Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Bookspotlight and Snippet: The Sight of Heather by Ally Stirling


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For centuries, the fae folk and spae women of Scotland were feared – and persecuted.

 Life in the 1800s countryside, with its unforgiving climate, was both magnificent and harsh – testing cultures, beliefs and the loyalties of crofters.

The first in this series, The Sight of Heather, begins a journey of allegiance, sacrifice, and fortitude in a land of bold, resilient women.

Jessie’s ideal life spirals when she learns she is a first daughter in a biological line of ‘spaes’ endowed with unique gifts of spiritual sight and healing, aided by powerful ancestral stones.

Backed by a vindictive priest intent on charging Jessie with murder and witchcraft, the new owner of the Cruachan Manor plots to rout the spaes and destroy their beloved forest.

Despite grave warnings and family conflict, Jessie determinedly pursues her skills and powers, plunging her family and village into danger.

Resolute in uplifting her fellow women, Jessie consults her stones.

Faced with those who deem her evil, she must choose to relinquish her craft, or sacrifice herself to protect her culture and kin – and Lily, the next first daughter – the future of the spaes.

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 .•*´¨) ¸.•*¨) ( ¸.•´


In the shadow of a Munro scarred by aeons of frozen waterfalls, a glorious moon fired shards of light across a cloudless sky, through bare tree branches, and into a room where three women gripped the hands, and wiped the brow of a friend as she laboured. Their chanting pulsed within the walls, choreographing the candle flames in a shadow dance as they beseeched their spirits and guides.

The weary mother-to-be cried out to the spirit of Cailleach to bring forth the child she’d wrestled for twenty-one hours, and in the moment of birth a tidal wave of relief dumped its weight. A child wailed, women whooped, and a mother cried. Fingers and toes counted, and a kiss on each eyelid confirmed her blessings. In the moments of respite and euphoria, a screech sliced through the air. Another child demanded to be born, oblivious to the exhaustion draining the life from her mother.

Ally Stirling

Ally Stirling is a Fiction writer of Scottish origin, currently living in Cape Town with her Braveheart husband, awesome children, the happiest dog in the world, and her menacing cat (aka 'Devil Cat').

An unexpected gift resulting in a prophetic message prompted Ally to give her passion for writing the time it demanded, and in 2018 she joined Cathy Eden's Working with Words writers group. She credits the love, support, and inspiration of this group of talented women, her 'writing tribe' for encouraging her to put words on paper. She also joined (ROSA,) and while Romance is not her genre, this association has been an invaluable source of knowledge and insight into the indie publishing world.

Allowing her imagination freedom to roam resulted in various short stories, before one in particular rooted itself, evolving into her first full-length novel. This book has now become first in a series, with the second and third ready to follow, four and five in the planning stage. Who knew her characters would be so demanding.

Her love of writing fiction stems from her belief that it transports us to magical places when life gets too real.

Addicted to her friends, coffee, every colour of wine, and any type of chocolate, she describes her clan as the family and friends who have built her castle and keep her sane, without whom she'd be short on humour and drinking games.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Book Spotlight: King’s Warrior:The Owerd Chronicles by James Gault


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In 11th Century England, King William has achieved almost total domination of the Englisc and turns his attention to Scotland. Owerd, possibly the last of the Britons to be deemed ‘lord’, faces powerful enemies from all quarters. He seems to hold the king’s favour by a thread, which only serves to encourage others to try and bring him down.

Treachery abounds as he tries to juggle multiple roles and prove himself and his men worthy warriors for the Norman king. But will his lust for a woman finally prove his undoing?

Note from the author:

11th Century men and women were just as complex beings as we are today. Owerd, the main character in these chronicles is no different. In “King’s Warrior”, the third book of the series, he goes from violence (“…the air was filled with the clash of swords, angry shouts, and screams of the injured”) to compassion (“Owerd had rarely, if ever, made love as tenderly as he did with Runa that night”) in the space of a day.

Happiness, fear, disgust, anger, pride and jealousy all play their part in Owerd’s character but what comes to the fore is courage, with perhaps a helping hand from fate – “wyrd” if you will.

