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Five Great Date Night Games for a Couple or a Group by Laura Heffernan

One thing I get asked frequently is for tabletop board game recommendations. This is as tough for me as naming a favorite book, because there’s so much great stuff out there. There are different types of game for almost everyone. Gwen and Cody love competitive games. I personally prefer cooperative games much of the time, but if a game is well-made, I’ll play almost anything.

Here are some of my favorite date night games, intended to satisfy any type of gamer.

  1. Legendary: Nothing’s hotter than vanquishing evil together. Well, nothing except doing it with the help of Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, and Scarlett Johannsen. Okay, okay, so the game was created before the recent spate of Marvel movies. The artwork resembles the comic book characters a lot more than, say, Hugh Jackman. It’s still cool. Legendary is a cooperative deck-building game where the players get together to fight against a supervillain and foil their master plan. It plays up to five people, so you can make it a double date if you wish.

Not a Marvel fan? No problem, there are loads of variations, including Buffy and Firefly. Both are their own unique games building off the Legendary concept, and neither requires the base game.

Similar games you might enjoy: Harry Potter: Battle for Hogwarts, Pandemic, Forbidden Desert, Clank, Dominion

  1. Loaded Questions: Hardcore strategy not your thing? No problem! In Loaded Questions, players move around the board and ask questions of their competitors. Everyone submits an answer, and the asker gets points for correctly guessing who said what. Get to know your date better in a casual environment. There’s also an After Dark version if you want to make it a bit more risqué, but it’s just as fun to provide R-rated answers to the base game questions.

Similar games you might enjoy: Curses, Scruples, Scattergories (These games are intended for groups – they don’t work with two players.)

  1. Coerceo: This two-player only game is a great way to separate your crush from the crowd. Move gorgeous black and white pieces around the hexagon-shaped board. The game area gets smaller as you play, allowing you to zero in on your goal of destroying your opponent’s soul. Er, I mean, capturing all their pieces.

Similar games you might enjoy: The Duke, Sovereign Chess, Intelle

  1. Escape the Room!: Escape rooms are hot at the moment, probably because they’re loads of fun. But they can also be expensive, especially considering that you’re ideally getting less than an hour of entertainment for your money. For those of you on a budget (or with kids at home), at home escape rooms are a great alternative. Send the kids to bed, open a bottle of wine, and set a timer. Most of the ones I’ve seen allow up to four players, so invite your best couple friends over and experience the satisfaction of outsmarting the game together.

Similar games you might enjoy: Literally any well-done escape room. Classic Mystery Jigsaw Puzzles such as Grounds for Murder. CityHUNT if you happen to be near one.

  1. Qwixx: This is relatively fast, with a little strategy but also a fair amount of luck. It’s also a game where you’ve got things to do on the other players’ turns, which is good for people who don’t like waiting. The deluxe version plays up to eight, so another great one for a party night. If you prefer a more strategic dice game, look into Roll through the Ages, Dice Forge, or Favor of the Pharoah.

Similar games you might enjoy: Dicey Peaks, Bloom.

For this blog, I’m leaving out social deduction games (although I love them), partially because they all require more than two people. But also, in my experience, social deduction games are more likely to lead to mistrust and name calling than warm fuzzy feelings. J If you have a group, go with some of the party games above unless everyone knows each other quite well.

But there you go! A variety of games fitting a variety of budgets. Open your beverage of choice, make some non-messy snacks, and enjoy!

 

Risk Everything . . .

Holly has taken herself out of the dating game since breaking up with her cheating, thieving ex. She barely notices Marc, who comes into the game store every week, hoping to get her attention. Her friends insist it’s time to take on a new role, to leave Quiet Holly behind and embrace her inner flirt. And on paper, Marc’s great: cute, funny, and a hardcore gamer just like Holly is.

Then there’s Nathan. He’s everything twenty-eight-year-old Holly wants…except he’s also her friend’s father. Absolutely off-limits. But as she and Nathan playtest a new legacy game together, they’re growing closer. The game is complex and intriguing, and there’s no way to know how choices will pan out. What seems like a good idea could lead to disaster…or sweet victory. But in gaming, as in love, sometimes you have to roll the dice and take your chance . . .

