Friday, June 14, 2019

Author Interview- Trudy Hicks Ghost Hunter Case Two-The Kept by Lori Zaremba #ghosthunting #authorinterview

Can you tell readers a little bit about yourself and what inspired to write in this particular genre? 

Some women attract men, some attract riches, and some attract trouble. I, on the other hand, seem to attract ghosts.

When I was a little kid my Jitney bus driver (yes I rode the short bus) departed this earth and came to me in the middle of the night to tell me that she wouldn't be able to take me to school anymore. Imagine my mother's surprise when I told her about this visit and five minutes later the phone rings with the official news from the school that Mrs. Hill had passed away in her sleep.

All of my life I have seen heard and felt things that had me thinking either I was concussed or perhaps in some way I had a gift. I'm not talking about The Ghost Whisperer where Melinda carries on conversations with full body apparitions. I'm talking more like in the moments of my darkest despair; I feel a gentle hand on my shoulder, I hear a giggle when I do something stupid or amusing, 

What inspired you to write this book? 

I wondered about the agitated souls that I've come across. Did they leave behind some unresolved issue, did they depart during an argument or perhaps didn't get the chance to confess their love. All these scenarios had my imagination going wild.

That's how the idea for Trudy Hicks Ghost Hunter came to life. The opportunity to write a compelling story about ghosts and to recognize these chaotic spirits were really just people with problems, big problems.

Please tell us about your latest release. 

After a near death experience, Trudy has concluded that solving cases involving the paranormal might be just as dangerous as being a cop.

In case Two –The Kept , she and Jason go to an oceanfront Inn on the Jersey Shore - where a young opera singer resided until she disappeared in June 1919. While researching, the team uncovers evidence of a white slave trafficking ring that points to the ghostly residents still in attendance.

 Meanwhile, Trudy and Jason’s relationship gets tested as Trudy finds herself tangling with Demons and any other dark specter that wants a piece of her. But it’s a bar fight where she is protecting her team-Is what pushes Jason over the edge and has an FBI pal do an investigation into Trudy’s dark and very private past-When Trudy finds out... all hell breaks loose.

As the team races discover what happened to Johanna but also where the girls were abducted and kept, the spirits become even more violent.

Trudy, while keeping her focus on the case, must decide to either walk away from Jason and his dirty deed or do what she does best-fight to the bitter end for the people she loves.

Is there a character that you enjoyed writing more than any of the others? 

I love writing Trudy’s character. She is me, and so many of my friends, wrapped up into one powerhouse package. Of course we all think we are tough (we’re not) but she is. I’m a people watcher and my day job is car sales. I really pay attention to people and honestly at least once a day someone says something or I think Oh this mannerism is perfect for so and so’s character.

Do you have a formula for developing characters? Like do you create a character sketch or list of attributes before you start writing or do you just let the character develop as you write? 

First, I figure out their roll ,then I draw what I think they will look like. I’m a people watcher and my day job is car sales. I really pay attention to people and honestly at least once a day someone says something interesting, or I think Oh this mannerism is perfect for so and so’s character. That helps me develop them into the colorful individuals they are and it’s real. I needed a crime, and something that was prevalent in the early 1900’s was White Slave Trafficking. I ran across an ad that once hung in an Ice cream shop on the Jersy shore warning parents of blonde, blue eyed girls to be careful of foreign men speaking to them and abducting them. 

What is your favorite scene from the book? Could you share a little bit of it, without spoilers of course? 

Of course it’s the bar fight! 

Jimmy rejoined them just as Jason’s cell phone rang over the clamor. He pulled away from Trudy, allowing his lips to brush her temple before answering a call from his daughter. He excused himself and walked out through the front door as a large group of bikers strolled in the back door.

“Did Dana take all your money?”

“Every last cent.” Jimmy grinned, lifting a bottle of beer to his mouth and downing it in one long draw.

“She’s good.” He wiped his mouth with his sleeve. “You should have warned me that she…”Trudy glanced up at him when he paused and noticed his eyes widen as he looked at something over her shoulder.

“Shit!” He stood and puffed his chest out a bit as he stepped past her. “Stay here. It looks like we got some trouble.”

Trudy turned just in time to witness a giant fist landing on Patrick’s nose.

She rolled her eyes to the heavens. “Damn it.” Trudy leaped out of her seat while watching as Leslie tried to stop the big biker from landing another punch on Patrick’s person. Trudy wasn’t at all surprised this fight started over a political difference of opinion. She heard the biker yell something about “Benghazi!” 

