Thursday, August 31, 2023
Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/9G__C-rdIP8
Excerpt Guardians by T.J. Baer © 2023
My brother Jake lay unconscious on the cave floor, his favorite denim jacket torn in three places and his cell phone a cracked mess of plastic on the ground. If we actually survived this, he was going to be pissed.
“All right, look,” I said, giving the giant snarling insect monster my serious face. “I know I don’t look like much, but you should know I am fully capable of kicking your big buggy butt straight back to where it came from, not only for hurting my brother, but for whatever unholy reign of terror you’ve got planned here.”
The monster was nine feet tall, jet-black, and scaly, with hundreds of spindly legs, like a centipede on steroids. Savage mandibles gleamed in the light from the cave mouth, and I tightened my grip on my sword hilt. And because times of stress often led me to incredible feats of word vomit, I kept talking.
“I mean, let’s face it: guys like you don’t generally show up in our world without some kind of nasty plan for world domination, so I think it’s pretty safe to say you’re up to no good. So are you gonna go peacefully, or do I have to start shoving my boot up random orifices until we find the one that hurts the most?”
The centipede monster reared back, its legs fanning out, its mandibles opening—
And then it tilted its scaly head to the side as if regarding me in puzzlement. “You speak great volumes but say very little,” it said in a thin, whistling voice.
Which, okay, was fair. I’d always had a tendency to babble, particularly when I was in imminent danger of being devoured by the Godzilla of centipedes. Generally, the centipede didn’t take the time to inform me of it though.
“I do not wish any harm upon you,” it continued, deviating even further from the Evil Monster Intent on Taking Over the Earth speech. “Nor any human. I came here only wishing to be left alone, but your companion—” It swung its head toward Jake. “—attempted to steal one of my children, at which point I was forced to defend them. I have not seriously harmed him, only caused him to lose consciousness to neutralize him as a threat.”
“He tried to steal one of your kids?” That didn’t sound like Jake.
The centipede-thing tilted its head toward the other end of the cave, where I could just make out the glittering of a number of round, pearly, head-sized spheres. Eggs? They looked like the kind of pretty, decorative objects people would pay a lot of money for, bringing them much more firmly into the realm of things Jake would totally try to steal.
I sighed and slid my sword into its sheath. The magic triggered the instant I did, and sword and sheath shrank to being a decorative golden clasp on my belt. “I apologize for my companion’s rash actions,” I said, bowing my head slightly like we were supposed to do in these situations. “If you’d allow me to remove him from here, I swear to you that he’ll never come near you or your children again.”
The centipede bowed its head too, its pincers snapping and clicking together in a way that I tried not to be too creeped out by. “That would be acceptable. I thank you, Guardian.”
I blinked. “How’d you know I’m a Guardian?”
“Well, for one thing, the sword.”
“But even had you come unarmed, I would have known. You wear your status like a cloak. It seeps from every ounce of your being, every word and action. Though you look a frail female thing, there is power in you.”
“Frail female thing,” I said in a flat voice and decided not to be offended. If the worst thing a giant centipede monster had to throw at me was sexism, I could probably count myself lucky.
“Yeah, well, guess I’d better get Jake—err, my companion—out of your hair before he wakes up and starts trying to make off with your kids again.”
I started forward, hoping the centipede monster would move out of the way, but it stayed where it was, its black eyes glittering in the dimness.
“You have shown me respect and kindness, and so I shall do something for you in return. My species have a unique ability that appears only between laying our eggs and the birth of our children.”
“Oh, yeah? What kind of ability?”
“The ability to glimpse the future. It allows us to provide extra protection to our young when they are unable to protect themselves, for instance if a young human is attempting to steal one of them.”
“For instance,” I said dryly.
“Something lurks on the horizon, Guardian. An age of darkness and danger is coming to you and those like you.”
I frowned. “To the Guardians, you mean?”
“To all beings of your world.”
“What kind of danger?”
Its legs rippled, and it dropped down onto them and made its undulating way over to the row of eggs. Its last word hissed through the cave, seeming to echo louder and louder in my ears:
I suddenly felt very, very tired. “Again?”
