Posted in books, new release, reading

Seven Noble Knights by J. K. Knauss

J. K. Knauss’s epic of medieval Spain, Seven Noble Knights, is now available from Encircle Publications. You can order it here or here, and see interviews, historical tidbits, and videos here. Sign up for castles, stories, and magic at JessicaKnauss.com.

Excerpt from Part One, Chapter III: The Wedding

Young Gonzalo’s uncle, Ruy Blásquez, is receiving Doña Lambra as a bride in exchange for his service to Castile. Gonzalo isn’t at all sure Lambra should be marrying his uncle, and during the ceremony his sensations run toward the culinary.

Doña Sancha shooed her sons away from the cathedral door and drew dried herbs and flowers from pockets Gonzalo hadn’t known were inside her tunic and cloak. With a stick, she carved a large circle on the hard earth. Doña Sancha set the herbs and flowers inside the circle in a pattern with meanings she might have shared with a daughter, but were a mystery to Gonzalo.

“You’ll stand here,” she told her brother, Ruy Blásquez. “When your bride comes from that side, you’ll step inside the circle together.” She arranged her husband and sons on Ruy Blásquez’s side of the circle. Gonzalo ended up next to his uncle, so close he could hear each shallow breath he took.

Count García arrived with a full complement of knights and squires and four banners in white with red castles, as well as a fiddler and a flutist who made ready to play. So many people in the plaza must have been making the loudest ruckus since the city had been won from the Moors, but Gonzalo heard nothing.

From between the buildings at the far end of the plaza emerged forty women who walked with their hair covered to emphasize their married status. Their laughter and singing couldn’t distract Gonzalo from Doña Lambra, who tottered on their shoulders.

An heirloom beaded necklace competed with her yellow hair, shining in tight plaits on her shoulders with ornamental brass tips that looked as if they had come out of a treasure chest long ago. A mail girdle, inlaid with brass and pieces of jet at the edges, cinched her bright blue tunic from under her breastbone to down over her hips. Gonzalo shivered at the thought of the bitter touch of the matching mail sleeves, from the decorated wristlets up to her shoulders. A burgundy-colored cloak edged with three rows of golden braid was fastened over her shoulder with a gilded brooch in the shape of a lion rampant. A square cap, decorated all around with braid and gold carbuncles, looked like a royal crown. Gonzalo imagined he wasn’t at his uncle’s wedding, but that this bride had come from the farthest reaches of Christendom to marry the King of Navarra or León.

The married women set Lambra down in the middle of their ranks. She let the cloak fan out behind her unsteady stride. Her face was frozen into a grimace like the one the Virgin Mary wore as she cradled the Savior’s dead body inside the cathedral.

Gonzalo remembered Lambra’s grin at the banquet days before, when her mouth had dripped red with juices from the roasted bull’s testicles and the sauce-engorged bread trencher. Each time she received the goblet, she had made sure to turn it so that her lips didn’t touch the same spot as Ruy Blásquez’s. She didn’t take the same precaution against Álvar Sánchez, seated on her other side. Gonzalo could hardly taste his food through a choking desire to throw his eating knife across the table into the gloating knight’s hand so it could never touch Lambra so familiarly again.

There he was now, that upstart Álvar Sánchez, wearing just as juicy a grin, so close to Doña Lambra that the obnoxious curl on the toe of his boot intruded on the magic circle.

“What is that blasphemous behemoth doing there? Shouldn’t a member of the groom’s family stand next to the bride?” Gonzalo whispered to Gustio.

Gustio knocked his elbow into Gonzalo’s ribs. “Why? Were you hoping it would be you, little brother?” He chortled until their mother hissed at them to be silent.

Count García was addressing the crowd. “…with these deeds, Ruy Blásquez has earned as a bride my loveliest cousin, probably the most beautiful woman Castile has seen since my mother joined the Kingdom of Heaven. May they live many more years and have many loyal Castilian children.” He raised his arms, which the crowd took as a sign to cheer and shout.

