Monday, August 31, 2015

In Heaven's Shadow by S.A. Bolich (VNBtM, excerpt, and GIVEAWAY) GFT

I have the pleasure of having a guest post from author S.A. Bolich, who answers the following question...

ELF:  What do you think is the strongest attraction about the genre(s) you like to write in?

Writer, Take Me Away!

by S. A. Bolich

I’m a geek. I freely admit it. I love history and fantasy and science fiction, and researching what sort of bristles were in a lady’s hairbrush circa 1850 (boar, thank you) may be ridiculously detail-oriented but I find it fun. And, I think, readers appreciate the effort, judging by the fiery broadsides that attend books whose authors get it wrong. “It” might be anything from the speed of orbit for one of Jupiter’s moons to the correct sort of pistol the hero would carry in 1777. For some readers, vetting the science or the history is a big and pleasurable part of reading these genres. Others simply want the experience of going somewhere else. Somewhere that’s not here. Somewhere that looks, feels, smells, and acts differently from everything and everyone we see out our mundane and modern windows.

Mine hostess here at The Reading Addict asked me what I think the strongest attraction to the genres I write in may be, and for me, as both a reader and a writer, it is this simple (not!) ability to step into a different world that is so alive you can all but smell the horse dung in the streets.

Okay, perhaps I could pick on a better smell (perhaps the somnolent, dusty-hot scent of sun-warmed pines on a summer’s day?). But you get the idea. As a true history geek (with a degree and everything), I used to yearn for time travel so I could step back into the past and see for myself what it was really like. Corsets! Privies! Fleas! Eek! Fortunately, historical fiction lets us experience life in another century without all the discomforts. Fantasy lets us wield magic of every sort, and science fiction peeks into the art of the possible somewhere Out There. The better the job the author does in building a fully rounded and believable world, the likelier it is that we, as readers, will feel like we’re a part of it, and won’t want to leave.

A lot of my favorite Civil War fiction focuses on the battlefield, but “In Heaven’s Shadow,” I found myself writing about the aftermath of battle on the unglamorous home front. Like most of my ancestors, I grew up on a farm, so Lilith is a farmer’s wife, not a grand lady. Her daily chores are drawn from my own childhood as a farmer’s kid, and extensive research into the period. I wanted to know what it was like for Lilith to manage a farm by herself when her man is off at war (and when he comes home a ghost, for that matter). For both of them, one of the most frustrating aspects of Joab’s new state of being is that he can’t just pitch in with hoe and scythe and axe to take the burden of “manly” chores off her. How they cope is sometimes poignant, sometimes funny, but always true to their circumstances.

In my opinion, that dedication to truth is the underpinning of really good genre fiction. Reality lurks in the details. I love creating plausible worlds of fantasy that have real depth beyond the action. I love working out the magic systems and their limitations and costs for the practitioners, and I adore weaving details into the scenery like that boar-bristle brush. I want my readers to experience in their hearts the passion and heartbreak of real events. I want them to feel the mothlike touch of Joab’s hand in Lilith’s and visualize the tree out the front door as an oak, not a pine. When I make up a world like Ariel in my Fate’s Arrow series, I want them to wonder at the sad and mysterious remnants of Founder tech and hear the kak-kak-kak of a circling blue vulture overhead. Such is the stuff of the worlds we escape to. I hope I’ve made mine good ones.


In Heaven's Shadow

by S.A. Bolich


Lilith Stark knows from experience that dead doesn't necessarily mean gone. Gettysburg took Joab's life, but her husband struck a bargain with Heaven to come home instead. She’s not about to turn away whatever the Yankees have left to her of their all-too-brief marriage. But when she inadvertently lets slip to the neighbors that not only Joab has come home, but one of the neighbor boys as well, she ignites a town already rubbed raw by the endless sorrows of civil war. Joab’s insistence on trying to “do” for her as though he were still alive, and Lilith's happy penchant for creating unexpected rainbows, only make things worse. A private little war between Lilith and the unrelentingly proper Reverend Fisk leads to a very public confrontation in which Lilith will either get the town to accept her--magic, ghosts, and all--or find herself locked away as a madwoman, deprived of everything that makes her life worthwhile.



She turned to where Joab stood looking so hangdog. “A week! It took you long enough to get home, Joab Stark.” She tried to make a joke out of it, but she heard a quiver in her voice and knew he would too.

He came up the steps, a long, tall ghost with broad shoulders and a face that still looked readier to laugh than frown, with the same short beard and the same unruly lock of brown hair falling over his right eye that he always had. He stopped in front of her, looking down with such regret in his face that Lilith caught her breath in dismay and reached to hold him.

He backed away. “No,” he said, very low. His voice was still the rich, warm tenor that had sung so sweet on Sundays and caressed her ear on so many nights up in that feather bed in the loft. That voice had captured her from the first time he’d smiled at an old maid too shy to poke her nose out of Pa’s cabin and said so low and quiet, “Hey there, Miss Lilith, I’m a’goin’ to come courtin’ you iffen you don’t mind.”

Oh, yes, she’d been a goner from that second on.

She stood very still, looking up at him. Folks expected ha’nts to be pale, wispy things, but Joab looked almost solid, full of colors, and only a little washy-looking. He shone faintly in the gloom, his face clear to her eyes.

“Why can’t I touch you?” she asked, aching with the wanting.

“Reckon you could if you tried, but I ain’t ready.”

“Why’d you come home, then?”

He smiled that crooked smile. “Guess I just ain’t got sense enough to go on to Heaven.” The smile faltered. “This is Heaven, Lil. Right here. I don’t want no other.”

