Archive for May 2015 | Monthly archive page

We’re launching a new series here at the Lachesis Publishing Daily Blog – featuring interviews with bestselling authors. It takes a lot to hit a bestseller list. It ain’t just dumb luck. It takes determination, hustle, and damn good writing. We have some great authors lined up so sit back, enjoy, and have fun reading and learning from these talented writers!

Vanessa Kelly and Randy Sykes

Our first Bestsellers Q and A is with V.K. Sykes – which is actually the husband and wife writing team of Randy Sykes and Vanessa Kelly. How fun is that? They write contemporary romance and romantic suspense. Randy is great at plotting and characterization and Vanessa handles the emotion. Together they’ve written nine books and one novella. Vanessa also writes sexy historical (Regency romance) under her own name Vanessa Kelly. She’s penned eleven historical novels and four novellas.

This is definitely a dynamic duo.

Welcome V.K. Sykes!

What was your first book that hit a bestseller list? What was the list, where did the book rank when it first hit, and how high did your book get?

Hi, Jo—thanks for hosting us! Vanessa reporting in for V.K. Sykes. I actually don’t remember the exact numbers – LOL! The first major list we hit was USA Today, and we did that with our sports anthology, The Philadelphia Patriots. It was between 120–130 (I think 127). And we also hit the top 50 on both Kindle and Nook.

What were you doing when you found out you hit the bestseller list? And how did you celebrate or mark the occasion?

I was just browsing the USA Today list because friends of mine who were in a joint anthology had just posted on social media that they made the list. I went to look, and there we were! It was quite a surprise. As to what we did to celebrate . . . I think we just got a bottle of champagne and had a few glasses of bubbly. We tend to be pretty low key when it comes to celebrating.

What does being a “successful author” mean to both of you?

Not to be crass, but it partly means not spending more than you make. It’s always a temptation to put too much money (and time) into promo in the hopes that you’ll somehow find the winning formula for the next book. To me, being a successful author also means having the time to write the books you want, finding readers who “get” you, and having a good work/life balance. It means finding people you like to work with, and who help you to be a better writer. Would we like to sell more books and hit more bestseller lists? We sure would. But we also want to have a life that we can enjoy, without being absolute slaves to deadlines.

Some authors are great at it, while others can’t find the right formula, but in order to be a success in today’s market, you have to do promotion. So, what are the top three things that you both do consistently when it comes to promotion?

My newsletter is the most important thing, and I’ve worked hard to build that up. I also engage with my readers on facebook and Twitter; mostly that’s social interaction, but I do use it to promote our books. I’m also a big believer in running giveaways on Goodreads. Very little effort with a pretty big bang for the buck. But the most important thing any author can do is to write more good books.

What is one thing you absolutely LOVE about being authors and one thing that makes you BONKERS?

I love that we’ve made so many new friends, both readers and other authors. And it’s fabulous when a reader writes to tell you how much she loves one of your books. What makes me crazy is how much promotion there is in the industry. There is just an insane amount of promoting going on, especially on social media. And if you’re not careful, you can start comparing yourself to other writers and feeling like you’re not good enough, or smart enough, or successful enough. It’s very debilitating and absolutely not the way to nurture creativity.

Who are some of your favourite authors and why?

Right now I’m on a Karen Rose binge—she writes the most amazingly smart, suspenseful, and emotional romantic suspense. So satisfying! I also love Elizabeth Peters and the books in her Amelia Peabody Series, which are insanely fun.

Those books also feature my favorite romance hero, Amelia’s grown son, Ramses Emerson. Other favorite authors are Deanna Raybourn (Lady Julia Grey is probably my fave romance heroines), Loretta Chase, Lisa Kleypas, and Meljean Brooke. All of them are talented storytellers and amazing wordsmiths. Randy is a big fan of the Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child. He also likes Sandra Brown and would probably list Pat Conroy as his all-time favorite author.

What are you currently working on? We just submitted SEE YOU AT SUNSET, the 3rd book in our Seashell Bay Series of small town romances, so we have to get started on a new proposal for VK Sykes. I’m also starting work on a new historical romance series for Kensington, which is a spin-off of my current bestselling series, The Renegade Royals.

In your daily work routine what do you do first and why?

write/plot/creative: I do this in the afternoon, which tends to be the quietest time of the day for me. It also takes several hours for my brain to kick into creative gear. I am NOT a morning person. Randy, however, does do a lot of his best writing in the morning, so our schedules tend to be reversed

 social media/promotion: morning.

 email/admin: morning

Where the magic happens.

