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Short Story Preview: Romancing Mrs. Claus

christmas_fireplace

Happy Holidays to all!

Well my novel is finished but I’m still having an issue with naming the thing. Usually I leave the title until the end hoping the flow of the story will inspire me but this time it’s just not working, maybe because it’s a hybrid, I don’t know. Anyway, I’ve also decided to try the traditional route to get the book published so I’m actively searching for literary agents to help smooth away any rough edges I missed and help get my book out there. So, if you know of (or are) any literary agents who’s not afraid to push the envelope and are genuinely interested in fantasy romance that doesn’t involve vampires, werewolves, zombies, ghosts etc. feel free to drop me a line!

In the meantime, I’m working on a few new projects and short stories to gather more readers and continue to hone my writing skills. Recently, a story idea jumped ahead of the cue with so much enthusiasm that I just had to give it my undivided attention. It’s a sweet romantic story about how Mrs. Claus feels unappreciated by her husband and is whisked off on an adventure by the suave and sexy Jack Frost. Can old St. Nick win his wife back? Here’s a sneak preview of my new short story: Romancing Mrs. Claus.

***

Damaris sighed as she stood in the back of the room, waving though she knew the gesture went unseen. Her husband rode off on his sleigh pulled by a team of reindeer and cheered on by a multitude of ecstatic workers. The din barely died down as the little men and women rushed off to have their own celebrations in the village, their work for the year now complete. Damaris had to smile. The elves worked diligently from dawn to dusk with smiles on their faces and a song in their hearts. Their only compensation was the smiles on the children’s faces Christmas morning and the stories Santa brought back with him after his long night of delivering gifts to the world’s recipients. Often Damaris wondered how much the man embellished and how much he kept to himself. She knew that while he thrived on delivering gifts to the world’s children, there were times when he entered a home to find a much older, curvier and scantily clad occupant waiting for him to arrive. Nikolai sure got a kick out of these occurrences the first few times they happened and, in his usual jovial manner, he would relay to his wife how he would tip his hat and respectfully decline the lady’s offer before leaving again. Sometimes the woman wouldn’t take the hint and Santa became adept at gingerly dropping gifts beneath the tree while being chased around it. While these adventures tickled her husband immensely, Damaris was not amused and after seeing how upset they made her, Nikolai had stopped telling her about them. This of course made matters worst for not knowing made her believe he was being accosted in practically every home he entered. Then of course she began to wonder when amusement turned to desire and how often he was receiving more than cookies and milk on these treks.

The portrayal of the magical couple made Damaris laugh. She never understood where the idea that they were an elderly couple came from, perhaps the fact Nikolai had been doing this for so long, but the fact of the matter was the jolly old man was simply a disguise he took on to satisfy convention. Old St. Nick was actually a big bear of a man standing nearly 6 foot tall with dark curly hair and a closely cropped mustache and beard. He did have a good heart, a deep belly laugh and the most beautiful blue eyes she had ever seen to date, at least that much the stories had gotten right. Damaris, on the other hand, was a slender woman whose head barely reached her husband’s shoulder so that she had to stand on tiptoe to kiss him. Her ebony hair flowed down to her waist and her eyes were, as Nikolai once said, as green as the Mediterranean before a storm. While she used to travel with him often when they first married, Damaris couldn’t actually remember the last time she had left the North Pole and was anxious to see this strange new world Nikolai described.

Damaris sighed again as she realized there was a lot that she and Nikolai used to do together. While he was still courteous and kind to her, she often felt more like a maid or housekeeper than a wife. She missed the feel of his arms around her, the electricity of his kisses, the smell of him. Each were so submerged in their duties that they barely spoke any more and often times, Damaris would fall into an empty bed at night and awaken alone in the morning. The warmth of the wrinkled sheets beside her was the only confirmation she had that her husband still slept by her side. It was a far cry from when they first met.

Damaris hailed from the thriving metropolis of Pompeii. Her father had owned and operated the largest hotel in the region, located on the edge of the city with sprawling views of the sparkling Mediterranean Sea. He often boasted of the wealthy and important clientele the hotel attracted though they rarely seemed worth the hoopla to Damaris. If they weren’t incredibly rude, yelling at and hitting the staff, they were very stingy and constantly haggled prices down below the rate of even the worst hovels. Perhaps this was the reason their male guests insisted on taking liberties with the staff during their stay making it necessary for Damaris to intervene between a flustered employee and drunken official. She also had to face irate wives who accused the young woman of enticing these grabby men herself! It was often miserable work and on extra rough days, she would seek solace on her rooftop garden.

The day had been extraordinarily hot for the season and Damaris stood behind the reception desk brushing away the hair that had escaped her long braid when he walked in. She looked up as the doorway darkened and her breath caught in her throat. He practically filled the entire room by himself and Damaris shivered. She thanked the gods for the feast of Vulcanalia, without which they would have had a vacancy. If he was as hands on as most of their guests, she would have a hard time fighting him off. He was dressed oddly, wearing thick black boots instead of sandals. His tunic was made of material far too warm for the current climate with long sleeves and was closely cropped to the neck. He was incredibly pale compared to the olive complexion of the locals. Damaris tried to speak but only a squeak came out. She composed herself, cleared her throat and tried again.

“May I help you, sir?”

“Yes, I require a room for myself and my horse.” He replied, a thick accent colored his clipped rendition of her language.

Damaris swallowed a smile as she told him,

“I’m sorry sir, while we do have space in our stables for your horse, the hotel is full for the holiday.”

The man looked confused for a moment and Damaris wondered if he understood her. She opened her mouth again when he asked,

“Would it be possible to share the stable with my horse?”

Damaris barked a laugh before slapping a hand over her mouth.

“I’m sorry, sir, that’s not a request we’re used to hearing around here. I’m afraid Father wouldn’t approve.”

He leaned across the desk and winked.

“Perhaps you could tell him I’m the stableboy looking after a guest’s horse.”

“No one could believe that you were a stable boy.” Damaris giggled as she ran her eyes over the man’s large frame. “Besides, I make it a habit never to lie.”

He regarded her for several moments with sparkling eyes and smiled,

“Good girl, if only there were more women like you.”

She blushed deeply. Keep it together, she thought.

“I am sorry, but it really wouldn’t be seemly to have you bed down in the stables with the animals.”

He waved his hand, cutting her off.

“I assure you, Miss, the scent of an animal does not offend me and Quicksilver is one of my oldest and dearest friends. The truth of the matter is I am in desperate need of rest and there is no space anywhere in the region. If you wish, I will pay double the rate of your best room for the use of your stables for the night. That should appease your father, no?”

Damaris gasped and she shook her head.

“Oh no, I couldn’t ask you to do that!” She pursed her lips and continued. “Alright, come with me. I will deal with my father.”

She led him into the back corner of the stables where she watched him remove a large black saddle edged with gilded bells from his white horse.

“This area has just been cleaned and fresh hay laid down so there’ll be less fleas and vermin and you should be warm and comfortable, not that you’ll freeze in this heat,” she sighed, brushing loose strands of hair from her face again.

“Thank you very much, I appreciate your kindness, Miss…?”

“Damaris.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Damaris, I am Nikolai Klaus.” He replied, taking her hand and kissing it.

Damaris blushed again. Suddenly the ground rocked beneath her feet tossing her against him as he stumbled back against the wall. The animals inside the stable began to stomp and scream and the bells on Nikolai’s saddle jingled maddeningly as the building shook. After what seemed like an eternity, the shaking stopped and Damaris found herself pressed against her new guest, the feel of his breath on her cheek sent shivers through her. She pushed herself off him and straightened her tunic.

“Are you alright, Mr. Klaus?”

The man was visibly shaken but he nodded as he righted himself.

“What was that?”

“An earthquake. I must warn you, they’re fairly normal in this area, although they seem to be coming more frequently of late. That’s why this year’s Vulcanalia is extra special. The priests say the volcano god grows restless and we must send two willing brides this year to appease him.”

Nikolai started and asked, “Anyone I know?”

Damaris laughed,  “No, these women are beautiful, pure and goddess like. They have been bred specifically for this honor. No ordinary woman will suffice.”

Nikolai reached out and brushed loose strands from Damaris’ face. His fingers brushed her cheek and lingered for a moment. She gazed into his eyes, brilliant pools of blue, and her mouth went dry as her heart pounded in her chest.

“Well, I can’t say I’m not glad but I think the priests missed out on something.” he said, hoarsely.

Damaris took a step back, taking a shuddering breath, and as professionally as she was able replied,

“I must check on the staff and make sure everything is in order. Dinner is at 7.”

Nikolai nodded, a slow smile spread across his face that made Damaris’ heart flutter again and she turned and hurried out of the stable. She stopped outside the door of the hotel and gasped. Earthquakes were a part of life in Pompeii. Some said it was the price to pay for living in a beautiful location with abundant food and wine and pleasant weather more often than not. Still, the earthquakes were becoming more frequent and more violent in recent years and the government had been slow on repairs. Damaris knew from her staff that the poorer parts of town had yet to receive any help, the citizens having to rely on each other to rebuild and start over. The most recent quake managed to knock down a few buildings down the street and off in the distance she could see smoke rising and hear the screams of people rushing to put out fires and rescue those trapped in the rubble. High above the city, Mount Vesuvius had started smoking and terror gripped the girl in the pit of her stomach. She hoped the priests were right and that Vulcan would find this year’s sacrifice acceptable.

