Leaves are turning, and falling. Temperatures are dropping. The sun and moon have shifted to different paths. We are entering my favorite time of year… autumn and the subsequent year-end season.


I love spring, with the pastels and flowers and all the fresh newness. I loath summer, with the soaring heat and tempers. I live for autumn and the cooler winter months. For me, a time to pause, breathe deep, take stock and settle in.



First, I congratulate myself. I survived another intense summer season. Oh boy! Cheers! Chocolate! Now I can stop looking forward to fall, and just enjoy it. I wish September and October would crawl by at a snail’s pace. Instead, it seems to me they fly by like a hawk on the hunt. Swift, gone in a blur, with only a ruffle of breeze to show it was real.

Now, to shamelessly plug my work, I’ve released a number of books lately, with the newest one coming out November 9th, and this will be the third November in a row with something new coming out. Not by design, just how it all happened, but it has ensured the previous autumn seasons have raced past in a mixture of joy, celebration, anticipation and busy preparation. I absolutely vow there will be nothing releasing next autumn 2017. I want to sit on my laurels and watch the waters flow by at this time next year.


Now, shameless plug aside, autumn also means the precursor to the holidays. I can’t read a paper without ads for Halloween staring at me, or listen to the radio without some mention of what candy the trick-or-treaters prefer or top costumes or number of adults who annually dress up or some reference to October 31st. I’m okay with that, even if I don’t get into the celebration. Driving by houses and seeing spooky decorations is enough for me. I’m good.


However, it signals that three important dates are on its holiday heels. For me, they are Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day.

Thanksgiving is my time to wallow in reflective thankfulness. I examine my life, what good has transpired over the year, and I give thanks for the lessons, blessings, friends and family, and all good things that poured over me in the year like warm honey. I look what I have outgrown in the year, where do I need to grow more and how do I plan to accomplish this needed stretch. I keep a Thanksgiving Jar in the den. This is when I review and update it, praising for answered prayers, adding new names to pray for, and acknowledge more blessings or needs. This is also when I decorate the house in its Christmas finery. It is a silent signal I have ended the months’ long yard maintenance for the year.


Christmas, for me, is sacred, hallow and also reflective, with more emphasis on my Christian walk. I examine how well it has gone, where I need to step up and work harder and it’s a birthday celebration of someone special to me. I delight in the tree, lights, and pretty decorations of the season. Since I tend to spend most of the holidays alone, they have become reflective, contemplative, introspective, low-key, and peaceful.


New Years is the final recap of the year, good  and bad, and plotting of the new year ahead. I spend a lot of time thinking, journaling and scribbling notes. This is also time for a financial review. What are my new goals, or ones left that I have not reached? How can I adjust for ones not yet met and incorporate the new ones? Tip– don’t schedule fall book releases if you want to fully enjoy autumn’s splendor.


I recently came across something called Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga). Apparently it is a Danish method of creating or cultivating a sense of cozy intimacy and contentment. It’s about making feelings of happiness, friendliness and well-being as part of your everyday world.  I am totally into checking this out.

Step 1 is spending quality time with friends and family. I can be bad for letting this get neglected. I get busy, have things to do and places to be. However, to achieve Hygge, I need to dust the cobwebs off my relationships and let these important people in my life know how much I value them.


Step 2 is to simply sit by a roaring fire. The concept is to evoke feelings of coziness and warmth. Well, I like roaring fires, love the ambiance they create, however, I don’t own a fireplace. What I do have is an electric heater that simulates burning wood while it emits heat. I like the look of burning logs while I sprawl on the sofa with a blanket, book and cat. Check, I can do this with modification.

Step 3 is keep things simple. Okay, that sounds simple. Suggestion here is instead of agonizing over complicated recipes, make a wholesome soup or roasted chicken. Simple and just as good, if not better. While I enjoy experimenting with new recipes, I love simple, tried-and-true soups, stews and chicken meals with easy-breey prep. So this one is just a matter of remembering, when I stress the small stuff, to let it go and embrace simplicity.

Step 4 is to dim the lights and use candles. Apparently the Danes love their candles. I do not. They look pretty, flickering with a romantic glow. However, I cannot appreciate any scent they give off and I live in fear of a potential fire. I have pets. They are not a good mixture. So to keep my stress levels down, and error on the side of practicality,  I think I need to forgo this step and settle for a picture of a flickering candle.

Step 5 is to decorate the inside with the outside. I am totally on board with this one. I love nature and endeavor to bring as much inside as I can. Houseplants trail their greenery like trees and vines. Water cascades from the aquariums like a waterfall. Blues mimic the sky. Artwork resonates with beachy-y scenes. Hygge suggested exposed stones, wood floors, big wooden tables and those piles of logs you need for the roaring fires in step two.


Step 6 is to bake bread. I no longer bake bread, but I like to bake flavored loaves of banana and lemon bread or various coffeecakes, layered and sheet cakes and on occlusion, cookies. Like a loaf of white bread, baking is cathartic as you knead the dough and sharing it fresh from the oven with those friends and family from step one is one of life’s simplest and greatest pleasures.