What would I find on your desk(s) at this very moment?

Not much. Lots of scraps of papers and my computer. And my headphones, which are essential for eliminating outside noises. I can’t write when it’s noisy!

Finish this sentence: I’m a writer because . . . I (we) enjoy it!

V.K. Sykes is really two people – Vanessa Kelly and Randy Sykes, a husband and wife team who write USA Today Bestselling contemporary romance. The second book in their Philadelphia Patriots Series of sports romances won the Kindle Book Review Best Indie Books of 2012 Contest, in the romance category. MEET ME AT THE BEACH, the first book in their new series of small town romances set in Maine, released in February, 2015. Vanessa also writes award-winning, Regency-set historical romance for Kensington Zebra and was named by Booklist as one of the “new stars of historical romance.” Her current series,The Renegade Royals, is a national bestseller. You can find them on the web at or Follow them on facebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

Joanna D’Angelo is Editor in Chief at Lachesis Publishing. She loves chai tea, writing in coffee shops, social media and romance novels.

Like our Lachesis Publishing page on facebook. Follow Lachesis Publishing on twitter.


This week we’ve been featuring paranormal/horror author Sara Brooke and her new Lachesis Publishing release – The Awakening: Book 1 Bloodmane Chronicles at Lachesis Publishing, as well as, barnes and noble, kobo, and iTunes.

We’re giving away a free ebook copy of The Awakening: Book 1 Bloodmane Chronicles

All you have to do is leave a comment right here by telling us what is the scariest book you’ve ever read. A book that gave you shivers for weeks. A book that made you invest in several night lights. A book that made you look over your shoulder every where you went. A book that had you showering with the curtain open.

Photo of Sara Brooke courtesy Eugenio Wilman

Leave your comment here and we’ll put your name in a draw to win a free ebook ofThe Awakening: Book 1 Bloodmane Chronicles.

Sara Brooke is an Amazon bestselling author of horror, paranormal romance, and suspense fiction.

You can Like Sara’s facebook page  – called, The Bloodmane Chronicles . Connect with Sara on facebook, on twitter @SaraBrook8, and on her website. Sara welcomes feedback and questions from readers.

It’s a question people often ask me.

“Do you get scared when you write your horror novels?

I think the answer might surprise you, so I’ll set the stage in order to clearly depict the first time I was actually frightened while writing one of my books. It was a few years back, and I was working on the book entitled, Cursed Casino. I was writing at night, in my bedroom, and the only light shining was a weak set of yellow bulbs connected to a large Hemingway-styled ceiling fan.

The scene I was crafting had to do with a ghost child who could manifest herself as an innocent child or a rotting horrific creature. And at the moment, she was revealing the more frightening side of herself to an unfortunate soul.

As I wrote the series of events that began to unfold, the small hairs on my arms started to stand up, and I had a vague sensation of being watched. My fingers stopped typing quickly and stalled as I nervously glanced around my bedroom.

Every shadow seemed darker at that moment, and I could hear my breathing echo throughout the now-quiet room. It dawned on me that the “scare-er” was now becoming the “scared” and the thought actually made me giggle nervously.

Eventually, I was able to return to the story but not after checking the bedroom very carefully to ensure that nothing was lurking under the bed or in the closet.

I’ve come to realize that while crafting a novel is a form of art and expression, it can also open your mind to thoughts and feelings that are most akin to the type of book being written. For example, if you are crafting a love story (as I was in The Awakening Book 1 Bloodmane Chronicles), a writer might feel romantic or sensual while describing rich love scenes or erotic sexual moments.

The same holds true for horror. While my novels often include elements of romance, sex, and mystery—there is also a frightening, darker side that seeps into my brain when the story is unfolding. In a way, tapping into the dark recesses of your mind, helps to “set the scene” and keep the creative juices flowing. But sometimes, it can be an impediment and stop me in my tracks.

So the next time you’re reading a book that has you on edge and frightened, don’t be surprised if the person who wrote those words had similar feelings somewhere during the course of writing the book.

Photo of Sara Brooke courtesy Eugenio Wilman

You can get The Awakening: Book 1 Bloodmane Chronicles at Lachesis Publishing, as well as, barnes and noble, kobo, and iTunes.

