Category Archives: Dionne’s Blog

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My New Paranormal Cozy Mystery Series is Almost Here!

I’m alive! Yes, it’s official. I haven’t blogged in a very long time, but it’s only because life has been so busy. For those of you who don’t know, I’m an editor, author, mother of two, I run Booktastik, and I’m a part-time property valuer, plus I help my husband run his business. I’ve also recently taken up hapkido, because I’m trying to stay, or is that get, fit. It’s a losing battle, but I’m stubborn, so I’m not going down without a fight, literally. In the work-crazed madness that is my life, I’ve finally started writing consistently again.

There are some readers out there waiting for the next book in my epic fantasy series, The Rose of Nerine. I’m so sorry it’s not out yet, and I feel guilty, but I want it to be awesome, so it won’t be out until next year. I’ve more than half written that book, but it became a struggle. Life pressures, plus the pressure I put on myself to make it perfect had me stuck for words. I’d never believed in writers’ block before, but after suffering it for eighteen months, I realized it is totally a thing. A depressing, horrible cow of a thing. So in that time, around all my other commitments, I read, and I read, and I read. I discovered paranormal cozy mysteries, and I ended up reading a book a day. It was costing a fortune, so I decided, why not tell myself the story—it will take longer and it won’t cost me anything. And so I did :). I will be coming back to my epic fantasy, but I’m allowing myself a break to write some cozy mystery first.

The result of this decisions had my fingers flying over the keyboard. I wrote the first book in eleven days and the second in twenty. I’ve just started the third. I’ve almost finished final edits on the first book, which is coming out on the 29th of July. The second will go for first edits on 15th July and will be out on the 29th of August. I’m just waiting on the covers, which my awesome cover guy, Robert Baird is doing. I so can’t wait to see the final product, which will be totally original artwork. Eek!

Anyway, the purpose of this post is to introduce you to Lily, the main character in the Paranormal Investigation Bureau series. She’s a twenty-four-year-old Aussie photographer who finds out she’s a witch on the same day she discovers her brother’s been kidnapped, but he’s all the way over in the UK, in the quaint Kent village of Westerham. A witch from the Paranormal Investigation Bureau (PIB) turns up on her Sydney doorstep and convinces her to come with. They hop on a plane bound for the UK, and that’s where her adventure starts. I hope you’ll take this journey with her. So here are the first two chapters. And if you feel compelled to preorder it, it’s only 99 cents, and the links are after the sample. It’s available wide—Amazon, Kobo, iBooks (coming to Barnes & Noble soon). Enjoy!

WITCHNAPPED IN WESTERHAM

CHAPTER 1

The bride’s nasally whine cut through the string quartet’s soft music. “Hey, photographer, not there. Move that way a bit.” She waved a large knife, indicating where I should go, the glossy white ribbon tied around the handle rippling with her efforts. “Remind me again why I’m paying you when I’m giving all the direction?”

God help me, but I wanted to shove her face into the wedding cake. Deep breaths. I tried to smile while I took a step to the left. I looked through the viewfinder of my Nikon and assessed the shot. The whitewashed weatherboard walls and iron chandelier holding candles created a magical backdrop. So pretty.

“No! Oh my God, do I have to do everything myself?” she shrieked, and I started. The bride bore down on me, knife still in hand, and pushed my shoulder until I was situated exactly where she wanted.

Who said weddings were an easy way to earn money? The bride retreated to her spot next to the groom. At least he had the good grace to blush. I wondered if he was reassessing his choice of a life partner. Bad luck, buddy; you already put a ring on it. “Are we ready to cut the cake now?” she asked, heavily pencilled eyebrow raised, as if I’d been the one holding things up. Sheesh.

“Look this way,” I said, my eye twitching. The bride, Tracy, rolled her eyes. I guess I was stating the obvious, but her husband had been looking at her, so what was I supposed to do? They both turned to the camera, Tracy’s scowl quickly switching to a glowing smile. I snapped a few shots while they poised the tip of the knife on the icing then pushed the blade into the four-tiered work of art.

With Tracy occupied, I quickly stepped back to my original position and clicked away as they fed each other cake. Why hire me if you’re not going to trust my judgement? It wasn’t like I was the cheapest photographer out there, and I doubted Tracy had a degree in visual arts. Who’d come up with the “the customer is always right” saying? Honestly, most of the time, the customer had no idea about shot composition and lighting. A headache threatened as I thought about the editing suggestions that would be coming my way next week.

Her parents joined her, and her father leaned in for a hug. I quickly moved forward, focused the lens and clicked some close-ups. That would be an amazing shot—the emotion in his face brought tears to my eyes. I couldn’t wait to see it on my large desktop screen. Except…

I blinked and stopped clicking. I must be tired, because her father seemed see through, like I imagined a ghost would be. I could see Tracy’s mother through him. What the hell? I lowered the camera. And, of course, he was solid, normal again. I must need more coffee. Maybe Tracy’s whole crazy-bride thing had me so stressed that I was hallucinating.

Feedback exploded from the speaker system, destroying my hearing with laser precision. A giggle followed, and then a woman’s voice slurred out of the speakers. “Oopsie. Time to dance! Get your arses on the floor, peeps!” Taylor Swift blasted over the partygoers. So that was it for any conversation. I pulled my phone out of my back pocket and checked the screen. 8:45 p.m.: forty-five torturous minutes to go. At least the bride would be too busy to harass me, as her bridesmaids had dragged her onto the dance floor.

