Interview with C.H. MacLean, author of ‘Two Empty Thrones’

C.H. MacLeanTo young C. H. MacLean, books were everything: mind-food, friends, and fun. They gave the shy middle child’s life color and energy. Amazingly, not everyone saw them that way. Seeing a laundry hamper full of books approach her, the librarian scolded C. H. for trying to check them all out. “You’ll never read that many before they expire!” C. H. was surprised, having shown great restraint only by keeping a list of books to check out next time. Thoroughly abashed, C. H. waited three whole days after finishing that lot before going back for more.

With an internal world more vivid than the real one, C. H. was chastised for reading in the library instead of going to class. “Neurotic, needs medical help,” the teacher diagnosed. C. H.’s father, a psychologist, just laughed when he heard. “She’s just upset because those books are more challenging than her class.” C. H. realized making up stories was just as fun as reading, and harder to get caught doing. So for a while, C. H. crafted stories and characters out of wisps and trinkets, with every toy growing an elaborate personality.

But toys were not mature, and stories weren’t respectable for a family of doctors. So C. H. grew up and learned to read serious books and study hard, shelving foolish fantasies for serious work.

Years passed in a black and white blur. Then, unpredictably falling in love all the way to a magical marriage rattled C. H.’s orderly world. A crazy idea slipped in a resulting crack and wouldn’t leave. “Write the book you want to read,” it said. “Write? As in, a fantasy novel? But I’m not creative,” C. H. protested. The idea, and C. H.’s spouse, rolled their eyes.

So one day, C. H. started writing. Just to try it, not that it would go anywhere. Big mistake. Decades of pent-up passion started pouring out, making a mess of an orderly life. It only got worse. Soon, stories popped up everywhere- in dreams, while exercising, or out of spite, in the middle of a work meeting. “But it’s not important work,” C. H. pleaded weakly. “They are not food, or friends, or…” But it was too late. C. H. had re-discovered that, like books, life should be fun too. Now, writing is a compulsion, and a calling.

C.H. lives in a Pacific Northwest forest with five cats, two kids, one spouse, and absolutely no dragons or elves, faeries, or demons… that are willing to be named, at least.

His latest book is the YA fantasy, Two Empty Thrones.

For More Information

What made you decide to become a published author?

I don’t know if I really decided; it was more like I just realized who I was. I sat down, just to consider if I could write something real, you know, something I would want to read. I didn’t think I had an idea at all. All at once, like a pop-up window, an image replaced the Two Empty Thrones 2page in front of me. Words flowed onto the page. Hours flew by until I snapped out of it.

Later, I went back to read it. It sounded nothing like the boring or sloppy stuff I have to push through to read, but engaging and dynamic.

Then came the choice part: work hard and give something to the world, or not?

Would you consider your latest book, Two Empty Thrones to be a one of a kind? How so?

Combining ancient elements in new-age application and emotions driving a fast-paced plot, Two Empty Thrones is unlike anything I’ve read. It sounds familiar, with words like prophecy and magic. But the sound of a horse’s whinny you heard turns out to be a zebra-pegasus with a hidden agenda. (That character isn’t in this book, but could be.)

Where is your writing sanctuary?

I live in the forest, down a tree-hugged drive. At the end, it curves like a smile, giving shade and shelter from the rain. Noise of the ordinary muted by distance, imagination can frolic in magic and wonder.

What do you believe a writer should not do as far as getting his or her book published?

Two things are key. One, know publishing is a long process that involves more work than you think. I am sure everyone is familiar with that story. Two, trust yourself. I hear stories of good writers trodden down by watching their creative work be dissected, sterilized and jammed into a glass jar in an attempt to be published. Editing and the process are important and we can all improve, but you should be happier on the other side.

What inspires you?

I have no idea where the actual need or urge to write comes from. I’m sure there is some biochemical or psychological explanation, but saying it’s a calling works for me. But the actual inspiration to do all the hard work comes from hearing how other people enjoy it. To think I can be part of what makes life fun and interesting for people is such an honor.

What is one thing you learned about your book after it was published?

How much other people liked it. Until you hear from people you don’t know, it doesn’t seem real. Finding out that people think it’s great brings my childhood love of books full circle, and inspires me to do more and provide a better experience for others.

Why do you love to write YA fantasy?

Fantasy allows a unique exploration of an unlimited set of potential conflicts. In fantasy, reality is bound only by imagination. In the same way, young adults face life-changing decisions for the first time, on the edge of first discovering who they really are. They create themselves, only limited by their own minds.

But that’s more why I love to read fantasy and YA. I don’t set out to write in a particular category and just write the stories as they come to me.

You’re concocting a recipe for a best selling book. What’s the first ingredient?

Love of reading. It’s like water to life—it’s not living, but it lets everything else mix together. Without that, you have a dry and lifeless book. If the book can reignite that love for the reader, almost anything else can work. Title, plot, character, even language might be completely different from one best-seller to another, but the love will always be there.

What’s one fun fact about your book people should know?

While I intentionally didn’t include dry explanations, I found out a good deal of its magic aligns with in-this-world fact. I keep finding things in other research and say, “Hey, that’s in there!”

Aside from writing, what’s your passion?

I have many passions, with reading and writing as obvious ones. Being active in mental, physical and metaphysical arenas is what fuels all my fires. Trekking through the woods or cleaning up the forest, working to realign natural energies with my own, that’s what recharges me.

What’s next for you?

The third book in the series, We the Three, keeps me up at night begging to be finished, it’s so close to done. I am hoping to release it in the spring/summer of 2015.

I also just finished writing an intense book entitled Fire Above, a story about a young man who dared to dream and started the first human-dragon war. It is currently going through the first round of edits.

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Interview with Margay Leah Justice, author of ‘The Scent of Humanity’

Margay Leah JusticeDescended from the same bloodline that spawned the likes of James Russell, Amy and Robert Lowell, Margay Leah Justice was fated to be a writer herself from a young age. But even before she knew that there was a name for what she was doing, she knew one thing: She had a deep and unconditional love for the written word. A love that would challenge her in times of need, abandon her in times of distress, and rediscover her in times of hope. Through her writing, Margay has learned to cope with every curve ball life has thrown her, including the challenges of single parenting, the harsh realities of living in a shelter, coping with the diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, and the roller coaster ride of dealing with a child who suffers from bipolar disorder. But along the way she has rediscovered the amazing power of words.

Margay currently lives in Massachusetts with her two daughters, two cats, and a myriad of characters who vie for her attention and demand that their own stories be told. In her spare time, she is an avid knitter, knitting her way through a stash of yarn that almost rivals her tbr pile!

Her latest book is the romantic suspense/women’s fiction, The Scent of Humanity.

For More Information

About the Book:

Lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice. In theory. But in one small town, in one family, that theory is put to the test.

The Scent of Humanity 2Growing up in a rural town in Massachusetts was supposed to be safe, but for SILVIE CHILDS, that safety was shattered by a kidnapping attempt that forever changed her life. Now, nearly twenty years later, that sense of safety is challenged again by the kidnapping attempt on her young niece, and Silvie is left struggling with one question: How can something like this happen twice in one family?

It is a dilemma shared by NICK FAHEY, the detective assigned to the case. Arriving on the scene of the abduction attempt, Nick expects to run a routine investigation. Until he meets the victim, the niece of a woman he once considered a dear friend. Unfortunately, these days Silvie Childs can barely stand the sight of him.

Once there was a time when Silvie Childs worshipped Nick Fahey, believing he could do no wrong. Until the accident that nearly killed her brother; the accident that Nick reportedly caused. Coming on the heels of her own near abduction, the accident skewed Silvie’s ability to trust men – especially Nick. But now, with the attempt on her niece’s safety, Silvie finds herself in the untenable position of having to trust Nick to bring the kidnapper to justice.

That trust is severely tested when, after only two months, the case is closed for lack of new evidence. Feeling betrayed by the system in which she works as a paralegal and by Nick, Silvie takes matters into her own hands. Contacting local news stations to generate interest in the case, allowing herself to be filmed hanging sketches of the suspect on telephone poles, she will risk her own safety to protect that of her niece. When her efforts re-open the wounds of her past, she is once again forced to put her trust in the one man who still has the power to hurt her – Nick

For More Information

What made you decide to become a published author?

It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was young. I’ve always written – I never went anywhere without a notebook – so the desire to publish just naturally grew out of that.

What do you believe a writer should not do as far as getting his or her book published?

Never bash another’s book while trying to sell your own. In fact, try to avoid comparisons. You want to set your book apart from the rest, not let it become one of the same.

What inspires you?

Everything! News stories about soldiers surprising their families, new life coming into the world – sunsets. Just so many things.

You’re concocting a recipe for a best selling book. What’s the first ingredient?

An intriguing plot.

Did any real life experiences find their way into your book?

Yes, the core of the book about the attempted kidnappings is based on my own experiences. Though the details have been changed and the rest of the book is fiction, the part about me and my niece nearly being kidnapped in the same town (my hometown) several years apart is true. It’s what inspired me to write this book.

Aside from writing, what’s your passion?

