Friday, February 3, 2023

Sight Beyond the Sun by Melody Johnson #SciFiRomance

 


Sight Beyond the Sun
Love Beyond
Book Two
Melody Johnson

Genre: Sci-fi Romance
Publisher: Incendi Press, LLC
Date of Publication: January 24, 2023
ISBN:978-1-7351499-5-0 
ASIN: B0BG8P1596
Number of pages: 602 
Word Count: 147,970
Cover Artist: Trif Book Designs

Tagline: Separating truth from lies is impossible in the game of spies...especially the lies you tell yourself. 

Book Description:

A prison break. 

Adrenaline junkie and explosives specialist Kinsley “Switch” Morales had a chip on her shoulder long before being caught in what she suspects is some sort of intergalactic human-trafficking ring. Aliens not only exist, their reptilian bodies are stronger, their honed reflexes faster, and their shiny scales nearly impenetrable. But nothing will curb Kinsley’s resolve to commandeer their spaceship and return home to Earth—even if that means crawling behind enemy lines and cozying up to their uncompromising captain. 

An undercover mission. 

When Raveno Hoviir catches Kinsley outside her cell, wreaking havoc in his control room, he sees more than just her strength, resolve, and courage. He sees a golden opportunity to finally root out the traitor under his command and prove his brother’s loyalty before the coming revolution. After so many years undercover, Raveno is finally one mission away from saving his planet from its tyrannical ruler. He’s sacrificed everything to protect his people—his love life, his anonymity, his left leg—but in his efforts to right his father’s wrongs, has he inadvertently become the very monster he plans to overthrow? 

An unlikely alliance. 

As Kinsley and Raveno each attempt to exploit the other, they find more than just leverage for their separate missions. Inexplicably, they find common ground in their mutual devotion to family and service. Kinsley knows all too well the grief and guilt of making the wrong decision in the field, but will Raveno keep his word to send her home if she flips loyalties? Is Raveno’s softening heart compromising his judgment, or is Kinsley’s intelligence accurate? Separating truth from lies is impossible in the game of spies. Seeing beyond their surface differences and trusting in love again may be the only way to save both their people—and each other. 


Excerpt:

Raveno Hoviir didn’t suffer incompetence. He didn’t suffer anything without consequence, a policy his crew was testing time and again lately and without any perceivable sign of becoming more competent. His reputation, carefully cultivated over a long and brutal career, was usually incentive enough to inspire obedience. He couldn’t let that reputation crack, not for anything: not for his morals as he punished decent soldiers for mistakes that didn’t warrant such severity; not for his soul as he led abominable missions to maintain alliances with Bazail, Iroan, and Fray; not for his body as he’d gone to unmatched extremes to prove his loyalty to Cilvril s’Hvri Josairo.
He played the villain in service to his people, a role as necessary as it was revolting.

During Josairo’s early reign as Cilvril s’Hvri, the killing hand of Havar, he’d been the strength and armor their planet had needed to survive what historians now referred to as the War of Wrath’s Will. After bolstering their military forces and gaining the autonomy to wield them as he deemed necessary, Josairo achieved what four previous Cilvrili s’Hvri had died failing to accomplish: He’d secured Havar’s independence from her sister planet, Haven, and ended years of oppression and tyranny.

Or so the historians claimed and the schools taught. Based on Raveno’s first-hand experience, he often wondered if Josairo hadn’t simply murdered historians until he’d found one willing rewrite the war to his liking.

Nevertheless, however he’d managed to wrest unilateral control of their military and judicial systems, Josairo’s unmatched combat skills ensured he kept it, even as he modified their fleet of luxury destination ships into prison transport vessels. Even as he ordered the abduction and trafficking of innocent, sentient people. Even as the peace and prosperity he’d supposedly achieved following their victory against Haven soured into fear-filled obedience. In earning their independence, the havari had traded a foreign tyrant for a domestic one, and every warrior brave enough to challenge Josairo to a frisaes and legally end his rule had thus far lost.

When Raveno ended his rule, it wouldn’t be legal. But he would win.

Until then, the weight of Raveno’s sins were his to bear or be crushed by. Which made confronting the horrific results of his own undercover operation insufferable, knowing his reputation would demand he deliver swift and harsh punishment when faced with his crew’s greatest incompetence to date: a human outside her room and tampering with the equipment in their control room, of all places.

