Connections eMagazine August 2022 Edition

Page 1

Connections eMagazine

Message from the Editor

The Purpose of this eMagazine is to connect readers and bloggers with authors. This is a FREE eMagazine that is produced quarterly. Our third quarter issue is always a favorite of mine because in this edition we publicize the winners of our annual Reader’s Choice Awards. These are books nominated by readers who love the authors work. There are some great choices this year, so I hope you’ll take the time to look around.

“You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend.”

While you’re here, don’t forget to subscribe. You’ll receive an automatic email when a new edition is published. Just click the box below and fill out the form. Don’t worry, your information will never be shared or sold.


Subscribe August 2022 @ConnectionsEMagazine
Free Books Paige Carter Writers’ Lives Hot Deals—99 Cents Author Tips and Tricks Click pictures and images throughout the publication for Additional information 1) The Fool: New Beginning 2) Woodland Warriors 3) Keeper of the Jewel 4) Graham 5) Karadas: The Veiled Realm 6) Into the Salton Sea 7) The Child of Time 8) Summer Camp Culprit 9) 77 1/2 Magical Herbs 10) After the Devil Top 10 Popular Winners

MPSmith Publishing and Connections eMagazine does not endorse any information contained in the articles or advertisements throughout this magazine. All contents Copyright © the individual authors and used with their permission. All rights reserved.

Trigger — Melanie P. Smith

Seababies Adventures by Ronesa Aveela

Sweet Oblivion by Sylva Fae

Writer’s Corner: Direct Selling on the Kickstarter Platform by Kaye Lynne Booth

Fresh Cherry Jam by Melanie P. Smith

The Girl in the Castle By Sarah Hindmarsh

Growing Bookworms by Robbie Cheadle

First Chapters The Architect by Lesley Hayes

to Process Berries for

by Diana Page

♦ How
Maximum Benefit
Would you like a listing in the next issue of Connections eMagazine? Click here for submission requirements. EDITOR… Melanie P. Smith COPY EDITOR… Sylva Fae PRODUCED BY… MPSmith Publishing

Sarah Daniels has written the YA book of the year, or so most people who have read it will tell you. With an impressive 4.2 rating on Goodreads it definitely seems to be living up to the hype in the eyes of readers. ‘The Stranded’ is an inventive dystopian novel with a colourful cast of characters and some killer twists. Saying too much would spoil it for when you read it yourself, and you really should read it yourself.

The idea for ‘The Stranded’, Sarah says, came from images of refugee ships in World war II, and thinking ‘What if they weren’t allowed to get off again?’ That quickly became a floating refugee camp, with people trying to survive under the most terrible circumstances. The sheer scale of modern day cruise ships lent itself beautifully to the idea of whole communities living aboard for generations. Add nightmarish surveillance technology, a menacing police force and the kind of villain everyone will want to see die horribly and ‘The Stranded’ was born.

Holding the whole story in her head at once was Sarah ’s biggest challenge while writing ‘The Stranded’ and its sequel. Creating a community on a cruise ship, three character perspectives and all the twists and turns meant keeping both plot and world building straight was quite difficult at times.

Sarah herself is very modest about her success in gaining both agent and publisher in spectacular style, with none of those pesky rejections most writers get, and a good bidding war pushing up her advance! After doing a course with Curtis Brown agency, Sarah was snapped up by CB agent Felicity Blunt, who proceeded to sell the book to publishers without difficulty. Penguin Random House won the bidding war and bought both ‘The Stranded’ and its sequel, tentatively named ‘The Exiled’.

Of course, Sarah insists that it was mostly luck, but the book quickly reveals that to be far from true. It may have been just exactly what publishers were looking for at the time, but the quality of the writing definitely had quite a lot to do with it. COVID caused a few delays in the publishing process, but having finally been released on July 21st (there is a later release date for the US) the book is now proving popular with readers and critics alike.

Originally an archaeologist; Sarah began writing while working towards her PhD. She says: ‘Someone told me that writing science was about finding good stories, and I quickly realised that it was more fun to make things up than base them on evidence!! Plus writing fiction was a break from studying that also let me feel like I was creating something.’

She goes on to say that she didn’t feel like a real writer for a long time, not until she started the course with Curtis Brown. Only then did she actually tell anyone other than her husband that she liked to write stories. ‘I wrote in secret for years. The course made me realise how important it was to tell people I was a writer, both so I could tap into the support of the writing community, but also to give me a sense of accountability. Sarah is an active member of several writing groups, including the Very Important Writers Club and a group for the graduates of her Curtis Brown class.

Since writing the first book she has fulfilled a writer ’s wildest dreams and been able to turn to writing full time and give up the day job. Writing books alone does not, of course, bring in enough money to be an only job, even when you’ve had a decent bidding war for your books!

In addition to advances and royalties, Sarah has tonnes to fit in, from mentoring other writers and leading workshops to critiquing and editing, there ’s not a lot this talented author can ’t turn her hand to.

She’s also something of a machine, turning out her debut book amid the chaos of having four children under ten, a lovely, but slightly hapless, husband, and a full time job.

When asked if she is a plotter or a pantser, Sarah can ’t quite make up her mind. ‘Plotter. Pantser. No, plotter, defo plotter. Unless I’ m pantsing it.’ ‘The Stranded’ was written as a pantser, but Sarah is now convinced of the usefulness of plotting, although not quite convinced that it’s actually fun. It certainly solves the problem of holding the whole plot in your head if it’s nicely planned out on paper. On the other hand going in random directions is half the fun of the exercise.

Super Speedy Questions with Sarah Daniels

What are you reading at the moment?

‘With Fire in Their Blood’ by Kat Delacorte. It’s a seductive supernatural romance, set in a modern Italian town where they still burn witches at the stake.

Any new releases that you’re looking forward to?

I can’t wait for ‘Monsters Born and Made’ by Tanvi Berwah

What is the first book you remember being blown away by?

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman

If you were stranded on a desert island which three books would you want with you.

The hunger games Trilogy by Suzanna Collins (can I count that as one choice?), The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

What would be your top tip for other writers?

Don’t write in secret. Tell everyone you’re going to finish your book and then you’ll have to do it.

Do you have a blog or website

Yes you can keep up to date on my website I’m also on insta and twitter (and sometimes TikTok)

And finally what’s next for us to look forward to?

I’m currently working on book two, and I’ve got another project in the pipeline too.

Overall Winners

Connections eMagazine’s Reader’s Choice Awards is an annual contest. Authors can be nominated by anyone who has read the novel. Books are judged on cover design, character &/or world development, good flow & compelling intro, presentation, and Reader’s Choice. We had a lot of great entries this year and the competition was close. I hope you will take a minute to check out the winners. There area lot of great books to choose from.

Categories Children’s Chapter Books Children’s Picture Books Sci-Fi |Fantasy Paranormal | Supernatural
Mystery Non-Fiction Other Fiction Romance Thriller | Suspense
The Connections eMagazine Reader’s Choice Award is open to all independently published authors and their work. Gold | Silver | Bronze | Finalists

Gold Medal

The Fool: New Beginnings


She believes vampires are monsters. So why is she risking her life to help one?

After a divorce and much soul-searching, Kelsey Davis opens a bookstore café at the crossroads where several hypernatural communities converge. She’s ready to find herself and prepared to face her fear of those who aren’t human by living and working in the heart of their communities. But she’s not prepared for the tall, snarky vampire who bursts through her door and demands to talk to her son.

When Kelsey learns the vampire’s daughter is missing, and her own son isn’t where he’s supposed to be, she frantically gets involved in the search. Following one clue after another, they confront the man who can lead them to the missing girl a mistake they may not live to regret.

The Fool: New Beginnings is book one in the Tales from the Unmasqued World urban fantasy series. If you enjoy the paranormal, the magickal, and the mystical, then you’ll love Val Tobin’s thrilling world.

Ayla and her puppy, Willow loved playing out in the woods.

One day, she asked her mummy if she could learn how to do bushcraft. Mummy agreed it was a great idea and gave Ayla some tasks to do around their camp. Ayla was keen to help but there were so many tasks to complete, that she wondered if she would ever get a chance to learn some bushcraft skills.

Join Ayla and Willow (and a sneaky little mouse) in the woods, as they have fun finding out what bushcraft is. You too can become a Woodland Warrior.

Children’s Picture Book s

"Woodland Warriors" is a delightful book for young children and an entertaining introduction to safely having fun in the outdoors. Suitable for early readers and as a read-tome book for younger children, "Woodland Warriors" will help inspire youngsters and families to visit and enjoy the outdoors in a healthy and fun way.



Bronze Medal

Keeper of the Jewel

SciFi | Fantasy

Something evil lurks beneath the palace.

“I absolutely loved this book! The worldbuilding was phenomenal, and the imagery the author infused into the narrative, (both literarily speaking and literally) was superb to see. The use of artwork throughout the book was an inspired choice, as the author was able to give readers a visual representation of the tone and quality of the characters that strengthened the emotional connection readers had for them.”

Amazon Customer

A phantasm from a darker past makes its presence known to Khae Wys, Queen of the Elves.

Braving the perils of a haunted tower, the queen seeks the counsel of the mysterious Fae, for only they can predict what is to come. A future that doesn’t bode well for her only living child.

In a desperate attempt to save the heir to the Willow Throne, Princess Ouderling is exiled to the only place capable of protecting her. Highcliff, the home of the coveted Crystal Cavern and the dragons that watch over it.

Gold Winners by Category Children’s Chapter Paranormal | Supernatura l Other Fictio n Mystery Romanc e No nFictio n Thriller | Suspens e Children's Picture SciFi | Fantas y

Long before she delved into the world of fantasy and suspense, Melanie P. Smith served nearly three decades in the Special Operations Division at her local sheriff’s office working with SWAT, Search & Rescue, K9, the Motor Unit, Investigations and the Child Abduction Response Team.

She now uses that training and knowledge to create stories that are action packed, gripping and realistic. When Melanie’s not writing, she can be found riding her Harley, exploring the wilderness, or capturing that next great photo.

Visit her website at to learn more.

Vigilante Justice Series Book 1

One of my amazing readers nominated Trigger, the first book in my Vigilante Justice Series for the 2022 Reader’s Choice Awards.

While I am beyond grateful and honored that someone loved my work enough to make the nomination, I had to disqualify myself due to the fact that I am so heavily involved in the competition.

Thank you so much for you support. I can’t tell you how much the nomination means to me. Trigger is available at all your favorite distributors. Just follow the link at the bottom of the page.

Balancing the Scales by Force

A ruthless killer, a survivor, and a dysfunctional family running out of options.

A shocking act of violence sends a young widow into hiding. Now, a killer with rules of his own has set his sights on those fighting for justice. Frustrated by the system they dedicated their lives to, doing their best to fly under the radar, a small group of unlikely heroes set out to stop a madman. To succeed, they must put personal beliefs before professional ethics.

Time is running out; a ruthless killer continues his reign of violence; rules must be broken. Can this secret group of vigilantes unearth the truth before it’s too late? They didn’t start this war, but they are the only ones that can end it.

Theodore Reed seems destined to suffer, surviving one harrowing dilemma, only to find himself marooned in quite another. Worse still, his young sister, Minnie, has vanished. He has to find her, no matter the cost. Theodore's frantic search leads him deeper into a remarkable, uncharted realm concealed from the outside world, filled with dark magic, mystery, unspeakable jeopardy, and heart stopping creatures.

Can a thirteen year old orphan boy from beyond the shores of Karadas possibly survive such a perilous quest?


Beautiful scenery, Great scenic image and seems to fit the title, colors are soothing

J.T. Mather

Intro / Content: Instantly compelling! It's straight into the action as two young children are thrown into a seemingly impossible survival situation.

Character/World Development: Shows depth and strength of character very quickly . Excellent character development with good hook at beginning.

The Veiled Realm

Up and Down Glugg and the Gangoils

Gluggity Bubbletop never wanted to be special. Except that he did want to be a fish wizard (or is it wizard fish?). More than that though he would like to survive a few more seasons and the fire demons in the land of Up are definitely making that difficult. Can he dodge the extra hot fireballs, evade the gangoils and stop the fire demons destroying the village of Down long enough to find out if he has a magical talent?

This extraordinary book has the unique distinction of being written FOR twelve year old boys (and girls) BY twelve year old boys. Children from ages ten to fourteen will love this high stakes, fast-paced adventure and be lost in the outrageous world of Up and Down.

Invented by twelve year old students, Dominic and Sam, the world of Up and Down, the fish people that live there and the fire demons who cause all of their problems is a world like nothing you have ever encountered before. With a penguin king, hot sauce everywhere, and not forgetting the exciting (and bloodthirsty) sport of bubbleball, and even more hot sauce, it is truly unforgettable, for all the right reasons

Intro / Content: sets the scene in a strange underwater world, with unusual characters. It focuses on introducing the characters through their interaction with one another as they prepare for a life changing test.

Cover: Unusual and intriguing

Mystery of the Egyptian Mummy

Welcome back to the world of Zet, where a kid can be a hero and fight for the good of all.

12-year-old Zet is supposed to be helping out at his family pottery stall. But how can he focus when there are mysteries to be solved? Like his latest problem: there's a mummy in town that's haunting the streets at night. Why won't it leave Zet's dusty, ancient civilization in peace? By the beard of Osiris, this new case is destined to throw Zet into serious hot water. Still, he can't help himself. A run in with the Royal Mummy Maker reveals the strange secrets of mummification. But will it be enough to unwind this puzzling mystery? Zet wants answers. Then again, what kid wouldn't? He'll have to think fast if he wants to rid ancient Egypt of crime. Can Zet unwrap this tangled tale and still make it home for dinner?


This looks professionally designed, and contemporary. It suggests it's part of a series. Good layout, and fun images for the age of the reader.

Illustrations/ Content:

Straight away we meet the main character and are thrown into the action as a walking, chanting mummy appears.

One of Our Gorillas is Missing!

A School of Animal Magic Adventure

— Book 5

Professor Artemus Quinn, a silverback gorilla who’s the headmaster of the School of Animal Magic (SAM), has taken a leave of absence to search for his missing young nephew Kembi. When Professor Quinn himself vanishes, SAM’s boldest action team Maisha the elephant, Jonas the cattle egret and Maliki the white lion — sets off to discover who’s behind these mysterious disappearances. Will they make it in time to save their friends?


The lion is a good focal point, makes you curious what role he will play in a gorilla book


A delightfully riveting read about the amazing denizens of the fabled animal school, their mystical and magical exploits, their struggle to survive in a world where they are hunted at every turn. Very well written and lovingly created by my new favorite children's book author. “

Illustrations/ Content:

talking animals and magic is a great start, add in the school aspect and it is something the readers can easily relate to. Each creature has a character that suits the animal.

By Ronesa Aveela

Children's Picture Book Series Launching soon on Kickstarter

The Seababies Adventures are inspiring books about overcoming childhood challenges, discovering the power of friendship, and learning about ocean life.

The books bring awareness to challenges common during childhood. Everyone has a story about one or more difficulties they’ve overcome as a child. They may not seem overwhelming to us now, but as a child, they may have been traumatic and caused fear of being ridiculed by other children.

Losing your front teeth and not being able to pronounce some words correctly. Having to wear glasses or braces. Moving to a new state (or country) and being “different” from the rest of the kids in your class. If you were lucky, you found friends who supported and encouraged you.

The Seababies Adventures was inspired by these challenges. Each story brings awareness to a childhood problem. The tales teach children to value friendships and teamwork and that it is okay to be unique. I use sea creatures to tell these stories, not only because of my love of the ocean, but also as a way to introduce young readers to ocean life.

The Series

Whimsea Wishes Upon a Star

Whimsea, a charming little mermaid, is full of energy and love. She desperately wants to be a cheerleader and has practiced and practiced until she knows the routines. But something goes wrong, and everyone looks at her funny. It takes a wise old turtle to explain to Whimsea why she is different from the other mermaids. She learns that different can be cool and something she can be proud of.

Seamore Sees More Seamore, a little crab with googly eyes, is facing the biggest challenge of his life today. He’s trying out for soccer, but, oh, that net seems so far away, and he has to squint to see it. With Whimsea’s support, Seamore overcomes his fear of being made fun of.

Cupcake’s Heroic Day Jellyfish Cupcake is excited to be a finalist in the annual bakeoff competition. Her desserts are the rave of MerrowLand. Taunting fish and a cry for help may squash her dream of winning, however. Cupcake learns that things that make her different are not a shortcoming, but an advantage.

To get notified when Seababies Adventures go live and be among the first to get cool perks, follow our Kickstarter page at Seababies Adventures. If you want to be kept aware of updates, sign up for our newsletter. aveela/seababies adventures

By Sylva Fae

Ayla and her puppy, Willow loved playing out in the woods. One day, she asked her mummy if she could learn how to do bushcraft. Mummy agreed it was a great idea and gave Ayla some tasks to do around their camp. Ayla was keen to help but there were so many tasks to complete, that she wondered if she would ever get a chance to learn some bushcraft skills.

Join Ayla and Willow (and a sneaky little mouse) in the woods, as they have fun finding out what bushcraft is. You too can become a Woodland Warrior.

Prize: Gold in Children’s Picture Books, Silver in Overall Contest

Character / World Development: Great intro. Cute and eye catching illustrations. Match the story perfectly

The Very Stubborn Camel

by Silviya Rankova

Pete, the camel, was munching hay, refusing to take any commands when a little girl kindly pleased him with an apple and made him stand and continued his journey. Their friendship helped Pete's owner to sell his merchandises on the market and saved the little girl's father who was lost in a sandstorm.

Cover: Great focal point with complimentary colors Colorful, well organized, enticing, and simple.

Character / World Development: Compelling intro, great POV using the camel instead of the human

“A touching adventure story that teaches children about life in the Sahara Desert and the animals, insects, and people who live there. Beautifully illustrated in warm, vibrant colors, the story features an Arabian traveler and his stubborn camel who help a little girl and her family in a time of need. “ Amazon Customer

Messy Christmas


It has a strong, eye=catching graphic image. Great visual images

A mischievous elf and a naughty cat are feeling bored one Christmas night. How much mess can this cute pair make in just a few hours? With tumbling trees, bouncing baubles, bursting balloons, and a blizzard of flour, it’s going to be a Messy Christmas!

Illustrations/ Content:

Great intro, fun storyline.

Illustrations match the mischief and attitude perfectly

Oh what a naughty pair the elf and cat are. I've never had an elf do those things (at least I've never seen one), but cats get into all kinds of mischief when trees and presents are around.

This story makes me think perhaps we did have an elf to entice the cat to do all those bad things.

A cute story of mischief and mayhem. Will the cat be put out for the night when the owners return? Or will they know the true culprit was the elf on the shelf?

