Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Book Spotlight and Excerpt: Her Castilian Heart by Anna Belfrage


Blood is not always thicker than water…

At times a common bloodline is something of a curse—or so Robert FitzStephan discovers when he realises his half-brother, Eustace de Lamont, wants to kill him.  

A murderous and greedy brother isn’t Robert’s only challenge.  He and his wife, Noor, also have to handle their infected relationship with a mightily displeased Queen Eleanor—all because of their mysterious little foundling whom they refuse to abandon or allow the queen to lock away.

Eustace is persistent. When Robert’s life hangs in the balance, it falls to Noor to do whatever it takes to rip them free from the toothy jaws of fate. Noor may be a woman, but weak she is not, and in her chest beats a heart as brave and ferocious as that of a lioness. But will her courage be enough to see them safe?

Trigger Warnings:

There is some sexual (consensual) content. Also some violence

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 ¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*¨) ( ¸.•´

In which a most ungodly Friar plays a central role.

Robert kept his distance from the others for the following days, and especially from the friar, whose bright-eyed enthusiasm at the idea of pulverising yet another castle—and thereby maiming or killing many people—had his innards twisting.

“How can he be a man of God?” he muttered to John, mounting Mars. In front of them, Friar Robert was yelling at the drovers, alternating between pointing at the yoked oxen and the heavy contraptions they were to pull.

“Oh, I am sure he prays and fasts regularly,” John replied.

“Mayhap he should spend more time pondering the Holy Script,” Robert said. Not that he knew anything about it; writing was a chore, and reading was a challenge he had yet to fully master. And as to Latin, well, he spoke better Arabic, which was not saying much.

“Ready?” Mortimer held in his horse beside them.

“Aye.” Robert and his men were to form the vanguard. Mortimer and the rest of the men were to ride on each side of the gigantic, lumbering train, with only Geoffrey de Bohun and four men-at-arms holding the rear. Robert studied one of the huge contraptions as it rolled by, the wheels easily the size of him.

“If that gets stuck in a rut, we’ll never get it free,” John commented.

“Best pray it doesn’t happen,” Mortimer said. He flashed them a quick grin. “I fear our dear friar would likely have a fit should one of his precious engines be damaged.”

It took one day to Llanteulyddog, the inhabitants in the small town thronging on the city walls to gawk at the siege engines. They spent most of the night on guard, taking turns to eat and sleep. Robert stamped his feet, glad of the breeches he was wearing on top of his hose and of the thick cloak he’d wrapped himself in. Above, the stars twinkled like shards of ice, his breath pluming before him.

“Cold enough to freeze the devil’s arse off,” Geoffrey commented, his voice muffled by the length of woollen cloth he'd wound round his neck and face.

“As long as it doesn’t start to snow,” Robert said.

It did, of course. Come morning, it began to snow, alleviating the cold somewhat but making progress along the Teifi excruciatingly slow, even with the extra oxen Mortimer had commandeered in Llanteulyddog.

After hours at a crawling pace, they finally saw the castle of Newydd Emlyn rise out of the snow. At some distance from the village, it sat on a narrow headland with the River Teifi running on two sides. The outer curtain walls ran straight across, a stout gate leading into the outer wards. Just in front of the walls huddled a group of houses.

Friar Robert studied the castle in silence. “Hmm,” he said, walking back and forth. “Breaching this will be easy.”

“Aye,” Mortimer said, “but the gatehouse to the inner wards is quite the beast.”

Friar Robert scoffed. “Nothing withstands my precious engines. Nothing.” He gestured at the buildings by the main gate. “Set them on fire.”

“I hoped to have celebrated Christmastide at home,” Robert groused a day or so later. More than six weeks away, and he felt constantly cold and damp.

“Well, at least we have the good friar to lead us in rejoicing at the birth of Christ our Saviour,” Mortimer replied. “Though it seems to me he prefers bonfires to mass.”

The buildings round the main gate had been reduced to ashes their first morning here. Under the protection of Robert’s men, the friar had sent forth his own men to wreak destruction. Robert had insisted on making sure the houses were empty—much to the friar’s irritation. “If there’s someone there, they’ll come running once the flames start licking their toes!” he’d snapped.

 “Assuming they can get out,” Robert had snapped back. “Surely, you do not want innocents to die?”

“Innocents? Pah! I’d wager every one of those people living in those houses have supported that rat Rhys in some way or other. Mark my words, every single one of them!”

Once the houses were gone, the friar had used one of his engines to blast a giant hole through the massive wooden gates—and level one of the turrets. Mortimer’s men had poured in, the few defenders on the wall fleeing for their lives towards the distant gatehouse. It was quite the impressive construction, that gatehouse. Relatively recent, it rose stout and menacing towards the skies, the entry guarded not only by gates but by a heavy portcullis that had caused the entire ground to shake when it had been lowered.

