I started publishing my book teasers as 3D flip-books and readers seem to like it a lot more than my newsletters. In May, I abandoned my newsletter because less and less people opened them, and I started publishing what I usually added to my newsletters, as monthly online magazines with fun, short anecdotes and book teasers.
It pains me to see how much the Indie authors spend on promotion, so I started adding Indie books by fellow authors.
Why does it work as a great promo?
The flip-book type magazines are easy to read on computers, phones, or tablets, easy to share them on social sites, and they can be embedded into website and blog pages.
Although the magazines are shared by many and read by thousands, I can’t promise sales for everyone. I can only promise a lot of exposure, the rest is up to the readers. My experience is that readers tend to click on the catchiest book covers to read about the books, and they tend to click on author links if they find the bio interesting or fascinating.
What can readers expect?
Every magazine, book teaser, or anthology I publish is reader oriented, except the ones I specifically publish to help authors such as the Self-Publishing issue.
In my monthly magazines I try to add short stories and anecdotes that readers can enjoy as well as books from authors they might not know yet.
For example, the October issue had spooky stories and poems, fun Halloween recipes and decoration ideas, as well as books fit for Halloween:
Click below to read the magazines
How much is the submission fee for authors?
The submission is
If you're a member of giveaway groups or a blogger organizing group giveaways, I'll add a page to my monthly magazines about it with link.
This option is free, all I ask is that members of the giveaway share the magazine link.
If you're organizing or participating in a giveaway, send me a message in CONTACT
If you submit interesting anecdotes to be published in my monthly magazines, I'll promote your books in the magazine for free.
If you have a story, send me a message in CONTACT
Not too many authors use PayPal, therefore, I added two options
The Witch's Body Shop
It was the second weekend of October, one of the last opportunities to sit around a camp before winter. After Jack’s father built a firepit in the backyard in the clearing, the group of teenagers huddled around the campfire roasting marshmallows. They burst out in laughter when Jack finished telling the story about the ghost of the spooky house in the woods. He told a new story about the lonely ghost every time they camped.
Claire, a redhead, chubby girl didn’t laugh and was unusually quiet staring into the flames.
What’s with you tonight? You haven’t said a word all evening.” Jack turned to her, with slight worry in his voice.
“I’m just… I overheard my dad talking about the witch who moved to town last month. His friend said that she can raise the dead.” Claire shivered.
“That’s a load of crap,” Jack chuckled. “It’s one of your stories to scare us, isn’t it?”
“It’s true!” Claire protested. “I heard him telling my dad that she has the power to breathe life into the dead!”
“It must be true!” Steve exclaimed wide-eyed. “I heard my dad telling the UPS guy that she sells body parts, and she has one eye and wears a black eyepatch.”
“You don’t think…” Jack stopped in mid-sentence.
“I heard about her too!” Martha shouted. “Grandma said she’s a strange woman, lives alone and nobody knows where she came from. She has a creepy black cat and bought the old Smith house. You know, the one on Franklin Street.”
The kids grew quiet as if they ran out of scary stories. They just sat around the fire for a while in deep thoughts, listening to music. Soon, when the full moon cast eerie shadows and they heard the hushed sounds of the owls and bats, they said goodnight and hurried home.
Jack had a terrible nightmare, he was tossing and turning all night. In his dream, an old woman with wild hair and a black eye patch tied him to a metal table. He looked around and saw that the room was full of pale, dead bodies. Charles was chained to the table and couldn’t move. He was terrified and tried to scream but couldn’t make a sound. The old woman’s bloodshot eye fixed on him as she cackled with her toothless mouth open.
Charles awoke with a jump at dawn, cold sweat covering his forehead and heart pounding in his chest. He heard his dad’s loud snoring and the neighbor’s dog barking. The familiar sounds somewhat calmed him. He called his best friend.
“You couldn’t sleep well either, huh?” Steve picked up at the first ring and asked his buddy in a hushed voice.
“You wouldn’t believe the nightmare I had,” Jack whispered, still out of breath.
“Me too,” Steve replied, his voice shaking.
Jack fell into a fitful sleep, and when he heard his parents, stumbled downstairs to the kitchen in his pajamas. He bumped into his dad who was heading toward the backdoor. “Whoa, there!” Jack’s dad laughed. “You’re up early. Is everything okay?” he asked, his expression turning to concern. “You guys didn’t stay outside as late as usual. I went to check on you around ten, but the fire was out already.”
“Yeah, fine… we were just… it was cold,” Jack replied, stepping aside to let his father open the door.
“Yes, it was a bit chilly.” His dad turned and called out to his wife in a hurry, “I’m heading over to the Witch’s Body Shop. Do you want me to pick up something?”
