Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Her Highland Rogue by Violetta Rand





Her Highland Rogue
Violetta Rand

Genre: Historical romance, Highlander

Publisher: Random House/Loveswept

Date of Publication: June 21, 2016

ASIN: B00XG9BWZE

Number of pages: 170
Word Count: 52,000

Cover Artist: Random House

Book Description:

Errol MacRae’s days of gallivanting across the Highlands are nearing an end. His father’s health has taken a turn for the worse, and rumors are swirling that the crown intends to transfer ancient lands into the hands of the MacKenzies, the clan the MacRaes are sworn to defend. Errol expects to lead his men into battle soon. So he isn’t pleased when his father instead sends him to retrieve a beautiful flame-haired lass who has fled into the mountains.

Orphaned as a young girl, Aileana vividly remembers how the MacRaes rescued her and welcomed her into their clan. For ten years, she has served them loyally—until the night she’s nearly despoiled by one of the laird’s captains. Aileana risks her life and her reputation to seek refuge in the snowcapped peaks of the Five Sisters, the one place that has always felt like home. But after the strong-armed, strong-willed Errol tracks her down in a blizzard, she finds herself tempted to risk something even more dangerous: her heart.

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Excerpt:
            Aileana opened her eyes, confused by her surroundings. She’d fled the MacRae stronghold after Broc cornered her in the kitchen, long after the other women had gone abovestairs to sleep. She’d stupidly volunteered to keep watch over the remaining men in the hall in case they required more bread and meat—or in Broc’s case, more ale. Once she’d refilled his cup, even leaving a full pitcher behind for the great beast to finish off, he stumbled after her, smelling of sweat and spirits, and drooling on her neck.
She’d known him nearly all her life—at least for the time she remembered being alive. Before her tenth year, she held no clear memories. The occasional flash of a face or spoken word, but nothing that could connect her to a family or place. So she wandered through life nameless, though the MacRae laird had offered to recognize her as part of his clan. But whenever she considered it, something inside her warned not to do it. For once ye denied your name, whether you knew it or not, your fate might change. And she didn’t want to lose her only chance at true happiness. Deep down, Aileana knew there was more to her existence than being a bastard.
That’s what half the women within the MacRae keep called her. Behind her back mostly, but sometimes directly if she was blamed for burning the bread or spilling wine.
She kicked off the fur covering her from neck-to-foot, cold air sending a chill down her body. A fire burned at the opening of the rock enclosure, and she padded over to it, desperate for warmth. She stared beyond the flames, the world outside covered in white. Winter had come early to Kintail. And only by God’s grace had she met a woman last night in the hills. How could she turn down an offer of hot stew and a pallet to sleep on? So she’d walked quietly with the stranger to her cave.
As soon as she finished eating and drained her cup of wine, sleep overwhelmed her. That’s all she remembered. And now she woke up alone. But there was a loaf of bread and a cup of milk on the table by her pallet, hopefully meant for her to eat. Her stomach growled with hunger.
“Good morning,” Aileana heard as she reached for the cup.
She turned and met the woman’s smile. “Thank ye for allowing me to stay here last night. I’m afraid I have nothing to offer you, no money or goods to trade.”
The woman joined her, picked up the loaf of bread, then tore it in half. “I don’t remember asking for payment, child.”
“But your generosity must be rewarded in some way.”
“Aye,” she agreed. “Your company will do nicely.”
Aileana took a bite and it melted in her mouth, as tasty as what she cooked every morning in the MacRae kitchens. “Whatever you wish,” she said. “I prefer staying here. I wasn’t prepared for the snow. If ye hadn’t found me, I’m afraid I would have perished in the cold.” Though she had a fur cloak and thick-soled boots, she hadn’t had time to gather anything else before she ran away.
The woman sat down. “My name is Sgùrr.”
“Aileana.”
The woman studied her in silence, her dark gaze wandering more than once to her hair. “Who is your father?”
Aileana took another sip of milk, then put the cup down on the table. The idea of admitting to a stranger that she had no family was as humiliating as what Broc had done to her. “I don’t know.”
“And why were you roaming the hills alone? Surely someone will miss ye?”
“Laird MacRae is my guardian.”
“Your mother has passed?”
“I’m afraid I know nothing about my birth.” She walked the couple feet to her pallet and picked up her cloak. “Eight years ago a MacRae guard found me in the forest, cold and hungry, close to death I’ve been told. He bundled me in a blanket and took me home with him. I’ve lived there ever since.”
“Has the laird been kind and generous?”
“Laird MacRae is not only kind, but treats me as his own daughter. A day never passes without him greeting me. Sometimes I wonder what would have become of me if the MacDonalds or MacLeods found me instead.”