Friar Robert had frowned upon seeing the inner construction.

“What?” Mortimer demanded.

“You didn’t tell me there was so little land on either side of it. How am I to get my siege engines in position without risking they shoot my men—or manage to set one of them on fire, eh?”

“So we concentrate on the gatehouse,” Mortimer said.

Friar Robert crossed his arms—and impressive arms they were as well, the chain mail he’d donned bulging. “That,” he said with emphasis, “will take time.” He waved his hand at the structure. “Whoever built that knew what they were doing!” He frowned. “I have to think,” he muttered, flouncing off while yelling for his two sergeants.

Anna Belfrage

Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests: history and writing. Anna has authored the acclaimed time travelling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy which is set in 14th century England. 

Anna has also published The Wanderer, a fast-paced contemporary romantic suspense trilogy with paranormal and time-slip ingredients.

Her Castilian Heart is the third in her “Castilian” series, a stand-alone sequel to her September 2020 release, His Castilian Hawk. Set against the complications of Edward I’s invasion of Wales, His Castilian Hawk is a story of loyalty, integrity—and love. In the second instalment, The Castilian Pomegranate, we travel with the protagonists to the complex political world of medieval Spain. This latest release finds our protagonists back in England—not necessarily any safer than the wilds of Spain!

Anna has also authored The Whirlpools of Time in which she returns to the world of time travel. Join Duncan and the somewhat reluctant time-traveller Erin on their adventures through the Scottish Highlands just as the first Jacobite rebellion is about to explode!

All of Anna’s books have been awarded the IndieBRAG Medallion, she has several Historical Novel Society Editor’s Choices, and one of her books won the HNS Indie Award in 2015. She is also the proud recipient of various Reader’s Favorite medals as well as having won various Gold, Silver and Bronze Coffee Pot Book Club awards.

Find out more about Anna, her books and enjoy her eclectic historical blog on her website, 

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Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Book Spotlight and Excerpt: Liopleurodon: The Master of the Deep by M. B. Zucker


From M. B. Zucker, award-winning author of "The Eisenhower Chronicles"

Liopleurodon ferox was the deadliest sea predator of all time, the king of the Jurassic ocean. This whale-sized reptile's return to the early twentieth century triggers a geopolitical crisis in this new historical science fiction thriller. Former President Theodore Roosevelt foresees the threat the Liopleurodon would pose if it falls into the wrong hands. The race is on as Roosevelt leads the American effort to destroy it before the Kaiser's Germany can turn it into a weapon.


Fans of Jurassic Park and Steve Alten's Meg series will not want to miss this adventure filled with action, political intrigue, and characters that readers will remember long after finishing this novel.


Advance Praise for Liopleurodon: The Master of the Deep

The storyline itself was superb ---- A Jaws/Jurassic Park thriller and a bit of a spy novel all in one - and compelling. - The Historical Fiction Company


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¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*¨) ( ¸.•´


The opening scene of Chapter 1 introduces Teddy Roosevelt through a conversation with his daughter, Alice. The novel is set in early 1911.

Alice winced as the carriage rolled over a chunk of ice, disrupting her breathing and hurting her throat. She coughed and peered from behind the curtain to increase the air circulation. She blinked multiple times, frustrated and jittery from keeping still in a confined environment for so long, glancing at the brick and brimstone architecture that reflected older Queen Anne and Richardson Romanesque styles along with newer Georgian Revival ones. Massachusetts Avenue was grand by DC standards and less reflective of the patchwork look found elsewhere.

She opened her purse, eyeing her garden snake, coiled and passive, among her other items. Alice was careful not to touch the snake as she retrieved a cigarette and match. She lit the match on the carriage’s interior wall. Her eyes closed as she inhaled the smoke and relaxed. The smoke stayed within the carriage when she exhaled.

“Must you smoke in here?” Theodore asked, sitting beside her.

“I’ll do as I like, Father.”

Theodore snorted and considered opening his curtain. “Still the same girl who smoked on the White House roof. My same bunny.”

“Please don’t call me that. I’m a married woman.”

“And?” Theodore asked as he glanced at her. “That doesn’t change the fact that I’ll always be the big bear to my bunnies. Including you.”

The carriage shook again.

“Blasted ice,” Alice muttered. She squeezed her purse tighter so as to keep her snake still and calm.

“Be grateful we’ve come in the winter and the snow and ice are with us,” Theodore said. “Summer brings horrid humidity to this city. Why President Washington opted to place the capital in a swamp makes me question the great man’s judgment.”

“I just wish we could have walked. I understand we’d be mobbed, but nonetheless. I would think you would feel similarly, Father, given your near-death experience when the Pittsfield streetcar—”

“On the contrary, I relish such brushes with—”

“Ah, yes. How could I forget?”

