Tag Archives: suspense thrillers

Kleenex for Your Valentine: February Reminds Me of My Writing (and Tainted Love)

I meant to feature a post for Valentine’s Day on the site, but last week ended up intense and busy in the indie horror world and other work priorities took up my time, as well I had been pretty ill the days before and was still recovering. Certainly, February (as a whole) is available for talking about love, is it not? Even love gone awry? I suppose we can talk, read, and write about it any time, I know I do, so it’s always a good time in my book (well, IN my writings, if you read them, love is not always a good time). Whether you spent Valentine’s Day happy in love, alone and happy, or crying, I’ve got something myself to say about love. It takes on many forms and is often fodder for writers like me to explore.

First, I’d draw attention to my poem “Chained by Love,” which was featured in the February 2018 issue of Enchanted Conversation: a fairy tale magazine. My poem showcased the love between moral Raymond and sea serpent/mermaid Melusine in medieval France folklore. You’ll see their happiness takes a different turn. You can read it for free in the magazine HERE. I’d like to again say thanks to them for choosing my piece to publish and for putting out such a gorgeous edition.

“A beautiful, tragic fairy tale.” – Author R.J. Crowder

“Very powerful, Erin. I loved it.” – Bram Stoker Nominated Author Jeremy Hepler

“Well done. Enjoyed it!” – Illustrator and Writer Michael Mitchell


On a different note, I failed to announce on my site here at the end of the year, but I have a story called “The Heart of the Orchard” featured in the anthology HARDENED HEARTS, which released from Unnerving in December 2017. It’s been widely reviewed, shared on social media to high regard, and I’m pleased that my story has been doing quite well. My story is like a crime/serial killer/revenge story wrapped up with a fairy tale vibe. It’s a little bit of something I’ll always do to have a bit of the feel of grim fairy tales in my work. I grew up with Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and other folklore inspiring me and it’s not unusual it transferred into my work. The darker the better, but for me, it’s a way of dealing with trauma and fears.

In this anthology there are all types of stories from love that hurts, to love gone wrong, to weird love, to the love of something unusual, to the loss of a loved one, but always each will get you feeling. Here is the synopsis and list of authors:

“40 Ways to Leave Your Monster Lover” by Gwendolyn Kiste
“It Breaks My Heart to Watch You Rot” by Somer Canon
“What is Love?” by Calvin Demmer
“Heirloom” by Theresa Braun
“The Recluse” by John Boden
“Dog Tired” by Eddie Generous
“The Pink Balloon” by Tom Deady
“It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To” by J.L. Knight
“Consumed” by Madhvi Ramani
“Burning Samantha” by Scott Paul Hallam
“Class of 2000” by Robert Dean
“Learning to Love” by Jennifer Williams
“Brothers” by Leo X. Robertson
“Porcelain Skin” by Laura Blackwell
“The Heart of the Orchard” by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi
“Meeting the Parents” by Sarah L. Johnson
“Matchmaker” by Meg Elison

17 stories of difficult love, broken hearts, lost hope, and discarded truths. Love brings pain, vulnerability, and demands of revenge. Hardened Hearts spills the sum of darkness and light concerning the measures of love; including works from Meg Elison, author of The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (Winner of the Philip K. Dick Award), Tom Deady, author of Haven (Winner of the Bram Stoker award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel), Gwendolyn Kiste, author of And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe and Pretty Marys All in a Row (and Bram Stoker Nominated Author) and more. Hardened Hearts dips from speculative, horror, science fiction, fantasy, into literary and then out of the classifiable and into the waters of unpinned genres, but pure entertainment nonetheless.

