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First, the mysterious bag of tricks…


Writing is an adventure, as I never know where my characters are going to take me while we search for their happily ever after.

I often start my journey feeling like The Fool, in a Tarot reading. I’ve got my story idea tied up in a little knapsack hanging from a stick. I’ve got the concept of the path this story will be taking laid out neatly before me, the distant horizon my main goal.

But what happens from that first step of writing Chapter One, to completing the journey at The End is where the adventure unfolds, weaves, and winds itself into a book.

I am both a plotter  and a pantser. All my good intentions are neatly outlined and ready to be followed. I color coordinate each scene by the character’s POV, I have notes at the beginning of each chapter reminding myself what is going to happen.

And then the characters take over. They usually tap on the inside of my skull in the middle of the night asking if I’ve got a minute to discuss something. I often tell them no, turn over, and attempt sleep. But the tapping gets louder (somewhat like a raven perched upon a bust rapping at someone’s chamber door) until I cannot ignore them any longer. They pick out character flaws that aren’t in keeping with how they envision themselves. They voice discontent with the way a scene turned out. They give me ideas on what personality quirks they’d like to embrace.

Usually they are polite and respectful. But sometimes they can get ornery.

In my recent WIP, BOOK 3 of the Earth and Sky Series, LOST IN YOUR RHYTHM, Liza felt she was too shy and intimidated. She wanted to know karate, and be uninhibited when it came to verbalizing her needs in bed.

She also was very upset that her mother was drinking too much merlot and said it made her mom look like she had a dependency and that wasn’t who her mother was. Yes, this was a real conversation at about 3 a.m. one morning.

So I gave Liza an education in the martial arts, had her take a drunken man who was hitting on her down in a bar on her first date with Jack (her love interest), and changed the magnum of merlot her mother drank at dinner to two glasses.

She let me sleep after that.

While these sort of experiences make writing exciting and new to me. My husband is the one who truly lives a life of adventure. He’s gotten used to the idea of me blurting out (mid-dinner, shopping, sitting on our front porch) tidbits of information about my characters, what recently may have happened with them, or a trauma they are facing. One time I woke up in the middle of the night and yelled out, “Brooke’s dead! I have to bring her back to life! I can’t let her die!”

So when it comes to adventure, all I have to do is plot out a book, pack my knapsack, and resign myself to being a Fool who loves to travel down paths unknown in search of that perfect happily ever after.



Dan couldn’t get to Jayde fast enough. After reading Jayde’s home address in the group text, Dan knew what he had to do. And it couldn’t wait another moment. Gotta love Brooke, for all her meddling. Tricky Brooke, Jayde had said. She was right. Thank you, tricky Brooke.

His bike rumbled down the dark country roads as he stayed alert looking for deer and other critters that might be out strolling the highway. He replayed the night, the awkward looks, his connection to Daphne, how much she reminded him . . . of him.

As he rolled into town, the streets empty and most of the houses darkened, he listened to the GPS directions piped into his helmet until finally he slowed to a stop in front of Jayde’s house. No lights shone in any of the windows, yet he held onto the hope that maybe she was still awake. At this point, he didn’t care. He needed to hear her voice tell him what it took him this long to figure out. What Brooke had been hinting at all along.

He killed the motor, threw his leg over the bike, and as he strode up the walkway he slipped his helmet off, cradling it under his arm. Climbing the porch steps, he called out her name, his balled fist rapping quickly on the door. Finally, through small rectangular panes lining either side of the front entrance, he saw a light come on as Jayde appeared. After peeking out at him through the curtained narrow side window, the door creaked open enough for Jayde’s face to peer out.

“Dan?” she asked, her sleepy voice echoing confusion and alarm. “What are you doing here?”

“Are you alone?” He peeked past her shoulder.

“It’s pretty late. What are you doing here?” She put an arm out against the door jam, and her attempt to look tough was lost as she stood before him in a pale gray and teal night shirt, her hair damp and loose from a recent shower. She was freaking beautiful.

“I . . . I . . .” he stammered, hardly able to form the thought, let alone speak it. What am I doing here? He dropped his helmet to the porch and grabbed her by her shoulders, kissing her hard and deep, needing to taste her one last time in case this all exploded in his face. She jerked away and as she went to slam the door, his boot stopped her. “Don’t. Please. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have. Jayde?”

“You have to leave,” she whispered.

His voice cracked. “Why? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Tell you what?” Her chest rose and fell, and her voice trembled as she spoke.

“That I’m their father,” he said, his voice cracking under the weight of his conclusion that Daphne and Dylan were his children.



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Adventure isn’t only for the young!


I grew up with adventures. As a child in rural Iowa, I ventured into the woods and fields of our small farm, and often sat for hours studying the plants and animals (and their droppings!) to discover the species residing on our property. I also traveled with my family to national parks and Canadian lakes. Camping, fishing, hiking, and exploring incorporated into our family travels.

As I approach age 62, I still enjoy traveling. Adventures to national parks remain a delight and spending time in the woods of the mountain property that my husband and I own brings me joy and peace. Nature speaks to me, centers me, and inspires me.

In my Pet Rescue Romance series, my characters enjoy adventures in their middle years as well. Finding Love at Compassion Ranch is a correlation between experiences I’ve had at two similar animal rescue sanctuaries: Kindness Ranch in eastern Wyoming and Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in southeastern Utah. Both facilities provide care, socialization, adoption, and sometimes a place for the animals to live forever at the respective facilities. I’ve visited both sanctuaries and volunteered at both, including a recent summer trip to Best Friends (my third visit there in eight years!). I support these organizations with a portion of book sales as well.

In Finding Love at Compassion Ranch, my primary female character volunteers at an animal rescue sanctuary, adopts two cats, bonds with a broken-spirited horse, and falls in love with the ranch foreman. Talk about adventure!

