Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Three Books in One

If you prefer good old paperbacks over ebooks, the entire Witches of Galdorheim series is available on Amazon for $12.77 (or whatever amount it says in the left hand column). It includes the Spellslinger short story.




Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Movie and a Free (Short) Book


CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE PDF SHORT STORY.

Spellslinger is a short story prequel to the Witches of Galdorheim Series. Sample the story and first chapters of the three books by downloading from Amazon or a PDF. In the meantime, watch the book trailers for the books as I wind down July is for Witches Month.


Monday, July 29, 2013

A Short Book and a Movie - Free!


CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE PDF SHORT STORY.

Spellslinger is a short story prequel to the Witches of Galdorheim Series. Sample the story and first chapters of the three books by downloading from Amazon or a PDF. In the meantime, watch the book trailers for the books as I wind down July is for Witches Month. Bad Spelling was run earlier this month, so take a look at the 2nd book trailer, Midnight Oil.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Writing About Witches by Jim Hartley

Jim Hartley
Witches ... ah, yes, I seem to have a thing for witches in my stories. I've been reading about witches pretty much all my life. Starting, of course, with Glinda of Oz. It has never worn off, and much more recently I own the complete set of DVDs for all eight seasons of the TV show "Charmed."

I even met a witch once. Well, she said she was a witch, and she was a very nice lady, so I guess I have no reason to disbelieve her. I never saw her cast any spells or anything, but who knows?

So when I got into writing, it just seemed kind of natural to do stories about witches. Of my ten e-book titles with MuseItUp, six of them are about witches: The Ghost of Grover's Ridge, This Wand for Hire, Magic Is Faster Than Light, Magic to the Rescue, Cop with a Wand, and the latest, Fortunatus, which can be found at MuseItUp Publishing http://tinyurl.com/l6uq4ts or on Amazon or B&N. Read Lin's very nice 5-star review on the book page. And take a look on my website at http://teenangel.netfirms.com for info on the others.

I just went back and counted short stories ... roughly twenty that deal with witches one way or another, including two that have the original Glinda from Oz in them. That's a lot of witches!

The story of how one of my books got written is very interesting. First, here is a short humorous flash piece about a witch who wanted to be an author, and was not above using magic to do it.

* * * *

Rejection ... the story

Megan didn't realize how loudly she had been chanting until her husband Phil poked his nose into her basement workroom. "Something wrong, Hon?" he asked.

"No, sorry. I was just casting a spell on this manuscript before I mail it in."

"Casting a spell on a manuscript? I never heard of that, what does it do?"

"This is my new story, and I'm sending it to Ultra Fantasy. They keep sending rejections, and I really want to sell something to them. Having something published in Ultra Fantasy has been my dream ever since I started writing." She paused, then licked and sealed the envelope, and inscribed a pentagram across the edge of the flap. "This is sort of a love potion mixed with a zombie spell. They'll never be able to resist publishing it,"

"I hope," Phil frowned, "that you know what you're doing."
#
Megan was a witch. In fact she was a very good witch. She could cast a spell or brew a potion with the best of them. But she'd been bitten by the writer's bug, she desperately wanted to write, and to see her writing in print.

The problem was that she was not a very good writer. Oh, she could spell, her grammar was good, her sentences parsed perfectly. It was on coming up with ideas that she was sadly deficient.

When she first started, she got a book on writing. It made a point of "write what you know," so she did. What she knew was witchcraft and magic, so that's what she wrote. She depicted the practice of magic in loving, painstaking detail. Too much detail. Much too much detail.

One rejection slip read, "Try submitting this as a 'How-to' piece for Popular Witchcraft."

Megan showed it to Phil and asked his advice.

Phil thought carefully about his answer, remembering once or twice when he had been frozen for a week when Megan didn't like his advice. Finally, he said, "Try branching out. Use a little magic, and some nonmagical stuff. Sort of cross-genre."

Megan tried his advice, but it didn't help much. Not only did Ultra Fantasy refuse to buy "Gunfight at the Orc Corral," but the story was also rejected by Lassos and Lariats.

And she was rather upset at some of the remarks made by the editor of Spaceward Bound when she sent him "Cauldron to the Stars," a tale of a flight to Tau Ceti. She had the spaceship able to exceed the speed of light by using a magic potion as fuel.

Oh, she sold a few stories to the quarter-cent-a-word markets, and to the pays-in-copies markets. But she got nowhere with the big magazines, especially Ultra Fantasy. She finally decided to cheat, and she cast a spell on her manuscript before sending it off.
#
Phil was watching football on the TV when Megan went out to get the mail. He hadn't moved a muscle when she came back in, so she stopped to check that she hadn't accidentally frozen him. But a quick look at the screen reassured her; it was the Giants-Jets game and he was self-paralyzed from trying to decide which team to root for. She went on down the cellar with the mail.

Her screams were enough to rouse Phil from his dilemma, and he went down the steps three at a time. Megan was sitting on the floor, tears streaming down her face. An open envelope was on her lap and the rest of the mail was scattered around. Something small and red, with wings, horns, and a tail, was buzzing around her.

"What's the matter, Megan? What happened? Are you OK?" asked Phil anxiously.

"Oh, Phil," she sobbed, "remember that story I put a spell on, so they'd have to buy it?" Phil nodded. "Well, they sent me," she sobbed harder, "they sent me ..." She batted futilely at the little red thing, and her voice rose almost to a scream, "They sent me a rejection demon!"

* * * *
Cute little story, no big deal. But you notice, since she was writing, I had to provide some fake titles. "Gunfight at the Orc Corral"! Right. Ridiculous. "Cauldron to the Stars." Yeah, sure. Er, ah, wait a moment ... "Cauldron to the Stars," a tale of a flight to Tau Ceti, the spaceship able to exceed the speed of light by using a magic potion as fuel. Hold on just a second. Damn, that's too good to use as a throwaway title, so I sat down and wrote the story. Witches on the spaceship, and the ship had problems, so they needed an FTL drive. Short story, 5000 words or so, and it was published in an anthology. Great!

