Rachel Thompson

Night's Favour by Richard Parry @TactualRain #Excerpt #Thriller #GoodReads

“Now that’s something you don’t see every day.”  John stood with arms akimbo, surveying the scene.  “Tell me you weren’t here last night.”
A bright yellow line of police tape marked out the borders of the scene, commanding capital letters spelling out Do Not Cross.  Officers moved about, talking to each other, hurrying pedestrians along, shouting at reporters.  It had started to rain again, heavy cold drops promising a downpour.  Val shivered, tugging an arm through a sleeve of his jacket.  At least he’d stopped sweating.  “Fuck it’s cold.”
John nodded.  He wasn’t really paying attention, focused on the scene outside Elephant Blues.  “What do you reckon went down?”
“Went down?  What, like a mob hit?”  Val hunched his shoulders against the rain, shuffling his feet a little.  He needed to get inside with a beer.  Preferably more than one beer.
“Look.”  John’s arm pointed to each item.  “Six ambulances.  But the lights aren’t on, no one’s rushing.  Medics are just wandering about, comparing notes.  No hurry there.  Whatever they came for, it’s happened and moved on.  There’s a billion cops but they don’t look worried — see those two?  Talking like they’re out for a Sunday stroll.  There’s reporters everywhere.  It’s like Al Capone stopped by for a whiskey.”

Valentine’s an ordinary guy with ordinary problems. His boss is an asshole. He’s an alcoholic. And he’s getting that middle age spread just a bit too early. One night — the one night he can’t remember — changes everything. What happened at the popular downtown bar, The Elephant Blues? Why is Biomne, the largest pharmaceutical company in the world, so interested in him — and the virus he carries? How is he getting stronger, faster, and more fit? And what’s the connection between Valentine and the criminally insane Russian, Volk?
Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Action, Thriller, Urban Fantasy
Rating – R16
More details about the author
 Connect with Richard Parry on Facebook & Twitter

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High Maga #Excerpt by Karin Rita Gastreich @EolynChronicles #MustRead #Fantasy #TBR

Lord Mechnes set his hard gaze upon Adiana. “And who are you?”
“My name is Adiana.”
“You are Maga Eolyn’s scullery maid?”
She swallowed, bit her lip. Adiana had learned how to lie during her youth in Selkynsen, after her parents were killed and she fled to the piers. Lies must be presented on a bed of truth, or they lose their seductive power. “No, I am not a servant. I am a musician from Selkynsen. Maga Eolyn brought me to Moehn to teach music to her students.”
“Music?” A smirk broke upon the commander’s face. He seemed genuinely surprised. “What interest do magas have in music?”
She searched for her breath. “Music is also magic, according to the traditions of Moisehén. It’s a form of Primitive Magic, the oldest and most sacred of all. Magas and mages use music in their ceremonies, their spells, sometimes even in their healing.”
“So you are a maga?”
“No, I’m not a maga.” The thought came, terrible and unbidden, that now she would never be. “I simply play music.”
“Then she was trying to protect you by saying you were a scullery maid? How curious.” He draped one end of the bloodied cloth over the woman’s disfigured face. “I can assure you a musician will find a much better place among the Syrnte than a scullery maid.”
“I don’t intend to find a place among the Syrnte.” Her breath stalled under the look he gave her, a strange mixture of amusement and menace. “What I mean is, my home is here, in Moisehén, not with the Syrnte.”
“It’s all one kingdom now. Or perhaps better stated, will be soon.” He nodded to the guards. “Unbind this woman.”
In an instant, the cords that secured her wrists were removed. Adiana cradled her hands against her breast, rubbing the places where the leather straps had left her skin raw.
Mechnes closed the distance between them in two strides.
“You will have to find a place among us, Adiana, or you will perish. That is the way of conquest.” He took her hands in his and studied them carefully, strong fingers tracing the fine delicate length of her own. “What do you play?”
Adiana’s skin crawled at the intimacy of his touch. His aroma was sharp, like coals on the hearth, and laced with the smell of blood. She wanted desperately to look elsewhere, but could not. Mechnes’s massive frame filled her vision; his presence, at once sinister and magnetic, demanded all her attention.
“The cornamuse.” Her voice had dropped to a nervous whisper. “The dulcimer, and the lute, the short wood, as well. Among others.”
He pressed her hands between his. Adiana was visited by the sudden image of him snapping her fingers one by one, as if they were nothing more than dry twigs.
“I see you are telling the truth, in this much at least,” he said. “You have beautiful hands, Adiana. We must be grateful they were not damaged during the attack on Maga Eolyn’s Aekelahr. And we must also hope they will come to no harm here, under my care.”
A heavy silence followed. Adiana understood the unspoken threat that hovered between them. Who else would he ask? The children, the survivors of the siege, the members of Lord Felton’s household, if any of them still lived. What would Adiana’s deception gain for Eolyn in the end—fifteen minutes? Half an hour? It did not matter. Every additional moment could mean the difference between Eolyn’s escape and her death. Adiana had already lost one friend tonight. She would not betray the other.
She lowered her eyes and held her tongue.

