Thursday, May 19, 2022

Book Blitz and Giveaway: River of Ashes (St. Benedict #1) by Alexandrea Weis & Lucas Astor

Title: River of Ashes
Series: St. Benedict #1
Authors: Alexandrea Weis & Lucas Astor
Publisher: Vesuvian Books
Publication Date: August 2nd 2022
Print Length: 276 pages
Genre: Psychological Thriller

“A psychological portrait akin to Lord of the Flies.” ~Midwest Book Review


ALONG THE BANKS OF THE BOGUE FALAYA RIVER, sits the abandoned St. Francis Seminary. Beneath a canopy of oaks, blocked from prying eyes, the teens of St. Benedict High gather here on Fridays. The rest of the week belongs to school and family—but weekends belong to the river.

And the river belongs to Beau Devereaux.

The only child of a powerful family, Beau can do no wrong. Star quarterback. Handsome. Charming. The “prince” of St. Benedict is the ultimate catch.

He is also a psychopath.

A dirty family secret buried for years, Beau’s evil grows unchecked. In the shadows of the haunted abbey, he commits unspeakable acts on his victims and ensures their silence with threats and intimidation. Senior year, Beau sets his sights on his girlfriend’s headstrong twin sister, Leslie, who hates him. Everything he wants but cannot have, she will be his ultimate prize.

As the victim toll mounts, it becomes clear that someone must stop Beau Devereaux.

And that someone will pay with their life.

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Leslie turned off Main Street and headed along the single-lane road. The storefronts gave way to homes with colorful gardens and oaks draped with tendrils of Spanish moss. Then the houses grew sparse and disappeared as greenery hugged the side of the road. Leslie slowed to avoid a pothole and heard the rush of the Bogue Falaya River through the open windows.

The trees thinned, revealing the two stone spires of The Abbey. Apprehension snaked through her as she pictured Beau, her sister, and all the unsettling things she associated with the derelict church.

A wall of dense red buckeye bushes swaying in the breeze shrouded the road. Leslie drove through an opening someone carved out long ago. A cleared lot lay hidden beyond the dense hedge, surrounded by thick pines and oaks, with paths leading down a steep embankment to the river’s edge.

Leslie got out of the car, listening to the sweet refrain of birds in the trees. “No one’s here today.”

“It’s still too early. Everybody from school likes to come after dark.” Derek led her to a pine-straw-covered path and to the shore of the rushing river.

Something moved in the dense underbrush. Leslie walked ahead, trying to get a better look. “What’s that?”

She crossed several broken branches until she stumbled on something nestled in the foliage. The stench of rotting flesh hit her nose. She gagged and slowed to a stop.

“Wait, be careful.” Derek swept aside a few leafy twigs to get a better look.

Flies covered the bloated belly of a white-tailed deer. Deep grooves slashed into what remained of the deer’s neck. The poor animal’s hindquarters appeared torn away.

Leslie crept closer. “What could do such a thing?”

Derek took her hand and backed out of the brush. “I bet it was the wild dogs.”

Leslie let him lead her away from the stench. “What wild dogs?”

He stopped outside of the brush. “They’re around here. A couple of weeks ago, Mom said some hunters came in the diner and reported seeing them.”

“Where did they come from?” Leslie’s voice shook.

Derek guided her to a path curving down a long slope. The roar of the river grew louder.

“There are lots of stories. I heard they were left behind when the monks abandoned the place. Legend has it that when they appear, death is near.”

A shudder ran through her.

Derek tugged Leslie’s hand. “Come on.”

The path widened, and a beach came into view. The outcropping of white sand had a collection of green picnic tables, red barrel trash cans, and fire pits along the river’s edge. Around the beach, thick brush covered the shore with limbs from pine trees dipping into the water. The sun sparkled on the gentle waves.

Leslie followed him along the shoreline until they came to a rusted iron gate with a No Trespassing sign secured to it. The sign, decorated with crosses and swirls, marked the entrance to The Abbey grounds. Stepping through the open gate, she peered up at the imposing structure.

Two spires of white limestone, shaped like the tip of a sword, cut into the blue sky. A structure of red brick and limestone, the front windows and doors secured with loose scraps of plywood, sat in the middle of a field of high grass. The squat stone building of cloisters behind The Abbey remained intact. The Benedictine monks, who had run the seminary and were responsible for the preparation of future priests, demolished the dormitories, refectory, and library after they abandoned the site. The rest remained because, in the South, it was considered bad luck to tear down churches.

“Some place, huh?” Derek let go of her hand and ventured across the high grass.

A wave of panic shot through Leslie.

The grounds, unkempt after years of neglect, were a hodgepodge of weeds, overgrown trees, and vines.

Why would people come here at night?

“You ever wonder why those monks just up and left?” Leslie was uncomfortable with the eerie quiet. Even the birds had stopped singing. “Everyone says they got a better offer from the seminary in New Orleans, but it seems funny a bunch of people abandoned the place for no reason.”