Step 7 is drink cocoa. Preferably real cocoa, cream and milk, served  and sipped from a large, heavy mug. Again, I am totally down with this one too. On a nippy night, home from work, feeling chilled, I love a mug of cocoa. That is one of my simple pleasures as I sit with blanket, book, and cat in a dimly lit room watching my fake fire burn.



Step 8 is don’t deprive yourself. Ah, this one is tough. I can talk myself out of nearly any good thing. Case in point– I had a coupon for a free dessert because of my birthday at a local restaurant, with any purchase no minimum. I was so going to do this and treat myself to a hot fudge ice cream cake. Yep, I liked the restaurant, could think of several nice meals that were reasonably priced and topped off with free dessert. Oh yeah! I even picked out the day I would be in town, timed and ready for my lunch and dessert treat. You know what I did?  What I can do? Please don’t yell. I was within one mile of the restaurant, with coupon in hand, and talked myself out of it. Yes, really. Pitiful isn’t it?  I said it was just as easy and quick to go home instead, find some leftovers and I certainly already had a chocolate bar or something to snack on. So home I went. Hygge would mandate, or at least encourage, I ignore conventional excuses and Go To The Restaurant And Don’t Deprive Myself of something Good. I need to work on this one.

Step 9 is much easier for me. Get outside. It is the balance  and living a good healthy life.  We need to be inside, because we decorated our inside with the outside, and we also need to enjoy the outside on walks, explorations, strolls with family and friends, and just keeping the balance of in and out. Yin and Yang. Step away from the keyboard and remote and take Fido for a walk, feel the wind in your face. Come home to cocoa.


Step 10 I really love, it’s pick up a book. Yeah, I am always picking up a book. Sometimes to read and sometimes just to move from one pile to another. However, proper Hygge suggests cuddling under a blanket with  a book of your choice and just getting drawn into it. I cannot tell how many hours I have done in my life, and the places it has taken me.

Step 11 is simply put down the phone.  Hygge is the antidote to modern life. It’s all about embracing experiences and living in the moment. If we are staring at a screen, whether phone or tablet or television or whatever, we cannot embrace or even see the moment. So the Danes suggest setting the phone aside and enjoy the feeling of the moment.


There you go, the recipe for creating happiness in your life, and my end of year thoughts. So go ahead and tell me your traditions of spending the final months of the year and how you cultivate happiness and simplicity in your life. How easy or difficult do you think these eleven steps would be to incorporate into your life? Do you see autumn and winter as any different from spring and summer? Something to be enjoyed and savored or something to be tolerated?


Today I am thrilled to officially unveil the front cover to my upcoming release with Soul Mate Publishing, entitled “Beside Still Waters“.


McKayla thought she had it all. Then she met Clay and realized love was sharing life’s adventures.

“Beside Still Waters” is my eighth published book, my sixth novel, and fifth book offered by Soul Mate Publishing. It is a shift away from some of my other stories, in that it is a Christian romance without the blended sub-genre mixtures. That makes it a clean read without being predictable or overly sweet. There are plenty of support characters to keep the action going strong. Anyone who knows me knows Christian and time travel are my two favorite genres to read, and conversely, to write. So I am exceptionally proud to introduce “Beside Still Waters”.

Here is a little about this story:

Top Journalist and corporate climber, McKayla Buchanan, is sent to a remote California mountain camp for inner-city, at-risk teens. Accustomed to political corruption and high-society drama assignments, she is suddenly a fish out of water. At Camp In As Much, she meets eight hostile and distrustful teens, assorted volunteers and rescued horses—and Clay.
Clay Michaels is the man who founded Camp In As Much and made it the success it is now. His hope for the highly recommended journalist is to come and write a feature to send seeds out to form other camps like his nationwide. He never considered the reporter would turn out to be a lovely woman, or for him to have such an attraction to her.
Between McKayla’s worldly experience and Clay’s strong faith, they form a partnership to help with the endless challenges the kids present. While McKayla’s assignment is supposed to be temporary, it isn’t long before she and Clay are each wishing it could last longer. A serious situation will force McKayla to decide if she can give up her worldly ways and place her faith in the same higher source that earthy and godly Clay does.

“Beside Still Waters” is now available for pre-order on Amazon, with a deliver date of November 9th. Click here for the link to take you to Amazon: http://amzn.to/2dvkUEe 

And here is the fun part: I am offering two $5 Amazon gift cards in honor of this reveal. For your chance to win, leave a comment (& contact info) below. That’s it. Drawing to be held Saturday, October 15th.

Today Stacy Hoff is stopping by, talking about her new release, Jockeying for You. This is a fast paced, Thoroughbred racing romance.  Honestly, what can be more exciting than sexy hunks, Thoroughbreds, and racing hearts? Welcome, Stacy!