Wait a minute ... that's too good an idea to waste on a short story ... ought to be good for a novel. Sure enough, sold it. But there was one problem, the publisher felt that if I used the same title for the novel as for the short story, it could be confusing. Had to get rid of that lovely title that started the whole thing off (sob, boo-hoo, sniffle) and the novel was published as Magic Is Faster Than Light. "Once upon a time there was a spaceship full of witches ..." And Magic to the Rescue is a sequel to it.


And by the way, I'm working on a couple of new stories ... would you believe, with witches? One of them, well, Lin's review of Fortunatus suggested she'd like to see more of Peggy Cassidy, the heroine, and I've got something going there ... tentative title, The Island of Dr. Merlot (I guess I'm sort of partial to wacky titles!).



Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Rune Tells His Side of the Story

Rune Tells His Side of the Story

Here’s the deal. I work like a mule to tamp my vamp, then mom wants me to go off to visit dear old dad. Okay, okay. He didn’t know I existed until mom stopped by Transylvania (Isn’t that so fifty years ago. C’mon, move to someplace fun, already.) What was I saying? Oh, yeah. Mom went off to tell him he had a son. She says he’s happy about it and wants me to visit for some quality parenting time. Yeah, is there a Big Vamp/Little Vamp picnic? Think of the cool games. Three-legged race with one of the legs belonging to a dead man. Pin the fang on the peasant...literally. Instead of a pie-eating contest, how about a blood sucking contest?

I think it’s a rotten idea, but mom is forcing me to go. Luckily, she’s sending me on my own, so I can make a run for it. Since my sis is headed to Scotland, I think I’ll go there instead. She always needs my help. I swear she can hardly tie her tennies by herself. I admit when I kind of hinted to her I’d like to go along, she had a snit fit. Said I was trying to horn in on her Winter Abroad. She needed to do it on her own. Yada yada yada.

Well, she can’t stop me from going to Scotland if I wanna. After all, the trolls have that totally rad trollercoaster that goes from Norway to the Shetland Islands. I guess it goes under the sea bed, or maybe it’s just troll magic. In any case, I get to the train station in Thurso (I stole a copy of Kat’s itinerary). She walks on the platform and went ballistic. I’m pretty sure if a train was coming, she would have pushed me on the tracks.

She flounces off, so to heck with her I think. I’ll just go to England without her. Sadly, I was hoping to get some cash from Kat for the ticket. Never mind, though. I’ve got skills to earn some money. Street magic like that David Blaine guy does. I would like to know how he does the levitation trick. I can do it with magic, but...well, that’s off topic. Anyhow, I find myself playing darts for money with the Scottish Highlands darts champion. He didn’t have a prayer. Here’s what happened. You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens next.

Excerpt from Scotch Broom

Rune walked up to the bar and stood waiting for the barkeep to notice him. He didn’t want to risk being pushy. They might just throw him out. He decided to be polite and pleasant.

The barkeep placed himself in front of Rune. The stocky man wore a white apron tied around his considerable paunch. Although the top of his head was as bald and shiny as a billiard ball, he had a thick red beard. He scratched his bushy sideburn and stared at Rune with narrowed eyes. “Need to see some I.D., lad.”

Rune opened his mouth, and then closed it. What was I.D.? “Excuse me?”

“Proof of age, sonny. Ye dinnae look to be twinty-ane.”

“Twinty—? Oh, identification! Right.” Rune stuck his hand in his jacket pocket and whispered a quick spell, while pretending to search. A plastic folder popped into his hand, and he drew it out. He knew witches and warlocks spending time on the mainland took various types of documents with them for identification. He’d seen a few in the Council Hall in Aunt Thordis’ office. The only one he could recall clearly was a passport, so he spelled up one of those.

The bartender flipped open the passport and examined it, looked at Rune, then back at the passport photo. “Where be this Grand Duchy of Fenwick?”

“Oh, you know. It’s one of those tiny countries nobody knows about. Like San Marino or Lichtenstein.”
The bartender stared at him for another long moment, and Rune wondered if he’d gone too far on the passport. “It’s in the Alps,” Rune supplied helpfully.

The bartender just shook his head. “Ne’er heard of it.” Rune shrugged.

Finally, the barkeep said, “Ye still dinnae look to be twinty-ane.” He handed the passport back. “Whit are ye wantin?”

“Ale, please.”

Rune looked around the room, wondering if a close-up magic act might garner some cash. At the back of the pub, several men were playing darts. He picked up his pint and wandered back to watch. The players appeared to be a team since they wore matching plaid shirts. Rune thought he might pick up some spare change playing against them. He figured they’d think him an easy mark, so he stepped forward. “Can I get in the next game?”

One man looked him up and down. “Air ye twinty-ane?”

“Yeah, yeah. The bartender checked my ID. I’ve played some darts. Maybe a game just for fun?”

“Darts be serious bidness.”

“Oh, I agree. I play with my buddies, sometimes for cash. Interested?” Rune took a swig of ale, made a face, and set the glass on a table. Ugh, the trolls make better ale than this!

The player, who seemed to be the spokesman for the group, looked at his buddies. They all grinned. The brawny Scotsman folded his muscular arms across his chest. He looked Rune up and down. Rune put on a lopsided grin, trying to look like a dumb kid.

“Sure, lad. How much do ye want to put up?”

“Oh, I’ve not got much at the moment. How about a couple pounds per game to start? When I’m up some, we can raise the stakes.”

“Pleased ta meet ye, lad. I’m Barry MacLeish. I hope ye dinnae mind I’m the Highlands champion.” The big man stuck his hand out.

