My Sunday Book Review and promotion today is for Luna Saint Claire’s new release – The Serpent Awakens. This is her second book to The Sleeping Serpent. This book could definitely be read as a standalone and is much more PG friendly than book one. The language and explicit erotica from book one is not in this book. I read Luna’s first book and if you’re curious to learn about Nico’s unflattering characteristics to get a scope of what he’s all about before Luna put out her new book and sent him off into a journey of self-discovery where we learn about Nico’s background and past and what made him become who he was, you can read my review for the first book HERE.
As Luna states: The genre is a metaphysical visionary fiction and a transformational coming of age story. This is Nico’s self-battle to find forgiveness for himself and his journey to get out of his own darkness into the light.
When Nico Romero, a celebrated yoga master in Los Angeles, barely survives an attack on his life, he returns to his hometown of Buenos Aires to assess the purpose of his life. He reconnects with family, friends, and a former lover only to find his homecoming is not what he expected.
Encouraged by his grandmother, he travels to Peru to find his spiritual teacher. Secrets from Nico’s past bump up against reality as he searches for meaning and belonging in a world beyond his control. His inner path becomes interlaced with his outer one, and a deepening understanding of existence and personal suffering unfolds amidst the beauty of the Andes.
A coming-of-age at any age story that touches on faith and the human experience.
A journey to meaning and belonging — A tribute to Siddhartha and The Odyssey.
A story of fierce struggle and longing that begins with an act of surrender.
Lyrical and meditative — The Serpent Awakens explores big ideas and universal truths.
My 5 Star Review:
Luna Saint Clair takes us back to her character Nico Romero – the narcissist who I loved to detest in the first book – The Sleeping Serpent. In this book, after abusing so many women with his domineering ways in book 1, Nico leaves Maya behind in L.A. to go back to his native Argentina after getting shot. And when he arrives home at his grandmother’s house, Nico’s life story begins to unfold as he begins to focus on his wounds from childhood and he tries to confront his demons.
Once home, Nico hooks up with a past girlfriend, Gaby (because he must have sex) who is tied up with her family in the drug business and he tries to get her out of it as he sets out to open a new yoga studio in Argentina and start over again after fleeing whoever tried to kill him in L.A.
Nico is very close with his grandmother, ‘Ita’ who is wise and is the one responsible for sending him to the U.S. when he was a young teen, to keep him out of the drug gangs at home. He went to live with his father in New York who was estranged from his mother. His Ita tells him he was born with a path in his spirit as she fills him in with stories of his spiritual ancestors, and reminds him he must go back to Q’ero in the Andes to finish learning his spiritual journey
Nico decides he must travel to the Andes and do some soul-searching in Machu Picchu in Peru. Once again he abandons Gaby, just another of a string of women he’s treated like crap for his own motives. Despite his handsome appearance, Nico has much to learn in life and despite that he lived in L.A. running his own yoga studio there, surrounded by celebrities, he had learned nothing about compassion or how to treat other people who genuinely cared about him. On his trip to Peru, the awakenings began to happen when he joins a trek tour to Machu Picchu with an actress named Camille and her TV crew. Nico learns there from Cami’s questioning of him that he is not the center of the universe and he cannot just dismiss people when he doesn’t get the praise he’s used to as Cami’s shared stories seem to open up many aha moments for him.
After the trek back from the climb, Cami decides to stay an extra few days at a spa to unwind from the trek and invites Nico to join her. On the first night they settle outside under the stars and decide to smoke some San Pedro cured by a specialist there.
Despite Nico’s spiritual practices, they don’t seem to quash his ego too much. He’s still a whiney little boy who gets angry when he doesn’t get his way, but is learning to hide his anger by keeping his moping to himself about how nobody loves him, his inability to get past his mother sending him to America (to basically save his life), and he can’t seem to shake his annoying habit of having to brag about things so he can feel better about himself, all the while subconsciously detesting who he is. A total narcissist.
After his night getting high with Cami, they sleep together, and Nico gets a shot of ‘the world doesn’t revolve around you’ by Cami, when she tells him she’s going to the forest and he asks to come with her and she tells him she wants to be alone. Nico has hopes that he and Cami will open a yoga center in Peru because they talked about it when they were high on San Pedro, and Nico needs a new beginning, but will Cami really give up her stardom in L.A. for tranquility in Peru – with Nico?
Cami takes off and Nico decides to go back to the travel agent Sabrina who got him on the trek with Cami’s crew. He asked her to get him to Q’ero so he can finish his journey with the paqo to reach his highest level of spirituality. She hooks him up with Manuel who agrees to take him where the holy place is and becomes his guide, and with his wisdom, he manages to strike something in Nico where he may actually learn goodness from Manuel. As they journey on together, Nico takes in a lot of wisdom from Manuel and the people they meet along the way. This is a very spiritual journey which the author crafts wonderfully. Nico takes in all the goodness, despite his giant, bruised ego still whining about all he lost and all he could have had. Do you think an egotistical narcissist can be changed? You will have to read to find out at the end of his spiritual journey.
Luna Sainte Claire is a beautiful writer. Her prose is almost lyrical with rich, deep descriptions that both draw us in to her stories and characters. Nico is a well written character – the guy I still love to hate, because I have a deep aversion to narcissists. And one would think it a paradox to be able to create such a character who is so complex in so many ways from his complicated childhood and his desire to become ‘famous’ because he craves people who will idolize him, yet, he is spiritual. How can one be both these polar opposites and become a kind, loving human being? Saint Claire manages to display his character expertly with all his idiosyncrasies, hangups, and ego, ultimately fighting himself to free himself from his own self-imposed grandiosity.
Today I’m happy to be sharing my friend, Fey sister, and author/poet, Marjorie Mallon’s new release – The Hedge Witch and the Musical Poet. This is a lovely book with a magical story, some flash fiction stories and some touching poetry. I’d also like to add that our other sister – Colleen Chesebro from Word Craft Poetry, has recently opened up shop with her Unicorn Cats Publishing, and she formatted Marje’s book and also created the beautiful cover. Check out Colleen’s publishing page if you’re looking for some help in your self-publishing.
MJ’s favourite genres to write are Fantasy YA, Paranormal, Ghost and Horror Stories, various forms of poetry and flash fiction. She celebrates the spiritual realm, love of nature and all things magical, mystical, and mysterious at her blog home:
She is a reading, blogging and photography enthusiast!
M J Mallon was born in Lion city Singapore, a passionate Scorpio with the Chinese Zodiac sign of a lucky rabbit. She spent her early childhood in Hong Kong. During her teen years, she returned to her father’s childhood home, Edinburgh where she spent many happy years, entertained, and enthralled by her parents’ vivid stories of living and working abroad. Perhaps it was during these formative years that her love of storytelling began bolstered by these vivid raconteurs. She counts herself lucky to have travelled to many far-flung destinations and this early wanderlust has fuelled her present desire to emigrate abroad. Until that wondrous moment, it’s rumoured that she lives in the UK, in the Venice of Cambridge with her six-foot hunk of a rock god husband. Her two enchanting daughters have flown the nest but often return with a cheery smile.
MJ writes fantasy/magical realism because life should be sprinkled with a liberal dash of extraordinarily imaginative magic! Her motto is to always do what you love, stay true to your heart’s desires, and inspire others to do so too, even it if appears that the odds are stacked against you like black-hearted shadows.
The Hedge Witch & The Musical Poet is a collection of poetry and flash fiction celebrating the beautiful vulnerability of the forest kingdom. It begins with the poetic tale of the kind-hearted Hedge Witch, Fern, who discovers an injured stranger in desperate need of her woodland spells and magic.
The sweet pairing learn from each other and through Fern’s guidance, Devin embraces the power of magic to leave behind his trouble past to become The Musical Poet.
