Follow by Email

Friday, December 15, 2017

An Exciting New Series for School-Aged Children #psbroaddus #bookgiveaway

      Half my Facebook feed these days seems to be moms asking for recommendations of good books for their school-aged children since they've already burned through Harry Potter, The Little House Series, and everything in-between. (Yes, I tend to be Facebook friends with avid readers. :))
     So, I'm excited to introduced a new author to you with his debut series of middle grade fantasy. The books are wholesome, but thrilling, fantastical and riveting. Basically, you should definitely go buy a paperback copy for your child for Christmas asap. (Amazon prime, two-day shipping, people.) In the meantime, you can download a free e-copy today and tomorrow only to check out the series.

Nightrage Rising is the fantastical mystery-adventure of a young blind girl's struggle to escape a deadly anarchist cult.

About the story: 

Nightrage Rising is a street-level fantasy-adventure novel with a healthy splash of Nancy Drewish mystery—mixed with a dollop of wit and snark. It is a fast paced, first-person, present-tense story of a girl discovering self-worth, courage and friendship in the face of an unstable kingdom, magical inequality, and a dangerous, seductive cult. If you grab a copy off the shelf and flip to the back cover, here's what you'll find:

"Essie Brightsday is blind. But that hasn’t kept her from curses, dragons, or rock basilisks in the past. Now her family lives in the bustling capital of Plen, a far cry from their small farm tucked against the Valley of Fire. Little does she know that a secretive cult is growing in the city, guaranteeing this adventure will be just as eventful as the last…"

While Nightrage Rising is the sequel to A Hero's Curse, it was written to stand on its own. If you missed the first book, don't worry, you can still jump in, right now. (You can find out more about a A Hero's Curse at

If you'd like to grab a copy of the book on Amazon Kindle, A Hero's Curse will be free on the 15th and 16th, and Nightrage Rising will be free on the 17th.

Inline image 1
Parker is a scribbler and storycrafter who grew up on a cattle ranch in Southwestern New Mexico, married a wood nymph from the foothills of the Smokey Mountains and now follows three happy and endlessly curious little boys from one adventure to another. He loves the art of storycraft and talking about heroes, and is always excited to hear from adventurers. You can find more or get in touch at

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Wherein I Interview Author Jodie Wolfe

      Today I'm excited to get to interview Jodie Wolfe. Who is Jodie Wolfe, you ask? When I started writing, I imagined fame and fortune. When I finished my first full length novel, I envisioned myself ballpoint pen in hand signing autographs at my local Borders bookstore as the New York Times bestseller list flashed overhead (with my name on it, of course.) Borders went out-of-business, and despite my most determined efforts, I've yet to hit any bestseller list. One thing I have gained from my writing ventures though is friendships with many fascinating people.
      Jodie Wolfe is one of those author friends. In the years we've shared stories with each other, I've always been impressed by her quiet peace and her persistent diligence. In honor of Jodie Wolfe's new release, The Hope of Christmas, she is doing an author interview on my blog. I'm excited to read Jodie's answers. :) Come read with me below. And while we're here, check out her new book. The cover alone makes me want a mug of hot chocolate and a warm fire.

Buy the book at this link: The Hope of Christmas

How did you get started in writing?
        I wrote my first poem in second grade for a school project. Soon after that I started writing little stories and illustrating them. By the time I was thirteen I was writing my first novel.

Tell us about your new novel.
      The Hope of Christmas is a collection by three authors. My story is called Picking a Bride for Paul. Here's the blurb for it:

When Teddy Love’s neighbor and best friend breaks his leg, she pitches in to do whatever she can to help him on his farm. But when he enlists her aid in finding a wife, she comes to realize she has feelings for him.

Paul Baker follows his mother’s wishes by looking for a bride from the East who is refined and genteel, two qualities Teddy isn’t. When his potential bride arrives, he finds himself comparing her to Teddy. How can he go back and change things before he makes the biggest mistake of his life?

Did you always want to be a writer?
      I've had an interest in becoming a writer ever since I was a little girl.

What advice can you give to writers trying to break into the publishing world?
     Take time to learn the craft. If you can, find a mentor. Be patient and wait for God's timing.

What spiritual truths do you desire to convey to your readers?
     With each of my stories, I desire to convey that true hope can be found in Christ.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Web Serials: A Guest Blogpost with an Author

        I met Abby over a decade ago now. Back then though, I didn't know her very well and I had no idea she had such a creative side. Below is an illustration she created and some more information about the web serial she publishes every Monday on her blog, Abby was instrumental in helping me polish Book 2 through 4 of my Love and Warfare Series set in Ancient Rome and her critiques of my books always made me think of new things and ways to improve the stories.
       Abby is a talented writer and her web serial has the unique fantasy feel where she draws you into an entirely different world. Personally though, I'm most jealous of her artistic flair. As the opening "credits" of books prove, few people are gifted enough at both writing and drawing to illustrate their own stories. Abby is one of those exceptions.