Friday, August 25, 2023
Drakon heaved himself through the open third-story window. His black cloak flowed about him, concealing him in shadow. His muscles quivered from the rapid ascent. Below, the clamp of boots and a muttered conversation passed beneath the window and then receded.
Another close call.
This made the fourth such encounter of the night. He lived by a rule: two close calls and he would abort a mission. Each time he ignored this simple rule, something untoward happened. His survival instincts screamed for him to turn back and return another night but time was short, and he was dangerously close to missing his deadline. The manor grounds were an ant colony of activity, and it took him longer than expected to make it this far. Seconds dripped by, increasing his chances of being discovered.
Discovery meant death.
Silently, he settled into the wooden floorboards. No groan of protest announced his entry. Crouching, Drakon pulled the cowl of his cloak lower and drifted wraith-like into the chamber. A breeze swept inward. The cool, crisp air did nothing to purify the overwhelming stench of incense hanging in the bedchamber.
A light orb floated overhead, casting the chamber in a warm yellow glow, elongating the shadows in which Drakon hid. Art canvases of all sizes hung on the stone walls, ornate furniture adorned every square inch, and a massive four-poster bed overflowing with furs stood at the chamber’s center.
Drakon curled his lip in disdain. The warden’s blatant show of wealth was in contrast to the poverty of the people he lorded over. Another warden charged with the well-being of commoners lining his pockets from the people’s labor. He hadn’t expected much humility from a noble, and even less from a mage such as the Jenna City Warden.
Drakon’s orders from the king were clear. The warden was to appear to have died of natural causes. Drakon wasn’t privy to the transgression the man committed to garner himself a spot on the king’s kill list. The reason was inconsequential. He didn’t care, nor did he mete out judgments. The Royal Council dealt with such things. He was but the gnarled hand of death employed to dole out the punishment. Drakon recalled the death and poverty he witnessed while traversing the Commoner District of the city and grimaced. He would enjoy killing this warden.
The bedchamber was empty, as Drakon knew it would be. He committed his mark’s routine to memory. The warden was middle-aged, but his habit of nightly drinking and debauchery was legendary throughout the Kingdom of Somorrah.
Drakon’s gaze searched the chamber for the warden’s favorite vice. There. A pitcher and glass sat on a table next to the bed; remnants of red wine stained the bottom of the glass. Drakon removed a vial from his cloak. A colorless, odorless liquid sloshed within its clear container. He would add one drop into the glass, and the deed would be done. He would send word of the mission’s completion to the king. Afterward, he might take an overdue leave of absence.
He moved toward the table. Laughter and shuffling footsteps from outside the closed door froze him halfway across the chamber. The doorknob turned, and the door banged open. Drakon threw himself into the shadows of a wardrobe. Sounds of merriment drifted into the room and then were muted as the door snicked shut.
The warden was early. Drakon hadn’t expected him until nearer to dawn. He cursed inwardly. He couldn’t wait in the shadows until the man passed out. The king made his instructions all too clear. The warden was to die before sunrise. Drakon gritted his teeth. He would have to improvise. He hated improvising. It reduced his chances of an undetected escape, but what other choice was there?
He pocketed the vial and pressed against the wardrobe. The warden, red-faced and inebriated, stumbled on unsteady legs toward the bed, hauling a struggling woman behind him. He was small and slender, manual labor having never sculpted the muscles of his body. Like all wardens, he was also a magical mage. The man’s diminutive physique was no indication of his power.
Alabaster skin inked with tattoos peeked from the warden’s robes, testaments of his magical aptitude. Only his face was unmarred. Each tattoo was a rune etched to guard the warden against the harmful effects of drawing the goddess’s power. Such power came with a price, and the wardens protected themselves with the tattoos.
The warden’s hair was a dirty blond, and his skin was pale but not an unearthly translucent. A mage’s hair, eyes, and skin lightened with their growth in magic. This mage wasn’t as strong as the others Drakon killed. His tongue prodded a void a molar once occupied as a reminder of past battles against magical enemies. Thank the goddess for small mercies.
