Thursday, January 4, 2018


I would like to introduce someone whose talent I greatly good friend, Catherine Christenson Stenhjem. 

I own many of Catherine's cards, tailor made collections, and handbags. Her unique personality shines in every creation. Here are examples of her artistic range.



(painted front and back)

If you would like to see further works by Catherine, please contact her on Facebook under her name listed above. She responds quickly and prices for her art are quite reasonable.


Tuesday, January 2, 2018


 Today's post is THE SHADOW RISES by K. S. Marsden

The Shadow Rises (Witch-Hunter #1)
Author: K.S. Marsden
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Witches are real, and to be blunt, they’re all black-hearted, and evil. These are not wiccans; witches are a different breed that use magic with devastating effect.
Charged with stopping the witches, taking whatever measures necessary, there are witch-hunters, all reporting to the Malleus Maleficarum Council (MMC). For hundreds of years witches have been persecuted and when the powerful Shadow Witch rises again, they have their opportunity for revenge.

The best the MMC has to offer, the talented seventh-generation witch-hunting Hunter Astley has his own part to play. In his own way.

Amazon UK:
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Yes, it's hard to believe that it has been 5 years since my debut was released!
It has always been an ambition of mine, to be a published author, and these last five years have been an absolute dream. (An incredibly steep learning curve, but still a dream).
The Witch-Hunter books continue to draw in new readers and are my best-sellers; and it is still the story that I get most excited about.

What prompted the Witch-Hunter trilogy?
Despite the fact that this series pegs the witch-hunters as our heroes, and follows the famous Hunter Astley; the story actually started with the bad guy.
I used to practise Wicca when I was younger, and I wondered what would happen if you had a bad witch. One that broke all the wiccan rules, and inflicted pain for the fun of it. I decided the witches in my story would be a different breed, distinct from their wiccan cousins, and not restricted by human morals. And my main antagonist had to be the most powerful witch in history, naturally. Magic without limits...
Once I had my bad guys, it seemed almost too easy to create the people that would stop them: the witch-hunters working for the Malleus Maleficarum Council (MMC).

A witch-hunter named Hunter?
Yes, I know it's cliche. I struggled to come up with a name for my main character. He's the best the MMC have at their disposal; he comes from a witch-hunting family, and has some ridiculous inborn skills to deal with fighting witches.

So, I used "Hunter" as a placeholder until I found a name that suited him. And it stuck. And he's enough of a pretentious git to pull it off.
It's actually a bit of a running joke in the series - Hunter's real name is George. Sexy, I know.

Fact vs. Fiction?
So... this might be a straight-up fantasy story, but a lot of it is based on real events.
The Malleus Maleficarum was a real book, published in 1487 as the guide for finding and persecuting witches, recommended by Pope Innocent VIII. (There's a lot of contention surrounding the "authors" and how legitimate the papal bull is, but I won't go into that here)
This book helped legitimise mass killings, persecutions, and the general witch-craze that swept the world.
Witch-hunters of questionable morals attacked people, regardless of gender or position. The incentive was often money, claiming the possessions of the "witch", or even to enact a grudge they were holding.
The most common "witch" was female, and if you were a woman with any ounce of independence, intelligence, free-thought, charm...

My Malleus Maleficarum Council is based on the premise that they quickly saw the damage that was being done by the ignorant general public, and immediately started working in secret. The MMC employs real witch-hunters, who track down real witches.
Until our modern-day Hunter Astley.

Why witches?

When I was looking for a new project to start writing, I knew that I wanted to do something in Urban Fantasy.
At the time, I thought the literary world was inundated with vampires and werewolves, and I wanted to steer clear of these popular tropes. I wanted something I could put my own spin on, something that felt like it was mine.
In the end, I nervously started fleshing out a story about witches. I've always been fascinated by stories of magic and wicked witches, and I started to put to use all the random facts that I'd gathered.
The fascination with witches actually comes from a long-running family joke that all the women in my family are witches, and that my nanna would turn us into a toad if we misbehaved. Y'know, the usual silly stuff.
It felt weird, taking something that had been a family joke, and turning it into a bunch of books for everyone to read. I'm just grateful that it went down well!

Mrs Astley
Even though Mrs Astley is just a background character - as Hunter's mother, she does little more than hang around the estate, and has nothing to do with witches - she is the one that leaves the biggest impression.
She is horrible to those around her. She doesn't intend to insult everyone, she just doesn't have a filter. She's very entitled, and thinks that the people around her will benefit from hearing her opinion.
A couple of fun facts about this character:
1) She doesn't have a first name. Well, she does, it is just never mentioned. Did you notice?
2) Her husband died five years ago (although it was never a happy marriage), but Mrs Astley has been kept company by Charles, the butler. Nothing is ever said outright, but they do play "chess" (amongst some of my friends "playing chess" translates into relations).


