While writers the world over struggle to craft truly original stories, theorists spend their time identifying ways in which they are actually all the same. Joseph Campbell famously reduced the number of stories to just one: The Hero’s Journey, as outlined in his influential 1949 work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. In more recent […]
She yearns for the day when she can escape the disdainful glances and leave her home on the outskirts of Sleepy Hollow, NY. When she lands a lucrative bounty hunter contract, she thinks her life is finally turning around. All she has to do is lure her werecat target from the safety of the Hotel Paranormal.
Then she meets a werepanther. Her life will never be the same.
Alexander Holden, second-in-command of a powerful werecat clan, is accused of murdering the woman he was to marry. He must find the real killer to clear his name or spend the rest of his supernaturally long life on the run.
Complications arise after Janda falls for the man she’s supposed to be capturing.
Now she must decide if following her heart is worth risking everything, including the love they’ve found in each other’s embrace.
Love is about making sacrifices. Saving him is all that matters.
Bounty Huntress is the introduction to the Sleepy Hollow Hunter series.
It is also a Hotel Paranormal story.
The Hotel Paranormal is THE place for supernatural beings looking to get away from it all. Beings like werewolves, vampires, elves, sprites, djinn and more check in from all over the world for business and for pleasure—and sometimes for both.
“A beautifully descriptive, fast-paced tale full of paranormal twists and turns with a dash of romantic heat.” ~ Traci Douglass, USA Today Bestselling Author
“Thanks to Sheri Queen’s smooth, immersive style and her penchant for interesting characters, you’ll not only want to follow Janda Gray into the Hotel Paranormal, but will soon be clamoring for your own magical room key.” ~Heidi Ruby Miller, award-winning author of the Ambasadora series
Half a block stood between me and my future happiness, but it might as well have been a mile for all the good it would do me. From the alley to the bar there was no cover, no shadows to absorb my presence. I’d scoured the surrounding area for another entry point to no avail. Barred windows and a padlocked backdoor thwarted me. I had one shot at getting inside before anyone could stop me, and that meant waiting until the barkeep kicked the last of his patrons out at closing time. While they were busy getting on their bikes, I’d make a mad dash to the front door. I was grateful the street was deserted at this hour, but it was almost too quiet. One stupid move on my part could mean disaster.
I calculated the distance from where I stood, hidden in the alley, to the bar’s entrance and figured I’d probably be fast enough to make it as long as the wolves were so drunk they wouldn’t notice me until it was too late. It was a long shot, but the only one I had. Wolves were quick, even inebriated ones. Their metabolism burned off alcohol within minutes of downing it, which meant my window of opportunity was about the size of a mouse hole. In my Lykoi state I was faster than a wolf—I’d honed that particular skill long ago with all the times I’d been chased—but I couldn’t go Lykoi. Paws didn’t lend themselves to turning doorknobs, so I’d have to do this the hard way. Nothing new there.
I leaned against the brick wall and let the cool autumn air soothe my restless body. My calf muscles twitched, and my stomach rumbled. It was tempting to give in to the urge to transform and run through the woods I’d passed on the way into town. Maybe even hunt a bit of rabbit. I let out a slow breath and resisted my primal desires.
I counted four bikes outside the bar. Mutther’s might be a neutral, no-colors establishment, but I still had to get past the owners of those bikes. Four big-ass obstacles between me and the portal to the Hotel Paranormal. I knew portals existed in most major cities—definitely in Manhattan—but, of course, my only way into the hotel would be through a wolf biker bar. My luck ranged from bad to stinking bad. I was long overdue for a bit of good luck, but I didn’t look for that to happen tonight. My usual mode of blending into the background to avoid attracting attention wasn’t going to work here. There were no crowds to lose myself in, and the glaring neon sign covering three quarters of the bar’s facade was a beacon spreading a swath of red across the sidewalk. Anyone wishing to enter the bar would be doused in light. This had to be the hotel’s idea of a joke—or a test.
Amazon short url: https://goo.gl/8tHjoj
Nook short url: https://goo.gl/G00qdz
iBooks short url: https://goo.gl/Bjub59
Sheri Queen received her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. She grew up in the Hudson Valley region of New York—an area she loves to depict as a backdrop for her stories—and enjoys traveling to new places where she is constantly discovering inspirations for her writing. In particular, she loves visiting old graveyards.