*****

While I know it’s far too late to catch anyone’s attention this year, I’m hoping the story will get picked up in a holiday romance compilation very soon 🙂 Wishing you all a safe and happy holiday season!

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Review/Guest Post: The Serpent’s Tooth Trilogy by Kathy Fischer- Brown

Good morning folks! Apologies for my silence lately but I’ve got all kinds of balls in the air at the moment. So to make up for it, today’s post is a long one but very good. I’ll be reviewing the Serpent’s Tooth Trilogy with excerpts from the books and you’ll also hear from the author, Kathy Fischer-Brown, on how she did research for the subject matter. It all makes for an interesting read so grab that cup of coffee and get comfortable.

Historical Fiction
Date Published: 6/13/2012
 

Lord Esterleigh’s Daughter (Book 1)

As a child, Anne Fairfield dreams of the father she never knew, the hero who died fighting the French and their Indian allies in a land across the sea. Her mother’s stories, and fantasies of her own devising, sustain and nurture her through a poor and lonely existence. Until one winter night, a strange man comes to call, and the life she has known comes crashing down like shattered glass.

Forced to confront sordid truths, secrets and lies, the headstrong young woman begins to learn that, like generations of women ruled by their hearts, she is destined to follow in their footsteps.

Set against the backdrop of 18th century England, Lord Esterleigh’s Daughter is the first book in “The Serpent’s Tooth” trilogy, which follows Anne from the rural countryside, to London society and into the center of the American Revolution.

Excerpt

“Are you hurt?” He bent toward her.

She flinched away. “No thanks to you, I think I’ve escaped permanent injury.” She turned her eyes on him, a glowering look that held a trace of fear.

The look took him aback. “Forgive me, I was afraid that you—”

Her eyes softened, a rush of color surged in her cheeks. She turned away, as if embarrassed. “Is it your custom to go around sneaking up on people?” She rose gingerly, flexing her left ankle.

“To be quite truthful, it’s not.” He smiled sheepishly and scrambled to his feet. “Is it your custom to go climbing over walls?” He found her shoes in the grass and deferentially offered them to her. “Sensible people would use the gate.”

“Perhaps I’m not sensible!” Without a word of gratitude, she snatched the offering from him and winced as she slipped her left foot into the boot. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I must go.”

She hurried off, but soon moderated her pace to a hobbling limp. He followed with caution.

“Stealing off to see the old witch, are you?” Relief coursed through him that she had not seriously injured herself.

She stopped and half-looked up at him, a flickering smile spreading over her full, ripe mouth. “Hetty Powell is not a witch!”

“I wouldn’t be so sure of that,” he teased. “And I wouldn’t make it a habit of calling upon her without an escort. Old witches have a special fondness for saucy young maids. Feed ’em lots of tea and biscuits, they do…soften ’em up, make ’em sweet and tender!”

She looked up at him fully. “Are you offering me your protection?”

The candor expressed in her voice and those clear, violet eyes left him momentarily speechless. “I wish only to accompany you.”

“You are an ill-mannered young man!”

“And you’re an impetuous young woman. You’ll not go far on that ankle.”

“That remains to be seen!” She turned from him and walked lamely away.

“I can’t help feeling responsible,” he called out and hurriedly overtook her.

“You are responsible!”

“What possessed you to climb that wall?”

“It’s none of your concern.”

“An impressive display of skill and daring, I must say.”

“Would you?”

“Indeed! Not to mention agility and—”

Anne stopped suddenly and gazed hard at his face. A shiver of apprehension vibrated up her spine. For all his seeming sincerity, he was not to be trusted. Surely he would find a way to return her to the hall and inform her father of her attempted flight. “What do you want? Why must you pester me so?”

His gaze turned searching, steady. His voice was almost pleading. “Allow me to walk with you and I’ll promise not to speak another word.”

An uncomfortable heat rose in her face. She glanced away. “Then I might as well walk alone,” she said softly.

Date Published:  8/31/2012

 Courting the Devil (BOOK #2 May contain spoilers)

Four years after a near fatal blunder uproots her from her home and inheritance, Anne Darvey, daughter of the Marquess of Esterleigh, finds herself an indentured servant on a farm near Fort Edward in New York, as the British army advances toward Albany. Driven by guilt over the pain she has caused her father and grief over her lover’s death, she sets out to deliver a message. The consequences lead to the discovery that all is not as it seems, and sets in motion events that lead to love and danger.

Set against the backdrop of the American Revolution, Courting the Devil is the second book in “The Serpent’s Tooth” trilogy, which follows Anne from her childhood in the rural English countryside, to London society, and into the center of the American Revolution.

Excerpt

His memory had not failed him. Summer nights were infinitely cooler by the pond near the creek. Brighter as well, with milky flashes of light reflecting off its smooth surface and a riot of fireflies darting among the reeds, twinkling over the water like so many stars. Had there been a moon, it would have floated on the water, sending glimmers of light up to the treetops.

He would have seen her then by moonlight.

Rather it was the dull light of the ill-smelling flame of his lamp that revealed her there at the edge of the pond in the tall grass, sitting in nothing but her damp shift, her back against the trunk of a sycamore, as she applied a towel to her hair. Had he’d arrived moments earlier, he might have seen her emerge, dripping from the creek like some water nymph. He paused where he stood and watched for a moment, then he cleared his throat and continued closer.

The brush crackled under his feet. He slowed his steps when she turned, a startled look on her face, her fingers frozen in the wild tangle of thick, dark hair tumbling over her shoulders and down the length of her back. At the sight of him, she quickly covered her chest with crossed arms.

Harris hesitated, holding up the lamp so that its light revealed his face, causing her to blink into the brightness. “No reason for alarm,” he reassured, and hung the lamp on a bough just above her head. “I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

She turned away and on her knees quickly gathered up the objects spread out on a towel in the grass. He leaned on his hand against the tree, and regarded her with interest. In the light of the swinging lamp, drops of water shimmered on her bare arms. The smell of milled soap with a hint of lavender emanated from her hair, mingling with her own sweet, warm scent on the heavy air. Though coarsely made, her damp chemise clung to her like second skin, revealing the soft, round contours of a supple body. He imagined his hands holding her close, the feel of her, lithe and wet, against him, and fought back the stirring in his groin.

He licked his lips. “I didn’t expect to find anyone here at this hour of the night. Forgive the intrusion, I–”

She glanced up at him, a look of uncertainty in her eyes, along with the flashing sky. “No need for apologies, sir. I was just about to leave.” She rolled her hairbrush and a small, well-used sliver of soap in its original paper wrapper into the frayed huckaback towel. After slipping into her shoes, she snatched the coarse-woven skirt and linen bodice from the low bough from which she had hung them. Having wrapped everything in the skirt, she rose with the grace of a goddess and turned toward the path back to the house, the bundle clasped to her breast.

He stepped away from the tree and blocked her escape. She halted just short of him, but did not avert her eyes from the ground before her. “I wish you wouldn’t go,” Harris said through the dryness in his mouth.

Maintaining her focus on the dark path beyond the circle of light cast by his Betty lamp, she drew in a slow breath. In spite of the heat, she shivered. “There is nothing to keep me, sir.”

He laughed softly. “I hope that was not meant to be a gibe at my vanity?”

She shook back the mane of dark, wet hair that had fallen over her face, but kept her eyes averted. “It was not my intention to appear so bold.”

“Then I’m very much relieved!” His gaze wandered over her wet, scantily clad form, at the soft rise of her breasts before they disappeared under the cover of her infringing bundle. “But I forget myself. It is your modesty and virtue that–”

“Excuse me, Mr. Harris. It’s been a long day, and I’m tired.”

“It’s too hot to sleep. I thought I would—”

“You needn’t explain yourself. Not to me, sir. Now, if you will kindly let me pass …”

“You don’t like me, do you?”

At that she raised her eyes fully upon his face with a slow and deliberate stare, as if the impulse to look at him had been spontaneous and she resisted its appeal with all the self-control at her disposal. “My feelings are of no consequence, Mr. Harris,” she said in a soft voice, devoid of expression.

 “But you do have them. Are you dismissing them as insignificant, or is it that you have no desire to discuss things of a personal nature?” Her soft, full lips were enticing. Even in the sweltering night air, the heat emanating from her body wrapped around him like a caress.

“If you really must know, sir, I have no time for such diversions.”

“Nor anything else, I dare say.” Fighting the urge to clasp her to him and taste her mouth, he stepped aside to let her pass. “You push yourself far too hard. It’s a sure sign.”

Just beyond the spill of light from the hanging lamp, Annie stopped and raised her head. For a long while she stood in silence, as if waiting for him to speak.

He sensed he had struck a nerve. “A sure sign of what, you might ask. Then again, I would be presuming to know your mind, which, I assure I do not… All right then, I’ll tell you. I notice things about people who labor for a living, Miss Annie.” He stepped toward her, outside the circle of dingy light. “Those who work for their own subsistence tend to perform their duties with an honorable sense of purpose. For when successfully accomplished, the task at hand yields its own reward. From my own observations, I’ve also noted that those who are obligated to toil in the service of others tend to do only that which is expected of them. No more, no less.” He paused. Again the sky flickered, revealing her standing with her back to him, head lowered. “Where rewards are few, there is nothing to be gained by working one’s self to an early grave. That would leave one unable to savor the freedom earned by such senseless toil.”

