Saturday, February 24, 2018

A Hole in the Air Release!

Finally, finally, book three is out on Monday!!!
It's been a long time coming and an incredible journey. This trilogy is very special to me and it was so much fun to finally write some of the scenes in this book; scenes I've dreamed of and had planned since the very beginning! You can read an excerpt below (WARNING may contain spoilers if you haven't read books one and two):

Prologue: Wife
The Duke spat out his tea. Hastily wiping off his newspaper with his napkin, he stared at the page again. It still boldly proclaimed in huge script:
The Duke shook his head and peered at the smudged story below.
Our correspondent has confirmed with Swedish officials that something like an airship washed up on the island of Gotland. Reports of a flying machine seen overhead have been trickling in from Norway, and while there is no way to prove that the remains found on the Gotland coast were ever capable of flight, it seems possible that something of this nature could have been developing behind Russia’s rideau de fer. Russian officials have declined to claim the machine or make any affirmations about the identities of the bodies found aboard the vessel. Sweden has identified one corpse as Czar Ivano, but though the Russians did remove the body to Moscow, they would not confirm that it was the Czar.
Further mystifying the situation, someone set fire to the airship’s remains. Many engineers were eager to examine them, hoping to prise the secret of flight from the Russians’ fingers. A group of Belarian scientists arrived on Gotland soon after the discovery was made. Our correspondent was unable to contact them. Did they ascertain the secret? Did they burn the remains to keep it from the rest of Europe?
Will Russia continue to remain silent, or will they reveal their intentions? And their inventions? Were they in the act of betraying Greater Europe, planning a war that assured them victory? And will the Belarian Alliance soon be equipped with the power to conquer as well?
“Well,” coughed the Duke, “how sensational.” He looked up at the empty breakfast table and sighed, remembering he was alone. He glanced at the cuckoo clock set high on the green and gold striped wall. Ten thirty-eight. Was the Duchess not up yet? Or had she eaten already? He rarely saw her at breakfast; that was quite normal, but today he’d hoped to bump into her sometime before dinner.
He lay down his sodden newspaper and regarded his toast. Perhaps he could find her at her desk in her tower, writing missives or reading letters or making out cheques. She was probably busy and didn’t want to talk to him right now, anyway.
“Your Lordship,” the butler mumbled from the doorway.
“Yes, Haemming?”
“Her Ladyship desired you to know that she has gone out to Norden this morning,” Haemming said, looking fastidiously at the carpet.
“Norden?” the Duke asked, his shoulders slumping. “Why?”
“She did not say,” Haemming said.
No surprise. The Duke nodded and Haemming slipped from the room. The Duke looked out the window into the rain and mist of the garden. He wished he had some secret meeting in Norden or Berlin. Or at least some company. He might have been more eager to go out and hunt or shoot fowl in the rain if he’d had someone to do it with. He looked back at the cold toast on his plate. Perhaps he should go to Paris. That would show his wife: vanish off to some distant city leaving only a note and no details regarding length of absence or business. And why Norden? Usually she was off to Berlin or Paris, sometimes Moscow or London, but lately she’d seemingly become fascinated with Norden, that odd little barren spot in the middle of nowhere on the coast of the North Sea. What kind of business could she have there? It could hardly be a meeting with the heads of Greater Europe. It could hardly be any sort of business trip. It could only be some clandestine meeting of a darker nature.
“Wife,” he said. It could have been a term of endearment. It could have been an insult. It could have been an entreaty. It could have been a threat. Had anyone been listening at the keyhole, his voice would have held them all in one anguished parcel.
“No use thinking about it,” he grumbled to himself. What else was there to think about? “I hate Hannover,” he said. “Nothing going. Nothing coming. Nothing. Nothing.” He slammed his fist into the table. “And I can’t throw a party because she’s not home.”
The Duke rose and glared at the cuckoo clock. Ten forty-three. Time creeped by. He would pass it with a carriage ride through town and a stop at the Größenwahnsinn for a glass of port and possibly a game of cards. Or two.