“Yes. Pick up a nice piece of liver for supper.” Jack’s mother smiled.
Jack’s eyes grew wide and the breath got caught in his throat. What kind of liver are we going to eat? What if… he thought, imagining the worst.
“What’s wrong?” his mother asked, worried. “You’re pale as a ghost!” She touched his forehead. “Are you okay, are you feeling sick?”
“I’m fine, mom!” Jack pushed her hand aside.
Later that day, the group gathered in Jack’s room and discussed what they’d found out.
“It must be just gossip or misunderstanding,” Martha probed, feeling skeptical.
“Don’t think so!” Steve replied. “Didn’t you hear what Jack’s dad said?”
“We must see for ourselves.” Martha insisted, firmly.
They decided to take a ride to the witch’s shop. When they got close to the house, they left their bikes behind a tree and crept closer to the fence. They hid behind a bush and saw a large yard filled with old cars and next to the house a huge garage. Above the garage door, they saw a sign, “The Witch’s Body Shop”.
“Do you think she really sells body parts?” Claire whispered, and stared at the opening garage door, feeling scared out of her mind.
They watched in horror as a middle-aged woman stepped out in greasy overall, dark hair pulled into a tight bun, and a black eyepatch covering her eye.
“Let’s get out of here before she sells our livers too!” Jack shouted, jumped up, and raced to his bike. The others followed and Claire screamed in fright.
“And I’m going to eat carrots for supper, and I’ll be a vegetarian from now on!” Jack huffed as pedaled away in a great hurry.
“What’s with these kids?” the woman asked the stocky man who walked out of the garage behind her.
“Beats me.” He shrugged, looking at the kids racing down the road. “So, you think you’ll get the carburetor today?”
“Yes, my supplier said they’ll deliver it after lunch,” the woman replied wiping her hands on a rag.
“How’s your eye? I hate driving my wife’s car, but I don’t mind waiting until the doctor lets you take the patch off.”
“I’m fine, don’t worry. I’ve been fixing cars for a long time, I can change a carburetor with both eyes closed,” she laughed. “I’ll have your car fixed and ready to be picked up around four.”
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The Worthless Painting
An art expert's lie
To arrogant socialite
Help worthless painting
Make past wrongs right
When actual value
Is brought to light
~Cindy J. Smith
Cozy, small-town mystery novelette.
When Danielle finally quits her boring accountant job and opens an Antiques & Stuff store, her life changes for the better. But soon, her happy life starts to spin out of control when the snobbish new owner of the Couture mansion brings a seemingly worthless painting into her shop. The ownership of the painting is questionable, and the town’s future is threatened by the plans of the ruthless, rich owner who wants to build a leather factory on the estate, too close to town.
An unexpected visitor arrives, and he may possess the much-needed solution to everyone’s problems in this quaint little town.
I do a lot of eBook and paperback formatting with Golden Box Books Publishing and I come across all kind of errors that prevent correct conversion to ePub or Mobi files on publishing sites.
So, I decided to make a few teaching videos - when I have free time on my hands - and highlight a few errors that authors unknowingly make.
In this first video, I'll show you how to spot some of the book formatting errors.
Let me know if you find this video useful, and if you have questions, don't hesitate to ask.
Need help publishing your book?
Our mission is to offer reasonable prices to authors in both publishing services and marketing materials.
We offer publishing and marketing assistance to authors so they can take full control of their books.
Picture credit: https://imgflip.com/i/3vuvrh
Although there are many funny memes questioning if wearing masks are testing the mess compliance of people, logic tells us to try everything that would protect us and others against the spread of infections.
Disclaimer: I'm not a virologist or epidemiologist.
Do your own research and listen to experts when it comes to protecting yourself and others from virus infection as well as preventing the spread of viruses.
To prevent infection and transmission of viruses:
Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, or clean them with alcohol-based hand rub.
Maintain at least six feet distance between you and people coughing or sneezing.
Avoid touching your face.
Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
Stay home if you feel unwell.
Practice physical distancing by avoiding unnecessary travel and staying away from large groups of people.
N95 mask, a type of respirator, can filter out both large and small particles when the wearer inhales. As the name indicates, the mask is designed to block 95% of very small particles.
Designed for one time wear to protect the wearer and others, health care providers must be trained and pass a fit test to confirm a proper seal before using an N95 respirator.
N95 masks with valves make them easier to breathe, but because the valve releases unfiltered air when the wearer breathes out, this type of mask doesn't prevent the wearer from spreading the virus. For this reason, some places have banned them.
A surgical mask filters out large particles in the air.
Wearing surgical mask when you're infected may protect others by reducing their exposure to your secretions if you're infected and cough or sneeze.
