Blogger Recognition Award

Wow guys! I was nominated for the Blogger Recognition Award. How cool is that?!

Thank you to Proud Book Reviews for including me in their nominations! Go check out their blog for some great reviews.

Blogger Recognition Award Rules

  1. Thank the blogger for nominating you and give the link to their blog
  2. Write a blog post on your website showing the award
  3. Describe the story of why you started your blog
  4. Write two pieces of advice you have for new bloggers
  5. Nominate 15 more bloggers
  6. Notify each of your nominees that you have nominated them

How I started blogging…

Well, I like to read a lot. I talk about books a lot. It just so happened that a friend told me I should start a blog about books and share my thoughts/reviews with the world. This may have just been so they didn’t have to hear me ramble on to them about books. Trying to find me another outlet for my hysteria over books good and bad.

So I did start that blog almos 2 years ago and have absolutely loved it. I get to connect with so many like minded people and share thoughts. I have received so many free books from authors to read and review and am so grateful for them. I even made my way to Booktube and have been working with publishers so it has been a pretty great time.

Advice for new bloggers

  1. Don’t give up. It might seem hard at first if you have little to no engagement with the content you are creating but push through and keep working hard at it. If you really love the subject material, people will recognize your passion and take interest in what you have to say.
  2. Interact with other bloggers. This helped me get my start in the beginning because I talked with a bunch of different bloggers and learned from them. Some of them may even become your close online friends!

My Nominations!

I’m very curious to see if everyone participates and look forward to reading your posts. If you have already been tagged in this and have a post about it, no worries about making another one.

  1. The Bookworm Daydreamer
  2. Thoughts Stained With Ink
  3. Book Steff’s Bookish Blog
  4. Book Reviews For Bookish People
  5. Reading In Bed
  6. Storeys Of Stories
  7. Books And Munches
  8. Book Rambler

I only came up with 8 because a lot of them have already been nominated :P. I am very grateful for receiving this award and hope to see more awards/tags like this in the future. Talk to you later bookworms.


If you don’t know yet, I started a booktube so you should check it out! Here is one of my videos :).

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Blog Tour: Black Madonna

Linda Lee Kane’s

WOW! WOMEN ON WRITING TOUR

OF

Black Madonna: A Pope’s Deadly Obsession

Tour Begins April 1st

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Book Summary

Luci de Foix was nine when her parents were killed in a car accident. But was it an accident? Unbeknownst to Luci, a group known as The Order, under the protection of the Pope, has been watching her family for many years, waiting for the day that a diary written in the thirteenth century would be delivered to her family-a journal that contains a key to a lost codex-and they would do anything to get it. Early one morning, when Luci is twenty-nine, a bloodied young man delivers a book, claiming it’s from her late grandparents.

Plagued by panic attacks that have left her crippled, Luci struggles to overcome her fears, avenge the death of their family, and search for the lost codex. But who can she trust? Everyone seems intent on betraying her, even the gorgeous, enigmatic Max, a man with secrets of his own.

Print Length: 210 Pages

Genre: Historical Mystery

Publisher: Dark Rose Press

ASIN: B07KJR5WBH

Black Madonna is now available to purchase on AmazoniTunesKOBO, and Barnes and Noble.

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About the Author, Linda Lee Kane

Linda Lee Kane is an author of fantasies, thrillers, and contemporary fiction works. She is the author of Death on the VineChilled to the Bones and an upcoming re-release of the The Black Madonna ‘A Popes Deadly Obsession’. She lives with her husband, two dogs,  and seven horses in California.  “Whether I am writing for adults or children, the war between my days and nights is reflected in my books. Although the tendency to acknowledge the light and dark sides of life is often disguised in my work, it’s always there, lurking just out of sight.”

You can find Linda at her website: https://www.lindaleekane.com/

You may also follow her on Twitter at @llkane2152.

You may also follow her on Amazon and GoodReads.

Guest Post: Heroes and Villains

Most important, create a credible opponent. Your villain will be the catalyst for everything you write.

Heroes don’t have to be perfect. In fact, those protagonists are rather dull. Great heroes emerge from despair, darkness, and the trials they face.

Because these trails will define your hero, it’s a good idea to develop your villain first, as the villain’s motivations will create the crisis for your hero. Introduce your villain with a bang-sending your reader a clear message that this character is the bad guy. Every villain needs to have their own sense of right and wrong. If a villain spends part of your novel killing people, you need to give them believable reasons for doing it. Make the reader understand exactly what fear or belief has driven him to it. To elevate your heroes, you must give them flaws as well. The villain cannot be the only one standing in your hero’s way; a hero’s personality can just as easily interfere with his quest.

It doesn’t matter what the stakes are in your novel, but they must matter to your protagonist. Your hero doesn’t have to save the world-perhaps he saves his own family from eviction, or he fights to keep his safe.AS long as you establish what’s important to your hero-ideally, something that your readers can relate to and help the reader imagine what could happen. You are the one to create the high stakes that matter.

Develop a hero who reflects things you are interested in. You will be spending a lot of time with your characters to write what you would like to know about. Don’t be afraid to invest your hero with familiar qualities, but prioritize your passions and make sure that both villain and hero emerge from the setting and topics you’ve developed so far. Your characters should have skills that allow them to function in your environment.



Blog Tour Dates

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April 1st @ The Muffin

What goes better in the morning than a muffin? Come by today and celebrate the launch of Linda Lee Kane’s book Black Madonna: A Pope’s Deadly Obession. Read an interview with the author and also enter to win a copy of the book.

http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com.

April 2nd @ Breakeven Books

Make sure you visit Erik’s blog today where you can catch Linda Lee Kane’s blog post about heroes and villains.

https://breakevenbooks.com/

April 3rd @ Words from the Heart

Rev. Linda Neas will be reviewing Linda Lee Kane’s book Black Madonna: A Pope’s Deadly Obsession. 

https://contemplativeed.blogspot.com/

April 5th @ Words from the Heart

Stop by Rev. Linda Neas blog where you can read Linda Lee Kane’s blog post about heroes and villains.

https://contemplativeed.blogspot.com/

April 8th @ Jennifer’s Deals

Visit Jennifer’s blog where you can read her review of Linda Lee Kane’s exciting historical mystery book Black Madonna: A Pope’s Deadly Obsession.

https://www.jennifers-deals2.com/

April 10th @ Beverley A. Baird’s Blog

Stop by Bev’s blog today where you can read her thoughts about Linda Lee Kane’s historical mystery Black Madonna: A Pope’s Deadly Obsession.

https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

April 11th @ Oh for the Hook of a Book

Visit Erin’s blog today where she shares her opinion about Linda Lee Kane’s exciting book Black Madonna: A Pope’s Deadly Obsession.

https://hookofabook.wordpress.com/

April 12th @ Bookworm Blog

Stop by Anjanette’s bookworm blog where you can read author Linda Lee Kane’s post about creating suspense. Plus, be sure to check out the interview with the author as well!

http://bookworm66.wordpress.com

April 13th @ Chapters Through Life

Visit Danielle’s blog where you can read her interview with author Linda Lee Kane and hear more about this interesting writer!

https://chaptersthroughlife.blogspot.com/

April 15th @ Beverley A. Baird’s Blog

Visit Bev’s blog again where you can read Linda Lee Kane’s guest post about finding the idea.

https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

April 16th @ Amanda Diaries

Visit Amanda’s blog where she reviews the exciting historical fiction book Black Madonna: A Pope’s Deadly Obsession by Linda Lee Kane.

https://amandadiaries.com/

April 19th @ Bookworm Blog

Stop by Anjanette’s bookworm blog where you can read her thoughts about Linda Lee Kane’s book Black Madonna: A Pope’s Deadly Obsession.

http://bookworm66.wordpress.com

April 19th @ Jill Sheet’s Blog

Make sure you stop by Jill’s blog today where author Linda Lee Kane talks about finding the idea.

https://jillsheets.blogspot.com/

April 20th @ Madeline Sharples’ Blog

Stop by Madeline’s blog where you can read Linda Lee Kane’s blog post about life as a writer.

http://madelinesharples.com/

April 21st @ Coffee with Lacey

Grab some coffee and visit Lacey’s blog where you can read her review of Linda Lee Kane’s exciting thriller, Black Madonna: A Pope’s Deadly Obsession.

https://coffeewithlacey.com/

April 22nd @ Cassandra’s Writing World

Visit Cassandra’s blog where you can read Linda Lee Kane’s guest post on research.

https://cassandra-mywritingworld.blogspot.com/

April 23rd @ Joyful Antidotes

Come by Joy’s blog today and find out her thoughts on Linda Lee Kane’s exciting book Black Madonna: A Pope’s Deadly Obsession.

