Tuesday, November 21, 2023

The Sea's Edge by Garth Pettersen (Spotlight, excerpt, review, and GIVEAWAY) GFT

The Sea’s Edge


Garth Pettersen




GENRE: Historical Fiction






In 1030 C.E., Cnute, king of England, Denmark, and Norway, sends Harald, his middle son, to the Kingdom of Dublin to meet with his Norse-Irish allies. Harald’s mission is to coordinate an invasion of the northern Welsh kingdom of Gwynedd, to replace King Rhydderch who is growing too powerful on England’s borders. Harald is reluctant to be involved in affairs of state, but agrees to go, even though his beloved wife, Selia, is unwell. Harald tells Selia he will not have to take part in the fighting.


While she waits for Harald to return, Selia and her friend Gudrun befriend a young and attractive gleeman (poet-minstrel). When the gleeman is accused of a crime, Selia seeks witnesses in his defense.


Harald becomes involved in a conflict with Dublin’s neighbor, and to appease the king of Dublin, he commits to leading their combined forces in the attack on Wales. The plan is to replace King Rhydderch with Iago, the weaker King of Anglesey. The more Harald learns of these monarchs, the more his allegiance leans toward the man he has been sent to kill.


Will Harald unseat a strong and just ruler to carry out his father/king’s commands, or will he tread a more righteous road, which will destroy the life he and Selia have built in England?






The rain beat upon the thatch of Gwyn and Gudrun’s new hall, running off in rivulets that wet-tapped the ground in a thousand places on each side. The evening fire in the hall’s center warmed the occupants where they sat upon benches finishing the evening meal. The woodsmoke rose just well enough to find the smoke hole in the roof. The tang of the smoke was as natural as to them as the smell of the brook trout caught that day. This night all savoured barley-bread hearthcakes and a hearty pottage to which the fish chunks had been added. With Gudrun, Meleri, Selia, and their guest, three hirelings and their small families shared the meal. Two older children sat with Meleri. The housecarls Gunnar and Geir joined the gathering, while Sture acted as wardmann, watching through a watery curtain that dripped relentlessly from the roof of an out-building.


“Tell me, Trygve,” Selia said, scooping the pottage with her chunk of hearthcake, “why are you known as Trygve det Kostbar, ‘Trygva the Precious’?”


The ale-scop finished drinking from the horn of ale that was going round and passed it to another. “It is not always the best names that attach themselves. Whether it was originally a jest, I know not, but where I grew up in Jórvik, there was more than one Trygve. They say I was an attractive and well-behaved child and folk called me “Precious.”

“Not because of self-love?” Selia shot a knowing glance to Gudrun, who stifled a laugh.

“I...” Trygve began to speak but probably decided against defending himself. “No, I think not.”

“And what were the other Trygves called?” Gudrun asked with a barely hidden smile.

“Trygve Bent Nose,” Selia suggested.

“Trygve Small Balls?” said Gudrun.

“Trygve Cat Whiskers?” Selia added. By now the women laughed with abandon and even the children joined in.

“Trygve Dog Shit?” said the young boy, Cerdic.

To his credit, Trygve the Precious laughed along with everyone.

The jibing continued until everyone’s wits became stale and the names less clever.

“Well, Trygve,” said Gudrun. “It is a wise man who can laugh when the jest targets him,”

“An ale-scop would soon be unwelcome if he took offence at every fire he shared.”



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AUTHOR Bio and Links

Garth Pettersen is a Canadian writer living in the Fraser Valley near Vancouver, BC. When he's not writing, he is riding horses or working on his acreage. Garth's short stories have appeared in a number of anthologies and in journals such as Blank Spaces, The Spadina Literary Review, and The Opening Line Literary 'Zine. His story, River's Rising, was awarded an Honourable Mention for the Short Story America 2017 Prize, and his fantasy novella River Born, was one of two runners-up for the Windsor Editions (UK) Short Fiction Prize. Garth Pettersen's historical fiction series, The Atheling Chronicles is published by Tirgearr Publishing and books one, two, and three are available at most online outlets (The Swan's Road, The Dane Law, and The Cold Hearth). The fourth book, The Sea’s Edge, will be released in November, 2023.