The FDA has not approved any type of surgical mask specifically for protection against the coronavirus, but these masks may provide some protection when N95 masks are not available.
A cloth mask is intended to trap droplets that are released when the wearer talks, coughs or sneezes. Cloth masks can reduce the spread of the virus by people who have COVID-19 but don't realize it.
“Because they extend down from the forehead, shields protect the eyes as well as the nose and mouth,” says pediatric infectious disease specialist Frank Esper, MD. The coverage that face shields offer is ideal since the new coronavirus can enter the body through those points.
A 2014 study showed that when tested against an influenza-infused aerosol from a distance of 18 inches away, a face shield reduced exposure by 96% during the period immediately after a cough. The face shield also reduced the surface contamination of a respirator by 97%.
“It protects you, the wearer,” Dr. Esper says. “But if you cough, because this face shield is away from your face, those droplets can still get out better than if you have a mask on.”
Do you need to wear a face shield and a face mask together?
While surgeons and other skilled medical professionals wear face shields over face masks, it’s not necessary for the average person to do so.
Being a nurse, I'm trained, and I practice basic protection. Although I'm a hugger, actually, I really enjoy social distancing. When I go out, I wear face shield to protect myself. Although I'm not infected, the face shield would protect others in case I would have the virus and I would be asymptomatic.
Please draw your own conclusion. Do your research and protect yourself and others.
I see angry people everywhere
Feeling angry once in a while can be therapeutic
Anger can be an empowering and therapeutic emotion when released in a healthy way, but it can also be addictive. Just like individuals who seek thrills for the adrenaline rush, some people have the same effect from anger. Individuals can become addicted to endorphins they feel when they get angry.
Individuals can become addicted to endorphins they feel when they get angry.
I turn on the TV and a red faced man yelling in anger.
I scroll social sites and every other post is outrage and anger about something.
In the store a woman shouts her anger to another woman, "I'm so angry at him, I could kill him right now."
A young kid yells at his mother, "I hate you!"
A "rageaholic" is a person who gets excited by expressing rage, or a person prone to extreme anger with little or no provocation.
Anger is One of the Most Powerful Emotions
The emotion of anger can provide tremendous energy to right wrongs and change things for the good. But when we allow it to control us, it can lead to negative destructive actions such as emotional, verbal or even physical abuse and violence.
Anger is a negative feeling state
Anger is typically associated with hostile thoughts, physiological arousal and maladaptive behaviors. It usually develops in response to the unwanted actions of another person who is perceived to be disrespectful, demeaning, threatening or neglectful.
The function of anger
Is to protect vulnerability and neutralize threat. In humans, the threat is almost always to the ego (how we want to think of ourselves and have others think of us). Anger neutralizes ego-threat by devaluing, demeaning, or undermining the confidence of the person perceived to be threatening.
What happens when we get angry?
When we get angry, the heart rate, arterial tension and testosterone production increases, cortisol (the stress hormone) decreases, and the left hemisphere of the brain becomes more stimulated.
The adrenaline-caused arousal that occurs during anger lasts a very long time (many hours, sometimes days), and lowers our anger threshold, making it easier for us to get angry again later on.
Anger trigger brain chemical rush
In the same way that substances trigger brain chemical rushes, so too does the expression and expulsion of anger. ... Like any addiction, anger can induce discharge of dopamine epinephrine and norepinephrine — also referred to as adrenaline and noradrenaline.
Angry people can't think straight
Any strong emotion, fear, stress, anxiety, anger, joy, or betrayal trips off the amygdala and impairs the prefrontal cortex's working memory. ... That is why when we are emotionally upset or stressed we can't think straight.
But anger can also damage the brain
Too much cortisol will decrease serotonin – that's the hormone that makes you happy. A decrease in serotonin can make you feel anger and pain more easily, as well as increase aggressive behavior and lead to depression. Elevated cortisol causes a loss of neurons in the prefrontal cortex.
Eat feel-good foods
Feel-good foods can help to improve your mood and reduce feelings of anger and anxiety.
Chocolate is my favorite and most effective mood lifter. Enjoying a square or two of dark chocolate can stimulate the production of endorphins, the chemical in brain which triggers the feeling of pleasure and euphoria.
Read the article about feel-good foods: https://www.doyou.com/12-foods-that-make-you-happy/
I got this email that made me do a bit of investigation
I never subscribed to Amazon Prime, so the flag went up.
I always check where the email is coming from, so I checked. It says fro Amazon, but the email address given to Mailchimp is firstname.lastname@example.org.
DEFINITELY not Amazon
Check who the sender is
This is what you'll see in the pop-up window
Check the sender's address
This is Amazon Headquarters's address
Now wait a minute!