Sara Brooke is an Amazon bestselling author of horror, paranormal romance, and suspense fiction.

A lifelong avid reader of all things scary, Sara’s childhood dream was to write books that make readers sleep with their lights on. She hopes that isn’t too troubling for the thousands of readers worldwide who have purchased her books.

Sara resides in beautiful South Florida. 

You can Like Sara’s facebook page  – called, The Bloodmane Chronicles . Connect with Sara on facebook, on twitter @SaraBrook8, and on her website. Sara welcomes feedback and questions from readers.


Today we’re featuring our Round 2 Q and A with paranormal romance author Sara Brooke. Sara’s new release with Lachesis Publishing  is The Awakening: Book 1 The Bloodmane Chronicles. Is it scary? You bet. Is there romance? Yup. Be sure to check it out. And now, once again, here’s Sara Brooke . . .

What was your favourite book as a child and why?

My favorite book as a child is basically the same book I love today. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck is beautifully written in both its descriptiveness as well as the simple unabashed view it presents. I have read it numerous times and treasure my original copy.

Who was your favourite teacher growing up and why?

Surprisingly, there isn’t one teacher who I remember as compared to the others. This is probably because I wasn’t much of a student and didn’t really bond with any one particular instructor. However, I am very appreciative of my teachers as they really helped to mold and shape my writing style. It was through their guidance that I learned how to express myself through the written word.

Photo of Sara Brooke, courtesy Eugenio Wilman

When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Why?

I’ve always felt the urge to express myself through writing. It is something I’ve done for as far back as I can remember. Authors don’t want to be writers, they must be writers. It is something that burns in our souls and imprints itself upon us with permanent ink.

Who in the writing/publishing world do you admire and why?

Several years ago, the publisher of Biting Dog Publications took a look at my first novel when no one else would. I’d been rejected numerous times because the story was very raw and needed some help. Dave Dinsmore was one of the few who took a second look. He helped me edit the book and Still Lake, my first novel, has now sold tens of thousands of copies worldwide and became an Amazon International Bestseller in 2013. But if it hadn’t been for Dave, the story would have remained largely untouched. He took a chance on me when no one else would and for that, I am eternally thankful and value his friendship every day.

Tell us about your daily writing routine – what do you typically do every day? Unfortunately, I’m unable to write every day, but when I do it is always the same routine. I set up shop on my couch, recline and take a deep sip of Diet Coke. Then, I put on some New Age music and start typing away.

What is your favourite snack or guilty pleasure food that you (may or many not 😉 indulge in when writing?

Oh, that’s an easy one. Jalapeno Kettle Potato Chips. By the handfuls. It’s gross, I know.

What does “writing voice” mean to you? Describe your own writing voice.

An author’s “writing voice” is a very intimate thing. It’s the sound of the story traveling through your mind and flowing through your hands as you write. My writing voice varies depending on the character that’s sharing his/her aspect of the story. I find that my most fluent writing voice comes when I am writing in first person. Then, I can truly lose myself in the character’s personality.

What do you want to accomplish in the next five years in your writing career?

It would be great to see one of my books or short stories adapted for TV or film. There are activities underway to make that a reality, but the deal’s never done until it’s done. 😉

What are three important things that a writer needs to do to promote himself/herself?

There are numerous things a writer can do to promote himself/herself. Writing articles for blogs is a great way to express your opinion and share you inner personality with readers. Participating in podcasts is a great exposure opportunity and never hesitate to interact regularly with readers on Facebook or Twitter.

Ice cream cone or bowl of ice cream?

Bowl of ice cream. I’m a disaster with cones!

Photo of Sara Brooke courtesy Eugenio Wilman

You can get The Awakening: Book 1 Bloodmane Chronicles at Lachesis Publishing, as well as, barnes and noble, kobo, and iTunes.

Sara Brooke is an Amazon bestselling author of horror, paranormal romance, and suspense fiction.

A lifelong avid reader of all things scary, Sara’s childhood dream was to write books that make readers sleep with their lights on. She hopes that isn’t too troubling for the thousands of readers worldwide who have purchased her books.

Sara resides in beautiful South Florida. 

You can Like Sara’s facebook page  – called, The Bloodmane Chronicles . Connect with Sara on facebook and on her website. Sara welcomes feedback and questions from readers.


