Page 1


on the cover

25 page


columns 39 BTS Goes Hollywood

contents

DANITA MINNIS

November/December 2015

65 The Heat Diva

SAVE A HORSE, RIDE A COWBOY

79 Young at Heart wINTERY READS

93 The Scrying Eye

DRUGS, COUNTRY SAMURAI, OLD COMICS AND SATAN HIMSELF

105 Ali B & The Forty Spaceships FIRE IS CATCHING! sO BURN, BABY...

features 122 Tiffany Stevens 58 Kyra Jacobs 60 Patricia Delagrange 124 Mandie Stevens 137 Christy English 74 Nancy Fraser 138 Sylvia McDaniel 84 Courtney Farrell 100 Mary Marks

131 The Hot Hunks of History HOT SCOTS

stories 33 45 55

genres 43 CONTEMPORARY & ROMANCE 63 EROTIC & SENSUAL 77 YOUNG ADULT 91 MYSTERY & SUSPENSE 103 SCI-FI/FANTASY & PARANORMAL 129 HISTORICAL & WESTERN

87 125 plus

on the website Blogging 101 with Babs Hightower Karen’s Writing Detours with Karen Albright Lin Issue 31 | January/February 2016 |

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BTS Book Reviews

LLC

Your Guide to Great Reading

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

Executive Coordinator Myra Nour Promotions Director Babs Hightower

Executive Designer Cyrene Olson

Promotions Assistant Melanie Bingle Marsh Executive Assistant Barbara Bradley Research Assistant Heather Powers

Review Coordinator Babs Hightower Review Assistant Savannah Verte Reviewers Sally Wolf Cassandra Graham Melanie Bingle Marsh Cyrene Olson Heather Lewis Andi Newsletter Editor J.R. White

Consultant, Publisher Liaison, Awards Coordinator Myra Nour

BTS Team Bloggers Melanie Bingle Marsh of Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews

Marketing Director Kayla Lords

Hollywood Interviewer Danita Minnis

Editor Sheri Kraft

Columnists Karen Albright Lin Alex Bardy Sandra Bunino Christy English Kayla Lords Babs Hightower Kelly Hudson Katherine McIntyre

Associate Editor Peggy Adams Author Liaison Melanie Bingle Marsh Yahoo Promotions/ Ad Coordinator Simon Nour

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Issue 31 | January/February 2016 |

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From the Desk of

Myra Nour BTS CEO

Myra Retiring and BTS has a New Owner I am retiring from running the magazine. Simon and I sold the BTS business to Babs Hightower, who is not only a valuable staff member, but a friend. We know Babs will run the company in the same professional tradition we established and are pleased to pass the torch to her. Babs will be the owner and CEO of BTS starting January. I will continue to help the magazine by working with the publishers and overseeing the awards committee and voting. I am looking forward to returning to my writing, which I’ve had little time for with running the company. Simon and I enjoyed producing such a beautiful product. We appreciate all the support and loyalty from readers and authors over the years. Our goal in the beginning was simple – help authors promote their work. This tradition expanded with features as well as ads, and then reviews soon after starting the emag. Next came the columns in each genre; highlighting interesting books for readers. Last year we started the BTS Red Carpet Awards to give authors even more exposure. I would like to thank all the wonderful staff members who make this product so professional and beautiful. It takes a lot of work to publish a magazine, and everyone contributes, from our hardworking promotional staff: Babs, Melanie, Kayla & Char to our talented designers: Dawn and Cyrene. Columns from our wordsmiths: Sandra, Kayla, Katherine, Kelly, Christy, 10 | btsemag.com

Karen, Babs, Danita & Alex. Our wonderful editors: Sheri and Peggy. The essential, hardworking review team: Babs & Savannah. Last but not least, my wonderful husband Simon, who helped with everything from promotion, placing reviews on the website, to keeping track of advertisement. I’d like to give a big thanks to my daughter Christina Wilhelm for creating BTS Book Reviews. Chris, me nor Simon had any inkling the emag would take off so amazingly and continue to grow each year. Simon and I are looking forward to our retirement. Going to the gym, hiking, antiquing, and enjoying looking at the beautiful views from our mountain cabin are a few items on our list.:) Chris is now an RN and has a great job.


Publisher

| Ind

News Yo

SoulMate Publishing soulmatepublishing.com

Ellysian Press ellysianpress.com Ellysian Press had an awesome 2015, with so many wonderful writers joining our family. We released some fascinating books by extremely talented authors. We wish everyone the very best for 2016. EP is looking for solid Paranormal Romance, strong writing with a unique voice. We also accept Sci Fi, Fantasy, Horror and Paranormal, with Young Adult in those genres. Please check out our website for our submission guidelines: http://www.ellysianpress. com/submissions/

Evernight Publishing evernightpublishing.com Find your next smart and sexy book at Evernight Publishing, a premier publisher of Romance, Erotic Romance and Urban Fantasy. With new titles releasing daily, readers will find a large selection of contemporary, paranormal, gay, interracial, historical, sweet romance, ménage and everything in between. Check out our Readers’ Choice Winners at http://www.evernightpublishing. com/readers-choice-winners/ and take 25% off with coupon code WINNER2015 Young Adult fans will love our fresh, real and raw teen fiction line at Evernight Teen. Find something new by today’s hottest Young Adult authors at evernightteen.com!

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For Authors: Soul Mate Publishing, “Where Two Become One,” is a royalty-paying publisher currently accepting submissions for many Romance Genres. Remember, blending of genres is allowed and encouraged. Varying levels of sensuality are welcome, however all stories should have an upbeat ending. (NO depraved or illegal acts, bestiality, or pedophilia.) How to submit: Please read the editor profiles and submit to the editor that best fits your novel. In the body of the query, be sure to include your contact information, the genre, a brief summary of your story, and any contest wins or publishing credits. Attach a synopsis and the first three chapters of your manuscript. Length: 50,000 – 90,000 words for novels (e-pub & print) For Readers: Soul Mate Publishing welcomes you to romance, where two become one. We offer high-quality romantic fiction for readers around the world. Our novels are available both electronically and in paperback. Whether you enjoy traditional romance or are searching for stories that push the limits, you’ll find what you’re looking for. We are NOT the same old thing!

5 Prince Publishing 5princebooks.com 5 Prince Publishing is currently accepting new submissions in the Romance genre. All sub-genres of romance accepted. (Erotic/Erotica will be considered for the Private Moments imprint.) Full length titles over 50,000 words. Complete manuscripts only. Please see the submissions guidelines on our website. http://www.5princebooks.com/submissions.html


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Publishers, find out what BTS can do for you! Download our free Publisher’s Guide! Advertising, features, covers, reviews and more! At BTS, we do more than place your authors in our magazine. We showcase your company, your authors, and your books within our digital magazine and across our entire network. Our promotional team works hard to get you noticed! Every advertiser in our magazine will have its message seen by thousands of readers and promoted across the most popular social networks. Find out more today, contact babs@btsemag.com for details about how BTS can help you bring your authors into the spotlight!

Issue 31 | January/February 2016 |

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Upcoming

| Industry Insider |

2016 Conventions

Writers in Paradise Conference January 16-23, 2016 - St. Petersburg, Florida http://writersinparadise.eckerd.edu/ San Diego State University Writers’ Conference Jan. 22-24, 2016 - San Diego Marriott, Mission Valley http://www.ces.sdsu.edu/wc Coastal Magic Convention February 4-7, 2016 - Daytona Beach, FL http://coastalmagicconvention.com/ Sleuthfest an annual conference for mystery, suspense, and thriller writers Feb. 25-28, 2016 - Deerfield Beach, Florida http://sleuthfest.com/ Alabama Writing Workshop Feb. 25-28, 2016 - Deerfield Beach, Florida http://alabamawritingworkshop.com/ Pikes Peak Writers’ Conference April 15-17, 2016 - Colorado Springs, Colorado http://www.pikespeakwriters.com/ppwc/ BTS Red Carpet Awards & the Novel Experience Convention - The Novel Experience Event April 6th – April 10th, 2016 • Sheraton Atlanta Hotel Atlanta, Georgia http://btsemag.com/redcarpet/awards-2016-at-novelexperience/ RT Book Lovers Convention April 12-17, 2016 - Las Vegas, Nevada https://www.rtconvention.com/ The 2016 Romance Novel Convention June 1-5, 2016 - Las Vegas, Nevada http://romancenovelconvention.com/

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Finalists & Honorable Mention Readers choice 2015 Contemporary

SF/F/Paranormal

Rough Rider by Victoria Vane Wyne and Dine by Donna Michaels Texas Bossa Nova by Cynthia D’Alba

Dead Reaper Walking by Mina Carter Hell’s Kitty by Eve Langlais Miss Predictable by Kelly Ethan

Honorable Mention

Honorable Mention

Sliding Into Home by Anne Lange Heat’s Desire by T.J. Kline Poisoned Apple by Katherine McIntyre

Erotic

Sealing Fate by Trina Lane End Game by Sean Michael Her Forever Cowboy by Donna Michaels

Honorable Mention

Owner Of My Heart by Valentina Heart Dark Heirloom by J.D. Brown Back To Bite You by Barbara Monajem

Young Adult

The Star Child by Stephanie Keyes Divine Fall by Kathryn Knight The Devil’s Flower by Lisa Collicutt

Honorable Mention

Calculated Collision by C.A. Szarek The Running Game by Meg Harding Collision Control by C.A. Szarek

Vamped by Lucienne Diver Compass by Jennifer Gibson Come To Me Quietly by A.L. Jackson

Historical

Blogger Award winners 2015 Amber Marr Drue Hoffman London St. James Clarissa Johal

Earls Just Want To Have Fun by Shana Galen Jewel of the East by Victoria Vane The Duke’s Disaster by Grace Burrowes

Honorable Mention

The Spider and the Stone by Glen Craney The Unexpected Duchess by Valerie Bowmen A Code of the Heart by Jacki Delecki

Short Story Finalists

Mystery

Life as I know it- Diane Bator Funny Arithmetic for Bored Fossils- Lara Biyuts Entrenched – Kira Shayde

Honorable Mention

A Good Night- Danielle Devon Hunting Ground – Tom Olbert Someone’s Knocking at the Door- Kelly M Hudson

Demolition of the Heart by Cassandra Hawke A Dash of Desire by Charity Parkerson Tidal Falls by Jacquie Biggar Women Under Fire by Jacki Delecki Peril by Ponytail by Nancy J Choen Short Tales of Horror Part II by Regina Puckett

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Honorable Mention

Congratulations


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Issue 31 | January/February 2016 |

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COVER AUTHOR Showcase


| COVER AUTHOR |

HELL ON HEELS by VICTORIA VANE PLACE YOUR BET...The Hotel Rodeo in Las Vegas has seen better days, but managing partner Ty Morgan has come up with a way to return it to its former glory. His plan looks promising until the unthinkable happens. Suddenly Ty is working for the boss’s daughter. And Miss Monica Brandt, hot as she may be, doesn’t share his vision…

ABOUT VICTORIA VANE Victoria Vane is bestselling and award-winning author of smart and sexy romance. Victoria’s books have received more than twenty awards and nominations to include the 2014 RONE Award for Treacherous Temptations and Library Journal Best E-Book romance of 2012 for The Devil DeVere series. Facebook Twitter Goodreads Amazon

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ROLL THE DICE...She left a fabulous career and a frustrated fiancé in New York to move to Vegas and save her father’s investment. But now Monica is locking horns with a sexy cowboy-turned-businessman. What does Ty think he can do that she can’t? All Monica knows is that she doesn’t dare trust him—or is it herself she doesn’t trust... AND WIN...The battle lines are drawn. The stakes are high. And the attraction can’t be denied—especially the more closely Ty and Monica have to work together. Some odds are just meant to be played, and with chemistry this electric, it may be time to grab life by the horns…

Enjoy an excerpt from: Hell on Heels Her gaze was even with his chin, requiring her to crane her neck. She hated the advantage his height gave him. It was the reason she always wore heels—to level the playing field. She was five foot seven. Her stilettos made her close to six feet, which allowed her to stand nose to nose with most men, and even gave her a slight advantage over Evan who was only four inches taller than she was, but Ty had her by half a head. “The twenty grand you refused?” “No, the ten I accepted along with the—” “Okay,” she blurted. “You already called my bluff. I’ll give you the twenty. Half now and the rest in three months. I’m being square with you here, Ty. Let’s make this happen.” She almost groaned as Evan’s favorite words spilled from her mouth. She’d been his protégé for five years. It would probably take as many for the stink to wear off. Ty cocked his head in thought.


| VICTORIA VANE | She waited, fighting the urge to tap her heel. “All right,” he said at last. “I can accept that deal… on the provision that I still have the last word on operations.” “Absolutely not! I’ll make all the final decisions.” “That ain’t gonna fly with me, Sugar. Tom let me have free rein. If you want me to stay, you’ve got to let me handle things my way.” “Equal say,” she countered. “Partners. Just like you and Tom.” He shook his head. “Tom and I are like-minded but you and me? We’re never going to see eye to eye on anything.” “Probably not,” she agreed. “Look, Ms. Brandt, one of us has to wear the pants in this relationship.” “Wear the pants? What chauvinistic bullshit! I can’t even believe you said that!” “Told you I’m old fashioned. ‘Sides,” his gazed roved slowly and suggestively down her body, “you look mighty fine in a skirt.” “Don’t you know I could call you out for sexual harassment?” “Could you now?” He stepped into her space. “Maybe you need a bit of sexual harassment, Ms. Brandt,” his voice was suddenly low and smooth as silk. “As a matter of fact, I think you need a whole lot of it.” She retreated a step. He advanced two. “You see,” he continued, backing her up to the desk, “I was raised in the belief that anything worth doing, is worth doing right.” His hands came down on the desk, braced on either side of her. His musky masculine sent washed over her, sucking the air out of her lungs. Evan wore outrageously expensive Clive Christian 1872. Ty Morgan wore “pure cowboy” vintage 1982, earthy, tangy, and tantalizing. TWO TO WRANGLE by VICTORIA VANE A COUNTRY BOY...Maybe having a hot and heavy affair with the boss’s daughter wasn’t the smartest move. But Ty Morgan didn’t regret a moment with city girl Monica Brandt…until she left Las Vegas to return to her life in New York. When devastating news sends her running back, Ty can’t help but open his arms. His heart, however, is another matter. AND A CITY GIRL...Now that Ty has what he’s always wanted—controlling interest in Hotel Rodeo—Monica is

certain their time together is at an end—until Ty asks her to come on board as a partner. Maybe it’s just her money he needs, but the chance to stick close to the sexy wrangler sure could make work a whole lot more interesting. GET READY TO TANGO.. Their partnership doesn’t come without a heap of problems. The two can’t agree on anything—except their iron-hot attraction. As the hotel’s grand opening approaches, the truth is all too clear: Ty and Monica must find a way to mix business with pleasure if they have any shot at dancing off into the sunset together…

Enjoy an excerpt from: Two to Wrangle “Do you have some kind of wrap or shawl you could wear with that dress?” Ty asked, wanting a moment to set things straight for the intruding asshole. “You might get cold later in such a little bitty dress.” “Give me a minute and I’ll look for something,” Monica replied. “Sure thing, Sugar.” Evan scowled at the pet name. Both men watched her departing ass. Hot damn that dress was about to give him a heart attack. “You’d best stop looking at her like that. And I better never see your hands on her again either,” Ty murmured with a smile. “She’s way out of your league, cowboy.” “Is she now?” Ty remarked, stretching his smile. “Are you actually implying she dumped me for you?” Evan asked with a snort. “Apparently she knows a good thing when she see’s it. You didn’t.” Ty shrugged. “Guess that means I win. You lose.” “Who says the game’s over?” Evan replied. “I never lose, cowboy. I’ve got more money and more influence than you could ever imagine. I always get what I want.” “Is that right, Evan?” Monica stood in the doorway, wrap around her shoulders and bag in hand. “Did I just interrupt some kind of pissing contest? If so, I can end it now.” She looked from one man to the other, and then added with a smile, “For the record, Evan, Ty’s is bigger.” *** “You’re welcome, Ty,” Monica replied tightly as they exited the hotel. “I know you meant well, but that was emasculating as hell.” “For you or for him?” she asked with a laugh. “You came out the clear winner.” “That’s not the point. I didn’t want or need your interference, Monica,” he grumbled. “I can handle arrogant assholes like that. Been doing it my whole life.” “So what did you expect me to do? Stand there and let him insult you? The way you two were eyeballing each other, I was beginning to think I might see some blood.” “I doubt it would have come to that,” he said. Issue 31 | January/February 2016 |

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| COVER AUTHOR | “So it was all just ridiculous male posturing?” “Pretty much,” he confessed. “He really does have more money and influence than you, Ty,” Monica said. “He made Forbes Top 100 mogul list just last year. There’s no way you could ever top him in anything related to business, but you are in fact much better endowed. That shut him right down, didn’t it?” “Sure did. He may never get it up again.” He signaled the limo. “I miss my damned truck.” BEAUTY AND THE BULL RIDER by VICTORIA VANE WHEN BEAUTY WANTS A BABY... Championship bull breeder and former Texas beauty queen Delaney McCall was having a heck of a time finding a daddy for the baby she craved. A failed marriage left her with no desire for another husband, but finding the right stud to satisfy her needs presents a bigger problem that she could have imagined. AND THE BULLRIDER WANTS BEAUTY...After hanging up his spurs, bull rider Zac McDaniel wants nothing more than to fulfill Delaney’s dream of having a family. After all, his best friend’s ex has been his fantasy for years. Zac, however, has no desire to be seen as just a means to an end. When Zac insists on doing things the “old fashioned” way, their passion explodes like a bull out of the chute. SOME BUCKING IS BOUND TO HAPPEN...While insisting it’s all just a passing fancy, the more Delaney sees the softer side of the rough and tumble cowboy, the harder it is to keep her emotions corraled. Zac, meanwhile, is more determined than ever to prove he’s what she really needs, and will do whatever it takes to tear down the mile high fence around her heart…

Enjoy an excerpt from: Beauty and the Bull Rider He leaned back on the breakfast bar, taunting her with a cocked brow. “Running away?” “What do you mean?” she asked. “I think you’re afraid.”

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“Afraid of what?” she asked. “I think you’re attracted to me and it scares the shit out of you.” “Last night I said you were attractive, Zac. I didn’t say I was attracted to you. There’s a difference.” “No, there isn’t. You’re splitting hairs.” She gave a snort. “Do you really think you’re that irresistible? Your ego is as big as Ty’s.” “C’mere.” He jerked his head in a beckoning motion. “What for?” she asked warily. “I think it’s time for a little test. We can end this whole debate here and now.” “What kinda test?” “The kiss test,” he said. “It’s real simple. I’m gonna kiss you. If you can stand there and do absolutely nothing, you win and I lose.” “What’s the point?” she asked. “Sexual compatibility,” he said. “If we kiss and I don’t do it for you, I’ll drop any ideas of sex with you and submit to the test tube.” “That simple?” she said. “You’ll donate your sperm if I let you kiss me?” “As long as you don’t respond. That means no sounds. No kissing back. No touching.” “Just one kiss?” she said. “One kiss.” “How long a kiss?” she asked. “A standard breath hold,” he replied. “No tricks?” He held out his bare arms. “Nothing up my sleeve.” “Okay, Zac. I’ll let you kiss me.” Slapping his wet shirt down on the counter, she upturned her face. Now that the moment had come, Zac’s heart hammered against his breastbone. He’d never been nervous about a kiss, but then again, a kiss had never meant all that much to him. That wasn’t to say he didn’t like kissing. It was a pleasant enough pastime, but mostly it just served as an appetizer to the main course. He suddenly realized he didn’t know if he was a good kisser or not. He’d never had to try all that hard. Most of the women he’d been with were already primed for a tumble well before the first lip lock. He’d never suffered a crisis of confidence with any woman, but this wasn’t just any woman—it was Delaney McCall, the woman he hoped to spend the rest of his life with.


| VICTORIA VANE |

Hotel Rodeo Series

Check out these other titles:

Issue 31 | January/February 2016 |

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| Young Love | We were in the front garden when I saw the huge lorry pulling up in front of the house next door, the words Bootman’s Removals & Storage emblazoned proudly on the side and painted in an Old English stylee of sorts—that old house had been on the market for several months, and it didn’t take a genius to figure it had finally been sold. Old Coal Lane was a quiet, secluded street: Mr Simpkins ensured the grass verges were kept trimmed, tidy, and litter free; Miss Klassmeyer kept the area in front of the assorted gardens neat, flowered, and well bloomed; and Miss Williams, the widow, had her nose firmly buried in everybody’s business. It was a pleasant and peaceful street, joined at one end to the relatively busy City Road, while ending abruptly at the gate to Farmer McAvoy’s fields at the other; consequently, this prissy, pristine street saw very little traffic, and any vehicle that did appear would always catch the attention of the neighbours, especially Miss Williams . . . it was just that kind of place. ..... I remember the first time I saw her—they say you never forget your first—she was climbing out of a sleek silver car, and at that moment, I think I knew. I was a young man in love. Entranced, captivated, enraptured . . . there were so many luvvy-duvvy words I could use . . . my eyes, mind, and heart all imploded, aflutter with dreams and desire. Given I was a fussy but excitable little thing at the best of times, I held myself together rather well I thought. Looking up at Mum, I was trying hard to hide the fact I’d just seen the cutest, most gorgeous little girl in the whole world clamber out of a shiny new car and soar into my heart. It was disappointing to see Mum had no such composure or self-control as she glared open-mouthed at the two removal men climbing out of the lorry parked just ahead; both of them were neatly attired and looking very dapper in dark, smooth uniforms. We were like a pair of love-sick puppies, but any show of emotion other than mild indifference was definitely not acceptable among local folk . . . it was just that kind of place ... .....

