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From the Desk of

Myra Nour BTS CEO

SPECIAL JANUARY ISSUE We loved the Special January issue we published in 2014 with lots of short stories for our readers. This year we made it a tradition with our 2nd annual January 2015 emag filled with entertaining short stories. We are not putting reviews in this issue so there will be room for more stories. Any scheduled reviews will be pushed to the March/ April issue. Don’t miss the section introducing all our wonderful staff members. See on page 25. NEWS & UPDATES BTS Red Carpet Book Awards: The most exciting news has been the recent selection of finalists for our awards. The competition was fierce and we congratulate all the finalists. See full list on page 22. 2015 Awards are now open, details on page 23. Awards Ceremony & Dance: We invite everyone to attend our Awards celebration at the ARC/BTS Convention in New Orleans, July 30 - Aug 1, 2015. Details: http:// www.authorreadercon.com/ New Review Policy We have a change in our review policy which will benefit our customers even more. See on page 11. Limited space in BTS Book Reviews emag The emag will have limited space starting March 2015. See full details page 11. New BTS Staff We’re happy to welcome these new staff members: Kayla Lords, Marketing Director Bea Connors, Review Assistant Jo Gafford, Newsletter Marketer

BTS

Book Reviews LLC Your Guide to Great Reading

Executive Coordinator Myra Nour Executive Designer Dawn Seewer Promotions Director Babs Hightower Promotions Assistant BJ Gaskill Executive Assistant: Vanessa Strickler Publicity Director Tracee Gleichner Marketing Director Kayla Lords Newsletter Editor Jo Gafford Production Assistant/ Designer Cyrene Olson Editor Sheri Kraft Associate Editor Kellyann Zuzulo Author Liaison Diane Bator Yahoo Promotions/ Ad Coordinator Simon Nour Promotions Assistant Char Chaffin Triberr Team Amber Easton Keta Diablo Barbara Bradley

BTSeMag.com info@BTSeMag.com facebook.com/BtsBookReviews

Social Media Amberr Meadow Review Coordinator Heather Powers Review Assistant Bea Connors BJ Gaskill Babs Hightower Reviewers

Alyssa Williams Amy Moore Anita Rivers Annette Stone April W. Arushi Raj Babs Hightower Babus Ahmed Brittany Hale Cassandra Graham Christie Mitchum Christina Torretta Diana Silva Drue Hoffman Heather Lewis Jordan White Kim Patten Lisa Klaes Michelle Mauer Olga Núñez Miret Raluca Topliceanu S. Jane Gari Sally A. Wolf Sara Curtis Sasha Hibbs Shannon Ferguson Stacie Carrier Susan Frances Tammy Thompson

Hollywood Interviewer Danita Minnis

Columnists: Karen Albright Lin, Alex Bardy, Sandra Bunino, Adrienne deWolfe, Christy English, Jim Fisher, BJ Gaskill, Babs Hightower, Kelly Hudson, Nicole Morgan, Kellyann Zuzulo No material in this magazine can be used or copied without BTS or the author’s permission. © Copyright 2014. BTSeMag, BTS Book Reviews, All Rights Reserved. By submitting material to BTS Book Reviews or its affiliates, authors certify they own the rights to all published information.

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on the cover

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Bestselling author Eliza Lloyd has several novels published with Ellora’s Cave in their historical line including several series: Wicked Affairs, Mad Duchesses and Birds of Paradise and a new series, Cold Play.


contents January/February 2015

columns

stories

13 Bestseller’s Secret

49 THE GRAPEFRUIT BURNERS John Paddison 55 LIFE AS I KNOW IT Diane Bator 61 THE CHEF Barbara Donlon Bradley 83 A GOOD NIGHT Danielle Devon 99 OVER THE LINE Lexi Adair 119 SOMEONE’S KNOCKING ON THE DOOR Kelly Hudson 127 ALBERT EINSTEIN ATE MY BABY! Rob Sharp 143 SNOW DAY Karen Albright Lin

GINA DANNA WRITES EDGY HISTORICAL ROMANCE

43 Chic Trends in Romance

SAVE A HORSE, RIDE A COWBOY

75 The Hot Hunks of History

PHILIPPE AUGUSTE: KING OF THE FRENCH

93 The Heat Diva

CAN YOU IMAGINE?

111 Ali B. and the Forty Spaceships

GET OFF YOUR HORSE AND HAVE A BEVVY...

139 The Scrying Eye

HAUNTS FROM THE PAST!

153 Forever Young

WHY YOUNG ADULTS LOVE THE BAD BOY

159 BTS Goes Hollywood KARL ALEXANDER

features 60 Hildie McQueen 78 Adrienne deWolfe 90 Louise Lyndon 98 Alisa Anderson & Cameron Skye 115 Kathi S. Barton 135 Barbara Donlon Bradley 136 Cara Bristol

genres 41 CONTEMPORARY & ROMANCE 73 HISTORICAL & WESTERN 91 EROTIC & SENSUAL 109 SCI-FI/FANTASY & PARANORMAL 137 MYSTERY & SUSPENSE 151 YOUNG & NEW ADULT plus

on the website

Blogging 101 with Babs Hightower Karen’s Writing Detours with Karen Albright Lin Rebels, Rakes & Rogues with Adrienne deWolfe Science News for Writers with Jim Fisher January/February 2015 | 7


BTS News Review Policy Change at BTS: We are closing book submissions from the public until March 2015 so we can work on the backlog of customer books. We will still be accepting books for consideration during this time for our customers. Also, we are now asking our reviewers to choose one or two customer books for review before selecting from other submitted books. Under our old policy, we asked our reviewers to take a look at our customer database first when selecting a book for review, before checking the public submissions This will give our advertisers a better chance of being selected for review This will also work better for authors in the Red Carpet Book Awards. If your book is reviewed and receives a 4- or 5-star review, it automatically makes you a nominee. Creating an opportunity for more reviews for our authors who advertise with us, will give them a better chance to make it into the Awards for 2015. Limited Space in BTS Book Reviews starting in the March/April issue: We will have limited advertising space starting with the March/April 2015 issue. Our eMagazine has become a beast, averaging 186 pages. While this is good because it shows business is great, it is just too big and makes the pages slow to load. In an effort to continue bringing our readers a quality magazine, BTS has made the decision to cut our issue back to a 150-page range, even though it may cut back on our profit. The integrity and look of the magazine is more important to us. This will be better for our authors and publishers as it will give them a better chance to be seen in a smaller issue. But this also means the issues will be limited, somewhat exclusive. Once a section is filled, it will closed to further advertising. Customers should consider purchasing their ads early to reserve their place in a particular issue. Myra Nour BTS CEO January/February 2015 | 11


craft

wisdom for writers

BESTSELLER’S

Secret

Adrienne deWolfe

From Vampire Pirates to Male Courtesans: Gina Danna Writes Edgy Historical Romance

“Historians are dangerous people. They are capable of upsetting everything.” ~ N. Khrushchev (Quote that concludes every Gina Danna e-mail.) I asked USA Today best-selling author Gina Danna, “What did you do for fun this summer?” Her response: “I dressed up like a Confederate soldier and fired a Civil War cannon twice a day at Vicksburg (National Military Park).” Yes, Gina is a Civil War reenactor. In fact, Kim Killion, a popular romancenovel cover artist, has posed models in some of Gina’s period dresses. For the cannon-firing gig, Gina worked this summer as a park guide and interpreter who got to dress in costume and be part of a living history program. She commanded a crew of seven high school students, whose job was to demonstrate the use of a US Light Artillery Howitzer (1853 Napoleon cannon). “It takes eight people to fire a cannon,” she explained. “Since we were Confederates, we dressed in (Army-traditional) wool pants and a jacket—in Mississippi,” she added dryly. “In the summer heat. Since wool takes a long time to burn, it was protection against the sparks from the cannon.” Born and raised in St. Louis, Gina is a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. She has worked in the museum field for ten years as

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| Bestseller’s Secret |

an educator, curator, and researcher, and she is currently pursuing her PhD. “I’m nitpicky about the history in my novels,” she confessed. “All of my books have a bibliography.” Gina has been published by Turquoise Morning Press. Her work-in-progress is Unconditional Surrender, the second book in her Civil War trilogy. However, the War Between the States was not the setting for her debut novel, Her Eternal Rogue. This vampire-pirate book is set in Georgian England. Her third book, The Wicked Bargain, is a Regency romance whose hero is a courtesan. “People don’t think of men as courtesans,” Gina said. “And yet, historically, men got kidnapped by Barbary pirates and sold into slavery. That’s what happened to my hero. Before the book opens, he was a pleasure slave to a (Middle Eastern) princess. I have a tendency to write how people really lived.” Gina also has the tendency to jump historical periods. Love and Vengeance is set in ancient Rome. “Because I don’t stick to one historical setting, I drive agents and editors crazy. I write under my own name, and I want to research and write what inspires me. The Civil War is close to my heart, because my ancestors were from Mississippi and fought for the Confederacy. But I also have family from Sicily, so ancient Rome interests me too.” 14 | btsemag.com

Gina’s passion for historical accuracy is a boon to readers who yearn to experience a slice-of-life from yesteryear. “I want my writing to bring you into my world,” Gina said. “I want you to know what it’s like to walk on that road rutted by cannon wheels, or to sit on that wild horse that no one can tame. I want to make you feel like you’re facing the lions as a gladiator in ancient Rome, or that you’re being bombarded by shells from both armies in the midst of a Civil War battle.” I asked Gina what inspires her writing besides family and history. “I always wanted an Arabian horse,” she confessed. “I read all the Black Gina Danna prepares to greet visitors Stallion series. I at the front door of the Shirley House. used to volunteer The Confederates intended to burn at the Humane this Mississippi home to better observe the Union’s advance, but a Federal Society, and I sharpshooter gunned down the torch reached a point bearer, thus saving the building. where I had too (Vicksburg National Military Park) many animals. I just didn’t want anymore—until I learned about a ranch that rescues Arabian horses! “My horse is my muse. I plan out my scenes just by being with him. When I go to see him, my phone stays in the car. Shetan sets my mind free. When you are with a horse, you have to keep your mind on what you’re doing. A horse can read you faster than any other animal, including cats and dogs!” Bestseller’s Secrets from Gina Danna: • “Write what you know, what you’re comfortable with. Better yet, write what you want to read. Don’t let yourself get sidetracked by what the industry says is popular, or what your agent tells you to write.” • “If you’re going to self-publish, hire an editor. I’m horrible with grammar—really, I am! I learned


| Adrienne deWolfe | Did you know it takes eight people to fire a cannon? Civil War reenactor and USA Today best-selling author Gina Danna served on the “cannon crew” this summer as part of living history demonstrations held at Vicksburg National Military Park.

it in high school and quickly forgot about it. That’s why I get editorial help.” • “When it comes to editing, you’ll learn as you go. As for me, I’m saving all those battle scenes that my editor told me to cut. I figure I can republish them in the unabridged version of my novel!”

ABOUT THE COLUMNIST

Adrienne deWolfe is a #1 bestselling author of actionpacked Historical Romance novels, where feisty Heroines buck the conventions and true Heroes must be wickedly funny. Currently, she is writing the first book in her new Romantic Suspense series, The Gunslinger and the Redheaded Sleuth. For sneak peeks of her sassy ladies and sizzling rogues, visit http:// ebookdiscovery.com.p8.hostingprod.com/AdrienneDeWolfe. Also visit: WildTexasNights.com, WritingNovelsThatSell.com, and MagicMayhemBlog.com

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| Industry Insider |

Publisher Spotlight Looking for some fantastic reads? Check out the wonderful books these publishers have waiting for you!

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| Industry Insider |

Publisher Wild Child Publishing - http://www.wildchildpublishing.com Wild Child Publishing, a fiction and non-fiction publisher and parent company of Freya’s Bower, has been online since September 1999. Since its inception, Wild Child Publishing’s goal has been to offer high-quality, entertaining reading material. We love a wellwritten, fast-paced story that compels us to finish the tale to find out what happens. We focus on quality, and our catalog reflects that. While not large, our catalog is growing, and our readers are very happy with our books. Willing to take a chance on good material, you won’t find what we have anywhere else. Exciting, fresh, frightening, gripping are just a few of the adjectives used to describe our books. Step into our world - the world of the wild child. You can purchase our books at our website, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Amazon, All Romance eBooks, OmniLit, and iTunes. Break free... Read wild... World Castle Publishing- http://www.worldcastlepublishing.com World Castle Publishing, LLC, is a young innovative publisher founded in March 2011. In this short time, we have grown by leaps and bounds and continue to prosper. We have over a hundred great authors and have published well over three hundred titles. Our bestselling genre is romantic fiction, anywhere from sweet romance to erotic romance. In this genre we are always actively seeking new talented authors. Don’t write romance? Don’t worry, we publish most fiction. Just go to our website and check out our submission guidelines: http://www.worldcastlepublishing.com/ submission-guidelines.html. A sample contract is included to answer most of your questions before you submit to us. Writers Exchange- http://www.writers-exchange.com/ Every month we have a featured author whose books are 20% off their normal price, this month is Herb Marlow, next month (November) will be Australian middle-grade reader author, Margaret Pearce. Every month we have five new free books to give readers a chance to try a new author risk free. We have been adding a pile of books to our “Collections”, these are bundled books either of a complete series or parts of a complete

series, if the series is too long:) We only start putting these out when the series is finished, so the reader can know with confidence that if they buy the book, or multiple volumes it is the entire story:) We will have a few more out over the next few days and then be announcing it on our facebook page. Totally Bound - www.totallybound.com Totally Bound Publishing is the Home of Erotic Romance. Totally Bound delivers ‘A List’ escapism for readers who love Erotic Romance fiction. We are the go-to destination for deliciously good stories that put a smile on readers’ faces and a spring in their steps. This year we were shortlisted for eBook Retailer of the Year 2014 by The Bookseller. We are currently accepting manuscripts between 10,000 and 100,000+ words in the following genres: Action/Adventure, Angels and Demons, Bondage/BDSM, Crime/Mystery, Comedy/Humour, Contemporary, Cowboy/Western, Fantasy/Fairytales, Futuristic/Sci-fi, Gods/Goddesses, Historical, Horror, Men in Uniform, Rubenesque, Ménage-à-trois, Multicultural, Older Woman/Younger Man, Paranormal, Timetravel, Thriller, Suspense, Shapeshifters, Morphers, Vampires, Werewolves, GLBT. Loose Id - www.loose-id.com Loose Id is always accepting submissions from new, unagented, and agented authors. After ten years in business, we have a sterling reputation with authors, agents and readers. Our editing, cover art, author development process, and marketing is unparalleled. We accept all subgenres of romance and heat levels from spicy on up. In particular, we’re currently looking for multicultural, romantic suspense, New Adult, LGBTTQA, and BDSM. If you have a strong story with sizzling chemistry between the romantic leads, we want to hear from you! In sales and distribution news, Loose Id has partnered with Google to get all of our titles into Google Play store. Additionally, our books are now available for pre-order at many sites; pre-order at www.loose-id.com should be available for your holiday shopping. We’re also offering select series in e-box sets at significantly reduced rates; in most cases only at www.loose-id.com.

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2015 Coastal Magic Convention Coastal Magic is a super casual, urban fantasy and paranormal romance-focused convention in Daytona Beach, FL. With panels designed to start interesting discussion, and meet & greets with fun themes, we’ve got something for every fan. While there IS a schedule, there is also ample time for authors and readers to just hang out together, this is what we’re here for! Join us for reader, blogger, and author shenanigans, and lots of “paranormal” inspired activities. Saturday’s charity book sale and signing is open to convention attendees, and also FREE to the public. We’ve got a Featured Author lineup, over 50 amazing storytellers, that showcases not only NYT Bestselling favorites, but debut and “new to you” authors that are sure to catch your attention. Come take a bite out of the beach with us!! Feb 5-8, 2015

For more information please visit CoastalMagicConvention.com January/February 2015 | 21


Congratulations to our 2014 Book Award Finalists! Reader’s Choice Award Finalists: Contemporary Category Finding Home by Barbara Raffin Play with my Heart by Meda White Slow Hand by Victoria Vane Romance Category Definitely, Maybe in Love by Ophelia London Her Uniform Cowboy by Donna Michaels Parker’s Passion by Sabrina York Historical Category Fallen Hopes, Taken Dreams by J.M. Barlog My Highland Spy by Victoria Roberts Wicked Designs by Lauren Smith Erotic Category Take me if you Dare by Nina Crespo Mating Brand by Laurann Dohner Sex, Wolves and Rock ‘N Roll by Mina Carter S/F & Fantasy Category Claimed by a Demon King by Felicity Heaton The Zoastra Affair by Victoria Pinder Nefeteri’s Heart by A. W. Exley Paranormal Category The Serendipitous Curse Reborn by Aiden James & Lisa Collicutt A Mate’s Bite by Milly Taiden Cade by V.A. Dold Mystery Category Her Lone Wolf by Paige Tyler Murder Comes Ashore by Julie Anne Lindsey The Cursed Man by Keith Rommel 22 | btsemag.com

YA Category Minno by James Barlog Eruption by J. Hughey Sacrificed by Courtney Farrell Reviewer’s Choice Award Finalists: Deeper than Need, Shiloh Walker Always & Forever, Jasinda Wilder Demon Killer, Myra Nour Best Book Finalists: My Highland Spy by Victoria Roberts A Mate’s Bite by Milly Taiden Her Uniform Cowboy by Donna Michaels Best Cover Art Finalists: Slow Hand by Victoria Vane Tortured Souls by Kimber Leigh Wheaton My Lady Quicksilver by Bec McMaster Rising Star Finalists: V.A. Dold Kimber Leigh Wheaton Theresa Rizzo Short Story Finalists: Restoration by Leslie S. Talley Reunion by Bernard Lee DeLeo Bog Bodies by Diana Rubino

Congratulations to all our finalists! Winners will be announced at the upcoming ARC Convention!


Author & Reader Con 2015

FEATURING AUTHORS:

Author & Reader Con

July 30th - August 1st, 2015

2nd ARC NOLA Con and Book Signing

Quinn Loftis

Plus, the BTS Red Carpet Book Awards! - Enjoy the tours and fun of the French Quarter with the authors - Speed Date the authors - BTS E-Magazine Red Carpet Awards - Book Signing - Games - Hollywood Ball FUN FUN FUN! Visit AuthorReaderCon.com to register now! Authors - $125.00 Includes entire weekend with 1/2 table for book signing!

Readers - $15 Includes entire weekend access!

Keynote Speaker: Abbi Glines

V.A. Dold

author and creator of ARC

Donna Michaels

Myra Nour

author and CEO of BTSeMag

and many more!

Visit AuthorReaderCon.com to find out more and register online!


| Industry Insider |

Upcoming

2015 Conventions

31st Annual SDSU Writers’ Conference January 23-25, 2015 San Diego, CA http://www.ces.sdsu.edu/wc

Carolinas Writers Conference April 18, 2015 Wadesboro, N.C. http://www.carolinaswritersconference.org/

Coastal Magic Convention February 5-8 2015 Daytona Beach, FL http://coastalmagicconvention.com/

2015 Las Vegas Writer’s Conference April 23-25, 2015 http://writing.shawguides.com/2015lasveg aswritersconference

FRW Cruise Conference 2015 February 5-9, 2015 Sailing from Ft Lauderdale, FL http://frwfuninthesunregistra.blogspot. com/

Kauai Writers Conference May 1-3, 2015 http://www.kauaiwritersconference.com/

South Coast Writers Conference! February 13 & 14, 2015 Gold Beach, Oregon http://www.socc.edu/scwriters/ Sleuth Fest 2015 February 26 – March 1, 2015 Deerfield Beach, FL https://plus.google.com/+NancyJCohen/ posts/D8bsUqFYFdQ 2015 AWP Conference & Bookfair April 8 - 11, 2015 Minneapolis , MN https://www.awpwriter.org/awp_conference/schedule_overview Romancing the Capital (RTC2015) April 17th & 18th, 2015 Ottawa, Canada http://orc.evelanglais.com/wordpress/ venue/

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2015 DFW Writers Conference July 24-26, 2015 Dallas, TX https://classic.regonline.com/register/ checkin.aspx?eventid=1551122 Author & Reader Con July 30th - August 1st, 2015 New Orleans, LA http://www.authorreadercon.com/ Including: BTS Red Carpet Book Awards http://btsemag.com/red-carpet-reviewawards/ Indie Romance Convention (IRC) October 13-18, 2015 Mackinac Island, MI http://www.eventbrite.com/e/2015-indieromance-convention-grand-hotel-ticketstickets-12194464973


STAFF SHOWCASE inside BTS

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| inside BTS |

Myra Nour

CEO/Executive Coordinator Myra Nour has been a published author since 2001, having books published by Ellora’s Cave and New Concepts Publishing. Recently, she asked for her EC books back, so she can turn them into Indie books. In December 2012, she opened Book & Trailer Showcase with her husband, Simon, and their daughter, Christina. It was a small family business concept, with the intent to promote authors’ work through a website and, soon after, with the BTS Tour company they opened. In April 2012, the first BTSeMag was published, with the goal of being small and to promote the authors who took tours with BTS. Authors and readers loved the magazine, and so the public interest kept the emag on an upward growth that surprised Myra, Simon, and Christy. In 2013, the family decided to close the tour business so they could concentrate on the magazine. In 2014, BTS started the Red Carpet Book Review Awards and partnered with Vickie Dold of ARC (Author & Reader Con) to host the Awards Ceremony during the NOLA 2015 convention—http://www.authorreadercon.com/. Also, we decided to hold the 2nd Mr. BTS contest at the con, and our first Mr. BTS, Scott Nova, will be attending.

Simon Nour

Ad Coordinator & Yahoo/Linkedin Promotions It was Simon who first suggested that we create a small family business, something to do with writing since Myra is an author. He retired, as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2012, after 25 years in the Army and wanted to keep busy. Christy and Myra brainstormed and came up with the idea of promoting authors. Thus, BTS (Book & Trailer Showcase) was born out of Simon’s suggestion. Simon has been a stalwart supporter of BTS and the authors. He also helps Myra with many different projects. His primary jobs are to keep track of ads for the business and promote BTS through 70 Yahoo groups BTS is members of. Furthermore, he edits the magazine. Even though BTS has 2 editors, it takes many sets of eyes to catch errors, and he has been great at this job. Simon also acts as the professional photographer, at cons that BTS attends, so we can cover the event in the emag.

