Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Out Now ~ Craving by @wendizwaduk #historical #romance #kindleunlimited #freeread #hot


Craving: A Native American Mythological Erotic Romance by Wendi Zwaduk

Contemporary, Paranormal, Fantasy, Mythological Romance

Short Story

Megan Slayer Publications


$.99 on Kindle

FREE on Kindle Unlimited!


A man of power meets a woman of the sky...

Hawenneyu is the Great Ruler. His power is limitless, except when it comes to love. That is the one power that he cannot control.

Noya has loved Hawenneyu from afar for as long as she can remember. The daughter of Kaakwha, the old man of the sky, she is destined to live in her father’s shadow. A place where she can gaze at Hawenneyu at her leisure without fear of being seen—or so she thinks.

Hawenneyu not only sees Noya, he yearns for the warmth of her love. Can the Great Ruler and the daughter of the old man of the sky find love, or will Hawenneyu be forced to banish Noya to the Earth?


Get it today! https://www.amazon.com/dp/B096KW42W7/


Sunday, June 27, 2021

Kindle Vella: Amazon's New Platform by L. A. Kelley

Kindle Vella – Amazon’s New Platform

Recently Amazon announced a new platform for English language authors in the U.S. to sell serialized stories. It’s called Kindle Vella.  Although not yet open to readers it’s currently available for writers to upload their material. The release date for readers is July.

But what the heck is it?

Authors release installments, either on the Kindle Vella app for iOS or Android, or on the Kindle Vella website. Word count for each installment ranges from 500 to 6,000 words. In other words, a story is told chapter by chapter or episode by episode. The first three chapters or episodes are free for a reader. After that they have to pay in tokens to access more.

 A what?

A token. The number of tokens required to unlock an episode will depend on the length. Authors are paid based on the number of tokens spent by readers to unlock them, and authors will earn half of what readers spend. There is also mention of a mysterious launch bonus based on customer activity and engagement, but I can’t figure out how much this mysterious launch bonus is.

Please don’t tell me an author is paid in tokens

No. Cold, hard cash, but bear with me. This gets complicated. The cost of tokens depends on how many bought. Readers will be able to get tokens at different price points depending on the number.  Buying 1000 tokens at one time gives a better price than 100. After purchasing tokens a reader can then “buy” an episode. (Remember the first three are free). According to what I’ve been able to figure, Amazon expects the average cost of an episode to be low, around 15 cents. If you have a 20 episode story at 15 cents an episode, that would net $3 every time a reader finishes all the episodes.

 Whoo-hoo, I earn $3, right?

Not exactly. Tokens will be available through mobile channels (like Apple) that charge a fee. That fee will be deducted from any revenue, so that $3 will be less depending on how much the reader paid for the tokens. The 50% royalty may end up being closer to 35%.

Also, Amazon can change token pricing at any time and will probably offer free tokens to entice readers to join. Any episodes bought with free token won’t earn squat. Since this is a new platform, there’s no way to know how much money authors can expect to make, or which genres will do the best.

Rules for Kindle Vella

Of course there are rules. There are always rules. Authors can’t submit stories or episodes that have already been published in book or long-form content, no matter the language. Using a current or previously published book is a no-no, even if it’s broken into different episodes and the original wasn’t written in English. However, Kindle Vella episodes can be put concurrently on a different site. For instance, you can put serialized episodes on your website at the same time as they appear on Kindle Vella, but only if you charge for them. If you want to eventually publish the episodes together as a book, the episodes must be removed from Kindle Vella first.

What are the steps to upload a story?

It’s pretty easy, especially for self-published authors familiar with using Kindle Unlimited. The following is required:

    Story title

    Author name


  Image: Think book cover without a title. Amazon will automatically crop it into a circle, so make sure it’ll look good round.

    Story categories (Like Young Adult or Romance)

    Tags. You can add up to seven. Each tag will also have a landing page with all the stories using the same tag.

   Create and publish the first episode, by either uploading a .doc/.docx document, or typing directly into their online editor.

So, do you get to engage with readers?

Kinda sorta. Readers follow stories and are notified when the latest episode is released. They can crown one weekly “Fave” for the story enjoyed most. “Faves” also have an expiration date. Readers have to unlock (purchase) at least one new episode a week to “Fave”. Amazon will highlight the most “Fave” stories in the Kindle Vella store. Remember, this is only for readers who paid for episodes. Those who used free tokens or read the first three free chapters won’t be able to “Fave”.

Readers can’t leave comments, neither can authors. However, authors can leave an “Author’s Note” at the end of an episode to share thoughts or give a hint to the next episode.

To Kindle Vella or not to Kindle Vella?

This platform seems geared toward people who read on their smartphones rather than an e-reader and prefer short installments offered frequently. It’s not required to offer a new episode each week, but you’ll lose the audience if not. If you think this is something for you, check out the Kindle Vella website.

L. A. Kelley writes science fiction and fantasy adventures with humor, romance, and a touch of sass. She lives her life as a serialized adventure, but, so far, no one has paid her any tokens to read more.





Friday, June 25, 2021

Pet Lovers PSA by Nancy Gideon

I don’t know about you, but my fur babies are family.