Lands Ravaged. Dreams destroyed. Demons set loose upon the earth.
War strikes at the heart of women’s magic in Moisehén. Eolyn’s fledgling community of magas is destroyed; its members killed, captured or scattered.
Devastated yet undaunted, Eolyn seeks to escape the occupied province and deliver to King Akmael a weapon that might secure their victory. But even a High Maga cannot survive this enemy alone. Aided by the enigmatic Mage Corey, Eolyn battles the darkest forces of the Underworld, only to discover she is a mere path to the magic that most ignites their hunger.
What can stop this tide of terror and vengeance? The answer lies in Eolyn’s forgotten love, and in its power to engender seeds of renewed hope.
HIGH MAGA is the companion novel to EOLYN, also available from Hadley Rille Books.
Buy Now @ Amazon & Kobo
Genre – Epic Fantasy
Rating – PG-13
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Connect with Karin Rita Gastreich on Facebook & Twitter

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Eva Fejos, the Lady with Many Hats on Writing @FejosEva #Women #Fiction #BookClub

Q: Tell me a bit about those childhood dreams you mentioned. 
A: I grew up reading the novels of Jules Verne and dreamt about how wonderful it would be to travel the world. Then, after a while, I started perusing travel brochures, and each night before I fell asleep, I imagined myself whisked off to another land. Somehow I had a feeling that when I grew up, I would make all of these dreams come true, and that I would be able to travel extensively. My other great wish was to write stories. I remember, when I was seven or eight, I re-wrote the ending of a story I had read because I didn’t like the outcome. That was the first time I felt the giddiness that came with creating a story. How amazing it was when a location, a character, or a scenario sparked in your imagination and then became so real, you could almost touch it. I feel the same way today when I write, and this feeling is the true reason why I write.
My dreams are usually realized slowly, but I feel that the greatest dreams always come true if you keep your gaze fixed on them. I think the most important thing is to recall your childhood fantasies from time to time and to ask yourself the question: which of these has come true? Our childhood dreams are very important, pointing like compasses to our future, and if we diverge too much, we can always steer back on track. I’m lucky because my parents always allowed me to follow my own path and to chase my dreams. Even though they didn’t believe that these would ever come true, they never took away my faith.
Q: How did your career as a novelist begin? 
A: I wrote my first novel when I was a teenager; I was eighteen when I placed second in a novel-writing competition, but the publisher went bankrupt. Then I compiled a book of interviews I had done with Hungarian musicians, upon commission. It’s funny because back then I only thought I knew how to conduct an interview, just as anyone who isn’t a journalist thinks they can. I learned the hard way when the subjects I interviewed went on and on about themselves for hours, almost uninhibitedly. I was afraid to interrupt them, but then, when I got home, I had to start editing and writing up the interview from five or six hours of raw material. But it was a good lesson, and I benefited from it later. The publisher that had asked me to do the interviews had to close business, and since I wanted to write anyway, I applied for jobs as a journalist. I was studying towards a degree in communication when I was already working as a reporter. I started as a freelance journalist, had lots of ideas, and was very enthusiastic. I quickly landed jobs with reputable newspapers and magazines, and in the meantime I wrote novels for my own pleasure. My first book was published in 1999 under a pseudonym. Bangkok Transit was published in 2008, and this was my first big debut in Hungary. Since then, the book has sold more than 100,000 copies, which is a great success in such a small country.
Q: What do you think the secret of Bangkok Transit’s great success is in Hungary? 
A: It is entertaining yet thought-provoking. I think there is an aspect of freshness and momentum in it. It is an international story, guiding you into an exotic world, but it also has Hungarian connections, and it is quite modern. My readers have said that, in addition to this book, my other books are also a ‘therapeutic journey’ for them: while they travel along with my characters in their imaginations, sharing their troubles, they also find solutions to their own troubles.
Q: Do your heroes always travel in your books? 
