Monday, September 30, 2013

Free Alert - What Lies Inside by J.L. Myers


“Just a minute, Amelia,” Mom’s voice jarred me to a standstill on the porch.

Sheltered by the roofline’s shadow she produced a small cylindrical tube from the pocket of her designer sweats. After waiting up all night so she could see us off on our first day of school, she was ready to sleep through her first day. It was preparation for her new position at the Portsmouth Vampire Council, which began each weekday after twilight.

I snatched the tube from between her fingers and lifted it to eye level. “Nasal decongestant?” I questioned incredulously. “I just want to be invisible. But everyone is already going to be looking at the weird new girl. Now you want them to think I’m a dweeb too?”

“It’s menthol.” Mom shrugged. “I thought it might help distract your sense of smell.”

With a groan, I let Mom hug me. Then I retreated to the car, shoving the nasal tube into the glove box. There was no way in hell anyone was going to see me using that thing. Dorian was already in the driver’s seat, warming up the engine, as he always did.

“We’re not ready.” I glared at the opulent French mansion—our new home—shrinking in the rear-view mirror. Apparently Uncle Caius had a lot more money than I’d realized.

It was a double-story, with a mixture of stone and beige-rendered walls, soaring windows, and high ceilings inside. Acres of green land surround its walls, back-bordered by a thick shelter of oaks. There was a stone-bordered gate that fronted the property, offering a scenic view of the rolling swells of Rye Beach. Just watching the mansion shrink as we drove away made me long for the cabin. There I had felt safe, from myself. This mansion was too big, too cold. It could never feel like home. It could never feel safe.

The move had been inevitable. Kendrick had brainwashed Joel into believing he’d been attacked by a rabid dog. Being a Pure Blood, his ability to compel was stronger than any turned vamp’s. Still, Mom and Uncle Caius were worried that me being anywhere near Joel would break the compulsion and endanger our secret lives. So they weren’t about to take any chances. Our destination had been decided with a job offer. Uncle Caius wanted Mom on the Vampire Council in Portsmouth. With a little encouragement, she’d agreed. It was one of many sub councils that operated around the world in service to The Armaya, the epicenter of vampire legislation and politics. As the only surviving Pure Blood of his lineage, our uncle held a seat there on The Armaya’s Royal Vampire Council. After that our move had been arranged to the small, sleepy town of Rye, bordering Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

More than six months had passed at the cabin. It was hundreds of miles from our old home in Anchorage, and hidden amongst the wilderness of the Alaska Range. As Caius had predicted, Dorian began the transformation soon after our retreat. I couldn’t hide my relief at his fading fear of me. We were one and the same, cut from the same cloth, and now we shared a secret. The thing we had become.

“We are ready,” Dorian countered. “And you heard Mom. We passed all the tests successfully.”

With an irritated breath, I turned and stared out the window as manicured trees fronting oversized, gated properties passed by. Yesterday Mom admitted to the tests she had planned to assess our self-control. I had been beyond pissed. Still, no amount of arguing could change her mind. Now Dorian’s laid-back attitude was beginning to grate on my nerves. I clenched and unclenched my hands. “So we didn’t attack and kill a few delivery men. So what? How does that compare to a classroom full of blood-pumping human bodies?”

“Amelia,” Dorian said, glancing in the vanity mirror backing the sun visor. He ran a hand through his thick, dark hair to re-shape it. “We’ll be fine.” He looked at me sideways and smiled. “You know, you’re stronger than you give yourself credit for.”

I crossed my arms over my chest, doubting Dorian’s faith in me. How could he truly believe that after everything that happened?

When we first relocated to the cabin, Mom and had taught us to hunt. We started with herds of Caribou, graduating to more challenging prey like packs of wolves, and even the elusive mountain lion. Kendrick, between frequent snowboarding breaks, had come hunting too. But I had detested the whole process. How could honing our predatory instincts make us safer around humans? But as my natural desires took over, I became thrilled by the chase, my muscles snapping into action and my fangs ready and waiting. After each hunt, each kill, the thrill would dissipate, replaced by a body-shaking guilt. My speed, strength, and lust for blood proved beyond any and all doubt that I truly was a monster, and I always would be.

I took reprieve from one fact alone. Vampires weren’t immortal. Our lifespans were extended, but I wouldn’t forever be this bloodthirsty creature, a killer. One day I would die.

I pulled my New Student packet out of my bag and began memorizing my three-week class rotation and the school map. The last thing I wanted was to have to ask for directions.

A moment later Dorian turned off Ocean Boulevard onto the private, gated entrance of our new school, St. Volaras. It was the best private school in the area, holding over five hundred students. The size of the student body alone only unnerved me further. Today would be an assault of temptation from unknowing victims. And, if I did lose it, there would be countless witnesses that no amount of compulsion could cover up.

Dorian revved the engine of our turbo-charged Audi Cabriolet. He dropped back to second gear, following the line of high-end cars through the student parking lot. The A5 was a joint birthday present from our uncle Caius. It was a reward for coming so far in our ability to restrain.

Every part of me hated the car and everything it represented, everything it reminded me of. I glared at Dorian, knowing he’d revved the engine to draw attention. I hated that he was so confident and self-assured, when all I wanted to do was remain invisible.

Dorian ignored my glare and pulled into a spot rearing the lot, before jumping out of the car.

I sat without moving, wishing I could just disappear. Then Dorian poked his head back through the driver’s side door. “You can’t stay here all day.”

I bit the inside of my cheek. “Wanna bet?”

“C’mon,” Dorian said, rolling his eyes. “Don’t make me drag you to class kicking and screaming.”

Although his tone was joking, I didn’t doubt his threat. He was set on the idea of a normal life, and wasn’t about to let me mess that up for him. Cursing him under my breath, I snatched my bag from the back seat. Outside I yanked my hoodie over my head. It was my favorite jacket, black cotton with a detachable hood. If it had been made of leather it would have been perfect for riding a motorbike.

I got out of the car and froze. Students littered the parking lot. To me they resembled herding bovine, blissfully unaware and ripe for the picking. I groaned, picking up a scent that was all too familiar these days. Human blood. In the cool morning air it was faint, but still distinct.

“If I were you, I’d wipe that look off your face.” Dorian stepped in front of me, blocking my view of a group of preppy-looking girls. “People are beginning to stare.”

I looked away from the clustering students, refocusing on Dorian’s piercing silver-blue irises. They were now the same color as mine, and from what we’d been told, a consistent vampire trait. “What look?”

Dorian smiled, lips parting to reveal the points of his fangs. “That crazed, I’m so starving I could eat you, look.”

My jaw dropped then quickly clamped shut. I couldn’t even control my expression? There was no way I could do this!

“Yes you can.” Dorian clearly knew me too well. “Look, Amelia,” he said more seriously. “We can have a normal life. You can. This is just the first step. Will you just try, for me? You know I can’t do this without you.”

With a deep breath, I planted my hands on my hips. I knew Dorian was using emotional blackmail, but I caved anyway. “Okay. But if I kill anyone, I’m blaming you.”

Dorian roped his arm through mine and yanked me forward to walk alongside him. “Your murder is my condemnation. Got it.”

As we headed to the main building, I held my breath. My sight rose above the heads of surrounding students. The building was three levels of brick, with rectangular windows and tall glass doors. Dorian was already checking out the surrounding female members of the student body. I wasn’t beyond counting bricks for a distraction. Before I could begin, someone darted in front of us.

The boy’s scent—if you could call him a boy, with his over-developed muscle mass—reached my nostrils instantly. It was fiery and sweet, and somehow different from any human’s I had ever picked up on. The urge to extend my fangs pulled at me from within. I swallowed, struggling to push the sensation back.

The boy edged forward. His tan face was frozen with a threatening scowl, and his hands curled into fists. “Go back to where you came from,” he snarled through tight lips. “You’re not welcome here.”

Dorian instinctively tensed and released my arm, ready to take action. But before he could even utter a word, the boy turned and stalked away.

Dorian shrugged his shoulders “What was that about?”

A startling realization struck me. “He could tell. He knows what we are.”

Dorian laughed, pulling me aside to let passing students through the main doors. “You take paranoia to a whole new level, sis.”

Certain belting him would draw attention I held back the urge. Instead I settled for a piercing look that I wished could kill, or at least inflict torturous pain. “I’m paranoid?”

Dorian waved his hands in a half-assed surrender. “C’mon, you know I didn’t mean it like that. That jerk is probably just a dumb jock, pumped up on steroids.”

I wasn’t convinced, but Dorian was already past the incident and busy catching the eye of a pretty girl. He glanced down at his watch. “Classes start in five. So go, get settled. I’ll see you at lunch.” He pushed me through the glass doors winking, before backing away in the opposite direction. “You’ll be fine. I promise.”

I sucked in a quick, deep breath and held it. My lungs ached in protest. Students swarmed the foyer. I pushed past them, bounding up the stairs to the second floor. Psychology was first up. I shot through the door to room 2.6, taking a vacant desk. It was by one of a handful of windows that lined the far wall. With my lungs contracting and on the verge of forcing me to breathe, I dumped my bag on the desk and threw open the glass barrier. Poking my head out into the cool autumn air, I sucked in a much needed ragged breath.

Whispers about the ‘new girl’, were hot on every student’s lips. Vampire hearing, lucky me! This day just kept getting better. They thought I was strange, a total weirdo. And who could blame them? I was acting like a freak!

Shrinking back into my seat, I kept my head down with my hoodie sheltering my face. My long hair hung as a solid barrier between me and them. The scent of fresh blood intensified as more and more students filled the classroom. There was nothing I could do in this setting to dull it. But I could drown out their chatter.

