First, no, I haven't read them all. Second, those I did I loved. I've camped in Vermont several times and visited tiny towns and villages. The Deerbourne series brings that flavor to the reader. One can imagine themselves tucked away in the corner of the Deerbourne Inn, near the fire, reading a good book or people watching. And people watching is so entertaining in Willow Springs. With thirty books of various genres, there is something for everyone. Each story is a standalone from sweet to spicy, contemporary to historical, and ever a trip into the paranormal. Start at the beginning and get to know this town and it's inhabitants. I don't think you'll be sorry for anything except maybe the real Willow Springs is only a fictional getaway.
Link to series www.amazon.com/dp/B087JKRBG2
Love a la Carte
The final installment in a thirty book series
Release Day February 20, 2023
When Nathan Harte received a review that trashed his restaurant and reputation, he left New York to start over in Willow Springs, Vermont, at the Deerbourne Inn. Pleased with his new life and success, he’s preparing to receive an award for his achievements when trouble steps through his door—Chantel St. Ives, his ex and the author of the bad review. Is she here to repeat history?
Chantel, a food and wine critic, discovers Nate’s location at long last. She’s always wanted to explain what happened with her critique, but he disappeared. Now she’s determined to hash it out with him and hopefully rekindle the love they had, but he’s hostile and suspicious. Can she rebuild his trust?
About the Wild Rose Press
The Wild Rose Press was founded in 2006 by RJ Morris and Rhonda Penders. Both published authors, these women were disheartened by the way publishers treated authors. They believed there should be a better, friendlier way to get books published. At this same time, publishing was just entering the digital world with ebooks.
Many small presses popped up around the same time believing that this type of publishing was low cost and easy to do. Nothing could be further from the truth. Morris and Penders held their course, building their business and their author base. They focused their attention not on the bottom line but rather on keeping a balance with author satisfaction and customer expectation – believing that creating a quality product and taking care of their authors was the only way to publish. Their mission was to create a “garden” where writers would grow.
Over 500 authors and 3500 titles later this motto has proven to be solid. When other small presses have come and gone, The Wild Rose Press has never wavered. It truly is a publishing house for authors, founded by authors with customer satisfaction being their number one priority.
Around the Fire with special guest Cara Bertoia and Casino Queen. A contemporary suspense / thriller.
Welcome to my fire, Cara. Can I pour you a refreshment? What is your go to beverage?
My go to beverage is iced tea. I grew up in the South and can’t live without it. But the quantities of tea I drink is so fattening that now I drink it plain and use Sweet’N Low to give it flavor. But if I do drink sweet tea it has to be brewed not instant, a noticeable difference.
Okay, I'm on it. While I do, why don't you tell everyone who you are that's not part of your bio?
I’m a restless person who loves to travel and read. I have had many different careers and have moved to many cities, Charlotte, Boston, Lake Tahoe, Palm Springs and on a cruise ship for five years. I suffer from torschlussapanik, the German word for the fear of missing out. I don’t care about money only experiences.
I love new words thanks for sharing that one. Cruise ships are one of may favorite things. I don't know if I could do it for five years though. What other interests besides writing do you enjoy?
I love reality shows like 90 Day Fiancé, Love Is Blind and my all-time favorite, Married at First Sight. The goal of the show has to be a good relationship. I call myself The Hopeful Romantic, because I met my husband while working on a cruise ship and we were married four months later. After two decades I think our marriage qualifies as a success. Check out my blog, carabertoia.blogspot.com and read my latest post to learn my basic strategy of love. The dynamics of how couples do or don’t make things work fascinates me.
Wow, married after four month! I was engaged within two months but we waited a year to tie the knot and were going on twenty-nine. I bet your hubby is a big supporter. Who else is your network or support system?
My biggest supporter and chief editor is my husband Ray. He will be editing this article. I also had a great group of early readers for Casino Queen. One is a court reporter who catches my punctuation errors and another is a college professor who is an insightful critic. I also have a group of casino professional who vet my manuscript for gambling errors. There are so many writers from The Wild Rose Press who support each other I have learned so much from them.
The Garden is an amazing group of creatives who are very generous with their time and experience. Who or what book or authors are your inspiration?
Charles Bukowski, who wrote about his daily life, his job and going to the track. I loved the plain way he wrote, he named his autobiography Ham on Rye. How great is that title.
I also love Lionel Shriver, her most famous book is We Need To Talk about Kevin. She is cynical and funny and always honest. In her book The Post-Birthday World she creates a parallel-universe but both paths have their problems because life is not a fairy tale.
Hah! Ham on Rye indeed. I love it. And I agree, life certainly is not a fairy tale. It can be gritty and dirty. Do you have any fun or outrageous talent?
I am known as the food-scout because I always pick good restaurants. I check out the reviews, read the menus and focus on the ambiance. It started when I worked on cruise ships, I hated the tourist traps we went to. Eating out is expensive so it better be good.
Next time Pete and I want to dine out I'll reach out for your recommendations. You're not on a ship anymore so, tell me about your neighborhood?
My neighborhood is fantastic. It is the reason we moved to Hollywood, Fl. We live right on the beach, I can see the ocean as I am typing this. This place is a walkers paradise, I can walk on the beach, to the library, and they are building a Publix two blocks away. But the highlight is the two-mile Broadwalk outside my door. It is great for eating out, people watching and there is a free concert five nights a week. It is a true beach paradise, and undiscovered except for the natives and Canadian tourists.
