Must Read: Servant Mage by Kate Elliott!

“An absolute gem of a story… I loved it.” —S. A. Chakraborty

In Kate Elliott’s Servant Mage, a lowly fire mage finds herself entangled in an empire-spanning conspiracy on her way to discovering her true power.

They choose their laws to secure their power.

Fellian is a Lamplighter, able to provide illumination through magic. A group of rebel Monarchists free her from indentured servitude and take her on a journey to rescue trapped compatriots from an underground complex of mines.

Along the way they get caught up in a conspiracy to kill the latest royal child and wipe out the Monarchist movement for good.

But Fellian has more than just her Lamplighting skills up her sleeve…

Publisher | Amazon | B&N | Bookshop.org

Kate Elliott has been writing science fiction and fantasy for 30 years, after bursting onto the scene with Jaran. She is best known for her Crown of Stars epic fantasy series and the New York Times bestselling YA fantasy Court of Fives. Elliot’s particular focus is immersive world-building & centering women in epic stories of adventure, amidst transformative cultural change. She lives in Hawaii, where she paddles outrigger canoes & spoils her Schnauzer.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Book Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

This was the pick for my local book club in Colorado Springs for November, and I had a copy waiting on my shelf, signed by the author at a Comic-Con Denver event I attended so it was perfect timing.

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

Some of my favorite quotes:

“Ludmila and the Enchanter, only in the song, the brave countess disguised herself as an old peasant woman and cooked and cleaned for the wizard who had stolen her husband’s heart, until she found it in his house locked inside a box, and she stole it back and saved him.” – This quote reminds me of Howl’s Moving Castle, so I adore the idea they are remotely connected at all.

“You intolerable lunatic,” he snarled at me, and then he caught my face between his hands and kissed me.” – I don’t really do romance, but the odd paring of these two, and the hilarious things that are said make it entertaining.

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This was such a good book, but I am saddened it was a stand-alone. I was really hoping for more stories from these characters, mainly because I love the “odd couple” dynamic of Agnieszka and The Dragon. The idea that this man continues to pluck girls from the village to live in his tower was so interesting, and I will say the final reveal of the reasoning behind that choice made me both happy and sad. I enjoyed that our heroine was not anything special to most people. Clumsy, often dirty, not outstandingly pretty, but she was who she was. Throughout the book, we get a great message of realizing that just because something has always been done one way, doesn’t mean it needs to continue being done that way. Nieszka’s magic is born of her own heart and spirit and is different but in many situations, it’s exactly what was needed. There is a romance subplot, and at least one semi-steamy scene, as a heads up for those who may want to know for their younger readers, but overall, it’s much more a slow build of a friendship to a romance, and a heavy fantasy book about good magic overcoming bad magic, and the actions of greedy people and the importance of taking care of nature. It’s a beautifully written book, and it flows well after the first few chapters. Once I got halfway, it was quick and engrossing to read. Recommend this one for sure, and wish there was a sequel.

Author Spotlight with Q&A – Rebekah Nicole

First published on NerdGirl

Joining us today is Rebekah Nicole and

A Whisper in the Flame (The Ragers Series Book 1)



Rebekah Nicole is the author of the A WHISPER IN THE FLAME, the first book in The Ragers Series. She grew up in Charleston, SC, a beautiful coastal city full of historic charm, dark and haunted history, and renowned southern hospitality. When she’s not writing young adult fiction stories, you can find her chasing her little monsters and thoroughly enjoying a life of perpetual exhaustion with her husband, Nathaniel.


Where are you from?  Does the area you live in influence your writing?

Absolutely. I grew up in a smaller town, just inland of Charleston, SC. There was lot of slow southern living, “Bless your heart” church going women, and 4 AM hunting wake-up calls. The nice part about where I’m from is that the beach was fifty minutes one way, a lake was fifty the other, rivers ran between them, and the foothills and mountains were only two-hours northwest. Great geography! While A WHISPER IN THE FLAME is set in North Carolina, there are definitely plenty of parallels from my hometown added in.

Tell us your latest news??

My first novel just released, so that has been a lot of fun trying to promote it and get it out there. I have a couple of different projects in the works at the moment. The first one is the second book in this series.  The name is still to be determined, but I am hoping for a release around the end of the first quarter or beginning of the second quarter 2022.

The next project is another book series that is more in the YA fantasy realm. I am super excited about this one but also nervous because it will be by first work of fiction written from dual perspectives (or at least at this point it is!).

When and why did you begin writing? What inspired you to write your first book?

I was a late bloomer when it came to learning to read. I was behind everyone in my class. I struggled through Hooked on Phonics and most of the other reading tools out at the time. Finally, my parents bought me the Jump Start games, and for whatever reason, it clicked!

From then on, there was no turning back. I leapt straight into chapter books starting with the Magic Tree House Series. My love for reading and writing just seemed to explode. I remember writing my first full length play in the second grade and rehearsing it with my friends in the library.  My grandmother is very artistic as well. She liked to write and paint, so I do see her influence in my own love of writing.

As far as what inspired me to write my first book; I will say, almost all of my stories from the last thirteen or so, have stemmed from dreams. Sleep! Dream! Try to remember or write down those dreams the moment you wake up if you can. It has inspired a good many short stories, my current novel’s concept, different sequences in the book, and future novel ideas.

What book(s) / author(s) have influenced your life and writing?

The Magic Tree House books by Mary Pope Osborne were the first ones to influence me. They held such an enchantment over my imagination. Mary’s adventures inspired both my pretend play and my writing at the time. I cannot wait to share these stories with my own kids one day soon!

J.K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter series was also a major influence over me, as it was to millions of other people. Honestly, people who didn’t like the Harry Potter books are probably a little worse off for it. Ha-ha, just kidding… Kind of…

Rowlings’ personal story inspired me to never give up on my dreams, regardless of the struggles or rejections that try to get in our way. But more importantly, her novels taught people that nothing is more powerful than your ability to love. And that is a message that will stand the test of time.

I could not talk about writing influences without mentioning Sarah Dessen, who I was particularly obsessed with throughout my mid to late teens. She helped me pick up the pieces to my life a few times and helped me learn to really tap into my emotional side. Which happens to be the side I now prefer.

Tell us about your characters and how they came to be?  Have they been in your head for a long time?

The main cast of characters, Emma, Jamie, Jake, and Kye were all born from the same dream way back in 2015. Emma is probably modeled off a person I wish I could have been in my late teen years. She’s kind, intelligent and extremely determined. She’s also always in her own head, she lacks confidence in herself, and she tends to trust the wrong people.

Jake and Jamie are siblings whose family was, by no means, perfect, or well off, but they always tried to do what was right. Jake is headstrong. He’s a great leader and he will do whatever necessary to protect his family. Unfortunately, that means he can be a bit of an ass at times. Jamie is also pretty headstrong, and she can come off the wrong way occasionally, but she does have a big heart and an even bigger secret.

