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Monday, July 30, 2012

Quick Review - The Emerald City by J.A. Beard

The Emerald City (Osland Trilogy, #1)The Emerald City by J.A. Beard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this book a lot. It held my attention from the first line onwards. The play on Wizard of Oz is handled deftly and not heavy-handed with th "look at my in-joke" attitude I've seen elsewhere.

Most surprising to me is how well Mr. Beard portrays the first person voice for Gail. His understanding of the teenage psyche is excellent.

There are a couple of downsides, but nothing that would diminish a pleasurable read. One of my main pains in the a.. (I guess the Osland Academy's rule against cursing applies here) is a bit of muddle with the rift watchers' roles since they're referred to both by their first names, then by "Miss Lastname." Maybe my brain cells are firing at full capacity, but I hate having to stop and think who is who.

I got my copy at Smashwords and found a lot of strange errors (missing words or extra words that just didn't smell of typo). At first, I was aghast at the number of errors, but then caught on that the uploaded file to Smashwords might be corrupt. I queried the author about these errors and determined that a flawed file was at fault. The Kindle and B&N editions should be much cleaner and the author is making adjustments. If you got an earlier version with the strangeness, don't count it as a fault.

This is a series, and I'm definitely interested in reading the next book. Best of all, I can choose to continue the series or not. I abhor books in a series that leave a clifhanger of gigantic proportions in an attempt to force the reader to buy the next in a series. My answer is always no. Give me a fully realized story in each book in a series or you won't keep me as a reader. Mr. Beard has done very well in making me WANT to know what happens next, rather than trying to force me to find out.


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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Quick Review - Loyalty Binds Me by Joan Szechtman

Loyalty Binds Me by Joan Szechtman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Richard III. What's the first thing that comes to mind? Drowning little boys in a vat of wine? A hunched back that makes dogs bark at him? Lie, cheat, steal his way to the throne of England?

I've got news for you. There's a whole Ricardian Society that defends Richard III claiming he's not the horrible person portrayed by Will Shakespeare.

Ms. Szechtman gives the readers Richard's side of the story with a lovely device. She has Richard transported into the 21st Century where he attempts to live like a normal man. Unfortunately for Richard, the statute of limitations on murder is forever. He finds himself arrested for the murder of the princes.

This is a spellbinding book. Very original idea and handled well both historically and as a speculative fiction.

I was lucky to get an advance copy of the book. I've discovered recently that Loyalty Binds Me is now aailable at the usual outlets.

I recommend it to readers of historical fiction and speculative fiction. It's a nice blend of both.


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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Quick Review - Desert Fire by H.M. Prevost

Note: A rarely give 5 stars to books even if I really liked them. I think this one was a step up, so it got one of my very very rare top ratings. 

Desert FireDesert Fire by H.M. Prévost
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Boy, am I glad I bought Desert Fire. Also pleased I got it at a spectacular price.

This is everything a contemporary teen thriller should be. I was staying up way too late to read just a few more pages.

Desert Fire grabbed me from page 1 and did not disappoint all the way through to a brilliant ending. I won't give it away, but I'm super pleased the end sets up a perfect sequel.

We get a close look into the Arab world through the eyes of Nick, who's unwillingly moved to United Arab Emirates when his mother gets a job teaching English. I know H.M. lived in the area for several years, so I have no doubt as to the authenticity of the setting and culture.

Brothers Faris and Mohammad, are wonderful sidekicks, providing the hero with the backup support he needs to solve the mystery, but also provide respectful comic relief. I'd love to know these two wild and crazy Emiratis.

A bit of romance with an Arabian princess satisfies the romance readers. Will Nick get to know Shamsir despite the fact that her father would go ballistic if he knew she was flirting with a Canadian non-Arab?

Okay, lots of reviewers who happen to know the authors give 5 star reviews. I'm not one of them. I will grudgingly give out 4 stars for a very well-written book. I HAVE to give Desert Fire the top rating.


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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Quick Review - Gypsy Blood

Gypsy Blood (Born to Romany Blood, Book 1)Gypsy Blood by Lorrie Unites-Struiff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rita is a cop. However, she's also of Romany blood and has a crystal that helps her find the bad guys. Using it, she can see the face of the last person the corpse saw before death. This works pretty well until, the last face isn't right. Rita thinks that her crystal's not working right, so she consults mom.