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My review:


4.5 stars

“The Sea’s Edge” by Garth Pettersen is the fourth book in ‘The Atheling Chronicles’ series and provides a vivid picture of the harshness and struggles between the various kingdoms that were the precursor to modern-day England and Wales. Combining authenticity and a compelling story, the story gives insight into the character of Harald, son of King Cnute, as he faces multiple challenges while acting as his father’s emissary yet remains true to himself.

There is an extensive list of words and characters at the beginning of the story to help immerse oneself in the culture and language of this era, and the multiple threads of the tale give an in-depth picture of life during this time period.

This is not a story I would normally have read, but I am impressed at the author’s ability to make a complex and intricate history come alive. Although I have not read the other stories in this series, I had no problem becoming immersed in the story, and I love that the reader is given a chance to see the implications and difficulties in juggling the realities of survival with the idealism of beliefs. Those who are squeamish should be warned that there is a fair degree of violence and death, although nothing graphic. A story well worth reading if one has any interest in learning about the cultures and lifestyles of this time period.

A copy of this story was provided for review

Thursday, November 16, 2023

If the Sun Spares Us by Brenda Marie Smith (Spotlight, excerpt, review, and GIVEAWAY) GFT

If the Sun Spares Us


Brenda Marie Smith



GENRE:  Post-apocalyptic thriller 





Two years ago, a solar pulse destroyed modern life. Bea Crenshaw organized her starving, suburban neighbors into a farming community. But now Bea’s gone, and her grandchildren must carry her legacy forward.

In the post-apocalyptic pressure cooker of Austin, Texas, 19-year-old Keno and his younger cousins struggle to ensure their community’s survival even as they’re forced to relocate to safer grounds. Northern Lights that don’t belong this far south grow increasingly intense, making Keno fear what harm the sun will cause next.

Even worse, a marauding militia called the Raiders is closing in, led by a deranged woman who preys on teenage boys. Despite Keno’s debilitating flashbacks from a firefight, he and his wife have a new baby to protect. Though Bea is dead, her spirit desperately searches for ways to shield her grandkids. When Raiders target two neighborhood members, the only hope lies in the community’s strength, Keno’s ingenuity, and the family’s fierce love for one another.






In the next second, thick neon bands of green light shoot into the sky like they’re spewing straight out of the earth at the horizon, the aurora pulsing and soaring hundreds of feet into the air toward the stratosphere. This is nothing like the tame Northern Lights we’ve had off and on over the past year, but crazy-bright and thick and enormous. None of it belongs in Texas. I stare at the lights, getting dizzy from their movement and intensity.

The guys out on the street whistle and shout… I close my eyes to get my bearings.

Residual streaks of light burn my eyeballs and flash across my eyelids, then mutate into the recurring, overly-vivid memories I can’t shake: flaming, screaming boys, falling fiery trees, bursting Molotov cocktails, strafing assault rifles—a hand slaps across my mouth and covers my nose, and Richie’s behind me, yanking me to the ground, hissing, “Shhh! Shhh! Don’t scream.”

“The End of Days is upon us, and we’ve got work to do!” shouts the woman from the street. “Head back north.” The feet start tramping around. “Jonesie, north’s the other way.”

Richie’s pressing so hard on my mouth and nose he’s gonna suffocate me. My tears run over his hand. Flaming bodies still flash before my eyes while green lights burn in the sky overhead…

I grab his hand to yank it off, but he presses harder. I panic. Dude’s gonna kill me.


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AUTHOR Bio and Links:



BRENDA MARIE SMITH is attracted to stories where everyday characters transcend their limitations to find their inner heroism. She lived off the grid for years in a farming collective where her sons were delivered by midwives. A lifelong community activist, Brenda has managed student co-op housing, produced concerts, and raised a small herd of boys. She and her husband live in Kyle, Texas. They have more grown kids and grandkids than they can count.





Twitter: @bsmithnovelist





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My review:

4 stars


"If the Sun Spares Us" is a post-apocalyptic story that is compelling and inspirational, reminding us that we can have hidden strengths that only arise when circumstances force us to access them. The dynamics between various members of the communities are a sobering comment on what happens when life is stripped down to the challenges of survival and learning to work together. It would be nice to have a little more depth to some of the secondary characters, and I think that missing some of the backstory makes some of the interactions between characters a bit more difficult to appreciate, but the story is intriguing nonetheless. I like the mystical element of the grandmother’s connection with young Mazie, and I’m rooting for the continued survival of this resourceful family.