Kye’s Japanese roots have always taught him to be disciplined, even when he was bullied for being such a scrawny “different” kid in a southern town. Kye learned to control his temper and control his body. He’s strong physically and mentally. Still, he’s only twenty. He has no clue what happened to his family and he’s trying to balance being best friends with Jake and in love with his sister, Jamie. Sometimes Kye’s immaturity and snark can get the best of him.

What motivates you to write?

This is a tough question. I think in the beginning, it was just a longing to tell stories and be heard. I have always been a bit more on the shy side, so I needed an outlet to express myself. As I aged, this reason held true, but it went deeper as well. I had some pretty dark and scary times and I wanted to tell those stories. I wanted to be able to help others heal through my writing.

Now, its still a combination of these things, but I’m also trying to prove to myself that I can do it. For a long time, I would doubt myself and my abilities. So now, I’m constantly fighting to prove to myself that this dream of mine is attainable.

What is the hardest part of writing?

Finding time and trying not to be discouraged. I have two young kids, another job and a husband that take up a lot of my time and attention. My writing time tends to be when the kids lay down for nap and bedtime, or when I have a cancellation in my work schedule. That means that there is no real writing routine for me and I’m typically dead tired by the time I sit down at my laptop.

I also tend to be a perfectionist who is rarely ever perfect. I have a bad habit of self-editing over and over before I’ve had a chance to finish the first draft, which tends to be discouraging and time consuming. Self-doubt can damage all of the hard work you’ve done.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

Yes. I’ve learned that I have to stop getting in my own way. Let the first draft, be a first draft. Its okay if its messy, just get the story out. Then work on fine tuning. You’ll probably change a few things along the way anyways.

Where do you get your ideas?

My ideas typically come through dreams, whether that be form of sleeping, lucid dreams, or daydreams.

Occasionally, I pull from real life situations or people. Once I even pulled from a quote, I read on a dump truck.

Inspiration can come from anywhere; you just have to pay attention.

What does your family think of your writing?

They are all extremely supportive of me. They have known this has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl. I am incredibly lucky to have such an awesome support system.

What is the best advice you would give to inspiring authors?

Do your best to just get your whole story out there first. Write that completed first draft! Once you’ve got it all written, take a break from it. Go back a few weeks later and read it through without doing a single edit. Make some notes to yourself at parts that you think you could improve upon, plot holes, development, etc. Take those notes and write your second draft. Editing is a lengthy process so make sure you are getting in some good self-care, so you don’t go crazy.

Lastly, have a good support system. Whether that’s family, friends, or other writers. Having someone who believes in your writing will make all the difference. I would have never submitted my manuscript had it not been for an awesome author and friend, Marie F. Crow. She believed in me more than I believed in myself at times, and I am so grateful for an amazing friend like her in my life.  Get yourself a Crow in your life.

What book are you reading now?

I’m currently reading a nonfiction book “Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind” by Yuval Noah Harari.

Hope you enjoyed checking out this new author! Review coming soon!


What I’m Into Wednesday – July 21st

Starting a new series on the blog of what’s going on with me. What I’m reading, working on, watching, listening to.


In our house, we’re usually reading one book for bed, my boyfriend and I together, so right now, that’s The Spine of The Dragon by Kevin J. Anderson. We’re really enjoying it but we just started.

For Downtown Colorado Springs Bookclub, our monthly pick was The Starless Sea, which I’m currently listening to on Audible. The narrators are amazing, and I’ve got about 12 hours left and about 8 days, so we’ll see how it goes!

For review books, I’ve got a pile waiting on me, but I’m probably most excited for:


For Your Own Good

People of Abandoned Character


Right now, I’m watching The O.C with my friend. We’ve both seen it and we’re currently in Season 2.

When I’m not watching that, I’m addicted to what I call Trashy Boat Show, aka, Below Deck. It’s about people on a luxury yacht, and I think it’s insane and easy to watch.

You can watch it on Peacock.

Listening To

Right now, I’m obsessed with Julia Michaels new album, Not in Chronological Order. It’s so good, like everything she puts out, and it’s been on replay.

Working On

Right now, outside of my Podcast producing business, (Which you can check out here) I’m trying to get back to the gym more regularly. I signed up, mainly for the classes, since I do Beachbody on Demand at home, and to get myself into some kind of routine.

What are you into right now? Comment below, I’d love to hear about it.

New Release – She Who Became The Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

Title: She Who Became The Sun

Author: Shelley Parker-Chan

Published Date: July 20th, 2021

Genre: Fiction, Alternate History


Mulan meets The Song of Achilles in Shelley Parker-Chan’s She Who Became the Sun, a bold, queer, and lyrical reimagining of the rise of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty from an amazing new voice in literary fantasy.

To possess the Mandate of Heaven, the female monk Zhu will do anything

“I refuse to be nothing…”

In a famine-stricken village on a dusty yellow plain, two children are given two fates. A boy, greatness. A girl, nothingness…

In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected.

When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother’s identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, propelled by her burning desire to survive, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes, no matter how callous, to stay hidden from her fate.

After her sanctuary is destroyed for supporting the rebellion against Mongol rule, Zhu takes the chance to claim another future altogether: her brother’s abandoned greatness.

Things I love History, Badass Women, Humor, and non-traditional gender roles. This book has all that and more. I adored it. I was the girl who grew up on Mulan. She’s always been my favorite, she’s tough, she’s hardworking and she just wants to make a difference, and damn if this book didn’t take that feeling and make it even better. This book is 5 stars! I loved this book! You need to check it out because it’s just such a well-written book, with a nuanced main character and the idea that sometimes you have to be different to fit in, and what makes your difference can make you a leader. This alternate history shows us how a young girl who was considered worthless can rise to the highest position possible and change the world. It’s got war, romance, friendship, and heartbreak but that’s what makes it great! I will be recommending this book to random people in bookstores for the foreseeable future. It’s so good.

Highly recommend this book!





Barnes & Noble


Release Day Q&A – A Desert Torn Asunder by BRADLEY P. BEAULIEU

**Originally published on NerdgirlOfficial.com

A Desert Torn Asunder by Bradley P. Beaulieu


Released today, July 13th, 2021!

Amazon | Goodreads | Publisher



Bradley P. Beaulieu fell in love with fantasy from the moment he began reading The Hobbit in third grade. While Bradley earned a degree in computer science and engineering and worked in the information technology field for years, he could never quite shake his desire to explore other worlds. He began writing his first fantasy novel in college. It was a book he later trunked, but it was a start, a thing that proved how much he enjoyed the creation of stories. It made him want to write more. He went on to write The Lays of Anuskaya series as well as The Song of Shattered Sands series. He has published work in the Realms of Fantasy Magazine, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine ShowWriters of the Future 20, and several anthologies. He has won the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Award and earned a Gemmell Morningstar Award nomination. Learn more about Bradley by visiting his website, quillings.com, or on Twitter at @bbeaulieu.