Dellao and Tironan were asleep in their seats, and the woman, cry mercy, the woman was fierce as only a mother could be, all snapping eyes and straining muscles. Some people withered from the poison of oppression, but not her. She seemed fueled by it. She gritted her square teeth with determination. Her soft cheeks flushed a deep crimson from her efforts, and her scent—Raveno sealed shut his nostrils, cutting short that disturbing thought before it could fully form.

“Who do you work for?” Thev sa shek, a traitor on board Sa Vivsheth was the last thing he needed.

Her jaw fell slack. “Y-y-you speak English?”

“Obviously.” His English was rusty and not quite as good as his Mandarin, but still good enough for interrogation. “Who sent you?”

“I think we got off on the wrong foot.” She licked her lips, and deep indents on the corners of her mouth dipped into her cheeks. “My name is Kinsley Morales, but my friends call me Switch.”

He stared at her a moment. Had she just introduced herself? Didn’t she realize she was being interrogated? To death, if she didn’t cooperate.

Please, just cooperate.

“My mother named me after my paternal grandmother. An ‘apology’ name, I always said, because she’d named my sister in honor of her mother, which caused quite a stir on my father’s side of the family. But everyone’s ruffled feathers settled after she named me. The only time my presence had settled anyone’s feathers.” She ran out of air and inhaled a deep, trembling breath.

“What’s your name?”

Ah, he might have believed her composure if not for that tremble. She knew her predicament precisely and was attempting to save herself by appealing to his compassion.

The man he’d become to overthrow Josairo couldn’t afford compassion. “Did my brother recruit you with the promise of freedom? What are your orders?”

The woman flinched. A pained whine escaped her clenched teeth.

Svik, was he hurting her? Raveno loosened his hold, just in case. It might come to that, but not now and certainly not by mistake.

Yet, even beaten down, in pain, and defeated, the gleam of calculation sharpened the woman’s gaze.

Strong in mind if not in body, he thought warily, knowing the terrible efforts it took to break the strong of will. His own physical wound had long since healed, but the muscles of his residual limb often pained him as if his left calf still remained, twisted foot and all.

“Must I repeat the question?” he asked. If not Tironan, someone on board had released her.

The furry tuft above her right eye lifted. “How should I know if I know your brother if I don’t even know you?”

Ha! Fine. He spoke his full name and rank for her in traditional Hvrsil, just for the pleasure of matching her obstinacy with his.

“I…I’m not sure I can pronounce that,” she admitted.

“Considering the deficiencies in the form and function of your tongue, I expect not.”

She narrowed her eyes, clearly unsure if she should be insulted. “Do you have a nickname too? Something less, er, taxing on the vocal cords?”

“No.”

“What do your friends call you?” she tried.

“I have no friends.”

“Something I can call you while I beg for mercy, then,” she snapped.

A laugh overtook him at that, as swift, unwanted, and jarring as a seizure. Oh, this woman was a little firework: all sparks and fierce light wedging lethally beneath his scales.

“When you beg for mercy, you may call me by the modern Haveo version of my name,” he relented. “Raveno Hoviir.”

“A pleasure to meet you, Raveno Hoviir.”

He was certain it wasn’t.



About the Author: 

Melody Johnson is the award-winning author of the “out of this world” Love Beyond series and the gritty, paranormal romance Night Blood series published by Kensington Publishing/ Lyrical Press. She graduated magna cum laude from Lycoming College with her B.A. in creative writing and psychology. 

Earning the 2021 Maggie Award of Excellence, Beyond the Next Star (Love Beyond, book 1) is an exciting branch from Melody's paranormal romance roots, keeping the dark grit from her Night Blood Series and taking it to new worlds. Her first published novel, The City Beneath (Night Blood, book 1), was a finalist in the “Cleveland Rocks” and “Fool For Love” contests. 

When she isn’t writing, Melody enjoys swimming, hiking, reading, and exploring her new home in southeast Georgia. 

Stay in touch with Melody on social media or her website: http://authormelodyjohnson.com/ 



 

 






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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Author Interview - Titanian Warrior by Victoria Saccenti


Tell us a little about your latest or upcoming release.

Titanian Warrior Hagen Westerberg is falling prey to blood-lust, the curse that afflicts all the unmated males of his kind. He’s a step away from going completely rogue. The universe can’t allow a rogue Titanian to exist, as their power is god-like. It falls on The Enforcer to terminate his life. There’s one problem, The Enforcer is Soren, Hagen’s brother. Meanwhile, a mysterious mage plots to manipulate Hagen for his own nefarious purposes, until Faiza, a humble servant girl steps in. 

Have you ever based your book or characters on actual events or people from your own life?