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Christina Wilhelm Honorary BTS staff

Christy is Myra and Simon’s daughter. She helped start BTS through brainstorming with her mom to come up with ideas. And she is the reason there is a BTSeMag. Early in 2012, she suggested that we start a small digital magazine to help promote authors who took tours with us. Simon and Myra were adamant that they did not want to start this project. Christy was in college, and they didn’t feel she had time for this. But, she wouldn’t let the idea rest. Finally they agreed to help her, thinking it would stay small. At first they published every quarter, then every two months, and then monthly. The emag grew so much that Feb 2014 was the last monthly issue, and they went back to a two-month issue release. Christy and Myra produced the first few emags almost exclusively. Christy created the graphics and handled promotions while Myra searched for authors for features and oversaw ads. In May 2013, Dawn Seewer, took over as Head Designer for the emag. Producing the emag was too much for Christy with her college courses, and Myra’s friend Dawn stepped in to help us during this difficult period. She is now Executive Designer for the magazine. Christy is now finishing her nursing degree, but if not for her, BTS Book Reviews emag would never have seen the light of day. :)


| Staff Showcase |

Dawn Seewer Executive Designer For over 15 years, Dawn has been creating websites, graphic arts, and eBooks almost exclusively for the book industry. She has worked with many bestselling authors and created hundreds of book covers for various publishers. In May 2013, she joined the BTS staff and eventually became the Executive Designer, providing art direction, magazine layout and design. Dawn is also the author of Social Media for Busy Authors and The Busy Author’s Guide to Promotional Giveaways. You can visit Dawn at her website at www.dawnseewer.com.

Babs Hightower Promotions Director & Columinst, Blogging 101

Mom to four boys, Promtions Coordinator for Musa Publishing, Promotions Director for Btsemag, book review blog owner and author. When not working I love to read, garden, work on crafts and spend time with my family. I am a work aholic so it doesn’t leave much time. Visit Babs at www.babsbookbistro.net

Annette Stone

Book Review Coordinator

I began as a reviewer for Fresh Fiction and PNR Romance when I decided to start my own review site. After that things just grew, I started with BTS in April 2013 as well as started my own business as an Author’s Assistant in 2012. I love what I do. Of course, where can you go wrong being able to work from home in your jammies. It is sad that I am leaving my BTS family to continue with my own business as an assistant but I will still be a supporter of the magazine. Visit Annette at authors-assistantagency.com. Annette was the BTS Review Coordinator for over a year and we appreciate all her hard work to make the review section a success. We wish her the best in her new career!

Heather Powers Book Review Coordinator She has been happily married to her leading man for eight years and is supermom to three kids and four furkids. A few of her passions are reading books and writing poetry. She enjoys many different genres of books. She maintains her own book review blog and Facebook page called Earth’s Book Nook. She has been in the book review business since 2011. Visit Heather at earthsbooknook.blogspot.com

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| inside BTS | Vanessa Strickler Executive Assistant I love books! As a child I practically lived at the library. My first book collection were my Nancy Drew Mysteries. My love has grown to the point of becoming a book blogger. Creating a blog was my way of promoting Indie Authors I met online. I owe a special thanks to my husband Lon. who told me I could do it. My favorite genres are paranormal romance and fantasy although I read and support other genres too. I work at home in Randallstown, Maryland as a PA and author assistant while keeping up with my blog, Fairiechick’s Fantasy Book Reader. I look forward to the day that I get to meet everyone that I’ve worked with in-person. Visit Vanessa at www.fantasybookreader.net

Cyrene Olson Production Assistant & Designer My name is Cyrene, and I live in Wisconsin on a small 10 acre farm and am an avid reader. For the most part, I read paranormal romance, fantasy, urban fantasy and science fiction. Some of my favorite authors are Sherrilyn Kenyon, Ilona Andrews, Chloe Neill, Patricia Briggs and Adrian Phoenix. I work from home as a graphic designer and my free time is spent vegetable gardening, reading and catching up on TV shows on Netflix. I’m a single mother of one daughter and I have a horse, a couple goats, dogs and cats as companions. Visit Cyrene at CyreneOlson.com

Kayla Lords Marketing Director Kayla Lords is an erotic author, sex blogger, a freelance writer, and an opinionated marketer. She’s also a sarcastic, introverted, tea drinker who laughs loudly and thinks inappropriate thoughts. Visit Kayla at kaylalords.com

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Tracee Gleichner Publicity Director

Tracee has been a book lover and reader as long as she can remember, and when she was offered the opportunity to help authors promote their books as the Vice President of Pump Up Your Book 7 years ago, she knew that she was about to begin a dream job. She has continued to learn new and efficient ways to best help authors not only promote their books, but also keep their website and social media sites running and active to attract new fans. She has extensive knowledge in book promotion, social media and the publicity needed to reach the greatest audience and also knows how to create lasting relationships with bloggers and website owners to help create the buzz needed to make a book a success. She is the Branding/Blog Tour Specialist with Entangled Publishing and has recently accepted the position of Publicity Director with BTSe Magazine. You can visit her at Review From Here or A Taste of My Mind.


| Staff Showcase | Jo Grafford

Newsletter Editor

An award-winning romance author and blogger, Jo has been writing since she could hold her first crayon. Her favorite books are rich in Colonial and Elizabethan history, romance, strong women, alpha males, and an occasional creature from the otherworld -- dragons, vampires, and time travelers. From St. Louis, Missouri, Jo moves a lot with her soldier husband. She has lived in the Midwest and deep South and currently resides in Bavaria. Jo holds an M.B.A. and has served as a banker, college finance instructor, and high school business teacher. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, From the Heart Romance Writers RWA Chapter, and the Writers Group of Ansbach/ Katterbach/Illesheim. You can visit Jo at. JoGrafford.com.

Barbara Donlon Bradley

Triberr Promotions

Writing for Barbara Donlon Bradley started innocently enough, like most she kept diaries, journals, and wrote an occasional letter but she also had a vivid imagination and wrote scenes and short stories adding characters to her favorite shows and comic books. As time went on she found the passion for writing to be a strong drive for her. Humor is also very strong in her life. No matter how hard she tries to write something deep and dark, it will never happen. That humor bleeds into her writing. Since she can’t beat it she has learned to use it to her advantage. Now she lives in Tidewater Virginia with two cats, one mother in law – whose 87 now, her husband and son. Visit Barbara at barbaradonlonbradley. com

Keta Diablo lives in the Midwest part of the United States on six acres of woodland. When she isn’t writing or gardening she loves to commune with nature. Keta is a multi-published author in both erotic romance and gay fiction. Her erotica novel, Decadent Deceptions was a finalist in the MOLLY contest sponsored by Romance Writers of America and has been nominated for a Red Carpet Award in 2014. Her paranormal novel, Where the Rain Is Made has been nominated for a Bookie Award by Authors After Dark. Her historical novel, Sky Tinted Water, has been nominated for a RONE Award by Ind’Tale Magazine. Keta’s books have received numerous Top Pick, Book of the Month, and Recommended Read awards from the top professional review sites. Visit Keta at ketaskeep.blogspot.com.

Tribe 2 Director

Keta Diablo

Amber Easton Triberr Supervisor Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of both nonfiction and fiction, with presently eleven books total out in the world. In addition, she’s also a motivational speaker and editor. Easton lives in the Colorado Rocky Mountains and gives thanks daily for being able to live out her dream. Please visit her website for more information: www.amberleaeaston. com

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| inside BTS |

Bea Connors Assistant Review Coordinator

Diane Bator Author Liaison

I’ve been reading for as long as I can remember. It’s always been a passion of mine. At various times I’ve wanted to be an officer in Star Fleet, an archaeologist, a mythologist, a jockey, and a teacher. I ended up becoming a teacher, an editor, a book reviewer, an author assistant. When not working, I play with my cats, read, go to fairs, craft bath salts and sugar scrubs, watch movies, and hang out with my friends. Visit Bea at beasbooknook.blogspot.com and macsmusings.wordpress.com

Char Chaffin Promotions Assistant Char Chaffin writes multi-genre romance filled with family, rich characters and engaging plots. For her, it all comes back to the love. Poet, light opera company costume designer, farm hand . . . Char’s life has been interesting, to say the least. Her love of romance and erotica interspersed with paranormal, horror, science fiction and fantasy has added to the mix. Sifting through several groaning bookcases and an overburdened Kindle, Char voraciously reads in between writing novels, novellas, and short stories. She is multi-published, and always working on that next manuscript. Visit Char at char.chaffin.com

Amberr Meadow FB & Twitter Connections I’m an Atlanta, GA Social Media Manager, blogger, writer, brand ambassador and virtual author and book tour coordinator. I work with individuals, small businesses, and authors to strengthen their brands through targeted social media campaigns. Visit Amberr at www.amberrisme.com

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Diane credits joining a writing group was the catalyst for coming out of the creative closet and writing her first murder mystery series. Hard at work on her second series, she lives in Southern Ontario, Canada with her husband, three teenagers, and a chatty part Siamese. Visit Diane at penspaintsandpaper. com


| Staff Showcase |

Sheri Kraft Editor Sheri Kraft has specialized in copyediting and developmental editing since 2011. She has a BA in English and has taken courses specifically dealing with copyediting and developmental editing. Before her career in editing, Sheri spent over a decade running Alibi Books, a small independent bookstore with an emphasis in mysteries. Sheri became the editor for BTS at the end of 2012. Since then, she has been thrilled by the continued growth and amazing changes at BTS. Sheri also loves how much she learns from the columns, articles, and short stories she is honored to edit for the website and magazine. You can find Sheri at www.sherlockediting.com.

Kellyann Zuzulo Associate Editor & Columnist, Forever Young

Kellyann Zuzulo is an editor and author. Her novel The Genie Ignites was a finalist in the 2013 Abalone Awards, which recognizes “Outstanding Ethno-Cultural Romance.” Her 101 Nights series from Boroughs Publishing Group has genies instead of angels, but they’re just as heavenly. The latest installment is Dangerous Devotion, released in August 2014. As an editor, Kellyann edits both fiction and non-fiction books for clients who seek clarity, continuity, and beauty in their written work. Kellyann is a member of International Thriller Writers, Backspace Writers Group, and Romance Writers of America. She lives on the East Coast with her husband, three children, and two terriers.

Danita Minnis

Hollywood Interviewer

Born and raised in the heart of New York City, Danita is a singer, writer and lover of romance. She is the author of the Cardiff novels, paranormal romances Falcon’s Angel and Love Entwined. Her latest, Adderley’s Bride, combines a few of her favorite things: love, lust and ghosts. Danita is currently working on a love affair between a 2000 year-old vampire with a moral code and an ex-MI6 agent whose only belief is in self-preservation. As an interviewer for BTS Goes Hollywood, Danita gets a kick out of getting into the creative minds of actors, producers and directors. Visit Danita at danitaminnis.com

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| inside BTS | Sandra Bunino Columnist, Chic Trends in Romance Sandra Bunino is a romance author of several novellas including The Satin Rose Experience series. Her first full-length novel, Colors of Us from the McAvery Brothers series, released in 2014. She makes her parents proud by putting her MBA degree to good use dreaming up heroes who resemble David Gandy whenever possible. When not staying up past her bedtime torturing her oh-so-sexy heroes, she can be found shopping for shoes or saving turtles. As a social media junkie in need of a ten-step program, you can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and her new addiction, Pinterest. Sandra loves to read and chat with other readers, so she formed the Bunino’s Bookalicious Babes group on Facebook where they currently share their love of Jamie Fraser from Outlanders…and David Gandy, of course. Visit Sandra at sandrabunino.com.

Christy English Columnist, Hot Hunks of History Ever since Christy English picked up a fake sword in stage combat class at the age of fourteen, she has lived vicariously through the sword-wielding women of her imagination. Sometimes an actor, always a storyteller, Christy works happily with Sourcebooks Casablanca to bring the knifethrowing women of her romance novels to life. A banker by day and a writer by night, she loves to eat chocolate, drink too many soft drinks, and walk the mountain trails of her home in North Carolina. A Staff Writer for BTS, in her Hot Hunks of History series, Christy loves to explore the place where history and hot men meet. For more about history, beautiful men, and sword-wielding heroines, please visit her blog www.christyenglish.com.

Nicole Morgan Columnist, Sex & the Single Woman

Nicole Morgan is an author of erotic romance novels, which more often than not, have a suspenseful back story. While she’s written everything from contemporary to paranormal, her leading men will more than likely be wearing a uniform of some kind. From military to police officers, she has a love for writing about those who protect and serve. From her very first novel (which turned into a four-book series) about Navy SEALs to her more recent releases, you will be sure to find a few twists and turns you were not expecting. Visit Nicole at nicolemorgan1.webs. com

Kelly M. Hudson

Columnist, The Scying Eye

BJ Gaskill Promotions Assistant & Columnist, The Heat Diva

Blogger/Freelance Writer. Body is currently residing on the east coast while the mind is off in some other dimension with a fictional boy toy. Life is too short not to enjoy it, so have FUN. Visit BJ at insidebjshead.blogspot.com

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Kelly M. Hudson is the author of two horror novels and dozens of short stories, including a piece in the recent D.O.A. II collection by Blood Bound Books. You can find links to all of his works by visiting www.kellymhudson.com if you dare!


| Staff Showcase | Alex Bardy

Columnist, Ali B and the Forty Spaceships

Alex Bardy lives in a very dark place, below a small dank stairwell, beneath a dark step, under a speck of dirt, tucked away in a cold, dark emptiness, somewhere on the fringes of the charming, historical city of York, in the North Yorkshire area of the UK. He also writes as DenizenOfTheUniverse under his Twitter moniker: @mangozoid. He is a contributor, reviewer, and word-lender to the British Fantasy Society, and an active member on the board of the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA), mainly responsible for the design/layout of their publications, coupled with an occasional foray into writing/interviewing.

Adrienne deWolfe Columnist, Bestsellers Secrets & Rebels, Rakes & Rogues

Adrienne deWolfe is a #1 bestselling author of action-packed Historical Romance novels, where feisty Heroines buck the conventions and true Heroes must be wickedly funny. Currently, she is writing the first book in her new Romantic Suspense series, The Gunslinger and the Redheaded Sleuth. For sneak peeks of her sassy ladies and sizzling rogues, visit http://ebookdiscovery. com.p8.hostingprod.com/AdrienneDeWolfe. Also visit: WildTexasNights.com, WritingNovelsThatSell.com, and MagicMayhemBlog.com

Karen Albright Lin Website Columnist, Karen’s Writing Detours

Karen Albright Lin is a freelance editor and writing coach for multi-published, traditionally, and self-published authors. Her award-winning clients have ranked 1-9 in their categories for months. Karen’s a produced screenwriter, ghostwriter, food writer and multi-award winning author of novels, short stories, essays, articles, poetry and cookbooks. She teaches writing workshops at conferences, retreats, and for Celebrity and Princess Cruise Lines. Visit karen at karenalbrightlin.com

Jim Fisher Website Columnist, Science News for Writers Jim Fisher is the editor for the blog, Science News for Writers (http://scienceforwriters.blogspot.com/), a source for the latest science on topics: love and romance, human psychology, history and prehistory, basic science, and more, organized for ease of research by any author or screenwriter.

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Everything!!

BTS is proud to annouce the release of our new website!! Check out all the great new features including new author interviews, new featured books, an updated community, enhanced book reviews and introducing our Free Read Fridays! Plus, all new advertising options! Be seen on the new BTSeMag.com!


AUTHOR SHOWCASE

COVER feature

Eliza Lloyd January/February 2015 | 35


| Cover Author |

AN INTERVIEW WITH

Eliza Lloyd Real. Sexy. Romance. And David Gandy.

Best-selling author Eliza Lloyd has several novels published with Ellora’s Cave in their historical line including several series: Wicked Affairs, Mad Duchesses and Birds of Paradise and a new series, Cold Play. Additionally, she has two new self-published series, Body of Knowledge and Far From Home. Eliza thinks romance writing is nearly as good as the real thing. Given her choice of professions, she would have preferred to be a 19th century archeologist, but she is perfectly happy living in the 21st century and comfortably writing about such romantic but inconceivably inconvenient times instead. She also writes contemporaries, romantic suspense and the occasional sci-fi when plotting and characterization don’t matter and invisibility does. She enjoys traveling, movies, everyone else’s novels and a good meal out with friends on Saturday night. Her greatest flaw is that she believes there is such a thing as true love. Please don’t tell her otherwise.

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When did you first consider yourself a writer? I would qualify this statement by saying that I first considered myself serious about writing when I typed THE END to my first manuscript way back in 2005. I’ve always written but the idea I could be a novelist and actually finish a book had never seemed like a real possibility. The desire was there but not the belief. What comes first, plot or characters? I don’t have flashes of brilliance with entire story lines waiting for me when I open my eyes in the morning. What are you reading now? I am rereading the Outlander series and right now Drums of Autumn is cracked open on my bed stand but I will confess that I also just reread Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas.


| Eliza Lloyd |

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? Rarely. There are so many things to do as a writer. Yes, there is the writing but along with it comes editing and revisions, plotting the next book and all the social media and marketing that is needed. I don’t consider periods of “not writing” as writer’s block. My fingers are always on the keyboard in some capacity. What advice do you have for other authors? I’ll pass on some advice I received from three multi-published writers at a Celebrate Romance conference way back in the day: Writing involves Luck, Perseverance and Talent and talent was the least important of the three. Writing can be learned and most of us didn’t learn from a university master writing class; we learned by trial and error. We listened to critiques and examined good and bad reviews. More importantly, we must sit down and tell the story. January/February 2015 | 37


| Cover Author | Enjoy the excerpt from

On the night of the Weatherby Ball, a bad decision results in a passionate, anonymous encounter for Victoria Sloane. The ball has a reputation for being cursed. Had she stumbled into the trap? Within days, her secret rendezvous is exposed, her husband is dead and she is carrying the child of an unknown suitor. Joseph Smythe-Wellesley is left to clean up the messy affairs of the Earl of Doncaster. He has put the night of strange, illicit passion behind him. He would never see the lovely creature again—whoever she was. The earl’s wife is difficult to understand and she is determined to protect the heritage of her unborn child. A child she claims is the next earl. Joseph has his doubts. He is also attracted to the strong willed and strangely vulnerable Victoria. Some might say the death of her husband was a blessing not a curse, but that event is the least of her problems especially once she realizes she shares a secret with the honorable and determined solicitor. 38 | btsemag.com

“Joseph, I’m so glad you came.” “Arthur. Lord Rawlings.” He bowed out of courtesy to his brother, not his title. Lord Rawlings would always be Father. Even in death the specter of his presence hung over this room, this house, Joseph’s life. Not a pleasant sensation and one Joseph had avoided as much as possible. “I forbid you to use my title. I forbid it,” Arthur said as he approached. Already Joseph was dreading the inevitable brotherly hug Arthur felt must be bestowed at any of their meetings. The last one had been a year ago when Father had died. Arthur and Daniel had wept on each other’s shoulders. Joseph had come only to wish the bastard a hellish eternity and to make sure the grave where Father was placed was filled to heaping with dirt and covered with the largest and heaviest headstone in the county. The hug was typically Arthur—bearish, too long and definitely awkward. Joseph patted him lightly on the back a few times, feeling uncomfortable and dishonest at his less-than-enthusiastic effort. “A drink? You must be thirsty.” Arthur let him go and briskly walked toward the sideboard. He was nervous, likely as nervous as Joseph was, or perhaps he had turned away to swipe at unshed tears. Joseph kept his jaw clenched and forced his countenance into an unreadable expression. They passed the first few moments with the small talk so common among distant acquaintances. Once they had discussed the spring weather, Arthur cleared his throat ready to deliver the real reason for the urgently requested visit. “I have news,” he said as he handed over a second crystal tumbler of brandy. Joseph had finished his first glass in a nervous rush, eager for the hearing of Arthur’s “most important news” and to leave while still harboring his self-righteous anger. “I have been approached by Baron Halling. He believes you and his daughter would make an ideal match. And I have to agree, she is a beauty and would suit a Rawlings heir most fittingly.” “Your note said it was urgent.” Joseph’s spine went from rigid to relaxed. The news was indeed a pretext. He wasn’t sure why he had read so much into the last missive. Perhaps he was looking for an excuse to come and couldn’t bring himself to do it on his own. “I promised Baron Halling I would deliver the news personally. The girl is amenable to the match and comes with a generous dowry.”


| Eliza Lloyd |

“Do I need to list the reasons why I will not agree?” “Be sensible, Joseph. I know what your reasons were, but they no longer exist. At least not to anyone who matters.” “Firstly, I am not a woman to be ordered about concerning marriage. Secondly, Grandmother provided a nice stipend and I don’t need a pence of Father’s money. Nor do I need an unwilling bride with a small fortune and blue blood.” He favored wellrounded women with small waists—the more generous the breasts, the better—not one of the reedy, pale daughters of Halling. “It is my money now and you still won’t take it, so why not set yourself up nicely with a good marriage and pretend as though I had nothing to do with it?” “Arthur, find me a woman who will honor her marriage vows, who will not care the home I will provide for her is only a two-story townhome and who can tolerate the meddlesome nature of my family. That is the woman I will marry.” “You are the grandson of a duke and the son of an earl. Why should you not marry well? Where do you get this confounded stubbornness?” “Not from Father.” Yes, he was the grandson of a duke, on mother’s side. He was not, however, the son of an earl. Father’s man of affairs had a most intimate relationship with the lady of the house—Joseph being the result of that indiscretion. Joseph could not help that he felt the lack of nobility in his blood. Arthur laughed. For an earl, his brother had much about him that spoke of needing approval. If Joseph had to name the culprit, it would be Father’s rigorously applied paternal instruction that did nothing more than cause resentment and self-doubt. “I’m glad you still have a sense of humor. So when are you going to visit Mother? Every letter she asks about you with great flowing questions she tends to answer in page-long diatribes about your lack of familial bonding,” Arthur said. “Well, don’t hold back. Is there an entire list we are going to discuss today or are you only plucking up the things that are most disagreeable to me?” “It has been too long and Mother is not getting any younger.” “She can coddle you and Daniel all she wishes. I’m no longer a chick in her nest. How is she?” he asked. It would be his only compromise to the irritating discussion. “Bath seems to suit her. There is a perennial crowd

who seems to enjoy discussing every ailment and pain. I wouldn’t be surprised if they compare their gouty toes and balding heads. And needless to say, Mother believes she has found Nirvana. If I correctly read between the lines, I would say there is interest from an unnamed baron.” “I’ve never had an inclination to visit Bath. You’ve reminded me why a Greek Island would be so much better. Mother isn’t there.” Arthur laughed again, in obvious agreement with Joseph’s sentiments regarding their overly expressive mother. He poured another drink and reclined against his desk, one thigh firmly situated, his foot firmly planted on the floor. As Arthur relaxed, Joseph felt the constriction in his chest diminish proportionately. He knew it was the many past altercations with Father that caused his anxiety and Father’s ability to draw everyone into the resulting imbroglio. “Mother will be home in a few weeks. You will see her?” “I will make time.” His conscience had pricked him lately. He should walk away from the past. All of his regrets should have been buried with Father. “Daniel’s wife is pregnant again.” “Clara is a lovely woman. Daniel is lucky to have found her.” And Joseph was relieved they were moving to the mundane and harmless. “They want to sponsor a small gala next month. Will you attend?” “You know how I feel about such affairs.” The seating arrangements never seemed to favor him. All of the interesting people usually sat across the table. He was ensconced with the whey-faced chits who could only converse about bonnets and the previous night’s ball. He preferred intelligence in his women. And breasts. “And yet you will go to please your sister-in-law. Clara says she never sees you anywhere. I don’t either but then I’m not keeping a tally of your activities.” “Aren’t you?” Joseph asked. “Arthur, you know this is not about you and Daniel.” Arthur wrote to Joseph exactly once a week, promptly at nine on Monday, a letter which a servant delivered promptly at fifteen of twelve the same day, courteously arriving as Joseph took his noon meal. Arthur usually referenced some activity of Joseph’s to which Arthur should not have been privy unless he had purposefully asked. January/February 2015 | 39


| Cover Author | “Then why do you consistently make us feel that it is?” “That’s not my intent.” Arthur sighed—it was that droop-eyed look that always made the Rawlings’ heirs look sad and forlorn even when they were in the throes of happiness. It was one of those distinctions that clearly exposed Joseph’s parentage, or more accurately exposed him as a fraud in the Rawlings lineage. “Oh say, did you hear what happened last night at the Weatherby Ball?” “Don’t tell me. The ball was invaded by a band of thieves and cutthroats, thus providing the entertainment and fulfilling this year’s curse.” “Close. Lord Doncaster lost big at the gaming table, then raged when he’d found out his mouse of a wife had disappeared. Turned out she’d already gone home with the daughter, pleading some illness or such. But that’s not the best part. Will Montfort got caught in a compromising position with one of the Pettifords.” “I expect we’ll see a new redhead in nine months.” “Don’t twins run in the Pettiford family?” Arthur said. They both ended up laughing for a change, something Joseph had not done with any of this family for some time. It was a nice diversion. Or would have been had they been talking of anything but last night’s ball at the Weatherbys. Seducing lord-knows-who at last night’s ball might have also been considered a diversion, except he had not stopped thinking about the delicious piece of womanhood he would never get to meet.