Where are you from?  Does the area you live in influence your writing?

I was born and raised in Wisconsin. Barring a five-year stint in Southern California, I’ve lived there my whole life. I really enjoy incorporating flora and fauna into my writing, and from that perspective Wisconsin (and, really, any place I visit) influences my writing.

I’ll give a special nod here, though, to Parkside Univerity in Kenosha, Wisconsin. For several years it hosted the GenCon Gaming Convention. I stumbled across it when I was…12? 13, maybe? I forget my exact age, but the university was bikeable from my house, and I took full advantage of it once I knew it existed. At the time, I’d just stumbled across D&D. Finding a whole community that love gaming (temporarily living, in essence, in alternate realities) was akin to the feeling I got when I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings for the first time. It felt like I’d stepped through a gateway into a world of infinite possibilities. It was wonderful, and fed my desire to become a gamemaser and (eventually) a writer.

Tell us your latest news??

Well, the big news is the release of A Desert Torn Asunder, the sixth and final installment of The Song of the Shattered Sands. I’m eagerly looking forward to the release and to see how readers react to the series finale.

I also have a new decopunk science-fiction mystery/thriller called Absynthe, a novel written under my sci-fi pseudonym, Brendan P. Bellecourt, coming out this December.

Absynthe tells the story of Liam, a WWI vet who discovers that government-sanctioned killers are after him because of a military experiment he took part in during the war. The only trouble? Liam doesn’t remember any of it. He’s suffered from amnesia since the end of the war. Coming across the killers, however, jogs a few of Liam’s memories loose. What follows is a race in which Liam must remember what happened and why he’s being targeted before a secret government cabal unleashes devastating plans on the country and the world.

When and why did you begin writing? What inspired you to write your first book?

I remember writing a few fantasy-ish stories in high school to satisfy the odd English literature class. Those stories were trite and terrible in equal measure, but they were a starting point for my writing. I eventually tackled my first novel late in my college career. At the time, I was studying to become a software engineer (a career I pursued over the following few decades). I tackled the novel more as a lark than anything. And indeed, I eventually abandoned it as derivative and lackluster, but it was another stepping stone in my journey.

Around the same time, I read Glen Cook’s The Black Company and its various sequels. I’ve always adored Tolkien’s elegant prose but, being honest, it felt unattainable to me. The idea of trying to write a book like that was simply too daunting. Cook’s “in the trenches” style of writing, on the other hand, felt more intimate, more attainable.

In the end, I incorporated both styles of writing, shifting between the two as the story dictated (observant readers will be able to sense both Cook’s and Tolkien’s influence in my style), but I’ll give Cook credit in inspiring me to actually dig in and seriously try writing.

What book(s) / author(s) have influenced your life and writing?

I mentioned Tolkien and Cook above, but I’ll give a big nod to C. S. Friedman here. Her Coldfire Trilogy was a revelation for me. It was a dark, intriguing, mesmerizing mix of fantastic and science-fictional elements. I adored that series and still do. I also love In Conquest Born, This Alien Shore, and The Madness Season.

Guy Gavriel Kay is another big influence on me. The Lions of Al-Rassan is one of my favorite books of all time. And The Sarantine Mosaic is a work of pure brilliance. Kay is a uniquely gifted writer with a lush, romantic style that I try (however imperfeclty) to incporporate into my own writing.

One last writer I’ll mention is Tim Powers. He has a gift of finding and exhaustively researching wrinkles in history he then mines for story material. The Anubis Gates is my favorite of his, but I also really enjoyed The Drawing of the Dark and Declare. (As a small aside, I was lucky enough to attend a writing workshop with Tim. Not only is he a brilliant writer, he’s a fine human being and an extremely insightful teacher.)

Tell us about your characters and how they came to be?  Have they been in your head for a long time?

There are quite a few characters in The Song of the Shattered Sands. The primary one is Çeda, a pit fighter who vows revenge against the twelve cruel kings of Sharakhai over the death of her mother. Though revenge is the main driving force of the series early on, what follows is the unfolding of a grand mystery that allows Çeda to understand how the Sharakhani kings secured their power from the desert gods and what the gods might want in return.

The story is full of adventure and mystery. There are great battles between sandships in the desert. There are freedom fighters and neighboring kingdoms who have long coveted the city of Sharakhai. There are ancient creatures who complicate the lives of the main characters, and who have agendas of their own. What drives the story primarily, however, is Çeda’s drive to understand why her mother was killed and what it means not only for her, but for a lost desert tribe, the city of Sharakhai, and the people of the desert as a whole.

Beyond Çeda, there’s a large cast that includes assassins, kings, blood magi, ancient desert creatures, gods, and more. Being honest, none of them were really with me before I started the series in earnest. I will say, however, that they (as is true of all of my characters in all of my stories) felt like real people in a real, living, breathing world by the time the first novel was done.

I remember Harry Turtledove commenting at a convention panel years ago on depth of character and world. The comment was basically that he doesn’t want to write a story that feels like it doesn’t exist beyond the pages of the book. He wants one that goes far beyond them. That comment struck me on hearing it, and it’s one I’ve always tried to live by. I hope that by the time readers turn the last page of A Desert Torn Asunder, they feel like life in Sharakhai and the Great Shangai Desert will continue.

What motivates you to write?

Initially, it’s the thrill of creation. There’s something immensely satisfying about creating a world and story that intrigues readers. Reading (and writing, for that matter) is a form of hypnosis—readers willingly suspend reality to enter your world. Writers who lull you into that suspension of disbelief well are magicians. I love the notion of transporting readers to another place and time where things that are not possible in our world are possible. It’s a definite driving force for me.

Once I’ve started a story, however, once I’ve really dug in, it’s the characters themselves and their plight that motivate me. I become invested in their tale. They push me to write, if only to find out how they’re going to get out of the (admittedly rather harsh) situations I’ve put them in.

What is the hardest part of writing?

Whoo boy… There’s a lot to choose from.

Do I choose rejection? It’s a big one, certainly. From editors and agents declining to take on your work, to reviews that critique your work harshly, rejection is tough, really tough, not leastwise because the act of writing itself is so personal.

Or maybe it’s the need to publicize yourself that’s toughest. I was born and raised in the American Midwest. Putting myself out there, asking people to buy my books, crowing about my work, is just not part of my natural DNA. It’s a necessary part of the job, though, so I do it, but I definitely don’t enjoy it.

Or maybe I should pick the siren lure of anything except writing. Social networking can be a major time sink. As can, well, just regular life. Carving out the time to write and sticking to it is hard.

In the end, I think my answer is going to be “getting into the zone.” It’s very tricky, on a daily basis, to slip into the mindset needed to write well. Forgetting about the worries of your regular life is only half the battle. The other half is relating to the characters and their plight and slipping into their minds, into their world in the particular situation they’re in, and so on. It’s hard. Hard to attain that state of mind, hard to maintain it.