 Any parent knows there’s nothing scarier than a baby being sick. The helplessness and worry that comes with not knowing what’s wrong and them not being able to tell you . . . I’ve got a grey hair and a worry line for each such occasion with two sons and a grandson. But the absolute worst is when it happens at night when there’s no one you can call without a trip to the ER.

There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my pets. They provide me with such joy and love and entertainment, there’s no way to put a price on it! I currently have a household of my three foundling cats and my sister’s aged dog and, oh yeah, my adult son. Out of the seven of us, it’s the four four-legged family members who get the most attention and care. My “free” cats have cost me more in out-of-pocket doctor bills in the last five years than my own – and I had a knee replacement! But I’m not complaining. Shots, exams, tooth extractions, a weight loss program, prescription food x two, urinary blockages that required five days hospitalization, and just last night, a new potential emergency that kept me up most of the early AM hours on Vet websites because . . .

Onions are poisonous to cats!

Who knew?! I didn’t. So when my four-year-old Keanu snatched a chunk of onion from our pizza, I didn’t think much of it . . . until I couldn’t stop thinking about it . . . all night long. Because it was after hours at our vet’s office, I headed to the Internet and found that onions and cats aren’t just a bad mix, they are a TOXIC one! Here’s one of the articles out of dozens that spell it out like a pet owner’s horror story.

My Cat Ate Onion! Here’s What to Do (Vet Answer)
I don’t “do” math (as my 13-year-old grandguy will attest!). Going through article after article that state 5g of onion per kilogram of body weight or 0.5% of cat’s total weigh is enough to cause harm with symptoms that may not appear for WEEKS after ingestion did not put my mind at ease (here’s me at 1:00 AM picking onion off cold pizza to place it in measuring spoons). As if vomiting and diarrhea isn’t bad enough, the real scary fact is life-threatening irreversible damage to red blood cells that carry oxygen to organs and muscles. At one in the morning, Keanu wasn’t interested in my examination for possible pale gums, rapid breathing, high heart rate, lethargy and the aforementioned vomiting and diarrhea. Purring rapidly became growling. The wait until I could contact my vet at 9:00 seemed sooooo far away.

Withholding breakfast from a big male cat while his elder “sisters” are gobbling theirs is no fun for cat or owner. It was only 7:00 AM and he was giving me those big, “Why are you being mean to me?” eyes. So, after hours of reading dozens of vet-written articles, I went to a website called JustAnswer.com and within less than 10 minutes was online with a vet. After answering his questions about Keanu’s situation, including his history, size and weight and the amount ingested, within a few minutes, I had my Mom-relieving answer. Being a big boy weighing over 10 pounds, an onion piece of less than a tsp was harmless.

Bad Kitty! No onions . . . but here’s your prescription food breakfast.

Another case of knowing is half the battle. Onions and cats don’t mix – Ever! And if you have a flower garden and grow alliums (like we do) – they are in the onion family and also tres toxic! Make sure your pet can’t get into them.

Excuse me while I go back to cuddling my fur baby.
Nancy Gideon on the Web

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Review, review, review

I haven’t kept track of how many books I’ve read but as an avid reader since childhood, the count is well over a thousand. It probably crossed the thousand threshold many years ago. However, it wasn’t until the last few years that I ever left a book review.

Part of my lack of reviewing, of course, has been because the internet and social media has only been around the past couple of decades. Social media and community opinions of everything has become so important that I’m embarrassed I haven’t offered up reviews even sooner.

Now, as an author, I’m even more sensitive to the need for reviewing. I write a few sentences or paragraphs on what I think about nearly every book I read and post on Bookbub, Goodreads and Amazon. I do this for two reasons. First and foremost, for the reading community. If I’m not familiar with an author, and even if I am, I usually read some opinions before I purchase the book. More than once, reviews left by others have changed my purchasing decision.

The second reason I leave ratings is I understand first-hand how important reviews are to the author. A book with few reviews leaves the impression that it’s a bad story, when that’s an unfair assessment. It’s like driving up to a restaurant with just a couple of cars in the parking lot – the place seems to be unpopular and therefore already deemed bad. As humans, we tend to follow the herd. It’s a chicken-and-the-egg sort of situation, where ratings can drive readership, but readers are first necessary for reviews. New authors struggle to get launched for this very reason.

I’m always grateful for every review my books receive, even if it’s just a couple of sentences. Someone took the time to not only read my book but to write about what they liked and didn’t like. After all, readers are my customers and I’m interested in what they think.

I’ll continue to post reviews for the books I read too. I’m just finishing up Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon and absolutely love (and recommend) this book about a wagon train journey in the American West. The romance in this story made my heart ache!

You can follow my reviews on Bookbub and Goodreads by following me. I’d love to see your evaluations and recommendations too. Here’s where I can be found:

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/julie-howard


Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18116047.Julie_Howard


Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/~/e/B07D6CS4NQ


Julie Howard writes mainstream mysteries, paranormal mysteries, and historical fiction. Her most recent book is Spirit in Time.



Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Summer Solstice & A New Release, A Witch's Quandary by Tena Stetler

 Summer Solstice is June 21, 2021 in the Western Hemisphere. The solstice is usually celebrated by numerous cultures around the world. Thousands of people including druids and pagans annually celebrate the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England. But with the coronavirus preventing large gatherings, last year and again this year English Heritage Facebook page will stream sunrise and sunset ceremonies live. Isn’t that exciting?

Another celebration that takes place around the Summer Solstice is Midsummer day is between June 21st and June 24th. Historically, this day marks the midpoint of the growing season, halfway between planting and harvest. It is traditionally known as one of four “quarter days” in some cultures. Folks celebrated by feasting, dancing, singing, and preparing for the hot summer days ahead.

The eve prior is called Midsummer’s Eve, marking the shortest night of the year. A common way to celebrate is to have a bonfire party! After all, these northern people have emerged from some long, dark winters! In the Austrian state of Tyrol, torches and bonfires are lit up on mountainsides, which is a stunningly beautiful sight.

Pagans referred to the Midsummer moon as "Honey Moon" for the mead made from fermented honey that was part of wedding ceremonies performed at the Summer Solstice.

Ancient Pagans celebrated Midsummer with bonfires when couples would leap through the flames for good luck. (in the belief that the higher the jump, the higher your summer crops would grow.) Sounds a bit tricky to me. How about you?

Bonfires also were associated with magic. It was believed that bonfires could help banish demons and evil spirits and lead maidens to their future husbands. Magic thought to be strongest during the Summer Solstice.

According to ancient Latvian legend, Midsummer’s Eve (St. John’s Eve) on June 23 is spent awake by the glow of a bonfire and in pursuit of a magical fern flower—said to bring good luck—before cleansing one’s face in the morning dew.

In ancient times, Midsummer as a time of magic, when evil spirits were said to appear. To thwart them, Pagans often wore protective garlands of herbs and flowers. One of the most powerful of them was a plant by the name of 'chase-devil', known today as St. John's Wort used by modern herbalists as a mood stabilizer.

Do you like Strawberries?  I love ‘em. There are many people—like the Swedes—who celebrate the beginning of summer by eating the first strawberries of the season. Indulging in some strawberries and cream is the perfect way to celebrate the June solstice, since June’s full Moon is also known as the Strawberry Moon. It typically coincided with the ripening of strawberries in what is now the northeastern and midwestern United States. In fact, in many states, this is the perfect time to go strawberry picking! Look up pick-your-own-strawberry farms in your area!

Look at us learn things. I hope you enjoyed the fun facts & magic surrounding the Summer Solstice and MidSummer.

 Psst... The first book in A Demon's Witch Series, A Demon's Witch is on sale for 99¢.  Great opportunity to begin the award winning series!

Speaking of bonfires and couples.  Let me tell you a little about an explosive couple in my upcoming release A Witch's Quandary, sixth book in A Demon's Witch Series.  All books can be read as standalones.

A Broken Engagement leads to the discovery of stolen magic and malice. Can they weather the storm and find a future together?

Gale's engagement is off because she refuses to leave her thriving business in Ireland to follow Dillon to Scotland. Her family and friends are on the emerald isle. Yet, when Dillon returns with the whole story and asks for her help, she must follow her heart.

Becoming a Solicitor, then partner in the family law firm was never Dillon's dream. Now it's his nightmare. Called to Scotland, his father demands he take his rightful place in the firm or be disowned and disinherited. Something is terribly amiss in the firm and family.

During Gale and Dillon's investigation, they discover the enforcer for the Demon Overlord is also delving into rumors the firm is acting illegally. Magic has been stolen, someone is being blackmailed, and a member of the Witch's council is corrupt. If Gale and Dillon want a life together in Ireland, they have to unearth secrets threatening to destroy the firm and family in Scotland.

Take a peek at A Witch's Quandary book trailer

A sneak peek between the pages of A Witch's Quandary:

A loud pop sounded. Gavin appeared in front of Dillon. “What the bloody hell is going on here? I felt shock waves all the way to me house.” Gavin paused to survey the room then glanced outside. “Quinn and Amos are on their way. Had to interrupt the poker game as there ‘twas a problem at the pub.”

The owl flapped her wings and let out several screeches in succession. Finally, she circled the house and landed on the porch railing clicking her beak angrily.

Gavin glanced at the picture Dillon held. “Good God man, what have you done?”  Gavin tore the picture from his friend and stared at it. “Who’s the woman?”

“An old friend from college. Nothing more. She’s a reporter. I met her for lunch to find out what she knew about a case involving magic, my brother and I are working on. This picture was taken completely out of context.” He took the picture back and glanced at Gale. “We need to sort this out alone. Now.”

“A bit bold of you after that.” With her well-manicured fingernail painted in purple with silver sparkles, Gale pointed at the offending picture and glared at him. “You made your position quite clear when you left. Now a few weeks later you’re here making demands. Take your picture and yourself back to Scotland. Don’t darken my door again.” She whirled around and marched into the kitchen.

Thanks for stopping by and taking a peek at  Summer Solstice Fun Facts and My new release A Witch's Quandary, available for preorder NOW, arriving July12, 2021!


Sunday, June 20, 2021

KISS App - A New Way to Read

 Have y'all seen the KISS app yet?