Today’s Sneak Peek is from the paranormal (with romantic elements) The Awakening: Book 1 The Bloodmane Chronicles by Lachesis Publishing author Sara Brooke. The Awakening is a compelling and riveting book about a librarian who discovers she has the ability to perform exorcisms on people who are possessed by demons.


Everything she knows . . .

Renda Bloodmane is a quiet librarian, who lives a quiet life, in a small quiet town in Florida. Her days consist of going to work (which she loves) and watching old Hollywood movies with her dog Jane (which she also loves). Her life is just fine, if a tad on the dull side. So, when her best friend from college, Bobbie Trillo, invites her to visit her family in Georgia, Renda decides a vacation is in order. Bobbie has moved back in with her mother and brother after her parents’ divorce. Things aren’t going well for her mother, and Bobbie needs Renda’s friendship and support.

Everything she believes . . .

Renda soon discovers that there is a lot more going on in the Trillo household than meets the eye. The moment she sets foot in the Trillo home, Renda starts seeing ghosts everywhere she turns. But one very unique ghost stands out from the rest. A sinfully attractive man named Cole, who died more than one hundred years ago, begins to haunt Renda’s every thought. He warns her there is evil in the house and it’s attacking Bobbie’s mother. Only Renda can stop the demon from taking over and destroying the entire family.

Will never be the same . . .

Renda can’t believe she’s seeing dead people. She can’t believe she’s attracted to a dead man. And most of all, she can’t believe that she’s the chosen one who has to fight a centuries-old powerful demon. But there is more to Renda Bloodmane than even she realizes. Her quiet, ordered life is about to change and there’s nothing she can do to stop it.


As I slowly opened my eyes, I could hear various noises outside my door. There seemed to be several people talking―some with strange British accents that sounded clipped and distinct. Looking over at Jane, I could see that she was awake as well and was literally sitting at the door with her back to me. She looked over her shoulder at me as if to say, “Come on. We’ve got to see what’s out there!”

So I decided to be brave and find out.

Sitting up, I slid my feet into my favorite green slippers and slowly shuffled to the door. Jane hadn’t moved and remained in her upright position. She didn’t greet me as I walked up, nor did she turn her head for a gentle petting.

When I opened the door, she raced out and disappeared into the darkness. I whispered her name, trying to get her to come back, but it was impossible to see where she’d gone.

I was immediately distracted in my effort to find her, because the hallway was now filled with a strange yellow glow and it helped my eyes adjust to a very unusual sight.

There, in the middle of the hallway, was a large group of people, but there was something wrong with them.

One woman was leaning over the railing, rocking back and forth and singing songs to herself, while a trail of vomit leaked out of the side of her pale mouth and traveled down her neck, staining her old fashioned white blouse.

A man was slowly walking down the hallway, dragging an ax behind him, but he was missing one of his arms.

Two children played together in the center of the hallway, but they were both badly burned.

And there were many more people, but they all looked injured or . . . dead.

My mind raced and threatened to shut down altogether. In the midst of the chaos, small white orbs traveled up and down the hallway. Once in a while, an orb would stop and then grow until it became one of the ghosts. Other times, an orb would simply flit around back and forth until it connected with a wall and disappeared.

“It’s a strange sight, isn’t it?”

The voice came from behind me and nearly caused my heart to stop.

It was Cole.

Turning around, I answered as calmly as I could, “Um, yes. What is all this?”

Cole stood there amidst all of the strange people, yet despite his handsome profile, seemed to fit in perfectly. Perhaps it was the fact that he was pale like the others or that he was wearing clothing not of this era. But unlike the others, he made my heart race from fear and something else―was it attraction? I couldn’t be sure. It didn’t matter. He was as weird as the rest of them, and I needed to be on my guard.

“You can see us,” he said quietly. “It seems you’re able to bridge the gap between our worlds.”

“Are all of you . . . dead? Are you ghosts or something?”


You can get The Awakening at Lachesis Publishing, as well as, barnes and noble, kobo, and iTunes.

Sara Brooke is an Amazon bestselling author of horror, paranormal romance, and suspense fiction.

A lifelong avid reader of all things scary, Sara’s childhood dream was to write books that make readers sleep with their lights on. She hopes that isn’t too troubling for the thousands of readers worldwide who have purchased her books.

Sara resides in beautiful South Florida. 

You can Like Sara’s facebook page  – called, The Bloodmane Chronicles . Connect with Sara on facebook and on her website. Sara welcomes feedback and questions from readers.

