Wednesday 9 December 2009

A Burning Light of Verse

My Book Review of  Chronicles of a Sage:  Simple Complexities by Deborah Simpson.

Philosophical, spiritual, obscure and beautiful; those are the words that best describe the poetry of Deborah Simpson.  Her book Chronicles of a Sage:  Simple Complexities lends easily to flexible reader interpretation and is, in turn, sombre, wistful and beautiful.

The format of the book is interesting, laid out in five chapters with a discussion of the ideas at the end of each section; you are handed both expressive verse and introspective dialogue.  The poems themselves are a heady mix of thought-provoking themes wrapped around deeper meanings.  The lovely verse flows smoothly, with hidden gems of lines popping out of the blue.

“I walked within the air
Of dankness and ruin –
Stood on wall of inertia
Searching for impetus –”

The style of the poetry may be off-putting to some, but I enjoyed the atypical vocabulary choices and visual structure.  I think the choices were bold and dramatic, bending into fresh, vivid imagery.

“Just beyond the indigo puddles
Crouched crimson-plated stalks –
Relics of life once radiant
Now, the affinity of ruins –”

Simple Complexities is a quality volume of poetry, a striking literary work, which I heartily recommend.

Chronicles of a Sage:  Simple Complexities is available at:


Just a note:  The copy of the this book used for review was provided free of charge by the author.

Sunday 29 November 2009

Haunts and History

My Review of Haunted Marietta by Rhetta Akamatsu.

Do you believe in ghosts?

This question may come to mind when you pick up this book to read, but by the time you finish the last page it won’t matter.  You will have simply enjoyed an engrossing story of a town’s history, which is in turn, personal, epic, tragic and yes, ethereal.

This book is one part history lesson, one part ghost story and one part paranormal primer, stirred into a delightfully entertaining read.  The author takes you on a whirlwind tour of the town of Marietta, from its founding through the American Civil War, to contemporary day.  Along the way, the reader is treated to fascinating stories of times past, shown the diversity of the town, and regaled with tales of its citizens, living and dead.

“History is in the air all around, and it is not hard to believe that shades from the past linger here or, indeed, all around the square.”

The paranormal aspects in the book are presented in a very factual, even subdued manner; no ghosts pop out and say boo (at least until the last chapter regarding the Haunted Doll; that tale spooked me a bit).  The author documents well researched accounts of the hauntings, gives her opinions, and lays out eerie possibilities, deftly dangling the unexplained before the reader.  Certainly some of the stories gave this reader something to consider.

“It is no wonder, then, that some of these soldiers linger here in spirit, as they do at every major Civil War battlefield and no doubt countless other unsung battle locations throughout the country.”

Haunted Marietta is a wonderful look at a small slice of the Southern past, including some that may be lingering in the present.  I highly recommend it.

Haunted Marietta can be found on 

About the author:

Rhetta Akamatsu is a certified paranormal investigator, is a member of Ghost Hounds Paranormal Investigation Group and the national paranormal network ParaNexus.  She is a long-time resident of Marietta, Georgia and has a strong interest in history, psychology, and parapsychology.
She has also written two other books about the paranormal, Ghost to Coast, and Ghost to Coast Tours and Haunted Places, as well as the non-fiction book, T'aint Nobody's Business if I Do, about the women of blues music. 



Wednesday 25 November 2009

Passing Fancies of Inspiration.

It seems, according to various articles I've read, people like to know the stories behind a book and how an author gets his/her inspiration. Generally, I don't ponder on my inspirations and it may be a touch dangerous to probe the workings of my mind, but I'm going to spill the secret of what motivated my book of short fiction, Passing Fancies.

The internet.
Yes, the world wide web is responsible for my collection of strange tales.  What, you say?  How did the internet inspire you?  A simple answer:  online writing groups, writing articles and Twitter.
Passing Fancies is a varied and odd collection of stories from short tales of 100 words or less to much longer narratives.  Much of the microfiction was written for a online writing group, Genre Shorties (where you write a tiny tale for a supplied prompt) and several of the longer stories were written for the Genre Creatives Challenge group.  Both of these groups can be found on

Two of the stories in the book, A Hand in his Pocket, and Time in a Box were thought up after I read posts by two online author friends.
A Hand in his Pocket came about after reading a post on how certain written phrases might appear if they were taken literally.  Example:  "He put a hand in his pocket", instead of "He put his hand in his pocket".  This gem of writing advice got me thinking, "Why would someone put a hand in his pocket if it wasn't his?" and my story, A Hand in his Pocket, was born, as were werewolves.  (Note:  I posted the original version of this story on, but there is a re-written version in the book.)
Time in a Box has a far less complicated origin.  Another author friend was discussing writing exercises and how he was using photos for inspiration.  One of the photos he included in the article gave me my own bit of inspiration and a different view of time-travel.

Now for Twitter.  Two of the stories were directly inspired by Tweets and one story was born of frustration from a bad day of Twitter spam.
Veil of Tears germinated after someone tweeted about a spelling goof with the words, vale and veil and well, I think Die, Spam Die speaks for itself.
Conversation in the Country Club came about after I read a Tweet by Elmore Leonard (yes, the Elmore Leonard).  He was ruminating on how he wrote about the dark underbelly of life and commented how he thought it was more interesting than a conversation in a club.  I would like to point out I did not disagree with this observation, but the thought did occur to me, "it would depend on the conversation".  Hence, my story about a strange underbelly in a country club.

So now you know.  My twisted mind can warp even the most mundane observation.

Tuesday 10 November 2009

The Charming Saga Resumes: A review of Kirins: The Flight of the Ain

The following book review is the second volume of the Kirins Trilogy; you can find my review of the first book, Kirins: The Spell of No’an, here:

Note for the FTC (in compliance with their new "rules"): Since I reviewed his first book in the trilogy, the author kindly asked me if I would care to read the second book; he provided me with a free e-book copy of his book for this review.

My review of Kirins: The Flight of the Ain
by James D. Priest

Kirins: The Flight of the Ain, by James D. Priest is an excellent sequel to the first delightful book of the Kirins and continues their saga with an ever-deepening story.

The book begins where the previous novel ended and although events of the first volume are woven into this narrative, I do recommend you read the books in order. This part of the trilogy has our tiny band of fantasy creatures, the Kirins, still pursuing their quest to restore what is amiss with their magic. They make headway in their travels, encounter dangers, new friends, find strange new Kirin communities and discover answers to the location of their destination.

The travelers moved cautiously up the last few stairs. Speckarin, at the head of his party, neared the entrance, peered through, and to his immense surprise saw the ocean. But instead of the tumultuous onslaught of breakers, waves were washing serenely over a sandy beach. A hint of something was in the air—smoke, thought Speckarin—and a second vague scent not immediately identifiable.

I found the pacing far better in this book, than I did in the first novel. The quest seems be more urgent and our tiny heroes more focused. The book still holds the sense of wonder and fantasy I enjoyed the first volume and expands on the well-crafted world in which the Kirins live. The interaction of Kirin world and human world is very credible and the portrayal of the extraordinary homes of the Kirins a delight.
I especially liked the character depth in this book; the author did an exceptional job of letting the characters develop and grow. They suffer troubles and tragedy, persevere and show courage to chase their mission. The author’s creations are well-rounded beings, both familiar and strange and the connection between reader and character is effortless.