Poetry/flash fiction titles in section one of the collection include:
The Hedge Witch & The Musical Poet, Rain Forest Love, A Forest Baby Boy, A Forest Baby Girl, A Modern Witch, Rock of Mine, Chester Don & I, The Network of Trees, More Trees Not Less, Two Boys Watching War, Mum Climbing Trees, Let’s Play, The Scorched Tree, Owl’s Holiday Home, A Man’s Holiday Home, A Child’s Excitement, The Teddy In The Woods, Run! The Organutans, All Hallow’s Eve Candy Girl The Forest Bash, Dreaming At Halloween, A Face on Bark, Golden Willow Tree, Rainbow – Parasol of Light, Lollipop Sunshine Tree,
In Section two I pay tribute to the following poets: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Evangeline, Ruby Archer, King Forest, Bliss Carman, Woodland Rain, Emily Dickinson, Who Robbed the Woods, Rupert Blake, Stopping by The Woods on A Winter Evening,Oscar Wilde, In the Forest.
With my poetry:
The Forest Weeps, The Forest King, Raindrops and Childhood Dreams, The Woodland Treasures, Winter Woodland Moon, Child Me.
My 5 Star Review:
This is a lovely book by MJ Mallon. She brings to life stories of her loving family, in poetry and flash fiction stories. The Hedge Witch and the Magical Poet is a short story about Fern, who rescues a man she names Devin, distraught and parched, found under a tree. When he recites a poem to her in such lyrical fashion, he sounded like an instrument. We also find some touching poetry in mixed styles, reminding us of some yesteryears of the past – some spoken by the trees. These poems recall some of the easier days of the past when children played in nature and climbed trees – and not on their digital devices, as the trees lament.
In other poems, like, ‘Let’s Play’, the author calls for reforestation to improve air quality and shade, as climate change is taking that away. The flash story of ‘The Network of Trees’ is another lament as the trees discuss among themselves what will become of them as they are cut down and are replaced with cement and buildings.
There are some wise words here from both Mallon and the trees about life in simpler times, stories about nature, childhood memories in snippets of flash fiction, as well as some whimsical Halloween tales. One of my favorites was ‘All Hallows Eve’ – Candy Girl, with rich magical descriptions.
Mallon’s love for trees and nature shine through all of her stories. If you love nature and enjoy lyrical prose and poetry, you will enjoy this book.
Nightmareland compiled by Dan Alatorre “Scrabble Boy” (Short Story) Spellbound compiled by Dan Alatorre “The Twisted Sisters“ (Short Story) Wings of Fire compiled by Dan Alatorre “The Great Pottoo” (Short Story)
Welcome to my Q & A for September. Today I’m thrilled to be featuring my friend and author, Lauren Scott and her beautiful new book – More than Coffee: Memories in Verse and Prose. Lauren writes beautiful poetry and short story memoirs. I’ve been following her blog for a few years now and as Lauren has recently released her newest book, she’s on blog tour now, so I thought I’d jump in on her booklaunch tour with doing a little Q & A here with her. Enjoy!
Lauren has authored two collections of poetry: New Day, New Dreams (2013) and Finding a Balance (2015). In the last couple of years, she began exploring memories from her past, penning them into short memoirs. She lives in Northern California with her husband, Matthew, and their lovable canine, Copper; they have two adult children. Family has been an aspect of life she has always held dear. From her experiences over three decades: raising a family, grieving through loss, finding joy in the smallest things, and the many backpacking and camping adventures, her writing takes a magical path of its own.
The marvelous wild world that surrounds her: the smell of the woods, the sound of a babbling brook, and the chorus of birds never disappoint in providing inspiration. Recent backpacking trips with Matthew along the California coast and Sierra Nevada have stirred up thoughts to write about love, lost friendship, family, and the possibility that anything can happen. Hikes along the Paper Mill Creek remind her that life is fragile. From trout hatchlings to swallowtail butterflies, Lauren is marveled at how the world is interconnected and that every living thing matters. She is a poet, short memoir writer, and nature lover who hopes her readers will find a little nugget of delight, comfort, or understanding in her poetry and stories – some detail that resonates with them beyond her words.
From the early woes of childhood and teen years, this collection of stories and poems paints a picture of young dreams and fears. But as adulthood sets in, these dreams and fears change. More than Coffee touches on love and loss, nature and endurance, marriage and parenting. In these memories, humor diffuses fear and taking risks proves to be a powerful method in boosting self-confidence. Through it all, whether in the wilderness near a sparkling lake or in the comfort of home, there’s nothing like a good cup of coffee. A poignant and reflective collection of verse and prose that is best enjoyed sipping your favorite coffee roast.
Let’s get into a little Q & A and get to know more about Lauren!
Where do your book ideas grow from?
Inspiration is derived from a simple walk around the neighborhood with my dog: flowers blooming in springtime, bees buzzing in the distance, clouds forming art in the sky, or a subtle touch of a breeze. Family is most important to me, so I write about the love of my life, my husband of 32 years, who I met in a comical manner. My parents who have since passed away have been the fodder for poetry and short memoirs – losing one parent is difficult enough, but both is beyond surreal. It’s like the family foundation slipped into a sink hole. I find inspiration from my son and daughter who have turned out to be compassionate, amazing adults, and how it took some getting used to when my husband and I became empty nesters.
I write about loss and grief – the importance of letting those tears flow – but also the necessity of occasionally giving freedom to your silly self. Camping and backpacking have played an integral part of our life, so living in the wilderness near a sparkling freshwater lake encourages a plethora of thoughts eager to be written. Hiking five miles further up the mountain to a lake filled with lily pads is like entering a fairyland inspiring a new level of ideas for my muse.
When work on my memoir began, my mind transported to the past: recalling formative childhood years, finding forever love, becoming a mother, and taking on challenges that I never would have attempted before. I strive to convey the value of slowing down and reveling in surrounding beauty, feeling gratitude, meeting a challenge head-on, and living in the here and now. We’re only gifted one ride around the sun, so why not make it the best possible ride?!
DG: Even your response here is beautiful prose Lauren. Yes, writing about truth in life is all about the moments we take in and how we interpret them. 🙂
What are your writing goals for this year?
I had set a writing goal to publish my memoir, More than Coffee: Memories in Verse and Prose which was released in early September. What a feeling of accomplishment, especially because my first two books were collections of poetry. More than Coffee speaks of memories from the past written in freeform poetry and in short memoirs. The process took longer than I anticipated, and I thought the editing would never end. Eventually, the point of confidence that every comma and verb was written correctly was finally achieved. I am thrilled to check that box off, but in the process, I was able to relive many wonderful moments from my childhood into my adulting. When loved ones have passed on, it is the gathering of fond memories that sustain us and bring them to life.
DG: I’m glad you accomplished what you set out to do Lauren. I know how life can get in the way of our good intentions. Writing memoir is certainly reliving the moments. 🙂
Would you like to share with us what upcoming projects and/or ideas for books you’re working on?
As I inched closer to the finish line with More than Coffee, the wheels in my mind started turning again, and I wondered what will come next? I have written more than a dozen new poems I would love to see in print, but those may have to wait. I recently pulled a children’s book idea from my archived computer files. This book or a possible series commenced over two decades ago. And then life happened, raising children took precedence, and that idea became complacent in the archives. I feel now is the right time to breathe some life into this project. However, I don’t know the first thing about writing a children’s book. For now, though, I’m enjoying the ride on Cloud 9 from the release of my new book and the positive feedback I’ve received, along with the generous support from wonderful blogging friends. Once this ride slows down, the children’s book research will begin, and I’ll see where it takes me.
DG:That sounds fantastic Lauren. I could definitely see you as a children’s writer. That will be a wonderful project to dive into no doubt!
Do you have any advice you can share for new writers?
My advice is to simply write! Don’t think too hard! Years ago, I allowed intimidation to prevent me from pursuing my writing passion – intimidation from not holding that BA or MFA in Creative Writing. However, several years ago, I attended English classes required for an associate degree at our local community college (baby steps to a bachelor’s degree), and I’m proud to say that I aced those classes. I loved the writing and the experience. But what halted me on that path to a two-year degree was the requirement to take other classes that might not interest me, then to spend time doing that homework. Instead, my son nudged me into starting a blog. I slowly began to share my writing, feeling a little timid in the beginning. At the same time, I followed many talented authors. Before I knew it, WordPress transformed into an online classroom. I learned about various formats of poetry. I read compelling fiction with authentic dialogue. I laughed and let the tears fall when reading memoirs. I delighted in immersing myself into charming children’s books.
