Saturday, August 31, 2013

Green Alligators and Long-Necked Geese

SCOTCH BROOM: Book 3 of The Witches of Galdorheim  (Kindle Edition only $1.99 and Print Edition only $6.65)
A magical trip to Stonehenge lands a witch in the Otherworld where an ancient goddess is up to no good.

A Gem of a Companion

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Me,” Kat yelled.

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

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

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

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Faizah's Destiny Book Trailer Garners 2nd Place

The August You Gotta Read Video contest is over, and I'm pleased to announce my trailer for Faizah's Destiny won 2nd Place. Cool. My book will be featured for two months at the You Gotta Read Reviews site. Nothing like a little bit of publicity for free.

And here's the trailer that got enough votes for 2nd.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

There Be Trolls Here!

I spent the last few days in Seattle. I decided to visit my son and granddaughters by going to them, rather than the usual them coming to us. Hubby and I also decided to take the train. Able to walk around, bigger seats than the plane, and I could go to the bathroom without having to pull over to a rest stop. We had a great time, spent lots of money, and I got lost on Fisherman's Wharf. Apparently, every member of the party forgot they were carrying cellphones. Oh, well. I was eventually found without having to be dropped off at the Lost Children department.

Another site I wanted to take in is the famous troll under the bridge in Seattle. Although we had lived on the east side for several years, we didn't go to the main city much. Somehow I managed to never visit the troll.

Since my series, Witches of Galdorheim, has trolls all over it, I have a natural interest in the subject. I decided to post about my trolls as introduced in "Bad Spelling."


Trolls. What do you imagine? Maybe something like the big ugly pictured here. In my Witches of Galdorheim series, I wanted a cave-dwelling bunch of uglies, but dwarves didn’t seem right for my book. Then I started hearing music inside my head. You know how that goes, right? It builds and builds until it has you screaming in frustration, willing to even listen to some other music to at least swap the tormenting sound.

But before I could find a MP3 file of "Henry the VIIIth" by Herman’s Hermits, I stopped and listened. My muse was whacking me in the head via earworm. The music was Grieg’s Hall of the Mountain King from the Peer Gynt Suite. Duh. Trolls.

Despite the canards on trolls from the likes of Artemis Fowl or Pratchett’s Discworld, I thought they could be heroic if given sufficient ale.

From the Free Dictionary/Encyclopedia:

A troll is a fearsome member of a mythical race from Norse mythology. Originally more or less the Nordic equivalents of giants, although often smaller in size, the different depictions have come to range from the fiendish giants – similar to the ogres of England – to a devious, more human-like folk of the wilderness, living underground in hills, caves or mounds.

Hey! They’re not all flesh-eating giants who turn to stone in the sunlight. Some are devious little guys who live in wilderness areas (no doubt protecting endangered magical species).

In Bad Spelling, Kat and her smart-aleck half-brother, Rune, (also happens to be a vampire, but has absolutely no resemblance to the Twilight guy except they’re both cute as hell) are directed by Kat’s flash-frozen dad (Rune calls him a popsicle) to visit the Troll King. At the Hall, she requests assistance from King Ole, the Norwegian Troll King. He arranges for her and Rune to ride the Trollercoaster, which starts in Norway and ends up in the Ural Mountains. From there Kat, Rune, and a changeling troll named Andy travel to Siberia to find Kat's family.

Clearly, trolls are good. They are nice, helpful, cheerful, and sing fairly well too. Yet aspersions continue to be cast upon these misunderstood creatures. Shame on all of you for making them the bad guys all these years!


Kat ran to where her brother and the three trolls faced each other. The trolls stood shoulder to shoulder, their big, splayed feet firmly planted in front of the footbridge. They bared their chunky yellow teeth and growled at Rune. Although hardly reaching Rune’s shoulder, they each outweighed him. Clearly, the trolls did not intend to let him cross. Looking up and down the streamlet, Kat wondered at their careful guarding of the bridge. Kind of silly, she thought, since anyone could easily step across the rivulet without even getting wet feet. She wondered if these were children, given their short stature. However, their long knives looked very grown up.

Enunciating each word, Rune held his hands out to show they were empty. Kat had no idea what her brother was saying, since Rune was speaking Old Runish. Except for a few spell words, Kat didn’t understand the ancient tongue.

Evidently, neither did the trolls. Rune spoke again, louder this time, and took one slow step forward. At this move, the troll on the left lunged at them, jabbing at Rune with his knife. Rune sidestepped the rush, and the troll, taken off balance, stumbled and fell flat on his face. Kat stepped over the troll and grasped his arm but only caught hold of his sleeve. He screamed and pushed her away. The other two trolls ran at her with their knives raised, yelling as they advanced.

Rune stuck out his foot and tripped the middle troll. The last troll standing went after Rune. The young warlock threw up his hands, arms crossed to fend off the attack. A bright red light arced from his hands to hit the charging troll in the face. The troll dropped his knife and fell to the ground, screaming and rolling around with his hands pressed over his eyes. Rune snatched up the knife and held it to the middle troll’s neck. Kat sat on the one she grabbed, pulling the knife from his flailing hand. The recipient of Rune’s flash attack kept his hands over his eyes.