“Not at all, Barry. Pleased to meet you. I’m Ru...Ron Galdor.” Rune extended his own hand to shake and winced at the dart champion’s hard grip. When Barry turned his back on him, Rune mumbled a quick spell to change the name on his passport from Rune Fenwick to Ron Galdor.

“We’ll play ane-on-ane. Be that guid for you?” Barry asked, twirling one of his darts between his fingers.

“Sure, but I don’t have my darts with me. Can I borrow a set?” One of the men held out his set of three darts. Rune weighed them in his hand. He held up one and sighted it toward the board. “Hey, thanks. These are nice.”

“Da game is 301, double-in, double-oot?”

“Great. Anything is fine.” Rune watched the dart loaner erase the blackboard next to the dartboard and write Barry and Ron at the top. He added the number 301 under each name.

Rune smiled. He ought to make enough for the train in no time at all.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Katrina: Witch #FAIL

Katrina - My Failure as a Witch

Tap tap tap squeal!!

Is this thing on? Oh. I don’t need a microphone? Alrighty then.

My name is Katrina Galdorheim, but I'd rather you call me Kat. Try to convince my mother and aunt of that and you’d most definitely bring on one of her lectures. Especially if you try to argue with Aunt Thordis about ANYTHING! She’s the chief administrator and de facto mayor of our little island village full of witches and warlocks.

So when she implies I’m a L-O-S-E-R, everybody pretty much agrees with her. Oh, most of the other witches are nice enough to me, but the whispers behind my back are none too subtle.

A couple more people to introduce for this story.

My mom seems like a ditz, but her magic is just as powerful as Aunt Thordis’s. I think Mom just likes to be the total opposite of her overbearing sister. Don’t tell Aunt Thordis I said that.

My only real friend is Rune even if he is my brother (half) and crazy good at magic. Everything comes so easy for him and it’s enough to make me insane. The only thing he does have trouble with is keeping his vampire half in control. I know how hard it is for him. If he sees even a drop of human (well, witch or human) blood, he totally freaks. Eyes go blood red, canines grow. Yeah. Seriously. But he’s working on it, and will beat the blood-sucking monkey on his back someday.

What else can I say? This book is about me mostly, though mom, Aunt Thordis, and Rune all play a big part in it. So my problem is that I can’t cast spells without them going wrong. Not just little, teensy so-what wrong, but big, gigantic, totally outrageous wrong.

When you’re living on an island populated by witches, and the island runs on magic, being magic-challenged doesn't just suck, it's downright dangerous.

This excerpt makes clear just how much of a klutz I am. Don't worry, though. Things get worse, but eventually they do get better.

Bad Spelling - Chapter 1 Excerpt

Ebook Cover
Kat ran up the steps of the schoolhouse as a flash of red light pulsed from the space beneath the front door. A screech of girlish laughter followed by shouts of “yes!” and “whoa!” got louder when she pulled the door open. Her heart sank. Dang it. Late again.

A muffled bang accompanied by puffs of red and violet smoke billowing out from the back of the room gave her cover to rush to the last available seat. When the smoke cleared, Kat rolled her eyes, barely controlling a snort. Her brother Rune’s used-to-be vampire bat now clung to his finger chirping angrily while his best friend’s was-a-rat now stared with hungry eyes at it in the temporary form of a scruffy gray cat.

Unfazed, Miss Mariah cleared her throat and glared at the boys. “Would you please wait for everyone else?” Rune and Dalton grinned at each other and transformed their respective familiars back to their original forms.

Grow up, bro. Really! Kat thought, but a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. She was proud of Rune’s mad skills, since she couldn’t spell herself out of a beanbag chair. She knew she had the power; everybody knew it. What she lacked was control. Every spell she tried to cast went wrong in the most disastrous way.
Print Book Cover

Rune’s bat flapped to the rafters and hung upside down, glaring down at his owner. Rune dodged a drop of guano, picked up his wand, and tapped it on the desktop. With a high-pitched squeak, the bat dropped to the desk and folded its wings, but it didn’t look happy.

Miss Mariah muttered, “Fiksu aasi noita.” She watched Kat as she hunched over and dropped her book bag on the floor. “Nice of you to join us, Katrina. See me after class about your tardiness.”

She faced the class. “Now then, please take out your chalk and wands for today’s lesson, which is,” she shot a semi-annoyed look at Rune and Dalton, “transformation.” The Wiccan students rustled bags and whispered to each other while they did as told.

When the witches and warlocks in training looked up, she continued. “Although some students can transform without benefit of pentagram and wand, those of you who are beginners, or less motivated—” she paused and gave Kat a hard look, “must practice first with the proper equipment.”

Kat’s face warmed, and she sank lower into her chair. Heaving a sigh, she set her brown bunny, Teddy, on her desktop and fumbled in her bag for her spell book, yew wood wand, and chalk.

Merry, the curly-haired blonde witch sitting next to Kat, waved her arm in the air.

“What is it, Merry?” Miss Mariah asked.

“Can you make Katrina sit somewhere else? Whenever she’s near me, my spells don’t work right. She’s a jinx.”

The class snickered. Kat grimaced at Merry. If I got my hands on her…aw, what’s the use? 

“No, everybody stays right where they are,” Miss Mariah snapped. She pasted on a fake smile and continued in a treacle-sweet voice. “Now, class, draw the pentagram on your desktop and place your familiar in its center.”

The younger students practicing their first transformations looked to the board where, under Miss Mariah’s control, the chalk drew a practice pentagram stopping short of completing the last of the five points.

She tapped the board. “An unattended pentagram can cause all sorts of problems, the least being a tusser or  tomte taking advantage of an open gateway. They’re harmless for the most part but like to play tricks. So be  prepared with your spell before completing the pentagram.” More than one kid smudged an opening in their already drawn star. “Children, you must focus. Don’t let yourselves get distracted.” Miss Mariah adjusted a child’s grip on his wand as she walked by.