A sob drew his attention to the woman the warden dragged in tow. She was waif-like. Oily black hair concealed her face, and her chestnut skin identified her as a commoner. Her threadbare dress was torn at the neck and thin enough to see through. She was probably a slave. He resigned himself to the possibility of collateral. From the look of her, death would be preferable to her current lot in life. He could give her that escape, at least.
The warden yanked the woman forward. She struggled all the more, whimpering and pleading for release. The warden cursed and slapped her hard enough to snap her head back. The blow whipped her face toward Drakon and freed it from its curtain of dirty hair.
Drakon’s eyes flared. A face smooth with youth was decorated with black and blue bruises and a split lip. Terror-filled eyes glistened with tears and, more disturbing, resignation. This was no woman as he initially believed. It was a young girl.
The warden slapped the girl again. The crack ricocheted off the walls, and she slumped dazed into the warden’s arms. Having subdued her struggles, the man dragged her to the bed and flung her across it. She curled into a tight ball and whimpered. The warden grabbed her thin ankle and yanked her toward the edge of the bed.
“Quit your yammering!” He climbed atop her, clasping her wrists in one hand. “You should be honored that I would bring a smut like you to my bed!”
Blood pounded in Drakon’s ears. Unbidden, dark memories rushed to the surface of his mind.
A slave child. Powerless. Drakon blinked and shook his head, trying to dislodge the memory.
Nausea rolled through him. His blood heated in his veins.
Hay scratching tender skin.
With effort, he forced the memories back, slamming the door on their mental prison. Yet, the rage left in their wake had Drakon darting silently from the shadows and toward the warden, who tore at the girl’s clothing, before he realized he was moving.
The warden stiffened with awareness, some part of his inebriated psyche realizing they were not alone.
Too late. Drakon’s blade slipped in the hollow at the base of the man’s skull. The body jerked. Drakon twisted, severing the spine, and yanked the dagger free. The body slumped forward.
Blood gushed from the wound, coating the bed and the startled girl beneath. He pushed the body aside and freed her.
Wide, oddly ancient eyes––much too knowing for a child—peered back at him from a tear-streaked face mottled with bruises. She sucked in a deep breath, a preamble to a scream. His hand clamped over her mouth.
“Do. Not. Scream. I won’t harm you, but you will remain silent.” He stared into her shining, unblinking eyes.
“Nod if you understand.”
She nodded slowly, and he peeled his hand away, ready to place it back. She didn’t scream but sat up and eyed him with caution. He grabbed an unsoiled coverlet from the bed and tossed it at her.
“Cover yourself and get out of here. Tell no one of what you’ve seen.”
Even as he uttered the command, he knew he was being a fool. The only way to ensure her silence was to kill her, but he couldn’t bring himself to kill an innocent. No doubt, her short life was filled with atrocities for which this night was but a culmination. Her petite frame trembled beneath the coverlet.
No. Drakon was not so far gone that he would kill a slave girl. His soul was black and withered, but he had not delivered it to the pits of Targarius. Not yet.
The girl’s throat worked. “Th–thank you.” Her voice was an unsteady whisper in the quiet chamber.
He cleared his throat. Her thanks unsettled him for reasons he didn’t want to acknowledge. He turned, focusing on the warden, and grimaced at the mess he had made. Blood soaked the bed beneath the corpse and pooled on the floor. A frozen mask of surprise rested on the man’s face. His pale-blue eyes locked on the nothingness of death. Already pale skin drained of its color as blood leaked from the body.
Drakon took in the tattooed runes on the warden’s skin. All that power and useless against a simple dagger. In the mage’s assurance in his magical superiority, he never suspected or spelled against nonmagical attacks. It was the way of nobles—arrogance above intellect.
Drakon sighed. The man’s death would never pass for natural causes. His moment of untethered emotion destroyed weeks of planning. The outburst he exhibited was out of character. His lapse of control annoyed him, but he couldn’t dwell on it. He had to plan his next steps, or they would be his last.
There was only one recourse left to him. He would remove himself from the city before the warden’s body was discovered. But before he fled, he would retrieve the other reason he was eager for this mission. He bent over the body, rummaging through the folds of the robes.
“Where is it?”
He rolled the corpse on its stomach and patted it down. He cursed. Nothing.