I pulled my iPod from my backpack, plugging the earbuds into my ears. It was jam-packed with music from all my favorite bands: Red, Skillet, Three Days Grace and Lifehouse, just to name a few. It used to have pop music too, but since discovering my darker side my taste in music had followed suit, and the urge to dance wildly in the privacy of my room no longer felt uplifting. In spite of that, I smiled. The cover was new, glossy purple—my favorite color, which in the right dark shade was nowhere near being girly pink, ick! It had been a parting gift from Kendrick who’d uploaded the new Three Days Grace album. My heart squeezed, wishing he were here.

Still able to scent the students, I stifled a groan. My arms coiled around my waist, nails pricking my sides and breaking the skin. The distraction helped, just enough to keep me cemented in my seat, until the classroom door opened again.

In an instant, the energy in the small room shifted. I removed my earbuds. The gossip on everyone’s lips had faltered.

Then it hit me. The same unique, fiery, sweet scent of blood I had encountered not five minutes earlier. No…not him again.

Against my better judgment, I brushed my hair behind my ears and dared to glance up. My world froze. Any remaining chatter became irrelevant as I stared on. Standing in the doorway was not the boy who had threatened Dorian and me. This boy had similarly colored satin-black hair, styled into messy, loose spikes. His charcoal V-neck shirt acted like a second skin, clinging to reveal a sculpted torso. The light from fluorescents bolted to the grated ceiling bounced off his bronzed arms, offering shadowed definition to his protruding biceps and numerous…scars? Nudging recognition tickled at the back of my subconscious. I couldn’t rip my eyes away. I’ve seen him before.

The boy caught sight of me as he entered the room, and stalled. His honey-glazed eyes, rimmed with iridescent green, widened.

Somehow able to move again, I averted my eyes. But it was already too late. I could hear the heavy steps of hunting boots closing in on me. A hard lump crawled up my throat and my heart-rate increased. The potency of his fiery scent soared. It invaded my lungs and made my mouth water. He was close, way too close. With a throat-constricting gulp, I tried and failed to force my lust for his blood back down. Then I blinked up to meet his curious gaze.

“Hi. You’re new.” His tone was steady, maybe even friendly. Yet there was visible conflict in his eyes.

“Uh huh,” I replied, as a telltale tingle ran along my gums. No, please. Not now. I could practically taste the hot sweetness of his blood on my tongue and hear the irregular beat of his strong pulse. A sequence of events flashed manically through my mind. I saw myself leaping over the desk in one swift move and sinking my now fully extended fangs into his neck. Control yourself! I pinned my lips together, concealing my fangs. My nails dug into the cushioned seat, acting as an anchor to stop me from acting out the deadly fantasy still reeling through my mind. For a second I longed for the nasal tube stashed back in the car.

“I’m Ty Malau,” he said, iridescent eyes narrowing at me.

Uncomfortable silence thickened the air as he watched me, waiting for a polite introduction. It was clear he had no plan to let me be until I spoke. So I looked away, covering my fanged mouth with one hand. Through my barricading fingers, I managed to croak out, “Amelia Athobry-Lamont.”

“It’s nice to finally meet you, Amelia,” Ty said.

My eyes shot back to his smiling face. Finally? There hadn’t been any kind of emphasis on the word, but something about it, or maybe even the sentence he’d used it in, bothered me. Was I reading too much into this? Something about him seemed so inexplicably familiar. But for the life of me, I couldn’t place him.

Ty motioned to the spare seat beside me with a scarred hand. “Mind if I sit?”

My tongue floated in a pool of expectant saliva and my hands began to tremble. They were still clutching the cushioned chair for dear life. The threat of release was growing. Please, just leave me alone. I knew if he didn’t walk away soon, I would lose all control. Ty shifted his weight from one leg to the other. I could almost feel the growth of anxiety rippling in waves off his body. Shit! I mentally slapped myself. I’m staring at him like he’s something to eat. Look away, dammit! With great strain, I forced my eyes away from his perfectly symmetrical features, and down onto my iPod, wishing again for Kendrick.

A quiet grunt emerged from Ty’s throat. “Never mind….”

His retreat to the other side of the classroom dulled the overwhelming punch of his blood. With his scent around me fading and my fangs retracting, I allowed my lungs to breathe again. The short, testing breaths relieved some of the involuntary reactions to his proximity. I could still smell his blood, as well as the other students. But I took a sliver of comfort from the fact that I had managed to control myself, just enough not to turn this room into a bloody massacre…yet.

The classroom chatter had resumed. It seemed almost everyone had been watching Ty and me with bated breath, and now it was all they could talk about.

I plugged my earbuds back in and dropped my head against my bag. My eyes squeezed shut. “You’ll be fine,” Dorian had promised. A silent laugh vibrated my chest. Yeah right!

What Lies Inside

Free until 30 September 2013

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Genre – YA Paranormal Romance

Rating – PG-13+

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Ben Galley - Writing Tip’s

Tip 1: Write a great book

The future of any author rests on none other than a great book, as it always has.

Of course – ‘great’ means many different things to many different people. Not every bestseller is a work of genius, but they sell because they are popular with masses of readers. They could be popular great because they engage, or challenge, or cross boundaries, or inspire. That is the mark of a great book – not just its literary quality, but what it does to the reader. Great books make people talk, and those are the books that sell and will keep selling.

So how exactly do we write a great book? Well, that’s the hard part. Firstly, through practice. Even the best writers on the planet are still writing and practicing, every day. And when you write, you should always strive for the best quality of writing that you can, and strive to engage the reader. Aim high. Do something different. Have a solid and airtight plot. Create deep and varied characters and worlds. Spend time thinking about what you want your book to do and say.

Tip 2: Get a great cover:

So once you’ve finished your book, it’s time to start polishing it – making it into a professional and sellable product.

The cover is the packaging of your book, and therefore the first point of contact for a reader. Contrary to the old adage, readers will judge books by their cover. They make up their minds about a book’s genre, price, quality, and therefore whether they want to buy it, in the first few seconds. This is why it is important to get not just a good cover, but a great one. You want it to match all the effort you’ve put into its contents.

Cover design is an area where many indie, or self-publishing, authors fall down, mainly due to the fact that good graphic design costs money, and also due to the fact that people assume they can DIY it. Unfortunately, unless you are a professional designer, this simply isn’t true.

I always recommend outsourcing a professional. Anything less simply won’t cut the mustard. In today’s market, indie books need to be indistinguishable from traditional books, both to shrug off any preconceptions and also to rise above the huge volume of poor-quality books now on the market.

Tip 3: Editing it to perfection:

Editing is as important as cover design, and another area that a huge amount of indies get wrong. What’s vital about editing is that it affects your marketing.

Unfortunately, there’s a certain stigma about indie books. A large amount of readers expect them to be full of errors and mistakes, due to the fact they haven’t been through a publishing house. We need to shrug off that stigma. Bad editing can mean bad reviews, scuppering your sales. As with cover design, we should be aiming for a professional standard. You need to do that great book of yours justice.

There are two ways to edit your books – either hire a freelance editor, or DIY. The first is expensive, while the second is difficult, as few authors are professional editors. I would always recommend the first – shelling out for a good editor. Or, like me, if you don’t want to shell out for an editor, you can use beta readers.

Beta reading, or crowd-editing as it is sometimes known, is a way of using multiple semi-pro editors. You ask a number of people (I recommend avid readers, honest fans, English teachers, professionals etc) to proofread and give detailed feedback on your manuscript. You get your book edited to a professional standard, and in return your betas get a sneak peek of your book, a free copy, perhaps even a mention in the dedication – whatever you want to offer!

Tip 4: Market it, and then market it again:

So, you’ve published yourself a great product, now you need to sell it. How? Well, gone are the days (if they even existed!) when simple availability resulted in sales. Due to the sheer volume of books now in the market, a book (even a great book!) that isn’t being marketed will be drowned out and make few, if any, sales. Marketing is a must for today’s indie author.

As we discussed, people spread the word about a good book, and this is the biggest key to marketing – Word of mouth.

A good website is paramount, followed closely by good blurbs, bios, and a professional appearance. Next up is getting readers. Social media is a good place to start. Twitter and Facebook, don’t convert very well into sales but are good for being, you guessed it - social. By following and engaging with people on a social level they will be more likely to read and recommend your books.

Customer reviews are also very important. Readers put a lot of stock in reviews, so having a lot of positive reviews will really help sales. Source as many as you can from the readers you meet on Twitter on Facebook, and also contact book blogs and ask for reviews. Comments from respected and well-known sites will also add a little validity to your book.

Basically, get talking!

Tip 5: Give it time and effort:

Lastly, you need to give it time and effort.

Simply having a book on a shelf will not make you millions overnight. Skill can gain you some success and income, but effort and time is also needed, as we’ve seen above.

Perseverance is needed too, and I urge everyone to keep working and keep trying. It will seem like you’re getting nowhere fast at first. It may seem overwhelming, but marketing is a day by day, reader by reader process. Keep at it, attack from every angle, and trust me, you will have a shot at success.

Good luck out there.

Ben Galley is a young indie author from sunny England. The author of the epic and dark fantasy series – The Emaneska Series, he has published five books so far, and has many more on the way. Ben is very zealous about helping other indie authors, and provides self-publishing advice and services via his website Shelf Help, which can be found at


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Genre –  Epic Fantasy

Rating – PG-13

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Is Your Chair Killing You? by Kent Burden


Sitting for extended periods of time is as bad for your health as smoking cigarettes. And exercising for 30-60 minutes a day isn’t enough to undo the damage from extended periods of sitting. Is Your Chair Killing You reveals shocking new research showing that sitting for long periods greatly increases your risk of developing obesity, heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer. Our bodies were designed to move constantly over the course of the day, but most of us sit for hours a day at work and at home! Fitness and wellness expert and award-winning author Kent Burden has created brief, simple movements you can incorporate into your daily life to combat the damaging effects of sitting. These simple movements, done standing for 1-5 minutes each hour will burn calories, energize and refresh you, and you won’t even break a sweat; you’ll even improve your back pain. This book is a how-to for weight loss and disease prevention. Read this book–you’ll be healthier in as little as 8 minutes a day.