https://joyfulantidotes.com/

April 24th @ Bring on Lemons

Stop by Crystal’s blog today where you can read her review of this exciting historical fiction book, Black Madonna.

http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

April 25th @ To Write or Not to Write

Visit Sreevarsha’s blog where she shares her thoughts about Linda Lee Kane’s exciting thriller Black Madonna: A Pope’s Deadly Obsession.

https://sreevarshasreejith.blogspot.com/

April 26th @ To Write or Not to Write

Make sure you stop by Sreevarsha’s blog again where you can read Linda Lee Kane’s fascinating blog post about the anatomy of a thriller.

https://sreevarshasreejith.blogspot.com/

April 27th @ A Day in the Life of Mom

Visit Ashley’s blog and check out what she has to say about Linda Lee Kane’s exciting historical mystery Black Madonna: A Pope’s Deadly Obsession.

https://adayinthelifeofmom.com/

May 2nd @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

Be sure to stop by Anthony’s blog today where you can read his opinion about Linda Lee Kane’s exciting historical mystery Black Madonna: A Pope’s Deadly Obsession.

https://authoranthonyavinablog.com/

May 4th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

May the 4th be with you on this day! Be sure to visit Anthony’s blog again where you can read Linda Lee Kane’s guest post on the anatomy of a thriller as well as an interview with this incredible author.

https://authoranthonyavinablog.com/

May 6th @ Cassandra’s Writing World

Visit Cassandra’s blog again where you can read her review of Linda Lee Kane’s book Black Madonna: A Pope’s Deadly Obsession. Plus you can also enter to win a copy of the book!

https://cassandra-mywritingworld.blogspot.com/

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Book Review: The Last Straw

Hey bookworms. I am busy over here getting ready for my trip in less than 2 weeks now but I still have had a little time to read. I recently finished The Last Straw by Ed Duncan so read below for the review.

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Synopsis: When a teenage girl witnesses a carjacking gone bad, she is marked for death by a crime boss with no apparent motive. A black lawyer and a white enforcer with an unlikely history forge an uneasy alliance to protect the girl from a hit man with an agenda of his own.

After they find out that the crime boss is the father of the black teenage carjacker, Paul Elliott – lawyer and close friend of the witness’s family – begins counseling them.

As the long-simmering feud between Rico and John D’Angelo reaches boiling point, bodies start to pile up in rapid succession… and old scores will be settled.

This book was just alright for me. I would classify it as an in the middle book because it was fast paced which I liked but it wasn’t very descriptive and I found it jumped from scene to scene quite quickly.

It was an interesting concept and I haven’t read many novels with hired killers pitting up against each other before so that was fun. There was a lot of conflicts and it showed a part of the underground/black market business side that is not normally viewed by the reader. I’m not sure how to classify Rico. I feel like he is an antagonist with a heart because he kills people for his job but in this book, he doesn’t want to hurt a teenager.

I will say that the book did have some hard-hitting sections of racism and how people dealt with it. It was kind of sad to see how the color of one’s skin affected some of the characters in ways that it really shouldn’t. We are all humans regardless of skin color and I would never judge someone based on that. But I see how the author did this to make some of the characters have that bad moral side to them.

This was the second book in a series but you could read it as a standalone because the author makes sure to catch you up on everything that happened in the first one. They refer to it quite often and it helps with the plot.

Overall, it was a quick read. If you like the crime genre and want a fast read for commuting to work or just a break from some heavier, more intense books then give this one a shot.

Book Rating: 3/5

You can find this book on Amazon and Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us by the author in physical format to read and give an honest review.


My latest video talks about my review of Armada by Ernest Cline and I refer to this book at the end. I also have a giveaway on right now until Thursday so make sure to enter!

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Update: Twitter Game is strong + Giveaway

Hey guys! I wanted to express my complete gratitude for all of you! I saw on Twitter today that I surpassed 1000 followers and am so excited to keep growing in the book blogger community.

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I enjoy being able to read so much and share my reviews with you. It’s so much more than reviews too. I get to connect with authors, publishing companies, book bloggers, and book tubers all over the world and share/collaborate with them. That is #thedream.

Because I am so excited about reaching this milestone, I want to throw another giveaway! This one will be a comic book bundle consisting of 8 different editions, a Spiderman bookmark, and some fun stickers.

Giveaway!-2

You can enter this giveaway by going to Rafflecopter or by clicking on the above image. It will also be live on Twitter and Instagram for extra entries!

I will also give extra entries to people that check out our Youtube channel and either comment on a video or subscribe! I will put the video below to make it easier for you.

Other than that, I just really wanted to get across that I am very thankful for all of you and will continue to create content and write reviews and be a part of this amazing community of bloggers.

Talk to you later bookworms!


As promised, here is the video with the giveaway in it!

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Book Review: Drift by Clare Littlemore

We have another review from Sara! She was so excited to find out that this author reached out to us again to review the next book in her series. Sara read the first two book in this series and absolutely loved them so let’s read on and find out how she felt about the third adaptation. It is called Drift by Clare Littlemore.

P.S. Sara makes really cool little yarn creatures as a hobby. You can check out her Etsy shop called Adorkable Little Crafties!

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Synopsis: Quin believed that a life away from The Beck would make her happy. But when a cruel twist of fate forces her to leave sooner than planned, she struggles to come to terms with her new reality. Haunted by memories of the people she left behind, she finds herself wishing she was back in Patrol, with Cam by her side.

Cut off from The Beck, the escapees carve out a new existence on a small island. Tentative bonds are formed, but as disputes surface and rebellion is threatened, Quin quickly realizes that their new home isn’t the sanctuary she had imagined. And when one of her fellow citizens is willing to go to desperate measures to save those he loves, he puts the entire community in danger.

As they hatch a daring plan to save themselves, Quin is faced with a terrible choice: protect her friends or follow her heart.

Drift is the third in the Flow series, which follows Quin as she battles to forge a new life in unfamiliar territory without the man she has come to depend on.

This novel is an excellent sequel in the Flow series. I love how it picks up right where Break left off, with Quin and her friends traveling away from the controlling Beck society to their safe haven of fellow resistance citizens. This novel is about the struggle of the newly situated citizens and their attempts to develop their society and make a life for themselves in their new home, called the Crag. They are met with other groups of people, struggles between the citizens for power, and then a drastic illness.

This is an exciting and captivating read. I love the world that Littlemore has built, and I love seeing how it develops beyond its initial boundaries, both physically and emotionally. The characters are well developed and relatable, the interpersonal struggles are well formed without being cliche, and the struggles they face make it feel like a survival novel alike to Hatchet and more of this genre.

Again, Littlemore leaves us with quite the cliffhanger. I can’t wait for the next book! I eagerly awaited this one and I’ll eagerly await the next, as I can’t wait to see what happens with this small, strong society trying to recover and rescue the Beck from the Governance. The world feels so huge and well developed, and we’re so invested in the lives of the citizens who remain in the Beck. The exploration of this world Littlemore has created is so fun.

This series really belongs with the young adult dystopian heavy hitters like the Hunger Games and Divergent. I’ll definitely be recommending it to any young adult fans, both teen and older. Another success! I can’t wait for the sequel.

Book Rating: 5/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us by the author to read and give an honest review.


I also released a new video onto book tube recently so feel free to watch it here and make sure to like and subscribe if you like it!

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Book Review: The Fourth Courier

Hey bookworms! I have another review! It has been a while but I have been working on reading, making videos and planning a trip so that is why. This time, I read an advanced reader’s copy of The Fourth Courier by Timothy Jay Smith.

The Fourth Courier (Arcade)

Synopsis: It is 1992 in Warsaw, Poland, and the communist era has just ended. A series of grisly murders suddenly becomes an international case when it’s feared that the victims may have been couriers smuggling nuclear material out of the defunct Soviet Union. The FBI sends an agent to help with the investigation. When he learns that a Russian physicist who designed a portable atomic bomb has disappeared, the race is on to find him—and the bomb—before it ends up in the wrong hands.

I quite enjoyed this book. It is a nice feeling when an author sends you a book to read and you have no idea what you are going in to but then find yourself caught up in this web of mystery and intrigue.

The characters were well fleshed out and they had just enough backstory to let the reader know all the details they needed to for the story to progress.

There is a heavy influence of LGBTQ+ in this book which I wasn’t expecting from this type of genre but I must say I am happy in the way it was used and glad that genres are branching out and including this type of representation.

I felt myself wanting to know what would happen next and kept myself up late at night to just get through the next chapter…..and then the next one…..and so on. This made me pretty tired at work for a couple days as it was a recurring situation :P.