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She, of course, played her part to perfection. She remained completely oblivious to any of my woeful efforts at getting her attention, was always ready to look away or otherwise pretend I didn’t exist, and even when I’d contrived to throw my football into her garden as an excuse to try and meet her, she was quick to go running off. I’d seen this sort of behaviour on the telly and knew that these things usually sorted themselves out, and everyone lived happily ever after, so I tried not to let it bother me too much. It did grow annoying over the summer holidays, and I soon resigned myself to admiring her from afar, dreaming about her flowing golden blonde locks and gorgeously petite frame as well as how lovely she probably smelled too. Mum and Sis were completely useless—neither of them understood—and once Sis broke up from school, she was constantly bothering me, hassling, play-fighting, and just non-stop mollycoddling. Given that we were all home for the summer, I was hopeful that Sis would make friends with her and thereby provide an opportunity for us to meet, but making friends didn’t exactly come naturally to Sis: our previous life on a farm meant she’d spent more time with animals than people, all of us had. .... As the holidays neared an end and the run up to a new school term came closer, I became heavily distracted: I would be old enough to start going now, and the thought was ever present in my mind that I’d surely be able to meet and play with her there. She couldn’t avoid me every single day at school, could she? We could take long walks together: she’d be looking gorgeous, as usual, and I’d be jabbering away about anything and everything that popped into my head. Would I slip up though? If my usual bluster and lack of finesse wins out, it’d be a very short walk: I always have too much to say and no one to listen. Would I become annoying or irritating, if I did so? School was a family friendly, child friendly, busy little place, a major part of the local community in fact. . . . Maybe I’d make a fool of myself in front of everybody? Patience wasn’t exactly top of my list of strong points, but I was learning fast. She was good, really good. I stole brief glimpses at every opportunity and noticed she even


| Alex Bardy | returned my glance on a few occasions. Was she finally melting? Warming to my distant but obvious and poorly managed affections? My resolve to love and admire her from afar had never wavered, but on numerous occasions when I did feel emboldened to approach, there was always something or someone in the way—usually Sis. I did find out her name is Poppy and even called out to her a few times, but she often feigned ignorance or chose to busy herself with other people. . . . For my part, I was still forever hopeful, but maybe I’d just seen too much telly, and this was what really happened, the way the world really worked, so to speak; a world in which happily ever after wasn’t always a given? ..... I remember the day things changed. We weren’t usually allowed to play out front, even though it was usually quiet. This was just how Mr Simpkins and Miss Klassmeyer preferred it; Mum could never be bothered with the potential for argument and happily restricted me and Sis to the back garden most of the time. I was walking with Mum when Poppy ran out, and it was obvious that something was wrong: she was never allowed near the main road, and I’ve no idea how she’d managed to escape through the gate. I caught a fleeting glimpse of her gorgeous blonde hair as she stole across the road heading away towards McAvoy’s field gate and also saw the huge black Jeep coming the other way. The piercing shriek of the brakes came too late, and I could see a bloodied mess at the roadside. I ran like I’d never ran before, my frenzied outcry piercing the stillness that held the entire street. I vaguely heard a car door swing open and Farmer McAvoy’s pleading cry of innocence, but I was already at her side and whimpering while I hugged and held her close. Poppy’s eyes were closed, her tongue was flopped lazily over one side of her jaw, and her back paws were thick with blood. I loved her to death, but this wasn’t the way . . . she had to be still alive, she just had to be . . . I lay calmly beside her, noticing as if for the first time her gentle undercoat: it was smooth and soft as silk, still unblemished, the downy hair perfectly groomed. And I was

right, she did smell lovely, even now an intoxicating blend of honeysuckle and juniper berries wrapped itself around my broken heart. My own muzzle had come to rest on her bloodied flank, and I sniffed and licked at her lifeless body and thick matted tail. It was only then that I felt the beat of her heart pounding hard against her ribcage, the abdomen and lower belly pulsing with an easy, gentle rhythm. I jumped up and barked at her, my tail suddenly sharp and pointing, frightening Farmer McAvoy in the process. He tried to shoo me away but not before she opened her eyes and caught a glimpse of my doleful pleading look—there was instant recognition, and I knew then that things would be different from now on . . . it was just that kind of place . . .

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 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 (BFS—www. britishfantasysociety.org), and an active member on the board of the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA— www.bsfa.co.uk), mainly responsible for the design/ layout of their publications, coupled with an occasional foray into writing/interviewing. He has finally taken the plunge and committed bloggery under the working title “Mangoblogalicious” and is in the process of uploading his many reviews and opinions even now. You can find out more at www.mangoblogalicious.com.

Issue 31 | January/February 2016 |

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Movies | Television | Books | Adaptations

on the RED CARPET

BTS GOES HOLLYWOOD

Featured Videos,

REVIEWS and more

BTS showcases writers and other professionals who bring characters to life through movies & TV.

Issue 31 | January/February 2016 | 39


| Interviewed by Danita Minnis |

Chuck Pressler Actor

Chuck Pressler plays the bad guy on screen as easily as the funny man. If you notice that flash of command in his eyes, it is just as attributable to his modeling training as it is to his real-life experience of being the Chief of EMS in his region and a fireman for the past twenty years. Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChiefPressler Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chuck. pressler Stage 32: https://www.stage32.com/ChuckPressler

You appeared in the M. Night Shyamalan film Signs as a fireman. How has your real-life career as a fireman/paramedic prepared you for the unpredictable business of being an actor? It is actually easily adaptable once you have the ability and someone on set that will take your advice into consideration when explaining how something should present so that it is realistic, more or less like advising for yourself. This was very relevant when doing an episode of Hack as well. We were actually questioned on what would best suited for the scene to be as realistic as possible. I have to say that it brings a great deal of 40 | btsemag.com

satisfaction being part of the scene structure as well as being an actor in the scene. In the end having the ability to be calm and aware during very stressful moments has been a great asset to carry over to acting as well as having the ability to step up as a leader when needed. You played a police officer in the Boaz Yakin film Safe. What authentic life experiences helped you in this role? Training experiences, such as Tactical training, during my career have been a great asset for particular scenes likes this.


| BTS Goes Hollywood |

As a veteran with a tour in the navy and modeling school under your belt, how do you use these diverse experiences for inspiration? First and foremost, as a veteran, you can expose opportunities to other veterans that there is a great deal of diverse opportunities available to works towards, you just have to be willing to learn and work hard to accomplish this. The advantage of veterans acting is as simple as having actors that are team oriented, capable of taking direction, and when need be, step in and be leaders. As with emergency services, most of us have the ability to create order during chaos: “Ordo Ab Chao.” Acting opened a new world to me that I always looked at as untouchable, but it really is there for anyone who has the drive to try. Modeling school, on the other hand, gave me more confidence in front of the camera. It was many years later before I did my first modeling, but it was amazing just how much I learned came back when I needed it. I’m living proof that anyone can model if you put your mind to it, LOL. Tell us about your latest indie project. I have projects in both post- and pre-production that will be shared in the near future via social media, and they are pretty interesting and exciting. One recent project really gave me an opportunity to act outside of my comfort zone and was really enjoyable. I can’t wait to see the final product, so stay tuned. My last project that has been through film festivals is Deathly Love, which is a horror film that was really fun to be part of with a great cast and crew. I was a detective investigating murders, and there were some fun twists; I hope you have the opportunity to see it soon.

During the creative process, actors often think in terms of a legacy. What do you want to be remembered for? Honestly, I have so much more to experience and present for myself that I really am still in a zone of unknown and just hope that whatever project I take on I can bring a great representation to that character. If I can accomplish this on a regular basis and be fortunate enough to get exposure, surely I will find out what my impact has been in the entertainment world. I suppose it just comes down to being known as an actor that can bring it and can work well with directors and actors alike.

ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER Danita is a singer, writer, and lover of romance. She is the author of the ghostly love story Adderley’s Bride and the Cardiff novels, Falcon’s Angel and Love Entwined. Website http://danitaminnis.com

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Contemporary | Romance | Mainstream | Literary Fiction

CONTEMPORARY & ROMANCE

the HAPPILY ever AFTER

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| A Matter of Minutes | We’d tried for days to catch that lizard. It was a shame that the enemy may have planted a tiny, yet powerful, bomb in its body. Poncho, the more seasoned guy in our hooch, knew a lot about reptiles. He told us it was a skink. He wanted to catch the little monster. Me and Poncho and Smack took turns trying to trap it with a five-foot-long stick-with-loop thingy Poncho devised. The lizard’s sandbag home was threateningly close to our sleeping quarters. It had dug three holes. We almost caught it one day. After a few trials and errors, the string around the hole lay well-placed under its midsection. Ironically, this was during a moment when it came out to bring itself back to life in the sun. The guys cheered as if we’d won the war. Poncho pulled. The lizard squirmed. I leaped forward to grab it. It got away from me, the contraption failed, so the skink quickly wiggled its way back into our field fortification. Two days later the lizard was catching rays. I shivered in the oven-hot noon, wondering if the bomb might go off . . . when a bomb might go off . . . why a bomb might go off. I’d heard they could blow quite unexpectedly. I didn’t want to kill the reptile; he may have been an innocent; the enemy may not have gotten a hold of him yet. I had no way of knowing. I decided to try on my own to catch him, to see if I could detect the enemy’s surgery. I used a two-foot-long tube with a string threaded through it to form a loop. 46 | btsemag.com

Smack, Poncho, and the others were gone. I put on Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D Minor and turned it loud enough to carry to my post outside. I sat close to the hole he often slinked from. I secured the loop around it. Ready and still, I waited for a matter of minutes before he poked out his snakelike head. I held my breath, was about to pull the string. He jerked back down. In only a matter of minutes, I realized that, as I stared down at the hole, he stared at me from the third hole. Wasn’t this the way of people—friends and foes? It was my turn to be tricky. I clogged up all but one of the lizard’s entrances with dirt and leaves. It was only a matter of minutes before the scaly devil decided to brave it again. I held still until he was half out, and his midsection lay planted right on the hidden string—vulnerable. I pulled then flopped the tube, loop, and lizard into the bucket I had waiting nearby. My heart did flips as I took him into the hooch. If the lizard was “loaded,” I risked my life and my buddies’ home away from home. Their letters to their girlfriends, their crumpled photos, their keepsake knickknacks. The skink stretched six inches and had wild, angry eyes. I put a lid on his new residence and went over to the canteen to buy some Coke and nacho chips. Then I went back and watched my skink, as if he was a television, for a couple of hours. He circled in the bucket, smelling it with his tongue. Definitely he was a beast. But I couldn’t imagine this lizard hoarding a bomb in his belly. He grew more annoyed by his new environment and darted about furiously, obviously wanting to be back in his familiar hole and still teasing me. My PETA neighbors in Illinois would be appalled at his


| Karen Albright Lin | circumstances. As he posed his agitated power in every inch of his new war zone, I studied him. I couldn’t see any evidence of him being cut open by the enemy. I considered keeping him, but I knew my buddies would kill him because each of us imagined wiping out everything frightening we came across. My decision took only a matter of minutes. I carried the bucket back outside and set it behind the mess tent. I hoped nobody would find him there. After dumping him out onto the dry ground, the fellow managed to find a clump of weeds to hide under. He peeked around the leaves and up at me gratefully when he noticed his freedom. I cruelly teased him, stepping in his path as he tried to twist away. He finally went under the mess tent. Into the ground, getting acquainted with his new home. In only a matter of minutes after I let the skink go free, I heard the scream of incoming mortar. I waited for the detonation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen is an editor, ghostwriter, pitch coach, speaker, awardwinning 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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reviews contemporary | romance | mainstream

Dakota’s Autumn

Love Brewing

Savannah Morgan Contemporary Heat Rating: 4

Flowers can be beautiful. For over twenty years Shane Black has been a man searching; searching for his missing twin brother, searching for the man who tore his family apart, searching for a way to reclaim his identity, searching for a home. In the middle of a mission where his cover is blown, Shane awakens to find himself in a shack in the middle of South America where the beautiful little flower who saved his life has left him and taken the formula he was sent to recover. Now he must find his way home with the few items she has left for him and start a new search. For her.

Review: When a secret op in South America puts Autumn Bennett in the path of Shane Black, a covert operative for Homeland Security, Autumn abandons him after saving his life. But Shane can’t get her out of his head, and he’ll do whatever it takes to find her and make her his. Dakota’s Autumn is a non-stop action tale reminiscent of the popular large cast action movies with fastpaced stories and lots of things blowing up. Each of the characters is unique and well-developed as are the supporting characters. The romance does take a back seat occasionally due to the intense crime fighting plot, unusual for an HEA love story. Yet, I couldn’t put it down. It’s a fun ride and I look forward to the next book in the standalone series. Reviewed by Heather Lewis

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Liz Crowe Contemporary Heat Rating: 3

Every family has one—the black sheep, the problem child, the prodigal. But Dominic Sean Love could teach all of those guys a lesson or two. Stuck in the middle of a boisterous group of siblings, he’s given “acting out” a new meaning from the day he drew his first breath. While he’s the one son who follows his strict father’s footsteps into the Love family business, he’s also the one who butts heads with him the hardest. Their epic clashes are the stuff of family legend. But they have made peace and work side by side to take Love Brewing to the next level of success. Until Dominic does the one thing his father can never forgive.

Review: At first Dominic Sean Love comes to Diana Brantley asking for a place to stay just for a little while. Diana has her reservations, but lets him stay with a few conditions in mind. They were, at the time not a couple because Diana, eventually had a husband named Lee. Things and circumstances changed after a time. It was a fun, flirty ride to see them actually manage to get back together. You’ll enjoy Dom and Diana as a couple once they actually hook up to be one, and you like the cute conversations between Dom and his young son Jace. They were too cute. So if you ever get a chance stop by and visit for awhile. You’ll be glad you did. Reviewed by Cass


Marigny Street Annie Rose Welch Contemporary Heat Rating: 3

Do you believe in the power of dreams? Way down south on Marigny Street in the heart of New Orleans, the land of Catholic intercessions, purgatory, and supernatural superstitions, young Evangeline Chenier dreams of a radiant boy who saves her from a storm. She takes the dream seriously – in her family, dreams are sometimes more than dreams. Sometimes they foretell the future. Sometimes they create it. Years later, Eva is no longer the same wistful girl but a hardened woman who no longer believes in dreams. Losing faith in her gift, she becomes lost in a nightmare of emotion, mourning her son, separating from her husband, and stewing in a dead-end job. And then fate brings her an unlikely surprise: one of the most famous movie stars in the world, Gabriel Roberts.

Review: Evangeline Chenier and movie star extraordinaire Gabriel Roberts discover they have an unusual connection, once they discover that they even have a connection. It had humorous moments and bittersweet ones as well and a mini heat wave that could melt everything that’s standing in it’s way. You liked Eva and Gabriela when you meet them and the characters were extremely likeable from the start. They were also quite believable as a couple and there were quite a few moments that were quite intriguing between them. It was a very interesting paranormal read with interesting and intriguing and unique characters. It has a past, which in itself is quite intriguing and you like how the story flows and progresses over time. The characters were likeable, strange, intriguing and most definitely interesting and they held your attention from the beginning. So if you find yourself down in New Orleans, stop by Marigny Street and enjoy the atmosphere. Reviewed by Cass

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reviews contemporary | romance | mainstream

Wild Angels Anthology

Red Waves

Lily Harlem, Helena Maeve & Rosalie Stanton Contemporary Heat Rating: 4

Shannon O’Connor Contemporary Heat Rating: 4

Audrey Brown is an intelligent Registered Nurse living in Surf City, USA, who puts her career ahead of her love life. That is until pro-surfer, Chad Slater, gets wheeled into her emergency room and shakes down her formidable walls. But can her sex life go from zero to 69 with an ex-husband seeking revenge for her sending him to prison? Chad has just the right mix of sexual charisma and determination to make all of Audrey’s dreams come true. This upbeat story includes humorous undertones with nailbiting suspense and enough sexual heat to make you stay up all night reading. Readers’ romantic partners will find benefits, too!

Review: Red Waves gives us the story of Audrey and Chad, a nurse with a terrifying past and a pro surfer with legions of fans. There’s a lot of details in the story, which moves at a slower pace than most. The author does take a lot of time to set up the action of the romance and subsequent after-events but I found the results were worth the wait. There’s a lot of story to tell with Audrey and Chad, as well as their friends. A warning though, it does end in a cliffhanger which made me a little upset at first but there are two more installments coming in the future. Still, it’s a good book and worth your time. Reviewed by Heather Lewis

Burning Rubber by Lily Harlem When trouble rides into town, what girl can resist the ultimate bad boy? Handling men isn’t an issue for me. I’m not a girly girl and my best friends are the machines I spend my days fixing, tweaking and servicing. So when the Wild Angels roll onto my forecourt and need my help, I’m happy to be of assistance. Witness by Rosalie Stanton She’s the only thing good about his former life, and he’s been asked to end hers. Grounds for Divorce by Helena Maeve Overworked and jaded, Kayla is convinced she’s had her fill of bad boys when her boyfriend’s debts catapult her into a stranger’s arms.

Review: You have three different stories. Lots of interesting characters you actually like, despite the situations you find them in. You have the good guys and they’re not your typical good guys. Some may actually do a double take or think twice before coming into contact with any of them. But, if they are on your side, you have nothing to worry about. You’ll probably find a favorite among Gid & Sandra, Dash or Rennie, and Kayla and Book. They all held your attention and had a lot of action and intensity and a lot of suspense/ the writings flowed quite nicely and each was actually believable. So if you’re in the mood to be Wild, pick up a copy and enjoy the MC Boys and Girls. Reviewed by Cass

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| From “Tales of Demiurges” | “Am I dead?” asked the man. He was middleaged and naked. “You are.” The demiurge Shambumbooklie nodded, examining contents of a thick volume. “Dead. Absolutely.” The naked man asked, “Who are you?” “Demiurge,” Shambumbooklie replied, “One of many.”

“Yes, it is.” The man nodded. “Is the deed good or bad?” “Good, of course!”

The naked man shifted from one foot to the other, “What comes next?”

“Let’s have a look . . .” Shambumbooklie turned the page, “In five minutes, the old woman was run over by tram. But for you, the old woman and the tram would have missed each other, and she would have lived ten years more. Well?” The man looked blank.