Gonzalo noticed that his uncle had already moved into the circle and reached for Lambra’s hands. She was looking at Ruy Blásquez, but not with love or even curiosity. It was a look of judgment. Gonzalo tried to imagine how his uncle’s soft eyes, long nose, and weak chin fared on Lambra’s scale.

“I receive you as mine, so that you become my wife and I your husband,” Ruy Blásquez said. Gonzalo was relieved to glimpse him smiling widely, displaying his straight, white teeth to his judge in the form of a bride.

Ruy Blásquez smiled and waited, waited and smiled. Gonzalo witnessed a thousand expressions cross Lambra’s face like clouds in a stormy sky. At last, Lambra’s maid emerged from the crowd and leaned over the circle. “I receive you as mine…” she prompted so quietly that Gonzalo had to read her lips.

“I receive you as mine so that you become my… husband… and I your… wife,” said Doña Lambra, her eyes narrow. She pulled her hand away from Ruy Blásquez to wipe at her plump lips, as if the words had sullied them.

She craned her neck to look at Álvar Sánchez and Gonzalo knew she wished she had said the words to him. His heart beat faster. Then she shifted her gaze to Gonzalo. He felt as if he were smothered with the parsley, fennel, red carrot, and beet sauce from the banquet. Such was the hunger he saw in her eyes, a hunger he couldn’t help but feel, too, and which raged all the more, the more he tried to contain it. He remembered the way the bull’s testicles had flopped onto Doña Lambra’s trencher under their own weight and the way they deflated when she plunged her knife into the center of the sacs.

He stopped a startled cry in his throat.

“Long live the newlyweds!” The crowd shouted until they were the only words Gonzalo remembered ever hearing.

Buy a copy of Seven Noble Knights on:

You can also pick up a paperback copy at your favorite indie bookstore: https://bookshop.org/books/seven-noble-knights/9781645991205.

Posted in books, creative writing, ebooks, new release, paranormal, reading

Excerpt: The Children of the Seventh Son by @ScottTheWriter

The Children of the Seventh Son

Excerpt: A riot in Constantinople

By Scott Bury

Andrina returned to the inner courtyard then, carrying a large bundle in one hand and dragging something else behind her in the other. It scraped along the stone floor, adding an irritating note to the clamour from beyond the villa’s walls. “Papa!” she panted, before dropping her burdens with a clamour.

Javor knelt in front of her. “Your armour, Papa,” she panted. She held his steel helmet in the crook of her arm. The bundle was his lamellar cuirass, greaves and arm protectors. But she had not brought several other essential items.

It must have taken all her strength to carry it here.

“Mauricius!” Javor called, loosening his great-grandfather’s dagger in the scabbard he always wore on his side. “Take care of Andrina.”

“I want to help you, papa,” Andrina said before Mauricius swept her into his arms and passed her to one of the slaves he had brought. She struggled until she slipped out of the slave’s arms.

Javor put his hand on her shoulder. “You can help me by staying here with the others and showing them how to be brave. Adam,” he called to his oldest son, “you help your mother stay calm.” Adam nodded and went to Calanthe, who had collapsed back onto her couch. He hugged her and wriggled to find a place to sit on her lap.

Javor picked up his helmet and the armour that his daughter had dragged in and nodded at Gaetan, who followed him to his study in the very centre of the domus. There, he quickly took out the rest of his armour. He pulled on the felt cap that went between his head and the helmet. Gaetan, flinching at every sound from the front gate, helped him with the cuirass and arm braces, then held his long sword as Javor fastened his greaves.

Taking the sheathed sword in his left hand, Javor strode down the corridor to the front courtyard. He took a firm stance in front of the little lemon tree as the pressure on the gate splintered the thick board that, held in place by iron brackets, formed a secure lock.

