Saturday, December 28, 2013

Saturday Snatch: Shepherd's Gambit by Alec Houze

The economy has fallen apart. With it so, too, has the country. Walls have been built up as the businesses, and the cities they called home, crumble. Jonathan Monroe, however, is doing just fine. He is a cleaner–a man whose task is to clear out the abandoned buildings that are becoming more and more prevalent. But a bar, that is not a bar, is the beginning of an explanation, and might help him understand why he woke up half-frozen underneath an interstate overpass.
          The wind shook the house. It would hold, of course. It always did. But it was enough to wake John up. He rested in bed, counting the seconds between gusts. He knew that they would repeat, like contractions.
          “One-one-thousand. Two-one-thousand. Three-one-thousand.” The window above the bed began to rattle softly. It, too, would hold. “Four-one-thousand.”
He counted the same way he had ever since he was a boy; it was a nervous habit. He had never learned to trust his internal clock. “Five-one-thousand.” The roof was creaking like the spine of an old man attempting to rise. “Six-one-thousand.”
          John felt the bed shiver under his prone body. Six seconds, he thought to himself. He didn’t bother counting how long it lasted. He never did. After it was over, he began counting again, waiting for the next one. He made it to eight before the house shook again. Had he glanced at the clock, he would have seen that it was barely three. But he wouldn’t; it would only depress him. Time itself depressed him as a way to track a day. Though John knew that it was necessary, he had decided long ago that it merely served as a way to measure the space between events.
          As such, he only paid it heed when he was forced to––except at night. Every night he would find himself shaken awake by minuscule tremors as the wind rushed through the hills and assaulted his house.
          John remained in bed, trying to remember his dream. It had seemed important at the time, but they always did. Dreams were the one place where time became paramount. They existed as a paradox outside of himself. Time marked with the constant ticking of a giant metronome off in the distance. Whether he was in the mountains or stranded in the ocean, it was there on the horizon––methodically ticking away the life of his dream. The base was black and the wand white, blending into the sky with every swing. But the sound reverberated through his entire body, matching the beating of his heart; proof that although he was dreaming, he was still alive.
          “Forty-two-one-thousand. Forty-three-one-thousand. Forty-four-one-thousand.”

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Review: Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst

Conjured is the newest stand alone by Sarah Beth Durst

“A twisted circus of a book, completely freaky and delicious at the same time. I could not stop reading!” --Laini Taylor

Eve has a new home, a new face, and a new name—but no memories of her past. She’s been told that she's in a witness protection program. That she escaped a dangerous magic-wielding serial killer who still hunts her. The only thing she knows for sure is that there is something horrifying in her memories the people hiding her want to access—and there is nothing they won’t say—or do—to her to get her to remember. 

At night she dreams of a tattered carnival tent and buttons being sewn into her skin. But during the day, she shelves books at the local library, trying to not let anyone know that she can do things—things like change the color of her eyes or walk through walls. When she does use her strange powers, she blacks out and is drawn into terrifying visions, returning to find that days or weeks have passed—and she’s lost all short-term memories. Eve must find out who and what she really is before the killer finds her—but the truth may be more dangerous than anyone could have ever imagined.

          The main character has amnesia. Yep. This means she had no background to build her up or give us a sense of who she is. And she is brilliant! Sarah Beth Durst did not take the easy way out in forming Eve. Breaking through the now cliché kick-butt, sassy, heroine mold, Eve starts the book as a confused, quiet character. As the story unfolds however, her core of iron is revealed. She is strong and smart, not wasting time on disbelief when something is on the line. She takes help when help is needed, she gives it too. (On a side note, it was refreshing to have a character that was nice, not just to the people she liked, but as a general rule, caring of others. This almost seems frowned upon in YA. Anyone know why?) She's a character to root for even though, at first, the reader has no idea which side she comes from. Or if she's even human. Or even real. However impressed I was by Eve, the villain impressed me more. Introduced and developed only vaguely through Eve's flashbacks and comments, he is terrifying, yet understandable. Though he only appears in person towards the end of the book, his actions and words are so descriptive of who he is that he gained depth with very little face time. Such a disturbingly twisted man does not deserve sympathy, yet its' garnered nonetheless.
Characters: 4.8 Stars