“Why are you in a mood? Surely, this can’t just be about the weather?”

“Of course it isn’t.”

“Then what?”

“You know my feelings about Senator Lodge. He’s a snob.”

“No, he isn’t. He’s a warm boy.”

“That opinion is unique to you.”

“Then you needn’t speak to him for more than a few moments.”

“What does that mean?”

“You’ll spend time with Constance when we get there.”

“I will not! I’ll sit in on the meeting!”

“You’ll do no such thing.”

“Then why am I here? I could have spent the day with Nicholas.”

“You’re excellent at social occasions. You know that.”

“Then allow me to give you my opinion,” Alice declared as she looked her father in the eye. “I know you’ve decided to challenge the President next year.” Theodore did not respond. “I don’t believe you’ll achieve your desired outcome. You’ll upset the party bosses and poison your chance to win the nomination in less controversial circumstances in ‘16.”

“Nonsense,” Theodore said. “I was the most popular President since Lincoln. And Lincoln had the war helping him. Think of the reception we received upon my return from the African safari last summer. The acclaim.”

“And then you were held responsible for the Republican defeat in the midterms,” Alice replied. Theodore’s jaw clenched and he broke eye contact. “Your political fortunes are at a low ebb, Father.”

“What will Nicholas do?” he asked softly.

“He’ll play it safe—”

The carriage shook more violently than before. Alice gripped her purse and her seat as she briefly feared they might tip over.

“All right, back there?” James Amos, their African American valet, shouted from the driver’s seat.

“We’re fine, James!” Theodore replied. He looked to Alice, turning his head 90-degrees. His left eye was blind from a boxing match as President. “You were saying?”

“Nicholas will play it safe, like usual. Mr. Taft is his political mentor,” Alice said. “He’ll stand with him.”

“And what will you do?”

“I’ll do as I believe. Even if it costs me my marriage.”

“It would come to that?”

“He already tells me to ‘shut up’ for defending you.”

“You believe in me that much?”

“Of course I do, Father.” Alice smiled. “Besides, how could I side with the family who banned me from the White House?”

“Did you ever receive an explanation for that action?”

Alice’s grin grew wider. “They must have discovered the voodoo doll I buried of the First Lady.”


Alice smirked. Theodore sighed and thought of the estrangement between his family and the Tafts. Why hadn’t Taft, or a member of the President’s staff, greeted him upon his emergence from Khartoum in Africa? Theodore’s friends and the press did. That was just one of a series of escalating events that built awkwardness and eventually—

The carriage stopped. The curtain on Alice’s side opened after a moment.

“Ma’am?” Amos asked, offering his hand.

“Thank you, James,” she replied as she took his hand and climbed out.

“I’ll come get you in a moment, Colonel.”

“That’s quite all right!” Theodore announced. “I’m as fit as a bull moose!”

 Book Trailer

¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*¨)  ( ¸.•´

M. B. Zucker

M. B. Zucker has been interested in storytelling for as long as he can remember. He discovered his love of history at fifteen and studied Dwight Eisenhower for over ten years.


Mr. Zucker earned his B.A. at Occidental College and his J.D. at Case Western Reserve University School of Law. He lives in Virginia with his wife.


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Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Book Spotlight: Wolves of Wagria by Eric Schumacher


Three kingdoms. Two friends. Only one way to survive.

For fans of Bernard Cornwell and Conn Iggulden comes the tale of Olaf Tryggvason and his adventures in the battle-scarred kingdom of Wagria.

It is AD 972. Olaf Tryggvason and his oath-sworn protector, Torgil, are once again on the move. They have left the Rus kingdom and now travel the Baltic Sea in search of plunder and fame. But a fateful storm lands them on the Vendish coastline in a kingdom called Wagria.

There, they find themselves caught between the aggression of the Danes, the political aspirations of the Wagrian lords, and the shifting politics in Saxland. Can they survive or will they become just one more casualty of kingly ambitions? 

Find out in this harrowing sequel to the best-selling Forged by Iron and Sigurds Swords.

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Eric Schumacher

Eric Schumacher discovered his love for writing and medieval European history at a very early age, as well as authors like J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Bernard Cornwell, Jack Whyte, and Wilbur Smith. Those discoveries fueled his imagination and continue to influence the stories he tells. His first novel, Gods Hammer, was published in 2005.

 You can follow Eric Schumacher on Amazon or by joining his newsletter at

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Monday, November 7, 2022

Book Spotlight: A Shape on the Air by Julia Ibbotson


A haunting Anglo-Saxon time-slip of mystery and romance

Can echoes of the past threaten the present? They are 1500 years apart, but can they reach out to each other across the centuries? One woman faces a traumatic truth in the present day. The other is forced to marry the man she hates as the 'dark ages' unfold.