Chapter One: His Wickedness Alive
The sunset flashed green.
The Sea erupted.
Vroanen was freed.
A huge wave struck Parsifal, drowning him in sorrow and remorse and shellfish. Parsifal struggled in the water, kicking out for something, anything to hold onto. There was nothing, and he was sinking towards the sparkling lights of Aquatamunicipalir in the depths of the Sea.
The Compass tumbled from his fingers into darkness, pulsing with eldritch light, gleaming back at Parsifal from the green eyes of Oaktree, the purple eyes of Vassilissa, the brown eyes of Balder, the grey eyes of Dioktes, the wild eyes of Fou, the black eyes of a mermaid.
Parsifal jerked awake.
The early morning sun beat down on his face and chest. The hard, wet boards of the wrecked Scylla’s deck dug into his back. The smell of rot rose from Balder’s wounds. Parsifal rolled onto his side and looked at his friend. Balder’s chest rose and fell, but his eyes were motionless beneath their fevered lids. Parsifal looked around for Dioktes, his hand reaching into his pocket and clutching The Compass. Dioktes, the grey-bearded captain who’d betrayed them, stood near the prow. The ship sat low in the water after the tidal wave from the collapse of Vroanen’s underwater prison. Parsifal thought it seemed even lower than it had last night and wondered if the entire ship might slowly sink away beneath them, leaving them thrashing in the endless expanse of water…
Parsifal closed his eyes and tried to beat back the panic rising in his chest. The image of the crazy woman, Fou, lingered there behind his eyelids and he had to open them again to escape her wide gaze and last gurgle. His eyes stung. Fou. He glanced at Dioktes. He’d tried to kill Parsifal and slain Fou instead. Why hadn’t Dioktes tried to kill him again? Why shouldn’t Parsifal go push him off the prow right this instant?
Parsifal sat up with a groan and put his head in his hands. He didn’t want to remember anything, but it wouldn’t go away. Fou…He had to stop thinking about the past. He had to find a way to save Balder. Balder was all now. Not even The Compass, not even preventing Vroanen and Vassilissa from conquering the Weather Casters, not even revenge must get in the way of saving Balder. Dioktes could still be useful.
“Dioktes,” Parsifal called from the cradle of his palms. “Is the ship sinking?”
“Stupid,” muttered Dioktes, nearly inaudibly, “the mast’s broken. Where do you see trees to replace it?”
“We could prop it up with bits of railing and deck and bind it with rope,” Parsifal suggested, looking up. He glanced about at the wreckage. The mast was floating alongside them, still connected by the odd rope and scrap of sail. He looked back at Dioktes. The old man was still staring out to Sea. His beard, patchy from Fou’s mad attack, fluttered in a light breeze.
Parsifal took a deep breath of the vibrant air. It was a hopeful seeming breeze, laden with sweet, fresh, nameless aromas. “What are you looking at?” he asked Dioktes. “Is Vroanen out there somewhere?”
Dioktes didn’t answer. Parsifal staggered to his feet and clambered to the stern where he jumped up on the rail and balanced precariously, scanning the horizon. He didn’t see anything but glittering water.
“Will he drown out there?” Parsifal asked hopefully.
“Immortal,” Dioktes replied. “Kept at the bottom of the Sea for a thousand years. Not dead yet.”
“Yes, but that was a supernatural prison, wasn’t it? He can’t actually breathe water, can he? He’ll have to keep swimming. He’ll die of exhaustion.”
“Maybe,” said Dioktes.
Parsifal scowled and returned to Balder. He unwrapped the putrid bandages from Balder’s arm and wrinkled his nose. Parsifal couldn’t even see where the original cut had been made by the Tan Noz’s claw, it was just a nauseating mass of puffy, contorted flesh colored red and green.
Parsifal washed it with cold salt water. There was no dry fuel and the stove was underwater, below decks, so he couldn’t boil any. Balder twitched a bit, but otherwise remained still. Parsifal didn’t have anything clean to wrap the wound in, so he left it. Perhaps the fresh air would help? It could hardly get any more infected than it already was. Parsifal squeezed Balder’s good hand.
“Stay with me, please,” he whispered. “Just a bit longer until…” until what? There was nowhere they could go, nothing they could do to help Balder. Parsifal closed his eyes and squeezed Balder’s hand harder. There had to be something.
Balder’s lips were dry, but the rain barrel had been smashed in the violence of the collapsing waterspout. Parsifal took a portion of shredded sail and draped it over the rail so that it shaded Balder from the fierce sun.
Parsifal pulled The Compass out of his pocket and opened the lid. For the first time since he’d found It on the bathroom floor of his uncle’s country house, Its soft pulse did not comfort him. What could It possibly show him that would save Balder? He flipped up the magnifier and peered through It anyway.
The lapping and rustle of waves vanished and the only sound was his own heartbeat, ticking like a clock in an empty room. His vision swarmed with a breathless, rushing whirl of colors. Slowly, the visions solidified into flickering images, thoughts, emotions, and indescribable things. He saw himself and Balder, having their lighthearted snowball fight in Romania. Parsifal’s heart ached at the image. Blissfully, it was quickly replaced by a strange red-plumed bird with blazing eyes, then a train. He saw a storm-tossed airship and a whirl of masked dancers.
Suddenly The Compass slowed and Parsifal was looking down upon a mass of broken boards and masts. The Port? No…The Weather Casters’ ship, surrounded by towers of wreckage. There were tiny figures swarming everywhere, and fire and smoke and cries of agony and flashes of green light. The air rippled above the ship’s stern with a shivery peal. With a roar, the air was rent open and blackness swallowed Parsifal’s view. A two-headed snake slithered out of the dark and wound itself around a silver and purple shield with a seven-pointed star in its center. Seven silver knives flashed in the sunlight. A small black bookcase with glass doors nestled in the shadows of towering bookshelves beneath a glass ceiling. The lights of the mermaid city twinkled in the deeps and their strange music sparkled through his mind. He saw Fou — his mother — holding him as a baby.
Parsifal snapped The Compass shut and rubbed away the tears with his wrist. He’d thought he was drained of all his rage and grief. He was so exhausted after sailing around the Sea, finding his long-lost mother, losing her, trying to kill Dioktes and freeing Vroanen in the process. He should be broken, empty. He was, but even that was a sensation — and it hurt. Every time he breathed, it stabbed at his chest. Fou…Balder…lost at Sea…he was crying again and sobs shook his shoulders, which were reddening in the sun, despite their thorough burning weeks before. This time he didn’t care if Dioktes heard or saw him cry.
But Dioktes wasn’t watching Parsifal.
Parsifal looked up and saw the old man standing rigid in the prow, pointing with a shaking finger. Parsifal squinted through his tears and the glaring sun. The water splayed bright stars on the waves and Parsifal could see nothing in the water.
“What?” he asked.
“It is His Wickedness,” Dioktes rasped.
Parsifal stood, his heart beating unevenly, loudly. His head pounded as he stood and wiped snot from his nose. He peered again at the shining water. This time he saw an arm break the water and stroke, pushing a pale human shape through the Sea.
“Quick!” Parsifal gasped. “Grab a board, keep him off the boat!”
Dioktes did not move.
Parsifal scrambled about their wreck, looking for something. He picked up a broken bit of the yardarm and pushed Dioktes away from the prow.
Vroanen was swimming closer. His head broke the surface and stared at them, black hair streaming over his face. The head ducked back beneath the water and the body shot forward, swimming below the surface. Parsifal and Dioktes had helped this wicked being escape his ancient prison and now Parsifal had to do something to rectify his mistake.
Parsifal’s heart sped up, his lungs heaving to keep up and he gripped the shattered wood, driving splinters into his hands. Vroanen’s white limbs flashed in the Sea like blades, one hand clenched in a fist. Parsifal raised the rail overhead. Waves of blood roared against his brain. Vraonen surged closer. Parsifal’s hands shook.
Vroanen’s fist lit up, blinding green, and Parsifal dropped the piece of yard. It would do no good here. He fumbled with his pocket. Vroanen’s white hand lashed out and caught at the Scyllas prow. Parsifal scrabbled inside his pocket, trying to pull out The Compass.
The Wicked One’s head burst from the water with a gasp.
Parsifal yanked out The Compass and flipped the lid open.
A hand flew up from the water, green light shining out between his fingers, droplets of glinting Sea water streaming down beneath it. Parsifal raised The Compass.
Vroanen heaved himself up, sliding onto the prow like a lithe white mollusk, clad only in a loincloth of silvery white. He lashed out at Parsifal with his Compass. Both Compasses flashed. Parsifal was thrown back by the power of Vroanen’s Compass and crashed into the deck. Vroanen dashed across the deck while Parsifal was still trying to blink the afterimage from his eyes. Vroanen struck down at Parsifal’s head w’s’ith his glaring Compass. Parsifal brought up his own Compass and the two met in a clash of green lightning, their thunder rolling away across the calm Sea.