Buy it now at Amazon 40 | btsemag.com


Contemporary | Romance | Mainstream | Literary Fiction

CONTEMPORARY & ROMANCE

the HAPPILY ever AFTER

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trends reading trends in romance

Chic in

Trends Romance Sandra Bunino

Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy What is it about cowboys that we love so much? Is it their rippling muscles as they rope a wayward steer? How about their gentle nature as they care for their horses? Or maybe it’s the respect they show for the women in their lives.

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| Chic Trends in Romance | There’s just something about a man in soft denim, scuffed boots, and a sexy cowboy hat that has us running for a tall glass of ice water. Did you know the only thing sexier than a cowboy in a worn pair of jeans is a cowboy out of a worn pair of jeans? #fact To test this theory, check out three new sizzling western romances... RockyMountain Romance by Vivian Arend (Six Pack Ranch, #7, Indie Book—available now) Second chances are the sweetest—and the hottest. It took a spectacularly embarrassing breakup to knock Steve Moonshine Coleman off his lazy butt. In the ten months since that night, he’s changed his ways, and now that Melody’s back in town, it’s time for this sweettalking cowboy to convince her to get back in the saddle with him. A return to her veterinary position in Rocky Mountain House was always in the cards for Melody Langley. Getting back together with Steve? Never part of the plan. He had lots of potential but zero ambition, and there’s no way she’ll accept anything less than a man who can keep up with her, in and out of bed. But the new-and-improved cowboy is impossible to resist, so Melody issues a challenge. Three months to prove he’s reformed. Three months of Steve orchestrating one sexual indulgence after another—wicked distractions from the old boys’ club Melody faces at work and Steve’s growing responsibilities. He’s got one shot to prove with more than words what’s in his heart and soul. 44 | btsemag.com

1001 Dark Nights: Roped In by Lorelei James (Blacktop Cowboys #6.5, Evil Eye Concepts— available now) Ambition has always been his biggest downfall... until he meets her. World champion bulldogger Sutton Grant works hard on the road, but his quiet charm has earned the nickname “The Saint” because he’s never been the love ’em and leave ’em type with the ladies. When he’s sidelined by an injury, he needs help keeping his horse in competition shape, but he fears trying to sweettalk premier horse trainer London Gradsky is a losing proposition–because the woman sorta despises him. London is humiliated when her boyfriend dumps her for a rodeo queen. What makes the situation worse? She’s forced to see the lovebirds on the rodeo circuit every weekend. In an attempt to save face, London agrees to assist the notoriously mild, but ruggedly handsome Sutton Grant with his horse training problem on one condition: Sutton has to pretend to be her new boyfriend. But make believe doesn’t last long between the sassy cowgirl and the laid-back bulldogger. When the attraction between them ignites, London learns that sexy Sutton is no Saint when that bedroom door closes; he’s the red-hot lover she’s always dreamed of. The more time they spend together, the more Sutton realizes he wouldn’t mind being roped and tied to the rough and tumble cowgirl for real...


| Sandra Bunino | Second Chance for Love by April Zyon (Massey, TX, #5, Evernight Publishing— available now) Mercy Jenkins is a free woman, at last! Never again will she enter into a relationship without thinking it through. Never again will she be swept off her feet without some way to anchor herself firmly. Never again will she let a man have control over her heart. She really should have known better... Brant Carver is home for a holiday, not by choice. Going out for a night on the town with his brother is exactly what he needs to help him forget why he’s on vacation. Not once did he figure that he’d end up waking in Mercy’s bed, or forgetting how he got there. Mercy made a choice to be upfront with Brant about the consequences of their one and only night together. What comes next proves they both have a second chance at love. Now, go on and rope a cowboy of your own!

ABOUT THE COLUMNIST Sandra Bunino is a romance author of several novellas including The Satin Rose Experience series. Her first full length novel, The Colors of Us from the McAvery’s Bar Series, released in August 2014. She makes her parents proud by putting her MBA degree to good use dreaming up Alpha heroes who dominate the bedroom as well as the boardroom. When not staying up past her bedtime torturing her oh-sosexy heroes, she can be found shopping for shoes or saving turtles. She looks forward to hearing from her readers and she may be contacted at sbunino@gmail.com. As a social media junkie in need of a ten-step program, you can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter (@sandrabunino). Join her book group, Bunino’s Bookalicious Babes, on Facebook!

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| Chic Trends in Romance |

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| Chic Trends in Romance |

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stories short reads

January/February 2015 | 49


| The Grapefruit Burners | From Fragments of Philsophers’ Stone: Essays and Stories Copyright 2014, Paddison Publishing

Solid squares of orchards circumscribed the neighborhood, acting as vast barriers of vegetation, separating it from the other tracts of houses beyond. These groves stayed green all year round—profuse and emerald—with long intersecting lines of towering eucalyptus trees sheltering them. You could stay lost there all day and never have to return to the neighborhood until late evening when day was shadowed into the warmth of the summer evening. The orchard to the north, the one beyond Arrow Boulevard, though, was going through the dying process—it would, in a year or two or five, be transformed into another cluster of monotonous homes. Left abandoned and deprived of water, the trees’ fragrant fruit blossoms and brightly colored fruits no longer came to the thicket. Tree trunks turned black and parched and peeled yellow; dead leaves shriveled and fell to the arid ground, collecting in crisp piles, and the desiccating Santa Ana winds quickly carried them away to the south. The barren rows of citrus trees stood like gray skeletons. Their wiry branches scratched your bare arms as you walked down the quiet aisles. Weeds, brown and flaxen, flourished, and the empty water ditches crumbled down into hard flatness... into the stale smell of change. BB gun fights and the careful stalking of tiny thrushes were the only things the grove was good for. As you moved through the rustling brush and the dusty touching branches, the tiny birds always flew ahead of you... always just a bit out of range. Then, one would perch still in the gun sight, its plain dun color making it almost invisible in the dead branches, and would simply disappear after the muffled puff of air. Lying on the ground, nestled into the soft dirt, its beak and eyes were only partly open on its crooked head. At its neck, the feathers were dyed deep, wet red. Prodding by curled, dirty toes would not stir it from its stillness. The dying groves were hell on bare feet. Lots of flat nests of bullhead stickers 50 | btsemag.com


| John Paddison | sprawled everywhere. You could walk right into the middle of one before you realized it, and you were caught. Wherever you put your hands or feet, there were fresh clusters of the thorns. The only way to get out was to roll to the edge, and then start picking the stickers out, painfully, one by one. And the unshaded ground just beyond the groves lay hot in the summer and became, thus, equally unforgiving of stupid transgressions. The bottoms of your feet burned on the burning earth, making you walk gingerly on the balls and heels and then the edges, running and hopping from one bit of shade to another. You had to walk out on Arrow to get home after the hunt, out onto the searing black tar of the roadway, which all day long had sucked in the sun’s summer heat. The street’s surface scorched your feet even more, but the only shade was the olive trees far, far away. The living groves to the south, though, were different from the dying trees, especially those down by Tamarind that grew plump oranges, and the tiny tangerine ones down by Locust, or the bright yellow grapefruit trees running along the rocky bed of the Santa Fe Railroad tracks. During the long and sweltering, lazy and free months of June and July and August, these were the groves that lay always cool and welcoming. Shaggy eucalypti towered above the orchards and preserved the silence within. Continually swaying gently, majestically, and seeming to never be still for a moment, the trees served as windbreaks. They were of a subtler shade of green than the orchards, and their massive beige trunks showed solid from beneath their rangy branches and slender grayish green leaves. A brief and shady aisle, only wide enough for a slow-moving Sylis tractor, set the windbreak trees off from the beginning rows of fruit trees. Across the narrowness of this border, the tall trees constantly shed their slender brown leaves and thin brittle strips of bark; the gathering mat of loose debris crunched beneath your feet as you walked immersed in the stillness. Stacked at random intervals along the roadway border, black and gray smudge pots lay in crooked piles. During winter’s freezing nights, the pots were filled with kerosene and strategically spread throughout the groves. When ignited, they produced smoke that permeated the cold darkness and dispelled the crop-killing frost. Gas-driven propellers, mounted on poles, circulated above the trees to spread the warm oily air around the groves. There were probably a hundred neat, exactly spaced rows in each orchard with maybe seventy or eighty full trees in each row. The spreading branches of the individual trees intertwined with each other, and the groves became somewhat of a vast canopy. Sometimes there would be a clearing, a sparse and open area of new plants; the skinny trunks supporting the thin tufts of leaves and fruit contrasted sharply to the fullness of the immense adult trees surrounding them. An irrigation spout protruded about two feet out of the ground at the beginning of each row. These round concrete stumps had rusting metal spouts on both sides; when these gates were lifted open with a hard, metallic scraping sound, the cold water splashed out fast and hard and then flowed down the several January/February 2015 | 51


| The Grapefruit Burners | shallow channels plowed deeply into the soft dirt on either side of each tree row. As you moved down the aisles, you had to stoop low to keep from being snagged by the branches and thorns; sometimes you had to crawl awkwardly along on your hands and knees, and suddenly, startled by some nearby sound, you would stop and strain to listen to the quiet. You couldn’t see very far ahead of you or behind you, and your bare feet became dyed grayish brown by the powdery dirt. Sometimes having stepped on and sometimes having knelt on the blue-green moldy oranges or tawny grapefruits littering the ground, your hands and feet and pants became sticky and mud moistened. The thick skirt of foliage gave each tree the illusion of solidity, but if you crawled in underneath the outer fringe, all the way to where the base hollowed out around the rough trunk, you could hide and wait in the silence for sliding footsteps. In the early spring, and again in the late fall, the orchards and trees erupted into a perfumed mass of popcorn puff blossoms; bees would dart lightly around your childish face, and you just brushed at them in a non-threatening way. And after a brief and showery rain, the groves would absorb and hold the fresh smell of wetness and damp earth. Raindrops clung to the waxy leaves and to the colored spheres of fruit like drawn glistening beads and then dripped leisurely to the ground. Later in the season, when the fruit had swollen into large balls of orange and yellow speckling the dark green forest, the pickers came. They drove down the roadway beside the windbreaks in flatbed ’40 Fords and canvas-covered GMC trucks and swarmed into the colorful jungle. Using long inwardly curved wooden ladders, they climbed and worked on top of and around and within the trees in unison . . . plucking, pulling, shaking . . . tossing the orange fruit into the rapidly filling canvas bags slung from their shoulders. Strange sounds and music of Mexican talk came from nowhere, everywhere; high up in a crest, a brown, leathery face, capped with a battered straw hat, emerged into daylight from where the leaves and branches rustled and shook, his crooked, yellow-toothed smile showing the defiant joy of labor. You watched from hiding, captivated by the chaos of activity, mesmerized by the harvest. Full and dingy wooden boxes of picked fruit accumulated beside the irrigation stumps until the picking was complete. Then the fruit boxes were loaded onto the lumbering trucks, and the bent men and scarved women left; the orchards became deathly still and solid green once more. But the groves by the winery were best, though . . . the ones beside the vineyards . . . because you could stand on the edge of the orchards and look out into the vast fields of stubby grape bushes and never be seen. In the new heat and freedom of a summer morning, after sleeping outside overnight, me and Chucky D. would walk down there along the empty streets with the only sound being the mongrel dogs listlessly barking in the early stillness and the tick, tick, tick of Chuck Corlew’s automatic sprinkler watering his small lawn of glistening dichondra grass. Once into the groves, we would breakfast on three or four fat oranges. When you bit into the thick skin, your mouth and lips and tongue burned like heck; the fruit peeled so easily and tasted so sweet, though, who cared. The sticky juice traced down your dirty hand and arm and dripped from your elbow, and the trace lines of the 52 | btsemag.com


| John Paddison | juice became dirt-sticky as the morning wore on. When the burning in your mouth didn’t lessen, you went out into the vineyards and gathered plump heaps of jade-green grapes and ate them. Back in the quiet groves, you could eat more plump oranges until your stomach ached like a huge pit had become lodged in it. And then drink the chilly water from the cool cement irrigation faucets; someone said the growers put poison in the water to kill insects . . . the cool wetness tasted so good, though, who cared! You could even go swimming in the tall, square dirty white water weir, where the irrigation water for the groves had been backed up and stored; the clear wetness was ever icy cold against your naked skin up to the neck, and the small rocks and sand and broken Coke bottles and rusty tin cans on the bottom wavered nicely, placidly. This “Mexican swimming pool” always felt far better than the chlorine-laced Fontana Plunge, which left your eyes burning red and your skin wrinkled red from the sun and smelling like bleach. The conceited rich-bitch kids ruled there . . . doing their cannon balls and fancy jackknife and half gainer dives off the high board. Later, water streaked and trickled down from our matted hair as we sat satisfied in the warm peaceful sun in our damp T-shirts and damp Levis. The groves were never hot, especially in the afternoon, but Chucky D. and me built a fire anyway, just for kicks . . . just ’cause we could do it if we wanted to. Wisps of smoke from the small fire of eucalyptus leaves and twigs rose up lazily into the overhanging branches and smelled like smoky Vicks medicine. “Mikey the Bum said roasted grapefruits are good ta eat. Good for ya, ya know. Vitamins and stuff.” “Yeah? Let’s try some, man!” So we stoked the fire higher and piled on five or eight of the larger fruit. The grapefruits burned and sizzled and stunk, and then split open. They tasted even worse than they smelled. “Gawd! These things ’er terrible!” “I like ’em.” “Here, ya can have mine!” “Hey, quit throwin’ ’em at me, man! Take that!” January/February 2015 | 53


| The Grapefruit Burners | We laughed with and at each other until our sides hurt. Then the orchards once again became quiet, remaining ever peaceful, remote, sometimes almost mystically enchanted. But in the evening, after dark, there came a sudden transformation. The tranquil Eden became different . . . at night, in the thick darkness, it became much more menacing. “Yeah, real scary. Spooky, man!” “Judy and Dick Duffy said the Whistler lived in the groves down next to their place.” “No s—?” “Yeah, no kiddin’! He stood outside of Judy’s bedroom window one night and whistled the death march real slow. When they flipped on the back porch light, he ran back into the orchard, laughing crazylike.” “He only comes out at night, though, ya know.” “Yeah . . . Eddie McBurney seen him once at just about sunset. When the Whistler saw him, he tried to get ol’ Eddie to come over to him . . . kinda motioned to ’im. But Eddie ran like hell, and the Whistler just disappeared back into the trees.” “Man, I don’t go out in the orchards when it’s dark.” “Naw, me neither.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR John H. Paddison is Professor Emeritus at Central Arizona College, where he taught after receiving his doctoral degree from the University of Arizona. Paddison’s writing career started with many nonfiction educational publications and has branched out into fiction with his latest novel, The Brothers’ Keepers. Follow him at www.paddisonpublications.com.

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stories short reads

January/February 2015 | 55


| Life as I Know It | Life, as I had known it, fell out of the bedroom window one cloudless spring day and smashed on the paved parking lot some thirty feet below. Shards of my iPhone twinkled up at me in the Saturday morning sunshine while images of my social life and work projects lay shattered nearby. My twelve-year-old daughter’s expression contorted, wavering between a bug-eating grin and an imminent torrent of tears. She pulled her arm back into the room and carefully replaced the screen. “I suppose you think that was funny.” I fought to keep my voice even and my hands from lashing out in anger. By nine o’clock, there would be a logjam of messages building up in my voice mail and serious repercussions if I didn’t respond to several of them. I wondered how smug Michelle would be when I lost my job. Or how happy she’d be when her father couldn’t call about when to pick her up from soccer practice. “It wasn’t supposed to be funny,” she said, flopping across the thin hand-stitched quilt on my bed. “I’ve been trying to tell you something for months, but you’ve always got your phone attached to your head.” “If I always had it glued to my head, I’d never be able to take a shower.” Michelle let out a dramatic–albeit frustrated–groan. “You know what I mean. The only time I can talk to you is when you’re in the shower and then you can’t hear me over the water. When I yell, you tell me to leave you alone for five minutes.” I picked up the receiver of our home phone intending to call work. Andrew could replace my phone by the end of the day and all would be well. When the line went dead, my mouth dropped open. Michelle dropped the phone plug onto the carpet. “You’re doing it again. You’re ignoring me, and you don’t even have your cell phone.” My shoulders sagged, and I bowed my head. She was right. I was busted. “Okay,” I said, resignation creeping into my voice. “What do you want?” “You.” Her word knocked the breath out of me 56 | btsemag.com


| Diane Bator | and hung in the air for several seconds. “Me? That’s it? No pony? No cell phone? No laptop?” “Just you.” She gazed at me with the unwavering confidence only a child can have. The same self-assuredness I’d long forgotten in favor of making the rest of the world happy. “What do you want me to do?” I asked, half expecting shopping at “The Mall” to be on the top of her list. “Can we go for a walk like we used to?” Michelle asked. “Remember? We’d walk all over town and check out all of the little shops that we could never afford to buy anything in and then we’d sit at that little cafe and drink hot chocolates. Daddy always got me chocolate biscotti and said I’d have enough sugar in me to run all the way home.” The silence smothered me. God help me, I did remember. The mess she’d made all over the table from dunking her cookie so many times that it ended up as sludge in the bottom of her cup. The sunshine that warmed the top of her copper head and made her smile. The swell of my chest while I watched her and her father have thumb wars and fold napkins into origami birds. I remembered . . . Oh, dear God. I remembered everything I’d tried so hard to forget. Tears cascaded over my cheeks, my fingers, my body. I remembered Michelle wasn’t here. My imagination had conjured her up to speak to me for the hundredth time since the funeral. She and her daddy had been walking home from soccer practice. I’d been at work, as always. The driver of the other car had been texting and swore she never saw them. The iPhone hadn’t stopped ringing for even one day in the past nine months, even at their funeral. I’d thrown myself into my work and shoved my grief aside without a second thought until I’d started to see images of Michelle. “I can’t do this.” I sat on the floor and wailed until I could no longer stand the sound of my own voice. I wanted to hurl my body out the window. Break into pieces like the expensive shards of metal and plastic that lay below. “I can’t do this!” “You have to.” Michelle’s voice soothed my ear. A melody from another plane. The voice of an angel I’d pushed away for months, for years. “Do it for Daddy and me. We want you to be happy.” Wiping away the tears, I looked outside at the remnants of the phone I’d tossed away. Maybe it was still salvageable. I cringed when a blue minivan backed over it. My home phone rang less than a foot away from my hand. I stared at it, my thoughts as congested as my sinuses from the tears. It would have been so easy to pick it up and go on with what my life had become—work and hollowness. Instead, I looked out the window at the blue sky and sunshine. If I went out the door, there’d be no going back. I ventured out the front door into the world with new eyes and a newfound appreciation as I wandered down the street. The sun warmed my back and the top of my head as I dunked my biscotti into my hot chocolate and savored the decadence of my actions. Andrew would be calling morgues by now. He’d never believe January/February 2015 | 57


| Life as I Know It | I’d taken a day off. If I’d called him, he’d stuff me into my office with someone else’s phone pressed to my ear. I’d never sat still long enough to see the world through my daughter’s eyes. Even when I was with her, my phone— what I’d thought was my lifeline to the world—was clutched in my hand or pressed to my ear. I was naked without that lifeline now, yet somehow liberated. As I walked home stepping in every mud puddle I found, life, as I know it, began again.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Diane credits joining a writing group as the catalyst for coming out of the creative closet and writing her first murder mystery series. Hard at work on her second series, she lives in Southern Ontario, Canada with her husband, three teenagers, and a chatty part Siamese. Visit her at http://penspaintsandpaper.com and http//dbator.blogspot.ca/.

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feature author interview

Hildie McQueen Even Heroes Cry

Amazon best-selling author Hildie McQueen loves action, love and unusual settings. Author of western historical, Highland historical, paranormal, and contemporary romance, she writes something every reader can enjoy. Most days she can be found in her pajamas hiding from deliverymen while drinking tea from her David Gandy coffee mug. In the afternoons, she browses the Internet for seminude men to post on Facebook. Hildie’s favorite pastimes are romance conventions, traveling, shopping and reading. She resides in beautiful small town Georgia with her superhero husband Kurt and two unruly boy Chihuahuas and a spoiled rotten girl Chi named Lola.

What is your writing routine? I try to write every day. Sometimes it’s a couple of paragraphs, others several chapters. My daily goal is 3,000 words, which is doable for me. I am not an early riser, but I write best in the mornings. I make a cup of Earl Grey or Lemon Lift tea and sit on my office chair, prop my feet up. I give myself an hour to do social media and check emails. Then I plop on my headphones and write. Depending on the scene I’m writing is what music I listen to. It can vary from country to techno or something jazzy for love scenes. Pandora radio is my friend. How do you deal with criticism? I’ve finally arrived at a place where I accept criticism better. I know that we don’t all like the same things, so not everyone is going to like my writing. But it still stings when people don’t like my books. When I get harsh criticism, I call a writer friend and commiserate. Which is your favorite genre to read? Paranormal. I am obsessed with J.R. Ward. When she doesn’t have a new book out, I read all kinds of stuff. Right now I’m reading a sexy contemporary. It depends on my moods sometimes, cause I’ve been known to get lost in regency romance for an entire day. What is your best advice to aspiring novelists? Do your research and talk to other writers. Make writer friends and join a critique 60 | btsemag.com

group. Join a local chapter. Writers are the most giving people. They share knowledge and tips that will get you on the right path. Go to at least one writer conference a year. It’s where you’ll learn, get fed and mingle with like souls. Write every day and don’t jump at the first offer you get when you’re ready to publish.

What surprised you most when you became published? How much work I still had to do! (Laughing) All the rewrites, edits and formatting stuff overwhelmed me at first. I thought they’d do all that for me. Once that is done, then there was marketing to do. Also its crazy how iffy sales are. Trends change fast in the romance world. What’s hot one month is cold as ice the next.

