Sunday, September 22, 2013

Clack, Rattle, & Sip... Autumn Blog Train Hop

Do you have a favorite fall memory linked to a train? What do you imagine you would see if you were riding a train in the fall? Join the authors of Wild CHild publishing and Freyas Bower as we Take an Autumn Train Ride through our blogs.

Prizes will include

  • Four $50 gift certificates (two for Wild Child and two Freya's Bower)
  • An awesome swag package that includes:
    • Bookmarks
    • Books
    • Wild Child T-shirt and mug
    • Wild Child and Freya's Bower bags
    • Four handmade, crochet coasters by Kit Wylde
    • An autographed copy of Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire
    • A rare DVD copy of the Matheson/Furst classic "Up The Creek" (lovingly used)
    • One ebook copy of Nita Wick’s short story, The Dream (previously published as part of a Freya's Bower anthology.)
    • Book trading cards
    • Signed Dangerous Waters poster
    • of "Battle for Blood: The Blood Feud"
    • winner's name as a character in Kissa Starling’s next sweet romance story.
    • A Yankee Candle
    • more...

< It was a crisp morning in late October. I finally made the mundane road trip up from San Diego to visit my mom. Crisp air is a rarity in my neck of the woods; I had all but forgotten what it does to my curly hair. I also forgot what cold weather really feels like. That morning I felt compelled to pull a coat out of the closet I never thought I’d wear; unless I was ice fishing. Still, I did not let the frizzy hair or frigid temperature get me down; I was preparing to take a ride on the Napa Wine Train – yes! 
I am a self proclaimed wine lover. You’re not a wino if you drink corked wine… right? I heard that somewhere (probably from another “wine lover”). We arrived at the station early. As strolled around happily eating my egg and cheese bagel from Mcdonalds, I caught several strange stares from people standing in my peripheral line of sight. I did a subtle check of the nostrils to make sure nothing was hanging out, then licked my teeth only to remember I was not wearing lipstick. “You’re dressed for a blizzard,” my mom whispered. “Oh, right.” I nodded and smiled at everyone. They were serving wine – at nine in the morning! I was still clutching my coffee cup with Ronald McDonald on it. Tempting… but no; my stomach is vengeful. It was certain get even by restricting me to a train car bathroom the size of a shoe box for the entire ride. 
“Okay, folks; we are going to snap your picture then you will board the train!” Everyone cheered; though we all knew what he was really saying… We are going to take your picture, put it in a fancy folder, and charge you twenty dollars for it. After stumbling off the train, you will throw your money at the cashier in a frenzied, wine-induced mob.
 We were all smiles standing between two barrels and several piles of silk grape vines from Michaels. There is something special about old trains; they carry a charm and elegance not seen too often these days. The Napa Wine Train is no different; with rich curtains hugging the windows and crisp white linens over each table. Butterflies stirred in my stomach. 
 We sat at our table and waited for departure. Once everyone was on board and settled, the train let out a small eek as if someone poked its caboose with a needle. The murmur in the car ceased. A whistle sounding like the world's largest tea kettle sounded off. My fiance and I exchanged excited smiles. Yes, my fiancé (husband now) was there, too; but he’s kind of quiet in the mornings and did not have much to offer until about here. 
With a few jolts and moans coming from the joints, we were rolling down the track. The ride was, well… a little bumpier, and a lot noisier than I expected. I’m not sure why I thought it would be smooth be like the monorail at Disneyland – silly me. I started looking around for seat belts or safety harnesses… again, silly me. The waiter came by (thank the wine gods). I eagerly ordered a glass and we all split a twenty-five dollar hamburger. About halfway through my merlot I found myself bobbing my head to the rhythmic clack and squeak as the car jerked around. I was finally relaxed enough to look out the window. 
Wow! Okay, I suddenly remembered why I wanted to take the Napa Wine Train. Vineyards stretched for miles. Shades of amber, orange, and golden brown splashed the vines like paint on a canvass. I pulled out my disposable camera (yes, that’s right – disposable) and snapped away. How did those pictures turn out? Not sure; I have yet to develop the film; most likely a bit blurry with a close-up of my thumb obstructing the corner. 
 After a few bites of hamburger it was time to explore. We wobbled over to the tasting car. Changing cars is quite an adventure on an old train in a fun house sort of way. The eye roll from the server in the tasting car could have tipped the train. She must have thought that were a couple of jokers who knew nothing of wine. She was probably right to some degree. We approached the counter and she greeted us with her stone face. 
My husband had a theory about himself. Ever since we visited the magic shop on Pier 39 in San Francisco, he believed he was the most entertaining human being on the planet... and so it began. He pulled "an ordinary deck of cards" out of his pocket.
 “I would like to taste the reds on this list, please.” I thought I would order before she stormed out of the car. He did one of his favorite tricks… you know, the one where you pick a card and by some miracle he pulls the very same card. Her stone face crumbled into a smile, then an enthusiastic laugh. I caught myself doing an eye roll… oops.
 She turned out to be a very pleasant person and we stayed in that car way too long sipping vino until our teeth and lips were the same shade of burgundy. Was it too much? Well by the end of the ride I was at the caboose letting my frizzy hair blow in the wind with my arms in the air, doing my best “I’m the king of the world!” pose. Once it was over there was a mob of happy winos enjoying their twenty dollar photos at the station and we were right in the thick of it. Here it is...
<Elizabeth Parkinson Bellows>