Well, reading, of course, but also knitting. I am a mad knitter – love to create new things and give them as gifts to friends and family.

What’s next for you?

I am currently working on a new adult series about two people who will forever be linked by one event (her father was murdered – and his pulled the trigger) and what happens to them when they meet up again nine years later.

 

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Interview with C.H. MacLean, author of ‘Two Empty Thrones’

C.H. MacLeanTo young C. H. MacLean, books were everything: mind-food, friends, and fun. They gave the shy middle child’s life color and energy. Amazingly, not everyone saw them that way. Seeing a laundry hamper full of books approach her, the librarian scolded C. H. for trying to check them all out. “You’ll never read that many before they expire!” C. H. was surprised, having shown great restraint only by keeping a list of books to check out next time. Thoroughly abashed, C. H. waited three whole days after finishing that lot before going back for more.

With an internal world more vivid than the real one, C. H. was chastised for reading in the library instead of going to class. “Neurotic, needs medical help,” the teacher diagnosed. C. H.’s father, a psychologist, just laughed when he heard. “She’s just upset because those books are more challenging than her class.” C. H. realized making up stories was just as fun as reading, and harder to get caught doing. So for a while, C. H. crafted stories and characters out of wisps and trinkets, with every toy growing an elaborate personality.

But toys were not mature, and stories weren’t respectable for a family of doctors. So C. H. grew up and learned to read serious books and study hard, shelving foolish fantasies for serious work.

Years passed in a black and white blur. Then, unpredictably falling in love all the way to a magical marriage rattled C. H.’s orderly world. A crazy idea slipped in a resulting crack and wouldn’t leave. “Write the book you want to read,” it said. “Write? As in, a fantasy novel? But I’m not creative,” C. H. protested. The idea, and C. H.’s spouse, rolled their eyes.

So one day, C. H. started writing. Just to try it, not that it would go anywhere. Big mistake. Decades of pent-up passion started pouring out, making a mess of an orderly life. It only got worse. Soon, stories popped up everywhere- in dreams, while exercising, or out of spite, in the middle of a work meeting. “But it’s not important work,” C. H. pleaded weakly. “They are not food, or friends, or…” But it was too late. C. H. had re-discovered that, like books, life should be fun too. Now, writing is a compulsion, and a calling.

C.H. lives in a Pacific Northwest forest with five cats, two kids, one spouse, and absolutely no dragons or elves, faeries, or demons… that are willing to be named, at least.

His latest book is the YA fantasy, Two Empty Thrones.

For More Information

About the Book:

Two Empty Thrones 2With her powers growing every day, fourteen-year-old Haylwen Rightad thinks she’s safe in the magical forest. And now that she finally has the friends she always wanted, what is there to be afraid of?

But she’s not out of the woods yet. Old enemies rip through her beloved forest, threatening to haul Haylwen and her newfound friends away. Their safety shattered, Haylwen and her friends are suddenly at each other’s throats. Is the friendship she worked so hard for already ruined, or is there another, unseen enemy at work?

Haylwen and her brother must unmask this mysterious enemy before they can fight it off. But even if all their enemies are destroyed, the King of the magic users will stop at nothing to ensure he’s still in power when the dragons take over the world. And he’s hidden an enemy where Haylwen would never think to look.

If no one is what they seem, who can she trust?

For More Information

What made you decide to become a published author?

I don’t know if I really decided; it was more like I just realized who I was. I sat down, just to consider if I could write something real, you know, something I would want to read. I didn’t think I had an idea at all. All at once, like a pop-up window, an image replaced the page in front of me. Words flowed onto the page. Hours flew by until I snapped out of it.

Later, I went back to read it. It sounded nothing like the boring or sloppy stuff I have to push through to read, but engaging and dynamic.

Then came the choice part: work hard and give something to the world, or not?

Would you consider your latest book, Two Empty Thrones to be a one of a kind? How so?

Combining ancient elements in new-age application and emotions driving a fast-paced plot, Two Empty Thrones is unlike anything I’ve read. It sounds familiar, with words like prophecy and magic. But the sound of a horse’s whinny you heard turns out to be a zebra-pegasus with a hidden agenda. (That character isn’t in this book, but could be.)

Where is your writing sanctuary?

I live in the forest, down a tree-hugged drive. At the end, it curves like a smile, giving shade and shelter from the rain. Noise of the ordinary muted by distance, imagination can frolic in magic and wonder.

What do you believe a writer should not do as far as getting his or her book published?

Two things are key. One, know publishing is a long process that involves more work than you think. I am sure everyone is familiar with that story. Two, trust yourself. I hear stories of good writers trodden down by watching their creative work be dissected, sterilized and jammed into a glass jar in an attempt to be published. Editing and the process are important and we can all improve, but you should be happier on the other side.

What inspires you?

I have no idea where the actual need or urge to write comes from. I’m sure there is some biochemical or psychological explanation, but saying it’s a calling works for me. But the actual inspiration to do all the hard work comes from hearing how other people enjoy it. To think I can be part of what makes life fun and interesting for people is such an honor.

What is one thing you learned about your book after it was published?

How much other people liked it. Until you hear from people you don’t know, it doesn’t seem real. Finding out that people think it’s great brings my childhood love of books full circle, and inspires me to do more and provide a better experience for others.

Why do you love to write YA fantasy?

Fantasy allows a unique exploration of an unlimited set of potential conflicts. In fantasy, reality is bound only by imagination. In the same way, young adults face life-changing decisions for the first time, on the edge of first discovering who they really are. They create themselves, only limited by their own minds.

But that’s more why I love to read fantasy and YA. I don’t set out to write in a particular category and just write the stories as they come to me.

You’re concocting a recipe for a best selling book. What’s the first ingredient?

Love of reading. It’s like water to life—it’s not living, but it lets everything else mix together. Without that, you have a dry and lifeless book. If the book can reignite that love for the reader, almost anything else can work. Title, plot, character, even language might be completely different from one best-seller to another, but the love will always be there.

What’s one fun fact about your book people should know?

While I intentionally didn’t include dry explanations, I found out a good deal of its magic aligns with in-this-world fact. I keep finding things in other research and say, “Hey, that’s in there!”

Aside from writing, what’s your passion?

I have many passions, with reading and writing as obvious ones. Being active in mental, physical and metaphysical arenas is what fuels all my fires. Trekking through the woods or cleaning up the forest, working to realign natural energies with my own, that’s what recharges me.

What’s next for you?

The third book in the series, We the Three, keeps me up at night begging to be finished, it’s so close to done. I am hoping to release it in the spring/summer of 2015.

I also just finished writing an intense book entitled Fire Above, a story about a young man who dared to dream and started the first human-dragon war. It is currently going through the first round of edits.

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Interview with Kim Boykin, author of southern women’s fiction ‘Palmetto Moon’

Kim BoykinKim Boykin was raised in her South Carolina home with two girly sisters and great parents. She had a happy, boring childhood, which sucks if you’re a writer because you have to create your own crazy. PLUS after you’re published and you’re being interviewed, it’s very appealing when the author actually lived in Crazy Town or somewhere in the general vicinity.

Almost everything she learned about writing, she learned from her grandpa, an oral storyteller, who was a master teacher of pacing and sensory detail. He held court under an old mimosa tree on the family farm, and people used to come from all around to hear him tell stories about growing up in rural Georgia and share his unique take on the world.

As a stay-at-home mom, Kim started writing, grabbing snip-its of time in the car rider line or on the bleachers at swim practice. After her kids left the nest, she started submitting her work, sold her first novel at 53, and has been writing like crazy ever since.

Thanks to the lessons she learned under that mimosa tree, her books are well reviewed and, according to RT Book Reviews, feel like they’re being told across a kitchen table. She is the author of The Wisdom of Hair from Berkley, Steal Me, Cowboy and Sweet Home Carolina from Tule, and Palmetto Moon, also from Berkley 8/5/14. While her heart is always in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, she lives in Charlotte and has a heart for hairstylist, librarians, and book junkies like herself.

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What made you decide to become a published author?

I’d written several manuscripts I used as doorstops. I got better with every one and wanted to see my story in print.

Palmetto Moon 2Would you consider your latest book, Palmetto Moon, to be a one of a kind?

Yes.

How so?

Palmetto Moon is a quirky Southern story that involves two love stories, one conventional and one extremely unconventional in its time.

Where is your writing sanctuary?

My home office looks out on the woods and a garden.

What do you believe a writer should not do as far as getting his or her book published?

Work in a vacuum. You need good honest critique to get better.

What inspires you?

Kitchen table stories. It’s a place of honesty, of love, laughter, and tears. Get a bunch of women around the table, better yet, sisters, and the stories just pour out.

What is one thing you learned about your book after it was published?

I’m not sure.

Why do you love to write women’s fiction?

I love women. I love that we’re genetically programed to love and nurture. My stories are about women helping women find their happily every after. And while I’m all for a hero with great abs riding in on a white horse to save the day, women are just better at it.

You’re concocting a recipe for a best selling book. What’s the first ingredient?

Great dialogue.

What’s one fun fact about your book people should know?

