June 11, 2018

by Anne Montgomery

I attended Bill Kinnemon’s Umpire School in 1981. Major League Umpire John McSherry – who would die while working home plate in Cincinnati on opening day in 1996 – sits in the front row, third from the left. His partner in crime, minor leaguer John Higgins, sits behind him to the right. I’m in the picture, too. See if you can find me.

I entered a tiny office in St. Petersburg, Florida, signed the legal forms, and was escorted to a single-story cottage across the road that fronted the facility. Unlike all but a handful of the 105 students registered for Bill Kinnemon’s Umpire School Class of 1981, I would have my own room, since putting me in the dorm with the guys was obviously out of the question.

I plumped the thin pillow, leaned back on the cot, and scanned the schedule that would direct my life for the next five weeks. Baseball rules classes, on-field clinics, and scrimmages in which students would participate as both umpires and players. My stomach twisted at the thought of anyone seeing me in the field. I’d never played baseball or softball. I could already hear the “she throws like a girl” jeering and wondered if there was any way I could actually avoid having to throw a baseball.

The next morning, we campers lined up in rows. “He’s out!” I called, straightening to my full height, bringing my left arm horizontally across my chest and my right up and bent at the elbow. Both hands were clenched in tight fists. Out calls emanating from scores of wannabe umpires echoed across the dusty field.

“Jee…sus Christ! That was pathetic!” senior instructor Joe Brinkman screamed, grabbing the bill of his cap and slapping it on his leg. “Sound like you mean it!”

Furtively eyeing one-another, we bent over in unison again, hands splayed just above our knees, staring at an imaginary base, pretending the runner and throw were arriving almost simultaneously.

“He’s out!” I joined the others, glad I didn’t have a high voice. I might have been able to blend in, had it not been for the long, auburn ponytail. Cutting my hair short might have been prudent.

Major League Umpire John McSherry, 375 pounds, walked unsteadily through the lines of aspiring umpires, saying nothing, looking decidedly uncomfortable: the result of some especially painful dental work and a night of bubbly self-medication.

“He’s out! He’s out! He’s out!” We screamed over and over, working on our posture and intonation. McSherry wiped a hand across his face: the February Florida heat causing spots of perspiration on his red cheeks. As I bent down in preparation for another out call, he passed by, without even a glance.

It was not until later that night, when my name was announced during dinner, that McSherry sat up and stared. “Anne? Anne? There’s a girl here? You’re kidding,” he said, turning to the Minor League instructor who stood by his side. John Higgins pointed me out. McSherry looked over and waved his hand in the air as if the whole idea was simply too ridiculous to consider.

The days were grueling: long and hot, on the field and in the classroom. I worked hard to be just one of the boys.

One of the tenants of umpire school was that all campers should have an equal opportunity to be treated badly. The logic being that umpires will, by nature, be victims of disdain when working games, and if you can’t handle the abuse in school, you will never survive on the field.

My big moment came one afternoon. Campers were sometimes picked to perform certain special tasks, and, now, it was my turn.

“Butler!” McSherry called out, making sure my fellow fledgling umpires heard. “Bring the balls up to field two for this afternoon’s drills.”

“Yes, sir!” I said, chin up in my best imitation of an Army recruit.

I’d watched him berate campers, throwing his hat, and tramping around the dusty diamond like a bull with hemorrhoids. He’d go nose to nose with these grown men and they would shrivel. In fact, 12 campers would simply grab their gear and quit, walking away rather than endure the punishment.

Fifteen minutes prior to the afternoon drill session, I stood at the door of the equipment shed. Higgins, who everyone called Higgs and who seemed to be McSherry’s Sancho Panza, smiled as he leaned up against the wall, arms folded across his chest.

“I’m here to get the balls for field two,” I said. Higgs was cute with bright blue eyes.

“Don’t worry about it.” He smiled. “They’re already up on the field.”

“Really? But John insisted that I bring them up.”

