Fall Into Fantasy – The Heirs of War Series

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Welcome to the Fall Into Fantasy Tour, where we are keeping your mind off any end-of-summer blues and welcoming the cooler weather by introducing you to some incredible fantasy reads to curl up with and giving you plenty of chances to win awesome prizes!

Week 8: The Heirs of War series

Book One: Heirs of War

Book Two: Heirs of War, Crown of Flames

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Seventeen year-old Zelene has never believed in magic or been one to trust fate. Prophecies about princesses and long lost families were the stuff of fairy tales and had no place in her life. But then magic-wielding assassins attack claiming she is one of the five Duillaine Ainnir, the next generation of the most powerful women who rule over the worlds. Together, the five girls are prophesized to save the worlds from the war that has been raging for years.

As their enemies strike, the girls are taken back to their world and discover the ties binding them together. Rhaya has always had an uncanny knack for reading people, but can’t seem to unravel the mystery tying her to Isauria, the new friend she bonded with instantly. For years, Isauria has been dreaming of Terrena, a girl living her life on the run in a magical world ripped apart by the tragedies of war, but Isauria is completely unaware that she is psychically linked to the world she was born in.

Zelene views them all, especially the elders, with a distrustful eye, familial bonds or no. When she learns that her long-lost twin Ariana has been captured by the rebels, Zelene’s attitude changes. She doesn’t know what she can do when her own magic is still locked within her, but can she trust the elders to rescue Ariana when it seems their medieval politics are what brought about the war in the first place? With all that is at stake, the answer becomes clear to Zelene.

Screw the worlds. She’s getting her sister back.

Buy it from: Amazon  Amazon UK  Barnes & Noble  iTunes  Kobo  GooglePlay

Or add it to Goodreads

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Weeks have passed since Ariana and Alec escaped from Kellen’s dungeon, but danger isn’t far behind them. The guilt of his past weighs heavily on Alec’s shoulders, and his secrets only push Ariana further away. As they travel through unknown lands and encounter multiple threats, their biggest challenge might be trusting one another.

The world appears to be going on regardless of the risks Ariana faces. The Duillaine insist that they are doing everything they can to find Ariana, but their actions betray that claim. Despite the danger and the war closing in around them, all of Anscombe seems to be more interested in the upcoming Imbolc festival and Terrena’s betrothal than rescuing Ariana.

Well…not everyone.

Tired of waiting for the Duillaine to help her twin, Zelene starts plotting on her own and finds a surprising ally in Rhaya, even as the Cynewards prepare to make a move of their own. But Zelene’s plans go awry when she finds herself with a new ability, a mysterious new friend, and more enemies within the walls of Anscombe than she thought.

Buy it from: Amazon  Amazon UK  Barnes & Noble  iTunes  Kobo

Or add it to Goodreads

ABOUT MARA VALDERRAN: 

Mara author pic

Mara Valderran is an author of young adult and new adult books, but she’s more than just a madwoman with a writing box. She is an avid reader and fan of all things sci-fi and fantasy. She loves roller skating and movies, though typically not together. She lives in Las Vegas with her husband and demanding cat. She hopes to one day meet Daniel Jackson from SG1, or at least the actor who played him. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading, playing video games, or counting down the days until DragonCon.

Find Mara Online:

Website  Twitter  Facebook  Google+  Goodreads  Wattpad  Amazon Author

Sign up for Mara’s newsletter so you don’t miss news on new releases and fun contests!

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Fall Into Fantasy – The Daath Chronicles

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Welcome to the Fall Into Fantasy Tour, where we are keeping your mind off any end-of-summer blues and welcoming the cooler weather by introducing you to some incredible fantasy reads to curl up with and giving you plenty of chances to win awesome prizes!

