Monday musing: Inspiration from nature

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Many artists found inspiration in the natural world: Beethoven, Tom Thomson, Bedrich Smetana, Jean Sibelius, the list goes on. And writers do, to.

I am one, and I thought I’d share some pictures with you from a whitewater canoe trip down the Dumoine River I took a couple of years ago, along with my younger son, Super Nicolas.

The Dumoine runs more or less directly south from western Quebec into the Ottawa River, and was part of the fur-trading route that opened up North America for Europeans. It has a number of rapids, which required portaging — until the invention of memory-polymer canoes that could flex and spring back into shape, which made it possible, and fun, to run the rapids.

It’s an inspiring landscape, evoking thoughts not only of the early days of European exploration of North America and the founding of Canada, but also of far older civilizations (Algonquin, Ojibwa, etc.), and of the deep power of the Earth itself. 

This trip gave me an idea for a short story called Teri and the River, which I plan—one day, probably far in the future—to incorporate into novel called Dark Clouds.

Running the rapids, then eddying out into a calm spot, helped me solidify the concept of each river having a personality, which also nicely fits into the cosmology of my first novel, The Bones of the Earth.

A typical “Canadian sunset” picture.
I find these pictures spark ideas for stories and essays. What about you? Can you attach a story, or at least the beginning of a story to any of these pictures? Share in the Comments section if you can.
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Thursday teaser: Back Side of a Blue Moon

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By Caleb Pirtle III

This week’s Thursday teaser is from a brand-new title now available on Amazon.

THE CROWDED GROUNDS of Eudora’s farm was a circus. A freak show. A dance at the gates of hell. Heaven on earth. And Doc had already stolen the pearly gates. Wind whipped up dust devils, and she could not take a step between the house and the rig platform without bumping shoulders against somebody, and, more often than not, the wayfarers had faces she had never seen before.

What were they doing milling around in her yard? Betting on oil? Trying to get rich? Looking for a meal, a job, a home, a place to spend the night, or had they just come down the road to see the free show?  For a town that had dwindled down to a few hundred lost and wretched souls, Ashland was certainly turning out a lot of people on the day Doc had promised to strike oil.

Well, Doc hadn’t really promised to find anything today or any other day. He was nothing but a vaudeville magician trying to pull a rabbit out of his hat, and the straw boater might be packed with raccoons, squirrels, and possums, but there was nary a rabbit in sight. Eudora chuckled at the thought.

But Charlie Ferguson’s wife Mildred, she knew, had told Ira Sylvester that her husband had smelled oil on the drill bit. Couldn’t mistake it. He was afraid to strike a match, afraid the whole thing might blast him to kingdom come.

Ira told the Reverend Shanks Warren that the drill bit was dripping with black crude. Filled up at least one bucket, maybe two. One rumor was for certain. Doc was running out of buckets. Or so the gossip said, and gossip was running amuck like a horse that had shed his shoes and all of his morals.

Shanks Warren preached it from the pulpit: God has put oil in the ground below us, and he has sent his prophet Doc Bannister to draw it up in buckets from the well. Glory, hallelujah, and amen on us all.

After the last amen had reached the ceiling and fallen flat, his congregation scattered like lost geese flying wild in a blue norther. Too high for the rain. Too slow for the lightning.

Tell another soul.

Tell the world.

It didn’t matter.

About Back Side of a Blue Moon

Times are hard along the Sabine River, and the little East Texas town of Ashland is crumbling under the weight of the Great Depression. Families are broke and hungry. For many, their last meal may well have been their last meal. Families are giving up and leaving town. Everyone knows the fate that awaits the scattered farms. No one can save Ashland. It is as isolated as the back side of a blue moon.

Into town comes Doc Bannister wearing a straw boater and a white suit. He is the miracle man. He has a homemade doodlebug machine that, he says, can find oil and make them all rich. Oil, he swears, lies beneath the blistered farmstead of Eudora Durant. She thinks Doc is a flim flam man. The Sheriff believes he is a con artist. Both are convinced that Doc has come to town to swindle every dime he can get before hitting the road again. Ashland knows Doc may be crooked, but he has brought hope to a town that had no hope.

Eudora has everything Doc wants. She is a beautiful woman who owns cheap land. In Ashland, she is known as the scarlet woman. Whispers say she murdered her husband. No one has seen him since the night they heard a shotgun blast on her farm. The town wants oil. Doc wants Eudora. But Eudora is too independent and stubborn to fall for the charms of a silver-tongued charlatan.