Buy links



AUTHOR Bio and Links:

S. A. Bolich's books often open quietly—but don’t be fooled. By page 10 you may be hooked so thoroughly you’ll forget to get off at your bus stop. Her worlds are lived-in, magical, sometimes mind-bendingly exotic, always historically accurate, and inhabited by people who reach out and grab us by the throat and make us care about their problems. An historian, former military intelligence officer, and lifelong horsewoman, she brings a deep love of wild places and a degree in history to her work, creating enchanting and believable worlds with a sideways slant on reality. She writes everything from “straight” and alternate history to fantasy and science fiction, filled with characters who remain in your heart long after the book is closed. She is also an accomplished rider who helps aspiring writers get their fictional equines right through her “Horses in Fiction” series on her blog. Learn more and find the complete list of her works at

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Twitter handle: sabolichwrites

Amazon Author page

Author page, Barnes and Noble



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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Hannah and the Highlander by Sabrina York (ADULT title)

Hannah and the Highlander  
is an ADULT title
by Sabrina York
that Releases 9/1/2015

First in a brand-new series about the bold, brawny men of the Scottish Highlands--and the lovely lasses who bring them to their knees…

Highlanders are her weakness.

Hannah Dounreay has no time for suitors who only seem interested in her family's land, which she manages as well as any man. If she marries, she wants to be loved for the educated, independent woman she is. But when a strong, silent--and spectacularly handsome--Highlander saves her from a violent attack, her heart is stirred. Who is this man? And if he asks for Hannah's hand, will she be able to resist him?

Love is the most powerful weapon of all.

Alexander Lochlannach, Laird of Dunnet, has no time to lose. The Highlands are in an uproar as clans battle for land--without mercy--and Alexander can't afford to fall for the wildly attractive, strong-willed Hannah. What's more, he has a desperate secret, one that could destroy them both. But as their attraction turns into an all-consuming passion, Alexander has no choice but to prove to Hannah that he's the only man for her--body and soul…

Read an excerpt:

Egads. She wants to speak with him before the wedding…

The door opened immediately, as though she’d been standing there waiting. At the sight of her, his heart stalled and his throat tightened. She had this effect on him each and every time he saw her. God, she was so beautiful. 

Her eyes widened, as though she was surprised to see him, which befuddled him, because she’d asked him to come. Then her gaze raked him. He liked to think that look in her eye was a glimmer of appreciation. “Dunnet,” she said. “You’re . . . dressed.”

Aye. Dressed for a wedding. He couldn’t help but notice she was not.

“Lady . . . Hannah.” He bowed. “You wanted to . . . talk?”

She nodded briskly and opened the door wider, stepping back to allow him to enter. He did so and closed the door behind him. The click was deafening. It was not lost on him that he was in her bedchambers. His gaze flicked to the bed. It was slightly rumpled. 

That made him feel slightly rumpled as well.

This was not the time for his passion to rise.

It did.

“Thank you for coming,” she said, turning away to pace. “I know you are prepared to marry . . . forthwith.” He had no idea why she emphasized the word as she did. “But before we exchange our vows, I have some things that I need to say.”

He nodded, even as relief gushed through him.

She hadn’t changed her mind.

And if she had things to say, he should probably stay silent. And listen.

“You and I need to have an understanding.”

“An . . . understanding?”

“Aye.” His hope was supplanted by a hint of disappointment when she said in a very businesslike tone, “We both know this is a marriage of convenience.”

His gaze snapped to her face. Ernest though her expression was, it lacked the dreamy, romantic tinge a groom might hope for. In fact, she set her chin and shot him a very unromantic glance.

A marriage of convenience? A cold, heartless, distant union? Denial howled. Suddenly, to his surprise, he found he wanted something very different. He longed to respond, to cry out his dissent, but his throat locked.

“There is no reason to pretend this is something other than it is. I agreed to marry you because Dounreay needs your protection and you agreed to marry me for my lands. We are marrying for no other reason. Aye. I understand that. We understand that.”

Nae. We understood nothing of the sort. There was another reason he was determined to marry her, did she but realize.

He wanted her.

“Regardless, Dunnet, my wish is for a peaceful union.”

Peaceful. Aye. Peaceful was good.

“I should like for us to work together as a team. In partnership.”

Aye. He had a partnership in mind. . . .

“If I’m going to pledge myself to a man forever, I need to know that he will respect me. That he will honor my wishes. I need to know he will take my counsel into account.” She fixed Alexander with a steady gaze, as though she expected a response. So he nodded.

She was so beautiful, so earnest. So tantalizing.

He stepped closer, intent on his target.

Her eyes widened as he neared. Her hand on his chest stalled his approach and her brow wrinkled. Her gaze flicked to his mouth and her tongue peeped out, wetting her lips, igniting a flame in his belly. 

With great effort, she ripped her gaze away and frowned. “Do you agree to my terms?” she asked.

He cupped her cheek and angled her head up. Her breath caught. Her features froze as she realized his intent. “Aye,” he said. “Aye.” And then he did what he’d been thinking about for weeks. What he’d been obsessing over all day. He kissed her.

And it was glorious.

A shiver rippled over Hannah’s skin as Dunnet took her mouth. His taste, his scent, infused her. It was a light kiss, a testing foray, but it sent an unholy thrill through her and left her wanting one thing. 


She had wanted this chance to speak with him privately, to receive his assurances that their marriage would be a partnership, to set her mind at rest, and he’d done that. But if she was being truthful . . . something like this had been on her mind as well, skulking there behind her noble intentions, a roiling hunger. A curiosity. A need.

She’d kissed him before and he had turned away. She desperately needed to know if, in his heart, he had any passion for her whatsoever.