Derek parted a thick pile of tall grass with his shoe. “My mom told me it was falling apart when she was a kid, and the Archdiocese didn’t have the money to fix it. So, they packed up the school and sent the monks and all the staff to New Orleans.”

“I read once that the structure dates back to the early 1800s, when the Devereaux family built it as a private church.” Leslie eyed the empty belfry atop one of the square-shaped towers. “You’d think they’d want to save it.”

Derek nudged her with his elbow. “Maybe the ghost drove them away.”

Beau’s tale had been in the back of her mind the whole time, but Derek’s comment spooked the crap out of her. “By ghost, do you mean the lady in white?”

“Yep.” He scanned the land around them. “They say she appears when the moon is full or during storms.”

The thought of being alone in such a disturbing place terrified her. “Have you ever seen the ghost?”

Derek searched the thick foliage ahead of them. “Nah. I’ve never seen anything.”

Granite steps appeared as they drew near the entrance.

Leslie kicked herself for letting him talk her into coming to this place. “What about the wild dogs? Have you seen them around The Abbey?”

“Not to worry, love, I’ll protect you from ghosts, wild dogs, and Beau Devereaux.” He climbed the steps, encouraging her to join him. “But I have to draw the line at your mother. There’s no way I’m taking her on in a fight.”
Alexandrea Weis, RN-CS, PhD, is a multi-award-winning author of over twenty-seven novels, a screenwriter, ICU Nurse, and historian who was born and raised in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Having grown up in the motion picture industry as the daughter of a director, she learned to tell stories from a different perspective and began writing at the age of eight. Infusing the rich tapestry of her hometown into her novels, she believes that creating vivid characters makes a story moving and memorable. A member of the Horror Writers Association and International Thriller Writers Association, Weis writes mystery, suspense, thrillers, horror, crime fiction, and romance. She lives with her husband and pets in New Orleans where she is a permitted/certified wildlife rehabber with the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries and rescues orphaned and injured animals.

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Lucas Astor is from New York, has resided in Central America and the Middle East, and traveled through Europe. He lives a very private, virtually reclusive lifestyle, preferring to spend time with a close-knit group of friends than be in the spotlight.

He is an author and poet with a penchant for telling stories that delve into the dark side of the human psyche. He likes to explore the evil that exists, not just in the world, but right next door behind a smiling face.

Photography, making wine, and helping endangered species are just some of his interests. Lucas is an expert archer and enjoys jazz, blues, and classical music.

One of his favorite quotes is: “It’s better to be silent than be a fool.” ~Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird)
Win a $20 Amazon gift card!

(All the Ups and Downs is not responsible for this giveaway, its entries, or the prize. Xpresso Book Tours and the author assume all responsibility over this giveaway.)

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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

NBtM Virtual Book Tour and Giveaway: Murder at Serengeti Plains by Pat Duggan

Welcome to my stop on the NBtM virtual book tour for Murder at Serengeti Plains by Pat Duggan. This book tour was organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. On my stop, I have an excerpt from the book as well as a fantastic guest post from the author. There's also the tour wide giveaway for a chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card. Be sure to visit the other stops on the tour for more content. Enjoy!
Title: Murder at Serengeti Plains
Author: Pat Duggan
Publication Date: December 3rd 2021
Print Length: 280 pages
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Murder at Serengeti Plains is the third mystery novel in the series, featuring amateur sleuths Hazel Davies and Anna Kohl. The earlier novels are Murder at Eagles Nest and Could They Be Twins?

The book is set in a new residential subdivision, Serengeti Plains, built by the renowned local builder, Zebra Homes. It is located in the peaceful, historic town of Centerville, Ohio. However, peace is shattered when the new residents are awakened one morning by the sound of police sirens. The procession of police cars, come to rest in their own neighborhood. A body has been discovered! Was it an accident or was it murder? Hazel Davies and Anna Kohl have recently moved into this new subdivision. They have previously helped the police to solve murders in both Florida and Ohio, but they did not expect to find one on their own doorstep. When the police begin to look at their friend as the perpetrator, they find themselves drawn into yet another murder investigation.

After Noah left, Hazel and Anna sat down to review what they had learned.

It seemed that Detective Grant’s case was solely based on a perceived argument between Gary and Noah. Everything else was assumption and speculation. Noah had no reason to kill Gary, even if he had found him onsite without authority. He could simply have called the police. Both Hazel and Anna knew there had to be more to the story.

However, one question had emerged from Noah’s story – what was Gary doing on the building site? The likelihood of his body being brought to the site and dumped seemed highly unlikely as the hammer, now identified as the murder weapon had apparently been found in the undergrowth nearby. So, the inevitable conclusion was that Gary got there under his own steam, but why?

Hazel and Anna decided to make a list of the possible explanations. After half an hour of considering the options, they concluded that there were only two possibilities. Either he was there to meet someone, or he was there to steal something. They decided it was time to ask around and see what they could find out.