Praise for my story in Hardened Hearts, “The Heart of the Orchard” –

“The Heart of the Orchard by: Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi – Loved, loved, loved this one—the setting, the tone, the writing—all of it was great!” – Literary Dust

‘The Heart of the Orchard’ by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi is another of the strongest works in the anthology. A dark fairy tale focussing on a young woman with a scarred past who is offered help in her quest to succeed with her fruit orchard by a character known only as The Orchard Man. She gratefully accepts his assistance in the form of herbs for her sleeplessness and fertiliser for her peach trees.” – This is Horror

“THE HEART OF THE ORCHARD by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi. This read almost like a warped fairy tale, and as we all know, fairy tales can often be quite grim.” – Char’s Horror Corner (in listing the tales that stood out for her)

“THE HEART OF THE ORCHARD by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi – This one deserved its own book also! A+” – Book Dragon Girl (in listing her favorite stories)

Praise for Hardened Hearts anthology overall –

“…consistently strong gathering of tales which will elicit a number of different emotions. Highly recommended.” – The Grim Reader

“I believe the fact that the authors decided to mix love and horror into the mix was a brilliant idea. The literature was varied but strong, and each to its own was enjoyable to read.” -Happy Booker

HARDENED HEARTS is a collection of love at its best and worst from a group of authors who make an art out of storytelling. There is a story for everyone from fantasy to dark horror and they prove that love makes the world go ‘round and ‘round and ‘round. From the fascinating foreword to the very last word, prepare to be entertained through a myriad of your own emotions and reactions to each tale, all in the name of love.” – The Tome Tender Book Blog

“Love and horror are the very best of bedfellows if done well. “Hardened Hearts” by Various Authors goes far beyond that. These are not your everyday kind of love stories (or maybe for you they are). They are dark, twisted and disturbing. Love will be redefined from one story to the next. 17 brilliantly written short stories by some very talented word artists.” – Books in My Library Blog

“Nearly every single story by this group of majorly talented authors, is unique, horrific, and thought-provoking. There were a couple that were just kind of meh for me, but they do have great merit and deserve a read too. With this eclectic bunch, there really is something for everyone.” – Reeds and Reels

“A brave anthology which does away with binary concepts of gender, love and sex, instead presenting the reader with love that is realistic, heartfelt, though at times, naturally, stepping into the fantastical.” – This is Horror

I was also thrilled that for some, my story resonated, or they found it worthy of special mention. I know that my story, besides having some fantastical components, can also be unsettling because it’s based on some trauma I experienced in my own life. I channeled this into my character, and though she was not privy to it herself (and you’ll see why if you read the story), it had wreaked havoc on her soul and she sought out revenge. I think it is the ultimate in hardening a heart and it was what propelled me to write it when Eddie, the editor/publisher, told me the theme.



In my dark poetry and fiction collection, BREATHE. BREATHE., being in relationships is explored because I wrote my emotions about living in a domestic violence situation for many years into some of my poems. I know they are quite heart-wrenching, but keep in mind, I did live this too. It’s been a process, but nothing has worked quite as good for me in healing over these last 14 years than in finishing this collection and sharing it. If you like love gone wrong, stories about domestic relationships, whether to connect or get a bird’s eye view or for suspense, and you like books like Gone Girl, Dolores Claiborne, Rose Madder, Big Little Lies, and other such, you may want to give some of the poems and stories in my collection a try. For the stories, I’d especially recommend my “Vahalla Lane” mini-series of fiction.


And I just want to say after all this darkness, I did have a very nice Valentine’s Week, spoiled by time with my kids and making unicorn Valentines, lots of hugs, kisses, and love from both Tim and the kids, and some chocolate and a beautiful flowering rose cactus. I am happy to have a family understand love gone wrong, but also love done right.

As much as I love dark fiction, I also love good suspense thrillers, historical fiction (including some with romance, especially if they are biographical about women in history), and mysteries. I’ll have some posts about those coming up soon.

If you have some good book suggestions in this realm, or comments on any of the above, please feel free to comment. I love them!

Love to you all,



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Can Sarah Weston Uncover an Ancient Secret? Read The Tenth Saint by D.J. Niko!

The Tenth SaintUnderground library? Ancient religious texts? Archaeological action and suspense? Yes! Oh, what I can say about D.J. Niko other than to first exclaim what a fabulous and thrilling writer she is!! She has fast become one of my favorite action thriller authors!