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Genre – Non-Fiction

Rating – G

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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Cleanse Fire by Anastasia V Pergakis


Pars IV

20th day of Solis Moon, 1364

Derac choked. "What?"

"He came to speak with me while I was in the bath." The amber swirls in her eyes glowed bright and betrayed her panic, but her voice was calm.

His eyebrows shot into his hairline. "Did he force himself on you?" He swallowed the bile in his throat.

"No. He stared at me in a way that made me extremely uncomfortable and," she paused and held her lips between her teeth for a moment. "He kissed my neck. He didn't press any further than that, however."

Derac's breath rushed out of his lungs. He leaned back against the sofa and forced his muscles to relax. "What did he say?"

"He told me that he had great power, greater than just being the Mission Commander. He told me I should partner with him."

Derac's eyebrows shot up again. "What did you say to that?"

She spoke in hushed tones, but the words tumbled from her lips. "I told him no. I don't care for power. He said I could have my own power if I did partner with him. Then he told me to think about it. To wait until after the mission. He said that the events of the mission would help me to make up my mind. I have the awful feeling that this mission is going to go terribly wrong, and the Commander is behind it." She paused to her catch her breath. "Centurio, I know it sounds outlandish, but my feelings have never let me down before. We have no proof, but I think at the very least we should exercise caution around the Commander until we do find out the truth."

Derac rested his chin on the tips of his fingers. The elf thought he could barge in on the elfa's bath like he was supposed to be there? He tried to feel shocked at his Commander's possible betrayal and perverted actions, but he failed.

"What should we do?"

"I trust your judgment Kie. And you're right, we don't have proof. But I think I know of a way to get it." He lowered his voice to a whisper. "We tell the Commander our plan is to stay together. During the mission however, we split up. Get one group of faeries out of the cells and have two elite lead them back to the cabin. The other four will get the second group."

"Wait. Wouldn't that make the two vulnerable handling that many faeries on a six hour trip, on foot?"

"Yes. But, even if the faeries are weak, they could offer some help. There are hundreds of them down there according to the report." He winced. "Then again, you may have a point. What if the intel is wrong, yet again?"

"Didn't I see a report about sentry rotations at night?" Her eyes roamed over the table.

"Yes. It's here." He handed her the paper.

Her amber pools scanned the list. "Let's assume this is incorrect. According to this, they cut the guards in half at night. What if they had less? That would mean less to worry about. And, two of us could easily handle a few sentries."

"What do we do if they actually double the guards at night?"

Her lips pressed into a thin line. "Good point."

He pinched the bridge of his nose. "We can't even rely on our intel. Even if it ended that Palto was not involved, we could still be walking into an ambush. How would we know for sure it was his doing or just bad intel?"

She put her hands behind her head and glanced up at the ceiling. "I don't know. I have no skill with strategy."

He snorted. "You read battle strategies for fun."

"Exactly. I'm trying to learn. Doesn't mean I can make up new ones."

"All right. Let's go over all our options again. We can enter through the front or through the secret tunnel. With any of those options, we can stay together, split in half, or split four to two. Is there any other way to get into the mines?"

She shook her head. "I've heard rumors at the very top of the mountain is a shaft that runs all the way down to the lower levels of the mine. But, I don't know for certain and the mountain side is treacherous. We could injure ourselves more just trying to gain entry."

Derac held his head in his hands and tried to predict the outcome of their mission. Kie mirrored his position as her eyes scanned the intel scattered across the table. Her spine jerked and she sat up straight.

"What if we split up into three groups of two? Two to lead the first group out like you said before, two to provide protection, the last two get the second group. Done fast enough, all six of us and all the faeries would leave right after each other, or at least within moments of each other."

"And you say you have no skill with strategy."

She chuckled. "It's still risky though."

"What part of any mission isn't?" He sucked in air and held it a few moments before he exhaled. "Again, I don't like the plan, but it'll work."

They finalized their strategy and detailed every second of their mission. Confidence filled Derac that their idea would work and he ordered Kie to sleep.


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Genre – Fantasy / Military

Rating – PG13

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Author Interview – Jessica Bell

How would you describe your discography until today?

Grunge-pop, atmospheric? To be honest I have no idea. My style varies quite a lot from album to album. Bar the latest album, Melody Hill, which is the soundtrack to my novel, String Bridge, I think my music is in major need of reproduction. If only I had the money, then I could make my music sound how I hear it in my head, rather than what my wallet determines.

You are gaining more readership and recognition with your poetry and fiction. Has this been fuelled by your other writing-related activities?

I believe that all these writing-related activities mean that I need to be online quite a lot. As a result, I’ve become visible, to quite some extent, through social media. And to be honest, I couldn’t live without it. I’m quite isolated being an English writer in a non-English speaking country, and I need to promote my work to the English-speaking world.

The key to social networking, though, is to engage in conversations, interact with your audience. Saying, “buy my book, it’s great” all the time, isn’t going to sell it. But saying “hey, what do you think about blah blah blah?” and actually eliciting opinions from others, means you are saying something that people are interested in. And if they’re interested in what you’re saying online, then it’s likely they are going to investigate you further. It’s a long process, and hard work. But it certainly pays off.

How’s this for statistics? I’ve been blogging and engaging in social media, pretty much every single day, since March 2010. And only this year, three years later, have I started to see true results. It takes effort, persistence, stamina, but most of all love and passion. Because this ‘being visible’, (and let’s say it with a good old cliché, hey?) doesn’t happen overnight.

You founded and are co-editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal. What inspired you to create this new journal? What types of literature do you publish and how do people submit to you?

In late 2011, Dawn Ius and I founded Vine Leaves Literary Journal to offer the vignette, a forgotten literary form, the exposure and credit it deserves. The vignette is a snapshot in words, and differs from flash fiction or a short story in that its aim doesn’t lie within the traditional realms of structure or plot, instead it focuses on one element, mood, character, setting or object. The journal, published quarterly online, is a lush synergy of atmospheric prose, poetry, photography and illustrations, put together with an eye for aesthetics as well as literary merit. The annual print anthology showcases the very best pieces that appeared in the journal.

Submission guidelines are on the website.

You organized a big writing conference in Greece last summer where Chuck Sambuchino from Writers Digest was the instructor. What made you decide to organize this event?

I have long dreamed of running a writer’s retreat on Ithaca. I’ve spent a lot of time on this little Greek island since the age of two, because my step father and his family are from there (my parents also live there now). With the risk of sounding clichéd, (ha!) this place really is a little piece of heaven. It remains unspoiled by the modern world. Even in the height of summer you can find a secluded beach or a rustic corner to contemplate your thoughts. On Ithaca you’ll discover the island’s rich culture and the reason why it holds such a special place in the hearts of those who have visited its shores.

The Homeric Writers’ Retreat & Workshop invites participants to their very own private odyssey on the island of Ithaca—a retreat about riveting one’s writing through an immersive and intimate Homeric journey. Our instructors in 2014 are, Katharine Sands, a literary agent with the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency, and Beatriz Badikian-Gartler, a popular performer in the Chicago area who often lectures on women’s issues, art, and literature. In 2000 Badikian was selected as one of the One-Hundred Women Who Make a Difference in Chicago by Today’s Woman magazine.

To explore more of Ithaca online, please visit:

To learn more about the writing retreat, please visit:

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Genre – Non-Fiction / Writing Skills Reference

Rating – PG

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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Pelican Bay–Jesse Giles Christiansen

Some things are better left alone…
After Ethan Hodges discovers an undersea cemetery just off the beach of Pelican Bay, South Carolina, he seeks answers from a grandfatherly fisherman named Captain Shelby. The captain wants the past to remain buried, and he warns Ethan to stay away. But Ethan doesn't listen.
Ethan's best friend and secret love interest, Morgan Olinsworth, joins in the investigation, unearthing intriguing secrets about the mysterious fisherman. When Captain Shelby is suspected of murder and disappears, a manhunt ensues, revealing a truth that unnerves everyone in Pelican Bay.

Pelican Bay by Jesse Giles Christinsen

Amazon Kindle US

Genre – Mystery, Suspense

Rating – PG13

4.2 (29 reviews)

Free until 29 September 2013

Hindsight by Owen Banner


I laid in bed that night, assuring myself that it would be the easiest money I'd ever made.

There was something about it, though--something cold sliding down into my gut. I had bitten that worm, and the hook was already working its way through me.

I smoothed over that feeling with the thought that I could be giving Haley a shot at the life she deserved--Winnie too. That's all I needed. I'd pay any price for that. Somehow that thought helped me get to sleep.

Around nine thirty-five, I began to drag myself out of unconsciousness like I was coming out of a coma. Slamming my hand down on my alarm, I stumbled through the living room to the red leather briefcase. An hour and a half later, I was in Philly, turning down a little side road called South Juniper Street. I had the brown paper package and a clipboard tucked under my arm.

About twenty-five steps from the corner was a small shop with a green awning and a candle lantern beside the entrance. The print on the window read McAfee’s Clockworks and Antiques. The curved brass handle on the door was cold. It was the kind of cold that hits your chest like a gong, then vibrates through the rest of you. The bell tinkled over my head as I pushed through the door and a small old man walked out from the back room. Wiping his hands with a dirty towel, he hobbled out from behind the counter.

"Can I help you, lad? Don't be afraid, there isn't anything an old goat like me can do ta hurt ya."

"I've got a package for Mr. Lyndon McAfee."

