Change of Heart by Lilliana Rose

Change of Heart
The Clockwork Mysteries #1
by Lilliana Rose
Steamy Romance
Date Published: November 2015
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Vickie wants spice in her life, but her husband George is more interested in his work as a doctor. Left alone with nothing to fill in the time, the temptation of leaving the marriage is growing.
George wants to rekindle their love but he takes his duty helping the sick seriously, especially those who can’t afford medical bills, and finds it hard to spend time with Vickie.
An outbreak of a mysterious illness threatens the ordered world of Vickie and George. George becomes ill, and Vickie is left to care for him, as well as trying to work out the cause of the sickness. To survive, Vickie needs to find a way to take charge in her world.

 

About the Author
Lilliana Rose is a creative writer and poet. She enjoys pulling levers and turning cogs in steampunk worlds and dreams of travelling around the world in an airship wearing funky modern Victorian clothing.
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The Butcher’s Daughter by Mark M. McMillin

 

The Butcher’s Daughter
Mark M. McMillin
Historical Fiction / Adventure
Date Published: August 2015
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In an age ruled by iron men, in a world of new discovery and Spanish gold, a young Irishwoman named Mary rises from the ashes of her broken childhood with ships and men-at-arms under her command. She and her loyal crew prowl the Caribbean and prosper in the New World for a time until the ugly past Mary has fled from in the old one finds her.
Across the great ocean to the east, war is coming. The King of Spain is assembling the most powerful armada the world has ever seen – an enormous beast – to invade England and depose the Protestant “heretic queen.” To have any chance against the wealth and might of Spain, England will need every warship, she will need every able captain. To this purpose, Queen Elizabeth spares Mary from the headman’s axe for past sins in exchange for her loyalty, her ships and men.
Based on true historical events, this is a tale about war, adventure, love and betrayal. This is a story about vengeance, this is a tale of heartbreak…
Recent Praise for The Butcher’s Daughter:
“… a pleasurable and action-packed read … a delicious spin to the otherwise tired clichés of male captains … the joy of the open seas – as well as the danger churning below – pulses throughout this rip-roaring, hearty tale of the high seas.” – Kirkus Reviews
“… an entertaining read … full of authentic historical events … a defiant story, a narrative of strong will and perseverance which ultimately plummets to a tragic end.” – Readers’ Favorite
“… a historic adventure … a beautiful romance …” – Bargain Book Reviews (5×5 Stars)
“A wonderful novel in the best tradition of maritime literature … authentic and rich with details, the characters are alive and passionate, and the plot is full of thrilling action, intense drama, and stunning surprises … [an] exhilarating adventure … an unforgettable journey …” – The Columbia Review
Profanity – Moderate
Sex – Moderate
Violence – Heavy
EXCERPT
A man – I cannot say if he was wise or not – once said to me as he gently stroked my hair, as he slowly poured honeyed words into my ear with false affection: “Hush dear child, hush. ‘Tis best if you lay still. ‘Tis best you accept this gift I give you now without complaint my lovely, golden dove.”
I never knew this man’s name. Long years have passed since I heard those vile words. They haunt me still.
Blood. I saw a lot of blood as I stepped into my father’s shop that night.
I suppose the matter had to do with a debt unpaid, money owed to one clan or another. When I heard the voices of strange men inside our home arguing with my father, I had rushed downstairs out of curiosity with a candle in my hand, dressed only in my nightgown and barefoot.
And when I reached the bottom of the stairs, I saw two brutes holding my father down against his wooden cutting table while a third man, a tall, sinewy fellow standing in front of him, stabbed him over and over again in the arms, the chest and stomach with a long knife. Then the tall man tossed his knife in the air with one hand and caught it by the handle with the other, as if he was performing some parlor trick, and slashed my father’s throat wide open with one, elegant swing. Sprays of blood spurted across the room. I watched my father’s eyes flutter for a bit before they closed on him forever.
But I am well accustomed with blood and gore. I am the butcher’s daughter.
No doubt I stared at my father’s three murders wide-eyed, confused, even in horror. But I did not scream. I did not cry out. I did not look or call for any help. I buried any urge to panic.
The tall, sinewy man with the knife fled when he saw me. His two companions did not. They had unfinished business. They released their grip on my father. They let his limp body slip to the floor with a dull thud and then slowly moved towards me – all smiles.
I was but twelve or so. I had never known a man before that day.
I cannot say if the man who commanded me to lie still after he forced me to the floor next to my father’s torn body, the man who thought of me as his lovely, golden dove, was wise or not for I only knew him for the briefest of moments. You see, that man died in my arms on top of me not long after he spoke those very words to me.
My memory of that night is clouded in my mind. No, that is not quite true. I have chosen to wrap that memory in cloud. But I can, if I wish to, remember that night – even now – with crystal clarity, in the most striking detail.
Aye, the man on top of me died in my arms that day. He died after he had torn my nightgown open, after he had thrust himself inside of me – he died after I removed his dagger from his belt and plunged it deep into his black heart. I can still hear the air escaping from his lungs. I can still smell the rot on his breath. I can still see the pupils of his eyes rolling up behind his skull as his life slipped away from him forever.
His companion had fared a little better. I stabbed him, skewered him really, through the mouth when he leaned over to pull his dying friend off me. The blade pierced one cheek and sliced through the other. The man screamed and fled outside, running wildly down New Market Street with the dagger still lewdly sticking out of both sides of his mouth. Not a mortal wound perhaps, but a man with scars on each cheek like that is not a hard man to find as you might imagine. Time and patience is all that is needed. A little time, a little patience, and you can easily find a man like that with matching scars at your leisure.
I can say, with absolute certainty, that this day was the last day of my childhood. But it was also the day-of-days – for this was the first day of my liberation, of my awakening, as well.
I had forewarned her gentle majesty of course. I had told her that a highborn lady, especially a queen, should not hear of such things so foul and impure.
But she ignored my warning. She leaned close to me and squeezed my hand reassuringly. “It is, dear sister,” she told me flatly, “a pitiless and putrid world ruled by pitiless and putrid men, men who think of us as little more than chattel. We would know your story. From start to finish, we would know how it is you came to rule over such cruel and loathsome men in a man’s cruel and loathsome world.”
Yes, it is true. Sitting in a chair across from me in my drab lodgings in the Tower of London, a place of luxury compared to the dungeon I had only days before been released from, the great and mighty Queen of England addressed me, a lowly commoner and a thief, as her sister…
My lads forced the big man down to his knees before me. They stretched his arms out taut and held him firmly in place for me.