Alexander Drake’s Extraordinary Pursuit Alexander Drake is a curious young man. He lives in a drab, oversized mansion with his secretive father and spends his days playing alone. Where is his mother? And why is his father so tight-lipped about the past? But secrets have a way of getting out. And a stay at his grandmother's cottage provides strange clues to his father's past. A past Alexander is determined to find out about. With a mysterious key and several maps in his pack, he sets off on an innocent search for answers about his family. The discovery of a secret passageway opens the door to dangers, and wonders, unimaginable. And each answer leads to more questions and the journey of his life. Join Alexander for a thrilling adventure in Azra's Pith, a place of beauty and magic... but beware--something evil lurks in the shadows.
The Return of General Drake When Alexander arrived in Verhonia, something went terribly wrong. A dark spell delivered from the mountains of Acadia sent him on a dangerous journey in the middle of the night. As he marched into the mountains, the great city of Verhonia was ambushed and burned to the ground by Roman's army of vicious giant murks. With the safety of the realm in jeopardy, General John William Drake was asked to come back to Azra's Pith. He swore he would never return. But after discovering his son was under a spell and in the grips of a dark sorcerer, he had no choice. Things take a wild turn in the mountains, with runaways, a hungry wolf and a mysterious, young empyrean wizard thrown into the adventure. A tight race against time and evil is in full swing. With faith and a little magic, they just might come out on top.!>

Please visit these sites for more chances to win, the more you visit the more chances you have to win. We have 46 participating authors. You can stop at as many or as little blogs as you wish. At each stop, you will find either two chances to enter per blog to win some awesome prizes. If you visit all, that's 92 chances to win! There will be five, lucky winners.

Take the Blog Train and Visit These Blogs for more chances to win
Marci Baun/Kit Wylde
Critters at the Keyboard
Teresa D'Amario
Judith Leger, Fantasy and Comtemporary Romance Author
The Fictional World of Jaime Samms
Follow Where the Path will Take You
The Wandering Mind of Lizzy P. Bellows
Where Love and Magic Meet
Kissa Starling
Marianna Heusler
Hell's Ambrosia
C.M. Michaels
The Shadow Portal
The Blog Zone
Blog By iMagine
Ardyth DeBruyn Author Blog
Shadows of the Past
Dear Reader
Cassie Exline -- Mystery and Romance
Sarcastic Rambling & Writing
That's What I Think
Sue's Random Ramblings
Make Old Bones
Elements of Mystery
Molly Dean's Blog
Kenzie's Place
The Forbidden Blog
David Huffstetler
Cassandra Ulrich
Carol Marvell
Andrew Richardson
Nick Lloyd
Fiddleeebod -- land of stories
Nita Wick's Blog
Ruth G. Zavitsanos
Too Poor for Texas
Jenn Nixon
City of Thieves
Musings and Doodles
The Western Writer
Bike Cop Blog
The Character Depot
Allen Currier
Tracy Holohan
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Lost City