Jockeying for You – Book Blurb
Jake Carter is on a mission—to prove his family wrong. He may have bought a troubled horse, but he’s hired Ryder Hannon, a “horse whisperer,” to get his horse back on track. She’s more than just a trainer to him, she’s the woman he’s been looking for.
Ryder Hannon, a thoroughbred horse trainer, has a big problem—fighting her fear of racing again. Her emotional scars run deeper than her physical ones. But her romantic feelings towards handsome, uber-rich, stable owner Jake Carter is a bigger problem. Is Jake truly in love with her or is he using her to get back at his smug family? ­
When Jake’s jockey gets injured, he wants Ryder to race. He knows deep down she wants to live up to her family’s legacy. So why does she keep fighting him—and her destiny—so hard?

Ok, Stacy, let’s start with some questions about the book before we move on to the nosy, pushy kind. 

What is this book about in a nutshell? Ryder Hannon is through being a jockey. Racing has left her emotionally & physically scarred. Uber-rich stable owner Jake Carter wants the impossible—getting her back in the saddle, and into his heart.

How long did it take to write? Writing JOCKEYING FOR YOU took a while. The research alone took several months, and that was before I typed my first word. After I felt knowledgeable enough about the basics of the sport, and horse racing industry as a whole, drafting the story took me about three months.

Where do you write? Photos optional— My little cave of a home-office. The room is barely bigger than an over-sized closet. The diminutive size has a positive effect—there’s not much to distract me.


Any special reason why you chose the character names and location that you did? The character name that gave me the most difficulty was for the horse in the story, Handsome Dancer. This is because racehorse names are often a blending of a horse’s parents’ names, so I had to work out a fictitious equestrian lineage.

As for location, I chose New York’s horse-racing scene because it had tracks I could (and did) travel to—Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course.

belmont-racetrackBelmont Park, Queens NY

Describe the path to publication?

In 2013 I attended my RWA chapter’s annual writing conference. I pitched my first book, DESIRE IN THE EVERGLADES, to the founder and senior editor of Soul Mate Publishing, Inc., Deborah Gilbert. Fortunately, Debby liked my pitch and I received my contract. Soul Mate has been great to work with. I’ve been sending them my manuscripts ever since. JOCKEYING FOR YOU will be my fourth novel published by SMP.

Are you working on anything else right now?

I’m working on a new contemporary romance series, BUILDING LOVE, which is set in the construction industry. Each book is steeped in family power, drama and secrets. My heroes and heroines will face a lot of challenges in order reach their “happily ever after.” Book 1, BUILDING LOVE IN VEGAS, and book 2, BUILDING LOVE IN THE CARIBBEAN, are both already drafted, with book 1 to be released within the next several months. I’m currently sketching out the plot points for book 3, although I may decide to stop planning and just start typing because I’m a “pantser” (someone who writes by the seat of their pants).

Awesome, I love the idea of the locations. Now, how about some ice breaking questions, all the better for getting to know you:

Your favorite town/ city in the world? Why?

New York City. I may not live there now, but it will always be my home.

How did you meet your spouse/ significant other?

We were college sweethearts. We met by living in the same dorm.

If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you would do? Would you keep your day job (if you have one?)

It’d have to be a pretty big lottery win for me to quit my day job; I’ve got two kids who will be going to college in a few years. Paying for their education won’t be pretty.

What is your favorite past time?

Drawing classes at a local art gallery. When I focus on art, my mind is free from everything else. I find it a similar creative outlet as fiction writing.

Would you rather have the ability to be invisible or have x-ray vision?

Invisible. Imagine all the conversations I could eavesdrop! It’d give me great fodder for my stories.

How do you like to spend a rainy day?

Writing. I’m always grateful for the rain. I don’t feel tortured that I’m missing time outdoors with my family.

What one item would you grab if the house was on fire? (assume no living beings are  inside)

My Mac laptop and flash drives. I never trust the cloud.

What’s one favorite thing you do by yourself?

Beside writing and my art classes, I like to cook.

Growing up, what did you want to be?

A writer. I knew myself well. Being practical, however, I became an attorney. Now I balance both jobs.

Some quickies:

Favorite food to cook?

Bolognese sauce, which is fun to make from scratch when I have the time.

Favorite animal?

Horses (perhaps not a surprise, given my new book).

Favorite color?

Blue. I find it peaceful.

Favorite book?

Oooh, too many, but I’ll go with Diane Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series.

Favorite sport or physical activity?

Pilates. Though I exercise out of necessity, not love.

Favorite kind of music?

Anything from the eighties.

Favorite place to visit?

Venice, Italy. My husband and I visited during our honeymoon, twenty years ago. We vowed we will go back one day.

Favorite season?

Fall. The inner artist in me can’t resist the foliage.

Can you dance? Sing?

Not a whit, although I am a half-way decent artist. Still, I doubt anyone cares to watch me paint.

Which do you prefer for a second home? Mountain cabin, beach house or big city condo?

Although I’m originally from New York City, I am drawn to the idea of mountain cabins over condos. The second book in my DESIRE series (DESIRE IN THE ARCTIC) takes place in a mountain range in Alaska’s Yukon.

What dessert do you order most often?

Carrot cake.

