New website is under construction.

Oct 31, 2013

30 Day Novel Workshop

I'm going to be running a 30 Day Novel No Fail Formula workshop this November. But to get you started I have some tutorial videos that are completely free--including a free workbook you can download to follow along.


(We've had such a HUGE response that our server is overwhelmed. There may be a delay if receiving the workbook, in which case email me, and I will send it to you personally, so you can get started. … But please be patient, I'm not ignoring you, I will answer EVERY email in the order I receive it, but there are a LOT! lol I'm glad it's so popular but success brings its own problems too.)

Remember, the free videos are ONLY going to be up for a SHORT while. Watch them now, while you can. The workshop registration is also only going to be open A FEW DAYS, so either opt in or email me personally to get on the list now, to be informed when it opens. You can also join us on Facebook.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Oct 30, 2013

Arrow of the Mist by Christina Mercer

Terror strikes the Celtic inspired kingdom of Nemetona when barbed roots breach the veil of a forbidden land and poison woodsmen, including 15-year-old Lia’s beloved father. Lia and three others embark on a quest to the forbidden land of Brume to gather ingredients for the cure. But after her elder kinsman is attacked and poisoned, she and her cousin, Wynn, are forced to finish the quest on their own.

Lia relies on her powerful herbal wisdom and the memorized pages of her late grandmother’s Grimoire for guidance through a land of soul-hungry shades, fabled creatures, and uncovered truths about the origin of Brume and her family’s unexpected ties to it. The deeper they trek into the land, the stronger Lia’s untapped gift as a tree mage unfolds. When she discovers the enchanted root’s maker, it forces her to question everything about who she is and what is her destiny. Ultimately, she must make a terrible choice: keep fighting to save her father and the people of the lands or join with the power behind the deadly roots to help nature start anew.

Download Arrow of the Mist on Amazon, Barnes and Nobel, Kobo, iTunes or Smashwords. For a limited time all ebook formats are only 99 cents!

Excerpt


Nettles stung Lia’s flesh. She pressed her fingers against her mouth for relief. This is what I get for letting my thoughts wander. Grandma wouldn’t have been so careless while harvesting sting-leaf. She wouldn’t have let the villagers’ opinions prick at her mind, no matter how many called her mad for crafting remedies in the old ways.

Koun whined and nudged Lia’s arm with his nose.

“I’m all right, boy.” Lia gazed into her hound’s violet eyes and then turned her attention to the friendlier mallow plant. Its white flowers matched Koun’s coat and its leaves and roots promised a soothing balm for the nettle’s bite. She’d make another batch of salve for Da, too. He swore her “potions” kept his hands fit enough for hewing wood and soft enough for holding Ma. Her ma could use a bit more mallow infusion for her soaps, as well, and she’d take a bundle of clippings to Granda—

Her thoughts scattered as Koun shot from the garden. Lia whirled around to the pair of horses charging up the path. She squinted in the dusky light and recognized Da’s friend, Kenneth, on one of the horses. Then her insides went cold. Across the other horse’s back lay Da’s limp body.

She dropped the harvested mallow and sped from her garden toward them. Ma’s scream shot like a bolt through her, but Kenneth’s words, “He’s alive,” offered Lia a morsel of hope.

Kenneth carried Da into the cottage, and Lia caught a glimpse of her father’s torn and bloodied clothing. “I’ll fetch Granda,” she cried, and hurried to her filly.

Clad in her usual boy’s breeches and high leather boots, Lia raced her horse down the path with her heart pounding in rhythm to the hoof beats.




Find more from Christina on her website, Facebook and Twitter.

Oct 28, 2013

Moth by Daniel Arenson

They say the world used to turn. They say that night would follow day in an endless dance. They say that dawn rose, dusk fell, and we worshiped both sun and stars.

That was a long time ago.

The dance has died. The world has fallen still. We float through the heavens, one half always in light, one half always in shadow. Like the moth of our forests, one wing white and the other black, we are torn.

My people are the fortunate. We live in daylight, blessed in the warmth of the sun. Yet across the line, the others lurk in eternal night, afraid... and alone in the dark.

I was born in the light. I was sent into darkness. This is my story. 

Download Moth on Amazon.

Excerpt


They entered the shadows, seeking a missing child.

Torin swallowed, clutched the hilt of his sword, and gazed around with darting eyes. The trees still grew densely here--mossy oaks with trunks like melting candles, pines heavy with needles and cones, and birches with peeling white bark. Yet this was not the forest Torin had always known. The light was wrong, a strange ocher that bronzed the trees and kindled floating pollen. The shadows were too long, and the sun hung low in the sky, hiding behind branches like a shy maiden peering between her window shutters. Torin had never seen the sun shine from anywhere but overhead, and this place sent cold sweat trickling down his back.

"This is wrong," he said. "Why would she come this far?"

Bailey walked at his side, holding her bow, her quiver of arrows slung across her back. Her two braids, normally a bright gold, seemed eerily metallic in this place. The dusk glimmered against her breastplate--not the shine they knew from home, but a glow like candles in a dungeon.

"I don't know," she said. "Yana has been strange since her parents died in the plague. Maybe she thought it would be an adventure."

Despite himself, Torin shivered. "An adventure? In the dusk? In this cursed place no sensible person should ever enter?"

Bailey raised an eyebrow and smiled. "Why not? Aren't you feeling adventurous now?"

"No." He shook his head vehemently. "Adventure means sneaking out to Old Garin's farm to steal beets, mixing rye with ale, or climbing the old maple tree in the village square." He looked around at the shadowy forest, and his hand felt clammy around his hilt. "Not this place. Not the dusk."

They kept walking, heading farther east, deeper into the shadows. Torin knew what the elders said. Thousands of years ago, the world used to turn. The sun rose and fell, and night followed day in an endless dance. Men woke at dawn, worked until the sunset, and slept through the darkness.

Torin shivered. He didn't know if he believed those stories. In any case, those days were long gone. The dance had ended. The world had fallen still. Torin was a child of eternal sunlight, of a day that never ended. Yet now...now they were wandering the borderlands, the dusky strip--a league wide--that was neither day nor night, claimed by neither his people nor the others...those who dwelled in the dark.

A shadow darted ahead.

Torin leaped and drew his sword.



Read the rest of this excerpt here.

Find more from Daniel on his website, Twitter and Facebook. Click here to learn more about the world of Moth.

Oct 25, 2013

The Experiment by Cindy C. Bennett, Sherry Gammon, and Jeffery Moore

Time is running out for the Collaborative's oppressive rule of the remote world Senca One. The government attempts to suppress the escalating riots, even while seeking to further their experiments. When their parents are taken, triplets Juliet, Cilla, and Emiah Tripp set out to locate them, and soon discover they are at the center of a hunt to capture them.

Evading the Collaborative across Senca One's harsh terrain, they’re confronted with the trials of survival. They also discover something that changes the very core of what they are: they’re morphs. Struggling to adapt to the strange new ability, they question what they really are . . . and why. Are the rumors of experiments done on children true? Did their scientist parents have anything to do with it?

Their quest brings them to the capitol city of Brighton, which is on the verge of revolt. While searching for information about their parents, the Tripps align themselves with the very people fueling the rebellion. They unwittingly spark the revolution they want no part of and discover something more dangerous than they suspected.

Download The Experiment from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, CreateSpace and Kobo.

Excerpt


Prologue

The scientists gathered around the dish which held the precious fertilized eggs. It was a glorious day, a day in which they were certain they'd finally gotten it right. After the many failures, the babies born with no arms, or two heads, sometimes with the parts of other creatures who'd been introduced into the mix, after those, this was it. As a unit, they knew that it was their last chance, so they'd taken their time, perfected the splicing of the superior genes with the usual human egg and sperm. If they failed, their entire production facility would be shut down.

The woman who lay on the table did so with utter awareness of what was happening. She was a scientist also, as was her husband. They were not only part of the team, they were key in finding the exact formula needed for success. Unable to have children naturally, they'd been quick to volunteer. They were also aware that whatever children might come of the experiment would be raised here, in the lab. Part of what would seem to be a traditional family unit, but watched, recorded, tested throughout their lives.