During these ‘dog days of summer,’ all of my Pet Rescue Romance e-books, including Finding Love at Compassion Ranch, are on sale. Find them at Amazon through my Author Central Page here:

Finding Love at Compassion Ranch and my other books are available on other platforms, like Kobo and Barnes & Noble:

New Book Coming in November!

The newest installment of my series, In the Shadow of Mount Moran, takes place in the Grand Teton National Park area of western Wyoming; the book is scheduled for release in November 2022. The story highlights the adventures of another woman who helps animal rescue groups, including a cross-country ski trip in which she finds a dog that’s been lost for several months. Think A Dog’s Way Home meets Who Rescued Whom? Stay turned to my website for more information on this upcoming release!

Bio for Gayle M. Irwin:

Gayle M. Irwin is an award-winning author and freelance writer, being recognized by Wyoming Writers, Inc., and the Wyoming Press Association for several of her works. She’s contributed short stories to seven Chicken Soup for the Soul books as well. Gayle is the author of many inspirational pet books for children and adults. Her works include clean, contemporary western romance books in a series called Pet Rescue Romance. She’s also authored several pet books for children. Gayle subtly weaves life lessons within the pages of her stories, including courage, perseverance, and the importance of pet rescue and adoption. An animal advocate, she volunteers for various rescue and humane society organizations and donates a percentage of all book sales to such groups. Learn more about Gayle on her website:

Blurb for “Finding Love at Compassion Ranch:”

A ranch like no other …

Erin Christiansen is still adjusting to life as a widow. She seeks additional healing by volunteering at Compassion Ranch, a sanctuary for former research animals. Upon arrival at the majestic and unique northwestern Wyoming ranch, she meets Mike, a man she knew in high school, whose compassion for animals and people might be the balm Erin needs.

Retired veterinarian Mike Jacobs is no stranger to loss. Five years after the accidental death of his wife, he now serves as ranch manager of Compassion Ranch. He not only fixes fence and provides tours, but he applies his veterinary skills and his heart for animals to his work. Upon recognizing Erin from high school, he can barely believe his first love will spend a few weeks at the sanctuary.

Can Erin and Mike span the years since they have seen each other or do they, like many of the rescued animals, have wounds that run too deep to trust and love again?

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A kiss to remember


Book Blurb:

Roman Briggs built a life for himself in Siren’s Cove. He restored the Sugar Cones Ice Cream Parlor and turned it into a popular stop along the boardwalk. He has everything he needs until a certain blue-eyed woman wanders back into his life.

Seer and witch Peyton Woods isn’t sure why her latest visions feature a man and boy she’s never met. Determined to find out, she casts a spell that leads her to a small beach town in Maine and, to her utter surprise, the man who broke her heart eight years earlier.

Peyton’s left with one question. Why didn’t her magic show her him?


“We’re meeting up with Henry and some friends,” Roman said. “We always watch the fireworks together during the summer festival. You’re welcome to join us.”

Since I was there to see Henry and Travis, I couldn’t say no.

I expected to stop at a picnic table, but Roman strolled past them on his way to the docks.

“We’re going on a boat?” I asked. On land, if the metaphorical shield protecting my heart from breaking cracked, I could leave. But on a boat, I’d be trapped.

“Just a mile out. We can see the fireworks better. Come on.” He jerked his head to the side. When I still hesitated, he added, “I don’t bite.”

I remembered him nibbling all the right places when we dated. The memories sent an elated shiver through me. Sex with Roman had always been amazing. At least, I thought it was. Roman obviously enjoyed love-making with Travis’s mom more. The thought added a new layer of protection around my heart. I reminded myself that I was over him. His endless brown eyes and smoky voice no longer had any sway over me. Now, if I could just convince the fireflies in my stomach to settle down, I’d be okay.

I could do this. I could be held captive on a boat with Roman and not let old emotions ruin the evening. Maybe we were destined to be friends all along.

That thought had me agreeing to go with them to watch the fireworks.

Roman led the way to the pier and a battered blue- and-white fishing boat. I stumbled. The boat looked as if it had made hundreds of exhausting voyages and was ready to sink.

“She isn’t pretty,” Roman said as he lifted Travis onboard. “But she’s safe.”

“Sturdiest fishing boats on these waters,” Henry said from the back of the boat. He sat on a folding chair next to an older Black couple.

“It’s the only fishing boat docked in this harbor,” a white-haired man said, clapping Henry on the back as he walked by.

“Don’t listen to Mattie.” Roman climbed in and then held his hand out to help me.

I glanced over my shoulder, finally second-guessing this whole trip. What had I been thinking, racing off to follow a vision and then sticking around even after I found out Roman was here? I should have fled Siren’s Cove the moment Karly said his name.

But then Henry coughed as if choking, and Travis patted his back, just like I’d seen in a vision.

Jinx jumped on my legs. She wasn’t worried about boarding the vessel. I scooped her up and whispered, “Don’t get attached to these people. Hanging with them is a onetime thing.”

Jinx licked my face. I seriously wondered if I should trust the instincts of such a young familiar. Maybe magical companions grew into their sixth sense instead of being born with it. Past the boat, a spark shimmered above the water. Was the spell that led me here telling me this was the right course to take? Or was the glow of the evening sun reflecting off a buoy? I hoped to soon find out.

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Professional network technician by day, novelist by night, Cherie lives a quiet life in the Chicago suburbs with her charming husband. She has four amazing sons who she loves dearly. Cherie magically weaves together stories with a paranormal twist. She’s the author of the Embrace series, Challenging Destiny, Damned When I Didn’t, and Friends to the End. She waltzed into the adult novel world with Merry Little Wishing Spritz. She’s delighted to be back with Salted Caramel Bliss with a Wedding Kiss.

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One plus one equals….much more than two, for Terry Newman’s newest


Heartquake is the result of synchronicity. Two dissimilar events came together to make this book possible. Maybe that’s why I love it so much.

