Monday, October 5, 2015

Domestic Violence Awareness: Robert Uttaro, To the Survivors, plus #giveaway, #free ebook

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  To honor the survivors of this on-going brutality, the featured author this week is a Domestic Violence Advocate who brings true stories to life in the pages of his book.  He is offering a free copy of his book to one commenter.  Please be sure to leave your contact information if you are interested.

AUTHOR: Robert Uttaro
BOOK TITLE: To the Survivors
GENRE: Non-Fiction
PUBLISHER: CreateSpace Independent Publishing

Please tell us about yourself.

My name is Robert Uttaro. I love music, cooking, basketball, and teaching. I was also fortunate enough to write To the Survivors.

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?

I am a part-time writer. Finding time to write is challenging, but I still prioritize making it a significant part of my life. I will often write at night after work, some times during the weekends, and anytime I am inspired.

What inspired you to write your first book?

I did not consider myself a writer and never once tried to write a book until the experience of an intensely vivid dream one morning changed my life. I woke up from this dream and said, “I have to write a book.” I interpreted this dream as a vision from God. I prayed to God, moved from the bed to the computer, opened up Microsoft Word, and continued to pray. That is how To the Survivors began. In other words, God inspired me to write To the Survivors.

Do you ever have writer’s block? If so, how do you get through it?

I have writer’s block quite often. I am able to get through writer’s block through prayer, meditation, and music. God and music help me to fight all negative thoughts and insecurities. Eventually all blockage is shattered and I am able to write.

What is your marketing plan?

I get the word out about To the Survivors and issues connected to sexual assault by teaching at high schools and colleges and by spreading the word in conversations in my daily life. Word of mouth is truly a powerful vehicle as many people share the book with others. In terms of online communication, I outreach to libraries, schools, rape crisis centers, and domestic violence shelters through emails. I have been very fortunate to be listed on blogs and magazines. I have also shared information through interviews on national and international radio programs.

What do you plan for the future?

I am currently writing a second book, but most of my focus right now is on teaching, working, and spreading To the Survivors to as many people, schools, libraries, rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters, and religious/secular organizations as possible.

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?

People can find more information about To the Survivors or myself at:


Tell me a little about your book.

To the Survivors is the story of my journey as a rape crisis counselor along with true stories of sexual violence shared by survivors in their own words. Readers will encounter uncensored stories from women and men who have been sexually abused plus my advocate voice that weaves their experiences together. The survivors are diverse in age, gender, and ethnicity, yet each gives a similarity raw and heartfelt account of his or her victimization and recovery. I believe that the authenticity and vulnerability with which survivors speak resonates profoundly. Messages within To the Survivors are very hopeful -- to the pleasant surprise of many readers -- and I am humbled to find it continues to positively affect people’s hearts and minds. I believe anyone can benefit from the words in these pages, rape survivor or not.

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

I have many hopes for what the book might achieve in the lives of others, probably too many to list here. I will try to answer as best as I can:

I hope people keep breathing and do not choose to kill themselves.
I hope people understand that they are not alone.
I hope people will not feel shame for being raped or sexually assaulted. 
I hope people will not blame themselves for being raped or sexually assaulted.
I hope people connect on some level with at least one person in To the Survivors.
I hope people understand that they can grow and heal from any pain they experience.
I hope people who have not been raped or sexually assaulted become more educated on how to respond to incidences of sexual violence and the suffering of survivors.
I hope people stop raping and assaulting.
I hope people understand that God loves them more than they can even fathom, even if they do not believe in God.
I hope people talk to God and listen to God.

These are some of my many hopes.

What draws you to non-fiction writing?


Where can people learn more about this topic if they want to pursue it further?

People can go to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network’s (RAINN) website for more resources in their state:

For anyone interested in resources specifically for male survivors, you can go to MaleSurvivor’s website:

Any tips for new writers hoping to write non-fiction?

Follow your heart and write what you care about. Write, write, and write some more. It is imperative to not be nervous, to not fear anything, and to fight through whatever blockage one may have. Believe in yourself and your abilities, and don't stop writing if you have the desire to write.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

When I am not writing or working, I am relaxing. I love to cook and listen to good music. I love live music and am always up for seeing a show. I also try to exercise when I can, and I love playing and watching basketball.

What do you look for in a book when you sit down to read for fun?

I love books that convey truthful aspects of peoples’ lives and books that make me think of new concepts I have never thought of before.

