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Meet Sara Jayne Townsend

Sara Townsend (45) smallWhy There’s No Happy Ever After for my characters

By Sara Jayne Townsend

I’ve never been a fan of romance novels. Even as a youngster I had a streak that could be described as practical or cynical, depending on how you look at it. I was the girl that all the boys left alone in high school. I think they either saw me as too weird or too geeky. So while my peers were reading Sweet Valley High romances and fantasising about the perfect partner, I was discovering Stephen King and fantasising about having telekinetic powers like Carrie, able to kill off all the classmates who were mean to me by the power of my mind. Well, I said people found me weird. Fortunately for all concerned I was also writing horror at that point, and able to channel my preoccupation for violence onto the page.

From being a teen I’ve had a leaning towards crime and horror and not romance. I totally get why romance is popular – people like the idea of the ‘happy ever after’. But somehow I’d rather write about murder and mayhem than ‘happy ever after’.

However, when I created my amateur sleuth Shara Summers, I had to give some thought to the relationships she would have. My character is a straight, single, 29-year old actress. It seemed logical to assume there would be men in her life. However, it was a conscious decision on my part to give her something of a disastrous track record. Flawed characters are just more interesting. And although in real life we all strive to find The One – that soul mate that we can share our lives with and live happily ever after, in a series there has to be something beyond the ‘happy ever after’. Conflict makes for more interesting stories. And the fictional heroines which inspired me to write a mystery series – Sara Paretsky’s VI Warshawski; Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone; Kathy Reichs’ Temperance Brennan – are all perpetually single. Lovers come and go throughout these series, but these women always seem to end up alone.

A sub-plot of DEATH SCENE is a rather uneven relationship that Shara starts up with a fellow actor, and I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but her romantic future is destined to be somewhat rocky. And I do somewhat sympathise with the men in her life – I can’t imagine this character I created would be an easy person to live with.

Will Shara end up with her Happy Ever After? I can honestly say I don’t know. Characters sometimes have a habit of insisting in going in directions the author hasn’t envisaged, so who knows what might happen?


Dead Cool 200x300Dead Cool Blurb

They were dying to be famous. And someone was prepared to kill for it…

Actress Shara Summers has settled in London and is “between jobs” when her Canadian ex-boyfriend David sails back into her life, begging to her to fill the backing singer vacancy in the up and coming band he’s about to go on a European tour with.  Short on funds and auditions Shara reluctantly agrees, but tragedy strikes at the opening night party when the band’s charismatic front man Dallas Cleary Anderson falls to his death from a hotel window.  It soon becomes clear that Dallas did not fall, but was pushed.  His arrogant and confrontational manner means there are no shortage of people who wanted him out of the band permanently – but who would resort to murder?


PokDeath Scene 200x300ing around in family closets produces skeletons…

British-born, Toronto-based, actress Shara Summers turns amateur sleuth when her sister is stricken with a mysterious illness. Summoned back to England to be with her family during a time of crisis, Shara discovers doctors are at a loss as to what’s causing Astrid’s debilitating sickness.

After her aunt is found dead at the bottom of the stairs the death is deemed an accident. Shara suspects otherwise. Her investigation unearths shocking family secrets and a chilling realization that could have far-reaching and tragic consequences that affect not only her own future, but Astrid’s as well.

DEATH SCENE is coming 22 September from MuseItUp Publishing:

SJT Bio 2014

Sara-Jayne Townsend is a UK-based writer of crime and horror. She was born in Cheshire in 1969, but spent most of the 1980s living in Canada after her family emigrated there. She now lives in Surrey with two cats and her guitarist husband Chris. She co-founded the T Party Writers’ Group in 1994, and remains Chair Person.

The first book in her amateur sleuth series about Canadian actress Shara Summers, DEATH SCENE, is now available, with the sequel, DEAD COOL, released on 25 November and available for pre-order. Visit the MuseItUp Publishing book store to buy both:

You can learn more about Sara and her writing at her website at or her blog at


Rosemary Morris Interview Oct 15


Today I’m interviewing the lovely Rosemary Morris, author of The Captain and the Countess

Rosemary Morris - Small photoTell us something about yourself.

There is a gigantic canvas for a historical novelist to choose from. So far I have chosen to set my published novels in the England of Queen Anne Stuart 1702 – 1714 and the popular Regency era.

I chose those periods in which to set my novels in because each of them affected the course of history. If the Duke of Marlborough had not won The War of Spanish Succession and The Duke of Wellington had not defeated Napoleon at The Battle of Waterloo the history of Britain and that of Europe would have been very different, and would also had far-reaching consequences for other countries. If Edward II had won the Battle of Bannockburn, Robert the Bruce would have probably been killed. It is feasible that the king would most likely have conquered Scotland and, perhaps, as it is claimed, he would not have been murdered.

The more I read about my chosen eras the more fascinated I become and the more aware of the gulf between those periods of history and my own. I believe those who lived in the past shared the same emotions as we do but their attitudes and way of life were in many ways quite different to ours. One of the most striking examples is the position of women in society in bygone ages.

I present women who are of their time, not cardboard characters dressed in costume who behave like 21st century women. Of course, it is almost impossible to completely understand our ancestors but through extensive research I ensure my characters observe the social etiquette of their life and times in order not to become outcasts from society.

Tell us something about your books

I describe my books as romantic historicals in which I do not open the bedroom door wide. In my novels I recreate the clothes, food, social and economic history and much more.

The heroine in Sunday’s Child set in the Regency era does not want to marry ‘a military man’ for fear that, like her father and brothers, he will die fighting against Napoleon in the Iberian Peninsula. The hero is affected by a tragic occurrence and doubts he will ever marry and have a family.

My second Regency Novel, False Pretences, concerns a young woman sent to a boarding school at the age of five. At eighteen years of age Annabelle is desperate to know who her parents were and who her unknown guardian is. When Annabelle is ordered to marry a French Baron with a bad reputation she runs away. With the help of a gentleman, who rescues her from a footpad, she begins to unravel the false pretences in her life but does not know if she can forgive her rescuer for his.

I have also written three novels set in the reign of Queen Anne Stuart 1702-1714.

Tangled Love opens when Richelda Shaw’s father decides to follow James II to France. He swore an oath of allegiance to James so his conscience does not allow him to swear an oath of allegiance to James’s daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange during James’ lifetime. Before he leaves he asks Richelda to swear on the Bible to do all in her power to regain Field House, their ancestral home sequestered after the Civil War. Richelda goes from riches to rags and rags to riches while trying to keep her promise.

After serving in India with the East India Company from the age of fourteen, Gervaise, the hero of Far Beyond Rubies returns to England influenced by some Hindu beliefs. When he first sees Juliana, the heroine Gervaise senses he knows her but not during their present life. He questions whether the Hindu belief in reincarnation is valid. A chance meeting again brings him into contact with Juliana, who is determined to prove her father left Riverside to her, not her half-brother, in accordance with her grandfather’s will. Gervaise helps Juliana to dicover the astonishing truth.

In my most recent novel, The Captain and The Countess, Captain Howard, who is on half pay from Queen Anne’s navy. is captivated by Kate, Countess of Sinclair, whose nickname is The Fatal Widow. Married off to a cruel older man, beautiful, fascinating, wealthy Kate enjoys her independence and has no intention of marrying again. However, the captain, a talented artist, is the only person to see the grief behind Kate’s fashionable façade.

What got you started writing historical fiction?

At primary school my head was full of stories about times past. At grammar school my love of English Literature, geography and history grew and sparked my imagination. I read historical fiction and was inspired by many authors. It was inevitable that one day my love of history and reading would lead to my writing romantic historicals.