A copy of this title was provided for review

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Breaking the BFF Pact by Gabbi Grey, Sofia Aves, Keighley Bradford, et al. curated by the New Romance Cafe (Breast Cancer Charity Anthology)


Breaking the BFF Pact
A Best Friend's Brother Romance Collection
(Romance Café Collection Book 26)
ADULT titles




We all know the rule – Do not lust over your best friend’s sibling. But what happens when you break all the rules? Will Breaking the BFF Pact get you a happily ever after? Or will you lose it all?

Read titillating stories from USA Today best-selling and award-winning romance authors in a spicy Best Friend’s Sibling collection curated by The New Romance Cafe, with ALL proceeds going to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Add to Goodreads


Keighley Bradford
Serafina Jax
Guinevere Jordan
A.R. Bell
Michelle Moncrieff
Katina J. Rose
Melanie Greene
Hannah McKee
Chelle Pimblott
Jewelz Baxter
Bethany Monaco Smith
Chele MacCabe
Kat Long
Jenna Daring
Noa Camhi & Lashe’ Lacroix
Heather Scarlett
Sofia Aves
Wynter Ryan
Sarah Stein
Harper Michaels
Niki Trento
Tasha Blythe
Gabbi Grey

The anthology will only be available for a limited time.




Universal Link

Amazon US




Gabbi Grey



I’ve had a crush on my best friend Nita’s brother for fifteen years. She's made it clear she doesn’t want me hooking up with him, and he's never shown any interest. Until the night we wind up in the pool alone together and then everything changes. Is he serious about his interest in me, or will he want to forget in the morning? Have I ruined everything with my best friend for one meaningless night?



My life is perfect until the moment I realize I’m attracted to my younger sister’s best friend. Now, my eyes are open, and my need to get Tanner into my bed is impossible to resist. But with my best friend warning me off and my sister giving me the evil eye, I'm having second thoughts. Are my feelings for Tanner serious enough to lead to forever?


This is a 7k gay, best friend’s brother’s romance short story with an interfering best friend, a bossy sister, and the possibility of love becoming realized.


Exclusive Excerpt (with offensive language)





Sometimes, love comes on slowly. Gradually. Like a summer rain.

Other times, it slams you like a baseball to your nuts.

Yeah, that was how it happened to me.

With Kade Nelson, my best friend Nita’s older brother.

Nita and I were twelve years old, and we sat in the stands at the field behind Mission City Collegiate. Our football team was playing the team from Abbotsford—and beating them badly.

Cameron, Kade’s best friend, was the quarterback. Kade was the kicker. There might be a different name for it, but all I knew was he came out and kicked the ball. He was lining up a shot when some guy from the opposing team yelled fag.

Kade missed the kick.

Nita stood and started yelling at the ref.

Cameron launched himself from the sidelines at the other player.

Kade’s coach ran onto the field.

The two teams started fighting.

I cowered. I knew. I knew what that word meant. I knew I was a fag. That I liked boys and wasn’t interested in girls. What I hadn’t known until that moment was that Kade was gay. And, apparently, not just gay, but that he’d told other people.

Nita didn’t appear surprised. She was just plain angry. Now she yelled at the top of her lungs.

One kid near us jeered, and she turned on him.

Wisely, he decided now was the perfect time to beat a hasty retreat.

Within a few minutes, the mayhem on the field ceased.

The boy, the one who’d yelled the slur, was sent packing.

After a few minutes, the play was reset.

Kade kicked the most amazing field goal.

My heart constricted, and I saw my best friend’s brother in a whole new light. My life was never the same.

Monday, November 6, 2023

Great Big Ocean Sky by Kelly Byrd (VBT, guest post, excerpt, and GIVEAWAY) GFT


I'm delighted to share a guest post by Kelly Byrd, who explains about...

Writing With a Child’s Heart


Kelly Byrd 

Writing is such a part of my personality, history, and persona I honestly don’t know what I would do without it. Stories and characters have crawled around my mind since I was young. My mother, with the best of intentions, asked the pediatrician if my army of imaginary friends was normal or not. He told her that I was a child with a vivid imagination. Which, as all three hundred of my imaginary friends could tell you, was very true.


When I was young, I had binders full of scribbled stories shoved under my bed. Stories about my American Girl dolls, stuffed teddy bears, my little brother’s obsession with hot dogs, soccer practice, and everything else that was important to me at the time. I don’t think I knew then that I wanted to write books for a living. Far from it—my preferred careers ranged from teacher to microbiologist to country music star. (All of those things fell through.)