I slipped my phone back into my pocket and hoisted my camera in front of my face. This was probably one of my favourite parts of a wedding—the candid shots where everyone was having fun. Someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned.

The bride’s father stood there, solid as ever, thank God. He even smiled. “Hi, Lily. I wanted to say thank you very much for today. You helped make this an incredible day for my daughter. I know she can get a little carried away sometimes.” He shrugged, as if to say “what are you gonna do?” Hmm, I could think of a few things. “Anyway, here’s an extra something to show our appreciation.” His smile was genuine when he handed me a white envelope. It all felt a bit Mafia.

“Um, thank you, Mr Papadakis. That’s very kind of you.” He had already paid me the full amount for the job via direct debit, but I could only assume this was extra cash. I really wanted to know how much, but I wasn’t sure if it was polite to open the envelope in front of him.

“It’s my pleasure. My wife and I can’t wait to see all the pictures. Thanks again.” He smiled and made his way to the dance floor to bust some moves with his daughter. What a nice dad.

I took a deep breath and fought an unexpected tear. If I ever got married, I didn’t have a dad to celebrate with, or a mum. They disappeared when I was fourteen, presumed dead. Maybe I would just avoid the whole “getting married” thing, then I wouldn’t have to worry about missing them being there. At least I still had my older brother, James. After my parents disappeared, he took care of me. Then later, he met and married a London girl. They lived just outside London, but he called me every week, and I knew I’d be getting a call later for my birthday. He’d been over there for six years, but he never forgot the important dates.

I nabbed the last of the shots for the night, said goodbye to the bride and groom without too much drama, then lugged my equipment to my Subaru and packed it into the back seat. Once behind the wheel, I locked the doors—one could never be too careful—and opened the envelope. I simulated a drum roll by vibrating my tongue on the roof of my mouth—okay, it didn’t sound anything like a drum roll, but it was better than nothing. My ears rang from the loud music, but the crinkle of the envelope opening was still loud in the quiet car. I held my breath as I pulled out the contents… green plastic notes, which meant, oh my God! One thousand Aussie dollars in hundreds.

“Woohoo!” I screamed. This called for a song. “Happy birthday to me. Happy birthday to me. Happy birthday, dear Lily. Happy birthday to me!” Best present ever. One-thousand un-taxable dollars. I grinned. Maybe I could duck over to the UK sooner than I thought. This money was so going into my holiday/visit-my-brother fund. I turned the radio on and sung along with the latest pop tunes all the way home. Maybe turning twenty-four wasn’t so bad after all.

Except, I may have spoken too soon.

CHAPTER 2

 

I walked in my door at 10.45 p.m., and I was ready to go to sleep, but I didn’t want to miss James’s call. There was a hot shower with my name on it, after which I replied to a couple of texts from my friends wishing me happy birthday and begging me to come out with them, but I wasn’t in the mood. My birthday brought out the worst in me. I was normally a happy person, but depression came calling every birthday. It was easy to feel sorry for myself when I had no family to celebrate with. I missed the unconditional love I’d had when I was a kid—my parents’ and grandparents’ faces would light up when they saw me. The meals we’d have as a family, usually finished off with my grandmother’s apple strudel, were always a delicious feast with much arguing and laughter.

Comfy in my jammies, I settled onto my fawn-coloured couch and flicked through the channels. Yay that Bridesmaids was on, but boohoo that it only had twenty minutes left. It was my favourite comedy movie of all time. Maybe the universe was trying to make it up to me. I lay back on the couch, clutching my phone. At the end of the movie, I checked the iPhone screen. Nope, no calls, which I already knew, because the phone hadn’t rung, but I had to be sure, like sure, sure.

I yawned. 11.30 p.m., which made it 2.30 p.m. over in England. He should’ve called by now, unless he got caught up at work. Maybe there’d been a coding emergency, and all his company’s websites were down. That was more likely than him having forgotten, wasn’t it? Although, we all forget things sometimes. Disappointment settled over me. Tears burnt my overreacting eyes. Dammit, Lily, he’ll call. Stop being such a baby. I sniffled and wiped the heel of my hand over my eyes. No more crying.

Some other show called Dating Naked came on, where the contestants go on dates, you guessed it, naked. Oh, the horror of seeing people horse riding naked. Ew. I wouldn’t want to be the person cleaning that saddle afterwards. And I had no idea about anyone else, but the last thing I wanted to see on a first date was the guy’s junk, and trust me, I wasn’t a prude; it just wasn’t the most attractive part of a man. I was more of an “eyes and face” girl. Ah, late-night television, how you mock me. But I watched it, because it was better than staring at my phone. Okay, it wasn’t really, but whatever.

Shortly after 1:00 a.m., and two god-awful episodes of Dating Naked later, I fell asleep, clutching my silent phone.

Argh, morning. I turned my face away from the gross damp spot on my favourite cushion and wiped dribble off my face. There was nothing like waking up on the couch with an emotional hangover. I squinted and could just make out the time on my phone. No missed calls. No messages. It was too early for more disappointment. Time for coffee. Until my first coffee of the morning, I was only capable of grunts, but when James called, I’d have to do words.

I turned the machine on and filled the thingamajig—I had no idea what it was called, but that lack of knowledge didn’t affect my operating skills—with coffee grounds before screwing it into the main part of the machine. I pressed another button, but instead of hot water cascading through the grounds, sparks showered from the back of the machine.