It was time to take their daily walk. Since moving into Serengeti Plains, Hazel and Anna had made a habit of walking around the subdivision for exercise. They found the established part of the area a little boring as the homes had long since been completed and during the day there was very little activity, apart from the occasional dog walker. As a result, they usually made their way to the streets where construction was still active. There were numerous homes under construction and if nobody was working on a particular house, they would slip inside to view the progress. They had watched many of the homes progress step by step from the footings to the roof and then observed each step inside towards completion.
Originally from Manchester, England, Pat Duggan moved to the U.S. in 1985. After a career in finance, which included running her own book-keeping and tax business, in the Cincinnati area, Pat and her partner retired and moved to Oregon. Years later, they embarked on a five-year journey, traveling across the country in a motorhome.

Writing was a whole new direction for Pat, which began with two non-fiction books – The Power Within and Finding God in an RV. Then she branched into writing fiction as she turned to her love for solving murder mysteries and the challenge to figure out ‘whodunit!’

Sadly, their traveling days are over, but settling down has brought its own reward as it inspired this latest novel.

- What is it about the cozy mystery genre that draws you to it?

I am drawn to the cozy mystery genre because it seems to suit my mindset. This is more easily explained by identifying what I don’t like about the other genres.

I dislike books which are focused on sex or violence, and this eliminates many areas of literature. I have never been particularly interested in romantic novels and certainly don’t consider myself qualified to write them. When I was at school in England, history seemed to consist only of learning the dates of each king and queen’s reign. As such there was little education focused on life experiences in historic times. Sadly, my imagination has its limits and does not stretch to monsters and other out of this world characters. Consequently, when all of these areas are eliminated, the cozy mystery genre seemed to be the most promising avenue to pursue.

Thankfully, my mind does have an ability to drift into a slightly skewed direction and as such, I seem to imagine bodies in the most unlikely places. During my working life, I worked first at a savings and loan in England and subsequently worked in the financial field both in England and the U.S. I have always been fascinated by fraud, thankfully, not for personal gain, but to identify potential financial loopholes in order to put systems in place to prevent others from perpetrating fraud.

This combination of finding bodies in unusual places and an ability to create and identify fraudulent activities seems to have provided me with story lines on which to base my mysteries, without the need to focus on either sex or violence.
Pat Duggan will be awarding a $20 Amazon gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter. (US only.) Good luck!

(All the Ups and Downs is not responsible for this giveaway, its entries, or the prize. Goddess Fish Promotions and the author assume all responsibility for this giveaway.)

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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Book Blitz and Giveaway: Love's Last Kiss (A Deadly Force Standalone Novel) by Sharon Wray

Title: Love’s Last Kiss
Series: Deadly Force
Author: Sharon Wray
Publisher: Toban Books
Publication Date: May 17th 2022
Print Length: 430 pages
Genre: Romantic Suspense

Is love worth risking everything for?

Rose Guthrie, a reluctant erotic dancer, hasn’t trusted anyone since her parents’ death. Yet, to make money for her brother’s heart transplant, she agrees to deliver a sealed box to a mysterious buyer. Until the box—and the seller—disappear. Not surprised by the betrayal, her situation becomes more dangerous when she learns that a brutal arms dealer, known as the Prince, also wants the box and will kill everyone she loves for it. With one clue left, she breaks into Doom—Savannah’s violent, illegal fight club. Unfortunately, Doom’s referee—the sexy, ex-Army Ranger, Kade Dolan—stands in her way. Although she harbors a secret attraction to Kade, she can’t let him stop her. If she doesn’t deliver the box on time, she’ll lose everything. Including her own life.

Rose doesn’t trust disgraced Army Ranger, ex-con Kade Dolan, but that’s okay—he doesn’t trust himself either. Why? Because he lies to everyone about everything, including his time in Leavenworth and his job as an illegal fight club referee. Then there are his two side gigs. The first as an informant for the Prince, the leader of a secret, two-thousand-year-old private army. The second, loving from afar the beautiful, secretive Rose Guthrie. After the Prince discovers Rose is the courier of a lost 18th century artifact, he orders Kade to help her find the box before their greatest enemy does. If they succeed, Kade must return it to the Prince. If they fail, Kade must kill her.

Betrayal or death. When faced with an impossible choice, Kade can’t lie anymore, at least not when it comes to what he’s about to do the woman he loves. But when Rose uncovers Kade’s lies, they learn a terrible truth—the 18th century box holds a secret far deadlier than they imagined. A secret that could destroy them all.

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Rose sat on the edge of the bed, closed her eyes, and clenched her fist until the silver compass watch warmed in her hand.

How could she trust Kade when she hardly knew him?

How could she be falling in love with him when she wasn’t sure she could trust him?

He moved, and she opened her eyes, surprised to see he’d picked up the silver bra. It’d been part of her most popular costume at Rage of Angels.

When its sequins sparkled in the sunlight, he said, “This was the costume you wore the night we met.”

She looked away but couldn’t stop the warm flush that traveled up her neck to her cheeks. She remembered that night. She’d been stripping in a cage that hung from the ceiling and had felt his stare from near the stage, where he’d broken up a fight.