Abbie Cakes looks like a legit business!
Oh, my! Those cakes look beautiful and delicious!
But what's going on here?
Abbie Cakes doesn't look like they'd use dirty tricks to sell cakes!
Check it yourself:
What I think, they might have hired a marketing company that use dirty tricks to to entice people to the site so the site owner can see results as increased visitor numbers.
Well, I'm going to send them the link to my little investigation and they can look into this how their business is used to send emails with false information.
Don't turn into a couch potato
This #coronavirus is really kicking our butts.
Most of us have never been stuck at home for so long.
We all have ways to use the extra time on our hands.
We catch up on reading and watching movies we never had time for, we clean, we cook, spend quality time together. But we need some exercise.
The gyms are closed and it's not a good idea to attend social gatherings, so what could we do?
Because I was born with two left feet (not literally) I can't do complicated dance moves or high impact exercises. But there are hundreds of low impact, fun exercise videos on YouTube.
Try a few. It will make you feel good, promise!
I love this song and the dance moves are easy to learn
The 80s had the best dance music
This Tai Chi series is easy to follow and very relaxing
But if you like to dance, this video is one of my favorites too
Post the links to your favorite exercise videos in comments.
Have fun and stay healthy!
Request a complimentary download code
For our safety, the #coronavirus forces us to stay home and entertain ourselves the best we can.
In order to keep boredom away, I'm offering FREE download codes for 5 of my published audiobooks.
The number of codes are limited, so request your code today.
Reviews and ratings are greatly appreciated.
Send me a message with the title of the book
I will email you the complimentary download code.
Reviews and ratings are greatly appreciated.
Add the title of the book in the comment section
Go from full stress mode to a relaxed state in 60 seconds
A friend asked me:
"I've watching you for a long time multitasking as a trauma nurse and dealing with problems in your personal life. You never lose your cool and you seem to be in control all the time. If I have to pay attention to two different things at the same time I freak out, while you do ten different things and make it look so easy. How do you do it? What is your secret?"
No secrets here.
I've just learned how to relax, from my cat.
Have you ever watched a cat running and jumping like a maniac one minute and then suddenly stop and stare into thin air for a second and flop down on the floor licking its paw looking totally relaxed? A few seconds later they continue chasing the invisible mouse or their own tails.
It seems as if cats have found the best way to stop stress from burning out their nervous system and boost their brains.
Of course I have stress in my life.
Working in the ER for so many years and solving everyday problems that life throws at me, can be very stressful at times. When I work on editing, designs, or researching facts for my next novel, sometimes I feel like my brain has 16 tabs open and I need to re-focus to make sense of it all.
I've tried meditation. Well, it didn't work for me. After a minute or so deep breathing, my mind started wandering and I begun making plans and thought about things that had to be done.
So, knowing I can't concentrate on relaxation for more than a minute, I learned to reboot my brains, just like a cat.
I stop (when I can) every waking hour and marvel at something beautiful for 60 seconds.
There are 60 minutes in every hour and we're awake about 16 hours a day, that's 960 minutes.
So I thought: what if I'd spend just 16 minutes a day to relax and go about dealing with stress for the rest of 944 minutes of my day?
I tried and it worked.
Marvel at something beautiful
Driving by a frozen lake surrounded by snow covered trees, stop for a minute to marvel at the beautiful scenery. Breathe the fresh air, take a close look at nature's beautiful work of a snowflake.
Sit with your dog and absorb the serenity of nature or just marvel at the beautiful painting on your wall. Dogs have the amazing ability to pick up your mood and reduce your stress just by being there by your side.
Blow the dandelion seeds into the air and watch them parachute in the wind finding a home where they'll bloom next year.
Watch a little bird feeding its chicks.
Marvel at a delicately made embroidery.
You'll be amazed how much beauty surrounds you anywhere you go.
Find something beautiful and marvel at it for 60 seconds. You'll be surprised how energized you'll feel and your rebooted brain will be a lot more focused to tackle the next task or problem that's been awaiting.
Let me know if this will affect your everyday life and stress level.
Picture and video credit to www.pixabay.com
Children recognize the "look" of the child molester
According to statistics, in the majority of child molesting cases close family members are the perpetrators.
I still remember the "yucky" feeling I felt that a close family friend's glances gave me when I was about five years old.
I still remember the uncomfortable conversation with my mom, after uncle Frank left. I was scared and felt something that resembled shame, but when Mom sat down to watch TV, I curled up on her lap and told her, "Mommy, my stomach hurts."
Mom looked at me and probably noticed the anxious look on my face and asked, "Do you feel like throwing up, or you have a funny feeling in your tummy?"