“No!” I leaned over and ripped the plug from the wall, coughing through the smoke.

My coffee maker was dead. And what the hell? It was only twelve months old. I’d have to get the backup out—my stovetop percolator my grandmother left me when she died.

As I reached into the cupboard, my phone rang. It rang! Hmm, I didn’t recognise the number. Maybe James had trouble with his phone and had to borrow someone else’s?

“Hello?”

“Hello… Lily?” A woman’s voice broke through the static, and it sounded like Millicent.

“Hello, Millicent?”

“Lily, hello? Are you there? It’s—”

The line went dead. That was two deaths already this morning. Yes, they were metaphorical deaths, but the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end anyway, and I shuddered. Today was not looking good. Maybe I should’ve just gone back to bed.

However, I wasn’t a giver-uperrer, so I pressed redial. It rang, but as soon as someone answered, the line cut out. Hmm. The reception in my apartment was always fine, but I moved to the window anyway.

I pressed redial. This time, it didn’t even ring. I blew a raspberry, frustration lacing each droplet of spittle that flew from my tongue. Okay, then. Time to get dressed. I was failing at life this morning, so I’d let someone else make my coffee. The café down the street made a decent brew. Maybe I’d take a walk along the beach after I grabbed my coffee. That sounded like a plan.

I found black sports tights and a red T-shirt in my clean-clothes basket—I hated putting clothes away; it was so time-consuming and boring—and put them on. I dragged my sneakers out from under the bed and put them on too, grabbed my wallet, keys, and phone, and opened the door… to a slim, fifty-something-year-old woman in a grey suit, her hand poised to knock. Huh?

“Can I help you?” I couldn’t see any brochures, so I was probably pretty safe from a religious lecture—not that I hated religion; I was agnostic, and I believed in my right to live peacefully in un-annoyed bliss with my choice, just as I believed others had a right to their beliefs without me judging them and demanding they all become fence-sitters, like me.

Her stern gaze raked me from head to toe and back again. Was my appearance the cause of her frown—my T-shirt was a little creased—or was it her super-tight bun? Actually, I didn’t really want to find out.

“Look, I’m just on my way out, Ms…?”

“Angelica Constance DuPree, but Ma’am to you.” Okaaay. As well as being bossy, she had a refined English accent, which gave her words more gravity. She tipped her head back so her nose pointed higher: all the better to look down at me. “And you’re Lily Katerina Bianchi. You’re about what I expected.”

What was that supposed to mean? I blinked. My brain had nothing. Coffee. I needed coffee. Also, how did she know my name? I supposed she could have found it on the Internet. Was she a stalker? She could have a knife or something tucked into the back of her skirt under her suit jacket.

“…Ma’am, would you like to chat while we walk? I have to get… somewhere.” Coffee didn’t sound important enough a reason to rush outside, but believe me, it was almost life and death. I’d have a migraine by lunchtime if I missed my daily caffeine hit. I eased past her and shut my door, the deadbolt automatically locking in place. It would probably be safer to talk to her in public. She gave off a cranky and slightly scary vibe, to be honest, oh, and she knew my name; let’s not forget that.

“Very well, then. Once you get your coffee, we can come back here and talk. This is a matter to be discussed in private.”

Say again? How did she know I was going out for coffee? Did I look like a coffee junkie in withdrawals? Nah, someone suffering coffee withdrawals didn’t look like anything, at least not until I opened my car door, leaned out and threw up from a migraine. Yes, it had happened. More than once. Don’t judge me; Ma’am’s judgey glares were all I could take right now. Ooh, she was also looking smug, like she had one over on me. I suppose being able to mind-read would make you feel like that. I wanted to read minds, dammit! I didn’t really believe she could do that, did I?

Gah, I wanted coffee, like really, really badly, but this was crazy. I didn’t know this woman. I was not letting her tag along, but how to say it? I wasn’t usually one to speak my mind and be “difficult.” Which was probably what got most women into situations they wished they’d avoided. Maybe it was time to learn to annoy people and not worry.

“Look, Ma’am, I don’t know you, and I have no idea why you’re at my front door, or how you know my name. I suggest you tell me what you want now, and get it over with. Frankly, I don’t have the energy for weirdness today.”

She narrowed her eyes, probably assessing my likelihood of running before she could stab me. I edged towards the stairs, ready to sprint one floor down to freedom.

Ma’am rolled her eyes and sighed. “Honestly, Lily, what are we going to do with you? I’m not here to hurt you; I’m here to protect and guide you.”

And that didn’t sound freaking weird at all. Stuff it. I took off, bounding down the stairs two at a time until I was out the door, on the footpath, in public. Safe.

The sun shone on a cool morning, and it looked like the day was going to be gorgeous—weather wise, at least. It may have been rude of me to just leave like that, but I preferred to be safe now rather than dead. And that’s not an overreaction. Trust your gut was one of those sayings I lived by. If I was wrong about Ma’am, I could always apologise later, and we’d laugh about it. Yep, or she wouldn’t laugh and hold it against me forever.

I hurried along the footpath, past an assortment of unit blocks, from red-brick two-storey ones to rendered brick twelve-storey ones. Monday morning brought out a mixture of joggers, surfers, and people dressed for work. I crossed at the traffic lights and soon reached Surfer’s Brew. The delectable fragrance of fresh coffee swirled around me. I breathed it in and sighed. Ah. That was more like it.

