Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Summer Rerun: Remy from Ultimate Duty

Today's excerpt is from my SFR, "Ultimate Duty." It's Space Opera, so don't be looking for big thinking. Like Star Trek, it does deal with future social issues based on today's growing power of mega-corporations. It's easy to follow a line into the future where all of us governed by an interplanetary corporation. It's also easy to believe the corp's in charge of everything wouldn't be particular beneficent. This is an old-time SF plot with good company in many very well-known dystopian genres of the 20th Century: 1984, Brave New World, a lot of Phillip K. Dick's books: Blade Runner, Total Recall, the entire Alien series, and, of course, Firefly.

Strong female leads used to be few and far between, however, the evolution of the science fiction romance genre has put women in the pilot's seat of the space transport, not serving cocktails to the crew. I could make a good case that science fiction was the driving force behind the kick-ass hero of the female gender. I recall Robert Heinlein's female characters to be the real force in many of his books--the women with which the putative hero depends to keep him alive.

Watching the first Alien movie with Ripley (well played by Sigourney Weaver) taking on an alien race almost single-handedly. One scene in Aliens (the second movie) is burned into my memory. Ripley is in the elevator going down to rescue the little girl. She's armed to the teeth, carrying multiple weapons, she's sweaty, dirty, not a pretty picture. But her face radiates determination. Fear and the will to overcome the fear. That's just it. Ripley was the embodiment of everything great about strong female characters.


They don't need any man to save them from the tentacled beast, thank you very much. But they're not man-haters threatening the masculinity of the young guys who typically dote on science fiction (okay, remember this was in the 70s). Ripley was a new kind of woman. Strong, brave, but not arrogant like the male heroes are often portrayed.

Ripley was my role model for Remy when I first wrote a short story about her nearly 30 years ago. My other role model for Remy was my friend, Dawn. Six feet and red-headed, she was tough but enjoyed the attention she got from guys. So Remy is as brave and strong as Ripley, and as sexy and confident as my buddy, Dawn.

Excerpt

Remy and Garrett arrived at the outer wall path that led to the dock ports. Remy hoped at least one shuttle was still attached to the station. She dropped to the floor and peered down the slope of the passageway. Two guards stood at the entrance to bay 5. Luckily, they faced the opposite direction. Remy slid back and pointed silently, then held up two fingers. Garrett nodded and pointed left and then at himself. Remy nodded.

With no way to get any closer unseen, they must use speed instead. Both stepped back a couple of paces, so they’d hit the corner at full tilt. A nod from Garrett, and they sprinted through the twenty meters separating them from the guards. One guard turned to look only when Remy and Garrett were close enough to attack. The guard yelled, "Halt!" as he raised the barrel of his blaster. The second guard turned with a confused expression and didn’t manage to raise his own weapon before Remy reached him.

Remy felt her mind and body slip into fighting mode. Time slowed for her and she noted every detail of the guard’s stance. She leaped high in the air, her legs coiled like springs. The second guard finally lifted his rifle but never had the chance to fire. Remy drove both feet into his abdomen, slamming him against the wall with the force of her strike. In the low gravity she landed easily on her feet crouched and ready. She crossed her arms against her torso, grabbing the guard’s belt with her left hand and prepared to strike with her right. The man’s eyes widened when Remy’s backhand arced toward him. The force of the blow across his jaw sent him tumbling to the floor.

She glanced over at Garrett and saw he had already disabled the other guard, now curled on the floor moaning. Garrett kicked him in the head with an almost gentle tap. The connection of his shod foot on the guard’s temple did the job, knocking the man unconscious.

Garrett walked over to Remy’s guard and bent down. He pressed two fingers against the side of the man’s neck. "Good. He’ll live."

"If I wanted him dead, he’d be dead," Remy snarled.

* * *

Ultimate Duty
Amazon Kindle and Print (only $0.99 for ebook)
Smashwords all ebook formats (only $0.99 with coupon YG47Y)

A military officer must choose between her sworn duty or her rebellious blood ties.

Remy Belieux, a woman born into a life of servitude on a repressive factory planet, is desperate for a different life. When she's accepted into the Space Service Academy, run by the organization that enslaved her planet, she discovers the truth behind generations of rebellion.

As her heart pulls her toward Phillip, the leader of the rebel group, she finds herself questioning where her loyalties truly lie. Now she must choose, fighting for her life against impossible odds.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Summer Rerun: Sianach and Cusith from Scotch Broom

HART AND HOUND

Researching Celtic mythology, I knew I wanted to use some of the lesser know magical creatures. I a
Also decided that they needed to be “like” animals, but not quite. The reason for this is obvious to readers who’ve been following Kat’s story from the beginning. Kat’s magical ability is to talk with animals. She has greater or lesser success depending on the innate brain-power of a natural animal. For example, she chats along nicely with Salmon the Orca since a killer whale is the largest of the dolphins and are at the top of the IQ charts. I believe the ability to communicate to others shows greater intelligence. Sorry. Don’t want to offend any fish out there, but you guys just aren’t that bright.

I found two mythic creatures who met my criteria. Sianach, a huge stag (possibly a Red Deer) and Cusith, a giant-sized green dog with a braided tail.

From my favorite source, Encyclopedia Mythica (http://www.pantheon.org/areas/folklore/folklore/articles.html). Look for Cusith in the alphabetical list on the left side of the screen.

Cusith

An enormous hound of the Scottish Highlands. It is said to be a dark green in color, with a long braided tail and the size of a bullock. Whenever his baying was heard on the moors, farmers would quickly lock up their women because the hound's mission was to round up women and drive them to a fairy mound so they might supply milk for fairy children.

I’m a bit leery of that rounding up women part, but decided that was just an ancient attempt to keep women close to home. Clearly, not much has changed except for the mythological excuses.

Sianach

"Monster." In Scottish Gaelic oral tradition, a large, malevolent, predatory deer.

That’s to the point. Other research indicated that the basis for Sianach might be the Irish Elk, which is now extinct.

Now that I’d identified a couple of mythical critters, then all I had to do is get them together with Kat. Since she was tricked into entering the Otherworld (land of fey), she has been searching for the hall of the Trow King. She meets Sianach first and he agrees to guide her to King Connor’s hall. What Kat find strange is that she can’t look into Sianach’s mind; he can close off his thoughts from her. This makes Kat a bit nervous since Sianach, while seeming to be amenable to helping Kat, is also very vague as to his reasons for doing so.

The two begin their search for the Trow Hall, although Sianach claims, reasonably, that in the Otherworld, there is no such thing as a map to anyplace. They’ll have to seek the Hall in other ways. Apparently, Sianach’s method is to simply wander around through the swamps.

