The Trouble with Holly by Kirsti Ahlers

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Blurb:

Holly McIntyre has just been invited to join a group of her friends who are traveling to France for a wine tasting trip that will end in Paris. Holly has dreamed of taking a trip to France since she was a little girl. Now the only thing standing between her and her dream trip is her checking account. Well, she’s not going to miss out on this chance, even if it means getting a demeaning job as an elf for Santa Clause at Harrington’s Department Store. Holly hates Christmas, finds it too commercial and just can never seem to get into the holiday spirit. Of course the Santa she’s being an elf for has way to much holiday happiness, so this is not going to be an easy task, but Paris is on the other side. Now if she could only ignore the red hot attraction burning between Santa and herself. Oh, Santa, baby!

Christopher Harrington loves the holidays and volunteers every year as Santa at his family’s department store. This year his elf is anything but a happy little soul. And yet, he is drawn to Holly and her sassy personality and realizes she poses as a holiday challenge. He’s going to get this prickly little Scrooge to come around and see there really is magic to the Christmas season and that not everyone is interested in things bought in a store. Holly might mean trouble but Christopher is not afraid of that. Trouble can be fun.

Extract:

Holly McIntyre blew out a breath as she frowned down at her checking account balance and worked hard to resist the urge to scream in utter frustration.

“Well, do you think you can swing it?” Dahlia asked as she continued to file her nails, smacking on her gum without a care in the world.

“I don’t think so.” Holly nibbled on the inside of her lower lip.

“You’ve got to come, Holly; we’re talking France!”

“Yeah, I know.” Holly wanted to spend Christmas in France, going on wine tasting trips and strolling the Champs-Élysées. She wanted to experience the city she’d been dreaming about since she was a little girl. And here was her chance to leave the cold and windy city of Chicago for Paris.

Dahlia set her emery board down and pinned Holly with a determined look. “You’re going to go; you deserve this trip, and I won’t take no for an answer.” She reached over for the legal pad that had Holly’s budget written on it and ran her perfectly manicured fingertip down the yellow lined paper. “Girl you’re so organized you give professional organizers like me a bad name.”

Holly laughed. It was true; although Dahlia owned her own organizing business and could organize a hoarder into a happy Zen place, she didn’t prescribe to the same thought process.

Dahlia pushed the legal pad back across the table. “Maybe you could pick up another job?”

“Yeah, because interior design jobs are just dropping out of the sky like snowflakes.” Holly was an interior designer but business had fallen off with the turn of the economy and people just weren’t redoing kitchens and other rooms. She had enough clients and projects to keep the wolf from the door as it were but not enough to buy a ticket to Paris.

“Get a second job!” Dahlia clapped her hands together in glee. “Find a part time job; the holidays are right around the corner,and you can find something that will pay well enough for a plane ticket and a week of hotels.”

“Gee, is that all?” Holly pushed her dark hair behind her right ear and continued to look at her pitiful budget. She really needed to save and put money aside, for when trip opportunities like this arose, she could go without any guilt.

“You know what I mean.”

“Yeah, I do.” Holly stood and went into the kitchen and grabbed a glass before filling it with some water. “I need to find something that will allow me to work on the jobs I’ve got and still be able to fund a trip to Europe. I doubt seriously I’ll find that.”

Dahlia, one never to sit around and wait for things to happen, was already looking in the want ads. “Here you go! This will be perfect.”

That was just too easy, and Holly went over to the table and leaned over to look at what advertisement had her friend so excited.

“Oh no. Hell no.” Holly shook her head back and forth. “No way.” She backed away from the table and went back to the kitchen to put the glass in the sink.

“Come on, Holly. It will be fun. And you would only have to work a few hours a week.”

“Are you high? I’m not going to do that.” She pointed her finger at the offending paper. “I’d rather sling drinks at a bar, or ask if someone wants to supersize their fries with their order.”

Dahlia shivered. “Eww. Food service is not for you, my friend.”

“Well, that,” she pointed once again to the newspaper, “isn’t for me either.”

“What if I applied with you? Would you do it then? Just think you could go to Paris! The Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Élysées, the Louvre! And don’t get me started on the wine!”

Holly crossed her arms across her chest and sighed. She did want to go to Paris; she wanted to go badly. But the idea of dressing up as an elf for Harrington’s Department store’s Holiday Village made her want to break out in a rash. She loathed the holidays, found Christmas to be nothing but a “Hey, what are you gonna get me” grasping holiday.

The meaning and the magic was gone and had been since she was a little girl and learned Santa was really her Uncle Matthew. Still, there had been something about those country Christmas’s she missed. Perhaps it was the family or the innocence of the whole thing. Now, Christmas was all about money and what big electronic thing was going to be sitting under the tree. Her family was scattered; none of them in Illinois anymore and with lives of their own. In fact of all her brothers and sisters—there were six—she really only seemed to talk to them on Christmas Eve and on birthdays. It was sad really. This is why going to France with her girlfriends seemed like such a wonderful idea. She wouldn’t be sitting alone watching movies and eating ice cream by the ton.

