An organization that has operated in secret for centuries… a mystery that threatens to burn it all to the ground… and she’s the only agent who can stop it…
To the residents and tourists of Galveston Island, Claire Abelard is the friendly young woman who works at the local candy store by day and leads ghost tours of the island’s haunted locations by night. They don’t realize this persona is a cover for Claire’s real job as an agent of the Bureau for Historical Preservation, a clandestine organization that monitors and assists energy projections, or the entities more commonly known as “ghosts.”
When projections begin disappearing from around the island, Claire worries that history may be repeating itself. She launches a dangerous investigation and uncovers a sinister, arcane organization whose agenda threatens not only Galveston’s ghosts, but everything she has worked her whole life to protect.
The truth behind the disappearances rocks Claire’s world to its core and shows her that ghosts aren’t the only things that can come back to haunt you.
Nita DeBorde is a published author and teacher from Houston, TX. Writing and teaching are her two major passions, though traveling and being dog-mom to a crazy Staffordshire-Boxer mix named Mabel are high on the list as well.
Nita has taught high school French for more than 20 years and absolutely loves her “day job” job (about 95% of the time). She loves to travel, and not surprisingly, France is her favorite destination, though her home state of Texas runs a close second.
She is also a huge history buff, which comes through in her fiction writing, and particularly in her latest novel, Ghost Agents, a genre-defying, cozy paranormal mystery with a little sci-fi and romance thrown into the mix. Ghost Agents: Revelations, the second book in the Ghost Agents Trilogy, is slated for release in March 2022.
Nita’s first novel, Project Lachesis, is currently available in both Kindle and hardcopy format from Amazon.com.
Her first published work, a Christian allegory titled Lessons from the Meadow, was published in December of 2013 under the pen name A.M. Ward. Stay tuned for more titles by A.M. Ward in the Christian fiction genre.
Description: In 2006, the author’s brother, Steve Sirois, was sentenced to serve 35 years in a Texas prison for a horrendous crime, aggravated sexual assault of a child — a crime Steve swore he didn’t commit. After the conviction, Michael started helping Steve write his appeals, but what he saw in the trial transcripts made him question how a jury could have convicted his brother based on that testimony.
Steve’s accuser originally gave vague dates for the crime but soon abandoned those dates and even replaced the details of her claims with new ones. There was no forensic evidence, no DNA, no physical evidence of any kind: nothing but his accuser’s words. The author wondered if he could prove that her accusations were false. But how?
Using affidavits, court transcripts, and interviews, along with additional evidence from public information requests and other factual data, the book lays out a devastating portrait of an untruthful accuser, an overzealous prosecutor, a jury that made a deal to swap votes in order to gain a conviction, and the series of lies that led to that outcome.
Michael Sirois was reading by the age of four and was writing quirky short stories by the third grade. In high school he added acting to his bag of tricks. After graduating from the University of Houston, he taught writing, drama, and technology in the middle school trenches for two decades, but continued to act and write, placing well in competitions like the Writer’s Digest Short Story contest and the HBO Project Greenlight series. His first novel, The Jagged Man, was published in 2015, and a two-book series, If a Butterfly, is slated to be published in late-Spring 2021.
After running educational outreach programs at Rice University for seven years, he retired and lives with his wife, Minay, in Spring, Texas, where he is hard at work on a thriller, The Hawthorn’s Sting, and a mystery/thriller, Murder Between Friends, hoping to have a first draft of at least one of them by late-2021. Ideas for a few more are also floating around in that scary place called his brain. Stay tuned.
Irene Foxglove wishes she were a French chef. Henrietta James, her assistant, knows she is nothing more than a small-time TV chef on a local Chicago channel. And yet when Irene is threatened, Henny tries desperately to save her, wishing always that “Madame” would tell her the truth—about her marriage, her spoiled daughter, her days in France, the man who threatens her. Henny’s best friend, the gay guy who lives next door, teases her, encourages her—and maybe loves her from afar. Murder, kidnapping, and some French gossip complicate this mystery, set in Chicago and redolent with the aroma of fine food. Recipes included.
Praise for Saving Irene:
“A nicely convoluted murder mystery and a glorification of America’s diverse cuisines, played out against the attractions of a lovingly drawn Chicago.”—Fred Erisman, In Their Own Words: Forgotten Women Pilots of Early Aviation
“You’ll find yourself cheering for Henny James as she works beyond her job description as prep assistant to save her boss, Irene Foxglove, glamorous local French-ish TV chef.”—Kaye George, Deadly Sweet Tooth (Vintage Sweets Mysteries Book 2)
“Get lost in the beauty of Chicago and the intrigue of a Texas girl making her way in the world . . . You won’t see the end coming.”—Mary Dulle, avid cozy fan
After an award-winning career writing historical fiction about women of the nineteenth-century American West, Judy Alter turned her attention to contemporary cozy mysteries: the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries and Blue Plate Café Mysteries. Her avocation is cooking, and she is the author of Cooking My Way Through Life with Kids and Books, Gourmet on a Hot Plate, and Texas is Chili Country.