She holds the fate of Ashland in her hands. Will she let Doc drill? Is there really oil lying deep beneath her sunbaked land? Can Doc find it? Or is he more interested in finding love than oil? What happens when a man with a checkered past comes face to face with a woman whose past is as mysterious as his?

About the author

Caleb Pirtle III is the author of more than seventy books, including three noir thrillers in the Ambrose Lincoln series: Secrets of the Dead, Conspiracy of Lies, and Night Side of Dark.

A graduate of The University of Texas in Austin, Caleb became the first student at the university to win the National William Randolph Hearst Award for feature writing. Several of his books and his magazine writing have received national and regional awards.

 

He was a newspaper reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and served ten years as travel editor for Southern Living Magazine. He was editorial director for a Dallas custom publisher for more than twenty-five years.

You can find more about Caleb on his BestSelling Reads author page or his Amazon Author page. Also visit his new site, Caleb and Linda Pirtle.

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Thursday Teaser: Once Upon a [Stolen] Time

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By Samreen Ahsan

Once Upon A [Stolen\ TimeShe is standing in my courtyard. Everything in nature surrounds her—hugs her and is dazzled by her…including me.

Beautiful flowers of every hue and aroma are grown in this majestic garden. My eyes are burning; I’m simultaneously overwhelmed and awed by the colorful oasis. Never have I been so close to nature, to growing things. Her alchemy drives me mad.

She’s gifted me with all the colors, but I painted her with darkness.

As much as I crave feeling the sunlight and the flowers against my skin, I want her touch too. I am cursed and doomed to never experience the beauty of the natural world, for all eternity.

She watches me with extreme hatred in her eyes—her gaze throwing fireballs at me. She doesn’t know I’m already burning, but since she despises me so much, I can’t even dare to come close to her. I want to end this tortuous distance between us—but I was the one who created this hatred in her.

She was a beautiful tender rose—I stole her fragrance, crushed her petals and burned her in hell. If I knew the fire with which I was conflagrating her would come to engulf me—I swear I wouldn’t have done it. Her spell is too strong for me not to fall; her curse is too mighty for me to run away.

Her deadly yet magical existence haunts me, excites me and has thrown me into a pit of deep lust. She is my prisoner, but she doesn’t realize that I’m the one who’s already submitted to her slavery, when I first touched her.

Despite being her captor, I am still her captive.

About Once Upon a [Stolen] Time

2015…

GiftedMeAll her life, Myra Farrow has been obsessed with medieval castles—and the kings and princes who once inhabited them. Now, wealthy videogame designer Steve Bernard wants her to model for a princess character in his new game. Myra can’t resist his offer, especially when she learns that Steve plans to film inside the mysterious Hue Castle—a cursed, barren, colorless place forbidden to visitors for centuries. But unknown to Myra, her soul is bound to Hue Castle by blood and sorcery. When she enters its doors, she awakens dark powers that will reach through time—stealing her past, torturing her present, and rewriting her future.

1415…

Edward Hue, the last of the Hue royal bloodline, has never stood in the sunshine or held a living flower. Cursed from birth to live in darkness and bring death to all he touches, he is at the mercy of his cruel, tyrannical father, who will not rest until he shatters Edward’s soul and makes his son into a diabolical copy of himself. Edward’s one hope is the mysterious woman who haunts his dreams—who will either break his curse and bring him out of the darkness, or destroy him utterly.

For Myra and Edward, past and future collide in a tale of love, obsession, betrayal, and the hope for redemption.

Once Upon A [Stolen] Time is available at:

About the author

History, art and literature are Samreen Ahsan’s passions. She loves digging out information about prophecies, divine miracles and paranormal events that are mentioned in history and holy books, but don’t sound possible in today’s modern world.

She has been into reading and writing since childhood — it cannot happen without imagination, which luckily has no boundaries. Dance and music are also pastimes she enjoys, as well as reading romance fiction. I love to travel and explore historical cities.

Samreen Ahsan lives in Toronto, Canada. A Silent Prayer (A Prayer Series) is her first story about paranormal events based on Islamic concepts.

Visit her

Follow Samreen on

 

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Thursday Teaser: Once Upon a [Stolen] Time

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By Samreen Ahsan

Once Upon A [Stolen\ TimeShe is standing in my courtyard. Everything in nature surrounds her—hugs her and is dazzled by her…including me.

Beautiful flowers of every hue and aroma are grown in this majestic garden. My eyes are burning; I’m simultaneously overwhelmed and awed by the colorful oasis. Never have I been so close to nature, to growing things. Her alchemy drives me mad.

She’s gifted me with all the colors, but I painted her with darkness.