The lead scientist, a woman, young for her position, gently lifted the Petri dish and began the method for transferring the genetically altered, fertilized embryos into the woman. She watched with bated breath as they entered the woman's uterus, prayed to a higher being she didn't believe in that at least one would take. She hardly dared hope for a multiple birth, illegal everywhere on Earth but here in this lab. If this worked, she'd be able to not only continue her experiments, using other willing subjects as carriers for the babies. She'd have the notoriety she craved that would justify her early promotion to this position.

The woman who lay on the table squeezed her husband’s hand. The scientist glanced up as a look passed between the couple, a look of some hesitation.

"You haven't changed your minds, have you?" she demanded.

"Of course not," the man said, refusing to meet her gaze. "We want this to succeed as much as you do."

"Good," the scientist answered. "Because there is much riding on this. I would follow you to the ends of the universe to make sure nothing goes wrong."

"That won't be necessary," the husband says, finally meeting her eyes. "We're in this as agreed."

The scientist watched him for long moments. Satisfied, she removed her gloves. With a sharp turn, nearly military in its precision, she left the room. Now, it was just a matter of waiting, to see if the process was a success. May the gods help her if she'd failed.




For more, check out The Experiment's blog and Facebook page and Cindy's blog, Sherry's blog and Jeffery's blog.

Oct 23, 2013

Rex Rising by Chrystalla Thoma

In a world where parasites create new human races, Elei leads a peaceful life - until a mysterious attack on his boss sends him fleeing with a bullet in his side. Pursued for a secret he does not possess and with the fleet at his heels, he has but one thought: to stay alive. His pursuers aren't inclined to sit down and talk, although that's not the end of Elei's troubles. The two powerful parasites inhabiting his body, at a balance until now, choose this moment to bring him down, leaving Elei with no choice but to trust in people he hardly knows. It won't be long before he realizes he must find out this deadly secret - a secret that might change the fate of his world and everything he has ever known - or die trying.

Winner of position #6 on the Preditors and Editors Readers Poll in the category of Fantasy and Science Fiction Novels published in 2011.

Warning: Some profanity and violence.

Rex Rising is the first novel in the Elei’s Chronicles series. You can download it for free at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iTunes. Find out more about the rest of the series here.


Excerpt


Blood seeped between Elei's fingers.

The small wound was above his left hipbone. He pressed down harder to staunch the bleeding and gritted his teeth. His pulse leaped under his palm as he sat shivering on a hard, cold bench. He rested his other hand on the grip of his holstered gun. In his blurry eyes, everything had a shimmering edge, suspended between reality and dream.

Then the world tilted.

Danger.

Elei jerked and sharp pain erupted in his side. Hissing, he drew his gun and waited. His possessed eye throbbed; cronion, the strongest of his resident parasites, hated surprises. The world lit up in bright colors. Be ready. His heart pounded in his chest, sent bruising beats against his ribs. He swallowed past a dry throat and gripped his gun until his knuckles creaked.

Nothing moved. Oblong objects around him pulsed in cool hues of green and blue. Safe. Nothing living. He relaxed a little. For a while he simply sat, left hand pressing against the wound, the cold metal barrel of the gun held against his right thigh.

"Hey, you," a man's voice said from behind.

Clamping his jaw, Elei lifted the gun and turned to point in the general direction of the voice. Cold wind blew his jacket hood back, allowing him a wider view. The man appeared at the right periphery of Elei's tainted vision -- a splash of red. He went still when Elei cocked the hammer. The click rang too loud in the quiet.

"Calm down, will you," the man said, raising his hands. "Just checking on you. You're bleeding all over my boat."

The boatman. Elei let out a breath and lowered the gun, but didn't click the safety back on, just in case. The cold breeze ruffled his short hair and water splashed and murmured. The low hum of an engine set his teeth on edge. What was he doing in a boat out at sea? He prodded his memories, but came up blank.

Cronion beat at the back of his eyeball like a hammer. He forced his tense muscles to relax and rubbed his eye with his thumb until the dull ache eased. This time, when he blinked, he saw the surface of things, his unfamiliar surroundings — the wet prow, moonlight glinting on metal benches like the one he sat on, yellow lifesavers underneath them. The boatman stood by the rail, dressed in shabby trousers and a pale yellow shirt, watching him from under his dark cap. The light from a lamp set on a bench pooled around him. The sky stretched naked above, night-black and starry.

The boat rocked and listed. His legs slid. He was falling.

He threw his hands to the sides, to find a handhold, the gun screeching against metal. His fingers caught the edge of the bench. He clutched it, the deep, sharp pain in his side squeezing the air from his lungs, and he bent over, panting.

Broken pieces of memories rushed back with a deafening roar. Shots fired. Running through the streets. The docks of Ost.

He was crossing the straits between the great islands.

Shivers crawled up his spine. He lifted his hand and stared at the blood on his fingers. He’d been shot, but couldn’t remember who’d done it.

Elei groaned to himself. He laid his gun — an antique, semi-automatic Rasmus — on his lap and wrapped his arms around himself, tucking his icy hands under his armpits; hoping fervently this was nothing but a dream, and knowing he just wasn’t that lucky.

“Hey.” The boatman approached him, stepping over the benches with his long, spindly legs. Red color flashed over his heart, pulsing with each beat.

Elei straightened with a wince and raised his gun. It seemed to have grown heavier; he could barely lift it. “What do you want now?”

“We’re almost there.” The boatman’s voice resonated with a hidden growl. When he raised the dakron lamp, its light revealed a leathery, deeply lined face and bright blue eyes. “Better get ready to jump, do you hear?”

“I heard you.” Elei kept the gun leveled, his arm muscles straining. Where in the hells are we? Cold sweat sluiced down his back. His nostrils flared and his body tensed with the urge to run. Run where? He was in a boat, for all the gods’ sakes, and yet he knew that even here, in the openness of the sea, he couldn’t afford to let down his guard.

Holstering the gun, he struggled to rise but his damn legs cramped and resisted. Shivers danced down his spine and adrenaline made his blood pump faster, so it trickled down his side, scalding his chilled flesh.

“Hurry up, boy,” muttered the boatman and his hand closed around Elei’s arm like a band of steel. “We can’t linger here.” He hauled him up as if he weighed nothing, the movement sending sharp claws of pain deep into Elei’s side.

Hells. Elei gritted his teeth and refused to make any sound as the boatman dragged him to the rail and left him there, the boat rocking with the movement. Muttering, the man went back to his steering wheel and navigated the boat through the dark waters.

In the distance, squat buildings, old warehouses, rose from the white mist of night. Starlight reflected off polished gray walls. The vacant pier jutted out into the sea like an arm of stone. The boat swerved toward it, then slowed down and bumped to a stop, thumping gently against the square blocks.

Elei inhaled the humid air and tried to get his bearings, to remember something, anything. In the end, he had to admit defeat. “Which island is this? Is it Kukno?”

“Are you saying I tricked you?” The boatman’s voice was dry. “We’re right where you told me to take you. Dakru.”



Find more from Chrystalla on her blog, newsletter, Facebook and Twitter

Oct 22, 2013

Writing Craft: How To Give Your Novel a Gut-wrenching Black Moment

A guest post from Rayne Hall. 

If you're writing a novel, consider a Black Moment about two thirds into the book.

At this stage, everything and everyone has turned against the hero (who can, of course, be a heroine).

The hero is under pressure and close to giving up. Internal and external conflicts have increased to the degree that your hero can't bear it any more. His girlfriend has broken up with him, his allies have deserted the cause, he has been fired from his job and evicted from his home, the villain's henchmen are closing in, and his big secret has been exposed in the press. Under pressure, he is close to giving up. To make matters worse, his girl has been abducted and will die unless the hero surrenders the proof of the villain's machinations... and he can neither rescue her nor deliver the documents because he's locked up in a prison cell. All seems lost.

If you can think of another way to make it still more difficult for your hero, pile it on.

Make it still more difficult by taking away his means of communication - the mobile phone (British) or cellphone (American), the internet connection, the humans who might carry a message.

Only a tiny shred of hope remains that the hero will achieve his big, important goal.

The hero feels rage, despair and a whole cocktail of other emotions. Consider adding fear: he fears not only for himself, but for the safety of his abducted girlfriend, as well as for the people in the building the villain is about to bomb, for the survival of the human race, or whatever is at stake in your story.