Problem is, the crystal is working fine, but the killer is...not so easy to find.

From that beginning, Gypsy Blood leads you into the realm of gypsies and a dark family secret. A major hunk, Matt, shows up to work the case. Rita is attracted, but tries to keep her distance. However, Matt knows things about the serial killer stalking the streets that Rita does not know. Together, they must find a horrible beast from the past who's killing prostitutes, but only because the taking is easy and the beast needs blood.

Ms. Unites-Struiff carries the story into the realm of the supernatural, along with some hot scenes between Rita and Matt, to take the reader along on a wild, supernatural ride. Great read.


*** Previously reviewed under the title Gypsy Crystal


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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Vote on Cover Contest

Voting begins on You Gotta Read Cover Contest. I really like my cover, of course, but there are a couple I'm tempted to vote for over mine. Nah, I'll vote for mine and I hope you do too.



Friday, July 20, 2012

Quick Review: Ebenezer's Locker

Ebenezer's LockerEbenezer's Locker by Anne E. Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Who's sending ghostly messages to 6th grader Rhonda? Old Ebenezer, the former owner of the Psychical School (and long dead) wants Rho to find Locker Number 176. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to exist.

With the help of her best friends and an elderly medium, Rho goes on the hunt for the elusive locker. Doing a little spirited time traveling, she discovers what Ebenezer wants her to find in the present day. But will the Principal allow her to tear out the walls in the closet of the Teachers' Lounge? Start reading to find out.

Rhonda is a delightful and spunky MC of this middle-grade paranormal adventure. I hope she takes her buddies on some more spirit chasing in a sequel or two.

I very much enjoyed this read and recommend it highly for every age group. If you enjoy fun MG/YA, then this is a great one to grab for a cheerful and fast read.


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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Mystery Blurb - Sunshine Boulevard

J.Q. Rose is featuring blurbs this month on her blog. My blurb appears today, July 18th. Drop by to leave a comment. 

 * * *

SUNSHINE BOULEVARD
by J.Q. Rose

Who or what is killing the seniors on Sunshine Boulevard? Follow Jim and Gloria Hart, snowbirds who annually migrate to Florida for warm sunshine, fun, and games in snow-free winters. However this season, Jim Hart, a volunteer First Responder in his retirement community of Citrus Ridge, is drawn into the investigation of the mysterious deaths. Even in the midst of the unfortunate demise of the residents on Sunshine Boulevard, the Harts try to enjoy the winter with friends. They don't realize that their friends are getting together for their own kinds of affairs with each other. The neighbors are in a dither over the deaths, but perhaps more intrigued by the gossip about the affairs and why the naked lady was found lying in the geranium bed.

BUY LINK Muse It Up Publishing Bookstore
http://tinyurl.com/2c53noz

REVIEW
MR Review
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewer: Amanda

Following the senior couple Gloria and Jim Hart, two snowbirds who migrate annually to Florida, Sunshine Boulevard is a page turning mystery. Instead of relaxing in their winter home of Citrus Ridge, Florida, playing golf endlessly and attending events at the community club, the couple becomes involved with a string of deaths and the gossip surrounding them. Jim, who is a First Call Responder volunteer, witnesses some of the mysterious deaths right after they occur, giving him the benefit of acquiring pieces to the puzzle before the public. Deaths in a senior community are not uncommon, per se, but Rose's writing foreshadows someone or something lurking just beneath Florida's rays of sunshine. Sunshine Boulevard is a gripping quick read and has encouraged me to be very wary when visiting the Sunshine State in the future

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Quick Review: The Mall Fairies: Exile

The Mall Fairies: ExileThe Mall Fairies: Exile by Conda V. Douglas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can't remember whether I bought this book or if I won it on a blog tour. Nevertheless, however I obtained it, I was determined to do my duty as a good neighbor (this book is from my own publisher, MuseItUp) and read/review it.

I paged forward to Chapter 1 and started reading. OMG! I'm looking at 66,000 words of 5-8 year old picture book material! I stopped short of pounding the 'book' on my desktop when I realized that it was my Kindle that would get the pounding. Bad idea.