You can follow the author at:
Amazon Author page: https://goo.gl/6Z0Etj
(First scene of Chapter One)
Continue reading Sneak Peek of A THEFT OF MAGIC by Cara McKinnon
In Awash in Talent, Emily’s sister is massively Talented. After a sickly childhood, Beth is revealed to have the power to move objects with her mind and to heal all kinds of wounds and illness with only her touch. Only one hundred people in the world have the healing Talent, and Beth’s life changes overnight. Emily, on the other hand, has no discernible Talent or ambition beyond her obsession with Carlos, the married teaching assistant from her archaeology classes. Emily will do anything to show the world that she’s more amazing than her sister and that she and Carlos are meant to be together. An introduction to Emily’s world can be found at this link.
Emily ran away with the story that became Awash in Talent. I had previously used the name Emily for a similarly strong, overly motivated character in “Unpredictable Factors in Human Obedience,” which is the first short story in Unpredictable Worlds. I’m not at all sure why the name Emily seems suitable for these out-of-control characters. My friend who has that same name asked if I hated her! Far from it. The Emilies I’ve written about made sitting at the computer to write a surprising, fun process. Even though I ended up giving Emily a full character arc over the course of an entire novel when I’d originally envisioned Awash in Talent as a short story, she’s still demanding more page time and a sequel is in the works.
Jessica Knauss: Hello, Emily. What would you like to talk about today?
Emily: You sound like my therapist.
JK: That’s not a coincidence. I based Dr. Blundt on some of my own experiences in Providence.
Emily: A typically self-centered author.
JK: All right, let’s talk about you. What is your favorite book?
Emily: It’s an epic story of family and revenge set in medieval Spain called Seven Noble Knights.
JK: How can you have read that? It’s not coming out until December.
Emily: Seven Noble Knights came out of your head, and so did I. It’s sort of an advance reader’s edition via little grey cells.
JK: You’re too clever for me. Let’s switch to geography. We know you love Providence, Rhode Island. What is your hometown like?
Emily: Oh my God, it’s so boring. Nothing worth talking about at all.
JK: But it’s in California. Everyone loves California…?
Emily: California is not all beaches and Hollywood and San Francisco. I only ever lived there because that’s where my family was.
JK: Don’t you have anything good to say about your family? What is it about your sister, Beth, that makes you so angry?
Emily: Everything! Everyone thinks she’s so special, and she’s not. Just because she can heal people and levitate Nerf balls through the air? She’s just a stupid little girl like all other teenagers. Right here in this room, there’s more genius than she’ll ever have.
JK: How so?
Emily: I’m here, and so are you, who created me.
JK: Thank you for the acknowledgement, but I don’t feel I had much choice in how you came about. I’ll say this: you are much more strong-willed than Beth.
Emily: That’s right. My will is the strongest of all and that’s why I’m going to get what I want eventually.
JK: And what do you want?
Emily: Really? You don’t know? Oh, I get it. You’re playing dumb for the interview. I want two things: to never see or hear about Beth again and to live out my days with Carlos in wedded bliss at some fascinating archaeological site.
JK: Everyone’s puzzled and curious: what is so great about Carlos?
Emily: What are you talking about? To start with, his superior achievements in academic archaeology. He’s sure to write a book that everyone will quote and cite and rely on. More importantly, Carlos is my soulmate, the person I can’t live without, the one who must be with me or the world is all wrong.
JK: I hate to bring this up, but other people might mention the fact that he already has a wife and a few children. Doesn’t that…
Emily: (Stands silently, turns precisely, and slams the door on her way out.)
JK: Wait! You need an escort to get back home. Emily? Emily?
Jessica Knauss’s Awash in Talent was released by Kindle Press on June 7 to praise from readers who love something different.
This is the last stop in a week-long Awash in Talent blog tour. Don’t miss the crazy character interviews and writing advice at the blogs of A.J. Culey, Carrie S. Miller, Andi Adams, and J.L. Gribble!
Born and raised in Northern California, Jessica Knauss has wandered all over the United States, Spain, and England. She has worked as a librarian and a Spanish teacher and earned a PhD in Medieval Spanish Literature before entering the publishing world as an editor. Her acclaimed novella, Tree/House, and short story collection, Unpredictable Worlds, are currently available. Her epic of medieval Spain, Seven Noble Knights, will be published by Bagwyn Books in December 2016. Find her on social media and updates on the sequels to Awash in Talent and Seven Noble Knights and her other writing at her website: jessicaknauss.com. Feel free to sign up for her mailing list for castles, stories, and magic.