Author and artist Teri Barnett likes to keep her birds on a wire and out of her garden. This is one of her pieces “party line”, 24×24, acrylic on wood, 2012

I was working in the yard recently, wondering while I weeded the garden, what I was going to write about for this latest blog. The geese were driving me crazy with their honking and I could barely hear myself think. Just as I was looking for something to toss to scare them away, realization took a swipe at me. What exactly were those geese doing? They were talking to each other!

Ah, yes, Grasshopper. It was a Zen moment, and so this story begins. Today’s topic? Dialogue.

Writing isn’t just about getting thoughts down on paper. It’s about being open to the world around you.




I moved to Indianapolis from Detroit in the early ’80s when I took a job with the airport as an Engineering Tech. I had just started to play around with ideas for my first book. I carried a note pad around with me everywhere I went at the airport. Aside from the fact that I thought it made me look important, it made it convenient to jot down the latest inspired verse that popped into my head. But once I completed my outline and started writing, I was shocked to find out I couldn’t write dialogue. I say I was shocked because at the time I was 21 and you know everything there is to know at that age.

Being a good listener is key to writing good dialogue

I put the project in a drawer and went on to concentrate on other things (i.e. having children and raising them). My ego got in the way of my writing and blocked a personal truth I wouldn’t discover for several years – I couldn’t write dialogue because I wasn’t a good listener. At the time, I was one of those people who, rather than listen to what the other person is saying, jumps ahead to what I’m going to say in response. And that’s how my characters spoke. They didn’t have conversations. They talked AT each other and the stuff coming out of their mouths sure as heck didn’t make any sense to me so I knew it wouldn’t make sense to a reader.

People watching is fun and a good exercise for a writer

How did I break out of this syndrome? After admitting to myself I had a problem, I grabbed my notebook and spent my breaks and lunch hours sitting in the middle of the airport. While I continued to watch them, I also listened to what they were saying, how they were saying it, what their expressions were. I paid attention to intonation, pacing, and accents. I wrote some things down but mostly I just observed. When I next went to write, I discovered an understanding for all these subtleties I had been studying and it showed in my writing. This didn’t happen overnight, it took practice, but the time spent observing real people took root and developed.

Which brings me to the point of this blog, one as uncomplicated, and complicated, as Zen. By simply shutting the mouth and opening the ears, your characters will come to life and your dialogue will too.

Teri Barnett writes historical, paranormal, and time travel romance. You can purchase her books  Through the Mists of Time, Shadow Dreams, and Pagan Fire at Lachesis Publishing. or you can purchase Teri’s books on amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

Connect with Teri Barnett online via facebook and twitter, and check out her web site.

Like our Lachesis Publishing page on facebook.

Follow Lachesis Publishing on twitter.


Today’s Q and A is with Lachesis Publishing author Teri Barnett. Teri has written several romances for Lachesis Publishing including the historical paranormal Pagan Fire, the paranormal romance  Shadow Dreams and the time travel historical Through the Mists of Time. Her romances are infused with magical and supernatural elements.

Night Owl, 24×24, acrylic on wood by Teri Barnett

Why are you a writer?

The easy answer is always I can’t not write, but I find that frustrates people who truly want to know (the ones who don’t will walk away, satisfied). I’m one of those who knew from an early age I was put on this planet to create. My mediums of choice have always been words and paint and I see the two disciplines uniquely intertwined. While a painter creates a picture on canvas, I see writing as creating pictures with words. I quite simply love storytelling.

What do you love to read in your spare time?

I love romantic compilations, where you have three or four novellas from different authors in one book. This way, I get to sample many writers at once and keep up with where the genre is going (these compilations typically have a famous writer teamed up with new or lesser known ones). Of course, no typical romance for me…it has to be weird in some way!

What are three things that you do that are important to your career as a writer (aside from actually writing the book)?

First, I read. I believe it’s incredibly important to stay current with trends and to keep my mind working.

Second, I’m always researching. I’ve traditionally written historical novels and would research until I found that one nugget of information from which to springboard. My new series is contemporary and I’m finding I still need to research! Didn’t see that coming, but how else are you going to know what happens to a body when it’s been hidden in a wall for twenty years?

Teri Barnett’s website

Third, I make it a point to be all over social media. My website is always current. I use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin to market my work. I follow agents and other writers to stay connected to the industry. I keep up on my reviews and make note of what worked for my readers and what didn’t. I know a lot of creative types who shun social media and I believe they’re doing themselves a disservice. SM really has become one of the biggest marketing tools we have.