Darn! You are about 400 miles away from my winter home. I never realized Florida was such a big state. In my head it was always the size of NJ until I showed up and found out everything is tomorrow away. Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Writing exhausts me, it is so hard to write the first draft of a novel. But I love rewriting where words become sharper, dialogue is funnier and the real research begins. I love whipping my manuscripts into shape.
If you could tell your younger writing self-anything, what would it be?
To not worry about criticism. I used to be so anxious that people wouldn’t like my work. But guess what most agents and editors won’t like your work, but they don’t like other writers either. Try to paper your wall with rejection letters, a tough skin will make you a writer. Write the book you want to read, write it for you.
I just wrote a letter to a young author saying the same thing. What did you edit out of this book?
I wrote about the real estate crash of 2008 because I knew so many people in Palm Springs who lost their homes. I thought it was a good cautionary tale. My editor wanted to go in a different direction so I cut about 80 pages out of my manuscript but I can always use them in another book.
I deleted an entire chapter from Rock House Grill on the advice of my editor. They do know a thing or two. Do you Google yourself?
While I was promoting my first book, Cruise Quarters, I received a request from Goodreads asking me to provide a quote from my novel. Imagine my surprise a few months later when I Googled my name and I found over 200 websites where my quote had been used. I love to make up quotes, it’s a fun way to give advice in a short pithy sentence. I use them for my chapter titles. It has been included in so many lists of best gambling quotes, people on social media sites, and even Seeking Alpha, a financial website. A YouTuber used it with the song Money by Lisa playing in the background. My words have even been used as part of a legal argument in an Indian lawsuit. You too can Google Cara Bertoia quotes like this one... "It’s hard to walk away from a winning streak, even harder to leave the table when you’re on a losing one."
That's amazing! What kind of research do you do?
I spent two decades working as a croupier. I didn’t realize it at the time, but every day was research. When I decided to write a thriller about casinos, I thought writing a novel would be a breeze because I knew everything about casinos. I am here to tell you that knowing your subject is such a small part of the process.
I had to research historical events to make sure I got it right. How did Native Americans win the right to open casinos on their reservations? Luckily my husband worked as a pit boss, so he could answer my technical questions about money laundering and odds. I had to learn about police procedure because I wrote a mystery. I spent many hours on the Internet researching Native Americans, and the proper use of capitalization. If you think rules like when to capitalize the word tribes as it applies to Native Americans is simple just Google it. I also had to research the dialogue for some of my foreign characters to make sure it sounded authentic.
What can you share with other authors and aspiring ones?
Here’s a tip, read your whole novel out loud and record it to see how it sounds.
Here’s another tip, even if you think you know how to spell a place, or a brand always double check. I was sure I knew the way to spell Louis Vutton imagine my surprise when I learned it was Louis Vuitton. Be careful about the names of companies you use, some companies are very serious about their trademarks. I bought The best punctuation book period and referenced it every day. Keeping your verbs in the right tense is just one of the many challenges you will face.
Correcting all the mistakes in a novel are mind-boggling, so before you query if you have the resources hire an editor. Also make sure you have people that share your taste in books read your story. Does it flow, does the plot make sense and are the characters engaging?
Excellent advice. Who is the most interesting person you have ever met and talked to?
Agua Caliente Tribal Chairman Richard Milanovich was the most interesting person I knew. He was responsible for bringing casinos to tribal lands in Palm Springs, and positively impacting the fortunes of his tribal members. A charismatic man who spoke with the soft slow cadence of the Native Americans of the Southwest. Even though he was such an important man he knew all of his employees names and would stop and chat with them and ask about their families. He became the inspiration for my character John Tovar.
I hear you have an amazing write up in the Palm Springs Desert Sun. Can you share it?
Cara Bertoia stacks the creative cards in our favor in “Casino Queen” (The Wild Rose Press), a compelling
mystery set in Palm Springs and Joshua Tree.Bertoia lived in the Coachella Valley for nearly 22 years. In fact, she and her husband, Ray, were casino employees and long-time residents in Chino Canyon before moving to Florida several years ago. “Casino Queen” arrives at the perfect time when crime-solving tales that revolve around strong female protagonists aren’t just a luck of a draw. They’re downright successful. (See TV’s "Equalizer" and "Poker Face" for samplers.)
To that end, “Casino Queen” has the makings of a streaming series.
That is so exciting! Congratulations. Cara, thank you so much for spending time Around the Fire with me today. Before you bottoms-up your iced tea, will you leave us some information about where we can find more about you and your latest book?
A contemporary suspense / thriller novel
Caroline Popov, alone, heartbroken, and deeply in debt ends up in glamorous Palm Springs, California. Native American casinos have just opened, thousands of people from all over the world came to work there, money flowed like water, and real estate became the new status symbol. And then came The Great Recession, and suddenly the partying stopped.
Alone, desperate and deeply in debt, she lands a job at the Palm Oasis Casino. She is mentored by the charismatic tribal chairman, John Tovar. Embraced by casino culture, Caroline works her way up to casino manager of the Night Hawk, in the High Desert town of Joshua Tree. There, she is responsible for managing multicultural team members, satisfying the demands of challenging guests, growing revenue while rooting out corruption. As she moves up through the ranks of management, her bond with John deepens.