The first is the creation of the character of Riley Brockton. He was a secondary character in a short story I wrote for a freelance client. The client never paid for the work, so it became mine.

I had a setting, Prague, Ohio, and characters, including Riley Brockton, with no respectable home for them. They hung out in the files of my computer.

Illustration of the hydraulic fracturing process with drilling rig and fuel tank over nature background

Until…a friend of mine invited me to attend several anti-fracking meetings with her. She was a strong-will activist who belonged to a group of mostly moms fighting the activity. They brought in experts and journalists to help them fight. Thanks to their determination, the cause gained national attention. Well, international attention; a Japanese television crew covered one event I attended.

My friend urged me to write a book about fracking. I don’t know if she really meant a romance, let alone a romance involving a lionshifter (I’m betting she didn’t), but the moment she said that, I knew I had found a home for my orphaned characters.

A fictional town in northeastern Ohio was already the setting of my original story. The real-life fracking was occurring in northeastern Ohio. What better vehicle to showcase the damage this intrusive type of drilling could inflict, not only on the environment, but on people’s health.

And Riley was already a venture capitalist who dabbled in buying and selling businesses. All the elements came together seamlessly.

The result? I received the chance to create a city full of characters I loved. Then I simply told the story of my friend’s struggle to get a fracking moratorium placed on the city ballot.

While that’s the end of one story, I discovered characters in Prague, Ohio, who had stories of the their own and I’m busy giving them homes of their own. Be on the lookout for them.

Coffee shop owner, Charlee Lightheart, views corporations with contempt. She believes her father died at the hands of the pharmaceutical industry. When she’s approached to run for city council on an anti-fracking platform, she’s reluctant. She’s not sure this movement is her cause.

Billionaire Riley Brockton has given up on love. Then he walks into Charlee’s shop. All he wanted was coffee and muffins. From that first electrifying touch, he knows he needs more. He withholds one piece of vital information: he’s a lionshifter.

A rogue reporter sets out to reveal the one secret that can destroy the anti-fracking movement and the couple’s relationship. Can their love survive the truth and public exposure?

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“Brockton… Really, I’m that late? I’ll be there in about fifteen minutes. I’m just about done here.” He smiled up at Charlee, nodded, and gave her a thumbs up. “What am I doing? Well, I’ll save that story for when I see you, Renee.” He held the phone away from his ear, then said to Charlee, “My visitors are a bit miffed I’m late.”

He turned his attention back to his caller. “Yeah, I know they’re upset. I think they’re more upset they have to meet me in Prague rather than New York City. But I have faith you’ll keep them calm with your charm.” He clicked the phone off and returned it to his jacket pocket.

“Your meeting. I forgot all about it. I’m so sorry.”

“Do I look worried about being late for a meeting?” When he didn’t get a response, he answered the question himself. “No, I’m not. These people weren’t happy to begin with to come out to Ohio. And they want something from me. So, they’ll wait.”

He turned to Mel, who had just waited on the last few customers in line. “It’s ready to use. Make my order last.” He didn’t know how many had to wait for the wand to get cleaned, but he hoped they weren’t inconvenienced. “And tell them their coffee’s on me.”

He enjoyed the look of amazement on Charlee and Mel’s faces. Charlee started to protest, “You don’t have to do this. It was our mistake.”

“I know. But it did take me a little longer than I expected. I’m a little rusty. I’ll just sit at the end of the counter until you get caught up.” He pointed to an empty seat. “And by the way, make that five lattes now. I think I’ll bring a peace offering.” He paused. “Not that I have to, but…”

Mel told Charlee to sit with him; she had everything under control. And it looked like it. The only customers left were the ones who waited for their lattes. And they looked content.

“Care to tell me where you learned how to unclog an espresso machine?” she asked once she sat next to him.

He gave her a peck on the cheek. “My dad. His first job was as a coffee salesman. After ten years of selling, he bought the company.” Riley smiled as he remembered how his father continued to buy companies after that. “And then another company and another. But back to the point. My brother Quinn and I used to tag along with him at the coffee company. You’d be surprised how often he was asked to clean those things. We learned just by watching him. And then…he would put us to work.”

Charlee nodded, apparently satisfied with his explanation. “Then I have your dad to thank in addition to you. It would have taken us twice as long if one of us had to clean that.” There was a moment of silence, and he wanted nothing more than to embrace and kiss her.

“Here are the lattes, Riley,” Mel said. “And I’ve included extra muffins, too, just in case you want to make a larger peace offering.”

He stood and put on his jacket. “Duty calls.” He kissed Charlee and gathered up the cardboard container of four lattes in one hand and the bag and the fifth coffee in the other. “I’ll text you later.” And he kissed her again.

As he walked out the door, he felt confident not only in the outcome of the meeting, but in his new relationship with Charlee, his lioness.


Charlee watched as Riley exited and, as luck would have it, someone entered at the same time and opened the door for him. She could see him nod in appreciation.

“That was a surprise,” Mel said. “That’s about all I can say.”

Charlee laughed. “I know. Who would have a thought a billionaire could do anything manual like that?”

She sighed and wondered what other surprises he held. Then she realized she had just met him; he probably had many. She looked forward to learning them all.


Terry Newman has always loved words. As the editor-in-chief of a national natural health publishing company, she has written books on a variety of topics, as well as writing direct-mail advertising.

She’s also worked as a reporter, a communications specialist and a freelance writer. She’d had clients worldwide, and researched and wrote hundreds of eBooks and print books as well as ghostwrote novellas and short stories.

One day she woke and decided to make her dream of writing her own novel come true. She sets all her stories in fictional towns in northeast Ohio and writes about things she loves—like coffee.

Terry has taught workshops on writing and character development.

She has a daughter, a son-in-law, and a grandpuppy, and lives in North Lima, a real town in northeast Ohio.