Heaving a huge sigh, I forged ahead reading about Swoop the fairy and her hot/cold struggle with the fairy laws and human Grace with her huge load of guilty baggage. I felt bad with Swoop when she discovers her best friend, One Wing, breaking Rule Number 1 of Fairy Law. He's not only shown himself to a human, but seems to be best buddies with the drunk old lady in the Christmas shop in the mall. Even worse, the old lady appears to have made a doll which looked exactly like One Wing. Fretting over this potential exposure of fairydom, Swoop decides to steal the doll and get her friend back to Haven, the fairy home located in the shopping mall's attic.

Meanwhile, Grace is trying to figure out how to save the old drunk lady (who happens to be her grandmother) from being shipped off to the looney bin. After all, she claims to see fairies and spends half her time loaded to the gills. Grace also wants to get the heck out of the dead-end little town and go to a school of design. Double down on the guilt.

Next time I looked at the clock, I was up a good hour past my usual lights out time. Yeah, I was dragged into this story despite my fear of it being a huge long sappy Disney barf festival of a fairytale.

Damn it! Conda Douglas somehow made this made-for-toddlers world into an exciting and emotion-laden story of parallel lives: Swoop and Grace struggle mightily to solve the burdens placed on them by friends and family. They make mistakes and worsen the situations half the time, then have to race extra hard to make up for the errors.

The Mall Fairies is not a sugary little tale for kids barely past the picture book stage. It's just a darn good book about friendship, family, making mistakes, growing up, and getting wiser from being stupid.

I recommend this first book of the The Mall Fairies series. If I hadn't fallen upon this book almost by accident, I wouldn't have read it. Too young for this old lady I'd think, but I'd have been wrong. I'm glad I chanced upon it. Sometimes being forced to read or see something is exactly how you discover something really great.


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Monday, July 16, 2012

Quick Review - Veiled Virtues

Veiled VirtuesVeiled Virtues by Jan Fischer Wade
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I groaned when I read the first page. Oh, no! Another angsty teenager whose mother hates her, blah blah blah.

Ms. Wade laid my fears to rest soon enough and kept me glued to the story before the end of chapter 1.

Paige is a high school graduate who's lucky enough to get a gig as a house sitter in England. What 18-year-old wouldn't be delighted at the prospect? On her own, a great place to live, a quaint village in the hinterlands. And even better, she meets Nathaniel, a too-hot-to-be-true real live knight. But it's a little unsettling that he owns a curiosity shop called Magog. Paige wonders if the guy is into something sinister, even though she was attracted to him.

We learn that Paige has disturbing visions on occasion which seem prescient. This ability is not something she wants to have, particularly when it causes the old scars on her forehead and hands to bleed. Messy, and people do start to wonder.

As it turns out, though, Nathaniel and his family are all members of a long-standing group called the Rosetta Guard. Many of them have greater or lesser psychic talents, so Paige's visions and stigmata (hysterically induced bleeding matching Jesus's wounds) are not outside the realm of their understanding. But, Paige shows signs of having a lot more psychic power than even she believed.

Now we're into a nice paranormal romance, and there's some evil lurking in the background. The Brotherhood of Cerberus are the dark rivals of the Guard. They have sussed out Paige's talents, and they want her in their group. A variety of attacks bring to light the purpose of the Guardians when they protect Paige from the evil Cerbs.

Lots of romance, evil bad guys, a bit of a question where loyalties lie all adds up to a rousing tale. It ends without a cliffhanger, but clearly open to a sequel. I believe the second book is already in the production line.

One nitpick. I thought the second part of the book which is in Nathaniel's point of view was not as strong as parts 1 and 3 where Paige is the focus. I think the author is more comfortable in the female voice. I can't quite say why, except the tone didn't ring as true as in Paige's voice.

Overall, a nice read. If you're a fan of YA contemporary paranormal, then you won't be disappointed with Veiled Virtues.


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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Quick Review - Technomage by Clayton Bye

Technomage
by Clayton Bye
Kindle Edition
4 Stars out of 5 * * * *
Mixing technology and magic to good effect.



I read the previous book, Sorcerer's Key, and enjoyed it a lot. So when I found the sequel, I jumped right on it.

As stated in the book's description, it is an epic story, and I think it deserves to be epic length (well, maybe not that long, but I wouldn't mind 90K-100K). Anybody who's read my reviews will notice that my complaint is almost invariably: too many words. This is one of the rare instances where I want more, not less.