“Okay, I’ll do it.” Holly uncrossed her arms and walked back to the kitchen table, dropping down into the chair. “I mean how bad could it be?”

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About the Author:

Kristi Ahlers is a California girl! She grew up in Northern California in a small city called Yuba City. Since then she’s lived in Brussels, Belgium, and England along with a myriad of other locations. A former flight attendant, she was able to continue to feed her love of travel. This has greatly influenced her writing, allowing her to pen stories about places she’s managed to visit and things she’s experienced.

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Mistletoe Medium by Elizabeth Delisi

Blurb:

No sooner does psychic Lottie Baldwin pull up stakes and move to Cheyenne, North Dakota, than she finds herself up to her neck in a series of mysterious robberies. Can Lottie and the handsome new man in her life, deputy sheriff Harlan Erikson, solve the crime spree before Lottie becomes the next victim?

Excerpt:

Lottie Baldwin glanced in her rearview mirror and frowned. Why hadn’t her tarot cards foreseen this? Red flashing lights reflected from the revolving dome atop a sheriff’s car, trailing directly behind her. After driving four hundred miles, the final hundred with the afternoon sun glaring in her eyes, the last thing she needed was a speeding ticket. She eased off the accelerator and pulled into the breakdown lane of the small, two-lane highway.

The sheriff’s car stopped behind her and a tall, muscular man in a black uniform got out. Lottie watched him in the mirror, absentmindedly patting her tousled blond curls into place, fascinated by the lithe way he moved. She’d never been interested in the law-and-order type, but this man might be the one who could change her mind. She opened her window, letting in the unseasonably mild early-December air.

He leaned down and removed his sunglasses. “May I see your license and registration, please?”

“Of course, Sheriff,” Lottie said, smiling briefly to bring her dimples into view as she read his badge—Lake County, North Dakota Sheriff’s Department. He was even more gorgeous up close, with dark blue eyes and broad shoulders that strained the top buttons of his shirt. The setting sun tinged his blond hair coppery-gold, and a light breeze brought the subtle scent of his spicy aftershave to her nostrils. His proximity made her light-headed. “What’s the problem? Was I speeding?” she asked innocently as she rummaged in the bottom of her purse for her driver’s license.

“You were going sixty-eight in a fifty-five zone, ma’am,” he said, accepting her license and registration.

“I’m sorry, Sheriff. I’ve been on the road since six this morning. I guess I was anxious for the trip to be over.” She smiled again, more intimately this time.

“Lottie Baldwin,” he read from her driver’s license. “Blond hair, gray eyes. From New York?”

“Not anymore.” She shook her head. “I’m moving to Cheyenne and I’m so sorry to make such a poor first impression on the local law enforcement. Can we start over?” She extended her hand.

The officer studied her for a minute then grasped her hand in his. “Pleased to meet you, ma’am. My name is Harlan Erikson. I’m a deputy sheriff here and, as lovely as you are, I’m afraid I’m going to have to write you a ticket.”

As their hands touched, tingles shot up Lottie’s arm. Lovely, was she? The man had good taste! “You just do what you have to do,” she purred. “I respect a man who does his job.” She made no move to withdraw her hand, letting it lie trustingly in his.

Picture of Elizabeth Delisi

About the Author:

Elizabeth Delisi wanted to be a writer since she was in first grade, and probably would have written in the womb if she could have convinced her mother to swallow a pencil. But life hasn’t always gone the way she planned, and on her road to publication she worked as a motel maid, waitress, secretary, administrative aide, substitute teacher, and newspaper reporter.

Elizabeth is a multi-published, award-winning author of romance, mystery and suspense. Her time-travel romance set in ancient Egypt, Lady of the Two Lands, won a Bloody Dagger Award and was a Golden Rose Award nominee. Her romantic suspense novel, Since All is Passing, was an EPPIE Award finalist and Bloody Dagger Award finalist. Fatal Fortune was a Word Museum Reviewer’s Choice Masterpiece. Elizabeth’s contemporary romance novella The Heart of the Matter is featured in the Valentine’s Day-themed anthology Cupid’s Capers and was an EPPIE Award finalist. A Carol of Love is part of Holiday Hearts anthology and an EPPIE Award finalist. A Cup of Christmas Charm is part of Holiday Hearts 2 anthology and was also an EPPIE Award finalist.

Elizabeth is an instructor for Writer’s Digest University. She has taught Creative Writing at the community college level, has worked as a copyeditor for several small publishers, and edits for individuals. She holds a B.A. in English with a Creative Writing major from St. Leo University.

Elizabeth is currently at work on Deadly Destiny and Perilous Prediction, the sequels to Fatal Fortune; Knit A Spell, a paranormal romance; and recently published Wandering Spirits, vol 1 and 2.