Praise for America’s Next Reality Star

“Smart, witty, and really freaking good . . . a fun read that has you cheering from the first paragraph through the last page.” —Kerry Lonsdale, Wall Street Journal bestselling author

“Reality TV fans, this is your book! Laura Heffernan captures all the drama and over-the-top craziness in this fun and flirty romance.” —Amy E. Reichert, author of Love, Luck, and Lemon Pie

America’s Next Reality Star is one sweet, sexy brain-candy read! You won’t be sorry you indulged.” —Leah Marie Brown

Posted in Home

What type of cozy reader are you?

This is DEADLY RIDE author, Jody Holford, and I want to help you discover what kind of Cozy Mystery reader you are! So let’s get started with the fun. I’ll ask a series of questions about what kind of reader you are. All you have to do is answer to the best of your ability and then check out the answer key at the bottom of the blog to see your results.

1. I have read
a) <50 cozies
b) >50 but <100
c) 100+ cozies

2. I am an avid reader. I’m talking one to two books a week. (Doesn’t have to be cozy)
a) No
b) sometimes
c) absolutely

3. If I’m reading a cozy mystery, I prefer it to be part of a series.
a) Not necessary
b) sometimes
c) cannot be a standalone

4. I follow my favorite cozy mystery authors on social media.
a) Nope
b) On at least one
c) yes!

5. If a friend is looking for a good mystery book, I can
a) Suggest one
b) hand them a stack
c) go on for hours about the best ones

6. When my favorite author releases a book
a) I put it on my TBR list
b) I pre order it
c) I do my best to get an advance copy

7. When I’m into a book, I can visualize the characters and grow attached
a) Um, it’s just a book
b) Depends on the book
c) I totally do this

8. Are books great stress relievers?
a) They can be
b) Depends on the stress
c) Always yes

9. I’m always recommending books to others. I can’t help myself.
a) Not really
b) Sometimes
c) Yup

10. It’s okay if I don’t find time to read in the week.
a) Sure, that’s life.
b) I don’t like these weeks
c) WHAT? No time to read?

Agatha Christie:

(mostly ‘c’)

You are all about the cozy but really, you just need a book in your hand. You spend time curled up under your favorite warm blanket, a furry friend on your lap, a cup of tea at your side, reading well past your bedtime. For you, there’s no such thing as too many cozies.

Nancy Drew:

(pretty even between ‘b’ & ‘c’)

You love a mysterious read with an unexpected sleuth as the main character. You love to read, period. Books, books, books. As much as you love cozies, you’re happy to explore beyond the genre.

Hardy Boy:

(mostly ‘b’)

Following clues leads you to your happy place. Mysteries are fun. Reading is fun. Putting the two together is double the fun. When you can find time for it. When you do manage to get some quiet time with a book, it doesn’t have to be a cozy but you wouldn’t turn one down.

Amateur Sleuth:

(mostly ‘a’)

You like books as much as the next person but you’re new to this mysterious cozy scene. Reading isn’t something you eek a lot of time out for but when you do, mystery is as good a pick as any other.

Well? What did you get? Is it accurate? If not, hopefully it was fun.

Posted in Cooking, Home

Easy Peezy Halloweeny Spice Ball Cookies by J.C. Eaton

Stock up on cozy mysteries by all of your favorite authors at Barnes & Noble’s #CozyMysteryBonanza! http://bit.ly/2m2laCx

 

 

Friends kid us that the only thing we really know how to make is reservations, and, with the exception of Jim’s scones, they’re probably right. However, once in a while we come across a terrific quick and easy recipe and this one, for Halloween Spice Ball Cookies, is fantastic!

It comes from one of the original BOOKED 4 MURDER club ladies in Sun City West. For those of you familiar with our Sophie Kimball Mysteries, you’ll know that BOOKED 4 MURDER was inspired by the real book club. And the credit for this recipe goes to Geri Lahti.