“Why, Captain Dowlin,” I said and laughed, “you’ve gone and pissed yourself I see! You’ve gone and soiled my deck! And my crew scrubbed these planks down with holystones just this morning. They put their backs into it let me tell you. They scrubbed this deck down clean.”
“Please,” Dowlin pleaded, whimpering with spittle and snot running down his long beard. His eyes were nearly swollen shut from the good drubbing my men had given him. “Please, please, please…” he repeated over and over again.
“Please?” I asked. “Is that all you can say? How pathetic. I pray you can beg far better than that, especially when it is your own, pitiful life hanging in the balance. Come now, I know you can do better and I promised my lads a bit of entertainment tonight before supper.”
“Please, my lady, please spare my life. For mercy’s sake. I have gold. I have much gold!”
“For mercy’s sake?” I asked. “No, I think not for mercy’s sake. But for gold you say? Well now, you’ve piqued my curiosity there. And how much glittering gold is your miserable life worth to you, Dowlin?”
“Anything, name your price!”
I looked over at what was left of Dowlin’s bloodied and beaten crew herded around the main mast in a tight circle. They were bound in chains, intently watching my every move, soaking in my every word. After today they would be my men.
My own lads knew the drill. They forced Dowlin down lower, exposing the back of his soft neck to me.
I stood to the side and drew my sword. “The price Dowlin – is your head!”
“Nooooooooooooo…” Dowlin screamed just before I cleaved my way through flesh and bone. With one, clean stroke, his severed head rolled grotesquely across my deck until it came to rest at the feet of his defeated crew.
And then I pointed my sword at them, the bright, steel blade now dripping with Dowlin’s fresh blood. “As my men will vouch,” I told them, “I’m no purveyor of lies and because I do not lie I cannot say to you that killing gives me no pleasure. Your master was a wretched pig and it gave me great pleasure to kill him. Now you know why some call me Bloody Mary. Now you serve me and this ship – or not. You are free to choose.”
The upshot of my touch of drama was grand. The prisoners all at once dropped to their knees and groveled at my feet. They all at once pledged their undying loyalty to me.
“Master Gilley!”
“Aye, Madam?”
“Introduce the new lads to our ways.”
“With pleasure, Mum, with pleasure!”
Thomas Gilley was my rock. He had been with me from the beginning. For nearly two years we had crisscrossed the vast and perilous oceans together. For the past year we had sailed under Dowlin’s cruel shadow.
“And our course, Mum?”
“The new lads will tell you – gladly now I should think – what our new heading is to be.”
And by that of course I meant that Dowlin’s men would tell us where Dowlin’s gold was stashed away, or pay the awful price for their silence.
As my men went about their labors, securing the heavy guns and making repairs to shattered planks, to torn lines and sail, I went below to my great cabin, content with a good day’s work. Dowlin had thoughtlessly, and without good purpose, brutalized any who had crossed his path. Men, women, children, he cared not. Yes, Dowlin was a wretched, stinking pig who often killed for sport. I had done mankind a favor by dispatching him. But in my world, Dowlin had also been a lord and master, a prince. His death I knew could not be cheaply bought.
“An inspiring performance, Mum!” a voice called out, startling me as I stepped into my great cabin. The voice popped out from behind the door, closed it quickly and slid the bolt back inside the socket.
I would not give the intruder the satisfaction of knowing that he had, for once, caught me unawares. “I’m glad you were amused,” I told him flatly.
He slipped an arm around my waist and pulled me close against him. “Do you,” he asked with a smile, “despise all men?”
“All but one or two,” I replied and kissed him lightly on the lips. Then I reached down between his legs and grabbed him by his privates. He was already stiff and eager. I couldn’t help myself and moaned with anticipation.
“Only one or two?” he inquired. “Dare I ask who?”
“Ah, you are safe for now my dearest,” I answered, batting my eyes flirtatiously. “Well, at least for a night or two. You have skills, remarkable skills worth keeping.”
“Aye, it was a splendid day indeed. I’ve always been exceptionally good at fighting, equally talented with sword, knife, a musket or explosives. I suppose one could say I was born to it.”
“You are a great warrior, James Hunter,” I replied honestly and squeezed him even harder. “But those are not the skills that interest me tonight. I dare say you have other skills that I’ve taken quite a fancy to, skills I wish to test.”
“Ah, now, that is why I’m here my lady,” Hunter replied and flashed his brilliant smile for me. “Not too tired from all that killing?”
“Shut up and take me you fool. Ravish me – I am hot for your wicked touch…”
Hunter obliged me gladly, with all he had to give.
I stood on the poop deck next to MacGyver, Michael MacGyver, my best man at the helm, watching the morning sun, dressed in brilliant red, rise majestically above the sea’s shimmering green waters. A good, flowing wind filled our sails and the ship was cruising along nicely. We had Dowlin’s magnificent ship in tow and I could hear my men with their saws and hammers working to repair her shattered rudder. It was a glorious morning. It was a hallelujah morning.
“Good day, Mum,” Hunter said with a mischievous grin as he made his way up the companionway and handed me a mug of steaming, black coffee. “Sleep well my lady?”
“I did indeed, Master Hunter, I did indeed. And you?”
“I have no complaints. I feel most refreshed.”
From the corner of my eye, I could see MacGyver crack a thin smile. A ship is a small place, too small for secrets. The whole crew knew that Hunter and I were lovers.
I savored the coffee’s rich aroma for a bit before I took a sip. “What course, MacGyver? Did old Gilley even give you one before he retired to his hammock or are you sailing aimlessly about on the open sea to only God knows where?”
“We sail for the Na Sailtí, my lady.”
“Ahhh, the Saltee Islands,” I said. “I thought as much.”
No one had ever accused Dowlin of being clever. The Saltee Islands, lying just off Kilmore Quay between Waterford and Wexford, was an obvious choice. The islands were remote and uninhabited and not far from Dowlin’s base at Youghal. Still, without a map or guide, one could roam those small islands for years and not find any buried treasure.
Hunter grabbed my mug of coffee from my hand and took a sip. “Dowlin’s brothers,” he said soberly, staring absently out at the horizon, “ghastly brutes the pair of them, will want revenge when they hear of what we’ve done, Mary. Righteous or not, the gods always exact a price for a killing.”
Only Hunter and Gilley ever addressed me by my given name. Mary had been my mother’s name. But I did not know her. She had died when I was very young. They say she had been a rare beauty. They say that before my father took her in and married her, she had been a whore.
“No doubt,” I said evenly, stealing a secret moment to admire Hunter’s exquisite face in the soft, morning light.
He had not yet shaved. He wore no hat and had neglected braiding his long, black hair into a queue. The breezes toyed with the loose strands, brushing them across his face. His eyes were striking blue. His chin was square and strong. I thought him the most handsome man in all of Ireland, perhaps in all of Christendom.
Hunter used his fingers to comb the tangled mess off his forehead. He turned to face me and gave me a puzzled look.
“Out with it, Hunter,” I demanded.
“I’d rather see it comin’ than get it in the back. That’s all, my lady.”
“I agree,” MacGyver chimed in, “with Hunter.”