"Uncle Frank looks at me funny. I don't like it."
My mom shrank back a little and an angry look flashed through her face, which made me regret that I told her about my feelings. In my childish mind, I was convinced that I did something wrong that made Mom angry. But then she quickly hugged me and assured me, "I believe you, munchkin! You didn't do anything wrong. You're a very smart girl to tell me about your feelings, you can always tell me anything. Tell me how it makes you feel when he looks at you."
Gaining courage from her words, I tried to explain the sickening feeling I had when the man looked at me. I couldn't find words to explain, but in my mind I saw my cat shrinking away from the neighbor's dog that had the look in his eyes just like uncle Frank did. "Mommy, Mrs. Varga's dog looks that way at Miri every time she goes close to the fence. He wants to hurt her. Does uncle Frank want to hurt me?"
Mom hugged me tight and said, "I don't know, honey, he might. I'm so glad you told me about this." She then held my shoulders and looked into my eyes. "You can always tell me everything. You now that, don't you?"
"Did he ever touch you, put you on his lap, or told you that you must keep something a secret?"
"No..." I hesitated remembering the chocolate bar he gave me the day before. "But he gave me chocolate and told me it's our little secret because he knows you don't let me eat candy before dinner." I sobbed.
"It's okay, munchkin, you did the right thing telling me this. Remember, never-ever keep a secret from daddy and me."
I didn't see uncle Frank again until I was a teenager, when he was arrested for molesting his brother's ten-year-old daughter. The girl had the courage to speak to her teacher about it because her mother had dismissed her and accused her of lying about the abuse.
That's when my dad confessed that he beat creepy Frank to a pulp and banned him from ever entering our house, that day when I told Mom about how he made me feel. Dad could never forgive himself for not going to the police back then. He always thought he could've prevented the abuse of the young girl, but also knew that without proof, and only the words of a five-year-old, the police couldn't have done anything.
I was lucky to tell my mom about my gut feelings, and she was smart not to didn't dismiss me but inquired further.
She knew that young children can't always describe what makes them anxious or uncomfortable, but they can tell you about their gut feelings in their own way, or they find the way to play it out. Children often say their stomach hurts when they feel anxious, because they can't describe the feeling of anxiety, worry, shame, or when someone's actions make them feel uncomfortable.
Talk to your children, and no matter what they tell you, believe them, and take them seriously.
A Good Laugh and the Unwanted Consequences
A friend stopped by for a coffee and we recalled some humorous moments from the times when we worked together in the Emergency Room.
She laughed so hard when I told her the story when I was named "Patient whisperer" that she sprayed coffee all over the place-mat of the kitchen table.
You can read the story in my Magazine:
Suddenly, her expression grew serious, and she cried out, "Oh, crap! I wet my pants."
This made me laugh more, but when she shot me angry look, I raised my brows questioningly.
"NO! I'm serious," she said with a stern face. "I REALLY wet myself. Just a squirt, but can I borrow one of your pants?"
Yup, one of the fun "perks" of getting old.
Everything starts to go south, muscles weaken, skins sag, you pee when you laugh, sneeze, or... you get the picture. BUT, we both agreed on how lucky we are to have made it this far.
A supernatural short story by Erika M Szabo
Generations upon generations Blackmire Forest was the favorite place of the witches of the Enchanted Maple Coven to search for their ingredients—herbs, barks, leaves, and flowers. Their paths were clearly marked by the coven’s sigil that had been painted on the tree trunks.
Camilla Highmore and her fellow young acolytes in their late teen years, Sarah and Xavier, reached the knoll and found the witches’ path. Their long years of apprenticeship was over, and they were expected to perform the final test before they’d be considered as fully trained witches.
They had to find the woodruff iris needed to brew the potion as their last test, and the instruction had been very clear. The woodruff iris flower thrived on the sweet sap the snag maple trees provided. Dead yet still standing, snag maple trees were a rich source of nutrients as well as magical ingredients for both thanomancy and biomancy. The rare flower had to be plucked exactly when the sun barely kissed the horizon and prepared before the last rays of the sun vanished into the cloak of the night.
Upon finding the flower, they only had one hour to rush back to the coven and add the flower as the last ingredient to their prepared potions. If they’d be unsuccessful, they’d have to remain apprentices and try again the following year. The pressure weighed heavily on them all.
The trio walked in silence keeping an eye on the trees with the sigil that marked their path. Suddenly, a raven appeared above Camilla and let out a raspy kraa sound. She shivered as the black bird flew away. She looked after the bird as it flew higher and higher and disappeared from view. When Camilla lowered her eyes back to the trees, she spotted her grandmother’s small, spiral symbol with a pentacle in the middle carved into a majestic pine tree. She had a strong feeling that she had to follow the path the raven showed her. She hesitated for a minute but soon made up her mind. “I’m going this way,” she called out to her companion and pointed toward the narrow path by the tree.