“Nope. You’re good.”

I was one of the first people at the field, so I waited and watched as the group assembled, the last few stragglers running full speed up the dirt road, because being late was never, ever acceptable.

“OK, we’ll be doing first base drills,” McSherry said. “It’s about listening to the ball hit the glove and seeing the foot on the bag. Listen and look. That’s what you’re going to do. Got it?”

“Yes, sir!” the group called out as one.

Then McSherry paused rather dramatically. “Who’s got the balls?” Silence.
“Who’s got the balls?” he yelled louder. “Who was supposed to … Butler! Where are the balls?”

“I … I went to get them and Higgs …”

“Where are the fucking balls?”

I stared at Higgs. He avoided my gaze. “I don’t know,” he said. “I saw them in the shed.”

McSherry squinted at me. “Get ‘em, Butler! And while you’re gone, your friends here will run laps around the field.”

My eyes grew wide.

“Start now, gentlemen! Run! Run!”

I bolted across the field and down the hill faster than I’d ever moved in my life. But I did not get away quickly enough to avoid hearing the curses that were being hurled my way.

When umpire school finally came to an end after five long weeks, it was, strangely, very hard to leave. It was as if we all suffered from Stockholm Syndrome, where we had learned to love our captors and wished to emulate them.

Like most of the other campers, I flirted with those professional baseball dreams, even though a job would have meant life in the low minors, shuffling from tiny town to tiny town, little pay, low budget motels, and the built-in cruelties umpires endure daily.

When it came to picking the campers who would be recommended for that life, most of the school staff members decided it would not be a good idea to send a woman up the line. It was 1981, after all. It’s interesting, and came as a bit of a surprise, that I had a friend in John McSherry. I would find out years later that he was the only one who rated me in the top 15. But with most of the other staffers positioning me much lower on the list, my eventual ranking was 32. The top 30 candidates were certified for duty in Minor League instructional camps. I was told that McSherry thought I had good officiating instincts.

Did I deserve a job? Probably not. About ten days into camp, I injured a hamstring, which limited my mobility. And, in all honesty, I have always been a horrible runner, which just about anyone who’s ever officiated with me can attest. Apparently, one day my awkward stride caused McSherry to growl. “Jesus Christ, Higgs! She runs worse than I do!”

How do I know this? Five years after I attended umpire school, I ran into John Higgins. Then, I married him and John McSherry was there with us to celebrate.

Here’s a peek into my latest novel for you.

Two Arizona teens find their fates intertwined. Are there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other?

Rose Madsen will do anything to keep from being married off to one of the men in her Fundamentalist Mormon (FLDS) community, even endure the continued beatings and abuse of her mother. But when her mentally handicapped baby sister is forced to strangle the bird she loves at the behest of the Prophet, Rose frees the bird and runs away.

Adan Reyes will do anything to escape the abusive foster care system in Phoenix, even leaving his good friends and successful high school athletic career behind him. Ill-prepared for surviving the desert, Adan hits the road only to suffer heat stroke. Found by a local handyman, he catches a glimpse of a mysterious girl—Rose—running through town, and follows her into the mountains where they are both tracked and discovered by the men of the FLDS community.

With their fates now intertwined, can Rose and Adan escape the systems locking them into lives of abuse? Will Rose be forced to marry the Prophet, a man her father’s age, and be one of dozens of wives, perpetually pregnant, with no hope for an education? Will Adan be returned to the foster home where bullying and cruelty are common? Is everyone they meet determined to keep them right where they belong or are some adults worthy of their trust?

Amazon Buy Link

Anne Montgomery has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. She worked at WRBL‐TV in Columbus, Georgia, WROC‐TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP‐TV in Phoenix, Arizona, ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE award‐winning SportsCenter, and ASPN-TV as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Montgomery has been a freelance and staff writer for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archeological pieces.