He lifted his head—way too soon—and stared down at her. “Hannah . . . ” he murmured.

Even as she attempted to rein in her disappointment at his withdrawal, his hold on her cheek tightened, his eyes narrowed, and he issued a noise, something gruff and deep, something that sent a lick of exhilaration through her.

He yanked her closer. The feel of his body against hers, rigid and unyielding, made her head spin. His fingers threaded through her hair and he held her steady as his head descended again. She sucked in a breath, quivering with anticipation.

And ah. Ah.

This kiss was different.

This wasn’t tentative in the slightest. It was a taking. A mad, starved consummation of her mouth with his, a melding of lips and tongue and need.

This was as wild as the windy squalls off the coast. As tantalizing as the fairy wisps at dusk. As scorching as the forge where razor-sharp steel was tempered and formed.

And it cut through her like a screaming wind, an enticing magic, a warm blade.

Scuttles of heat rose in her womb. Rivulets of excitement danced in her veins. His taste filled her senses, her mouth, her soul.
When he lifted his head, a glimmer danced in his eye. It was the look of a conquering hero, a savage Scotsman, a man whose hunger had been sated but ignited at the same time.

Oh heavens.

Exultation whipped through her. Her knees were weak and her body melted.

Damn her reservations.

Damn her fears.

Damn her doubts about whether or not he really wanted her.

She wanted him. And she would have him.

It was gratifying to see that he was not unaffected. His breath came heavy and hard and there was a slight tremble in his voice when he spoke. It was one word and one word only, forced out and wreathed in a growl, but it was enough.



Bold and steamy—Publisher’s Weekly

5 stars: A stunning tale from beginning to end—Love, Life and Booklust

Top Pick: Hannah and the Highlander is a wonderful love story that I can honestly and happily recommend to all—Night Owl Reviews

4 Stars: York turns her talent for sizzle to men in kilts—and the women who love them—in her newest sexy romp—RT Magazine


Untamed Highlanders Series
Hannah and the Highlander —Coming September 1st
Susana and the Scot—Coming December 29th
Lana and the Laird—Coming in 2016

Want More Highlanders by Sabrina York?

About Sabrina York
Her Royal Hotness, Sabrina York, is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of hot, humorous stories for smart and sexy readers.

Her titles range from sweet & sexy to scorching romance. 

Visit her webpage at to check out her books, excerpts and contests.

Get updates and alerts from Sabrina here: HotSheet Sign Up.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Machines of the Little People by Tegon Maus (VBB, excerpt and GIVEAWAY) GFT

Machines of the Little People
by Tegon Maus



When Ben Harris' sister passes away, her husband, Roger Keswick, is mysteriously absent from her funeral. It's not until 6 months later that Ben is pulled back in to Roger's life, only to find that he's moved on. His new wife may be called Jessica, but she's the spitting image of Ben's sister. Things escalate when Roger claims there's a factory under his house run by little people called the Katoy.



He had run to the end of the house with the garage.  There, in that corner of the building, was a small offset in the design that held six or seven medium sized bushes.  In the side wall of that corner, the opposing inspection vent.  The soil was damp here as well.

"Stand right here," Roger said, bouncing in place on the balls of his feet.

I stood were he asked.

"Feel it?" he asked expectantly.

"Feel what, Roger?"

"The machines."

My mind raced to find the right response.

"Their machines.  Feel it?  The hydraulic vibration?  They're running full bore," he said with admiration.

"I don't feel it," I answered but I wanted to.  I wanted to feel it for Roger's sake.  I wanted this to be more than just in his head.

Dressed in his business suit, he removed his jacket, throwing it to the ground.  He sprawled out, pressing his ear to the dirt.

"Listen to them.  Listen to the power.  My God, it’s exhilarating," he yelled as if speaking over the drone of some powerful, massive machine.  "Come on, Ben.  It's only dirt."

I moved to lay next to Roger, pressing my ear to the soil.

At first, all I heard was the rhythm of my breathing and that of Roger.  I held my breath breaking the pattern.  Faintly, barely audible came a steady even pulse.  I pressed my ear harder to the ground, trying to sort out what I heard.  It did have a faint, repetitive, mechanical sound.

Buy links:
Barnes & Noble
Tirgearr Publishing


AUTHOR Bio and Links:

I was raised pretty much the same as everyone else... devoted mother, strict father and all the imaginary friends I could conjure. Not that I wasn't friendly, I just wasn't "people orientated". Maybe I lived in my head way more than I should have, maybe not. I liked machines more than people, at least I did until I met my wife.

The first thing I can remember writing was for her. For the life of me I can't remember what it was about... something about dust bunnies under the bed and monsters in my closet. It must have been pretty good because she married me shortly after that. I spent a good number of years after inventing games and prototypes for a variety of ideas before I got back to writing.

It wasn't a deliberate conscious thought it was more of a stepping stone. My wife and I had joined a dream interpret group and we were encouraged to write down our dreams as they occurred. "Be as detailed as you can," we were told.

I was thrilled. If there is one thing I enjoy it's making people believe me and I like to exaggerate. Not a big exaggeration or an outright lie mine you, just a little step out of sync, just enough so you couldn't be sure if it were true or not.  When I write, I always write with the effort of "it could happen" very much in mind and nothing, I guarantee you, nothing, makes me happier.

Amazon author page



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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Saving the Children by Fran McNabb (VBB, excerpt and GIVEAWAY) GFT

by Fran McNabb



The lives of six orphans lie on the shoulders of a nurse and a wounded Special Ops soldier. . .

After losing her husband and unborn child in a car accident, Victoria Lafferty has devoted her life to helping South American children find homes in the US, but her plans are thrown into chaos by a rebellion in the country.