Long ago, during the age of Azra, a majestic city thrived deep in the heart of Copious Forest. It was carved into a hidden canyon of gold. The city served as home to Gavinkin, beings with the powerful wings of a hawk and bodies of a man. Empyrean wizards also frequented the golden canyon.
 Copia was abundant with anything one’s heart could crave, which attracted all types to its gates. Only the persistent were able to find it. The gold canyons were hidden in the thickest part of the forest behind a steep rock wall and a flowing waterfall.
 A young man who went by the name Imperius the Great was lost and wandering the forest when he found the gates. He did not look at all like a great anything. Filthy old rags barely hung on his scrawny frame of a body. He dabbled with magic and performed in towns he visited to get by. It was not real magic; but slight of hand tricks used for entertaining and the occasional pick-pocket when he was really hungry. Of course, when he saw the golden city of Copia, he was determined to stay. “I will be full and rich for the rest of my days. I have found home,” he declared.
The citizens of Copia welcomed him with open arms as they did anyone who entered the golden canyon.  Imperius the Great had anything he desired… food, riches, but there was something even more special about Copia. Imperius was able was able to perform real magic with ease. He felt a strong energy force flowing through him. The power was intoxicating and he wanted more.
 He discovered the source in a trusting friend; an Empyrean wizard who lived in the outskirts. Empyrean wizards and Gavinkin harness the energy of the élan and use their powers to keep a peaceful balance in the realm. As the days went on, Empyreans and Gavinkin were disappearing while Imperius became more powerful.
Imperius the Great was quickly becoming a sorcerer and losing any remaining human qualities. Dark creatures rose from his magic. The once great city grew overrun with shadow jumpers. Giant black bird beasts known as murks flew in and terrorized Copians. The citizen’s peaceful energy shifted to greed, envy, and hatred. Fighting broke out in the city walls.
Xavier, an elder Gavinkin and the keeper of Copia turned to Azra, the most sacred of all the Empyreans. It was too late; the great city was ruined. Shadow jumpers and murks consumed everything in their path.
Azra discovered Imperius dwelling in a hole in the rock wall outside Copia. The sorcerer was surrounded by the empty shells of Gavinkin and Empyreans. Imperius drained their energy and left them for dead. A clash of power brought the city to ruins.
 Ultimately, Imperius was no match for Azra. “Your existence here ends now. You will live in darkness for eternity. Your only way out is to be consumed by the light of the élan.  With that, the butterfly curse was set and Imperius was banished deep into the mountain caves of Acadia. The dark sorcerer was not seen or heard for thousands of years.
 The creatures that he created from dark magic remained in Copia. Azra pushed the canyons together sealing off the crumbled city. Shadow jumpers scurried out of the city. “Copia, our city, it’s gone forever.” Xavier fell to his knees.
“This will unlock Copia.” Azra handed the keeper a medallion. “You must wait until the shadow jumpers are no longer present. What ever you do; keep it hidden.”
With a broken wing from the fall of Copia, Xavier was forced to stay in the forest around the canyon. He waited the remainder of his life to unlock the city. Shadow jumpers stalked him relentlessly trying to snatch the medallion. In his final days Xavier took a long journey. His destination was the High Valley. The land was flat and nothing obstructed the sun.
In the middle of a moonless night the elderly keeper of Copia went to sleep and never woke up. He did not make it to the High Valley. The medallion lay in the dirt of Copious Forest, buried by the elements of time.
Thousands of years after the time of Azra, a red robin perched on a boulder to rest after a powerful windstorm blew her off her path.  Her bright red feathers transformed to reveal a curious young Empyrean girl with wild hair the same shade of red as her feathers.
 The wind removed layers of dirt and debris from the forest floor. As she sat on the boulder something caught her eye. A slight glimmer shined through a clump of dirt. She picked up the clump and scraped the forest coating off of it until all that remained was a medallion with strange markings. It chimed and sparkled in her hands. She stuffed it in her cloak and cautiously looked around. An excited giggle slipped out just before she morphed back in to a robin and flew out of Copious Forest.


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Quest for Copia - Blurb

John William and The Quest for Copia - John William's Adventure Book two

John William knew there was something special about the medallion Celeste found. It chimed and sparkled in the sunlight.  He was right; the medallion was from Copia, a lost city masked in time. Legendary tales were repeated of a golden city inhabited by Empyrean Wizards that was suddenly plagued by greed and gluttony when a meager fledgling magician by the name of Imperius the Great wandered in. Some did not believe the city ever existed; others who knew better wanted it to stay lost.
John William and Celeste were more than ready for another adventure. The search for Copia seemed to be a perfect opportunity. They were unaware of the dangers until it was too late.  Shadow jumpers emerged and grew rapidly in numbers. They wanted the medallion; its power would bring the lost city to life again, unlocking the dark past dormant with in its walls. The young explorers were in a mess of trouble. If they did not fix things fast, Copia’s pestilence of wild creatures would be set free to stir up an evil capable of destroying the realm.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Blurb For THE BUTTERFLY CURSE, Azra's Pith Book Three

Several years passed since the battle in the mountains. Azra’s Pith was peaceful and Alexander was in love; but something just didn’t seem right. Alexander wondered what became of Imperius. The dark sorcerer was out there somewhere. Did it still have powers? Was it hunting Alexander? His worries were a constant distraction. He looked over his shoulder day and night until finally deciding that enough was enough. He made a promise to let go of his fears.

For Alexander timing has always had a sense of irony. On a beautiful, worry free day, an adventure with the river pirates put him face to face with Imperius. What happened? The dark sorcerer vanished; and so did Sarah, his love.  To find her he would have to travel through the depths of evil and face Imperius once and for all. He was about to lose the love of his life the same way he lost his mother. His only hope was a leap of faith and the Butterfly Curse.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Walking the Plank

“Stand up!” A bandit marched down the steps into the cabin. “You two are coming with me!” He dragged both of them up to the top.

“Just stay quiet; let me handle this,” Ferdinand whispered. John William nodded. He was too frightened to speak. The deck crawled with river pirates and bandits with soured, drunken scowls on their faces.

“Push them overboard! We have no use for them, now!” The bandits cheered as John William and Ferdinand were pushed onto a thick plank of wood sticking out over the side of the boat.

“Wait!” One of the river pirates stepped forward with his chest out. “That boy is the princess’s friend. He could be worth something, Victor!” he bellowed with an extra deep voice. He certainly looked tough enough; with a chiseled face, broad frame, and big muscles. Even his slicked back, pony-tailed hair looked strong to john William. He began to feel a glimmer of hope.

“Nonsense! He is of no use to us.” The stout, vicious looking badger pressed a blade into John William’s back. “Move, boy!” He let out a malicious laugh and glared at Ferdinand. “I love to cook hoppers. They make a tasty stew.” He moved the blade over to Ferdinand’s plump belly and twisted his whiskers between his fingers. “Be careful you don’t want to fall into this blade; it would make a terrible mess.”