Cover: It is colorful, enticing and creative

This fully illustrated delightful story takes place in an alternate world populated by anthropomorphic hippopotamuses called potomoses during the human equivalent time frame of the 1930s. It is the story of a family of very excellent and interesting potomoses who live in Belgravia, in the centre of London, and whose adventures take them to Egypt and back in search of the lost treasure of King Tutanpotomos. This is the first of a planned series of adventures which will follow the Potomos family generation to generation from the 1930s to the present time.

Intro / Content: Pulls you into the world immediately. Interesting story about family travel. Great illustrations and character development.

This story is highly original, borrowing historical facts and recreating a story about the famous tomb in The Valley of The Kings with hippo characters. It has educational value and is humorous.

The Potomos and the Payrus Jean Paul

I close my eyes, my body sleeps as my mind drifts away...

Taking flight on the breeze with the buzzard, I spread my wings and soar high above the treetops. Gliding effortlessly on the currents, my eyes keen surveying all in my world. Suddenly I swoop through the canopy speeding to my prey, focused I dive...

I am the prey, running for my life whipping through the undergrowth, darting, weaving, bounding, heart pounding I reach the safety of the rich brown earth. And breathe...

I am new life pushing up through the soil, a tiny fern tentatively reaching for the sliver of sunlight above. I bask in warm rays and slowly unfurl my tiny fronds following the light, I stretch…

I am the bee flitting from flower to flower. I dance with the dandelions, my wings whirring, as I alight on a clover heavy with sweet nectar. I stop and drink my fill…

I am the child lazing in the clover patch, sleepily staring at the drifting clouds. My eye catches the colourful flutter of a butterfly. I jump up carefree, giggling and give chase. Running barefoot through the meadow my hair a golden mane flowing, I fly back to the cool shade of the wood…

I am the old oak standing proud at the edge of my wood. I feel the wisdom of three hundred years flowing through my core. My roots stretch far, energy flowing, connecting all life from the meadow to the woodland’s heart…

I am the fire burning bright, consuming all within my grasp. My flickering flames dance gaily and free flitting from twig to twig. I unfurl my smoky tendrils spiralling upwards reaching for the sky. I drift and weave through branches to the dark of night, soaring on the currents to the stars above, slowly dissipating, drifting… ... back to the sweet oblivion of sleep.

New Beginnings

Tales From The Underground World

She believes vampires are monsters. So why is she risking her life to help one?

After a divorce and much soul searching, Kelsey Davis opens a bookstore café at the crossroads where several hypernatural communities converge. She

s ready to find herself and prepared to face her fear of those who aren

human by living and working in the heart of their communities. But she

s not prepared for the tall, snarky vampire who bursts through her door and demands to talk to her son.

Cover: Love the colours, the layout of the image works well to make the gold text stand out. It has a magical feel to it.

Intro: Immediately I'm introduced to a different world and intrigued to find out more.

Character/World Building: World was instantly relatable, but with the addition of vampires, werewolves and other supernatural beings.

 Fantasy | SciFi
Overall #1

Keeper of the Jewe l


Something evil lurks beneath the palace.

A phantasm from a darker past makes its presence known to Khae Wys, Queen of the Elves.

Braving the perils of a haunted tower, the queen seeks the counsel of the mysterious Fae, for only they can predict what is to come. A future that doesn’t bode well for her only living child.

In a desperate attempt to save the heir to the Willow Throne, Princess Ouderling is exiled to the only place capable of protecting her. Highcliff, the home of the coveted Crystal Cavern and the dragons that watch over it.

The Duke of Grim, however, has other plans for the princess.

Intro: Great flow, You immediately get a sense of the characters and the storyline

Character / World Development: From the start we are introduced to a world of castles and elves and the family dynamics.

This books was amazing!!! If you love dragons! This is a great fantasy book, it kept me on my toes all the way while reading it.... to the point where I did not want to put it down. “ Amazon

Highcliff Guardians Epic Fantasy Series

Teddy’s Boys

Wow! My first Reverse Harem bully romance. It was a lot. Frost does an amazing job of building a mystical society in a quick amount of time .”

Cover: Good composition and title font is striking.

Three boys.

Two murders.

One terrible choice.

Twelve years ago, my mother climbed into a limo with a fae stranger and left without looking back. Seven years ago, my magic came in, marking me as an Earth witch, the Element most feared by other mages. One month ago, my father exiled me to college in another country.

I may be a stranger in a strange land, but no one will keep me down.

Intro: The style made me relate to the characters & grabbed my attention.

Character/World Building: It flowed beautifully. Great character and quirky style. You get an instant sense of the friendship between the two characters and their personalities. They are close and have good flow with their banter.

The Trials of Ascension

Salvation does not come without sacrifice.

Rise. Otylia will never forget the betrayer’s blade slicing across her throat. Nor will she forgive.

Fall. Wacław would do anything to get Otylia back. But no demon has ever entered Nawia’s paradise.

Intro: Good Flow Cover: The picture alone tells a story and I'm intrigued to read it.

Storm Chaser by Danny Bell

Elana has taken something that didn’t belong to her. Or at least she tried to, someone beat her to it. Whoever the thief is, it makes no difference to the Japanese storm god Susano-o and his eight headed snake monster, Yamata no Orochi. Susano o has sent a mystical storm to flood Los Angeles until his property is returned or Elana is defeated, and for once in her life, no amount of luck is going to save Elana. If she can’t figure out how to best a god, everyone she knows is doomed.

Cover: Strong dramatic image

Development: Character seems quite quirky and likeable

Loki is tired of his existence, looking for a way to hold on after Odin took everything from him or at the very least, a permanent escape from his pain.

Stuart is a Prince, looking for a marriage to unite his kingdom and crown him King. Sent on a mission to destroy the evil mage in the mountains to earn the hand of the fair princess.

Nothing is as it seems when Stuart discovers that Loki is neither evil nor does the kingdom want him to successfully marry the princess. As they are thrown together trying to break a curse, can they find love in each other's arms?

This is a short story and cant wait for the next book. If you love a little twist with the Norse Gods then you will love this book. Loki is lock and alone in prison that there has been escape for him. When a knight comes to rid the evil that is plaguing his village to marry his bride. that is when this story takes a twist of turns. can two that are both suffering lost and and no control of their life find something together? the knight and mage conquer the future recommend this book today.” Amazon

Sarah Beth James


Hostile Witness, A Josie Bates Thriller

When sixteen year old Hannah Sheraton is arrested for the murder of her stepgrandfather, a California Supreme Court justice, her distraught mother turns to once infamous defense attorney, Josie Bates. Now a small town lawyer in Hermosa Beach, Josie wants nothing to do with the case since the gruesome evidence points to Hannah's guilt. When the girl is charged as an adult, Josie can't turn her back.

Tall, Dark & Lonely: Pyte/ Sentinel Series by R.L. Mathewson

After 200 yrs life holds very little surprises or pleasures. That is until Ephraim, a Pyte, has his life turned upside down by the relentless Madison. Once she discovers things aren't quite what they should be with her sexy neighbor she becomes determined to get her answers. It's too bad that Ephraim has other plans of his own

Guarding the Broken by Kirsty Moseley Nothing Left to Lose Series

On her sixteenth birthday, Anna witnesses her boyfriend being murdered and is then kidnapped by his murderer. Three years on she's no longer the happy go lucky girl everyone knew and loved. Can Ashton, her newly assigned bodyguard, help her rebuild her see that life is worth living?

Stitches in Crime Box Set

By ACF Bookens

When Paisley Sutton launched her architectural salvage business, she certainly had no idea that finding murderers would be a part of her new line of work.

Take Me

The Untouchables Series

When controlling royal vampire Dominic Blackmoore mistakes Felicity Shaw as the woman he's supposed to marry, he can't resist the curvy, sexy woman. As the head of the Blackmoore household running for vampire and were council, he needs a suitable mate a mate with money, power, and clout.

Blood and Bone

A Friends to Lovers Romance by Paula Dombrowiak

A steamy, exciting, and emotional rock star romance with a bit of a slow burn, a love triangle and a '90s grunge aesthetic.

Two Days, One Interview, Twenty-Five Years of Rock 'N Roll. Telling his story might just repair past relationships and ignite new ones.

Blood & Bone is the first novel in the Blood & Bone series which must be read in order for the best reader experience,

Brook of Mainehatten by Kristy Anne

Mistaken identity turns into matchmaking from the grave when New York marketing exec, Brooklyn Mills, inherits a stranger’s world in Maine and tangles in more than just business with her handsome co owner.

Hostile Witness, A Josie Bates Thriller

A serial killer is loose in the Smoky Mountains.

In the fall of 1969, a backwoods farmer and his wife were murdered by four drunken hunters. The murders were never solved. Now, someone has decided to take revenge by killing one person every season.

Hostile Witness, A Josie Bates Thriller

Despite her penchant for weapons and ripe language, Aydan Kelly’s resumé reads ‘bookkeeper’, not ‘badass’. She’s leaving the city to fulfill her dream of rural tranquillity when she gets carjacked by a man who shouldn’t exist.

Pity her enemies. Because nobody’s tougher than a middleaged woman who wants her dream back.

Hostile Witness, A Josie Bates Thriller

A horde of dark creatures chase a mermaid and her husband to their underwater fortress. Only fourteen -year-old Nikolas and his friends can save them. Happy to escape an apocalyptic future with its refugee camps and nannydrones, Nick convinces his friends to make the journey through time to save the Merfolk. However, on arrival Nikolas begins to suspect the Merfolk are hiding something...sinister.

Writer’s Corner: Direct Selling on the Kickstarter Platform

Kickstarter seems to be the latest platform for direct sales of your books. They aren’t new to the scene, but they have changed considerably since they first made their appearance. (Look here if you’d like to see a 2012 guest post about Kickstarter by author Tim Baker when they were first starting up.) Up until recently, Kickstarter has been looked upon like a platform where you would go ask for money from people, similar to Go Fund Me, but with , the spectacularly successful campaign that Bryan Sanderson did recently, which everyone seems to be talking about, it looks like that impression may be changing.

Platforms like Kickstarter and Patreon form what Joanna Penn refers to as the “creator economy”, which is similar to what artists did during the Renaissance to survive. (You can listen to Joanna’s interview with Bryan Cohen, author of the Sell More Books Show podcast, on the subjects of Kickstarter and multiple streams of income on The Creative Penn, here.) Renaissance patrons would fund artists and support them so that they could survive while creating their art. Likewise, authors today cannot be expected to

survive on just their book income. Most of us would truly starve if we tried to do that. According to Joanna, there are readers out there who are not only willing, but eager, to support your work, you just have to find them.

No. Today’s creators must have multiple streams of income, and many have day jobs to support them, only indulging their craft on a part time basis. Kickstarter provides a platform designed for creatives, including authors, where we can sell our creations directly to our reading audience without the middlemen distributors, such as Amazon, and by selling direct, we receive more than our 70%, allowed by Amazon, or whatever percentage we get from other distributors, but there are a few things we need to prepare for a successful Kickstarter campaign.

Make no mistake. Kickstarter is not a platform where you beg for money, as some may believe. It’s method of direct selling, and when you run a Kickstarter campaign, you have to put in the work for your money. I learned this by following the Kickstarter campaign of Kevin J. Anderson from the operations side of things.

As his student, I was allowed an inside look into the workings of a Kickstarter campaign, and a quite successful one, at that. KJA ran a Kickstarter to fund his latest Dan Shamble Zombie Detective novel, Double Booked. He showed us how to set up the project overview, set your overall campaign goal, set up with Stripe and attach to your bank account so you can get paid, create a video to tell people about your project, set up incentives for the different tiers and stretch goals, etc… Let me tell you, there is a lot of work involved.

Kevin also gave the whole Dan Shamble series eye-catching new covers, which are absolutely fabulous. Then, once the Kickstarter campaign had run its course, the author

must make good on their promises and provide the deliverables. For Kevin’s campaign, that involved doing print runs and signing each print copy of the book and mailing them out to his supporters at the appropriate level, (he actually ended up hiring someone to mail them all out, there were so many), as well as following up to be sure each supporter fills out and returns their Kickstarter survey.

KJA’s overall goal was $2,000, which he exceeded. He started at the $5 level, which provided a digital copy of Double Booked. This was the lowest tier of support, so anyone who subscribed to the campaign, at any level, received this. The tiers went all the way up to the $10,000 crazy super fan level, where Kevin promises to narrate an audio book, which he did anyway, then offered as a $25 add on during the campaign. I don’t know how likely it would be for him to actually get a $10,000 crazy super fan to jump on the campaign bandwagon, but either way he narrates his own audio book, and either way he makes money. (You can see just how well KJA did with this Kickstarter here.)

Advice from the hosts of the Six Figure Author podcast ( Episode 048 July 23, 2020) was to never do a Kickstarter for something which you can’t fund on your own, in case you don’t meet your goal. Kevin had Double Booked written before he began the Kickstarter. He knew he could deliver all the rewards promised at every tier. Doing this assures that none of your supporters go away disappointed. Satisfied readers are what is important here, because satisfied readers come back for more. They also suggest setting a lower goal at first, as low as $500, so you’ll be more likely to be able to meet the goal, then raising the bar for subsequent campaigns, building gradually. Kevin’s campaign was not as crazy successful as Bryan Sanderson’s, which ran right around the same time, but both are examples of how an author can use Kickstarter to sell their work directly to their readers and make decent money. (You can see how crazy successful Bryan Sanderson’s Kickstarter really was here.) Granted, not all authors are

Kevin J. Anderson or Bryan Sanderson. While some followers come from the Kickstarter community, it does help to have an existing following, people who already love and admire your work. I think it also helps if you are an established author with a decent backlist, otherwise you would have to make all the rewards new works, which would be even more work for the author.

U.S.A. Today bestselling authors Russell P. Nohelty and Monica Leonelle coauthored Get Your Book Selling on Kickstarter, which talks about reasons to sell direct through Kickstarter, how to sell books on Kickstarter, how to budget and market your Kickstarter project, and more. This book takes you step by step through setting up your Kickstarter campaign, and even though I watched KJA do it, I must admit I was intimidated by the sheer number of steps which must be taken and the things which should be included, and of course, it helps to illustrate everything visually, which adds even more to do. It is really a bit overwhelming. This book reinforces the idea that while Kickstarter does have a community of followers who are looking for campaigns of interest to support, your chances of success will be much improved if you already have a flowing to bring with you to to the platform.

From the author side, there’s a lot involved, but from the supporter side, it’s pretty cool because you get all kinds of goodies. For my support, I received a digital copy of Double Booked, plus a new short story in the series, “Bump in the Night”. As well as stretch goal rewards of digital copies of Kevin J. Anderson’s Selected Stories: Fantasy; from his most popular epic space opera series, Saga of the Seven Suns: Two Short Novels; and a government mystery thriller which he coauthored with Doug Beason, PhD, Virtual Destruction. I’ll be posting reviews for all of these down the road, but there were so many that it’s going to take me a while to get through them. (For now, you can read my review of his Selected Stories: Science Fiction here:

Kaye Lynne Booth

Find More from Kaye Lynne Booth on her website: Website:
Kaye Lynne Booth lives, works, and plays in the mountains of Colorado. With a dual emphasis M.F.A. in Creative Writing, writing is more than a passion. It’s a way of life. She’s a multi-genre author, who finds inspiration from the nature around her, and her love of the old west, and other odd and quirky things which might surprise you.

Summer Camp Culprit

Camp Starfall is closing. But that doesn’t mean the past is going with it.

Despite her misgivings, Lindsey returns to the campground she last left as a broken-hearted teen. She’s determined to spend Camp Starfall’s farewell weekend focusing on the good memories she has of her time as a camper. But fate has other plans.

Lindsey’s teenage sweetheart Tyler shows up, stirring up feelings in her that had long lain dormant. Too bad she doesn’t have time to dwell on him. Someone is breaking into the cabins, and if she doesn’t find the culprit, more than her heart will be at stake.

*A romantic cozy mystery short story*

Intro: Great intro, captured my attention and kept me interested throughout. Dialogue felt authentic.

“The story is a quick clean read with a mystery, a reunion of friends, and memories of the past. The story offers views into the past and the present day's actions. Mischief, antics, snarkiness, friendships, sleuthing, and wonderful characters kept the pages turning as the story unfolded.

Overall # 8Myster y
“ Amazon

Read Herring Riddle by C.K.Fyfe

For Laura, house-sitting at an old Victorian mansion seems the perfect job. However, little does she know that the house holds an abundance of secrets, including a mysterious book that’s much more than it seems. When the owners’ cat goes missing, Laura accepts help from an unlikely source to find the feline. But in doing so, has she crossed the line between fantasy and reality?

Character/World Development:

The country life scene, and the spooky old house create the perfect mood for the story

Intro: The intro was interesting, the scene was set and it built the mood of a spooky old house.

This cozy mystery is perfect after a long day or during a lunch break when you want to be quickly taken to another world where you can sort out a mystery. I love the way the author introduced these characters. You felt like you were planted right in the middle of a ride just before the blind curve and all you could do was hold on.

Dying for a Date

Intro: “If I'd known my clothes would be covered in blood by the end of the date, I wouldn't have agonized over my wardrobe.” Great start.

Cover: It's bright and the title stands out well.

Unsure if she is looking for Mr. Right, or Mr. Every Other Saturday Night, divorced mother of two, Laurel McKay reluctantly joins THE LOVE CLUB, a popular local dating service. Dressed to kill, she meets bachelor number one at a trendy restaurant. But the date is a bust, literally, when the guy decides Laurel is dessert, and she breaks his nose with her cell phone. It gets even worse when the man is found murdered the next morning, and Laurel has his blood on her clothes.

Character Development: Great character development. You get a feel almost instantly for the family dynamic between mother, daughter, son and ex.

This first in series introduces Laurel McKay - a feisty though somewhat ditzy, divorced mother of two. Her attempts to reenter the dating world land her in the less than enviable spot as a suspect when her dates start turning up dead. The pages turned quickly as the plot unfolded, with Laurel attempting to solve the case and prove her innocence much to the annoyance an exceedingly appealing detective

Auction Block Bandit

As a regular auction goer, Trixie has seen most everything up for bid, from celebrity pet hair to used rental caskets. A plethora of pieces routinely come and go, with short lived fanfare. That is, until one winter night, when a hot ticket item disappears, and an absorbing mystery ensues. An amateur sleuth at heart, she plunges in to crack the case.

Cover: Mysterious. Good contrast

“I adored this quick getaway to this wintery town. It was funny; full of witty repartee and nods to a trend that set people's teeth on edge.”