“We were told to follow the witches’ path,” Sarah said, feeling annoyed. Her red, curly hair flew off her shoulders as she shook her head and rolled her green eyes. Always a strict follower of rules, she often disapproved when Camilla questioned or sometimes even broke the rules. “Why do you always have to break the rules?” She questioned looking at Camilla.
“I’m not… Okay, I do… sometimes. But my spirit guide…” Camilla stuttered like a scolded child but then her confidence returned. “Oh, never mind that. I’ve been here before with my grandma when I was very young, and I remember seeing dead maple trees in that area. Do you want to come with me?”
“No way,” Sarah said, firmly shaking her head.
“I’m staying on this path as we were told. You shouldn’t wander off either,” Xavier warned. His chocolate brown eyes reflected genuine worry.
Xavier was in love with Camilla since they first met, but his sense of duty and obedience kept him from revealing his feelings. When he confessed to his father, he got angry and told him that he was destined to be a witch and follow the footsteps of his ancestors, and a strong-willed, often disobedient girl didn’t fit into his future plans. Xavier agreed sadly and accepted his father’s decision. He kept his feelings to himself but couldn’t erase his love for Camilla from his heart.
Camilla stubbornly shrugged and strode off the well-worn dirt road. It made her heart race with excitement every time she followed the ancient path with her grandmother but going alone made her a little nervous. The Raven is my spirit guide and it’s never wrong. She thought, trying to calm her anxiety. It has a good reason to lead me off the usual path, and besides, my grandmother had marked this path for a reason.
The twisting path led her deep into the forest. Fallen leaves crunched under her boots, and she heard the rustle of small scampering creatures under the fallen branches and leaves. She tightened her grip on her gray knitted shawl as she continued along the path, her eyes automatically searching for the maple snags that woodruff iris preferred.
She still had about ten minutes before the sun began to sink below the horizon. Golden light filtered through the canopy of tree branches above her and the chilly wind cut through the rustling leaves making them dance. Camilla felt goosebumps rising on her skin triggered by the energy coursing all around her. More than anything in the world, she wanted to learn how to tap into that energy and wield the magic of nature.
The spotted an ancient, dead maple tree that stood just off to the side of the path. Beautiful even in its decay, its bare branches stood out against the bright late afternoon skies. Armfuls of woodruff iris in full bloom waved gently in the wind as they clung to the snag.
Camilla took a deep breath, bowed to the ancient tree, and to the scurrying creatures it still supported and took a step towards the patch of flowers to wait until the exact time for harvest.
As she took another step, suddenly, her foot crashed through the layer of dead leaves that had so perfectly hidden the tangle of thick roots and the warren between the path and the tree. She let out a sharp scream and the golden light of the world above her was thrust into shadows as she crushed through thin branches and roots, falling into a deep hole. She landed hard on the packed dirt in a deep, spacious room below the maple tree’s roots.
Leaves floated peacefully around her as she stood up, groaning, brushing the leaves from her long hair and the dirt from her jeans. She moved her arms and legs carefully. Nothing is broken. She thought, sighing in relief. Light poked down through the hole above her head, enough so that she could easily look around in the underground room.
Camilla turned to examine the large, square, carved stones put together with precision to make the walls of the room. The stones were covered with moss and a thick layer of dust, but in the darker corner polished stones with runes carved into them caught her eye. “What is this place?” she whispered and shivered. How am I going to get out of here? She thought looking up at the hole in the ceiling, ten feet above her head.
Her stomach tied into a knot. It was a mistake! Why did I follow the Raven? A scream rose in her throat, but she managed to stay quiet. It’s no use. Nobody will hear me. They will come looking for me when Sarah and Xavier go back to the coven without me, and grandma will know where to find me when they tell her I followed her sigil. The thought of getting help calmed down as her curiosity rose.
She glanced at her watch and cried out, “Oh, no! There’s only five minutes until sundown. I’m not going to get the iris and… well, at least I’ll know where to find the flowers next year.” She shrugged and took a step closer toward the back wall. She could barely see the runes carved into the dark gray stones. “I wish I’d brought a flashlight” She sighed.
“Whoa!” Camilla exclaimed and stumbled back in fright as the room turned bright. “What the… what’s going on here?” She cried out but her curiosity was stronger than her fear.
She could see the carved runes clearly. I wish I could read them. As soon as the thought entered her mind, eerie green light illuminated the rune letters.
Ye who was born to possess the sight
Brings light into the night.