Military vet Adam Ford returns to his hometown a d a m a g e d hero—with severe PTSD. Every day is a challenge as he struggles to reconstruct his life. When tempting beauty, Tesha Washington moves in next door, Adam’s world is turned upside down and he doesn’t appreciate it.

HildieMcQueen.com


stories short reads

January/February 2015 | 61


| The Chef | Zita sat on the couch, watching the man of her dreams. The first time she saw him, she fell in lust. He was gorgeous. Those bright green eyes seemed to speak to only her. Of course, there was no one else in the room most of the time, but still. He had a beautiful Irish lilt to his voice. She sighed. If only she could pull him out of her television and into her living room. Wouldn’t that be the best birthday present ever! Shamus Fitzgerald was The Chef. He had dozens of shows from several countries, and thanks to the wonder of DVRs, she could record all of them and watch as he screamed when mistakes were made. The man could cook, and he cared about every dish that went out of his kitchen. He wanted every meal to be up to his standards and wasn’t afraid to let the chefs he mentored know when they didn’t reach them. She sighed again. One of the shows showed him taking off his shirt and putting on his chef coat. She just about drooled all over her TV when she saw that. That show was a keeper too. She played it whenever she felt depressed. Zita checked her watch. Her best friend, Kat, was taking her out for her birthday. She wouldn’t give the details just told her to dress up. She smiled. She had just enough time to watch one more show before she had to be there. **** Zita pulled in front of the quaint restaurant. A valet opened her door and offered her a hand so she could exit the car. He handed her a ticket and gestured to the maître d’ waiting for her. She stuffed it into her jacket. While he ushered her to the table, she wondered what her friend had planned. She had asked what the surprise was, but Kat wouldn’t tell her. Zita spotted her friend and Kat’s husband, Chris. “Why the big secret? We’ve had dinner here before,” she asked as she took the chair the maître d’ held for her. “Although the maître d’ is new.” “Just wait.” Kat gave her a knowing smile. “For what?” The lights dimmed and her heart stopped. There on the dais, surrounded 62 | btsemag.com


| Barbara Donlon Bradley | by chefs, was her heart’s desire. She grabbed Kat’s arm. “Oh, my God!” “Happy birthday.” “You brought me to one of his shows? Really?” Her stomach rolled, and she hoped she wouldn’t embarrass herself. He was even cuter in person. “You’re not going to faint on me, are you?” Zita shook her head. She’d talk but was afraid her voice would come out as a squeak. He spoke to the crowd, yet she couldn’t understand what he said. All she could do was fight the desire to get up and throw her arms around him. The other chefs standing behind him headed to the open kitchen, so the audience could watch as they made everyone’s meal. Shamus happened to look in their direction, and she was ready to melt. Zita swore he looked right at her and flashed that beautiful smile of his. This was the best birthday ever. The waitstaff came out with a flourish and brought them their menus. So many wonderful choices made it hard for her. She wondered what Shamus would recommend. “Are you ready to order?” Their waiter stood to her left, pad in hand. “Um...” “She’ll have whatever the chef recommends,” said Chris. “We all will.” “Very good, sir.” The waiter gave them a slight bow then moved onto the next guest. Soon their appetizers arrived. Oohs and aahs filled the air as people enjoyed their food. Zita couldn’t focus on anything. She was too busy watching Shamus work his magic. If she weren’t in public, she’d be sighing like a maniac. In fact, it took all her strength to keep it inside. When dessert arrived, Shamus spoke to the crowd again. “I understand there is someone celebrating their birthday today.” Zita turned to her friends. They didn’t. Did they? He came up to their table, carrying a special dessert just for her, singing happy birthday. The smile on his face had her heart doing little flips. He stopped in front of her and offered her his hand, drawing her to her feet as he finished the song. The man could sing too. Zita was pretty sure there was nothing he couldn’t do. His bright green eyes had little flecks of gray in them. She could get lost in those eyes. Wait, he said something to her. Crap! What did he say? “What is your name?” “Urk.” Her voice froze in her throat. She looked at him, so close to touch, and all she could do was make strange noises. Her face heated up and she fled the table. She stood outside the building, breathing hard as she rested her back against the brick. How humiliating. She finally got to meet the man of her dreams, and all she could do was make weird, unintelligible sounds. Zita knew she couldn’t go back in, but she had left her purse inside. That meant no keys to the apartment and no money for a bus. “Wait.” She pulled out her phone along with the valet ticket. Perfect. Zita sent a quick text to her friend, letting her know she wasn’t coming back and that she left her purse behind. She didn’t want to ask Kat to bring it out to her. The woman would try to talk to her into coming back in. Zita gave the card to the young man. He took off to get the car. Just as she was pulling away from the curb she saw Kat come out of the restaurant. She didn’t stop. Pulling out into traffic, she felt calmer. All she had to do now January/February 2015 | 63


| The Chef | was get home. She decided to take the highway instead of driving through town. It would be a little quicker this time of night. She had the radio blaring as she merged with traffic. The car purred along with the flow of traffic. Cars in front of her were switching lanes. What were they trying to avoid? She saw it too late and ran right over it. It locked her wheels, dragging the car to the right. “Damn it!” Whatever it was it was now wedged under the car. She pulled off the road with a struggle. What did she hit that was affecting the steering? Putting her flashers on, Zita banged her head against the steering wheel. “No, no, no.” This was turning out to be the worst birthday ever. She turned the engine off. She wasn’t going anywhere anyways and climbed out. Time to see how much damage was done. Cars zipped by her as she edged her way to the front of the car. There, under the axle, was a medium-sized barrel. “Well, hell.” It was a good thing there hadn’t been a lot of traffic, or she could have caused a huge pileup. She pulled out her cell to call for help and found she had no bars. “Oh, this is getting better and better.” **** Shamus had felt for the birthday girl. He had met runners before, but they were few and far between. Most of the time he couldn’t get away from his fans. Her friends had come to him after dessert and apologized for her behavior. They didn’t know what got into her. He did. She was probably star struck. Of course, he didn’t consider himself a star, just a really good chef. Food was his life. He followed the flow of traffic onto the highway in his renter. His publicist wanted him to use a limo for this evening, but he needed a break. He’d been on the road for eight months now and wanted some time to himself. He had rented a house instead of staying at a hotel as well. Maybe it was time to go home for a while. He missed Ireland. Traffic slowed down in front of him. Must be an accident ahead. He sighed. Not what he wanted to get caught in. Slow traffic meant people had a better chance of spotting him. His single status had all the women after him. Well, except maybe for the birthday girl. He found himself being just as bad as the rest of traffic. He had to look too. Whoever it was sat in her car, banging her head against the steering wheel. Just as he passed the car, the door opened and the birthday girl climbed out. No one had pulled over for her yet. Being stranded was no way to spend a birthday, so he pulled over, grabbed the baseball hat he had to help disguise him, slapped it on his head, and climbed out. The moment she saw him, she started talking. He knew her shyness was all an act. “Do you have reception here? By the way, thanks for stopping. I won’t keep you, but my phone has no reception. If I can borrow yours and call a tow truck?” She looked up at him and stopped moving. Shamus waited for her to throw herself at him, but she turned around and started walking instead. He stood there, dumbfounded for a minute. 64 | btsemag.com


| Barbara Donlon Bradley | “Where are you going?” She didn’t answer. The young woman did turn to look at him once before she continued to walk away from him. “Look, my phone does work. If you want to use it you can, but I’m not going to chase you down the highway.” He wasn’t sure why he was trying. It was obvious she didn’t want to have anything to do with him. Another car pulled over onto the breakdown lane. Fine, let them help her. Shamus thought about turning around and climbing back into his car, but his mother would probably send a lightning bolt from heaven and zap his ass if he left a damsel in distress. **** Zita couldn’t believe her luck. Of all the people to come to her rescue. She couldn’t even talk to the man. She walked past her driver’s door when another car pulled up behind her car. Good. She could use their phone to call for help. Three scruffy looking men climbed out of the other car, making her slow her steps. Maybe they wouldn’t be as helpful as she needed. “Hey, baby, need some help?” “Um—” She felt the warmth of an arm wrap around her shoulders. “You okay, sweetheart? I got here as soon as I could.” Shamus’s Irish lilt flowed over her. God, how she loved it. Zita nodded. “Who are you?” asked the leader. “Your worst nightmare.” Zita looked at Shamus. Why was he trying to aggravate them? “You?” The leader turned to his friends and started to laugh. “There are three of us.” “I know. Sorry about that. If there were five of you, I’d feel better about beating your asses. But that’s the way it is, isn’t it?” The young man frowned. “You think you can take us?” “I don’t think. I know.” The young man laughed again. He signaled to his friends, and they surrounded them. Shamus stepped in front of Zita. She became aware of a piece of wood in his hand. It looked like a cane with a knot on one end. Where did he get that anyway? “And what the hell is that?” asked the leader.

“This?” Shamus spun it. “It’s called a shillelagh, and I would be disowned by me ma if I didn’t carry it with me.” “It’s nothing but a strange looking cane. I know tae kwon do. I’ll take it easily.” “So you want to be the first?” Shamus shifted his stance. Now she could see his face. He was smiling like he enjoyed this. She was scared witless. “Why not your leader? Doesn’t he want to prove he’s the one in charge?” “I don’t need to prove nothin’ to you.” “Oh, it’s not for me, but your boys here.” He slapped the shillelagh in his hand. “Get him!” The two guys attacked him. One charged at him, while the other tried to grab him from behind. Shamus lifted the shillelagh and wacked the first one between the shoulder blades, and then brought the shillelagh up and smacked his assailant behind him. Both fell hard to the ground. “Now, as you were saying.” The leader stared at his friends before turning and running to his car. He sped away. Shamus pulled out his phone and called 911. After finishing the call, he turned to her. “I must say you’re the strangest woman I’ve met, wanting to let those thugs help you instead of me. You know the tow truck won’t bring you any further than their shop.” She nodded. Zita had been through this enough to know what to expect. “Then let me take you home after they get here. I’d feel better knowing you made it safely.” His beautiful Irish accent filled her. What a choice. Go to some place that could be worse than the side of the highway and hope the taxi wouldn’t take too long or go with the man of her dreams. What just happened smartened her up. Shamus saved her life. God knew what could have happened if he hadn’t been there. Not being able to speak to him was a problem, but at least, she’d make it home alive. She nodded again. “Good.” He led her to his car and opened the door for her. He climbed in as well while they waited for the police and tow truck. They sat in silence. Zita got a small reprieve when a police car pulled up, but it didn’t take them long to cuff and haul their assailants away. They were alone again. She tried to say something. She owed him a thank you, but nothing would come out. Zita sat January/February 2015 | 65


| The Chef | there trying to figure out a way to let him know how grateful she was when he moved beside her. She watched him out of her peripheral vision. He pulled something from the backseat. What was he up to? The paper bag made a lot of noise as he dragged it forward. He emptied it out and then put it on his head. It sat there for a second before he pulled it back off, tore a few holes in it, and plopped it back on his head. Zita couldn’t stop the laughter that bubbled up inside her. “You have a beautiful laugh.” She ducked her head at his compliment. “I did this hoping you’d be able to talk to me.” She really wanted to but found the words wouldn’t leave her throat. She had to get over this. “You do talk, don’t you?” She nodded. “Then what is it about me that keeps you from saying anything?” How could she tell him the truth? “I—” a strange squeak escaped her, but she had to try again. “Thank you.” There, she did it. She voice was barely a whisper, but she spoke. “Should I keep the bag on?” She could hear the laughter in his voice. He found the whole situation funny. A honk startled them. The tow truck was there. Zita climbed out of the car and approached the driver. “You got insurance on this?” “Yes.” He made a note. “Where do you want me to tow it?” “Sheppard Toyota on Met Street.” “You got triple A?” He didn’t look at her as he added the address to his tablet. No, and she didn’t have her wallet either. “How much?” ask Shamus. There was no way she’d let him pay for this. “You left your purse at the restaurant. You can pay me back.” He handed over a credit card once the driver told him the total. They waited until the car was on the back of the truck and the tower had pulled back into traffic before they headed back to his car. “Now you have to tell me where you live or we’re going to sit here all night.” It took a couple tries, but she was able to give him her address. The thought of him knowing where she lived had the silly little butterflies in her stomach taking flight. It wasn’t long before they were on her street. She frowned. Flashing red lights filled the night sky. Shamus brought the car to the front of her apartment building and stopped. A fireman came up to the passenger side of the car. “Keep moving. Nothing to see here.” She lowered the window. “But I live here.” He looked at his pad. “You Zita Klein?” “Yes.” “Your neighbor, Mrs. Tate, decided to have a grease fire.” “Oh, no. What about all my stuff?” “You won’t be able to assess the damage until tomorrow morning. I hope you have renters insurance.” She nodded. Now what was she supposed to do? Zita sat there for a 66 | btsemag.com


| Barbara Donlon Bradley | moment. Kat would be the only friend she would feel comfortable calling, but Chris was with her, and she didn’t want to disturb them. Her family lived too far away, and there was nothing in walking distance. Well, she’d figure it out. She tried but couldn’t get the door to open. Shamus still had it locked. “Um, door?” She was actually saying a few words to him now. “What? You think I’m going to drop you off now? You can’t stay in your apartment.” “It’s okay.” But it really wasn’t. She just knew she couldn’t ask anymore of him. “No it’s not. I can’t let you out to wander the streets.” He turned toward her. “After our last encounter, I can’t let you be alone. You can stay with me. I have a spare guestroom.” “What?” she squawked. “No.” “I insist.” She was sort of being held against her will by the man she fantasized about and she was fighting it. What was wrong with her? In her dreams, she couldn’t come up with a better way to be with him. She felt a giggle escape her, and then laughter. Zita laughed so hard tears came to her eyes. This was just so crazy. “I can’t believe this.” “What?” He pulled the car away from the curb and headed toward the house he had rented. “Never in my wildest dreams would I envision this.” “You know that was a full sentence.” His comment just made her laugh more. “Why can’t you talk to me anyway?” That sobered her up. Could she tell him? **** Shamus wondered what was going on in her head. “I really like you.” He smiled. She was so different than the rest of his fans. They only wanted to be near him because of his fame. He wondered how she would have reacted around him if he wasn’t famous. Would she still be tongue-tied? “What if I told you I was quitting? That I’m moving back to Ireland and giving all this fame up?” “I would miss seeing you everywhere.” The sadness in her voice moved him. “But I don’t know how you handle being in the public eye all the time. I’d be a basket case.”

“I don’t want to jinx this, but you’re talking to me.” She nodded. “Are you hungry?” He glanced over at her as he turned right into a small neighborhood. “I mean, I know you just ate at the restaurant, but I’m in the mood to cook. Nothing fancy, but you’ll enjoy it.” “Yes.” “I’m assuming yes means you’ll eat.” She nodded again. “Good.” He pulled the car into the driveway, opened the garage doors, and drove the car inside. “We’re here.” He turned the car off and unlocked the doors. He helped her out of the car and then led her into the house. It really wasn’t much but reminded him of his home in Ireland. He liked the flow. They walked through the living room to the kitchen. “Beautiful.” Zita looked around. “But I thought you always stayed in hotels.” “I do, but every once in a while, I need to feel like a real person. Hotel after hotel can get to you.” He was happy she was now talking to him. She nodded. “Would you like some wine?” He picked up a bottle he had sitting on the counter. “Yes.” He opened it and poured each of them a glass. Then, he went to the refrigerator. “I hope you don’t mind pizza. I was in the mood for it when I went shopping this morning.” “Pizza? Really?” She perked up at the thought. “One of my favorites.” He put everything he needed on the counter. Zita watched him work. In no time, he had the pizza in the oven. Shamus smiled at her. “Let me show you your room.” **** They sat at the table, eating their pizza. Zita couldn’t believe that a simple slice could taste like heaven but knew it had a lot to do with who cooked it. She was alone with Shamus Fitzgerald. Maybe she should pinch herself to make sure she wasn’t dreaming. “How is it?” “Wonderful,” she said between bites. Her wine glass was almost empty, so he topped it off while she took another bite. She sipped it, and then January/February 2015 | 67


finished off her slice. “There’s plenty if you’d like more.” She shook her head. She was feeling the wine a little and hoped it would help her relax. Butterflies were fluttering inside and she needed to calm them down. “Then, let’s clean up.” He stood and picked up the pizza. Between the two of them, they had everything cleaned up quickly and moved to the living room. Zita didn’t know where to sit. He seemed to understand her dilemma because he chose two overstuffed chairs near the fireplace. In minutes, he had a nice fire going. Shamus topped off her glass once more before he sat down. They sat and talked. The wine did relax her. She found herself talking about her life, her likes, and dislikes. Zita was able to even tease Shamus a few times. A yawn escaped her. “I’ve been keeping you up, haven’t I?” Shamus gave her that beautiful smile of his. “I don’t think I can sleep right now.” She sighed. “You have the most beautiful eyes.” “Really?” She nodded as she leaned forward. “Yes. They are green with little flecks of gray. I noticed it when you sang to me. It took my breath away.” Shut up, Zita. “Most people don’t notice.” “I’m not most people.” She sat back, knowing that if she stayed much longer, she’d say too much and sound like a stalker. “Maybe I should go to bed, sleep. I meant sleep.” “Come on.” He smiled. “I’ll walk you to your room.” Warmth filled her as he helped her to her feet. This was a dream come true. “How did I get so lucky?” She really needed to shut up before she said something she would regret. “I was going to ask the same thing.” They stopped in front of the door to her room. “You are a very unique woman, Zita.” She didn’t know what to say to that. Shamus watched her for a moment before he lowered his lips to hers. The kiss started off sweet with a gentle pressure, and then she felt his tongue stroke the seam of her lips. She opened her mouth and felt his tongue invade. Her senses reeled as he deepened the kiss. His arms held her close, like she was something precious.

He broke the kiss with a sigh. “Have you ever been to Ireland?” What an odd question. “No.” “Then you have to come with me. It’s a beautiful place.” “With you?” she squeaked. “Now, don’t start getting nervous around me again. What will my family think when I bring back a fiancée who can’t talk?” “Fiancée?” “Yes, if you’ll have me.” “Have you?” She stared at him. “I have wanted you forever.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Writing for Barbara Donlon Bradley started innocently enough. Like most, she kept diaries, journals, and she wrote an occasional letter, but she also had a vivid imagination and wrote scenes and short stories, adding characters to her favorite shows and comic books. As time went on, she found the passion for writing to be a strong drive for her. Humor is also very strong in her life. No matter how hard she tries to write something deep and dark, it will never happen. That humor bleeds into her writing. Since she can’t beat it, she has learned to use it to her advantage. Now she lives in Tidewater, Virginia with two cats, one mother-in-law—who is 87—her husband, and son. Visit her at http://www. barbaradonlonbradley.com/.


Historical | Western | Period Fiction

once UPON a TIME

HISTORICAL & WESTERN

January/February 2015 | 73


more beyond the books

HotHunks The

of

HISTORY Christy English

Philippe Auguste: King of the French Our focus for Hot Hunks of History this month is my favorite King of France, Philippe Auguste or Philip Augustus. As a baby, Philippe was named Augustus out of a sense of hope more than from any certainty that he would become a great man. But when his father, King Louis VII, after twenty years and three wives, was presented at long last with the son that the throne of France so desperately needed, he called his son the “God Given.�

January/February 2015 | 75


| The Hot Hunks of History | The Kingdom of France was surrounded by enemies, and since Louis VII was a good man, he was often a weak king. France needed a strong man to take the reins of government, and Philippe Auguste had both strength and political ambition. First a friend and “brother king” of another of my favorites, Richard the Lionhearted of England, Philippe Auguste later became his greatest rival. Philippe Auguste left the Third Crusade early when it was clear that Richard was going to take all the glory for himself.

So all of this begs the question, was Philippe Auguste actually hot? I’m sorry to say that we don’t know for sure. But strength in a man is a good quality, so I am going to include him in our collection of Hot Hunks of History.

ABOUT THE COLUMNIST

Back at home, while Richard was off fighting, Philippe did his best to shore up his own position politically with both the Holy Roman Emperor and Richard’s younger brother, Prince John of England. With Richard’s death in 1199, Philippe Auguste continued to gain power on the political stage of Europe. He even went so far as to build one of the most beautiful palaces in Christendom, the Louvre. The first Louvre was not built for beauty but for defense with high walls and a deep moat. But the fact that Philippe Auguste was the first king to build a palace off the central island of Ile de la Cite showed that he was strong enough politically and militarily to have a walled fortress 76 | btsemag.com

on the right bank of the Seine without having it overrun by barbarians. The kings of France continued to live there for centuries to come.

Christy English is happiest when she is dreaming. Her dreams have taken her to the royal court of Henry II in The Queen’s Pawn, to medieval Paris in To Be Queen, and now to Regency England in Much Ado About Jack, Love on a Midsummer Night, and How to Tame a Wilfull Wife, where she loves to watch her characters find true love, often in spite of themselves. Please visit her on her blog, on Twitter, or on Facebook.


feature sneak peek

Adrienne deWolfe

Seduced by an Angel Kentucky belle Seraphina Jones craves a dashing stranger worth kissing. When she spies her handsome, half-naked hired hand at the riverbank, she thinks her dreams of romance have come true. But this Texican is wanted for murder. Jesse Quaid can’t let Sera’s sweet kisses distract him from rendezvousing with Cass, a childhood friend, to clear his name of a crime he didn’t commit. But then a case of mistaken identity turns Cass into Jesse’s deadliest rival for Sera’s heart. Now, Sera must find a way to end the feud before the man she loves is lost forever.