Some people’s lives change because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Some stumble upon great treasure or commit an act of great bravery. Others find out they are long lost royals meant for a higher call.

Me? I watched my seaside castle burn to the ground.

I only survived because the evil Empress seizing my city happened to forget that King Zam Caspian married a nymph woman and therefore his children are quite self-sufficient underwater. I suppose you could say I was a royal who found out that I was really meant to be long lost.

It’s not as bad as it sounds.

My life is much more exciting that it might have been. I’ve smuggled Angari jewelry, impersonated duchesses, hidden crossbows in hoopskirts, and without my change in fortune I never would have met Quill.

Read the web serial about Zare here:

About Abigail Cossette Ryan

They say to write what you know, so I created a character who trains horses, speaks with water and throws a mean right hook.  In lieu of speaking with water, I do, in fact, train horses and throw a mean right hook. Story has always been central to my life. When I was a child my father would read aloud after dinner—everything from The Lord of the Rings to The Royal Pavilions—and as we grew he began reading our own creative writing aloud. Also editing it as he went. There is hardly a better way to learn to write than having it lovingly shredded on a weekly basis by the resident English MA. So here I am, writing a weekly web serial adventure story, painting, training horses, and selling real estate. And of course, practicing my punches

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Have You Ever Witnessed a Miracle? Read What Karen Wingate Has to Say

          I'm excited to welcome my author friend, Karen Wingate, to my blog today. She's writing about her short story, which is currently on pre-order as part of the Life-Changing Miracles collection
          Miracles, you say, sounds kind of fantastical, huh? One of my fondest memories of Karen comes from back in 2016 when my youngest son, Baby Chip, was very ill in-utero. The doctors thought that he was slowly dying inside me and that he probably had a severe genetic disorder as well. Karen was so faithful in praying for him. Today, Baby Chip is a healthy, if still quite tiny, one-year-old. He loves to climb stairs, make beelines for electrical outlets, attempt jumping off high places, and basically do everything in his power to earn himself stitches. So far Mama (1694), Stitches (0). Anyway, after all Karen's prayers for my miracle baby, I'm very interested to hear what she has to say about miracles.

Better Than Ever Before: The Story Behind The Story
by Karen Wingate

I’m so excited! My story, “God Can Do Anything,” was chosen to be part of the anthology, Life Changing Miracles, compiled by James Scott Bell and published by Bethany House launches on September 19, 2017.  It’s wonderful to be included in an anthology published by a major publishing company.

For me, it’s so much more. The excitement comes from how that story came to be in the first place.

Thomas Edison said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” My college professor said the same principle another way. “It takes ten percent of your time to do ninety percent of the work; and ninety percent of the time to do the final ten percent.” Both are true for any writer. Ninety-nine percent of my writing is nailing my backside in a chair and making myself write until I feel like writing. Most of my publishing credits—twenty years of curriculum writing, over 200 published magazine articles, about 120 published devotions, and even more articles that never made their way out of an editor’s computer—have come through perspired persistence. The sweetness of success is often in the struggle.

Then comes those very rare moments where the writing flows, the doors of opportunities fling open, and the success hits before I’ve reached my stride. It happens so seldom that when it does, you know without a doubt the Lord was in it.

Three months had passed since the tumultuous month of May. Born with a genetic eye disorder, I intuitively know the possibility existed that I might lose what precious little sight I had. The day came when a doctor saw a torn retina on my left eye. At first, he hesitated to do surgery, but when the tear grew, he opted to go ahead, warning me that my vision might end up worse. On top of that, the hospital radiology department called me back for a repeat mammogram. It was a fearful week as I pondered the sobering reality that my writing career and my daily independence might be coming to an end. The future looked bleak but I was so grateful for all the years God had given me functional sight.

Not only did the mammogram results prove to be negative, the surgery accomplished the impossible. My savvy doctor made the snap decision to clear out the debris field left from inadequate childhood cataract surgeries. In the midst of the surgery under local anesthesia, he told me I would have better vision than ever before.

I spent the summer healing from complications, adjusting to my new visual acuity, and trying to catch up with writing commitments. A random notice that James Scott Bell was looking for stories for his latest compilation flitted through one of my email listservs. The deadline was in two weeks.

Not enough time. I had no story to tell. My forefinger hovered over the delete key.

Uh, hold on? This magnificent miracle just happened and I thought I had nothing to write about? But two weeks wasn’t enough time to do a good job. I’ve learned too often the truth behind the proverb, “Haste makes waste.”

God’s Spirit continued to argue with me. I did this awesome thing in your life. I gave you improved sight when so many doctors thought it couldn’t be done, and you say you can’t write a story in two weeks? God must have been shaking his head.