This is an app you download to your phone that serializes fiction. It works both for what we think of as serialized stories like on Wattpad. But they also take books fully complete and published and break them down (by chapter usually) to serialize them. Reader then purchase coins they can use to read a little at a time. Basically, you pay for what you read.

There's a great line up of books already on the app, and they're adding more daily. I got lucky that my publisher has arranged for my books to be included, and a few are already up. So of course, I had to go check it out.

I may, or may not, have gotten sucked into another author's story and read it all night. LOL. So it's definitely addictive. I've also found it very handy for reading in the car when waiting to pick up kids from activities and so forth.

Anyway...give KISS a look see. While you're at it, maybe try out one of mine!


Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Writing Mentors

 In all my years as a writer, I've had many a mentor and most of them have been fabulous. I've learned from literary geniuses, memoir experts, and poetry whizzes. At some point, I would love to brag about them all, but today we're going to talk about my all-time favorite, Kerry Madden Lunsford.  

Kerry has written all kinds of things over her career as a writer and teacher. She's tackled everything from articles to screenplays to middle-grade fiction. So her knowledge alone is admirable. But, I want to share with you why she inspired a fledgling writer like myself so much, and why, ten years later, I'm still talking about what I learned from her.

I studied under Kerry in the middle of my grad school experience. I had just come from working with a poet who had a very stringent style of teaching. He was rigid with the ways we wrote our poems and what we read and, while the style works for some writers, it left me feeling depleted and less than inspired to write anything. Kerry was his exact opposite. 

The very first thing she did was ask us what books we should read that semester. After each of us made a suggestion, she jotted it down without question. Our reading list for the semester, along with a couple of her suggested books as well, was complete with what we wanted to read being good enough--no arguments necessary. It was the first time that I had had such a meaningful say in my education and taught me the importance of choice. 

After the semester started, every week Kerry would offer a large selection of craft articles and blogs for us to peruse and pick from. The topics ranged from craft things to beautifully written prose. It was served buffet-style, so we could take what we wanted and leave the rest. This taught me how to make use of all aspects of the creative world, and think about ways to implement them not only into my writing but also my teaching. 

As we submitted our monthly chapters and got our notes back, Kerry never ceased to be excited about whatever piece of writing I offered up. She cared about my characters as much as I did, and went about making her suggestions in such a way that she felt more like a writing partner than she did a writing teacher. Her edits conveyed not only her expertise but also her joy in writing--a joy that was infectious. She brought the fun that I needed to get back into my love for writing. 

Good mentors, and bad ones alike, can be intelligent. They can write best sellers and give fantastic interviews. But my favorite mentor gave me the very thing that had been slowly covered up by my previous mentor--the fun of writing. I hope that whatever writing mentors cross paths with you will inspire you to keep going back to the page; that they will continue to encourage and inspire you because when the writing gets tough it will be those emotions that keep you fussing over a janky sentence or swapping out chapters until the storyline flows. 

Happy writing. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2021


His Magic Touch by Debby Grahl

The night before Jared Dupre’s wedding, a spectre warns him that the demonic witch, Adam Montief, has kidnapped his brother threatening to kill both him and Jared’s fiancĂ©e, Kendra O'Connell, in a centuries-old vendetta Jared knows nothing about. A powerful witch himself, Jared tracks Adam from New Orleans to a remote island off the coast of Connecticut. A swordfight ensues, and a final thrust of Jared's blade sends Adam over the cliff into the dark sea below.

But when Jared returns to New Orleans, he finds a triumphant Adam alive and intent on seducing Kendra. Kendra, not knowing Jared was forced to break off their engagement to save her life, has turned to a new man, unaware he’s Adam who has vowed to kill the man she truly loves.

With help from an ancestor's spirit, Jared discovers the motive behind the Montiefs' vengeance.  He plans Adam's final destruction while fighting to win back Kendra before she is drawn into Adam's world of sadistic evil. 

Summer Solstice

 Since Jared and Kendra, my two Wiccan witches from His Magic Touch, are getting ready to celebrate the Solstice, I thought I’d share a little about the holiday with you.

In addition to the four great festivals of the Pagan Celtic year, there are four lesser holidays as well: the two solstices, and the two equinoxes. In folklore, these are referred to as the four 'quarter-days' of the year, and modern Witches call them the four 'Lesser Sabbats', or the four 'Low Holidays'. The Summer Solstice is one of them.

Litha is the name given to the Wiccan Sabbat celebrated at the Summer Solstice. This is the longest day and shortest night of the year, marking the pinnacle of the Sun’s power to fuel the growing season. From here on out, the Sun will set a little earlier each night until Yule, and so we recognize and give thanks for its warmth.

Technically, a solstice is an astronomical point. The summer solstice occurs when the sun reaches the Tropic of Cancer. Astrologers know this as the date on which the sun enters the sign of Cancer.

Though it’s typically celebrated on June 21st, the exact moment of the Summer Solstice varies from year to year. This is due to a slight misalignment between the Gregorian calendar and the actual rate of the Earth’s rotation around the Sun. The Solstice also occurs at differing local times, so depending on where you live, it may fall the day before or after the date listed on any given calendar. For this reason, a date range of June 20-22 is often cited in sources on the Wheel of the Year.