"Well, that would be me, wouldn't it?" He said with a smile. The man's face was tough, despite his age. He wasn't hobbling because he was old, he must have had some injury back in the day. I handed him the clipboard with the delivery sheet that Isaac had given me.

"This is quite unexpected," his voice had the same syrupy thickness of Isaac's. "There you go." He handed me back the board as I placed the package in his other hand.

"You have a nice day," I said and started to go.

"Can I get you anything before you go? Cup o' tea? A sandwich or something other?"

I turned back and forced a smile. "No thanks, sir. I'd really better be getting back to work," I said holding up my clipboard and giving it a shake.

"Very well, you have a good day."

"You too," I said as the bell tinkled overhead again. The door shut behind me. I rounded the corner feeling the sunlight on my face and crossed the street between the cars. When I stepped onto the sidewalk, I was already thinking about that money and just caught myself before I knocked a latte out of the hand of a blonde-haired businesswoman wearing a little too much perfume. Dodging her, I almost ran smack into a young guy with a black windbreaker and a camera. He stepped aside, and I caught his eye as he went past. I had time to notice he had short, dark hair, olive skin--Middle Eastern. A small scar cut down at the edge of his hairline. His eyes locked onto mine. That's when it hit.


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Genre –  Thriller

Rating – R

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Jack Canon’s American Destiny - Greg Sandora


We had a team of agricultural scientists that said it’s possible with our land and climate. Big Oil and greedy politicians had blocked the United States from doing it for years.

Our job was to convince the American People.

People are deathly afraid of change. Ideas have a life cycle. Early adopters jump on the bandwagon right away, eager to try the latest thing. Next, you have the show me types; they’re a little afraid to try anything new. They’re worried when they go to the pump there’ll be no gas. Third, there are the late adopters. After most people are convinced, then they’ll buy in. Last, you have the - that’ll never happen types. They’re quick to say it will never work. They wait until an idea is in common practice, then they go around telling everybody they thought of it years ago.

Bud liked to educate prospective big dollar supporters, “The first cars ran on bio fuel; back in 1880, cars were made to run on peanut oil. Hell, Henry Ford made the 1908 Model T to run on Corn Ethanol; he even had his own plant to produce it. This is nothing new, fellas. It’s been around for years! It’s easier than makin’ moonshine!”

Well what’s old is new again. Bio Energy had been hard to get across to the voters. Folks didn’t seem to get how it would create jobs. For this election, our message was honed to American Energy Works; we would link it with a new slogan - We Can.

Bio Energy sounds like something you flush.

I know people want a president, not a chemist. Focus group testing showed anything we tried sounds better after the words 'We Can'. I’d say the sexy stuff and leave the science to the talking heads.

America had done so well with corn technology, farmers had tripled the bushel yield per acre a decade ago. If American ingenuity could send a man to the moon, we could do the same for our homegrown fuel.

We’d all heard stories of guys working in their garages, who chanced upon a breakthrough technology, only to have it bought out by some oil company. Or worse - tales the inventor were quieted by the government in some conspiracy. That’s all science fiction.

We were holding a workable plan, the key feature being the planting of Jatropha, a hardy grass-like plant that grew in almost any soil. We would convince farmers to grow it and chemists would turn it into Bio Fuel. I preferred Jatropha to other feedstocks like soybeans because it couldn’t double as food.

I figured, why give people a reason to debate? Our experts laid the country out in a grid showing, by planting, just the available farmland of Kentucky; we could accomplish nearly half our national goal. Imagine what we could grow if we spread it around to all fifty states. The message had resonated so well in my home state, I’d won a third term.

Bud was telling donors, ‘It just makes good old-fashioned common sense!’

H. Bud Singer was in charge of the campaign and, in addition to fundraising, he was chiefly responsible for reshaping the message. I needed Bud because he could do and say things other men couldn’t or wouldn’t. Besides Bud, three other rising stars rounded out our core team, each in charge of a segment of the campaign.

Once we announced, we expected a flood of volunteers in addition to more paid staff. Our offices would be buzzing with enthusiasm and the aspirations of youth seeking a place to make their mark in the world. I had an uncanny knack for turning talented people into true believers.

Bud and I spent hours going over speech notes. Ideas didn’t come cheap; especially the kind that could lift us out of recession and pay our debt to China without going to war. We always ended believing the surest way to National Security and prosperity for America was to produce lots of cheap energy. Top economists calculated, for every one percent of energy produced on our soil, we would lower the import cost of oil by 3% and create a quarter million jobs. Our goal is to produce twenty percent of the energy we use and cause the price of world crude to plummet.

What’s scaring the Saudis is they knew it was possible; even their own scientists were telling them so. At least all the data we are continually sharing with them brought them to this conclusion. We have them so worried, the whole Middle East would be planted if they could grow anything in the desert. America has millions of acres of available farmland, a willing workforce, and people who can’t pay their oil bills nearly freezing to death in the Northeast. If ever there was a time for a message to resonate, this was it.

I met Bud Singer at Brown where I majored in economics. Bud was a Political Science undergrad, eventually getting a degree in law. He loved the strategy of politics and started working on congressional campaigns right out of law school. Later he headed a prestigious lobbying group, leaving it only to help me win the election to the senate. Bud was stocky and bald and stubborn, continuing to chain smoke even after having a couple of heart attacks.

Bud would say to big money donors – ‘We’ll have cheap energy like we had back in the 50’s and 60’s, so cheap the multi nationals fall all over themselves to bring production back to America.’ Privately he had a more ingenious plan. ‘We’ve got to make it economical to manufacture here again. Once we lure the Corporations back and get them hooked, we force them through taxes to keep the money and jobs here. Bud was right: politicians had made a crucial error rewarding American Corporations for sending jobs overseas, searching for cheap labor and short-term profits.’

Bud and I agreed that the richest Americans didn’t care where they made the money; they had quadrupled their wealth over the longest recession in history. Once we change the Energy Dynamic, the big players will all rush in for a piece of the action.

A trillion dollars worth of wealth would pour back into this country. We would appeal to their massive egos and call them patriotic - after all, they live here, anyway.

This time was nothing like our first presidential campaign, when our offices were housed makeshift in an old mattress store. One thing the first loss brought me was better positioning in the senate. In the most striking example of ‘it’s not what you know but who you know,’ greater name recognition had secured me a coveted position with the Armed Services Committee.

Our new headquarters were courtesy of our friends at TenStar, a Major Defense Contractor who wanted to get to know me better. They “rented” us the space, renovated to suit, and agreed to accept delayed payment over ten years.

Bud liked the idea, ‘That’s making the paper walk backwards, Jack!’

In addition to providing office space, TenStar would make the campaign an unsecured loan of five million dollars and provide the use of a corporate jet. Privately, the agreement was more complicated, involving several components. Provided Bud would sit on their Board and appear at Corporate Events, the lease debt would be considered settled. The caveat attached to the five million was after I left office I would speak at their annual meetings. Open-ended access was an assumed, but unspoken, part of the deal.

All in all, we considered that fair for us at this juncture, as we get closer, the arrangements will get better.

Sandy called on the speakerphone, “Brenner’s on the line. Can you take it, Jack?”

“Sure, Honey.”

Joe Brenner, CEO of TenStar, personally arranged for the space. TenStar made major weapons systems including a prototype fighter - code name, Phantom, that could enter Earth’s Orbit and fire weapons from space. Sort of an X-35 meets the space shuttle. The problem was, Brenner and his counterparts were the guys who lobbied Congress to shut down the U.S. Shuttle Program.

I picked up the phone, “How the hell are you, Joe,” mirroring his usual style and tone.

Joe fired back, “I’m well, Jack, just calling to see how you boys are settling in.”

“We’re doing fine.”

“How’s the donor money flowing in?”

“Don’t worry, Joe, you got us cheap.”

He chuckled, “We’ll see, Jack. You’ve still got to do well in New Hampshire and you’re not that well-known in the Northeast.”

“Thanks for the heads up, you son of a bitch! If Bud ever decides to leave politics, I’ll know who to call.”

Joe laughed, “I don’t think I’m ready for that. I’ve got all I can handle right here, but Jack, you let me know if you need anything.”

“Thanks, Joe, we’ll have a drink together in the White House, and seriously, I appreciate your support. We’ll talk soon.”

I could count on that, since the Phantom’s projected price tag was estimated at eleven billion per copy.

“Hey, Jack, I heard you were headed out of the country. Anyone I know?”

Joe was always snooping.

I laughed, “If I told you I’d have to kill you, so you’re better off.”

Joe’s laugh sounded forced. We said goodbye.

Sandy tilted her head in, blonde hair hanging down to the doorknob.

Still smiling, I thought she mistook my grin for a reaction to the plunging sweater blouse she was wearing.

Girlishly, “Senior Staff is ready when you are, Jack.”

I figured I’d just go with it to make up for semi-ignoring her before.

“Hey step in here a second.”

“Why, Jack, you need something,” flirting.

“I didn’t get the chance to tell you before; you look fantastic! Is that a new outfit?”

Sounding like a spoiled twenty, “Yes, do you suddenly like it? I didn’t think you noticed me, running through the building to look at your stupid car.”

“Well, I’m noticing now. You look gorgeous. Wow, Honey!”

“Well, better late than never, I guess…Thanks, Jack.”

Her look and the way she practically bounced out of the room told me she was happier.

I was sitting at my desk when Bud arrived, taking his usual seat on one of the sofas.

My office was shaped like an L. Our gathering area consisted of two black leather couches, a couple of wing back chairs, and my desk, all in a tight-knit square.

Bud asked, “How’s everything going today?”

Looking over my reading glasses, “Good, have you finalized the distribution points for the large donations?”

Bud answered, “Everything is set to go. The pump is primed, all we need is the cash.”

“You’re the wizard, Bud, great work.”