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” my mother used to say. I sat at my computer, opened a vein of my inner soul, and the story flowed. I found two critique partners the next day who made the story shine. I sent off my submission with days to spare. Six months later I received word that it would be part of the collection.

As I sat in the hospital dressing room, waiting for the results of my mammogram and pondering the possibility of blindness and cancer, I heard the inaudible voice of the Spirit of God saying to me, I am not done with you yet. I thought the Lord just meant He would somehow help me keep writing even if I lost my sight or my health. I never dreamed He would give me better sight than I’d ever experienced, and, on top of that, that He would enable me to write a story that most likely will reach thousands of people.

It boggles my mind. And it reminds me of this important truth.

If God gives you a story to tell, He’ll give you the strength and resources to tell the story. Then He’ll make sure your story reaches those who need to hear it.

In addition to keeping up with her own blog at and her other writing, Karen leads worship, teaches bible studies, and directs the Women’s Fellowship group at her church. Karen’s current work in progress is a book that journals her new eyesight discoveries.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Loyalty's Web: An Exciting Medieval Romance

        The only thing I enjoy more than writing is reading and the medieval time period is one of my favorites. Who wouldn't want to time travel back into the days of castles, horses, jousts, knights, and all the Middle Ages had to offer? I know I would!
         Though, of course, I would miss my A/C, and insect repellent, and the right to vote, also neither of my children would have survived birth without modern medical equipment. Ok, the "I-wish-I-lived-in-the-Middle-ages" is more of a fantasy for me than something I would actually enjoy. :) But what better way to indulge fantasy than with a meticulously researched clean medieval romance?

        I haven't read all Joyce Dipastena's books, but I've certainly read enough of them to be intrigued. For this fall's FIRST book a day feature, check out her Loyalty's Web below.

Heléne de Laurant has not forgotten how the Earl of Gunthar destroyed her father’s castle during Henry II’s war with his sons. Apparently neither have her family and friends, for when someone tries to murder Gunthar, every sign points in their direction. Heléne realizes the only way to prove her loved ones’ innocence is by exposing the true assassin.

As Heléne and Gunthar spar over the identity of the traitor, fierce determination gives way to mutual attraction. Heléne must race against time, and dark secrets of the past, to unmask the would-be killer before the kingdom plunges back into war and takes the life of the man she has unexpectedly learned to love.

Or sign up for Joyce's newsletter and receive a FREE copy as a thank you gift! Newsletter signup: 

Joyce is a multi-published, multi-award winning author who specializes in sweet medieval romances heavily spiced with mystery and adventure. 
When she’s not writing, she loves to read, play the piano, eat chocolate chip cookies, and spend time with her sister and friends. A highlight of her year is attending the annual Arizona Renaissance Festival. She lives with her two cats, Clio and Glinka Rimsky-Korsokov, in Mesa, Arizona.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

For Life or Until: Read the 1st Chapter Here

        Fifteen years ago, I put pen to paper on the first words of the novel that would become For Life or Until. The story opens in Roman Britain a few decades after Queen Boadicea's legendary revolt where she led the Iceni tribe in a doomed fight against the Roman Empire. Now Domitian rules the Empire, but in the little Catuvellauni village where Ness lives the world of Rome feels very far away. Until it doesn't.
       Inspired by a childhood of reading Rosemary Sutcliff, here is the first chapter of For Life or Until.

You can pre-order the ebook here:
 Or buy the paperback here:


A Catuvellauni village in the province of Britannia, the Roman Empire,
Summer 85 A.D.