The older woman nodded. “Don’t put much stock in the affairs of men. Clan feuds are the last thing a lass needs to worry about. ’Tis your heart and charitable acts that define your character.”

About the Author:

Raised in Corpus Christi, Texas, Violetta Rand spent her childhood reading, writing, and playing soccer. After meeting her husband in New England, they moved to Alaska where she studied environmental science and policy before attending graduate school. Violetta then spent nearly a decade working as a scientist, specializing in soil and water contamination and environmental assessments.

Violetta still lives in Alaska and spends her days writing romance. When she's not reading, writing, or editing, she enjoys time with her husband, pets, and friends. In her free time, she loves to hike, fish, and ride motorcycles and 4-wheelers.




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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Cover Reveal Incompetent Gods by Gabriele Russo






Incompetent Gods
Gods Inc Series
Book 1
Gabriele Russo

Fiery Seas Publishing
December 13, 2016

Book Description:

In a dimension created by the ancient gods, most are now stuck working at Gods Incorporated. CEO Queen Louhi Pohjola, a mortal demigoddess turned vampire (on a diet), holds the planet in the palm of her hand and while she cannot by any stretch of the imagination be called a nice person, there’s worse lurking in her shadow.

Goblin, a bitter hybrid with childhood issues and shape-shifting abilities, has a grudge against the world. First on his to-do list is getting rid of the Queen and take her place by forcing the titan Ba’al to devour her.

As her friends and allies fall one-by-one into Goblin’s traps, the Queen’s fate seems inevitable. With no one left to fight, will Ba’al’s friends, a bunch of over-the-hill incompetent gods, be enough to stop Goblin from turning the world into hell?


About the Author:

Gabriele Russo, AKA Lucie-Gabrielle Jolicoeur-Rousseau, was born in Quebec City amidst a family of book lovers – her father had dreamed of being a writer and both of her brothers are published authors.

Since she earned her Bachelor’s in History, it was no surprise (except to her) that she ended up working in restaurants, eventually owning two, which almost drove her mad. She sold them and was nursed back to pseudo-sanity by Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett.

That’s when she answered the family calling and decided to write. Armed with her ideas for the Gods Inc. series she went back to the University and got her Master’s in Creative Writing.

She now lives with her husband in Culpeper, Virginia, where she divides her time between painting, ripping apart and reconstructing her recently bought historical home, playing tennis and, of course, writing more books.



Guest Blog- Scattered Seeds by Julie Doherty




Thanks to Roxanne for allowing me a little space to ramble on her blog today.

Recently, I volunteered to help my homeschooled niece and nephew with their history lessons.  The conversation with my sister went something like this:

Sister: “Dude, I know you’re busy, but I am so far behind . . .”

Me (doing a fangirl hand flutter and fighting the urge to race around my yard):  “History? Are you [expletive] kidding me? I would love to!”

I met them at Grandma’s house, where the little darlings dragged their workbooks to the table like condemned murderers heading for the gallows. I guess history just isn’t their thing.

“What are you working on?” I asked.

“Some guy named Braddock,” my niece replied.

The name kicked my heart into a gallop. I sat a full inch taller. “General Edward Braddock?”

“Yeah,” my nephew replied, his chin resting on his hands. “I think that’s his name.”

I wanted to squeal like a Beatles groupie, then throw myself on the floor and roll around like a dog on something stinky. “You’re studying the French and Indian War? Breeches and muskets and tricorns, oh my!”

*crickets*

Nothing fires me up quite like the French and Indian War period. I suppose finding my 18th century ancestors living in Pennsylvania, past the official British boundary, had something to do with that. Like so many “Scotch-Irish,” their origins have been lost to time. To know them means researching the world in which they lived. I did, and I fell in love with our resolute forefathers.

There are few novels set to the backdrop of the French and Indian War.  I suppose it’s not a time period many writers consider, though I’m not sure why. The provincial records are rife with drama and intrigue. Plots abound in those yellowing documents!

