More student essays on Excellence:

Madison –

Try your best at whatever you do. Be the best you can be. It takes time and practice to be your best. Practice your hardest to be your best.

Ethan –

Doing above average. For example is 10 was ok, but there was 20 possible, then 20 would be excellent. Or, if the average reading level was 24, but there were 30 levels, if you were on level 30, that would be exhibiting excellence.

Stella –

Excellence is when you do something great. It takes practice because the first time is not always the best time. You need to keep trying.

I am having trouble doing pivots on my kicks, but I keep trying to get them right.

I am learning to read and sometimes words are hard and I have to keep practicing to get them. I makes me feel good and happy when I finally get things.

I know I will continue to grow and learn new skills as long as I keep doing my best, trying my hardest and having fun. I think that is excellence.

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Around The Globe With Jo Kessel

mountainsWhere does this week’s featured author want to go for our interview? Hawaiii? Bahamas? No. She wants to be transported from wintry cold London to a wintry cold mountain retreat. Oh sure, we’re surrounded by snow-capped mountains and the sky is blue and the sun is bearing down…but it’s still winter.

I suppose the only thing that save this is we each have a glass of merlot.

On with the interview…(seriously, someplace warmer next time.)



  1. Who are you and what makes you the most fascinating person in your city? I’d be horribly egotistical if I truly believed I was the most fascinating person in London (where I live), but I do like to think I add something to this world I live in, with a touch of wit, a mega-watt smile (unless I’m struggling with a plotline) and an ability to write stories which people can lose themselves in and which might touch them in some way.
  1. Without revealing a deep dark secret (unless you want to), what one thing would people be surprised to learn about you?

I qualified as an attorney straight out of college, which for some reason is something I never tell anyone about. I think it’s because I feel very un-attorney-ish and never actually worked as a lawyer. Not even for one day. I gave it all up because it felt wrong.

  1. What interested you to become a writer rather than something else such as rock star?

I loved writing since I can remember (even essays at school) and my ‘day job’ is as a freelance journalist for national newspapers in the UK. I just always loved creating stories and whilst being a rock star might have been fun, I don’t think the audience would have thought much of my singing voice!

  1. Writers are readers. With which author(s) would you enjoy sharing dinner? Why?

I’d love to have dinner with Jane Austen (am I allowed to talk about someone who’s no longer with us?!) because she’s my all-time favorite author who was way ahead of her time. Her stories were so modern and sharp and poignant in their romance and I’d love to pick her brains and see how the heck she managed to pull it off. It might be fun if E.L James was at the table too (what would Jane have made of Christian Grey?) and maybe Douglas Kennedy and Sebastian Faulks too, for a male perspective.

  1. If I were stranded on a deserted island or suffering from a four hour layover at the airport, why would your book(s) be great company?

My books are easy-to-read page turners which are so feel-good and consuming that you’ll forget to be annoyed about the irritating four-hour layover. And on top of being all those things, A Call to Heaven will have you thinking about what you’re reading too. It’s a ‘what if’ book. What if this really could be our reality? If we really could connect with our lost loved ones in Heaven. Imagine that!

  1. Share your process of writing in regards to: plot and character development, story outline, research (do you Google or visit places/people, or make it up on the spot), writing schedule, editing and number of rewrites.

I’m a very organic writer and tend to go with the flow. If I’m consumed by a story then it can spill out very quickly. For example the first draft of A Call to Heaven was written in six weeks and I loved every second of that time. Of course, that was very much a first draft and then I got a professional Editor on board and made several rounds of changes to make the plot tighter and more compelling. My characters are all a product of my imagination, but sometimes I might research certain things they do. The heroine’s main love interest in A Call to Heaven is a doctor called Daniel and there are several scenes told from Daniel’s point of view set in his hospital. I’ve a friend who’s a doctor and I picked his brains to make sure that Daniel (who’s a heart surgeon) comes across as a credible doctor.

  1. I think I have a good idea for a story, but I don’t know where or how to begin. Your process may not work for me. Any advice?”

I think organization is the key to writing a book, as well as tenacity. So many people might start writing a novel, but very few of them actually finish it because it’s not that easy to do. But if you keep at it, have a loose plotline in your head and set aside a couple of hours a day, then bit by bit it can (if you want it to) get done.

  1. I saw an amusing T-shirt the other day which read, “Every great idea I have gets me in trouble.” What is your philosophy of life?

My philosophy is that you only live once, so you might as well try to enjoy it.

  1. Please tell me you’re not going to stop writing? What’s next for you?

My eleven-year-old daughter picked up a proof paperback copy of A Call to Heaven (despite not being old enough to read it – yikes!) and couldn’t get her nose out of it. She was completely transfixed and read it cover to cover in 24 hours and then said: “You’ve got to start writing a sequel now. I need more!”

Whilst the book is written as a standalone, a sequel is feasible and I’ve been thinking about it ever since my daughter made her demand.

10. Where can people find more information on you and your projects?

(see below)

coverA Call to Heaven

Jo Kessel

Genre: contemporary romance with a paranormal twist

Publisher: J.K Publishing

Date of Publication: January 27, 2017

ISBN-13: 978-1540490049 /

ISBN-10: 1540490041


Number of pages: 260 paperback /

320 kindle book

Word Count: 68k

Cover Artist: Ivan Cakic

Book Description:

“Everybody’s loved, everybody’s lost.