Week 7: The Daath Chronicles

Book One: Broken Forest

Book Two: Wicked Path

Broken Forest Ebook Cover

Hopeless he’ll never be more than the boy who didn’t save his brother, 17-year-old Avikar accepts his life as the family stable boy, trying to forget the past. But when his sister, Jeslyn, is kidnapped, the thought of losing another sibling catapults him on a desperate quest. With his best friend by his side, and using the tracking skills he learned from his father, he discovers Jeslyn has been taken, kidnapped by one Lucino, the young lord of Daath, a mystical place thought only to exist in fables.

And Lucino has plans for Jeslyn.

His shape-shifting brethren feed off the auras of humans, and Jeslyn’s golden hue is exactly what Lucino needs to increase his power. The longer it takes Avikar to reach her, the more entranced she becomes with Lucino’s world, and the harder it will be for Avikar to set her free.

He failed his family once. He won’t fail again.

Buy it from: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo

Or add it to Goodreads

EXCERPT:

The wagons surrounded the site in a semi-circle. Sweat pooled in my palms. I had to take out the guards closest to that entrance. If I failed, so did the mission.

Get a grip.

I clenched the arrow in my right hand. Brushfire shifted nervously, sensing my fear. I rubbed her neck. I felt safer with her. She’d been with me since Jimri’s death. At night when the nightmares taunted me, I’d sneak out, riding until dawn forced us home. I’d rescued her from the burning woods, she’d rescued me from despair — today, I prayed both of us would make it out alive.

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In Wicked Path: Book Two of the Daath Chronicles brother and sister are forced to opposite sides of Tarrtainya on a fast-paced adventure where the wildlife isn’t the only thing trying to kill them.

Three months have passed since Avikar defeated the Reptilian Prince, and he still can’t remember his battle with Lucino. On the hunt for answers, he returns to the scene of the fight and discovers a strange connection between his family’s dagger and the mysterious kingdom of Daath, and it seems only his distant father can reveal the truth behind it all.

Before Avikar can travel back home, Lucy assaults him in the market and forces him to flee to Nod Mountains—a place few dare to enter, and even less return from. With Raven and her childhood friend by his side, they must survive the treacherous journey through the pass with a vengeful Lucy hunting them. If they don’t, they’ll never see home again.

Jeslyn’s new life in Luna Harbor is the perfect remedy for her confused and broken heart. But when a group of mercenaries kidnap her beloved Grandfather, interrupting her daily routine as his jewelry apprentice, she’s forced to join forces with the one person from her past she tried to forget.

And his assistance comes with a price.

Buy it from: Amazon  Barnes & Noble

Or add it to Goodreads

 

ABOUT ELIZA TILTON:

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Eliza graduated from Dowling College with a BS in Visual Communications. When she’s not arguing with excel at her day job, or playing Dragon Age 2, again, she’s writing.

Her YA stories hold a bit of the fantastical and there’s always a hot romance. She resides on Long Island with her husband, two kids and one very snuggly pit bull.

Find Eliza online:

Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads / Instagram / Pinterest / Google+

 

Want to get involved with the Fall Into Fantasy promotional tour?

  • Don’t forget to join us at the Facebook party here
  • If you are interested in joining up as a blogger, you can always sign up here. We are happy to welcome more bloggers into the fold as the promotion continues. 
  • If you are an author or blogger and want to sign up to help with the party, please fill out this form.

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Review – John Rockman and the Trials of Galactar

I don’t usually review books (see post why here). This one is an exception. I kept having to stop and put it down, because I was enjoying it that much.

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John Rockman and the Trials of Galactar is brought to you by the people behind @AwfulFantasy (follow them if you’re not already), and just like their Awful Fantasy tweets, John Rockman is deliciously dreadful. Unfortunately, I started reading this book because I had a bit of time to kill before an interview. Bad move. I laughed so hard that I cried, and ended up going to it all teary and mascara-smeared. Thanks for that.

I can see why this book wouldn’t be for everyone. It is really, really bad. It is so bad that only an exceptionally good author could have written something so gloriously awful. Another reviewer said they imagined Bruce Campbell as Rockman in a movie version, and… yes! May the gods of Hollywood make this a thing. Please.