“You agree with Hunter do you now?” I asked mockingly as I placed my hands on my hips. “As if I give a damn what you two agree on! Do I smell a mutiny brewing aboard my ship?”
Hunter and MacGyver exchanged knowing glances and chuckled. As every man in my crew knew, any one of them could speak his mind freely and without fear. Honest speech was protected by one of the Ten Rules, though precisely which one I doubt any of us knew.
Then Gilley, climbing up the ladder from the main deck, stepped onto the quarter deck carrying a basket of bread from the ship’s galley. The bread was freshly baked, still warm and smelled delicious.
“Mutiny is it?” Gilley asked while handing out his loaves. “Never trusted the likes of these two, Mum. Be happy to gut them both for you after they finish their breakfast. I’ll hang their worthless carcasses off the main yardarm to rot. Let them serve as a warnin’ to all other would be mutineers.”
“Hunter,” I said, “is worried about Dowlin’s brothers.”
“Ah, and well he should be, Mum,” replied Gilley with a serious nod. “Well he should be. Them two aren’t no better than Dowlin. Worse maybe. An ill-tempered litter sprung from the angry womb of an ill-tempered bitch.”
“Aye,” I agreed. “So gentlemen, we must be the first to strike. And when we strike we must do so with deadly purpose.”
I stopped along the narrow path for a moment to catch my breath after the long and strenuous climb. I could see my ship peacefully riding anchor in the cove below. Phantom was a five hundred ton, French-built nao, ships renowned for their strength and speed. She was both square and lateen-rigged and carried eighteen great guns cast from solid bronze – a mix of falconets and sakers mounted on rolling carriages stood neatly against her bulwarks like soldiers on parade. And fixed to iron pedestals mounted along her rails were another thirty swivels for close-quarter fighting. Sitting next to Phantom was Dowlin’s larger ship, a fine, Dutch-built man-o-war displacing six hundred tons or better, not as swift as a nao but she was well-armed and built for rugged war. The sight of the stubby noses of her guns protruding through the open gunports – a mix of periers, sakers and falconets, twenty-four great guns in all – sent a tingle up my spine. She too carried a goodly number of swivels. What a handsome sight both ships made together!
The man-o-war had been Dowlin’s flagship. Now Dowlin’s flagship was my flagship. Under Dowlin, men knew her as Medusa’s Head. And just to make certain that any who laid eyes on her knew exactly what ship she was, a hideous replica of the witch’s head, with deadly snakes for hair and sharp fangs for teeth, adorned her high prow. No sailor roaming across the open sea could ever gaze upon that carved monstrosity without freezing in their tracks. As I resumed my climb up the cliff, I decided I would rechristen Dowlin’s ship. I would rename her Falling Star after the shooting star I had seen streaking outside my father’s butcher’s shop at the very moment my father’s assailants had pried my legs apart and deflowered me. And then I’d pitch the witch’s grotesque likeness into the sea.
After we reached the summit of the cliff the land flattened out before us and we could see the Irish Sea in all directions for miles. Visibility was excellent. There was not a single sail in sight.
The island was little more than a desolate pile of rock and sand covered over in wild grass and patches of scrub brush. The only inhabitants we saw were small lizards scurrying about and seabirds, birds of many kinds and colors. Countless numbers of birds squawked and chirped at each other all across the island.
Armed with shovels and pick-axes, my new recruits led the way under a bright and sizzling sun. They were clearly fidgety and reluctant to press on, fearing I suppose that they were marching to their own graves. I gave them no reason to think otherwise. We marched in single file towards the southern tip of the island until we came upon a cluster of boulders surrounded by a thicket of scraggly thorn bushes.
“This is the place?” I asked the lead man after he stopped and surveyed the area around us. I addressed this man first because I had seen the deference the others had given him. He had also been the first to tell Gilley where we could find Dowlin’s treasure.
He hesitated before answering me. I gave him a hard look and then took a moment to consider his men. “Did you, or did you not all swear your allegiance to me?”
“We did, Mum,” the lead man answered.
“What is your name?” I asked.
“Flannigan, Mum, Joseph Flannigan from Kinsale in County Cork.”
“Well, Master Joseph Flannigan from Kinsale in County Cork, I did not come all this way, I did not go to all this trouble, just so I could kill you. I don’t need to kill you. And besides, I don’t murder unarmed men.”
Flannigan lowered his head. “Beg pardon, Mum, but Dowlin was unarmed.”
“Ah, a fair point you make there Master Flannigan,” I said. “Touché. But you are mistaken. I didn’t murder Dowlin. I executed him.”
I turned to address Flannigan’s men. “I know Master Gilley explained things to you the other night and explained them to you clearly. Killing or harming innocent or helpless men, women or children is strictly forbidden. It is a violation of our Ten Rules. Now it is hot and this island is no paradise. Let us to business shall we? You can help me recover Dowlin’s plunder – and take your rightful share – or I can leave you all here to live on birds’ eggs until some fishing trawler happens upon you. But I will not kill you.”
Flannigan shook his head. “Even if what you say is true Lady Mary, we are still all dead men. Dowlin has two brothers, the Twins. They know us and they will find us and kill us all for helping you.”
Hunter took a step towards Flannigan and rested his hand on Flannigan’s shoulder. “Lad, you and your mates are most likely dead men already even if you don’t help us. Once you reach home, Dowlin’s brothers will find and kill you all just because you didn’t die with Dowlin.”
Flannigan’s men exchanged looks all around. Heads started bobbing up and down.
Flannigan clenched his teeth; he stared at me with eyes as cold as stone. “We won’t be the only game the Twins will want to feast on, Madam.”
I answered Flannigan with a bold and cocky smile. “Aye, the Twins, the Devil’s own offspring to be sure and far more dangerous than Dowlin ever thought to be. They’re more dangerous because they’re smart. The Twins and Dowlin were only half-brothers I hear, same she-bitch mother but begotten from different seed.”
“You know them then?” asked Flannigan.
“Not well. I saw them once tie a man down and slowly skin him alive. The poor devil’s only crime was to prudently pitch some Dowlin cargo overboard during a treacherous gale to save his ship and crew from foundering.”
Flannigan nodded. “Aye, I’ve seen some of their grizzly work up close.” Then he baited me. “One brother is a big, ugly bastard, strong as an ox. The other is a bit prettier, but just as big and no less strong.”
“Ah, Master Flannigan, you wish to test me? I respect that. No, the Twins are nearly exact copies of each other. One is challenged to tell them apart even close-up. They’re both huge, a head taller than any man I’ve ever laid eyes on. But one brother is a half hand taller than the other and as for appearances, well, not my taste, but they are hardly ugly.”
“Apologies, Mum. Right you are. I fear your man Hunter here is right too. The Twins will come looking for us even if we refuse to help you. What then?”
“You let me worry about that. First things first. Now, shall we dig?”
Flannigan pointed to a pitted, reddish brown rock in the middle of patch of wild flowers that seemed somehow out of place. The rock, I soon realized, was not indigenous to the island. I grabbed a shovel from Flannigan’s hand and started scooping out the first shovelfuls of dirt and sand myself.
About the Author