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James Gault

James is a semi-retired Naval Captain with an abiding interest in storytelling and history. He has written a few contemporary fiction stories and a history text but lately has concentrated on historical fiction. He lives in a small coastal town in SE Australia – which provides quite a challenge when addressing medieval England with the aid of an old-school atlas.

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Monday, September 25, 2023

Book Spotlight and Excerpt: Dancing in the Ring by Susan E. Sage


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Detroit in the 1920s proved to be the Paris of the West for many – including Catherine McIntosh and Robert Sage. These two law school students become as passionate about each other as they are their dreams.

From a poor family in the Detroit neighborhood of Corktown, Catherine learned early on, the necessity of being resilient. She becomes one of the first women in Detroit to obtain a law degree. Bob, the ‘battling barrister,’ boxes in order to pay for law school. Despite his gruff and tough-boy personality, my great uncle Bob was a friend to all:  judges, cops, and even a couple members of the notorious Purple Gang. The couple becomes legendary in legal circles for their commitment to social justice causes – as well as notorious in the local speakeasies and dancehalls.

At first, their optimism seems boundless, as it had for so many following an era of trauma and challenges that include the 1918 flu pandemic. It isn’t long before their passionate courtship turns into a tempestuous marriage. Then the Great Depression hits and their lives are forever changed.


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 .•*´¨) ¸.•*¨) ( ¸.•´


Catherine stared at an oak tree outside the classroom window without seeing the young man on the branch staring back in at her.

That humid early September afternoon, she was preoccupied with the fact that in less than a year, at age twenty-five, she’d be one of only four women in her graduating class. That is, if she passed all her remaining classes at the Detroit College of Law. She’d done well until this point, but anything could happen. Her single hope: to someday soon wear the cap and gown.

Then Catherine noticed the most handsome man she’d ever seen smiling at her from a tree branch. The oak tree was right outside the window, so she could see his brown wavy hair, the cleft in his chin, and even a dimple on his cheek. He wore a straw boater hat and tipped it her way when he caught her noticing him. She knew he was a fellow student as she’d noticed him before in the hallways, and at a few lectures.

He almost took her breath away, not because he was there on the branch, but because he was so darn handsome. “Only Valentino could compare,” she’d later confide to Molly, her sister. She fanned her face when he persisted to stare at her. Throughout college, she’d prided herself on not having been much distracted by young men, but now she’d become a silly schoolgirl.

Somehow she knew he expected her to avoid his stare. Instead, she returned it. Five minutes left of class, so why not have a little fun? It was also the last day of classes for the term.

As Catherine predicted, he found it unnerving. He imitated an ape and began scratching his underarm. At this, she nudged a friend sitting next to her. “Joan, get a load of what’s outside on the tree branch!” Enjoying even more attention, he began making loud ape-like noises. Then he almost lost his footing.

Susan Sage

Susan Sage has published three novels: Insominy (2015), A Mentor and Her Muse (2017), and Dancing in the Ring (2023). Her writing has appeared in various literary magazines and journals. She received her English degree from Wayne State University, where she was a recipient of the Tompkins Award in creative writing.

Although a Detroit native, she has resided most of her adult life in Flushing, Michigan, with her husband and two cats. 

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Sunday, September 24, 2023

Heritage Festival New Zealand Free Play Reading: Fallout – the Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior by Bronwyn Elsmore on September 30, 2023

 Free playreading


Fallout – the Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior

by Bronwyn Elsmore


  Two blasts disturb the winter night, and a ship lies submerged in Auckland Harbour. A ship dedicated to peace.

  New Zealanders remember the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior and the effect this act of international terrorism had on their lives.


30 September 2023, 2 pm

Central City Library, 44-46 Lorne Street, Auckland Central



Û David Charteris Û  Grae Minors 

Û  Valerie Rissetto  Û Donna Verey

Bronwyn Elsmore

Bronwyn Elsmore BA (Hons), MPhil, PhD has written over a wide range of genres, fiction, and non-fiction, and is the author of a large number of published works – short stories, articles, and books. She has won several short story competitions, been a winner of the Playwrights Association of New Zealand’s playwriting competition three times, and earned other writing awards. She lives in Auckland, New Zealand, where she is a full-time writer, now preferring to write fiction and plays

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Thursday, September 14, 2023