Rockman is the manliest hero ever to hero. He is muscular and hairy and oh-so-stern. His medium-length brown hair is permanently rustled by the wind. Love interest Maria (of the weak Femail race) is silly and fluttery and heaving-bosomy. The bad guy is camp and ridiculous. It is chock full full of utterly ridiculous metaphors. (Rockman shot awake like a fast blooming flower in fast forward. But he was restricted, like a bunch of bees were on him, waiting for his pollen to become available. He realized he was tied up again.)

It is just perfect.

Then there’s the writing style. It’s not just the story and the characters which are awful. I suspect the authors have done a lot of critiquing of awful sci-fi. They get bad writing spot on, but in a really good way.

When I was reading it, I kept coming across fantastic lines and thinking: ‘I have to quote that in the review’ (that is when I wasn’t putting my kindle down and quoting at whoever happened to be closest). The problem is that I am tempted to quote the whole damn book. Every line is a gem.

Here are a few of my faves:

Strange spaceships occupied most of the other docking strips. Some were round like a flying saucer, but others were not like that at all.

Rockman’s muscles were indeed hairy, which is just the sort of texture a warrior needs. It provides the perfect amount of wind resistance to stand your ground when the gusts of the Spaceworm’s breath thunder across the pains of Galactar. Also, women find it irresistible.

He took another deep breath to consolidate his feelings into one lump feeling: resolve. He quickly did the math and figured out that he had just lumped about ten feelings into his resolve reserve. That should be more than enough to finish the mission with resolve remaining. His face grew stern with the lack of other feelings. His spacesuit shifted.

And the best of all?

Rockman wished he had his laser pistol about now. Yeah, I know. Not immediately hilarious, other than being a bit of a trope. Read the book. You’ll get it.

If you’re fond of cheesy B movies, bad puns, and daft metaphors, this is the book for you. Now I’m off to buy the next in the John Rockman series…

 

Fall Into Fantasy – The Ragnarok Prophecies

 

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Welcome to the Fall Into Fantasy Tour, where we are keeping your mind off any end-of-summer blues and welcoming the cooler weather by introducing you to some incredible fantasy reads to curl up with and giving you plenty of chances to win awesome prizes!

Week 6: The Ragnarök Prophesies

Book One: Fade

Book Two: Fall

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What do you do when you realize nothing in your life is what you’ve believed it to be?

When Arionna Jacobs loses her mother in a tragic accident, her world is turned upside down. She’s forced to leave her old life behind and move in with her father. Dace Matthews, a teaching assistant at her new college, is torn in two, unable to communicate with the feral wolf caged inside him.

When they meet, everything they thought they knew about life unravels. Dace has intimate access to Arionna’s mind, and something deep within her fights to rise to the surface. They don’t understand what’s happening to them or why, and they’re running out of time to sort out the strange occurrences around them.

Their meeting sets an ancient Norse prophesy of destruction in motion, and what destiny has in store for them is bigger than either could have ever imagined. Unless they learn to trust themselves and one another, they may never resolve the mystery surrounding who they are to one another, and what that means for the world.

FADE is available from Curiosity Quills Press at Amazon US | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | Barnes and Noble | Kobo.

 

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How do you save someone who doesn’t want to be saved?

Those called to stand guard against the end are broken, and Sköll and Hati run free. Now Arionna Jacobs and Dace Matthews face a threat unlike any before. Ragnarök is coming and they aren’t strong enough to stop it.

Arionna thought she understood sacrifice, but she never counted on her destiny tearing Dace apart. Ever since she nearly died, he has been consumed with guilt. Now it threatens to turn him into the monster he always feared.

It’s up to Arionna to stop him before it’s too late, but the path to hell is paved with good intentions, and Dace is hurtling toward self destruction. This time, Arionna isn’t sure she can save him from himself. Can she convince him to let the past go, or is her true destiny to sacrifice her heart in exchange for the lives of the people she loves?

You can read the official prologue to FALL here.

FALL – The Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You can add it to your TBR list on Goodreads here.