How can Dr Viv DuLac, medievalist and academic, unlock the secrets of the past? Traumatised by betrayal, she slips into 499 AD and into the body of Lady Vivianne, who is also battling treachery. Viv must uncover the mystery of the key that she unwittingly brings back with her to the present day, as echoes of the past resonate through time. But little does Viv realise just how much both their lives across the centuries will become so intertwined. And in the end, how can they help each other across the ages without changing the course of history?

For fans of Barbara Erskine, Pamela Hartshorne, Susanna Kearsley, Christina Courtenay.

Praise for A Shape on the Air:

“In the best Barbara Erskine tradition …I would highly recommend this novel” - Historical Novel Society

“Amazing …a really great book …I just couldn’t put it down” - Hazel Morgan
“Well-rounded characters and a wealth of historical research make this a real page-turner” - Amazon review

“Enthralling” - Amazon review

“Julia does an incredible job of setting up the idea of time-shift so that it’s believable and makes sense” - Amazon review

“Viv/Lady Vivianne … lovely identifiable heroine in both time periods … I love her strength and vulnerability. And Rory/Roland is simply gorgeous!” - Melissa Morgan

“gripping … a very real sense of threat and danger, an enthralling mystery … a wholly convincing romance, across both timelines” - Anne Williams

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Julia Ibbotson

Julia Ibbotson is fascinated by the medieval world and the concept of resonances across time. She sees her author brand as a historical fiction writer of romantic mysteries that are character-driven, well-paced, evocative of time and place, well-researched and uplifting page-turners. Her current series focuses on early medieval dual-time/time-slip mysteries.

Julia read English at Keele University, England, specialising in medieval language/ literature/ history, and has a PhD in socio-linguistics. After a turbulent time in Ghana, West Africa, she became a school teacher, then a university academic and researcher.

Her break as an author came soon after she joined the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme in 2015, with a three-book deal from Lume Books for a trilogy (Drumbeats) set in Ghana in the 1960s. She has also indie-published three other books, including A Shape on the Air, an Anglo-Saxon timeslip mystery, and its two sequels The Dragon Tree and The Rune Stone. Her latest, Daughter of Mercia, is the first of a new series of Anglo-Saxon dual time mystery/romances where echoes of the past resonate across the centuries.

Her books will appeal to fans of Barbara Erskine, Pamela Hartshorne, Susanna Kearsley, and Christina Courtenay. Her readers say: ‘compelling character-driven novels’, ‘a skilled story-teller’, ‘evocative and well-paced storylines’, ‘incredible writing style’, ‘intricately written’, ‘absorbing and captivating’, and ‘an absolute gem of a trilogy’.

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Friday, November 4, 2022

Spotlight on Carolyn Hughes, author of Squire’s Hazard


How do you overcome the loathing, lust and bitterness threatening you and your family’s honour?

It’s 1363, and in Steyning Castle, Sussex, Dickon de Bohun is enjoying life as a squire in the household of Earl Raoul de Fougère. Or he would be, if it weren’t for Edwin de Courtenay, who’s making his life a misery with his bullying, threatening to expose the truth about Dickon’s birth.

At home in Meonbridge for Christmas, Dickon notices how grown-up his childhood playmate, Libby Fletcher, has become since he last saw her and feels the stirrings of desire. Libby, seeing how different he is too, falls instantly in love. But as a servant to Dickon’s grandmother, Lady Margaret de Bohun, she could never be his wife.

Margery Tyler, Libby’s aunt, meeting her niece by chance, learns of her passion for young Dickon. Their conversation rekindles Margery’s long-held rancour against the de Bohuns, whom she blames for all the ills that befell her family, including her own servitude. For years she’s hidden her hunger for retribution, but she can no longer keep her hostility in check.

As the future Lord of Meonbridge, Dickon knows he must rise above de Courtenay’s loathing and intimidation, and get the better of him. And, surely, he must master his lust for Libby, so his own mother’s shocking history is not repeated? Of Margery’s bitterness, however, he has yet to learn…

Beset by the hazards these powerful and dangerous emotions bring, can young Dickon summon up the courage and resolve to overcome them?

Secrets, hatred and betrayal, but also love and courage – Squire’s Hazard, the fifth MEONBRIDGE CHRONICLE.

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The paperback is available to buy at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Waterstones.

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 Not quite as old as the Ark…

I’m so old that my first job, as a computer programmer, was a very new profession. How computers have changed since then! When I started (decades ago), a single computer filled a room and looked something like this:


Source : Steve Elliott from UK - HP system, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia

Writing programs for the computer was done on paper, and the instructions (which were all in code) were transcribed onto cards (and eventually, the cards were replaced by disks) to be fed into the machine. It took hours for the program to run, and then it printed out the results in a great long “printout” which I then had to “debug” for errors before submitting it all over again. I loved it!!


