Sunday, January 28, 2018

Ghosts of the Sea Moon by Anita Stewart

Book Info:

Title: Ghosts of the Sea Moon (Saga of the Outer Islands Book 1)
Author: A. F. Stewart
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Publication Date: January 13th, 2018
Paperback Price: $12.99
Digital Price: Pre-order and Release Price $0.99. Will go up to $2.99 on February 14th

Come set sail with ghosts, gods and sea monsters.
Ghosts, Gods, and Sea Monsters.

Free companion prequel story, Sea Bound:

Ghosts of the Sea Moon Blurb

In the Outer Islands, gods and magic rule the ocean.
Under the command of Captain Rafe Morrow, the crew of the Celestial Jewel ferry souls to the After World and defend the seas from monsters. Rafe has dedicated his life to protecting the lost, but the tides have shifted and times have changed.
His sister, the Goddess of the Moon, is on a rampage and her creatures are terrorizing the islands. The survival of the living and dead hinge on the courage and cunning of a beleaguered captain and his motley crew of men and ghosts.
What he doesn’t know is that her threat is part of a larger game. That an ancient, black-winged malevolence is using them all as pawns…

Come set sail with ghosts, gods and sea monsters.

Buy Links:

Books2Read link (all non-Amazon retailers):

Author Links:
Newsletter Signup:

Author Bio:
A steadfast and proud sci-fi and fantasy geek, A. F. Stewart was born and raised in Nova Scotia, Canada and still calls it home. The youngest in a family of seven children, she always had an overly creative mind and an active imagination. She favours the dark and deadly when writing—her genres of choice being fantasy and horror—but she has been known to venture into the light on occasion. As an indie author she’s published novels, novellas and story collections, with a few side trips into poetry.


The Captain

Captain Rafe Morrow paced the quarterdeck of his ship, Celestial Jewel, the signs of an oncoming squall setting him on edge. Blustering wind rattled the sails and the crew’s nerves, their usual jaunty hubbub reduced to grumbling and snipes. Trouble travelled on that wind. Rafe could smell it woven in the air, and his blood prickled with a sense of worry. The ship trembled as if with warning. He glared at the sky and its darkening clouds painted amber and crimson from the setting sun. A storm sky coming ahead of a full moon meant dark magic and sea monsters would prowl the waves this night.
The Moon Goddess will hold sway tonight.
A trickle of blue energy raced across the back of his hand at the thought.
Damn her…and her beasts.
On the breath of a sigh, he whirled to face his crew. “Storm’s coming, boys. Doesn’t bode well, not with the moonrise tonight.”
“How long, Captain? Will we be in the thick of the weather or just what comes after?” A rough-edged sailor, Pinky Jasper, spoke up, but all ears of the deck crew listened for an answer.
“It’s coming within an hour or two, out from Raven Rock, by my reckoning. After nightfall by certain. We’re heading in, boys, but we’ll likely hit the edge of it.” He heaved a breath, exhaling. “It’ll be a bad one even for this crew so expect trouble.”
A shiver of tension settled over the deck. Some of the crew cast worried glances at the sea and each other. Others shivered, and a few more whispered prayers. Storms brought bad memories and nervous anticipation to the sailors of this ship.
“Which port then, Captain?” The mariner at the ship’s wheel chimed in. “Might make Abersythe if we head north.”
“We might, Anders. But we head east. We’ll race the edge of the tempest, but it’s closer and the ship will find better shelter anchored at Crickwell Island.”
“Aye, sir. Laying in course to Crickwell Island.” One-Eyed Anders turned the wheel and the ship’s bones groaned. Others of the crew adjusted the sails, and the Celestial Jewel leaned into her new bearing headed east.