As the Sun reaches its highest point in the sky, the God is now in his full power, and the Goddess of the Earth is bringing forth the greatest abundance of the year. The crops are reaching their full maturity, and the forests are bursting with lush growth. In just a few short weeks, the harvest season will begin, but for now we pause to celebrate the manifestation of what was planted in the early weeks of Spring. The warm sunlight is a welcome contrast to the cold and dark of Winter, and we bask in its comforts. There is a focus on the Element of Fire in honor of the Sun God, but recognition is also given to the Horned God of the forest and its wild animal life.

Summer Solstice is still observed publicly by modern English Druids, both at Boadicea’s Tomb, Parliament Hills, London, and at Stonehenge. All-night vigils take place on both sites, and at Stonehenge there is a second celebration at Noon. Midsummer is not forgotten in today's world, although it may be called by a different name. The bonfires are lit, vigils kept, cartwheels sent blazing down hills. Candle boats are sailed in Brazil and in Florida, as well as on the Danube.

When you light your fire and stay up throughout the night, you are celebrating in the way our ancestors did. Have a wonderful Midsummer and remember, "Imagination is the eye of the soul."

This is also a time for romance --

The young maid stole through the cottage door,

And blushed as she sought the Plant of pow'r;--

'Thou silver glow-worm, O lend me thy light,

I must gather the mystic St. John's wort tonight,

The wonderful herb, whose leaf will decide

If the coming year shall make me a bride.  


Amazon Author Page:       http://www.amazon.com/- /e/B00B34HM26

 Author website:                www.debbygrahl.com

 Author Facebook:             https://www.facebook.com/debbygrahlauthor?ref=br_rs


Monday, June 14, 2021

Bound by Love…When Evil Lives After…

 Today, we have a guest. Multi-published author Toni V. Sweeney.  Because it's Monday morning, I have a dental appointment, and I am facing a very close deadline to finish a book, I'll turn the mic over to Toni and allow her to handle the introduction:

Biographical Note:  Toni V. Sweeney has lived 30 years in the South, a score in the Middle West, and a decade on the Pacific Coast and now she’s trying for her second 30 on the Great Plains, specifically in Lincoln, Nebraska. Since the publication of her first novel in 1989, Toni divides her time between writing SF/Fantasy/Romance and Horror under her own name a several nom de plumes. She has received numerous Reviewers Choice awards from the Paranormal Romance Guild’s annual review, the Preditors & Editors Readers awards and the Maryland Writers Association.

 And now, on with this blog…


In TV shows and movies, occasionally the statement will flash across the scene: “Based on True Events…”. In my novel Bound by Love, that statement would have read “Based on a True Location…”.


Part of the setting of my novel is an old house, abandoned by its owners.  On my grandfather’s property, there was such a house. Though as far as I know nothing as violent or grisly as the events in my novel happened there, it became the place where the disappearance of Dylan Roth and his neighbor Jules Mercier is finally solved.


The real house was called the Old Stubbs place. That was the only name we children ever knew it by. That’s what everyone called it.  Nothing about the people who lived there and gave it their name, however. It was located on the other side of my grandfather’s 220 acres—half farmland, half pulpwood forest and swamp—and we could stand at the edge of the feedlot in the backyard, look across the cornstalks and actually see it in the distance, a medium-sized house, its weathered planks devoid of paint, its two chimneys visible in the distance.


 It could be reached either by following the road in an arc, going across the turn-off where dirt had been tamped down across a drainage ditch or going across the field on horseback. Both ways took an equal length of time but it was more fun to ride there, or for the more hardy of us to actually walk, following the tractor-trail across the terraces and skirting the pine woods where wild gooseberries, plum, and the occasionally yucca plant bloomed.


The entrance road went through a soybean field on one side and pecan grove on the other, leading directly to the house. There had once been a garden on one side, with a tiny outhouse perched in a corner. On the other side, a huge and ancient chinaberry tree grew, with a Cherokee rose twining itself through its branches. Those roses featured prominently in my bnook. Beyond that, the  house was surrounded on three sides by pine trees, with a fig tree and a stand of sugar cane facing it across the road that went past the house, meeting the tractor trail on the other side of the barn.


Steps to the porch were partly missing, partly falling to pieces and one had to climb them carefully.  Overgrown hedges bordered either side.  The porch itself was in pretty good shape but the roof was only partially there.  Inside, two rooms opened into a center foyer with two rooms behind that.  A front room held trash and junk…newspapers, boxes, you name it. It also had an upright piano, where mice had taken up housekeeping. This fact give rise to the “mouse in the cupboard” incident in my novel.


While in that particular room, we bigger kids would run around raising dust and telling the smaller ones they were ghosts, but only in that room, probably because of the piano and the fact that when the mice ran around in it, it made weird jangly tunes.


Behind the last room was another, perhaps a storage area, since it was accessible only from the outside.  By the time I knew the house, this room had steps but no door and no floor.