Turn the suspense volume up as high as you can. The “ticking clock” technique works well. The hero has only a certain amount of time - perhaps one hour - to escape from the villain's clutches and rescue his girlfriend, defuse the bomb or save the world. He is aware of the time ticking away. You can emphasise this by actually showing a clock. The hero sees he has thirty minutes left... then fifteen... ten...five...two...one. This builds enormous suspense.

Let the reader feel the hero's physical responses to the tension: the aching neck, the dry throat, the sweat trickling down his sides.

The blacker you make the Black Moment, the more exciting the Climax and the more rewarding the End.

Questions?

If you're a writer and have questions, please leave a comment. I'll be around for a week, and I'll reply. I love answering questions.

About Rayne Hall

Rayne Hall has published more than forty books under different pen names with different publishers in different genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. Recent books include Storm Dancer (dark epic fantasy novel), 13 British Horror StoriesSix Scary Tales Vol 1, 2, 3, 4 (creepy horror stories), Six Historical Tales (short stories), Six Quirky Tales (humorous fantasy stories), Writing Fight ScenesThe World-Loss DietWriting About VillainsWriting About Magic and Writing Scary Scenes (instructions for authors).

She holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing. Currently, she edits the Ten Tales series of multi-author short story anthologies: Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts, Scared: Ten Tales of Horror, Cutlass: Ten Tales of Pirates, Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft, Spells: Ten Tales of Magic, Undead: Ten Tales of Zombies and more.

Rayne has lived in Germany, China, Mongolia and Nepal and has now settled in a small dilapidated town of former Victorian grandeur on the south coast of England.

Oct 21, 2013

Coyote: The Outlander by Chantal Noordeloos


No one knows where or when the rips will appear, but they do, and from them, Outlanders walk the earth. Coyote travels the territories with Caesar, her mysterious partner in the bounty hunter business, and together they confront these alien threats to humanity. Along the way, Coyote discovers a secret that threatens to shatter everything she believes about herself, her father, and her sworn enemy, James Westwood. Whether Outlander or inner demons, some things can't be solved with a six shooter.

Download Coyote from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Smashwords.


Excerpt



“We’ve been over this, Mr. Pinkerton,” she scolded, “people I do business with call me Coyote.” There was a mocking sparkle in her eye. One eyebrow was slightly raised and she continued, “You have a job for me.”

It wasn’t a question. Allan chuckled and pulled a drawing from his coat. He unrolled the thick paper and handed it to her. The face of the ugliest man she had ever seen stared up at her from the page. His face looked like that of a weasel with a bad haircut.

“Handsome,” Coyote quipped. “How much is Prince Charming worth?”

“Two thousand dollars.”

“Big catch,” she said, and she pushed her Derby back slightly with her thumb, as was her habit. Coyote leaned back in her chair and whistled. The man next to her did not bat an eyelash.

“Very big catch, this...” she scanned the printed name beneath the uncomely face, “Alfonso Martine.” Her large round irises were a strange shade of cornflower blue that gave the illusion of being violet in the soft light of the saloon. “Unusual name for an Outlander.”



Find more from Chantal on her website, Twitter and Facebook.

Oct 18, 2013

Forged By Greed by Angela Orlowski-Peart

Two Seattle 16-year-olds, Jatred and Jasmira, are not your typical star-crossed lovers. They are not even your typical Shape Shifters. Sure, they try to live an ordinary life. At least, as ordinary as the Prince and the Princess of the rivaling ancient Races--the Winter wolves and the Summer leopards--can live. But eventually they learn that not much about their existence can be normal. Especially when the Races' two commanding Goddesses are involved.

One of the Goddesses is on a quest to tilt the scale of power to her side. The other will never let it happen, even if it means kicking Jatred and Jasmira's love to the curb. Nothing is off limits, including removing Jatred's memories of Jasmira.

To complicate things even more, there are the Universe's powers to consider. They are trapped in an ancient Amulet in order to protect the stability of the world. But the Universe has a mind of its own, and when the powers are unleashed, the forces of nature are disturbed; earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions shake the Earth. All Shifters of both Races are summoned by their respective Goddesses to fight in the name of, or against, the normalcy of the world.

Forged by Greed, book 1 in the Forged series, is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


Excerpt 1


“We are in the Summer Realm? How the hell did you get me here? I’m a Winter Shifter.” Jatred shot up to his feet.
“Relax. It’s only an illusion, remember? The Amulet did this.” Jasmira looked at him, dazed.
“No, no and no! This is not happening. Get me back to the Human World, J. Now! I’m serious. Get me out!” His eyes flicked around. “Get me out before Crystal finds out. Don’t you understand?” he shouted, frantic. His heart raced, and his blood pounded in his ears.
Jasmira felt like someone just dumped icy water over her. She was confused, but fought to stay focused. She had never seen Jatred panic before, and this sobered her. “Okay,” she whispered. Her mouth was trembling. “But I don’t know if I can. The Amulet… the Goddess.”
She squeezed her eyes. Her breath was shaky and shallow. Her body shimmered in and out, taking on an ethereal appearance then becoming physical again.
“J, what are you doing?” Jatred whispered, frightened. “Look.” His eyes slid to the Amulet dangling down from her fist. The blue stone shone, lit from the inside by a pulsing source of light.
Jatred gripped Jasmira’s hand. This time his fingers didn’t go through like they did before, when she appeared as an illusion. Her body was solid again. She held onto the chain halfway between the jewel and the clasp. The clasp flew open. One side of the chain encircled his wrist. The other part snaked around Jasmira’s wrist. Unexpectedly, it bound them in a vice-like grip. The metal felt as cold as a sheet of ice. They both yelled and tried to pull free, but it wouldn’t budge.
A spiraled script became visible on the jewel’s edge, the symbols shone like liquid gold. The teens frantically tried again to yank their hands away. The runes kept crawling around the gem, barely touching its surface.
“What’s going on? What is this?” Jatred growled. A sudden gust of wind tousled his hair.
“I don’t know. What does it say?” Jasmira shrieked. A storm broke around them. The wind became so strong, it made them stagger. They struggled to stay on their feet, turning their faces away from the wind to breathe.
“The letters look almost Arabic, but that’s not it.” Jatred tugged on the chain once more, this time with both hands.
Jasmira momentarily lost her balance, but regained it quickly. She shouted over the storm, “Stop pulling. It’s not working. Concentrate on getting back to the Human World!”
“What? How—”
“Just do it!” Her features twisted with horror. Sweat trickled down her back, and she shook with panic.
They tore their eyes from the lazily spiraling runes and looked at each other. Jatred saw the Summer Goddess in his peripheral vision and turned his head. But she wasn’t there. A cold fear crept on his sweat-covered skin. He swore and squeezed his eyes. His uncle’s smiling face came to his mind. Jatred whispered hastily, “Imagine someone from the Human World.”
Jasmira concentrated on Penelope’s features, and felt a rush of hot air over her face and body. She heard Jatred grunt in pain, and everything went still.