The big man turned toward Leslie, who had been pummeling him on the back furiously but not causing any damage. She attempted to throw a punch to his jaw, but those damn shoes she wore had her spinning off balance. She fell hard and face first onto the corner of the pool table,“That’s gonna leave a mark.” Trudy winced, grabbing a pool stick from the rack on the wall as she passed.

The biker’s attention was now on Jimmy, who rammed into his midsection with absolutely no impact. The big man let out a bark of laughter as he backhanded Jimmy, knocking him clean across the small space to land on a table full of rowdy patrons.

Trudy scanned her surroundings, sidestepping a few drunken hecklers, and continued toward the giant, holding the cue stick and testing its weight.

Patrick looked dazed, the girls were hiding under the pool table, and Jimmy was now in another fight with one of the men he landed on. 

The big biker turned back to Patrick with the clear intent of ripping the red, white, and blue I’m With Her t-shirt off his body. Hearing fabric tear, she approached as Patrick let out a blood-curdling scream, Trudy struck deftly with the cue stick.

She was precise and deadly accurate as she took down the giant.  He didn’t make a sound before landing hard next to the jukebox.

She quickly squatted down before Patrick, who was profusely bleeding from his nose.

“I can’t believe you wore that damn t-shirt to a biker bar!” Trudy brushed his soft brown hair back from his forehead and took off her hoodie to stop the flow of blood.

“I’m sorry, Trudy. I forgot I had it on.” He let out a low moan and covered his nose with the fabric.
 “I just took off my jacket to play pool, and within seconds, fat boy attacked me.” He looked over at the motionless biker. “Is he dead?” Patrick tried to sit up, but a dizzy spell forced him back to the floor.

“No, he’s—”

“You bitch!” The screech came from over her left shoulder.

Trudy stood just as the screamer landed on her back. “Stay put,” she hissed at Patrick, who once again tried to rise.


The attacker wrapped her skinny but surprisingly strong arms around Trudy’s neck.

“Git her, Jenny!” a toothless man wearing a white sleeveless muscle shirt and a Dale Earnhardt, Jr. ball cap shouted from Trudy’s right as she backed into the nearest wall, knocking the hellion off her.

Spinning around to face her, poor Jenny didn’t have a chance. Trudy warned her that she was trained to fight and that her hands were considered lethal. The crazy bitch rushed her anyway. Trudy landed a quick punch that knocked Jenny over a table full of drinks and on her ass.


The toothless man came at her, putting his hands on her shoulders as she turned toward him. She grabbed at his upper arms as she gave him a long knee to the groin. He bent over, and she landed a front thrust kick which dropped him down to the floor next to Jenny, who was sobbing uncontrollably over a broken nose.

Trudy stepped back, noticing Jimmy looked as if he was in a bit of trouble as fights were now breaking out all over the bar. She peered underneath the pool table to where Dana was eating an order of french fries while Leslie held a glass of ice to her rapidly swelling eye.

“Get Patrick and go out the back door.” 

Standing, she grabbed another pool stick that had been abandoned on the table, ignoring Leslie’s shout and dashing toward Jimmy, who was trying with all his might not to be choked to death. Trudy landed a blow on the back of his attacker that dropped the man to his knees, breaking the cue stick in half. Jimmy finished him with a fist to his eye.

The duo looked down at their handiwork and nodded to each other,“Let’s get out of here!”

Did you find anything really interesting while researching this or another book? 

I needed a crime, and something that was prevalent in the early 1900’s was White Slave Trafficking. It was a real problem especially along the shore, I ran across an ad that once hung in an Ice cream shop in New Jersey, warning parents of blonde, blue eyed girls to be careful of foreign men speaking to them and abducting them. The government made it illegal and passed the Mann Act (White- Slave Traffic Act of 1910) where it would be illegal to abduct women or girls for prostitution or debauchery. The charge was a Felony…

Well, you know I had to run with that one. Each book in the series has its own story within the story and mystery to be solved. But, honestly if you don’t start at the beginning, you will not get the pleasure of experiencing how Trudy and Jason story evolves. 

What is the most interesting thing you have physically done for book related research purposes? 

Well if Interacting with ghosts isn’t interesting enough…

With the book being part of a series, are there any character or story arcs, that readers jumping in somewhere other than the first book, need to be aware of? Can these books be read as stand alones? 

Each book in the series has its own story within the story and mystery to be solved. But, honestly if you don’t start at the beginning, you will not get the pleasure of experiencing how Trudy and Jason love story evolves. For that very reason, I recommend reading it as a series.

Do you have any weird writing quirks or rituals? 

