Black Cats On All Hallows Eve by Suzanna J. Linton

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, I’m not talking about Christmas. I’m referring to Halloween! I adore everything about this holiday, from the costumes to the food, from the horror movies to the crunch of brown leaves under the feet of trick-or-treating children.

In late September, while driving to a friend’s home, I passed a house already decked out with grinning pumpkins: fake, real, large wooden cutouts, and hanging signs. It reminded me of the other common theme in Halloween decorations—black cats.

In the States, black cats are often associated with darkness, evil, and witchcraft. In fact, so deeply ingrained is this stereotype that many people believe black cats adopted in October will be used for ritual sacrifice or abuse.

Shelters like the Kentucky Humane Society are inundated annually with well-meaning animal lovers begging the shelter not to adopt out these coal-colored felines for their own good. In reality, there is no statistical evidence to support this urban legend. Also, black cats take longer to be adopted. Humane societies often use the Halloween season to push any such cats they may have.

Black Cats as Disguise

Black cats didn’t receive suspicion until the Middle Ages, when people came to believe they were witch’s familiars. In 14th century France, a group of witches were accused of worshiping Satan in the form of a large, black cat. Two hundred years later, people believed witches changed themselves into black cats.

In one English folktale, a man and his son, while walking home one evening, saw a large black cat. The son feared it was a witch’s familiar and threw a rock at it. The stone struck the cat in the left leg. The cat screeched and ran under the stoop of a house belonging to a woman long thought to be a witch. The next day, the pair met the old woman at market. She limped on her left leg, confirming to the local villagers that she was, in fact, a witch.

This shape-shifting ability carried over to the New World. During the Salem Witch Trials, everyone believed in the superstition and it no doubt played a part in the proceedings. The belief traveled from puritanical New England to the South, where people spread folktales about both witches and demons disguising themselves as black cats. A funny but spooky folktale called “Wait Until Emmet Comes” is one such example.

Superstitions Today

In modern England and Scotland, black cats are good omens. Finding a strange black cat on your front porch indicates coming prosperity. In the midlands of England, a black cat is considered a good wedding gift to a new bride! On the coast of Yorkshire, the wives of fishermen believe that by keeping a black cat, their husbands will come home safely. A black cat walking toward you is a sign of good fortune while a cat walking away means fortune will leave you.

In the United States, it’s still considered unlucky for your path to be crossed by a black cat and there remains an association of black cats and witchcraft.

Your Pet and Halloween

Because I’m an animal lover, I feel like I should slip in a “public service announcement” regarding pets and Halloween. As cited above, there is no data to indicate black cats are more likely to be killed, mutilated, or abused over this holiday. However, that doesn’t mean owners of both cats and dogs shouldn’t be vigilant.

When trick-or-treaters come to the door and you’re busy giving away Snickers bars, it would be easy for a pet to slip out. Always be sure to keep your pet secured so that Mr. Fluffy doesn’t bolt for freedom.

Also, chocolate is toxic to dogs, so make sure Bruno doesn’t get too interested in the goody bowl. In fact, be sure that your pet doesn’t become interested in any of the candy or Halloween decorations. Your vet should be able to give you a list of foods and items that are a danger to your four-legged companion.

Have a happy Halloween! And if you see a black cat, wish for luck.

Introducing Suzanna J. Linton

Suzanna J. Linton is fantasy and urban fantasy writer. She grew up in the swamps of South Carolina, where she learned the love of books at her mother’s knee. From an early age, she enjoyed scribbling in anything and telling stories about her imaginary friends. Now grown up, Suzanna continues to love scribbling and telling stories. She lives in Florence with her husband and their pets. Her first novel, “Clara” was published in 2013. Learn more about her and her books at her website.

Where to find A.L. Mabry:

Website (Suzanna J Linton), Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Blog (Suzanna J Linton), Facebook

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Storytime: “Shade’s Shadow” by Assaph Mehr

I should not have been out that night.

I knew better, or at least I should have.

There are three unlucky nights in the year. Three nights where the stone slabs over the mundus cerialis stood open. An ancient tradition, whose reasons were forgotten but its ritual strictly adhered to, dictated that the stone doors to this hemispherical pit located in a declivity near the temple of Ceres be opened on three nights — even though they represented the gates to the underworld.

A night with the doors to Dis wide open.

A night with — according to custom — the shades of the dead free to roam about.