Book spotlight and excerpt: The King’s Command: For God or Country by Rosemary Hayes


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16-year-old Lidie Brunier has everything; looks, wealth, health, and a charming suitor, but there are dark clouds on the horizon. Lidie and her family are committed Huguenots, and Louis XIV has sworn to stamp out this ‘false religion’ and make France a wholly Catholic country. Gradually Lidie’s comfortable life starts to disintegrate as Huguenots are stripped of all rights, and the King sends his brutal soldiers into their homes to force them to become Catholics. Others around her break under pressure but Lidie and her family refuse to convert. With spies everywhere and the ever-present threat of violence, they struggle on. Then a shocking betrayal forces Lidie’s hand, and her only option is to try and flee the country. A decision that brings unimaginable hardship, terror, and tragedy and changes her life for ever.

‘One of the very best historical novels I have ever read’

Sandra Robinson, Huguenot Ancestry Expert


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 .•*´¨) ¸.•*¨) ( ¸.•´



The banging on the door and the shouting became ever more insistent until a maidservant opened up.

There were a group of about ten soldiers and one of them waved a piece of paper under her nose.

‘We have orders to search the place,’ he said, pushing past her.

‘You know the drill,’ he said to his soldiers. ‘Search every nook and cranny of the building. Open up every cupboard, every room and go into the outhouses and stable. They are canny these lousy Huguenots, creeping into corners to get away from us.’

The soldiers all laughed and at that moment, Isaac arrived.

‘Can I ask your business here, Sir?’ he said. His voice was calm but there was a twitch in his eye that betrayed his fury.

The soldier in charge looked him up and down.

‘Who are you?’

‘I am Doctor Verdier,’ said Isaac, stretching out his hand.

The soldier ignored Isaac’s hand. ‘So you’re the one disobeying the law?’

Isaac didn’t flinch. ‘And what law would that be, sir?’

‘Huh! Don’t play the innocent with me.’ He spat on the floor and Isaac had to stop himself reacting with disgust. ‘We know what you’re doing, doctor.

Isaac frowned. ‘I am living quietly in my own home, my friend,’ he replied evenly. His calm voice seemed to madden the soldier, particularly as some of his men had started to snigger.

‘Go!’ he yelled at them. ‘What are you waiting for? You have your orders. And don’t come back until you have found them.’

His men dispersed and he turned his attention back to Isaac. ‘We hear you’ve been teaching Huguenot students,’ he said. ‘And that is against the King’s express command.’

The soldier folded his arms, a slow smirk on his face, but Isaac’s expression did not change.

‘You will find no students here my friend but you are welcome to seek for them if you have orders to do so from the King.’

‘Huh!’ The soldier spat again, with deliberation, this time while he was looking at Isaac, and some of his slimy phlegm landed on Isaac’s arm. ‘Don’t come at me with your airs and graces, doctor, you’re just another lying Huguenot heretic.’

‘Would you like me to accompany you round my house?’ asked Isaac.

The soldier made a rude gesture and turned on his heel. He looked over his shoulder as he walked off.  ‘My job is to find these traitors,’ he said, ‘And make no mistake, we shall find them soon enough. We’ve had practice in smelling out any filthy Huguenot scum. We’ll soon winkle them out of their hiding place. And then, doctor, you’ll be in serious trouble.’

‘Search all you like,’ said Isaac, to the soldier’s retreating back. ‘You’ll find no Huguenot students here.’

As the soldier strode away to join his troops, Isaac let out a great shuddering breath and prayed that his students would not be discovered. His hands were shaking and for the first time he felt real terror at what might happen if they were. He walked out into the garden to calm himself. A wise word from Adam might soothe him, but when he stepped outside into the back garden, he found the old man sprawled on the ground, his hoe beside him, with a soldier standing over him shouting obscenities at him.  Adam had covered his ears with his hands and he was trembling. All Isaac’s pent up fury erupted.

He lunged at the soldier, pushing him away. ‘Have you no shame!’ he shouted. ‘How dare you treat a frail old man with such violence.’

The young soldier was caught unawares and had stumbled, but he rose quickly, full of bravado.

Isaac looked at him. He was hardly more than a boy.