What kind of car do you drive? Color?

A red Toyota Rav 4. (New England requires All Wheel Drive.)

What is your favorite type of art?

I love oil paintings, although I only have time to sketch nowadays.

 What three items would you take if you knew you were going to be stranded on a tropical island for a year? (enough suntan lotion is a freebie)

This is a good question for me to muse if I want to write a third book in my survival-based DESIRE series. For now, I’ll choose a fishing pole, a strong knife, and lots of canvass to make a tent and clothing.

One quote you love, that keeps you going in life?

“It is what it is.” I like the Zen spirit of this, since I’m a Type A personality.

Describe a real-life situation in which you stood up for someone/ something.

Standing up on behalf of my younger son. I constantly battle the local school board for learning accommodations due to his severe dyslexia. Getting the help my boy needs has been one of my biggest—and most important—challenges in life.

Do you believe in love at first sight?

Yes. And I’ve been married to my husband ever since.

Stacy, I love your answers, especially your challenge to be your son’s school advocate. Not easy. Horses, blue, fall foliage, all things that speak to me as well. I cannot wait to read “Jockeying for You”.

Want to know more about Stacy Hoff?


Stacy Hoff is a contemporary romance author, as well as an attorney. She has practiced law for two decades, primarily handling contracts. Romance novels have always been her secret passion. She writes her romantic stories until the wee hours of the night. Stacy lives in New England with her husband and two boys.

JOCKEYING FOR YOU will be her fourth novel. Her other novels are: DESIRE IN THE EVERGLADES (DESIRE series, book 1), DESIRE IN THE ARCTIC (DESIRE series book 2), and LAWFULLY YOURS . Her upcoming series, BUILDING LOVE, will have book 1, BUILDING LOVE IN VEGAS, out soon.

Amazon buy link: http://amzn.to/2clOJK3
Amazon author’s page: https://www.amazon.com/Stacy-Hoff/e/B00NN0HCW8
Twitter: https://twitter.com/authorStacyHoff
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorStacyHoff

EXCERPT To Jockeying for You:

“You sure you can control a horse with a soft voice like that?” Jake asked, half-teasing.

He could tell she was sizing up his comment, whether it was a joke or an admonishment. Rather than help her out, he decided to see what she’d make of it.

“They don’t call me the horse whisperer for nothing,” she finally let out with an accompanying shrug.

He smiled. Good. She can hold her own. With Handsome Dancer, she’ll need to. He won’t explain himself, either.

“Glad you brought that up. Tell me a little about your philosophy.”

“All right. I imagine you’ve already heard a bit about how I train or we wouldn’t be talking. My approach is simple, I help the horse train himself.”

Jake felt his eyebrows furrow. “Excuse me? What?”

Ryder frowned.

One of his regular waiters approached, pen and paper already out. “Give us a minute, Robert?” Turning his attention back to her, he asked, “I’m sorry, you were explaining your philosophy. It sounded very . . . unorthodox.”

“I’m guessing you’ve seen my track record, so I’m confident unorthodox works. I don’t treat a horse like it’s some kind of four-footed magical carpet, ready to take off at our command. Horses are live creatures. They let us command them when they want to. And if they don’t, no amount of breaking them is going to win a race.”

She paused, cleared her throat, then picked up the glass of ice water in front of her and took a sip. She was peering at him thoughtfully over the rim of the glass. “It’s not as crazy as it sounds. I simply believe a horse that wants to win will do its best to do so. A horse that doesn’t, won’t.”

Click to get your own copy: http://amzn.to/2clOJK3

Stacy, thank  you for joining us, answering my pushy questions, and I wish you the best of luck with your latest endeavor.

The trouble with twins. I just love twin stories and was expecting a lot from Darcy Flynn’s “Double Trouble”. As the tagline reads: “All’s fair in love and getting even”.


What intrigued me the most was the witty dialogue, especially between the main characters, Clare Sullivan and Will Carrington. The story’s premise is built around a case of mistaken identity (with twins? Really?) and plots of getting even, all told in a fresh manner with two sets of identical twins.  Double the trouble and double the possibilities.

“Double Trouble” is a clean, contemporary, romantic comedy that will keep you laughing one page and shaking your head on another page. The interaction between the well-developed characters is genuine and believable.

I would recommend “Double Trouble” to readers looking for a humorous, fast read.  It took me around three hours one evening to read and enjoy this story. My only complaint was I wish the author had described setting in a little more detail. I’m not familiar with areas Flynn used, and sometimes I was left with a gap due to not fully picturing the setting where it was integral to a given scene. I will still look for more works from Darcy Flynn.

A love that can never be….

Angela Christina Archer’s “The Woman on The Painted Horse” has been on my TBR pile for a while and this week I treated myself to a long-overdue read.


Alexandra Monroe is the feisty and gusty heroine, telling the story from her POV, and on the cusp of womanhood, and still pressed on the opposing thumb of her parents. Born into a wealthy Montgomery Alabama family, living during the Civil War, she has prestige, honor and everything a young lady could want or need. Sort of. There are certain fundamental things lacking at home.