Awash in Talent: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01DAWRMKU
Unpredictable Worlds: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00VU4IC5U
Seven Noble Knights http://www.jessicaknauss.com/seven-noble-knights/
Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/Jessica-Knauss/e/B004TBHHYI/
Anyone who has ever had a pet knows the inevitable will happen, and that the circle of life is cruel and unavoidable. But when a dog, cat, horse, or other creature dies in a genre movie, the circumstances are often shaped by bizarre forces—supernatural, weird-science, and otherwise—that make a tragic loss even worse. Here are nearly two dozen of the saddest fates of pop culture’s furry friends.
Why 11? Eh, cause 10 is boring. Anyway, I just wanted to take a minute and tell you all some of the hard and wonderful things I have learned so far about being an author (I’m sure there’s more to come). It’s been a wild ride, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
1. The real work starts after the book is published. Of course, writing a book is hard. But that’s what we (authors) do. We write. However, once the book is finished and released out into the world, writers have to change their hats and become their own public relations team, which, for many of us, isn’t an easy transition. We know how to write. And generally, that’s all we want to do. But having to conduct the business end of writing and publishing is a very real (and sometimes intensely laborious) part of the job. This is the part that isn’t instinctual for many of us. It’s the part that can feel like work, but is necessary if we want to build our audience, promote our book and all the hard work it took to bring it to life, and continue our career as a writer.
2. Maintaining an alter-ego/pen name isn’t as easy as it seems. Sometimes I feel like I have multiple personality disorder and forget who I am supposed to be moment by moment. There are several reasons why I chose to write under a pen name, but I never thought about how much work it would entail to build an author platform from scratch without having the foundation of my personal social media contacts and formally published body of writing underneath me. It was actually pretty amusing to have to practice signing my pen name and not have it look like a third grader wrote it. Thankfully, I’m beginning to find my stride and learning to balance my personal life and my author life, but it’s taken a few months to pan it all out.
3. Author pay is downright pitiful. I don’t tell you this for sympathy. Trust me. Writing is a labor of love. None of us get into it for the money or the fame. I just think that it’s important to eradicate some of the misconceptions many people have about a writer’s life. The mistaken belief most people have is that all authors are making the kind of money J.K. Rowling is raking in. Okay, that may be a stretch, but the general public probably doesn’t know that most authors (especially debut authors) make a fraction of a dollar. On a ten-dollar print book, authors make about $1. On ebook copies, maybe just a little more. But the reason is because books cost a fair bit of money to edit, produce, promote, etc. And what many people also don’t know (I sure didn’t before becoming an author) is that third-party retailers like Amazon, Kobo, Nook take about 30% of a book’s retail cost right off the top. And a printer also takes their cut. It’s a lot of money flying out the door before the author even sees a cent. That’s one of the parts of the business that I personally found most shocking.
4. I’m pretty sure I’m on some sort of FBI watch list given all the crazy material I’ve researched while writing. Yeah, not much is off limits. The rate of a decomposing body. The deadliest undetectable poison. You know, the usual. My mom is pretty worried that one day I’m going to be hauled off to some secret CIA building for questioning. She talks about it often. But thankfully, I’ll probably be sitting next to a bunch of other writers in the waiting room. This is a big part of the job. To research wild things and write realistically.
5. Working from home is equally awesome and difficult. I don’t want this to sound like a complaint at all. I love working from home, in my jammies, on my comfortable couch. It rocks. I try to have a consistent schedule, but if something arises, I love that I have the flexibility to rearrange things if need be or take my work to a coffee shop if I want to get out of the house. But I’m not going to say that it doesn’t have its challenges. Distractions attack by the thousands. And there was a period of time this past winter when the weather was so terrible that I didn’t leave the house for almost two weeks. I didn’t see another human being for almost two weeks. I’m not kidding, the walls started to slowly cave in and I felt a little like Jack Nicholson in The Shining. Which bring me to my next point…
6. A writing community is worth its weight in gold. Before I became an author, I valued my writing friends because we had a lot to talk about. We shared similar interests and valued many of the same things. But I never imagined that the writing community of which I am now a part, has become my lifeline. They are the best resources when I have a question about writing, publishing, research, marketing, whatever. I am friends with authors who are just starting out all the way to multi-published big wigs. And my network keeps growing and growing. The more conferences, the more writing workshops, classes, etc I attend makes that web of people increase. And then, as if by magic, this very solitary work doesn’t seem so lonely. I think the people (writers, publishers, agents, editors, publicists, etc) I have met have been the single greatest part of becoming an author. Without a doubt.
