Friday, 9 December 2016

In the Still Midwinter by Charlotte Henley Babb

Having big feet, gray hair, a mischievous twinkle in her eye, Charlotte Henley Babb loves fiction for strong women with a sassy attitude and a flair for magic.

She began writing when she could hold a piece of chalk and scribble her name--although she sometimes mistook "Chocolate" for "Charlotte" on the sign at the drug store ice cream counter. Growing up in the red mud and sweet tea Carolinas, she played with the fairies in the woods and the aliens in the back yard. She has studied the folk stories of many cultures and wonders what happened to ours.

When her third-grade teacher allowed her access to the fiction room at the school library, Charlotte discovered Louisa Alcott and Robert Heinlein, an odd marriage of the minds. These two authors have had the most influence on her desire to share her point of view with the world and to explore how the world might be made better. Her favorite authors now include Sir Terry Pratchett, Robert Aspirin, and Esther Friesner.

She has taught English in high school and junior college, written procedure manuals, and edited writing association newsletters. Her presentations at education and writing conferences on using the Internet, blogging, using social media, and writing science fiction have been well-received.

Her first novel, Maven Fairy Godmother: Through the Veil, was published in 2012 and won 2014 Sharp Writ Book Awards for Sci-fi/Fantasy and an honorable mention in the 2014 National Federation of Press Women communications contest for adult novels.

She brings to any project a number of experiences: technical writer, gasket inspector, wait staff, fabric and craft retail associate, craft artificer, secret weapon, and telephone psychic.

Currently working as a writing instructor, she writes fractured fairy tales, steampunk, and Southern fiction for people who have survived love's last kiss.

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About the Book

Five stories of redemption and relevation--families, strangers, coworkers, and even the dear departed--a constant theme and struggle for the winter holidays.

  • Queenie's Christmas - A doll helps a girl and her mom find the spirit
  • Cocoa and the Cat - It's dangerous to bring in a stray, but sometimes...
  • The Brick - Presents are about surprises, right?
  • Moon Dance - The magic comes just when the person is willing.
  • In the Still Midwinter - When the lights go out, will it be the worst party ever?

Being vulnerable helps people find the true spirit of the season despite the hype and expectations. Settle in with a cup of cocoa and enjoy.

Get it today on Amazon and Smashwords!

Keep reading for a short story from the author:

The Brick

"That's a very good choice, sir," the saleslady said. "Black velvet is always classy; it goes with everything." She rang up the sale with the hat, the pocketbook and the shoes, all the accessories that his wife liked. "That'll be $35.42. Shall I wrap it for you?"

He handed over his whole stash, everything he'd been able to save this year. She was worth every penny.

He had worked hard this year, as a man should, but this time, he'd put away his quarters, holding on to each one he got back in change, and forgoing a Coke at lunch, keeping his money to make a special Christmas for his wife. He hated getting clothes for Christmas, but she liked them, and that was important enough to brave the crowds on Christmas Eve, to go into the women's country where everything was so small and delicate, like his lovely wife.

She worked so hard—she shouldn't have to work, but there it was. They needed the money, and he'd gone too many winters working only one or two days a week. Maybe this would tell her how much he loved her, since it was so hard for him to say.

He took the presents home and snuck them into their bedroom to wrap them, one at a time. He'd also gotten a big box, so that she would have a lot of things to unwrap, a surprise, and one she would never be able to guess. She was so smart, and she always figured out what he had bought her, but not this year.

When the presents were wrapped, each in tissue paper, he added the first piece to the box, a brick. That way, the box would be heavy, and she'd never be able to guess. Then each of the other pieces--the velvet hat, black on the outside and white on the inside, framing her beautiful face. A black shiny pocketbook, not too big, not too small. Finally, the shoes, size 7, with tiny rhinestones on the buckle across the toe, shoes fit for a princess. She always bought plain, practical shoes, but he knew she'd love these.

They had not been asleep an hour when the kids woke them up, excited about Santa and their stockings, each with a toy, peppermints, nuts, an orange and a dime, down in the very toe. He'd always had money as a child, but not much of a Christmas. He wished he could give them more, but they were happy. His daughter was excited to get her first Barbie doll, and his son liked the fire truck they had laid away for him.

Finally, the children were sorted out, and he brought in the box he had hidden. He'd seen his wife glance at the presents, noting that there was nothing for her under the tree except the cheap cologne and earbobs the children had bought for her.

Her face lit up like the lights on a car lot...

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Errant Spark (Elemental Trials, Book 1 ) by Ronelle Antoinette

Ronelle Antoinette lives in western Colorado with her husband, two cats, and one dog-who-believes-he's-a-person. While she is a mother to none, she’s an auntie to what should qualify as a small army. She is an admitted caffeine addict, chocoholic, and hopeless romantic who has carried on a passionate affair with the genre of fantasy since she was old enough to read 'chapter books'.