“They is a great short mystery that has you feeling like you are right there in that auction barn. It’s full of suspense and humor from beginning to end which makes it such an enjoyable read.”


World Development: World fits with the story. Flows vividly.

Character Development: You get a sense for the character and her personality from the very beginning



and should be processed immediately. If possible, clean fruit and make your jam

the same day.

If necessary, you can store cleaned fruit

the refrigerator over night, but they should be processed the following morning.

If you plan to can your jam, have all the canning equipment, sterilized jars, lids, and rings ready before starting the canning process.


a very short lifespan
• 10 Cups cherries (pitted and cleaned) • 4 Cups sugar • 4 Tbsp lemon juice (can use fresh or bottled) • Red food coloring (optional)

• In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, combine the cherries, sugar and lemon juice. Bring to boil (about 5 minutes). Continue until the mixture reaches a rolling boil meaning a boil that cannot be stirred down.

• Remove from heat and strain the juice from the cherries. Set cherries aside and return the juice to the pan. Bring to a boil. Continue to boil until juice reaches 221°F (105 °C ). It can take longer than one would think so be patient. If you don’t have a canning thermometer, use the froze plate test.

Place a glass plate into the freezer before starting the process. Once you think your jam has reached its setting point, spoon a bit of jam onto the cold plate, tilt vertically so the jam runs. You are aiming for a slow descent, not a runny mess. When it runs slow with a slight gel like texture, it is set. Be careful not to overcook or jam will be rubbery.

YIELD • 4 pints • 8 half pints INSTRUCTIONS

• Return cherries to pan, stirring them into the hot juice. Use an immersion blender to mix cherries until they are the desired texture. I like to leave some chunks of cherries in my jam but you may want a smoother blend.

• For a brighter red, you can add a few drops of red food coloring to the mixture.

• Return the jam to a boil, just enough to heat the cherries.

• Remove from heat and ladle into prepared, sterilized jars. Use knife to remove bubbles. Leave at least 1/4 inch headspace.

• Wipe any spills from jar rims with a damp cloth. Secure lids and rings.

• Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes if using half pints, 20 minutes for pints. Adjust processing time for your elevation using the USDA canning guide.

• Remove from water bath and place on cooling rack. Allow to cool for at least 8 hours before handling.

Find more from Author Melanie P. Smith on her website: Melanie P. Smith — An American, multi genre author of Paranormal, Criminal Suspense, Police Procedural and Romance novels. Embark on a rollercoaster journey of discovery. Hope you enjoy!

77 1/2 Magical Healing Herbs

Fictio n

Venture into the magical, healing world of herbs and embrace the power of nature. The book is an introduction to herbs found in a special Midsummer’s wreath. This is an especially enchanting time of year. Among the Bulgarians, the day is called Eniovden. You may think herbs are only for spicing up food and healing the body and mind, but they have other uses, as well.

No n -Intro: Flowed well and promises a mixture of factual information and fascinating folklore, plus the illustrations are stunning.

Cover: It's a beautiful cover and suits the subject perfectly. The title is intriguing.


Book is very informative but also whimsical. It gives the facts, with an image but also includes folklore and myths to keep the readers attention before it moves on to medicinal uses. Great layout and clear ideas on each page.

Overall #9

In this book you’ll find:

• Why using crowdfunding is an important avenue for authors and how authors are currently using it

• Choosing the right project for Kickstarter and designing your campaign

• Budgeting your campaign for profitability (and why it’s critical for your success!)

• The types of messages you should send to your audience vs. cold traffic

• Delivering your rewards for your Kickstarter project

• Keeping momentum going after Kickstarter

• Hailed as one of the most comprehensive books on Kickstarter for Publishing projects, this book is a must have if you're Kickstarter curious or planning your campaign.

Intro: It is clear what the topic will cover, and it promises to guide the reader through the process.

There was lots of anecdotal information with facts and figures thrown in.

Informative: Very easy to follow and written in an interesting way to keep the readers attention.

Cover: It gives a clear idea of what the book is about.

Marketing psychology offers a scientific way to connect deeply with you audience, capture their attention, and communicate a powerful message. But it's all too often misunderstood, applied incorrectly, or missed entirely. This book fixes that. You'll learn:

How commonly misused tactics actually work.

• Little-known but powerful copywriting strategies developed from techniques used in clinical therapy for behavior change.

• How to capture and control attention with easy to apply designs.

• Why people are missing your best offers.

Informative: From the first technique described, there was plenty of supporting information.

Each tactic included in this book was developed through psychological research and verified through real world testing. You'll learn not only how to use them, but why they are so effective and how to adapt them to any marketing you create.

Paige Carter Season —Episode 6

Hasty Retreat

Darla Johnson walked quickly down the short hallway and pushed open the back door. The instant she stepped outside she paused to inhale the cool, fresh night air. It was nearly two in the morning, now. She liked the peace and quiet that came with working the night shift. That was about all she liked. Once she had climbed onto the rough, ancient, wooden picnic table that had been permanently cemented into the ground to give employees a makeshift break area, she reached into her pocket and pulled out her tip money. One hundred, twenty three dollars and change. Not bad. Another two weeks, three tops, and she could finally get her transmission repaired. Then, she’d gladly give notice to Joe and her life could return to normal.

Her daughter would be happy. No more fending for herself on the nights Darla was scheduled to work the bar. Darla thought it was good for Mandy being on her own now and again. It was good for a fourteen-year-old girl to learn to cook for herself. But she always felt guilty the moment she stepped out the door. Three more weeks and she’d be back to one job, a nine to five office position where her most difficult customer was a root canal. Thank heavens for small favors. She hated dealing with the drunks, hated the crude remarks, hated pretty much everything about time gig. But she needed the money. She needed her car; and waitressing for Joe was the only job within walking distance she could find.

This is a continuing storyline. A new episode is published in each issue of the eMagazine Box sets can be purchased at any eBook store Continue Reading Pg. 98 © Melanie P. Smith

There was once a girl who lived in a castle in a valley, surrounded by an impenetrable forest. She did not remember her mother or father, and the owner of the castle was almost a stranger to her. He did not speak to her except to warn her of the dangers of the forest. So frightened was she by his tales of monsters and dragons that would tear her to pieces if she went out alone that she had never left the castle, except to stroll in the safety of its walled gardens. She had never met another human being, for the owner of the castle was not human but a troll. He never took her with him when he went into the forest for supplies, though she cried and begged him to do so, and promised she would not run away, and so she had only read about humans in story books.

The girl spent many long nights staring out of the window at the moon. She would pretend the moon had a face; that it could talk to her. The moon became her friend and during her childhood helped her not to be so lonely. Her greatest wish was that one day her friend would come to the castle and visit her, and they would have great adventures together. But the moon could no more visit her in her castle than she could visit it, and as the girl grew up she eventually forgot about the moon.

One night, long after she had stopped her childish games, the girl had a dream. In the dream a man with a moon shaped head flew through the window, and landed next to her fireplace scattering ash all around.

‘Who are you?’ she asked.

‘Why your old friend the moon; surely you have not forgotten me completely? I am here to take you on a great adventure.’

The girl was astonished. ‘The moon isn’t a real person,’ she said, ‘that’s just something I made up as a child.’

‘Look at the sky,’ said the moon, ‘You can see that I am not there, because I have come to see you. If I was not real I would not be here. ’

The girl looked up at the sky, and sure enough, even though it was evening and the moon should have been visible, there was nothing there but the clouds, the stars, and the sunset.

‘Do you believe me now?’ asked the moon.

‘Yes,’ said the girl, and she stepped forwards to take his outstretched hand.

The moon grasped the girl’s hand and pulled her through the door, down the stairs and along the path from the castle. The girl was afraid and cried out but the moon did not listen. He was running faster and faster and then they were flying. The girl felt much safer in the air; surely no monsters could reach her there. They flew over the trees and the girl felt her world crumble.

There was no great forest full of monsters, only a circle of trees, five deep, all the way around the valley. Beyond that there were fields, and houses, and people. There were so many people the girl wondered how she had not heard their shouting from her castle. In each place they flew over she saw groups of people talking and laughing and doing things together and she felt a pang of jealousy. Then she saw the first person sitting alone. A boy, no older than herself, was sitting under a tree reading a book. The girl got the distinct impression he was hiding from the other boys in the village, who were playing a game in the field beyond. She saw several more people alone, and obviously as friendless as herself. The tightness inside her that had been jealousy became pity. She wondered why all the lonely and friendless people did not try to find each other. Then she thought of her castle, and the walls around it, and that there might be other kinds of walls she could not see.

At last the moon returned the girl to her castle, and with a fond farewell he leapt back to his place in the sky. The girl looked up at him, round and shining and talked to him the way she had as a child. Then she returned to her bed.

When the girl awoke the next morning she remembered her dream, and wished it could have been real. Knowing it could not be, she felt even more lonely. She longed to find all the lonely people she had dreamed of and make them her friends. As she was tidying up her clothes she caught sight of something a footprint in the ashes scattered in front of the hearth. It was not her own footprint, nor that of the seven -toed troll, but a large man ’s boot. The moon! He had been real, had really stood by her fireplace and really left a footprint. Could that mean the rest of the dream had been real too?

The girl ran from the castle and dashed down the path towards the trees. As she reached the edge of the castle gardens the troll appeared in front of her

‘Stop!’ cried the troll. ‘The monsters in the forest will get you if you go too close to the trees.’

‘There are no monsters!’ the girl said, ‘Get out of my way.’

The troll didn’t move. ‘I can’t let you go,’ he cried.

He banged a clenched fist against the wall of the garden and the iron gates clanged shut. The girl rattled the gates, and pleaded with the troll to let her out.

‘I can’t,’ he said sadly, ‘If you leave the valley I will die.’

If I don’t leave the valley I will die.’

The troll looked so sad when he heard this that the girl stopped and turned to look at him. She saw a fat tear roll down his cheek and hurried to pat him on the shoulder.

‘Don’t cry,’ she said, sitting down beside him, ‘You won’t actually die if I leave. I know how lonely it is here but you can leave too. You can find someone else to talk to. ’

‘No, you don’t understand. We are linked, you and I, by an ancient curse. ’

‘What do you mean a curse? Curses aren’t real, they’re just make believe.’

‘This one isn’t.’

The girl sensed that there was a story that she had never been told, but she knew the old troll was neither cruel nor deceitful so she pleaded for him to tell her the secret that had made him keep her in the castle for so long.

‘When you were just a baby I was walking in the valley when I heard someone shouting for help. I ran towards the shouts but arrived too late. I saw a witch murder your parents with a curse. She would have murdered you with the same curse. I couldn’t let that happen, so I stepped in front of the witch and the curse hit me instead. ’

The girl didn’t know what to say. Her tongue froze in her mouth and something clutched at her stomach. The troll went on.

‘The curse didn’t work properly because it was meant for humans not trolls, but the witch told me if you ever went out of the valley where the curse was cast it would mean my death. So I built the castle and kept you here. ’

‘I’m sorry,’ the girl said, although she did not know what for. ‘Thank you for saving my life.’

‘So you see why I cannot let you go?’ the troll said.

‘I see why you do not want to let me go,’ the girl said. ‘But if you keep me here, alone and friendless, it is as bad as the witch trying to curse me in the first place. I am going mad here alone.’

The troll looked at her with tears staining his warty cheeks and she saw the pain in his eyes. A tear slid down her own cheek, and dripped from her chin onto the floor.

‘You are right,’ said the troll. ‘I thought I was saving you that day, but all I was doing was putting you under another kind of curse. ’

He opened his fist and the girl saw that in the centre of his palm was a small silver key. She took it, and crying and saying thank you through her weeping she unlocked the gate and walked down the path leading to the trees, glancing back at the troll often as she went.

As she drew closer to the trees the troll began to shrink and by the time she had gone fifty steps he was small enough to carry in the palm of her hand. When she reached the edge of the valley she touched the trunk of one of the trees and felt a cold wind buffet past her.

her. The girl looked around and saw that the troll was gone, and all that was left was a pile of buttons from his waistcoat.

For a moment she was afraid. The troll had lied to her and kept her prisoner, but he was the only person she had ever spoken to, and once upon a time he had saved her life, even though he knew it could mean the end of his own. Then she thought of all the lonely people she had seen on her journey with the moon. She knew those people needed her help and, if they were real, they could be her friends. And how could they not be real when everything else in her dream had been?

The girl ran into the trees. There were more trees than she remembered from her dream of the moon. She ran on and on and did not come to the other side. At last she sat down beneath a giant oak tree and wept. As the light faded she looked up to see the stars but the forest canopy blocked them all out. Then the words came to her on the wind.

“There’s nobody left to save you now dearie. This time I shall have you, and nobody will ever know.”

“Who’s there?” the girl cried, scrambling to her feet.

Under the trees something moved. A black and pointed hat shaped shadow came towards her, and behind it a strange looking man with a moon shaped head.

Sarah Hindmarsh is a vet student turned teacher turned writer. She has won, and been nominated for, multiple awards and prizes for her children’s fiction, short stories and poetry, and also writes revision guides and books of writing prompts. She is currently writing her first novel for grown ups – an LGBT+ high fantasy. In her spare time Sarah likes to compete in various equestrian sports and nap on the sofa with her dog, Kohla. Sarah is also autistic and ADHD, and writes personal essays about living and working as a neurodivergent person in a neurotypical world.

Connect with Sarah Hindmarsh at:

In this tale, apart from the revenge highlighted by the title, you ’ll find love, loss, fear, courage, betrayal, and much more besides. As with all of the author’s work, you’ll be absorbed rapidly by the plight of those in need, and the inhumanity and greed of those who have plenty. When those lives become interconnected in unexpected ways, within is a great story. Highly recommended.

Cover: Striking image and goes well with the title.

Characters: Each character is quickly identifiable and multidimensional.

The most heinous act of treachery in Scottish history and piracy on the high seas bind the lives of strangers, Tom and Andrew, inextricably together.

Tom is a young Englishman trying to prove himself worthy of the girl he loves. Andrew, a Scot, hopes to build a better life for his family in New Caledonia, a Scottish trading post on the Darien Isthmus. Driven to revenge, because of England’s stranglehold on the trade routes, the merchants of Scotland bring England and Scotland to the brink of war. Tom and Andrew are on opposing sides when they are thrust together by a chance meeting. Will one of them have to die before England and Scotland can unite in peace?

The Peaceful Village

Based on actual events as told by survivors, The Peaceful Village is the fictionalized story of the unfolding of the events that led up to one of the biggest World War II massacres on French soil. Much more than an account of Nazi brutality and the futility of war, this is a story of love.The love of family. The love of neighbor. The love of country. Compassion and courage burn from the pages as the villagers ’ stories come alive. Written by the international bestselling author of The Seven Year Dress, Paulette Mahurin, this book pays homage to the villagers who lived and loved in Oradour sur Glane.

This is such a heart wrenching story, one of way too many horrific tragedies of WWII. Along with Marguerite, I felt the tension building as the story progressed, wondering what was going to happen to the peaceful village. My heart ached as the massacre unfolded. I felt as if I, too, had lost friends. The author's words and the story she told captivated me from start to finish. So much suffering, but on top of it hope is built.

Cover: Striking image and goes well with the title. Great colors, typography is very easy to read, crisp and clear

Intro: It's a beautiful start with a description of the peaceful setting

Development: There is a lot of world building from the start. The scene is vividly described before we meet the characters.

Woman of Flames

Intro: The character is clearly distinguishable within the emotional first scene. His reactions are authentic and relatable.

Cover: The complimentary colours stand out well.

Based on the life of a Jewish prophet, Woman of Flames is a sweeping epic of how faith, lust, and revenge can drive nations into war.

As a child, Deborah must convince those around her that her visions are a gift from the Hebrew God, whom she is called to serve. As she matures, Deborah battles the prejudices of her people to achieve the position God has ordained, that of a spiritual leader for Israel. Growing in confidence and power, Deborah accepts God’s promise to use her to free the Israelites from their oppressors. One man stands in her way Sisera, general of the Canaanite army..

With nine hundred chariots, thousands of soldiers and the help of a sadistic priest, Sisera relentlessly pursues his one objective— total annihilation of the Israelites. After he captures Deborah, his life is altered in ways he never dreamed possible. Attracted to her power and consumed by her beauty, Sisera’s single obsession becomes to possess Deborah, body and soul. Deborah fights against the temptations of her enemy, and her own fears, to ignite a fire of rebellion that could set her people free

Cover: Compelling and interesting. Complimentary colors with a good focal point

Christian Historical Fiction – with just-a-dash of magical realism, and a sweet romance.

1664. Rhiannon and her daughter Brianna have been given a powerful gift, when they lay hands on people they are healed. Instead of being seen as beautiful demonstrations of faith, the miracles are called witchcraft. When the witch hunter Black Wolf embarks on his relentless hunt for them, Brianna’s world is torn apart. On the run from him and racing for her life, she receives respite in the sleepy hamlet of Trapp. Among the villagers who welcome and hide her, she meets Arwen and soon begins to fall in love.

As much as she wants to be with Arwen, there is a problem. Her mother told her to find the place where the Nightjars sing; only in that place will she find the man she is destined to be with. Can

Brianna find the valley of the Nightjars and her future husband before the witch hunter discovers her hiding place? And more importantly, will she be able to hold onto her faith as she goes through the fire of testing?

Intro & Characters: Excellent flow. Main character is youthful, carefree and immediately recognizable.

We had two books tie for our bronze medal in the Other Fiction category this year.

Cover: Good typography and contrast

Intro & Characters: Started strong , interesting beginning, good flow

Was Lily murdered, or did her sinister secret force her to take her own life?

In a room above a tavern, on the hedonistic streets of Praterstrasse Vienna, is the dead body of a kept woman.

A mysterious lady sits alone in the bar. A man exits the premises through the back door, gripping onto a cane with an amber head. A youth, clutching a bottle, stumbles down the stairs and drinks the remnants of the poison his dead lover, Lily, took just minutes before.

Was it suicide?

It’s up to photographer Leo Katz and his new friend, pathologist Klaus Rosenbloom, to solve the mystery. But how can they discover who the killer is when vicious thugs steal vital evidence and threaten their lives?

Interactive books for children are those books that allow for active participation from, and interaction by, the child as part of the reading process. There are two categories of interactive books for children: those that incorporate modern technology and provide for digital participation by children, and those that are not digital. Today, I’m going to chat about the non-digital interactive books for children. There are a myriad of non digital interactive books for children, aimed at a variety of different age groups.

Touch and feel books are aimed at very young children. They are wonderful for helping children to associate their sense of touch with a word or words. For example, a picture of a duck could include soft, fluffy feathers and a picture of a tree could have rough bark. Most touch and feel books are very simple and only teach one word at a time. I had a few books like this for my sons when they were babies and very young toddlers and they loved them.