And Alexandra is a also a slave smuggler, covertly doing what she can for the area slaves, and risking her life with each run she makes. If her domineering parents only knew of her dangerous exploits. They want her to marry Thomas Ludlow. His family rolls in wealth, rank high in society and marriage between Alexandra and Thomas will both secure their rank in society and provide Alexandra with resources and funds for even more slave smuggling.

Except Thomas is a narcissistic, cruel, bullying, miserable SOB that you would gladly kick into next month. And keep kicking. That kind of guy you just naturally and easily hate to pieces.

Except Alexander has met William Greysden, from the local Indian tribe. Their love will never be accepted by Alexandra’s family, by society or William’s tribe.

What can a young lady of society, and covert slave smuggler, possibly do?

Warning, this is not a fluffy romance, packed with mindless kisses and passionate sex. This is a gritty novel, set during one of our nation’s more turbulent times, written in sometimes a disturbingly comparable turbulence. Alexandra, and those dear to her, endure treatment no human should ever witness or endure. This book can be achingly ugly and cruel in its honesty. Sometimes it just hurts to read it.

And it also is a beautiful love story, of a love that could be and should not, and a love that should be but cannot. Which one will finally win? It is an honest story, one I will not spoil, as the reader will turn pages till the end, wondering.

Regular readers will know I frequently read and post reviews here. Today I joined up with Fish Goddess Virtual Book Tours for Christine Hart’s recent releases. I have read Christine’s work before, with her Yong Adult novel, “Watching July”, several months ago. It was a treat to get to read something different. There is also a Rafflecopter Giveaway at the end. Christine is offering a $15 Amazon/ BN gift card to a randomly selected winner. Entries are below, and be sure to visit other blogs on this Goddess Fish virtual tour for more chances to win. Link to the entire Goddess Fish tour schedule is provided below too.

Road heading into city

The Variant Conspiracy

by Christine Hart

GENRE: Sci Fi Romance


In Irina’s Cards

Irina Proffer leaves mundane small-town life behind when she experiences visions inspired by a strange deck of tarot cards. To get answers, she travels from her northern British Columbia home to the province’s coastal capital. She quickly discovers a world of fringe genetic science and supernatural mystery.

Working for Innoviro Industries, Irina is drawn in by a powerful first love and compelling, yet dangerous questions about the nature of the company’s business. Meeting other ‘variants’ brings Irina closer and closer to the dark truth about her origins. She finds herself at the heart of two overlapping love triangles as she scrambles to escape her employer’s grip. Before she leaves the city, Irina realizes she has merely scratched the surface of a frightening conspiracy on a global scale.

The Compendium

Irina and her renegade variant friends are scrambling to pick up the trail of their former employer, Ivan, and his globally catastrophic scheme. After strategically sharing their story with the media, the group heads south from Vancouver to Seattle hoping to recruit more experienced—and lethal—variants to their cause.

Their attention develops a laser focus on an engineered disaster mere days ahead of them. Ivan is using what staff and resources remain of Innoviro Industries to set off a violent earthquake in San Francisco. While they fight to stop the earthquake, Irina pushes the love of her life Jonah as far away as she can, trying to keep his unstable genetic degradation in check.

Irina’s friends think they’ve seen the worst that Innoviro could bring forth by the time they reach a secret facility in the Mojave Desert. As they near the property, the group uncovers a horror none of them had ever imagined.

Terra Nova

The end of the humanity and an unrecognizable future Earth are now days away. After their first glimpse of the Terra Nova virus, Irina and her variant friends know their former employer’s plans are almost at hand. Their failed attempt to publicize Ivan and Innoviro Industries’ horrific activities has left them utterly reliant on their own wits and weapons.

After surviving a catastrophic earthquake in San Francisco and destroying a secret viral testing facility, Irina’s crew has traveled by a variant portal to London. On the other side of the world, they begin tracking when and where Terra Nova will be unleashed on the world. They know stopping Terra Nova is only the beginning of unraveling Ivan’s plans to reinvent the planet, but if they can’t stop this virus, there will be no one left to save.


My review is on “In Irina’s Cards”, book 1.  The story is written entirely in 1st person, so we follow closely in Irina’s eyes and POV.  The author did a great job building the setting, bringing the town of Victoria alive for the reader and her interactions with the characters around Irina. The story is full of likeable characters, though most are deeply flawed or heavily mysterious. Naturally there are some characters the reader can instinctively distrust or not like.

Irena is young and naive. She left her hometown and first job–a crappy one–and ends up in a new town and a new job. Because she is young, we can forgive her lack of caution and inexperience with placing trust. She learns who to trust, and whom not to. She learns that not everything is as it initially seems. The love triangle adds a great level to Irina’s life, compounding her already overwhelming situations.

I enjoyed the sci-fi and the romance and the author did a fine job of melting them together. This story would appeal to both young adults as well as older, more mature readers who like to remember when we were young and innocent and ready to take on the world, only to find it not as we anticipated. The action was fast paced, making me turn the pages, wanting and needing to know what was next. And next. And next.

