Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Cut From Strong Cloth by Linda Harris Sittig GIVEAWAY

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Title:  Cut From Strong Cloth
Author:  Linda Harris Sittig
Published:  November 21st, 2014
Publisher:  Freedom Forge Press
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Content Warning:  Non-graphic sexual content
Recommended Age:  18+
Synopsis:  At nineteen, Ellen Canavan lives for the dream of her late father: to succeed in business. But being a woman in 1861, she finds the path to entrepreneurship blocked many times over. The threat of war, her mother’s disapproval, and even a malicious arsonist threaten to limit the aspiring textile merchant to the status of impoverished Irish immigrant. As she travels from the factories of Philadelphia to the riverfront wharves of Savannah with her business mentor, James Nolan, the Civil War explodes amidst their blossoming love, and the two are separated. Can Ellen’s undaunted, fiery strength guide her through a divided nation, or must she abandon her dream in order to save her own life? 

Excerpt from Cut From Strong Cloth by Linda Harris Sittig: 

“Then you don’t know me as well as you think. Remember when I told you I wouldn’t let disappointments interfere with my dreams of success? Weaving is my legacy from Da. I was meant to become a textile merchant all along. And I don’t need anyone taking care of me. I can take care of myself.”
“Ellen, your Da’s been dead for years. You don’t owe him a thing.”
Her eyes stormed as she held her head high. “I’ll succeed for him because he never got the chance.”
James shook his head. “If I canna talk you out of this foolhardy scheme, then I won’t be giving you my blessings for the trip.”
“I dinna ask for them.”

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About the Author:
Born in New York City, and raised in northern New Jersey, Linda’s love of history and a commitment to family and literacy led her to a career in writing articles and books for parents, grandparents, and teachers on how to instill the love of reading in children of all ages. Twice recognized for her journalism by the Virginia Press Association, Linda and her husband live in western Loudoun County, Virginia, where the Blue Ridge Mountains are the first to greet the dawn.
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Freedom Forge Press Publishing Links:
Giveaway Details:
There is a tour wide giveaway. Prizes include the following:
  • Print copy of Cut From Strong Cloth (US)
  • Ebook copy of Cut From Strong Cloth (INT)
  • $10 Amazon Gift Card (INT)
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Destiny's Flame by D.S. Schmeckpeper COVER REVEAL


About the Book


Author: D.S. Schmeckpeper

Title: Destiny's Flame, A Land of Destiny Novel (Book 2)

Word Count: 95,000

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Release date: April 21st, 2015 (tentative)


What happens after the battle is done? Do you think everyone lives happily ever after?

Lumernia has been left divided, leaderless. The ensuing power struggle cost the city more than just the knightly order, leaving the land and its people unguarded. Is the conquering army content with their prize, or do they have their sights set on more?

Celeste, Tarnelius, Arcus and Siobhan are back. After saving the land of Altierra from the threat of the ultimate evil, they expected life to return to normal and made plans to pay respects to a fallen friend. No good deed ever goes unpunished, though, and their actions have many consequences. Kuunkierto was defeated, but an ancient pact was broken and the first calls of war have sounded. Will they be able to right the wrongs of the world once more? Will they be strong enough to face what is coming?

Through the flames of war, new destinies arise.