With a final sickening crack, the gate burst open. A group of young men in ragged tunics, shock on their faces, stood just beyond it.

“Rich man,” said the one in front. He grinned, a gap black in his teeth. He had thick black hair and blood on his cheek, dully illuminated by a flaming torch held by the young man beside him.

“I do not want to kill any of you,” Javor announced in a firm, steady voice. “But if you take one more step, I will.” He drew the long sword with a ringing sound. Under his shirt, Preyatel’s vibration decreased to a dull tickle against his chest.

The gap-toothed man stepped inside, grinning. He raised a heavy wooden club. “There are many of us, rich man,” he said, and spat at Javor’s feet. “Let us take what we want and maybe we will not kill you.” The other men behind him stepped closer, too, but not as far as their leader.

The lead man’s eyes flicked to a vase with gold leaf on its edges, sitting in a little alcove on the wall. “Take that,” he said, and a thin teenaged boy behind him ran up and grabbed it. “What are you going to do about that, rich man?” the leader teased.

Javor moved his right foot behind him, presenting a narrow target to the mob. He scanned them. A number held blazing torches, others pikes, heavy clubs or knives. None of them looked like former legionnaires.

What does a former legionnaire look like?

Shut up, brain.

The leader barked a laugh. “I knew it. Didn’t I tell you, boys? These rich men have no balls. That’s why I father all their children!” Behind him, some of the others laughed.

“Take the vase,” Javor said. “Go home. No one else needs to die tonight.”

The leader laughed, and the followers behind him echoed.

Javor stepped closer. If he leaned forward, he could sever the leader’s head. “One warning. You cannot harm me.” Preyatel thrummed against his chest in agreement. “But I can hurt you. If I have to, I will kill you. But I do not want to.”

The leader laughed again. Preyatel leaped under Javor’s shirt, hot as the torch in the hand of the man beside the leader.

Fast as flame, the leader swung his club at Javor’s head. But faster was Javor’s sword into the man’s neck. His amulet vibrated, filling his head with a keening song. Blood spurted, covering Javor’s face and cuirass. Before he could control it, his sword found its way into two of the men with torches. It sang a death song as Javor followed, dancing into the mob, led by the blade and the amulet’s direction.

When he halted in the middle of the street, the mob streamed away down the side alleys. Javor drew his breath slowly, calmly, his sword comfortable in his grip. Light from two sputtering torches on the cobblestones illuminated one side of a single face, trembling before him. Overhead, the moon filtered through smoke.

“Please,” said the half-face. The cheek below the wide eye glistened wetly.

“Go. Tell the others,” Javor said, shaking his sword.

The eye blinked, then vanished. Javor heard slapping footfalls fade into the distance.

About this book

The Children of the Seventh Son is the second novel in the Dark Age series, which began with The Bones of the Earth.

The year 600 of the Christian Era is the darkest time of the Dark Age. Young Javor the Sklavene has settled in Constantinople, the last bastion of civilization against dark forces that have shattered the Western Roman Empire.

Wielding two special weapons made from the Bones of the Earth, Javor has become the favourite monster-killer of the secret Gnostic Order. As his young family grows, he is sent to distant, exotic lands to eliminate threats and learn more about why the earth is intent on destroying humanity.

Every mission seems to bring more questions than answers—until he finds the greatest danger comes not from forces from beneath the surface of the world, but from the very civilization he has been defending.

Pre-order now from Amazon for just 99 cents US.

Read more about The Dark Age series.

Read reviews on Goodreads.

Follow the latest announcements about The Children of the Seventh Son and the Dark Age series on Scott’s blog.

About the author

Scott Bury can’t stay in one genre. After a 20-year career in journalism, he turned to writing fiction. “Sam, the Strawb Part,” a children’s story, came out in 2011, with all the proceeds going to an autism charity. Next was a paranormal short story for grown-ups, “Dark Clouds.”