Just before entering, I looked back. No sign of my weirdo morning visitor. Maybe my morning was improving. I smiled and stepped up to the counter. “Morning, Frances. Can I get a regular skim cap?” I didn’t get coffee here every day—because I had my coffee machine, or used to have—how depressing—but I visited regularly enough that they knew me. Sometimes I wanted something frothy with chocolate on the top, and I was too lazy to do that at home.

Frances was in her mid-thirties, had gorgeous straight blonde hair, which was pulled back in a sleek ponytail, and an infectious smile. “Hey, chicky. Coming right up. A little birdie told me it was your birthday yesterday. Happy birthday!” She banged used coffee grounds out of the thingamajig and filled it with new ones.

“Aw, thanks. Did you run into the girls last night?” The girls being my besties, Sophie and Michelle.

“Yep. How come you weren’t there? They told me you piked.” She screwed the thingamajig into the machine and pressed the button. And wouldn’t you know, it worked. I wish my machine still worked.

“Big day photographing a wedding. One drink and I would have fallen asleep.” I laughed—it wasn’t too far from the truth. So what if I left out the bit where I had a pity party because my brother hadn’t called. I’d try calling him later. Knowing him, he had a good reason for missing my birthday, and I would keep reminding myself until I knew for sure.

Frances frothed the milk and poured it into the coffee before sprinkling lots of chocolate on the top—she did extra for me, because it was my favourite part. Then she did some magic with a spoon and made a cute little heart on the top of the froth. “There you go.” She smiled, and I handed her four dollars—coffee habits didn’t come cheap.

“Thanks. You’re a lifesaver. See you later.” I waved. She waved. The usual. I stopped just outside the shop, unpopped the lid and licked the chocolatey goodness off it before taking a sip. Heaven. The simple things were really the best.

I replaced the lid and started down the street, contemplating whether I should return to my apartment, and possibly run into Ma’am, or go for that walk. There was nothing like a stroll on the beach to settle my mind. The rolling surf was calming. During summer, I’d go body surfing, but the water was a bit cool now, and I was the first to admit, I was soft.

Hmm, if I went back now and had to deal with Ms Crazy-pants, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy my coffee properly. That was an easy decision: walk it was!

But since when was life that easy?

I reached the end of the path and the beginning of the sand. Salty sea spray hazed the air, seagulls wheeled overhead, and the sun warmed my face. Surfers bobbed in the water, waiting for the next wave, and a young mother watched her two kids build a sandcastle. Before I could absorb the peace of the scene, I noticed something, or rather someone, that was out of place: a woman in a drab but well-tailored business suit and low heels with her arms crossed in front of her chest and another self-satisfied smile. Seemed like she only had two expressions: pissed off and smug. I breathed in deeply, and when I exhaled, my serenity went with it. Wasn’t it supposed to work the other way around?

“You can run, but you can’t hide.” Great, she was intimidating me with clichés.

“On a scale of one to ten, your creep factor is about an eight. Think you could tone it down?”

She smiled. It could have even been genuine this time. “At least you have some spunk. You’re going to need it, missy.” Her expression morphed into sad then quickly into serious.

I sipped my coffee. I had a feeling I was going to need all the caffeine support I could get before she was done with me.

Angelica nodded. “Unfortunately, you’re right.”

Not again with the mind reading. How was she doing that? “Can you please tell me what you want?”

“Look, we don’t have time to dilly-dally. You appear strong enough, at least, and there’s no way to say this nicely, so I’ll just say it. Your brother, James, is missing. He disappeared seven days ago.”

No amount of coffee could have prepared me for that. My stomach fell as fast as my cup. It hit the ground, still half full, dammit. The lid came off, splashing brown liquid on my runners and shins. A chill sluiced the sun’s warmth from my arms like the reaper’s scythe, leaving goosebumps in its wake. I shivered.

I was transported back to the day my mum’s best friend sat James and me down and explained that our parents weren’t coming home. Ever again. I remembered James gripping my hand and squeezing for dear life. We’d held fast to each other since then, until he’d gone off to the UK. Tears spilled down my cheeks. I wanted to fall to the ground and curl into a ball, but making a scene wasn’t going to help. Was James’s disappearance somehow related to my parents’? Was I next? No, don’t be stupid, Lily. Coincidences exist. That’s all it is.

Ma’am stepped closer and laid a stiff hand on my shoulder. She patted me awkwardly then dropped her hand. I appreciated the gesture: I wasn’t much of a hugger either. My personal space was just as important to me as my right to believe in nothing.

“You look a little pale, dear. I’m sure you have many questions. Let’s return to your apartment and grab your things. We have a plane to catch.”

What? “Where to?”

“Why, London of course. Then we’re driving to Westerham. You’re going to help us find your brother. Hopefully he’s still alive.”

Hopefully? Nausea clutched my throat and squeezed. There was nothing I could do. Nothing. And who was “us”? Common sense wormed its way into my head, or was that avoidance? This wasn’t really happening, was it? I shook my head slowly and tried to clutch onto something normal, safe. “I have work to do, photos to edit. I can’t just leave.” Not that I didn’t want to find my brother, but this was beyond crazy. Was he really missing or was this some farce to kidnap me? Although I wasn’t really kidnap material—there was no one rich who would pay ransom to get me back. Although, my parents hadn’t been kidnap-worthy either, and they’d disappeared, and my brother? Deep breaths, Lily.

I bent and gathered the cup and lid. No matter how loopy things got, I wasn’t a litterbug.