Merry curled her lip and hissed, “You’d better not screw me up. If I can’t work this spell right, it’ll be your fault.”

“Tough luck, Merry,” Kat snarled. “If you’re such a great witch, my being here shouldn’t make any difference.”

Turning away from Merry, Kat finished the final leg of her pentagram and set the bunny in the center. “Stay right there, Teddy,” she whispered to her little brown rabbit, setting a chunk of carrot in front of him. He made a dash for the edge of the desk. Kat hauled him back. “Cut it out. You’ll smear my chalk lines.” She stroked his soft fur for a moment. “Hope this works.” He twitched his nose twice, closed his eyes, and hunkered down.

Kat checked her spell book one last time, took a deep breath, and completed the spell with a loud “Fullgerður!” and a dramatic sweep of her arms, just missing Merry’s head with her wand. Merry shrieked and jumped out of her chair. She glared at Kat while wiping green goo off the side of her face. “Your rabbit stinks. Just like your spellcasting!”

Kat’s mouth hung open for a moment; then she clamped it shut when she glanced down at what was left of Teddy sitting in a pool of slime dripping onto the floor. Merry was right about one thing. The goo smelled like pond scum.

Teddy looked up at his witch with sad, bulging eyes, the top half of a frog’s body floating in the green glop. Kat groaned. Poor, long-suffering Teddy. Green and slimy—that was the good part. The pink nose and floppy ears—not so good. If she couldn’t master transformation and the other mid-level junior spells, she’d be left behind again.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Writing Tips: Killing Scenes

I've read lots of writer blogs which talk about "killing off your darlings." This means, of course, you shouldn't be afraid of getting rid of characters if they need to go.

The same can be true about research. Not every interesting tidbit you discover when you're researching background has to be in the final product.

When working on Scotch Broom, I did a lot of research on Thurso, a small town on the norther Scottish coast. It's where my main character, Kat, arrives in Great Britain. One thing I discovered was a Bed and Breakfast, which was just too cool to not include. Alas, it was a diversion from the plot. A fun diversion, but really not needed at all. Hack, slash, wince. Goodbye B&B and 1200 words of interesting, yet useless research.

My opinion mirrors that of Stephen King, who said after finishing your draft, cut 10% of the words. The best place to find those excess words is where you fell in love with your research and just HAD to include it.

This is the final few lines of the chapter in Scotch Broom in which Kat arranges train transportation southward:

* * *

“Can I buy my ticket now?”

“That you can. It’s an open ticket; you can use it whenever you want. Maybe you’ll enjoy Thurso and want to stay a few days.”

“That’d be nice, but I do have people to meet in Inverness.” Kat handed over the twenty-pound note, and the clerk counted back her change. “I’ll come back this evening.”

“There’s a good fish and chips place right down the road if you’d like a bite to eat.”

“Thanks. I’ll try it out.”

This is the original scene in which I burned my lovely Bed and Breakfast. Fun as it was, it just didn't further the plot:

“Can I buy my ticket now?”

“That you can. It’s an open ticket; you can use it whenever you want. Maybe you’ll enjoy Thurso and want to stay a few days.”

“I do have people to meet in Inverness.” Kat handed over the twenty-pound note, and the clerk counted back her change. She turned away from the ticket window and took a few steps, when the clerk called out to her. “If you’re needin’ a room fer the night, you might try the Waterside. It’s decent and not too dear.”

“That’d be great. Which way?”

“Head north on Princes Street. That’s the street right out there,” he replied pointing to the street on the opposite side of the train platform. “Turn right on Sir John’s Square, then left on Sinclair. Walk quite aways, and take a right on Sir George’s Street, a quick right on Janet and keep going ‘til ya see it. Ye’ll be right by the river.”

“Um, north then Sir George—.”

“Nae, lass, right on Sir John’s, then Sinclair, then Sir George.” The station master paused, and seemed to notice the expression on Kat’s face. “Here. I’ll draw ye a map.”

Kat grinned. “That’d be perfect.”

She followed the map the station master had drawn. On Janet Street, she stopped in front of an old brick, two-story house. Windows on both floors faced the street, and a single door led inside. Since it looked so much like a private home, she wasn’t sure whether she should knock first or just go inside.

When she got close to the reddish door, she saw a beautiful brass doorknocker. Taking that as a need to knock before entering, she reached toward it. When she touched it, the knocker spoke. “Welcome to Waterside House. Please come in.” Kat jerked back, surprised. While talking doorknockers were the norm on Galdorheim, she didn’t expect to find one in the mundane world. 

The door didn’t open on its own, so she grabbed the handle and pushed it. Stepping in, she found herself in a small lobby. To the right, an archway opened to a wallpapered, well-lit dining room. The wallpaper was a little too flowery for her taste, but it was overall a pleasant room. Turning back, she saw a dark-haired woman standing behind the small counter, wearing a dress straight out of the 19th Century MacSears catalog. Kat was certain she wasn’t there when she came in.

“Good day, may I help you?” the woman said in a sweet contralto voice. 

Kat stepped to the counter. “I’d like a room for the night. I’m waiting to take the train south tomorrow. I missed today’s.”

The woman consulted a watch hung on a gold chain attached to a brooch. “Just missed it seems. I thought I heard the train pull out, but I’m so used to the sound I don’t notice.”

Pulling a big leatherbound ledger from beneath the counter, she opened it facing Kat. “If you’ll fill out the information, I’ll have the maid check your room. A single, yes?” She tapped on an old-fashioned bellhop bell, which dinged pleasantly. 

“Yes. Just me.”

Kat wondered how anybody in the house could hear it, but a door behind the counter opened right away, and a young girl stepped in. She also wore a 19th Century maid’s costume, complete with a frilly white cap over her thick red hair. “Is the single ready?” the woman asked.