As much as I crave feeling the sunlight and the flowers against my skin, I want her touch too. I am cursed and doomed to never experience the beauty of the natural world, for all eternity.

She watches me with extreme hatred in her eyes—her gaze throwing fireballs at me. She doesn’t know I’m already burning, but since she despises me so much, I can’t even dare to come close to her. I want to end this tortuous distance between us—but I was the one who created this hatred in her.

She was a beautiful tender rose—I stole her fragrance, crushed her petals and burned her in hell. If I knew the fire with which I was conflagrating her would come to engulf me—I swear I wouldn’t have done it. Her spell is too strong for me not to fall; her curse is too mighty for me to run away.

Her deadly yet magical existence haunts me, excites me and has thrown me into a pit of deep lust. She is my prisoner, but she doesn’t realize that I’m the one who’s already submitted to her slavery, when I first touched her.

Despite being her captor, I am still her captive.

About Once Upon a [Stolen] Time

2015…

GiftedMeAll her life, Myra Farrow has been obsessed with medieval castles—and the kings and princes who once inhabited them. Now, wealthy videogame designer Steve Bernard wants her to model for a princess character in his new game. Myra can’t resist his offer, especially when she learns that Steve plans to film inside the mysterious Hue Castle—a cursed, barren, colorless place forbidden to visitors for centuries. But unknown to Myra, her soul is bound to Hue Castle by blood and sorcery. When she enters its doors, she awakens dark powers that will reach through time—stealing her past, torturing her present, and rewriting her future.

1415…

Edward Hue, the last of the Hue royal bloodline, has never stood in the sunshine or held a living flower. Cursed from birth to live in darkness and bring death to all he touches, he is at the mercy of his cruel, tyrannical father, who will not rest until he shatters Edward’s soul and makes his son into a diabolical copy of himself. Edward’s one hope is the mysterious woman who haunts his dreams—who will either break his curse and bring him out of the darkness, or destroy him utterly.

For Myra and Edward, past and future collide in a tale of love, obsession, betrayal, and the hope for redemption.

Once Upon A [Stolen] Time is available at:

About the author

History, art and literature are Samreen Ahsan’s passions. She loves digging out information about prophecies, divine miracles and paranormal events that are mentioned in history and holy books, but don’t sound possible in today’s modern world.

She has been into reading and writing since childhood — it cannot happen without imagination, which luckily has no boundaries. Dance and music are also pastimes she enjoys, as well as reading romance fiction. I love to travel and explore historical cities.

Samreen Ahsan lives in Toronto, Canada. A Silent Prayer (A Prayer Series) is her first story about paranormal events based on Islamic concepts.

Visit her

Follow Samreen on

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Thursday Teaser: Somewhere on St. Thomas

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StThomas-lowresA Michaels Family Romance (book 1)

By Toby Neal

You could WIN a free e-copy of Somewhere in the City, Book 2 in this series. Find out how at the end of the excerpt.

Chapter 1 

I never expected a spelling bee to be the apogee of my life, but the night of July thirtieth, 1983, turned out to be exactly that. I was one of two finalists competing for a major college scholarship, and I needed to win or I was going to be stuck on our tiny island of Saint Thomas in the Virgin Islands, cleaning hotel rooms.

Blinded by hot stage lights, I clutched the old wooden podium and stood listening to my competition recite, “Succedaneum.” Thank God they didn’t also require a definition. Sweat prickled under my armpits.

My competition, a tall gangly boy with thick glasses and an accent that marked him as from the nearby French Antilles, made it through. Modest applause followed his effort.

“Antediluvian,” the proctor said. Oh, this felt like cheating because I knew it so well. My parents had come to St. Thomas to do religious work, stayed on past their allotted stint, and made a niche on the island managing vacation rental homes for off-islanders.

“Antediluvian,” I stated. “Of, or pertaining to the period preceding the Great Flood referred to in the Bible. A-n-t-e-d-i-l-u-v-i-a-n.”

More applause than the other kid got. I was showing off a bit, but I was tired of proving that red hair and big boobs meant bimbo. All I had to do now to prove that to the world was get off this rock, go to college, and become a lawyer in the big city.

“Xanthosis,” the proctor said to the gangly boy. The kid’s Adam’s apple worked as he blinked behind his glasses. I could tell it was over.

“Xanthosis,” the kid repeated. “Z-a-n-t-h-o-s-i-s.”

The buzzer marked his shame, and sympathetic clapping escorted him off the stage. I felt bad for him, but he was younger and there would be other chances. This was it for me, and if I could get this word right, I’d win a golden ticket out of here. And oh, how badly I needed to get out of this palm-tree studded, nowhere paradise. There was nothing for me here—except my family, of course.