Excerpt 2 


Winter Realm.
Crystal stood motionless, looking like a glittery ice statue. Her eyes rested on Jatred’s frozen form covered by mounds of snow. She was deep in thought, and her face mirrored the turmoil inside her. Two huge ravens—the first Royal couple, Freki and Geri—sat in one of the trees on the edge of the clearing. The Goddess turned her head to look at them. They made a series of clicking noises, then cawed loudly, and sailed down to circle above her head, still croaking. She made an impatient gesture. “You’re annoying.” Her voice sounded clear in the frosty air, although her mouth didn’t move.
The ravens plummeted toward the ground, shifting in mid-air into two huge wolves. The animals landed on their paws. A low growl rumbled in the back of their throats. They walked slowly around Jatred’s frozen shape, their lips curled back.
Crystal watched them in silence for a while. Finally, she said, “I should listen to you and simply eliminate him to remove the danger of the ten-thousand-year mark. The Shifters could choose a new King or a Queen, and the world would be safe again. At least for a while. But I’m getting soft in my old age. ”
One of the wolves, Geri, quietly growled and snapped his jaws dangerously close to Jatred. Freki snarled much louder. Her muzzle wrinkled as she exposed her sharp canines. The Goddess shook her head. Reluctantly, the two animals moved away from Jatred. They walked toward the woods and disappeared between the snow-covered trees.
The Goddess closed her eyes and raised her arms to the sides. Her palms were up, and there was a luminescent moon shape on each of them.
“Jatred, my child,” she said with her mind.
Something in him started to awaken, as if from a deep sleep. Various images began a sluggish parade through his mind.
“Rise.” Crystal moved her arms up.
She became completely visible, looking like a regular young woman—a stunning young woman. Her dark hair glistened in the sun. Small, almost heart-shaped lips stayed motionless. The Amulet around her neck reflected sunrays, sending hundreds of tiny blue specks to dance on her half-covered breasts, bare shoulders, and neck.
She wore a white, knee-length sleeveless cotton dress. The hem was embroidered with tiny, glittering snowflakes, reminiscent of those coming down from a cloudless sky. The top of her white boots’ shafts were turned out, revealing thick silver-white fur. The shafts were embellished with white decorative inlays and stitching.
A thick pillow of snow, covering Jatred’s body, cracked and large chunks started to slide off. Like an ancient warrior, he rose in a slow but determined motion, uncurling his arms and lifting his head. Taking a deep breath, he opened his eyes and looked at Crystal. Jatred tilted his head back and shook his hair, then knelt on one knee.
“My Goddess,” Jatred said in a raspy voice. “Did you summon me?”
Crystal smiled and touched the Amulet. “Do you know what this is?”
“It’s the Amulet.”
“Do you remember you are the one to keep and protect it with your own life?” Crystal continued her investigation.
Jatred’s brows drew together, forcing his smooth forehead to crease. “Yes, I remember. Our Race has it in their possession right now, before it must pass back to the Summer.”
“Do you remember fighting one of my Garhanans?” Crystal’s smile disappeared.
“A Garhanan?” Jatred said the name slowly, shocked. “No. Did I do something wrong?”
“Yes, my child. But you are forgiven.” She looked at him sharply. “Actually, I want you to forget that Garhanan for now.” She slowly moved her hand in front of his face.
Jatred felt as if something cold stabbed at his brain. He winced and squeezed his eyes, staggering to the side.
Crystal seized his wrist and touched her other hand to Jatred’s cheek, making his icy pain subside. She smiled and took his hand in hers. “Now I will send you back to the Human World.”
They walked together, not leaving any tracks in a deep undisturbed snow. From behind, next to the tall broad-shouldered Jatred, the Goddess looked like a slender teenage girl. Soon their bodies started to shimmer and dissolve in the cold, winter air.



Find more from Angela on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

Oct 17, 2013

Ugly Stick by Joy Givens

Fifteen-year-old April Somerfield is a shy, self-loathing misfit who would blend in with the wallpaper, if only the wallpaper were a little less attractive. In a family line of gorgeous, successful women, April’s a fluke. At Prescott High School, she’s a walking punch line.

A school project sends April on the hunt for her mother’s mysteriously missing yearbooks, and upon finding them she uncovers a big secret. It turns out that being “hit with an ugly stick” is a surprisingly literal occurrence in April’s family tree—a curse has been passed down from mother to daughter for centuries. But when April sees a chance to finally ditch the family curse, she must decide if becoming beautiful on the outside is worth giving up the person she is meant to be.

Download Ugly Stick from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Excerpt


We watched from the living room as Mom’s car rolled out of the driveway. Ani wrestled with her typical curiosity for about four seconds before bursting out, “So what’s with your mom and yearbooks?”

“I know, right?” I said, throwing up my hands and dropping onto the couch. “The weirdest part is, when I talked to Grandma, I specifically asked her about Mom’s yearbooks, and she swore Mom has them.”

“What?” Ani said with a gasp. “Your mom lied? Your mom doesn’t lie.”

“I know,” I said, “so I’m kind of freaking out right now.”

Ani sat down next to me. “Have you ever seen a picture of your mom in high school?”

I thought, and suddenly it dawned on me. “I’ve never seen a picture of her from before I was born,” I said slowly. The picture of Mom holding me at three days old, which sat on the shelf a-bove my dresser, between my baby rattle and my old teddy bear, was the earliest picture of Mom that I had ever laid eyes on.

“Not even a wedding picture?” Ani exclaimed.

“No, their photographer forgot to take off the lens cap… oh, snap, do you think that was a lie, too?”

My head was spinning. One little white lie about the whereabouts of Mom’s yearbooks was bad enough, but the thought of her systematically lying to me for most of my life? It made me dizzy.

“Why wouldn’t there be any pictures of her?” Ani mused. “Ooh! Could your parents have been spies or something? Or may-be you’re all in the witness protection program, and you don’t even know it!”

“But my dad puts his picture everywhere for work,” I pointed out. “His name and office phone are on every ‘for sale’ sign he puts out.”

“Have you seen any younger pictures of him?” Ani asked.

“Yeah,” I said, “he’s got a few pictures on his desk of him and his dad on fishing trips and stuff from when he was little.”

“So, what is it about your mom, Apes?” Ani questioned. She laughed suddenly.

“What?” I said.

“I was just thinking it’s funny,” she explained, “that this seems like a mystery your mom might read for work… only it’s about her.”

“Huh. Yeah.” I wrinkled my nose. What would one of Mom’s detectives do? Either look for clues or interview witnesses, I sup-posed. Interviewing anyone was out of the question; Mom wouldn’t talk, and neither would Dad or my grandparents, I expected. That left looking for clues.

I glanced at Ani, who must have been reading my mind. “Attic?” she asked me.

“I’ll grab flashlights,” I said, jumping up and sprinting to the laundry room. We ran up the stairs, through the office, and into the large closet that hid the stairway to the attic.

I only went up there twice a year, to help with Christmas decorating and de-decorating. Our attic was unfinished and cob-webby, with exposed beams and puffy pink insulation poking out here and there. Ani shifted her weight uncomfortably. She was petrified of spiders.

“Where should we start?” I asked, eyeing the stacks of cardboard boxes and plastic bins. “We’ve got an hour, tops.”

Ani and I surveyed the massive hodgepodge doubtfully. “Well, let’s ignore anything marked ‘Christmas,’” I decided aloud, “and focus on things that look like they haven’t been disturbed in a while.”

I felt proud of my limited detective skills. I started pawing through a pile of dust-covered boxes in one corner while Ani gin-gerly worked her way across a metal shelf.

After several minutes of hard labor, I spotted a large, ex-tremely dusty trunk in the corner, behind some of the boxes I had moved. “That looks like it hasn’t been moved in forever… do you think?”

Ani and I approached the trunk, which had a combination lock with four digits slipped through the brass latch on the top. “What should I try?” I whispered. For some reason being hushed seemed necessary.

“Maybe your mom’s birthday?” Ani suggested. I dialed 1-1-2-6. Nothing.

“I’ll try my parents’ anniversary,” I said. I turned the digits to 0-5-3-0. Nothing again.

“Your birthday? Grandparents’ anniversary?” Ani said. I tried my birthday, both 0-2-0-8 and 2-8-9-8, with no result. “Maybe we need to invert the numbers European-style,” she muttered.

If we tried that, we would be spinning dials for hours. I turned the digits to 0-8-0-9, Grandma Jo and Grandpa Frank’s anniversary. It produced a satisfying click, and the lock fell open.

“I can’t believe that worked.” I whispered. I lifted the lid with shaky hands.

What was sitting patiently right on top? None other than an old Nor’easter, upon dozens of books and photo frames.

“Busted!” Ani breathed.

I glanced at the year; Mom must have been a junior then. We ignored the rest of the trunk for the moment and flipped through the pages together.

“K… M… P,” I browsed quickly, looking for the page of juniors that contained my mother’s name. I perused the page line by line for “Pinckley, Diane,” and found it. She should have been the third picture in the row, after “Pilsner, Thomas,” and “Pin-kett, Laura.”

“They made a mistake,” Ani said with a shocked laugh. “That’s not your mother!”

She jabbed her finger at the third face, which, other than being a white female, could not possibly have looked less like my mother. Where there should have been a heart-shaped face, a model’s smile, and a perfect nose between big eyes, there were a heavy jaw, braces, and a beaky nose crowned by enormous glass-es. I had to sit down on the grimy floor, because I suddenly felt faint. This girl looked so much like me and nothing like my mother.