“Yes’m, but I’ll go check.” The girl lifted the hinged counter on one end and headed for a stairway to the left.

Meanwhile, Kat had been puzzling over the questions in the Guest Book. Where should she say she was from? Auto plate? What was that? Maybe she’d only fill in the things she knew and see if that sufficed. She wrote the date and her name. That was all she did know. The woman leaned forward to read the ledger upside down, a talent of innkeepers all over the world.

“Where do you live?” she asked.

“On an island north of here. I rode a boat down from the Shetland Islands.”

The woman nodded. “Just write Shetland Islands in the space then. No car? That’s fine. Not many people have them.”

Kat did as requested, then the woman turned the book to face her and made a notation of the check-in time. “One night will be nineteen pounds, sixty pence, including tax, of course.

Kat unslung her bag from her shoulder and rummaged into the foldbox for another twenty-pound note. She handed it across the counter. The woman handed her a few coins in change. By that time, the maid had come back down the stairs.

“Here’s the key to your room,” the woman said, handing over an old brass key. “Tara will show you the way.”

Kat picked up her bag and followed Tara up the stairway and down a hall to the end room. “The bath is through that door,” she said, pointing out the obvious, since it was the only other door in the room. The room was already opened, so she walked in and laid her bag on the single bed. She turned to hand the forty pence to Tara, but the maid was already gone.

She wondered if the woman at the desk had chosen the decor for the house. A faux wainscot separated the top and bottom of the walls. The bottom wallpaper had vertical stripes of lavender and green wallpaper. The top was lavender with little flowers all over it. The one window looked out onto a pleasant garden.

She flopped down on the bed and bounced a couple of times. Her first hotel room! Kat felt more grown up already. She glanced up to see a black box. It took her a moment to recognize the first television she’d ever encountered. The Witches' Council had an LCD flat screen. “Well, might as well get cleaned up then find someplace for dinner.” She didn’t have to go far for dinner. A Fish and Chips walkaway sat directly across the street.


* * *

After a good night’s sleep, Katya rose early, repacked, and went down to the dining room. Her room tariff included breakfast. She intended to eat a lot to keep her going all day on the train. She sat at a table for two by the window overlooking the street. The same maid she’d met yesterday, Tara, came to her table and set down a teacup and small teapot.

“Would ye be wantin’ coffee, Miss?” she asked.

“No, tea is fine. Do I get a menu or—?”

“Nae. We serve the full breakfast. It’s what we offer.”

“Okay, but isn’t it wasteful if I don’t like something. Wouldn’t it have to be thrown out?”

“We collect the leftovers to feed to the pigs. Missus has a cousin with a farm.”

“Okay, then. Bring it on.”

Tara curtsied and left the dining room by a swinging door in the back. She soon returned with a huge tray balanced in both hands. Katya watched as Tara laid dishes on the table. Sausage formed in a square, something fried and brownish, scones, another kind of muffin, and a fruit cup.

“What’s that?” Katya asked, pointing at the brown stuff.

“Fried haggis. Will that be all?” Tara asked.

“Um, no, this looks like more than enough.” Wanting to get the flavor of the countries she visited, she thought she should try the haggis. She’d already set the sausage aside since she didn’t eat meat any longer. She stopped before biting into the haggis, remembering that they cooked it in a sheep’s stomach or something like that. Sometimes it’s better to be a vegetarian. She wished they served eggs, but found the scone delicious, especially with the thick jam that came with it.


SCOTCH BROOM
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 a faroff land, but is led astray by a jealous rival. Caught in the Otherworld with a has-been goddess trying to kill her, Kat has to defeat the goddess and rescue her brother from the hag's clutches.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Dragons Dragons Everywhere


My guest today, Antje Hergt, who likes to hang out with dragons, so I'm sure she doesn't mind consorting with witches.

Antje Hergt Expounds on Writing and Publishing

Why bother with writing at all if it takes so long to publish a book?

I’ve been asked this question many times in the recent years while I was working on my first book. There were even times, when I stopped telling people about it at all. I was tired of having to explain over and over again how the publishing industry works. When I started out writing seriously, I told everybody I knew that I had written a book. It was only a first draft and I was so proud of it. Little did I know about how long the book writing process was, let a lone a publishing one. So, while I edited and re-edited my book, went from first draft to fourth and many more, all my friends kept asking where they could buy my book.

Hardly anybody understood that it can take years to write and edit a book, many more years to sent out query letter and receive rejections letters. When a traditional publisher finally accepts your book, it still takes up to a year to have it in a bookstore.

That’s what I like about e-publishing, it shortens the process and you can release a book much faster than a hard cover book.

I write for the fun of writing itself. I love the flow of it when the story pours out faster than you hands can type. When I become part of my story and I am one of the characters. We spent so much times together that I know them as well as my friends. I get to see all their flaws and strength.

Being a flow writer, I draft roughly with a chapter outline about 2-3 pages. Then I add scene ideas or dialogue snippets, which most of the time I move around later. I don’t like detailed story outlines since they reveal too much of the story for me and I get bored with just writing it out. I’m always open to surprise myself when a character suddenly changes or a story takes a twist I didn’t anticipate while I outlining. Once I have finished the first draft, I make outlines that are more detailed and a storyboard for continuity.

Thanks to Hazel Hutchins, a great children author in Canmore, who shared her outlining idea with me in a writing course, I now do an excel table for quick reference. It is an excellent tool to see all the character in order of their importance and how often they show up in each chapter as well as what happens in the chapter. Also, you add a time line, chapter length, and interesting facts. This way you can find scenes that don’t quite fit faster and move them around.

Most of my ideas start out as a short story, but when I am about to finish them, my characters protest and want to tell me more. My first book Darinel Dragonhunter started as a Goodnight story for my friend’s son. He wanted a knight and fight tale, but I love dragons and a humorous story. Before I knew it the story developed into a full-length book after I introduced it to a writing course at the Banff Centre for the Arts.