Bud had been working for months setting up Super Pac’s that would be controlled by us. The Committees could spend as they wished and collect vast contributions without burdensome regulations. Advertising on television is expensive, even on the local level. Regardless of cost, it’s critical to catch voters in that semiconscious state.

TV helps instill a positive and familiar ‘I know that guy’ kinda feeling. I don’t believe an election could be won without it. To be ingrained, our message has to be playing over and over. I still remember ads I haven’t seen since I was a kid.

The bottom line is - in order for us to make the financial commitments necessary to influence the election we have to set up these channels. I was confident Bud would handle our finances in a way that would still allow us to accept Federal Matching Funds. The people he placed in charge of the Super Pacs would be handsomely rewarded with opportunities, either in the White House, or with corporations that supported us. The system’s crazy; we had no choice but to work the gray areas if we want to win.

Next into the office was Robert “Tip” Thornton, after him, my best buddy, Bill Mitchell, and finally Lisa Pennington. The hit squad, we liked to call it.

This group, along with Sandy, was our inner circle.

We had an understanding of total candor - no subject was off-limits. We liked thinking out loud, knowing everything would stay with us. Secondary staff was on a need to know basis.

Bill was first to speak, holding up his thumb and fore finger an inch apart, “I’m this close to finalizing the trip to see the Saudis.”

We were priming the Crown Prince to be a keystone contributor. We would need a quarter billion to win this thing and we were banking on him to give us a big piece of that.

I said to the group, “If I can get twenty from them, we could get some of the others to pony up. Everybody likes to follow the big dog.”

Bill said, "They’re going to want some heavy assurances that you’ll stall the home still, Jack. Are you prepared to lie to these guys?”

“The truth would be really quaint right now, Bill. Listen, they’ve been selling us high-priced tar for years, sucking the life out of our economy. I don’t care what I have to say at this point! If we’re gonna do this thing and bring America back, we’ve got to hold our noses and do it. If any of you have a problem with this, try focusing on the ordinary Americans who are suffering. We need to tip the scales back in their favor!”

Bud added, “If any of you think there’s any other way to win, speak up now, because it’s now or never. Once we go over there, we’re in it up to our eyeballs!”

Lisa piped back, “I agree with Jack, I’m sick of seeing Americans losing their homes! This is our chance to finally have the power to do something about it.”

“Power isn’t given, it must be seized,” I asserted, “We’ve got to pull the rug out from under these guys, before they catch a whiff of what’s coming.”

Tip was a man of few words and had one quirk: he refused to ever repeat himself. When he spoke, we all piped down for fear of missing even a single word. It was always interesting. An ex-Navy Seal, he was in charge of security for the campaign. I trusted him with my life. Decorated for Valor in Iraq, he was recruited with a sub-agency of the NSA. Tip and company had been dropped into hotspots all over Afghanistan to hunt for snipers. The agency believes ‘it takes one to hunt one’ and chose candidates based on natural ability, recruiting secretly out of the military. His group eliminated targets considered security threats to the United States. Nicknamed King Cobra, Tip commanded an elite squad outfitted with sophisticated survival gear, capable of encampment behind enemy lines for days at a time. Tip saved lives by surgically removing the enemy’s instruments of death. The existence of the team was never made public.

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Genre – Political Thriller

Rating – PG

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Friday, September 27, 2013

Excerpt: Bad Traffick by DV Berkom

Chapter Four

Yuri dreaded the imminent meeting with his boss. Beads of sweat lined his face as he huffed his way up the six flights of stairs. He viewed elevators as death traps and refused to put himself in a compromising position. Besides, no one ever took the stairs. He could come and go like a ghost.

He reached the last step, pushed open the metal fire door and stepped into the plush hallway. Expensive artwork lined the walls. A large mirror and Louis XIV side table stood at the end of the corridor. Yuri retrieved a handkerchief from his pants pocket and wiped his forehead as he made his way along the hall, careful to avoid the bruise by his right eye. He paused at the door, unsure of his reception. With a deep sigh, he pressed the buzzer.

"It's Yuri," he announced into the speaker next to the door.

The mechanism clicked and the door opened. His footsteps fell silently on the deep carpet as he walked into the suite of offices.

"Yuri. Great to see you. Come in, come in." The voice called to him from the interior of a large conference room. Yuri stuck his head inside. His boss, Greg, sat at the head of the long table, his smile fading when he saw his employee. "What the fuck happened to your face?"

"Nothing. Walked into a door. What you got there?"

Greg turned the computer tablet so Yuri could see the digital photo.

"Meet Amy—our latest acquisition."

"Very nice. She looks familiar. A little young. What is she, ten?"

"Nine, actually. Her sister works for us. You remember Selena? She was one of yours, I believe. We snapped this little hottie up as soon as we knew she was available."

Available. Interesting way to justify drugging and kidnapping the girl and forcing her to work. To Yuri, it didn't matter. He knew the way things were, and took the money his boss offered as a finder's fee. He still wasn't sure how to tell him about what happened at the hotel.

"Something wrong?" Greg asked. His light brown hair had been gelled to spike every which way—a hairstyle Yuri loathed. It made him look like some pretty boy reality show host. Still, he couldn't argue with the man's entrepreneurial abilities. Greg Kirchner had taken a fledgling career as a small time street hustler and parlayed himself into a global player on the astonishingly lucrative human trafficking market.

Yuri cleared his throat. Fuck it. "You know I have always been up front with you, right?"

Greg nodded, wariness crossing his features. Yuri pinched himself in the leg to give him some balls.

"We lost Mara." There. He'd said it. He watched Greg's expression, unsure how he was going to take this news. Not well, if Yuri was a betting man. The buyer was a big fish. Huge.

Greg's look morphed from shock to panic to anger in a matter of seconds. He was on his feet and across the room before Yuri knew what was happening. There was no time to protect himself as Greg's arm came down behind his head and smashed his face into the table.

"You. What?" The words exited his mouth like the crack of a rifle.

Blood trickled down Yuri's face from his broken nose, making it hard to talk. When he didn't answer, Greg let up on the pressure and Yuri slowly raised his head, leaning back to stem the flow of blood.

"We were bringing her to Mr. X's suite at the Palms when this asshole actor and his entourage entered the lobby." Yuri sneered when he said the word. Stupid actors in Hollywood couldn't take a shit without their entourage.

"And?" Greg prompted, his jaw clenched so hard Yuri swore he heard the man's teeth crack.

"She slipped free and ran toward the guy, screaming his name. We started after her, but one of the actor's guys covered him, like we were going for him, not the girl. The other guy gave me this." He pointed to his black eye. "We couldn't use the guns, would have drawn too much attention. In the confusion, she got away." Yuri's tone was earnest. "We tried, boss. I followed her, but lost her in the crowd. "

Greg took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He cracked his neck first to one side, then the other. Opening his eyes, he stared directly at Yuri. Yuri wasn't fooled by his sudden calm. Vicious eruptions were frequent with his younger boss. He didn't dare wipe the blood from his face, afraid anything he did would incite the savagery that roiled just below the surface.

"You're going to find her, Yuri. I'm holding you responsible."

"Where do you want me to start?" Yuri knew better than to argue.

"How the fuck do I know? She's twelve, for chrissakes. She's in a strange city and doesn't have any family back in Nevada she can call. I know for a fact she doesn't trust cops, thanks to her last foster family. Put yourself in her shoes. Starting near the hotel is probably a safe bet."

"L.A. is big city. She could be anywhere."

Greg narrowed his eyes and grabbed Yuri by the throat.

"If she's not back in forty-eight hours, dickhead, consider yourself and anyone you love dead."

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Genre – Romantic Suspense

Rating – PG13

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How To Find Your Vital Vocation by Brian Cormack Carr


What you love is what you are gifted at, and there are no exceptions.
~ Barbara Sher

This chapter is action-orientated and is all about finding the key that unlocks your Vital Vocation. It’s where we go in search of your gifts and talents in the sure knowledge that these lie at the root of your ideal work. If you already think you know what they are, great; now’s your chance to verify that. If you don’t, the exercises in this chapter will really help you to unearth them.

Discovering What Makes You Tick

The simplest way to get a hint of where your talents lie is to pay attention to anything that you are attracted to and in particular, anything that you really love.

Even if you don’t have an obvious talent in that area, you can be sure that your love for a thing points you towards a talent of some sort. Perhaps it will be something as simple as the fact that you have a heightened appreciation of the subject in question. Yes, that is a real talent. An expert wine-taster doesn’t need to be able to make wine, but he or she needs to fully appreciate good wine in order to do the job well. A history teacher may never make history, but he or she needs to love learning about it in order to teach it effectively. So it is with you. If you love something, you see it in a particular way: a way that’s utterly unique and therefore very valuable to you, and to others.

In order to cast the net as wide as possible, I’m going to ask you to explore several areas which will provide you with clues as to what you should be doing with your life. In the exercises that follow we’ll be searching for this treasure in:

- Your memories

- Your future plans

- Your imagination

- Other people’s perceptions of you

- Your unconscious mind

Each area is explored in a separate exercise and I’ll give examples from my own life so that you can see how it’s done.

It’s worth giving yourself sufficient time to do each exercise without having to rush through it. By going searching for what you love in each of these areas (the last two are optional) you’ll be able to gather enough information to spot any pattern in the things that are capable of satisfying and stimulating you. Once you can see a pattern like that, you can begin to build a life and career around it.

Ready? Enjoy this. We’re about to do no less than discover your purpose in life!

EXERCISE 3: Journeying into the Past

For this exercise, you’re going to cast your mind back to things you’ve loved doing in your past.

Step 1

Wherever you are just now in your life, think back to several earlier periods, for example:

- Childhood

- Your teenage years

- Young adulthood

- Adulthood

- Middle age

Write each of the periods you’ve chosen as a heading on a separate page and make a list of all the things you really loved to do when you were that age. List as many as you can recall and be as specific as possible.

