3 No-No’s #Newbie Indie Authors Should Never Do

It’s been 3 1/2 years since I started publishing my late husband’s books.  I feel like I’m still new at this gig, but when I see some of the authors just coming out of the gate, I realize I’ve learned a lot.  So, here are the 3 huge No-No’s Newbie Indie Authors should avoid.  I wish I would have for #1 and #2.

#1 – Do Not Design Your Own Book Covers

Unless you’re an artist or graphic designer, buy a book cover.  Believe me, readers know an indie book when they see the cover.  There are a lot of readers who won’t touch an indie book.  I’ve seen some really horrendous book covers, which has turned me off from buying them.  For a reader, the quality of the cover reflects the quality of the writing.  This may be snobbish, but it’s true.

I know, I know, it costs money, and you don’t have any to spare.  But you can buy pre-made ones for really cheap.  Case In point. a good friend of mine, C. J. RUtherford, just updated his cover for Souls of the Never.  Isn’t it gorgeous?  It’s a pre-made and he spent a whooping $30.  Just do a Google search, and you’ll find reputable websites that offer pre-made covers.  C. J. used thebookcoverdesigner.com

What you’re looking for with a good cover is the click-through rate.  The above cover will get more clicks then, say, the crappy ones I made myself.  Even though they are terrific stories, no one will buy them due to the terrible covers.  These are with my publisher now, and one day, I will combine them into an anthology.

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Being an indie author has some advantages.  One is being able to change your your book covers whenever you want.  So if you’re not getting the clicks, change it up.  I know an author that re-does his covers almost monthly.

#2 – Do Not Proofread Or Edit Your Own Books.  Hire A Proofreader & Editor.

Boy, I wish I would’ve done that with my first books.  As a reader, I had no idea how tough it is to get proofreading errors out of a manuscript.  I’m once again, revising The Secret of Excalibur.  Yes, this will cost you money, but it is so well worth it not to get dinged in your reviews because of wrong word usage, lack of grammar, and missing or misspelled words.

Speaking of wrong word usage, there’s nothing that will make me roll my eyes, and fling down my kindle in disgust than someone who doesn’t understand the difference between pass and past, or further and farther, etc, etc.  If you don’t know the meaning of a word, or the correct word to use, turn to Google, it’s a writer’s best friend.  I use it all the time if I’m just not sure the word I want really fits the context of the sentence.  I also use it to search for synonyms of words that I overuse. It’s free, so use it.

#3  – Do Not Publish A Rough Draft

This is a tough one, and it comes down to writing skill and knowing the craft.  I’m not talking about #2 here.  It’s being able to know the difference between a rough draft and a final draft.   To me, a final draft is what I send to my editor or proofreader.  Sure, there may be changes, depending on what my editor suggests, but I’ve done all the major leg work.

I recently started a book from a fairly new author who has 3 books published in a series.  It has several 5 star reviews, and I’m sure they were mostly her author friends, who probably write very similar to her.   The book was full of she walked, she smiled, she cried, you get the picture.  I could tell there was potential in the story line, but there was no feeling, no passion, no adverbs or adjectives, no inner dialogue.  In other words, it was boring as hell.  It was a rough draft.  It needed filled out, to come alive.

This is where Stephen King’s little meme below comes in handy.  Before I started publishing, I never studied the books I read.  I either liked them, or I didn’t, and I couldn’t have explained to you why I didn’t like a book.  Now I can.

There’s so much more to writing than just putting words on a screen or paper.  We have to worry about sentence structures, using Cause and Effect the proper way, making sure our scenes make sense.  I’m not a descriptive writer, and I envy the authors who are true wordsmiths.  I refer to my writing style as meat and potatoes, with a side of veggies.  Even without the flowing verbiage, I’ve learned how to make my characters stand out, come alive with emotions that carry the reader along with them.  All by studying the writing style of the books I enjoy.  I’ve bought several self-help writing books, but I think my biggest lessons learned has been reading well-written stories.

So, please, if you’re a new indie author, take heed of some of my own mistakes.  You want readers to rave about your books to their friends and family, not badmouth you because of mistakes you could’ve prevented from the very beginning.  But either way, good luck in your writing career.

