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
Kindle USKindle UK
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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.

Photo of kemberlee Shortland

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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Tirgearr Publishing

One Night in Sydney by Jan Graham #TirgearrTuesday

This week, we welcome Jan Graham and her contribution to the City Nights series!

ISBN: 9781370633944
ASIN: B01J4VS2EQ
Kindle USKindle UK
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Blurb:

Abigail Devon is all about business, until the dream of keeping her company alive fails and she finds herself seeking distraction in the arms of a tempting stranger she met on the plane. Kane Matheson is a man like no other, and once Abby gives into her attraction to him, passions spark and a night of erotic pleasure begins.

Kane can’t believe his luck when his flight to Sydney places Abby along his path to a fun filled weekend. She’s his kind of woman—business minded, clever, and with curves in all the right places. When he discovers they have more in common than savvy business expertise and undeniable sexual heat, he’s faced with a daunting choice, and left wondering if pleasure can win out over wise business sense in one of the most beautiful harbour side cities of the world.

Extract:

“You know, if you like, we could hang out together in the city for a bit, maybe when you’ve finished your busy day.” Kane didn’t look at her this time; speaking from his reclined position, head tilted back against the rest with his eyes closed. “I only have to try on a suit and then I’m done for the day. You could meet me there, let me know if you think I look okay, you know, thumbs up or down, and then we could grab a bite… or something. Whatever takes your fancy, beautiful.”

He raised his lids and angled himself slightly to look at her for the final part of his statement, the wicked expression and cheeky glint in his eyes giving Abby the distinct impression he hoped that he’d be the something that took her fancy. He did. But it couldn’t happen.

Abby didn’t believe in love at first sight, but she did believe in lust at first sight and Kane ticked all her boxes. Feeling breathless, hardened nipples, feeling flushed when they touched, and that increasing ache between her legs. Luckily the flight was a short one, so she’d be able to escape him soon enough. In her party days they probably would have been in the bathroom, reaffirming her membership in the mile-high club, but those days were behind her. She doubted she’d renew that membership again any time soon.

“I really don’t think that’s possible. But thanks for the offer.” She wondered if he knew she was lying. Of course it was possible, all she had to do was say yes. She merely chose not to.

“That’s a shame. I have this feeling we’d get along really well.” He tore the edge off the bottom of a page in his magazine, grabbed a pen from his shirt pocket, scribbled a number on it and handed it to her. “In case you change your mind.”

Abby laughed and stared at the mobile number in her hand. He certainly was persistent.

“I assume you’ve run out of business cards?” She continued to chuckle as the plane began its descent. “You did say you understood business, right?”

“I did. I also said I was on a pleasure trip. I’ve left all business accessories at the office. This weekend, I’m just a regular guy who uses any piece of paper on hand to give the woman he likes his number.”

Oh Lord, thank heavens the plane had just touched down. She folded the paper, slipped her fingers into the front of her shirt and tucked the number into her bra. It was a mistake to put it there, and Abby knew it the moment her gaze met Kane’s, who was now standing waiting for her to step out into the aisle.

“What?” she asked innocently as Kane stared down at her cleavage with a devilish grin on his face. “It’s just a silly habit I picked up in my partying days. I’d pop anything important in my bra and that way I wouldn’t lose it.”

Grabbing her handbag from the floor, she stood and moved to walk out into the aisle but Kane blocked her way. His body forming a human wall as he retrieved her bag from the overhead cabin. Luggage sorted, Kane didn’t move, fixing her in place with his heated gaze.

“I’m glad you think I’m important.” His devilish grin didn’t waver and he spoke in a tone laced with lust. “I’m also delighted to know that when you take off your clothes tonight and get naked, you’ll be thinking about me.”

She was about to burst into flames. Abby raised her hand, placing it on his chest with the intention of pushing him back, only to find her fingers lingered on the defined muscle beneath her touch.
“We’ll see,” she whispered.

