest around.
     After parking up we made our way in to see Ed sitting at his usual table, grinning as we approached. Ed was ex-British Special Forces, and in his early forties. He had short light-brown hair, and stood at around six feet, his features somewhat rugged, though they brightened considerably when he smiled.
     “Sabrina, you survived the weekend with this lunatic. Congratulations,” Ed said, raising himself, holding a seat out for Sabrina, and leaving me to fend for myself as always. Ed was an imposing figure, feared by the local criminals. He ran a security service for local businesses and select private residences. “No mishaps or misdemeanors we should hear about?”
     “Other than eyeing the waitress up, no,” Sabrina said, smiling at me.
     “I was only returning her admiring glances,” I defended. “Is it my fault I’m irresistible? Who’s for a drink?”
     Ed told me what he’d like, and I returned minutes later to see Ed with a serious expression. “Sabrina’s told me. Why don’t you leave this one alone?” He paused and looked around the room. “Did you hear that? That was the sound of me wasting my breath!”
     I grinned. “I don’t think there’s anything dangerous this time.”
     “Haszard, you say that every time, and every bloody time it gets worse,” Ed said bluntly. “What’s more, this happened in bloody Lamesford of all places!”
     “I don’t know Lamesford; what’s it like?’ I said, realizing that I’d regret asking.
     “It’s full of inbred bloody sheep-shaggers that still consider cows lying down as a weather forecast. They’re all as mad as March hares, worshipping and sacrificing God alone knows what!”
     “It can’t be that bad,” I said, suddenly thinking back to the name. Lamesford, I should point out is actually pronounced lambs-ford. I thought, there can’t be anything in that, surely.
     “I’ve heard a few things about it,” Sabrina said. “I’ve a cousin who lived there. She didn’t for long. She couldn’t get away fast enough.”
     I shook my head. “All we’re doing is finding out why he was seen in Southington at the moment of his death. If anything, we’ll be concentrating our efforts there.”
     Ed didn’t look convinced. “If laddo did the big splat in Lamesford, I’d say that Lamesford is where you’ll be looking, unless Old Nick had a hand in it, of course.”
     “Ed!” Sabrina snapped. “Dean was the brother of an old friend of mine!”
     Ed held his hands up. “I’m sorry. It’s just that I can’t see his death having anything to do with Southington, that’s all.”
     “I suppose you’re right,” I said, “but I’ll have to bear Southington in mind. It may hold the key as to why he was seen by another party, but why he was killed—well, that’ll be another matter. Maybe it is something to do with Southington, maybe it isn’t. You putting the feelers out on this Paul Tudor would come in handy, though.”
     Ed raised his eyes to the heavens. “How did I know that was coming? When do you want the info for?”
     “Tomorrow would be great,” I said.
     “No pressure, then,” Ed said with a wry smile. “On one condition.”
     “Go on.”
     “We’ve a twenty-twenty match next Friday. You’re captain.” For those not in the know, twenty-twenty is cricket.
     I smiled. “You just try stopping me.”
     “Good man.”
     I thought back to Grace’s call and the request for Phil to pick her up from Cardiff. “Ed, can you get Phil to call Grace? She wants him to pick her up from the airport and says to take his overnight bag. Apparently, there’s a party on.”
     Ed grimaced and sighed heavily. “If it’s anything like the last one, we may not see him for a few days, and I need my members of staff here.”
     “I’m sure it won’t be for long,” I said.
     Ed looked me in the eye. “Haz, that bloody mad woman creates chaos wherever she goes. Yes, Phil has a few days of leave, but I’d like him compos mentis when he gets back. Whoever has shares in rubber, I’d say they’re in for a decent payout. Anyway, now for some good news, your car should be ready in the next week or so. I had a sneak preview and it looks better than it ever did.”
     “Great,” I said excitedly. My car was badly damaged due to a fire a month or so back. I used to work part-time at the hospital and spend the rest of the time at my shop, but I’d been working in theatres full-time of late, having to use Sabrina’s cabriolet, or Grace’s V12 five hundred-horsepower rocket of a car, when I wasn’t cadging lifts here and there. “Ed, I could kiss you.”
     Ed shook his head. “Haz, I know how much you love that roadster, but there’s no need to come across as a bloody pansy.”


