Archive for 2019

GONE FISHING

September 16, 2019

Studs and I are off for two weeks to celebrate life, enjoy each other,
and eat a stream load of fresh fish.
Photo Courtesy of Lorri Lang Pixabay
I’ll be back September 30 with the
lovely Suzanne G. Rogers and her latest release.

Until then – Keep your line wet!

Sloane said @ 12:34 am | Uncategorized | Comments

NEW RELEASE for JANIS LANE

September 13, 2019

Romantic suspense/cozy mystery is definitely Janis Lane’s forte. Her latest release sets you right in the story and will keep you guessing, not to mention that you will fall in love with her characters. This is a book everyone will enjoy.

Abby Naycomb, wildlife photographer, found more than scintillating images of the birds of Central Florida. A handsome park ranger turns her world upside down even as a criminal stalker seeks to threaten her life.

Who knew trespassing in the restrictive area of a Florida State Park to get the perfect shot of the sand hill crane family would wind up with Abby Naycomb, wildlife photographer extraordinaire, meeting the most handsome park ranger in the world? Mating/nesting birds were the subject of her quest but finding those intense blue eyes in the lens of her camera was distracting and hormone inciting.

Adam Rawlings, millionaire park ranger, was as shocked as Abby when she accidentally discovered a murdered man buried in a shallow grave in the sand.

Face to face with an exciting relationship with Adam, the perfect man, leaves her no excuse for backing away from a growing intimacy. Vagabond Abby must consider relocating if she wants to continue an invaluable relationship with Adam, the original home town hero.

Abby struggles as she continues to work deep in the breathtaking wilds of Central Florida while trying to ignore the menace of a serious and threatening stalker. Her task was to reexamine long held premises and prejudices while admiring the southern flora and fauna through the lens of her camera. Bird and nature lovers alert.

SHORT TEASER
Busted in Bird land. Still…what a calendar he would make with that uniform, that smile, those shoulders. She stifled a sigh of pure visual pleasure.

You had better stop it, Miss Smarty. He has the authority to fine and kick you out of the park permanently if he so chooses. Holy Moly– love a uniformed hunk!

Stoppit!

She stifled a giggle which was riotously rolling around deep inside her, threatening to break out. He continued to loom, gazing thoughtfully while she fidgeted in her warm nest sheltered by the dune. Surrounding them, the sporadic wind blew the smell of something baking in the sun. With her face turned upward and her eyes half-closed against the glare, she awaited her fate. She offered a weak smile while trying to bring into focus his face which was back lit by the bright sunlight. It couldn’t hurt, she thought, and tried for puppy dog eyes pleading for mercy.

“Leave this area, and I’ll forget your lapse of good manners–this time. Don’t let me catch you trespassing on restricted lands again. This is a nature preserve. Visitors may not wander about– especially during nesting season,” he added giving her a stern look. “And that goes for well-meaning, good-looking, lady photographers as well.”

BUY LINK

Janis Lane is the pen-name for gifted author Emma Lane who writes cozy mysteries as Janis, Regency as Emma, and spice as Sunny Lane.

She lives in Western New York where winter is snowy, spring arrives with rave reviews, summer days are long and velvet, and fall leaves are riotous in color. At long last she enjoys the perfect bow window for her desk where she is treated to a year-round panoramic view of nature. Her computer opens up a fourth fascinating window to the world. Her patient husband is always available to help with a plot twist and encourage Emma to never quit. Her day job is working with flowers at Herbtique and Plant Nursery, the nursery she and her son own.

Look for information about writing and plants on Emma’s new website. Leave a comment or a gardening question and put a smile on Emma’s face.

Stay connected to Emma on Facebook and Twitter. Be sure to check out the things that make Emma smile on Pinterest.

Sloane said @ 7:34 am | Author Friend New Releases | Comments

TRICK or TREAT?

September 12, 2019

This is definitely a treat. Tina Ruiz has a new children’s book out just in time for Halloween! The amazing illustrations are done by Ishika Sharma.

The pictures are bright and the story is fun. It was written not only to entertain kids, but also to challenge their minds.