One of my favorite times is when words are flowing, when I’m lost in the story and I know precisely what’s happening and how to present it. I adore those moments, but they’re rare. Sometimes it feels like I’m hunting unicorns.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

I think every book has its own sets of challenges. In the case of A Desert Torn Asunder, it was tricky finding a good balance between a satisfying resolution and making the story feel too easy or too pat. The trick was finding a way to dirty things up, to give resolutions that were satisfying but also surprising in some way. I think (hope) I managed it. I feel satisfied by it, certainly. I hope fans of the series do too.

Where do you get your ideas?

I think the best sources of inspiration are those that come from outside of your typical interests. It’s one of the reasons I like turning on NPR while I’m in the car. Why? Because their segments are always well researched and include experts that give deep insight into narrow topics. It’s inspired numerous story ideas, including fantastical ideas that have a modern, technological bent to them.

Another great source are TED Talks, and for much the same reason: the people speaking are deeply versed in the topic they’re talking about. Also, I like the (somewhat) random nature of choosing a talk and watching it. Even if I don’t find a story idea right off the bat, the talks delve deep and expose me to facets of a topic I would never have learned on my own (without years of investment, that is).

In short, step outside your bubble as often as possible, and I mean that not just from a technological perspective, but from social, religious, sexual, racial aspects and more as well.

What does your family think of your writing?

I think my family thought it was a cute endeavor at first. Like, aw, look, Brad’s doing the stuff he did in high school (being a dungeon master for D&D and the like). But as time went on, and they saw how dedicated I was, I think they became impressed. Proud, even. It’s a heartwarming feeling to have them “on board” for the journey.

What is the best advice you would give to inspiring authors?

I think one of the most important things is to enjoy the small successes. The path to becoming a writer is a long and often painful one. We begin with all sorts of hopes, dreams, and expectations. It’s simply part of the process that we don’t achieve all that we want as soon as we want or in the exact way we’d envisioned initially. Writing can be (and often is) a disheartening venture. There will be long stretches where it feels like you’re not making progress, or not making enough progress. But believe me, you are.

So, while you’re doing it, recognize your wins, however small. Feel the satisfaction that comes with them. Enjoy them, in other words. Got a few hundred words down? That’s awesome! Finished a chapter? You rock! Got a rejection that included a few encouraging words? Yes, yes, the rejection’s tough, but editors don’t mince words. Words of encouragement are absolutely a win, a mark of progress. So, keep going! Savor the journey itself. It will make the life of being a writer so much easier.

What book are you reading now?

Currently I’m reading (i.e. listening to via audiobook) City of Lies by Sam Hawke and All Systems Red by Martha Wells (aka Murderbot 1). I’m loving both.



Çeda gripped the Red Bride’s forestay to steady herself on deck. Her other hand rested on the pommel of River’s Daughter, a shamshir forged of ebon steel. The stiff wind tugged at her turban, made the skirt of her wheat-colored battle dress flap. The yacht’s lateen sails were full and rounded. The day was bright and beautiful, the wind pleasantly warm.

It reminded Çeda of a similar day, what felt like a lifetime ago. She’d been sailing with her mother, Ahya, toward a salt flat, a pilgrimage to witness the great flocks of Blazing Blues that congregated there in spring. Back then, the skis of their skiff had hissed over the sand, just as the Red Bride’s were now.

“It’s a good day to be alive,” Ahya had said in a rare moment of bliss.

Çeda had been confused at first, even wary—her mother simply didn’t share those sorts of emotions. Eventually, though, she’d relaxed and shared in her mother’s joy. She’d stood on the thwart and gripped the mast, reveling in the wind as it flowed through her unbound hair.

Her mother had actually laughed.

Çeda smiled wistfully at the memory but sobered as she cast her gaze over the amber dunes. Sailing the Great Shangazi had become dangerous, now more than ever. She and the others aboard her two ships had to remain wary of white sails, of dark hulls, along the horizon.

Sailing in the Red Bride’s wake was Storm’s Eye, a schooner that carried the bulk of warriors accompanying Çeda toward the mountains. All told they were a respectable force—eighty swords and shields in all, including the Shieldwives, the fierce desert swordswomen Çeda had trained herself. Even so, Çeda worried they wouldn’t be enough. The task she’d set for herself and the others was formidable. They sailed east to bring the traitorous Hamid, their childhood friend, to justice and regain control of the thirteenth tribe. The number of warriors at Hamid’s command would dwarf their own, but it couldn’t be helped. They had to try.

To the ship’s port side lay easy, rolling dunes with patches of perfectly flat sand. Along the starboard side were dunes the size of caravanserais. Known as the mounds, the dunes lounged like lizards, content in the knowledge that no ship could navigate their steep slopes. The formation was a strange phenomenon that occurred near summer’s end, a time when fitful sandstorms plagued the open sands. In a few more weeks, the winds would pass, the shift toward winter complete, and the dunes would slowly disappear.

The mounds represented a strange combination of danger and safety. Pirates or enemy ships sometimes lay in wait along their gutters, which was why Çeda had ordered three lookouts to watch them, but sailing on open sand had its dangers, too. Çeda and her allies had no shortage of enemies, after all. Sailing close to the mounds allowed her the option of sailing into them to lose their pursuers, be they desert tribespeople, Sharakhani, Mirean, or Malasani.

Hearing the scrape of footsteps, Çeda turned to see Emre climbing up from belowdecks. A smile tugged the corner of her mouth on seeing Emre work his way past Frail Lemi, who had strung a hammock between the foremast and a cleat on the cabin’s roof.

Emre gave him a shove as he sidled past. “Who let this bloody ox on our ship?”

His eyes still closed, his fingers laced behind his head, Lemi grinned his handsome grin as he rocked back and forth. “The gods gave me much, it’s true. No need to be jealous.”

“Why don’t you string your hammock at the top of the masts? At least then you’d be out of the way.”

“No!” Kameyl, a brawny ex-Blade Maiden Çeda had fought alongside countless times, called from the ship’s wheel. “He’d tip the damned ship over.”

Lemi’s grin only broadened.

Emre rolled his eyes, then gave Çeda a wink as he came to stand beside her. He wore sirwal trousers, sandals and a loose shirt that revealed the dark hair along the top of his chest. His broad, boiled leather belt and bracers were new, but they reminded Çeda of the ones he’d worn years ago when they had lived together in Roseridge.

Emre scanned the desert, his eyes a bit bleary. He’d just woken, having taken night watch. Çeda ran her fingers through his hair, feeling the scar from his surgery. To relieve the pressure from a terrible, lingering head wound delivered by Hamid’s lover, Darius, Dardzada had cut through Emre’s skin and used a carpenter’s drill to pierce his skull. She missed his long hair, but she had to admit the shorter hair, along with his pointed beard and mustache, gave him a roguish look she rather liked.