Here goes:

  • 1 stick butter
  • 8 oz. cream cheese (1/3 less fat)
  • 1 egg
  • ½ t. vanilla (we usually add a bit more)
  • 1 spice cake mix 25 oz. (any brand)
  • Powdered Sugar

 

  1. CREAM THE BUTTER AND CREAM CHEESE
  2. ADD EGG AND VANILLA
  • ADD CHOPPED PECANS IF YOU’D LIKE
  1. MIX ALL TOGETHER WITH THE SPICE CAKE MIX
  2. PUT IN REFRIGERATOR FOR AT LEAST TWO HOURS
  3. AFTER THE TWO HOURS ARE UP, ROLL THE MIXTURE INTO BALLS
  4. ROLL BALLS INTO POWDERED SUGAR
  5. PUT ON UN-GREASED COOKIE SHEET OR USE PARCHMENT PAPER
  6. BAKE AT 350 DEGREES FOR 10- 12 MINUTES
  7. ENJOY!!!

 

Last one standing is the winner . . .

The holiday season has arrived and bookkeeper/amateur sleuth, Sophie “Phee” Kimball, would love nothing more than to enjoy the comforts of her new home with her detective boyfriend near Arizona’s Sun City West. Instead, her mother Harriet wants to showcase her chiweenie-chihuahua-dachshund Streetman in the Precious Pooches Holiday Extravaganza costume events. The festivities begin in October and end on St. Patrick’s Day—with the winner starring in the St. Pat’s Day parade. But things quickly turn an awful shade of green when Streetman uncovers a dead body under a tarp-covered grill in the neighbor’s yard.

The victim is Cameron Tully, a seafood distributor working out of Phoenix, who died from ingesting a toxic sago palm leaf. Before the police can even find a motive and suspect, another Precious Pooch owner nearly dies from the same poison. With Harriet believing someone’s targeting her and Streetman because of the costume contests, Phee will need a potful of Irish luck to sniff out a killer . . .

 

 

 

Posted in Crafts, Creativity, Home

A Dickens of a Christmas – by Lauren Elliott

As the world begins its transformation into a winter wonderland, coupled with twinkling colorful lights in the night and the soft sounds of Christmas carols pumped through every speaker you pass by, it’s easy to become caught up in the commercialism of the season that we see around us today. For most, it’s become a busy nerve-racking time. Between the shopping, social gatherings, decorating, cooking, and baking, we tend to get frantic and stressed in our attempts to make everything as perfect as the images advertised on television, social media, and in magazines portraying the ideal Christmas.

That’s when it’s time to stop, take a look around, and remember why you are doing what you’re doing to make this a special day. Even though the true spirit of Christmas has somehow become lost in all the marketing and promotion of the season, the frenzy we experience is our internal battle over achieving that perfection while at the same time attempting to hang onto traditions that have been handed down from generation to generation. Traditions that took their inspiration from a world not filled with the commercialism of the season that we see today but were based on long-standing customs that made a reemergence in Charles Dickens’ novella, A Christmas Carol. A story that since its release in December 1843 revolutionized Christmas in its time and inspired many of the holiday traditions we still follow today.

When Dickens penned A Christmas Carol, it was a bleak period in Victorian history. Great Britain was undergoing an industrial revolution and the church had deemed many of the old seasonal celebrations as pagan rituals. Work houses were plentiful and so was poverty. Dickens lamented over the loss of long-standing celebrations that once existed and yearned for those lost times. In writing his book, he brought back the memories of forgotten customs like Christmas caroling in the streets, feasting, dancing, games, but most importantly to him, spending time with loved ones and friends. Dickens also pointed out the importance of remembering those less fortunate and helping others through charitable donations especially during the holidays.

A Christmas Carol literally generated a rebirth of Christmas during those dark times and once again embraced celebration, music, the singing of carols, lighting candles, displaying brightly decorated trees, and feasting. All with a strong emphasis on family and goodwill toward men.  Even the expression and custom of wishing others a “Merry Christmas” can be traced back to the famous story of Ebenezer Scrooge. Charles Dickens inspired several other traditions of Christmas that we still follow today, and it’s our longing to recapture and hang onto those that often finds us at odds with what Christmas turns many of us into: Ebenezer Scrooge. So flip to the ending of the book and take a deep breath like Scrooge did and allow that sense of magic and wonder that is truly the spirit of the season into your heart. Continue to embrace those long-established customs that are the glue binding families together and forego chasing the image of the advertisers’ ideal Christmas scene.