Every character has a name with a double meaning. Such as: Mr. Noah Lott, Mrs. Faye Ding, Mrs. Frieda Livery, Upton O’Goode, Adam Zapel, and Ella Vader, to name but a few.

Here’s a hint to help you solve the puzzle, Ed Zortails is his name really heads or is it tails? You’ll have to buy the book to find out.

Solving the double meaning of the words will be delightful for children and adults alike. On the off chance someone can’t unravel a name, Tina supplied a cheat sheet at the back of the book.

As with all of her children’s stories, there’s a moral at the end.

BUY LINK

Tina Ruiz was born in Germany, but her family moved to Canada when she was in grammar school. She began writing children’s stories when her own were little. Through the years Ruiz wrote twenty-seven books. Most of those stories went into readers for the Canada Board of Education. Two did not. Mayor Shadoe Markley is a story about a ten-year-old girl who becomes Mayor for a Day through a contest at school.

Little did Ruiz know that story would “change the world.” The book came out at early January 1988. By the end of that same month, everyone was calling the mayor’s office at City Hall, trying to get the forms to fill out so their children could participate in the contest. Thirty years later that same contest is still runs at full speed. And not only in Calgary, but all across Canada. The Mayor’s Youth Council is now in charge of the celebrated contest and invites Ruiz to attend and meet the lucky winner. It’s usually followed by a hand-written thank you card from the mayor himself. Recently Ruiz was invited to be part of the Grand Opening of Calgary’s New Library where the mayor shook her hand and introduced her to the attendees.

Tina has worked in television and radio as well as being a professional clown at the Children’s Hospital. She lives in Calgary with her husband who encourages her to write her passion be it high-quality children’s books or intriguing romance.

Stay connected with Tina Ruiz on her Facebook group Tina Speaks Out.

Sloane said @ 12:21 am | Author Friend New Releases | Comments

FRESH from TINA GRIFFITH

September 11, 2019

by Tina Griffith

When buying corn, check to make sure the ears are not rotten on the ends. You can certainly buy it and cut that part off, but I try to select ears as fresh and clean as possible.

After shedding the leaves and ‘soft hair’, drop corn in boiling water until it’s golden yellow.

Remove ears from pot and then rinse under cold water to cool them down.

Stand ears on end and carefully slice kernels off the cob. Once you’ve tasted fresh corn like this, you’ll never buy frozen or canned store-bought corn again.

I put the shaved corn from two or three cobs into each baggie, which is approximately a measured cup. This is perfectly portioned for my husband and myself.

These bags must be placed into freezer bags so the corn doesn’t get freezer burn. Two sandwich bags fit well into one medium sized freezer bag.

Squeeze out as much air as possible without crushing the corn. Place bags into your freezer. When you’re ready to prepare dinner, empty the baggy into a pot of boiling water. Heat just long enough for the kernels to get warm. I drain them and add garlic butter or regular butter before serving, but you can eat them with just salt and margarine.

Here’s an interesting fact about the corn cobs;

After you shave the kernels off, you can put the cobs into freezer bags and keep them for when you make soups.

Get your big pot out and add the left-over stems from broccoli and the discarded cobs of corn into the water. This will not only add flavor to whatever you’re making, but it will add some much-needed nutrition.

Here’s a peek at my latest romantic thriller. I hope you enjoy it!

On Hallow’s Eve, as the veil between the two worlds was thinning, the face of the full moon was lit up like a Christmas tree. The dead would soon come alive, the alive would dress up as the dead, and witchcraft had a way of piggybacking off other spells. This was the ideal night to be a witch, for the effectiveness of all incantations, divinations, and other avenues of magic, was perfect.

Jayla is a clever witch, who had been cursed in her teens by her friend, Ophelia. Since then, she has had to retrieve dark souls from shrewd men in order to survive. While she has taken hundreds of souls in her lifetime, this story is about her trying to take the one which belongs to Roger Casem – the man she accidentally fell in love with.

Could she kill him, as she had done with the others? If she wanted to continue living, she must. But today, when his eyes skimmed her body with unbelievable passion, she began to recognize her own needs. As she blushed and turned her face away from him, Jayla did the only thing she could.