What can possibly go wrong next? wondered Speckarin. Our water’s nearly gone. Thelasa’s food and containers are gone. Hut’s food’s been decimated. We now have three marginal stores to feed seven. Hut’s wounded, here on this endless, hostile ocean. And we have nothing to treat him with but this bit of cloth!

The second book in the trilogy expands on the situations and themes of the first volume nicely, giving readers more insights into both the characters and the fantasy culture of Kirin society. I enjoyed this second installment of the Kirin adventures and look forward to reading the conclusion.

I highly recommend this enjoyable fantasy book.

Website for the Kirins books:

About the Author:

James D. Priest, M.D., majored in English at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. He studied English in the masters program and received a Doctor of Medicine degree at the University of Minnesota. He spent three years in Japan as a physician in the Army of the United States caring for casualties from Viet Nam, and four years in orthopedic residency at Stanford University. He practiced orthopedics in Minneapolis for twenty-one years.
In addition to "Kirins", he has authored or co-authored approximately thirty medical articles, the
book for the layperson, "Beating Prostate Cancer without Surgery",and received the Minnesota Medicine Outstanding Writing Award.

Saturday 31 October 2009

What Are You Afraid Of?

Happy Halloween!

To go with all the frights and chills today, I am pleased to present guest blogger Pat Bertram. She stops by as part of her ongoing blog tour for her new book Daughter Am I, and she offers a spooky discussion on that primal emotion...


Through stories, we learn how to deal with our fears, especially if we are the ones writing the story. If you novelize your fear of being eaten alive by monsters from outer space, then the terrestrial ones eating you alive don’t seem so monstrous. If you watch a movie about aliens taking over your body, then the terrestrial one that’s taking over your mind might not seem quite so alien. You don’t think you are being eaten alive or that your mind is being taken over? Well, you are and it is -- it’s called aging. Little by little, the you that you know is being supplanted by a creature you could never fathom being. Some people turn into querulous beings totally unrecognizable from the daring-dos of their youthful selves. Some turn into their mothers. Some . . . Well, I’ve scared myself enough.

According to author Lee Child, we don’t write what we know -- we write what we fear. Perhaps this is true. My books are filled with fears -- fear of being at the mercy of mindless governments and corrupt corporations, fear of deadly and unstoppable diseases, fear of the loss of self, fear that our memories lie. Since all of these fears can be lumped into one group -- fear of powerlessness -- I wonder if all fears came down to that same thing. Mine do, anyway.

I checked out Phobias A-Z, to see what sort of things people are afraid of, and now I’m in danger of becoming a phobiaphobe. Or a phobiaphile. Although I am sympathetic to anyone caught in the horror of a phobia, I do enjoy the names. Names such as levophobia, kainophobia, lachanophobia, mageirocophobia, melophobia, nomatophobia, nyctohylophobia, paraskavedekatriaphobia. Great names for dreadful conditions.

Aha! Here’s the one I was looking for: shamhainophobia -- fear of Halloween. I knew there had to be such a thing! There is a name for every other fear.

Okay, I’ll let you off the hook so you don’t turn into a Sesquipedalophobe (someone who fears long words). Here’s what the above-mentioned words mean:

  • Levophobia -- Fear of things to the left side of the body
  • Kainophobia -- Fear of anything new
  • Lachanophobia -- Fear of vegetables
  • Mageirocophobia -- Fear of cooking
  • Melophobia -- Fear of music
  • Nomatophobia -- Fear of names
  • Nyctohylophobia -- Fear of dark wooded areas
  • Paraskavedekatriaphobia -- Fear of Friday the 13th

The one fear I hope no one ever gets is patbertramophobia. So not good for me as a writer!

Pat Bertram is a native of Colorado and a lifelong resident. When the traditional publishers stopped publishing her favorite type of book — character and story driven novels that can’t easily be slotted into a genre — she decided to write her own. Daughter Am I is Bertram’s third novel to be published by Second Wind Publishing, LLC. Also available are More Deaths Than One and A Spark of Heavenly Fire.

Daughter Am I:

When twenty-five-year-old Mary Stuart learns she inherited a farm from her recently murdered grandparents-grandparents her father claimed had died before she was born-she becomes obsessed with finding out who they were and why someone wanted them dead. Along the way she accumulates a crew of feisty octogenarians-former gangsters and friends of her grandfather. She meets and falls in love Tim Olson, whose grandfather shared a deadly secret with her great-grandfather. Now Mary and Tim need to stay one step ahead of the killer who is desperate to dig up that secret.

Friday 30 October 2009

A Halloween Story

A Monster Therapy Session

“Now don’t feel awkward, we’re all here to share our problems. Just tell us how you feel.” I gave our newest member of group an encouraging, sympathetic look.
“I feel so persecuted, so violated. They won’t even let me have my eternal rest!” The Mummy buried his face in his bandaged hands.
“Tell me about it! I got nuts chasing me with guns and silver bullets! How can they afford silver bullets in this recession?” The Wolfman scowled.
Dracula flashed his fangs in return. “At least you do not have teenage girls hounding you. Oh, how I hate Twilight! I believe I preferred it when all I had to contend with were mobs and wooden stakes.”
I glanced over at the Headless Horseman. He was hunched over as usual, with an air of dejection. Poor man, it was so hard to participate in a discussion without a mouth, or a head. I might have to adjust his depression medication again.
“Have any of you been trying to socialize as I suggested? Let people get to know the real you, to see past the image?”
“I have.” Frank joined in the conversation. We had shortened his name some time ago; Frankenstein’s Monster was too much of a label. “I went to a Halloween party a few days ago; no one knew I wasn’t wearing a costume. I just blended in. It was so freeing and I had a great time. I just wish they would treat me that way all the time.”
I reached over and patted his shoulder. “They will, eventually. This is what the group therapy is for, to help you integrate into society.” I glanced at the clock.
“Well, it is time to end the session for today. Now remember, try and socialize, and no incidents.” I gave them a stern look. “That means no dismemberment, Wolfman, and no bloodsucking, Dracula. I don’t want a repeat of last Halloween.”
I ushered everyone to the door with a smile. “I’ll see you all the same time next week.”

Monday 26 October 2009

Book News

Just some updates today about my latest activities:

- I'm putting the finishing touches on my newest books, Shadows of Poetry and Passing Fancies.

Shadows of Poetry is my second volume of poetry, a book of dark verse. It has been uploaded to and I'm just awaiting the proof copy to check for errors and those sneaky typos. After it has been approved (hopefully that will happened within the next week or so) it officially goes on sale. Also, the download version (available at will be only $1 until January.

Wanted: Readers of the grim, the sorrowful, and unhappy endings.

Poetry written for the blackness in your soul.
Wrenching, dismal, bleak verse for those who want to walk on the dark side.
No sappy, cheerful love poems allowed.