‘What would your mother think of you, treating a defenceless old man so roughly?’

A blush rose to the boy’s cheeks and Isaac pressed his advantage.

‘I understand you have your orders,’ he said more gently. ‘But bullying the old and weak is not manly and will serve you no advantage.’

 Rosemary Hayes

Rosemary Hayes has written over fifty books for children and young adults. She writes in different genres, from edgy teenage fiction (The Mark), historical fiction (The Blue Eyed Aborigine and Forgotten Footprints), middle-grade fantasy (Loose Connections, The Stonekeeper’s Child and Break Out)  to chapter books for early readers and texts for picture books. Many of her books have won or been shortlisted for awards, and several have been translated into different languages.

Rosemary has travelled widely but now lives in South Cambridgeshire. She has a background in publishing, having worked for Cambridge University Press before setting up her own company Anglia Young Books, which she ran for some years. She has been a reader for a well-known authors’ advisory service and runs creative writing workshops for both children and adults.


Rosemary has recently turned her hand to adult fiction, and her historical novel ‘The King’s Command’ is about the terror and tragedy suffered by the French Huguenots during the reign of Louis XIV.

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Monday, September 11, 2023

Book Spotlight and Excerpt: The London Forgery A Fabiola Bennett Mystery by Heidi Eljarbo

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1973. Art historian Fabiola Bennett sees herself as a prudently observant deer who becomes a daring and even mischievous lioness if the situation calls for it. And that’s exactly what’s required when greedy criminals steal, forge, and tamper with treasured artwork. When the crooks add murder to their list of crimes, the chaos is complete.

A mysterious note is delivered anonymously at the door of the National Gallery in London, and the director immediately calls Fabiola’s office in Oslo and pleads with her to come without delay. The message is confusing, but it seems one of her favorite eighteenth-century portraits is in trouble.

Fabiola hops on the first plane and meets up with her vibrant side-kick Pippa Yates and the ever-loyal Detective Inspector Cary Green from New Scotland Yard. But she is not naïve enough to think untangling the purpose and meaning of the mysterious note will be as simple as a walk in Hyde Park. These things never are.

1750. Newly married Robert and Frances Andrews, members of the landed gentry of Suffolk, England, hire young and talented Thomas Gainsborough to paint their wedding portrait. Their desire is a lovely conversation piece showing their wealth and class, an artwork to remember them by for generations to come.

Little do they know the gifted artist portrays their personalities exactly how he perceives them, and the artistic symbolism is not as flattering as they’d hoped for. Even the looming clouds in the distance promise a troublesome future.

This is the first book in a new dual timeline series by Heidi Eljarbo—an intriguing spin-off from the much-loved Soli Hansen Mysteries.

Fans of Lucinda Riley, Rhys Bowen, Kathleen McGurl, Kate Morton, and Katherine Neville will love this cozy historical art mystery, which takes the readers back to the nostalgia of the groovy seventies and the classical Georgian era of the eighteenth century.

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.•*´¨) ¸.•*¨) ( ¸.•´


AN OLDER MAN—distinguished but a bit worn-looking—stood in Mr. Wilson’s office when Fabiola returned.

Leaning forward, Mr. Wilson asked, “What did you find out?”

She opened her mouth to answer when the older man cut in.

“Aren’t you going to introduce us, Wilson?”

The museum director wiped his forehead again. “Of course. This is Fabiola Bennett, our art history specialist. Fabiola, may I present Detective Chief Inspector Goode, head of New Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiques Unit?”

Goode leaned his head back and shook her hand. “I know your mother. A true art connoisseur extraordinaire. I’ve never met anyone as gifted or as pleasant in my entire life.”

Fabiola was used to people complimenting her mother, and Goode seemed sincere, despite his self-important tone and demeanor.

“She has always been quite remarkable when it comes to art…and wise in many other things, as well,” Goode continued, placing his folded hands on his protruding stomach. “Fabiola Bennett. Hmm. Your first name is unusual for a Norwegian, is it not?”

“It certainly is. I was the only Fabiola in my class at school,” she said with a playful smile. “My parents named me after a seventeenth-century woman they shared a special bond with.”

His face still solemn, he looked her up and down through half-closed lids. “So, now you’re here.”