They camp for the night, and the next morning, Kat meets another denizen of the Otherworld, the giant green hound, Cusith.

Excerpt:

Sianach grazed near the edge of the small clearing. When the lean-to disappeared, he raised his head. “Good morning. I thought you were going to sleep all day.”

“You sound just like my mom.” Kat let out an exasperated snort. “Besides, it can’t be past eight o’clock.”

“I do not carry a timepiece.”

“Of course, you don’t.” Kat opened her pack and rummaged through it. “Cool. I’ve still got the granola bar.” Her head snapped up when she heard something large crashing through the underbrush. Sianach stood stock still, staring toward the ruckus.

“HHHHRRRRROOOOOWWW!”

“Omigosh, what’s that?” Kat’s voice trembled as she looked to Sianach for an answer. The hairs on her neck and arms stood at attention.

Sianach turned toward a nearby tree and struck his antlers against it. The clash of antler against bark rang like a warning bell. Kat didn’t expect the loud clang coming from horn against wood.

“HHHHRRRRROOOOOWWW!”

“Hide,” Sianach said in a breathy whisper. His head raised now and pointed toward the howl that sounded closer than before.

Kat did as he told her but had to ask, “What is it?” just before she crouched behind a bush.

“The Hound from Hell,” Sianach replied. He dashed into the woods with antlers thrust forward to meet the howling canine. Kat heard a sharp yip from the dog. Sianach must have scored the first strike. Sianach bugled, and the hound yowled. Thuds punctuated the vocalizing, when one or the other creature struck a blow.

“I have to help,” Kat muttered. She jogged across the clearing and pushed her way through the saplings and undergrowth blocking the way. She followed the battle sounds—bugling stag, baying hound, splintering of small trees being knocked aside. She darted around another large tree and saw the combatants squared off in an area beaten down by their fighting. She stopped still, her eyes widened. A huge green dog faced Sianach, its fangs exposed from under snarling lips. Kat gulped and stood frozen with fear.

Sianach’s head lowered, and he charged the hound with out-thrust antlers. The dog jumped aside at the last second and leapt on Sianach’s back. The monstrous creature bit down hard on the stag’s neck. Kat heard the sickening crunch of breaking bones. Blood gushed high, and Kat gasped at the sheer volume. Kat screamed. “Sianach!”

The hound jumped off Sianach and stood aside, panting and watching the deer fall to the ground on his side. Sianach’s head dropped, held up only by his antlers, then the mighty rack shrank, and his head hit the ground with a thud.

“No!” Kat screamed and raced toward the two. The dog looked away from the dying stag toward Kat. His lips peeled back in a slathering snarl. His muscles tensed to leap on her, and she cast her eyes around trying to find a defensive weapon. “Of course!” She cast a defense spell around herself. The hound lunged toward her and smashed into the fragile shield. It shattered and pale yellow splinters like glass scattered through the air. However, it protected Kat for a moment. The hound rolled aside yelping in pain.

Gathering her strength, she blasted the dog with a clear message: “Sit! Stay!” The hound rose to his feet then plopped his rear end on the forest floor. His tongue lolled from the side of his opened mouth, and his tail thumped on the ground.

Kat’s jaw dropped. “Oh! Um, that’s better.” Kat was amazed her command worked at all. “You stay. That’s a good dog.” She stepped slowly toward Sianach but kept her attention on the dog, watching for any change in his now friendly demeanor.

“Oh, no! Sianach?” She dropped to one knee by the deer and placed her hand on his brow. Eyelids fluttered and then opened. Sianach looked up at her. In a weak voice, he said, “That was fun.” He then jerked himself upright and stood. Kat jumped back, astounded as she watched the wound close, the blood slow, and then stop.

Kat glanced at the dog and saw that he stayed put. She didn’t know whether to keep watch on the mutt or try to do something to help Sianach. However, the stag was rapidly healing and soon seemed unharmed, except for the drying blood on his neck.

“What? How?” Kat stammered. But Sianach was not your average, everyday red deer; he was a creature of magic. It shouldn’t surprise her he couldn’t be killed.

Turning her attention back to the dog, she looked him over with interest. His shoulder was as tall as her own. The dog’s shaggy fur coat was a startling, and quite attractive, forest green, and he sported a long, braided tail. By the shape of his blocky head and the size of his jowls, Kat thought he must be a mastiff.

“Just what is going on here?” she asked, planting her fists on her hips and glaring at both creatures.

Sianach stepped toward Kat and pointed his rack toward the dog. “Our apologies, Kat. We did not mean to frighten you.”

Kat looked back and forth at the two legendary beings. She closed her mouth when she realized she’d been gaping. “You scared the stuffing out of me!”

“I would not want to do that. I imagine you need your stuffing.

* * *

SCOTCH BROOM: Book 3 of The Witches of Galdorheim
A magical trip to Stonehenge lands a witch in the Otherworld where an ancient goddess is up to no good.
Kat is on her way to an exciting trip to Stonehenge but is led astray by a jealous rival. Caught in the Otherworld within the Scottish Highlands with a has-been goddess trying to kill her, Kat has to defeat the goddess and rescue her brother from the hag's clutches.

On Amazon in Kindle format Discounted from $2.00 to $0.99
On Smashwords (all formats) Use coupon AS74L to get this book for $0.99





Friday, August 28, 2015

Summer Rerun: The Fickleness of Gods

FAIZAH'S DESTINY: The Tales of Abu Nuwas 2 borrows heavily from Persian mythology, but the gods pretty much match up to the Roman and Greek gods. Essentially, every civilization re-uses the same gods, but give them different names and their own special flavor.

The heroes are often the mighty warrior types: Hercules, Gilgamesh, Samson. Since I’ve written this book for kids, my heroes are teenagers, not at all like the legends (but they might become legendary themselves). They’re not in already in the mythology, so you’ll just have to read "Faizah's Destiny" to find out about them.

As usual, the "real" info is from the Encyclopedia Mythica.

Ahura Mazdah
In Persian belief, Ahura Mazdah ("Lord Wisdom") was the supreme god, he who created the heavens and the Earth, and another son of Zurvan. Atar, his son, battled Azhi Dahaka, the great dragon of the sky (note that Azhi shows up in "Setara's Genie"), and bound it in chains on a high mountain. The dragon was, however, destined to escape and destroy a third of mankind at the final reckoning, before it was slain. Ahura Mazdah was the god of prophetic revelation, and bore both Ahriman and Ormazd.

As leader of the Heavenly Host, the Amesha Spentas, he battles Ahriman and his followers to rid the world of evil, darkness and deceit. His symbol is the winged disc.
Anahita
The ancient Persian water goddess, fertility goddess, and patroness of women, as well as a goddess of war. Her name means "the immaculate one". She is portrayed as a virgin, dressed in a golden cloak, and wearing a diamond tiara (sometimes also carrying a water pitcher). The dove and the peacock are her sacred animals.