The first time she’d met his blue gaze, something inside her had shifted. He hadn’t looked at her with disdain or disgust or desire. He’d just regarded her as if he understood—she was simply a woman in a cage. A woman in a desperate situation. A woman with no other options.

In that moment, the iron straps around her heart loosened the smallest bit.

“I know the truth, Rose.” He laid the bra across her knees and sat next to her. “That night, I saw it in your eyes. The woman who wore this was a character in a story. A wandering ship in a storm.” He paused when the church’s bells rang eleven a.m. “You pretended to be empty—like a bell tower without a bell. Until we spoke.”

How did he have the words to describe how she’d felt in that cage? Seen as an object, unseen as a woman. A woman with her own desires and fears and dreams. “After my set, I was walking back to the locker room, and you offered me a glass of water.”

His smile brightened his face. “Do you remember what you said to me?”

She shook her head.

“You told me you didn’t date bouncers or bartenders.” He laughed beneath his breath. “Then you walked away.”

“That was rude.” She placed the compass watch on the bed. The stream of sunshine highlighted the etching of an eight-pointed star on the silver cover. “No.” He took her hands and squeezed. “I recognized it for what it was—self-protection. I understood then, and I understand now. You have no reason to trust me. I’m an ex-con, Army Ranger, Doom referee and fighter, gym employee, and my life is owned by the Fianna.”

“Surely you’ve paid the Fianna back for releasing you from prison.”

“Rose”—He kissed the back of one hand and then the other—“it doesn’t work that way. I belong to them until they decide I don’t.”

She pulled her hands out of his grasp and stood quickly. “What does that mean?”

He stood as well but didn’t approach her. “I can’t tell you.”

Her cheeks burned, and she moved toward the window. Outsie, the oak tree separating her from the dead appeared so strong and steady. Especially compared to the fact that her world felt like it was falling off its axis. “You ask me to trust you, yet you admit you’re keeping secrets.”

He came up behind her and touched her shoulders. “I’m sorry.”

She turned halfway to see his profile. He didn’t meet her gaze. His sight was fixed on the tree where Magnus had stood.

“Kade,” she asked softly, “are you going to give the Fianna my box?”

No.” He turned her until they faced each other. His lips lowered until they hovered over hers. “Like I said last night, I’m in love with you.”

“That’s not possible.” She backed away, and he dropped his hands. “We hardly know each other. I’ve caused you nothing but problems. And you’re keeping secrets.”

He moved forward with determination, and she retreated until her back hit the wall. His gaze darkened, making his eyes appear more black than blue. He took her shoulders and drew her against him. “I promise you, Tempest Rose Guthrie, I will return.”
Sharon Wray is a librarian who once studied dress design in the couture houses of Paris and now writes of novels of suspense, adventure, and love. A caretaker of Donut the one-eyed rescue dog, she's addicted to snapping photos and eating Oreos.

She writes the bestselling Deadly Force romantic suspense series where smart, sexy women teach their alpha males that Grace always defeats Reckoning.

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Win a $25 Amazon gift card or signed copies of all four books in the Deadly Force series by Sharon Wray - open worldwide!

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Monday, May 16, 2022

Virtual Blog Tour and Giveaway - Naked & Not Ashamed: The Transformational Devotional Experience by Chanelle Coleman

Welcome to my stop on the virtual blog tour for Naked & Not Ashamed: The Transformational Devotional Experience by Chanelle Coleman. This blog tour was organized by Write Now Literary Book Tours. On my stop, I have an excerpt from the book as well as a guest post from the author about how writing has helped her. There's also the tour wide giveaway for a chance to win a copy of the book. Enjoy!
Title: Naked & Not Ashamed: The Transformational Devotional Experience
Author: Chanelle Coleman
Publisher: CeCi's Ink
Publication Date: February 1st 2022
Print Length: 232 pages
Genre: Christian Non-Fiction
Naked & Not Ashamed is a transparent conversation between Sisters. One that allows both the writer and reader to expose themselves without fear or sense of condemnation. It’s a journey towards healing that allows us to dialogue without masks, charades, or pretense. We explore familiar stories of women in the Bible. These powerful narratives of trial, triumph, failures, and flaws show the resiliency, redemptive and transformative power of encountering Christ. I also reveal personal experiences of my own Christian walk with all its ups, downs, twists, and turns. But the most amazing part of these chronicles is you! Right now, you are writing your story. Are you living with pain, grief, and regret that needs to be released? This book is designed to help you see your own undeniably powerful narrative. I want to challenge you to see the hand of God in your life and urge you to find the ability to tell your story. We accomplish this through journal prompts, activities, prayer, etc.