     Setting her water jar down, Ness gripped the hawthorn gate post to the smithy. The shadow of the wattle and daub shop fell across the dusty yard. Inside the door, sparks from the smithy’s fire rose high as he labored over metal.
     Under the eaves stood another man. Cedric. Sun reflected off his bare chest, the tang of his sweat just scenting the air. He lounged back against the thatched wood. Ness’ soul soared.
     “Ness.” Cedric grinned at her. The leaves overhead made patterns on his body. “You break an ax too?”
     “My brother did.” She felt her ears redden at just the sight of Cedric. She’d now seen eighteen summers. Surely this summer he’d ask her to marry him.
      Cedric flicked her hair, his long fingers sliding through the golden strands. “Why the frown?”
    “Just turning the future over in my mind. Fiona’s father is selling two ewes this week. I’m thinking of buying them.” Heart pounding, Ness watched Cedric’s eyes. Did he love her? She’d loved him since before she knew what love meant.
      “Still planning that sheep farm?” Cedric moved his gaze to the smoke rising from the smithy roof.
      “Yes, only I need pastureland first.”
      Cedric swatted away a humming insect. The mark of briars scraped across his hard stomach and the burn of the sun reddened the tops of his shoulders. “Doesn’t your father have an extra field?”
      She stood straighter, the blue wool of her dress swishing in the breeze. “One extra field, yes. I plan on building my herd to a hundred sheep.” Behind Cedric’s father’s fields lay a vast plot of unclaimed land. If she felled the trees, she could use that land.
      “What are you going to do with all those sheep?” Cedric raised one arm and leaned more heavily on the smithy shop. His big shadow fell across her as he turned his gray-green eyes toward her. A tawny cockroach moved its disgusting body up the wattle and daub structure.
      “Shear them.” Ness ran the tip of her tongue across her lower lip. Her heart thumped against her ribcage as she dug her toe against a lone blade of grass. “Weave clothes for my children.” The entire village had paired their names together for three summers now. He must feel something for her. If only she dared bring up the topic.
      “A hundred sheep. How many children do you plan on having?” He grinned at her.
      She crossed her arms. “I’ll weave rugs and blankets and sell them in town. Bring in a good profit.”
      “You can’t weave.” Cedric rolled his eyes, a mocking light in those mystical globes.
      “I can weave.” She brought her eyebrows down, though she couldn’t help but smile at him.
      Cedric caught her hand at the wrist and held it up. “See, dirt on your skin.” His eyes laughed as he ran his finger across a line in her palm. “Women who weave for profit have the whitest of hands and sit inside all day.”
      Heat flushed through her veins and Cedric showed no signs of releasing her fingers. She had tangled the last blanket she’d attempted so badly that her foster sister Enni had taken pity on her and finished the thing. Perhaps she should work on her weaving skills before starting this business. She could scarcely breathe, but she flicked her gaze up to Cedric and smiled. “You prefer the weaving clothes for children plan then?”
      “Ha. You’ll only have boys and they’ll run wild in the fields while you’re chasing your sheep.” Standing straighter, he slid one arm behind her, his fingers just touching her shoulder.
      No, she wouldn’t. She’d have a beautiful golden-haired girl with Cedric’s piercing eyes.
      She felt the cool touch of skin against skin as he brushed his fingers beneath her hair. Something wriggly touched her neck.
      With a scream, she slammed her head back toward his chin. “Cedric!”
       He jumped away from her, the filthy cockroach still wriggling between his fingers.
      “I told you ten times ago to never put a creature down my dress again.” She jammed her hands against her hips and glared at him.
      “You started it last month.” Reaching forward, he took her hand again. He traced his thumb across the freckle on her wrist.
      “I used leaves not revolting insects. And drop that filthy cockroach immediately.” She jerked away from him.
      “Did you see my new horse?” Cedric nodded to the far side of the smithy.
      A magnificent brown-black stallion threw its head up, showcasing the beautiful arch of its neck. With every stomp of its hooves, the creature showcased the power in its frame. Riding that mount, one would outrace even the wind.
      A gasp passed through Ness’ lips. “Is that one yours? I want to ride him.”
      “Only if you ride with me.”
      “I’m a perfectly competent horsewoman.”
      “The smithy said another half hour before my ax’s done.” Cedric’s eyes flashed with mischief. “Ride with me now.” He extended his big hand.
      Her heart flopped wildly as she reached for his fingers.
      “Soldiers!” A voice screeched from the wattle and daub hut across the grassy path. Mailmura, the medicine woman, pointed a knobby finger toward the village green where metal flashed in the sunlight.
      Cedric dropped her hand and scowled. “Does the chief know they’re here?”
      A sea of iron and red plumes spilled out of the eastern forest into the space. Scabbards clanked against armor and the harsh sound of Latin filled the air. At the clatter, finches skittered up from the stone well in the center of the clearing.
      With a sigh, Ness nodded. “My father spoke to them this morning.”
      “Why did the chief let those Roman pigs here?” Cedric glared at the men who swarmed the green, turning grass into mud with the tramp of their hobnailed sandals.
