Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Happy Summer Solstice!

Summer Solstice – More Than Just the First Day of Summer

In historical terms, the Solstice is the exact point of time when the daylight outstrips the night in length. That’s hard to reckon, particularly since the exact point in time depends on where you live. Why should that be?

Take a look at model of the solar system, specifically look at earth. If it’s properly oriented, then it’s a bit tilted, not straight up and down as you might think. Stand back a bit further, and you can see the earth doesn’t travel in a circle around the sun, but in a big oval called an ellipsis.


Since the Solstice varies when it occurs (anywhere between June 20th -23rd), most people won’t know exactly when the earth moves from Spring to Summer. Instead, a variety of festivals from different countries and people celebrate Midsummer. Fortunately, astronomers are available to let us know exactly when the solstice occurs.

This year the official time and date of the Summer Solstice is June 21ST at 5:24AM Greenwich Mean Time. But it was June 20TH, 9:24PM Pacific time. That's really the same "time," but not what your clock on the wall says.

Many cultures celebrate the Summer Solstice. A few of these celebrations are: Adonia, St. John's Feast Day, Jani, Liða, Midsommar, Ivan Kupala Day, Juhannus, Mittumaari, Alban Hefin, Gwyl Ganol yr Haf, Sankthans, Jaanipäev, Keskikesä, and Rasos. Oh, my. That’s a lot of celebrating! Wherever you live, you can have a party.

Another group of professionals other than astronomers who can tell you when the solstice occurs are witches. No, not the evil witches with warts and ugly noses, but the Wiccans who inhabit my books and Galdorheim Island in the Barents Sea. This is a fictional place, but is quite close to some very real islands in the Arctic with very real people who live on them.

Midsummer for Wiccans is called Litha. Just like every people who had some means to really look at the movement of the stars and planets Well, the earth is moving, but from where we stand, it appears the stars are the ones in motion. They are, but I’d refer you to Doctor Neil DeGrasse Tyson, the narrator of the Cosmos series, for exactly what’s going on in the universe.

In the second book of my Witches of Galdorheim series, “Midnight Oil,” the exact time the Solstice occurs is crucial to the plot. The magical midnight oil is a curative required by a tribe of mutant Nenets tribespeople to heal the radiation poisoning which deformed them. It must be administered at the exact time the Solstice occurs. The year I selected had to have that event occur (somewhere in the world) at almost precisely midnight on June 20th. Some confusion about the exact moment of the Solstice almost leads to the restorative oil to arrive late at its destination. After all, the Solstice usually occurs on the 21st (in this century).

A lot happens to thwart my heroes from delivering the oil on time and in good condition. An evil forest spirit happens to possess the oil. But this isn’t simply a “find the magical thing and deliver it” plot. There’s a lot going on in “Midnight Oil.” A kidnapped boyfriend, mutant tribesfolk, Ajatar the forest spirit, a man who was tragically disemvoweled (lost the ability to pronounce a, e, i, o, or u and sometimes y), a witch trapped on the lost island of Atlantis with the Loch Ness monster, and, um, there’s lots more to discover in the book.

So, back to Litha, the Wiccan midsummer celebration. One of the most famous places in the world to observe the Solstice is at Stonehenge in England, but only if the Solstice occurs during daylight hours (not this year). Nevertheless, the midsummer celebrations (June 25th) take place no matter what time the Solstice actually happens. Stonehenge would be a great place to party. 

Fun thing to do: Find out when the Solstice occurs where you live (compare your local time to Greenwich Meantime).

BAD SPELLING FREE on Smashwords
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.


MIDNIGHT OIL (see top of post)
Shipwrecked on a legendary island, how can a witch rescue her boyfriend if she can’t even phone home?
Kat is a nervous wreck waiting for her boyfriend's first visit to her Arctic island home. He doesn't show up, so she's sure he’s given her the brushoff.

When she learns he’s disappeared, she sets out on a mission to find him. Things go wrong from the start. Kat is thrown overboard during a violent storm, while her brother and his girlfriend are captured by a mutant island tribe. The mutants hold the girlfriend hostage, demanding the teens recover the only thing that can make the mutants human again–the magical Midnight Oil.

Mustering every bit of her Wiccan magic, Kat rises to the challenge. She invokes her magical skills, learns to fly an ultralight, meets a legendary sea serpent, rescues her boyfriend, and helps a friendly air spirit win the battle against her spiteful sibling. On top of it all, she’s able to recover the Midnight Oil and help the hapless mutants in the nick of time.

SCOTCH BROOM (See top of post)
A magical trip to Stonehenge lands a witch in the Otherworld where an ancient goddess is up to no good.

Kat expects to have a great time on her graduation trip to Stonehenge. However, from the moment she leaves the witches’ arctic island, Galdorheim, she gets in nothing but trouble. Her younger half-brother tries to horn in on her trip, she gets lost in the magical Otherworld realm, is led astray by a supposed friend, then she has to confront a Scottish goddess who’s fallen on hard times.

While dodging the goddess’ minions and trying to find her way out of the Otherworld, Kat soon learns she shouldn’t underestimate the old has-been for one second; the crone still has a few tricks that can drain a witch’s magic in a flash. To make matters worse, Kat's brother secretly followed her into the Otherworld. Now he’s in danger too. Kat has to go one on one with the goddess to save herself and her brother.

SPELLSLINGER (see top of post)
What does a teenage half-warlock, half-vampire do to have fun? Why build an old west town on a glacier in the Arctic. There he can play at being the good guy sheriff up against mean old Black Bart.

That things will go horribly wrong is a given. But how does Rune get into and out of the predicament?