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The perfect novel setting: Hawaii

When my husband and I went to Oahu for our honeymoon in the early 1990s, we loved the paradise atmosphere, but I longed for more tranquility, away from the touristy sections of Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head, and the Polynesian Cultural Center. And we spent a chaotic afternoon ending in Hilo Hattie. I jokingly told my husband, I longed to stay in a hut on the beach for a week—just the two of us. Now to me, that was the definition of romance. A secluded beach with no one around. We aimed to return at our twenty-fifth anniversary to a less populated island. With kids still too young when we celebrated our twenty-fifth anniversary, we waited a few more years and finally returned, this time to Kauai.

On Kauai, we found the peacefulness and beauty I had longed for. We dipped our feet into the Pacific once again. We went on an archeological excursion. We travelled to a cave and witnessed the beautiful land that opened up beyond the cave, once keeping villagers safe from outsiders. Wherever we walked, roosters roamed the land. (Their presence is another story!) We toured around the island, driving up the plush emerald tree-filled mountains and we fell in love with the majestic valleys and ridges. We learned where the movie Jurassic Park was filmed. One day, we took a helicopter tour and marvelled at the island paradise from above. So many long waterfalls cascading down the ridges. We even saw where Puff the Magic Dragon stayed in the land of Hanalei. The old sugar plantations and animal habitats housing tortoises were awesome experiences.

I guess it’s not any wonder why I wrote Kauai into one of my novels. Saving Euphoria, which was released May 9, mentions Kauai as the place the protagonist’s arch nemesis plans to move when she’s finished serving her prison term. The protagonist assumes her husband has planned a Kauai trip for an anniversary and doesn’t realize the nemesis hopes to move to the tropical island, hiding away from her ex-lover, a drug dealer from Colombia. I truly believe someone could live out their life in any of these Hawaiian island paradises and never be found. If you ever get the opportunity to visit the Hawaiian Islands, you won’t be disappointed.


Hailey Langley and her children struggle to cope with the shocking and mysterious death of her husband Mark. Her teenaged son is rebelling, and Hailey is dealing with physical and mental challenges as well.

Tom Parker, Hailey’s former partner from the Special Crimes Agency, comes back into her life. He warns her to trust no one even as he tries to rekindle the flame that connects them.

Everyone has secrets, even Parker, and some of those from the past threaten to destroy the present. Hailey fights to move forward after losing Mark, but she needs to figure out if she can trust Parker and risk taking another chance on love.


C. Becker is the author of Finding Euphoria and Saving Euphoria. She is currently working on the third book to the Euphoria trilogy. As a medical technologist in a former career, Becker has never outgrown the attraction of using science in everyday life.

When she’ s not writing, Becker enjoys hanging out with her family and Jack Russell, playing the piano, reading, and gardening.

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Excerpt (PG):

He moved closer, his breath warming her face. “I don’t want to be a friend. I want more.”

Her eyes blurred. “It’s only been six months since Mark died.”

“Life goes on, Hailey. Mark’s gone.”

“Six months, Parker.” Tears burnt like acid splashing in her eyes. Six months was not nearly enough time to let go.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say it that way.” Parker reached over and held her hand.

The tenderness in his touch made an instant connection to her heart. Ashamed at her heart’s betrayal, she yanked her hand away and wiped a tear off her cheek.

He held her hand again and whispered. “I love you, Hailey. I always have. Somehow, life or fate, or whatever it is you want to call it, got in our way. I kept my distance when you married Mark, but I never stopped loving you.” He tightened his grasp on her hand. “Now I feel like an idiot because I waited too long.”

“Parker, please. I’m not sure I even want to get involved with someone again.”

“You’ve become so miserable. You’re a strong woman.” His face hardened. “Mark wouldn’t want you to waste your life grieving. He’d want you to go on—and at least try to be happy.” He caressed her cheek with his thumb. “I think deep down, you know it.”

Few people had her pegged so well. She bit her lip, “I do.”

A great cast in a wild place…what could go wrong?


Thanks, Lyndi! I love writing about people who are different. Some are forced to adapt to new circumstances in order to survive, others are originals, folks who have never really fit into mainstream society. But no one is humdrum, and all have dreams.

So what do an embittered mail-order bride, an adventurer, a brothel madam, a silver baron/artist, a war refugee, a pacifist, a playboy veterinarian, and a woman who protects spiders all have in common? They get another chance to find love. And what better setting for romance than a semi-ghost town in Nevada?

A Room in Blake’s Folly begins in 1889 with the romance between Sookie Lacey, former prostitute now saloon dance girl, and Westley Cranston, adventurer. But love rarely follows a straight path. Times change, life goes on, new relationships form. By 2022, Blake’s Folly, once notorious for its saloons, brothels, speakeasies, and divorce ranches, has become a semi-ghost town of abandoned shacks and weedy dirt roads. But the old stories are still very present, and they have the power to influence the 53 remaining inhabitants.

A Room in Blake’s Folly

If only the walls could speak…

In one hundred and fifty years, Blake’s Folly, a silver boomtown notorious for its brothels, scarlet ladies, silver barons, speakeasies, and divorce ranches, has become a semi-ghost town. Although the old Mizpah Saloon is still in business, its upper floor is sheathed in dust. But in a room at a long corridor’s end, an adventurer, a beautiful dance girl, and a rejected wife were once caught in a love triangle, and their secret has touched three generations.


Writer, storyteller, photographer, and social critical artist, J. Arlene Culiner, was born in New York and raised in Toronto. She has crossed much of Europe on foot, has lived in a Hungarian mud house, a Bavarian castle, a Turkish cave dwelling, on a Dutch canal, and in a haunted house on the English moors. She now resides in a 400-year-old former inn in a French village of no interest and, much to local dismay, protects all creatures, especially spiders and snakes. She particularly enjoys incorporating into short stories, mysteries, narrative non-fiction, and romances, her experiences in out-of-the-way communities, and her conversations with strange characters.