       “As if my father could say no to a tribune with a garrison?” Ness turned her back to the clamor. Though the soldiers would eat plenty of the village’s precious stores that needed to last until harvest, and likely not pay either, even Father could do nothing about it.
      “Bloody conquerors.”
      “They’re here to quench an uprising further north. You wouldn’t want marauding rebels burning our crops.” Ness ran her gaze over the foreigners. “Or sheep farm.” She smiled at Cedric.
      The hawthorn gate creaked. Cedric turned.
      “Cedric.” A girl with long black hair waved from the grassy path. Cedric moved toward her. The Pict girl smiled and Cedric laughed. The girl touched his chest and Cedric leaned closer. Village gossip had it that Cedric had spent more time with the Pict girl of late.
      Tears stung Ness’ eyes. She couldn’t watch this. Grabbing her clay jar, she headed toward the well.
      On the green, the din of soldiers’ jostling equipment mingled with the stench of dozens of unwashed bodies. Mud caked even the armor on their backs as they crowded around the village well.
      Taking a deep breath, Ness forged ahead. Her bare feet sank into the dew-soaked grass. The clank and glint of metal surrounded her, enough weapons to keep the village’s forge burning for years. She glanced back at the smithy shop, but red-crested plumes and iron breastplates encircled her now.
      Latin phrases flew back and forth: some orders from officers, some bickering as soldiers shoved for water, and a lot of coarse talk. An overconfident youth looked at her and said words about her that would have made his mother blush red.
      Ness puckered her face. Perhaps Cedric had it right about Romans.
      In front, the well’s circle parted. Ducking under ironclad limbs and soldiers’ canteens, she grabbed for the well’s rope. A stocky legionary snagged it away.
      A vulgar Latin phrase concerning her came from the man’s lips. His comrades laughed. The men thought she didn’t know the language?
      “Caesar si viveret, ad remum dareris—If Caesar was alive, you’d be chained to an oar.” Ness reached for the rope.
      “You, chit.” The stocky legionary shoved her shoulder. Dozens of other soldiers crowded closer.
She could smell their breath and the stench of their tunics. Ness pressed back against the cold stone of the well.
      The man lay a hand on her arm, a brown hand with coarse black hair growing out of it. Digging his fingers into her skin, he jerked her against his chest.
      She rammed her fist against him. His breastplate absorbed the blow, his dark arms hard as iron.
The legionary pressed even closer, his greasy face a mere handbreadth from her now.
      Ness’ heart pounded in her throat. She twisted right and left. Javelins and breastplates hemmed her in on every side.
      The soldier grabbed her other arm. She hit at him with her elbow.
      On every side the men’s rough hands closed in around her. Her blood raced. She couldn’t breathe. “Cedric,” she screamed.
      “Let her draw water,” barked a male voice. Outside the ring of soldiers stood a Roman officer, a tribune. His helmet reflected the sunlight as he stood, feet spread confidently.
      Canteens crashed to earth as legionaries cleared posthaste and the stocky soldier disappeared into their midst.
      The breath she’d held escaped her lungs as she grabbed for her water jar.
      The tribune strode across the vacated space. “You can draw water,” he said in a poor attempt at Celtic.
      The tribune insignia blazed across the cuirass on his torso. Armor obscured his chest and a helmet covered his head, making him just another nameless officer. He fixed an inquisitive gaze on her.
      “My thanks.” Inclining her head, she attempted to affix the rope to the jar. Her hand trembled. The rope slid.
      “Are you well?” He touched her shoulder, his calluses scraping across the cloth.
      “Most well. Gratias.” She slid back and with a jerk got the jar fastened. Lifting the jar over the well’s boundary, she kept her gaze on the rough rope fibers.
      Without asking permission, the tribune closed his fingers on the rope and hauled up her full water jar.
      Someone jostled her shoulder. Cedric grabbed for her water jar. “Idiot Romans. Wish they’d all throw themselves into a bog.”
      “Cedric!” Ness swiveled toward him. “He’s a Roman officer. He could have any of us killed just for looking at him wrong.”
      Cedric snorted, the red of anger tinting his cheekbones. “You think the masters of the world deign to learn our language?”
      The tribune narrowed his eyes. “What did he say?”
      Ness’ heart stopped. The heat of the sun reflected off her water jar in dead silence. She dragged her nail against the clay lip. “He said thank you for your help.”
      The tribune ran his calculating gaze over Cedric’s angry face. The man looked at her again. “Do you lie as fluently in Celtic as in Latin?”
      Ness gulped. Air blew through the high oak tree overhead. Romans could have one killed on a whim. “Mea culpa. He didn’t mean anything by it.” She wiped a slick hand against the wool fibers of her dress. “It’s just hard with foreigners overtaking our green.”
      “Foreigners fighting your battles, bringing gold from across the empire for building projects in your province, providing peace. What’s so hard about that?” Standing there, the tribune looked as hard as the iron on his chest and his gaze still fixed on Cedric.