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THE SECRET OF EXCALIBUR #99cent Sale 05-18 to 05-24

One great thing about having three books published, Creativia makes sure I have one on sale each month.  YEAH!!  So, this month it’s my #Arthurian, #paranormal, adult adventure:

CICK ON THE COVER TO READ A PREVIEW, OR TO JUST BUY THE DARN THING:

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And now, finally, it’s BOOK ONE of a series.  I LOOOVVVVVEEEEE saying that.   Book two, The Revenge of Excalibur, is in my publisher’s hands, and should be coming out next month.   So, if you haven’t read  Secret yet, get it while it’s cheap, coz believe me, you don’t want to miss out on all the fun and action.   Oh, and don’t forget, my books are always #free with #kindleunlimited.

Here are some teasers to get you going:

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Here’s the cover for Book Two.

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Update 05-19-16:  I just received my first review back from Readers’ Favorite, and it was a stellar 5 star.  WOOOHOOO!  Below is the review:

Reviewed By Rabia Tanveer for Readers’ Favorite

The Revenge of Excalibur: Book 2 of the Excalibur Saga by Sahara Foley is the quest of a woman who can either save her father or her people. Pamela is alone in this world. When her father left with an alien woman 27 years ago, she did not understand what was happening around her. However, now she is having dreams about her father, dreaming that he is in danger. Her life is no longer safe. When she is contacted by a mysterious alien space ship, she knows things will never be the same.

The space ship tells her that her father has been imprisoned and only she can save him; she is ready to do anything for him. However, before that, she must release Shalit from its prison inside the Excalibur, the mysterious sword. If she releases this evil Shalit, the world and the entire universe will be in danger; however, if she does not, her father is as good as dead. The only way to ensure the safety of her father and universe is by controlling Shalit once it is out. But can she do that? Is she strong enough?

Although I have not read the first novel in the series, I had no issues with reading this one. It was intense, filled with thrills and action, and I simply loved it. It literally took me a couple of hours to read because I did not want to put it down. I wanted to read on and see what happens next. The writing style is perfect for the theme. Sarah Foley made sure that the sci-fi elements of the novel did not become too ridiculous to be true. I could picture everything. An excellent, mind-boggling read. This is a bona fide 5 star novel!

I decided to add a few short chapter excerpts for your reading pleasure. 

CHAPTER ONE

Army boots: stomping, smashing the daisy with the blue center.

Arthur Merlin jerked his head back. He’d been so entranced with the fathomless, turquoise eyes of the breathtaking female before him he’d lost all track of time. He blinked several times, shaking his head, trying to clear his mind. The surrounding noises caught his attention, the dripping of water into the small, inner cavern lake, the shuffling of equipment being set-up, and the echoing of voices off the distant walls.

The image flashed through his mind again, more forcefully. Army boots: squashing, grinding the daisy with the blue center into the cavern floor, until all that remained were small, unidentifiable pieces.

Oh, shit. Major Breckenridge and Alpha Team. He’d forgotten about them. Arthur had a lot of respect for the Major, especially after everything they’d gone through at Heathrow Airport and Lake George, but he couldn’t let Daisy fall into their hands. If she did, who knew what would happen to the evil entity trapped inside the legendary Excalibur? Daisy was the only person who could control it. Just thinking about the Shalit escaping its prison made Arthur break out in a cold sweat. He’d already had his confrontation with the alien being, and lost. If it hadn’t been for Daisy, he’d be dead. Arthur had to find a way to save Daisy, and keep the Shalit contained.

He glanced at the tunnel entrance where Major Breckenridge and Dr. Tober were striding purposefully toward him. He peered back down at Daisy. She gazed up at him with such love and trust. His breath caught as he found himself falling under her spell. He shook his head. No, I can’t let myself get mesmerized again. She’s in danger. I have to save her.

Gray eyes over daisy with blue center and then they disappeared.

*Yes, baby, I’m getting you out of here,* he mentally reassured her.

