Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Author Linda Pennell

Fountains Abbey

The English countryside holds so many wonderful historical sites it would take months, maybe years, to visit them all.  Although I long for another trip to take in the ones I've missed, my husband and I have been fortunate in seeing our fair share of ancient places. On our last trip to the UK, we landed at Gatwick, went straight to Hertz, drove north, and didn't slow down until we reached Yorkshire, a place of great natural beauty (in red on map). Driving through the area is an experience to be sought in and of itself.

In addition to the tourist trade attracted by the wonderful scenery, Yorkshire boasts other industries including a thriving agricultural tradition. While English food has a less than stellar reputation, we found that once you're away from London, the cooking improves with every mile traveled. In Yorkshire, it is plain country fare that will remind anyone from the American South of home. I hate being disloyal to Texas's own Blue Bell, but the best ice cream I have ever tasted was found in a village High Street tea shop on the outskirts of Yorkshire Dales National Park. The only flavor offered was sweet cream. It was simple, rich, and completely delicious. When I asked for the brand name, the girl behind the counter looked puzzled, then said she guessed there wasn't one. A local dairy farmer hand-churned the ice cream for their shop and brought it in daily. SIGH! I still dream about that ice cream.

After enjoying a post-lunch scenic drive, we found our B&B located in a tiny village not too far from York. The B&B was run by a charming gentleman in a home his family had occupied for over two hundred years. A portrait of an early 18th century military officer hanging over the drawing room mantle bore this out as it revealed a striking family resemblance to our host. Over a generous country breakfast of scrambled eggs, English style bacon, broiled tomatoes, and mushrooms, we enjoyed chatting with him and his twenty-something son, who happened to be home for the weekend. I mentioned noticing that the village church seemed abandoned. The young man chuckled and hesitated before explaining that the majority of the village and surrounding area residents were witches. I guess my eyes must have flared in surprise because he went on to explain that there was a resurgence of witchcraft in that part of England. Hmmm...perhaps he was referring to the Wicca movement or maybe he was just enjoying a jest at my expense; however, he did appear quite in earnest. Sadly, the passage of time has erased the names of the village and the B&B from my memory, but if you search the major route going west out of York you may find them nestled slightly south of the highway down a quite lane. The village is about 30-40 minutes from York and about 30-40 minutes from the focus of today's post, Fountains Abbey.

Cistercian Coat of Arms

In 1132, 13 Benedictine monks from St. Mary's in York went into the wilds of Yorkshire seeking a simpler way of life. Their goal was to establish a monastery where they might live a harsher, reformed, more devout life away from the hustle and bustle of York, a major city even at that time with all that city life entails. In order to achieve their purpose, within three years the monks were admitted to the Cistercian Order, known for its austere lifestyle through strict adherence to the simplicity of the Rule of St. Benedict (more about Cistercian history here and about a monk's daily life at Fountains Abbey here).

While the  monks at Fountains Abbey lived out their lives to the toning of bells announcing the daily offices and spent much of their time in prayer, devotion, reading, meditation, and attending to all matters spiritual, the abbey came to depend on its lay brothers for the financial means to support all within its walls.[1]  Through the efforts of those lay brothers, Fountains grew to be the largest and richest monastery in northern England with affiliated houses spread as far as Norway.[2] The Abbey's wealth came from its ventures in wool production, lead mining, cattle rearing, horse breeding and stone quarrying. While its fortunes waxed and waned with those of the periods in which it existed, the Abbey didn't survive Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries. In 1539, it ceased to function as a religious community and the abbot, prior, and monks were sent away with pensions. The estate was sold by the Crown to a merchant, Sir Richard Gresham, and stayed in private hands until 1960's. West Riding County Council sold it to the National Trust in 1983. Since that time, Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, located on the edge of Yorkshire Dales National Park, have become major tourist sites.[3]

Yorkshire Dales

The Abbey ruins and Study Royal are approached by car from either Ripon, a short distance north of the entrance, or Harrogate from the south. Either route provides scenes of rolling dales and small villages. It is quintessential northern English countryside. Visions of James Herriot bumping over rough lanes to attend the birth of a lamb or Mary and Dicken entering their secret garden come to mind.