      “I’m sure you’re right. You won’t take offense against him, will you?” Ness grabbed for her water jar and glanced to the wattle and daub houses where the path of retreat lay. She gripped the clay between moist fingers.
      “Tell me honestly what the Cautevaullani see as the benefits and downsides of Roman rule and I’ll take no offense.”
      She jerked toward the soldier.
      “Truthful answers only.” The tribune rested his hand on his sword pommel as he dug his gaze into her.
      Ness swallowed. She looked to Cedric. Though he stood tall, hands looped on his belt, he moved his gaze back and forth between the tribune and her as they exchanged foreign words Cedric couldn’t understand. The tribune had the power to wreck vengeance on Cedric or her. If only she hadn’t gone for water. Perhaps she should add honey to the truth. This tribune had demanded honesty.
      Her voice felt small as she forced herself to meet the tribune’s gaze. “Legate Vocula raised taxes again. The former legate cared much more for justice.”
      The tribune tilted his head. His hard mouth parted, curiosity in his gaze. “What’s your solution?”
      “Increase trade. Vocula’s tariffs are so high no one can afford to trade with Gaul and Germania.” Which meant her wool profits would need to stay within the province.
      A decurion called from the woods. The tribune turned toward the man.
      Gesturing to Cedric, Ness hastened back the trail through the village.
      When she’d come within a pace of the shelter of wattle and daub houses, the tribune’s voice rose above the breeze. “What’s your name?”
      She turned back. The tribune looked at her, an intenseness in his gaze. She mounted her water jar higher on her hip. “That wasn’t part of our agreement.”
      Hastening her step, she disappeared into the village.
      Fading evening light spread its brilliance across treetops as Ness tread a well-worn path. Her family’s house faded in the distance as she continued down the hill past stately oaks and green fields. To her left, deep storage pits lined with timber pitted the landscape. Beyond those rose Cedric’s rolling fields.
      Life teemed around her, the wheat past waist high, the tree branches overrun with leaves. The jars yanked at Ness’ arms, but she hummed a Celtic song.
      The words told of a perfect first love that conquered all and never waned. Cedric and her could have that kind of love.
      Ahead, a waterfall skipped down moist rocks and bubbled into the brook below.  She plunked her water jars beneath the running flow. The waterfall crashed around her. Water droplets splashed on her face. Then she saw him. She froze.
      Cedric’s shoulders bent a little, a spade slung over his back. Sweat dripped from his forehead, and his shirt, wet with sweat, stuck to his chest.
      Stepping into the stream, Cedric splashed water up across his dirt-caked face. “You avoiding the Romans too?”
      She leaned back against a willow trunk as water tinkled against water and hers jar filled. “They’re not all bad. The Romans built the roads and brought learning from around the world to Britannia.”
      Cedric kicked a rock. It landed with a thud, splashing up water. “And brought greedy rulers and taxes.” He rolled up the sleeves of his wool shirt. He glared into the sunset as he splashed water across his dust-stained forearms.
      Slipping forward, she grabbed her smaller water jar. She raised the jar high and splashed it at him.
The water poured down Cedric’s shirt, dripping around his leather belt and down his trousers. He whipped around. “You just did that.”
      With a smile, she flaunted her shoulders.
      He caught her around the waist. His fingers spanned her hips as he pushed her toward the waterfall.
      The cold flow poured behind her, threatening a dunking, but his hands felt hotter than any chill could wash away. She tipped her chin up and swayed her hips. “You know you want to.” She rested her gaze on his lips as she dared him to kiss her.
      Cedric paused, hands still on her. “Have you ever even kissed a man?”
      The flame of a thousand hearths blushed up her cheek with a heat to turn the brook to steam. “No.”
      “Bet you wouldn’t even go through with it.” Cedric removed one hand from her waist and gestured up. “You’d blush and turn away.”
      “Would not.” She slapped her barefoot against the moss-covered rock.
      Water splashed across his left ankle, which the frayed plaid of his trouser hem revealed. Cedric moved his gaze from her eyes to her lips.
      She couldn’t breathe.
      He dropped his other hand from her. “Naw. Don’t need trouble with the chief.” He grinned at her. “Nessite.”
      “I told you not to call me that.”
      “It’s like the Hittites and the Amorites in those scrolls your father reads at first day service.” Cedric brushed against her as he stepped to the shore. “You’re just as dangerous.”
      “Am not.”
      Catching up the spade, Cedric walked back up the path to his father’s fields.
      She’d marry that man one day.
      “Fiona, Bretta.” Ness cut into the throng of noisy young women on the village green. Enni her foster sister followed her.
      Multiple bronze bracelets jangled on Fiona’s plump arms as she giggled. Underneath the oak tree to the right followers of the Way gathered for First Day worship.
      Sun trickled down between the branches overhead, making patterns on the girls’ colorful dresses.
      “Bretta admires someone.” Fiona jabbed Bretta with her elbow.
      The girl’s cheeks went scarlet. “Shh!”
      Ness swung her gaze to the blushing girl. “Who?”