The Mel Gibson movie based upon Cooper’s THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS remains a favorite for many. So, why are there so few novels set in America before the Revolution? Is it because public schools barely touch on America’s earliest beginnings? Is it possible young readers don’t even know there was a war before the Revolution?

A million years ago, when I was in school, we covered the War for Independence and both World Wars. I have no recollection of studying anything concerning Braddock, Fort Duquesne, Forbes Road, the Iroquois Confederacy, or George Washington before he lost his teeth.

As a writer, I should probably choose more popular settings, but darn it, I really love frontier America. SCATTERED SEEDS is set in 1755 Ireland/Pennsylvania. My current work-in-progress (sitting at around 30,000 words) is set in 1756 Pennsylvania. 

I worry that my love of this time period will be my undoing. I fret that readers won’t give my books a chance because they are not set in grand ballrooms, great halls, or kings’ courts.

Time will tell, I guess. 

As for my niece and nephew, I don’t know if my teaching “stuck,” but I do know my niece (who can’t quite spell my name) thinks I’m an important person in Pennsylvania, and that’s just too damn cute not to share. 


Scattered Seeds
Julie Doherty

Genre: Historical fiction, elements of romance

Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing

Date of Publication: April 27, 2016

ISBN: 1-68291-050-4
ASIN: B01E056H1Q

Number of pages: 339
Word Count: 100,000

Cover Artist: Fiona Jayde

Book Description:

In 18th century Ireland, drought forces Edward and Henry McConnell to assume false names and escape to America with the one valuable thing they still own–their ancestor’s gold torc.

Edward must leave love behind. Henry finds it in the foul belly of The Charming Hannah, only to lose it when an elusive trader purchases his sweetheart’s indenture.

With nothing but their broken hearts, a lame ox, and a torc they cannot sell without invoking a centuries-old curse, they head for the backcountry, where all hope rests upon getting their seed in the ground. Under constant threat of Indian attack, they endure crushing toil and hardship. By summer, they have wheat for their reward, and unexpected news of Henry’s lost love. They emerge from the wilderness and follow her trail to Philadelphia, unaware her cruel new master awaits them there, his heart set on obtaining the priceless torc they protect.






CHAPTER 1

County Donegal, Ireland
1755

Henry stood next to his father surveying their largest field. He longed to say that the seeds might yet sprout, that there was still time to yield a return, but the undeniable truth lay right before them: drought had come to Ireland. Their investment in imported flaxseed was lost.

“A hundred days, Henry.” Father’s face bore the pained expression of a man whose hope was as withered as his crops. “A hundred days was all we needed, all that stood between us and prosperity.” He kicked a clod of dirt, and it turned to dust. “It’s all gone, gone along wi’ the horse that harrowed the ground.”

A lump rose in Henry’s throat. He ached for his father, and he missed their horse. Paddy was a fine animal purchased ten years ago after a bumper crop of rye, when Edward McConnell’s luck was good and Henry’s only chore was to stay out of his mother’s hair. Elizabeth McConnell moldered in the ground now, and Paddy plowed another man’s fields.

“We will pray, Father. God will help us.”

“God?” Father kneaded his forehead with calloused fingers. “God’s groping in our pockets right along wi’ your Uncle Sorley. Praying did nae pay our tithes or the hearth tax, did it?”

Surely he didn’t mean that. Everyone knew Edward McConnell to be a godly man.

“We’ll get more seed, Father. It’ll grow next year.” He squared his shoulders and tried to look confident.

“Will nae do us any good. Your Uncle Sorley plans to decrease our tillage in favor of pasture.”

“Wi’ no cut in rent, I’ll wager, and early payment again this year.”

Father spat on the parched ground. “He stopped by yesterday looking for it. Said he’ll call in after services on the Sabbath.” He ground his teeth together. “I’d gi’ anything to see the look on his face when he finds our empty hoose.”

Henry’s chest tightened. Were they moving again? He rubbed the back of his neck and looked across the rolling patchwork of fields to the northeast, where their last home rose above a copse of ash, and where his mother’s daffodils still swayed in the Ulster wind. Four years ago, the cattle plague put them out of that house and into the windowless shack they now shared with Phoebe, their only remaining sow. The hut contained a hearth, a curse necessitating the payment of tax despite the fact that it never contained a fire.