There were two springs on the property. One had been made into a well a short distance from the house; the other was a quarter of a mile away at the end of a field. It had been shored-up with planks and was filled with deep green water.  Some of my uncles used to swim in it but I wanted no part of that dark stuff.  I had no idea how deep it was and didn’t want to find out.


When my youngest uncle married, he and his bride lived in the old Stubbs place—very primitively. They had electricity strung to the house but they also had lanterns—just in case.  There were fireplaces in the two front rooms but their heat was a large pot-bellied stove set in the bigger room…and this was in the mid-Sixties!  The kitchen held a set of hot plates attached to a small propane tank. My uncle plowed the garden and planted it. He lowered himself into the well, cleaned it out, and installed a pump, sending water to faucets he set up in the kitchen.


There was no indoor plumbing, and let me say…I wasn’t particularly enamored of that outhouse, especially in winter!


They didn’t stay in the old Stubbs place very long, only until he made enough money to buy a real house another uncle had built elsewhere on the property.


All my life whenever we visited my grandfather, we children would range the fields and woods, and eventually end up at that old house. It was a fixture.  Riding my horse, I’d go there, circle it, climb its pine trees, pick its plums, and ride through its woods. Whether alone or with my cousins, I always got a frisson when I was there, wondering who the Stubbses had been and why they’d abandoned the house.  No one ever said and for some reason, I never asked.  It was simply there, a part of the landscape until the day my grandfather died and it was torn down when the property was sold.


The old Stubbs place is gone now and a subdivision stands in its place but it, the house, its dark, deep well, the pecan grove and sugar cane stand live again in my novel.


Bound by Love


After a nasty divorce, Dylan Roth is back home, joining his dad and brother in the family construction business. He’s assigned to the renovation of the old Mercier house, which is being filmed for the TV show Dream Homes, Unlimited. The last thing Dylan wants is to fall for Scarlett “Letty” Mercier, but an undeniable attraction is making it hard for him to say no to the redheaded beauty. When he learns the Roths’ and the Merciers’ pasts are entwined, he starts digging, and family history can no longer stay buried. Dylan and Letty are bound by a haunting secret that threatens to keep them apart unless they can break the ties of the past.



 “Mother, whatever you’re cooking up, forget it,” I said. “Letty Mercier and I are not going to be romantically-inclined toward each other any time soon.”

“If you say so, dear.” She went back to the paper, laying aside the comics and opening Parade magazine.

“Don’t do that,” I warned. She’d used the same tone she always did when I said something and she refused to argue because she knew better. “I…no, never mind. Dad, What’s the deal here?”

“What do you mean, son?” Dad looked up from the want ads.

“Quit it. You know exactly what I mean. What’s this thing you and Letty keep hinting at? The bygone you two are letting go by. The reason her father might worry about her staying with us?”

Dad didn’t answer.

“You may as well tell him.” Mom looked around the page she was holding. “It’s unfair to keep Dylan in the dark, especially since Letty obviously knows.”

Dad didn’t answer. Instead, his mouth tightened into a sudden straight line.

“He has a right,” Mom went on. “So simply state it plainly…about your great-grandfathers, and the scandal, and everything.”

“Scandal?” I looked from him to her and back. “What kind of scandal?”

Dad sighed. “Why bring it up?”

“You already have,” she answered. “By not bringing it up.”

“So there really is some deep, dark secret?” I asked. “A skeleton in the Roth closet…and the Mercier one, too?”

“I don’t know why it has to be dug up at this late date.” Dad folded the newspaper and dropped it onto the lamp table in a gesture just short of throwing it. “Why can’t we simply ignore it and—”

“You realize you’re only making me more curious,” I told him. “What happened?” His expression was so serious I had to laugh. “Come on, Dad. What could be so bad? Did Great-grandpa Roth run off with Great-grandpa Mercier’s wife or something?”

Mom drew in a sharp breath.

For a full minute, Dad studied me silently before he answered.

“On the contrary. He ran off with Great-grandpa Mercier.”


Bound by Love is available from:











Sunday, June 13, 2021

Monsters Lurking in the Old West by Marilyn Barr


I love writing a romance where someone with a hidden monster finds love despite their beastly nature. Before I fell in love with the Ephraim shifters of the Old West, I found many monsters in Arapaho legends who I considered for my upcoming release, Dance to a Wylder Beat. (What’s an Ephraim shifter? Check out my previous blog post here.) While I can’t guarantee at least one of these monsters will not end up a romantic hero in a future Marilyn Barr paranormal romance, these are my top five most inspiring that didn’t make it into Dance to a Wylder Beat.

I found my treasure trove of monsters at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Center for the Study of Indigenous Languages of the Old West. Many of them have been expanded in anime, video games, and horror movies but I wanted to get as close to the true Arapaho legend as possible. Because of the nomadic nature of the bands and tribes, many of these legends overlap with other Native American creatures and stories (especially those of the Gros Ventre and Cheyenne). Also, the names of these monsters have been “Anglicized” to use our alphabet so spellings may vary by source.

1.       Chebbeniathan translates to the “Spider Above”. This is the being responsible for creating our Earth and manipulating the “strings of fate”.  Nartan mentions this being in Dance to a Wylder Beat:

As the sun rises, I carry my anger to her cabin door and bang on it to wake her. The door creaks open, and fear freezes my blood. Did the candle stay lit because she was kidnapped under my nose? I set my water pail down as I listen inside. She was cagy about bears yesterday. Did her fear attract one to her bedside?

