Book Features

Book Blast: On The Edge of Death by Ciara Ballintyne

All the Left Hand of Death wants is something to call her own, but is the price too high?

Ellaeva, the fated avatar of the death goddess, is desperate to track down her missing family but the trail is decades old. Instead, she discovers her battered and bloodied sister priestesses driven across the Jerreki border on pain of death. Ellaeva must turn aside from her personal quest to investigate the murders, only to find her parents have been taken into the heart of the conflict.

Lyram Aharris, favoured son of the royal line of Ahlleyn, is the only living person she trusts to help her infiltrate the enemy stronghold and uproot the horror they find there, but their chequered past threatens the mission. Accompanying him is his crown prince, the one man Lyram wants dead above all others.

Now Ellaeva must face down the darkness in her soul before a dark god is brought into the world.

At the boundary of life and death, all oaths will be tested. 

Buy Links

EXCERPT

Lyram leaned on the window casement, scouring the bustling courtyard of the royal palace of Ahlleyn below. Servants in the black and purple livery of the clan Gaylbrath strode confidently about their tasks, and his gaze skipped over them, looking for someone obviously out of place—looking for the crow amongst the sparrows. From this high, picking individual faces out of the crowd was impossible, but that didn’t stop him searching. He didn’t need a face to find the person he sought.

Despite his failure to note anyone out of place, he knew there was at least one person in the palace who shouldn’t be there. He could feel it in his bones.

“Lyram, you’re not listening to me.”

Sighing, he turned, leaning back against the wall with his arms folded over his plaid. He regarded the duchess. “No, Narrawen, I’m not. I do apologise. What were you saying?”

The Duchess of Kinrothen narrowed pale-blue eyes at him. She stood in the centre of his sitting room, an inner sanctum furnished by his late wife, and a place of solitude and reflection where he’d usually not permit the duchess. But, short of his bedchamber, this was the only room in his suite with a window. He needed to see the courtyard, and she’d insisted on speaking with him.

“Never mind. You clearly have something else on your mind.” Then her voice grew teasing. “Perhaps something I could help with?“

Lyram swallowed a long-suffering sigh. Narrawen, standing with her head cocked and one hand on a hip, was a fine figure of a woman, but she was also a schemer. Her kirtle, though made of expensive linen, was woven in the red, yellow and green tartan of her clan; she took every opportunity to wear it, as though reminding everyone she was their clan leader. Though women were accepted as equals in Ahlleyn, a woman heading a large warrior clan could experience certain… troublesome elements, and she carried a bow slung over her shoulder. A woman who would lead warriors must be a warrior, and she had the temperament to match the flaming red hair tumbling down her shoulders in unruly curls. Everything she did was calculated and planned, and there was no way he’d be sharing what was on his mind.

“It’s nothing to trouble yourself over,” he said.

“Oh, it would be no trouble to take a burden from your shoulders.” She stepped forward, closing the distance between them to place a hand on his arm.

The heady aroma of eastern tuberose assaulted his nostrils, rich and sensual. She was tall, the top of her head on a level with his nose, and her breath tickled his clean-shaven chin. Her gaze held the resolute intensity of a woman accustomed to getting her way, sooner or later. She was beautiful, and in a way that went beyond her face and figure: she was fierce, determined, and intelligent.

But when he looked at her, he saw only Ellaeva.

Her brow pinched, as if reading something in his face, and he smoothed his expression.

“You’ve been too long a widower,” she said.

He started. “Eighteen months! That’s hardly too long.”

She met his gaze with an intense expression, ignoring his protest. “And I’ve never married. We both need heirs.”

He shook his head and tried to draw away, but she had him pinned between her wide skirts and the window. “You would merge two of the kingdom’s most powerful and influential duchies into one? The aristocracy will never stand for it. You already know my answer, Narrawen. I’m not interested in marrying—you or anyone else. It’s not personal, you understand?”

She snorted in a most unladylike fashion and tossed her hair, like a wild horse tossing its mane. “You pay too little attention, Lyram. You’d be surprised what the aristocracy will allow now, after the fall of Traeburhn. Everyone’s been made nervous by his treason, especially the stripping of lands and titles. Besides, we need not merge the duchies. We could agree on a division of heirs.”

“The risk of civil war—”

She leaned closer, until only inches separated their faces. The heady smell of her perfume was almost intoxicating.