I’m telling you all of this, dear reader, because I truly believe that we have to make an effort to hold on to the passions that we were drawn to as children. We so often see expression, art, dance—whatever you choose—as child’s play. As we get older, we forget that creative part of ourselves because life is busy and full of demands, and something has to go. We put down our passions in search of success or family or whatever the case may be, and I think this is a tragic loss.


My Far From Home series, including City of Lights and Great Big Ocean Sky, pursues this idea. The heroes are on a quest to help save the Everything, a magical force that originates by people living and creating together. The adults are often blind to the kids' trials, as grown-ups often can be, so it’s up to the  kids to restore the magical land of LeeChee to its full glory. They take on the task with excitement, grit, and a fair bit of nerve. Whether or not they complete the task is locked in the pages of the books. Enter into the tale at your own peril.


Whether or not you decide to pick up a Far From Home book is wholly up to you, but what I encourage you to do is to go out and make something today. It doesn’t matter what. Write a paragraph about something (or nothing), try a new recipe, draw a picture, or create a scrapbook page. Whatever the muses speak to you, let it out. Get messy! Help the Everything grow! 


Great Big Ocean Sky


Kelly Byrd




GENRE:   Mid-grade Fantasy






Book Two of the Far from Home Trilogy

Catch up with Mary Jingo as she trains with her friends in the Great Big Ocean Sky-side city of Festdelm. She may have survived the danger in Luminos, the City of Lights, but new challenges await as she, Teeny, Van Clare, Corb, Mikeala, and WindRunner continue their fight to save the Everything. When a new Shadowlander comes to LeeChee, will Mary be able to trust him—even if he is one of her closest friends?

Join Mary Jingo and her motley crew as they travel to the far ends of the world on their quest to save the Everything.

As more of LeeChee falls under Thrall, Mary must choose wisely. Whom will she trust? What bonds will endure? And... how did a Yorkshire Terrier end up as a part of this crazy experience?

The answers, dear reader, await inside as we set sail on the Great Big Ocean Sky.






WindRunner shot into the air, following the great ‘Dragon through the sky. Peregrina’s wake was strong and fast, and WindRunner put himself in the center of her air stream. Mary looked around, sensing for the other Thoughtdragons that had attacked the Garnet Revenge, but did not feel them. 

It doesn’t mean they aren’t nearby, WindRunner said. 


Do not become overconfident with this power, Mary Jingo. The Thoughtdragons are dangerous. Older even than my Kin. While I face the same temptation as you—I am drawn to her great power—remember that Peregrina wanted to be found. Otherwise, we would not have been able to follow her.

That couldn’t be possible, Mary puzzled to herself. She had known where Peregrina was. Mary had made this decision to follow Peregrina, hadn’t she? A stab of doubt hit Mary in the chest. Had they walked into a trap?

Peace, Warrior, WindRunner said soothingly. Peregrina wanted us to follow her. I don’t think she will harm you. I think she wishes to speak with you. Or, that is what Mikeala said to me before we left the boat.

You had a private Mindspan with Mikeala?

Yes. She told me I should take you if you wished to go.

Private Mindspans are rude when they are about someone else. The Father says so. 

WindRunner laughed in her mind.

Suddenly, Peregrina stopped in midair and whipped around. WindRunner dove to keep from running straight into her serpentine length, ending their conversation. Peregrina beat her wings softly to stay stationary, and WindRunner flew around until he was face to face with the great Thoughtdragon.

Mary’s stomach sank. The last time she had been face to face in the air with someone like this, it had been the evil Mellie. She had won that battle, but only barely. She was not certain she could win a battle like that again. Peregrina was even more terrifying than Mellie. Her head was twice the size of WindRunner. The Thoughtdragon only needed to barely open her mouth to swallow them both whole. 

WindRunner sent courage through their bond, but Mary felt his unease. He was being strong for her, just like she wanted to be strong for him. Peregrina spoke then to them both, her voice rich, gravelly, and musical, like a bass note dropped beneath a perfect melody.

“Well, you followed me out here, Shadowlander. What is it that you want?” She slithered her great head to the side as she said this, and Mary felt and smelled the Thoughtdragon’s untamed power. It blotted out her fear.