A: They don’t always make actual physical journeys, but there are always spiritual journeys. Of course, as a traveler, I enjoy incorporating the places I’ve visited and enjoyed myself into my novels. When I write a book and the location comes to life in my mind’s eye, I feel like I’m there again. I have fairly good visual memory; I distinctly remember the light, scents, streets, and colors, and my readers say that I am able to convey these memories well in my novels.
Q: Why aren’t you content with only the success you’ve achieved in Hungary? 
A: When I was a kid, I also dreamed that people would read my books in English, and that they would be able to buy copies at airports and large bookstores abroad. I was always a bookworm, and I am, even today. I devour novels one after the other, and I believe that my novels are on par with an international standard. I also feel that my readers in the United States will enjoy my books. I write mostly as a cosmopolite and write cosmopolitan novels, and I believe that I can help women not only in Hungary with my books, but also in many other countries of the world.
Q: In what way do Eva Fejos’s books help readers? 
A: Firstly, they entertain and help people unwind from their own lives for a few hours, and that is very important. Secondly, they somehow make decision-making easier for them. This is a kind of bonus that I don’t understand to this day, but I am all the more grateful for it: many of my readers write to me or give personal accounts of how the decisions of a certain character helped them resolve important decisions in their own lives. One of my readers, Annamari, had spent years dreaming about how she would love to work in a classy hotel in London, but never dared to take the first step by moving from Budapest to London. Then, she read my book The Mexican, and decided that if my heroine was able to make a life-changing decision and didn’t regret it, then she had to follow her dreams too. Today, she is the manager of an elegant hotel bar in London and always keeps me updated on the things that take place in her life. But she is not the only one who finds her own strength from the courage of my heroes. I myself am often helped by my characters…
Q: How can the characters of a novel help out their author?  
A: Before I go any further, I have to explain that I only invent basic situations and make a few textual sketches of characters when I start a new book. Then I begin writing the story. Getting the first fifty pages down is always a struggle, as I try and get acquainted with the situation and the characters. I don’t understand who they are and what they want from me or anything at all. I wonder: will this ever amount to a novel? Then, somehow I am suddenly caught by the drift and the story truly begins to flood while I’m paddling along after it, trying to keep my head above water… but this is always such an amazing feeling. It’s not me who is guiding my characters – I couldn’t even if I wanted to, because they always shake me off – but merely escorting them as they move along. They always manage to surprise me in each and every chapter. Returning to your question: a few years ago I would have liked to travel to Southeastern Asia for a longer period of time (yet another childhood dream), and I tried to think up a way to spend all winter there. The only ‘problem’ was that I had a super job as a journalist at one of the most widely-read women’s weekly magazines and was a novelist on the side. I thought: How could I possibly work this? Then a friend of mine, who saw me struggling with this decision asked: ‘What would one of your characters do?’ I said that they would naturally ask for an unpaid leave and go off… and then it hit me. If my heroes are brave, I can’t be a coward, especially because my characters usually don’t end up regretting being brave. So I went ahead and did what my characters would do, and indeed, I never regretted that winter in Asia. Since then, I have made several important decisions by asking myself what my characters would do. And I act exactly as they would.
Q: So you’re not really the one setting your own path?
A: My heroes live inside my head. Actually, many of them go on living inside of me even after I’ve finished a novel, reappearing later in another book. I am curious to see where their lives take them… This is how Teri from Bangkok Transit appears again as a key character in a later novel. When I finished Bangkok, I already felt that we would run into each other again sometime…
Q: The brave heroine: is this the key idea of your novels? 
A: That could be one of them. I think my characters are basically everyday people, the same as we are, but just like us, they too can become special heroes, or at least the heroes of their own lives. At any rate, I believe that making a decision is always better than hesitating, not daring to make a choice, whatever the situation might be. The heroes of my novels give readers the strength to make that choice, and the feedback I receive is proof of that.