No. I can’t. It’s too close to home. 

Is there a theme or message in your work that you would like readers to connect to?

Even the most flawed characters have a chance at redemption.

What would your readers be surprised to learn about you?

Long ago, I danced in nightclubs with a show review.

When you’re not writing what do you do? Do you have any hobbies or guilty pleasures?

I love to watch movies and eat popcorn. I also read a lot.

Is there a genre(s) that you’d like to write that you haven’t tackled yet?

I’d like to tackle a good detective story. I don’t know if I have the talent to do it. It takes a special mind to write crime.

Of all the characters you’ve ever written, who is your favorite and why?

I can’t choose. I love them all. I used to think Xavi of Destiny’s Plan was my favorite, then Richard Winters came up. Now I love Talaith and Kailen from The Last Danann. 

If this book is part of a series…what is the next book? Any details you can share?

The next book is pointing at Eachann, lead Vampire of the Skara Brae clan and his ill-fated affair with the druid Brysys. Plus, an unexpected twist happened at the end of Titanian Warrior. I can’t reveal that here. I’m curious to see how this is going to pan out.

What is next for you? Do you have any scheduled upcoming releases or works in progress?

I’m currently writing the next book in the Central Florida Stories. This is a collection of super-steamy contemporary romance novels. 

What book are you reading now?

Vanquish by Pam Godwin.


Titanian Warrior
Titanian Chronicles 
Book Three
Victoria Saccenti

Genre: PNR/Fantasy Romance
Publisher: Essence Publishing
Date of Publication: January 31, 2023
ISBN: 9798987432211   
ASIN: B0BNZFHM28
Number of pages: app 245
Word Count: 82825
Cover Artist: Scott Carpenter

Tagline: One woman holds the key to his destiny—and his people’s salvation.

Book Description: 

Hagen drags himself to the gates of Hell, body and soul shredded by the bloodlust that consumes all the unmated of his kind. Awaiting the painful atonement that will buy him ten more years to find his eternal mate—or face oblivion. But Hades himself kicks him out with the bloodlust still prowling, unsatisfied, in his veins. 

Bargained away by her parents to Master O, a mysterious, cruel wizard, Faiza serves in his household, keeping her small magic a secret, plagued by wild, confusing visions of a strange, suffering man. Then the master brings home a wounded Titanian warrior whose touch sends ice, fire, and desire racing through her body. 

When she learns Master O plans to use Hagen as a weapon to conquer all races, she devises a desperate plan to free him—a plan that opens a portal to a world she’s never known. And a destiny entwined with danger that could destroy them all.

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Excerpt:

Shivalik Hills, Nepal

The towering pair of boulders stood as gatekeepers and markers of the way. A steep path snaked between them until farther down the hill, the road disappeared in thick fog. Leaning on the closest rock, Hagen steadied himself to catch his breath, then pushed on.

Bloodlust crippled his Titanian vision. Still, he stumbled, rolled, and crawled over jagged rocks and gnarled roots with single-minded determination to reach his appointed meeting place, the cavern at the base of the Shivaliks, and the sole entrance to Hades’s domain on the earthly plane. A perverse satisfaction filled him each time he scraped and sliced his exposed skin, as this was only a precursor to the punishment he deserved. If he could shred his flesh to strips in anticipation as he had done with his clothes, so much the better.

Hagen advanced through the haze, seeking the deity’s promised signal. Images of his frenzy during the last skirmish prodded him. He strained past gore-filled images, and the effort paid off. There, deep within the haze, a faint red light marked the spot. Alecto had not forgotten. A hitched breath escaped his lungs as he stood and trod on a more secure step.

As the haze dissipated, the cavern’s hungry mouth gaped before him. Healing and deliverance acquired through pain would soon be his. As he inched closer to the wavering light, he removed the last remaining strips of clothing. The offering had to be bare and unadulterated. Nothing but skin would satisfy the Fury, purify his spirit, and postpone the horror of termination for another ten years—a mere blip in the lifespan of a Titanian. And yet, a decade offered hope and an opportunity to continue his search for true salvation: his eternal mate.

His brother Soren had been at the edge of obliteration when the universe revealed Maya’s symbol in his scrolls. He’d been given a Simurgh, no less, the most powerful of all phoenix mates. Soren’s joy and deliverance had pleased Hagen without reservation or a covetous thought. His brother had earned such a high reward.

But what about him? Was he unworthy of an eternal mate, of love, and companionship? He’d only wished for a small slice of heaven. His cousin Roald had found eternal happiness with Ginny. Staring at an endless existence of service and loneliness was a frightening prospect for a Titanian of any rank.