Elizabeth lives in New Hampshire with her husband, Rat Terrier, and feisty parakeet. She enjoys hearing from her readers.

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#tirgearrtuesday – One Night in Cape Town by Lily Harlem

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Blurb:

The week before her big day, Tia catches her fiancé getting down and dirty with her best friend. She quickly washes her hands of them both. But why waste a perfectly good and very expensive honeymoon to her dream spot–South Africa?

After bumping into the same cute guy three times in Cape Town, Tia’s reminded she still has desires. Before long, they’re hiking over Table Mountain together, and getting to know each other. Levi is charming and funny, sexy and strong.

When trouble brews in the African sky, a wild storm leaves them stranded on the mountain as night falls. Levi’s survival skills provides them with quick shelter as the storm rages above. But for Tia, another storm rages between her and her sexy saviour. Will he teach her to trust again? Or is there more to the hot American than meets the eye?

Extract:

By the time they reached the cable car station they’d been plunged into darkness and the raindrops were like bullets hammering down.

“Fuck.” Levi banged on the locked door.

“It doesn’t look promising.” The building was in darkness, clearly abandoned by the staff. “What are we going to do?” Tia stepped behind a wall to give herself some relief from the driving wind.

“I guess we’ll have to hike down.” He took out his map and shook it. “Shit!” The wind tore it from his hands. “Jesus Christ.” He scrabbled for it, but it was too late. A current of air had claimed it and sucked it upwards.

Tia clenched her fists; her hands were cold, but her body was warm from the exertion.

“Damn it.” Levi stepped behind the wall with her and leaned his head back on the bricks.

“I don’t think we can hike down,” Tia said. “The weather is too bad. We’ll get struck by lightning or slip to our deaths.”

Levi pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes. “Damn it. I’m so sorry.”

“Why are you sorry?” Her brain was ticking through their options, which weren’t many.

“For getting you into this situation, it sucks.”

“Hey, I came with you of my own free will. It’s no one’s fault.”

He dropped his hands. “That’s kind of you to say.”

“Damn shame this door isn’t open. We could have just sheltered in there for the night.”

“Shall I go and see if the gift shop or café is open?”

“Yeah, good idea.”

“You wait here.”

“Okay.”

He disappeared around the corner. Tia stared at a bush to her right that shook and shivered in the wind. Another huge clap of thunder made her jump and she pressed her hand over her mouth.

A few minutes later Levi returned. “No luck.” He pushed his fingers through his hair, flattening it on his head. “We’re on our own up here for the night.”

“I know.” Under any other circumstances a night alone with Levi was very appealing, but right now Tia was thinking about survival.

“What have you got in your bag?” he asked.

“Some food and water, not much. A torch, my phone—”

“Phone.” He tutted. “Let’s just call for help.” He scrabbled in his pocket and pulled out his. “Damn it. Out of battery.”

Tia shielded hers from the rain. “No signal.”

He shook his head and sighed. “What else you got?”

“A cap, sun cream and a scarf.”

“Okay, that’s not bad, we’ve got food and water covered, and we’re warm and waterproof.” He looked at her jeans. “Sort of.”

“We have to get out of this, though.”

“Yep. I’ve got a square of tarp in my bag. It’s not huge, but if we find an indent in the rocks we could block ourselves in.”

“Oh, I saw one, not far from here. When you said about wild animals I thought it looked like a small cave, a lair or something.”

Through the darkness she saw hope flash over his eyes. “Great. Lead the way.”

About the Author:

Lily Harlem lives in the UK and is a best-selling, award-winning author of contemporary erotic romance. She writes for publishers on both sides of the Atlantic including Totally Bound, HarperCollins, Evernight Publishing, Pride Publishing, Sweetmeats Press, and Tirgearr Publishing. Her books regularly receive high praise and industry nominations and have been USA Today reviewer’s recommended reads.

Before turning her hand to writing, Lily Harlem worked as a trauma nurse, and her latest HarperCollins release, Confessions of a Naughty Night Nurse, draws on her many experiences while nursing in London. Lily also self-publishes: The Glass Knot, The Silk Tie, In Expert Hands, and Scored have been blessed with many 5* reviews.

Lily co-authors with Natalie Dae and publishes under the name Harlem Dae.

One thing you can be sure of, whatever book you pick up by Ms Harlem, is it will be wildly romantic and down-and-dirty sexy.

 

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The Swan’s Road by Garth Petterson

ISBN: 9781370539376
ASIN: B0764HR7LG
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Blurb:

In the eleventh century, Cnute, the Viking king of Engla-lond and Scandinavia, sails with his son, Harald, and his shield brothers to Rome. Thrown off course by a storm, they follow the route up the Rhine.

When Harald hangs back to assist Selia, a beautiful Frisian woman, his path turns perilous. Newfound enemies, retainers of Robert the Devil, Duke of Normandy, pursue them. Harald, Selia, and their companions fail to rendezvous with King Cnute, and are forced to travel cross-country on horseback. If Duke Robert’s plan to assassinate Cnute succeeds, an invasion of Engla-lond will follow.