Bangkok: a sizzling, all-embracing, exotic city where the past and the present intertwine. It’s a place where anything can happen… and anything really does happen. The paths of seven people cross in this metropolis. Seven seekers, for whom this city might be a final destination. Or perhaps it is only the start of a new journey? A successful businessman; a celebrated supermodel; a man who is forever the outsider; a young mother who suddenly loses everything; a talented surgeon, who could not give the woman he loved all that she desired; a brothel’s madam; and a charming young woman adopted at birth. Why these seven? Why did they come to Bangkok now, at the same time? Do chance encounters truly exist?
Bangkok Transit is a Central European best-seller. The author, Eva Fejos, a Hungarian writer and journalist, is a regular contributor to women’s magazines and is often herself a featured personality. Bangkok Transit was her first best-seller, which sold more than 100,000 copies and is still selling. Following the initial publication of this novel in 2008, she went on to write twelve other best-sellers, thus becoming a publishing phenomena in Hungary According to accounts given by her readers, the author’s books are “therapeutic journeys,” full of flesh and blood characters who never give up on their dreams. Many readers have been inspired to change the course of their own lives after reading her books. “Take your life into your own hands,” is one of the important messages the author wishes to convey.
Try it for yourself, and let Eva Fejos whisk you off on one of her whirlwind journeys… that might lead deep into your own heart.
About Eva Fejos, the author of Bangkok Transit
- Eva Fejos is a Hungarian writer and journalist.
- has had 13 best-selling novels published in Hungary so far.
Bangkok Transit is her first best-seller, published in 2008.
- has won several awards as a journalist, and thanks to one of her articles, the legislation pertaining to human egg donation was modified, allowing couples in need to acquire donor eggs more easily.  
- spends her winters in Bangkok.
- likes novels that have several storylines running parallel.
- visited all the places she’s written about. 
- spent a few days at an elephant orphanage in Thailand; and has investigated the process of how Thai children are put up for adoption while visiting several orphanages. 
- founded her own publishing company in Hungary last year, where she not only publishes her own books, but foreign books too, hand-picked by her. 
- Her books published in Hungary thus far are:
Till Death Do Us Part (Holtodiglan) | Bangkok Transit | Hotel Bali | Chicks (Csajok) | Strawberries for Breakfast (Eper reggelire) | The Mexican (A mexikói) | Cuba Libre | Dalma | Hello, London | Christmas in New York (Karácsony New Yorkban) | Caribbean Summer (Karibi nyár) | Bangkok, I Love You (Szeretlek, Bangkok) | Starting Now – the new edition ofTill Death Do Us Part (Most kezdődik) | Vacation in Naples – the English version will be published in summer, 2014 (Nápolyi vakáció)
To be published in spring of 2014: I Waited One Hundred Nights (Száz éjjel vártam)
Bangkok Transit (English version): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HDIT4UY
Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Women’s Fiction, Contemporary
Rating – PG-13
More details about the author
Connect with Eva Fejos on Facebook & Twitter

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Jennie Goutet's Thoughts on Social Media & Book Marketing @ALadyInFrance #WriteTip

I think there are two wrong ways you can promote your book online. You can promote it ineffectively, and you can promote it offensively. Here are some ways to promote it ineffectively:
Pay for advertising in the wrong medium for your genre.
Stick with the same marketing strategy when no sales are coming in.
Be unwilling to give your book away for free.
Have no twitter account, G+ account, website or Facebook page.
Don’t read or share any other author’s work.
Do nothing.