Thus, I made another choice, pouring my heart and soul into writing for my blog, a wonderful platform to engage with other like-minded bloggers. Regardless of age, learning is infinite, as well as growing in one’s craft. Maybe I’ll step foot on a college campus again? Whether that happens or not, I’ll continue to read, letting myself be drawn into fantastic tales of fantasy, mystery, and romance. I’ll feel the myriad of emotions when reading beautiful poetry, gaining more knowledge along the journey. And when inspiration moves me, I will write. So, follow your writing passion regardless of credentials or age.
DG: I’d say that is the best advice for new writers afraid to take the plunge. Oh yes, it can be so intimidating when we first begin. But the blog gives us our own platform to experiment with our writing and a great audience to inspire us to keep writing. It’s all about community for us writers. 🙂
Lauren Shares an Excerpt from her story – Ascent
When we reached the top and I looked down that sleek granite dome, I was amazed at what I had achieved. Never underestimate our abilities. On the other side of the dome, Shealor Lake was in full view. We gave our legs a short rest, drank some water, then headed downhill with the enticing pull of the lake’s beauty. As we neared the bottom, my emotions ran wild. I was relieved that we finally made it, but a sudden wave of grief washed over me. We removed our packs and sat on a log for a time-out. I was so overwhelmed that the tears found freedom. I didn’t fight them. I cried for the loss of Dad. I cried for having completed this hike that I didn’t think I was capable of. I would’ve backed out graciously had I known the details.
After a few minutes, I composed myself and looked to the lake. The water, a jeweled phenomenon. It sparkled, inviting us for a swim. While we set up our back-country camp, the orange-hot sun blazed down on us as if we had drastically turned up the thermostat, so the cool lake water soothed our sun-kissed skin. The fact that we were all alone in this canyon full of forest and smooth granite was beyond welcoming. The tranquility offered me the chance to reminisce about Dad and my parents together. The solitude afforded a perfect destination to grieve, think, remember, and cry. Mourning the loss of one parent was difficult enough but losing both felt surreal – a new stage of life had begun.
I hope you all enjoyed getting to know a bit about Lauren, her writing and her new book. Visit Lauren at her blog and at her Amazon author page to discover some of her other books.
I’m thrilled to be featuring my Fey Sister, Adele Marie Park today who has just released her newest labor of love – Wolfe Manor. Adele is magical and writes in the fantasy/dark fantasy/horror genres. You will find her darker stories in several anthologies.
Meet the Author:
Fantasy and horror writer, Adele Marie Park originally hails from the Orkney islands. Rousay is a small, but archaeological important island, dubbed “The Egypt of The North.” The oral tradition of passing down stories fired the young Adele’s imagination with tales of trolls, faeries, sea monsters, witches, ghosts, and seals who could change into humans. The landscape of the island fascinated her as moorland hills swept down through green fields to the shores of secluded beaches, where black volcanic rocks might be a troll or a sleeping giant.
Reading the Hobbit at an early age inspired her and in her teens she turned to
Stephen King, James Herbert, Anne Rice and Storm Constantine to appease a mind hungry to delve into the paranormal. Throughout her life she never gave up writing but it was an ongoing medical condition which forced her to give up work that began her passion to publish her writing for others to read.
Genres may come and go, but Adele’s writing encompasses a solidity which does not change; the overcoming of obstacles in one’s life, love, death, grief and pain all infused with those supernatural elements that one sees out the corner of the eye or feels when one is alone in the house at night and a floorboard creaks.
Once she lived a normal life, a good, boring life, but a safe one…
Abandoned as a baby on the steps of Wolfe Manor, Fianna was raised with love,
secure inside its walls. Now her bubble of safety is about to burst. Can she save
the home and school which once cocooned her when old fears overwhelm?
Facing students at the start of a new term is frightening enough without
nightmares resurfacing which terrify Fianna.
She may have a degree in teaching but will this skill help her?
The return of old friends sends Fianna spiralling down the rabbit hole of her past.
Wolfe Manor may call her to be what she was born to be, but can she find out in
time to save it from an evil only she can defeat? Or if she fails and Wolfe Manor
falls, what happens when the evil faces humanity unchallenged?
Chapter One – Fianna
Once she lived a normal life, a good boring life but a safe one …
Suffocating blackness, slithered deep into every nerve in her body. The only sound
was the beating of her heart, its rhythm mesmerised her as if she were a shaman in a trance, rendered her helpless against the fear which crawled over her skin leaving goose bumps in its wake. Sweat broke out in response to the song of terror. Pearls of moisture beaded on her forehead.. Paralysed, in the blackness of a nightmare, she waited.
Once she lived a normal life, a good boring life but a safe one. Now that life receded faster every night. The pressure on her body grew. She faced death; his tattered yellow breath as ancient as the tombs of Egypt, brushed over her skin. Her mind wanted to give in, her body fought a battle for every breath. An edge of darkness obscured her vision. Her mind whispered,
Float free, away from pain.
No. She would live.
A warrior rose inside her. Buried deep it tore through her blood and challenged the deathly force holding her. A moment held between them before the suffocating darkness receded, a growl echoed around the room. In its absence breath flooded in and left her panting as if she were a dog on a hot day. Movement came back to her limbs and her body jack-knifed upright. She paced the floor of her bedroom, turning on every light for protection from the darkness that was alive and wanted her dead. Passing by the full length mirror she stopped in shock as her reflection mimicked who she had once been.
A corpse-white face, with soot smudged under her eyes. Hollow pockets under high cheekbones, her mouth was a pale pink line. She touched her face. Her fingers were skeletal, the skin hanging on them like needless dressing.
She couldn’t survive without help. Someone would find her body, soulless and
desiccated. The white cotton sheets, her shroud.
“No, no,” she mumbled and fell to her knees. She rocked back and forth repeating
the word like a war cry. As she pushed her hands through her wavy black hair, she
raised her head.
“I have to tell someone,” she said.
To connect with Adele, and learn more about her work visit these sites:
Welcome back to my first Q and A for the 2021 season. I’m thrilled to be featuring friend and author, Vashti Q Vega today for a little Q & A and some insights about her riveting new book, The Rise of Gadreel, which I recently devoured and reviewed for my first Sunday Book Review of 2021. Vashti’s book is the 3rd in this engrossing fantasy angel series of good versus evil.
No thanks to Amazon for NOT displaying my review on their dot com page as usual, as they seem to treat us Canadians like lepers. But I really did put it up on Amazon too, as well as on Goodreads. But onwards, now that I got that out of my system, let’s get to know more about Vashti and her beautiful book!
About Vashti Quiroz-Vega:
Vashti Quiroz-Vega is a writer of Fantasy, Horror, and Thriller. Since she was a kid she’s always had a passion for writing and telling stories. It has always been easier for her to express her thoughts on paper.
She enjoys reading almost as much as she loves to write. Some of her favorite authors are Stephen King, Michael Crichton, Anne Rice, J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling and George R. R. Martin.
She enjoys making people feel an array of emotions with her writing. She likes her audience to laugh one moment, cry the next and clench their jaws after that.
When she isn’t building extraordinary worlds and fleshing out fascinating characters, she enjoys spending time with her husband JC and her Pomeranian Scribbles who is also her writing buddy.
In The Fall of Lilith, award-winning author Vashti Quiroz-Vega took readers inside the gates of heaven for a front-row seat to Lucifer’s rebellion. In Son of the Serpent, she introduced Dracúl, tormented offspring of fallen angels. Now, in The Rise of Gadreel, Quiroz-Vega is back with the next chapter in her Fantasy Angels saga—a gripping tale of hope and redemption set against the fiery backdrop of a demon’s insatiable thirst for power and revenge.