Can Harald and Selia reach Rome in time to warn the King?

Extract:

The prow of our longship broke the waves, the salt spray stinging my eyes. My legs bent, and my feet shifted naturally at the rise and fall of the sea. Always, it was the same, when the unfurling sail caught the wind and the ship surged forward. Like when you put heels to horse and she runs. The same. My spirits rising. The sun glistening off the surface of the sea.

This was more to my liking than learning the ways of the realm, for surely my royal Danish blood was many parts seawater.

I turned and watched my father, King Cnute, standing with his back to the mast. At forty years, Cnute was past his prime now, though he still maintained the strength of his sword arm, and the force of his will could not be broken. With his red cloak wrapped around him and the bronze circlet on his brow, my father looked out toward the other longships as if his gaze alone was enough to gather them in, to keep the wolf pack together. Four drakkars or longships, sixty men, and a string of horses, an adequate force for a raid, but a mere fighting band in a battle.

At that moment, he saw me watching him.

“Harald, my son,” he called. A broad smile lit up his face. I could tell the wind and waves had ripped the weight of kingship from him. “It’s a fine day to be a Dane.” He laughed in that way of his, tossing his head back, so his long mane of gray-blond hair blew in the wind.

I left the prow and walked the pitching deck to join him.

“We’ll make the Norman shore by nightfall.” His voice rose above the sound of the wind. “The weather will hold so the ships can return with the morning tide.”

“I wish we were sailing all the way to Rome,” I said. “I am more at home on a deck than a horse.”

“As am I. But I have need to see the kingdoms of the Holy Roman Empire. There is much to learn—for both of us.”

I tried to discern if my father alluded to some of my past lapses of judgment: fits of childish anger directed at him, a fondness for ale beyond my ability to control my behavior, and a tendency to be overwhelmed with love for a pretty face. This time, as at others, I could not read what lay behind his words.

My father continued. “This system the Normans and Franks use—fee or fief they call it—I would see how it functions, whether it enslaves those who work the land, or secures them.”

“Your subjects prosper, Father. Is there need for change?”

He looked at me shrewdly, wiping seaspray from his face. “Perhaps not. Let us say we shall borrow that which we deem to be good and make note of the rest. A king should always know about his friends, for one day they may be his enemies.”

“May God will all your days be lived in peace,” said a voice behind me.

“Your Eminence,” said the king.

I had not seen Archbishop Lyfing approach. He was a short, thin man, and his bishop’s robes only made him look smaller.

“The Duke of Normandy’s representative will be watching for us,” the prelate said. “He will not want to miss collecting the passage toll.”

“I bear a letter from the Holy Father,” the king replied, “that will serve as a pass through the toll collectors in any Catholic lands.”

Lyfing was caught off guard, but replied, “I wasn’t aware of this arrangement.”

“You are my Archbishop of Canterbury and my confessor, but you are not privy to all matters of state, Father Lyfing.”

For a moment, the archbishop’s arrogance faded from his countenance, though he recovered quickly, making a slight bow to the king. Whenever Cnute addressed Lyfing as “Father,” he was reminding the man of his humble priestly beginnings, a role he could be reduced to if he displeased his King.

Not able to keep the smile from my face, I asked to be excused. My father nodded and continued his conversation with the churchman. I made my way toward the stern where my two best friends, Torsten and Gwyn, fished with hand lines ahead of the steersman.

I said, “It looks to me the crew will be eating salt pork for supper tonight, not sea bass.”

“The passage is not yet over, young princeling,” Torsten replied. “Chide me at the day’s end.”

Gwyn grinned. “If we land something spiny and full of worms, we’ll save it for your highness’ supper.”

We shared the laugh. Torsten, Gwyn, and I had grown up together. Our fathers had fought as shield brothers in the taking of our English kingdom. To be included in this journey was an honor for their families.

The company of our friend, Gwyn, could not be equaled. He loved to jest or tell a tale around a campfire or over horns of ale. Like most Welshmen, Gwyn was dark and short in stature, a wild barbarian in a fight.

Torsten had a different nature. With a Danish father and an English mother, he stood tall and blond like a Northman. The impression he gave to strangers was of a quiet shyness. But those who sought to take advantage of that lack of brashness suffered for their mistake, for although Torsten was gifted with patience and forbearance, the embers of injustice could be quickly fanned when the need arose. In our world, the need did most often arise.

Of the three of us, I would have to admit to being the most hotheaded and impulsive. I had once chosen like-minded companions, but our antics many times reached the ears of the king. It is one thing to be reprimanded by one’s father; it is quite another when one’s father is the king of the realm. Cnute made it a clear choice: either pursue a royal path or be on my way to the devil. My former companions found themselves shipped off to rustic and unknown relatives in different parts of my father’s vast kingdoms. I found better friends.