Through the frenzy of the season, keep the most important thing close to your heart. It’s about family and friends coming together in celebration of the magic of the season and what it really means. Allow not only the sights and sounds of the holidays to influence you but also the aromas. Keep in mind that scents can stir memories and create a link to our pasts. In Murder in the First Edition, a story that is based around the discovery and mysterious disappearance of a first edition copy of A Christmas Carol, there is a moment when Addie catches a whiff of a Christmas apple-spiced punch, similar to one her grandmother used to make. The fragrance stirs warm memories and for a moment, Addie is taken back, in her mind and heart, to Christmases past that were filled by her loving family gathered together in celebration of the season. Her grandmother’s punch is inspired by an old English recipe perhaps even one similar to what Dickens himself may have raised a cup of in a toast during his family Christmas gatherings. Continue reading “A Dickens of a Christmas – by Lauren Elliott”

Posted in Cooking, Home

Cheesy Biscuits from Maddie Day

Stock up on cozy mysteries by all of your favorite authors at Barnes & Noble’s #CozyMysteryBonanza! http://bit.ly/2m2laCx

 

Robbie Jordan opened Pans ‘N Pancakes, her country store and restaurant, in the fall. One of her customers’ favorite offerings are cheesy biscuits. Because the store is in Brown County, Indiana, she also serves gravy with the biscuits, but they’re just as good with honey or apple butter.

 

Cheesy Biscuits from Maddie Day

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour, plus extra for kneading
  • 1 cup unbleached white flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ c butter cut in half-inch cubes
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup milk or buttermilk
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Continue reading “Cheesy Biscuits from Maddie Day”

Posted in Creativity, Home

Happy Places by Carol J. Perry

 

“So come with me where dreams are born,

And time is never planned.

Just think of happy things

and your heart will fly on wings,

forever in Never Never Land.”

 Peter Pan

Carol Perry, Gulfport

One of my go-to cozy blogs had a recent piece on the ways we writers choose to “recharge our batteries.” A varied and interesting assortment of ideas were offered ranging from hotels to hot tubs; pets to pedicures. All of them sounded good to me. Sometimes—actually fairly often—taking time away from the computer to do something for a little while that makes us happy will give a quick charge to those unpredictable creative batteries. Whether it’s something as simple as petting a soft cat or relaxing in a bubble bath; having a pampering pink-toed pedicure or a weekend at a Holiday Inn Express–just like the lost boys in Peter Pan, we can take a break and go to a “Happy Place.”

In my Witch City Mystery series, one of my heroine Lee Barrett’s  happy places is the home where she was raised in the magical city of Salem. Massachusetts—the house on Winter Street. One of the great pleasures in writing fiction is the ability we writers have to move people, things and places around in time and space. That house on Winter Street in Salem is such a place.

When I was a little girl, growing up in Salem, my friend Judy Adams lived on Winter Street in that very same house. (Well, almost. the same. In my stories  I’ve  had to move a few rooms around and I added a top floor.)  I loved going to Judy’s house. There was a beautiful wide oak staircase with a smooth bannister for sliding. Judy’s family had a real formal dining room with a long table and fresh flowers. Judy’s room had a four-poster bed and wide cushioned window seats and a fireplace. The house on Winter Street was, in fact, one of my own earliest happy places. I’ve since taken great pleasure in giving that house to my fictional friend, Lee Barrett. Continue reading “Happy Places by Carol J. Perry”

Posted in Cooking, Home

Upside Down Apple Cake-Flower by Amanda Flower

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Earlier this month, I went apple picking with a friend and her young children. It was so much fun, and it was hard to stop picking apples, especially when the merchant said that the apples were $16 a half bushel or as many as we could fit in a half bushel bag. We were determined to get our money’s worth. As you expect, we both went home with a ton of apples. I even gave thirty apples away to my sister-in-law, and I still have apples coming out of my ears. The only solution was to bake. I made apple crisp, which was a hit. But when I still had a lot of apples, I decided to get a little more daring. A new recipe I tried was Upside Down Apple Cake. It actually only took three apples, so I still have an apple problem. In any case, my friends loved it. Here’s the recipe! Don’t tell my friends I used a box cake mix though! Thanks! Continue reading “Upside Down Apple Cake-Flower by Amanda Flower”