In the process of uncovering the underbelly of corruption her list of enemies grows. Sometimes you have to gamble like your life depends on it. With her life on the line can she pull out a win?
What others are saying.
Little Miss Book Lover 187
"Oh Wow!! What a debut this has been. How will a written review do this one justice? I'm so excited for this book to get into the hands of other readers. I have wanted to step into the gorgeous setting of this one. However, the author's descriptions have transported me and made me feel as though the setting has been familiar to me - an added talent of hers. It's converted me as a huge fan of Bertoia." - Vikkie Wakeham, Little Miss Book Lover 187 - Squadpod
A peek inside.
“Why did I transfer you up from Palm Springs to be my Casino Queen?” The charismatic Tribal Chairman John Tovar asked.
“Casino Queen, really? Apparently, you are the only person in America who isn’t watching the show about the seven kingdoms on cable. The queens always get killed in the most horrific ways. They are hanged, beheaded, poisoned, burned alive in an explosion, or have their throat slit,” an exasperated Caroline Popov answered.
“I promise that won’t happen to you.” He gestured for her to take a seat at an empty ‘Mystic Mermaid’ slot machine, then sat across from her. They swiveled their
chairs to face each other. John tried to act serious, but a smile kept pulling at the corner of his eyes. “According to the Mazurie decision, Native American tribes are considered sovereign nations. Therefore as leader of the tribe, I am King of the Shotowa.”
He continued. “Believe me, when I met the Queen of England I was introduced as the leader of the Shotowa nation. Let me be clear, as soon as you drove into this parking lot you entered the nation.” He gestured toward the uniformed officers standing at the door. “We have our own army.”
She decided to play along with the flow of his logic. “You mean security guards.”
“Precisely, trained courtesy of the United States Marine Corps. The tribe issues its own currency, gaming chips made of ceramic clay, stamped with our logo. At the cashiers’ cage, our central bank, those chips can be exchanged for U.S. dollars. Anyone can find food in our three restaurants or the team member dining room for employees. An underground well supplies us with water. We provide hotel rooms for shelter. Any guest who comes to stay with us will find their basic human needs covered by the Shotowa Tribe. Never forget we are a sovereign nation. I am the King, and I anoint you Queen of the Night Hawk.”
Get your copy today.
More about the Author
Cara Bertoia grew up in a strait-laced Southern family, but she was always fascinated with casinos. In her twenties on a summer hiatus from teaching in North Carolina, she drove to California and became a dealer at Caesars in Lake Tahoe. She discovered that after teaching high school, handling an unruly gambler was a piece of cake. Her mother highly disapproved of her working in a casino, "a place so bad it has 'sin' in the middle."
Eventually, she succumbed to pressure from the family and returned east to take a hi-tech job in Boston. She also began working on her MFA in writing at Emerson. Her goal was to write the first realistic novel about casino life from the perspective of an experienced table games dealer. She is always amazed that normal and sometimes quite intelligent players become absolutely clueless in the casino. They repeat superstitious nonsense and no amount of logic can change their position, maybe her novel will.
While in Boston she was offered the opportunity to join Princess Cruises as a croupier. Jumping at the chance, she spent the next five years circling the globe. Sometimes life exceeds your dreams. She was awed by the wonders of Venice, the fjords of Norway, and the Northern Lights in St. Petersburg.
Cara returned from ships with a very special souvenir, her Scottish husband Ray. They went to work at the Spa Casino in Palm Springs, and now live in Hollywood, Florida, where she writes about her casino years while wistfully gazing out at the ocean.
I love to connect with my readers. Please send me a picture with Casino Queen. I will post those pictures to my social media.
Cara Bertoia’s Blog
Cara Bertoia – Author
Here is a link to my article in Women Writers Women’s Books
The Big Thrill is a monthly publication of the International Thriller Writers Association. They say they have 200,000 hits a month. I don't know why they picked me for an author interview, but I am very happy because all the big names appear there. Check it out. Here is the link. My interview appeared April 1st.
The Big Thrill Online Magazine
Death by Pins and Needles
Who wanted Lissa Charney dead? The list was as long as your arm….but which one actually killed her? The last thing Mermaid Swimwear sales exec Holly Schlivnik expected to find when she opened the closet door was nasty competitor Lissa Charney’s battered corpse nailed to the wall. When Holly’s colleague is wrongly arrested for Lissa’s murder, the wise-cracking, irreverent amateur sleuth sticks her nose everywhere it doesn’t belong to sniff out the real killer. Nothing turns out the way she thinks it will as Holly matches wits with a heartless killer hellbent for revenge.
Grab a copy today www.amazon.com/Death-Pins-Needles-Hysterical-Whodunit-ebook/dp/B0BPLHRWJ7
A Word from Susie Black
Write What You Know
No matter what stage an author’s writing career is at, one thing that is constantly drilled into their head is to only write what they know. If you don’t know it, either do the research and learn it, or don’t you dare write it. If you don’t have the creds for what you write, you are toast because readers can spot a phony by the second paragraph and never finish reading your book. This concept is one I never lose sight of and is the reason I write about the subjects I do. Like the protagonist in my Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series, I am a ladies’ swimwear sales exec in the greater Los Angeles area. From the beginning of my career, I have kept a daily journal chronicling the interesting, quirky, and sometimes quite challenging people I have encountered as well as the crazy situations I’ve gotten myself into and out of. My daily journal entries are the foundation of everything I write.