“There are any number of men in this kingdom, and without, who would marry me,” she said. “Most for the wrong reasons. Few of them have my respect and admiration, but you do. What I need is a husband. What I want is you.”

The door burst open, thumping against the wall.

Narrawen jumped back, her bow clattering against the side table. A faint blush stained her cheeks.

Lyram’s pulse quickened. This was it, the moment he’d been waiting for.

Everard stood framed by the sitting room’s doorway, his posture perfectly erect as he folded his hands neatly in front of his sporran. As always, he was clad in scrupulous court attire, his rank pinned to the shoulder of his white shirt and his kilt falling in perfect pleats. His thinning grey hair had been meticulously combed, and his wire-framed glasses perched precariously on his nose. He kept his face blank, but a small twitch beside his eye betrayed his displeasure at the duchess’s presence. “Sir.”

Though Everard’s tone was even, Lyram read the tension and urgency in him. “I know, Everard. I’ll come.”

“A prior engagement, Lyram?” Narrawen said. “Whatever it is, reschedule it. We’re not done.”

Lyram opened his mouth to countermand the order—though she outranked him, how dare she presume to order his aide-de-camp?

But Everard’s gaze flickered to her with that same inscrutability, and in his perfectly deadpan aide’s voice he said, “Is Your Grace still chasing a husband? Perchance I can suggest a better hunting ground.”

Narrawen grew rigid, and Lyram suppressed a grin.

“The duchess and I can finish our conversation later,” Lyram said. “I’ll come, Everard.”

“No, sir—” Everard blinked, jerking aside as though pinched, and Ellaeva stepped into the room.

The shock of seeing her thrilled through him, like the mixed pleasure of an unexpectedly warm spring day, tainted by fording a stream running with snowmelt. Though he’d felt her jump suddenly from the far east to well within Ahlleyn borders several days ago, though he’d felt her drawing nearer by the day, he hadn’t realised she was here, outside the room. And no amount of time could have prepared him for this moment.

Their gazes locked. Her black eyes were flat and cold. In his head, the sense of her abruptly clenched into the hard glass ball that said she was trying to control or hide her feelings. That connection was the unintended legacy of his resurrection at her hand, but she’d grown better at controlling it. Then her gaze flickered to Narrawen, standing so close alongside him, and the glass ball shattered into a thousand shards with an impact so visceral he gasped and sat down. The chill in the air deepened.

She switched her stare back to Lyram. Finally, she spoke, in a voice cold as iron. “I have come to see Alagondar.”

Ciara Ballintyne grew up on a steady diet of adult epic fantasy from the age of nine, leaving her with a rather confused outlook on life – she believes the good guys should always win, but knows they often don’t. She is an oxymoron; an idealistic cynic. Her debut work is Confronting the Demon, and In the Company of the Dead is her first book to be published with Evolved Publishing. She holds degrees in law and accounting, and is a practising financial services lawyer. In her spare time, she speculates about taking over the world.

Twitter: @CiaraBallintyne

Facebook: http://facebook.com/CiaraBallintyne

Website: http://ciaraballintyne.com


Book Features

Excerpt Friday: Remnants by Carolyn Arnold

All that remains are whispers of the past…

When multiple body parts are recovered from the Little Ogeechee River in Savannah, Georgia, local law enforcement calls in FBI agent and profiler Brandon Fisher and his team to investigate. But with the remains pointing to three separate victims, this isn’t proving to be an open-and-shut case.

With no quick means of identifying the victims, building a profile of this serial killer is proving more challenging than usual. How is the killer picking these victims? Why are their limbs being severed and bodies mutilated? And what is it about them that is triggering this killer to murder?

The questions compound as the body count continues to rise, and when a torso painted blue and missing its heart is found, the case takes an even darker turn. But this is only the beginning, and these new leads draw the FBI into a creepy psychological nightmare. One thing is clear, though: the killing isn’t going to stop until they figure it all out. And they are running out of time…

Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Remnants (Brandon Fisher FBI series):

My senses were busy taking in the crime scene: marshland, relative seclusion, an arm and leg discovered last week, an arm yesterday. Aside from the human remains that had been found here, the property had a serene feeling to it, a sense of peace. There was a tangible quality to the air, though—or maybe it was the presence of law enforcement and crime scene investigators—that made it impossible to deny that death had touched the place.

“What else can you tell us about the limbs that were recovered?” Paige asked.