 John William inched forward, watching the rushing water beneath him.

“This is the princess’s betrothed! They are to be married when they are old enough!” Ferdinand blurted. He shut his eyes tightly, expecting to be prepped for a rotund river pirate’s stew at any moment. When nothing happened he gave John William a nudge.

John William stared at the hopper with his mouth gaped open. “Yes, yes, she is my, um…,” he stuttered. Ferdinand rolled his eyes.

“Look at him! He’s just a pup! I’ll bet he’s never even tickled a dame’s fancy.” The deck erupted with laughter.

“You see? He will fetch us a fine price; almost as much as the princess, herself!” insisted the river pirate. He bumped Victor off to the side and pulled them off the plank.

“You better be right; or you’ll be the one on this plank… and you can be certain it will be my blade in your back,” Victor sneered, exposing his jagged fangs. “Careful with that defiant tone of yours; it has been a while since I have broken a man’s spirit! I’m about due for a river rat body part; something special… perhaps an insubordinate tongue for my collection.” Victor squeezed the pirate’s jaw, leaving an imprint of his long, dirty claws on his face. “I’m not interested in feeding stowaways or ungrateful scrubs.” 

“Well then, don’t feed them!” One of the bandits shouted.

“Put them to work! They can have my job!” A river pirate sat back with his feet up and played a festive melody on his mandolin. The rest of the ship danced in celebration and sloshed their mugs of rum together.

“What a group of goofs,” Ferdinand mumbled under his breath and rolled his eyes.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Bandits of Basswood Sneak Peek - Chapter 1

The Day Everything Changed




John William ran frantically down the long curved road to his house. In the spring of 1918; World War One was in its final stages. German Fokkers and British Camels circled the clouds above like mosquitoes. He covered his head as bullets buzzed around him.

An airplane engulfed in flames spiraled out of the sky and disappeared behind the trees. Bang! A loud crash shook the ground. Dark smoke wafted into the air near his house. “Oh no…,” he gasped, sprinting so fast his lungs throbbed through his chest.

 He turned down the driveway to find his worst fears were true. Fire and smoke bellowed out the windows of his house. Airplane pieces and splintered wood protruded from the top where the roof once was. The intense heat scorched his face. Boom! An explosion shattered the house and propelled John William backwards. Fragments flew everywhere.

He curled up in a ball screaming from the pain of his wrenched and torn heart. His parents were home hiding from the chaos. Nothing could have survived the explosion. He felt empty; the two people he loved most in the world were gone.

The shouting of German solders making their approach silenced him. He stumbled to his feet and ran into the forest on the edge of his house. Through the trees John William saw two German pilots surveying the area. The airplane that crashed into his house was a German Fokker. One walked to the edge of the thick fern and hovered over John William. The pilot stared into the forest. “Hallo!” he shouted. John William bit his lip, praying the cough building in his throat would stay where is was.

“Lass uns gehen!” The other pilot shouted and waved his arm signaling for them to leave. They appeared to be searching for signs of life; but except for John William, no one remained.

John William lay flat on his back with his eyes fixed on the sky. Tears rolled down his face. He had no idea what to do. He was eleven years old and suddenly left with no home and no parents. A car rolled up the driveway. John William squirmed over to the fern and peered through the leaves.

His uncle stepped out of the car and stood with his hand over his mouth. “John! Katherine! John William!” His voice trembled as he walked around the shattered house. John William hunkered behind the fern watching his uncle fall apart.

He was overwhelmed and heart broken; but he had a decision to make. He could go with his uncle, or somehow make his own way. He could not bring himself to go to him. Something in his gut told him to make his own way. He prepared to turn and run. Snap! A twig broke under the pressure of his knee.

“Who’s there?” His uncle walked over to the fern. He looked down and saw John William’s reddish brown curls poking through. “John William? What are you doing?”

“Hi, Uncle, I was just….” John William stood up and gazed at his feet.

His uncle wiped tears and ash from his face. “It doesn’t matter. Thank god you’re alive!” He carefully pulled John William out of the leaves. “Are you okay?”

“I wasn’t home.” John William’s eyes welled up again. “I should have been home.” He buried his face into his uncle’s chest.

“It’s going to be okay, young man. You’ll stay with me.” He gave John William a firm hug and led him to the car. As they pulled away from the house his heart sank. Life as he knew it was over. He wondered if he would ever feel again.




Chapter One




Nearly a year came and went. John William was an empty shell merely going through the motions of life. His uncle tried every day to pull him out of it. “I got you something today.” He pushed a brown leather pack with a padded shoulder strap across the dinner table. John William barely looked up from his plate. His uncle cleared his throat. “Happy Birthday, young man; twelve — that’s a big age.”

“Thanks….” John William muttered while pushing steamed carrots and potatoes around with his fork. “I’m sorry; I suppose I’m not feeling well. I think I need to lie down; may I be excused?”