She turned slowly and swept his face with her gaze. “Do you not work for your living, Mr. Harris?” In her soft voice, he detected a note of challenge.

“I am a schoolmaster, Miss Annie.” And then he vacillated, his mouth twitching into a smile. “I was a schoolmaster…until I lost all my students! For the life of me I can’t fathom why…” She did not appear moved by his attempted levity. “But, no, I never had a reason to earn a living. My father was…well-connected.”

Her eyes shimmered in the darkness. “It is said, Mr. Harris, that the Devil finds work for idle hands.”

He laughed softly. “It is also said, Miss Annie, that to speak of the Devil is to court his presence.”

She lowered her face until shadows once more enveloped her features, her hands tightening around the bundle. “If that is so, then I hope he finds me busy. Good night, Mr. Harris.” She vanished quietly into the darkness.

 

Date Published: 2/6/2013

The Partisan’s Wife (BOOK #3 May contain spoilers)

Faced with an impossible choice, Anne Marlowe is torn between her husband’s love and the hope of her father’s forgiveness. As American forces follow up on their tide-turning victories over the British at Freeman’s Farm and Bemis Heights, Peter is drawn deeper into the shady network of espionage that could cost them both their lives.

Is his commitment to “the Cause” stronger than his hard-won love for Anne? Will her sacrifice tear them apart again…this time forever? Or will they find the peace and happiness they both seek in a new beginning?

The Partisan’s Wife follows Anne and Peter through the war torn landscape of Revolutionary War America, from the Battle of Saratoga to British-occupied New York and Philadelphia, and beyond.

Excerpt

At last, she stopped pacing and leaned against the wall, arms crossed over her breast. “My God, Peter! How could you?”

He forced a sheepish smile but made no attempt to answer.

“You lied to me! Shipping trade indeed!”

“I swear I never lied.”

“Half-truths, then!” She pushed away from the wall. “‘I’m finished here. I’m done with that!’ Why didn’t I see?”

“LeClair will find a way out of this.”

She looked at him in challenge. The candle flame shone in the mirror of her eyes. “You seem so assured.”

“I have the utmost confidence in LeClair. When he returns, we’ll ferry across the river into Paulus Hook. We’ll be safe in New Jersey.”

“And then…?”

He stood and regarded her, his mouth a taut line. “Didn’t you say in no uncertain terms that you wished to go to Philadelphia?”

“I never said I wished to go. I said I had to go.”

He paused for a long moment. “You know I can’t go with you.”

“You can’t come with me…?” she said with astonishing composure. “Or, more precisely, you won’t come.”

“I can’t.” He reached for her hand; she yanked it away. “I can’t go with you.”

“Why? So that you may continue to play at your little game of masquerade and intrigue, exposing yourself to danger? For what purpose? Have you no concern for my—”

“You are not the only one blessed with a cause!” He glared at her. “It would appear that we are each compelled to do as our conscience dictates.”

Steadily she met his gaze through the candle light. “And if you could come with me…?”

Her wide-eyed face betrayed her apprehension, as though she already knew his answer yet hoped against hope for the response she longed to hear. It could have been so simple to play along and accommodate her wishes and, for her sake, make promises he could never keep. For his own sake, he chose not to respond.

 

REVIEW

In book 1, Annie finds that the father she’d grown up believing was a war hero who died in battle is actually an English lord who abandoned her mother because his family didn’t approve of the match only to return 16 years later as her mother lay upon her deathbed. She’s made to promise her mother she’d go with him to Esterleigh Hall and to try to love him but this is a tall order. While already dealing with her resentment for the mythical hero turned louse, she also must contend with the bitter ex-wife and a disinherited brother as well as learning and adapting to the heartless, cutthroat ways of London Society.  To further complicate matters, she loses her heart to a dashing young servant who’s bound for America in order earn his fortune and be worthy of her hand. In book 2, Annie is kidnapped by what is essentially her wicked stepmother and shipped off to a farm in Upstate New York where she toils as an indentured slave during the American Revolutionary War. With the farm being right smack in the middle of the battlefield, Annie takes the opportunity to escape and seek out the best friend of her sweetheart. In book 3, ties up all the lose ends left in the first two books as Annie finds herself embroiled in the rebellion thanks to her husband, Peter, while at the same time trying to find her estranged father after discovering he had traveled to New York to find her.

It’s difficult to review a series because I don’t like to drop any spoilers but I found The Serpent’s Tooth Trilogy to be a very interesting series. It isn’t often you find an author tackling the subject matter of the American Revolutionary War in this way and it was very nicely done.  Katy Fischer-Brown immerses you into the time period and you learn a lot of little details about life in the 18th century without bogging down the story itself. Although each book is a bit slow to start, the pace isn’t excruciating and it really is worth waiting for the story to pick up. Once it does, well…

Researching the Historical Novel Then and Now

When I started writing seriously in the dark age before computers, researching the historical period in which I had chosen to set my books was no easy task. The local library didn’t always have a particular resource on its reference shelves and if the book was long out of print, it was unavailable at any cost (no Alibris back then). Inter-library loan was the only way to go and even that didn’t always pan out. Travel was not always possible, especially on a limited budget. Letters to experts was a practical resource, as were phone calls, but in the days before the breakup of Ma Bell, calls from Indiana to New York were expensive.

Today, those same resources and more are just a few key strokes away. Many of the same research materials I used to wait weeks for have been scanned and uploaded to the web. In addition, there are hosts of fabulous materials I would never have dreamed of back then. Old maps and documents, in addition to diaries and other first-hand accounts are all available online if you know how to find them.

When I pulled “The Serpent’s Tooth” trilogy out of mothballs and dusted it off for an overhaul, I found myself tapping in to these resources. With all of the material I was able to find, I scrapped entire portions of the story in favor of rewrites based on information I was able to discover.

As a native New Yorker, I was especially fascinated to learn of the vast changes that made Manhattan what it is today. From street names to the layout of the streets themselves as the population grew and expanded north of Wall Street, the old city of the mid-eighteenth century can no longer be found. There are a few photographs from the late 19th and early 20th centuries of long-gone buildings from the period and some extraordinary descriptions in old books. Paintings and maps of the period also give us glimpses. Land fill long ago altered the shape of lower end of the island (where the Dutch established their first settlement in North America on land inhabited by the Native Americans who lived and hunted there). Creeks and streams, hills and forests were plentiful on Manhattan, serving the hosts of indigenous animals that made their homes there. The creeks, streams and fresh water ponds were later filled in, becoming (to name just one) Canal Street.

Street names were especially interesting. During and after the Revolution, many streets, such as King Street, King George Street, and Queen Street, were renamed, remapped, and/or rerouted. Today you’ll find Pine, William, and Pearl Streets. In The Partisan’s Wife, the area in which Peter and Anne’s house stood, then called Wynne (or Winne) Street between Bayard’s Lane and St. Nicholas Street, is now Mott Street in the heart of Chinatown, which was basically unsettled in the mid-part of the 18th century as was pretty much everything to the north. The West Village was farmland and rolling hills. Many streets and avenues in old New York evolved from long driveways belonging to huge mansions with gardens, orchards, and expansive lawns. For example, the long drive that belonged to the Bayard homestead in the late 1700s was for a time called Bayard’s Lane. It’s now part of Broome Street on the Lower East Side.

Unfortunately, few buildings from the period remain standing on lower Manhattan — Fraunces Tavern and St. Paul’s Chapel being a couple of exceptions — as a multitude of fires and later human development over the next century or so led to the destruction of pre-Revolutionary War era buildings…many in the name of progress.

To write historical fiction is, to a large extent, to live there for a while and become comfortable with the clothes, attitudes, and customs of the time. It’s also my desire to take the reader along and hope they enjoy the journey.

Kathy Fischer-Brown

Author Bio:

As a child Kathy wanted to be a writer when she grew up. She also wanted to act. After receiving an MFA in Acting and playing the part of starving young artist in New York, she taught theater classes at a small college in the Mid-West before returning home to the East Coast, where over the years, she and her husband raised two kids and an assortment of dogs. During stints in advertising, children’s media publishing, and education reform in the former Soviet Unions, she wrote whenever she could. Her love of early American history has its roots in family vacations up and down the East Coast visiting old forts and battlefields and places such as Williamsburg, Mystic Sea Port, and Sturbridge Village. At the same time, she daydreamed in history classes, imagining the everyday people behind all the dates and conflicts and how they lived.

Claiming her best ideas are born of dreams, Kathy has written a number of stories over the years. Her first published novel, Winter Fire, a 1998 Golden Heart finalist in historical romance, was reissued in 2010 by Books We Love, Ltd.

When not writing, she enjoys reading, cooking, photography, playing “ball” with the dogs, and rooting on her favorite sports teams.

