Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Sneak Peek: Book 2 of The Hexborn Chronicles


Spoiler alert: If you haven't finished Hexborn, avert your eyes!

I'm excited to report that I have recently finished the first draft of the Hexborn sequel!  Right now I'm working hard on revisions, but I could'nt wait to share a little bit with you.  Enjoy!

***

“Drink it down. I know it’s vile, but drink it all if you want to live.”

Shiloh cradled Hedsin’s head with her silk-clad forearm and held the cup to his cracked lips. The farmer looked up at her with skeptical eyes, but he did as she had bid him, a little of the disgusting concoction dripping onto Shiloh’s glove.

“Might’ve been kinder to slit my throat, my lady,” he coughed.

She smiled down at him indulgently, but grim lines framed her pink eyes. “Now, now. In a few days, when you’re bouncing that new grandson on your knee, you won’t feel the same, I’ll warrant.”

Shiloh straightened her back and squared her shoulders. “I must get on to the next afflicted house,” she told Hedsin’s wife, Deenah. “Make sure you and yours keep your charms pinned to your clothes at all times, lest this spread to the rest of you. At. All. Times.” She held the woman’s eyes with stern resolve.

“Yes, my lady,” Deenah replied, bobbing her head and wringing her hands. “Thank you, my lady.”

“You are most welcome.” Shiloh handed her three ribbons and pulled her away from her husband’s sickbed. She lowered her voice to continue, “Now, tie the black one on the door if he dies. The red one if someone else shows symptoms, so I can bring the medicine. The white when he recovers. That means no fever for twenty-four hours.”

Deenah nodded. “How many are sick in the village?” she asked anxiously.

Shiloh inhaled deeply. “Three dozen. Plus five in the monastery, and four in the castle. A dozen more in the barracks, maybe more. I hear it’s terrible in Gerne. That’s probably where it started. I had a letter from my lord husband to that effect.”

Deenah traced a circle on her forehead. “Gods preserve us,” she breathed.

“Indeed,” Shiloh agreed, tracing her own circle. “Gods preserve us.”



***



“Go back to your homes,” Shiloh ordered, her voice hoarse but resolute.

She stood on the back of a hay wagon, wand in hand, cold wind snapping her purple headscarf behind her with a loud crack. Northgate Castle stood behind her, dark and lurking against the pink of dawn. Several dozen frightened villagers stood before her, attempting to flee the plague that had swept in from the north.

“We’re not going to stay here to die, my lady!” one of the men yelled. Shiloh could hear some of them saying, “Abomination!” under their breath.

“Do as I tell you, and you won’t,” Shiloh spat back. “Wear the protective charms I gave you. Boil your water. Cook all your food through. Stay inside. Mark your door if any of your folk take ill, and I will send medicine. If you leave this place and grow ill, there will be no help for you. You will die in the woods, alongside the road, in the cold. No other village will let you through their walls. They know you’ve been exposed to the Red Fever. They know, because I sent word to every settlement within a hundred and fifty miles.”

Some in the mob began to look at each other, uncertain in the face of their lady’s opposition.

“I know you’re afraid,” Shiloh said more gently. “But I assure you the gifted sisters at the monastery and I are doing all we can to protect you. And I cannot allow you to spread this pestilence south and east. I will not. The safety of this kingdom depends on stopping the fever here.”

Her wand began to glow, and the crowd, as one, took a wary step backward.

“I survived the Red Fever as a child, a crippled and sickly child at that. If I could, so can you. Go home, for the Gods’ sakes. You’ll be safer there. I promise.”

“And if we don’t?” someone called belligerently.

“Then make yourselves comfortable here in the dirt, because you are going nowhere.” Shiloh raised her wand and hummed, and a shimmering dome filled the sky, encasing the castle and its surrounding village, forming a glowing barrier that began a few dozen yards from where they stood. A fearful murmur rustled like dead leaves. Some of the children whimpered, which nearly broke Shiloh’s heart.

“I wouldn’t touch that if I were you,” she warned them, sheathing her wand. “Not if you’re fond of your hands. Now, I have more than enough work to do, between saving your neighbors and chasing off Gernish raiders. Don’t bother me with this foolishness again, and thank the Gods I’m a patient girl. If my husband were here, make no mistake, he’d have killed at least one of you for an example. Go home.”

She jumped down from the cart and strode through the crowd, head high and heart pounding. To her immense relief, they opened to make her a path. Most of them even bowed a respectful head.

“Would that really take off a hand?” Brother Charls whispered in her ear as he fell in beside her for the walk back to the castle.