The warden always carried an object of power when he visited Sura City. Indeed, this mission excited Drakon for this reason. Desire to own such an object clouded his logic. In hindsight, it went to reason the warden would travel to court with additional protection. Nobles and commoners alike distrusted the king and the royal mage. The Jenna Warden would’ve been a fool not to travel with safeguards. However, the man wouldn’t carry such items in his dwelling.
He should have understood this sooner.
Drakon stood with a grunt of frustration, wiped his blade on his leathers, and returned it to its sheath. If the mission went according to plan, he would’ve had time to search the chamber. As it were, he would be leaving without his prize.
He spared a glance at the girl. Shock had yet to release her from its grasp. If the warden’s guards found her, they would sacrifice her in Drakon’s stead. He hoped she didn’t waste his gift of mercy. She would live or die by her action or inaction alone.
He sprinted to the window and glanced out. No sentries stood guard or moved across the grounds. That was good, and no one would enter the warden’s chamber until the maid arrived for the morning cleaning. Drakon would be long gone by then. As if summoned by the thought, a creak sounded from the door.
“Rainore? What the devil is taking so long? Finish with the—”
A slender man, clad in nothing more than skin and his mage tattoos, stopped mid-stride into the room. His pale-blue eyes locked on Drakon’s cloaked figure, widened, and then flicked to the body cradled in a crimson stain on the bed.
Friday, August 18, 2023
What’s your one-line pitch or teaser for the book? Grab a reader’s attention with one line.
In a sea dyed red, can trust sail against the wind of vengeance and love be in its wake?
Tell readers a little about your main character or characters?
Captain Elouise "Lou" Farrington is a force to be reckoned with on the Caviar Sea. As the youngest pirate in this treacherous expanse, she bears a fiery spirit and a thirst for revenge that rides on every wave. Her heart was scuttled by the murder of her father, setting her on a dangerous journey of vengeance against his killer. But she is not all hard edges; within her lies a sense of justice that threatens to quell her thirst for revenge. This conflict within her is exacerbated by a proposed pact with her enemy, a chance to bring about a greater good by ending the War of the Sea. Her determination is as relentless as the oceanic tides, and the choices she makes will shape her legacy in the world of piracy.
Captain Rylander "Rye" Bordeaux is the epitome of royal navy finesse and discipline. As the esteemed captain of the Isle of Cava, he has a single-minded mission to end the War of the Sea by killing the Siren Queen. Rylander views the ocean as his home and is determined to bring peace to its turbulent waves. Yet, beneath his stoic demeanor and strategic mind lies a past that haunts him and he must conquer it to reshape the future. His hopes rest heavily on the fiery and unpredictable Captain Elouise. Her siren-like allure poses a challenge to his mission, his heart, and most importantly, his faith. He is drawn into a dangerous dance of trust and deceit with her. The question remains: Can he rely on a pirate who wants his life, to save countless others? As each question is answered, another arises leaving him with his most concerning: Is he falling for the woman who believes him to be her father’s murder?
Where do you like to write? Do you have an office or writing nook?
I write in a loft that I absolutely love. One of the standout features is a beautifully crafted lighted wall tree that adds a touch of charm and coziness to the space. The twinkling lights give off a soft, enchanting glow, creating a magical atmosphere that helps get my creative juices flowing.
I have three computer screens set up, and they're like my trusty companions throughout the writing process. They provide me with ample screen space to work with, allowing me to have multiple windows open for research, writing, and editing. It's incredibly convenient and helps me stay organized and focused.
Next to my desk is a cork board. I map out all my plots with colorful sticky notes. I only take them down when I finish a book. It’s tradition.
So, that's my writing space for. It's a space where imagination comes to life, stories are woven, and the magic of writing unfolds.
What is one of your best marketing tips for other authors?
The best marketing tip I have for every author is a reader magnet, a free piece of content that an author provides, often in exchange for a reader's email address. This tool is significant in an author's marketing toolkit for several reasons:
- Building an Email List: The main purpose of a reader magnet is to build an email list. This list is a direct line of communication between the author and the readers. It can be used to send updates, share new releases, and promote other works. Having direct access to your readers is a powerful marketing tool that isn't subject to algorithm changes as social media platforms are.