      “The cobbler who came with the Romans. They say he might settle here.” A puff of wind blew Fiona’s hair up over her shoulders.
      “I heard the Romans won. They’re leaving this week.” Enni pressed closer to Ness, and shivered.
      “You mean Brenin the cobbler?” a thin girl asked.
      “I don’t care what his name is—he’s gorgeous.” Fiona’s voice sent several small woodland creatures running for the underbrush. Fiona tilted her head. “Not devastatingly handsome though, I wouldn’t say.”
      “What makes a man devastating?” Out of the corner of her eye, Ness searched for Cedric.
      “Devastatingly handsome,” Fiona dropped her voice, “that means he’s irresistible. He can set your heart on fire with a single glance.”
      “I could resist any man if I chose.” Ness kicked a stick.
      Fiona widened her saucy mouth. “Why would you choose?”
      “Tsk, tsk. There’s more to a man than a fine dressing.” Mailmura pushed herself into the girl’s circle and a beaver’s tail on her belt swished against Ness’ dress. “Choose carefully.” Mailmura pinched Fiona’s cheek.
      Jostling her bracelets, Fiona stuck her shoulders out very straight. “I’ll wed the one I want and if he doesn’t live up to his face, I’ll find myself a new one.” She looked at Bretta and made cobbling gestures.
      A nervous laugh trickled around the circle. Ness shook her head in wonder. She wanted to see the man Fiona wed.
      Across the green, villagers raised their voices in sacred song, but Mailmura kept on tsking. “Easy to say, Fiona, but there are only two reasons a Celtic woman leaves her man.”
      Turning her back on the pipes and lyres that signaled them to join the service, Fiona crossed plump arms. “What reasons?”
      Mailmura held up a wrinkled finger. “If he ever leaves a mark on your body, or,” she held up a second finger, “if he’s incapable of producing children.”
      Even Fiona almost blushed, but she held her dimpled chin high. “What if he’s unfaithful?”
      “You could divorce him for that, but I would advise poison.” Mailmura dug her bare heel into the earth.
      Behind them, the music came to a crashing halt. A collective gasp passed through the crowd at the oak tree. Ness swiveled.
      A Roman soldier stood at the front of the crowd. The man’s red-crested plume cut his path as the villagers rushed to make way.
      “Rome outlawed our religion,” Enni said. Fiona shivered.
      Ness ran her tongue over her lips. “I’ve never heard of Christians fed to lions in Britain.” Then again, everything had a first time.
      “Can you see his rank?” Enni asked, her dark frame walled in by tall Celts.
      Standing on tiptoe, Ness peered over Mailmura’s gray head. The officer from the well. Unbidden, Ness dropped her voice. “He’s a tribune.”
      Up front, the man spoke to a cluster of village elders now. An older man, hollow in the cheek, parted from the elders and walked toward her.
      The elder’s hands twitched. Sweat collected on his gray brow. “The Tribune, Aquilus Salvius Paterculi, has said that he merely wishes to worship. He asked for you to translate for him.”
      “I?” Ness glanced toward the tribune. He looked at her.
      “I could ask you, do you want to, but the truth is you don’t get a choice. And if you could hurry please before the tribune chooses to remember that our religion is illegal.” The village elder scrubbed his gnarled hand against his forehead as the veins on his temples stood out. “I’ll tell your father to cut the service as short as possible.”
      “Oh.” Parting from the girls, Ness walked toward the crowd. She fidgeted with her fingers as she approached the tribune.
      “Ness.” The word sounded strange in his foreign tongue.
      “How did you learn my name?” She ran her gaze over him. No adornment decorated his tunic and a signet ring of iron, not gold, circled his left-hand finger. Weren’t most tribunes noblemen?  Perhaps he’d earned his rank by merit.
      “I asked. Your villagers had much to say about you.” The tribune smiled at her as Father started the reading.
      Her face heated. “Such as?”
      “They said you were the chief’s daughter.” The tribune twisted one corner of his mouth up, laughter in his eyes. “And that you had a temper to match Poisedon.”
      “They did not say that.” Ness hooked her thumbs into her belt. “Poisedon is a Greek deity. If the villagers had said anything they would have compared me to Camulus.”
      “Camulus the Celtic god of war? What about Aine the fairie queen?”
      Aine, goddess of love who the pagans celebrated with erotic midsummer festivals. Ness slid her fingers out of her belt as her blush heated even her neck. She didn’t need a soldier comparing her to that deity. “Now my father is reading the story of Elijah and the kings.” She plunged into the translation.
      After far fewer verses than normal, Father announced the final prayer.
      She dutifully closed her eyes. Only a faint glow of sunlight penetrated her eyelids.
      The scriptures called prayer a sacred sacrament, a joining of one’s heart with God through Christ. Just now all she could think was, I want Cedric. I truly, exceedingly want Cedric. Please God.
      “Gratias for translating.”
      She blinked her eyes open at the tribune’s deep voice. He fixed his brown-eyed gaze on her.
      The man looked quite young, despite the dense day’s stubble on his cheekbones. His short sword clanked against the metal of his armor as he moved.
      Around her people milled, homespuns and plaids flapping in the wind as parents chased children and young men maneuvered toward the throng of girls. All gave the Roman a wide berth. Cedric stood by the oak tree, his hand resting on his steed as he spoke to another man about the stallion. She still needed to ride that horse.