            “You a widow?”

            “No.” She could hear the tightness in her voice and feel the tension in her shoulders.

            His eyes glinted. “A runaway wife.”

            “Not that either.” Did she have to say more? She didn’t. But since people were bound to be asking that same question over and over, she might as well get used to it, even though the answer was only partially true. Even though it could never express what her life had been like up until now. “I left of my own accord, but with my husband’s full agreement. He’ll be looking into getting a divorce.”

            “And your children?”

            Ah, there it was. The big question, the one thing everyone would be curious about. “No children. I’ve never had any.”

            He said nothing. Had he heard the note of anger in her voice? She’d done her best to sound neutral, but neutrality wasn’t an easy note to hit. How vividly she remembered the first time she’d caught sight of her future husband, Sam Graham, waiting with a little knot of men by a shanty train station in the middle of nowhere. He and the others had been eager to grab a sight of their brides-to-be, women lured west by the promise of marriage, land, and a home. How had the other women fared? Had they been as discouraged as she at the sight of the vast lonely wasteland, the emptiness, the bleached-out colors, and the coarse men who would be their lifetime partners? Men honed by the elements, a hard life. And rough alcohol.

            Westley Cranston stood, walked in her direction—no, walk wasn’t the word she could use. He sauntered, a slow, elegant saunter. A man sure of himself, of his power to seduce. Yes, that was why she’d felt so wary yesterday. He stopped when he was standing beside her. Smiled. No, there was nothing seductive in his smile. She’d been wrong. What had she been imagining? That she was still the young attractive woman she’d been years ago? What a fool she was.

            He touched the top of the piano with a gesture that was almost a caress. “Don’t worry. You’ll do well. The boys you’ll be playing with are good musicians, nice guys, too. They play at all the dances in town, and they’ll teach you the sort of pieces folks out here are used to hearing.”

            “Thank you.”

            His eyebrows rose. “For what?”

            “For being so kind.”

            “Kind?” He guffawed. “It’s not kindness. I’m fighting for survival. High time we got a good piano player in this place. Bob, before he let that stray bullet hit him, knew how to slap at the keys, all right, but he didn’t know the first thing about keeping time. I’ll bet pretty well all the customers were happy to see him taken out of the running.” Grinning, he moved away in that casual easy way of his, headed toward the front door. Then stopped, looked back, his eyes twinkling. “But they couldn’t do that, not legally, anyway. One of the rules here in town forbids shooting pistols in a barroom.”

            She grinned back at him. “Sounds like a pretty good rule to me. And what are the other rules, if you don’t mind me asking. If there are any others, that is…”

            “Sure there are. Need plenty of rules in boomtowns, especially after payday. The other ones are, you can’t insult a woman, you can’t ride a pony or horse on the wooden sidewalks, and you can’t ride them inside this establishment or any other business in town.” He was chuckling again when he turned the lock, stepped out into the street, and disappeared.

            Hattie remained seated at the piano. Her anguish had totally vanished. Amazing, how he had put her at ease. He hadn’t judged her, hadn’t looked at her with disgust when she’d told him some of her story, hadn’t condemned her for feeling unsure about her piano playing. She wondered why she’d felt so mistrustful. He had behaved like a perfect gentleman—and a friend.

            Then another thought struck her. What had he been doing here in the Mizpah so early in the morning? Had he slept here? Obviously he had. Hadn’t he just let himself out? And that meant he had probably spent the night with one of the ladies upstairs. That he was a client.

            Disappointment washed over her. She couldn’t condemn him—men had needs, desires. Why was she so saddened by the thought?

Review of A Room in Blake’s Folly

Rich detail and scintillating dialogue transport the reader through the decades between 1889 and 2022 of this surprising saga. With flowing descriptive phrases (“… the walls had a yellowish hue that only time could bring,”) Culiner effectively intertwines the characters and descendants of Blake’s Folly. And although overhunting and pollution mean environmental change, the charm of this old world community remains intact. Cheers for this book!

Lisa McCombs for Readers’ Favorite

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Shifters on the run!

Bear’s Dream

Haven Forest Resort Book 1

by Christina Lynn Lambert

Genre: Paranormal Romance

She had every reason to hate him.

Aiden “AJ” Shepherd’s mistake during a Shifter Army Enforcement rescue mission cost Ellie Ortiz’s brother, Marco, his life. Ellie hates AJ with a burning passion until a chance encounter with him on New Year’s Eve reveals he’s not the cold, heartless man she once thought him to be. Her attraction to him takes her by surprise, and she vows to ignore her feelings. When a new job puts her in contact with him every day, the heat building between them threatens to flare out of control. Her resolve to keep the sweet, sexy man in the friend zone is weakening by the day.

He’s convinced she’s his mate, but a secret could ruin everything
Whether they’re fighting off fanatics who target shifters or working together to get his shifter resort, Haven Forest, ready for the grand opening, AJ can’t get enough of Ellie. Convincing her to give him a chance, more than the one-night-of-fun idea she’s proposed, might be impossible, but he’s fallen too hard for her not to try. During a disastrous assignment with Shifters United, AJ uncovers some information that changes everything. Keeping the secret from Ellie is killing him but he might lose her forever if he tells her the truth.

When Ellie ends up at the heart of a reporter’s plot to prove the existence of shifters, she and AJ must fight their way to freedom. The survival of shifters everywhere depends on it.

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Before I had the wild idea to write a book, I worked in a few different fields. I was in sales for a while, and after I finished college, I worked as a case manager. When my children were little, I was a personal trainer and running coach. During the evenings, when I was supposed to be studying for another fitness training certification, I started writing a story. Finally, I gave in and acknowledged that writing is what I’m meant to do. I love creating imperfect but determined characters who find the courage to love and the strength to survive in a world where there are no guarantees. My stories include a fair amount of sarcasm, suspense, steam, and violence. When I’m not writing, I enjoy spending time outside and finding ways to avoid cooking. I live in beautiful Virginia with my husband, two daughters, and a sweet, hairy monster of a dog.