Born in Chicago, she has made her home in Fort Worth for over fifty years. Judy is also a proud Scot, a member of Clan MacBean. One trip to the Highlands convinced her that is where her heart is, and she longs to write a novel set in Scotland.
Judy is an active member of Sisters in Crime, Guppies, Story Circle Network, Women Writing the West, and the Texas Institute of Letters. When she is not writing, she is busy with seven grandchildren and a lively poodle/border collie cross.
Saving Irene was my first introduction to the work of Judy Alter and the fact that I found myself talking back to the characters (Sorry, Henny, but no legit Italian cook adds oil to pasta unless they’re making aglia e olio) says a lot for how real they felt to me.
Feisty, funny, Texan Henny with her grumbling asides really engaged me, while Madame Irene (as she prefers to be addresses) was a closed-mouthed mystery in herself, with only bits of her history being revealed through the conversations of others.
While I might have quibbled with some of the cooking tips, I enjoyed the characters aside from the main two (attention must be paid to Henny’s neighbor Patrick… there’s got to be something going on there) immensely. Madame Irene’s daughter, Gabrielle, and husband are the two that come to mind, but even the ancillary characters were well-drawn, and I enjoyed their interactions.
I’m a long-time fan of culinary mysteries, and this genre is one of the reasons I always suggest a meal or snack pairing in my reviews. Food and books just go together for me, and this novel proved why by having food as an integral component.
This reads like a standalone novel, but there’s certainly room for a sequel (hint, hint) should the author be so inclined. Meanwhile, I’ll be checking out her earlier titles.
Goes well with: Croque madame and sparkling water with a twist of lime.
About the book: When a Toy Dog Became a Wolf and the Moon Broke Curfew
Paperback: 234 pages
Publisher: She Writes Press (August 27, 2019)
Memoirist Embodies Resistance in Nazi-era Title
A nail-biting tale of female strength, spiritual resilience and resistance to evil that is relevant today. You won’t forget this beautifully written story ––Dr. Betsy Cohen, psychoanalyst
SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA – In her award-winning memoir When a Toy Dog Become a Wolf and the Moon Broke Curfew (She Writes Press, August 27, 2019), Hendrika de Vries focuses on the importance of female empowerment. A story of survival and the power of love, courage, and imagination in a time of violent oppression, Hendrika de Vries shows how the bond between mother-daughter is made stronger amidst subversive activities and acts of moral courage.
Born when girls were to be housewives and mothers, a Dutch “daddy’s girl” in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam learns about female empowerment when her father is deported to a POW camp in Germany and her mother joins the Resistance. Freedoms taken for granted are eroded with escalating brutality by men with swastika armbands who aim to exterminate those they deem “inferior” and those who do not obey.
Following de Vries’ journey from child- to woman-hood, When A Toy Dog Became a Wolf and the Moon Broke Curfew bears witness to the strength that flourishes despite oppression, the power of women existing beyond cultural gender roles of the time, and shows that memories hold the keys to the betterment of our future. A therapist for over thirty years, de Vries has used her experience healing the trauma of others’ to tap into her childhood memories of Nazi-occupation to empower others to stand up in the face of injustice.
Author of When a Toy Dog Became a Wolf and the Moon Broke Curfew, Hendrika de Vries’ life experiences, from the dark days of Nazi-occupied Amsterdam as a child, through her years as a swimming champion, young wife and mother in Australia, and a move to America in the sixties, have infused her work as a therapist, teacher, and writer. Hendrika holds a BA (with Phi Beta Kappa) from the University of Colorado, an MTS (cum laude) in theological studies from Virginia Theological Seminary, and an MA in counseling psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute.
Praise for When a Toy Dog Became a Wolf and the Moon Broke Curfew
This beautifully crafted memoir reminds us that we are never far from oppression by those who wish to silence us.–– Maureen Murdock, author of The Heroine’s Journey: Woman’s Quest for Wholeness
She is a master storyteller. –– Dennis Patrick Slattery, Ph.D.