However – and this is important – only write down the things you particularly loved. Choose things that would rate a 7 or above if you were to rate them on a “lovability scale” of 1 to 10 (with 10 being highest).


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Genre –  NonFiction / Careers

Rating – G

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Hunters and the Queen: Element Series (Young Adult Fantasy Romance) @VirginiaVayna

The Hunters and the Queen – Virginia Vayna

Amazon Kindle US

Amazon Kindle UK

Genre – Fantasy, Paranormal, Mythology

Rating – PG

3.8 (4 reviews)

The Hunters and the Queen is a work of fiction in the young adult, fantasy and paranormal romance genres. The story blends elements of romance, darkness, history, fantasy, and reincarnation. The second book in the series, The Gypsy Hunter, has a release date during fall 2013. I hope you enjoy the story. Please come back for more of the journey.~
The main character, Jolán Vajnbirg, is developing into another being. She has a calling from the sky world. A battle is on the horizon.
While working on her studies at the Churchill Military Academy in Kinsburgh, England, Jolán Vajnbirg’s final year at the academy develops into a year of competition, aristocratic love, reincarnation, and a calling from the sky world to help save earth from the death and destruction caused by the Order of the Hunters.
Jolán Vajnbirg is an often reserved, yet occasionally outspoken young woman living in Kinsburgh, England. She has a relatively easy life living in her quiet England town. She has a full-ride swimming scholarship to the Churchill Military Academy. She has a strong mind, she has an athletic body, and she has a loving family and caring friends.
As Jolán embarks upon her final year at the Academy, her life takes an unexpected turn. She has a quaint encounter with Colemund, the Prince of Gallia Belgica, and the two are literally a universal match created centuries ago. As Jolán begins the last year of her studies, she experiences many changes. She is unaware her future love will develop in to a star-crossed romance.
The sky world is steadily preparing Jolán for her future fate. She will need her friends to help her battle the Order of the Hunters. The hunters have upset the universal balance of earth, and the hunters have upset the sky world.
Jolán will learn about her past, she will learn about reincarnation, and she will understand her responsibilities in the realm. Her relationship with Colemund is no ordinary college love.
An Excerpt from The Hunters and the Queen:
The Phoenix
Hadrian immediately placed an angry phone call to Akuji, but this time she answered her phone. Hadrian sharply inquired, ‘Where are you, Akuji? We have a major problem in development.’ Akuji nonchalantly replied, ‘I just transformed a farmer into a hunter, and I’m explaining the rules.’ Hadrian didn’t care about what Akuji was currently doing at the moment; he violently said, ‘Return to Komi. Do not waste time, do not waste resources, but return on the next flight out of England.’ Akuji said, ‘I still have to finish one more assignment. I need to find and follow this girl named Jolán.’ The mere sound of such a name caused Hadrian’s stomach to turn, and his unnerving sensation returned. Hadrian dryly inquired, ‘Who is Jolán?’ As soon as Hadrian spoke Jolán’s name, he felt his insides turn and his stomach ache. Hadrian felt weak. Akuji said, ‘She is some assignment I have to figure out, but I’m not having any success.’ Hadrian gathered as much strength as he could for the moment, and he said to Akuji, ‘Get on the next flight back to Russia. We have heavy issues of concern we need to assess for action.’ At that moment, Akuji heard several voices come through her phone; but she was unsure what happened or where the voices were located. She asked Hadrian, ‘Are you ok?’ All Akuji could hear was the sound of a thousand whispers. Hadrian kept saying, ‘Akuji, are you there? Answer me.’ Hadrian received no response from Akuji. Hadrian finally hung up the phone, but Akuji still heard the voices. She was caught in a trance for several minutes until she received a piercing headache. Akuji quickly left some items behind for the farmer to study, and she walked towards her car. She hustled to the seat of her car. She was en route to the airport; and she was headed back to Komi. Akuji felt something had changed. She felt a sense of urgency.

Sweet Karoline by Catherine Astolfo

Chapter 1

I met Ethan on the day that I killed Karoline.

Other than a few minor adjustments, I believe that I have handled her murder exceedingly well.

The state of my car, for instance, has become something of a nuisance. Bits of tissue, used napkins, paper cups and pop cans litter the floor at my feet or fly out the window as I drive along. I am invariably subjected to a barrage of honking whenever I reach a red light.

People these days have no patience. They ought to understand that I am busy examining the stray bits in my car. Some of them are works of art. I don't notice the change to green because they are so infinitely interesting.

This study of creative possibilities has become somewhat of an obsession. In the back of my mind I know that all I have to do is clean it up. Yet the thought of actually tackling the onslaught of debris leaves me inert and helpless.

Ethan offered recently to take me to the car wash. He'd help me dump the debris and vacuum the inside, but I have seriously considered the idea that I may be destroying a future Picasso. I have thus far refused his proposition. Not that I have shared my vision of a Picasso with him, of course. I just say that I never have time.

I have acquired a habit of going shopping. I make lists of things in my mind—groceries, toiletries, cosmetics, medicines, vitamins or clothing—that seem absolutely essential to the arrival of tomorrow. But once inside the pharmacy, the clothing store or the shopping center, the bright lights mesmerize me. My eyes blur and I can't for the life of me remember what I have come for.

When I do buy something, I am left vaguely dissatisfied, certain that I could have gotten a better bargain somewhere else had I only looked a little longer. Depressed because I had to use my credit card again and this purchase will become just one more thing to do. Write the check. Buy the stamp. Walk to the post box. Mail the envelope.

The little, unfinished things do sometimes bother me. Dirty laundry is piled up in the closet. The bed is always unmade. In the bathroom, the ceiling is slowly cracking from some unspecified leak that I have failed to report to the superintendent. The drapes in the living room neither open nor close anymore.

At first I tended to watch television all night long, despite the fact that the next day I was a zombie. After I decided to go on an extended sick leave, it didn't matter. I started to sleep all night and all day, never moving unless forced to by some phone call, knock at the door or the call of nature.

I spend hours at the sink. For some reason, the suds and the water are calming. So far I have washed every dish, bowl, and ornament in the apartment two or three times. I reenact advertisements for the latest dishwashing liquid, showing off my lovely long fingers and hands to, well, myself. I speak in a sing-song voice to the imaginary audience, telling them how kind the dishwashing liquid has been to my hands over the years, encouraging them to run right out and buy this product before it disappears from the shelf.

After I've allowed the water to swirl down the drain, I shift to spending hours in front of the little mirror that hangs in my kitchen. People tell me that I am a very beautiful woman. On good days, when I feel haughty and happy, I can gaze into the polished glass and agree with their assessment. On other days, I notice the nose that's a little too upturned. The lips that protrude a bit too much. The dark birthmark above my left eyebrow. The ears that don't lie flat against my head. I have no idea why I am considered flawless, for I have many perceptible flaws, both inside and out.

My father is white and my mother is black with some Native American thrown into her background. My parents have always bragged that I inherited all the great physical features of those races. Their perspective is far less critical than mine. They focus on all the positives. Naturally wavy hair. Large brown eyes with long curling lashes. High, full cheekbones. A small, pert nose. Lips just thick enough to be called luscious.

I am one of those fortunate people who can eat all day and not gain an ounce. Thus I am described as tall and lean as opposed to thin. I have full breasts and a narrow waist. I am a fast runner and good at any sport I attempt. In Hollywood, I am considered full figured.

My skin is a light brown, the color of coffee with cream I guess you would say, that makes me look as though I've just stepped out of a tanning bed. Heads literally turn to stare at me in the street, from across a room, or on the subway. Male and female. To me, it's a constant source of surprise, chagrin and exasperation.

Lots of people, especially women, have jealously told me that I should be grateful for my looks. But I hate being identified as beautiful. Men tend to stare only at my chest when they talk to me. Or they show me off like some trophy and do not bother to ask my opinion on anything. I have been approached in bars and stores alike. Even in this land of plastic enhanced faces, I literally cannot go anywhere without being stared at or even followed. Most people, in fact, are convinced I am a movie star or model. These are not careers I've ever wanted.

I have often been stalked, thus the three sets of locks on our door. Our telephone number is always unlisted and has to be changed once some obsessed man discovers it. When you are lovely on the outside, it's always difficult to entice people to look for the true person underneath. I'm learning through Ethan that it's exactly the same for truly ugly people.


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Genre –  Psychological Suspense

Rating – 18+

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Above and Beyond: A Novel of the Civil War by Jessica James

Chapter 1

Looks like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under it.

—Shakespeare, MacBeth (Act I, Scene V)

June 1862

Major Douglas Benton rode in front of his men, his straight, broad back giving no indication of the hard-fought battles through which he had recently passed. To anyone watching, he appeared the epitome of rugged masculinity and imposing power, yet beneath the stalwart exterior of muscle and strength rode a man with straying thoughts.

With the fighting well over and the enemy long gone, Benton’s wandering mind had turned to more peaceful pursuits. He was daydreaming—mostly about things like shade and a cool draught of water but also of kindly succor at the hands of a beautiful maiden. It was a dream that had little chance of becoming reality, dusty and dirty and disheveled as he was. But it was his to dream nonetheless as he and his horse, with his staff and troop behind him, plodded wearily down an overgrown bridle path.

Two days and nights in the saddle is enough to dull most men’s thoughts of women, but Major Benton found that fatigue did little to diminish his appreciation for the opposite sex. Recently entrusted with his own command, Benton’s orders had kept him engaged in tracking and harassing the enemy for the past few weeks, which had resulted in an unusually long isolation from feminine society. So hot as it was and as parched as he was, Benton still dreamed of warm smiles and womanly charms, deciding he would gladly forego the water and shade if only for a few minutes diversion with a female face and form.