Lilith is gone, suffering the torments of the damned in hell. Satan, once known as Lucifer, endures endless agony in an earthly prison. Yet their foul legacy lives on, spread by a corrupted priesthood that uses the blackest magic to fan the flames of evil and hate throughout the world.
The former angel Gadreel, who fought and fell alongside Lilith and Lucifer, only to join Dracúl in his fight against them, is weary of war. Repenting of past sins, she wants nothing more than to be left in peace. But when a new threat to humankind arises, Gadreel is given the chance she has prayed for—the chance to earn God’s forgiveness.
Now, with the aid of Dracúl and a trio of uncanny allies—a man of air, a man of stone, and a woman of fire—at her side, Gadreel must find the courage to confront her past and forge a new future for herself . . . and the world.
As much as I loved Dracul’s struggle in the second book “The Son of the Serpent” it was Gadreel’s journey that mesmerized me in this story. A fallen angel, she now wants redemption and sets out to battle the evil threatening to take over the civilization. The relationship between Dracul and Gadreel is almost endearing as they join forces. The story is told from both sides of the battle, and I was always happy to get back to Gadreel and her new friends. Not that I didn’t appreciate the evil point of view, but there was a cruelty that rang true of how people treated each other during the dark ages that were captured very visually. Ms. Quiroz-Vega takes history and weaves biblical stories into it with a fresh take. This was a painful fight between good and evil. “The Rise of Gadreel” isn’t for the faint of heart, but if you love a well-told tale that will keep you reading late into the night, this is for you. I recommend starting at the beginning, so you understand how the characters developed. I highly recommend this book and series.
Okay, let us get to know about Vashti and her writing!
But before we get started, I just have to add that as luck would have it, at this posting, Vashti’s Book 1 and 2 – The Fall of Lilith, and The Son of the Serpent is on for just 99 cents now! Grab your copies now!
Do some of your own character traits or personal experiences spill into the book’s characters?
I don’t think as authors we have a choice as to what spills into a book’s
characters. Usually, I write my first draft as it comes out of my head. It
isn’t until I begin my revisions that I then notice that some of my traits
and quirks have made it into some of the characters. Honestly, there are
times that I don’t notice at all until someone I know reads the book and
points it out.
D.G. – I think it should seem natural that parts of us would naturally sneak into our writing. I know that’s why I write nonfiction – my fiction would be a dead giveaway lol.
Do events in your daily life inspire your writing ideas?
I don’t think my daily life is that interesting or inspiring. If I relied on
that, I wouldn’t have any writing material (ha-ha). I lead an ordinary life.
That being said, I do have an adventurous spirit and an imagination that
knows no bounds. If I see something that catches my eye or hear
something that winds itself around my ears, I make a note of it. If I run
into someone at the grocery store, pharmacy, mall . . . and they have an
eccentric way of pronouncing certain words or move their hands in an
oddly interesting way as they speak, I make a note of it. I enjoy watching
people and listening to them speak and then writing down any
appealing peculiarities they may have.
D.G. – So basically, you’re a writer who observes life to fill your pen – story of my life. 🙂
What would you like to see change to make the world better?
Empathy and tolerance for one another are sorely lacking in the world
today. I think, if people of different races and religions would make an
effort to learn about each other, we would see that we’re all the same in
the basic sense. We all want similar things. If we got to know each other
better instead of believing in the stereotypes shown on TV and in
movies and amplified in the media, we would definitely get along better.
It is impossible for everyone of a certain race, color, or religion to be all
bad or good.
D.G. – I couldn’t agree more!
Do you watch TV? If so, what is your favorite show and why?
For some reason, I am obsessed with crime dramas like Criminal Minds,
Law & Order, CSI, Chicago P.D., and others. I have to exercise discipline
because I can watch those all day. My husband always says he doesn’t
understand how I haven’t written a crime thriller already since I enjoy
reading and watching them so much. I’m actually working on one right
D.G. – Wow, that’s interesting because I love watching a few if those, and police procedurals too, fascinated at what spurs criminals to act as they do – the human condition. Although, I stopped watching Criminal Minds a few years ago as I found it was getting way more graphically violent, which I cannot watch.
Do your books have messages in them? If so, what are the messages you feel are well received by your readers?
Yes. All my books have messages in them: “there are always
consequences to evil deeds” is a predominant message in my Fantasy
Angels series. There are also messages of good and evil, physical and
internal suffering, deception, revenge, hope, and redemption in my
stories. I don’t believe in sugarcoating evil people or their acts. I
understand that good people do bad things at times, but sometimes a
person is just evil and enjoys doing bad things. I enjoy making that
D.G. – As one who has read almost all your books, I can verify those messages threaded in them.
Excerpt from The Rise of Gadreel
In this excerpt, my main character Gadreel and her close ally, Dracúl meet Sabina for the first time. Although the three of them become close friends later, Dracúl and Sabina have a rocky start. (This excerpt is in Gadreel’s POV)
“My name is Sabina,” she said.
“What are you doing here?”
“Isn’t it obvious? I’m a plague doctor trying to save these people, like the sick
man said. They suffer from the plague.”
“I have seen plague doctors before, but none dressed quite as elaborately as you,”
I said. “All the doctors I have met have been men. I had no idea female doctors existed. What plague were you treating them for?”
“One of many afflicting the people of this land. And perhaps you’ve never met a
female doctor before because I am the first.”
I picked up the mask from where she had placed it on the ground. As I examined
it, I caught whiffs of lavender, mint, camphor, cinnamon, and sage. The herbs and spices were mixed with straw and filled the beak.
“I don’t understand. Why do you wear such garments and this mask stuffed with
herbs and straw?” I asked.
“To protect myself from disease and miasma, of course.”
“What is miasma?” I asked. She stared at me like I should have been aware of this.
“Miasma is a noxious form of bad air that spreads disease. The herbs and essential oils in the nose of my mask protect me from inhaling the bad air. I also rub essential oils and herbs on my body and on the bodies of the sick.”
“You’re a witch.” Dracúl jumped to his feet. I raised a hand, stopping him where he stood. “Is this true? Are you a witch?”
“I am. As well as a plague doctor.” She shifted on the ground and glanced at
Dracúl. “I practice white magic, but I’ve put no spells on these people. I’ve only used natural remedies to try to cure them. But what has worked five hundred times before hasn’t worked here.”
Dracúl lumbered to my side, pointing at Sabina, his eyes fixed on me. “A witch is
a witch to the church, whether she applies white or black magic. She practices witchcraft, so I thereby accuse her of heresy.”
“You’re wrong!” Sabina cried out as she jumped to her feet. “I come from a long
line of witches, and we’re not all the same. Does the church damn you as a devil?”
Dracúl lurched and clutched his heart as if struck in the chest by the hilt of a
sword. He swallowed hard, and his hands trembled.
“I had no more choice being born a witch than you had being born a devil . . . or
did you choose to be so?”
“I did not.” Dracúl’s emotional pain seeped out in his words. He stared at the
ground as he spoke, his tone much softer than before.
Sabina’s eyes followed something from the area above my head to my arm. A
purple emperor butterfly landed on my forearm. Afterward, a kaleidoscope of butterflies hovered around me, sporting iridescent wings that shone blue or purple in the light. Some landed on my shoulders, arms, and head, while others continued to float about.
“It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen butterflies. Not a single milk thief has
fluttered by since I arrived here. Perhaps they stayed hidden from the state of the world,” she said softly, as though shouting might scare them away. “Yet here they are. They are drawn to you. Butterflies represent hope, change, and life. You must be someone extraordinary. Who are you?”
I held out my hand, and a butterfly landed on my palm. “I see you,” I tell it. “Now
go. Do what you’re meant to do.” At once, the butterflies swirled to the sky in a colorful tornado, vanishing into the clouds. Sabina stood motionless, gawping at me.