Mark McMillin is a general counsel for a company in the aviation industry. His home is in the Atlanta, GA area.

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Gypsy Love by Angela McPherson & Lynn Vroman

Gypsy Love
Angela McPherson & Lynn Vroman
Publication date: June 28th 2016
Genres: Adult, Paranormal Romance

Two centuries ago, Adrian vowed to seek revenge against the Gypsy woman who bound his spirit for eternity. Despite how far under the dirt Miryah Kotorara’s bones lay, he won’t stop tormenting the Kotorara bloodline. The person doesn’t matter, only the name.

Until her.

Dr. Mia Kotorara has spent the last ten years trying to forget her Gypsy heritage. Ostracized by her family and emotionally damaged, Mia throws herself into her work to fill the void. She forgets everything from her past—except for the man who solely exists in her dreams.

When reality and dreams collide, Adrian and Mia find something they never expected. Love.

Magic will bring them together, but it may not be enough to mend Mia’s broken heart and Adrian’s lust for revenge.

The Kotorara curse is never satisfied.

As the curse threatens everything they have overcome, Adrian and Mia must fight to save what matters most—each other.

Goodreads / Amazon

EXCERPT:

Adrian

Their routine never changed. Smack the alarm clock for fifteen more minutes of grunting, snoring sleep. Grumble when the contraption bleeped its nauseating music again. Shower, wake the children in the next room, eat some sugary swill, and leave for a day of school or work. Day, after day, after day.

If I hadn’t already hated these rotting people, their boring lives would’ve put me over the edge.

Unfortunately, my life, or lack thereof, mirrored theirs. An apparition only had so much to do to fill the time. My routine never changed, either, not for over two hundred years. Yes, the families would turn into other families as generations progressed—I lost count of how many had passed—but they were all from the same insane bitch of an ancestor. I wasn’t too particular. All they required was the right name.

The little things kept my sanity. Push the clock out of reach. Adjust the water until it grew frigid or scalding, depending on my mood. If I were really on point, I dumped that slop they shoveled into their mouths every morning onto the floor for the mangy dog. So what if these specific Gypsies hadn’t cursed me. A curse, I might add, undeserved. Two hundred years built enough anger to spread vengeance without prejudice.

Pathetic, but those little things were all I had. Not much else to occupy my time, and as any good haunt would do, I followed the man, Luca, to the city after he dropped his children off at school–every day.

I wouldn’t have been a decent ghost if I hadn’t at least tried to heave him into oncoming traffic as he scurried to his custodian job. I’d been practicing that trick for years, coming so close a few times. Once I perfected it, the push would probably be at the back of the wanker’s grandson. Hell, great-grandson. Unlike them, I had eternity on my side. But one day, a few of the sodding Gypsies would decorate the windshield of a city bus.

Not today, though. Luca weaved around the crowd while I slinked through it, body after body. The beastly man tended to hurry, always late due to his nightly drinking binges, and I enjoyed tripping him up in his rush, a skill I had mastered. A millisecond of physical contact might not get anyone smacked with a speeding car, but stumbling in a hurry irritated even the most patient person, which Luca wasn’t.

“Christ!” He grabbed a lamppost in time to save his face from the pavement. “Knock your shit off. I ain’t got time for it today.”

To an outsider, the bloated man appeared as if he spoke to himself. But I knew better.

“Well, good thing for you I’ve plenty of time for us both,” I answered him. Even though he couldn’t hear me, we’d had plenty of conversations over the years, as I had with his father, and his father before him. I used to rage, scream until my voice grew hoarse. Not a blooming soul ever gave any indication they knew I existed. To answer now became habit, needing to speak to him as if I had a voice left in the world.

Unfortunately, I’d become as much a part of this heathen family as every other bastard whelped by the likes of a Gypsy bitch. My story became an heirloom, passed from generation to generation. The angry ghost of Miryah Kotorara’s curse. No one had the ability to see me, much less hear a damn word I had to say. Bad luck, a faulty alarm clock, a stumble on nothing, all of it blamed on something none of them really believed in. Me.