7. There are no specific work hours – all hours are work hours. Have you ever had a spark of genius hit right before bed? Or have a nugget of brilliance wake you from a peaceful slumber? Yeah, that happens a lot and many times, it can force a writer right out of bed to catch the idea before it skitters away. Inspiration may hit at 3am or 3pm. We writers tend to try to set aside specific windows of time to write, but sometimes inspiration strikes outside of those time slots and we need to jump on it before it escapes. And aside from the writing time, as mentioned in point #1, we have to make sure we spend time answering emails, managing social media accounts, and working on marketing and pr initiatives. That’s why being an author is considered a job. It isn’t a hobby, it’s work. And even though some people (friends, family, society, etc) may not fully understand the distinction, it’s true. Trying to develop a career as a writer is a full-time job that sometimes yields only part-time perks.
8. Finishing a work is so much more difficult than starting. I know, this is one of those “duh” moments. But I figured it’s worth mentioning. Nothing looks as fun and as glittery as a fresh new idea. Especially when you are in the midst of slogging through the middle of your draft and believing that your work is poo. Wouldn’t it be nice to just start something new, something exciting, something that isn’t torturing the junk out of you? Sure it would be. But being an author is about finishing what you start. Not every time, but most times. More often than not, an author’s job isn’t to start 50 projects and then let them just hangout on a hard drive somewhere. An author’s job is to work through a full plot, as difficult as it may be, in order to write a full manuscript.
9. Netflix is the devil. ::sigh:: My single greatest pleasure and source of temptation. When the writing gets hard I think to myself, “I’ll just watch an episode of whatever and then get back to work.” But then one episode turns into three seasons and I’m like, “Oh man, what happened?!? What day is it?! Have I even eaten today?!?”
10. “It’s never done, it’s only due.” This is a quote I have to remind myself of often. The tendency is to edit, and revise, and edit more, and revise and then it becomes difficult to let it go. Of course, no one can turn in a first draft and believe it’s ready for publication. But after a second, third, fourth, sometimes tenth draft, at some point, you have to just trust that you’ve put in your best work, and that it’s ready to fly free.
11. Hearing positive feedback never gets old. I am still humbled every time I see a positive review online, or receive a Facebook message or email from someone who says they love my book. It’s truly a feeling I can’t describe. Most authors (and artists, in general) spend a lot of time wallowing in self-doubt: This is terrible. Who’s going to read this? Who’s going to care? What am I doing? Does this even make sense? Even the best of the best experience this, but when it becomes apparent that your work has made an impact on even one person, that doubt begins to fade away. It’s a magical experience that I will truly never tire of.
Andi Adams writes, teaches, gets excited about performing random acts of kindness, invents words, and talks with strangers, as often as she can. She loves learning about the world, about others, and about herself, and uses that knowledge to write realistic fiction – everything from YA Fantasy to Women’s Lit. She has a passion for travel, for all things Harry Potter (of course!), and for her two dogs, who are also incidentally her biggest fans. The Girl in the Glass Box is Andi’s first novel. For a daily dose of crazy or to see pictures of her cute fur-babies, follow her on Twitter (https://twitter.com/andiadamswrites), and on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/andiadamswrites/).
A witch. An apple. A mirror. That’s all most people think of when they recall the story of Snow White. But the truth is rarely so simple. What if the Queen wasn’t born evil and the princess wasn’t always so pure of heart? Is it possible that these two women could have ended up in one another’s place?
The Girl in the Glass Box tells the story of Agrippine and Genevieve, two women who are not all that different, but who quickly learn through a series of choices, encounters, and devastating losses that the course of their fates can change in an instant. Through the influences of the people they love and lose, both are redefined as their stories head for a different sort of happily-ever-after.
The Steel Empires series is a very different sort of urban fantasy series, with elements of alternate history and epic adventure. The second installment, Steel Magic, will be released in hardcopy and ebook on July 6! Until then, don’t miss out on the beginning of the story while the first book, Steel Victory, is on sale for 99 cents.
Funerals are usually the end of the story, not the beginning.