Rune spoke again in Old Runish, shouting to make himself heard. It didn’t do any good; the trolls all continued screaming and squealing at the top of their lungs.

Kat jumped up from the troll’s back and grabbed Rune’s hand, pulling the knife away from the troll’s neck. “Rune,” she yelled, “tell them we won’t hurt them!”

The thrashing troll froze then turned his cumbersome head toward her.

“You can speak our language!” He slapped the troll nearest to him, who abruptly stopped screaming. The one whose neck Rune held the knife to spread his fingers to peek at Rune and Kat.

Rune released the troll and stood up, looking a little sheepish. “I just assumed—” He stopped then shook his head.

Kat crouched on her knees next to one of the trolls lying on the ground and patted him on the shoulder. “We mean you no harm. We’re Wiccans from Galdorheim. Maybe you’ve heard of it?”

Slowly, the trolls climbed to their feet, looked at Kat, then at each other. The three trolls huddled, conferring together. Kat heard a murmur but couldn’t make out what they said.

Kat continued, searching for something to say. “My Aunt Thordis…” Three pairs of troll eyes turned to her and opened wide. They stared at Kat. The middle troll elbowed the one on his left, who giggled. The troll on the right gave a great whoop of laughter then slapped the middle troll on the back. All three trolls broke into huge guffaws and ended up leaning on each other, wiping tears from their eyes. Rune and Kat stared open-mouthed.

Finally, the middle troll controlled his laughter long enough to say, “We thought King Ole said to watch for the ones Thor sent. He wouldn’t want any Viking warriors breaking into the hall. ” He broke out laughing again before snorting a couple of times to clear his nose. “Maybe we got the message a little mixed up?”

* * *

BAD SPELLING – Book 1 of the Witches of Galdorheim
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 warlock 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. At the Troll Kingdom, a young troll, Andy, joins the siblings in their quest to find the shaman and kill the curse.

All three books in the Witches of Galdorheim series are available in all ebook formats and in print on Amazon.

Check out the entire series on the Witches of Galdorheim tab or click this sentence.

Friday, August 23, 2013

I'm Not Here

It's my birthday today, so I'm off celebrating somewhere. I share my birthday with Barbara Eden. Of course, we're almost identical twins except she's blond and I'm (ummmm) brunette.

Happy Birthday, Barbara! Also, Keith Moon (he's the closest to my age) and Gene Kelly.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Ever Have Something Really Bug You?

When I signed up on Google+ (which is, by the way, much better than Facebook), I met Lorinda Taylor. A retired research librarian, you can imagine she's pretty meticulous about research. She also writes very well. I was curious about her work which revolves, for the most part, around the concept of giant, sentient termites. If you want something to bug you (in a good way), I recommend her imaginative work She also draws her own covers. I invited her to provide a guest post. So, without further ado, here's Lorinda.

* * *

What You May Not Know about The Labors of Ki’shto’ba Huge-Head

To date I’ve published two volumes of my fantasy series The Labors of Ki’shto’ba Huge-Head.  So what is this series all about?

At the end of my novel The Termite Queen, the Shi Champion Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head and the Remembrancer (i.e. Bard) Di'fa'kro'mi announce their intention of setting out on an epic journey to reach the sea. (The Shshi are an intelligent species evolved from alien termites). Until Kaitrin and the other Star-Beings arrived, the Shshi didn't know the ocean existed; it was only a Remembrancer's tale and the concept of an endless body of water fascinates them.

And how better to depict an epic quest than by having the questers relive Greek myths and certain other classic heroic tales as they travel across their world? And who better to experience these adventures but a Hercules stand-in? And which of my termites is a perfect fit to play Hercules? Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head, of course! The series title The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head mirrors the Twelve Labors of Hercules, and several of these are re-enacted, although not all of them can be adapted to termite culture. But the primary myths that are re-experienced are ones that are not generally associated with Hercules, such as the topic of the first volume -- the Trojan War.

How can one of the world's great love stories be retold within a termite culture where sex has no relevance except within a fortress’s Holy Chamber, where the Mother and the King dwell? Well, if I told you that, it would be a spoiler! Suffice it to say, I came up with an ingenious way to make it happen! And it should come as no surprise that a tale of war fits well into termite culture -- one-third of the citizens of a fortress are Warriors, after all. And the themes of heroism and cowardice and betrayal, of friend turning against friend -- those are universal.

The opening chapters of The War of the Stolen Mother establish the premise for the entire series. We have to tie it to the end of The Termite Queen and then dispatch Ki'shto'ba on a quest to accomplish Twelve Wonders. And we need to identify Ki'shto'ba with Hercules by giving it the appropriate backstory. Hercules was sired by Zeus who paid a clandestine visit to Hercules' mother in the guise of her husband. Hercules had a twin and when they were both in the nursery, he wrestled with two serpents who were trying to kill the twin.