With no peat left and no horse to haul more from the bog, the McConnells relied on a moth-eaten blanket and Phoebe’s body heat for warmth.

They had room to fall; many Catholics lived in the open, bleeding cattle and boiling the gore with sorrel for sustenance. Perhaps his father intended to join them.

“Are we moving again?” he asked.

Father slipped two fingers under his brown tie wig and rubbed his temple, something he often did when puzzled.

Henry followed his gaze to the ruins of Burt Castle, which sat atop a knoll, just above Uncle Sorley’s grand plantation house.

“Nine years we’ve suffered bad luck, Henry. E’er since I buried . . .”

Buried what? Maw? She died five years ago, not nine.

Father sunk his head into his hands, muffling his speech. “I . . . I guess it’s time to . . .”

Henry stepped into the hard, hot field, directly in front of his father. “Father, what in the name of heaven is it?”

Father tilted back his head and whispered to the sky, “Forgive me, Elizabeth.” He looked at Henry. “I buried something. Your maw insisted on it, said it was pagan and she did nae want it in her hoose. I did as she asked. A woman can talk ye into cutting off your own hand, Henry, remember that if ye can.”

Henry nodded, not comprehending, wondering what pagan thing lay buried. He’d never heard it mentioned before, and he was a skilled eavesdropper. “What was it? What did ye bury?”

Father inhaled deeply, removed the worn tricorn from his head, and tucked it under his arm. “I’ll tell ye the whole tale, but first, we have to dig it up. We canny do that until after dark.” He turned without warning and headed for home.

Henry followed him, volleying questions against his back.

Father said nothing until they reached their hut. There, he stormed past Phoebe, flung open the door, and nodded toward a worm-ravaged chest sitting next to a heap of rushes that served as their bed.

“Gather up our claithes and shoes. Use my good cloak for a sack. Bring the dried nettles.” He grabbed the peat spade, the only tool left from his once abundant array of implements, and used it to prop open the door.

“Why bring the nettles?” Henry hated the bitter leaves. “There are more nettles than rocks in Ulster.”

When his father offered no reply, he lobbed another question, desperate for clues as to their destination. “Will ye not wear your good cloak, if we are traveling far?”

“My auld cloak will draw less attention.”

So, they were going to some populous place where good cloaks were bad.

Henry spread the cloak across the dirt floor, careful to avoid Phoebe’s manure. The cloak was long out of fashion, but still a quality garment that Edward McConnell could not afford to replace. He threw their scant belongings into the middle of it, brought the cloak’s corners together, then tied them together to form a sack. Excepting Phoebe and the clothes they wore, the sack contained everything worth saving.

He sat on the rickety chest to watch his father pace.

When Burt Castle became a silhouette against an amber horizon, Father donned his hat and cloak and ducked outside.

Henry followed him to the stone wall separating their field from Uncle Archibald’s.

Father began to tumble a section of wall.

With his perplexity and fear mounting, Henry assisted until there was enough of a breach to push Phoebe through the wall.

She trotted away, grunting and wagging her curly tail, while he helped restack the stones to prevent her from returning.

He could no longer hold his tongue.

“What are we doing? Why are we putting Phoebe in Uncle Archibald and Aunt Martha’s field? Are we going somewhere? Where are we going? Why are we taking nettles?”

In his frustration, he grabbed his father’s arm.

Father whirled around and gave Henry’s shoulders a fierce shake. “Get hold of yoursel’, lad, or I’ll cloot ye upside the noggin. No more questions. Just do as ye’re told.”

Henry stared at his father, who had never once laid a hand on him, nor threatened to.

“I’m sorry, lad. Go on in the hoose and get the bundle.”

When Henry returned with their belongings, his father was holding the peat spade.

“Get a good look around ye, son. It’s the last time ye’ll clap eyes on your hame.”

About the Author:

Julie Doherty expected to follow in her artist-father’s footsteps, but words, not oils, became her medium. Her novels have been called “romance with teeth” and “a sublime mix of history and suspense.”

Her marriage to a Glasgow-born Irishman means frequent visits to the Celtic countries, where she studies the culture that liberally flavors her stories. When not writing, she enjoys cooking over an open fire at her cabin, gardening, and hiking the ridges and valleys of rural Pennsylvania, where she lives just a short distance from the farm carved out of the wilderness by her 18th century “Scotch-Irish” ancestors.