I came to write in the cozy mystery genre because I love solving puzzles. My parents would certainly confirm I have always asked a lot of questions, and I am naturally curious (some narrow-minded people say I am nosy…go figure…LOL). So, writing mysteries was the natural next step for me to take. It is also the genre I read, am most comfortable in, and enjoy the most. The bonus is that it was an excellent way to knock off some people on paper who I would have loved to eliminate in real life and still not end up in prison. Extremely therapeutic. I highly recommend it. All of my characters are based on real people, and the central characters are all strong, successful women who have beaten the odds and broken the glass ceiling.
About the Author
Susie Black biography
Named Best US Author of the Year by N. N. Lights Book Heaven, award-winning cozy mystery author Susie Black was born in the Big Apple but now calls sunny Southern California home. Like the protagonist in her Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series, Susie is a successful apparel sales executive. Susie began telling stories as soon as she learned to talk. Now she’s telling all the stories from her garment industry experiences in humorous mysteries.
She reads, writes, and speaks Spanish, albeit with an accent that sounds like Mildred from Michigan went on a Mexican vacation and is trying to fit in with the locals. Since life without pizza and ice cream as her core food groups wouldn’t be worth living, she’s a dedicated walker to keep her girlish figure. A voracious reader, she’s also an avid stamp collector. Susie lives with a highly intelligent man and has one incredibly brainy but smart-aleck adult son who inexplicably blames his sarcasm on an inherited genetic defect.
Looking for more? Contact Susie at:
All About Charming Alice
Trust in love and solutions will appear
By J. Arlene Culiner
Release date: April 3, 2023
About the book
Alice Treemont has no intention of falling in love. Living in Blake’s Folly, a semi-ghost town, she cooks vegetarian meals, rescues unwanted dogs, and protects the most unloved creatures on earth: snakes. What man would share those interests?
Jace Constant is in Nevada, doing research for his new book, but he won’t be staying. He’s disgusted by desert dust on his fine Italian shoes and dog hair on his cashmere sweaters. As for snakes, he doesn’t just despise them: they terrify him.
So why does the air sizzle each time Alice and Jace meet? A romance would entail far too many compromises.
A peek between the covers
The sound of loud banging had Alice shooting down the stairs and out through the front door. What was going on? It sounded as if a whole wrecking crew was slugging away at the very walls of her house. Any second now, the whole entire building would collapse into a vast heap of dust and shattered sticks of furniture.
She found Jace sitting on the ground beside the veranda, nails sticking out of his mouth, a hammer in his hand and a stack of thick old wooden beams beside him. Now what was this absolutely infuriating person up to? He wasn’t going to make her life miserable all day long, was he? Yes, it looked like he was.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
He turned his head, gazed at her nonchalantly. Took the nails out of his mouth and whistled lasciviously. “Jeans. I didn’t know you owned a pair of jeans. I like your hair like that, too.”
She blushed. She’d pinned her hair back in a low, loose chignon but would rather have been eaten by ants than admit she’d taken special care with her appearance this morning. Why? Because she really did want to please him. “Jace, I want an answer. What are you doing?”
“Didn’t anyone ever tell you a house needs upkeep? If you want this place to be standing in another one hundred and fifty years, there are things that have to be done. Urgently. This joist here, for example. It needs to be reinforced, so I’m doing that.”
“You’ve no right!” She leaned forward aggressively, hands balled into fists.
His eyes twinkled. “A man likes to catch up on home repairs on his day off.”
“This is my house, not yours!”
“Quite right. You own the house. But, at the moment, this happens to be my home.” He put a nail into place and banged away at it.
All Alice could do was stand there, wait patiently for the noise to stop so she could continue the argument. God, he was infuriating. “It isn’t your home! Your home is in Chicago.”
“My apartment is in Chicago. That’s true enough. A nice, big, flashy apartment with expensive, modern furniture. I’ve also worked out that it’s perfectly impersonal and soulless. Simply an apartment, get it? Not a home. This place is a home. A real home. And I feel like helping you protect it.” He began attacking another nail. Stopped. Looked at her. “And when I’m finished with this job, the veranda isn’t going to cave in like it was threatening to do. And, by the way, I’m not stopping with the veranda. There’s all the rest.” The wide gesture he made encompassed the whole house, the yard, the road, all of Blake’s Folly.
“The entire state of Nevada,” Alice muttered sourly and glared ferociously, hoping he’d eventually take the hint or feel intimidated. But since he didn’t bother looking up again, her effort was wasted. Besides, he was right, and he was doing her a big favor. He might be gone in a few weeks’ time, but the veranda wouldn’t be.
She turned to go back into the house.
She stopped. “Now what?” She forced herself to look forbidding.
He stood, brushed off his pants. “Breakfast is waiting. After that, we’ll take the dogs for a walk. Together. I’d like you to show me more of the desert.”
“No way.” What would he come up with next? What was he trying to do? Run a revolution? “I go on my walks alone.”
