Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Coming Full Circle

When I first introduced you to Mary Andrews, my first revisit and first MuseItUp edit, I didn't realize how I would feel writing this entry. Her trust in me as reviewer now editor is a little overwhelming.

This is the final book in Mary's trilogy: The Fireborn Chronicles Book 3: Revelations.

From first reviewing Mary to now editing the last book in this trilogy, it's been my pleasure. I hope you've had a chance to travel Mary's world.



Prophesy said they would save the Oracle Planet but it never said how and now it’s up to the Nemesis Team and their uneasy allies to figure that out.



Back Cover:


PSIONIC SCI FI


The inevitable fusion of Man, Machine, and the Paranormal






After Earth's destruction, humans have scattered and spread across the universe. The peace is kept by a universal government. Four rogue talents unite to become an invincible Government Dark Ops team—the Nemesis Team.

But an unknown planet has turned up; a planet ruled by Oracles whose agents may be usurping The Government and suddenly, nothing is what it seems.

Follow the Nemesis Team and their uneasy allies as they race to unravel a reality not of their making before the strange world is annihilated by an asteroid.

Excerpt:


The eternal procession of worshipers ate away at him. Jumbled through millions of their eyes, he saw himself and his team poised above them. Fighting against an overwhelming flood of adoration, fear, hope, and awe, Ira found himself disoriented. It churned, smothering him with an unbearable intensity. The teeming crowd began to wear at his control. “I can’t take this,” he finally told Tristen and turned to leave.

She managed to slip her arm through his and held him back. “You heard what they told us. We have to do this. It is important to these people.”

Ira steeled himself against the onslaught in one last effort as he turned back to face the crowd. “Too many eyes,” he muttered, and Tristen closed hers to allow him reprieve. The visual disorientation dissipated, leaving only what he could see with his own eyes, but his body and mind still reeled from the empathic assault. He disengaged from her arm to encircle her slight form within his, drawing her closer. Closing his eyes, he struggled to sharpen his focus, reaching out to encompass all the writhing consciousnesses around him—to telepathically hold them as one.

He spoke softly, barely audible, “Breathe in,” he said, and his words echoed across all the minds in the hall and beyond, all the way out into the cold lines of the waiting faithful. As one, they all inhaled deeply.

“Breathe out.” They exhaled.

“And in.” They all fell into sync.

Ira opened his eyes. “Be at ease,” he whispered, and again, the words reverberated across their minds.

“It is done. You will leave now contented...and blessed.” Almost in unison, the crowd reversed and began to file away in silence.

Not until the hall had emptied did Tristen open her eyes and realize the Deridian brothers both stood focused on Ira.

Totally spent, Ira still stared, unseeing, out over the great empty hall.

“That was perfect,” Alice’s voice rang out, shattering the silence. “The perfect blessing from the Dark Angel, Irael. The networks are going to eat this up.”

Tristen studied her husband through the others. “We should leave now.You look as bad as you feel.” She felt his weight sag against her before pressing on toward the entrance.

“This will be enough for today, Miss Roberts.”

Nevon made it a point to get as close as possible to Ira in an attempt to help.Ira barely noticed the influx of raw energy Nevon channeled from the world they’d come to save. Instead, his body grew numb, and his temples throbbed from the overload. “What were we thinking?” he muttered to Tristen and keeled over.

Just How Did Nick End His Trilogy

Okay, I'm not really going to tell you how Relics of Nanthara Book 3: Dawn of Apocalypse concludes the trilogy.

As a reader, what's worse than reading books one and two only to find book three was never published. You're left there with no ending. No pulling together of the trilogy; no tying up of loose ends. It's like a television show being cancelled and having a cliffhanger for a season finale.

At MuseItUp you won't be left hanging.









Will Apòlladan’s greatest weapon be the relics, or the deep seeded bitterness of ancient races?


Back Cover:



Thinking they have thwarted Apòlladan’s efforts to commence his dark reign, betrayal in the alliance shifts power back into the hands of evil. With hope fleeting, our heroes realize one of the orphans they’ve found is gifted with Dreamsight, and his extremely rare abilities reveal Apòlladan’s next move. Having no other choice, Sir Angelo and the others try to sway an Alkani realm’s judgmental and prejudicial thoughts in favour of joining them in the final battle. Will their efforts help them form an unexpected coalition, or will the ‘chosen ones’ face Apòlladan alone?


Excerpt:



General Somrayil stood, doing little to hide his haughty grin. “It is not the importance or danger involved which I question but rather the trust factor of your little group.”

Sir Angelo sensed the negativity brewing forth from this judgmental elder stick to him like a humid evening. Maintaining his concentration on the general, Sir Angelo kept his peace and listened with a critical ear.

“Aside from the eclectic host you have brought before us, let us first address this young human you have with you. Needless to say, the boy suffered at the hands of the enemy, and survived. Apparently, it was not his time to die. Despite dragging this crippled youth into hostile territory, we have been told the boy has Dreamsight.”

Subtle discussions spread among the council.

Lord Linfey stood. “Silence, please.” He retook his seat as discussions ceased.

“This is true,” Sir Angelo said. “Tink has the gift.”

“Dreamsight, if it is what you say, does not manifest until early adulthood upon those so gifted,” Somrayil said. “To my knowledge, nobody has ever bore this ability early in life…nobody.”

Sir Angelo nodded. “You are correct, General. But not in this case.”

Somrayil smirked. “So, you gathered your gear and your ‘chosen ones’ and ran east like frantic lemmings because this boy said so.”

Sir Angelo’s forehead wrinkled. “It is obvious you do not believe in such happenings.”

“Not at his age,” Somrayil said.

“And why not?” Vindicar asked.

Somrayil glimpsed at Vindicar. “To have such an incredible occurrence reveal itself during such a dire time, I find it…odd.”

“Are you implying the boy has ill intent?” Sir Angelo asked. He concentrated on resisting the lashing he wanted to deal Somrayil.

Somrayil shrugged. “Anything is possible. I have seen and experienced enough in my life so far to warrant caution to those bearing unusual gifts or boasting of such grandiose things.”

“Tink’s gift is a blessing from Sovereign,” Vindicar said. “I take offense to your accusations.”

“I care not of prizes bestowed by deities, paladin. I am concerned with what I know.”

Vindicar rose from his chair. “I understand your voice carries weight in this council, and your cautious actions dictate your position as a watchdog for this assembly. Yet I warn you, sir not to allow pride and stubbornness cloud your decisions.”

“Well put,” Imlutheeil said.

The facial muscles rippled under Somrayil’s strained grin. “Quite… Shall we continue? I think the council well remembers this Elinthyrian ranger, Azin Sildanel,” he said, pointing to the assassin. “I think we also remember the disrespect and disgrace he bestowed upon one of our elder’s prestigious families—an act intolerable within our society, an act unforgotten, an act unforgiven. To worsen matters, you have brought a tainted race in these hallowed halls; a race

desired to be forgotten, yet he sits in our presence, breathing our same air.”

Azin sank in his seat, trying to maintain his composure under the peripheral glances from Boren who struggled against reaching for his axe strapped across his back. Sir Angelo cast a soft glimpse at Azin, amazed that both still remained calm under the verbal onslaught.

Somrayil continued. “For a group such as yours to involve the allegiance of two current members considered selfish, impure, and uncaring, who is to say you and your people will not do the same to us?”

Sir Angelo’s mind hazed over in bewilderment. The proper words to retaliate escaped his thoughts. He expected some negativity during the meeting, but what had transpired so far pushed him to the limits of comprehension and tolerability. “Haven’t our trials and successes shown any form of commitment to you?”

“Anyone could have participated in the journey you took and accomplished the same,” Somrayil said.

“Many did answer the call. Although some departed, many more have died in their unselfish service to gain victory for the good of Nanthara,” Vindicar said, noticeably irritated.

“War always costs lives, paladin,” Somrayil said, his tone blunt. “You should know losses are acceptable.”

“With a heavy heart, we have accepted it from the beginning,” Sir Angelo replied in a controlled tone. “From the losses of our own, to the piles of Dwergen, human, Nivvick, and Alkani corpses that filled the trenches in Northwatch, they accepted it as well.”

Sir Angelo noticed some of the council murmuring amongst each other in response.

Somrayil chuckled, tossing a quick glance at those gathered. “A heroic gesture, Sir Angelo—attempting to cover up Azin’s mistakes by speaking on things bearing no significance

in the matter.”

Sir Angelo leaned into the table. “Well, then General, by what means do you expect us to trust you? By your fancy dress? By your title? Perhaps your lofty position on this council?”

Somrayil scowled at the paladin’s retort. “If you were not a guest of Lord Imlutheeil, those would have been your last words spoken.”

Boren only managed to stand part way out of his chair before Azin grabbed his thick armored arm and stopped him.

“It appears you are attempting to make this a solitary show, to gain favor of those undecided on this matter, or perchance already decided by your influence behind private doors,” Sir Angelo said.

General Somrayil slammed his fist into the table. “I will not tolerate insolence from anyone, especially an outsider.”

“Then perhaps you should not badger our guests as you are, Somrayil,” Linfey said. Several Elinthyrian council members agreed with silent nods.

The irate general shot Linfey a hard glare before settling down to take his seat as the elder spoke. “There is truth to Somrayil’s caution of any visitor. Yet I feel your pessimistic view is null and void in this case, General Somrayil. Need I remind you of Celianna’s approval of this group before their arrival?”

“Regardless of this group bearing Celianna’s seal of approval, Linfey, it does not cancel Azin’s past,” Somrayil said, pointing an angry finger at the targeted assassin. “More likely than not, he has lied to his party to accomplish his gains.”