Instafreebie preview (download the first four chapters free):

Monday, November 13, 2017

Meet Garth Pettersen and his novel The Swan's Road

In the eleventh century, Cnute, the Viking king of Engla-lond and Scandinavia, sails with his son, Harald, and his shield brothers to Rome. Thrown off course by a storm, they follow the route up the Rhine. When Harald hangs back to assist Selia, a beautiful Frisian woman, his path turns perilous. Newfound enemies, retainers of Robert the Devil, Duke of Normandy, pursue them. Harald, Selia, and their companions fail to rendezvous with King Cnute, and are forced to travel cross-country on horseback. If Duke Robert's plan to assassinate Cnute succeeds, an invasion of Engla-lond will follow. Can Harald and Selia reach Rome in time to warn the King?

A Rose by Any Other Name…

          Words interest me. I love learning new words and researching word origins (etymology). Words have two aspects: how they sound and what they mean. When it comes to names, what they mean no longer matters to us, but there is a third aspect, what associations they have for the reader.
          As a writer, I have a number of resource books at hand such as Chambers Slang Dictionary, Medieval Terms and Phrases, and Dictionary of Surnames. One useful resource is The Baby Name Survey Book, by Bruce Lansky and Barry Sinrod. The subtitle reads, "What people think about your baby's name". So you're writing a romance novel and you have a male character who is a sloppy ne'er-do-well and you want to call him Freeman. This reference book tells you "people picture Freeman as a handsome, neat, well-dressed, proud, and wealthy black man." Several examples are listed: football's Freeman McNeil, actor Morgan Freeman. I won't dwell on this; the point is to consider associations the reader may have with a name.
          Historical fiction is a genre I write in and the time I spend choosing character names is enjoyable. One story I am writing has the protagonist wash up on the Falkland Islands in the early nineteenth century. I don't wish to have him struggle with Spanish speakers, so I make the patriarch of the family who find him Irish––having first researched and discovered many Irish soldiers settled in Argentina after a failed invasion by Britain. My naming process is to google Irish surnames, read through the lists, and pull out several possible choices. I narrow the list down to four or five. In this case, they were:
·        MacGuigan
·        MacGrealish
·        MacKigo
·        O'Hehir
·        O'Hagan
          Then I do the same with Irish male Christian names. I found so many good ones.
·        Darragh
·        Ciaran
·        Cleary
·        Clooney
·        Murtagh
·        Ruari (Rory)
·        Tierney
          What becomes important to me now is the sound and rhythm of when first and last name come together. I came up with one of the most rhythmic names: Clooney MacKigo. Say it aloud a few times. Feel the rhythm? You could probably tap it out on a drum. And I'm getting a sense of the character. Clooney will have a sense of humor, but MacKigo is strong-willed and a force to be reckoned with.
          I have used this process with The Swan's Road, my novel set in eleventh-century Europe. I have had to find names for medieval Saxons, Danes, Frisians, Normans, Welshmen, European Jews, and Italians. Usually, I have an idea for the character and I search for a suitable name. I named my female protagonist, a determined and confident beauty, Selia Fehr––forgive me the play on Selia the Fair, I just loved the name. One good thing about a period and ethnic names is they do not carry the baggage discussed earlier.
          Here is an excerpt from The Dane Law, a sequel to The Swan's Road, and a work in progress. My protagonist, Harald, and his friends are kidding another Danish friend, Yngvarr about how the king will reward him.

            "…so he may give you gold…"
            Yngvarr's eyes opened wide.
            "…or land.."
            Yngvarr took on the look of a puffed up grouse in full courtship. He took another swig of ale.
            "…or he may do you the ultimate of honor of marrying you to my ugly cousin, Gullborga."
            We three doves aside as Yngvarr sprayed his mouthful of ale across the table.
            "I beg of your pardon," Yngvarr said to Selia as he wiped the table with his sleeve.
            "It is all right," she told him. "Harald must have his jesting." She gave a look to me and shook her head slightly.
            "You don't have an ugly cousin Gullborga, do you, Harald?"
            "No, Yngvarr. In truth, I do not."
            "Well then, that's good."
            "No, her name's Bothilda and she's twice your size!"
            "Ah, you won't be catching me twice on that one," said Yngvarr, "besides, the bigger the woman, the warmer the bed. I've always admired a woman with plenty to hold on to."