ABOUT A.K. MORGEN:

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A.K. Morgen lives in Little Rock with her husband, three dogs and two cats. She has a graduate degree in Criminal Justice and Law, and plans to save the world someday. When she’s not working or writing, she spends her time teaching her niece and nephews how to cause mischief. You can also find her dancing in the grocery store, building a spork army, and fundraising for nonprofits close to her heart.

You can learn more about Ayden at http://akmorgen.com or by following her on TwitterGoodreads, or Facebook.

 

Want to get involved with the Fall Into Fantasy promotional tour?

  • Don’t forget to join us at the Facebook party here
  • If you are interested in joining up as a blogger, you can always sign up here. We are happy to welcome more bloggers into the fold as the promotion continues. 
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A long overdue post on the subject of reviews

I don’t spend a lot of time dithering. I’ve got a pretty analytical mind. Everything has a logical conclusion. If I don’t know what to do next, I just sit down and think about all the possible permutations, and likely consequences, and the way forward usually becomes obvious.

But I have spent a lot of time dithering over reviews in the months since I published The Secret Dead.

Reviews are lifeblood for authors. Good reviews are invaluable. I am tremendously grateful to everyone who has taken the time to write a couple of paragraphs and give The Secret Dead a rating. It makes a real difference, and is hugely appreciated.

Most people in the reading/writing community are aware that there are some serious problems going on with reviews at the moment. The biggest and most obvious are paid-for-positive-reviews. An author can pay as little as £10 or so, and get a bunch of 5 star verified purchase reviews on Amazon. I see these a lot. They’re quite easy to spot. There’ll be a bunch of 5 star reviews, most of which won’t mention the author name, book, or characters in the text, and then a bunch of 1 and 2 stars which will mostly be variations of readers going wtf?

Then there are review swaps where authors agree to review each other’s work. In theory, this could work fine as long as everyone is honest, but not everyone is. I’ve seen plenty of review swap offers on Goodreads where the author promises they’ll only give good reviews. At the very least it opens up a giant can of worms if one author doesn’t like the other’s book.

Readers are getting more and more suspicious of 4 and 5 star reviews, especially those given by authors, and with good reason. The whole review system is becoming compromised. This isn’t limited to indie authors of course, although it is a particular problem for us.

I’ve actually gained some fans (I know! I feel like a proper celebrity!) who have tweeted, shared and otherwise been really enthusiastic about The Secret Dead. When those people are also talented authors with great books, I feel bad about sitting on the sidelines and not being as enthusiastic as I want to be. I want to give good reviews to the great books and authors I know, but I am also aware of the huge ethical issues around authors reviewing each other.

Then there’s the problem that I’ve also met authors whose books I haven’t enjoyed at all, and wouldn’t be able to give a positive review to. This adds yet another layer of social awkwardness, because most of the time the author has been lovely and I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Us writers are usually sensitive sorts.

So I’ve thought about it, and I’m still dithering, but for now this is going to be my review policy:

~I am not going to put up any Amazon reviews. Why? Amazon doesn’t like it, and readers get suspicious. I’m going to avoid it like the giant can of worms it is. Maybe I’m being overcautious, but I always have been a nervous type.

~I may review/rate/recommend on Goodreads if I don’t know the author.

~I will tweet/write up on my website or FB page about the books I’ve enjoyed, and will promote authors I think my readers might enjoy, whether I know them or not.

Full disclosure: Just to be absolutely clear, at the time of writing this post, no one who has reviewed or offered to review my book has requested or hinted in any way that they expect a positive return review. Much of this post is just me adding a giant dose of social anxiety into something that other people probably wouldn’t worry about.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, this really isn’t a clear cut issue for me. I’d love to hear what other authors (and readers) think. Do you think it’s fine for authors to review each other, as long as they do so honestly? Or should we leave it just to the readers?