“You can edit the photos on your laptop on the plane or when we get to England. I could even have your desktop delivered, if you’d like. I know this is hard to believe. Just bear with me, and I’ll explain everything while you’re packing. Come on.” She started walking towards my apartment block.

I shuffled along next to her, my legs heavy as if they were weighed down with lead boots. My gut told me she was telling the truth, so I concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. I bit my lip to keep from crying. Now wasn’t the time to fall apart. My brother needed me.

And I never let down those I loved.

Never.

***

I hope you enjoyed this sample. You can preorder your ebook copy from: Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. The paperback will be out on the 29th too.

Thanks for stopping by :).

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Holy Box Set Madness, Batman!

How awesome are ebooks? That was a rhetorical question, by the way. I remember when I was a teenager and paperbacks were the only form books came in. The cost to keep reading was significant, and, of course, when you finished a book and wanted the next one, you had to get your butt to the shop. But, in this digital age, you can nab hours, hours, and hours of reading for such a small price, whenever you want. So, thanks to the digital age, there is MARKED BY FATE, an awesome, magical, bargain-priced fantasy and science fiction box set collection.

I’ve gotten together with 25 other amazing young adult authors, and we’ve put this set together to reach new readers. If you’ve read and liked Shadows of the Realm, there is a good chance you’ll enjoy many (if not all) of the books in this new, limited-time collection. All authors are bestsellers, and some are even USA Today or New York Times bestsellers, so you know you’re getting quality.

If you were to purchase the 26 included books separately, you’d spend over $100 – and that’s even with ebooks being such a bargain in the first place. The set is only going to be around until November, so if you want a copy, I’d go grab it now. Did I mention you’ll be getting TWENTY-SIX novels for 99 cents? Holy moly, that’s an awesome deal. Seriously. It’s more than a week of constant reading.

Here’s a list of what else can you get for 99 cents:

  • A third of a cup of coffee
  • Five lollies (sweets for you US peeps)
  • Two minutes on the bus (sitting next to someone with really bad B.O.)
  • One raw chicken wing
  • One sip of wine (and who can stop at just one?)
  • Toxic purple lipstick from the bargain bin at the local pharmacy.

To be honest, I can’t think of anything else you would actually want that you can get for 99 cents. So, if you love young adult fantasy and science fiction (including but not limited to epic fantasy, urban fantasy, dystopian worlds, alien worlds) be kind to yourself and grab it—you deserve it, really you do.

BUT that’s not all! At the risk of sounding like one of those TV ads that offer you everything from a knife set to the kitchen sink, if you preorder the box set (ie order it before the release date on the 24th of October) you’ll also get BONUS books, bookmarks and a host of other awesome stuff (that you can check out on our website www.markedbyfate.com. I just checked, and we’re up to 70 books in total with bonuses—holy freaking box-set madness, Batman!!).

Phew! If that’s not enough to satisfy an avid reader, I have no idea what is—maybe try eating the toxic lipstick for some added thrills. For the rest of you reasonable, awesome and soon-to-be happy people, go and grab your copy right now. Just click on the retailer name, and you’ll magically be transported to where you need to be:

AmazonBarnes & Noble, Kobo, and iBooks.

Happy reading!marked by fate profile

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The Very Real Abuse of an Abused Fictional Character

When my content editor had finished her passes through my last novel, Tempering the Rose, she said, “You’re quite brave choosing a central protagonist who’s experienced such terrible abuse.” I didn’t know why she would say that.

Now I do.

I want to preface this blog post by saying I am married to a wonderful man who respects me and treats me as an equal, and I have two kind and intelligent sons, whom I love with all my heart. This is not meant to man bash. Both women and men have obstacles to face in this world, but today I am choosing to focus on the struggles faced by women because they are women.

I also felt I had to defend my stance on child abuse because of an ill-thought-out review posted today by someone who has not read the whole book. As an author, I believe readers are entitled to their opinion, even if that opinion is that they hate my writing. I’m okay with that, but sometimes reviewers can cross the line from opinion to outright misinformation, which in this case is an attack on me personally and on my reputation.

A reader has my book on a Goodreads shelf titled: dark-erotic, wtf, arc. She also makes the comment: “I’ve read my fair share of “dark” reads, but I am not fan of sex with young children.” This implies my book is an erotic fiction that contains child pornography, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m disgusted that this woman would suggest I would do this. This is an epic fantasy novel in the same vein as Lord of the Rings or George R.R. Martin’s works. This is NOT a romantic, erotic fiction, and nowhere is this listed as such. In fact, my book shows how damaging child abuse is to the victims. Child abuse is something I abhor, and my heart breaks for anyone who has been abused—whether it has happened as a child or adult.

We live in a world where we view women through the distorted glass of the existing patriarchal ideology—in other words, we all look at women the way men look at women. And I acknowledge that not all men in first-world countries are trapped in twentieth century ideals (many men treat women with respect and love), but many still believe in sexist ideals, and even worse, so do many women. We have been conditioned from the time we are born to see things a certain way, and it takes an open mind and the ability to think critically to question our beliefs. Unfortunately, there are still many without the ability to do this. Which brings me to Tempering the Rose and how my main character has been perceived.

I purposely created a character who had been sexually, physically, and emotionally abused as a child. I wanted to shine the light on it. I wanted people to talk about it. I wanted those who hadn’t had to suffer the terror of it to empathize with those who had, and I wanted those who had been through it to know that others believe is not okay and that there are people out there who care about what happened to them and who know they did nothing to deserve it.