To the Survivors is a deeply-moving, empowering, and brutally honest book about one man’s journey as a rape crisis counselor with true stories of sexual violence shared by survivors in their own words. Gently and beautifully constructed, To the Survivors is moving, tender, sharp, and piercingly true all at once. Readers will encounter uncensored written stories, poems, and interviews from women and men who have been sexually abused, plus the advocate-author voice that weaves their experiences together. The survivors are diverse in age, gender, and ethnicity, yet each gives a similarity raw and heartfelt account of his or her victimization and recovery. The authenticity and vulnerability with which survivors speak resonates profoundly. But this book is not just for survivors of sexual violence. Robert Uttaro believes anyone can benefit from the words in these pages, rape survivor or not.
To the Survivors is a timeless resource for a world that struggles with the repercussions of sexual violence. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Frankie Bow, The Musubi Murder

AUTHOR: Frankie Bow
BOOK TITLE: The Musubi Murder
GENRE: Cozy Mystery
PUBLISHER: Five Star/Cengage

Please tell us about yourself.
Like my fictional professor Molly Barda, I teach at a public university. Unlike my protagonist, I’m blessed with delightful students, sane colleagues, a loving family, and a perfectly nice office chair. The Musubi Murder is my first novel.

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time? 
I still have my day job—It’s my main source of material, not to mention income. To fit everything in, I’ve simply repurposed my leisure time. Instead of goofing off online, reading blogs, or shopping on eBay, I write, revise, update social media, and browse KBoards and Absolute Write. I also listen to writing podcasts at night—Joanna Penn, Simon Whistler, the Sell More Books Show, the Self Publishing Podcast, Ani Alexander, the Author Hangout, and more! I’m hoping some of that wisdom will seep in as I sleep.

What was the toughest criticism given to you? What was the biggest compliment?
One of my characters, Pat Flanagan, was inspired by a dear friend. This friend had lived near me for a few months, and during that brief time he went through several broken-down used cars. He'd buy a car on Craiglist for $500 and drive it until it stopped working and just buy another one. Well, I thought that was funny, so I put that in the book. And then I made the mistake of letting him read it. He was so offended that he quit at chapter three! He wasn't a hypersensitive guy, but I think he felt that I was disparaging his auto mechanic credentials. There are some lines you just don’t cross, I guess.

The best compliment is when someone tells me they burst out laughing reading my book. I love that.

Did those change how or what you did in your next novel?
I would definitely think twice before modeling a character on a friend. Or if I did, I certainly wouldn’t tell them.

What is your marketing plan?
Right now I have a website and I’m on social media, and I’m getting the audiobook and the ARCs into the hands of reviewers. I only have the one book out now, but for the future I’m considering releasing a promotional-price prequel to draw readers into the Molly Barda Mysteries series. 

What do you plan for the future?
Next up is The Cursed Canoe, which moves between the dimly-lit halls of academia (they removed half the fluorescent tubing in the building to save on energy costs) and the competitive world of Hawaiian canoe paddling.

Molly investigates a mysterious paddling accident, and realizes that it isn’t just business majors who cheat to get what they want. Whether it’s moving up in the college rankings, getting a seat in the big canoe race, or just looking out for themselves, some people will do whatever it takes-including murder.

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?
Follow me on Tumblr
or visit my blog  

Tell us about the current book you’re promoting.
The Musubi Murder is, to the best of my knowledge, the first campus murder mystery set in Hawaii.

Professor Molly Barda just wants to keep her head down and stay out of trouble until she gets tenure, but there’s a problem. A grisly prank at a donor banquet pulls the introverted (and untenured) Molly into a stew of corruption,revenge, and murder. Along the way, she finds herself drawn to the too-good-to-be-true Donnie Gonsalves, an enigmatic entrepreneur with a few secrets of his own.

Do you outline before you write?  If not, what’s your initial process?
I’m definitely a plotter rather than a pantser. Right now I outline the story on paper, but I do have Scrivener installed on my computer and I will learn to use it. I swear.

Which of your characters do you love/hate/fear/pity the most and why?
The more awful the characters are, the more fun they are to write. The dim but well-intentioned apparatchiks from the Student Retention Office are constant thorns in Molly’s side. Molly’s bottom-line-obsessed dean refuses to alienate paying “customers”, and forces Molly to give students who were caught cheating a penalty-free do-over—which, of course, makes the honest students mad at her. Molly discovers that her charming love interest has a loutish adult son, whom she must pretend to like.

