#TirgearrTuesday – Lacey Goes to Tokyo by CH Lyn

International travel means international danger.


Lacey Devaine is a four-year veteran of a spy ring which fronts as an exclusive escort service, Miss Belle’s Travel Guides. Maintaining her cover is Lacey’s number one priority to protect the integrity of the operation she works for.


While on assignment in Tokyo, a nosy newspaper reporter threatens to blow the lid off a scandal that will put dozens of innocent lives at risk. To protect her cover, Miss Belle is called in to act on intelligence Lacey has uncovered.


Can these beautiful, intelligent, and deadly women complete this assignment in time and emerge unscathed? Or will this mission be their last?

• • •

 

Lacey

Layovers are a Hassle

I hurry through the massive food court, focusing on the coffee shop ahead of me, rather than the dozen or so different scents forcing their way into my nose. The sweetness of sugary glaze you can almost taste on the back of your tongue; the thick, salty, warmth in the air from the multitude of fryers; the weird, cold smell that accompanies cheap sandwich meat… I march through them all to order my drink and then sink into a plush armchair in the far corner.

My fingers curl automatically around the small blue and green orb dangling from a silver chain around my neck. I lean back, take a deep breath, cross my short legs, and sigh. Four hours. There are now four hours to burn in Heathrow, one of England’s largest airports.

Miss Belle is a mess. The poor woman’s been working for weeks with no break. She set up my assignment in record time. When the congresswoman called, we only had a week to get things together. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to be placed on this assignment. It’s one of the more important ones I’ve done lately, and I get to see Nathan again. It’s been a long time.

I haven’t seen him since my old life.

The barista brings me a small Americano. I flash her a smile and take a sip before pulling out my little black book.

I need to call Chang and have him set up the room. The Park Hyatt isn’t my favorite hotel in Tokyo (it’s a little far from any of the national gardens for my taste), but the Auto Manufacturing Leaders conference takes place there this week. It makes sense that the CFO of the second most productive car manufacturing company in the United States is staying in the same hotel.

The phone rings once, twice, three times. I glance at the round silver watch on my wrist and realize it’s three in the morning in Tokyo. I wince and go to hang up when a sleepy voice barks, “Who the fuck is this?” in Japanese.

“I’m so sorry, Chang,” I respond in the same language. “I didn’t realize what time it is there. It’s Lacey.”

His tone immediately changes, and it’s clear he’s woken up at hearing my name. It’s been that way since high school. Men try to be charming around me.

“Lacey!” Heavily accented English this time. “How wonderful to hear from you. What can I do for you?”

“I’m headed out your way for some business. I planned on getting there four hours before my appointment, but I got stuck with a delay and won’t be leaving London for a while.”

“Oh, no.”

I hear the grin in his voice. He didn’t know I was heading to Tokyo. Miss Belle must have been serious about cutting him out after the last Japan trip.

“What can I do to help? You know I’d do anything to help one of Miss Belle’s girls.”

I let out a silent chuckle. Miss Belle is the only one allowed to call us “girls.” I’m fairly sure it’s one of the reasons for the cutting out. “I need you to set up my staging room. I’ll email you the details. It’s a normal set up, but no video this time. Just audio and emergency equipment. Do you still have my bag?”

“Of course!” There is a shuffle on the other end of the phone. “I’ll have it all taken care of before you arrive. I’ll be waiting for your email.”

“Thanks, Chang. I owe you one.”

“Yes.” His tone goes dry. “Perhaps you will speak to Miss Belle on my behalf? I notice I do not get a call from her as often as I used to.”

This time my chuckle is loud. “I’ll see what I can do. And I’ll call you when I fly in.”

“Thank you, Lacey. It is always wonderful to hear from you.”

I hang up and set down my phone. I sip my Americano and gaze around the bustling airport. A row of fluffy teddy bears with Britain’s flag line the edge of the coffee counter. Twin little boys keep pulling one down while their mother (I assume) exasperatedly tries to order a drink.