          This was another one of those books that gets the badge of being read straight through. The plot itself unfolded in the form of a knot with just as many seemingly unrelated strands– starting in the middle and slowly being picked apart until the whole tale was clear. As Eve experiences deeply haunting visions, we begin to get a sense that we know nothing at all. And we don't. But the story proceeds with tantalizing hints and gradually zooms out to get the big picture. Eve experiences flashes of amnesia, or memory resets. She comes to herself with no memory of the weeks or months she's lived between. The uncertainty and fear keeps the reader in a very shaky place and then buffets them too and fro with Eve. I had no idea how things would conclude in one book, without selling short. It defied expectations. (Which, come on, this is Sarah Beth Durst so expectations were already pretty high to begin with.) It ended with a satisfactory umph, but left much more to explore.
Plot: 4.8 Stars

          Conjured was darker and more gruesome than I usually read (or would want to read again), bordering on the macabre. But the writing itself was beautiful with glittering descriptions and elegant language. It flowed smoothly, not straining, not presumptuous. It was unlike Sarah Beth Durst's other books in overall feel, and proves just how versatile we can expect her writing to be. She is absolutely getting added to the list of Authors to Watch For.
Style: 4.8 Stars

Rating: 4.8 Stars
Source: Library
Genre: Fantasy (Urban?)
YA Fiction

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Interview & Giveaway: Jeffrey M. Daniels

Jeffrey began a lifelong love of reading and words, which took shape at an early age. Due to multiple beatings from his Grandma at the game of Scrabble, he began reading Webster’s unabridged dictionary and then her complete collection of World Book encyclopedia.
His career in writing, began with tear-inducing messages on family cards, continued as editor of his college dorm newsletter and on through various advertising positions. He managed to squeeze out a regular newsletter during his many years in Finance and Accounting whose sole purpose was to make its readers laugh.
The fantasy adventure trilogy, Jeremy Shuttle Adventures, is about a young boy who receives a sketchbook that makes everything he draws in it become real and marks Jeffrey’s debut in fantasy fiction.
He currently lives comfortably in South Florida, driving with his car windows down and wondering why so many people complain about the humidity.

Favorite reads?
      Favorite author:  Jack Vance; after that, anything imaginative that finishes strong.

Inspirations for the book?
      Kids.  And adults who still remember how to be kids.

Did you know you wanted to be an author when you were little?
      Battling Grandma in Scrabble got me into words.  Shortly afterwards, I found out they’re fun to string together, too.

Any Pet Peeves?
       Snap judgments.

Chocolate or Peanut Butter?

The weirdest thing you've ever done?
        Running into the corner of a wall racing to see my favorite TV program (black eye for a week!).

Is there a soundtrack to the book/Favorite music?
        As a long-time fan of Fantasia, I hear lots of bold classical music playing during Jeremy’s adventures.

Do you need anything to write? 
        The beach.

How long do you write on any average day?
         2-3 hours; after that, I start burning.

Give us the number one reason to read your book.
         It’s an amusement park of a read; fun for the kids and subtext for the adults.

Author Info:

What If everything you drew became real?
Jeremy Shuttle receives a sketchbook from a mysterious shopkeeper in a strange art store. Soon, he and his best friend Natalie discover that anything he draws in the book becomes real!
He uses the book to go on amazing adventures, each time landing in greater danger. When he decides to use the book to bring back his Dad, missing for 13 years, both his Mom and Natalie are pulled into the danger as well.
What If? is the first book in the Jeremy Shuttle Adventures trilogy, kicking off the excitement and mystery as Jeremy learns that the answers to some “What If’s” can be perilous.

Print Copy (US/CANADA)
Ends 1/15

Monday, December 16, 2013

Interview & Giveaway: Krista Holle

          Krista Holle is an award winning author who stepped up her writing after reading Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series. It occurred to Krista that there is an insatiable audience of women and girls who want to read books filled with stories about true love—not just vampires. When Krista is not writing, she loves to collect seashells, watch movies, and eat obscene amounts of pizza. Krista currently resides in Montpelier, Virginia with her husband, four daughters and an eccentric cat with a weird attachment to the family’s socks.

Favorite reads? 
          The Twilight saga will always hold a special place in my heart. Divergent is a new favorite. As long as there’s a thread of romance in it, I’m interested.

Inspirations for the book? 
          I wrote The Wind Whisperer while living on land once owned by Pocahontas. Everywhere I looked, I saw the region where Pocahontas lived. She was a big inspiration to me. A lot of the elements in the story come from the local Powhatan tribe.

Did you know you wanted to be an author when you were little? 
          No, I was busy checking every conceivable fairy tale out of the library. It wasn’t until I was married with children that I sought writing as a full-time career.

Any Pet Peeves? 
          People who litter drive me crazy.

Chocolate or Peanut Butter? 

The weirdest thing you've ever done? 
          I pierced my own ears with a leather needle when I was a teenager.