Interactive books for older toddlers and pre school children include pull tabs, flaps, pull downs, and pop up books. Pop up books work by literally popping up a 3 D picture when the child turns the page. These were hugely successful with my boys but I did have to teach them not to pull on the pop-ups and break them. I also had to teach them not to pull tabs, flaps, and pull downs too hard, but they learned quickly and my instruction ensured they treated their physical books with respect. This is a link to a pop-up Alice in Wonderland book . It’s not the same as the one I had for my sons but it looks equally fun:

Colouring books speak


colour in the pictures that relate to the stories. There are also sticker books

allow the child to dress the characters. Usborne has an amazing selection of sticker books.

Hidden object books are those that hide various objects within pictures for the child to discover. These books are available for a variety of age groups, and my boys loved the Where’s Wally books.


the blurb of the Where’s Wally Amazing Adventures and Activities 8 Books Bag Collection

Where’s Wally?:

The original book which kick started the worldwide Wally phenomenon! Search for Wally and his friends as they hike round the world.

Where’s Wally Now?: Wally and his friends travel through time in this second best-selling classic adventure. Search for them as they visit the Stone Age, Ancient Egypt, the Vikings

The Fantastic Journey: Hidden in every intricately-detailed scene are Wally and his friends so let the hunt begin! Search for them in the land of the unfriendly giants, the watery world of the deep sea divers.

Where’s Wally? In Hollywood: Wally visits the land where dreams are made in this classic activity book! He meets directors and actors, walks through the crowds of extras, and sees behind the scenes.

Where’s Wally? In Outer Space: Play tangle line teasers, find your way out of a space race maze, unscramble muddled up words, crack alien codes, match and spot the differences in busy picture puzzles.

Where’s Wally? At Sea: Untangle fishing lines; solve a boat race riddle; match seaside silhouettes; track down pirate treasure on a map; join up words in a message in a bottle.

Where’s Wally? Across Lands: Scale castle walls and ancient Aztec temples as you complete games, crack written riddles, get creative by drawing your own Egyptian city and doodling inside speech bubbles.

Where’s Wally? Takes Flight: Work your way out of a busy airport runway maze; match up dragons to their race day medals; solve birdy word searches and visual snap; colour in a nighttime dragon scene.

for themselves and allow


The last type of interactive book I’m mentioning in this post are game books. These are middle school children’s books where each section ends with a decision. The child makes a choice and is directed to the next section on a specific page. I managed to obtain a big pile of the Choose Your Own Adventure books when I was a girl, and I absolutely loved them.

is the link to the Choose Your Own Adventure series:

Widely commended for its appeal to reluctant readers, Choose Your Own Adventure is the 4th bestselling book series for children of all time. Written in the second person, the reader is the hero of the story, and at the bottom of each page, there is a decision point: If you go in search of the yeti, turn to page 11. If you think it is safest to stay put and call for help, turn to page 25. By reading and choosing, kids become more engaged, making the Choose Your Own Adventure series a stealth reading program for reluctant readers.

Cheadle is a South African children’s author and poet with 9 children’s books and 2 poetry books. She has also published 2 books for older children which incorporate recipes that are relevant to the storylines. Robbie has 2 adult novels in the paranormal historical and supernatural fantasy genres published under the name Roberta Eaton Cheadle. She also has short stories in the horror and paranormal genre and poems included

in several anthologies. Connect with Robbie… My
both spent hours pawing through these books.

Intro: Very compelling start. I was hooked from the first paragraph.

Character / World Development: The world described is intriguing and vividly described. I'm interested to find out more.

“Excellent imagery and superb characterisation make this an enjoyable read. The reader rapidly becomes absorbed in the mysterious characters and locations as the intrepid young journalist, Harlow, pushes everyone’s buttons to get answers. “

Paranormal | Supernatural

Cover: Love the image, the color scheme, and how the title blends with the image.

Abandoned as a baby, Harlow spent her life asking unanswered questions. Who was she? Where did she come from? And why was she plagued by dreams of drowning?

As she matured, the torturous dreams lessened. Becoming a reporter, Harlow is sent to the deserted towns bordering the Salton Sea. Upon her arrival, the unwelcome dreams awaken, drawing her into the toxic water.

Something in the depths yearns for her.

But when secrets about her past start coming to light, she can’t leave until she finds the answers.

Will she be able to piece together her lost history before it’s too late?

Or will the Salton Sea be her undoing?

Overall #6

Intro: I was hooked and intrigued from the first moment. It flowed beautifully.


Character / World Development: As this is a short story book, the character development is compacted but well rounded to give depth but keep the mystery.

This book contains gentle, paranormal and ghost, short stories. There are fourteen brand new stories, and three bonus stories from previous collections, to give you a taster of the books, Missing, Pebble on the Beach and The Mermaid. If you like the idea that humans may have insights into other worlds or just want to step out of everyday life and indulge the imagination, then this book is for you. Ideal for a quick read in your coffee break.

“The authors writing style flows seamlessly and transports you effortlessly into each storyscape, often surprising you with a last minute twist to widen your eyes. A great read, you won't be disappointed


Hunter’s Moo


Cover: Great contrast of the bright orange across the central figure, with the dark background. It's an intriguing image.

Intro: Intro drops you immediately into the action and you feel the intensity of the situation . A great flow, easy to read.

Character: The setting fitted the character and the story perfectly.

In her dreams, a voice whispers to her. The voice tells her she is destined to wield a legendary sword and that her path will lead to greatness. It says the way forward lies in the handsome Viking set on winning her heart, but only if she unravels the mystery hanging over her first.

Waking up to a burned out village where everyone has been slaughtered, is nothing short of a nightmare for Sable. In an instant, every hope she had for the future has disappeared, along with her one true love who is lost somewhere at sea. But survival is just the beginning of an incredible adventure that will take her across mighty oceans, through many storms, and into the paths of murdering undesirables as she embarks on a journey to find the man she loves and unravel the mystery that surrounds her.

With great loss comes great determination and none more than Sable, even if it is painted with blood, strewn with bodies and scattered with the pieces of her own broken heart.

A Ghostly Affair

Daniel Powell has been living in a small cabin on the outskirts of Portland Oregon, never able to leave it because of a dark entity keeps his spirit trapped to be tormented. Anytime people come to reside in his cabin, he does what he can to run them off before the shadowy thing can get its deathly hold on them.

Brianna Monk and her boyfriend finds themselves in the same predicament, evicted and no place to call their home and their relationship on shaky ground. With the aid of their parents and a Realtor, the couple finds the cabin in the middle of the forest that comes with many amenities and at a cheap price. Rumors swirl around that the quaint shack is haunted, which causes Brianna's curiosity to discover if it's true.

Can the couple coexist in the haunted cabin or will the shadowy thing mark their souls for torment like Daniel?


After their husbands commit them to a state mental institution in Massachusetts, two women become friends. Were they and the other women who filled the place even mentally ill? Anne was eccentric, to be sure, and her Boston fireman husband decided it was more than he could bear. Edna loved to read and write poetry; her husband said she wasn't "a good wife," so he called the constable and had her taken away to the state mental hospital. She craved companionship and found Anne during her first night at the place. Edna called Anne "Anne of Green Gables"; she told everyone who'd listen that she was Edna St. Vincent Millay. This novella looks at the way they cope with spending the rest of their lives in a state mental institution with humor and Anne's visitors from the outside world and how they make a Christmas surprise visit to the site of the old mental hospital as spirits after their deaths.


My life as a writer tends to be interrupted by real life, like cooking, defrosting the freezer, and taking a dog to the vet. Time consuming, unproductive only on the surface. Such mundane activities invariably surface in a book.

Second, only to ironing, I hate cooking. Google wouldn’t agree, constantly presenting me with pictures of food… yes, I’ve been surfing ideas for Maria, who does like cooking. I must have been convincing. One reader of Two Face the World asked me for the recipe for Ashhaven Tart. Sarah has a clue how to make fleur pastry? Come to think of it, it was Maria who pinched my method of defrosting a freezer fast using a fan heater.

Dogs have been part of my life since my father got fed up with burying run over cats under the rhubarb. Little did he know one of them would lead me backstage in a theatre. My fault for running a dog-training club and being the obvious person to ask, but did I have to volunteer? No, but I did, and the knowledge I gained was invaluable. It was also fraught with pitfalls, like the night somebody reserved a front row seat for their Chihuahua that my Border Collie decided he should turf out, or when friends came to watch. Seated carefully in the darkness at the back, they failed to allow for the canine sense of smell.

Talking of smell, I like travelling I just like it, Him Indoors collects leaflets and films video for my research. The canine in Chile was trained to sniff out drugs, but he liked the food better, and who had made the last minute decision to take an old dog walking jacket with treats in the pockets rather than a good one that might be spoiled stuffed under an aircraft seat? Sarah. It ’s a wonder I’m not still in Chile, in jail, which reminds me…

Part of my life as a writer involves interviews, usually on radio or social media, and one of the boringly predictable questions is “what is the best advice you’ve ever been given?”. The truth came from Mary Stewart (This Rough Magic, Nine Coaches Waiting) “always have the couple in a romance meet in the first chapter, even if they don’t like each other at first”. The second suggestion, from someone who’s name I’ll leave out in case he’s taken his own advice, was “commit a newsworthy crime”. The idea spawned The Spy, the antihero journalist in the Royal Command Family Saga.

Now, Lesley, whose idea this was, didn’t suggest a photograph but Tom did; of the author’s workspace. A study? A Woman Cave? (Men have them in garden sheds.) Obviously, somewhere equipped with a desk, swivel chair, computer with paraphernalia, notebooks, a pinboard this is developing fast, but it’s imaginary. My “office” is a king size bed scattered with anything but a notebook and pencil, and anyone delivering vital coffee is likely to trip over my laptop cable. Hence, the only photograph is of me. Thinking, or to put it accurately when I receive my characters’ instructions to their scribe, is done walking the current dog/ dogs by the river.

Why do I write? I find it impossible not to create imaginary worlds for the people who inhabit my head. Somewhere hidden in a box is the first “book” I ever wrote. I was eight years old and the only plus is it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. If it’s published, posthumously, do me a favour and ignore They Gave Me Macushla; I’ve visited Ireland since and there isn’t a “bare rugged hill” in sight.


WEBSITE: https:// TWITTER: GOODREADS: show/3159319.Sarah_Stuart FACEBOOK: groups/1455950094558649
Selected by dedicated Readers voting for their favorite Finalists


3.45 am: Sunday

27th September, 2020

Having bought the land and demolished the existing house on it, Ricard Pilgrim had a new one built to his own design. It was shaped like a gazebo, an affectation he embellished by having a hexagonal conservatory added to the sixth side, overlooking the extensive gardens. Beyond the gardens

were mossy woods, where it was rumoured someone had once hanged themselves, and the house itself stood far back from the access road, which rose steeply towards the dense woodland and grassy hilltops that overlook the city of Oxford.

The Architect by

other aspect of his life. He wanted to be noticed and seen as special. In the following years he had succeeded far beyond the need to seem anything except important, but the name had become as much a part of him as his smooth appearance and forthright manner.

He had built up his company ’s award winning reputation from the ground floor and during the past ten years had taken on more staff and continued to expand the business without ever diluting the quality service offered. He was admired, envied and feared for his absolute ruthlessness, and gave the impression of being popular without actually being much liked.

In his personal life he allowed another side of his nature to show itself, a veneer of softness, dressed up in charm and an absolute belief in his entitlement to be adored. He was used to getting his own way and it helped that nature had blessed him with remarkable good looks as well as a sparkling intellect. Women found themselves ineluctably drawn to him, their will pulled off course like iron filings towards a magnet, their blood set on fire with desire.

When interviewed (Fortune magazine had done a piece on him the previous summer) he described himself as “merely a humble draughtsman” while discreetly making no mention of his enormous wealth. He spoke in the way that people do when they are anything but humble and expect their audience to understand what a gross understatement it is. A business rival had once described him as having the mean eyed expression of a worldly wolf sizing up the fattest goat in the herd.

However, Ricard Pilgrim, award winning architect, cannot glory in the glittering prizes at the pinnacle of his career, in this Covid stricken late summer of 2020, nor any longer size up anything. Instead, illumined by pale moonlight in the pre dawn gloom, he lies prone and lifeless in a pool of blood on the otherwise pristine Italian marble tiles of the conservatory. Hoist on his own petard, one might say, he has been felled with his latest award a bronze statue forged in an abstract peacock design so far from an actual peacock it is hard to spot the resemblance. It is a hefty weight, and the perfect size to fit in a hand seeking an impromptu cudgel.

Who will mourn poor Ricard, freshly slaughtered and staining the floor a discordant red not at all in keeping with the spare white, grey, and subtle cream décor? And more to the point, you might ask, whose hand had reached for the statue and used it so efficiently to quell the man’s genius forever?

Lesley Hayes

Lesley Hayes is a UK author of literary fiction with a distinct psychological edge. For the past thirty years she has also practised as a psychotherapist, as you’d guess when reading one of her ten novels or eight short story collections. Defying obvious genre, what they each have in common is her fascination with the human condition. Her most recent novel is the psychological thriller, The Architect, published in May 2021, and her latest short story collection is Life Work, published in July 2021. Among her previous award winning novels is the compelling Written in Water trilogy which follows the lives of three women from the nineteen sixties to the present day: Exits and Entrances, Better Strangers, and Strange Eventful History. In 2021 she also published a collection of her poems, Soul Songs: Fragments of a Life. She lives in Oxford, where she derives much of the inspiration for her books

Find More from Val Tobin...


Receiving a frantic call from her friend Alice, Julia McComas packs her bags and heads to a ranch in Texas where she encounters critters, cows, and a handful of handsome cowboy brothers. Her presence interrupts their daily routine, and one brother in particular makes his annoyance well known: Graham.

As the oldest of seven brothers, Graham Hastings takes his role as leader of the family business seriously. Not only does he keep the family ranch running, but he also keeps a tight rope on all his brothers. But when Julia McComas winds up living in his guest house, her presence shakes up more than just ranch life. It shakes up his heart.

Can Julia learn the ways of the ranch?

Can Graham let go of the reins enough to let love into his heart?

Cover: The picture tells a story, you get a feel for the style of the romance and the setting.

Character / World Building: The world description was built intrinsically into the narrative and I had a clear picture as I read.

Co ve r: Cl Overall #4

A twisted piece where the old pagan gods are returning to retake Earth from the Christian God and Devil who have enslaved them to gain the earth for themselves by using Lethe's throne from the Underworld to erase the memories of the lesser gods making them think they are 'angels' and 'demons' serving each side. To warn them when the older gods start to return from their slumbers, they have kept two captives. A male and female, who think they are an angel and a demon, working in the service of their betters.

When the pair fall in love, it is a warning that the Unity between Christian God and Devil is failing. Unity will do anything to keep the pair apart, even kill them while the pair are left fighting for their lives and their memories.

Cover: I love the cover, I would definitely pick it up at the store. Beautiful and has a romantic feel about it. Dreamy.

Character/World Building: Good character development, very graphic scenes, author did a good job of giving visuals of how the character developed into an angel

Intro: The intro was compelling and I'm eager to find out what happens next.

Amsterdam Calling

Cover: Soft, perfectly fits genre, professional and appealing

By Tom Benson

Dan and Crystal meet by chance in Amsterdam. He is a British journalist taking a break. She is an American fashion designer, eager to trace her European ancestors.

A chemistry develops as they visit many places of interest in the wonderful city of Crystal’s heritage. It comes to light she has at least one living relative still connected to the Dutch Resistance.

During their first days together, the couple discover they are both being stalked, but for different reasons.

Intro: I was immediately hooked and intrigued. I got the impression, right from the start that this is more than just a romance.

Characters/ World Development:

Characters builds slowly but they're likeable and identifiable. Vivid description of a large city. Makes you feel like you are there.

The story revolves around a trip to Amsterdam, and the author takes a fascinating approach in that he manages to effectively combine a travelogue and a suspense story. It was uniquely satisfying to flick to the next page, eager to see what unfolds for our two heroes, and at the same time gain fascinating insights into the culture of Amsterdam. I have never been, but now I definitely want to go!

After years of making the obligatory rosehip and elderberry syrups, blackberry jams, rowanberry jelly, one year I stood looking down at the pan of boiling goodness - fresh berries bubbling away with heat and white sugar and had a moment of realisation. I was nuking the goodness out of nature ’s bounty. Off to the library I went and researched the heat stability of vitamin C. Turns out it’s not. Since then, I have never made a cordial, jam or syrup again and don ’t include recipes for them here. Instead, I look to conserve as much of the natural goodness sans sugar or overcooking. You can process your gathered berries in the following ways:


Spread out and dried in a low 47 degree oven for a few hours with the door ajar. Or dry in covered baskets in the sun. Store the dried berries in dark cool place until needed then either powder (removing stones) or simply add hot water for a fruit tea, or rehydrate and add to baking.

Fruit leathers

Mash the berries into a pulp removing any large seeds, spread the pulp onto a lined baking sheet (if you have no greaseproof paper, you can make some out of plain paper painted both sides with cooking oil, then wiped well). Bake in a low oven 47 degrees for a few hours or in the embers of a fire on a flat rock until fully dry. I have tested longevity of fruit leathers and some have lasted three years in a Tupperware tub no sugar or lemon needed.


A mixture of dried stoned berries and dried thin slices of meat, powdered and mixed with animal fat, compressed into patties. You must over dehydrate the berries and meat until there is not a drop of moisture left and the meat/berries are rock hard. Powder in a blender or crush with rocks, then melt one third to half of the dry weight in fat and bind the powders together. You could add a pinch of salt/sugar. You could use nuts instead of the meat, although it may not keep as long, properly prepared pemmican can store berries for 20 years so it can afford a


Sylva Fae


shelf life shortening. Wrap in paper to store. I have made this in a jar using toasted ground almonds in place of meat, elderberries powdered and lard and sealed with a layer of lard as a 'plug'.

Syrup Infused

Wash the berries, pat dry well and remove any stones. Place in a sterilised jar, add hot honey syrup (heat it up till runny) white beet sugar syrup, alcohol or vinegar. A pinch of citric acid to a sugary solution can help preserve it longer and cut through any sweetness. Ensure the liquid is covering the berries and no plant matter protrudes. Leave to infuse. You can also add some flavoursome leaves like; mint, lemon balm, meadowsweet, sweet cicely, stevia, lavender, rose petals. Keep in a cool dark place until needed, then add to pies, ice creams, sorbets, cakes, pancakes etc.