Kane placed his hand over hers, gently gripped her fingers and raised them to his mouth. He kissed her knuckles tenderly and smiled. “We will. Now off to your very busy business day, Abigail Devon.” Stepping back, Kane handed over her bag before ushering her into the aisle. “I look forward to receiving your call later today.”

Unsure how she made it to the plane’s exit on trembling legs, Abby breathed a sigh of relief once she made it into the terminal. Allowing the disembarking crowd to carry her forward, she picked up her pace. The more distance she put between Kane Matheson and herself, the better. Today was all about saving her company, not indulging in a quickie with a man she met on a plane.

About the Author:

Jan Graham is an author of contemporary romance and romantic suspense; all her writing is erotic, some of which includes BDSM elements. She has numerous published titles to her credit, with more to come once she overcomes her current bout of procrastination.

Jan lives in Newcastle, Australia where she writes, reads, feeds her Netflix addiction, and drinks coffee with friends.

For those who enjoy labels and tags, as well as being an author, Jan is a blogger, a submissive, an aunt, dyslexic, a lover of all things erotic, naughty, a participant in the BDSM community, a widow, an orphan, and a member of The Australian Sex Party (no it’s nothing kinky, they are a legit political group).

In short, she is generally a bit of an eccentric who lives her life slightly left of center.

You can find out more about Jan and her work by stalking her on the various social media sites where she occasionally hangs out.

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The Viking’s Cursed Bride by Maribeth Macmillan

Today we welcome Maribert Macmillan and The Viking’s Cursed Bride.

TheVikingsCursedBridebyMairibethMacMillan500

ISBN: 9780463213919
Kindle USKindle UK
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Blurb:

 

Half Briton, half Pict, Aoife has been an outsider all her life. Rejected by her family, despite saving them from the Norse raid on Alt Clut, she is forced to marry one of the invaders to ensure her family’s safety and rid them of a cursed daughter, while putting her own life at risk.

Jarl Tormod intends to settle on the Clyde and to marry a Briton. One as high-born as Aoife ought to ensure the safety and prosperity of the Norse settlement. When their relationship grows beyond convenience, loving one another may prove to be disastrous.

All Aoife wants is a place to belong, but when her family’s deception is revealed, a near-fatal betrayal in Tormod’s past threatens to destroy all hope for a peaceful and prosperous future.

TheVikingsCursedBridebyMairbethMacMillanFACEBOOKbanner

Extract:

Alt Clut, Kingdom of Ystrad Clud, 870 AD


“Smile,” Aoife’s stepmother, Ula, hissed at her. “You don’t want King Artgal to think you are ungrateful you were invited, do you? He has been known to punish even his most loyal subjects for less. And for one such as you…” Ula’s cruel laughter made Aoife want to run far from here. Not that she had anywhere truly safe to go. She glanced towards the dais and managed to force her lips into some semblance of a smile, then returned her attention to the plateful in front of her.

All around her, the families of the richest, most important nobles of the kingdom of Ystrad Clud feasted. Every one of the long wooden tables was full, and the room was too warm for the fire burning in the grate, more to demonstrate the wealth of the king than from necessity on a summer night such as this one. The gathered nobles were richly dressed in heavy woollen kirtles, and with the excessive heat, the stench of their sweat only grew stronger as the feast wore on, making Aoife’s stomach churn. Not even the smell of roasted meats and vegetables could mask it.

Aoife pulled at the neck of her dress. She’d grown over the past winter and Ula had not yet instructed the servants to make a new summer dress for her. Ula’s four natural-born daughters always came first. There was also the fact she knew Ula did not wish her to look too attractive tonight — at least not in comparison to her half-sisters. Any suitor found at a gathering such as this one was of a higher status than Ula would ever allow Aoife to marry.

“Eat,” demanded Ula, nudging her elbow and smiling beatifically towards the king.

Aoife lifted a mouthful to her lips. Obediently she chewed and choked it down as fast as possible under her stepmother’s wrathful glare. It tasted like ashes. The noise of the revelry around her was giving her a headache, the smoke from the fire stung her eyes and the heat made her queasy. The room swayed around her. She closed her eyes, then felt a sharp elbow in her ribs. Her eyes flew open.