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Victoria awoke with a start. She stared up at the ceiling, trying to figure out where she was. Turning slowly toward the center of the room, she was shocked to find herself face-to-face with Joseph, who was sitting on the floor with his back against the wall. He had apparently moved the end table to the side at some point during the night.
“Good morning, beautiful.”
She sat up and stretched. “Morning. Have you been waiting for me to wake up?”
“More or less. I don’t sleep well. Night before last in Kayalost was the most rest I’ve had in a long time.”
“So instead of sleeping, you decided to watch me sleep?”
A ghost of a smile flickered over his face. “You looked just like an angel.”
“I don’t understand you at all. You are full of mixed signals. You kiss me with such passion and you watch me sleep, tell me I look like an angel … but you also push me away when I try to take our relationship further.”
“Give me time.”
“Since when do you need time?”
Joseph turned away. “See? That’s why I need time. I don’t want to make a mess of things. There is no rush. Right now, when you think of me, you only think of the women that came before you. You think of how I didn’t wait. You aren’t thinking of us at all. You aren’t thinking that maybe I don’t want a mere night of passion, that maybe I want something deeper. I guess the question is, what do you want?”
“Joseph, the only thing that I’m thinking of is that I don’t want to wait. You said it yourself: ‘nothing in this life is guaranteed.’ Can’t we enjoy however long we have together?”
Joseph closed his eyes, seemingly lost in thought. For a moment, she was sure she’d won him over, but then he shook his head. “Just give me a little time, all right? I want everything to be special. You’re special. Being with you is special.”
“You’re infuriatingly charming, do you know that?”
He smiled a crooked smile at her. “One more thing for you to love about me.”
She patted the bed next to her. He rose to his feet and sat down. She climbed onto his lap and kissed him gently on the lips.
Joseph deepened the kiss, his hand rising up to cup her face, while his other hand held her in place on his lap. She tangled her fingers in his hair, shifting slightly. He groaned.
Pulling away, she murmured, “I do, you know.”
“What’s that, Vicki?”
“I do love you. You were right, and it is too fast, but something about you calls to me, to my very soul. I–I’ve never felt anything like this before. It frightens me.”
Joseph stared at her, a look of stunned happiness on his face. He didn’t speak a word, and after a few awkward moments, she pressed herself into him once more, kissing him with all the passion she wished she could verbalize. She gave him a little shove and he fell backward, landing on his back on the bed, with her atop him.
“Do you love me, too, Joseph?” she breathed.
Joseph rolled over, sliding her beneath him in the process. He kissed her chastely once, his weight resting on his elbows. “I do, Vicki. I tried to tell you last night. You know what else?”
“I think I’ve had enough time now.” He kissed her again, this time with an urgency that made her blood run hot.
Copyright © 2015 by D.S. Schmeckpeper


About the Author

D.S. Schmeckpeper (a.k.a. Dottie and Steve Schmeckpeper) live in Florida, USA. They are a husband and wife team who work together to create the Land of Destiny series. Both have loved the Fantasy genre for many years and have wasted way too much time playing fantasy-based games. Dottie was a vocal performance major in college, before she decided a liberal arts major was not for her. Ironic, huh? They have two wonderful twin boys, who are three at the time of this publication. They are the light of their parents’ lives. Steve does the artwork and comes up with many of the story concepts. Dottie brings the ideas to life.  When not working, writing or drawing, the pair love to take their children to Florida’s many amusement parks, and can often be found there.

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Time Winders by Blog Glatnek: GIVEAWAY

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Title:   Time Winders
Author:   Blog Glatnek
Published:  March 17th, 2014
Publisher:   Stonetree Entertainment
Genre:  Sci-Fi
Content Warning:  Minor violence and sexual references
Recommended Age:  16+
Synopsis:  Tanya is a beautiful young Time Cop chasing criminals through Time. James is an 82-year old widower. How did these two get stuck together, tracking down a rogue agent? Is someone manipulating the outcome from the future? And what’s with the tea?
Find out how love, loyalty, and friendship can change everything you thought you knew about destiny, in Time Winders.

“Uh, Tanya? Do you ever, I don’t know, run into yourself? In Time?” “Don’t be silly. There’s only one of me.” “But, that doesn’t make sense.” “The way it was explained to us was, there are multiple iterations of Time, but you are a singularity.” And that was that. But it was only half the equation. “Look, that brings up something. I get that you travel through Time (he thought of Time as an entity, now, something he could almost touch), but how do you travel through space? How did we go from California at midnight, to Flanders at noon?” She nodded. “I had to take a course in advanced temporal-fluidics, and it was still difficult to understand. It’s even harder to explain, but … let me use the analogy my professor used. “When we travel through Time, think of our toes as leaving the surface of the Earth. In fact, that’s why it was so easy for me to carry you along when you were struggling; Time itself pulls us along. Then, as we step, the Earth rotates beneath us. I choose when and where to touch down.” James sort of got it. He knew the Earth was roughly 24,000 miles around, so with 24 hours in a day you’re moving about 1,000 miles an hour. If you could theoretically float above the surface (without being flung at 1,000 miles an hour when you left), the planet would rotate beneath you. It would be like traveling at 1,000 miles an hour.