Is there a soundtrack to the book/Favorite music? 
          The Wind Whisperer soundtrack would probably have a lot of drumming and Native American crooning. I personally love alternative and indie rock.

Do you need anything to write? 
          I need tomb silence to write and use sound silencing headphones.

How long do you write on any average day? 
          Anywhere from 2-8 hours.

Give us the number one reason to read your book. 
          The Wind Whisperer isn’t like anything else on the market. It’s full of magic and mystery with a unique love triangle.

Author Info:
Amazon Author Page

At fifteen, Anaii is the most important member of her tribe—and the most mysterious. Ever since Anaii can remember, the spirits of the wind have whispered of fertile hunting grounds and imminent enemy attacks. But when her people are ambushed by a brother clan without any apparent cause, the spirits remain eerily silent. 

As the village prepares to retaliate, Anaii is pressured by her best friend, Elan, to marry him. It’s an old plea—Elan has spent a lifetime loving her, but Anaii only sees a childhood playmate out of an imposing warrior. Stifled by Elan’s insistence, Anaii escapes into the forest where she meets Jayttin, the beautiful son of the enemy chief. 

Enamored by Jayttin’s carefree spirit and hope for peace, she repeatedly sneaks away to be with him, but when her deception is discovered, Elan is devastated. Pledging his lifelong affection, Elan gives her a passionate kiss, and Anaii begins to see her friend in a new light. 

While Anaii is tormented over which man she must choose, the wind whispers of a new threat that could destroy both tribes. Only a union will afford a chance at survival, but the reality of that union is based on one thing—which man Anaii chooses to die. 

(Ends 1/13)

  • Paperback of The Wind Whisperer
  • Native American beaded bracelet (Three Pictured Below)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Saturday Snatch: Unseasonal War by David Englund


Excerpt of Unseasonal War by David Englund:

          The story so far ~ Clark Jackson has found a portal in Des Moines, Iowa that allows him to travel to other worlds and meet new species. Along his travels he has picked up a hand-held device that provides him with a personal shield, translates for him or allows him to be invisible or fly, but only one of these features can be used at a time. His recent travels have brought him for the first time to a planet with a species that look and act almost human. He instantly wants to befriend them and help them in their war with what has been described as a monstrous species on a nearby planet.
To gain his trust, the friendly species recently allowed Clark to travel on one of their Star Cruisers, which unfortunately, came into battle with an enemy ship and was destroyed. After drifting in the vacuum of space with his shield slowly venting air, Clark now finds himself on the enemy ship, dazed and weak.