Tony instantly began screaming and yelling. I continued to bite down harder. I continued biting and grinding my teeth until I couldn’t bite anymore. I let go. He fell back onto the bed. I jumped up out of the bed, my heart was pounding, terrified I opened the door, and I was met with darkness. Hurriedly I ran out past the dining room, through the hallway to the kitchen. Panicked, I reached the back door. I began pulling on the door, but it was locked. Fear seized me as I began fumbling with the knob trying to unlock the door. The latch finally twisted up and I raced up the back-hallway stairs. At last, there was light. I ran as fast as I could through the open kitchen door. The light continued to welcome me as I forged ahead running through the hallway past the bathroom and my aunt’s and grandparent’s bedrooms, the dining-room and into the living room to the couch where my grandmother was sitting. I distinctly remember her shocked expression as I pounded towards her as she sat there speechless, on the couch holding my baby brother. I felt relieved and a sense of security momentarily came over me until my grandmother spoke. She stared at me, with her mouth opened in shock. She screamed, “Chanelle, you’re naked! Where are your clothes?” Momentarily, I had forgotten that I was naked, but the awful realization of my nakedness began to cover me like a garment. It was the evidence of my pain, humiliation, and fear. I stood there breathlessly as I gasped, painting for air, naked and ashamed, I told her my story.
Chanelle Coleman Wesley is a native of Milwaukee Wisconsin. She is the creative powerhouse of CeCi’s Ink, an innovative storytelling company that conveys stories through poetry, books, playwrights, blogs, fashion, and motivational speaking. Chanelle is significantly inspired by her late mother’s, Brenda J. Coleman, penchant for prolific storytelling and developing a strong sense of faith.
As a survivor of abuse, Wesley believes in passing on the communication skills she developed to cope in those environments. She is also an accomplished playwright with her latest project, a gospel stage play entitled The Beautiful Truth About an Ugly Lie to be released soon. She strives to empower individuals who have lost their ability to advocate for themselves by challenging them to recognize the power of their voice. Her greatest accomplishment, however, forever remains becoming a mother to her six beautiful children and “GiGi” to her two adorable grandchildren.

Writing a story is an undeniably powerful act. Narratives can transcend biases, bring light to a struggle, create laughter, invoke strong emotions, and provide inspiration. Stories are necessary. They expose to us both the issues and solutions of life. I love writing for its ability to transform lives.

My first encounter with sexual abuse happened at the age of 4 or 5 years old. This incident helped me to acquire a mindset that allowed me to be abused throughout my adolescent years. The abuse made me feel powerless, insignificant, fearful, ashamed and it took away my ability to find my voice. I saw myself as a victim of sexual abuse and incest. But as the abuse stole these things, writing empowered me by creating a world where I could control the narrative and it gave me back my voice. I now understand that I am not a victim — I am a survivor.

Writing is something that has always provided a space of healing. I’ve known since I was 7 or 8 years old that this is something that ministers to me. It is my gift and it was given to me to share with others. When I was a child, I saw stories in anything and everything around me. As an adult, stories remain intertwined within my spirit.

The ability to create and tell the story is what inspires me to write. I imagine creation, which is an incredibly powerful achievement, and the act of communicating an account are irrevocably transformative concepts because of my past. I recognize that I struggle with managing control. Not control of others but of myself and my children. As a survivor, I was unable to control or convey what was happening to me. I was robbed of these things during this period of my life. Writing has allowed me to reclaim my broken pieces. Every time I sit down to write about my experience, I emerge as a conqueror. Writing is the balm that God has equipped and empowered me to utilize to become whole again. Each time I communicate my narrative, I become more powerful, immovable and unstoppable. I challenge myself to produce stories that inspire others to find their powerful narrative.

Writing for me is one of the purest forms of self-expression. It’s something about it that’s medicinal to me; it is therapeutic in many ways. It gives me unspeakable joy. When the pen hits the paper I am instantly transported into a world of my choosing. The storylines are influenced by my thoughts or moods, knowing this gives me a sense of security.

Writing fulfills my wildest dreams and it can provide similar tools for you too. I'd like to encourage you to begin journaling. You are writing chapters in your life's story at this very moment. What are you writing? Whatever it is, I pray it’s amazing!
One Winner: Paperback of Naked & Not Ashamed by Chanelle Coleman
Ten Winners: eBook of Naked & Not Ashamed by Chanelle Coleman

(All the Ups and Downs is not responsible for this giveaway, its entries, or the prizes. WNL Book Tours and the author assume all responsibility for this giveaway.)

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Book Blitz and Giveaway: The Irish Wanders (Rose Hawthorne #2) by Shannon O'Gorman

Title: The Irish Wanders
Series: Rose Hawthorne #2
Author: Shannon O’Gorman
Publication Date: March 16th 2022
Print Length: 212 pages
Genre: Cozy Mystery

Rose Hawthorne is a celebrity author in her early seventies, who dislikes the spotlight but has a penchant for Hermes scarfs, round violet sunglasses, and old colonial hotels.

One day, she receives a strange letter asking her to visit Newgrange, Ireland and look for something that has been hidden there for a thousand years.

She asks her granddaughter to accompany her, but she hadn’t expected Samantha to continually be posting photos of their progress on her Instagram account. An encounter with an old love and an unexpected discovery leads Rose further and further into the past, and she finds must make a hard decision about her future.