A biting November wind was chilling me to the bones. I was limping home from a rather nasty assignment, involving some of society’s undesirables, an orphan, an enchanted signet ring, and several pig carcasses. I wasn’t planning for it to go that way or for that long, but it did — and now I had to make my way home across the deserted city. The cruelest master would not risk slaves out on this night. Even stray dogs slunk away to their hiding holes, and the sliver of moon hid behind grey clouds.

I made my way home as quickly as I could in my battered condition.

I took shortcuts.

I made a wrong turn.

I faced a blank wall at the end of an alley, and had to turn back. At the opening of the alley, silhouetted against the sky, was a half-translucent grey shape. It advanced upon me, and I retreated the few steps I could. It advanced further, closer, closer.

I started to mutter prayers to all the numina I could think of, promising offerings if I lived to see the morning.

It stopped three paces away from me.

It raised its grey arm.

It reached with its grey hand to its grey mouth, and pulled out the coin that tradition dictated should be used to pay the ferryman to Dis.

“Payment,” it croaked, and reached out its hand with the coin towards me.

I stared at it, dumbstruck. The night was clear of clouds, and the stars twinkled above us. I could make out the shape of the shade. It was that of a woman, young, well dressed, high class — or at least wrapped in a rich woman’s funeral shroud.

I found my voice at last. “To guide you back to the mundus?”

“No,” it croaked again. “Revenge.”

***

By noon, I had almost convinced myself it was a dream. Almost – because the coin was sitting on my table, the profile of a long dead consul showing his disdain at my vacillations.

I went over in my mind about the details. I tried to avoid exactly how it felt when the shade of the woman — Licinia — had imparted this information, and concentrated on the facts.

The time was about fifty years ago, well before I was born. Licinia was just married to a senator’s son, part of her father’s political alliances. According to her, marriage was a short, brutal, hell. It ended when her husband strangled her one night, during what would have been referred to as rape were they not married.

She wanted me to bring him to justice.

A fifty year old case, with nothing but the say so of a dead woman’s shade.

And to complicate things, I knew the man.

Not personally, no. But I knew of him.

Just like everyone else in Egretia, I knew him.

He was a famed rhone, former consul, and current censor. Doesn’t get more famous than that.

After fifty years, there was no way I could find evidence to tie him to her murder.

Neither could I bring him to court for it, because as paterfamilias he was within his rights to treat her as he liked. Even kill her.

Which apparently he did.

But that coin, and that voice, and the memory of those haunting, luminous eyes in the grey face…

***

I had two options. I could try to bring him to formal justice — on Licinia’s behalf or any other charges that might get him exiled or executed — or I could exact a more direct revenge. Public humiliation in the courts would have been ideal, but I doubted my chances of successfully bearing suit against him.

I decided to get his measure first. ‘Start with the slaves; always start with the slaves’ was the advice I got from an old mentor. I found his domus, situated high up on the slopes of Vergu, and lurked about. There was plenty of traffic coming in and going out of the house. The hour was early afternoon. Slaves and freedmen were finishing up their errands and returning, messengers were going back and forth, and even some respectable citizens and minor dignitaries — no doubts clients of the master — were still coming and going.

I was munching on a squid-on-a-stick bought from a nearby stall, considering whom should I approach first, when I saw a muscular man come out of a side gate, pushing ahead a wheelbarrow containing some old sheets. He was accompanied by a slender girl, a slave as well by her short tunic. They never spoke, never looked up, just trudged along, slinking on the side of the street.

I have no idea why, but I felt a chill as they passed me. I was drawn to follow them, and I did. We walked down the mountain, the slaves leading in silence, and me following behind. They reached the Porta Alta, the gate in the city walls on the road that leads up Vergu. A short distance later they took a small track that branched left and led down the hills and towards the Fulvius river. It has fallen into disuse over the years, the majority of human traffic going through the city streets. They quickened their pace, and though the path was broken their steps were lighter. I had the impression they were glad to be away from other humans.

I kept a respectable distance as we walked, though they seemed to care little. When we reached the flat grounds closer to the river, I was not surprised they were not interested in any of the small gardens, minor estates, and occasional trade post that lay outside the sacred perimeter of the city. They kept going, avoiding people, heading to the river. We reached the Pons Mors, an old wooden bridge, with a foreboding name to match its history. They crossed it and started to trek up the hill toward the sacred hill of Libitina, where the records of the dead and the graves of the poor were.

They made their way to the lye pits, where unclaimed corpses are discarded. I took out a writing wax tablet I keep to take notes, quickened my steps, and got to them just as they stopped next to an open pit.

“Excuse me!” I said and put my hand out. The girl recoiled as if I struck her, while the man pushing the cart froze completely.