“Not today, you aren’t. I bought a pair of walking boots like yours, and today’s the day I’ll be testing them.” His eyes twinkled mischievously. “Besides, it’s Saturday, and I promised the dogs we’d go walking on Saturday. Can’t disappoint dogs like that, Princess. Could mess up their psyches.”
“Why are you calling me Princess?” she asked suspiciously.
His grin broadened. “Private joke.”
“Between you and who else? The dogs?” Exasperated, Alice stomped back into the house, but not before she heard him coming up behind her and whistling a vaguely familiar tune. What was that melody? She searched her mind. The words rushed into her head: “You’ll never walk alone.”
No. He really was pushing things too far. Making fun of her too. Not that there was anything she could do about it. More useful for her to concentrate, get on with her life—as if she could with all the ruckus that man was creating.
About the Author
Writer, photographer, social critical artist, musician, and occasional actress, J Arlene Culiner, was born in New York and raised in Toronto. She has crossed much of Europe on foot, has lived in a Hungarian mud house, a Bavarian castle, a Turkish cave-dwelling, on a Dutch canal, and in a haunted house on the English moors. She now resides in a 400-year-old former inn in a French village of no interest and, much to local dismay, protects all creatures, especially spiders and snakes. She particularly enjoys incorporating into short stories, mysteries, narrative non-fiction, and romances, her experiences in out-of-the-way communities, and her conversations with strange characters.
Sophia’s Magic Beans:
In a sweet small town, a single mom gets a second chance at romance with the help of guardian angels.
www.amazon.com/dp/B0BTCHPR6FAbout the story.
At Lake Unami a small New Jersey town, sometimes fairytales do come true.
Calliope Novak’s candy store made it through the shutdowns, but she still struggles with everyday costs. She juggles chores, work, and making time for Sophia—her six-year-old. Personal life? Non-existent. Luke O’Brian confronts his boss and mentor after discovering his law firm’s involvement with a crooked politician and is reminded of the non-disclosure agreement he’d signed. He can’t break it without evidence—evidence that he can’t access after he’s escorted out of the building by security. Devastated, he reluctantly returns to his hometown to regroup. Lake Unami in Northern New Jersey is a magical place. Rainbows and unexplained coincidences seem more normal than not. Guardian angels, bookstore owners, and an endearing cast of characters all come together to bring happiness and love to Calliope, Sophia, and Luke.
Release Date: 04/10/2023
A peek inside.
“Boardwalk Books. Can I help you?”
“Sophia Rose Baylor, what are you doing answering the phone?” Calliope held the phone out and glared at it like her daughter could see the mother’s look. “Where’s Mrs. Booker?”
“She’th right here. Aren’t you, Mithus Booker.” That toothless lisp was hysterical, and if Calliope wasn’t so startled to hear her kid answering the phone at another business, she would’ve died laughing. “I’m in training.”
Calliope bit her cheek. “May I speak with your boss, please?”
“Wanths to talk to you.”
“Calliope, dear. Everything is fine, and my newest employee has been charming customers all afternoon.”
Theme(s): Small Town, Friends to Lovers, Workplace, Second Chance Love, Other Holiday
Subgenres(s): Contemporary, Paranormal, Fantasy, Women’s Fiction contemporary romantic fantasy; small town; single mom; second chance romance; family life fiction; mothers and children fiction; sweet and wholesome
This story is one of The Wild Rose Press's Jelly Beans and Spring Things. A collection of novella's to sweeten your day. Check out the entire series at www.amazon.com/dp/B0BTCHPR6F
A word from the author.
Thank you for stopping by. I love the town of Lake Unami. It's based on both lakes near my home in Northern NJ. My first book to experience the magic of Lake Unami is Rainbow Sprinkles another tale of a second chance at love with Gloriana and Nathan. I hope to help more characters find their happily ever after and am currently working on a story starring Nathan's daughter who we met in Rainbow Sprinkles.
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It's not often I have openings on my blog that I haven's scheduled way in advance. When I went to put today's issue together I was surprised. I thought I had a guest. Nope. What to do? What should I fill the page with? So, I puttered around the campsite considering my options. I didn't want to cheat an repost something from the past. I peeked at a few websites looking for inspiration. Really nothing new. I looked through my pictures. I haven't taken any great ones lately. Then I spotted these I created with the input of some of my social media followers.
If you've followed me for any amount of time you know the first book I wrote never became published. A few weeks ago I'd pulled it out attempting to see if it was salvageable. I believe it is. Does it have many problems? Oh, yeah, it does. But I love this story. It's my first book baby.
The series will be
Kingdom at a Crossroad
Kingdom on a Precipice
Breaking of a Bond
The Heart of a Revenant
I have a lot of work to do. Haana's story Kingdom at a Crossroad but I'm going to share the first chapter of the first book which is a draft.
Prologue Deep inside the Room of Knowledge, Athair startled awake. A flash of light burst across the chamber from the Living Map of Aimhirghin, illuminating the Seomra Geasa where he’d nodded off while poring over a scroll. The circlet banding his arm snapped open, and he caught it as it assumed the shape of a staff.
The map took up most of the space in his chamber of spells. Its four corners supported by woody gnarls of Guardian Oaks. Their roots penetrated deep into the ground and then spread toward the boundaries of Aimhirghin. The trunks stretched up and out through the ceiling where interwoven branches spanned to form a canopy that arced above the Caislean, the House of Sárnait, and the heart of Ath Dara, the elven family’s royal residence.