What are three of your top goals in your writing career?

Pretty much everyone says it and it’s true for me as well – become a consistently bestselling author. NYT, USA Today, etc. Any (or all) of those would work.

Teri Barnett the artist and author.

Allocate more time to writing and the creative process overall. If I had my way, I would hide in my studio and have someone wait on me while I worked.

Stretch myself in new directions. Having written four historical novels, I’m looking forward to exploring contemporary life situations. While romance will always be a big part of my work, other genres are beckoning and it’s time to listen.

What is your favourite first line ever from a novel?

It’s interesting, the first one that popped into my head is from a novel I never wrote – does that count?? And how narcissistic is that? LOL I just really loved the opening line so much that the imagery of it stuck with me. “Meet me on Bourbon Street come Fat Tuesday.”

What is your go-to power energy snack when writing?

Yogurt, unsalted cashews, pretty much anything with caffeine.

What was a book that made you go “aha!” and why? (fiction or non fiction)

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. It was one of my first ventures into Sci-Fi and really connecting with an author and his style. I realized when I read Bradbury that maybe I could tell stories too. A more modern book which affected me this way was Stephen King’s On Writing. It’s one of my go-to books when I’m feeling stuck.

How do you cope with bad or nasty reviews?

You know, people are always going to have an opinion and I’ve learned over the years to just shrug off the not so good reviews. That’s not to say I don’t get annoyed when someone has been particularly nasty. I mean, who has that much time on their hands that they’ll sit down to write their own tome dissecting six months of my writing life? Then I shrug again and get back to writing. Creating an even better story is the best revenge.

What do you listen to when you write?

Nothing. Never. Silence is my musical choice for writing as I’ve found it’s really easy for me to get lost in melodies and lyrics and not get a darn thing written.

“Gray Cat” and “Black Cat”

Cats or dogs?

Cats! We have two who run our house – Daisy Lou (aka Black Cat) and Gray Cat. Gray Cat likes to leave headless bodies of her victims at the back door (we believe she has a secret cave where the little skulls are all lined up on a dirt shelf) and Black Cat likes to hide from Gray Cat (she has trust issues – probably because of the headless bodies).

You can purchase Through the Mists of Time, Shadow Dreams, and Pagan Fire by Teri Barnett,  at Lachesis Publishing. or you can purchase it on amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

Connect with Teri Barnett online via facebook and twitter, and check out her web site.

Like our Lachesis Publishing page on facebook.

Follow Lachesis Publishing on twitter.


Today’s Sneak Peek is the time travel romance Through the Mists of Time by Teri Barnett. If you like Through the Mists of Time, we know you’ll like Teri’s other books Pagan Fire and Shadow Dreams


When the town of Pompeii was buried in ashes in 79 AD, not everyone was taken by surprise. At least one person knew what was coming, Valerie Brooks, an involuntary time traveler from Victorian England, but her foreknowledge doesn’t help her. Declared a witch by the townspeople of Pompeii and sold into slavery, she has to find a way to make her master, Christos, believe her so they can escape the town before Vesuvius erupts.

But given the mistrust between them fired by the jealousy of her master’s scheming lover, Valerie finds her influence dwindling as the deadly time approaches. Racing against the impending destruction of Pompeii, she must not only decipher the mystery of her time-shift, but the mystery of love as well.


The last thing Valerie could remember was the violent earthquake. She remembered it shaking the grotto where she had gone for safety. She remembered the ceiling caving in around her. She even vaguely remembered she had been hit on the head, but there was no bump or pain.

But that’s all she could remember. How did it come to be, then, that when she woke up, the ceiling was still intact? It didn’t make any sense at all to her. And when she climbed down from the structure, the street around it was neat and tidy, not overgrown with vegetation as it had been when she’d started out this morning. The tombs were well tended, with fresh flowers placed in offering to the gods.

As she left the tomb, she became even more confused. And more than a little frightened. There were a few people standing nearby, dressed in flowing robes and togas of cream-colored linen and cotton. They immediately stopped talking when she had emerged and looked at her strangely, making that odd forked symbol with their fingers Signore Fiorelli had shown Reggie and her last night. The group began walking, cutting a wide path around her. When Valerie tried to speak to them, they hurried away. One of them ran ahead of her, shouting in – no, she couldn’t believe what she was hearing – was it Latin? She followed them with her eyes as the people hurried toward the city.