Shiloh snorted. “Of course not. I’m powerful, but not powerful enough to keep up something like that without paying attention to it. Besides, one of the children might stumble into it. It’s just a light show.”

Charls swallowed a laugh. “What if they test it?”

“They won’t,” Shiloh asserted with far more confidence than she felt. “They won’t.”

They didn’t.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

New Release: Warrior Mine by Pandora Spocks

I had the pleasure of reading an advance review copy of Warrior Mine, the latest from Pandora Spocks.  As usual, Spocks delivers.  Her stories are always full of heat and heart, and the writing is always clean.  If you want a book with a BDSM spin and skilled, classy writing, Spocks is the writer for you.  And if you want the bondage without the abuse of some of the other books out there, look no further.






The two main characters, Jackie and Scott, are both people you want to root for.  They deserve every happiness in the world, and you will enjoy the ride that gets them there.  Check out the blurb and excerpt below, and happy reading.

Blurb:


She is the perfect combination of princess and warrior.
Scott Nielsen and Jackie Walker.
Their attraction is instant from the moment they meet.
But he’s Dominant.  And no way is she submissive.
Is it a missed connection?  Or a divine appointment?

Scott Nielsen is ready for change.  He’s walked away from his career as a wilderness counselor, planning to start his own outdoor survival school.  He looks up his old friend and former colleague Blake Walker, intent on leasing space at Blake’s family’s remote wilderness guest lodge.  That’s where he meets Blake’s sister Jackie, who runs the lodge with her brother’s help.  Her strength and independence intrigue Scott.  A single mom, Jackie has no intention of being anyone’s submissive.

In his personal life, Scott is tired of casual sex in the BDSM club scene.  Envious watching his buddy Blake fall head over heels for his own submissive, Scott thinks he might be ready to take the plunge himself.  As he and Jackie spend time together, he’s enchanted with her inner Warrior Princess.  But Jackie’s been burned before.  And she has two children who are her priority, not to mention the business to run.   As independent as she is, she can’t see relinquishing her power to a man, not even one she’s falling for.

Scott’s heart aches at the idea of not having Jackie in his life.  Can she take another chance on love, or will she insist on ignoring her submissive soul?

If you enjoyed LOST & BOUND, you’ll love this spin-off stand-alone story.


Excerpt:




“It’s a gorgeous day,” Scott commented.

“It really is. I haven’t been out in the woods like this in a long time.”

Scott watched her appraisingly. “Are you much of a camper?”

“I can hold my own.” She lifted her chin, and he saw a glint of challenge in her eye.

“I imagine you can,” he smiled to himself.

He watched her dig the toe of her boot into the soft black earth and push it into a small heap. “So let’s talk, Jackie.”

She exhaled loudly, and out of the corner of his eye, he saw her grip her hands so tightly together, her knuckles were white.

“This makes you nervous,” he observed.

“Well, yeah! You’re over here wanting me to agree to be some kind of…I don’t know what…slave, I guess. That’s so not me.”

“You’re right, it’s not. I see in you a submissive soul, but a slave is not remotely what I have in mind. Jackie,” he straddled the log to face her, “you’re a strong, smart, sexy lady. I admire the hell out of you.”

“So why do you want me to give all that up?”

“I don’t want you to give anything up. I love all those things about you.” He laughed softly. “I love that you challenge me. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Jackie’s expression was dubious. “I don’t understand what you want from me. Am I supposed to run and jump into your arms like Amy does Blake?” She rolled her eyes.

Scott had to laugh. “You’re not a slave, and you’re definitely not a baby girl like Amy, either.” He gave her a side-long glance. “Amy’s a sweet girl, but she’d drive me nuts. A Daddy Dom I am not.”

“Good, because there’s no way I’m calling you Daddy.”

“Our dynamic would be more King and Princess. You’d call me Sire.”

He was pleased when he saw her reluctant smile. “All I want is for you to let go and allow me to lead you, to help you be free to be your true self. You can depend on me, Jackie.”

Restlessly, Jackie got up and paced back and forth. “It’s not like it’s just me, Scott. I’m a mother. I have two kids to care for, and they have to be my priority. I can’t decide I’m going to just go off and do whatever I want. Plus, there’s the business…”

She stopped pacing and faced him. “I’m a whole ‘package deal’. You don’t need all that. You should be out meeting women who aren’t so tied down.”

Scott couldn’t stop the smirk as the image of a nude Jackie tied to the posts of a bed flashed through his mind. She must have realized it because she blushed bright red.

He gave in to the temptation to tease her just a little. “I’ve met my share of women, Jackie. Women who don’t mind being tied down.”