* * *
I loved this book and the excerpt. Thanks to Vashti for visiting here today and sharing some of herself and her writing.
Welcome to my Q & A. Today I’m happy to be featuring my friend and Fey Sister, Adele Marie Park and her new release, Sea Dragons, Book II in her Wisp series, a dark, magical fantasy with murder and magic!
Adele Marie Park was born in the north-east of Scotland, and at the age of six months, she moved to live with family on the Orcadian island of Rousay. Her childhood was surrounded by the tales and legends of old, and these became the themes and beliefs she’s carried with her through life as they now emerge and live within the pages of her books.
Adele’s first published book is Wisp. A tale of murder, passion and intrigue set in the mythical world of Edra. Wisp II Sea Dragons is now available on Amazon. She has won awards for her short stories and many have been published in successful anthologies.
Her writing crosses genres between fantasy and horror but is always character driven. Transforming the pictures and characters in her head as if by magic onto the pages of her books. Her belief in magic, faeries and the paranormal has never wavered.
The malevolent and ruthless mage, Dante Asano is defeated but victory came at a horrific price.
Before Wisp and his companions could intervene, Dante possessed Pendra Thorn’s body. In order to stop Dante without killing Pendra, a magic sleep spell was cast.
A glass coffin warded with powerful spells encased her body while her mind fled to a favourite memory; unfortunately, Dante is also trapped with her.
The magical coffin will only keep her alive, and Dante contained for a short time.
A desperate plan to undertake a treacherous journey across an unknown sea means Wisp and his companions must disband. Some journey with Wisp to find an ancient spell to release Pendra and banish Dante’s spirit.
Those left behind must guard Pendra in a city under threat.
An ancient evil casts a shadow over Edra causing burgeoning unrest and setting the inhabitants against one another.
Wisp’s journey must be successful not only for Pendra’s sake but also for Edra itself.
“Sea Dragons” begins with Wisp, a Marsh Faerie Law Enforcer, as he waits inside the office of the new Senior, Nether Green, an elf with considerable law enforcement experience to show for a planned meeting.
He reminisces about the events of the last six months, and recalls the death of his Senior officer Bartholomew at the hands of Dante Asano, and how Lady Pendra Thorne’s childhood home was now her mausoleum, where she lays sealed inside a glass coffin warded with spells. Wisp, Finn, and Arutha watch over the princess in the glass coffin day and night.
After an hour there is a knock at the door. Wisp learns there’s been a murder, and the new Senior is the victim! Even stranger, the new Senior is found hanging from a rope, made to look like a suicide.
After a visit to the scene of the murder, Wisp quickly picks up on a few prominent details and comes to the assumption that the new Senior was indeed murdered. Now, Wisp must solve the murder of another dead elf!
Meanwhile, at home, Finn discovers Pendra convulsing within her glass coffin. Finn summons his mother to help him deal with this new situation.
Inside the glass coffin, Pendra’s mind retreats into a favorite memory of childhood comfort, where she tries to maintain her sanity; unfortunately, the evil Dante is also trapped inside her body. In this state of flux within her mind, Pendra learns the horrible truth of the ancient evil that controls Dante Asano and his plan to rule Edra.
The magical coffin will only keep Pendra alive, and Dante contained for a brief time. To save her, Wisp and Finn and his family have to remove the evil Dante without harming Pendra.
When it’s decided that there might be a spell which will separate Dante from Pendra, Wisp and the others set off for Samoyer, a land across the Great Sea. The only problem is, Finn’s father, Slait, has a price on his head if he returns to his homeland. Yet, without this spell, Pendra will die and Edra could cease to exist.
Park has woven an atmospheric dark fantasy filled with suspense, murder, and magic! Through thoughtful detail, we’re introduced to a world filled with dragons, elves, goblins, faeries, and many other creatures where the laws of magic govern the land.
Park’s portrayal of the evil Farloaeth, the ancient harbinger of doom, reminded me of the Norse’s “Wild Hunt,” which added sensory details to the story in unexpected ways. She filled the book with plenty of twists and turns, which kept me reading long into the night.
The end was a total surprise, which stops on a bit of a cliffhanger. My mouth literally dropped open when I read the last pages. I never saw it coming.
I’ve been a fan of this author’s novels, since I stumbled upon some of her short- stories in several anthologies published within the writing community. Read “Wisp” and then delve into “Sea Dragons” as the books are not standalone novels. If you love fantasy, you will love these characters.
Seriously, I can’t wait to find out what happens in the third book. With Park’s creativity, the sky is the limit!
Let’s get to know more about Adele and about how her childhood has aided in leading her to fantasy writing!
What hobbies do you enjoy when not writing?
My second love is painting, watercolour. I can paint from an image, but I prefer to work with the subject directly. Especially when painting the flowers in the garden or a beach scene. I also adore drawing, pencil, or ink, but I haven’t used ink for a long time and having said it here, I want to buy some and give it a go. I read as if it’s the last book on earth, devouring and living each book that I read. Crocheting is something I love to do in the winter when the weather gets cold. Blankets, hats, scarfs, and little dolls. The garden is another love of mine and I enjoy sitting out as I weed, plant, or play with the dog. I have always loved cooking and have a few favourite dishes that turn out well each time. Vegetable lasagne, my macaroni and my veggie stew and dumplings. I do wish I could bake, my aunt Adeline, who brought me up, was a fantastic baker. Walking along the beach, I am definitely a beach girl. Searching for sea glass and looking in rock pools.
D.G. – Sounds like never a dull moment for you Adele with all your crafting and hobbies, besides writing, lol
What are your writing goals for this year?
An e-book which is to be published by Black Wolf Publishing. It’s just at the finishing stage to be sent back to them. Finish writing the third instalment in the Wisp series then get it edited before finally publishing with amazon. I have two other books in the pipeline, and I hope to get the time to finish them as well. Ideas pop into my head all the time and through dreams as well. Once these projects are finished, I hope to work on a companion book for Wisp which will have maps of Edra, the country in which Wisp is based and character drawings which I want to do. It will give the readers the chance to see Edra and the characters and pick up knowledge of the different races on Edra, their magical skills and where they live. It’s going to be a huge project but I’m looking forward to it. I don’t know if I can publish it through amazon as I want a specific look, an antique finish as if you’ve just found the book in a dusty attic.
D.G. – Wow, that sounds fabulous Adele. And I wish you luck with these abundant amount of exciting projects.
What is the worst part of publishing and why?
For me it is the editing. The first, second and third self-edit can drive me bonkers as I tend to want to re-write a lot which takes time. Then it is off to the editors who depending on their lifestyle can have other jobs before their editing. The wait is torture, so I usually begin writing something else to take my mind off it. When the first edits come back to me it can take a long time to read through and make the corrections. It’s just so frustrating because I’m a “yes let’s get this done” type of person but I temper my enthusiasm as I want to produce the best possible work I can and that involves other people as well as me. A novel is not a solo project and I am so incredibly grateful to my editors who go above and beyond the call of duty at times. By the time, the novel is ready to publish it can sometimes be nerve racking to finally put it out there as it has been so long in the evolving process.
D.G. – I’m with you on all you said, lol. The first return from the editor holds us writers in great anticipation, and then the gruel of revising again from edits. Isn’t writing fun?
If you weren’t a writer what else do you think you would do?
I wanted to be an art teacher, preferably for younger children as it can be so much fun to explore colours and types of using paints and crayons with them. The other thing I would like to do is to be completely off grid. This would mean building our own house, I love cob houses, solar and wind power to provide electricity and warmth in winter. Growing my own veg and herbs and I have always wanted a goat. Yes, a goat. It would provide milk for making cheese which is something I don’t think I can live without. Cheese and my love for it means that I stay vegetarian and not vegan, although there are good vegan cheeses around these days. No television, no internet, and a happy peaceful life. Ideally this vision would happen on the coast beside a favourite beach. Now, if I make enough money writing, ahem, that just might happen.
D.G. – That sounds heavenly, be right over, lol!
Where do you think your passion for storytelling originated from?