          The corridor was long, very long. This ship was darker than the other one. It smelled of grease and spoiled eggs. The walls were higher and wider than in the previous ship. The design was different, not as elegant or flashy. It looked like it might be the first ship ever built, in any universe. It was a big, metal clunker. No electronics were visible, no fancy technology; there were barely any lights present. It was a very simple corridor, only good for walking through. He was still sleepy. . .
          A familiar sound woke him. It was still difficult to focus. He shook his head back and forth. The familiar sound reverberated in the back of his consciousness, a warning, something was wrong. He lifted his head. His brain should have recognized it, but the sound remained elusive. The only certainty was that it was getting louder.
Footsteps! Someone is coming. No . . . not now. I don’t want to . . . see anyone. Can’t deal with . . . anything now. Go away.
Wake up! Concentrate . . . someone’s coming. Need to avoid . . . no shape to fight. Not even talk . . . just hide.
          “Invisible for ten minutes.”
          The invisibility feature took effect in time. The sound of footsteps continued to grow louder. Clark brought his feet in toward his body and pressed flat against the wall. The door at the rear of the compartment rose. A moment of silence piqued Clark’s curiosity. A group of Craterian soldiers appeared in the doorway. Clark’s mouth gaped open as he stared at the approaching soldiers.
Ewe! . . . can see why . . . called lizards. Giant, eight feet tall, walking alligators. Freaking alligators! Creepy. Black eyes . . . jagged teeth. Scourge of the universe. Walking on two legs . . . trying to look all human. Go away.
          More than a dozen soldiers entered the compartment. They marched in step, two lines of drones drowning out the eerie silence. Dressed completely in black with black scaly skin containing splotches of teal, accompanied with laser rifles and scowls they would give pause to the fiercest of warriors in any galaxy. From his vantage point, they seemingly filled up the entire hallway with their bulk. The strong odor of alien flesh caused him to cover his nose.
As they approached Clark’s position, two of the soldiers toward the middle of the pack raised their heads and sniffed at the air. Both turned their heads toward Clark and frowned. They stopped.
          Still sitting, Clark curled up with arms wrapped around knees that dug into his chest. He leaned against the wall, trying to slow his heart rate. The remainder of the group slowed, but continued walking. The halted soldiers bumped into the next in line, disrupting the formation. They hesitated briefly before scrambling forward to rejoin the march. As they distanced themselves from him, Clark breathed a sigh of relief.
Too close. No shape to fight. Keep walking. Just . . . keep walking. Don’t smell anything. I’m just . . . some garbage on floor.
          They continued to file past him. The entire group had just passed by when another soldier slowed down, this time the final alien on his side of the corridor paused. The Craterian raised his head to sniff the air. Another sniff caused the creature to frown. A growl followed. He came to a stop and looked around with his mouth chomping.
Uh oh, this one . . . determined. Go away! Nothing here.
Mouth chomping, the alien swayed his head back and forth, then back and back again. His eyes darted from left to right, unblinking. He took a step in Clark’s direction, stopped and sniffed anew.
            Maybe invisibility isn’t . . . good enough. What to do? No shape to fight.
Clark inched his way along the wall from his seated position. Slowly, quietly, he distanced himself from the curious pursuer. The sound of marching echoed in the hallway. He wanted to avoid the hard gaze of the vile creature, but Clark’s head would not move.
No, no, no. Stay away. Nothing here.
            The tenacious searcher took two steps forward. Fingers flexed open and closed and opened and closed. Nostrils flared. Eyes continued searching while chomping persisted.
Clark inched along faster, less concerned with noise than distance. His pulse quickened and despite his best efforts, sweat began to gather on his forehead. His stomach lurched. Breaths came in shorter, quicker gasps. The sound of stomping feet eased slightly as did the smell of reptiles and leather.
            One final sniff caused the soldier’s eyes to narrow, more determined to locate the foul smell. He looked over his shoulder to see his comrades moving on without him. A moment of indecision, and then renewed focus brought the hunter a step closer to Clark.
Small drops of sweat fell to the floor. No longer attached to his body, a thin trail became visible as he continued backward. Clark looked at the floor.
           The creature followed Clark’s path. He stepped onto the drops of sweat as he made his way toward the rear door.
Clark stopped. He looked nervously at the trail of droplets, wiped his brow, and then looked up at the alien’s face, studying, searching for visible expressions.
           The warrior paused, tilted his head, squinted, and froze. Then he raised it again to once again sniff. Time stopped.
           Clark backed up until he reached the door at the rear of the compartment. There was nowhere else to go. He sat tentatively and looked on wide-eyed.
The creature’s eyes lit up with recognition. It was a look easily interpreted. Intruder! Dinner!
           Could shoot with laser gun . . . but then the entire ship . . . would know I’m here. Never get off . . . ship. Why . . . so tired?
           He slowly edged to his left, away from the determined soldier and reached inside his vest for the hidden laser gun. Still sitting, his legs pushed as he inched further away from the Craterians slowly and quietly. After a few feet, Clark rose and began walking along the door, leaning back against it, aiming his gun at the soldier. The alien pursuer walked in his direction, looking seemingly right at him. Clark looked around to locate the nearest exit, any exit. He continued walking away from the chaser, now moving faster to match the soldier’s own increased pace.
           This is going to get ugly. Have no choice. Going to have to shoot . . . this thing. Easy shot, standing right in front of me. Question is, try to take rest of them out . . . or open the door and run?
          “Prontkup! Prontkup! Jdket wurt ew ctkunt!”
          The voice screamed, breaking the tense silence. Clark jumped, momentarily disorientated. Searching for the source, he looked past the soldier to see the group leader approaching the alien hunting for Clark. The group itself had reached the end of the corridor and was now standing next to the doorway watching the scene develop. The head soldier was waving his long arms in the air, yelling, and spitting at the soldier who had broken formation.
          They argued for a few moments. The hunting Craterian pointed in Clark’s direction, wrinkled his snout, spit, and growled. The leader stared at him. Then the compartment fell silent as the group leader turned his head to listen and sniff. He looked right at Clark, then took a step forward.
          Clark’s heart jumped. He silently gulped. Instinctively, his hand rose to wipe sweat from his head. The queasiness intensified in his stomach. The silence dragged on.
The pack of soldiers looked on nervously from the far side of the hallway. Some began to fidget. Others sniffed and shrugged. Every living thing in the compartment waited for a response from the commander.
         Finally, the group leader shook his head in exasperation and turned back to the straggler. He leaned in to within an inch of his subordinate’s nose and opened up with a tirade of obvious insults while pointing back at the waiting group. The soldier gave one last look in            Clark’s direction, and sneered before turning to run back into formation.
The commander turned to follow. After two steps, he glanced one last time in Clark’s general direction. He hesitated with an uneasy glare before returning to the group to resume his tirade.