Put washed, fresh patted dry berries in apple cider vinegar so the vinegar covers the berries, use a plate with a weight on if the berries float to the top. Berries must be totally submerged. Leave in a covered glass jar for at least three weeks, shake occasionally. Anytime after 3 weeks to up to a year, strain berries and retain the berry vinegar and store in a sterile bottle. Use in salad dressings, or just by the spoonful.

To sterilise your jars and bottles, you don’t need chemicals, just half fill with water and put the jar in your heat source, with its metal lid balanced on top. When the water is boiling, remove, with a glove, from the heat, pour out the water, let the remainder evaporate and fill instantly.

Berries in a temperate climate:



to store them:

Fats such as lard, tallow or veggie lard Oils

Elderberry Rosehip Hawthorn Rowan Wild
Sloe Bilberry Raspberry
Blackberry Mediums




(Taken from Notes for a Forager, A Journey Towards Self Reliance, by Diana Page.)

Diana Hammill Page has been teaching foraging for nearly twenty years, having raised her children, alone and off grid, in a remote dale living off what was around them. A qualified teacher since 1994, she employs teaching methods in her foraging teaching to ensure learning is embedded thoroughly and safely. After running walks for the National Parks and Forestry Commission she set up walks in Wild Harvest's own name and has been fully booked for years.

Recently appearing on BBCs 'Escape to the Country' and often in the press for articles on self reliance and foraging. Di is passionate about empowering you to be self reliant in Nature and looks forward to welcoming you in her Foraging Online Courses or to one of Wild Harvests attended Wild Food Foraging walks around the country.

Sylva Fae owns a wood where she and her husband run survival courses and woodland craft days. She escapes to the woods at every possible opportunity to enjoy the peace and fresh air. She takes the girls off on adventures in their own enchanted woodland, hunting for fairies and stomping in muddy puddles.

You can find additional stories and anecdotes on her website

cider vinegar Glycerine Honey Sugar
beeswax Dehydration Freezing


Hunted Book 1 Brides of the Kindred Series by Evangeline Anderson

A desperate girl on the run with nowhere to hide...

warrior who has made a vow never to claim a bride...

Sophia Waterhouse is being Hunted and the only man who can save her is the one she fears the most...

Endurance: The Complete Series by A.C. Spahn

A disrespected ship, exiled to lonely patrol in the dark corners of the solar system. A crew of screw ups, written off by the entire fleet. They're about to change everything. If they don't blow themselves up first.

This anthology



Mica Rebel Wayfarers MC Book 1


When Mica Scott moved into a quiet Chicago suburb, she wasn’t ready for what she found. Her new neighbor is bossy, kinda scary, and defines hotness. Sure, he’s a hunky alpha male, the kind most women secretly long for, but the man oozes danger. And Mica isn’t most women. After a chance encounter brings a new man to her door, Mica struggles to find a path between what she wants, and what she needs.

includes all five
novellas, as well as two


I had a reputation and he had the solution.

I thought I was done with Hollywood. Done with acting. Done with scandal. Done with all the lies this industry thrives on. Then I met him Jude Fisher.

It started out as a way to prepare for the role of a lifetime. As it gets closer and closer to the audition, I don’t want our scenes to end.

But it’s all just an act, right?

It’s all just for the callback of the Milky Way.

At 15, Charity is tricked into marriage. Her new husband abandons her to his northernmost estate and forgets her for the next ten years. Julian, angered at having been forced to marry, plays the bachelor until he learns of a new servant at Shepridge End. The need for this servant shows that his child bride isn't done with her tricks. With murder on his mind, he goes to confront his unwanted wife.

An I.O.U. From a Billionaire by Olivia B Dannon

When a breakup with a doctor goes bad for RN Joan, she finds herself in a race home. The last thing she needs to slow her down is an arrogant billionaire having a bad day of his own. Liam Wainwright is a man of power and status. Joan is not intimidated in the least and is, in fact, a huge, beautiful, pain in the ass. Somehow, she has managed to get under his skin and earned an I.O.U.

Never Forgotten Never Forgotten Series by Kelly Risser

In this coming of age story, Meara Quinn is about to find out there are worse things than moving to a tiny oceanside town before her senior year. Like discovering there's a secret being kept from her and knowing it's a life changer.

All items on Sale at

prices are subject to change

time of publication, however
and may not be permanently reduced

Morgan’s Bay Series Books 1-2 by Theresa Paolo

Welcome to Morgan’s Bay, a small town on the east end of Long Island, New York, where friendships are strong, neighbors are family and love is always around the corner. Apply your sunscreen and settle in for this steamy romantic boxset featuring All Because of You and All Because I Met You.

All Because of You Sometimes you have to lose everything to find your happy ending.

Sinacore Crime Family Series

From Wall Street Journal & USA Today Bestselling Author M. Robinson & #1 NYT Bestselling Author Rachel Van Dyken comes two full length, standalone dark/suspense romance novels.

Trust. Loyalty. Family.

The tangled web of mafia life.

We grew up together. Me, Eden, my brother Tristian.

He was always the safe bet, the sure thing, the good guy.

And me? Well, I was the Casanova, the killer who flirted with anyone and anything, breaking Eden’s heart again and again.

Rogues Shifter Series Books 1-3 by Gayle Parness

The first three books of the Paranormal Romance ROGUES SHIFTER SERIES. Includes Rebirth, Stalked, & Twisted. Shifters, vampires, fae, werewolves and even demons team up in a variety of sometimes dangerous, sometimes humorous, always romantic adventures. Complete Rogues Shifter Series: Rebirth, Stalked, Twisted, Blown Away, Caught Between, Torn Apart, Cut Off, Blood Spelled, At Risk. Triad Series: Breaking Out, Falling Out, Spinning Out Rogues Inc. Series: A Stubborn Heart, A Healing Heart

Axira: The Complete Series

The complete Axira Series. Follow Axira and Jason fighting for revenge in this four episode boxset.

She is different. Powerful. A soldier of centuries.

For 450 years, she was enslaved to a master of the Kore sects and forced to fight in endless battles. War, destruction, desolation all wrought by her. Then she escapes. Seeking revenge on her master, she turns to the only group powerful enough to help her the Coalition.

Intro: I was hooked from the start. I like the style of flicking back and forth between characters with each chapter, and the gradual build of their stories.

It's our darkest parts that know us best.

Alex Alpine is unhappy with her life a dead end job, a marriage that's falling apart, and a failed string of self published books. In an effort to better her life for her and her daughter, she makes the decision to quit writing in order to get a second job. Jamie, a recovered addict and Alex's only fan, can't bring himself to accept her decision. Convinced he can fix her, he kidnaps her and holds her hostage in his home in the woods. As Alex's captivity extends from weeks to months, Alex finds herself torn between her duties to the daughter she left behind and the life Jamie has made for her. To figure out where her true priorities lie, she must dive into not only her own past traumas but Jamie's as well.

World / Character Development: The two different worlds complimented their characters well.

Overall #10

Codename: Foxglove by Tom Benson

*(This story is a sequel to Codename: Nightshade and is a spinoff from the Beyond The Law trilogy).

Dominique McEwan studied criminology but thanks to a miscreant brother, the young woman lost a chance to join the police.

Fate offered an optional lifestyle. In March 2005, Dominique met Rachel Donoghue aka Deadly Nightshade, the vigilante. The two women found common ground in their attitude to organised crime. Within one month, Dominique killed a man, and within six months the new operative was Foxglove, beautiful but deadly.

What could be better for Scotland than one deadly female vigilante … perhaps two?

Intro: Very compelling start, ok I'm hooked!

The author is a skilled storyteller and the book is a page turner, with believable and wellrounded characters, although some are not too pleasant. It has many layers to the story and I highly recommend this book

Cover: The blue background contrasts well with the author name. Good composition.

Cover: Gives a Victorian feel then I read the tagline and found it was exactly that.

A heavy nighttime blizzard forces Gerald Bitteson into the first building he finds, but the man he meets may be even colder than the storm he came in from. Gerald quickly finds out that Dr. C. L. Blood is no ordinary doctor, and the two have an ugly history even Blood himself doesn’t realize. But could this affable doctor really be the fraudster Gerald thinks? It may cost him his life to find out.

This historical fiction short story is based on true events from the real Dr. Blood’s life.

Intro: Good intro. For anyone that's been stuck in a blizzard, the sensations came to life immediately

Full of suspense that left an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach. Gerald’s night at Dr. Blood’s house was a trip to another era. Sitting rooms, trays of tea, and oil lamps for lighting. The Wrong House is built around the mysterious use of ‘Oxygenated Air’ by Dr. Blood, as treatment for various ailments. Dr. Blood, as he is known, feels larger than life and has a menacing quality about him. I really dug that the story was based on historical facts, which are included at the end of the book. “


by Christie

It’s a hot June morning in a small Midwestern town when fifteen year old Shawn Spencer arrives at the church for his best friend Tanner’s funeral. Though his drowning was officially ruled an accident, Tanner’s sister Jenny swears she saw something rise up from the Carthage Lake to pull the struggling teenager beneath the surface.Shawn doesn’t believe in monsters but he will The real threat, however, lies in the man behind the monster, a mysterious old man who has vowed to settle an old grudge and regain something that was stolen from him decades earlier.

Cover: I like the composition and the contrast of the white text over the dark background. The image is simple but intriguing.

To survive the dark days and nights ahead, Shawn must not only decipher what the man is after, he must move past his own grief, fears, and insecurities, and learn to trust in Jenny, the disgraced town sheriff, and, most importantly, in himself.A small town horror, fantasy, paranormal, and coming of age romance. The Small Things trilogy spans forty years and three generations in a tale of murder, betrayal, corruption, sacrifice, love, redemption, faith and magic that culminates in a showdown that will pit the very forces of heaven and hell against Shawn and his family in a battle for the future of mankind and the world itself.

Intro: My attention was grabbed and I'm left wondering how the story continues...

Character/ World Development: The characters are interesting from the outset. The first chapter gives hints of the backstory but keeps an air of mystery.

Can DCIGerald Croft stop a crime wave before the media pick up the story and put him in the chief superintendent’s firing line?

An armed raid on a jewellers’ shop deaths that might have been a suicide pact or murder a teenage girl kidnapped.

Is there more to come?

Intro: You are thrown straight into an unusual situation which shows the characters clearly through their interaction. The backstory is woven into the dialogue cleverly.

“Sarah brilliantly turned my whole world upside down. I simply DID NOT see that coming.

From the very first few pages reading ‘Deadly Envy’ (A DCI Gerald Croft Thriller), it was like, OK, alright’ loving how Sarah was introducing the cast, the players to the point where I was a part of their world, invited into their lives and through her writing deciding if I liked them or not even before I knew if they were innocent or guilty of some pretty heinous crimes.

At times, as there where a number of sub plots, I thought where’s this going; how does it all come together but

well you’re going to have to read it for yourself to find out but believe me YOU WILL NOT be disappointed and I suspect, like me, the suspense was killing me, you ’ll find it hard to put down this thriller until the final two words, THE END.

“ ~ Adrian Czarnecki

Listless in Turkey By Onia Fox

Listless In Turkey is a standalone prequel to my debut novel Covid Blues And Twos; they can be read in either order. It is a page turning romp with adult references and is embarrassingly autobiographical with some names changed to protect the guilty. Onia Fox is most definitely a pen name. People are seldom who they seem and always who they areJessica has a few balls to juggle, both at home and at work, as her personal life unravels in the spring of 2016. To put some order to the chaos and with the help of her best friend, a bowl of noodles and a second bottle of Pinot, Jessica writes another list a plan for her future.The list becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, safely folded into her journal as she romps across Europe and beyond, to the backdrop of the unfolding Turkish Military Coup. Be careful what you wish for.

Listless In Turkey is a believably accurate suspense thriller rooted firmly in fact and personal experience, with just a smattering of fiction to keep it real. This novel is part genuine travel memoir and part fictional thriller, with plenty of intriguing, insightful and fun glimpses into the rich culture and history of the modern Republic of Turkey. The narrative is very much character led, following our hero Jessica Taylor (nee Khan) bouncing around life whilst applying her own, sometimes reckless, logic and coping mechanisms to the situations in which she finds herself. Love Jessica and you will love Listless In Turkey and everyone loves Jessica.

Character/ World Development: Good character development. World compliments the story.

Cover: I like the colour scheme and the suggestion of the flag goes well with the title.

"Come to the book as you would come to an unexplored land. Come without a map. Explore it and drawyour own map." Stephen King

Click links for full article

Guide to Writing a Book Copyright Page

ost self publishers get intimidated when it comes to making their first book copyright page. I understand the small print and legal jargon were enough to make me squeamish when I was in your shoes. copyright page examples ebook/

How to Design a Book Cover: The 5 Elements of Best-Seller Cover Design

What makes a book a best-seller? A compelling story, fantastic characters, or the quality of the writing perhaps? It’s more visual than you might think.

Creating Captivating Cover Art as a Self Published Author

Book covers can capture a reader’s attention, but how can you make sure yours stands out? Two authors share their best tips.

How Brands Can Boost Engagement with Instagram Stories

Highlights gave Instagram Stories a new lease on life. It’s a fantastic way to boost engagement and gain additional value from your original content brands can boost engagement with instagram stories highlights

Self Editing for Fiction Writers Top 10 Tips

Whether you're self-editing to clean up a draft before it goes to a professional editor or agent, or you're saving money and self-editing before you publish independently, it's crucial to take a critical eye to your own writing. editing for fiction writers

The web is a wonderful tool. There’s instant access to a wealth of knowledge on any topic - including Self -Publishing. Here are a few examples to help authors along the way.

Hasty Retreat

She sighed, tucked her cash into her wallet and began to switch her working shoes for her walking shoes. At least, she had the morning off. Dr. Curtis Morgan was going out of town to some dentist conference; so, he was shutting down the office with pay for an early weekend. She loved the work, loved the people she worked for, loved everything about her day job except the pay. It was decent, but just didn’t provide quite enough to cover unexpected emergencies… like a new transmission. At least, she had great benefits. She got free dental, so did her daughter, and the medical wasn’t bad either. Plus, she had twelve whole days each year of paid vacation time. Now that Mandy was getting older, the only real time they spent together was their annual road trips. Just another reason she desperately needed her car repaired.

With a sigh, she pushed off the table and started the long walk home.

Donald Bentley was still fuming as he took another swig of whiskey. Pesky do gooders. The bartender had cut him off over an hour ago. Why couldn’t people mind their own business and let him drink in peace? He shifted, trying to get comfortable behind the wheel of the ancient Chevy Just another thing that irritated him. Instead of sitting inside, in a comfortable booth, pushing the memories from his mind, he was out here alone, drinking in the cab of his truck. He tipped back the bottle and greedily gulped the last drops of amber liquid. With a grunt, he tossed the empty bottle on the floorboard of the passenger area and cranked the engine. He had a long drive home. If the local bar owners in his hometown hadn’t banned him from coming near their fine ‘establishments,’ he wouldn’t have to travel close to fifteen miles just to get a damn drink. They thought they were helping, but he thought they were just interfering where they weren’t invited.

Donald watched the last vehicle pull from the parking area, shifted into gear, and began the long journey home. He leaned forward and squinted as he gradually increased his speed. “Somebody got fired,” he laughed. “Some incompetent public servant that couldn’t even draw a straight line down the highway.” His truck swerved and crossed the median several times as he continued happily on his way. He had drifted halfway into the opposite lane when an approaching vehicle’s headlights startled him. He swerved, barely avoided a collision, and bounced off the pavement onto the shoulder of the roadway. The corner of


Paige Carter Season —Episode 6

the truck struck something… he had no idea what probably a rock before he managed to get the large vehicle back in the proper lane. His heart was racing, but he was laughing, enjoying the adventure and the adrenaline rush as he bounced along.

He pulled into his driveway, shut down the truck, and stumbled through the front door. Donald barely made it to the couch before he passed out, fully clothed and wreaking from too much booze.

“Logan,” Paige was frantically trying to save the young woman ’s life. “See if I have a package of coagulant in that pack. We have to stop the bleeding or she’s not going to make it.”

Deputy Logan Reed ripped open the medical bag and began desperately searching for the small package of powdery substance that might save this woman’s life. “Where’s medical?” he asked in frustration. “They should have arrived already.”

“They were up the canyon,” Paige shifted to put additional pressure on the woman’s torso. She was sure there was extensive internal damage and just hoped the ambulance would arrive soon.

“Got it,” Logan said in triumph as he ripped open the package and began dumping the fine power onto the bleeding wound. “Here’s a pad.” Logan handed a second package to Paige.

Paige ripped the packaging off the medical pad that was also soaked in the same kind of clotting substance and once again put pressure on the wound. She thought it was helping but couldn’t be sure. “Get that neck brace on her now. I can hear the sirens in the background. Help is almost here.” She looked down at the weak woman who was drifting in and out of consciousness. “You hold on just a little longer, keep fighting. You got this far, don’t give up now.”

Logan had the neck brace on and was starting to stand when two paramedics rushed over with a stretcher.

“We’ll take it from here,” one of the men handed Paige a package of wet towelettes. “You look like you could use that.”


Hasty Retreat

“I think I need a whole case of those things,” Paige said as she took the offered package and began wiping the blood from her hands. “Logan will follow you to the hospital. I need to remain here to process the scene. Take care of our girl, she ’s a fighter.”

“Will do,” they lifted the patient onto the stretcher, attached an oxygen mask; and, within minutes, had her loaded into the back of the ambulance and on her way to the nearest hospital siren’s blaring.

Paige turned to Logan. “Good job, with any luck we saved her life. Now you head to the hospital while I look for evidence that will catch the creep that did this.”

“How could someone just run over that woman and leave her there, dying?” Logan asked softly.

“He’s callous and selfish,” Paige glanced around. “And we’re going to catch him and put him away for a very long time. Get going. And, keep me updated on her condition.”

Paige watched as Logan turned and headed back to his vehicle. His shoulders were slumped, head bent, and when he climbed inside, she saw the despair and the anger written all over his face. Paige pushed it aside and got to work. If Reed wanted to be a cop, he’d have to learn to deal with senseless and infuriating situations like the one they were dealing with tonight. It was just part of the job. He’d have to learn not to internalize it if he wanted to make this job a career.

Paige was tired. It took her twice as long as normal to process the scene on her hit-andrun. And, after all that time, she still wasn’t sure she’d collected all the evidence, or even discovered everything there was to discover. How did these guys work in the dark night after night? It was just one reason she hated working the graveyard shift. Another was trying to stay awake when she would normally be sleeping. She’d already guzzled four cups of coffee and she still had three hours to go. Duncan Havilland was going to owe her big time for this. He’d practically begged her to switch shifts so he could race in some ‘epic’ competition out in Tooele. Dean had also qualified to compete; so, the department was shorthanded. She was willing to do her part, but she would definitely think twice before she agreed to another all-nighter. She did her best to stifle a yawn as she stepped through the automatic sliding doors of the hospital and surveyed the area for her partner.