When she can, Anne indulges in her passions: rock collecting, scuba diving, football refereeing, and playing her guitar.

Learn more about Anne Montgomery on her website and Wikipedia. Stay connected on Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter.

Sloane said @ 12:34 am | Author Friend Promo | 2 Comments


June 6, 2018

JUNE 25, 2018
E-Book and Paperback


Ready to ignite that old flame? Or perhaps spark a new one? Take your partner by the hand and turn on your stove. A true romantic, award-winning author Sloane Taylor brings her creativity to the kitchen with easy-to-make meals sure to spark the intimacy and quality time you want with your special someone. Cooking together is only the start of the fun!

Create 45 complete dinners for two and flavor your evenings with a new dish. These 80 recipes use everyday foods already on most kitchen shelves. The recipes are easily increased for those fun times friends or family join your table.

Date Night Dinners, Meals to Make Together for a Romantic Evening, is an ideal gift for engagements, bridal showers, anniversaries, or for anyone who wants to spice things up.

Sloane said @ 12:50 am | Cooking, Cover Reveal | Comments are off

Cover Reveal – The Ghost in the Gardens

June 4, 2018

This wonderful Middle Grade Paranormal written by HL Carpenter releases June 17 from Mirror World Publishing.

Until the first spooky visit, ten year old Chrysantha Howe doesn’t think about ghosts. She thinks about plants.




She has her future planned out, and that future includes plants. Chrys is going to be a plant scientist like her uncle and her favorite teacher, and she’s determined to find the very rare Coralroot orchid.

The ghost is not in the plan.

But when her teacher disappears and the police suspect her uncle was involved, Chrys has to figure out what the ghost is trying to tell her—before it’s too late.




Florida-based mother/daughter author duo HL Carpenter write sweet, clean fiction that is suitable for everyone in your family. The Carpenters write from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, is unreal but not untrue. When they’re not writing, they enjoy exploring the Land of What-If and practicing the fine art of Curiosity. Visit their website to enjoy gift reads and excerpts and to find out what’s happening in Carpenter Country.

Stay connected on Pinterest, Linkedin, Google+, and their Amazon Author Page.

Sloane said @ 1:26 am | Author Friend Promo, Cover Reveal | 2 Comments

Delicious and Easy – Life is Good

May 30, 2018

from Alicia Joseph

Every family has their favorites. For mine it’s the following recipe. Hard to keep these delicious brownies on hand once their sweet baking aroma hits the kitchen.


1 pkg. German chocolate cake mix.
½ cup. butter, melted
⅓ cup evaporated milk
½ cup nuts, walnuts or pecans

1 lb. caramels
⅓ cup evaporated milk
6 oz. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine cake mix, ¼ cup melted butter, evaporated milk, and nuts with a fork. Spread in a 9” x 13” pan. Bake 15 minutes.

Place caramels and evaporated milk in a saucepan. Carefully melt on medium heat. Spread mixture on top of baked brownies. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top and drizzle with dollops of remaining butter.

Bake 15 minutes. Cool completely before slicing.

Grab a brownie and then pour yourself a glass of milk. Get comfy and enjoy a little from my latest release.

“When a train runs over a penny, the penny changes form, but it can still be a penny if I want it to be. Or, I can make it be something else.”

Lyssa and her best friend Abbey discover a hideout near the train tracks and spend the summer before sixth grade hanging out and finding freedom from issues at home. Their childhood innocence shatters when the hideout becomes the scene of a tragic death.

As they’re about to graduate from high school, Abbey’s family life spirals out of control while Lyssa is feeling guilty for deceiving Abbey about her sexuality. After another tragic loss, Lyssa finds out that a penny on the track is sometimes a huge price to pay for the truth.


I was jerked from my sleep while the phone was still buzzing its first high-piercing ring. I glanced at the clock on the nightstand beside my bed. It read 4:17 a.m. I knew something was wrong.