Source: ArnoldReinhold, CC BY-SA 3.0 Creative Commons

I didn’t remain a programmer but eventually found my vocation as a technical author, writing all sorts of business documents for a variety of organisations, including banks, software developers, medical instrument manufacturers, and an international hotel chain. I loved that job even more and did it until I retired! But it still very much involved computers, and over the long years of my career, I saw the machines both shrink in physical size and grow massively in power. I’ve read that the phone in your pocket now has more than 100,000 times the computer's processing power that landed men on the moon in 1969. How astonishing is that? And a pretty fun fact!

Abattoirs and submarines…

In between being a computer programmer and becoming a technical author, I had another job entirely, with nothing to do with computers. I trained to be a Careers Officer, working with young people, mostly in schools, to help them decide what job they wanted to do when they left school (and what subjects to study in preparation for it).

I only stayed in that job for a few years – somehow, “working with young people” didn’t seem to suit me. But there was one aspect of the job that suited me very well, and that was visiting potential employers. That might sound dull, but I found it absolutely fascinating. Not many jobs give you the opportunity to discover what people actually do on a dairy farm or sheep farm (I worked in rural Dorset) or what goes on in an abattoir (grim, of course, but interesting too – I wasn’t squeamish). Or give you the opportunity to visit Royal Navy ships, to find out what work young sailors do, or even more exciting, to go down inside a submarine (claustrophobic, I have to say!). And I’ve always had a fascination for factories! I used to love watching industrial processes in action – making things, sometimes on a small scale and sometimes huge. And that’s an interest I’ve retained all my life, though now my pleasure is in visiting historical workplaces: mills, old mines, and manufacturers.


 I DIDN’T “choose” to write historical fiction…

My choice to write historical fiction (as opposed to some other genre) was mostly down to chance. I’ve been writing on and off all my adult life – short stories, novels, children’s stories, and non-fiction. But, relatively late in life, I decided to study for a Masters in Creative Writing, for which I had to write a “creative piece.” I’d written a couple of contemporary women’s novels by then (neither published), and I wanted to do something different. I looked for inspiration amongst my old scribblings and found the handwritten (in pencil, in a school exercise book) draft of ten thousand words of a novel I’d begun in my twenties. It was set in fourteenth-century rural England, about peasant families' lives. The plot wasn’t up to much, nor was the writing, but I was really attracted by its period and setting. Somehow, I had a lightbulb moment, and a few days later, I had an outline for the novel that became my first Meonbridge Chronicle, Fortune’s Wheel. Having written that, I found I wanted to write more historical novels, and so here I am, five published books later (I have others in the wings awaiting publication), and I do think of myself as a Historical Novelist. And I wouldn’t have it any different…


 Poison is in everything…

Paracelsus, a sixteenth-century Swiss physician and alchemist said: “Poison is in everything, and nothing is without poison. The dosage makes it either a poison or a remedy.” And so it proves in Squire’s Hazard, where the same plant is described as effective as the means to harm a man and as the remedy to heal a cow. How I enjoy this sort of research! I knew nothing about herbal remedies or the use of plants for nefarious purposes, but I needed to find out (on behalf of one of my characters, of course) what was possible in terms of both healing and harming.  So, I investigated which plants – commonly available in the English countryside – might be used as a remedy for curing mastitis cows and might also be good for stilling a lout’s vicious, misogynist tongue. And – fun fact! – I found they could be one and the same! Belladonna that is, or deadly nightshade, was good for both and an anaesthetic called “dwale.” But, as Paracelsus said, whether it was curative or fatal depended entirely on the measure given! How intriguing…

 A spicy stew, awash with bright red sauce…

I always put food in my novels. It’s one of the ways to bring my Meonbridge folk to life, showing what they eat. However, just occasionally, the food has another purpose in the novel than mere sustenance. And, in Squire’s Hazard, where the eponymous squire, Dickon, is the target of bullying by one of his fellow squires, I was trying to think of a prank that might involve food. I knew that ordinary people in the Middle Ages ate a lot of “pottage,” a sort of vegetable stew, and, although wealthier people had pottage too, if a rather more refined version, they also had meaty stews, which might be rich and spicy. These were called brewets. And it was reading about the varieties of brewet that gave me my idea about the prank.

 As part of his role as squire, Dickon is required to serve his lord at table and, at an important dinner, he’s faced with serving a particularly tricky dish. The platter contains a “Sarcenes brewet”, a meat stew with a sauce coloured with alkanet, a herb whose roots produce a crimson dye. The dish wasn’t supposed to be wet and sloppy, but the bully had arranged for it to be badly made on purpose so that “the pieces of meat were almost awash with the garish sauce.” Poor Dickon! Why Dickon was forced to serve the bright red brewet, and what happened when he did can, of course, be discovered by reading Squire’s Hazard!