It is common wisdom in the Arapaho tribe that what you say is what our Creator, Chebbeniathan delivers. With more bravado than common sense, I run empty-handed into the cabin.


2.       Nihancan is a spider shifter who is a trickster in their myths. I was attracted to the story of Nihancan and the bear shifters (I wonder why?) until I read it. Nihancan finds a few plums and lures the bear family from their den with the promise of more. Momma bear agrees to let them babysit her cubs while she goes with the eldest cub to pick the plums. There is no Papa bear in this story. When she returns, the trickster has eaten the cubs and dug a hole in the bottom of their den. The bear shifters charge down the hole in anger and get caught in the awaiting webs. Yikes! After a few interactions with the settlers, the word Nihancan came to mean “white man” as well as “trickster” in the Arapaho language.

Artist Rendition of "The Web of Life" from SongOfGaea.com

 Hiincabiit translates to “Water Master”. This horned river-serpent is featured in many different tribe’s myths and pictographs. While it was giant and scary in its description, it was a good monster. Offerings to the closest serpent would yield good luck while hunting or in war. Someday there is a non-zero chance I will write a romance starring a lonely river monster whose fierce face makes them misunderstood. I found the stories of this monster so inspiring; I couldn’t help but refer to them when describing the gunsmith’s forge in Sound of a Wylder Silence (coming in 2022):


The left wall is covered with guns, yoked by chains like beads on a string. I suppose having them locked is best, but the display reminds me of a cross between an evil charm bracelet and a firing squad. Only slightly less frightening is the forge hearth at the back of the shop. Flames leap within its cavernous mouth as it awaits its next meal like the Hiintcabiit monster of the rivers. Only true respect will keep the beast from feeding upon the humans with the courage to work with them.

Horned Serpent Pictograph found in Utah taken from HistoryCollection.com

1.       Boh’ooonii’eihii is the name of the thunderbirds. There was a fiery bird responsible for all the summer weather from droughts to floods and tornadoes.  This bird was large enough to catch and carry a killer whale in its talons. This bird was balanced with the “Winter Owl” of the same name which is responsible for snowy weather. Wouldn’t a love story between the Summer Thunderbird and the Winter Owl be bittersweet? They could love one another but not get along, so they separate themselves for the good of the Earth…sigh.


2.       Hecesiiteihii translates to the “Little People of Strength” but they are not connected to a certain princess movie with seven such people. These cannibal dwarves have terrifying tales associated with them. From stealing limbs off bodies while the owner sleeps to snatching babies, these dwarves are the stuff of nightmares. The good news is that in Arapaho mythology they are extinct. A great war united all the tribes of all the nations to fight off the dwarves and humans prevailed. With invisibility, super speed, strength greater than humans, aggressive temperaments, and unlimited hiding places, how were they defeated? Legend says they would take out their hearts before battle to be temporarily undead and invincible. A clever brave found a stash of hearts and destroyed them during the battle. One by one the dwarves dropped where they stood.

 "Hecesiiteihii" Artist Unknown taken from HistoryCollection.com

Are you ready to travel to 1878 to meet the magical Nartan Sagebrush? I promise he's not a monster - only his temper. He’s an Arapaho Shamanic apprentice who would have told the stories of these monsters to his brother, Ikshu. Their story, Dance to a Wylder Beat, starts when Nartan gives up his mystic ways to become a humble leather tanner to assimilate into the Wylder Community, in Wyoming Territory. When straddling two worlds has stressed him to the brink, he reaches to his spirit guides for help. The guides suggest a catalog bride and they have just the girl in mind. Nartan wasn’t comfortable in his skin before she crawled under it. Now he burns…

Dance to a Wylder Beat is on pre-order for $0.99 on

Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0951NLCZW/)

and iTunes (https://books.apple.com/us/book/dance-to-a-wylder-beat/id1567780912)

until 7/16/2021 with an official release date of 7/21/2021.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

5 Ways to Get Readers to Fall in Love with Your Villain

By Keri Kruspe

“Author of Otherworldly Romantic Stories” 

Cackling, evil laugh…. the wringing of gloved hands… 

the melodramatic mustache twirling…

    Yeah, yeah. We get it. 

    To make a good story, we include a villain (human or not) to offset our hero to create conflict. 
Good guy vs. bad guy—back and forth until the good guy triumphs at the end and the villain is defeated. Woo-hoo… truth and justice win!

    Oh, ho-hum. Yawn… yawn… yawn.

    Okay, I’m being snarky. If we didn’t love these stories where the hero outsmarts the villain, that trope would have died out centuries ago. The best way to keep these stories “fresh” is to have your reader fall in love with not only the hero, but with the villain as well. To the point where the reader will secretly fall in love with the bad guy, rooting for them from time-to-time.

    What’s the best way to do this? Why…  make them a flawed, of course! Resist the urge to make the bad guy into someone who is ugly with no redeeming qualities. A boring cardboard stereotype whose every action is glaringly predictable.