If it’s not a writer’s job to have or initiate these conversations, I don’t know whose it is. Abuse of children and women continues because of silence. Speaking out about this abuse is the only way to begin the healing process for victims, protect future generations from suffering the same fate, and confirming to ALL of society that this is not okay.

Addy (the main character) was not only abused as a child, she is also a woman. She is a strong person. She is a survivor. She sees what men have done to her and to other women and children. Every day men treat her as if she’s stupid and unable to make decisions for herself because she’s a woman. Addy stands up for herself in these situations and is effectively pushing back against the patriarchy. Some readers find this offensive and have called her immature and whiny. Funnily enough, most of these readers are women, and that makes me sad. They still don’t get it. Addy is not whining—she’s being assertive and standing up for herself. Maybe these readers don’t think she should call these men out when they belittle her. She should just keep her mouth shut and appreciate that these men know better, that they’re just trying to help her see what she can’t see. Thank you, Patriarchy.

Some readers think she’s immature because she doesn’t trust men, even the men who have helped her. They don’t see that if you’ve been abused, you can’t trust anyone more than you can trust yourself. That kind of trust takes a long time to develop. When you’ve been beaten by a stick multiple times, you learn to hate and fear that stick; you don’t second guess those feelings and wonder if maybe that stick could also do other, nicer, useful things like be a toy for a dog or burnt to make a warm fire. Why do women hate her for this? Do they think because a man says something, it must be true? Are they questioning Addy’s judgment because she is a woman? Do they lack emotional maturity and think she should ‘just get over it’ as has been said to many a (male and female) rape survivor?

I know not everyone will get the same thing from a book, and every reader comes to a book with their own experiences that define meaning for them. I don’t expect everyone to love my book, and in fact, I know I’m not the best writer ever, that I can always improve. What does disappoint me is that women still resent other women for demanding equality, for daring to think they are just as good as a man. I also find it extremely disheartening to know that a reader would go out of their way to misrepresent my book to others. Instead of aiding the fight against child abuse, they are perpetuating it by trying to silence my written words.

I know my book will not single-handedly change the world, but if it helps one person see they are worth it, or shows someone a different way to think about who they are and how they can help make society better for everyone, I’ve done my job.

*Just an update. The reviewer has removed the misleading statement from her Goodreads review, but has refused to change the Amazon heading, and resents that she has been asked to alter her review in any way, as now it’s ‘not an honest review’.

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NEW RELEASE Ciara Ballintyne’s Epic Fantasy ‘In the Company of the Dead’

Only a fool crosses a god, but Ellaeva and Lyram will do anything to get what they want.

InTheCompanyOfTheDead_300dpi_1842x2763 FINAL

Title: In the Company of the Dead
Author: Ciara Ballintyne
Series: The Sundered Oath #1
Genre: Epic Fantasy/Fantasy Romance


Chosen as a five-year-old orphan to be the Left Hand of Death, Ellaeva has nothing to call her own—nothing except a desire to avenge her murdered parents. Her duties leave her no time to pursue the man responsible, until both her work and revenge lead to the same place—the lonely castle where Lyram Aharris is serving out his exile for striking his prince.

Lyram is third in line for the throne, and when the castle is unexpectedly besieged, he fears his prince means to remove him from contention for the crown permanently. Ellaeva’s arrival brings hope, until she reveals she has not come for the siege, but instead she hunts the castle for a hidden necromancer dedicated to the dark god of decay.

Within their stone prison, Ellaeva and Lyram must fight to save themselves from political machinations and clashing gods. But as the siege lengthens, the greatest threat comes from an unexpected quarter.


Amazon | Kobo | iBooks | Other

Chapter 1
Premonition
Only a fool would split hairs with a god, least of all the goddess of death, but Ellaeva would count herself such a fool and consider it worth it—if she could get away with it.

She leaned across the knife-scarred timber of the tavern table.

“Are you sure?” she asked, her tone even and barely loud enough to be audible over the noise of the flute and the zither. Her work on behalf of the goddess Ahura, adjudicating the small war here in Dayhl, could only be abandoned in favour of a greater threat. If she was going to chase off after the man who killed her parents, she needed to be sure her arguments stacked up. The pursuit of personal justice wouldn’t be enough.

Is it justice or revenge?

No time to worry about that now. She tugged her black hood farther down over her infamous face, even though deep shadows blanketed the common room corner. She’d chosen a table far from the tallow candles mounted in their stag-horn chandeliers. There was no point taking chances; the black hair and porcelain skin of a Tembran would be remarked here among the platinum-haired Dayhlish. Besides, someone might recognise her.

“In Ahlleyn, sure as the spring comes after winter, Holiness.” The narrow-faced man across from her grinned, baring teeth more brown than yellow. The acrid smoke from the candles didn’t cover his pungent breath.

She half-stood, making an urgent, negating gesture as she glanced around, but the hubbub of chatter from the patrons and the music covered his slip. No one even glanced their way. On the far side of the room, away from the two blazing hearths, tables were pushed aside for dancing. She dropped back into her seat, her black robes fluttering around her booted feet.

Ahlleyn lay on the other side of the continent, months of travel by horse. If her informant was right and a Rahmyrrim priest had been dispatched there, he would likely be gone long before she arrived—unless she begged a favour, but she’d not do that for a lark of her own. However, if it meant catching the man who killed her parents, well then maybe she could come up with an argument that would hold water for a god. Old grief and anger, stale from a decade or more, stirred in her gut, and her fingers curled around the edge of the table.