Don’t miss this second book in the Rose Hawthorne series!

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Rose took a deep breath, smiled, bent her head, and stepped carefully into the dark, low, narrow entrance and into the stone tomb of Newgrange. She passed under the ‘roof box,’ a unique open window set in heavy stone above the doorway. Like many ancient passages, it wasn’t built for a tall woman like her. At nearly 6 feet tall, with shoulder-length, black curly hair streaked with grey, she looked younger than her seventy-odd years.

The heavy stone slabs on both sides leaned slightly inward, making an awkward narrow corridor that sloped downwards. There was very little light, and she bumped her head several times, but she could still make out the ancient Neolithic geometric designs on some walls as she passed by with her small flashlight.

“Grandma, Grandma, slow down!” an annoyed voice said behind her. “I can’t keep up!”

“Hurry up, then,” Rose shouted back while she shone her flashlight beam upwards and gazed at the 20-foot ceiling that narrowed into great slabs. She could feel wispy fingers of wind on the fine hairs on the back of her neck. She paused and touched a wall as she waited for her granddaughter, Samantha, to catch up. While she stood there, she ran a palm over the cool stone, patted it gently and murmured, “You have kept a lot of secrets, my old darling. It’s all right to tell me some of them now.”

“Thanks for finally stopping and thinking about me!” Sam said sarcastically as she caught up to Rose, leaning against a wall. “My iPhone is at only 10 percent now! How much further is it?”

“Not too far, I think,” said Rose. “Stay close behind me if your battery is dying. You know, I’ve had my little flashlight for over 20 years, and it’s never let me down as long as I remember to check the batteries. It’s shown me the way inside the pyramids and some old mausoleums that are much darker than here. It could tell a lot of stories, just like all of us old things!” Rose chuckled.

“Whatever,” Sam mumbled and scowled in the darkness as she stomped behind her grandmother. She hated it when Rose pointed things out to her.

Sam was slimly built and was a strong, opinionated 17-year-old. She was dressed in torn jeans, a rain jacket and a pair of Doc Martens. Her long brown hair hung loosely over her shoulders. She had an extroverted personality but was also very sensitive. Sometimes she felt things too deeply.

Rose and Sam continued to walk until they could go no further, about 60 feet from the entrance. Here was the heart of the tomb and what Rose was looking for.

Geometric swirls decorated the back wall, just above what likely had been an ancient altar, long before the Druids and the Celts came to Ireland.

The three iconic swirls were like small circular labyrinths designed to represent what only the artist knew. Some said it was a map of the area, the underworld, or a meditation symbol. However, of course, nobody really knew. How could they? They were all drawn so long ago.

The tomb was illuminated once a year by the December sun of the Winter Solstice, when one could step onto a sunbeam and walk in the sunshine. For those short minutes, the brilliant light crept in to highlight the perfection of the sun. It would come in through the 5000-year-old roof box and pierce the darkness to the end of the tomb where Rose now stood. It would eventually creep to the three geometric swirls that she had come to examine. There it hung and lurked there before receding out the entrance; its short dance of celebration done until the next year.

Today was not the day of the winter solstice. There would be no brilliant sunshine; it was just another dull, cloudy, rainy June day in Ireland. Much like many others.
Shannon O'Gorman is originally from Winnipeg, Canada but has had the great fortune to have traveled and lived in several countries. After graduating with a degree in English literature she focused on travelling for a few years and eventually found herself teaching English in Japan. After more than a decade in Japan, she returned to teach ESL in Canada and convinced her husband and daughter to join her. These days she lives in San Jose, California, and enjoys coaxing her dog to train for a Camino.

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Win a $25 Amazon gift card!

(All the Ups and Downs is not responsible for this giveaway, its entries, or the prize. Xpresso Book Tours and the author assume all responsibility over this giveaway.)

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Book Blitz and Giveaway: Shadowed Horizons (The Guardians #1) by Reily Garrett

Title: Shadowed Horizons
Series: The Guardians #1
Author: Reily Garrett
Publication Date: May 13th 2022
Print Length: 273 pages
Genre: Paranormal Horror

Fate can have many paths. Which would you choose?

Kiera’s capacity to face death stems from training, begun when old enough to wield a knife. Befriended by wolves and raised by a group of psychic men sworn to protect humanity, she now faces mercenaries intent on reshaping the world using equal talents.

Prodigious keyboard skills and innate curiosity has led Wyatt McGlauklin to invent the unimaginable. He’s long since claimed status as the top computer science geek. Little do people know, there’s much more to Wyatt.

When a blonde spitfire steps out of nowhere to prevent his assassination, his life’s direction takes an extraordinary turn where his analytical mind can’t validate paranormal phenomena.

Fate decrees Kiera find her life partner, but she learns you don’t always get to choose whom you love. Wyatt’s arrival challenges destiny as they combine forces to preserve the world as they know it.