Jack Lightfoot is a mage like no other. He can easily bridge the gap between Earth and Eden, the former a technological world, and the latter a world of magic. The mage who can combine the best of both is fairly unbeatable, however, Satan has been unbeatable for a long, long time, so Jack is not equipped for the initial assault that kills his entire family and destroys his human body.

He becomes the "ghost in the machine" by escaping into the Google global network. He hangs out for some years hiding from Satan and his technomage minions and trying to find somebody out in the world who can help him defeat the devil. A very tall order, indeed. The assistance comes in the form of two characters. Victoria, a child genius, grows up to provide all the technical assistance Jack needs to fight the devil. Brim, a preacher/shaman, is the spiritual powerhouse Jack requires.

With the help of these two, Jack can fight the very devil and, if not destroy him, can at least stop Satan's play to control both Earth and Eden. Any more would be a spoiler, so I'll leave that to the reader to discover.

I would love to see a novel starring Victoria, the only person who understands Jack in his form as an electronic ghost. He's legend within the geek community, but the rest of the world pretty much ignores him. Victoria is the one who gives Jack the body he needs. Reverend Brim is his spiritual force. So, I'd also like more on Brim's background. How does a Native American minister of the gospel combine the One God with the gods of his culture to help Jack defeat the devil?

Well, you'll just have to read the book to find out. There's a hint of another book in the From Earth to Eden series. I hope Mr. Bye is working on it. He's got a fan out here waiting for more.

***
Note: I'm going to start post my reviews on my blog. I've usually only posted on Goodreads, Amazon, and the like. Why not share my wisdom (quit laughing) with my blog readers as well? Marva

Monday, July 09, 2012

MuseItUp's Christmas in July Contest

Here's the deal. Fifteen MuseItUp authors signed up to hide a Christmas Tree somewhere on their blog or website. You, the reader, have to find as many as you can to win prizes.

Here's where you'll find the important details of the contest.

Want to know what you're playing for? (whips cloth covering off goodie pile)


PRIZES: click on covers for more ebook details


Package One: a $25.00 gift certificate to MuseItUp Publishing's bookstore


Package Two: 10 EBOOKS




You Gotta Read Covers - Scotch Broom

The cover to the 3rd book in the Witches of Galdorheim series is featured on You Gotta Read cover contest today.

Voting for best cover starts on the 21st/22nd (it varies).

Kindle Edition


Saturday, July 07, 2012

Scotch Broom Characters: Cait Sidhe


SCOTCH BROOM: Book 3 of The Witches of Galdorheim (Kindle Edition)
A magical trip to Stonehenge lands a witch in the Otherworld where an ancient goddess is up to no good.

The Cat Fairy, Cait Sidhe


From the Encyclopedia Mythica:
Sidhe (pronounced 'shee') literally means "people of the (fairy) hills". It is the Gaelic name for the fairies in both Ireland and the Highlands of Scotland. Usually these fairies are attracted to those who are beautiful as well as wealthy.
Many many, many, many writers are in love with the Celtic myths. I’ve delved into them, too. However, I’m not a big fan of the flitty little cute faeries (or fae or fairies). In Celtic mythology, there’s a fairy (or fae or faerie) for just about any purpose. The “serious” fantasies love the idea of the fairy troupe. More than a few equate fairies to Arthurian legends, many specifically to Merlin.

Scotch Broom, is set in the Scottish Highlands, or, rather, the Otherworld which is another dimension that exists within the Flow Country. Of course, I had to include at least one fairy in the mix or I’d be violating some unwritten fantasy rule.

If you write Celtic fantasy, then you know that Sidhe is pronounced Shee in Ireland and Sith in Scotland. I wonder where George Lucas got Sith lords? Hmm.

Anyway, I found a particular sidhe I liked. She’s a big black cat with a white chest. Aha! I happen to have the model for said cat (in a much reduced size) sitting at my door every morning demanding a handout. We call her Bitch Kitty. Yes, she has attitude in spades. So, there’s my model for Cait Sidhe, a companion to my erstwhile heroine, Kat.