Athair leaped from his ancient wooden rocking chair and raced to the massive structure. He grasped its edge with one hand while waving his staff over it. “Nochtan.”
The winds of change blew across the map, and it trembled beneath his hand. Villages, cities, farmland, and forests shimmered into sight. Leaves rustled on miniature trees, and dust lifted into the air from the roads.
The burst of magic was not centered on a single location. Instead, the entire map had lit up though now it faded. Seeking the source before it disappeared altogether, Athair’s gaze swiftly covered the surface as he circled the map.
“Who wields power so strong to cause such a disturbance?”
The map didn’t answer.
Before he could pinpoint the magic’s origin, the burst, which glowed like a thousand candles only moments before, went dark. But not before the significance of what had happened slammed into his mind and soul. It wasn’t a burst of magic.
It was the birth of An Tsolais.
The elven magic of old, greater than the Luisne Lar most Elves settled for in this age, and not seen in Aimhirghin since ages past. Few wizards like he now wielded An Tsolais.
Athair raced to the other side of the chamber while casting a charm to transform the granite basin of water into a scrying bowl. He needed more detail than the map could provide. The water rippled, and the image of land became clear. Now, like a golden eagle hunting its prey, the landscape passed in a flash of time. Scanning the world below, he saw nothing unusual or of note in the villages or cities.
Stretching his sight farther out, he spotted Prince Kíeran’s patrol on the hillside and circled above. Kíeran’s towering figure stood out from the rest like a beacon, Lun shone down, and his nearly white hair reflected it like an aura. Captain Aíndle stood at his side near the edge.
The captain’s aura was brighter than usual but fading to its normal dim state as he pointed out over in the direction of Alleen. Aíndle had more Luisne Lar than most elves though he suppressed it. Whatever had happened, the brightness of his aura showed he, too, felt the magic.
Seers were now few. Even rarer were Elves who could manipulate the land and the elements. Yes, his people had the Knowing, but most now called it intuition. The few stronger in Luisne Lar––the inner glow––did as Aíndle and tucked it away. Fear of judgment and censure from a King who despised magic led them to tamp down their very nature.
Prince Kíeran was the worst. He disregarded Luisne Lar’s presence, denying its uses as nothing more than old dangerous ways.
Stubborn Elf, just like his father.
The elves of Ath Dara had denied themselves and their heritage for so long the gift was nearly lost to them.
Athair forced his thoughts back to the problem at hand. By the time he’d searched the four corners of Aimhirghin, it felt like hours had passed. His temples throbbed, and his back ached from hunching over the scrying bowl. He was no closer to finding the newborn Elf than he’d been at the start.
It was time to accept he wouldn’t be able to find her unless and until she showed herself. Trying to locate a specific Elf in Aimhirghin when they didn’t want to be found was like staring into the night sky, seeking a particular distant star. They were everywhere and nowhere, blending into the background.
“Cheilt.” He waved his staff again, and the scrying bowl went dark. With one last glance at the living map, he left the Seomra Geasa and strode through the corridor. He quickened his pace with each step, his mind buzzing with anxiety. He reached the stairs leading to the main level of the House of Sárnait and leaped up them two at a time.
“Hail, Athair,” a House Guard greeted him and opened the door. “The King awaits you.”
Without breaking stride, Athair entered the room, his robes snapping around his legs.
King Sárnait stood looking out the window. He turned as Athair came into the room. “What was that?”
“The return of An Tsolais.”
Sárnait gave Athair his back to once again peer out into the night. The King’s long black hair hung straight. He’d loosened it from the more formal braid worn during the daytime. Though he wasn’t as large as Prince Kíeran, Sárnait still had the build of a Warrior. “Tell me what you know.”
“It is not dark magic, of that I am certain.” Athair approached his King and looked out as well. “It was strong, although it faded quickly.”
“All magic is dark,” Sárnait mumbled under his breath, then yanked the curtain closed and went to his chair. “Maybe it was nothing or from the Outerland.”
“You can’t block An Tsolais by pulling a curtain over it.” Athair jerked the curtain back open, and scents of the Queen’s garden floated in. Lavender and roses tickled his nose. It refreshed and calmed him. “Magic this strong has not been seen in Aimhirghin for a long time.”
Sárnait ignored him and pushed papers around on his desk.
He walked over and placed a hand on them, waiting until the king looked up. “An Tsolais is here, in Aimhirghin. Since I cannot locate it and know not what form it will take, we will wait. The Ælf will eventually find her way here. You must be prepared.”
Sárnait’s angry, bitter eyes stared into Athair’s. “You remember what happened the last time I embraced its power. I will not allow magic back into my house.”
“Sárnait, it is not the same.
“So, you say.”
The two elves faced off. Athair could almost see the memories of the past skittering across Sárnait’s eyes. Memories that haunted Athair as well.
When the King returned his attention to the present, he released a deep sigh of resignation. “That such a creature now exists does not bring comfort. It is as the Oracles say. They come only in times of trouble, Mender a Chroi ––Healer of Hearts.” Sárnait shoved the papers away. “Or destroyer of them.”
Athair rubbed his face. “The burst was different with Athas. This one shook everything, not simply my magic.”
“Don’t say her name.” Sárnait slammed his hands on the desk, and papers floated to the floor.