Passing Fancies is a book of short fiction, mostly fantasy tales with a few bits of other fiction; the book will have three types of fiction, Micro Fiction, Flash Fiction, and Short Stories.
I'm writing the last few stories for the book and working on the editing and I should be finished by the end of the week. Then it is off to and glory. I will be posting a excerpt or two from this book here at my blog.

Note: For anyone not familiar with the terms, Micro Fiction are stories 100 words or less, Flash Fiction, stories around 1000 words and Short Stories are usually between 1000 and 7500 words.

-I have a special Halloween treat coming with guest blogger Pat Bertram stopping by as part of her blog tour. Anyone not familiar with her books should check them out. You can find More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire and her newest Daughter Am I at and Second Wind Publishing.

-Shameless Plug: Looking for a horror book in time for Halloween? Chronicles of the Undead is available at,, Barnes and Noble and (also on, a more budget friendly download version).

Chronicles of the Undead:

Family Secrets.
Three generations of one family share their intimacies with the world of the vampire.

Inside the personal journals of the Harrington family, a dark and dangerous odyssey unfolds.
Three members of this tormented family, Samuel, his son Edmund, and Edmund’s daughter Charlotte, struggle during the 18th and 19th century in London, England, as the lives of this family intersects with supernatural forces. Two intriguing vampires befriend, manipulate and play with all three souls, altering their lives forever.
Their fears, private confidences and weaknesses are revealed as one selfish act ends in horrific tragedy, with far-reaching consequences.

Who succumbs to the seduction and danger of the vampire? Who grapples to combat the evil influence that permeates their lives?

Friday 11 September 2009

Today's Guest, Sandy Lender

Welcome please, Sandy Lender who is stopping by as part of her virtual book tour for Choices Meant for Kings the second volume inher wonderful fantasy series:

If You’re Gonna Hit, Hit Like You Mean It, by Fantasy Author Sandy Lender

Weighing in at a whopping 63 grams, Cricket the fancy green-cheeked conure is a diminutive companion parrot. She’s the smallest of the pet birds in my flock of four and she has this habit of standing up very tall on her skinny scaly legs, stretching everything from her feet to her neck until she looks like a manic Jack Nicholson to appear “big” like the African Grey. For all the posturing, she’s still only 63 grams of hollow bones and green-n-gray fluffy feathers. What’s inspiring this post today is that when she flits down from her playgym to the floor four feet below, she does it with surprising force. This psychotic little bird doesn’t aim for the floor beak-first like a dive-bomber (thank goodness), but she jumps and flutters in an almost-graceful arc that loses all semblance of an Olympian swimmer about six inches into the fall. From there on down, it’s all fluttering and flapping and failed attempts to catch an updraft until she hits the floor with the force of a bird five times her size.

Today, while saying the customary “Oops! Cricket fell!” that I hope the other birds will learn to announce if I’m ever not in the room when Cricket does this uncoordinated launch, I thought about what I could learn from this “thud” of tiny bird mass. She’s so small, yet she hits with real gusto. It’s like she’s putting her heart into it. “If I’m going to hit, I’m going to mean it!”

As an author, I can totally relate. When it was time to pitch my Choices series, I sat in front of a publisher where I could have gotten rejection right to my face. But, you know, if I was going to fall, I was going to mean it. When each book has been released, I’ve sent it to reviewers for comments/testimonials/reviews. Scary prospects! But, you know… There are other examples of taking risks and putting yourself on the line. So how about it? Any visitors today willing to share the risks you’ve taken? Any “leaps” you’re willing to tell us about?

(Pet safety note: Cricket does not leap off her playgym every day. And when she does, I don’t reward her. The attention she receives is minimal because I have to get her off the floor and back to her perch, but that’s all the attention she receives at that time. There’s no praise for jumping, no treat, no special toy. Also, the floor around her cage is carpeted with a pad beneath it. We have play time on a separate play perch—and on me—at other times. I discourage the jumping as best I can.)

"Some days, you just want the dragon to win."

Blurb for Choices Meant for Kings:

Chariss is in danger. Her geasa is hampered by the effects of a friend’s marriage. The dashing Nigel Taiman hides something from her, yet demands she stay at his family’s estate where he and her wizard guardian intend to keep her safe. But the sorcerer Lord Drake and Julette The Betrayer know she’s there, and their monstrous army marches that way.

When prophecies stack up to threaten an arrogant deity, Chariss must choose between the dragon that courts her and the ostracized kings of the Southlands for help. Evil stalks her at every turn and madness creeps over the goddess who guides her. Can an orphan-turned-Protector resist the dark side of her heritage? Or will she sacrifice all to keep her god-charge safe?

A Tense Little Excerpt From Choices Meant for Kings

You won’t find this excerpt anywhere except Sandy’s current online book tour…

As the soldier stepped toward him, Nigel reached out his arm and caught him by the neck. He slammed the captain against the far wall. He pinned him there with his body, leaning against the man as if he could crush the wind from him with his presence.

He brought his face close to the soldier’s ear and spoke lowly, fiercely, so that no one could have overheard him. The menace and intent behind the words was as surprising to the captain as the words themselves.

“I asked you to accompany Chariss on this journey tomorrow because I have faith in your sword, and until this moment I trusted you to keep your distance from her. Now, I find her down here at your side with a look upon your face that suggests more than you realize. So help me, Naegling, the only thing that stays my hand is how displeased she would be if she learned that I sliced you open.”

“The look you see is merely my concern for her honor. Nothing more.”

“I’m not a fool. And I’ll use every last piece of Arcana’s treasury to pay the prophets to justify my reasons for marrying that woman, so you can unconcern yourself with her honor.”

Hrazon stepped off the staircase then and saw Nigel pressed against his guard.

“I still believe you’re one of the best soldiers Arcana’s ever seen,” Nigel continued, “and I want you at her side for this journey, but, so help me, Naegling, she comes back alive and well and not confused in the least about her affections for me, or I will string you up from a tree in the orchard and attach your intestines to your horse’s saddle before I send it—”

Hrazon cleared his throat. “Excuse me. Is there an issue here I should address?”

You can find more info on this book and the first in the series, Choices Meant for Gods, at:

Check out the rest of her blog tour here:

Wednesday 2 September 2009

Guest C.L. Talmadge discusses "Writing a fiction series".

Please welcome my guest today, C.L. Talmadge, author of the Green Stone of Healing book series. She has a fascinating discussion in store for you readers, as she shares insights on writing a fiction series
Don't forget to comment for your chance to win a copy of her book set.

Writing a fiction series
By C.L. Talmadge

A series is what happens to fiction when the story is just too big to stuff into one book. What is old about fiction is new again.

During the 19th century, many of the novels we know today started out as serialized stories in daily or weekly broadsheets or monthly magazines. Two instantly recognizable examples are the works of Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s profiles of his famous detective, Sherlock Holmes. These authors were paid initially by the word or the column inch, which encouraged them to be prolific writers.

Their readers expected Dickens and Doyle to unroll their tales in stages and looked forward to the next installment. Serialized fiction gained new life in the late 20th century with two publishing phenomena, the Harry Potter and Left Behind series. Both of these showed publishers yet again that diverse sets of readers are willing to absorb fiction a bit at a time instead of all at once.

