Friday, March 31, 2023

Will their wedding be eclipsed by a funeral? #CozyMystery #Paranormal #Giveaway


A pattern of murder. A threadbare case. Can our psychic sleuth pick out the guilty before time spools out?

Mitzy Moon is finally tying the knot. And she’s loving the whole town’s excitement for their upcoming big day. But when their tailor is found buttons up behind a jazz lounge, the almost-newlyweds will have to hem in a murderer before their dreams rip apart at the seams.

Knowing they’ll get no help from the new sheriff in town, the couple embarks on a tightly woven undercover assignment. But Mitzy fails to heed ominous warnings from her mentor, Ghost-ma, and her entitled feline. When another body drops, she could be the next target erased by the mounting powers in the darkness…

Can Mitzy and Erick unravel the twisted clues, or will their wedding be eclipsed by a funeral?

Bells and Bombshells is the first book in a hilarious new paranormal cozy mystery series, Harper and Moon Investigations. If you like snarky heroines, supernatural intrigue, and a dash of romance, then you’ll love Trixie Silvertale’s wedded whodunit.

Buy Bells and Bombshells to stitch up a killer today!


Dear Diary, in less than a week I’ll be married! I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. Sheriff Erick Harper is the kindest, handsomest man in all the land.

Oh, Mitzy! You’re such a hoot!” The ghost of my not as dearly departed as everyone thinks grandmother pops into the visual spectrum directly above my bed.

Grams! Get out of my head! How many times do I have to tell you, thought-dropping is against the rules? If these lips —”

Spare me the lecture, sweetie. It’s the only way I can get your attention lately. For weeks, you’ve been acting like a girl trapped in a, what do you call it, Rom-Com?” The ethereal specter crosses her bejeweled arms over her burgundy silk-and-tulle Marchesa burial gown.

Don’t play innocent with me, Myrtle Isadora. I was in my safe space. Snuggled under the comforter of my cozy bed, enjoying my own personal thoughts. No invitation was extended.”

Reow.” Can confirm.

See, even Pyewacket agrees with me.” It’s not as though my half wild tan caracal can actually speak, but the longer I live in Pin Cherry Harbor the more I understand the subtle variations of his intonations.

The glowing apparition scoffs. “You know I don’t approve of you two ganging up on me. I simply came in to see if you needed help selecting the right outfit for this morning’s breakfast.”

Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!” I fling my legs toward the floor and attempt to leap out of bed. Bad idea.

If you know me, you know what happens next. If you’re new in town, let me cut to the chase. My legs do not spring clear of the bedding, and I tumble into a puzzle of reindeer onesie pajamas and mortification on the floor beneath

About the Author

USA TODAY Bestselling author Trixie Silvertale grew up reading an endless supply of Lilian Jackson Braun, Hardy Boys, and Nancy Drew novels. She loves the amateur sleuths in cozy mysteries and obsesses about all things paranormal. Those two passions unite in her Harper and Moon Investigations series, and she's thrilled to write them and share them with you.


Trixie’s Website

Amazon Author Page

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Trixie Silvertale will be awarding a $75 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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Thursday, March 30, 2023

Shouting at a Wall -- #AmWriting #Publishing #Frustration

Author's frustration

Image by Steve Johnson from Pixabay

When we’re not writing, we authors love to complain. That’s natural. Writing is hard work (despite what the general public seems to believe) and often, painfully thankless.

We sweat blood, straining for just the right phrase. We revise, review, revise again – cut, reorganize, shift focus, change tense, juggle point of view – hoping that when we finally perfect our prose, we won’t be too exhausted to recognize that fact.

And when we do reach that pinnacle, at least in our own eyes, when we’re finally satisfied with our opus? When the precious book hits the shelves and we proudly announce our new release, what happens?

All too often, not much. I don’t know very many authors who are satisfied with their sales. It has become easier than ever before to get your books out in front of readers, but it is damnedly hard to get those readers to pay attention. Social media, contests, blog tours, videos, newsletters, review solicitations, advertising, freebies – there are dozens of strategies for spreading the word, but not one of them is guaranteed to do the job. Furthermore, what might have worked last year is likely to be less effective this year.

It’s so frustrating! No wonder we complain.

I guess I’m a sympathetic ear, because I frequently receive emails from my author friends bemoaning their lack of sales. Here are a few recent quotes.