Releasing her grip, she reached to the inner pocket in her robes where rested the smudged charcoal drawing of a man. Hard work and luck had helped her obtain that picture of the man she believed killed her parents—a man she knew to be a priest of Rahmyr. If she decided to act against her standing orders, then she needed to be sure it was the man she was after, and that he was involved in some act heinous enough to attract her goddess’s attention.

“Did you get the name of this priest? Or his description?” An unknown number of priests served Rahmyr, but she knew six by sight—six still alive anyway.

The thin man shook his head. “Nobody mentioned. I got the impression he’s already there, or on his way leastways.”

She scowled. No way to be sure then that this was the man she wanted. Begging favours of Ahura for her personal satisfaction was a risky business, especially if she neglected her duties, and perhaps it would all be for nothing.

With one hand, she flattened the map that curled on the table between them. The patrons behind them exploded with laughter at something unheard. Ignoring the noise, she stabbed her finger at an unmarked portion of the map in the foothills of the Ahlleyn mountains. If he didn’t know who, maybe he knew the what. “There, you say? What possible interest could Rahmyr have there? There’s nothing of interest at all.”

She lowered her voice even further as she uttered the name of the goddess of decay, and glanced around again. That name spoken too loudly would bring unwanted attention. But nearly all the tavern patrons were busy whirling on the impromptu dance floor or lined up to watch the dancers, their backs to her.

The nameless man leaned forward, treating her to another stomach-clenching blast of foul breath, and touched a spot perhaps half an inch away from her finger. A tiny, unlabelled picture marked something there.

“Here, Holiness.”

She squinted at the picture, letting his lapse slide. The image represented a holy place. There was an old shrine to Ahura somewhere in the Ahlleyn Borders, wasn’t there? And a castle built over it. “Caisteal Aingeal an Bhais.”

“That sounds like the name,” he agreed. “Never could get my mouth around them Ahlleyn words. Pink castle, I heard.”

She grunted. That was the one. “There’s still nothing there.”

Nothing of interest to Rahmyr anyway. The shrine wasn’t particularly important, and the castle held no political significance.

“What’s there,” the man said, “is Lyram Aharris.”

The premonition went through her like a blast of icy wind, stiffening her in her chair as the hand of the goddess brushed against her mind. A light caress, but from a giant, and so it sent her mind reeling. She clutched the table for support. Lyram Aharris’s reputation preceded him the length of the continent: eight years ago, at the age of twenty-seven, he’d brought an end to the centuries-long conflict between Ahlleyn and Velena through a series of brilliant military manoeuvres. He’d survived the Siege of Invergahr against near-impossible odds, brought the crown prince safely clear of the conflict, and fought the Velenese to a standstill using their own guerrilla warfare tactics against them. As a novice, she’d covered the tactics thoroughly as part of her studies. The man was a military genius. That he was third in line for the throne of Ahlleyn was the least there was to know about him—at least it was, until his king dismissed him from court. The rumours on everyone’s lips said he murdered his wife, even if no one could prove it.

What did Rahmyr want with him?

Ciara Ballintyne grew up on a steady diet of adult epic fantasy from the age of nine, leaving her with a rather confused outlook on life – she believes the good guys should always win, but knows they often don’t. She is an oxymoron; an idealistic cynic.

She began her first attempts at the craft of writing in 1992, culminating in the publication of her debut work, Confronting the Demon, in 2013. Her first book to be published with Evolved Publishing is In the Company of the Dead. She holds degrees in law and accounting, and is a practising financial services lawyer. In her spare time, she speculates about taking over the world – how hard can it really be?

If she could be anything, she’d choose a dragon, but if she is honest she shares more in common with Dr. Gregory House of House M.D. – both the good and the bad. She is a browncoat, a saltgunner, a Whedonite, a Sherlockian, a Ringer and a Whovian… OK, most major geek fandoms. Her alignment is chaotic good. She is an INTJ.

Ciara lives in Sydney, Australia, with her husband, her two daughters, and a growing menagerie of animals that unfortunately includes no dragons.

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My New Dark Epic Fantasy is Almost Here!

Yes, I’m slack. My new dark epic fantasy is coming out soon, and I haven’t even done a cover reveal on my blog. Well, here it is, cover reveal, blurb, links, sample, all the juicy stuff. Drumroll … may I introduce, Tempering the Rose. I will first thank the incredibly talented Robert Baird for my cover. I told him what I wanted, and he delivered with style (lucky me).

tempering-the-rose_ebook copy

I normally write YA fantasy, but I decided to test the waters of fantasy for older readers. I’ve enjoyed writing grittier scenes and language (okay, so that’s me politely saying my characters use the F word). At its core, it’s a story of revenge, love, and redemption, oh and saving the world (hence the epicness). There aren’t any dragons in this one, as far as I can tell (you never know what book 2 holds). I hope you give this one a go if you like fast-paced epic fantasy. And that’s Addy on the cover — my kick-ass main character hell-bent on revenge, and when you hear what was done to her, you’ll totally understand. Will she get her man? There’s only one way to find out ;). The book comes out April 19 on iBooks and the 2nd of May on Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble. Buy before 19 April and get it for the special pre-release price of 99 cents. On 19th of April, the price will rise to $3.99.