I softened my tone. “I didn’t mean to scare you. I just need to ask you a few questions.”

“Please, domine — my dominus instructed us to be quick about our task,” she answered without lifting her eyes.

“That’s alright, I just need a name and cause of death for our records,” I waved the wax tablet.

“She was called Victoria,” said the girl.

“Grand name for a slave.”

“Our dominus likes to name us after the gods.”

“And the cause of death?” I asked and flipped over the rags covering the body in the wheelbarrow.

And immediately wished I hadn’t. A short, curvy girl. Long, brown hair framing a face out of which brown eyes stared out unblinking, never to see again. The slave girl didn’t answer my question, but the scars were obvious. The poor girls has been whipped over the years, certainly, but that was not what finally killed her. On her fair skin I saw the same scars as I’ve seen before at military sieges, though these looked deliberate. She was slowly and repeatedly scalded by hot oil, the red burn scars snaking around her young body as someone flung the oil at her time after time. Her legs from the knees down looked like they have been boiled in the oil. I could not imagine the workings of a twisted mind that would do such a thing to a defenceless girl, though I would guess he was getting off by savagely attacking symbols for gods.

“And who shall I write as brought her here?” I asked after I covered the body back with the rags.

“He calls me Concordia. He said I am next,” she said without lifting her eyes, or showing any emotion.

***

It was almost a month later, when I had everything in place. On the start of the last nundinus of December, on the day and night we celebrate the mythic woman Acca Larentia for having nursed the three brothers who founded our city. This winter celebration is on the side of the ending year, and thus most offerings are for the dead.

I made her my own offering in advance, all as prescribed. I asked her a favour, to speak on my behalf with Dea Tacita, the mute one, goddess of the dead, for they share the same festival day. This matter concerned the Dea Tacita, for it was the shades of the dead girls that were denied their eternal rest, but I was not so rash as to apply directly to the mute one.

I had to organise things carefully. I had to coincide any ceremony I would carry out with general festivals, so as to hide behind the noise of public magia and escape notice of the Collegium Incantatorum. Understand, the times where everyone sacrifices for the gods, even when the magia is not properly directed and the public ceremonies are bordering more on superstition than on real incantation, still provide me enough background noise to mask any dark deeds.

On the celebration of the Larentalia the censor was invited to be present at the rites carried out just outside our walls, on the wide ledge where funerals are held. This was one of the progression of special events marking the end of the year. A necessary ceremony, to propitiate the numina, and ensure that a new year will start after the intercalaris, that countless period over the winter between December and the beginning of the new year on the first new moon of the spring solstice.

I was standing to the side of the sparse crowd of citizens, further up the slope and away from the city. The censor, resplendent in his white toga with wide purple stripes, the brass buckles on his crimson shoes flaring with the last rays of sunlight, was standing at the centre of the row of dignitaries as befitting his position, with a look of boredom and disdain that betrayed true feelings.

When the rites were over, I uttered a small incantation and spoke his name softly. The wind sighed, and carried it to his ears alone. He turned his head. Behind me, two girls — one dressed as Diana and the other as Fortuna — disappeared quickly behind a bend in the road. He stared at me for a moment, shook his head, and turned.

I signalled the girls, and spoke the incantation again. As he turned, the girls looked up, laughed, and ducked back behind the rock. I walked towards him, slowly, keeping my eyes locked on his, letting the crowd wend their way down the hill and leave us alone. He stayed, mesmerised, looking at me and the tantalising visions of girls in goddesses costumes peeking behind me, and dismissed his retinue with a wave. The men around us hurried down, before full darkness set in.

By the time I reached him, we were alone.

“I’ve heard you’re in the market for some slave girls. Particularly ones that know how to dress up and act like goddesses,” I said.

He stared at me for a moment, licked his lips, and said, “I’m not sure I know what you mean.”

“I have a young woman to sell. Well read, cultured, pretty. Her father was forced to sell the family into slavery to repay a gambling debt. Can recite Andronicus and Terentius. Likes to dress up as Diana the Huntress. Give her a bow, and she’ll look just like a temple statue.”

My sources and hunches were right, for I could see him waver. “I have her right here for you. You can check her out, sample her… recitation skills. It won’t take a moment.”

He followed me. We went just around the bend. “Just in here,” I pointed at a shallow recess. He just wasn’t expecting me to hit him on the side of the head with a leather pouch full of sand as I turned to show him the way.

I caught him as he collapsed.

I tied him down, with special leather tongs that have been inscribed with sigils marked by teeth.

I laid him neatly in the recess.