He chuckled. “I’ve done the club scene, and I’m tired of casual sex. When Blake told me he’d found someone, I must admit, I felt envious. I took a hard look at my life and I realized it was time to make a change. I had no idea I’d meet someone so quickly.”

Arms crossed, she stood ten yards away. He considered going to her, but changed his mind, allowing her space.

“I’m attracted to you, Jackie, in a way I haven’t been to anyone else. You have no idea how hard it was for me to resist you that night you came to my room. Hell, to resist you last night. You’re beautiful, Jackie, in case no one’s told you in a while. That one perfect exposed breast? I’ve had dreams about that.”

Jackie blushed, wrapping her arms more tightly around herself.

“Together we have an explosive chemistry. I know you feel it, too. I’m dying to take you to the next level.”

Arms still crossed, she shrugged. “Yeah, we have physical chemistry. Maybe it’s because it’s been a long time for me, I don’t know. And I appreciate the things you’ve done, like taking care of things when Emma was sick, and Jesus, you saved Grant’s life.”

She started pacing again. “And you washed my hair. I couldn’t believe you did that. So when you say, Now be my submissive,” she deepened her voice to imitate Scott, “it’s like I owe you.”

“You don’t owe me, Jackie. I washed your hair because it was what you needed. That’s what a Dom does.” He gazed out through the woods and exhaled sharply. “I think you’ve read too many so-called BDSM books about sadist Dominants. That’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about safe, sane, and consensual. Always.” He looked back at her. “You can depend on me, Jackie. I’ve got you.”

She walked to the edge of the clearing, her back to him. Her voice was small. “What if I depend on you, and you leave? I don’t think I could survive that. Better to be on my own and know what I’m getting.”

“Jackie, I’m not him. I’m not that guy.”

Scott couldn’t stay away from her any longer. He approached her, tentatively reaching out to touch her shoulder. “I’m this guy, right here, asking you to let me share your burden, to lighten your load, and set you free.”

She reached up to put her hand on his. Her voice was small. “I don’t know if I can do that.”

Leaning down, he kissed her hand. “Fair enough.”
Grab your copy today: books2read.com/WarriorMine

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Red Fever

Spoiler alert: If you haven't finished Hexborn yet, you want to wait to read this excerpt from the sequel.  Also, why haven't you read it yet?   ;-)



***


“Go back to your homes,” Shiloh ordered, her voice hoarse but resolute. 

She stood on the back of a hay wagon, wand in hand, cold wind snapping her purple headscarf behind her with a loud crack.  Northgate Castle stood behind her, dark and lurking against the pink of dawn.  Several dozen frightened villagers stood before her, attempting to flee the plague that had swept in from the north.

“We’re not going to stay here to die, my lady!” one of the men yelled.  Shiloh could hear some of them saying, “Abomination!” under their breath.

“Do as I tell you, and you won’t,” Shiloh spat back.  “Wear the protective charms I gave you.  Boil your water.  Cook all your food through.  Stay inside.  Mark your door if any of your folk take ill, and I will send medicine.  If you leave this place and grow ill, there will be no help for you.  You will die in the woods, alongside the road, in the cold.  No other village will let you through their walls.  They know you’ve been exposed to the Red Fever.  They know, because I sent word to every settlement within a hundred and fifty miles.”

Some in the mob began to look at each other, uncertain in the face of their lady’s opposition.
“I know you’re afraid,” Shiloh said more gently.  “But I assure you the gifted sisters at the monastery and I are doing all we can to protect you.  And I cannot allow you to spread this pestilence south and east.  I will not.  The safety of this kingdom depends on stopping the fever here.” 

Her wand began to glow, and the crowd, as one, took a wary step backward. 

“I survived the Red Fever as a child, a crippled and sickly child at that.  If I could, so can you.  Go home, for the Gods’ sakes.  You’ll be safer there.  I promise.”

“And if we don’t?” someone called belligerently.

“Then make yourselves comfortable here in the dirt, because you are going nowhere.”  Shiloh raised her wand and hummed, and a shimmering dome filled the sky, encasing the castle and its surrounding village, forming a glowing barrier a few dozen yards from where they stood.  A fearful murmur rustled like dead leaves.  Some of the children whimpered, which nearly broke Shiloh’s heart.

“I wouldn’t touch that if I were you,” she warned them, sheathing her wand.  “Not if you’re fond of your hands.  Now, I have more than enough work to do, between saving your neighbors and chasing off Gernish raiders.  Don’t bother me with this foolishness again, and thank the Gods I’m a patient girl.  If my husband were here, make no mistake, he’d have killed at least one of you for an example.  Go home.”