A fiction series is probably better suited to 21st century readers precisely they do not have to spend a great deal of time with each step of the plot. After all, there are blogs, fantasy sports, Facebook, movies, online news, text messaging, Twitter, YouTube and so forth demanding their attention, too.

The challenge for writers of serialized fiction is to give readers enough to feel satisfied yet hold more of the story in reserve to keep them tantalized. This is a delicate balance and there’s simply no formula for it. How it works out depends entirely on the plot. The easiest, most prevalent kind of fiction series features a character, very often a police detective or private gumshoe, with numerous cases to solve, each case forming a separate novel.

But it is possible to write one long story as a series, too. In this case, the tales that are best for serialization have lots of ups and downs, and twist and turns, offering numerous points at which the protagonist(s) face some sort of danger, challenge, or quandary. Ending at any one of these spots leaves some questions resolved and others still to be answered, inducing frustration and anticipation.
Several hundred manuscript pages into the first draft of what I thought would be one novel, I realized it had to be a series. The Green Stone of Healing® speculative epic was born. The series is really two parallel tales. The first is an old woman’s fictionalized memoire narrated in the third-person past tense. This is by far most of the story.

It is prefaced and followed, however, by first-person, present-tense short sakes about her current perils. This two-track structure is possible only when the author knows how the story ends. Readers also know how it ends (badly), but that is not as important as why it ends so terribly. And thanks to the memoire writer’s running accounts of her current challenges, they also know that hope survives. That is important when times are dark.

Another challenge in writing a series like this is the sheer number of characters involved over four generations and multiple countries. I began a glossary in the first book, and add to it with each subsequent book. Many times I refer to the glossary myself when writing about certain characters, just to refresh my memory about that character’s likely political affiliations and attitude toward the heroine.

Although crafting a compelling series makes fiction even harder than normal, it can also make it more rewarding, too. A series gives an author the luxury of character development over time and of exploring questions, like the why behind the what, that one-book works simply cannot or do not accommodate.

C.L. Talmadge is the author of the Green Stone of Healing® speculative epic. The fourth in the series, Outcast, will be published Oct. 1. Vote for the first book, The Vision, through Sept. 25 and get a free e-book on healing, love, and spirituality. Details at her blog:

The Green Stone of Healing:
The series features four generations of strong-willed female characters who inherit a mysterious green gem ultimately revealed to mend broken bones and broken hearts, protect against missiles, and render its wearers undetectable.
For more information about each book, please visit

You can check out her entire virtual book tour here:

Wednesday 12 August 2009

A Book of Memorable Poetry.

My Book Review of stains: early poems by Lori A. May:

I was quite delighted with stains: early poems; the author Lori A. May has managed to convey in her poetry a striking impression. Her poems range from the harmonious to thought provoking and are always wonderfully intimate.

The book is formatted into seven categories, cleverly titled as different types of smudges: grass, coffee, ink, salt, smoke, blood, sweat. The poetry contained within these categories matches the feel of each word, suggesting a distinct mood. The poems themselves are beautifully written in stark, precise imagery; you often feel as if you are peering through a window, glimpsing at the years of someone’s life.

“summer sands sweeping
across the winter of my skin
sweet tangy lemon
quenching my hot mouth”

The poetry is an admirable reflection on various aspects of existence, most often dealing with softer subjects such as memories, love or minute bits of life, but when the author occasionally veers into more demanding themes the verse truly shines.

“smart girls don’t think
she says

just keep your thoughts to yourself

smart girls don’t talk

she says

that mouth of yours can be big trouble

they don’t want little girls

telling them what to do she says

they want to feel as though

they are kings”

I definitely recommend this book. It is a charming volume of poetry and a superb read for anyone who loves verse.

stains: early poems is available at and Barnes and

Tuesday 11 August 2009

Author's Spotlight with Lori A. May - Part 1

Today, I have the distinct pleasure of presenting the first of a two-part spotlight on author and poet Lori A. May. Ms. May is the author of the suspense novels, The Profiler and Moving Target. She recently penned her first book of poetry, stains: early poems.

Part one of this fabulous spotlight is the following interview with Ms. May, and be sure to pop back tomorrow for my review of her volume of poetry, stains: early poems.

An Interview with Lori. A. May:

Q: Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.

A: Sure! I’m a novelist, poet, and freelance writer so I always have something new on the go. I recently moved from Ontario to Michigan, where I am editor of The Ambassador Poetry Project. In addition to fiction and poetry, I’m also a part-time college writing instructor, which is a very rewarding component of my portfolio. It’s so much fun working with emerging writers, so I also present sessions at conferences and festivals where I can hopefully share some encouragement with others based on my own experiences as an author, instructor, and editor.

Q: How long have you been writing? Did you always desire to make it your line of work?

A: My earliest memories include dreams of what it would be like to write for a living, so it’s always been a part of me. As far as writing as a profession, I would say I have been at it for more than a dozen years now, maybe closer to fifteen. Like most writers, it was something that I loved in my youth and I just stuck with it and kept at it all this time. Not everyone starts off writing at a young age and everyone has their own path, but the one consistency amongst those who write for a living is that it takes a great deal of dedication and persistence, no matter when you start.

Q: Can you tell us about your latest book?

A: My latest is perhaps a surprise to fans of my crime fiction. As a multi-genre writer, though, I am very pleased with the release of stains: early poems. It’s a collection of some of my earliest poems, some dating back more than a decade. Since I have a few new poetry manuscripts ready to go out the door it was the right time for this introductory release to be available to readers. My voice has grown a bit and my style has developed with more experience as a poet, but I am really proud of the work in stains and I hope readers will enjoy its quirky nature, innocence, and themed chapters. For fun, the collection also includes ‘stained images,’ a collection of experimental black and white photography I hope readers will view as an enhancement to the poetry within stains.

Q: Do you prefer to write suspense fiction or poetry? Do you find it difficult to switch genres?

You know, I write almost every day and it all depends on what sort of mood I am in, but overall I love both equally. There’s something to be said about watching characters react when faced with challenging circumstances within a novel, but then there is such beauty to be discovered within the constraints of poetry. I can’t imagine giving either up so I just enjoy the love of both and will continue to write both. Since I go with my mood (or deadline!), I don’t find it difficult to manage both. It’s a great way to keep from getting bored and I love the variety each offers.

Q: Can you tell us about your writing process? Where do your ideas originate? Do you have a certain writing routine?

A: I wouldn’t say I have a routine so much as I make a commitment. When I know what I plan on writing – such as a new novel or a collection of poems – I set goals for myself of how that will be accomplished and when I will work on the project. I find that keeps me in line without making hard and fast rules. I do try to write each day, or at least work on plotting, planning, or outlining. Once I get deep into research and outlining, it’s not long until I am at my chair, dedicated to the project for the long run. Ideas can originate anywhere and inspiration comes when least expected – during long drives or right before falling asleep – so I just try to keep my mind open for clues as to something that may take root. Some days, ideas come slower than others and when that happens I take a break, ask myself a lot of ‘what if’ questions, and see where that leads me.