“Pococurante,” the proctor said to me.

The lights blinded me. I clung to the podium and I shut my eyes. I could feel the prickle of sweat under my arms penetrating the green fabric of the dress Mom had told me to wear to enhance the color of my eyes. I tried not to hyperventilate. I pictured myself as the lawyer I hoped to be, making a confident plea to a jury.

I knew what this word meant, but I wasn’t sure of the spelling. I sucked in a breath, blew it out, and went for it.

“Pococurante,” I said.  “To be indifferent to something. And I am certainly not p-o-c-o-c-u-r-a-n-t-e to winning this scholarship. I want it more than anything.”

Huge applause broke out as a bell marked the end of the competition. My dad ran to the front of the stage and I hopped off and into his arms.

“I did it!”

“I never had a doubt, Ruby,” he exclaimed, blue eyes extra-bright with excitement. “You’re going to get your dream, girl!”

Mom, Pearl, and Jade were right behind him, and we mass-hugged in the narrow area in front of the battered wooden stage. I had the best, most loving family: Mom, sturdy and tall with her auburn hair and hazel eyes; ten-year-old Jade, who shared my green eyes but had Mom’s hair, and Pearl who had Dad’s blue eyes and curly blonde hair, already so beautiful at fourteen that she should wear a bag on her head.

Yes, this was the night I found out for sure I’d to be able to go to Northeastern University, where I’ve already been accepted. With this win, I’d be leaving in two weeks.

“Got a nice dinner planned,” Mom said. “Lobster and fish. Hope you don’t mind we invited company on your special night—he brought the main dish.”

“Who is it?” I frowned a little. Mom and Dad were hospitable to a fault, always inviting ex-pats or the transient workers they hired for cleaning and yard work over for meals.

“New yard and coconut trimming guy.” Dad hefted Jade up like she was two, and headed for the door. “Sailor. Seems to have some ocean skills.” Dad liked guys with ocean skills. I usually found them not that bright.

Mom winked. “I think you’ll like this one, Ruby.”

“Hah. I’m out of here,” I snorted. Mom knew how focused I was, so she liked to tease that I was going to fall in love, marry a local, and end up staying on Saint Thomas.

About Somewhere on St. Thomas

***FINALIST: Reader’s Choice Award, The Romance Reviews*** 

Redheaded spelling champion Ruby Michaels meets the wrong man on the eve of her departure from St. Thomas for college—and fireworks ensue. “I wasn’t going to be derailed by anyone—no matter how handsome and interesting,” she vowed. But some promises are made to be broken.

“Toby Neal introduces Caribbean island girl, Ruby Day Michaels, a modern-day young woman who will capture your heart. Ruby is sure to delight readers who love a smart, delightful heroine who is not afraid to speak her mind.” Eden Baylee, author

Now on sale for $0.99 from: 

About the author

Toby Neal, bestselling author of Hawaii mystery Torch Ginger

Toby Neal

Toby Neal was raised on Kauai in Hawai’i and makes the Islands home after living elsewhere for “stretches of exile” to pursue education. Toby enjoys outdoor activities including bodyboarding, scuba diving, photography and hiking as well as writing. A mental health therapist, Toby credits that career with adding depth to the characters in the Lei Crime Series.

Visit her:

And follow her on Twitter @tobywneal.

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Teaser Thursday: Wired In

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Read this preview of the latest Paradise Crime novel by Toby Neal and win a free copy

Toby will choose a commenter for an ebook copy of Wired In! Tell one thing you like about Hawaii per entry. Ends March 2.

wired-22416

The child had curled her body around an old stuffed rabbit as if protecting it. She lay on a bare mattress in a walk-in closet whose gloom was held back by a night-light, her thumb in her mouth. Blond hair gleamed silver in the grainy video feed. 

Special Agent Sophie Ang swiveled the tiny video cam snaked through a hole bored in the drywall of the ceiling. She checked all four corners of the small space, and there was nothing to see but empty shelves. She brought the camera back to rest on the tiny figure in the daisy-sprigged nightgown she’d been wearing when they took her. 

“Primary feed established,” Sophie whispered into the comm unit. 

She took one more look at the child, visible in a window on the monitor, before crawling along the floor of the apartment above, pushing the floor schematic ahead of her.

Sophie drilled her second hole right near where the living room light fixture should be. She leaned all her body weight onto the silent, battery-operated pneumatic drill. The dust and wood of the subfloor and ceiling material of the unit below blew past her on a jet of warm air, making her nose tickle with an incipient sneeze. She turned her head hard, pressing her nose against her shoulder and holding her breath until the urge passed.