The demiurge Shambumbooklie glanced at the man and got absorbed in reading again. “This way, now.” Without looking at the man, he pointed to an ordinary door. “Or this way.” His index finger turned to the opposite side, pointing to another similar door.

“Next, there . . .” Shambumbooklie opened the book at other page, “at the age of twenty-two, you and a group of your friends participated in the cruel beating of the other group of friends.” “They were the first to attack!” The man jerked his head.

The man asked, “What’s there?”

“It’s written it was not so,” the demiurge objected, “By the by, your alcohol intoxication is not an excusing factor. In general, you broke three fingers and a nose of a sixteen-year-old youth with no reason. Is it good or bad?” Silence.

“Hell,” said Shambumbooklie, “Or paradise. It depends.” Hesitating, the naked man shifted his eyes from one door to another, “Which door am I to go?” “Don’t you know where?” The demiurge raised an eyebrow. “Well . . .” the man stopped short in confusion. “Whatever I know, I am to go somewhere, according to my deeds.” “Hum . . .” Shambumbooklie marked the pages with his finger and looked at the man. “According to your deeds?” “Well, yes. How can it be otherwise?” “All right,” Shambumbooklie opened the book at its beginning and said, “It’s written here that, at the age of twelve, you helped an old woman to cross a street. Is it truth?” 56 | btsemag.com

“After the mutilation, the youth could play violin never again. You ruined his career.” “I did it by accident,” the man said quietly. “It goes without saying.” Shambumbooklie nodded. “Apropos, the boy hated playing violin from his childhood, hating his as well as all violins in the world. After your fatal meeting, he decided to go for boxing in order to be able to fight, and then he became a champion. Let’s proceed?” Shambumbooklie turned a few pages more. “Is the rape good or bad?” “But I . . .” “That child became a good doctor and saved hundreds lives. Is it good or bad?”


| Lara Biyuts | “Well, I guess . . .” “A life of a maniac serial killer was among the lives. Is it good or bad?” “But . . .” “And the maniac killed the pregnant woman who could have become a mother of a great scientist. Good? Bad?” “But . . .” “The great scientist—if he were born—should invent a bomb that could burn down half the continent. Bad? Good?” “But I knew nothing of all this!” the man cried out. “It goes without saying,” the demiurge agreed. “Or take this, for example, it’s interesting. Page 345 . . . you stepped on a butterfly!” “What did come of it?” Without saying a word, the demiurge turned the book to the man and pointed with his index finger to the text. The man read it, and his hair moved on his head. “Horrible!” he whispered. “But if you never smashed the butterfly, then look at what could have happened.” Shambumbooklie pointed to another paragraph. The man read it and gulped down jerkily. “It turned out that I saved the world?” “Yes. Four times. It was when you smashed the butterfly, when you pushed the old man, when you betrayed your mate, and when you stole the purse of your blind grandmother. Every time the world was on the brink of catastrophe, but it got out thanks to you.”

“Ah . . . what about the brink of catastrophe . . . was it because of me too?” “Indeed, it’s written, it’s because of you, make no doubt about that. Two times. When you fed a stray cat and when you saved a drowning man.” The naked man became weak in the knees, and he subsided on the floor. “I don’t understand anything.” He gave a sob. “All I did in my life . . . all what I was proud of and what I was ashamed of . . . all is the wrong way round! All is inside out!” “That’s why it’s wrong to judge you by your deeds—unless by your intentions—but you are your own judge in this.” Shambumbooklie closed the book with a bang and placed it on a shelf in the bookcase. “In short, as soon as you come to a decision about a right door, go there. And I have a pile of work to do.” The naked man lifted his tearstained face. “But I don’t know which of the doors opens into hell, which into paradise.” “It depends on your choice.” Shambumbooklie shut the bookcase

ABOUT THE AUTHOR A Smashwords author and translator, Lara Biyuts lives in Russia, writing in English. She is proud to be a Goodreads librarian. Her self-published works are available at Barnes & Noble, iBookstore, Smashwords, Lulu.com, iTunes, Amazon, Kobo. Please visit Lara at http://www.smashwords.com/profile/ view/lasept.

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feature sneak peek

Kyra Jacobs Her Unexpected Detour Sometimes it’s not the destination, but the detour... Kayla has the perfect strategy for a broken heart: work, work, and more work. Then a storm sends her car skidding off the road, stranding her in Mount Pleasant. Fortunately, rescue comes in the form of the incredibly handsome but gruff Brent Masterson. And he’s hot enough to tempt Kayla into doing something she never thought she could do... Brent Masterson swore he would never give into the fierce attraction that’s been sizzling between him and Kayla since they first met. He has his own demons, and he won’t risk his heart again. Not even for someone as gorgeous and amazing as Kayla. So... how exactly did he end up in Kayla’s bed last night?

Two steps past the landing, the bag of rollers and brushes he’d wedged under one arm decided to go Kamikaze. With a curse, he stooped to set down his paint cans, then scrambled to retrieve the AWOL items. One roller cover. Two. Damn, where was the third? He scanned the landing, then crouched down to check under the nearest furniture. “Looking for something?” Brent’s head jerked up at the sound and slammed into the edge of an end table. He bit back a stream of profanity and waited for the stars to disappear from his vision. As they did, he froze. He’d been right to want to hurry past Kayla’s room. She stood before him now, barefoot and nearly irresistible in a white, oversized bathrobe. Adorable and tantalizing all at the same time. How was that even possible? “Uh, yeah.” He cleared his throat and shifted his gaze back to the floor. “Rogue paint roller. I’m sure it’s around here somewhere.” “You mean this?” He shouldn’t have looked. Should have kept his eyes fixed on the floor before him. But, hey, he was male and had a pulse. So his traitorous gaze flashed to her as she bent down to grasp the roller cover at her feet. The top of her robe gaped at the movement, providing him another accidental peek at her cleavage, still rosy pink from her shower. She gripped the base of the tube, stood, and brought it to him. “Here you go.” “Thanks.” He collected the rest of his supplies and headed for the hall without another word. The less interaction he had with Kayla, the less tempted he’d be to get to know her. He’d

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given up long ago on dating or allowing himself to care about anyone outside their family, and now was definitely not the time to go changing that. The tow truck would be here soon enough, and then she’d be gone. Because that’s what the women in his life always did. They left.

Kyra Jacobs is an extroverted introvert who writes of love, humor and mystery in the Midwest and beyond. When she isn’t pounding out scenes for her next book, Kyra’s likely outside elbow-deep in snapdragons or spending time with her sports-loving family.

kyrajacobs.wordpress.com


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feature book showcase

Patricia Yager Delagrange Moon Over Alcatraz

Brandy Chambers was looking forward to the birth of her first child. She and Weston move from San Francisco to the small town of Alameda to start a family, she’s writing her second book, and Weston has a fantastic job working on the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge project. Having this baby would make her already-wonderful life perfect. But when the baby dies after a difficult birth, Brandy’s perfect life blows up in her face. Stricken with grief, she and Weston pull apart. This new distance leads them both to disaster. Not until a chance encounter with her high school friend, Edward Barnes, does Brandy pull herself together. Brandy and Weston agree to recommit to each other, striving to forgive infidelity and recreate their previous existence. Everything is once again going according to plan—until Brandy discovers she’s pregnant. While she struggles to cope with this new obstacle, Edward Barnes returns to town and discovers she’s having a baby, while Weston is torn between his love for his wife and his anger at her betrayal. Can Brandy manage to keep her marriage to Weston together? Will Edward be a part of Brandy’s life if she and Weston separate?

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“You and I met during freshman orientation, remember?” Grinning, Edward said, “How could I forget, Brandy? You were eating a chocolate chip cookie from the refreshment table and I was watching you—” I put my hand up, palm facing outward. “No,” I interrupted. “Don’t remind me.” He laughed in a deep, low chuckle. “Your eyes got all wide and you were looking around like a madwoman, ran over to the garbage can, and spit out a big gob of something...” “And when I looked around you were standing there watching me...” “I started laughing so hard. I thought you were puking your guts out.” “Those were the worst cookies I’d ever tasted in my life!” “So I brought you a cup of water and asked if you were sick—” “And I told you I wasn’t sick but the cookies were enough to make anyone hurl.” “So I offered to bake you the best chocolate chip cookies you’d ever taste in your entire life.” “And that was the beginning of our friendship for four years.” I couldn’t stop giggling over the memory. Edward reached across the table and squeezed my hand. Looking up, our eyes locked. He held my gaze until I gently pulled my hand away from his. “We lost touch after high school,” he continued. “Didn’t you go to Cal?” I nodded, took a sip of water. “Where I got my master’s degree in Creative Writing.” “What did you want to do with your degree?” “I started writing my first novel when I was working part-time as a teaching assistant at Alameda Junior College.” “Did you get published?” I smiled at the memory. “Yeah, I did. Passing Through Brandiss hit the shelves about two years ago. I’m working on my third book now while waiting to see whether this editor at Harper Collins is interested in my second novel.” He sat back, eyebrows arched. “Wow! So you’re a real live author. I’m impressed. When did you and Weston meet?” “About ten years ago. I met him at a wedding in the Oakland hills. A friend of mine introduced us. We hit it off and were together about two years before we got married. We lived in San Francisco for a few


years. I got pregnant and we moved to Alameda. After our baby died, I had a meltdown. Then you and I met again at Peet’s—” “Wow! Your life sounds like a book.” “As long as I get to have my HEA.” He looked confused. “What’s an HEA?” I smiled and explained, “It stands for happily ever after. I learned the phrase after writing my first book. It didn’t have a happy ending and I quickly found out it wouldn’t sell without one.” “Does it look like you’ll have your own personal HEA, as you put it?” I shrugged. “I don’t know yet, but I hope so.”

Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Patricia attended St. Mary’s College, studied her junior year at the University of Madrid, received a B.A. in Spanish at UC Santa Barbara then went on to get a Master’s degree in Education at Oregon State University. She lives with her husband and two teenage children in Alameda, across the bay from San Francisco, along with two very large chocolate labs, Annabella and Jack. Her Friesian horse Maximus lives in the Oakland hills in a stall with a million dollar view.

patriciayagerdelagrange.com

Jessee Bradford, a respected young veterinarian in Santa Barbara, California, comes home to find his wife Serena and baby daughter Sofia missing. Jessee fears they have been kidnapped or worse. The FBI investigators believe his wife, the only daughter of a wealthy philanthropist who never approved of their marriage, simply abandoned Jessee and took their child with no intention of returning. After months of fruitless searching, Jessee relocates to his grandparents’ home in Iowa, where he takes over his grandpa’s veterinary practice. There he finds the family closeness he’s been missing and falls in love with a female equestrian Laura. When Jessee and Laura attend a gallery opening of an artist named She, the paintings remind Jessee of his wife Serena’s art work. Thus begins Jessee’s search to find She while his future with Laura teeters precariously on the edge until the truth about She is discovered. Issue 31 | January/February 2016 |

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Introducing the new BTS Customer Awards!

BTS CUSTOMER AWARDS: *New for 2015! BTS Best Book *New criteria! BTS Rising Star *New for 2015! BTS Debut Author *New for 2015! BTS Best Anthology *New criteria! BTS Best Cover *No review needed for BTS Customer Awards, see site for details.

RedCarpet.BTSeMag.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

Kayla Lords

Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy! I’ll admit that cowboy and western erotica isn’t on my go-to list for hot and steamy reads. Until now. Holy hell, y’all, Canadian or American, rancher or just a good old country cowboy, these guys are hot, hot, hot! What I like is that everything I read included feisty, fiery women who didn’t take crap from their alpha males. Read enough of this kind of erotica, and you’ll find your inner voice getting its own twang and drawl. Next, you’ll want some spurs so you can ride a few cowboys yourself.

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| The Heat Diva | Cowboy Command by Olivia Jaymes (Cowboy Justice Association, #1, Blond Ambition Press— Available Now) Contemporary Western Erotic Romance Stars: 4 Heat 4 One minute Katie is eating lunch with her sister, the next she barely escapes a car bomb meant to kill her. If that wasn’t enough, someone sets fire to her home and burns it to the ground. Luckily, Federal agents are going to give her a new identity until she can testify against the man who wants her dead. She’s not thrilled about being sent to a small town in Montana to hide, but she wants to stay alive. Sheriff Seth Reilly is doing a favor for an old Army buddy. He’s promised to watch over a woman whose life is in danger, but he didn’t plan on her being so young and beautiful. My take: To be honest, this one had a slow start. It took a while for me to get into the story. I blame that on how long it took for the characters to get hot and heavy. The story line was interesting and filled with intrigue. We meet the other cowboys who are part of the series. Don’t worry, this is a standalone—no cliffhangers here! The last half of the book moved faster and definitely heated up between Katie/Presley and Seth. How to Break a Cowboy by Daire St. Denis (Savage Tales, #1, Wolfstreet Press— Available Now) Contemporary Western Erotica Stars: 5 Heat: 5 With no fixed address, Tessa travels the world for business . . . and in 66 | btsemag.com

search of pleasure. From the Rocky Mountains to the Greek Islands, there’s no place Tessa won’t explore and very few sexual positions she won’t try. Tessa shows up at the Lazy L Ranch looking forward to another threesome romp in the hay. But a conflict between her two favorite cowboys threatens to ruin her chances of a repeat performance. My take: I love, love, love this book. It’s a short read but well-written and so hot it almost melted my Kindle. We’ve got M/M/F. We’ve got M/M/M. Best of all, at one point, it had M/M/M/F. Even with all that sex, there was a story and real emotions. How good was it? I asked my boyfriend to read it when I went out with friends, and when I came home, he was as hot as I was. Oh, yeah! No cliffhangers here, either, but it definitely made me want to read the entire series. Rocky Mountain Heat by Vivian Arend (Six Pack Ranch, #1, Samhain Publishing— Available Now) Contemporary Western Erotic Romance Stars: 4 Heat: 4.5 He’s the one who taught her to ride. Now all he wants is to ride her. My take: Two stories were running parallel in this one. The main focus was on Jax and Blake. Jax has loved and wanted Blake since she was a kid, but he thinks she should be off-limits. Jax is a strong woman and goes after what she wants. Hotness and romance follow. On the other hand, Blake’s brother Matt is in the middle of his own relationship with Helen. They have plenty of kinky and adventurous sex, but there’s something missing. It’s a pretty good story with great sex. The entire series focuses on the brothers. The twin brothers caught my attention, even though they weren’t central to the first book. Again, this is a standalone with no cliffhangers.


| Kayla Lords | Silk and Spurs by Cheyenne McCray (Rough and Ready, #2, Pink Zebra Publishing— Available Now) Contemporary Western Erotic Romance Stars: 4.5 Heat: 4 Jessica Porter finds herself in southern Arizona on the Cameron’s Bar C Ranch ready to photograph the ranch and the oldest Cameron’s wedding. When Jessie meets Zane Cameron, she finds herself wishing the tall, dark, and gorgeous cowboy was free.

yet seductive way for Cassidy to make things right for her family. Can she stand up to his domination? Can she handle being owned by Ace for one rough night? My take: Okay, I’m not a fan of “forced” domination, but let’s suspend disbelief—and understand she does consent to his rough handling. It’s a hot, quick, kinky read. If you just need a quick fix, an alpha male, and some cowboy erotica to get your motor going, this will definitely do the trick. The story line was interesting enough that I wanted to know more from the series and find out how Cassidy handles Ace later on.

My take: The story was fast-paced and exciting. There’s danger, violence, and intrigue. There’s also plenty of hot sex between a sexy cowboy and willing woman. Do I wish it had been a little longer and more developed? Sure, but for what it was, it held my attention and made my panties wet. Sometimes, that’s all you need a cowboy to do. Rough Billionaire Cowboy by Bella Wild (Alpha Billionaire Short Reads Romance, #1, Indie Book—Available Now) Contemporary Western Erotica Stars: 3.5 Heat: 5 Cassidy Granger was relieved to return from college. Her parents’ ranch was the only place she could call home and now that she was accepted into a local medical school, she could leave the big city life behind for good. While she was enjoying the great Arizona outdoors on her favorite horse, Cassidy ends up in the arms of Ace Grady, now billionaire owner of thousands of acres around her parents’ land. He delivers alarming news, and a self-serving,

ABOUT THE COLUMNIST Kayla Lords is an erotic author, sex blogger, and freelance writer who’d rather write smut than anything else. She’s also a kinkster in the BDSM lifestyle who wants people to get turned on by BDSM but not scared by it. A sarcastic, introverted, tea drinker, she usually laughs too loud and often thinks inappropriate thoughts. Visit Kayla at KaylaLords.com

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reviews erotic | senusal romance

Always Ready T.A. Chase

Erotic Heat Rating: 4

Making a living on the Bering Sea is hard enough, but throw love into the equation, and things can blow into a hurricane. Senior Chief Dean ‘Jake’ Jacobson loves his job as a Coast Guard rescue swimmer. Saving lives is the second best thing he could ever do. The first is loving Phil ‘Rhody’ Rhodes. Phil is a third generation crabber who fishes the Bering Sea. Being gay and in love with Dean isn’t something he talks about, especially not with the six men he lives with on the Angela Kayla for weeks on end. But he’s been happy with his life. Until one day the Bering Sea reminds them that she is a dangerous place to work. As her icy waters surround them, they discover one truth. Dean and Phil must always be ready to love each other because life can be taken so easily when one works on the sea. Review: Always ready by T.A. Chase is action packed, loving, caring, sensitive book about two men in the harsh realities of Alaska. Dean Jacobsen is a coast guard rescue swimmer. His job is to jump into the water after fishermen or others are caught in storms and unable to get their boat to safety. His job on a daily basis pits him against Mother Nature. Phil Rhodes is a third generation fishermen on the Bering Sea. His job puts him against the sea on a daily basis and it is almost always the sea who wins. During a trip Dean and Phil happen to meet each other and fall in love, however distance and work keep them distanced. Meeting during a weekend Dean realizes that he wants this much younger man forever, and not just on weekends that he can get away from work. While Dean’s crew knows that he is gay, and is over the moon that he has met someone who makes him happy, Phil is not as lucky and is worried about what his family, especially his fishermen father may say. It almost becomes a moot point when one day Mother Nature not only throws Dean and Phil into her icy arms, but makes them realize that life is not long enough to worry. This is a great novella and I was honestly sad when it ended. The story along with the characters makes you want to read more, and you feel a part of their lives. Reviewed by Andi

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Anomaly

Whistling Dixie

S.A. McAuley

Paige Warren

Erotic Heat Rating: 4

Erotic Heat Rating: 3

Warning: Untested chemical reactions in process…

B r y s o n Corners, 3

When Staff Sergeant Galen Welc is handed Temporary Additional Duty orders that move him to the Marine Corps base at Twentynine Palms, he thinks he’s prepared for what’s to come. Known for his uncanny ability to spot improvised explosive devices, he’s pitted against the latest in defense technology. He trusts his instincts and his training, but they may just be leading him somewhere—and to an explosive reaction with someone—he could never see coming.

Dixie Belle Benson has changed one gilded cage for another, when she moves from her daddy’s cattle ranch in Texas to the small town of Bryson Corners, Oklahoma. Her brothers are twice as bad as her father, but Dixie isn’t about to let them stand in the way of what she wants. And what she wants more than anything is sexy cowboy Knox McCoy.

Review: Anomaly by S.A. McAuley is a short but well written novella about a young man, Galen, who has the ability to see IEDs before drones and robots whose sole purpose is to find and destroy them. His abilities have become so well known that he was transferred out of the Middle East to train and test newly created inventions with the hope that his abilities can save lives. While driving the lengthy trip from the barracks to the laboratory Galen notices a small avatar on his phone based traffic app. Instantly amused he attempts to follow the avatar to no avail. It is only a matter of time before Galen and this strange avatar are in the same location and sparks fly, literally and figuratively. However, while sparks fly, it is also apparent that it is only a matter of time before Galen’s abilities are put to the ultimate test, the winner changing the face of IED discovery forever.