Excerpt


Kat has already found two companions: Sianach a stag and Cusith (another sidhe) a giant, green hound. They’re tromping through the swamps trying to find the Trow King’s hall in the middle of the Otherworld (the alternate magic world in the Scottish Highlands).

They marched on in a straight line, having no better idea of which direction to go, while Cusith zigzagged ahead of them with his nose close to the earth. Suddenly, the green hound raised his head and bayed. A moment later, he galloped across the moor, water splashing when his huge paws hit the tiny pools.

“What’s up with him?” Kat asked.

Sianach lifted his chin for a better view. “He appears to be in pursuit of an animal of some type.”

“I hope he’s not hurting some little swamp creature.”

“If he is, then the beast is making Cusith pay for the privilege.”

Kat and Sianach walked faster after Cusith, the dog’s trail marked by flying grass and water. When Cusith finally stopped, Kat and Sianach trotted to catch up. The hound was standing over something furry and black that lay on the ground beneath his huge paw.

“No, don’t! Don’t hurt it,” Kat called out. Cusith turned his head toward her, tongue lolling.

“I won’t. It’s not food.”

Kat reached Cusith’s side and knelt down to examine the raggedy clump of ebony fur. It leapt up, scrabbling for a foothold, but Cusith clamped his paw down harder to hold it still.

“It’s a cat!” Kat reached out with her mind but met the same blank wall she had with Sianach and Cusith. So, she tried the old-fashioned way. “Here kitty, kitty. Nice kitty.” An ear-splitting yowl almost knocked Kat back on her rear.

“I am not your ‘nice kitty,’ you rude thing! I am Cait Sidhe; I’ll have you know. Surely, this stag...and mutt...have heard of me.”

Sianach, who stood to one side to stay out of the fray, nodded his elegant head. “Yes, I know you. Not that it is a pleasure.”

The cat hissed and swiped a pawful of razor sharp claws across Cusith’s foot. The big dog quickly released the black cat. “Sorry. Just having some fun.”

Cait sat up and licked a couple of swipes over the white spot on her chest. “Now you’ve covered me with mud. It’ll take hours to get clean again.”

Although it looked much like a normal house cat, standing Cait Sidhe would reach Kat’s knee. The cat had to weigh in at thirty pounds or more. Both Sianach and Cusith were of the extra-large size, so she wasn’t too surprised.

Kat stood and moved closer to the cat. “Hello. I’m Kat, a witch from Galdorheim. I’m pleased to meet you.” She resisted the urge to scratch behind the cat’s ear. She had a feeling she might end up with severe lacerations.

“I didn’t quite catch your, um, last name. How do you spell it?”

“S-I-D-H-E. Just like it sounds, stupid biped.”

Kat gritted her teeth at the cat’s rude answer but decided to stay calm. “Is that sidhe as in faery?”

The cat quit licking and looked at Kat with penetrating yellow eyes. Curling her lip, she exposed gleaming fangs. “The pronunciation varies, depending on where one is. Sidhe is shee in Ireland and sith in Scotland. We are in the Scottish section of the Otherworld, thus sith is proper.” Cait licked her right paw and swiped it over her ear. “Personally, I prefer shee since it is more commonly used. Nobody seems to say sith anymore.” She tipped her head in Cusith’s direction. “Except that dog, of course.”
“Um, okay. That’s interesting. Are you friends with Cusith and Sianach?” Kat asked.

“Not even.” Cait Sidhe glanced at Cusith. “Cusith is a mutt, or dog, if you will. And I am a cat. We do what cats and dogs do, but we are not friends. Sianach, well, as a meat eater, I see Sianach as lunch.”
“Oh, sorry. I just assumed since you know each other—”

“Do not assume anything in the Otherworld.” Cait Sidhe examined Kat. “What are you doing wandering around in the magical realm? Witches generally stay in the mundane world.”

“Oh, I’m looking for King Connor’s hall. I have messages, or I guess I should say I had messages. Someone stole them and took my map to the hall. Now, I just hope he can get me out of the Otherworld in one piece.”

“I see. Well, I have nothing better to do today, so I’ll come with you.”

“Sure, if you’d like to. Do you have any idea which way to go?”

“I do. However, my path to the Hall isn’t one you can follow.” The cat raised her head and looked around. “Maybe I can find an alternate way. After all, I am a hunter, therefore I hunt.”