Q: What is your greatest challenge as a writer?

A: Never having enough time to do everything I want in a day. While I think I manage my time wisely, the day just goes too quick when you consider the writing duties in addition to marketing, promotions, media, and networking with others. Each day I reference my to-do list and inevitably some things are transferred over to the next day, but I suppose that’s what it’s like in any job. At least I am never bored and always have something on the go. But what I wouldn’t give to have an extra few hours – without compromising sleep and a social life!

Q: How do you research your books?

A: For my novels, the research is in proportion to the subject matter. The Profiler required some intense research into serial murder, sociopath behavior, and religion and for that I read a lot, interviewed a number of individuals, and created a good number of files to organize my findings. Moving Target was part of a continuity series my publisher put together, so there was a lot of reading prior to even thinking about creating a storyline. However, sometimes research plays a much smaller role, as is now the case with my new work-in-progress, a suspense novel for teens. The YA market is more about keeping up the pace in storytelling than it is about focusing in on intricate details that may slow the pace.

Q: What advice would you give beginning writers?

A: Have fun. Writing can either be a hobby or it can be a dream that turns into a professional career and both should be an enjoyable experience. Most writers write because they love it and can’t stop thinking of stories or poems so I think it’s important to remember why you started writing and to hang onto that joy. Once the business side takes on more of a role, it’s easy to lose sight of that personal enjoyment. Yes, writing is work, but it should be one of the things you look forward to most when you wake up in the morning. Since it is a business, remember that there are two sides to it: what can be controlled by the writer and what cannot be controlled or predicted. Read everything (in and outside of your genre), write regularly and as often as you can, and be open to opportunities. You never know what will work until you stumble upon it, so keep the determination, persistence, and motivation alive and you’ll love what you do, no matter what you do, so long as you do it for yourself.

Q: Who has inspired you as an author?

A: For poetry, I am a big fan of Molly Peacock. She is such a wonderful writer who has an amazing career story, from her modest beginnings to now being one of North America’s most recognized poets. Molly has an incredible voice, is wildly encouraging when it comes to inspiring emerging authors and is a wonderful poet to listen to at readings. In fiction, I have always been a fan of the classics like Sylvia Plath, Hemingway, and Dickens, but in current times I get so much inspiration from new authors who find it impossible to share their excitement. That’s why I read so many magazines and journals – for the discovery of new voices. What I do find incredibly inspiring, and highly recommend to emerging authors, are the non-fiction and memoir books about writing like Stephen King’s On Writing, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, and Carolyn See’s Making A Literary Life. I recommend each of these to writers of all stages in their career.

Q: What’s next for you?

A: Currently, I am working on a couple of young adult projects with suspense and drama at the forefront. These should appeal to my adult fans, too, so it’s not a complete diversion from my usual work. I’m also editing the final draft of a mainstream crime drama my agent is eagerly awaiting, tentatively titled The Name of the Game. Of course, much of my time this fall will be devoted to promoting stains: early poems because I hope it won’t be long until a new poetry book is announced. I also welcome readers to visit my website and blog,, to see where I’ll be doing readings and booksignings, presenting at festivals and conferences, and sharing all sort of other news.

Thank you so much for the opportunity to share my latest news, A.F. It’s been a pleasure!

About the author:
Lori A. May is a poet, novelist, and freelance writer whose work has appeared in publications such as The Writer, Two Review, Tipton Poetry Journal, and anthologies such as Van Gogh’s Ear. She is the Founding Editor of The Ambassador Poetry Project and The Western Literary Review, a college writing
instructor, and an advocate for emerging authors and artists.

stains: early poems is available at and Barnes and

You can also check out The Profiler and Moving Target at Amazon.

Thursday 6 August 2009

A Bit of Romance with Christine Clemetson

Today, I welcome Christine Clemetson, author of the romantic novel, A Daughter’s Promise. She is stopping by on her whirlwind blog tour to share her insights in a wonderful interview, and give everyone a sneak peek with an excerpt from her book:

An Interview with Christine Clemetson

Q: Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.

A: Hello! Thanks so much for having me! I’m a romance writer who loves writing historicals and suspense! I grew up in a small beach town in New Jersey and earned a BA in Literature and Language. Through all this, I learned the craft of writing and started submitting my stories for publication. My first book, A Daughter’s Promise, came out from the Wild Rose Press recently.

Q: How long have you been writing, and why did you decide to become a writer?

A: I think I’ve been writing my whole life. My earliest memories of making up stories came while sitting on the beach. I always brought a notebook and jotted down stories and ideas for stories. I can’t imagine life without writing.

Q: Can you to tell us about your book. What was your inspiration for the story?

A: It’s set in war torn Italy, 1944, where Serene Moneto made a promise to her dying mother—a promise so haunting that it directs the course of her life. When she chooses to save an American soldier from death, she risks everything—her name, her life, and capture by the Germans. Finding forbidden love with this soldier tears her world apart.

I wanted to give a voice to people that lived during this time period in WWII. I wanted their stories of survival and hope to be heard by others. So I decided to place an American soldier right in the middle of Italy on Anzio beach head and the only chance of his survival would be through a local woman. When they find love, they ultimately look to each other for hope. I wanted to capture that inspiration on paper.

Q: Do you consider yourself a genre writer?

A: Yes! Romance through and through. Although I’ve realized that I enjoy writing different flavors of romance, including historical and suspense.

Q: I know many writers, myself included, have difficulties writing romantic scenes. Do you struggle with them, or is writing them a breeze?

A: I have to admit that I do struggle with them. I do put inspirational music on when I write them to help it make it a little easier, and I do try to concentrate more on the “feelings” that accompany the physical part.

Q: What is the most challenging part of being a writer?

A: The most challenging aspect of writing for me is toning down the plot points. As a pantser (writing with minimal outline), sometimes I get carried away and try to include too many plot lines. I usually don’t see it until I step back from the manuscript and look at the plot as a whole.

Q: How did you research your book?

A: When I was researching my book, “A Daughter’s Promise”, I needed to research everything, from the ground up. I’ve never been to Italy or knew the details of WWII that I needed. To get the richness of the time period, and the people who lived in it, I had to dig in deep and be creative in my research methods. I used the internet and library to form the foundation of my research, including the timeline of events in Rome, what churches were still standing, and also what an Italian funeral would have been like. Also, I had an eyewitness account. From networking, I found a woman who had lived close to Rome during WWII. She told me many things hard to find in books, including how people felt about the war conditions going on around them, how bad the food rations were, how people moved around Rome, and how it felt for the Germans to be patrolling their neighborhoods. Also, I read many biographies.

Q: What advice would you give beginning writers?

A: Write everyday and learn the craft. Keep reading all genres to experience all types of writing and techniques. Writing takes you to so many places, so don’t forget to enjoy the journey.

Q: What writers have inspired you as an author?

A: Laura Ingalls Wilder was the first author that I remember reading and thinking, WOW! I want to create stories like that. Then as I got older, authors like Kathleen Woodiwiss, LaVryle Spencer, and Stephen King. All of these authors are so talented and know how to draw the reader into the story from the very first page.