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About the Author:
Tanya, writing under pseudonym of Blog, is a female, living in Southern California. A biologist, writer and medical illustrator. Married.
Giveaway Details:
There is a tour wide giveaway. Prizes include the following:
  • A $25 Amazon Gift Card
Giveaway is International.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Bionics by Alicia Michaels: Blitz + Giveaway

The Bionics Blitz Banner

~ About the Book ~

Title: The Bionics
Series: The Bionics Novels, Book 1
Author: Alicia Michaels
Published: February 10th, 2015
Publisher: Crimson Tree Publishing
Genre: NA Paranormal Romance
Coarse language, mild sexual innuendo
Recommended Age: 16+

~ Synopsis ~

All Blythe Sol ever wanted was to be a normal girl. Yet, her dreams of following in her father’s footsteps by joining the military after graduation are crushed when nuclear war comes to the United States in the year 4006. Tens of thousands are killed in a series of attacks on many major cities, while thousands more are left injured from the devastation of the blasts, or terminally ill from the effects of radiation.
When the government offers the sick and injured a second chance as part of the Restoration Project, how could they refuse? Hoping to put her life back together after the blasts take both her arm and her eye, Blythe enrolls in the program filled with hope. She never expects that the bionic additions will change her life so drastically. When it is discovered that those outfitted with the robotic parts have become enhanced beyond the limits of ordinary human ability, normal can never exist for her again.
The Bionics become targets of the government, as fear of them spreads across the nation, further enflamed by media propaganda and political conspiracy. Forced to go into hiding or face execution, society’s outcasts band together to form the Restoration Resistance—an underground rebellion which Blythe becomes a part of in order to survive. She could never imagine that joining them would thrust her at the forefront of an imminent revolution, or that it would put her in a confusing tug-of-war between two of her fellow soldiers—Gage Bronson, the mysterious new addition to the Resistance, and Dax Janner, her best friend. Even though Gage is rapidly capturing her heart, she is forced to face the possibility that her feelings for Dax might just go beyond friendship. However, with impending war and the threat of death hanging over her head, Blythe hardly has time to worry about anything as trivial as a love life…

~ About the Author ~

Alicia Michaels
Ever since she first read books like Chronicles of Narnia or Goosebumps, Alicia has been a lover of mind-bending fiction. Wherever imagination takes her, she is more than happy to call that place her home. The mother of two and wife to an Army sergeant loves chocolate, coffee, and of course good books. When not writing, you can usually find her with her nose in a book, shopping for shoes and fabulous jewelry, or spending time with her loving family.

~ Excerpt ~

When the airstrip comes into view, I know that we’re in deep shit. Jenica, Blythe, and the Professor haven’t even made it to the craft yet and are ducked down behind a row of hover bikes, taking cover. I can see our hijacked government craft several hundred yards away, its guns raised and swiveling on their turrets as Dax and Sayer try to help us pick off the MPs one by one. It is an impossible task—there are too many of them. The smart thing to do is run, but I know Dax won’t leave without the others. As I weigh my options as quickly as possible, I realize that there is no way we’re getting out of this together. I start across the tarmac, gun in one hand, raising my COMM device with the other.
“Janner!” I bark as Dax as I make a beeline for a craft parked on the other end of the airstrip. With so much manpower concentrated on the others, this craft is unguarded. I’ve never piloted a hovercraft in my life and what little I do know has come from watching Jenica at the controls, but I can’t think about that now. The MPs are closing in on Blythe and the others and there is nowhere for them to run. “Do you know how to fly one of these things?”
Dax’s voice—or rather, Sergeant Barnes’ voice—crackles over the speaker. “Not that particular model, but Strom does. What are you thinking, Bronson?”
“I’m thinking you need to get out of here and get our rescued prisoners home,” I say as I reach the hovercraft and proceed to climb up toward the closed hatch, all the while praying that it is unlocked.
“That’s a negative, Bronson,” Dax answers, yelling to be heard over the sound of gunfire. “We’re not leaving without our team intact.”
“That’s not exactly an option,” I answer, trying the hatch and find it open. I quickly scramble inside. “We’re going to have to split up. Put Strom on the line and tell him I need a five-minute piloting lesson. I’m going for Jenica, the Professor, and Blythe.”
Dax hesitates for a split second before I hear his heavy sigh over the speaker. “You’d better not get them killed,” he grumbles, and I can picture him grudgingly handling the COMM device to Sayer. “Or I will seriously kick your ass.”
“If I don’t do something, we’re screwed either way,” I retort before Sayer comes on the line.
“Strom here.”
“Strom, give me the basics,” I say as I run up the hovercraft’s center aisle and find the pilot’s chair. Rows of foreign buttons, gauges and screens line the panel in front of me. I watch through the window while the space between Jenica, Blythe and the Professor and the MPs grows smaller. I don’t have much time.
“See that clear plastic box to your right near the throttle?” Sayer asks over the COMM device.
I nod. “Yeah.”
“Pop it open and flip that red switch.”
I do as he says and immediately the hum of the hovercraft tells me it’s turned on. “Done.”
“There’s a series of silver switches to your left.”
I locate them. “Yeah, there are six of them.”
“Those control your elevation. Each one will lift you higher into the air. Flip the first two and that’ll get you high enough that you’re flying but still low enough to swoop down and grab Jenica, Blythe, and Professor Hinkley.”
I quickly follow his instructions and the hovercraft jolts as I flip the two switches, then it ascends, hovering several feet over the ground.
“Now what?” I ask, dropping into the pilot’s chair and fastening the harness. My hands shake as I grip the throttle.
“Fly,” Sayer answers before the connection is cut.