I grew up on the small island of Rousay which is part of the Orkney Isles. I was lucky that the old traditions and stories were still prevalent at the time I was a child. My aunt Adeline and Uncle Tommy raised me, and they had all the time in the world for me and my questions, even though Tommy had the farm to run and Adeline was the district nurse. My uncle Willie lived just up the road from our house, and I would wander up to his to hear stories about Trows, (trolls), witches, faeries, mermaids and selkies. I would also have my tea up at his house a few times a week. Usually a boiled egg, toast, and a wee glass of stout. Another great influence was Willie o Hammerfield. In Orkney you are usually known by the name of your house rather than your surname. Willie lived with his wife Mabel at the edge of a cliff which sheared downward to the wild sea. He told me tales about selkies, grey seals who change into humans on land, leaving their skins and dancing in the moonlight. He also told me about the Finn Folk who lived in these islands many years ago and fought a great war with a race he called the wizards. Finn Folk are still talked about now and a few have said they encountered them. Dark of hair and dark of eye, the Finn Folk tell a glorious tale.
D.G. – What a fascinating childhood that sounds. It’s no surprise the environment you grew up in has enhanced your creativity and talent for fantasy writing!
I’m happy to be having Jacqui Murray back to my blog with her hot new release, Book 3 in her Crossroads Trilogy series, Against All Odds. Jacqui has a magnificent blog tour currently going on in blogtown, and I’m happy to be part of it here in this edition of Q & A.
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice, a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Laws of Nature, Book 2 in the Dawn of Humanity trilogy, Winter 2021.
A million years of evolution made Xhosa tough but was it enough? She and her People finally reach their destination—a glorious land of tall grasses, few predators, and an abundance that seems limitless, but an enemy greater than any they have met so far threatens to end their dreams. If Xhosa can’t stop this one, she and her People must again flee.
The Crossroads trilogy is set 850,000 years ago, a time in prehistory when man populated most of Eurasia. He was a violent species, fully capable of addressing the many hardships that threatened his survival except for one: future man, a smarter version of himself, one destined to obliterate all those who came before.
From prehistoric fiction author Jacqui Murray comes the unforgettable saga of a courageous woman who questions assumptions, searches for truth, and does what she must despite daunting opposition. Read the final chapter of the People’s long search for freedom, safety, and a new home.
A perfect book for fans of Jean Auel and the Gears!
Comment from another book in the trilogy…
I feel as if I am on a adventure into the extreme past. I have read both books and have been
entertained. I suggest these books to anyone who enjoys traveling into the past –Amazon reader
I flew through this read. The pace moves quickly, occasionally veering into the story of another group, one who split from Xhosa’s People. Xhosa commands the primary point of view, but it does switch to other group members on occasion. I highly recommend “The Quest for Home” to readers of prehistoric fiction, speculative fiction, and adventures. –Amazon reader
Jacqui has created a fabulous trailer!
Time to dig deeper and learn more about Jacqui and her writing
Where do your book ideas grow from?
The original idea for each book comes from something I read or saw, or a conversation I hear that intrigues me. My mind—well, I should say my subconscious because this step is not something I control–starts to churn through the events, looking for connections or sequences or logic. If it finds pieces that don’t fit, the whole thing bubbles up into my consciousness where I can pull threads, see where they take me. That usually requires research which continues until I’ve fleshed out a book.
But that’s not the end. At this point, the characters take over, guiding me through the tidbits that have been spinning around in my head, add their personality, and suddenly, I have a novel that needs a ton of editing!
D.G. – Well you must have an amazing muse to fill your head with such nuggets.
How many books have you written? Do you have a favorite of your books and if so, why?
If you include fiction and non-fiction, I’ve written over a hundred. My first book was Building a Midshipman, the story of my daughter’s acceptance into the U.S. Naval Academy (a prestigious science-oriented school whose basic course load includes classes like—wait for it—Thermodynamics). My daughter never thought she could be accepted so when she was, I wanted to share her story with other young women who might lack the confidence to apply. After that, I wrote about fifty books on technology in education. Then, I got the fiction bug and switched to thrillers (To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days) and then prehistoric fiction in a series called Man vs. Nature. This is a collection of trilogies that define seminal points in man’s evolution and is probably where I’ll put my efforts for the foreseeable future.
D.G. – Wow! I wasn’t aware you’d written so many books. Something to be admired for sure! Amazing how versatile your writing is.
What prompted you to write in your chosen genre?
I used to read a lot about early man but no one could explain how they survived the hostile environment into which they were born, ruled by savage animals who considered man nothing more than prey. Compared to these alpha predators, early humans had modest physical attributes–stubby nails, thin skin that couldn’t withstand the sharp claws of the dominant animals, and tiny teeth that couldn’t bite through an enemy’s hide. We had no fur to protect us, wore no clothing (mostly), and had only primitive weapons. But still we survived. How? To unravel this mystery, I read vociferously, researched endlessly, and then created characters who I put into the situations history said should have killed them. To my surprise, they thrived.
The ‘how’ of it makes these stories as exciting as any thriller, as baffling as any mystery, and as compelling as any character-driven novel. I’m more excited about this genre today than I was thirty years ago when I started my quest.
D.G. – I can only imagine how much research it took to create this smashing series!
What upcoming projects are you working on?
I’d love to share this! I’ve completed the Crossroads trilogy, the second in the Man vs. Nature Universe and dealing with man’s longest living species, Homo erectus. Next, I’ll finish the last two books of First Man’s trilogy, Dawn of Humanity, featuring the earliest man, Homo habilis. In the future, I’ll write a trilogy about the species who established man as the alpha in the animal kingdom and then, the humans who survived a time not so long ago when man almost became extinct. I’m pretty excited about these stories and have begun the process of drafting them. Each book takes me about a year to write which means what I’ve touched on here will take about eight years to complete. I hope my energy lasts that long!
D.G. – Wow, amazing how you can project your projects for the next 8 years! I never know what my next book will be until the last one gets published, lol.
Jacqui shares an excerpt with us: Chapter 1
The foothills of the Pyrenees
They came out of the mountains, hair frozen in sparkling strands, hands and feet wrapped in shredded pelts, ribs etched against their skin under ragged hides white with snow, faces haggard with fatigue. Blood crusted scrapes and gashes, many recent, others almost healed, reminders of the violent struggles endured on their journey.
Though their steps flagged, not one of these upright creatures exhibited a hint of defeat. All males and a few females carried at least one spear, some two, many with warclubs strapped to their backs. Despite the anxiety and fear of entering this foreign land, hope energized them today, that their migration might be at an end.
All of them—Xhosa and her tribe, Pan-do and his, Wind, Zvi, and Seeker—had been chased from their homes by enemies. In their flight, they found each other. It took time to work through their differences but now they traveled side by side, respected ideas not theirs, and called themselves the People.
Their charismatic Leaders—Xhosa, Wind, and Pan-do—were known as reliable friends to those who earned their trust and dangerous enemies to those who opposed them. Two wolves—Spirit and Black Wolf—journeyed with them. Though the People lacked the animals’ sharp claws, dense fur, and piercing teeth, each considered the other “pack” and would defend them to death.
The exhausted group straggled down the gently sloping flank, feet shuffling carefully over the slippery scree. The ground changed from talus to stunted tufts of grass, sparse and brown which made walking easier. Optimism shone from their faces even as their tired eyes flicked side to side in search of unexpected movement, ears strained for out-of-place noises, and noses sniffed.
Rather than continue across the meadow, Xhosa led the People into the shade of the edging forest.
“Do you smell it, Wind?” Anticipation filled her gestures.
She and Wind, pairmates as well as Co-Leaders, stood quietly, absorbing their surroundings. Light filtered lazily through the canopy, the shadowed ground dappled with patches of warmth. She sniffed in the essence of wet earth and rotting leaves, the mustiness of moss, and something else much more enticing.
“It’s there.” She pointed and strode forward, lengthening her stride.