From the first page, DeVries’ book left me holding my breath at what she and her parents went through when the Nazis took over Amsterdam; one of the worst times in western history. When at age five, she lost a comfortable and safe world. DeVries’ storytelling makes this nonfiction book read like a good novel. Readers almost ‘live’ what she and her family experienced and how they rebuilt their life. – Nonfiction Authors Association Book Awards Program
In honor of the Great Detective’s birthday, I’m spotlighting the newest book to come from the pen (well, keyboard) of Stephanie Osborn. It’s no secret that I love her Displaced Detective series, but now she’s gone back in time and given us a glimpse of Holmes and Watson at the beginning of their friendship, and the start of the detective’s later-to-be illustrious career. Learn about the book here.
Visit this page on Friday, January 8th, for my review.
About the Book, Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse
Print Length: 250 pages Publisher: Pro Se Press (November 2, 2015) Publication Date: November 2, 2015 Series: Sherlock Holmes: Gentleman Aegis
Holmes and Watson. Two names linked by mystery and danger from the beginning.
Within the first year of their friendship and while both are young men, Holmes and Watson are still finding their way in the world, with all the troubles that such young men usually have: Financial straits, troubles of the female persuasion, hazings, misunderstandings between friends, and more. Watson’s Afghan wounds are still tender, his health not yet fully recovered, and there can be no consideration of his beginning a new practice as yet. Holmes, in his turn, is still struggling to found the new profession of consulting detective. Not yet truly established in London, let alone with the reputations they will one day possess, they are between cases and at loose ends when Holmes’ old professor of archaeology contacts him.
Professor Willingham Whitesell makes an appeal to Holmes’ unusual skill set and a request. Holmes is to bring Watson to serve as the dig team’s physician and come to Egypt at once to translate hieroglyphics for his prestigious archaeological dig. There in the wilds of the Egyptian desert, plagued by heat, dust, drought and cobras, the team hopes to find the very first Pharaoh. Instead, they find something very different…
Noted Author Stephanie Osborn (Creator of the Displaced Detective series) presents the first book in her Sherlock Holmes, Gentleman Aegis series – Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse, the debut volume of Pro Se Productions’ Holmes Apocrypha imprint.
Buy, read, and discuss Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse
Veteran of more than 20 years in the civilian space program, as well as various military space defense programs, she worked on numerous space shuttle flights and the International Space Station, and counts the training of astronauts on her resumé. Her space experience also includes Spacelab and ISS operations, variable star astrophysics, Martian aeolian geophysics, radiation physics, and nuclear, biological, and
chemical weapons effects.
Stephanie holds graduate and undergraduate degrees in four sciences:
astronomy, physics, chemistry and mathematics, and she is “fluent” in several
more, including geology and anatomy.
In addition she possesses a license of ministry, has been a duly sworn, certified police officer, and is a National Weather Service certified storm spotter.
Her travels have taken her to the top of Pikes Peak, across the world’s highest suspension bridge, down gold mines, in the footsteps of dinosaurs, through groves of giant Sequoias, and even to the volcanoes of the Cascade Range in the Pacific Northwest, where she was present for several phreatic eruptions of Mount St. Helens.
Now retired from space work, Stephanie has trained her sights on writing. She has authored, co-authored, or contributed to more than 20 books, including the celebrated science-fiction mystery, Burnout: The mystery of Space Shuttle STS-281. She is the co-author of the “Cresperian Saga,” book series, and currently writes the critically acclaimed “Displaced Detective” series, described as “Sherlock Holmes meets The X-Files.” She recently released the paranormal/horror novella El Vengador, based on a true story, as an ebook.
In addition to her writing work, the Interstellar Woman of Mystery now happily “pays it forward,” teaching math and science through numerous media including radio, podcasting and public speaking, as well as working with SIGMA, the science-fiction think tank.
Miracle on 34th Street meets The Wolf of Wall Street in this true crime adventure, set in New York City in the Roaring Twenties.
Before the charismatic John Duval Gluck, Jr. came along, letters from New York City children to Santa Claus were destroyed, unopened, by the U.S. Post Office Department. Gluck saw an opportunity, and created the Santa Claus Association. The effort delighted the public, and for 15 years money and gifts flowed to the only group authorized to answer Santa’s mail. Gluck became a Jazz Age celebrity, rubbing shoulders with the era’s movie stars and politicians, and even planned to erect a vast Santa Claus monument in the center of Manhattan — until Gotham’s crusading charity commissioner discovered some dark secrets in Santa’s workshop.
The rise and fall of the Santa Claus Association is a caper both heartwarming and hardboiled, involving stolen art, phony Boy Scouts, a kidnapping, pursuit by the FBI, a Coney Island bullfight, and above all, the thrills and dangers of a wild imagination. It’s also the larger story of how Christmas became the extravagant holiday we celebrate today, from Santa’s early beginnings in New York to the country’s first citywide tree lighting to Macy’s first grand holiday parade. The Santa Claus Man is a holiday tale with a dark underbelly, and an essential read for lovers of Christmas stories, true crime, and New York City history.