In the centre of a circle drawn in blood and bones.

We waited for the moon to rise.

He woke up.

He threatened.

He pleaded.

Threatened again.

Cried.

The waning moon finally sailed past the peak of Vergu to light our little hollow on the western side.

I chanted the necessary prayer. I made the right sacrifices. I gave it direction and focus, beyond mere superstition, yet without the callous hubris of an incantator channeling the magia.

I stood back.

We didn’t have to wait long. Deeper shadows amidst the scree shifted, morphed, advanced. With halting movements, in bursts that seemed always to be at the periphery of my vision, shadowy figures drew closer.

Until finally they resolved themselves into human shapes, rising from the rocks to stand around us. Against their grey skin I could make out the luminous yellow eyes, the webbed hands, the sharpened teeth.

They looked at me unblinkingly. I spoke the last words of the prayer, promising the Dea Tacita that which was hers, and backed away.

Their eyes shifted from me to the gibbering censor in the centre of the circle.

And descended upon him.

Beyond the circle of writhing bodies, I saw the grey shape of Licinia, looking emotionless at her killer being killed.

I took out the coin from the fold of my toga, looked again at the face of a long dead consul. I balanced it on thumb and forefinger, and flicked it above the circle and over the grey lemures at Licinia.

She caught it deftly, placed it in her mouth, and began to fade away.

I could almost hear a faint ‘thank you’ over the sounds of ripping flesh and crunching bones.

I turned away, and made my way down the mountain, back into our city and its lights, towards the nearest cup of wine, hoping that Licinia would now find peace across the river Styx.

From the Author

Assaph has been a bibliophile since he learnt to read at the age of five, and a Romanophile ever since he first got his hands on Asterix, way back in elementary school. This exacerbated when his parents took him on a trip to Rome and Italy – he whinged horribly when they dragged him to “yet another church with baby angels on the ceiling”, yet was happy to skip all day around ancient ruins and museums for Etruscan art.

He has since been feeding his addiction for books with stories of mystery and fantasy of all kinds. A few years ago he randomly picked a copy of a Lindsay Davis’ Marcus Didius Falco novel in a used book fair, and fell in love with Rome all over again, this time from the view-point of a cynical adult. His main influences in writing are Steven Saylor, Lindsey Davis, Barry Hughart and Boris Akunin.

Assaph now lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife Julia, four kids and two cats. By day he is a software product manager, bridging the gap between developers and users, and by night he’s writing – he seems to do his best writing after midnight.

Where To Find Assaph Mehr

Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Blog, Website

31 Days Of Halloween – Here’s What’s Coming Up

October is a month where I have a lot to celebrate. October 1st marks the anniversary of “Under A Hunter’s Moon” first appearing in print, and takes place on Halloween Eve itself.

This year the story turns three years old, so I decided to create a huge Halloween event, celebrating the work of my fellow indie authors. Everyone involved has submitted a Book Spotlight, Author Spotlight, Story, or Guest Post.

So What’s Happening? [updated @ 11:10 pm (AKST) 10.20.17]

Here is a full listing of posts and events that are happening throughout the month.
The links in the Author column will take you to the individual author’s websites.
The links in the Topic column will take you to the posts, once they are live. Please note that posts will not be live until around 8am EST on the date of release. (This post will be updated as more authors join the event).