A must-read for fans of for fans of CM Sutter, Dale Mayer, Dean Koontz, LT Ryan, and Fiona Quinn.

Goodreads * Amazon

Wyatt stiffened when something furry dropped onto his right shoulder. Warm and agile, the monkey wrapped its tail around his neck to secure its place with an arm around his head, latching on to his left ear.

“You have a monkey?” He thought keeping wolves was strange.

“He’s a Capuchin monkey. Name’s Simon.”

Wyatt held very still, not wanting to startle the critter that had jumped down from one of the ceiling fan’s paddles. “That explains the thickness of the paddles and size of the motor. Does he like to ride?” An image of the fan on low with Simon hanging by his fully haired prehensile tail and a primal scream filling the air came to mind.

“Yeah, but he gets so excited and makes so much noise, we don’t let him do it often.”

Wyatt held his hands out, an offering for the monkey to vacate his new perch, then slowly moved to pluck the primate from his shoulder. Round-headed with a white face, an eerie intelligence shone from deep within its gaze. “Capuchins are supposed to be one of the most intelligent of the New World monkeys.”

“He won’t let you forget it.”

“Um, Kiera. Simon is actually a Simone.”

In response, the monkey slapped Wyatt on the cheek and shrieked its rage.

“Ow. What was that for?”

He doesn’t like to be referred to as a girl. And before you ask, he likes to perch high to have a visual advantage. It gives him a bird’s eye view. Of note, if he doesn’t like you, he’ll toss things at you while you sleep. He has a penchant for stealing and hording Dacien’s jelly beans.”

“Sounds like he makes good use of opposable thumbs.”

As if understanding the complexities of English, Simon patted Wyatt on the head before tweaking his nose.

“See? He likes you.”

Wyatt wondered what devilment the monkey stirred up and if he led or followed in Kiera’s steps. “Where’d you find him?”
Reily Garrett is a writer, mother, and companion to three long coat German shepherds. When not working with her dogs, she’s sitting at her desk with her fur kids by her side.

Author of chilling suspense and snarky romance, her stories span the distance of romantic thrillers, paranormal romance, and erotic romance. Regardless of genre, each book delves into a dark and twisted imagination yet is tempered with romance and a touch of humor.

Reviews by Kirkus Reviews, San Francisco Bay Review, and best describe her work:

"This could be James Patterson, Lee Child, and Tess Gerritsen rolled into one, but the dark, twisted methods used by the serial killer could surprise even those readers…” - San Francisco Bay Review

“…steamy, seductive police procedural…” -

“…well-researched thriller that remains romantically genuine throughout.” - Kirkus Review

Prior experience in the Military Police, private investigations, and as an ICU nurse gives her fiction a real-world flavor.

Website * Goodreads * Facebook * Twitter *
Instagram * Bookbub * Amazon
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(All the Ups and Downs is not responsible for this giveaway, its entries, or the prize. Xpresso Book Tours and the author assume all responsibility over this giveaway.)

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Sunday, May 15, 2022

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Under Fortunate Stars by Ren Hutchings

Under Fortunate Stars banner
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Under Fortunate Stars by Ren Hutchings. This blog tour was organized by Lola's Blog Tours. On my stop, I have an excerpt from the book. I also have a highly interesting guest post from the author. There's also the tour wide giveaway for a chance to win a paperback of Under Fortunate Stars. Be sure to follow the rest of the tour for more content. Enjoy!
Under Fortunate Stars book cover
Title: Under Fortunate Stars
Author: Ren Hutchings
Publication Date: May 10th 2022
Print Length: 477 pages
Genre: Science Fiction

Two Ships. One Chance To Save The Future.

Fleeing the final days of the generations-long war with the alien Felen, smuggler Jereth Keeven’s freighter the Jonah breaks down in a strange rift in deep space, with little chance of rescue—until they encounter the research vessel Gallion, which claims to be from 152 years in the future.

The Gallion’s chief engineer Uma Ozakka has always been fascinated with the past, especially the tale of the Fortunate Five, who ended the war with the Felen. When the Gallion rescues a run-down junk freighter, Ozakka is shocked to recognize the Five's legendary ship—and the Five's famed leader, Eldric Leesongronski, among the crew.

But nothing else about Leesongronski and his crewmates seems to match up with the historical record. With their ships running out of power in the rift, more than the lives of both crews may be at stake...


Research Vessel RV ZC-2812 ZeyCorp Gallion

Shaan sat at an empty table in the Gallion’s canteen, staring at the urgent message alert blinking on her bracelet. She weighed up the consequences of ignoring it like she’d ignored the first one, and the second. But this was Director Barnabyn’s third message, and after three would come the voice-call. She didn’t want to wait for that, not with the Director of Administration in such a foul mood.

She sighed and fished in her pocket for her ZeyCorp badge, wiping a smudge from one corner before she clipped it to her collar. The company logo gleamed brightly over her uninspiring title: Facilities Coordinator. Shaan hardly ever bothered with the badge unless she was leading a formal tour, but the captain’s directive had been clear: full uniform, at all times. Everything had to be kept in perfect order for their diplomatic visitors.