It makes me dream of the early days of Covid, when I could stay home and write/promote all day. Of course, I had NO $ coming in. And I was hugely disappointed that my books weren't selling, no matter how much promos I did. According to [redacted], unless I have a newsletter, I'll be stuck as a bottom-feeder forever. Very discouraging.”

I've been thinking about you lately and wanted to unload my frustration on you. I feel like I'm doing something very, very wrong with my writing. I spent a fortune on [redacted] (and [redacted2]) but I haven't sold a single copy of [redacted]!....You've read my works in all their varieties; what would you say is making them unappealing to readers?...Where am I falling short, do you think?”

Hoo-boy the marketing angle of this is really a bear! Marketing a book on Amazon is like trying to market a needle in a haystack.”

I do find it ironic that my colleagues are asking me these questions, because my own sales are far from inspiring. The only thing that encourages me is that my work sells better now than when I was writing for publishers as opposed to self-publishing.

Just the other day, I got a rather emotional note from a young author friend with the title I wanna quit!I can't sell a book to save my god damn life,” he continued. “I feel like I'm wasting my fucking time.

I gave him my usual spiel. “If you're not writing for love and fun, it's not worth doing. It is not about money.” Now I truly believe this. If I were being rational, I would have given up writing long ago. The time I put in could be invested much more profitably in other activities.

But not, perhaps, more enjoyably.

My hot-headed correspondent replied in a more measured tone.

Hmmm it’s not so much about money. It’s about entertaining an audience. I don’t like feeling like I’m shouting at a wall.”

I sympathize. When nobody is buying your books, the silence is deafening. Conversely, there are few things as wonderful as getting a note from a reader, telling you how much they enjoyed your story. It doesn’t happen to me often, but when it does, I’m high for days.

I don’t like shouting at a wall either. So one thing that I do is give away a lot of my books. (Another reason I like self-publishing – I can do that whenever I want, without asking anyone’s permission.) Some authors will tell you that you’re undermining your sales by providing your books for free, but if they’re not selling anyway, why not? Besides, if you can get someone to read a free book, and like it, they might just be willing to shell out some cash for another of your titles.

One thing I know from surveys I’ve done of the folks on my email list. Most of them love to read, but many have restricted incomes. If a reader’s budget for books is only five bucks a month, how is she going to decide which title to buy? With all the competition, what are the chances that your book is going to be the one she selects?

So I’m philosophical when it comes to sales. Of course I can afford to be. I’m not trying to support myself. I do view every sale and every dollar I receive in royalties as grace. Someone, somewhere, bought one of my books. Maybe he or she will like it. If I’m really lucky, perhaps the reader will leave a review.

In any case, it’s evidence I’m not entirely shouting at a wall. So even when I’m tempted, I try not to complain.


Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Nothing you can say will sway me – #MFRWHooks #Steampunk #Paranormal #99cents

Rajasthani Moon sale banner

It’s time for another MFRW Book Hooks blog hop. I’m featuring more from my multi-genre erotic romance Rajasthani Moon. This full length novel, normally $4.99, is still discounted to only 99 cents at all outlets – but only until the end of March. So if you want to sample this outrageous, creative and romantic story for less than a buck, you’ve got to move quickly.

My excerpts usually push the concept of a “hook”. They tend to be much longer than many of the other snippets featured in the hop. Today, though, my hook is short and sweet – just enough, I hope, to entice you to give the book a try!


A bandit prince cursed into beast form under the full moon.

A brilliant but sadistic Rajah whose robotic sex toys mingle torture and delight.

A voluptuous spy on a mission from Her Majesty, tasked with discovering Rajasthan’s secrets.

She has never faced such a challenge.

When Rajasthan refuses to remit its taxes, the Queen calls on her most lethal and seductive secret agent, Cecily Harrowsmith. Cecily expects to have little difficulty persuading the rebellious Rajah to submit once more to the Empire. Instead, she is the one forced to submit – to endure unprecedented extremes of pleasure and pain.

Kidnapped by the ruler's half-brother Pratan and delivered into the hands of the handsome but depraved Rajah Amir, she soon finds herself fighting against her own lascivious nature as much as the schemes of her captors. Her sympathy for the moon-cursed wolf-man Pratan only complicates her situation. Cecily has never failed to complete an assignment, but now she risks betrayal by both her body and her heart.