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Magic, snark and a great quest–what more can you ask for? J.B. Dane


The toughest thing (and the most fun one, too) that a writer can do when spinning a series is looking for ways to top what happened in the titles that went before. But when I found a way to weave in something I’ve found thrilling and have for years, that really was the cherry on top. The “cherry” in RAVEN’S EDGE, the 3rd Raven Tale novel, was putting a sword in urban fantasy PI Bram Farrell’s hand and dropping him into a position where he wielded a rapier twice! Once while seeking information about a missing man and then to simply survive. Well, and take a stab (yes, pun city!) at reacquiring a talisman stolen from the Tuatha Dè Danann horde in Tara. It gave me a good reason (or so I thought) to rewatch all my favorite swashbuckling movies to take notes on moves and thrill to the ringing sound of blade kissing blade. Backed that up with a centuries old guide on the correct way to do battle with a rapier in hand so the terms would be correct. You can take the historian (me) out of their element and drop them in an urban fantasy one, but you can’t pry them away from historically correct terms.

To work some sword play into RAVEN’S EDGE not only meant I had to find (and then steal) a legendary magical sword, I had to have a reason why Bram was expert enough to use it when the time came. It just so happens, though, I had a prequel novella where he and D’Artagnan (of Three Musketeers fame) were drinking at a tavern and mention was made that the musketeer had taught my hero to wield a rapier well enough to be a regular sparring partner. And how can a fictional character do this? Well, it just so happens that Bram was 100% fictional at the time, too. They both lived in fictionland and neither knew they were nothing more than words on a page.

That’s the set up of The Raven Tales. A magic wielding, snark spewing PI with a 20-volume strong resume of kicking Otherworlder’s to the curb, but more likely killing them when need be, is yanked into the “real” world. This happens in the REAL first book of the series and Bram has been dreaming of becoming fully human himself since then. It’s just that people keep trying to kill him outside of the seam stitched binding as they did inside it.

Raven’s Edge Excerpt:

Mack perked up when he noted a light on in a second-floor window. “That’s Seth’s place. He must be home.”

“Nasty flu bug goin’ around. Maybe he’s just got a bad case,” Burt offered. Oddly enough, he no longer seemed inclined to climb out of the cab and be part of the party now.

“Could be,” Mack agreed as he angled out of the back. “He teaches in an elementary school, so colds fell him regularly.”

Sounded logical but something niggled at me that such was not going to be what we found. Only a few weeks ago I’d been searching for another missing person, this one the great-grandson of a particularly slinky vampiress. Hoped we’d find Mack’s friend doing nothing more than downing meds and watching television when we reached his door.

I trailed a bit behind as Mack headed for his friend’s place. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. The sort of hackles that raise when it feels like I’m being watched didn’t stir, so I took the steps up to the upper level two at a time as Mack had done.

He relaxed a bit when he heard a familiar sound leaking into the hall. “Marathoning Game of Thrones again,” he said, jerking his head toward the closed door. “He’s got a thing for Daenerys.”

“What’s not to like about a girl who owns dragons?” I asked.

“And always looks hot,” Mack added then knocked on the door. “Yo, Seth. You alright? It just wasn’t St. Pat’s without yo—”

The door creaked open of its own accord.

The set was on, and Jon Snow wasn’t having an easy time of it on the screen. But it didn’t look like Seth had fared much better. A recliner lay on its side, sofa cushions were cockeyed, a bookshelf had its contents splayed across the floor and a side table and lamp had bit the dust. The only things in good order were the floor lamp glowing near the window and the flat screen where the fate of Westeros still hung in the balance.

“Seth!” Mack shouted, heading for what was probably the bedroom.

I stayed where I was, closed my eyes and inhaled deeply. Yup, the Spidey senses had been on the job alright. The room smelled of spilled beer, nachos, weed, and three other essences.

Vampire, ghoul, and blood.



J.B. Dane is the author of the urban fantasy PI mystery comedy series, The Raven Tales, which includes novels published by Burns and Lea Books, and a series of Indie published novellas that are prequels and also “between the books” adventures of her main character, Bram Farrell. The latest novel in the series is RAVEN’S EDGE. Quite a few 5* reviews have followed for the novels in particular. She also writes shorter fantasy fiction, many tales of which have appeared in anthologies, particularly her Nick Claus, North Pole Security stories.

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Twitter: @JBDaneWriter

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Finding just what you need in unexpected places: Amber Cross


Nothing is as magical or transformative as love, especially when you’re not looking for it! 

Like Roger and Lisa, I wasn’t expecting this romance. Roger was a minor character in Precedent for Passion-Glen’s older brother who ran the family’s dairy farm, and Lisa was a minor character in Tender Possession-the human resources director at the hospital where Emmeline worked. Then something happened while I was writing Open Door to Love. When Jonnie moved to Somerset, it was only natural that one of the first people she met was Lisa, who fills in for the town clerk when she needs a Saturday off. Lisa is friendly, and quirky, so the two of them hit it off and soon become best friends. Yet as I wrote that book, their friendship became more and more important and Lisa’s character took on greater depth until she was practically screaming, “Write my story!” So I did.

The next hurdle was, who is good enough for her? 

Lisa is a happy, generous person who pretty much lights up the world around her. Yet she is physically limited due to spina bifida and almost forty years old, so she has resigned herself to being single.

She needed someone to appreciate her zest for life, someone who would look at her and see a woman, not a pair of crutches or a wheelchair.