Just in time, Parsifal rolled out of the way as Vroanen struck again. Vroanen’s Compass smashed into the deck with a flare of light that set the boards on fire. Parsifal scrambled to his feet, striking out blindly with his own Compass.
Vroanen spun towards him, arm outstretched. Pulses of light surged from his hand, pushing Parsifal back, blinding him, scattering his vision, his balance —
Drunkenly, Parsifal charged forward, swinging The Compass at the Wicked One. Vroanen raised his glowing fist. Parsifal caught the flashing blow with his Compass. Thunder and lightning. Crack. Boom. Like the ice in Siberia when Vassilissa had opened the portal.
The Wicked One was close, towering over him in the afterimages of the green flashes. Parsifal jumped closer still, into the chilly air that surrounded Vroanen and smacked him in the head with The Compass. Its light shimmered back from Vroanen’s dark, vengeful eyes. A strange electric saltiness filled Parsifal’s nostrils, a dankness that rolled from Vroanen’s clammy, pearlescent skin.
Vroanen grabbed Parsifal by the throat in his free hand and squeezed. Parsifal choked. Vroanen lifted him off the deck. Parsifal kicked at him desperately, but nothing would break the immortal’s unnatural hold. Black stars clouded his eyes. Green light burned them away as Vroanen’s Compass flashed down at his head. Parsifal’s Compass flashed back, protecting him from the light. Vroanen snarled and hurled Parsifal against the deck.
Parsifal smacked down and skidded through the flames, large splinters digging into his skin. He howled and struggled to his knees. Burning tar stung his nostrils as he lifted his head to see Vroanen’s figure through the flames, tall and half-naked, striding towards him, glowing Compass in hand.
Parsifal staggered to his feet and backed away. Vroanen stepped through the flames without flinching and thrust his Compass forward. Parsifal parried with his, and the flashes shattered into thousands of green stars. Parsifal stepped back again – and tripped on an outstretched foot.
Parsifal fell flat on his back and Dioktes leaped out of the way. Parsifal tried to lift his Compass but Vroanen was already upon him.
A green blaze filled his head. His hand fell limp at his side, The Compass rolling from his fingers with a loud thump. The green faded slowly and Parsifal could see the sky…so beautiful and blue, striped by gossamer clouds like a parade of ghostly figures drifting across the empyrean. He couldn’t feel his body. Something tingled somewhere at his core, but otherwise he could just as easily have been floating among the clouds as lying on the deck of a wrecked boat. He could be sailing to Heaven.
The silhouette of Vroanen blacked out the sun, a faintly luminescent Compass in each hand. The Wicked One crouched over him and Parsifal saw his blue lips moving. Slowly, the sound rippled into Parsifal’s head, lapping gently at the shores of his mind until he could understand the words.
“Who are you?”
Parsifal couldn’t move his lips to reply. Nor did he know how to answer that question. Who was he?
It didn’t matter anymore; he’d lost. Vroanen examined The Compass that had once been Parsifal’s, peering through the magnifier, shaking It. Its light had slowly faded and It did not relight. Vroanen narrowed his glistening eyes at Parsifal.
“What’s wrong with It?” Vroanen asked. Parsifal still couldn’t move his lips. He couldn’t even move his eyes to follow Vroanen as he stood and stepped back.
“Your Wickedness.” Parsifal heard Dioktes’ voice.
“Who are you?” hissed Vroanen.
“Vassilissa sent me; she has set you free,” Dioktes said.
“You lie!” Vroanen snarled. Parsifal heard Dioktes yelp.
“I do not! Vassilissa sent me here with the Lone Sailor and The Compass to free you! The time has come to destroy the Weather Casters!”
Slime, thought Parsifal bitterly.
“Think I would not recognize you, Dioktes? You serve the Selure Tartania!” Vroanen roared. His voice was shiny and did not crack even when laden with so much rage.
“Your Wickedness,” begged Dioktes. “She has cast me aside, mortal that I am, no longer of use to her.”
“Quiet!” snapped Vroanen. There was a flash of green on the edge of Parsifal’s vision and a thump. No more sound from Dioktes. Just the shivery panting of Vroanen.
Parsifal’s eyes were starting to tingle and water but he still couldn’t move them. His vision swam in unshed tears. Vroanen leaned over him again.
“Was the mortal lying about you, too?” he asked. “Are you the Lone Sailor? You can’t be a mere mortal. Speak!”
Spit landed on Parsifal’s cheek. It was icy cold. His feet tingled now, as though they’d been asleep. He blinked and tears poured down his cheeks. The glare of the sun beat on his eyeballs and he managed to drag his eyelids shut.
Parsifal heard the creaking as Vroanen paced the burning deck. Slowly, he was starting to process all that had just happened. He’d been stunned by Vroanen’s Compass. Now Vroanen had both of The Compasses and Parsifal was helpless. Even once he got back his powers of locomotion, there would be nothing he could do. He licked his lips.
Suddenly Vroanen grabbed him by the hair and dragged him across the deck and slammed him against the stern, beside the shattered door that led below.
“Where did you get The Compass? Who are you?” Vroanen demanded in his silky voice. Parsifal imagined it would have made many singers jealous. He frowned. His brain was still addled from the flash.
“Long story,” he choked out.
Vroanen laughed. “We’re stranded, aren’t we?” he said, squeezing Parsifal’s neck in his icicle fingers. “We have all the time in the world. You may as well start with your name.”
“I’m Parsifal.”
Vroanen’s fingers relaxed a little.
“How nice,” Vroanen said, “a regular name. No title. You’re like me — a nobody. A nobody who wants to be somebody.”
“I guess so,” Parsifal said, looking down. They were silent a moment. Parsifal glanced at the limp forms of Balder and Dioktes lying on the deck.
“Go on,” Vroanen said quietly. “I haven’t heard another being’s voice in a thousand years. Speak to me.”
Parsifal didn’t know what to say. The waves lapped at their doomed vessel. The sun beat down silently. Vroanen’s fingers tightened again on Parsifal’s throat.
“Speak to me!” Vroanen hissed, a tear sprouting from one of his glossy dark eyes. “Please!”
“I – c – can’t!” Parsifal gasped. Vroanen’s fingers loosened.
“Tell me your story,” Vroanen said.
Parsifal paused, staring into the depths of Vroanen’s shimmering blue eyes. It seemed that brightness lurked somewhere in their darkness, sparkling like lights in the night. Where to begin?
“I found The Compass in my uncle’s water closet, one of his guests left it there by accident: Sir Oaktree,” Parsifal said.
“Water closet?” Vroanen said, looking confused.
“Yes, a — a sort of fancy waste disposal chamber back on Land.”
“So you are a mortal? How’d you come here?”
“My uncle’s expedition. He said he was exploring Siberia, but it was all Lady Vasille’s plot to get back to the Sea.”
“Lady who?”
Vroanen’s eyes widened. “Vassilissa…” he whispered. “They banished her to Land … she swore she’d rescue me. She sent you to do it?”
Parsifal looked down, his cheeks burning. “I guess so,” he said quietly. His head could move…and he didn’t have to look into those icy, dark eyes anymore.
“And Dioktes?”
“She made a deal with him, to trick me.”
Vroanen chuckled. “How like her. What about you? Are you in truth the Lone Sailor? Did she trick you into freeing me when you’re supposed to rule the Weather Casters?”
“I’m mortal,” Parsifal said hopefully, twitching his fingers experimentally. He did not look back up at His Wickedness.
“Mortal is transmutable, my friend,” Vroanen said. “Take Dioktes, for instance. He’s still dragging his miserable carcass around.” Vraonen’s face was uncomfortably close to Parsifal’s. Parsifal supposed he might converse in a similar fashion if he’d been trapped underwater for a thousand years. It certainly made it easier to punch His Wickedness in the jaw.
Parsifal struck.
Vroanen howled, reeling back. Parsifal tried to push himself to his feet. Vroanen recovered and lunged with a snarl. He punched Parsifal in the chest, knocking him back to the deck.
“Feels good,” Vroanen said, licking blood off his lip. “Haven’t felt anything but cold, wet, ice, water…Pain, fire, heat. I feel alive!” Vroanen threw back his head, mouth open wide. Parsifal expected a howl or insane laugh to come out. Instead a high-pitched wail of joy soared into the sky. It was that strange dolphin sound he’d heard Vroanen make as he swam out of the hole in the sea.
It sent chills through every nerve in Parsifal’s body. He shook and curled up on the deck, pressing his hands over his ears. The pealing sound echoed into silence.
“If I use this on you enough,” Vroanen said, waving The Compass in the air, “I can kill you. I know. I killed Themetho with It. I struck again and again and again. At last he lay still and never moved again. If you are the Lone Sailor, you will never supersede the Casters.”
Parsifal uncurled and looked up at Vroanen, looming above him, blotting out the sun. Green gleamed from his fist.
“I’m not,” Parsifal said quietly. “I could never do it. I’ve failed already. I’ve done so much wrong. I’ve lost too much. Kill me, then. It’ll be easier.”
“For both of us,” Vroanen agreed, raising The Compass. “Not that you could stop me.”
“Wait,” Parsifal said, looking at Balder. “Save him. He’s been poisoned by Tan Noz. Heal him.”
“I’m not granting last requests,” Vroanen said coldly. The Compass flared angrily in his hand.
“Please,” Parsifal begged, tears springing to his eyes. “He doesn’t deserve anything that’s happened to him. Give him a second chance.”