There’s a famous restaurant in Charleston called SNOB. The executive chef at SNOB, Frank Lee was kind enough to contribute five recipes that are in the back of the book in lieu of reader questions. And the hero in Palmetto Moon’s name is Frank Darling.

Did any real life experiences find their way into your book?

No

What’s next for you?

My next book is A Peach of A Pair. It’s the story of Nettie, a young college girl who is betrayed by her sister, who stole Nettie’s fiancé when she was away at college, is pregnant and marrying said fiancé. To avoid going home for the wedding, Nettie takes a job working for two fussy old maid sisters, who had their own falling out over a man when they were young. It’s a story of love and forgiveness.

 

 

 

 

 

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Unlocking Your Spiritual Greatness by Jim Greene – Win a $25 Amazon Gift Card

Title of Book # 1: Unlocking Your Spiritual Greatness
ISBN: 978-1-105-46980-0
Genre: Spiritual Maturity, Christianity, Discipleship Training
Publisher: LuLu Enterprises, Inc.
Publication Date: 2005, 2011
Just like there are specific physical exercises that are good for physical conditioning, there are specific spiritual exercises that are good, in fact, essential for our spiritual conditioning and growth. If you want to grow spiritually, you have to do spiritual exercises. (1Timothy 4:8)
This book looks to Jesus for “duplicate-able” activities for the model for our growth. For years Christian writers have identified specific activities regularly evidenced in his earthly life and called them Spiritual or Christian Disciplines. I believe that if it was useful for Jesus to be disciplined in his worship and praise to God, then it is useful for us as well. Further, I believe that the inclusion of Christian Disciplines in our lives, or what I call the Disciplined Training Approach places us in obedient submission to God and that is where we are supposed to be.
Book excerpt:
God has outlined a plan for living that when followed will bring us into a closer fellowship with Him. All the treasure in the world will not purchase it, but God will provide it for free to whosoever really wants it. No matter how worthless you may think you are, you can become one of the greatest treasures in the world. You can become the person God wants you to be, equipped with all the supernatural power for the Kingdom work He wants you to do!
Simply put, if you hear what God tells you, trust that He will not lead you astray and do what you’re told to do, you will experience the peace God planned for you. More than that, the consequences of ignoring God can be anxiety, frustration, depression and even eternal separation from Him.
People, however, are not simple. In fact, we go to great lengths to take something simple and complicate it. Our relationship with God should be personal, based on the time we spend with Him. We can’t manufacture a relationship with Him, but we can come to know him based on our personal experiences.
If you want to be blessed, comforted or reassured in a small way, then exercise a small amount of faith. If however, you need your life changed… it may take more. It starts with regular prayer, regular meditation and regular listening. It continues when we do things outside our comfort zone and that’s exactly where faith begins.
Your life will change when you realize God’s ability
zone is greater than your comfort zone.
Purchase at
Title of Book #2 God’s Answer, Praying the Scriptures Back to God
God gave us the Bible as a constant reminder of His love and plan for us. More than a historical document, it is truly alive. As we read His Word and become heart-linked with Him, a supernatural transformation begins to take place in us. God’s Word is alive and we can’t comprehend it all at once. That explains why you can read a passage several times over weeks or months and receive a different message from the same verses.
God gave us prayer as an avenue or vehicle that He designed for us so we could be in constant communication with Him. God’s Answer seeks to bring you to His Throne of Grace, where prayers are answered, (Hebrews 4:16) so that you can claim the promises God makes about today’s problems. That’s a tall order, so let’s look at what He said about prayer in His Living Word, the Bible.
Several times He promises us that He will hear and in fact, answer our prayers. It would be great to think that we always get what we want or that we could just name it and claim it, but that simply is not the case. What we can claim is the promises God makes and we will be exploring those. Let’s examine a few passages and see what they reveal beyond God hearing us and answering our prayers.
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Title of Book #3 A Place of Faith, When There is No Place Else to Go
What or where is the place of faith? Is it a physical location? No, it is where we are when we step out into the unknown in a blind, yet obedient faith because that is all we have left. Our Christian vocabulary is filled with ideas, quotes and even promises from God that are meant for comfort and reassurance. As real as God’s Word is, what happens when all has been recalled and rehearsed and we still find ourselves alone at the place of faith. A Place of Faith defines faith from a real and practical viewpoint, then develops it’s progression from a measure of faith, to a step and then a leap of faith. Most importantly, time is spent on the Enemy of Faith and the Trial of Faith and finally, The Results of Faith. Each chapter concludes with a hymn that reinforces the points made in the chapter and a few reflection questions.
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Title of Book #4 Living on the Dark Side of Faith
While faith has two sides, they are both sides of the same thing. The word faith cannot be substituted for the word belief or theology. It is more than a collection of thoughts about religion. It is more than simply believing in the existence of God, the demons in Hell do that. The faith we speak of is in God and how, though we may not see how, He will provide for His beloved. The faith we have is certain; it is the evidence of things to come. It begins with a measure and increases with experience and that often means a trial or test of our faith.
Purchase at
About the author:

 

Jim Greene makes his home in Knoxville, TN in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. An avid backpacker, his countless hours in the outdoors have often blessed him with many topics to write about.
As a layman Sunday School teacher, he challenges himself and his class to strive for and enjoy a closer relationship with God. Each of his books look to God as the ultimate authority in our lives. He is the author of Unlocking Your Spiritual Greatness, God’s Answer, A Place of Faith, When There is Nowhere Else to Go, and Living on the Dark Side of Faith. His next book is entitled, When Waiting isn’t Working.
Jim feels God speaks to him personally through journaling and his books primarily came to answer a question in his life. They may just help you too.
Pump Up Your Book and Jim are teaming up to give away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!
Terms & Conditions:
§ By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
§ One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive the prize.
§ This giveaway begins September 2 and ends on September 26, 2014.
§ Winner will be contacted via email on October 1, 2014.
§ Winner has 72 hours to reply.
§ VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.
Good luck everyone!
ENTER TO WIN!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Interview with Adventure Travel Book Author Alistair McGuiness

Round the Bend 88

Alistair McGuiness grew up in the UK in a town called Luton, which lies 30 miles north of London. Family holidays were spent in County Donegal, Ireland, staying with his Grandmother in their large family home where she had once raised fifteen children.

It was these annual trips that made Alistair realise his Great Uncles were Seanachaís (Irish story tellers). After a few pints of Guinness Alistair McGuinessin the family bar, brothers Barney and Francis would entertain the evening crowds with their recitations of life in rural Ireland. As their rustic voices carried across the crowded room, Alistair would watch and listen as the animated tales mesmorised the overseas visitors.

44 countries and four decades later, Alistair now calls Australia home and in the tradition of Great Uncles Barney and Francis, loves to recite stories. He lives between the beach and the forest with his wife, two young boys and a fun puppy called Peppi. After decades of adventurous escapades Alistair is calming down and has decided to write more and bungee jump less!

He works as a Business Improvement Specialist and has just spent three years as a fly in fly out employee at a remote iron ore mine site in Western Australia. As a trainer and facilitator, he has worked in Europe and Australia and is passionate about helping people and organisations to become successful.

A fun family day for Alistair would be fishing from the local jetty with his boys, taking the puppy for a walk along the beach at sunset and cooking a scrumptious curry in the evening with his wife.

An ideal adventurous day for Alistair would be a days walking and scrambling in the Lake District with friends, followed by a visit to a village pub nestled deep in the English countryside.

His latest book is the adventure travel, Round the Bend: From Luton to Peru to Ningaloo, A Search for Life After Redundancy.

For More Information

What made you decide to become a published author?

Round the Bend 2Storytelling seems to run in my family. My Great Uncles were Seanachaís (Irish storytellers) and as a child, I always enjoyed listening to their animated tales about rural life in Donegal. I feel very proud of their talents and felt it was time for someone in the family to write a story instead of telling one!

Would you consider your latest book, round the bend, to be a one of a kind? How so?

The diverse amount of adventure travel books available to readers these days can be daunting. Every jungle, mountaintop and remote village seems to be inhabited by travel writers who are eager to capture their escapades in a book. In such a competitive genre the standout for me, is when a book gives you an entertaining insight to the landscape, the journey and the local people encountered along the way.

Round the Bend captures the emotional turmoil of redundancy, the thrill of safari, the solitude of long distance travel and the apprehension of moving from one country to live in another. I wouldn’t say it is one of a kind, but in terms of adventure travel, it is has been described as inspirational.

Where is your writing sanctuary?

I live in the south west of Australia, in a small coastal town called Busselton and have found a quirky beachside café that overlooks the Indian Ocean. Being a part time writer, early mornings are my time to scribe and the ever-changing moods of the bay are a constant source of inspiration. The coffee is sensational too!

What do you believe a writer should not do as far as getting his or her book published?

You shouldn’t scrimp on professional help. It is essential that you use proof readers, editors and cover designers to ensure your book is as good as it possibly can be. You shouldn’t try and write a book that will appeal to everyone as this is near impossible. In my opinion, the narrower you make the field, the higher the likelihood of finding your tribe.

What inspires you?