LINKS:

Website:  http://www.kfischer-brown.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KathyFischerBrownAuthor?ref=hl

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/KFischerBrown

Blog: http://illsay.wordpress.com/

BooksWeLove (Publiisher) : http://www.bookswelove.net/kathyfischerbrown.php

Book Review: Lady Gwendolyn by Magnolia Belle

Historical Fiction
Date Published: July 2013
In early medieval days, bandits beset a caravan taking Lady Gwendolyn Hampton of England to marry Angus Dewar in Scotland. In the confusion, she escapes, while the bandits think her maid, Madeleine, is her. From one peril to another, Madeleine must keep the ruse in order to stay alive. Lady Gwendolyn’s brother, Lord Richard Hampton, wants Madeleine as his consort, and tries to rescue her. Through betrayal, intrigue and murder, she becomes a woman of title, and must decide if she wants the life he offers.

Excerpt

Madeleine, her maid and companion since childhood, interrupted her reverie.  “Can you believe it?  You’re to be married into such a grand house.  I’d be nervous.”

“I am, a bit,” Gwendolyn admitted and stretched her hand out to clasp Madeleine’s.  “I wonder,

though, why Father made Richard stay behind.  It seemed a sudden decision, and I wanted both my brothers to attend my wedding.”

“Your father has his reasons, I’m sure.”  The maid’s smile did not reach her eyes.

“Of course.  I’m most grateful my father allowed you to accompany me.”

“He knows better than to separate us.”

Gwendolyn squeezed her hand once and sat back. Madeleine returned the squeeze, but they both knew where the line had been drawn. Everything Gwendolyn learned, Madeleine did as well.  She knew how to run a great house, how to dress and conduct herself as a lady, and how to use house politics to her advantage.  But she would never need those things.  She was, after all, a companion, a maid—not highborn.

A scream stopped their conversation.  Another scream of pain followed. The litter shuddered to a stop. Yells and curses washed over the women in a cacophony.  Swallowing hard, Gwendolyn raised her hand halfway and paused.  In a burst of courage, she jerked the curtains open, daring to look.  Arrows whistled through the air, puncturing men and animals alike.  Ill-clad ruffians leapt from behind the bracken, brandishing arms and giving offense, attacking anyone within reach.  Lord Hampton fell, mortally wounded, his shield splintered.  Not far from him lay her brother, Phillip, pierced by arrows. She understood instantly as she ducked back in.  Her father and younger brother were dead.  Now only her oldest brother, Richard, and she carried the Hampton line.

“They’re slain!”  Her eyes, wide and alarmed, fixed on Madeleine while her mind whirled.  “Richard must be warned!”

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About Magnolia Belle
My pen name “Magnolia Belle” came from a dream of one day owning a riverboat that offered dinner, sultry jazz and hot R&B while floating down the Mississippi. Realizing I didn’t have the millions it’d take to get that dream off the ground, I took the name to write under. I figured it’d be one hard to forget. Plus, it’s as southern as I am.
 
I live in Texas with my husband and our ‘pack’ of fuzzy children (aka dogs). Before that, I grew up in a military family and lived all across the US and in the Orient. In 1977, I got married and in 1978 I graduated with a degree in Accounting from Tarleton State University. Yeah, I know. BIG leap from accountant to novelist.  As editor of the University paper, I won first place in the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association Editorial competition in 1977. I was also a member of “Who’s Who Among Colleges and Universities” in 1977-78, and graduated with high honors. A singer/songwriter and guitarist, I played with a band in the 1980s that made 3 albums.
 
I started my company, “Black Wolf Books” in 2005 as a venue to publish and sell my work. The name “Black Wolf” comes from the first series of 5 novels I’ve written (and am still working on).
 
My heritage includes at least two Indian nations, one on my mother’s side and the Iroquois on my father’s. Because of that, I write about American Indians with great respect. I also spend inordinate amounts of time in researching history, facts and personalities in the era they are presented.  Historical events and documentation (such as treaties) are cited in my novels, so readers can see what really happened.
 
My characters become very real to me, and I often find myself not writing, but rather taking dictation as they tell me their stories. That’s also why I tend to write in series of novels. My characters are a gabby bunch!
 

Book Review: Over The Rainbow by Brian Rowe

Brian Rowe, author of Over the Rainbow, talks about the difficulties he faced in getting this interesting book published.

Over the Rainbow marks my ninth self-published novel. I love the control I have over my work in self-publishing, and no book I’ve ever written has needed as much control as Over the Rainbow. This is a book that incorporates science fiction, fantasy, action adventure, and coming of age; it’s a book that deals with lesbianism, the rapture, The Wizard of Oz, and dinosaurs. I queried agents with this book between August 2012 and March 2013, and even those who liked it said that the book would never see the light of day without some of the creative elements being toned down a little, or eliminated completely. One agent, for example, told me I should cut out the dinosaurs. I knew from the beginning Over the Rainbow was going to be a difficult book to sell to agents and publishers, and in the end, I decided it was best with this one, probably more than any book I’ve written, to ultimately go the self-publishing route.

I’ve self-published many young adult books before, including the Happy Birthday to Me trilogy, but I’ve never written a book I care about more than Over the Rainbow, and this time, I really wanted to do it right. Not only have I pulled out all the stops with the marketing of the book, and worked hard to make sure the book had a beautiful cover, I’ve done all I can to ensure the manuscript is the best it can be. Many are wary of self-published books because they’ve been burned before, with so many typos and inconsistencies in the texts. But such is not the case with my new book. Not only have I done ten full drafts, twice the amount I usually do, but Over the Rainbow has been professionally edited by a traditionally published author, and copyedited by two different professional copyeditors. I’ve worked tirelessly night and day for the last few months in making sure the book reads just as professionally as would a traditionally published novel. The reader, every time out, deserves only the best.

Over the Rainbow is the first book I’ve self-published that will be appearing on five different platforms—Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple iBookstore, and CreateSpace. For too long I stayed exclusive to Amazon, and this summer I decided to branch out to all the various platforms customers use to read their books. I’ve never been, and am still not, against traditional publishing, and will start querying my next young adult novel Magic Hour later this year. But self-publishing should never be looked at as a last resort. It is a viable option for all authors, and can be loads of fun. And in the case of Over the Rainbow, it proved to be the best route to go.

YA Fantasy
Date Published:  8/6/2013 

16-year-old Zippy Green never meant to fall in love with a girl, but when she does, her ultra-conservative father tries to send her to anti-gay camp. At the Kansas City airport, however, she hides inside a giant suitcase and sneaks onto an airplane headed not to the camp, but to Seattle, where her online love Mira lives. Halfway through the flight, the plane barrels out of control and crashes into the ground, knocking her unconscious.

When Zippy awakens, she finds that most of the passengers have vanished. She doesn’t know what’s happened, but she’s determined to find out. She begins a quest on foot toward Seattle, and along the way, she meets a teenager with a concussion , a homeless man with a heart condition, a child without a shred of bravery, and a terrier named Judy. Together the group discovers that more than two-thirds of the world’s population has mysteriously disappeared. But that’s only the beginning…

All Zippy wants is to find her Mira, but before she can she has to contend with two outside forces. The first is her homophobic father, who does everything in his power to keep her from the girl she loves. And the second is extinct creatures of all shapes and sizes, including living, breathing dinosaurs, which have replaced the missing population.

 

Excerpt

            When I came home from school, my dad was in the living room, alone, sitting upright. He wore a fancy gray business suit. Papers and brochures were sprawled out over the table.

He turned his head toward me in a slow, robotic fashion. “Sit down.”

I stared back at him. “What’s wrong?”

“Do what I ask.”

“But I have homework to do—”

Zipporah Green! I’m not going to say it again!”

I sat down and tried to pinpoint my crime. And then there it was, at the edge of the table: my most recent e-mail from Mira, the one in which she said she wanted me to come visit her this summer.

Dad turned to me, an expression on his face that suggested I wouldn’t escape this little chat alive.

“I know about Mira. I know all about your little friend from Seattle.”

The immediate pain in my gut almost doubled me over. For my father to be so condescending to call her “my little friend” made me want to pick up the living room table and throw it against the wall. “I’ve been meaning to tell you about her—”

“You’ve been talking to her online for two years? Zippy, I know you’ve struggled trying to follow the righteous path of Jesus Christ. But never in my wildest nightmares could I have ever conceived you, my own flesh and blood, as the most blasphemous of sinners.”

“Dad, it’s not like that.”

He wiped his sweaty fingers against his chin. “What’s it going to look like if my own child is a…” He struggled with the word. “A homo…”

I didn’t want to have to finish the word for him; he was a big boy. “A what, Dad?”

“A homosexual.”

I should have been cordial. I should have sat with my little hands in my little lap and pleasantly agreed with every statement he made. But it was time to be strong. “I don’t understand why you have to come down on me for this. Why can’t I have this one thing in my life that makes me happy? Mira makes me happy, Dad.”

“I can’t have a gay child,” he said. He hadn’t locked eyes with me since the start of our conversation. I always thought my dad to be close-minded, but I never knew him to be a wimp. “I can’t have a lesbian daughter. I love you, sweetheart, you know I do—but what you’re doing is wrong.”

I leaned toward him and whispered, “But it’s the only thing to me that’s right.”

I don’t think he heard me—at least, he pretended like he didn’t. “Promise me, here and now, that you will suspend all communications with this girl.”

“No.”

“No?”

“Dad, please—”

“I’m not asking.”