“Don’t speak to me of unjust punishments,” Vroanen snarled. He was about to swing The Compass down when the sound of roaring water made them both look to the East.

Preorder it here.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Ghosts of the Sea Moon by A.F. Stewart Book Spotlight

Today, I am delighted to feature A. F. Stewart new nautical adventure! I love the sea and sailing ships (in case haven't noticed), and I look forward to reading this one. The ebook is $0.99 until February 14th! 
So come set sail with ghosts, gods, and sea monsters in Ghosts of the Sea Moon

Title: Ghosts of the Sea Moon (Saga of the Outer Islands Book 1)
Author: A. F. Stewart
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Publication Date: January 13th, 2018
Paperback Price: $12.99
Digital Price: Pre-order and Release Price $0.99. Will go up to $2.99 on February 14th

Free companion prequel story, Sea Bound:

Ghosts of the Sea Moon Blurb

In the Outer Islands, gods and magic rule the ocean.
Under the command of Captain Rafe Morrow, the crew of the Celestial Jewel ferry souls to the After World and defend the seas from monsters. Rafe has dedicated his life to protecting the lost, but the tides have shifted and times have changed.
His sister, the Goddess of the Moon, is on a rampage and her creatures are terrorizing the islands. The survival of the living and dead hinge on the courage and cunning of a beleaguered captain and his motley crew of men and ghosts.
What he doesn’t know is that her threat is part of a larger game. That an ancient, black-winged malevolence is using them all as pawns…

Come set sail with ghosts, gods and sea monsters.