Date Author Topic
10/01/17 Anita Stewart Book Spotlight – “Horror Haiku Pas De Deux
10/02/17 Assaph Mehr Storytime – “Shade’s Shadow”
10/03/17 Anaïs Chartschenko Book Spotlight – “Bright Needles”
10/04/17 Stephanie Ayers Author Spotlight
10/05/17 Suzanna J. Linton Guest Post – “Black Cats On All Hallows Eve”
10/06/17 Angela B. Chrysler Event Spotlight – 4th Annual Brain To Books CyCon
10/07/17 Angela B. Chrysler Book Spotlight – “Broken”
10/08/17 Marnie Cate Book Spotlight – “Envy”
10/09/17 Angela B. Chrysler Book Spotlight – “Zombies From Outer Space… and Vampires”
10/10/17 Joe Compton Book Spotlight – “Amongst The Killing”
10/11/17 Kayla Matt Book Spotlight – “Hell Bent Arc 1”
10/12/17 Timothy Bateson “Asteroids In Film & Fiction”
10/13/17 Mackenzie Flohr Book Spotlight – “The Whispered Tales of Graves Grove”
10/14/17 Renee Scattersgood Author Spotlight
10/15/17 Timothy Bateson Top 10 Scary Superheroes & Super Villains
10/16/17 Heidi Angell Book Spotlight – “Elements of a Broken Mind”
10/17/17 K.N. Johnson Book Spotlight – “A Haunting Of Words”
10/18/17 Ariel Marie Book Spotlight – “Mating Two Dragons”
10/19/17 Timothy Bateson Top 10 Haunted Locations
10/20/17 Toi Thomas Author Spotlight
10/21/17 Catterfly Publishing Book Spotlight – “Mirrors & Thorns”
10/22/17 Ed Ireland Storytime – “The Iconic Face”
10/23/17 Ani Manjikian Book Spotlight – “Do You Believe In Legend?”
10/24/17 A.L. Mabry Author Spotlight
10/25/17 A.L. Mabry Character Interview – “Miranda Spencer”
10/26/17 Tiffany Apan Book Spotlight – “Descent”
10/27/17 Timothy Bateson Book Spotlight – “Under A Hunter’s Moon”
10/28/17
10/29/17
10/30/17
10/31/17 Timothy Bateson “31 Days Of Halloween – Happy Halloween”
10/27/17 thru 10/31/17 Timothy Bateson “Under A Hunter’s Moon (Shadows Over Seattle: Prequels #1)” will be FREE over on Amazon

30 Days Of Halloween – Send Me Your Guest Posts

Under A Hunter's Moon - 3rd Anniversary Celebration“Under A Hunter’s Moon” – Celebrates 3 Years in Print

My first story, “Under A Hunter’s Moon” appeared in print for the first time, back in 2014. Every year since then I have mad an effort to celebrate the event in some way.

31 Days of Halloween

That means it’s time for me to host another 31 Days of Halloween, where I host a range of guest posts, book spotlights, etc. I’m hoping to have enough material to release one slot every day throughout October.

The month will culminate in a very special event over the weekend leading up to Halloween itself, but I’m keeping the details to myself until that time.

Here’s How You Can Take Part

Readers: If you have a Halloween experience you’d like to share, please email me at timothy.bateson.author@gmail.com . I love collecting stories, and I’d love to hear from those of you who follow the blog. Alternatively, you can leave comments on individual posts, especially if you read a post and loved it.

Writers: I’m looking to gather 30 individual posts for this event. I’m looking for Author Spotlights, Book Spotlights, Poetry, and Guests Posts themed around Halloween. There are forms to fill out for the book and author spotlights, but for anything else, click the “Pitch A Guest Post” image, and email the information.

Deadlines:

I need to get all the guest posts and spotlight information as soon as possible. If you would like the post to release on a give date, let me know in your email (or in the “Additional Notes” on the forms).

Author Spotlight – Connie Cockrell

I had the pleasure of running into Connie Cockrell a little while ago, and we’ve been talking back and forth about setting up an interview swap. What I didn’t realize when we started talking is just how many genres this amazing woman manages to write in.

I know just how difficult it can be to write different genres, but Connie Cockrell seems to find it effortless. Maybe she’ll give us an insight into just how she does it in this interview. How about it Connie?

[Update: I just found out that this post coincides with Connie’s birthday, so please show her some love]

Introducing Connie Cockrell

A 20-year Air Force career, a manager at a computer operations company, wife, mother, sister and volunteer, provides a rich background for Connie Cockrell’s story-telling.

She writes about whatever comes into her head so her books could be in any genre. She’s published sixteen books, has been included in five anthologies and been published on EveryDayStories.com and FrontierTales.com. Connie’s always on the lookout for a good story idea. Beware, you may be the next one.

 

Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.

I grew up in Gloversville NY and joined the Air Force at eighteen. Lots of life happened the next 20 years, marrying, having a daughter, travelling around the world with the Air Force and retiring after 20 years in the service. Then we retired back to Northville NY where I worked for a computer company then, tired of the snow, moved to Payson AZ. That’s where I started writing on a challenge from my daughter in 2011. I haven’t stopped writing yet!

Could you tell us a bit about your latest book?

My very latest book is a cozy mystery, Mystery at the Book Festival. It’s book 3 in my Jean Hays series. My last science fiction book is Troubled Streets, book 1 in my Zoe Ohale series.

Zoe Ohale has had a hard life on the streets of Baia Mare, and it’s about to get a whole lot harder.

For Zoe Ohale, life on the streets is hard. Maybe too hard. She is one of the lucky few in the gang to have a place to lay her head, but for the rest an old abandoned warehouse is the best they can hope for to keep out of the rain.