A sharp whistle cut through the hiss of the skis.

Çeda turned to see Shal’alara of the Three Blades, an elder of the thirteenth tribe, waving from the foredeck of the much larger Storm’s Eye sailing in their wake. She wore a battle dress similar to Çeda’s but, in her customary style, had dyed it a bright orange and embellished it with beaten coins, bracelets, and necklaces. The ruby brooch on her cream-colored head scarf glinted brightly in the sun.

“There’s an oasis to the north,” she bellowed across the distance.

There was no doubt everyone deserved a rest, but Sharakhai and the desert itself were still in deep danger. Making Hamid pay was only one of the reasons they needed to return to the valley below Mount Arasal. Çeda also needed access to the acacia tree, which granted prophetic visions. Çeda hoped to use them to learn how to close the unearthly gateway beneath Sharakhai.

“We sail on!” Çeda called back. “We have enough water to reach the next.”

Shal’alara nodded and began relaying the orders to Jenise, a fierce swordswoman and the leader of Çeda’s Shieldwives. Çeda was grateful to have them both. Shal’alara had rallied dozens to their cause, and Jenise had trained them, drilling them relentlessly with her Shieldwives. If Çeda succeeded in her quest, it would be thanks to their efforts as much as anyone else’s.

Sümeya, the former First Warden of the Blade Maidens, came up from belowdecks wearing her black battle dress, her Maiden’s black. With five clay mugs of water gripped tightly in her hands, which she proceeded to pass around, she looked more than a little like a west end barmaid.

Frail Lemi was just tipping the largest of the mugs back and swallowing noisily when Çeda felt something peculiar. It started as a tingling in the meat of her right thumb, where the adichara thorn had pricked her skin. It flowed through her fingers and up along her arm. It suffused her chest and for some peculiar reason made her keenly aware of the tattoos inked across her arms, chest and back. The sensation felt achingly familiar, though she couldn’t place it.

As they came abreast of a colossal sand dune, the feeling became so strong Çeda’s ribs and chest tickled from it. It was enough to jog a memory loose.

“Stop the ship,” she called immediately.

Kameyl followed Çeda’s gaze to the crest of the massive dune, but made no move to obey. “Why?”

“Just stop the ship!”

Kameyl shared a look with Sümeya, then shrugged. “As you say.”

They pulled in the sails and let the Bride glide to a halt. Behind them, Storm’s Eye did the same. All the while, Çeda faced the dune.

“What is it?” Emre asked in a soft voice.

Before Çeda could answer, an animal with cup-shaped ears, a long, pointed snout, and a ruff of red fur lifted its head over the top of the dune.

“Breath of the desert,” Çeda breathed.

It was a maned wolf, one of the long-legged creatures that roamed the desert in packs, often competing with black laughers for dominance over a territory.

Frail Lemi set his mug down, grabbed his greatspear, and stared at the wolf as if fearful that hundreds more would come storming down the dune. “What’s happening?”

But his words hardly registered. Another wolf was lifting its head along the dune’s crest. A third came immediately after, then a fourth. Soon more than twenty were staring down at the ships.

Çeda held her breath, waiting, hoping.

“Çeda?” Emre called.

She raised one hand, and he fell silent. Several long breaths passed. The wind kicked up, making spindrift lift in curls and whorls. The sun beat down, warming Çeda’s cheeks, her neck, the backs of her hands.



She took a deep breath. Released it slowly, praying.

She was ready to give up hope when another wolf, a female with a white coat, lifted her head.

For long moments, Çeda could only stare. She knew this wolf. Çeda herself had named her Mist. She’d been the inspiration for Çeda’s guise of the White Wolf in Sharakhai’s fighting pits. Gods, how powerful she looked now. How regal. On Çeda’s very first foray to the blooming fields with Emre, she had seen Mist as a pup. Years later she’d come to Çeda on the Night of Endless Swords, shortly after Çeda had killed King Mesut, and the two of them had traveled with the asir, Kerim, far into the desert. They’d stayed together for weeks until Çeda was discovered by scouts from Tribe Salmük.

It seemed a lifetime ago. So much had changed since then, both in Çeda’s life and Mist’s. Thorn, the largest and fiercest of the pack, was nowhere to be seen. Mist seemed to be their leader now. The rest waited as she padded forward. At first Çeda thought Mist was going to come down to meet the ship, but she didn’t. She halted less than halfway down, as if waiting for Çeda to come to her.

Çeda leapt over the gunwales, landing on the amber sand with a crunch. The sand sighed as she attacked the slope. Emre joined her, as did Sümeya.

“Play with a pack of mangy wolves all you wish,” Kameyl called from deck. “I’m staying here with the olives and the araq.”

A broad smile lit Frail Lemi’s face. “Olives and araq!” he roared, and fell back into his hammock. “I like the way you think!”

When Çeda reached Mist, she hugged the rangy wolf around the neck and scratched her fur. Her musky smell whisked Çeda back to their days hiding with Kerim in their desert cave.

Mist was a lithe beast, and taller than Çeda. While she wasn’t the biggest wolf in the pack, she had a confident air. The others were attentive, subservient, courtiers awaiting their queen’s next pronouncement. For a while, she seemed content to revel in Çeda’s scratches, then she nipped at Çeda’s wrist, something she used to do when she wanted Çeda to follow.

“Go on, then,” Çeda said with a smile, curious.

Mist yipped, then howled, as if trying to speak. Then she turned and padded up to the crest, and the pack parted for her, creating a lane. One growled, but fell silent when Mist barked loudly.

At the crest, Mist stopped and looked back, as if ensuring Çeda was following, then stared at something hidden behind the slope.

Çeda’s breath was on her by the time she reached Mist’s side. Below them, half buried at the base of the dune, was a sandship. Its skis had long been swallowed by the sand, and the hull was almost wholly submerged, a thing that happened to unattended ships in the deeper parts of the desert. The bow had been lost to the sloping edge of the dune’s windward side, but the stern and the quarterdeck were still visible.

“That’s a royal clipper,” Sümeya said.

Çeda suddenly recognized it. “It’s one of the ships that attacked us.”

Along the leeward side of the next dune, she saw signs of a second clipper, that one broken beyond repair, a victim of the goddess Nalamae’s power when she’d come to save Çeda and the others from the Kings.

Mist headed down the slope. Çeda, Emre, and Sümeya followed. The other wolves paced alongside them in two broad wings—an honor guard of sorts.

“Are you sure they’re not taking us somewhere to eat us?” Emre asked.

“Be quiet,” Çeda said, “or I’ll offer you up as a snack.”

Mist led them to the half-buried clipper and onto the main deck. From there she took the stairs down into the ship.

“What—?” Emre began. He stared at Çeda with a confused expression but soon fell silent.