This prequel story to the Witches of Galdorheim series gives the reader a chance to get to know the smart-aleck kid, Rune, before he got his magic down pat.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Happy Dad's Day!

I hope you've enjoyed the excerpts from Tales of a Texas Boy scattered over the last couple of weeks. There are more stories in the book you might also like to read. Find them all on this blog over the last couple of weeks.

It's still not too late to buy the Large Print paperback at Amazon. So you're a couple of days late with the Fathers Day gift. No problem. Your dad will probably be surprised you remembered him at all. Poor dads. They always get edged out after Mothers Day.

How about a sample of the audio book? It's available at Amazon, Audible.com, and iTunes.


So, here are the links for  Tales of a Texas Boy.

Tales of a Texas Boy is available in Large Print on Amazon. It's also in the Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owners Lending library on Amazon. And if your father has vision issues beyond the help of large print (as my father did), the audio book is available at audible.com.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

For Dads Who Like a Bit of Racy

ULTIMATE DUTY - on Amazon $2.99 on Smashwords Name Your Own Price
A military officer must choose between her sworn duty or her rebellious blood ties. 

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

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

NOTE: Read Dave Higgins' brand new review on his blog at https://davidjhiggins.wordpress.com/2016/06/03/ultimate-duty-by-marva-dasef/

EXCERPT

“What’s it about?”

“Man, woman, sex. You know, the usual. Oh, and it’s the one with the whistle line.”

They settled with their backs against pillows to watch. The grainy black-and-white images puzzled Remy. “The color’s missing. And it’s two-dimensional.”

“Hush. It’s supposed to be that way. That’s why they called it film noir.”

Remy shook her head, but figured if she watched, she’d get used to the flat, gray-toned images.

Cassie put her hand over Remy’s. Remy didn’t move her hand away. When the woman named Slim in the vid said the line about whistling, Cassie surprised Remy by leaning over and kissing her lightly on the lips. Cassie drew back and looked into Remy’s eyes, the question from her kiss continuing in her glance.

Remy considered the offer, then shrugged her shoulders and quirked her lips in a lopsided grin. “Why not?” she whispered, then leaned into Cassie, returning her kiss. Remy felt the softness of a woman’s lips, different from a man’s. Or at least different from Kiru’s butterfly touches and deep caresses. She wondered if she should be doing this? Was this right? The tingling in her belly said yes.

Cassie ran her hand under Remy’s shirt and cupped her breast, gently squeezing. When she ran a finger around her nipple, Remy gasped.

Momentarily confused, Remy didn’t know what she was supposed to do. With a man, it was obvious, immediate, primal. With another woman, the need felt different, yet somehow the same. Remy mirrored Cassie’s caresses, trusting her partner to guide her with her own actions. What made her feel good? It must be the same for Cassie.

She felt gentle fingers exploring her body. Remy’s thoughts flashed back to Kiru’s face, his touch, his masculine smell of sweat and cinnamon. Cassie smelled sweet, like lilacs—lovely, soft, and inviting. Remy cleared her mind, determined to learn and savor this new sensation wherever it led. She had to know where her feelings would take her, then she could be complete. She let Cassie lead her to that completeness.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Mystery for Fathers Day

MISSING, ASSUMED DEAD
Prejudice, murder, insanity, suicide: Every small town has its secrets.
Buy the Ebook, Print, or Audio at Amazon
Buy the Ebook in all formats and name your own price at Smashwords.
Buy the Audio Book at Audible.com or iTunes
Audio Samples on SoundCloud for all my books.

Recent unfortunate events in Oregon (the self-named "militia" who are essentially domestic terrorists) led me to thinking about the villains of this mystery/thriller. I made the terrorist group in the book white power proselytizers. The out-of-state agitators holing up in a Federal building on Federal land no doubt carry the same prejudices around in their pointy heads. For your consideration, I submit to you the ignorant racist elements of civilized society who say "constitution" as if they had a clue what was in that document. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to introduce a very similar bunch of "bundies."

FEAR AND POWER

I didn't want to let the Judge rant on about his prejudices, so I'm covering for him. This is one mean, nasty old man. But one soft spot in his heart does him in.

In "Missing, Assumed Dead," a self-proclaimed 'judge' runs a small Justice Court (really only traffic court) in a tiny town in Southeast Oregon. He has appointed his nephew, George Leiper, de facto town police chief. Of  course, there is no police department, but George loves to wear the uniform and enjoy the comforts of his own office in the City Hall.

Nobody cares to oppose the Judge as long as he keeps his connection to the White Power groups away from Rosewood.
But that's not always the case. He brings the darkness of the Aryan Brotherhood right to the town's front door when he forces his daughter, Miranda, to marry one of the brotherhood, Cole Bristow. Mostly, the Judge want to get his daughter away from a Basque shepherd, Salvadore. When Salvadore disappears mysteriously, the town populace whispers behind closed doors, but don't dare cross the Judge with his connections to the White Power group.

Soon after bearing her daughter, Mirabel, Miranda commits suicide rather than remain married to Cole. The whole town worries, but fear keeps the secrets hidden.

The judge becomes the guardian of his granddaughter, but keeps her away from the rest of the town. Even her uncle admits that she's not right in the head. Something happened to her around the time Salvadore disappeared. What happened to Salvadore, and why is Mirabel insane? Is the Basque shepherd her father rather than Cole, Miranda's husband?