The Hook

The caravan assembled before dawn, in the courtyard where Cecily had first entered Mehrangarh Fort. The Rajah and his brother had decided to travel in the amphibious coach that had brought her to Jaipur. As she peered in the narrow door, she saw that the interior had been restyled in opulent Oriental mode, with the seats removed, the floor carpeted and piles of bright cushions strewn about.

Can I assist you, madam?” Pratan appeared at her side, a half-grin spread beneath his unruly moustache. He appeared far more cheerful than he had the previous day. Perhaps the night had passed without his shifting to his beast form. If that were true, she was glad she’d stayed away.

Thank you, sir.” It was indeed far easier for her to clamber through the entrance using his proffered hand to stabilise herself. She settled herself among the pillows as he crawled in to join her, taking a position on the opposite side of the vehicle.

They sat for a moment in oddly companionable silence. Pratan was first to speak.

You needn’t do this, Cecily. I’ll convince Amir to release you in any case.”

And let you continue to suffer from this foul curse? No—I can’t allow that, not if it’s in my power to help.”

He reached for her hand. As usual, his touch aroused her, far out of proportion to what was rational. His strength was evident in the brief squeeze he gave her fingers. She dampened as though he’d pressed upon her clit instead.

Please reconsider. You may be condemning me to a life of terrible guilt.”

And would that be worse than the beast’s life you endure now?” Cecily warred against her rising lust. The moon had set and the eastern horizon was luminous with the coming morning, but her presence and scent might still trigger his change. “I’ve made up my mind, Pratan. Nothing you can say will sway me.”

You’re a damned stubborn woman, Cecily Harrowsmith.” He released her hand, leaving her skin tingling in the wake of his fingers. His smile belied the irritation in his voice. “I just hope you won’t regret this foolishness.”

I hope you’re right, she thought. Because even I don’t know exactly why I’m doing this.


Buy Links (only 99 cents until the end of March!)

Kinky Literature -

Amazon US -

Amazon UK –

Smashwords -

Barnes and Noble -

Kobo -

Apple Books -

Add on Goodreads -

I hope you’ll visit the other authors participating in today’s Book Hooks hop!

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Review Tuesday: The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill -- #Laos #Mystery #ReviewTuesday

The Coroner's Lunch cover

The Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill

Soho Crime, 2015

A seventy-something veteran of Laos' guerilla war for independence is more or less forced to take the position of National Coroner in newly liberated Communist Laos. Dr. Siri meets the trials and tribulations of his position, the political subtleties and the real-world threats, with intelligence and a very Buddhist acceptance. It helps that he has had glimpses of the world beyond death; the individuals who are brought into his morgue frequently appear to him in dreams, often to offer cryptic clues about their demise.

I adored this first volume of what has to be one of the most original mystery series I've ever encountered. Having visited Laos several times (though well after the period covered in this novel), I could appreciate the cultural and geographic details. The book offers snappy dialogue, distinctive and appealing characters and frequent self-deprecating humor, with hints of more serious themes involving life, death and compassion.

Highly recommended!

Monday, March 27, 2023

Eighty-four seconds can destroy your life – #WomansFiction #Addiction #Giveaway @SusanGReinhardt

The Beautiful Misfits cover


Eighty-four seconds can change your life. Or destroy it. Josie Nickels is an Emmy-winning news anchor, poised to rise through the ranks of television journalism. On a bitter March evening on live TV, the pressures and secrets burbling behind the closed doors of her ridiculous Victorian mansion explode and the overwhelmed journalist spills family secrets like a Baptist at altar call. The aftermath costs her much more than a career. It robs her of a beloved son—a preppy, educated millennial trapped in the deadly world of addiction. Desperate for a new start and a way to save her son, Josie packs up her pride, her young daughter, and accepts a new job slinging cosmetics at a department store make-up counter with other disgraced celebs. In the gorgeous mountains of Asheville N.C., known for hippies, healings, and Subarus, Josie is faced with a choice for her son: Take a chance on a bold, out-of-the-ordinary treatment plan for her son or lose him forever. This heart-wrenching and, at times, hilarious novel, will delight fans of book-club women’s fiction and inspire and give hope to those with addicted sons and daughters.


She’d felt the bump of her lower abs, firm with life as she stood from the vanity and twirled in the fitted, beautifully cut gown, its swishy A-line skirt floating beneath her waist. In the mirror, the iridescent beads shimmered against the sun drifting through her bedroom window.