- Reader Engagement: Providing a free piece of content helps to engage readers and cultivate a stronger relationship with them. It could be a short story, a novella, or a related guide, all of which serve to deepen a reader's connection with the author's work.
- Establishing a Fan Base: Giving away a high-quality piece of content for free is a great way to attract readers who might not otherwise have taken a chance on the author's work. It helps establish a fan base, especially for new authors.
- Getting Reviews: By giving away a reader magnet, authors may increase the chances of getting reviews. It's an opportunity for readers to try out their writing style and leave a review, which helps the author get social proof and credibility.
- Retaining Readers: Reader magnets aren't just for attracting new readers. They can also be used to retain existing readers by offering something new and exclusive, keeping the author's name fresh in the readers' minds.
- Upselling and Cross-Selling: Once a reader is on the author's email list, they can be marketed to directly with new releases or other books they might enjoy. This direct marketing can lead to more sales.
Overall, a reader magnet is an effective way to connect with readers, build a dedicated fan base, and increase book sales over time. It's a marketing strategy that can yield significant benefits when used correctly.
What websites or tools have you found that offer the best results?
Atticus is a powerful software tool for authors that streamlines several aspects of the book writing, formatting, and publishing process. Here are several ways Atticus can benefit an author:
- Book Formatting: Atticus provides robust formatting tools that make it easy for authors to professionally format their manuscripts for both eBooks and print versions. You can control things like font choice, line spacing, indents, and chapter headings, all within a user-friendly interface.
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The INKfluence, premier author marketing agency, is dedicated to empowering authors with the knowledge and expertise needed to thrive in the dynamic world of publishing. They help with email marketing, promotional products, crowdfunding, design, book tours/signings, direct selling and reviews. What's truly exciting is that they deliver all these advantages at a significantly lower cost than traditional agencies, ensuring you get maximum value. www.theinkfluence.com
Any advice for aspiring writers?
Stay positive. It may sound simple, but it's a mindset that can truly transform your journey as a writer. Self-doubt is like a dark cloud that tries to obscure your dreams, but don't let it. You are worthy, talented, and deserving of success.
Believe me when I say that your story needs to be heard. Your words have the power to touch hearts, ignite imaginations, and inspire change. Don't let the whispers of insecurity silence your voice. Embrace the uniqueness of your perspective and the power of your storytelling. Trust that there are readers out there waiting to connect with your words, to be moved by your experiences.
Writing can be a solitary pursuit, but you don't have to face it alone. Seek out connections and support within the writing community. Join writer groups, attend events, and engage with fellow writers online. Surround yourself with kindred spirits who understand the challenges and triumphs of the creative journey. Share your struggles, seek advice, and offer support in return. Remember, you are not alone in this.
Our mouths met once again, hungry and desperate, as I lifted her into my arms. Her chemise rose and bunched in between us. My palms cupped her exposed thighs, urging them to encircle my waist. I walked us backward to the bed, never breaking our kiss, and slowly lowered her down, careful to bear my weight against my forearm. I savored the softness of her lips, the warmth of her breath mingling with mine, as her fingers wove into my hair. Pleasure and pain radiated through my scalp as she pulled the ends with her iron grip, her moans urging me on. With my free hand, I explored her, tracing the lines of her neck, the softness of her breasts. Her body arched in response, a silent plea for more.
I continued my journey, my hand tracing the curve of her hip, slipping beneath her knee, and wrapping her leg around me once more. The connection between us grew stronger, an unspoken understanding that we were meant to be entwined, a meeting of souls. And then, with a surge of anticipation, I pressed into her, feeling her heat and the electric pulse of our bodies against one another.
She pulled back, her eyes locking onto mine, reflecting a hunger and longing that mirrored my own. A mischievous smile played upon her lips as her fingers toyed with the button on my trousers. But before she undid it, I heard a noise. Footsteps.
“It’s probably a good idea to tell you both I’m in the room.” Smitter’s voice sounded somewhere behind me, way too close to the bed, to us.