Here's an excerpt from the book that shows you a little about Judge Leiper and how the terrorist groups get their ideas of right and wrong.
* * *
George hadn’t wanted to drive the judge to the meeting. He couldn’t get all fired up about hating kikes, niggers, and spics like those other men. Sure, he wished anybody who wasn’t white would go back where they come from but didn’t feel like doing anything about it. The men, and some women, wore swastika armbands, and the big picture of Hitler gave George the willies. Just ’cause you wanted America to be a good, all-white Christian nation didn’t mean you had to hate like that bastard. He killed a lot of white boys, too.

The ol’ man climbed up on the platform at the end of the meeting room with Hitler peering over his shoulder. George sat in the back just wishing it were over.

His uncle was in fine form. He hollered and pounded the lecture table like an old-time preacher in a tent revival. George’s mind drifted back to when he was a boy and his pa took him to the traveling meetings. George’s ma, the judge’s sister, died from the cancer when he was a boy. All the prayer vigils didn’t help none. The judge was a rich man and showed an interest in his nephew. When George’s pa died, the judge took him in. He owed the judge a lot, and the judge never let him forget it.

George’s attention returned to the lecture. The judge was talking about the Spanish War, the one where Hitler bombed the Basques. He got them all worked up. Seemed like those fellas didn’t know about it, and it gave them a good excuse to be pissed off at somebody close by. Everybody stood up and clapped up a storm. George rose along with them, so’s nobody would notice him.

After the ending prayer, the judge led a group to the local watering hole to discuss the situation some more. It was only at the tavern that George realized the judge was talking about Salvadore Vasco. He noticed Cole Bristow standing next to the judge. George wondered how the judge felt about his son-in-law when he run out on Mirabel and left the judge to raise her. They acted friendly, though, so George figured they’d mended any broken fences.

Cole walked over to George and threw a heavy arm around his shoulders. “How’s it hangin’, cousin?”

George edged away but forced a grin and shook Cole’s hand. “Hangin’ fine. How ’bout you?”

Good, good.” Cole leaned forward and tapped the lip of his beer bottle on George’s chest. “Say, George, I didn’t want to ask the judge, but how’s that little girl.”

Mirabel?”

Yeah, yeah. I wanted to know if she’s come out dark or light.”

George shook his head, confused by what Cole was getting at. Then a light bulb lit, and he realized Cole wanted to know if Mirabel was his daughter. “She’s fair-skinned, Cole. Looks like her mom.”

Cole chuckled deep in his throat and tapped his beer on George’s chest again. George took a step back and glanced down at the beer spot Cole left behind. “Miranda was a hot number, all right.”

George nodded but thought Cole talking about his dead wife like that was, well, it was disrespectful. Before Cole could tap him again, George made his way to the judge’s side. “Shouldn’t we go home soon? It’s a long drive.”

In a minute, George. Find yourself another beer.”

George looked at the group of men standing around the judge, all practically foaming at the mouth talking about going out and ‘taking care’ of Vasco. The judge grinned and clapped them on the back, sayin’ he’d be grateful to whoever helped him out in sendin’ a message to the Basques around Jordan Valley. No good white folks wanted them around, and they’d best move along.

When they drove back to Rosewood, the judge was laughing and happy. “It’s about time something was done about Vasco. Teach the Basques to keep their dirty paws off white women.”

Yessir.” George agreed some, but not with what the judge was saying. Salvadore and Miranda hadn’t been together for years, so George couldn’t see how it mattered anymore.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

For Step-Dads on Father's Day

To all you guys who are taking the job seriously. Special kudos to step-fathers who treat their lady's kids like their own. Also, adoptive dads, a big huzzah for not believing your genes are all that special. You've proven how special they really are.

My husband, Jack, is both a step- and adoptive dad. He went well beyond the call of duty when he not only took on an 8-year-old and 11-year-old as a stepfather but also adopted them when their own biological father (boo on you) signed them over to avoid paying child support (he never did pay any).

I wrote TALES OF A TEXAS BOY  in honor of my own father. I figured the best I could do for him is to immortalize his tall (and partly true) tales. I call it fiction since I can't know exactly what happened when Dad Boles brought his bear to town, when the little red hen took up residence in Ma's kitchen, or how he really met May West in a little diner in East Texas.

On the other hand, nobody else was there, so how I wrote the stories might be the honest truth. Who's to say?

HAPPY FATHERS DAY, JACK!

HAPPY FATHERS DAY, HON!*
* In our family, my brothers and I called my father Honey just like Mom did. Okay, so we were a little whacky; we admit it freely.

Want to get your own father a great gift (or your step-father or your brother who is a great dad or for yourself whether you're a dad or not)?

Large Print at Amazon - Perfect Dads' Day gift.

Ebook at Amazon Free KindleUnlimited subscribers and Kindle Owners Lending Library (Prime users benefit)

Audio Book at Audible Only $1.99 if you buy the ebook from Amazon.

Photo-Illustrated Ebook on Smashwords

How do you handle a crazy jackass? Eddie knows. If you ask Eddie, he'll tell you pigs can fly and show you where to find real mammoth bones. Take his word for it when he tells you always to bet on the bear. These are things he learned while dreaming of becoming a cowboy in West Texas during the Depression. Through Eddie, the hero of "Tales of a Texas Boy," we find that growing up is less about maturity and more about roping your dreams. Hold on tight. It's a bumpy ride. A wonderful read for anyone who enjoys books like "Little House on the Prairie" or "Tom Sawyer." A great bit of nostalgia for seniors, too.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Greatest Generation Dad? Here's a Great Gift

Fathers Day is coming up (June 18th). If your dad is in the same generation as my father who grew up in the 20's and 30's, experienced WWII as an adult, and is fond of stories set in rural America, this is a book he will enjoy. Also, if he's sight-impaired, it's available in a Large Print paperback and audio book.