 Sophie felt a sudden give as the drill punched through and instantly let up on the pressure, holding the drill in place so it could suck the last bits of ceiling material out of the hole. She fed in the camera on its stiff, flexible cable, looking to see what was happening in the room below on the monitor. 

Directly beneath the eye of the camera two men lounged on couches set at right angles facing a flat screen TV. Sophie rotated the cable slowly, watching in the monitor. The camera scanned the room, taking in guns set carelessly on the coffee table beside empty pizza boxes and a pyramid of beer cans.

“Secondary cam installed and operational. Two unsubs in exterior room, armed,” Sophie whispered.

“Roger that. Return to base when camera secure.”

Sophie opened the black tool backpack she’d carried in for the operation. Inside were a battery-operated cutting saw, pliers, and the camera equipment’s plastic case. She stowed the drill in the backpack and glanced at the two open windows of the video feed, now streaming wirelessly to the surveillance van parked outside the apartment building.

The little girl rolled over, looking at the ceiling, the rabbit clutched in her arms. 

“Mama,” she whispered. “Mama.” Her eyes were black holes in the low-resolution image. Tears shone on her cheeks. Sophie felt something painful tug at her as she read the girl’s lips. She endured a flash of unwanted memory.

Something was happening in the other video feed. 

Both men had picked up their phones and were reading what looked like a text message. Sophie saw them look up at each other, and through the floor beneath her, voices rumbled to accompany her lip reading.

“The FBI is onto us. You ratted us out!” 

One of the men leapt to his feet. 

“No, you did!” the other one yelled. “You even got the payoff!”

Sophie whirled and grabbed the saw out of the tool backpack. She ran back to the hole directly above the child even as her earbud crackled with orders for the rescue team. “Move, move, move!”

Sophie flipped on the saw, set at top speed, yanked off the vacuum piece that suctioned out the dust. She brought the chainsaw-like tool down, whining like a dentist’s drill. The saw bit into the wood, tearing though it like an electric bread knife through dinner rolls. She hauled the saw up out of the hole, threw it out at another angle, and drew it toward the end of the last cut. 

The girl only had moments.

Sophie made the third cut of a triangle as the room below echoed with yelling, then the deafening bam-bam-bam of the kidnappers firing on each other.

Sophie leapt to her feet, threw aside the saw, and, hoping like hell the child had the sense to get out from under the hole appearing in her ceiling, she leapt with both feet and all her weight onto the rough triangle she’d made.

 The fall was short and hard and she landed facing the closet door as she’d planned, knees bent to absorb the landing, the mattress taking some of the shock.

She hadn’t landed on the child. That was all she cared about as a tumult of wood, drywall and dust followed her down. She drew her weapon, and the closet door opened.

Sophie fired at the dark silhouette in the doorway. She fired until the shape fell backward out of sight, and then she spun to find the girl.

Anna Marie Addams had folded herself into the corner of the closet and her rabbit was tight against her chest. She lifted her head, eyes huge. Sophie squatted down, touched Anna’s hair and whispered softly, “Don’t look. You’re safe now. But don’t look. And put your fingers in your ears.”

Anna obeyed, putting her head down over the rabbit and her hands over her ears. Sophie turned and faced the door, blocking the girl with her body. 

“Package is secure,” she said into the comm. 

Her earbud crackled. “Roger that. Breaching the apartment.”

Sophie felt Anna shudder with terror, pressed against the back of her legs, as the door cannon boomed in the exterior of the apartment. 

This time the doorway filled with nothing but a man’s arm, firing into the closet. Sophie fired back, but her breath was stolen by a blow to the chest that knocked her back against the child and the wall. 

Sophie felt Anna squirming beneath her. She couldn’t speak, couldn’t breathe, and an endless long moment passed as black spots filled her vision and her hands scrabbled for the Velcro closures of the vest. Then hands lifted her off of the child, dragged her over the bodies in the doorway, and ripped open her Kevlar vest.

Sophie’s diaphragm finally started working and she dragged in a breath. Her squad commander, Agent Gundersohn, leaned down into her face. “You’re okay, Agent Ang. The vest caught the round.” 

Demon spawn of a pox-ridden sailor,” she cursed in Thai, her voice a thin wheeze.

“What?” Gundersohn cupped his ear.

In the closet, Anna was screaming.

Sophie hauled herself to her feet. Her ears rang from the gunshots in the enclosed space. Her ankle buckled when she stood and it hurt like hell to breathe—but Anna was screaming. She stumbled back into the closet, pushed her way through the two team members trying to calm the girl, and dropped to her knees in front of the child. 