         This is a playful scene that only works because of the choice of particularly unflattering names for the imagined cousin. I hope it ended on a positive note for bountiful women.
          One other important thing a writer should do is keep track of names and avoid using ones that look similar or are the same. I have read novels where they have two Michaels or a Michael and a Michelle. I keep an alphabetical list and try not to double up on monikers starting with the same letter. A fast reader may mix up the names. You would not have a Terry and a Jerry, even if they were twins.
         I'll end with a few of the fictional character names I used in The Swan's Road and let you determine what kind of character qualities each conjures up.
·        Alric
·        Bertran deZouche
·        Floriano Roncalli
·        Ravya ben Naaman
·        Urbano Pupo
         To see if you are right, you'll have to read The Swan's Road. I hope this article gives you a greater appreciation of well-named characters. And if you were to change your name…


             Garth Pettersen is a Canadian writer who lives in the Fraser Valley near Vancouver, British Columbia. When he's not writing, he's riding horses and working with young, disabled riders.Garth's short stories have appeared in a number of anthologies, and in journals such as Blank SpacesThe Spadina Literary Reviewand 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 in the Wundor Editions (UK) Short Fiction Prize. His debut novel, The Swan's Road will be released November 15th, by Tirgearr Publishing.


Friday, October 13, 2017

#OctoberFrights - Day 4 - Lucky Friday the 13th


Ever wondered why we regard number 13 unlucky? And especially Friday the 13th?
Friday the 13th occurs at least once every year, and up to three times a year. In 2017, it occurs twice, on January 13 and October 13.There will be two Friday the 13th per year until 2020, where 2021 and 2022 will have just one occurrence. I bet you didn't know that.
The fear of the number 13 has been given a scientific name: "triskaidekaphobia" (how's that for a tongue twister?); and on analogy to this the fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskevidekatriaphobia (and if the first word haven't got your tongue in a knot, this one will for sure), from the Greek words Paraskeví (Παρασκευή, meaning "Friday"), and dekatreís (δεκατρείς, meaning "thirteen").

The superstition surrounding this day may have arisen in the Middle Ages, "originating from the story of Jesus' last supper and crucifixion" in which there were 13 individuals present in the Upper Room on the 13th of Nisan Maundy Thursday, the night before his death on Good Friday. While there is evidence of both Friday and the number 13 being considered unlucky, there is no record of the two items being referred to as especially unlucky in conjunction before the 19th century.
An early documented reference in English occurs in Henry Sutherland Edwards' 1869 biography of Gioachino Rossini, who died on a Friday 13th:
He [Rossini] was surrounded to the last by admiring friends; and if it be true that, like so many Italians, he regarded Fridays as an unlucky day and thirteen as an unlucky number, it is remarkable that on Friday 13th of November he passed away.
A suggested origin of the superstition—Friday, 13 October 1307, the date Philip IV of France arrested hundreds of the Knights Templar—may not have been formulated until the 20th century. It is mentioned in the 1955 Maurice Druon historical novel The Iron King (Le Roi de fer), John J. Robinson's 1989 work Born in Blood: The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry, Dan Brown's 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code and Steve Berry's The Templar Legacy (2006).

Social impact

According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, an estimated 17 to 21 million people in the United States are affected by a fear of this day, making it the most feared day and date in history. Some people are so paralyzed by fear that they avoid their normal routines in doing business, taking flights or even getting out of bed. "It's been estimated that [US]$800 or $900 million is lost in business on this day". Despite this, representatives for both Delta Air Lines and now-defunct Continental Airlines have stated that their airlines do not suffer from any noticeable drop in travel on those Fridays.
In Finland, a consortium of governmental and nongovernmental organizations led by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health promotes the National Accident Day (kansallinen tapaturmapäivä) to raise awareness about automotive safety, which always falls on a Friday the 13th.The event is coordinated by the Finnish Red Cross and has been held since 1995.