The weirdest part of my writing is that do most of it in the notes section of my phone. I write in car, appointments, work, wherever I can squeeze it in. I am outlining a Mystery that involves the dark web

Do you write in different genres?  

I am outlining a Mystery that involves the dark web. I also contribute to The Axoran Tales on Instagram as a fantasy writer. Down the road I see more paranormal and a romance or two.

Do you find it difficult to write in multiple genres? 

No, I love it. I’m hitting my stride as a writer and I want to flex my muscles. Case Three-The Hex, introducing Witches and magic, How awesome is that? 

What are your guilty pleasures in life?  

Rare afternoon naps with my dogs, Jaxson and Stewie.

What can readers expect next from you? 

Case Three-The Hex, introducing Witches and magic, How awesome is that?

Would you like to leave readers with a little teaser or excerpt from the book?

“Jason, you don’t trust me.” Gazing into his eyes, she took off her gloves and tossed them into a nearby bin.

“Trudy, I didn’t understand you, but I do now,” he said passionately.

When she went to turn away, he grabbed her hand and placed it on his chest.

“Baby, I trust you more than anyone, with my life, my love.” He glanced down at her hand that remained pressed against his beating heart then looked deeply into her eyes, “I can’t explain away what I did, but please hear me when I say I did it because I was scared shitless.”

He covered her hand with his, and she saw something flicker in his eyes. 

“You see, I’ve never felt like this before. Trudy, I love—”

“Shhh.” She used her other hand to press her fingers against his lips. Her body was trembling now as all the anger drained from her. She shook her head, her voice barely a whisper. “Jason, I can’t talk about this anymore.” She released a long breath before continuing, “And I really don’t know what to do about it.”

“Let me help…” He started, but she hushed him again.

“You tossed the deck into the air, so let the cards fall where they may.”

Trudy Hicks Ghost Hunter
Case Two-The Kept
Lori Zaremba

Genre: Paranormal Mystery

Publisher: Limitless Publishing

Date of Publication: 5/28/2019

ISBN-13: 978-1-64034-596-6 
ISBN-10: 1-64034-596-5

Number of pages:248
Word Count: 7850

Tagline: Secrets of the past are about to turn deadly.

Book Description

If anyone tells you hunting ghosts is less dangerous than chasing down real-life criminals, they’re wrong. Very, very wrong.

Case two takes us to a New Jersey Shore Inn. A beautiful, yet dead opera singer seems to be begging for help, but her pleas do nothing but terrorize the locals.

While trying to decipher the clues to her 1919 disappearance, uncovering hair-raising horrors, it becomes clear that Jason and I no longer see eye-to-eye.

Jason wants me to stop meddling with the supernatural. He wants me to stop risking my life by interacting with demons and spirits.

What he doesn’t understand is this is my life. These tortured souls need my help in order to move on. How do I walk away from that—from them?

But the better question is—how do I walk away from him?

Trudy Hicks Ghost Hunter Case One- The Deceit

About the Author:

Lori Zaremba is a full-time Internet Sales Manager and writes Web Content as well as providing Copy Editing for businesses in the Greater Pittsburgh Area. Lori has published short ghost stories on Your Ghost Stories, as the Haunted_Cleaner and on her website

On her website,, Zaremba refers to herself as the ghost magnet and briefly describes her encounters with departing spirits.

Lori began writing her fiction story as a creative offering of why a ghost would haunt.  Before long the story became a novel Case One: The Deceit in the Trudy Hicks Ghost Hunter series.

Lori currently lives in the suburbs of Pittsburgh with her husband Wayne and two fur babies Jaxson and Stewie.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Guest Blog- Captive Truth by Karen Stary #contemporaryfiction #poker #authorguestblog

I use sensory images to convey the inner life of my characters. My settings are developed through vivid language and carefully selected words, sometimes becoming another personality in the plot. These settings are repeated throughout the story as reminders of character struggle. The settings also pit the natural world from manufactured ones, thus underlining themes of good and evil. The story addresses moral and, perhaps, uncomfortable boundaries in our world. 

Although setting is instrumental in character development, perspective from first person narration moves the overall plot design. Events unfold as the main character sees the present or recalls past events. When the main character is too limited in her understanding, I move to third person narration for commentary. I do bring in second person narration for other characters to present relevant background. By interweaving time sequencing, I use flashbacks to elaborate on the choices of the characters.  

The five-chapter plot model is standard: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, final understanding. However, I stretch the climax into the ending sequences so that the reader can reflex on my intent for writing the story. It is not a cliffhanger, just an open-ended challenge I want to imprint.