Review: Don’t Knox it till you try it. A very

This book has some heat, so if you do not care for reading about male/male relationships or sexual situations then you should pass on this. However, I think everyone should read this that likes military stories, doesn’t have a lot of time for a full book, and likes some heat in their life. While short, this story really packs a punch, and really highlights the author’s ability to tell a full story with good character development in only a few pages. I enjoyed this novella, and I am sure you will.

short and fun read, you wish was a little bit longer. It was an absolute hoot and you enjoyed Dixie Bell from the first minute you meet her. She was sassy, feisty and very capable of taking care of herself, even if she did have two over-protective brothers who were a hoot and definitely need a story of their own. And considering they couldn’t hold Dixie long enough to keep her out of trouble, they’d probably have enough stories to fill a book. Even though Knox was older than Dixie, they actually complimented each other and they actually made a good, unique and interesting couple despite some complications that may or may not show up. So if you want a good ride and fun time, pick up a copy and don’t “KNOX it.” Reviewed by Cassandra

Reviewed by Andi

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feature sneak peek

Nancy Fraser Do You Want Me

Boston, Massachusetts April 1991 Decorated Gulf-war hero Reece Michaels agrees to go undercover in order to bring down the Irish Mob. In return, the civilian life he’s coveted for the past six years will be returned to him. Hired by mob boss Sean O’Malley to protect his youngest son, Reece soon discovers the young man needs more protection from his own family than its enemies.

Reece sat at the end of the long, mahogany bar nursing two fingers of Scotch. “The boss is finishing up with some family business,” the bartender told him. “Thanks, Eddie. I’m in no hurry.” He tossed back another mouthful of the hot, amber liquid and turned on the wooden stool to survey the room. Besides Eddie, the middle-aged bartender, three other ‘associates’ of O’Malley’s camped out in different corners of the half-empty bar. Obviously, O’Malley’s wealth was not dependent on his drinking clientele. The door to the back office opened and a young woman stepped over the threshold. She looked vaguely familiar. As discreetly as he could manage, given the lack of a crowd, he studied her face. She smiled at him and then walked slowly in his direction. The gentle sway of her slim hips drew his attention like a magnet. “Reece Michaels?” Her voice, a husky mix of warm honey and expensive whiskey, literally melted over his name. “Is it really you?” “Uh….” She laughed softly and tossed her head, her auburn curls swishing from side to side, dusting her silk-clad shoulders. When she met his gaze, her amber eyes widened. “Abby. Abby Mackenzie. You know my sister Lily and, as an unwelcome

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result, my dad.” The breath he’d held came out on a whoosh. “My, my, haven’t you grown up? And quite nicely, I might add.” “And you look like crap.” Laughter bubbled up in his chest, but he tamped it down. “Thanks, I think.” She made a show of waving her hand in a circle in front of his face. “What’s with the scraggly beard and God-awful slicked-back hair? If I remember correctly, and I’m sure I do, you used to be good-looking, in a clean-cut sort of way.” “And you used to have freckles and braces. We all change.” He braced himself for another verbal attack on his appearance. Yet, she stopped short when the door to O’Malley’s office opened and both Jason and his younger brother, Billy, stepped back into the bar. Billy was exactly as Reece remembered him. Shorter and slighter of build than his older brother, he looked as if a good gust of wind would knock him down. His hair, blond rather than the O’Malley red, framed an unsmiling, pensive face. With a rough nudge, Jason shoved Billy until he stood beside the bar where Reece and Abby were waiting. “This is Reece Michaels. He’s the new guy Pops was telling you about,” Jason said, nodding in Reece’s direction. “Reece, you remember my baby brother, Billy, don’t you? Pops wants you to be his new bodyguard.” Billy O’Malley’s look of anger at being called a baby was probably no more comical than the look of surprise on his own face. Bodyguard to a spoiled rich kid was not what he’d had in mind when he’d asked O’Malley for a job.

Like most authors, Nancy began writing at an early age, usually on the walls and with crayons or, heaven forbid, permanent markers. Do You Want Me is Nancy’s twentieth published romance. A grandmother of five, she lives in Atlantic Canada where she enjoys the relaxed pace and colorful people.

www.nancyfraser.ca


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Young Adult | New Adult

YOUNG & NEW ADULT

BEYOND the fairy TALE

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trends

reading trends in young adult

Young HEART at

Katherine McIntyre

Wintery Reads The season of winter spells such delicious tragedy for stories, and young adult reads are no exception.

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| Young at Heart | Having just finished Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver (The Wolves of Mercy Falls, #1, Scholastic—available now), I experienced what a huge impact the setting had on the book. One of the unique things I loved was how she associated the werewolf change with the oncoming cold. In a genius way, it turns the natural countdown of the warmer days as they fade to brittle chill into something more insidious. But her book is only the tip of the iceberg to the vast amount of novels which center around this setting. And for young adult in particular, which focuses on enormous emotional ups and downs, the puff of a cold wind, the drift of snow, and stark buildings and forests in this landscape amplify those desperate feelings. There’s a reason for this shift as well, as documented in a study done at the University of Houston. In the warmer temperatures, our glucose levels are depleted faster, affecting our cognitive functions. Hence, your mind relaxes during the summer, and you get caught up in that haze. However, that means in the winter when most folks are staying indoors, the cold actually boosts your mental faculties—although I’ll take any excuse to curl up with a good book. So when teenagers are home from school on break in the stark of winter, their minds will be racing if they’re not occupied. Thankfully there’s a wonderful array of wintry reads for them to plunge into and channel all that restless mental energy. Countless young adult stories center around the chill of snow and the stark isolation of winter. For example, while Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series had some darker tones for sure, the first book traipsed among the wildflowers compared to the depths it plummeted in Frostbite (Vampire Academy, #2, Razorbill—available now). Not only did the problems the characters were dealing with escalate during their snowy adventure, but also the repercussions ended up being much harsher and enduring. In fact, this trend of dark stories and winter settings travels much further back to Russian fairy tales such as Father Frost, featuring Morozko as the titular character. While the story follows the traditional lesson pattern similar to many of the sort, this one also uses the harshness of the elements involved. Though the polite child is saved and rewarded, the rude child freezes to death. Sort of a ruthless punishment, right? But for anyone brought up in such an unforgiving climate, they’re raised with a keen understanding of how dangerous nature can be. For those looking to dive into a batch of newer winter stories, this past year offered plenty of options. One series revolving around the season is the Snow Like Ashes series by Sarah Raasch, and readers have more in the series to look forward to. With the Kingdom of Winter as the setting and a plot to uncover the magic of Winter, it’s hard not to appreciate this story as the leaves are crumbling away and ice is lacing the ponds. It’s been referred to as great for fans of A Song of Ice and Fire, and if it even holds a hint of the darkness that those books do, I’m wholly unsurprised that they’d set it in a kingdom of winter. The latest book, Ice Like Fire (Snow Like Ashes, #2, HarperCollins—available now), released in October. This year also introduced another Amanda Hocking story, Frostfire (The

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| Katherine McIntyre | Kanin Chronicles, #1, St. Martin’s Griffin—available now). Setting the story in Canada instantly endears it to the frosty weather, which also works well for the troll tribes featured in the story. The description of the secret kingdom, “hidden in the snow covered wilderness” promises a cold, remote land, which should only enhance the turmoil of the main character, Bryn Aven, already an outcast due to her outsider appearance.

Those looking for a nostalgic summer read or a lighthearted romp might not want to sign up for this roster. However, anyone who’s looking to dabble in a darker story can take a chance with some of these wintry novels while they’re sequestered inside. Grab a cup of hot cocoa, maybe a furry friend, and enjoy the weather with a book.

Since the Falling Kingdoms series by Morgan Rhodes is also hailed as the Game of Thrones for teens, we can draw some parallels between the harshness of winter and an equally harsh political and emotional landscape. And that’s certainly a theme I’m noticing, as in most wintry kingdoms, the denizens aren’t at leisure to bask in the sun, and spending time outdoors turns deadly in the middle of a blizzard. The latest book in the series, Frozen Tides (Falling Kingdoms, #4, Razorbill—available now), continues to weave the compelling political threads from the earlier ones in a story sure to enrapture. And not to be left behind on the trend of harsh settings is Dead of Winter (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers—available now), the third book of the Arcana Chronicles by Kresley Cole. Traveling across a postapocalyptic wasteland and fighting to survive? Sounds perfect thematically for a bitter, cold setting. This story is heavy on mysticism and, like the others listed, skates on the darker side of the pond, making it one captivating read.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR A modern-day Renaissance woman, Katherine McIntyre has learned soapmaking, beer brewing, tea blending, and most recently, coffee roasting. Most of which make sure she’s hydrated and bathed while she spends the rest of her time writing. With a desire to travel and more imagination than she knows what to do with, all the stories jumping around in her head led to the logical route of jotting them down on paper. Not only can her poetry and prose be found in different magazines, but she’s had an array of novels and novellas published through Decadent Publishing, Boroughs Publishing, Hazardous Press, and Jupiter Gardens Press. For more casual content, she’s a regular contributor on CaffeineCrew.com, a geek news website. Visit her at http://www.katherine-mcintyre.com.

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reviews young adult | new adult | childrens Demon

The Healer

Young Adult Heat Rating: 1

C.J. Anaya Young Adult Heat Rating: 1

Bernard Lee DeLeo

Five high school seniors were going to the ‘haunted house’ when their car wouldn’t start. Mike Rawlins who is a sophomore and works at his dad’s auto shop stopped by and got the car going for them. They convince Mike to go with them to the haunted house and he does, but not before stopping and getting holy water at the church and buying salt. Mike had been there before, he knew to be prepared.

A girl, a prophecy and two warring gods equals destiny! Seventeen-year-old Hope Fairmont longs for a normal teenage life, but with a gift like hers, normal equals healing illnesses and injuries instantly. Keeping a secret like that isn’t easy, but a small town is the perfect place for her to heal those who can’t heal themselves, and an even better place for her father, James Fairmont, to hide his daughter from the rest of the world.

Review: This is a fun read. The story revolves around Mike, his family, friends, and a dog that befriended him, named Demon – who saves Mike and his friends from a demonic ghost-like being. But Demon is much more than a dog – and with Demon, they have been able to find missing children together, and take on evil, after demons are released into the world because of a rift in the dimensions – causing havoc. Demon does well enough, that Mike and Demon are on the police’s list as someone to call and they are getting ready to start their own paranormal business. I won’t give anything away, but it’s a cleverly written, fun read, with action, suspense and a lot of humor. Even though this is in the YA category, I don’t think it matters what age you are to enjoy this book.

Review: This book started a tad slow for me, but quickly drew me in to the mythology. Hope is gifted with the ability to heal, a gift her father and her have tried to keep secret all her life. But when two new hot guys show up in her school, Hope’s world becomes unraveled. Destiny says she’s meant to be with Victor – a god of warriors, but her soul belongs to Tie – the god of love and marriage, and she is truly a soul born a thousand years ago. Sounds a bit confusing, but the author does a terrific job with it, and pulls you right into the world easily. It actually ended a bit too soon for me, but this is the first book in a trilogy, and the other books are already out, thankfully.

Reviewed by Cyrene

Reviewed by Cyrene

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The Last Drop Andrea Perno Young Adult Heat Rating: 1

Jeremy always said Space Academy was Earth’s last hope. People only dream of leaving a dying planet in search of better lives. Avery never expected he would be forced to do just that. On the heels of his brother’s murder, his father’s disappearance and Earth’s dwindling water supply now contaminated with a deadly virus, Avery and his younger brother have no choice but to leave Earth behind and join the survivors migrating the nearest habitable planet. What they don’t know is that the rarity of water extends far beyond Earth and they aren’t the only ones fighting for survival. Review: I liked the book, it was well written and thought out. It was a tad slow in many areas, but it picked up the pace as I got midway through the book. My one complaint, is I kept thinking how similar it was to Avatar. Earth is been almost completely used up of water and natural resources. There is constant war on Earth for the water rights of what is left. Children have been raised with rations and it’s turned into a desert. From here, our main character, Avery, is taken on a 2 year journey (most of this is spent in sleep) in space to a new planet, where the water is not easy to get, and the natives have their settlement on the largest area of water. There are a few twists and turns that I didn’t expect, and it had a much better pace from the middle of the book out. This is a series, and the first one – and it left several unanswered questions setting up for book 2. If you like Young Adult with sci-fi, then you will enjoy this book. Reviewed by Cyrene

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feature book showcase

Courtney Farrell Stolen Eyes

Earth is taken. Women are almost extinct. Bianca, the twisted, feminine AI, has infected every mind. Survivors retreat to a space station, where scientists develop a powerful, short range weapon. Bianca slips from one body to the next, so finding her is impossible. But she’ll show up to take sixteen-year-old Jackie, the only host who won’t sicken and die if she gets infected. The admiral wants Jackie to return to Earth as bait, but if she sets off the device, the blast could age her 75 years in an instant. Jackie refuses. Then Bianca’s nanobots sabotage the station. It won’t stay in orbit much longer. Jackie takes off with the device, prepared to sacrifice herself. She doesn’t count on being followed by the guy who loves her.

The admiral stood still and watched me with solemn blue eyes. I tipped my chin up and held his gaze. “Jacqueline Stuart.” Bauer spoke slowly, his voice a low rumble. “Street fighter. Gang leader. The last free girl. Did you know the press calls you that?” I shook my head. I didn’t even know there was still a press. In my world, newspapers were for starting fires. “You’re something of a folk hero, you know.” He raised one mocking silver eyebrow. “The only person ever to go toe to toe with Bianca and walk away unscathed.” I opened my mouth to argue. I didn’t walk away. I bailed. I got chased right off the fucking planet. But then he said something that pissed me off. “I saw you on the news, but you’re so much smaller in person.” I let out an irritated huff of air through my nose and turned away. In two

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strides I reached the only chair, a fake leather one in front of a gleaming semicircular desk. Flopping into it, I leaned back to take in the enormous view screen on the narrow end of the room. Past the sleek, curved body of the station, my stolen planet hung like a living jewel. Weird bumps under the fingers of my right hand made me look down. A panel of multicolored buttons winked from the arm of Bauer’s chair. Shit. I’d just taken the command chair. Oh well. Fuck it. I slid my fingers off the buttons, just in case, but stayed put. The admiral quirked a lip in amusement, probably because my toes barely touched the floor. “Since you’re there, push the amber button on the arm of the chair.” It took me a second to pick out the amber one among the multitude. I pressed it. The view outside was replaced with an image of the North American continent from space. “These are real-time satellite images,” the admiral said. He reached over me to touch a button, and numbers scrolled across the screen. 38.8633° N, 104.7919° W . . . 38.8633° N, 104.7919° W . . . 38.8633° N, 104.7919° W. The camera zoomed in, giving me vertigo. My fingers gripped the armrests as if it was me falling through the clouds. The Rocky Mountains appeared, growing larger as we plummeted down. The camera’s descent slowed. East of the mountains crouched a bleak Colorado city. Rooftops grew larger, and I recognized a familiar grid of four-story brick buildings. The narrow lane between them was a maze, choked with wrecked cars and rusted old barrels. I knew every last one of them. “That’s our territory,” I blurted. Bauer snorted. “That was your territory. Pox owns it now.” I leaned forward, staring intently. At the end of the road stood the familiar, sagging roof of Joe’s diner. Nothing moved. No burly, one-legged man limped down the alley. Tightness built in my throat. It was a relief when the camera panned east and stopped over the Tech Center, where humanity made its last stand. The tubes that once connected the buildings had been kicked aside, as if by a giant. What could do that? The admiral’s sleeve brushed my arm as he pressed another button. The empty launch pad appeared, growing larger, until the twisted remains of the array filled the screen. My breath caught. Doc Stuart had designed that giant, cone-shaped scaffold with its poxkilling UV lights, knowing he’d bait the trap with me. I agreed to it. There was no other way to lure Bianca in. She showed up, all right. In force. We lost that battle, and I was surprised to escape with my life.


Below the twisted steel scaffold lay the bleached white skeletons of thousands of animals. I peered at the bones. My heart ached for their wasted lives. “The battle only happened three days ago, and they’re already picked clean. Nanobots did that.” “Of course. That’s not the point,” the admiral said impatiently. “Look higher.” The camera panned up, following a ladder up the array to a landing where three cracked ultraviolet lights hung crazily from a bent railing. “I don’t get it,” I said. “What are we looking for?” He didn’t answer. The camera zoomed closer, past hanging shreds of steel cable, and focused in on the metal mesh catwalk. It took me a minute to make sense of the picture. The steel was slowly liquefying. Rivulets of silver-gray molten metal streamed together, flowed to an upright pylon and spiraled toward the ground. Behind them, the metal gleamed as if it had been polished. I spoke without taking my eyes from the screen. “The whole thing isn’t melting. She’s only taking off the surface.” Numbers crowded a blue bar to the right of the image. Most of them didn’t make sense. One did--the temperature. 41ºF. I was seeing the impossible. Cold metal, melting. My mind connected the dots. “Oh my God!” I jumped to my feet and leaned forward, hands splayed on his desk. “Nanobots are stripping the array! She’s looking for pieces of me. Bits of blood or skin I left behind. I bled up there, I know I did.” I collapsed back into the admiral’s chair with a groan. “Can she do it? Can she clone me?” Bauer didn’t sugar-coat it. “We think so. Bianca may not be able to generate a functional human body, but she can almost certainly grow enough tissue to appropriate your healing abilities. She’ll be entrenched then, virtually unstoppable.” My fingernails dug into the arms of the command chair. When I spoke, my voice came out as a hoarse whisper. “How long?” Bauer leaned against the other side of his desk, those longfingered hands gripping the edges harder than they needed to. His gaze flicked back to the flowing metal. “At this point, we think she hasn’t found any of your cells yet, or she wouldn’t still be searching. We’ll know she’s been successful when this ends.” He twitched his chin at the melting array. “After that, maybe two weeks. No more.” Part of me wished he hadn’t called me there. So I wouldn’t know what was going on, and I could’ve gone on thinking the adults had it under control. They didn’t, though. That much was obvious the second I got out of quarantine. Bauer stood, hands on hips, and looked me over appraisingly, as if making up his mind about something. Then he opened a cabinet on the wall and pulled out a gleaming silver sphere the size of a soccer ball. Curious, I left the chair and came around to join him on the other side of the crescent moon desk. He settled the heavy metallic ball carefully into my arms. The thing had to weigh twenty pounds.

I spotted a recessed button on one pole and impulsively pressed it. A faint tingling spread into my hands, slowly becoming intolerable. It was all I could do not to drop the ball on his foot. The device warmed until it seemed to pulse with life. Green bars began to creep around the equator. “Shut it off, shut it off!” The admiral’s hand flashed out and pushed the button so the lights went out. “We don’t need an EMP going off on the bridge.” “Sorry.” I sheepishly handed back the sphere and rubbed my itching palms on my pants. “So this thing is a bomb?” “No, the device creates an electromagnetic pulse. It’ll shut down anything electronic within ten feet. We want to use it on Bianca.” “Sure, that’ll help,” I sniped. “Maybe we can turn off her lights.” Admiral Bauer tilted his head and stared at me like I was stupid. Then I got it. “Oh. Nanobots are electronic.” A second later, the full force of what he was trying to say hit me. “Wait a minute. Ten feet?” I cried. “We have to get this thing within ten feet of Bianca? How are we gonna do that? We don’t even know which body she’s in.” “We will,” the admiral said. “When she comes after you.” “What?” I yelped. Bauer set the device on his desk. Its flattened poles kept it from rolling away. When he spoke, his voice was gentle. “You heard me, Jacqueline. We want to send you back to Earth.” A flicker out of the corner of my eye made me glance up. On the giant screen, the array had been replaced by video of blueuniformed men and women sitting at a long conference table. From their intense expressions, I knew they’d heard every word. Spies. I swept the line with a glare and whirled to confront Bauer. “So, on the off chance that Bianca fails to make a working Jackieclone, you guys want to send her the real thing. Idiots.” The officers gasped, mouths open like their straight-laced suits suddenly got too tight for their necks. I didn’t care. Bauer could call himself an admiral if he wanted, but he couldn’t command more than a hundred survivors.