In truth, no one believed in me except for maybe Luca, probably the reason I chose him to annoy instead of his brother this generation. What good were all my efforts if the person I haunted thought me a fantasy? I was a curse to a god who didn’t exist for the rest of the family. My attempt to scare, kill, or maim them in some way ended up being part irritation, part fun story to repeat at dinner parties.

Even vapor had pride, and the Kotorara clan stomped on it any chance they had.

Luca straightened his jacket and mumbled curses as the crosswalk light blinked to proceed. Oh, to have the power to push his fat, greasy body into a lorry. I swiped at his back, my hand disappearing through his skin and blubber.

One day, you tosser.

As soon as we hit the curb, Luca stopped. If I were matter, I’d have rammed into his back. Instead, I whooshed through his body. Times like these, I was grateful for the lack of senses, not particularly fond of body odor, sweat, and soft man flesh.

“Well, come on, then. Move your bloody arse.”

Even if he could hear, I doubt he would have listened. Luca directed his attention to a sleek building in front of us, a scowl twisting his lips.
I followed his gaze, frustrated as if I were the one late for work. “What has your attention, fat man?” My eyes landed on a woman who focused on the building, her hair so dark it almost shined blue. Her slim shoulders stiffened before she turned—and saw me.

GYPSYLOVE123

 

Author Bio:

Born and currently residing in Texas, Angela shuffles three active children (not including her husband) all over the place. She works in a busy pediatric doctor’s office as a nurse during the day and writes at night. She is addicted to coffee and chocolate, laughs a lot, often at herself and is willing to try anything once. When Angela isn’t rushing kids around, working or writing, she’s reading. Other than life experience, Angela turns to a wide variety of music to help spark her creative juices. She loves to dance and sing though her kids often beg her not to.

Connect with Angela:
Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

Born in Pennsylvania, Lynn spent most of her childhood, especially during math class, daydreaming. Today, she spends an obscene amount of time in her head, only now she writes down all the cool stuff.

With a degree in English Literature, Lynn used college as an excuse to read for four years straight. She lives in the Pocono Mountains with her husband, raising the four most incredible human beings on the planet. She writes young adult novels, both fantasy and contemporary.

Connect with Lynn:
Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

 

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AN ARTFUL SEDUCTION by Tina Gabrielle

His lust for revenge will be his downfall…
AN ARTFUL SEDUCTION
Infamous Somertons #1
Tina Gabrielle
Releasing June 20th, 2016
Entangled Scandalous
His lust
for revenge will be his downfall…
 
London, 1815. Eliza Somerton has a dangerous
secret. As the daughter of the infamous art forger who duped half the ton,
she’s rebuilt her life under a new name. But when an old forgery goes up for
auction, her father’s enemy, Grayson Montgomery, outbids her and presents her
with an unimaginable choice: help him find her father or he’ll ruin her.
For years, Grayson, the Earl of
Huntingdon and one of London’s top art critics, has sought justice. His
well-laid plans finally come to fruition when he learns of his enemy’s
beautiful daughter. But Eliza possesses a sensuality and independent spirit
that weakens his resolve, and as the heat between them sizzles, what started as
revenge soon blossoms into something sinful…
 
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Tina Gabrielle, an award-winning author, is an
attorney and former mechanical engineer whose love of reading for pleasure
helped her get through years of academia. She’s the author of adventurous
Regency romances In The Barrister’s Bed, In The Barrister’s Chambers, Lady Of
Scandal, and A Perfect Scandal from Kensington Books. “A Spy
Unmasked” is the first book in her new Regency romance series, “In
The Crown’s Secret Service,” and will be released from Entangled
Publishing on November 10, 2014. “At The Spy’s Pleasure” will be
available in April 2015. Tina’s books have been Barnes & Noble top picks,
and her first book, Lady Of Scandal, was nominated as best first historical by
Romantic Times Book Reviews.

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Blood Rose by KL Bone

 Title: Blood Rose
Series: Black Rose Guard Series #3
By: KL Bone
Publication Date: April 7, 206
Genre: Dark Fantasy

..”.a story of strength and determination, actions and consequences, deep love and dark desires.”- Greg Wilkey, Author of Growing Up Dead 


“May the Black Rose protect you in life and avenge you in death.” – Vow of the Black Rose

A woman with no memory of her past. Another unable to forget. Both haunted by a sinister creature of roses and shadow with an unquenchable thirst for royal blood. Return to the world of the Black Rose Guard. Mara, Captain of the Black Rose for over eight hundred years, thought she had taken her last immortal life. But now, with her sub-captain dead at the hands of the Arum Court, she again must don the blade she vowed to never raise again. However, the task will prove ever more dangerous as the shadow of Mara’s past returns to awaken the long-dormant roses. Reunited with her lost love, Mara must also come to terms with her past in order to embrace her future. Can she forgive the man she loves for betraying her heart? And can she redeem herself for the death of the princess she failed to save? Across the sea, Sandra is haunted by the same presence, leading her deeper into the pieces of her mysterious past. Echoes of memory. Glimpses of fate. And a secret that will change everything for both herself and the captains who seek to rescue her from the hands of Mathew, King of the Arum Court, who has a dark agenda of his own.

Amazon US – http://amzn.to/1Uhe2XA
Amazon UK – https://goo.gl/eYils1
Amazon CA – https://goo.gl/XjekN4
Barnes & Noble – http://goo.gl/nQd6Im
Black Rose – Black Rose Guard #1
Amazon US – http://amzn.to/1Xrle6a
Amazon UK – http://goo.gl/TSPxqz
Amazon CA – https://goo.gl/qLO8A0
Barnes & Noble – http://goo.gl/QI27GE
Heart of the Rose – Black Rose Guard #2
Amazon US – http://amzn.to/1Nl1qLU
Amazon UK – http://goo.gl/5zBwfP
Amazon CA – https://goo.gl/QABYDa
Barnes & Noble – http://goo.gl/16YqUd

K.L. Bone is the author of the Black Rose Guard dark fantasy series. The Rise of the Temple Gods fantasy series. And a stand-alone science fiction novel, The Indoctrination.

Bone has a master’s degree in modern literary cultures and is working toward her PhD in literature. She wrote her first short story at the age of fifteen and grew up with an equally great love of both classical literature and speculative fiction. Bone has spent the last few years as a bit of a world traveler, living in California, London, and most recently, Dublin. When not immersed in words, of her own creation or studies, you’ll find her traveling to mythical sites and Game of Thrones filming locations.