“I don’t think it’s a mistake,” I said weakly. That incredibly unattractive face in the yearbook belonged to my mother, just like I did.




Find more from Joy on her website and Facebook.

Oct 15, 2013

Writing Craft: Body Language in Dialogue Scenes

A guest post from Rayne Hall. 

Body language can add another dimension to your dialogue scene, because it reveals a person's intentions, feelings or mood.

The five main types of body language are gesture, posture, movement, facial expression and tone of voice.

Gesture Examples

She pointed to the orchard. “I saw him there.”
He slammed his fist on the table. “I've had enough.”
She scratched her chin. “Are you sure this will work?”
“Welcome.” He pointed to the couch. “Why don't you make yourself comfortable?”

Posture Examples
She raised her chin. “You can't make me do this.”
He locked his arms across his chest. “No way.”
She leant away from him. “This isn't working between us.”
“I consider this an insult.” He stood with his shoulders squared and his legs braced. “Take it back.”

Movement Examples

“Maybe another time.” He turned to leave.
She walked faster. “I told you I don't want a date.”
“All right.” He shuffled forward.
“Follow me!” She leaped across the brook.

Facial Expression Examples

Her eyes narrowed. “You expect me to believe this?”
His cheeks turned tomato-red. “What do you mean?”
“I'm sorry.” She stared at the floor. “I didn't want it to be this way.”
The corners of his eyes crinkled, and his lips twitched. “Really?”

Tone of Voice Examples

“We will stand together in this.” His voice was deep and resonant like a church bell.
“I've told you a hundred times, and I'm telling you again.” Her voice sounded like a dentist's drill, high-pitched and persistent. “Why don't you ever listen?”
“You know that I'm going to kill you, don't you?” His sounded as casual as if he were discussing the weather. “Do you prefer a shot in the heart, or the head?”
“You've been with that floozy again, you cheating bastard!” Her voice was loud enough to wake up the whole neighbourhood.

Body Language instead of Dialogue Tags

Using body language allows you to cut boring dialogue tags (he said, she asked, he answered) because it shows who's talking.

Tag versions:
“What about the girl?” he asked.
“Bastards!” she shouted. “I won't let you get away with this.”
“What now?” he wondered aloud.

Body language versions:
He jerked his chin at her. “What about the girl?”
“Bastards!” She slammed her fist on the table. “I won't let you get away with this.”
He scratched his head. “What now?”

Point of View

Most people aren't aware of their body language. Therefore, use body language for the character who is not the PoV.

If the body language is intentional, for example gestures, you can use it for PoV and non-PoV characters.

Lies and Secrets

Advanced writers can use body language to hint at secrets and lies. The characters' words say one thing, but their body language another.

“Yes, tell me the rest of your life story, it's so exciting.” She glanced at her watch. “It's a pleasure to hear all about it.”
He hugged his arms around his chest. “I'm not frightened.”
His face paled. “That's all right, honey. It doesn't matter at all.”

If a character avoids eye-contact, this suggests that they're not telling the truth or are hiding a secret.

“Don't wait with dinner for me tonight, darling. Arabella and I will have to work late again.” He did not meet Sue's eyes. “It's a bore, but the workload is getting heavier every day.”

About Rayne Hall

Rayne Hall has published more than forty books under different pen names with different publishers in different genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. Recent books include Storm Dancer (dark epic fantasy novel), 13 British Horror StoriesSix Scary Tales Vol 1, 2, 3, 4 (creepy horror stories), Six Historical Tales (short stories), Six Quirky Tales (humorous fantasy stories), Writing Fight ScenesThe World-Loss DietWriting About VillainsWriting About Magic and Writing Scary Scenes (instructions for authors).

She holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing. Currently, she edits the Ten Tales series of multi-author short story anthologies: Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts, Scared: Ten Tales of Horror, Cutlass: Ten Tales of Pirates, Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft, Spells: Ten Tales of Magic, Undead: Ten Tales of Zombies and more.

Rayne has lived in Germany, China, Mongolia and Nepal and has now settled in a small dilapidated town of former Victorian grandeur on the south coast of England.

Oct 11, 2013

Devour by Andrea Heltsley

He wasn't supposed to remember.

Callie is a royal vampire. She hunts by taking the blood from her victims and erases their memories afterwards. She goes undetected until a victim named Chase approaches her with all his memories intact. He is intrigued and attracted. She is terrified. What happens when a human mixes with the immortal world? Chaos.

Callie’s 18th birthday has passed and she is coming out at the annual blood ball. Will she find a mate or will she suffer the repercussions of her indiscretion? She is brought to the Vampire council and they must decide what to do with Chase. Do they kill him, or turn him to protect their secret?

Download Devour  on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and Smashwords.



Excerpt


Jane pulls me out of my thoughts as she leans in and points over to the bar. I grasp her arm tightly. It is him, the guy. He’s so much better than I was picturing in my mind.

Leaning into her and yelling in her ear, only one simple word slips out. “Mine.”

She just laughs and nods. “It’s a good thing you get first dibs tonight. That boy is freaking hot. I can almost see the smoke coming off of him. Yummy.”

I ignore her, knowing I’ve already won. If Jane is anything, she’s loyal. Pulling away from her, my focus is heading down towards the bar. Jane’s more than capable of taking care of herself. I trust that she will find her own sexy stud tonight and we have a set time to meet back at the car. The time is always the same, midnight.

With our persuasion powers, we don’t need much more time than that. Two hours is plenty of time for the hunt and the feeding.

This guy becomes more defined as I move closer to him. He has short, messy, brown hair that screams rebel. His creamy skin is flawless, aside from a tiny scar above his left eye. I can see his sinewy muscles through his thin, grey tee-shirt as my approach inches closer. Then he turns and our eyes meet. I gasp.

My violet eyes take in the sight before me. I’m shocked to see how clear his blue eyes are. They remind me of the ocean on a sunny day. His features and jawline are strong yet approachable. He has a couple days scruff that looks sexy as hell on him. Feeling my jaw drop, I appreciate this dreamy guy.

As he moves closer, he quirks a smile and I want to melt. Wow, he is super-hot. I’m thrilled to have found him so quickly tonight. I get the weird feeling that he’s definitely dangerous. Shaking off the feeling and continuing toward him, the stars align.

Just when I get within earshot, he steps forward, bringing us inches from each other. I have to halt instantly at the smell that is wafting off of him. He smells delish. There’s no way to even begin to describe how addicting that smell could be for me.

I have to stop my mouth from watering and my fangs from descending. It’s a struggle but my instincts manage. I smile back and lean in the rest of the way, moving towards his ear.

“My name is Callie. Whom do I have the pleasure of meeting?”

I lean back and wait for him to make his move. When he does, he cups my neck and brushes his lips against my ear. Goosebumps erupt across my skin as he says, “I’m Chase. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Callie. Would you like a drink?”




I shake my head no and take his hand in mine. His skin is callused, like he works with his hands a lot. Mm, sexy is all that I think as my mind is picturing him sweaty from working. Gah, I have to get my mind out of the gutter and focus.

Giving him a come hither smile, he follows me onto the dance floor. Turning around, he’s already closed the gap between us and has his body inches from mine. Once again, I struggle to remain in control. This is so unlike me. I want to taste him, take his blood right now. I’m so thirsty suddenly.

Brushing my hair out of my face and tucking it behind my ears, the distance closes between us. He puts his arms around my shoulders and we begin to dance to the techno beat. My body arches into him as we move.

Briefly looking up to where I left Jane, I realize she is no longer there, but I know she is okay. Returning my focus to Chase, I release one of my trademark smiles. He lets his hands slide across my body and it’s my turn to dance against him.

He spins me around so that my back is pressed to his chest. The feel of his hands exploring my stomach and then finally gripping my waist, is intense. After throwing my head back against him, he grips me tighter. His breath on my neck sends goose bumps across my body. I let out a little sigh. This is heaven and couldn’t have gone better.

Finally, the song is done and I peer over my shoulder at him. He winks at me and causes me to almost swoon. It’s too bad he won’t remember me tomorrow. Once I erase his memories of this night, I’ll be forgotten.

For the first time ever, it makes me sad to think he won’t remember me. I’m torn between wanting him to remember and knowing I can’t let him. It would be breaking all the rules and the vampire council would be all over me. That’s something no one would dare risk.