Polish is also a part of my ancestry so it was interesting to read a book that was set in Poland. I had never really thought about the country or what it looks like over there but the book gave me a pretty good visual image of the economy and what it takes to survive day to day in such a place.

Overall, it wasn’t perfect. It had its little flaws where I would questions a character’s decisions sometimes but it was a solid novel with an intense sequence of events and I would be happy to read more by this author in the future.

Book Rating: 4/5

You can find this book on Amazon and Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author to read and give an honest review.

The author also provided us with an interview he conducted. Check it out below to get to know about him a little bit more.

Timothy Jay Smith (S#1)

THE FOURTH COURIER: AN INTERVIEW WITH TIMOTHY JAY SMITH

You have a new novel coming out, The Fourth Courier, set in Poland. What’s it about?

The Fourth Courier opens in the spring of 1992, only four months after the collapse of the Soviet Union. A series of grisly murders in Warsaw suddenly becomes an international concern when radiation is detected on the third victim’s hands, raising fears that all the victims might have smuggled nuclear material out of Russia.

Poland’s new Solidarity government asks for help and the FBI sends Special Agent Jay Porter to assist in the investigation. He teams up with a gay CIA agent. When they learn that a Russian physicist who designed a portable atomic bomb is missing, the race is on to find him and the bomb before it ends up in the wrong hands.

My novels have been called literary thrillers because I use an event or threat—a thriller plot—to examine what the situation means to ordinary people. In The Fourth Courier, Jay becomes intimately involved with a Polish family, giving the reader a chance to see how the Poles coped with their collective hangover from the communist era.

How did you come up with the story for The Fourth Courier?

The Fourth Courier book goes back a long way for me. In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell and Solidarity won the first free election in Poland in over sixty years. In the same year, Mikhail Gorbachev introduced new cooperative laws in the Soviet Union, which was an area of my expertise. I was invited to the Soviet Union as a consultant, which led to my consulting throughout the former Soviet bloc, eventually living for over two years in Poland.

At the time, there was a lot of smuggling across the border between Russia and Poland, giving rise to fears that nuclear material, too, might be slipping across. While on assignment in Latvia, I met with a very unhappy decommissioned Soviet general, who completely misunderstood my purpose for being there. When an official meeting concluded, he suggested we go for a walk where we could talk without being overheard.

I followed him deep into a forest. I couldn’t imagine what he wanted. Finally we stopped, and he said, “I can get you anything you want.” I must have looked puzzled because he added, “Atomic.”

Then I understood. In an earlier conversation, there had been some passing remarks about the Soviets’ nuclear arsenal in Latvia, for which he had had some responsibility, and apparently still some access. While my real purpose for being there was to design a volunteer program for business specialists, he assumed that was a front and I was really a spy. Or perhaps he thought, I really did want to buy an atomic bomb!

Have you always been a writer?

In the sense of enjoying to write, yes. I actually wrote my first stage play in fourth grade and started a novel in sixth grade, but I didn’t become a full-time fiction writer until twenty years ago. The first half of my adult life I spent working on projects to help low income people all over the world. I always enjoyed the writing aspects of my work—reports, proposals, even two credit manuals—but I reached a point where I’d accomplished my career goals, I was only forty-six years old, and I had a story I wanted to tell.

What was the story?

For over two years, I managed the U.S. Government’s first significant project to assist Palestinians following the 1993 Oslo Accords. One thing I learned was that everyone needed to be at the negotiating table to achieve an enduring peace. So I wrote a story of reconciliation—A Vision of Angels—that weaves together the lives of four characters and their families.

If anybody had ever hoped that a book might change the world, I did. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to bring about peace in the Middle East, but I’ve continued writing nevertheless.

The Fourth Courier has a strong sense of place. It’s obvious that you know Warsaw well. Other than living there, what special research did you do?

Warsaw is a city with a very distinctive character. It’s always atmospheric, verging on gloomy in winter, and the perfect location for a noir-ish thriller.

I had left Warsaw several years before I decided to write a novel set there, so I went back to refresh my memory. I looked at it entirely differently. What worked dramatically? Where would I set scenes in my story?

It was on that research trip when all the events along the Vistula River came together for me. There was a houseboat. There was Billy’s shack, and Billy himself whose “jaundiced features appeared pinched from a rotting apple.” There were sandbars reached by narrow concrete jetties and a derelict white building with a sign simply saying Nightclub. Fortunately, Billy’s dogs were tethered or I wouldn’t be here to answer your questions.

My main character is an FBI agent, and I didn’t know much about it. A friend, who was an assistant to Attorney General Janet Reno, arranged a private tour of the FBI’s training facility in Quantico. That was before 9/11. I don’t think that could be done now. Maybe for James Bond himself but not for a wannabe writer.

If I was going to write a novel about smuggling a portable atomic bomb, I needed to know what a bomb entailed. Weight, seize, basic design, fuel? How would a miniature bomb be detonated? So I blindly contacted the Department of Energy. I explained what I wanted and was soon connected to an atomic expert who agreed to meet with me.

We met on the weekend at a Starbucks-like coffee shop in Rockville, MD. We met in line and were already talking about atomic bombs before we ordered our coffees. He had brought basic drawings of them. He was an expert and eager to share his knowledge.

Can you imagine having that conversation in a café today, openly looking at how-to schematics for building an atomic bomb while sipping skinny lattés?

You’ve mentioned ‘scenes’ a couple of times. I know you also write screenplays. Do you find it difficult to go between the different formats or styles?

The sense of scene is crucial to my writing. It’s how I think about a story. Before I start new work, I always have the opening and closing scenes in my head, and then I ask myself what scenes do I need to get from start to finish.

I think it comes from growing up in a house where the television was never turned off. My sisters and I were even allowed to watch TV while doing homework if we kept our grades up. Sometimes I joke that canned laughter was the soundtrack of my childhood. I haven’t owned a television for many years, but growing up with it exposed me to telling stories in scenes, and it’s why my readers often say they can see my stories as they read them.

For me, it’s not difficult to go between prose and screenplays. In fact, I use the process of adapting a novel to a screenplay as an editing tool for the novel. It helps me sharpen the dialogue and tighten the story.

In your bio, you mention traveling the world to find your characters and stories, and doing things like smuggling out plays from behind the Iron Curtain. Was it all as exciting as it sounds?

It was only one play, and yes, I confess to having an exciting life. I’ve done some crazy things, too, and occasionally managed to put myself in dangerous situations. Frankly, when I recall some of the things I’ve done, I scare myself! By comparison, smuggling a play out of Czechoslovakia in 1974 seems tame. But I’ve always had a travel bug and wanted to go almost everywhere, so I took some chances, often traveled alone, and went to places where I could have been made to disappear without a trace.

It sounds like you have a whole library full of books you could write. How do you decide what story to tell and who will be your characters?

I came of age in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement and the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, so I developed a strong sense of social justice. That guided my career choice more than anything, and when I quit working to write full-time, it was natural that I wanted my books to reflect my concerns. Not in a “big message” way, but more in terms of raising awareness about things that concern me.

For example, take Cooper’s Promise, my novel about a gay deserter from the war in Iraq who ends up adrift in a fictional African country. It was 2003, and in a few days, I was headed to Antwerp to research blood diamonds for a new novel. I was running errands when NPR’s Neal Conan (Talk of the Nation) came on the radio with an interview of National Geographic photographer Jodi Cobb about a project on modern-day slavery. It was the first time I heard details about human trafficking, and was so shocked by its enormity that I pulled my car off the road to listen.

I decided on the spot that I needed to find a story that touched on both blood diamonds and trafficking. When I went to Antwerp a few days later, I visited the Diamond District as planned, but also visited a safe house for women who had been rescued from traffickers.

In The Fourth Courier, you team up a white straight FBI agent with a black gay CIA agent. Even Publishers Weeklycommented that it seemed like an ideal set-up for a sequel. Do you plan to write one?

Probably not. My to-be-written list is already too long.

I’m close to finishing the final edits on a book set in Greek island village, which is more of a mystery about an arsonist than a thriller. I’ve already started a new novel set in Istanbul about a young refugee who’s recruited by the CIA to go deep undercover with ISIS. I’ve never written a novel set in the States but I have the idea for one.

To date, my books have been stand-alones with totally different settings, characters, and plots. I try to write what I like to read: smart mysteries/thrillers with strong plots and colorful characters set in interesting places. I suppose like me, I want my stories to travel around and meet new people.

You’ve had gay protagonists or important characters since your first novel over twenty years ago when gay literature had not yet become mainstream. How would you say that affected your choices as a writer, or did it?