Other holiday highlights found in The Santa Clause Man:
The secret history of Santa letters, including a trove of original Santa letters and previously unpublished correspondences between the post office and charity groups arguing whether Santa’s mail should be answered.
The surprising origins of Christmas as we celebrate it today. From “Twas the Night Before Christmas” to the image of Santa Claus popularized by Coca-Cola, this book outlines how modern Christmas came to be, and includes a standalone timeline of holiday milestones.
The rise of modern-day charity— and charity fraud. Unchecked giving exploded after the First World War and this book follows this growth, as well as some of the most egregious exploiters of the country’s goodwill (including the Santa Claus Man himself), and how they were finally exposed.
Dozens of original vintage holiday photos, including a sculpture of Santa Claus made of 5,000 pulped letters to Santa, and a detailed sketch of a proposed Santa Claus Building, planned but never built in midtown Manhattan.
“Highly readable” — Publishers Weekly
“Required reading” — New York Post
“A rich, sensational story of holiday spirit corrupted by audacity and greed, fueled by the media at the dawning of the Jazz Age.”— Greg Young, cohost of Bowery Boys NYC history podcast
“A Christmas pudding of a book, studded with historical nuggets and spiced with larceny.”— Gerard Helferich, author of Theodore Roosevelt and the Assassin
The Santa Claus Man was featured in this New York Times post entitled “Mama Says That Santa Claus Does Not Come to Poor People“
Author Alex Palmer has written for Slate, Vulture, Smithsonian Magazine, New York Daily News and many other outlets. The author of previous nonfiction books Weird-o-Pedia and Literary Miscellany, he is also the great-grandnephew of John Duval Gluck, Jr.
Get a free Santa bookplate signed by the author, plus two vintage Santa Claus Association holiday seals. Just email proof once you buy The Santa Claus Man (online receipt, photo of bookstore receipt, etc.) along with the mailing address where you’d like the gift sent to santaclausmanbook[at]gmail[dot]com. Email before 12/21 to guarantee delivery by Christmas.
Title: Daughter of the Fallen Author: Madeline Wynn Publisher: Book Baby Pages: 250 Genre: YA paranormal Format: Paperback
Most sixteen-year olds aren’t worried about the fate of their immortal souls. May Krieg should be.
Typically, honor student May’s biggest problems have revolved around her super-hot arch-rival, Jack. But when a school project takes them ghost-hunting in a local cemetery, she discovers that an ominous force roams in the darkness around her.
And it follows her home.
It claws its way into her life, burning messages into her wall and imprinting them onto her body. Even worse, she can’t tell if it’s trying to possess her… or protect her.
May’s thoughts soon become actions, causing the target of her anger severe physical pain and giving her a rush the likes of which she has never experienced. She quickly realizes that she needs to find a way to reign in this power before she kills someone. May hates the pleasure it gives her, hates herself for hurting others, but she can’t stop.
As her entire world shatters around her, she is forced to ask what her soul is worth– and who would she risk losing her soul to save?
This is New England. And in New England, a town without a good witch hanging or ghost story just, well, isn’t considered to be a real town. So when I walk past the iron gate of the cemetery and feel the urge to bolt riding up my legs like a herd of football players bum-rushing the food counter on taco day, I set my shoulders and do my best to cowboy up.
Set between imposing stone walls and punctured by large granite fists, Hillside Cemetery definitely looks like it deserves its sinister reputation, making my attempt at bravery rather brief. “This place sucks. Maybe we should just go.”
“Here, watch your step,” Cay says and holds out his hand to help me over the uneven cobbles just on the other side of the entry. Once we make it over the stones, he drops my hand and pulls the recording equipment out of the duffle.
We’ve been friends ever since kindergarten, when some boy taunted me for living in a “little troll house.” Cay, the kickball king, told him that it was actually a gingerbread house, and everybody knows that only fairy princesses live in gingerbread houses.
He was wrong, of course; it was witches who lived in the gingerbread houses, a fact I pointed out to him later, but I gave him props for the effort. We’ve been “Cay and May” ever since, but the whole dating thing still feels… awkward.
“Is this all from school or is Jack bringing some of his dad’s?” I swipe an errant curl of hair out of my face and cringe at my surroundings as I reach for the big video camera. Why does it have to be so dark? Why can’t people ghost hunt in the daylight? You can still supposed get sound bites and whatever in the daytime, right? It’s not like ghosts go anywhere or sleep or, you know, whatever.
“Well, the big stuff is the professional gear with night vision from school. And then we have my stuff.” Cay stops in front of a wide tomb, laying his multiple cameras and his mini video recorder along the top like they are the most precious things in the world. “Weird that Mr. Dowd put both you and Jack on my team.”