Here is how you can promote your book offensively:
Send complete strangers tweets, private messages and e-mails asking them to review your book.
Tweet about nothing but your book, or quotes from your book. Have your twitter profile be just about the book – the nameless, faceless author who has no other identity.
Don’t thank people who share your work.
Don’t ever return any courtesy reviews or shares (they read and reviewed or shared your book, and you don’t review or share theirs. I know, it’s impossible to return every review/share, but there should be at least some).
The right way to promote your book is to be a whole person. Let people see you, the author behind the book. Write blog posts that talk about what’s going on in your life, even if it’s only once every couple of weeks. Be involved in social media and supportive of fellow authors that are launching a new book, or who are hosting a giveaway to try and strengthen sales and ranks.
Respond to people and be engaged with your audience. Thank people for their reviews (maybe not on Amazon or GoodReads, but if they tweet about it, for instance, you can respond to it). A simple thank you will go a long way in continuing the favorable impression people made of you, as the author, when they read your book.
Good marketing takes a lot of time and research. It helps to have a good social media presence (twitter, FB and a website as a minimum) before you even publish your book, but it’s not too late to develop one after you book is published. The best promotion happens through word of mouth, so if you’re already well-known in the blogging or twitter world, that’s half the battle.
One of the biggest misconceptions bloggers have when they start writing their blog is that people will naturally flock to their brilliance, and the only work they will have to do to gain readers by the thousands is simply write. There are only a handful of those cases. In reality, people read your blog when you start reading and commenting on theirs. People will be willing to go out of their way for a relationship, but most people are too busy to tack on another thing to read unless it adds value (recipes, humor, fitness tips) to their lives.
Publishing is not all that different. It’s very hard for people to take the plunge and buy a book from someone they’ve never heard of and have no connection to. They are more willing to do so if you’re a known entity – through blogging, for instance – and if you’re active in the same online community they frequent.
It’s a lot of work, right? It is. And you thought the battle was actually to finish the book. The good news is that it’s a boulder effect. If you’re willing to put the legwork in at the beginning, the promotion happens naturally and in increasing measure. And you’re not required to push the mammoth boulder of book promotion all by yourself.

At seventeen, Jennie Goutet has a dream that she will one day marry a French man and sets off to Avignon in search of him. Though her dream eludes her, she lives boldly—teaching in Asia, studying in Paris, working and traveling for an advertising firm in New York.
When God calls her, she answers reluctantly, and must first come to grips with depression, crippling loss, and addiction before being restored. Serendipity takes her by the hand as she marries her French husband, works with him in a humanitarian effort in East Africa, before settling down in France and building a family.
Told with honesty and strength, A Lady in France is a brave, heart- stopping story of love, grief, faith, depression, sunshine piercing the gray clouds—and hope that stays in your heart long after it’s finished.
Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Memoir
Rating – PG-13
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Billi Tiner Shares Her Publishing Journey @TinerBooks #AmWriting #Romance #WriteTip

I wrote my first book, Welcome Home, approximately 12 years ago. I have always enjoyed writing, but most of my writing had been in the form of poetry or short stories. This was my first attempt at a full-length  book. The story is based on a patient I had during my first year in veterinary practice. It is a children’s book written with a Labrador Retriever as the main character. The story is written from the dog’s point of view. When I completed the novel, I was very proud of it and eager to get it noticed. I sent hundreds of query letters to agents and publishers, but received rejection letter after rejection letter. After about a year, I gave up on ever getting it published. Ten years later, I got motivated to try again. However, I had the same disappointing results. Finally, two years ago, my father-in-law, who is an author and has had numerous nonfiction books traditionally published, told me about Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. 

My confidence in the quality of the book had been severely affected by the rejection it had received from agents and publishers. However, my husband convinced me to give it a try. Having no idea what to expect, I took the plunge and self-published the book. I contacted a few bloggers I found on-line who agreed to review it for me. I was very curious to see what they thought of it. When Welcome Home received its first five-star review, I was more relieved than anything else. I finally had a third party telling me that the story was indeed something that people would enjoy reading. After that, the writing bug took a firm hold on me. I quickly set out to write my next book. In addition, I read every marketing tip article I could find on the Internet.
Now, two years later, I have four children’s books, three young adult books, and two contemporary romance novels available for purchase. I recently quit my job to become a full-time writer. I am overjoyed and humbled by the positive responses I have received for all my books. I still hungrily read every review. I have to admit that each negative review I receive is a blow to my confidence. However, I remind myself that not everyone enjoys the same type of story. I look at bestsellers that I have no interest in reading as a good reminder that everyone has their own unique taste. The main thing is that I love what I do, and I plan to keep doing it, for as long as I can.