Grief strips you raw and makes you feel as if you’re sleepwalking through life, like the pain will never go away.

I’m Amy Tristan. I’m no different than anyone else. I’ve loved, I’ve lost and it sucks. I’ve got a five-year old son and an abusive husband. My mother died six months ago and I miss her like crazy.

I’m the biggest skeptic when it comes to other-worldly stuff, so when I’m told that I can pick up the phone and call my mum in Heaven, I should disbelieve it, right? Wrong. I pick up that phone, because there’s nothing I want more than to hear her voice trickle into the receiver.

And you know what? It works. I get to speak to my mother. It’s a miracle. If only it could stay this way, with those calls just for me, but someone up on high wants me to choose three other people to make a call to Heaven too. Who should I pick? How can I trust them to keep the phone secret? Making the choice is agonizing – if I get it wrong, my calls will stop. I wish I hadn’t told Daniel anything. He’s this hot doctor that I’ve come to know. But doctors are scientists, and scientists are bigger skeptics than even me. He didn’t believe in the phone. He thought I should be admitted to a sanatorium. Telling him was either the best decision of my life, or the worst. I’ll let you decide…”

Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/6qQLxZbVs50


Everyone’s looking at me. I’ve got the yellow telephone in my hands and I’m not sure what to do with it. I take a seat at the end of the table and lay the phone down in front of me. Beth is to my left, Ben is to my right. Daniel is opposite me. I look from one to the other and feel color flood my cheeks. My gaze finishes on Daniel and stays there for a beat. He nods, his eyes encouraging me. I return the nod, take a deep breath and count down from three to one in my head.

I’ve got to tell you all something.” My voice comes out as a thin squeak, but actually I’m surprised I manage to articulate at all. I’m hot, so hot. I lift the hair off the back of my neck, flapping it around to try to cool my sticky, clammy skin. I can’t breathe, I need air. I unlock the patio doors, flinging them wide open. The inside of my mouth feels rough as sandpaper. I’m desperate for a tall glass of water packed with ice-cubes but, when I turn to see six eyes staring at me, I dare not leave to fetch one. I feel like an exhibit in a museum and in some ways I wish I were. I could hide behind a Perspex box next to the yellow telephone with panel blurb doing the explaining for me. I could be part of a new exhibition entitled ‘Incredible Discoveries’. I would share the same hall as the dinosaurs and anything else which took aeons for people to believe existed. I draw a deep breath and continue.

You’re probably going to think I’m mad, but I’m going to tell you anyway.”

A breeze blows through the open patio doors.

What I wanted to tell you is this.” My voice is soft as a whisper. I sense all their bodies leaning closer towards mine, straining to hear. “I’ve recently started talking to my mother.”

There, I’ve said it.

I feel a great sense of relief, both that I’ve said it and that I no longer have to keep this to myself. Beth relaxes in her chair with a sigh, leans across and takes my hand, patting it. She’s got wavy brown hair and a kind, open face. She tilts her head sympathetically.

Oh honey, you must have tried out that clairvoyant you mentioned. Please tell us all about it.”

I should have seen that one coming.

No, you don’t get it.” I lift up the yellow phone, as if to demonstrate how to use such a contraption. In one hand I take the receiver, in the other the plug. “I don’t speak to her through a medium. I speak to her on this telephone. I plug it into a socket in my bathroom and I’m allowed to call heaven.”

There, I’ve said it now.

Nobody moves.

Not a muscle.

Their mouths all open, Daniel’s is the widest. I don’t think any of them even realize they’re doing it. As feared, they are looking at me like I’m certifiably insane.

I can see you all think I’m mad.” I actually manage to pull a small smile. Now that I’ve started, I feel much calmer. “And, if I were in your position, I would think I’m crazy too. But one night my mother came to me in a dream and told me I could use this phone to call her in heaven and, bizarre though it must sound, it turns out she was right. That’s why I stopped coming to Grief Support Group every week. I wasn’t grieving so much because my mother had come back into my life.”

The three pairs of eyes grow wider and wider, as if I’m slowly sprouting four serpent heads. I replace the receiver back into its cradle and drop the plug, holding out my hands in submission.

You can believe me or not. It doesn’t matter. But the reason I’ve gathered you all here is because I’ve been asked to choose three other people to call to heaven.”

I sound like a fairy godmother or the good witch in the Wizard of Oz. I do not sound normal. I pause. The effect is dramatic although it’s not intended to be.

And I’ve picked you guys.”

I look at them one by one.

Beth, I know how much it might mean to you to be able to speak to your daughter and know that she is safe.”

Beth nods. Her gaze turns glassy.

Ben, I’d do anything to be able to give you a chance to speak to your brother again.”

Ben nods, his mouth still formed in a perfect ‘O’.

Daniel is the hardest one for me to look at. He’s not nodding anymore and his eyes are no longer urging me to continue. Instead he’s shaking his head, a slow, subtle movement, but I catch it all the same. His full lips have now formed a thin line. He’s the only one who looks like he still thinks I’m certifiably insane. Hell, he’s a doctor; perhaps that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Part of me wonders whether I should abort this whole escapade and pretend it was all a joke. I’d do anything to not have Daniel stare at me in this way. He looks ready to call the local sanatorium and send them round with a straitjacket. But I can’t abort and I must continue. What happens next is up to him.