“Yer wrong, General,” Boren replied. “The Alkanien has been an irritant since we met, but he’s never lied about who he was or his desires. More than once, the maggot has risked his

life fer ours.”

“And here is another example,” Somrayil said, sweeping his hand from Azin to Boren. “Not only must we believe Azin, according to his peers, it is now compounded by the tongue of a polluted race. A race none of you approve of.”

“You speak of the past, Somrayil,” Chief Mage Xaneriel said, his black eye patch strapped across his atypical silver-streaked blonde hair. “You seem to be the one desiring the banishment of the alliance based on the apparent hatred you have for one of our own.”

Some of the Elinthyrian gathering mumbled in agreement, and others held a silent vigil under watchful stares.

Well, I Did Ask For It


...I'm looking for the ultimate horror scare. Whether human, spirit, creature-feature, alien, I want to be looking over my shoulder as I'm reading your words. Forget the loving vampires, cuddly werewolves or friendly ghosts. Throw out the justifiable vigilantes, the oh-so-simple serial killers, and boring Hannibal copy cats. Acid spitting aliens? Top of the food chain hunter aliens? Been there, read that, saw the movie. Make my blood curdle, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up...force me to sleep with the light on.

From scare to classic mysteries.

Rarely have authors stumped me. Can you? Can you leave me guessing and doubting my conclusions? Pull me into your world of murder, mayhem, madness, and plain ole greed. Weave clues throughout forcing me to think and think again. Can you top Sherlock, Brother Cadfael, Father Brown, Ellery Queen, Poirot?

Do you dare take my challenge?...




This is my editors call for submissions at MuseItUp Publishing's blog. Little did I realize Justin Robinson's The Dollmaker would actually have me looking over my shoulder. You want Gothic Horror? Here it is and don't say I didn't warn you.



A troubled genius creates living women from the inanimate, but with each birth, he loses more of his soul.


Back Cover:


Stephen Monaghan is a brilliant chemist and gifted sculptor. Unable to love a human woman, he uses his genius and arcane science to create a living woman out of wood. Just one can’t fill his bottomless need, so he creates more and more of these dolls. With each act of creation, he loses something of himself: his signature, his knowledge, his shadow, his voice and finally his blood. His sacrifices produce dolls that do not just move but live and learn, exploring humanity through the humans that inspired their creation. The dolls do not become human, but evolve into creatures with free will and self-expression. By the end, he is more doll than man, and they are more human than human.

Excerpt:


Those eyes never closed. It was Stephen’s fault when deciding against lids. That might have been a mistake. Even shutters would have helped. At least now he could find comfort by choosing to believe she slept. Knowing for certain she never did, that she stayed conscious, watching him snoring beside her, might be too much. When a human woman would sort through her subconscious mind in vivid dreams, the doll was a careful blank. But the true question was something he never let himself think. What was worse, that she didn’t dream? Or that she might?

Stephen’s eyes opened with a start. The window was open, the air itself still and heavy. His skin stuck to the sheets. She lay facing him, wooden skin bone dry. She had been born a little over a week ago. In a way, she was still not complete. She was still not quite the figure he had fallen in love with. The clothes, the costume, were waiting for her.

He wanted to do something more. Beyond the physical acts. She had to be complete.

She had to be loved.

He kissed her on the forehead. She reached for him, but he was already up, already going into Emily’s room. The hairbrush was on Emily’s nightstand, still entwined with strands of crow-black hair. He returned to his bed and beckoned to the dancer. She crawled to him, once again reaching. He gently turned her. There was no doubt—had she wanted to resist, she could have. She turned her slender back to him and waited.

The pins came from her hair easily. It fell around her shoulders, caressing him with a wave of lavender perfume. One hand supported the thick, black mane; the other passed the brush through it, as carefully as possible. Her fingers closed around his knee as she leaned back into him. He was thorough, working the tangles from her hair as the act worked the tangles from his mind.

After a hundred strokes, he refastened her bun and kissed the graceful slope of her neck.

“I have something for you.” His touch ran from leg to belly to breast to arm to hand. Her delicate fingers closed over his, softly as a moth’s kiss, and she let him lead her to her feet.

“You’re going to need to be dressed soon.”

No reaction. Not a cocked head, not a dramatic fall. She only followed him through the house. “Before I made you, I had an idea of what you… You need to be dressed a certain way.”

This she nodded at. Did she know? Did she see it in her mind? There was no brain, no case. Her head was mahogany, through and through. There was nothing to think thoughts, and yet she seemed to.

He opened the door to what had been Emily’s room. He had intended to take the doll here first, but sex and blood had stopped him. Now was the time for her to assume her identity. To become the dancer truly.

The outfit laid waiting on Emily’s pink sheets. White tights and ballet wrap skirt, pale pink leotard and pointe shoes. She sat down on the bed and touched the clothes. Looked up at him. Still no question. She picked each up in turn, turning them over in her white hands. Stephen left the room and shut the door. He couldn’t see her incomplete. She had to be the dancer in total, or none at all.

He sat in the hall, watching the door. In Emily’s room the scrape of cloth on wood. She was taking forever. This was it, to see how perfect he made her, in the image of his ballerina.

That she would be imperfect was terrifying; that she was perfect was worse.

Silence.

The twin shadows of her feet waited just behind the door. Was she afraid, too? Terrified to displease?

The door swung open. She was unsure. Clothes, precisely arranged. The costume, the figure, everything was as he imagined.

He stood. She seemed to flinch for the barest moment. He embraced her with desperate hands and crushed her lips to his. She wrapped him in her wooden arms with the strength of relief.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Why Yes, I Have Been Known To Yell At Authors When...

...they write so dang well and leave me guessing and hanging and begging for the next book.

I write this just hours after finishing book six in Rosalie's The Chronicles of Caleath series from MuseItUp. So I'm just a tad touchy and biting at the bit waiting for the next book to cross my line editing desk.

How dare she leave me wondering what happens next!   ;)

Every author I've worked with, I've lost myself in their story. I always find something new to learn. Some story which grabs me and holds my interest. A book I end up driving my family crazy with due to talking so much about it. At MuseItUp we pick the books we want to edit. This allows us to work with stories (or authors) we feel some connection with.

This time around I would like to visit with books four and five. Book six is coming out fast, so now is the time to grab one through five and catch up with Caleath.

Exiled: The Battle for Enderseer Hold, Book Four in The Chronicles of Caleath series.




The Deathbringer agrees to serve Azriel to save his friends but the life of Nasith’s baby lies in the balance.


Back Cover:


Azriel’s plans of endless domination are coming to fruition. Nasith’s care is her first priority as she persuades the Deathbringer to concede to her wishes. Each day he delays capitulation gives the forces allied against her another chance for victory. They face more than another season of winter warfare. An adversary from history swells the ranks of Azriel’s army. The people of Allorn must defeat a foe whose very touch is deadly as they face a witch who stands supreme.

Excerpt:


Corinne woke from a nightmare. She threw open the shutters and took a deep breath. Chill autumn air filled her lungs and brought her fully awake.

Roiling gray clouds rolled over the mountains in the east adding an aura of dark drama to dawn’s feeble light. The vision suited the dream she abandoned on waking.

Her head ached, but didn’t explain the dread making her heart race. With the Deathbringer in the Council’s care and the survivors from Valkerie’s Peak back among friends, Corinne’s frisson of fear seemed out of place.

Anxiety remained and forced her into action. Once dressed, she entered the corridor. Pale light ventured across aging floorboards and caressed the walls. Years of wear left a patina of smoke and grease on aging woodwork. Despite her wariness the building carried an air of familiarity and seemed to offer a feeling of safety.

Catching sight of her reflection in a glass Corinne tried to banish the frown that marred her visage. Her Kentorian marshal’s uniform contrasted with her unruly hair. With deliberate care to nurture optimism, she skipped downstairs and swung into the kitchen, where the cook removed baked loaves from a smoke stained oven.

“Good morrow, marshal.” The baker rubbed floured hands on his apron and greeted Corinne as she located a teapot steaming on the hob. She grabbed the kettle to pour boiling water into the pot, while the cook’s assistant broke a fresh bun from the cooling rack. The assistant supplied a pat of butter and cheese to accompany the simple fare.

“Thank you.” Corinne took the offering without enthusiasm. The cook turned reddened features away from the oven, as if he shared his guest’s disquiet.

“You’ve lost your appetite, my lady?” He took over the task of creating a perfect cup of tea from of the marshal’s forgetful hands. “Did you not sleep well?” He gave his assistant a nod of encouragement when the girl returned to preparing a basket of vegetables for a pot of soup.

“I slept badly. Terrible dreams. Is it obvious?” Corinne ran a brisk hand across her braid doing nothing to repair the damage lack of sleep wrought. She groaned, feeling the disarray of her singularly stubborn curls.

Accepting her tea and platter of food she forced a smile and made her way outside. Extra tables allowed outdoor dining, to accommodate additional mouths of refugees and Alliance troops.

A reluctant sun showed its face. Birds in full chorus spread their raucous message as the autumn morning developed. With skilled fingers, Corinne re-braided her hair. She settled back to sip her tea and enjoy the crusty bread. With deliberate care she planned her day. For now she would take the chance to learn more about Caleath. The presence of the Deathbringer intrigued her. Nasith’s change of attitude to the mercenary only added to the mystery behind Caleath’s character.

Despite appreciating the moment of quiet, Corinne’s mind wandered. Dark visions from her nightmare lurked in her mind. She tried to relegate her anxiety to memory, but before she succeeded, Travis and Eluart approached. Their countenance boded ill and they walked the empty street with a purposeful step.