Anahita was very popular and is one of the forms of the 'Great Goddess' which appears in many ancient eastern religions (such as the Syrian/Phoenician goddess Anath). She is associated with rivers and lakes, as the waters of birth. Anahita is sometimes regarded as the consort of Mithra.

I use Ahura more or less as described in the mythology site. Because he was the leader of the Amesha Spentas (the good guys), I decided to portray him like Zeus or Thor, just another god amused at the foibles of humankind, but rarely steps into the action. He is also equated with Mithra, so I have him married to Anahita. Ahura shows up in only one chapter ("Demons and Deities") and he chats with Anahita about the progress of the heroes. He claims to have set up the whole situation (just like a man).

I made Anahita my main character’s supporter. She appears to Faizah hovering over a lake. She tells the girl that one or more of her companions (three boys, wouldn’t you know) will be seduced to the dark side by demons. In typical godly fashion, she can’t give Faizah a straight story; she only hints at what might happen.

Excerpt:

Each time the light dimmed, it returned brighter than before, pulsing in time to the beat of her heart. As the shape within the light grew more and more distinct, a part of Faizah’s mind wondered if she should be afraid. Somehow she wasn’t. Instead, she felt a strong attraction to that glowing figure and walked to the lake’s edge to get a better look.

The apparition hovered a few inches above the surface of the lake. Faizah could now see, through the shimmering aura surrounding her, the figure was that of a woman. She was looking out over the lake to the point where the shooting star had disappeared over the caldera rim. Clad in a golden cloak, a diamond tiara adorned her brow, and two small lions lay at her feet. The figure turned slowly to look directly at Faizah, and a gentle smile curved her lips.

Faizah gasped in sudden recognition. This was the goddess Anahita! She did exist! Faizah stood entranced as the patroness of all women, the goddess of water and fertility, and of war, came gliding smoothly over the surface of the lake toward her.

As the figure halted before her, Faizah glanced quickly over her shoulder at their campsite. The boys hadn’t moved, and she could hear Menog’s rumbling snore. She turned back to face the goddess.

“They will not awaken, Faizah,” Anahita’s lilting voice sounded in her ear. “I would speak to you alone.”

“Why...what...why have you appeared to me, Goddess?” Faizah stammered, her voice trembling.
“My husband has listened to your thoughts, Faizah. Ahura favors your purpose. He sent Menog to guide you through the cavern.”

Faizah’s eyes widened as she struggled to grasp what she was hearing. Ahura, too?

“Ah...we are grateful to Ahura for his favor. But...but, if he is protecting us, why did the boys become ill? Why didn’t I get sick, too?”

Anahita’s musical laugh was the tinkling of bells in a breeze. “Pazuzu of the southwest wind controls this valley. He guards it jealously and blows illness toward all who enter. This is why no one lives here.” Her smile widened. “And I might have had some small part in keeping you from getting sick.”

“I have read that Pazuzu can kill,” Faizah ventured, “yet the boys only have a cough. Did you do that, too?”

“No. That was your doing. Pazuzu can indeed kill. The medicine you made is what saved the boys. There is magic in you, Faizah, which is stronger than you know.” Anahita looked over Faizah’s shoulder at their little camp then back at Faizah. Her smile vanished, and her face became serious.

“I, too, favor your journey. But your friends,” she continued with a gesture toward the sleeping boys, “have lost their purpose. Be always on your guard, Faizah, for powerful forces oppose you.”

“If you favor our journey, Goddess, can you not tell me where to find Master Wafai?”

“A fair question, but the answer, I’m sorry to say, is no, I cannot.”

“But...but, you’re a goddess! Surely?”

“Master Wafai is safe; you needn’t worry about him. You are destined to follow a different path.”
Faizah’s brow wrinkled with concern. Why would she be selected by Anahita? She stammered, “What path?”

Anahita’s gaze lowered. “Many no longer believe in us, the gods and goddesses. As their belief wanes, so does our influence in the world. I, my husband, Ahura, my brother and sister goddesses, none of us are as strong as we once were. There are those, like your Master Wafai, who serve us still, and so we retain some of our strength. Even you doubted our existence, but your hope that we were real allows me to appear to you.”

“I’m sorry I ever doubted, Goddess,” Faizah whispered. “What must I do? Is it right that we go first to find the Simurgh, or should we be doing something else?”

“So many questions!” Anahita’s musical laugh drifted across the water. In the distance, a peacock’s raucous shriek seemed to answer her. “Listen, my pet calls to me,” she said. Then her smile faded, and her eyes mirrored the seriousness in her voice.

“Know this, Faizah. I will protect you as much as I can and lend you what assistance I am able. Even so, your success or failure depends on you. Your own wits and your own strength are far more important than any aid I may give you.”

Faizah trembled at the thought that a goddess would depend on her for anything. “Who opposes us?”

“Dev, for one. He relishes the darkness. Darkness begets ignorance, and ignorance begets folly.”

“Dev?” A cold chill ran down Faizah’s back. “The god of war? He is against us? Master Wafai said Dev plots the final war that will destroy the world!”

“This is true. Now you see why it is so important that you succeed in your task.”

Faizah took a deep breath. This was serious. “What else can you tell me? Will we have to face Dev? We’re not heroes. We’re kids. How can we fight a god?” Faizah chewed her lower lip with anxiety.

“I doubt Dev will oppose you directly; he would think that beneath him. Instead, he will send his minions to do his bidding. You must be ever watchful, Faizah, for you cannot know what form they will take. It could be an animal, a human, even a demon sent to turn your friends away from you.”

Anahita’s words did nothing to ease Faizah’s mind. A demon! What could they do against a demon?

*
Faizah's Destiny: The Tales of Abu Nuwas 2
The gods are at war and only a farmer’s daughter can save the world from Armageddon.

 In print and ebook at Amazon. Currently discounted to $0.99
 In all ebook formats at Smashwords. Use Coupon XX54B to get the book for $0.99

The village magician has gone missing. His four pupils think he has left a clue to his whereabouts in the Magicalis Bestialis--the book of magical creatures. They must seek the help of the elusive Simurgh, the mythical birds who know all the secrets of the universe.

However, this is not an easy camping trip into the mountains. Spirits, gods, and demons confront the four friends, who are not aware they’re being set up by otherworldly forces for a much larger task.

A farmer’s daughter, Faizah is chosen to lead the humans in the battle. She must persuade a slave, an orphan, and a rich merchant’s son to join in the battle on the side of good. Although divided by Dev, the evil god of war, the teens must band together to find the Simurgh, rescue their teacher, and stave off Armageddon.



Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Interview: C.J. "Country" James

Today, I interview D.L. Keur, writing as C.J. "Country James" for her Jarvis Family Saga. The first book in the series is being released today, August 25th, on Amazon. Other buy sites to follow.

(Q) Thank you for joining us today. Before we begin, please tell our readers where they can find you.
Well, I'm actually all over the Net, but, specifically as C. J. "Country" James, you'll find me on my Country James website, CountryJames.com and on ReadingCountry.com.   For those who actually want to meet the 'mug' behind the pen name, you'll find me mostly on G+, but I'm also on Facebook and Twitter.

On my preferred hangout, G+, I'm there as DL Keur: https://www.google.com/+DLKeur7. On Twitter: @DLKeur, and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dawn.keur.

(Q) Tell everyone a bit about your books including buy links.
Well, of my self-published books, which are the only ones I'll talk about, we have some SF, but let's not go there.  Let's move onto the interrelated books written by E. J. Ruek and C. J. "Country" James.


As E. J. Ruek, I've published two books, To Inherit a Murderer (Book I, The Ward) and Old Hickory Lane.  To Inherit a Murderer can be encapsulated with 'She thinks he's a murderer...and he is.'  Old Hickory Lane's story can be summed up with 'Raised white, half Native, a young veterinarian struggles to survive rural North Idaho amid poverty and prejudice.'  There are two books each that follow both those titles, and all of them are interconnected.

Deborah Rheinhart of To Inherit a Murderer appears in Old Hickory Lane, Warren Jeffries, D.V.M., of Old Hickory Lane, appears in To Inherit a Murderer, Books 2 and 3, and also in books by C. J. including this novel, Through Better & Worse.

As C. J. "Country" James, this is the first novel of a series that will cover years of the Jarvis family saga, mostly love stories and continuing love stories, including those of their friends and relatives...and, yes, I know the last two to three scenes of the very last book in the series, and it's a heart-warming tear-jerker that will choke you up.  It did me when I saw it in my head in living 3D, full panaoramic mind-video.  And, yes, I wrote it down.

Through Better & Worse, a Montana Love Story is the first book, with (probably) To Have & to Hold next.

The link to the eBook, available on Amazon as of August 25 (2015), is: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B013AUZTCK/  There's also a print (dead tree) and an audio version being prepped for imminent release, the audio to be available on Podiobooks.com and on my website, www.CountryJames.com for download at a very reasonable price with a solid portion of it offered for free.

(Q) Where did the concept for the book (or books) come about?
Life.  Just like Old Hickory Lane and To Inherit a Murderer did.  I've personally lived firsthand, a lot of the incidents in Old Hickory Lane, and I know the woman who inherited the murderous child portrayed in To Inherit a Murderer.  (And, of course, Myrrh in the book was my beloved campaigner.)

In Through Better & Worse, the main family portrayed is based on the family of a rancher who, in the novel, is Franklin Jarvis, the grandfather.  I spent many months of my life on his ranch and love him dearly.

(Q) How long did it take you to finish, from concept to final product?
Well, concept is dated April 4th. Life interfered—rather dramatically—so I began the scene mapping on May 4th. I actually started writing the book on June 4th, and completed the draft June 30th. Actual time logged to write the novel covered a span of 18 days and just over 105 actual hours of typing.  It was a very intense write, almost the fastest I've ever written a novel.

It was an easy story to write, because, as Nathan Lowell said, "Awww, Yeahh.  Know these guys."
I know these people...because I grew up around them for part of my life, then, later, returned and sought them out because I find them wonderful—the good guys in the story, anyway.  Today, I live around then...am one of them.

(Q) Which authors have most influenced your own writing?
Conrad Richter, first and foremost.  Also Keith Laumer, Alexandre Dumas, Gerald Durrell, Thomas B. Costain, Ursula K. Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, T. H. White, Evangeline Walton, Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, and, of course Marva Dasef.  There are others, but you get the idea.

(Q) What do you do for fun other than writing?
Fun? Fix fences, fix barns, clean stalls—all things livestock. I'm also a martial artist, and I'm married to the love of my life, dream guy, babe, so life is...busy. I'm also a graphic artist and web designer, though I'm trying my best to extract myself from those disciplines. It's my goal to spend at least eight hours a day writing, editing, and recording books henceforth in my life. I've postponed 'me' way, way too long.

(Q) Do you have any favorite place where you feel your Muse is more apt to come and play while you write? Or perhaps you listen to music? If so, what do you listen to?
Life is my muse and he's always at play in my life, no matter where I am or what I'm doing. Won't leave me alone...even to sleep.

As to music, well, I gathered up a few songs for writing this book, but I didn't use them. This story was so natural, so known to me, that I just sat down and wrote it. With books in other genres I write, like SF, I do use music. A lot. However, I write in The Zone, so, in essence, once I'm "in", I don't hear or sense anything except the story within which I'm participating, scene-by-scene, as I write it...kind of like being there as part of the story while simultaneously watching it, while simultaneously and completely being unaware of oneself, having one's fingers type it at speed on a sort of autopilot. <--How's that for a run-on sentence! :D  When I finally "pop" out of The Zone, I'm startled to find the pages that have appeared.  I once "popped out" to find I'd written over ten hours straight without even a bathroom break and had written over 10,000 words. My coffee was ice cold and I about broke the world record for sprinting getting to the bathroom in time. (Wish that would happen more often, but, again, life now gets in the way a lot more.)

(Q) Answer the following: - Do you secretly want to write another genre, but don't think you can do it?
No. I write multiple genres, already. The book I want to write, though—something completely cross-over with, well, let's call them strange elements and enigma at its heart—keeps eluding capture. :D  It's going to be a hell of a book, though.  It's inside. I keep seeing it.  Just can't get it to come out into The Zone and swallow me, yet.

- In your ideal world, what is of most value to you: true love, family, success at writing, world peace, clean air and water, other. 
Kindness.

- What are your writing strengths? Weaknesses?
Simultaneously both strengths and weaknesses are my self-critic and my self-assuredness as a writer, which battle one another constantly.

- Coffee or tea?
Gallons of coffee—gallons.  And, yes, it's caffeinated, not that other "stuff."

(Q) Do you have any new projects that you are working on? If so, what are they?
I'm working on the two books which follow this one, and haven't decided which will actually be number 2 or if it really will come out this year. I am also working on Come-Back Road, the book that follows Old Hickory Lane, written under my E. J. Ruek pen name.  I want to release it sometime late fall or early winter.