“Yeah, weird.” And a nightmare. If it wasn’t for Jack, I’d be ranked first in our year, and, unlike Jack, if I don’t earn a ton of scholarship money for college, then I can’t go.
Cay fumbles with the equipment, his breath rising in great grey puffs of frost, lingering in his dark bob of curls. I shiver.
A BMW pulls up in front of the entry gate, looking sleek and new and out of place.
I run an unsteady hand through my untamable hair…right…Jack.
He gets out of the car and strides towards us, stepping out into the camera’s lights: short blond hair, high cheekbones, and a long neck leading to strong shoulders. Everyone at school, except for me, that is, adores him because he’s rich, intelligent and supposedly lost his virginity to a Victoria’s Secret model.
Watching the god-like way he strides across the cemetery, you can almost believe the hype. He lifts his eyes to meet mine as he nods a greeting. My heart flips.
Of course, it would be easier to dislike him if he wasn’t so damn… hot. I shake my head. I hate that about him, too.
“You’re late.” I grab the sound gear from Cay and hand it to him, eyeing the orange-clad harpy of a girl trailing after him.
“I had to pick up Alicia.” He indicates the thing as he straps on the professional sound gear. “And respond to your post on the AP History board about gun control.”
I huff. “You think we should arm everyone with a credit card?”
“What I think is irrelevant, Mason.” Jack’s the only one in the universe who calls me by my full name. “It’s what the Founding Fathers wanted that matters.” He holds out his hand to help me navigate my way over a broken tomb. I ignore it. He smirks, “Or do you not support the Bill Of Rights?”
God, please keep me from throttling him tonight. Cay clears his throat.
“WTF, losers? A graveyard?” Alicia Impestio. Wearing her designer hoodie unzipped so that she reveals way more skin than she has to, her straight brown hair is bleached at the tips and held off of her over-tanned face by some rhinestone-studded catastrophe. I grit my teeth.
“Hey Alicia, glad you could make it.” Cay holds the minicam out towards her and helps her onto the cobbled path of the graveyard.
“Whatever.” Alicia grabs the mini and swats at Cay’s hand as she struggles to gain a foothold. A challenging endeavor, I’m sure, for someone wearing flip-flops in November.
She gives me the once-over, lips curling.
“You really wore that?” She asks, mouth open with disdain.
“Alicia…” Jack’s voice is low, menacing.
“I mean” –she gives me the once-over and sneers- “Aren’t the Kardashians some of you people? They at least know how to dress. But, then again, they also know who their daddy is.”
That’s Alicia: hitting where it hurts. I blink through the stinging at my eyes as my mind races to find something snarky to say…something to…
“Alicia,” Jack snaps. “Stop.”
“Fine, but tell Clay Aiken over there to hurry it. I’m cold.”
Jack makes a motion with his head to indicate that Cay should ignore her as he adjusts the weight of the portable boom on his back.
“Okay, I’m filming.” I say and catch the low-hanging harvest moon before panning down to Cay. “In three, two, one…”
“This is Cayden Robison of Chase Hills High Broadcasting reporting on site at Hillside Cemetery. In 1734, three witches were reportedly hung just up the road, on the town green and buried, here, in this cemetery, in unmarked graves.”
“Then, in 1864, three men were arrested for grave digging, and ever since, people have reported strange things not only here, but especially out behind the burial grounds, in the woods.” Cay runs his hand along the top of a worn tombstone.
“Reports of paranormal activity really began to pick up in the past thirty years.” He pauses, and I pan the camera over to the creepy oak and the broken bench beneath it, hands a little unsteady. “Some people claim to hear voices, others see full-body apparitions, but most convincingly, in the 1980s, some kids back here partying say that they found satanists performing rituals in the woods. They watched as the group made a make-shift temple of one of the half-buried barite mines in the woods, and claim that the men actually raised a demon.”
He stops, looking intently into the lens of my camera. I flex my fingers, my breath rushed, like I’ve been running.
“Tonight, we’re going to dig for the truth and see if Hillside Cemetery is actually haunted.” Cays smiles.
Deep breath, May. It’s just a story. Fairytales. There’s no such thing as demons, or ghosts.
About the author, Madeleine Wynn
Madeline Wynn holds a master’s degree in procrastination. When she’s not writing, she can be found ghost hunting, gardening and parading around her home state of Connecticut with her husband, dog and two kids.
Her latest book is the YA paranormal, Daughter of the Fallen.
Madeline Wynn is giving away a $50 Amazon Gift Card!
Terms & Conditions:
• By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
• One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter.
• This giveaway begins November 3 and ends January 31.
• Winner will be contacted via email on Monday, February 2.
• Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone! ENTER TO WIN!
That is the fate of the urban princess Anasztasia and the renegade prince Matthias, born shockingly mortal to two immortal families. If they go back in time and restore the witch’s humanity, she will grant them immortality. She will also break a 550 year-old curse that imprisons Matthias’s family in their ancestral homeland and exiles Anasztasia’s family from it.
But to make their lives their own, the heirs must return to the most dangerous day in their families’ past, Easter Sunday, 1457. This is the day Vlad III, aka Dracula, massacred nobles.
How can Anasztasia and Matthias reverse the past when their families won’t speak of their sins? How can they refuse when the witch owns their lives?
In a cave shaped by five centuries of the earth’s temper, the wind’s hand, and the sky’s will, a witch stirs from beneath the dry leaves and twigs that make up her resting place. She pushes herself through, then brushes the blanket of brittle leaves from her furrowed face and shriveled limbs. But after five centuries of sleeping and waking in a bed of earth, she does not recognize foliage from skin.
She plants her emaciated feet on rough stones and drags herself across the cave to the aged branches of her door, her steps shaky like those of an infant learning to walk. The door grinds as it opens with one silent command. The world outside her hovel is as it is inside—dark, dank, musty, the bottom layers of centuries of overgrowth and the absence of human vanity. Yet she hears everything, worms burrowing, insects feeding, foliage breathing. They have been her companions and teachers through the ages as much as they have been her nourishment.
Her bones slipping against the shell of her body, she stumbles toward the ragged stump of an ancient beech. Over five centuries ago, she snapped the sapling from its roots, nurturing its swell to remind herself of the passage of the years, the turn of the centuries, and the approach of salvation. It is as old and as dead in life as she is, but it has kept her will strong and focus sharp.
Instead of resting her frail body on it, or sipping from the water trickling over one of its gnarled roots and collecting in a hollow at its base, she climbs onto it. She crawls to the middle, appearing no bigger than a rodent on a master’s grand table. Her pupils are dull and worn away, but she finds the first ring with her fingertips and begins to count. One, two, three, four, five…It is slow and meticulous work for one taught only the basics of language and numbers by those she once served. But her voice is strong, her need to count a hunger, her focus unrelenting.
Once she had magnificent eyes. Dark, almost black, alert and alive, eager to see the world, to touch it and to know it. Her hair matched the black of her eyes. Long and thick, it shone brighter than those nobles with marigold hair. Once, she was a young woman, until the nobles of the two warring families tore her from her family, wrenched her life from her body and her soul from her flesh, turning her into what she is now. Once, she had a name, a lovely, rhythmic name. But that was robbed from her, too, and she inherited another name. Strigoaic. Witch. A witch who was once a girl. A girl who once had a life. A life now trapped in death.
The Strigoaic counts the rings without stopping, her voice moaning through the clearing and the dense trees around it. She stops when her fingers grasp a ring larger and more pronounced than the others. Her heart begins to thump as it did when she first discovered it, as it did in her human life. Slipping over the edge of the stump, her fingers never leaving that ring of hope, she begins to count again, but from one, to two, to three, all the way to eighteen.
She lowers her head, a drop of blood falling from her eyes.
Crawling back onto the stump, she lies on it, the pulse of the ancient tree pounding against her palms and heating her chilled skin.
The time has come. After centuries of waiting, the time has come to summon those two nobles who robbed her of her humanity. But it is not them she wants. She has already punished them. She imprisoned one noble and his family in the boundaries of the earth once known as their homeland of Wallachia, while the other noble and his family she exiled from it. Unwise about her sorcery, however, she imprisoned and exiled them for eternity to an immortal life.
That will right itself in time, too. Now she wants—no, needs—the last born of each family. She decreed them, and she will have them. Clawing her fingers through the flesh of the stump, she lets a shrill break from her lips that shakes birds and trees and mountains.
The time has come to get her name back.
About the author, Francesca Pelaccia
The Witch’s Salvation is Francesca Pelaccia’s debut novel and the first book of The Witch’s Trilogy.
A teacher and now at long last an author, Francesca has written in other genres but enjoys creating and writing time-travel fantasies. Francesca blogs on the craft of writing, especially as it relates to genre, and reviews books.
Currently she is working on the second book of The Witch’s Trilogy entitled The Witch’s Monastery.
About the book Of Dreams and Shadows by D.S. McKnight
We live. We die. Is there anything more? Jenna Barton is about to find out. After moving to the coastal North Carolina town of Parson’s Cove, Jenna has unwittingly stepped into the middle of a mystery involving a missing child. Unfortunately, the predator is still on the loose and Jenna has become his new obsession. With a little luck and a bit of paranormal help, Jenna might survive.