Social Media Links

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/klboneauthor
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7793751.K_L_Bone
Twitter – @kl_bone
Website – http://klbone.com

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Out of Time by Michelle Garren Flye

outoftimetrailer

Book Trailer

About the Book

30046269Title: Out of Time

Author: Michelle Garren Flye

Genre: Romantic Fantasy

Tucked away in the mountains of North Carolina, the people of the strange little town of Sanctuary have enjoyed their status as a tourist attraction and Renaissance faire destination for decades. But on her twenty-sixth birthday, Kaelyn Anderson discovers a dark secret about her hometown.

The only reality she’s ever known has proven false. Now, her last hope lies in an unusual alliance with the son of the enemy she didn’t even know she had. Under the protection of Jack, an Elf prince, Kaelyn plunges into Cherokee lore to find the answer that will protect her people from invaders from another world.

Can Kaelyn and Jack form an alliance between three factions to fight their common enemy, or are they out of time?

Author Bio

Flye bio pic 2Michelle Garren Flye is an award-winning author of romance and women’s fiction. Reviewers have described her work as: “an engaging novel with charming and likable characters”, a story that “will make you believe in love and second chances”, and a “well-written and thought-provoking novel.”

Michelle placed third in the Hyperink Romance Writing Contest for her short story “Life After”. Her short stories have been published by the romance anthology Foreign Affairs, Opium.com, SmokelongQuarterly.com and Flashquake.com. She has served on the editorial staffs of Horror Library, Butcher Shop Quartet and Tattered Souls.

Michelle has a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She is the mother of three and lives in North Carolina with her husband and their rapidly growing collection of pets.

Links

Blog: http://michellegflye.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/michellegflye
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/michellegarrenflye/
Amazon Author Central: amazon.com/author/michellegflye
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michelle-flye-0ab9235

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Spell Breaker by Joni Parker

Spell Breaker 1About the Book

Title: Spell Breaker

Author: Joni Parker

Genre: Fantasy

After Lady Alexin (Alex) breaks the spell around Seaward Isle, the inhabitants can leave the island for the first time in a thousand years.  At long last, the Elves and Dwarves can return home to Eledon, while the mortals are given the opportunity to stay or leave through a portal to the mortal world.  Alex chooses to stay with her Elf family only to be involved in a mission to rid the Elf World of its most notorious criminal, Sawgrass.  Alex must eliminate him before he implements his plan to kill her Water Elf family and take over Eledon.

Book Excerpt 

The next morning, Alex retrieved her sword from the armory and hiked to the top of the fortress.  The sun peeked over the horizon—its golden hue brightened the dark sky still filled with millions of stars.  She took several deep breaths and drew her sword Challenger to admire its shiny blade with stars dancing across it.

After saluting an invisible opponent, Alex began her favorite sword routine called Path-in-the-Forest against imaginary enemies, standing behind unseen trees.  Her sword whipped and whooshed through the air as her opponents fell.  She paused, panting, taking a reprieve from a particularly good swordsman and leaned against an imaginary tree, holding her sword ready for the next opponent.  Silently, she slid her Elfin Blade from its holster on her right thigh and moved it to her left hand.  She turned and leapt out from behind the tree with a loud cry, raising her sword above her head, her Elfin Blade poised to block a predicted counterattack.

The Elf servant Eskin shrieked and squeezed her eyes shut.  Her hands were clenched in tight fists beside her head, and her body shook.

Alex backed off and inhaled sharply.  “Eskin, don’t sneak up on me like that.”

Eskin opened her eyes and placed her hand on her chest, drawing several deep breaths.  “I’m sorry, Lady Alexin, but Prince Darin asks that you greet the visitor in the parlor.  He’ll be there shortly.”

“What for?”

“He’s indisposed.”

“What about Lord Odin?”

“He’s gone to see King Pallis.”

“My grandmother?”

“She hasn’t finished dressing.”

“Who’s here?”

“Olivia Richards, the reporter from the King’s Weekly Journal.”

Alex leaned her head back and dropped her arms, groaning.  “Not her.”

“Prince Darin said to be very polite and watch what you say.”  Eskin clasped her hands in front of her.

“Yeah, right.”  Alex slid her sword into its scabbard and flipped the Elfin Blade around, returning it to its holster on her right thigh.  Without another word, she strode past Eskin and ran down the five flights of stairs.

Author Bio

orig_27374_020 (738x1024) (461x640) (288x400)Born in Chicago, Illinois, Joni left with her family when she was eight and lived for four years in Japan.  Upon return to the States, she and her family moved to Phoenix, Arizona.   She graduated from Camelback High School and attended Arizona State University until she dropped out and joined the Navy.  After three years as a Photographer’s Mate, she got out of the Navy, married a career sailor, and returned to college completing a bachelor’s and master’s degree at the University of West Florida in Pensacola, Florida.  She returned to the Navy as a commissioned officer and retired with over twenty-two years of service.  While active duty, she was selected to attend the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and attained a Master of Military Arts and Sciences degree.  After her retirement, she traveled the country with her husband in a motorhome until he passed away.  Joni returned to the workforce for another seven years and retired again to devote time to her writing.  She currently resides in Tucson, Arizona.

 

Links

Website/blog:  http://www.theblackelf.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/AuthorJoniParker

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/ParkerJoni

Google Plus:  https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JoniParker/posts

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7191836.Joni_Parker

Trailer for the Seaward Isle Saga:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=teYsqOs0yjI&feature=autoplay&list=HL1343068571&playnext=3

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Blue Dresses Have More Adventures by Audrey Greathouse

Today’s guest post comes from Audrey Greathouse, the author of The Neverland Wars!

The Neverland Wars
Audrey Greathouse
Published by: Clean Teen Publishing
Publication date: May 9th 2016
Genres: Fairy Tales, Retelling, Young Adult

Magic can do a lot—give you flight, show you mermaids, help you taste the stars, and… solve the budget crisis? That’s what the grown-ups will do with it if they ever make it to Neverland to steal its magic and bring their children home.