Since “In Irina’s Cards” is only the first in this exciting series, I can’t wait to see what books two and three offer. I hope they keep the intrigue and momentum going strong. There are still many issues left hanging, that need resolution in the coming stories.


Excerpt from In Irina’s Cards:

Author’s Note: This section is taken from Chapter 4. Title character Irina is still coming to terms with the fact that ‘variant’ really means mutant with a noticeable gift or ability. We get a chance to see Irina having a vision. And we get a first glimpse at the variations in three other core characters.

I followed Jonah through the wrought iron gate and looked up at the oak tree on the lawn next to the patio. Tiny fresh leaves and new buds covered the gnarled old tree. It was also home to dozens and dozens of sneakers, canvas shoes, skate shoes, oxfords – basically any kind of shoe with laces to tie together.

The air felt warm enough to linger, so I walked over to the tree and looked upward. I smiled. I reached up to one of the lower branches and touched one of the shoes. The yard and the tree melted away. I saw the face of a girl with faintly bluish skin and platinum hair. She turned and I saw two leather-like wings flex and relax. Her shirt had been cut to make room for her wings which stretched out past the frayed edges of the fabric. She was standing in a sewer or catacomb.

Faces milled around the winged girl. It wasn’t quite like a party, maybe more like a camp. An older lady standing next to the winged girl reached down to the ground. She pinched the concrete and plucked something, maybe a stone, off the surface. The stone wriggled. It was a camouflaged beetle, exactly like the one I’d seen on my first day in the city. She lifted the beetle to her mouth and I reeled back.

The yard outside Cymbals surrounded me again in a blink. Jonah stared at me. I noticed my arm had stayed raised beneath the shoes and withdrew it.

“Are you all right?”

I heard fear in his voice.

“Rubin mentioned that you were psychic, but I never knew what it actually looked like. I mean, I’ve never witnessed anyone ‘see’ something if that makes sense.”

“Oh, I … what does it look like? It’s still pretty new for me. I’ve always been alone when that happens, but I hadn’t even wondered what somebody watching me gets to see.”

“You looked sort of, gone. And then your eyes rolled back for a moment. I thought you were having a seizure.”

I looked around the yard and fortunately we were alone. Still, I didn’t want to keep talking about this stuff where we could be overheard. More importantly, what was Rubin doing sharing my personal information while giving me his best poker face?

“Let’s go inside. I’m hungry.” I didn’t much feel like sitting down to a social night anymore.

Cole waved from a table on the other side of the building. Sitting next to him, a girl with purple dreadlocks looked up from her purse and smiled.

The restaurant was full and the combined conversations created a loud chatter. Dim candlelight, a few glass chandeliers, and an antique-looking piano in the corner set a romantic atmosphere that sparked another twinge of embarrassment. On the other hand, the abstract and industrial mixed media wall décor had me looking around for art and film students. Aside from a few biker bars, the edgiest hangout I knew of in Prince George was an indie coffee shop – and it had only been open for a few years when I left.

We made our way around and between tables. Everyone in the restaurant looked like an artist or an intellectual. I felt like an ugly duckling in my plain, boring clothes, but I was glad for the first time since starting my new job that not all of the blue dye had gone from my hair. Jonah reached the table and pulled out a chair for me. We sat down and Cole scowled.

“Dude, what’s up with the timeline fail? We’ve been here for like, half an hour,” said Cole.

“Ignore his attitude. I’m Faith,” the girl said as she extended her hand to me and grinned happily. The flickering light glinted off a stud in her nose and a ring in her eyebrow. She wore dark makeup on her eyes and mouth. She had the same coffee brown eyes as Cole. I couldn’t tell if it was her features or the eyeliner and lipstick, but she looked striking in a bold, exotic way. As we shook hands, her gaze shifted over to Jonah.

We looked at our menus in awkward silence, waiting for a server, sipping our water. I sighed and put down my menu. I could feel Cole’s eyes on me as I watched Faith stare at Jonah, the only person still looking at his menu. I gave in and glanced back at Cole briefly with a small smile. This was all heading in the wrong direction. The time for tact expired along with my patience.

“So I take it we’re all mutants here,” I said casually.

Jonah sprayed water onto his menu and coughed. Cole looked at me urgently. Faith’s mouth made a small ‘O’ under her confused frown.

“Seriously, I came here, to Victoria, because I started having visions of this place and I wanted answers. All I’ve gotten is cryptic nonsense. Other than meeting you people, I’ve learned next to nothing. Rubin is all vague double-talk. It’s getting old. I want to know what you all know.”

Jonah looked at me and took a breath as if to say something. He decided against it and looked around our corner of the restaurant. Nobody paid any attention to us. He placed his hand over the droplets of water on his laminated menu. The water coalesced into puddles under his palm. As he concentrated on the small pool, it lifted off the menu and spread into a donut shape. The circle broke and the stream became a spiral, getting thinner and thinner until it evaporated into steam, absorbed into Jonah’s hand.