The Bones of the Earth, a historical fantasy, came out in 2012. It was followed in 2013 with One Shade of Red, an erotic romance.

He has several mysteries and thrillers, including Torn RootsPalm Trees & Snowflakes and Wildfire.

Scott’s articles have been published in newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US, UK and Australia.

He has two mighty sons, two pesky cats and a loving wife who puts up with a lot. He lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

Learn more about Scott on his:

Posted in books, contemporary romance, date shark, date shark series, delsheree gladden, ebooks, new release, reading, romance

The Final Date Shark Book has arrived!

Ending a series is always a tough thing for me, but I’m so excited to wrap up The Date Shark Series with Leo Bailey’s story in “Repelling the Shark!”

Repelling the Shark

the Date Shark series, book 5

Repelling the Shark

Simple and easy falls apart when secrets revealed require making promises and opening up to the possibilities of hurt and hope.

Leo Bailey has so far escaped the curse of the date shark business. He fills in when needed, but has held onto his casual relationships and family emergency-free existence. hover

Marriage and family are a vague idea for the future, but he’s not ready to give up the freedom of being single and answering only to himself.

When Piper Moretti witnesses the demise of yet another of Leo’s friends-with-benefits relationship, she doesn’t think much of it. She has a long list of more pressing responsibilities and headaches to occupy her mind.

Friends, and the strings that go with them, are at the bottom of her priority list.

When a date shark client who tops the list of bizarre behavior Leo has seen, his half-joking request for rescue drags Piper into the chaos and into Leo’s life.

Neither one wants more than a simple, no-stress friendship. Secrets and surprises force them to admit neither one is nearly as in control of their futures as they think they are.

Helping each other means getting involved, making promises, and opening themselves up to the hurt and hope they’re both terrified to face.

Posted in book covers, books, classic literature, cover design, ebooks, new release, romance, what had to be done, writing, ya fiction, young adult

New Release: What Had to be Done

I read “Persaded” by Jane Austen several years ago as part of my ongoing quest to read more classic literature. I’ll be honest and say a lot of the classics I’ve tried have been a challenge to get through. This wasn’t one of them. I really enjoyed reading “Persuaded” by was intrigued by the idea of making it a little more current for younger readers. It took only a couple of months to write, but it’s taken several years to get back to it for editing, cover design, and actually getting it published.

Now, it finally available in ebook and paperback!

What Had To Be Done

WHTBD frontEveryone has bad days. Anna Elizondo is going on three years of bad days.

It started with her mother’s illness and eventual death, continued with a decision that ruined a friendship, and culminated in her father announcing they were broke and moving away right before her senior year of high school.

Maybe a fresh start will turn things around.

Or maybe it will put her face to face with her former best friend Felix and the hatred in he still carries for her.

The only bright spot in Anna’s move to Santa Fe is meeting her new swim coach, a long-time hero who has big plans for her athletic career. The pool is her refuge, but she can’t hide there forever. Living in a small town makes it impossible to stay out of Felix’s way, and unlikely their history will remain just between them for long. If Anna can’t find a way to make things at least tolerable with Felix, it’s going to be a very long summer.

Available now!

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Posted in book covers, books, contemporary romance, date shark, date shark series, new release, romance

The Date Shark series is back!

The Date Shark Series is available again is independent books, complete with new covers and editing!

The first book in the series was so much fun to write. It was a challenge not to rely on anything supernatural to keep the story going, but it made me work harder and I was really pleased with the results. The idea for this book came from an experience I had when I submitted a query letter to “The Query Shark,” which she promptly ripped to shreds (deservedly) and set me on the right path. I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like if there was a similar “shark” for women who needed a dating overhaul.

Date Shark, book 1

Date Shark FRONTLife as the marketing director for a popular fashion boutique is overwhelming for Leila Sparrow, to say the least.