The inkling of fear she sought to expel blossomed into dread. She sprang to her feet, crossing the road to intercept their progress.

Both man and Vergöttern saluted her with a deferential gesture. The object of their thoughts obviously remained elsewhere.

“Tell me what troubles you this morning?” Her discomfort linked with their concerns.

“Isadawn has further news from the Nomads, my lady.” Travis didn’t slow his pace. “Eluart and I are about to give your brother the latest information. We have informed the archimage. He is gathering the Council as we speak.”

Matching their strides, Corinne joined them. The lines of worry creasing the beautiful Vergöttern brow confirmed the dread growing in her gut.

* * * *

Corinne entered Mykael’s room with a quick knock. He surprised her by being fully dressed, as if sleep evaded him too. His manner seemed tense but he smiled and greeted her with a warm embrace.

Corinne guided him to the study where the ranger and the Vergöttern lord waited. With a sigh, Mykael bade them take seats. She read anxiety in his mood when he organized his already tidy desk. After Corinne settled in an armchair, Mykael took a chair for himself.

Sunlight broke through the window to herald the start of the day’s activities outside the king’s room. The atmosphere generated within made normal activity sound like a cacophony of chaos.

“Please, speak freely.” Mykael straightened.“The Nomad Awain reports from the east bank of the River Arrion. They have found the witch’s stronghold, sire.” Lord Eluart spoke without emotion, but his words made Corinne’s hair lift and goosebumps rise on her skin.


 Exiled: Invaded: The Darkest Day, Book Five in The Chronicles of Caleath series



Trapped on a dying planet by friends he trusted, Caleath falls into the hands of his arch-enemy.

Back Cover:

Trapped on a dying planet by friends he trusted, Caleath falls into the hands of his arch-enemy.

Fortunately, viewing rights make the Deathbringer a valuable asset. More torture, better ratings. Nobody suffers as well as he does.

Sent back to Allorn, Caleath is the only one able to stop the invasion of his former Karadorian masters. If he keeps a cool head, accepts the help of those who betrayed him and the power offered by the dead planet’s spirit, dare he unleash the ferocious warrior lurking within?Wrath has been waiting for his chance to take revenge far too long. His time has come--for better or worse.

Excerpt:


A pulse of wild magic knocked Caleath forward before the backlash exploded along the valley. He reeled in the saddle and watched a wall of wind consume the daylight. Above him, lightning shredded eldritch night, while an unnatural tempest stripped vegetation and rubble from the earth.

Ahead, a cart loaded with children moved onto a bridge across the river. Beside him, Corinne snatched at her horse’s reins. The creature squealed and bucked beneath her.

“Tallowbrand,” Caleath shouted as the storm raced toward him. “We could use a little help! Wizard!”

The hurricane drove a bank of river water high into the air. Corinne screamed and spurred her horse toward the children. Caleath gave his stallion, Enigma, free rein, urging the beast forward.

Before he reached the children, the wave struck the bridge. The wooden structure shattered. Cart, horse, and humans tumbled into the maelstrom.

A whiplash of sorcery slashed against the tempest. For a fractured moment, relative calm surrounded the tragic tableau. For respite from the tumult Caleath silently thanked the unseen wizard.

“The children!” Corinne’s voice pitched above the thunder and rumble of tortured rock. He shared the urgent need in her shout, throwing himself from Enigma’s saddle. His wet hands fumbled while he unbuckled the stallion’s reins and lashed them around his own waist. With a shout and few gestures, he urged Corinne to attach the lifeline to the stallion’s saddle. He left her to calm Enigma. When the horse stood hock deep in rising water, Caleath used the slippery leather and rope for support.

He moved deeper into the raging river. Cold tightened bands of steel around his chest and his head ached as air pressure dropped. He waded through waves of debris snagged on the remains of the bridge. Branches, broken timber, and clods of grass struck his head and shoulders as he fought the current. Through driving rain, he caught a glimpse of the overturned cart and the sodden woodwork that rose above the melee. The precious cargo of frightened children clung to the framework. As he approached, Caleath heard their whimpered cries and strident shouts. A deeper voice of calm among the shrill pleas offered comfort and courage.

He caught the dray’s side and dragged three small boys clear of the splintered frame. With one child’s arms around his neck and another boy under each arm, Caleath pushed away from the dray.

“Hang on.” He turned his back on the terrified faces of those children left behind. “Tallowbrand, tell Corinne we are ready,” he told the disembodied dread lord using telepathy to avoid swallowing more river water. Prohibited from working sorcery himself he relied on his companion, the ghostly archimage, for any form of magic.

Rain ran across his face, filled his mouth and blocked his vision while river water sluiced over his head with each successive wave. If not for the tug of the lifeline at his waist, he would not make way against the drag of the current. Even with this additional pull, progress seemed slow. The children cried as they clutched him and made headway more difficult.

He stumbled on slippery boulders, dragged heavy boots from the guttling mud and managed to reach shallower water. To his relief, Corinne took charge of the children, allowing him to step back into the current.

On the second trip, he half-carried half-dragged two older boys. A young man grabbed the lifeline, adding his strength against the current, aiding Caleath’s progress toward the river’s edge. While he helped rescue the terrified children the youth kept pointing and shouting toward the dray. Corinne lifted saturated bodies from Caleath’s arms.

“El’sbeth and her baby.” The youth gasped, taking one child from Corinne’s arms and scrambling to higher ground.

Caleath nodded, dragged air into his lungs and signaled the stallion to step forward again. Intense cold burned every limb. His legs shook and his boots slipped on mud-covered rocks. With teeth chattering he lifted a hand.

“I am going.” The storm snatched his words away. High on the dray’s upturned seat he could see a girl clutching a baby in her arms. When he reached deep water, the wind whipped his hair across his streaming eyes and hid the young woman and the baby from sight.

“Caleath, I can do no more. This storm is unnatural. I am spent.”Tallowbrand’s hollow voice echoed through his mind. Caleath cursed, surging forward to touch the splintered dray.

“A little longer, Tallowbrand,” he pleaded, but heard nothing in reply.

He scrambled hand over hand along the dismembered cart until he found a foothold. The girl slid toward him across the dray’s bench seat before she dropped into the turbulent water. Her hand reached through the murk, desperate eyes pleaded for help as she struggled to keep the baby’s head above water.

His fingers touched hers. In the same heartbeat, the dread lord’s magic dissolved. In an instant, the storm hammered into the void Tallowbrand’s sorcery had created.

Caleath’s fingers closed on empty air, a hair’s breadth from El’sbeth’s hand.

A wall of water smashed into the broken bridge, lifted the structure skyward and speared fractured woodwork into the turbulence. Forces beyond comprehension twisted the cart, thrust the drowned horse into the air and tossed portions of the mutilated bridge in front of the wave.

Caleath heard El’sbeth’s scream above the din. He struggled to reach her but the lifeline pulled tight around his waist before giving way. The sudden torrent tore him from the dray and dragged him beneath the water. Around him uprooted trees, shattered corbels and water pounded into the muddy riverbed. His throat closed when the cart landed across his chest. A silent scream reverberated through his head as a splintered floorboard speared through his side. Watery darkness engulfed him. The dray pinned him in the river’s depths.Again, he cursed immortality.

Story Blindness, It Happens

Most writers and editors will understand that phrasing...story blindness. It comes around when you've read, edited, re-edited, proofed, re-proofed, and gone over the same story for the tenth to twentieth time.

Edits for me are fun and enjoyable. For authors they can be the bain of the publishing process. At MuseItUp Publishing all books go through a content editor - multiple times; a line editor - multiple times; galley and final galley. A fast push may see your book published within six months. We won't rush the process.

No one can edit their own work. It just doesn't work that way for any published piece. Why? Because we do become blind to the words. We stop seeing what's missing and fill in story gaps in our minds because we know the story. It takes beta readers and editors to catch these missing pieces and to anticipate our writing habits. Like starting every other sentence with 'but' or over pronoun/name use.

Why mention this while visiting Victoria Ley's Darkseed: Awakening? Because she trusted me enough to tell me she was sick of seeing my edits :) Now trust me...this is one story you won't get story blindness from :)



The dead wants company. Hers.



Back Cover:


205 Cheyne Avenue holds some dark secrets…

After an accident claims the lives of two boys, fifteen year old Sarah Walton moves in to 205 with her mother. It isn’t long before she realises there is another, unseen resident, and convinces best friend Christina to help her make contact. When they do, the girls learn more than they bargained for, and soon find themselves desperately unravelling a series of clues in order to stop a malevolent being, seemingly bent on manipulating the souls of those he’s killed in order to gain omnipotence. Their only ally is Craig, a spirit they’ve befriended via a Ouija board, but as the story unfolds, the girls discover things aren’t quite as straightforward as they’d assumed.

Excerpt:


Christina closed the book, suddenly feeling uncomfortable. Before Sarah had moved from Parthil, they had slept at each other’s houses almost every fortnight. There was nothing special, nothing unusual about it, it was just what they did. On the day that he died, Craig walked into 205 as routine, not knowing that he wouldn’t be leaving the following morning. She shook her head. “What happened in there?” she muttered aloud.

Putting the books beside her, she got up and crossed the room to where she’d left the glass. Raising it to her lips, she turned back just in time to see the book slip from the bed and hit the floor with a thud.

It landed perfectly balanced along the length of its spine, and Christina’s arm faltered before she took a cautious step towards it. As she did, the front and back covers splayed open hard, meeting the carpet flush with a muffled clap, and she froze, watching light-headed as the pages fanned out, fingered enthusiastically by the invisible being that sat on the floor by her bed. As she thought this, an incredible urge to wheel around and flee out onto the landing engulfed her.