She started to take a step, then froze. She stared straight ahead, eyes wide. The city! There it stood, Pompeii, in all its untouched glory. Every column and building was in perfect condition, the paint and stucco finishes well maintained. Even the iron gate was free of rust and looked to have a fresh coat of black paint over the metal. A fountain situated at the fork of the road in front of her flowed with fresh water and several children stood around it, laughing and splashing.

What had happened to the tumbled down ruins she’d been visiting only hours before? Where had they gone? How did they come to be replaced by this living and breathing town? For heaven’s sake, was this another dream or had she died when the grotto collapsed and this was to be her eternal punishment? She placed a hand to her head as she felt the ground begin to spin. She took a deep breath and steadied herself. Well, she couldn’t stand here all day. She had to find Papa. He’d know what to do. She reached into the grotto, retrieved her cane, and began to walk.

Valerie re-entered Pompeii through the massive stone columns that flanked the gates as a crowd of people began to gather around her.

“Venefica! Witch!” someone shouted. “Look at the strange dark robes she wears.”

“We saw her climb out of the tomb. She was trying to raise the dead!” Somewhere in the mob, a small child began to cry.

“No!” Valerie screamed as a man grabbed her. “I don’t understand. I’m not a witch! Stop it, please,” she pleaded with him. He kicked her legs out from under her. She fell hard to the ground, gasping for air.

“Did not the senate of Rome counsel that we should turn from the menace of witches and sorcerers? Did they not say we should protect the State from their evil influences and magical spells?” He jabbed at Valerie with his toe before turning to face the crowd. “I say we put her in jail.”

Valerie planted her cane firmly on the ground and pulled herself up. What had she done to deserve such treatment? Well, he could talk all he wanted about the senate, but there was absolutely no way she would go to jail. She looked around, hoping to find a way through the crowd. She had to get away and hide for a while, until she could figure out what had really happened to her.

The man turned to face her again. With a sneer, he took a step closer. Valerie held her cane out in front of her and swung it in a wide arc. It came down hard on the man’s shoulder and he stumbled backward.

“Obsecro. Please. Let me go.”

The man turned on her, his eyes narrowed, and ripped the cane from her grasp. He slammed it down over his thigh, breaking it in half. “Now let’s see you do your magic without this.” He threw the pieces down hard on the ground.

“What are you doing?” Valerie screamed. She fell to her knees and retrieved the fragments. Accusations flew around her. Struggling to her feet, she put her hands over her ears and began to shake all over. The same images that had disturbed her dreams just last night were materializing before her.

Another man came at her, brandishing shackles before him. Balancing on her good leg, Valerie kicked at him with her other foot. With little effort, he knocked her to the stone paved street. She cried out as a sharp rock ripped through her blouse and gouged her skin. A woman held her head down while the chains were clamped into place around her ankles. “Why are you doing this?” she cried.

The men yanked Valerie to her feet and gave her a little shove. Without a cane, she stumbled, catching her balance just before she fell. Someone laughed and threw a rotten pomegranate at her back, striking her squarely between the shoulders. Valerie spun around, teetering, and the crowd backed away a little. She scanned the dark eyes that bore into her. Everyone was caught up in the moment. There was no aid to be found here.

She looked past them. There was the statue of Dionysus she’d seen only yesterday, but the building next to it was completely intact. My God, how did I come to be in ancient Pompeii? Her head swam as the crowd closed in around her again.

The people circled Valerie as if she were a wild animal. They started moving and she stumbled again. She clutched her stomach. She couldn’t catch her breath. Two men grabbed her by the arms just before she hit the ground, forcing her to move along or be trampled. Frantically, she looked about. Was there no one who could help? Mama? Papa? Signore Fiorelli?

That was when she saw him. The man in the window. Why had he seemed so disturbingly familiar to her in this strange and distant place? It was as if she should know him – should know his name, where he lived, how he looked when he slept.

Perhaps it was only because his features were like the patrician busts she’d seen at the museum in London. Straight nose, full lips, heavy lidded eyes. She’d studied and sketched them all several times over until she felt as if she knew each and every person.

He looked down at her now and she saw something in those deep ebony eyes. Was it compassion or simply pity? Would he be the one to help stop this madness she knew would soon consume her? She couldn’t tell for certain but only prayed it was so as the crowd pushed her again and he disappeared from her sight.

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