These are stories about my father, which also plays into the "great gift for Fathers Day" concept. He's passed now, but he took great pleasure reading his almost true tall tales. Many of the stories feature my grandfather, who Eddie looked up to and admired. I think you'll enjoy them too.

Here's a bit on some of the stories. Here are the buy links:
Kindle Ebook - Buy the ebook for only $2.99 and get the audio book for $1.99 only at Amazon. The ebook is free for Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owners Lending Library subscribers.
Smashwords Illustrated Ebook. Just like the Amazon version except includes the photo illustrations like the print book. Shhh. Don't let Am*z*n know. It's only 99 cents through Dad's Day.
Large Print Paperback Amazon This is the most popular format. $8.99
Audiobook (also available through AmazonAudible.com $6.95


EXCERPT

Rattlesnakes and Jack Rabbits

Domestic livestock weren’t the only animals that the farmers and ranchers had to deal with. The wildlife of the region didn’t hide out in the bushes all the time. Sometimes they were pretty much in your face. Rattlesnakes came to the farms to catch the rats and mice that populated granaries. Rabbits also took a liking to the easy pickings. Both animals, rattlesnakes and jackrabbits, ended up being a nuisance that the local farmers and ranchers had to control.

I was going along pretty slow, so I wouldn’t step in a snake hole when I heard the squeal of a rabbit in pain. A lot of folks don’t realize rabbits make a sound like that. It’d send shivers up your spine. I went quick toward the sound and found a bullsnake at least six-foot long if he were an inch. He was all coiled around a baby cottontail and his mouth was gaped open holdin’ onto the rabbit. The poor little rabbit was half down its gullet, but the snake made the mistake of tryin’ ta swallow it from the rear instead of the head. The cottontail was strugglin’ and screamin’ so much the snake looked downright annoyed.

Now, we don’t hunt bullsnakes, as they’re the natural enemy of rattlesnakes. And, we don’t hunt cottontails, as they weren’t big enough to do much harm. We pretty much left them both alone. The sound of the little rabbit’s screaming just ‘bout broke my heart. I run up to them and stepped down on the snake’s neck just back of the lump that was the rabbit’s rear end. That stopped the swallowing, but now I wasn’t sure what to do. I laid down my .22, grabbed the cottontail by the ears and commenced pullin’. A bullsnake’s teeth point backwards, so the rabbit was pretty much stuck in the snake’s mouth.

I was tuggin’ and the rabbit’s cryin’ and the snake’s whippin’ round trying to get my foot off’n his neck. No progress was being made by any of the three of us.

My Pa heard the rabbit, too, and he came running over and saw the fix I’d got myself into. He started to laugh some, but when he looked me in the eyes, he stopped right quick. He started pryin’ the snake’s mouth open trying to unhook the teeth from the rabbit. I let up pullin’ to allow Pa to work the rabbit loose.

Soon enough, we’d got the rabbit out of the snake’s mouth and Pa set the little guy down easy. I reached down and grabbed the bullsnake by the neck where I’d been standing and flung him as far as I could. He hit the ground slithering and was gone in a second. Pa and me took a look at the cottontail, which looked somewhat bedraggled. He was laying there pantin’ and started tryin’ to pull hisself with his front legs. It looked like he’d got a broke back and I thought we’d have to put him out of his misery.

Pa picked up his .22 and started to draw a bead on the cottontail’s head when it looked up at him with those big ol’ eyes. He stayed his hand. “Maybe he’s just stunned,” he said.

While we stood there watchin’ the rabbit, a couple of the men came up to see what we’d found. Pa told them about the bullsnake and they thought it a pretty good joke I’d try to save a rabbit from a snake.

* * *
I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from "Tales of a Texas Boy" and consider purchasing an ebook, paperback, or audio book. Since you read this far, contact me at mgdasef(at)gmail.com and I'll gift you a free audiobook from audible.com. You don't need to be a member to receive the book.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Is Your Dad A Legend?


TALES OF A TEXAS BOY

You've heard the phrase "A Legend in His Own Time." That's when somebody does something so extraordinary they create a legend around themselves. As time moves on, the legendary aspect grows and morphs into something bigger and, well, more legendary. That legend is helped along by authors writing about the person. Some people have reputations built on very little reality.  19th Century writers hungry for audience share exaggerated the feats of such legendary characters as Kit Carson, Billy the Kid, Calamity Jane, Buffalo Bill Cody. These mostly untrue stories made good press for the city folks back east.

Then there's another type of legend. It's when an author bases a book on a real person nobody has ever heard about, but exaggerates the person's feats to make for good reading; the writer creates the legend. Can you think of a case where this has occurred? I imagine there are many, considering possible biographers who hero-worship their subject past the point of reality.

Then I come to my own mini-legendary person: Little Eddie from Tales of a Texas Boy. The stories in this collection are mostly based on some brief vignette passed to me from my father. Those of you who have read the print edition might have slowed down enough to peruse the Foreword where I lay out that Eddie is my father and some additional background on his life. Nothing too exciting there. He just happened to have a few incidents in his life that I could turn from a passing comment into a short story.

I made my father a legend. The stories I wrote about his experiences are so enhanced, they have become the stuff of legends. Yes, a very small part of the population know the stories. However, how long will the Tales books be out in the world? I published the first edition in June, 2007. Coming up on the 3rd anniversary next month. In three years, more than 2000 people have had possession of the book in some form. They may have even read it. If I keep the book in print, how many people will get to know Eddie in ten years? I should mention that the majority of those potential readers picked up the book in the last year.

What's my point here? Not sure other than to state my realization that even not so famous people can become legendary to some extent from some author deciding to write about them.