D.S. McKnight has enjoyed a varied career—from working as a radio DJ on a small AM station to serving as president and co-owner of a marina, until Hurricane Ophelia took aim at the Carolina coast. Currently, she works at an insurance agency as well as hosting her blog – Novel Notions.
It is her love of the North Carolina coast that fueled her desire to write. Of Dreams and Shadow: Forget Me Not (book 1) is her first novel.
For approximately 2 1/2 years, I spent every available moment in Parson’s Cove – the fictional town where Of Dreams and Shadow takes place. I knew the town – the name of the streets as well as the locations of shops and restaurants. I knew the characters, how they looked and what they liked. I witnessed the tragedy that set the story into motion. So, I found it difficult to let go when it came time to say goodbye. Fortunately for me, I was able to visit the story in other ways. One way was to become the reporter for The Parson’s Cove Daily News:
The Parson’s Cove Daily News
June 19, 1997
(Parson’s Cove) Area authorities continue to search for Sarah Jones. The four year old girl was last seen the morning of June 17, while playing outside of the family home located on Sandpiper Drive. Parson’s Cove Police Department spokesman, Sgt. Joe Wilkes confirmed that there was a witness to the abduction. The suspect is described as a male however there was no further description available. The suspect is believed to have been wearing dark clothing.
Neighbor Bob Williams spoke for the family. “At this time, the family is asking for prayers for the safe return of their daughter.” When asked how the family was doing, Williams became visibly upset. “I guess they are doing as good as possible considering the situation.”
Besides canvassing local businesses, search and rescue teams have been called in. “Bloodhounds are a valuable asset in this type of investigation,” Sgt. Wilkes said.
Sarah is described as a white female child approximately three feet tall with light brown hair and green eyes. She was last seen wearing pink shorts and a white top.
Residents are asked to contact the police department if they remember seeing anything suspicious in the area.
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Read an excerpt
June 17, 1997
Details…they were the making or breaking of any plan and he
felt sure that his plan was perfect. He surveyed the yard one last
time, slid back into his hiding place and waited. It wouldn’t be
long now. She would open the door and come out to play as she
did every morning: swinging, pulling her wagon, playing with her
doll. Only this morning would be different, this morning would
Laying in her wagon was his gift, a necklace he had taken from
his mother. He was certain Sarah would love it. A door slammed,
pulling his attention from the wagon to the patio where the little
“Big…black…bug’s blood,” she said slowly. And then, looking
rather pleased with herself, she continued a bit faster, “Big, black
bug’s blood, big black blugs blug, blig black blug’s blug.” Shaking
her head, she stepped off the patio, “I don’t like bugs anyway…well,
maybe ladybugs…and butterflies,” Sarah added as a swallowtail
Sarah found herself following the butterfly’s trail, stopping
when it lit upon a flower and continuing on as it once again took
flight. “Come back butterfly,” she called as the butterfly
flitted from place to place, always just out of her reach. The
tinkling sound of her laughter floated across the yard to his
hiding place. He couldn’t believe his luck. It seemed that fate
was lending him a hand as the butterfly fluttered ever closer to
Just a little further, sweet Sarah.
She stopped, looked up at the butterfly as it changed course,
then set off in the opposite direction. He clinched his fist. Fate,
he thought, is like a fickle strumpet. But patience on the other hand,
was quite the virtuous lady. Damn. He hated virtuous ladies. And
strumpets…they weren’t any better.
The swallowtail, perhaps tired of playing the game, circled
around and carried Sarah back toward the wagon. Its flight was
now one of purpose. It had nectar to collect and flowers to pollinate
and a curious little girl was a hindrance. The butterfly, however,
didn’t need to worry. It had lost Sarah’s attention. She had seen the
Picking up the silver chain, she watched as the blue stones
glistened in the sunlight. It was the most beautiful thing she had
ever seen. Sarah slid the necklace over her head and ran back to the
house calling out for her mother.
Liza Jones opened the door. “Is everything okay, Sweetie?”
Sarah lifted the pendant. “See what I found.” Her voice dropped
to a whisper, as she looked over her shoulder. “Do you think a fairy
Liza shook her head. “I don’t know about a fairy, but someone
certainly did.” She put out her hand. “I think maybe you should
give the necklace to me. We don’t know whose it is.”
Sarah’s lip began to tremble. “But I found it and it’s so pretty.
Can’t I please wear it for a little while? I won’t lose it.”
Liza smiled as she touched her daughter’s cheek. She hated
telling her no. “Okay, as long as you’re careful. But when we find
out who owns it, no tears.”
“No tears, Mommy,” Sarah agreed. “I promise.”
Liza closed the door, her mind already going over the phone
calls she needed to make. She felt certain that one of the neighbor’s
children had been exploring in their mother’s jewelry box.