But, to where? Daisy needs medical treatment. Who can I trust? Ruth. Ruth will help us. She knew about the Shalit, and the need to keep it contained. Remembering Ruth fleeing the cavern, clutching her necklace, made his heart wrench. Arthur sighed. I hurt Ruth. I didn’t mean to. He hadn’t meant to fall in love either.

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CHAPTER TWO

In cell 425, at the clanging of the small, metal door announcing the arrival of that day’s meager substance, a young Tethian female slowly swung her four legs over the edge of the narrow cot. With her two right arms, she weakly pushed herself up into a sitting position, gripping the other side of the cot with her left hands. The room spun around, as she became dizzy from the exertion. Holding her head with her upper arms, she waited until the dismal, gray room came back into focus. She didn’t know how much longer she could hold on, her stomachs spasming with hunger.

Pushing herself up onto wobbly legs, she waited again for the room to stop spinning, then slowly shuffled over to the waiting bowls. One bowl held water, insects, and an oily scum floating on the surface. The other bowl held a piece of rotting meat, maggots crawling over it. She could no longer smell the rancid meat because her matted, red-streaked, black fur stunk far worse than their so-called food. With her lower arms, she picked up the bowl of water and carefully teetered a few steps to the other cot in the room, where a female Calen lay, unconscious.

Transferring the bowl to her upper arms, she used the lower ones to brace herself, slowly kneeling on the filthy, hard, cold floor next to the cot. “My Queen, ‘tis I, Pohat,” she said in a deep, musical voice. Receiving no response, she gently shook the Calen female. Her eyelids fluttered open, revealing the brightest blue eyes Pohat had ever seen. They were a sharp contrast to her pallid skin.

“Pohat?” her cellmate asked in a weak, raspy voice. She struggled to rise. “Where am I? Where is Arthur? Where are my children?”

Pohat gently restrained her. A process she’d gone through several times since the Queen’s arrival in this death hole. “You must drink, my Queen, if you are to survive, and see them again.”

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CHPATER THREE

Once again, Arthur found himself some place other than Ruth’s garden. Looking out the small holes the white beam had caused, he noticed light where there had been darkness before. He glanced around, amazed. How did I teleport the whole room? He stared at where his hand still touched the tip of Excalibur. Did the sword make the difference?

“Arthur brought us home, my friend,” Daisy said weakly, from her prone position on the floor. “We are on Calen, at the palace.”

Tigget and the other crew members started cheering, while Arthur peered down at Daisy, starting to get a little upset, feeling used. He didn’t like someone else being in control of his life. His lips tightened with anger.

Daisy reached up, and lovingly touched his cheek. “Arthur, my love, I was not safe on Earth, and I need medical treatment not available there. Due to my weakened condition, I was unable to transport us home. Using your powers funneled through Excalibur, I redirected us back to Calen. Do not be upset. We belong together, and I need you.” She blinked her hypnotic eyes at him.

What is it about this woman? Arthur wondered, realizing Daisy spoke in Calen, and he’d understood. She has bewitched me. His heart had never felt this strong of a connection with anyone. Taking her hand, he turned it over and tenderly kissed her palm, nodding his head. Since he had not a clue where they were, he had no choice but to trust her.

A door Arthur hadn’t noticed before, opened, and several Calen men rushed in carrying a stretcher. They transferred Daisy to the stretcher, and out the door they went, to their infirmary. Following Daisy outside, Arthur caught Tigget glaring at him. I just got here, and I’ve already made an enemy. Shrugging his shoulders, he stepped through the doorway, getting his first glimpse of the alien planet.

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And even better, I’m working on book three, Karrin: Warrior Child.  I’ll be sharing short chapter excerpts from that on on a later post. 

Let me know what you think.

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#Bookreview of A Ripple of Fear by J.M. Northup

#Bookreview of A Ripple of Fear (The Fears of Dakota Book 1)

by J.M. Northup

BLURB:

It only takes a spark to inspire an inferno.

In a world with fears stemming from catastrophes and terrorism, America faces its biggest challenge yet. Discord and apprehension are pushed to the extreme as ancient prophecies approach fruition. The world Dakota lives in is becoming unrecognizable: doomsday preppers grow more prevalent while government and local services continue deteriorating, eroding the security people feel in their lives and each other. As tensions grow, so does the paranoia that drives the nation to a crossroads that will change history.