Tales of a Texas Boy is available in ebook, print, and audio formats. Side note: this book in large print is a popular Fathers' Day gift for those who may have lived through the Great Depression themselves or simply grew up in a rural area. They'll feel right at home.

Large Print at Amazon - Perfect Dads' Day gift.

Ebook at Amazon Free KindleUnlimited subscribers and Kindle Owners Lending Library (Prime users benefit)

Audio Book at Audible Only $1.99 if you buy the ebook from Amazon.

If you've read this far, then you win a free audio book. Contact me privately (mgdasef(at)gmail.com) with your email address and I'll gift you with the audio book via Audible.com. You don't need to be a member to win this prize.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

In Honor of Canine Varieties 4

Dogs Descended from Wolves?
So are Werewolves.

Werewolves: An Alternative Transportation

Werewolf from New Moon
The most well-known werecritter is the werewolf. At this time in the cycle of what’s hot, what’s not, werewolves are getting great press via the Twilight books and movies by Stephanie Meyer.

I have to admit it. Werewolves can be totally sexy guys (gals) in human form. Meyer finally got one legendary being right. Well, she agrees with my concept, which I used before I read any of the Meyer saga. To tell the truth, I still haven’t read any of the books, because the first movie put such a bad taste in my mouth. OMG, Edward loves Bella because she SMELLS good?!?!? Gimme a break.

As we all know, werewolves are shape-shifters. When the full moon rises, your normal guy (or gal) changes into a werewolf. Sometimes, they are portrayed as mindless beasts who’ll rip the throat out of anybody they come upon. Other portrayals show that the maintain their human intelligence when shifted. Since the legends vary so wildly, I decided to not only have my werewolves remain intelligent, but also able to shift from human to wolf form at will.

How do I justify this turning away from the legend? I don’t need to. Some folks will howl in disgust with my tampering with the myths. Let ‛em whine or even bark. I’ve seen authors do just about everything with the tropes: weres, vampires, demons, fairies, angels, ancient gods. That, I believe, is perfectly okay. You want a half-vampire, half-demon? I’ve seen that in paranormal more than once. Gods less than god-like? Yup, been done.

Anyway, I have a six-pack of werewolves in “Bad Spelling.” Here’s a taste (ha ha, get it?) of my werewolf mashup.

EXCERPT

Rune joined them. “Are we going to stand around here all day? Where’s the alternative transportation you told us about?”

Andy tore his gaze from Kat and scanned the slope. “There it is.”

Kat looked where Andy pointed and gasped. “What—?”

“Don’t worry. They won’t hurt us,” Andy said with a confidence Kat didn’t quite trust.

“But werewolves?” There was no mistaking them for regular wolves. Besides being twice the size of the largest of the wolves, the eyes gave them away. Even from a distance, Kat could see them gleaming with intelligence.

“Look behind them,” Andy said.

The big wolves loped along easily; they were harnessed to a sled, bouncing along behind them. The speed with which they approached told her they would have no problem pulling a heavy load.
The wolves came up the slope and stopped in front of them. The lead werewolf looked at each of them with some interest. Kat felt like an item on a menu, like when they faced the polar bear.

The lead wolf said, “Good morning. Hmm. Humans, not trolls. Interesting.” The wolf looked over his shoulder at the others. “Remember, King Olaf hired us to deliver these people to where they want to go. You are not to eat them.” The other wolves nodded, but their long tongues hanging over gleaming, razor-sharp teeth was not a reassuring sight; their mouths dripped saliva in a most disconcerting manner.

The lead werewolf turned his pale yellow eyes back to Andy. “So, where are we going?”

Andy briefly explained what they wanted. The werewolf nodded and said, “If I understand correctly, we are looking for the Sami tribe. Do you realize they’re nomadic?”

“Sort of. All I know for certain is they spend much of their time on the northern coast.” Andy glanced at Kat. “Anything else?” She shook her head.

The wolf stared at Andy for a moment and then said, “Well, come closer so I can smell you. The girl, too.”

Kat hung back. “Why do you want to—? Oh, I understand. You can find the Samis through our scent.”

“Very good, young lady,” the werewolf answered and sniffed at her outstretched hand. He licked it once. Kat jerked her hand back. “Taste helps, too,” the werewolf answered, with a hint of humor in his gruff voice.

“What’s your name?” Kat asked.

“I call myself Mazi in my wolf form. I try to keep my human life separate.” The werewolf raised his head and howled. The other wolves joined in the chorus. Goose pimples rose on Kat’s arms. Then, they all fell silent and pricked their ears, turning their heads this way and that. From off in the distance, Kat heard a faint answering howl.

“Hop on the sled. It’s time to go,” Mazi said.
* * *
BAD SPELLING - Book 1 of The Witches of Galdorheim Series (FREE ON SMASHWORDS)
A klutzy witch, a shaman's curse, a quest to save her family. Can Kat find her magic in time?

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.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

In Honor of Canine Varieties 3

If your dad is in the same generation as my father who grew up in the 20's and 30's, experienced WWII as an adult, and is fond of stories set in rural America, this is a book he will enjoy. Also, if he's sight-impaired, it's available in a Large Print paperback and audio book.