Hagen could never be the brilliant fighter Soren was, and had, on occasion, not followed every command to the letter. Nevertheless, he’d proven his mettle and unwavering loyalty to the Titanian cause in and out of combat. Many a night, he’d promised to change his unorthodox ways and toe the line, if only the universe would grant him a phoenix mate.

Alas no, he’d been denied time and again. After witnessing from the sidelines the mating ceremony and resulting Titanian bliss, frustration burned a hole in his chest. Before the emotion turned to bitterness, he’d escaped to his old daemon hunting grounds in Asia.

On his flight back, he realized that his cherished airplane and state-of-the-art electronic gadgets no longer satisfied or entertained him. Even that last bit of gratification had been taken from him. Because seeing happiness unfold for Soren and Roald had displayed in real time what mattered: the completion a mate brought to a Titanian’s soul. The beaming couples had stepped up onto a new plane of existence. After witnessing their ascendance, no fancy equipment could ever fulfill him.

The hole in his chest turned black and cold.

Blood hunger, the deadly lust, awoke.

Visions tortured him. Rage drove him to living nightmares. He searched for minion hideouts and sought conflict at every turn. In the heat of these encounters, bloodlust blinded him to allies and friends who’d trusted him with their lives. Asian black bear and clouded leopard shifters had perished under his hands. While his bewildered, dying friends pleaded for their lives, he’d only seen minions. The red haze controlled him, and he’d indulged the insatiable hunger to spill all blood.

The last clash had been the worst. Standing on a promontory, Hagen viewed an endless battlefield stained with red blood, green ooze, and mutilated remains. And as the mental fog cleared, horror captured his soul and he fell on his knees, begging the universe for help.
The chthonic deity, the implacable Alecto, heard and replied in his mind.

“Await my arrival at the place of atonement.”

Explanations had not been necessary. Hagen’s Titanian spirit, same as every supernatural in the earthly plane, knew the location of the terrible gate. In eras past, he’d avoided going near it. Now, stripped to his natural state, defeated and humbled, he entered the darkness with a bowed head and an anxious demeanor.

To his right, four stonelike posts, spread in a rectangular formation, jutted out of the rock wall. Hagen studied them, unsure of what to do.

“Step in. Face out and clasp the posts. Place your ankles outside each one,” the Fury instructed.

“Receive and accept the pain, Titanian. Do not flinch or resist. Show your contrition. Only then will the universe accept your offering.”





About the Author:

Award-winning, multi-genre author Victoria Saccenti writes romantic women’s fiction, contemporary romance, and paranormal romance. Not one for heart and flower stories, she explores the edgy twists and turns of human interaction, the many facets of love, and all possible happy endings.  After thirty years of traveling the world, she’s settled in Central Florida. She splits her busy schedule between family and her active muse at Essence Publishing. However, if she could convince her husband to sell their home, she would pack up her computer and move to Scotland, a land she adores. On a side note, in one form or another, Scotland appears in most of her stories.












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Chaos, Kids, and Writing with Kristy Centeno

My life can best be described as chaos. I have a full-time job, a family, and I’m also pursuing higher education so I’m a part-time student too. In addition to furthering my education, I signed myself off for work training to increase my chances of moving up the ranks in the company I work for. So, I feel like I have three full-time jobs instead of one. I’m constantly on the go, barely have time for myself, and I’m surviving on five to six hours of sleep every night. This doesn’t include any after-school activities the kids might have on a weekly basis, plus all the errands I usually run during the week.

Time management is my best friend right now. The only way I can keep track of everything is by keeping notes on my calendar and determining how many hours of training, homework, studying, and writing I can pull off in between work, family, and other responsibilities. It’s not easy by any means, but I don’t put too much thought into what needs to be done. I just do it. Because thinking about what I have to do becomes extremely overwhelming sometimes. I have an hour-long lunch break, and you’ll usually find me catching up on homework or writing after I inhale my lunch.

I don’t slow down much, but when I do it’ll be to just enjoy family time with the kids. We will play a board game or watch a movie and just enjoy each other’s company.

Tale of a Body Thief 
Rovena Silvex 
Book One
Kristy Centeno

Genre: Urban Fantasy
Date of Publication: May 12, 2022
Number of pages: 441
Word Count: 128000
Cover Artist:Ammonia Book Covers

Book Description:

Her special abilities can save lives, but so can they kill.