Newly graduated warrior-mages Toria Connor and Kane Nalamas find themselves the last remaining mages in the city when a mage school teacher mysteriously falls ill and dies. But taking over the school themselves isn’t in the cards. They’re set to become professional mercenaries—if they make it through the next 18 months as journeymen first.
The debate over whether to hunt mutated monsters in the Wasteland or take posh bodyguard jobs is put on hold when a city elder hires them to solve the mystery of the disappearing mages. Toria and Kane’s quest brings them to the British colonial city of New Angouleme, where their initial investigation reveals that the problem is even greater than they feared.
But when a friend is kidnapped, they’ll have to travel to the other side of the globe to save her, save themselves, and save magic itself.
What drives you to write?
It’s a bit cliché to say that you should write what you want to read, but in my case it’s true. I kept reading the same urban fantasy tropes over and over again and wanted to find something different. Now I’ve created a fantasy world with such room to grow that I keep coming up with different adventures for my main characters.
What’s the hardest thing about balancing writing with the rest of your life?
It always seems like my productivity periods are feast or famine. At least, it certainly seems like all of the external opportunities come my way when I’m deep in the depths of finishing a novel or cranking out the edits. At that point, the hardest thing becomes learning when to say no.
Do you have a special writing place? What’s in it? What can’t be in it?
I have an amazing home office that I practically live in for editing and marketing work. But for some reason, it’s really hard for me to actually produce words there. It’s not even an access to the internet thing, because the first thing I do when I get to one of my multitude of local writing spots (coffee shops and cafes) is turn on the WiFi. Perhaps it’s just knowing that I can’t go home until I get my daily word goal finished!
Do you write to music, or do you like silence/white noise/coffee shop? Why?
I have a carefully curated Pandora station that features things from alt rock to instrumental covers of other popular songs to video game themes. Oddly, this is also the same station that I use while running! I can’t do silence, and as a writer, I have a tendency to get distracted by other people’s conversations to gather story fodder.
Be honest—do you love or hate social media? Somewhere in between? Why?
Definitely somewhere in the middle! I accept that some aspects of it are a necessary evil, so it was mostly a matter of finding strategies that I could commit for each platform. So Facebook gets cool pictures and links I stumble across, labeled as “free story idea,” and pictures of grammatical or spelling errors in the wild that I point to as “job security” (in reference to my professional career as an editor). Instagram gets mostly pictures of my adorable cats, because I’m pretty sure pictures of cats is how the internet is powered, and I make a point of throwing whatever book I read next to the nearest cat and posting a picture of that, too. I’m not on Twitter as effectively as I could be, so that mostly gets links to my updated blog and the book/cat picture combos. I think the important thing is that I’ve found what works for me, and I’m trying to stick to it.
Do you have a favorite book? Or author? Or genre? Or is it too hard to pick?
Favorite book: The Last Herald-Mage trilogy by Mercedes Lackey
Favorite author: Catherine Asaro, especially her Skolian Empire space opera series.
Favorite genre: Urban fantasy. Write what you love and all that!
What do you think about MFA programs?
I don’t think that you need one in order to be an effective or accomplished author. I attended Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction program straight out of undergrad (it was still an MA program back then) because my mother was convinced that I would be a waitress for the rest of my life if I didn’t go to graduate school. Oddly enough, I had never been a waitress before then, either… The program taught me a lot about the craft of writing and how to budget my time and energy while working full-time.
Do you have a favorite conference or convention that you go to? What makes it awesome?
I’ve had the privilege of being a returning panelist at Confluence in Pittsburgh for a few years now. It’s a more literary-themed SF/F convention, but there’s still something for everyone. Though literary-themed, it’s a great mix of both fans and other professionals who are all interested in learning about new books and sharing their favorites. It’s at the end of July, so there’s still time to register if you want join me this year!
Recommend a how-to book, website, or an organization with good writer resources.
My go-to book for the past few months is The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. It has definitely helped me get away from always defaulting to facial expressions to show what my characters are feeling. It’s priced very reasonably considering how much I’ve gotten in return!
What’s the next project?
My goal is always to get the next book in my editor’s hands within a week of the previous being released. Right now I’m finalizing line edits for book 3 in the Steel Empires series. I also have book 4 outlined by scene and am ready to launch into writing!
About the Author
By day, J. L. Gribble is a professional medical editor. By night, she does freelance fiction editing in all genres, along with reading, playing video games, and occasionally even writing. She is currently working on the Steel Empires series for Dog Star Books, the science-fiction/adventure imprint of Raw Dog Screaming Press. Previously, she was an editor for the Far Worlds anthology.