From the author of “Dogs Aren’t Men” comes “To Love a Cat”, a contemporary romance novel.
Catherine “Cat” James’ life is simple and orderly, and she likes it that way. She loves her job as an accountant. Working with numbers is safe and routine, no surprises. Her childhood had been very abusive and unstable. She vowed not to live that way as an adult. She also made a promise to herself to become a foster parent. She wished someone had been there for her as a teenager, to let her know she wasn’t alone.
Cat agrees to foster Ethan Summers, a troubled teenage boy whose childhood closely resembles her own. Suddenly, her nice and orderly life is filled with chaos and uncertainty. Things really start to spin out of control when circumstances bring police detective Mitch Holt into the picture. He’s handsome, charming, and definitely not what Cat needs right now, or so she thinks.
Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Contemporary Romance
Rating – PG
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The Witch Narratives Reincarnation: Land of Enchantment #1 by Belinda Vasquez #Fantasy #99cents

Pine trees, cold religion, and a black death from coal—these are the riches of the village of Madrid. It did not take long for the stench of death to blow out the broken windows of the Rodríguez house, the stink fanning across the Turquoise Trail. The smell of death spun like a web of spiders, crept up the stucco walls of neighbors’ houses, swept down their chimneys, and covered their breakfast tables with a tablecloth of fine, black lace. Within the hour, that her parents found Marcelina slumped over her uncle, news spread and death was digested for breakfast everywhere in Madrid.

By the next hour, a wagon wobbled towards the Rodríguez house, the bed filled with lumber cut from trees growing in abundance in the Ortiz Mountains. Atop the lumber lay a skeleton, its bones rattling with each movement of the wagon along the dirt road.

Two harsh looking men, their faces blackened by coal dust, walked beside the wagon. The men were members of the Penitentes, a religious fraternal society that always arranged for the burial of the dead. Their focus was the death of Jesus Christ. Every Easter the Penitentes re-enacted the crucifixion, even going so far as to nail one of their own members to the cross.

Behind the wagon followed a procession of wailing women, dressed in black capes, billowing in the wind, making them look like crows, come to feast on the dead. The leader of the women waved a bell in front of her.

Pacheco Sandoval, the driver, jumped down and tied the horse to a post. He stood bow-legged on short legs, with his fists on his hips, surveying the Rodríguez property with a sneer of revulsion on his face. He may have been small in stature, but he was a giant when it came to self-righteousness because he was the Brother Mayor of the Penitentes, selected for life, the most powerful Hispano in Madrid.

Marcelina peeked out from the living room at death’s arrival at her door. She did not hide so well. Pacheco raised his black hat to her, bowing mockingly, as if she was a grand lady and not just an eleven-year-old girl with breasts promising early womanhood.

To Pacheco, big breasts in such a young girl were the mark of the devil. Women were given breasts but for one reason—to tempt men. He narrowed his eyes at the curtains and the sweaty fingers of the girl pinching at the material.

He was always watching.

Sin consumed him. He was the self-appointed moral conscience of the village, its jury, judge, and executioner.

She wondered what sin she committed for him to acknowledge her so openly.

Did he know the witch, La Llorona, had come looking for her last night?

Did he know she knew her name?

Did he blame her, Marcelina, for her uncle’s death?

Would he order Marcelina buried alive for her sins, as he had others in Madrid?

So, the village rumored.

She had difficulty catching her breath, unable to tell by looking at Pacheco what the Mayor of the Penitentes was thinking. His face was unlined because he never smiled, and rarely spoke. His complexion was tinted a swarthy hue, his face pores appearing like open sores of mud puddles. The most distressing feature he possessed was his eyes the color of a dead fish. His eyes bugged out from bones on the sides of his head, almost as prominent as the skeleton waiting for him on the wagon.

Overwhelming pity washed over her for the skeleton, rumored to be Agnes. There had only ever been one Agnes in Madrid, a nice lady who two years ago dried Marcelina’s tears when she ran skidding across the Turquoise Trail, falling and skinning her knees. Agnes had been pregnant then, and Marcelina rubbed her belly where the babe nestled safely within. “I want a little girl,” she had said, patting Marcelina’s hand. “See. She’s kicking because the baby likes you.”

She wondered what happened to the baby. She wanted to yell, “Run Agnes,” when Pacheco walked around to the back of the wagon. He lifted the skeleton, whose limbs were lovingly pinned together. 

He then carried the skeleton from the back of the wagon to the vacant seat. Sitting the skeleton upright, he carefully crossed the legs, folding the hands on the boney lap.

The skeleton’s head tilted, looking down at Pacheco.

“Who is the skeleton who always travels with Pacheco?” Mama once whispered to Bíatriz, Papa’s sister. Mama had looked around her, in case Pacheco’s ears were as big as his head.

“His dead wife?” Aunt Bíatriz whispered back.

“Agnes vanished. No one knows for sure if she is dead.”

“But Agnes fornicated with Pacheco’s brother, Alfonso.”