An icy gust whipped down the hillside through the shadows and raised bumps on her arms but she ignored it. The forest gave way to open sky and searing heat. It was too hot for her thin pelt but she didn’t stop to remove it. Green stalks swayed as far as she could see, edged on one side by more mountains and the other by some sort of leaves and branches. Sunlight glinted off the rippled surface of a distant river as it curled over the terrain.
“Dung!” The scent overpowered every other odor.
Wind huffed to her side. “It’s been a long time since we smelled dung that wasn’t frozen.”
“We did it, Wind.” Her eyes glistened with relief.
For most of a Moon, dread gnawed at her courage and left her wondering if following the guidance of Seeker—a boy barely a man—was a mistake. But Seeker assured her in his ebullient way that once out of the hills, their new homebase would welcome them. Xhosa wanted to believe him because she wasn’t sure what else to do. Nor did she know what to do if it didn’t work.
Siri, Pan-do, Ngili, the wolves Spirit and Black Wolf, and the rest of the People gathered around Xhosa and Wind, eyes locked on what lay in front of them.
Pan-do whispered, “We made it.” His eyes were moist, mouth open.
Ngili, the People’s Lead Hunter, motioned, hands close to his body. “With all this grass, Gazelle or Mammoth must be nearby.”
Dust, the Lead Scout, trotted up, coming from a tall cliff far ahead on their forward path. “I think there are caves there.”
The People hadn’t slept in a cave since leaving Viper and the Mountain Dwellers. It would be a treat if true.
Xhosa looked behind. Shadows already stretched as far from the bottom of the rocky slopes as sunlight to the top. Daylight would soon end.
“We don’t have much time. Let’s rest and then see if those are caves.”
Ngili, the People’s Lead Hunter, motioned, fingers spaced out, palms up, “I’ll go with Dust to check.” He added a swift spread-fingered swipe with first one hand and then the other, followed by a quick bob of his head and a puff.
Xhosa brushed both hands down her sides. Go.
The People spoke with a complex combination of hand motions, facial expressions, body movements, and sounds augmented with chirrups, snaps, hisses, and whistles. By the time Ngili finished talking, Xhosa knew how many would join him, where they would go, and how long they’d be away. The People’s communication was sophisticated but quiet, a precaution especially in unfamiliar areas. Unusual sounds—voices, for example—stood out. All animals made noises but few as varied as the People’s. Why alert Others who lived here to their presence? Xhosa would do that in her own time, in her own way.
Dust, Ngili, and two scouts soon receded into the landscape, the only evidence of their passage a slight disturbance in the slender waving stalks. Despite the dung scents, the abundant plant food, and the glisten of a faraway river, Xhosa crossed her arms over her chest and paced.
Something is wrong.
She searched the forests and the rippling field that had swallowed up Dust and Ngili . Xhosa possessed the ability to see great distances in sufficient detail to find trails, footprints, movement, or the glitter of sun off eyes.
She saw none of those and that made her more uncomfortable.
With this wealth of food and water, Others should be here.
Wind motioned, palms flattened against his chest, “The mountains we crossed touched Sun. They’re cold and barren. Few can do what we did to get here, Xhosa. We are safe.”
Xhosa could hear in his voice, see in his gestures, that despite his bravado, Wind too felt uneasy about what they didn’t see and hear.
But she grinned. “I don’t know how I survived without someone being able to read my thoughts.”
She trotted over to a stream that fed into the river she had noticed. She stretched out on her belly, flat on the soft grass at the water’s edge, and took a long, satisfying drink of the sweet liquid. Thirst quenched, she collected handfuls of the tender shoots of new plants growing along the shore, ate what she wanted and tossed the rest into a communal food pile that would be shared with all the People. It was already filling up with fat fish speared from the slow-moving pools beside the river, tasty reeds and cattails, and even a handful of eggs plucked from nests not hidden well enough along the shore and in the roots of trees. The wolves snapped birds from the air and swallowed them almost whole, coughing up feathers.
Xhosa leaned back on her hands, sniffing the unique fragrance of each groupmember. Zvi was sweaty from wrestling with Spirit. Siri smelled sourly of hunger but she wouldn’t eat until Honey’s bleeding foot was wrapped in mulch and leaves. The females with new babies exuded the pleasant aroma of milk. Some scents jumbled together making them impossible to identify. When Xhosa became Leader of the People, before it merged with Pan-do’s and Hawk’s, the People had been small enough that she could recognize everyone by their odor. Now, she kept track of her tribe while Pan-do did the same with his. Wind helped everyone.
Done eating, the People sprawled on the warm ground, soaking up Sun’s remaining rays, chatting contentedly with gestures and the occasional sigh. Water dripped from their thawing bodies, soaking into the thirsty ground, as the remaining ice and snow on their pelts and in their hair melted away.
Xhosa and Wind sat apart from the others, on a log long ago softened by rot. She uprooted handfuls of grass and wiped the sweat from Wind’s body, as he did hers. The soft scratch felt good and the earthy fragrance reminded her of times long gone. When he finished, she harvested chunks of green moss from the log’s decaying bark and stuffed them into her neck sack. All the People wore one of these around their necks. Even the wolves did when they were migrating.
Finished, she leaned against Wind and closed her eyes. In a group of Others, her pairmate stood out. A Big Head, the People’s traditional enemy, the ones who drove Xhosa and her tribe from their long-established home, Wind had earned Xhosa’s trust by saving her life more than once and then, as a member of her People, sharing Big Head spear tricks and warrior skills with her Leads. Before long, each of them individually told her that thanks to Wind they could now defeat an attack which they couldn’t have done in the past. Whatever distrust her People harbored toward him faded away.
“Xhosa!” Dust panted up to her. “I found a cave. And we found trace of a herd. Ngili is tracking it.”
By the time Sun settled into its night nest, the People were ensconced in the cave Dust found. They had to squeeze together to fit but all were thrilled to sleep without waking to frozen toes and numb fingers. Stone and Zvi—the burliest of the People—lugged rocks in and Siri built a fire that quickly warmed the interior. The subadults gathered kindling to feed it and arranged who would be responsible throughout the night for keeping it lit.
Usually, the wolves slept scattered among the People but with Black Wolf close to delivering her pups, she dug out an opening in the back and claimed it as her den. Then she settled to her belly, one leg forward, the other bent back, eyebrows twitching.
Xhosa strode toward the nest she would share with Wind but stopped at the sight of Seeker, weight on his bottom, legs crossed in front of his body in the uncomfortable position he preferred. His pairmate Lyta curled next to him with their best friend, Zvi.
Xhosa approached Seeker. “You are not outside.”
Every night as long as Xhosa could remember, the enigmatic male lay on his back, gaze fixed steadily on the star-dotted sky, spouting what to Xhosa sounded like gibberish to whoever listened. Intermittently, he leapt to his feet and spun dizzying circles or bounced from one foot to the other, huffing and chirping. Lyta and Zvi would either join him or watch. He once explained to Xhosa that this was how he studied the changes in the night sky—the appearance and disappearance of particular stars or their movement in relation to each other—so he could guide the People accurately. This nightly process was how they had moved from the distant start of Endless Pond to this cave where Endless Pond seemed to end.
He didn’t respond to her statement, didn’t even acknowledge her. That worried Xhosa. She hadn’t been able to shake the feeling that danger lurked around them, somewhere. Seeker’s anxious look didn’t help.
She squatted at his side and added a question to her declaration. “The stars aren’t talking to you?”
To the side, Lyta wriggled, not comfortable in the seated position Seeker preferred but determined to try because Seeker liked it so much. Zvi crouched on the balls of her feet, the more traditional pose. She’d tried to sit on her bottom, legs crossed in front, but kept falling backward. Besides, it took her too long to rise from that position which meant if Lyta needed help, she couldn’t respond quickly. Squatting, for her, made more sense. Seeker didn’t care. He expected all to do what worked for them. Both his best friend and his future pairmate were long accustomed to his eccentricities.
Finally, Seeker offered Xhosa only a confused frown.