The second ring was abruptly broken up and my mother’s muffled voice carried into my room. I was already sitting upright in my bed when my bedroom door squeaked open. My mother’s slight figure appeared as a shadow near my door.

“Lyssa? You up?” she asked.

“What’s wrong?” My voice was no louder than a whisper.

I watched my mother slowly make her way into the dark room. I couldn’t make out the expression on her face, but the stiff movement of the outline of her body was hesitant.

She turned on the lamp and sat down beside me. Her face was pale. She let out short, shallow breaths. It seemed difficult for her to look me in the eyes.

“What is it?” I asked. “What’s happened?”

Finally, my mother looked at me with pain in her eyes. “Lyssa . . .” She smoothed her hand gently across my arm. “Abbey’s dead.”

I took in her words without an ounce of denial. The reality of what my mother had told me was instant.

My best friend was dead.


Alicia Joseph grew up in Westchester, Illinois. Her first novella, Her Name, was published by Musa Publishing in 2014. Her Name is a sweet, romantic story about a woman who believes the beautiful woman she dreams about is the real love of her life.

Loving Again is her second published novella. Alicia is currently working on a new novel called A Penny on the Tracks, a coming of age story about love and friendship. Alicia has many works-in-progress that she hopes to finish soon.

When she is not writing, Alicia enjoys volunteering with animals, rooting for her favorite sports teams, and playing “awesome aunt” to her nine nieces and nephews.

Learn more about Alicia Joseph on her blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter.

Sloane said @ 1:09 am | Author Friend Promo, Cooking | Comments are off

May 28, 2018

As your day advances into fun-filled activities with family and friends, please take one moment to remember the men and women who served.

They gave more than any of us can ever imagine.

Thank you,
The Taylor Family

Sloane said @ 1:06 am | Holidays | Comments are off

Little Treats with BIG Flavor

May 23, 2018

from Chris Pavesic

This kid-friendly recipe is quick and easy to make. It’s a little bit like a s’more, a little bit like a bird’s nest, and 100% yummy. Get those marshmallows and chocolate chips ready!

Quick and Easy S’mores Treats

1 pkg. (12 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ bag (5 oz.) mini marshmallows
2 cups pretzel sticks
2 cups vanilla wafers, broken into pieces

Preheat oven to 250° F.

Pour chocolate chips into an ungreased baking pan. Pop it into oven for about 5 minutes or until the chips get shiny. They should still retain their shape.

Take the pan out and immediately add the other ingredients. Stir as fast as possible because the chocolate will cool quickly.

This can be a bit messy when stirring—you will get chocolate on your hands—but that’s part of the fun.

When the other ingredients are coated, spoon the mixture onto parchment paper in serving-size portions. Allow to cool completely and serve.

Enjoy a brief glimpse into my new novel, FIERCE!

In this wide-ranging collection of steampunk, dystopian, and fantasy short fiction, award-winning author Chris Pavesic presents vibrant female characters in compelling narratives. This rich compendium includes previously published stories as well as new fiction.

Praise for “Going Home“:
“This is an excellent short story that is full of surprises for the reader. Martial law is about to be imposed in the colony. A secret room, trips on a train and a clandestine meeting are all part of this superb steampunk short story. Most highly recommended.”–Off Grid & Loving It

Praise for “The World in Front of Me“: “This reminded me a lot of the Lakeside community in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, but I won’t say anymore about that for fear of giving away spoilers. But fans of Gaiman should really enjoy this story. Fans of strong women who make tough choices should enjoy this as well.”–Karissa Sluss, Author.

Praise for “Heart & Mind“: “The author has managed to weave an intricate web about being true to yourself. One shouldn’t be guided or led by others. Above all, feel the magic in your own heart.”–Chief, USN Ret…VT Town


Chris Pavesic is a fantasy author who lives in the Midwestern United States and loves Kona coffee, steampunk, fairy tales, and all types of speculative fiction. Between writing projects, Chris can most often be found reading, gaming, gardening, working on an endless list of DIY household projects, or hanging out with friends.