Gribble studied English at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She received her Master’s degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, where her debut novel, Steel Victory, was her thesis for the program.
She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, with her husband and three vocal Siamese cats. Find her online (www.jlgribble.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/jlgribblewriter), and on Twitter and Instagram (@hannaedits).
Steel Magic pre-order: https://smile.amazon.com/Steel-Magic-J-L-Gribble/dp/1935738852/
Steel Victory sale: https://smile.amazon.com/Steel-Victory-J-L-Gribble/dp/1935738739/
The Emotion Thesaurus: https://smile.amazon.com/Emotion-Thesaurus-Writers-Character-Expression/dp/1475004958/
Essential Magic by Cara McKinnon
The Fay of Skye Book One
A woman driven to excel. A man ashamed of his past. A desire that could lead them to bliss…or peril.
Etta Mae Cook, a mountain witch from Appalachia, arrives in London in 1895. Her goal: to study magic. But she steps off the train and into a dangerous world of politics, decadence, and power. Queen Victoria, the Prince of Wales, and the Fay Clan are waging a silent war. In the balance: the future of spellcraft in the kingdom. Etta’s lineage and magical power make her an asset – or a threat – to all three formidable forces.
Her choices skew when she meets Malcolm Seward, a mage of the Fay Clan. He once held a prominent role in society, but a tragic mistake forced him to flee into obscurity. His attraction to Etta draws him back into the fray, but though she’s drawn to him in return, she didn’t come to England for desire.
Despite her intentions, their passion flares, and Malcolm falls for her. Now, Etta must choose: love, or ambition? Either path could mean the renewal — or the destruction — of British sorcery. If she follows her heart, will she doom their magic?
Mal rounded the corner of the foyer and his first boot-fall struck the marble floor in sync with his mother’s entrance. The synchronicity resonated inside of him, and he almost closed his Sight. Sometimes keeping it open made things seem more symbolic and important. Mages had gone mad, using the Sight too often or too long. But he needed to find out what was, even now, pulling at the edges of his magic.
Mother looked startled to see him. She’d been out when he arrived, but he would have expected Father to tell her he was coming.
“Malcolm.” She extended a hand to him, and he took it, surprised that she hadn’t embraced him. She wasn’t the most ebullient or demonstrative of persons, but she usually put her arms around him and kissed his cheek after a long absence. Her stern expression, and the surface emotions that roiled across her aura, revealed consternation rather than welcome. “You’re home.”
“Hello, Mother,” Mal said, and squeezed her fingers.
“Your father was supposed to have you meet me in Scotland. Now is not a good time for you to be here.” Her words were low, but distinct.
“He said I’m to go with you to Scotland, but he wants me doing the rounds of the Marriage Mart before and after. I’m to find a chit to wed, or else.”
His mother stiffened. Then, over her shoulder, he saw the reason for her reticence. And the reason for the surge of heat, magic, and passion that had nearly crumpled him to the grass.
The woman was not what would be termed an exquisite, or what his grandfather’s generation would have styled ‘a diamond of the first water.’ There was something too primal in her features and her bearing, and her aura shimmered with power. She was a sunset on a mountain peak, or the eerie colors in the sky in the far north of Scotland. She was a vein of gold still glittering inside the rock, her treasure clear but held close, in her own keeping.
She would never belong to anyone but herself, and that made him long for her to share that self with him—in every conceivable way.
His mother noticed the indiscreet admiration, and the way the woman returned his stare. She frowned, and he knew why. Mal was supposed to avoid magical entanglements. But this woman might prove too much temptation for him to resist.
Mal stepped toward the woman and was halted by a hand on his arm. Why was Mother being so formal? He chafed at the delay and waited for the introduction.
Mother’s tone was brittle, the words sharp, clipped, and forced. “Miss Cook, allow me to introduce my son, Lord Cuthbert Seward.” Mal frowned at the use of his hated first name, but returned his features to a genial smile when he bowed to Miss Cook.
“And this is Miss Etta Mae Cook.” She said the name as though the sounds of it were acid, burning her tongue.
Miss Cook curtsied. There was nothing precisely wrong with the curtsey, except that she didn’t look easy doing it. Something about the way she held herself said she wasn’t a woman meant to bow. Her motion caused ripples in the magical currents of the room, and the aroma of rich, fertile earth—like a field plowed and ready for planting—surged in his nostrils. The flavors of honeysuckle and salt cascaded over his tongue.