(Q) How about an excerpt to tantalize the readers?
You bet.  And I almost shared a scene from one of the next books—a sex scene—but decided, no.  (Not even sure I'm keeping it.  Might have to fade to black or release two versions, the one with no sex and the one with the sex left in.)  Anyway, here ya go:

From Chapter 43 of Through Better & Worse, a Montana Love Story


DREE BRAVED IT when they were on the final leg home.  “This running back and forth to the ranch takes a whole half out of our work day.”

“Yeah.”

“The house is almost livable.”

She saw him nod, but his face didn’t give her any clues.  Darned Jarvis genes.  “You should have all been poker players,” she snapped.

He glanced her way.  “What?  Where’d that come from?  What’d I do?”

She laughed.  “It’s not you.  It’s the whole male side of your clan.  I’m trying to feel you out, and you’re not helping, as usual.”

He shifted his eyes sideways for half a second, then put his attention back on the road.

So she’d just say it:  “Can I hire you?  I’ll pay you a good salary.”

He was silent to that all the way up the climb to the house.  He pulled into the garage, then shut the truck off and, finally, turned his face to her.  “Nope.”

Stunned, she couldn’t believe he’d just done exactly what her dad used to do, just said ‘no’.

“You can marry me.”

HE COULD HAVE SHOT HIMSELF.  The look on her face—maybe what people called ‘dismay’.  He hadn’t meant to.  His mouth had just blurted it out—stupid.

She turned away from him, sat a moment, then abruptly opened the cab door, her hands fumbling.

“Dree!”  He reached to grab her, but she was out of the cab that fast, slipped from his fingers to disappear around the corner of Franklin’s new truck, her head bowed, her footsteps quick, almost running.

Damn it!  He knew better.  He knew better with her, anyway.  You had to really work things out ahead of time—prepare.  You had to ‘court’ and ‘woo’ like the olden days—lull her into relaxing her guard, into smiles and laughter, into liking you over and over, again, because she stopped liking you, or, maybe, went back to guarding against you, not trusting your motives or your meaning right afterward.

He’d never worked so hard in his life for a woman, and he’d never had so little to show for it.  And, now, he’d gone and ruined it all.  But, damn it, he loved her.  He loved the way she smelled, the way she laughed, the way she cared for things…about things, the way her eyes shone when she saw the sunrise or the stars, the way she got joy out of little things, and, yes, the way, when she finally got mad or hurt, she fought back—like a horse pushed too hard, like a mother cow who got fed up with you messing with her calf.  Dree was tame as a nanny horse and fierce as an angry cougar.

Damn it.”

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Happy Birthday from Me - #Free Shorts

I have two free days left in this segment of Kindle Select for my little short story sampler book, "Fish Story, A Three Story Sampler."

FREE ON AUGUST 23RD AND AUGUST 24TH AT ALL AMAZONS AROUND THE WORLD.


For Those of You Who Read This Far
Free at Smashwords ALL THE TIME by Reader Sets Price Option





Thursday, August 20, 2015

Summer Rerun: Mordita from Witches of Galdorheim

Mordita the Sorceress

In Bad Spelling, Kat wants to leave Galdorheim Island to find her father's Siberian family. With no magic of her own, she needs help...lots of help. Yes, her best bud/bro Rune is always up for adventure, but she has to find a powerful witch to help her out.

She figures it can't hurt to ask Mordita. What's the worst that can happen? Well, maybe electrocution from a nasty door knocker or something crawling up her back.

Still, Kat is not deterred. She goes to the creepy, slimy, unlit shack where the Sorceress (the old lady prefers that title over Witch) Mordita resides.

Mordita knows all about Kat's slight, ahem, magic deficit disorder (MDD) and is happy to pull a fast one on Thordis. The two don't get along much.

While Mordita has tons of magic, she prefers to maintain her old hag appearance just to keep the Galdorheim witches from stopping by to visit. Mordita is alone, and she likes to keep it that way. She's not quite alone if you want to count a fat orange tiger cat named Kudzu.

Mordita is a mystery. Why did she come to Galdorheim if she doesn't want to consort with the witches and warlocks? Maybe that mystery will be solved, but not in Bad Spelling. In the second book of the series, Midnight Oil, we discover Mordita's true identity--Ilmatar the air elemental spirit. Mordita takes the form of a giant white roc when she has to battle her jealous sister, Ajatar the forest elemental spirit.

Excerpt from Midnight Oil

Ilmatar spun, danced, and dived. It was too many years since she had taken her true form. She was the wind, the hurricane, the tornado. Air she was, air she would be. She sighed, and a tree bent with her breath.

She rose with the heat, dropped low and sped across open fields when clouds blocked the sun’s rays. Yet, neither heat nor cold drove her. She flowed over or around as she pleased. When she was in the mood, she flattened everything in her path.


She laughed, and earth-bound creatures cringed at the booming thunder. She smiled, and a gentle breeze danced over hills and valleys. She reveled in her freedom and then grew angry when she thought how Ajatar stole this from her. She’d almost forgotten the power and glory that was Ilmatar.

Now, she’d get payback. Ajatar, she vowed, would regret this day for the rest of her days if Ilmatar the air spirit had any say.

But enough reveling for now. She had a job to do. Gathering free air to her as she flew, she coalesced into a cutting shaft, sharp and deadly as any arrow, and one thousand times as large. She swooped up, down, and sideways, leaving a vortex of spinning air in her wake.

Increasing her speed and the velocity of spin, she smashed through the tops of trees and touched down, a whirling cyclone in the center of Ajatar’s glade. Moss and branches whirled through the forest clearing and trees bent away from her, howling, cracking and snapping, with the thunder of rustling leaves.

Ajatar had heard her coming; she could hardly miss Ilmatar’s roar. Ajatar grew taller, rising above the treetops, spreading her vast scaled wings. Her mouth gaped and fire roared out. With a single downward thrust of her wings, she soared upward. Ilmatar’s tornado followed close behind.

* * *

Midnight Oil at Amazon (all seem to be discounted to $0.99 as today)
Witches of Galdorheim Series (3-Volume Book)
   Bad Spelling
   Midnight Oil 
   Scotch Broom 
   Spellslinger

Midnight Oil at Smashwords with Coupon Codes
Witches of Galdorheim Series $1.99 each, 1/2 price with coupon (boxed set $1.98 with Coupon GM85M)
   Bad Spelling $0.99
   Midnight Oil Coupon VS53Y
   Scotch Broom  Coupon AS74L
   Spellslinger $0.99


Monday, August 17, 2015

Summer Rerun: Diamond the Unicorn

A Diamond of a Companion

“There was green alligators and long-necked geese
Some humpty backed camels and some chimpanzees
Some cats and rats and elephants, but sure as you're born
The loveliest of all was the unicorn.”
Lyrics and Music by Shel Silverstein

This song kept running through my brain when I wrote about Diamond, a lonely unicorn, who meets up with Kat in her travels through the Otherworld. Naturally, unicorns are drawn to...um...maidens, so Diamond immediately joins Kat’s journey to help her in whatever way he can. That’s what a unicorn is all about, right?