I hope you found my writing story helpful and I could interest you in my book.

Here is a little teaser:

The prince sighed. “Yeah, you’re right. Do you mind if I take a break here?”

“Oh no. Be my guest,” the voice replied, cheerfully.

Darinel dismounted and reached to tie Tibor’s reins to the trunk of a tree, when a dark shadow swished over him. The horse bolted in panic and disappeared. Dumbfounded, he stared down the path they had just travelled.

“Oops!” The voice sounded a bit regretful.

“That was not supposed to happen.” Still shaking his head, he turned to a little sparkling stream at his feet and knelt beside it. He took off his helmet and splashed water onto his face and over his head.

“It is a bit inconvenient, isn’t it?” the voice said. “But don’t worry, the way down always seems faster,” it added cheerfully.

“Yeah, right!” the prince said with a smirk as he slid back to lean on a big boulder behind him. “Now you see I am no threat to you, won’t you come out and sit with me?” He ruffled his hand through his wet hair.

“I’d love to, but don’t you know, there’s a fierce dragon in these mountains?” the voice pointed out.

If you like to find out more about my book, you can visit me on my webpage:


Or drop by on my author page Antje Hergt next time you’re logged in to Facebook. If you like Twitter, come by: @antjehergt.

Intrigued to read more? Here is the back cover text of my book:

Prince Darinel is traveling–for what feels like forever. Expelled from his father’s kingdom, he just wants to find a new home. When a shadow lures him to a wealthy kingdom, he stays to discover more about the darkness, but the citizens are tight-lipped.

Their king welcomes the foreign Prince hoping that he will solve his two problems: the dragon and his strong-willed daughter. Coming from a warrior kingdom, Darinel despises violence, but charmed by Princess Tuskja’s dare, he sets out to confront the beast. Instead of finding a fierce dragon, he finds a friend. The dragon’s malicious humor and his love of fairy tales entangle Darinel in a summer of adventures, while danger stirs in the East, the Dark Prince. Being refused by the Princess and humiliated by the dragon, this proud prince seeks revenge.

In compliance with the king’s decree, Darinel is torn between his friendship with the dragon and his love for Princess Tuskja, whom he can only marry if he kills his friend. Before he can make a decision, the kingdom is under attack. Now it is up to the dragon to either help his friend or respect his wish to not interfere.

If you like to buy my book, you can find it on the Museitup Publishing webpage:

https://museituppublishing.com/bookstore2/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage.tpl&product_id=639&category_id=143&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=1&vmcchk=1&Itemid=1 

or at these online stores:

AMAZON US
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DI8FDT4
AMAZON UK
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00DI8FDT4
AMAZON CA
https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B00DI8FDT4

KOBO
http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Darinel-Dragonhunter-The-Reluctant-Dragonhunter/book-CU57y56XT0GEQJYHoY3vPQ/page1.html

BARNES AND NOBLE
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/darinel-dragonhunter-antje-hergt/1115751653?ean=2940016769721&isbn=2940016769721

Thank you for reading and feel free to sent me any questions you might have via my webpage.

Antje Hergt

Author Bio:


Born and raised in Germany, Antje Hergt came to explore the Canadian Rockies in Canmore, Alberta in 2003. Taking part in the Writing-with-Style Program at the Banff Centre for the Arts in 2007 encouraged her to follow her passion: writing for children. Darinel Dragonhunter is her first novel, which was inspired by her deep love for classic children literature and fairy tales. Her thrill for science fiction/fantasy movies and television shows had an outlet in various genre short stories. She is a member of the Alberta Writer’s Guild and graduated from the Justus-Liebig-University in Giessen with a degree in Modern Languages.

Currently, Antje still lives in Canmore with her snoring cat, Sally, and gets inspired by the magic of the Rocky Mountains. If she is not in Canmore, you can find her in Germany.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Villains: Cailleach the Winter Goddess

from Scotch Broom

Cailleach is a goddess in the Scottish Celtic pantheon. Descriptions of her looks and personality run the gamut from ugly monster or beautiful protector of the land. This split personality goddess is the winter counterpart to the beautiful Bride (Bridget), the goddess of spring.

Living in the Otherworld after the Celts have stopped worshipping the old ones, Cailleach has let herself go to seed. She spends her days attempting to make sense of the hags’ potion in MacBeth (Double, double, toil and trouble). When she hears that a witch has come into the Otherworld, she begins to scheme. If Cailleach can only steal the witch’s magic, she can be young and powerful again. But the crone is cautious, she sends her minions out to learn more about the witch and to lead her to the goddess. While waiting for news, she learns that yet another witch has entered the Otherworld, but this one doesn’t make any sense. Cailleach determines this being is male, thus a warlock, but also smells of vampire. She decides to draw in this one like she plans for the first. But first, she decides to do a little homework.

She sends Bodach, the black giant, to give a message to Glaistig, the only Scottish vampire, to scope out just exactly who or what this male is: warlock, vampire, or both.

From the Monstropedia on Cailleach (http://www.monstropedia.org/index.php?title=Cailleach):
She is depicted as as having an eye in the middle of a blue-black face, long red teeth, and matted hair. In several stories she appears before a hero as a repulsive hag and suddenly transforms herself into a beautiful girl. At winter’s end, some accounts say the Cailleach turned into a grey boulder at Beltane until the warm days were over. The boulder was said to be “always moist’, because it contained “life substance’. The Cailleach Beara is ever-renewing and passes through many lifetimes going from old age to youth or flesh to stone in a cyclic fashion.
The Cailleach is seen as a seasonal deity or spirit, ruling the winter months between Samhain (October 31st) and Beltaine (April 30th), while Bride rules the summer months between Beltaine and Samhain. Some interpretations have the Cailleach and Brìde as two faces of the same goddess.
She is a bringer of snows, death, and sharp storms. On Samhain the Cailleach leaves her mountains and walks the Land. The Cailleach then proceeds to "wash her plaid". Her plaid represents the sand. When the Cailleach is done the plaid is white and the Land is covered with snow. She is said to ride on the back of a wolf carrying a wand made of human skin, that she uses to strike down all signs of growth. Behind her follows cold winds, blizzards, and ice. In Scotland, where she is also known as Beira, Queen of Winter.