Rate of accidents

A study in the British Medical Journal, published in 1993, concluded that there "is a significant level of traffic-related incidences on Friday the 13th as opposed to a random day, such as Friday the 6th, in the UK." However, the Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics on 12 June 2008 stated that "fewer accidents and reports of fire and theft occur when the 13th of the month falls on a Friday than on other Fridays, because people are preventatively more careful or just stay home. Statistically speaking, driving is slightly safer on Friday the 13th, at least in the Netherlands; in the last two years, Dutch insurers received reports of an average 7,800 traffic accidents each Friday; but the average figure when the 13th fell on a Friday was just 7,500.

Source Wikipedia

Happy Friday the 13th

We have a Raflecopter giveaway for this blog, so feel free to enter and win yourselves some cool prizes. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, October 11, 2017


It's the time of year when you'll find everything horror-themed from toilet paper to the every store isle just bursting with all things Halloween.  
In this blog hop, I’m giving away a signed paperback copy of my time travel/divine intervention romance novel, Love Remains. It’s the first book in this particular sub-genre I've written. And to boot, there’s an entire blog hop of MORE great giveaways. You really can’t lose here.
To enter this giveaway, use the Rafflecopter below. To enter the other giveaways, scroll down to the blog hop.
Front CoverOlivia Owen, a busy, single, high-functioning, corporate executive officer, is not afraid to die a spinster for the sake of her career. But in an alternate reality world, bridged by the angel of her sister with Down syndrome, she meets Tom Medar, a dedicated, Croatian defense attorney who dreams of the right woman, but never has time to find her. Together, they foil an adulterous murder plot while discovering there’s room for love and family in their busy lives - but not before they are separated again.
When they awaken from their alternate world, will they be able to cross countries to find each other again?

“This is quite perplexing,” he said, glancing at her then back at the computer screen where he pointed at the middle of the scan. “There are no signs of brain damage or any unusual growth. There is a slight elevation of the brain-stem activity in your sleep promoting area. That is where REM sleep originates.”
She leaned closer when Dr. Mason pointed to gray and black picture on the computer screen. “Are you saying I’m dreaming all of this?”
The doctor slid his hands into the pockets of his white coat. “No, you’re awake and aware. I’m not certain why your brain is firing these neurons. Perhaps more observation is needed.”
On the verge of disclosing her theory, she clamped her teeth and forced her thoughts to Tom. His wife would return someday soon, and she’d find herself once again in her empty house with not a soul for a friend. “So, what do I do now?”
“You’re feeling fine, so I’ll discharge you. I hope Tom is satisfied with my decision.” Dr. Mason arched one eyebrow at Tom.

Tom’s long, loud sigh confirmed her suspicion: Dr. Mason’s diagnosis, or lack of it, was not satisfactory. “At least promise me you’ll re-examine her scans and make certain you didn’t overlook something."
“I promise. And if her condition doesn’t improve or worsens with time, I’ll conduct another scan.” Dr. Mason extended his hand to Tom.
Tom shook the doctor’s hand. “Thanks, Gregory. I appreciate this.”
“Don’t mention it.” Dr. Mason extended his hand to Olivia. “Don’t beat yourself over this. Take it easy. Even the smallest thing can trigger your memory to return and I hope it does.”
If he only knew that her memory never left her. She took his hand and shook it. “I do hope so too, Dr. Mason. Thank you for all your help.”
Olivia met Tom in the hallway. Frigid air wrapped around her as soon as she stepped onto the sidewalk. She welcomed the coldness, hoping it would help clear her head.
“I’m parked just over there.” Tom pointed to a row of cars in the emergency parking lot.
The sight of her Nissan Quest brought her a sense of home. “Where’s your car?”
“I cabbed to Dr. Law’s office and drove your van.” He took her hand. “You must be hungry. Have you eaten at all today?”
She pressed her hand on her growling stomach. “Now that you mention it, I’m starving.”
“I’ve a nice stew simmering in the slow cooker.” He opened the door for her then shut it after she took her seat.
When he slid behind the wheel, his nu-buck coat creaked. “Let’s go home. The babysitter has an early class tomorrow.”
Wow! He’d thought of everything. In all this craziness, she’d forgotten about the kids. She studied his aquiline profile in the fading light of the short wintry day. She was getting used to him looking after her. When his real wife returned and she got pulled back to her ordinary world, it would be so hard to go on day after day without him.
Perhaps it would be better if she never disclosed her theory to him, or helped him solve the attempted murder case. She could stay in his world forever.
No, it wouldn’t be fair. This sweet man deserved to have his wife back and his children needed their mother. That was something she could never be.
With a hard swallow, she clamped down a sudden desire to play his wife. “Tom, I think I know the source of this confusion.”