Fall Into Fantasy – The Curse Merchant

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Welcome to the Fall Into Fantasy Tour, where we are keeping your mind off any end-of-summer blues and welcoming the cooler weather by introducing you to some incredible fantasy reads to curl up with and giving you plenty of chances to win awesome prizes!

Week 5: The Dark Choir Series

Book One: The Curse Merchant

By J.P. Sloan

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Dorian Lake spent years cornering the Baltimore hex-crafting market, using his skills at the hermetic arts to exact karmic justice for those whom the system has failed. He keeps his magic clean and free of soul-corrupting Netherwork, thus avoiding both the karmic blow-back of his practice and the notice of the Presidium, a powerful cabal of practitioners that polices the esoteric arts in America. However, when an unscrupulous Netherworker interferes with both his business and his personal life, Dorian’s disarming charisma and hermetic savvy may not be enough to keep his soul out of jeopardy.

His rival, a soul monger named Neil Osterhaus, wouldn’t be such a problem were it not for Carmen, Dorian’s captivating ex-lover. After two years’ absence Carmen arrives at Dorian’s doorstep with a problem: she sold her soul to Osterhaus, and has only two weeks to buy it back. Hoping to win back Carmen’s affections, Dorian must find a replacement soul without tainting his own. As Dorian descends into the shadows of Baltimore’s underworld, he must decide how low he is willing to stoop in order to save Carmen from eternal damnation… with the Presidium watching, waiting for him to cross the line.

 

Buy it from: Amazon  Barnes & Noble

Add it Goodreads

 

ABOUT J.P. SLOAN

JP Sloan Bio Pic

J.P. Sloan is a speculative fiction author, primarily of urban fantasy, horror and several shades between. His writing explores the strangeness in that which is familiar, at times stretching the limits of the human experience, or only hinting at the monsters lurking under your bed.

A Louisiana native, Sloan relocated to the vineyards and cow pastures of Central Maryland after Hurricane Katrina, where he lives with his wife and son. During the day he commutes to the city of Baltimore, a setting which inspires much of his writing.

In his spare time, Sloan enjoys wine-making and homebrewing, and is a National-ranked beer judge.

Find J.P. Online:

J.P. Sloan’s Fistful of Fiction  Facebook  Twitter  Tumblr

 

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Some notes on cover testing

One of the big mistakes I made with The Secret Dead was not doing a proper cover test before I published, even though I had four (that’s right, four) pre-made covers to choose from. I bought the first three because I liked them, but it wasn’t until the fourth that I found one I loved.

These were my four options:

1.SecretDead 2.Secret Dead - High Resolution (2) 3.The Secret Dead4.sanfair-72dpi-1500x2000 (1)

The first I bought because I needed something for Wattpad. I liked it, but it didn’t really shout fantasy.

Same for the second. I really liked the third, but wasn’t sure it fitted the book. Finally, I came across the fourth which I loved although I had a few reservations about it looking a little too simple

Cover testing consisted of asking people from my writer’s group what they thought and going with the majority opinion. No one liked my favourite, but almost everyone liked 1. and 3. I went with 3 because I liked it best out the two.

Bad move. I’m not sure why I did a proper cover test after I published. I’m sure I had a reason, even if it wasn’t a good one.

For those interested, I did the cover test via a Facebook advert. This is a quick, cheap, and painless way to find out just how much attention each cover gets.  Facebook’s Advert Manager allows you to upload up to six images. You have a number of options regards pricing, and aims. I set a limit of $30 and an aim of click-throughs to a website (i.e. my book’s page on Amazon). All you need to do then is sit back and measure how many clicks each cover gets.

(For the record, I picked this tip up via another author who wrote a blogpost about it. For the life of me I can’t remember who it was. I’ll have a rummage around and see if I can find who deserves credit and update if I find it)

My post-publishing cover test told me I picked the wrong cover. I don’t remember offhand what each cover got, but I do know that the skull-and-crossbones got three times as many clicks as the others. Just shows – sometimes you should go with your instincts.