“You don’t even know her.”

“I don’t want to know her.”

I tried really, really hard not to cry. “If you could just look past your hate for one second, you’d be able to see that she’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

“You can’t mean that.”

“I do,” I said. “She’s my best friend.”

“Your best friend? But you’ve never even met her. For all you know, she could be—”

“I love her.”

He finally looked at me. His neck turned so slow I heard his bones twisting. “What did you say?”

“I love her, Dad. I do.”

My dad sighed and pushed away from the table, like the closest he could sit was a yard’s length away. He shook his head and stood up, his hands shoved into his pockets.

“Connie and I had a long talk about this,” he said. “We’ve decided to send you away this summer. To a camp.”

“A camp?” I shuddered. I didn’t know what to think. “What kind of camp?”

“It’s called Moral Inventories. It’s in Memphis. And it’s for teenagers like you who suffer from…” He searched for a word. “…abnormalities.”

Abnormalities?” I looked away. I didn’t want my father to see me cry.

He turned to me. His chiseled face emitted strobes of anger and resentment. “I’ve tried to guide you on the righteous path, but clearly I haven’t done enough. You need proper, around-the-clock assistance if you want to have any chance of being cured of this… disease.”

I sat there stupefied. I tried to think of something to say. I had nothing.

“You’re young, honey,” my dad said, in a calmer tone, “and I thank the Lord for that, because there’s time for you to be set free through the power of Jesus Christ. When our Lord and Savior returns to Earth and takes the Chosen up to Heaven, I don’t want you to be left behind.”

I narrowed my eyes, tried to make sense of his madness. “Are you talking about the rapture?”

“It could happen any day, sweetheart. You have to be prepared. We all do.”

My dad had officially passed over from closed-minded to completely nuts. “You really think this camp is going to make God love me more?” I breathed in deeply, then asked the most pivotal question of all: “You really think this camp is going to make me not gay?”

“It better.” My dad finally looked at me. “Because if it doesn’t, I’ll see to it you never come back.”

I ran upstairs to my bedroom, slammed the door so loud my framed Spice Girls poster fell and crashed against the carpet.

I wanted to write to Mira. Tell her what had happened.

But my computer was gone.

Review

This was a fantastic book! As a long time fan of the Wizard of Oz I’m always interested in alternate versions and inspired works and Over the Rainbow just made my list:) When Zippy escapes from her domineering religious fanatic father in the airport she begins her journey to find her long distance love in the Emerald City (Seattle). Along the way she meets Frankie, a man with a head injury who jokes he doesn’t have a brain, a frightened little black girl named Elle who doesn’t know what courage is and Mr. Baum, a Vietnam Vet with a bad heart. Did you catch the play on names there? Frank Elle Baum? Get it? FYI for those who are staring at the screen like a deer in headlights, Frank L. Baum is the author of the Oz stories. Oh and there’s also a little terrier named Judy who I’m guessing is a nod to the great Judy Garland.

I found myself speeding through the pages with my mouth open as Zippy and her friends face encounters with prehistoric animals, dinosaurs and Zippy’s crazy father but the ending was incredibly satisfying and I truly hope there’s a sequel in the future.

Well done Mr. Rowe! Six Ruby Slippers cuz cmon, what can you do with five?

Brian Rowe

Brian Rowe is a writing fiend, book devotee, film fanatic, and constant dreamer. He’s written nine novels, dozens of short stories, five feature-length screenplays, and hundreds of film articles and essays. His fiction has appeared in Dreamspinner Press, Mobius Magazine, and Wilde Oats Literary Journal. He is one half of the YA book blog Story Carnivores, where he reviews the latest in books and film. He is currently pursuing his MA in English at the University of Nevada, Reno, and is hard at work on his first New Adult novel, which will be released in November 2013.

Website: brianrowebooks.com

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17792829-over-the-rainbow

 

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Amazon Author Page

Heroes and Hearts: The Free Chapter

I realize as a brand spanking new author some of my readers may be hesitate to drop $2.50 on my ebook. So I thought I’d whet your appetite with a preview of a chapter. Enjoy:)

*****

Isabel had obviously never traveled by dragon before and she didn’t exactly relish the idea, but the Dowager Empress insisted it was the only way.  Time was of the essence and clearly Isabel was in danger.  She would not be returning home anytime soon.  In fact, the prince was currently escorting Isabel to the Kingdom of Abiloth, along with Lennox, his captain of the guard, and the Crystal Palace’s finest squadron, where she could lay low until they considered their next move.  Isabel made it clear she would not stand around, waiting for them to come get her when the war was over.  Thanks to her father’s continued cowardice and underhanded behavior, she felt a responsibility to the people of Kendra and swore to restore the land to what it was when her grandfather was alive.  She also had a few words to say to Daddy when she next saw him.  The flash of light they saw had signaled the Lord of the Underworld’s departure with a living mortal, and the journey to the sorceress’ lair promised to be a frightening and torturous one.  Good, Isabel chuckled, it’s only the beginning of what that bastard deserved.

Isabel, meanwhile, traveled in style, riding in a sedan chair on the back of a large blue dragon whose scales blended with the sky even as they occasionally glinted gold in the sunlight.  She lounged on large pillows as the dragon flew, protected from the elements, and from view, by the chair’s blue curtains.  Her caravan of guards glided amongst the clouds on other chameleonic dragons of the crown. They wanted to put as much distance between them and the Crystal Palace before their enemies could regroup.

The Dowager Empress had insisted they visit the Oracle on the way to Abiloth, to find out more about what had happened to the Duke’s heart and how it related to his daughter.  The dragons made their way to a desolate island in the middle of the Crystal Sea.  On the island was a glittering temple made of white sandstone, its primitive design reminded Isabel of Stonehenge.  Women covered from head to toe in white linen, so that only their eyes could be seen, greeted the party.  Men were not allowed to enter the temple so Isabel, alone, followed the women inside.  The stone floors were scrubbed and polished until they were smooth and shiny like marble.  Torches dimly lit the inside of the temple, and Isabel could make out what looked like hieroglyphics etched into the walls.  As her silent escorts led her deeper inside, Isabel could hear the echo of light melodic voices singing in the distance.  They approached a pair of slick metal doors guarded by two women in silver plated armor clutching spears.  One of Isabel’s escorts bowed her head and made a gesture before the doors, which suddenly opened in response, emitting a bright light.  She was forced to turn her head and shield her eyes, until they had adjusted to the light, before she entered the room.  The walls were pure white and smooth, coming to a rounded point at the top so as to resemble the inside of an egg.  The floors were polished and white as well and sitting in the center was a young girl.  She had smooth white hair that fell down her back and she was clad in a sheer white gown.  She sat cross-legged, arms to her sides, with her eyes closed beneath a shimmering star that rested on her forehead.  As Isabel and the head escort approached, the girl opened her eyes and Isabel gasped at their beauty for they were shimmering silver.

“Welcome Lady Isabel of Kendra,” said a soft woman’s voice.

Isabel glanced around but saw no one else.  She thought maybe her escort had spoken, but it was then she realized the other woman had left the room.  Remembering Dowager Empress Ilythia’s instructions, Isabel spoke.

“Thank you for granting me audience, blessed one,” she replied, genuflecting before the girl.  “I have come seeking guidance.”

“About the sorceress and the Lord of the Underworld.  Yes, their movements have troubled me for a long time,” the voice spoke again.  “They grow more powerful by the day and must be stopped.  Their armies of undead, and the monsters they create, fly against all natural laws of the universe. These are dangerous times.”

Isabel hid her disbelief behind a fixed expression as she conversed with a girl who sat stock-still, her lips unmoving, while her eyes remained fixed on her visitor.

“How do we fight such power?”

“The amulet around your neck contains the heart of your father, the Duke of Kendra, to give you strength when you have none.  Take it to Mount Osera and activate the Silver Fleet.”

Isabel struggled to wrap her mind around what the Oracle had just said.  She held the amulet in her palm and watched the light glint off the silver and ruby.  Her father put his heart into the amulet?  She flashed back to her annual dream.  This year’s had been far more vivid.  She had always remembered her mother’s tears splashing into her palms as her father walked out the door, but she never remembered seeing the ritual that had taken place between him before he left.  Not until now.

***

“The Silver Fleet!” Alaric exclaimed as they lifted into the air.  “I did not know it actually existed!”

“What is the Silver Fleet?” Isabel asked.

“An ancient legend,” he replied.  “Long ago, almost to the beginning of time, our worlds were still one, Isabel, yours and mine.  There was a great battle amongst the gods that nearly destroyed everyone and everything.  A group of seven got together, carpenters, shipbuilders, sorcerers and sorceresses, and created the Silver Fleet.  They were large silver ships that sailed on air with unlimited firepower and speed.  With the aid of the Silver Fleet mankind fought against the gods and banished them.  The world cracked from the force and the veil that separates our worlds appeared.”

“Legend or not, the Oracle says we can find it on Mount Osera.”

“Home of the Eagle Lord!” Alaric spat.  “Why should he have access to such power?”

“You mean instead of you?” Isabel quipped, raising an eyebrow.  “Power of that magnitude probably belongs on top of a forbidden mountain.  Besides, if he actually had access to the power of the Fleet, wouldn’t he have used it?”