First, Captive Truth is simply a story of four individuals who had lived long enough to face who they have become. But it is also a novel like a diamond of many facets. The plot is cut into five chapters which coincide with the hands in a poker game with the inner motivations of the characters. The shards within the chapters are broken down further as smaller splinters of time and space of character struggles. The intent of using this metaphor is to deliberate on the possibility of capturing the jewel of our humanity in a world which often denies the truth in a probability of ever finding it. 

Captive Truth
Karen Stary

Genre: contemporary fiction

Publisher: Can’t Put it Down Books

Date of Publication: May 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9994623-4-8

Number of pages: 278
Word Count: 127,455

Cover Artist: Eric Labacz

Book Description:

A mercenary, a gambler, and a warlord are drawn together for a high stakes poker game. The trophy: a woman, Christine. They are men of unquestionable wealth, indomitable power, and overwhelming guilt; each is enchanted by Christine’s alluring beauty and each relentlessly desires to have her for himself.

Life has left Christine unable to form meaningful emotional relationships. However, without the ability to appeal emotionally to her male captors she is not only jeopardizing her own fate, but also the fate of other women as well. Alone, with only the three men who have come to mean so much to her, Christine must use not only her wits but her compassion to extricate herself.  Will she become one man’s prized possession, or can she regain her sense of self?

Stary’s complex plot keeps the reader guessing as she explores some of today’s most controversial issues for women.


He clears his throat again. I look up. His head gives a slight tilt as if to suggest, “Why not?” His eyes squint, inviting me to have faith in the unknown. Charmed by the smile in those eyes, I relax and take a sip of coffee. He speaks. “So…let me, at least, introduce myself…my name is Cameron Dawson…and your name is…?” His pause leaves the question dangling over a precipice of foreboding. I retrieve the answer before I plummet.
“Christine…Christine Ledge.”
“Now, that wasn’t so difficult, was it?”
He seems to know me too well. I cannot release the shadow of familiarity about this Mr. Dawson. I had this same sensation the moment I first pressed against his arm at the concert. I had ignored that feeling because I had thought that I probably would never see him again. But like a relentless itch, it is a thought that aches to be scratched. So, I take a breath and scratch.
“Have we met before?”
“Last night at the concert and then later in the hall!” a bit too quick and a bit too tidy. I am not satisfied.
“No, before last night. I feel that we had met before last night.”
No response. He sips his coffee. I sip my coffee and allow its warmth to appease his evasiveness. Obviously, I had just trespassed over some line. Because there is no need to ruin this moment, I allow his hesitancy to pass. After a moment he stirs in his seat.
“Did you enjoy the concert?” It is obvious that he wants to change the subject. But, I am a female. And his abrupt shifting is troubling. I disconnect from my unfounded hunches.
“Oh, the concert…well…yes…of course, I enjoyed the concert.”
Last night’s images block any coherent reply. Fractured conversations interfere…caressing words serenaded by the music opened wounds as I recall pressing up against him. And so, I stare at him now and think about how it would be to lie naked next to this man, to physically be touched by him. I harangue myself over my intimate urges. I flip my head back trying to shake off the irrational desire. However, I cannot let go of last night’s encounter between this Mr. Dawson and some young man in a questionable financial exchange to obtain the seat next to mine. Suddenly, I am wary of how much I should trust this man seated across from me.
 Watching me carefully, he tilts his head as if to pardon any past indiscretions. He seems able to read my misgivings. This veil of deception must dissipate to have more clarity. And for that to happen, I must be more forthright, too.
“No, Mr. Dawson, to be quite frank, I did not enjoy the concert last night. I really struggled to sit through it.” Then to continue this openness, “Was that obvious?”
“I did sense you were a bit uncomfortable.” His polite delivery seems sincere enough.
Trying to inject some humor to lift the heavy tone: “You mean since each time I banged into your arm, you got a new ‘black and blue’?”
“Actually, I rather liked the banging in spite of all those black and blues.”
“You did, did you?” There is a pause; I am more comfortable with this exchange. “I’m really sorry; I didn’t mean to be so abusive.”
“No, no…no apology needed. What I meant by the banging was not because of that… but, yes, because of that, too…More because I found you quite intriguing as you squirmed about like you had hemorrhoids or some serious itch in the seat of your pants.” His humor releases any lingering veiled suppositions.
“Oh, I hope it wasn’t that annoying…I should have gotten up and left so that you would have enjoyed the show better.”
“No, no, really don’t feel put off…because…to tell the truth… I rather enjoyed watching you watching the singer.”