“Of course....” His uncle leaned back in his chair with a defeated look on his face. John William peeled himself off the seat and dragged his feet to his room. He plopped down on his bed and stared at the ceiling just as he did every other night; not wanting to think because thinking always resulted in heartache. He grew tired of crying all the time.

His bedroom door squeaked open. “Can I come in?” asked his uncle, poking his head inside. John William nodded. His uncle sat next to him and looked around. Pictures of old ruins and maps lined the walls. A set of dirty old digging tools covered his dresser. “I love what you have done with your room.” He smirked and rubbed the tension out of his neck. John William replied with a half smile.

“John William, I don’t pretend to know what you are feeling. I miss your parents, too… very much. It is awful that his has happened. There are days when I still can’t believe it.” He paused and let out a deep sigh. “I know for certain that your dad, my brother would want you to carry on with life. He would want you to do your best and live with purpose because that is precisely what he did; and he did it for you. It would break his heart to see you wasting away.”

A tear slid down John William’s cheek and his deep blue eyes were red and puffy, yet again. His uncle placed the pack he bought him for his birthday on the bed next to him. “Good night, John William.” He stood up and his shoes clacked as he walked out of the room.

John William stared at the pack for a while before finally deciding to open it. Inside were beautiful new tools for digging and drawing maps. The handles had his initials, J.W.D engraved on them.  At the very bottom was an old compass with a note attached….

John William,

I know there is nothing I can do to bring your parents back; but I feel it is my responsibility to bring your smile back. Today is your birthday; please don’t waste another minute of your life feeling empty. Get out there and live, explore, do what you love. It is time to embark on a new adventure. I hope these tools help. I attached the letter to this compass because it was your fathers. I found it at the house after the accident. Use it well and keep your parents in your heart. Happy Birthday, young man.



Uncle Christopher

John William opened the compass. It still had ash on it; aside from that it was in fine working condition. He sunk his head into the pillow thinking about his uncle’s words. A restless energy surged through his body; something he had not felt in a long time.

He tossed and turned all night making a tangled mess of his blankets. When the first ray from the sun poked through his curtains he leaped out of bed and threw on his clothes. He stuffed his tools and compass in his pack and draped it over his shoulders. His bedroom door swung open and out he flew like a tornado blowing through the house.

“Well this certainly is a welcome change.” His uncle paced around the kitchen tossing eggs in a skillet.

“No time to eat, Uncle!” He ran over and squeezed his uncle around the waist.

“Why? Where are you going?”

“I thought I might do some exploring.” John William grinned.

“That’s a splendid idea. Make sure you’re home for dinner,” said his uncle in a stern tone. John William gave him an acknowledging nod and stuffed a piece of toast in his mouth while racing out the front door.






Tuesday, June 11, 2013

John William Meets Hawkeye...

“Now would be a good time to get out of here, John William,” Ferdinand yelled through the chaos. John William scurried toward the exit dodging flying chairs, tables and even bandits light enough to toss. In a table just off to the side sat a possum wearing an eye patch and tattered coat with miscellaneous items pouring out of the pockets. He seemed to be completely oblivious of the tussle going on around him. A familiar leather pack with a padded shoulder strap hung from his chair. “My bag!” John William blurted and made a hard turn toward the table.

“What are you doing, boy? We were so close to the door!” Ferdinand cowered deep into the pocket.

“That is my bag; I’m not leaving without it!” John William approached the table and stared the possum down.

“Who’s there?” The possum squinted through his good eye. He put his paw out, grabbing at the air.

“Over here….” John William waved his arm awkwardly.

“Oh! There you are! Are you here to try your luck?” The possum slid three mugs around on the table.

“What? No, that bag hanging on your chair is mine. I want it back.” John William replied.

“Sorry, finders, keepers… I won it fair and square. You can wager for it if you want,” said the possum, raising his eye patch. “What have you got?”

“Um, I have this pet hopper.” John William pulled Ferdinand out of his pocket.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa; wait just one minute; I am no one’s pet!”

“Ooh, he’s feisty; I like him! Okay, all you have to do is guess which mug the nuts are under.” He lifted the mugs to show the nuts then quickly swirled them around with his hands. “They call me Hawkeye; how about you, fella?”

“Um…J-Jammer, yah… Jammer,” he replied, dizzy from watching the swirling mugs. “That one….” He pointed to the mug in the middle. The possum lifted the mug exposing the nuts underneath.

“Nope! Sorry, Jam-Jam; nothing there,” Hawkeye declared, sitting back with satisfied look on his face.

“Yes there was! I saw the nuts!” John William shouted.

“I saw nothing!”

“Oh, this is nonsense….” Ferdinand jumped out of John William’s pocket and yanked the bag off the seat while they argued. “Jammer, let’s go!”

“Yes, okay! Thanks, Hawkeye….” John William perked up and followed Ferdinand out the door with his bag stuffed in his coat.

“Hey! I want my hopper pet!” Hawkeye stood up and tapped his cane out the door behind them. “Come back here!”

“Keep walking, possums have terrible eye sight. We will lose him easily,” said Ferdinand.

“Hawkeye!” A bandit with a deep, raspy voice marched over to the possum clutching a matted feather. “You told me this empyrean feather would give me magical powers! Now I’m going to have to beat you with my fist!”