“Yes, Director Wilson contacted me.”

Goode wandered around the room. “I’m not sure a woman like yourself can be of help in this matter.”

“A woman such as myself?” She concentrated on her best behavior despite a growing frustration toward the haughty, old gentleman.

He didn’t respond. Maybe he didn’t have a reason for saying what he’d said. Although she just met him, she pegged him as the type to speak just so he could hear his own voice. Fabiola’s impatience grew. At this point, only she and the criminal or criminals were aware of the fake Gainsborough. As soon as the detective chief inspector had finished establishing his position as almighty and powerful, she’d explain the situation. She crossed her arms and began to tap her foot. He just needed to hurry up.

Goode picked up a heavy paperweight from the oak desk and then replaced it. “Well, as I said, Soli Hansen Lange has always been exceptional in her knowledge of the various artists, their work, and the era they lived in. I believe she has an eidetic memory.” He stopped walking and scratched his head. “Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiques Unit was established six years ago. Only second to the Italian Carabinieri, we house the world’s most important national register of art. We’ve built a unit with experience and solid documentation on art theft. We deal with fraud and forgery, and we—”

A younger man stepped out of the shadow near the heavily draped window. Fabiola moved back a bit before recognition made her smile. How had she missed his presence?

“And we need Fabiola Bennett’s competence,” Cary said. “Sir, I promise you she’s in every way her mother’s daughter.” He strode straight to Fabiola and kissed her cheek. “Hello, Fabsi.”

“Cary.” She stood for a moment, smiling, taking in the way his eyes narrowed as he flashed that boyish, infectious grin and how his wavy, dark-blond hair fell around his ears.

Goode huffed. “Detective Inspector Green. How unprofessional. First, you arrive late to our meeting here, then this display—”

“My apologies, sir. But Mrs. Bennett and I go far back. We haven’t seen each other in quite a while.” He turned back to Fabiola. “I believe what our detective chief inspector meant to say was that with criminals threatening our country’s cultural heritage, a dedicated unit like ours is important.”

The detective chief inspector nodded and huffed again. “Quite so.”

“Well, London, being the second-largest art market in the world, needs a unit like yours,” Fabiola said. “Only New York deals with more art than you do.”

Goode put his hat on and picked up his walking cane. “I’ll let you take care of this matter, Green. Meet me in my office at five sharp with an update on this mysterious note.”

“Very well, sir.”

Goode had spent his visit conveying his importance and that of his agency, and then he’d bid them farewell before she could explain what she’d discovered. She didn’t even try to stop him from leaving. She’d much rather discuss the matter with a trusted friend.

Cary turned to Fabiola. “Mysterious note? What’s that about?”

Heidi Eljarbo

Heidi Eljarbo is the bestselling author of historical fiction and mysteries filled with courageous and good characters that are easy to love and others you don't want to go near.

Heidi grew up in a home filled with books and artwork and she never truly imagined she would do anything other than write and paint. She studied art, languages, and history, all of which have come in handy when working as an author, magazine journalist, and painter.

After living in Canada, six US states, Japan, Switzerland, and Austria, Heidi now calls Norway home. She and her husband have fifteen grandchildren—so far—in addition to a bouncy Wheaten Terrier.

Their favorite retreat is a mountain cabin, where they hike in the summertime and ski the vast, white terrain during winter.

Heidi’s favorites are family, God's beautiful nature, and the word whimsical.

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Sunday, September 3, 2023

A new release from House of Punk: PUNKS Presented by Brenda Perlin

 “Why are you still banging on about punk rock?” someone asked me recently. “That stuff’s been dead for over forty years, hasn’t it?”

Dead? Really? Well, maybe dead in the sense that a vampire is dead, i.e., it’s a creature of the night and shuns the sunshine.

But – leaving aside the fact that The Damned are still alive and performing – the strain of rebellion that characterized much of the movement is still with us. It has simply evolved in much the same way that punk itself had its roots in garage rock (and the availability of cheap guitars!). One only has to watch the news to see that the spirit of anarchy and struggle against the System continues.

So maybe it’s time to re-visit those days of stripped-down, anti-establishment music. Though, for some of us, we’re not really paying a visit to the past: a part of us never really left it to begin with.


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