The people that never give up, no matter what obstacles bar their way. We all have dreams and aspirations, but to make these come true requires passion and tenacity. I learnt to switch off the television for weeks on end, in order to get my book completed. It’s all about sacrifices.

What is one thing you learned about your book after it was published?

I learnt so much, especially the amount of book marketing required before and after the launch. Early reviews on Amazon are essential and this comes down to having a well thought out strategy including beta readers, an author platform (blog), a sign up page and plenty of buzz around the launch. Authors that sit back and wait for the publisher to do the marketing are in for a shock!

Why do you love to write about travel?

When I travel to a new country, the first thing I enjoy doing is going for a run at sunrise. During this magical hour you see, smell and hear things that are lost as the sun climbs higher. I enjoy capturing snippets of everyday life in faraway places, especially when they can be shared in a quirky way to a global audience.

You’re concocting a recipe for a best selling book. What’s the first ingredient?

I think the first ingredient should be a zesty character that the reader believes in and wants to succeed, no matter what the odds.

What’s one fun fact about your book people should know?

During the three years it took me to complete, I estimate that I wrote the book from 30 different places. These range from Greek Islands, the Australian outback, an English castle, beachside cafes, historic English pubs, an Irish hill side and from 38,000 feet somewhere over India. My mission was to write for an hour a day, no matter where in the world I was.

Did any real life experiences find their way into your book?

The book is exactly that. It is ten months of adventure travel crammed into a few hundred pages. From deep underground in a Bolivian mine, to teaching English in the Amazon and scaling Kilimanjaro to stand on the roof of Africa. They were all real experiences and I have the scars to prove it!

Aside from writing, what’s your passion?

Spending time with my wife and children, exploring remote areas of Australia, kayaking, playing tennis and coaching a local soccer team (as I’m now getting too injury prone to play).

What’s next for you?

The follow up to Round the Bend is due out in early 2015 and this will be a series of short stories about Australia. Children’s writing is something I am keen to try, so there will be plenty of coffee being enjoyed at the beachside café while I work on these projects. I blog about travel and everyday life in Australia at www.thecreativenomad.co

Happy travels,

Alistair

 

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Interview with Mary Carter, author of ‘Meet Me in Barcelona’

Mary CarterMary Carter is a freelance writer and novelist. Meet Me in Barcelona is her eighth novel. Her other works include: Three Months in Florence, The Things I Do For You, The Pub Across the Pond, My Sister’s Voice, Sunnyside Blues, She’ll Take It, and Accidentally Engaged. In addition to her novels she has written six novellas: Return to Hampton Beach in the anthology, Summer Days, A Southern Christmas in the upcoming 2014 anthology Our First Christmas, A Kiss Before Midnight in the anthology, You’re Still the One, A Very Maui Christmas in the New York Times best selling anthology Holiday Magic, and The Honeymoon House in the New York Times best selling anthology Almost Home. Mary currently lives in Chicago, IL with a demanding labradoodle. She wishes she could thank her gorgeous husband, but she doesn’t have one. In addition to writing she leads writing workshops.

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What made you decide to become a published author?

I decided to write a novel in 2004 (SHE’LL TAKE IT). It was a new year’s goal and I wasn’t even thinking I could ever get it published. I just thought it was enough to say I did it in my lifetime. Needless to say I was pleasantly shocked in 2005 Meet Me in Barcelona 2when I got an agent and then found out that they had sold my first novel to Kensington Books. Since then I have written a novel a year.

Would you consider your latest book, MEET ME IN BARCELONA, to be a one of a kind? How so?

This one is a bit of a departure from my previous novels. Although I often have some elements of a mystery or surprises in a lot of my earlier works, this one gets closer than any of them to playing with psychological suspense. Although Grace is in a romantic relationship, it’s not the central focus of the novel. Instead it’s her explosive past with Carrie Ann and how the past seems to be following her through Spain.

Where is your writing sanctuary?

Would you like to start a fund so that I can build one? I’d probably be happiest with my laptop and constant flights to new and exotic places. I write in my apartment which is the 5th apartment I’ve had since being a published author. I also write in coffee shops when I have the luxury. It’s good to shake it up.

What do you believe a writer should not do as far as getting his or her book published?

Finish it. That’s a big one. And then rewrite until it’s absolutely the best you can get it. Show it to trusted friends and people who love to read for feedback. Rewrite if enough people have the same issue with your manuscript. Then query agents and keep the faith.

What inspires you?

I wish more inspired me. It’s honestly more hard work than inspiration. That said I do pick topics that I hope will hold my attention for the year it’s going to take to write them.

You’re concocting a recipe for a best selling book. What’s the first ingredient?

A character who is absolutely driven to achieve her goal.

What’s one fun fact about your book people should know?

I didn’t have the best time on my first trip to Barcelona, but I ended up enjoying it a lot more in retrospect and would love to go again.

Did any real life experiences find their way into your book?

Reading my mind from the previous question. Just the atmosphere and descriptions of Barcelona. I visited 99% of the places the characters visit.

Aside from writing, what’s your passion?

Travel. And like most people, I don’t do enough of it.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently working on my next novel, LONDON FROM MY WINDOWS. It’s about an agoraphobic woman who inherits a flat in London. But in order to claim the flat she has to live there for one year and complete a list of tourism “tasks”— that people without agoraphobia could do in a weekend. There’s some romance and competition for the flat, and a lot of fun cultural “awakenings”.

 

 

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Interview with Karen-Anne Stewart, author of ‘Ash to Steele’

Karen-Anne StewartKaren-Anne Stewart has always adored reading and has now fallen in love with writing. Her written works are The Rain Trilogy: Saving Rain, Healing Rain, and After the Rain, and the newly released stand alone novel, Ash to Steele. Her debut novel, Saving Rain: The First Novel in The Rain Trilogy, was a nominee for the Book Junkie’s Choice Awards, and Saving Rain and After the Rain were nominees for the 2014 RONE Awards.

When Karen-Anne isn’t writing, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, hiking, and visiting new places. She fuels her addiction of creating new stories by her only other addiction, caffeine, and listening to a myriad of musical genres. Tucked away near the Blue Ridge Mountains, Karen-Anne lives with her husband, daughter, two dogs, and their cat. She plans on writing new adult romance as long as her fingers maintain dexterity.

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What made you decide to become a published author?

Thank you so much for having me today! I’ve always adored reading but it wasn’t until college that I fell in love with writing when the class was assigned a short story to write. I knew then that I wanted to be an author one day!

Where is your writing sanctuary?

I almost always have my laptop with me so I can write when I get a spare moment, but my favorite place to write is in the office my husband helped me redo in our house. The love of reading and readers helped inspire me to create #favreadingplace (which is also my favorite writing place) as my way of paying it forward with a monthly giveaway. I’ve included a couple of photos of my writing sanctuary.

The Book Rack 1The Book Rack 2

What inspires you?

Music is a HUGE inspiration to me! I love music and have it busting my drums when I write every chance I get.

Why do you love to write New Adult Romance?

I’m such a sucker for romance! I’m also obsessed with hot heroes who will go through hell and back for their girl. The New Adult age range is a magical time in life when everything in the world seems possible and you feel absolutely every emotion so intensely.

You’re concocting a recipe for a best selling book. What’s the first ingredient?

Your soul. You gotta pour your soul into your work; to me, sharing my soul is what makes me addicted to writing.

Ash to Steele 2What’s one fun fact about your book people should know?

Breck isn’t just a tattooed bad boy who’s an insatiable bastard; he has a heart of gold buried underneath his cocky exterior and isn’t afraid to kick some serious ass if someone messes with the ones he loves. I had a blast writing from his POV. Ash to Steele is my fourth novel, but it’s my first one written entirely in 1st person, in alternating POVs.

Did any real life experiences find their way into your book?

I’m from a very small town just a few miles from where Emma was raised in Ash to Steele, so I can relate to her struggles with the love/hate emotions behind growing up where everyone knows everything about you…or they at least think they do ;).

Aside from writing, what’s your passion?

I’ve become an advocate in the fight against human trafficking. I knew what trafficking was but not how widespread it truly is until I began writing The Rain Trilogy. During researching for Saving Rain, I became outraged and sickened by the depravity of this form of modern day slavery. I’m taking online training now so I can become a better advocate against trafficking. I strongly encourage readers to check out sites like Polaris Project and Shared Hope International to get statistics and see how amazing organizations like these are in combating human trafficking.

What’s next for you?

Currently I’m working on Feel, my first paranormal romance, and I’m loving writing Jensen and Saige’s story. You can see a sneak peek of Feel at http://www.karen-annestewart.com/Feelsneakpeek.html (18+). Feel will be live by the end of this year. Then, due to several requests, I’m thrilled to begin writing Gavin’s (sexy, badass bouncer from Ash to Steele) own story in 2015.