However, Gwen doesn’t know this. She’s just a sixteen-year-old girl with a place on the debate team and a powerful crush on Jay, the soon-to-be homecoming king. She doesn’t know her little sister could actually run away with Peter Pan, or that she might have to chase after her to bring her home safe. Gwen will find out though—and when she does, she’ll discover she’s in the middle of a looming war between Neverland and reality.

She’ll be out of place as a teenager in Neverland, but she won’t be the only one. Peter Pan’s constant treks back to the mainland have slowly aged him into adolescence as well. Soon, Gwen will have to decide whether she’s going to join impish, playful Peter in his fight for eternal youth… or if she’s going to scramble back to reality in time for the homecoming dance.

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The Blue Dress Theory: Blue Dresses Have More Adventures

 I can’t be the only one who has noticed this. Have you ever been reading a book or watching a movie, and when you see a girl in a blue dress, you know that fantastic things are about to happen?

I feel like the girl-in-a-blue-dress is an archetype, cemented in our cultural canon by a few great works of children’s literature. Still, no one ever seems to talk about how anytime a young girl puts on a blue dress she becomes destined for a wonderful journey to a strange and magical new world.

aliceI think Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland started it. The idea of children’s literature as we know it was pretty much invented by the Victorians, and Lewis Carroll wrote the defining children’s book of the nineteenth century. Alice might just be sitting around in a field listening to her sister read, but she’s sitting in a blue dress, so it’s no surprise that moments later she’s tumbling into Wonderland, using that dress as a parachute.

June106More than half a century later, J.M. Barrie wrote about Wendy Darling’s trip to Neverland, and her blue nightgown became an iconic image through centuries of adaptations. From Mabel Lucie Attwell’s original illustrations to the animated Disney movie, the one thing everyone seems to know for sure is that Wendy would be in a blue dress.

And let’s not forget L. Frank Baum’s contribution to this ppattern Whether she’s in ruby slippers or silver slippers, on page or on screen, Dorthy Gale is always depicted in a blue dress when she makes her way to Oz.

dorothyI’ve always thought of Alice, Wendy, and Dorthy as a holy trinity of brave girls, capable of navigating impossible worlds beyond their own. Each is a blue-dress adventuress, who can take the strangeness of magic in stride until she makes her way home once again. I think the world could use more stories about bright girls who can handle themselves in dangerous other-worlds, and when I put Gwen in a blue dress, it was a homage to more than just the traditional depictions of Wendy Darling. I want to bring this trend of competent, feminine smarts and beautiful blue dresses back. I know it’s not dead, because one of the best children’s books that was published while I was growing up did it, too.

Coraline_JonesYou’d better believe Coraline was in a blue dress when she stumbled into her alternate reality and found the enchanting, bewitching Other Mother. Neil Gaiman knows whats up, and so do I. Girls in blue dresses have more adventures, and I’m excited that with The Neverland Wars I can add to the collection of excited, delightful girls who put on a blue dress and go off confidently adventuring, into enchanted new worlds. When Gwen leaves her modern home in suburbia in a blue dress, it is to fly beyond the stars, guile information out of mermaids, outwit other lost children, face-off with a crocodile, and more… because the world needs more girls in blue dresses.

Author Bio:

Audrey Greathouse is a lost child in a perpetual and footloose quest for her own post-adolescent Neverland. Originally from Seattle, she earned her English B.A. from Southern New Hampshire University’s online program while backpacking around the west coast and pretending to be a student at Stanford. A pianist, circus artist, fire-eater, street mime, swing dancer, and novelist, Audrey wears many hats wherever she is. She has grand hopes for the future which include publishing more books and owning a crockpot. You can find her at audreygreathouse.com

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Guest Post by Radha Vatsal, Author of “A Front Page Affair”

How did your personal background and coming to live in the U.S. from India as a teen shape this book?

frontCapability “Kitty” Weeks, the protagonist of A Front Page Affair, arrives in New York in the spring of 1914 when she’s just 19 years old. She has spent the past decade of her life in boarding school in Switzerland, and before that, traipsing behind her American businessman father as he travels through Asia and the Middle East for work. Kitty is American by birth but she’s never lived in the United States before, so she comes to New York with fresh eyes. It’s her outsider’s perspective that enables her to see what others miss, and to sympathize with the plight of foreigners in the city–and at the time nearly a third New York’s population was foreign-born. Kitty is also well-off, well-educated, young and pretty, so she blends in. She can enter the best drawing rooms in town and that’s what makes her an attractive assistant to her boss, Helena Busby, editor of the Ladies’ Page of The New York Sentinel.

When I was creating the series I knew that my lead had to be someone who could move around New York easily, but who also had a slightly different perspective from others—which would allow her ask different questions. I grew up in Mumbai, India and came to the US on my own when I was 16 to attend boarding school in Connecticut. I understand what it’s like both to fit and not to fit in, to come to a new country and to have to adapt to new ways. It’s easier to adapt when you’re young, but you also retain the perspective of someone who grew up elsewhere, and so you don’t take the status quo for granted.

Funnily enough, my life in India also seemed to have many aspects in common with life in New York City in the 1910s. Back then, Mumbai (Bombay) was a buzzing metropolis with a small town feel, just like New York City.  My grandmother ran a house with a full staff, as many wealthier families in 1910 New York did; and we were never alone. There was always some kind of activity, some kind tradesman, whether a tailor, carpenter, upholsterer or jeweler going in and out.  Those kind of one-on-one relationships where you know the people who make the clothes you wear or furniture you sit on, is more similar to life in New York in 1915 than my life in New York now.  When my husband is at work, and my kids are at school, and I’m writing, I’m all alone. I don’t speak to anyone. That wouldn’t have been the case for Kitty—she would always have had someone around her—and it wasn’t the case for me growing up.

These aren’t elements that are essential to the story but I think my upbringing gave me a feel for Kitty’s world and makes me enjoy writing about it.  I can imagine the people in it and the dilemmas they face because they remind me of people and situations from my childhood.  If you would like to know more about life in the 1910s—everything from cars, to customs, books, movies, Europe’s royalty and more—please check out the World of Kitty Weeks Tumblr.