“Look, Harald,” said Gwyn, checking his fishline, “what’s all this Holy Roman whatnot we’re off to?”

“Aye,” said Torsten, “the king’s not one to give his rowers lessons in statecraft.”

“That’s because you’re better at rowing than listening.”

Torsten reached over to cuff his friend on the head, but Gwyn ducked the blow.

“Both of you listen, and I’ll explain it to you,” I said. “You know Cnute rules the northern lands of Engla-lond, Danmark, Nordvegr, and parts of Sverige? Well, the kingdoms directly south, in central Europe, are tied together as the Holy Roman Empire. This is not the Empire of the old Roman legions, but a Christian alliance of kingdoms under a monarch who is appointed by the Pope in Rome. A new emperor is to be crowned in Rome, and this voyage from Engla-lond, across the Narrow Sea, is the first leg of our journey. Once we get to Normandy, we go overland. I don’t know the whole route, but we keep heading south, all the way to Rome.”

“And that’s why the archbishop’s crawled out from ’neath his rock, isn’t it?” said Gwyn. “So he can sample the Pope’s wine.”

“I’m sure there are many reasons for Lyfing to be with us. One is to make our King appear to be more than a northern barbarian. Another is to strengthen our ties with the Holy See. Does this all make sense?”

“Clear enough,” Torsten replied, peering down at the sea.

“Perfectly clear, Harald,” said Gwyn. “Except the part about the Holy See. I thought we were going overland, didn’t I?”

Just then Gwyn’s line jerked taut, and he struggled to keep hold of it. “Now if you’ve finished preaching to the ignorant, could you help me pull in your supper?”

About the Author:

Garth Pettersen’s short stories have appeared in a number of anthologies, and in journals such as Blank Spaces, The Spadina Literary Review, and The Opening Line Literary ‘Zine. His story River’s Rising was awarded an Honourable Mention for the Short Story America 2017 Prize, and his fantasy novella, River Born, was one of two runners-up in the Wundor Editions (UK) Short Fiction Prize. The Swan’s Road is his debut novel. He is a Canadian writer who lives with his wife on a farm in the Fraser Valley near Vancouver, British Columbia. When he’s not writing, he’s riding horses and working with young, disabled riders.

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Nanowrimo & the Therapeutic Benefits of Writing

I’ve always been a bit of a bookworm, and found a love for writing when I was about 10 years old and asked to write a short story as part of a school project. Around the same time, I also wrote a poem which would go on to be published in a local anthology four years later. Writing is a part of who I am, and while I always dreamed of becoming a published author, it certainly wasn’t something I actively focussed on. In fact, I set my sights on becoming a vet and studied the sciences at school. They say “life has a plan” though, and Life didn’t want me to be a vet.

I was bullied at secondary school to the point that I changed schools when I was 14. “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you” was something I heard a lot and a big fat lie. Words do hurt, and they can scar. I found solace in my writing. Poetry became my outlet. It was a way for me to express my emotions, without having to physically speak. Roll forward to 2006, and life was a whirlwind. I got married, moved to the Channel Islands, got pregnant, miscarried, got pregnant again, and in 2007 had my daughter 8 weeks early by emergency C-section. To say my mental health was fragile would be an understatement, and yet again I found myself turning to poetry as a way of expressing everything I was feeling.

My daughter’s pregnancy and birth was traumatic to say the least, and I was put on bed rest as part of my recovery. I didn’t know anyone on Jersey, my daughter was still in hospital, and my husband was working 60 hours a week. My laptop became my best-friend. I found a “content mill” website, which is a website that essentially takes your work and uses it to fill other websites, paying on a “pay-per-click” basis. Through that, I discovered Nanowrimo.

Nanowrimo, or National Novel Writing Month was launched in the 1990s as a way to encourage people to finish a novel. The challenge is to write 50,000 words during the month of November. It’s grown so much that there are factions around the world, who meet up on a regular basis. It has made writing a social event. I decided to have a go at writing a novel, and at some point I wrote a God-awful murder mystery called “Murder at Meadowview”. I couldn’t get a publisher, so I went through KDP and self-published. It’s one of those books that I wish I could remove from all living memory, but sadly as is the way of the internet, it has been published and so therefore, it is around forever.

But something good did come out of it. I realised I could finish a novel. And writing a novel is just as therapeutic as poetry. Since then, I’ve taken part in Nanowrimo every single year, and every single year I’ve completed a novel. My skill as a writer has evolved, and I’ve also been lucky enough to get deals with some great publishers. You can find my erotic and contemporary romance books HERE and my urban fantasy book HERE.

Recently, I was told by a friend that I’m very good at putting on a brave face and getting on with things, even when the whole word is falling apart around me. The past eight weeks in particular have been absolutely awful for a variety of reasons. The thing is, as much as I love a chat and a gossip, and I’m happy to talk to anyone about anything (I’m not ashamed of my mental health problems), I rarely just go and tell someone. Part of my anxiety is feeling like I’m putting on other people. I’ve had cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and talking therapy, and they were both very beneficial, but I find I get more out of writing.