Zoe has debts to pay. On the one side, the Lees are pressuring her to be an informant; on the other, the criminal underworld threatens to swallow her whole. But Zoe would do anything for her gang of orphans, so she shuts up and straddles the line of loyalty between night and day, always teetering on the edge.

But when a new gang of credit thieves comes to Baia Mare, everything is thrown into disarray, and Zoe’s precarious balance starts to crumble. With lies, kidnapping, corruption and even worse in the mix, the city is bound for a descent into anarchy.

Will Zoe find a way to help right a few wrongs? Or will she be the one who ends up needing help?

Who is your intended readership?

Women and girls who are looking for a smart, tough, yet sensitive main character. In the first book, Zoe is 17, so it could be considered a YA story though adults have enjoyed the story, too.

When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always dabbled at writing. Mostly just a few chapters then I’d toss the whole thing. Then when my daughter challenged me to participate in National Novel Writing Month, she loaned me her copy of Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. He laid out everything in a way that made total sense to me. I started plotting out my story in mid-October and finished that first book by the end of Nano. I was pretty pumped and I’m still going strong.

Do you have a favorite author, or writing inspiration?

I’ll have to say the classic scifi authors like Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke and others. Female authors too, C.J. Cherryh, Elizabeth Moon, and so many more. All of my favorites tell compelling stories and with every book, take me on a vacation to far away exotic locations. What’s not to love!

What advice would you give beginning writers?

I’d say find what works for you and follow that. There’s a lot of advice out on the internet about how to be a writer. Some say you need to plot everything out, some say you should work by the seat of your pants. Other advice is to write every day, or edit as you go or don’t edit as you go. All I can say is I know authors who break one or more of all of those rules. Take classes, read craft books and figure out what works for you. You should find joy in writing. If you aren’t, perhaps you’re doing it wrong.

Do you have any amusing writing stories or anecdotes to share?

Once when my husband I were travelling west along I40 from Flagstaff, I saw a highway sign for Devil Dog Road. What a great name! I had to write a story based on that and I did. It’s in my collection of Halloween Stories, available on most book retailers

What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies?

I like to hike. I belong to a group that goes out and about central Arizona every Tuesday. I also belong to a monthly Bunco group and I started an annual book festival here in Payson.

What’s your next project? Any upcoming book secrets you care to reveal?

I have several projects in the works. I have completed a first draft of the second Zoe Ohale story, Troubled Campus. It needs a lot of work so I probably won’t publish it until 2018. Coming out soon, though, is the 4th book in my Brown Rain series, Tested. A dystopian scifi series, the books are novelette or novella length so they’re great fast reads.

Mystery at the Fair

Welcome to Greyson, Arizona. Population: One less than yesterday.

When Jean Hays moved to Greyson, Arizona, she thought she’d found the perfect place in which to get away from her sleazy ex-husband and start over, a fresh beginning far from the big city.

But when she discovers the desiccated corpse of local quilting legend Ina Grange in a storage container on the fairgrounds where she’s volunteering, she inadvertently starts uncovering a deadly conspiracy just under the surface of the sleepy town.

Between managing the annual Greyson fair and pursuing the shadowy trail of destruction left by the murderer, Jean has her hands full dealing with drunken brawls and nasty falls, suspicious ex-wives and keen-sharp knives. And that’s not to mention the stubborn Police Chief himself.

Will Jean find the truth before the killer decides enough is enough?

Troubled Streets

Zoe Ohale has had a hard life on the streets of Baia Mare, and it’s about to get a whole lot harder.

For Zoe Ohale, life on the streets is hard. Maybe too hard. She is one of the lucky few in the gang to have a place to lay her head, but for the rest an old abandoned warehouse is the best they can hope for to keep out of the rain.

Zoe has debts to pay. On the one side, the Lees are pressuring her to be an informant; on the other, the criminal underworld threatens to swallow her whole. But Zoe would do anything for her gang of orphans, so she shuts up and straddles the line of loyalty between night and day, always teetering on the edge.

But when a new gang of credit thieves comes to Baia Mare, everything is thrown into disarray, and Zoe’s precarious balance starts to crumble. With lies, kidnapping, corruption and even worse in the mix, the city is bound for a descent into anarchy.

Will Zoe find a way to help right a few wrongs? Or will she be the one who ends up needing help?

First Encounter

Seventeen years ago, the brown rain started falling without explanation, without excuse. It killed everything it touched.

Then, after four years of death and destruction, it stopped just as inexplicably.