Paige Carter Season —Episode 6

Logan was standing in front of a large window. His gaze was glassy, and Paige knew he wasn’t really looking outside. He was deep in thought and clearly distraught. Paige was worried, Logan was taking this case more personal than he should. You had to step back, erect a barrier, and focus on the work. Otherwise, the job would eat you alive. Just another thing the rookie would have to learn the hard way. “Any updates?” she asked, moving in to stand next to him.

Logan’s head jerked up and it took him several seconds to pull the emotions inside and register Paige’s question. “Uh, she’s in surgery. Prognosis isn’t good. There was a lot of internal damage, but the doctor said what we did to stop the bleeding it probably saved her life. If she lives, and that’s doubtful.”

“You okay?” Paige put a hand on his shoulder in comfort. “I’m fine,” Logan shrugged her off. “It’s just... I was okay. Mad, you know, but dealing. I decided to do some checking, try to track down the family just in case. She has a fourteenyear old daughter. Our victim is a single mother just struggling to survive. She was working part time at the bar, full time at some dentist’s office. I talked to the neighbor. She drove Mandy, the daughter, over immediately. Mandy was inconsolable. She’s back there,” Logan pointed the doors that led to the private emergency rooms. “She broke down, had a panic attack, and the staff decided to admit her, too. The neighbor said mom was on a tight budget and when her tranny went out, she asked Joe at the bar to bring her on just until she could raise the money to fix her car. She was walking home from her latest shift, near as I can tell, when some dirtbag just ran over her and left. ”

“You’ve been busy,” Paige observed. Maybe Logan would make it in this profession after all. He had pushed his emotions aside to be a cop tonight. He was doing the job, it was costing him, but he was doing the job.

“I needed something to do while I waited, and it just seemed...”

“Important?” Paige nodded. “I was also worried about her condition and contacting next of kin before they lost her; but it wasn’t something I could do out on the scene. Thanks for taking care of it. I know dealing with a distraught kid couldn’t have been easy.” Logan shrugged again. “How about you? Get anything we can use to track the driver?”

“Not much,” Paige said in frustration. “Broken headlight, but it could fit about a hundred models. I want to go back out, when it’s light outside, see if I can find anything else. I think we’ve done all we can tonight. Take a break, I’ll sit here a while.”


Hasty Retreat

“Naw,” Logan dismissed the offer. “I got this. You go do what you do. If we catch the bad guy, it will be a result of your mad evidence skills.”

“I...” she stopped when a man in scrubs approached them.

“Are you waiting on Ms. Johnson?”

“Yeah,” Logan nodded. “How is she?”

“Alive, for now,” the man said cautiously. “I’m Dr. Brad Jones.”

“Are you the surgeon that worked on her?” Paige asked.

“I am,” Jones sighed. “There was extensive damage. We almost lost her more than once. I’m told the two of you were responsible for saving her life.”

“We did what we do,” Paige dismissed that. “What are her chances, doc?”

“Not great, I’m afraid. We were able to stabilize her, and she is no longer bleeding internally; but it’s going to be touch and go for the next few days. I’m told her daughter was also admitted. Was she involved in the crash as well?”

“No,” Paige shook her head.

“She had a break-down when she heard her mom may not make it,” Logan provided. “She’s been given a sedative and they’re watching her overnight, I think.”

“I should know that,” Jones nodded. “I apologize, I didn’t stop to get the details. The nurse said the cops wanted an update immediately.”

“We appreciate it,” Paige told him. She pulled out a business card and passed it to the surgeon. “Can you let me know if anything changes?”

“I’ll make sure you’re notified,” Jones slid the card into his pocket. “Other than the daughter, does she have family I need to speak to?”

“I was able to contact her mother,” Logan advised. “Darla’s parents will be flying in tomorrow. They live in Florida. I’m guessing they will want an update as soon as they arrive.”

“Very well,” Dr. Jones started to turn. “I’m serious, it was essential that you stopped the bleeding immediately, while you were still on scene. Otherwise, that poor woman would


Paige Carter Season —Episode 6

have bled out. As it is, she lost a lot of blood; but the two of you saved that woman’s life. If it wasn’t for your actions, she wouldn’t have a chance.” Then, he turned and disappeared behind a swinging double door.

“Now what?” Logan asked.

“Now, we head back to the office and do our reports. There’s nothing more we can do here tonight. In the morning, I’ll get Gage to help me go over the scene again. I also want to talk to Jericho about doing a press release. I’m beginning to think the only way we’re going to solve this one is if we can locate a witness.”

“Alright,” Logan said glumly. “I’ll meet you back at the office.”

“Feel free to take the scenic route,” Paige offered. “Give yourself a minute to regroup. You did good tonight, Logan. No matter what happens, remember that. We did all we could.”

“You think she won’t make it,” Logan decided.

“I’m preparing myself for the worst and you should, too. It will take a miracle for her to pull through this and her kid, and her parents, will need answers. It ’s our job to get them.”

They split off when they reached the parking lot. Paige settled behind the wheel of her vehicle and waited while Logan pulled onto the highway. She sat there for several minutes before she rubbed her hands over her face, started the engine, and headed back to Manti.

Paige’s face was still hidden by a large blanket and her pillow. She moaned out loud as she reached over to shut off the annoying alarm that was blaring next to her bed. She knew if she didn’t get up, she’d drop back into a deep sleep, but she needed a minute. It took more effort than it should have to climb from the bed and zombie walk into the shower. She was pretty sure drinking the amount of coffee she’d consumed the previous evening couldn’t be good for her. But it was the only way she managed to make it through the night without falling asleep at the wheel. Once she was showered and dressed, she once again—filled a thermos with coffee and headed back to work.

The moment she stepped into the building; Jericho called her into his office. She moved slowly toward the masculine space and settled into one of his visitor’s chairs.


Hasty Retreat

“I got your message,” Jericho began. “I’ve arranged for a press conference just outside at thirteen hundred hours. Can you be ready by then?”

“Me?” Paige swallowed the lump that was forming in her throat. “I thought you would do it.”

“I’ll be there,” Walters assured her. “But this is your case. The reporters will have questions. You decide which to answer and what the department isn’t prepared to comment on. I trust you to get the information you need out there without compromising your investigation.”


“It’s better coming from you, Paige,” Jericho said sternly. “Now that we have that settled, how is Reed handling things?”

“Okay,” Paige hesitated. She didn’t know exactly what to tell their boss about their newest edition to the force. “It was a bad one touch and go there on the side of the road, and the paramedics had to respond from up the canyon; so, it took a while. We did our best, but it may not be good enough. The first one is always the most difficult, but he’s holding. I thought I’d take Gage back out to the scene with me this morning and then stop in at the hospital and try to get an update. Darla’s parents should have arrived by now and they may have questions as well.”

“Take Gage to the scene,” Jericho decided. “I’ll head over to the hospital, deal with the family, and see what the staff will tell me. Then, we’ll meet back here at noon to go over anything new. Don’t stress too much over the press conference. I’ll step in and save you if things get off topic. We want to encourage the public to come forward. Play up the single mother angle, the daughter is distraught and counting on mom, the poor victim is still hanging on by a thread, she’s fighting to pull through; but she needs the community’s support.”

Paige stood and rolled her eyes. “I’m not good at all that mushy stuff and you know it. I’m just going to relay the facts and ask for help. You can step in and tug at the heartstrings when I’m done if you want.”

“We’ll see,” Jericho answered as she was leaving. “We’ll see,” he said again as he pulled out a large file and began reading through reports and depositions. A killer he’d put away


Paige Carter Season —Episode 6

over a decade ago was up for parole and he wanted to refresh his memory, brush up on the details, before he attended the parole hearing. As far as he was concerned, the man should rot in a cage for another few decades before they even considered setting him free. At least, the prisoner was being housed in Gunnison. With this new case, it would be impossible to drive all the way to Salt Lake for the hearing.

Donald woke and slowly forced his legs over the side of the couch and pushed his body into a sitting position. He knew he had to stop this nonsense. Knew it wasn’t helping, but he didn’t know what would. He brushed his large hands over his face, then lowered them in disgust. They smelled like stale whiskey and sweat. With a deep sigh, he gripped the front of the couch and stood. His head pounded from the effort and he slowly, cautiously, made his way to the shower. It took nearly an hour before he felt human again. He threw together a ham sandwich and absently grabbed a bag of chips before heading back into the living room, determined to relax and calm his aching heart… and his stomach. He settled into his favorite chair, grabbed the remote, flicked on the large screen television, and immediately lost his appetite.

Don set the plate of untouched food aside, increased the volume, leaned forward, and watched as a female deputy relayed the details of a hit and run that occurred during the early hours of the morning. Bile began to churn in his stomach and made its way up his throat. He rushed to the bathroom and choked back a sob, realizing what he had done. It took nearly twenty minutes inside the tiny room before he could straighten and make his way back to the living room. He snatched up the uneaten sandwich, tossed the contents into the trash, and headed for his truck.

One look and he knew. He was the one that put that poor woman in the hospital. It was his fault she was fighting for her life and her daughter might become an orphan. He could be responsible for the pain and grief her parents might face over the loss of a child. Despair threatened to incapacitate him. He pulled open the passenger door of his truck and spotted the empty bottle. Panic set in and his entire body began to shake with fear … and regret. He grabbed the glass container and shoved it to the bottom of his trash can. Within minutes, he had the vehicle hidden in the back barn. As he stood staring at the broken headlight and dented bumper, an idea came to him. It would take him all day, but he’d just switch them out. He’d take the damaged parts off and destroy them, then replacing them


Hasty Retreat

with parts from the old Chevy parked out back. He pushed the overwhelming feeling of guilt aside and got to work.

Paige stepped into the office, moved to her desk, and frowned. There was a large stack of papers neatly positioned on the corner of her workspace. She glanced up at Margie in question. “What’s this?”

“Tip line,” Margie shrugged. “It was slow last night so Susie spent her time transcribing the tips that came in on your hit-and-run. She said something about you owing her a steak dinner at Dirks.”

Paige picked up the stack and started to skim through the typed notes. “Looks like that’s the least I owe her. It’s going to take forever to track every one of these down.” She dropped into her chair and turned the page. “Seriously!” Paige glanced up when Gage walked in. “This woman is sure the man I’m looking for must be her ex husband. Why? Because he’s a jerk and that sounds like something he would do.”

Margie smiled. “Most of them left a number. I can help you call them back if you want, just compile a list of follow-up questions you want me to ask.”

“Naw,” Paige sighed, “but, thanks. I think this is something I should do myself. If anyone asks, I’ll be right here on the phone until I turn fifty. It will probably take that long to sort through this mess.”

Jericho stepped from his office. “Give some to Logan. I want Reed involved in this. It’s good training for him. I can also call in Lovato if you get overwhelmed. I warned you a press conference was going to bring in hundreds of bad leads. You said it was worth it if you got one good one, remember?”

“Don’t remind me,” Paige grumbled. “If Lo’s not busy, I could use him. This is going to take forever. I’ll get with Logan when he comes on duty. If it’s slow tonight, maybe he can start doing follow ups as well.”

Jericho nodded and closed the door to his office. “I probably won’t make it back before closing time. Margie, you know how to reach me if there’s an emergency.”


Paige Carter Season —Episode 6

“I do,” Margie frowned. “Good luck.”

Paige watched her boss as he exited the front door. “What’s he need luck for?” she asked. “I thought he was headed to the prison on some parole hearing.”

“He is,” Margie opened her email and started going through new messages. “But they said that monster has been an ideal prisoner and they want to release him back into the community. If that man has been rehabilitated, I’m a thousand-pound rhinoceros.”

Paige smiled. “Don’t sugarcoat it on my account, tell me what you really think.”

Margie grunted in disgust. “He’s a conman and he’s playing that board, the warden, and the guards. He’s not a changed man. He’s just playing the game so he can get released early. Jericho will do his best to prove that to the board. And, that’s why he needs luck. Because once they’ve made up their minds, it’s nearly impossible to change them.”

“Guess my day’s going to be better than his then,” Paige picked up the phone and made her first call. It was nearly an hour later when Mike Lovato entered through the backdoor and made a beeline to Paige’s desk.

“Grab a stack,” she whispered, covering the mouthpiece so her current ‘tipster’ wouldn’t hear. She rolled her eyes and sighed. “I’m just hoping there’s something in here that will help.”

Lovato snatched up a stack of papers and headed for his own desk. He knew how many crazies came out when you asked for help. But, not all of them were dead ends. Sure, you got the typical ex-wives or ex-husbands trying to pin the crime on their biggest nemesis. Then, you got the people who truly wanted to help, but they were just flat out wrong. Finally, you had the solid leads that you could follow. It was going to take time, but he was sure somewhere in this stack was at least one solid lead and he was just the man to find it.

“Paige,” Lovato called out. “Let’s take a break and run these down. If we work too long on the phones, we’ll miss something important.”

“What do you have?” Paige frowned. “None of the ones I’ve gone through seem solid. How did you get two?”


Hasty Retreat

“I’ve done this before,” he shrugged and moved to her desk. “They may be nothing, but we should check them out. Plus, like I said, it helps to take a break from the tedium and chase some of these down. Clears your head a bit. And, while we’re out and about, you can buy me lunch.”

“I could do that,” Paige agreed. She was thankful for the help and, with all his flaws, Mike Lovato was a good cop and a good investigator. “You want anything, Margie?”

“Naw, I’m good,” Margie glanced up. “I brought my lunch today.”

The two deputies climbed into Paige’s unit. Within minutes, they were making their way up a long driveway. Paige shut down the engine and took a minute to look around. “Looks like a nice, cozy place.”

Mike swung the door open and climbed out. “Looks can be deceiving. Caller said the husband was a drunk, spends most nights at Joe’s place... what was the name of that bar?”

“The Wooden Nickel,” Paige said, joining him in front of her truck. “Where’s his truck?”

“Repair shop?” Mike asked, hopefully.

“I doubt we’ll get that lucky on the first shot. Let’s go talk to the little misses,” Paige motioned forward.

Mike looked at her in surprise. “I think I might be rubbing off on you.”

“Man, I hope not,” Paige grinned. “What’s the name again?”

Mike glanced down at his notes. “Palmer.”

Paige reached out to ring the bell, but the door flung open before she had a chance to press the button.

“Can I help you?” asked a petite, nervous woman.

“I hope so,” Paige was watching the woman carefully. “Did you hear about the woman that was hit on the side of the road? The hit-and-run accident, here in Manti?”

“I heard,” the woman swallowed hard. “It was over by the Nickel, right?”

“That’s right,” Mike replied. He wanted to see how she reacted to a man. The woman that called this in said Craig Palmer liked to use his wife as a punching bag after he got home


Paige Carter Season —Episode 6

from a night at the bar. The woman took a step back but didn’t reply. “I understand your husband drives a large truck. Is he home?”

“Uh,” panic showed on the woman’s face as she tried to come up with an answer. “He’s not here.”

“Can you tell us where he is?” Paige questioned.

Just then a large Ford pickup truck turned off the main highway and sped up the drive. The man inside slammed on the brakes just behind where Paige had parked, nearly ramming into the back bumper. He jumped from the truck and practically stomped to the door. “What are the police doing here?” he demanded of his wife.

“I uh,” the woman stammered.

“We’re looking for you,” Lovato moved to stand in front of the man, blocking his view so he couldn’t see his wife. “You got a minute?”

The man didn’t answer. He just stood there, glaring.

“You have somewhere private just you and I could go and have a word alone?” Mike pressed.

“We can go around back,” Craig Palmer decided. “Back porch should work.”

The two men disappeared around the back, leaving Paige to work on getting answers from the terrified woman.

“Look,” Paige tried to sound sympathetic. “We haven’t been here, as far as I could see, on a call I mean.”

“Wh... what?” the woman turned white as a sheet.

“It’s obvious to me that man abuses you,” Paige decided to be direct. “That’s not the reason we are here. I would encourage you to seek help, for the abuse. There are shelters, women’s clinics, support groups...”

“I’m not abused,” the woman protested.

“What’s your name?” Paige shifted gears.

“Tiffany,” the woman said softly.


Hasty Retreat

“Okay, Tiffany,” Paige pulled out a business card. “If there ever comes a time when you want to talk, give me a call. That’s all I’m going to say on the subject. But, just know, if I do get called out here; that man is going to jail.”


“If you don’t want help, I can’t force it on you,” Paige said disappointed, but not surprised. “Let’s talk about your husband. I’m told he spends a lot of time at the bar, The Wooden Nickel.”

“Some,” Tiffany admitted.

Paige just looked at her.

“Okay,” Tiffany sighed. “He’s out there almost every night. But he didn’t hurt that woman. He got home early that night. The guys had to work on some project the next day. He doesn’t like to drink alone, so he came home early that night.”

“You’re sure,” Paige pressed.

“Positive,” Tiffany said, relieved. “I even commented on it when we saw the news report. Said, good thing you came home early that night. If someone was driving crazy like that, he could have hit you.”

“Alright,” Paige frowned. She couldn’t tell if Tiffany was telling the truth or if she’d manufactured an alibi on the fly. In her experience, women like Tiffany were seasoned story tellers. Had to be. They were always coming up with reasons for the bruises. She pointed to her card, “keep that. Call me anytime.”

Tiffany folded the card and slid it into her pocket.

Paige handed her another card. “If your husband asks, give him this one. You keep that one hidden for later.”

Tiffany frowned but took the card.

Paige moved from the porch and went to stand in front of her truck to wait for Lovato. It was less than five minutes later when Mike and Craig Palmer rounded the corner, headed her way. They looked pretty casual and Mike had cooled down significantly. Hopefully, they hadn’t just caused that poor woman trouble.


Paige Carter Season —Episode 6

“If you can think of anything else,” Mike addressed Craig. “You have my card. Just give me a call. Or, call Paige. I’m sure she gave her info to your wife. You two have a nice day and I really appreciate the help on this.” He reached out and shook the man’s hand before making his way to the passenger side of the truck.

Once Paige was headed back down the highway, she glanced at Mike. He was frowning. “What’s eating you?”

Lovato ran his hand through his hair. “You have no idea how much I wanted to cuff that guy and throw him in the back seat, headed for jail. But, I couldn’t. That woman is never going to cooperate with the police, and we didn’t have cause.”