Thank you again for having me, and a huge thank you to the readers as well J. I love meeting readers, so please feel free to connect with me at any of the following:

Website: http://www.karen-annestewart.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6920317.Karen_Anne_Stewart

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SKarenAnne

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/SKarenAnne

Instagram: http://instagram.com/skarenanne

 

 

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First Chapter Reveal: Meet Me in Barcelona by Mary Carter

Meet Me in Barcelona 2Title: Meet Me in Barcelona
Author: Mary Carter
Publisher: Kensington
Pages: 352
Genre: Mainstream fiction
Format: Paperback/Kindle/MP3 CD, Audiobook, MP3 Audo, Unabridged

Purchase at AMAZON

A surprise trip to Barcelona with her boyfriend, Jake, seems like the perfect antidote to Grace Sawyer’s current woes. The city is dazzling and unpredictable, but the biggest surprise for Grace is discovering who arranged and paid for the vacation.

Carrie Ann wasn’t just Grace’s foster sister. Clever, pretty, and mercurial, she was her best friend—until everything went terribly wrong. Now, as she flees an abusive marriage, Carrie Ann has turned to the one person she hopes will come through for her. Despite her initial misgivings, Grace wants to help. But then Carrie Ann and Jake both go missing. Stunned and confused, Grace begins to realize how much of herself she’s kept from Jake—and how much of Carrie Ann she never understood. Soon Grace is baited into following a trail of scant clues across Spain, determined to find the truth, even if she must revisit her troubled past to do it.

Mary Carter’s intriguing novel delves into the complexities of childhood bonds, the corrosive weight of guilt and blame, and all the ways we try—and often fail—to truly know the ones we love.

First Chapter:

Grace Sawyer had never believed in magic, or miracles for that matter, but that didn’t mean a girl couldn’t pray for a little bit of both. She’d been praying a lot lately. She stepped into her mother’s hospice room and crinkled her nose as the scent of SpaghettiOs and Lysol washed over her. She glanced at her mom’s bedside table. Sure enough, sitting too close to the edge was a chipped brown bowl overflowing with SpaghettiOs, paired with an industrial-sized bottle of Lysol. Grace hesitated. Processed food in a can and industrial-sized cleaners were just the kind of things that could trigger an emotional avalanche inside her. This wasn’t what life should come to in the end. It wasn’t right. If replacing those bits with yellow roses and a nice roast dinner would have changed a single thing about this horrific situation, Grace would have done it lightning quick. This was her mother. The woman who had taken care of everybody else her entire life. Who had opened her heart to homeless, damaged children. She deserved more. But strangely, Lysol and SpaghettiOs were two items Jody Sawyer had insisted on lately. Grace had to fight her instincts, her primal desire to make everything nice, and instead keep each visit as pleasant as possible. She smiled even though neither of her parents had noticed her yet.

Her mother was wide-awake, eyes glued to the television in the corner where a soap opera blared. Before she had moved into this facility, Jody had never watched a soap opera in her life. She wouldn’t have been caught dead eating SpaghettiOs either. The Lysol, on the other hand, was familiar. Grace’s mother had spent her entire life within an arm’s reach of it. Most likely the product of having a revolving door of foster children. Where were they now? Not a single kid from the past had come to visit Grace’s mother. After all she’d done for them. It made Grace rage inside, but her mother hadn’t complained about it once.

Her father, Jim, sat next to the bed on his favorite recliner from home. Jim had put up quite a fuss to get them to allow it in the room, and he was extremely proud of the accomplishment. “I put up my dukes!” he’d say with a grin. Then he’d pump his fists in the air. He’d been practically living here since the doctor had given them the latest grim diagnosis. Grace couldn’t help but think it was probably a welcome relief for her father’s patients. Her father was a psychotherapist, and although he was insightful, Grace had always thought he was a tad too prying. Then again, maybe that was the whole point of going to a shrink. Baring your deepest, darkest secrets. It was Grace’s idea of a worst nightmare. “Hi, Dad,” Grace walked over and planted a kiss on her father’s cheek. He looked almost as thin as her mother. He lowered his newspaper and took off his reading glasses. “Well, hello there, Graceful.”

“How is she?”

“In and out.”

Grace nodded and slowly approached her mother’s bed. “Mom?”

Her mother’s eyes didn’t leave the television set. “Oh, hello,” Jody Sawyer said. “Are you the cleaning lady?”

“Like I said,” her father said. “In and out.”

“It’s me, Mom. I’m your daughter, Grace.”

“My daughter doesn’t clean,” Jody said.

“She’s got that right, “ Jim said.

Grace burst out laughing, then quickly tried to squelch it with a cough. Jody Sawyer pointed to the television and shook her head. She wanted them to be quiet. Grace looked at her father.

“Why don’t you wait for a commercial?” he said. He patted the folding chair next to him. Grace sat. “How was your day, sweetheart?”

Grace reached into her bag and removed two McDonald’s bags. She handed one to her father. He grasped the bag in one hand and squeezed her hand with the other like she’d brought him champagne and caviar. “Actually pretty wild,” she said. “I have news.”

“Do you mind?” her father said.

“Go right ahead.”

He unwrapped his Big Mac and took a bite. “Mm-mmm,” he said. He looked blissful. Grace wanted to bury her face in her sleeve and sob. SpaghettiOs and soap operas, and Mickey D’s? Didn’t they know they deserved better? They were from such a humble generation. Not like the entitled kids of today. Her parents were simple and good people. Let them enjoy what they enjoy. No use forcing kale or tofu burgers on her father now. Grace forced another smile, then reached into the second bag and handed him a napkin.

He winked at her and dabbed his mouth. Then his eyes went to her ring finger. “Did the boy finally pop the question?”

Grace laughed and stretched out her hand in front of her as if examining it for the first time. She hardly ever wore rings or bracelets; they got in the way of playing the guitar. Maybe now she would start. She would wear silver rings with semi-precious gems, like amber, and big chunky bracelets. Maybe even grow her nails and paint them pink. Was that a good enough trade for giving up on her dream? Grace slipped her hands under her legs as if she could shut out making any decisions by sitting on them. “Not yet. But you’re never going to believe this–”

The soap opera went to commercial. A jingle for car insurance came on. “Gracie Ann!” her mother said. She smiled and opened her arms as if Grace had just walked into the room.

“Hi, Mom.” Grace got up and hugged her mother. She felt so frail and tiny in Grace’s arms. Grace could probably pick her up and carry her around the room without breaking a sweat. Not fair, God! Not fair. “You didn’t eat your lunch,” Grace said, glancing at the SpaghettiOs.

“She insisted on them,” her father said.

“I ate ten Os,” her mother said. “I couldn’t possibly eat more than ten Os. I have to watch my figure.”

“If you stuck her in the middle of a cornfield, crows would land on her,” her father said with his mouth full of burger.

“You’re not far behind, Dad,” Grace said.

“Just how we wanted to spend our golden years. Hanging out in a farmer’s field like a couple of straw men,” her father mused in between bites.

Anything would be better than this place, Grace thought. She wished she could bring her parents to a beautiful field at the height of autumn. Give them trees with leaves on fire, and hay that shone like gold underneath an afternoon sun. Give them the smell of apples and the embrace of a warm wind.

“You look beautiful, Grace,” her mother said. Jody Sawyer reached up with a trembling hand and touched the pearls around Grace’s neck. “Is it your birthday?”

“In a few weeks, Mom.”

“Happy birthday, darling.”
“Thank you.”

“How old are you now? Thirteen?”

“I’m turning thirty,” Grace said. “How are you feeling?”

“I’m all better now, Gracie. I can go home now.” Jody Sawyer looked at her husband Jim, as if expecting him to start packing up the room.

“I don’t think today, Mom,” Grace said. Or ever. As much as she tried to shut it out, Grace could hear the doctor’s voice in her head in a constant loop. Maybe a month, six months at the most, we can’t say for sure. All we can do now is make her comfortable.

Make her comfortable? Was there any comfort in knowing you had six months, maybe one?

“Gracie said she has some news,” Jim said.

Her mother clasped her hands under her chin. “I love news,” she said. “And fries,” she called to her husband.

Grace nodded at her father. He picked up the second bag, then passed it up to Jody. It was odd. If Grace gave her the fries before she asked for them, her mother wouldn’t touch them. If Grace waited until Jody voiced a desire for them, Jody ate every single one. Just one of the little mysteries of dementia. What a double whammy. The doctors weren’t sure if fighting off the cancer had brought on the problems with her memory, or if she would’ve been hit with it anyway. There were just no two ways about it; life could be extremely cruel. “Give us the news,” her father said. “Hurry before her show comes back. We’re not allowed to talk during Days of Our Lives.”

“Jake won an all-expense-paid trip to Barcelona,” Grace said.

“Well, I’ll be,” Jim said. “How’d he do that?”

“The veterinarian group had some sort of a raffle,” Grace said. “But Jake didn’t even enter.”

“He won a raffle he didn’t even enter?”
“Dan went to one of the conferences without Jake and entered for him.” Dan was Jake’s partner at the animal hospital. He and Jake were like brothers.

“That was mighty nice of him.”

“But we feel guilty. Dan could have taken the trip himself.”

“I’m sure he filled out an entry for himself as well as Jake.”

“True.”

“And Jake won. Seems fair to me.”