“If you bring dishonour to our family…” her stepmother whispered urgently, her cold expression and hands clasped as if in prayer making it clear where Aoife would be headed. A prisoner forever behind the bare stone walls of the abbey, with no family, no hope for a home, nor a husband and children.

Not that she was sure why she yearned for those things. Her own childhood had been far from idyllic. And there was little chance of any of them before Ula had secured decent marriages for Aoife’s half-sisters. But she wished for them nonetheless.

Across the room a gentleman caught her eye and inclined his head towards her. She thought she recognised him but couldn’t remember his name. She nodded at him.

“Keep your eyes down,” Ula said. “And if you have any ideas in your head about Lord Aethelfred, then forget them. He will not be for you.”

“And what if I am his choice?” Aoife replied before she could stop herself. Sometimes she found it hard not to answer her stepmother back, despite knowing it only ever made her life more difficult.

“Your father will give him short shrift,” Ula promised, hatred etched on her features. “Your father always does what I tell him.”

It was true and becoming more true as each year passed. Ula’s influence over her father’s decisions was not a good thing. Not for the first time, she wished her own mother was still alive to care for her and protect her. What Aoife would have given for her to have lived through her brother’s birth. But they had both died, and her father, Lord Cadell, had remarried. And now she had Ula as a stepmother. Most of Cadell’s people had been happy to see him marry another Briton rather than a Pict. Aoife had often regretted that her father had not sent her back to her mother’s family in Pictland, but Cadell wasn’t willing to give up anything belonging to him – even an unwanted daughter.

Aoife picked up her cup of wine and took a sip. A wave of dizziness swept through her. The cup clattered onto the table, wine spilling like blood and seeping into the wood. She clutched at the edge, trying to keep her balance. She glared at her stepmother. Had the woman finally poisoned her, hoping she could blame another?

“What are you doing?” Ula demanded, talon-like fingers gripping Aoife’s elbow. “Stop this at once.”

But Aoife’s eyes no longer saw the woman, nor the room, nor the walls of the hall at Alt Clut. At first, she didn’t know what she did see. She smelt the salt tang of the sea and heard the whoosh of waves and the cry of gulls. It was night, dark out on the water, and yet in front of her were the heads of hundreds of serpents. They approached Alt Clut in the darkness just before the dawn and swept onto the land, slithering up the walls of the rock and on into the fort. Above them, two ravens circled, watching the progress of the serpents, their frantic screeching serving to encourage the invaders. Blood-curdling screams sounded and she realised they were her own.

“They’re coming! The sea serpents are coming!”

A slap from her stepmother was hard enough to jar her neck and her head hit the back of the wooden chair, sending her down into darkness.

 

About the Author:

Mairibeth MacMillan lives on the shores of Loch Long on the edge of Argyll and Bute. While very picturesque, living there seems to involve endless driving and family life currently involves running a taxi service.

She was a drama teacher for many years until, during a career break, she studied for a Creative Writing degree through the Open University followed by a Masters degree in Playwriting and Dramaturgy. Over the years she has had some success with short stories and flash fictions in various competitions, magazines and anthologies. In 2014 she was shortlisted for the New Writer’s Award at the Festival of Romance.

Inspired by the discovery of a Viking fort marked on the Ordnance Survey map in a friend’s garden she started working on a series of Viking Romances set in the Kingdom of Strathclyde at the end of the Ninth century. The Viking’s Cursed Bride is the first in a series of books about four Norse cousins as they build new lives far from home.

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The Fated Series by Becky Flade

Today we welcome Becky Flade with not one but three titles as part of her Fated series!

FatedSoulsbyBeckyFlade500

Available 7th October

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Blurb:

Shamed investigative journalist turned tabloid scribe Maggie O’Connell convinces her editor to let her go to Minnesota to research alleged werewolf sightings. Her first night in the woods, she gets trapped in an old sleeping bag, unintentionally attracts the attention of a bear, and is saved by the most unlikely of heroes: the very wolf she had come to investigate!