Not exactly as I remember it, but close enough.

Once inside the park with tickets in hand, we proceeded through a stand of trees, emerging on the other side to a scene that took my breath away. My memory is of standing on a slight rise above the Skell River Valley with a view of the ruins fairly close by rising up in the morning mists seemingly as if by magic. The scene was magnificent. One can only imagine what the Abbey must have been in its heyday. Looking at the present park brochure map (here), I am wondering if we entered through what is labeled the West Gate. Regardless of the direction from which one approaches, the first glimpse of the ruins will not disappoint. A walk through the grounds will reveal much about abbey life as it was long ago.

2., Retrieved April 11, 2016.


Title:  Miami Days, Havana Nights

Series and Book #: sequel to Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel

Genre:  dual timelines of historical fiction/contemporary women’s fiction

Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing

Date of Publication:  July 18, 2018

Number of pages: 556
Word Count:  103,000


Sometimes our biggest debts have nothing to do with money.

1926. When seventeen-year-old Sam Ackerman witnesses a mob hit, he is hustled out of New York under the protection of Moshe Toblinsky, A.K.A., the mob’s bookkeeper. Arriving in Miami with no money, no friends, and no place to hide, Sam’s only choice is to do as the gangster demands. Forced into bootlegging, Sam’s misery is compounded when he falls in love. Amazingly, the beautiful, devout Rebecca wants only him, but he cannot give her the life she deserves. When Prohibition ends, Sam begs the mobster to set him free. The price? A debt, as Toblinsky puts it, of friendship. A debt that will one day come due.

Present Day. History of American Crime professor Liz Reams has it all - early success, a tantalizing lead on new info about Moshe Toblinsky, and a wonderful man to love. Life is perfect. So what’s keeping her from accepting her guy’s marriage proposals? Confronting a long-standing personal debt sets her on a journey of self-discovery. While she delves ever deeper into Sam’s and Toblinsky’s relationship, her understanding of her own relationships increases as well, but the revelations come at a price. The emotional and physical dangers of her dual journeys may prove too big to handle.

A follow up to Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel, Miami Days Havana Nights tells the story of 1920-1960's gangsters and the young female history professor determined to suss out their secrets.


Chapter 1
May 18, 1926
105 South Street
New York City

Knocking - sharp, loud, rapid - echoed through the empty speakeasy. Sam froze, the notes of a tune stuck in the roof of his mouth. He glanced at the entrance and leaned the handle of his push broom against his shoulder. Puffs of dust settled on the floor boards around his feet while he remained motionless.
It was late, too late, to be admitting customers, even for the city's illegal watering holes and gambling joints. Although a thick crossbar and several stout locks protected the heavy iron door, an uneasy feeling crawled down Sam's spine. Growing tension over control of the Fulton Fish Market, in fact the entire South Street area, was making a lot of people jumpy, including him.
Several seconds passed without noise from the other side of the door. Sam let out his breath and laughed at himself. Working at the fish market in the afternoon then staying up half the night at the speakeasy didn't leave much time for sleep. It kept him on edge. All the rumors and threats floating around these days weren't helping either. Inclining his ear and hearing nothing, he relaxed and gave his broom a shove.
Bam, bam, bam.
Sam's heart jumped into his throat.
"Open up, Monza. I know you're in there." The shout, colored by an Irish lilt, came from the second floor landing accompanied by renewed pounding. "I come to talk with ya. We need to settle this business. I got a proposition for ya."
Sam's breathing kicked up a notch as he looked over his shoulder toward the office. The boss didn't like to be disturbed when he was meeting with his guys. The pounding from outside in the hall returned in earnest, but the office door remained fixed.
"You gonna open this damned door or do I break it down?" The doorknob rattled and jerked.
 Behind Sam, the office door clicked open an inch. He watched in the mirror over the bar as the muzzle of a .38 Special emerged from the opening, its nickel-plated barrel glittering in the overhead lights. One of the gangsters stepped into the room, met Sam's eye in the mirror, and jerked his head, then the room went dark. Sam dropped his broom and backed into an alcove next to the bar. The office door opened wider. Several shadows scurried across the floor. Metal locks and bolts snapped and clanked, then the entrance door swung inward.