And Daniel, I thought that maybe you might like to speak to Katie.”

He opens his mouth as if he’s about to say something, but clamps it shut again without speaking. Nobody else says anything either. They all shift in their seats, pretending to take sips of coffee and look around the room. Perhaps they’re checking out the photos on the mantelpiece above the fireplace, trying to work out if I look like a madwoman in any of them. I pick up the knife. Now I probably do look mad or, at the very least, dangerous.

Right, who’s for some more pie?”

authorAbout the Author:

Jo lives in London with her husband, three children and Jerald the cat. In addition to being a novelist she works as a TV and print journalist (Sunday Times, The Telegraph, the Daily Mail and the Express.) If she could change one thing about her life it would be to introduce the thirty hour day, because twenty-four hours just isn’t long enough to squeeze it all in! Many a late night has been spent with a glass of red wine (preferably French) at her desk trying to keep her eyes open long enough to write these stories which keep demanding to be written. If only her cat didn’t constantly jump onto the keyboard as she writes, this book might have been finished months earlier. She loves yoga, skiing, travelling and English custard – though not necessarily in that order.

Website/blog: www.jokessel.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jo_kessel

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kesseljo/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33120863-a-call-to-heaven

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1Q28t30k-o99Ijzoiox11Q

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jo_kessel/

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Guest Author: Ann Gimpel

edge-of-night-banner-851-x-315January is rolling along and the new year means more author interviews, spotlights, and guest posts. Remember, if you would like to be featured, please contact me here or at my email.

Thanks so much for inviting me back to your blog, Stephen! It’s always such a pleasure to be here.

I’ve been thinking a lot about series books lately, maybe because I was reading one about the same time I was working on the fourth book of my GenTech Rebellion series, with book five sketched out and ready to go. The series will definitely end there, though. Five books is pushing it for a bunch of reasons I’ll delve into below.

Somewhere about the time I was slogging through one of Robert Jordan’s endless series books, I promised myself that if I ruled the universe, I’d make a law forbidding more than four books in a series. I loved the Wheel of Time series up through, maybe, book four. Possibly book five. It’s been a long time since I read them, and I can’t exactly remember. The problem all authors run up against is there’s only so much they can do in a make-believe world. Eventually, the same things have to happen again, and the characters and world grow stale.

A book I was reading recently happened to be number seven in a series that shall remain nameless. Book five was decent, book six held an interesting premise, but book seven was a disaster on many fronts. For one thing, the alpha hero took a swan dive off his pedestal, leaving me with a true WTF moment. He’s going to be content sinking into obscurity and leaving everything me (and every other reader in the world) thought he cared about? To say I was upset is putting it mildly.

From an author’s perspective, series books have other problems. For me, the main one is balancing backstory with the new story unfolding in the current book. Different authors have different strategies. One book I read recently simply did a huge info dump that took up the first two chapters, and then moved on. While it got the job done, it wasn’t very satisfying to be on the receiving end. I’d have liked it better if I hadn’t read the first book, but hey, you can’t please everyone.

Balancing enough backstory so a new reader isn’t lost with enough new material that old readers aren’t bored is an art. While I’ve grown better at it, my answer is still to limit my series books to a reasonable number. The vast majority of my series stop at three books. One has four, but one of those was a prequel. The GenTech Rebellion series has the dubious honor of being my one and only series with five books.

How about all of you. When you read series books, how do you feel about later books in the series? How do you prefer backstory woven in? Inquiring minds want to know.

coverEdge of Night

A Collection of Short Stories

Ann Gimpel

Dream Shadow Press

60K words

Release Date: 12/16

Genre: Paranormal and Horror with a splash of romance and scifi

Book Description:

Here’s a roadmap to Edge of Night. Welcome to an eclectic collection of nine short stories.

You’ve done time at the edge of night. Nail-biting, stomach-churning time filled with hissing snarls, menacing growls, the whoosh of unnatural wings, and the flash of hellfire. Time that lasts forever, but is over within seconds because time becomes unpredictable in places like that. You don’t want to stay, but it’s too fascinating—in a grisly, macabre, toe-curling kind of way—to turn your back on.

You recognize it, though. The place just at the threshold of darkness where it’s not quite safe anymore. Evil broke its bounds at the edge of night, or maybe it always ran free and we’ve been deluding ourselves all along.

Join me for nine supernatural tales. Monsters, demons, gods—fallen and otherwise—ghosts, aliens. A touch of science fiction. More than a splash of romance. From magical lands to a chilling glance into the past, Edge of Night has something to tempt everyone. Everyone who craves danger, that is. It takes guts to read the stuff woven into nightmares.

It’s a tough job, but you’re up to it.

Welcome to my world. A world where magic holds court and the dude next door just might be a demon. Or a shifter. Or an alien.

gimpelAbout the Author:

Ann Gimpel is a USA Today bestselling author. A lifelong aficionado of the unusual, she began writing speculative fiction a few years ago. Since then her short fiction has appeared in a number of webzines and anthologies. Her longer books run the gamut from urban fantasy to paranormal romance. Once upon a time, she nurtured clients. Now she nurtures dark, gritty fantasy stories that push hard against reality. When she’s not writing, she’s in the backcountry getting down and dirty with her camera. She’s published over 45 books to date, with several more planned for 2017 and beyond. A husband, grown children, grandchildren, and wolf hybrids round out her family.