She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Central Pennsylvania Romance Writers, Perry County Council of the Arts, and Clan Donald USA.








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Interview and Giveaway: Can’t Forget by Colleen S. Myers





Do you write in different genres? If yes which is your favorite genre to write?

Fantasy in all its facets.

Is there a theme or message in your book?

The books theme really has to do with knowing yourself and to know yourself you have to know your past and own it.  It the series, the heroine is forced to remember some less than pleasant details as she deals with a less than pleasant reality and confront it so she can have happiness.

Do you title the book first or wait until after it’s complete?

I completed it then made all the series names.

What book are you reading now?

I am re-reading the Kate Daniels series.

What books are in your to read pile?

JR Ward's newest book.

What is your current “work in progress” or upcoming projects?

I am finishing the third book in the Solum series and the second in my contemporary romance series.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

Distant Memory due out Jan 2017, Whole Again and its second Each Other’s Only due out 2016-2017

Who designed the cover of your latest book?

Ellie Smith, from Champagne books. She is fabulous.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Never give up, never surrender. Half the battle is having confidence in your work (note confidence not arrogance) and perseverance.

Do you have a song or playlist (book soundtrack) that you think represents this book?

Anything EDM to match the tattoos!

Just for fun

If you could have one paranormal ability, what would it be?

Healing. I am a doctor. It appeals to me.

If you could keep a mythical/ paranormal creature as a pet, what would you have?


A dragon. A mini one. Too big and It would be hard to walk.

Can’t Forget
Solum Series
Book Two
Colleen S. Myers

Genre: Science Fiction Romance

Publisher: Champagne Books

Date of Publication:  June 6th, 2016

Number of pages: 253
Word Count: 82,000

Cover Artist: Elaine Smith

Book Description:

Is it better to be safe or loved?

Four months have passed since the E’mani destroyed the Earth and scooped up the remains. Elizabeth “Beta” Camden was one of those taken. With the help of their enemies, the Fost, she escapes and confronts her prior captors successfully. Though she knows she should remain vigilant toward the E’mani, she follows her heart instead and falls in love with Marin, the sexy Fost warrior..
She should have trusted her first instinct.

This time the E’mani don’t come in force--they slip in silently. And any hope Beta had of a peaceful life is lost. She leaves in the dead of night to find the E’mani stronghold and end them once and for all. But love is a tricky bitch.  It takes a threat to Marin’s safety to make Beta realize, if she can’t forget her past, she won’t have a future.