Once again, the time has come to consider covers. The next in the Vivia Brisk series is going to be released later this year. (Launch date will depend on how long it takes to go through editing.) The plan was to launch a new Secret Dead cover along with Book 2 (which really needs an official title).  The TSD cover has been rejigged a bit, and versions are currently wandering over Facebook in search of clicks.

So far, this one is in the lead by a factor of 2.3 but the race is not yet done.

Two

Watch this space! As soon as the mighty web has spoken, I’ll let everyone in on the verdict.

 

Fall Into Fantasy: The Enchanted Bookstore Legends

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Welcome to the Fall Into Fantasy Tour, where we are keeping your mind off any end-of-summer blues and welcoming the cooler weather by introducing you to some incredible fantasy reads to curl up with and giving you plenty of chances to win awesome prizes!

The Enchanted Bookstore Legends

Book One: Seeking a Scribe

Book Two: Heritage Avenged

Book Three: Lost Volumes

Book Four: Staurolite

Book Five: Quintessence

By Marsha A. Moore

Seeking a ScribeEnchanted Bookstore Legend One by Marsha A. Moore

Seeking a Scribe 300 x 450

Lyra McCauley is a writer and loves fantasy novels, but until she opens a selection from bookstore owner Cullen Drake, she has no idea he’s a wizard character who lives a double life inside that volume…or the story’s magic will compel her from the edge of depression to adventure, danger, and love.

His gift to Lyra, the Book of Dragonspeir, was actually her copy, misplaced years ago. Lost in her pain following divorce and death, she fails to recognize him as her childhood playmate from the fantasyland. Friendship builds anew. Attraction sparks. But Lyra doubts whether a wizard is capable of love. She’s torn—should she protect her fragile heart or risk new love?

Opening the book’s cover, she confronts a quest: save Dragonspeir from destruction by the Black Dragon before he utilizes power of August’s red moon to expand his strength and overthrow the opposing Imperial Dragon. Lyra accepts the challenge, fearing Cullen will perish if evil wins. Along with magical animal guides, Cullen helps her through many perils, but ultimately Lyra must use her own power…and time is running out.

Series Description:

Enchanted Bookstore Legends banner

The Enchanted Bookstore Legends are about Lyra McCauley, a woman destined to become one of five strong women in her family who possess unique magical abilities and serve as Scribes in Dragonspeir. The Scribes span a long history, dating from 1200 to present day. Each Scribe is expected to journey through Dragonspeir, both the good and evil factions, then draft a written account. Each book contains magic with vast implications.

Lyra was first introduced to Dragonspeir as a young girl, when she met the high sorcerer, Cullen Drake, through a gift of one of those enchanted books. Using its magic, he escorted her into the parallel world of Dragonspeir. Years later, she lost that volume and forgot the world and Cullen. These legends begin where he finds her again—she is thirty-five, standing in his enchanted bookstore, and Dragonspeir needs her.

When Lyra reopens that enchanted book, she confronts a series of quests where she is expected to save the good Alliance from destruction by the evil Black Dragon. While learning about her role, Lyra and Cullen fall in love. He is 220 years old and kept alive by Dragonspeir magic. Cullen will die if Dragonspeir is taken over by the evil faction…Lyra becomes the Scribe.

Purchase Links:

Seeking a Scribe: Enchanted Bookstore Legend One

Heritage Avenged: Enchanted Bookstore Legend Two

Lost Volumes: Enchanted Bookstore Legend Three

Staurolite: Enchanted Bookstore Legend Four

Quintessence: Enchanted Bookstore Legend Five

ABOUT MARSHA A. MOORE

Marsha A. Moore loves to write fantasy and fantasy romance. Much of her life feeds the creative flow she uses to weave highly imaginative tales.

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The magic of art and nature often spark life into her writing, as well as watercolor painting and drawing. She’s been a yoga enthusiast for over a decade and is a registered yoga teacher. After a move from Toledo to Tampa in 2008, she’s happily transformed into a Floridian, in love with the outdoors. Marsha is crazy about cycling. She lives with her husband on a large saltwater lagoon, where taking her kayak out for an hour or more is a real treat. She never has enough days spent at the beach, usually scribbling away at stories with toes wiggling in the sand. Every day at the beach is magical!