Her parents’ fifteen-room Beaux Arts mansion spoke Southern elegance at its uppity best. As she admired the gown, she heard staccato raps at the door. Without invitation, her mother burst into her pink-and-cream bedroom with its billowing canopy bed that made Josie feel protected. “You look beautiful,” she said, scanning her in her entirety. Josie waited for the “but.” “Turn around and let me see you from the side.”

Katherine looked striking—and intimidating—in her ruby mother-of-the-bride gown, its ruched waist showing off her incredible figure and a front slit opening to reveal a long, tanned leg. “The dress is deliciously posh. However…” she said, hands on Josie’s shoulders as she angled her in the light. She rubbed her forehead. “I’m having second thoughts about you wearing white. Anyhow, too late now, isn’t it?”

Josie inhaled sharply, refusing to let her mother ruin this day. “Can’t you wear a support garment? Around your middle?”

I’m four months pregnant, Mother. It’s not exactly a secret.”

Secret or not. We’re not the bloody sort to display our premarital lust at the altar.”

Josie flushed but said nothing. Her mother’s barbs and put-on British jargon would not get to her today. She had nothing to hide. It was 1994, for heaven’s sake, and not puritanical times when young women like her had been shuttled away to stay with “beloved relatives.”

About the Author

Susan Reinhardt grew up in LaGrange, GA and Spartanburg, SC where most girls twirled batons, entered beauty pageants, and became debutantes.

Bucking the norm, Susan spent her free time water skiing almost every day, fishing, and pining for a ragamuffin boy who was always up to no good.

Earlier in her college years, she pursued nursing, but most of her patients were terminal and her mastery and frequency of giving enemas had her questioning this line of work, though she adores nurses and often wishes she’d have stuck with the field.

She recently took a part-time job caring for adults with disabilities and loves the work, figuring it would at least make up for past misdeeds and get her a better shot at the Pearly Gates.

Writing has always been her first love. And she became good enough at it to earn many dozens of awards, including three Best of Gannetts for her feature stories and columns. Along with a bunch of other junk that really doesn't matter in the end.

What matters to Reinhardt is making people laugh. And think. And love others.

She is married to her second and final husband, country and genius lawyer Donny Laws who is bald but has a ponytail and loves to ride a bike. She has two adult kids, three steps, and a granddaughter.

She’s been on national TV, has modeled for one glossy magazine, and was the subject of a British documentary on aging and body image. She hopes that the documentary is lost and never resurfaces.

She once had a radio show called Susan Uncensored; a sold-out one-woman show called “From Hilarity to Insanity and Back.”

She no longer water skis but performs fairly decent front and backflips from a diving board and half-ass rides a unicycle and twirls a baton simultaneously.

Her hobbies include a vintage camper obsession and she’s owned three. Recently she’s settled on her 1968 Scotsman, which she hopes to paint pink and teal with polka-dots and haul on book tours.

She has two rescue cats who vehemently hate each other.

In her next life, she’d like to be a figure skater.

Buy Link

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The author will be awarding a $15 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter.

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Sunday, March 26, 2023

Charity Sunday: Celebrating Women’s History Month #CharitySunday #GirlsWhoCode #FemaleEngineers

Charity Sunday Banner

We still have a few days left in March, which happens to be Women's History Month.

Did you know that the first computer programmer was a woman? Lady Ada Lovelace is generally credited as the author of the first step by step algorithm for solving a problem with a general purpose calculation device, the Difference Engine designed by her friend and mentor Charles Babbage.

There are many other women who’ve made important contributions to computing and technology, but alas, we mostly hear about people like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. That’s one reason why for this Charity Sunday, I am supporting Girls Who Code, an organization devoted to educating girls and young women in computer technology, encouraging them to pursue careers in tech, and changing public policy to make the computer industry more equitable and inclusive. 


Girls Who Code runs coding camps and clubs, with a special focus on minority and disadvantaged girls; develops and disseminates “code at home” projects to excite young women about computer programming; works with legislators to include computing in K-12 curricula; and sponsors research to document the gender gap in computing as well as to measure the impact of their programs.

I’m a software engineer myself. I know how challenging and satisfying it can be to use computers in order to solve real world problems. The rise of AI means that more than ever we need a balanced view of the benefits and risks of computing. Females tend to bring a more human-centered view to engineering. Personally, I feel that world would definitely benefit from less tech testosterone.