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Chapter One
The snowball hit the back of my head dead-on. Bam.
I stumbled forward from the force of the blow. The flakes created a halo of white powder around my head in the cool, crisp air then settled all over my face and neck.
What the…oh no he didn’t. A growl rose in my throat. I turned to confront my foe. I creased my eyebrows and I glared at him, mean-like.
With a smug expression on his face, Marin stared back, tossing another snowball between his hands.
“Elizabeth, you appeared distracted. I wanted to help.” His voice was smooth, deep like aged rum, and echoed in the unique way of his people, the Fost, almost like he was being dubbed. The sound got me every time causing me to shiver, or maybe it was the snow dripping down my back.
“That was helping?” My ass.
“Yes, you were about to walk into a tree,” he said dryly, dropping his ammunition.
I whipped around. Sure enough, a tree loomed in front of me. Dark-gray bark, feathery fronds interspersed with lethal spikes, blue moss climbing its trunk. Yep, that was a tree. Well for here anyway, not like on Earth.
I glanced back at Marin, who stood so trustingly under the boughs of another nearby tree laden with snow. A smile tugged at the corner of my mouth. See, I could help too. He looked hot, literally and figuratively.
 “Okay, thanks.”
With a thought, my power twisted deep inside, and I sent out a burst of air through the branches. They shuddered in response and unloaded their cold, wet contents on Marin’s head with nary a sound.
The snow dusted his brows, his cheeks, and obscured the single streak of dark green that coursed down the left side of his mahogany hair and framed his face. A single flake melted on his lips.
Our gazes met and held. His light brown eyes had a slit pupil that dilated then contracted as he focused on me. I used to find it…disconcerting, but it was just him, along with his long limbs, sharp features, and elaborate tattoos called jatua. All small differences but strange enough to have unsettled me in the past. Now it was so damn unfair how sexy I found him, alien race and all.
Marin raised an eyebrow and licked at his bottom lip, watching me watch him. My gaze followed the path of his tongue.
Heat spread through me as I imagined myself tasting those lips. I tucked a strand of red hair behind my ear. My breath slipped out in a sigh.
He smiled wide. “Lands, I love how you look at me.”
“Stop.” I blushed, twirling back and starting down the path we’d been walking before he ambushed me.
 “How much farther?” I asked when he caught up and bumped into my side.
“We are close,” Marin replied. He was  so busy shaking the snow out of his hair, he didn’t see my smile.
“Are we there yet?”
“No.”
Ha, so literal. “Are we there yet?”
His hands stopped and his brow crinkled. He looked so confused I had to laugh. Then I tripped flat on my face in my clunky snowshoes and it was Marin’s turn to snicker. He picked me up and settled me against him, my face tucked into his shoulder.
“You all right there?” His words whispered past my ear.
“I’m fine.” My voice came out a lot breathier than I intended. Damn it.
The corner of his lips curled up. He traced the side of my face. Tingles trailed along my skin. I put my fingers over his and stood on tiptoe in invitation. Marin obliged and brushed his mouth along mine. Our lips clung for the briefest of seconds before he shoved snow down the back of my coat.
I shrieked, dancing backward. Cold, cold, cold.
Marin bolted down the path, much more sure in his steps than I.
The jerk. He was lucky he got out of range, or I would have gotten payback.
I fiddled with my jacket to get the rest of the snow out, shuddering at the feeling of wet fabric sticking to my back.
God, I hated winter. The first snow, I marveled like everyone else. Oh, so pretty. The world sparkled underneath the coating of white. Then the freeze set in, the biting wind, the forced isolation. And did I mention the cold? Give me spring or summer any day.
We were traveling to the mines outside the city of Groos. The miners had reached a type of rock they’d never seen before. It was dense and coarse. They couldn’t blast through it, and their efforts were destabilizing the tunnels. They tried to dig around it, but so far they’d had no luck. Nobody knew how thick the vein was or how far it reached. They wanted me to try magical means to remove it. Fat lot of good that would do.
When I caught up to Marin, I gave him the evil eye.
Marin grinned. “What?”
I flipped him the bird.
He grabbed my middle finger, “What does that mean? You do it all the time.”
“Nothing.”
His brows wrinkled again. “Woman.”
“Man. And don’t talk to me. You put snow down my back.”
Marin laughed. “Sorry.”
“My ass, you are not the least bit sorry.”
“Wait, what does your bottom have to do with this?”
I blinked. Ha, I forgot sometimes that certain expressions didn’t translate. “Nothing.”
He growled and kissed my knuckle before dropping my hand. “I hate when you say that.”
“I know, thus, why I do it.” I grinned and stepped ahead of him with a wiggle in my step.
He swatted me on the ass as I passed. While I acted angry outside, inside I loved when he played. He only ever did it when no one could see him. He was Clan Chief after all, even though he was only five years older than me at twenty-five. The position left him little time for fun and his own sense of responsibility precluded it.