Athair didn’t want to argue with his King. Both males struggled with past issues. One’s which may still affect future decisions. No sense in riling him since the more Athair pushed, the more stubborn Sárnait could be. Left to stew on his own, the King usually came to do the right thing. Usually.
“At least we have time. If it is Mender a Chroi, she must grow and come into her gift.”
“And if it’s not Mender but other?”
Athair looked past Sárnait and out into the night. “I don’t know.”
“So, we wait.”
Athair nodded, bowed, and left the King’s study.
Athair continued to scour Aimhirghin over the next twenty-three years but was always drawn back to Alleen. The simple folk in the villages told him stories of Fairies, witches, and even a wild girl who lived in the woods.
“There,” said the farmer while he pointed to the woods. “I saw her there picking some greenery from the stone wall.”
Athair handed the man a copper.
“Thank ye, sir.” The man tipped his well-worn straw hat.
“Tis nothing.” Athair waved a hand of dismissal. “I thank you.”
Sheep scattered as he trekked across their pen. Peering over the wall into the woods, he saw nothing unusual. With a shrug, he sat on the wall, swung his legs over, and then stood gazing at the ground. Tiny footprints, which appeared decidedly feminine, tracked into the forest.
“Nochtan.” He waved his hand over the ground. No magical signature was revealed. He pressed. “Nochtan ordú i.”
He huffed and shrugged. A trip into the woods it was. He loved the trees and creatures who dwelled there. Their presence gave him comfort while he considered the differences between the previous years and now. Prior to the burst, he had been nagged by a pre-apprehension that some essential knowledge eluded him. The mystery over Aimhirghin compounded his feelings of trepidation in the years since the birthing.
The circlet he wore wound around his wrist and up his forearm, whispered dark portents to his mind. More than a vain adornment, his staff was nearly a part of his body. It gave impressions of coming danger. Treachery. Death. War. But something new happened.
After that night, the warnings remained, but they’d changed. As he traveled on his quest, often the darkness would abate, and a trembling of anticipation and excitement replaced it. Love. Goodness. Honor.
It gave Athair hope.
The essence of magic suddenly brushed against his consciousness. He refocused his attention on the here and now. The circlet warmed and then sprang to staff form of its own volition. It pulsated with energy and light, making his hand glow while it shimmered with power.
Though a wizard, he was also an Ath Darian Elf. He crouched into a warrior’s stance, ready to defend himself. Sensitive ears picked up the sound of a gasp, and he turned to scan the area. Athair reached out with his senses, and a bare tickle rippled over him. Then, in the corner of his eye, he glimpsed a small brown figure.
Realizing she was found out, the creature scrambled under a nearby Wild Privet shrub. He spun and hurried in the direction of the figure. “Wait, I only wish to talk to you.”
But whoever it was disappeared, evaporated like a dream, leaving behind a familiar presence like a faint aroma of the past. Something that tantalized your senses, but he was unable to identify.
He searched long and grew tired and frustrated. Even the trees wouldn’t help him. They kept catching his robes as though trying to thwart him. So, finding no further magical signatures, he dismissed the idea the being was still here. With his staff wrapped and quiet around his arm once more, Athair gave up. There were no elven campsites in the areas, and no Elves, to his knowledge, lived in Alleen. The magic must only have been passing through. But what was she?
I hope you enjoyed this peek behind the curtain. If you like to leave a comment go for it. And until next time, I'll leave you with a bit of prose Kieran the main character penned. The song goes on as does the story. Kieran searching and finding love.
For so ever long
Adrift on the waters
Like a leaf on the currents
Like the foam on a wave
She’s always feared abandonment.
Is she about to face it again or find happily ever after?
M’Kenzee Davenport knows love doesn’t last. So despite marrying her high school crush on a whim in Vegas, the gritty photojournalist never believed the union was real. But when her husband-in-name-only goes missing on a mission for the FBI, she’s stunned to receive his effects as next-of-kin.
Poring through his childhood journals, M’Kenzee discovers to her amazement that the handsome G-man has loved her forever. And with no news about his fate, the tormented loner worries he’s lost for good just as she discovers she doesn’t want to live without him.
Will M’Kenzee be reunited with the man of her dreams?
Three Times to Make Sure is the emotional third book in the Green Hills romance series. If you like endearing characters, family drama, and wholesome matches, then you’ll adore Virginia’dele Smith’s captivating story.
What others are saying
This book with lovable characters broke my heart, mended it, broke it again, and made me cry like a baby!Reedsy Discovery Review: https://reedsy.com/discovery/book/three-times-to-make-sure-virginia-dele-smith#review
Buy Three Times to Make Sure to learn the heart’s buried truths today!
Get your copy here⤵️
The inspiration behind the story
What a treat to cozy up around the campfire with new friends! I love to chat, I love to share, and I love love stories.
My books take place in Green Hills, a fictitious small town that could exist just off the Indian Nation Turnpike in southeast Oklahoma. Hidden among lush green trees, Green Hills has mystical qualities of unity and encouragement. The community is designed and depicted how I wish the world would be: uplifting, supportive, helpful, and kind. There are all types of people in Green Hills, with all types of backgrounds and careers, and I look forward to sharing each of their stories for as long as the words keep flowing.