5 Suggestions to Fix Your Villain

 These aren’t in a specific order, just some fun ways to fix your bad guy:
1. Parents matter—even to a villain. That includes orphans. The absence of parents can be a motivational force in their (or anyone’s) life. Was how they were raised a main factor on what drives them? Here are a couple of examples in my own work.
The main bad guy in my Alien Exchange universe has been shaped by his family and how they treated him growing up. The lack of love and recognition (all because he didn’t look like others in his race, especially his identical twin who did) drove him to extremes to prove his worth. Not only to his elitist parents, but to the entire galaxy.
In my second series, Ancient Alien Descendants, the main villain discovers he is not the legitimate blood heir to the throne of a planet, so he has to commit all sorts of atrocities to ensure no one finds out so he isn’t executed.
2. What (or who) does the villain love? The villain who only wants to take over the galaxy (what do you expect, I write scifi romance so it’s all about the bigger stuff…) is tedious and has been overdone. But if you can somehow put in what they love, it gives them an added dimension. The best part of it doesn’t have to be anything big. The villain in my latest series actually loves his people. He feels that if he wasn’t in charge, they’d succumb to extinction. He’s just happens to be a self-absorbed narcissist at the same time…
3. Why do they do the things they do? Here’s where the big “M” word comes in “motivation”. Why do they want to take over the world? Why do they hate the hero and want to mess their lives up? Uncover the deep, deep roots that drive the villain and what they want. Alexander the Great wanted to conquer the world to show up his father (there goes those pesky parents again…).
4. What would make this person the hero? What if you wrote your novel from the villain’s point of view? What would he have to do to make him the hero? They end up doing things that might be wrong, but they firmly believe they have the right to kidnap/kill/torture anyone who they deem deserves it. Aren’t righteous villains the really scary kind (think Thanos of the Marvel Avengers series)?

5. Install in your villain, a trait you’d love for yourself. What if your villain was crazy smart, or a cunning manipulator? Are they decisive, able to make their minds up immediately? Or—maybe they are master story tellers who created worlds people are dying to be a part of… 

Other Type of Villains

The Antagonist: 

    A person you’re not quite sure is as bad as you think, or maybe they’re just misunderstood. The hero may have found the strength to overcome, but the villain gets dragged down instead.

They’re Better than the Hero: 

    They’re more charming, seemingly kinder, smarter, or well-informed. Make your readers cheer on the hero to become more like the villain. A great example would be Loki in the Marvel universe. He’s smarter and way humbler than Thor could ever be.

The Crazy One:

    You can spot these folks a mile away. The Joker/Hannibal Lector/Harley Quinn… These bad guys are overblown, excessive, obsessive, narcissistic and delusional. Most of all, they’re unpredictable (ooh…. the fun…). They come in like a massive hurricane and destroy everything in their path. No amount of logic or reason has a chance to tame them. 

Wrap This Up, My Pretty

    Think of your favorite villain. What makes them so special? The best advice anyone could give you about villains is to make them as real as your protagonist. Better yet, give them mirror (positive or negative) traits of your hero. If anyone tells you your villain is better than your main character, chances are you have a compelling story to tell!

In closing, I want to share the opening “thoughts” of my villain, Sub Prince Murduk of the planet Akurn. Here’s an excerpt from my newest release, Alien Legacy: The Shapeshifter.


    Sub-Prince Murduk, supreme co-ruler and sovereign of Akurn, Governor of the capital city of Eengurra, experienced something he never had before. At first, the way his body reacted confused him. His hands were shaking, and waves of dizziness caused black spots to swim across his vision. His heart raced hard enough to drown out any noise outside of himself.
He held his breath. Was that… fear?

    Unrelenting, a tsunami of terror threatened to suck him under. Emotions and he had parted ways long ago, so who could blame him if he didn’t know how to handle situations he rarely experienced?

    After seeing Inanna alive for the first time since she escaped all those millennia ago, he immediately cloistered himself in his private quarters to get hold of his careening emotions. Speaking to her shifted something deep inside him. While he once believed she might not have survived the ancient world-wide flood, he had received various reports over the years that she lived. Not only lived, but she bred with one of those disgusting Adamou and produced five sons.
It was absurd how those offspring became the foundations of some of Earth’s legends. They, along with other Adamou who’d escaped separately from Inanna, had dominated Earth’s past. These beings could not only read minds, but they could manipulate and create matter while controlling anyone they chose. See, this was the reason the Akurn monarchy had made it unlawful to mix their genetics with any alien species. It was fortunate that as the abominations bred, the Akurn DNA became dominant and the powers dissipated with each subsequent generation.
His eyes narrowed. He’d give anything to have a tenth of what those disguising atrocities so carelessly possessed.

    Now after this first conversation with Inanna, Murduk sprawled on a plush couch. He ignored the humongous window overhead with its blurring colors of interplanetary dust, cosmic rays, and the coronal ejections from the bodies throughout the solar system. With shaking hands, he lit his hookah and inhaled. A ribbon of red narcotic smoke twirled around him. He exhaled and sighed at the smoldering comfort. Soon his hands steadied, and his vision cleared. The tight tension between his shoulders relaxed.