We also have to learn about certain prophecies regarding Ki'shto'ba that were spoken by one of the greatest Seers (a stand-in for the Greek Seer Teiresias), and we have to provide the hero with its archetypal twelve Companions for the quest. By the time Ki'shto'ba leaves its home fortress of To'wak, it has acquired four of them. The fifth soon appears -- one of the most important characters in the story -- Za'dut the trickster. Terrific character -- I love it!

Only then can we embark on the War of the Stolen Mother itself. Even as in the Iliad itself, there is plenty of action, mass battles, heroic single combat, trickery, prophecy, betrayal, funeral games, and ultimately catastrophe -- everything you would want in an epic fantasy! There is also humor, mostly provided by Za’dut.  Any reader who enjoys a uniquely imaginative depiction of this sort of story would love reading this book!
Now I'll quickly recap the remainder of series. Di'fa'kro'mi the Remembrancer, (the narrator of these tales) originally composed three volumes, but they turned out to be too long, so the editor Kaitrin Oliva (and me, by proxy) converted them into six. They divide easily because they're episodic.

Volume One: The War of the Stolen Mother
Already published on Amazon and Smashwords.

Volume Two: The Storm-Wing
Ki'shto'ba earns the new surname Monster-Slayer. It kills five monsters in this volume and encounters a different Shshi people (the Marchers) who will profoundly affect the lives of our hero and its Companions.
Already published on Amazon and Smashwords.

Volume Three: The Valley of Thorns
The Song of Roland and its disastrous aftermath. Enough said.
To be published this year, possibly.

Volume Four: Beneath the Mountain of Heavy Fear
Descent into the Underworld – absolutely essential to any epic quest!

Volume Five and Six: The Quest for the Golden Fungus
This is too long for one volume, but I'm uncertain as to how to handle the individual volume titles. Here’s a possibility:

Volume Five: The Quest for the Golden Fungus: The Companions Reach the Sea (tentative)

Volume Six: The Quest for the Golden Fungus: The Revenge of the Dead Enemy
The problem here is the length of the titles -- horrible for Amazon and not so good on a title page. If I drop the Quest part and use the subtitles as the main title, we lose the obvious association with the Quest for Golden Fleece (I'm sure you guessed that!) I'll have a lot of time to think about that.

And then someday I mean to write a seventh volume, because the end of v.6 leaves a lot of loose ends. It will be entitled:
Volume Seven: The Buried Ship at the End of the World.

Now all of this should make you quite eager to begin reading this series! If you like action and adventure, with great characters and some psychological angst thrown in, you're going to love The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head!

I guarantee it!  

Saturday, August 17, 2013

You Gotta Read Contest: Faizah's Destiny Book Trailer

"Faizah's Destiny" is my most recent book published by MuseItUp. As usual, I made up a book trailer, then submitted it to the You Gotta Read video contest. It makes its appearance today. Voting begins on the 21st.

If you believe authors should spend lots of money to have a professional company create their book trailers, then please don't vote for Faizah's Destiny. It's not worth my time or trouble to go up against authors with the money to burn on marketing efforts like this. On the other hand, if you like the vid, feel free to vote for it.

I have a real publisher who has real editors and real cover artists to make my books look good. If they'd do my book trailer as well, I'm sure I'd have a much better one to show. If nothing else, I always use music from (Kevin MacLeod) and it's always worth a couple minutes of your time to listen.

That's it. Here's the Faizah cover by the inimitable and talented Charlotte Volnek.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Genies in Setara's Genie

A Bottle of Djinn

Genies or djinns are great fun. Robin William’s genie in Aladdin was a hoot. But when is Robin Williams not a hoot? Okay, don’t tell me about One-Hour Photo, Insomnia, or Death to Smoochy. Nobody bats a thousand.

Ahem. That’s not the subject here. It’s genies.

Let’s not talk about I Dream of Jeannie. That is clearly a complete and utter corruption of the wonderful race of magical beings brought to us from Muslim tradition. So, here’s the skeenie on genies.

From Wikipedia:
In Arabic, a genie (also jinn, Djinn, jinni) is a supernatural creature which occupies a parallel world to that of mankind, and together with humans and angels makes up the three sentient creations of God (Allah). Possessing free will, a djinn can be either good or evil.
The Djinn are mentioned frequently in the Qur’an, and there is a Surah entitled Al-Jinn. While Christian tradition suggests that Lucifer was an angel that rebelled against God’s orders, Islam maintains that Iblis was a Djinn who had been granted special privilege to live amongst angels prior to his rebellion. Although some scholars have ruled that it is apostasy to disbelieve in one of God’s creations, the belief in Jinn has fallen comparably to the belief in angels in other Abrahamic traditions.

Golly, that’s not near as much fun as Robin Williams. Still, a supernatural being that can wreak havoc on humans is right up our alley, right?