How much research do you do for your books, and how do you go about it?

I read dozens of books, google, but double check information, and visit places of historical interest, museums and exhibitions.

What are you working on now?

I am writing Monday’s Child, a follow on novel from Sunday’s Child, set in Brussels during the 100 days between Napoleon Bonaparte’s escape from Brussels and the Battle of Waterloo.

I am also revising the first book in trilogy, Dear Heart, a historical novel set in the reign of Edward II of England.

When did you start writing fiction for publication? What was the push that got you started?

I wrote years ago while living in Kenya and had two novels accepted. However, I did not know that the date of publication should be included in the contracts. In one case the publishing house amalgamated with another, in the other the new commissioning editor did not like my novel. Discouraged, and due to circumstances, I stopped writing until I returned to England. Tangled Love was published as Tangled Lvies by an online publisher which went bankrupt. After bitter tears, I submitted to MuseItUp Publishing, signed the contract with them and continued writing.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

A bit of both. After I decide on the plot and theme of my novel I fill in detailed biographies for my main characters. I jot down main events and then see where the characters will take me.

Do you have a writing routine?

Yes, one I try to adhere to. On most mornings I wake up at 6 a.m. have a glass of lemon juice in hot water and then write until 10 a.m., with a break for breakfast.

If I am at home, I work from 1.30 p.m. to 2.30 p.m. and then from 4 or 5 p.m. to 8 or 9 p.m.

These hours include writing my novels, researching them, blogging and much more.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you ever got? The worst?

The best advice was to join The Romantic Novelist’s New Writers Scheme.

The worst advice was to begin Sunday’s Child on the battlefield.

Who are your favorite authors in your genre?

Elizabeth Chadwick, Catherine Cookson (Sara Dane), Bernard Cornwall (Sharpe Series) Sergeanne, Golon, Georgette Heyer, M.M.Kaye, Baroness Orczy, Frances Parkinson Keyes, Anya Seton and many more authors.

What do you want readers to take away from your books?

I want my readers to feel they stepped into another world at another time and for the memory of my novel/s to linger in their minds after they reach the end of each one with a deep, satisfied sigh.

Where can readers find you on the web?

Rosemary’s e-books published by MuseItUp Publishing in e-book or paper-back form from all online retailers such as, iBook, Nook etc.are available from the publisher, Amazon-kindle, ibooks, Nook and other reputable vendors.

You can read the first three chapters of my novels and view the book trailers on my website

Follow my blogs at: and

Contact me at: but don’t forget to enter Margaret Fieland’s Interview as the Subject or I will delete it from my Junk Folder.

I would be delighted to hear from you, receive your comments and maybe your reviews if you choose to read my novels.

Any last words?

Unless an author chooses to self-publish the road to publication can be very hard but I have no regrets over taking that rocky road.

Blurb for The Captain and The Countess

Why does heart-rending pain lurk in the back of the wealthy Countess of Sinclair’s eyes?

Captain Howard’s life changes forever from the moment he meets Kate, the intriguing Countess and resolves to banish her pain.

Although the air sizzles when widowed Kate, victim of an abusive marriage meets Edward Howard, a captain in Queen Anne’s navy, she has no intention of ever marrying again.

However, when Kate becomes better acquainted with the Captain she realises he is the only man who understands her grief and can help her to untangle her past

Excerpt from The Captain and The Countess



Extract from Chapter One; The Captain and The Countess

London 1706

Edward, the Right Honourable Captain Howard, dressed in blue and white, which some of the officers in Queen Anne’s navy favoured, strode into Mrs Radcliffe’s spacious house The Captain and The Countess 200x300near St James Park.

Perkins, his godmother’s butler, took his hat and cloak. “Madam wants you to join her immediately.”

Instead of going upstairs to the rooms his godmother had provided for him during his spell on half pay—the result of a dispute with a senior officer—Edward entered the salon. He sighed. When would his sixty-one year old godmother accept that at the age of twenty-two he was not yet ready to wed?

He made his way across the elegant, many windowed room through a crowd of expensively garbed callers.

When Frances Radcliffe noticed him, she turned to the pretty young lady seated beside her. “Mistress Martyn, allow me to introduce you to my godson, Captain Howard.”

Blushes stained Mistress Martyn’s cheeks as she stood to make her curtsey.

Edward bowed, indifferent to yet another of his grandmother’s protégées. Conversation ceased. All eyes focussed on the threshold.

Lady Sinclair,” someone murmured.

Edward turned. He gazed without blinking at the acclaimed beauty, whose sobriquet was ‘The Fatal Widow’.

The countess remained in the doorway, her cool blue eyes speculative.

Edward whistled low. Could her shocking reputation be no more than tittle-tattle? His artist’s eyes observed her. Rumour did not lie about her Saxon beauty.

Her ladyship was not a slave to fashion. She did not wear a wig, and her hair was not curled and stiffened with sugar water. Instead, her flaxen plaits were wound around the crown of her head to form a coronet. The style suited her. So did the latest Paris fashion, an outrageous wisp of a lace cap, which replaced the tall, fan-shaped fontage most ladies continued to wear perched on their heads.

Did the countess have the devil-may-care attitude gossips attributed to her? If she did, it explained why some respectable members of society shunned her. Indeed, if Lady Sinclair were not the granddaughter of his godmother’s deceased friend, she might not be received in this house.

The lady’s fair charms did not entirely explain what drew many gallants to her side. After all, there were several younger beauties present that the gentlemen did not flock around so avidly.

He advanced toward the countess, conscious of the sound of his footsteps on the wooden floor, the muted noise of coaches and drays through the closed windows and, from the fireplace, the crackle of burning logs which relieved the chill of early spring.

The buzz of conversation resumed. Her ladyship scrutinised him. Did she approve of his appearance? A smile curved her heart-shaped mouth. He repressed his amusement. Edward suspected the widow’s rosy lips owed more to artifice than nature.

How do you do, sir,” she said when he stood before her. “I think we have not met previously. Her eyes assessed him dispassionately. My name is Sinclair, Katherine Sinclair. I dislike formality. You may call me Kate.”

Captain Howard at your service, Countess.” Shocked but amused by boldness more suited to a tavern wench than a great lady, Edward paid homage with a low bow before he spoke again. “Despite your permission, I am not presumptuous enough to call you Kate, yet I shall say that had we already met, I would remember you.”

You are gallant, sir, but you are young to have achieved so high a rank in Her Majesty’s navy.”

An unexpected promotion earned in battle which the navy did not subsequently commute.”

You are to be congratulated on what, I can only assume, were acts of bravery.”

Thank you, Countess.”

The depths of her ladyship’s sapphire cross and earrings blazed, matching his sudden fierce desire.

Kate, some four inches shorter than Edward, looked up at him.

He leaned forward. The customary greeting of a kiss on her lips lingered longer than etiquette dictated. Her eyes widened before she permitted him to lead her across the room to the sopha on which his godmother sat with Mistress Martyn.

With a hint of amusement in her eyes, Kate regarded Mrs Radcliffe. “My apologies, madam, I suspect my visit is untimely.”

Her melodious voice sent shivers up and down his spine, nevertheless, Edward laughed. Had the countess guessed his godmother, who enjoyed match-making, wanted him to marry Mistress Martyn? No, he was being too fanciful. How could she have guessed?

You are most welcome, Lady Sinclair. Please take a seat and partake of a glass of cherry ratafia.” Frances said.

Perhaps, milady prefers red viana,” Edward suggested

Captain, you read my mind, sweet wine is not to my taste.”

In response to the lady’s provocative smile, heat seared his cheeks.