She jumped down from the cart and strode through the crowd, head high and heart pounding.  To her immense relief, they opened to make her a path.  Most of them even bowed a respectful head.
“Would that really take off a hand?” Brother Charls whispered in her ear as he fell in beside her for the walk back to the castle.

Shiloh snorted.  “Of course not.  I’m powerful, but not powerful enough to keep up something like that without paying attention to it.  Besides, one of the children might stumble into it.  It’s just a light show.”

Charls swallowed a laugh.  “What if they test it?”

“They won’t,” Shiloh asserted with far more confidence than she felt.  “They won’t.”

They didn’t.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

An Excerpt from Hexborn's Sequel

Here is a peek at the sequel to Hexborn. Have you finished reading it yet? If so, please do take a moment to post a review on Amazon.  Every one makes a difference! And enjoy this little look ahead.



***


“I don’t know.  Tunneling is inherently dangerous work,” Shiloh replied, worrying at her bottom lip.  “And this would be a really long tunnel.”
“So is an attack on a superior force,” Silas pointed out.  “And we don’t know how much they know about what happened at the Citadel.  They could be ready for us, expecting us to show up here for Loor.  Hell, they could have already moved Mosspeak, Penn, and the princess somewhere else.  And I don’t think you’ll be able to catch them by surprise like you did the priests.”
She nodded.  “It only worked because none of them bothered with wards inside the walls.  Their arrogance was the key.  But these men will be expecting me, most likely.”
“Agreed,” her husband replied.
“We need some information before we act, don’t we?  Before we break everyone out and make a run for it?” Shiloh argued.  “The Gernish troops need to think everything is fine for a few days at least, if we’re to have any hope of getting away clean.  They might have some people inside the castle, too.  We need to know how many, how often they report in.”
“Fair enough,” Silas replied.  “We do need to know their patterns, how much information they have about what is going on in Fountain Bluff and in the kingdom at large.”
“We need a spy,” Shiloh concluded.  Her eyes ran over the company until they landed on Jivan.
“You really think so?” Silas asked, following her gaze.  “You trust him?  He could walk in there and give us up in the first five minutes.”
“He’s a good boy.  Kind.  I saved his mother’s life.  She almost died of Red Fever up at Northgate.  And he’s got it pretty bad for Hana,” Shiloh countered.
“I killed his father,” Silas pointed out.
“I don’t get the impression that they were close,” Shiloh replied.  Silas eyed her skeptically.  “I know, it is a risk,” Shiloh acknowledged.  “But he grew up in Gerne, and he wore the gray.  They’ll be predisposed to trust him.  He can tell them he barely got away with his life, ask them for help.  Keep his ears open for a few days, then slip away.  If he is willing.  I feel bad about sending someone so young into danger.”
“I don’t like the idea of sending him in alone,” Silas argued.  “I don’t know him enough to trust him.  I do know him enough to be worried about what they’ll do to him if they make him.  He’s still a boy.”
“I agree with you on the latter point,” Shiloh acknowledged.  “I could use a concealment spell, go in myself, invisible.”
“No,” Hatch pushed back.  “You haven’t regained much strength since your display of force last week.  You’re liable to fall ill any day.  And if it overtakes you while you are among those pigs . . .”
“Well, your concealment spell is rubbish, so what are we supposed to do?” Shiloh countered.
“Rubbish, eh?” Silas retorted, hand to his chest as though wounded.  “To be so mocked by my own wife!”
“Your ears always stick out!” she teased.
“Mine is serviceable,” came a gravelly voice.  They turned to find Keegan behind them.
“How long have you been standing there?” Shiloh demanded.
“Long enough to know that I agree with Hatch for once in my life,” the Feral chief answered.  “I don’t want you anywhere near those soldiers.”
“It isn’t up to you,” Shiloh countered.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Hexborn Playlist: Music to Read By

Hexborn is out today!  To celebrate, and to enhance your reading experience, I'm sharing with you some music to read by.



I love all kinds of music.  I'm a singer, and while I'm in the process of writing and editing a book, I often run across songs that touch me and speak to a particular aspect of the story I'm in the midst of creating.  Gradually, I accumulate a list of songs that go along with the novel in some way.

This time, the list was also influenced by the sudden death of my father last fall.  Since he died, I've been listening to a lot of blues and bluegrass, two genres he exposed me to as a child.  You'll see that this Hexborn list is heavily composed of bluegrass and alternative country with a few Blues songs and a couple of more pop tunes.  The bluegrass emphasis is appropriate to the story, since Shiloh, my main character, comes from a small mountain community.

I'll highlight just a few songs for you here.