~ Giveaway ~

Monday, February 9, 2015

Voodoo Moon by June Stevens: Blitz + Giveaway

Voodoo Moon Blitz Banner

~ About the Book ~

Voodoo Moon
Title: Voodoo Moon: A Moon Sisters Novel
Series: The Paranorm World Series Book 1
Author: June Stevens
Published: February 10th, 2015
Publisher: Crimson Tree Publishing
Page Count: 290
Genre: NA mature Paranormal Romance
Content Warning: Contains adult and sexual content
Age Recommendation: 17+

~ Synopsis ~

A sinister magic is sweeping across Nash City…
To Fiona Moon, it’s just another day at work. And some days, well, they’re a helluva lot worse than others. As a member of the elite Black Blade Guard, Fiona is tasked with hunting down the most-dangerous Paranorm criminals. To find out who is kidnapping mages and sucking the life energy from their bodies, she has to work with the one man that embodies everything she despises.
Master Necromancer Ian Barroes, a rich professor of Necromantic Studies, wants only one thing in this world… Fiona.
They each hold secrets that could destroy them, but ones that could also be the key to destroying the evil Voodoo priest, Bokor. They must learn to trust each other and track down Bokor before more innocent lives are lost. When Fiona becomes a target of the evil madman, she is lured into his trap. Now, she and Ian have to fight for survival… and their very souls.

~ About the Author ~

June Stevens
June Stevens is the pen name of DJ Westerfield.
DJ uses the pseudonym June Stevens to write ROMANTIC fiction in a variety of genres including contemporary, suspense, fantasy, paranormal, urban fantasy.
DJ is a wife, step-mom, sister, auntie, daughter, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, friend, and Mommy to four adorable and mischievous four-legged babies. She writes non-fiction, blogs, and co-hosts an internet radio show as DJ Westerfield.

~ Excerpt ~

It only took Millie a few minutes to tally up the day’s business and put the money in the safe for Mr. Fegley to find the next morning. Quickly wiping down the counters, she made sure everything was tidy. She went into the back room, removed her apron, and took a quick look in the mirror that hung next to the back door. Wisps and strands of tawny hair had escaped the ribbon she tied it back in this morning, forming a messy halo around her pale, freckled face. In the threadbare, brown tunic and pants that were her normal work uniform, she looked drab and washed out. If she weren’t so clean, she could almost be mistaken for a beggar. She swiped at her hair, but it did no good. No matter. She didn’t have time to pretty up, and she wouldn’t be graded on her looks today, just her powers.

She jumped as the clock on the wall chimed the hour. There was less than half an hour left to get across town in order to make the evening test. If she were even a minute late, they would turn her away and she would have to wait six more months for another test date. Luckily, she’d saved up a whole buck so she could take the trolley.

Being sure to lock the door behind her, she ran out into the early evening twilight. She had just a few minutes to make it two blocks over to the magi-trolley line. Glancing down the street, she saw it was crowded with daytime shoppers hurrying home to dinner and the beginnings of nighttime shoppers coming out. Dusk and dawn were always the busiest time in this part of Old Nash City. The vampires who stayed out of the daylight to avoid severe sunburns and allergic reactions were venturing out and mingling with the norms and paranorms who had no such allergies to the sun. The shops and streets were usually crowded for the first hour or so past dusk.

Even as small and fast as Millie was, it would take her forever to slip through the crowd. She eyed the narrow alley to the right. The light from the blue-tinged crystal streetlights didn’t make it into the alley. It was dark and dirty. She hated walking through it even in the daylight, but she didn’t have much choice. Some things were just more important than her fear of the dark.