When his mission is compromised and he is shot and captured, Major John Dawson is kept alive so the rebel leader can “take care” of John himself for killing his brother.

Together Victory and John face the hostile jungle and the rebel leader, but will deep-seated guilt and a desire for revenge stand in the way of their life together?



The distant scream of a jaguar shattered the morning quiet of the jungle. Major John Dawson lay unmoving and imagined the beauty of the big cat stalking his prey in the last moments before the sun drove the animal into hiding.

John waited for another roar or scream from the thick underbrush—anything to help his mind escape the pain.

It didn’t come.

Finally he forced his eyelids open to face another day in captivity somewhere in the bowels of the tiny country of San Gabriel. Weak streams of light struggled through the hole in the thatched roof and fell on the dirt floor. The odor of lingering smoke and burned cornmeal sent his stomach muscles into knife-cutting contractions.

God, don’t let me vomit.

He covered his lower face with his hand then took several long deep breaths. Carefully he turned his head to the side to see how far the bucket of water sat away from him. He needed to wet his parched mouth, but getting to it meant moving, and moving meant more pain.

Bracing himself, he swallowed, lifted his elbow to begin the slide, but stopped. Talking and footsteps outside the door of his hut made him stop. His body went on alert. With a bullet still lodged somewhere in his left shoulder area and fever draining his body of every ounce of energy, there was nothing to do but wait for the makeshift door to be thrown open.

He gritted his teeth. He hated being helpless.

SAVING THE CHILDREN can be found at the following outlets.
Book is on sale for $0.99 
Saving the Children
Wild Rose Press


AUTHOR Bio and Links:

 Fran McNabb grew up along the beaches and waterways of the Gulf Coast and has used this setting in many of her novels. She and her husband live on a quiet bayou harbor and love to spend time fishing and boating with their sons and families.

Visit her at her website, blog, Twitter @FranMcNabb, Facebook.



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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Moonflower by Leigh Archer (excerpt, review and GIVEAWAY) GFT

by Leigh Archer



Sophie Kyle, takes up a position on a private game farm outside Cape Town in the hopes of paying off her student loans and adding a glowing reference to her resume. And, of course, getting the chance to indulge her passion for wildlife conservation.

Reuben Manning is a British businessman who has bought a game farm in Africa which he intends to use as a venue to entertain friends and business associates.

With all the suddenness and intensity of a bushfire, a powerful attraction ignites between the conservationist and the tycoon. But their lives are set to play out on opposite sides of the world. Sophie has only ever wanted to spend her days in the African bush, while Reuben’s life is in corporate London.

As the sensuous bond between the two grows, they must overcome obstacles to find common ground or they are doomed, despite their passion for each other, to spend the rest of their lives a continent apart.



The cabin had been transformed into a fantasy bushveld haven of browns, creams and ochre; linen, silks and woven thread.

‘How?’ she breathed, gazing around her.

‘You approve?’

‘Do I approve? It’s beautiful. But when did you do all this? We were here… four days ago. It was in a complete mess…’

‘When there’s something I want, Sophie, I stop at nothing ’til I get it.’

The thudding of Sophie’s heart told her he meant every word he said. He had spoken with utter certainty. He was standing so close to her she had felt the breath of his words against the bare skin of her shoulder. He was a phenomenon. A whirlwind. A tornado. Passing through her life with such force she wondered if she had the strength to survive the encounter.

‘It’s beautiful,’ Sophie breathed softly, feeling calm, at peace; as if she moved in the eye of the storm.

‘It’s for you, Sophie.’

The tenderness of his words made her tip backwards, towards him, knowing he would not let her fall. She felt the press of his chest against her back. She knew why he had brought her here, the reason he’d done this for her, but she wanted to hear the sound of his voice, that sent a frisson of pleasure up her spine. ‘Why?’

He touched her shoulder; ran fingertips lightly down and along her bare arms. He kissed her shoulder, his lips feather-light against her skin. ‘Because I can’t promise you anything… except this, Sophie; here and now. You deserve more, but I’m not the one to give you that. Still, I want this to be special for you…’ He paused. ‘This has to be a time apart. There’s no future in it. Do you understand that, Sophie? Do you accept my terms?’

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Leigh writes romance novels set in her native South Africa. She has always had a love affair with Africa’s wild spaces, the intensity of its people and sunsets. Her love of storytelling began as a child when she spent every spare moment playing barefoot in golden grass, watching meerkats, learning to track spoor and dreaming up heroes and heroines dynamic enough to stand out in all the beauty and drama of the African landscape.
Always in search of adventure, Leigh’s journey as a writer has taken her from journalism to communications, all the way to writing novels.




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My review:

4 stars

Moonflower by Leigh Archer is part of the ‘Untamed Safari’ series and highlights conservationist Sophie Kyle, who starts a new temporary job working for wealthy owner Reuben Manning. Sparks fly between them, but how can a young idealistic woman be a match for a captain of industry with a playboy reputation? Only by being herself and finding a way through his walls, with a little help from unexpected sources.

This contemporary romance novella provides an intriguing look at different aspects of conservation efforts, seen through the prism of a woman who is studying the balance of the animals and vegetation on a particular game farm in Africa. The inauspicious start to the relationship she has with her new boss eventually morphs into something more as she becomes more comfortable with her job, and impresses him with both her competence and her passion. There are great interludes to balance the sizzling interactions between the main characters, particularly the contributions of a mysterious elderly man, Mr. Solomon, who delivers beautiful blooms as well as pithy statements, as well as a young baboon who is determined to make his own impression. An entertaining light romance set in an exotic locale.