In my book, “Setara’s Genie,” Basit, the genie, serves Setara. Well, ‘serves’ is a bit of a stretch. He suggests, advises, and pretty much makes her figure out how to get things done. Every once in a great while, he will whomp up a little magic if Setara is about to fall off a cliff or something else dangerous.

Basit appears in all of Setara’s adventures except one. In that story, an evil genie has tricked Basit into the bottle that Aladdin put him in years before. He introduces himself to Setara as Sharif, Apprentice Djinn Second Class, and claims to be taking over for Basit while he’s missing. Setara is naturally concerned for Basit. The evil genie (disguised as a boy djinn) wants to lure her into helping him kill the Great Vizier ---- screeeech! Calling a halt here. The plot is too complicated to explain in full.

The short of it is that Setara and her gang have to rescue Basit from the bottle. To do that, they have to put the bad genie into another bottle. Setara, Kairav the water demon, Azizah the cave demon, Sheik the dog, and Sulawesi the eagle are all needed to put that dang bad genie back in his bottle and get Basit out.

To learn what else happens to the gang, you’ll just have to buy a copy of the book.


Setara slumped to the cave floor. What, she wondered, could these superstitious tribesmen think was a mountain demon? Cloistered she may be, but she was well educated and did not believe in demons. These were old men’s tales to frighten children. It made no difference, really. Dead was dead, whether by a demon’s talons or a mountain cat’s fangs.

She smacked her head against the rock wall and realized she had dozed off. How stupid of me. I’m waiting here for something to eat me, and I take a nap! She edged toward the entrance, kicking herself mentally. Why hadn’t she simply tried to push the bushes aside and get out?

She found the answer in the inch-long thorns on the shrubs, tied down so she couldn’t move them. When she pushed on them with her tied hands, she got a gash for her effort. Now, the mountain cats would smell blood, and it would be all over.

She retreated from the thorns and put her back to the wall. At least she could face the lions when they came.

A loud crash, followed by a slither of loose gravel sounded no more than twenty feet from where she crouched. Setara pressed herself harder into the cave wall, closed her eyes tight, and clenched her teeth.

Her eyes and mouth popped open simultaneously at what she heard next.

Why can’t they clean up these blasted caves?” a deep voice rumbled.

Suddenly, a torch flared, and Setara could see the source of the voice. An eight-foot tall figure loomed in the light. A turbaned head nearly touched the now visible cave roof. Setara gaped at the man. Or was it a man? While his features were man-like, the three-inch fangs, sharp talons, and beastly snout belied his humanity. The being was dressed in the old style, with ballooning trousers tied at the ankles, and a brocaded vest which hung open to reveal a broad, hairless chest.

The creature held up the torch, which Setara could now see was a flame jetting from his upraised index finger. The monster glanced around until his gaze rested on Setara.

Ah, a bargain made, goods delivered.” The deep voice chuckled, sounding like the beat of a drum. Huh huh huh. “Good evening, my dear. Please, come out into the light. Nothing to be afraid of, I assure you.”

Despite his words, she did not feel reassured. She could only whimper as she continued to try to melt into the stone wall. This was the demon! How could such a thing be? Demons and ogres were only legends and fairy tales, yet here one stood before her. In the flesh, so to speak.

The demon grinned, a most disconcerting grin, exposing his fangs to their full length. “Come, come, my little lady, don’t be afraid. I’m not an ogre, you know.” The beast’s fangs and nose shrank back to a more normal size.’re a demon,” Setara barely whispered.

A what? Oh, good heavens, what kind of nonsense have they been filling your head with? I most certainly am not a demon. Why, the very idea! Any fool can see I’m a genie. You know, a djinn.”

If you’re a djinn, where is your lamp?” Setara managed to ask.

Lamp? Oh, that was just Aladdin’s genie, Shairan. Most of us don’t hang around in lamps. Old Shairan was tricked into that one. Evil as the devil, but not too bright, I’m afraid.”

* * *
Where to buy Setara's Genie:
MuseItUp Publishing (all ebook formats)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Setara's Flying Critters


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

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:
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.

Flying Creatures in Setara’s Genie (other than the genie, of course)

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.

Azhi Dahaka the Dragon Demon

After Hasib has headed back to the Sultan’s Palace (where he lives), Setara and her genie run across Azhi Dahaka, the dragon-demon which provided (unwillingly) the blood to make Hasib a flying fire-breather.

Trapped high atop a mountain, they watch while the dragon heads for the palace. From what he’d said before escaping from the caves (just stick with me here; I don’t want to give away every plot element), Setara and Basit believe the dragon wants to harm their friend, Hasib.

Nasreen the Winged 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, one dragon demon, and nary a one with feathers. The flying horses shown here are from an old copy of 1001 Arabian Nights. You see? No wings, no feathers.


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.