Learn more about Chris on her website and blog.

Stay connected on Facebook, Twitter, and her Amazon Author Page.

Sloane said @ 12:30 am | Author Friend Promo, Cooking | 2 Comments

Go Deep, Young Writer, Go Deep

May 21, 2018

Improving Depth of Character in Your Writing
by C.D. Hersh

Photo from Microsoft Clip Art

Did you know that every year the month of April is celebrated as National Card and Letter Writing Month? We discovered this month, which is decreed official by USPS, while writing, Blood Brothers, the second book in our Turning Stone Chronicles. Over the years, historians have gleaned a lot of information from diaries and letters – things that might have been lost forever, except for the letters written by those who have gone before us. Since the art of letter writing is disappearing, thanks to text and emails, we decided we’d revive it by penning a letter from one of our book characters and see what interesting history turned up. We were amazed at some of the backstory tidbits our character revealed to us. We thought this made an interesting writing exercise, so we decided to share our character’s letter.

This letter is written by the antagonist in the second Turning Stone Chronicles book Blood Brothers.

My dearest Lila,

It seems like years since our last night together. My quest to become the “Promised One” has taken on a life of its own. I’ve been thinking a lot about the discussion the night of our engagement, and your request to put our rings aside and live normal lives. I wish now I had listened to you and done that. We would probably still be together.

I guess I was afraid of such a major change in my life at that point. Things were starting to come together with my quest, and I knew I would soon be apprenticed to the most important shifter in our community. There had been nothing in my life before you except my training to become “The Promised One” and, as much as I wanted you, I was not sure I could give that up for you. All my life my parents pushed me. Being the Turning Stone’s Promised One was my destiny. I was, they told me, the fulfillment of the prophesy. The one that would unite the warring shape shifters and rule the world.

My parents ensured I had the finest teachers, in magic matters and in things of the world. I was taught how to use everything to my advantage. What I couldn’t do on my own, Dad paid for, including donating heavily to Harvard on my behalf. I guess it worked for both of us since I got my degree, even though I might not have deserved it, and Dad got his name on a Harvard building. Money and power buy lots of things. But they aren’t very good at replacing you.

Remember that shifting thing we did when we were making love? I found out it means we are soul mates and only happens when making love and thinking about each other. Had I been aware of that then I would not have accused you of trying to steal my powers, and I would never have acted on that belief. I am truly sorry for what I did to you. I hope someday you can forgive me…that is if I can ever forgive myself. I love you, Lila, and I will never love anyone else the same way.

You are always in my thoughts.

Love, Roc

We discovered upon writing this letter that our villain wasn’t as smart as his brother, something we hadn’t considered before. Dad buying Roc’s degree with a building at Harvard was nowhere in this character’s back story. It’s a small thing, but when he and his brother are pitted against each other, every bit of smart counts. When this tidbit of information came out, Donald did some research on philanthropists who donated to Harvard, and Roc’s family suddenly became a lot richer than we ever imagined. His father’s character filled out, and even though he plays a background part in the story, we can see the monied attitude of Dad and how it will rub off on Roc, thereby deepening Roc’s character more than we anticipated. Roc, who thinks he deserves to be “The Promised One” will discover that money can’t buy everything, and it can’t buy the most important thing in life … true love.

Have you ever done this exercise with your characters? If so, what new thing did you discover?

Here’s a little more about Blood Brothers.

When Delaney Ramsey is enlisted to help train two of the most powerful shape shifters the Turning Stone Society has seen in thousands of years, she suspects one of them is responsible for the disappearance of her daughter. To complicate matters, the man has a secret that could destroy them all. Bound by honor to protect the suspect, Delaney must prove his guilt without losing her life to his terrible powers or revealing to the police captain she’s falling for that she’s a shape shifter with more than one agenda.