A copy of this title was provided to me for an honest review.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Contests and giveaways

I've been having computer issues lately, so not only am I juggling edits and reviews but I am casting imprecations at my programs and spending far too much time in forums trying to figure out things!  There are lots of wonderful contests out there, as well as lots of great selections of excerpts to seduce us into adding titles to our TBR mountains!

TRS End of Summer Bash (ends at midnight EST 8/23/15) link
(please make sure you go by and say hello to my authors Stanalei Fletcher, Mitzi Poole Bridges and Lynn Chantale!  I've only worked on Proving Ground (and the sequel, Dead Reckoning, should be out by the end of the year!) and A Perfect Getaway, but I've done other titles for all three of these lovely ladies.

LASR Reviews 8th anniversary at this link

Night Owl Reviews has an incredible number of Amazon GC's up for grabs ($1050 in total!) at the Summer Fun Scavenger Hunt at this link

Writerspace has contests galore at this link

Harlequin Junkies has giveaways daily at this link

Reviews by Crystal has frequent giveaways at this link

Coffee Time Romance always has giveaways, make sure you wander around, especially to the blogs. You can start at this link

There are plenty more out there, but, alas, I don't have time to, feel free to mention other favorite spots in the comments!

Forbidden by Cathy Clamp (guest post, excerpt and review)

I have the pleasure of having a guest post by talented and prolific author Cathy Clamp, who shares her journey...

Author Journey
Cathy Clamp 

My journey to the release of 
Forbidden, which is my 20th novel since I started, is somewhat odd. So it makes sense to tell you a little about it.

Back in the mid-1990s, I was working at a law office in Denver, Colorado. A temp employee started working there and we became friends. Cie Adams was a writer. She had been writing novels and stories her whole life. While I did a lot of writing for the law firm, I’d never thought about writing fiction (or anything else for pay.) But the more we talked, the more I realized it might be fun. I actually started in magazine articles. My first article was a retelling of a funny camping trip I took with my husband. I read up about query letters and figured out what it needed to say. I sold the story after a few tries and started busily writing other articles and sold more of them. Fiction wasn’t on my radar for another year, but once the bug bit me, I started spending all my nights and weekends writing my first novel. It was a fan fiction novel in the X-Files universe.

At the time, Cie was writing a novel about shapeshifters who lived in Boulder, Colorado—just north of Denver. It was a very fun world, and I asked if I could create some characters in the world. She let me build a story in another city and I submitted it to an electronic publisher (remember this was the 1990s, when epubs were in infancy!) An editor loved the story, but wanted it to be a book. Except it wasn’t a book. It was a short story. When she said she would buy it if it was a book, I was sold! It took some months to come up with more of a plot, and a few rewrites to get it to where the editor loved it. But she did and the publisher agreed to publish it.

Fast forward a few months. The publisher closed shop after only editing 7 chapters! Talk about my heart stopping! Fortunately, my editor came to the rescue and called some friends and talked up the book. Another publisher agreed to look and eventually offered a contract. And then folded! Good grief! The book was cursed! Publisher #3 came to the rescue. We got all the way through edits and had a cover and then . . . you guessed it, rumors of closing started to rumble through emails. But the publisher swore they would stay open and get the book to the virtual shelf.

At about the same time, while I’m getting all excited to have a real book in my hands (and inbox), Cie and I went to a book signing for our favorite author, Laurell K. Hamilton. While we sat on the floor in line waiting for the author to arrive, we chatted with the person next to us. We told her all about the book we’d written and that it would be published soon. She asked if we could print out a copy of the manuscript so she could read it. We said “Sure!” and sent it the next day, by mail.

Fast forward a few months. The rumbles at the publisher were growing and making us nervous, but we kept getting assurances everything was fine. One morning, I opened my email and found an email from Laurell Hamilton! Eep! Turns out that the charming woman in line next to us was Laurell’s personal assistant, and had insisted her boss read the book that she’d fallen in love with. Laurell proceeded to tell us that she loved the book too, but thought it needed some serious editing and we really needed to get the book to a bigger publisher. So, she “hoped we didn’t mind that she sent the book to her agent to read.” (!!!)  Um . . .wow! Sure!

Fast forward a few weeks. I get a phone call from a real New York agent, who also loved the book but wasn’t sure why she had it, since it was already being published. I said I didn’t know either and maybe it was to sell the next one in the series. The agent explained that it didn’t work that way, but if I could get out of my current contract, she could sell it very quickly to a New York house.

We really did have to think about it.We hadn’t had very good luck with the book until then, but the chance of a REAL agent and a REAL publisher was too much to pass up.

The agent was as good as her word. It wasn’t more than a few weeks that we had an offer from Tor Books. I’ve been there ever since and wouldn’t change a day of the journey. It’s been an amazing ride and has always been an inspiration to me, to never underestimate the random chance meetings in life. Sometimes, being friendly and outgoing makes all the difference. Oh, and study. I would never have made it to the point of that second book if I hadn’t listened to all the people telling me the rules of the game along the way. 

Forbidden (Luna Lake) hits the shelf just a few months after the 10th Anniversary of the release of that first book, Hunter's Moon—which will be re-released in a special edition this fall. Pick it up too and see how it all began. :)

Forbidden (Luna Lake)

Cathy Clamp
A Tor Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780765377203 / 0765377209
352 pages / $14.99 US
eBook: 9781466854604
Pub Date: August 18, 2015



Fear wasn’t something Claire Evans thought she’d ever feel again, but an all-too-familiar buzzing filled her ears while bile rose into her throat. Adrenaline raced through her veins, and her muscles flexed involuntarily, as though striking at an invisible foe. The sensations were hardwired into her from that time, long ago. But now she was just a passenger in a car in rural Washington, with no enemy that she could feel or smell. Yet she was alert and wary.