He leaned against the stone wall, deep in the shadows cast by the setting sun and the solar-crystal lights that illuminated the bustling street. This body was awkward and cumbersome. He’d used it too many nights now, and it was starting to get stiff. No matter. He would pick another from his store tomorrow. But for now, he needed to find new food—another worthy enough to fuel his body and perhaps become a vehicle for his spirit.

He scanned the crowd, using his second sight, his divine sight, to view the magical auras that pulsed around the unsuspecting people. They had no idea he was there, hunting, waiting for the perfect specimen. Of course, none of them had anything to worry about. Their auras were all dull and muddy. All no-to-medium powers. Not one bright aura in the bunch. None were worthy. He was just about ready to give up his search and move on to another street when a bright light caught his eye at the other end of the alley. He turned his full attention to the young girl moving quickly down the alley, as if she were afraid. Her magic burned brightly around her. Most people, common people, wouldn’t know what was inside the girl. But he did. Brilliant shades of purple and blue pulsed and shimmered around her. The colors of her aura were so dark and bright they were almost tangible. His fingers itched to reach out and touch it. She was brimming with untapped power. Oh yes, her power would be filling and delicious. She was worthy. He would have her.

~ Giveaway ~

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Another year almost wrapped up and in the books

2015 is knocking on the door. I, for one, am looking forward to waving bye-bye to 2014 as it recedes in my rear view mirror. This year was a rough one on many levels. Car accidents, major surgeries, flooded basements, etc, etc, and the list goes on. You name it, the Schiariti household dealt with it. I spent most of my free time revamping, fixing, editing, Funeral with a View. When I didn't want to, I worked on it. When my head wasn't in the right place to be doing much of anything, I worked on it. When it got to the point where I thought it would never be up to my standards and I felt like burning the damn thing, I worked on it. I've estimated that I'd spent about 1,000 hours fiddling with the manuscript between January and the end of September. That's a huge time investment. Did it pay off? In ways it did. In other ways it didn't.

Funeral with a View, after all the trouble, second guessing, and times when I just wanted to give up, turned out better than good. It turned out great. From cover to blurb, prologue to epilogue, I couldn't be more proud of what became of all that hard work. Busting my balls shows in a fantastic final product I can present to the world with my head held high. I did it. So, on a personal level the book is a win. That's not to say things are all sunshine and roses, though.

Similar to the months following the publication of Ghosts of Demons Past, I spent a great deal of time promoting my contemporary romance. I took a different approach this time: paid advertising. I bought spots, ads, a blog tour, hosted giveaways, contests. This promo blitz is just ending now, as the book is on sale for $0.99 through tomorrow. But here's the thing. None of it has really worked. It's moving in dribs and drabs, picking up killer reviews at a good rate, but it's still not getting into the hands of a lot of readers. Why? No idea. I've heard it's the lack of a large 'back list' on my part. I've been told that it may not be 'commercial enough.' This is really all supposition. Nobody can know the whys or hows of a book's success or failures. It simply is what it is. And that's okay. At least, I see it that way now. There was a period when I wasn't okay with it.

In the midst of all this promotion I fell into a profound funk. No matter how many messages I got from readers telling me they loved it or how many good reviews showed up on amazon and good reads, the piss poor performance tainted my perception of everything. Long story short, it made me feel like shit. A lot of that's my own fault, and I freely admit it. See, I'd gotten sucked into the numbers game. Sales numbers, ranking numbers, charting in categories, all that jazz.  I was in this mode of thinking where numbers were a sort of validation. If the numbers suck, that could only mean the book isn't as good as I thought it was.

I'm done with all that now.

Fact: no matter where you go there's always going to be someone bigger, smarter, stronger, faster, more successful, whatever. But ... that has no bearing on my work or what I do, not anymore.  I'm lucky enough to have a good group of readers who like what I've done and what I'm doing. That's awesome. And they're there when this new "Happy Matt" starts to regress back to "WAHHH Matt." Can't thank them enough for that.

All this numbers bullshit? It overshadowed the real reason why I do this stuff to begin with. I write because I like it and to have fun. It's not my job, and it's not my life's dream to be a best seller with millions of adoring fans ... although that would be groovy! As I've said before, I write for ME and publish to SHARE. Moving forward, it's about time to get back to having fun with it, because there's more to me than just books. Writing is something I've involved myself in, but it doesn't define me. Some folks are consumed by it. And that's okay! If that's what they want to do, good for them. Although I fed into the 'must be a success!' monster, writing is a hobby. Don't think that I don't take it seriously when I put something out there for public consumption. I do take it seriously. If my name's on the cover I'm going to make sure it's good. No half-assed stories coming from my computer, that's a guarantee. Still, there's more to life than books and writing.