Lately, I’ve seen at least two books which portrayed vicious unicorns, but in both cases, the aberration was a result of some type of black magic. Unicorns are always good, rainbows and lollypops, paragons of virtue, and all-round nice guys when it comes to their attachments to innocent girls.

But is Diamond all good? Does he really have Kat’s best interests at heart? Guess you’ll have to read more than this excerpt from Scotch Broom to find out.

Excerpt from Scotch Broom

Kat spotted Cait Sidhe angling backward to the same spot where Sianach and Cusith were converging. Frustrated by the soggy muck, Kat could only slog slowly across the swamplands. As she neared her three companions, she spotted a pond. About twenty feet across, it was bigger than most of the scattered pools sprinkling the bogs. Tall grassy bunches topped with white, feathery tufts hid much of the pond from view. When Kat finally came near enough to see the surface, she stopped to stare.

Two horses sloshed in the pool. Sunk up to their hocks in the water, they struck at each other with raised forelegs. Strangely, neither horse whinnied or screamed, but the sounds of their huffing breath made it clear they were both near exhaustion. One horse was sky blue, the other snow white. Kat looked harder and thought she saw...yes! A horn grew from the white horse’s forehead. A unicorn! A smile spread across her face before a scowl of concern quickly replaced it. Blood ran down the unicorn’s neck, splashing into the scummy, green pond water turning it a noxious brown.

The two creatures, their muscles rippling, hooves slinging the muck into the air, appeared to be matched in strength. Steamy breaths came out in blasts from the blue horse’s dilated nostrils. Kat lifted first one leg then the other out of the mire, only to have them sucked down again. Now up to her knees, she could hardly move at all. She’d lost one shoe somewhere along the way and would have to spell another up as soon as she figured out what to do about the battling beasts.

Kat reached out with her thoughts, trying to break into the mind of either the unicorn or the blue horse, but hit the same frustrating wall blocking her ability to read animal thoughts. Then, she heard something in her head.

Help me!” It was the unicorn pleading for aid. For a moment, Kat was puzzled. She had not been able to hear the thoughts of the other creatures in the Otherworld. She felt the sincerity in the plea and had to help the unicorn.

The edge of the pond had a raised bank, which kept the water from streaming across the bogs. Kat glanced around but couldn’t see anything to use as a weapon. Pulling her legs out of the muck, she climbed atop the small berm. When the battle moved her direction, she bent her knees and jumped as far as she could. Grabbing the long mane of the blue horse, she pulled herself forward and slung both arms around its powerful neck. At first, she thought she had him when his head ducked toward the water. Her grip didn’t last long.

The blue horse reared back on its hind legs, but Kat held on, her body whipping back and forth under the horse’s neck. When its forelegs came down hard, her hold slipped. Plunging toward the water, her stomach knotted, and she held her breath. But when her feet hit the bottom the water was not quite waist deep. She fell backward onto her rear end with her head just above the surface. Kat let out her breath in relief...until she looked up into a wide-opened mouth full of black teeth surrounded by a flash of blue. It lunged at her head. She tensed her shoulders and brought her arms to cover her face in a feeble attempt to protect herself.

The unicorn had jumped backward when Kat launched herself at the blue horse. Now it lunged forward with its head down, its spiral horn pointed at the breast of the blue horse. The blue reared, barely avoiding the unicorn’s attack.

Kat risked a glance while she struggled to stand. She saw Sianach, Cusith, and Cait Sidhe were all standing around the pond, looking on with interest, but doing nothing.

“Why don’t you help?” she screamed at them.

“Who would you have us help?” asked Sianach with a mild tone.

“Me,” Kat yelled.

Cusith jumped into the pond and slogged his way through the shallow water to her side. “Grab hold, and I’ll get you out.” Kat clutched his neck and pulled herself to her feet. Looking around, she saw that the two horses stood still at opposite sides of the pool, their heads down, sides heaving.

“What is this? I cannot believe you, you people! All I wanted was to take my Winter Abroad. But could it be that simple? No! Instead, I get a bunch of gladiator animals all intent on proving whose attitude is bigger! What is wrong with you...you...see! I don’t even know what to call you!” She waded ashore holding Cusith’s fur to keep herself upright.

Sianach laughed his bugling, grunting laugh. “Not an attitude comparison at all. These two are quite intent on killing each other.”

* * *

SCOTCH BROOM: Book 3 of The Witches of Galdorheim
A magical trip to Stonehenge lands a witch in the Otherworld where an ancient goddess is up to no good.
Kat is on her way to an exciting trip to Stonehenge but is led astray by a jealous rival. Caught in the Otherworld within the Scottish Highlands with a has-been goddess trying to kill her, Kat has to defeat the goddess and rescue her brother from the hag's clutches.






On Amazon:
Witches of Galdorheim Series (3-Volume Book) $3.00
   Bad Spelling $1.00
   Midnight Oil $2.00
   Scotch Broom $2.00
   Spellslinger $1.00

Friday, August 14, 2015

Summer Rerun: The Camel from Setara's Genie

Still summer, still re-runrning. I kind of enjoyed writing about THE CAMEL, an extremely minor character in the book, "Setara's Genie."

The camel is known as the ship of the desert and is one of the most common draft animals in the middle east. A 1001 Arabian Nights style story like Setara's Genie must have a camel somewhere in the mix.

In one chapter, Setara is attempting to learn to ride a camel. She doesn't see the purpose since she had a perfectly wonderful horse, Nasreen.

We looking in from the outside know something Setara doesn't. A tradition of the Sultan of Semidor (the area in which Setara lives) says young girls coming to a marriageable age (sixteen) ride into the city on the back of a pure white camel. Sort of a Debutante Coming Out Party.

Setara doesn't add two plus two and realize that the ceremonial arrival marks her as a woman ready to be wed to some merchant or even the Sultan's son (who's in the market for a bride).

The spice girl, Najda, who is the listener to Abu Nuwas's tales about Setara, is in the same predicament. She's on the verge of a forced marriage to an old man. As a fourth wife, she knows she will not be treated very well by wives 1, 2, and 3. But she's stuck in a society which gives her no choice on her potential bridegroom.

This all comes back to the camel Setara must ride the camel to display herself as a possible member of some man's harem.