“Yes, Lieutenant, what is it?” Benton’s voice betrayed his annoyance when the young officer interrupted his daydream. He knew only the name and rank of some of those he now commanded—and not even that for others.

“Sir, I don’t think…”

“There’s a house up ahead, Major,” another one of his men interrupted.

“Yes, finally.” Benton’s weary gaze fell upon a well-tended home sitting amidst a clump of old oaks. Aha, the trees prove evidence of bountiful shade, and the stone well in the yard testifies to the existence of water. Now all that is needed

The lieutenant interrupted again just as Major Benton began turning his horse off the path to the wagon track toward the house. ““Sir…as I was saying…”

“It will have to wait, Lieutenant.” Benton stuck spurs to his horse to ride in advance of his men. He’d already noticed the place itself was a thing of singular beauty, offering the added advantage of remoteness and isolation. He had only another quarter mile to dream about who might inhabit it.

* * *

The yard smelled of roses and appeared carpeted with velvety grass. The sun fairly gleamed from the broad, white bosom of the majestic ivy-covered house, making it appear almost celestial in nature. As he drew close, the slight hint of a breeze caressed Benton’s brow; he felt like he was part of a dream.

As Benton tugged on the reins to slow his anxious horse, his gaze fell upon a womanly form sitting on a garden bench with her head bent intently over a book. He pulled his horse to a halt and took in the scene, then reached down to open the latch of the gate. It was then that she stood and turned her face toward him, and it was then that Benton’s movements were for a moment arrested. Even a dream could not equal the perfection of beauty that stood before him. Astonished, Benton moved his horse forward and removed his hat, bowing low over his saddle. “Pardon the intrusion, miss. My men are tired and thirsty and would be much obliged for a place to rest.”

Benton was close enough now to see two blue eyes regarding him unemotionally from above the high collar of a drab, black mourning dress. Although he thought he had caught a glimmer of welcome at first glance, he could not help notice now the straight, authoritarian bearing of her stance, a trait he tended to find disagreeable in women. His gaze drifted down to the book she held in one hand, and its scuffed and tattered cover. As black as her dress, it reflected hard usage, but he could still read the title in barely recognizable gold letters: Holy Bible.

“Conscience compels me to decline the honor.” She spoke softly yet firmly, never removing her eyes from him as she slowly let the Bible drop to the bench behind her.

“We wish you no ill, miss.” Benton leaned on the pommel with negligent grace, confident of his effect on women. “Surely you are aware there is no refreshment more delicious than that afforded by shade.” He nodded toward the large canopy of trees to his right as he spoke, yet it took no intimate knowledge of his character or familiarity with his dream to know that shade was not necessarily the refreshment he was seeking.

The young woman’s eyes swept across his uniform, then over his shoulder to the approaching horsemen. The suspicion in them turned to intolerance. “I have offered you no invitation, sir,” she said in a cold voice.

Benton laughed as much from amusement as from surprise at her tone and examined her in such a way as to surely make her feel he knew her better than he possibly could. He continued to sit erect and poised, full of manly strength and confidence. “I see you are in mourning, and offer my condolences for your loss. But you are mistaken if you think we mean you harm.” He loosened his reins, making preparations to dismount.

“I have made no mistake.” The woman’s voice turned clearly hostile as she lifted an ancient shotgun from the folds of her skirt. In another instant, the gun was locked expertly between her side and elbow and was pointed straight at his chest. “But if one of your boots dares touch this soil, you may claim the responsibility for making one.”

“But I am Major Douglas Benton—” He stopped short when he saw the look that radiated from her eyes.

“Yes, I gathered that.” Her gaze remained locked on his. “I am no stranger to your character and reputation.”

The words were said in such a tone that it was clear she believed his character and reputation were not features to be proud of. Benton looked at her incredulously. In her expression, he could behold no friendliness or affection, yet the voice was distinctly Southern, gentle and drawling.

“Surely you do not mean to deny water to the soldiers defending you.”

She spoke unemotionally, not deigning to lower the gun. “I can deny water to those who are trespassing on my property.”

Benton looked down at her now with blank astonishment and then back toward his men still some twenty yards away. He saw out of the corner of his eye that she shifted her gaze to the east with a look of grave concern, but by the time he turned back around, her full attention was once again upon him.

“Come, my dear, where is your loyalty to Virginia?” Benton knew his tone revealed his agitation and made an attempt to sound less surly.

“I am loyal to the only authority I recognize,” she snapped, loud enough now for his approaching men to hear.

Benton let his breath escape him in a loud sigh of exasperation as he thought of the many battles he had fought to achieve his renowned reputation as a fighter. Yet not quite knowing what to do or say, he stared at the foe before him. “You intend to deny shade and water to these men?” He purposely asked the question in such a way as to indicate he did not think he had heard her correctly the first time, and wanted to give her another chance.

Her reply was simple. “I intend to defend my property. If you do not wish me to bestow the contents of this gun upon you, I suggest you urge your men to move on.”

In the heat of the moment, Benton completely forgot his dream. “And I urge you, miss, to put down that gun!”

Although he possessed a voice of easy command, Benton knew he was in a situation in which he was losing control. Indeed, if eyes possessed the power to kill, he knew he would be departing the earth for good, because her gaze, like the two barrels of her shotgun, remained locked on his heart.

“You may have the power to make that request, Major Benton—but most assuredly not the authority.”

“Madam, I did not request you. I ordered you!”

Benton looked from the gun to her face and saw no sign of fear or compromise. Then his agitation became obvious. His face kindled with the fire that was wont to burn there when on the battlefield. “I beg your pardon, young lady, for seeing the necessity of giving advice,” he said from between tightly clenched teeth, “but as we are men worthy of respect, I must insist that you drop that weapon.”

The woman remained unflappable. “As you have kindly begged my pardon for giving me this advice, I must beg yours for not taking it. To be frank, sir, you ought to have more prudence about where you request hospitality.”

Benton sat back on his horse as if having suffered a physical blow. Staring at his opponent with a look of intense annoyance, he dropped the focus of his gaze to the muzzle of the gun, which he noticed had begun to lower ever so slightly. Lifting his eyes to hers, he saw they had softened considerably as she followed the approach of a horse and rider behind him.

“Major, this isn’t a place you want to stop.” The soldier urged his mount forward and then drew rein beside Benton. “It’s the home of a traitor.”

The woman’s cheek twitched slightly at the words, like the spontaneous quiver of a horse’s hide when touched by a fly.

“You are acquainted?” Benton scrutinized the same lieutenant who had attempted to stop him earlier from turning down the lane.

“Sir, I have the unfortunate duty to report that this is my sister. Well, that is… was my sister.”

“I am still your sister, Jake,” the woman said softly, all the callousness gone from her voice. “The war cannot change that.”

The lieutenant did not answer her, just turned his head and spit into the dust as if that was a sufficient response. Then he addressed Benton again. “As I tried to tell you earlier, sir, there is a loyal family only another mile down the pike.”

Benton looked from one to the other for a moment and then decided to take his lieutenant’s advice. For a moment, he considered warning the woman about her unpopular stance in the region and the possible danger to her welfare, but one more look into those fearless, ice blue eyes changed his mind on the necessity. “Lead the way, Lieutenant.”

Riding at a swift pace, it did not take long for the band of warriors to put the house called Waverly behind them. As they trotted up a small rise, a scout came galloping out of the tree line and pulled his horse to a sliding stop in front of Benton. “Found this in the old tree, sir.”

Benton opened the communication and scanned the missive quickly. Turning his horse back toward the east, he scanned the landscape a moment and looked over at his next in command. “You see anything suspicious out there, Captain Connelly?”

Connelly squinted against the late-afternoon sun and then pulled a spyglass from his saddle. “Yea, looks like something’s kickin’ up some dust down there.” He handed the spyglass to Benton. “Might even be heading to Waverly from the direction they’re heading.”

Benton stared through the lens briefly then closed it in disgust with a loud snap.

“If that’s from Sid, looks like he’s right again.” Connelly nodded toward the piece of paper Benton still held.

Benton merely grunted in reply as he leaned over his pommel and studied the horizon with a scowl. “Whoever Sid is,” he said at length. “He seems to know every movement the Union army makes in this region—and I don’t even know who he is.”

The two officers sat silently and assessed the situation as the moving cloud of dust slowly transformed into a small band of cavalry wearing blue uniforms.

“Well, I reckon it’s a good thing we didn’t hang around Waverly.” Connelly shifted his weight in the saddle. “Looks like nothin’ but a small scouting party, but they could have caused some headaches.”

Benton took one more look, and then turned his horse back around. “Well they are welcome to Waverly—and its inhospitable occupant as far as I’m concerned.”

“Speaking of which, what do you reckin’ we should do with that one?” Connelly tilted his head back toward the house from which they had come.

Benton sighed heavily, trying to erase the image of those brilliant blue eyes filled with hostility, and attempted instead to imagine them shining with the devotion with which he was accustomed. “Frankly, I’m inclined to cut off the tail and hope it dies when the sun goes down,” Benton muttered as he tried to reconstruct the dream that had been ruined by the only woman he’d ever met immune to his charms.