Anna’s head was down and her hands were still over her ears. A high-pitched cry ululated from her tiny body. Sophie put her hand on the child’s head and leaned close, into the screaming.

“Hush, you’re safe now. They’re gone.” 

A second later the shrieking stopped. The rigid little body uncurled. The small white arms reached out. Sophie stood up with the child in her arms.

“Don’t look,” Sophie whispered. 

Anna pressed her wet face into Sophie’s neck and shut her eyes, clinging like a baby monkey with her arms and legs. Sophie carried the child past the two sprawled bodies in the doorway, past the pizza containers and fallen beer cans and the man with his throat ripped open by bullets, leaving arterial spray across the couch. Past the black-clad Hostage Rescue Team members in their FBI-emblazoned Kevlar. Down the hall and a flight of stairs, through the push-handled exit, across the foyer of the building, out the glass front door, onto the sidewalk, and into the sunshine.

About Wired In

Paradise has no protection from a hacker with a hidden agenda.

Special Agent Sophie Ang’s emotions are battered by a child kidnapping case that goes badly wrong. In tracking the criminal ring, her rogue data analysis program D.A.V.I.D. identifies an anomaly that leads her into a cat-and-mouse game online with a deadly enemy whose motives are unclear. The chase lures her through dark corridors of cyberspace into a confrontation with the violence from her past that sent her fleeing to the United States. She’ll need every skill she’s learned to defeat her worst nightmare—and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

“Toby Neal has created a wonderfully rounded action heroine with everything: looks, brains, mixed martial arts prowess, and the ability to swear proficiently in Thai and English. Fans of the genre will love FBI agent Sophie Ang, as well as the tangled web she must negotiate in the tropical setting of Hawaii.” — Russell Blake, NYT and USA Today Bestselling Author

Where to get Wired In

About the author

Toby Neal, bestselling author of Hawaii mystery Torch Ginger

Toby Neal

Toby Neal was raised on Kauai in Hawai’i and makes the Islands home after living elsewhere for “stretches of exile” to pursue education. Toby enjoys outdoor activities including bodyboarding, scuba diving, photography and hiking as well as writing. A mental health therapist, Toby credits that career with adding depth to the characters in the Lei Crime Series.

Visit her:

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Win-a-Book Wednesday: The Migrant Report

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By Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar

MigrantReport

Win a free e-copy of Mohana Rajakumar’s first mystery novel. All you have to do is leave a comment below telling BestSelling Reads:

What do you like best about mysteries?

Don’t forget to leave your email address.

About The Migrant Report

The penalty for stealing is losing your hand. No wonder Ali can leave his wallet overnight in his office. Yet crime hovers on the fringes of society, under the veneer of utopia. Police captain Ali’s hopes of joining the elite government forces are dashed when his childhood deformity is discovered. His demotion brings him face to face with the corruption of labor agencies and also Maryam, an aspiring journalism student, who is unlike any local girl he has ever met. Ali and his unlikely sidekick must work together to find the reason so many laborers are dying. Against the glittery backdrop of the oil rich Arabian Gulf, Ali pursues a corrupt agency that will stop at nothing to keep their profits rising. As the body count rises, so does the pressure to settle the source. Can Ali settle the score before the agency strikes again?

About the author

MohanaMohanalakshmi Rajakumar is a South Asian American who has lived in Qatar since 2005. Moving to the Arabian Desert was fortuitous in many ways since this is where she met her husband, had a baby, and made the transition from writing as a hobby to a full time passion.

Her work has been published in Variety Arabia, Brownbook Middle East, Isola Magazine, AudioFile Magazine, and Society Magazine, as well as Explore Qatar, Woman Today, The Woman, Writers and Artists Yearbook, QatarClick, and Qatar Explorer. She has been a guest on Expat Radio, and was the host for two seasons of the Cover to Cover book show on Qatar Foundation Radio. She was the Associate Editor of Vox, a fashion and lifestyle magazine.

In addition to print titles, Mohana has published five e-books including a mom-ior for first time mothers, Mommy But Still Me, a guide for aspiring writers, So You Want to Sell a Million Copies, a short story collection, Coloured and Other Stories, and a novel about women’s friendships, Saving Peace, which was a semi-finalist in the Literary category of the 2012 Kindle Review of Books.

 Visit her:

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Focus Friday: Once Upon a [Stolen] Time

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By Samreen Ahsan

OneUponAStolenTimeShe is standing in my courtyard. Everything in nature surrounds her—hugs her and is dazzled by her…including me.