I chose "Grinnin' in Your Face" by Son House because I adore Son House and because Shiloh, my main character, is the victim of a lot of insults and gossip.  She is bullied because she was born with a medical condition that renders her unclean in the eyes of her neighbors.  She does her best not to allow it to get to her, as advised by Son House in this tune, and she is comforted by the steadfast support of a few treasured loved ones.


"The Water" always makes me cry these days.  To me, it is a song about death and dying.  Shiloh is mourning both her father and her mentor when the book begins, and as I am mourning my own dad, it really speaks to me.


"Love is All" always brings to my mind the character of Silas Hatch, aka "the Hatchet."  He's a man who has hardened his heart in order to be able to fulfill what he sees as his duty, but there is enough of that heart left to contain some very strong loyalties and sentimental ties.

You can listen to the whole playlist on Spotify, but if you don't have Spotify, here is a list of songs and artists:


  • "Jolene" by Rhoda Vincent
  • "Dance Upon Your Grave" by The Brothers Comatose
  • "Troubles" by Anne and Elizabeth
  • "Heaven's Gate" by Dawn Landes & Piers Faccini
  • "Twitch and Tug" by Hugo
  • "Once Was Lost" by Old Bear Mountain
  • "Sing to the Mountain" by Elephant Revival
  • "Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor" by Mississippi John Hurt
  • "Blue Ridge Mountain" by Hurray for the Riff Raff
  • "The Body Electric" by Hooray for the Ridd Raff
  • "Love is All" by The Tallest Man on Earth
  • "The Captain and the Hourglass" by Laura Marling
  • "Wrong Black Mare" by Brown Bird
  • "Little Sadie" by Doc Watson
  • "From Finner" by Of Monsters and Men
  • "Hit 'Em Up Style" by Carolina Chocolate Drops
  • "The Water" by Johnny Flynn & Laura Marling
  • "Spirits" by The Strumbellas
  • "The River Song" by Old Bear Mountain
  • "Grinnin' in Your Face" by Son House
  • "Tusk" by Fleetwood Mac
  • "Seven Nation Army" by The White Stripes
  • "Can't Catch Me" by Avicii
I hope you enjoy listening as you read!  Grab your copy today, in either ebook or paperback.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Review-o-rama

Since Hexborn releases tomorrow (!), I thought I'd do a round-up of some of the early reviews.  I hope their reactions make you excited to get your hands on this story.  Happy reading!


















Friday, July 6, 2018

Coloring for Mental Health

I've become a big fan of adult coloring books since my Dad died last fall.  I've been dealing with a fair amount of anxiety and grief since then, and coloring has been one of my coping mechanisms.  I find it meditative, and it keeps my hands busy.  I find it helps me focus during church services as well.  I thought I'd share some of my fave products with you guys so you can benefits from my hard-won shopping expertise in this area.

Sharpie Ultra Fine on Color Cute by DesignOriginals


For the coloring books, paper quality is important.  You want smooth, thick paper.  I prefer those with the design on only one side, as I like to use markers, and you can have problems with bleedthrough.  With colored pencils, it isn't such an important issue, unless you like to hang, frame, or otherwise use your finished pages.  I prefer perforated pages, as I like to remove the page I'm working on.  It prevents bleedthrough to the next design, and it's easier to position and rotate your work.  It also avoids having to hold the book open. Two brands I've been mostly happy with are Design Originals and Paige TateDesignOriginals books have the added convenience of being purse-sized.  Here's a peek at some of my favorite coloring books.

DesignOriginals, Paige Tate, Unity &Fellowship



As for markers, I have tried many brands.  My favorite water-based markers are the Ohuhu Dual-tipped markers, though the fine side runs out pretty quickly if you use them a lot like I do.  This leads to streaking.  The brush strokes are very visible with the brush end and sometimes streaky on both ends, as you can see in the photo below. 

Ohuhu Markers on Paige Tate pages


For the alcohol-based markers, Colorona is great for coloring larger areas, with zero streaking and rich color as seen in the photo below.  They are nice and chunky, so easy on the hands.  The caps don't match the ink very well, however, and the "fine tip" isn't very fine.  Good old Sharpie Ultra Fine are excellent for more detailed work, but they can be expensive.  The color quality is great, though.  If you see them on discount, grab them.

Colorona Markers on pages from Color Cute by DesignOriginals.

My current recommendation for markers is that you go alcohol based (if you can keep them away from your kids, as they are permanent).  They bleed more, but I prefer that to streaking.  If you have a light touch with the markers, you can limit the bleeding of the link.  My current favorites are Colorona and Sharpie Ultra Fine as seen below.


Happy coloring!