That’s not a “Yes they are,” and that raised the hair on her neck. Before she could ask more, Ngili scrambled through the thistle barrier the youngsters had placed around the cave’s mouth to prevent the entrance of intruders and hurried toward Xhosa.
He motioned, “I lost the herd’s trace in the dark. I’ll try again tomorrow,” and then raced toward where the hunters had gathered. They were all tired. Some would mate before sleeping but not Ngili. He hadn’t given up hope that his pairmate, Hecate, would come back.
After a final glance at Seeker, Xhosa joined Wind in their nest. She squatted behind him and teased the dirt and debris from his long head hair, occasionally focusing on a difficult tangle until her fingers could move easily through his hair. When she finished, he did the same for her.
As he groomed, he said, “I’ll join Ngili tomorrow. If there are herds, we will find them.”
“Pan-do and I will continue with the People.”
They said nothing more, both enjoying the calming feel of nails scratching on their skin and the intimacy of someone they trusted implicitly. Done, both fell asleep.
The first rays of daylight filtered into the cave. Black Wolf was already outside, padding back and forth restlessly, huffing uncomfortably. Wind left with Ngili and a handful of scouts, knowing Xhosa would leave a trail to wherever they settled when Sun’s light ran out. Though Spirit usually went with the hunters, today he stayed with Black Wolf.
Xhosa and Pan-do led. Dust copied their pace and direction but a distance away. With Ngili and Wind searching for meat, Xhosa focused on finding a cave large enough for the People. They strode onward, gaze sweeping the landscape, everyone grazing on berries, roots, and worms as they walked. Sporadically, Xhosa heard a faraway squawk or glimpsed a covey of birds as they exploded into flight, fleeing an unknown threat. It was the direction Ngili and Wind had gone, and told her how far they’d gotten.
The People rested by a waterhole. They searched its shoreline for prints but found none. Wherever the herds lived, they didn’t drink here so the People moved on, through copses of young saplings and around a bed of haphazardly-strewn boulders. The air tasted of flowers, warm earth, and the mild tang of salt, but the dung they found was hard and old.
Xhosa touched Pan-do’s hand and both stopped, eyes forward. “Do you smell that? It reminds me of Endless Pond.”
He pointed to his strong side and the direction they were walking. “From there and there. How can it be on two sides?”
Xhosa tingled. One of her People—Rainbow—had abandoned them long ago, taking many males and females with him. Others she and her People ran into while migrating here told her Rainbow traveled the same route she did but along the opposite shore of Endless Pond. For him, as for her, this was as far as he could go without folding back on himself.
If they got this far. If any survived.
She pushed aside those thoughts. Before searching for whatever remnants remained of Rainbow’s group, the People must find a homebase. All they suffered to get here—the interminable walking, the loss of Hawk, the death of groupmembers, Nightshade’s treachery—was for naught if they didn’t establish a home.
Spirit bumped her leg. Black Wolf panted at her mate’s side, her belly almost touching the ground.
Xhosa motioned, “Your mate’s pups won’t wait much longer. We will find a den for her.”
Spirit took off, his movements graceful and fluid with Black Wolf lumbering after him.
Not much later, Pan-do squinted ahead. “I think Spirit found a cave.”
Xhosa leaned forward, narrowing her gaze, and finally saw where Spirit stopped. He sat on his haunches at the base of a cliff, facing her, nose twitching, tail swishing the dirt behind him.
It took the rest of the day to cross over the craggy scrubland, up and down the deep ravines, and around the occasional spot of slippery ice. The cave proved too small for the People but not for Black Wolf’s needs. With much scuffling and panting, she created a nest for her pups and disappeared into the cool dark hole. The People settled outside, under an overhang that would protect them from rain and predators, and far enough away to not bother the new mother. As soon as Ngili and Wind arrived, shaking their heads that they hadn’t found a herd, they left again to search for signs of a trail left by former inhabitants of this cave.
Xhosa’s chest squeezed and her stomach knotted. Spirit padded up to her side, hackles puffed, nostrils flaring. He agreed. Something about this area made her tingle but for now, until Black Wolf finished, they must stay.
~ ~ ~
Thank you for sharing this insightful and exciting chapter with us Jacqui. It was a pleasure having you and your lovely book over here today. Wishing you tons of success with the whole series.
Today I’m happy to be featuring friend and author and talent extraordinaire, Jane Risdon announcing her new release – Undercover Crime Shorts. This book also contains a juicy extract of Jane’s next upcoming novel series – Ms. Birdsong detective series. If you love reading short stories, solving crimes and twisted endings, you’ll enjoy Jane’s new book.
Jane Risdon began her working life in the international music business where she managed recording artists, songwriters, record producers, and where she has been instrumental in placing music on to soundtracks of many TV series and Movies, working alongside her musician husband.
After years of promoting talented young artists Jane decided it was time to do what she’s always wanted to do: write. She began writing in earnest some ten years ago starting with flash fiction and short stories – mostly crime/thrillers – and her writing was soon included in various anthologies – to date 15 different publications, some award winning. She has written for numerous online newsletters and magazines and is a regular blogger.
She has also written a best-selling novel with author and lifelong friend, best-selling, award-winning author, Christina Jones, set in the UK music scene of the late 1960s. Only One Woman is published by Accent Press with whom Jane signed in 2014.
With over 100 short stories needing a home, Jane has recently published Undercover: Crime Shorts with Plaisted Publishing House, which went into the UK Amazon ratings at #18 and into the USA Amazon ratings at #333 upon publication.
She is writing the sequel to Only One Woman and is completing a series of novels about a former MI5 intelligence officer; ‘Ms Birdsong Investigates.’ These crime/thrillers are set in the Vale of the White Horse, Oxfordshire, and Jane digs into her early career with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office at the height of the Cold War for her inspiration and knowledge of Britain’s Security Services.
Jane’s interests include photography, history, and science, and she and her husband enjoy walking and visiting places of interest – something they never had time to enjoy when ‘baby-sitting’ singers and musicians whilst travelling all over the world.
Blurb: Undercover: Crime Shorts
Under one cover for the first time a collection of crime shorts from Jane Risdon with more twists and turns than Spaghetti Junction – a must for those who enjoy gripping yarns.
Undercover: Crime Shorts features new short stories written with strong female protagonists at its heart and includes Sweet Sable – a redheaded nightclub singer with sex appeal and a sting in her tail, and The Look – a hit woman with an agenda for revenge and a talent for hire.
There is an extract form the first novel in the series Ms Birdsong Investigates Murder in Ampney Parva: Operation Matryoshka – where former MI5 intelligence officer, Lavinia Birdsong, is asked to look for a missing woman and finds herself embroiled in murder, the Russian Mafia, and Ukrainian gun-runners.
My readers say:
Roger A Price: former detective and crime author says: Crime Shorts is a wonderfully satisfying anthology of seven short stories which transcend above the crime fiction genre providing a ripping yarn irrespective of the reader’s crime fiction preference. Jane Risdon has cleverly stitched together a mix of tales to suit all fans of the genre.
Gloria Clulow: reader says:
As with all Jane’s stories I find them intriguing and unpredictable, leaving
me wanting more; I don’t want them to end.
Professor Margot Kinberg: Associate professor and author of the Joel Williams crime novels says:
Undercover, what a gripping story, so well written. You’ve packed so much ‘punch’ into it, loved it. I really felt the rising tension and suspicion! You’ve captured the suspense of it beautifully and it is such a great set-up with good characters.
Charlie Plunkett: reader says:
Fast-paced, well written, page-turner that had me so engrossed my train journey flew by. The author clearly has done a lot of research, these short stories all felt very authentic and each had me gripped and on the edge of my seat wondering how they would play out. It’s been a long time since I read anything quite so intriguing and twisty. It certainly got my heart beating faster and I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a great murder, mystery.
Jane Risdon – my pleasure lovely, praise where it’s due, you have written a fabulous selection of short stories and I will definitely look out for Ms Birdsong.