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Where to Buy Setara's Genie:

Sunday, August 11, 2013

New Cover for "Missing, Assumed Dead"

I must be bored lately. I redid the paperback cover for my murder mystery set in Eastern Oregon. I'm not completely happy with it yet, but it will do for now. Some of you think I only write MG/YA fantasy. Well, here's proof that I'm not a one-trick pony. Maybe it's a clumsy trick, but it's nice the pony can perform a trick at all.

Prejudice, murder, insanity, suicide: Every small town has its secrets.

When Kameron McBride receives notice she’s the last living relative of a missing man she’s never even heard of, the last thing she wants to do is head to some half-baked Oregon town to settle his affairs. But since she’s the only one available, she grudgingly agrees.

En route, she runs afoul of a couple of hillbillies and their pickup in an accident that doesn’t seem...accidental. Especially when they keep showing up wherever she goes. Lucky for her, gorgeous Deputy Mitch Caldwell lends her a hand, among other things. Her suspicions increase when the probate Judge tries a little too hard to buy the dead man’s worthless property.

Working on a hunch and trying to avoid the Judge’s henchmen, Kam probes deeper into the town’s secrets and finds almost no one she can trust. With Mitch’s help, she peels away the layers of prejudice, suicide, murder, and insanity. But someone in town doesn’t like her poking around, and when they show their intentions by shooting her through the police chief’s office window, the stakes are raised. Kam must find out what really happened to her dead relative before someone in this backward little town sends her to join him.

And she thought Oregon was going to be boring.

Buy the book:

All ebook formats are available at MuseItUp. The bookstore is being revamped, so I don't have a current link at this time.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Demons, Imps, and Devils OH MY


Demons are horrible, ugly, and cruel, right? Minions of Satan (or Shaitan since we’re talking middle-eastern mythology here), they’re purpose is to create havoc and torture souls. Pitchforks, red skin, fangs, and other nasty features depending on a person’s cultural background. Also, according to Islamic tradition, Shaitan employs jinn to do his dirty deeds. Well, I couldn’t have that since one of the heroic figures of Setara’s Genie happens to be a jinn. I turned that traditional view on its head, so why shouldn’t I also mess with the concept of demons?

Two of Setara’s best friends happen to be demons. Azizah and Kairav are blue demons, which are generally nice beings who go about their business and don’t harm humans. Azizah is a cave demon, and spends her time (yes, demons have gender) tending to caves. She keeps the caves neat (in her own manner) and even builds new caverns using her magic with rock. Kairav is a water demon who cares for all types of water—pools, rivers, lakes, and streams.

They don’t usually buddy up with people either, so old tales paint all demons as evil. There are bad demons, true. For example, the blue demons are enemies with the purple demons.

In another of my middle-eastern books, a character points out that blue demons are good and purple demons are bad, so I’ve maintained a consistent view of demons within my tales, even if I’m at odds with the rest of humanity in that regard.


Abu Nuwas sits in the bazaar on his threadbare rug; a cup and sign proclaim him a teller of tales. For one small coin, he bids passers by to listen. A poor girl, Najda, sells spices from a tray. Would he, she asks, trade a tale for a packet of spice? Abu Nuwas agrees and begins the epic adventures of a girl and her genie.

As did Scheherazade before him, Abu leaves Najda hanging in the middle of each yarn to keep her coming back. Between stories, he questions the girl about her life. He discovers that she’s been promised in marriage to an old man whom she hates, but she must wed him to save her sick mother’s life. The rich bridegroom will pay for the doctors the mother needs. Meanwhile, Najda sells spices in the market to earn enough money to keep her mother alive.

He relates the adventures of the bored daughter of a rich merchant, Setara, and her genie, Basit, as they encounter the creatures of legend and folklore: a lonely cave demon seeking a home; a flying, fire-breathing horse who has lost his mate; a dragon searching for his family; an evil genie hunting for the man who put him in a lamp; and a merboy prince cast out of his undersea kingdom.


Setara is traveling with Azizah as they search for a home for the demoness. Along the way, they chance upon a beautiful pool in a forest glade. This excerpt shows the introduction of the two demons, Azizah and Kairav, to each other.

Basit frowned when he heard the voice and then snapped his fingers. “Kairav, is that you?”

The water dropped back to the surface, and an enormous form stood up out of the pool in place of the towering water. Clearly, this was another demon, although a lovely shade of light blue, almost a match for his pool if the sun were shining. The figure rapidly shrank to a more reasonable size, no larger than Basit.

With a booming voice, the figure cried, “Basit, you old dog! What have you been up to?” Then, more subdued, the demon continued, “Why I haven’t seen you since, when was it? Oh, yes, when old Shairan got tricked into the lamp by that Aladdin boy.”

Kairav stepped out of the pond and gave Basit a big hug, lifting him off his feet. Basit laughed and pounded Kairav on the back, which swooshed a wave of water over Setara, Azizah, and Sheik. “Oh, sorry!” Kairav said with a laugh. Sheik shook from head to tail tip, splashing even more water on Setara. Despite the soaking, she couldn’t help but grin at the happy reunion.