About the Author:

Author Karen Stary is a resident of San Diego, California, and a native of New Jersey who spent her summers on the Jersey Shore. She writes about the fragile relationships between women and men in today’s world. Stary asserts that women have yet to realize their true potential: to achieve something greater than any woman who came before them.

Friday, June 7, 2019

THE SHADOW IN THE NIGHT: Why the Human Psyche Needs the Vampire Myth

In the first chapter of THE HIEROPHANT’S DAUGHTER, protagonist Dominia di Mephitoli has her artificial fangs ripped out—a symbol, to my mind, for the condition of modern vampires. Yet, Dominia, the Hierophant and many of the antagonists of their world are described as “martyrs”, rather than “vampires”. Though the two are naturally similar, the cannibalistic martyrs are, to my mind, infinitely more pessimistic as a species than the dramatic and brooding antiheroes we’ve lately seen pop up. Even before Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight stood at the peak of popularity paranormal romance was a hit genre, but the effect on the vampire archetype has been stultifying at best and psychologically regressive at worst.

Why is it so bad that most, if not all, vampires in present day media have been castrated? Is it so wrong that we want to pet Edward Cullen’s sparkly cheek, or be roommates with the dysfunctional immortals making up the cast of What We Do in the Shadows? Not inherently. I’ve spoken in other essays about how the attraction to vampires and “dark” figures is a perfectly natural part of the psyche. Carl Jung notes this phenomenon frequently—in his essay “The Phenomenology of The Spirit in Fairytales,” he writes a little on the psychological functions of a fairy tale about a princess whose lover has been changed into a werewolf, and who must enact a sort of occult or alchemical rite to free him of his curse. In fact, animal bridegroom tales from Beauty and the Beast to Bluebeard describe variations of this motif, and in her book The Interpretation of Fairy Tales, Jung student Marie-Louise von Franz describes not just these, but her own interpretation of the vampire figure:
            The vampire motif is worldwide. Vampires are the spirits of the dead in hades to whom Odysseus must first sacrifice blood. Their lust for blood is the craving or impulse of the unconscious contents to break into consciousness. If they are denied they begin to drain energy from consciousness, leaving the individual fatigued and listless. [Stories such as this indicate] an attempt on the part of unconscious contents to attract the attention of consciousness, to obtain recognition of their reality and their needs and to impart something to consciousness. 
~von Franz, Marie-Louise, The Interpretation of Fairy Tales, pg 158

That’s easy enough to say, but all stories—all metaphors—on some level indicate an unconscious lesson waiting to be made conscious. Perhaps it’s better to consider the way evil’s allure is portrayed in vampire stories such as Dracula, or even the short story “Olalla”, where the unnamed Scottish protagonist describes a few fleeting interactions with a disturbed, isolated and inbred young woman whose vampiric status remains unclear. Such beings lure victims into a dark world and threaten perpetual ensnarement—and we as a society have been ensnared. More and more we move the vampire into the box of protagonist and completely redeem his sins; more and more we need a new negative figure to fill the hole being left by those snapped-off fangs.

Jung writes frequently of how the psyche compensates when changes are made: that is, when unconscious ideas are assumed into consciousness, unconscious motifs in one’s dreams, art and imagination tend to shift accordingly, and always with an eye toward balance—whatever balance may be in the vast mind of the cosmic un-mind. The truth is, by not acknowledging the evil of the archetype we have assimilated, we have done ourselves a disservice—failed to fully acknowledge the evil in ourselves—and amplified the amount of evil which is waiting to emerge. Perhaps this social embrace of the vampire is the most appropriate symbol of the tumultuous time in which we seem to live. The more we idolize an evil figure without truly facing its soulless, unconscious nature, the more evil unconsciously bubbles out of us. For our own sake, we need something like villainous vampires as an example of how, while evil may deck itself in glamor and sensuality, its rottenness exceeds any redemption it might earn by aesthetic. Martyrs are my answer to this problem—cannibalism in the world of THE HIEROPHANT’S DAUGHTER is a constant threat for human beings, and there is nothing romantic about their relationships with their predators. Humans who do desire the company of a martyr are generally thought to have a mental illness. But within the darkness of this horrific world, humans are able to work together more closely than ever, and cast aside the restrictions of religion, gender or sexuality in the name of fending off extinction.

Perhaps that is the lesson the collective unconscious seeks to deliver us through the present proliferation of vampires: that no matter the allure of evil, it will always be underground, and inferior to the sunlit glory of the human spirit.

M.F. Sullivan is the author of two novels in addition to THE DISGRACED MARTYR TRILOGY. Be sure to get your copy of Book I, THE HIEROPHANT’S DAUGHTER, now available on and your local indie bookseller—and pre-order Book II, THE GENERAL’S BRIDE, before it hits shelves on August 14th, 2019!