These are stories about my father, which also plays into the "great gift for Fathers Day" concept. He's passed now, but he took great pleasure reading his almost true tall tales. Many of the stories feature my grandfather, who Eddie looked up to and admired. I think you'll enjoy them too.*
Here are the buy links:
Ebook:  Kindle Ebook
Large Print Paperback Amazon $8.99
Audiobook (also available through AmazonAudible.com $6.95

BLURB
How do you handle a crazy jackass? Eddie knows. If you ask Eddie, he'll tell you pigs can fly and show you where to find real mammoth bones. Take his word for it when he tells you always to bet on the bear. These are things he learned while dreaming of becoming a cowboy in West Texas during the Depression. Through Eddie, the hero of "Tales of a Texas Boy," we find that growing up is less about maturity and more about roping your dreams. Hold on tight. It's a bumpy ride. A wonderful read for anyone who enjoys books like "Little House on the Prairie" or "Tom Sawyer." A great bit of nostalgia for seniors, too.

EXCERPT

One Fine Dog

Dogs weren’t just pets, but working members of the family. Sometimes, they could do amazing things and perform feats that were almost like magic.

Ma yelled loud enough for me to hear into the next state. “Edward Preston! Get yerself in here right now!”

I wondered what it was I done now. I didn’t recall any particular mischief I’d been up to. At least, not today. I finished throwin’ the hay into Beau’s corral and went on the run up to the house.

“Yes’m,” I said soon as I got to the porch where Ma was standin’ with her fists planted on her hips. I reckon you know the look she was givin’ me. If’n your mother called you by your first and middle names, then you know exactly what I’m talkin’ about.

Then, she surprised me ‘cause she smiled. Now, that sure weren’t the normal expression she’d have if she was about to give me what-for. I thought maybe she was just havin’ some fun with me.

“Your Pa is goin’ to pick up the ewes from the Braddock’s place, so go help him get the truck out of the barn.”

I grinned myself and almost shouted “Yes’m!”  But, I caught myself in time as Ma doesn’t like us to be yellin’. I took off to the barn to find Pa. He was already pullin’ the tarp off the truck, so I went about helpin’ him finish up. We got behind the truck and pushed ‘er out of the barn. I jumped in behind the wheel. Like Pa taught me, I checked to make sure the hand brake was on, then I checked the spark and gas levers on the steering column. I pulled up on the spark and pushed down on the gas. Pa gave a mighty pull up on the crank. When the engine roared, I pushed the gas lever up a little more.

“You gotta give it more gas a little faster, Eddie.” Pa was tryin’ to teach me how to operate the truck as I was goin’ on eleven, which is plenty old enough to drive. He was takin’ it slower than I’d like. I thought I had the basics down already. Brake. Spark. Throttle. Crank. Throttle. Take off the brake and go!

“Yessir, Pa.”

Then, I got my second surprise of the day when Pa went to the passenger side and got in. Now my grin was gettin’ even wider, but I tried to tuck it down and act growed up. Pa was goin’ let me drive!

I steered out to the road half expectin’ Pa to only let me take the truck that far, but he waved me ahead and we turned left toward the Braddock’s.

I should explain what we were doin’. We have some ewes, but we don’t have a ram. So, in the fall, we bring the ewes to the Braddocks, who do have a ram. We’d just let them winter over with the Braddock flock. Now, it was spring and the hijadores, who came round to help with the lambing, had finished their work. It was time to put the ewes back into our own pastures.

* * *
I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from "Tales of a Texas Boy" and consider purchasing an ebook, paperback, or audio book.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

In Honor of Canine Varieties 2

He Ain't Nothin' But a Hound Dog

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

I found two mythic creatures who met my criteria. Sianach, a huge stag (possibly a Red Deer) and Cusith, a giant-sized green dog with a braided tail. Here's a bit on both of these critters who have major roles in "Scotch Broom" Book 3 of the Witches of Galdorheim.

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.

* * *

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

The entire series is available on Amazon as individual books and a boxed set. On Smashwords, you can get any of the books for whatever price you choose to offer (including free, if you want).


Monday, May 29, 2017

In Memoriam

Everyone has lost someone in war. Go back far enough, maybe it was the Civil War, Revolutionary War, War of 1812, maybe even the Hundred Years War. It's good to take a moment to honor them.

There are also those who go without remembrance even though they gave their lives, not voluntarily, but because others just had to shoot, bomb, and kill. We don't know many of their names, but I'm pretty sure my grandfather did.

My Memorial Day remembrance is for the horses and mules who were absolutely essential to and died because of war. WWI. My grandfather was a veterinary in the Expeditionary Forces in France. This is what he recalled (loosely interpreted by me).

Pa’s Story
From Tales of a Texas Boy - Stories by and about My Father

World War I took many young men away from their homes and sent them off to foreign shores. Eddie’s Pa was one of those young men. He has his own tale to tell.

In 1916, I was still a young buck and not yet married, so I signed up with Black Jack Pershing to go after Pancho Villa. Ol’ Pancho and his banditos had come into US territory and killed a bunch of folks in Columbus, New Mexico.

I was real good with horses, so soon I was the veterinarian. This was just as well, as I didn’t take well to using a gun. I’d never studied vetting in school, but I’d grown up on a farm in Nebraska and knew just about all there was to know about horses and mules. We chased Pancho and his gang just about all over Mexico, but never did catch up with him. A couple years later, I was still in the service, so I ended up goin’ to France with Black Jack when he got to be a General. I could have decided not to go as I’d done my time, but I knew Black Jack could put me to good use.

We were on the troop ship for weeks. Everybody was seasick for the first few days. The horses seemed to fare fine in that regard, but I was worried we couldn’t exercise them enough. We brought them up from the hold, a few at a time, and let them stretch their legs. We’d lead them in a quick walk around the deck. With the metal decks, we didn’t want them to move very fast for fear they’d slip and fall. I’d hate to have to put down a horse with a broken leg, so we took it real easy. As a result, the horses were not in good fightin’ shape by the time we landed in France.