Buy Links:

Books2Read link (all non-Amazon retailers):

Author Bio:
A steadfast and proud sci-fi and fantasy geek, A. F. Stewart was born and raised in Nova Scotia, Canada and still calls it home. The youngest in a family of seven children, she always had an overly creative mind and an active imagination. She favours the dark and deadly when writing—her genres of choice being fantasy and horror—but she has been known to venture into the light on occasion. As an indie author she’s published novels, novellas and story collections, with a few side trips into poetry.
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The Captain

Captain Rafe Morrow paced the quarterdeck of his ship, Celestial Jewel, the signs of an oncoming squall setting him on edge. Blustering wind rattled the sails and the crew’s nerves, their usual jaunty hubbub reduced to grumbling and snipes. Trouble travelled on that wind. Rafe could smell it woven in the air, and his blood prickled with a sense of worry. The ship trembled as if with warning. He glared at the sky and its darkening clouds painted amber and crimson from the setting sun. A storm sky coming ahead of a full moon meant dark magic and sea monsters would prowl the waves this night.
The Moon Goddess will hold sway tonight.
A trickle of blue energy raced across the back of his hand at the thought.
Damn her…and her beasts.
On the breath of a sigh, he whirled to face his crew. “Storm’s coming, boys. Doesn’t bode well, not with the moonrise tonight.”
“How long, Captain? Will we be in the thick of the weather or just what comes after?” A rough-edged sailor, Pinky Jasper, spoke up, but all ears of the deck crew listened for an answer.
“It’s coming within an hour or two, out from Raven Rock, by my reckoning. After nightfall by certain. We’re heading in, boys, but we’ll likely hit the edge of it.” He heaved a breath, exhaling. “It’ll be a bad one even for this crew so expect trouble.”
A shiver of tension settled over the deck. Some of the crew cast worried glances at the sea and each other. Others shivered, and a few more whispered prayers. Storms brought bad memories and nervous anticipation to the sailors of this ship.
“Which port then, Captain?” The mariner at the ship’s wheel chimed in. “Might make Abersythe if we head north.”
“We might, Anders. But we head east. We’ll race the edge of the tempest, but it’s closer and the ship will find better shelter anchored at Crickwell Island.”
“Aye, sir. Laying in course to Crickwell Island.” One-Eyed Anders turned the wheel and the ship’s bones groaned. Others of the crew adjusted the sails, and the Celestial Jewel leaned into her new bearing headed east.

Instafreebie preview (download the first four chapters free):

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Interview with author Helen Whapshott

First post of 2018! I’m interviewing fellow author Helen Whapshott, who is also published by Little Bird Publishing House. The third book in her Young Adult series The Glow is out now!

So hi. What’s your name and what do you write? 
Hi, my name is Helen Whapshott and I write paranormal and supernatural meets the modern world.

When did you start writing and why?
I’ve been writing since I was able too, short stories on scrap paper.

What were the biggest challenges about becoming a published author?
Approaching publishers and getting rejected.

Shout out your publisher and tell us how they helped you on your creative journey.
Little Bird Publishers were willing to give my first book The Glow a chance and were supportive from the very start giving advice and suggesting how to get out there.

Where can we find out more about them? 
They are on facebook, twitter and their website is

What are you working on right now? 
A book for adults.

Who is your favourite character you’ve written and why do they speak to you so much? 
Daisy from The Glow, The Shine and The Blaze, she’s an outsider and doesn’t let her differences get her down.

Do world events and politics influence your writing? 
No, I like to keep my subjects mundane.

How important are places you have visited and where you live to your writing?
Burley in The New Forest influenced Threshold.

Share with us your favourite line from your most recent release. 
“I’m not frightened of you,” Megan sniffled.
“I know.” Daisy waited until the flames were completely gone before pulling her best friend into a hug. “No matter what happens, you’ll never lose me. I promise.”

Tell us five things that you love in life.
1. My family
2. My job as a nursery nurse.
3. Reading
4. Writing
5. Chocolate.

Tell us five things that you hate in life. 
1. Not being able to help people.
2. Racism and prejudice.
3. Rudeness
4. Cruelty.
5. War

What book started your love of reading?
Hans Christian Anderson collection of fairy tales.

Tell us about your most recent release.
The Blaze the final part of my trilogy. As best friends Megan and Daisy come to terms with Scott's disappearance, they discover the adult world is full of terrible truths and realities. But they also learn that friendship and true love has the power to shine light in even the darkest hours.

Where can we buy it?

Where can we find you on social media?
I’m on Twitter @Witchypie and Facebook

Thank you so much, Helen for dropping by the blog, best of luck with your latest release and hopefully many more to come!

Update on the blog: as usual, all is madness behind the scenes. I want to blog more frequently in 2018, but that will be subject to life. Hold tight and stay tuned.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Zombiecon Review

   Why does it take me so long to write these?? Zombie Con was October 7, two whole weeks ago!
   Anyway, it was a really fun event in a really cool venue: the Bing Crosby Theater in Spokane, Washington. It opened in 1915 as the Clemmer Theater, and you can read all about it's fascinating history here.
Bing Crosby theater pit

   It was a relatively small convention, with only about seven vendors, plus the make-up artists. Three zombie authors, including me, were present: Grivante and M. Lauryl Lewis being the (delightful) other two. Then there was Verona the Mad's Crafts and Combobulations, from whom I bought a wonderful clockwork pocket watch, and her friend Belinda (whose link I've lost), maker of beautiful handcrafted clay jewelry! Not sure whose links to put in for the makeup artists, but they were all very talented. But here is the facebook page for zombiecon. It will be returning next year, bigger and better!
   Oh, yes, I forgot: there was a sampling of cast and crew from Z Nation there for a panel!! I sit in on the panel, but it sounded entertaining.
   It was a bit slow some of the time, but so many creative zombies came through! And one of the staff got mobbed by ravening zombie children when he tried to pass out free raffle tickets. I felt a little out of place with my scanty selection of horror-themed items: one out of three books, a few Cthulhu paintings and my Java Zombie mug. (now available on my etsy shop). But I sold a few books! And met more zombie authors and had a good time, so that's the most important thing.
   Not to mention this is the most comfortable costume I've made to date. Mainly because it doesn't involve a neck cloth. I love cravats but they make my neck stiff.
   So once again I was a terrifying zombie! Among many. Can't wait for next year!
A terrifying zombie!