Roger is a widower with two grown sons who enjoys sitting down at the end of the day with a good book and a glass of red wine. He enjoys weekly card parties and hockey games, and he isn’t looking for anything more.


Sometimes when you’re not looking, you find exactly what you need.

Here’s an excerpt from their first meeting:

Roger Plankey was man enough to admit he looked over his shoulder before ducking inside the Somerset town offices on Saturday morning. He wasn’t normally paranoid but after three weeks of being pursued by a reality show contestant bent on claiming him for herself, he wasn’t taking any chances.

“If you’re running from the law, you’ve come to the wrong place.”

Turning, he saw a woman leaning out of the town clerk’s service window, pointing to the police department across the hall. She wore a black felt witch’s hat and orange pumpkins dangled from her ears, as brilliant as the smile on her face.

Well, well, well.

“It’s not the cops I need,” he admitted, approaching the window and thrusting his hand out in greeting. “I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure. Roger Plankey.”

“Lisa Kirkpatrick.” 

Her skin was soft against his work-roughened palm, her beautifully manicured nails a sharp contrast to his blunt-tipped square fingers. Halloween decorations sparkled on the black painted ovals, but nothing shone from her left ring finger. He checked. 

“Are you new here, Lisa?”

“I’m the deputy clerk. I work when Maisie needs a day off.”

“Ahh, that would explain why we haven’t met before.” Reluctantly taking his hand back, he retrieved paperwork from the inside pocket of his canvas barn jacket. “I’ve got a bunch of vehicles to register.” He passed the documents through the window, letting his gaze wander over her pretty face while she scanned them. Brown hair curled against the brim of her witch’s hat and caressed the nape of her neck. Thick eyelashes feathered high apple cheeks and when they lifted, her hazel eyes reminded him of spring rain on the meadow.

When the reality show contestant finds him and he avoids her interest by saying he has a date with Lisa, she is surprised but plays along. Not for a minute does she expect him to be serious. But Roger appreciates a woman with character, and he’s intrigued by more than just a pretty face. 

Ardell whistled. “Close call.”

“You’re telling me.” He shuddered dramatically and she laughed. “I think you were trying to ask me something before we got interrupted?”

“Oh, yeah.” A phone rang inside the selectmen’s office and she started down the hall to answer it, saying over her shoulder, “Card party starts tonight. You in?”

“Well, that depends on my date. Whadya say, Lisa?”

“You don’t have to pretend now.” She slid a pen and forms from the printer across the shelf for him to sign. “I’m pretty sure she left the parking lot.”

“Who’s pretending?” After adding his John Hancock in all the right places, he pulled his wallet from his back pocket and extracted a number of bills to cover the cost. “I’m asking you out on a date. Dinner and some kitty whist. Can I pick you up at six o’clock?”

She didn’t answer him. Instead, she handed over his change and renewal paperwork before pushing away from the ledge on her side of the window. Holding her hands out at her sides as if she was a game show hostess displaying a prize. Only she was showing him the wheelchair she sat in, hidden from his view until now. He could tell this wasn’t the first time she introduced herself this way, and he wondered just how many douchebags had turned her down because of it.

He wasn’t a douchebag and she wasn’t getting out of a date that easily. “Don’t think I’m taking my invitation back just because you’re a little heavier to pick up than the average gal.”

 These two are a fun couple. Their challenges are very real, their interactions honest, their love exceptional. I hope you’ll join them on their journey and read A Full-Bodied Love.

STORY: Lisa Kirkpatrick is stubborn, but she’s not stupid. If this guy needs a date to evade an unwanted admirer, who is she to object? It’s not as if handsome men are lining up to ask her out. Sure, they know there’s a woman in the wheelchair, but it would never occur to them that there’s a WOMAN in the wheelchair. He notices. This solid, fun, straight-shooting guy ticks off every box on her ideal man list. But why do they call him Slick?

Roger Plankey thought his life was full until he walked into the town clerk’s office and laid eyes on the woman behind the counter. A spunky, independent woman with a dash of humor and just enough sass to keep him on his toes. She fills that unknown void in his life like she was made for him. But is there such a thing as too perfect?

Author Bio:

Amber Cross was raised on a family farm in New England, one of a dozen siblings, each one inspiring her writing in some way. She still lives in that same small town with her husband and the youngest of their five children. She loves spending time in the woods, in the water, and watching people because every one of them has a unique and fascinating story to tell.

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Welcome author Vicky Burkholder!

Vicky Burkholder

Thanks for being with us today. First, would you tell us a bit about yourself? What area of the country do you live in, do you have a family, pets, etc.

Thank you for having me. I’m in the Mid-Atlantic part of the US. Family? Yep. I have four adult kids (2 biological, 2 adopted), five grandchildren, and bunches of others—including my 95-year-old mom. As for my pet family, we always had cats (along with other species) but, unfortunately, our last one crossed the rainbow bridge a few years ago and we didn’t have the heart to replace her. She was with us for nineteen years. At this stage in our lives, we decided to enjoy others rather than our own.

Are you a coffee fiend, or do you have another “addiction” you must have on your desk at all times?

Not coffee – never learned to like it. Love the aroma, hate the taste. But you will always find me with either a mug or glass of tea (hot or iced) at my side. And all sorts of flavors. Depends on my mood. But most common are English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Green, Mint, or Chai.

Is your education relevant to your writing, or have you branched off in something entirely different to create? How would you best describe your books?

I’d say my curiosity is more relevant than my education, though with a master’s degree in library science, I guess it does have a lot to do with books!

Tell us about your most recent publication?

My most recent is “Lost Among the Stars”, a futuristic romance. Though it’s the second in the series “Galactic Danger”, the first is only loosely connected to this one (and the next two). In this one, Amanda Ki runs a huge conglomerate. One of her major sources of income is being threatened by a saboteur who wants to take over her company. She commandeers a ship to take her to the world being threatened. The captain of the ship, Declan Chalmers, is definitely not happy about the job. His crew has been decimated by illness and the ship is not in good shape thanks to cheap work by the owners. Declan and Amanda butt heads, but when they discover the saboteur is on board, they have to work together to not only save themselves, but the rest of the crew and passengers. The ship goes out of control and all they can do is find a planet to land on until help can find them.