“Can I have my pants back?” A wicked dimple flirted with his lips. “Maybe.” She narrowed her eyes at his bawdy show of humor. “Are you going to pack them in your bedroll and ride?” “Now that’s an interesting question, coming from a maid.” “That is not what I meant!” “Isn’t it?” Those strong white teeth flashed in a feline smile. “It seems to me a young, unmarried woman shouldn’t be visiting her hired hand’s digs in the middle of the night. Unless, of course, she has a certain kind of pleasure-riding on her mind.” Sera’s jaw dropped. She couldn’t believe Jesse would think such a thing about her! Well, okay. Maybe she had imagined kissing him with a reckless abandon. And maybe she’d imagined stripping off his shirt to feast her eyes on his rock-ribbed planes. But was that such a crime? Imagining? “Why are you being so contrary?” she demanded. “I thought we were friends.” “So did I. Until I came in here tonight and caught you spying on me.” She caught her breath. “Jesse, I swear. That is not what I—” With a speed reminiscent of his quick-draw, he ripped the denim from her hands and caught her wrists. She shivered a little when 78 | btsemag.com

she recognized the hunger in his jungle-cat stare. “Jesse, please don’t be angry with me—” “I’m not angry with you, Sera. I want to do forbidden things to you. I want to do scandalous, bawdy things that will make you pant and gasp and shake with the sheer, wild pleasure of my kiss . . . “

Adrienne deWolfe is a #1 bestselling author of action-packed Historical Romances, where feisty Heroines buck the conventions and true Heroes must be wickedly funny. Currently, she’s writing Devil in Texas, the first book in a Romantic Suspense series. For sneak peeks of her sassy ladies and sizzling rogues, visit h t t p : / / e b o o k d i s c o v e r y. c o m . 8.hostingprod.com/AdrienneDeWolfe

WritingNovelsThatSell.com


stories short reads

January/February 2015 | 83


| A Good Night | It was a good night for it, they’d said. The cool January wind swept through England, the taste of bitter winter tinged on her current like spoiled wine upon the tongue. A whistle, haunting as a banshee’s cry, rustled the leaves upon the trees that lined the snow covered path. He stepped from the shadows and lifted his gaze. Tipped his head heavenward so that his face was bathed in the silvery glow of the moon. He thought he heard his name, whispered by the stars in the heavens above. “Christian,” they murmured, but it was just a trick of the wind. His chest expanded beneath his coat as he drew in the perfume of night. The faint arctic breath of lingering winter. The undercurrent of unspoiled earth, hidden beneath a thin blanket of snow. Tiny snowflakes fell upon his cheeks, warming and melting against his flushed skin. Yes, he supposed it was a good night for dark deeds to be done. The manor lay silent before him. A single lamp burning from the stoop. He pushed past the heavy gates, the iron moaned in protest as it swung back on its hinges. His footfall was heavy, his steps long and purposeful as he descended the path, taking the stone steps two at a time. As he reached the door, Christian lifted a hand and wrapped his fingers about the heavy iron knocker. His taps upon the plate were thunderous, echoing through the bitter night. He waited a breath… five more came and went before he heard the creak of the door. An elderly man greeted him coldly, “what is it you want?” “I have business with your master.” “At this time of night? You must be out of your bleedin’ mind. Me master is sleeping, come calling tomorrow at a proper hour.” Christian pushed past the man and stormed into the foyer. He had no patience for such games, no intentions of waiting till morning. The sooner he 84 | btsemag.com


| Danielle Devon | completed his task the sooner his own debt would be paid. “Wake your Master, this is a matter of grave importance.” The servant closed the door against the callous winds. “Wait here,” he grumbled. Moments later, Christian saw the light from an oil lamp slashing into the shadows. “Who in bloody hell would be calling at this time of night?” the man grumbled from the top of the stairs. He had drawn a thick robe about him. Shadows flickered over his bearded face, playing a game of leap frog with the lamp light. He huffed out a heavy sigh, pulling up the hem of his robe to descend the steps. “State your name and business here, Sir,” he shouted. “Viscount Rohan, I presume?” Rohan stopped abruptly, his weary gaze darting up the length of the dark stranger in his home. “Who might you be and what business have you here at his ungodly hour.” “God has no care for the hour,” Christian countered. Rohan wrinkled his brow. “I say, who are you?” “I have a message for you, shall we speak in private?” Rohan gave a stiff nod then gestured to the study. They stepped inside, Rohan’s loyal servant slinking in behind them. “Ferdy,” Rohan barked, “fetch us some tea.” Ferdy nodded silently then scurried off, closing the door behind him and sealing them inside the mahogany etched room. ****

From the foyer below, Emily heard the slam of the door, the bellow of her father’s voice. She slipped from beneath the covers, her bare feet padding silently across the cold wood floor as she tiptoed to her door. Down the hallway she crept, listening to the far-off sounds. Mumbled voices in her father’s study. The clank of January/February 2015 | 85


| A Good Night | dishes from the kitchen. The chime of the grand clock, two strokes past midnight, echoed through the towering foyer. It sent her heart to pounding. Still she crept forward. Pitter-patted down the stairs. Tippy-toed across the foyer. Slipped soundless into the shadows, and carefully inched open the study door. ****

Rohan crossed the room, took a seat in the wing-backed chair that flanked the silent fireplace. He pulled his robe tight about him, as if the bite of winter had seeped straight into his bones. “Bramton has sent you,” he ventured as he gestured to the opposite chair. “No.” Christian sat reluctantly, his back rigid against the cushion. His boots planted firmly upon the floor, hands folded stiffly in his lap. “The Duke of Hammon?” Christian shook his head. “Viscount Marhart? Again he shook his head. Rohan blew out an irritated breath. “Come now, it is late and I am much too old and tired for such games.” “Lord Weston.” Rohan simply stared. “I trust the name rings true in your memory?” Rohan nodded. “It does.” “Then you know why I am here.” “I could wager a bet,” Rohan whispered. “Perhaps you should not.” Rohan drew in a shaky breath, his fingertips skimming the hem of his robe. Fear flickered in his gray eyes. “I will repay my debts, I swear it. Just tell me how much.” “You haven’t funds enough to repay all that he has given you.” Christian cast a glance around the room. “Every bauble in this room, every stick of furniture on which you set, every coat upon your back. Bought with the Lord’s money.” “But... but, I have done everything he has asked of me, have I not? I planted 86 | btsemag.com


| Danielle Devon | the letters, I poisoned his enemies. I have cheated and stolen and murdered for his Lordship.” “You have,” Christian nodded, “And you have served your purpose.” “Please, tell his Lordship, I will repay him, down to the very last shilling.” “Your money is of no interest to him.” “Then how am I repay him? Tell me, how?” “With your silence.” Ferdy bumbled into the room, a silver tray set for tea teetering in his hands.. “Not now!” Rohan shouted. “But your tea me Lord?” “Leave it and be gone,” Rohan commanded as he rose. Ferdy set the tray upon the table, gave a curt bow then scampered off into the shadows beyond. Rohan knocked the teapot to the floor with a great sweep of his hand. The shattering of china echoed through the otherwise silent manor. “My silence,” he grumbled. “My death.” “What you have done,” Christian told him, “the secrets you’ve heard, they must be buried.” “Buried,” Rohan snorted. “Buried with my body, you mean.” Christian rose. “We all have a time and a purpose. Your time, my friend, has run out. Rohan shook his head, “And what of you? Do you not think his Lordship will send an assassin for you when you’ve outlived your useful purpose?” His words were bitter but shaken. Christian took a step forward. “I would expect nothing less.” He took another step. “You and I, Rohan, were made well aware of the rules of this game.” Another step. “We do not have to like them, but we did accept them, and here we both are, tied to each other’s fate.” Another step. panic etched into the worn lines of his face. “Please, we can make a deal. It does not have to end this way for either of us.” Christian took another step forward, narrowing the distance between them. “We have no choices, Henry. I will pay for your debt and you will pay for mine.” Rohan took a step back. “Do not come any closer.” “We have no choice, Henry.” “Stop right there, or so help me God...” Christian shook his head sadly. “God will not help either of us, Henry.” Rohan drew in a heavy breath as Christian stepped forward. ****

Emily threw open the door. “Enough!” she shouted. Rohan turned toward his daughter. Without hesitation, Christian’s hand snapped around his neck. He held him there, slowly squeezing. “I said, enough!” She shouted again. “I’ll not let you spill each other’s blood.” This time it was Christian who turned. A woman with lovely dark hair, left long and free to curl around her shoulders, stood in the doorway. Her skin was milk white and her eyes were striking dark January/February 2015 | 87


| A Good Night | globes that shimmered with her fury. “Let him go,” she growled. Rohan spoke, his voice strained beneath Christian’s crushing grip. “Emily,” he coughed. “Let him go,” she repeated. She held his gaze, drawing him deeper and deeper within her eyes until he nearly forgot to breathe. “Please,” she whispered. No pleading or blubbering or begging, he noted. Soft. Simple. A heartbreaking request. Much to his own surprise, he released his grip on Rohan’s throat. Rohan stumbled backward, fell to the ground, coughing and rubbing at his throat. “There, you see. Arrangements can be made.” Christian ignored him, caught in her easy beauty, he was drawn forward. She did not retreat, and so he pressed on, closing the distance between them. He unbuttoned his coat, pulled back the fold to reveal the longlength of a dagger tucked beneath. Her gaze shifted momentarily over the blade, then settled back on his face. “And if I told you, it is his head or mine?” he asked her. She shook her head, “then choose neither.” “I have no choice.” “There is always a choice,” she said softly. He reached out for her. It was a mistake, he knew it. She was soft beneath his touch. Her skin infused his hand with a pale heat as he let his fingertip skim the line of her jaw. “Please,” she whispered again. He was helpless. He turned to Rohan. “Go. Take only what you can carry and leave this place now. I’ll tell his Lordship otherwise.” Rohan nodded silently, still rubbing at his neck. “Will he come for you?” Emily asked. “Perhaps.” Christian let out a heavy sigh, then stepped around her. Perhaps he would, but keeping to the shadows, knowing when to emerge, when to hide, had always kept him alive. He had worked for far more ruthless men than Lord Weston. Christian, if he needed, could always disappear. Become someone else. He was good at that. She grabbed his arm, her warm fingers softly pressing against him. “Come with us.” Christian shook his head. “With me you’d only find danger.” 88 | btsemag.com

“Perhaps I like danger,” she countered. A hint of a smile toyed at his lips, “danger in theory, not in practice, I assure you.” He turned again, this time to take his leave. As he headed for the door, he heard the patter of her bare feet upon the floor. She caught him once more, spun him around to face her. She rested her hands on his shoulders, tipped up on her toes and pressed her lips softly to his. She was soft and sweet and tasted of honey and he felt his arms wrapping about her. He pulled her closer and she melted against him. When she finally pulled away, it seemed as if she had taken all the blood in his head with her. He was warm and humming as she smiled sweetly up at him. “You saved our lives, thank you.” No one had ever said that to him before. He was the rake, the scoundrel, the assassin. He was not anyone’s savior. “They may send another,” he warned. She smiled, “then I shall come find you to save me once more.” She turned away then and hurried back to her father. Christian left the manor, shutting the door behind him. He tipped his head to the heavens, and drew in the sent of lingering winter. Perhaps tonight, he hadn’t been the only one to save a life. He thought of Emily, of her lips upon his and smiled. Yes, it was a good night.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Danielle Devon is a multi-published author who has settled comfortably into her unique realm of science fiction and fantasy romance. Her writing has been hailed by reviewers as “darkly poetic,” her stories as “vividly painted with a colorful canvas which comes to life before your eyes.” She lives in the beautiful Northwest with her husband and children. Visit Danielle at

http://authordanielledevon.com/


feature sneak peek

Louise Lyndon

Of Love and Vengeance Forced to marry Lord Aymon to ensure her nephew’s survival, English Lady Laila vows undying hatred for the Norman she holds responsible for so many deaths. Discovering Aymon has committed an act of treason gives her the chance to seek vengeance he deserves. But will Laila really let Aymon die once she learns the truth? A hardened Norman warrior, Lord Aymon has lived through atrocities no man ever should. With the invasion of England over, all he wants is a quiet life and a wife who will give him heirs and obey his every command. Instead, he finds himself wed to feisty and outspoken Laila. But when she learns the truth of his treasonous act, can Aymon count on her to keep his secret?

Aymon caught a flicker of movement from a window on the second story. “I think we’re about to meet the welcome party.” An arrow zoomed toward him and landed on the pommel of his saddle. A half an inch closer and he would no longer be able to sire children. As if in demonstration of his ability with the bow and arrow, the shooter fired again. This time directed toward Hugh. The second arrow too came within a half an inch of his friend’s manhood. “You missed!” Aymon called toward the shooter. He questioned his stupidity for mocking someone with such a good aim. “You want me to show you how good an aim I really am?” a woman’s voice echoed out across the yard. “Bloody hell,” Hugh half cursed, half laughed. “Where does a woman learn to shoot like that?” Aymon was shocked and admittedly a little impressed a woman had such remarkable shooting skills. He could use such a sharp shooter on his side in battle. After all, it was better to have someone so skilled firing for you than at you. Aymon raised his black leather gloved hand in surrender. “No. I’m firmly attached to my balls, thank you very much.” “Who are you?” the shooter demanded. “And what do you want? There is nothing of value here for you to steal. Be on your way, man, and leave me in peace.” “Some would say a female is of value,” Aymon drawled sardonically. A second arrow lodged firmly on the pommel between his legs. “I do not give third chances. I’ll give you to the count of three to leave. Or else you will find an arrow straight through your heart.” Aymon’s warhorse whinnied, and he fought to control the beast whose temperament was as black as his coat. “Put down your weapon!” 90 | btsemag.com

“One!” “We mean you no harm!” “Two!” “I am Lord Aymon, and this is Lord Hugh. I’ve come to claim what is rightfully mine.” Silence. The two men looked at one another unsure what to do. “Should we storm the building and lay claim to what is yours?” Aymon shook his head. He dismounted but never took his eyes from the door to the manor. “She will soon make her appearance.” Hugh, too, dismounted. “How can you be so sure?” Aymon looked at his friend. “We do not have arrows through our hearts.”

Louise grew up in Australia before moving to England, where for sixteen years she soaked up the vibrancy of London and the medieval history of England. She has since returned to Australia. When not writing, she can be found crawling under barbed wire and hoisting herself over twelve-foot walls!

LouiseLyndon.com


Sensual Romance and Erotics of all genres, shapes and sizes

see BEHIND closed DOORS

EROTIC & SENSUAL

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trends reading trends in erotic

Heat DIVA The

BJ Gaskill

Can You Imagine? Thank you so much for all the well wishes. I will try to fall on my head at least a dozen times before I land on my rear end. Now, on to the real fun part of this banter, books! I’m sure every one of us has heard the famous line “Back in my day” from our parents, grandparents, or some other old person reliving memories of their life. I’ve heard so many stories, good

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| The Heat Diva | and bad. Could you imagine if one time, just for once, one of our books would be an account of “what happened” back in the day? I would be off looking for Doc Brown and his time machine right freaking now! Personally, I remember a book my granny gave me way back when I was still worshiping all the hair bands and wearing my hair a mile high. She had told me, “It’s about time you start reading about a real man.” The book was called Savage Thunder by Johanna Lindsey (Wyoming, #2, Avon—available now). I thought “OMG! Look at that cover!” I didn’t even care what the book was about, freaking Fabio was on the front and that was all that mattered. I think I kept it on my shelf for a month or so before actually reading it, but in the end, Granny was right. I’d hire that hunk of meat to lead me across the west to start anew too! I couldn’t believe Granny actually gave me a book with so many “naughty scenes.” Let’s just say Granny became my best book buddy ever! (Such a shame when the book was re-released— no more Fabio)

As I grew older and my tastes changed, I found that I fell in love more so with the paranormal romances. I still enjoyed a good western, but things that went bump in the night really got my blood rising. Still every now and then, a cover or a blurb will catch my eye. Then before you know it, I’m sitting in my comfy chair reading how some crazy guy places an ad for a bride in the newspaper. I’m thinking, “Ok, they had the mail 94 | btsemag.com

order bride thing back then.” Everyone was so far stretched out, it was hard meeting people. This author, however, takes this story totally off that trail on to a beauty and beast theme and then throws in a jealous best friend to boot. I was on a horse stampeding through buffalos and author Leah Wyett left me on a cliff with her book Mail Order Bride: Blinded by Love (Brides of the West, #1, Gold Crown Press—available now). I have to read the next to see what happens. Thankfully Author Kit Morgan let me hitch a ride on her insane venture into mail order brides with her book August (Prairie Grooms, #1, Angel Creek Press—available now). I swear the characters in these books are all trying to start new and have their happy little families. Sadie has her plans, and I think she’s got everything figured out for the most part. August and Penelope are truly an interesting couple, to say the least. I’m very intrigued by the Prairie Grooms book series. Any author who would have her men build houses for their women has my vote any day of the week. These men are so eager, the buildup is just fun, and the little thorn in their side just adds to the whole story. I think that’s all I can take of mail order brides,” Lord knows if I were back there in the day, I might have been one myself. Can you imagine that poor man’s face when he got a load of me, he’d say “Send Her Back.” Poor guy couldn’t handle a woman that could not only shoot better than he does, but let’s face it, I could drink him under the table too. I think I’d be more like Mallory Buchanan, the heroine from The Handsomest Man in the Country by Nancy Radke (The Traherns, #1, Bedrock Distribution—available now). I’d like to think I could hold my own against the evil men back in the day, shoot Indians during an attack, and totally chase down wagon-stealing thieves. I’d even choose what man I’d want to marry. Yep! I think I am much more the bad Mallory than anything. So, watch out Wild West, I’m coming for you. Of course, we know how that will end. I’ll be Abigail in The Lawman by Lily Graison (Willow


| BJ Gaskill | Creek, #1, Indie Book—available now). End up in jail with one hot lawman to watch over me. Not saying that’s a bad thing. Maybe I should think about this. Aside from being in the stinky jail cell, looking at Marshal Morgan Avery isn’t all that bad. The man has a wonderful house and an amazing kitchen table! Strong arms and he can kiss like the world is about to end. Maybe I’ll just stay with him until the next issue. I’ll make him a fresh pan of biscuits. The last pan didn’t fare too well after he got home this morning from a hard night of work. Like I said, “Amazing kitchen table!”

ABOUT THE COLUMNIST BJ Gaskill loves reading everything but self-help books, as there is no help for her. When she isn’t running her blog, Inside BJ’s Head, you can find her on Facebook stalking her favorite authors. She calls about five acres on the East Coast home and claims to have some of the best minions around. Feel free to

connect with her at https://twit-

ter.com/beejee77, https://www.facebook. com/InsideBjsHead, http://insidebjshead. blogspot.com/.

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feature sneak peek

Alisa Anderson & Cameron Skye Fallen Angel When Jess packed up her belongings and fled her small hometown in Kansas, she never looked back. Free from her family’s dark past she was finally able to pursue her lifelong dream as a professional dancer. She never expected to find herself at his door...or at his club. Nick was unlike any other man she had ever met. Sexy…Alluring…Predatory. Dangerous. The kind of man with more secrets than even she had. Every instinct warned Jess against knowing him further, but she always did like playing with fire… Working at Takers gentleman’s club was the last place Jess thought she would find herself, but she quickly learned how the game was played. See what you want, take what you can get…but at what cost?

Partly because she felt guilty for flirting with Nick Roman. Not to mention fantasizing about Nick Roman. Considering she got herself off just thinking about the man, she figured she owed Eric something. She grinned to herself. The whole thing was so deliciously naughty she still was tingling. Jess and Allison waved to Eric as they made a beeline to the bathroom. Once inside, she checked her hair. She was glad she wore it down, casually flung over her shoulders. It looked good with the tight red dress, painting her body. She turned around. Her ass was lethal in this dress. It barely covered it. Just the way she wanted. “Want a line?” Allison shoved the bag over to her. “Hell, yeah. Thanks.” Jess bent over, sniffing six lines off the sink. Feeling like she could suddenly run ten miles. “So, Allie. What’s the deal with Nick?” “What do you mean?” “He’s that mobster I’ve heard about, right?” Allison looked around the bathroom nervously. “Jess, please don’t ask or talk about his business, ok? Yes, he’s who you 98 | btsemag.com

think he is, but that is all you ever need to know. If you keep digging for answers, eventually you’ll find them. He’s trouble, so please don’t get caught up. Please? It’s for your own good.” She looked at Allison and acknowledged she understood, without saying a word. “Thank you for trusting me. Besides, you have the hottest fucking guy in New York as your bitch. Why are you even worried about Nick?” “Good question.” Jess laughed, dabbing her lips.

Alisa Anderson lives for a world of controllable anatomically correct, android men programmed to meet her feminine needs. who look like the rock, ian somerhalder and idris elba. gotta have variety, right? Cameron Skye is working toward a Ph.D. in Neuropsychopharmacology. She writes stories, creating intense characters you won’t forget.

Visit the website


stories short reads

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| Over The Line | *This story contains content of a sensual nature. Reader discretion is advised. She stumbled into the doorway, his hands groping madly beneath her shirt. Her breath came hot and ragged as he thumped her against the wall. He spread her hands out as he pinned her, his kisses trailing wildly down the length of her throat. She let out a muffled groan then broke away, taking hold of his hand and drawing him to the bedroom beyond. He untucked her shirt up with eager fingers as he nibbled on her ear. Lacey let her head fall back, and her eyes fell closed as her mind swam with the sensation he brought to life inside her. She heard the phone ring, like bells in the distance, it broke into the silence of the room. She ignored it. They tumbled together onto the bed, his hands possessive on her body. Three more times the phone rang before she vaguely heard the answering machine click on beside her. But as Paul’s voice drifted over the machine she was drawn from her whirlwind of romance. “So there I was minding my own business, pounding away at the keyboard, my deadline breathing down the back of my neck like some blood-sucking demon ready to devour what’s left of my mortal soul and then I noticed it… A single light burning from a third story window just across the alley from my apartment. The only hint of light in the bleak darkness, a beacon 100 | btsemag.com


| Lexi Adair | on another sleepless night.” Roger lifted up onto one hand, the trailing lazy circles across her stomach. “You want to get that?” Heat licked at Lacey’s cheeks as she cast a glance over at the intruding answering machine. “He’ll hang up.” Paul’s voice broke again into the silence, drifting poetically over the machine. “I’m entranced now. Drawn to the light, like a moth to a flame as my thoughts wander sinfully to the long-legged blonde who dwells there. My goddess, my muse, what is she doing at so late an hour? Who is she doing at so late an hour?” Lacey’s hand fumbled over the nightstand as she grabbed for the phone, cursing beneath her breath. She lifted the receiver, pressed it to her ear. “You are so not funny.” Paul’s dark, throaty laughter drifted over the line. “Ah, my muse, my inspiration, she wakes.” “You know damn well I wasn’t sleeping.” She playfully pushed Roger’s hand away as he tried to wiggle his fingers up her shirt. Again Paul chuckled, clearly too amused with himself. “I was on to something wasn’t I? Damn, I should write that down.” Roger snatched back his hand in annoyance. “I should go.” “No,” she said, her hand darting out to catch him. She tilted the receiver beneath her chin. “Stay. I’ll just be a second.” Paul’s voice drifted over the phone, interrupting her. “Do you have January/February 2015 | 101


| Over The Line | protection?” Lacey tipped the phone back up to her lips. “What?” “It doesn’t make for a very fairy tale moment does it? But then reality really is uglier than fiction. You never know what nasty little diseases Mr. GQ might be hiding beneath those Armani slacks.” Lacey sat up in the bed, straightening her shirt. “His name is Roger.” “Oh Roger, that’s brilliant. I’ll have to remember that.” “Look, Lacey,” Roger said, rising from the bed and dragging back on the blazer she’d torn off him. “I’m just going to go.” “I’m hanging up,” Lacey said to them both. “Perhaps we should start keeping a log. There are just so many men these days it’s hard to keep track of them all. Let’s see there was John and Steve, that was last month. Then before that it was Gary. And then…the short one, the banker you know, he was the one who always wore the same suit, what was his name?” “Roger,” Lacey said reaching out for him. “No, no, that wasn’t it,” Paul replied. Roger turned for the door. “Goodnight, Lacey.” “I’m hanging up,” she said to Roger. “I’m hanging up,” this time into the phone. “Oh dear.” Paul’s voice was light with false disappointment. “Roger is over and out.” She heard the front door slam and 102 | btsemag.com


| Lexi Adair | let out a long sigh. “Bloody hell, Paul, why do you do that?” “You should shut your blinds.” The laughter had left his voice, leaving it dark and heavy. “What?” she whispered, her gaze drawn to the window. “If you don’t want me to do this to you, you should shut your blinds. We’ve lived across this alley for four years and you’ve never once shut your blinds. You want me to watch, you want me to do this to you.” “You have issues, you know that?” Lacey laughed softly as she rose from the bed and crossed to the window. She could see the light burning from his apartment in the next building. He was cast in shadows just beyond, sitting alone at his desk with the phone cradled against his shoulder. “And five years. It’s been five years that we’ve lived across the alley.” “Wrong again, sweetheart, just over four. I had just finished “The Night Fury” when I moved in, that was four years ago.” “Are you sure?” “I never forget a detail, darling. That’s my job.” There was a long pause over the phone as Lacey turned her back to him. Slowly, she unbuttoned her shirt, let it slip off one shoulder so that the soft glow of the lamplight washed over her bare skin. She heard him let out a heavy sigh over the phone as she let loose another button, the shirt slipping further down her arm. “What are you January/February 2015 | 103


| Over The Line | doing?” she asked. His voice, dark and husky, drifted over the line. “Watching you.” “Naughty boy,” she said as she let her shirt slip down to her waist. Lacey switched the phone to her free hand and slipped the strap of her bra from her shoulder. “Naughty girl,” he countered. Her back nearly bare to him, she could feel his gaze upon her as it slipped down the length of her. “Are you still watching me?” “Humm,” came his hoarse reply. “Tell me what you’re thinking.” “I’m thinking…” His words trailed off as he paused. “I need a shower.” Her eyes, fallen closed beneath the seduction of his voice, opened in a flutter of lashes. “A shower?” “Yes,” he said darkly, his voice wrought with an unmistakable desire. “A cold one.” “Whatever for?” His dark, ominous laugh bubbled softly over the line. “Use your imagination, darling.” A smile bloomed on her lips, suddenly feeling mischievous. She turned to face the window. ****