Kate smoothed the gleaming folds of her turquoise blue silk gown. The lady knew how to dress to make the utmost of her natural beauty. Her gown and petticoat, not to mention sleeves and under-sleeves, as well as her bodice and stays, relied for effect on simple design and fine fabrics. He approved of her ensemble, the elegance of which did not depend on either a riot of colours or a multitude of bows and other trimmings. Later, he would sketch her from memory.

Kate inclined her head to his godmother. “Will you not warn your godson I am unsound, wild, and a bad influence on the young?”

Edward gazed into Kate’s eyes. Before his demise, had her husband banished her to a manor deep in the country? If it was true, why did he do so?

Kate’s eyebrows slanted down at the inner corners. She stared back at him. He laughed, raised her hands to his lips and kissed each in turn. “I look forward to furthering my acquaintance with you.”

High-handed.” Kate gurgled with laughter. “Captain, please release me.”

What did he care if she were some ten years his elder? He wanted to get to know her better. Edward bowed. “Your slightest wish is my command.”


Rosemary Morris was born in 1940 in Sidcup Kent. As a child, when she was not making up stories, her head was ‘always in a book.’

While working in a travel agency, Rosemary met her Indian husband. He encouraged her to continue her education at Westminster College. In 1961 Rosemary and her husband, now a barrister, moved to his birthplace, Kenya, where she lived from 1961 until 1982. After an attempted coup d’état, she and four of her children lived in an ashram in France.

Back in England, Rosemary wrote historical fiction. She is now a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Historical Novel Society and Watford Writers.

Apart from writing, Rosemary enjoys classical Indian literature, reading, visiting places of historical interest, vegetarian cooking, growing organic fruit, herbs and vegetables and creative crafts.

Her bookshelves are so crammed with historical non-fiction which she uses to research her novels that if she buys a new book she has to consider getting rid of one.

Time spent with her five children and their families, most of whom live near her is precious.

E.books published by: MuseItUp Publishing available from the publisher, Amazon and elsewhere.

Tangled Love, Far Beyond Rubies (also available as a paperback) False Pretences, Sunday’s Child. New release 21st February 2014 The Captain and the Countess.

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The Problem with Paranormal: Guest Post by C. David Rollins for Oct 10

The Problem with the Paranormal:CDavidRollins_headshot_ps-1

I love stories with paranormal elements. From John Carter’s out-of-body experience in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars to Spock’s mind meld, and Obi Wan Kenobi’s Jedi powers, the paranormal is a frequent element of science fiction and lends some mystery to what could become dry, hard SF.

But giving a character paranormal abilities can be a problem. It’s a little bit like cell phones. The problem is, it solves too many problems. The key, I have found is to make the ability the problem and not the solution.

In Ambassador from Earth , Ellen is visited in her dreams by an angel who tells her that an old, beat-up, abandoned van in the woods near her home is actually an interstellar spaceship. She convinces her friends to check it out with her, and in fact it is and spaceship, holographically disguised. Through navigational misadventure they arrive at a giant space station many light years from Earth run by ruthless aliens. Ellen continues to receive instructions from her “angel” which we learn is an alien intelligence, a memory from the dead alien who brought the spacecraft to Earth originally. The alien leads her to a doomsday device he has left on the station that will destroy the super bad guy aliens. It will also mean sacrificing herself in the process and millions of innocents living in the solar system where the space station is located.

If Ellen knew all this up front the story would be a lot different. Having access to everything her “angel” knows might have kept her from ever setting foot on the spacecraft. In this case she is limited by how she perceives the alien (as an angel) and what he chooses to reveal and what she is capable of understanding. Extra-sensory perception is limited by the same unconscious biases, beliefs, culture, and expectations as normal sensory perceptions.

In my newest work, Theodore Grayson and the Devil Men of Mars (still under construction), I’m writing about another young woman gifted with clairvoyance. Truth is she’d rather be without it, especially after the British government sends her to Mars as part of a global arms race with the Germans. Now poor Lydia is millions of miles from home and the only one there her age is an American ruffian named Theodore who she quickly comes to despise. The ruins of an ancient Martian civilization have strange and traumatic effects on the seventeen-year old, nearly driving her mad. Here, the character’s personal desires are at odds with her abilities and with almost everyone else. She trusts no one and her main desire is to stay as far away from the ruins as possible and get back to Earth and London as soon as she can. Even if her clairvoyance could see exactly what the Germans are doing she would not feel obliged to tell anyone about it.

Of course the paranormal can help drive the solution of the main problem. Ellen’s contact with the alien will give her insights to defeat the really big bad aliens. Lydia will learn to control her abilities and gain incredible new ones. But simply turning into vampire or a Jedi or a teenage mutant ninja tadpole should be the beginning of the story not the end of it.




Ambassador from EarthAmbassador From Earth



“James, you pimped the spaceship.”


Matthew Roper, and his friends, Ellen Thompson and James Lovely, discover an advanced alien spacecraft disguised as a beat up old van abandoned years ago in the woods near their homes. Soon they find themselves thrust into danger, intrigue, and war many light-years from Earth.


The Galactic Concordance is a ruthless organization of alien empires that grinds other civilizations into dust. Lost, the band of eighth graders fly to a giant space station looking for help, but are mistaken as diplomats by the Concordance.


The aliens try to strike a deal, but the children soon learn the fate of other worlds that have accepted the “help” that the Concordance offers. If the aliens learn the truth about who they are and where they are from, Earth will be annihilated.


The spacecraft’s previous master has left a fearsome device on the space station and Ellen holds the key to unlocking its power. Matt and his friends must choose between saving themselves or saving Earth.





“This is our trade station. The one of which I spoke,” said Kritar.

“What’s it doing here?”

“When the Skleth finished with our world, they must have moved it to the sixth planet, Sudos, and turned it into one of their enclaves.”

“We’re heading to one of the landing platforms,” said James.

The ship entered a large landing bay the size of a football field. The entrance was along the equator, between where the two pyramids forming the station joined. Gigantic sliding doors over a hundred feet high closed behind us, and minutes later the ship’s console chirped, indicating a breathable atmosphere now filled the chamber to a pressure equal to that inside the ship. Artificial gravity turned on in the bay, also equal to the .59 g inside the ship. Pop-up messages on the environmental screen assured us there was nothing dangerous in the air.

Ellen opened the rear hatch. Then we heard her scream the kind of scream you hear in horror movies.

Two gigantic upright scorpions met me at the hatch. Their black exoskeletons and double action pincer claws made them look like beasts from the ninth level of Hell. They stood over eight feet tall, with huge boxy bodies attached to a segmented abdomen out of which sprouted four very bug-looking legs. Two arms extended from the torso ended in multi-bladed pincers, easily capable of snapping a person’s head off.

I spoke into the tube. “Hey. What’s up, guys?”

One of the two creatures made a series of buzzes, chirps, and clicks. “Greetings Ambassador. His Excellency, the Prefect, sends his regards. Are all your staff embarked?”

There are others with me,” I said.

The creature continued making sounds. “We received no communication announcing your arrival. Are more of your ships inbound?”

Just us,” I said.

The Prefect regrets the hasty preparations. A diplomatic module is being prepared for your use. If you will accompany us, we will bring you to your embassy.”

Sure, that would be great,” I said.

Prying Ellen out of the front seat of the ship almost took a crowbar. She was terrified of these creatures. They scared the you-know-what out of me, too, but they were being very polite. Besides, if they’d wanted to, they could have stripped our bones clean by now.