Find Ann At:





@AnnGimpel (for Twitter)

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Adult Truth #24 or ???? Part 2

24The first testicular guard, the “Cup,” was used in Hockey in 1874 ; the first helmet was used in 1974. That means it only took 100 years for men to realize that their brain is also important.”

Several years ago I wrote a blog concerning certain imponderable questions. I listened to a couple audio books which asked and tried to answer some of these questions. For instance, why doesn’t the water in water towers freeze into one big iceberg in the winter? Answer – a combination of three things of which I’ve forgotten.

Anyway, this humorous truth about the state of men’s minds set me to thinking about other questions nobody has been able to answer or if there is an answer, it would be an interesting anecdote to put into a story.

  1. How do they know snowflakes are all different?
  2. Who decided that even numbered major highways run east/west and the odd numbered run north/south?
  3. Who designed the zip codes and how did the assignations to each city come about?
  4. Why is the standard paper size 8.5x11and not 8×10?
  5. Who decided the width of the railways? (Actually, there is an interesting piece I’ve seen floating around the emails that does sort of answer this question and I would like to know if it has any veracity.)
  6. Why do clocks run clockwise, but race cars race counterclockwise?
  7. Why are there 18 holes in a golf game and not 20?
  8. Who came up with the unoriginal name for the fly? So many other things fly, why name that particular pest the fly?
  9. What is the point of Daylight Savings Time in today’s world?
  10. Why is it pronounced Celtics with a hard C but the team is called the Boston Celtics?

Okay, I’m not going to think too much harder about this, but these questions are interesting. Do any of my readers have questions that bother and niggle?

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Adult Truth #23

00piece_of_time_by_irondoomdesignEven under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car keys in a pocket, finding their cell phone, and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey – but I’d bet everyone can find and push the snooze button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time, every time.”

Coming down to near the end of these truths, I find myself hard-pressed to link them to aspects of writing. For this one, I settled on time.

Time: I’ve mentioned time problems in stories in other posts but I wanted to discuss my three Mallory Petersen action mysteries. Now, you’re saying, “But Steve, you only have two Petersen mysteries published.” True, but at the time of this writing, I’ve completed the first draft of the third.

In Beta, I had a time problem with putting in enough action to fill each day. The story starts on Sunday night and lasts just over a week. Each day I had to make sure something relevant occurred. I didn’t want wasted time. Also, I had to make sure that what all did occur lasted for the entire day. For instance, the story has Mallory traveling to the Quad Cities to search for a missing girl. On her first full day she visits several businesses. For research, I drove the route she took and stopped at the places along the way to talk to people at the businesses I wanted to use. At the first I met an uncaring receptionist who probably threw my card away when I left. At another I met a flighty secretary who didn’t understand the purpose of my visit. (Both ended up in the story.) However, after all my driving, and even allowing time for the visits, Mallory’s quest ended around noon. I needed it to last most of the day. To solve the problem, I added scenes where she could use her taekwondo skills, meet some oddballs, and her actions resulted in long conversations with the police. Put in slow traffic and I ate up time.

In Alpha, the time problem presented itself in the days before the climactic scene. Again, the main thrust of the story lasts about a week but there was a period of two days where Mallory was stuck in a homicide investigator’s house trying to avoid the bad guys. Not much action there and I rushed through the hours. This happened over a weekend. I knew, though, I had to get her out of the house come Monday morning. She had responsibilities other than the police operation to attend to. Actually, this story, because I had an outline when I started the rewrite, didn’t have too many time problems, but I still paid attention to the down times.

In the third book, Delta, I had a huge time problem. Without giving away too much of the plot, Mallory is kidnapped and held for a week. When she is rescued, she spends another ten days in isolation. As I mentioned, the first draft is completed but when I start the rewrites I will devote concentrated attention on these two weeks. I want to make sure there is activity, without letting repetition sink the book into doldrums. I have a couple options and more research into the situation through which Mallory suffers may solve the problem and, I’m hoping, give me a spark of creativity to strengthen the scenes.

For the fourth book, Gamma, I want to have the story occur within one day. So I will have to focus even more minutely at time. Matthew Reilly writes books that cover one day, three days at most but he puts so much nail biting action you think you’ve spent a month with the main character. I love his books.

Time is tricky and writers must be aware of the pitfalls. I mentioned in another post about a book featuring a serial killer. The author didn’t keep track of time and this was one of the major problems in the book. In one scene, he left a character staring out a window. The scene changed and when it returned to the previous character, she was still at the window. There wasn’t a sense that the intervening scene was happening at the same time as the previous. In other places, a day would last a long time. Yet, farther on, days would pass with nothing happening when, logically, there should be. This, along with other problems made for a mess of a story.

Writers can slow down time or lengthen it. This is especially true in action scenes. Falling off a cliff can seemingly last a long time, but gunshots and bullets flying may be quick. Don’t forget dialogue can also be used to slow or speed up time.

Writers also have to let the readers know when time has passed. I’ve read several murder mysteries where weeks and months go by until the next crime. This is okay, as long as the writers shows and explains it. In the above poorly written book, I never comprehended the passage of time. I became lost. (Actually, I was lost way before time became an issue. I wish I could detail the myriad, tragic, and humorous other problems this book had because it would make for a multiple part blog on how NOT to write a book. However, because this book may someday get rewritten and published one, I won’t damage the author’s perseverance by delving too deep.)