The lieutenant cleared his throat. “Well, both arms didn’t have hands, and the leg didn’t have a foot. We found incision marks indicating the hands and foot had been intentionally cut off.”

“Our killer could have taken them for trophies or to make identification impossible,” I suggested.

Pike gave a small nod and continued. “And while we know the hands and foot were removed, it’s not as clear how the appendages separated from the torso. It would be something we’d need the medical examiner to clarify.”

Jack’s brow furrowed, and I could tell his mind was racing through the possibilities.

“But,” Pike continued, “all the limbs have one thing in common: muscle tissue remained, even though the skin had been removed.”

“It is possible that the skin was also taken as a trophy,” Zach speculated.

“We could be looking for a hunter or a sexual sadist,” Jack said.

Hunters were typically identified by the type of weapon they used—a hunting knife, rifle, or crossbow, for example—and they tended to dispose of their victims’ bodies in remote, isolated areas. A sexual sadist, on the other hand, got off on the torture and pain. But we’d need to gather more facts before we could build any sort of profile on our unsub. Even knowing more about the victims themselves would help. Was the killer choosing people he or she was acquainted with? Were the victims of a certain gender, age group, occupation? The list went on and on. From there, we could more easily speculate on our killer’s motive and what they had to gain.

Major Retailer Links:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Apple iBooks

Kobo

Google

About The Author

CAROLYN ARNOLD is an international best-selling and award-winning author, as well as a speaker, teacher, and inspirational mentor. She has four continuing fiction series—Detective Madison Knight, Brandon Fisher FBI, McKinley Mysteries, and Matthew Connor Adventures—and has written nearly thirty books. Her genre diversity offers her readers everything from cozy to hard-boiled mysteries, and thrillers to action adventures.

Both her female detective and FBI profiler series have been praised by those in law enforcement as being accurate and entertaining, leading her to adopt the trademark: POLICE PROCEDURALS RESPECTED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT™.

Carolyn was born in a small town and enjoys spending time outdoors, but she also loves the lights of a big city. Grounded by her roots and lifted by her dreams, her overactive imagination insists that she tell her stories. Her intention is to touch the hearts of millions with her books, to entertain, inspire, and empower.

She currently lives just west of Toronto with her husband and beagle and is a member of Crime Writers of Canada.

Connect with CAROLYN ARNOLD Online:

Website – http://carolynarnold.net/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/Carolyn_Arnold

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/AuthorCarolynArnold

And don’t forget to sign up for her newsletter for up-to-date information on release and special offers at http://carolynarnold.net/newsletters.

Book Features

Book Blast: Soul of Toledo by Edward D. Webster

Thirty years before the Spanish Inquisition, the seeds of hatred have sprouted in Castile. Suspicions fester. Rage churns beneath the surface. Viçente Pérez—a man who wields enviable power but harbors a shameful past—is the only one who can keep the tension from exploding out of control.

As the Christian son of secret Jews, Viçente is in a hopeless position—charged with keeping the peace, but always suspected by the city’s Old Christians, unwilling but duty-bound to help the increasingly persecuted Jews, and to aid his king whose rule is threatened.

When Viçente crosses the ruthless, power-hungry lawyer Marcos García de Mora, he makes a formidable enemy. García’s plan: to rally the common men, attack Jews, and purify Toledo by purging suspected heretics—the Christian descendants of Jews, converts like Viçente.

As war breaks out between the king and his cousins, and García and his madmen rise to power in Toledo, Viçente falls in love with the mysterious Francesca and finds himself faced with impossible choices: love or duty, respect or intolerance, reverence or disdain for his ancestry.

From the courts of kings in Naples and Castile to the chambers of Pope Nicholas and the torture cellars of Toledo, this gripping novel brings to life an era of little-known history in fifteenth-century Spain, a time when a rogue inquisition threatened to destroy the very soul of Toledo.