We were led through a passage to a transparent wall through which we could see inside. The entire interior of the station was one super large chamber. Big doesn’t come close to describing it. Standing in the Superdome, you’d see big. This was more like being an ant standing in the Superdome. Blazing lights along the walls lit the inside of the station as bright as daylight, but with more yellow than sunshine on Earth. Elevated highways extended from a wide ledge running around the entire chamber. Vehicles, some as big as buses, and some as small as toys, zipped around the outside perimeter and along the causeways on grooved tracks. In the center of the great room, floating in mid air, were structures like buildings, of many different shapes. The buildings were all connected by tubes and spires, branched out of the sides of the station walls to the buildings.

It’s a floating city,” James said, and that was the best way I think any of us could describe it.

The scorpion creatures led us down a winding series of ramps branching off from the passage outside the landing bay. Eventually, we came to a smaller room, with transparent walls on either side.

We must await transport,” said one of the creatures. “The atmosphere within the main chamber is incompatible with your environmental requirements.”

A vehicle pulled alongside the room and docked by extending a flexible membrane. A part of the transparent wall slid open and we entered the vehicle. It sped down a grooved track for several hundred meters, before switching to another track, taking us along one of the causeways toward the center of the station.

This is different than I remember,” said Kritar. “Most of the internal space was used for storing freight, and fuel for our ships, before.”

With so many different species, each with their own atmosphere and gravity requirements, they’ve built all kinds of different modules inside now,” I said.

Nice town,” said James, “any good places to eat?”

You will find nutritional units at the facility prepared for you,” chirped one of the creatures.

I looked at Ellen. She was still wide-eyed, and kept her hands clamped onto my arm. She was one of the bravest people I knew. Maybe she just really hated bugs. After all that had happened to us in the last few hours, it was a wonder we weren’t all completely freaked out. I don’t think it hit me until then. I felt like I was watching a movie of myself.

The transport docked with a spherical building as big as a large house. The giant bugs ushered us in.

This is your embassy, Ambassador. It can be configured as you require. The Prefect gives assurance all reasonable security precautions have been made, but you may take more as you choose. These devices will activate the environmental systems as you move through the enclave.” The creature held four metallic discs, half the size of a CD, hanging from lanyards. I took the devices and handed them out to Ellen and James.

Thanks,” I said.

The Concordance welcomes prospective member states. Communicate any requirements you have to the Prefect’s office.”

The two giant bugs left.

You all understand, of course, Ambassador, they are listening and watching us,” said Kritar.

I nodded.

I don’t like this place. I want to go home,” Ellen said, not at all happy.


When do we eat?” James asked.

Find the phone and call Dominoes. I like pepperoni and mushrooms.”

James snorted and rolled his eyes.

I don’t understand,” said Ellen, “what’s going on?”

They have never seen your species before,” said Kritar. “They simply assume you are an ambassador from a distant planet sent to negotiate for membership in the Concordance.”

But we’re just kids,” said James.

Ixnay on the idskay!” I hissed. “If they’re listening, we need to make it hard for them to understand. Speak Spenglish or slang. Use cultural references, i.e. ‘Domino’s’.”

Ellen and I spoke fairly good Spanish. Blending it with English and slang should keep whoever might be listening guessing as much as possible, I hoped. The aliens thought we were the ambassador and staff from some other species, seeking to join their interstellar version of the UN. Our lives, and maybe those of everyone on Earth, might depend on us keeping them thinking that.

Let’s get the 411 on this place,” I said.


Comments (1)

Oct 7 interview James DiBenedetto

Tell us something about yourselfEbookDreamStudentCoverSmaller

I’m a full-blooded Italian (3 of my 4 grandparents were born in Italy), born and raised in New York, and I’ve been living in the Washington, DC area for the last 18 years. I share my home with my amazing wife Cathey, and our cat Daisy, who basically runs everything.

You’re the author of the Dream series. Can you tell us something about the books?

What if you could see everyone else’s dreams? That’s what the books are all about. They revolve around Sara, who’s in college when we first meet her, and she doesn’t think there’s anything out of the ordinary about herself. And then the dreams start.

In each book, she’s faced with a challenge that comes to her from the dreams she’s visiting (in one book, it’s the fact that everyone’s dreaming about the death of one of her med school teachers, and then the man begins to show signs of being poisoned, for example); and also a problem that arises from her everyday life (adjusting to life as a newlywed, or later in the series coping with the difficulties of being a parent).

I notice that you have a co-author on some of the earlier novels in the series, but you are the sole author of the latest one. Can you tell us a bit about why you started working with a co-author, and why you stopped?

Ami Low wasn’t a co-author, but an artist, who hand-painted the original covers for the first few books. She did an amazing job, capturing for each cover a scene from the book at my direction (and she deserves a medal for deciphering the embarrassingly bad sketches I gave her to work from!), but, unfortunately, those covers were not what readers expected, and I had to change them.

How did you come up with the premise for the series, that your main character can inhabit the dreams of others?

It came from wondering why characters in mystery books and movies never seem to go to the police, when that’s what most of us would do if we had evidence about a murder or other serious crime.

I came up with the answer: what if the only evidence you had was in your own head, because you’d seen it in the thoughts and dreams of the criminal? You’d have nothing to give the police, and nothing they would believe, so if you wanted to do something about it, you’d have to investigate for yourself.

The character of Sara and the college setting came straight out of that initial idea.

How did you get started writing?

I’ve been writing since at least junior high school, but I mostly never finished anything. After college, I completed the first draft of what later became DREAM STUDENT, but I wasn’t pleased with how it came out, and it sat on my computer for more than a decade. A couple of years ago, a friend published her first novel, and I thought, “why can’t I do it, too?” So I dusted off that old draft, rewrote it from the beginning, and now I’ve got eight books in the series.

I notice you’re originally from Yonkers and now live in Virginia. Do you miss New York, or do you prefer where you’re living now?

I definitely miss New York. But I don’t think I’d want to live now where I grew up. It’s not terrible, but the neighborhood has gone downhill somewhat in the last 20 years.

Do you ever use people you know in your novels?

Yes. Only minor characters, though. They’re really more “background extras” for the most part. All the major characters who actually drive the story are completely fictional.

Do you have a writing routine? If so, what is it?

Not really. It’s just “whenever I can carve out 15 or 20 minutes (or more) at a stretch”.

Are you a plotter, a pantser, or somewhere in the middle?

Totally a pantser. I do usually have a general sense of the ending in mind, but that’s it. I just start writing and see where things go.

What is the best writing advice you ever got? The worst?

Best? “Write another book.”

Worst? “It’s just a hobby. If it’s not working out, find something else.”

Who are your favorite fantasy/paranormal authors?

Fran Veal (author of “Finding My Escape”).

Katherine Kurtz (although I haven’t liked the later Deryni books nearly as much as the early ones)

Stephen R. Donaldson

What do you hope readers will take away from your books?

I hope they’ll come away having enjoyed the story, and wanting to keep in touch with Sara and the rest of the cast of characters.

As far as any message or moral, it’s basically: responsibility. Be responsible for yourself, and the problems you see that you can solve. Take responsibility for the power you have and don’t abuse it.

What are you working on now?

I’ve just finished the next book in the series (book #8, DREAM VACATION). I’ve started on the ninth book, as well as another unrelated novel.

Any last words?

Thanks so much for hosting me!

Where can readers find you on the web?



J.J. (James) Dibenedetto’s fans would swear he’s got a sixth sense when it comes to seeing into the minds of others and often wonder if his stories could possibly be fiction. He enjoys suspending disbelief with suspenseful paranormal tales that are a perfect blend of reality meets fantasy.

His popular Dream Series continues to delight readers with each and every exciting installment.

