Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Let's talk about Wonder Woman!

Posted by: Angela Korra'ti
Our first real and actual Wonder Woman movie is on the immediate horizon, and I gotta tell you, Internets, I am looking very, very forward to it. My reasons are much the same as a lot of other women in SFdom my age—we want to see a female-led superhero film; we want to see DC movies start stepping up to the plate as well as Marvel; and most of all, it’s about freggin’ time that Wonder Woman, long one of the three big DC superheroes along with Batman and Superman, gets her own film.

A lot of folks had Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman on TV in the 1970s as their first exposure to the character. I am no exception, though I have no real memory of regularly following the show. Mostly I knew it was there, since it sometimes showed up in syndication on our local channels. It took until the 90s, when DC’s excellent animated continuity showed up in the cartoons for Batman, Superman, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited, for me to really get a Wonder Woman I took to hard. Diana in that continuity was excellent, and some of my favorite moments with the character are in fact from those shows.

I have a clearer memory of Wonder Woman in, of all things, the Superfriends cartoons. Those, unlike the live-action show, were on my radar more often just because I was more likely to be watching TV on a Saturday morning back in the 70s and early 80s. Looking back on it now, I’m pretty sure she didn’t make an impact on me at the time—women in the Superfriends were pretty thin on the ground and I don’t remember the Superfriends iteration of Wondy doing much other than flying around in her invisible jet. Nevertheless, she was there, an early precedent for me to use later, when I was on the lookout for prominent female characters in animation. (Princess in Battle of the Planets and Lisa Hayes in Robotech, I am looking straight at you.)

Now, no matter how you slice it, the Superfriends were pretty silly. DC’s animation game kicked up considerably later on, though. I must give a shoutout to the full-length animated film (titled simply Wonder Woman) that came out in 2009, which I jumped on in no small part because Nathan Fillion voices Steve Trevor in it. And like many a geek, I do love me some Nathan Fillion. <3 The film’s an origin story, but it does well, and by the time it came out I knew enough about Wonder Woman’s backstory that I recognized the basic elements. (Like, say, Steve Trevor; I may not have active memories of the 70’s TV show, but I’m pretty sure I must have watched it anyway, because that’s the most likely source for me having that name in the back of my head.)

Let me also call attention to the 2008 film Justice League: The New Frontier. Another origin story, this time mostly for Green Lantern in particular and the Justice League in general, but it too has some wonderful Diana mileage in it. (And I gotta note as well, looking this film up again to double-check details about it, it’s particularly excellent that Lucy Lawless is the voice of Diana. How appropriate is that? :D )

What I lack, though, is grounding in the character’s actual line of comics. I’ve been dabbling in female-led Marvel titles in the last few years, and I have had half an eye on DC as well, enough to see glimmers of potential in some of the more recent Wonder Woman storylines. With the movie about to drop, I’m thinking it’s about time I investigated those titles.

Any fans of Wonder Woman’s recent comic stories out there? Got any recommendations for me?

If you didn’t discover the character via comics, what were your first memories of the character in mass media? Was Lynda Carter your Wonder Woman? Or did you discover her in animated form?

And if, like me, you have a soft spot for Greek mythology, how does that play into your knowledge of the character?

Share your Diana stories in the comments!

Angela is not an Amazon, but boy howdy is she looking forward to seeing Wonder Woman Amazon it up this weekend. In the meantime, come say hi to Angela on her site at, on Facebook, or on Twitter! Particularly after she posts her inevitable review of the movie.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Supernatural TV I love from Back in the Day and Today

Posted by: Maureen
by Maureen L. Bonatch 

I don’t always watch television, but when I do—and when I have the rare opportunity to choose the stationI usually pick a supernatural or paranormal television show. Besides offering a wonderful escape from the stress and demands of the everyday, I believe watching these shows helps me with my writing. 

Show vs. Tell

As a writer, I’m constantly striving to show the scene rather than tell it to the reader. This includes using a lot of descriptive terms. When I’m watching television, this isn’t always necessary for the actors/actresses. You can already see the scene, the color of their hair, eyes and their facial expression. Therefore, as a paranormal and fantasy writer, I believe that watching these shows is more than entertainment. It’s also educational. Perhaps a kind of research tool. (Consult your accountant- I’m not one- but if you’re a fiction author, you should be able to deduct your Netflix.)

While watching the show I’m mentally crafting how I’d write the scene in a novel to depict the picture I see on the screen. I have my notepad handy (paper, or the digital one on my phone) to take notes, or to remember an amazing line from the show.

Stretching the Imagination

Paranormal and fantasy television shows encourage us to stretch our imagination. A good one has us easily accepting this into our reality. Over the years, I’ve watched this genre of television grow with technology and the ability to use fabulous costumes, make-up, stunts and special effects. It’s more obvious just how far this has advanced when I watch an old favorite like The Land of The Lost, or I Dream of Jeannie or Bewitched. But when I was watching those shows back in the day it didn’t matter. I didn’t notice how fake some of the creatures looked—because I was already enraptured by the show. 

Some of My Favorites

I’ve watched many different paranormal and supernatural television shows, but some stand a head above the rest (at least in my book ;). Here are a few that I’ve either binge watched multiple episodes with an insatiable appetite to know what happens next. Or that I had to wait impatiently for the week to pass so I could revisit my favorite characters.
  •       Supernatural
  •       Outcast
  •       Stranger Things
  •       Ghost Whisperer
  •       Medium
  •       The X-Files
  •       Millennium
  •       Charmed

In fact, my first published short story, That Magic Moment, was inspired from the television show, Charmed

Can love cross the boundaries mortals have erected to reject all that cannot be explained?

As the last witch in the Turner line, Celeste doesn’t know if she’s finally found true love or if her grandma cast a love spell to continue the Turner line. 

Dane Johns is a man not easily forgotten, but that’s exactly what Celeste plans to do. Because he has one big flaw. He’s a mortal.

Do You Have any Favorite Television Shows You’d like to Share? 

Author Bio: Maureen Bonatch grew up in small town Pennsylvania and her love of the four seasons—hockey, biking, sweat pants and hibernation—keeps her there. While immersed in writing or reading paranormal romance and fantasy, she survives on caffeine, wine, music, and laughter. A feisty Shih Tzu keeps her in line. Find Maureen on her websiteFacebookTwitter

Monday, May 29, 2017

Here Be News

Posted by: Veronica Scott
New Releases:

New Release! Paranormal romance, Fire Fall, by Jenny Schwartz - a billionaire's daughter, a wizard mercenary, and ... Bigfoot?

99c or free in Kindle Unlimited:

Don't miss this intense summer adventure in the Rocky Mountains!


Other News:
Veronica Scott's award winning scifi romance Hostage to the Stars is on sale for $.99!
Buy Links:     Apple iBooks     Amazon    Kobo     Barnes & Noble

Bring It Back(list) Feature:
Edge of Heaven by P. G. Forte:

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Bring It Back(list) with PG Forte

Posted by: PG Forte

I don’t remember what initially prompted me to write Edge of Heaven—the sexy, m/m story of two angels trapped in limbo. I don’t write a lot of stories in first person, but when I do most of the time what pulls me in is the character’s voice. And Edge (the main character) was no different. Edge...has issues. An “edge” if you will. He’s moody and irreverent. He has secrets, and hang-ups, and a whole closet-full of flaws—most of which he’s in denial about. All of which made him a fabulous character to write. So, I guess, as with most of my books, I wrote it to learn more about the story; to figure out who this nutty guy was, and what he wanted....beyond sex with his angel-in-training, of course. That part was pretty obvious.

One thing I never fell in love with was the cover. So when I got the chance to self-pub the paperback version, I jumped at the chance to change it. It’s still a work in progress, however. I'm still not sure it does the story--or Edge--justice.

Welcome to the afterlife, where men are men and the angels are fallen.
It was a reckless act of passion that ended Edge’s life and left him in Limbo -- literally. Now, he’s stuck here. While most of the other angels-in-training move quickly up the celestial ladder, Edge knows it can never be that simple for him. He’s dealing with issues that are a lot more complicated than a simple lack of closure.
While Edge doesn’t know for sure what it will take to get him into Heaven, there is one thing he’s certain won’t help -- his latest assignment guiding angel-baby Matteo Matinucci while the newbie find his wings.
But twenty-something Mattie -- sexy, beautiful, recently departed, and openly gay -- could turn out to be the answer to all of Edge’s prayers, as well as the fulfillment of all his fantasies, even the hot, sweaty, secret ones he’s never confided to anyone. And by helping to send Mattie to Heaven, Edge just might end up saving both their souls.


“Is this a bad time?” Matteo asks, showing up on my beach unannounced. He’s gazing at me a little uncertainly, and I guess he’s responding to the look of shock on my face. At least I hope I look shocked. It’d beat looking panicked, disgusted, and dismayed, which is closer to how I’m really feeling. New as he is, there’s no way he should have been able to follow me here, so hell yes, it’s a bad time!

“Time doesn’t really exist,” I say, cleverly sidestepping the question. “And good and bad—those are also illusions.”

“I see.” Matt’s brow crinkles up. He looks around curiously. “So what is this place, anyway, Hindu hell?”

“What? Hell? No, it’s not hell, and…why Hindu?”

“Okay, Buddhist maybe. Same basic philosophy, isn’t it? Nothing you see is real. It’s all illusion, and everything’s the same: good and bad, pleasure and pain, action and inaction, blue and green.”

I blink at that last part. Now he’s got my attention. He’s nuts, but he’s got my attention. “Uh…blue and green?”

A smile tugs at the corners of his mouth. “Well, yeah, you know, ’cause that’s how the world looks, right? From a distance?”

I don’t want to do it, but I can’t help laughing. “Cute, pal. But I’m pretty sure the Divine Miss M’s no Buddhist.”

Matteo grins. “My mistake, then.” He points at the log on which I’m sitting. “May I?”

I’d like to say no, but I’d have to have a reason to do that. A good reason I mean, one I’d be willing to admit to. Which I don’t. “Sure. Help yourself.”

It’s a big log, practically a whole tree. There’s plenty of room for us both. At least that’s what I tell myself. Still, it’s an effort to keep from moving away. I want to slide over to the very end to make sure he doesn’t sit right next to me. Which he does. Big surprise, huh? I don’t want to sound like a wuss or anything, but the guy’s clearly got no sense of personal boundaries. He’s sitting so close to me our shoulders are practically touching. I can feel the heat rising from his skin. It’s sensuous, tempting. I have to fight the urge to lean into it.

“So seriously, what is this place?” he asks, surveying the scenery.

I’m kind of wondering about that myself. I mean, I know what I see when I look around me, but I also know it’s a reflection of my own thoughts. None of it is actually real. Does Matteo see what I see? Or is he seeing something else? “What does it look like to you?”

He glances around again. “Somewhere along the West Coast would be my guess. Northern California, Pacific Northwest, something like that.”

“Yeah, that’s how it looks to me too.” I stare out at the ocean. Sunlight dances on the waves. A couple of gulls fly by. Who’s to say what’s real, anyhow? “This is the beach I used to go to as a kid.” I point at the rocky shore. “There are tide pools between those rocks. Man, I used to love messing around down there. And over that way”—I turn and point over his shoulder to that place where the beach ends in a fall of boulders and water laps at the base of the cliff—“is the entrance to a cave. It’s hard to find. You can only reach it at low tide. Sometimes not even then.”

“It seems like all of the best things in life are like that, aren’t they?” His voice is low, suggestive. I feel it in the pit of my stomach.

“Like what?”

“Hard to get.” He’s staring right at me. Our faces are just inches apart. I can see the gold flecks in his dark eyes and the fine gold stubble that lines his jaw. My fingers are tingling. It’s like I can already feel the sandpapery texture of his cheek sliding against my open palm. His lips are full, slightly parted. They look soft. They look inviting.

I put my hand in the center of his chest and push. “Tell me more about yourself.”

“What do you want to know?” he asks, lips twitching into a tiny smile. “I swear I’m clean. No drugs, no diseases. Or does that even matter here?”

I shake my head. “It’s none of my concern. And it’s also not what I’m talking about.” My hand is still pressed against his heart. He seems not to mind. I do, but I just can’t seem to move it away. “Tell me how you died.”

And there goes his smile, disappearing in a red-hot instant. He straightens—away from me, away from my hand—and looks out at the water once more. “It was so stupid, you know? So totally senseless.”

Oh crap. There’s an unmistakable tinge of anger in his voice. Eerily familiar, it puts all my nerves on alert. My heart starts pounding. My jaw gets tight. I don’t want to ask it, but it’s my job. I have to know. “What did you do?”

Friday, May 26, 2017

3 Fantasy Shows I'm Currently Bingewatching

Posted by: Angela Campbell
I have a confession to make. I am a TV junkie. Of course, I don't have time to watch nearly as much TV as I used to, but I still find time now and then to binge watch something I haven't yet discovered. Apparently I'm a teenager (or millennial?) trapped in the body of a grown woman because I regularly watch most of the shows on The CW — Arrow, The Flash, The Vampire Diaries (RIP), Supergirl, and Supernatural — but I also have discovered some shows on Netflix that aren't as well known that I absolutely love. I've already reviewed Stranger Things, but here are a few more Netflix shows I highly recommend if you're a fan of speculative fiction.

Sense8 — Netflix
It's not easy to describe the awesomeness that is Sense8 because there truly isn't anything out there to make a fair comparison to, but I'll try to do it justice. Created by the Wachowskis of The Matrix fame, the show follows eight characters, all from different countries/ethnicities/races/genders/sexual orientations, who are sensates who belong to the same cluster, meaning they are mentally and emotionally linked. They interact with one another telepathically while being hunted by a man called Whispers, another sensate who works for an agency trying to exterminate their kind. Once you get into it, it's one of those shows you can't stop watching. Plus, it portrays main characters who are transgender, homosexual, and non-white like normal human beings, and it weaves in some worthwhile social issues into its mythology. Season two just dropped this month and I watched it all in a weekend and am now anxiously hoping for a season three announcement soon. Are you listening Netflix?!?!

Black Mirror — Netflix
A British import, Black Mirror is kind of like a Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits for the digital age, with standalone episodes that feature well-known actors in fantasy stories that indicate that with too much technology we risk losing some (if not all) of our humanity. Granted, some episodes are kind of dark, but they're incredibly well-written and thought provoking. I recommend it if you want a show that you can watch an episode here and there without getting sucked into cliffhangers.

Mystery Science Theater 300: The Return — Netflix
I loved watching the goofy Mystery Science Theater shows when I was younger, so I wasted no time diving into the new show when it debuted on Netflix. Plus, Felicia Day, who I admire immensely, is a writer/producer/actress on the reboot. If you're not familiar with it (seriously?), each episode is about a man and his robot friends in space who are forced to watch terrible movies as an experiment, and they mock the movies while they play. Plus, they do funny skits instead of commercials. If you have a silly sense of humor, check it out. You are guaranteed to snort-laugh at least once during each movie.

What are you binge-watching? Summer is here, so I need suggestions. Give me yours in the comments!

Angela Campbell is the author of the psychic detectives series from Harper Impulse. Learn more about her and her books at

Thursday, May 25, 2017

7th Anniversary

Posted by: Janni Nell

In June, it’ll be seven years since my first book was published. I had almost given up on getting published (self-publishing was in its infancy back then) when I heard about a new imprint opening at Harlequin. Carina Press were reading anything and everything. They needed to fill a number of slots before their launch. I figured: What have I got to lose? After submitting, I eagerly checked the executive editor’s posts about how many manuscripts were being rejected and accepted…until one post where a huge number of rejections were being sent along with two acceptances. Was it possible? Could my book be one of the acceptances? The odds weren’t great, and as the days went on, that little seed of hope in my heart withered.

When I finally got the email from the executive editor, I braced myself for rejection. I had to read the email a dozen times before it finally sank in that, yes, they were offering to publish my debut novel. Then a weird kind of numbness set in. I'd been working toward this for a long time and now I was so shocked I couldn't even celebrate. When I awoke the next morning, I forgot I’d even been accepted. Then suddenly the memory rushed in, and my black-and-white world was transformed into glorious technicolor. I'll cherish that feeling as long as I live.

That first book was a huge learning experience. I was all kinds of nervous working with an editor, but Liz was, and continues to be, awesome. The biggest challenge for me was starting from scratch with social media. Things like setting up Facebook and Twitter, and organizing a website made my brain hurt. I made lots of mistakes. Was it worth it? Hell, yeah! Writing is one of the great joys of my life.

And here’s the book that started it all…

Allegra Fairweather here. Paranormal investigator. Got problems with specters? Shapeshifters? I'm the woman to call. Just don't call me a Ghostbuster. The last guy who did that ended up flat on his back with my boot at his throat.
With my 99.5% success rate, solving the mystery of a bleeding rose that has sprung up on the shores of Loch Furness should have been an easy gig. But already I've heard the shriek of the local banshee, discovered two bodies (and then lost two bodies), and had a near-death encounter with a three-hundred-year-old ghost. And perhaps most dangerous of all, the hot pub owner who hired me now wants to show me exactly what's under his kilt.
Luckily, I'm ably assisted by my very own guardian angel. I'm grateful for his help—but he's also drop-dead gorgeous. A bit distracting when I've got a mystery to solve, and the clock is ticking...

Available now

Google Play
Barnes & Noble

Janni Nell writes fun paranormal mysteries. She is currently working on the first book in a new series.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Magic in the Real World

Posted by: Jenny Schwartz
2017 is the year of my Old School series which mixes magic into our ordinary world. I love writing this kind of paranormal romance where the magic really could exist, just hidden from most of us.

Fire Fall is the latest stand-alone novel in the series. It releases in two days! *hyperventilates* Researching it was fabulous. The Rocky Mountains make a stunning setting and mixing magic with a gorgeous reality makes for something unforgettable.

In Fire Fall wildfire is threatening the Rio Grande National Park. As an Australian, the power of wildfires is something we see every summer. I'm thankful that so far my experience of its devastation isn't personal. I live in the suburbs, away from bushland, but we still smell the smoke in the air and hear the water-bomber helicopters pass overhead. So when I added the threat of fire to Fire Fall it felt real.

I won't give away the magical twist in Fire Fall that is the other reason for the title!

Danger comes in many forms, and sometimes the biggest danger is to our hearts. In Fire Fall, Seth walked away from Vanessa once before. She was with someone else, someone that it seemed better fitted her life as a billionaire's daughter. After all, what could a wizard mercenary offer her except strangeness and fear? But life changes. People change. This time Seth isn't walking away.

Writing about magic adds mystery and excitement, but it only works if magic also brings problems and limits. Vanessa and Seth certainly face those.

If you'd like to pre-order Fire Fall or save it to borrow free in Kindle Unlimited when it releases in two days, here's the link:

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Long Road to Love

Posted by: R.L. Naquin
When I first thought about writing a story about a Greek Muse, I imagined a woman whose life was such a wreck, putting her in charge of helping other people would be ridiculous. Satisfied that my premise was solid, yet weird, I went on to work on the plots for the Unfinished Muse and Unamused Muse.

I talk to myself a lot when I'm plotting a book. (Who am I kidding? I talk to myself all the time.) So, for this Muse idea I had, I asked myself questions to get the ball rolling.

"What does she want? What's her backstory? How does she look? Why is she such a loser?"

"Who will she fall in love with?"

My answer to myself on that last question was sharp, loud, and startled the cats into thinking it was time to wake up for dinner.

"No! Look at what a mess she is. No boys for her! Not until she fixes herself."

Harsh, right? So harsh. But the more I thought about it, the more clearly I could see Wynter Greene. She's almost unlikable in the first book, at least in the beginning. She's drifting through life without any sort of roots or anchor, not really caring about herself or the people around her. She quits every job, every project, and every relationship at the first sign of trouble or inconvenience.

Wynter herself is a project.

It took three books for Wynter to grow into the person I'd imagined she'd become. Along the way she runs into all sorts of problems, and love is the last one for her to sort out. Family, friends, career—it's all important.

But in the end, we all want to be loved, right?

Wynter's final book, Uninspired Muse, is out now. It took a little longer than I expected, but her story is finally told. Did she actually get her Happily Ever After?

You’ll have to find out for yourself.

Rachel writes stories that drop average people into magical situations filled with heart and quirky humor.

She believes in pixie dust, the power of love, good cheese, lucky socks and putting things off until the last minute. Her home is Disneyland, despite her current location in Kansas. Rachel has one husband, two grown kids and a crazy-catlady starter kit.

Sign up for her newsletter for news, extras, and exclusive stuff: Newsletter
Hang out with her here: Website Blog Facebook Twitter
Buy her books here:  Amazon B&N Carina Press

Monday, May 22, 2017

Here Be News

Posted by: Veronica Scott
New Releases:

Uninspired Muse 

Mt. Olympus Employment Agency: Muse #3

R.L. Naquin

Wynter Greene has finally hit her groove. She’s back at work in the Muse department and doing a fantastic job. Her newly reunited family gives her a sense of belonging and self-confidence she’s never had before. And she hasn’t annihilated any romantic relationships in quite a while—mostly because she’s avoided them.

But if mythology teaches anything, it’s not to get cocky when the gods are listening.

Wynter’s clients have been taken away, replaced by a morose artist with an ominous deadline. And her grandmother’s crush on a mortal puts the goddess’s powers on the fritz, which places Phyllis the philodendron in danger. While Wynter’s busy trying to help everyone else, her own fear of heartbreak could destroy her chance at true love forever. 

The Fates seem to be trying to tell her something. But is love really the answer to everything? 

Amazon B& N

Urban Fantasy/Romantic Suspense
Word Count: 37.2K
$2.99 e

Bounty hunters by day. Superheroes by night.

Slone and Embrie have known each other since birth, and after crash landing on Earth, they know they are the last of their kind. Intergalactic refugees, and extremely young, they are discovered and taken in by an older couple who teach them how to survive and fit in.

With powers no human possesses, the two decide they should share their strengths with the world, and Falcon and Hawk are born. Saving lives is their calling and the right thing to do, but unfortunately it doesn’t pay the bills, so bounty hunting by day it is. Unfortunately, living a double life takes a toll on a person, superhuman or not, both physically and emotionally. And with exhaustion comes mistakes.

So when Embrie is injured, leaving her weak and vulnerable, Slone must make the decision to expose who they are to save her life or lose his love forever.

Until a job from the past resurfaces, threatening to make that decision for him, as well as destroy everything they've sacrificed and worked for. 

Warning! Contains a dozen red roses, a desire for Italian food, emergency surgery, a hostage crisis, a debt paid, a Level Four contagion, burning a candle at both ends, sonic booms, and two childhood friends who survive to become eternal lovers.

Other News: 

Veronica Scott visits the Everyday Fangirl Blog to talk about background on her Sectors short stories.

Bring It Back(list):
On this past weekend's special feature, Joely Sue Burkhart shared an excerpt from Rose of Shanhasson:

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Bring It Back(list) with Joely Sue Burkhart

Posted by: Joely Sue Burkhart

The Story Behind the Book:

The Rose of Shanhasson will always have a special place in my heart because it was the first book I ever completed.  It was first published in 2009 by now-defunct Drollerie Press, and then I self-published it a few years ago.

Because it was my first book, I made some choices early on that make this book difficult to categorize. I was reading a lot of epic fantasy and Laurell K. Hamilton at the time - and I wanted to write epic fantasy with lots of sex. Sounds good, right? Sure! Except as the series progressed, I ended up killing some main characters, so I couldn't call it Romance.  It's more erotic fantasy... which isn't really a genre.

I promise the trilogy has a huge happy ending at the end and all lovers are fully united and ride off into the moonlight together. But it is a long, hard road to get there.  So if made-up cultures, court intrigue, sexy barbarian warriors, a princess who's no damsel in distress, and menage a'many (cough) is intriguing, I hope you give Rose a try!

To celebrate my birthday, I'm offering Rose for $.99 through Memorial Day weekend. Enjoy!

The Rose of Shanhasson is a superb blend of fully-realized fantasy and scorching romance.  Joely Sue Burkhart dropped me into her fantasy world and left me breathless.  The Rose of Shanhasson is one of the best fantasy romances I’ve read in years! ~ Larissa Ione, New York Times Bestselling Author
As Our Blessed Lady’s last Daughter, Shannari must rule as High Queen or the Green Lands will fall into eternal darkness. Her destiny is to shine against the Shadow, protect the land and people with her magic, and keep the Blackest Heart of Darkness imprisoned. Her blood is the key, powered by the love in her heart. However, Shannari’s heart is broken, her magic is crippled, and the nobles must have forgotten the dire prophesies, because everyone wants her dead.
Only love can restore her magic, but her scars testify how love can be corrupted. So when a barbarian warlord conquers her army and professes a love like no other, Shannari’s first instinct is to kill the mighty Khul. Even worse, one of the Khul’s guards used to be an assassin–a very skilled assassin, if the darkness in the Blood’s eyes is any indication. The same darkness festers deep in her heart and draws her to the wickedly dangerous man as inexorably as his Khul’s unshakable honor. Her weakening heart is not only torn between love and duty, but also between two magnificent warriors.
Yet neither warrior will be able to help her when Shadow calls her name.

Blessed Lady above, why have You forsaken me?
Scanning the waters of Dalden Bay, Shannari looked for some sign of hope. Ceaseless prayers throughout the night, at the holiest site in the Green Lands, had been offered for naught. The silvered full moon mocked her with its silence.
The thick bayside air tasted like tears. Shannari swallowed the choking lump, her shoulders drooping with misery. Weary, she rubbed her aching, dry eyes and turned from the mist-covered waters. Power pulsed with the gentle moonlight, resonating in her blood and soul. Her skin tingled with the sweet melody, her heart aching, yearning to use that inborn gift.
If only she could find some way to restore her magic…
But no. That was another failure entirely. Her heart was dead.
Waiting at the last column, the High Priest took her chilled hands between his own. Father Aran’s snowy white hair and beard gleamed against his scarlet robes. “Our Blessed Lady has heard your prayers, Your Majesty.”
Shame clawed her chest and she dropped her gaze. She didn’t deserve the title, let alone his respect. “Please, don’t call me that.”
“I’ve known since your birth that you would be the next High Queen. I saw the Rose Crown on your head even in the cradle.”
“So you say.” Shannari jerked her hands back and clenched them into fists at her sides. “You also told me of the great power I would have as the Lady’s Last Daughter. Yet here I am, my magic crippled, my country surrounded by enemies, and betrothed to Prince Theo, the one person who most wants me dead.” Her voice broke. She would never forget the malice in the Crown Prince’s eyes, nor the suffocating horror that came over her when he’d touched her. “I’m trapped.”
The High Priest flinched. “The mistake was mine, Your Majesty, I–”
“How can I refuse to marry him now without starting a civil war?”
“Our Blessed Lady wants Her tainted son removed from the High Throne at all cost.” The High Priest stared through her, deeper, seeing beyond to some future that made his eyes flash with hope. “A way will be provided.”
Shannari refused to let that gleam of hope move her. She’d seen the same look in his eyes too many times to no avail. Seeing a possible future and knowing the Lady’s prophesy didn’t make it happen.
“Dark at times, clouded with Shadow and fraught with peril, your path is steep and treacherous with ravines on either side. If you fall, all the Green Lands will fall with you. This I know in my heart. Yet hope comes, though from where I cannot See.”
She knew all too well the dark prophesy of doom waiting for her people if she failed. Other children grew up on nursery rhymes and fairytales; she learned her destiny of blood and darkness and death. Death loomed closer than ever in these dark times.
Inwardly sighing, she joined her waiting father, King Valche. Surrounded by guards, they walked toward the village curving along the shoreline. Chittering raucously, gulls fought for scraps on the beach of sand and broken shells and the stench of rotting fish made her stomach churn.
Vessels ranging from local fishing boats to sea-worthy trading ships lined the docks. From crates full of rare spices from the jungles of Mambia, to exotic furs from the frigid ice of Jjord to the extreme north, exotic things from all over the world came through this port. Without Dalden Bay, Allandor’s tables might miss the sea’s natural bounty, but the largest blow would be felt in the merchants’ pockets.
Shannari ran through her options again and came to the same conclusion. Surely an alliance with Allandor’s greatest enemy was worth the risk to herself if it would save all the Green Lands. Shivering, she rubbed the nape of her neck. She had the nasty feeling that an invisible axe loomed over her head.
“I despise Stephan,” King Valche muttered beneath his breath. “I hate his clingy, sneaky ways, how he always cozies up to Theo, oozing snake oil promises.”
“Tell me any other way, Father, and I’ll do it.”
King Valche sighed heavily and ran a hand through his silvered hair. “We need him, slime or no.”
Dressed in Allandor’s regalia of midnight blue trimmed in gold braid, he presented the perfect image of control and regal civility. Ruefully, Shannari wondered what image she projected in her leathers and chain mail, sword within easy reach at her side. Her father had begged her to wear a court gown to emphasize her lineage and legitimate claim to the High Throne. Nevertheless, Last Daughter of the Blessed Lady or not, she went nowhere unarmed, even when escorted with a full contingent of guards. She’d learned that lesson at a very young age.
“Let’s try polite conversation first and see where we stand with Stephan,” King Valche said. “Maybe he’ll surprise us. Maybe he’ll take a stand against Theo for once and do what’s right.”
“No, I’m afraid not. Stephan knows nothing but taking. The only bargaining chip we have is Dalden Bay.” Well, that wasn’t entirely true. Lightly, she touched the hidden scar on the left side of her chest above her breast. “I’ll marry him if I must. Anyone’s better than Prince Theo.”
A silent warning shrilled in her head, and ice chilled her blood. Her heart pounded as adrenaline surged through her. Crippled and stunted her magic might be, but she knew a warning from the Lady when she felt it.
Struggling to maintain a normal demeanor, Shannari looked about them with her hand nonchalantly on her sword hilt. While the docks were busy this early in the morning, the main cobblestone street was deserted. The appointed meeting place, the best inn in Dalden Bay, towered above the smaller shops and houses of the villagers.
Flanked by guards, she couldn’t identify a visible threat, but the chill increased. Her teeth chattered and her fingers cramped on the hilt. Danger approached, but from where?
An alley opened up on her right. As they walked past, the shadow of deadly intent raised the hairs on the base of her neck. Choking back a cry, she took another step, waiting, waiting…
Behind her, steel whispered in the crisp dawn air. Shannari whirled and drew the sword. The nearest guard reached for his, too, turning too late. Slipping around him, the assassin rushed the last few steps, closing quickly so she couldn’t entirely block his thrusting blade. She fouled his aim and the knife slammed into her right side.
An iron fist of pain exploded in her ribcage. Grunting, she took a quick step back to gain some space. Thank the Lady for chain mail. Swinging the sword in a hard arc, she slit the assassin’s throat.
Blinking in shock, the man fell to his knees, his hands wrapped around the gaping wound in his neck. His mouth opened and closed wordlessly and he pitched face first onto the ground.
Eventually, she would fail. A knife would find her back, this time slicing her heart beyond repair. She would never forget the dark pool of blood spreading on the floor, her beautiful mother shattered like a porcelain doll.
I must wrest the High Throne from Theo soon, before one of his assassins succeeds in killing me.
King Valche bellowed, his face dark with fury. Shamefaced Guardsmen crowded closer, their swords at the ready. More soldiers raced down the street led by Sergeant Fenton. The baker across the way poked his head out the door.
Firm but polite, Sergeant Fenton brought the baker outside his shop. “Do you know this man? Did you see anyone about this morning?”
Shannari pushed the assassin over onto his back with her boot.
The baker recoiled and shook his head, wringing his hands in his apron. “No one, sir, other than the King when he passed right at dawn. I heard the guards about at The Slumbering Lion, but nothing else.”
Turning her attention to the body, Shannari dismissed the witness with a nod.
The assassin stared upward with glazed brown eyes. He was perhaps thirty years of age with nondescript features. She didn’t recognize him. His brown coat and breeches were clean and cut from quality cloth but not extravagant. His boots were serviceable and scuffed but well made. He wore no jewelry or insignia. Anyone could have sent him.
So many enemies, so much blood on her hands. Her ribs ached and she resisted the urge to hunch over in pain. Wincing, she bent down and wiped her sword and hands on the dead man’s coat. At least the blood hadn’t splattered her leather pants too badly.
“Are you hurt?” King Valche’s voice quivered with rage. “Should we cancel this meeting?”
She stood and sheathed her sword. “We can’t wait, Father. We need the Duke now more than ever.”
“This attempt could very well be his doing.”
“He won’t assassinate me before he learns how much we might offer. I’ll do whatever is necessary to secure this treaty.”
“I wish there were another way.” King Valche stared down the street at The Slumbering Lion, his jaw clenched. “I’ve delayed with every tactic I know. High King Rikard has every right to demand your presence in Shanhasson. If we don’t gain enough support, he’ll send an army large enough that we’ll be forced to accept his terms. Allandor is strong, but could we stand against the entire might of the Green Lands?”
He turned his tired, concerned gaze to Shannari. “I did my best. The betrothal bought us a little time, but I wish I could keep you from bartering away your life and your hand in marriage for a crown, even the Rose Crown of all the Green Lands. Your mother chose me, chose love, instead of the High Throne. I hoped you could have both. I failed you, Daughter, just as I failed to keep her safe.”
Years ago, Shannari had almost made the same mistake as her mother. She’d foolishly believed that love’s power would make her magic invincible. Instead, she now bore a vicious scar as proof that love could never be trusted. “Oh, Father, we haven’t failed. Father Aran said Our Blessed Lady will provide a way. We have to believe.”
“What I believe is that Theo would rather see you dead than beside him on the High Throne.”
The pulse of ice through her veins echoed the assassination warning and confirmed her father’s fears. Shannari hardened her voice to steel. “Then Lady help me, I’ll see him dead first.”

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