Author bio:

As for my venture in writing, it has allowed me to reinvent myself. We humans are truly multifaceted creatures, but unfortunately we tend to sort and categorize each other into neat, easily understood packages that rarely reveal the whole person. Perhaps you, too, want to step out of the box in which you find yourself. I encourage you to look at the possibilities and imagine. Be filled with childlike wonder in your mental wanderings. Envision what might be, not simply what is. Let us never forget, all good fiction begins when someone says to her or himself, "Let's pretend." 

I reside in the Houston area with one sweet husband and one adorable German Shorthaired Pointer who is quite certain she’s a little girl.

History is filled with the sound of silken slippers going downstairs and wooden shoes coming up. Voltaire  

Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel Soul Mate Publishing

Confederado do Norte Soul Mate Publishing

When War Came Home  Real Cypress Press

Casablanca: Appointment at Dawn The Wild Rose Press

Miami Days, Havana Nights Soul Mate Publishing July 18, 2018

Twitter:  @LindaPennell         

Monday, August 20, 2018

Author Claire Davon

There is absolutely no doubt what my favorite vacation spot is, even if I have only been there once. Anyone who has been to the island of Santorini in Greece will know what I mean. From its rich yet tragic history to the sheer beauty of its steep cliffs Santorini is both a wonder to behold and a reminder of the power of nature.

It helps to understand what created Santorini to fully appreciate its beauty so I recommend reading up on it a little before going there. When we stayed there we stayed in a hotel that basically was built into the cliff overlooking the water. The steps were a bit steep (and we might have consumed a beverage or two) but the beauty looking down to the water, over to the other cliffs and then up to the white buildings and blue roofs was worth it. The ruins at Akrotiri are a must see. Spend the time to go up to Oia for at least one sunset meal. There is nothing like it on this earth.

Santorini has featured in more than one story. It has a featured spot in my Time series, the self published time travel novellas. It is also in my current contemporary I am revising to send out for publication consideration. I try to capture the power of the island but it really has to be experienced.


Shifting Auras

The Universe Chronicles
Book One
Claire Davon

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing

Date of Publication:  July 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68291-725-1

Number of pages: 203
Word Count: 60,000

Cover Artist: Ramona Lockwood


When Maya gets yet another call to retrieve her drunken roommate, her mind shows her a hot, amber-eyed Universe operative.

Once before, Ian failed to protect a sensitive from a brain-scrambling attack. He will not fail Maya . . . if it means using his talent—or his body—to stop a bullet.

Book Description:

Maya Wingfield was raised to trust no one—least of all the dueling U.S. and Russian paranormal agencies, Universe and Night Stars, who’d love to harness her mind-reading gift.

She thought Richmond a safe place to escape their influence and hide from a rising psychic malevolence that drove her out of San Diego. But when she gets yet another call to retrieve her drunken roommate, her mind shows her an amber-eyed Universe operative with an impenetrable net around his deepest secret—and a voice that sends shock waves of awareness down her nerve endings.

Maya’s curves and aquamarine eyes aren’t the only things that jolt Ian Sanderson’s mental shields, bringing sexual tension thrumming back to life. It’s a power his Universe-trained mind knows he shouldn’t trust. And a vulnerability that makes his telekinetic power burn in his palms to protect her.

But to Universe, she is just one of too many unanswered questions. A target for Whisper, a shadowy new group of paranormals with powers beyond anything Universe has ever seen. Once before, Ian failed to protect a sensitive from a brain-scrambling attack. He will not fail again . . . if it means using his talent—or his body—to stop a bullet.