And then what? Go where?

Christina dropped the glass back onto the desk. Her heart thumped sporadically, sending waves of pain through her left armpit, and her legs actually began to buckle, whilst her throat tightened to the point that she thought she may just pass out, and it was here, in this precise moment of pure panic, that the girl found an eerie solace, and she understood completely.

She had to regain control of the situation.

Christina turned her back on the book and faced the open door. She took a moment to close her eyes and draw a deep breath before taking the handle in her palm and shutting off the exit, flinching as the catch clicked home. She opened her eyes and returned to confront the scenario.

The pages were still moving. Swallowing hard, Christina took a single step forward and crouched level with the bed.

“Craig,” she whispered, “please stop.”

It halted immediately. A chill licked at the nape of Christina’s neck and she shivered violently, but her voice remained unaffected.

“You want me to see something?”

A few seconds went by before any movement resumed, and when it did, it wasn’t individual leaves but a whole section that turned. The definite motion made Christina jump, and the pounding in her chest accentuated. It took a moment for her to redeem her composure before she was able to crawl forward and peer into the book.

The pages were bent backwards, unnaturally pinned open against the spine, and her hand shook as it stretched out towards it. Placing all four fingers along the centrefold, she murmured, “thanks,” and the pressure relaxed, causing the pages to curl around her hand like a Venus fly-trap. Christina snatched the book off the floor and stood up, her eyes flittering about the carpet as she backed off. She saw nothing else, so her paranoid search of the room ceased, and she looked down at the object in hand.

The pages that her fingers marked had the heading “Divination” at the top left hand side, and the subject matter spanned both pages, but that wasn’t what drew her attention, for, unlike the other pages that Christina had seen, there was just a single sentence written throughout the margin:

A power shared is a power divided—revoke the amalgamation

And Then There Was Graeme

I've had authors make me cry, afraid to look over my shoulder, wonder, cheer, scream because they've taken stories where I didn't expect. Rarely have I had an author make me laugh so much I've nearly peed my pants during edits.

Yes, I did just say out loud...write out loud?...for all to see - that I damn well nearly peed my pants laughing during the edit stage of A Comedy of Terrors.

That blasted Idiot did it again...and, I don't mean Graeme Smith. Well, actually I think I do mean Graeme. Dangit, I'm not sure, the man confuses me.

When this manuscript first came to MuseItUp Publishing for assessment, I cracked up reading the first page. What fool character...okay, the fool is a different job description, let me rephrase that...what character keeps calling himself the Idiot? Of course, the person who holds that working title. You know that position. The one we all call on when we say...oh it was the idiot who did it.

Humour is not an easy venture. And for all the silliness and laughs during our editing process, I still wonder about Graeme's brain. Yes, I am leaving that open-ended cause no matter what I write, I'll get caught, so might as well lead while I can ;)



To Segorian Anderson, women are an open book. The problem is, he never learned to read.




Back Cover:


Segorian Anderson’s an Idiot. But that’s fine with him. It’s a well paying job with no heavy lifting.

Nobody ever remembers Segorian. It isn’t magic - he just has the sort of face his own mother could forget, and she’s been trying to for years. But being forgettable is a job requirement for an Idiot.
No, he's not the Court Jester. He doesn’t wear motley (whatever motley may be). That's a different union. He’s the Idiot. In a Queen’s castle, wine spilt down the wrong dress can lead to war, so someone unimportant has to be blamed for it. That’s the Idiot’s job. He’s the Idiot that did it, for any value of ‘it’. Of course, as soon as he’s exiled-for-life out of the castle gate, he uses his back-door key and sneaks back in. But that's not all. Someday, something really bad will happen. Really, really bad. Badder than a bad thing on a very bad day with extra badness. When the world’s about to end (or the washing up won’t get done – whichever comes first), who you gonna call? No, not them. They haven’t been invented yet. You call the Idiot, someone nobody will miss if things don’t work out. And now Peladon has a case of dragon.

But the dragon may be the easy part. Segorian has woman trouble, and he’s the only person in the castle who doesn’t know it. Because to Segorian, women are an open book. The problem is, he never learned to read.

Who Doesn't Like Merlin

We're back with MuseItUp's C.K. Volnek and her Tween/Middle Grade book The Secret of the Stones.

Tell me something...have you ever met someone who doesn't like Merlin or magic? This one character can be explored in such a variety of ways. He doesn't even have to be in the story, just around the outer edges drawing everyone to his circle.

Most authors know the writing exercise of 'what if' and this is one time period and character it fits perfectly with. Even a certain mouse and bunny visited with Merlin a time or two.

Now it's Ms. Volnek's turn to visit...



A Merlin-loving tween is thrust into magic mayhem when the gift he’s been entrusted to protect turns out to be the enchanted object detailed in a mysterious prophecy.

Back Cover:


Trading places with a squirrel outside his window is the last thing twelve year-old Alex Ramsey expects to happen. Could the gift Aunt Norma gave him be magic? The Merlin’s magic he’d read about in the ancient diary? After he unexpectedly trades places with another animal, Alex realizes he must discover how this magic works, and fast. How had the trickery transformed him…and better yet… how did it turn him back into himself?

As Alex struggles to understand the how and why of his enchanted gift, he becomes painfully aware there is more to it than he first thought. Within the magic there is a great power, a power to control, a power so strong that another is willing do almost anything to get it. Can Alex protect the gift while solving the secrets to how the magic works? And can he make sense of the riddles in the diary, the riddles surrounding the prophecy of Merlin’s return?

Excerpt:


Alex flexed his hand in front of his face. Only it wasn’t a hand. It was a furry paw. Reddish-brown fur grew from the back of the paw and continued up to his shoulder. More fur covered his chest.

Whoa! Am I dreaming? Have to be dreaming. Some really wild dream.

A bushy tail twitched over his shoulder. He grabbed it and yanked.

Ouch! Definitely not a dream. What is going on?

Befuddled, Alex scampered to the branch closest to his window. He sat up on his haunches, watching the sleeping boy inside pull the cover up and snuggle under his grandmother’s quilt.

He gasped. Not possible. Can’t be me! Who’s in my bed?

A leg popped out from under the quilt, a leg with a fake tattoo of a lizard on his ankle, the lizard he’d gotten out of the gumball machine. His leg!

Nooo!

Alex raced up and down the branch, his reflection bouncing in the window with him. I’m really a squirrel. How? How could it happen? Think. Think! What was I doing? I was messing with the box…found the key and discovered how to unlock it. I saw the squirrel…Mom yelled up for me to take out the stupid garbage…wished I could be a squirrel and never have to take the garbage out again.

Alex swayed, the world spinning around him. His wish. He’d gotten his wish!

He gaped again at his body under the quilt. It was magic. Had to be magic!

More questions stung him, needles of panic pricking at him. What was he supposed to do now? How was he supposed to get back to his body?

Alex forced the knot of fear in his throat back down. First things first. He needed to get inside the house, get back to the box and the key.

Racing down the limb, he stared at the line of windows surrounding his room. Maybe one of them was open.

Nope. Not here.

He jumped to the next branch and the next. No windows open there either.

He stopped and gaped at the branches behind him. Had he really just jumped all those tree limbs? Triumph swelled in his chest.

Cool!

He jumped again, his paws grabbing the tree, nails biting into the bark. This was fun. Climbing was easy as a squirrel.

The oak’s branches towered above, swaying in the morning breeze. He shivered, more from excitement than cold. Bet I can see all the way to Snodgren’s Bluff from the top.

He climbed, jumping and weaving his way from limb to limb, toward the highest branch. Almost there. He leaped, sailing through the air, the wind parting the hairs on his face.

In a flash, the joy was gone and his heart jammed his throat. The wind was blowing the branch the other way. He wasn’t going to make it!

Down he plunged, legs thrashing, spinning in mid-air. He tore at the dry leaves. He ripped at the knobby branches. Finally, a sharp claw snagged a small branch, whipping his furry body around to smack, face first, into the trunk.

Umph!

His cheek stung. His ribs hurt. Clinging to the tree, his entire body shook, the claws on all four feet driven deep into the bark.

Breathe… Breathe!

He wheezed, taking in bits of air, his lungs feeling as flat as a popped balloon. That was close. Too close. Being a squirrel wasn’t as easy as he’d thought.

The back door banged and Dad tromped out, headed for the stack of firewood. Alex’s heart skipped. Dad! He’ll know what to do.

With a quick jump, Alex leaped up to the nearest branch, his squirrel feet scampering with a mind of their own. His heart pounded with each jump. Squirrels ran up and down trees all the time. This shouldn’t be hard to do, should it?

Perching at the top of the trunk, Alex stared down at the ground, straight down. He gulped and froze in place, nails biting into the tree with a death grip. Blood rushed to his head and the earth began to spin.

His dad’s whistle floated on the chilly air, followed by the sound of wood being stacked.

Alex shivered. I have to get to Dad before he goes back inside. If I don’t, I may NEVER get back in. Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes and rushed down the tree, head first, a hundred slivers of ice pricking his furry face.

Suddenly, cold packed his nose and mouth. He opened his eyes, not able to see anything. Only darkness…and cold.

The snowdrift! He’d rammed into the big drift at the foot of the tree. Scowling, Alex pushed back, tugging his head until finally he popped free. Snow clung to his bushy eyebrows and long thin whiskers. Sputtering, he snorted ice crystals from his nose and after a quick shake, bounded off in the direction of the whistling.

Come on, feet. Get me to Dad.