Be aware of time, not only the time of day or night, but the passing seconds, minutes, and hours. I certainly did, especially on the long graveyard shifts I used to work.

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Missing You

i-miss-you-79There are certain people who pass through your life, maybe stay awhile, maybe there for a short moment. But those individuals…there’s something about them…something unique, something special. There’s something that touches you within. Whether you tell that person how he/she affects you…well, the effect is still the same. I know someone with that unique ‘special-ness’ who, although still is a co-worker, is now a distant one.                    ——————————————

A few weeks have passed since you moved to a new location in the office, but after almost 14 months working close to you, I missed your presence that first day. I told you I would miss you and I do.

I miss your smile.

Your voice and the way the pitch rose on certain sentences.

Your laugh.

Your growls of frustration and your small yahs of celebration when something went right.

I miss the delicious food you brought to your desk.

I miss the times you stretched and laughed about it.

I miss wondering how you had your hair done on a given day and what outfits you wore.

I miss empathizing when you were sick.

I miss chatting with you and listening to you talk with your teammate.

I miss your helping me with computer problems.

I miss looking up and seeing you across the partition. On those days, I was content. Now, when I look up, I see another sitting at the desk, and I’m sad.

Oh, you’re still around, but the times I’ll see you will be few and far between.

You’re one of the good ones.

You are missed.

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Spotlight on Traci Douglass

blood-freed-banner-851-x-315Excerpt 1:

De luce in tenebras et veni. From darkness shall come light.”

Liz Frost repeated the words back as instructed by the shadowed figure in front of her, the uncomfortable sense something was off gnawing at her bliss like a zombie on a skull. There should’ve been a tingle, a jolt, something to signal the ancient invocation was working, but…


She took a deep breath and waited for the next line. Maybe these things just took longer than usual. After all, she and her sister Anna were psychically linking with not just each other but the entire Blood Ravagers biker gang.

Pluribus unum. Many become one.”

Liz snorted. All that kept running through her mind now was Tom Cruise frantically yelling, “Show me the money.” At least she had on a hooded robe, which helped hide her inappropriate grin. Now wasn’t the time to be giggling. Unfortunately, that thought and the complete inappropriateness of her mirth only made the whole thing even funnier. She did her best to control herself, her shoulders shaking with the effort. This wasn’t how the Oracle binding ceremony was supposed to go. Becoming the new Oracle for the Blood Ravagers biker gang should have connected Liz and her sister Anna both mentally and emotionally with all the gang’s members—a serious, somber, sacred thing. Yet here she was ready to crack up at any second, but she couldn’t seem to stop now. Tears flooded her eyes and her stomach ached from the effort of holding in her laughter.

One more shot at following the rules of decorum down the drain.

Finally, Anna leaned over and whispered, “What the hell is wrong with you?”

Liz bit her lips, and just shook her head. Opening her mouth now would be a mistake.

Where had Dante dug up this decrepit old fossil of a priest anyway? He wasn’t a member of the gang or, given his pompous attitude and habit of looking down his crooked nose at all of them, even from their tiny frontier town of Salvation, Wyoming.

Surge oraculum ligare nos in aeternum!” The priest’s tone turned positively bombastic in the gloom of the candlelit interior of Seven. The flames flickered as the entire gang repeated his words this time. “Arise, Oracle, to bind us together for eternity!”

And that’s when Liz lost it completely.

Weird how extreme hilarity and extreme panic could feel so similar.

Without a word, she pushed her hood back to reveal her face and exhaled slow. “Sorry, padre, but this is not working for me.”

Anna grabbed Liz by the arm and pulled her closer. “Stop it! Don’t you dare flake out on me again.”

I’m not flaking out, sis. But this isn’t right. Doesn’t something feel off to you? There should be more fireworks or fanfare or…something. This is an important step for us and for the gang, a true commitment, and I feel nothing. Nada. Zippo. That can’t be right.”

How would you know what you’re supposed to feel, huh? You’ve never seriously committed to anything in your life.” Anna pushed her own hood back to reveal a supremely irritated expression. She shifted her weight from one hip to the other, keeping her hands over her bulging belly. Dante had wasted no time knocking up her sister after they’d gotten married nearly eight months ago and now Anna was going on six months pregnant. While Liz was thrilled to become a new auntie, she could seriously do without her twin’s hormonal, pre-birth rants. “In fact, you wouldn’t know a true commitment if it bit you in the butt. So, pardon me, but it’s time to grow the hell up and join the rest of us adults, Liz.”

Ofryd,” Dante stepped up onto the small dais between where the twins stood side by side and placed a hand on his wife’s shoulder. “Perhaps now is not the time to—”

Stop telling me what to say or how to feel.” Anna shrugged off his hand. “Liz my sister and I love her with all my heart. No one knows her better than me. Now step off, buddy. My back is killing me, I haven’t seen my feet in months, and at this moment I would skin you alive for a vat of mint chocolate chip ice cream.”

The pompous priest gave a disdainful snort, for which Liz promptly stomped on his toe. It was one thing for her and her sister to fight. It was another for this stranger to intrude. The old man howled, Anna glared, and several snickers rang out through the gang members.

Figures. They should’ve waited until after Anna delivered anyway. Liz had tried to push the ceremony off, but her sister wasn’t having it and these days Dante acquiesced to whatever his wife wanted to keep the peace. When Liz had questioned her about why she was in such a hurry, Anna had said she wanted to just get the damned thing over with.