What is this? Camilla’s legs turned to jelly and sat down. I can read the runes. Is this place like a ‘your wish comes through cave’ or something? “I wish I could get out of here!” she said out loud.
She felt lightheaded and closed her eyes for a few seconds. When the dizziness passed and opened her eyes, a strange sensation filled her body and mind. She felt the energy around her and watched in fright as the pile of dead leaves that had cushioned her fall stirred and gathered around her gently lifting her back up through the gap.
“Whoa!” a surprised scream erupted from her chest as she steadied herself at the edge of the gaping hole. This place is magical! I’m going to show it to grandma. She thought dreamily but quickly came to her senses. Glancing at the horizon she knew she didn’t have a second to waste if she wanted to harvest the flower of the woodruff iris.
Watching every step carefully, she walked to the beautiful patch of flowers. She knelt, took her athame out of its embossed leather sheath, and waited, blade pressed against a blood-red stem. As soon as the sun touched the horizon, Camilla made the cut. What if the others can’t find the flower? There is plenty here. She thought as the plants shivered, and she held three perfect blossoms in her hands. She allowed herself a few moments to admire the delicate black petals before tucking the knife back into its sheath, and gently placed the flowers inside the leather pouch that hung on a thong around her neck.
After bowing her head for a minute and thanking the plant for letting her harvest its delicate flowers, she stood up and raced back on the path, following her grandmother’s sigils with a satisfied, happy smile on her face.
She anxiously waited a few minutes until finally, she spotted her fellow acolytes walking back on the witches’ path with shoulders hunched and gloomy expression on their faces. As they stopped, Camilla noticed their hands were empty. Her heart twisted.
Xavier glanced at her sadly and sat down on the carpet of leaves, looking defeated. “No luck,” he sighed. “Somehow, we got off the path and by the time we found the flowers, the sun was sinking into the horizon and the petals closed up. We were late…”
“We’re not going to be accepted,” Sarah muttered. “What rotten luck! We’ll have to wait another year.”
The words died on her lips when she saw Camilla opening her pouch and holding the precious black flowers. “No worries. Neither of you has to wait,” she said simply. “I have three flowers.”
Sarah stammered, “And you’d share it with us?”
“Of course! Let’s go. We only have half an hour to get back to the coven and fifteen more minutes to add the flowers and finish the potion.” She smiled.
Xavier leaped to his feet as Sarah rushed to embrace Camilla in a tight hug.
The spicy-sharp autumn air of Blackmire Forest smelled of pure magic as the apprentices hurried toward the coven.
They rushed back to the coven and under the watchful eyes of the High Priestess and Elders, they added the woodruff iris to their prepared, murky looking potions. They stirred the dark grey, thick liquid in their cauldrons and yelled out in surprise when the potion turned into ruby red, glowing liquid.
“You have passed your last test,” the High Priestess announced and looked at the acolytes with warmth in her eyes and smile on her lips.
Sarah glanced at Xavier with a sad expression in her eyes, and when Xavier nodded, Sarah looked up at the High Priestess. “We have a confession to make.”
“Oh? What is it, child?”
“We…” Sarah started and cleared her throat. “Xavier and I didn’t get the flower. We were unsuccessful in finding it and Camilla took two extra flowers and gave them to us.”
Xavier looked at Sarah and added in a shaky voice, “We don’t deserve to be witches, only Camilla does.”
“I know, my messenger told me,” the High Priestess admitted and glanced at raven sitting on the windowsill. “I was just waiting for you to admit it.”
“So, we have to wait another year, right?” Sarah asked and sighed.
“No, child. You don’t have to wait. The three of you passed the test because of Camilla’s loyalty. She could have taken only one flower, but she took three because she has a good heart, and she’s loyal to her fellow apprentices. Being the member of our coven is not about competing with each other and outdoing each other. It’s about love and loyalty to each other, and helping one another.”
After the initiation ceremony a week later, Camilla and her grandmother went on a journey to discover more about the room that had been hidden for centuries. The spicy-sharp autumn air of Blackmire Forest smelled of pure magic as they followed the path to the ancient maple tree that guarded the sacred place deep in the woods.
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The story of a friend who thought writing a story
Small town mystery
Futuristic love story
When her Raven spirit guide warns her of impending danger, she takes the omen seriously.
She doesn’t have enough time to perform the protection spell her grandmother taught her and after a vicious attack and the Raven’s repeated urgent warning, she knows her life is in danger.
Who wants her dead and why?