Alex zipped over the snowdrifts, angling toward the sidewalk at the back of the house. A white giant loomed ahead, casting a long shadow over him and he skidded to a stop. Eyes of black stared out and a lopsided hump grew out of its back. Alex froze, staring at the snowy-looking gargoyle. With a plop, a chunk of snow and ice slipped down its face, revealing half a curved mouth. More snow slipped off to expose a feathered lump.

Alex breathed a sigh of relief, giggling inside at his fright. It was only Mom’s garden angel, covered in snow.

Heavy boots stomped toward the house. Forgetting the angel, Alex snapped to attention. Dad! He vaulted toward the shoveled walk.

“Dad,” he chattered. “Dad!” He stood up on his back legs, his long tail curled behind him. “Dad, down here.”Alex nearly choked. Instead of words, only squirrel barks came out.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Beliefs In Science Fiction And Fantasy

It was a few years ago when I had an email conversation with Karina Fabian about the subject of religion and science fiction. I'm adding fantasy to this conversation here.

Our conversation, to my memory, was about how some thought if you were religious or had any strong belief system you couldn't mix it with the science required to travel space. How do you mix it with fantasy...dragons, fairies, magic. And the opposite of the question...why wouldn't there be religion or beliefs in space...science fiction. Why not in fantasy?

Writing is difficult enough and now you're adding this element which can touch off so many heated arguments. How do you find the balance? Why shouldn't this element of so many lives be excluded from our fictional writing?

MuseItUp Publishing has never shied away from out of the box thinking manuscripts. Our authors have/are exploring other beliefs, their legends, and asking a bunch of what if questions.

In Live and Let Fly,  Karina uses humour and fantasy and barely touches on anything that would cause a heated debate. But some may wonder about a dragon and a nun private investigating team. Hope you visit Vern and Sister Grace...he really does try the patience of, well, everyone.


When a dragon and a nun play secret agent, all Hel breaks loose!

Back Cover:


For a dragon detective with a magic-slinging nun as a partner, saving the worlds gets routine. So, when the U.S. government hires Vern and Sister Grace to recover stolen secrets for creating a new Interdimensional Gap—secrets the U.S. would like to keep, thank you—Vern sees a chance to play Dragon-Oh-Seven.

No human spy, however, ever went up against a Norse goddess determined to rescue her husband. Sigyn will move heaven and earth to get Loki—and use the best and worst of our world against anyone who tries to stop her.

It's super-spy spoofing at its best with exotic locations (Idaho--exotic? Well, Idaho’s exotic to them), maniacal middle-managers, secret agent men, teen rock stars in trouble, man-eating animatronics, evil overlords, and more!

Excerpt:


Charlie started to close the door behind us, his other hand gripping the handle of his dagger so tightly I could hear the leather wrap on the handle strain, as we listened to the footsteps coming our way, slow, bored. My predator's instincts rose; then I had a great idea. I shook my head at Charlie and winked, and he shuffled out of my way, leaving the door ajar. I settled myself with my back to the door, just inside the shadows and let the script play itself out:

CLUELESS MINION enters Stage Left. He pauses, hearing a noise, but does not report it. Instead, he fondles the stars on his nametag and moves toward the empty hallway, his mind on adding another. (Probably saying, "I was proactive today!")

CLUELESS pauses at door, hesitating. He stands and, back to the door, reaches for his walkie-talkie.

Suddenly, a well-muscled and gorgeously scaled tail whips out from the crack in the door and wraps itself around his neck. He only has time to grab ineffectively at the tail before he's drawn into the darkness. The door shuts behind him.

Pan shot of the empty hallway.

FADE TO BLACK


I slammed my victim on the floor and pinned him with my forelegs, then I leaned my face in nice and slow, making sure he got a good look at my fangs before he saw my eyes. "Where's the girl?" I growled low and menacingly.

"Wh-What g-g-girl?"

Charlie crouched down by Stutterboy and glanced at his nametag. "Look, Philip, we're in a bit of a hurry. We know Rhoda Dakota's being held captive somewhere nearby. Now you can be a good survivor and tell us where…or you can be dinner."

"I-I don't—"

"Phil A. Minion." I mused and drooled a bit for effect. I live for these moments, I really do. I licked his cheek and asked Charlie, "Can I have fries with that?"

"Why not? This is Idaho."

My Child Likes The Books I Edit

When I was pregnant with our daughter, I backed away from book reviewing and the writing industry. I slowly came back when she was closing in on three years old. She's grown up with me reviewing, writing, and reading.

She even started to write her own stories for mama to review. I have a pile of them.

Now she's watching me edit, along with everything else. And, yes, she's talking about writing her own books for me to edit and MuseItUp to publish. Scarier still, she's looking over my shoulder and catching edits before I do. Have I mentioned she's only in grade five.

When Andrea Pelleschi's The Carousel Ghost was released my daughter saw the cover and asked if it was one she could read. She still is...yup, writer/reviewer's daughter who reads more than one book at a time...along with other MuseitUp books.

It's more than a mama's pride that I say, you'll be seeing more of this child of mine.



After a terrifying ride on a haunted carousel, Kate sets out to solve the mystery of the carousel ghost.




Back Cover:


Fourteen-year-old Kate's traditional first day at Wildwood Lake Park couldn't get any worse. Besides problems with her best friend and the obnoxious, but cute, boy from school named Tommy, there's the new haunted carousel ride. When Kate goes for a spin, she finds herself transported back in time and into the body of a ghost named Isabelle, circa 1928. Isabelle's husband carved the horse, and the rumor is that he also murdered Isabelle.

Back in the present, Kate teams up with Tommy to solve the mystery of how Isabelle died, even if it means more terrifying rides on the carousel. As the investigation goes on, Kate finds herself growing closer to Isabelle than she is with Meghan. So when the carousel is slated to be dismantled for the park museum, Kate hurries to solve the mystery before Isabelle is doomed to wander the park--and Kate's dreams--forever.

Excerpt:


When we got to the turnstile, Tommy squeezed past the kids in front of us and ran straight to the carousel horse, getting there right before a mother could hoist her toddler up on him. I was stuck behind some kids as they handed their cotton candy to their dad. By the time I got to Tommy, he was on the black horse, his sneakers tucked in the stirrups. He was twisted to the side, running a hand across the jewels outlining the saddle and across the sword sticking out of a sheath on the back of it. I climbed on the smaller, plainer horse next to him.

“Well?” I asked.

Tommy grasped the center pole and shook the horse back and forth. It rattled and clanged against the linkage above. I didn’t hear anything from inside the horse. Tommy grinned.

I rapped on the back of his horse with my knuckles. “It’s solid wood.”

He shrugged, smiling. “Okay, there aren’t any bones in it, but it might still be haunted.”

We waited as the ride filled up. A few high school girls grabbed the horses in front of us. A tall boy with a big Adam’s apple took the third horse in our row. A few other people ran to empty horses, feet banging on the metal floor.

Once everyone settled down, the music started.

Our horses slowly rose up and down as the carousel picked up speed. “Hey, ghost,” said Tommy, bending low over the horse. “Come out, come out wherever you are.” When nothing happened, he called, “Ollie, ollie oxen free.”

I hung onto my pole and turned to him. “Do you really think that will bring the ghost to you?”

“Hey, how many ghosts do you know, huh?”

I rolled my eyes. “None.”

“Then how do you know what ghosts would say? Maybe ollie, ollie oxen free is exactly the right thing. Maybe the reason why no one ever sees her is because no one ever says ollie, ollie oxen free to her.”

“Uh huh.”

He patted the horse on the neck. “Don’t let the nonbelievers bother you,” he said, glancing at me pointedly. I stared at him. I tell you, if I were a ghost I would come out and scare Tommy so bad he’d never come back to the park again. Apparently, the ghost didn’t see the need because nothing happened.

After a couple of rotations, we made sure we were out of Warren’s sight and switched places.

“Ollie ollie oxen free,” I said, as I settled myself in the saddle. The pole was still warm from Tommy’s hands. “Coochie coochie coo.” I bit back a smile.

“Now you’re being silly,” said Tommy, twisted in his seat to look at me. “No self-respecting ghost would come to ‘coochie coochie coo.’”

“And how many ghosts do you know?” I asked him. “Hmm?”

Tommy opened his mouth to retort but no sound came out. I peered at him closer as his mouth moved. It was like someone had pressed the mute button on a Tommy remote control. Instead, I heard this tapping noise to the right of my horse. I turned and saw nothing except the park. For a second, I thought it might be bones inside the horse and Tommy had lied to me. The sound was too regular, though. Tap-tap, tap-tap.

I smelled wood, freshly cut wood that reminded me of shop class.

The tapping became louder and louder until I couldn’t hear the music anymore. And the smell of wood got a lot stronger, so strong I had to breathe through my mouth. I tried glancing at Tommy again, but I couldn’t move my head or any other part of my body. In fact, I couldn’t feel the saddle anymore, or the pole or the stirrups. I knew my heart must be pounding in my chest, but I couldn’t feel it. What was happening? Was I dying?

My eyesight started to go next. The world grew blurry, as if I were looking at it through a funhouse window. I couldn’t make out the rest of the carousel or the sky or the people outside the ride. The weird thing was I could still see the horse I was on. He was as clear as ever: head thrown back, gleaming nostrils, mane caught in the wind. Then that too finally blurred.

Finally the tapping receded, and the smell of wood diminished. I still couldn’t feel the stirrups or center pole, but I could make out the shape of a horse in front of me and another one to the left even though everything else was still blurry. The only problem was they were made of bare wood, not the brightly painted wood of the horses Tommy and I rode.

I felt myself move toward the horse in front of me and saw my hand touch its rough surface. I hadn’t wanted to step forward, though. And how could I if I were still sitting on the carousel?