Signed book exchange with Grivante

Reading from Ambulatory Cadavers

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

October Frights! and a Book Excerpt

Hello! Welcome to the October Frights Blog Hop. You can check out the other blogs on the Hop via the link at the bottom of this post. I really enjoyed this last year and I'm happy to be a part of it again. Life has been happening and I'm behind schedule on everything, so to start off, here's the first chapter of my horror comedy novel, Ambulatory Cadavers!

Chapter One: In Which Alice Meets a Strange Young Man of Questionable Occupation

Alice did not want to get married. Not to the squint-eyed, flamboyant, and disagreeable Earl of Chornby with his squeaky voice. However, as the carriage pulled up to Hope Hall, and her own hope extinguished, she thought she might consider the proposal seriously. She did not want to stay at Hope Hall for longer than a minute.
“You’ll stay here until you’ve properly considered your ways and repented,” Lady Crawft told her as the phaeton lurched to a stop. “I can’t believe you told the Earl ‘no.’ It’s appalling. Why, it’s criminal!”
“But Mama!” Alice protested. “I didn’t refuse him. I told him I would consider his offer and reply within the year.”
“That’s not what he said. He said you told him you wouldn’t marry him in a thousand years.”
“The Earl exaggerates,” Alice said.
“Nonsense,” Lady Crawft snapped as the footman opened the phaeton’s door. “You will conjure up a yes or you will stay here forever.”
The footman helped Lady Crawft and Alice down.
Hope Hall loomed over them, an extravagant affair constructed in complete disregard for any moral principles involving moderation or humility. It looked like a bank cross-bred with Michelangelo’s private sculpture collection. Huge Doric pillars spanned the forty-foot-wide front stair. Alice’s uncle, the Duke of Hopenheim, hid among the pillars, a sour look on his face as if he were waiting to be struck.
“Christopher!” Lady Cawft exclaimed. The Duke winced. “You look much worse than last time I saw you, are you getting enough air?” Lady Crawft hauled Alice up to the top of the steps where pleasantries were exchanged at double speed. Uncle H led them inside where more pleasantries were exchanged with Alice’s aloof cousin, Lyra. Lyra was always stunning with her auburn hair curling away from her high brow and her dark eyes, which glinted with a coldness the Devil himself would have found terrifying.
Alice wanted to turn, leap into the phaeton and flee.
Instead, Jeebie, the butler, escorted her to her room.
“Yes, yes,” said Lady Crawft, “take her away, I must apprise my brother of the situation.” Which of course meant telling him Alice had refused an Earl and must be talked into changing her mind, which was Uncle H’s specialty. He was the most influential Member of Parliament, infamous for bringing his staunchest opponents around to his point of view in a matter of minutes. Most of them, anyway.
Once Jeebie had deposited her in her room, she bolted the door and opened her trunk to dig out her copy of Poetry for the Cultured Mind’s Expansion and Refurbishment by E.A. Wandlund. She paused, thinking she heard a funny scratching sound from the wall near the walk-in armoire. Mice, she thought, how appropriate. Her skin crawled and she fled to the chaise by the window with her collection of dry poetry.
She always sat there on her visits to the Hall. She would wrap the gauzy curtains around herself so she could see neither the room nor the garden outside, but the sun would glow golden through the pale yellow curtains and illuminate her book.
It couldn’t have been more than half a heartbeat later that Lady Crawft banged on the door. Alice jumped out of her skin.
“Alice!” Lady Crawft demanded. “Open the door.”
Alice dove out of her curtain shroud and looked about the room for a mode of escape. There was only one door, but the room afforded a ridiculous number of other options. She normally tried not to look around when she stayed here, it was too horrible. Now its many gloomy nooks and crannies seemed delightful.
There was a massive vanity and a washstand with a bowl big enough to bathe a dog in. Perhaps she could hide there. Or under the bed. One could hide a regiment under that bed. In fact, Alice had always been convinced that a there was a regiment under the bed, a dead regiment in open coffins. There was the armoire, but Lyra had always delighted in pulling Alice into the dark stuffy confines and telling her ghost stories about the woman in white who perished in the forest but refused to rest.
“Alice,” Lady Crawft repeated, “open this door at once, I must speak with you on the subject of your marriage.”
Alice darted into the armoire. It was bare. She hadn’t unpacked, which meant that as soon as Lady Crawft opened it, Alice would be exposed. And it sounded as if Lady Crawft was breaking down the bedroom door at that very moment.
Alice’s back pressed against the back of the armoire. Again she heard the mice in the wall; their frantic shuffling mirroring her heart.
“Alice! Open. This. Door. Now!” Alice splayed her hands against the back of the armoire and squeezed her eyes shut. Her finger pressed a knot. The armoire back flipped open, dumping her into a secret passage.
Landing on her derriere in a cloud of dust, she thought, So this was how Lyra snuck into my room to imitate dead soldiers under my bed. Her nose twitched. She sneezed.
“Alice?” Lady Crawft asked.
Alice felt around for the secret door and pushed it closed. Her mother’s demands for immediate matrimony were muted. She stood in the narrow passage and inched along, trailing her hands along each wall. The dark was terrifying. She couldn’t see a thing, but she was so very tired of hearing the tedious reasons for her insalubrious marriage enumerated. She came to another door. She opened it and peered in. It appeared to be the interior of Lyra’s wardrobe. No one else would wear such immodestly adorned gowns, especially not Uncle Hopenheim.
Lyra was not very high on Alice’s list of favorable alternatives to coercion so she closed the door quietly and kept moving down the passage. A light flickered somewhere ahead. Behind her came the distant sounds of Lady Crawft beating on her door.
Alice quickened her pace and fell face-first down a very narrow flight of stairs. She tumbled with a cry of horror into a tiny space. Regrettably, the space was already occupied.
“Ow!” yelped a voice.
Alice gasped wordlessly in shock and pain, her limbs tangling with more limbs that were certainly not hers.
“You’re crushing my arm,” a voice said in her ear. “And most of my other body parts as well.” Alice nearly screamed, scrambling off the invisible person and bashing into the wall rather violently; violently enough to give her a goose egg on the back of her head. Her heart sputtered and nearly died.
There was a scratch and a flare as a flint was struck, then a candle bloomed to life and Alice could see a young man with grey eyes that twinkled rather demonically, through a tangled mass of grey curls – although they seemed to be grey from dust and cobwebs rather than the natural cause of aging. His face was thin and his nose and ears stuck out rather comically. Alice sighed in relief – he wasn’t a dead soldier.