A few minutes later and we reached our destination. A box canyon opened up in front of us, filled with barren trees and snow. At the far end of the canyon, a cave entrance loomed, braced by wood. A single railroad track led out of the opening to the left and a snow-laden press stood to the side, up against the high stone walls.
 Con waited outside the entrance, his red and green Mohawk vivid against the backdrop of white. His stout form and kind face emphasized his resemblance to a Santa, A badass one. No fluffy red suit for him.
Marin inclined his head, straight to business. “Show us this rock.”
 With a flourish, Con gestured ahead, and we entered the mines with cautious steps. Just past the entrance, the light from the two suns outside faded and darkness fell. I slowed and Marin’s hand brushed my lower back.
“Let your eyes adjust for a moment,” Con muttered from behind us.
As I stood there, the walls started to glow. Streaks of aqua phosphorescence lit the pathway ahead.
“What is this?” I asked in wonder, moving in a circle.
“Theris, a weed. It grows in the caves. When you break its shell, it glows.” Con held out a small stick almost like an aloe branch that he snapped before our eyes, and a thin, clear liquid trickled out. “The glow lasts almost a week. We carry some on us at all times. Come, follow me.”
Con led the way down the cramped passageway. Gravel and ice crunched underfoot. The smell of dust filled the stale air. My breath steamed. Damn it. I shivered and rubbed my arms through the jacket. Marin ran his hand down my spine.
It took about five minutes of hiking to reach the antechamber. When we got there, Con stared at me with a hopeful expression.
“Okay, you want me to, you know.” I made woo-woo gestures at the wall.
“Yes,” Con replied.
Four months ago, I’d escaped from an E’mani spaceship and ended up here on Solum. The Fost, Marin’s people and the sworn enemies of the E’mani, took me in and hid me from their foes, but the E’mani didn’t give up easily. In one of their attempts to draw me out of hiding, they set bombs at these mines. Several people had been trapped inside. I’d used my magic to move the rock—how I got magic, I still don’t know—and created a new entrance. Now they wanted me to do it again. No pressure, right?
I reached out and touched the wall. The dark surface crumbled under my fingertips. All throughout the flaky stone, a silver metal streaked. Not dust or ore. This was metal, hard and thick. No wonder they couldn’t get through it.
With a deep breath, I closed my eyes. The power sprang eagerly to my summons. Heat spread outward from my core and my palm tingled where it touched the rock. The chill from being deep in the cave during winter faded.. A pulse vibrated in the air around me, pulling me deeper. I concentrated on that sound, letting it center me. My heartbeat synchronized to the sensation.
One. My skin grew tight. I let my breath rush out in a slow exhale.
Two. The stone warmed underneath my fingertips.
Three. The ground shook in response to the power rushing to my call. I kept my hands square on the wall.
Four. My hair stood on end, strength rushing through me, filling me until the force of the earth beneath my hand made me feel stretched like taffy. My mind screamed from the pressure and I squeezed my eyes shut. I needed to hold it as long as I could. My body shuddered until every pore sweat and my body strained from the contact, pushed to its limits and beyond. And then I shoved all the power out with my mind into the rock.
Please move. Please.
A beat.
Nothing happened.
 “Anything, Beta?” Con asked right next to my ear.
I jumped.
“Nope,” I squeaked out, trying to bring my pulse under control, oddly empty.
“Keep trying,” Marin said and touched the rock to my left. Con did the same on my other side. We all focused this time, but unlike the time we freed the miners, there was no movement. The metal seemed inert. Its light gray color contrasted starkly with the dark-brown stone.
My shoulders slumped. “Nothing. I’m sorry.”
“And this means we cannot mine the ferok, doesn’t it?” Marin asked, rubbing his forehead.
“Correct, it covers the veins,” Con said.
My fists clenched. The Fost had found another metal--ferok. It was pliable and could be imbued with magic. With it, they could shatter the technological defenses of the E’mani. That was a good thing, but the metal kept us from it. And we had so little of the ferok to begin with. This was not happy news.
“Land’s sake, why can it never be easy?” Marin echoed my thoughts.
Marin slapped Con on the back. “We will search the library for more information. You continue to try to mine this rock. See what you can do.”
 Con nodded in agreement as Marin gathered me up and we trudged out of the caves. Silence reigned for the next half hour.
“Stop worrying,” Marin said.
“I’m not worrying.”
“I can practically hear the thoughts racing through your head.”
“I am not worrying.” I enunciated slowly, my steps deliberate
“Yes, you are.”
“Well, fine, I can’t help it. I can’t stop thinking about the E’mani. Without the ferok, we only have our magic and we need more. And there’s this feeling of dread,” I splayed my hand across my chest, “right here, and it’s getting stronger. The E’mani are out there. I know it. I’m not sure why they haven’t attacked us yet, but they will. We need a weapon.”
The E’mani wouldn’t have forgotten about me or the Fost. I didn’t hold out hope that they’d forgotten about the men they’d lost in their attempts to recapture me either.
“The land protects us,” Marin replied.
A snort escaped me. “Magic vs. machine. That didn’t work out so well for you guys the last time.”