“But we would be leaving Dan to run the clinic all by himself, and he’d even have to watch Stella.” Stella was the best English bulldog a couple could ever ask for. If she could, Grace would take Stella to Spain. Stella was a hit wherever they went due to her prowess on a skateboard.

“Well, isn’t that special.” Jim slapped his knee. “Jody did you hear that? Gracie and Jake won a trip to Spain.”

He had entirely missed the point that they felt guilty that Dan would be getting the short end of the stick. It made her wonder how often he misunderstood his patients.

“That’s wonderful, dear,” Jody said. Her eyes traveled back to the television.

“I’m not going,” Grace said.

“What do you mean?” her father said.

“There’s a catch.” There always was.

“You have to pay for your hotel?”

“No, it’s all paid for.”

“So what’s the problem?”

“The dates are set in stone. We’d have to go at the end of next week.”

“So?”

“It’s a ten-day trip. I don’t want to leave Mom for that long.”

“Nonsense,” her father said. “You have to go.”

“I’d be gone for my birthday.”

The soap opera was back. Jody snatched up the remote and aimed it at the television like she was holding it up at gunpoint.

Grace’s father patted her knee. “We’ll celebrate with you when you get back, kiddo. Take it from me, kiddo—life’s too short not to take free trips.” Jody glared at Jim and pressed on the volume until it was almost deafening. A few seconds later, there was a series of soft knocks on the wall behind her bed.

“Sorry, Mrs. Maple,” her father called out. “You have to turn it down, dear.”

“That old bitch,” her mother said. In all Grace’s years growing up, with all the strange boys tearing through the house, and fighting, and even through the whole Carrie Ann ordeal, Grace had never heard her mother curse, let alone direct it at somebody. Jody turned the volume down a smidge and pointed at the television. “He’s the one I like,” she exclaimed. There was a tall man, visible only in silhouette behind a flimsy shower curtain. “They think he’s Flo’s long-lost brother, but actually he’s just escaped from prison where he was convicted of murdering his second wife. Or is it his third? I can’t remember. Second or third wife, take your pick. It’ll come to me. Darn tootin’ he’s totally innocent, but I know that Flo. She’s going to be sniffing around his tight buns like a hound dog short of a bone. Second. Definitely second wife.”

Grace and her father looked at the television. The naked man stepped out of the shower, surrounded by steam. All you could see were his six-pack abs and bulging biceps. Grace supposed they wanted you to imagine something else bulging. This was definitely soft-core porn for women. Tan, and slick, and ripped, and glistening, he didn’t seem to be in any hurry to pick up a towel. He walked up to the bathroom mirror, reached up, and wiped away the condensation. Soon, his gorgeous face came into view. Grace had to stifle a laugh as he began to touch his cheekbones like a blind man trying to see what he looked like. “Isn’t it awful?” Jody said. “Pretending to be someone else? When all he wants to do is search for his wife’s real killer.”

Grace raised an eyebrow at her father. He looked down at his stomach, and in doing so dripped a thick glob of ketchup onto his fraying cardigan. “Didn’t even look like that when we got married,” Jim said.

“I think he must have had plastic surgery after his prison break,” Jody continued. “That’s why he doesn’t recognize himself!”

Jim Sawyer watched his wife with a smile and a shake of the head. “You wouldn’t leave her for ten days,” Grace said to her father.

“They sure did a pretty good job on him though, don’t you think?” Jody said. Based on where her mother was looking you’d think he’d had plastic surgery on his crotch.

“If Jake wants some old man tripping along with him, just say the word and I’ll pack my bags,” Jim said.

Jody glanced at Jim. He winked at her. She smiled back. Then she turned a smile on Grace. It was actually the first genuine smile Grace had seen out of her mother in a week. “You have to go, Carrie Ann.”

Carrie Ann. The words felt like two gunshots to the chest. Just hearing that name come out of her mother’s mouth made Grace’s heart start tripping. She almost shot out of her chair. “I’m Grace,” she said. “Gracie Ann.” Her voice cracked. “Dad?” she said.

“She’s confused, honey. The past and the present, it’s just one big, ugly glob.” Pinpricks of shame began forming at the base of Grace’s spine.

“I’m not confused,” Jody said. “Carrie Ann came to visit me.”

“My God,” Grace said. This time she did shoot out of her chair. Carrie Ann was the only girl foster child the Sawyers had ever taken in. At first she had been like a sister to Grace.

“Who is she married to now?” Jody said. “I can’t remember.”

“Pay no attention to her, Gracie,” Jim said.

“Why can’t I remember?” Jody pressed on her temples with her index fingers, as if she could squeeze the memory out of her head.

Grace took a step toward her mother. “When did she come and visit you, Mom?”
“Grace, I told you she didn’t,” Jim said. “Don’t egg your mother on.”

“I’m not egging her on, Dad, but if Carrie Ann was here, I want to know about it.”

Her father whacked his newspaper on the side of his chair. “I told you she wasn’t! And I should know. I’ve been sitting right here!”

“She’s still such a pretty girl,” Jody said. “She asked about you, Grace. She asked me all sorts of questions about you.”

Jim got up and threw up his arms. “She’s out of her mind!” He began to pace.

“Dad,” Grace said. “Hush.” Her mother suddenly became very still, which meant she was listening. Grace took her father by his arm and led him back to his chair.

“I’m sorry. She won’t remember me saying it.”

“That’s not the point.”

“I can’t help it. Carrie Ann this; Carrie Ann that. I thought we’d put that nuisance behind us for once and for all. Is this what it comes to? Reliving your worst nightmare?”

“I’ve never heard you speak so harshly about Carrie Ann,” Grace said. Her mom was the one who used to say the worst things about Carrie Ann. She said Carrie Ann was evil. She said Carrie Ann was a curse that would follow all of them to their graves. Once she had even said there wasn’t enough Lysol in the world to get rid of that stain. And each insult had cut into Grace like her mother was saying it about her. Her sister. Of sorts. Her own Dickens-like drama. Carrie Ann was the best thing that had ever happened to Grace, and she was the worst. She’d been out of their lives for nearly fifteen years. And Grace had spent every one of them trying, and failing, to put the past behind her. She turned to her father.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Tell you what?”
“That Mom’s been talking about her.”

“Because I don’t want to dredge up all that nonsense. It’s her damn medication. I keep telling the doctor it’s making her worse, and he won’t listen to me.” Her father slammed his fist on the arm of the chair. “These people think just because we’re old that we’re stupid. She wouldn’t be so forgetful if she cut down on some of those pills. How do I know that? Because she’s my wife. Because I’ve been married to this woman for forty-four years. You know what he said to me?”

“Who?”

“That snot-nosed doctor, that’s who!”

“What did he say?”

“Put me in my place. In front of my wife. ‘You’re a psychotherapist, correct? Not a psychiatrist? You don’t prescribe medication?’ That’s what the snot-nosed so-called doctor actually said to me. Can you believe that? Some twenty-year-old who just started wiping his own ass. I’m telling you she’s on too many pills! Makes her soupy. He won’t listen to me!”

“It’s okay, Dad. Calm down. It’s okay.”

“I can’t bear hearing her talk about Carrie Ann. Your mother’s the one who told us never to mention Carrie Ann’s name again.”

Forbid us. Forbid us to ever mention her name again. “I know, Dad. I’ll talk to the doctor. Calm down.”

“I always wanted to go to Spain,” Jody said. She turned off the television and patted the side of the bed. So she’d heard and understood the conversation. God, the brain was a mysterious thing.

Grace went over and sat down. “You never told me that.”

“I would hardly share that with a stranger.”

I’m your daughter! She wanted to shout. But her mother couldn’t help it.

“Just keep talking,” her father said. “At least she’s not dredging up ghosts, or drooling over naked stud muffins.”

And now Grace couldn’t believe her father had just said “naked stud muffins.” Maybe getting away for a bit wasn’t such a bad idea. Grace turned back to her mother. “Why did you always want to go to Spain?”

“My mother went to Spain. All by herself. When she was in her seventies.”

“I know,” Grace said. It had been just after Grace’s grandfather had died. Her grandparents were supposed to take the trip together. Everyone thought Annette Jennings would cancel the trip. Instead, she buried her husband and packed her bags. Little Annette who had never been outside of her home state. Grace had had many conversations with her grandmother about that trip. She was proud of her too.

“It was really something,” Jim said. “Because in those days seventy wasn’t the new fifty or whatever the kids say today. Seventy was seventy.”

“Tell me about it,” Grace said.

Jody Sawyer straightened up, and her eyes seemed to take in more light. “Well, it’s not like it is now. Women didn’t travel alone back then. Wasn’t that brave? My mother sent me a postcard from Madrid of a beautiful tango dancer in a red dress. The dress was made of actual material—beautiful red silk right on the postcard. I’ll never forget it. She’d only written one sentence on the back. ‘Robert would’ve loved the landing.’ My father was very picking with landings and always impressed when the pilot pulled off a smooth one. Anyway. As soon as I got that postcard I knew my mother was going to be all right. ‘Robert would have loved the landing.’ After she died I spent hours just touching that silky red dress with the tips of my fingers and imagining my mother dancing in the streets of Spain.”