Finally, they broke apart, and Basit gestured to his comrades. “This is my mistress, Setara the Fair.” Setara felt her cheeks glow at Basit’s compliment. “Her fine dog, Sheik.” Sheik woofed a greeting when he heard his name mentioned. “And lastly, but certainly not least, the lovely cave demon, Azizah. We’re helping her find a new cave.”

Ah, Azizah, eh? Are you not the mate of Petros? A fine demon, him.”

Azizah sniffled. “Yes, but I’m sad to say he passed on to the great cave in the sky a few seasons back.”

I’m sorry to hear it. He was a good demon. Took care of his cave and never blocked up the streamlets running through it. That’s important to us water demons. Too many thoughtless demons blocking up the waterways. Should be a law against it.”

Pardon my rudeness.” Kairav rubbed his hands together. “Please, take your ease.” With a flip of his hand, the water ran back into the pool, leaving the rocks around it perfectly dry.

Basit looked around the pool with more interest than he’d shown before. “Nice place you’ve got here, Kairav. Can’t say I’ve ever seen a more lovely setting for a demon pool. The waterfall is a nice touch.”

The demon puffed out his chest. “Thank you. I’m rather proud of it.”

Basit rubbed his chin. “Say, Kairav, what’s under the waterfall?”

Nothing. It’s just a rock wall. I diverted quite a few small streams to get the waterfall flowing. I worked for a couple of months on that alone.” Kairav surveyed his little realm with a satisfied look.

The genie and the demon continued to chat about past experiences and common friends. Setara listened closely, fascinated by the accounts of the private lives of magical beings. She noticed Azizah looking glum, so she went to the side of the she-demon and touched her arm. “Are you all right, Azizah? You look a little blue. Oh, I mean, sad. Of course, you look blue.”

Kairav reminded me of how much I miss Petros, that’s all. It’s the past now, so I need to move on, but it still makes me sad to think of him.” The dark blue she-demon smiled bravely, which, if one didn’t know her, could be quite frightening.

Setara noticed something else. Kairav kept glancing in Azizah’s direction. Setara wondered if there were rules about demon relationships. Could a cave demon and a pool demon get along? They were both shades of blue, if it mattered.

* * *
I have discontinued the Win the Book promo since I'm not getting sufficient comments to have a fair contest. I'll see about giving away a free copy of the paperback and ebook editions at a later date. Maybe for Christmas or something.

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Where to buy Setara's Genie:

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Here Be Monsters


Setara and her genie, Basit, meet many interesting mythological creatures, but only two should be included in the category Monsters. Here’s a bit about the role each monster plays in Setara’s Genie.

Azhi Dahaka

Azhi is a dragon demon who’s supposed to be dead, but comes back to life a little bit ticked off because his blood was used by the Great Vizier hundreds of years before to create a breed of fire-breathing, flying horses.

From the Encyclopedia Mythica (
A storm demon from Iranian mythology. He steals cattle and brings harm to humans. It is a snake-like monster with three heads and six eyes who also personifies the Babylonian oppression of Iran. The monster will be captured by the warrior god Thraetaona and placed on the mountain top Dermawend. In a final revival of evil, it will escape its prison, but at the end of time (fraso-kereti) it will die in the river of fire Ayohsust.

Even though this particular description includes multiple heads and pretty bad attitude, I also found an ancient bas relief that purports to be Azhi Dahaka. Decide what you will. A monster is a monster no matter how many heads he or she has.

Excerpt Featuring Azhi Dahaka

Setara rounded the bend in the tunnel and stopped dead in her tracks. Azizah and Kairav stood at one end of a huge cavern, heaving large stones as fast as they could. At the other end, about forty feet away, the strangest creature she’d ever seen was shooting jets of fire from its mouth. It had great bat-like wings that created a rush of wind each time the dragon stroked downward. It possessed four legs but had reared up and clawed at the air with the front set. Fangs at least six inches long lined the animal’s jaws. It seemed reptilian with its elongated head and scaly sides. However, it was huge by reptile standards, being more than twenty feet long and barely fit in the end of the cavern. Its scales rippled with colors—green, violet, orange, blue.

Basit flew around the cavern, attempting to outflank the creature. He began hurling balls of light from his fingertips. They didn’t appear to do anything other than annoy the beast, but the interruption did distract it from breathing fire at Azizah and Kairav. When it turned its head to shoot fire toward Basit, Azizah ran forward and threw another huge rock. It struck the beast’s head, knocking it against the wall.

It turned one last time and let out a loud roar that shook small stones off the walls. Then, it shrank rapidly to no more than ten feet long. With a single bound, it leaped into the tunnel on the far side of the cavern and was gone in a flash of purple and green.

Setara ran to Azizah, who dropped the stone she was just about to throw. Kairav and Basit joined them. Sheik ran in circles around the group, barking for all he was worth.