“Not today anyway,” Paige agreed. “I told her if I ever got a call at her house, her husband was spending the night in jail. I’m not sure if that helped or hurt. When I started to talk about options, she shut me down immediately. We can only help those that want helping. ”

“Doesn’t mean I’ve gotta like it,” Mike grumbled. “Craig Palmer is a regular at Joe’s place. He says he left early on the night in question. Said his friends,” he glanced down at his notes, “Peter and Martin Sullivan they’re brothers had to cut out early. He claims they had a side project the following day.”

“Matches Tiffany’s story,” Paige considered. “Could be they already coordinated. You know, he comes in and tells her he ran over some woman on his way home and here’s what they’re gonna say if anyone asks.”

“I got a good look at the truck,” Mike shook his head. “He’s not our guy. That truck is his baby. If the thing had recently been damaged, he’d be in the garage working on it as we speak.”

“Okay,” Paige sighed. “I agree. That couple is messed up, but he’s not our driver.”

“He did tell me something that might lead to something,” Mike shifted in the seat trying to get comfortable. The next address was on the other side of town. “Craig said there was an old guy at the bar that night, said he was drinking like there was no tomorrow. It got so bad the bartender cut him off early. Craig said it had to be early because he left at around a quarter to one and the guy was escorted out well before he decided to head home.”

“That’s what he calls early?” Paige scoffed.


Hasty Retreat

“For him,” Mike shrugged. “Normally, he stays until closing. He said it’s not unusual for him and his buddies to be forced out, so Joe can close things down at two. His friends left around midnight. He stuck for a while, then bolted. I asked for a name or a description but all he had was old.”

“Wow,” Paige shot her friend a sideways glance. “That’s informative.”

“The guy’s a self centered dirtbag that beats on his wife,” Mike reminded her. “You think he’s going to pay attention to some old man that had a few too many at a local bar? ”

“I guess not,” Paige turned off the highway and made her way down a secondary road to their next contact. “But how does that help us? I mean, if the guy left before Craig did, he can’t be our guy. We’re looking for someone that left after closing.”

“We’re looking for someone that left the parking lot after closing,” Mike countered. “In my experience, if a drunk is cut off and ejected, he usually has access to his own stash somewhere. Usually, the passenger seat of his own vehicle. He could have gone to the parking lot and opened his own tap until the place closed down and he realized he would have to leave or get caught.”

“Makes sense,” Paige nodded. “My experience dealing with drunks and bars is pretty limited. We don’t handle much of that in the FBI and here in Manti...”

“Yeah,” Mike agreed. “It’s pretty tame here. Nothing like Salt Lake and the trouble that gets stirred up once the party gets started.”

“Exactly,” Paige turned into a short driveway and waited for Mike to fill her in on their next contact.

It was nearly two hours later when Paige settled back in at her desk. The second lead didn’t pan out, either. The man in question had a concrete alibi. He had just returned from a business trip in Denver and had the plane tickets to prove it. He had only arrived back in Manti an hour before she and Mike showed up on his doorstep. He said he did frequent Joe’s bar but didn’t remember an old man that liked to drink too much. The duo left after the man practically slammed the door in their faces. Paige kept her word and stopped for lunch her treat. Now they were back in the office and Paige spotted a new stack of papers on her desk.


Paige Carter Season —Episode 6

“Thought I should keep up on them,” Margie explained. “The mailbox was full, and the calls just keep flowing in.”

“Wonderful,” Paige sighed, picked up the phone, and made her next call.

“Hello,” Dax answered hesitantly. He didn’t recognize the number on the display.

“Dax? It’s Vato,” came a male voice. Either the man was whispering, or he had a bad connection.

“Vato,” Dax answered flatly.

“First,” Vato told him. “I want to thank you for saving my sister. I... well, I couldn’t do it myself without landing in a heap of trouble and there’s no way Thor could have handled that mission on his own.”

“Is that the reason for your call, Vato?”

“No,” Vato sighed. “I guess Thor was right, this thing has come between us. If I survive, which is unlikely, I hope we can sit down and work this out.”

“I heard you,” Dax informed him. “I know you were working with that sadistic terrorist, Nassar. I’m pretty sure that’s something we can’t work out. You betrayed your country, you betrayed your oath, and you betrayed me. You were giving him pointers on how to break me. Did you honestly think I wouldn’t know?”

“I know you heard me,” Vato paused. “I could tell the phone was on speaker.”

There was silence on the other end for longer than there should have been. Dax was starting to wonder if the line had been disconnected when he heard Vato’s voice again.

“Look,” Vato whispered. “I’m in danger here and I can’t get into this. I thought, well I thought after all we’ve been through, you would understand. I’d never cross you, Dax. I wouldn’t work with Nassar unless I didn’t have a choice and I would never give him tips on how to break you. Seriously, I told him to capture someone you loved. I said that was the only thing that would get you to cooperate. We both know that would just piss you off. I was talking about me. Trying to tell you why I was involved. They had Camille and they threatened to kill her if I didn’t help them. We both know she’d be dead if I resisted. I


Hasty Retreat

needed you to understand, and I was trying to give the guys time to find you. If you heard that part, you also heard me tell him not to kill you. You heard me order him to wait or I would come after him. I hoped... well, I hoped I could stall long enough for Hawk and the others to rescue you.”

“Why didn’t you just tell Thor where I was?” Dax pressed.

“I didn’t know,” Vato said, clearly exasperated. “If I did, I would have told Thor immediately. They wouldn’t share that kind of information with me. I haven’t been as cooperative as they hoped. Even with Camille in captivity. I have a line I won’t cross, not even to save my sister. They didn’t count on that. My loyalty is to you, always has been. And, you should know, I would never betray my country. If I discovered anything that would have helped, I would have passed that on to the team. Hold on.”

There was another long silence. When Vato came back on the line, there was panic in his voice.

“I don’t have much time,” Vato warned. “I’m not supposed to be on this phone. You guys need to know Reynolds isn’t the only one that’s dirty. My leader, Major Hastings, is working with Reynolds and someone else. Someone high up... the guy has rank. At first, I thought it was General Nathan Porter. I overheard a conversation about their guy in Washington that was paving the way for some mission they have planned. Porter fit the description. Thor has since convinced me I was wrong. But there is someone in Washington with connections and power.

He’s working with Reynolds to orchestrate missions and to cover up anything that goes awry. I’m doing my best to get more, but Hastings sent me on a solo Op earlier today. It was an ambush, I barely made it back without getting dead. My time is running short and I don’t think I’m going to make it out of this alive. I need you to know what I know, everything I know.”

Dax’s mind was racing. It was all starting to make sense, even Vato’s involvement.

“There’s a guy,” Vato continued. “It was the reason I was sent here in the first place. He was originally your contact, Scorpion. I was pulled in because someone thought Scorpion would trust me. They wanted to use me to get to him since I was on your team. He didn’t take the bait. It only took a couple missions for him to cut off all contact with us all of us, including me. Hastings was distorting the Intel and using American convoys to go


Paige Carter Season —Episode 6

after the wrong villages. I’m not sure what they are up to, but the last information Scorpion provided included something about bad drones. I didn’t pass that on, didn’t know who I could trust; but, two nights later, one of our drones misfired and took out our own Humvee.”

“Nassar killed Scorpion,” Dax provided. “He came here, to Manti, to give the information to me personally. There is a problem with the drones. Avoid them, Vato. Do not go near them; and, if you see one take cover. If Hastings wants you dead, he may just use one of the drones, a local contact and a low-tech transmitter — one that would never be traced back to him to do it. Watch your back, Porter is working on a way to bring you home early. He’s getting resistance from Bratton, but I think we can at least orchestrate a transfer. Don’t get dead.”

Vato laughed. “I’m doing my best and for what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”

“We’ll talk about it when you get home, ” Dax decided. “Is there any chance you can keep in touch? Can you try to work this Hastings guy, generate Intel and turn it against him? If they think you’re working with them, it might buy you some time.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Vato agreed. “It’s difficult, though. They have me at a FOB in Fallujah and he’s working out of Baghdad. And, even if I did get anything, my calls are restricted. They don’t want me to have contact with the outside world. I’ll find a way. I’ll get anything I find to you. Somehow, I’ll get you everything I can.”

After Dax disconnected, he just sat there thinking. He was still sitting there when Hawk stepped into the house, arms full of takeout. “I thought... what happened?”

“Vato called,” Dax admitted. “Once the rest of the guys get here, we need to talk. But first, I need to make a call. If we’re lucky, Nathan can get Vato out of the viper pit until we can bring him back home.”

“Sounds like it was some phone call,” Hawk observed.

“It was.” Dax stepped onto the back porch and pulled out a second cell phone, the throwaway he always used to contact Porter. He settled into a chair and pressed the button to speed dial his favorite General.

“Porter,” Nathan said in greeting. “Tell me there’s not more trouble. I’m still working on that transfer to get your team member turned traitor, not really a traitor maybe home safely.”


Hasty Retreat

Dax shook his head. “That’s why I’m calling. He just phoned me. Somehow, he found a way, but his current leader, Major Hastings, sent him on a one man mission to hell earlier today. He’s running out of time and I was thinking, while you’re working on an evacuation plan, maybe he could get transferred in-country somewhere. He says Major Hastings is dirty. He’s positive the man is working for Reynolds. There’s no doubt and he has proof. He’s going to work on his end, see if he can determine if there are others, but we need to get him out from under Hastings command. The ambush failed today, but we both know he’ll just send Vato on another death run tomorrow.”

“I’ll talk to Harris,” Porter decided. “See how fast he can put through the orders.”

“If you have such a great contact in Secretary Harris,” Dax said in frustration. “Why the delay on the orders to return home? Who’s in charge over there, anyway? I was under the impression Bratton worked for the Secretary, not the other way around. ”

“It’s complicated,” Nathan was also frustrated. “But, bottom line, Harris is worried if he pushes too hard, Bratton will realize he’s onto Reynolds and his underlings. Until Harris knows how deep Bratton’s involvement is, he can’t risk it. If we tip our hand, it will set us back and we may not stop this group before they do something that can’t be undone.”

“So,” Dax said slowly. “Vato is expendable.”

“Not to me he isn’t,” Porter disagreed. “I’m convinced he knows more than he can relay over the phone. And, this recent attempt on his life confirms that. He may not even know he knows. I want him home where we can debrief him just as much as you do. Trust me, I’m doing everything in my power to help your friend.” Porter paused. “Just so I’m clear, he is still a friend?”

“At the moment,” Dax decided. “If anything changes, I’ll be sure to let you know.” He disconnected with Porter and made his way back into the house to brief his men. He’d have to go through it again later, when Paige got home; but he thought that might be more productive, anyway. She was more open when they talked one-on-one. She could always make him think, had a different perspective than most people he knew, and she had a way of forcing him to consider possibilities he otherwise never would have thought of. If she wasn’t too tired after such a long shift, he’d run it by her. Otherwise, he’d wait and discuss it over breakfast. He stepped into the living room, spotted the team, and began to relay the new information.


Paige Carter Season —Episode 6

Paige stumbled into the house, dropped her gear on the couch and headed for the kitchen. She was starving. The only thing she’d had all day was lunch and a ton of coffee; good thing Lo insisted on a big meal. Otherwise, she would have swung by the drive through and grabbed a burger. She heard a noise behind her, swung around, and relaxed when she spotted Dax in the doorway.

“Long day,” he observed. “I saved you some takeout from Dirks. Hawk didn’t want to cook, and we had a lot to go over.”

“Something new?” Paige asked absently as she pulled out a covered plate that had to contain her dinner.

“It can wait,” Dax decided. “Tell me about your day.”

Paige shoved the plate into the microwave, retrieved a bottle of wine from the fridge and settled in to recap her long, seemingly unproductive, day.

Dax watched, dumbfounded, as Paige practically inhaled her dinner. He was amazed she could eat that fast without choking. “So, what’s next?” he asked when she finished the rundown, obviously frustrated she didn’t have a solid lead to follow.

“Track down more tips, I guess,” she shrugged then frowned when her phone started to ring. She glanced at the display, swallowed and answered. “Hello, Logan.”

“Paige,” Logan greeted. “I’m sorry to bother you at home, but our victim is awake. Darla’s neighbor just called, said Darla woke up. She’s pretty groggy and in a lot of pain, but I’m heading over, and I thought... well, if you’re not busy...”

“Wait for me,” Paige decided. “I’ll be leaving here in five minutes. We don’t want to bother her too long. We’re going to have a very short window so wait for me to get there before you go in.”

“Okay,” Logan agreed. “I’ll be in the waiting area, where you found me last night.”

“Gotta go,” Paige jumped to her feet. “Thanks for the meal. Don’t wait up, I shouldn’t be long at the hospital, but I want to drop by the bar on my way back and see if the owner’s available. And, maybe the bartender that kicked the old guy out.”

“What if I drive?”

117 *****

Hasty Retreat

“Police business,” she told him as she slipped her duty belt back on.

“What if you take five minutes to change,” Dax pushed. “I’ll drive you to the hospital and I’ll stay out of your way. Then, we can drop into the bar where we will enter separately. I can have a beer and silently observe the patrons while you grill the owner and track down the bartender. I’ll get you a different perspective that way, and you ’ll get further out of uniform. Trust me on this, I know what I’m talking about.”

Paige hesitated, but in the end, she agreed. Mostly because she realized he was right. Going into a bar in uniform was a recipe for disaster. She wanted answers and scaring or intimidating all the patrons was not the way to get them. She rushed upstairs, changed into jeans and a casual tee, and was at the front door in less than three minutes. Dax was waiting for her in the living room. The moment she hit the first stair, he was on his feet and following her out the front door.

The following day, Paige was sitting at her desk, tired, grumpy and frustrated. Darla didn’t have anything that would help. She was walking home one minute, the next she was hit from behind, on the ground, fighting for her life. She didn’t see the vehicle coming, didn’t even know if it was a car or a truck that hit her.

The bar owner, Joe, wasn’t a lot of help, either. He remembered the old man. Said it was the first time he’d come in. Didn’t ask for ID, didn’t need it. The guy looked like he was at least seventy and obviously old enough to drink. Scotty had cut him off at the limit, offered to call a cab but the guy refused. Claimed he walked to the bar and he’d just head back home and sleep it off. It was busy that night; so, once Scotty escorted him to the door, he was back behind the bar dealing with customers. End of story. There wasn’t even a credit card receipt she could follow, the man paid for his libations with cash. Paige glanced up when Lovato arrived. She realized he didn’t have anything new when he said a quick hello and settled in behind his desk.

“Hey, Margie,” Paige called across the room.

“You got something?” Mike glanced up.


Paige Carter Season —Episode 6

“Maybe,” Paige focused on Margie. “Can you run old Chevy trucks for me? Pull anything registered in the area, Gunnison, Laurel Bluffs and Sanpete for now.”

“What’s up?” Mike asked.

“Caller said she was driving home from visiting her parents in Vegas and decided to drive straight through rather than lay over for the night. She can ’t be positive on the exact time but, she’s sure it was after two. An old Chevy pickup suddenly crossed the median and nearly hit her. Said she didn’t get a plate because she was focused on not getting hit. By the time she calmed down enough to feel safe, the truck was too far away. Looked like a single male driver in the cab, but she couldn’t be sure.”

“Can’t be that many old Chev’s, right?” Lovato said sarcastically. “I mean it’s not like we’re in farm country or anything.”

“It’s a lead,” Paige insisted. “Margie?”

“I’m on it,” Margie assured her. They all looked up when Jericho entered the office. “How’d the hearing go?” Paige asked, hesitantly.

“Good,” Jericho moved to sit in one of her chairs. “How’s the search coming?”

“Good? As in, you won, and the murdering SOB is going to stay in prison for another fifty years?”

Jericho grinned. “I wish. Good meaning the murdering SOB’s parole was denied and he’s not eligible for another ten years.”

“I guess that’s better than the alternative,” Lovato moved to join them.

“The search has uncovered a man that beats his wife, a man that probably has a drinking problem but was in Denver at the time of the incident, a victim that didn’t see anything, and a bartender that knows the guy was old but couldn’t describe him if his life depended on it. Joe, the bar owner said he might recognize the man, but he didn’t know him, had never seen him before, and didn’t ask for any type of identification.”

“I think I’ve missed something,” Jericho said, confused. “Who is the old guy?”

Paige and Lovato walked him through everything they had, concluding with Margie’s search of Chevy trucks.


Hasty Retreat

“I’d like to see the list when it’s completed,” Jericho stood. “Now, I have a few phone calls to make. The family members on my victim couldn’t make the trip this time. I need to let them know their mother’s killer will remain behind bars for at least ten more years.”

“That many?” Paige asked when Margie handed her the printout.

“You didn’t say how old,” Margie shrugged. “Narrow it down and I can eliminate some of those trucks on the list.”

“It’s okay,” Paige decided. “The lady said it was a light color, not black or dark blue. She was pretty sure she could rule out green as well. I’ll see what I can do to narrow it down myself. Thanks for this, I appreciate it.”

Jericho stepped out of his office just after five and spotted Paige. “Leave it,” he ordered. “It can wait for morning. You look like you haven’t slept in days.”

“Working graves does that to me,” Paige admitted. “It takes at least a week before I can catch up and get back to normal.”

“What are you working on?”

“Narrowing Margie’s collection of possible trucks,” Paige handed him her revised list. “I’ve eliminated all dark colored vehicles, but that still leaves twenty-three trucks I will need to track down in person.”

Jericho spotted Donald Bentley’s name on the list and frowned. “I’d like to accompany you if you decide to speak with Donald.”

Paige accepted the list he was passing back over and scanned the names for a Donald. Halfway down, she spotted Donald Bentley. “I’m sure I will,” Paige decided. “He lives in Gunnison. The vehicle was traveling in that direction when it struck Darla in the back. He’s not at the top of my suspect list; but the age is right for the mysterious elderly gentleman that was ejected that night. Could be nothing, but...”

“But you have to check,” Jericho nodded. “And I’d like to be there when you do.”

“Because?” Paige frowned.


Paige Carter Season —Episode 6

“Because he’s an old friend,” Jericho provided. “We can head out tomorrow afternoon. That should give you enough time to investigate the top suspects on that list. Meet me here at fourteen hundred, I’ll drive.”

Paige was still frowning as Jericho headed out the back door.

“What’s the status?” Jericho asked when Paige stepped into his office the following afternoon.

“I found a couple of possibles,” Paige dropped into his chair. “Dick Crenshaw doesn’t have an alibi and I can put him at Joe’s bar on the night in question. If you ask me, he’s evading because he went home with some bar fly and he doesn’t want his wife to know not because he ran over Darla Johnson. I looked at his truck and it doesn’t look like he’s had any work done on it lately.”