She dabbled in creative writing for many years and even considered it as a major in college. (She ended up getting a Bachelor's degree in Counseling Psychology.) She published her first novel, Errant Spark, in July of 2016.

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About the Book

In Egalion’s Imperial court, there is splendor and luxury, but it’s also a realm of treachery and cloak-and-dagger political maneuvering that threatens to destroy the peace of two-thousand years. They say to keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but at court you can’t tell one from the other…and they change at the flip of a coin.

Twenty-five-year-old Battlemage Jex Xander has a mouth which frequently gets him in trouble, while in contrast, Enari Namelum speaks not at all. When Jex becomes the target of a faceless curse-slinger, Enari, the girl he protects, must now protect him. The discovery of ritual human sacrifices and Jex’s growing inability to keep his feelings (and hands) to himself only serve to complicate matters. Passion and romance should be the last thing on their minds, but life and the Goddess seem to have other ideas.

Errant Spark is the hush before the storm, the last deep breath before the plunge. The flint has been struck and it’s possible the world might go up in flames…because love in the Imperial court is as dangerous a thing as backroom politics and jealousy can be as much a driving force as silver and gold.

Get it today on Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble!


Keep reading for an interview with Jex Xander from Errant Spark (Elemental Trials, Book 1):

Where were you born, and what was it like growing up there?

I...*runs hand over hair self-consciously* was born in Atromore, though that isn't common knowledge and raised in Tor's Alley. That's near the wall in Rowan, Egalion's capitol city. I lived there till I was five or so--I got caught trying to pick the pocket of the High Mage--before going to Turris Arcana to study magic.

Do you have a close relationship with your family?

Despite living across the kingdom, I'm very close to my mother. I write her often and visit whenever I can. I have a younger sister, but pretty as she is, she's a bossy pest. We're close enough, I suppose.

Who is your enemy?

*makes a face* I wouldn't say I have any enemies, per say. I'm too charming for enemies...although I did manage to annoy someone enough to send a demon after me once. Once or twice, I've had a run-in with a jealous fiance or jilted lover threatening revenge, but I wouldn't consider those enemies.

Who do you most admire in your world? Why?

*clucks tongue* So many deep, serious questions! But I suppose if you insist...

High Mage Eryk Alycon is the closest I've ever had to a father and I admire him immensely. We met when I was a child--I tried to steal his coin purse--and instead of seeing me punished as most nobles would've done, he chose to take me to the Tower to study magic as his apprentice. I hope to be worthy enough to succeed him one day and hope I'll be half the High Mage he is.

Tell us a little about your world, and where you fit in?

Egalion? It's beautiful. Each province has its own unique culture and people, yet in spite of the, ah, variety, they mostly manage to live in peace. The Hendai have their horses and the Darmese sail their ships and Rowan is a mixture of them all. As a mage, I primarily reside in the Tower--Turris Arcana, as it's formally marked on the maps--and it's likely one of the most defensible locations in the kingdom. Probably because it's in Goddess-forsaken nowhere and no army wants to freeze its bollocks off in an attempt to take it.

Where is the best place to visit in your world? What places should visitors avoid?

Oooh, actually the answer to that may well be the same place! "The Harpy's Flask" is the best tavern in Egalion, though certainly not the nicest or safest I've ever seen. *shrugs* If you're looking for something a little more tame, the palace gardens are extraordinary.

What was the most embarrassing moment in your life?

Ah, well, I suppose having Enari care for me like I was a helpless infant--I *was* rather helpless, unfortunately--is definitely not the most manly and shining experience of my life. That, and that one time before the Maelstrom showed up...

What are your goals? What would you like to achieve?

Since I was a child, I've honed my magical gifts and trained under the High Mage in the hopes that I will succeed him one day.

What is the most important lesson you've learned about life?

Loyalty is worth more than any amount of coin...and if someone is offering you coin for your loyalty, you don't want it. Or them.

Have you ever been in love?

I didn't believe in love until I met Enari. Lust? Absolutely. The pleasure of a spontaneous romance? Nothing like it. And I'd never have turned down the offer of a quick tumble. But love...well, that woman made a believer out of me.

What do you own that would be hardest to part with? Why?

Ugh, Phetos. That damned horse is a stubborn, domineering creature, but I wouldn't trade him or give him up for anything in the world. (It helps that I own little else besides the beast.) He's smarter than a lot of people I know and faithful, in spite of his tendency to bite.

Name some of your bad habits.

*places hand over heart* A gentleman has no bad habits! I'm offended that you would even think to ask! Unless you consider extremely good taste in clothes and wine a bad habit. :)

Would you ever or have you ever lied? 

Lying is, unfortunately, a job requirement to run for the Shadow Lady. I *do* try to avoid telling falsehoods to those I care about, however.

If you had one day left to live, what would you do with your last day?

Enari would likely kill me in a drawn-out and inventive manner for answering that in public.