Courtney Farrell is a biologist who turned her love of books into a career as an author. She has published fourteen nonfiction books and four exciting novels. Her YA novel, Sacrificed, won the 2014 BTS Red Carpet Award in the YA division. Courtney lives on a Colorado ranch with a menagerie of horses, dogs, cats, and chickens.

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| What They Didn’t Know | They thought she was a boy. Morgan’s mismatched clothes, outgrown bowl haircut, and secondhand sneakers hid every detail of who she was. The kids had ignored her since long before they were old enough to form the cliques they now claimed, and the teachers were indifferent, the by-product of a system where everyone did the least they were required to do to get by, and it was allowed. For years they thought she was mute or dumb. Few had ever heard her speak. Many had seen her sign to her grandmother at the curb when she was dropped off, but none had bothered to find out why. The administration knew her story but was too overburdened to share it or try to draw her out of the hard, little shell she had erected around herself. No one had seen her father in years though they knew he was around. No one knew who her mother was. Morgan was just another kid to everyone around her. It was high school before anyone saw anything more. Miss Foster, the music teacher, looked at Morgan suspiciously as she walked down the hall past her room. Someone had been humming. The Doppler effect of the sound had grown and faded with Morgan’s course. Could it be? She wondered out loud to her empty classroom. She simply had to know. Not that her workload was less than anyone else’s, she went out of her way to find out more about the introverted child. Her heart cleaved and broke to read the story. Morgan had been born a twin. Her mother had not survived the birth. A brother no one seemed to know about was impaired and in a home with others of his abilities, so he could have the roundthe-clock care that was needed. Morgan lived with her father, but he worked two jobs to keep his son in the facility and a home for him and his daughter. Notes from registration and previous conferences about Morgan revealed that the grandmother was deaf and mute but also a primary caregiver, making sure Morgan went to school and was fed while her father worked. Other notes indicated that while Morgan could speak and was quite bright, she just communicated better with American Sign Language 88 | btsemag.com

than words. The music teacher could not imagine it and determined upon closing the file that this could not be the end of the story for this girl. She watched Morgan for several weeks, waiting until just before fall break to approach her. “Morgan Gaffen,” Miss Foster called quietly from her doorway. Morgan stopped but did not respond or immediately turn. Her inset eyes were wide and conveyed more than a little fear as she turned halfway at the calling of her name. “I’m Miss Foster, Erin Foster. I’m the music teacher here.” It was said with careful quiet phrasing. “I understand that you know sign language.” Morgan only nodded in response. Her guard was still quite obviously raised in silent alarm. “Can I talk to you? I have an idea, but I really need some help. I think you might be able to help me.” Erin continued, watching Morgan carefully as each word registered. When Morgan stood still but didn’t move to get away, Erin pushed a little further. “Would you like to come in and sit down?” Morgan drew back but didn’t step back. Erin didn’t want to rush her, so she amended her request. “Or we can stand here too if that’s more comfortable.” Morgan nodded. Erin thought she heard an okay squeak out, but it was so soft she couldn’t be sure. Standing in the hallway just beyond her room, she presented her idea. “I’d like to have someone sign the songs and stories for the Winter Festival.” Morgan’s eyes were again wide but from interest more than fear this time. No one had ever asked her to participate in anything. Skepticism crept up. She had come to the festival for years through grade school and middle school, no one had ever signed before that she could remember. Why would they start now, and why ask her? Erin didn’t miss the change of emotion flash across Morgan’s usually stoic face. “There is a class of deaf children at one of the grade schools. They are never invited to the festival performance because they cannot hear it.” She shrugged. “I


| Savannah Verte | thought that if you could sign the songs, then maybe they could be invited for a change.” Morgan’s jaw dropped. She knew all too well about how different groups were excluded or overlooked for things. She was one of those groups all by herself, but she didn’t say so. Erin thought she was making headway and pressed on. “I understand your grandmother is deaf. It might be nice for her to get to come too.” She added quietly, hoping that her knowledge wasn’t more than the girl could take. Morgan’s lips were pressed together, and a tear ran down her cheek. She brushed it away quickly. She knew she was going to have to speak. Erin watched as the girl cleared her throat and licked her lips. When she replied, it was quiet and her voice shook. “She would probably like that.” Erin didn’t want to overdo it. “I tell you what, we probably should make sure it’s okay with your family before we go any further. How about you come by after classes, and I’ll have a note that explains what I’m asking and why that you can take home. If dad and grandma agree, we’ll talk more. Okay?” Morgan nodded. “Okay.” By mid-December it was all set. Morgan had been working with her grandmother to make sure she had the signs right for everything that had been chosen. They decided that Morgan did not need to come in until the day of festival performances but would work to recordings of the choirs’ singing to have the tempos for the music. Corralling a class of kids was enough without the distraction of them watching her sign. Erin was sure they would not get much accomplished that way. The week before the performances, Morgan appeared in the doorway to the music room after school. Erin was busy tearing down the day but stopped to see why she was there. “Is everything okay?” Morgan held out a note from her father. Erin took the paper and wept at the request. Miss Foster, We’ve not met, but I want to thank you. Your request to have Morgan be part of the program this

year has reminded all of us of what is important. I have a request in return for you. Morgan’s brother Michael, and others like him where he lives, do not get invited to participate in things either. Some are hearing impaired, and Morgan has been signing to them the songs she has been practicing. Is there any way that they could be invited to a performance? Mike Gaffen Erin quickly scribbled a response. She knew that the afternoon performance would be to a full house but that the morning one had plenty of room. There would be parents and other families there too as they were given the option to come since no evening performances were to be held. There was no reason she could see to deny the request. She would do whatever was necessary to make the invitation happen, and she did. Thirteen children were wheeled in or escorted in with a caregiver. They sat around the perimeter of the room, mostly fidgeting but generally quiet. The parents milled in too, many complaining about work and deadlines, shopping, and other trivial things. Morgan listened absently. Lastly came in the class of hearing impaired children. They were seated down front near the side where Morgan would be. Once the choir was set, Miss Foster invited her special guest up to the stage. The kids in the choir had been told someone would be signing; they had no idea it would be Morgan. More than one jaw dropped as she came up to the stage in a simple green dress with her hair pulled back behind a headband. They nearly didn’t recognize her. The stories were told and the songs sung. Morgan signed them all. She even smiled as she watched Issue 31 | January/February 2016 |

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| What They Didn’t Know | the class of hearing impaired children sign with her once they knew which piece was being performed. Near the end, several of the children from Michael’s group home were restless. They could only really sit still and be quiet for so long. She heard Michael, and she heard her father’s voice as he tried to quiet Michael. She didn’t know her father had come. He should be sleeping at this hour. She was happy and sad to hear his voice as it wasn’t working to quiet Michael down. Her heart sank as she noticed them start to take Michael from the room, but she kept signing. Miss Foster noticed the change in the girl, walked over between numbers, and asked quietly if there was anything she could do. Morgan asked if there was a pause that could be taken or something, so she could step out in the hall and calm him down. She knew what to do but couldn’t from the stage. Erin told the audience there would be a brief pause, but they would be right back. Morgan jumped from the stage and caught up to them just outside the doors. The conversation, while private, didn’t stay private as it carried through the door into the auditorium. “Don’t go. Not yet. His favorite is coming up. He doesn’t get to come out that much, please.” “Morgan, we know. He did his best. We just want everyone else to get to enjoy the rest of the performance. You did great honey.” Morgan had to try. Without further conversation, the choirs listened as Morgan sang to her brother unaware that she could be heard. The audience too eventually caught the words as Morgan sang “Believe” from The Polar Express to her brother. The auditorium went quiet as the sound carried through to them. All the hectic and crazy that had come into the room with them suddenly wasn’t so big or problematic. When she was done, there was no further conversation. Michael was brought back in, set just inside the doors, and Morgan returned to the stage. It took all of two seconds for her to figure out that she’d been heard. She was not embarrassed but didn’t want to dwell on it. “Believe” was one of Michael’s 90 | btsemag.com

favorite songs in the winter. He didn’t know it was the last one on the program, and she didn’t want him to miss it. She gestured to Miss Foster to continue so that he could stay for the end. The story and two songs before “Believe” passed quickly. Finally the full choir stood up to sing. Morgan was watching Michael to see his reaction and wasn’t watching the stage. A tap on her shoulder startled her. A girl she didn’t know but had seen around school was standing there. Morgan instinctively drew back as the girl leaned in to whisper. “We decided when you were in the hall, you should sing this if you’re up to it. We’ll back you up. We didn’t know.” Morgan missed a few of the words signing and singing at the same time. Thankfully, once she started, the class down front had all joined in. They all knew the song and were signing to everyone else. Morgan watched Michael and sang to him. It was the only way she would manage to do this. She didn’t notice the adults crying or other children smiling. She smiled for him and sang for him. When it was over and the house lights came up, Morgan knew it had been worth it. Michael was smiling, and her father was crying. Next to them was Gran signing applause. It was better than any “thank you” or “you did great, honey” that had ever been. There had been gifts given that day by people who didn’t know they gave them or to whom. They might never know, and that was okay with Morgan because what they didn’t know was that dreams come true in strange places, and that day, her family was together. A life-long lover of words and reading, Savannah hasn’t quite figured out what she wants to write when she grows up. She hasn’t found a story she won’t tackle. The selfproclaimed ‘Contemporary Vagabond’ hopes others find her diverse offerings as enjoyable to read as they are to write.


Mystery | Suspense | Thriller | Horrror

BEYOND the EXPECTED

MYSTERY & SUSPENSE

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trends

reading trends in mystery & more

Scrying EYE The

Kelly Hudson

Drugs, Country Samurai, Old Comics, and Satan Himself The winter winds whirl and swirl, cutting through your coat, slicing deep into your skin, sinking into your bones, bringing with them a bitter chill that threatens to frost your soul. Fight against it, dear one, open the door, come inside, step into the parlor. It is warm here, full of low lights and spirit glow, where the Scrying Eye sits on the table, open, watching, searching, ever ready to share with you glimpses into the future, into the past, into the present. But beware! Once you gaze upon the Eye, all your attention will be drawn to it. You will forget the weather, you will forget your worries, you will forget your joys, you will be enraptured, and for the duration of your visit, nothing else will matter. Look into the Eye, for it surely is already looking into you . . .

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| The Scrying Eye |

Suspense/Mystery Pimp by Ken Bruen and Jason Starr (Hard Case Crime— available March 2016) is a hardboiled tale of a former drug kingpin, a new designer drug that could put him back on top, and a femme fatale from his past that could ruin all of his plans. Max Fisher stumbles upon the new drug called PIMP that will bring him back to the top of the heap, but his ex has dreams of her own. She is setting up as a producer of a Hollywood show based on her past adventures with Max, a move which could jeopardize his current scheme of finally hitting the big time himself. Throw in a mix of cops and old enemies, and Max is in danger of this new drug taking him on a real bad trip, the kind you don’t come back from! Full of hard-bitten words, tough guys, and even tougher dames, this is a throwback to the noir novels of old, laced with a taste of the modern. Do not miss . . .

Honky Tonk Samurai by Joe R. Lansdale (Hap Collins and Leonard Pine, #9, Mulholland Books—available February 2, 2016) is the newest installment of his outrageous Hap and Leonard series. Watch as our two favorite heroes catch a cold case full of hot cars, hot women, and ugly skinheads. Working a stakeout, Hap and Leonard witness a man abusing his dog. Leonard decides to return the favor and beats the man. Now, of course, the man is suing Leonard, and to make matters worse, a woman named Lily caught the whole thing on video. She uses this footage to blackmail Hap and Leonard into working a cold case involving her missing granddaughter. The boys go along and soon find themselves knee-deep in stolen cars, murder, and prostitutes. And it only gets worse from there. With his flair for fun and adventure, as well as smoking hot dialogue, Lansdale brings back his most famous characters for another go-around in the savage lands of East Texas and just in time for the debut of the new Hap and Leonard TV series on Sundance. Hop on board, and have yourself a good time . . .

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| Kelly Hudson |

Horror! Web of Horror Archives by Various (Dark Horse Books—available March 29, 2016) presents an amazing collection, gathered here for the very first time, of the legendary complete run of the Web of Horror comic series. Included is every issue plus the unpublished stories that appeared in various formats as well as a slew of never-before-seen lost stories. Presented in a deluxe format and featuring some of the earliest work of such visionary artists as Bernie Wrightson, Michael Wm. Kaluta, Jeffrey Jones, Ralph Reese, and others, this is your chance to get on board and finally experience some amazing classics of horror and science fiction from 1969 and 1970. Dark Horse Comics is bringing this tome to us, and it is guaranteed to be high quality from cover to cover and presented with the kind of loving care that only true fans can bring to such a project. Devil Tales edited by Steve Banes (IDW Publishing—available now) is another fine collection of old horror comics, this one centering on Old Scratch himself: Satan! The Gates of Hell have opened and over two dozen tales of demonic intrigue have been unleashed once more upon the world. Watch Satan work his (and, in one case, her) evil magic on unsuspecting victims! This collection features artwork from top comic favorites: Don Heck, Gene Colan, Dick Ayers, Lou Cameron, Bob Powell, Howard Nostrand, and many more. These stories are guaranteed to stoke an inferno of fear in your heart and a sheen of sweat upon your brow. If you are a fan of horror comics, of the old EC brand, or of the devil, in general, then you, my friend, have finally found a unique and terrifying collection. Read, if you dare!

And now the Eye closes, its stories fade, its predictions soon to come to pass. You would do well to turn away now, dear one, and ponder the mysteries put forth for your viewing. Do you have the spirit and the gumption to head back out into the frigid winter weather, to take your newfound knowledge back to your home? Do you have the courage to open these books upon their release and see the sights the Eye has shown you? These are questions only you can answer, but one truth is unavoidable: it is time for you to leave. Go forth and read! And return here again soon, when the Scrying Eye will open once more and show you dreams that will at once disturb, haunt, and thrill you . . .

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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reviews mystery | suspense | horror

Redemption

A Secret Love

Mystery/Suspense Heat Rating: 3

Mystery/Suspense Heat Rating: 3

Clara Grace Walker

A Harsh Wake-Up Call… Trapped in rehab by the corrupt owner of her record label, pop star Mindy LePage finds her career on life support and her life teetering on the edge of a self-destructive abyss. The Coral Reef Center, however, is not what she needs to fix her career or tame her demons. Run by megalomaniac Shirley Cantwise, CRC is hiding psychotic staff members, dead bodies and extreme methods of behavioral control. …And A Dangerous Game of Cat and Mouse Mindy’s one hope for escape is the appearance of Earl Grayson, the man she left two years earlier to keep him from learning the dark secrets of her past. Earl rushes to CRC when he learns she is there, offering support and still hoping for something more. He is the one person who can unlock Mindy’s imprisoned heart, if she could only give him the key. Their reconciliation, however, is something Shirley Cantwise is determined to prevent. Obsessed with the handsome movie star, Shirley sees Earl’s arrival at CRC as a sign she’s meant to have him. She will do whatever it takes to have Earl, and she’s not about to let anything stand in her way. Especially not Mindy LePage. Review: This was a fun read. This is the third book in the Desire Never Dies series, and even though I didn’t read the first two, it can easily be read as a standalone and I had no trouble picking this one up first. There were a few characters from previous books that came back into this one. This book had some interesting twists and turns and I actually didn’t guess a couple of them, which was terrific. It was well written and kept my interest. Some romance, suspense, and some well developed characters made for a good read. If you like a contemporary suspense with those qualities, this one is worth your time. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Brigitta Moon

To keep her marriage Christina has to beat the clock. A Romantic Thriller. It will keep you turning pages. Sexy. Provocative. Intriguing. Every marriage has a secret or two or more, but Christina’s has a big one. A secret she has kept for nine years. Her husband Derek doesn’t suspect a thing. A blackmailer has entered the picture and now Christina’s exposure is imminent. The blackmailer is demanding payment that Christina doesn’t have. If she doesn’t pay, her secret will be leaked and she will lose her husband and children on Christmas day. Review: This was a nice short read, more like a novella. It threw me for a bit in the beginning, which is good for suspense, and came to a quick and satisfying ending. Even though I did eventually guess the outcome, it kept me interested and I liked the characters. The author did a great job outlining the characters and their lives in a short read. Reviewed by Cyrene


feature sneak peek

Mary Marks

Gone But Knot Forgotten Sorting through the estate of a wealthy recluse may sound like a fascinating task, but when the skeletons in the closets turn out to be real, Martha and her quilting pals wish they’d stuck to basting and batting. . .

“I want to do one last favor for an old friend.”

anything more than tragic and premature. “Oh for heaven’s sake, Lucy. Don’t you think I’ve learned my lesson? Don’t you think I’d run straight to the police at the first sign of something suspicious?” Without hesitation, Lucy and Birdie responded in unison, “No!”

Martha Rose is stunned when she hears that her best friend from high school has passed away. Her shock doubles when she learns that Harriet Oliver made her the executor of her estate. But when investigators determine that Harriet was murdered, Martha recruits her fellow quilters to help find the culprit. She’s mastered the art of piecing together blocks to create intricate quilts, but piecing together her friend’s murder will prove far more challenging. . .

And I’m curious. Lucy narrowed her eyes. “Uh oh. Please tell me you’re not going to get involved in another one of those again.” Lucy’s voice sounded more than a tad disapproving as she alluded to my recent penchant for discovering dead bodies and getting sucked into murder investigations. And both times the killers came after me. “This is way different, Lucy. First of all, the attorney never said anything about murder here. Second of all, being the executor of someone’s estate only involves signing papers and selling stuff. There’s nothing to worry about. What could be more straightforward?” My redheaded friend shivered a little. “You know, Martha, I’m getting a strong feeling about this.” Lucy swore she possessed ESP and could tell when something bad was going to happen. In the past, I’d dismissed her feelings as some kind of displaced anxiety. But if I were honest, I’d have to admit that in the last several months her warnings turned out to be valid. Still, the lawyer gave no indication poor Harriet’s death was 100 | btsemag.com

The first book in Mary Marks’s Quilting Mystery series was published the year she celebrated her seventieth birthday. These cozy mysteries take place in the San Fernando Valley and feature Martha Rose, a zaftig, fifty-something divorced Jewish quilter. Marks lives in Southern California with her loyal dog Gingie and orange cat Louie.

marymarksmysteries.com


Science Fiction | Fantasy | Paranormal | Urban Fantasy

SCI FI / FANTASY OUT of this WORLD

& PARANORMAL

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reading trends in sci fi & fantasy

AliB FORTY and the

Spaceships Alex Bardy

Fire is Catching! So Let’s Burn, Baby . . . “Shirts are always of thin material with long, floppy sleeves. They are normally worn without UNDERWEAR, and do not seem very warm. If you are prone to feel the cold, you are advised not to visit the SNOWBOUND NORTH.” —The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, Diana Wynne Jones

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| Ali B and the Forty Spaceships| At time of writing over here in the UK, we are still basking in the celebration of Spectre and all that is Bond, James Bond, o’course. The latest Hunger Games movie, Mockingjay 2, is just about to launch at cinemas, and the next Star Wars epic is hovering on the horizon, ready to smash more boxoffice records than may have yet been invented. Why do I mention this? Well, as it happens, Red Rising (Hodder & Stoughton, 2014) by Pierce Brown was launched a few years back and, despite being a story ostensibly set on a colonised Mars, has been favourably compared to the original Hunger Games tale: Red Rising takes the whole concept of “gaming to maintain the social status quo” and moves it several notches along the “gruesomely violent” track in a story typically full of subterfuge and all-round deception. Now, while this first story in Pierce Brown’s trilogy was an extended tale of a low-born “red” miner who undergoes a complete physical- and bio-engineered body overhaul to compete with the “golds” of society, the second book, Golden Son (Hodder & Stoughton, 2015), manages—unbelievably—to move things onto a whole new plateau of uber-violent. As well as being better written, Golden Son combines some of the key elements of Hollywood storytelling from Spectre and Star Wars to introduce lots more backstabbing violence, infinitely more brutal carnage, and a whole lot more self-examination . . . and, as such, makes for another cracking read. That said, one wonders where the third book, Morning Star (Hodder & Stoughton, Jan 2016), is going to take things, but here’s a confession: I am salivating at the very thought . . .