Jody Sawyer looked up and swayed her upper body slightly as if watching her faraway self dance. Then she looked down at her hands, twisting the bed sheet. “Look how ugly and wrinkled I am now.”

“You’re not ugly and wrinkled, Mom. You’re beautiful.”

“I wish I had that postcard now.” Her mother looked up into space. “I lost it.”

Grace hesitated. Did she, or didn’t she? Grace opened the bedside drawer and took out the postcard. Her mother was right. The dress was silky. Grace handed it to her mother and watched her eyes light up. Next her mother gently outlined the edge of the dancer’s dress with the trembling tip of her right index finger. Her fingernail was misshapen, the peach paint flaking. Grace would have to see if they could bring in a manicurist.

Jody looked at Grace, her eyes clear and bright. “Gracie Ann you have to go. Film everything. I’m dying to see Barcelona through you.” Grace must have looked stricken, for her mother laughed and then put her hand over her heart. “Sorry, no pun intended.” Like antennas being manipulated for a clearer signal, sometimes her mother tuned in perfectly. Jody Sawyer laughed again, and Grace couldn’t help but laugh with her.

“Mom.”

“Make me feel like I’m there,” Jody said, closing her eyes. “Help me shut out this hospice. Let me see beautiful Barcelona.” She took Grace’s hand and held it. “Do it for me. I’ll feel like I’m with you. Bring a camera. And your guitar,” she added. “You never know.” When Grace still didn’t answer, her mother opened her eyes, and lifted Grace’s chin up with her hand like she used to do when Grace was a child. “Be brave, Gracie Ann. Just like my mother.”

“Like my mother too,” Grace whispered back.

 

 

 

 

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First Chapter Reveal: Two Empty Thrones by YA Fantasy Author C.H. MacLean

Two Empty Thrones 2Title: Two Empty Thrones
Author: C.H. MacLean
Publisher: CNH Publishing
Pages: 242
Genre: YA Fantasy
Format: Paperback; Kindle

Purchase at AMAZON

With her powers growing every day, fourteen-year-old Haylwen Rightad thinks she’s safe in the magical forest. And now that she finally has the friends she always wanted, what is there to be afraid of?

But she’s not out of the woods yet. Old enemies rip through her beloved forest, threatening to haul Haylwen and her newfound friends away. Their safety shattered, Haylwen and her friends are suddenly at each other’s throats. Is the friendship she worked so hard for already ruined, or is there another, unseen enemy at work?

Haylwen and her brother must unmask this mysterious enemy before they can fight it off. But even if all their enemies are destroyed, the King of the magic users will stop at nothing to ensure he’s still in power when the dragons take over the world. And he’s hidden an enemy where Haylwen would never think to look.

If no one is what they seem, who can she trust?

First Chapter

Haylwen, Cadarn, the twins, and Nacia sat in a circle in the open grassy area where they usually met for martial arts practice. They used it for everything now. Today they were practicing sign language. It was quiet, only occasionally broken by a few words, if Cadarn asked a question.

Haylwen took a break and leaned back against the large oak behind her. Surrounded by the trees, the magical trees that somehow kept them safe from the monsters that chased them, she relaxed, hearing the birds and breeze through the leaves above her. Without trying, almost by reflex, she felt the energy of magic. She had been reading and practicing so much, the light leaped to her inner sight without effort. She could see clearly the light surrounding her, and her own bright and strong inner ball of light sitting in her chest.

She let her ball of internal energy grow and felt a tug. For a moment, she felt there were other places in her body where energy would form! She excitedly wondered if they might let her do more with magic. Does Cadarn or my father know? Maybe one of the books? She didn’t wait to ask.

She found one at her throat, touched another really big one at her head. Maybe it was more than one? She focused. Ok, there was the first one in my chest, one in my belly, and at least another one below that. She compared them and felt lines, strings maybe, connecting them. Haylwen suddenly realized they weren’t balls, but were more like pools of energy, with streams flowing back and forth between the pools. She looked at their pulsing movement, growing and shrinking. In another exciting realization, she saw them as tide pools being fed by the ocean of light all around her. They’re all connected!

Then she felt another one, a bigger one, just out of reach beyond her head. She imagined her top pool sending a little stream toward where she felt this other pool. She strained, but it slipped away. She relaxed, and it came closer. She let the stream wander its own way, which just happened to be toward the bigger pool. They touched.

Suddenly, she was swept along in a river. Her little stream grew in an instant, swallowing her in a flash flood. Terror twisted her stomach, but before she could even open her eyes, she stopped. She blinked. Or, at least, she thought she did. Am I awake or dreaming? Or finally gone completely crazy?

She stood on a small island, surrounded by a stream. The stream’s giggles whispered around her as it danced along its rocky bed. Other islands surrounded hers, with swift streams making their way along them, a network of water and earth. Each island had a single tree on it. Her island had a tall oak, and she could swear it was the same one she had been leaning against. She took the several steps to the water’s edge and looked into the rapidly moving water. Though it was running quickly, the water was so clear she could see sparkling stones on the bottom.

“Welcome!” a voice said from behind her.

Haylwen spun and saw an old man standing there, his arms crossed, smiling through his beard. His hair was long, dark brown, and snarled, but in such a pattern as to seem intentional. He wore a long robe of coarse fabric, shaded in browns. His eyes were amazingly bright green and shone in contrast against his brown skin. He stood right where the oak had been, the great tree that was now gone.

“Again we felt. You come.” He spoke so slowly, Haylwen initially thought of saying something during the pauses after his sentences. “Welcome. Haylwen. Quickling child.” She eventually figured out his sentences were all one.

Haylwen didn’t mind waiting, as there was so much going on in her…what she felt coming in from around her. She felt as if she were immersed in energy, in magic. Everything had a background shimmer, as if she could see the energy of the air reflecting and bouncing off the energy of the land and water. The energy carried a chorus of music, perfectly harmonious together, though each was a full symphony by itself. Haylwen caught a part of the tune, a catchy, simple melody that sounded familiar. She was barely aware of a tiny note of wrongness that was somewhere close, but Haylwen lost it in the wonder.

When the old man had not spoken for some time, Haylwen replied, “Where am I?”

He gave a breezy laugh. “You are. Where you were. And still are.”

“Huh? Um, let’s start over. How do you know my name?”

The old man blinked, shook his head slowly. Haylwen felt herself slow down, or everything else speed up, as the old man muttered something about time and quicklings. Either way, suddenly his speech didn’t seem slow.

He said, “You told me your name.” He didn’t seem to be kidding.

Haylwen tried again. “Who are you?”

“I am who I was.” He looked briefly confused, then brightened. “But, of course! For the you-now this is the first.” He made an odd sort of bow, a swaying from the waist. “I am Barandarus, the youngest of the elders, the speaker for the grove.”

A flash made Haylwen look around. On the other islands, where the other trees had stood, now stood men and women, wearing similarly-styled robes. They silently watched.

Haylwen tried again. “What is this place?” She tried not to think she was just hallucinating. A dream, that’s all.

Again, the breezy laugh, which seemed to echo as it spread among the other people. “This is no place, quickling. This is the energy of the grove. You might even call it the mind of the grove,” he said, looking around. “Your energy, my energy,” he continued, waving his hand at the others, “hers and his and hers, all of their energy, vibrating in resonance, in concert. Energy, mind, all as one.”

“Why did you bring me here?”

He shook his head, still smiling. “We do not bring. The way was there, the door to open, and you brought. Why did you bring you here?” After a pause, he continued with a wink. “Perhaps it is guidance you seek from the grove?”

Was that a hint? “What sort of guidance might I want?”

The old man smiled and gave another of his wavy bows. “You told us, or will tell us, this would be the way, but still.” He smiled with a slow head shake. “Curious quicklings, so full of energy, without perspective.” He stood a bit differently. “You said to be sure I will tell you three.” He held up one finger. “One. Remember Rivenwake.”

Haylwen’s eyes widened. Remember Rivenwake? She echoed it in her mind, memories flashing past. Her one real-life meeting with him was a blur of embarrassed stammering as she’d tried to seem normal in the face of his fathomless eyes and too-cute face. Or, could he be talking about her dream of him, running from a horde of assassins and her first kiss, heart-pounding nightmare and romantic fantasy all in one? She couldn’t forget him, despite all her trying.

A thrumming started, and Barandarus blinked. “Nothing save trouble,” he muttered. He flicked a second finger up. “Two. Find Faustas.”

Why did that name sound familiar…? Oh! The mustachioed king from her book on the history of magic! Find Faustas the Traitor?

“He’s dead!” Haylwen blurted.

Barandarus shook his head. “Of course not. Though, it has been a while, even for us.”

A moan interrupted. Low and quiet, like someone in the distance was injured. Barandarus winced and then grimaced as more moans joined, changing voices, coming closer. He shook his head, eyes unfocused. A scream broke his look, and he fixed his gaze on her intently.

“Child, there is damage come to the grove,” he said with energy beyond the volume of his words, “and darkness carried in it. We feel it comes for you. We will do what we can, but they were invited, in a way. You are needed to protect yourselves, ourselves. Go, please go.”