Deep down though, Liz knew the truth.

They all wanted to get the binding ceremony done before Liz ran again.

She shook off the niggle of disappointment the thought conjured. It was a woman’s prerogative to change her mind, right? Besides, she wasn’t that bad. There was nothing wrong with keeping one’s options open. Never mind the idea of binding herself permanently to anyone or anything—let alone an entire gang—filled her with bone-deep terror. That had nothing to do with this current situation. Nothing at all.

There was something wrong with the whole obscure ritual and they’d just have to fix it before proceeding.

She tamped down the dash of relief mingling with her rising tension.

Dante, to his credit, remained calm as a placid sea. He looked at the priest, who was now hunched over and scowling at his sore toes encased in designer Italian leather loafers. “Why is the binding not occurring?”

Here.” The priest thrust the crumbling tome he’d been reading from at Dante. “Have a look for yourself.”

Liz peeked over their new gang leader’s shoulder as he carefully sifted through the yellowing pages of a book that was literally falling apart in his hands. “I do not understand. This was recovered from Basher’s quarters shortly after his death. He always bragged about all the secret rituals contained within it.”

Well, he lied.” The priest straightened and shot Liz a withering stare before pointing toward the scarlet red ribbon he’d placed to mark the binding ceremony pages. “There’s a chunk missing.”

Chunk?” Dante raised a brow.

At least four pages, maybe more.” The priest wiped the dust of disintegrating pages from his hands. “Without the rest, there’s nothing I can do.”

He started to step down off the stage, but Dante gripped the older man’s arm tight, a tiny flare of crimson igniting in his pupils as his half-pain demon side emerged. Liz had seen that look before and almost felt sorry for the old priest. Almost.

Yet you took our money and would have conned us into thinking it was done,” Dante snarled. “For that alone I should kill you.”

Ah, but you won’t.” The priest narrowed his gaze. “Will you, half-breed?”

Oh, boy. Liz moved back farther, as did Anna. The gang had fought long and hard to make Seven and the entire town of Salvation a safe haven for all otherworlders, pure and half breed alike. Throwing around insults of that nature was a sure way to get a fast trip to Hell.

Surprisingly, instead of ripping off the old priest’s head, however, Dante let him go. “Give me one good reason why I should not slay you where you stand, old man.”

I’ll give you two.” The priest walked over to the bar and grabbed a bottle of bourbon from behind it, ignoring the glare of the gang’s bartender, Dex, as he did so. Then he plopped down on a stool, twisted off the lid, and took a long swig straight from the bottle. The old man’s hands were shaking as he wiped his mouth. “First, you won’t kill me because the Council is just looking for a reason to invade this place and raze the entire hellhole to the ground. The death of a fine, upstanding priest in their order would be just the ticket to that ride, eh?”

Huh. And where exactly would we find a priest like that?” Liz said, her voice sticky sweet.

The priest glared at her again.

Dante gave her a warning look.

Liz sighed and crossed her arms.

What is the second reason, old man?” Dante walked over and snatched the bottle from the priest’s hand, shattering it against the bar top. Liquid and glass rained down around his feet as Dante held the razor-sharp, jagged edge to the priest’s neck. “It better be good, because your first reason will not stop me from slitting your throat.”

Other members of the gang pushed forward, along with Liz and Anna. There’d not been a good fight around here in quite some time and the creatures who haunted this place were itching for a good bloodletting. The air around them sizzled with adrenaline and for the first time all evening, Liz felt a stirring deep inside—not electric, like she felt during a psychic binding; not calming, like the connection she shared with Anna. No. This feeling was much newer and stranger and infinitely more frightening. The stirring felt like something she’d longed for her whole life, something everyone else seemed to have in spades.

The stirring inside her felt like destiny.

Still, with her future hanging in the balance, she held her breath waiting for the priest’s next words.

The second reason you will not kill me—” The priest coughed, sounding like he was going to hack up a lung. “I’m the only person who knows where you can find the information you need to complete your ceremony and save your gang, half-breed.”

coverBlood Freed

Blood Ravagers

Book 2

Traci Douglass


Cover Artist: Deranged Doctor Designs

Release Date: January 19, 2017

Book Description:

Elizabeth “Liz” Frost has always been the wild one. But now, with a niece or nephew on the way and her promise to become half of the new psychic Oracle team for the Blood Ravagers Biker Gang, she’s ready to turn over a new leaf. And what better way to start than by answering the call when gang leader Dante needs help? Her mission: to travel cross-country to get the information the gang needs to complete the Oracle Binding Ceremony. Should be easy, right? Except for the incredibly tempting lone-wolf shifter named Dex who’ll be her riding partner and protector on the journey.

Dexter “Dex” MacCallahan is tasked with guarding Liz Frost, one of the gang’s beautiful and bewildering new psychics. Dex can’t refuse the mission, but there’s one small problem. The time of his Rut is approaching, a rare occurrence where male wolf-shifters must physically bond with their chosen mate or face certain insanity and death. It could cost him not only the new life he’s built, but also his battered, scarred heart.

Together, Dex and Liz must search for the information they need before his old nemesis and a rival gang annihilates all they hold dear. But when the simmering chemistry between them boils over into searing hot passion, will they risk losing their hearts to save the ones they love?