      “Are you familiar with the Latin literature as well as the Latin tongue?” The tribune asked.
      He would be used to instant attention when that voice spoke. What would he do if she turned her back on him and walked toward Cedric’s horse? Probably not the best experiment to attempt. She swung her gaze to the tribune. “Vergil’s Georgics are my favorite. ‘Ye husbandmen; in winter’s dust the crops/Exceedingly rejoice, the field hath joy.”
      He moved his dark eyebrows up, surprise and admiration in his gaze. “Though he glorifies the farming life, the main troubles encountered in Book 1 of Georgics are because of the death of Julius Caesar. Without politics, farmers cannot work in safety.”
      “Cicero said ‘if you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” Not that she read much of Cicero. His convoluted writing style twisted the mind into knots.
      “Yet, have you read Cato the elder’s quote on that subject?” The man gestured forward, showcasing his broad palm that lead down to the sinews of his arm.
      “Of course he disagrees. All the wretched man writes of is politics.”
      Mirth danced in the tribune’s dark eyes. “What of Zeno, heard of him?”
      Ness shook her head. Close enough to touch, the tribune’s short sword clanked against his thighs. The pommel bore an eagle and a raven.
      “He was the Greek philosopher who invented Stoicism.”
      She cocked her head. “Stoicism? Isn’t that the Spartan philosophy to wear out your body with work and never smile?”
      The tribune’s eyes lighted up like dry wood in a bonfire. “I see you have a high opinion of the Greeks. But truthfully, Stoicism has many parallels with the Way. Not the heavenly things, like Christus and salvation. But Stoics teach one to strengthen the mind and body, live by right reason, and deny the passions. Is that not what the Christian should do?”
      A puff of wind flapped her skirt around her legs as she shook her head and disagreed with a Roman tribune, yet he seemed to like honesty. She pointed to the rising hills beyond the village. “Christianity is when you stand there at the mountain’s peak. The wind whips through your hair, the sun shines on your face, and eagles swoop about. You can’t put a name to it, but you feel the power.”
      The tribune smiled, eyes contradicting. He looked better with a smile, not so severe, less chiseled.
      Now villagers clustered around the spits and kettles that held the love feast, leaving her uncomfortably alone with this foreigner. She glanced at the bandage on the armhole of his tunic. “Does it pain you?”
      “Nothing a cup of your village mead won’t right.” The tribune gestured to where Mailmura stirred a bubbling pot and other villagers passed chunks of steaming meat from hand to hand.
      “You know what they say about Celtic medicine women?” Ness arched one eyebrow up. “Their gardens brim over with hemlock.”
      A fleeting smirk turned up the corners of his mouth. “And you. Would you poison me?”
      “I don’t know.” She met his gaze and moved one shoulder up as saucily as Fiona. “Perhaps a stoic would enjoy the pain.”
      “Only if you pledged to mop my fevered brow.” The edge of his hand just brushed hers, dark skin touching light.
      An accident? She felt her cheeks heating. “So the revolt’s over?”
      His dark eyes lost their laughing light. “Fifteen of my men died.”
      Shifting her feet, she tried to think of metal-clad legionaries as human men who could evoke such emotion.
      The tribune shoved his eyebrows down. “This wouldn’t have happened if Legate Vocula addressed tribes’ grievances.”
      Ness eyed him.
      “You somehow managed to hit the mark about Vocula and tariffs.” The tribune kicked his sandal against a protruding grass clump. “I’ve discussed it with him before to no avail.”
      She rested her hands on her hips. “You sound surprised to find me right.”
      “Should I not be?” He looked at her, a shade of amusement in his eyes.
      “No. I find myself right very often.” She smiled at him.
      He laughed, his entire face lighting with the expression. “I don’t imagine you’ve ever seen the temple of Hermes in Rome. In the myths, he had a demeanor much like yours.”
      “Of course not.” She’d never traveled more than a day’s journey from her village.
      “You’d like it. If only I could show it to you.” He cut his words off and looked away.
      She took a sharp step back. “What do you mean?” She’d never leave Britain for Rome and she didn’t like where this conversation headed. Roman soldiers had notoriously low morals and all too much power.
      “Nothing.” The tribune scowled.
      “Salve.” Turning her back on him, she moved into the crowd and the circle of bodies closed around her.
      Father stepped out of a knot of village elders. He laid his hand on her shoulder and glared in the tribune’s direction. “Stay away from him. I don’t like that he asked for you to translate.”
      “I will, Father.” Ness scanned the milling villagers, looking for Cedric and his horse.

For Life or Until is the first book in the Love & Warfare series.
Look for all the titles.
1. For Life or Until
2. When Gambling
3. To Deceive an Empire
4. Without Love

You can pre-order the ebook here:

 Or buy the paperback here:

Random historical note: Most likely the Celtic goddess Aine did not earn the title "fairie queen" until many years later, but I wanted modern readers to know who I was talking about so included the title.