Rovena Silvex has hunted and eliminated dozens of demons throughout the ten years since her initiation as a hunter. Possessing supernatural skills only makes her job a lot easier.

When she’s asked to visit the county morgue to look over a deceased victim and find out what demon killed him, the body rising from the dead is the last thing she expects.

Now Rovena is stuck with a walking corpse and no answers as to how he managed to return to the world of the living. However, the victim has changed and the more time she spends with him, the more she realizes that what crossed over might not have been the soul of the dead man but something much worse.

Complications arise when her new assignment is targeted by demons hell-bent on making sure he stays dead for good.

Killing demons has always been a piece of cake. Keeping one alive however, is a whole new ballgame for her. If she fails, she risks setting in motion a war between heaven and hell. But if she succeeds, she could trap a powerful Lord in a world he doesn’t belong in, forever.

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Excerpt

Rovena reached out again, hoping more contact would provide more insight. It didn’t happen often, but sometimes she got another glimpse into the victim’s life when she prodded further. It was the only tool she could make good use of now, and she was desperate enough for answers to try again. Even if reliving his death was the last thing she wanted to do. Or see.

She extended her fingers, dreading touching the cold skin but determined to do it just the same.

A cool breeze behind her ceased her progress. She froze with her fingers midway to their destination as goosebumps broke across her skin. She whirled around, expecting to find someone or something standing there.

The space behind her was empty.

Tiny tremors pulsated across her palms. Not the usual response when a demon was nearby but an alarm that warned her something otherworldly was at work.

Something otherworldly that she couldn’t envision.

Thank the heavens for her built-in danger detector. Not many in her field were blessed with the same, and hers always came in handy, even if she couldn't always find what hunted in the shadows.

The inability to see what had momentarily entered the room suggested it wasn’t a demon. But whatever it was had moved on as quickly as it appeared.

She turned back to the corpse in front of her and nearly jumped out of her skin.

His eyes were wide open and staring right at her.

What the actual fuck.

Rovena had seen some crazy shit in her life, but this was bizarre even for her.

Fast as a cobra, he struck, aiming for her throat. She had no time to react before his hand closed around her windpipe. Glowing red eyes glared up at her while long, lean fingers tightened dangerously around her neck. The man forced her back as he sat up and slid off the gurney. The blanket covering the lower half of his body fluttered to the floor and pooled at his feet. He stepped over it as he pushed her toward the wall behind her, his grip narrowing as he moved.



About the Author:

Kristy Centeno loves to spin tales of creatures that go bump in the night, with a sprinkle of romance to top them off. Her passion for writing stems from a lifelong enjoyment of reading and the pleasure derived from the magical worlds created by authors like her. She prefers her female leads strong, independent, and stubborn who will stop at nothing to save their loved ones and protect those they care for.

Kristy currently resides in Pennsylvania with her five kids, a quartet of noisy parakeets, and a spoiled puppy. When she’s not working or writing, she juggles her free time between raising a handful of minions and pursuing other career goals.









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Monday, January 30, 2023

Magic Wands Made by Author Donald Firesmith


I love colored gemstones and working with wood. 

As a hobby, I combine these two passions by handcrafting one-of-a-kind, bejeweled magic wands in accordance with the book I wrote on the topic, Magical Wands: A Cornucopia of Wand Lore.

I make both simple wands from tree branches and wands that I turn on a lathe.




Each wand has a precious stone on its tip and another on its end cap. The stones I use vary from inexpensive moonstones and tiger’s eyes all the way to the more expensive sapphires, rubies, and emeralds. 


I usually use faceted stones for the tips and cabochons for the end caps. 

I typically harvest branches from local trees (many in my backyard) and order many varieties of woods for the wands I turn on my lathe. 

I sell these wands on my Etsy store, at book fairs, and at science fiction conventions, where I sell autographed copies of my books.



I also make commissioned wands for people who want specific woods, gemstones, and shapes.

Hell Holes: A Slave’s Revenge
Hell Holes
Book Four
Donald Firesmith

Genre: SciFi, Dystopian, Alien Invasion 
Publisher: Magical Wand Press
Date of Publication: August 1, 2021
ISBN: 979-8527374209 (Paperback — Amazon KDP)
ASIN: B09416M34X 
Number of pages: 455
Word Count: 105,000
Cover Artist: Ellie Augsburger 

Tagline: An epic story of love, loss, friendship, and survival under the most hellish of conditions
 
Book Description:

A multi-award-winning prequel to the Hell Holes series of alien invasion novels, Hell Holes: A Slave’s Revenge is an epic story of love, loss, friendship, and survival under the most hellish of conditions.