At the beginning of this year, I decided to embark on a holistic journey, studying aspects of Complementary and Alternative Medicines (CAMs). Journalling is a very real therapy that was touched on when I did my own CBT and talking therapies. It’s an act of writing down your thoughts, particularly those you find difficult to talk about. It’s also a creative writing technique often used by writers during Nanowrimo, who are suffering with writer’s block. By sitting in a quiet room, perhaps with some calm music playing or incense burning, anything to get you into a meditative state, you put pen to paper and write whatever comes to mind.

For me, writing has now become a career rather than something therapeutic. I’ve completed my degree – not in science as I’d previously hoped, but in Arts & Humanities, as life intended. And while I am in a better place now, my mental health is still something I struggle with on a daily basis. Most days are good, and I can focus on writing novels for everyone to enjoy. I still get bad days though, and on those, I turn to poetry and pour my emotions into my laptop.

Poetry Written

Begin with a word, now choose another,

be the word’s mistress, don’t be its lover.

Bend it and twist it, do what you will,

out of your fingertips, let the words spill.

Find the words meaning and find it again,

snap it and crush it, and kill it and when,

you’ve found the right word that you want to use,

scratch it. Start again. Adore the abuse.

Find your beginning, a middle and end,

find some nouns and verbs and let them all blend.

Mix them all into a witch-worthy brew,

just leave them to be, and let the words stew.

Abandon your ink blots, start a new page,

unleash your dragons, your love, and your rage.

Once you are finished, you’re done and you’re through,

kill all of your darlings, then start anew.

Let the ink flow, until your pen’s run dry,

there’s nowhere to go, no tears left to cry.

Have you revealed yourself, hidden away,

seen the bleak night turn into bleak day?

Family forgot you even existed.

Are all those scrounged words, humbled and twisted?

And have you chewed off less than was bitten?

The answer’s yes. It’s poetry written.

 

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Fade by A.K. Morgen

ISBN: 9780463149522
ASIN: B07YYKKC58
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Blurb:

What do you do when you realize nothing in your life is what you’ve believed it to be?

Arionna Jacobs’ world is turned upside down when she loses her mother in a tragic accident. She’s forced to leave her old life behind and move in with her father.

Dace Matthews, a teaching assistant at Arionna’s new college, is torn in two, unable to communicate with the feral wolf caged inside him.

When they meet, everything they thought they knew about life unravels. Dace has intimate access to Arionna’s mind, and something deep within her fights to rise to the surface. They don’t understand what’s happening to them or why, and they’re running out of time to sort out the strange occurrences around them.

Their meeting sets an ancient Norse prophesy of destruction in motion, and what destiny has in store for them is bigger than either could have ever imagined. Unless they learn to trust themselves and one another, they may never resolve the mystery surrounding who they are to one another, and what that means for the world.

Extract:

December 9, 2009

The wind howled around me, flinging cold rain this way and that. Frigid drops stung my face and hands. The vinyl awning overhead shook and rattled in time to the thunderclaps echoing from every direction. Energy crackled in the air as lightning splintered trees miles away. The resulting clamor forced Reverend Don to shout just to be heard above the fury of the storm. Even so, I only caught every third or fourth word of the prayer he offered.

I didn’t need to hear what he said anyway. There were no prayers for raising the dead. I knew because I’d tried. I’d begged, pleaded, and prayed to every god I could think of over the last four days, and none of my efforts changed a single thing.

My mom still lay in the gleaming wood casket in front of me. And I still couldn’t breathe. I’d tried that for the last four days, too, but my breath remained lodged in my throat. It burned when I inhaled. It burned when I exhaled.

Was that normal?

I wasn’t sure.

I lifted my unblinking gaze from my waterlogged black shoes as Reverend Don continued shouting. He bowed his gray head over his Bible, his shoulders hunching against the driving rain pummeling us from all sides. The few mourners who’d braved the storm alongside my dad and me to attend the graveside service huddled in groups beneath useless umbrellas, soggy tissues clutched in their shaking fists. Mascara ran in rivulets down more than one face, but whether from the rain or tears, I didn’t know.

I couldn’t remember if I’d put on mascara before leaving the house, but any smudges beneath my eyes were from rain. I hadn’t cried yet, and I didn’t know if that was normal either.

I didn’t think it mattered one way or another though. My life stopped making sense the moment I’d opened the door to the state trooper on Saturday, and every hour since had flung me further and further from normal. Who cared if I cried now or later?

My mom was dead, and tears wouldn’t change that.

Besides, if I let myself cry now, I wouldn’t stop. I’d keep on until I ran out of tears, and I couldn’t do that. I needed to keep moving forward. One step at a time. Sprinkle dirt over her coffin. Thank her friends for coming. Pack my things. Transfer colleges.