How did you decide how your characters should look?
The characters took shape in my mind as I was writing them, but for the audiobook I took it one step further: I did a character table for my narrator, with photos. Some characters were easier to illustrate than others. Molly’s love interest Donnie, for example,  was the toughest. I didn’t have any luck finding a plausible photo of a handsome local businessman of Hawaiian-Portuguese descent in his early 40s. So the “Donnie” in my character table is a ‘shopped composite of a football player and two male models. At the other extreme, Molly’s lazy, cheating student Davison was dead easy. I googled “mug shot neck tattoo” and there he was, on the first page of search results.

What advice would you give a new writer starting out?
Listen with an open mind and don’t take anything personally. Easier said than done, I know. But paying attention to others’ opinions can help you to improve your writing. Rejection letters can be very helpful. On the other hand, sometimes people will just drive by and leave you a one-or two-star review with no explanation. You should let it bother you for five minutes maximum, and then you move on.

What do you look for in a book when you sit down to read for fun?
I look for something either humorous and escapist (Sarah Caudwell, Gail Carriger, E.F. Benson) or so compelling that I can’t stop turning the pages (Michael Connelly, Deborah Blum).

What, if anything, bugs you when you read a novel?
Like most readers, I can’t stand obvious Mary Sues. I also find it hard to stick out a certain type of literary fiction, where you spend four hundred pages with someone’s tense, dysfunctional family, reliving their childhood traumas. No matter how well-written the book is, I find that grueling.

Amanda Cross’s Kate Fansler holds court in a richly-appointed office in stately Baldwin Hall. Joanne Dobson’s Karen Pelletier sleuths at the leafy and exclusive Enfield College. Professor Molly Barda, reluctant amateur detective and narrator of The Musubi Murder, works at a remote regional university where working air conditioning is a luxury. She sits on a yoga ball because there is no budget for office furniture. Her dean, unwilling to lose paying customers, won’t let her report cheating students.

Molly just wants to keep her head down and stay out of trouble until she gets tenure, but there’s a problem. A grisly prank at a donor banquet pulls the introverted (and untenured) Molly Barda into a stew of corruption,revenge, and murder. Along the way, she finds herself drawn to the too-good-to-be-true Donnie Gonsalves, an enigmatic entrepreneur with a few secrets of his own.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Renee Hand, The Mystery of the Circus For Hire

AUTHOR: Award-Winning Author Renee Hand
BOOK TITLE: The Mystery of the Circus For Hire
GENRE: Children's Interactive Mystery
PUBLISHER: North Star Press
BUY LINK: and Amazon 

Renee, why don't you tell us about yourself?

First, I would like to thank you for having me on your blog. It's greatly appreciated. I'm a multi award-winning author and requested speaker on the topic of using fun fiction to teach science, geography and history. My books can not only challenge readers and the way they think about problems in real life, but I create high interest topics that suck the reader into my stories encouraging them into wanting to know more about the settings, science, history, culture and people. Skills like reading comprehension, reasoning, deduction and observation come together in a myriad of ways.

In my Crypto-Caper Series children get to solve puzzles and cryptograms that are woven strategically inside of the story for the reader to find and solve inside of the books. Each book provides the reader with what they will need to solve the case, providing them with the knowledge and new skills that will help them succeed.

In my Joe-Joe Nut Series, I combine the love of a good mystery with science using the topics of animal tracks, rocks and minerals, as well as weathering, erosion, and art. These books can supplement a curriculum in any classroom. The books also contain extra information like experiments, terminology of the topic, charts, and much more. All books are interactive and fun.

I have also created a coloring book for children, a zoo picture book that incorporates activities to do at the zoo, as well as a storytelling card game, which is getting a lot of my readers excited.

What age group do your books center on?

The Crypto-Caper Series is for 4th grade and up into middle school. The Joe-Joe Nut Series begins at 2nd grade and goes up to 5th. The coloring book and picture book are for younger children and my storytelling card game is for all ages including adults. 

How long have you been writing?

I have been writing for over 25 years.

What book are we going to talk about today?

We are going to focus on my new release in The Crypto-Caper Series called The Mystery of the Circus for Hire. The book is #6 in the series. I want to make sure I add that this book just won a Preferred Choice Award from Creative Child Magazine

Congratulations! Is this your first award?

No, I've won Preferred Choice Awards, National Best Book Awards, Seal of Excellence Awards, Best Book Awards, and won a Beach Best Book Award for all of my books. I'm very proud of my awards.