A typical Alaskan teenager, Paul’s greatest joy is hunting and fishing with his father. But when alien demons attack his family’s isolated cabin, they shatter Paul’s comfortable life. After killing his father, the demons enslave Paul, his mother, and his twin sister and teleport them to a desert world in the Demonic Empire. Once on the planet Hell, the captives’ survival is far from certain, and they face a terrible choice. They can either live as useful slaves or be immediately slaughtered as food for the merciless demons.

With his demon masters demanding their slaves’ absolute obedience to their brutal human overseers, Paul soon learns to hide his burning hatred and desire for revenge behind the stoic expression of a servile slave. But as the years slowly pass, Paul adapts to survive, first as a field slave and then as a gladiator. Will he live long enough to take his revenge, or will Paul’s years of slavery rob him of his will to resist and cost him his humanity?



Excerpt:

Prologue

MY NAME IS PAUL CHAPMAN. When I was just fifteen years old, a band of demonic aliens murdered my father and captured my mother, sister, and me. These vicious creatures — the source of humanity’s myths of devils, imps, and hellhounds — took us through a hidden portal to Hell, the nearest planet to Earth in their vast empire. I spent the next twenty-three years there as their slave.

I was rescued during the Armageddon War and became the only captive human to ever escape from Hell. Over the following months, members of the US military and various specialists spent countless hours interviewing and debriefing me to learn everything I knew about Hell and the demons. They provided a therapist to help me recover from my horrendous experiences and adjust to my new life back on Earth. She recommended I document my life as a slave. This book is my story: the autobiography of my life as a slave on Hell.

The Hunt-Chapter 1

MY PARENTS, Robert and Mary Chapman, met while first-year students at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. He studied wildlife biology while she studied anthropology, concentrating her studies on the history and culture of the native Inuit. Although they had grown up in the Lower 48, they fell in love with Alaska and decided to remain after graduating.

Dad had hoped to obtain a job as a wildlife biologist, but such jobs were rare and paid little. Mom hadan even harder time finding suitable work. So, when my maternal grandfather died two years later, my parents decided to use her modest inheritance to buy a dry cabin and live a subsistence lifestyle. They would hunt caribou and moose, trap small game for furs and food, and fish for salmon during spawning season.

Mom and Dad eventually bought a cabin on the north shore of the Kobuk River. Only seven miles upstream of the tiny town of Kobuk, the house was close enough to make buying provisions easy. The town’s simple landing strip also made visiting relatives practical and would enable evacuation in case of a medical emergency.

Miles from their nearest neighbors, the cabin was also isolated enough to offer all the seclusion a family could ever want. Nestled between the nearby river and the Brooks Range a few miles to the north, my parents had found the home of their dreams.

My twin sister, Sarah, and I were born a few years later, and we grew up in some of the most beautiful land imaginable. The chores were many, the work was hard, but the rewards of freedom and the wilderness’s majesty made the hardships well worthwhile. I loved the life and couldn’t imagine ever leaving it.

This story begins when Sarah and I were fifteen. It was early August, and the Chinook salmon were running up the river to spawn. After breakfast, Mom and Sarah were going fishing. Dad and I had built a fish wheel, an ingenious tool that automatically catches the salmon. An underwater fence forces some of the fish towards the wheel that the river’s current turns. Baskets attached to the wheel’s rim scoop up the fish and dump them into a box. Mom and Sarah were going to carry the salmon back to the cabin, clean them, and hang them up over a fire in our smokehouse. Their work would ensure we would have plenty of smoked salmon to eat during the long Alaskan winter.

While they were fishing, Dad and I would hunt moose and check our traps for small game. We took our rifles and headed upriver away from town. We left our dog, Sergeant, behind so her barking would warn Mom and Sarah of any bear that might be attracted by the smell of our fish.

We started by checking our traps, but they were empty. Not a single one had been tripped. And we didn’t spot any small game even though we didn’t talk, and we walked carefully to avoid making any unnecessary noise.

When it was nearing lunchtime, we turned around and headed back to our cabin. This time, instead of following the river trail, we hiked up towards the nearby mountains forming the southern edge of the Brooks Range. As before, the area seemed completely devoid of animal life, which was pretty unusual. We’d typically see something, even if it was too far away or on the far side of the river.

About halfway home, we spotted the remains of a bull moose that had been recently killed.