We are often advised to “write what you know,” so while I have a healthy, overactive, and dramatic imagination, I expect the fine folks of Green Hills will love many of the jobs and hobbies that I love: quilting, sewing, reading, writing, cooking, baking, book stores, libraries, tea rooms, hair salons, dress shops, boutiques, antique malls, crafts, fabric shops, home decor, architecture, real estate, teaching, and singing. There will be a lot of football, and other sports like baseball, dance, and yoga. There will be doctors and nurses, firefighters and EMTs. There will be police and mayors and civil servants.
There will be tragedy and loss. There will be challenges and struggles. There will be a theme of facing Alzheimer's disease and the fight to end it.
There will be love — heartfelt and wholesome love, sweet love, deep and emotional love. Lots and lots of love!
While these common threads will be woven within the stories, each one is unique and engaging on its own. Each one is an opportunity to escape to Green Hills for a few hours, visit friends, discover love, and enjoy a happy ending.
Welcome to Green Hills ~ I’m thrilled you’ve come to visit!
Heat level: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested. Some Material May Not Be Suitable for Children Think of movies like Narnia, LOTR, and National Treasure.)
Ashli Montgomery is a wife, a momma, and an author whose passion is sharing love stories, books, quilts, yoga, recipes, and her favorite things in life. She is quilting to mend the mind by spearheading and educating a community of quilters through Quilt 2 End ALZ, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit she launched to use her quilting hobby as a platform to advocate for an end to Alzheimer's disease.
Ashli writes wholesome and heartfelt, small-town romance under the pen name Virginia’dele Smith to honor Syble Virginia Tidwell, Adele Gertrude Baylin, and Etta Jean Smith. These three cherished grandmothers were beautiful role models, teaching Ashli to love without judgment and to always put family first. Through Grandma Syble’s journals and appetite for books, through Momadele’s priceless cards and handwritten letters, and through many, many hours of visiting over fabric at Mema’s kitchen island, Ashli also learned to treasure words.
You are invited to join Ashli in Green Hills and learn more about Virginia’dele Smith and the many hats she enjoys wearing by subscribing to Ashli’s newsletter, The Gazette, at AshliMontgomery.com.
January 26th, 2023
Happy New Year! I can say that, right? It's still January. I'm chatting with you from Northern Florida. It's a little chilly but I've got sun, a hoodie, and a cup of one of my favorite afternoon beverages, Lady Grey tea. One of my fellow campers just popped over and share one of his birthday cupcakes with me. Thanks, Bill and happy birthday. 🥳️
As I was heading to my winter home in Florida (I’m retired from my paying job) thoughts about what to talk about this month. Then my phone dinged while sitting in a gas station off US 95. My book Felice hit number 5 on Amazon in the Romantic/Fantasy category. Not only did I try to do the happy dance in the truck, but the light bulb went off, and blogging about writing while traveling was born.
Back in 2017, hubby and I began talking about how we would spend our retirement. Going south was definitely in the plan. No more snow and ice. Pete previously slipped on ice and suffered major trauma to his leg, requiring surgery and months in a leg brace. To this day, he walks with a limp.
We have many friends in Florida. Okay, we had a general idea. But how? We couldn’t afford a second home, and we do love Northern New Jersey for the rest of the year.
A camper! That’s the ticket.
But I needed an office.
Okay, a big camper!
That’s what we did. After looking at between 50 and 60 rigs, we settled on 2HOOTs. She has a bunk house that doubles as an office and guest room.
During our sojourn to the Sunshine State last year, I not only finished Jazz House but also wrote and contracted for Sophia’s Magic Beans (releases 4/10/23). Then I began a multi-author series called The Mortar & Pestle (Sea Hunter releases 3/16/23). So, for me, traveling is conducive to writing.
Over the summer, we continued to travel for research. Maine and Massachusetts are full of naval history, and visiting places is immersive. Talking to people and standing on the shores where so much history happened was amazing.
Here’s my list of what I need to be a traveling author.
1. Internet access. (This is not guaranteed even in campgrounds that claim they have it.) We have one carrier for our phones, so I can hotspot another carrier for the truck. I’ve often been spotted wandering aimlessly around with my phone held high over my head searching. Emails, marketing, and zoom meetings are all a part of my life, and I need the connections.
2. I invested in a lap desk. It was inexpensive and comfortable (I’m using it now.)
3. The ability to focus. Writing is a full-time job for me, and I treat it as such. I get up and get ready like I’m still going to the office.
4. Know when enough is enough. Especially when I’m deep in research or editing, I can forget the time. Having a dog helps. She needs to go for walks, and so do I.
The lifestyle is not for everyone, but I’ve found my place. Inspiration, ideas, and research are around every bend in the road. If you haven’t yet, I hope this year you, too, find your place. If you have, then enjoy it.
What items can you not travel without? Where is your happy place?
I'm so excited and hope you are too! The Mortar & Pestle seven-author book series will release beginning in March. Aren't the covers stunning? (They were done by Sydney Winward). But you don't have to wait. We have put together a FREE sample book for you. Head over to Bookfunnel and download your free copy today at
And here's the link to the pre-order sale on Amazon
Your Host D.V. Stone
Award winning multi-genre author and blogger. Fantasy, romance, mid-grade. Nothing better than a campfire, book, and glass of wine. Okay maybe there is.📚
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