I actually read The Riddle of Solomon, the second book in Niko’s Sarah Weston Chronicles, and now have gone back to read book one, The Tenth Saint. I loved them both; however, am ecstatic to have read The Tenth Saint at last! It really filled in the detail of Sarah’s background, image, personality, and character traits. I would highly recommend purchasing both, as once you read The Tenth Saint, you’ll want to read The Riddle of Solomon (you can read my review of that by clicking —> HERE and an interview I had with D.J.—-> HERE).

I really liked Niko’s character development. I can complete clear images of her multi-dimensional characters in my head while turning the pages quickly as her plot heats up right from the very first few pages. Niko takes us on a visual thrill ride and you feel as if you are at a literary amusement park. She builds momentum swiftly and smoothly, so that you are propelled along further and farther than what you might have had the time for! But it is so worth it and I loved the escape.

I know some people might connect Niko’s Sarah Weston Chronicles with Indiana Jones, which would be fitting if he were a younger female, so I’ll say Sarah is a bit like Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider. Only she is dressed with baggy khaki pants and t-shirts (though yes, her body is buff underneath–it would have to be what with her intense physical predicaments).  Sarah Weston is a spunky, intelligent, determined archeologist who isn’t afraid of getting into danger in the name of finding a clue, solving a historical puzzle, or ahem–saving the world! I admire that, as if I was single and a tad bit more in shape, I’d be likely to want to find some adventure as such of my own. I love how independent Sarah was in this book, as I admire and cheer on strong female leads.

To get to travel with Sarah’s character to exotic locales was the perfect getaway for me. I am a huge fan of Niko’s locale details, no doubt honed by her own love of travel and travel writing. She knows how to sell me places, even if I already wanted to go there. Her imagery is amazing.  Her knowledge of the desert life and culture in this first book, which takes place in Ethiopia, is compelling. Her details of the Bedouin culture and the ancient religion of the Coptic Christians was so interesting and it worked well for her to juxtapose between the ancient times (where we meet an intriguing monk for whom the title of the book refers) and our modern times where Sarah is uncovering his tomb and putting together the details of the past.

Niko is a great writer, much better even than Dan Brown, though the premise of uncovering clues of the past makes it hold some connection to that book. The Tenth Saint is action-packed, intense, exhilarating, and a complete escape from reality that is perfect for anytime of year. It has mystery, suspense, and twists and turns surrounded by great imagery and prose. It’s perfect for adults, but would also be a wonderful read for a young adult who likes action/adventure. This book should have been on major lists everywhere, her writing is much, much better than most writers who saturate this genre. I am sure you’ll be ready for book two, The Riddle of Solomon, as soon as you complete The Tenth Saint. I know I am ready for book three!! I want to see where Sarah’s adventurous spirit leads us!

The Tenth SaintTHE TENTH SAINT, Synopsis~

Publication Date: January 25, 2012
Medallion Press Paperback;
ISBN-10: 1605422452

Gold Medal Winner, Popular Fiction, 2013 Florida Book Awards.

Cambridge archaeologist Sarah Weston makes an unusual discovery in  the ancient Ethiopian mountain kingdom of Aksum: a sealed tomb with  inscriptions in an obscure dialect. Seeking to ascertain the translation and the identity of the entombed man, she and her colleague, American  anthropologist Daniel Madigan, stumble upon a lethal conflict.

Tracking down clues in Addis Ababa and the monasteries of Lalibela,  Sarah and Daniel uncover a codex in a subterranean library revealing a  set of prophecies about Earth’s final hours written by a man hailed by  Coptic mystics as Ethiopia’s tenth saint. Violently opposed by the  corrupt director of antiquities at the Ethiopian Ministry of Culture and Tourism, they’re left for dead in the heart of the Simien Mountains.  Surviving to journey to Paris, Sarah is given another piece of the  ancient puzzle: a fourteenth-century letter describing catastrophic  events leading to the planet’s demise.