“Oh, hello,” he said, looking at her curiously. “Who are you?”
Alice turned red and tried to stand, but her ankle squealed in protest and she collapsed. “Oh, I’ve broken my ankle!” she exclaimed.
“Gosh,” said the young man, kneeling and setting down his candle. “You shouldn’t go around without a light, you know,” he admonished, taking her foot gently and examining it.
Alice thought she might faint. “You shouldn’t either,” she gasped, not sure why she said it. Lack of air seemed the most logical answer.
“I have a light, I just put it out because I thought one of those horrid Hopenheims was coming,” the young man explained. “Your ankle’s not broken. What are you doing in Hope Hall?”
“The other one.”
“What other Hall?”
“No, my other ankle is broken,” she said, holding it out. She wasn’t sure why; it certainly seemed unlikely he was a doctor. She just wanted someone — anyone — to tell her she was fine. The prospect of lying in bed in Hope Hall was far more terrifying than being alone in a secret passage with a complete stranger whilst being deprived of air.
“What are you doing in Hope Hall?” the young man repeated, looking at her other ankle.
“What are you doing? Who are you?” Alice asked.
“Ah, that would be top secret,” the young man said, winking. Alice was mortified.
“Did you just wink at me?” Alice asked.
“Yes,” he replied, apparently taken aback. “Does that offend you? Your other ankle is also not broken.”
“Yes, that offends me!” Alice said. “I mean, the winking, not the ankle. I mean…it’s very familiar.”
“Ankles are,” the young man nodded, picking up his candle and standing. Alice blushed. She didn’t like his being familiar with her ankles, nor remarking on his familiarity with ankles, hers or otherwise.
She also stood, wincing. It forced her into scandalous proximity with the strange young man. She stared up into the curved nostrils of his epic nose. Behind her were the stairs, up which she very nearly flew, but the strange young man opened a door on the other side of the tiny space and Alice’s curiosity rooted her in place. Where did the secret passages in Hope Hall lead? What was this young man dressed rather like a highwayman doing here? Surely burglars dressed in floppy hats, fingerless gloves and jackets, not greatcoats and scarves?
“Who are you?” Alice demanded. It wasn’t very polite, but she was certain that he wasn’t one of the servants, and so a little rudeness could be excused as he presumably didn’t belong in the house.
“Call me Creamey,” he said. “And you?”
“Alice — I…I mean, Miss Crawft,” she said. She really needed some air. The things one did when deprived were truly quite frightful.
Creamey stepped through the door. Alice thought again of fleeing back up the stairs to her room, but as Creamey vanished into the mysteries of Hope Hall, the candlelight went with him, plunging Alice once more into darkness.
Alice lurched through the door after him. Once back in the light, she proceeded more cautiously. Her left ankle still hurt some when she stepped on it. They emerged in another ridiculously narrow passage with a door at one end and steps going down at the other.
“I see, and your business?” Creamey asked, heading towards the steps.
“This is my cousin’s house.”
“Oh…” Creamey said, stopping at the top of the steps. He turned to her. “Um, ah, you won’t mention seeing me, will you?”
“I don’t see that I shouldn’t,” Alice said, much more bravely than she felt. It occurred to her a shocking number of knives could be concealed in a coat of such voluminous nature. Creamey grinned rather queasily.
“Look…I—” he was cut off by footsteps coming down the stairs behind them. The Duke of Hopenheim’s voice boomed down the passageways.
“Heaven help us all,” he was saying. “I can’t imagine that poet is still alive!” The poet in question was Alice’s father. “What he has to put up with… it makes my skin crawl and my eyes flood with sympathetic tears – and you know how unsympathetic I am.”
“Yes, Papa,” Lyra’s voice answered.
“Dammit,” Creamey said, grabbing Alice’s arm and running down the stairs. Alice bolted gladly. The last thing she wanted was to be caught by her cousin and uncle in secret passageways with a strange young man of questionable occupation.
Her ankle threatened to shatter on each step. They reached the bottom as the door in the passage above creaked open. Alice and Creamey sprinted down a long tunnel lined with alcoves, which held horrible things like, medieval torture devices, casks of vintage wine, a few coffins, some old needlepoint, and a statue of Uncle Hopenheim. The air was musty, and odors of mold drifted on the slight draft that stirred the cobwebs dangling from Uncle H’s graven image.
The passage opened up into an ancient cellar; or perhaps it was a dungeon. There was a barred door on one side and a regular door on the other. Straight across from the tunnel opening was a very old looking wooden door banded by strips of iron with large, wicked looking spikes. A collection of antique weaponry occupied the center of the stone cellar: cobweb-coated trunks and racks of rusted rifles, an old canon, poleaxes, and an assortment of bayonets and blunderbuss parts.
“Which way?” Creamey asked.
“I don’t know!” wailed Alice. “I’ve never been down here before.”
Creamey raced to the ordinary door. He peeked in and closed it. “Crypt,” he pronounced. Alice grabbed a rusty sword from the collection.
“Crypt?” she squeaked. Creamey raced to the barred door. It was locked. Alice followed him to the last door, which stood slightly ajar. The Duke’s voice boomed from the stairs.
“You understand the importance of the marriage, of course?”
“I suppose,” Lyra replied.
Alice frowned. Now they were both on to it… how miserable her stay was going to be. Especially if she got caught down here. She followed Creamey through the door. Creamey’s candle glinted on glass phials, beakers and tubes lined out on tables. There were horrible chains hanging from the ceiling and several metal cots lined in a row. A hulking boiler loomed in one corner and wires curled down the walls to connect with great awful gears and tubes and crank handles.
“God’s molars,” said Creamey. Alice gaped at him. “Pardon,” he amended. Then, looking around, he added, “but in all seriousness, God’s molars and eyeteeth!” There was no exit. They couldn’t go back out into the cellar: Hopenheim and Lyra would have reached the tunnel by now and would see their candle…
Creamey pointed at several large cabinets. He opened one, but it was full of bottles labeled with things like, ‘formaldehyde’ and ‘mandrake.’ There was even a brain floating in a large jar. Alice shuddered, looking away from the horrid, slimy things. Her stomach was already tight with fear, which was probably for the best, or she might have emptied it right there.
The next cabinet contained books with authors like Archimedes, Galen, Ocelot, and Paracelsus. Hopenheim and Lyra’s voices were getting closer.
Creamey dashed over to an iron maiden propped up in the corner. He pushed it open. It must have been put to regular use, the joints well oiled, because it didn’t make a sound. He closed himself in, extinguishing his candle.
Alice was about to protest when the door flew open.