The Hierophant’s Daughter
The Disgraced Martyr Trilogy
Book One
M. F. Sullivan

Genre: LGBTQ Horror/Cyberpunk

Publisher: Painted Blind Publishing

Date of Publication: May 19th, 2019

ISBN: 9780996539579

Number of pages: 298 (Paperback)
Word Count: about 100,000

Cover Artist: Nuno Moreira

Tagline: Dive into the first volume of a bleak cyberpunk tahgmahr you can't afford to miss. What would you sacrifice to survive?

Book Description:

By 4042 CE, the Hierophant and his Church have risen to political dominance with his cannibalistic army of genetically modified humans: martyrs. In an era when mankind's intergenerational cold wars against their long-lived predators seem close to running hot, the Holy Family is poised on the verge of complete planetary control. It will take a miracle to save humanity from extinction.

It will also take a miracle to resurrect the wife of 331-year-old General Dominia di Mephitoli, who defects during martyr year 1997 AL in search of Lazarus, the one man rumored to bring life to the dead. With the Hierophant's Project Black Sun looming over her head, she has little choice but to believe this Lazarus is really all her new friends say he is--assuming he exists at all--and that these companions of hers are really able to help her. From the foulmouthed Japanese prostitute with a few secrets of her own to the outright sapient dog who seems to judge every move, they don't inspire a lot of confidence, but the General has to take the help she can get.

After all, Dominia is no ordinary martyr. She is THE HIEROPHANT'S DAUGHTER, and her Father won't let her switch sides without a fight. Not when she still has so much to learn.

The dystopic first entry of an epic cyberpunk trilogy, THE HIEROPHANT’S DAUGHTER is a horror/sci-fi adventure sure to delight and inspire adult readers of all stripes.

Amazon     BN

The Flight of the Governess

Ah, not Cassandra! Wake not her
Whom God hath maddened, lest the foe
Mock at her dreaming. Leave me clear
From that one edge of woe.
O Troy, my Troy, thou diest here
Most lonely; and most lonely we
The living wander forth from thee,
And the dead leave thee wailing!
—Euripides, The Trojan Women