Born in Yonkers, New York, he currently resides in Arlington Virginia with his beautiful wife and a cat he is sure has taken full advantage of its nine lives. When it comes to the cat, he often wonders, but then again it might just be his imagination.


Blurb for Dream Student (book one, free on Kindle)

College junior Sara Barnes thought her life was totally under control. All she had to worry about was her final exams, Christmas shopping, applying to medical school – and what to do about the cute freshman in the next dorm with a crush on her. Everything was going according to plan, until the night she started seeing other people’s dreams. 

It’s bad enough that Sara is learning more than she ever needed to know about her friends and classmates, watching their most secret fantasies whether she wants to or not. Much worse are the other dreams, the ones she sees nearly every night, featuring a strange, terrifying man who commits unspeakable crimes. Now Sara wonders if she’s the only witness to a serial killer – and the only one who knows when and where he’s going to strike next. 

Dream Student is the first book of the Dream Series. 




I have to admit, it feels very strange to be drinking wine, like an actual adult, with my parents. When I’m at school, obviously, I don’t have these thoughts. I’m twenty one years old. I’m in charge of my life, making real, important choices. I’m working hard, making serious progress on as adult a goal as I can think of. I’m in a real, serious relationship with a man I love. Then of course there are the damned nightmares, and the fact that I’m still even close to being in one piece after several weeks of them qualifies me as a functioning grown-up for sure.

Still, something happens to me when I come home from school, even now, even though rationally I should know better. It’s not that Mom and Dad do anything, really, to make me feel that way – it’s pretty much all in my head.

I realize that partly it’s just the fact of sleeping in the same bed I’ve slept in since I was in kindergarten, and looking at the picture of Kermit the Frog that’s been on my wall since 1977 or so as I fall asleep. Everywhere I look in my bedroom there’s a reminder of my childhood. Especially the poor ratty, dog-chewed stuffed rabbit that’s sitting on my bed right now. Good old Mister Pennington.

But right now, my father is looking at me very differently. He’s been ever since lunch and I just now realized that’s why. I guess he was right, when he said I’m slow on the uptake. What it is, is he’s seeing me as really and truly an adult for the first time. Well, if he thinks I am, I certainly ought to be able to believe it myself.

I get more proof when we get home. Mom and Dad don’t know it, but I learned years ago, when the conditions are just right and the heating vents in their room and my room are both open but the heat isn’t actually blowing in either room, I can hear them quite clearly.

What I hear tonight, as they’re getting ready for bed, is Dad telling Mom about his day with me. Then he tells her that he’s thinking about putting off the big kitchen renovation they’ve been planning for the last year. He wants to save the money for something much more important that he thinks might be coming a lot sooner than he expected.

My wedding.

I don’t know what to say to that.

I’m willing to bet that Mom and I have exactly the same expression on our faces right now, and that we both just went precisely the same shade of white. I don’t know how I keep from fainting at the shock of hearing those words.

There’s only one reasonable thing to do then. I jump out of bed and over to the thermostat, crank the heat as high as it will go and with the blast of hot air out of the vent, the voices of my parents are gone. I lay back down on my bed, grab Mister Pennington to me in a death grip, and try to put my father’s crazy words out of my mind and fall asleep.




Two hours later I’m still clutching Mister Pennington, and Lumpy is snoring at the foot of the bed. I’m finally just now drifting off to sleep. The last thing that goes through my mind before I’m out is that, maybe, my father’s crazy words might not be quite so crazy after all.

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Guest post by Rachel Smith

There are some people out there who think telepathic aliens are a cop-out and shouldn’t qualify as real science fiction. To which I say: hogwash! My aliens, the Loks Mé, are telepathic. The men anyway. Women tend to be empathic. There’s a third kind too, ones who are both and can also be telekinetic.Blog headshot

Disclaimer: While writing this book I was devouring Doctor Who and Fringe. I’m also a longtime Star Trek: TNG fan. All three series have telepathic stuff in them.

I didn’t consciously set out to make my aliens telepathic. I’m a pantser, which means I have no idea what’s going to happen next. In the first draft I discovered A’yen was telepathic, but wasn’t able to successfully use it. It took me a bit to figure out all the mechanics of it and what was going on inside his body.

Every sound we hear is an electromagnetic wave. Our eardrums and the bones of the inner ear absorb these waves, translate them into electrical signals, transmit them to our brain, and our brain decodes them into something we can understand. Brain waves and our neurologic systems are also electric. These signals can be translated and recorded via an EEG, electroencephalogram. Our hearts are electrical circuits. When a heart is beating wrong or has stopped, electricity is used to fix it in the form of a pacemaker or defibrillator.

We’re walking electricity. So are my aliens. But their bodies process it very different from us.MNIA small version

The story takes place in Earth year 5231. A’yen’s species has been enslaved for 2,000 years. Humanity is afraid of them, and has spent centuries tinkering with their genetics to produce a body perfect for physical labor. Average height for a Loks Mé male is 6’4”. They’re imposing.

To control this strength, humans created a type of magnetic ink that interferes with the way their bodies process EM energy. And it’s only used on males, but the Loks have no idea why only the males are marked. Because of this ink most males are never able to use their telepathic abilities. A’yen is one of the lucky few who knows his exists, but doesn’t really know how to use it. As the novel unfolds he learns more about it and gets a degree of control over it.

I’ve had a lot of fun playing with these psi abilities. I put some research and thought into this to make sure I have a solid scientific foundation for these abilities. It’s something familiar to paranormal readers, but grounded in science instead of the supernatural.

I hope all the readers will give the book a try. It’s different, in a good way. That’s my opinion anyway.

Thanks so much for having me, Margaret. I do have a question for the readers, so please keep scrolling to see it and enter the giveaway.

Bio: Rachel Leigh Smith writes romance for the hero lover. She lives in central Louisiana with her family and a half-crazed calico. When not writing, which isn’t often, she’s hanging with her family, doing counted cross-stitch, or yakking about life, the universe, and everything with her besties. There may also be Netflix binging . . .

She blogs sporadically at, can be found on Twitter @rachelleighgeek, and hangs out on Facebook, You can sign up for her newsletter here.

Buy Links:





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They’ve taken everything from him. Except his name.

The Loks Mé have been slaves for so long, freedom is a distant myth A’yen Mesu no longer believes. A year in holding, because of his master’s murder, has sucked the life from him. Archaeologist Farran Hart buys him to protect her on an expedition to the Rim, the last unexplored quadrant.

Farran believes the Loks Mé once lived on the Rim and is determined to prove it. And win A’yen’s trust. But she’s a breeder’s daughter and can’t be trusted.

Hidden rooms, information caches and messages from a long-dead king change A’yen’s mind about her importance. When she’s threatened he offers himself in exchange, and lands on the Breeder’s Association’s radar. The truth must be told. Even if it costs him his heart.

Question for readers: Who is your favorite romance hero?20140905_135705

Rafflecopter code: <a id=”rc-b8ecc1882″ class=”rafl” href=”” rel=”nofollow”>a Rafflecopter giveaway</a>
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Sept 20 interview with Kenneth and Anne Hicks

Tell us something about yourselves.Melange pic 2

We met at a college mixer when Anne was a sophomore at Bryn Mawr College and Ken was a junior at Haverford College. The next year we persuaded a Haverford professor to supervise a project course in which we wrote a children’s story called A MOON AND A TUNE. That book was never published, but we have been writing together ever since.

Tell us something about your newest novel.