Men in suits, women in heels, and tourists with their camera phones clicking away furiously pass me in a sea of faces.

Miss Belle always says I sit too still. She says I have too much patience. She and I were in line at Starbucks, and the people in front of us took about five minutes ordering. By our turn, she was cursing under her breath and stamping her foot hard enough to break a heel.

My gran always said we need to have patience and understanding for those around us. She taught my foster siblings and me the meaning of a deep breath and the value of a calm mind. Those lessons helped a lot after she died. I learned to be still, at peace when fire raged around me.

It’s not a lesson any sixteen-year-old should have to learn. But it was Amanda or me, and she was only ten. I told Miss Belle when she found me, I knew what I was doing. I’d have done it again.

I shake my head and focus on something else. Gran passed a long time ago, but it still burns to remember she is gone.

I buy a New York Times from the barista, offering a smile to the twins as I sit back down. Their mother glares.

It’s probably the shirt. Or the pants. Or the belly ring. Or the whole combination. I used to mind when people looked at me that way. Now it barely grabs my attention.

I settle back into my chair and flip open the paper. I should do some research on Nathan’s security team, and on the other guests at this week’s event, but I’ll have time for that on the flight. Now, to catch up on current events. Another chuckle escapes my lips. If the paper knew half the current events I know about, a lot more people would be reading it.

• • •

 

C.H. Lyn grew up in a small town in Northern California and still loves visiting her hometown. Her obsession with books cannot be overstated. She grew up reading on the playground, writing during her classes, and sneaking that next chapter with a flashlight underneath the covers, long after she was supposed be asleep. Now, she works part time at a bookstore while following her husband around the world during his time in the U.S. Air Force. With a beautiful little girl, and a giant German Shepard, their family looks forward to experiencing new people, places, and cultures.

C.H. Lyn has been lucky enough to have friend and family who constantly provide all the support she could ask for. It is her hope that the strong and diverse female characters she writes will have a positive impact, and help to motivate young women to do everything they want with their lives.

• • •

Find Melora Online:

Website – https://www.chlyn.com

#TirgearrTuesday – Earthbound by Melora Johnson

Ally Reynolds is a veterinarian specializing in raptor rehabilitation in New Hampshire. Other than one horrific incident in her childhood and a little extra “spark” for healing in her hands, both of which she has kept secret from even her best friend, her life has been singularly boring. It has also been extremely lonely. Ally longs for someone to share her life with, but how can she trust someone with her secret?

Matthew Blake, an ornithologist at Cornell University, calls Ally, asking for her help with an injured raptor. Matthew grew up in New Zealand and has lived around the world. He has read about Ally’s high success rates in raptor rehabilitation and suspects there is more to it than is generally known.

Matthew has some secrets of his own; he is a demon hunter. He suspects Ally’s healing powers could benefit him. He wants her to join him and thinks they’d make a great team.

Can Ally trust him or is he just using her? Matthew definitely has more secrets, and some of them are about her.

• • •

“Doctor Reynolds,” a male voice called out from across the room, pulling me back to the present. It sounded somewhat familiar.

I looked up, shielding my eyes from the afternoon sun shining in the front window as a male figure strode toward me, blond hair haloed by the light. He stopped in front of me.

Startled, I rose to my feet and looked into a chiseled face, his eyes the indeterminate blue green of sea glass like I’d collected along the shoreline once as a teenager. His dark golden blond hair was short and spiky, his lopsided grin pure perfection. He was gorgeous.

In my experience, gorgeous men were not to be trusted. Well, no men really were. Oh, all right, no one was, period.

“Doctor Allyson Reynolds? I’m Doctor Matthew Scott Blake. I’m honored to have you join us. I’ve read your articles in the Raptor Rehab Newsletter.”

He held out a hand, but when I put out mine to shake it, he simply captured mine in his and placed his other hand over it. His eyes flashed green with golden flecks in the sunlight.