“I’m pleased to meet you, Miss Cook.” From up close, he could see that her eyes were dark brown, with little flecks of green and gold glittering in the depths. Her magic—so full of potential, so warm and alive—pulled at him, strong and inexorable. Was this what Ian felt like when Viola was near?
He closed his Sight, suddenly desperate not to see her brilliance, not to taste and smell and feel her.
“And I you, Lord Cuthbert.”
Malcolm winced. “My mother introduced me that way because it’s my first name, but everyone uses my middle name, Malcolm.”
“Oh,” she said, and the sound came out flatter, and higher pitched, than her previous vowels. Almost as if another woman had spoken entirely. In the same faster accent, she said, “I didn’t mean to offend, Lord Malcolm.” This was her true voice, and it wrapped around his ears and his brain. A purely physical reaction, but one that woke his magic as though he were a teenage boy again, feeling the first swells of puberty and power.
“You didn’t,” he assured her. He wasn’t offended, but his magic was slipping out of his control. He’d never felt such a sudden and overwhelming urge to merge his magic with another’s. But he couldn’t. Would never do that again. He clamped down on his magical senses even harder than usual, dampening the sensations that were as natural to him as the pressure of air on another person’s skin.
He took refuge in humor. “And there’s no need to Lord me. I don’t care for the courtesy title or the first name. It’s my father’s fault. He read too much Browning.” He smiled at her, and won a small tilt at the corner of her lips in response. Those lips were far too enticing, and made him want to draw her close and discover how well they fit against his. He could fight the magical pull, but what about desire?
She looked away from him, at his mother, and the smile faded.
Mother stood with a frozen expression of polite interest on her face. But beneath the bland exterior, he she seemed ashamed. Or perhaps afraid. He wished Viola was here. With his senses dampened, he couldn’t read Mother’s aura, and he’d never been the best at interpreting those anyway.
Mal returned his attention to Miss Cook. It wasn’t exactly good manners, but he was curious, so he asked, “What brings you to our home, Miss Cook?”
She continued to stare at his mother, so he asked, “Mother, am I missing something?”
“Miss Cook will be our guest for a short time,” she answered. “She is a…distant relative, through my great-grandmother Lilias.”
Malcolm started. Lilias Fay, first Duchess of Fay, was the most prominent member of his mother’s clan—a great seeress and witch who had been instrumental in the war against Napoleon.
“How are you related to Lilias?”
“My great-grandmother was Lilias’ youngest daughter, Marianne.”
“So you’re my…” he paused, counting the generations.
“Some kind of distant cousin.” Her expression was pleasant enough, and her tone indicated an attempt at levity, but the humor was tempered by wariness. “We’re barely related at all. And I wouldn’t impose on your family except…” Her voice trailed off. There was so much pain behind her eyes, but she steadied herself. “Except, my mother died. It was her last wish that I find the rest of the Fay clan to finish my training. I can’t study in America because I’m from the South.”
He’d heard that magic was outlawed in the southern United States after their civil war, and he’d even met a few Americans who’d come to England to train, but no one had ever approached the family directly. Clan Fay’s sort of magic was distinctly out of fashion.
Mal eyed his mother, who still looked like she had stepped in something rank and was trying to pretend the scent was rosewater. “Are you going to train her?”
“I will test her, but I will not make any determinations until after Viola’s babes are born.”
The twins would be born within a fortnight. Since his father had insisted that he go with the rest of the magically-gifted members of the family to the birthing, he and Mother would leave in a day or so to travel to the Highlands.
Magically-gifted family members, Mal realized, now included Etta Mae Cook.
Mal grinned at his mother. If he had to be miserable on this trip, so could she. “Why doesn’t Miss Cook come with us to Scotland?”
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Cara McKinnon writes fantasy romances because her heart pumps equal parts magic and passion. Her love of history caused her to set her books in an alternate Victorian era, with surprisingly few changes from the real world. She lives on the East Coast of the US with her husband, two kids, and an oversized lapdog named Jake.
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The Rack of Destruction
by Norris Raccoon
It’s no secret in this community that the greatest danger to all shifters everywhere is the possibility of humans discovering our existence. For centuries, we have protected this information, guarded our secret and kept the humans in the dark. Now, for the first time in Shifterville history, two humans will be living in our town.