Friends warned me that I shouldn’t become known as a gay writer because it would pigeonhole me and sideline me from consideration as a serious writer. At the time, I think the general public thought gay books were all about sex and more sex. Of course, already there were many emerging gay literary writers; it was more stigma than reality.

The world of thrillers and mysteries is still largely uninhabited by gays. Hopefully I am helping to change that. I also hope that my novels expand my readers’ understanding of homosexuality in the places where I set them. In The Fourth Courier, the gay angle is key to solving the case. In my other novels, too, the plot turns on something gay, and the way it does is always something that couldn’t have happened in the same way anywhere else because of the cultural context.

What do you want your readers to take away from The Fourth Courier?

What motivated me to write The Fourth Courier was a desire to portray what happened to ordinary Polish people at an exciting albeit unsettling moment in their country’s history. I hope my readers like my characters as much as I do—at least the good guys. The people are what made Poland such a great experience.

The Fourth Courier is my thank-you note to them.


I also released a new video onto book tube recently so feel free to watch it here and make sure to like and subscribe if you like it!

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Book Highlight: Stone by L.C. Conn

I’m thrilled to present the next installment in L.C. Conn’s epic One True Child series, Stones! Please read on for an exclusive excerpt, and a chance to win a copy of the book!

Also, for all you fantasy loving book reviewers out there, the entire series is available in exchange for honest reviews. Contact R&R Book Tours for more info!

L C Conn - Stones Book 5 CoverStones (One True Child #5)

Publication Date: March 5th, 2019

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Publisher: Between the Lines Publishing

Deep within the New Zealand bush, lies a plateau with a clearing, covered in the many years of fallen leaves, it is damp and dark. Hidden just under the surface are the stones, green and still polished, placed by the Guardians of this land. There is power in them still and they are about to bear witness to a great battle between light and darkness. Claire Drummond is in danger, her very life depends on the actions and help of her husband and family. Also, the man she thought had left her life for good, Tony Benning. Caught up once more in the heavy turmoil of good vs evil, Claire has much more to fight for than just a set of stones in the highlands of Scotland. This time it’s personal. This time he has her daughter

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Chapter One

The house was deathly quiet, and it suited the moment as Claire Drummond hung up the phone with a frown. She had always known that this time would come, but it still made her heart feel heavy. He was the last of his generation, and now her Uncle Geoff was seriously ill and in decline. The last four years had felt like one long funeral, as her grandparents had passed away one by one. But Lynnette, Grace, and Malcolm had all been there for the two most important moments in her life since meeting them when she was seventeen: her wedding to her wonderful husband, Matt, and the birth of their daughter Breena a year later.

No matter how much she had come to love her grandparents, Geoff held a special place in her heart. It was her uncle who had taken her in and cared for her since she was ten years old after her parents had been murdered. He had been her strength and support when at seventeen she had learnt about her past, her Talents, and the truth of where she had come from. Then again with her ordeal both in Scotland and back home, until Matt had found her again—even though she had not appreciated it at the time.

Quickly she glanced at her watch; it was almost time to collect Breena from school. Claire grabbed her jacket and scarf and headed out into the bitter cold southerly wind. Clouds, dark and threatening, raced overhead; she shivered as the cold winter air blasted around her, creeping under the layers she was wearing. The walk was only a short one, but today her feet felt heavy, dragging as she made her way down the street. She stopped for a moment as the news finally sunk in; a tear escaped her eye and she let it fall.

Steadying her breathing and calming not only her mind but also her heart, she carried on. Claire brought forth the image of her daughter—her long, dark curly hair that refused to stay in a ponytail for longer than a few minutes, the bright blue eyes so much like her father’s, and the image of her namesake—Matt’s long-passed sister. Sometimes when they were alone together, Breena would look up at her and smile. It had a depth to it that suggested something to Claire, but she always put it out of her mind as soon as she thought it, refusing to face what might be true.

The gates of the school were already open, and children of all sizes streamed out of them into the waiting arms of parents or walked together for the trip home. The noise of their chatter and squeals of delight turned to shouts and calls of farewell. Claire smiled and waved at friends, promising to get together for a coffee or a playdate with the kids while she waited for Breena to skip out of the narrow entrance. Normally her daughter was very punctual and the wait at the gate was a short one, but today there was no sign of her.

Glancing around frantically, Claire could feel panic starting to rise inside her chest. Today of all days, Breena had decided to tarry. She searched for her daughter in the still-moving crowd of little people, but she was not there. Claire headed in through the gates and made her way to Breena’s classroom; her teacher was at the door, talking to another mother. She smiled as Claire approached, then pointed inside. Looking through the door, Claire found her daughter still sitting at the table, drawing.

“Bree, what are you doing, sweetheart? School has finished,” Claire said as she entered.

“Hello, Mum. I just wanted to finish this.” Bree indicated the paper she was drawing on. The little girl turned back to her task and the long, wavy black hair fell over her face, free from the hair ties Claire had put in that morning.

“We have to go; you can’t stay here after school. How about you bring it home and finish it there?” Claire knelt down and pushed the hair off her daughter’s face. “What are you drawing?”

“It’s a picture for my friend,” she told her mother.

Claire looked at the picture; it constantly surprised her how well Bree could draw, knowing full well she had inherited it from her father and her grandmother. The picture Bree was so determined to finish before going home was clearly of her and a very tall person.

“Who’s that with you?” Claire asked her.

“That’s my friend—I told you about him. He’s funny. He asked me to draw a picture of us.” Bree smiled and stood up. “Can I really take it home to do?”

“Yes, of course you can. Come on.” She held out her hand for her daughter to take and they collected Bree’s bag from the hook outside. As they walked up the street, Claire pondered the person in the picture with a little concern. “So does this friend have a name?” she asked Bree curiously.

“No, he won’t tell me what it is, so I call him Mr Man. He laughs when I call him that.” Bree smiled.

Claire took her daughter’s hand, and she started to skip beside her mother. Her backpack bounced on her back, and Claire could hear something rolling around inside.

“Did you eat your lunch today, Bree?” She looked down at her.

“No; I told you I don’t like cottage cheese and cucumber. It’s yucky.”

“But you liked it last week.”

“Now I don’t. What I do like is peanut butter and…” Bree stopped skipping while she thought, making Claire come to a halt as well.

“What do you like with peanut butter?”

“Shh; I’m thinking.” Her little finger was pressed against her mouth as she contemplated.

Claire waited, starting to feel frustrated. It seemed her daughter’s taste in food changed from one minute to the next, and trying to keep up was becoming difficult. Fat raindrops started to fall, landing heavily on the path around them, leaving dark splatter spots on the pale concrete.

“Come on, Bree, otherwise we are going to get drenched!” She tugged her daughter into movement and they raced down the street together, laughing and squealing whenever they got hit by a raindrop.

After they reached their front door, Bree raced inside and dumped her bag in the living room, then headed straight for the kitchen. Claire picked up the bag and pulled out the lunchbox. Everything she had put in it that morning was gone, except for the offending sandwich. The picture Bree had been so busy drawing caught her attention.

Taking it with her, she walked into the kitchen. Already strewn across the countertop were bread, butter, peanut butter, and three different types of jams. Bree was attempting to spread the peanut butter on the bread, but she seemed to be smearing it on everything else as well.

“You make the mess, missy, you clean it up.”

“Yes, Mum.”

Claire pinned the picture up on the notice board and looked at it clearly for the first time. It was beautifully done, and Breena had captured her own face very well, but the drawing of her daughter’s mysterious imaginary friend gave her an uneasy feeling once more. He was not quite finished, but already she could see some of his features and they seemed almost familiar.

“Mum?” Bree called her.

“Mmm?” Claire broke her gaze at the page and turned to face her.

“Can we go see Granddad soon?” she asked, taking a bite from her jam-dripping sandwich. As soon as Bree could talk, she’d refused to call Geoff by any other name than Granddad; it had made him so pleased that Claire never corrected her.

Her question stunned Claire, especially after the phone call she had received. “Why’s that, Bree?”

“I just get this feeling we should go see him.” Jam was now smeared on her face, not just the countertop.

“As a matter of fact, my little oracle, we are leaving in an hour and will be there tonight.” Claire grabbed a cloth and handed it to Bree. “So when you have finished eating that sandwich and cleaned up your mess, then go and find some things to take with you. And I don’t mean half of your toys.”

Claire finished packing their bags and dropped them at the front door on the way to the kitchen as she listened to Bree chatting about her day. The evidence of her daughter’s cleaning was still on the bench, with smeared lines of peanut butter and jam heading towards the sink. Claire shook her head and picked up the cloth, rinsed it off and finished the job, then went looking for her daughter.