Hawkeye placed his hands over his heart and closed his exposed eye. “It’s happening!” He fell flat on his back and threw his legs in the air. “I’m moving toward the light!” His paw twitched. He opened one eye, glanced around, and then quickly shut it again. “Good bye, Azra’s Pith.” He let out one last pitiful groan.

“Pathetic display…,” Ferdinand muttered. “There is no way anyone would believe that… not even a big, oafish bandit.”

The bandit nudged the possum with his boot, and with a defeated shrug of his shoulders sauntered into The Garbage Pail to join the scuffle.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Rive's Grip

Just as Alexander regained his rhythm, the forest fell to an
eerie silence. His pant legs shifted in a breeze carrying a
dreadful chill.
He froze. “Oh, no!” A chill came over his entire body.
He jumped behind a broad tree trunk and folded his arms
into his chest. Large as it was, the tree trunk left him
The whistle of the rive made its approach. It aggressively
blew up and through the surrounding trees, tossing twigs
and leaves about in a fury. Alexander had no time to react as
the whistle gave way to an angry moan.
He felt cold, clammy claws grabbing hold of him and
yanking him from his hiding spot. He desperately reached
for anything to hold him in place, getting only a hand full of
loose dirt which blew right through his fingers.
Within seconds, the wind sent him high into some thick
leafy branches. He latched on to a portion that stuck out just
enough. The wind forcefully pulled at his body. He winced as
his hands slipped over jagged knots in the wood. Blood
seeped from between his fingers.
His bones popped and snapped as the strength of the rive
stretched his body. He shut his eyes tightly and let out a
curdling scream. The thick tree branch creaked under the
tremendous pressure. At any second, Alexander’s lifeline was
certain to break.
He braced himself with his right hand and used his left to
reach for another nearby branch. His fingertips barely
brushed the rough ridges. He scraped and clawed with
everything he had, but it was just out of reach. Then….snap!
Like a feeble toothpick, the branch gave way, sending
Alexander helplessly into the grips of the rive. A funnel
formed, gobbling him up and putting him into an
uncontrollable spin. It carried him back to the river, gaining
momentum as it went along.
A terrible dizzy spell took hold. His eyes rolled to the back
of his head, and he lost consciousness. The funnel flushed
him through like a piece of garbage and spat him right into
the river.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Cozmo the Wolf

Suddenly, the support of the mountain under his legs disappeared.  Alexander had reached the edge of a cliff.  Over went his stomach, then his chest.  He scuffed his chin and nose on the sharp edge of the rock, which stuck out enough for his fingers to grip. Alexander dangled over the precipice, listening to rocks hit the ground far below.

His hands trembled as he clenched the rigid lip of the cliff. Bit by bit, his fingers slipped over loose gravel until only the tips remained exposed on the surface. 

“Help!” His cry bounced off the mountainside; then there was only a silence that left Alexander hopeless. His hands trembled. Something cold and damp squished up against his fingers. Alexander was being sniffed.

“Help me! Please!” he gasped. “I can’t hold on much longer.”

“One might say that my timing is nothing short of miraculous,” a deep and clever-sounding voice said from the surface above.  Alexander strained to look up toward his fingers.

Just over the edge was a black nose with a drip hanging in a taunting manner off the tip, and a pair of dark, hollow eyes peering down at him. It was a wolf with matted, ashy-gray fur, and a bleak disposition. 

“What do you think?” the wolf asked.

“Um, if you help me up I will certainly have an answer for you… Mr. Wolf, sir.” Alexander gave the wolf a desperate half smile.

“My name is Cozmo,” said the wolf, just before sinking his teeth into Alexander's arm.


Cozmo snarled and groaned as he tugged Alexander's lanky body up the cliff.  His hind legs slid over loose gravel, drawing him to the edge.

Alexander braced his other arm around Cozmo’s neck and pulled himself to safety. Cozmo let out a vicious growl and threw Alexander away from the cliff’s edge. They both sat, breathless for a moment.

“Thank you, Cozmo. You saved my life.”

Cozmo shook the dirt off his fur. He snarled and sniffed while looking Alexander up and down. “Do you think I did all that work for nothing?”

Alexander stumbled backwards. “Are you going to eat me?”

“Well, yes, of course I am. If you don’t run, it will make this much easier.” Saliva dripped from the gaps in his teeth as he let out a sinister laugh and began his approach on Alexander.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Rolling Boulder

The other day I was scrolling down my facebook newsfeed (my morning ritual) when I stumbled across a picture of a man pushing a boulder up a mountain. I had to laugh out loud because that was the exact example I had been using to explain the process of promoting! The picture was attached to Luke Roman’s blog post about rejection. Does every writer have the same feeling?

The actual writing is the blissful part. I can escape into a world that I created every day. Submitting to publishers, polite rejection letters and getting critiques to improve your craft can be a test of emotional toughness. In other words… being told how terrible your writing is over and over again until your skin is thicker than that leather jacket in your closet from the 80’s. If you continue to write after being run over by a snow plow in a gravel pit the passion must be there.