Because the bears were busy with the salmon, we initially thought it had been brought down by wolves. But it wasn’t. Enormous chunks of flesh had been removed in single bites, and the bites’ edges were too clean to have been made by wolves or bears.

It was strange that we couldn’t identify the tracks in the soft ground around the carcass. There were many large and small hoof prints, but they were shorter and rounder than moose and elk tracks.

Stranger still were the giant paw prints from the carnivore that had brought down the moose.

Easily twice the length of wolf prints, they had only three toes, and the separate claw marks were much longer than wolf or even bear claws. Dad, the biologist, was stumped. The prints didn’t seem to belong to any Alaskan wild animal or to any animal for that matter. The only tracks he could think of that were even somewhat similar were those of ostriches, emus, and cassowaries.

But the claw marks were too short for ostrich and emu tracks, and the cassowary only has one claw that long, not three.

“Dad, how about a really big dog?” I asked. “Maybe a Newfoundland had lost a toe.”

Dad shook his head. “Can’t be. See how the toes are arranged symmetrically? And besides, why would a dog have the same toe removed on each paw?”

“What about a dinosaur?” I suggested jokingly.

Dad actually considered it for a second before answering, “You know, it does look a little like a theropod footprint. It might have been a reasonable hypothesis if it weren’t for the little fact they’re all extinct except for the birds. No, this has to be a hoax. Someone’s trying to start a rumor about a strange beast roaming the Alaskan wilderness. Probably wants to draw tourists hoping to catch sight of the mythological creature.”

“But Dad, what about the bite marks?”

“My guess is that they used a curved knife to make them. Still, whoever did it did a good job.

They had me going for a bit. Come on, let’s head home and tell the girls about our mysterious find.”

So, we hiked back to the cabin and had lunch with Mom and Sarah. They told us about the baskets of fish they had caught and cleaned. We told them about the moose kill we’d stumbled on, the strange tracks, and the huge bite marks. Mom agreed with Dad that it wouldprobably turn out to be a hoax, but Sarah wasn’t sure what to think.

After lunch, Dad and I headed out again to see if we’d have any better luck hunting. We didn’t.

The animals, both big and small, were still missing, and we were once more forced to come back empty-handed. I did, however, carry my camera with me and took some pictures of our find. For a laugh, I figured I would upload them onto Facebook the next time I was back in town where I could get internet service.

 

About the Author:

Donald Firesmith is a multi-award-winning author of speculative fiction including science fiction (alien invasion), fantasy (magical wands), horror, and modern urban paranormal novels and anthologies of short stories.

Prior to retiring to devote himself full-time to his novels, Donald Firesmith earned an international reputation as a distinguished engineer, authoring seven system/software engineering books based on his 40+ years spent developing large, complex software-intensive systems.

He lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with his wife Becky, his daughter Sera, and varying numbers of dogs and cats.







Wednesday, January 25, 2023

In the Kitchen with A.N. Sage- Recipe for Mocha à la Joe #InTheKitchen #Recipe #MochaàlaJoe



Mocha à la Joe


Ingredients:
1/2 cup cocoa 
2 tablespoons caramel sauce
whipped cream
1/2 cup 2% milk
heavy cream
Double long espresso shot
Optional: a dash of sugar and sea salt 

Instructions:
1. Combine cocoa and milk and heat in a double broiler slowly until mixture is creamy. If using a microwave to heat, do so in 30 seconds intervals.
2. Add mixture to espresso and stir.
3. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of caramel sauce inside a glass jar or cup.
4. Pour coffee and chocolate mixture into cup.
5. Froth 1/4 cup of heavy cream and add to cup (add as much as preferred to taste, more cream will create a richer consistency).
6. Add whipped cream on top and drizzle remaining 1 tablespoon of caramel atop whipped cream.
7. Sprinkle cocoa powder to top of caramel and whipped cream. 
8. For an added bite, sprinkle a dash of sugar and sea salt mix.

A Grave Roast
Orchard Hollow 
Book One
A.N. Sage

Genre: Paranormal Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Cauldron Press
Date of Publication: January 23, 2023
ISBN: 978-1-989868-28-7
ASIN: B0BPDXZ7F5
Number of pages: Approximately 340
Word Count: 80,000
Cover Artist: Cauldron Press Designs

Book Description: 

Piper Addison has three problems: a broken espresso machine, malfunctioning magic, and a dead body. Guess which one she doesn’t see coming?

One month from forty, Piper Addison thinks she finally has life figured out. Sure, her bank account could be fuller and the cafe she opened with the last of her savings could use some help, but what’s a few kinks for an Orchard Hollow witch?