The Blood Ravagers Series

Book 1: Blood Bound

Book 2: Blood Freed

Book 3: Blood Vowed – coming soon

authorAbout the Author:

Traci is a USA Today Bestselling Author of Contemporary and Paranormal Romance. Her stories feature sizzling heroes full of dark humor, quick wits and major attitudes and heroines who are smart, tenacious, and always give as good as they get. She holds an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University and she loves animals, chocolate, coffee, hot British actors, and sarcasm—not necessarily in that order.

Website and blog: http://www.tracidouglass.net

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Traci_Douglass

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TraciDouglassAuthor

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/8112113-traci-douglass

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Traci-Douglass/e/B00AX4X9DS/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/tracisdouglass/

Newsletter Sign-Up: http://tracidouglass.net/author-newsletter/

Tour Giveaway

1grand prize of $25 amazon card, book mark and e-book,

3 prizes of bookmark and ebook

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loyalty-quoteSome of my students’ thoughts on Loyalty:

Ethan –

Loyalty is standing up for your friends. For example, let’s say a friend told you a secret. Being loyal means you keep that secret. Another example is watching and making sure they’re safe. I am loyal to my family because I watch my sister when I promise to.

Stella –

I think loyalty means learning from and listening to my Mom and Dad. It is speaking up and saying “Yes, Sir!” at karate when we are being asked to do something. It is trying my hardest to do things the right way. It is also helping my brother and my family and my friends when they need it. At school, I am loyal to my teacher by showing up on time, doing my homework, listening, taking turns and trying my best.

People Loyal to me: Mom & Dad, Grandma & Grandpa, Grayson

People I am Loyal to: Mom & Dad, Mrs. Westhoff, Grandpa & Grandma, Mr. Brayton, my friends

Madison –

Loyalty is paying attention to others. I am loyal to my teacher, mom, dad, dogs. My teacher, mom, dad, and dogs are loyal to me.

Noelle –

What is loyalty. Well, the definition of loyalty is “faithfulness to a commitment”, but loyalty’s definition in my eyes is “staying true to your promises.” Loyalty is when you stand firm to your friends, to your family, and to your promises. It’s also when you can turn down temptation that would seem more fun to do at the time. Loyalty is always what I look for in a friend.

You can use loyalty wherever you go – school, outside, at home, or even in the small unimportant places. Loyalty is a key characteristic that you should look for in people. If you see allegiance and faithfulness shining out of someone’s personality, you know that they have a great loyal quality!

At school, loyal acts happen all over. If someone’s friends invite them to play, but that person had earlier promised to help another friend understand an assignment, it is a king and loyal act to stay and do what you’ve already told someone you’d do.

If, at a friend’s house, I am told to come home to help my cousin babysit like I promised earlier, staying at my friend’s house instead of helping my cousin, which was my earlier commitment, would not be an example of loyalty.

Loyalty is being faithful to what you’ve already told someone you would do. It’s helping out a friend in need, assisting your cousin, and even the small, unimportant things, like grabbing your friend a piece of paper like you earlier told them you would do instead of talking with another friend at the other table. Can you find loyalty in your friends? Can they find it in you? Look for loyalty.

Elijah –

The definition of loyalty is: the state or quality of being loyal; faithfulness to commitments.

I like loyal friends because they can help you out. In return, they expect you to help them our, too. Remember, a loyal friend will stay until the end. If you need to do something, but you don’t have time, you could ask your loyal friend.

So, no you have my opinion of loyalty. I hop that you can find a friend that is loyal. It is greatly beneficial to life.

Saleena –

Loyalty: faithful to a cause. Faithful to someone to whom fidelity is held to be don. Loyalty is also to the mother and father who gave birth to you. Loyalty must be instilled in you as a child from your parents.

Loyalty is something that cannot be bought. Loyalty must be earned. The nearest thing to loyalty is a mother’s love. Remain loyal when things are not going smoothly. The greatest loyalty in life is to “thine own self be true.” We also find our loyalty in God and Jesus. Loyalty for our teachers and instructors.

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healthMore student essays on health:

Stella –

I think that being healthy means you need to exercise and eat good fruits and veggies before you eat chocolate for dessert. I like to eat corn, tomatoes, berries, apples, strawberries, oranges, and mangoes. I eat them as part of every meal

I like to exercise every day by riding my bike, running around, go swimming at the pool. I play every day and exercise with my mommy and daddy at home.

I do not currently practice karate at home, but want to try practicing more to get better at pivots because they are hard for me.

I like practicing every week at practice.

Amber –

Eating vegetables and fruits. Doing my karate class. Brushing my teeth. Going out for a walk. Playing at the park. Going on vacation. Having a pet to play with and going to the pool. Reading books. Jumping on the trampoline.

Saleena –

Exercises. Swimming. Eating the right food. Taking a shower every day. Brushing your teeth. Taking a vacation. Have a pet around. Doing karate class. Fruits and vegetables.

Madison –

Why do we exercise? Health. Good health is important. If you don’t have good health, you could get sick easily.

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Around The Globe With Liz Keel

florida-beachThis morning I pick up this week’s guest author and we’re off to Florida, by the beach, glasses of champagne in hand.

“This is a lot better than my writing shack in wintry England,” she says.

“Definitely,” I agree and close my eyes for a short nap.

“Interview,” she says.


“You have to do your interview.”