“I hear he put the child in her womb that Pacheco was unable to give her.”

“Ah, no. Then the unborn babe was an innocent victim of the Penitentes.”

Mama and Aunt Bíatriz quickly crossed their chests in the Catholic way.

Marcelina now crossed her chest, reciting a clumsy prayer for the skeleton, Agnes. Marcelina was not yet a good Catholic, even though her indoctrination began at birth. She so wanted to believe in the Church. Catholicism was not just religion for her people, but an integral part of their culture. This was her biggest secret—she doubted the Church. Every Sunday, while walking with her family to the Church of San Cirilio, she hoped this would be the day true faith would come to her.

This Sunday she would not let her mind wander.

Today, she would gladly suffer on her knees, instead of wanting to scream at the priest to be quick about it, because she saw no difference between this and any other Sunday, other than his costume was orange instead of green.

However, every Sunday, the church walls suffocated her, as if her lungs were in a vise, the heavy statues of the saints crushing her.

If Pacheco should ever find out, he would devour her so she might pass through his soul and come out cleansed.

He did not devour his wife for her sins—he murdered her.
So, the villagers rumored.

Pacheco lifted a boot, resting it on the wagon. He simply stared for some minutes into the vacant sockets of his wife’s skull. He spoke a few words to Agnes, who grinned back at him with a lipless face, making her teeth appear huge.

When the one-sided conversation was over, he ran his hand down her skeletal face. He patted her folded hands, as if to say, do not worry, I will be back soon.

The skeleton seemed to grin broader, as if to say, with any luck, I will be gone when you come back. Meanwhile, Marcelina still spied from behind the curtain, plotting how she might help Agnes escape. It seemed as if Agnes looked at her. Perhaps there was a way to communicate with the dead.

Unaware of the conspiracy going on inside the house, Pacheco distributed lumber and nails to the other men, who paid no notice of his odd behavior. The Penitentes, with their rigid beliefs, were brothers in the faith, a tie stronger than any bloodshed. If Pacheco seemed odd, well, many of the saints had been oddballs, loners speaking to visions seen only by them, hearing voices heard only by them, and communicating with animals. Let Pacheco have his idiosyncrasy, even if it was living with a skeleton. At least his wife did not nag him. Most important, Agnes was now a dutiful wife, following his every move with empty eye sockets. She was always grinning. Agnes was the perfect wife. She did not talk a man’s ear off. She was cheap to keep, and did not eat a man out of house and home.

This was Pacheco’s well known perspective. The girl spying from the window had other ideas as she rubbed the scar on her knee from her fall on the Turquoise Trail where Agnes helped her. She wished she were braver but feared coming between Pacheco and his wife.

Agnes moved! Her boney hands were no longer folded in the lap but hung at her sides; her delicate shoulders slumped in defeat. The bones of her face shone with a glossy sheen. Agnes was sweating, almost as much as Marcelina.

It was late morning and the day already warm from the New Mexico sun teetering atop the mountains. The Penitentes, excepting Pacheco, removed their shirts, exposing identical tattooed chests embedded with an ink drawing of a cross, designed to look like two tree trunks tied together. 

Gauzy looking material draped around the crosses in gray ink, where the figure of Christ would have normally hung.

There was nothing normal about these men. Marcelina grimaced at their bare backs criss-crossed with raw-looking scars, most self-inflicted. Their fellow brothers of the Order had lashed a few of the scars. The Penitentes, their name derived from the word penance, was a religious order of flagellation.

“Make the coffin no bigger than this,” Pacheco said, holding his hands out to a length of about four feet. “Claudio Rodríguez can be folded like an accordion. A witch has gutted and deboned him. Save the lumber for the next one.”

Save the lumber for the next one.

“Marcelina. Marcelina, come to me,” the witch had sung.

Marcelina made a stiff face, her lips contorted into a square. She cuffed her hands to her ears to drown out Pacheco driving nails into her uncle’s coffin, which was the size of a child’s, just her size. 

She was ashamed that last week she had been feeling sorry for herself because Papa was angry with her for hiding and not helping Mama peel the potatoes for dinner. Mama bawled her out for dirtying her dress. She had thought then, they will be sorry if I am dead! She even imagined them crying at her funeral, sounding a lot like the women with the Penitentes. As the men worked, the women sang the alabado, a religious ballad sung at wakes. The women howled, beating their breasts with their fists.