Harbinger of danger, the Raven calls
Omen of perils that will befall
Ignoring its warning, does not bode well
Time of the essence, cast protection spell
Kraa from the oak, flapping black feather wings
Her heart knows the message it brings
~Cindy J. Smith
99 cents cozy supernatural thriller
A short excerpt
Before she could reach the call button, Marcia rushed into the room and called out to her with worry in her voice, “You must stay in bed! You’ve lost a lot of blood.”
“What happened?” Lauren managed to croak out her question. She felt a sharp pain in her throat when she made sounds and could barely manage to move her swollen lips.
“I’m just glad you are okay!” Marcia embraced her in a careful hug. “I went back to the office because I forgot my phone, and I found you on the floor unconscious and bleeding.”
Two particular dolls in her collection scared the daylight out of me
Until she got two new ones. Those dolls scared me and really freaked me out .
When I really had to enter the room, I ran to the cabinet and turned those two dolls upside down. Of course, my mother turned them back as soon as she noticed and reminded me again not to touch her dolls.
I even tried to leave the cabinet door open so my dog could reach them. Although he shred anything to pieces within seconds, he tiptoed away from the cabinet, and even when I threw one of the dolls to the floor hoping he would chew them to pieces, he ran out of the room.
No matter how many times Dad and I told my mom how creepy those dolls were, she laughed. "Don't be silly! There is nothing creepy about them, and they're so pretty."
Finally, Grandma came to the rescue two weeks later. As soon as she entered the room she shuddered and told my mom, "Those dolls are cursed! Get rid of them."
Mom didn't hesitate and stuffed the dolls in a bag, and to my delight, later that day dropped them off at the thrift shop.
A few days later my best friend, Gabi, told me in school, "My mother bought me two dolls for my birthday. They're so creepy looking that I'm scared of them, but I'm more scared to tell my mom that I don't like them."
A chill ran down my spine and after school I went over to Gabi's house. As soon as I looked at the dolls I recognized them and told Gabi's mom, "My grandmother told us that those dolls are cursed, so Mom got rid off them."
Gabi's mom grabbed the dolls and threw them into the fireplace. Luckily, superstition saved us from being forced to look at creepy dolls every day.
When Karma is at its best
Last night this contact message was sent to my Publisher website.
When I opened and read the message, my first reaction was, "What the Hell?"
And then I took a deep breath and tried to think rationally.
My book is published on many selling sites, maybe there is a glitch on one of the sites and the book didn't download correctly.
So, I sent her an email, not even knowing who she was because she didn't give her name just her email address. When I got the reply, I found out she's a woman.
She replied back, "It's cheating! I couldn't even read any of the pages. It's just some small pictures."
I assured her that I'll look into this because I want my readers to get my books in the best format possible, and I asked her to describe the picture.
She replied angrily that at the bottom of the pictures it says "jump" and she can't read the text on her tablet.
By then I had a hunch about what might have happened, so I asked her which site she purchased the book from.
"I didn't buy it, it was a website where you can download PDF books for free." And she sent me the link and a blurry picture she took with her phone of her tablet's screen.
I clicked on the link and my virus protection immediately flashed "Malicious site".
The page had book cover pictures with "Download free" click box under them. Yup, it was a click-bait scam site alright! I wondered if the woman got a nasty virus with her "free" book when she downloaded it. The picture she sent looked like a page screenshot to me.
Intrigued, I went through the publishing sites:
and looked at the free preview pages. I took a screenshot and sent it to the woman.
Then I sent her this message:
"Sorry you had a bad experience, but this site where you downloaded the "free" book is called a pirate site. They steal the books, and in this case, the owner of the site is not even smart enough to properly steal the entire book, they just took screenshots of the free pages that are available on legit selling sites. Had you purchase the book from a legitimate selling site such as Amazon, you'd have received a beautifully formatted eBook to enjoy.
Also, I advice you to run a virus check on your tablet. The "free" books from pirate sites and not so "free".
They usually include a nasty virus or spy cookies in the "free" book.
A friendly advice: if they required you to give them your credit card to open a "free" membership so you can download the book, I would put a freeze on the card as soon as possible.
If someone can't afford the $2.99 price for my eBook, please go to your local library and ask them to purchase the book. Then you can read it for free, but the author and publisher gets paid for their work.
Writing and publishing a book is a long process and requires investment as well.
1. The author works on the story for months or even years to bring the best reading experience to readers.
2. It cost money to edit and format the book, have attractive book cover designed.
3. It cost money to promote and market the book so readers can find it.
It would never occur to people to ask for free coffee, haircut, manicure, or walk into a store and get shoes and clothes for free, because they know how much work goes into producing items they buy.
Publishing a book is work and the authors and publishers deserve to get paid for their work.
Don't you think?
Erika M Szabo
Author of urban fantasy, magical realism novels and children's books,
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