They took the stairs down, where Mist led them to the cabin’s captain. The door was open, hanging from one hinge. Inside, a sifting of dust covered everything. Bottles and glasses and books had fallen from the shelves built into the hull. Broken glass lay everywhere, glinting. The shutters were closed, but light filtered in at an angle, segmenting the chaos into ordered ranks.

The feeling that had blossomed inside of Çeda on recognizing the clipper grew stronger by the moment. There were wolf prints on the dusty floor. Retracing them, Mist wove beyond the desk to a locked chest in the far corner of the cabin, the sort the captain would use for valuables, the ship’s treasury, and more. Mist sniffed at the lid, yipped and whined, then tugged at Çeda’s sleeve.

The air within the cabin felt suddenly oppressive. It was getting harder and harder to breathe.

Above the shutters, mounted to the hull, was a ceremonial spear. Çeda took it down and wedged it beneath the lid. With Emre and Sümeya helping, they pushed and pried, and eventually the lid gave way.

Çeda knelt before the chest. She balled her hands into fists. After taking one deep breath, she threw the lid back.

“By the gods…” Emre said. “How?”

Words failing her, Çeda could only stare in wonder. Her heart pounded as she reached in and took the object on top, a helm, the sort gladiators wore in the fighting pits. It had a wolf pelt along the top. The face guard, made of highly polished steel, was a mask molded into the likeness of a goddess: Nalamae. Beneath the helm was a set of boiled leather armor: a breastplate, a battle skirt, greaves, bracers, and gloves, all of which had been dyed white.

It was her old armor, the set she’d used when she’d fought in Osman’s pits for money.

Utterly confused, Çeda looked up to Sümeya, still holding the mask.

“The armor was meant for the sickletail,” Sümeya said. “Nayyan told me they’d needed something of yours in order for the bird to find you.”

“But how could they have found her armor?” Emre asked.

“Osman,” Çeda said. “They had him in their prison camp. He must have told Cahil where it was. Or Ihsan might have commanded him to give up its location.”

Çeda hardly knew what to feel. So much was rushing back to her. Her time in Roseridge with Emre. Her days learning the ways of pit fighting from her mentor, Djaga. Her many bouts in the pits. Her brief affair with Osman, owner of the pits. The journey she’d undertaken with Emre, which had led her to her uncle, Macide, and eventually to the King of the asirim, Sehid-Alaz—the start of her long and winding journey.

Mist panted beside her, her tongue hanging out. Her ivory eyes were alive, her gaze flicking from the armor to Çeda and back. She knew she’d done good. Çeda hugged her tight, ruffling the fur of her mane and the spot between her ears she liked so much to have scratched.

Mist leaned into it. Her tail wagged. For long moments she reveled in the attention, then suddenly broke away and faced the hull as if looking through the wood and sand to the Red Bride beyond. She hopped in the way she did when she wanted to run free.

A moment later an attenuated whistle reached them. Çeda and Sümeya knew what it was immediately. Emre, however, didn’t know how to decipher the Blade Maidens’ whistles.

“What?” he asked, staring at them.

“It’s Kameyl,” Çeda said as she gathered up the armor. “She’s spotted ships.”

They left the ship and took the slope up toward the crest of the massive dune. When they reached it, four ships could be seen sailing in from the north. Emre and Sümeya immediately began their slip-slide descent, but Çeda stayed behind. Shifting the armor’s bulk under one arm, she crouched and hugged Mist close.

“Thank you,” she whispered.

Mist’s gaze flicked from Çeda to the distant ships. Several of the other wolves growled. One whined. Ignoring them, Mist butted her head against Çeda’s hand. After Çeda gave her one more scratch, she barked, then padded down the slope, away from the ships. Her pack followed in her wake.

Çeda watched them go until Kameyl whistled again, then she turned and rushed down the slope toward the Bride.


Website: www.quillings.com

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Bradley-P-Beaulieu/e/B004C1TZ04

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2851725.Bradley_P_Beaulieu

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Non-Fiction: BRAIN INFLAMED by Kenneth Dr. Bock

Non-Fiction: BRAIN INFLAMED by Kenneth Dr. Bock

From renowned integrative physician Kenneth Bock, M.D., comes BRAIN INFLAMED: Uncovering the Hidden Causes of Anxiety, Depression, and Other Mood Disorders in Adolescents and Teens (Harper Wave; On-Sale: 3/2/2021; ISBN: 9780062970879) , a groundbreaking approach to understanding adolescent and teen mental health disorders.

Over the past decade, the number of twelve- to seventeen-year-olds suffering from mental health disorders has more than doubled. While adolescents and teens are notorious for moodiness and rebellion, parents today are navigating new terrain as the risk of their children struggling with mental health issues is increasing. But the question remains: What is causing this epidemic?

In BRAIN INFLAMED, acclaimed integrative physician Kenneth Bock, M.D., shares a revolutionary new view of adolescent and teen mental health—one that suggests that many of the mental disorders most common among this population (including depression, anxiety, and OCD) may stem from the same underlying mechanism: systemic inflammation. Dr. Bock explains the essential role of the immune system and the microbiome in mental health, detailing how imbalances in these systems—such as autoimmune conditions, thyroid disorders, or leaky gut syndrome—can generate neurological inflammation.

Dr. Bock’s comprehensive, integrative approach considers the whole-body health of his patients. In his evaluations, he often uncovers triggers such as poststrep infections, Lyme disease, gluten sensitivity, and adrenal dysfunction—all of which create imbalances in the body that can produce psychological symptoms.

Amazon |B&N | Publisher| Goodreads


KENNETH BOCK, M.D., is an internationally recognized pioneer of integrative medicine and the bestselling author of Healing the New Childhood Epidemics, The Road to Immunity, Natural Relief for Your Child’s Asthma, and The Germ Survival Guide. He’s also an in-demand national and international speaker. Over the course of his thirty-five-year career, he has become known for his unique ability to identify and untangle the most complex, multisystem, multisymptom medical cases. His world-renowned private practice, Bock Integrative Medicine, is located in Red Hook, New York, in the beautiful Hudson Valley.

Buy Links

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0062970879/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/53746772-brain-inflamed

Hope you enjoy!

Solace of Bay Leaves by Leslie Budewitz!


Solace of Bay Leaves by Leslie Budewitz!


“The character-driven mystery is darker than many cozies. Readers attracted to unusual settings and mature, introspective amateur sleuths will appreciate this intricately plotted story depicting the impact of murder on the family and community.
— Library Journal Starred Review

A cozy and savory mystery blend of spices, murder and amateur sleuths in Seattle

Pepper Reece never expected to find solace in bay leaves.

But when her life fell apart at forty and she bought the venerable-but-rundown Spice Shop in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, her days took a tasty turn. Now she’s savoring the prospect of a flavorful fall and a busy holiday cooking season, until danger bubbles to the surface . . .