AMAZON


Tina Griffith, who also wrote twenty-seven children’s books as Tina Ruiz, was born in Germany, but her family moved to Canada when she was in grammar school.

After her husband of 25 years passed away, she wrote romance novels to keep the love inside her heart. Tina now has eleven romance novels on Amazon, and while all of them have undertones of a love story, they are different genres; murder, mystery, whimsical, witches, ghosts, suspense, adventure, and her sister’s scary biography.

Tina has worked in television and radio as well as being a professional clown at the Children’s Hospital. She lives in Calgary with her second husband who encourages her to write her passion be it high-quality children’s books or intriguing romance.

Stay connected with Tina (Griffith) Ruiz on her Facebook group Tina Speaks Out.

Sloane said @ 1:01 am | Author Friend Promo,Cooking | Comments

NEW RELEASE for CAROL BROWNE

September 10, 2019

Surreal, fresh, dark, and entertaining is this new psychological fiction novella from Carol Browne. Some moments it’s thought-provoking and other times it’s unsettling, but it is Carol Browne at her finest. The story as well as the cover will definitely give your mind and imagination a great workout. Reality Check is a must read.

Gillian Roth finds herself in middle age, living alone, working in a dull job, with few friends and little excitement in her life. So far, so ordinary.

But Gillian has one extraordinary problem.

Her house is full of other people… people who don’t exist. Or do they?

As her surreal home life spirals out of control, Gillian determines to find out the truth and undertakes an investigation into the nature of reality itself.

Will this provide an answer to her dilemma, or will the escalating situation push her over the edge before she has worked out what is really going on?

BLURB
Thursday, 26th March, 2015.

My house is filled with people who don’t exist.

They have no substance. They are neither alive nor dead. They aren’t hosts or spirits. They aren’t in any way shape or form here, but I can see them, and now I need to make a record of how they came to be under my roof.

Why now? Why today? Because we line in strange times, and today is one of the strangest days this year; this is the day that Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England, was interred in Leicester Cathedral, with all due ceremony, 530 years after he was slain at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. How surreal is that? I watched the highlights on Channel 4 earlier. A couple of my house guests sat with me and together we marveled at the event. They did Richard proud, no doubt of that.

I left them to it after a while and came up here to my bedroom to start writing a diary: this diary.

Life feels unreal today, as if time has looped back onto photo albums. The house clearly passed must itself and everything is happening now. And if I can set my thoughts down on paper, perhaps I can make sense of everything, make it all real somehow.

Where did it start, this thing that has happened to me? A couple of years ago? I can’t say when. It evolved without my conscious input. The existence of my house guests was a fact long before I began to wonder at it. I do wonder at it now and I know I must keep track of what’s happening before I lose myself in this crowd of imaginary beings.

At first there was only a few of them, and I observed their doings without much concern. I watched them snooping around the place, choosing the most comfortable chairs to sit in, leaning against the furniture, inspecting the bookcases, checking the kitchen utensils, and peering into my photo albums. The house clearly passed muster and they stayed. In time, they knew me down to the marrow. I have never known them as well as they know me. They have an air of mystery, as though they have a life outside my house they will never divulge. Even so, I felt I was safe with them and I could tell them my problems. Tell them what no-one else must ever hear. And so these shades thickened, quickened; their personalities accumulated depth and solidity, as though they were skeletons clothing themselves in flesh.

I no longer came home to a cold, empty house, but to a sanctuary where attentive friends awaited my return. I was embraced by their jovial welcome when I stepped through the door. I never knew which of them would be there, but one or two at least would always be waiting to greet me, anxious to hear about my day and make me feel wanted, and for a while I could forget the problems I have at work (even the one that bothers me the most). Since then I have felt a subtle change.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I really need this to be a faithful account of the entire situation from start to finish, so I have to try to work out how it all began, even if I’m not sure when.

If I cast my mind back, it floats like a lantern through a city cloaked in fog. I must try to isolate the shadowy figures that flit up at me out of the murk. So, let’s begin with the friend I remember first. I was cooking my evening meal. My mind wandered. I remember feeling sad. And there she stood, at my right elbow, peering into the saucepan.

“Watch you don’t burn that,” she said.