The minute Captain Williams lays eyes on Delaney Ramsey, he knows she’s trouble. Uncooperative, secretive, and sexy, he can’t get her out of his mind. When he discovers she has a personal agenda for sifting through all the criminal records in his precinct, and secretly investigating his best detective, he can’t let her out of his sight. He must find out what she’s looking for before she does something illegal. If she steps over the line, he’s not certain he can look the other way for the sake of love.

Blood Brothers Book 2 eBookpaperback

C.D. Hersh–Two hearts creating everlasting love stories.

Putting words and stories on paper is second nature to co-authors C.D. Hersh. They’ve written separately since they were teenagers and discovered their unique, collaborative abilities in the mid-90s. As high school sweethearts and husband and wife, Catherine and Donald believe in true love and happily ever after.

The books of their paranormal romance series entitled The Turning Stone Chronicles are available on Amazon. They also have a short Christmas story, Kissing Santa, in a Christmas anthology titled Sizzle in the Snow: Soul Mate Christmas Collection, with seven other authors. Also a standalone novella, Can’t Stop The Music, in a collection with thirteen other authors. 

They look forward to many years of co-authoring and book sales, and a lifetime of happily-ever-after endings on the page and in real life.

Learn more about C.D. Hersh on their website and their Amazon Author Page.

Stay connected on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Sloane said @ 12:10 am | Author Friend Promo | 4 Comments

Score BIG with this Chocolate Treat

May 16, 2018

from Sharon Ledwith

If you love Skor® bars, then this is one of those must-make treats to cook for all the holidays and special events. The buttery toffee, rich chocolate, and crunchy nuts create a party-in-your-mouth experience, and will make you beg for a second (or third) piece. Perfect for family gatherings or holiday parties, you’ll score BIG with these treats nestled on your table, or wrapped as gifts.

Sharon’s Score Big Bars

Photo by Elseneju

1 cup sugar
1 cup butter
¼ cup water
½ cup semisweet chocolate
½ cup chopped pecans
Candy thermometer

In a heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, and water. Set candy thermometer in place. Cook and stir over medium heat until the thermometer reaches 300° F (150° C).

Pour onto ungreased baking tray. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and spread with a knife when melted.
After one minute, pour chopped pecans over mixture. Let stand until set, about 1 hour.

Break into 2 inch pieces. Store in airtight container.

Add this tasty treat to gift baskets or wrap in see-through bags and place on dinner plates to be the hostess with the mostess.

Every cook should test their finished product before serving. SElect a piece of candy, or two, then relax in your favorite chair and crack open the first book in my teen psychic mystery series, Lost and Found. You may just find yourself wanting to visit Fairy Falls.

Fairy Falls was bores-ville from the get-go. Then the animals started talking…

The Fairy Falls Animal Shelter is in trouble. Money trouble. It’s up to an old calico cat named Whiskey—a shelter cat who has mastered the skill of observation—to find a new human pack leader so that their home will be saved. With the help of Nobel, the leader of the shelter dogs, the animals set out to use the ancient skill of telepathy to contact any human who bothers to listen to them. Unfortunately for fifteen-year-old Meagan Walsh, she hears them, loud and clear.

Forced to live with her Aunt Izzy in the safe and quiet town of Fairy Falls, Meagan is caught stealing and is sentenced to do community hours at the animal shelter where her aunt works. Realizing Meagan can hear her, Whiskey realizes that Meagan just might have the pack leader qualities necessary to save the animals. Avoiding Whiskey and the rest of shelter animals becomes impossible for Meagan, so she finally gives in and promises to help them. Meagan, along with her newfound friends, Reid Robertson and Natalie Knight, discover that someone in Fairy Falls is not only out to destroy the shelter, but the animals as well. Can Meagan convince her aunt and co-workers that the animals are in danger? If she fails, then all the animals’ voices will be silenced forever.