The metallic squeal in the distance indicated the train was arriving. A light in the tunnel swept across the concrete wall as it rounded a curve and the brakes continued to shriek. People began to crowd the yellow line, jostling for position, trying to determine where the doors would open so they could leap on and get a seat, a premium on the Metro.
By now the train was visible, moving at a rate that didn’t seem normal. His experience with the Washington Metro was limited, but the tube in London would have been slowing by now.
Awareness flowed through the air, and there was a shift in the commuters as they began to understand that something wasn’t right. Ian released Maya and shoved her behind him. People scattered as the train started screaming into the station at too high a speed.
“Bugger all,” Ian said and reached out with his talent.
Without warning, Maya was yanked from behind him and hurtled toward the moving train before he could halt her.
He split his mind, one focusing on the subway cars and one on her. People were flowing around her, one or two pausing to try and help the woman jerking past them. Maya careered forward, out of their grasp. Sparks lit the tracks as the wheels lifted off the rails, the engineer no doubt applying the brakes in an effort to make the cars stop.
Ian’s talent blazed through him, starting in his belly and moving up his body. It pulsed and crackled, filling him with power fueled by fury and desperation. He reached out his hand, the palm glowing red as his ability hissed out in an arc. Maya halted on the demarcation line that had just been vacated, her eyes wide and staring. Her body was stiff, and her head was bent backwards in an attempt to clear it from the path of the oncoming train.
Beads of sweat broke out along Ian’s body as he found the train’s brakes on the wheels, applying pressure via his telekinesis. The conductor was already applying everything to the pedals, but they were going all the way to the floor. Instead, Ian focused everything on those pads, stomping down as if he were physically there. The train lurched and made a shrieking sound as it slowed. It slid by Maya, her hair blowing back from the rush of displaced air.
For a panicked moment, Ian saw Maya falling onto the tracks in his mind’s eye. Inside, the people standing were thrown forward and then back as the brakes caught. The train shuddered and ground to a halt.
Ian stumbled when he released his grasp on the train. Maya ran to him as he slumped, his shaking hands still glowing with red light. Energy drained from him but all that mattered was Maya, safe.
The train doors opened, and frightened passengers disembarked rapidly. The tourists had wide eyes and open mouths while the regulars seemed more sanguine. They were used to the vagaries of the subway and to them it was nothing more than a bad stop. A very bad stop, to be sure, but just a random day on the Washington Metro.
“Ian?” Maya asked, and he tasted the acrid, metallic scent of fear. It had been a long time since anyone had mattered.
“What did you sense? Anything?”
“I . . . it was so brief. Someone surfaced and before I could react to his mind—it felt like a he— I was being shoved forward. I reached out and tried to stop him, but I didn’t know how. It had to be a telekinetic, right?” By her expression he didn’t think she expected an answer. “It was only a flash, and then it was gone. Why, Ian? What did he want?”

The oath on Ian’s lips was savage. “I don’t know who it was, but they won’t get away with this. Blast. Yin was right. You’re in danger.”

About the Author:

Claire can’t remember a time when writing wasn’t part of her life. Growing up, she used to write stories with her friends. As a teenager she started reading fantasy and science fiction, but her diet quickly changed to romance and happily-ever-after’s.

A native of Massachusetts and cold weather, she left all that behind to move to the sun and fun of California, but has always lived no more than twenty miles from the ocean.

In college she studied acting with a minor in creative writing. In hindsight she should have flipped course studies. Before she was published, she sold books on eBay and discovered some of her favorite authors by sampling the goods, which was the perfect solution. Claire has many book-irons in the fire, most notably her urban fantasy series, The Elementals’ Challenge series, but writes contemporary and shifter romances as well as.

While she’s not a movie mogul or actor, she does work in the film industry with her office firmly situated in the 90210 district of Hollywood. Prone to breaking into song, she is quick on her feet and just as quick with snappy dialogue. In addition to writing she enjoys animal rescue, reading, and movies. She loves to hear from fans, so feel free to drop her a line.