I don’t have names for my imaginary friends, just titles, so I call her Kitchen Girl. She’s dark-haired with porcelain skin, and she’s tall and voluptuous. The sort of woman I’d like to be except I’m small with red hair and a ruddy complexion, and I need chicken fillets to convince people I’m female.

I suppose Kitchen Girl is rather daunting, with those fierce blue eyes and no-nonsense approach to everything. I can stand up to her though. I use humour as my weapon of choice and she appreciates wit and banter. I’d like it if she didn’t nag so much, if I’m honest (“Use less salt… keep stirring… is that all you’re going to eat?”) but, criticism aside, I know she’ll compliment me on the finished product as it lies uneaten between us on the table. Long conversations back and forth have been played out while the meals go cold on their plates. Fried eggs congeal and go waxen. Ice cream melts into a tepid sludge. Sandwiches curl up with embarrassment to be so spurned. You know how it is when you get gossiping. Someone wants to talk to me and that’s better than food.

And sometimes, it’s curious, but it’s Kitchen Girl who cooks the food and serves it to me like a waitress. She likes to surprise me with new dishes.

I have no idea how this happens.

Nor why she never leaves the kitchen. But I wish she’d do the washing up now and then.

Amazon Buy Links e-BookPaperback

Born in Stafford in the UK, Carol Browne was raised in Crewe, Cheshire, which she thinks of as her home town. Interested in reading and writing at an early age, Carol pursued her passions at Nottingham University and was awarded an honours degree in English Language and Literature. Now living and working in the Cambridgeshire countryside, Carol writes both fiction and non-fiction.

Stay connected with Carol on her website and blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

Sloane said @ 12:18 am | Author Friend New Releases | Comments

The Season It Is a Changing

September 9, 2019

by Emma Lane

But don’t be disgruntled. Bring the outside in with a Fall bouquet. Not sure how, then let me help you. Here are a few tips to help make it easier.

Native and ornamental grasses: What fun to gather them on one of those perfect Fall days when the skies are vivid blue, a soft breeze tumbles your hair, and tick seed clings to your jeans. Best to do your hunt and gathering just before the leaves are all off the trees. Anything interesting is fair game, but do learn to identify dried ragweed and seeds. Not one to bring into the house; it will still make you sneeze. I’ve used the seed tassels of ornamental grasses and a wild reed which is listed as a nuisance plant. It overtakes our native cattails apparently. Even so I love the tassels which are free for the taking. Spot a batch where your sneakers will stay dry.

Love cattails? Pick when they turn brown, most likely mid to late summer. If you bring a ripe cattail inside to the warmth, it will explode with a predictable mess. Trust me; I’ve had the experience. Grab a handful in summer and dry them in a dark, dry place. Pull them out in the fall for a perfect addition to the dry bouquets.

Chinese lanterns (physalis) are perfect for Fall. They’ll last and last, but eventually lose their color. I’ve been known to spray them lightly with red paint, but the odor of fresh paint is not pleasant. Tend well ahead of time and let dry in the garage.

The purple flowers are grown under a hoop house which protects from the early frosts. They won’t stand up to a real freeze, but are perfect for Fall bouquets. Lisianthus is a favorite of florists because they last so long in the vase. Any late bloom will perk up a Fall bouquet. I’ve used long stems of mums, stray daisies, and geranium. Use your imagination and have fun with Fall bouquets. They’ll keep you cheerful until it’s time to decorate for Christmas.

Don’t worry about which flowers to use. Anything and everything will be perfect because you chose it. The important ingredient in creating your bouquet is to have fun.

Now here’s a little from my latest Regency Romance to enjoy along with your lovely bouquet.

Elisabeth is a lively young lady ripe for adventure. She’s lived the sheltered life of the privileged during the Regency era of the 1800’s and is on the cusp of entering society when she joins her older sister at a house party. On the enormous estate in the spreading mansion of a duke, she mistakes her host for the fat squire down the road. Thus begins an adventure which is against all her training. She knows her mother would not approve. Was that half the intrigue of meeting a stranger in private?