We have a Raflecopter giveaway for this blog, so feel free to enter and win yourselves some cool prizes. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

#OctoberFrights Celebrating all things that go bump in the night

That horrific Halloween I want to put behind me.

Is there a Halloween you wish you could wipe out from your memory?
There is one I'm not fond of. It happened a few years back when the Blue Jays won their first World Series in years. My boyfriend at the time and I were invited to a house Halloween party of his colleague who lives in a rural area with lots of land around his house backing into the woods.
Throughout the evening the hosts organized several, fun and not so scary games and left the best for last. Close to midnight, they asked us to follow them to the edge of the woods and told us we're to take a stroll through there. Just keep to the right, everytime you come to the spot where the path branches, keep to the right and it will lead you back here, they said. You can't miss it, and it shouldn't take you more than ten minutes, tops. Okay, fifteen if we're slow walkers.

And so, off we went two by two, following the narrow path leading through the trees with bare branches. For a while, we could hear voices and laughter and even a few screams, I guess the hosts had a few of their buddies waiting in the bush to jump at the unsuspecting midnight strollers.  Thankfully, I saw a dark figure rising slowly from behind a bush and yelled "I see you there."
He straightened and removed his werewolf mask and said "Oh, crap. I'm having the worst luck tonight."
We continued on, bumped into a few more people on the path and followed them for a bit. They would go one way and we went the other. Always staying to the right. But there were just too many paths out there, who knew?
Eventually, the voices grew distant until we didn't hear anything. It was a calm night, not a breath of wind. Full moon washed everything in silver. I said to my (now ex) boyfriend, "It had to be more than ten minutes that we've been out here. Do you hear anyone? I don't."
His response was, "We're not that far gone. I bet by the next turn it will take us back to the house."
Well, the next thing I hear is water lapping on the shore. We're pretty much on the banks of the Lake Eire. It'll be quite a hike back to the house, but at least we found the paved road. By now I'm fuming. There are no houses on this road, and I really need the bathroom. So my only option is bushes. No cars were passing by and if they did, we must've made quite a sight. Me in a slinky little black dress and ruined heels and him in a dirty coveralls with a bad wig on which each strand stuck in its own direction. (Note to self, wash those cheap Halloween wigs and use hair conditioning so that they look okay).
We made it to the first house on the road, and only the house dog greeted us with loud barking. I was not amused but didn't want to scream at the poor dog and possibly wake up the household.
By the time we returned to our host's house, a few people made it back. They were quiet and sipped on the warm rum drink. The host himself had to get into his pickup and drive around to get the lost souls. Everyone and I mean every single one of us, got lost on those trails. Good thing this was way before the movie "The Blair Witch Project" or I think our experience would be much scarier.