Beautiful flowers of every hue and aroma are grown in this majestic garden. My eyes are burning; I’m simultaneously overwhelmed and awed by the colorful oasis. Never have I been so close to nature, to growing things. Her alchemy drives me mad.

She’s gifted me with all the colors, but I painted her with darkness.

As much as I crave feeling the sunlight and the flowers against my skin, I want her touch too. I am cursed and doomed to never experience the beauty of the natural world, for all eternity.

She watches me with extreme hatred in her eyes—her gaze throwing fireballs at me. She doesn’t know I’m already burning, but since she despises me so much, I can’t even dare to come close to her. I want to end this tortuous distance between us—but I was the one who created this hatred in her.

She was a beautiful tender rose—I stole her fragrance, crushed her petals and burned her in hell. If I knew the fire with which I was conflagrating her would come to engulf me—I swear I wouldn’t have done it. Her spell is too strong for me not to fall; her curse is too mighty for me to run away.

Her deadly yet magical existence haunts me, excites me and has thrown me into a pit of deep lust. She is my prisoner, but she doesn’t realize that I’m the one who’s already submitted to her slavery, when I first touched her.

Despite being her captor, I am still her captive.

About Once Upon a [Stolen] Time

All her life, Myra Farrow has been obsessed with medieval castles—and the kings and princes who once inhabited them. Now, wealthy videogame designer Steve Bernard wants her to model for a princess character in his new game. Myra can’t resist his offer, especially when she learns that Steve plans to film inside the mysterious Hue Castle—a cursed, barren, colorless place forbidden to visitors for centuries. But unknown to Myra, her soul is bound to Hue Castle by blood and sorcery. When she enters its doors, she awakens dark powers that will reach through time—stealing her past, torturing her present, and rewriting her future.

1415…

Edward Hue, the last of the Hue royal bloodline, has never stood in the sunshine or held a living flower. Cursed from birth to live in darkness and bring death to all he touches, he is at the mercy of his cruel, tyrannical father, who will not rest until he shatters Edward’s soul and makes his son into a diabolical copy of himself. Edward’s one hope is the mysterious woman who haunts his dreams—who will either break his curse and bring him out of the darkness, or destroy him utterly.

For Myra and Edward, past and future collide in a tale of love, obsession, betrayal, and the hope for redemption.

Once Upon a [Stolen] Time publishes on December 1, 2015.

About the author

samreen-ahsanHistory, art and literature are Samreen Ahsan’s passions. She loves digging out information about prophecies, divine miracles and paranormal events that are mentioned in history and holy books, but don’t sound possible in today’s modern world.

She has been into reading and writing since childhood — it cannot happen without imagination, which luckily has no boundaries. Dance and music are also pastimes she enjoys, as well as reading romance fiction. I love to travel and explore historical cities.

Samreen Ahsan lives in Toronto, Canada. A Prayer Series, incorporating A Silent Prayer and A Prayer Heeded, was her first story about paranormal events based on Islamic concepts. Her new work, Once Upon a [Stolen] Time, is her third published novel.

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Focus Friday: Heavenscribe: Part Three

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By Christine Nolfi

Heavenscribe3Chapter One

Cinching the belt of her bathrobe around her waist, she appraised the figure strolling gracefully into the moonlight to reveal stature far beyond the human norm. The woman stood more than seven feet tall. A tunic of pale ivory dropped slightly past her knees. Silver tresses flowed past shoulders as square and powerful as a soldier’s.

This was no burglar searching for access to the house. The intrusion was crafted from supernatural means. Bel tried to make sense of her unexpected guest. Was this a spirit from a heavenly realm?

The example of surreal, feminine beauty indicated as much. Beneath the woman’s brown skin a watercolor of hues swirled together, hints of eggshell blue and verdigris mixed with dashes of sunset orange and a dark, stormy grey. On bare feet she took confident steps forward. With each step, small ovals of fluorescent green light flashed beneath her. Each blade of grass was lit from within by fabulous light.

Bel’s lips parted on a gasp. A subtle, silvery cast shimmered on the woman’s skin. The sparkling layer seemed composed of stardust gathered from the midnight blue rim of the universe, bits of winking light that once fired the most massive objects in creation, the stars set out in the heavens to wash away the ignorance of night. Bold and pure, the effect brought to mind the silver cast of the portal, a door open across space and time, which had enchantingly formed in Bel’s rose arbor earlier tonight.