The handsome but incognito Richard Hawlester, Duke of Roderick, weary of toad-eating house guests, engages in a serious flirtation with young Elisabeth Barrows, who is primed for an exciting adventure. Mistaking the fat squire for the duke, she holds her secret relationship with a man known only as Richard, Nobel Rescuer, close to a tender heart while discovering love for the first time.

Elisabeth’s trust seems irrevocably lost when the duke’s actual identity is revealed. Realizing his mistake, Roderick begins an earnest, dangerous, and often hilarious campaign to convince her of his love. Elisabeth ponders whether true love can overcome the loss of trust between two people, even as danger presents in the guise of a vile, undesirable suitor, while a wicked assassin makes an attempt on the life of the duke. Trust broken can never be regained, or can it?

BUY LINKS
AmazonWild Rose Publishing

Emma Lane is a gifted author who writes under several pen-names. She lives with her patient husband on several acres outside a typical American village in Western New York. Her day job is working with flowers at her son’s plant nursery. Look for information about writing and plants on her new website. Leave a comment or a gardening question and put a smile on Emma’s face.

Stay connected to Emma on Facebook and Twitter.

Sloane said @ 12:08 am | Author Friend Promo,Gardening | Comments

Highlights from a Sicilian Kitchen

September 4, 2019

Sloane said @ 12:34 am | Author Friend Promo,Cooking | Comments

Love from a Sicilian Kitchen

from Gina Briganti

If you’re reading a fantasy romance about an Italian woman (Elena Zucchero in Deep in the Dreaming), written by a woman who is half Sicilian (Gina Briganti), then you deserve to taste delicious, authentic Sicilian food.

This sugo (gravy, sauce) is a modified version of the one I grew up smelling on Sunday mornings when my dad made baked pasta. The sauce was simmering for a good two hours before I woke up in my bedroom three rooms away from the kitchen. You know my dad was a genius in the kitchen because it took that level of cooking to get teenagers out of their rooms before noon on the weekends.

Waking up to this smell after visiting our neighborhood Italian grocery store the day before to buy fresh focaccia meant quickly making myself presentable and rushing to the kitchen to ladle sugo on a slice of bread and eating it over the stove.

It was a big pot of sauce.

Elena makes her sugo just like I do, and it’s close to how my dad made his, and his mother made it before him, and her mother before her. It may go back further than that, but those are the stories I heard.

I hope you enjoy every minute it takes to make this dish because you and everyone in smelling distance of your home will be by later to say hello, bring a gift, return the blender they borrowed, etc.

One look at the directions and you’ll know why we make it on Sunday.

Image by AURELIE LUYLIER from Pixabay

SAUCE
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 head of garlic, crushed
2 6 oz. cans organic tomato paste
45 oz. can organic tomato sauce
⅓ cup nutritional yeast or Pecorino Romano if you can eat dairy products
2 tbsp. Italian herb blend
2 tsp. red chili flakes
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 large yellow onion
1 carrot, cut in half (to balance the acid from the tomatoes. This is in place of the sugar my family uses.

Sauté garlic in olive oil over medium-low heat (3 on my electric stove) until garlic is cooked. This is when your house starts to smell amazing. Add tomato paste to garlic and cook until the tomato starts to caramelize.

Add tomato sauce, nutritional yeast, herbs, mushrooms, water, chile flakes, whole onion, and carrots to the pot. Simmer, covered, for a minimum of two hours to infuse those flavors together. I leave the onion in until it starts to fall apart and the carrot in until it is cooked through. When we were growing up we would try to time it so we could get some of the cooked onion on our bread along with the sugo.

Stir occasionally.

The sugo is ready when the onion falls apart.

Image by Larisa Koshkina from Pixabay

ROASTED EGGPLANT
1 Eggplant
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)

While your sugo is cooking, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Wash eggplant and slice into ½ inch slices. Brush each slice with evoo.

Place on parchment lined baking sheet and bake for fifteen minutes. Test to see if its cooked through by piercing with a fork. If the fork won’t go through, turn the eggplant over and cook for another ten minutes.

Repeat the process until its fork tender. Eat a couple of slices when no one’s looking. I call this the cook’s fee. Guard the eggplant until it’s time to assemble the pasta because some paisan (Italian friend) is going to try to steal some, too.