Image result for dark woods in moonlight

We have a Raflecopter giveaway for this blog, so feel free to enter and win yourselves some cool prizes. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Susan Clayton-Goldner "When Time Is A River"

On a bench at the edge of the Lithia Park playground, someone is stalking two-year- old Emily Michaelson as she plays with her eighteen-year old half-sister, Brandy. The child’s laughter curves through the sunlight, as if on wings. The stalker is more enamored than ever, but aware of Brandy’s vigilance with Emily, knows a kidnapping won’t be easy. Planning to gain Emily’s trust, the stalker gives her a necklace—little girls love pretty things. A few days later, Brandy and Emily arrive at the park for the Children's Health Fair. When the stalker sees them enter the public restroom, the opportunity is seized.
Not long after Emily's disappearance, Detective Radhauser finds her rainbow- colored sneakers in Ashland Creek, their laces tied together in double knots. Brandy’s father and stepmother blame Brandy for Emily’s disappearance. Radhauser feels sorry for her, but insists she stay out of the investigation. Brandy can’t do that. She is obsessed with finding out who took her little sister, and why. Will Emily be found in time?

 What Early Reviewers Are Saying

Kathy Elliot***** I received an advanced copy of Susan's Clayton-Goldner's "When Time is a River" for review. This review reflects my honest, unbiased opinion.
Another masterpiece has been created. Again, I could not put my laptop down, even carried it into the kitchen while cooking. Detective Radhauser is the man I want solving my case should I ever need a detective and Brandy is the daughter every mother wishes she had raised. The humaness of all of Susan's characters, I believe, is one of the many reasons I am intrigued by her books. And in today's very narcissistic political climate it's so refreshing to read about characters who actually care about others and the greater good of society.

A great mystery indeed, with an ending I could never have surmised. The emotions of each character during crisis seemed authentic and believable. A poignant characterization of schizophrenia and bi-polar disease allowed the reader to understand, without bias, the faulty thinking that occurs in mental illness. I am anxiously awaiting the third book in this series.

Linda Willer ***** I received an advanced reader's copy of this book directly from the author in exchange for an honest review. As with the last two books I read by Susan, I am always amazed at the writing and how something I would take 10 sentences to describe she can do in one and you have a clear picture in your mind of character, time, place and feelings. I love her work and I love this new series (hope it is more than just a trilogy!!!!!) Many have reviewed the plot, telling the story so I won't go over the plot again. I read a lot of series. The protagonist becomes a friend. You live their lives day by day with them. Sometimes, you'd rather not!!!! Sometimes, you just want to tell them, "to get over it." What was refreshing about the protagonist in this series is that we learned and felt his sadness and depression in Redemption Lake. It is now four years later and he is very happy. Bringing Detective Radhauser to a happy place was genius. Now the story really is about Emily and Brandy. It left room for a new hero, Band-aid!!!!!!

Debbie ***** Brandy is a very amazing young lady. When Emily disappeared, her whole life changed. What Emily does to find her baby sister will have you on the edge of your seat waiting to see what happens next. This book is so good you won't be able to stop reading it. The author did a wonderful job writing this story. I would give this book a higher rating than a five-star review if I could. I had the honor to review this book for the author for a honest review. The reaction to this book is my honest reaction to the story

Louise Pledge ***** I started reading this at bedtime and was so engrossed, I wanted to read the whole book in one sitting (er laying). However, I'd had a long day and kept falling asleep. I would, occasionally, throughout the night, force myself to wake up and read a few more pages. So, as soon as I woke up, I picked it back up and had to read until I was done. Yes, the story was THAT GOOD! An emotional story (aren't all missing children stories just that?) with a few surprises along the way. It wrapped itself up, nicely, and not "just all of a sudden" like so many things we read. You will adore the heroine, Brandy, and find yourself cheering her on. 

I was intrigued by the cover and found myself wondering what the title meant. It all ties together and makes so much sense, as you read. Highly recommend!