Q: What’s next for you?

A: Currently, I’m marketing a contemporary suspense set in the Florida Everglades, along with a contemporary romance set in New Jersey. Stay tuned!

Thank you so much for having me here today! It's been great talk to you!

Christine Clemetson –
A Daughter’s Promise

A Daughter’s Promise, by debut novelist Christine Clemetson, is a sweeping love story of sacrifice and unexpected hope. In war torn Italy, 1944, Serene Moneto made a promise to her dying mother—a promise so haunting that it directs the course of her life. When she chooses to save an American soldier from death, she risks everything—her name, her life, and capture by the Germans. Finding forbidden love with this soldier tears her world apart. Against the backdrop of a war raging right outside her door, can she choose happiness? Despite the promise she made those years ago?

See the trailer at:


They both knew Serene’s turn had come. She took in a deep breath and touched his arms in a stiff embrace. She hugged him the way she had rehearsed in her head over and over, the way a mother would hug her son going off to war.

“I don’t care who sees,” he said gruffly, pulling her closer. He pushed her chin up with his
fingertips, and bent his head to kiss her.

She took his lips, his body, all of him, into her heart for the last time. Feeling the rapid beating in his chest, she fought the urge to mold her most intimate part against his.

When their lips parted, his warm breath on her neck made her body shiver. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she buried her face into his jacket. “I’m not ashamed about
what I said to you last night or what happened between us.” Her voice cracked. “It’s a sin, I know, but it was the most beautiful—”

“Ashamed? I don’t think I’ll ever have that kind of love again.”

Trembling, she stood back a little, clinging to her emotions with the delicacy of a spider web. “But you were right. We made the most logical decision.”

Jesus, Serry. I want to tell you so bad that I—”

“You’re all set, then?” Sam said, coming back into the house.

Serene let go of Miles, letting her one finger intertwine with one of his pinky fingers. She couldn’t let him go.

Slowly, he released her and went to the door, putting one foot on the outside pavement before hesitating and turning back. His eyes were red, and she clutched the stair banister to keep from running to him. How much she loved him would be a secret
she’d take to the grave.

Carrying a bottle of whiskey, Marcus passed him at the door and gave him a friendly slap on the back. “I came to give you a goodbye, Coulson.”

Serene stood up straight and froze.

Miles jerked himself away. “Change of heart about me?”

His answer was Marcus’ deep kiss on Serene’s cheek and an arm around her waist. “I realized, Coulson, that I’m proud of her for taking the responsibility for you. I thought it was about time that I offered my apologies for the undiplomatic way I acted. We’re all in this for a cause, no? Why don’t we share a bottle to celebrate?”

“No, your change of heart doesn’t rub me the right way.” Miles offered an apologetic glance to Serene and then shifted his gaze back to Marcus. “You hurt her, and I’ll hurt you. You understand me?”

“Have a safe trip,” Marcus drawled.

Serene watched the driver help him in and her knees weakened. As the truck’s engine started, she braced herself against the wall.

“Don’t worry. Serene. Just think of this as a wedding present from me. No more worries about your American. He is well now and gone for good. Your only thanks is to marry me.”

She couldn’t hear him. Her throat ached and she made no effort to wipe the tears spilling freely from her eyes. She started for the door, but he grabbed her by the shoulders.

A Daughter’s Promise available at The Wild Rose Press

Author's Website:

Tuesday 28 July 2009

Fantasy, Gods, and a Great Read.

My Review of Rise of the Ancients – Annuna by JC De La Torre.

Rise of the Ancients – Annuna by JC De La Torre is an intriguing fantasy that sprinkles ancient gods, mythology, theology, history, and world origins onto the pages and swirls it all into a philosophical adventure and an end-of-the-world apocalypse.

This novel is the continuation of the Rise of the Ancients saga, which began in JC De La Torre’s novel Ancient Rising -Rise of the Ancients Book 1. In Rise of the Ancients – Annuna the story resumes directly after the events in the first book, (that book deals with the mythical city of Atlantis, the release of the god-like Dodekatheon and the annihilation of the world), and contains both Book II and Book III of the chronicle. In Book II, Ancient Destruction, the narrative alternates between the present as Dan and the rest flee the Dodekatheon to save what is left of the world and flashback tales told by Prometheus, detailing the history of the Annuna and the Dodekatheon. In Book III, Rise of the Annuna, Dan journeys to the home of the Annuna, a trip that eventually leads to the final showdown.

“Prometheus woke me just before daybreak and invited me to join him on the bridge of the galleon. I glanced at Doc, Mina, and Marty, each were sleeping soundly. It was good that they got their rest. I had a feeling things were going to be getting a lot worse. Once I reached Prometheus’ side, he smiled slightly.”

Rise of the Ancients – Annuna is an interesting take on fantasy tradition. It juxtaposes myths, legendary tales and modern religion, interlacing it with a good saga of heroes vs. villains. The characterization is excellent, with the intrepid heroes nicely flawed and all villains delectably ruthless. Throw in a heavenly host and a few demons and you get a fascinating narrative discourse.

“I backed out of the jungle and into the clearing. I glanced back toward Prometheus, who was engaged in titanic warfare with the other twelve Gods… and he was losing. Without thinking, I sheathed my sword, clasped my hands together and from them came a burst of energy that struck into the melee, knocking Ares on his primordial backside. The anger in his face was priceless.”

I enjoyed the book and found it appealing, although I did find the pace at times a bit uneven. Events that went previously are often explained, and while this does add to the narrative it also slows the story. In addition some of the flashbacks meander just a touch. Still, overall, the book’s storyline had a good flow, and held my attention.

I liked the ideas presented in this book, and found both the story and the perspectives offered to the reader engaging. I recommended it as a distinctive fantasy novel.

Author Website:
Be sure to check out his blog tour for the book.

You can find both books at

Rise of the Ancients – Annuna

Ancient Rising -Rise of the Ancients

And at

Rise of the Ancients – Annuna

Ancient Rising -Rise of the Ancients

Note: In case any are wondering why I am reviewing the second book in this series and skipping over the first, the explanation is simple: I have yet to read the first book in the series. I received my copy of this book through the website LibraryThing and their Member Giveaway; of the prerequisites for requesting this book was to provide a review.
I did enjoy the story enough to buy the first novel, Ancient Rising, so hopefully a review of that novel will be forecoming soon.

Tuesday 30 June 2009

No Sensible People: A Wonderful Piece of Fiction

My Review of No Sensible People by Gretchen Lee Bourquin

What happens when the past catches up with you?
Just one of the questions the outstanding novel No Sensible People asks of the reader.
This appealing book presents its story in an engaging style, from the point-of-view of several different characters. This approach presents a fuller perspective on both the narrative and the characters, without losing any flow or causing reader confusion. It works superbly as a character driven story, blossoming into a bittersweet, tangled tale of awkward intertwined lives.