Purchase Links

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Soul-Toledo-Edward-D-Webster-ebook/dp/B01AMOGV88

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/soul-of-toledo-edward-d-webster/1123224449?ean=2940153175225

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/soul-of-toledo/id1109128483?mt=11

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/soul-of-toledo

Indie Bound: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780997032000

Book Launch: https://booklaunch.io/bookbuzz/soul-of-toledo

Edward D. Webster has had an eclectic mixture of careers, ranging from teaching Navajo students to managing transit operations. And he’s the author of a diverse collection of books. Webster admits to a fascination with unique, quirky and bizarre human behavior, and he doesn’t exempt himself from the mix. His acclaimed memoir, A Year of Sundays (Taking the Plunge and our Cat to Explore Europe) shares the eccentric tale of his yearlong adventure in Europe with his spirited blind wife and headstrong, deaf sixteen-year-old cat. His historical novel, Soul of Toledo recounts a diabolical moment in history, when madmen took over the City of Toledo and tortured suspected Jews, 30 years before the Spanish Inquisition. And his 2014 novel, The Gentle Bomber’s Melody, explores what might happen if a nutty woman, bearing a stolen baby, landed on the doorstep of a fugitive bomber hiding from the FBI. The result: irresistible insanity. From the happily unusual of A Year of Sundays to the cruelly perverse in Soul of Toledo, Edward D. Webster shines a light on offbeat aspects of human nature. Webster lives in Southern California with his divine wife and two amazing cats.

Contact Information

Website: http://edwardwebster.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/edwebauthor/

Promo Link: http://bookbuzz.net/blog/historical-fiction-soul-of-toledo/

 

Book Features

Book Blast: Helping Helper by Tara C. Allred

“He’s not a friend, he’s my husband. And he’s gone.” 

En route to Salt Lake City, intending to start over, their car breaks down near the struggling mining town of Helper, Utah—and then Tony leaves Kora behind.

Alone, broken and angry, especially that her family was right in their judgment against Tony, Kora decides to stay in Helper and aid in it’s art-centered transformation.

But in working to save her new home, Kora learns first love only happens once.

For a second chance at love, a much greater risk is required.

Purchase Links

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Helping-Helper-Tara-C-Allred-ebook/dp/B06XGND4S1

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/helping-helper-tara-c-allred/1124340950?ean=9780986421549

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/helping-helper/id1213079240

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Tara_C_Allred_Helping_Helper

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/helping-helper-1

Book Launch: https://booklaunch.io/bookbuzz/helping-helper

Excerpt

 Chapter One

           A cloud of smoke billowed over the hood of the old 1984 Buick causing Kora, after three hours of silence, to finally speak. “Tony! What’s going on?”

“Oh no!” With his long fingers, Tony gripped the steering wheel and leaned forward. The engine went quiet. Suddenly, the car was coasting. Tony steered it to a halt along the dirt shoulder. Smoke poured out above them.

“What is it, Tony?” Past the windshield, Kora stared at the stream of white caught between them and the green mile marker ahead. “Is the car on fire?”

“No,” he said. But there was fear in his tone.  Quickly, he masked it with a calmer assurance. “It’s just overheated.”

The fear transferred to Kora’s voice. “You said you got that fixed!”

With two hours before they reached Salt Lake, and six hours of tension behind them, Tony finally faced her. “I did,” he said calmly. “I replaced the radiator hoses and cap, and it’s fixed.”

She kept her eyes on him, glaring as she pulled her dark blonde hair into a hasty bun. “Then what is it?”

He shrugged, but Kora caught the alarm surfacing in his eyes before he turned to the door.

As soon as he lifted the hood, the full force of steam released itself, tumbling out toward the blue sky.

She opened the passenger door. The hot desert air greeted her. She slipped on her old heavy sandals and approached the hood to find Tony clutching his forehead, his lips moving, hot words streaming out. But when she got close, his speech ceased.

“So what are we going to do?” she asked.

Like a poorly-choreographed dance, he slipped past her, making his way nearly the entire circumference of the car before sliding back into the driver’s seat.

Kora stepped toward the engine, steam hitting her face. She shifted away. Warmth from the sun hit her back. Another step and she watched Tony turning the key in the ignition.

Nothing happened.

Another attempt.

Tony banged his fist against the steering wheel. “No!”

She approached the driver’s side to catch Tony’s cheek spasm. “I’ll walk to the nearest town,” he said. “I think the last sign we passed said it’s five miles ahead.”

“Okay.”

He shifted from the driver’s seat, causing Kora to step back.

“I just got to see how far a garage is.” He marched over to the hood. “Get some help towing this in.”  He released the hood prop, then slammed it shut.

“Does the car need to cool off more?” she asked.

“Doesn’t matter,” he said gruffly.

“Should I come with?” she tried to sound sweet, but an edge from hours before lingered there.

“Just wait in the car.”

“Its a hundred degrees out here,” the tension was back. “What if I fry?”