Smiling, Sarah whirled around and set off for the swings. Her
soft caramel curls, caught in a ponytail, danced about as she skipped
across the backyard. She hoped her mommy couldn’t find the owner
of the necklace.
As she sat in the swing and pushed off with her feet, Sarah
noticed her shadow. It moved along the sand, stretching out just as
she did. Higher and higher she went, her shadow following below.
Taking a flying leap from the swing, Sarah sailed through the air,
landed on the soft grass and toppled over. Giggling, she righted
herself. Her shadow did the same. And so the game of chase began.
Like a small rabbit, Sarah scampered across the lawn, her
little feet swiftly changing course. Sometimes, depending on the
direction she was going, Sarah noticed that she was being chased by
her shadow. Other times, she was doing the chasing.
The slamming of the neighbor’s back door didn’t go unnoticed.
Boys! She thought to herself as she wheeled in the opposite direction,
making sure to avoid the fence. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw
the neighbor boy peeking over the pickets.
As she neared the back of the yard, Sarah slowed to a walk,
sat down, and leaned against a large boulder, her shadow all but
forgotten. She fingered the silver chain before carefully lifting the
pendant. Blue stones surrounded a small crystal, reminding her of
the flowers that grew in her mother’s garden. “Buttercup, Poppy,
Forget-Me-Not,” Sarah recited her favorite nursery rhyme, “These
three bloomed in a garden spot—” her soft voice trailed away to
nothing as the sensation of being watched rolled over her.
Sarah lifted her eyes from the necklace and glanced toward the
wood line, looking for anything that seemed out of place. Seeing
nothing out of the ordinary, she continued to search the yard,
looking for the source of her discomfort. She paused, realizing that
the only place left to look was behind her. The hair on her arms
began to rise as did the instinctual feeling to run to safety. Slowly,
she turned her head to look over her shoulder. Her eyes rested on
the dark figure standing behind her right shoulder.
“Shadow?” she asked in a bewildered voice.
“Who else could it be?” hissed the childlike apparition as it
took position between Sarah and her house. A ragged whimper
wrenched from deep in Sarah’s throat, her eyes darted, looking for
an escape but seeing none. From across the fence, the frightened
eyes of the neighbor boy found hers, his small hand waved for her
“Mommy!” she cried out, her eyes welling with tears.
“Thy mother hearest thou not, sweet Sarah,” the specter hissed
as it took a step closer to the child.
Sarah’s mind told her to flee yet her body refused to move.
Tears streamed down her face. The shadowy figure looked over
its shoulder at the house. Satisfied, it turned its attention back to
Sarah. Cocking its head to the side as though in thought, Sarah’s
silhouette paused for just a moment before lunging and engulfing
the child. Sarah had no time to scream. She was gone, swallowed
by the blackness that was the shadow. The dark figure of the little
girl stretched upward and outward as it shifted into the dark shape
of a man.
This post is part of a virtual book tour sponsored by Pump Up Your Book. For more information and the list of tour stops, click here.
Atticus Wynn and Rosemary Sanchez, newly engaged private investigators, have seen the dark and violent side of life. Nothing, though, has prepared them for an explosive murder investigation that threatens to tear their relationship apart as they struggle to solve a case that could leave them in prison or dead.
Atticus’s manipulative ex-girlfriend bursts back into their lives wielding a secret about Rosemary’s family that she exploits to force the couple into investigating the execution-style slaying of her lover. The case thrusts Atticus and Rosemary headlong into the world of human trafficking and drug smuggling, while rendering them pawns in Tijuana Cartel captain Armando Villanueva’s bloody bid to take over the cartel.
The Black Song Inside is a vivid crime thriller rife with murder and madness, melded with gallows humor and the heroism of two flawed and compelling protagonists who, if they can save themselves, may learn the nature of redemption and the ability to forgive.
Carlyle Clark was raised in Poway, a city just north of San Diego, but is now a proud Chicagolander working in the field of Corporate Security and writing crime and fantasy fiction. He has flailed ineffectually at performing the writer’s requisite myriad of random jobs: pizza deliverer, curb address painter, sweatshop laborer, day laborer, night laborer, security guard, campus police, Gallup pollster, medical courier, vehicle procurer, and signature-for-petitions-getter.
He is a married man with two cats and a dog. He is also a martial arts enthusiast and a CrossFit endurer who enjoys fishing, sports, movies, TV series with continuing storylines, and of course, reading. Most inconsequentially, he holds the unrecognized distinction of being one of the few people in the world who have been paid to watch concrete dry in the dark. Tragically, that is a true statement.
His latest book is the mystery thriller, The Black Song Inside.