“You feel it too, don’t you? The dark tightens around your throat like a hand.” Danielle’s tremulous whisper beside Claire made her start and turn her head to look at the lovely African-American woman driving the car.

She tried to shrug it off. “I’m a Sazi … a wolf. The dark doesn’t scare me.” So why is my heart pounding like it’s going to leap out of my chest? She stared out the windshield where the bright headlights barely held the night at bay, looking for something … anything that would explain what she was feeling. Analyze the fear, Claire. Force it to reveal itself.

Danielle Williams’s laugh held just a touch of hysteria. “It’s not the dark, girlfriend. It’s what’s in the dark. Strange things live in the forest here. Stuff that even scares those that hunt at night. It’s why I’m the one driving you tonight.”

Claire turned in her seat to face Danielle more squarely. “Come again?” Before the other woman could open her mouth to respond, Claire took a deep breath through her nose and knew abruptly why fear had been tightening her throat. It wasn’t her own fear filling the air … it was Danielle’s. Underneath the thick scent of feathers that she expected to smell from an owl shifter was the unmistakable sour scent of near-panic. An owl scared of the dark? That was wrong on so many levels. There had to be something deeper at work. “What’s wrong, Danielle?”

A long pause followed. Claire let it grow until the other woman couldn’t stand the pressure anymore. “It’s my … little sister and … brother.” The words were choked out with long gulps of air between. Claire didn’t have to ask their names; though she’d just met Danielle tonight, she’d done her homework on her host family. Nineteen-year-old Danielle was the oldest biological child of John and Asylin Williams. Ten-year-old Kristy was the youngest and fourteen-year-old Darrell was in the middle. But the Williamses weren’t content to raise only their own children. They’d opened their home to more than a dozen orphans from the plague and raised them as their own. Many “after-plague siblings” of various races, families, and shifter species had come and gone through their massive, hand-built home during the last decade, making it the perfect place for Claire to stay and to gather information. Danielle snuffled and wiped her nose on her sleeve. “Kristy and Darrell have been missing for three days now. Nobody knows where they are. I left college to come home and help search.”

“Oh, man! What happened?” Three days? Why hadn’t she been told yet? Or did Wolven not know about the disappearances?

“Kristy was supposed to spend the day at a friend’s house. When dinnertime rolled around and she hadn’t come home, Mom sent Darrell to get her. When neither one made it back after another hour, Mom called Isabelle’s family. They hadn’t seen Kristy all day. Hadn’t seen Darrell either.” Danielle drummed her fingers on the steering wheel. Claire felt the speed of the car increase and began to push magical energy out in a wave in front of the car to hopefully warn any prey animals to avoid the roadway. The last thing they needed was to hit a deer and wreck the car.

Danielle kept talking, the words tumbling over themselves in a rush. “Mama should have called me that day. I would have come to help look for them. But she didn’t want to bother me. Damn it! Kristy’s only ten and Darrell’s not much older. They haven’t even shifted for the first time.” Tears glistened in the orange light from the dash. Danielle wiped them away with an angry hand before clutching the wheel again, wrapping fingers around it like talons around a snake.

Claire reached out to touch the other woman’s shoulder. “I’m so sorry, Danielle. I understand just how you feel.” In fact, she understood more than Danielle could imagine. She had once been one of the missing. Worse, to many in her hometown, she still was. It’s why she was the perfect person to send here to investigate.

I wonder if there have been other disappearances. Is that why nobody is talking to Wolven? She was young to be part of the Sazi law enforcement branch, and only a few people even knew she was active. But the agent on duty in Luna Lake didn’t seem to be sending in reports of anything abnormal … or at least, nobody admitted to getting them. She was being planted in the town by the Sazi Council to find out what was happening. Her primary task was to find out why people were missing from the official reports, even though the town leaders claimed everyone was accounted for. While it was likely just a clerical error, it could be dangerous if someone was hiding something. Thankfully, because she was bound to the Texas wolf pack, she could mentally contact her pack leaders, Adam and Cara Mueller—Wolven agents and police officers both—in a crisis. She had to work hard to make the connection work and it gave her a bad headache, but it was better than nothing.“Is there anything I can do? Once we arrive, I mean.”

Danielle put up a helpless hand. The wet scent of sorrow filled the car, smothering the sour panic. “I don’t know. Maybe. We can use every set of eyes. Maybe, as an outsider, you’ll see something the rest of us are missing.”
An outsider. It seemed strange to be considered an outsider in a town that was all Sazi. No shifter should ever be considered an outsider. That was the whole point of the encampments that had been formed after the plague: to welcome and protect Sazi of all species. Claire tried hard to project confidence into the car. The gift of empathy was still new to her and she wasn’t very good at projecting emotions yet. But the healer back in Texas had told her it could be a valuable tool for investigating once she was more skilled. She only knew she was succeeding when the hot metal scent of determination rode up over the musty damp smell of fear.

“Anything I can do,” she said firmly.

They went back to watching the dark landscape slip by in a blur while Claire struggled to keep Danielle’s fear from overwhelming her. She couldn’t afford to become an amplifier of someone else’s negativity. She tried to concentrate on the bits of roadside that were highlighted in the headlamps for brief seconds: a speed limit sign, which they were presently exceeding by at least ten; then red and yellow leaves that whisked into the air, swirling around the hood and over the roof; even a bright bit of metal in the grass, shining silver before disappearing. But it was no use—the more silence that passed, the more time she had to dwell on possibilities, and the greater the fear grew. Claire needed to take Danielle’s mind off the situation. “Tell me a little about Luna Lake. Where might the kids have spent the day if they didn’t go to their friends’?”