As everything came into focus, I made out a few more details. The horse in front of me wasn’t whole. He was just an unfinished head sitting on a thick wooden table. And it wasn’t my hand stroking its mane. It was another person’s hand, a slim hand with long fingers and a gold wedding band on the fourth finger.What was going on? Where was I? What had happened to the carousel? I tried to say something, but I still couldn’t move my mouth or the rest of my body, at least not when I wanted to. “Help,” I yelled inside my head. “Help.”

I Don't Want Cookie Cutter Books

We're not cookie cut people so why do our books have to be the same. You know what I mean, the female lead is the same size, shape, look...maybe different hair colour. The male lead isn't likely to be a nerdy, glasses wearing skinny.

Everyone's either happy, go-lucky or moody and miserable. The adults in YA and Middle Grade books either exist or they don't. And sometimes when they exist, well, let's just say they might not be the brightest bunch in the book.

I've just gone and described the stereotypes of my childhood reading. Maybe even the mainstream books that are out there, I'll admit I haven't read much YA/Middle Grade except what comes to me for review...which I've liked...and what has been submitted/contracted by MuseItUp Publishing.

I don't believe I'm alone in my thinking...from the stand of someone who hasn't read a lot lately in this age group genre. I've tried reading one of my daughter's books...one based on her favourite dolls, those children of my classic movie favourites. Sorry, couldn't get past the first chapter...come on fifteen (15) brand names in two pages??? Thankfully, my child likes other books as well. Is it any wonder we bought her an eReader.

Okay what was my point ;)  Right, unless you are a YA/Middle Grade writer and reader, you may think it's all cookie cutter sameness. And while the players might change, the plots remain much the same.

Nope. Kim Baccellia introduced me to something new with her Earrings of Ixtumea



How often do you hear that a girl saves the world?

Back Cover:


Fifteen-year-old Lupe Hernandez dismisses the legend about her Mexican grandmother's magical earrings as a silly fairytale, despite recurring nightmares of human sacrifice. But when the earrings thrust her into the parallel world of Ixtumea, she must confront the very thing she shuns the most -- her cultural heritage.

Excerpt:


“How often do you hear a girl saves the world?” The melodic hush of Abuela’s voice downstairs in the kitchen woke Lupe. Darkness filled her room. She peered over at her alarm clock, six o’clock in the morning.

She pulled her pink blanket over her head and moaned. Oh, here we go again. Couldn’t Abuela let me sleep in? The blanket might cover her, but she couldn’t escape the sounds of her grandmother reciting yet another fable from the mystical land of Ixtumea. She’d been forced to listen to that stupid tale last night. And even worse, downstairs in their kitchen, listening and encouraging were Abuelita’s amigas.

Lupe stumbled out of bed, kicking aside a collection of navy-and-white uniform clothes on the floor. Throwing on a faded flannel robe, she cracked her bedroom door open. The voices grew louder.

“Si, tell us more!” The ting of spoons against the tiny teacups sounded like a battle cry. Didn’t those women know it was way too early? Jeez, no way am I going to sleep. I might as well see if they made some hot chocolate or tea. Maybe then I can stomach this whole nonsense of Ixtumea and Super-Girl before I go to school.

She had long outgrown the silly tales. Though she hated to admit it, the tale of the girl savior fascinated her. Never had she heard of a teen-aged Latina battling evil forces and saving her people, in a world not unlike the land of Lupe’s Mexican ancestors.

No, the only stories of teen heroes she’d heard starred thin beautiful blondes. Everything she wasn’t.

Still, Abuela’s voice cast a spell on her. Lupe knew she shouldn’t eavesdrop on the chismes, but she couldn’t help herself.

She crept down the stairs past the pictures of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Pope John Paul II, and one of the mysterious Mayan gods.

“Ay, too bad she couldn’t have come sooner,” Coco, their next-door neighbor, sighed. “Too many cosas modernas in our world. Now who believes? No one but us.”

Who are they talking about? Lupe wondered.

“Now that’s one story I’d like to hear,” an unfamiliar gravelly voice replied. “Not another pobrecita guera who steals the ranchero’s heart. How many poor blondes from Mexico do you ladies know?”

“You mean real ones or ones that appear with la magica of the bleach?” asked Esperanza, the acknowledged gossip of the apartment building.

Laughter filled the small condo. Lupe couldn’t help but smile. These ladies loved those telenovelas almost as much as Abuela’s tales. She thought it funny her grandmother got on her case about her Anglo pop idols. Maybe the ladies weren’t different from her, after all.

Lupe crouched down and hid behind one of the banisters. Ixchel, the spider goddess, smiled down on her from a painting on the wall. Red gems sparkled from Ixchel’s earlobes, similar to the earrings Lupe’s grandmother had tried to give Lupe last night.

From this position Lupe saw the usual group of amigas sitting around the Formica table, sipping café de leche or manzanilla—chamomile—tea in delicate small cups. Vivid crimson, yellow, and orange housecoats brightened the kitchen. The women sounded like a flock of lively parrots.

Next to the stove, Abuela worked her magic. She pinched off a bit of dough, rolled the soft masa into the size of a golf ball, and flattened the dough between her earth-colored hands. Quickly she threw the pancake-shaped masa onto a sizzling black pan.

The other women helped. Esperanza scrambled eggs, the vivid red housedress she wore fluttering over her round figure. Esperanza’s large gold hoop earrings bounced with every movement.

Coco stood in the far corner, one large embroidered rose peeking out of her simple rebozo. She cut the tortillas into thin strips to mix in with the eggs, chorizo, and cheese. “Oye, espera un momento. Tell me more about this niña who’ll save Ixtumea.”

“Here, let me finish.” The scrape of a metal chair dragged across the wooden floor and one of the women took over cooking the tortillas.

“Ay, where was I?” Lupe’s abuela asked as she settled down in one of the chairs. She wiped her hands on her apron, sealing in the roasted scent of tortillas.

“The prophecy. How does it go, again?”

“Oh, yes.” Abuelita took a deep breath. Then she began.

“She will come,

Descending through the sacred web,

To vanquish the great deceiver.

Many will be her name:

Savior,

Redeemer…”

“Cipriana, do we know this niña?”someone asked.

Lupe leaned down closer to the stair, curious to find out if her grandmother would reveal the name of the person. Wouldn’t it be a real hoot if it were someone she knew?

“Let me guess.” Esperanza turned off the stove. “She’s tall, thin, and has blonde hair.”

“You sound as bad as my Lupita. Nadie está contento con su suerte. Always dreaming the other side is better.” Her grandmother let out a deep sigh. “If only she’d listen and take the earrings...”

“So she hasn’t taken them?” Coco asked. “Does she not know how importante they are?”

"You know the young. Never listen.” Her grandmother let out another sigh.

“If I was her, I’d be dying to use them…wait, maybe, your Lupita is this niña!” Esperanza laughed so hard she snorted. “Wouldn’t that be something?”

Startled at hearing her name, Lupe leaned back against the wall. An old picture of her mother wearing those same earrings shifted above her.

Lupe felt a strange foreboding. The tips of her ears burned. What was wrong with her?

She got up and went back to her room. Quietly she closed the door to block out the voices. A prickly sensation covered her body, along with a sick feeling, maybe Esperanza was right. She thought back to last night and her grandmother’s attempt to give her a pair of earrings, identical to the ones in all the pictures in their apartment. She’d started up again with the legend and refused to let Lupe leave the room. “No, this is muy importante,” she said. She talked about a web between the worlds fraying and the time of the fulfillment of the prophecy was now. How Lupe needed to be prepared.

We Are Allowed More Than One Favourite

I let one of Larion Wills' books slip past me yesterday, so going to start today with her Bastards of Ran.

See here's the thing, I thought Mark of the Sire was my favourite book from this author...then Bonds of Time...now Bastards of Ran. So when someone asks "what's your favourite book?" I never know how to answer.

It depends on the genre, my mood, my memory.

I used to keep every single book I bought. Yes, due to space requirements, I've given away my King, Koonz, Barker books over the years. In truth, these authors have even fallen off my favourites lists, some stories still stick with me.

What I've found is more and more of my favourites are those I've discovered via reviewing. All books from smaller publishing houses, like MuseItUp (watch how we grow).

These houses and their authors take risks, change up the genres and dare to step out of bookshelf niches. They carve their own path. Small publishing houses (as in volume not heart or attitude) don't look for the next big craze...We Are The Next Big Craze!



Deceit and betrayal end in torture, Jaylon suffers all because a legend promised the return of the Bastards of Ran.


Back Cover:


From the atrocities of war a decision was made to save their race and their world. Protection of those of paramount value must be assured by any means. Ships orbiting their planet were built. Only when their planet would not support even war, the last and lowest, the military, were sent to the ships. From the age of seven when his training began, Jaylon knew only military. Guard duty in the Paramount lounge should have been easy though he was warned by his peers to never trust the Paramounts, especially the woman. Many played a game, flirt with military, and report them for punishment for breaches of protocol. His secret assignment, discover the trickster behind the self-moving, sometimes attacking, objects. From the first night, Tieanna caught his attention. She didn’t flirt. She tormented, using a formidable weapon, the truth. Hidden behind the lies, corruption, and betrayal of all but the chosen few, was the Paramounts’ fear, resurrection of the Bastards of Ran. Surely they and their powers were no more than legend. Who could believe in powers of the mind? Jaylon did not. Still, if the belief of the Bastards, and their belief all were equal, revived, then too would revolt and treason?

Excerpt:


“Meeting closed, dismissed,” the governor said. He quickly amended the order when Jaylon was the first to turn to go. “You stay, trooper."