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Saturday Snatch: Fire-Heart by C. S. Marks

Voila! This week's excerpt is from Fire-Heart, the second installment in the Elfhunter Trilogy by author C. S. Marks. Hope you enjoy!

          If I can do this, it will all have been worthwhile. Gaelen carefully placed her left foot among the 
rotting leaves and moss, easing her body forward, mindful of every twig and leaf. A leather visor covered her large, bright, useless eyes. Rogond was not far away—she could hear him breathing if she concentrated hard enough—but she would have to navigate through the understory of the forest without alerting him.
          They had played this game every day for several weeks now. Actually, it was Rogond who had suggested it when Gaelen had grown bored and weary of confinement. She had taken to sneaking up on people as a method of entertainment.
          “Could you do that in the forest, I wonder?” he had asked.
          “I would love to try,” said Gaelen, “but the healers won’t let me leave the Elven-hold until I can see again.” 
           Rogond chuckled at her. “Since when do you do as you’re told, anyway?”
           “Since I promised Fima. He made me swear to behave myself and do whatever the healers asked.” She sighed, twisting her restless hands in her lap. “I cannot deny the advantages of being blind. I have used this time to hone my other’s amazing what you miss when you can see. The sounds, the smells, and you learn to truly feel things, too. I’ll bet I can tell you what color your tunic is, just by feeling it. In fact, I might not even need to feel it. Let me try now.” 
          She concentrated, her brow furrowing, her expression deadly serious. “I sense...I sense the color of the sea at sundown,” she said at last, smirking a little. All of Rogond’s tunics were blue-grey.
           “Impressive,” said Rogond. “Perhaps we should try tomorrow. I’ll borrow one of Galador’s.” 
           “Good idea, as long as it’s a blue one.”
           Neither she nor Rogond could shake the idea of Gaelen’s going out into the forest, and after a few days he had come to her with a very special gift. “I designed this with Fima’s help,” he said. “I call it a stealth suit. Here—let me help you put it on.”
           Gaelen was soon attired in close-fitting garments of soft dark leather. Stiff leather “feelers” projected from both shoulders, both knees, the back of the gloves, and the top and sides of the leather head-covering. A leather visor concealed and protected her eyes. Gaelen was delighted. “Just like the whiskers on a cat!” 
           “Exactly. Now let’s go and try it out. Fima has given his blessing.” Rogond had taken her out into the forest, very near the Elven-hold, and placed her among the brush and trees. Then he had gone a distance away—only about thirty feet—and called to her to come and find him. Her task was to circle around and approach him without his being aware of it. He had obligingly blindfolded himself, as well.
            At first, things had not gone well. Gaelen had some difficulty adjusting to the “feelers” and she made quite a bit of noise. All would be silent for a while as she eased her way through the thick foliage, then the rustling and snapping as she blundered into something, then the muffled cursing. But she rapidly became quite formidable, though he had always managed to detect her...until now.
             Twenty feet of undergrowth stood between Gaelen and her goal. She waited for the breeze to pick up, rattling the aspen leaves, before she let out another long breath. That’s cheating. You should act as though you’re trying to do this on a calm day. She approached Rogond from downwind, taking in the scent of him, which had been forever etched in her mind. He smelled musky, as did all men, but it was not unpleasant. She thought of it as earthy, especially when combined with the shaving-soap he used, which was heavy with juniper berries and wild mint. Another foot down, and a few more inches’ advance. He doesn’t hear me. I’m really going to do it this time...
             Rogond had promised to remain alert, but it was late spring, the moss was warm, the smells of the forest were soothing, and he was drowsy. A thrush called in the deep wood, answered by another. The aspen leaves quaked, the pine boughs sighed in the wind, and he still did not hear Gaelen.
              He owed it to her to be vigilant. He took off his blindfold, rose to his feet, stretched his arms and legs, and walked a small circle around the tree he had been resting against. She will take advantage of that—I’ll bet she advanced several steps while I was walking around. He moved to the opposite side of the tree-trunk and sat down again upon the soft moss, drawing forth the flask from his belt. He had taken a long swallow of mead, and was rummaging for some dried venison to go with it, when Gaelen’s booted legs appeared right next to his left knee. She startled him, and he jumped a little. He had heard nothing.
               She laughed—a free, musical sound filled with delight—as he rose to embrace her. “You did it! You truly startled me, Gaelen. I hereby promote you to hunter-scout first class!”
               “I would say blind hunter-scout supreme,” she said. “I was already a first-class hunter-scout.”
               He took her in his arms, stroking her hair. He was extremely proud of her. Blindness would have depressed him, but she had turned it into a challenge.
               “Now, if I can only do it on a dead calm day,” she said. Rogond smiled and shook his head.  Leave it to Gaelen to immediately raise the level of effort required.
               “Let’s just relax and enjoy the rest of this warm afternoon,” he suggested, reaching up to remove her head-covering and visor. As always, she started back from his hand—Gaelen did not like
having her head touched. “Easy, now...I just want to see your pretty face,” he said, gently lifting the visor from her eyes, which were still clouded by an odd, silvery film, almost like mirrors. 