“I need your scales. Three of them. We need them in LeeChee. The Everything is shrinking, and I am fighting with the Resistors. We are trying to save it,” Mary said, breathing deeply. She spoke clearly and with confidence. “Please help us, great Peregrina.”

The ‘dragon shook her head and laughed.

“Save it? Save the Everything with my scales? Child, in your tiny mind, I might as well be the Everything. You cannot save the Everything with the Everything. And that world, that island, has been pitiful and beyond saving for many annuals now. Your Keeper is the size of a child. Don’t you see? It is lost. Go home to your dark, dark world and leave us in peace. Your People are causing the problem anyway.”

“My People?” Mary responded, trying to hide the hurt in her voice.

“Yes—you Shadowlanders. The Everything is created in the Shadowlands. It cycles up and up to places like LeeChee to be kept safe. Over time, it drifts back down to the Shadowlands and the cycle continues, with the ebb and flow of time. Do they not teach you anything in school down there?” Peregrina paused and turned her livid golden eyes to WindRunner.

“And you, the Lumon’s son. Bound by oath to protect a girl from the Shadowlands. Why have you done this?”

“She can save us,” WindRunner blasted back.

“Can she?” Peregrina replied with a grin on her giant mouth. “How? It is the greed of her People that has caused the blight in your lands. They don’t go outside anymore. They are trapped in their own heads, in their own tribes. They don’t listen to each other. They hardly interact with anyone who doesn’t think exactly how they do. How does one child heal rifts and tears that are hundreds of years old? This is why the Everything shrinks. Do you not know, WindRunner, son of Spearwing? Or are you all much too blind to see it?”

“Mellie is to blame for the Void. Mellie has been warping the Everything to her own purposes,” Mary said, yelling across the distance.

“Fool! Mellie was once like your precious Mikeala. As tall as a mountain and charged with keeping the Everything and the flow of the Cycles safe. She could no more turn the Everything into the Void than I can. It is against her nature. But to regain her former strength and form, she may have been tempted to help someone corrupt the Everything. The Void is powerful, even if it is unnatural. She may be helping the flow of the Void, but no, no. She did not create it.”

“Her scars,” Mary said to herself and WindRunner, thinking of the marks that marred the woman’s face. “Her scars are from the Void.”

“Yes,” Peregrina said. Her hearing must be excellent to perceive Mary over such a distance. “Yes. She has paid dearly in service to the Void.”

“You must help us,” Mary cried desperately. “Mikeala said you brought me out here to talk to me. Help me. I know you can.”

The giant Thoughtdragon swirled her body in the air in front of Mary. Small flames burst from her mouth when she laughed. Mary could feel their heat as they crackled in the air.

“Why would I help you? As I said, the greed of your people is what is causing LeeChee to die. It will grow dark and cold and fade, and me and my kind will visit it no more. And your land will suffer, Mary Jingo. As we have all suffered.”

“Please—you cannot let this happen.”

“How dare you!” Peregrina boomed. Her jaws opened wide. “How dare you accuse me of letting anything happen. It breaks my very being to know that LeeChee will fall into darkness and the Void, but I cannot intervene. Your People, you Shadowlanders, with your pride and your lack of imagination, your desperation for profit. You will kill LeeChee. I allowed you to follow me here because I wanted to see your face before I send you back to that darkened world of the Shadowlands. You don’t belong in LeeChee, Mary Jingo. You will only make things worse.”

Peregrina dove towards Mary and WindRunner, spinning her long body in the air and flapping her wings hard. WindRunner, always ready for attack, spun out of the way, as Mary gripped the handholds. She cast for Peregrina’s power, but found herself blocked from it.

WindRunner. She has shielded me. I cannot channel or control.

Sensing Mary’s fear, WindRunner burst through the air, the giant ‘dragon following swiftly behind. Peregrina was bigger, which WindRunner used to his advantage, banking and turning quickly through the air, making it hard for the Thoughtdragon to follow. Mary found herself dizzy and out of sorts, casting about for ideas. WindRunner blasted a mighty caw at the Thoughtdragon and watched as a jet of light shot from his beak and hit Peregrina squarely between the eyes. She roared angrily, then continued her wild pursuit.


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AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Stories have crept around the halls of Kelly Byrd’s mind since she was a little girl. Not even the combined will of her two loyal pups, her devoted husband, and all her house plants could keep her from putting this story into the world. You’ll find this happy crew in Nashville. Tennessee.








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The tour dates can be found here