Kelly S. Marsden grew up in Yorkshire, and there were two constants in her life - books and horses.
Graduating with an equine degree from Aberystwyth University, she has spent most of her life since trying to experience everything the horse world has to offer. She is currently settled into a Nutritionist role for a horse feed company in Doncaster, South Yorkshire.

She writes Fantasy stories part-time. Her first book, The Shadow Rises (Witch-Hunter #1), was published in January 2013, and she now has two successful series under her belt.

The Northern Witch's Book Blog:

Thursday, August 10, 2017


Dragonblood Throne: Legacy
Tom Fallwell


Orphaned as a young child and growing up alone in the forest, Delina lives a life of isolation; her only companion a saber-toothed panther. Her strange eyes frighten those she occasionally encounters, so she keeps to herself, until a young, wounded warrior ends up at her doorstep. As she nurses him back to health, she discovers she is more than just a young woman with unusual eyes, she is a dragonblood, destined to become the ruler of Almar.

Now hunted by the dark sorcerer who murdered her father, usurped his throne, and killed all her kin, she must find out how she can release the essence of the dragon inside her to defeat him. Everything depends upon her willingness to embrace her legacy and reclaim the Dragon Throne.

Excerpt from Dragonblood Throne: Legacy, by Tom Fallwell

Copyright © 2017 by Tom Fallwell – All Rights Reserved

Ignoring the two scribes fidgeting nervously behind him, Kargoth anxiously watched the cosmic tableau of the moons unfold in the darkened sky from his balcony. The rare, lunar eclipse was only moments away from its apex, the new moon phase of Tibel almost centered within the bright ring of Sianor behind it.

While he would never admit it, not even to himself, Kargoth was fearful as he waited to see if the prophecy was true, if there would be a sign indicating a dragonblood still lived in Almar. The words of that prophecy played continually in his mind as he waited with bated breath.

Ring of the heavens,
Ring shining bright.
Darkness the lesser
Than greater moon's light.
When the ring glows bright
As the moons above turn,
Blood shows the sign
Of the dragons return.
A dragon reborn
From an innocent child.
The power will grow
As emotions run wild.
The dragon will rise
When all hope seems lost.
All evil will pay
The dragonblood's cost.
The dragonblood comes,
The darkness will die.
The dragon wings spread
And the dragon will fly.

“Here it comes,” Kargoth said, never removing his gaze from the moons. “Now we’ll see if there is any truth to this prophecy.”

The scribes trembled, fearing their High Lord's wrath, as Tibel firmly centered itself in front of Sianor. The light in the night lessened momentarily as Tibel covered much of Sianor's full and bright splendor.

The slim circle of light around Tibel began to burn brightly, becoming a brilliant glowing ring in the night sky. For a moment, the scholars hoped that perhaps the prophecy was false, but a red glow began to fill the darkness of Tibel. It was as if some celestial being had poured a bowl of blood into the mold of the darkened Tibel, now glowing with a red, unearthly light. The eclipse became a white circle filled with a blood-red glow.

The prophecy was true! It was a sign of blood! Of dragonblood!


Early in life, Tom Fallwell discovered a love for fantasy and science-fiction, delighting in the wonderful escape into realms undreamed of. Weaned on the greats like J.R.R. Tolkien, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert E. Howard, Roger Zelazny, Robert A. Heinlein, and Michael Moorcock, just to name a few, Tom's imagination was forever inspired by those marvelous tales.

One day, he discovered a simple book of rules called 'Chainmail', by Gary Gygax, and found a new love: the love of creating adventures and stories of his own. 'Chainmail' evolved into 'Dungeons & Dragons', and Tom played consistently with friends as both a player and a dungeon master (DM) for decades. Such activities helped him develop his ability to create worlds and stories for other players to enjoy.

Now retired from his long career as a software developer, Tom writes all the adventures and characters that constantly fill his mind and shares them with the world.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Kith and Kin

My early years were with my grandmother. I remember her face, her smile, her unconditional love. A small woman, she possessed an elegant grace and an enigmatic smile. One never knew what she was thinking. I thought of her as my mother though I knew she really wasn’t. Grandma was a unique individual, a woman wrenched from her idyllic life one Christmas Day in 1929. Her husband died in a plane crash, and mother told me of the long line of black cars outside their home. My grandfather, the first licensed pilot in North Carolina, had earned the respect of all. His pilot's license was signed by Orville Wright.

Grandma moved from her small town to a larger one, and having no resources, fed tobacco factory workers during their lunch hour to make a living. She was a wonderful cook and an excellent tailor. She would look at a dress in a store window and make one just like it without a pattern. I still remember my favorite, a shirtwaist dress with long sleeves.