When she meets horse rancher Aidan Gael in the town market days later, she recognizes his eyes as those belonging to her champion.

Aidan tries desperately to avoid her; he both fears Maggie and fears for her. Neither man nor beast can resist her curious mind and courageous heart. One kiss threatens to break Aidan’s tenuous self-control but furthers Maggie’s resolve.

Danger lurks at every turn. The curse Aidan fights to keep secret is only one of the obstacles that will test the strength of their bond. Together they will navigate the violence of both nature and of man in pursuit of their destiny.

FatedHeartsbyBeckyFlade500

Available 9th October

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Blurb:

Psychiatrist Henley Elliott fled her quiet life in Cleveland for a gypsy lifestyle, trying to stay one step ahead of her painful memories. When she breaks down in quirky little Trappers’ Cove, Minnesota, she meets Sheriff Carter McAlister – a man healing from his own share of hidden heartbreaks.

At the request of a friend, Carter offers Henley a job to help her get back on her feet . . . but soon he can’t resist trying to sweep the intriguing woman off them. Breaking through her carefully built shell proves to be a near-impossible task, and to make matters worse, a dangerous new presence in the Cove seems to be targeting Henley. They must learn to trust in each other in order to keep her safe.

Can Henley and Carter leave their secrets and scars in the past to get a second chance at happily ever after?

FatedDesiresbyBeckyFlade500

Available 11th October

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Blurb:

Jenna Gavin is searching for a fresh start, but more importantly, balance. Her heart, and perhaps the hands of fate, has led her and her young son to Trappers’ Cove, Minnesota. Settling in the small, quirky town, she’s not in the market for a casual relationship yet finds herself in one with the young widower next door.

Former shortstop, Gabriel Foxx, is drawn to his difficult new neighbor. The more the prickly divorcee attempts to keep him at arm’s length, the more determined he is to break down her walls. He can’t avoid the passion she inspires but he won’t allow himself to feel more.

When friendship grows complicated by stronger emotions and mutual desire, it just isn’t enough. Will love be worth the risk?

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About the Author:

Becky has been writing stories since kindergarten. But it wasn’t until she found her very own knight in slightly tarnished armor that she took the leap in to publishing. And hasn’t looked back once. In addition to being a wife, mother and grandmother, she works as a legal professional when she’s not writing, reading or dancing. And Becky’s proud to tell people she’s making her own dreams come true one happily ever after at a time.

 

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The War Queen by J.M. Robison #TirgearrTuesday

ISBN: 9781370236688
ASIN: B01LXD0C6N
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Blurb:

How do you dethrone a heart when its owner has stolen your kingdom?

Altarn is used to tolerating the biases of men. It comes with being the first female to secure the political State Head of Blindvar. But Kaelin, the State Head of Ruidenthall, crosses the line when he proposes a merger of their two states. Altarn has reason to believe this is Kaelin’s attempt to make himself king of both. Believing it’s her responsibility to “dethrone” him, she rides to her last ally to ask for aid.

While on the road, she’s kidnapped and taken to Ruidenthall. She wakes from a drug-induced sleep to hear about a foreign army marching upon Blindvar, and Kaelin capitalizing on her kidnap to make himself king. He threatens her life if she tells anyone, but she will suffer tyranny under a king if she does not.

When the final battle forces her hand, she has but one choice: to save Kaelin’s life or let him die. She never expected to dethrone his heart instead.

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Extract:

All seven members were already seated, one baron for each major city in Blindvar. There were actually six cities, but there could not be an even number on the court.. The seventh was a random member qualified to be a court official, currently held by a female named Brigot. The idea of females serving in positions of authority was not settling easy.

Altarn walked to the head of the table, sitting in her large, leather chair which felt awkwardly like a throne, reminding her of the last king the Blindvarn citizens had dethroned more than three hundred years ago.