It’s easy to see why Cailleach is so interested in regaining her strength, to become what she had been in the olden times.

Excerpt

Cailleach groaned when she leaned over and lifted her bare foot high enough to clip her toenails with the gardening shears. She looked up and sniffed twice. The hag dropped her bare foot, stuffed it into her flipflop, and shuffled to the door. Throwing it open, she held her head high, closed her eyes, and sniffed some more.

“Drat! Not another witch.” She sniffed again. “Wait, a warlock. No, a vampire. Hmm.” She closed the door and slumped into a chair. “This is confusing. Maybe there are two.” She went to the woodshed door. Cailleach rapped three times and then stood back as it creaked open.

Bodach, her roommate and minion, dragged his crippled body out of the small hatch. “Yes, Mistrezz,” he slurred, casting one protruding eye upwards.

“We have another foreigner in the swamp. Get out there and find a skrat to check. No, not a skrat. I smell vampire. Find Glaistig and send her to investigate.” Cailleach patted him on the head. “There’s a good boy.”

“Can you tell me where Glaistig is hiding?” Bodach examined his armpit and sniffed.

“Go to the standing stones on the north side of the loch. She has a cave there.”

“Yes, Mistrezz.” Bodach dragged his limp legs behind him. He began to unfold in a way the eye could not follow. When he reached the door, he needed to bend and shuffle through sideways to fit.

“Bodach, stay with Glaistig and do as she says. She might need some muscle.”

“Yes, Mistrezz.” Bodach ducked and went to seek Glaistig, the Gray Lady.

Cailleach closed the door behind the giant and sat again. She twanged the long hair protruding from the wart on her chin. “This is all very disturbing. Two foreigners stomping around in my bog within hours. This second, though, he’s strange. Yes, male. That much is clear. But I smell on him both warlock and vampire. Very odd, indeed.”

She went to the dusty bookshelf beside the fireplace. As she tapped each book with her gnarled finger, it spoke its title aloud. The Compleat Book of Bats. Care and Feeding of Monsters. Selling Love Potions on the Internet. Vampires: The Myths and the Facts. She took this one off the shelf and flipped through the pages. An occasional groan or scream emitted from the book, depending on the chapter topic.

“Ah, here it is. ‘Vampire Half-Breeds.’ Hmm. ‘Cross breedings with werewolves, ghouls, and Sasquatch have been cited, although most of these stories are second-hand accounts at best. It is believed that vampires could breed with any species; however, it is most likely this only occurs when the other creature is in an altered form. The werewolf, for example, must be in its wolf mode, not its human aspect.’”

Cailleach stuck her finger in the book to hold her place and plopped down on her rocking chair. She must be mistaken about the invader. This was a scholarly work, although a little dated having been written in 1549. But it seemed to deny the possibility of a warlock-vampire mix. She’d have to study this a bit more. Still, the vampire smell was strong. Without her power, all she could do was wait for Glaistig to report. The only known true vampire in Scotland, Glaistig wouldn’t waste a minute of darkness beating feet to catch up to the male, determine what he was, and report back.

Satisfied she could do nothing more, she leaned back in her rocker, intending to read the rest of the chapter. But sleep overtook her, and she was soon snoring in her chair.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Villains: Ajatar the Elemental Spirit



AJATAR THE ELEMENTAL SPIRIT
from Midnight Oil

Earth, Wind, and Fire. Wait for it .... Water. The four classical four elements have been part of mythologies since the first time a smarter than average Cro Magnon decided to cash in on his superstitious tribe claiming to have a direct hot line to the somewhat amorphous deities.

Deities and demons have proliferated over the intervening 20,000 years or so, with the winners being those smarties who knew how to cash in on fear. The shamans, priests, and other assorted grifters.
  • Earth: The ground shakes and splits open. Uh oh, the earth god is ticked. If you’ll just give me your hard-won haunch of mammoth, I’ll intercede on your behalf.
  • Air: Windstorm coming up. Boy, are you in trouble for holding back on my share of the cave bear hide. Ol’ Wind is mighty pissed.
  • Fire: See what happens if you don’t listen to what I say. Your whole forest burns because you all are bad people. Just lay a pile of pretty shells at my feet and I’ll see if I can placate the Fire Demon. 
  • Water: Oopsie, a flood. Well, wasn’t I the smart one for building that big boat. Did I mention the fare? All proceeds go to the Water God, of course.
The natural elements wreak havoc and a clever guy makes out like a bandit. As time marched on, the elementals took on different names and personalities. The shyster’s way of collecting for multiple personalities for those four basic elements.

Before a caveman could count, um, one. The world was littered with all sorts of mythological beings lined up by the wise shaman to collect trade goods from the fearful masses.

Besides a plethora of gods and demons which I have mentioned some of already, I selected a lovely forest elemental (notice how the element population is dividing and growing) named Ajatar. She happens to be a Finnish spirit and is the main troublemaker in my second book of the Witches of Galdorheim, Midnight Oil.

Ajatar was known as the Devil of the Woods, so I set her in a magically protected forest glade. She controlled her local flora (writing tree roots, fast-growing brambles) and snakes to protect her cache of boxes, bottles, pots, a bent bicycle tire, laundry detergent, dried flowers, old tennis shoes, and Andy.