A knock on the door interrupted the conversation.

“Yer highness,” Lennox called.  “There is an emissary from Mount Osera to see ye.”

“Ah, we must be close,” Alaric said to Isabel before raising his voice in reply, “Send him in, captain.”

The door opened and in strode a man so decorated Isabel thought he belonged on a Christmas tree.  A silky powdered wig sat above a drawn face that was slathered in white makeup. He wore a long coat that bore an elaborate weave of gold and jewels. A perfectly manicured alabaster hand stuck out of the ruffled sleeve cuff and held a pair of golden-framed glasses on a stick through which he peered at them with a pair of black beady eyes.

His bony bird-like legs were clad in white tights, and upon the man’s feet were a pair of silken slippers that curled up at the toe and were just as elaborate as the coat.  The emissary measured the worthiness of the sedan’s passengers, sniffing through his beak of a nose. His mouth, covered in bright red lipstick, was pulled into a discriminating frown that made the mole to the left of it twitch.

“Mm, cozy,” he murmured as he lowered his spectacles.

“Prince Alaric of Calfragor and Lady Isabel of Kendra, I presume.” His voice held the bored tone of the privileged. “I am Finchley, emissary to the Eagle Lord.  What is your business on Mount Osera?”

“We wish to gain audience with the Eagle Lord” the prince replied.

“Well of course you do, dear boy, else you would not be here.  What is your business with milord?”

“Tis a matter of great importance, not for the ears of a simple emissary,” Alaric sniffed. He could be just as arrogant when he wanted to, though Isabel suspected he didn’t exactly relish being talked down to by a lackey.

“To you perhaps,” Finchley sniffed back, his feathers unruffled. “The Eagle Lord sees no one today.  You will vacate the vicinity immediately.”

“The Eagle Lord will see us,” Alaric replied darkly, “or on your head be it.”

Finchley chuckled.

“Do not think to threaten me, m’lad.  Hardier ruffians than you have tried and failed.”

Alaric smiled.  “Tis no threat.  When your master discovers you have barred him access to the power of the Silver Fleet, he will tear you to shreds.”

Finchley started, his black eyes narrowing and his head cocked reminded Isabel of a bird.

“The Silver Fleet is a myth.”

“Is it?” Isabel piped up, fixing her face into a smile of serenity.

The emissary’s eyes flicked back and forth between them.  Alaric leaned back against the cushions, crossing one leg over his knee, and with a bored expression waved a dismissal towards Finchley.

“We mean to make landfall on Mount Osera and thought to pay a call to the Eagle Lord out of courtesy.  Neither his participation nor his assistance is needed.  Good day.”

The door opened and Lennox hovered just outside menacingly, looking as if he was ready to grab the scrawny birdman and fling him from the sedan at a moment’s notice.  Finchley twitched nervously, starting to lose his composure.

“Yes, no, of course,” he stammered.  “I will alert my master to your arrival.”

Alaric nodded curtly and when Lennox clapped a beefy hand onto Finchley’s shoulder to escort him out, Isabel swore the man actually cheeped.

“Highness,” Isabel gasped as the door closed again, “we can’t let the Eagle Lord have access to the Silver Fleet!”

“We may have no choice.  Only the Eagle Lord can tell us where it is located and he will not show us unless we let him gain access to it.”

“Won’t that be as bad as handing it over to the sorceress and Rakad?”

“Worse!” Alaric exclaimed, deciding now was the time to tell Isabel the history of the Eagle Lord.

“The Eagle Lord was once the God of Flight, but fancying himself more powerful than the other gods he constantly ran up against them.  He seduced their women and stole from their temples until finally they had had enough.  Rather than destroy him utterly, the gods devised a far more cruel punishment.  One of the Priestesses of the highest god enticed the Eagle Lord into her chambers where she was able to massage a magical salve into his body. This salve sapped him of his powers and doomed him to an unnatural span of life as a half mortal in order to endure his punishment.

They then transplanted him to the summit of Mount Osera where he was to live out the rest of his days.  He soon discovered this was also the resting place of the Silver Fleet but he had no power to activate it for his own use.  Knowing he was so close to such awesome power, being able to feel it calling to him at night, drove him to the brink of insanity.  It was well known that the Eagle Lord could not be trusted but for a price he would assist anyone who asked for his help.  Of course, not just anyone could go to the Eagle Lord for assistance, they had to be worthy or they would be supper.”

The dragon fleet landed on the summit of Mount Osera and the prince was the first to emerge from the sedan, before turning and holding a hand out to help Isabel down from the dragon’s back.  Soldiers clad in white togas and golden breastplates stood in two lines along a polished walkway leading to a large ancient looking temple that had been carved into the mountainside. Their heads and faces were shielded by shining gold helmets with large beaks and golden winged sandals adorned their feet.  The doorway itself appeared to be the open mouth of an eagle with a pair of large green jewels placed in the eye sockets above the overhang.

Finchley scurried up to them while trying to right his now disheveled wig, panting and sweaty, blood pooled just below the man’s large nose before he dabbed it away with a handkerchief.

“His lordship will see you.”

Isabel had felt uneasy when she learned they would be visiting a god and not just any god, a fallen one.  There had been so much to take in lately that Isabel wondered how she wasn’t losing her mind.  Then again, maybe she was, which is why she thought she was actually about to visit a deity.  For one brief moment she considered the possibility that none of this was real; that the bird that had flown into her in her dining room had knocked her unconscious and she was actually lying on the dining room floor.  Surprisingly, that thought so depressed Isabel that she shrugged it off and figured if she was suffering from a fever dream or a blow to the head, she might as well enjoy her time in fantasyland while she was still there.

Seeing Finchley in his current state Isabel nearly lost her nerve again.  The Eagle Lord was dangerous, as gods tended to be, but Prince Alaric was so self-assured that she knew he would never let anything happen to her.  She kicked herself then for even having that thought, reminding herself that prince or no, she didn’t need a man’s protection.  She could take care of herself.

They were escorted into the temple and down a cool, dark, torch lit path before suddenly entering a clearing in which sat a large golden throne.  Lounging across the throne was the tan and rugged physique of a man clad in a simple loincloth, fur lined boots, golden wristlets, and on top of his head he wore the head of an eagle. One dewy eyed young maiden perched on the dais at the foot of the throne, while another perched on an arm of the throne dropping grapes into his mouth.  Both were clad in long skirts made from shimmering peacock feathers.  Across their shoulders rested capes of intricately woven blue feathers, that flowed down their backs and arms, leaving their ivory torsos completely bare. Isabel found herself startled by such a provocative, yet alluring, display.

“Ah, welcome honored guests!” The Eagle Lord boomed as he swung his legs down and stood from his throne.

Spreading his arms, a pair of white wings unfolded themselves from his back attaching themselves to his arms, and he glided down to the ground where they stood.

He bowed to the prince who returned in kind.

“I am honored by your presence, good sir.”

Then he stood before Isabel, his eyes locked on hers.  As he bowed and kissed her hand the woman felt a soft tingle run through her body.  Isabel could see how the women of the gods had been so easily seduced; the Eagle Lord was easily the most beautiful man she had ever seen.  His body was muscular and well formed, his tanned skin glistened in the sun, his jaw was wide, and his nose sharp and slender; his smile could turn a woman to jelly.  His eyes, however, gave Isabel the creeps.  They were a bright gold, almost too bright, and looked as if they could see right into your soul.

“My palace has many lovely adornments, but their beauty pales in comparison to yours,” he purred, his velvety voice flowing through her.

Staring into his eyes, Isabel was able to prevent herself from falling for his seduction.  The audible sighs coming from the man’s servants behind him only furthered her rancor.

“You’ll forgive me if I don’t swoon immediately, my lord, as I do not find being compared to inanimate objects to be altogether flattering,” she replied flatly.

Alaric smirked and the Eagle Lord’s face twisted with fury, his eyes suddenly blazing. However, just as suddenly, he threw his head back and laughed.

“Ha! The woman has spirit!”

He turned his attention back to the prince.

“That idiot, Finchley, tells me you have business regarding the Silver Fleet.”

“Indeed,” Alaric replied. “We were sent by the Oracle to activate the Fleet to assist us in our war with the Sorceress and the Lord of the Underworld.”

“Lord of the Underworld!” The Eagle Lord spat. “Rakad would be nothing if not for me! There would not even be an Underworld for him to reign over if not for me!  Nothing would ever even die if not for me!”

“Yes of course, my Lord,” Alaric interrupted before the fallen god really got going.  “You could help us give Rakad his comeuppance once and for all by giving us the location of the Silver Fleet.”

The Eagle Lord seemed preoccupied now.  His brilliant eyes dimmed as he muttered to himself for a few moments before snapping back to reality.

“Yes, but if I told you where it was, how would you activate it?”

Isabel stepped forward and pulled the amulet from the bodice of her modest periwinkle gown.

“With this, my lord.”

Grasping it by the tail, she raised the amulet up for the Eagle Lord to see and almost immediately his eyes blazed again.

“Yes!” he hissed. “The power, I feel it!”

The amulet’s eyes blazed red in answer to the Eagle Lord’s gold and as he stumbled forward Alaric swept Isabel behind him.

Angry, the Eagle Lord shrieked, “Why did you do that? Get out of my way!  I must have that amulet!”