“Makes sense,” Kat replied, a little doubtful of the cat’s word. She had the same sense about Sianach’s reasons for helping her. A private matter, he had said. The cat didn’t give any reason at all. Should she trust Cusith? He seemed to be Sianach’s good friend, so that might be his only motive for coming along on the trip. It troubled her she could not delve into the minds of any of them.



Friday, July 06, 2012

Setara's Genie - Available for Pre-Order Discount

SETARA'S GENIE is posted and available for pre-order at my publisher. Pre-orders get a 20% discount, so go for it. Regular $5.50, pre-order for only $4.40.

Catch the Book Trailer Here.

My release date is August 17th, so I'll post a reminder closer to the big deal opening.

A girl, a genie, a few demons. Would could go wrong?


Abu Nuwas sits in the bazaar telling stories to the passersby he can tempt to pay. He relates the adventures of the bored daughter of a rich merchant, Setara, and her genie, Basit, as they encounter the creatures of legend and folklore: a lonely cave demon seeking a home; a flying, fire-breathing horse who has lost his mate; a dragon searching for his family; an evil genie hunting for the man who bottled him; and a merboy prince cast out of his undersea kingdom.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Scotch Broom Characters - Sianach and Cusith


SCOTCH BROOM: Book 3 of The Witches of Galdorheim (Kindle Edition)
A magical trip to Stonehenge lands a witch in the Otherworld where an ancient goddess is up to no good.

Hart and Hound

Researching Celtic mythology, I knew I wanted to use some of the lesser know magical creatures. I 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).

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. Meet my good friend, Cusith. Cusith, this is Kat, a witch from a far off land.”

The dog raised his right paw. Kat hesitated, her adrenaline still pumping.

“I would not have harmed you,” Cusith said. Kat took his paw and shook it.

Kat shrugged off the scare and nodded to the big dog. “I’m pleased to meet you, Cusith?”

“Pleased to meet you, young witch.”

Sianach said, “We’ve been good friends for years. Since neither of us have any of our own kind to match ourselves against, we fight with each other for practice. All in good fun, naturally.”

“Yeah, right. Good fun. You nearly gave me a heart attack. I thought Cusith killed you, Sianach.”

Both hound and stag broke out in laughter. Cusith with woofs coming up from deep in his chest. Sianach with a weird combination between a snort and a bugle.

“I am truly sorry. I assumed you’d know the creatures of the magic realm cannot slay each other; only an outsider can kill us.”

“Well, I didn’t know,” Kat replied grumpily. But then she tried to laugh with them. Why not? Everybody was fine, and she learned something new about how the Otherworld worked. She briefly considered asking whether an Otherworld creature could kill an outsider. Sianach began to tell Cusith of their quest, and the thought disappeared as she filled in details. The giant dog nodded. “Aye, I could help. After all, my nose is much better than either of yours. I can probably pick up the scent of the Trow Hall from several miles away.”

“I’d love to have you come along, Cusith. I’d never realized there was so much more to the Highlands than beautiful scenery.” Kat loosened her tense muscles, relieved the dog was friendly and could be a big help in the search.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

FREEdom Day

Amazon gave me one more promotion day when I can offer my ebook free to all takers. I'm not going to advertise anywhere except on this blog, and by sharing to the various connected social sites.

If you want a copy of TALES OF ABU NUWAS, better get it now 'cause it's going away entirely next week. Free only on Amazon.


Tuesday, July 03, 2012

MuseItUp Sale: Save 50% On July 3rd and 4th

My Canadian publisher is celebrating the American Independence Day. After all, many of the MuseItUp writers are American, and a whole lot of other countries too. I hope we have an Olympics Special because that's a symbol of all nations coming together to do something good in peace and harmony. What's not to like? Hope to the MUSEITUP BOOKSTORE and enter code MUSEJULY4 on checkout. That's good for ALL the ebooks! I'd say a great time to stock up.


You can find all my YA fantasy books here and my mystery here



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Monday, July 02, 2012

Scotch Broom Characters - Diamond


SCOTCH BROOM: Book 3 of The Witches of Galdorheim  (Kindle Edition)
A magical trip to Stonehenge lands a witch in the Otherworld where an ancient goddess is up to no good.



A Gem 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

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.”