“I’m glad to be here,” I said, not at all sure I was anymore, as my pulse sped up. “Please, call me Ally.”

“All right, Ally it is.”

I want to climb him like a tree. I swallowed, aghast at my own thoughts. I’d only known him a few minutes.

His hands were so warm. My mother’s voice played in my head, Gorgeous men are dangerous, arrogant, and being involved with them will lead to no good. I frowned.

“It’s so good to see you…” he said. At my expression, he faltered and cleared his throat. The wattage of his smile dimmed significantly. “I mean, to meet you. I’ve been following your work since I arrived in the States, in the newsletter.”

He turned, drawing my hand through his arm. “Please, let me show you around the facilities here.”

“Uh, thank you,” I murmured, wondering how to tactfully withdraw my arm. My attraction to him was overwhelming. At the same time, his overly familiar attitude seemed a little odd.

A tall woman, her long, brown hair in a ponytail, appeared at the doorway through which Matt had arrived. She positively glowered at my arm through Matthew’s. She wore work boots, khaki shorts, and a sand colored polo shirt with the university logo, so I assumed she worked there as well. She approached us and stopped several feet away, then turned a bright smile on Matthew. “Hi, Matt. What brings you down from the Ornithology Lab?”

“This is Doctor Allyson Reynolds, the veterinarian and raptor rehabilitation specialist I suggested to Rick we bring in to help with the injured eagle from Sapsucker Woods.”

Shelly took one more look at my arm entwined with Matthew’s then smiled again at him. “Would you like me to show her around?”

He paused a moment before replying. “That’s okay, Shelly. I can handle it, I know my way. No need to take time out of your busy schedule. I’ll just show Doctor Reynolds around, then bring her to meet Rick. He’s the one overseeing the care of the eagle. Oh…” He turned to me. “This is Doctor Shelly Madison, she’s a clinical associate professor in zoo medicine.”

I saw my chance and pulled my arm out of his, ostensibly to shake Shelly’s hand. I murmured hello. She responded stiffly. Her behavior made more sense to me than his. Why treat me like an honored guest? I was just a vet who specialized in raptor rehab. I had been so anxious to get out of town I’d jumped at the chance, but now there was one question paramount in my mind—why had he called me? They were the experts here.

“Now, let’s show you around the animal hospital here.” His hands clenched, his bicep bulging under his short sleeve as he tugged the inner door to the offices open for me.

I fought the urge to retreat a step. Here stood a warrior from medieval legend. It would have been more appropriate for him to be dressed in leather armor than a button-down, short-sleeved khaki shirt, but he grabbed my hand and drew me around Shelly. “We’ll start in the library.”

As we walked, I had a stern conversation with my subconscious. Go to Ithaca, you said. You’ll get away from anyone Jen wants to set you up with, you said.

Matthew squeezed my hand. I looked up to see him beaming at me. My stomach lurched. I was out of the nest and free falling.

• • •

Melora Johnson grew up in a small town in Upstate New York, and still lives in the state with her husband, daughter, a black cat, and quite a few chickens. She writes poetry, horror, science-fiction & fantasy but dabbles in other genres and daylights as a librarian because that is where she hears the best stories. She also runs a thriving writers group. Of course, into every life a little rain must fall, as well as the occasional tornado, but you’ll find that amply covered in her writing.

• • •

Find Melora Online:

Website – http://www.melorajohnson.com

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/MeloraJohnson.Writer

Goodreads – http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18209725.melora_johnson

Instagram – http://www.instagram.com/melorajohnson

Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/melorajohnson

Blog – http://melorajohnson.wordpress.com

Tirgearr Publishing  – http://tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/Johnson_Melora

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?”

Picture of Kristi Ahlers

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.

• • •

• Find Kristi Online •

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Tirgearr

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.

• • •

• Find Elizabeth Online •

#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.

 

• • •

• Find Lily Online •

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Tirgearr Publishing

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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Tirgearr Publishing

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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