At its heart the book is a family drama, one that is both intimate and engrossing. It begins with two deaths that leave poor Jennie Halifax an orphan and makes her married Aunt Lucy her guardian. Jennie would far rather stay with family friend Denny Ferguson in her small town home, yet she has no choice but to move to the big city to live with her aunt. Lucy’s life too, is thrown into disorder by the deaths and the sudden presence of Jennie, as well as the arrival of Denny, Lucy’s old flame. These events bring past secrets bubbling to the surface, and make everyone face current problems head on.

“She walked into the kitchen and spotted me sitting at the table. She didn't say anything. She stared at me the way any nine year old would stare down reality coming to take her away.”

I found the book a realistic view of a family, complete with complicated problems, dysfunctional relationships, genuine connections and feelings. The layers from past and present are slowly peeled away to show you the characters, while giving enough to connect with them and care about their troubles; the reader is provided a remarkable panorama of life. I also found the ending satisfying, never wrapping everything in a happy little bow, yet still giving the sense the characters and their lives had concluded a difficult chapter.

“Aunt Lucy and Uncle Frank went silent as if an electric cord controlled them and I had pulled it from the wall. Uncle Frank went to the closet for his coat and walked out the door. Aunt Lucy went to the kitchen and poured herself a glass of wine. I went to my room to draw.”

I usually don’t read a great deal of general fiction, tending to favour genres like mystery or fantasy, but I am glad I read this book. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to read a high-class, wonderful novel.

The book is available on
No Sensible People

And at
No Sensible People

Monday 8 June 2009

A Sublime Book of Poetry: Review of Crenellations

My Review of Crenellations by Ann B. Keller

Crenellations by Ann B. Keller is an interesting mixture of poetry, with some compelling visual imagery. Each rhyme is a story told in poetry form, and takes the reader through an enchanting and varied journey.
“Could a dragon have a home, like you or I,
A place where the younglings grow strong,
With mother and father feeding their babes
Teaching them honor and magic, right from wrong?”
The poems range in topic from ageless fantasy and history to quiet ruminations on nature and life. I found the tone old-fashioned and lyrical, in the grand tradition of a bard. It is a bursting world, full of musings on fair maidens, knights, castles, myths, innocence, flora, family, love and God. The author seems to be channelling, with great aplomb, the spirits of poets past.
“In this secret place, I dance with shadows
And waltz with creatures of the night,
With thundering heart, I cling to thee,
As midnight steals over my soul.”
There are no avant-garde poems in the book’s pages, simply odes to the time-honoured forms of poetry.
Personally, I would have liked to have seen a bit more structure in the format, perhaps with the poems categorized, but this quibble certainly does not detract from the delight taken in the reading of the poetry or the skill of the poet.
Crenellations is a picturesque and comforting book of poetry and I greatly recommend it.

The book is available from

It is also at

Tuesday 2 June 2009

Today's Guest, Fantasy Author Sandy Lender

I have a two-for-one treat today.
First up is the delightful guest post by Author Sandy Lender, on researching a fantasy novel.
Then immediately following the article is a spotlight on her book:
Choices Meant For Gods.

Ms. Lender is currently on a blog tour, (courtesy on Goddess Fish Blog Tours) and you can find her complete schedule here: Blog Tour for Sandy Lender
And one lucky commenter will win an autographed, hard cover, first edition of Choices Meant for Gods each week, drawn from the comments on the blogs featured that week.

Finding Fantasy Resources for Research by Sandy Lender

I’m sure that many of the fantasy authors who’ve participated at this site or had their work reviewed at this site have the same basic problem when it comes to research: ya can’t really research stuff that isn’t real. You can’t pick up an encyclopedia and find the origination of The Ungol race. I made it up for my fantasy world in CHOICES MEANT FOR GODS. (In my early scribbled notebooks, you’ll see them called Lognu, but I thought that sounded strange.) The Ungol are a peaceful, artistic race that lives in the underground network of sapedrels known as Tiurlang. (And then, this spring, I found a reference to ungol in a Tolkien book and, once again, cursed Tolkien for being a literary god. I was already upset with him for using the ultimately perfect name Smaug for a dragon.)

Be that as it may, we fantasy authors CAN research alien elements for world-building. I’m fortunate because I have 21 years of practice at it. As an English major attending a liberal arts university, I wrote dozens of research papers. Upon graduation, I entered the magazine publishing industry where I ended up writing articles that required interviewing and researching sources. But let me tell you; research for real, modern topics in journalism versus research for made-up fantasy realms with dragons and wizards and a Sandy-created form of magic take two different mindsets. I know no one wants to hear about my day job, so let’s focus on the research I do for my fantasy novels.

I’m weird so I devour books with titles like THE ELEMENTS OF OLD ENGLISH and SWEET’S ANGLO-SAXON PRIMER. These books helped form the foundation of my research for the CHOICES MEANT FOR GODS series because I put a medieval flair in my epic fantasy tales. Let’s start with the name of the land where most of the action takes place: Onweald. Onweald is an Old English word that means “power.” The names of gods, goddesses, villages, and rivers in the land of Onweald are reminiscent of OE words and people. Symbols all over the series hearken back to OE themes of exile, ring-giving, serfdom, and loyalty to one’s leader that send me to the research books from time to time. The problem with checking on something in, say, BEOWULF or THE BATTLE OF MALDON, is that I get sucked in and end up reading the whole thing. The next thing I know, I’ve used up my writing time for that evening…Bummer!

Now, having said all this stuff about including OE goodies in my writing, I have to say I didn’t make everything medieval. For instance, the “hero” of CHOICES MEANT FOR GODS is a lady. It’s all girl power with my Amanda Chariss. And I’ve brought all the characters’ lodgings forward in technology. Being perpetually cold myself, I just couldn’t stand the thought of putting these characters that I love in those drafty huts and stone buildings that the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Picts and Celts lived in. (And I needed good ductwork to connect the fireplaces in the fancy Taiman family home.)

Of course, there’s more to writing fantasy than researching the time period I want to borrow themes and symbols from. I’ve been reading fantasy literature since I was a youngster so I’ve got a familiarity with the general elements that fantasy enthusiasts expect in their novels. Magic, sorcerers, wizards, elves, faeries, dragons, trolls, dwarves, the hero’s journey, magical items, prophecies, prophets, etc. I needed to select which elements I’d include in the world I created, but I had the luxury of recalling great fantasy writers like Tolkien, Weis, Goodkind, Brooks, and Eddings to look to for inspiration and influence whenever I doubted myself.

Other than that, it all comes from my slightly off-kilter imagination. My research books for Onweald and the CHOICES MEANT FOR GODS series currently consist of tons of spiral notebooks, file folders full of stories and legends and character descriptions on the computer, a recipe box full of vocabulary words, and a bunch of other papers and notes and napkins with scribblings. My research includes a huge desk calendar with the phases of the moons of Onweald mapped out so I know exactly when both are full and when both are waning. It’s important when a god has an announcement to make by their light, you know.

I’ll include a few other researched items at the end of this post, for those of you with an interest in the Old English/Anglo-Saxon stuff*. But that’s the way I research something that isn’t real for a fantasy realm. I borrow from the Anglo-Saxon past, keep track of what I’ve made up, and double-check the traditional elements against the pros when I can. Thank you all for checking in!