What is The Circus for Hire about?

The Circus for Hire is a whirlwind of an adventure where the Crypto-Capers travel to Russia to save Max and Mia's parents, Mitchem and Martha Holmes, from going to prison for a crime they didn't commit. Finding themselves caught up in a scandal that is beyond their control, they use their skills and talents to try to outsmart the most notorious criminal of all time. Lies become intermixed with truth, yet, with the help of a new ally, the Crypto-Capers find themselves ahead of the game.

I've incorporated a different cipher in this book so my readers are going to be thrilled. In all of my books I have added cryptograms, word scrambles, and other challenging puzzles. My readers love them and it makes this series unique.

Tell us about your cover?

My covers are conversation pieces. My illustrator and I work hard to make that so. Each cover reveals something about the story or has some type of historical background to it. I love the way they look.

Did your book require a lot of research? 

Yes. The books in this series are history based, though they are fiction so I always do tons of research. This story is centered around Russia. When doing research I found out that a company found treasure inside of an old building that was going to be knocked down and they were trying to figure out who it belonged to. It was this event that inspired the entire story. 

What influences your writing?

Many things influence my writing. My main goal is to engage the reader. I always have that in mind. Any way that I can get the reader sucked into my book wanting to know more about a particular place, person, or event, I will do. I feel readers should have that interaction. It makes the story more everlasting in the mind of the reader.

What comes first: the plot or characters?

Because this book is apart of a series, my main characters are already established so the plot needs to come first. Then the characters are enveloped with the direction for which I am going.

What do you plan for the future?

I have finished up book 4 in my Joe-Joe Nut Adventure Series called The Parade of Heroes. This book should be out in the Fall. Newly released is my historical romance called Loves Conqueror. Both can be found on Amazon and my website. 

What has been your favorite part of being an author? 

The greatest part about being an author is having that interaction with my readers. Whenever I do events and talk to children and adults who are excited about my book and have loved it, it fills me with pride. They are the ones I wrote the book for. To see a child's face light up when talking about it makes everything I do worth while.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I homeschool my kids, work part time, review books, and have a radio show. 

Where can readers buy your books?

Readers can buy my books at bookstores big and small, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, my website ( and other places. 

Are you on any social networks?

Of course. I'm on twitter @thecryptocaper and facebook as well as LinkedIN and Goodreads. I also have a blog at I like to help authors by having them on my radio show called Stories From Unknown Authors. My blog and website has more info about that.

Anything else you would like to mention about The Mystery of the Circus For Hire?

Sure. If anyone has a child who loves mysteries and solving puzzles then this book and series is right for you. With all the great elements I've added to this series, readers will benefit from them. They will be engaged and will learn a lot of historical information. Lots of time has been spent developing this series to be unique then any others. These books can be used in the classroom. Check out my website to see a sample of some of the puzzles and to get summaries about the other books in the series. 

Thank you for being on my blog.

You’re welcome and thank you. I appreciate the opportunity.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Agostino Scafidi, Fancy Pants Poetry, Vol. 2

Agostino Scafidi was born and raised in Montreal, Canada of Sicilian descent. His artistic journey stemmed from childhood, dabbling on a nylon stringed guitar and writing stories.

He began seriously pursuing music with dedication, determination and devotion in 1998. His first experiences were with rock bands, eventually gravitating towards solo work within the realms of electronic music. These contrasting arenas of creative application existed in tandem until 2008, where he would then focus on solo efforts and at the same time reconnect with his love for the written word.

Roughly two years after that new direction change would he lean exclusively towards writing, producing no new music. His practice of the guitar continued regardless, as a personal, private pursuit.

In 2015, Agostino Scafidi reignited and united his love for music and writing, embarking on his path once again. Refreshed and inspired.

Agostino Scafidi. Montreal, Canada.

Where readers can purchase his eBook:
It comes in mobi, epub, pdf, and doc along with the cover image.

Where listeners can purchase his Audiobook:
It comes in your choice of Flac, various Mp3 formats, as well as other audio formats.

Cover by: Samantha Scafidi

A departure from the original installment, although not so far out that the reader will be blindsided. Volume Two is not just more of the same poetry, yet at the same time it is. It's not as dark and cynical as the original, yet there are still such moments to be had. You'll discover poems showcasing a wider range of emotions, extracting new and fresh colours from the palette of life.