Governor Edwrin loosened his collar as he leaned back in his chair. The man was not nearly as pompously formal in private. The change didn’t mean Jaylon cared for or trusted him more. Even informal, he was offensively condescending.

“At rest, trooper.” He waited while Jaylon spread his feet and clasped his hands behind his back. “I want to know what you’re seeing, in your words.”

“I don’t know what you mean…sir.”

“The people, damn it, what do you see in their faces?”

“Fear and curiosity primarily while it’s happening,” Jaylon answered truthfully. “A restlessness when it isn’t. Some of your people appear to have difficulty sleeping. There’s a lot of movement during the night, although much of it does not reach into the lounge, and they exhibit shortness with one another.”

“Go on,” he urged when Jaylon paused.

“I don’t see anything malicious in the incidents. Only two were directed at a specific person, without intent to injure.”

“Didn’t you say you saw fear in some of the faces?”

“From not knowing what’s doing it, not of injury, a condition which would disappear as soon as you release the information on how it’s being done,” he stated, baiting the man.

The governor’s eyes dropped. “Such a disclosure would alert the culprit to the fact we do know.”

Certain they didn’t, Jaylon baited further and said, “Surely knowing how gives you a clue as to who it is by the knowledge they’d need to accomplish it.”

“We have some of the most brilliant minds in the universe on this ship. I can name you ten who are as good in one field as they are in another.”

Jaylon could say the same for more than ten in the trooper’s section. He held the thought and asked, “Why is it being done?”

“Have you ever heard of the Air Dancers?”

One corner of Jaylon’s mouth lifted in reaction. “The Wane King was centuries ago and a fairy tale,” he commented dryly, holding back his opinion of a mythical race of people with the power of making things dance in the air with their thoughts.

“Horror story,” he corrected.

On the verge of saying if any of it was true, the horror was in what was done to those people, Jaylon wisely held his tongue yet again.

“They were the essence of evil,” the governor went on, “using charades and theatrics to control ignorant peasants. If they had not been destroyed, our world would have been far different than it is.”

As far as Jaylon was concerned not much could be worse. Their world didn’t exist anymore. What survivors there were lived on ships with a rigid caste system, the lower classes being controlled by the higher, with fear between castes and within castes, with little to see in the future. Even if they were going to another planet, as Tieann’s words implied, not orbiting their own war devastated one, he didn’t see the Wane King could have done any more damage.

“From the marker you left in the book, I could see you hadn’t gotten far enough to read of the atrocities those witches committed.”

The comment let Jaylon know what had happened to the book they’d never returned to him. He finished the second Tri Ed Tieann sent to him, the one he suspected the governor didn’t have knowledge of since it was delivered during one of the times the guard-eye was out. From it he knew more of the history of the Wane King followers. They had been accused of some atrocities, while the real horrors had been committed against them, not by them.

“Sacrifices and torture,” the governor went on.

The Wanes did not make or advocate sacrifices, human or animal, and the only torture had been done to them. Jaylon, however, did not argue the points made by the governor.

“When they attempted their revolution, any who opposed them were murdered by the thousands—men, women, and children.”

They were murdered by the thousands, again a correction Jaylon did not bother to make. He asked instead, “What do fables have to do with what happened in the lounge?”

“We believe an attempt to revive the Wane King cult is being made, using the sciences to produce false claims of supernatural powers.”

The corner of Jaylon’s mouth twitched again. They didn’t know how it was being done any more than they knew who.

“Greed, trooper, and a desire for power are behind this. We must stop it before whoever it is gets a foothold and more lives are lost because of an ancient religion based on fear and superstition.”

According to the legends he’d read, and heard all his life, it wasn’t a religion. In the simplest terms, it was a race. Though there were many who had adopted their philosophy, they had not possessed the special abilities legend attributed to the Wanes.

“We cannot have this spread to the lower classes—why you have been ordered not to discuss anything you see and why I confiscated the book Tri Ed Tieann so carelessly gave to you. Why she chose that particular volume for a trooper is beyond me. I can think of any number of subjects more appropriate.”

Jaylon didn’t ask appropriate in what way. He knew he wouldn’t like the answer. “She didn’t choose it,” he told him. “It happened to be the nearest to hand when the subject of a trade came up.” Not a lie, it was the top book when she insisted he take at least one of the two.

“Have you made any other trades?”

“No sir,” he said, not a lie, either. The others had traded. He had not, and the second book had been a gift.

“Good. I believe it’s better if the classes do not inter-relate on any level. They are simply incapable of understanding one another. Any contact can only lead to problems such as occurred on your second night.”

While the problem had been occurring, Jaylon would have agreed without a second thought. He would have believed a Paramount could not have anything in common with anyone in the military, or any other lower class, or have any degree of regard for anyone they considered inferior. Since the assignment he saw things differently. Them, as individuals.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Really, What's So Important About Time

On Sunday I talked a little bit about how science fiction travels time. Writers bend time to trek to the past, jump to the future, change the present, and even run parallel to our now.


Time is a writing tool that naturally opens and fills the What If question writers are always asking. Where the beat of a butterfly's wing in one part of the world may cause a storm across the globe, if we go back in time what then? The very nature of our existence proves we're here, so how does going back in time change our future? What then if our future threatens to change our past?

Time stops for no one? You might want to ask a writer about that. Today let's see how Larion Wills' Bonds of Time from MuseItUp handles time travel and romance.

Nothing saved them from Judith’s wrath when they stole Garth from her.


Back Cover:


Judith gave up on the world long before those fools destroyed it. She didn’t run out of her forest looking for survivors, didn’t seek out those she knew of. She wanted nothing to do with any human until Garth fell out of the sky. He aroused one emotion she had left, curiosity. Where did he come from and how did he get there? Why did he have a perfect adult body and the mind of a child? What terrified him? To get the answers she must first educate him and then protect him from the survivors down the mountain, wanting a healthy, mature male to rebuild the human race.

Excerpt:


She threw open the curtains over the glass doors in the dining room to let in the morning sun. Even as isolated as she was, she preferred the closed in feeling at night. The sight outside the glass doors, one she barely looked at, drew him like a magnet.

The bell on the micro went off. He jumped and shrank back from the simple sound, and Judith realized how tense he was and how frightened. He nearly tripped in his hurry to get away from her when she carried the tray to the table.

The way he moved was no longer simply in a hurry. He was in a panic, and she couldn’t understand why. To ease him, she moved back into the kitchen. A man his size in a panic could be dangerous. She wouldn’t mind being killed, but did not want to be maimed.

“Sit down and eat,” she told him in her best humoring voice.

“Sit?” he asked with a blink of astonishment.

“Don’t tell me you don’t know what sit means.”

“I know.” He turned sullen again. “No sit woman.”

“You no sit Mother?” she canted back at him.

“Lay Mother,” he said seriously.

Judith had to take a deep breath to control a temper she thought she no longer had until she met Garth. “You don’t really expect me to believe you can lay a mother and not sit with her,” she said tightly. “I think this farce has gone far enough.”

“What farce?”

“You’re lying to me!”

“No lie. You know lay breed. No sit breed.”

“I don’t really care to hear how you breed your Mothers.”

“You know,” he said bitterly. “You make breed. You make fight.”

“Now I know you’re lying. No woman can make a man your size do anything he doesn’t want to.”

“You know!” he screamed at her on the verge of tears and panic.

Seeing what he was going to do the instant he moved, Judith tried to stop him, rushing to intercept him, only to make him run faster. He hit the glass door at a full run with enough force to hurl him backward. He rolled to his side, curled in a ball, and wept.

Judith stared at him in disbelief. The only explanation she could think of for something so stupid was they didn’t have glass doors where he came from. Fortunately hers weren’t the old fashioned shattering glass. Or maybe he expected to break through, giving him a way out regardless of the danger.

The senseless desperation hurling him at the glass was the same as he’d fought the ropes. He’d never tell her anything truthful if he had that much distrust and fear.

She knelt beside him and touched his arm. She expected him to push her away. He didn’t move except to stiffen. “Turn over so I can see if you hurt yourself.”

He did as she said, as meekly as he had allowed her to tie him. He submitted to her administrations, and it was submission, while he watched with hatred behind the tears still in his eyes.

“Garth, I’m not keeping you a prisoner here. You can leave anytime you want.”

“Lie.”

“No.” She stood and slid the door open. “It was just something you didn’t know. I tried to stop you.”

Erratic was a mild word to describe him. One minute he was weeping and panicky. The next he was angry and defiant, rubbing tears off his face with the heels of his hands. He sat up and pushed away from her with his arms. “You no will band. No punish.”

A retort came to mind. She held it and walked off. “Do whatever you want.”

“You want leave.”

“I don’t care what you do,” she told him, which was true. Her curiosity had been dampened by his erratic behavior. He was either an idiot, incapable of telling her anything, or the most accomplished liar and actor she had ever seen.

She watched him from the kitchen, thinking how childish his actions were. From his place on the floor, he wiggled on his butt toward the door, stretching his leg until he could push the glass panel back and forth with his toes. An angry, willful, defiant child, determined not to do anything he was told and expecting some kind of reprisal for his refusal. A frightened, confused child who refused despite the punishment he expected.

“Garth, are you going to eat before you leave?” she asked softly.

The door stopped sliding. “I no lie.”

“Neither did I. I’ll believe you if you’ll believe me.” He behaved a child; she’d treat him like one.

“No want you lie. No pretend,” he said sullenly.

“I wasn’t pretending. I asked you to because you wouldn’t believe me.”

“You want me leave.”

“I wanted you to know you can if you want to.”

He stood up, the defiance back. “I go I want.” Without hesitation or fear, bold and aggressive instead, he shut the door. “I want.”

“When you want,” she agreed. “Do you want to eat?”