Alaric drew his sword and shouted for Isabel to run into the woods.

The Eagle Lord shrieked and rose to follow but the prince slashed at him redirecting his attention.

“It was a mistake to come here.  Bringing the amulet here was too much of a risk.”

“Yet, come you did!  It is just as well, I am due for a meal!” he replied, foam touching the ends of his mouth as he shrieked again.  As sharp talons suddenly sprung from his feet, Alaric realized the Eagle Lord hadn’t been wearing boots at all.  He didn’t have time to ponder this thought, however, as his enemy lunged at him, ready to tear his flesh from his body.

*****

Isabel was met at the entrance of the temple by the Eagle Lord’s guards, their spears pointed at her as she approached.

“Lennox!” she cried and could already hear the sounds of clashing metal as the squadron attacked.

Suddenly, the amulet flashed a bright red that blinded the guards.  Tears sprung from her burning eyes as Isabel desperately fought to get her sight back.  She felt Lennox’s massive hand take her arm and pull her from the entrance.  By the time her vision cleared she saw the captain was rushing her towards the trees.

“Go find the fleet!” he shouted to her, pushing her into the tree line. “We’ll hold them off!”

“Find the fleet, he says,” Isabel grumbled as she dashed through the woods. “I thought the whole point of meeting that Eagle bastard was because we didn’t know how to find the fleet!”

Isabel ran until a stitch formed in her side and her lungs burned for air.  Gasping, she leaned against a tree and wiped the sweat from her brow with her sleeve.  How the hell was she supposed to find the Silver Fleet?  She knew it had something to do with her father’s heart and the amulet.  She thought about how active the amulet had become of late as well.  Holding it in her hand, the pendant was still and cool to the touch, yet it seemed to have responded fiercely to the Eagle Lord’s desire as well as her own need to escape.  Suddenly she righted herself as an idea dawned on her.

Isabel had not made a wish since her 10th birthday, and she never yearned for her heart’s desire except as a child who desperately wanted to find her father, but she closed her eyes and focused on how badly she needed to find the Silver Fleet.  She thought about the little boy in danger, her people living in fear and agony for decades, how the fate of both worlds, billions of people, could be in jeopardy if Zenobia and Rakad weren’t destroyed and suddenly she felt warmth emanate from the pendant.  When she opened her eyes, she found the amulet’s eyes blazing back at her and the orb in its tail was glowing and warm to the touch.  She let it fall against her breast and a thin silver light gleamed from the orb like a thread.  Isabel couldn’t help but smile.

She spent half the day climbing through brush, down steep inclines and through ancient tunnels, stopping to rest only briefly, before coming to a dead end at the mountain face.  It loomed above her and there were no paths around or through it, yet the light thread went right to it.

“It must be buried in the rock,” Isabel surmised as she glanced around for any visible knobs or notches. “How do I get it out?”

Isabel spied another rock looming upwards behind her, facing the mountain.  Above it, in the distance, the light of the setting sun was just beginning to peek through the trees.  Suddenly, scenes from adventure movies she had seen all her life flashed through her mind.  It was corny, but it just might work.

The young woman climbed upon the rock, stood tall, and held the amulet above her head. As the light hit the amulet, it cast a large shadow upon the wall.  There was a sudden rumble and a loud crack and then the ground began to shake violently as a large fissure formed in the wall. The individual pieces moved away from each other.  Isabel slid down off the rock before she could fall, and when the dust cleared the sunlight glinted off a magnificent fleet of enormous silver mast ships.

“The Silver Fleet!” she breathed.

Dogtags and Desire: Military Women Romance Novel Excerpt

I have been a military spouse for just over 10 years and one essential part of being a successful military spouse is the ability to keep busy! One way I have done so is writing and one project I’ve been working on is a compilation of love stories geared towards spouses and women serving in the military. This compilation is nearly complete and should be published sometime this year, I’m just trying to decide whether to keep it in compilation form or throw all the characters together into a single novel.

Before you ask, no I am not a fan of Army Wives. I was excited about the concept but got disenchanted when I saw one of the first story lines embraced the stereotype that all spouses screw around on their husbands during deployment. I also found the show a little overdramatic and too soap opery (is a word?;). In my experience, the life of a military wife is packed with enough drama all on its own without involving secret segregates and hostage situations.

Anyway, the following is an excerpt featuring Navy couple, Grace and Daniel. Enjoy!

Homecoming

Gracie stood on the pier waiting.  She had been waiting 18 whole months for this moment and the past two weeks were the most agonizing.  The young blonde had cried herself to sleep more times than she cared to remember.  She bit her deep red lips to fight back the tears as her heart remembered sinking on the morning of yet another holiday spent alone and lurching when she got word Daniel had been injured.  Thankfully the wound hadn’t been fatal although she had secretly wished it had been just bad enough to send him back home to her.

The unusually warm spring breeze played with loose strands of shiny flaxen locks done up in Greek goddess fashion as she glanced around to the other wives and families who were loaded with flowers, balloons and gifts and making small talk with each other as the minutes endlessly ticked by.  Suddenly someone gave a yell and everyone turned and began waving though the ship was still just on the horizon and too far to make out any details.

Gracie’s heart pounded and she fought for a second time to keep the tears from falling.  He was home, finally, he was home!  The air crackled with electricity as the boat slowly approached and took forever to tie up.  People were already yelling to each other on cell phones and once liberty was called cheers erupted from ship and pier alike. Gracie’s anxiety continued to rise as she watched the sailors pour off the ship, reunite with their loved ones and disappear into the parking lot. Finally, the familiar silhouette of her husband appeared on the brow. His grin reached from ear to ear as they approached each other, his blue eyes sparkled as they roamed over her brand new figure. It had been almost two years since they had been together and although she had caught the eye of many men as the pounds melted away, she had never been tempted to cheat on Daniel no matter how much she liked the new attention she’d been receiving.  The line, “he’ll never know” just never washed with her.

The drive only took ten minutes but felt like eternity and the closer to home they got the more her heart pounded, her stomach filled to bursting with butterflies.  She knew her husband wasn’t the least bit nervous as he kissed her hungrily at every stop light and intersection and caressed her thighs and arms, running his hands over her abdomen and hips as she drove.

“You’re gonna make me crash, honey,” she giggled as he leaned over and began kissing her shoulder while cupping one of her breasts.

“So pull over,” he replied with a mischievous smile and tone that made Gracie’s breath catch in her throat as a throbbing began below.

The young wife was thrilled as she’d been slightly worried that her husband might not like that she had lost so much weight but he was pawing her no differently than when she’d been “pleasantly plump” as he referred to her whenever she obsessed about being too fat.  As they pulled into the driveway, Gracie’s heart pounded again.  She had another surprise for Daniel but wasn’t sure if he’d last long enough to receive it.  The rich giggle that escaped her then betrayed her thoughts as they got out and Daniel looked at her.

“What?”

She looked at him with a seductive little smile, her body tingling with excitement while her grey eyes twinkled as she replied,

“Nothing dear.”

Daniel laughed and grabbed at her as she hurried past him and she yelped and giggled while trying to open the front door.

“Don’t give me that, what are you up to?”

“You’ll find out,” was all she would say.

He took her hand in his and swept her into his arms, pulling her into a fierce kiss as he kicked the door closed behind him.  Gracie grew giddy and white hot all over and melted into arms, his bulging manhood pulsing against her, and it took everything she had to push him away.

“No no, sweetheart, not yet,” she teased breathlessly, and placed a finger on his lips when he opened his mouth to protest.

Taking his hand she led him into the spacious living room with large windows overlooking the bay and roman style columns.  She had given it a glorious makeover with the extra pay Daniel got from a recent promotion and she took pride in it although at the moment she knew he wasn’t all that interested in the immaculate white couches sitting before their stone fireplace or the plush white rug that replaced the old shag carpeting.  Gracie pushed her husband into a white overstuffed recliner and tapped a couple of buttons on a remote on the fireplace.  Fwoosh! The fireplace roared to life as the new stereo system began to softly play a selection from Sade.

Daniel smiled, his azure eyes displaying a hint of confusion mixed with excitement.

“Wha-?”

“Shh!” she replied as she began to sway back and forth in time to the music.

She turned her back to him, swishing her hips as she slowly lowered the zipper on the back of her dress and looked over her shoulder while slipping the dress off one shoulder, then the other. Once she’d gotten the confidence, she had secretly taken a class and rehearsed this routine over and over to get it just right for today.  Gracie turned to her husband then and let the dress drop to the floor, giddy with pleasure as she saw the ridiculously large grin on his face grow even bigger as he took in her shapely form in nothing but a black lacey peek-a-boo bra and thong contrasting her soft porcelain skin.  Giving him a wink, she slipped the straps off and reached back to undo the clasp before turning her back to him again.  She tossed the bra over one shoulder making sure it would land on Daniel and he picked it up, kissed it and held it out to her as if toasting her with a glass.  Giggling she turned back and ever so slowly bent over and pulled off her thong.  The music changed on cue to a faster beat as she kicked it to one side and planned to really let her husband have it.  She swished over to the nearest pillar and began twirling around it in time to the music.  The moves she did would have made any professional pole dancer proud and her heart leapt as she saw Daniel’s mouth drop in astonishment.  Yes, dear heart, she thought to herself as she really got into the routine, the little wife has been keeping herself busy.