CAROLYN HUGHES has lived much of her life in Hampshire. With a first degree in Classics and English, she started working life as a computer programmer, then a very new profession. But it was technical authoring that later proved her vocation, as she wrote and edited material, some fascinating, some dull, for an array of different clients, including banks, an international hotel group, and medical instruments manufacturers.

Having written creatively for most of her adult life, it was not until her children flew the nest several years ago that writing historical fiction took centre stage, alongside gaining a Masters degree in Creative Writing from Portsmouth University and a PhD from the University of Southampton.

Squire’s Hazard is the fifth MEONBRIDGE CHRONICLE, and more stories about the folk of Meonbridge will follow.

You can connect with Carolyn through her website and on social media.

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Thursday, November 3, 2022

Free A+ Content Design Contest running through November 9, 2022

 A+ Content Design is running a contest on Facebook, which ends November 9, 2022. 

A+ Content Design Services is offering an A+ Content design package worth $20 to three authors during the company's November Authors Drive promotion event.
To enter - Comment with a link to your book and state why your book is worthy of a read.
Three lucky authors will receive a professional A+ Content design for one book of choice.
The contest ends at 12.00 GMT on November 9th, 2022.

Click HERE to participate.

For more information about A+ Content Design services,
click HERE

Book Spotlight and Excerpt: Skull’s Vengeance (Series: Curse of Clansmen and Kings, Book 4) by Linnea Tanner


A Celtic warrior queen must do the impossible—defeat her sorcerer half-brother and claim the throne. But to do so, she must learn how to strike vengeance from her father’s skull.

AS FORETOLD BY HER FATHER in a vision, Catrin has become a battle-hardened warrior after her trials in the Roman legion and gladiatorial games. She must return to Britannia and pull the cursed dagger out of the serpent's stone to fulfill her destiny. Only then can she unleash the vengeance from the ancient druids to destroy her evil half-brother, the powerful sorcerer, King Marrock. Always two steps ahead and seemingly unstoppable, Marrock can summon destructive natural forces to crush any rival trying to stop him and has charged his deadliest assassin to bring back Catrin's head.

To have the slightest chance of beating Marrock, Catrin must forge alliances with former enemies, but she needs someone she can trust. Her only option is to seek military aid from Marcellus—her secret Roman husband. They rekindle their burning passion, but he is playing a deadly game in the political firestorm of the Julio-Claudian dynasty to support Catrin's cause.

Ultimately, in order to defeat Marrock, Catrin must align herself with a dark druidess and learn how to summon forces from skulls to exact vengeance. But can she and Marcellus outmaneuver political enemies from Rome and Britannia in their quest to vanquish Marrock?

Trigger warnings:

Sex, Slave trafficking and abuse, Violence, Childbirth

Acclaim for other books in the Curse of Clansmen and Kings series:

"[An] epic tale of love, betrayal and political intrigue." —InD'tale Magazine

"The requisite fantasy elements of magic and mystery abound...Tanner also does an admirable job weaving in the politics and mythology of a bygone people." —Kirkus

"Part fantasy, part historical fiction, Linnea Tanner has woven together a wonderful tale of romance, intrigue, mystery, and legend to create an entertaining and complex story." —The International Review of Books

"[A] captivating tale of triangles; love, lust and espionage; friend, foe, and spies; barbarians, civilized Rome and spiritual-supernatural beings." —2019 Pencraft Book of the Year Award

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Skull’s Vengeance

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 Buy Links for Books from Curse of Clansmen and Kings series:

 Apollo's Raven   Dagger's Destiny   Amulet's Rapture   Skull's Vengeance

 .•*´¨) ¸.•*¨) ( ¸.•´


Calleva, Southeast Britannia, 1 November, 27 AD

Marrock threw his head back to commune with his wolves. Images projecting in his mind from various wolves showed spearmen in chariots, cavalrymen, and foot soldiers concealed in the forest—a battle tactic often used by Epaticcus to lure opposing forces into the thick trees for his fighters to butcher. Also hiding in the woods were commoners—men, women, and older children armed with pitchforks, clubs, and sickles.

The earthy smell in the air signaled an imminent rainstorm lurking overhead. Marrock knew on this day of Samhain, portals from the Otherworld would open, allowing him to summon dark forces from his three skulls. Soon, he would learn how to conjure these powers on any day he chose.

After dismounting, Marrock retrieved from the back of his horse the three skulls that were interconnected by crimson rope threaded in and out of their eye sockets. After setting the skulls on the grassy ground, he lifted his arms to the sky and cried out.

I call upon ancestral souls

To open portals to the Otherworld.

God of thunder, lightning, and storms,

Thrust your bolts at the earth’s womb,

Stir her anger and crack open her crevasses.

Goddess of blood, quakes, and war,

Wreak death, destruction, and mayhem.