Too bad Piper can’t witch to save her life, which is exactly what she might need to do when a dead body is discovered in the alley behind her cafe. To make matters worse, all the evidence points to Piper and the local sheriff is not too keen on the town’s paranormal inhabitants.

When a mysterious envelope lands on Piper’s doorstep, she has a decision to make: go behind the sheriff’s back and try to clear her name, or spend her fortieth birthday in a prison cell.

A Grave Roast is a paranormal cozy mystery complete with an unlucky witch, a ghost familiar, and a feisty raccoon with a talent for getting into sticky situations.




Excerpt:

We started for the front door when my attention caught on something on the floor of the hall. Close to the bedroom lay a small carpet with two silver dishes, one filled with water and the other empty. I bent down and picked up the empty dish, reading the inscription etched into the metal. “Margaret the Third.”

“Who?” Stella asked.

I put the dish down. “Daniel’s dog. Did you see a dog around here?”

The ghost shook her head and looked around.

“Me either. Very odd.”

“Maybe someone else has it? Or the police took it or something?”

My thoughts ran a mile a minute, and I steadied my breathing, continuing the trek to the front. “Maybe.” Before leaving, I went back into the kitchen and opened all the cupboards.

Motioning for Stella to get closer, I nodded toward the big bag of dog food in one cupboard. “Don’t you think if they took the dog, they’d take her food?”

“I don’t know,” Stella said. She opened her mouth with a fake yawn. “Well, this was about as fun as a trip to the dollar store, so good luck with the rest and I’ll see you at home.”

With that, she disappeared, leaving me alone in the apartment once more. I stared at the dog food for another few minutes, trying to figure out why someone would take Daniel’s dog, but not anything to feed her with. If Daniel had a dog sitter, I was sure they’d take care of the animal, considering how important she was to the warlock. And if it was the police who took her… I shook the thought away. Why did the police need a spoiled brat of a dog? If anything, they’d ship her off to a shelter.

I made a mental note to check the animal shelter in the morning to ease my spinning mind and walked to the front. Before I left, I cast a glance at the stack of papers on the console table where Cilia’s threatening email hid in the pile.

“Why was she so angry with you?” I asked the empty room.

The next question I kept to myself, refusing to give it power. Was Cilia angry enough to kill? If it was her that hurt the warlock, it still didn’t explain the envelope I received or the talisman. Unless the talisman was Cilia’s and Daniel stole it?

But why?

It seemed the visit to the warlock’s apartment only sparked more questions, and I still found nothing that could help clear my name in the eyes of the police. “What if—No, don’t even think about it!”

I reached for the door handle.

“Don’t think about what?” Stella asked behind me.

My mind must have been spinning furiously because this time, I didn’t have a mini heart attack when she snuck up on me. “I thought you went home.”

“I did. Turns out it’s quite a bore there as well,” she explained. “So, what is it you shouldn’t think about?”

Lips in a thin line, I looked at the console table again. “Just wondering about the dog,” I told her. “And the hex pouch. And Cilia.”

“Who’s Cilia?”

“One of Nancy’s coven mates. Looks like she was pretty ticked off with Daniel for some promotion he got. I was wondering if she could have been mad enough to do something about it.”

Stella’s face paled, or as pale as it could get for a ghost. “Witches will be witches, darling.” She turned around and started to vanish again, but before she did, she said something absolutely crazy. “If you’re that worried about it, why not ask her yourself?”

As my wild familiar disappeared, her words lingered in the air where she once stood, and for the first time, I didn’t think her insane. I hated to admit it, but Stella had a point. There was one clear way to answer all my questions and find out how I got roped into this gruesome situation.

I had to question Cilia, and I had to do it before the police. If I was right and she had something to do with Daniel’s death, I knew the witch would pin the entire thing on me, if only for the chance to gain favor with Nancy.

This, friends, was exactly why I didn’t have a coven.

You couldn’t trust a witch, not in Orchard Hollow.





About the Author:

A.N. Sage is a bestselling, award-winning author of mystery and fantasy novels. She has spent most of her life waiting to meet a witch, vampire, or at least get haunted by a ghost. In between failed seances and many questionable outfit choices, she has developed a keen eye for the extra-ordinary.

A.N. spends her free time reading and binge-watching television shows in her pajamas. Currently, she resides in Toronto, Canada with her husband who is not a creature of the night and their daughter who just might be.

A.N. Sage is a Scorpio and a massive advocate of leggings for pants.