“Anyone else?” Jericho was hoping Paige would find their suspect and it wouldn’t be necessary to bother Don.

“I’m still working on a guy named Benny Twohill,” Paige glanced at her notes. “He’s a real winner. Claims his truck wasn’t running on the night in question. And, looking at that hunk of junk, it’s possible. He has the thing up on blocks and has clearly been working on it for days. The question is when it got that way before or after Darla was injured. I’m not sure there’s an inch of that truck that hasn’t sustained damage of some kind or other. Plus, he’s shifty and evaded most of my questions. That definitely put him on my radar; but neither headlight was broken, and the front bumper had plenty of dents, but they looked old to me.”

“Doesn’t mean the lights weren’t replaced,” Jericho decided. “But the shifty attitude could just mean he’s dirty, not necessarily that he’s your driver.”

“I agree,” Paige set down her pad. “I still don’t have anything concrete. Those two are still on my list, but they’ve dropped down significantly.”

“Then,” Jericho stood. “I guess it’s time to head to Gunnison.”


Hasty Retreat

Once they were on the highway heading toward the Bentley home, Paige shifted and focused on Jericho. “Tell me what it is about this guy that makes you feel like you need to protect him from me.”

Jericho started to deny it; then, sighed and focused on the road ahead of them. “I’ve known Donald Bentley for a long time. He never lived in Manti, but he was a big supporter of our city. Huge supporter to law enforcement. He lives comfortably in Gunnison because that’s where his wife grew up and she loved it there. He met Molly in college. They both graduated with a bachelor’s in business of some sort or other. They were married shortly afterwards. Don went on to get his MBA, moved to Molly’s hometown, and opened up a feed and garden store. He and Molly had one child, Charity. She was their pride and joy. Grew up to work in her dad’s store, which had expanded into farm equipment and implements. She took over when he decided to retire. The business expanded even further under Charity’s leadership. She never married, I guess she was married to the business.”

“What happened?” Paige asked. It didn’t escape her notice that Jericho was talking about Charity in past tense, not present.

“Don and Molly seemed to have a wonderful life,” Jericho continued. “They celebrated their fiftieth anniversary last year. Their marriage was strong; and you could see, even after all that time, they were still madly in love with each other. As a gift, Charity purchased an all-expense paid trip to New York, sort of a mother-daughter getaway thing. Donald was thrilled and didn’t mind being left home alone. Molly and Charity didn’t see each other often and Molly had always wanted to take a girl’s trip to the Big Apple to shop and visit all the famous sites. Donald has knee trouble and couldn’t keep up with his girls, anyway. As a bonus, Charity gave her father a week’s rental at his favorite fishing resort. Donald said goodbye one day, checked into a cabin on the lake the next, and two days later, he was informed that both his wife and his daughter had been murdered in New York. Some horrific mugging gone wrong.”

Paige remained silent, wondering if Jericho had a soft spot for the man because of what happened to her mother the love of his life.

“Anyway,” Jericho pushed aside the melancholy and the empathy he was feeling for Donald. “I just want to be there when you speak to him. Having a deputy, in uniform, show up on his doorstep might...”


Paige Carter Season —Episode 6

“Might take him back to the night his family was killed,” Paige realized. “I understand.”

They pulled into the driveway of a well-kept family home. Paige glanced around but didn’t see an old pickup truck. She wondered why the man kept something so outdated when he could clearly afford a new one. She followed her boss to the front steps and waited a few feet back while two friends said hello.

“Don,” Jericho sobered. “This is Deputy Paige Carter and we’re here on official business.”

“Come in,” Donald said, trying to hide his nervousness. Why did it have to be Jericho that showed up on his doorstep? He knew he deserved to be behind bars, but he wasn’t sure he could handle being cuffed and thrown into the back of a police car by Jericho Walters. “Have a seat. Would you like anything to drink?”

“No, thank you,” Paige held up a hand. “I just have a few questions, Donald. I’m working on a hit-and-run case and I’m speaking with everyone that owns an older model Chevrolet pickup truck. The DMV records show that you own a model like the one I am looking for.”

“I do own a Chevy,” he glanced at Jericho, unable to look the friendly officer in the eye. “You know that, Jericho. It’s the one I used to transport feed.”

“Can we look at it, Don?” Jericho asked softly.

“Oh,” Don feigned surprise to hide his panic. He just hoped he removed all the evidence the day before. “Sure, it’s in the barn. We can go out through here.” He led the group through a small sitting room, into an open, spacious living area, and out a large French door. They crossed a back patio and made their way across the back lawn to a large barn. Don opened the door, stepped inside, and flipped on the overhead lights. The truck was sitting in the center aisle. Empty stables ran down one side of the building, a tack room and a hay loft on the other.

Paige moved forward to study the vehicle. It had both headlights and neither one looked new. There was no way this truck was involved in the incident. Both headlights on this truck were oxidized, not new and shiny. The truck looked clean, like it had been washed recently but Paige couldn’t see any indication the bumper had been damaged. “Thank you for your time,” she said, glancing at Jericho for direction.

“Have you ever been to The Wooden Nickel, in Manti, Don?” Jericho asked.

“I don’t think so,” Don lied.


Hasty Retreat

“So,” Jericho pressed. “If I were to show your picture around to the staff, nobody would recognize you?”

“I don’t think so,” Don hoped Jericho was bluffing.

Jericho studied his old friend for a long time before he nodded, turned and walked outside. “I appreciate your time, Don. Don’t be a stranger.”

Paige and Jericho rode back to Manti, to the police station, in complete silence. Paige didn’t know what was wrong, but she knew Jericho was upset. Clearly, he believed Don was their suspect. But why? Jericho pulled into his parking spot, shut down the car and just sat there. Finally, Paige couldn’t stand it any longer. “You think he did it?”

“I know he did,” Jericho sighed. “And, I know you have to go after him. But I can’t be involved.”

“Because of my mom?” Paige asked.

Jericho studied Paige for several long seconds before he answered. “I understand what Don is dealing with. I lived it, nearly destroyed my own life with booze. His misery pushed him to make a bad decision, one that will destroy the rest of his life. A life that has already been destroyed, probably beyond repair. I can’t be a part of this Paige, I just can’t.”

“His house didn’t look like the home of an alcoholic,” Paige began. “I mean, I remember crazy Netty Simmons. Her house had empty bottles, half-empty bottles, and dirty glasses everywhere. She also wreaked first thing in the morning, like she drank so much booze it oozed from her pores. Donald Bentley is not an alcoholic. So, how can you be so sure he did this?”

“He’s not an alcoholic, Paige,” Jericho said softly. “He’s self-medicating. The night that girl was hit; that was the one year anniversary of the murder. His wife and his daughter died that very night one-year earlier. I know you understand how devastating death is. Your mother was murdered, and it was hard on you. But...”

“But he lost the love of his life,” Paige nodded. “And his only daughter. Did you ever? Drink on the anniversary of mom’s death, I mean?”

“Did I?” Jericho laughed. “Paige, I still do. It’s the one and only night I allow myself to use


Paige Carter Season —Episode 6

alcohol to numb the pain. I know it won’t help. I know all it does is delay the inevitable. Yet...”

“I’m sorry,” Paige focused out the front windshield. “And, I’m sorry for Donald Bentley.”

“But you have to do the job,” Jericho said softly. “I just don’t have to help you. I can’t.”

“Sometimes,” Paige decided. “The job sucks.”

Jericho smiled. “Yes,” he agreed. “Sometimes it does.”

“Can I ask you something?” Paige hesitated. “How can you be sure? I looked at the truck. The headlights aren’t broken. They haven’t been replaced.”

“Yes,” Jericho sighed. “They have. One of them, anyway. He took the headlight off another truck, an earlier year, and put it on his truck.”

Paige frowned. “How could you tell?”

“They are nearly the same,” Jericho turned to study his deputy. “Nearly. But the design is slightly different. I know, because I used to own that model. One night, I took a corner too fast and hit a road marker. You know, those metal poles with the reflectors on them. I cracked my headlight and when I replaced it, I bought the wrong one. It bothered me until the day I sold the thing. I’m surprised you didn’t notice.”

“I wasn’t looking for that,” Paige admitted. “I was just looking for a broken light or a new replacement. If I had longer, I’m sure I would have seen the difference eventually. But, how are we going to prove it was him? I mean, there was nothing at the residence that would point to him. I doubt a different, old headlight is going to be enough probable cause for a warrant to seize the truck. You might believe it was him, but I’m no closer to closing this case than I was an hour ago.”

“Paige,” Jericho scolded. “Stop looking for excuses and do your job. I know you don’t want to arrest Donald any more than I want you to. But you must get justice for that poor woman. She was nearly killed because he decided to drink and drive. ”

“Can I ask you one more question?” Paige said softly.

“Go ahead,” Jericho hoped it was one he could answer.

“Did you ever drink and drive?” she was looking out the side window but turned to face her


Hasty Retreat

boss. “When it was really bad, did you ever head over to a bar, get smashed, and drive home?”

“No,” Jericho said immediately. “I guess I have Chaya to thank for that. I may have. I didn’t care about anything, not even the fact it would have cost me the job, not back then in the beginning. If you remember, Chaya didn’t want anyone to know about us. We kept our relationship a secret. I loved your mother more than I’ve ever loved anyone in this world. But she insisted we had to keep things just between us. When she was killed, it nearly killed me. I didn’t know how to cope. I drank every night, but I had to hide it. I knew, if anyone spotted me, they’d realize Chaya and I were closer than we had let on. I got up every morning, went to work, did the job, and went home and drank myself into a stupor. Then, I got up and did it all again.”

“How long did it last?” Paige asked, wishing she’d been here to help somehow but knowing that even if she’d stayed, she was just a kid. She wouldn’t have been able to help this man deal with his loss.

“Too long,” Jericho said in dismissal. “It’s not a part of my life that I’m proud of. I think I’d like to leave it at that.”

“Okay,” Paige agreed. “On one condition.”

“What’s that?”

“From now on,” Paige said softly, “on the anniversary, we spend it together. And, you don’t drink more than one glass of wine or two beers. We’ll go fishing, or have a BBQ with Dax and the guys, or do whatever you want. But, we do it together and we do it sober.”

Jericho studied Paige for a long time before he answered. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and nodded. “It’s a deal.”

It was ten o’clock the following morning when Donald Bentley stepped through the door of the Sanpete County Sheriff’s Office. It was cool inside, and the décor was old but inviting somehow. He glanced around, spotted Deputy Carter and made his way to her desk.

“Mr. Bentley,” Paige said in surprise. “How can I help you?”


Paige Carter Season —Episode 6

“I’m here to make a statement,” he said, settling into her visitor’s chair. “I’m hoping we can do this without Jericho. It’s just too hard to look an old friend in the eye and confess to something so... horrible.”

Paige glanced at Margie, saw the woman understood and escorted Donald to the conference room.

The instant the door was shut, Margie rushed into Jericho’s office. She told him what she had overheard and hesitantly relayed Donald’s request that Jericho not be present during the interview.

“Can you do me a favor, Marge?” Jericho asked. “Anything,” Margie agreed.

“Can you call your son? Ask him if he can represent Donald. The stubborn fool will refuse, but maybe he could take this one pro-bono.”

“Consider it done,” Margie told him. Five minutes later, she was standing on the outside of the conference room, knocking.

“Come in,” Paige called. She hadn’t gotten into the specifics of the case yet. Donald had just finished providing his personal information for the record.

“Donald’s attorney is on his way over,” Margie informed Paige. “He asked that you discontinue any questioning until he arrives.”

“I didn’t hire an attorney,” Donald objected. “He’ll just get in the way of me doing the right thing. My Molly would be so disappointed in me right now. I need to do the right thing. That poor woman. And it’s all my fault.”

“Don’t say another word,” Riley Gonzales interrupted as he stepped into the room. “Can I have just a few minutes with my client, Deputy Carter?”

Paige stood and followed Margie out the door. “Is Jericho paying the bill?”

“Nope,” Margie was still looking at the closed door. “Riley agreed to take this one on free of charge. He’s required to handle so many pro-bono cases annually and he thought this was a worthy cause. That man in there needs help, Paige. He does not need to go to prison for his mistake. Sure, it was a horrible, devastating mistake; but rotting away in a prison cell won’t make things right.”


Hasty Retreat

“I agree,” Paige glanced up and spotted Logan Reed. “Now, you just have to convince him.”

“I know he wants to throw the book at that man,” Margie said sadly. “Maybe, you could talk to him. Help him understand.”

Paige wondered why she was the one that always had to be the voice of reason around here. She motioned to Logan and asked him to join her in the back. Once they stepped into the file area, she leaned against the wall. She started by telling him their suspect was inside the conference room with his attorney.

Logan interrupted. “I want to be there when you present this to the DA. I want that man to pay for what he did. We need to present a united front, insist they hit him as hard as they can, Paige. Stack the deck, throw the book at him, whatever.”

“I disagree,” Paige continued. She told him about Donald Bentley. About his friendship to Jericho. About his wife and daughter and their senseless murder. Then she explained the circumstances of that particular night. “I don’t expect you to understand,” Paige said in conclusion. “But I do. I know what it’s like to have someone so close to you murdered. I know how helpless you feel. I know how devastating it is. I know what it’s like to hurt so much you can barely breathe through the pain. And, we all deal with it the best we can.”

“But Darla could have died,” Logan argued. “We can’t just give him a pass because he was hurting.”

“I didn’t say we should,” Paige countered. “I’m just saying I won’t push for the max. I won’t throw the book at him and I won’t ask the prosecutor to hammer him with everything he’s got. I won’t do it, Logan. I can’t.”

“Because he’s a friend of the boss?” Logan challenged.

“No,” Paige disagreed. “Because I believe in justice and I don’t believe that would be just. I believe it would be emotional. And, I believe it would be abusing the power and the responsibility we have as police officers. I also believe in mercy and if anyone deserves that, he does. He came to us. He’s here to confess. That has to count for something. Because, to be honest, in my entire career, that has never happened to me. Not like this. Sure, I’ve hammered a confession out of a suspect before; but I have never had a guy walk in off the street, on his own, and tell me he wants to confess to a crime, that he has to face his punishment — because it’s the right thing to do. Maybe, you should take a minute


Paige Carter Season —Episode 6

to think about that.” Paige heard her name and turned to head back to the conference room.

“I’ve advised my client he should not speak with you today, but he insists on giving you a statement,” Gonzales was clearly frustrated.

“I’m going to record this,” Paige informed Donald and his attorney. “And, Logan Reed is going to join us.” Paige motioned toward Logan. Once they were all settled inside the conference room, Paige began. “First, I’m going to read you your rights.”

Paige sat silently listening while Donald explained the events of that evening. Jericho was spot on; the man was suffering. It was difficult to listen to his version of the events that night. He didn’t mean to drink, had promised himself he wouldn’t, but the pain and the loss were too much. He was forced to drive to Manti because the bars in Gunnison were owned by neighbors that had known him and Molly most of their lives. They cut him off months earlier. Each bar in the area had told him he wasn’t welcome in their establishment. He knew they were just trying to help, but it forced him to seek out a bar in Manti instead of staying closer to home. He was able to drink enough at The Wooden Nickel to numb the pain, but not wipe it out completely. When the bartender booted him, when he was cut off, he’d been angry. He sat in the parking lot furious and a little lost for several minutes before he spotted the nearly full bottle of whiskey on the floorboard.

He wasn’t sure how long he sat there; but, when the parking lot was nearly empty, he knew it was time to head home. He told them he had only himself to blame. He’d become a man that he didn’t recognize any more, a man his wife would be ashamed to know. And, when he realized he’d nearly killed an innocent woman, a single mother with a child that depended on her to survive, he panicked. He’d switched out the damaged parts on his truck and hoped nobody would realize it was him. He said he hadn’t slept all night, knew he had to turn himself in, realized he couldn’t live with himself if he didn’t. He was ready to accept the consequences of his actions. He just had one request. He wanted to speak with the woman he’d harmed. He needed to tell her he was sorry, and he wanted to make arrangements to pay for her hospital bills before he was locked away for his crime.

“I can call and ask her if she’s willing to speak with you,” Logan offered before he stood and left the room. Listening to the man describe the pain he’d been in, the reason he turned to alcohol that night, had changed Logan’s mind. He realized Paige was right. It wasn’t his job to arrest, convict, and condemn the guilty. It was his job to find and arrest them. From there, the system would determine the man’s fate. Once he spoke with Darla and explained the man’s request, he was leaving the rest up to Paige and the attorneys.


Hasty Retreat

“Hello, Darla. It’s Deputy Logan Reed...” Logan explained what the man had requested and wasn’t a bit surprised when Darla agreed to the meeting. He returned to the conference room to make arrangements with Mr. Gonzales for his client to meet his victim. Paige had already contacted Tolman, who adamantly opposed the request. Paige reminded the local DA, Donald Bentley was not yet under arrest and she had no control over his movements until he was. She handed the phone to Gonzales who made arrangements for his client to surrender the following day.

Just before Paige left the office that day, Darla Johnson called. She insisted they drop all charges against Donald Bentley. When Paige explained why she couldn’t do that, Darla asked for the DA’s information. Paige rattled off the number, glad the entire mess was behind her. It was now James Tolman and Stan Donaldson’s problem. They could figure out how to deal with an angry Darla Johnson.

On her way to the car, Paige got another call. This time, it was from Logan. He told her he’d been at the hospital when Donald stopped in to see Darla. His voice softened when he relayed the encounter. Donald Bentley had broken down and cried as he apologized to his victim. He explained the situation and promised the young woman he would pay all her expenses. His accountant had been advised and the arrangements were already in place at the hospital. He couldn’t change what he had done, but he assured the weeping mother that he had learned his lesson, and he would never touch alcohol again as long as he lived. They all hoped that was a promise he could keep.

Paige stepped into her house and dropped onto the couch. She remembered thinking, just days ago, that Logan Reed was letting the job get personal. She wondered if he would make it and considered different ways to help him understand why you couldn’t let the job get personal. So, how had she allowed this case to affect her so profoundly? Because of Jericho that’s how. It was personal, to him and to her. She curled up on the arm of the couch and let herself cry. She wasn’t exactly sure why. For Donald? For Darla and her daughter, Mandy? For Jericho and the pain he was forced to suffer alone? Or, for herself? She just wasn’t sure.

That’s how Dax found her. He understood she needed the release and thought he understood why after speaking with Jericho an hour ago. He also knew part of this was exhaustion and stress. So, he just sat down next to her and silently held her while she dealt with the ghosts of the past.

130 blog/
Season 1 5 Available in eBook Seasons 1-3 Available in Audiobook Find links and other details in my brochure... Deputy Sheriff