Dakota holds onto her hopes of a better tomorrow, but the thread of peace seems to unravel faster than it can be contained. What will become of her and the people she loves, when a spark ignites America into an inferno of fear?

Combining survivalist drama and a dystopian future, A Ripple of Fear is a gripping story for readers of all ages.

MY REVIEW:

This is the first book in the series, but wasn’t actually written until after the second book Fears of Darkness was published.  Click on the cover to read my review:

My biggest complaint about Fears of Darkness was how did the US fall apart so fast?  I just couldn’t see it happening the way Northup implied.  Other readers must’ve felt the same way, so she went back and added more background leading up to the second book.  Now, it all makes sense. 

In A Ripple of Fear, we get to meet Dakota’s mother and father and Rae’s family as well.   We also get to see how Dakota and Chris’ relationship evolved to where they were the couple in book two.  I feel such more connected with her and her family & friends, and now I know what anguish they were suffering at the start of book two.   They had just literally seen their worlds fall apart. 

Because of the more detailed background, this story starts slow, but believe me, it ends with a bang.  About halfway through, the tension starts mounting and keeps on going.  If I hadn’t already read the second book, I would’ve bought and read it right away.  

The characters are just as developed and multidimensional , and the story is well-written.  There are a lot of moral issues as well.  Those neighbors that you talk to everyday, who you think are you friends.  What will they really do in a national crisis?  Will they turn against each other?  I think Northup hit the nail on the head with her portrayal of the human psyche.  All it takes is one or two loud-mouths to turn a crowd into a deadly mob. 

If you enjoy YA and end-of-the-world tales, you’ll love this series, and I highly recommend it.  I give it 5 feathers.  Well done.

Golden Pheasant, Pheasant, Bird Golden Pheasant, Pheasant, Bird Golden Pheasant, Pheasant, Bird Golden Pheasant, Pheasant, Bird Golden Pheasant, Pheasant, Bird

CLICK ON THE COVER TO READ A PREVIEW:

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#Bookreview of Worlds of the Never by C.J. Rutherford

#Bookreview of Worlds of the Never

by C.J. Rutherford

BLURB:

On Teralia, where magic has hidden for thousands of years, the Darkness arises to challenge the Veil spell. The barrier is weakening.

Magic is returning to the universe. Only an outsider can prevent the destruction of the Glade and the people she loves.

On Sanctuary, the supporters of Tenybris have taken control. The universe teeters on the brink of all out war.

Standing against them are Katheryne, the Foundation, prophesied to rid the universe of Tenybris forever, and Derren, the other half of her soul. Along with a small band of extraordinary friends, they need to raise an alliance against Sanctuary, but incur terrible losses along the way.

Unseen, the Beast plots the release of its Master. But Tenybris’s freedom is not enough to sate the monster’s depravity, as it sets out to corrupt and destroy whatever, and whoever it can.

This is the beginning of the end. Who will remain standing?

MY REVIEW:

One bad thing about a series, whether book or movie, if you don’t read/watch the next one, you tend to forget what was happening.  Such is the problem I faced with this book.  I read the prequel, Origins of the Never back in late 2014 and Souls of the Never in mid 2015.  Click on the book covers to take you to my reviews.

    

But, once I got myself reacquainted with the  characters, and storyline, it didn’t take long to get back into it.  I’d forgotten how much action there was in the first book.  The second book is full of action too.  It does jump around from world-to-world, and from time-to-time, but we start to see where all of Olume’s plans from the prequel start to come together.  There was a reason why Kat’s mother and unborn sister had to die.  What Kat’s baby sister comes back as is AWESOME!! 

There’s a lot more world building, and we’re introduced to a new race from the planet Zhibalba.  All of their names begin with the letter ‘Z’, which I found quite unique.   They’re a reptilian race and I really liked their determination to continue in the face of adversity.  I thought they were believable and well-written.

As with all conflicts and war, people die, and so Kat faces the loss of another friend.  This part made me cry, as the character was one of my favorites, though she did change in this book.