Faith’s frown turned into a smile as she looked at Jonah. She picked up one of the unlit candles on our table and pinched the wick between her thumb and forefinger. As she released it a flame sprang to life.

“Well, I’m not breaking this table, that’s for damn sure,” said Cole.

“That’s okay. I saw your street-fight with that bouncer when I first got to town,” I said.

Cole rolled his eyes, but I couldn’t worry about his temper. I wanted to keep talking about Innoviro and Ivan. “So, now that we’re making progress, albeit moving into some surreal comic book world, tell me what’s the deal with Innoviro. What the hell does this company really do?” I felt my adrenaline rise.


Christine Hart’s professional bio:

Located on BC’s beautiful West Coast, I make my home at the intersection of a lush rainforest and an urban underbelly. I love writing about places and spaces with rich history and visually fascinating elements as a backdrop for the surreal and spectacular.

In addition to my undergraduate degree in writing and literature, my background also includes corporate communications and design. I am a current member of the Federation of BC Writers and SF Canada.

When not writing, I have a habit of breaking stuff and making stuff – in that order – under the guise of my Etsy alter-ego Sleepless Storyteller (https://www.etsy.com/shop/sleeplessstoryteller).  I share my eclectic home and lifestyle with my husband and two children.

  • Portfolio and author profile at www.christine-hart.ca.
  • Work experience and professional background at ca.linkedin.com.

Links to connect with Christine:

FACEBOOK:  https://www.facebook.com/christineahart

TWITTER:  https://www.twitter.com/chris_a_hart

PINTEREST: http://pinterest.com/sleeplesss/

GOODREADS:  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1335266.Christine_Hart


Easy Amazon Links for Christine’s author page and links to her books:






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Be sure to follow this tour and leave a comment on each blog stop. The more you comment, the better your chances are of winning. The tour dates can be found here: http://goddessfishpromotions.blogspot.com/2016/07/review-tour-variantconspiracy-by.html 

Today Madeline Hill is here for a visit to share her story, “Highland Hope“, a part of the Wild Thistle Trilogy. Welcome, Madelyn.

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Madelyn, in a few words, can you tell us what your story is about?

Madelyn: Sure can. Highland Hope is a Scottish Historical and book 1 of the Wild Thistle Trilogy. The Trilogy features 3 sisters, Hope, Faith and Honor. When their father dies, he says, “Through Hope, Faith and Honor, ye can rule.” This single statement affects each character in a different way.

Tag Line: Her clan was her everything, until he walked into her castle.

Personally, I think my blurb sums it up really well—

Remember, lasses. Through Hope, Faith and Honor, ye can rule,” were the last words Lady Hope MacAlister’s father spoke before dying. Those very words direct her every action and thought. Sword fighting and leading the men of her clan was second nature to Hope and she has little time for herself or any thoughts of love. Until Aidan MacKerry is captured spying on the clan.

She is beautiful, strong, and quick to pull a sword. But when he kisses her, all thoughts of the lairdship Aidan MacKerry seeks flee his mind. When the enemy continues to undermine Hope, Aidan is determined to aid her—only he didn’t think he’d lose his heart to the Laird of Wild Thistle Keep. When the enemy reveals Aidan’s secret, he must fight for his right to be laird and prove, despite their differences, he loves Hope.

The enemy refuses to back down and continues to threaten not only Hope, but the security of the entire clan. Only together will they be able to save the clan and save their love.

Why did you write it?

The line the father spoke came to me (in the shower, no less) and I just started writing the trilogy. I think the father’s statement really led to the growth of each character in a different way.

How long did it take?

I started the story several years ago and was working on many other projects. I finally focused and finished book 1 and 2 and I’m steadily making my way through book 3.

Any special inspiration?

I love Scotland and strong heroines, however the father’s dying words really inspired the book(s).

Where do you write?

During the winter, I write in my small office and when weather allows, I’m on my deck, blaring my iTunes playlist and writing away.

Any special reason why you chose the character names and location that you did? The father’s dying words inspired the names of the characters.

Describe the path to publication?

This is my fourth book with Soul Mate Publishing. I have been actively writing for years and submitting to big houses with no luck. After some prodding from my critique partner, I sent Wolf’s Castle (the first book published by Soul Mate, the fourth full manuscript I’ve written) and the rest is history!

Are you working on anything else right now?

I’m working on Highland Honor – Book 3 of the Wild Thistle Trilogy and gathering research for my next series – Highland Rogues. Highland Rogues will be about 5 books long and feature a group of Highlanders who are like modern day gym rats. The series will be influenced by Shakespearian themes. The first book is Much Ado About A Highlander.

Hardest part about writing?

Keeping focused and not letting the internet snag my attention. I’ve been known to set a timer and when it dings, I’m allowed to look at Facebook and Twitter.

Biggest surprise about being a published author?

That people actually buy, read and review my books!

Do you write in other genres?

I’m dabbling with Young Adult. I have one book done and I’m working on others.

How do you beat procrastination?