Amazon KindleAmazon PaperbackBarnes & NobleMirror World Publishing ebookMirror World Publishing Paperback

Sharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/YA time travel series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, and the teen psychic mystery series, MYSTERIOUS TALES FROM FAIRY FALLS. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, exercising, anything arcane, and an occasional dram of scotch. Sharon lives a serene, yet busy life in a southern tourist region of Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, one spoiled yellow Labrador and a moody calico cat.

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Smashwords. Look up her Amazon Author page for a list of current books. Be sure to check out THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS TIME TRAVEL SERIES Facebook page.

Sloane said @ 12:23 am | Author Friend Promo, Cooking | 4 Comments

May 15, 2018

Welcome to the virtual book tour for Jojo Debrazza’s new children’s book, Dog Eared!
Follow the tour to read reviews, excerpts, and book spotlights:
Publication Date: April 10, 2018
ASIN: B07C47Z4V4
Length: 140 pages
Genres: Children’s Fiction

About Dog Eared:
Dogs can’t read. Right?
When Sophie’s grandfather moves in to a retirement home, Sophie is delighted to take over responsibility for his super obedient dog, Lector. Her grandfather also gives her two journals for Lector and tells her how important they are. But listening isn’t one of Sophie’s strong points.
Sophie’s dream-come-true turns into a nightmare when the usually well behaved Lector turns super-bad overnight. After midnight on his first night with Sophie, Lector gets himself into all kinds of trouble and leads Sophie into a run-in with the local bully. Dogs in the town have been going missing too. Could there be a dog snatcher on the loose?
Sophie desperately needs Lector to return to his former obedient self, especially when her dad and step-mum-to-be announce, to Sophie’s horror, that they are having a baby.  Lector’s future with the family is in danger. If Sophie can’t retrain Lector before Sophie’s new half sibling is born, he’ll have to be rehomed.
Can Sophie discover the magical secret to training Lector, and keep him away from the dog snatcher, before it’s too late?
Read an Excerpt:
“I don’t think any of us were expecting this.” Sophie’s dad nodded toward Lector who was now trying to chew the bottom of a kitchen cupboard door. 
“He’s not normally like this,” she said hoping her dad wasn’t regretting his decision to let her have Lector. “He’s a good dog really. Maybe he’s missing Grandpops?” 
“Possibly,” said Sophie’s dad. “But he’d better get over it soon or else we’ll have no house left. You should’ve seen the state of the front room this morning. Emma was not pleased.” 
Sophie was careful not to let her dad see her rolling her eyes. Emma had been nice as pie earlier. She should have said if she was upset. “I saw the sofa, I’m really sorry about that,” Sophie said. 
“It wasn’t just the sofa,” Sophie’s dad pulled Lector away from the cupboard. “He ripped up all the magazines and papers that were on the coffee table to shreds too. With all the tiny bits of paper and foam from the sofa, it looked like it had snowed in the front room last night.” 
Sophie pulled Lector away from the cupboard again. “No Lector.” She turned to her dad. “Strange. He never chewed anything at Grandpops’ place and he had the run of the whole bungalow.” 
Sophie’s dad finished buttering a slice of toast and slid the plate towards Sophie. “Well, it’s all new for him, living here and being without Grandpops, so we can’t be too hard on him. We’ll have to keep him in the kitchen tonight though. He can only destroy so much in here and these units are falling apart anyway.” 
Sophie ran her fingers over the rough wood where the laminate was missing on the corner of one of the cupboard doors. She’d peeled it away as a small child. “Okay,” she said. Sophie wasn’t keen on confining Lector, but her dad had let her keep him rather than rehoming him to a stranger and she needed to make sure he didn’t regret his decision. 
Spotting an opportunity, Lector jumped up at the worktop in the direction of Sophie’s toast. 
“No,” said Sophie. “Off.” 
Lector’s front paws were on the edge of the worktop. He stretched his neck towards the toast. 
Sophie lunged towards him and reached for his collar, but it was too late. Lector had the toast in his mouth. He jumped down and danced around the kitchen as if the toast between his teeth was a fantastic prize. His tail swiped against the washing machine painting it muddy brown. Sophie’s dad grabbed Lector by the shoulders. 
Lector dropped the toast onto the kitchen floor.
Meet the Author:
Jojo is a writer from St Neots in Cambridgeshire, England—although she mostly lives in her head, a carefree happy place where everything is bright and fluffy. 
Her debut novella, The Charm, was published in 2014 and the sequel, Mind Games, in 2016.
Jojo likes to take photos of her dog and post them to Instagram and Twitter @jojodebrazza
More Jojo Debrazza stuff can be found on her facebook page, and her blog:
Become a tour host for Sapphyria’s Book Promotions
Sloane said @ 12:46 am | Author Friend Promo | 1 Comment