Now Alyssa and Kyra, two young women from a surviving community, are sent out into a desolate world to look for other survivors. Between Alyssa’s unique power and Kyra’s roguish skills, they might just succeed. But what they end up finding in the outside world, despite its veneer of civility, may be slightly less human than they had been expecting.

Book Buying Links:

Amazon, iTunes, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords

Where to find Connie Cockrell:

Website, Amazon, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook

Author Spotlight – Andy Peloquin

Over this coming week, I’ll be introducing you to Andy Peloquin, and his works. He’s one of those authors that is very active online, especially in the writer communities. It’s my pleasure to be featuring him over the next few days, as he builds up to the release of “Thief of the Night Guild”, which you’ll be finding out more about below… And lucky you, that’s several days ahead of it’s official release date, of July 18th 2017.

So, without further delay, it’s time for you to meet the wonderful Andy Peloquin…

Introducing Andy Peloquin

I am, first and foremost, a storyteller and an artist–words are my palette. Fantasy is my genre of choice, and I love to explore the darker side of human nature through the filter of fantasy heroes, villains, and everything in between. I’m also a freelance writer, a book lover, and a guy who just loves to meet new people and spend hours talking about my fascination for the worlds I encounter in the pages of fantasy novels.

Fantasy provides us with an escape, a way to forget about our mundane problems and step into worlds where anything is possible. It transcends age, gender, religion, race, or lifestyle–it is our way of believing what cannot be, delving into the unknowable, and discovering hidden truths about ourselves and our world in a brand new way. Fiction at its very best!

Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.

I was born in Japan to French and American parents, and have lived abroad (Japan/Mexico) my entire life. I’m an odd mixture of bodybuilder/fitness nut and fantasy nerd/comic book geek.

Here are a few more things:

  1. Hot wings, ALWAYS!
  2. I never forget a face, but rarely remember a name.
  3. I’m a head taller than the average person (I’m 6′ 6″)
  4. Marvel > DC
  5. I was born in Japan, and lived there until the age of 14.
  6. Selena Gomez, Skrillex, Simon & Garfunkel, Celine Dion, and Five Finger Death Punch are all in my writing playlist.
  7. Aliens are real, but it’s self-centered of us to believe that they would come to visit Earth.
  8. Watching sports: suck. Playing sports: EPIC!
  9. I earned a purple belt in Karate/Hapkido/Taekwondo.
  10. I dislike most Christmas music, aside from Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Could you tell us a bit about your latest book?

Thief of the Night Guild is the second book in the Queen of Thieves series. The first book (Child of the Night Guild) examined the sort of traumas, abuses, and trials that would turn an innocent child into a hardened thief and killer. This second book answers two questions:

  • How does a woman survive in a society dominated by men?
  • What is a mother willing to do to protect her child?

The story follows Ilanna, a third-story thief (cat burglar) in the Night Guild (thieves’ guild). She pulls off her world’s first bank heist by breaking into a secure vault and stealing a fortune in gold and gemstones. It has the feel of a classic heist novel, but with the dark fantasy flair that I love to add to my stories. There’s death, loss, sorrow, betrayal, murder, mayhem, mystery, thieves, assassins, and poisoners—the best of fantasy!

Who is your intended readership?

The target audience is definitely mature adults. The themes in the book are dark and grim, but presented in a fascinating story.

Both men and women will enjoy the story of Ilanna. I wrote her as a character I (a man) would want to read, yet one women of all ages would be able to identify with. She’s definitely more confident in this second book than in the first, as she’s “come into her own” as a thief.

When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

I, like so many other authors, spent a lot of time writing during my childhood and teenaged years. However, it wasn’t until my mid-20s that I realized that it was what I wanted to do with my life. Not just to piddle around and put together a story, but actually turn it into a full-time career.

Do you have a favorite author, or writing inspiration?

I try to “model myself” after Brandon Sanderson and Scott Lynch. Scott Lynch’s characters are so rich and bold and alive, his worlds and stories so rich. There’s an excellence, professionalism, and gravitas to Brandon Sanderson’s writings that I try to infuse into my own.

What advice would you give beginning writers?

Be ready for A LOT of work. The writing process is no more than 20% of what needs to be done to publish a book. There’s the editing, drafting, formatting, cover creation, and all the rest. Then there’s the marketing, outreach, advertising, and everything else that goes into getting your book in front of the right people. Prepare for a solid 10-year investment to turn it into a full-time career. That way, if it happens more quickly, it’ll be a “win”.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies?