Just a few hours ago, Bel had unwittingly conjured the portal with Zobie, her young friend, at her side. She’d done so by focusing on a heartfelt memory. In wonderment, they watched the rose arbor split into a series of prisms, one stacked before the next in a large rectangular array. In each prism, the growth of the climbing roses accelerated like an image on a movie reel slightly out of sync with the next. The plant’s various stages of growth, death and rebirth—the simultaneous, circular pattern of life—offered Bel the conclusion they had unhooked time. Fascinated, she traced her fingertips across the portal’s silvery rim. Contact with the gel-like substance made her feel impossibly good, as if she’d dipped her fingers in the waters of life.

Now, with the otherworldly presence gazing down at her, she again filled with a glorious surge of emotion. The euphoria provided a much-needed balm, subduing the anxiety skittering through her chest.

Light pooled beneath the stranger as she came to a standstill. Above her head, the breeze trembled like a lover’s sigh.

She said, “The fear is strong in you.”

Like the portal, her voice was composed of layers. If Bel weren’t standing with eyes wide open, she’d arrive at the erroneous conclusion several women were speaking in an uncanny harmony. The effect was baffling. It was also mesmerizing.

A nervous laugh escaped her lips. “I wasn’t expecting company in the middle of the night.”

“There’s nothing to fear. I am a mother, like you.”

“You are?”

Her visitor smiled. “You know my children well. They bring great pleasure to your kind.”

“I don’t understand,” Bel admitted.

“Do you know the stories from the dawn of your great civilizations? They are the same in the West as in the East.”

Bel frowned with confusion.

The spirit explained, “You are from the West. I will show you a story from your ancient times.”

The announcement sent a hush across the garden. The sense of expectancy calmed the trees, halting the slow flutter of their leaves. An owl hooted, signaling the change. Bel’s skin prickled, her eyes following the stranger’s right hand lifting into the air, the glittery hue of her skin growing brighter. The way she poised her finger on the night breeze suggested the channeling of great power. From the tip of her index finger, golden sparkles burst into being and formed a line. A mysterious energy sizzled and snapped. The air became a canvas she filled with sparkling lines.

About the Heavenscribe series

Zobie Marsh hides the fearsome talent of prophecy. Her decision to travel to South Carolina sets in motion Heavenscribe, a spiritual transformation devised by angels to aid a dying world. Bel Petersen seems to have it all: ample means, a loving marriage and a rewarding family life. A fatal car accident and a man’s dying words will lead her to Zobie, and reveal a spiritual awakening they must undertake together. If they fail, The Dimming will consume every human soul on the planet.

Available exclusively on Amazon.

About the Author

Nolfi Author Photo1Award-winning author Christine Nolfi provides readers with heartwarming and inspiring fiction. Her debut Treasure Me is a Next Generation Indie Awards finalist. The Midwest Book Review lists her books as “highly recommended” and her novels have enjoyed bestseller status. Look for her new series, Heavenscribe. Chat with her on Twitter at @christinenolfi and visit her at www.christinenolfi.com.

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Win-a-Book Wednesday: A Silent Prayer

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smashwordsBy Samreen Ahsan

Win a free e-copy of the multiple award-winning A Silent Prayer. All you have to do is answer this question:

In which city does Adam Gibson live?

Leave your answer in the Comments section, below.

About the book

“An intense, joltingly modern love story.” KIRKUS

This captivating and thrilling romance takes you to a romantic journey with young, powerful businessman Adam Gibson, gifted by God with an altruistic soul but atheist by belief, who falls in love with a cursed soul and finds God—not through a miracle but the presence of demons around him.

I think A Silent Prayer by Samreen Ahsan is destined to become a classic in the romance genre.” Readers’ Favorite 2014 International Book Award 

It is an emotionally charged story of a young woman—Rania Ahmed, endowed with hypnotic beauty—a strong believer in God, who has lost hope she will ever find her soul mate but finds herSamreen2 safe harbor in an atheist.

Winner – 2014 Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards
Winner – 2014 Los Angeles Book Festival
Winner – 2014 Paris Book Festival
Winner – 2014 Hollywood Book Festival
Honorable Mention – 2014 New York Book Festival

About the author

SAMREEN AHSANHistory, art and literature are my passions. I love digging out information about prophecies, divine miracles and paranormal events that are mentioned in history and holy books, that don’t sound possible in today’s modern world.
Since childhood, I have been into reading and writing–and yes, it can’t happen without imagination, which luckily has no boundaries. Dance and music are also pastimes I enjoy, as well as reading romance fiction. I love to travel and explore historical cities. I
live in Toronto, Canada.

“A Prayer Series” is my first story about paranormal events based on Islamic concepts.

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And follow her on Twitter @samauthorcanada

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