She was standing in the window, one hand holding the phone to her ear and the other over her head as she leaned against the frame. “Like what you see?” Her voice had changed, somehow it was breathier, more seductive. Strangely, it didn’t 104 | btsemag.com


| Lexi Adair | sound like her at all. Strangely, he found that terribly exciting. “I think ‘like’ is an understatement.” “You still want that shower?” Paul chuckled. “No, I don’t want that shower. I need it. You’re not being very nice right now.” “Oh? Am I bothering you?” She shifted in the window, purposefully taunting him. “Depends on what kind of bother you’re referring to.” “How long will it take you to get over here?” A grin etched his lips as he watched her through the window. How many nights had he watched her? Waited for her? Longed for her to finally see him as he saw her. “It’s taken me four years to get there, honey.” “Five,” she countered playfully. “Four,” he corrected. “Four years I’ve been painfully, privately and hopelessly in love with you.” He turned toward the door, casting one last long glance back at the window he had spent so many years sitting in front of. A slow, easy smile crested his lips. He turned the door knob and stepped foot into the hallway, his cell phone still cradled against his ear. It had been four years since he’d met her, four years since he’d fallen in love with her and four years to get up the courage to tell her. He wasn’t about to put the phone down now and miss a moment of it. “But it’ll only take me five minutes to cross the distance between us and make up for lost time.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Author Lexi Adair has always been a hopeless romantic. She is an avid reader having cut her teeth on her mother’s Harlequin romances. Her stories stem from a deep love affair with the happily-ever-after, although the road taken is sometimes steeped in heartache and deception. Visit Lexi at LexiAdair.com

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Science Fiction | Fantasy | Paranormal | Urban Fantasy

SCI FI / FANTASY OUT of this WORLD

& PARANORMAL

January/February 2015 | 109


trends

reading trends in sci fi & fantasy

AliB FORTY and the

Spaceships Alex Bardy

Get Off Your Horse and Have a Bevvy . . . “Fellow Travellers. These are people who join the Tour for a short while and then leave or get killed. If they have NAMES and characters, then you will be sorry to lose them, otherwise not. See also COMPANIONS.” —The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, Diana Wynne Jones

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| Ali B and the Forty Spaceships| It seems devilishly appropriate that in a US magazine with a western/historical theme, we’ve been blessed with a rather fabulous weird western fiction anthology this year—Dead Man’s Hand (Titan Books, May 2014) is edited by John Joseph Adams and has already ascended to the top of my own ‘fave anthology of the year’ list recently. Featuring some fabulous work by a roll call of great genre authors, there are some fabulous tales of alien gold fever, dangerous and dodgy playing cards, clockwork gunslingers, fastshooting Reverends, and reanimated corpses to be found herein. And despite a distinct ‘steampunk’-ish feel running through a number of the stories, they are all definitively set in the classic American Old West, bringing forth all the terror and heartache associated with such turbulent times. For a few years now, I’ve genuinely believed there’s a big hole where crossgenre westerns with a fantasy and/or science-fiction bent should be sitting (in a similar vein to Defiance and the tragically short-lived Firefly TV series for example), and this anthology serves as a handy reminder there’s a whole vista of endless possibilities surely going begging in this particular market. Regardless, names like Orson Scott Card, Walter Jon Williams, Elizabeth Bear, Joe R. Lansdale, Mike Resnick, Kelley Armstrong, Alan Dean Foster, Alastair Reynolds, Tad Williams, and Christie Yant won’t be lost on you guys over the pond, so you should already have this one on your wish list—it is really quite, quite excellent. I mentioned anthologies last time, too, citing them as an ideal format to allow readers to dip in and out of when there’s so much else going on, and praising the innovative nature of the many independent publishers (aka indies or small press) putting them out regularly. However, we did a disservice to one because the title of Jonathan Oliver’s award-winning anthology was missed off last time—it’s called End of the Road (Solaris, Nov. 2013), and deservedly won the British Fantasy Award for an excellent selection of original genre fiction from some brilliant and talented authors including Philip Reeve, Lavie Tidhar, Sophia McDougall, and Rochita Loenen-Ruiz. Sticking with the theme, albeit via a precariously thin connection to the violence thereof, I’ve been reading a few graphic novels of late and wanted to bring your attention to a couple of obscure ones you may have easily dismissed. Onslaught (Titan Comics, Sept. 2014) is by far one of the weirdest and most 112 | btsemag.com

hilarious things I’ve read in a long time and given its rather unsubtle subtitle, Excessive Space Violence For Boys and Girls, one can be forgiven for thinking this is most certainly ‘Not Suitable For Work’ (NSFW) or children—one of the stories is called “Into The Lair of the Space Wankers” for example (look it up). Written and illustrated in full colour by Greg Broadmore, this graphic work stars Dr. E. Grordbort, the self-styled master of maniacal mechanisms and Lord Cockswain, “a towering bastion of British heroism,” in a sparkling collection of wickedly black comic tales involving excessive violence, swearing, and the odd slaughter of harmless alien pond life. Featuring snippets from Grordbort’s catalogue of steampunk weaponry, a bestiary of the cosmos, a selection of dodgy testimonials, and a collection of shockingly non-PC (politically correct) posters sprinkled throughout, this really did make me cry out loud with laughter. Oh yes, and the artwork is simply gorgeous. In stark contrast to the above, we have Violent Cases (Dark Horse Books, Nov. 2013) from the pen of Neil Gaiman. This is illustrated by Dave McKean but carries a miserable palette of black, white, and greyish-brown all the way through, with the odd splash of red here and there. Presented as a form of fractured memoir, this very dark tale of violence, child abuse, and the fragility


| Alex Bardy | of memory is set against the underlying backdrop of Prohibition-era America and even includes a walk-on part for Al Capone and his fellow mobsters. In typical Gaiman style, the title itself is also an accidental misnomer. This is seriously strong stuff, will be read and reread several times, and with each new reading deeper understanding will follow. Make no bones about it, this is a work of creative genius, and this particular 10th Anniversary Edition is stunning, a real masterpiece of presentation and elegance. Finally, my classic this time round is Forever War by Joe Haldeman—part of a larger trilogy, including Forever Free and Forever Peace, Forever War is by far the strongest. A telling tale about the nature and futility of war told through the first person, our hero is a soldier called William Mandela who fights an interstellar war against a seemingly unconquerable alien. His tours of duty are such that whenever he returns to Earth, centuries have passed, and gradually, he loses touch with the world he’s supposed to be protecting . . . The snapshots of future Earth are brilliantly done, and this set Haldeman up for a career in SF, so do check it out if you haven’t read it before.

ABOUT THE COLUMNIST Alex Bardy lives in a very dark place, below a small dank stairwell, beneath a dark step, under a speck of dirt, tucked away in a cold, dark emptiness, somewhere on the fringes of the charming, historical city of York, in the North Yorkshire area of the UK. He also writes as DenizenOfTheUniverse under his Twitter moniker: @mangozoid. He is a contributor, reviewer, and word-lender to the British Fantasy Society, and an active member on the board of the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA), mainly responsible for the design/layout of their publications, coupled with an occasional foray into writing/interviewing.

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feature author interview

Kathi S. Barton

Ryland-The Golden Streak Series Kathi Barton, author of the bestselling series Force of Nature, lives in Nashport, Ohio, with her husband Paul. In addition to writing full time Kathi likes to spend time with her eight grandkids, three children and three children-inlaws. She writes to relax and have fun. Her muse, a cross between Jimmy Stewart and Hugh Jackman brings them to life for her readers in a way that has them coming back time and again for more. Her favorite genre is paranormal romance with a great deal of spice. You can visit Kathi on line and drop her an email if you’d like. She loves hearing from her fans. aaronskiss@gmail.com.

What’s the best part of the writing process for you? Quiet. I don’t listen to music or have something running in the background. Just give me a tea pot and my favorite mug with some black tea and I’m good to go. I try to write only five days a week but sometimes I just need to get in a few more words. And I have Muse. He’s the brains of this operation. I’ve learned not to mess with his creative self. He gets a little testy and closes up shop if I do. I usually have to buy him something nice to get him going again.

Tell me where you write? I’ve taken over one of the bedrooms in our house. Hubby built me a twelve foot long desk and put in an overhead cabinets for my endless office supplies. (I love pens and sticky notes). I have a heater at my feet this time of year and I wear my pj’s. I have a window should I ever look up, which isn’t often and a bathroom just down the hall. With my fridge and tea pot, I’m like a hermit when I work in here. I love what I do.

The worst part? Finishing a story. It’s like I’ve ended a holiday for me. Or I’ve sent one of my children out into the great big world. I write more than one story at a time but it’s still sort of sad when I end one. Especially a series. That just breaks my heart and I have to take a day off just to recoup. What book do you wish you’d written? The Help. It’s one of my favorite books. The movie was good but not the same. Kathryn Stockett did an amazing job. I have read it twice now. What’s next for you? I’m excited about going to Vegas in April and meeting new fans and old ones. And the release of the four new series I have coming out in 2015. The Bentley Legacy ~ a leap of panthers, Pride of the Double Deuce, a pride of cougars~, Blood Brotherhood ~ vampire-like creatures that are ridding the world of evil and corruption and Dragon’s Savior ~ Human brothers that are the host of dragon brothers.

Ryland Golden is a shifter, a beautiful golden tiger. He doesn’t want a mate, nor does he want one as bossy and opinionated as Bronwyn is. And her magic is a lot more than any of them bargained for. But he wants her. And nothing, will stand in his way.

Visit Kathi’s Blog January/February 2015 | 115


stories short reads

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| Someone’s Knocking on the Door | “Someone’s knocking on the door.” An innocent statement. An innocuous observation. A simple announcement that requires only a response of anticipation or curiosity. It is most certainly not a proclamation meant to inspire fear and terror. And yet, on that day, fear and terror were the very things this declaration did inspire. For you see, we weren’t sitting in a house when Chris, our second engineer, made his statement. We weren’t in a car or at a business. We were sitting in a spaceship parked on a dead planet. Randolph was the first to respond. He was the chief of security, and if any man was unafraid of something strange, it was him. And yet even as he rose, I noticed his hands trembled and his lips twitched. Just like the rest of us, he was uneasy. “That can’t be possible,” he said. “Listen, then, if you don’t believe me,” Chris said. He was a portly fellow with big jug ears. We were all gathered in the engine room, working on getting the coil loop drive back online, so we could finally begin our return trip home. We were just south of Centauri 7, ready to slingshot, when the coil malfunctioned and we landed on a floating hunk of rock that had no name and no inhabitants. How could it? There was no atmosphere, only space. We all listened. We strained to hear beyond the bleeps and bloops of the machinery surrounding us. Our efforts were met with a deafening silence. Randolph walked over towards the hatch, the door that led to the bay. Just beyond the bay was the door to the outside, the one that Chris had claimed to hear the knocking from. He placed his head against the wall and listened. He shook his face and glanced back at Chris. “I don’t hear a thing.” Relieved, we all went back to work. But if I am to be honest here, I must say that none of us were completely at ease. We were all a bit nervous and edgy, and 120 | btsemag.com


| Kelly M. Hudson | it felt as if someone or something was in the room there with us, watching our work. An hour later, Sonja flopped back, her pretty face covered in perspiration. She was the only woman on our crew of seven, and she was beautiful. Every man on board had fallen in love with her at first glance. Not to say we were a sexist crew because for most of us, while she was lovely, it was her personality that attracted us the most. There was a generous nature about her, a smooth intelligence and comforting presence. Sonja was the ranking officer in charge of the Galenium bomb we had carried. She was versed in its detonation and effects. The rest of us were in the dark. When it had come time to press the button and send that horrible death down on the creatures from Alpha Nine X, it was her hand that did the deed. “I really need a break,” she said. “I’m not used to dealing with these kinds of circuits.” By which she meant the coil. Her engineering training had lent itself towards explosives and chemicals and splitting atoms rather than such mundane things as particle warps and light-bending technologies. Cal laughed and shook his head. He was the first engineer, a short fellow, like almost all the engineers of the fleet were, with a shaved head and a big nose. “You scientist types are all the same,” he said. “Better with theory than actual working parts.” “I find what you said offensive,” Sonja said. Cal shrugged. “I just want to get this ship up and running. I don’t like it here.” Something thudded against the outer hull. We all froze. It came from the direction of the door in the bay, the door where Chris had claimed to hear the knocking. We all listened. I could scarce breathe in those tiny moments. It felt as if the world was closing in around me. Sweat poured down my face, and my spine prickled. There was something out there. I could feel it. A series of knocks banged on the door. Randolph threw open the engine room door and ran to the bay where the bomb had been housed. He stopped inches from the outer door, his face leaned forward, his nose pressed against the porthole window. “My God,” he said. His voice was a

wretched rasp. He staggered back, his eyes wide and his nose bleeding. He did not blink as tears poured down his face. “My God,” he said again. None of us could move, none but Sonja. She jumped to her feet and ran into the bay, grabbing Randolph by the arm. He screamed. He spun around and slapped her. Sonja stumbled and fell. The sound of the blow broke our stupor. We all ran out now, all headed for Randolph. Cal stepped between the chief of security and Sonja. Chris helped Sonja to her feet. Her lip was split and blood dribbled down her chin. “You bastard!” she said. Randolph did not stop screaming. He staggered away from Cal and jabbed his fingers into his own eyes. He screwed his fingers deeper into the sockets. Blood flowed. His eyeballs bent and broke like crushed grapes. His free fingers scrabbled at the cavities, cracking as he tried to shove them in, too. Cal stepped forward and slugged Randolph in the stomach. The chief of security plucked his fingers from his skull with a wet pop and clawed the air between him and Cal. The second engineer ducked away and lashed, cracking Randolph’s right kneecap with the heel of his boot. Randolph fell into a heap, cursing and spitting and screaming. He curled into a ball and whimpered. “We are judged,” he said. The words, although broken and full of anguish, were as clear as the air of a crisp winter morning. We went back to work. That was all we could do. Christopher tended to Randolph, giving him a sedative and binding him so he couldn’t attack us anymore. The poor man lay on the floor of the bay, muttering to himself. We kept a closed door between him and us. A long hour passed. We were closer to fixing the coil, but the task was proving harder than first imagined. Randolph’s gibberish did not help the matter any. I could feel eyes on us, watching, invisible, full of a wrath, and I was not the only one who felt this way; the occasional look up at my comrades revealed that they, too, were January/February 2015 | 121


| Someone’s Knocking on the Door | nervous. Eyes darted. Glances flitted. The atmosphere between us was like a dried piece of leather that was being twisted and tightened until it was close to cracking. “Shut him up, Chris,” Sonja said, speaking of Randolph. “I can’t concentrate.” “I gave him too much Aderoneica already,” Christopher said. Aderoneica was a sedative derived from the Aderonei plant on Planet LV in Sector Six. “If I give him any more he may have a seizure and die.” “Let him die, then,” Sonja said. “That’s awfully cruel,” Cal said. “He tried to kill me,” Sonja said. “He didn’t try to kill you. He just hit you,” I said. “You’re wrong, Edison,” she said to me. “You didn’t see into his eyes. They were alien . . . empty of everything but contempt.” Sonja hugged herself. All at once, Randolph stopped babbling. The empty silence that filled the air where his words had been was full of pregnant anticipation. We all waited, holding our breaths, sensing something was about to happen. Randolph suddenly screeched, the fearful cry of an animal who was about to die. I ran to the door, followed by Chris and Cal. We pushed, but it wouldn’t budge. It felt like thousands of pounds were stacked on the other side, keeping it from opening. We could see through the window, though, and what we saw shocked each of us to our core. Somehow, Randolph had freed himself from his bonds. He had taken his belt and looped it over one of the lower hanging pipes in the ceiling of the bay. He wrapped the other end around his neck. He dangled, head to the side, face black, tongue swollen and purple, jutting from between his lips. His eyes were rolled into the back of his head. He was dead. Of course, this was simply impossible. Mere seconds had passed between his initial screams and when we reached the door. There was no way he could free himself, string up the belt, and commit suicide before we arrived. It was ridiculous. And yet there it was, before our very eyes. Cal tried the door again and this time it opened with ease. 122 | btsemag.com

“What is happening here?” Cal said. Sonja pushed past us and ran into the bay. She stood next to Randolph and stared up at him. Her body shook. I couldn’t tell if it was from fear or anguish. She glared at him, her eyes wide and glassy. And then she turned her head, cocking it to the side, as if she were hearing some sort of strange melody, one the rest of us couldn’t discern. “No,” she said. She whirled around and veered like a drunk towards one of the outer windows. “No,” she said again. She staggered to a porthole and stared outside. Her fingers clawed the inside of the ship, nails screeching against the metal. “No!” she screamed. We ran over and stood next to her, Cal putting his hands on her shoulders. She jumped and fell into his embrace. “We’re all going to die,” she said. And that was when we all looked out the windows and saw what she had seen. Sitting outside, in the cold, airless atmosphere of the moon, were five coffins. They were all upright as if propped against some invisible object. All, but one, were open and empty. Five coffins. One for each of us. I’m not sure how long we stood there, staring, or what any of the others were thinking. I do know what was going through my mind, however. At first it was blank, as if I didn’t have a thought in the world. And then my brain turned back the pages of my memories, back only a few hours ago, when we circled the planet Alpha Nine X. I recalled the feeling of my hands on the controls of the ship and the echoing of the sensors in my ears and the faint and odd metallic smell that filled the air. It stunk of blood. I remembered bringing us lower and lower but not close enough to fall under their fire. These creatures had some kind of contraption that allowed them to harness the power of the atom. They would hurl great fireballs at any ship that came too close to their planet. These fireballs had destroyed three of our diplomatic and science vessels, dispatched to entreat with the inhabitants of Alpha Nine X. More than


| Kelly M. Hudson | a thousand good people had died as a result. So the decision was made to drop the Galenium bomb on the planet and thus render their entire species extinct. I am not sure of the exact workings of the bomb. It was still in its experimental phase. What I did understand of its functions was that it targeted specific DNA, and any creature or plant that carried such DNA would be killed almost instantly. This bomb would leave all the structures and the resources of the areas where it was dropped whole and intact. This was of great concern to our world, because we coveted Silarium ore, which was our greatest fuel resource. Alpha Nine X was rich with Silarium ore. Thus, we did what had to be done for the perpetuation of our species and for our further exploration of space. We were the soldiers chosen to conduct this mission, and when it was over, none of us felt a thing about what we’d done. The creatures on that planet, from what we’d seen, were horrific in appearance, and their constant actions of war and butchery were appalling even to the most hardened of warriors. I, myself, felt no regrets. I hadn’t done anything except my job, and that was to fly the rocket. After that, it was all out of my hands. We kept staring at the coffins, none of us moving, until Cal screamed. He pointed at the empty space behind us, where Randolph had been hanging. His body was gone. Vanished. Cal staggered backwards, clawing at his own throat. He shrieked “No!” over and over again. None of us reacted, except to stare, until he ran for the airlock. Chris tackled him. How the big man moved so fast, I’ll never know. But he brought Cal to the floor and wrestled with him for a brief moment. Cal did something that I couldn’t see, and Chris screeched, falling off his friend and boss, clutching his face. When he rolled over, one hand covered his right eye and blood was pouring from between his fingers. Cal leapt to his feet and ran from the bay. He shut the door behind him and glared at us through the window. He laughed and attacked the coil loop drive. We could not budge the door. As before, it felt like it was welded shut, even though the locking mechanism had not been activated. I bruised my hands pounding on the door. Sonja shoved with all her strength, but her efforts amounted to nothing. Through the window, I could see Cal as he began to dismantle the coil, piece by piece. He crushed several components under the heels of his boots. I did not think they could ever be repaired. In the matter of seconds, he expertly destroyed our only way back home. I called to him. I pleaded for him to stop. He did not listen to me. He kept up his work until there was nothing left of the coil but a loop of wire and a clutter of junked parts. When he finished, he turned to look at me. His eyes were black, haunted, and he wore the strangest grin on his face. “You’ll see,” he said, his voice echoing in the engine room. “You’ll see.” He took a long wire that hung from the ceiling, one he’d disconnected from the coil. He tied it around his neck and stood, still January/February 2015 | 123


| Someone’s Knocking on the Door | staring at me through the small window. His expression never changed. “You’ll see,” he said one last time. His voice was calm and smooth. Cal pitched forward, and his neck snapped in the noose he’d fashioned for himself. I staggered from the door. Sonja peeked through the window. She stepped away, puzzled. “Where did he go?” she said. I pointed to the porthole. She ran to it and looked outside. I knew what she was going to see before she said a word. “A second coffin has a closed lid,” she said. The door to the engine room opened easily, as if it had never been sealed shut in the first place. We went inside and allowed Chris time to examine the damage. It turned out the Cal had scratched him right above his eye, so his sight was not damaged, but there had been a lot of blood. It only took him a few moments to assess the situation. “We’re not going home,” he said. Sonja turned to me. “You’re the pilot. You know these rockets better than anyone. Do you agree?” I nodded. “We have thrusters, and we can obviously take off and leave any time we want. But our fuel will only get us so far. After that, we’ll have to hope we can get somewhere near a cloud of stardust. It’s the only way to boost our signal. Maybe then we can call for help.” “Surely they’ll send someone after us,” Sonja said. I pursed my lips. “Yes. But by the time they finally make it out here, after they decide something has gone wrong, we’ll have run out of oxygen.” “No,” Chris said. He punched the wall. “No, no, no, no.” “I’ll prep the ship for takeoff. At least, we can get out into space again, away from this awful moon,” I said. I left the room. I was halfway to the bridge when Chris began to scream. It was happening all over again. 124 | btsemag.com


| Kelly M. Hudson | I almost didn’t bother to run back to see what was going on. I knew. Deep in my heart, I knew. I went anyway. Whether out of obligation or morbid curiosity, I’m not sure. When I arrived, I was already too late. Chris was hanging from the ceiling of the engine room. Just like Randolph, he had fixed a long loose wire into a noose and hung himself. Sonja sat in the corner of the room, shaking. She was staring up at him, her eyes wide. “He started screaming, and then he shoved me down, and then he . . . he . . . ,” she shuddered, unable to speak for a few seconds. Her words choked in her throat. “He climbed up the sides,” she said. She pointed, and I could see long streaks of blood on the wall where he’d torn his fingernails off. “He scrambled up so fast, so fast. It wasn’t real. It can’t be real. No one can do that.” She turned her eyes upon me. I stared back at her. She looked past me to see Chris, but he wasn’t there anymore. She screamed. In my mind, I could hear the third coffin lid creaking shut outside of the ship. I took Sonja with me wherever I went. It didn’t take long to get the computers online and the rocket ready to go. We just had to wait for the engines to warm. In a futile effort, I sent out a mayday call. Our home planet should receive the transmission in about thirty years, if we were lucky. I wondered if my call were the words of a ghost who didn’t know he was dead yet. I pushed all such thoughts away. I had a job to do. If we got off this rock, I figured, we could get away from whatever was happening to us. Distance would solve this problem, I theorized. Distance was always my answer. Sonja never said a word. She sat next to me when I fired up the rockets, her face pale and bloodless. We took off and were thousands of miles away in the matter of moments. I checked the gauges. If I were conservative with the fuel, and we cut off the oxygen to all the unused areas of the ship, we could live another month. Surely in that time, I could find a patch of stardust to send our distress signal through.