About the Author

Vatsal--photo--blackandwhite+JPEGRadha Vatsal is a writer based in New York City. She was born in Mumbai, India and has a Ph.D. from the English Department at Duke University. Her debut novel, A Front Page Affaircomes out this May from Sourcebooks Landmark. You can write to her at radhavatsalauthor@gmail.com or friend her on Facebook.

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Writing Great Villains by Kat Ross

Today’s guest post comes from Kat Ross, the author of The Midnight Sea!

The Midnight Sea
Kat Ross
(Fourth Element #1)
Publication date: May 10th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

They are the light against the darkness.

The steel against the necromancy of the Druj.

And they use demons to hunt demons….

Nazafareen lives for revenge. A girl of the isolated Four-Legs Clan, all she knows about the King’s elite Water Dogs is that they bind wicked creatures called daevas to protect the empire from the Undead. But when scouts arrive to recruit young people with the gift, she leaps at the chance to join their ranks. To hunt the monsters that killed her sister.

Scarred by grief, she’s willing to pay any price, even if it requires linking with a daeva named Darius. Human in body, he’s possessed of a terrifying power, one that Nazafareen controls. But the golden cuffs that join them have an unwanted side effect. Each experiences the other’s emotions, and human and daeva start to grow dangerously close.

As they pursue a deadly foe across the arid waste of the Great Salt Plain to the glittering capital of Persepolae, unearthing the secrets of Darius’s past along the way, Nazafareen is forced to question his slavery—and her own loyalty to the empire. But with an ancient evil stirring in the north, and a young conqueror sweeping in from the west, the fate of an entire civilization may be at stake…

Goodreads / Amazon

Despicable You: Writing Great Villains

I have a confession to make—one that some of you might share. My favorite characters are usually the awful ones. The ones who do terrible things without a shred of remorse. The ones that I’m dying to see get their comeuppance, but not before they push our beloved protagonist to the very edge and nearly destroy everything in the story we care about. Yes, I’m talking about the villains.

Think the viscerally creepy Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar from Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. The icily elegant Mrs. Coulter from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Elizabeth Wein’s SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden in Code Name Verity, who we only meet second-hand but is terrifying nonetheless.

Villains can make or break a book. When they’re boring or one-dimensional or clichéd, there’s no tension and the plot deflates with that sad wheezing noise balloons make when you stick with them with a hatpin. But when they’re done right, meaning that they are an actual character and not simply a clunky device to test the hero, they help keep the stakes of the story high and the reader turning pages late into the night.

In The Midnight Sea, King Artaxeros II is the obvious villain, but he’s also a bit abstract—you don’t meet him until more than halfway through, and then only briefly. So I needed another antagonist. One who you really get to know. One who has some admirable traits but, as the pressures of the plot slowly pile up, becomes something much darker. Without giving away too many spoilers, I’ll just say that I spent as much or more time thinking about him as about my main characters, Nazafareen and Darius. If you’re going to have a colossal betrayal, the reader had better care about everyone involved or it just won’t have much emotional impact.

So here are a few tips on writing unforgettable villains.

First off, all this is very subjective. What gives me cold sweats might make you laugh yourself silly. So you might start by think about which villains in film, TV, books, wherever, have resonated the most and why. Is it the prosthetic hook? The creepy Malkovich-esque voice? The mask of sanity they wear with their family when they’re not committing grisly deeds? Once you know what disturbs you in the deepest, most primal part of your monkey brain, channel that quality in your own bad guy.

Okay, this one I cannot emphasize enough: give the villain motivation that readers can relate to, even if it’s totally twisted. So they’re power-hungry. Why? Is it because they have a secret crush on someone they want to impress? Or maybe they’re compensating for a horrible childhood, or their dog needs an expensive operation, or their ideas of right and wrong are simply skewed beyond repair? I like to think that even the worst villain has something they care about. Balthazar, a necromancer who gets a starring turn in the second book of my series, is madly in love with his wicked queen. Yes, he does terrible things. But everything he does, he does for her.

Rachel Aaron has an awesome blog post on character development where she breaks it down into the deceptively simple formula below. The key is to understand that what a character wants and why they want it are two separate things and as a writer, you need to be very clear on both.

What do you want? (Goal)

Why do you want it? (Motivation)

What’s stopping you? (Conflict)

If you have trouble, you can also try flipping the story and imagining it from the villain’s point of view. You might be surprised at what you discover. Setting aside hockey-masked killers and comic book arch-bad guys, a good villain could potentially be the protagonist if he or she weren’t quite so extreme.

In my first book, the sci-fi thriller Some Fine Day, one of the most despicable characters is a military doctor who’s deliberately infected innocent people with a super-nasty Level Four virus. But as she calmly explains to the main character, the project is simply a response to their enemies engineering a similar plague. From her point of view, it’s a matter of self-defense.

Effective villains often embody an exaggerated version of the same things your hero is conflicted about. That’s very much the case in The Midnight Sea, where both Nazafareen and her antagonist face a similar choice but react in opposite ways. This is where we dig down deep and see what our characters are made of. Often, it is the villain’s inability to change and grow and face the truth (external or internal) that proves to be their undoing.

So now that you’ve got a fantastic, fully fleshed out villain that rivals Moriarty or Lecter, what’s the best way to get them across to the reader? Well, if the story is third person, you can give your villain their own POV. Jack Torrance in The Shining is one of my all-time favorites because we get to watch him slide slowly into madness over the course of several hundred pages. But the scariest part comes just before he’s lost it completely. We know he’s probably going to do some very bad things, but there’s still an unpredictable quality to him. In our hearts, we still vainly hope that his love for his wife and kid will somehow triumph over the evil ghosts running the Overlook Hotel, which makes it SO much worse when Jack finally, irretrievably snaps.

As King says, “This inhuman place makes human monsters.” And those are always the scariest kind.

Anyway, thanks for reading! For tons more on villains, I highly recommend Bullies, Bastards And Bitches: How To Write The Bad Guys Of Fiction by Jessica Morrell.

Author Bio:

Kat Ross worked as a journalist at the United Nations for ten years before happily falling back into what she likes best: making stuff up. She lives in Westchester with her kid and a few sleepy cats. Kat is also the author of the dystopian thriller Some Fine Day (Skyscape, 2014), about a world where the sea levels have risen sixty meters. She loves magic, monsters and doomsday scenarios. Preferably with mutants.

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