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Thursday, August 16, 2018

Author Blair Drake

Dylan's Quest
Finding Magic
Book Five
Blair Drake

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Publisher: Magic Quest Books

Date of Publication: July 19, 2018


Number of pages: 225
Word Count: 78,750

Cover Artist: Jennifer Zemanek/Seedlings LLC

Tagline: What would you do to find your magic?

Book Description:

The most normal thing about Dylan’s morning was being called to the headmaster’s office. And that’s where normal forever changed for him. One minute he’s in the office, the next he’s on the roof, and moments later, he opens the doors to Gray Cliffs Academy to find he’s in a whole new world.

Troll, and pixies, and chameleman, oh my. In a dimension with real-world technology along with magic, Dylan must find his grimoire and get back to Gray Cliffs before the darkness invades both worlds.


Excerpt Book 5:

When Dylan opened the door, he thought maybe he was dropped off the roof onto his head and suffered a concussion. Nothing else, short of a dream (which he decided it wasn’t a dream when he pinched himself and it hurt like hell), could explain what he saw.
“Quantum physics is real,” he said aloud.
He stepped through the doorway and closed the doors firmly behind him, to keep the fog at bay. Turning around to what should be the foyer of the school, he saw a city. Was it a city? Could that be possible? And it felt familiar, only he was sure he never saw anything like it before now.
“Holy…” He didn’t finish his sentence because awe overtook him. He’d seen this place before. Not the whole place necessarily, but he’d seen that house. He looked to the left...and that house.
His father was an architect, and he had drawings and paintings of Victorian homes all around his office. But the homes were surreal, with blithely assembled gables, dormers, turrets, and finials. It was a surreal whimsy. His dad said he interpreted what he was taught about Stic, Eastlake, and Gothic Revival architecture. He always thought his dad reimagined and reinvented original architectural designs, but he drew real houses.
Dylan took a tentative step forward. What the hell happened? Where were the rest of the kids? And why wasn’t he terrified? Fog seeped through the seams of the door and clouded the vision before him. He could see this town was near the sea and thought maybe it was the other side of the island—or not.
He considered pinching himself again, because this had to be a dream. Only he looked down and saw the welt he gave himself moments ago. Not a smart idea. He’d roll with it. He stepped forward onto the sidewalk and was nearly run over by an egg-shaped man wearing what he’d call steampunk clothing: cream colored, high-waist Regency fall front trousers, a brown vest with a burgundy jacket with little round tassels hanging from the hem, a white cotton neck scarf with the same tassels, and tan and burgundy wingtip shoes.
The egg man walked on the tips of his toes while three cats, all tiger striped, walked with him. The three cats were on leashes. With his nose in the air, not paying attention, it was no wonder he nearly ran over Dylan.
Dylan started to say a sarcastic, “Excuse me,” but he was awestruck by what he saw in the street.
An elephant, wearing a hat and blanket the same colors of tan and burgundy as the round man, had a miniature version of the Taj Mahal strapped to his back. As the elephant walked past, Dylan could see two monkeys inside the Taj Mahal, playing chess.
Dylan shook his head. What happened on that roof? He looked around to see the streets were filled with other oddities: a woman who looked like a mermaid with legs, was riding a seahorse as if the air were water; a frog with wings; fish floating by in bubbles. And when he looked to the sky, he swore the crescent moon smiled at him, then winked.
He felt something hot in the pocket of his khaki school uniform pants and pulled out a pin. It glowed. It was warm, but not really hot, though it felt quite hot in his pocket, like it tried to get his attention.
“Hey,” he heard a muffled cry.
Looking around, he didn’t see anyone looking at him.
“Down here, stupid,” the whiny voice said again.
Just as he leaned over to see where the voice was coming from, a bee the size of a small dog swooped down at him. As it flew away, he saw it wasn’t just a bee. The insect had the upper body of a woman, with the butt and wings of a bee.
“Watch out, that one can kill you,” the voice said.
Dylan looked at the grass next to the sidewalk. A man’s pocket watch was wedged between the grass and the white picket fence. He bent down and picked up the watch.
“Whoa,” he said when he almost dropped it, after looking into the clear glass cover.
Instead of seeing the face of a watch through the glass, Dylan saw a man’s face, and his bare arms and legs. It looked as if he’d been stuffed into the pocket watch.
“Hey, be careful,” the naked old man inside the pocket watch said.
“Sorry,” Dylan responded without thinking.
“Press the top and open this thing. I’m getting cramps.”
Dylan didn’t immediately open the pocket watch. He turned it over in his hand to look at the back. It looked like tarnished sterling silver, and it was old. But where were the watch parts? He’d have to open the glass watch face to see what was inside. How did that old man fit inside? And the man inside was talking to him. How had he heard such a small man, who was closed inside a watch?
Dylan could see the man’s face peaking from between his knees, which looked smashed against the glass. His legs were bent, and his knees were on either side of his body, with his ankles crossed. His toes were large and gross. He only had three fingers and a thumb on each hand. Dylan could see a cog embedded in the left side of his chest. He had a long, narrow face with a prominent chin, a wide nose, smallish eyes that were hard to see behind his goggle-like glasses, and no hair.
“You gonna stare all day, or are you gonna let me out?” he said, then yelled, “Let me out!”
Dylan’s fingers moved to the top of the watch and popped the cover open. It felt as if his fingers were moving of their own freewill, even though he tried to keep them from letting the little old man out. Something told him this old guy was trouble. T. R. O. U. B. L. E.
The man tumbled out and dropped to the grass. “Umph.”
Dylan blinked and when he opened his eyes, the old man was no longer small enough to fit into the watch. Dylan covered his eyes. “Dude, you’re naked. Your junk is hanging out for everyone to see.”
When he opened his eyes, the old guy had his hands over his crotch. “Sorry, I’m getting old. Things don’t always go the way I plan them.”
The old man did something Dylan didn’t see, and suddenly he was dressed in the same manner as the round man with the cats.
“Who are you? And where am I?” Dylan asked, now that he could comfortably look at the man.
“I’m Henry Gidiro, but my friends call me Hank.” He swept his hand across and in front of him, bowing deeply from his waist. When he stood again, he said, “And you’re the young and stupid Dylan Streetman.”
Dylan’s chin dropped, his mouth wide open. Just then, another bee swooped down at his mouth.
Henry moved faster than a comic character, closing Dylan’s mouth with one hand and swinging his other hand in the air to ward off the bee. “Nasty things.”
“How do you know my name, Hank?” Dylan mumbled through his closed mouth, because Henry’s hand was still on his chin.
“It’s Henry to you, and I’ve been expecting you. You’re uglier than I expected,” he retorted, pulling his hand away.