For a moment, it was silent. No bird chirps. No raven screeches. No human voices. Then, suddenly, charged energy surged from the skulls into Marrock’s fingertips. Dark clouds spiraled above him. Flashes of lightning webbed across the darkening sky. A gust of roaring wind swept back his shoulder-length, auburn hair. The earth rumbled beneath his leather shoes. Then, to his dismay, the charged energy fizzled out.

A streak of panic swept through him as he tried to summon the forces of nature again from the three skulls. Suddenly, Catrin’s image flashed in his mind. Sensing her essence, he snapped his head back in shock.

How can this be? She should be dead!

A multicolored aura only he could see rose out of his father’s skull. Shaken, he warily knelt and placed his fingertips on top of his father’s skull. Sensing Catrin’s presence emitting from the bony crown, he knew then that her soul was in the skull. He shuddered at the prospect that she’d possessed their father’s skull, as Rhan had at her execution with a mute girl named Agrona. How could this be, though? Catrin had not even been there when he’d struck off their father’s head. Or had she?

Enemy war chariots charging out of the dense woods drew Marrock’s attention back to the battle. The enemy line split to form gaps, allowing the wheeled vehicles through. The spearmen in the chariots brandished their weapons, while the drivers steered the fast-moving chariots toward the wedged formation of Marrock’s forces. To counter the assault, he had to remove Catrin’s essence from the skull before he could summon the dark forces.

He recalled his mother saying that Catrin was a soul traveler who could enter the minds of other living entities. Though her physical body was solid, her soul flowed freely like a fluid.

If Catrin has this ability, so must I.

Marrock’s soul took the shape of a dragon and flowed into his father’s skull. There, he found Catrin’s soul in the shape of a raven. He expelled a fiery breath to immolate her essence, then quickly returned to his physical form to focus on the battle.

Seeing a war chariot charging at him, Marrock jumped to his feet and lifted his arms to the heavens. This time, he successfully ignited the full destructive forces of nature from the skulls. The harvested field in front of him cracked like a broken eggshell as the ground rumbled beneath him.

The snaps of wooden wheels catching and breaking in the newly formed fissures echoed across the battlefield. Chariots flipped over, propelling spearmen and drivers onto the ground. Fissures continued to crisscross across the field, all the way to the edge of the thick woods. A cacophony of screams from the opposing warriors as they stumbled and plunged into the widening crevices resonated all around. A bolt of lightning struck down enemy fighters on the far side of the field like hewn trees.

When raindrops began to pelt Marrock’s face like shards of ice, he lowered his arms to calm the forces of nature to prevent further destruction of his enemy. He would sell the survivors as slaves to the Romans.

Linnea Tanner


Award-winning author, Linnea Tanner, weaves Celtic tales of love, magical adventure, and political intrigue in Ancient Rome and Britannia. Since childhood, she has passionately read about ancient civilizations and mythology. Of particular interest are the enigmatic Celts, who were reputed as fierce warriors and mystical druids.

Linnea has extensively researched ancient and medieval history, mythology, and archaeology and has traveled to sites described within each of her books in the Curse of Clansmen and Kings series. Books released in her series include Apollo’s Raven (Book 1), Dagger’s Destiny (Book 2), Amulet’s Rapture (Book 3), and Skull’s Vengeance (Book 4).

A Colorado native, Linnea attended the University of Colorado and earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry. She lives in Fort Collins with her husband and has two children and six grandchildren.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Book Spotlight and Excerpt: Floats the Dark Shadow by Yves Fey


Young American painter Theodora Faraday struggles to become an artist in Belle Époque Paris. She’s tasted the champagne of success, illustrating poems for the Revenants, a group of poets led by her adored cousin, Averill.

When children she knows vanish mysteriously, Theo confronts Inspecteur Michel Devaux who suspects the Revenants are involved. Theo refuses to believe the killer could be a friend—could be the man she loves. Classic detection and occult revelation lead Michel and Theo through the dark underbelly of Paris, from catacombs to asylums, to the obscene ritual of a Black Mass.

Following the maze of clues they discover the murderer believes he is the reincarnation of the most evil serial killer in the history of France—Gilles de Rais. Once Joan of Arc’s lieutenant, after her death he plunged into an orgy of evil. The Church burned him at the stake for heresy, sorcery, and the depraved murder of hundreds of peasant children.

Whether deranged mind or demonic passion incite him, the killer must be found before he strikes again.

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  ¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*¨) ( ¸.•´


The Concert in the Catacombs—Floats the Dark Shadow

A thousand candles burned in the darkness of the catacombs.

A thousand flames wavered, golden lights bending and rising with the doleful ebb and flow of the music.