Excerpt

Setara screamed and flung herself from the saddle. “Ow! Ow! Stop! Whoa! Stop!” She dropped six feet, right on her tailbone, screamed again, and burst into tears. Setara’s faithful companion, Sheik, ran circles around her, alternately barking at the camel and whining at his mistress.

Dukak, the camel driver, rushed over and grabbed the dromedary’s reins. He tapped the big camel’s knee, and the beast obligingly folded its long legs. On his knees, the camel turned his head to face the crying girl. He drew his head back then snaked it forward, spitting a huge wad of cud between Setara’s shoulder blades.

Mistress, you should wait for the camel to kneel. You fell from so high, no wonder you are hurt.” The camel driver pulled out a handkerchief and plucked the wad from her back.

Setara stopped crying and struggled to her feet. Dukak offered his hand, but she ignored him. She glared at the camel, which continued chewing his cud. “He stinks, too!”

Are you injured?” Dukak’s brow furrowed with concern.

Not much,” Setara said, rubbing her abused backside. “A horse is a much finer means of transportation, Dukak. I fail to see why I need to learn to ride a camel. They sway and bounce around too much and that saddle! Why is it made of wood, not padded leather?"

Dukak ignored her question and waved his hands as if fending her off. “It’s expected, Mistress Setara. Women must enter the sultan’s palace grounds on the back of a pure white camel. So it is written, and so it shall be.” Dukak spoke as if this explained it all.

I won’t be going until next week, so I have plenty of time to learn how to ride later...much later.”

Dukak ignored her statement once more. He looked at the camel’s saddle, rubbing his chin in thought. “Perhaps I could modify a horse saddle to fit. It requires a much longer girth and padding to protect the camel’s back.”

How about some padding to protect my...back?”

Dukak didn’t bother answering since he was busy measuring the camel for a new saddle.

Setara limped away in a dark mood. It was stupid to go through all this just for a ten-minute trip through the city streets. She didn’t want to meet the boring old Sultan of Semidor anyway. Setara sighed. She did look forward to seeing Hasib, the sultan’s flying horse, again, but she had no interest in the sultan...or his son. When she thought of Hasib, it reminded her of their grand adventure the last time they met. Fighting pirates and rescuing Hasib’s mate, Habiba. Setara thought fondly of the good times.
* * *
Setara's Genie is available in ebook and print formats on Amazon and on Smashwords in all ebook formats.




Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Pre-Order "Through Better & Worse"

By C.J. "Country" James, a contemporary western romance unlike any of those lightweight know-nothing-about-real-cowboys romances.

Getting a boot in the door almost costs Jake Jarvis his life.  It does cost him two hats, some jail time, and a whole bunch of money. 

But Dree won't see him for dust.

Guns, roses, and the flow of raw whiskey take them both Through Better & Worse.

Pre-Order Now. Available August 25th on Amazon.

Review coming soon on The Contrary Canadian Blog.

Excerpt - Chapter 1

Dree downshifted from fifth to fourth, but it wasn’t enough. Her old pickup just didn’t have enough guts to pull the hills, anymore. She dropped to third, losing momentum, and the truck’s speed stabilized at thirty-five. She put on her hazard lights.

Behind her, several cars came up fast and, after following for a minute, honked, then started weaving in and out across the center line, hoping for an opportunity to pass. One of the Aussie dogs sitting on the seat next to her whined and glanced back—Chip, the more timid one. Laddie, the more aggressive but smartest, got down on the floor. There wasn’t a turn-out where she could pull over to let the cars by on the narrow, two-lane highway, its asphalt crumbling at the edges of a non-existent shoulder, remnant snow berms still melting off over the steep drop-off into the ditch.

A semi passed going the other way, its wash buffeting the trailer enough that it swayed. White-knuckled, Dree fought the urge to over correct. She got to the crest and her pickup gained ground. She got it up to forty-five, then kept it there as she started the descent.

The cars behind her were piling up. Oncoming traffic was steady, though, and there was still no turn-out. There wouldn’t be until the bottom of the hill. Behind her, the line of cars was getting longer. And angrier, she guessed. Only half-a-mile to go to the bottom.

The oncoming traffic finally cleared.

In the rearview, she saw a fancy, black RAM crew cab dive out into the oncoming lane from three cars back. Ahead, a car came around a curve. Then two more, another semi behind them. “Omigod. You fool!

The pickup roared past her.

Panicked, she jerked the wheel just in time to avoid collision with the black truck’s rear-end as its driver dove for safety, nearly clipping her. Her passenger side tires caught the pavement edge and gravel. The trailer yawed, pulling her pickup’s back-end sideways. She hit the trailer brakes and prayed, her grip ferocious, painful, on the wheel. They were going over. Chip joined Laddie on the floor.

But they didn’t go over. They steadied. She swore. Fought hysteria, red-darkness rising. And she cursed the black pickup for his stupidity. “Jackass!”

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Summer Rerun: Excerpt from Eagle Quest

A quiet, little adventure book, "Eagle Quest" has some surprises, twists and turns for young readers who'd like some adventure and danger, but aren't really into blood-soaked gore fests generally passed off as tween and YA fiction. Nor is there any sex. Yeah, a couple of the kids kind of like each other, but they're not quite ready for the whole girlfriend-boyfriend thing. Mostly, it's about friends, trust, and kindness. Buying for your kids or grandkids, but want to be a little on the conservative side about what your 10 to 13 year old reads? "Eagle Quest" might be just the book for gifting to your kid or grandkid.

EAGLE QUEST

Fiona, Hap, Billy, and Mitch make an odd set of friends, as different from the usual high school crowd as they are from each other. Mitch, the oldest of the four, is a half-breed Native American, adopted by white parents.

Troubled that he doesn't know his tribe, he avidly studies Native American history and lore. Learning the nearby Bear Valley Wildlife Refuge is a bald eagle nesting site, he wants to add an eagle feather to his medicine bag and explore the refuge as a site for his Vision Quest, a Native American rite of passage.

He and his three friends get far more than an overnight campout as they encounter a black bear, an old man living in the refuge, and a pair of eagle poachers. Bringing the poachers to justice, they test their courage and gain confidence in themselves and each other.

Cover photo taken in Oregon by Coralie (http://www.MrsRoadRunner.com ), professional wildlife photographer.

Kindle (currently marked down by Amazon to $.99) and Print ($8.75) editions available at Amazon.com.

Excerpt

The kids walked through the last clumps of ferns and came out to the edge of the clearing. As Hap predicted, the massive trunk of a Douglas fir filled most of the clearing. Already partially disintegrated into rotted wood, it had obviously been there for years. Still, it was impressive with a diameter of four or five feet blocking the view to the far side of the clearing.

“Look at where the knot fell out of it,” Fiona said pointing toward one end where a squirrel’s bushy tail stuck out of a knothole. “Nice little home he’s got there.”