                The healers had said this would lift and fade away, but it was rather eerie at the moment. Soon Rogond had drained his flask of mead and eaten all of his dried venison and fruit. The warm sun made him sleepy, and he stretched out on the carpet of moss with Gaelen beside him. We are quite safe here, so close to the Elven-hold. The woods are crawling with hunter- scouts. A wee nap won’t hurt... Soon, he was snoring softly.
                Gaelen, who was still healing and, therefore, would actually sleep at times, preferred a quieter resting-place. She made her way carefully to a nice, comfortable spot some twenty feet away, where the rustling leaves would mask the regular, deep rumble emanating from her beloved Aridan. There she drifted, her eyes open but unseeing, as her thoughts strayed into the realm of dreams.
                At first all was fair and pleasant, and her visions gladdened her heart. She walked alone in the stony forests above Mountain-home, hearkening to the sound of the wild waters cascading from tall peaks, breathing in the rich scent of pines and spruces as the sky gave way to a field of  brilliant stars. Gaelen had not seen the stars save in her dreams for a long time, and they took her breath for a moment, but as she continued to gaze at them her vision blurred and her head swam. She could not take her eyes from the wheeling stars that turned with dizzying speed above her, until her vision went dark and she fell from the pinnacle of rock upon which she had been standing.
                She came to herself almost at once, but she was now in a place she had never been before, even in dreams. Still, it looked familiar. No...wait! I have seen fact I stood in this very spot before, though it had looked very different in the Stone of Léir. It was the Battle-plain surrounding the Dark Fortress in the northern waste, where Lord Wrothgar had been defeated long ago. When last she had seen it, this landscape had been filled with countless warriors of two great armies, engaged in a deadly struggle. In the center of all, Wrothgar himself strove with the High King Ri-Elathan—Gaelen’s beloved life-mate, whom she called “Rain.” Wrothgar had ultimately defeated him, burning him slowly to death in a nightmare of black flame, and the sight of it had horrified Gaelen almost beyond return.
                She saw no fearsome Flame Lord now. Only one warrior did she see, lying alone upon the desolate, rocky plain. She ran to his side even as he lay dead before her, longing to contact him one last time, to tell him that he had not failed. Rain...Rain, Wrothgar was defeated that day, though you did not live to see it. But as she knelt beside him, suffering the heat of his ruined body long enough to turn his face to hers, she beheld a sight that froze her blood and nearly stopped her heart.
                Ri-Elathan’s eyes were closed, not open as she had seen them in the Stone. What remained of his once-handsome face broke into a familiar twisted, evil smile, and a cold voice rang in her horrified mind. I am not yet vanquished, Gaelen Taldin, my sworn enemy. I will come for you and everything you love. Be ready, for this time I will stand before an army greater than any you have seen. When the time comes I will deal with you, and you will be alone...utterly alone! I will take your spirit with me into the Darkness, and there will be no returning from it.
                Malicious laughter assaulted her then as she tried to move away, tried to protect herself from what she knew must follow. He would open his eyes now, and she would not be able to bear it. She had to break free of him! As though sensing her desire, Gorgon gripped Gaelen’s arms with Rain’s hands, the heat still strong enough to burn her as she cried in pain and terror.
                 Look at me, Elf, for I would speak my piece. Your beloved has failed. The Black Flame grows again, and nothing the Elves can do will stand against it. I have escaped their pathetic attempts to destroy me, and will gather strength. When I have done so, I will come first for you! If you still abide in the Greatwood, I will sweep through as a great fire that withers all before it. None shall withstand my wrath. I will kill every Elf I encounter, even as I am searching for you. Their
deaths—their pain—will be on your hands.
                 Gaelen longed to defy him, to speak of his defeat, but she could not. Her vision would not give way, and she was powerless. Ri-Ela- than’s eyelids opened, and she cried in revulsion as Gorgon stared at her, his cold, pale grey eyes filled with malice.
                 Now her right arm was free, for Gorgon held her, and he had no left hand. She wrenched her other arm from his iron grip, crying again, as her vision blurred and swirled and changed. Now she stood upon the plateau in the Barrens, where she and the Elves of the Greatwood had met and defeated Gorgon’s army. The dead lay scattered around her—but not Gorgon. She had failed. The monster still lived, and he was gathering strength. When he was ready he would come for them all!
                 She turned and ran headlong, for she knew that she could not prevail, not in this place. Gorgon’s horrid, oily laughter stung her ears as she fled in the dark, trying to escape her fate. Her eyes burned with tears of pain and revulsion as she careened into an unknown destiny, wishing only to escape the lingering sight of her beloved Rain’s ruined face twisting into that of her mortal enemy. She ran as a terrified, blind deer through the Greatwood, and when she finally exhausted herself and fell senseless beneath the black canopy, no light would reach her sightless eyes.
                 When she awakened she would remember nothing for a time, not even her own name, until at last she heard the voice of Rogond. It drew her from her bewilderment, and she called out to him, clinging as a drowning person clings to the last rope in the world.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Book Spotlight & Giveaway: Order Restored by Ioana Visan