Our newest novel will be published by Melange Publishing on October 3, 2014 and is called PRAISE HER, PRAISE DIANA. It is the story of a woman who seeks revenge for a rape by killing and castrating seemingly random men and, in the process, turns New York City upside down. The book centers around Maggie Edwards — a well-known author — who is serializing a book about a man-seducer and killer named Diana. As Maggie’s book appears in magazines, someone begins to imitate the action in real time.

How did you get the idea for this book?

The story evolved from many sources. We wanted to write a book that dealt with issues of violence against women and the effect of such violence on the daily lives of all women. We also wanted to describe the way the media can take over an incident and make it into more, and sometimes less, than it should have been. Themes of love in its many forms are intertwined in the novel as well.

You write about New York. What is your tie to the city?

We have lived here since 1973 when Ken was entering his first year at Columbia Law School. Anne was working as an editor at a small publishing company. Those were the days when we could easily live on the salary of a young editor. We had a one-bedroom apartment on East 79th Street for $300 per month. It was great! Since then we have moved to a slightly larger apartment on East 92nd Street and raised three children.

The two of you collaborate on your novels. What is your method for working together?

We start off talking about an idea in general. We take a lot of long walks and discuss basic plot outlines and themes. Then we might try to write a preliminary outline. After that come more long walks, bench-sitting, and occasional drives and eventually, if it still seems like a good idea, one of us will write a draft. At that point, the other person will tear that preliminary work to shreds and put it together again, generally, but not always, in a recognizable form. We go back and forth many, many times until we have something that we both like.

Do you ever disagree about the writing, and if so, how do you settle the arguments?

In our youth, when we first met, we were impetuous, and Anne would tend to yell or pout, depending on mood. Ken just looked brow-beaten. Now, as mature adults we talk through our differences. One of the things we have both learned is that even if a criticism of a piece of writing is not correct about what exactly is wrong, the criticism always unerringly points to the fact that something is wrong. We keep working and reworking until we are both comfortable with the finished piece of writing. We also have learned to pay attention to that feeling in the pit of our stomachs when we know something we have worked on still is not right.

What’s the best thing about working with a collaborator? The worst?

The best thing about working with a collaborator is that we are never alone when a rejection comes in the mail or the e-mail. Also, if one of us is nearing the end of his or her rope, the other is there to give a good swift kick in the rear, or maybe a hug, to get back on track.

The worst is that people don’t understand how it’s done and seem to want to know who is responsible for what part. We tell them that it is a process and there is no reason to try to divide things up, even if we could. Still, some individuals remain suspicious of the arrangement.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you ever got? The worst?

The best piece of advice we ever got is to put your head down and keep writing. But that is probably the worst advice as well. The point is that writing is hard. No measure of success is guaranteed. If it is not something that you are really compelled to do by some force inside, you probably should not get started. It will eat you alive from the inside out.

Who are your favorite authors in your genre?

If the genre is mystery, Janet Evanovich and Mary Higgins Clark are at the top of the list. But PRAISE HER, PRAISE DIANA is a hybrid of mystery/suspense and mainstream. Therefore the list broadens considerably to include Jeffrey Archer, Ken Follett and, for the mainstream element, John Irving.

What do you want readers to take away from your book?

We would like to think that we have created a group of very compelling characters, some of whom will be remembered for a long time. Also, it would be great if this portrayal of sexually based violence has the effect of informing people about other sorts of violence that occur in the daily lives of people and raising consciousness to help stop these incidents from occurring. Love in its many aspects is on the opposite side from violence, and we hope to bring some new appreciation to that as well.

What are you working on now?

We are working on a family epic called Minister. It follows the lives of two brothers from a small town on that Eastern Shore of Maryland through about twenty years of their lives. We plan for it to be about nine hundred pages in all and we hope to publish it in three or four parts, depending on how it develops.

Where can readers find you on the web?

Our Facebook author page is here

Our web site is

Where can readers buy your book?Diana_Cover

The book will be published by Melange Publishing on October 3, 2014. It will be available on the Melange web site as well as on Amazon and most other outlets as well.

Blurb for Praise Her, Praise Diana

A woman going by the name of “Diana” has begun to kill and castrate men in New York City. Her modus operandi is sweet seduction and then a knife to the heart at his moment of climax. These tactics imitate the recent novel by Maggie Edwards, a famous author of women’s fiction who was raped a few years before but had never disclosed that traumatic experience. Diana becomes a heroine to women who have suffered violence or the threat of violence and these women start to fight back in imitation of Diana while the police try desperately to find out Diana’s identity. Jane Larson, a high-powered New York matrimonial attorney, represents Maggie and a women’s group called Women Protecting Women. Jane makes the mistake of falling in love with her client and soon finds herself at the center of the action.


Anne Rothman-Hicks and Kenneth Hicks have been married for a little over forty years and have produced about twenty books and exactly three children so far. At press-time, they still love their children more.

Their most recent novels have been set in New York City, where they have lived for most of their married lives. Anne is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College where, in nineteen sixty-nine, as the fabled Sixties were drawing to a close, she met Ken, who was a student at Haverford College. They don’t like to admit that they met at a college mixer, but there it is!

Together their books include Theft of the Shroud, a novel; Starfinder, a non-fiction book about the stars for children; a series of books on individual names for children (for example Michael’s Book, Elizabeth’s Book, John’s Book, Jennifer’s Book, David’s Book, Amy’s Book); and, most recently, Kate and the Kid and Mind Me, Milady, two novels, and a middle reader/tween novel, Things Are Not What They Seem.

Ken and Anne have a website with the address set out below. There they have links to some of their books and display images that they hope will be used in future efforts. In case you were wondering abut the website address, “R” is for Rothman, “H” is for Hicks, and 71 is the year of their marriage. No secret codes or numerology anywhere. Sorry.

Contact Ken and Anne at:

or on their Facebook author page

Or, follow them on Ken’s Twitter Account @kenhicksnyc


Slow down,” I say.

He obeys.

I am his leader now. It is simply a matter of time.

I glide forward and am strangely gratified that he gasps as he enters me while I feel nothing. I may as well be a plastic mannequin. A nerveless receptacle.

Don’t pity me!

I move my hips with exquisite skill and he gasps again. Soon his breathing reaches a rhythm matching the movement of my body on top of his. It is a rhythm that carries him away to a new place. His eyelids flutter closed as he concentrates on the pleasure that I am causing to well up inside, ready to explode. And when his moment arrives and my anger can no longer be contained, I remove the knife that was hidden inside my leather boot and the blade strikes past his naked ribs to his heart, buried to the hilt in his muscle, bone and blood.

Sorry,” I say. “Did that hurt?”

His eyes open, displaying disbelief. And pain, of course.

Remember me now?”

But no sound comes from his gaping mouth. Death follows quickly, instantaneously, it seems, although I hope with all my heart that the instant of agony is long enough for him to understand that he has been tricked, and to experience the same gaping loneliness and fear that I once did.

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Writing a LGBT-friendly series by Stuart West

You know, I never set out to write a LGBT-friendly series. It just sorta’ accidentally happened. That’s a good thing, I think.TexWitchBoySeries

As a straight 53-year-old, bald, “pleasantly overweight (talk about painting a cactus pretty),” Kansas man, you’d think I’d be the last person to do so. My wife either needs new glasses or has really, really bad taste.

But I digress. When I first began the saga of Tex McKenna, I wanted to detail a series of funny, sad, dramatic murder mysteries (light on the supernatural, despite the title) that pulled on my high school miseries. The first book, Tex, the Witch Boy, deals with the topic of bullying, somewhat of an on-going theme throughout the series. I needed a cool police detective to help/hinder Tex. Detective Cowlings appeared. It didn’t take long for me to figure out he was gay. He practically told me he was, demanding his orientation. Plus it dovetailed beautifully with the bullying theme. I mean, an extremely astute, gay police detective in conservative, uptight suburban Kansas? He screamed to come to life.