If you do get published, the mountain only gets bigger. Now you have to promote your work. What the heck! I write fantasy stories about giant bird/wizards and talking frogs. What do I know about promoting? The day my book was released I felt sick to my stomach. Wait… now I have to actually sell books? How am I going to do that? Half my neighbors don’t even know I exist. How in Gandalf’s name am I going to tell the world to buy my book?  The mountain just kept growing; and so did the nausea.

Then came the reviews. Yeah, that whole sick to my stomach thing… I felt like all my vital organs were doing the Macarena through my ribcage after only slightly skimming through one review. Don’t get me wrong, I can handle criticism. It comes with the territory; but now the snow plow is running me over in front of an audience.

On the other hand, when someone has something nice to say… now, this is where the boulder can really hurt. I don’t dare take a moment to enjoy a good review in fear that the boulder will roll right back over me smashing my face in the dirt. The fun factor in chasing a rolling boulder down a mountain with dirt in my eyes is low.

I’m still learning about the publishing world. It can be frustrating, demoralizing, and a crushing blow to the ego. I have scraped my dignity off of the pavement so many times, I’m pretty sure it is paper thin and full of holes. Nothing wrong with a few holes… right? The funny thing is I am actually enjoying the experience. Meeting other writers and doing guest posts are a lot of fun! Most of all, I take comfort in the fact that I can still escape all of the craziness and write my fantasy stories.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

John William and the Bandits of Basswood - Coming soon!


Coming Soon!
Have a look...
Alexander Drake's story has been told. His father, John William started it all years before when he entered Azra’s Pith. This is his story. John William was born an explorer; just like his dad before him.  His adventure really began with the worst year of his life. He lived everyday in misery until his twelfth birthday. He set out to turn things around and find his smile again. A new friend gave him an invitation he could not turn down… follow me and change your destiny.
He never imagined being captured by bandits and taken to a ship riddled with river rats was part of his fate. Not just any bandits – the Bandits of Basswood; known to be a ruthless and wild crew of thieves. Trying to escape would be a ridiculous idea. No one has ever escaped and lived to tell about it. Someone should have mentioned that to John William before he snuck off the ship. The chase out of Basswood was on. He took a chance to change his destiny and ended up on a wild ride to save his life.


The Hills and Valleys of a Newbie Writer

2006, late August, early, early morning… I groaned and rolled myself out of bed. My six month old son could be heard shifting in his crib through the baby monitor. He was finally starting to sleep through the night. I shuffled to his room wiping the sleep out of my eyes.
“Good morning, little man!”
He looked at me with his adorable toothless smile while clutching the ear of his tattered, stuffed Mickey Mouse. I scooped him out of his crib and grabbed a book of classic fairytales we bought when he was a week old.
“Which story should we read this morning?” We snuggled on the couch with a ba-ba (bottle). “Well, it looks like we’ve read every story.” Just like every other morning, I though about writing my own stories. I certainly had plenty of ideas; and have since childhood.
The little man took an extra long nap that day and I parked myself in front of my computer screen. I just started typing; the story was spilling out through my fingers. It was therapeutic – like I was releasing my bottled up imagination.
I finished the rough version of ALEXANDER DRAKE’S EXTRAORDINARY PURSUIT and wanted nothing more than to keep writing. So I continued on to part two. I also considered submitting to publishers with a “why not” attitude.
I knew nothing of the publishing world. After submitting to a handful of publishers and agents, I received a handful of rejections (mostly polite and generic). Hmm, I suppose I won’t be rubbing elbows with J.K. Rowling after all… oh well. Lesson number one for a newbie writer: humility. After that experience I thought it best to continue writing simply because I really enjoy it.
I joined Authonomy, a sort of online community for writers which I found to be very supportive. I reluctantly put bits of THE REALM OF AZRA’S PITH (Alexander Drake’s title at the time) up to be critiqued. Lesson number two for a newbie writer: you need a thick skin – when I say thick, I mean tough, and leathery – no sissies allowed!
Trudging through comments like “you couldn’t write a letter to your cat”, and “your title sucks”; I received some very helpful feedback and learned a lot about my writing. The “letter to your cat” statement is an exaggeration. I don’t think anyone would be that cruel; but I did change the title if that tells you anything.
2007, mid June, late afternoon… I sat in my squeaky desk chair checking my email. Let’s see, “become a millionaire working from home” – spam, “meet singles in your area” – spam, “The Realm of Azra’s Pith Submission”… huh? I clicked on it expecting a late rejection letter – but it wasn’t. Someone actually wanted to publish my story!
After running around the house like a headless chicken I submitted my contract to Rain Publishing. The release date was set for October of 2008… a very long year and a half away. Lesson number three for a newbie writer: patience – because the process take’s f.o.r.e.v.e.r.
For a few months I skipped around basking in the glow of my newfound title: “Published Author”, giving myself mental high-fives … Yes! I’m a published author… yes!
2008, late March, mid-morning… I was spinning around in the same squeaky chair checking my email. The fist subject line read “To all authors – very important please read”. As I read everything went a bit fuzzy. I did manage to finish half the email before my stomach started doing back flips. “Rain Publishing is closing…,” I suppose I needed a dose of lesson number one (humility). It certainly was humbling every time someone asked how my book was doing – the book? It’s doing… okay, I guess.
After a month of wallowing around in self pity, I climbed back on the old saddle and pulled my files up. I decided to start at square one with Alexander Drake, and pretty much rewrote the entire manuscript. I was happy with the updated version; so out it went. Yet again, I submitted to a handful of publishers and agents. You’d think I would have learned my lesson the first time.
With the rejections came some slightly more positive feedback from a polite and extremely patient submissions editor at Wild Child Publishing. She let me know that I need to make a lot of corrections before she could consider it any further. Lesson number four for a newbie writer: proofread. If you think your work is perfect… have someone who knows what they are doing proofread it for you.
I took a month, bought some editing software and allowed the authonomites (members of Authonomy) to rip it to shreds. Then, I resubmitted it.
2009, early October, early evening… YES!!! A publishing contract! This time I took a pass on the basking, and the self proclaimed title. Of course, I had to revert back to lesson number three (patience)… Alexander Drake did not get released until June of 2011.
The biggest lesson I learned through the ups and downs of the last five years is to detach from the outcome and just do what I love… write.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Glow