I’m a pretty hardcore (Marvel) comic geek. I like to get my hands on the latest comics and stay abreast of the latest developments in the story lines of my favorite characters (Deadpool, Wolverine, etc.). I also hit the gym/run daily, LOVE to cook, and enjoy puzzles, watching TV, and reading.

What’s your next project? Any upcoming book secrets you care to reveal?

In addition to finishing the third book in the series (titled “Queen of the Night Guild”), I’ll be finishing the fourth novel in my The Last Bucelarii series. I’ll also be releasing a collection of short stories titled “Different, Not Damaged”—all featuring different disorders (PTSD, autism, fibromyalgia, etc.) in a fantasy context. Basically, the disorders are what make these characters special, hence the name of the book.

#1 : Child of the Night Guild (Queen of Thieves Book 1)

“They killed my parents. They took my name. They imprisoned me in darkness. I would not be broken.”

Viola, a child sold to pay her father’s debts, has lost everything: her mother, her home, and her identity. Thrown into a life among criminals, she has no time for grief as she endures the brutal training of an apprentice thief. The Night Guild molds an innocent waif into a cunning, agile outlaw skilled in the thieves’ trade. She has only one choice: steal enough to pay her debts.

The cutthroat streets of Praamis will test her mettle, and she must learn to dodge the City Guards or swing from a hangman’s rope. But a more dangerous foe lurks within the guild walls. A sadistic rival apprentice, threatened by her strength, is out for blood.

What hope does one girl have in a world of ruthless men?

Fans of Sarah J. Maas, Scott Lynch, and Brent Weeks will love Queen of Thieves…

Buy now: Ahead of the release of “Thief of the Night Guild” – Kindle

Where to find Andy Peloquin:

Website, Amazon, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook

Oh and one more thing…

Get a sneak peek of “Thief of the Night Guild”

B2BCyCon Fantasy Genre Tour: Behind The Scenes Showcase – Stop #4

 Fantasy “Behind The Scenes” Tour – Stop #4

“The Occult and Magic” by Stephen Morris

I first became interested in the occult and magic when I was very VERY young and saw The Wizard of Oz on television for the first and second times. The first time, my mom says I was terrified of the Wicked Witch’s appearance in Munchkin Land amidst smoke and flames and ran straight to bed! (I must have been 5 years old or so.) The next year I began watching the movie again and made myself stick with it past the appearance of the Witch and after that — I was hooked!

The Wicked Witch of the West became my favorite character because not only is she the most interesting but she is the only one who wields any real power in the movie. She became my idol for years and years! (When a major storm recently struck Manhattan, I made a comment on FaceBook about the wind picking up our house and depositing it atop someone wearing peppermint stripped stockings and glittering red shoes and my cousin responded: “You’ve been chasing those shoes for YEARS!” LoL!)

But the Wicked Witch of the West was my favorite not just because she was powerful. She was also struggling to achieve something, the same way Dorothy was struggling to achieve something. Dorothy wanted to get home to Kansas and the Wicked Witch wanted the shoes of her sister. Were the shoes a sentimental memento? Or were they dangerous weapons? We don’t know. We only know that the Witch wanted those shoes more than anything and was willing to go to any lengths to get them. Just as Dorothy was willing to do anything to get back to Aunt Em and Uncle Henry on the farm in Kansas. The struggles of both the Witch and Dorothy were familiar because they were the same basic struggle. Their struggle was the fundamental human struggle familiar to anyone who desperately wants something—a job, an education, artistic expression, survival or a new life—and will do anything to achieve it.

As an author of contemporary and historical fantasy, I try to introduce readers to characters that are fascinating and powerful yet familiar in basic, fundamentally human ways. No one is perfect. They struggle to achieve their goals. Their experiences with the supernatural ring true because all the magical or fantastic elements in my books are rooted in authentic folklore, legend, or medieval-Renaissance occult beliefs and practices; the experiences of my characters ring true—I hope!—because they engage with the world in the same ways that our grandparents and ancestors did as they struggled to achieve whatever goals they had.

I listen to the characters and help them to discover who they are and what journeys they are on. I share aspects of myself with each of them and they share themselves with me; if I am quiet and listen, I can share not only their joys and frustrations and despair myself but communicate their experience to my readers. My characters interact with those authentic pre-modern beliefs and practices, retelling and reshaping them for modern audiences. I introduce characters to each other that might not have met in their original settings but that have stories and experiences to share with each other. By sharing their experiences, they enrich each other and the readers who can eavesdrop on their conversations or thoughts.

In writing, I try to be my truest self and attempt to build bridges between cultures and histories, practices and experiences, characters and readers.

Find Out More

Website, Amazon

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