I jumped backward, lost my balance, and stumbled to the floor. My rear landed hard. Lou swathed herself in a wad of sheets.
“I had hoped you’d come up for air, but there’s really no good way to interrupt.” He waved in between us.
“I’m going to kill you,” I growled from the floor. Out of all the times my uncle had popped in and out of a room, this had to be the most invasive and humiliating.
“Why would you …? I can’t— Don’t you ever do that again,” Lou shouted, horrified. Her hands balled around the sheets. Flushed like a sunburned noble, she volleyed her gaze between me, half clothed on the floor, and Smitter. Her knotted hair stuck up on top of her head.
“Yes, I realize it’s not great timing, but the two of you need your rest. We drop anchor tomorrow on the perimeter of Anthemusa. The men have already been moved to the soundproof rooms. And we need to strategize how you’ll slay the Siren Queen, now that our first plan is no longer viable.” Smitter’s concerned brown eyes found mine. “Also, your aunt said this isn’t the right time for”—he swirled a finger in our general direction—“this.”
Lou’s brows contorted. “What? Who is your aunt?” She gaped at me.I waved Lou off. Aunt Artemis, the goddess of childbirth, would know when Lou should abstain, but I wasn’t about to have that conversation. I bent my knees, resting my elbows on my thighs, and rubbed my temples. My family had truly outdone themselves. Not a single boundary nor a clue as to how their incessant involvement could be a nuisance.
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Thursday, August 17, 2023
Wednesday, July 19, 2023
Author Interview- Spectral Paranormal Investigations by S. Peters-Davis #ParanormalSuspense #ParanormalRomance
Bri’s point of view
“We’re fine but a bit rattled.” Kyle glanced at me and then back at his father. “Sorry for the late visit, but I wanted you to hear what happened firsthand. Let’s sit at the kitchen table.” Kyle grabbed my hand and pulled me to a chair.
Miles shook his head as he pulled off his outside gear and settled into a chair across from Kyle and me. “I had no idea the weather would turn into a snowstorm, more like a blizzard. It took some time for you to get back here, didn’t it?” Without waiting for an answer, he continued,
“Sorry about that. Glad you made it without incident.”
“Well, about that…” Kyle nodded toward me. “Tell Dad everything.”
I did, not leaving out the woman in the window or the scary-looking man in the mansion doorway, or how the appearance of the building went back in time to brand new. Nor did I skip describing the sign I saw that disappeared or the distance we’d driven when we saw the last two women and how something must be keeping them stuck there.
“Wow, I had no idea that kind of history was attached to the old mansion. It makes me think of the bordello stories my grandparents shared. Turned out more of a horror story.” Miles stared at me. “Did you open doors to any of the rooms upstairs?”
“None. The vibe came across as pure evil.” A chill zipped up my spine like a sawblade, making me shiver, and my eyes slammed shut. Everything went dark.
Then suddenly, I popped back to the mansion, reliving each moment there. Only this time, my trip ended with me standing in front of the black-eyed man at the door. His arms reached toward me. My paralyzed body couldn’t move as he grabbed my shoulders with stabbing force. I said, “I have no fear,” repeating the mantra. His mouth stretched open, long and wide, and his pointed teeth lengthened. The familiar stench coated my face, the same as my earlier visit. Then I said, “I am filled with love and light; the Divine is my shield.” Before I could repeat the mantra, his mouth closed, and he vanished into a cloud of black smoke.
Voices called my name, echoing inside my brain until I forced my eyes open to Kyle’s handsome face. His warm hands released each side of my head.
“What happened to you? It’s like you passed out in the chair, then after a bit, you’re repeating a mantra. Dad and I hollered your name, but you couldn’t hear us.” Kyle studied my face. “You did pass out, didn’t you?”
“I’ve never experienced anything like what just happened. I’m not sure how it happened, but I returned to the mansion and got a good picture of that man’s appearance. I believe his clothing dates back to that of the 1885 plaque. That’s a starting point for research of when the place was built and who owned it.” My heart beat like a mountain of drums in my chest. “Some horrific trauma must have happened to that man to make him so vile. He wanted to hurt me, maybe even kill me.”