The wailing of all eight of the women together did not sound as horrible as the wailing of La Llorona.

The witch who killed my uncle.

Odd, when she closed her eyes, it was not the witch she imagined gutting her own stomach, but Pacheco.

Pacheco, who has the dead-looking eyes of a fish.

She touched her chest, feeling as if his cold blade was poking between her ribs.

Pacheco was not poking, crying, nor singing. He stood in the shade watching the men work.

Papa stopped his painting of the front door of their house and walked over to Pacheco. He bowed his head before him, speaking more to the dirt than to Pacheco.

She could not hear what he told Papa, but it seemed to upset Papa. He wrung his hands, pointing to the front door, partially painted blue.

Pacheco crossed his arms in front of his chest and looked back at his workers, dismissing Papa with a snort.

Marcelina ran outside and threw her arms around Papa’s waist. She peeked around his shirt, spying on her uncle, still laid spread out on the kitchen table. Though it was late morning, Marcelina had not eaten. She wondered if she would ever feel hunger again to sit with her family around the table. Mama’s rear end was draped in black the size of a bedspread. It looked windy in the kitchen because her dress swayed. Aunt Bíatriz held onto Claudio’s head while Mama tried to uproot the black rose from his mouth. The procedure was delicate because the thorns burrowed inside his cheeks, the rose stem buried beneath his skin. It seemed the witch had planted the flower in his cheek and the rose now grew from his mouth.

The bottom half of Bíatriz’s red face was wrapped with a black scarf, so was Mama’s, but they still turned their heads away from Claudio.

Marcelina pinched her nose at the stink drifting out the window.

Mama and Aunt Bíatriz jostled Claudio back and forth, releasing his rotting smells even more, yet the black rose in his mouth remained fresh, as though it hung from the vine. The more he dried up like a prune, the more the rose sparkled with moisture, as if growing in a dewy field.

Mama quit working. She slumped her shoulders in defeat. “We’ll have to rip his face open, if we are to pluck the rose from his head.”

Bíatriz sobbed. She and Claudio were two roses sprouted from one stem—twins.

Mama picked up a knife.

Bíatriz grabbed onto her wrist to stop her.

There was to be a war of the rose in the kitchen.

Marcelina buried her head in Papa’s belly. She did not want to see her uncle’s head roll from the kitchen table.

New witch-narratives-reincarnation-book-cover

Rise of the Black Rose, Book 3, is now available!

The Witch Narratives Reincarnation is a First Place Winner of a 2013 BOOKS INTO MOVIES AWARDS. The book, also, won a an international award for BEST FANTASY and was a BEST FANTASY New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards Finalist. A touching novel about loyalty, friendship, and the depth of love, about the unlikely friendship between a devout Catholic and a reluctant witch.

The Land of Enchantment Trilogy shines with the little-known world of Native American and Hispanic magic, which gives this series a compelling twist, and a refreshing breath of originality.
"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but humanity will never break me," -- so claims the witch, Salia, but she was born with a soft, all too human heart that even being an outcast won't harden. She is a sister, granddaughter and daughter of witches. And she is a half-breed. But the last thing Salia ever wanted was to be a witch.

There is a portrait in the house at the bottom of Witch Hill. Salia looks out of the picture with haunted eyes. She is pale because her mother pinches her arm, but it is Salia's Native-American grandmother who dominates the picture. She is 110 years old but appears to be a teenager, holding out in her hand an ordinary-looking rock, a rare shape-shifting stone, allowing her to bathe like in the fountain of youth. All lust after the magical rock for different reasons – to be beautiful or thin, powerful, or to live forever. Salia just wants the rock to become someone else. She longs to be ordinary like her only friend, Marcelina.

A FEW INTERESTING FACTS - Did you know that?

>>>About 80% of the magic in The Land of Enchantment series is practiced by Southwest witches.

>>>Witches in the Southwest flash into fireballs and soar across the sky, as recorded by witnesses in witch trials.  
>>>La Llorona is a legendary witch called "the weeping ghost", who is known throughout the Americas by tens of millions. She has been seen by many as she haunts the rivers, lakes and drainage ditches.

Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre - Fantasy
Rating – PG-13
More details about the author
Connect with Belinda Vasquez Garcia on Facebook & Twitter

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