A proud woman, she could be utterly charming or caustic with a smile. One memory that brings laughter is of a pretentious man walking away with a “did she just tell me off” look on his face and Grandma’s sweet, Cheshire-cat smile behind him. She was a major influence during my early years, accepting me with all my faults and frailties, never criticizing, always supporting. I never told her of my many failures, the family grapevine did that; but she always greeted me with a smile, a hug, and lots of love. I pleased her despite myself and to this day, I will remember the feeling with gratitude.

Grandma and I loved the trips we took home every year.  We would turn a nine-hour trip into fourteen or fifteen hours, stopping on the spur of the moment for anything that looked inviting.  We usually took the scenic route, staying off the interstates, so we passed through many little towns filled with craft and gift shops, fairs, and restaurants.

One year, I was in a hurry to get home.  Bad weather was on the way and I took Interstate 95.  Atlanta was notoriously busy and we hit it at rush hour.  I was a little nervous, but having taken the yearly trips home had given me a familiarity with the traffic. Grandma was sitting next to me with her hands folded, probably willing us down the road.  

I was in the middle lane when suddenly, a car shot from the left in front of me across all lanes of traffic headed for an exit on the right with no warning and no turn signal.  To my credit, I didn’t slam on the brakes but out came the dreaded “F” word followed by “you S.O.B.”  As soon as I uttered those horrible curses, I realized who was sitting next to me.   I spent the next few minutes profusely apologizing.  Grandma didn’t say a thing and when I finally stopped, without batting an eye, she patted my hand and said, “That’s alright, honey, I probably would have said the same thing.”

Many other tales come to mind, but this one always brings a smile. Thanks, grandma, for all the memories.


Monday, May 15, 2017

I have been absent due to an ongoing health issue and plan to return on June 5th with the schedule as follows:

              Monday                 Kith and Kin
              Wednesday           Ramblings from Belladonna
              Friday                    Feature of the Week

Barbara Chioffi  

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


*This is a continued story. If you are tuning in for the first time, please refer to previous chapters.

My first instinct was to throw something through the window, but I knew that would create more problems than I wanted; instead, I returned to my car, removed the basket I had so carefully packed with food, wine, and "dessert attire" and left it on the porch, certain H would realize where it came from.

I drove home, a myriad of emotions playing through my mind... anger, hurt, betrayal. H and I were in a relationship, weren't we? He had professed his love, bought me expensive gifts, and paid my rent for a year. Wouldn't that indicate commitment? Then the imp on my shoulder brought up other possibilities... H wasn't married. There was no written agreement. I had assumed that he would be faithful, but with assumptions there is no truth and plenty of wiggle room.  

By the time I arrived at my apartment, I had decided to see when H would call and what he would say. My future course of action would depend on his explanation. The imp, however, was focused on payback.

To Be Continued.....

Monday, March 20, 2017


If I could have one wish, I would be back in my mama's house. I loved her company.  She was a brilliant woman with a wicked sense of humor.  I think she knew me better than anyone, and for the most part, she was a delight. We spent many times in the car on the way from one place to another, discussing ethereal topics, her mind wandering as far as mine. She seemed to know no limits in her imagination and I found her a joy. I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone as fascinating.  

I remember sitting in Grandma's kitchen when young, watching Mama cook.  She was a fantastic creator of food. Despite what you had in your kitchen, she would produce a delicious meal.  I asked her how she would feel if I died, and she answered, “I would cry for the rest of my life.”  That, to a paranoid kid, meant the world.

She was fixing dinner in a pressure cooker, leaning over to inspect the pot, and it blew up in her face.  I remember her consoling me in my terror, telling me that she would be fine as she was taken to the hospital.  I counted every second until she returned, her face wrapped in gauze.  Luckily, she suffered no real damage.

Another memory…she made wonderful donuts and shook them in a bag of sugar.  My sweet tooth raged as I watched.

When I was around 12, my parents discovered I could sing.  I hid it from them for a long time, letting them think that it was the radio. She was so proud and engaged a German voice teacher nearby to give me lessons.  She would sit in the car and read while I sang.

She was a voracious reader, everything she could get her hands on.  It tickled her when we girls shivered as she told us about Rasputin, the mad monk of Russia.  I’ve never forgotten the look on her face as she watched our reactions.

Mom was also a talented writer. I grew up reading her family anecdotes and thoughts on life. She was my inspiration that resulted in my lifetime efforts and recent publications.

She had a good work ethic, often leaving home in later years, traveling several hours away to make a sale.  She could sell clothes to a nudist and no one could resist her charm. I don’t think she ever met a stranger, no matter what race or nationality.  She had many friends and was a friend to them as well. 

My sisters and I were blessed to be her children.