Website  Twitter  Facebook  Goodreads  Google +

Want to get involved with the Fall Into Fantasy promotional tour?

  • Don’t forget to join us at the Facebook party here
  • If you are interested in joining up as a blogger, you can always sign up here. We are happy to welcome more bloggers into the fold as the promotion continues. 
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Excerpt from Seeking a Scribe:

Chapter One: Licorice Memories

The smell of anise greeted Lyra as she opened the door to Drake’s bookstore. It took her back to happy childhood memories. Licorice-shoe-string-rewards for following her parents’ requests to stay on the dock while they secured the family’s pleasure boat to its trailer. The aroma brought a fleeting remembrance of times long gone, a treasure now that her folks had recently passed. At ease with the familiar scent, she settled into browsing through rows of antique bookcases.

The shop owner stuck his head around a set of shelves. “Do you like tea?”

“Yes, I do.” Before she could finish speaking, he disappeared. “Is that the wonderful smell?” she called out.

Kitchenware clinked in the back room. Receiving no answer, Lyra followed the noises, scanning collections as she walked. This bookshop appeared established, but surely she would have remembered it from her last visit to the Lake Huron village five years ago. Books were her passion, especially fantasy. She paused in front of that section and studied its titles.

The owner appeared, holding a pewter tray with a teapot, two cups, sugar jar, spoons, and napkins, which he laid on the corner of an old library table. She watched him carefully pour the tea and hand her a cup. He was about her age, mid thirties or a bit older, and handsome. His medium brown hair, peppered with gray at the temples, grazed his shoulders in wavy layers, and his beard was trimmed into a neat goatee. He wore long shorts, a knit golf shirt, and sandals—typical casual attire for this island resort community.

She set down her bag from the drugstore and accepted his offer with a smile. “Thanks. My name’s Lyra.” She blew across the hot surface of the tea to cool it and then inhaled the anise-scented steam. She closed her eyes to fully enjoy the memory. “Ah!”

“Afternoons of boating and licorice with your parents? Right?” he asked.

Her mouth dropped open. How did he know that?

He slurped from his cup. “Go ahead, take a sip. My folks gave me the same reward for taking my kid sister along on bicycle rides.”

Forgetting all about the tea, she asked, “How do you know my childhood memory?”

“Taste it.” His lips curled into a sly grin as he took another gulp.

She cautiously took a tiny sip, just enough to wet her lips and the tip of her tongue.  The flavor flooded her mouth, and her mind swam with wonderful memories. The taste transformed into that of gigantic popcorn balls the sheriff’s wife down the street made for Halloween trick-or-treaters, accompanied by images of Lyra’s costume—a red, fringed gypsy skirt borrowed from Mom. Next came a pumpkin flavor and vision of holding a cold piece of “punky-pie” in her five-year-old hand. Another swallow returned her experience back to anise. “What is this? How did you know?”

“Let me introduce myself.” His grin spread into a smile as his eyes met hers. He took a step closer. “I’m Cullen, Cullen Drake, and I know many things. What I don’t know is what sort of books you like to read.”

His keen interest caused heat to rise in her cheeks. “Well, actually I have several favorites, all fantasy and magical realism. You have a number of authors I like in this section.” She turned to refer to the shelves behind her, but found non-fiction hunting guides instead. “This case held classic fantasy a moment ago!”

Cullen put down his cup. “It moved. It’s over here, and I have just what you want.” He slid an old-fashioned library ladder along its track, set the locking device, and climbed straight up to the top shelf.

Lyra followed, walking between four comfortable leather club chairs grouped on a Persian rug. A portrait of a young girl and a man wearing a cloak caught her attention. Something seemed familiar in the child’s smile.

The noise of books sliding on shelves distracted her. She moved to the base of his ladder and glanced up. The ceiling of embossed tin panels decorated with Victorian teardrop chandeliers and paper Chinese dragons made a unique combination, to be sure.