The list seemed endless, but if I stopped long enough to think now, I’d fall apart. Eventually, I’d run out of things to do, I knew that, but I didn’t know what to expect when I did. When I had nothing left to plan or store or do…is that when I cracked? When I shattered like Humpty Dumpty?

As a murmur of “amen” went up from Mom’s friends and co-workers, I almost hoped I did get to fall apart then. Being strong and brave hurt. Especially when I just wanted to hit my knees and scream until I passed out.

But when do we ever really get what we want, anyway?

Dad’s hand tightened around mine, and I glanced in his direction. He stared straight ahead, his brown eyes fixed on Mom’s casket. I followed the path his gaze had taken, only to realize he wasn’t looking at her casket at all. His eyes locked on the far side of the cemetery, at the line where the plots stopped and the trees started.

I squinted through the rain, trying to pinpoint what held his attention.

A lone wolf hunkered beneath the trees.

A wolf?

I blinked, certain I hadn’t seen an animal at all, but I had. A wolf, or the domestic relation anyway, sat in the shadows of the trees, staring in our direction. Even from a distance, he looked as sad as I felt, and I wondered if he’d lost a loved one too.

Do animals feel loss like us? Do they grieve, too?

I hoped not.

As the wind picked up around us, the animal’s eyes met mine. He didn’t move for a moment. He just sat there with his sad, wolfy eyes locked on mine. And then he lifted his muzzle skyward and howled.

Goose bumps broke out along my skin as his mournful wail ripped through the cemetery. Reverend Don’s voice, the sniffles and muffled sobs of Mom’s friends, even the crash and clatter of thunder and lightning faded.

The lump in my throat dissolved, and I could breathe.

I didn’t feel peaceful or better or anything remotely close to unburdened. I felt…wrecked. As if listening to his call shook loose a little grief that had been building for the last few days. Everything inside, all of the grief and fear I hadn’t allowed myself to think about, expanded. Grief swept through me like a tsunami, leaving nothing untouched.

A tear slipped down my cheek, followed by another.

The wolf’s howl lingered in the air around us for long moments before the storm renewed its assault. Lightning flashed in the distance, and the sound of his howl faded into the screeching wind.

The animal turned his head in my direction, looking right at me again. Yellow eyes locked on mine, burning through me, speaking to me.

My heart twisted painfully in my chest, the truth hitting me like a ton of bricks.

My mom was never coming back. Not ever.

My vision blurred until the wolf looked like little more than a watery spot far off in the distance. “I love you, Mama,” I whispered, hoping she’d heard me.

The animal sat there for another moment, watching me, and then he slipped back beneath the shadows of the tree. I watched him go through tear-filled eyes, my heart aching in ways I couldn’t even begin to describe.

Reverend Don loomed in front of me as I reached up to wipe my eyes, his wrinkled face a mask of sympathy and support. He extended one of his hands in my direction, his Bible clutched to his chest with the other.

I glanced over at my dad, but he had his eyes closed and his head bowed. A line of moisture worked its way down his cheek, and I knew that even if Mom hadn’t heard me, he had.

“Arionna?”

I hesitated, not ready for what came next. I was only nineteen…why did I have to say goodbye to her now? How was this fair? I looked back at her coffin, and then at the broken expression on my dad’s face. My hands trembled in my lap.

Dad reached over to squeeze my fingers. “Love you, Ari,” he whispered.

I rose from my seat, a sob building in my throat.

About the Author:

A.K. Morgen lives in the heart of Arkansas with her childhood sweetheart/husband of fifteen years, and their furry minions. When not writing, she spends her time hiking, reading, volunteering, causing mischief, and building a Spork army.

She graduated summa cum laude with her Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice and Forensic Psychology in 2009 before going on to complete her graduate degree in CJ and Law.

She puts her education to use as a 911 Dispatch Supervisor, where she’s responsible for leading a team of dispatchers as they watch over police, EMS, and firefighters for her county.

In addition to writing fantasy, she also writes steamy contemporary romance as Ayden K. Morgen.

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Tirgearr Publishing

The Power of Love by Kemberlee Shortland #TirgearrTuesday

ISBN: 9780463618424
ASIN: B07Z8DYNYV
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Blurb:

When Elaine Donovan discovers she’s pregnant, she hesitates telling her husband, Ethan. They’re newlyweds and plan to wait until they’re ready to start a family. Ethan surprises her by accepting early parenthood, embracing the idea more fully than either of them expects.

When they receive bad news after a prenatal exam, both must face that their charmed lives are about to come crashing down around them.

Do Christmas wishes really come true? Elaine is staking her life on it!

Extract:

Limerick City, Ireland—June

The best feeling in the world had to be lying in a lover’s arms, completely exhausted after a night of lovemaking, totally and absolutely sated.