Surely. I turned off the rockets and let us drift forward. This was for the best. There was no real need to burn fuel to go any faster. We were already on our way. I turned to shut off the oxygen access when Sonja screamed. She pointed at the windows of the cockpit. Outside of the big windows of the bridge floated five coffins. The lids to three were shut, leaving only two left open. Somehow, they had followed us. Sonja spun in her chair and ran for the exit. She was through it before I had a chance to go after her. I paused a moment, hesitating. What was the point? She was too far gone, and I knew what she was going to do. It would be useless to try and stop her. She screamed the entire way. I heard her calling out, her cries echoing through the ship, until they were suddenly cut off. She had found some way to hang herself, I was sure. I turned and looked out the cockpit. Sonja was lying in one of the coffins. Her neck was bent at a jagged, impossible angle. Her face was purple. Her tongue was black. Her eyes stared at me. The coffin lid closed. I sat for a long time, staring out into space, looking at the coffins as they paced the rocket. They floated just ahead of the cockpit, hanging there, all of them closed but for one. When would it be my turn? I decided to record what had happened on the ship’s logs. I wanted to take the time to document everything. I was sure of my inevitable death now. Everyone else had died. Why not me? I did not have long to wait. They appeared to me as if they had always been there, something I should have been able to see and yet could not, until the time was right. The time had come. They shimmered into coherence behind me on the bridge. I felt a buzzing in the back of my brain, and I turned to see them, suspended in midair. There were thirteen of them, all male, all naked, all wearing the black hoods of the damned. They each had a noose extending January/February 2015 | 125


| Someone’s Knocking on the Door | up from around their snapped necks into the air above them. Eventually, the ropes disappeared into nothingness. Their bodies dangled, limp and lifeless, and I would not think of them as alive at all, except for their disembodied voices, which filled my brain. They spoke as one, thirteen intonations merged into a single sound. Their timbre was filled with static, like a radio signal coming in from far away, only these crackles stung my mind and echoed so loudly, I thought my head would explode. “Who are you?” I said. “We are the Tribunal of the Damned, the Cosmic Magistrates,” they said. “We were summoned by the unjustly murdered. We have come to judge you.” I stood, facing them, hands clenched into fists. “I have done nothing wrong,” I said. I was seized with a righteous anger. It flamed high and bright within me. “You have committed genocide,” they said. “I have not. I simply piloted a rocket ship. Mine was not the hand the built the bomb, and it was not the hand that released it,” I said. I felt the conviction of my words. I was innocent of their charges. I had killed no one. “But yours was the hand that brought the bomb to its destination,” they said. And with those words, I felt my resolve flag. They were right, of course. I was culpable. And yet still, I did not want to die. I did not feel I deserved such a fate. “I was just following orders,” I said. It was my last line of defense. “You chose to follow the orders,” they said. My heart fell in my chest. Damn them. Damn them all. And just then, my mind filled with a series of horrific images. I saw the creatures of Alpha Nine X. I observed as our bomb landed and exploded and the terrible Galenium rays were released into their atmosphere. I watched, terrified, as billions of creatures died, their lungs turning to pudding, their eyes melting from their faces. I stared as fathers and mothers clung to their children, holding them while they died in their arms. It was the most awful thing I had ever seen. “They called their world Earth,” the Tribunal said. “They are all dead now. Their blood 126 | btsemag.com

cried out for justice. We heard them. We have heeded their call.” I turned from the floating hanged men. I walked to the corner of the bridge. Up above me was a long bar. I took off my shirt and pants and fashioned them into a noose. I placed a chair next to it. I took a few moments to record these final words into the ship’s log. The tribunal glared at me. I could feel their bulging eyes staring through their shrouded hoods. I glanced out into space. One final coffin, its lid open. Soon, it would be shut.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kelly M Hudson is the author of two horror novels and dozens of short stories, including a piece in the recent D.O.A. II collection by Blood Bound Books. You can find links to all of his works by visiting kellymhudson.com if you dare!


stories short reads

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| Albert Einstein Ate My Baby! | Gonzo Science: The breakdown of the laws of spacetime, thanks to damage done to the Underspace dark matter foundations. The emergence of Fantasy & Fiction into the Real World. God having a bit of a laugh.

The headlines that day were full of President Kennedy’s acceleration of the American Space Program. “USA on the Moon Before the End of the Decade!” shouted one. JFK smiled his best and waved at the cameras—frozen in time. Iconic. Then there were the supermarket papers. “Albert Einstein Ate My Baby!” screamed this week’s front page of The Village Investigator with that familiar picture of the wild-haired scientist pulling tongues at the camera. Editor of that notorious rag, Pat Walowsky unfolded his advance copy and placed it next to the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. His dreams of being a top-flight journalist had long gone, twisted into this travesty. “But it sells newspapers!” Uncle Solly’s words echoed back to him. “You can read all about fat-cat politicians in these other boring rags. We entertain! We have the dog-faced boy! We’ve got exclusive pictures of a doubledecker bus on the moon! We put a smile on Joe Shmoe’s face every darn week!” Just that once, Pat had spoken his mind. “But shouldn’t a bit of truth flavor the lies, Uncle Solly?” “Lies? Wash your mouth out, Patrick Walowsky! We tell urban fables. We spin modern yarns. Lies indeed!” So for ten years, Pat had done as his uncle wished. When the old boy upped and died three summers back with a dickey ticker, Pat had kept The Village Investigator true. Now, on an eventful news day like today, one of their most outrageous stories ever graced the cover of the newspaper. He had just about had enough of being the joke of every other publication, from coast to coast. “Shubert!” Pat called for the tabloid’s dogsbody. Quick to obey, the apprentice came panting in, smeared with printing ink. He must have been helping old man Jordan with that rickety press again. Both staff and equipment at The Village Investigator had 128 | btsemag.com


| Rob Sharp | seen better days. “Remind me who put in this piece on Einstein?” the editor asked the boy. “That was Mr. Faraday, Chief,” came the swift reply. “Who?” “Faraday, Chief. Luther Faraday? You’ve been using his stuff longer than I’ve been here.” “Have I?” Pat scratched at his bald pate, a little confused. “I mean, of course, I have! I need to check on a few of the, er, facts with Faraday when he’s next in—” “Why, he’s at his desk, Chief, typing up a storm as usual!” said the youth with a bucktoothed grin. Pat Walowsky looked around Shubert. Sure enough, there was a rugged-set man with a cigar clenched in his overlarge teeth, tapping away at his typewriter. The editor of ten years had never seen this guy in his life. “How’s it going... Faraday?” he said, trying to sound casual. “Hunky-dory, Chief.” The reporter broke off from his work to press the flesh. “What can I do for you?” “Mmmm,” mused Walowsky. “This piece you did on Einstein. Nice purple prose . . . but isn’t it a bit fanciful, even for us?” Faraday scowled. “I researched the article as thoroughly as I always do.” “Then this woman whose child was supposedly . . . This Eva Hauser, you interviewed her?” “Sure did. I reckoned she deserves her eight column inches as much as Kennedy.” “Riiight...” said Walowsky. “Let’s take a walk, Faraday, and have another word with this unfortunate lady. I find the story . . . fascinating!” Luther Faraday beamed widely and grabbed his jacket. “No problem, Chief. It’ll be a pleasure!” **** The walk down to Zygote Street took less than twenty minutes. It was in a part of town that Patrick Walowsky rarely frequented. The tenements were old and rundown, and there was that air of despair about the place,

seeped into every brick and paving stone. Finally when they reached the right address, the inside of the Brownstone was even hotter than outside in the baking sun. Floor tiles were cracked and missing, the hall walls crumbling and grimy. Then there was the smell... Something stuck in Pat’s craw about how a country could still allow its citizens to live in poverty like this and still throw billions of dollars at some stupid Space Race. But then he was just a simple newshound, so what did he know? Faraday rapped on the door of 23. It was only then that Pat noticed the reporter was wearing one of those crackerjack rings with a lightning stab on it from a box of cereal. He pulled a face. Wasn’t the man a little old for that? The door opened a sliver and a woman’s face appeared. A face beat down by circumstance and poverty. “Oh, it’s you, Luther. Come on in,” she said in a gray voice. The two men silently entered her apartment and she shut the door behind them. “This is my boss, Eva. He’d like to ask you a little more about your tragic story,” Faraday explained. The frail thing nodded. “Can I get you a drink, Mr . . . ?” “Walowsky. Pat Walowsky. Water will be fine, thank you.” As Eva Hauser drifted into the pokey kitchenette, Pat looked around the hovel. “Jeez, what a shit-hole!” he wheezed. “It’s her home. Next step is the gutter. Be nice, Mr. Walowsky. This is someone’s life you’re trampling all over.” The woman returned with two mismatched glasses of water. “In your own words, Eva... Just tell Mr. Walowsky what happened to your Tommy.” So Eva Hauser did. And as her tale unfurled, the short hairs on the back of the editor’s neck stuck out like brush bristles. “I knew it was Einstein, see . . . They let me keep the magazines at the barbers where I clean after they’re a few months old. All that hair—couldn’t have been anyone else.” “And you say he’d been watching you through the wall?” asked Pat incredulously. January/February 2015 | 129


| Albert Einstein Ate My Baby! | “For a few weeks. Not him exactly, more like a movin’ picture of him. You could see right through it, like a bad TV signal.” She produced a faded pink handkerchief from her dress pocket and dabbed at her eyes. “But this time, he had this meat grinder thing . . . like a mouth in his chest. My Tommy just looked up at him as he comes through the wall, an’ he says, ‘Hi, Mr. Einstein, you good today?’ Then he screams...” She began to shake like a human earthquake. “I can’t get his screamin’ out of my head, Mr. Walowsky. It’s with me night and day. When I ran in from the kitchen, Einstein had already... already...” Faraday leaned forward silently and grasped at one of Eva’s chapped hands. Drawing strength from the massive man, Mrs. Hauser managed to continue, bubbles of mucus coming from her nose as the tears ran like a faucet. “That machine on Einstein’s chest was chewin’ up my little boy. His head an’ arms was already gone. I just stood there and watched as the rest of his body was sucked into that mouth on Einstein’s chest, his little legs still kickin,’ right until they were eaten up too...” She stopped talking, the horror of what she had seen taking over her whole body as she shook and sobbed silently. “When my boy was done... when that thing had eaten him all up, Einstein just looks at me an’ says, ‘Sorry.’ Just like that. ‘Sorry,’ like that meant something. Then he fizzes out, and I ain’t seem him since. But my poor little Tommy...” She broke down again. They left her to her grief, taking a sip from the cloudy water she’d brought them first out of good manners. Pat noticed Faraday slipping a five-dollar bill beneath his glass, which warmed his heart some. Then they walked back into that dusty inferno of a street, neither man saying a word for two blocks. “You think she’s sane?” asked Walowsky. He felt sick. He was touching on some area of madness he had no comprehension of and he felt like puking his guts up right there on the sidewalk. “Certainly not now, Chief. But I checked with the neighbors. She did have a son called Tommy, about six years old. No sign 130 | btsemag.com


| Rob Sharp | of him for three weeks since she claimed what happened . . . happened. The cops are clueless, as usual. They reckon she’s done him in, but there’s no proof. So I just wrote the story like she told it.” “You missed out the machine bit . . . the teeth in his chest.” “We want to inform our readers, Mr Walowsky, not scare them half to death.” As they neared the office, Faraday excused himself and ducked into a dusty bar on Fourth and Ripley Street. He left the aging editor alone with his paranoia and the image of Eva Hauser burned into his brain. Pat watched the reporter’s back and tried his damnedest to remember hiring him, but he had no recall of Luther Faraday until a few hours before when he had seen him in the office. The inquisitive spirit of old raised itself from the ashes that had once been Patrick Walowsky. There was a story within a story here—and that story was Faraday. On a whim, he slipped after the reporter into the coolness of the bar, surprised it was open so early in the day. The only person there was a skinny old guy leaning on a mop, taking a smoke. “Another one?” the cleaner grumbled, scowling at the editor. “They’re in the back, as usual. Why the hell you can’t get an office like normal folk, I don’t know . . .” and he returned to pushing his mop over the stained wooden floor of the bar. Heart racing, Pat eased his corpulent frame into a corridor behind the counter. There were voices drifting down the hall. Through the partially opened door into a small room, the editor managed to pick out Faraday’s. He sounded angry. “—really overstepped the mark this time!” growled the gravel-voiced reporter. “Of course he has, Luther. But the real problem is Ivan Casanova. Piece of dirt should learn to keep it in his pants!” This came from a girl to Faraday’s right. She was dressed in a garish green and mustard yellow costume, like something out of the Saturday matinees, her curly brown hair under a pointed cap in the style of a 1950s science heroine. “Casanova is as Casanova does, Jet Girl. He’s a fictional character, just like you. He

plays to type and—” “Bullshit!” exclaimed the heroine. “I don’t prance about yelling, ‘Reach for the sky!’ every five f*cking minutes! Casanova is just taking the—” “That’s you, Jeanie. Most people who cross over into Reality have issues understanding the rules. Tommy Hauser was only half real. Casanova visited this area seven years ago, and Tommy’s the fifteenth half-fictional sixyear-old we’ve discovered so far.” This was the third figure talking now, a slim kid of maybe nineteen who looked of Japanese origin. “Yea, and it looks like the Old Men of Science are cleaning up ‘mistakes’ like Tommy in the only way they know how. Hell of a way to go, being chewed up and decreated!” interrupted Faraday again. “Nikola Tesla is the godfather of science, and Albert is just one of his hit men,” said the Japanese youth. “Since we first postulated Gonzo Science, those old dudes have been creaming themselves that we’ve upset the balance of the Universe. They liked things nice and simple when science fitted all their hoary old theories and their dust-covered quantum equations. Anomalies like poor Tommy Hauser that don’t fit the norm are just casualties of war to them and their freaking holographic projections.” “We fictional people are like lepers to those bastards. In their eyes, how can you kill something that was never alive?” grimaced Jet Girl. Pat used to like Jet Girl in the funny papers. To see her here in the flesh . . . well, some crazy dame who thought she was the fictional heroine, brought out the boy in him again. As he strained forward to hear more, his jacket caught on a potted palm on a stand. With sickening slow motion, the plant toppled and smashed to smithereens on the hardwood floor. “Company...” muttered Elmo Ito, one of the three most wanted fugitives throughout every version of Reality. Through the crack in the door, Pat saw Jet Girl standing up... her hand beginning to light up with one of her trademarked Jetpunches... In a panic, the editor turned and ran. They would expect him to head for the front entrance, but Pat knew the layout of January/February 2015 | 131


| Albert Einstein Ate My Baby! | dives like these. He’d spent way too much of his youth in them. Past the john and through the back door into the alleyway; that was the road to freedom. He was out of breath by the time he reached the back alley. As he wheezed towards the square of light and the safety of the main street, a shadowy figure suddenly stepped out in front of him. Damn it, if Faraday hadn’t walked right through the solid wall! “Should have kept off the bagels, Pat,” said the reporter, raising his right arm. On his first finger, the yellow plastic Zap-ring suddenly flared into life, and the editor felt the ground rushing up to meet him. **** The headlines that day were full of President Kennedy’s acceleration of the American Space Program. “USA on the Moon Before the End of the Decade!” shouted one. JFK smiled his best and waved at the cameras—frozen in time. Iconic. Then there were the supermarket papers. Pat Walowsky sat at his desk marked “Editor,” rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He was doing that a lot these days—nodding off for a few minutes. He glanced at his advanced copy of this week’s edition. “Albert Einstein Ate My Baby!” screamed the headline on the cover. Good shout, that. They were in the business of urban fables and modern yarns after all; that was what his Uncle Solly had always said, anyway—God bless him. Vaguely, the editor wondered which of his freelance staff had brought this little gem home to bed. There was a tap-tapping of someone just out of sight, back in the main office. For a moment or two, Pat almost leaned around the door to see who it was . . . but something stopped him. He sleepily thought to ask the office dogsbody, Shubert, about who’d written the lead story, but something stopped him again. He frowned. After all they were just great tales of creative fiction . . . weren’t they? Just out of sight, on the edge of everyone’s peripheral vision, Luther Faraday was typing his next story for the late edition of The Village 132 | btsemag.com

Investigator. It contained the strange tale of three young, fresh-faced scientists straight out of MIT: Elmo Ito, Davy Delgardo, and Zack Vincent—more commonly known by the chosen few as the Three Stooges. A tale of how they messed with Reality and hurtled their entire New York lab from December 2004 back through over 150 years, creating Gonzo Science in the process— where absolutely anything was possible. President Kennedy had seen an echo of the falling laboratory in ’62. Like a ghost etched in the air, cleaving through the Oval Office in all its impossible audacity. From that day forward, the space race seemed like a child’s soapbox cart derby to JFK. It was Luther Faraday and several other “reporters” who moved up and down the years and between different versions of America, who managed to explain what Gonzo Science was all about, and how it could bring a premature end to the Cold War. With a wry smile, Faraday tore the article out of his Remington typewriter. Staring out at the dusty sunshine that dared not invaded the ancient office, he glanced at the kid’s plastic ring on his finger. It was cheating, editing Time, he knew that. But Pat Walowsky seemed happier in himself after that slight Rewind. Maybe this version of Reality wasn’t ready for the whole truth just yet. So he screwed up the article and tossed it into the trash. But because of that one knee-jerk reaction with the ring, the times they were a-changing ... **** In the dusty town of Midsville, Pennsylvania, Lora Macintyre was just hanging out the family’s washing when Albert Einstein came through the wall. Her little girl, Trudi, screamed as the wild-haired Old Man of Science put one finger to his lips and smiled through that bristly moustache. Then when Jet Girl came flying in through the window, fresh out of the funny papers and bopped the black-and-white image of Einstein on the nose, Lora knew she just had to lay off the gin and get her lazy fat ass back


| Rob Sharp | **** In 1971, having dodged the attack on the White House by eighty-foot-high shogun robot, Technito ,in ’69, third-term-serving president JFK made another stirring world address. “By the end of the 1970s, we will have broken the Caul between this Reality and the next. A thousand Earths are waiting to join hands with us and tame this thing we call the Multiverse. We choose to break the Walls of Reality in this decade and do the other mindblowing things that Gonzo Science has given us, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” By his side on all the telecasts at the time, dark glasses twinkling, was the enigmatic figure of Luther Faraday, the new personal reporter to the President of the United States. It was an eternal puzzle to fictional historians of the future when they lip-read what Faraday said during the president’s tumultuous applause. It translated as “Eat that, Albert.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

to church! So the first shots in the Imaginary War were fired back in 1963: Earth 17 and the viral load containing the truth about the Fictional Underverse began to worm its way into real people’s lives, all around the world. As Jet Girl’s familiar green and mustard yellow form left a vapor trail across the sky, a thousand people who saw her rekindled their childhood memories and thought, “Reach for the sky!” Suddenly their imaginations were unchained.

Rob Sharp here, writing in various guises. Amerikan Dreams is my shared universe (five parts available on Amazon Kindle), incorporating Books 1 and 2 of Black, White & Red All Over from Fiction4All. As Rikki Sharp, I’ve three urban/ romance novels in my The Ladies’ Paranormal & Adventure Club series out now from Soul Mate Publishing.

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feature sneak peek

Barbara Donlon Bradley Dominated By Desire

Heather can’t believe she is the only person on Earth that can protect Storm, the ambassador from Vespia. It has something to do with some pheromone the Vespian male exudes. Although everyone tells her she is immune, she doesn’t agree. There is something about the man that makes her desire skyrocket whenever she is around him. Storm finds Heather fascinating, bright violet eyes that hold a world of emotions in them. He finds himself drawn to her, wanting her with a depth he never experienced before. When she becomes the focal point of several kidnapping attempts he realizes she’s going to need his protection--the perfect excuse to get to know her better. Heather stood next to her commander, going over everything she had learned about the Vespian society so far. He wanted to be sure she was ready for her next assignment. She found the idea of guarding the ambassador a bit boring but she’d done it before and it shouldn’t be a long one. The man was only to be on Earth for a short period of time. Her first glimpse of the Vespian ambassador caught her off guard. She wasn’t sure what she expected but it wasn’t seeing him coming in like some sort of rock star. Shirt missing, exposing tight, sculpted abs, along with well muscled shoulders and arms. He was the stuff of most women’s wet dreams and he dressed the part. “That is the ambassador?” She couldn’t keep the shock out of her voice. His jet black hair held a bit of a blue shine, and he kept running his fingers through the thick locks like he wanted to draw attention to it. He was tall too. Had to be over seven feet, even for her six foot three frame that was tall. “I know it isn’t what you expect but he is doing this for charity.” Her commander’s voice was laced with a touch of laughter. “From what I hear he was talked into this. They wanted him to be one of the dates for this auction but he refused.” All she could do was stare. The women surrounding him were practically throwing themselves at him, reaching to touch whatever they could. Giggles and groans filled the air as hands made contact with his muscled arms and legs. How was she going to work with him now that she had seen this? She wasn’t sure if she could, with this flashing in her mind all the time. Those women who were able to touch him tried to pull him toward them but luckily he had anchored himself well, and had plenty of protection to keep them at bay. She was sure he reveled in the attention. He had a smile that could melt a polar ice cap. “If it’s all right with you, sir, I’ll wait for this to end elsewhere.” She didn’t really want

to see any more. If she was to treat him with any kind of professionalism it would be smart for her to find another place to wait inside the embassy. “That’s fine. This shouldn’t take very long.” Heather turned around and climbed the steps to the large double doors. Her title of ice princess fit her well at this moment. Most women would enjoy watching this display but it just made her uncomfortable. Unable to stop herself, she turned one last time to watch the spectacle and found him staring right at her. Everything disappeared during that moment. Nothing else existed but the two of them connecting through the throng of the crowd.