But Lyra was more curious about the strange happenings in the store and its owner.  He was certainly odd, although not the bookish, geeky sort who usually ran bookshops she frequented. He had an athletic frame and strong legs.

“Can’t find it!” he exclaimed and quickly descended. His brow furrowed, he dusted off his hands on his shorts. “I’ve got to find that volume for you. If you don’t mind me saying, there’s a sadness about you. The book will make you happier than you’ve been since those days of licorice shoe strings.”

“After magical tea and shifting bookcases, I almost believe you.” She laughed to cover her concerns. Even four months after it was final, she worried that the loneliness she felt after her divorce blazed like a beacon on her forehead. But, Cullen knew so much—it startled her…actually, intrigued her. Her ex didn’t ever see inside her, didn’t want to. This man read her as though he knew her. Did he? He seemed so familiar.

“Once I find that book, I promise, you’ll be pleased.” He stroked his goatee. “Hmm. Where did I last see it?” The twinkle in his gray-blue eyes captivated Lyra. “Will you be here for the week? I can look for it and call you later.”

“I’m staying the rest of the summer with my elderly Aunt Jean. She owns a lovely cottage at the end of Walnut overlooking Lake Huron. I thought I’d keep her company and give her time away from her nurse during my teaching break. While I’m here, I plan to write my novel.”

“Great! You’re a writer? What do you teach?”

“Yes, and I teach American Literature at Southern University in Florida. Seems like you already would’ve known that since you jumped into my childhood memories,” she stammered, attempting some humor. Taking a long draught of the tea, her mind filled with memories of her pet dachshund wiggling next to her, displacing a row of dolls. Another part of her past he knew—impossible! Her forehead beaded with sweat.

“No, only thoughts associated with a lot of emotion, like the happiness of snuggling with your dog.”

“How?” she exclaimed, shaking her head. “I don’t understand.” Her mind swam, trying to grasp what happened. She desperately needed some fresh air. With trembling hands she set the cup down.

“I realize it must seem odd, but the book I’m looking for will help explain.” He leaned closer with a smile that somehow reassured her. “This is Saturday. If you can come by next Wednesday morning, I think I should have it for you by then…if you’d like.” He paused and looked into her eyes, waiting for a reply.

“Yes…I’m curious.” In spite of the confusion, she found herself agreeing. “Wednesday will work.”

“Fine. Let me take down your number in case I can’t find it.” He walked to the counter and located a notepad and pen. She dictated her number and full name, which he repeated, “Lyra McCauley, a lovely Celtic name for a pretty lady.”

“I think I need to go now. Thanks for the tea.” With shaking fingers, she collected her shopping bag and headed toward the door.

He escorted her out and offered his hand to shake, the corners of his goatee lifting into an inviting grin. “Enjoy the rest of your weekend.”

Lyra smiled and looked into his eyes, trying to discern his unusual clairvoyant gift. “You too.” The initial touch, of his palm against hers, sent electrical shivers along her arm. She jerked, yet didn’t let go, fascinated by the strong emotions flashing through her mind—attraction, excitement, and acceptance. After an awkwardly long pause, she dropped his hand, half-stumbled over the threshold into the sunshine, and took a long, deep breath.

She ambled to an outdoor café a couple blocks farther down Tenth Street, while her mind buzzed with questions. How did he know those things about her? She dropped onto a seat at an empty table, shaded by an umbrella. He was fascinating and frightening at the same time…and familiar. Her divorce and loss of her parents left her lonely. He intrigued her.

“May I get you something to drink while you look over the menu?” The waitress interrupted with a bright young voice, a college student working a summer job.

Startled back to reality, Lyra murmured, “Just water, please.” Alone in a crowd of lunch goers, her thoughts returned to the bookstore and many unanswered questions.

The waitress placed a glass of water in front of her.

She almost hated to drink and remove the sweet aftertaste of anise from her tongue.