About the Author:

Blair Drake believes in magic, especially the magic of stories with fantasy, adventures, romance, action, and surprises. She has loved writing and living in the stories of the Finding Magic series and is so excited to share the quests of the Gray Cliffs Academy students with her readers.

When she’s not writing about magic, she’s reading about it. Her influences are Cassandra Claire, Neil Gaiman, Rick Riordan, Garth Nix, and many more.

In the mortal plane, following the lure of magic has drawn Blair into strange and wonderful adventures from Australia to New York City, with many stops in between. She currently lives near Denver. Her very favorite spot is a red loveseat in her office, frequently shared with two cats, an outnumbered Dalmation, and occasionally her bewitched husband.

She might have gone to a school similar to Gray Cliffs Academy and would love to go through a magic portal. In the meantime, she’s creating her own in more books of magic.

Monday, August 13, 2018

A little something for my blog readers...

Today, I have a fun surprise that I’d like to share with you.

I’ve teamed up with 15+ fantastic authors to give away a huge collection of Contemporary Romance Audiobooks to 2 lucky winners, PLUS a brand new eReader to the Grand Prize winner!

Oh, and did I mention you'll receive a collection of FREE reads just for entering? ;D

You can win my novel Steele and Stone, plus books from authors like Patricia D. Eddy and Kait Nolan

Enter the giveaway by clicking here:

Good luck, and enjoy!

Kay Phoenix