I crack open one eye. Oops, almost forgot why I’m here. I’ll nap later.


1. Who are you and what makes you the most fascinating person in your city?

I’m a YA fantasy writer, a wife, mother, educator and friend. I love to imagine, explore and find things out and firmly believe you have to be determined and challenge yourself to get what you want in life. I’d definitely say I’m creative and love using my imagination to make up stories of faraway lands.

2. Without revealing a deep dark secret (unless you want to), what one thing would people be surprised to learn about you?

I can often be quite shy! Which is a little tricky now that I have a book published; I obviously have to open up quite a bit especially on social media. I’m getting better at this though.

3. What interested you to become a writer rather than something else such as rock star?

I’ve always loved reading especially the paranormal and fantasy genres, and with so many talented authors out there, over the years they have helped provide inspiration for my own story.

I do actually have another profession…I’m Head Teacher of a primary school. No day is quite the same as another, and it is often filled with supporting the children’s learning and making sure it’s as fun and engaging for them as possible. I seriously feel I have the best jobs in the world; working in education and writing.

4. Writers are readers. With which author(s) would you enjoy sharing dinner? Why?

Definitely J. K. Rowling. The way she has created a whole new world in such detail is awe inspiring and it wasn’t long before I wanted to create my own fantasy worlds as well. She has had such an influence on so many people, I’d be very interested to talk to her about her writing experiences especially how she came up with the ideas for Harry Potter.

5. If I were stranded on a deserted island or suffering from a four hour layover at the airport, why would your book be great company?

Enlightenment has the perfect blend of fantasy and adventure for Young Adults upwards. It’s fast-paced, has characters that you’ll want to know and become your friends, and an ending that will leave you wanting to know more about the faey world of Aroben!

6. Share your process of writing in regards to: plot and character development, story outline, research (do you Google or visit places/people, or make it up on the spot), writing schedule, editing and number of rewrites.

The prewriting stage is always a lot of fun. It’s usually spent with me reflecting on the characters over a month or so before I put anything down on paper. I can often end up dreaming about them as well or think about the plot and how they would react in different situations. I don’t tend to write too much when planning the plot as I like to launch right into the storyline and see what happens; I find a lot of the time the characters will let me know if they want something changed or I need to re-write a section. By the time I’ve finished my second set of edits, I like to get my editor’s thoughts – I can get so caught up in a story/the world I’ve created, it’s good to step back and see what someone else thinks. All in all, from start to finish, a book can take me about six months before I feel happy with it.

7. “I think I have a good idea for a story, but I don’t know where or how to begin. Your process may not work for me. Any advice?”

Don’t Give Up! If you have an idea keep working at it a little bit each day and eventually things will slot into place. If the plot isn’t coming too easily, focus on one of the characters or jump into a key part of the story. Whatever way does eventually work for you, remember to have faith in yourself and know that you can do this. It won’t be easy and you’ll feel like pulling your hair out half the time, but when you finally do it…see your book out there for people to buy, it’s the most amazing feeling.

8. I saw an amusing T-shirt the other day which read, “Every great idea I have gets me in trouble.” What is your philosophy of life?

For me, I follow Babe Ruth’s words of wisdom: “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.” I’m a firm believer that whatever life throws at you, never give up on your dreams. I think in today’s society with all the crazy things that are happening, as well as in our personal lives, you have to remain true to yourself and what you believe in.

9. Please tell me you’re not going to stop writing? What’s next for you?

I’ve finished writing book 2 – Entanglement and am ready to share it with my editor, book 3 – End Games I hope to finish by the middle of next year. Things are going to get a lot tougher for Thea but at least she’ll have a certain Thill guard who will look after and protect her! 😉

10. Where can people find more information on you and your projects?






The Driel Trilogy

Liz Keel

Publisher: Fire Quill Publishing

Release Date: 21st April 2016

ISBN: 9780996974875

ISBN: 9780994664198

Book Description:

After losing everything, all seventeen-year-old Thea wanted was to be a normal teenager. Instead, she was attacked by a mysterious creature she thought only existed in fairy tales.

Now thrown into the unknown realm of Faey, Thea is forced to determine the difference between reality and fantasy, in a world ruled by a dark elite and a society wracked by intolerance and prejudice. With the support of her new friends and a mysterious dark haired, blue-eyed guardian watching her every move, Thea will discover that when it comes to Faey, nothing is what it seems.
Will her courage and desire to save this new world from darkness be enough? Or will Thea be the next victim to fall to the dark whispers of fate…

keelAbout the Author:

I live in Surrey, England, a short walk from the beautiful Windsor Park, with my husband Richard and our two gorgeous children Noah and Olivia. For me, writing is nothing short of an addiction and I often find myself sneaking out to my writing shed for just a few minutes, which can often turn into hours of pure, unadulterated bliss catching up with my characters and continuing their story.

In-between writing, I teach in a primary school where there’s never a dull moment! I will also often be found Kindle in hand, reading a wide variety of genres but with YA fantasy and paranormal romance at the forefront of my reading list. Although I’m currently writing the second book in the Driel trilogy, other characters involving all things fantasy, paranormal and YA romance are jockeying for position, wanting me to write their story next, so watch this space! It is such a privilege to share my stories with you the reader. Thank you enough for taking the time to find out more about me.

To find out more about Liz, visit her website: www.lizkeelauthor.com



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