It took some time, but me and Joe, who got assigned to be my assistant, got them in shape again. Mostly the horses were used to pack gear, but a few officers still rode them. Black Jack Pershing liked to ride on occasion, as did Captain Patton. I thought we should only have mules, since they make better pack animals than horses, but there were never enough mules to go around.


We weren’t in too many battles directly as we were the supply line for the army, but in 1918 it turned pretty bad when we went into the Argonne Forest. They called this an ‘offensive.’ I can see why as it offended me a lot. The fighting went on for nearly two months and only ended in November when the big guys signed the Treaty at Versailles.

In that short two months, it was hell on earth. Thousands of men died. One whole division, the 77th, was cut off for near a week and held out surrounded by the German forces. It was some battle, I can tell you. Almost all day long, I could hear the shells bursting and the sharp reports of rifle fire. And I heard the screams of dying men and horses.

The worst part for me was the horses being swept up in the middle of the battle. It broke my heart to go out on the fields after the fighting passed by and after the dead and wounded men were collected. Sometimes the ground was so soaked with blood that my boots were covered before I got back. A horse with an artery torn open bleeds gallons of blood; men only a few pints. It angered me when I thought how much the horses gave. They didn’t even have a say in goin’ to war. Men, at least, had a choice.

I carried a sidearm and had to shoot more horses than I can count. Those we could save, we’d bring back to the line and see if we could treat their wounds. It was a second heartbreak when they wouldn’t heal proper and we’d take them out behind the tents to put them down. We dug a deep trench to bury them for health reasons and we kept digging every day to hold them all.


While we treated the horses, close by we could see the wounded men being brought back from the battlefield. Legs and arms were already gone or had to be cut off by the doctors right there in the field. From the history I’d read about the Civil War, this was just about as bad. If the choice was amputate or die, then they had to do what was necessary. We dug another trench to hold the arms and legs the doctors cut off; the dead soldiers we wrapped in oilcloth to be sent back behind the lines, where we hoped to send their bodies back home to their families.

All told I spent twenty months in France. It was the worst part of my life and I hoped and prayed we’d never see another war like this again.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

In Honor of Canine Varieties 1

Excerpt from Tales of a Texas Boy about an encounter Eddie had with:
Ma 'Yote and Her Cubs

Bein’s it was a fine day, I took a walk to the sandstone canyon that runs near our farm. In the summer, it gave up a good stock of lizards and horny toads. I always hoped to find a horny toad, but there be plenty of other interestin’ lizards, too. The schoolhouse has a big book of critters by some scientist. I’ll admit that the man knew his stuff, even if he lived back east. I’d look up what I found in his book so I’d know next time if I spotted the same kind again.

Anyways, the canyon starts out on one end real shallow and gets deeper as it runs west. It ends up runnin’ into a bluff that turns it into a box canyon. Through spring, it had water in the deep end, but by high summer it was all dried out. I’d walk down it from the shallow end, keepin’ my eyes peeled on the walls where the critters lived. This particular day was frustratin’ ‘cause I didn’t see a single thing until I got near the end. 

I stopped dead in my tracks. Three of the cutest little coyote cubs you’d hope to meet were rompin’ around near the end of the canyon. I looked every which way for their mama, but didn’t see her. I suspected she might be out lookin’ for dinner.

The cubs looked my way, but didn’t spook. They just looked interested for a bit, then they went back to bitin’ each other’s tails. I had to grin at the squeaky lil’ growls they let out as they played at huntin’.

I sat down partly hid by a big boulder no more’n twenty feet from ‘em just to watch. I commenced to thinkin’ that I might catch one of the cubs and raise him up like a dog. Coyotes looked like dogs, but I’d never heard of anyone who brought one home. I decided I’d try to tame one of the cubs, but I’d wait until their ma weaned them. They’d still be small enough for me to wrangle, but not so big as to be dangerous.

Somethin’ moved atop the canyon wall and caught my eye. Mama Coyote hung her head over the edge and bared her teeth. Even from twenty feet up I could hear the growling. I stood up slow and commenced to backin’ away. She jumped down and I nearly fell on my backside. I don’t know to this day how she done it, but that coyote found footholds to scramble down that rock wall what looked like a lizard might not get a grip.

She hit the bottom lickety-split, so I backed up a mite faster. Not too fast, or I knew she’d come after me. Lucky for me, she weren’t inclined to do that, so I turned around and took off. I kept alookin’ over my shoulder, but she stayed with her cubs, sniffin’ them to make sure they were alright. In that way, she reminded me of my own ma. She can sound mean enough to shake you right outta yer boots, but I know it’s generally for my own good.
* * *

Read the rest of the story and more in Tales of a Texas Boy.
Tales of a Texas Boy is available in Large Print paperback for $8.99 on Amazon. It's also in ebook format on Amazon ($2.99) or $0.99 if you buy the paperback. And if your family or friend has vision issues beyond the help of large print (as my father did), the audio book is available at audible.com for only $6.95 and only $1.99 on Amazon if you buy the ebook.


Saturday, May 27, 2017

In Honor of Flying Horses

HORSEFEATHERS

That archaic term means something is unbelievable, nonsense, hogwash, bull puckey.

What does that have to do with myth and legend? Flying horses, of courses. In legend, Pegasus is a gorgeous black horse with ebony wings. Feathered wings. This has been the tried and true formula since Grecian myth. From the Encyclopedia Mythica:
Pegasus
In Greek mythology, Pegasus is the winged horse that was fathered by Poseidon* with Medusa. When her head was cut off by the Greek hero Perseus, the horse sprang forth from her pregnant body. Percy Jackson’s father does get around. A lot.