Looking in Barandarus’ eyes, Haylwen could feel his pain. For a second, she knew him, trusted him. She felt a pulling, as if someone had opened a door on a storm.

“Wait, what is the third?” she blurted, fighting the pulling sensation.

“Clearing come. Now go!” Barandarus shouted.

Haylwen let herself slide into the opening, back along the same way she’d come. She blinked and was back in the clearing, sitting just as she had been. She jumped up, the others watching her curiously.

“What’s up, Hayl?” Cadarn asked.

“There is damage and darkness coming to the grove,” she shot out. She blushed slightly, trying not to notice Cadarn’s look. “We should get back to the house.”

She quickly grabbed her pack and went to the edge of the clearing to stand looking toward the main house. The others were slowly gathering their things, except for Oakren. He had grabbed all his things, stepped up almost in front of her, and made a few gestures in sign language. Haylwen shook her head, not understanding. He was deaf, but she felt dumb.

Nacia was leading the others out, and Oakren gestured to her and then Haylwen.

“What?” Nacia said. “You want me to say what? You heard the trees and want to talk to them next time?”

Haylwen looked sharply at Oakren, surprised. Oakren nodded to himself and smiled. He made a few more gestures.

Nacia sighed. “He says he wants you to bring him next time.” She shook her head and said under her breath, “I know he has a crush on you, but honestly.”

Haylwen heard a crash, the distant sound of breaking wood. She started walking, and then heard the sound of a chainsaw. She picked up the pace. Nacia was gesturing to the twins, who looked confused, then angry. They started running, sprinting past Haylwen. By the time Haylwen got to the farmhouse, the boys were standing next to Feabee on the porch, the three of them looking like thunderclouds.

Nacia ran over to stand with her mother, Topaz, just inside the door. They looked so much alike, one just an older version of the other, a mirror through time. Haylwen drifted to stand by her parents off to the side, while Cadarn stood by himself to the side of the porch. Everyone was looking down the path, to where the sounds of crashing branches and large motors were gradually coming closer. Feabee made an occasional gesture to the twins to let them know what the rest were hearing.

Haylwen blanched at a particularly loud crash, wincing. Her father looked at her questioningly. “They are trying to help, and it is hurting them,” Haylwen whispered. Her father held his questioning look for a moment. His eyes popped wide and suddenly narrowed as he heard what she’d said. He looked into the forest briefly and then turned and started to say something to Haylwen.

He was drowned out as a large, olive-green truck crashed through the last of the branches, leaves and twigs caught in its grille and hanging from the roof rack. It looked like some savage beast, a destroyer of trees. It revved its engine and then growled its way up the slope to stop halfway up. It backed off the dirt road onto the grass as a shiny black SUV quietly rolled out from the mangled tunnel of trees. After the SUV passed it, the truck threw itself in a roaring spin that threw chunks of green and mud behind it to block the road out. It sat there, engine still growling. The smell of diesel rolled up to the house.

The SUV pulled off the road and drove across the rolling lawn, leaving crushed grass in its wake. It stopped with the passenger side at the very edge of the farmhouse porch. The passenger door opened and a tall man in a charcoal suit stepped out, directly onto the porch.

With his blond hair chopped short, it took Haylwen a moment to recognize him. “Mr. Johansen,” she whispered, clutching her father and sliding behind him. Her ex-principal was here? A wave of fear washed over her, carrying memories of when he had grabbed her—the feel of his hands on her neck, the chemical smell of his car as he’d stuffed her in.

“You have nothing to fear from him,” her father said in a quiet, but stern, voice, tension rolling off of him.

Haylwen’s mother, Crystyn, leaned over, turning to look Haylwen in the eye. “He will never touch you again, I promise.” Crystyn stood, taking a couple of firm steps to stand a bit ahead of Haylwen and her father. Abrennin twitched away as Crystyn moved past him, like he had gotten a shock. He gave her a brief look of surprise and confusion, but she wasn’t paying attention.

“May I help you?” Feabee said. “You realize this is private property.”

Mr. Johansen took a step toward Feabee, a reddish hue seeping from him. Haylwen’s guts clenched. He was going to use magic to hurt Feabee!

Abrennin whispered something and then choked. Haylwen’s stomach twisted more, realizing what her father’s choking meant. With me and Cadarn here, our parents’ Oath is in effect. Mom and Dad can’t use magic. Her parents might protect her from a physical attack, but what about a magical one?

Feabee shot Abrennin a wide-eyed look and he nodded once. She blinked, then her jaw muscles jumped as a green glow slipped around her. Haylwen squeezed her father’s hand, a question. He smiled thinly and squeezed back. Of course, Feabee could use magic!

“I have information that you are willfully transgressing against federal law,” Mr. Johansen said. Haylwen gave a little gasp as a red arc shot from Mr. Johansen, a striking snake, to bounce off Feabee’s green shield. “You are harboring fugitives, aiding and abetting criminals.” Another red snake slithered along the ground, trying to work its way under Feabee’s shield.

Feabee shook her head with a smile.

“You think truancy laws are less important than any other?” Mr. Johansen said loudly, standing a bit taller. “We must make sure the children of society are safe.”

“My paperwork is in order and has not expired,” she said.

“Perhaps, but it only lists three students,” he sneered.

Haylwen looked over to Cadarn, sharing the look of guilt and fear that this was about them. Haylwen felt her fear twist into anger. Feabee, Nacia, and the twins were going to get in trouble because of her! She looked up at her father, who just held her hand and shook his head slightly.

“Actually, I submitted updated paperwork, which was received two days ago,” Feabee replied.

“And I was sent to confirm the information was accurate. We have the right to do an inspection for classes equal to, or larger than, five,” he said.

“There is no such law,” Feabee retorted, eyes narrowing.

“Law? Oh, I guess you didn’t see the express invitation to an inspection on the forms you completed?” he sneered. His red bubble pulsed. Several snakes struck as he said, “The forms you signed authorized the right of inspection with acceptance. We must make sure there is actual learning, to prevent child neglect.”

Feabee threw apologetic looks at Haylwen’s parents. “Invitation? I didn’t see…” Her green shield was weakening under the repeated attacks.

“You understand that the neglect laws include all students, correct?” The red intensified, and the attacking snakes grew in number. “Under the child abuse and neglect statutes, we have the authority to take all of the children into custody immediately,” Mr. Johansen said.

Haylwen watched as the green glow started to show tiny spots of black, gaps in the shield. Two more red snakes quickly shot out from Mr. Johansen, squirming against the black spots, trying to force their way in. Feabee looked resigned, trapped. Haylwen felt her father try to say something, but he tensed and choked.

“You have no authority here.” Haylwen gave a small gasp, hearing her mother’s voice with such power. “You will take your polluting trucks and leave immediately.” Crystyn stalked across the porch to stand ahead and to the side of Feabee, making Mr. Johansen shift to face her. Haylwen glanced up at her father, who was breathing easier. His face was an odd combination of confused and proud.

Mr. Johansen looked over Crystyn’s head, following where she had come from to see Haylwen and Abrennin standing there. He gave a little smirk, a twisted look of revenge.

“Ah, Mrs. Rightad. I see where your vandalizing daughter gets it.” Several thick red snakes slowly approached her mother. “If I leave, it will be with your truant children…”

A white glow erupted around Haylwen’s mother. Haylwen squinted, slightly blinded as the white glow around her mother flared even brighter, engulfing the snakes, obliterating them.

“You will leave with nothing,” her mother said in a tone that sent shivers down Haylwen’s spine. Her mother had locked eyes with Mr. Johansen. Though he was at least a foot taller, he seemed to shrink with each passing moment, while Haylwen’s mother seemed to grow. The white glow increased in intensity and size, washing like waves against the receding red of Mr. Johansen. “If you ever come close to either of my children again—”

“I did nothing, I have witnesses,” Mr. Johansen interrupted, momentarily straightening, the red pushing against the waves.

The white flared again, and Mr. Johansen took a step back. He had only the slightest hint of red around him now, flickering.

“You have nothing to withstand a mother protecting her child,” Haylwen heard her mother say, as another blinding flare of white pulsed out. Mr. Johansen took another step back, stumbling, withering even more under her fierce gaze.

Crystyn pointed her finger toward the SUV as another pulse of the white light washed over Mr. Johansen. “You and your agent’s invitations are revoked!” Haylwen’s mother nudged Feabee, who nodded once.

Mr. Johansen slid backward down the stairs, banging into the SUV, scrambling to open the door and get inside before being sucked away. He slammed the door closed, and the SUV’s idling engine roared, tires spitting grass and dirt in every direction. Everyone was pelted, but Haylwen noticed not a fleck hit her mother.

The SUV bounced down the hill as the olive-green truck tore out of the way. The black SUV disappeared into the tunnel as the truck spun around, engine roaring, tires clawing the ground, making a new set of wounds in the grassy field. A cold shiver crawled up Haylwen’s legs, tightening around her throat, as she looked at the ruined lawn. Even after the smell of exhaust had drifted away, the wounds were mocking proof they weren’t safe. It was only a matter of time.

 

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