Posted in Cooking, Home

Tim’s Cranberry Orange Bread by Maddie Day

Stock up on cozy mysteries by all of your favorite authors at Barnes & Noble’s #CozyMysteryBonanza! http://bit.ly/2m2laCx

 

Mac Almeida’s boyfriend, baker Tim Brunelle, makes this yummy quick bread for his bakery, Greta’s Grains in Westham on Cape Cod. Bake a day ahead of time for easiest slicing.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cranberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 cups unbleached white flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • Zest and juice of one orange. If juice doesn’t equal 3/4 cup, add orange or cranberry juice to supplement
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Continue reading “Tim’s Cranberry Orange Bread by Maddie Day”

Posted in Crafts, Creativity, Home

My Unusual Favorite Hobby by Heather Day Gilbert

 

It didn’t take long for my kids to realize their mom was NOT like other moms, because their mom liked to unwind by playing video games. My son can still remember when he was a little boy, watching me play Halo with the guys (and losing, except the brief moments I was able to commandeer a tank). My girls would recall how I worked my way through puzzles in various Tomb Raider games, and my youngest now (she’s five!) sees me playing video games in my free time, too.

WHY would I play video games to unwind, you might ask? A couple of reasons spring to mind. When I was younger, my brothers and I would spend hours trying to beat Zork and Zelda games. It was quality time, staying up past our bedtime, trying to figure out puzzles. Now that I’m older (and a mom and author), I don’t have as much time to play puzzle games, so I enjoy games I can pop into and play a round or three, then pop back out of (such as Black Ops). Besides bringing back a sense of nostalgia, video games help me disconnect my ever-whirring author brain. I can step OUT of my fictional worlds, away from my made-up characters (who, let’s face it, reside in my head), and focus on beating an enemy, with or without online teammates. I’ve found it’s impossible to brainstorm while I’m gaming. 😉

Of course, my love of gaming worked its way into my mystery series, as well. Belinda Blake (of the Exotic Pet-Sitter series with Lyrical Press) doesn’t just sit exotic pets (a ball python, wolves, and homing pigeons, to name a few), but she also does video game reviews on the side. NO, Belinda is NOT me—she happens to be an excellent gamer girl. I’d never claim to be amazing (just ask my son, who was BEATING me at Halo before he even hit ten years old).

If you are a video gamer, you’ll probably enjoy the retro game references in the Exotic Pet-Sitter series, and if you aren’t, you’ll still get a clearer view of what makes a gamer girl tick. Regardless, you’ll get up close and personal with exotic pets and hang out with Belinda as she comes face to face with killers who are as well-hidden as snakes in the grass.

Author Bio:

Heather Day Gilbert, an ECPA Christy award finalist and Grace award winner, writes contemporary mysteries and Viking historicals. Her novels feature small towns, family relationships, and women who aren’t afraid to protect those they love. Like Belinda Blake, Heather plays video games, although so far she hasn’t done any exotic pet-sitting or hunted any murderers. Find out more on HeatherDayGilbert.com.

 

 

Exotic pet-sitter Belinda Blake is nervous about her new job at the White Pine Wolf Preserve, but it turns out that the care and feeding of wild carnivores may be the least dangerous part of the gig . . .

Pet-sitter Belinda Blake is no stranger to dealing with wild animals, but she’s wary when the owner of the Greenwich, Connecticut, preserve asks her to help out with her “fluffy darlings.” Her caution seems justified on her very first day, when she discovers a tour guide—dead, bloodied, and surrounded by wolves in the enclosure.

Was it death by predator or something more sinister? The body count rises, but something’s not adding up. As she gets to know the rescued wolves and wolf-dog hybrids better, Belinda realizes that her human colleagues are not above suspicion. With help from her own “pack”—her pregnant sister, Red the chauffeur/bodyguard, and hunky farmer Jonas—Belinda is hot on the killer’s tail, but if she doesn’t find him soon, he’ll do more than muzzle her to keep the truth from escaping.