About the Author



Kevin E. Hatt is the author of the Haszard series of narratives. His interest in writing began at school, and he carried it on into his twenties, writing for fun. He wrote the first two Haszard stories in the late eighties, but shelved the project until 2009, when he revived and updated it, going on to write seventeen stories. With the stories having been well received by friends, Kevin published the first five books, and after good reviews is furthering the project.
In 1984 he commenced his training as an Operating Department Practitioner, rising to the height of deputy head, before leaving the profession in 1999 to pursue his other love, that of art. Kevin worked as an art consultant, demonstrator, teacher, retailer and framer, but returned to the medical profession in 2010. His main passions are cricket, running, humour, ale and curries. He lives with his wife of twenty-five years and his twenty-three-year-old daughter. Kevin has never been to Ipswich. Or Scunthorpe.

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Series Spotlight: Lindsay Lark Series by Cricket Rohman


Romantic Mystery, Women's Romantic Fiction
Published: May 2016

With a little mystery and a little romance, WANTED: AN HONEST MAN captures the bittersweet growth of a young woman trying to make sense of her turbulent life.
Lindsey, a beautiful, talented teacher is a fighter and a positive thinker, but after the man of her dreams betrays her, then steals her beloved dog, she struggles. Strange, threatening phone calls begin to haunt her. A stalker, perhaps? Though she doesn’t want to be alone, she isn’t ready to go looking for new love, but men find her anyway.
A handsome college student involved in some tricky human research gets into trouble in more ways than one. His inherent propensity to play detective, though helpful at times, seems to attract Murphy and his darned Law far too often … and now his eyes are on Lindsey. Will his heart follow?
Praise for Wanted: An Honest Man:
“Charming … unexpected … emotionally charged!” - Amylynn Bright, author of Finish What We Started

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Romantic Mystery, Women's Romantic Fiction
Published: May 2016
Mysterious, romantic, and sprinkled with a few heartwarming students and a delightful dog, LETTERS, LOVERS, & LIES captures the importance of persistence and the power of love.
Jake and Lindsey are in love, but so much stands in their way. Letters from a dead man. Unwanted advances from a transgender acquaintance. Separation and jealousy. A few things in the couple’s favor? They are smart, multi-talented, and they love to laugh.
Lindsey Lark, keynote speaker, goes on tour while her boyfriend, Jake, writes a detective novel. Sounds simple enough, but a mystery soon dominates their lives when bizarre notices of her ex-husband’s funeral arrive. Foul play is suspected and murder is on someone’s mind.
Lad, a retired Secret Service agent, is Lindsey’s right-hand man for the duration of the tour. He’s handsome, he’s a man of few words, and, as the list of threats lengthens, he takes on the role of bodyguard, much to Jake’s dismay.
Praise for Letters, Lovers, and Lies:
 “Cozy mystery lovers and romantic drama buffs will enjoy the twists and turns as Jake and Lindsey rush to solve their personal whodunit before it’s too late.” - John Reinhard Dizon, author of The Nightcrawler Series

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Romantic Mystery, Women's Romantic Fiction
Published: May 2016
Thrilling, romantic, and sprinkled with humor, HIT THE ROAD, JAKE! reinvents the ‘buddy movie’ concept with the written word … and a pretty woman.
Jake and Lindsey were good at tracking down offenders responsible for petty theft and blackmail, but when new mysteries turned personal—slashed tires, spattered blood, steamy love letters, a stolen pet, everything changed. Who was this enemy that secretly harassed them from town to town? Jake called in some favors and managed to finagle the DNA testing of several blood samples. The results were shocking, and the dangers they faced became deadly.
Practically newlyweds, the couple thought they’d created the perfect win-win plan. While traveling between Tucson and Estes Park in their RV, Jake would solve embarrassing mysteries that schools wished to keep under wraps, and Lindsey, being the ‘cover’ for their presence, would conduct workshops for teachers. Then all hell broke loose.
Praise for Hit the Road, Jake!
“Cricket Rohman really nails it! She gives her readers a ton of depth in both the story line and character development. A great, fun read!” - Lala Corriere, author of Bye Bye Bones: A Cassidy Clark Novel