Barbara Donlon Bradley’s passion for writing drives her to put words on the page. Humor dominates her life and it bleeds into her writing. You’ll find lighthearted, funny stories with heat. Now she lives in Tidewater Virginia with two cats, one elderly mother-in-law, her husband and son.

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feature author interview

Cara Bristol

Warrior (Breeder series) Cara Bristol continues to evolve, adding new subgenres of erotic romance to her repertoire. She has written spanking romance, contemporary romance, paranormal, and science fiction romance. No matter what the genre, one thing remains constant: her emphasis on character-driven seriously hot erotic stories with sizzling chemistry between the hero and heroine. Cara has lived many places in the United States, but currently lives in Missouri with her husband. She has two grown stepkids. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading and traveling.

What gave you the idea for this story? The concept of a false belief. That what we hold true may not be factual. Warrior is part of the Breeder science fiction romance series about men and women coping in a male-dominated, caste society where culture strictly defines and controls behavior. In the series, women are relegated to the role of breeding slaves. In each book, when the woman’s “alpha” owner falls in love with her, it causes the couple to question what they’ve taught about men and women. The three books follow three different couples as they find love in this sometimes bleak society. Anika, the heroine of Warrior, was a secondary character in the first two books (Breeder and Terran). Initially she accepted her role as a breeder slave, but as things happen to her, she decides to fight for her freedom and that of her people. But Warrior is a tender love story because she’s fallen in love with a man society has forbidden her to want, and she wrestles with her own desires. How much is she willing to give up for him? What got you started writing? The alphabet! Seriously, I started writing as soon as I could read and spell. As a child, I wrote for fun and penned my first “novel” at 10 years old. I have a degree in journalism and worked as newspaper reporter and in public relations for many years while writing fiction on the side. However, I didn’t find my niche until I started writing erotic romance five years ago. Since then, I’ve sold every manuscript to every publisher I’ve submitted to. I’ve published fifteen erotic romances. I write contemporary, sci-fi, paranormal, and spanking romance. What comes first, plot or characters? Usually a snippet of a plot, a scenario. And then I try to imagine the kind of person 136 | btsemag.com

who would become involved in such a situation. Because I write romance, my stories tend to be character-driven, although Warrior is quite action-oriented. Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? A total blockage? No, thank goodness. Slowdowns? Yes. Some days writing is like flying, other times it’s like squeezing blood from a stone. When I get stuck it’s because I don’t know what happens next, but when I’m surprised, my readers are surprised. As a pantser, I craft plot as I write, so that slows me down. The best thing that helps me over writer’s block is to get away from the computer and “walk it off.” What do you like to do when you’re not writing? I read erotic romance. I watch TV. My husband and I love to travel. We’ve been all over the world—China, Thailand, Egypt, many countries in Europe, Tahiti, Costa Rica, Panama, Canada, all over the US and many more places.

Anika resists becoming an Alpha Commander’s mate and flees. Duty compels her secret lover Urazi to bring her back to fulfill her function. When their people battles a villainous despot, Anika and Urazi unite to save their planet. But will the love they share become the biggest risk of all?

CaraBristol.com


Mystery | Suspense | Thriller | Horrror

BEYOND the EXPECTED

MYSTERY & SUSPENSE

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trends

reading trends in mystery & more

Scrying EYE The

Kelly Hudson

Haunts from the Past! With a creak of the door and the shudder of the curtains, you are ushered deep into the inner sanctum where lies the truth about the future and disturbing memories of the past. Step deep inside and sit by the crystal ball as she fires into life. Gaze into the depths as the Scrying Eye opens to reveal what has been and what is to come in the exciting worlds of Suspense, Mystery, and Horror. The New Year has begun, and with it comes a treasury of fantastic new tales. Let us waste no more time. Let us dive in and discover . . .

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| The Scrying Eye |

Suspense/Mystery The Ice Queen: A Novel by Nele Neuhaus (Kirchhoff & Bodenstein, #3, Minotaur Books—available January 13, 2015) is the tale of the body of a Holocaust survivor and American resident who is found shot to death in his house in Frankfurt. The autopsy reveals an old tattoo, unsuccessfully covered up, that connects the dead man with Hitler’s SS. Investigators Kirchhoff and Bodenstein are plunged into an odd mystery when two more corpses turn up, both connected to the initial victim. Who is killing these elderly people and why? Their investigation leads them to the end of World War II and into parts of Poland that used to belong to East Prussia. And each step the detectives take, the deeper and more convoluted the revelations become. In this sequel to Snow White Must Die, author Neuhaus once again takes us on an interesting and perplexing journey, one best read with the lights on. My Sister’s Grave by Robert Dugoni (Thomas & Mercer—available now) is concerned about mysteries of the past and the search for the truth in the present. Tracy Crosswhite has spent twenty years questioning the facts about the disappearance of her sister Sarah and the subsequent murder trial. She believes the man convicted of the crime, Edmund House, is innocent. Because of what happened to her, she becomes a police officer—a detective for the Seattle PD—and dedicates her life to tracking down other killers. And then, out of the blue, the remains of her sister are found near their hometown in Washington State. Tracy delves into the mystery of what happened to her sister and uncovers a legacy of lies and dark secrets. Will she get to the real truth or will whoever killed her sister do the same to her? Read on and find out in this swift, suspenseful tale!

Horror! The Silence by Tim Lebbon (Titan Books—available April 14, 2015) is another fine horror tale by the impressively talented Lebbon. This is the story of the end of our world and the possible beginnings of a new one. Mankind is in trouble as the Earth is overrun by creatures that hunt by sound. This terror tale follows one family and a group of their friends as they not only try and survive, but thrive, in a world full of danger and dread. Who will survive? And what, in the end, will be left of their humanity? Read the book to find out, but beware! This is not for the faint of heart nor the weak of will. This is horror at its finest and terror at its most purely distilled. Quaternity by Kenneth Mark Hoover (ChiZine Publications—available March 31, 2015) is the rarest of all breeds: a horror western that actually works as both. John Marwood, in the days before he became a US Marshal, once rode with a group of outlaws in search of the fabled golden city of Cibola. They travelled through the bloody lands of Comancheria and into a violent 140 | btsemag.com


| Kelly Hudson | tale filled with blood, dust, and grit. But it wasn’t just the horrors of their search that confronted Marwood during those dark, terrible days; it was also the cold, nightmarish truth that lived inside of him. He would have to confront not only the harsh realities of riding with a band of killers, but also what was coiled deep inside his own guts. A perilous journey into hell, Quaternity serves as a prequel to Hoover’s previous book, Haxan.

Bonus: Graphic Novel Southern Bastards Vol. 1: Here Was a Man by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour (Image Comics—available now) is a harrowing tale of the South that is equal parts mystery and violence with dashes of horror and deep insight. Earl Tubb is an old man who has returned to his home town in Alabama to sell off the house he grew up in now that his uncle, the current occupant, has died. Here he confronts not only his own past, but also the long and terrifyingly deep shadow of his father, the former sheriff of the county. Earl has enough trouble tangling with the ghosts of his past, when a former associate of his is murdered by the football coach who runs the local underworld. Earl finds himself getting involved in ways he never would have anticipated. It seems the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and Earl begins to take justice into his own hands, just like his father once did . . . And there we have it, dear readers, another foray into strange tales and swirling mysteries, where dead bodies lie, but they do not die for their memories live on forever and ever. The Scrying Eye closes, but before it does, it wishes you and yours a very happy New Year and hopes that you find many strange and mysterious tales to lighten your nights through the cold winter months. Come back next time, and the Eye will reveal far more than even the most courageous amongst us will be able to face!

ABOUT THE COLUMNIST Kelly M Hudson is the author of two horror novels and dozens of short stories, including his latest short story collection, The Cemetery Job: Tales of the Living Dead. You can find links to all of his works by visiting www. kellymhudson.com if you dare!

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stories short reads

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| The Snow Day | Donavon shouldn’t have stretched over Becky to pull open the curtain and punch off the alarm. He shouldn’t have turned on the radio or frowned at diagonally blowing snow that blanketed remnants of his garden. But his biggest mistake was listening to the announcement, “All nonessential city employees urged to stay home.” Rather than fishtailing to his cubicle downtown, Donavon emptied his bladder then made love to Becky, Rubenesque, stunning at thirty-five. Now sober. The city faced a budget crisis. Twisted bureaucrats viewed the snowstorm as a downsizing opportunity. Who better to lay off than employees who felt they were nonessential? Within a few days, Donavon officially had no job. ****

Becky flapped Donavon’s termination papers. “I need a drink.” “Please don’t. You’ve done so well.” “I won’t. You don’t need to ride my back about it.” ****

Three weeks later, Becky picked at pillow threads. “Job?” “Nothing.” Becky ran hands down her tummy, slipped them between crossed thighs, tucking herself away. She’d become moody, crying, studying the mirror. Was there such a thing as poverty madness? Donavon posted résumés. A door slammed. He rushed upstairs. Becky pulled out of the drive144 | btsemag.com


| Karen Albright Lin | way. Could they sell one of the cars? ****

Snow-powdered, Becky returned. “Whole fryers on sale. Gas is expensive.” Lips quivering. She paced a line into the carpet, running her tongue over her teeth, and then left to take a frigid stroll. ****

Résumés rolled out of the printer as the front door creaked. Donavon called up, “Where’d you go?” He trotted into the living room. She held a full garbage bag, used it as an excuse to slough off his hug. “Dead body?” “Insurance.” Socks spilled out. “People toss socks. Our feet won’t go cold.” She sifted through the colorful mess. “These tiny ones look like they’ve been worn.” “What a waste.” Donavon sniffed a sock, kissed Becky’s nose. “We aren’t homeless.” She bagged up the socks, twisted the opening around her fingers, and then slinked off to lock herself in their bedroom. Was she hiding vodka in that bag? Donavon was nuking his lunch when he heard the garage door open and close. For someone who worried over the cost of gas, she sure used it up. Where the hell was she going this time? Was she heading out to find old shoes next? He decided to follow her. As he drove his Corolla onto the white-blanketed street, a dark thought seeped through him. Women have affairs when unsatisfied. She’d been pretty antisocial lately. And sex? Less often. He tapped nervously on the steering wheel. Maybe the affair started even before Donavan lost his job. Who could the slimy interloper be? Donavon perspired, stared into snow. A damn red light! He crunched to a stop. Becky disappeared. He’d lost her. Maybe he’d really lost her. He drove on, peering down streets and alleys, checking lots, the Salvation Army drop station. He fishtailed. Lights flashed behind him, the blue and red of doom. What? For a little fishtail? He was only going twenty in a twenty-five. Donavon stopped the car. Might this cop give him a break? Wife missing and all. January/February 2015 | 145


| The Snow Day | Donavon reached into the glove compartment to fetch his registration and insurance papers. Had they expired? He’d had a lot on his mind lately. He sweat as the burly cop approached. As he pulled out the package of important papers, he glanced out the window and into a parking lot. There was Becky’s Jetta, license plate MYBECKY. She wasn’t in the car. Okay, just give me the ticket. I need to find my wife. The cop obliged: a ticket for careless. How appropriate. Donavan had been careless in staying home on the city’s snow day. He’d been careless not to reassure Becky about his future employment. He’d been careless in accusing her of drinking again. Maybe he shouldn’t blame her for seeking comfort elsewhere. He set the ticket on the passenger seat, restarted his Corolla, skidded, and then pulled into the lot. Right next to Becky’s car. The building was called The Place to Come—was that a bar? Maybe he’d been right about that. He felt every muscle in his face slump. She’d been doing so well. Still could be a lover. A bartender on his lunch break? Grinding jealousy. Donavan parked and followed dragging footprints to the entrance. Hesitated. Maybe she was interviewing for a job. She’d been awfully worried since he’d lost his. He opened the door onto an office and an extremely pierced receptionist who pinched her eyes at him. Not a bar. Becky had the right number of 146 | btsemag.com


| Karen Albright Lin | holes. Surely she wouldn’t get pierced. “My Becky is here.” The receptionist stared. “I know she’s here.” He approached an inner door. The receptionist reached under the counter and hit a shrill alarm. “What the . . . ?” He backed up. The receptionist pinched off the alarm, kept a keen eye on him. After what seemed like hours, Becky emerged looking pale, her forehead tinged around the veins with blue. “You’re not supposed to be here,” she said in a fading tone of voice. Donavon glanced down at papers in Becky’s hand. “We can’t afford it, Donny.” He gazed into despondent eyes. Scanned the room. Spotted Planned Parenthood brochures. Donavon’s knees became snow slush. He didn’t know. Several painful breaths. He wrapped her with his arm. “We’ll get your car tomorrow.” They drove home through spitting snow, him wondering how things would be between them after this day, another snow day.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Karen is an editor, ghostwriter, pitch coach, speaker, award-winning author of novels and cookbooks, and a produced screenwriter. She’s consulted on numerous projects and has written over a dozen solo and collaborative scripts (with Janet Fogg, Christian Lyons, and director Erich Toll). Each has garnered international, national and regional recognition: Moondance Film Festival, BlueCat, All She Wrote, Lighthouse Writers, Boulder Asian Film Festival, SouthWest Writers Contest, and Pikes Peak Writers Contest. Find out more at www.karenalbrightlin.com

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Young Adult | New Adult | Childrens

YOUNG & NEW ADULT

BEYOND the fairy TALE

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trends

reading trends in young adult

Forever YOUNG Kellyann Zuzulo

Grounded! Why Young Adults Love the Bad Boy “You’re grounded!” Words that herald the age-old struggle between adult and young adult … head and heart … angry parents and cute boy with a bad attitude and fab hair. Why do teens preen and swoon for the tortured type? Answer: because they want to get grounded. Literally. They want to feel the emotions that surge and soar, that tell them they are alive, a part of the Earth, that they are vital, that they control themselves, and that “you’re not the boss of me.” It’s just one more way of exploring their boundaries and finding out who they are. It’s just one more way of being human.

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| Forever Young | And it’s nothing new. Since The Epic of Gilgamesh was first told more than 5,000 years ago (the first historic romance in history), young readers (and you know they were young back then because people didn’t live as long as we do—sort of a perpetual young adult market) were drawn to tortured strength. What readers saw in the bad boy hero was a fatal flaw. He may be handsome and bold, brash and brave, but he’s got some vulnerability that the reader glimpses. Despite all his swagger and smolder, there’s some quality that puts him at a disadvantage and also puts him on a level with other teens who may think they’re not as cool or as cavalier. Suddenly, there’s something they can relate to. The fatal flaw is an internal trigger that threatens the hero and binds the reader that much more. TheYA reader is on the edge of his or her seat, fearing and waiting for the behavior of the hero to be his undoing. They know what makes the bad boy tick, they understand him. They will wait for him as he encounters tragedy, despair, bad hair. It’s young love, and young lovers want to struggle and to triumph over the antagonist and themselves. That’s the psychology of the bad-boy syndrome.. But the attraction may not be as conscious as all that. Researcher Heather Rupp, a research fellow at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, maintains that the reason women may be drawn to “bad boys” has to do with hormones. (Duh.) “I think it goes back to the physiological underpinnings of such an attraction,” Rupp said. “For instance, testosterone is a hormone that in men is linked to more dominant personality traits—outgoing personalities and charm and things like that. And men with higher testosterone are rated by independent observers as being more outgoing and charming than others” (“Why Nice Guys Finish Last” by Audrey Grayson, ABC News). Part of the attraction also has to do with the fact that teens want everything now. They don’t want to wait for a reward or ride to the mall. They want results now. According to lead researcher Peter Jonason, who wrote the original study Do Nice Guys Finish Last? (New Mexico State University-Las Cruces), the bad boy is a seeker of short-term goals that are usually achieved. “‘Dark triad traits are useful in pursuing our agendas at any given time,’ Jonason explained. ‘If you like someone and want to meet them and date them, people who have the dark triad traits appear

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| Kellyann Zuzulo | to be more successful at facilitating short-term mating.’” He defines the dark triad type as 1) a man with little empathy for others; 2) a penchant for fast cars and fast women; 3) a seeker of short-term rather than long-term goals. Let’s hope he has time to read a book (“Why Nice Guys Finish Last” by Audrey Grayson, ABC News). Here are some current YA series that feature a memorable bad boy. Elemental series by Brigid Kemmerer: Storm, Spark, Spirit, Secret, Sacrifice • Bad Boy Michael Merrick Lux series by Jennifer L. Armentrout: Obsidian, Onyx, Opal, Origin, Opposition • Bad Boy Daemon Finale series by Becca Fitzpatrick: Hush Hush, Crescendo, Silence, Finale • Bad Boy Patch Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles: Perfect Chemistry, Rules of Attraction, Chain Reaction • Bad Boy Alex Fuentes With Me series by Komal Kant: Impossible, Falling for Hadie, Wrong Side of Town • Bad Boy Vincent Madden Beautiful series by Jamie McGuire: Beautiful Disaster, Walking Disaster, Beautiful Wedding, Beautiful Oblivion • Bad Boy Travis Maddox So, before the real-time teen in your life has a chance to lay eyes on the dashing delinquent, suggest a book that may just nip that bad boy binge in the bud. And, if not, there’s always grounding.

ABOUT THE COLUMNIST Kellyann Zuzulo is an editor and author. Her novel The Genie Ignites was a finalist in the 2013 Abalone Awards, which recognizes “Outstanding Ethno-Cultural Romance.” Her 101 Nights series from Boroughs Publishing Group has genies instead of angels, but they’re just as heavenly. The latest installment is Dangerous Devotion , released in August 2014. As an editor, Kellyann edits both fiction and non-fiction books for clients who seek clarity, continuity, and beauty in their written work. Kellyann is a member of International Thriller Writers, Backspace Writers Group, and Romance Writers of America. She lives on the East Coast with her husband, three children, and two terriers. Visit her at http://kfzuzulo.com

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Movies | Television | Books | Adaptations

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feature an interview

Karl Alexander

Interviewed by Danita Minnis

Karl Alexander, a fifth-generation Angeleno, is the author of six novels, including “Papa and Fidel,” a novel of Hemingway, Castro and Cuba. His bestselling novel “Time After Time” was made into a hit film starring Malcolm McDowell and Mary Steenburgen, for which he was dubbed a Knight of Mark Twain for his contribution to American Literature. His second novel, “Missing Pieces,” was made into a CBS World Premiere movie starring Elizabeth Montgomery. He also produced and cowrote the horror film, “Rattlers.” He received an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and served as a Marine Corps officer in the Vietnam War. He has been a college professor, and has also worked as a lighting director in Hollywood, creating the “look” for Robert tack in “Unsolved Mysteries.” His fifth novel, “Jaclyn the Ripper,” the long awaited sequel to “Time After Time,” was published in hardcover in 2009 and paperback in 2011. “Time After Time” and “Papa & Fidel” came out in trade editions in 2010. All are available as ebooks. “Time-Crossed Lovers,” (October, 2012) has received rave reviews. If you like thriller love stories, this book is for you. It has been honored as an Award Winning Finalist for the 2013 International Book Awards.

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Karl, your best-selling science fiction novel Time After Time not only contained an entertaining twist on time travel with H. G. Wells as a main character, but it was also made into a very successful film starring Malcolm McDowell and Mary Steenburgen. If you had the power to change history as a writer, where would you go in your time machine, and what incident would you rewrite? That’s a hard question to come up with a quick answer. Changing one moment in history would have a domino effect on lots more history. So, I guess to avoid doing all that how about we go back to the first recorded murder—Cain and Abel? Hopefully, if Cain hadn’t killed Abel the nature of human violence would be radically changed—making the world a more peaceful and safer place in which to live. An intriguing aspect of Jaclyn the Ripper is the psychological tension created by chasing a murderer through time. How important is it to have your readers feel that chase, and what other goodies do you love to pull out of your author tool kit? It’s very important for my readers to feel the chase. If they don’t, they aren’t in the story. Out of my toolkit? Yes, surprise and irony. You are known as the Knight of Mark Twain for your contribution to American literature. What artistic insights did you discover in Mark Twain’s work, and how did they challenge you as a writer? Mark Twain? Humor, irony, and surprise. I borrowed them from him, and he obviously borrowed them from someone else. Oh, and unique and interesting characters. I don’t have a natural sense of humor, and it’s impossible in my own mind to live up to the image of Mark Twain, but, alas, I’ll keep trying.


| BTS Goes Hollywood |

What’s next for Karl Alexander? I’m in the process of developing two screenplays for production and trying to sell the television rights to my latest book, Two, which is about teenage supergirls who rewrite their own lives with the help of a literary time machine.

KarlAlexander.net

ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER Born and raised in the heart of New York City, Danita is a singer, writer and lover of romance. She is the author of The Cardiff Novels, a series about one family’s trials with vengeful demons, a legacy of ghosts and mysterious blood jewels. A member of Romance Writers of America, Danita is currently working on the third novel in the Cardiff series, which introduces the family connection to ancient vampires. One more hour with her laptop and Danita is living the dream - mystery, mayhem, the fantastic and the fey. http://danitaminnis.com

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wanted inside the industry

BTS Book Reviews Wants You! We are looking for reviewers

ROMFAN REVIEWS Call out for new reviewers:

Do you have a love for reading? Can you read at least two books a month? If you answered yes, then why not consider becoming a BTS reviewer? We’re looking for good people to review books in a wide variety of genres. Become a part of a team that is all about sharing their thoughts on the books they read with their readers and let your voice be heard. Apply here: http://btsemag.com/bookreviews/review-team/

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Do you love to read? Do you love finding fresh new authors? Have you ever wanted to tell other people what you thought of a book? Are you unafraid of voicing your opinion? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then why not consider becoming a reviewer for RomFan Reviews? We’re looking for a few good people to help us out with our ever-increasing backlog of review requests. We’re looking for people who are interested in reading: - Multi-genre Erotica - Multi-genre Romance - GLBT - Short stories (50,000 words or less) - Small press titles - New authors If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, please email annette@romfanreviews.com for more details. Writing experience is preferred, but not required. Serious inquiries only please.

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Everything!!

BTS is proud to annouce the release of our new website!! Check out all the great new features including new author interviews, new featured books, an updated community, enhanced book reviews and introducing our Free Read Fridays! Plus, all new advertising options! Be seen on the new BTSeMag.com!

BTS Book Reviews January/February 2015  

Your Guide to Great Reading - Featuring Eliza Lloyd, plus columns, book reviews, featured authors, and more!

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