“No eat.”

“All right, I’ll save it for you.” He didn’t seem to understand again, and he didn’t look good. He was still too weak for the exertion and shock he’d put himself through. “Are you…” She stopped to think of a way to phrase it he would understand. “Do you have pain?”

“Hurt,” he agreed with a nod.

“Maybe you want to rest for a while.” She gave it as a suggestion, not an order. If nothing else, her encounter with him could refresh her psychology techniques, especially reverse psychology.

Blame Sam Elliott

I LOVE westerns. I fell for them watching, The Sacketts, on TV and ended up buying and reading every Louis L'Amour book I could find.

It doesn't hurt I enjoyed the show Big Valley...couldn't resist actor Peter Breck.

When Larion brought Mark of the Sire to MuseItUp Publishing, I couldn't wait to jump back into this story. Guess you could say I'm revisiting characters I've already revisited and will visit again.

Oh, before I forget, we're working on the edits to Larion's latest submission...Curse of Sire.

Have a mentioned I love what I do.



When legends come to life, evil men pay.


Back Cover:


They thought it would be easy. One was a dude from the East, softened by easy living. The other was no more than white trash. They discovered Lon didn’t kill any easier than Chancy, and they both fought back, aided by two men those of the valley believed to be no more than legends. The Indians called them Lance and Knife. As well as the sons discovering why, so do their enemies when a family once torn apart unite to make war.

Excerpt:


“Trouble coming,” Kyle told Chancy as he shook him awake.

Chancy’s first thought was Lon. “Is he better?” he asked anxiously, not knowing if the quiet was good or bad.

“Yeah, he’s sleeping finally.”

He moved off quickly, leaving Chancy to follow. He was back to the front window when Chancy moved up behind him.

“What’s the smoke from?” Chancy asked.

Faraway answered. “Torched da new house, them sneaky cowards.”

“Just as well he isn’t awake to see it,” Kyle said. “Chancy you watch from the bedroom. Faraway, you take the kitchen.”

“Are they going to attack?” Cathy asked from the bedroom door.

The three men turned to look at her, impressed with her steadiness. Kyle answered. “Reckon they will. They didn’t come just to burn an unfinished house. You better stay with Lon.”

“Chancy will be close to him. I can help. I know how to shoot.”

“I heard,” Kyle said with a grin, “but we’ve already got more guns than they expect. If Lon wakes up, he will need you more than we will.”

“He’s—” Chancy startled, breaking off with a jerk and flinch.

He was not the only one to jump. “Damn!” Kyle exclaimed, looking around as if he expected the walls to cave in. “They’re using cannons on us.”

“Ain’t yar never heared a Hawkins ‘fore?” Faraway asked with a chuckle. “‘Bout dang time.”

“It didn’t come at us,” Chancy said. He jerked again when a second boom sounded.

Kyle peered out the window. “More than one of them.”

“How can you tell?” Cathy asked.

“Two booms, two guns, two men,” Faraway cackled in glee.

“Hawkins are a single shot,” Chancy explained with a dubious look at Faraway. “They have to be reloaded after each shot. There wasn’t time to reload one before the second sounded.”

Cathy looked at Faraway, too, for a different reason. “Who is out there, Faraway?” she asked.

“Surprise, missy,” he told her with a wink.

“It seems impossible for it to be the only person I can think of,” Cathy stated.

“What do you mean?” Kyle asked.

“Lon would never have told him about Chancy. He knew it from another source,” she said, and Faraway chuckled again.

“Who do you think it is?” Chancy asked.

“Don’t ya tell, missy. Don’t ya tell,” Faraway told her before he told them, “Best be watching them winders. They cain’t be watching all sides.”

“Lord, it could be a diversion,” Kyle shouted as he ran to the kitchen.

Chancy ran to the bedroom. Cathy stayed to watch Faraway. He winked at her again, grinning widely and told her, “Best ya be seeing ta Lon.”

“Faraway, it isn’t—?”“Ya’ll be seeing soon ‘nough, missy, soon ‘nough.” He turned to the front window and muttered to himself. “‘Bout time, ya ole coot, ‘bout time.”

Curling Up And Spending The Day with Larion Wills

Every time I start to talk about Larion Wills' book Traps, I keep coming back to how smoothly she writes between romance, fantasy, and science fiction. And I can't forget my favourite genre...Westerns.

So, how about we revisit with all of Larion's books today.

As I mentioned, believe I mentioned, I first discovered Larion's writing via Swimming Kangaroo Books. I was lucky enough to read many authors from this publisher and was sadden when they had to take a break from publishing.

Still, I was thrilled when Larion submitted to MuseItUp Publishing.

Larion spins a tale which leaves me, the original non-romantic, hooked. I fully admit I do not always mix with the romance genre. I understand there is the story ARC which readers love and cheer the characters on to the happy ever after ending.

That's the thing about genres, they each have a specific story ARC and readers expect certain things from their favourite genres. I know with romance there's the discussion...debate...on whether all need to have happy ever after endings or whether it's still a success if there's a happy for now ending.  Even a non-happy ending.

This is one of a writer's challenges...we all want new, exciting, different spins, but we also have expectations on what each genre should be. Who said writing and publishing was easy?



Saved from one trap, caught in another, Callie and Ward must work together to survive the final.



Back Cover:


Veteran, Ward Overland’s wanted nothing but quiet, his wildlife book published, and to stop poachers. Being saddled with a woman to retake his photos was the insult. Acting as her guide to said animals was the injury. Worse, falling for a poacher’s trap and being saved by her. Still, he couldn’t let her just walk away.

Tragedy locked Callie away from life. Only the need for money convinced her to take the job. The sooner it ended with the abrasive and rude loner the better. Saving him from death changed everything. Watching him regain strength for the journey home, she found one part of her still alive…passion. The rules…no strings, no relationship.

The poacher wanted Ward dead. He didn’t figure on Callie, either time.

Excerpt:


“Is it against the law to trap with those?” she asked.

“It is here,” he said darkly. “Damn poachers!”

She wasn’t sure if he meant it was against the law because he was there or because it was against the law in a federal park. She decided not to ask for clarification. “I take it from your tone of voice you aren’t referring to the occasional deer out of season.”

“I’m not.”

“Are many endangered species lost this way?”

“Yes.” He turned and walked off again.

Thinking he was too mad to give her more than the shortest of answers, she followed and received a surprise when he started talking.

“When the trappers started in this valley, it was teeming with otter, beaver, mink, and fox—anything with a pretty fur. Their numbers have dwindled to what you can count on your fingers. The same assholes poach bear primarily, cut out one small part of their guts, the gallbladder, and leave the rest to rot. Other assholes sell the gall as an aphrodisiac, both for money with total disregard to the fact they’re driving them into extinction. A single gall will be worth hundreds of dollars in the right market.”

Callie made no comment, watching as he veered off, climbing up the bank to a tangle of logs left by some long ago flood. One hand went up to hold the lens he carried for her inside his shirt from sliding when he ducked beneath a log. His knitted cap brushed the log and started a cascade of snow. Callie had an unobstructed view of him reaching up to brush the snow off as he stumbled slightly and the log above him fell.

For a moment, Callie couldn’t comprehend what had happened. One second he was there; the next he was gone from sight, under a log and snow falling from the surrounding brush and trees dislodged when the log fell. He was buried.

She took a step forward and tripped on the ski she forgot she had attached to her foot. Kicking off both skies, she ran, floundering several times to her knees in the snow. When she reached the log, it wouldn’t move. She dug and found his head, buried face down in the snow, and he was unconscious, not breathing.

The log had his arms pinned under him, and the weight of it was close enough to his neck he couldn’t lift his head free of the snow even if he hadn’t been knocked out. He was suffocating, and she couldn’t turn his head far enough to free his face. Nor could she turn it far enough to give him mouth to mouth to start him breathing again.

She put his cap under his face to keep his mouth and nose free of the snow and scrambled over the log. Reaching under it to press on his ribs in an awkward attempt at resuscitation, she accomplished nothing. The log was too wide to reach high enough to force air out of his lungs, and his backpack was in the way. She could see why the log wouldn’t roll on down the hill over him. His pack held it. She emptied the pack ruthlessly, splitting open the bottom with the knife from his belt. Indifferent to the cost of the contents, she tossed everything out of the way, scrambled back over the log to his head and pushed with her shoulder. The log slid to his hips. The weight off his lungs might have enabled him to draw in air, but the snow in his mouth and nose kept him from breathing freely.

She straddled him, working her arms under him to jerk her fists up into his diaphragm. Water from melted snow and snow crystals sprayed from his nostrils and lips. He still didn’t breath.

Changing positions again, she moved back to his head. His arms could be broken, and moving them could maim him. She had to move them, pulling them above his head to draw air into his lungs. She knew he could have broken ribs and pressing on them to force air out, clearing the passages more, could also drive jagged bone edges into his lungs. With no other choice, she pressed. Press on his lungs; drive the air out. Pull up his arms; draw air in. She could be killing him by doing it, but he would die if she didn’t.

Fear and panic didn’t hit her until he had coughed and sputtered his way back to breathing. She sat with her hands in fists on her knees, staring down at him. “Damn you,” she told him. “I don’t want to feel.”

Her voice choked, and her eyes filled with tears. Her body shook while she pulled in deep breaths catching in sobs. She wouldn’t feel. Any emotion was a hole in the dyke, letting others flood through. She wouldn’t allow it. She hadn’t for three years, and she wouldn’t again.She had the dyke repaired when he began to stir back to consciousness. She had to get that log off him, and the job wasn’t going to be easy. One end was hung up against a standing tree. The log wasn’t going to roll or slide any further.