In her bedroom Bree was sitting in the middle of the floor and staring at a couple of her dolls. She picked one up very carefully and then whispered to it. “I’ll take you; I think you will be good on this trip.” She placed the doll carefully into the bag at her side and then put the other away on her bed. “You can come on our next trip, to Scotland.”

“Come on, Bree; we have to go pick up Dad.”

“I’m ready.” Bree picked up her bag and put it on her shoulder, then took one last look around her room.

Claire hated the rush-hour traffic that was already starting to build and knew that getting out of the city would be a nightmare—even more so now that the rain had set in. She threaded the small car in and out of the lanes and waited impatiently for the many traffic lights that were determined to delay her. Finally, she made it to the university, pulled into the car park, and took out her phone.

“Here he comes, Mum!” Bree squealed from the back seat.

Matt Drummond was running down the steps from the administration building and splashing across the rain-soaked car park with his bag over his head. He jumped into the car and slammed the door quickly behind him.

“How’s my girls?” he asked and then leaned over to give Claire a kiss.

“We’re going to see Granddad,” Bree answered him from the back.

“Aye; I know, my wee angel.” Matt looked hard at Claire. “Have you had any word?”

Claire nodded instead of answering in case she started to cry. “Charlie rang,” she said softly, pulling back onto the road and into the madness of congestion.

“Do you want me to drive?” Matt placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

“No, you can take over after we stop for dinner.” She smiled weakly back at him.

After the stop-start congestion of the city and suburbs that surrounded it, the journey to the village was an uneventful one. The small family only stopped once when Bree started to complain about being hungry and then got back on the road as soon as possible. Once Matt was in the driver’s seat, Claire could relax and take a breath. She remembered the first time Geoff had taken her on this journey; it seemed then that her life had been turned completely upside down.

But that had been nothing compared to her first trip to Scotland, where she thought she was going to be on an ordinary excavation. The discovery of the heritage of The Community was still ongoing, thanks to what she had learned in Scotland, but also of her own heritage and learning the purpose for which she had been born. The Talents that the Guardians of the land had given her still had not found their limits, and sometimes that scared her—just as much as the death of Jack at her hands had. And always in the background—supporting and caring for her—was Uncle Geoff.

She had always hoped that one day he would find love again. He had told her once that he hadn’t enough time left to train a new wife. Claire knew this was only an excuse; he had found his love and lost her, and he didn’t want a replacement.

Claire looked over to her husband and thought the same thing. How on earth could she replace him? He was so perfect for her, always knowing when she needed extra love, when she needed calm. He made her laugh—a lot—and kept her on an even keel. The day she met him was still so vivid in her mind. The first thing she had noticed about him was his eyes, those beautiful, bright blue eyes.

It was a little bit after nine in the evening when they pulled up outside Geoff Brown’s house in the village. The porch light blazed a warm welcome with its golden glow, and a curtain twitched briefly, showing a patch of light from the living room. The door was opened before they even reached the steps, and her Uncle Ben and Aunt Charlie came out to greet them.

Ben pulled Claire into a big hug and welcomed her home, then turned to Matt and shook his hand. Charlie was next, with a warm smile and an even warmer hug, and then she guided her into the hallway, telling one of her tall sons to go get the bags from the car.

“Do you want to go straight up, or do you want a cuppa first?” Charlie asked her softly.

“I’ll go up. Matt, can you make sure Bree gets ready for bed?”

“Go on up; don’t worry about a thing, my love.” He gave her a kiss and watched as she climbed the stairs to Geoff’s room.

Claire hesitated at the door; taking a deep breath, she opened it quietly. The inside was lit softly by a single lamp at his bedside, and what she saw made her heart break. Geoff, who had been so full of life and vigour, now lay quiet and thin. His breathing was even and shallow, his skin a pallid colour. The full head of hair, which had stubbornly remained mostly dark with a couple of distinguishing bits of grey at the sides, was now almost fully white. His illness had ravaged his body, and he was now so wasted away she nearly didn’t recognise him.

A chair had been pulled up to the side of the bed, and Claire sat in it. She held his hand and kissed it, his skin dry and thin like paper under her touch. She brought it up to her forehead and did something she had never done with him before—she sought out his subconscious.

As she had expected, Claire found an orderly and tidy mind. Everything was compartmentalised and in its place. She found him with ease; it was almost as if he had signposted it for her.

“I wondered if you would,” Geoff said to her as she entered. He stood before her just as he had been when she was a teenager. Tall, with dark hair and eyes, and a grin from one large ear to another, stretched out under his equally large nose.

“Uncle Geoff!” She ran to him and before he could say no, she hugged him close.

“Claire!” Geoff tried to push her off at first, horrified, but she resisted until he hugged her back, wrapping those ever-reassuring arms around her once more. They stayed that way for some time, and by the time she did release him, her face was awash with tears.

“That was a foolish thing to do, Kid,” Geoff told her as he held her at arm’s length. “But I thank you.”

“How are you? Are you in pain?”

“No, I’m fine. I find that I am quite comfortable and happy. It’s my time, Kid, and nothing you do is going to stop it.”

“I know.” She nodded.

“Now, have you brought that little firecracker with you? I would like to see her one last time.”

“Bree is with us. She even asked this afternoon if we could come and see you.”

“Good. She reminds me so much of you. So full of energy and enthusiasm. And Matt—has he been well, not missing Scotland too much?”

“No, he is going back in a couple of months. His mother isn’t too good.”

“Oh, that’s not good. I liked Leana; I’ll keep an eye out on the other side for her.”

“But you don’t believe in God and the afterlife.”

“Ahh, a human failing it is to change one’s mind when the end is nigh.” He laughed, then his mood changed. “There is one thing I would very much like you to do for me before I go.”

“Anything, Uncle Geoff. Just name it,” Claire promised.

“I would dearly love to see John and Jess one last time. Can you call them here?”

She nodded with another trickle of tears chasing each other down her cheeks. Claire closed her eyes and sent the call into the dark reaches of her own mind, and she heard the answer at once.

On either side of her, a man and a woman materialised. John, her father, was in black, and Jess, her mother, in white. They greeted her with a kiss each and then went to meet Geoff. Claire had to swallow a lump in her throat as she watched them greet each other and stood back to give them some time together.

Sitting on a large green leather chair, Claire waited while they talked until she felt a tug at her mind. She grasped onto it and brought it in, and she found she was holding on to Matt’s hand.

“I didn’t want to disturb you,” he said quietly, taking in the scene before him.

“That’s all right, Matt. I was feeling a bit alone.” He wrapped his arms around her, both mentally and physically, and she cried into his shoulder.

“Hey, I don’t want tears in here, thank you; you’ll make everything wet,” said Geoff’s deep voice, and he grasped Matt’s hand and pulled him into a hug. They became close while they stayed at his family’s home in Scotland and had remained just as close when Matt came to New Zealand.

“Thank you for looking after her; make sure you keep it up. And that gorgeous girl of yours,” Geoff told him.

“I will always. I promise,” Matt vowed.

“Now, I thank you all for visiting me, but I would very much like to wake up for a second and tell Bree goodnight. John and Jess, I have missed you, and it was a very great privilege and honour to look after your daughter. She is the daughter of my heart.”

“It is us who should be thanking you, Uncle Geoff. You have raised her to be such a fine woman.” John shook his hand and hugged him one last time.

“Thank you, Geoff,” Jess said and kissed him on the cheek.

“Right—the lot of you, out,” he said gruffly, trying to hold back his own tears.

Slowly John and Jess faded out, and Matt gave Geoff another handshake. They spoke no words to each other, just nodded.

Finally it was just Claire once more, and Geoff gathered her up again in his arms. “I meant what I said. You are the daughter I never had, and if you were truly mine I couldn’t have been prouder, Claire.”

“I love you, Uncle Geoff, and I am proud to be called your daughter. I am so lucky to have had two fathers who have cared so much for me.” She kissed his cheek and then pulled away.

“Go get Bree; I want to see her one last time.” Claire felt him push her away and she left, very carefully, and finally detached her mind from his.

Geoff’s eyes fluttered open, and Bree was by his side in her pyjamas and ready for bed.

“There she is! How are you, my firecracker?” he asked softly and smiled at her.

“I’m good, Granddad. Are you just about ready to go?” Her voice was very low, almost a whisper.

“I do believe that I am, but I waited till I could see you again.” Bree climbed up on the bed and gave him a hug.

“Matt, can you go get Ben and the others? It’s nearly time,” Claire whispered to her husband. He nodded in reply, gave her shoulder a squeeze, and left to go downstairs.