Sticking with Hollywood for the moment, the supremely talented Chuck Wendig turned his hand to a Journey to Star Wars: The Force

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Awakens novelisation earlier this year—one of a series of prequel and/or expanded universe tales by an assortment of authors. Aftermath (Del Rey, 2015) by Chuck Wendig is one of the better ones, I suspect, and spent three weeks on the New York Times Best Seller lists back in September. I was a tad late to the party, but boy, am I glad I finally made it; this is the way tie-in novels ought to be done, and if you missed it the first time round, it’ll be available in paperback within the first half of 2016. The House of Shattered Wings (Gollancz, 2015) by Aliette de Bodard is another corker from the pen of an author whose imaginary worlds are, quite simply, awesome. Set in a post-apocalyptic Paris gothique, it tells of the magic-fuelled war between several ailing Great Houses wherein fallen angels and gifted humans all have their part to play in the power games that follow when House Silverspires is torn apart from within. Great storytelling, evocative prose, and a setting to die for. Great stuff and highly recommended.

Regular readers will know I like to shine a light on independent publishers every so often, so it’s with some delight that I received an early proof copy of Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff, due to be published in hardback by Pushkin Press in January. Labelled


| Alex Bardy | as YA, it’s a harrowing tale of a girl on the run (not Maresi, ironically) who finds solace and sisterhood behind the blessed walls of the Red Abbey on a secluded island inhabited solely by women. Of course, things don’t stay like that when the men she is on the run from turn up looking for her, and the Maresi of the title is witness to this. It’s a relatively short tale, but reminded me very much of Sarah Pinborough’s The Death House— those who have been paying attention will know that I adore lots of Pinborough’s stuff (including The Death House)—so this is high praise indeed. As fantasy sagas go, I am not sure if Twelve Kings (Gollancz, 2015) by Bradley Beaulieu has been an easy one to miss—it’s a six hundred-page doorstop of a book and, despite a great premise of immortal kings being overthrown by a dark secret within their ranks, spends way too much time building a world and setting (for hundred-plus pages) before driving an express train through it to tidy everything up and race to the finish. Not entirely satisfying, but it does set things up well for the next volume, and it is a splendid world he’s built, truth be told. And finally, Robert Silverberg will be celebrating his eighty-first birthday in January 2016 and has a body of work that numbers in the thousands (including those written under his many pseudonyms), and yet Lord Valentine’s Castle and the world of Majipoor remain his most popular. So here’s a couple of others worth seeking out that still have much relevance even today . . . The Time Hoppers (1967) is set in a familiar world suffering overpopulation and unemployment; Dying Inside (1972) tells of a man blessed and cursed by the same ability: reading people’s minds; and At Winter’s End (1988) is a tale full to bursting with imagination and pathos. As diverse as they are, any and all of these titles will

serve as an amazing and healthy reintroduction to a master of his craft—go seek them out, have a read, and then tell me I’m wrong . . . Go on, off with you. Now. Begone.

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. He has finally taken the plunge and committed bloggery under the working title “Mangoblogalicious” and is in the process of uploading his many reviews and opinions even now. You can find out more at www.mangoblogalicious.com.

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science fiction | fantasy | paranormal

A Vampire’s Saving Embrace

Out of the Dark Danielle James

Darlene Kuncytes

Para/SciFi/Fantasy Heat Rating: 4

Para/SciFi/Fantasy Heat Rating: 3

Abigail Montgomery was happy with her life. She was independent, strong and had managed on her own for a long time. That was until the dark, handsome Desmond LaGrange showed up at the bar where she worked. How could she know that this mysterious man would end up saving her from the evil she didn’t even know existed? And why was she so drawn to him? Desmond LaGrange was fighting a past he was trying hard to forget. But when he see’s the beautiful Abby working behind the bar, something deep inside compels him to get closer. The only question was why? When he saves her from danger - can he resist the strong pull between them to let her go when the time comes? Review: It’s not too often that I find a book that I fall in love with all the characters, not just the main characters, but also the secondary ones in a single book. But this one did it. The story was romantic, funny, and suspenseful. And the writing is so nicely done, it’s a pleasure to read the story. The story arc is fluid and moves naturally along to each destination. The story gives you Abby, the girl who never felt like she fit in, and Desmond, a gorgeous alpha vampire, who is drawn to Abby from the first time he meets her. I won’t give anything away, but it’s easy to care about the supporting cast as well as the main characters. I didn’t put this one down for too long after I started reading, it hooked me from the go. This is the first in a series, and I’m looking forward to reading more from Ms. Kuncytes. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Angel Knight never knew anything was missing from his life. Not until one fateful night when he met her. She was fiery, beautiful, and he knew he had to make her his. Breanna Hunt lived a normal life until rock star Angel Knight walked into her life. He made her a job offer that she just couldn’t refuse, but could she keep herself safe from his charms? Angel does everything he could to make Breanna accept him as her mate, but when a rogue vampire starts killing people associated with Angel it isn’t easy. When the killer sets their sights on Brea, all bets are off. Review: Angel is a rock star…and a vampire. Brea is a waitress, whom catches his attention so he hires her to live in his home for a week and plan an extravagant party. The attraction between the two cannot be denied. Angel’s entire band and close security is his family, and they all live together, which leads to fun antics and a lot of laughs. But vampires live openly among humans, and someone is trying to take down Angel by taking Brea as bait. Will he be able to rescue his heart and soul? The author brings us humor, wit, a fiesty heroine, a gorgeous vampire, along with suspense, and a story that doesn’t quit. There wasn’t any slow parts of this book, I laughed, smiled and cried. Very well written, and I could barely put it down. If you like vampires, romance, werewolves dashed with romance and suspense, then this is the book you need to pick up. Reviewed by Cyrene


Spirit Bound

Tessa McFionn

Para/SciFi/Fantasy Heat Rating: 4

Ancient danger. Deadly rivals. A love that spans the Void of time… Kidnapped and tortured for days, grad student Calliope Vandeen is sure her pleas for mercy have fallen on deaf ears. But when she hears a seductive voice in her head, followed by a towering warrior straight out of her ancient history textbooks, she begins to believe in fairy tale endings. Swept into a world of living heroes with magical powers, Cal must call upon her deepest wells of strength…if her captors have left anything alive within her. Galen Alexiou is one of the oldest Guardian Warriors, serving the cause for almost 2,500 years. Never once did he think he would find his spiritmate, much less that she would call to him across the Void. But when he hears the voice calling for help, he realizes that not only is she real, but she’s in deadly danger at the hands of Rogue Stefan de Coldreto, an ancient enemy with a ruthless gift. With this mysterious young beauty in his hands, he must learn how his enemies found the female who holds the key to his salvation, and destroy this evil before it claims both Calliope’s life, and his very soul… Review: Wow, where do I begin? This story is a very original take on the Guardian genre, and it’s a fantastic read. This is Book 2 in a series, but I had not read the first one before this one, and I easily picked up the story. A grad student, Calliope is brutally attacked and tortured for days, and her soul cries for help. Unknown to her, the one who hears her in the deep recesses of her mind, is Galen, an immortal Guardian Warrior whose own soul has heard his spiritmate in her. The world and character building is terrific – Tessa McFionn wraps the story around you, and doesn’t let go. Time to go read that first one, and will wait very impatiently for the next installment. Reviewed by Cyrene

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science fiction | fantasy | paranormal

A Demon Bewitched Holley Trent

Para/SciFi/Fantasy Heat Rating: 4

The last time Claude Fortier fell for a woman, a vengeful demon named Gulielmus killed her while she slept. Even worse? That demon happened to be his father. Nearly 200 years later, Claude’s lover is back . . . sort of. Gail Colvard may have been born with his sweet Laurette’s soul, but her new-and-improved incarnation is a witch who isn’t taking any mess - not from him, and not from dear old dad, either. Unfortunately, it isn’t just Gulielmus she needs to worry about. When an enemy intent on upsetting the balance of power in the supernatural world targets Gail, Claude fears he’s doomed to lose her again. And this time, it’ll be for good. Can love truly conquer evil? Don’t miss the thrilling conclusion to the Sons of Gulielmus series. Review: Claude had once again found his one and only soul mate, who had been torn from him so many times before. This time she inhabited the body of a very independent, feisty fry cook. Can he teach her who she really is and draw her in closer while at the same time helping her to discover her independence and true power? This is a story of love between souls, whether it is parent and child or lovers. It teaches the importance of the sacrifice needed to let something you love free so that when they have fully embraced flight they can come back to you whole and truly yours forever. This is a decent romance with a bit of supernatural flair thrown in for good measure. I would recommend this book if you like tales about everlasting love, romance or a decent battle between good and evil. However, be warned that you cannot take this story seriously. It is very lighthearted and full of fluff. If you try to read it with a deep mindset you will be disappointed, but if you look at it as a fun, quick read then I think you will enjoy it as much as I did. Reviewed by Sally W

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An Unholy Alliance

Nights Embrace

Para/SciFi/Fantasy Heat Rating: 3

Para/SciFi/Fantasy Heat Rating: 4

Deb Sanders

The war between good and evil has raged for centuries, with mankind forced to choose sides. Some are reluctant warriors. A few make the ultimate sacrifice. But only one is prophesized to give birth to the Antichrist. Reyna Blair is a recently discharged Army vet about to engage in the most important battle of her life. Review: An Unholy Alliance was a really good book. I wasn’t sure what to expect because I don’t normally read books with angels or demons, but I was pleasantly impressed. The supernatural elements don’t overshadow the storyline. The story itself was interesting and really got me invested in Reyna’s life. It was a little bit predictable, but there were also plenty of surprises to make up for that. The story moved quickly and I was finished reading before I realized I had read quite so much! In the beginning of the story, I was a little bit confused by what was going on, but the author did a good job of quickly explaining everything without doing it too soon. Overall a great read, would recommend this to anyone who likes books with mild action, surprises and a strong female protagonist. Reviewed by Melanie

Brandy L. Rivers

It all started with a song. Roxana Nights was late to another gig, thanks to her first love, and drummer. It’s been years since she left Jordan, but he won’t let her go. Then she hears a voice that pulls her under a spell and changes her whole world. There’s only one problem. A rival clan won’t rest until they’ve taken Trevor’s down. Unwilling to let old grudges die, they target Roxy. Trevor will do anything to keep her safe. Will love stay strong when the past comes out? Can they survive the centuries old vendetta? Review: This book was a good read. It threw me a bit as the romance was very quick, with very little development of both the main characters and the romance. Because of that, it took me awhile to care about the characters. The story was fast paced, and there is a lot packed into this one book. There were some secondary characters that had no resolution to their storylines, but maybe those are future installments. There were also switches in the writing style with points of view changing between the main characters, but it wasn’t all that confusing. Roxy Nights is a musician and falls for a singer in another band, Trevor. Unknown to Roxy, Trevor is “Other” which is a term used that describes people in this universe that are not human. Along the way, they also discover that Roxy is not entirely human, and once she begins to come into her magic, her long lost evil father wants her at his side, or to destroy her. But Roxy has strong allies, being mated to Trevor, an alpha werewolf, who will protect her as one of their own. I liked the story, even though I would have liked more character development in the beginning, I did care about the characters eventually and the story had a lot of action to keep me reading. There is another series that this is a spin-off of, and some of the characters from those books come back in this one, but this book can be read as a standalone. Reviewed by Cyrene

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science fiction | fantasy | paranormal The Seeker Ditter Kellen

Para/SciFi/Fantasy Heat Rating: 4

Ember Wells knows the meaning of terror. A reporter by day, her nights are spent hiding from a serial killer known as The Seeker. He’s stalked her for a year, terrorizing her through the lens of a camera. Held prisoner by paranoia, fear becomes a lonely companion...until she meets Angelo Dimitrov, a dark, mysterious stranger who sets her world on fire. Angelo Dimitrov is not what he seems. Sexy as sin and shrouded in secrets, he appears out of nowhere and moves in next door. Should Ember run from this stranger with the moss green eyes or give in to her heart and be burned alive... Review: If you enjoy erotic paranormal romance with a bit of thriller thrown in for good measure, you may enjoy this book. I’m not big on erotic romance, but I still enjoyed the story. It’s definitely fast paced and action packed. To be honest, the idea of Ember jumping into bed with this guy she just met after being stalked for a year, just doesn’t sit right with me. BUT as the story goes on, it does make more sense that she did it. It doesn’t mean I think it was a good idea, but I understand a little better why she did it now. It wasn’t entirely predictable, I had my suspicions, but it was just out of reach, so I enjoyed the fact that I didn’t know what exactly was happening right from the start. The vampire myth is different from other books, so it is unique and a fun read. Reviewed by Melanie

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The Shadows of Stormclyffe Hall Lauren Smith

Para/SciFi/Fantasy Heat Rating: 4

To defeat a dark evil, they must face his family’s past… Bastian Carlisle, the Earl of Weymouth, doesn’t believe in ghosts. Even though tragedy and mysterious hauntings have driven his family away from his ancestral home, Stormclyffe Hall, he is determined to restore the castle to its former glory. His plans are disrupted when a stubborn American shows up on his doorstep hoping to pry into his family’s tragic history. Review: The Shadows of Stormclyffe Hall was an overall good read that once I got started, I tore through the pages until the very end. The characters were engaging and the back story interesting. The mystery of what was going on wasn’t easily discovered, so I didn’t completely know what was going on until the end. Though I enjoyed this book very much, it had some really weird parts to it. Some of the interactions between Bastian and Jane were a bit much for me considering their lack of familiarity, even though it was described as more of a possession situation, it didn’t sit quite right with me. It was mysterious and romantic at the same time. I felt bad for the characters, both past and present and I could understand why Bastian was as standoffish as he was. I enjoyed this book very much. Reviewed by Melanie


In the Halls of the Mountain Troll Tanith Davenport Para/SciFi/Fantasy Heat Rating: 3

Every day she faces nightmares. He just wants her to dream. Astri Ingebrigtsen has no time for romance. A member of an elite team of trollhunters, tasked with controlling and concealing the troll population, her days are too full to focus on anything else, so filled with nightmarish brutality that her nights have become dreamless. So when hot researcher Kai joins the crew to help them in their latest job, hunting a mountain troll, Astri ignores the chemistry between them—something her jealous teammate Micke fails to do. Review: In the Halls of the Mountain Troll by Tanith Davenport is a paranormal romanceish book that both makes sense and then really doesn’t. Astri is a hunter of trolls and apparently other things that are paranormal. Her and her team travel around the United States seeking trolls that are raising hell, literally in some situations. Each member of the team has their own abilities and strengths and that plays well to capture or subdue a troublesome troll. However when Kai joins the team everything and everyone gets thrown for a loop and Astri’s life depends on the very man that she can’t stand to be around. Okay first, this cover really does not depict the book at all, and is really misleading for me. The story is good, although I think that the ending is a little rushed as this is a novella and it seems like a relationships that is as deep and sexual as the one that Astri has is possible in a day, but who knows. The overall hunting of trolls, much in the same way that individuals hunt for tornados makes sense if trolls existed and needed to be moved around to decrease the amount of damage caused. I like the characterization and the depth that the author achieves in such a short amount of time. Overall this is a good novella, but I don’t know if I would read it if it was full length just because of the overall plot.

Raven Moon Eva Gordon

Para/SciFi/Fantasy Heat Rating: 3

In a world ravished by zombies, animal shifters vow to save human survivors and combat zombie hordes. Ravenna, princess of the northern raven conclave, joins forces with witch Dora Adler and the Fenrir werewolf pack. On a mission for a vaccine against Z-phage, Rave and her team fly to a remote biological research facility. They battle a new breed of zombie, faster and stronger than the human variety, and with an appetite for shifters. Review: This is a good book, I enjoyed it well enough, and the first time I’ve read about raven shifters. It was a bit predictable, and it took me awhile to care about the main character Ravenna. This book is set in an apocalyptic time line, with the virus infecting most of the human population, (not original), but also with the chimpanzombies – (is original). The two main characters, Ravenna – a raven shifter and Maddox, a wolf shifter, are drawn to each other and are naturally immune to the zombie virus, except for the apes. Destroying them, and the person responsible for making them has them working together while fighting their attraction to each other. There was some witty banter and some humor, and lots of action. It went at a good pace and there were only a few slower parts, but they quickly moved on. This is the 2nd book in After the Bane series, and I did not read the first one, and had no trouble following along with this one. Reviewed by Cyrene

Reviewed by Andi

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science fiction | fantasy | paranormal Second Nature Marie Lavender

Para/SciFi/Fantasy Heat Rating: 4

She never expected it… Desiree Edwards has a problem. She’s been attacked, kidnapped and forced to get along with a vampire of all things. It’s something right out of the story books she reads, or her worst nightmare. But, sometimes he’s not the monster he appears to be. He seems so humanlike that she can’t help it when her emotions betray her, when her body betrays her. To make matters worse, she finds out more about herself than she ever wanted to know. She was unlike any other… Alec has a problem. The animal in him wants Desiree. But, so does the man. The more he learns about her, the harder it is to deny what he wants. But, he’s a freak, and she’s just a human. The two species don’t mix that way. Then an old enemy surfaces and Alec is forced to make a choice. His life or hers. Can Alec’s soul be saved by this unique human? Or will it be far too late? Review: When attending a festival with her best friend, Desiree had the feeling she was being watched. Alec, a vampire, felt the undeniable pull to Desiree. Alec is so driven to find out more, he “attacks” her, and then takes her back to his home for safety, for her, and for him. It doesn’t take long for them both to discover their attraction to each other. There was not a lot of character or world development, and secondary characters, were almost forgotten, including her best friend, whom you heard very little about after the initial chapter. I really didn’t feel like I had a reason to care about either characters in the beginning – and felt it was all very rushed. The only danger in the whole story was over very quickly and wasn’t very dramatic. I would have liked to see more development of the romance between the two, I think that even though Desiree’s first marriage ended badly, and she had trust issues, she seemed to trust Alec way too fast. With all that said, I enjoyed the story, it was a short read. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Midnight Star Billi Jean

Para/SciFi/Fantasy Heat Rating: 4

Love can be tricky, but so can a Lykae determined to capture his reluctant mate’s heart. Ranger is a werewolf, a Lykae with a problem. He’s found his one true mate, the only female who can complete him. Only trouble is, he’s denied his instinct to claim her. Now his mate hates him as much as she believes he hates her. Will he have to risk both their lives to finally prove to his stubborn Vampire that he loves her? Star is a half-breed Vampire with a past of not being accepted because of her mixed blood. Ranger is just one more example of how little she fits into the immortal world, no matter how much she tries to fool herself into believing otherwise. She’s a strong female, a fighter, but when it comes to the opinions of others, she has no defenses. Why fight what she knows is true? She is a half-breed, less than those around her. She has a home, friends and females she loves like family. Only trouble is, her family is now related to the mangy wolf man who hates her. Review: I didn’t love this book. I didn’t hate it, but I really didn’t love it. It was an ok read for me overall. The action scenes were good enough, but Ranger’s alpha male tendencies were a bit over the top for me. The writing wasn’t great, but the story itself wasn’t bad. I should say that the ideas were better than the execution. The romance between Star and Ranger was explosive, but predictable. Forbidden love, sexual tension of course they are going to do the deed. We are given constant commentary on each of their thoughts about the other, and sometimes it’s too much. I did like how protective Star was over the people she cares about. That is definitely something I can appreciate. I liked this book enough to finish reading it, but I doubt I will read the next book in the series. Reviewed by Melanie

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teaming up to bring yo

The Almshouse

Cemetery Highway

Paranormal

Paranormal

Blanche C. King

Number 9, Charles Street has a habit of catching on fire. Twice it burned down, taking with it the people inside. When a bag of bones falls on twelveyear old Julia, she finds herself thrown into the spirit realm with the house’s past residents. Her new neighbors aren’t so lively, and some can’t even remember their own names. But as Julia discovers, there’s more to these people than meets the eye. Something’s been cut from the town’s records, and whoever did it will kill to cover their tracks. Review: This was a really good but sad book. Number 9, Charles Street has burned down twice. 12 year old Julia is thrust into the spirit world and forced to spend time with some of the other former residents. We follow her journey through time to find out what the story is behind her newest friends. Ghostly kids freak me out. Even in books, I always feel so bad for them. The kids in this book are no different. The Almshouse is full of mystery, corruption, and ghostly happenings. The author gives just enough back story on each character to keep you on your toes and emotionally invested in their stories. This was a real page turner for me. I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen with Julia and her friends. It broke my heart in ways, but I enjoyed the story immensely. A must read for any lover of ghost stories.