          Order Restored, the third novella in The Impaler Legacy series by Ioana Visan, is set to release early December -- perfect timing to fill up those lazy Christmas vacation days.

(From Goodreads) Despite their five centuries at war, the pandurs and the vampires work well together when they ally against a common enemy. Led by Little Council member Liana Cantacuzino and a thousand-year-old vampire Maximilien Hess, they descend on South Island, New Zealand, to search for the new breeds’ base.

With Dr. Jesse Carver kidnapped by the new breeds and Liana’s feelings for him muted thanks to Hess’ compulsion, Liana is forced to act like Jesse means nothing to her while she is dying inside. Asked by the new breeds’ leaders to betray her cause and losing the support of her people one by one, she needs to destroy the new breed-making facility before her entire world falls apart and everyone has to run for their lives.

The third novella in The Impaler Legacy series, a vampire saga like no other.

          Award-winning writer Ioana Visan has always dreamed about reaching the stars, but since she can't, she writes about it. She made her debut in English with a short story published by Every Day Fiction, and also has one included in Evolved Publishing's "Evolution: Vol. 2" short story collection. After fighting the apocalypse aftermath in "Human Instincts", she played with shapeshifters in “Blue Moon Café Series: Where Shifters Meet for Drinks”, and then she dealt with vampires in “The Impaler’s Revenge”, before tackling longer works like a fantasy trilogy and a science fiction series.

Ioana Visan is the winner of the European Science Fiction Society’s Encouragement Award at Eurocon 2013.

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

In Which We are Introduced to a Help and Your's Truly Rants (because she can)

I use Grammarly's plagiarism checker because when someone speaks to me, my brain often brings up the 'processing' symbol. This gives the incoming message adequate time to drift to the bottom of my mind and settle there in the dust like an awkward relative or bad meat -- just waiting to resurface and demand attention. I smile vaguely at the speaker and pretend to me making words. 

Later, sometimes months, the thought comes back. 

At this point it is usually so covered in fluff and nastiness that it is altogether unrecognizable. Subsequent to this untoward transformation, the thought is rebirthed through my mouth as my own, leaving me to spout lines of eloquence that sound oddly familiar. This can be a problem. Particularly when one is composing an email and unconsciously throws in portions of the Gettysburg Address as one's own, or drafting a presentation on the rising cost of pet maintenance and says something clearly reminiscent of Kendall Crolius' Knitting With Dog Hair (Utterly, deadly serious.)

Call it a character flaw if you will, however unintentional. 

And yes. Above is a shameless blurb for Grammarly. (which has way more than just the plagiarism checker.) It is truly dead useful. Like a teacher in your pocket. But in a non-creepy sort of way. 

It also makes a nice transition to the topic of plagiarism in general, wouldn't you say? 

As an unfortunate expert on the subject, I would argue that plagiarism is virtually impossible to avoid. Even to go so far as to propose that the best work in the world smacks of plagiarism (including on that list the works of William Shakespeare and the dazzling Disney). 

Oh, yes.

Many of their ideas had all been used before, and discarded as insignificant. But there is an insurmountable difference between these creators and the grungy high school student who carelessly pulls their essay on Orwell's 1984 from a shady crevice of internet slime.