Her seven members waited for her to speak. Perseth pushed his glasses higher up his sweaty nose. Leodin coughed into his sleeve.

Females were not discouraged from positions in politics, but the concept still troubled many. It had been a traditionally male position to hold both the state’s title and to fill the positions in court, but Altarn had been in a particular mood eleven years ago and had broken it. She became the first female State Head and had already served one year out of the three-year session.

Two men had competed for the State Head with her. The background check on one revealed he had a criminal record. The second was leading the election by a large margin until authorities discovered he was born in Luthsinia.

“The minutes will reflect the presence of all representatives from their respective cities,” Altarn began. “On seven Midar, year three twenty-four After the Reign of Kings.” She paused to let the court scribe catch up. “So being, I am unaware as to the nature of the request for court so I will let another member proceed from here.”

Perseth stood from his chair and straightened his buttoned waistcoat over his round belly. “Baron Perseth of the City of Fellsbarren requested this session due to concerns with the present dealings with the State of Ruidenthall.”

His nasally voice made Altarn want to hand him a tissue. She drummed her fingers on the armrests. She had suspected as much.

“May I speak freely, Lady?”

“Proceed.”

Perseth pushed his glasses higher up his nose. “We all think it is impulsive of you to threaten Ruidenthall with war.”

His eyes, too round and too close to his nose, swept over the other members of the room, who all nodded.

“They have been our friends and allies since the war to dethrone our king. If Luthsinia didn’t cut straight between our two states, we might even be one. A lot of us have family who either came from Ruidenthall or who live there now.”

“Is it so easily forgotten the Lord of Ruidenthall is trying to steal Blindvar from us?”

The members at the table moaned.

“Please reflect on my use of the word ‘impulsive.’”

It pushed on the edges of her serenity to listen to Perseth’s boldness and not respond to it. But she’d been called to court to listen to a problem, not create one.

“Scribe, will you please read us the letter from the Lord of Ruidenthall concerning the matter our lady has just mentioned?”

The scribe pulled a book off the shelf at his desk and thumbed through it, pages snapping crisply. “Seventeenth of Kaidar,” the scribe read. “Year three twenty-four After the Reign of Kings. Addressed to Lady Altarn Shadheing from Lord Kaelin-drath Morrendrake. It reads:

Greetings, Lady of Blindvar.

It is fortunate our two states are such great friends. It has come to my recent attention that a number of Ruidenthall citizens have taken a fancy to your small town of Heathe. So much so, that there are more Ruids than Blindvarns. I’ll have to visit to see what the attraction is. After all, who would sacrifice great Ruid food to live in a small Blindvarn town where the closest city is thirty miles out?

Of course, having this offset of Blindvarns to Ruids must make it a tad more difficult for the yearly census for you, which gave me an idea. Since our states are such good allies, I propose—just as a speculative thought—that Heathe be merged into the State of Ruidenthall in exchange for a small bit of land out of my own good state, if you like.

Maybe this small exchange can start something bigger, and maybe someday Endendre will eventually be one state instead of divided into three. Of course, it is just an idea, and something like this has never been done before between our two states. Please reply with your thoughts. If it is disagreeable, I’ll digress.

Signed, Lord Kaelin-drath Morrendrake of Ruidenthall.

The members at the table watched Altarn like ghosts waiting for the moment they could pounce on the living and suck out their souls.

About the Author:

Born in small town Bennington, Idaho, J.M. wanted to be just like her big, story writer sister. Big sister paints now, but that initial role model was all the springboard J.M. needed to fearlessly leap into writing the novels of her heart. Getting around the world as a soldier has helped broaden J.M.’s views on cultures and personalities, and settling down as a Deputy Sheriff in Nevada for a time has helped her maintain all the fine intricacies humans are capable of which has helped define her characters into something realistic and believable. Without any prior claims to fame, J.M. is proud to showcase that hard work, even from rock bottom, DOES pay off.

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