She’s not sure what ever possessed her to add revamping her dating life to her already hectic schedule. Calling in renowned Date Shark, Eli Walsh seemed like a good idea until she actually met with him…

Date Shark was only meant to be a side-enterprise to his thriving couple’s therapy practice, but Eli Walsh knows it’s become more of an obsession.

At least, it was until he agreed to take on Leila. Somehow she has stolen his entire focus. He wants to admit his fascination with her and growing romantic interest, but he knows coming on too strong will scare her away.

His plan to convince her that she is worth any man’s interest by first being her friend is challenged when his tips start to pay off and Leila begins dating Luke.

Will his friendship with Leila mean the end to any romantic pursuit?

Available Now!

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Shark Out Of Water, book 2

Shark Out Of Water FRONTGuy Saint Laurent is too busy cursing his sister for roping him into taking over Eli’s Date Shark business to prepare himself for the slew of bizarre women he’s about to get involved with. This is the last venture he intended to take on, but somehow he’s just become Chicago’s newest, most reluctant Date Shark.

On top of dealing with bug-toting, mothering, obsessive women, Guy faces personal tragedy that changes his outlook on life, whether he wants it to or not. He’s not sure what it is about Charlotte Brooks that draws him in, but getting her off his mind after a brief encounter proves impossible.

As Charlotte tries to help Guy deal with his loss, he begins to get the impression she’s hiding something from him. He knows he could simply walk away, continue as he always has, but he suspects whatever she’s hiding, she won’t be able to face it alone.

Charlotte is the one woman who can capture his attention, but she may also be the one woman capable of breaking him.

Available Now!

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The Only Shark In The Sea, book 3

The Only Shark In The Sea FRONTVance Sullivan has always been the rock everyone turns to for help…

His work with patients recovering from traumatic events makes him the perfect person to help his friend, Guy Saint Laurent, with one of his Date Shark appointments. When Vance meets hesitant, frightened Natalie Price, he suspects she’s hiding the truth behind her fears, and he’s drawn in by a need to help her.

Haunted by a terrible event from her past, Natalie can’t even endure being touched without suffering a crippling panic attack…

She doesn’t know why, but Natalie feels Vance might be the only one who can help her put the pieces of her life back together. Despite the tension their arrangement causes with his girlfriend, their bi-weekly sessions seem to be helping…as long as he keeps his promise not to push her to reveal more than she’s ready to share.

Suddenly the tables have turned…

When Vance suffers his own unspeakable tragedy, asking for help is the last thing he wants to do. Drowning in grief and guilt, crushed by betrayal and lies, Vance needs a lifeline.

Natalie has no idea why anyone thinks she can help him, given her own deep-rooted fears—but she knows she has to try. A twisted notion of justice makes the danger all too real, and Vance and Natalie realize it might take one broken soul to mend another…

Available Now!

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Shark In Troubled Waters, book 4

Shark In Troubled Waters FRONTSabine Saint Laurent is known as the Princess of Paris. Polite, beautiful, charming, polished…perfect.

Everything is always under control, and when it isn’t, she handles it. It’s been an eventful few years with friends getting married, having babies, getting kidnapped, and almost dying, but she’s made it through each upheaval with poise. Just as she’s looking forward to things calming down, her entire life is upended by a startling piece of news.

Aside from her agent managing her day-to-day affairs, Sabine does not ask for help. Not even from her close knit group of friends and family. So when she finds herself struggling to cope with major changes in her life, she’s determined to power through on her own. It should be easy enough. Everything is always easy for Sabine: modeling, men, money, languages, art, cooking. Finding out she’s pregnant shouldn’t be any different, right?

Except it’s not easy. Nothing about navigating pregnancy, custody, complications, and a man she despises trying to seduce her is simple. Michael Moniteau’s intentions are questionable, but she desperately needs help and he’s the only one who understands enough to give it. It could be the beginning of something wonderful, or it could break the heart she’s kept carefully shielded for so long.

Available Now!