In the second book, Tex and the Gangs of Suburbia, I thought it’d be daring to introduce a bisexual character. Even more daring (or so I thought), I plopped the character into the center of a “love triangle” involving my protagonist and his girlfriend. Again, the characters practically wrote themselves. Look at Margaret’s books, an inspiration. She deftly handles mixed gay, straight, bi, and different species romances, for crying out loud. Unsure of myself (my usual state-of-mind), I ran the potentially controversial storyline by my daughter who at the time was struggling through her own tenure on the battle-lines of high school.

She said, “Dad, nobody cares about that anymore.”

Huh. Cool. We’ve come a long way since my high school incarceration. Back in the day (and I won’t say when), I remember only one gay male in a student body of 1,500. That was it. And, man, did he take a verbal whipping (I don’t think he was ever physically bullied like I was, but I can’t swear to it). Anyway, I ran with my mixed sexually-oriented comedic farce. Tons of edgy fun.

The final book of the series, Tex and the God Squad, centers on the mysterious death of a closeted lesbian cheerleader. The villains, by the way, are “loosely” based upon the heinous Westboro Baptist Church. When I read about them, I knew I had to tackle them. Truly ugly. When I first envisioned the tale, I never set out for it to revolve around a lesbian death. It just sorta’ happened. The pieces of the puzzle came together, and since I was tackling the prickly topic of religion in Kansas, gay issues couldn’t be ignored. Oh, I also Elspeth 200x300introduce a gay Asian—possibly the most well-adjusted member of my increasingly sprawling cast—who returns in the spin-off, Elspeth, the Living Dead Girl.

My newest book, Godland (a dark adult suspense thriller, out September 16th), also Godland 200x300features a gay hero. Just seemed right. Take that (Im)Moral Majority! Doing my best to bring Kansas out of the dark ages.

I’d like to think I’m a liberal humanitarian bringing issues of the under-represented to light. I really would. A little of that’s true, maybe. These characters wrote themselves. And I tried not to cliché the crap outta’ them. But if I can help any bullied kid—gay or straight—with positive messages, well, it’s the best reward a writer could hope for.

Here’s an excerpt from Ted and the God Squad

Disappointed I couldn’t find a diary I spotted her computer on a desk. I powered it on, to be met with the password prompt. I typed Dwight and was shut out. I tried Pink to no avail. Looking around the room for clues, I unsuccessfully attempted several more passwords. Finally, out of desperation, I typed in Brittany. The reassuring musical cues brought the computer to life. Really, Brittany?
In the corner of the screen, a folder sat with the designation Brittany’s journal! Keep out!  Feeling somewhat like a ghoul preying upon the memories of the dead, I mentally apologized to Brittany and lamely reassured myself she’d allow me to read it.
I began with an entry from two months previously. Brittany’s writing consisted of happy, inconsequential malarkey, expounding upon how jealous she was of another girl’s hair or how nice a smile a boy had. Although she was still dating Dwight at the time, she pulled no punches in announcing his many faults, including stupidity, halitosis, and gross masculine hygiene. She wrote at great length about how being in YAC filled her with hope—a new purpose almost—a zest for life amongst her Christian friends.
Then something odd happened. Her entries became shorter, more urgent. The everyday vanity that filled prior entries was gone, replaced by a more introspective tone, very self-reflective. And seemingly self-loathing.
Brittany Gerlach developed feelings for a fellow cheerleader. A female cheerleader. At first she wrote of her extreme confusion. She didn’t understand these feelings, didn’t want these feelings. They frightened her. Soon, she grew to despise herself. She wrote how her new feelings weren’t natural—several of her later entries appeared to be addressed to God himself as she asked him why he’d made her this way, since He hated homosexuals. She felt abandoned, rejected, let down by God.  And I felt awful for Brittany. How terrible it must’ve been to go through this by herself, not letting anyone into her secret. And to have found such joy in the YAC group, only to have it snatched away from her…because she felt she wasn’t worthy of God’s love.
My heart pounded as I read her final entries.
I never should have told him, she wrote. He was the only one I trusted with my secret, and now I KNOW it’s him sending me the hateful letters, making the late night callsthreatening to tell the entire school about my secret. He can disguise his voice all he wants, but I know it’s him. And he keeps telling me the same awful thing! GOD HATES PEOPLE LIKE ME!
The day Brittany killed herself, she wrote, I can’t do it anymore. All because of something I can’t help. God doesn’t love me anymore. There’s nothing to live for.  And that awful, pain-filled sentence was the last thing Brittany Gerlach would ever write.
My stomach churned with misery. Poor Brittany. Now I was pissed. I was going to find out who sent her those letters. I was going to do it for her.
Check out Stuart’s author page on MuseItUp Publishing:
and Stuart’s blog:

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Mythic Scotland: Highland Vampires, Magical Beings, and Mysterious Places by Suz deMello

suz w name venice maskMythic Scotland: Highland Vampires, Magical Beings, and Mysterious Places by Suz deMello (#Scotland #vampires #romance #myths)

I’ve enjoyed writing my Highland Vampires series for a number of reasons—I love the characters, for one thing, and I love writing historicals. I love to research the way people lived, what they ate and wore.

And because I’m writing about supernatural creatures I’m able to incorporate a great deal of Scottish lore and legend into my work.

Banshees, kelpies, red caps and other fae creatures populate mythic Scotland. It is said that the banshee wails at the riverside before a death. Other interpretations have the baobhan-sith as blood-sucking female fae. Kelpies, or fingals cave2water-horses, are ponies which appear to the unwary by the side of a stream or loch. Appearing to be an unclaimed, wandering animal, the kelpie entices the innocent to mount. When ridden, the kelpie plunges into the water, drowning its victim.

Red caps are small fiendish creatures who kill travelers and use their blood to anoint their hats–hence the name. It is said that if the hat dries, the red cap dies. Thus, the red cap is forced to murder often to ensure survival.

Perhaps the many mysterious places in Scotland inspire such fanciful dreams. Fingal’s Cave is located on Staffa, an island of the Inner Hebrides off the western coast of Scotland. It’s a sea cave entirely composed of hexagonal basalt pillars, the product of a long-ago igneous upthrust. Matched by the Giant’s Causeway in northern Ireland, Fingal’s Cave is famed for its natural beauty as well as the melodic sounds made by the sea inside the cave. It inspired music by Felix Mendelssohn as well as a set of myths, mostly involving a Bunyanesque giant called Finn MacCool.

And, of course, there’s the most famous mystery of them all:

The Loch Ness Monster
Sightings of the world’s favorite fake monster started in the sixth century, when the Irish saint Columba scolded the monster and sent it scurrying back to the water. Almost certainly a hoax, its most famous sighting was captured in a bad photo in 1934, which was revealed as a hoax in 1999 by one of the plotters.

The believers think that Nessie is a lost pleiosaur. The rational among us believe that Nessie is, depending upon the nature of the sighting, a large otter, a seal, or even an oddly shaped tree trunk.

Even so, few places on earth can compare to Scotland. Its wealth of magical places and mythical creatures has enticed generations of travelers…and enchanted thousands of romance fans.

Here’s a selection from Desire in Tartan about an encounter with the evil baobhan-sith. The set-up is that the heroine, Alice, is traveling with the hero, Desire in TartanDugald Kilburn, through the Highlands. She has just awakened.