56 pgs
Cover img at 800x1170px:
Feb 16 2015
ISBN (eBook) 978-0-9936659-4-3
ISBN (Audiobook) 978-0-9936659-5-0


It's Almost Here

I can see the train pulling in,
Coming around the bend,
My eyesight isn't great,
But it's plain as day.

I'm in its way,
I've known this for a while now,
Still haven't been able to accept it,
Never feeling fully prepared.

Fear is not a factor in this,
It will happen one way or another,
How painful will it be though?

That's my main wonder,
My only,

Everything's Fine

Yes it is,
I'm looking around me,
Nothing to find,
I guess that's good.

Why not?
Let's cause a commotion,
Let's throw a mess around,
Oh but I'd rather just sit here.

Looking around,
Breathing in,
Before the chaos comes,
It inevitably does,
But maybe not this time,
Just maybe.

Grasping At Straws

I'm reaching,
Hoping I'll make some sort of sense,
Wishing for something.

Maybe tomorrow will make me wiser,
As long as I don't go backward.

One step,
More stable than a leap.

It depends on your stomach,
Can you hold on to your lunch?

Monday, September 7, 2015

Samantha Gillespie, The Kingdom Within

AUTHOR: Samantha Gillespie
BOOK TITLE: The Kingdom Within
GENRE: YA Fantasy Romance
PUBLISHER: Mystic Harbor Press, and imprint of Smooth Sailing Press
The book can also be found on Amazon and Barnes & Nobles

Please tell us about yourself.
I am a romantic sap who has loved to read from a young age. My obsession with books and reading is what eventually led me to write my first novel, The Kingdom Within. I have a weakness for helpless kittens and I love all things Pride and Prejudice.

Please tell us your latest news.
I’m excited to share that my publisher has partnered with a local studio to create the audiobook version of The Kingdom Within. There will be a casting for the narrator that will bring Meredith’s voice to life.

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time? Unfortunately, I am a part-time writer. I try to squeeze in a little bit of writing time on weeknights, but most of my writing is done over the weekends.

When and why did you begin writing?
I started working on The Kingdom Within while I was in college. I began writing it because the story was constantly rolling around in my head and it would not leave me alone.

What inspired you to write your first book?
God, my love of reading, music, and my never-ending obsession with the Medieval & Renaissance eras.

What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing?
Working, doing chores, burning fat, storing fat, binging on my plethora of favorite TV shows, and watching Pride and Prejudice.

What are your thoughts about promotion?
I see it as the necessary stepping-stone that connects authors to their potential readers.

Do you ever have writer’s block? If so, how do you get through it?
I occasionally run into that dreaded blank screen with the blinking cursor. What has really helped me in the past is brainstorming. I pick up pen and paper, draw a diagram or story map and jot down the basics of what I have, as well as questions for what I am missing. I also mentally set writing aside (under lock and key) and focus on other things; sometimes a break is all you need to get back in the game. When all else fails I listen to music.

What are your current projects?
I’m working on book two of The Kingdom Within series.

What do you plan for the future?
I’m hoping (and praying) to be a full-time writer, and for a nice little cabin-style home in the state of Montana, where I will have my own special writing spot with large windows to an awesome view of a lake and the mountains.

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?
You can find me on Facebook:
You can also check out The Kingdom Within series website:
Or its Facebook page:

Tell us about the current book you’re promoting.
The Kingdom Within follows the story of Princess Meredith, whose eighteenth birthday is fast approaching, but unlike other girls, she is not looking forward to it. Upon her coming of age, she is to marry the prince of Alder, the most powerful kingdom in the world. Though the idea of marriage to a complete stranger is appalling, she knows she has no choice. Without the marriage contract, Stonefall’s alliance with Alder will be lost, and her people will be safe no longer; Theros, King of Talos, has set his eyes of conquest on Stonefall and he wants Meredith dead.

Connor, an elite soldier entrusted with Meredith’s safety, arrives at the palace just as things begin to take a turn for the worst. Together, they will embark on a journey of survival, in which Meredith will find that the only thing she never prepared for was falling in love.

What genre do you write in and why?
YA fiction, because it’s my number one choice in reading entertainment and it is just as much fun to write it as it is to read it.

What was the process of creating this book from the first idea to the final published book?
First, I created a timeline for the story arc, which I used to create the outline. Once I finished that, I began writing the story scene by scene in sequential order.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?
I had my beginning and my end figured out, but the middle, now THAT was challenging!