Oh, right, Andy happens to be a changeling, a human who spent much of his life in the Troll Kingdom and is now Kat’s main squeeze. Ajatar kidnapped him to draw out her sister, Ilmatar, an air spirit who had been hiding out on Galdorheim disguised as the old witch (she prefers sorceress) Mordita.

Lots of stuff happens, but the sisters finally come together in an epic battle (they’re fighting over a man, wouldn’t you know). Ajatar takes her dragon form, while Ilmatar becomes a giant white roc.

Excerpt

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.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Villains: Sambana the Evil Shaman

SAMBANA THE EVIL SHAMAN
from Bad Spelling

In "Bad Spelling," Kat's love interest, Andy, is a troll...sort of. Stolen at birth by the Trolless Gorm to replace one of her newborn triplets, Andy is through and through troll. He loves his brothers Endy and Indy, respects the troll King Ole, and is overall pretty happy being a troll.

However, when Gorm is near death, she tells Andy that he's bortbyting, a changeling. His real family is the Sami tribe of Siberia. Well, we already know that Kat's father is a Sami from Siberia. Hmm. Coincidence? I think not.

The Samis (also spelled Sámi or Saami) are a widespread extended clan of people closely related to the North American Eskimos and Aleutes. You've heard of Samoyed dogs, the breed of sled dog bred by these northernmost indigenous people. The Lapps are the same people just a little further west. There is lots of interesting information on the Sami people out on the internet. I discovered them by trundling around the web looking for an indigenous people living in Siberia. I wanted Kat's father to be completely different from the Euro-Nordic witches of Galdorheim. I hit the motherload with the Samis. These are the perfect folks to be the middle link between witches and trolls. The Free Encyclopedia is a treasure trove of information. I spent a lot of time following links and reading. These are people not widely known by the "civilized" world.

The Samis of Siberia are primarily hunter/gatherers with fishing being a major food source. You can imagine that near the Arctic Circle, farming is not possible. Russia pulled the same dirty trick on the Samis as the US pulled on the indigenous tribes of North America: relocation. They moved them all next door to the Barents Sea, which, naturally, is not a desirable piece of real estate. I know we could all go on and on about the injustices of the world, but that's not what I'm doing here. I encourage you to follow the links from the Free Encyclopedia. It's an addictive trail of fascinating information.

But the central idea in the Witches of Galdorheim books is the existence of this type of people exactly where they are in Siberia. Worked out great for my story. In "Bad Spelling," Kat has to deal with a shaman of the Sami people. First she has to find him, and that's a pretty long journey in itself. Along the way, she meets Andy and they travel to the Siberian north to find him.

The Samis practice shamanism with various shamans handling different parts of life.
  • The Tadebya advises on the right time to go fishing or move the village (the Samis are nomadic). He handles the practical day-to-day needs of the people.
  • The Vidutana deals with the heavens so is the go-to guy if you're in need of heavenly guidance.
  • The Sambana is more like the crazy monk living in a cave somewhere. Everybody around knows he's got some kind of power, but he's also dangerous. He can cast evil spells, deals with black magic, and is an all-around unsavory character.
This is very simplistic, and you won't have to try very hard to find differences in my interpretations of shamanistic matters with real-world examples. But, hey, I'm writing a fantasy here and am allowed to mess with all things magical to my heart's content.

Excerpt

The Sambana jerked his eyes from the scrying flame with a curse. The little witch’s power amazed him. Calling the polar bear from its winter sleep sapped almost all of his energy. With great effort, he’d wakened it from sleep, ravenous from the deep hunger of hibernation. And then, as if it were of no moment, the witch called a full pod of Orcas!

When he had discovered Borisi frozen halfway between life and death, he had set the protective spell. Luckily, Borisi’s body was outside the witch wall, so he could keep watch. He felt it when the old witch discovered the spell. Now, this insolent child set out to stop it.

He had felt the village shield ripple. Someone went through the wall. He watched, recognizing the girl as Borisi’s child. The boy wasn’t of the people, so could be ignored. He muttered to himself and moved back from the flame. He needed to rest before he could try again to stop the witch from reaching the Mountain King’s lair.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Second Freebie Day!

*** OFFER FOR SOMEBODY TO WIN A FREE PAPERBACK IS OVER. I'd like to thank nobody for entering to win by writing a simple comment on this post. The enthusiasm for my work overwhelms me. It also saved me the bother of wrapping and shipping a paperback. ***

I promised free stuff all month long. I'm delivering on another freebie today. How about this?


Okay, not fair since anybody can get the free month of Amazon Prime. I will say I'm quite pleased with Amazon Prime. I've saved a lot of money on shipping when I buy Amazon Prime eligible books and other items. No minimum $25 order to get the free shipping. The streaming video is a bonus.

(PDF NO LONGER AVAILABLE)

Just click on the above to download the PDF. But hurry! This offer is good TODAY ONLY! Tomorrow, the file and link will disappear.

But wait! There's more. Write a nice note for me on this post to enter to win the PRINT edition of Bad Spelling, signed by the author (that's me).

BAD SPELLING - Book 1 of The Witches of Galdorheim Series
A klutzy witch, a shaman's curse, a quest to save her family. Can Kat find her magic in time?

If you’re a witch living on a remote arctic island, and the entire island runs on magic, lacking magical skills is not just an inconvenience, it can be a matter of life and death–or, at least, a darn good reason to run away from home.  

Katrina’s spells don’t just fizzle; they backfire with spectacular results, oftentimes involving green goo.  A failure as a witch, Kat decides to run away and find her dead father’s non-magical family. But before she can, she stumbles onto why her magic is out of whack: a curse from a Siberian shaman.

The young witch, accompanied by her half-vampire brother, must travel to the Hall of the Mountain King and the farthest reaches of Siberia to regain her magic, dodging attacks by the shaman along the way.