A sad smile twisted across Tony’s face. “What do you want me to say? If this town doesn’t have what we need, we might be walking for miles.”

“Then let’s walk.” Kora grabbed her purse and looked back to see Tony studying her thick wooden sandals.

When he looked up at her, his face remained tight. “You sure?”

“Yes!”

He shrugged then turned back to the driver’s door, retrieved the keys, locked the Buick doors, and began their march toward help.

Gravel crunched under Kora’s sandals. With each step, she listened to the shifting of rocks under her small frame. Where most couples gain weight after marriage, often both she and Tony had lost pounds during their six years.

With the back of her hand, she swiped away sweat drops running down her face, only to feel more accumulating at her hairline. The sun’s rays seemed to beat in anger, lashing vengeance on Kora for her unkind words to Tony.

At the start of their journey, she hadn’t meant to be so harsh. But the words had just come, one after the other. Spite building on each beating word. 

Now she watched him walk, his hot boots tromping down on the gravel in front of her. His crunch louder than hers.

“How much further?” she called out to him.

At first there was no response. Then he shrugged.

She shrugged back, sharing hers with no one except the wrath of the sun.

While her feet carried on their rhythmic crunch, Kora looked up in defiance at the sky. Then for a moment, she closed her eyes and let the flaming air greet her face. She sensed the sun challenging her, pushing her until she begged for relief, but she would carry on. Her father had blamed her for such intense commitment, such loyalty inside her. He had seen it as her weakness. She saw it as her strength.

And with that strength, she’d get through this, she’d find a breeze of hope, a sweetness in this life Tony had promised her. A fulfilment that was long overdue.

By the year 2000, which was only four months away, Kora would have the future she wanted, the earnest desires of her heart. 

She opened her eyes to see a pillow of cloud, a bright, white cloud, shifting toward the sun, the promise of temporary relief. Once the sun was covered, she saw the radiant blueness, set against the red desert hills that surrounded them. She also saw the road, the long highway that stretched out into the hills in front of them.

Then she spotted it, a structure, a building of sorts, followed by another. She extended her stride, just as Tony did. The town was coming.

   Soon the green highway sign welcomed them to Helper. And they followed the descending road until Kora spotted Speedy Lou’s, a fast food joint, which although run down, seemed able to offer some form of refreshment.

Tony arrived before her, pausing in front of the entrance, as if Kora’s slow steps had spoken to him. “Do you want to stop here?” he called out.

She hated to admit it, but tears were burning in her eyes. The promise of water, a spot to sit down, a break from a growing blister and the blazing sun, she bit her lip and nodded.  Then she tried to walk the final steps calmly, keeping her face stoic. As soon as she was inside, she collapsed into a nearby booth. With a bit of effort, she dug into a pocket of her jean cutoffs while scanning the menu. “Do you want something?”

He stood near her. “No.”

She dropped a nickel followed by a dollar bill onto the table. It wouldn’t go far, but it was something. “You sure?” she said, looking at her offering with a slight laugh. Then she glanced up, catching his look, a softness in his eyes that hadn’t been there in weeks. He added a dollar to the humble pile.

“Yeah. I’ll keep going, see what kind of help’s here.” Then he slipped out the door. But before Kora could manage the strength to stand, the door’s entrance bell rang, and there he was again standing above her.

“Here.” He set down a small stack of folded bills.

“Tony!” Kora found herself laughing at the ten-dollar bill that looked up at her. “I don’t need that much.”

His hand slid over hers, and the touch surprised her, as did the tenderness in his voice. “No. It’s for you. Just don’t go overboard on your hamburger fixings.” Then he kissed her forehead, a gesture he hadn’t made in days, before slipping back out the door.

Kora unfolded the bills to find along with the ten, two fives, and a twenty-dollar bill. She stood up and looked out the window, but he was gone.

TARA C. ALLRED is an award-winning author, instructional designer, and educator. She has been recognized as a California Scholar of the Arts for Creative Writing and is a recipient of the Howey awards for Best Adult Book and Best Adult Author. She lives in Utah with her husband.

Her other published works include Sanders’ Starfish, Unauthored Letters, and The Other Side of Quiet, a 2015 Kindle Book Award Finalist and Whitney Award Winner.

To learn more about the author, visit www.taracallred.net.

Contact Information

Website: http://www.taracallred.net

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TaraCAllred

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TaraCAllred

Promo Link: http://bookbuzz.net/blog/romance-helping-helper/