Cool eggplant. Cut each round into quarters.

Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay 

PASTA
Cook pasta al dente (leave some bite in it) in boiling water for about seven minutes. It will cook more as the pasta bakes.

Pour pasta into a colander and then rinse with cold water to remove the starch.

BAKED PASTA
Mix pasta with finished sugo (which means you’ve removed the onion and the carrots and the sauce smells like heaven) and eggplant and then spoon into a casserole that you have a lid for.

Bake covered at 350° F for 45 minutes.

Mangia! (eat!)

Now for a little about Elena’s fantasy romance.

Deep in the Dreaming - High Resolution[1316]

A parallel world. A trapped soul. To save her friends, they’ll battle addiction, magic, and eternity…

Elena Zucchero has lived and lost in reality. Now she fills her heart through her work as a hypnotherapist by helping her patients improve their lives. But when a nightmare plagues her sleep, she learns her friends have gone missing in an addictive alternate plane. And the only way to save them may require feeding the demons of her handsome new client…

Draper Montgomery painfully resists the call of the Dreaming. But despite his dangerous cravings, he senses his enchanting therapist has a wound he can help heal. And to satisfy his heart’s desire, he may just have to risk the very foundation of his mind…

As Elena and Draper discover a deeper soul connection, the therapist struggles to keep her distance in the hunt for her friends. If the people she loves even want to be saved…

Will the perilous hunt to rescue her friends lose them their lives and their souls?

Deep in the Dreaming is the fourth standalone book in the captivating Natural Gifts paranormal romance series. If you like mysterious worlds, conflicted characters, and love that conquers all, then you’ll adore Gina Briganti’s enthralling tale.

Buy Deep in the Dreaming to slip into another world today!
AMAZON BUY LINK

Watch the YouTube video here.


Gina Briganti writes paranormal, fantasy, and sci-fi romance in north Texas. Her constant companion is a special soul who masquerades as a dog.

Visit her website and blog for book trailers, newsletter sign up, and whatever else she thinks up.

Stay connected on Facebook, Gina’s Amazon Author Page, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Thank you for reading!
Gina

Sloane said @ 12:30 am | Author Friend Promo,Cooking | Comments

September 2, 2019

To All Our Friends,
from 

the Taylor Family

Sloane said @ 1:01 am | Holidays | Comments

Delicate and Delicious

August 28, 2019

from Carol Browne

Sponge cakes date all the way back to the Renaissance era and, some believe, the delicate treat originated in Spain. The cake was perfected over the centuries and was a favorite of Queen Victoria accompanied by a good cup of afternoon tea. This version is vegan as it omits eggs and trades butter for margarine. I’m confident the Queen would have enjoyed this version too.

SPONGE CAKE VEGAN STYLE
4oz./115g fat
3oz./85g coconut sugar
1 heaped tbsp. cane sugar
8oz./225g self-rising flour
1 tsp. bicarbonate of soda (baking powder)
5 oz./140ml warm water

CREAMED FILLING
2oz./55g icing sugar (powdered sugar)
vanilla essence (to your taste)
2oz./55g margarine
Raspberry or strawberry jam, optional

Preheat oven 400F° 200C/Gas 6.

Grease and flour 2 sandwich tins or small cake pans.

Melt fat and sugar in a small pan over low heat. Stir in flour.

Dissolve bicarbonate of soda in water and then stir into sugar blend. Carefully add more warm water if needed to make a soft mixture. Beat well.

Divide batter evenly between the 2 pans. Bake 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and turn out the sponges onto a wire rack to cool.

If you use jam, slather it on one or both cakes then top with creamed filling. If you prefer not to use jam, spread creamed filling on one of the sponges and then lay the second sponge on top.

Here’s a peek at my epic fantasy to enjoy with your tasty creation.

Elgiva, a young elf banished from Elvendom, must seek shelter among the Saxons as her only hope of surviving the coming winter.

Godwin, a Briton enslaved by the Saxons, is a man ignorant of his own inheritance and the secret of power he possesses.

A mysterious enemy, who will stop at nothing to wield absolute power over Elvendom, is about to make his move.