“Shush, Sheik. We can’t hear ourselves think.” Setara chastised the agitated dog. Sheik dropped to his belly panting from the excitement.

“What was that thing?” Setara looked at the grim faces of her friends.

“Azhi Dahaka,” Basit answered.

* * *

The Kraken

The Kraken is a fearsome beast. Yikes! Just look at that shot from an old movie. From Encyclopedia Mythica ( we learn that the Kraken isn’t a Greek myth at all. The good old Vikings claim the Kraken as their own.

In Norwegian sea folklore, the Kraken is an enormous sea monster which would sometimes attack ships and feed upon the sailors. It was supposed to be capable of dragging down the largest ships and when submerging could suck down a vessel by the whirlpool it created. It is part octopus and part crab, although others refer to it as a giant squid or cuttlefish.

To find something like the Kraken in Grecian myth, you have to look at Ceto the Sea Serpent (she appears in the Witches of Galdorheim series). In the legend of Perseus, Andromeda is chained to a rock to be fed to a sea monster. Not the Kraken. A sea monster.

Okay, kids. Have we got it straight now? However, what do we care where any legend begins or ends. I mash up myth, legend, and folklore to my heart’s content.

Excerpt Featuring the Kraken:

Basit quickly cast a floating spell on her. At water level, the waves prevented him from seeing very far, so he rose above the surface several feet to see what was going on. What he observed sent a cold chill down his spine.

“A kraken wrecked the boat. I don’t see...wait. There’s Kairav. Dolph should be below the surface if he transformed.”

The huge head of the kraken rose again and struck down on the last broken shreds of the dhow. The sea beast was enormous, its hide an ugly, splotchy gray, with tentacles whipping around its lumpy head. Giant eyes, placed on either side of a beak-like mouth, stared as unblinking as a shark. The creature destroyed the last remnants of the boat; then cast about, searching for any survivors.

Basit dropped back beside Setara and spelled them both invisible to the kraken but visible to each other. He didn’t want his mistress to panic if she couldn’t see him. He whispered just loud enough for her to hear. “Be quiet. When it leaves, I’ll spell you to shore.”

“No,” she whispered in return. “We can’t leave Dolph out here with that monster. We must find him first.”

Basit shook his head in frustration. He could not send her to shore once she had spoken her wishes to him. She had tied his magical hands.

“Very well. But be quiet until—”

The genie hesitated. The kraken had sunk below the surface. Was it gone? Or was it swimming toward them beneath the waves? Basit sank down and looked in all directions but saw nothing in the murky water. The kraken was so huge, it had stirred muck from the bottom and clouded the sea about them, but he could feel the water roiling from its movements. The beast still lurked nearby.

Basit rose to the surface again. The sight of Dolph clutched to one of the kraken’s tentacles while it smashed up and down on the surface struck terror in even his staunch heart. He turned to Setara. “Quick! How should I help?”

“Wait. I think Dolph can handle this.”

“You have more faith in him than I,” Basit responded with a grim frown.

The kraken writhed and twisted with Dolph hanging to its tentacle. It dove again, dragging Dolph down with him. The sea became still. Kairav made his way to their side, and Basit included him within the invisibility shield.

“Shouldn’t we do something?” Kairav asked as he floated nearby.

Setara said, “Not yet.”

“The boy might already be dead,” Basit said, frowning. Why was his mistress failing to send aid to Dolph? Again, he could not go against her spoken wishes.

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Monday, August 05, 2013

Speaking of Sevens

One of the things a writer does once they complete a book is to write a query letter and a synopsis. Here's my attempt to combine a frame story with seven separate (but sequentially relevant) tales. When it came down to it, I had to omit the framing story from the synopsis since it confused the issue. Who is the main character in the book? Abu Nuwas since he is relating the tales, Najda the spice-seller who listens to Abu's stories, or Setara, the star of the seven tales?

If you've an interest in reading the stories, leave a comment to enter the lottery to win either the ebook edition or the signed copy of the original paperback proof copy.


Seeking adventure, a bored rich girl finds herself kidnapped by mountain raiders who promptly throw her into a cave. She is to be a sacrifice to appease the demon who lives within. She soon discovers that it is not a demon in the dank cavern, but a genie seeking a new master. Basit, the djinn, decides Setara will do nicely as his new mistress. But there's always a catch when one finds herself in possession of a genie. There are rules, Basit claims that prevent him from solving all her problems for her. He will only help her when she discovers the solutions to her predicaments.

Weeks after Setara escapes from the clutches of a band of raiders, she decides she'd better return to the cave, where she had been held prisoner, to see if the raiders had captured some other poor soul. She summons her djinn, Basit, to guide her back to the cave. Setara, Basit, and Sheik, her dog, return to the cave where she was held captive. They find someone in the cave, but not a prisoner as they expected. Setara, Basit, and Sheik take on the raiders again to help a very lonely demon named Azizah find a new home. Kairav, the water demon, takes a liking to Azizah, and the demoness settles into a cave overlooking his pool.