Do you outline before you write?  If not, what’s your initial process?
What comes first: the plot or characters?
Yes, I most definitely outline! I think what comes first depends on how your inspiration for the story comes about, but you could also have both simultaneously. For The Kingdom Within, it was my two main characters that came first, and from that, I fleshed out a story around them.

Which characters were the hardest to develop and why?
My villains. Nobody likes the cookie-cutter antagonist with the maniacal laugh. You want them to be complex and captivating in their own right.

Did your book require a lot of research? If so, what kind?
Though my book is set in fantasy, I still did plenty of research on books on the Middle Ages and Elizabethan England, as it is the base from which I modeled the world of The Kingdom Within. And of course, there was plenty of Google search.

Do you have any tips for writers who are new to children’s literature?
Read children’s books. There is a quote that has always stuck with me that says
“To be a great writer, you must first be a great reader.”

What do you look for in a book when you sit down to read for fun?
An intriguing premise with a promise of a good romance.

What, if anything, bugs you when you read a novel?

Insta-love and heroines that fall for jerks.


Outside Father’s study, the door ward opens the heavy wooden doors. They groan against their hinges as they swing open into the small chamber. I can’t imagine what I have done wrong this time. I’ve been on my best behavior lately, all serene smiles and repressed opinions. And all to please him. If I am a better daughter, then Father might learn to love me, if only a little. I used to think he particularly disliked me, but I know now he’s simply hardhearted. He places great trust in his closest friends and advisers, but never offers a hint of warmth, not even for my uncle, the Duke of Elsham.

I take a deep breath and step inside. Greeted with the pungent scent of burning candles and leather-bound books, I keep my head down as I walk. I do not dare look at Father, expecting a fierce glare. But when I hear nothing from him, save for papers rummaging, I bite my lip and lift my gaze.

Hunched over a desk blanketed by documents, Father studies what looks to be a letter. A lock of gray hair hangs out of place, dangling across his forehead. With a rich, red robe, and large gold rings adorning several of his fingers, he looks indeed like a king. I realize he must be ignoring me. Surely he heard me come in. He seems agitated.

“Father?” I croak.

He drops the piece of paper in his hands and looks up at me. To my surprise, there is no anger in his eyes. So accustomed to his disapproval, I find its absence a little disconcerting.

“Meredith,” he says, clearing his throat. “Sit down.” He motions at the chair in front of his desk. The empty seat beckons like an omen. I move quietly, though I’m sure the sudden, nervous pounding in my chest is loud enough to hear. I have no idea what he is about to tell me, but from the lines on his face and the tightness around his eyes, I can tell it’s serious.

“It has come to my attention that King Theros wants you dead,” he says quickly, as if addressing his advisers on matters of state. I take the news with a hard swallow. The man who haunts my dreams wants to kill me. Are my nightmares premonitions? I feel the room spin as a heavy weight creeps into my chest, making it hard to breathe. “It seems Theros will go to any lengths to prevent your marriage to the prince of Alder. Thus, I’ve hired an escort to help keep you safe. He is to remain at your side at all functions and anytime you step foot outside the palace walls. Is that clear?” He speaks so fast that it takes me a moment to register every word.

I want to ask him a dozen questions. Who is he? Where is he from? Can he be trusted? But Father is not fond of being questioned, so I manage to hold my tongue and simply nod.

I look up at the wall behind him, at my mother’s portrait, hoping to find some comfort, some reassurance that everything will be all right. I hate that I can see her only in his study. I insisted many times that her portrait be hung by the main hall—what better face to welcome visitors? Father never approved; he wants her all to himself.

“Meredith,” Father says, redirecting my thoughts.

“Yes, Father?”

“Do you understand the seriousness of this matter? You must 
never leave his sight; your life may very well depend on it.” He questions me with a raised brow. An unsettling feeling burrows deeply into my stomach.

“I understand. When will this escort arrive?

“Soon. You may go now.”

Just like that, he dismisses me, making no effort to set my mind at 
ease. I sit there, slack-jawed and confused. If Father is indeed worried, does that not mean he cares? He does not wait for me to leave before returning to his work. And I realize it’s not me he cares about. It’s what would happen to our kingdom if I died that scares him.

“Oh and Meredith?” he says. “I expect to see you at the tournament.”

I had forgotten. Today is opening day for the jousting tournament. A silent groan churns in my throat. I am in no mood to endure such a social event. Last year, I made it a point to miss it.