You likely already knew that Arthur Brooke wrote The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Iuliet in 1562 (before Shakespeare). And it is self-evident that Disney did not single-handedly establish the fairytales, despite what they'd like to think. But those ideas had grown so big and so changed from their start -- and their authors were dead (it tends to help)-- as to be owned by the public. But they passed them off as their own and earned something from them. And we love it. This kind of plagiarism is exciting and enlightening and beneficial to the public. It takes something and seeks to glorify it rather than douse its brilliance and suck the energy from its previous life. And it never, ever, quotes word for word without credit. 

We readers aren't dumb.

So no. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES IS IT OKAY TO WRITE WHAT SOMEONE ELSE HAS WRITTEN AND SAY YOU DID IT. It is a disgusting occurrence when accidental and absolutely revolting when intentional. 


(Phew! Sorry guys. Don't know where that rant came from. Maybe it's the snow? Best wishes for driving if you're experiencing the same winter blast and many envious glances if you're somewhere warm -- excepting the devil's palace, of course. Regardless, find a good book to devour whatever your situation.)

Monday, December 2, 2013

Interview & Giveaway: Jessica Miller

          Jessica is a budding new author with a passion for writing in her veins. She stems from the suburbs of Pennsylvania where most of her time is spent writing, listening to new music, or reading a good book. When not busy writing, Jessica works part–time in a salon where she enjoys making people look beautiful. You can catch up with Jessica on her blog or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Favorite reads?
          There are so many it’s hard to name just a few but I’ll try to narrow it down. Vampire Academy series/Bloodlines by Richelle Mead, House of night series by P.C. and Kristin Cast, Twilight saga by Stephenie Meyer, Beautiful/walking Disaster by Jamie McGuire, The Immortals by Alyson Noel, The Collector by Victoria Scott, and Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgens. I could name more but the list would never end. These are just the ones that popped in my head.

Inspiration for the book?
          I wanted to do something different. I was tired of predicting everything that happened in books I was reading. Now, that might also be because I was always good at figuring who did what – friends always get mad me for being right – but after a while it became repetitive. So I tried my hardest to think outside the box. I wanted to write something that would catch reader’s attention and keep them hooked and not know what was going to happen next.

Did you know you wanted to be an author when you were little?
          No. I should have known it was always there, but I didn’t start writing until a few years ago. I always daydreamed and made up stories in my head, but it just took me a while to realize I should put them on paper.

Any pet peeves?
           Liars and fake people and people who try too hard. Just be yourself. It also drives me nuts when people start decorating for Christmas right after Halloween or start counting down the days. And when dogs/cats lick themselves – Eww. Something about the noise they make when they do it is like nails on a chalkboard to me.

Chocolate or peanut butter?
          Both, together. Although I only like peanut butter when it’s covered in chocolate. Peanut butter cups – yum.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done?
          I really don’t know how to answer this question. I’m honestly drawing a blank. I’m sure what I think is normal might be weird to other people, but I seriously cannot think of anything.

Is there a soundtrack to the book/ favorite music?
          Yes. At the end of each book of The Wanderers series there is a playlist for that book. I listened to a lot of music while I was writing these books and a lot of the songs inspired some of the scenes. When I went through the book to add the playlist I made sure to pick songs that I felt went with the scene. My favorite music is Indie rock/Alternative. I like a lot of other music, but I always tend to go back to rock. Band of the moment - The Civil Wars. Just recently heard some of their songs and I really like them.

Do you need anything to write?
          I prefer to either be listening to music or have the TV on. Nothing special.

How long do you write on any average day?
          It depends. If I don’t have anything else to do and it’s flowing, I’ve written for six/eight hours straight. Unfortunately I don’t have that luxury anymore so the most I would say is three/four hours a day and those are usually in spurts split up throughout the day.

Give us the number one reason to read your book. 
          One word – Awesome! I tried to do something to capture the reader’s attention and keep them interested. My book is not like the other paranormal books out there. There are twists, humor, emotions you can feel right along with the characters.

Author Info:
Twitter: @JLMreadingrocks

What do you do when you learn your family is the one who's holding all the secrets? Secrets that could get you killed...
 Ella is looking forward to starting college in the fall with her best friend Josie. She’s looking for a place where she can get away from her overbearing parents and two older annoying brothers. Unfortunately Ella realizes that sometimes the past comes back to haunt you.
          Ella soon learns that the man who terrorizes her dreams is in fact real and coming after her.
          When one of her classmates is murdered, Ella slowly recognizes this is not some strange coincidence. Ella fears that the boy she’s falling in love with is the one who stalks her dreams and no longer knows who she can trust.
When she finally learns the truth of her family’s deepest secret, Ella has to face her demons by taking out one of the people she thought she could trust…before they kill her.

(Ends 12/31)
Mobi or Epub