Marin tossed me a chiding look. “We survived, did we not? That is what matters. And we have lived as we are meant.”
God, his words made my teeth itch. “You can’t think the E’mani aren’t planning retaliation. They are not a forgiving race.”
I’d know having been their prisoner and all. And the more I thought about the E’mani, the more hatred stirred inside me. I loathed those pale freaks. They’d destroyed my world, in their never-ending quest to “make things better.” Then they brought me here. I didn’t remember much of my time with them, not yet. But I recalled enough to despise them. They were not kind masters.
White eyes stared at me through amber glass, E’mani eyes.
“Hello, Elizabeth,” Xade crooned. Light flashed off the razor sharp edge of the scalpel in his hands. “Time for more samples.”
Marin’s words snapped me out of my memories with a jolt. “We all know the E’mani are coming. But the winter has been harsh, more so than usual. And before they came after you, it had been ages since the last time we saw them. They left this world long ago to recoup their losses after the war. They left even while we were still fighting and maintain only a small presence out in Industry.”
My jaw set. “Good. Industry is where I need to go. I need to find one of their labs.”
Marin sighed. “We have talked about this, Elizabeth. First, you have no idea where to find a lab. And second, you have no idea what you need to do if you did find it.”
“I remember some of what they taught me. And being in the labs, where they kept me, will help me remember even more. I scared them, Marin. Me. When I confronted them—”
“It might not have been you. It might have been all the lightning you were throwing around, or the blade Zanth wielded,” he argued.
I grit my teeth until my jaw hurt. Damn him. Why wasn’t he listening? Tears blurred the path in front of me.
“It was me; I could tell. I know something that can hurt them, I can feel it. The E’mani were frightened enough of me that they came in force to capture or kill me and it has to do with the labs. I know there is something I’m meant to do, and soon. If not, something bad is going to happen.” Chills shivered down my spine. I heard the faint echo of screams—men’s and women’s—from long ago. They had a plan for us, just like they had for Earth. How could I stop it? “Marin?”
“Yes.”
“If I asked you to, would you leave with me, today, and travel to Industry?”
Marin blinked. “Today? No, we need to plan these things, you know that, Elizabeth. To go now would be stupid.”
I stomped forward on the trail. “Of course it would be. How silly of me. You’re right.”
“Elizabeth, please.” Marin caught up and put his arm around my shoulder. “We will go to Industry soon. I promise.”
“Yeah, yeah, you keep saying that.” I let my head fall against his shoulder. Arguing with Marin never seemed to end how I wanted it to. No use being pissy about it now. And he was right, which was even worse. To go during winter would be foolish, but still…
A few minutes passed. The snow crackled beneath our feet. It was cold enough, I’d long since lost feeling in my toes.
The entrance to the city of Groos came into view. There was a large chiseled gate built into the natural arch that fronted the valley. They built the gatehouse into the valley walls itself and tunneled above the gate, giving the guards a clear sight line of anyone approaching.
Bas-relief scenes covered the arch’s surface blending with the rock face. One scene depicted a Fost couple embracing in a corner their arms wrapped around one another. In the other corner was a Coreck, a catlike creature that stood on two legs, with a long tongue. Yet another showed a battle. Men fought with swords and spaceships flew overhead. The pictures were so vivid, they seemed to flow across the rock, lifelike and real. My fingers itched to touch the stone. Every time I saw it, I was struck by how natural it appeared. It fit.

Unlike me.

 About the Author:

Colleen Myers was raised in a large family in the outskirts of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where she grew up on Harlequin teen romances and stories from her mother’s work as a paramedic. She was her high school salutatorian and attended Allegheny College on the Presidential Scholarship.

After college, Colleen spent a year in service in the Americorp giving back to the community at a local Pittsburgh Women Infants and Children Clinic (WICC) before attending Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine on a military scholarship.

Upon completing medical school, Colleen attended residency at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland during 9/11. She earned three meritous service awards from the military along with outstanding unit awards. After serving seven yearsof active duty, she promptly landed a position at the VA to provide fellow veterans with optimum medical care. Still an avid fan of romances into adulthood, her love of the genre inspired her to hone her craft as a writer, focusing on contemporary romance and science fiction. Her background in medicine and the military provide an inspiring layer of creative realism to her stories and characters. 

Her first book, Must Remember, the first of the Solum series, is being published by Champagne Press. The sequel, Can’t Forget is the recipient of the 2015 RWA New England Readers Award.

Colleen currently resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with her son, and spends her spare time writing novels.











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