Elaine went with Ethan as he fell back onto the mattress and snuggled close to him, weaving her legs with his and grinning at how his leg hairs tickled her.

The warm, masculine scent of his body—the lingering hint of his cologne, the smell of his skin damp with fine perspiration, the heady aroma of sex—permeated her senses and made that place deep inside her long for him once more.

In a word, he smelled delicious. So much so, she had practically gobbled him up over the last several hours. Perhaps she would again, she thought, trailing her fingertips across the ridges of his broad chest and boldly circling his nipples.

His strong hand grasped hers and brought it to lips framed with dark stubble, kissing the backs of her fingers. “Please, love. I can barely move.”

Elaine glanced down the solid length of him to the twitch beneath the sheet just covering his hips. “Could have fooled me.”

Leaning over, he propped himself up on an elbow and looked down at her. He nestled her head in the crook of his arm.

“Isn’t it enough you kept me up all night,” winking at the double meaning, “but you want to make me late for work, as well?”

“You weren’t complaining an hour ago.”

His lips against hers echoed the passion they had shared through the night.

When he leaned away, his deep voice was soft, his blue-eyed gaze intense. “And I never will, Lany. I love you to the depths of my soul and will always be here for you.”

Tears welled and threatened to spill down her cheeks. “Will you?”

Nodding, he said, “Aye. Always.”

“You truly want this baby.” It wasn’t a question. She rubbed her belly without breaking her gaze with him. When he nodded again, his grin answering more than his voice could, she added, “Oh, Ethan! You make me so happy.” She slid her arms around his shoulders. He came to her instantly, burying his face in the curve of her neck, kissing her there. Familiar tingles shivered up her body and threatened to rekindle the passion she felt hovering just beneath the surface.

All too soon, he pulled away. “I still need to go to work. Now let me go or we’ll be raising our child on the Dole.” He winked again before placing a quick peck on her lips then rose from the bed.

Elaine laughed lightly. “As if you’d accept unemployment money.”

When the sheet fell away as he left the bed, she leaned up on her elbow and watched his firm ass flex as he strode out of the room. Something inside her swelled with admiration. Yes, no matter how exhausted she was, she could eat him up over and over again.

A moment later she heard the shower go on then splashing and she imagined the water sluicing over him, wishing she could be in there with him.

She cocked her head at another sound. He was actually singing! He must be really happy. She considered joining him, but he was right. He had to get to work—so did she—or they would both be raising their baby on the Dole.

As she rose and threw on a robe, she laughed at her feelings of dread last night. She had been so afraid to tell Ethan she was pregnant. They had only been married a few short months and were trying to plan their future and keep to an agenda. That included birth control—at least for a while. But nothing was one hundred percent effective, as her current condition proved.

She could barely contain her joy at how Ethan welcomed the baby much sooner than they had planned that she felt she was floating down the stairs.

In the kitchen, Elaine put on the coffee then turned her gaze out the kitchen window to their back garden. She tried imagining a swing set, sand box, and a Wendy house rather than the clothesline, spotty lawn, and falling down tool shed. She wrapped her arms around her waist, wondering how they were going to give their child the life he or she deserved. If money was tight now, it would only get tighter once their child was born.

A moment later, strong arms encircled her, pulling her against a broad chest. Ethan kissed the curve of her neck and she melted against him.

“You okay?” He turned her to face him. “You’ve been standing there for a while just staring outside.”

His dark hair was damp and hanging over the dark brows and lashes framing his crystal blue eyes. His gaze was both concerned and sexy. She wanted to rip his shirt from his shoulders and . . .

Instead, she just finger-combed the curls back from his face. “Aye. I’m trying to imagine a swing set in the garden instead of the clothesline.”

Ethan chuckled. “Everything is going to be grand. We’ve a perfect life. Nothing’s going to change that.” He kissed her on the forehead before releasing her to pour himself a cup of coffee.

Even as she watched the man she loved more than anything move about the kitchen, she could not quell the feeling of dread suddenly eating at her.

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About the Author:

Kemberlee Shortland is a native Northern Californian who grew up in Carmel, a community founded by artists and writers, including John Steinbeck, George Sterling, and Jack London. Over the years, Kemberlee has worked with several Carmel notables, including Doris Day, Kim Novak, and Joan Fontaine. It was in 1997, she left the employ of Clint Eastwood to live in Ireland for six months. It was during this time she met the man she would marry, and permanently relocated to live in Ireland. While always writing since a very young age, Kemberlee earned her keep for fifteen years as one of Ireland’s foremost travel consultants, and also wrote travel articles about Ireland. In 2005, she saw her first romance sell, and to date, she has thirteen published titles to her name, including the best-selling Irish Pride Series. Her most recent release is Murder in Mornington, is the first book in a new cosy Irish mystery series, set in the community Kemberlee and her family now call home. Kemberlee enjoys hearing from her readers, and promises to reply to every message. Please feel free to visit her on her website or social media sites.

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