They scanned the length of the fallen giant searching for more bolt-holes for squirrels or whatever other small animals might have taken up residence. Fiona and Billy started across the clearing to take a closer look.

“Oh my God!” Fiona screamed as a huge, black head rose from the other side of the fallen tree.

“Shush, shush. Quiet or you’ll get his attention,” Black Crow whispered. “Let’s just back out of the clearing.” Billy and Fiona took his advice and backed away from the fallen log, carefully watching the bear’s head.

The large black bear heard them talking and began pulling itself up to the top of the tree trunk.

“Run!” Billy gasped and grabbed Fiona’s arm to pull her out of the clearing, but Black Crow didn’t move.

“No, no. Don’t run,” Hap hissed, “It’ll chase us.”

Hap, Fiona, and Billy backed out of the clearing, leaving Black Crow facing the bear alone. The three kids stopped several feet outside the clearing, looking back.

“Come on, Mitch,” Billy urged. “Get away while he’s still on the tree.”

However, Black Crow didn’t seem to hear him, or just didn’t pay attention. He just stood watching as the bear humped himself to the top of the tree trunk, then slid down the side closest to where the boy stood transfixed.

“We can’t leave him,” Billy whispered.

“Just what do you expect us to do?” Hap answered in the same low tone.

“I don’t know.”

The bear stood on all fours with his head raised as he sniffed the air. He moved his head side to side, seeking the source of the odor his keen nose detected–the smell of a human being.

Black Crow stood stock still, barely breathing. He watched as the bear took a step toward him. The bear continued waving his head back and forth, sniffing as he did. Black Crow thought the bear might not see him in the dappled light and shade of the clearing. Then the bear looked him straight in the eye.

Neither boy nor bear moved for long seconds. The bear took another step forward, and then another. Black Crow moved only his eyes left and right, but saw nothing in the clearing except himself and the bear. The bear was watching him.

The bear continued its slow approach until he was with a few feet of Black Crow. It reared up on his hind legs. Towering over the boy, the bear sniffed again. Black Crow saw the bear’s eyes raise from his own to look at something behind him. The boy thought the bear must have noticed the sounds the others made as they ran away through the trees.

The bear looked down again into Black Crow’s eyes. Black Crow thought he should avert his eyes, not look at the bear directly. He read somewhere a bear would consider looking into its eyes a threat. Yet he couldn’t wrench himself away from gazing into the deep, black eyes. Intelligent eyes, he thought. He felt the bear was considering him, measuring his strength and will. Black Crow knew, somehow, if he looked away, the bear would think less of him.

Finally, the black bear dropped again to all fours, turned around and walked away at a leisurely pace. At the edge of the clearing, he turned again and looked in Black Crow’s eyes. Then, impossibly, the huge creature disappeared like a puff of smoke dispersed by a breeze.

Black Crow knew with absolute certainty, as if a voice had spoken to him within his mind, the bear was his spirit brother.

He heard noises behind him and turned to see the three others slowly coming back into the clearing. He smiled. They hadn’t run. These were his true friends.

“Wow. That was amazing,” Billy gasped, “just totally, freaking amazing.”


Friday, August 07, 2015

Summer Reruns: Rune from Witches of Galdorheim

The Witches of Galdorheim: Spellslinger, Bad Spelling, Midnight Oil, Scotch Broom
A klutzy witch, a shaman's curse, a quest to save her family. Can Kat find her magic in time?
$2 each book or $3 for the Set at Amazon and Smashwords

*Spellslinger is free at Smashwords with the User Sets the Price Option

Rune

Kat, the main character of the Witches of Galdorheim series, can hardly leave home without her baby brother tagging along. True, he's not only be helpful, but has saved her butt more than once.

Did I mention Rune is half vampire? I know that sounds like a tired old paranormal trope these days, but I promise you it was my idea first. Matter of fact one publisher told me that it was impossible for someone to be fathered by a vampire and a human mother. I beg to differ.

C'mon! It's paranormal. If vamps can sparkle or hunt their own kind or team up with demons, then my boy can be half vampire. Books I've seen released in the last few of years have used the half-vamp to good advantage. Just to let all of you know, Rune was first conceived (haha) in 2007, so I'm pretty darn sure I got there first or darned near the beginning.

What does Rune look like? Actually, I picture Rune as a young Adam Lambert, but there just aren't many 12-year-olds around who can take on that drop-dead glam rocker look.

Rune shows up in many excerpts this month on my blog and on my hosts for the month.
Here's an excerpt from "Spellslinger," which takes place before the events in "Bad Spelling."

Excerpt from Spellslinger

“Aunt Thordis,” he called. Her office door behind the raised dais was closed, which usually meant ‛go away and leave me alone’.

This time, though, the door swung open and the tall, blonde witch came through. She glanced at Rune, and her lips twitched to an almost-smile. “Well, Rune, it looks like you’ve got something weird planned.” She walked across the platform to its edge, then floated to the floor. Thordis looked him up and down, put her hands on her hips, and snorted. “I do not believe, nephew, that we have any ranches close by.”

“Oh, this isn’t a cowboy outfit. I’m the lawman.” A shiny star appeared on his shirt over his heart saying “Sheriff Rune.”

The regal witch nodded slowly. “I see. What does that have to do with me?”

“I want to spell up a town like in the old west in the United States. It’s got to have some bad guys. Maybe some bandits or cattle rustlers.” He touched his Stetson. “I’m the good guy.”

“Again, why would this interest me in the slightest?”

“I’m not good enough at spellcasting yet to make a whole town.” Rune stuck his thumbs in his gun belt and said, with what he hoped was an authentic western drawl, “I’d be right pleased, ma’am, if’n you’d loan me some magic.”

“A whole town? Where exactly are you going to put this town?”

“Oh, outside the village dome. There’s that big glacier near the ice cave. That should be plenty of room. All I need is the street, a saloon, ‛cause that’s where the bad guys hang out, the sheriff’s office, a trading post, and some horses tied up outside the saloon.”

The corners of Thordis’s mouth turned down, and she heaved a deep sigh. “You’re not asking for much, are you?”

Rune pressed his palms together and donned his best begging face. “Pretty please.” Thordis may give him a hard time, but he knew deep down she loved him. He’d just have to wear her down.

Thordis shook her head, but said, “All right, but I’ll only give you two hours of booster magic.”

Rune grinned. “That’ll be plenty, Aunt Thordis. Thanks!”

With a quick spell, Thordis enhanced Rune’s magic for his project. When she finished, she grabbed his chin and leaned over him. “Stay out of trouble, boy. Indiscriminate use of magic can be dangerous.” Rune nodded his head vigorously, and she let him go.