Danielle shrugged. “I’ve been wondering the same thing. There’s not much to the town. There’s no arcade or anything and no mall. The nearest town is Republic, but it’s too far to walk. There’s an ice cream store but that’s the first place Mama checked. S.Q.’s a sucker for little kids with wide eyes. Gives them so many free samples that they wind up sick in the morning. Of course, that means every kid in town hangs out there.” She must have realized Claire didn’t know the people in town, because she explained. “S.Q. Wrill … with a W … owns Polar Pops on Main Street. She’s a nice lady but you’d think a falcon would have more brains. I swear she’d forget her head if it wasn’t attached.”

“S.Q.? That’s her real name? Just initials?”

“It’s sure what I’d call myself if I had her given name. Everyone blends the letters and calls her Skew. Her mama should have been ashamed.” Danielle shook her head as the road slipped by. She didn’t continue until Claire prompted.
“Which is?”
“I’ll have to spell it. S-e-n-s-a-b-i-l-l-e. Her middle name is Quille, with an e at the end. I mean … really? Her mama must have been high as a kite when that poor girl was born.” She tsked, clucking her tongue like a chicken, and then sighed.
Claire struggled not to laugh out loud. Wow. Sensabille … Quille … Wrill. No kidding, poor girl. But this was all great stuff. Not only would learning about the people in Luna Lake keep Danielle occupied, but Claire would learn a ton about the town. Already the scents in the car were lightening. “Interesting. What else is there to keep kids occupied? Is there a playground?”
“Oh, sure. Back behind the school. The whole town pitched in to build it. Monkey bars, teeter-totter, swings … even a climbing wall. But they keep it fenced off so nobody uses it after school.”
Claire let out a small laugh. “Fences never kept me out when I was a kid. I’d climb over, slip under. Nothing could keep me from the swings. Made me feel like I was flying.”

The owl shifter flicked a glance her way. “Oh, swings feel nothing like flying. Trust me.”

There wasn’t anything to say to that, and Claire was grateful beyond measure she would never know. Her life would have been totally different if she’d gotten wings instead of fur. Totally, frighteningly different. She fought to keep from shuddering. “But the kids had never shifted, right? So they couldn’t just hop over the fence?”
Puleeze.” Danielle’s voice held scorn. “Sazi designed the fence. We have birds of all sorts, cats that can jump two stories high, wolves that can dig through near-solid stone. You can’t just hop over. It’s no ordinary fence. You’ll have to see it to understand.”

Danielle slowed the car, flipped on the blinker, and made a turn onto a much narrower paved road. There were no shoulders and no striping. But there was a sign, the only indication of where they were. They would arrive in Luna Lake in ten miles.

Claire asked, “Why bother to block off the playground? It’s not like the kids will get hurt. They’ll heal.” It was the long-standing saying among their kind. Nearly anything would heal. No wound was too bad. Head and heart both had to be damaged to kill.

Danielle’s voice was surprised, but the underlying scent that rode the air to Claire was haunted, filled with sorrow, fear, and pain. “Nobody heals since the plague. Where have you been? Hardly anyone heals better than full humans. We’re really cautious because we lost our healer last winter. We don’t know why she died.”

Wow. Claire struggled to wrap her mind around that. When the Sazi were attacked, nearly a decade ago now, by family members who had created a magically-charged chemical that “cured” shapeshifters and made them human again, it became a plague, devastating their kind. Exposure to the cure was like a toxin and had killed many and caused madness in others. But what would it take to kill a healer short of major injuries? “In Texas, the kids run around like wild animals. It’s a rare day someone isn’t digging cactus spines from their legs and arms, or getting treated for snake bites.” Like Luna Lake, the Tedford Compound was remote, but they had the luxury of several healers nearby and most of the pack was healthy. “Have you applied to the Council for a new healer?”

Danielle let out a snort as she turned on the wipers to knock a layer of dead bugs from the windshield. “You must have some sort of magic potion down there then. That’s not how it works up here. We’ve applied for a new healer dozens of times. I don’t think the Council even remembers we exist. We haven’t had a Councilman visit or call in years.”

Again Claire felt a moment of shock. A member of the Sazi High Council was through her town every few months. Was it really that different up here, or were the townsfolk in Luna Lake being fed a line? She couldn’t smell or sense any deception from Danielle. On first impression, it appeared she really believed that they had been set adrift by the Sazi hierarchy.
“Of course,” Danielle continued. “It’s not that different from the human government. The area struggles. So we have to be pretty self-sufficient. We’re on the only road close to town that doesn’t need repairs. You need a jeep for some of the back roads. We do the best we can with the money we have.” She paused and then sighed. “But it would be nice if we could get a doctor. We can’t take the kids to the hospital in Republic. What if they did a blood test?”
We’ll check into it. Count on it.

Claire faintly heard the voice of her pack leader, Adam Mueller, in her mind and it made her feel better to know they were there and could still hear through her ears, even though the contact made her temples throb sharply.

She knew both Adam and Cara would take action on what she observed. But Danielle … in fact, none of the people in Luna Lake could know it was being worked on. She steeled herself for the pain that made nerves scream through her skull and replied to her pack leaders the same way. Please be discreet. Otherwise, it did no good to send me here.