Returning my focus to Chase, he pulls me off the dance floor. Our hands are twined together and the anticipation between us is palpable. Despite knowing it’s impossible to be with a human; I can’t help but feel that he’s different somehow.

He smells so yummy that I have to rein myself in as I pull closer to him. As I do, I discretely look down to see what time it is. It is only eleven o’clock, but I am unnerved by this human and his smell is driving me wild. I’m ready to do this.

I moisten my lips and slowly tip my head up, watching as his gaze lowers and he looks at me intently. Boldly, I use my other hand to fist his tee shirt at his chest and close what little distance remains between us.




Find more from Andrea on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Goodreads.

Oct 10, 2013

Pigments of My Imagination by Angela Kulig

From the moment Lucia steps into Bayside Art Academy, she is fed a steady stream of lies, but it’s not until she meets William that she begins to question the people she trusts. Unraveling fact from fabrication seems impossible until Lucia finds her first painting, and discovers the dead do not lie--at least not to her.

A dozen lifetimes ago, Lucia started a war. Not a war with armies or guns, but a bloody war nonetheless. The path leading Lucia to the truth is hidden within lovely art that spans the ages. In this life, however, Lucia doesn't know where to look. Lost, she turns to the one thing she knows with certainty--she is in love with Leo, and has been before

Download Pigments of My Imagination on AmazonBarnes and Noble and Kobo. You can also purchase it in paperback.

Excerpt

It was hard for Lucia to see around the boy that stood before the easel, but she swore the birds on his canvas just moved. Large white birds, so detailed she was convinced moved. Large white birds, so detailed she was convinced if she stroked them they would be softer than in real life. From her position in the doorway, the feathers shone in the classroom lights as if they were in the summer sun. They were swans, she realized as she bent her neck to get a better look.


This boy couldn't be a student. He could have been younger than she was, but he painted with all the skill of a master. No ordinary kid could paint a pool of blue that could really ripple below flawless webbed feet.


She might have stood there forever, her mind going numb from the sheer impossibility of it—eyes wide, watching the taut muscles of his back. He moved his arm quick and precise, making one stroke after another, his light brown curls falling to the base of his neck, shaking from the effort of his work. She needed him to turn around; she needed to see his face. She needed to know if he was real.


He couldn't be! And she mentally slapped herself. Two boys in ten minutes?


She opened her mouth to speak to him just as one of the swans gave a loud honk. Lucia watched as it pulled itself effortlessly into the starry sky of the painting and she gasped, throwing her hands up to her mouth.


At first, she was convinced she had caused the boy to ruin his beautiful painting. Only with odd control, and a loud sigh, he raised his arm and sliced a large midnight blue line across the whole of the canvas, stilling the birds with one stroke.


“It’s not nice to stare,” he said without turning around.


His voice sounded cold, but it was pleasant, and it hinted at how nice it would sound if he weren’t furious.


In Lucia’s mind a nice apology was forming, but those were not the words she wanted to say.


“How did you do that?” she asked, because how could she not?


The blue diagonal line that had ended the dance of the swans dripped from the weight of the thick paint. He did not answer.


“I thought,” he finally said. “That this was an advanced art school. Clearly, you should be familiar with how one paints.”


He was antagonizing her, and it made self-doubt creep up through the floor and back into her heart. Of course she knew how to paint, but as far as she was concerned, what he had been doing was impossible and she huffed. A burst of hot hair shot out from her wet lips, and the boy chuckled before turning around.
He stared at her, with his light blue eyes just like the reflective bits on the pond he had just painted, and for the briefest moment Lucia thought they had widened in surprise. There was something so familiar about this odd occurrence, just like there had been with the other boy. Had she dreamed this whole thing before?
“No,” Lucia breathed. “How did you make them move?”



Find more from Angela on her website, Twitter and Facebook.

Oct 9, 2013

Linear Shift (Part One) by Paul B. Kohler

No one said time travel would be easy.

Peter Cooper, a widowed father of two whose life is crumbling around him—until a bizarre encounter with a desperate Army general launches him on a risky mission: to go back to 1942 and change a moment in time. The repercussions will almost certainly alter the conclusion of World War II. But will the ripple effects stop there? And what kind of life will Peter return to?

Unknown Consequences: A successful mission may not have the success he had intended.

Linear Shift is a serialized novel, with 4 total parts planned. This is part 1.

Download Linear Shift from Amazon.

Excerpt


“Why are you telling me this now?” Peter demanded. “Why didn’t you tell me this back then, if it’s so important to you? I’m no longer in the army and I’m not going back. What does it matter anymore?”

“Would it have made a difference if I’d told you this twenty-two years ago when you enlisted? Would you have stayed in the army longer with this information? Would you have still married? Would you still have become an architect? Would Mary still have died in an auto accident?”

All these questions floated through the air, but Peter flinched at the mention of Mary. Mary was his wife’s given name, and anyone that knew her called her Minnie. Hearing her name spoken out loud felt like an ice pick in the heart.

Peter was confused and irritated. “What’s the point of all this?” he asked, angrily.

“Peter, I clearly have more knowledge about you than just the basics. I know you are about to lose this house. I know your kids are barely passing their classes. I know you were laid off, and are currently looking for work. What if I told you that I could drastically change your circumstances, almost instantly?”

Peter was a proud man. To hear a stranger plainly spell out everything that he was struggling with almost brought him to tears. He had failed, and he was embarrassed. He was far too ashamed to ask for help from anyone.

“Are you sure I can’t get you something to drink? I’m going to get myself a scotch.” Peter stood without waiting for the general to reply and walked to the bar cabinet. He pulled out the bottle of Glenfiddich and two glasses. He returned to his seat and poured out two fingers each.

“Peter, this is not the answer to your problems,” said the general as he took the glass from Peter.

“It might not be the answer, but it might help ease the process.”

Peter brought the glass to his lips and tilted it back until the glass was again empty. The general sipped at his glass and returned it to the table. Peter poured himself another and leaned back, glass in hand.

“So, what do I have to do to get this ‘help’ that you’re offering?”

“Before I can really tell you more about that, I have to have your word that you will not divulge any of the information that we are to discuss to anyone. Not even your children—although I don’t think they would believe any of it. I have to be clear here: no one. No one at all.”

Peter held up his hand, his pinky finger pressed against his thumb and said with mock solemnity, “Scout’s honor.”

“I’m sorry Peter, but I’ll need more than that. I have a confidentiality agreement that you would need to sign. What I am about to tell you is beyond top-secret-level clearance.” The general opened his attaché case and removed a file folder with the words “EYES ONLY” on the cover. From it, he slid out two sheets of finely typed paper. He handed one of them to Peter, then sat back in his chair and again sipped his scotch. As Peter read over the forms, the general finally took his eyes off of Peter and scanned the living room. He was quite surprised to find the house in good order, considering all of Peter’s troubles, including raising two teenage children alone.

After several minutes of silent reading, Peter looked up at the general and said, “This must be seriously top secret if the army would go to these extremes, were I to talk. Do you have a pen?”

The general produced a blue-marbled Mont Blanc pen and Peter signed the document before returning it to the general.

“Actually, Peter, this isn’t an army operation. It’s an unclassified branch of the government that only a very select few even know exists. It’s so clandestine that I’m currently not at liberty to inform you of its call sign. The document that you just signed will only afford you just enough information to make a rational decision whether or not to assist us; no more than that. If you agree, there will be several more documents that will need to be signed along the way. Do you understand?”

Peter nodded.

“Good. Now that we have an understanding, and your signature, we are inviting you to join a small team of exclusively selected civilians, others such as yourself, to travel back in time. Back to 1942, France to be precise.”



Learn more about Paul on his website, Twitter and Facebook

Oct 8, 2013

The Sorcerer’s Path (Book 1): The Sorcerer’s Ascension by Brock E. Deskins

A bastard king loved by his people but despised by the aristocracy struggles to hold his kingdom together even as a rival plots to steal his throne. King Jarvin Ollander seeks anyone who will aid him and finds it in the most unusual of allies.