Elves – the Good, the Bad, and the Awesome

May 14, 2018

by Carol Browne

Photo Courtesy of Fun Photos Pixabay

When Elgiva, the protagonist of my fantasy novel The Exile of Elindel, is forced to seek the society of humans in order to survive the winter, she can only do this by adopting a disguise. Although mythology insists that elves are shapeshifters, I have Elgiva borrow magic instead so she can change her appearance. Why would she need to do this? In these modern times, we have friendly elves that help Santa; we have the innocuous Elf on the Shelf; we have glamorous immortal beings like the elves in “Lord of the Rings” that fascinate us with their pointed ears and otherworldly beauty. Why on earth would an elf feel compelled to hide their true nature?

Belief in elves as actual beings is as old as belief in the Norse gods. Indeed Freyr, one of the gods most widely and ardently venerated by the Norse and Germanic peoples, dwelled in Alfheim, the elves’ homeland. Germanic Mythology described three divine races: the Aesir, the Vanir and the Alfar (the elves). The origins of the Vanir and Alfar are cloaked in mystery and the relationship between the gods and the elves was ambiguous enough to permit a number of possible connections between Freyr and the elves.

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However, godlike or not, elves were often seen as mischievous and spiteful, if not downright dangerous, liable to lash out with magic if crossed. For example, the word ‘stroke’ for a sudden paralysing seizure is an abbreviation of ‘fairy stroke’ or ‘elf stroke’ and was supposed to come from being elf-shot, a blow which struck down an animal or human victim. Similarly, cramps were often the punishment for annoying the elven folk. The Anglo-Saxons recognized being elf-shot as a valid condition and thought it was caused by unseen elves firing invisible arrows at a person or animal, causing sudden shooting pains in a particular part of the body. And should a person’s hair become matted or knotted, he or she was said to be sporting elf-locks, that some unhelpful elf had tangled up. This was particularly said of the hair of sleeping children. And keep an eye on those children, for elves like to steal them!

Given their capricious and magical nature and supernatural origins, it is no wonder the Anglo-Saxons feared them. So Elgiva could not have strolled into a human settlement with impunity and was compelled to cloak herself in enchantment in order to pass as a human.

Scandinavian folklore boasts an abundance of elves, trolls and other mythological creatures. Most people in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden haven’t taken any of them as fact since the 19th century, but it’s a different story in Iceland. Surveys taken there even in the present century revealed that more than half those surveyed believed in elves, while a number of major road construction projects have been halted, thanks to protestors concerned about the deleterious effects it would have on the habitat and culture of the resident elves.

Elves have been part of our folklore for a very long time. How we have interpreted them down the ages has varied tremendously. They originated as demi-gods, became malicious and belligerent, then friendly and industrious, and now they feature heavily in fiction and popular culture. They may be light elves. They may be dark elves. One thing is certain, good or bad, elves are always cool!

How about curling up with my epic fantasy while you contemplate the possibility of elves?

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?

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.

Sloane said @ 8:35 am | Author Friend Promo | 3 Comments