One word rang through her mind, bearing the distinctive Tejano accent she’d come to know from her surrogate mother. Duh.
It nearly made her laugh and Claire had to struggle not to let her amusement show in her face or scent. So she immediately concentrated on what it would feel like to have a child in the house who was injured where they couldn’t go to a human doctor, and a Sazi one was days or weeks away. “Sorry to hear about your healer. Are there a lot of elderly in town? How many kids?”
Danielle nodded. “A fair number. We just have one school in town, K through twelve. There’s about fifty students. There’s probably two hundred total Sazi in and around Luna Lake, scattered around. About half of the adults are over forty. It was bigger right after the first attack, but not everybody’s suited to life up here. The people who came from big cities wound up moving to other compounds, closer to sewer systems and grocery stores.”
Claire nodded in agreement. “Yeah, same problem at the Tedford Compound. Not everybody is up for the heat and cacti, or boiling well water to drink and wash in, or using outhouses where we can’t even put in septic systems.”

A flash of light outside the car caught Claire’s eye and she pointed out the windshield. “What in the world is that?” The green glow seemed to pulse with a life of its own. It swooped and danced in the black sky like dragon dancers at Chinese New Year. It disappeared and reappeared through the towering treetops along the road.

“Ooo!” Danielle slowed the car and moved to the side at a spot where there were fewer trees and they could see the sky. “It’s the northern lights. We don’t see them often, and they always seem to be green when they appear this far south.”

Claire had seen videos of the northern lights, but had never seen them in person. It was surreal. Once the car was fully stopped, she opened her car door, which made Danielle nervous. “We can’t stay more than a second. We really need to get to town soon.”

“A second is all I need. I just want to see it without the glass.” The image drew her, pulled her to stand up, one foot still on the floorboards of the car. The scents of the night hit her nose in a rush, adding to the frozen moment. The air was so incredibly clean. Crisp, powerful, filled with pine and apples, and with a hint of far distant snow on the wind. A variety of animal scents made her turn her head this way and that, but she never took her eyes off the dancing lights. Deer in the deep brush, birds in the trees, along with musky plant eaters she had no name for yet. Possibly elk or moose. Or maybe even bear. She’d never smelled them before.
After a few moments, she was satisfied and started to get back in the car. But movement in the darkness caught her eye. Whatever was pushing against her senses was large—as big as the car, at least. But though she tried, flaring her nostrils and inhaling deeply, she couldn’t smell a thing. It was as though the rest of her senses were lying to her. Claire hadn’t been born a Sazi; she’d become one after she’d learned to rely on senses other than her nose. And what her eyes and the prickling hairs on her neck told her was she needed to leave. Now. She slid back inside the car, grabbing her seat belt on the way down. “We need to go. Hurry!”

“Wha—” But apparently the look on Claire’s face, her scent, or maybe she’d accidentally pressed onto the owl shifter a bit of her own urgency … something was enough to silence Danielle. She slammed the gearshift down and hit the gas, hard enough that it threw Claire back against her headrest.

The car lurched sideways when something impacted the back door on the driver’s side. Danielle let out a small screech and tightened her grip on the steering wheel until her knuckles were white. The car leaped forward. Claire felt her own fingers tighten on the armrest. She kept checking the rearview mirror, but there was nothing to see in the darkness behind them. That didn’t stop her heart from racing or a low growl from building in her chest. The wolf part of her wanted to turn and fight. The human side knew that anything capable of making a moving car swerve was nothing to mess with. She glanced at the instrument panel. Their speed was sixty and increasing. The little car’s engine wasn’t very powerful and eighty was the best they could hope for. That should have been plenty fast enough to outrun any animal on the planet, and any Sazi short of a Council member.

It wasn’t.

The tires squealed against the pavement when an unseen something hit the back bumper, pushing them forward and then sideways. Danielle turned into the skid as though on an icy road and they shot forward again. They were only a few miles from town now. Most predators, human or otherwise, wouldn’t risk continuing an attack where they could be seen. “C’mon, c’mon. Move, you piece of junk.” Danielle was whispering but the words seemed loud to Claire.

The landscape whizzed by as seconds passed. The sour, bitter scent of panic burned her nose every time Claire inhaled.
Just when the lights of the town appeared around a bend, an unearthly howl filled the car and the world upended in a rush of metal, glass … and pain.

Copyright © 2015 by Cathy Clamp



My Review

4.25 out of 5 stars

Forbidden by Cathy Clamp is Book One of the ‘Luna Lake’ urban fantasy series.  The story features Claire Evans, who has traveled to Luna Lake, in Washington State, to investigate disturbing occurrences.  She is handicapped by her unfamiliarity with the rules and rituals in the town, but she has resources that they don’t know about as well.  Unfortunately, the Sazil have had significant changes, and Alek Siska is still striving to deal with the repercussions.  The last thing he expects is to not only be teamed up with Claire, but to be drawn into the complications that accompany her arrival.  There are many dangerous undercurrents in Luna Lake, and if they’re not careful, both Claire and Alek may not survive the evil that threatens all of the residents.

This inventive and fantastical tale resumes the saga of the Sazi, in a very different world.  The rich history that these shifters have shared has faded as their powers and alliances have altered and things are strangely dark in this part of the world.  This is an intense and sometimes uncomfortable tale, with disconcerting violence and evil in both the present and the past, that captures one’s attention and draws one into the complicated world that has a plethora of intriguing individuals—who are closely linked to their animal natures.  There are surprising twists to the relationships that form, and threads that link to the past and establish a framework for even more tales about these compelling beings.  It would be nice to have a little more depth to the characters and I am not thrilled with the acceptance of the way the omegas are treated, but I definitely enjoyed following the mystery as it unfolded. The world presented is intriguing, and will appeal to those who like intense and somewhat dark paranormal tales that involve strong determined individuals who are not afraid to challenge evil and fight for those weaker than they are, but be forewarned, this is definitely not a tale for the squeamish.

A copy of this story was provided to me for review.