When Claire turned her attention back to the man who had raised her and the child she loved, she noticed that Bree was whispering something to him. Geoff’s eyes widened, and he looked at his granddaughter with surprise and love.

Ben, Charlie, and their two boys, Oliver and Owen, filed into the room, followed by Matt. Ben sat on the other side of the bed and held his uncle’s other hand. Geoff smiled and took one last look around the room at all who were left of his family. Bree, still at his side, rested her head on his shoulder, and he closed his eyes.

His breathing, which had been so shallow when Claire first stepped into the room, now began to falter and become ragged. They watched over him into the small hours of the morning, until his last breath escaped his lips and he became still.

“Owen, can you and Oliver take Bree out of the room, please?” Charlie asked her son.

Bree reached up and stroked Geoff’s face. “Goodbye, Granddad. I love you.” She stood up and went around to Owen and held his hand. Before Bree left the room, she took one last look at Geoff and sighed.

Claire was still holding Geoff’s hand in hers, and she didn’t want to release it. One of the most important men in her life had just left her for the last time, and she felt that a piece of her heart went with him. Tears coursed down her face and dripped onto her lap. A tissue was produced in front of her, and she took it. Finally she let go of Geoff’s hand and laid it gently back on the bed by his side.

Matt was there immediately to gather her up into one of his comforting embraces, holding her gently and letting her cry. He stroked her hair and kissed her head. When she was ready, he led her out of the room and down the stairs, followed by Ben and Charlie.

The bottle of whiskey was produced from its high cupboard in the kitchen, along with some glasses. With a measure each, they raised them in salute to the man who had meant so much to all of them. Bree climbed onto her mother’s lap and cuddled in, as she had when she was a baby, and fell asleep.

The next few days were a whirlwind of emotions, endless tasks, and cups of tea. And skipping through it all and giving bright smiles and cuddles was Bree; she made sure that everyone benefitted from her sunny nature. Claire had often observed when she was with her friends that this child could make anyone smile.

The day of the funeral, Bree stuck close to her mother all day. Whenever Claire turned around, there she was, slipping her small hand into her mother’s larger one. Claire would instantly feel calmer as she looked into her daughter’s beautiful eyes.

It was a simple service; Geoff had insisted on that. He hadn’t wanted anything too over-the-top or sad. The elders each got up to speak; Claire thought this would have horrified Geoff, as he had often complained about how long their meetings were each month. Claire couldn’t face standing up in front of the large crowd that had gathered in the hall, and she had asked Ben to do the eulogy on behalf of the family.

Ben stood up behind the podium on the stage with a few notes in front of him and cleared his throat. Claire noticed how much he had grown to look like his brother, her father, and reminded herself to tell him. He looked out at the crowd and began. Tales of Geoff from a nephew’s perspective garnered laughter from the gathered mourners. Ben spoke eloquently and long, something he seemed to have inherited from his uncle. He touched a little on Geoff’s relationship with Claire and their history without going into too many details, which had Claire both grateful and a little teary.

The wake was held in the village hall, and it was full of people; he had touched many lives, and they had come from far and wide to farewell him. But the core was the family, and Claire watched them carefully. The boys were now young men; Owen, Oliver, and Hunter, now nineteen, were all at university. The twins were studying architecture, and Ben had great hopes of them joining his construction company. Hunter was following in his father’s footsteps and was studying agriculture. He had declared at the age of twelve that he wanted to take over the farm from his father, much to the horror of his mother. The oldest of Claire’s cousins was Jasper, and he had just graduated with honours in teaching.

As she talked to them, she realised how much they were like their parents. Owen had his mother’s gentle nature and also her Healing Talent, but he confessed to having a phobia of blood. Oliver was more like his father, ready for a good laugh and a joke; he had the Seek Talent. Hunter had Flight and regaled Claire with his exploits in freerunning, something he had long loved, having been taught by her. Jasper, now twenty-three and with Light Talent, told her he had had enough of study for a while and was about to embark on his own adventures overseas before taking up his first teaching job.

Adam and Addy and their two children had come from the city the day before, and Claire was glad they had. Their twin boys, Cameron and Dominic, were great friends with Bree, and they took her mind off the serious and sad nature of the gathering. She decided she still had a great and supportive family.

At one point, Claire found herself sitting in the corner alone, watching everyone as they mingled. Beth was there, but now the laughter and smiles were no longer forced. She talked to everyone with ease, so unlike the Beth Claire had first met that night all those years before. And she had a flashback to the welcome party and Jack approaching her.

“Claire? You okay?”

She looked up and found David standing before her. He was her mother’s twin brother and a great support to Claire; she had taken to him at once with his easy nature.

“Just going down memory lane,” she said and smiled.

He sat down beside her. “A lot has happened.”

“It has indeed. How’s the farm going?”

“Oh, you know, still the same. I can’t wait for Hunter to be finished with his studies so I can take a bit more of a back seat. I thought I might take Beth on a trip to Scotland.” He winked and smiled at her.

“Do you think she will be able to handle all the midges?”

“She’ll be all right. Do you think Gerry, Leana, and Gran would welcome a couple of visitors?”

“I’m sure they would love to see you. They always ask after you and your family. You made quite an impression on them.”

“We get a card from them every Christmas. Even though it was such a strange trip, I really enjoyed myself.”

Claire spotted Addy and Beth talking. “So are they getting on any better?” she asked him with a small grin.

“No, they still have arguments on how to raise the grandkids. I still can’t believe that I am a grandfather!” He laughed at the thought.

“Just remind Beth that her mother-in-law also had small issues with her. That might change things a bit.”

“Are you kidding me? That would be like a red rag to a bull. Just keep that nose of yours out of it, Kid.” He watched his wife a bit more then stood. “I’d better get over there and split them up before it gets too heated. Come for lunch tomorrow; I know Beth would love to fuss over you for a bit.”

“We will. Thank you, Uncle David.” David smiled at Claire; she hadn’t called him that in years, and he left her with a warm heart.

The afternoon dragged on, and Claire kept herself occupied by cleaning up cups and plates in between talking to the elders about the work she was carrying out for them. With everyone gone, she shooed out those who had volunteered to help clean up, declaring that she needed a bit of time to herself and would finish cleaning the hall on her own. She asked Matt to take Bree back to the house; he kissed her after making sure she was all right and left her to it.

The kitchenette was scrubbed and the rubbish bags tied and waiting by the door to go out. Out in the main hall, she held a broom in her hands and started to sweep; it was a great time to be lost in her thoughts in the quiet. Memories of Geoff made her smile and cry in turn. The peace and silence of the large room was just what she needed, having had people constantly around her for the last three days. Her defences were down as she reminisced, and she didn’t hear the silent footsteps enter the foyer.

She turned in front of the stage to make the final run down the length of the hall when she saw movement. Standing in the doorway was a tall figure with wavy dark hair, now with the touches of time showing, and dark brown eyes that stared at her with such intensity.

“Hello, Claire.”

“What are you doing here?” Claire asked.

“I came to give you my condolences.” He started to walk towards her slowly.

“I don’t think you should come any further, Tony.” She leaned on the broom as she watched him get closer.

“I really am sorry for your loss, Claire, for all your losses.” Tony stopped and never took his eyes off her.

“Have you been following me all this time?”

“No, I took your advice. I got a job overseas and got back about a month ago. I’ve only checked up on you once since I returned.”

Claire gave him a small smile. “I’m pleased to hear that. And have you gotten over your obsession?”

“I did hope so, but then I read that Geoff died and I found myself halfway out the door to come see you. You seem to be a hard habit to break.”

“Maybe you need to go see someone, get some therapy for it.”

“Oh, I did that too; I ended up in a relationship with her, and she accused me of transference and then broke up with me. So even that didn’t work.” He chuckled.

“You’re a hopeless case, then.”

“Probably. Or maybe I’m just crap with women.”

“So you couldn’t just stay away, stop yourself from coming all this way. A card would have done.”

He stepped closer to her involuntarily. “I needed to see for myself that you were okay. No matter how hard I try, I still care very deeply for you.”

“Ah! You said care, not love,” she told him. “There is a difference.”

“Yes, there is, but I try not so say it, because if I do…” He trailed away. He was closer now, and Claire did nothing to stop him.

“Your daughter is beautiful.”

“Stay away from her, Tony.”

“Don’t worry, I’m not interested in her.” He smiled down at her; he was close enough to touch her now. “I still remember that night—it haunts my dreams. That kiss.”

“This is not helping.” She took a step back from him, unsure whether he would hurt her. Slowly she gathered her energy around her and held it in place, ready for anything.