Hamish Robert Johnson

Cemetery Highway is a rollicking tale of fame, friendship and falls from grace set in a world where zombies are the rich and elite and humans are the underclass. Best friends Michelle, Dexter, Penny and Cakes started a crew called the Anti Zombie Alliance and plan on sticking it to the zombies once and for all. But when zombie big-wig Max convinces suave Dexter to trade his standards-and friends-for stardom and things get ugly. Review: Wow. What a different book. I must say, I loved this book. Cemetery Highway is definitely a book I can recommend to anyone looking for something different. Cemetery Highway isn’t your typical zombie book in any way. The zombies are functioning members of society and the humans are considered lower class citizens. Zombies get the best of the best; living lives of luxury as long as they follow all of the rules of “The King” and continue doing their assigned jobs, working over 100 hours a week for the rest of their lives. Humans are left in poverty, but can take “The Package” at any time. The characters in Cemetery Highway are relatable and likeable for the most part. Even the “villain” of the story is likeable. There is humor throughout the book, which I really enjoy. You must have a sense of humor as well as understand the concept of irony to appreciate some of what is going on.


ou more reviews

Blood Blood and and Bullets Bullets James R. Tuck James R. Tuck Paranormal Paranormal

Thrill of the Hunt Thrill ofKelly the Hunt L.E. Perez, Abell, Tawa M Witko, J. Nichole Laura Stapleton, L.E. Perez,Parkins, Kelly Abell, Tawa M Witko, L.Marshall James Susan Burdorf, J. Nichole Parkins, Laura Stapleton, L.Marshall James Paranormal

Paranormal

Since hunting down the monster who took the lives of his wife and children five years ago, occult bounty-hunter Deacon Chalk has lived by only one rule. He does not work for the monsters. He kills them. So why would a vampire try to hire him as protection against another monster hunter? After enforcing his only rule Deacon goes to meet the target, a vampire slayer named Nyteblade. Professional courtesy demands he tell this Nyteblade the vampires are hiring people to kill him. Deacon finds the vampire slayer waiting in an alley. Review: This is an amazing book. From start to finish, it’s filled with action and violence. Deacon Chalke is a man on a mission to check thisthe out. You won’t regret avenge murders of his wifeit.and kids. There is absolutely nothing romantic about these vampires, so if you are looking for the type of vampires that have redeeming qualities, and are just misunderstood, keep looking, because this book is not for you. The vampires in this story are bloodthirsty monsters who will think nothing of eating your family in front of you, then saving you for dessert for later, after you have been traumatized in every way possible. I totally 100% recommend this book to anyone who enjoys action and a good story. If you need a break from the typical vampire story or paranormal romance, please check this out. You won’t regret it.

In this Collection of What Suspenseful Taleshappens take when seven a ride on the wild sideauthors with get us as together? we explore Seven the completely different stories ranging from paranormal, psychological and frightening Urban Fantasy and the paranormal, to the turns your life can take. psychological, criminal and supernatural. With a Foreword by Award Winning Thrill Jana of theOliver, Hunt open explores things that author yourthe minds and scare thrill us, and excite us. enjoy theus, ride. Review: What a great collection of short stories by some great authors. Each one is unique and potentially terrifying in its own way! Some of the stories are little bits that go along with other books by that author, and others are completely separate from everything else the author has written. This book has such a variety of stories, from magical weapons to zombies, to ghostly children; there really is something for every reader to enjoy. I’ve read some of the authors in this anthology, but I will definitely be checking out the ones I haven’t previously read. It’s rare that I read an anthology where I enjoy every story in the book. There is usually at least one, sometimes two that just aren’t for me, but that wasn’t the case with this book. Every section was something different and no two stories were too much alike. A great book overall!


teaming up to bring yo

Death is but a Dream

Demonic Dora

Paranormal

Paranormal

Erin Hayes

Caught between life and death, all Callie wants is to live again. Homicide detective Callie Saunders knows that death isn’t all pearly gates and angels. After being hit by a bus, she finds that it’s the ancient gods and goddesses of Greek mythology who are in charge of everything. So when Hades offers her a deal, she accepts. If she wants to be brought back to life, she’ll have to figure out who is trying to kill his son. But if she fails, both her soul and the world will be destroyed. Review: Death is but a Dream is like a paranormal mystery combined with Greek Mythology. Callie Sanders is a likeable main character, and Plutus seems like a jerk at first, but after you get to know him, you can understand why he is the way he is. This book is unique. It’s different from anything I’ve ever read, and that’s good. We are usually given the impression that all gods and goddesses are perfect. That’s not the case in this book. We see different sorts of fatal flaws in each of the characters that give this book something much different from what we are used to seeing. This really was a good read. Once I got started, I couldn’t put it down. I honestly didn’t see the ending coming until it was too late. I would recommend this book to anyone looking to change things up a little bit and read something different from the typical gods and goddess books.

Claire Chilton

She’s finally managed to summon her first demon... Dora Carridine is trying to summon a demon, but she’s not very good at Latin and nothing ever works out the way she plans. Her life is fraught with weekly exorcisms and having to watch her father s fire and brimstone TV show every Sunday. So, when Dora finally succeeds in summoning an incompetent demon lord, she’s absolutely delighted when all hell breaks loose. Review: This book wasn’t entirely what I expected. It was freaking hilarious. I’m trying to figure out how exactly the author came up with some of the things that she did for this book without peeing her pants. I never would have thought of some of this stuff, but I’m so glad she did. I read it in less than a day because I really did not want to put it down. My husband looked at me like I was nuts when I was laughing out loud at some of the references in this book. I recommend this book to anyone with a great sense of humor who is looking for a book that’s a little bit different. The story was pretty good, but the humor is really what did it for me. It’s a quick and easy read that will keep you laughing on almost every page.


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Through the Glass Darkly Donald Allen Kirch

Beneath Claire’s House Corey J. Popp Paranormal

Paranormal

The House loomed over the city like a beacon of malevolent evil. People spoke of it only in whispers. Others tried to own it, eventually coming out in a body bag. Darkness dripped from its windows, spilt blood made up the foundations of its property, and Satan seemed to have a claim on the land. Houses built along its borders nailed their windows shut so that they wouldn’t have to see it. Evil resided within its ancient walls and did not care who knew it! Review: If you are looking for a good haunted house/ghost story, this is the book for you! Through a Glass Darkly creeped me out more than I want to admit. This book has everything a good ghost story needs for maximum horror. A haunted house, a disgruntled ghost (or several), a professor, a team of investigators, a holy type of guy, and a couple of psycho’s thrown in for good measure. The back-story is disturbing and detailed, though it does still leave a little bit to the imagination. Sometimes our imagination is scarier than reality anyway! Through a Glass Darkly is one of those books that leaves you curious as to what could come next. There are so many twists and turns. This author has done a fantastic job of providing the reader with a thorough and interesting book that I will be recommending to all of my friends.

Sixteen-year-old Claire Young is tormented by a recurring, prophetic nightmare and visitations from gruesome, mutilated ghosts. She’s convinced the apparitions intend to harm her widowed father, but there’s little she can do locked away in Saint Thomas Psychiatric Hospital. Her situation is hopeless until a mysterious priest delivers the name of a man who may be the only one willing to help. Claire launches a daring scheme that leads her and her best friend to a former paranormal investigator. Review: This was one creepy YA Horror story. Claire sees ghosts. Super scary ghosts that she is convinced are trying to harm her. Her father’s solution is to put her in a mental health facility where she is diagnosed schizophrenic. But is she really? This books is full of mystery and excitement. Claire seems like such a realistic and likeable character. She’s extremely brave, almost to the point of recklessness. I really loved the way the author put this story together. It moves very quickly, which made me happy because I was dying to find out where these ghosts were coming from and what they wanted with Claire! The other characters that Claire interacts with are also interesting and some of them, well your heart just goes out for them and their situations. This book is full of horrors that are age appropriate, but still scary.


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Crazy Ex-Ghoulfriend

Grandma Must Die

Paranormal

Paranormal

Angela Roquet

Janie Parker is in love with the boy next door, but he’s dating Miss Popular. That is, until she wraps her car around a tree and bites the dust. Just when things settle down and Janie thinks that she might have a shot at going to prom with the boy next door, Miss Popular comes back from the grave, and she’s one crazy ex-ghoulfriend. Review: Crazy Ex-Ghoulfriend is one of those books that makes you glad you are no longer in high school. It’s got your typical popular girl vs nerd girl conflicts but with the added benefit of the popular girl becoming a zombie and trying to give her forcing her into a makeover. It’s full of the life lessons we have all heard and hopefully learned, but it never hurts to be reminded.

Maureen L. Bonatch

Carman has worn out more towns and last names than impractical shoes protecting the secret of her magic blood. But when a friend goes missing, and another is infected with a deadly spell, Carman must choose. Expose her magic blood by curing the spell—or stop the infection from spreading by killing the source…the grandmother. Magic bounty hunter Dylan has scoured libraries of banned magic paraphernalia seeking a method to distinguish genuine witches from impersonators. He suspects unorthodox librarian Carman might hold this information tighter than the hair he’s dying to unleash from her bun. With a past as hidden as his sleeve of tattoos, Dylan discovers he’s been used to gain Carman’s trust and their passion risks more than mixing mortals and magic. Review: I don’t know why, but I had a really hard time getting into this book. I normally love this sort of book, but for some reason, I just wasn’t connecting with the story or characters.

Overall this was a cute book. I liked the story and it kept my interest throughout the whole book. I didn’t feel like there were any lulls in the story, and while many of the characters were pretty one dimensional, it is understandable because the story is more about Janie and Matilda than it is about the other characters.

Despite my disconnection with the story, Grandma Must Die is well written. I can see why others liked it even if it wasn’t for me. There are lots of secrets to uncover as you read the book, so if you like surprises you won’t be disappointed.

Angela Roquet has an interesting writing style full of humor that I enjoyed. I will be looking into Roquet’s other books asap.

This book is great for anyone who enjoys romance, magic and secrets while unraveling a magical mystery.

There is a bit of romance, though nothing too graphic and you can tell the author has a sense of humor as it comes through in her writing, which I did enjoy.


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Tiffany Stevens Wicked Destiny Sloane has a secret growing inside her, and she has always known she was...different. Her powers are slowly simmering beneath the surface, as is the love she holds for Declan. When Declan suddenly leaves her life, Sloane struggles to move on and find happiness, but her thoughts are continuously plagued by the love they once shared, that is until a handsome stranger enters the picture. Everything seems to be on the right track until Sloane learns the truth about the mysterious stranger and why Declan left so abruptly. The world around Sloane is not at all what it seems.

twelve hours. Rolling over on my side, grabbing one of my pillows and holding onto it as if it were my body. Thinking about my dream, I couldn’t help wonder why it was so vivid. I mean, what happened in the dream wasn’t even the way things were left between us. In fact, that morning I remembered hearing the truck driving off in the distance. I’d gotten up to cook him a surprise breakfast at the cabin, but when I let myself in, he’d cleared out. He’d packed everything up and left before he could even face me.

Opening my eyes, and I saw it all. The fear, the love, and the betrayal. He brushed his thumb across my cheek, and the warmth from his hands stung my face, the traces of him lingered, and in that split second everything disappeared. It was just me and Declan standing there in the woods. He pressed his forehead to mine and closed his eyes. “You have to control yourself or they will find you. You know nothing of the other world that you are connected to, and the only way to protect you is to leave. Please, Sloane, for me. Calm your storm before you wreck your aunt’s land.” That did it. That was the fuel needed to push me over the edge. How dare he speak of my aunt right now? My eyes shot wide open, and struggled to get free of his hold. He snatched me back to him. “Sloane, I love you more than you’ll ever know. Now wake up.” My eyes shot open. Trying to get a grip on reality and where I was, lying there staring at the ceiling of my loft. I turned my head to get a look at the clock on my night stand and noticed it was pushing four o’clock in the afternoon. I had slept almost 122 | btsemag.com

Born and raised in Georgia. I married my High School Sweet Heart. We also have our own business. We have two beautiful kids. When I am not reading or writing I am constantly in my family’s corner. You can always find me at the drag strip next to my husband, on the sidelines yelling at my son’s football games, and texting from the other room of the house with my daughter. There’s never a dull moment in my life.

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Mandie Stevens Caelum

Eva doesn’t claim to be a good guardian angel, but she tries. After she loses two charges, the Powers That Be begin to doubt her abilities. To redeem herself, Eva sets out to rescue Elsie, granddaughter of the former king of the Fae. A demon has kidnapped Elsie to complete an ancient ritual that will allow him to slip through the veil between Earth and Hell during the Sturgeon moon. Thomas, an angel liaison, finally lands his first mission. But when he’s paired with the angel responsible for his uncle’s death, he has to put aside their differences to get the job done. With unlikely friends in tow, Eva and Thomas are in a race against time. Save Elsie, save the world—oh, and save Eva’s job.

“Damn it, woman, can’t you sit me down a little easier?” Judging from the pain, my rib had to have been cracked. Eva grabbed a pillow and stuck it behind my shoulders, sending the pain shooting through my chest. Anger rolled off her, and she shook her head. “Don’t you dare do that again. I’m not some damsel in distress.” Frustration and worry were clear on her face. “It was three against one. I was just trying to help. I’m your partner, remember?” Each breath was harder to take with the pain. “Next time step back, and let me take care of it. If I hadn’t been worried about you, I could have gotten the other two before they got away. You have your place, and I have mine.” “I’m surprised you were worried about your partner,” I mumbled. I wanted to dislike her, for what happened to George, for Soren, but she was making it difficult. “Shut up and sit back. Thomas, you sound like a child. You know damn well I cared about George, and if we’re going to work together, you need to realize that. I will always have your back. Now take your shirt off, I’m going to have to heal you.” “I’m fine.” “No. You are not. I need you at your best when we meet Paimon.” I grunted as I tried to take off my shirt. It hurt like a son of a bitch. “Let me help you with that.” She placed her hand on my chest, making my shirt disappear. When she touched me, her face softened. Overwhelming, warm love

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filled me. Light swirled around me, warm, tingly almost euphoric. She then removed my glasses and placed them next to me. Eva was so close, her face only inches from mine. “What are you doing?” She had the most radiant smile as she asked, “Are you always so grumpy? I just want some warning if you are always like you were today.” “Only on days I’ve had the hell beat out of me.” “Fair enough. Hold still.” Her palm lay on my forehead as she closed her eyes. She started speaking, but I couldn’t understand her. “What are you doing?” She opened her eyes. “Healing you. Now hush.” Her eyes closed again, and a warm feeling came over me. A slight hum, almost a buzz, went through my entire body, making it tingle. When she was finished, she leaned back and yawned, then her eyes went wide.

Mandie Stevens has always been accused of living in her own world so she decided to put it to paper. When she isn’t writing you can catch her lounging on the beach reading. Mandie has penned both nonfiction and urban fantasy.

mandiestevens.com


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| Meet Me by the Fairy Tree | Every summer I returned to the grove in Meadows Park, where the sunshine danced through the trees like fairy lights and the thickness of the surrounding forest lent the air a lush crispness. And every summer after, I left disappointed. Still I continued year after year, clinging to the hope he might be waiting for me. That my visit wouldn’t be in vain. At twentyfive with barely a hint of my former self left, I’d reached the final trip. My heart thudded in my chest as I pulled up in my Range Rover to the crooked entrance where tendrils of overgrown vines almost hid the park’s sign. I looped a small knapsack with a water bottle around my shoulder and popped my keys inside before breathing in the familiar air of home. Of the life I’d left behind so many years ago. Though I used to pull my hair back in a ponytail, these days I let my auburn tresses down in soft waves. Hell, these days I’d swapped bare feet for the heeled, knee-high sort of boots my teenage self would’ve scoffed at. The birds trilled in the trees, their song a music made of memories. I stepped onto the trail, one I knew by heart, and my rubber soles sank into the earth, which had softened from rain the night before. Water slicked the leaves and stained the trunks, but even with the glistening veneer, this place spoke to an older part of my soul from a different lifetime ago. I shook my head and balled my hands into fists. “Get a grip, Ava,” I mumbled to myself, feeling silly for the rush of nerves flooding me. After ten years of aching loss every time I revisited this place, I should’ve learned. However, this was my last chance to try—the change had begun to take hold, deep in my bones. Any longer in this realm and I would be severed for good. I’d never see Tommen again. The thought of him still sent shards through me, as raw and fresh as they had been years before. That tenderness in his gaze when he watched me, thinking I wasn’t looking. The strong arms that wrapped around me as I breathed in his rich scent of spice and cedar. His possessive rough voice when he swore I’d be his for an eternity. We’d promised ourselves to one another under the moonlight in the glade, bathed in that silvery spell and blessed by the fireflies. Yet the lure of humans and what lay beyond had drummed a marching beat in my mind from my earliest years. I was the girl who walked along cliff edges and dove to the deepest depths of the lake. Traveling to the human realm promised the adventure of a lifetime. So the day the chance arrived to become a changeling and swap places, I seized the opportunity. Stupid. Back then, I’d been young and stupid. Upon leaving, the look in Tommen’s eyes sliced a gash open with his pain, a poison in the air. That look haunted me every day, until I lived with the same torment. Until all I could do was seal away my past and throw myself into a receptionist job, strap on my heels, and date a guy who bought me flowers sometimes. I wove around several toadstools and maneuvered past the oaks and birches that towered high to the sky, painting the rest of the ground in shadow. In this haven, the safety of my realm infiltrated, and several times I swore I caught the glimmer of

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my kind flickering through the forest. The leaves skating along the ground, the gentle babble of the brook in the distance, and the lush shrubs with their slow, sprawling takeover all imprinted in my mind. This had once been my home, a slipstream between worlds, until I’d cut myself off. When they told us about changelings as children, they never mentioned how we’d drown in the cold, metallic bustle of the cities. How the song of the forest would sever after awhile, leaving a hollow silence. Or how encumbered in these leaden human limbs, we’d forget how to fly. How to dream. Same as every year, the hopeless desperation filled me the farther down the path I traveled. Overhead the sky mottled to a gray as time slipped through my fingers on this harvest day when the realms were closest. By now I’d had a thousand dreams of the portal revealing itself or Tommen waiting at the gates to welcome me home. Every year I entered the grove with those images staining my mind. Yet every year, I walked onto the loamy grass where the shadows cut deep grooves into the tree bark to this clearing that remained empty. I kicked along a pebble, hooking my thumbs into the thin pockets of my jeans. All my old memories burst in a brilliant rainbow of colors, but ever since I entered this realm, shades of gray colored my landscape. I’d quenched my thirst for adventure long ago, but once the wild exploration of youth had run out, I realized too late where I belonged. The rustle of mice racing across the moss-covered floor was followed by a fox scampering in pursuit. I’d taken these sights for granted during the years I’d lived amidst the falling leaves, keeping company with creatures much wiser than humans. That race spent most of its time on this earth pushing themselves as far away from their gift as possible. Few sensed the magic of watching a flower unfurl or the sensation of the dirt between their toes. Back when I made my choice, I had never known of the prisons mankind locked themselves inside. In the distance, those curving birches marked the landscape with their brilliant white bark. I’d watched their gradual growth for years, each ring added to the core. They stood as sentinel for the slipstream between our places, where ten years ago I’d entered this land and watched my own disappear. My throat tightened with each laboring breath. If I came upon an empty clearing, my time had run out. I’d be sentenced to the rest of my days in this realm. Every step I took left a print while the marching beat pulsing in my chest matched the one that had driven me away as a child. I never thought I’d feel the same yearning for home, yet as I neared the clearing, the long lazy nights of wandering rivers with my clan, the rough and wild embrace of my people who centered so much on touch, and the pure brilliance of the summer sky thick with our magic claimed my mind. Sucking in a deep breath to gather my courage, I entered the grove. The bare dirt in the center had a fine coating of pine needles and scattered leaves, strewn about by the breezes curling through this place. I made my way to the center, each step a prayer as I hoped beyond hope the magic would flow through


| Katherine McIntyre | my veins again. I swallowed, hard, before taking that final pace to the middle.