The Disgraced Governess of the United Front was blind in her right eye. Was that blood in the left, or was it damaged, too? The crash ringing in her ears kept her from thinking straight. Of course her left eye still worked: it worked well enough to prevent her from careening into the trees through which she plunged. Yet, for the tinted flecks of reality sometimes twinkling between crimson streaks, she could only imagine her total blindness with existential horror. Would the protein heal the damage? How severely was her left eye wounded? What about the one she knew to be blind—was it salvageable? Ichigawa could check, if she ever made it to the shore.
She couldn’t afford to think that way. It was a matter of “when,” not of “if.” She would never succumb. Neither could car accident, nor baying hounds, nor the Hierophant himself keep her from her goal. She had fourteen miles to the ship that would whisk her across the Pacific and deliver her to the relative safety of the Risen Sun. Then the Lazarene ceremony would be less than a week away. Cassandra’s diamond beat against her heart to pump it into double time, and with each double beat, she thought of her wife (smiling, laughing, weeping when she thought herself alone) and ran faster. A lucky thing the Governess wasn’t human! Though, had she remained human, she’d have died three centuries ago in some ghetto if she’d lived past twenty without becoming supper. Might have been the easier fate, or so she lamented each time her mind replayed the crash of the passenger-laden tanque at fifth gear against the side of their small car. How much she might have avoided!
Of course—then she never would have known Cassandra. That made all this a reasonable trade. Cold rain softened the black earth to the greedy consistency of clay, but her body served where her eyes failed. The darkness was normally no trouble, but now she squinted while she ran and, under sway of a dangerous adrenaline high, was side-swiped by more than one twisting branch. The old road that was her immediate goal, Highway 128, would lead her to the coast of her favorite Jurisdiction, but she now had to rediscover that golden path after the crash’s diversion. In an effort to evade her pursuers, she had torn into a pear orchard without thought of their canine companions. Not that the soldiers of the Americas kept companions like Europa’s nobles. These dogs were tools. Well-honed, organic death machines with a cultivated taste for living flesh, whether martyr or human. The dogs understood something that most had forgotten: the difference between the two was untenable. Martyrs could tell themselves they were superior for an eternity, but it wouldn’t change the fact that the so-called master race and the humans they consumed were the same species.
That was not why Cassandra had died, but it hadn’t contributed to their marital bliss. And now, knowing what she did of the Hierophant’s intentions—thinking, always, what Cassandra would have said—the Governess pretended she was driven by that ghost, and not by her own hopelessness. Without the self-delusion, she was a victim to a great many ugly thoughts, foremost among them being: Was the fear of life after her wife’s death worth such disgrace? A death sentence? Few appreciated what little difference there was between human and martyr, and fewer cared, because caring was fatal. But she was a part of the Holy Family. Shouldn’t that have been all that mattered? Stunning how, after three centuries, she deserved to be treated no better than a human. Then again, there was nothing quite like resignation from one’s post to fall in her Father’s estimate. Partly, he was upset by her poor timing—she did stand him up at some stupid press event, but only because she hoped it would keep everybody occupied while she got away. In that moment, she couldn’t even remember what it was. Dedicating a bridge? Probably. Her poor head, what did the nature of the event matter when she was close to death?
That lapse in social graces was not the reason for this hunt. He understood that more lay behind her resignation than a keening for country life. Even before he called her while she and the others took the tanque to the coast, he must have known. Just like he must have known the crash was seconds from happening while he chatted away, and that the humans in her company, already nervous to be within a foot of the fleeing Governess, were doomed.
Of the many people remaining on Earth, those lumped into the group of “human” were at constant risk of death, mutilation, or—far worse—unwilling martyrdom. This meant those humans lucky enough to avoid city-living segregation went to great lengths to keep their private properties secure. Not only houses but stables. The Disgraced Governess found this to be true of the stables into which she might have stumbled and electrocuted herself were it not for the bug zaps of rain against the threshold’s surface. Her mind made an instinctive turn toward prayer for the friendliness of the humans in the nearby farmhouse—an operation she was quick to abort. In those seconds (minutes?) since the crash, she’d succeeded in reconstructing the tinted windows of the tanque and a glimpse of silver ram’s horns: the Lamb lurked close enough to hear her like she spoke into his ear. It was too much to ask that he be on her side tonight.
Granted, the dogs of the Lamb were far closer, and far more decisive about where their loyalties stood. One hound sank its teeth into her ankle, and she, crying out, kicked the beast into its closest partner with a crunch. Slower dogs snarled outrage in the distance while the Disgraced Governess ran to the farmhouse caught in her left periphery. The prudent owners, to her frustration, shuttered their windows at night. Nevertheless, she smashed her fist against the one part of the house that protruded: the doorbell required by the Hierophant’s “fair play” dictatum allowing the use of electronic barriers. As the humans inside stumbled out of bed in response to her buzzing, the Disgraced Governess unholstered her antique revolver and unloaded two rounds into the recovered canines before they were upon her. The discharge wasn’t a tip-off she wanted to give to the Lamb and her other pursuers, but it hastened the response of the sleeping farmers as the intercom crackled to life.
“Who is it?” A woman’s voice, quivering with an edge of panic.
“My name is Dominia di Mephitoli: I’m the former Governess of the United Front, and I need to borrow a horse. Please. Don’t let me in. Just drop the threshold on your stables.”
“The Governess? I’m sorry, I don’t understand. The Dominia di Mephitoli, really? The martyr?”
“Yes, yes, please. I need a horse now.” Another dog careened around the corner and leapt over the bodies of his comrades with such grace that she wasted her third round in the corpses. Two more put it down as she shouted into the receiver. “I can’t transfer you any credits because they’ve frozen my Halcyon account, but I’ll leave you twenty pieces of silver if you drop the threshold and loan me a horse. You can reclaim it at the docks off Bay Street, in the township of Sienna. Please! He’ll kill me.”
“And he’ll be sure to kill us for helping you.”
“Tell him I threatened you. Tell him I tricked you! Anything. Just help me get away!”
“He’ll never believe what we say. He’ll kill me, my husband, our children. We can’t.”
“Oh, please. An act of mercy for a dying woman. Please, help me leave. I can give you the name of a man in San Valentino who can shelter you and give you passage abroad.”
“There’s no time to go so far south. Not as long as it takes to get across the city.”
It had been ten seconds since she’d heard the last dog. That worried her. With her revolver at the ready, she scanned the area for something more than the quivering roulette blotches swelling in her right eye. Nothing but the dead animals. “He’ll kill you either way. For talking to me, and not keeping me occupied until his arrival. For knowing that there’s disarray in his perfect land. He’ll find a reason, even if it only makes sense to him.”
The steady beat of rain pattered out a passive answer. On the verge of giving up, Dominia stepped back to ready herself for a fight—and the house’s threshold dropped with an electric pop. The absent mauve shimmer left the fa├žade bare. How rare to see a country place without its barrier! A strange thing. Stranger for the front door to open; she’d only expected them to do away with the threshold on the stables.
But, rather than the housewife she’d anticipated, there stood the Hierophant. Several bleak notions clicked into place.
One immaculate gray brow arched. “Now, Dominia, that’s hardly fair. Knowledge of your disgrace isn’t why I’ll kill them. The whole world will know of it tomorrow morning. You embarrassed me by sending your resignation, rather than making the appearance I asked of you, so it is only fair I embarrass you by rejecting your resignation and firing you publicly. No, my dear. I will kill these fine people to upset you. In fact, Mr. McLintock is already dead in the attic. A mite too brave. Of course”—he winked, and whispered in conspiracy—“don’t tell them that.”
“How did you know I’d come here?”
“Such an odd spurt of rain tonight. Of all your Jurisdictions, this one is usually so dry this time of year! Won’t you come in for tea? Mrs. McLintock brews a fine pot. But put that gun away. You’re humiliating yourself. And me.”