A chill raced up her spine, lifting the tiny hairs at Alice’s nape. Something wasn’t right. The odd, greenish light wasn’t right. Their excessive sleepiness wasn’t right.

Dugald?” She looked around again and saw him.

He was standing at the opposite side of the clearing amidst the strange lights, which wavered, coalesced, then broke apart into writhing figures that surrounded him.

Dugald!” she screamed.

He didn’t turn, didn’t make any gesture that showed that he heard her.

She ran across the dell, stumbling over tree roots and once falling over a body—Archie’s. She rolled him over then saw that his mouth was partially open. He was mumbling incoherently, “Baobhan-sith, baobhan-sith.” A long tendril of drool escaped from the side of his mouth.

Bava what? She didn’t know, and babble wouldn’t help their predicament, for she had become certain that something terrible and dangerous was taking place.

She stood and, gripping her long skirts in a shaking hand, advanced upon Dugald and the mysterious green glows. The shifting lights resolved into women, white-faced women with red-rimmed mouths. Alice was reminded horribly of Malcolm and Blain with the street whore, and of Dugald’s manner of killing the Beans. Their mouths had been red-rimmed, also, rimmed with red blood.

The women surrounded Dugald. One seized his head and dragged it to one side, exposing the big artery; Alice was now close enough to see his pulse.

The creature bared its teeth, its shiny, white, sharp teeth. Two were pointed like fangs.

She…it…sank them into Dugald’s neck.

Not my husband, you…you monster!” Alice sprang at the creature, grabbed it by its glowing green hair and hauled it off him. Dugald fell to the ground and rolled over, panting, black blood dripping from his neck.

The creature turned and laughed, the eerie cry unforgettable. It extended clawed fingertips toward Alice, reaching for her hair. She clenched her fist and socked the creature’s midsection.

Already surprised by her own ferocity, Alice was doubly stunned when her punch seemed to shatter the creature’s icy body. She gasped and shook her hand, which felt as though it had been plunged into a frozen stream.

The creature screamed, bent over like a broken twig. Alice gave it a firm shove toward the pool. It tumbled in, shrieking. As she watched, it seemed to dissipate as though the water had dissolved its icy core. A green stain spread over the pond’s clear water.

Who’s next?” Alice advanced toward the rest of the strange creatures, which seemed to melt into the forest.

If you like what you read, get the book here:

About Suz: Best-selling, award-winning author Suz deMello, a.k.a Sue Swift, has written seventeen romance novels in several subgenres, including erotica, comedy, historical, paranormal, mystery and suspense, plus a number of short stories and non-fiction articles on writing. A freelance editor, she’s held the positions of managing editor and senior editor, working for such firms Total-E-Bound, Liquid Silver Books and Ai Press. She also takes private clients.

Her books have been favorably reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and Booklist, won a contest or two, attained the finals of the RITA and hit several bestseller lists.

A former trial attorney, her passion is world travel. She’s left the US over a dozen times, including lengthy stints working overseas. She’s now writing a vampire tale and planning her next trip.
Find Suzie’s books here: (publisher’s site)


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Sandy, dry, and hot

It’s been in the nineties here in New England this week, but on the alien planet Aleyne, where Keth, the main character in my novel Relocated finds himself, it’s sandy, dry, and even hotter.

When Keth’s father accepts a new assignment as assistant to Major Brad Reynolds, head of the Terran Federation base on the alien planet Aleyne, Keth is jerked out of comfortable, secure world on Terra — Earth to us provincial types who have never left the planet — and exchanges an apartment in Washington, DC for the planet Aleyne. Brad is worried about the terrorists, who have been blowing up supplies and running drugs, and he’s convinced they’ve penetrated the computer network on the base as well as that of the Aleyni. But Brad is no computer expert, and that’s where Keth’s dad comes in. He’s an expert in both computers and the Aleyni.

In fact, as Keth learns, his father grew up on the planet and studied with Ardaval Namar, a noted Aleyni scholar. Keth becomes acquainted with some of the alien youths. When his friend’s father is kidnapped, Keth attempts to free him. Will Keth succeed or will he be captured himself? And will he be able to figure out who is behind the information leak and stop the terrorists?

Relocated is the first in the Novels of Aleyne series. Read all about them here

Relocated, a science fiction novel by Margaret Fieland

When fourteen-year-old Keth’s dad is transferred to planet Aleyne, he doesn’t know what to expect. Certainly not to discover Dad grew up here, and studied with Ardaval, a noted Aleyni scholar. On Aleyne, Keth’s psi ability develops. However, psi is illegal in the Terran Federation. After a dangerous encounter with two Terran teenagers  conflict erupts between Keth and his father. Keth seeks sanctuary with Ardaval.  Studying with the Aleyne scholar Keth learns the truth about his own heritage. After Keth’s friend’s father, Mazos, is kidnapped, Keth ignores the risks and attempts to free him. Little does he realize who will pay the cost as he becomes involved with terrorists.




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I wasn’t scared, since Dad told me about the need to take a psi exam. The Aleyni checked for any plant or animal, or whether we planned a terrorist attack. Dad said Federation anti-psi fanatics attacked a couple of times recently, so I understood why they checked carefully.

The examiner set me in a chair. He asked me again if I consented to the exam. When I said yes, the examiner put his hands on the sides of my face, looking into my eyes.

His hands burned hot against my skin. A thousand ants chewed through my brain and a voice whispered questions I couldn’t quite make out. I tried to take a breath, but my throat tightened, and I gasped aloud. I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to stop shaking. I shook my head, trying to make the voices go away, and the examiner removed his hands and stared into my eyes for a moment. The buzzing voices stopped leaving my head feeling as though it would burst open. The examiner smiled at me and passed me through the checkpoint. A couple of minutes went by before my stomach stopped heaving, but hammers still pounded inside my head.

Afterward, we walked through the spaceport. I stopped short and stared. I’d never seen a more beautiful place. The flowers planted around the gray port buildings waved in the light breeze, and the air smelled like cinnamon and cloves. Warm sun beat down on my head, and the sound of birds cawing reached my ears. I took a breath of spicy air. The twist in my gut relaxed.

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Sneak peek: Rob’s Rebellion

Here are the first six paragraphs from the fourth Aleyne novel, as yet unpublished.



A Big Mess

The squad of Federation Guard soldiers marched down the shuttle ramp and surrounded the unfortunate Major Reynolds, who waited on the blackened surface of the spaceport landing field.

Colonel Robert Walker gazed across the port. The sands just beyond the black-paved surface of the field glittered with reds and blues, and the mountains, five miles distant, loomed purple. A fresh breeze blew the cinnamon scent of the flowers that clustered around the buildings. But the beauty of the landscape contrasted with his sour mood. He was ordered to arrest the commander of the Federation base and take control of it, here on an alien planet where the native Aleyni would just as soon see the entire base drop into a hole and disappear. “Major Reynolds, you are accused of high treason and are remanded to the planet of New Oregon for trial.”

A worried frown creased Reynolds’ forehead. Rob was empath enough to realize Reynolds was uneasy. But Rob’s message requested Reynolds meet him when the shuttle landed, nothing more. His unease, growing since he’d accepted the assignment, increased again. Was the major guilty of treason or not?

Rob nodded, and a guard manacled Reynolds’ wrists and chained his ankles together. One of the guards patted the major down and confiscated his wrist chronometer and his pocket computer.

Rob squinted against the glare of the desert sun. It must be easily 20 degrees Celsius, even now, an hour past first meal.

“Get moving.” A corporal shoved Reynolds in the direction of the shuttle. The chain forced Reynolds to shuffle like an old man.

Meanwhile, check out the third, Broken Bonds


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