Sunday, November 23, 2014

Book Spotlight: Cover Him With Darkness: A Romance by Janine Ashbless

Cover Him With Darkness: A Romance
by Janine Ashbless

Pages: 240
Publisher: Tempted Romance
Amazon Link


What happens when the daughter of the village priest falls in love with an archangel banished from heaven? Milja’s heart is struck when she catches a glimpse of the preternaturally beautiful prisoner her father keeps captive beneath his church’s altar. Torn between tradition, loyalty and her growing obsession with the fallen angel, will Milja risk losing her family, and her eternal soul, for the love of this divine being? Janine Ashbless will transport you to a world where good and evil battle for true love.

Book Excerpt

The first time I saw him fettered there in the dark, I wept. 

I was seven years old. My father led me by the hand down the steps behind the church altar, through a passage hewn into the mountainside. I’d never been permitted through that door before, though I knew that the key was kept under a loose floor tile beneath the icon of St. Michael. In those days that picture made me nervous: the archangel’s painted eyes always seemed to watch me, even though the rest of him was busy throwing down the Devil and trampling him underfoot. 

All along the narrow tunnel beyond the door there were niches cut into the rock walls, and near our church these were filled with painted and gilded icons of the saints and of Our Lord, but farther back those gave way to statuettes of blank-eyed pagan gods, growing cruder in execution and less human in appearance as we walked on. I clung to Father’s hand and cringed from the darkness closing in behind me, as his kerosene lamp picked out the rock-cut steps at our feet and our breathing sounded loud in our ears. The journey seemed to take forever, to my child’s mind. I couldn’t help imagining the carved and painted eyes in the tunnel behind me: glowing pinpoints of light that watched my retreating back—and I kept looking over my shoulder to see. 

Finally we came out into a roofless chamber, where the walls leaned inward a hundred feet over our heads and the floor was nothing but a mass of loosely tumbled boulders. I looked up, blinking at the light that seemed blinding, though in fact this was a dim and shadowed place. I could see a wisp of cloud against the seam of blue sky overhead, and the black speck of a mountain eagle soaring across the gap.

There he lay, upon a great tilted slab of pale limestone, his wrists and ankles spread and bound by twisted leather ropes whose farther ends seemed to be set into the rock itself. It was hard to say whether the slab had always been underground or had fallen long ago from the mountain above; our little country is, after all, prone to earthquakes. Dirt washed down with the rain had stained him gray, but I could make out the muscled lines of his bare arms and legs and the bars of his ribs. There was an old altar cloth draped across his lower torso—and only much later did I realize that Father had done that, to spare his small daughter the man’s nakedness. 

“Here, Milja,” said my father, pushing me forward. “It is time you knew. This is the charge of our family. This is what we guard day and night. It is our holy duty never to let him be found or escape.” 

I was only little: he looked huge to me, huge and filthy and all but naked. I stared at the ropes, as thick as my skinny wrists, knotted cruelly tight about his broader ones. They stretched his arms above his head so that one hand could not touch the other, and matching tethers held his ankles apart. I felt a terrible ache gather in my chest. I pressed backward, into Father’s black robes. 

“Who is he?” I whispered. 

“He is a very bad man.”  

That was when the prisoner moved for the first time. He rolled his head and turned his face toward us. I saw the whites of his eyes gleam in his gray face. Even at seven, I could read the suffering and the despair burning there. I squirmed in Father’s grip.

“I think he’s hurt,” I whimpered. “The ropes are hurting him.” 

“Milja,” said Father, dropping to his knee and putting his arm around me. “Don’t be fooled—this is not a human being. It just looks like one. Our family has guarded him here since the first people came to these mountains. Before the Communists. Before the Turks. Before the Romans, even. He has always been here. He is a prisoner of God.”

“What did he do?”

“I don’t know, little chick.” 

That was when I began to cry. 

“What did he do?” became a question I repeated many times as I grew up, along with, “Who is he?” My father didn’t lie, but neither could he answer my question truthfully. He was an educated man, though he had taken up the vocation of priest of an isolated village in one of the most barren, mountainous corners of our rugged country. He had studied engineering at university in Belgrade, but he admitted that the answers to my queries were unclear to him. “The gods have condemned him,” he would say, with a sigh. That sounded so strange coming from an Orthodox priest that I didn’t know what to think.