I know my personality and I have to keep to a schedule, so I write every day.

How do you beat writer’s block?

If I’m stuck, I’ll pick a future scene to write and that can help with inspiration. Or, I’ll do some research. If that doesn’t work, I’ll start at the beginning of the book and start editing. When I get to the point I was stuck, I’m usually okay to continue.  I also add notes at the end of the spot I just stopped writing so I know what direction I was moving toward. For example, Hero will make one last pledge while heroine is doing . .


Awesome, Madelyn. I get surprise inspiration in the shower or car too. And I keep a notebook and pen in a basket just outside the shower for those times. I love how one character’s final line can bring so much flesh and blood to cover three volumes. That’s great. Now, about about some ice-breaking questions, to really get to know you (beyond the writer)…

The most recent movie you’ve seen?

We are huge movie fans! The last movie I saw at the theater was Marvels: Civil War. We watch a lot of movies at home and I love old movies.

Your favorite town/ city in the world? Why?

I love Venice. Such an amazing city with energy, history, can baroque architecture. My husband and I went on a gondola ride and ate pizza. The pigeons flocked around us in the Piazza San Marco. It was magical!

How did you meet your spouse/ significant other?

I met my husband in my hometown, Rochester Michigan. He was from Rochester New York! It was destiny!

If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you would do? Would you keep your day job (if you have one?)

I would pay off my kid’s student loans. Then travel to every city I’ve ever dreamed of visiting. And yes – I’d quit my day job. I love it, but as a teacher, I wouldn’t be able to travel as much as I’d like.

What is your favorite past time?

Cooking and baking, watching cooking shows, holding events so I can cook and bake!

Would you rather have the ability to be invisible or have x-ray vision?

I think invisibility would be a great ability so I can do research and not be detected.

If you had to give up one of your five senses, what would it be? (common sense does not count here)

Wow, this is a tough one! Maybe touch? I’d hate to lose my sense of taste, sight and hearing.

What ‘s a typical day like?

Driving my son to school, servicing the school districts I work with and then home to cook dinner, attend sporting events and spend the evening with my family. Then as we watch TV at night, I write.

How do you like to spend a rainy day?

Reading or watching movies.

Do you play any musical instruments?


Do you know any foreign languages?

I understand Spanish, speak it horribly. I also understand a bit of French and Italian and sometimes I mix them all together!

Which person do you admire most in life? Why?

Wow, I’d say persons. My husband is such a hard worker and dedicated person. He always puts others before himself and he makes me laugh.

Also, my mother who valiantly fought stage 4 breast cancer and she lived fighting, living, and giving to others during her 7 year fight.

What one item would you grab if the house was on fire? (assume no living beings are inside)

Photo albums. All of my books are backed up online, so I’d be fine without my computer.
If you could invite four people (living or dead) to dinner, who would they be?

Not including family, John Wayne, Lucille Ball, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.

Describe one moment in time when you took a huge leap of faith. How did it turn out?

I moved from Michigan to New York on my own.

What’s one favorite thing you do by yourself?

Hmmm. I love to be around people. I guess reading or watching the shows no one else likes.

Growing up, what did you want to be?

A writer then an engineer.

Favorite food to cook?

Anything Italian

Favorite animal?


Favorite color?


Favorite sport or physical activity?


Favorite place to visit?


Favorite season?

Spring, Fall is a close second.

Which do you prefer for a second home? Mountain cabin, beach house or big city condo?

Beach house

What dessert do you order most often?


What kind of car do you drive? Color?

White Yukon

What is your favorite type of art?

Impressionism – Mary Cassatt is my favorite artist.

Favorite vacation spot?

Any beach!

What three items would you take if you knew you were going to be stranded on a tropical island for a year? (enough suntan lotion is a freebie)

I’m assuming family is a given, so books, coffee, and pot to cook with.

One quote you love, that keeps you going in life?

“Love is the irresistible desire to be desired irresistibly.”

Robert Frost

One thing few people know about you?

I show my horses and rabbits in 4-H

Do you believe in love at first sight?


Two things you wish people would ask you about your book?

About the writing process and how characters speak to me.

Anything special you would like to share with readers?

Each book holds a part of the writer. It may be a character, a conflict, or the setting, but as we write the book, there is the indelible mark of ourselves on every page.

Madelyn, thank you for your candid responses. Tell us a bit about yourself professionally, please.

Madelyn’s Bio:
Madelyn Hill has always loved the written word. From the time she could read and all through her school years, she’d sneak books into her textbooks during school. And she devoured books daily. At the age of 10 she proclaimed she wanted to be a writer. After being a “closet” writer for several years, she sent her manuscripts out there and is now published with Soul Mate Publishing. And she couldn’t be happier! A resident of Western New York, she moved from one Rochester to another Rochester to be with the love of her life. They now have 3 children and keep busy cooking, watching their children’s sporting events, and of course reading!

Madelyn Promo-Photo

Social Networking Links:
Click to order your copy of “Highland Hope.”
Thank you for a great visit, Madelyn. Best wishes for every success.