Between managing her shop, worrying about her staff, and navigating a delicious new relationship, Pepper’s firing on all burners. But when her childhood friend Maddie is shot and gravely wounded, the incident is quickly tied to an unsolved murder that left another close friend a widow.

Convinced that the secret to both crimes lies in the history of a once-beloved building, Pepper uses her local-girl contacts and her talent for asking questions to unearth startling links between the past and present—links that suggest her childhood friend may not have been the Golden Girl she appeared to be. Pepper is forced to face her own regrets and unsavory emotions if she wants to save Maddie’s life—and her own.

Amazon | Goodreads | Publisher Site


Chapter One

Legend says that in the late 1950s, aspiring rocker Jimi Hendrix often met friends
in Seattle’s Pike Place Market and played late into the night,
on the steps in front of a passage called Ghost Alley.

“This is magic,” Nate whispered to me as the waiter poured our wine. “I can’t believe I’ve never been here.”

I smiled my thanks to the waiter. There are pockets of magic in every city, and since Nate and I got together a few months ago, we’d made a point of exploring them. The glow of new love adds its own magic to the mix, and we’d made a point of enjoying that, too. But this was our first evening at Jazz Alley.

Across the dark, gleaming table, Eric Gardiner raised his glass, catching a flicker of light. His wife Kristen, my BFF since before we were born, raised hers. Nate and I followed suit. “Cheers,” Eric said. “Great to finally have a Friday night out, the four of us.”

I heard my phone buzzing in the small beaded bag at my hip. I ignored it. No interruptions tonight. Besides, the Spice Shop was already closed. Nobody needed me for anything important.

“How you scored seats for the dinner show,” I said, “don’t even tell me. She always sells out the house.” Diane Schuur, one of Seattle’s best-loved musicians, wouldn’t take the stage until after plates were cleared, but the promise and the wine had already begun to work their spell.

“What looks good?” Nate scanned the menu. Fish scores high in Seattle restaurants, but as a commercial fisherman, Nate is picky about his pesce, not to mention his salmon, crab, and halibut.

“The crab or sole,” I mused, “and Key lime pie. I had it once in Florida and ever since, I’ve thought that’s what vacation tastes like.”

On the floor between us, Kristen’s phone buzzed in her purse. A flash of worry flitted across her face and she fished for the bag, then snuck a peek under the table. Cell phones were frowned upon here, with good reason. But they’d left their girls home alone, so I didn’t blame her.

She held it out for me to see. The text wasn’t from one of her young teenagers, bored or ticked off at the other. It was from our good friend, Laurel Halloran.


Detective Tracy is in my living room, I read. FBI on the way.

“The girls are fine,” Kristen told her husband, showing him the screen as she nudged him to slide over and let her out.

“It’s Laurel,” I told Nate. “Something’s up. Be right back.”

I followed Kristen down the hallway to the women’s room. Inside, we huddled in the corner and she made the call, her blond head next to my dark one, the phone between us. This was not a place, or a topic, for speaker phone.

“They have new evidence,” Laurel said, her voice barely a whisper. She lives on a houseboat on Lake Union, and short of closing herself in her own bathroom, there aren’t many places to hide. And like most cops, Detective Michael Tracy seemed to possess almost super-human hearing. “He won’t tell me what it is until the FBI agent gets here. What do I do?”

Kristen’s eyes met mine.

“Put the coffee on,” I said.

Excerpted from The Solace of Bay Leaves by Leslie Budewitz (Seventh Street Books, 2020)


Leslie Budewitz blends her passion for food, great mysteries, and the Northwest in two light-hearted mystery series: the Spice Shop Mysteries, set in Seattle, and the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, set in northwest Montana. Her books focus on strong women who share her passions and have a talent for finding trouble!

Leslie is the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. Death al Dente, first in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, won the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Her guide for writers, Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedure, won the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction.

A Montana native, Leslie graduated from Seattle University and Notre Dame Law School. After practicing in Seattle for several years—and shopping and eating her way through the Pike Place Market regularly—she returned to Montana, where she still practices law part-time. Killing people—on the page—is more fun.

A true believer in the power of writers helping other writers, Leslie served as president of Sisters in Crime (SinC) in 2015-16, and a founding member of the Guppies, the SinC chapter for new and unpublished writers. She is the Montana representative to the board of the Rocky Mountain chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and is also a member of the Authors of the Flathead and Montana Women Writers.

Leslie loves to cook, eat, hike, travel, garden, and paint—not necessarily in that order. She lives in northwest Montana with her husband, Don Beans, a singer-songwriter and doctor of natural medicine, and their gray Tuxedo, named Squirt but usually called Mr. Kitten. Because what else would you call a 13-year-old, 17-pound killer and cuddler who always dresses in formal attire?

Leslie is a 2018 Agatha Award winner for Best Short Story and also a recipient of the 2018 Derringer Award in the Long Story category.


Website: LeslieBudewitz.com

Facebook: /LeslieBudewitzAuthor

Twitter: @LeslieBudewitz

Goodreads: /LeslieBudewitz

You can also join Leslie for more food, books and fun at Mystery Lovers Kitchen and Killer Characters!


Where are you from?  Does the area you live in influence you writing?

I’m a Montana girl, born and raised, but I went to college in Seattle and after law school, worked there for several years before coming home. Place is hugely important in my fiction, inspiring a series set in each state—the Spice Shop Mysteries set in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, and the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries set in a lakeside community in NW Montana, on the road to Glacier National Park.

I fell in love with the Market as a college freshman and made it my life’s mission to eat my way through it. Since it’s constantly changing, and I only get to visit once a year or so, I’ll never finish, but I keep trying!

Tell us your latest news??

Just a pinch of murder… When her life fell apart at age 40, Pepper Reece never expected to find solace in bay leaves. But her impulsive purchase of the Spice Shop in Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market turned out to be one of the best decisions she ever made. Between selling spice and juggling her personal life, she also discovers another unexpected talent—for solving murder.

In The Solace of Bay Leaves, the 5th in the series, Pepper is about to celebrate her second anniversary as the Mistress of Spice. The shop is doing well, and her love life is heating up nicely. But when evidence links a friend’s shooting to an unsolved murder, her own regrets surface. Can she uncover the truth and protect those she loves, before the deadly danger boils over?

Solace releases on October 20, in paperback, ebook, and audio.

When and why did you begin writing? What inspired you to write your first book?

I started writing at 4, on my father’s desk. Quite literally—I didn’t yet grasp the concept of paper. My parents laughed too hard to be mad, and kept me well supplied in paper and pens. I didn’t start writing seriously until my late 30s, when the creative impulse insisted on being honored. Like a lot of writers, I’ve got several practice novels in the closet. My first published novel, Death al Dente, winner of the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel, was inspired by the village where I live—truly a cozy community, though not in a location that readers would expect for a light-hearted mystery of this type, often called a cozy. My Spice Shop series is an urban cozy, set in a community within a community. And that’s been a big part of the fun—introducing readers to unexpected places I love, taking them on a journey with me.