So - for every comment I receive on this post, I will donate two dollars to Girls Who Code.

Meanwhile, as usual on Charity Sunday, I have an excerpt for you. In fact quite a few of my characters are female engineers. Here’s a bit from The Journeyman’s Trial, the second book in my Toymakers Guild series. Gillian Smith, my heroine, is an engineering genius, but she has been exiled from Randerley Hall for a month because she and her lover Rafe acted irresponsibly and put the Guild at risk. At first she has a difficult time – but her work saves her.


During the first week and a half of her sentence, restless energy tormented her. She spent many hours walking by sea, despite the chill winds and frequent rain. Although she tried to appreciate the natural beauty of the wintery scene, she could not blot out the memory of Edward Thorne’s stern expression when he’d dismissed her. Anxious thoughts cycled relentlessly through her mind. What if he decided to expel her from the Guild after all? How could she convince him to let her remain?

In the few months since she’d arrived at Randerley, it had become her home. She’d become accustomed to having intelligent, creative and curious companions, not to mention being free to express her carnal desires. How awful to go back to the stupid, stifling, hypocritical society epitomised by her aunt and her repulsive son, superficially moral, secretly corrupt! She’d managed to adapt herself to that life before the Guild took her in, but now? Better to live like a hermit in some isolated hideaway, where she could be herself.

If she were readmitted to the Guild community, though, could she truly guarantee she wouldn’t commit another offence? Blinded by passion, she and Rafe had made their plans without stopping to weigh the larger consequences. Rafe held sway over her body and her heart; wouldn’t she always put him first?

But I did manage to refuse him, she thought, returning at dusk from one of her long hikes. She shucked off her sodden outerwear, peeled off her damp skirt and bodice, and stretched out on the rag rug wearing only her chemise and drawers to toast herself in front of the fire. I chose this penance, this sojourn alone, instead of running away with him.

Ah, but the cost was high! She missed him desperately. With all her walking, she never tired herself to the point that she didn’t ache for his touch. All she had to do was close her eyes and he was there, stroking her cheek, cradling her breasts, parting her legs to kneel between them and breathe her in. His distinctive scent teased her nostrils. His ragged hair tickled her inner thighs. She could almost feel his delicate tongue, dancing lightly across her taut clit and driving her to distraction.

She ran her palms over her breasts and down her flat belly. The thin muslin of her chemise transmitted both heat and pressure. Pleasure rippled through her, but solitary touches offered no real relief from her raging need. Though she doubted self-stimulation would be considered a violation of her promised celibacy, it hardly seemed worth the effort. She might make herself spend, but she knew the fleeting satisfaction would be a mere shadow of the bliss she enjoyed with Rafe. Their emotional connection amplified their physical compatibility, spiritual bonds manifesting as intense sensual delight.

She’d never experienced that sort of deep-seated satisfaction before, not even with Rawlings. That had been simple and uncomplicated. Her lust for the burly groundskeeper had stripped her bare. He had turned her into a rutting animal without scruples or shame. With Rafe, there were infinite depths and nuances, their coupling a meeting of minds and hearts as well as flesh.

Gillian glanced toward the rough table where she ate her meals and wrote in her journal. In the centre stood the little hourglass Rafe had fashioned for her. She kept it there to remind her of her beloved, and as a symbol of the patience she always seemed to be lacking.

Why should she settle for an ordinary climax at her own hands when she knew the astonishing power of their shared pleasure? The Master had separated her and Rafe for good reason, understanding how their love could overwhelm them. Her unrequited longing for her lover was part of her punishment. She was determined to bear it stoically, along with the other privations of her exile, until she returned to Randerley.

Unless Rafe has decided to leave the Guild forever. The thought was a chill fist clenched around her heart. She recalled him storming out of Amelia’s office, rebellious and angry. Gillian was certain her own future lay with the Master, if he was willing to accept her back into the fold, but what about Rafe? Would he choose unrestricted personal freedom over the responsibilities and the gifts of the Guild?

A sudden revelation stunned her. If he did reject the Guild, then he was not, after all, the soul mate he had seemed.

As fellow journeymen, their paths aligned. They shared a common set of goals and values, dedicating both their erotic creativity and their technical abilities to the Guild’s mission. Members of Randerley’s wanton and uninhibited community, they belonged to an elite group of natural libertines, a handful of brave souls committed to answering the call of desire.