Connecting the two discoveries, Sarah faces a deadly intercontinental conspiracy to keep the secret of the tenth saint buried. Risking her  reputation and her life, Sarah embarks on a quest to stall the  technological advances that will surely destroy the world.

Book Trailer:


Praise for The Tenth Saint~

“The characters are lively, and the story is fast-paced and exciting, especially for inveterate fans of the genre.” – David Pitt, Booklist  (January 1, 2012)

“Like ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ ‘The Tenth Saint’ takes you to a place you have never been, creating an adventure you will not soon forget.” – Laurence Leamer, New York Times-bestselling author of ‘Kennedy Women’

“Interesting, intricate and intriguing, ‘The Tenth Saint’ is an  archaeological puzzle the reader can’t wait to solve.” – James O. Born,  author of ‘Burn Zone’

“Her descriptive powers are remarkable. Whether constructing the  distant past or today, whether reproducing the foreign or the familiar,  Ms. Niko brings vivid, convincing sensory detail to her settings.” – Phil Jason, Naples Florida Weekly (April 2012)

“Fast-paced and filled with danger and action in interesting and less well-known locales, The Tenth Saint will keep readers on the edge of  their seats until the end.”- www.FreshFiction.com

“An impressive and well-researched thrill-ride … Dark tombs, buried  secrets, and apocalyptic prophecies, this book has it all!” – Ronald  Malfi, author of ‘The Ascent’ and ‘Floating Staircase’

“The Tenth Saint is a clever and well-written story which piqued my  interest and curiosity. I enjoyed the wicked twist at the end, which I  thought brought everything together cleanly. I look forward to more of  Ms. Niko’s writing!” – Star Fyre, Bibliophilic Book Blog

“The author, D. J. Niko, thoroughly researched the history and  geography of Ethiopia, providing sufficient authenticity to the story  line and plot to satisfy even the most skeptical Returned Peace Corps  Volunteer.” – The Etritrea and Ethiopia Herald (for Peace Corps  volunteers)

Buy Links~

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Barnes & Noble

Author D.J. Niko, Biography~

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????D.J. Niko is the nom de plume of Daphne Nikolopoulos, an  award-winning author and journalist. Her first novel, titled The Tenth  Saint, was released in March 2012 to rave reviews by both readers and  the trade. In March 2013, it was awarded the Gold Medal for popular  fiction in the prestigious, juried Florida Book Awards. An  archaeological thriller embroidered with historical motifs, The Tenth  Saint takes readers on an adventure across the globe: Ethiopia, the  Syro-Arabian Desert and Abyssinian Empire circa fourth century, London,  Paris, Brussels, and Texas. The Tenth Saint is the first book in The  Sarah Weston Chronicles series. The second, titled The Riddle of  Solomon, releases July 1, 2013.

Daphne is now at work on a historical novel set in tenth century  B.C.E. Israel. The epic story details the collapse of the United  Monarchy and the glory and fall of the empire built by King Solomon. It  will be released in early 2015.

As a former travel journalist, Daphne has traveled across the globe  on assignment, or for personal discovery. She has been to some places  most of us don’t realize are on the map, and she has brought them to  life through her writing for various magazines, newspapers and websites  on an international scale. Her travel background and rich experiences  now bring authentic detail, color, and realism to her fiction.

She also is the editor in chief of Palm Beach Illustrated magazine, a 62-year-old luxury-lifestyle glossy. She also is the editorial director of Palm Beach Media Group, and in that capacity oversees 11 magazines  and 3 websites.

She is the mother of twin toddlers and, in her spare time, volunteers for causes she believes in—literacy, education, child advocacy, and the advancement of traditional and tribal arts from around the world. Born  in Athens, Greece, she now lives with her family in West Palm Beach,  Florida.

For more information, please visit D.J. Niko’s website. You can also follow on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/thetenthsaintour/
Twitter Hashtag: #TenthSaintTour

The Tenth Saint Tour Banner_FINAL 2

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