What book(s) / author(s) have influenced your life and writing?

Oh, gosh, so many! I adore the way the late Ivan Doig wrote about Montana. Laura Lippman, Catriona McPherson, and Lori Rader-Day write about women’s lives, using crime as a trigger to explore internal and external conflict in a way I deeply admire—and enjoy. Elizabeth Strout’s linked story collections, Olive Kitteridge and Olive, Again, take us into uncomfortable places, and illuminate them; plus, they’re great fun. I love books that take me somewhere I can see and feel on the page, and books that show me more about the world through lives I’ve never lived. The world is so much more interesting when you know more about the people in it, and that’s what good books do for us.

Tell us about your characters and how they came to be?  Have they been in your head for a long time?

The Solace of Bay Leaves is the 5th book in the Spice Shop series, so I’ve known Pepper Reece and the other continuing characters for quite a while. But I’m always learning new things about them—in this book, I was surprised to trip over an episode in college involving an old friend that has continued to bother Pepper for twenty years, and to discover how it’s influenced her view of her friend, herself, and her choices in life. Other characters are pure delight, like Edgar, a Salvadoran chef who Pepper first met as a sous chef in her then-boyfriend’s bistro and who now runs an Italian restaurant, and Jamie, an artist new to the Market who discovers an important clue to one of the mysteries in the book. Some characters are inspired by people I know, like Sandra in the Spice Shop, while others emerge from the story itself, like Maddie Petrosian, Pepper’s old friend. I love exploring the relationships between my characters and discovering their secrets. It’s like living a hundred different lives, while still getting to enjoy my own!

What motivates you to write?

Besides the contract and a deadline? <smile> I love exploring the world and people and situations through storytelling. I love playing with language and structure, and the amazing high of getting into flow, and the aha! moments when all the pieces click and my fingers can barely keep up with my mind. Now that I’m published, I love sharing stories with readers and hearing how my little books transport, educate, comfort, and entertain them.

What is the hardest part of writing?

For The Solace of Bay Leaves, the biggest challenge was recognizing that my original plot belonged to a different book, and that Pepper’s relationship with Maddie Petrosian was the heart of the story. Once I find the central emotional conflicts—both the one that leads to the murder and the one that compels my amateur sleuth to investigate—the story flows.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

I learned—and this shouldn’t have felt new, but somehow it did—to trust my process, even though it varies with each book. To keep digging for that emotional core, for how it links the characters, and what it drives them to do. Therein lies story.

Where do you get your ideas?

Some come from the setting—in the Spice Shop books, for example, I’m always looking to portray the vibrant world of Pike Place Market as well as Seattle’s art, architecture, history, and food scene. Some come from history—as soon as Maddie Petrosian walked onto the pages of Solace, I knew her Armenian heritage  would play a key role in the story. Driving around her neighborhood with a friend while on a visit to Seattle, stopping for coffee, and walking through the community center and playfields, gave me more details of her life and Pepper’s and how they were linked. Some come from more traditional research. And others, I’ll be honest, come from eating.

What does your family think of your writing?

“She’s in writing world,” my husband often says at the end of the day, or when I’m not quite part of the conversation! He’s enormously supportive, and is always willing to help me scout out locations, attend a book talk, and test recipes. My late mother claimed to have always known I’d end up writing, and helped me every way she could. And my brother sends me pictures of my books on bookstore shelves when he travels!

What is the best advice you would give to inspiring authors?

Read, write, study the craft, and repeat. Find what matters most to you, and delve into it on the page; writing is hard, but when you use your passions, you’ll do good work.

What book are you reading now?

A friend sent me Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I’m nearing the end and so intrigued. It’s wonderfully atmospheric; I know little about coastal North Carolina, but I feel like I’m there with Kya–even though I don’t know how to pronounce her name!

So excited to read & review this one!



Margaret (The Risen Series Book 2)

Release Date: August 17th 2020

Genre: Sci-Fi, Horror


It’s just a simple shot, right?”

Margaret Erikson will ask this question many times today. What is supposed to be a basic school wide vaccine will go horribly wrong. It is not a simple shot and the lives that are lost to it will not become simple monstors.

Get started on the series with Dawning (The Risen Series Book 1)!

Buy link: https://amzn.to/2ZK6Wr8

Happy Release Day to Vanishing Falls by Poppy Gee!


Welcome to Vanishing Falls, a small town deep in the Tasmanian rainforest with a storied past. The town’s showpiece, built in the 1800s, is its calendar house—an eccentric, lavish mansion. These days, the house is occupied by Jack Lily, a prominent art collector and landowner, and his wife, Celia…or at least, it was. For the pretty and popular Celia has suddenly disappeared. Inspired by the sparsely populated island of Tasmania and its isolated communities, VANISHING FALLS by Poppy Gee (on sale 8/4/2020) is an addictive literary concoction that deftly weaves an empowering narrative of a social misfit into a gritty mystery. At the center of this atmospheric thriller is an utterly charming sleuth: Joelle Smithton. Joelle knows that a few folks in Vanishing Falls believe that she’s simple-minded. It’s true that her brain works a little differently—a legacy of shocking childhood trauma. But she sees far more than most people realize, and remembers details that others cast away. For instance, she knows that Celia’s husband, Jack, has connections to unsavory local characters that he’s desperate to keep hidden. But he’s not the only one in town with something to conceal. Even Joelle’s own husband, Brian, a butcher, is acting suspiciously. While the police flounder, unable to find Celia’s body, Joelle is gradually parsing the truth from the gossip she hears and from the simple gestures and statements that can unwittingly reveal so much.

Just as the water from the falls disappears into the ground, gushing away through subterranean creeks, the secrets in Vanishing Falls are pulsing through the town, about to converge. And when they do, Joelle must summon the courage to reveal what really happened to Celia, even if it means exposing her own past. With one of the most memorable heroines in fiction, VANISHING FALLS captivates from its first page to the shocking, electrifying ending.

Advance Praise

“Fans of Jane Harper’s thrillers and their atmospheric Australian settings will be riveted by this gripping novel set in a small town deep in the Tasmanian rain forest…The reader will be hard put to figure this one out and will be amazed by the unique and amazingly resilient protagonist, who is revealed in clear and steadily paced prose.” —BOOKLIST

“Intriguing…Agatha Christie fans will welcome the inhabitants of Vanishing Falls as kin to the residents of Miss Marple’s St. Mary’s Mead.”

“This literary thriller paints as vivid a landscape as any book coming out this summer, setting its story in a mysterious town within a Tasmanian rainforest…Gee creates a lush, tantalizing world that readers will want to travel into deeper and deeper.”


Poppy Gee lives with her husband and children in Brisbane, Australia.

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I’ll be back with a review soon! Very excited to read it!