As if a Felen Ambassador would care about a corporate badge. Shaan couldn’t understand what the Ambassador was doing on a ship like this in the first place. The Gallion was a mobile research facility for hire, a corporate science ship that delved long months into deep space so the researchers who paid for ZeyCorp’s services could run experiments. The decks usually teemed with people: scientists and their entourages, interns, engineers and equipment techs. But between rotations, there was a turnover when the ship was nearly emptied. Now, the Gallion was stripped down to its core crew, and the only guest apartment in use was the one occupied by the Ambassador.

The Ambassador was on the way to a summit in mainspace, and ZeyCorp had leapt at the opportunity for one of their ships to ferry a Felen dignitary. A hundred and fifty-two years had passed since the Peace of Etraxas and the end of the war, but Felen were rarely seen by human civilians. Diplomatic matters were normally conducted out in the border sectors—not on corporate science ships.

The week before the Ambassador’s arrival had been filled with frenzied preparations. Everyone in the Gallion’s core crew got a lesson in Felen diplomatic protocols, and Director Barnabyn had insisted that they all recite the list of rules aloud.

Always address the interpreter, never the Ambassador directly.

Do not walk beside the Ambassador.

Do not turn your back to the Ambassador.

Do not touch the Ambassador.

Do not eat or drink in front of the Ambassador...

Shaan had repeated the protocols to Barnabyn’s satisfaction, then promptly deleted the list from her lightpad. She intended to avoid the diplomatic visitors altogether. Even though she usually led the ship’s tours, on this occasion Director Barnabyn wanted to take care of every detail himself, and Shaan had barely tried to feign disappointment.

This would be over soon. The Gallion wasn’t far from its next scheduled stop, where more crew and new researchers would come on board. There, the Ambassador would disembark, and she’d never have to think about any of this again. Soon.

That is, if the ship’s engines ever started working again.

Shaan pushed the thought of the Felen Ambassador from her mind. She tapped her bracelet to acknowledge Barnabyn’s message, then called the nearest lift and descended to the Engineering deck.

Some small part of her still hoped that the Engineering team had overlooked something obvious, that this engine malfunction wasn’t as bad as it seemed. But hours had passed since the incident, and the ship remained disconcertingly silent. No one had uploaded an incident report yet, much to Director Barnabyn’s chagrin.

Shaan emerged from the lift on the upper level of the Engineering deck. There was no one in sight. The consoles that controlled the ship’s scientific arrays were switched off, and the oblong meeting-table sat empty, its projection surfaces dark. She walked to the edge of the upper deck’s outcropping, looking over the rail into the Engineering pit.

Arranged around the lower level were more semi-circular banks of workstations, each with a garish purple seat that swung out sideways. Most of those seats were empty, too, and only a half-dozen consoles were in use. The engineers were engrossed in scrolling columns of glowing diagnostics, and no one looked up as Shaan walked down the stairs into the pit.
Ren Hutchings
Ren Hutchings is a speculative fiction writer, writing mentor, and history grad. She spent most of the past decade working in game dev while also plotting twisty space novels. She loves pop science, unexplained mysteries, 90s music, collecting outdated electronics, and pondering about alternate universes. Ren always drafts out of order, and almost everything she writes ends up involving a dash of time travel.

- If you could visit any science fiction universe, which one would you want to visit and why?

I would love to visit (and/or live in!) the Star Trek universe – probably around the TNG era. Not only because that setting evokes a deeply personal sense of nostalgia and "home" for me – it was my first fandom, it pulled me into the world of sci-fi, and it got me through some truly difficult times in my teens – but also because it makes me feel hopeful in the face of an increasingly bleak outlook for humanity in our current reality.

While in some ways the Star Trek vision of humanity’s future is a utopian one, it's also clear that humanity hasn’t become perfect, and there will always be new challenges and conflicts to overcome – both for the human species and for the wider collective of the galaxy’s other sentiences. But in that future, we've mostly weathered the bad times, and we've made it through into an era where most people are able to follow their dreams in whatever way they choose.

In Star Trek, humanity knows so much about the universe, and continues to learn more. They've made first contact many times, they’ve connected with numerous kinds of sentient life, and there are endless worlds to see and experience. But equally, it's also totally possible for someone to move to a little cottage and spend their time painting and making music, if that's what they want to do. A creative life is valued and completely within reach, and money is no longer a deciding factor behind people’s career paths and life choices.

There are so many fantastical worlds and settings in sci-fi that I would also love to visit and get lost in... but ultimately, I think I'm most drawn to the idea of a hopeful future for humanity. I'd like to see us not only make it through the next few centuries alive, but continue to evolve, become better, and thrive.
Win a paperback of Under Fortunate Stars by Ren Hutchings - open worldwide!

(All the Ups and Downs is not responsible for this giveaway, its entries, or the prize. Lola's Blog Tours and the author assume all responsibility over this giveaway.)