His family caught in the web of political intrigues, his father made a scapegoat for the machinations of greedy men, Azerick Giles finds himself torn from a life of wealth and privilege and cast out onto the streets of Southport. Just on the cusp of manhood, Azerick struggles to survive by any means, often just barely able to do so. Driven by his anger and desire to seek vengeance upon those who took everything from him, Azerick discovers a power deep inside him that could be the tool he needs get what he wants…if it does not destroy him first.

The Sorcerer’s Ascension is currently $.99 on Amazon and available for borrowing if you have Amazon Prime. All other titles in the series are available on Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes and Noble.

EXCERPT


When his stomach rumbled powerfully once again, he decided that he was going to just have to do a snatch and run, hoping the proprietor would not see him or care enough to raise too much of a fuss. His luck was off today, he could feel it. The way things were going, the crowd would resume their normal pressing mass the moment he struck and a watchman or the baker would grab and beat him.

Azerick’s stomach ordered him to stop whining and get down to business. He moved casually toward the stand where numerous, fresh baked loaves of bread were stacked on the table and sticking out of baskets, filling the air of the market with their mouth-watering aromas. His stomach ordered him to move with haste.

Azerick sidled up to the table, ready to grab a large, round loaf of black bread when the baker looked right at him. “What are you doing here? Why did you have to pick my booth? Go on, take the bread and be gone with you. Nobody’s going to want to come to my stand now, defiler.”

The street rat looked at the baker in confusion then glanced over his shoulder as the crowd moved away, watching him warily and muttering.

“Beware death’s shadow.”

“Do not let his shadow be cast upon you or you will die”.

“All die who get near him. We may all die now.”

“What are you people talking about?” Azerick demanded.

“Cursed! He is cursed to lose everyone he befriends.”

“I am not cursed! What are you talking about?”

“His family is all dead. Friends all dead. He is cursed, cursed by the hand of Sharrellan.”

“He is the hand of Sharrellan, delivering her touch of death to all who comes near.”

“I am not cursed! I am not the hand of death!” he shouted, but the crowd drew away from him and continued their droning.

Azerick grabbed the loaf of bread from the table, casting a glare at the baker and everyone around him. He half expected the baker to change his mind and demand that Azerick pay for the bread, but his face had gone purple, black splotches stood out against the plum-colored flesh, and his tongue protruded, swollen and blackened like a plague victim.

The street rat threw down the loaf and ran. The street-clogging populace parted like the water at the bow of a swift-moving ship to let him pass.

“Beware death’s shadow, beware the hand of Sharrellan,” the people’s mantra continued as it followed him, chasing him away like a swarm of relentless bees trying to drive him from their hive, the chanting sounding like mimicry of the bees’ angry buzzing.

Azerick found himself near the docks and burst into Peg’s shop, not knowing where else to go. “Peg, what is going on around here?” Azerick asked as he approached the long counter where the old sailor sat minding his store and watching for customers.

“Now why did ya have to come back here, lad?” Peg asked as his face purpled and black splotches began spreading across his visage. “Hasn’t old Peg treated ya right since he met ya? Ain’t he done nothin’ but help ya?”

“Of course, Peg, I know you have. What’s wrong?”

“Then why’d ya come back and kill me? Look at me, boy. Already your foul curse is on me. Ya killed me, boy. Ya killed me sure as sure. Go on now and let me die in peace.”

“No, Peg,” Azerick wailed, “I did not want you to die, I did not mean to!”

“Meaning don’t mean nothin’ when you’re dead. Go on now, I can’t hardly talk no more,” Peg slurred around his swollen, blackened tongue.

Azerick ran from the store, sprinted down the harbor front past the long piers and moored ships until he saw a ship with someone he recognized shuffling about on the deck.

“Bran!” Azerick called out as he ran the length of the long dock. “Bran, you have not left yet. I don’t know what is going on. Everyone is acting strange and dying. I think the plague has come to Southport. We need to get out of here.”

His friend turned toward him, his face already showing the signs of death. “It’s no plague, Az. It’s you, you are the plague. I was too slow. Everyone on the ship is dead already. I suppose it doesn’t matter now anyway. Andrea is long dead, killed by your curse when she met you, just like the rest of us.”

“No! I did not kill her! It is not my fault!”

“Yes it is. Do you know why she was out the night the slavers took her?”

Azerick shook his head.

“Her father put his hands on her again. He did that sometimes when he was really drunk. Just his hands. They fought and she ran off even though she knew it was dangerous.”

“No, no, no,” Azerick moaned, not wanting to hear it.

“You could have kept her safe, Az. You knew what it was like for her, but you kept your nice, safe little haven all to yourself. You were safe from the depredations of the city above. You let her die. Your selfishness let her die,” Bran accused him.

“It is not my fault!” Azerick vehemently denied. “I could not keep her safe! I could never keep those around me safe! They all died: mother, father, Jon and the others, they all died.”

“Now you begin to see,” Bran told him. “Everyone around you dies. Your family died because you are cursed, and Andrea died because you were a coward, because you were too much of a coward to try to keep her safe. Better to let others take her. That way you would not feel the weight of responsibility. Your conscience could be clear. She would be dead, but you could deny culpability. But you know the truth. You know it was your fault.”

Azerick barely heard Bran’s last words. His own thoughts were echoing inside his head too loud for him to focus upon his friend. I could not keep her safe! I could never keep those around me safe! They all died: mother, father, Jon and the others, they all died.

“They all died because I did not keep them safe. I may not have been able to save father, but I should have been there for mother, Jon and the others, and Andrea,” he said, talking to himself as he left Bran on the ship.

Azerick awoke in a cold sweat, somehow knowing it was not the nightmare that woke him. Someone was coming. He heard someone open the trapdoor hidden beneath the burned out timbers of the tanner’s shop followed by a sudden cry and thump of a body hitting the stone. He sprang out of bed, grabbed his knife, and prepared to defend his home. If the gods cursed him, then his enemies would suffer under the spell of his shadow as well. He would make certain of that.





Find more from Brock on his blog, Facebook and Twitter.

Oct 7, 2013

The Obsidian Dagger by Brad A. LaMar

When a mad witch with a magically crafted and frightfully powerful Obsidian Dagger threatens to obliterate humanity and overtake the magic clans of the Celtic Isles, destiny forces 17-year-old American, Brendan O’Neal, and his younger sister, Lizzie, to intervene. Joining the desperate princess of the Leprechauns, Dorian, and her two loyal companions, Rory and Biddy, they embark on a dangerous and wondrous adventure across Ireland and Scotland to thwart the witch and save mankind. Brendan will soon learn that the lines between reality, mythology, and divinity are more blurred than he ever imagined.

Little does Brendan know that stopping the witch is only the beginning…

Download this Amazon #1 Contemporary Fantasy Best-Seller on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and Alibris.


Excerpt


Brendan’s mind ran through all of the worst possible outcomes as they walked along the path in the Black Forest. The Black River and the bridge was behind them now and dark shadows and ominous, unforeseen dangers awaited them. The thought of the unknown was hard on Brendan. What would happen to Dorian, Rory, or Biddy if this strange illness-if it could be called that-overtook them? Would they end up like the Sidhes or the Merrows? Would it be worse than being controlled by Morna? Would they die?

After mulling around those disturbing thoughts for a while, Brendan started to focus on what would happen to him and to Lizzie. Without the help of the others how did they hope to complete the task? Gorogoch had already told them about the human slaves Morna had, and that was not a fate that Brendan wanted. A zombie-like monster at the will of a crazy old witch…no thanks. The locals called them Ruas for their glowing red eyes, a trademark of the poor devils. Not a fate that anyone would want to suffer.

They walked along in silence, listening intently to their surroundings. Any noise that was out of place-albeit in a cursed forest-drew their attention and made them ready their guard.

Brendan was getting tired of the on-edge feeling so he decided to probe Gorgoch‘s memory. “Are we there yet?”

“Not quite,” the ghost replied. “More obstacles await us.”

“Great. Like what?” inquired Lizzie. She had calmed herself considerably after the fight with the Kelpies, but the anticipation of the next foe was making her antsy.

Gorgoch tried to think back to when he was alive and stormed the gates as a vengeful youth. Losing his love had driven him to the edge of murder, only it wasn’t Dullahan or Morna that received his wrath, but the unsuspecting people that Morna had unleashed him upon. It was hard to remember anything but the hate he felt at the time. It was blind rage he supposed.