“Some days, I just want the dragon to win.”

* Godric = a traitor who turned tail and fled, leaving his lord at the Battle of Maldon; I used this name for an overbearing, arrogant character whom few other characters trust
Ofersey’n = a word I made from the Old English word “oferseow” (over and see); there are 17 “governors” in the land of Onweald and they are called ofersey’n
Wepanchiele River = a name I made from the Old English words wepan (weep) and ciele (chill or cold); the Wepanchiele River is located on the mid-western side of Onweald and can be viewed on the map my artist Megan Kissinger prepared for the CHOICES MEANT FOR GODS series

You can check out more of her insights at her blog:

Book Spotlight on Choices Meant For Gods:


Not even the gods noticed when Chariss was born with the mark of The Protector. Now she and her wizard guardian seek shelter from a mad sorcerer in a household not just full of secrets and false hope, but watched by the god who will unwittingly reveal her role in an impending war.

When an orphan sets aside a lifetime of running and fear to accept the responsibilities of guarding an arrogant deity, can she face the trials in the prophecies she uncovers? Will Nigel Taiman of her latest refuge dare to use his dragon heritage to bind her to his estate or to help her in her duty?


This is a romantic scene as Nigel Taiman and Amanda Chariss ride from the estate at Arcana to Arcana City. Her wizard guardian has already clued her in to the fact that Nigel wants to court her, and she's upset over it. The scene mentions the bear-like ryfel creature that nearly killed Nigel in the training arena...

Nigel frowned at her. Spurring his horse slightly, he reached out to take hold of Shadow’s bridle. Bringing them both to a stop, he turned in the saddle to face her.

“Hey!” she objected.

“Indeed. Have I done something to anger you?”

Her cheeks reddened with embarrassment.


“You’re staring at me.”

“By the gods, Woman. All right, I’ll look at your horse. ’Manda,” he said to Shadow, “what have I done that’s made you angry?”

“I’m not angry.”

“You’re not a liar,” he spoke to Chariss again.

“All right, so I’m a little angry. It will pass.”

“And you don’t want to tell me what it is?”

She couldn’t blame her reticence today on worry over Drake. She also couldn’t blame her health because she’d completely recovered from her telabyrinth poisoning. With Hrazon and The Master attending the summer festival, she couldn’t blame some sort of timidity at being ‘alone’ in the city. No, she had to take a deep breath and be honest with him. Considering the number of suitors she’d sent packing in the past few years, this should have been an easy thing to do again. It wasn’t. She sighed, closing her eyes as if she could make the scene disappear.

“Do you agree that you’re my friend?” she finally asked.

He watched her open her eyes then, realizing where the conversation must be going.

“Yes.” It was said with exasperation.

“And that I’m your friend?”


“And does that please you?”

He sighed, but didn’t get a chance to answer.

“You see, Nigel, it pleases me. I appreciate your kindness, and I would be disappointed if we hadn’t built such a…such a…”

“Friendship?” he retorted.

“Such a rapport.”

He rolled his eyes. “A fancier word with even less affection.”

“My stay at Arcana is much more pleasant because I have this relationship with you. But someone has tried to convince me that your…your…”




“Well…your opinion of our relationship might be somewhat different from mine.”

“’Manda, just say what you’re thinking. You won’t hurt my feelings.”

She looked miserable then. “I don’t want to say what I’m thinking.”


“No, that’s not good. Hrazon thinks you’re…Hrazon believes you spend time with me because…” She paused, searching for the words.

“Because I’m in love with you?”

She nearly fell backward. “Just blurt it out!”

He chuckled slightly. “This is uncomfortable, isn’t it? I’m sorry to embarrass you. This conversation would be better in a darkened corner of Arcana’s parlor. ’Manda, I’m not going to lie to you. Hrazon has every reason to believe I’m after his ward because I am. It’s no secret to anyone I enjoy your company. What, where are you…You’re the only woman I know who can scoot that far away on a saddle without falling off.”

“I don’t think you should say those things.”

“Aye,” he sighed, watching her fidget with Shadow’s reins. But he made a decision to press the matter. “I’m going to say them and get them out in the open. Then we can decide if you’re to die of embarrassment, or slap me across the face.”

She couldn’t help smiling, even though her heart beat as if it would burst through her bodice from the tension she felt.

“I enjoy being with you because you’re my perfect match,” he said. “Have you noticed that we agree on almost everything? And the few things we don’t agree on are intriguing to argue because you make them intriguing. There’s no one at that entire estate, The Master and every intelligent student combined, who can hold my attention as you do. None of them compare.

“I’m attracted to everything about you, including your compassion. Even now, when you’re on the verge of falling off a horse with embarrassment, your concern is for my feelings, not your own. Godric, who doesn’t deserve to wash your feet, who finds every excuse to correct you, gets your respect because you remind yourself that he’s your benefactor. Do you know what strength of character that shows? Do you know how it endears you to me to know you bite your tongue after his arrogant remarks to save my mother’s feelings?”

She merely nodded, her eyes cast down.

“And do you know how it endears you to me to know you would fight to the death for little Kaylin?”

She nodded again.

“And do you know how it endears you to me to know you instinctively threw yourself into healing spells to save my life?”

“You shouldn’t assume that means—”

“I remember sliding toward death that night, life spilling out of me, and poison seeping into me from that thing’s claws. But do you know what I remember most distinctly? I remember you commanding me not to bleed to death…and I remember your hands afterward. Once I was healed, once Master Rothahn became preoccupied with the dead ryfel, you crawled over to me and put your hands on me again, as if you had to be sure He’d done a good enough job of healing me. But you would’ve done it for any member of my family. I daresay you would’ve done it for any student in the school. And it’s because you care about others, and you want the best for everyone around you. And you’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”

The last comment caught her off guard. It didn’t seem to fit with the logical argument he tried to make.

“I fail to see how these things tell you you’re in love. Kaylin enjoys my company. Mia enjoys arguing with me. I saved Sorne’s life once. Does this mean they’re in love with me?”

“If love could be explained that easily, it wouldn’t be real.”

“But what makes you think it’s real now? If you can’t explain your feelings, how do you know you’re not misled?”

“How does the rose know to bloom in spring?”

“Oh, now that talk I’ve heard before. I didn’t believe it then, and I don’t think you should let yourself believe it now.”

“’Manda, I’m telling you the truth and I’m telling you what I know. If I’ve made you angry by falling in love with you, you’re just going to have to deal with it. Because you’re not currently interested in me, you have to give me time to change your mind.”

They were silent then; he waited for some sign that she wasn’t going to cast him aside, she waited for her heart to stop beating so loudly in her ears. As far as she was concerned, she was often a foolish girl, but her intentions at the beginning of this conversation were foolish beyond compare. She realized—with alarm—that the blood rushing through her veins, the lightheadedness, the excitement at getting to spend an afternoon with him, were all signs she had chosen to ignore.

She swallowed hard against the fear in her throat, and, with as much calm as she could muster, said: “What gives you the idea that I’m not interested in you?”

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