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Sunday, October 8, 2017

Interview with Alison Clarke, Traveling Different Worlds

Alison Clarke is a young adult fantasy author of The Sisterhood Series. Book One, The Sisterhood, won 2016 Writer Of The Year by Diversity magazine. Book Two, Racine, which just came out on July 1, has already been nominated for Book Of The Year.
Twitter: @mythologist200

Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?  If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
I enjoy fantasy because I like creating different worlds. I don’t think about balancing, in terms of genres, because I think that emphasis will manifest organically.

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?
They came from my love for libraries.

How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing since grade six. 

What kind(s) of writing do you do?
I write young adult fantasy, but I also write poetry.

What cultural value do you see in writing/reading/storytelling/etc.?
Storytelling is an engine for empathy, and through walking in someone else’s shoes, we get a better understanding of what that person is going through.
It helps people to see that we have a shared humanity, that we should be more united than divided.

What do you think most characterizes your writing?
Fantastical elements, vivid imagery, and a poetic element to the writing, as I’m also a poet.

What was the hardest part of writing a book? 
Finding the time.

What did you enjoy most about writing a book?
Creating different worlds.

What inspires you? 
Going out for walks, nature.

What do you like to read in your free time?
I’ll read anything--from biographies, art books, books of poetry, and so on.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Unity Book Tour, Author Interview Exchange

As part of the UNITY BOOK TOUR, bringing three publishers and their authors together from around the world, we have this fun author interview exchange! I get to interview an author from another publisher and that author interviews me! So, I'd like to introduce you to Jacob Devlin! A fellow myth and fairytale fan, it seems! He's with Blaze Publishing, which is based in the U.S.
He's going to tell us a bit about himself and if you want a chance to win a copy of his book, just leave a comment here.

And be sure to head over to Jacob’s blog where I'm being interviewed!

Author Jacob Devlin

So hi. What’s your name and what do you write?
Hi! My name is Jacob Devlin. I write YA/upper MG fantasy books, usually with some sort of fairy tale or mythical twist involved.

When did you start writing and why?
I've enjoyed writing ever since I was little, but I got serious about it in grad school and wrote as a creative outlet for some of the emotions I was feeling when I lost a friend to brain cancer. What I found was that I was so "in my element" writing novels that I didn't want to stop, ever. The body and soul just required it.

What were the biggest challenges about becoming a published author?
To quote Captain America . . . patience! Querying, and the wait time that followed, was so ridonculously demoralizing. I was prepared for rejection. The real torture was waiting for the rejection letters that didn't even come. Sometimes I'd be holding out hope for a particular agent, a few months would go by, and I'd be like, "just tell me it's hot juicy garbage so I can move on already!" But the reality is that they don't have time to write rejections for everybody. So you have to learn to identify that moment where it's time to boot up and move on.

Shout out your publisher and tell us how they helped you on your creative journey.
Blaze Publishing has been great working with me through my first trilogy. They've forced my characters to grow, and strangely, I've felt myself growing with them.

Where can we find out more about them? 
I'd check out their website (!

What are you working on right now?
I'm between drafts of THE HUMMINGBIRD, the final book of my fairy tale fantasy trilogy. While I wait for revisions, I'm working on a totally separate project involving a dragon, a reality TV adventurist, and a train wreck!

Who is your most favourite character you’ve written and why do they speak to you so much?
While it's always incredibly hard to answer this question, I'm always going to have a huge soft spot for Pietro, the Peter Pan of my story. The trilogy takes some dark turns, but Pietro brings the charm and comic relief. He's also fiercely loyal to his loved ones and is exactly the kind of friend you'd want beside you for a road trip or war against an evil queen!

Do world events and politics influence your writing?
Up to this point, I've opted to leave a lot of today's politics out, because don't we need an escape sometimes? That's not to say I'll never draw from the political environment or current events, but I choose to leave that separate right now.

How important are places you have visited and where you live to your writing?
I have the travel bug, and my characters do too! I loved writing about an actual Renaissance Faire I went to in Maryland, where I discovered fried mac-and-cheese on a stick, and Renaissance jail! I love working different places into my writing.

Share with us your favourite line from your most recent release.
There's a simple piece of dialogue directed at Prince Liam: "The white knight has a shadow after all." His series arc is pretty turbulent and this is where his demons start kicking in.

Tell us five things that you love in life.
1. Breakfast for dinner! Especially Apple Jacks.
2. Comfortable shoes.
3. Movie theaters.
4. Traveling! Sightseeing, eating local food, exploring.
5. Music.

Tell us five things that you hate in life.
1. Those fake-out voicemail greetings. (Hello? What? Yeah? PSYCH LEAVE A MESSAGE LOL HA) STOP. IT!
2. Scorpions. Hell's rejects.
3. Losing at Scattergories.
4. Cancer.
5. Jerkish, entitled behavior.

What book started your love of reading?
I can't remember NOT having a love of reading. I was really into the Bailey School Kids in my elementary school days! A Wrinkle In Time and Harry Potter followed closely after that.

Tell us about your most recent release.
It's part of a series in which your favorite fairy tale characters and their families come together to fight off an evil queen and face their demons along the way! In the most recent installment, the main characters have to fight their way out of Wonderland. Along the way they're meeting the Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, the Hearts, all with their own new twists!

Where can we buy it?
You can order it through your local Barnes and Noble, Blaze Publishing's website, or Amazon!
Where can we find you on social media?
Twitter/IG: @jacob_devlin