Nothing. The birds whistled around me, the bushes swayed as squirrels bustled beneath, and the crickets chirped their summer songs, but no jolt of home surged through me. My final chance at a return and the gates remained closed. Heat burned at my eyes, and my throat tightened as I tried to stave the tears back. I slumped to the ground, unable to comprehend the bleak future that lay before me. Grief as raw as Tommen’s own the day I left stole me once more. My heart pulsed in my ears, and my fingers curled into the soft dirt. Still, none of the magic that once dwelled in this place remained. I closed my eyes as the hot, wet tears leaked down my cheeks. My body shuddered when I breathed in deep. A breeze furled by, lifting up my long auburn strands and tossing them about, bringing with it the scent of spice and cedar—a distinct fragrance I hadn’t caught in a near decade. Except the scent came from somewhere else. I stood at once and took off, desperation driving my senses. Though I’d been apart from my realm for so long, my instincts hadn’t abandoned me—I still navigated my way through the woods better than any human. Barely conscious of the twigs I crushed or the slick stones I raced across as the low stream rushed by me, I followed the thread of a scent I’d caught on the errant breeze. Water soaked my boots and the hem of my pants, drops splashing up to hit my cheeks. My legs burned as I raced faster, cutting through parts of the woods I hadn’t wandered in years. Breath exploded from my chest in short bursts as I wove around trees with the ease of a deer all while tracking like a predator. My thoughts melted away in the moment as I surrendered to the pulse of the forest. To the wind chilling my skin, to the ground beating beneath my steps, and to the life bursting from every seam of this place, filling me with magic I’d long forgotten. In the distance, I caught movement—taller than any animal that would roam these woods. Urging myself faster, my muscles squeezed in response to my demands. I veered to the left where the trees tangled thicker and the path grew more wild.

Pivoted to the right, stepped over the stone in the way, and dodged the tree—my movements were automatic. Intrinsic. Until the thickened brush lessened, emptying into a different glade and glimmering with interspersed sunlight and dust that blazed under the dusky rays like fireflies. My breath caught in my throat as I skidded to a stop, the tingling sensation crawling through my veins like a drop of water to a desert traveler. A mammoth oak tree dominated the center, one with wiry, proud branches and a twisted knotty trunk, the sort of tree to exist between both worlds but come from my home. And as I scanned the rest of the clearing, my gaze froze on the figure leaning against the tree. My heart squeezed in my chest, violent enough to burst. “Tommen.” The word was a whisper I wasn’t ready to hear. He’d grown since those years we dove into streams as teenagers. Tommen had always had a lean look to him, but the hard muscle of work had sculpted those arms and that torso. His jaw had lengthened with a tough clench that didn’t reflect the boy I’d left behind. The sharp angles and the hardness changed him just as my time around humans had imprinted on me. My heart skipped a beat wi• th the worry he might not recognize this serious woman in front of him compared to the wild girl he’d once known who laughed with the breeze. I lifted my gaze, but the blaze of his forest eyes as they met mine left me breathless. My feet carried me paces forward before I realized how my body tried to close the gap. However, my own hesitation forced me to a stop. I had left him. With my own grief sharp and jagged in my chest, how could I ask for forgiveness? How could I hope he’d still care? The tears I’d shed before dried on my cheeks, tightening the skin. I opened my mouth, but no words came out. “Ava,” he spoke at last, shattering the silence between us. His voice worked like a razor, slicing past my defenses and baring all the searing tangle of vulnerabilities I’d buried the day I left. My breaths shuddered as I took another couple steps forward, unable to look away from his eyes, afraid he’d disappear. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. The words pulsed in my brain, but my mouth couldn’t form them. Try as I might, I couldn’t close the distance between us. He stood from the tree, and in three quick steps, he closed the space. This near, the spice and cedar surrounded me like a heartbreaking reminder of home. Those arms wrapped around me, and my cheek crushed to his chest under his fierce embrace. Tears pricked my eyes while my chest ached with an exquisite pain so fragile and real I couldn’t have imagined him. I shuddered in his embrace, my fingers digging into the rough fabric of his shirt as I melted into his heat. We stayed there in perfect stillness, neither of us willing to shatter the moment. Our breaths began to cycle together, the rising pulse of his chest matching my own. I’d clung to this hope all these years, ever since I discovered the reality of my dreams wasn’t so considerate. Ever since I’d come to understand I had what I needed from the start. Issue 31 | January/February 2016 |

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| Meet Me by the Fairy Tree | “I tried,” my voice cracked as I murmured into his chest. “Every year I tried.” “I know.” His voice was gentle but absolute. “Amidst humanity, you lose your senses though, and the gateway shifts. We were just out of reach.” My heart broke then, and several tears slipped down my cheeks. He’d seen every year from behind the glass, behind the barrier. Our pain had been shared all this time. Nights upon nights I’d sat in my apartment by myself, thinking Tommen had found himself a new woman or that I’d saved him a lifetime of misery while I found the bottom of glass after glass of whisky. Yet every year he had watched me return. Every year he knew I tried. His finger brushed under my chin as he tilted my face up to greet his. The contact sent a thrill through me, but none as fierce as the rush when he lowered his lips to mine. Sweet nectar exploded in my mouth, and the magic surged through me like it never left. I met his with possessiveness as I claimed his lips, for a moment like the wild girl I once had been. His palm cupped my cheek when he pulled away, his tender gaze never leaving me. And then he spoke the words I’d longed to hear for an eternity, the ones that had stamped their way inside the secret place of my heart where I’d stored away my dreams. “Come on, Ava. Let’s go home.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR A modern-day Renaissance woman, Katherine McIntyre has learned soapmaking, beer brewing, tea blending, and most recently, coffee roasting. Most of which make sure she’s hydrated and bathed while she spends the rest of her time writing. With a desire to travel and more imagination than she knows what to do with, all the stories jumping around in her head led to the logical route of jotting them down on paper. Not only can her poetry and prose be found in different magazines, but she’s had an array of novels and novellas published through Decadent Publishing, Boroughs Publishing, Hazardous Press, and Jupiter Gardens Press. For more casual content, she’s a regular contributor on CaffeineCrew.com, a geek news website. Visit her at http://www.katherine-mcintyre.com.

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Historical | Western | Period Fiction

once UPON a TIME

HISTORICAL & WESTERN

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more beyond the books

Hunks Hot HISTORY The

of

Christy English

Hot Scots This month, as we cast our minds back in time, we turn our gaze once more toward the Highlands of Scotland. When considering modern Scottish men who make us smile, Gerard Butler is my particular favorite.

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| The Hot Hunks of History |

But we are here to reflect on the past, and as such, it is time to revel in hot Scots from history. One hot Scot was King Robert the Bruce. This Scottish king united the clans for a time and held the line against English aggression when King Edward II of England ruled. Robert the Bruce may or may not have been hot, but he definitely stands head and shoulders above the English of his time. Robert Waters of Glenderrin from my Regency romance How to Wed a Warrior was named for his Uncle Robert, who was named for the Bruce. Robbie is a warrior and a poet who wins his lady Prudence through charm, kindness, and sheer perseverance.

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William Wallace, the Highland warrior made famous by the film Braveheart, served his country by leading a rebellion against the English King Edward I. Though William Wallace was captured, drawn, and quartered as a traitor, his name lives on today. Men of Scottish descent still bear his name in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

This hero also has a namesake in my upcoming novel, How to Tame Your Highlander, in the form of a little terrier belonging to one of Mary Elizabeth’s many Highland cousins. Little William Wallace may be fluffy, but he is fierce, and also as smart as a whip.


| Christy English | Of course, everyone’s favorite hot Scot is Jamie Fraser. The Highlander from the famous time travel romance Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon, is a man readers won’t soon forget.

ABOUT THE COLUMNIST 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 knife-throwing women of her 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 western North Carolina. Please visit her on her blog, on Twitter, or on Facebook.

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reviews historical | western | period fiction

Half a Man

Scarlet Blackwell Historical Heat Rating: 4

In a world torn apart by war, solace is hard to find… It is 1919, less than a year after the end of the First World War and a recovering Britain is in the grip of the influenza pandemic. Times are hard. Victory came at a price for everyone left behind. Jack didn’t go to war but faces struggles in his own way, selling his body to earn enough money to survive. The two are drawn inexorably together from the start, not expecting how deeply they will soon become immersed in each other’s lives. Review: Half a Man by Scarlet Blackwell is a story that is out of place in this current society. Based directly after World War I it follows a young male prostitute, at this time called a “rent boy” through his daily work with men and his not so daily work at a book store. That is until he meets veteran Robert, a wealthy veteran who has lost the use of his legs. Over the course of the book, both Jack, the rent boy, and Robert must come to terms with the disability and navigate if there is more than just money changing hands. When Jack is faced with legal trouble after a night with friends, Robert realizes that Jack’s profession is fraught with danger and seeks a better life for not only Jack, but himself. As a military historian I was honestly surprised of the level of research that the author put into this novella. Information about Britain and male/male relationships that the time is well researched and spoken about. This was not a current book about the past with all of the current trappings, not this is a book that could have been written during the time period and still have been relevant. I actually learned information concerning the legality of male prostitution during that time as well as looking at the other side of disabled veterans, especially wealthy ones. This is not your typical male/male romance book, and I appreciate that. I also really like both main characters. Reviewed by Andi

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Chasing the Other Tisdale Jessica Jefferson Historical Heat Rating: 3

She’s the other sister . . . Overshadowed by the beauty of her older sister, Lillian is better known as the other Tisdale; unremarkable and unsure how she will ever deliver on the promise of her family’s name. He’s a rake in need of reforming . . . Will Colton leads a frivolous existence, embracing notoriety instead of managing his family’s fortune. Determined to forget his financial burden and his father’s growing resentment, he maintains a lifestyle dedicated to pleasure and self-indulgence. Upon his return, Will finds the girl he left behind has come out of the shadows and into her own. Lillian’s finally the center of attention, and not all of it good. With his own reputation in tatters, can a reformed rake lure her out of the hands of London’s bachelors and back into his own arms? Can he escape his past and reclaim her heart, or has he lost her forever? Review: What a charming story! The story follows one of the middle Tisdale daughters, Lillian who is charming, funny and caring, but not the prettiest of the daughters. She meets one of her brother’s friends, William Colton – rake, gambler, womanizer with everything handed to him on a silver platter – but also gorgeous and charming, by literally falling out of a tree. Their friendship begins and as it’s about to become much more, circumstances separate them. I won’t give anything away, but the author does a great job of showing all the characters growth. It was an easy read, not too long, and it was very well put together. I would have liked to see a bit more at the end, but I enjoyed the book more than I thought I would. The book gives you the pompous language of a historical, but not so badly that you are reaching for a dictionary on every page. Historical romance lovers will enjoy this book. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Christy English

How to Wed a Warrior Reasons to quit London: 1. It’s not the Highlands. 2. It will never be the Highlands. 3. It’s full of the bloody English. When his wild spitfire of a sister makes a scene by drawing a claymore in Hyde Park, Highlander Robert Waters knows something must be done. To forestall the inevitable scandal, he hires widowed Prudence Whittaker to teach his sister how to be a lady-never expecting to find unbridled passion beneath the clever Englishwoman’s prim exterior. Mrs. Whittaker is a fraud. Born Lady Prudence Farthington, daughter of the ruined earl of Lynwood, she’s never even been married. In order to make her way in the world, she has to rely on her wits and a web of lies...lies a sexy Highlander is all too close to unraveling. He swears he will possess her; she vows he will do nothing of the sort. Yet as passions heat, Prudence comes to realize the illicit pleasure that can be had in going toe-to-toe with a Scot.

Pru adjusted her bonnet and moved to the front door, taking in the cool nod of the butler, who seemed slightly mollified to see an English lady in the house. Mary Elizabeth did not accompany her into the entrance hall, but Robert Waters did. “Forgive me, Mr. Waters. Did I forget something?” The Highlander smiled down on her, and she felt a hint of hot lava move straight to her nether region. She swallowed hard and forced herself to stand very still as Robert Waters stepped close to her, too close for propriety’s sake. She tried to find her breath, and failed. She could not seem to find her tongue either. How on God’s loving green earth was she was going to live with this man for the time it would take to see his sister married? Perhaps she had made a mistake. “Indeed you have forgotten something, Mrs. Whittaker. Something a bit more important than the tea and crumpets we’ve just shared.” Pru could not find her voice, so she simply stared at him past the annoying rim of her ugly brown bonnet. His breath was warm on her cheek as he leaned close. For one delicious, horrifying moment, she thought that he might kiss her there in the entrance

hall of a ducal mansion, with the stern butler standing by. But instead of his lips, it was one broad fingertip which rose to her cheek, and brushed a curl back. It had come loose from its pins, threatening to fall into her eye. Robert Waters stood close, and let her hair curl around his finger, as if it loved him, as if it wished for him to stay close. Pru knew that she must say something, anything, to set this man down. But her reason had deserted her along with her voice. “What shall we be paying you then, Mrs. Prudence Whittaker? What price would you put on my sister’s marriage?” Pru blinked at him, frozen like a rabbit that had scented the hunter. She wished fervently that her good sense would return from wherever it had gone. She also wished that he would touch more than just a stray curl.

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. She loves to eat chocolate, drink too many soft drinks, and walk the mountain trails of her home in western North Carolina.

christyenglish.com Issue 31 | January/February 2016 |

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feature sneak peek

Sylvia McDaniel

Katie: Bride of Virginia A disastrous factory fire ends Katie Maverick’s livelihood and she must find something quick. Convinced to become a mail-order bride, she receives an offer of marriage from Daniel O’Malley. Only Daniel isn’t the one who put the ad in the Grooms’ Gazette. His business partner, secretly placed the ad in Daniel’s name. When Katie arrives, a surprised Daniel agrees to marry her with the idea she could help make his life easier and still the gossip surrounding the death of his wife. He’s unprepared for the way the bubbly girl from Massachusetts eases his loneliness. Not only is she helpful, she’s breaking through the walls he’s erected around his heart. Troubled by the suspicious vandalizing suddenly occurring in the vineyard, Daniel wonders if things might not be as good as they seem. Is it only coincidental that the damage to his winery coincides with Katie’s arrival? Could this sweet, innocent woman and his dead wife share a common goal to destroy him?

Daniel O’Malley rode into Charlottesville in his sidebar buggy. Frank, had been insistent he come to town today. And he feared Frank, his business partner, would tell him what he already knew: the vineyard was in trouble. Three years had passed and still the wine had to ferment. Occasionally he would uncork a bottle and check the taste, but the batches needed longer. More time to chill for the taste to explode on the tongue. Soon, hopefully soon. Since the death of his first wife, he’d avoided coming into town and wouldn’t have come today, except Frank’s note said it was urgent. Pulling the buggy to a stop, he jumped down and tied the reins to a hitching post. When he walked into the office, he tipped his hat to the woman behind the desk. “Hello, Mr. O’Malley, Mr. Lowe is expecting you. Go on back to his office.” “Thank you,” Daniel said as he walked past the woman. When he stepped into his best friend and business partner’s office, Frank glanced up from the paperwork scattered across his desk. “You came. Take a seat.” Sitting on the other side of the desk, Daniel gazed at his friend wondering about his message. “Of course, you said it was urgent.” “It is,” Frank said, staring at him. “I may have overstepped the boundaries of our friendship.” Daniel frowned. Frank had helped him when the vineyard needed money. Friends since

138 | btsemag.com

college, there wasn’t much he wouldn’t do for Frank and doubted the man had done anything offensive. “What did you do?” “I ordered you a mail-order bride.” For a moment, Daniel sat stunned. “What?” The memory of his last wife was still too painful to think about and Frank had found him a mail-order bride. Was he crazy? “A wife. You need a wife, Daniel, to help with your mother. You’re alone and after what happened to Eloise, I feared you would never even look at a woman again, let alone marry. So I ordered you a mail-order bride.” What was he thinking to find him a wife? He didn’t want or need another woman. And yes, his mother needed someone to nurse her, but not at the expense of him marrying again. His fists clenched. “You’re right. You did overstep the boundaries. What makes you think I would even consider marrying again?” Frank leaned back in his chair and studied his friend. “The best way a man can rebound is to find someone else.” “I don’t want anyone else. I never want to marry again.” Anger coursed through Daniel like a river at flood stage. They were good friends, but this was too much. Frank knew better than to bring a woman into Daniel’s life. For a moment, Frank didn’t say anything. “A woman is arriving on the noon train today from Lawrence, Massachusetts. She thinks you ordered her.” “Then I suggest you marry her or you send her back, because I’m not getting married.”

Sylvia McDaniel is a bestselling, award-winning author of western historical romance and contemporary romance novels. Known for her sweet, funny, family-oriented romances, Sylvia is the author of The Burnett Brides, Lipstick and Lead Series, Scandalous Suffragette Brides, The Cuvier Widows, and several short contemporary romances.

sylviamcdaniel.com


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from our website must read columns

Fiction Fixes: Add Elements to Jumpstart the Book Beyond adding or subtracting plot points or characters, beyond changing the context of your book, after you’ve toyed with how you structure your story, there are other elements you can throw in to change the trajectory and spice up your novel. Only your imagination limits what you can drop into your story. It’s a known saying, “If your middle is sluggish, put a gun on the nightstand.” And, “later be sure to use it, or the tension would not have been earned, and your audience will not trust you.” Adding a prop is one strategy, but consider trying others.

and center. But they are also necessary in other genres. In Armageddon Bruce Willis had to overcome his disdain for his daughter’s boyfriend in order to give his blessing to them before he died. His interpersonal arc was meant to solve the conflict with his daughter. Sayuri in Memoirs of Geisha struggled with Hatsumomo, who represented cruelty and envy. In Jaws the shark’s hunger is the external conflict, but the interpersonal conflict is between Brody and the mayor who wants to keep the beach open.

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Add a conflict. External conflicts are the obvious ones. In Back to the Future the external conflict is time (and Biff’s effect on it). Marty must maintain the actions of the past in order to get time back on track, so the future isn’t vastly different with no Marty in it. A bonus external conflict is solved when Marty returns to the here-and-now only to discover his father’s fate was still altered. Dad’s now a successful author. Unsuccessful nerd turned cool dude wasn’t necessary for the story, but it added some oomph to it and a fun dénouement. Novelists are also sure to add a major internal conflict, something personal for the main character to overcome. Superman’s weakness in the face of kryptonite and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’s struggles are clear examples of this type of conflict. Newspaper baron Citizen Kane had to capture a tiny moment of his past in order to die with a happiness long ago forgotten in his relentless quest to be successful. The entire movie worked up to that one moment: what or who was Rosebud? Who can forget Frodo fighting his own personal demons (under the ring’s influence) to finish his quest? There’s another type of major conflict—with its own arc— interpersonal conflict. In romances these are featured front

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ABOUT THE COLUMNIST

Karen is an editor, ghostwriter, pitch coach, speaker, awardwinning 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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Issue 31 - January/February 2016 Your guide to great reading, featuring Publisher's Showcase, plus columns, book reviews, featured authors a...

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