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Excerpt

No pillow talk or sweet words were uttered. Lost in our own tiny space on the planet, we were too breathless to speak. Then, another surprise . . . in one swift and masterful movement I found myself gazing up at Jake’s loving face, which was framed by pine tree branches and glimmers of sunshine. He’d made it to the top without skipping a beat or the rocking rhythm, and so we continued. Oh, the sounds of love. The heavy breathing, the not breathing, the moaning, the groaning . . . the groaning? The groaning wasn’t us.

I tapped Jake on his back and whispered, “Jake, I hear something.”

“Me, too, my forest nymph babe, and I’m loving what I’m hearing.”

“Then you are not hearing what I’m hearing.”

“It’s probably just another deer or . . . wait, I heard it. That was neither a deer nor a squirrel.”

That was no longer a funny word, still interesting to Wendell, but not funny to us. The groaning, the creaking, was like something from a monster movie and it was getting louder and closer. We noticed that the dog was sitting, staring specifically in one direction. He didn’t look terribly anxious, but he was, without a doubt, alert and listening to the noise, too.

Our magical moment was gone. We’d find it again some other day, but for now, we needed to get back to the safety of the RV. A low-pitched squeaking noise that reminded me of fingernails on a chalkboard (really big fingernails) joined forces with the groaning for a few seconds. The combination sent chills up my spine. Wendell’s bravery waned and he whimpered. He had no frame of reference to make sense of all this. Well, neither did we. If Jake or I had been sitting on the ground, Wendell would have suddenly transformed into a lap dog. No laps were available so he merely leaned up against me. I gave his ears a rub and a tickle, just the way he liked it. We were all feeling tense.

“Jake!” I didn’t need to yell, he was only a couple of feet away hurrying into his clothing, but I couldn’t help it. I wanted to run. With his pants now on, he was ready to comfort me and the dog before taking on the woodland monster. We knew the general direction the sounds were coming from, but still we saw nothing.

 Then came the snapping, the splintering, the crashing. We stood paralyzed . . . it took a few seconds for us to comprehend the source of those sounds. The ground beneath us trembled with each impact. Boom! Thud! Thump! Then, it was over. What followed was an eerie, profound silence.

A dead, medium-sized pine tree had fallen in the forest and taken two smaller trees along with it. We all ran over to get a closer look at the phenomenon.

“You heard all that, right?” Jake had regained his sense of humor.

“Yes,” I answered, now able to smile, too. “Three trees fell in the forest and I heard them all.”

“But you know, we’re lucky that I selected that spot over there for our nap.” He pointed in the direction of our bed of pine needles. “Or this could have ended badly. We could have been killed.”

“But it didn’t. We’re still here, alive and well. And I am very thankful for that.”

“Let’s go home. I need another nap.”



About the Author



Cricket Rohman grew up in Estes Park, Colorado, and spent her formative years among deer, bobcats, coyotes and beautiful blue columbine. Today she is a full-time author writing about the great outdoors, teachers, dogs, love, laughter, and life’s little mysteries—think romantic suspense.
Prior to writing, Cricket's career path included the following adventures: actor, singer, audio/video producer, classroom teacher, school principal, and U of A, College of Education assistant professor. All of the above led the way to her first three novels, WANTED: AN HONEST MAN … LETTERS, LOVERS, & LIES … and HIT THE ROAD, JAKE!
All three books are works of fiction. REALLY! (Well, except the part about the dog; she really had a dog like Wendell, the mastiff, who appears in every book.)

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