As the song wound down she gave a final twirl and as she came to face Daniel she discovered he was suddenly right there, unable to take anymore.  His face held a wild, animal expression as he pulled her to him, moaning a little as he kissed her hard.  He ran his hands down her back and under her cheeks before lifting her up off the floor.  She wrapped her legs around his waist and groaned as he pushed her up against the column and nibbled on her ear and neck.

“Oh God, Daniel!” she gasped as he entered her.

“Oh baby, I love you so much!” he whispered to her as he gyrated  into her and let his pants drop to the floor.

Her flame built up from deep within and she moaned louder and louder with her head thrown back and eyes closed, feeling one of Daniel’s hands massage her bottom while the other caressed her breasts.  He backed up away from the wall and she leaned back as he kissed and sucked on her breasts before coming to his knees on the soft rug.  Gracie lowered her feet to the floor and pushed her husband on to his back.  As she cradled him, the two of them covered in sweat, her loose hair shimmering in the firelight, she reached down and tore Daniel’s shirt open.

He laughed, once again surprised at her assertiveness, and she leaned down and kissed him roughly.  His hands ran up and down her body with intensity and he moaned as she licked and nibbled his nipples, chest and stomach before she began to ride him.  He pumped into her harder and faster as she rode in time with him until their collective moans and sighs rose up into a tremendous cry.

She lay on top of him and he caressed her hair as their breathing settled.  Out of nowhere Gracie began to sob and Daniel froze.

“Are you alright, honey?” he asked her trying to sit up.

She rolled off him and sat up beside him, wiping the tears from her face and laughing.

“Yes, Danny, I’m sorry.  I’m just so happy!”

“I know darling, I am too.  I’ve wanted to hold you in my arms for so long. I thought this day would never come!” he replied holding her in his embrace again.

The couple lay back down on the soft rug again before the fire and made love three more times as twilight turned to night.

Gracie awoke the next morning and listened to her husband’s heartbeat and steady breathing as she lay across his chest as he slept soundly on the rug.  It had taken her a moment to realize Daniel had in fact returned home, so used to his absence as she was. She rose quietly, slipped on his shirt and padded into the kitchen to make breakfast.  A disturbing thought had occurred to her, one that she had completely forgotten about and didn’t know how to handle it though she thought she would’ve had an answer by now.  Before he left Daniel had expressed interest in starting a family but the idea had always left Gracie cold.  Now that he had returned the concept would surely come up again and try as she might, she really wasn’t comfortable with the thought of having children.

“Hey, don’t burn my bacon,” Daniel joked as he slipped his arms around her waist and kissed her on the neck.

Gracie jumped and moved the pan off the burner.

“Are you alright?” he asked.

“Of course now that my husband has returned to me,” Gracie replied smiling and putting her arms around him.

Daniel swept his wife up in a long deep kiss until the smell of smoke got their attention.  Gracie turned to discover the charred bacon was now accompanied by crispy cajun style eggs and sighed.

“What would you say to going out for breakfast?” Daniel chuckled.

“Sounds like a good idea to me!”

Upstairs as they were dressing they stopped to make love a few more times before actually getting around to putting clothes on.

“Gracie?”

“Yes?” she replied from the bathroom where she was fixing her hair.

“Now that I’m home have you given any thought to what we talked about before I left?”

She put down the hairbrush and looked at him in the mirror as he sat on the bed.

“You mean about having children?”

“Yes.”

She picked up the brush again and ran it through her hair a few more times before answering,

“To be honest I haven’t really thought about it much lately.”

“Not even while I was gone?”

She turned to face him.

“Of course not I was too busy worrying whether or not I’d ever see you again.”

“Alright, so now that I’m home what do you think?”

She sighed, “Daniel.”

“Ok look,” he interrupted raising his arms, “before I left you said you were too heavy to have a healthy pregnancy.  Now that you’ve lost the weight I know you’re probably concerned about putting the weight back on but baby, don’t you want to have kids with me?”

“I just don’t understand what the rush is, we’re still young, Danny.”

“We are, which means we’ll have the energy to raise them!”

They stood there silently staring at each other as the air filled with tension.  Then Daniel’s expression suddenly softened.

“Is it because of your mother?” he asked.

Gracie was stunned as the words crashed against her and she crumpled on to the bed sobbing.

Gracie and Daniel practically grew up together and he knew her life growing up wasn’t easy.  No, she hadn’t been poor, she grew up in a modest little house with white picket fence and a yard and she’d had her own room.  No, her parents weren’t drunks and nobody had beaten or molested her.  They were a God fearing church going family who lived a quiet, non-eventful life.  While her father was away at the office most of the day her mother played the obedient little housewife cooking and cleaning, hosting cocktail and dinner parties and conducting herself just so.  She was also busy ignoring her daughter.  Gracie never got tucked into bed, never had bedtime stories read to her or kisses good night.  Her scrapes were never soothed or kissed all better, in fact, Gracie’s interactions with her mother were the briefest possible.  It was as if she didn’t exist as a child and as a teenager nothing she did could please her.  It was bad enough that she couldn’t be the happy homemaker but any time she went out whether to study, go to a dance or on a date she was met with accusations of being a whore.  The harsh words out of her mother’s mouth during those days made Gracie long for the days of silence in her childhood and when Daniel had decided to join the military and asked her to run away with him and get married she couldn’t say yes fast enough.  The reason she didn’t want children wasn’t because she didn’t love her husband, he was and always had been her best friend, but because there was a possibility that any children she did have would face the same type of mother.  The woman had no maternal instinct, Gracie was sure of that, and she didn’t know if it was hereditary.

“I just don’t want our kids to go through what I went through,” she sobbed as Daniel held her close.

“I know baby, I know,” he said, “but with the childhood you had wouldn’t that make you more determined not to be the same way with our kids?”

“Of course,” she sniffed, “but what if being cold and cruel is genetic?  You’ve seen my family.”

Daniel lifted Gracie’s chin so she could look at him and smiled,

“Well if it is then it’s surely skipped a generation.  You are the warmest, most loving and most generous person I’ve ever met and always have been.”

He gave her a warm soft lingering kiss on the lips and they stared into each other’s eyes before Gracie gave a deep sigh.

“Besides,” he continued, “I always thought you were adopted or your parents were pod people or something.”

Gracie chuckled, “Sometimes I do too.”

A Dog’s Breakfast

Here is a fun little concept I was playing around with for a flash fiction contest inspired by a conversation I once had with some crazy friends. Enjoy!

G. Christopher Jones

The Keebler County police rolled up in front of their tree on the tidy affluent cul-de-sac that was Breakfast Row at 3am, the flashing lights alerting the neighbors of yet another indiscretion. Crackle and Pop shook their heads sadly as Snap was led away in handcuffs and put into the back of the squad car. He never once raised his head; he wouldn’t look his friends in the eye. He was an old and dear friend with a serious affliction and they tried to be supportive for they loved him truly, but his sickness was beginning to take its toll on them. Sam, Sonny and Trixie had made it abundantly clear that the Krispie Boys were no longer welcome at Poker Night two weeks ago and poor Pop had come home in tears only yesterday when Count Chocula and Frank Berry quickly ushered their children across the street when they saw him coming; whispering and glaring at him as they walked their kids home from school. Crackle had not told the others yet but he had noticed a steady decline in business and even sweet old Aunt Jemima, the one true voice of reason in the community and their source of comfort since all this began, had become stiff and distant as of late. Crackle snorted at the thought of the Count being so selective in who he did and did not keep company with, especially since he himself was just out on bail!

Count Victor Chocula had been arrested at his chalet on Big Rock Candy Mountain only a few weeks ago thanks to the quick work of the Krispie Detective Agency. All had not been sweetness and light at the Chocula Chalet and shortly after Amelia Butterworth had filed a restraining order against the Count, a large shipment of syrup had disappeared from Canadian stores. While the Krispie Boys had felt sorry for the Count being jilted like he was when Amelia had suddenly run off to marry Jimmy Dean of Lick Fork, Virginia after a whirlwind romance, it was no excuse for theft. His heartbreak hadn’t lasted for long however for Jemima had had her eye on Victor for years and, with her sister out of the way, she moved in for the kill! Cornelius Crunch, captain of the police force, was Crackle’s only ally and had enlisted his help on the case.

“The Count has been most uncooperative!” Corny had told him, slamming his hat down on the desk and scrubbing his snowy hair with his large veined hands, “He isn’t saying a word except to insist he’s being profiled because he’s black!”

Crackle sighed inwardly. If he could arrange for the captain to keep from arraigning Snap before he got to the station with the bail money he might be able to keep the story from getting into the press again. Money was tight as it was and one more black eye could kill the agency. Something had to be done about Snap. This type of thing could not go on forever, the man refused to go for help but now it was starting to affect their livelihood and Crackle suspected the strain on poor Pop’s nerves was killing him.

The movement of curtains in a few windows confirmed their neighbors had indeed been watching and Crackle snorted again, holding Pop to him as he trembled. That smarmy Lucky Charms bastard had been waiting for a chance like this to boot him out of his position as President of their HOA for years. Tomorrow promised to be a miserable day indeed.