Since this epiphany of mine, I've rediscovered other things I love to do that fell to the wayside, namely playing guitar. Up until a month or so ago, I hadn't touched any of my axes in almost a year. Oh, they gave me dirty looks when I took them out of the cases and plugged them into my amps, but they quickly forgave me once I spent some quality time with them. Out of all my hobbies, guitar is the longest lived. Been playing for about 23 years now. It was a crime that I took so much time off from them. For shame on me! Like writing, playing is something I like to do and something I'm good at.

New attitude going into the new year. No resolutions, no promises made that I can't live up to, but a different outlook. I'll write when I feel like it, publish when I'm ready. No forcing myself to do anything I'm not in the mood for, no getting sucked up in the popularity contest that is the world of independent publishing. Will 2015 see a new book from Matt Schiariti? Yeah, I think I can manage that. I've already started a couple WIPs. One's a romantic suspense that I've mentioned before either here or on my FB page (so hard to keep track of what I say, where I say it, when I say it). Another is the follow up to Ghosts of Demons Past. Then I have a bunch of short stories I'd like to revisit and polish up for publication in the meantime. Who knows how long it will take to write those other two novels? I don't know. And I don't care. It'll take as long as it takes to get them done and to get them done right.

I'm still getting used to this Happy Matt outfit. Fits nicely despite the, ahem, holiday weight. Will he be around 24/7? No way. He'll have his bad days like anybody else. However, he's more prominent than he was a couple months back and I have a good feeling he'll be around even more in 2015.

Happy New Year, everyone! If you've made it this far you have once again won a no prize. If you should ever heard a loud "KERRRANG" emanating from somewhere in the north east, do not be alarmed. That's me rocking out in Madison Square Basement, smiling.

Catch ya in 2015!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Hearts in the Storm by Elmer Seward: Guest Post + Giveaway

Title: Hearts in the Storm

Author: Elmer Seward

Published: May 2014

Word Count: 35,400

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Content Warning: Mild profanity and “off camera” sexual situations

Age Recommendation: 18+

Struggling with loss and regret, Trista sets out for North Carolina’s Outer Banks, hoping to find peace in her stormy life. Fate and an old golden retriever set her on a path toward healing with an unlikely hero, the man that the locals call “Duck.” Despite his careless and irresponsible behavior, Trista is drawn to him.

Trista discovers that Duck is haunted by the ghosts of his own shattered past. Desperate for help, she is faced with the necessity of placing her hopes and her life in the hands of this man that many blame for the death of his best friend. As Hurricane Renee bears down on the Outer Banks, Trista and Duck drive a wave-battered boat into the teeth of the storm. Each one hopes to conquer the tempest that rages around them and the tempest that rages within.