What inspired you to write this story? What interesting thing did you learn or research to write it that you didn’t know before?

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of discovering a whole new world that humans could live on and what we’d do with it. While writing, I did a lot of research on what makes a world livable—how far from the sun, what kind of sun, plants, animals, axis tilt… all of the stuff that goes into making it possible for you to not just live, but thrive on a new world.

What’s your favorite thing about the book featured here today? Any special memories you have in the creation of it?

Playing with world building. Creating a whole new world—actually, a whole new solar system! And new plants and animals. And so much more. I had fun with the creating.

What do you most like about writing? Least like? When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

I’ve always wanted to write—to make up stories. I love building new worlds and characters to populate those worlds. That’s the fun part. The hard part is actually sitting down and doing the writing! LOL

Do you belong to any writing groups? Are there any writing websites you find particularly useful?

I used to belong to several. Not so many anymore, unfortunately. Just two small ones. The one I am most active with has just four of us—we call ourselves the Bootsquad—for those times when you need a kick in the butt to get your work done (or a shoulder to cry on when needed). We go on long weekend retreats three times a year for intense writing times. My favorite go to sites for writing are: Fiction University, Savvy Authors, Writers Write, and Fantasy Name Generator. I also use a lot of others, but these are my main ones.

Is there any special music you like to listen to while writing? How does it inspire you?

I listen only to instrumental music – usually New Age or Environmental. I can’t listen to anything with words as I usually start singing along then and don’t concentrate on my work!

Do you belong to a critique group? What do you find most valuable about the experience?

The Bootsquad are my crit partners. We each write in different genres (Cozy Mystery, Action Adventure, Futuristic, Dystopian) but are very familiar with the genres so we can honestly crit each other. We’ve been together for years so know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

To encourage those still on the path, tell us a little about your path to publication. How many books have you published? How many books did you write before selling one? What do you think was the key to selling that first book?

“Lost Among the Stars” is my 25th book. The path has not always been smooth. Five publishers I published under have gone away, which is always disheartening. It also led me to self-publishing before I signed with my current publisher, The Wild Rose Press. Before I was published, I wrote policy and procedures manuals for organizations and the government (yes, it is as boring as it sounds!), and was a journalist for a local newspaper (small town). My first published book was actually the first full-length book I wrote. Up until then, I mostly wrote short stories and articles.

What are you writing now? What’s next for you—will you be making personal appearances anywhere our readers can find you?

I am currently writing the third book in this series, “Found Among the Stars” while I wait for edits on the second “Searching Among the Stars”. Because of Covid, I am not yet making personal appearances, but hope to soon. In the meantime, you can find me on Gabby Allan’s “Pull Up a Branch” Podcast:  Vicky Burkholder Pulls Up a Branch to talk World Building! – YouTube

Tagline: How do you escape death when you are lost in space and a killer is aboard your ship?

Synopsis: Amanda Ki’s humanitarian trip to Xy-Three is fraught with assassins and saboteurs who are popping up faster than she can deal with them. Caught up in a web of intrigue, kidnapping, and terror, Mandy joins forces with the captain of the Phoenix, Declan Chalmers. Declan is tall, dark, handsome, and probably the most arrogant, dictatorial man she has ever met. He’s also one of the few people she can trust. Declan doesn’t know what to expect from the VIP who heads up a million-dollar enterprise, when she boards his ship. The tiny, exotic, and packed full of grit woman is not only drop dead gorgeous and smart, she’s also deadly when it comes to martial arts. A skill he wants on his side when the space craft is sabotaged. Thrown together, the two form a tight bond, but if they aren’t careful, they could end up dead.

Excerpt :

Declan took in the woman sitting in front of him, from the long, coal-black hair held back with a tie, to the expensive, but practical jumpsuit. She was everything Declan disliked—a bureaucrat of the worst type—stubborn, fiery, and determined. Revising his earlier thoughts, she was neither old, nor wrinkled, but Dec wasn’t sure about the coddling yet. “There’s no need to thank me. You handled the situation exceedingly well. However,” his voice changed from silky smooth to one of warning, “in the future, please don’t give my crew any orders without checking with me first.”

Miss Ki stared at him. He could see the muscles in her jaw working. Fine, so she was angry. Dec wasn’t exactly happy with the way this trip was starting out either.

“I wasn’t aware I needed your permission to do my job. These people are my responsibility.”

“And this ship and her crew are mine. While you’re on my ship, you will follow my orders. Is that clear, Ms. Ki?”

Mandy stood, bracing her hands on the desk. “Like hell I will. You may be in charge of this ship, but I am in charge of this mission. Is that clear, Captain?” Without waiting for an answer, she stalked from the room.

Book Links:

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Barnes & Noble: Lost Among the Stars by Vicky Burkholder | NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble® (


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Author Information:

As her alter-ego, Vicky has multiple homes all over the universe. She looks human – for the most part – but when she starts writing about characters being able to move things or flicking fire from their fingertips, or changing the course of rivers, people tend to get a little freaked out. She found the one guy out there in the universe who loves her for who she is and they’ve been together forever and raised four wonderful (now) adults. Her career includes work as a technical writer/editor, a stringer for the local newspaper, and an editor and copy editor for various publishers. At various times in her life, she has been a teacher, a secretary, a short-order cook, a computer specialist, a DJ, and a librarian. When not editing or writing, she can be found in the kitchen creating gluten free goodies for her family.

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For Other Works by Vicky Burkholder

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Vicky Burkholder

tales that transcend the ordinary

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