Repelled and fascinated, Theo watched their flickering glow caress the curved domes of the skulls. Tinted by candlelight, the naked bones took on a sepia patina like sacred reliquaries carved from amber. A shiver swept her. Nothing—not her delight in the outrageous, nor the wickedly delicious thrill of the forbidden, not even the inspiration the images would bring to her art—nothing overcame her sense of oppression. They were deep in the earth. Room after endless room of bones surrounded them.

The black hollows of the eye sockets seemed to watch the concert as attentively as the audience of chic Parisians still clothed in mortal flesh and fancy silks, still breathing the dank, stifling air of the chamber. As the last notes of Chopin’s Marche Funèbre echoed, the gathering applauded with fervent solemnity, saluting the musicians’ skill and their own daring in coming here. Elegant in their tuxedos, the orchestra lowered their instruments with a flourish and rose, first bowing to their guests, then once again to their skeletal hosts. Theo smiled and clapped with them, fighting off her apprehension.

“They call this the Empire of Death.” Averill leaned close and Theo bent to meet him. In the eerie light, the smile hovering at the corners of his mouth shifted from sweet to sinister and back again. His breath caressed her face, and she caught a hint of absinthe. The scent churned up a chaos of emotion—concern, frustration, anger, yearning.

A pang of jealousy.

How perfectly Parisian, she thought, to be jealous of a liqueur.

When had his flirtation with the green fairy become a love affair? Two months ago, four? He called absinthe his muse, but she stole as much as she gave. Under her influence, Averill’s moods grew ever more erratic and his exquisite, fantastical poems ever more bizarre.

A fierce impulse surged through Theo’s turmoil—to paint Averill as he looked now, bitter and sweet, taunting and tender. She envisioned him almost emerging from the canvas. Strands of dark hair tumbled over his eyes, pale blue flames glowing too bright within the shadows. Patches of rose madder made a fever flush on both cheeks. Her fingers twitched eager to render mustache and beard in quick, narrow strokes of lamp black touched with indigo, a frame for the quick twist of a smile that mocked the world and himself.

Theo forced a smile in response. “The Empire of Death. So you’ve said.” “Three times at least, Charron,” Paul Noret sneered from the seat on her other side. “Before, during, and after your nightly tryst with the green fairy.”

Slouched in his chair, Paul looked too much at home in this underground kingdom, like a strange insect god, half man and half praying mantis. His body was long and bony, his face cadaverous. Shadows carved crescents into his lean cheeks and scooped out circles under his eyes, which bulged slightly, and glistened. His hair was prematurely grey, the color of ashes, and aged him a decade or more. Paul was thirty-four—thirteen years older than she was, and ten years older than Averill.

“You should sip the green ambrosia, Noret, and cavort with her yourself,” Averill said.

Paul scowled. “Absinthe rots the brain.”

“Ahh...but your poetry will soar."

“Not if your twig-bound twitters are any example.”

There was a heartbeat of silence. A stinging retort sprang to Theo’s lips, but she bit it back when she felt Averill’s light pressure on her arm. He leaned across her to taunt Paul in turn. “Twitters? When people hear twitters, they pause. They smile. They listen. If they hear barking, they shut their ears—or throw shoes.”

Paul examined his scuffed boots. “These were acquired just so. They cost but a single barking couplet.”

Theo relaxed, glad the jab had been too wide of the mark to cut Averill. They were all used to Paul’s forays but always en garde. They ignored him at their peril. What seemed to be a feint might suddenly pierce the heart. They’d look down to discover their idea, their verse—or their art—mercilessly skewered. But that same deadly skill made Paul chief critic to the group of poets and musicians who had invited Theo into their midst. Since the success of Le Revenant, Paul seemed to have doubled his criticism. Was it jealousy? Paul’s harsher poems had won praise too, but not as much as Averill’s. Perhaps Paul was forestalling vanity from the proclamations of Averill as the new Rimbaud, the new Verlaine.

Absinthe had destroyed Verlaine.

Averill gestured dramatically at the skulls crowning the wide pillar of tibias and fibulas. “We have set ourselves in the Empire’s heart, in the sanctity of the Crypte de la Passion.”

“It is so perfectly decadent,” Theo murmured. The word was a magic key that opened many intriguing doors in Paris. Yet when Averill nodded yes, another part of Theo’s mind whispered rebelliously, So perfectly horrible… So horribly sad….

“Yes.” Averill gave her another conspiratorial smile as if he heard and agreed with each silent pronouncement.

 Yves Fey


Yves Fey has MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Oregon, and a BA in Pictorial Arts from UCLA. Yves began drawing as soon as she could hold a crayon and writing at twelve.  

She’s been a tie dye artist, go-go dancer, creator of ceramic beasties, writing teacher, illustrator, and has won prizes for her chocolate desserts. Her current obsession is creating perfumes inspired by her Parisian characters.

Yves lives in Albany with her mystery writer husband and their cats, Charlotte and Emily, the Flying Bronte Sisters.

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