An outsider would never understand the bonds that linked the Guild members to one another. And despite several years of experience at Randerley, if Rafe were to turn his back on the Master and his perverse flock, he would become an outsider.

Intense grief swept through her, as though she’d already lost him. At the same time, she felt a new clarity and strength of purpose. She knew her own mind and heart and had made her own choice. Over Rafe’s decisions, she had no power. Only when she’d completed her banishment would she know the outcome.

Meanwhile, she could make herself useful. In response to Amelia’s suggestion, Gillian had brought her experimental Analytical Engine with her to Cornwall. This interlude of isolation was an ideal opportunity for her to address the difficulties that had previously frustrated her, with no competing tasks and no sensual distractions.

Exhausted by emotion and her hours of walking, she fell asleep by the fire. The next morning, however, crisp sunlight woke her. After dressing and stirring the embers on the hearth into a blaze, she breakfasted on hot tea, brown bread and curd. Then she pulled the complex mechanism from her luggage and set it on the table near the hourglass.

She worked until well past noon, refreshing her memory regarding the modes of failure she’d observed during her last efforts with the device. When the usual boy from the village arrived to deliver provisions, she realised she was ravenous, but she didn’t want to take the time to cook lunch. She grabbed an apple, a hunk of cheese and more bread, and returned to her contemplation of the recalcitrant machine.

It appeared to be consuming the instructions encoded on the perforated paper strip. The problem seemed to lie in translating them into actions. She’d built a small, highly simplified model of the punishment rack to use for testing, really just a set of levers and gears intended to represent one percussive instrument like a paddle and one reciprocating item like a dildo. These components did in fact move in response to her programme, but in an uncoordinated, erratic manner.

Had she made mistakes in implementing the engine? She’d followed Lady Lovelace’s notes faithfully, with the exception of one or two improvements that had seemed obvious. Could her minor enhancements be responsible for the poor performance? Anything was possible. Indeed, Lady Ada’s design might contain flaws; Ada Lovelace had never actually built an instance of her celebrated engine, having been more interested in the theory and its mathematical underpinnings. Going back to the notes, Gillian reviewed them step by step, searching for any omissions or for ambiguities she might have misinterpreted.

Around two, Gillian put the work aside and went out walking. The skies had cleared since the previous day and the views from the headlands were glorious. Despite her frustration with her development efforts, she found her spirits rising. She still had more than two weeks. She’d solve the puzzle eventually and return to Randerley triumphant, with the solution in hand.

Stopping to catch her breath, she gazed out at the sea. It was unusually calm. Overhead, the lowering sun painted the streaked clouds in shades of pink and orange. She’d walked all the way to Porthcumo, almost five miles. To the south, she could just make out the rhythmic pulsing of Wolf Rock Lighthouse. The open vista and the distant horizon were a marked contrast to the rolling country around Randerley.

Gratitude swelled in her chest. Amelia had been generous in offering this simple, peaceful haven. Mrs. Featherstone, at least, seemed to want her to come back. Gillian was determined to earn her redemption in the Governing Director’s eyes.

By the time she’d returned to the cottage, it was pitch dark. Gillian made herself a simple supper, read for a while by the light of a candle, then lay down on the narrow iron-framed bed. All the doubts churning in her mind had subsided: her shame and regret at having endangered the Guild; her fear that they wouldn’t accept her back; the wistful longing for Rafe’s presence and the craving for his touch. She drifted into sleep, relaxed and at peace, and woke alert and energised. Today, perhaps, she’d unravel the riddle.

She did not in fact get the engine to function correctly that day, or the next. However, she forced herself to remain calm and focused. Persistence and discipline were the key to progress. She disassembled the engine, examined each of its many parts for imperfections, then put it back together, step by step. Each time she integrated a new component, she tested its function using sets of minimal instructions.

Her efforts did not lead to success, but they built her confidence in the physical construction of the engine. As far as she could tell, it had been implemented correctly. The crux of the issue must lie elsewhere.

As the days ticked by, she worked and waited for the moment when she could rejoin the fellowship of the Guild. The answer came to her on January 31st, which happened to be her twentieth birthday.

She’d expected to celebrate this milestone in the company of her fellow engineers at Randerley. Indeed, she’d imagined the Master might organize another erotically-charged gathering, sharing more of his magical winter wine. Still, she didn’t waste mental energy on what might have been.