Alexander wandered over to a far corner out of sight from the others and lay down on the cold, hard ground. “You’re sick….” A soft voice whispered behind him.

Alexander shut his eyes, hoping the voice would go away. He felt gentle tapping on his shoulder.  “Please leave me alone," he said while jolting his shoulder forward. The tapping persisted. He shifted his body around with a scowl on his face.

The shoulder tapper was a girl, slightly younger than Alexander, with fair skin and hair so white it glowed in the candle light. You’re sick, but I can help you,” she whispered again.

“What?” asked Alexander, looking puzzled.

“Your presence is tainted.” She extended her hands. “Close your eyes.”

“Uhh… What are you going to do?” Alexander asked.

“Shhh…,” A warm glow emanated from her hands.  Alexander’s body went limp. A pair of wretched claws burst out of his chest and tried to latch on to him.

“The sickness is leaving you,” she whispered. Her pale blue eyes sparkled. The glow coming from her hands intensified and smothered the claws until they disappeared.

Alexander opened his eyes. He was frost bitten, and extremely confused. The fog was slowly starting to clear. He tried to put the pieces together. The night before, he’d been safe and sleeping in his bed in Verhonia. Now he was wandering the mountainside searching for his mother, who he knew was killed by Imperius when he was a baby.

 The girl sat across from him with her hands in her lap and a warm smile. “I’m Sarah.”

“Alexander,” he replied, rubbing the back of his neck. “What happened to me?”

“You had dark magic in you.” She brushed her white hair off her shoulder. “It’s okay, you’re better now.”

”What did you do?” Alexander asked, looking baffled.

Sarah giggled “I fixed you.”


If Hoppers Ran The World...

What is a hopper, you ask? At first sight you might believe you were looking at an ordinary old frog; but hoppers are extraordinary creatures. It is true that to some a hopper’s appearance leaves something to be desired. From a hopper’s perspective there is nothing more handsome than a pudgy, well fed belly and a decent pair of long gangly legs.

The world would be a much different place if hoppers resided here. For starters, the average age would be 217. Hoppers have been known to live to see their 471st birthday (which they consider to be yet another splendid reason for a party). Instead of gas stations and coffee houses on every corner you would find dense bunches of weeping willows inhabited by hoppers doing what they do best; eating, laughing and leaping. Hoppers do love to eat; so what’s on the menu? Vegetable stew, of course—morning, noon, and night… and anytime in between.

Hoppers love to have fun and what better way than a good lily pad leap? Nothing against football or baseball; the most popular sporting event would likely be lily pad leaping. Any hopper would travel far and wide to catch Ferdinand (a very well known and likable hopper) displaying his impeccable posture and grace in a lily pad leaping tournament. He has been known to plunk his round mid section into the calmest water with out making even a tiny splash. He is also a great talent when it comes to belly flopping.

On the topic of travel, how would a hopper get from here to there, or anywhere? In Azra’s Pith soaring through the air on the back of a friendly empyrean wizard is the fastest and most exciting way of getting around. Realistically speaking, I don’t know how accommodating an owl or hawk would be to a hopper jumping on its back and asking for a ride.

Hoppers like to be courteous and consider it bad form to exclude anyone for any reason. That said… there would be one exception to this rule – murks. I think the name says it all. Murks are giant, stinky, sloppy, black birds with terrible manners. If you invite a murk to dinner, they might take the liberty of putting you on the menu. I imagine a “no murks allowed” law would be strictly enforced at all times.

You may not enjoy vegetable stew all that much, or hopping fancifully on water plants; but it would be difficult not to be enchanted by such a friendly, loyal, fun loving creature. You can catch Ferdinand, the fearless hopper, empyrean wizards and even murks (though I would try to avoid those) in Azra’s Pith, a place of beauty and wonder. Beware, something evil lurks in the shadows… I hope to see you there!