Above and Beyond

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Genre - Christian Fiction

Rating – G

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

#Excerpt - Chapter 2 - The Howling Heart by April Bostic

Chapter Two
The dream lingered when I arrived for work. I sat at my desk and immediately booted my laptop. I should’ve been reading company e-mail, but I went on the Internet, instead. After a quick Google search, I found a photo of a white wolf and saved it as my wallpaper. I immediately closed the browser, my eyes darting around the office. I had to be cautious when browsing the Web. My boss could walk by at any minute, and she didn’t tolerate a moment of company time spent indulging in personal, online pleasures. If she caught you, you had better have a convincing reason, or she’d fire you on the spot.
I took my position seriously and enjoyed my dream job at Elle, a prestigious fashion magazine. I started as an intern five years ago while I was a freshman at New York University. When I graduated last year, they offered me a position as the Assistant to the Creative Editor.
Nina Fuentes is my boss and one of the most respected Creative Editors in the magazine industry. She’s also the first Latina to hold the position at Elle. I’ve always been ambitious and hoped to sit in her office one day instead of outside of it.
My phone rang, and I heard our receptionist, Lacey’s, voice on the other end.
“Nina is on her way up and wants to see you in her office, now.” Her voice sounded serious.
“Sure, but how did Nina sound when she called you? Did she sound pissed off?” I nibbled my bottom lip nervously.
Lacey giggled. “No, she sounded normal. I don’t think you’re in trouble.”
I released a breath. Although I’m ambitious, I tend to be a little absentminded at the wrong times. It’s never intentional, and I hope I hadn’t exhausted Nina’s patience. I couldn’t count the number of instances where I thought she’d fire me. I guess she realized I had potential if I could organize myself better. The BlackBerry she gave me really helped, and I’d gone five months without forgetting anything important. That was a record for me. She was the one who hired me as an intern. I thought that perhaps she saw me as her protégé. Any opportunity she presented to me, I always tried to impress her and give 110%.
After I hung up the phone, I walked swiftly to Nina’s office. I should be sitting in her office when she arrives, not the other way around.
The door to her office was open, so I took a seat on the other side of her massive, birch wood desk. She’s meticulous about her belongings, and everyone in the office knows never to touch anything unless she gives you permission. I sat patiently with my hands folded in my lap and watched the second-hand tick on the fourteen-karat gold Tiffany clock on her desk. I heard her voice within close distance, so I quickly retrieved my BlackBerry from my pocket. In addition to working on my absentmindedness, I worked hard on my preparation skills.
I heard Nina’s voice behind me, her Spanish accent prominent. “Ah, Paige. I needed to see you.”
I turned my neck to look at her, but she quickly walked to her desk. She wore a turquoise dress by Donna Karan featured in this month’s issue, and silver pumps with stiletto heels that clicked on the floor. My gaze followed her every move intently. I was secretly envious. Nina always dressed like she could be photographed at any moment.
“Yes, is everything all right?”
Her black tresses were styled bone-straight with a part in the middle. She put her Coach bag on the desk before she sat in her cream leather office chair. She didn’t answer me right away, and I just looked into her toffee brown eyes in anticipation.
She smirked and lifted an arched brow. “Don’t worry. You’re not in trouble.”
I sighed in relief before I let out a nervous laugh. “Oh, that’s good.”
“I wanted to thank you for helping us get Hilary Duff for the August cover. I saw her photos from the shoot, and they’re beautiful.” She smiled brilliantly with perfect Veneers and leaned back in her chair.
“You’re welcome. When Keira Knightley canceled, I knew Warren would be pulling his hair out and running around like a headless chicken trying to find a replacement. I had the contact number for Hilary’s publicist, so I figured it was worth a shot.”
“When Farrah was injured and went on disability, you stepped in and took the lead on her unfinished projects. The people from Burberry told me they were very impressed with you. I want you to know I appreciate you coming through for us in times of desperation.” Her voice lowered. “I know I don’t always thank you.” She leaned toward me and crossed her arms on the desk. “I’ve noticed how hard you’ve been working.” She paused and sighed. “I know you’ve had problems organizing, but you’ve improved tremendously. I think it’s time we recognize everything you’ve accomplished here.”
I felt my blue eyes widen. The anticipation to hear the rest of her conversation was killing me.
With a smile, she said, “As you know, we’re doing a shoot in three weeks for Vera Wang’s new Princess bridal line.”
I unconsciously leaned toward her and felt my BlackBerry about to slip out of my sweaty palm. I clutched it tightly.
“I want you to lead the project. I’m giving you full creative control. This will be your photo shoot. Consult with me if you need anything that requires my approval.”
I gasped, and her shimmering, glossed lips spread into a wide grin. “You do know what this means, don’t you?”
I swallowed against a nervous lump in my throat, and my voice was a pathetic croak. “No…what?”
She leaned back again but tapped her French manicured nails atop the desk. “I’m promoting you to Creative Designer.”
I squeezed the life out of my BlackBerry. I was so stunned that I gaped openly.
“Yes, you’re excited. I know. I can tell,” she said dryly.
I smiled in relief, and this time, I could appropriately express my gratitude. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.”
She started typing on her laptop, indicating she was dismissing me. I rose slowly from the chair, because my knees felt weak.
As I turned to walk out, she said, “Wait, I need you to get Marc Jacobs on the phone. I must speak with him as soon as possible.”
“Sure, right away!” I scurried toward the door.
“Oh, and Paige…”
I paused in the doorway and whirled around. “Yes?”
She gave me a hard look. “Don’t let me down.”
I hoped she could hear the earnest conviction in my voice. “I won’t…I promise.”
After I connected Nina with Marc, I went downstairs to the Advertising department to share my promotion news with my boyfriend, Trevor, who worked as a Junior Executive. Relationships in the workplace were not encouraged, but we’ve successfully kept ours a secret for the last six months.
Excitement filled me as I walked swiftly down the hallway. His office had a giant window facing the hall, and what I saw inside made me halt my steps. He had a visitor, and they seemed a little too close for my comfort. Heather, one of the project leaders, was a smitten schoolgirl while she chatted with my man. With her legs crossed, her short, black skirt rode high up her thigh as she sat casually on the arm of his loveseat.
I slowed my steps and proceeded with caution. I didn’t want to jump to conclusions, so I continued to observe them. Trevor has always been outgoing and friendly with everyone, but his demeanor toward Heather caused me concern, especially the way he hovered over her and rested his hand on that exposed thigh.
She flipped her long, blonde hair over one shoulder and dipped her head back as she laughed. I knew that move—expose the curvature of your neck so he wants to put his mouth there. Her tangerine top was cut ridiculously low this afternoon and showed more cleavage than was professionally necessary. The closer I crept, the more details I noticed. Her black lace bra peeked out from underneath her top, and Trevor’s long fingers made small circles against her skin.
When Heather put her hand on his cheek, and he encouraged her by moving in closer, I entered his office without knocking. The doorstop twanged as I swung the door open. Trevor jumped away from her, and his hand went to his chestnut hair in a nervous gesture.
He stammered, “Oh hey, Paige. What’s up?” Then, he cleared his throat and glanced warily at Heather.
I stood with a fake smile plastered on my face. “Hi, Trevor. Got a minute?”
He returned a tight smile. Then, he focused his blue-gray eyes back on Heather. “Could you excuse us?”
She sucked in her cheeks and threw me a superior look.
I lifted an eyebrow and put a hand on my hip. Bitch, I dare you to say something to me.
She took her time getting up, almost reluctantly. Rolling her blue eyes, she huffed in annoyance. “Yeah, whatever.”
I held her steely glare as she walked past me, and I was tempted to extend my foot. In my mind’s eye, I saw her fall ungraciously into a heap of slutty clothes and cheap hair extensions. I heard her voice behind me, sounding like a seductive purr.
“Talk to you later, Trev.”
Trevor gave her a dismissive wave. “Okay, yeah.”
I heard Heather’s footsteps until they faded around the corner. I waited for Trevor to explain, but he just looked at me with a blank expression. I guess my hard stare was making him uncomfortable, because he moved to sit behind his desk.
“What’s up?”
I marched up to his desk. “What’s up? I should be asking you that question. What’s up with you and Heather? What was that about? You guys were a little too chummy, don’t you think? Your hand was on her thigh, and you looked like you were going to kiss her.” My jealousy bubbled just below the surface, now.
Trevor wouldn’t meet my gaze, and I felt my anger rising. To think that I came here, excited to share my good news. Thanks for bursting my happy bubble with your playboy tendencies.
“I was bribing her, because I need her help with something,” he said nonchalantly. “She’s attracted to me, and I know she’ll give into me if I pretend to flirt with her.”
I scoffed. “Really? You expect me to believe that bullshit?”
He finally met my gaze. “Yes, I do.”
He stood abruptly and came around to the other side of the desk. His six-foot-two stature towered over my five-foot-seven frame.
“I expect you to trust me.”
I sighed. “Yeah…well, it’s difficult when I see you in compromising positions like that.”
His arm encircled my waist. “I’m sorry, babe.” His expression softened. “It was nothing…really. I’m just using my natural, God-given gift of charm to get what I want from her. She means nothing to me.” He winked and gave me a roguish look.
I was about to put my arms around his neck, but I remembered people could see us. My arms remained at my sides.
“What if she wants something else in return? Like a jump in the sack?”
He laughed lightly. “No way. I told her I had a girlfriend.” My eyes widened. “Don’t worry. I didn’t mention your name.”
Deep down, I wished he had.
I sat on one of the chairs in front of his desk. “I came here to tell you some good news.” Trevor smiled and perched himself on the edge of the desk. “Nina promoted me to Creative Designer.”
His brows shot upward. “Really? That’s great, hon.” He put a gentle hand on my shoulder. “Hey, you deserve it,” he said tenderly. “I hear you’re always helping people get out of tight situations and still meet their deadlines. It’s about time Nina recognized it, too.”
“Thanks, baby,” I replied fondly.
He moved from his spot to stand behind me. “Do you know what we should do?”
I felt him massage my shoulders, and a soft moan escaped me. “No…what?”
“We should celebrate.”
“Really? How?”
He moved in front of me, his expression joyous. “What about a little get-together at your apartment? You could serve finger foods and break out the champagne. It’ll be awesome!”
 I smiled at his enthusiasm and agreed with his great idea.

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Genre – Paranormal Romance
Rating – Adult
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