She did allow herself a glass of Burgundy with her birthday supper of cold chicken and boiled potatoes. The single room where she’d spent nearly a month felt warm and cosy, lit by a merry fire and a pair of oil lanterns. She raised her glass – a simple tumbler, not a wine goblet – and smiled. Her voice was loud in her ears. “Happy Birthday, Gillian Smith! Here’s to another year of new adventures and new insights.”

Given her abstinence over the past weeks, the wine went straight to her head. Giggling, she refilled her tumbler. The Analytical Engine caught her eye, carefully put aside on the far corner of the table along with her tools and her notebook. “And here’s to you, you bloody stubborn machine,” she continued. “Sooner or later I’ll figure out how to make you obey me!”

Something shifted at the back of her mind, loosened perhaps by the alcohol. Maybe what she needed was commands. Her symbolic language for controlling the engine had specific representations for each possible instrument and each individual movement. Perhaps that was the wrong level of abstraction. If she could generalise the actions, that might permit smoother reactions...

She wasn’t about to try out her theory while she was tipsy. The next day, though, she began to sketch out a new grammar for her programmes. It took her until the third of February to create a paper-based sequence of instructions using her revised approach. Holding her breath, she watched the paper slide between the rollers that fed it to the engine. For a moment nothing happened. Then the miniature paddle began to swing, at a slow, even tempo, just as she’d intended.

By Boole and Babbage! That’s it!” Jumping to her feet, she danced a little jig around the table. “I’ve done it! The Master will be so pleased!”

* * *

You’ll find buy links for this volume and the Toymakers books on my website:

Meanwhile, I do hope you’ll leave me a comment. Every one might help open a young woman’s eyes to a rewarding and important career.

Friday, March 24, 2023

Turning bits of my life into fiction – #Inspiration #Writing #RomanticSuspense @brendawhitesid2

The Art of Love and Murder cover

By Brenda Whiteside (Guest Blogger)

Wild Horse Peaks is a four-book romantic suspense series set in Arizona, my home state, with the sequel set in Austria, a country I loved visiting. The characters in each book are either related or friends. This is the second edition of these books, new covers, new edits, and still a five star series.

The stories follow twisty paths of danger and suspense: a search to learn about birth parents who died…or were murdered, a mystery writer stalked by someone acting out her murder scenes, a politically driven madman chasing the last member of a family and her rockstar boyfriend, and a good old western land grab turned nasty. The sequel is an Austrian fairytale turned nightmare. And in the midst of all the mayhem—love

Each book holds a piece of my life. I think authors often weave in facets of themselves in their stories. The Art of Love and Murder has a Native American thread (I’m proud of my Indian blood) and a tie to the art community (my first idea for a career and why I went to college). In the second book, Southwest of Love and Murder, the heroine is a lusty, free-spirited, author (my alter-ego). The hero in The Power of Love and Murder is a rocker and just might resemble my son years back while one of the hero’s exploits is taken from the pages of my brother’s life. In the fourth book of the series, The Deep Well of Love and Murder, the only tie to the real me is the dog, Perro. He looks like my beloved Rusty, who died a few years ago.

Although the books are all connected, you can read them as standalones.

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eBook Release Schedule (print books are available now)

The Art of Love and Murder  February 21, 2023

A woman searching for her past. A sheriff hiding in his present. Their future together threatened by murder.

Southwest of Love and Murder  March 21, 2023

Writing murder mysteries is all in a day's work until an obsessed fan brings Phoebe’s stories to life. 

The Power of Love and Murder  April 25, 2023

Penny’s secrets can ruin the presidential contender who ordered her family’s murder…and mark her as the next hit. 

The Deep Well of Love and Murder  May 23, 2023

A vengeful ex-husband and bloody fight for land threaten a love-struck couple’s happiness. 

A Legacy of Love and Murder, Sequel  May 9, 2023

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Inheriting an Austrian Castle is an Alpine fairytale for August, until someone begins targeting the heirs.

About the Author

Brenda Whiteside is the award-winning author of romantic suspense, cozy mystery, and romance. After living in six states and two countries—so far—she and her husband have settled in Central Arizona. They admit to being gypsies at heart so won't discount the possibility of another move. They share their home with a rescue dog named Amigo. While FDW fishes, Brenda writes.

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