After taking care of Azizah, Setara discovers a beautiful new horse in her father's stable. Hasib, the Sultan's Horse, is lucky to meet Setara, a girl with resources, to help him find and rescue his lovely mare, Habiba. Hasib is not quite in control of his magical abilities, so obviously needs some help. Setara calls on Basit, her two demon buddies, and Sheik, her faithful, but not too bright, dog to help Hasib in his quest. The adventurers must find the stolen horse and confront a band of merciless pirates.

After the fighting and rescues are done, Setara finds herself bored yet again. She decides to pay a visit to her demon friends, Azizah and Kairav. Finding them missing and with suspicious footprints leading into the tunnels beneath the mountains, she and Basit must investigate and wend their way through the caverns. They come upon the two demons in a furious fight with Azhi Dahaka, the Dragon Demon whose blood created the flying, fire-breathing warhorse Hasib. Setara, Basit, Sheik, and the mare, Nasreen, must fly to the Sultanate of Semidor to save their friend, Hasib, from death by dragon fire. After a dangerous airborne battle, the friends discover that Azhi Dahaka is the long-lost great great great (and more greats) grandfather of Hasib. In any case, the dragon demon's blood was infused into Hasib's ancestors to create the fire-breathing battle horses.

Not too soon after, Setara rides her flying mare Rosetta to visit her friends, the demons Azizah and Kairav. She calls for her genie Basit to appear, but nothing happens! Another genie comes instead to tell her Basit is missing. Setara, her demon friends and Sheik, the faithful hound, must find the hidden tomb of the Great Vizier to seek help. Setara and the demons are placed in grave danger on their mission. Setara must overcome her deepest fear to save herself, her companions, and to rescue Basit from a trap set by an evil genie seeking revenge on the the Vizier.

Having lived in the plains her entire life, Setara gets an urge to go on a sea voyage. Asking her genie, Basit, to make arrangements, she soon departs for the teeming port city of Gamaal. A meeting with an old witch sets her on a dangerous course toward pirates, slavery, and rescuing Basit once again. In the end, she discovers she was fated to meet a powerful Prince. Little did she know the old witch had steered her to him with a stolen amulet. Setara returns the amulet to the Prince, and he assists her and Basit to return home.

While taking her winged mare, Nasreen, for a flight, Setara saves a mute stableboy from Slavers only to find he has a curse on him. She, Kairav, and Basit must go to sea to discover the boy's true identity, the son of Poseidon and heir to the sea kingdom. Setara and her friends help the merboy overcome his evil uncle's dastardly plans to usurp the throne for himself.

Where to find the books:
MuseItUp Publishing (all ebook formats):
Amazon Kindle:
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Saturday, August 03, 2013

The Mystical Rule of Sevens

Last month, a writer buddy, Charlotte Henley Babb, ran a series of fascinating posts about magical, mystical, and historical hepta-items (I just made that up). I encourage you to go read up on the weirdness of sevens. It's one of "those" numbers fraught with meaning or, at least, comes up a whole lot in numerology.

Try these on for size (all links go to Charlotte's blog):

The 7 Wonders of the World (ancient, modern, engineering, medieval)
The 7 Voyages of Sinbad
The 7 Voyages of Zheng He (betcha didn't know this one)
7 Things You Probably Don't Know About Joan of Arc
7 Obscure Facts About the Statue of Liberty
7 Sages of the World

There are more. Go check them out. You won't be sorry.

I commented on Charlotte's post on Sinbad since I had a book of seven tales about a girl and her genie. They started as short stories, and I eventually put them together with a framing story (like 1001 Nights is a framing story for Scheherazade's tales).

A couple of the stories ("Cadida and the Djinn" and "Cadida and the Cave Demon" were published on their own. Once I'd written a few, I realized I was head toward that magical number 7.

Thus, "The Seven Adventures of Cadida" was published by Sam's Dot Published as individual tales in a single volume. We all liked the cover for "Cadida and the Cave Demon," so that became the cover for Seven Adventures.

SDP is long gone, so I revamped, edited, and built the framing tales about the old storyteller in the bazaar who relates the adventures to a young girl. This became "The Tales of Abu Nuwas." I let that float about for awhile, until I did a bit more writing and revamping for MuseItUp Publishing, where it was published in ebook format as "Setara's Genie."

As you can see, Setara (originally Cadida) has been around the block a few times. Here she is again in yet one more incarnation in print. Let's see, does it all add up to seven? Not quite, but I haven't looked into audio books yet.

Comment on my posts this month to have a chance to win the proof copy of the paperback, slightly offset cover and all. It's a rare item despite all of Setara's appearance in the world of publishing. Here's what I hope will be the final cover for the book. The ebook cover became the front cover for the paperback. A big huzzah for Charlotte Volnek, the cover artist who created the original. I just added the back cover and background.

NOTE: If you haven't read Charlotte's hilarious book, "Maven Fairy Godmother," you're missing out. It's available in ebook and print formats.