Every Sunday, after going down into the village to celebrate the Divine Liturgy with the congregation in the church there—nobody ever climbed up the two hundred steps to our dingy little chapel carved into the sheerrock—he would descend into the prisoner’s cave. He would take the manwater and bread, and wash his face. My father was not without compassion,even for a prisoner, and he felt the responsibility of his position.

“Is he…Prometheus?” I asked when I was ten, and had been reading the Greek myths in one of the dog-eared books Father had brought from the capital. “The gods chained up Prometheus forever. Is it him?”

“It may be.”

“But…Prometheus was good, Papa. He taught us how to be civilized. He stole fire from the gods to bring it to men. He was on our side!”

“What did man do with fire, Milja?”


“He smelted iron, little chick, and with iron he made swords. He made all the weapons of war, and men have slaughtered men in countless millions ever since. Are you sure Prometheus had our best interests at heart? Would we not have been happier if we’d stayed in the innocence of the Stone Age?”

I was too young to answer that. Father sighed and fetched a black-bound book, laying it on the table by the window where the light could fall upon it. He opened the pages to somewhere near the beginning.

“My grandfather told me that it is Azazel we hold in our keeping. Have you heard of him?”

“No,” said I in a small voice.

“Neither man nor pagan titan, little chick, but a fallen angel. A leader of the Watchers: those Sons of God who lusted after mortal women. The Israelites dedicated their scapegoat sin-offering to Azazel every year when they drove it out into the wilderness. And just like the Greeks’ Prometheus, he is credited with teaching men metalworking and war-craft—and women the arts of seduction and sorcery. Here in the Book of Enoch, see; the angel Raphael is commanded by God: ‘bind Azazel hand and foot and cast him into the darkness. And lay upon him rough and jagged rocks, and cover him with darkness, and let him abide there forever.’”

“Which is right, then?” I asked. “Is he a demon or is he Prometheus?”

“Maybe he is both, and it’s the same story. Or maybe he is something else altogether. All I know is that he’s been here since the beginning, and that it is our duty to keep him bound. It’s what our family forefathers dedicated their lives to. And you must carry on when I am gone, Milja. You must marry and teach your husband and your sons, so that it is never forgotten. And you must never tell anyone else, all your life. It must not go beyond the family. Promise me!”

“Why not?”

“What if someone, someone who did not understand, felt sorry for him and set him free? What if he is one of the great demons, Milja? What would happen to this world?”

I was eleven when I started to visit him in secret. I took him food, because I couldn’t bear any longer to lie awake in bed thinking of how hungry he must be. I knew he could get water—when it rained it would run down the rocks onto his face—but at eleven I was always ravenous myself, and starvation seemed the worst of tortures. And the image of him lying bound there haunted my dreams more and more, evoking feelings I had no words for—not then—until it seemed impossible for me to stay away.

Still, I went at midday, when the light was strongest and the cavern least frightening. I brought him bread crusts and cheese. I picked berries from the mountain bushes and fed them between his cracked lips.

I remember the first time I did it, the first time I went alone. I climbed up on that big rock slab and knelt over his dirt-streaked body, and he opened his eyes and looked up into mine. His irises were so dark that they couldn’t be distinguished from the pupils, and in this half-light they looked like holes.

“What’s your name?” I whispered.

I don’t know if he heard me. He certainly didn’t reply. He just looked at me, from the depths of his private torment.

“I brought you some milk.” I tipped the teat of the little skin of goats’ milk to his lips and let it trickle into the side of his mouth, carefully: I was scared of choking him. His throat worked and his lips twitched, bleeding. He drank it all and I sat back. That was when, with obvious and painful effort, the lines of his face pulled into a brief smile—a smile so fragile a butterfly might have trampled it underfoot.

That was when I was lost.

I was fourteen when I first heard him speak.

“Milja,” he murmured, greeting me. His voice was hoarse from disuse, but its depths made the hair stir on my neck. I nearly fled.

“What’s your name?” I asked once again, but he didn’t answer, withdrawing instead, it seemed, into his anguish once more. He only twisted from one hip to the other to ease the strain on his back, and hissed with pain. The power of his corded body, terrible even under constraint, made me tremble.

He spoke only rarely in the years that followed, and what he said made little sense to me—often it wasn’t even in any language I knew, and when I could make out the words they seemed to be nothing but fragments. “Leaves on the brown-bright water…” he might mutter to himself. I think he was remembering things he had seen before he was imprisoned. As I grew to realize how the uncountable years had stolen even his mind, I felt dizzy with horror.