BLURB

A dark epic fantasy series, where one woman’s thirst for revenge will put the entire world in jeopardy.

The only thing twenty-one year old Adrastine wants is revenge against her depraved father—but when she tries to kill him, she is caught and thrown into a holy war for a god she doesn’t believe in. But disaster is coming, and all Adrastine’s problems will seem minor by comparison. Someone, or something, is draining the planet’s lifeblood, killing the land and everything on it at an alarming rate.

Jacob is a shelon, a man who can wield magic, and a spy dispatched by Queen Valtice to find The Rose of Nerine – the only one who can stop the rape of the land and save the people. But when Jacob finds Adrastine, he can’t convince her that she is The Rose, let alone to leave her home and journey with him across the tempestuous sea to Nerine.

Adrastine is drawn to Jacob, despite their differences. But that is a dangerous path, as he is an unwelcome distraction to her quest for revenge. And if she learns his secrets, it will cement her hatred of men forever, weakening powers she is only just learning she has, powers needed to save their world.

CHAPTER 1

Addy crouched on the roof and stared over the parapet to the cobbled street below. A royal seeker stood watchful at the whorehouse door across the street, dim light from a wall lantern throwing his angular features into shadow. The threat of the sword hanging from his hip and his scowl would be enough to keep most people away. But not Addy. Not tonight.

The crisp air burned in her throat. Her thumb caressed the smooth timber of her bow. Back and forth. Back and forth. The rhythm did little to soothe her nerves, and she bit her bottom lip, the sting of it occupying her mind, keeping negative thoughts from sending her into retreat. In her other hand she gripped a cold arrow shaft so hard her nails dug deep half-moon indentations into her palm.

She had dreamed of this moment for the past seven years. Once her arrow pierced her father’s heart, she could get on with her life. At twenty-one, she was young enough to have a future — one far from Pyren, no doubt — but it was more than she had been brave enough to believe in before escaping her mother’s indifference and father’s abuse five years earlier.

What if the murder goes wrong? The searing image of a long-suppressed memory ignited, like a flash of lighting. Her thumb ceased stroking. She missed a breath. Nervous energy spread from her chest into her throat. Addy inhaled slowly to calm herself. She blinked, trying to clear her mind, then refocused on the door, which was still closed.

She would never go back. The nothingness of death was preferable to ending up where she had started — under the care and control of High Seeker Radnok and her addict mother.

Addy tilted her head to one side then the other, stretching her neck. Her gaze never left the whorehouse door. If she missed this opportunity, there would be no other. She would be on the run or dead.

The seeker stepped quickly to the side as the door opened. Harp notes cascaded out with the haze of smoke and two more seekers; the men beckoned to a horse and carriage waiting nearby. The horses moved forward, the strike of hooves on stone breaking through Addy’s focus, making her start.

She stood.

Relaxing one hand took great effort. Addy swiftly nocked an arrow. String taut, she rested her icy hand against her face, the comforting pressure of the bowstring against her cheek helping her focus. Any moment now. You can do this, Addy.

High Seeker Radnok stepped through the gloom. His footfalls matched the clack of hoof on stone as he moved into the light, into range. He was as she remembered him — tall, broad-shouldered, arrogance in the tilt of his head, dark beard framing a sneering mouth.

Addy inhaled deeply then held her breath, trying to temper her racing heart. The carriage moved closer. It would soon block her shot.

No more time.

Radnok lifted his gaze from the approaching carriage and looked right at her, his eyes widening.

Her hands shook. Another flash of memory. Blinded again.

Never going back.

The clop of hooves.

Shouts.

Never going back.

Radnok’s surprise swiftly dissipated.

She reached deep inside for the burning fire in her belly. The cocooning molasses of calm the fire brought slowed the world. Harp notes vibrated longer, became deeper. Her vision intensified — things far away seemed closer. Radnok’s hateful face was so clear, she could even see the smirk line next to his mouth.

Despite the world moving slower for her, Addy’s heart galloped with fear. She saw the triumph in Radnok’s eyes, saw it turn into something worse. He thought he had won.

Between one heartbeat and the next, she released.

 

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Writers’ Unleashed is Here! – Shire Writers’ Festival

Hey! Long time no post; I know. I’ve had things cooking in the background – namely the new comedy web series (not fantasy related) that I’ve written and am producing. But that’s not the reason for this post — that’s just my excuse for not posting for AGES. So, onto the reason for this post.

This coming Saturday — the 14th of November from 9 am – 4 pm, I’ll be attending the Writers’ Unleashed Festival in Gymea, Sydney (Australia, not Canada). There are going to be lots of great author talks and panels, so if you love books, meeting authors, or you are an author/writer who wants to hear about all things publishing/writing related, you can grab your tickets HERE.

I’ll be on a panel discussing self publishing, with Elizabeth Storrs and Helen Armstrong from 3 – 4 pm. We’ll all be selling/signing books afterwards. I’d love to see you there. You never know what awesome writers you’ll meet, not to mention the great information that could help you on your publishing journey.

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Looking Through Sad

Poetry isn’t my best ‘thing’ but it’s a wonderful way of exorcising intense feelings. I wrote this because someone I love is dying of cancer, a scenario all too common these days. I’m also sending hugs to everyone out there who has lost someone they love to the hateful thing called death.

Looking Through Sad

I’m looking through sad
My heavy gaze
Barely touched by my smile.
Weighed down by sorrow
The press of recollection
Of a truth better not known
That lies at the end
Of everything

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