I’ve never been convinced that a winged horse would also have feathers. In “Setara’s Genie” I introduce not one, but two! flying horses.

Hasib the Sultan’s Horse

Setara finds a talking, flying, fire-breathing horse named Hasib hiding in her father’s stable. He’s trying to look casual, but Setara notices that he’s whistling and hiding his head in the corner of the stall. Highly suspicious behavior. When Setara approaches, an eagle flies through the stable at head height scaring the horses, including Hasib. He levitates a foot into the air and spits fire out of his mouth, setting the hay on fire.

Setara rushes to the rescue and beats out the flames. She and Hasib have a little chat while he explains that he’s a cross-blood horse, mostly horse, but just a wee touch of dragon blood. This means he can fly (without wings) and breathe fire. However, he’s not very good at either talent. Setara helps Hasib gain control over his magic.

Not exactly Nasreen, but a flying
horse from 1001 Arabian Nights.
Nasreen the Non-Feathered Winged Flying Mare
With the dragon attacking the Sultan of Semidor’s palace, Setara and Basit have got to get off that mountain fast. Basit gives wings to Setara’s mare, Nasreen. But we all know that horses don’t have feathers, so Nasreen’s beautiful wings are covered with the same lovely hair as the rest of her body. The little mare takes to her new appliances immediately, carrying Setara to the Sultan’s Palace to save Hasib.

There we have it. Two flying horses, but not a one with feathers.


EXCERPT

At the far end of the corridor, she saw Hasib with his head stretched as far as he could through the stall window.

Here. I’m here!” Hasib slammed his front hooves against his stall door. Basit was within reach of the stall. “The groom locked me in and then ran off. I have to get out. I’ve heard Azhi Dahaka is here, and he’s burning people!”

Not taking time to use magic, Basit fumbled with the latch and swung the stall door open. Hasib stepped out, immediately turned left and trotted down the long corridor to the outside door. Basit, Setara, and Sheik kept pace with him.

What will you do?” Basit asked.

I’ll have to fight him, I’m afraid. I’m the only one who can. The blood of Azhi Dahaka runs in my veins.”

The four reached the door and stood looking up at the awesome figure of the dragon demon spouting flame. People ran screaming in all directions. The soldiers were having no luck with their arrows. Trying to shoot straight up to Azhi’s perch on the tower slowed the arrows too much to do any good. The barbs bounced off the dragon’s tough scales with no effect.

Setara saw a crossbow lying on the ground, probably discarded by an escaping soldier. She picked it up. A few feet further on, she saw a quiver with bolts. She grabbed it, too. “Let me on your back. I’ll go with you!”

Basit reached for her arm. “No! I cannot allow you to come to harm.”

She twisted away and jumped on Hasib’s back. “Let’s go, Hasib!”

The flying horse sprang into the air. He needed no wings since he flew by magic. To Setara’s surprise, Nasreen took flight beside Hasib. Setara admired the mare’s bravery but wished she could tell her to go back.

Basit also took flight. Setara knew he wouldn’t let her face Azhi’s flames alone. She hoped he knew some spell to protect her and Hasib from the spouting fire. Glancing at him, she saw the familiar look of concentration on his face when he was making up a new spell.

As the two horses and the djinn soared upward, some people stopped in their tracks to stare. Setara almost laughed. As if a dragon demon perched on the palace tower wasn’t enough, the sight of a winged horse, another flying horse with a girl on his back, and a genie was more than they could stand. Those who were not already running away from the tower decided now would be a good time to do so.

The ground around the tower was littered with fallen arrows and men. Some brave souls attempted to save the wounded men. However, the flames were pouring down so fast they had to weave and dodge to reach them.

She gripped Hasib’s mane with one hand and worked to load a bolt and get the crossbow in position with the other. It wasn’t working, so she let go of the mane, gripping tight with her legs. She didn’t even think about looking down. Her whole attention was focused on the roaring demon wrapped around the tower. They flew directly into the path of its flames.

Hasib fought back with flames of his own. However, he was much smaller than the dragon, and his flame was not big enough to have any effect. Setara fired a bolt toward Azhi, but it fell far short. “We’ll have to get closer!” she yelled over the roaring of the dragon. Hasib spiraled upward, taking a path around the tower. Azhi twisted his body to face the flying horses, the clearest threat to him.

Setara managed to reload the crossbow and turned the winch to draw back the bolt. She held the crossbow up, aiming along its shaft. The dragon demon’s head reared up directly in front of her. She fired. The bolt shot through the air, hitting the dragon’s head. It seemed to stick for a moment, then fell off. Setara groaned. She didn’t think she’d get another chance.

My blood!” Azhi Dahaka cried out. Setara looked to see if the bolt had done some damage, but she couldn’t see even a scratch on the dragon’s shining scales. Of course, while Hasib circled and soared, getting a close look wasn’t easy.

She saw Nasreen turn in mid-air and begin to circle the tower in the opposite direction from Hasib.

Good girl!” Setara called out. The mare was exposing herself to distract the dragon’s attention away from her and Hasib. The dragon twisted toward the mare and drew his head back to spray flames at Nasreen.

With the dragon’s attention elsewhere, Setara loaded another bolt into the crossbow and pulled it back. Hasib drew his legs up and shot toward the dragon. As he brought her next to the dragon’s side, Setara loosed the bolt. It bounced off his scales to no effect.

Azhi Dahaka’s snake-like head whipped around toward Hasib. His eyes widened as Hasib halted in mid-air right in front of the dragon’s nose.

**** and then what happened? Read the book to find out.