When destiny throws Elgiva and Godwin together, they embark upon the quest for the legendary Lorestone, the only thing that can save Elvendom from the evil that threatens to destroy it.

There is help to be found along the way from a petulant pony and a timid elf boy but, as the strength of their adversary grows, can Elgiva’s friends help her to find the Lorestone before it falls into the wrong hands?

EXCERPT
The night was waning when Elgiva woke, wondering where she was. The dark ceiling of Joskin’s cave hung above her, and everything had a reddish glow, cast by the embers of the fire. She slid from under the fur coverlet, her skin tightening at the loss of its warmth, and searched for her leather sandals.

Something had woken her, something that waited outside the cave. A runnel of dread ran down her spine.

She had an inexplicable sense of impending danger, but it was too insistent to ignore. An unnamed instinct stopped her from alerting her companions. She must face this menace alone.

She left the cave as quietly as she could. Her heart pounded in her throat as she peered between the rowan trees and searched the night. Whatever had awakened her, it beckoned. She held her breath and listened, but her ears detected nothing, save for a silence as dark and empty as an abandoned crypt.

It would soon be daybreak, but the sun had yet to rise, and the dark beyond the cave swarmed with potential horrors. She stepped out from among the rowans, relying on her acute senses to make out her surroundings. An unnatural calm gripped the night and as her sandals whispered against the cold grass, they sounded abnormally loud. She feared they would betray her presence.

After a while, she came to a stop and searched the trees. Thin strands of mist curled along the ground, cold and clammy, like an exhalation of sickness.

She hugged her shoulders, knotted her fingers in the cascade of her hair, and shivered in her ragged robe. All around her, the silence seemed to be drawing into focus.

“Who is it?” Her throat was too dry for her purpose. She swallowed and licked her lips. “Who’s there? I know you’re there. I can . . . I can feel you!”

Feel you.

A flash of silver sliced through the dark, and Elgiva gasped in fear. Her arms came up to shield her face as the beam struck a rock several yards ahead. It exploded with a whoosh and sent up thousands of splinters of light, which fell to the ground and sizzled in the mist.

A shape now stood upon the rock, its form concealed in a black, hooded cloak.

Elgiva clutched the amulet to her breast. Her hands were white with terror. “In the name of Faine, who are you? What sort of trick is this?”

A soft, sly voice spoke back to her. “Why should you fear magic?”

“What do you want?” she pleaded, her voice a croak of fear.

“To see for myself.”

“To see what?”

The dark shape sniggered, but made no answer. Instead, it swept its cloak aside, and a cloud of sparks flew out and covered the ground with beads of light.

Elgiva stepped back unsteadily, resolved to flee.

“Stay!” commanded the creature.

It raised a skeletal hand, and the forefinger swung towards Elgiva and pinned her against the darkness, holding her like a rivet of bone. No elf, no wilthkin, ever owned such a hand. Her legs threatened to buckle beneath her. This had to be a nightmare; she was still asleep in the cave. But no, it was all too real.

“Who are you? What do you want?” she cried. “I have . . . I have an amulet!”

The creature laughed derisively. “I am Death, and I have come for you.”

It began to radiate a sickly green light, enveloping itself in a caul of brilliance that pulsated with force. The light grew in size until the trees behind it were bathed in its angry glare. It reached for Elgiva, like a foul stench creeping along a breeze, and she was helpless. The creature’s power throbbed in the darkness.

Within the taut coils of her fear, her instincts screamed at her to run, but her limbs had turned to stone.

Siriol, Siriol, help me . . . help . . .

With a shriek of glee, the creature increased the throb of its power. Elgiva’s mind was suddenly invaded by an inexplicable force. She became divorced from herself and watched from a great distance, waiting for the horror to unfold.

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Born in Stafford in the UK, Carol Browne was raised in Crewe, Cheshire, which she thinks of as her home town. Interested in reading and writing at an early age, Carol pursued her passions at Nottingham University and was awarded an honours degree in English Language and Literature. Now living and working in the Cambridgeshire countryside, Carol usually writes fiction and is a contracted author at Burning Willow Press. Her non-fiction book is available at Dilliebooks.

Stay connected with Carol on her website and blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

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