 Susan Clayton-Goldner is a graduate of the University of Arizona's Creative Writing Program and has been writing most of her life. Her novels have been finalists for The Hemingway Award, the Heeken Foundation Fellowship, the Writers Foundation and the Publishing On-line Contest. Susan won the National Writers' Association Novel Award twice for unpublished novels and her poetry was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. A collection of her poems, A Question of Mortality was released in 2015. Her novel, A Bend In The Willow, released by Tirgearr Publishing in January, 2017k has nearly 100 reviews on Amazon, averaging 4.6 stars. Her second novel, Redemption Lake, was released in May, 2017 and is averaging 4.9 stars on Amazon.  Her newest release, When Time Is A River is available for preorder at half price and releases on September 6, 2017.

When she isn’t writing, Susan spends her time making stained-glass windows and quilts. She says those two activities are similar to writing—telling stories through glass and fabric.

Excerpt – When Time Is A River

I sat on a concrete bench exactly twenty yards from the Lithia Park playground and waited for Emily. For thirty-two days, I’d studied her movements, followed her and Brandy, the teenager Emily called Band-Aid, trying to determine exactly how and when to execute my plan.   
As the sun made its low circuit across a crisp and cloudless sky, I felt grateful to be free again. To be in this place where the air smelled like earth and pine bark.
I opened my leather attaché case and removed my binoculars and The Sibley Guide to Birds. I set the book in a visible spot beside me on the bench, picked up my binoculars and scanned the clumps of rhododendron bushes where Emily liked to hide. She wasn’t there. Shifting the binoculars to the playground, I searched the line of children at the slides, the sandbox and finally found Emily on the merry-go-round.
Brandy ran in circles and sang as she pushed the laughing child. “The wheels on the bus go round and round…” Every time I saw her in the park, she was singing. Sometimes she came alone, brought a guitar and sat by the creek.
Small clouds of dust rose with the beat of her boots on the worn ring of dirt around the merry-go-round. Her long dark and curly hair was tamed on the top and sides by a hot pink cowboy hat and her skirt flowed behind her like a multi-colored banner as she ran. A half dozen silver bracelets made music when she moved her arm. She looked like a gypsy turned cowgirl.
I focused on her bandaged cheek, flinched and looked away. More than anything, I hated imperfection.
When she skidded to a stop and the dust settled, the merry-go-round slowed and my gaze riveted on Emily. As always, she clutched her worn Pooh bear in her lap. I adjusted the lens on my binoculars until Emily appeared close enough to count the grass clippings on the back of her neck. I imagined the toddler turning somersaults on the newly mown lawn—the legs of her red corduroy pants rising up over the plump soft flesh on her calves. I tried to steady my breathing. Alive with secrets and desires, I no longer cared what the dark-suited doctors said. They never understood my needs or my dreams. Why should I swallow their pills to escape them?
Emily rested her chin on the merry-go-round’s safety bar. With her legs dangling over the side, she looked like an illustration in the storybook, Snow White. A tiny flawless princess—so brightly lit from the inside that I imagined sunshine, rather than blood, filled her perfect veins. When the spinning finally stopped, she stood and jumped.
“Be careful,” I whispered as I set the binoculars aside.
Emily’s hair flew up, then fell back over her forehead—sunlight rippling through the red highlights in her dark curls. In midair she flashed a smile, then landed on her feet, giggling over her shoulder as Brandy chased her around the playground.
A flutter of panic rose in my throat. Brandy was so vigilant. But even careful people make mistakes.
Emily’s laughter soared through the air and the two of them passed so close to me I could have reached out and touched Emily. Then the toddler turned and ran back toward the merry-go-round. As she passed by the bench where I sat, she paused and waved at me.
Happiness swelled my chest. The dream of having this particular little girl pulsed through my veins like a mind-altering drug. It aroused every nerve in my body until even my fingertips throbbed with expectation.
Brandy scooped Emily up in her arms.
She was so pure and innocent. All I needed to do was gain her trust and the rest would be easy.
I pulled the necklace from my pants pocket and smiled as I studied the garnet heart set between two diamonds.
Little girls love pretty things.


Amazon UK:




Barnes&Noble Nook: