‘Josef The Writer’s Cat’ by Ellen Khodakivska – Review

A heart-warming and fun story told from a unique perspective…

Ellen Khodakivska tells a unique story from a unique and imaginative perspective, that of a cat named ‘Josef’. We see the big wide world through his eyes and his journey to becoming a writer’s best friend is a heart-warming tale for all ages. The writing style is easy to read and a few pages in I was immersed into the very real world and life that pets have. Although they may only be around for part of our lives, to them we are their lives and that is the deeper meaning to this story which is highlighted at the very start. We do sometimes take things for granted in life and this story reminds us that pets are such an instrumental part of it while they also have a life too.

The sights, the sounds and smells are all captured well making the unique perspective of this story a must-read for anyone looking for originality in story telling because you’ll find it here. ‘Josef’ has a wonderful personality that resonates throughout as he interacts not just with people but with other animals too – a cool concept. I very much enjoyed this and would highly recommend this book, especially to those of the writing persuasion or to anyone who loves animals.

5 Stars – Reviews left via Amazon and Goodreads.

Exclusive Excerpt of ‘Consistent Creative Content’ by Lee Hall

Hello cultured reader, here are the first few pages of my authoring and blogging guide book which is currently available for pre-order at a discounted price.

I figured it was a good idea to share a snippet of what you can expect in the book which I hope helps fellow wordsmiths on their authoring and blogging journey…

Introduction

This book explores what I’ve learnt on my publishing journey, presenting it in a way that I hope will inspire you to believe in your own abilities to replicate and even surpass my success. Belief is all you really need on any journey and if I can get results that I’m happy with, then you certainly can. Success is based upon how you judge the results of something over time – it’s both fickle and in the eye of the beholder.

I’ve always measured my results beside the number from where I started – absolute zero. And compared to zero my numbers today appear to be quite impressive, but the truth is, they haven’t always been like that. I’ve spent most of my time nearer to zero than any other number and that’s something everyone must be prepared to face. Some call low numbers failure but to me there are no failures in life, just lessons and opportunity. Both go hand in hand when it comes to writing. The most important thing in writing is to start, even if it is at zero. 

This guide can be defined as a series of experiences from the many years I’ve spent as both a blogger and an author in the social media age. Much of the content might seem obvious but there is also some advice I have never shared before. My hope is to help you progress in the world of authoring and blogging even if you take just one sentence of advice from all of this; to me that’ll be a good job done. Like I said, this may just be in the eye of the beholder – you, and you alone can go as far as the imagination will allow.

Before we go any further, I will tell you now that this book is for anyone looking for advice and inspiration in blogging and book writing. You could already have an established blog or a backlist of books written and published. You might even be pondering your very first foray into the world of words. Everyone is welcome here and you’ll find something, no matter where you’re starting from. Much of it is delivered from the perspective of a beginner with some of the advanced stuff being advice I follow every day.

For me, writing books and blogging go hand in hand and while they are both explored in detail, you won’t find any information on how to specifically write and format a book or construct a blog site. I am not qualified to show you the latter and the former… well, nobody can formally teach you how to write a book in my opinion. It is my belief that the journey of writing and finishing a book is something only the individual can find within themselves. Instead, we will explore how to market yourself as a creator on social media through all the various channels I have experienced. At times it will mainly be blog-centric, but there are some in-depth marketing resources for authors as well. Many of the chapters ahead are interwoven with blogging and authoring advice because to me, they go, hand in hand. 

I have started in this manner for two reasons:

  1. So anyone can see from previewing the first pages if it could be of help to them;
  2. To be upfront about what success I have had in blogging – see the graph below.

This graph shows my blog viewing numbers over many months from September 2018 to recent times. As you can see, they gradually and progressively improved over time forming into a ‘wave’ which will be explored further ahead. The blogging element of this book will focus on how I got to those numbers and how I took the opportunity to continually improve them. The graph stands as proof that everything you write gets results to some extent, and those results echo the message that everything else in this book will take time and that there are no quick fixes.

I say results because for me these things worked; there is no guarantee that they will work for you. I’m in the inspiration business not the miracle business, but every wordsmith faces different circumstances and so I have concluded that, across the board, you need three core attributes to have any chance of success in blogging and authoring:

1.You need to be consistent;

2.You need to be creative; and

3. You need content.

This trio is the main reason why my blogging and authoring endeavours have been successful. Because I hold these attributes in such high regard I even included them in the title of this book.

In some applications you’ll only need one of the trio, in others two and there are a few more vital attributes outside thetrio that I will point out along the way. Some, until now, were my best kept secrets while others appear obvious.

All in all, this guide is laced with ideas that’ll help you improve your authoring and blogging, to achieve greater success. Many of the sections will even begin with snippets of advice from the various authors, bloggers, creators and friends I have connected with over the years – all of whom have found success in their own ways.  

Apart from blog views or book sales what else counts as success? Follow my words and I will show you. Remember, you can do what I’ve done and go even further…

This is an exclusive excerpt of ‘Consistent Creative Content: A Guide to Authoring and Blogging in the Social Media Age’ which is currently available for discounted pre-order. The price will rise on release which is very soon. Links below.

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon Canada

Amazon Aus

Amazon India

Guest Post: Excerpt of ‘Ironside & Aegis: Origins’ by David E. Bruno

Introducing author David E. Bruno who shares an exclusive excerpt of superhero book ‘Ironside & Aegis: Origins’.

Rocco and Orro laughed on the other side of the room, ready to finish off Aegis as they had Ironside.
But Ironside was not dead—not yet. He slowly opened his eyes and turned his head toward Aegis as she held his shoulders up from the floor. He whispered, “Find Rick and Phil and protect them. Shield them. Go… now.”
“I’m not leaving you. I’m not leaving you. We win or die together, remember?” Aegis cried.
He inhaled shallowly, barely able to speak. His organs bulged from the opening in his gut. “Save yourself. Save them. I’m done… overloaded… exploding… dying. Go!” Ironside’s eyes began to glow bright white. Defying his injuries, he slowly came to his feet. Aegis had seen this before and knew he needed space. She limped to the side, away from both Ironside and their foes. But this time was different. He was injured. Ironside’s skin turned blood red, and his hair became pure white and stood on end. His body lifted and hovered inches above the floor. He held out his arms as static energy crackled from his fingertips and jumped to the walls. The gap in his abdomen began to glow again, bright as the sun and sizzling like bacon in a pan.
Aegis’s heart pounded as she witnessed the metamorphosis of her man. He’d become something else—something she’d teased him about before. He’d become a true demigod—and he was losing the battle for his life. Power coursed through his body in seemingly infinite intensity, yet he lacked the power to heal the damage that had been done by Rocco. “No!” Aegis shouted. “You can’t do this alone, Ironside. We can do this together. I love you!” She wailed at the horror show unfolding before her eyes.
Ironside caught a brief glimpse of her. Steam rose from his burning, dying eyes as moisture boiled off of them. In a calm, measured manner, he said in a strange, deep, metallic timbre, “Don’t cry for me, babe. You gave my life meaning. You are my purpose and you saved me. We came here to save the world. Now let me use what’s left of my life to save you.” He paused as he struggled to grab another breath before addressing her one final time. “I thought I told you to run.”
Finally heeding Ironside’s demand, Aegis burst into tears. Still in pain from being ripped from Orro’s shoulders, she sprinted as fast as she could out the door past Rocco and Orro, who became indifferent to her. The brothers stood in awe at the revival of the man they’d thought to be dead. Aegis had been weakened, and they could terminate her later. To finally slay Ironside, they needed to attack as a team.
Ironside glided silently in the air over to Rocco who unleashed the only weapon he had left, his punch. Ironside tilted his head to the side, raised his hand, and grabbed the fist flying toward him. With an ethereal squeeze of a single hand, he crushed Rocco’s armored fist. It was both graceful, and devastating.
“AHHHH! What the hell are you?” screamed Rocco as he hunched over and pulled his mangled hand inward.
Orro screamed, “My brother! You’re gonna die, little man!” Before Orro could move, Ironside flew at lightning speed toward the sword, as if by the force of his will alone. The sword lifted from the floor to his hand like iron to a magnet. He then flung it toward Orro. The sword spun like a boomerang and struck Orro in the leg just below his knee, severing the lower half.
“AHHHH!” Orro shouted as the bottom half of his golden leg separated and fell to the floor. He crashed to the ground and grabbed at his wound, attempting to stop the bleeding. The severed calf twitched and flopped in pool of blood.
“Wanna go for a walk, big guy? Oh, I see. Some other time then,” cracked Ironside in his deep, metallic timbre. “You should’ve been nicer to us.”
Ironside turned back to Rocco and recalled what Max had told him. All of the Agency’s creations had a weakness—areas of unarmored flesh. He needed to find them. Ironside hovered around Rocco in search of the spot as the giant favored his smashed hand. He found it: a small patch of normal-looking skin was visible in the middle of Rocco’s red back.
“Lookie here. Don’t worry… ” Ironside grabbed Rocco’s neck with one hand and thrust the other into Rocco’s back. Rocco let out an agonizing cry as Ironside effortlessly removed his spine and pieces of ribs. “… I got your back, Jack,” Ironside quipped with the bloody body parts in hand.
With his spine extracted, Rocco fell silent and limp as he converted from armor to regular flesh. Blood rained onto the floor as Ironside held up the body with one hand and the spine with the other. With grim satisfaction, Ironside released Rocco, letting his parts fall to the floor. “Invertebrate worm.”
“This isn’t possible!” cried Orro as he sat on the ground and wailed in pain. “You killed him! My only brother!” He paused and took several deep breaths, trying not to bleed out. In a deep, slow tone, he asserted, “It’s my turn now.” Orro trembled as he unleashed the full force of his ocular beams. Ironside shuddered as he was thrown backward, absorbing the energy. His power increased exponentially. Every cell in his body hummed as the energy multiplied. Static sparks crackled from his skin. Ironside’s whole body pulsed as a corona formed around his perimeter. He had become amplified beyond his limits—a reactor on the verge of a meltdown. The crack in Ironside’s abdomen began to widen and grew deeper as he careened wildly around the room.
Orro released the beam and smiled at his achievement with horrible satisfaction as he rested on the floor. Knowing that he had beaten Ironside, he savored the vengeance achieved for the death of his brother. It was only a matter of time until Ironside fell, this time for good.

This is an exclusive excerpt of ‘Ironside & Aegis: Origins’ which is available now.

You can find more information about David E. Bruno over on Twitter

‘Operation: Palmetto’ by R.T. Breach – Review

The chase is on for one man on a mission to prove his worth and the stakes are high…

The chase is on after an Iranian scientist escapes to the USA and from the clutches of Israeli rivals in what is a lightly political, espionage-heavy tale about the Mossad agent dealt the mission to track this target down.

The story spends a lot of time in the head of main character Karl Gruben who has his own doubts and conflicts as he embarks on a journey and joins a group of other agents who are undercover; some are experienced where others like Karl aren’t. We see the trials and tribulations of this group as they track down their target using a wealth of tech which they test to sometimes not so great results. Some of the gadgetry used was interesting and original while others were little on the fun/humorous side; a robotic cat comes to mind here.

Every so often I did find the writing style to tell as opposed to show and after what was a fast paced introduction much of the action didn’t really unfold until much later – saying that the final quarter of the story definitely made up for that. Karl’s inner thoughts are expressed throughout and carries the story. He’s a man on a mission to prove his worth and fight for a cause. Will he succeed in his mission and will it be worthwhile in the end? These personal stakes did seem to outweigh much of the political themes putting you in the head and in the moments of this chase story. For those who enjoy an espionage tale with a few twists this is definitely the one for you.

3 Stars – this review first premiered via Reedsy Discovery

Official Cover Reveal of ‘Consistent Creative Content: A Guide to Authoring and Blogging in the Social Media Age’ by Lee Hall

Lee’s Hall of Information is proud to present the official cover reveal of Book 7: Consistent Creative Content: A Guide to Authoring and Blogging in the Social Media Age.

This book lays out everything I have learned from being in the trenches of indie publishing and blogging for several years. This is my labour of love to the writing community who have always supported me and now it is time to share the story of how I found my own writing destiny while also including a stack of resources that covers publishing, marketing, selling, promotion, reviews, social media and of course blogging.

From beginners to more experienced wordsmiths, this guide is designed for anyone looking for inspiration and ideas to find success in the social media age.

We can all agree the cover looks spectacular! A huge thank you to the awesome Design for Writers for putting together an exceptional looking cover but that’s not all… scroll on down for an extra surprise…

Consistent Creative Content is officially available for pre-order right now and at a discounted price of $2.99 – this price will rise upon release to $3.99 so pre-ordering it now is a no-brainer.

Links are below and to everyone who has helped me on this journey, thank you. The official release day is May 20th.

If you want a flavour of what to expect in this book then do check out my resources section full of guides for social media, book promotion and blogging. Rock and roll man!

US Link

UK Link

Canada Link

Aus Link

India Link

(Other territories just type in ‘Consistent Creative Content lee hall’ into the search bar)

Guest post: Excerpt of ‘Mobbed Up in Suburbia’ by Charlie Crane.

Introducing author Charlie Crane who shares an exclusive excerpt of crime thriller book ‘Mobbed Up in Suburbia’.

Junior found Hot Nose standing out on the veranda, watching the late night closing in on another morning. Junior had stood just inside the house for a time, watching Bill sip his whiskey, looking out at yesterday and tomorrow. Melancholic was how it had struck Junior, which was out of character for Bill, so it could be a moment of opportunity. A rare time when Bill’s sentiment allowed him to drop his guard.
Bill pushed a clean glass Junior’s way. “Join me, kid. It’s good to have the company.”
Junior poured himself a whiskey and took a belt and Hot Nose said,
“It’s a beautiful night out, ain’t it, kid?”
“It is. I miss these autumn nights. LA’s got two seasons. Hot and not so hot.”
“Sounds miserable. I don’t know how you do it.”
It had taken Junior some time to adjust—he’d spent countless nights in his first few months searching for environs that would make him feel more at home. He’d finally given up and realized that LA had a charm of its own, and if he were going to stay, he’d have to learn to appreciate it for what it was. “It has its upside.”
“Yeah,” Bill said, watching the night, “I guess everywhere does. Good and bad.”
Junior faced Bill’s formidable profile. “You’re gonna have to talk to me, Bill. You know that, right? You’re gonna have to give me what I need. Bill?” Bill faced him. “Otherwise, tell me what the hell I’m doing here.”
Bill turned away. “You’re just here, that’s all. Your father wants you here. Tell ya the truth, I was against it. I didn’t see the need. We been doing battle with the Costellos for thirty fuckin’ years. Off and on, we have. This ain’t nothin’ new.”
“No? Well, something’s new, Bill, something’s changed. The Don’s not a guy who overreacts, is he? I know he trusts you. I know he talks to you. There’s a lot you’re not telling me. Tell you the truth, I’m beginning to feel a little offended. I heard about the girl, Bill. I heard somethin’ bad happened. And I heard it was The Don who was to blame.”
Bill whipped his head in Junior’s direction. “The Don! To blame! You don’t know what the fuck you’re talkin’ about. The Don never wanted that!”
“Then what did he want, Bill? You tell me. Set me straight, so I do know what the fuck I’m talking about. So we don’t have to keep playing this game with each other. You don’t want me here? I understand. And I don’t want to be here. So do us both a favor and tell me what the hell we’re working with so I can get out of your hair!”
Bill turned back to the night. “It got out of hand. The Don likes this girl. He knew her when she was a kid.” Bill glanced at Junior. “I did, too. A sweet kid. She grew up around here. An Italian girl, but nothin’ to us, nothin’ to any family. Not even her own. They’d been looking out for her none of this would have happened.”
“Who is she, Bill? What is she to The Don?”
“Who knows? Your father’s got a soft spot for these wayward girls. He always has. He sees them on the street, he sees un peccato, una parodia. He’s gotta save ‘em, you know.” Bill turned to Junior, and said, in a shrugging way, “It’s a weakness.”
Junior nodded and said, “So the girl? This girl The Don wanted to save? She got turned out?”
“Si, she got turned out. By one of Costello’s guys. The one who thinks he’s a lover. The one they call The Gent. But he’s got no respect for women. His mother was a whore.”
“So who’s the guy who blinks?”
Bill looked at Junior with surprise. His nod said he was impressed. “What’s it matter? He’s in the wind. We had to save him. Now they’re all over looking for him. But he’s a ghost. They’ll never find him. Only The Don knows. There are some things, you know, kid, that The Don keeps to himself.”
Junior topped off his whiskey and let it lay. It was about all he was gonna get out of Hot Nose Bill tonight. They sat back and stared at the moonless night together now. Nothin’ but empty blackness swallowing weakly flickering stars.

This is an excerpt of ‘Mobbed Up in Suburbia’ by Charlie Crane which is available now.

You can find the Charlie over on the Tweet machine here.

Detective Stories-An Excerpt

Hello friends, today I am re-blogging an excerpt of ‘Detective Stories’ from fellow author Megan Hinde via her awesome blog.

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Collection of detective stories featuring Detective James Andrews. “Secret admirer?” Officer Roberts asked handing Detective James Andrews a red heart shaped box, wrapped with a white ribbon. “Not likely,” James said taking the box, setting it down on the desk in front of him. James pulled the white ribbon that made a bow around the box. He slid the top of the box up, lifting it off. “What the…” James pushed back from his desk standing up. “Get a crime scene kit up here,” He ordered.

First off I’m terrible at writing blurbs. That being said, I wrote a book. I write for me, this writing road trip started about five years ago, and has had its fair share of bumps, flat tires and odd nights spent at creepy motels. Personally I am proud of Detective Stories I enjoyed writing it, I am emotionally invested in the characters and I…

View original post 1,237 more words

Weekly Ramble #108

My author and blogger social media engine is running hot. While it has been an incredible ride to see so many awesome things align in recent times, its been an arduous journey. Most followers only really see the end product and the good statistics I share but beneath all that is just one person doing his best to hold everything together.

Around twelve months ago I took a vow to carry on through whatever this world threw us. We’re still in a very real pandemic situation that is still rocking our world to the core. Carrying on is my way of coping, perhaps even plastering over the cracks of doubt or uncertainty. We all have our mechanisms to cope but with those mechanisms comes the eventuality that they’ll break down and weaken. The reason I say my engine is running hot is because everyday I have been out there showing up and carving a following from near enough nothing. My social media following statistics are quite incredible but there is also a price and quite soon I am envisioning a slight step back. There are a stack of non-author things on my to do list and they are building up.

For every wonderful moment I have on social media every now and then I’ll come across something that effects my mental health. A bad engagement or even something I just scroll past can be a trigger and this becomes all the more prevalent when you spend more time exposed to it. For all the good things that have come from social media, I need a break, I’m fine, but I need a break and I need to go back to the writing…

Guest Post: Excerpt of ‘The Stone Mermaid’ by Aisha Urooj

Introducing author Aisha Urooj who shares an exclusive excerpt of dark fantasy romance ‘The Stone Mermaid’.

Victor was thinking about her again.

The sea witch’s son had a fascination, an obsession even, with Ariana. Victor’s obsession was even more unusual, seeing it was everyone else that fell for him. He could charm anyone with his smile. He could even captivate them further with his magic.

All he desired in the oceans was his to take, all except for her. And that made him want her more.

Ariana was the sea king’s daughter. The most beautiful mermaid in the seven seas.

Sure, her siren cousins were more alluring… even more agreeable, but there was something about her he couldn’t get off his mind. Was it her voice? Was it her physical beauty? Or was it something else?

Victor’s brand of magic had no effect on the mermaid, nor did Ariana fall for his charms.

If only she had a weakness? Victor thought. Something he could mould or bend towards his will… but Ariana had no desires, except to be free.

Hers was an odd desire… Her freedom.. but Victor thought he knew why.

Ariana’s mother was a human, kidnapped by the sea king, and brought against her will to his watery kingdom. Mad in love and lust, he made a bargain with the sea witch, Ursula, Victor’s mother.

If the sea king’s love had been greater than his lust, he would have sought Helena’s heart first.

But he didn’t.

Ursula told Brutus it could be done… that he could have his human bride, and she could live with him under water, if he gave away some of his kingdom to her. Now, the sea king ruled the seven seas, but the darkest and deepest corners of his kingdom belonged to the sea witch.

For as long as she lived, Helena, Ariana’s mother, never loved the sea king. She was bound to him against her will, a bird in a gilded cage, or in her case, trapped in a floating crystal palace under the sea. Helena never forgot… but for all her sorrow, she dearly loved her daughter. Ariana was the reason she didn’t fade away sooner.

As she grew up, Helena told Ariana stories about the human world, the wonders, and magic of the land above the oceans. Though she never uttered a word of complaint to her daughter, she made Ariana promise to prize her freedom above everything, and guard it with her life. Helena died when Ariana was sixteen. Ariana remembered the promise she made to her mother.

Victor had cared for Ariana’s mother because of her gentle nature. Queen Helena’s kindness was a stark contrast to his own mother, Ursula. He had watched the queen fade with each passing year.

So Victor understood Ariana’s reason…

“Ariana is a creature of the sea, and I am not forcibly taking her away from her realm,” Victor mused. “I am not as brutal as the old king.”

Victor knew Ariana, unlike her human mother, was born an immortal being.

Her magic might be delayed, but she was still immortal.

“I have an eternity to change Ariana’s mind,” Victor said to himself. “She will be mine.”

——-

For her seventeenth birthday, Helena requested to her father she wanted to see the ocean.

Seventeen years she had lived in this world without seeing a glimpse of an ocean wave. Her father thought it was an odd birthday present to ask for, but since it didn’t cost him anything except a few days’ journey, he agreed. They had a good harvest that year, and he could afford to spend a few days away.

Helena’s siblings were five and six, too young to be fascinated by anything other than toys. They were also too young for the journey, so they stayed behind with their mother.

Helena’s step-mother thought her husband spoiled her oldest daughter, but didn’t say a word. She knew Helena hardly asked for anything. It was impossible that he would deny his favorite daughter’s only request, she thought, so she didn’t bother to stop them.

Helena and her father, the farmer, went on the journey to see the ocean.

Helena loved her birthday present! She had seen nothing so big as the ocean. Her world instantly stretched bigger than the farm she was used to seeing.

Helena played with the seashells and sang songs to the waves. She liked looking at the waves crashing onto the shore, but she didn’t like being in the water. She found the water too cold for her liking. Helena had been playing near the rocks when she first saw him.

He was a strange-looking boy. His eyes were the same color as the ocean, as if they had captured the waves in them. He looked seventeen, the same age as Helena, but seemed much older.

“Can I know your name?” he asked.

“My name is Helena,” Helena replied.

“So you like singing, Helena? You have a beautiful voice,” he said.

Helena blushed at his compliment.

She saw the strange boy every day while she was near the ocean. Every time, he seemed to appear out of nowhere. Every time, he disappeared when her father was around.

Sometimes Helena thought that perhaps the boy was imaginary, a figment of her imagination. Her step-mother had often said that she daydreamed too much. She said it was not a good trait for a girl to have. She said Helena should learn to be practical.

“Where do you live?” Helena asked him one day.

“I live in an underwater kingdom. Would you like to see it?” he asked.

His answer surprised Helena. Perhaps she really was in a daydream?

Helena shook her head. “I am only here for a few days, and then I will return to my farm. I don’t even know how to swim well.”

“I can teach you,” the strange boy offered.

“I don’t like to be away from my family,” Helena answered truthfully. “I don’t like the water, for it is too cold.”

“I can give you a ring which will help you in the water. You won’t feel cold anymore,” the boy said.

He showed her a ring which had a single pink pearl. Helena thought that it must have been pricey, for it was precious. She remembered how her father had warned her not to accept gifts from strangers.

“I cannot accept such a gift. It probably costs more than my entire village!” Helena exclaimed.

The ring that the boy gave Helena was worth more than all the villages combined. It was an immortality ring, and once the wearer wore it, they gained eternal life.

“Please accept it as my gift. Wherever you go, if you wear it and call my name, I will come to you,” the boy said.

“What is your name?” Helena asked. Helena thought she was so silly, she hadn’t even asked the strange boy his name.

“My name is Brutus,” the sea king replied. “Wear the ring, Helena, and call me only when you are ready to go with me.”

“Ok, Brutus. I will accept your gift as I want to see you again,” Helena said, blushing, as she took the pretty ring.

That was the last she saw of the strange boy as she left the ocean with her father back to her village. She put the ring in a safe place and forgot about it for an entire year.

Next harvest season, her father had a poor yield. It worried the family as they did not have enough food to last through the winter. Helena thought about the precious ring she had hidden away. Perhaps she could give it to her father? He could sell it and it would solve all their problems.

She thought about Brutus and wondered if what he said was true.

“I will try it on before I give the ring to father,” Helena thought. She put the ring on and called Brutus’ name.

Brutus appeared in front of her, out of nowhere. He looked like an apparition under the dark starless sky. Although Helena had not thought about him in a year, Brutus had remembered her every moment since. He had gone mad thinking about her.

“Helena, you put on the ring and called my name. You wish to come with me to my kingdom,” Brutus said with happiness.

“I am sorry, Brutus. I was not thinking about going. I just wanted to see what you had said was true… that I didn’t just imagined meeting you,” Helena said flustered.

“You cannot go back on your word now,” Brutus said in anger. “You have put the ring on and so, you will leave with me.” He took Helena in his arms and took her back to his kingdom.

The next morning, the farmer called Helena for breakfast but she didn’t reply. It was strange as she usually was the first person to wake up. It shocked her father to find Helena’s bedroom empty. The farmer looked for her desperately everywhere in the village, hoping she had gone to see a friend, but Helena was nowhere to be seen.

His oldest daughter had gone missing without a trace.

The villagers gossiped she must have run away with a man, but her father knew his daughter and knew she would never do such a thing.

He felt that something terrible must have happened to her as Helena loved her family. She wouldn’t leave her father like that. She wouldn’t leave her brother and sister like that. He wept for his missing daughter.

The farmer searched for his missing daughter for years, but he died without ever seeing or hearing from his daughter again.

——-

Ursula, the sea witch, was pacing in her throne room. Her sea serpents twisted and turned as they swam around her arms. Her crown of dark pearls visible on her head. Victor knew the powerful, raw magic that it contained.

Victor stood idly by, knowing better to ask her what was wrong. The kingdom feared his mother above all the other powerful creatures in the ocean, and they had good reason to. Ursula was the empress of the dark lands but her ambition was to rule the entire ocean.

“Making Helena’s immortality ring cost me half my magic. I should have asked the sea king for half his kingdom. He might have given it all away too,” Ursula said to her son.

Victor had heard the conversation before. He was sure it wasn’t the last time he would hear it.

“You underestimate the old man,” Victor replied, coolly.

“And you overestimate him. He is foolish, driven to madness by a mortal woman. At least he was driven by bodily desires… which is easier to satisfy. His daughter is even more foolish than her father,” Ursula said. “She is driven by something far more dangerous.”

Victor’s heart started beating fast. It did whenever his mother mentioned Ariana. He evened his breath before asking.

“What do you suggest drives her?” Victor asked, curious to know what his mother would say.

“Her heart… and that will be her undoing. I might get my kingdom yet,” Ursula cackled.

Victor didn’t want to argue with his mother, so he smiled politely.

Ursula might have been right about Ariana, but she was still blind in one regard. The sea witch didn’t realize it was her son’s heart she needed to worry about.

Victor first noticed Ariana at her mother’s funeral. He had seen her before, of course, playing with her siren cousins, or in the background, whenever he went to the king’s court with his mother.

Ariana was sixteen when he really noticed her.

Her grief at her mother’s passing made her solemn and pale. She trembled as she spoke to her cousins. When it was time for her to say farewell to her mother, she looked so frail that Victor worried she might faint.

The queen’s subjects had come in droves to say their farewell to their beloved ruler. Most were in tears, and some even wailing in their sadness. Helena’s kind spirit had touched so many, her gentle presence missed by all who knew her. They asked Ariana to sing for her mother, to share her grief with them.

Grief-stricken as she was, Ariana was still her mother’s daughter. Her entire body, and even her voice, was trembling when she said she would sing them a song. She felt the pain others were feeling and wanted to lessen their sorrow.

When Ariana stood in front of the large court, Victor was struck by how fragile she looked. When Ariana sang, it was like his world shifted. For the first time, eighteen-year-old Victor felt his heart stir, and his palms tremble.

Love is a force like no other, capable of stirring even the strongest of hearts. Victor felt the full force of it that day, as Ariana sang at her mother’s funeral.

There were thousands of others in the court, but all were silent as Ariana started singing in her beautiful voice:

Floating above the muddy water,

Have you seen the lotus flower?

In waters, dark and tainted,

Pure was the beauty that awaited.

What started as a simple bud,

Grew in splendor up above.

The petals, pink and white

Layers in a circle, open with light.

Floating above the muddy water,

Have you seen the lotus flower?

The song was about a lotus flower, but Victor knew Ariana was singing about her mother.

Victor was now twenty-one, and Ariana was nineteen. The funeral was three years ago, and Victor had seen Ariana several times since. Whenever he saw her, however, his heart pounded the same way as it did hearing her sing that day.

This is an excerpt of dark fantasy romance ‘The Stone Mermaid’ by Aisha Urooj which is available now.

For more information about the author check out her website here.

Guest Post: Excerpt of ‘Dating in the Shadows’ by Rianne Burnett

Introducing author Rianne Burnett who shares an excerpt of vampire romance erotica book ‘Dating in the Shadows’.

The restaurant’s cosy atmosphere wasn’t enough to quell the alarm bells going off in Vynette’s head. There was something creepy about this guy. Even his hazel eyes seemed cold.
“Is everything okay?”
Timothy asked the question but not an ounce of concern creased his seamless dark skin. Vynette forced a smile and nodded.
“Sure. I just need to use the little girl’s room.”
She was out of her seat before he could budge. Her strides were slow but steady. The restroom had never felt so far away. Once she was inside a stall, she grabbed her cell phone from her handbag. Debbie answered on the first ring.
“He’s a serial killer, isn’t he? I told you not to meet up with him.”
Vynette didn’t want to humour her friend’s paranoia but Timothy was a hard sell.
“He just might be. I need an out.”
“As in an excuse or do I need to come and get you?”
She folded her bottom lip between her teeth as she thought. Timothy was good on paper but Vynette knew better than to ignore her gut.
“Come get me, now.”
Taking a deep breath, she examined her reflection in the mirror. It was hard to miss the unease shining in her eyes. She sighed.
An ex had once told her that she carried all her emotions in her eyes. It was one of the few truths he’d ever told. She fluffed her shoulder-length curls and dragged a few strands over her face. Chuckling, she flipped them back in place.
Timothy might be weird but even he would have questions if she dumped her hair over her face.
“Maybe I should give him something else to look at.”
Vynette pulled down the zipper on her blouse a bit. Her cleavage wasn’t one of her standout qualities but they got the job done. Reaching into her blouse, she adjusted her pert breasts in the push-up bra. When the rounded flesh became more visible, she appraised the results in the mirror.
“It’s worth a shot.”
Timothy looked up when she approached and his eyes brightened.
“Everything all right? I was just about to come looking for you.”
Somehow, she believed him. Vynette gave him a tight smile, slid into her seat, and placed her cell phone face down on the table. She bought time by taking a sip of her drink.
“Uhm…I think I’m coming down with something.”
He frowned and for a brief moment, his mask slipped. She looked away and stretched her shoulders in an exaggerated movement. It wasn’t her proudest moment but she wanted to keep him calm.
There were only a few other patrons in the restaurant and she doubted anyone would come to her rescue if things became physical.
Her distraction didn’t work. He still stared at her with an intensity that could bore through metal.
“Do you want me to take you home?” he asked while leaning forward.
“No!”
Her response was more abrupt than she’d planned. Timothy raised an eyebrow. Vynette swallowed and tried to smile.
“I already called my friend. She should be here at any moment.”
He slumped back in his chair. The smile was gone. She clutched the handbag in her lap. With the flap open, all she had to do was reach in and grab her pepper spray. As her hand inched toward the bag, her cell phone rang.
Vynette grabbed it from the table. The sight of Debbie’s name was an instant balm.
“Deb, I’m on my way.”
To Timothy, she said, “Sorry, she’s here. Thank you for dinner.”
She fled before he could answer.

Debbie pushed the passenger side door open and Vynette jumped in, slamming it behind her. She didn’t breathe properly until the car had pulled away. As her friend took different side roads as a precaution, Vynette kept quiet.
For once, Debbie’s paranoia was appreciated. Thank God she had met Timothy at the restaurant and he didn’t have her phone number.
“So that’s a ‘no’ on a second date?” Debbie quipped.
Vynette sucked her teeth and searched for the dating app on her phone. It had several notifications but she wasn’t interested. Clearly, her match wasn’t in this database. She quickly deleted her profile and uninstalled the app.
“It’s a ‘no’ to the entire damn app.”
“Wow. Wasn’t that the last one?”
Vynette groaned and scrunched her eyes closed.
“Yeah, I’ve officially run out of dating app options.”
“Well, not entirely.”
Looking across at Debbie, Vynette tilted her head to the side.
“What did you do?”
“Remember that exclusive dating app I told you about?”
“Yeah. Night-something? Didn’t it need a password or code?”
Debbie nodded.
“Nightgrind. There’s a code. Which I hacked. For you. You’re welcome.”
Vynette’s jaw dropped. Pulling into their assigned parking spot, Debbie hopped out of the car. She stood at the bonnet and beckoned Vynette out. Sighing, Vynette complied.
“Wasn’t it hard to get into?”
Debbie skipped up the steps effortlessly. Her waist-length braids swayed.
“Nah. The protections were pretty basic. It was like they didn’t think anyone would want to hack it.”
When they were in the safety of their apartment, Vynette plopped down on the couch and handed her phone to Debbie. She was wary after her near-miss with Timothy, but her dry spell wasn’t going to break itself.
“Fine, I’ll check it out in the morning. I guess one more dating app couldn’t hurt.”
Debbie grinned and got to work. Her dark brown eyes shone with glee.

This is an excerpt of ‘Dating in the Shadows’ by Rianne Burnett which is available now.

You can find the author over on the Tweet machine here.