About the Author:

M.F. Sullivan is the author of Delilah, My Woman, The Lightning Stenography Device, and a slew of plays in addition to the Trilogy. She lives in Ashland, Oregon with her boyfriend and her cat, where she attends the local Shakespeare Festival and experiments with the occult.

Find more information about her work (and plenty of free essays) at

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Release Day Blitz Sweet Escape by Susan V Vaughn #smitten #romance #smitteninthemitten

Sweet Escape
Smitten Series
Book One
Susan V. Vaughn

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Publisher: Inkspell Publishing

Date of Publication: June 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-949931-10-5

Number of pages: 184
Word Count: 59,000

Cover Artist: Najla Qamber

Book Description:

Ted Harper knew moving to Milford to open his dream bar wouldn’t be easy. But he could have never imagined he would be so easily distracted from his goal. Violet Marino is beautiful, smart, captivating, and unfortunately, his next-door neighbor. Now Ted has a dilemma on his hands he didn’t anticipate as his life becomes entangled with a woman he can’t seem to forget.

Violet Marino has spent decades caring for her family and working at her father’s restaurant as a waitress. Hardly the life she dreamed of living when she was a little girl. But after her mother died, she was never a little girl again. Thrust into the parenting role for her two younger siblings, Violet sacrificed everything for their well-being.

When a handsome business owner offers her more than just a sweet escape, Violet is tempted to take him up on the offer. Even if that means jumping into the unknown.

Amazon      Kobo      BN

Excerpt 1

He saw another opportunity to tease her and decided he had to take it. She kept leaving herself open. “Oh, I get it. You’re one of those narrow-minded types.”
“I am not!” she said with outrage.
He shook his head sadly. “Sounds like you are.”
“No, I just…” She paused, seeming lost. “Well, look at you. You’re like this perfect, broken nose Ken doll.”
And there was the bad review based on his “cover”. “So you’re saying I’m plastic and handsome?”
She exhaled noisily, obviously flustered, and he enjoyed every minute of it. “I just mean, you’re, like…well, you are handsome, I guess. Probably to most women. But that’s not the point.” 
She seemed frazzled, like she was trying to talk herself out of admitting any attraction. But he had seen the heat in her eyes when they locked gazes, and he wasn’t about to let her off the hook. “So what’s the point?” 
“The point is you don’t look or act like someone who spends his off time reading books.”
“That’s the funny thing about me.” Seeing his opening, he stood up and walked over to her chair. “I have a lot of layers to my personality.” He grabbed her hands.
She arched her head back, staring up at him, probably trying to figure out why he was now standing so close and touching her. “What are you doing?”
He pulled her to her feet. If he waited any longer to kiss her, he would probably lose his mind. 
“Showing you another layer,” he said, and then, before she could react, he pressed his lips against hers and felt the world come alive.

About the Author:

Romance Author, Susan Vaughn understood the meaning of sarcasm before she could walk. Her childhood in the suburbs of Detroit was spent mainly trying to outwit her six creative siblings. When she wasn’t working on the next soul-crushing jab, she sharpened her imagination on romantic literature and day dreamed about her knight in shining armor.

It didn’t take long for this hairdresser by trade to turn her passion for reading romances into writing her own unique love stories. Susan lives her life finding laughter in all situations, and delights in marrying sarcasm with romance to create realistic falling-in-love stories in the unlikeliest of scenarios.  

Susan lives on the shores of Lake Huron with her real life knight in shining armor and enjoys watching their three children learn the art of sarcasm and wit.

Twitter handle: @susanvaughn1124