“Well, it’s hard to remember.”

“What do you mean?” asked Dorian.

“I came through here so fast and was fueled by so much hate that I’m having a hard time remembering anything other than that.” Gorgoch moved along in thought and a few memories floated to the surface of his consciousness.

“After the bridge there was…” he fought hard to pull the memory up. “Darkness.”

“Well that’s helpful,” derided Brendan.

Three more steps showed Brendan, Lizzie, Rory, and Dorian what Gorgoch had meant. The path had led them directly over a hole in the ground that was covered in overgrowth. Gravity won out and they plummeted into the unknown darkness with a scream.

Biddy flapped her wings and looked over at Gorgoch with great surprise. He shrugged. “Oh yeah, a cave.”

Biddy and Gorgoch floated down the entrance of the cave in time to see the rest of the group untangling themselves from one another. Lucky for Rory, he was laid out flat on top of the pile.

“Crickey!” the little man cried. “A little warning would have been nice there.”

“Sorry about that,” replied Gorgoch with a shimmering smile. “I forgot what the darkness was.” Gorgoch made his visceral self-glow a bit brighter and shed a modicum of light in the small room.

Brendan got to his feet first and offered his hands to Lizzie and Dorian. He pulled them up and they all glanced around the cavern.

“Wow, its cozy in here,” Brendan joked as he felt the dampness on his backside and tried in vain to wipe it off. He held his sword aloft and pointed it back up the entrance. The sword illuminated the smooth, steeply-pitched slide that they just tobogganed down. “Good thing it wasn’t just a straight fall.”

“That’s for sure,” agreed Biddy. “It was probably fifteen meters or so.”

“That would have left a mark,” chuckled Rory. Half way through his laugh a fit of coughs set in and made him struggle to breathe.

Brendan looked around the small cavern and took note of the few cave characteristics that he learned about in Earth Science. There were small stalagmites and stalactites that littered the ceiling and the floor. The walls glistened with small flecks of crystals that formed as water ran down carving out the cave over thousands of years. The cave opened up to a thin passage that was a dozen meters opposite the entrance. The floor’s gradient sloped in a subtle manner.

“Well, Gorgoch, do we go to the passage or back topside?”

Gorgoch thought back and he sighed. “We have to move forward, but I want to warn you that down these passages was where I was snatched up and taken to Morna.”

“I think the warning of danger goes without saying,” offered Dorian. “Let’s go.”



The next book in the Celtic Mythos series comes out later this month. For more from Brad, find him on his website, Twitter and Facebook

Oct 5, 2013

How To Lose Weight Fast While Prepping For The Impending Zombie Apocalypse By T.L. Campbell

The world has gone insane during the apocalyptic day where zombies walk the earth. Your chances for survival are probably slim. Lets face it you've put on a few pounds and your endurance level has crashed through the floor. You will never outrun the living dead. So what do you do? What is the mother of all secrets to weight loss and the perfect set of ABS?

HOW TO LOSE WEIGHT FAST While Prepping For The Impending Zombie Apocalypse is a serious, but humorous and entertaining approach to becoming fit. This book takes the work out of workout.

Enjoy news flashes from our correspondents in the zom-ridden field as well as several mini missions that you will enjoy exercising with and so much more. This book will prepare you to face anything with increased endurance and confidence.

Download this zombie-themed health guide on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.

Excerpt



NEWS FLASH! 

This just in from our correspondent in the field:



Malcolm was always overweight and possibly the regular butt of jokes in the class throughout his childhood. When the zombie apocalypse descended on his town the entire community and Malcolm's family suddenly found themselves under siege from a band of gypsies that had been slaughtered by an unknown force, but survived into a form of living dead, just two miles from Malcolm's parents' home where he also lived.


Although the security forces and the police had been called they could find not a sign of the zombies, and nobody knew where they had gone. It was not until the authorities had given up and gone that the maggot-ridden undead came out of hiding and this was about to become a huge issue for 16-year old Malcolm.


Malcolm and his three best friends, Roger, Pete and Dave decided to wander down to the derelict gypsy camp. Malcolm's friends were slim and fit and regularly hounded him to keep up as they bounced with enthusiasm towards the former gypsy camp.


Upon arriving at the derelict campsite on the outskirts of town, they all found a number of caravans that had been clearly trashed and vandalized with dirty net curtains blowing in the wind. Suddenly Malcolm heard a noise from one of the caravans and it sounded like a man in great pain. Roger, Dave and Pete spun on their heels and ran leaving Malcolm rooted to the spot.


It was then that Malcolm was to experience the most frightening thing he had ever experienced in his life; a zom burst through the caravan door and began to stagger toward him with arms in a position to grab him. Malcolm turned and saw his friends run and he began to waddle through the long grass that surrounded the camp and ran as fast as he could. But his sheer weight hampered his rapid departure and he stumbled on a clump of grass and then tried to gather himself back to his feet but his extra pounds that he carried made the process so much slower. As the zombie descended on Malcolm, his friends watched from a safe distance shook their heads in disbelief that a zombie could catch up to a young man who was still alive and well but just a tad portly.


Malcolm did eventually escape but only by the skin of his chocolate-munching teeth. The close call forced him to go to start losing weight, because his bulk so nearly cost his life!

Oct 4, 2013

Coven by K.A. Young

Elise Michaels' motto has always been: no guts, no glory. She is a thrill seeker, continually craving excitement and adventure. The idea of being tied down to a place or man never interested her, even though a betrothal spell was cast linking her and the Head of Council’s son when they were mere infants.

Being a distant third in succession to assume the Head Mistress role, she felt confidant that her secret would remain in her past along with Coven life. Unfortunately, nothing in our fun loving heroine’s future is anything she or anyone from the supernatural realm is prepared for.

Now, she’s forced to return to the place and the Sorcerer she so desperately sought to forget.

Elise has no idea the power and gifts that await her. Can she let go of her own desires and embrace her new role? Or will she surrender to the faceless evil coming for them all?

Book one in the tantalizing Elise Michaels Series a spin off of The Nephilim Warrior Series.

Coven is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and iTunes

Excerpt: The Prologue

“Mistress Marguerite, I see you have resigned yourself to death.” I blinked away the blood that trickled down my face. I couldn’t speak, the spell I cast on myself would hold even if I weakened and attempted to remove it. The secrets of the Coven would remain just that, a secret. I lifted my head stubbornly to face my captor, a rogue vampire with a horde of yetzer hara standing behind him.

“It doesn’t have to be this way, one little book, that all I’m asking for.” He ran the long knife he held down the side of my neck as I watched the blood drip from his fangs that had been buried deep in my daughter’s neck only moments ago. I prayed that the spell I cast on her held tight, if it did, she would feel no pain and continue in the deep sleep her body was in.

The rogue continued speaking as he waved the yetzer hara closer. He was attempting to convince me that if I let him have the Coven’s ancient spell book he would not only spare my life but the life of my daughter Amanda as well. He wouldn’t I knew that to be a fact for I delved into his brain moments before he bound my hands and shoved a gag into my mouth to prevent me from wielding magic. What I found there was only darkness nothing save pure evil dwelled there. I tried to reach out mentally to my niece Elise, but my body and mind were now too weak to do so. I’d lost way too much blood; she is whom they would come for next, for she was next in line to assume the mistress role of our beloved Coven.

“Fine, have it your way but understand this old woman, as I drain the life from your body, your daughter will still be here with me, I will break through that spell of yours and she will give me what I want and then die horribly by the hands of the yetzer hara.” I felt his fangs rip into my neck; I closed my eyes and floated through the darkness and toward the blessed light. My last thought was the spell would hold….



Find more from K.A. Young on her website, Facebook and Twitter.

Oct 3, 2013

Tears of War by A.D. Trosper

“Old things come again and new things surface.”

Faced with a looming war, the riders have no choice but to leave the safety of Galdrilene and reach out to the nations for help. But the Shadow Riders are doing the same and not all nations are opposed to their rule.

New discoveries are made, old wounds are reopened and betrayal hides among welcoming smiles.

As one nation begins to unravel it’s clear that some choices, even those made with the best of intentions, can have devastating consequences.

Tears of War, Book 2 of Dragon's Call, is available to download on Amazon

You can find more from A.D. Trosper on her website, Facebook and Goodreads