“No, it’s not.” He ran a hand through his thick, wavy hair. “Look, my offer is still there. If you ever need me for anything, call me.”

“I threw the card away. I found it when we were moving,” Claire told him.

He pulled his phone from his pocket, dialled a number, and waited. Over by the wall, Claire could hear her phone ringing. She turned automatically to answer it before realising that he had her number already. She turned back to him.

“Hi, Claire; just a gentle reminder that I am still around.” He hit the End button on his phone and put it back in his pocket. “There you are; you have my number now. I told you I will always keep tabs on you.”

“Are you ever going to stop this?”

“Probably not. If I haven’t by now, what’s the point?”

“I’d like you to leave, Tony.” She carried on sweeping down the hall and when she reached the end, she turned to find he had followed her.

“You are still the most beautiful woman in the world, Claire. Matt is a very lucky man; I hope he realises how lucky he is.”

She stood up straight; to her, it sounded like he was threatening her husband. “He does. Every day he tells me how much he loves me and how lucky he is, and I tell him the same right back.”

“Good. Because I have tried everything in my power to break you two up, and not once has he taken the bait.” He had a grin on his face that made Claire very uneasy.

“Please leave—before I do something I might regret.”

“Remember, Claire, I was on that hill top as well that night. The Talents given to me by the Guardians are still with me. I think we would be very evenly matched.”

“Why stand there and throw veiled threats at me, then? Why scare me?”

“I’m sorry if I have; it was never my intention.”

“Well, you did. You have said what you wanted to say; there is nothing more to talk about.” She leaned the broom up against the wall. When she turned back, it was to find him standing only inches from her.

Stepping back hurriedly, Claire tripped over the broom and started to fall. He grabbed her, wrapping his arms around her body, standing her up on her feet once more. She looked up into his eyes and had a hard job pulling away—from both his gaze and his touch—but finally she did both and moved away.

“Please, just go,” she begged him quietly.

“I think I should,” Tony replied. He turned, and Claire watched him leave the hall. He stopped at the door and looked back at her. “I know you were looking at my arse.” He smiled and left, his chuckle of laughter floating back to her.

Claire stood staring at the doorway and shook her head, a wry smile tugging at her lips. Her own parting words the last time she had talked to him came floating back to her. Walk away, Tony…stop watching me. My arse isn’t that great!

She finished cleaning, turned the lights off, and headed out of the hall, shutting the door behind her. Out in the cool wintry air, she shivered and pulled her jacket around her more tightly. She hoped the walk would help get rid of any thoughts of Tony that still remained. Just the thought of him made her look around; she could feel him still near and reached out with her mind.

Having already been inside his mind once before made it easy for her to gain access again. She walked through the various compartments, looking for one particular part. When she found it, Claire noticed that it had changed slightly. The white filigree box with golden coils was now very glossy and slightly larger. Slowly she felt the surface; it was warm and slick, and she trailed her hand around it.

“Now who is intruding on whose life?” his rich voice spoke from beside her. “And how did you get in here?”

“I just wanted to see it again, and it is amazing what I can do now. I can access any part of you that I wish, not just your brain. If I wanted, I could stop your heart. If you wanted, I could make you stop loving me.”

“But I don’t want that, Claire. I would rather you stopped my heart. But I know you. I know that you could not hurt me in any way. You proved it on the hill that night. In your own way, you love me.”

“Please leave the village; don’t stay.” Claire withdrew her thoughts from his and walked down the street. The wind was starting to pick up and the moon was rising over the hill. From behind her, she heard a car starting and then driving down the road in the opposite direction. She listened to it leave with a tear in her eye.

Now Available on Amazon!

About the Author

L C Conn - Author Photo

L.C. Conn grew up on the outskirts of Upper Hutt, New Zealand. Her backyard encompassed the surrounding farmland, river, hills and mountains which she wandered with her brothers and fed her imagination. After discovering a love for writing in English class at the age of eight, she continued to write in secret. It was not until much later in life that L.C. turned what she thought was a hobby and something fun to do, into her first completed novel. Now married, L.C. moved from New Zealand to Perth, Western Australia, and became a stay at home mum. While caring for her family and after battling breast cancer, a story was born from the kernel of a dream. The first book of The One True Child Series was begun, and just kept blooming into seven completed stories.

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Book Highlight: Side Chick Nation

Side Chick Nation_FINAL

Check out the hot new cover for Aya de León’s upcoming book, Side Chick Nation! The story sounds just as sizzling!

Side Chick Nation (A Justice Hustler’s Book)

Expected Publication Date: June 25th, 2019

Genre: Feminist Crime Fiction

Pages: 352

Dulce García was a teen sexually exploited by a violent New York pimp until Marisol Rivera rescued her. But Dulce didn’t stay rescued for long. In SIDE CHICK NATION, Dulce’s unhealed trauma and appetite for thrills lead her into an endless party of sugar daddies in the Caribbean. Until she gets caught in Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico—and witnesses both the heartbreaking disaster of climate change, and the international vultures who plunder the tragedy for a financial killing, making shady use of relief funds to devastate the island even more . . .

Meanwhile, New York-based mastermind thief Marisol already has her hands full fleecing a ruthless CEO who’s stealing her family’s land in Puerto Rico and getting her relatives out alive. An additional crew member could be game-changing, but she’s wary of Dulce’s unpredictability and history of indiscretion. Still, Dulce’s growing determination to get justice draws Marisol in, along with her formidable Lower East Side Women’s Health Clinic’s heist squad. But their on-the-fly race-against-the-clock plan is soon complicated by a sexy crusading journalist—not to mention powerful men who turn deadly when ex-side chicks step out of the shadows and demand to call the shots…

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About the Author

Aya and book

Aya de León teaches creative writing in UC Berkeley’s African American Studies Department. Her award-winning Justice Hustlers series has received acclaim in the Washington Post, Jacobin Magazine, and The Establishment. Her work has also appeared in Ebony, Essence, Guernica, Ploughshares, The Root, VICE, and on Def Poetry. She is an alumna of Cave Canem and VONA.

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Book Review: Armada by Ernest Cline

What’s up bookworms? I hope you are all reading your hearts out. I know I am. Over the past 3 weeks, I participated in my first ever buddy read with J.W.Martin from Storeys of Stories and we read the book Armada by Ernest Cline. We did about 2 chapters a day and fit in extra when we had time but stayed pretty consistent. Each day we would message each other about the stuff that happened in the book and give our predictions for what we thought would happen. It was quite fun and we plan to do another in May. For now, you can read my review below!

The book Armada by Ernest Cline on a bed

Synopsis: Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.

And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.

No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar?

If you loved the nostalgia in Ready Player One then you will like this book because it is stuffed with it. It has many references to Star Wars, Star Trek, pretty much any Sci-Fi film franchise you can think of. This made me very happy.

Zach is a lovable character that takes you on a journey of life as a nerdy kid. He has his two best friends (both named Michael) by his side and they are all extreme gamers who log at least 15 hours or more a week on their favorite game, Armada. The author introduces more characters along the way that I’m very fond of. I can see this book potentially being made into a movie.

One thing I would say is that the conclusion of the novel seemed very forced and too fast. I was hoping for more action and intense descriptive fight scenes (they still are there but it seems to wrap up and move onto the next scene too quickly). The book has so much build up to the finale so the least they could do is extend it a little longer to satisfy the reader with that juicy explosion of an ending. This was the area where the book fell short for me and the reason I gave it a 4 star rating instead of a 5 star rating.

Overall, I would suggest this book to anyone that wants a fast-paced science fiction page-turner.

Book Rating: 4/5

You can buy this book on Amazon or Book Depository and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: I bought this book with my own money and read it because I wanted to.


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Book Highlight: Prince of Secrets and Shadows

Welcome to the blog tour for the highly anticipated follow up novel in The Order of the Crystal Daggers series, Prince of Secrets and Shadows! Please read on for an exclusive excerpt, purchase details, and of course, a fab giveaway to enter!

But wait, there’s more! Today I am also revealing the stunning cover for book #3, Heart of Hope and Fear with a little teaser!

2 Prince of Secrets and Shadows final front cover.jpgPrince of Secrets and Shadows

Publication Date: December 4th, 2018

Genre: YA/ Historical Fiction/ Adventure/ Romance

“How do I know you’re telling me the truth?” The last thing I wanted to do was hurt him, but if I did not find a way to break free of him, I would risk doing even more harm.

Ferdy met my gaze with his. “I promise you this, Ella, that as of now, I will never lie to you again.” He leaned forward and kissed me again, and I stood there, letting him, desperately debating whether I could trust him or not. His promise burned through me, his words scorched into my being. It was so tempting to believe him, more tempting than anything else I had ever faced in all my life.

Freedom was only freedom if I could trust it to be true.

PRAGUE, 1870

After joining the Order of the Crystal Daggers, led by her dauntless grandmother, Lady Penelope, Eleanora Svobodová set out to save her kingdom from oncoming devastation.
And she failed.

Following the attack on Prague Castle, Eleanora is determined to redeem herself. She sets out to win Karl’s trust while distancing herself from Ferdy, whose secrets and lies have done nothing to stop her from falling in love with him. As she struggles to let him go, questions about the mission and her mother’s past cause a rift between Amir and Lady Penelope and add to the growing discord between Eleanora and her brother.
But when a cunning provocateur arrives in Prague, Eleanora discovers there is an even more deadly game afoot, one that reaches into Amir’s past and threatens Lady Penelope’s future. Now, the members of the Order must work together if they are to uncover the true enemy hiding in Bohemia.

Can they work together despite their divisions? Or will their division lead to even more destruction?

With spies, secrets, and suspense, Prince of Secrets and Shadows is the second book in The Order of the Crystal Daggers, a spy adventure series from C. S. Johnson.

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Excerpt

2-prince-of-secrets-and-shadows-final-front-cover-e1552480694169.jpg

“I told you the truth about your grandmother’s past, including some of the secrets she carries,” Harshad said. “But you are still not any more inclined to trust her with your secrets, are you?”

I blushed at his perception and shook my head. “No.”

He nodded. “I thought as much. Trust is a process, especially in a fallen world.”

Perhaps for once, I understood why Harshad wanted me to remain silent while he talked. Everything he said was intentional, designed to tantalize the mind. I was suddenly appalled when I realized how much I had likely missed in our sessions before.

I hoped I would be able to make up for it, after our mission was over.

When he did speak again, it seemed as though ages had passed. “You really are so much like Dezda. I wanted to see for myself how different you are, and that required time.” His voice was much more of a whisper, and I knew he was taking a risk, and letting me know one of his secrets. “I know you are different enough that I can freely admit that I came to regret training Dezda. I did not want to make the same mistake with you.”

“This is not a mistake,” I said, but I felt my resolve weaken. I remembered how Ferdy told me that the Order of the Crystal Daggers was full of assassins, and I had nothing to say in return. He was likely right. I did not know if I was comfortable having the talent to kill someone.

Harshad seemed to agree with my unspoken concerns. “Fighting is contrary to your nature.”

“Being stubborn and contrary is not.” A wry grin appeared on my face, and I was suddenly determined to change the subject. “Besides, Lady Penelope says that Society can only exist when people do things that are unacceptable to save it.”

“That does not mean you must be such a person.”

“I do not agree,” I said. “I am free to see the truth of such a calling, even if it is uncomfortable.”

“This is not what you want.”

I did not know how to respond; Harshad was right. I had my doubts about the Order, about working with people who, as Lady POW said, would fail me.

But I was at the castle when Karl and Lord Maximillian’s attack commenced. If I had done nothing at all, if I had backed away from Lady Penelope’s offer, if I had jumped at the chance to travel abroad and find a husband, or if I had taken enough of her money to start up Liberté with Ben, I would not have been able to save Ferdy.

And he was worth it. Protecting Ferdy was worth it.

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Here is the unbelievably gorgeous cover for book #3 in the series, called Heart of Hope and Fear! I also have a little teaser for you below!

3 Heart of Hope and Fear front cover

“What about the Order?” I hesitated to ask, knowing Amir had painful memories of his own. “I wanted to be free before. Lady Penelope pointed out that this is the opposite of what I wanted. I can’t help but feel she is right.”

“Wanting to be free is not a sin in itself,” Amir told me softly. “Only when that is everything and held to the highest priority is it so. We are loyal to the truth, Eleanora, but the truth is complicated, and freedom can be painful.”

PRAGUE, 1871

In the battle between the past and the present, one girl must stand and fight for the future.

Following Lord Maximillian’s escape and Karl’s disappearance, Eleanora Svobodová and the other members of the Order of the Crystal Daggers have plenty to keep them preoccupied. Just as the Emperor calls for a tripartite council to determine the sovereignty of Bohemia, war breaks out in France, and Lady Penelope prepares the Order to come face to face with their true foe at last.

But then Eleanora discovers the startling truth about her mother’s last mission in Prague.

Can she rescue the prince, save the Emperor, and still protect her friends and family?

Ferdy’s mother narrowed her eyes at me. “I am relieved to hear that you have made such a study of both my sons of late, Lady Eleanora. I confess, I was surprised to hear of your engagement to Karl through the papers.”

“I regret to inform you, Your Highness, that Karl made the arrangements with the papers. I did not agree to an engagement.” I did not need a mirror to know my face had flushed over in red.

“Well, that’s not entirely true,” Ferdy interjected. “Ella has agreed to marry me.”

“What?” Lady Penelope, Empress Maria Anna, and Amir all turned to look at me. The heat in my cheeks exponentially increased.

“I love her, and she loves me,” Ferdy continued, clearly indifferent to how uncomfortable he was making me. It was scandalous that he would love me at all, but the way in which he presented his claim on my heart was more than inappropriate—especially given that we had to find his brother, who was, in the eyes of Society, the one who was rightfully engaged to me. “We would like to speak with the archbishop while we are here.”

“Today?” The empress gaped at him.

“Yes.” Ferdy stepped down from before the throne to stand beside me. He took my hand in his and brought it to his lips.

“Ferdinand … ” Empress Maria Anna looked from Ferdy to me, and then back at her son. She seemed aghast at the idea, and I did not know what to do to calm her fears—if I could do such a thing at all. My own stomach was turning and twisting into knots.

“I have fallen deeply under her spell, Mother, and I would hate to fall even further into scandal and temptation,” Ferdy continued, watching his mother carefully. “It would be such a stain on our family’s virtuous history.”

The former empress blushed as she looked at me, and I was too shocked to assure her Ferdy and I were not engaged in an affair; even if I had, I worried Ferdy would divulge more of our stolen moments together, just vague enough to let everyone assume the worst.

I only felt some measure of relief when Amir gave me a small smile. From where he stood behind Lady Penelope, I could see the somberness as well as the sincerity of his approval.

Suddenly, I did not want to know what Lady Penelope was thinking; I deliberately kept my face turned away from hers.

“It was only a few days ago that my life was endangered as I made my way back to Silesia,” Ferdy said, so smoothly I did not even call him on his lie. “Life is so fragile, Mother, and I have been waiting for Ella for so long.”

He looked back up at his mother, resolved and proud, but still pleading for her approval.

Ferdy had told me once before that I was the one who was more determined between us, but as his fingers curled into mine, in a manner that was both so seductive and yet so innocent, I wondered if he had been lying.

Coming Soon!

Giveaway Time!!!

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Author-CS-Johnson

C. S. Johnson is the award-winning, genre-hopping author of several novels, including young adult sci-fi and fantasy adventures such as the Starlight Chronicles, the Once Upon a Princess saga, and the Divine Space Pirates trilogy. With a gift for sarcasm and an apologetic heart, she currently lives in Atlanta with her family. Find out more at http://www.csjohnson.me

CS Johnson | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest

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Blog Tour Schedule

March 18th

Reads & Reels (Excerpt) http://readsandreels.com

The Writer’s Alley (Review) https://www.jacobrundle.com

Llissa’s Bookviews (Review) https://llissasbookviews.wordpress.com/

Scarlett Readz and Runz (Excerpt) https://scarlettreadzandrunz.com/

Yearwood La Novela (Excerpt) https://yearwooddailybookreview.com/

March 19th

Bobo’s Book Bank (Excerpt) http://bobosbookbank.com

Adventures Thru Wonderland (Review) http://adventuresthruwonderland.blogspot.com/

The Hufflepuff Nerdette (Excerpt) https://thehufflepuffnerdette.wordpress.com

The Bibliophagist (Excerpt) http://thebibliophagist.blog/

March 20th

Dash Fan Book Reviews (Excerpt) https://dashfan81.blogspot.com/

Breakeven Books (Excerpt) https://breakevenbooks.com

The Cozy Pages (Review) http://thecozypages.wordpress.com/

Tsarina Press (Excerpt) https://www.tsarinapress.com

Books, Teacups, & Reviews (Excerpt) https://booksteacupnreviews.wordpress.com/

March 21st

J Bronder Reviews (Review) https://jbronderbookreviews.com/

March 22nd

Jessica Rachow (Review) http://jessicarachow.wordpress.com

Sophril Reads (Excerpt) http://sophrilreads.wordpress.com

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