About the author:

Janine Ashbless is a writer of fantasy erotica and steamy romantic adventure – and that’s “fantasy” in the sense of swords ‘n’ sandals, contemporary paranormal, fairytale, and stories based on mythology and folklore.  She likes to write about magic and mystery, dangerous power dynamics, borderline terror, and the not-quite-human.

Janine has been seeing her books in print ever since 2000, and her novels and single-author collections now run into double figures. She’s also had numerous short stories published by Black Lace, Nexus, Cleis Press, Ravenous Romance, Harlequin Spice, Storm Moon, Xcite, Mischief Books, and Ellora’s Cave among others. She is co-editor of the nerd erotica anthology Geek Love.

Her work has been described as: "hardcore and literate" (Madeline Moore) and "vivid and tempestuous and dangerous, and bursting with sacrifice, death and love."   (Portia Da Costa)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Guest Author: Patricia Fry

I’ve been writing nonfiction for publication since 1973. Ten years later, I established my own publishing company—way before it was fashionable to do so. I earned my living writing articles for magazines for over twenty years before shifting into teaching/editing/consulting mode. I continue to work with other authors on their writing projects and I continue to write and publish books through my own publishing company as well as a variety of traditional publishing companies. I currently have 47 books to my credit. 

By June of 2012, I’d written hundreds (maybe thousands) of articles on many topics and I was the author of forty books. It was my birthday month and I wanted to give myself something special. What would it be this year? Another rescued kitten, a spa day, a walk on the beach? As I pondered the possibilities, one idea kept niggling at me: “Try your hand at fiction. You really ought to write fiction.” 

“Okay,” I agreed. “I’ll try it.”

It didn’t take long to come up with a topic: Cats. And a genre: Cozy mysteries. I had to sleep on it for a few days to create the theme: a kleptomaniac cat who helps solve crimes. YES!!

What fun I had writing the first in the series, Catnapped. This book led easily into book two, Cat-Eye Witness. In fact, I’ve just finished the eighth in the series and am working on the ninth. I’m sometimes asked, “Is it grueling, arduous work?” No. Writing has always been my passion. I tell people, it’s something I can’t not do. But writing fiction—creating stories from a pinpoint of an idea—is simply exhilarating. I’ve never had so much fun. 

Some reviewers call my Klepto Cat Mysteries revved up cozies. One said they are cozy mysteries on steroids. There are no talking cats. The cats are all cat-like. Only Rags, the kleptomaniac cat, is particularly intuitive, clever, and his timing can be impeccable. Those who meet him say he has purrrrsonality. 

The Gift of Fiction

Author Patricia Fry
Matilija Press
All 7 Klepto Cat Mysteries formatted for Kindle 
Books 1-4 also in print
This post features The Corral Cat Caper (Book 7 in the Klepto Cat Mystery series) publication date November 7, 2014


The human characters include Michael and Savannah Ivey, a couple of veterinarians who live in a small town in Northern California in a hundred-year-old home. The Iveys and their array of interesting family and friends seem to always be involved in fascinating, harrowing, mysterious situations and you can be sure that Rags, the cat, will have a paw in the action.

In the latest in the series, The Corral Cat Caper, Savannah’s horse, Peaches, goes missing, Rags goes into mourning, and mystifying activities are revealed in the brush. 

The Corral Cat Caper is rich in adventure of the feline as well as equine sort. In one scene, Rags attempt to save their sweet kitty, Buffy, from a catnapper and Savannah helplessly watches the drama unfold via a surveillance camera app on her phone. 

This story is full of sweet and evil surprises, unexpected twists and turns, and plenty of action and adventure.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thursday Trailer: Delilah Dusticle's Transylvanian Adventure by A.J. York

Delilah Dusticle's Transylvanian Adventure
by A.J. York

Series: The Delilah Dusticle Adventures
Paperback: 124 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (May 22, 2014)
Amazon Paperback Link

Kindle Edition
File Size: 1599 KB
Print Length: 125 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: A J York; 1 edition (January 15, 2014)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Amazon Kindle Link

About the book:

Delilah Dusticle is back with an action packed mission. In this illustrated instalment, Delilah and the Dustbusters are invited to Transylvania, to cater for the Hallow Eve Ball. All is not what it seems and Count Dracula has a very unusual request. Get ready to join the fun and experience the magic!

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