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Posted in books, contemporary romance, ebooks, mystery, new release, romance, torino dreams

Torino Dreams is Available Now! #newrelease #romance

Kate can fix the damage to Sam’s car after their accident, but can she protect herself from falling for him and putting all their lives in danger?

Torino Dreams

Torino Dreams Front Cover Final Kate hates hiding, but the risk of her past sneaking up on her is too great to risk getting involved in anyone else’s problems. At least, until getting involved is the only way to avoid a run-in with the police.

The snow was to blame for the car wreck, but desperation forces Kate to make Sam an offer she’s sure she’ll regret. If she can fix Sam’s car and send him on his way without the getting the cops involved, she can get back to her normal, safe life.

It should be easy enough. Kate knows cars better than almost anything else. She can repair the damage to the car, but can she protect herself from falling for Sam and putting everything she’s worked for in danger?

This is a standalone book, so no waiting for part 2!

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Posted in books, new adult, new release, paranormal, romance, the ghost host

Release Day! The Ghost Host: Episode 2 #kindle #kindleunlimited #paranormal

The next installment of The Ghost Host is here just in time for the holidays!

The Ghost Host

Episode 2

tgh2-front

It’s bad enough that Echo already has ghosts haunting her 24/7, now her past mistakes want to join the fun and come back to haunt her, too?

Moving to Georgia was supposed to be a fresh start. So far, it’s turned out to be a fresh start at more chaos. After battling Devourers for the soul of her childhood friend, Echo learns the depth of what her abilities might cost her. She’s always been pretty good at failure, which is concerning when the fate of the spiritual world is suddenly in your hands.

If that isn’t enough pressure already, Echo’s personal life is a mess. She and Malachi are both freaked out by her ability to control him and have no idea whether their relationship was ever based on more than their bond as Medium and Keeper. Kyran is keeping his distance from both of them to keep from doing something stupid, things are still tense with her parents, college is proving more than she bargained for, Agent Morton is doubting her stability and brings in his son Griffin to help keep her grounded-which only causes more problems between her and pretty much everyone, and Echo gets pulled into her first case: a young boy whose mysterious injuries and claims of monsters in his dreams has everyone baffled and terrified of what it might mean if he isn’t lying.

Oh yeah, and a past mistake Echo thought had already been dealt with is back to settle a score. It can’t get much worse than that, right? Except, for Echo, things can always get worse.

Buy now for $0.99 or read FREE on Kindle Unlimited

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Posted in books, contemporary romance, new release, romance

The Oblivious Girl’s Handbook #sweetromance

The Oblivious Girl’s Handbook

Oblivious Girls HandbookHandbook Series #2

Being oblivious to all the signs that your life is about to fall apart doesn’t stop it from happening to Sara Taylor.

Alone except for the Siamese cat her boyfriend—ex-boyfriend—Joseph left behind to teach her a lesson, Sara has no clue how to survive on her own. She hasn’t handled her own bills in years, can’t meet a deadline without someone else programming alarms into her phone, and is constantly either losing important things or getting herself hopelessly lost. Sara has no idea how she’s supposed to move out of her university apartment and start her first real job without someone there to hold her hand.

Although she knows her new friend Monroe would step in to help, she’s not about to call him after having thrown him out of her apartment when his suspicions about Joseph prove true and Sara is left angry and mortified. It doesn’t take long before she is desperate to lean on someone else’s strength, even for just a few minutes, as real life begins to overwhelm her. Pride forces her to either sink or swim, even when sinking seems the most likely outcome.

The Oblivious Girl’s Handbook is available as a novella in the “Christmas Pets and Kisses 2” box set and as a full novel, where Sara faces the difficulties of a new relationship while barely holding onto being a real adult for the first time in her life.

Buy or read FREE on Kindle Unlimited

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Christmas, Pets & Kisses 2 Novella Box Set

CPK2 Box Set 3D croppedYou can now purchase the CPK2 box set for only $0.99!

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