He dragged out of the seaside door onto the long, wooden deck. Standing for a moment, he looked out at the ocean. The waves were crashing and churning, whipping up foam as they battered the beleaguered sand. Shells, rocks, and other debris were dragged out as quickly as they were deposited. The water was in constant motion. There was a storm off shore, and the beach was catching the brunt of its fury.
He took a long, slow sip of coffee, hoping to clear the cluttered remnants of last night's bender. Shirtless and wearing a tattered pair of shorts, he stood watching the eastern sky. It was gray and ominous, but the thickly filtered daylight still hurt, and he watched the waves through squinted eyes at first.
He laid his cup on the deck railing and leaned forward, straining to glimpse the pelicans riding the rolling waves just beyond the break. They would appear as they crested the top of the roller coaster waves and then disappear as they glided down into the valleys between them. Occasionally, one would take flight, circle for a moment and then dive, disappearing beneath the water for a brief moment.
The beach was deserted – only him and the pelicans. As he watched, something odd caught his attention. Just beyond the birds, another dark object in the water appeared and disappeared. At first he thought it was one of the pelicans, but there was something unusual about the shape. Maybe it was a fin. It was common to see dolphins just off shore. It could be a shark fin. They prowled just off shore more often than the local tourist rental companies or local city officials wanted to announce. It crested into view again. No, it was too far out and in the sunless water, too dark to identify . . . but not a fin. It disappeared again. He watched closely, waiting for it to crest. There it was, but it was taller. It was moving. It was . . . an arm. A head and a waving arm being tossed in the tumultuous water.
The sound of the waves roaring and crashing was all consuming, but faintly he could hear another sound almost imperceptible. He strained and was sure he heard a voice in the intermittent roar and crash, a voice crying for help.
He searched frantically up and down the beach. There was no one. He had to act quickly. He grabbed an old cork safety ring that hung as a decorative prop on the deck of the cottage and jumped down the steps into the deep sand. As he ran, his feet sank into the loose, shifting sand. It felt like he was lifting leaden legs as he struggled forward. Finally reaching the firmer wet sand, he sped up only to hit the water. Again, each step was like moving an anvil. He moved into the waves, diving into each one to avoid being knocked backward. As he wrestled with the waves, he tried desperately to find the person who would rise and then vanish with the rolling action of the water.
Swimming now, fighting against the current determined to rush him back to shore, he was becoming exhausted. The water was battering and pulling him, but he pressed on, trailing the safety ring in his wake.
He was close now. He could see the figure. It was a girl, maybe in her mid-teens. She was flailing her arms, desperately trying to keep her head above water. She wasn't being successful. Alternately, she was choking, gasping, and screaming as her head broke the water. Then she was sucked down again.
As he swam to within feet of the struggling figure, the girl disappeared and did not reappear. He looked frantically for her. He dove hoping to find her. The dark, churning water was murky and obscured his vision. Then he saw her hand just below him. He swam deeper, his lungs burning. She saw him and was reaching toward him. Her eyes were wide with panic. He extended his arm as far as he could. His fingers were inches away. In the next instant, she was swept away in the shifting current. He peered through the darkness, his lungs about to burst. She was gone.

About the Author
Elmer Seward was born and raised along the Chesapeake Bay in southeast Virginia. Growing up, the cemetery behind his house was his playground. The metaphorical theme of death and rebirth that figures prominently in his novels is probably influenced in some way by the time that his mother heard, through the screened window, a small voice crying for help. Rushing from the house and through the yard, she discovered her all-too-curious six-year-old son at the bottom of a freshly dug grave. In that moment, he discovered that trouble is much easier to get into than it is to get out of. Sometimes we need help getting out of the hole that we jump into willingly.

He is blessed to have a blended family of six children and four grandchildren. He is also the reluctant servant of two crazy dogs, a Maltese and a Japanese Chin. All of these strongly influence the characters and events in his novels; however, his beautiful wife, Mitzi, is the true inspiration for the tender hearted but determined women in his stories.

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Guest Post
Talk about your writing process. Do you have specific rituals? How do you get into each character's mindset?

I have a rather unusual writing process. I write while I'm exercising. I walk and run for about an hour each morning. For me, that's when the heavy lifting of writing occurs. I develop characters, dialogue, setting, and plot, all in my head. This continues for days, maybe even weeks. Once I'm comfortable with the details of a chapter, I sit down after everyone has gone to bed at night and begin to type.
I say that I develop all of these story elements, but I'm afraid that it is more a case of setting the characters in motion and watching as they create themselves and the plot. I believe that great characters write themselves and then help write the story. I hate to admit it, but with both of my novels, Dreams of the Sleepless and Hearts in the Storm. I started out with a very simple story and rather flat characters. Very quickly, the characters took on lives of their own and started driving the plot to places that I hadn't planned. This is especially true for my favorite character from Hearts in the Storm, Sissy. Early on, she developed her own persona. She became this fiery, tenacious woman who tries, sometimes unsuccessfully, to hide her tender caring side. Because of her fiery nature, her behavior is sometimes aggressive and unpredictable. Duck is her younger brother. Duck's world has collapsed, leaving him stumbling through life. As a result, she finds herself acting as both sister and mother to this broken man. Sissy battles conflicting emotions. She loves Duck and tries to protect him from himself and others, but she quickly becomes frustrated with his self-destructive behavior. She is often torn between wanting to kill him and wanting to save him. As the story progresses, she struggles with another dilemma. She realizes that in helping Duck's attempt to free himself from his crushing remorse, she may lose him forever in the approaching storm. At a critical point in the story, she must choose. As the author, I simply create the havoc of her life and then set her free to deal with it as best she can. This is true for each of the characters. In the interplay of their fears, emotions, and desires, the plot travels in directions that I hadn't planned.