Despite dire predictions and against insurmountable odds, the town is ready for the humans’ arrival next week. Indeed, even our esteemed high school principal, Steve Armadillo, managed to perform miracles this summer. The entire town, high school included, has been human-proofed.
This being the case, we should expect to be able to breathe a sigh of relief. Instead, tensions mount as one teen demonstrates again and again that he is unable to control his unruly rack. Attempts to interview Melvin Moose have failed, as he swiftly ran in the opposite direction anytime he was approached. Other residents of Shifferville have much to say, however.
“He just can’t control that ridiculous rack,” Laney Siamese, a classmate of Melvin’s, complained. “It seems every time I turn around, there’s Melvin, knocking over something or someone. I mean, how hard is it to just stay human, for heaven’s sake?”
“He’s going to be the end of us all,” Cora Jaguar, owner of Shiffer Grocery predicted.
Bets are already being placed around town, with odds of 1,000 to one in favor of Melvin’s antlers revealing our secret. Other possibilities were suggested, including the inclusion of tuna-flavored ice cream at the parlor in town (the Siamese family refused to remove it from the menu, insisting that humans eat tuna as well) and the decision to allow students to continue dressing out in fur in P.E. Of course, these suggestions came from Melvin Moose’s best friend, Paulie Porcupine, and Melvin’s father, Jacob Moose, both of whom appear to be in the minority when it comes to predicting how long our secret will be safe with Melvin’s rack on the loose.
Overall, the opinion of the town is clear: Melvin Moose’s rack will destroy the secret shifters have guarded for centuries. Buckle up, Shifterville, it’s going to be a rocky ride!
Norris Raccoon is a reporter for The Shifferville Times (formerly known as The Daily Shifter).
A.J. Culey was not born a shifter, much to her dismay. Despite her limitations as a human, she enjoys spending time with cats, bunnies and other animals. She hasn’t met a shifter yet, nor has she had any antlers spontaneously appear in any classroom she’s taught in, but she hasn’t given up hope that it might one day happen. In the meantime, she has fun writing about the possibilities.
I write fantasy, mostly, and it’s a pretty classic idea in fantasy, isn’t it–the massive, unstoppable black-clad army, the evil warlord, the faceless Dark. And because of that, there’s the other side, the good guys, being all White Wizards and blinding light and such.
But here’s the thing, though: I have a big problem with easy dichotomies. I think that we don’t live in a world where everything is easily classified along a single straight line between Good and Evil, with no up or down or branching sideways. I think that all-light or all-dark story is over-used and simplistic, and it’s not the story I wanted to tell.
So I wrote Married to the Wind.
The story is set up with a kingdom walled off from the world, convinced that they’re the only good people anywhere and that the Wall exists to save them from the Dark. Their stories tell of the First Lady of Light and her battles with her older brother the Dark, and cast the world as a clear division between the two.
And then I slowly dismantle that.
It’s true that you need darkness to see the light and vice versa–that’s why hope is often visualized as a candle in the night, it’s why stars shine so well, it’s why morning is such a relief when you’ve been lost in the woods all night. It’s why so many stories have scary, even horrific stuff that the hero has to fight against. But it’s also true that endless light burns out the world and darkness can be a relief from it, that those who think they’re all good can sometimes be the worst people to deal with–and it’s true here in my books that if Light and Dark are gods, it’s pretty presumptuous for ordinary people to think they know what’s going on with them, isn’t it?
I’m doing a lot of stuff with these books. But mostly, I’m taking Epic Fantasy and trying to layer in gradations and variations on the theme, and the big backbone is this so-called conflict between Light and Dark and how it’s not really a conflict so much as an ongoing attempt at balance.
The last book of the trilogy, Goddess’s Hand, brings up all of this, and Annissa and Glorisa have to figure out what to do about it. Can they choose sides? Should they try to rebuild what was, before they knew the truth? Do they dare to change everything? They’re walking in the footsteps–and, toward the end, even the lands–of the gods, and they have to face the Dark and see it for what it really is.
And isn’t it better to see fear for fear and hope for hope when you look at them?
My books are here: http://www.amazon.com/Samantha-Holloway/e/B008UXUP4U/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1
My blog: http://www.SamanthaHolloway.com
Me on Goodreads:https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6591683.Samantha_Holloway
Me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/pirategirljack
My tumblr: http://MarriedToTheWind.tumblr.com