Praise for Belinda Blake and The Snake in the Grass

“A humorous series debut with exotic pets and a zany cast of characters. Gilbert’s cozy will make you smile.” —Amanda Flower, USA Today bestselling author of Premeditated Peppermint

“Cozy fans will root for pet-sitter Belinda Blake as she unravels this cleverly-crafted mystery in a delightfully-deadly new series by Heather Day Gilbert.” —Elizabeth Spann Craig, author of the bestselling Myrtle Clover Mysteries

Posted in Home

Murder Most Refined: Dispatching victims with panache by Arlene Kay

Most “cozy” mysteries (think Miss Marple, Murder She Wrote, Father Brown) are character driven and avoid gruesome scenes of torture or the astonishing array of weaponry found in thrillers. Bodies fall of course, but they tend to do so in a genteel fashion with a minimum of gore. Very often, items common to most households are put to good use by an imaginative murderer. Poisons, said to be a woman’s method, are almost a trope in modern novels, although science continues to provide some intriguing options. Powdered caffeine, for instance, is readily available at health food stores and on-line. A teaspoon of this seemingly innocuous substance can induce a fatal heart attack in an alarmingly short period of time without arousing unnecessary suspicion. Similarly, although leaching nicotine from cigarettes is a nasty habit it can produce deadly effects if it is directly absorbed into the skin. In one of my novels, the murderer mixed liquid nicotine into a conditioning hair pack, applied it to the unwitting victim’s scalp, and returned an hour later to “discover” the corpse. These unseemly but essentially bloodless ways of dispatching an antagonist are still within the bounds of both traditional and edgier cozy mysteries. Kitchen knives, dog leashes, fire extinguishers, meat thermometers and the trusty blunt object are the type of weaponry that any one of us could obtain and use without possessing specialized skills.

The lure of characters with martial arts, sharpshooting and acrobatic skills is greatly exaggerated and almost beside the point. A gentle rooftop push achieves the same goal as the artillery used by macho men in more muscular novels. Thus, in cozy mysteries, a villain’s age, gender or physical limitations are never barriers to committing an almost perfect crime. Dead is dead, as they say.

The key to a successful mystery lies in motive and character rather than method. Readers expect the author to furnish clues and craft scenarios that allow them to solve the murder and unmask the killer. Period. No need to pepper the narrative with excruciating detail or dwell on the pain of victims, many of whom tend to be female. For me, the most chilling villains are the ordinary ones. Jemma the homeroom mom, Joe the earnest neighbor, or Mary the syrupy sweet boss are types familiar to us all. Indeed they may live next door or even WITH you. When the mask of evil is lifted, these mundane killers shake us to our core. Recall that the BTK killer was a cub-scout leader and the president of his church council. Theodore Bundy volunteered at a suicide help line and several “angels of death” served as friendly, sympathetic, hospital nurses.

Crime fiction serves up a menu with something for everyone. Whether traditional, police procedural, thriller or hard-boiled, mysteries continue to delight and intrigue their readers. But for those who prefer murder most refined, nothing beats engaging one’s “little grey cells” to solve the crime.

 

Leathersmith Persephone “Perri” Morgan makes the kind of beautiful custom leashes and saddles that make wealthy dog and horse show lovers swoon—until murder strides onto the course . . .

When Perri’s BFF Babette hosts a meeting of Fairfax County’s affluent animal lovers to save a local horse rescue farm, the agenda gets sidetracked by the discovery of a corpse in the master bedroom. Everyone present is a suspect, including Perri’s main squeeze, Wing Pruett—Washington, DC’s sexiest reporter.

While Perri scours local horse and dog shows hoping to unmask the killer, she uncovers bad manners, infidelity, and low-level crime in her hunt for the killer—but what she can’t find are grounds for murder. When the killer strikes again and she gets a warning to stop her sleuthing, Perri has to muster all her training—and all her allies, human and animal alike—to make it out of the ring alive.

Praise for Arlene Kay’s Boston Uncommons Mysteries

“Reminiscent of the comedy-mystery movies of the thirties…An entertaining first entry into the Boston Uncommons Mystery series.” —New York Journal of Books on Swann Dive

“Highly entertaining . . . I can’t wait for the next book in the series!” —Jaye Roycraft, author of Rainscape