What I didn’t like: Parts of the story were just to saccharine for me, too lovey-dovey and cutesy.  I know it’s a YA book, but my teeth still hurt.

All-in-all, a well-written tale with very believable characters.  I’ve already begun the last book.  All the characters are rushing toward a final confrontation, which I hope, will be a very dramatic conclusion.   I’ve been told by CJ, I’ll be weeping during this one too.

If you love sci-fi with epic world-building and alternate universe’s,  you’ll enjoy this series.  I give it 4 dragons.

Animal, Dragon, Fictional, Green, Monster, Mythical Animal, Dragon, Fictional, Green, Monster, Mythical Animal, Dragon, Fictional, Green, Monster, Mythical Animal, Dragon, Fictional, Green, Monster, Mythical

CLICK ON THE COVER TO READ A PREVIEW:

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#Bookreview of EARTHBOUND: Chronicles of the Maca by Mari Collier

#Bookreview of EARTHBOUND: Chronicles of the Maca – Book 1

by Mari Collier

BLURB:

Marooned in the 19th century Old West, an alien must survive on the violent planet and return to his homeworld to destroy his mortal enemies and avenge his people.

During a raid to a Comanche camp he rescues Anna, a tall warrior woman. The two become friends and comrades, their fates forever intertwined. They find themselves together in the prairies of 19th century Texas, the bordellos of Civil War-era New Orleans, to Prohibition in the 1920s, the Great Depression, and the vastness of space.

But will they survive hardships through history, the enmity of their southern neighbors and the Civil War, and be able to return to his home planet to exact his revenge?

MY REVIEW:

 

I’ve been wanting to read this series for awhile.  I love westerns and sci-fi, so this was a combination I just couldn’t pass up. 

We start off with an alien named Liewellyn, who’s been trapped on Earth during the frontier days.  The first two chapters are more like backstory, which I found somewhat confusing, as we’re crammed full of info that wasn’t easy to process. 

For me, the real story didn’t start until Chapter 3, when he changed his name to Zebediah L McDonald, and met Herman Rolfe.  I really liked Herman’s character.  He was tough, salty, and didn’t give a dang about anything.  He took McDonald under his wing, and they became fast friends, earning a wage as trappers, freighters and eventually moving to Texas to buy land to raise cattle.   These two had many adventures together, good and bad. 

There are various sub-plots woven through the story, one of them revolves around Anna Louis Lawrence and her children.  Kidnapped by Comanche’s, she’s rescued by McDonald.  They eventually form a relationship, but I felt no fire or passion between them.  We’re told how much Zeb felt for her, but, as a reader, I never felt it.  

Anna is another character I liked, She’s tough, hard, and knows how to take care of herself.   Her one fault, she can be a little narrow-sighted.   As a Maca, Zeb will outlive Anna, so I’m curious to see how that will work out. 

The other subplot revolves around Anna’s children, who disappeared at the same time she was kidnapped.  Who is Jeremiah O’Neal, and what is his ulterior motive?  Interesting questions indeed, but they don’t get answered in the first book. 

Some reviewers complained about Collier writing with dialect during dialogue.  She also uses it during some of the narration, but not consistently.  Myself, I didn’t find it off-putting at all.  Once my mind got used to the words, it added more dimension to the characters.  I believe this is what she was trying to achieve. 

My main complaint about this book was the disconnection from the characters, probably due to the lack of internal dialogue.  We never really know how any of them feel, as they weren’t allowed to talk out their feeing’s.  There were several traumatic events that I should’ve wept over, but I felt nothing, but words on the page.  The book also needs some polishing in the editing department. 

All-in-all, I like the story, and I want to find out what happens next.  If you love Westerns, and sci-fi, I recommend this book.  You will enjoy it.  I give it 4 feathers.

  Sun Parakeet, Parakeet, Bird Sun Parakeet, Parakeet, Bird Sun Parakeet, Parakeet, Bird Sun Parakeet, Parakeet, Bird

Click on the cover to read a preview, or buy your copy today:

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Joy, Joy: The Revenge of Excalibur is finished

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Joy, Joy: The Revenge of Excalibur is finished

I’m proud to announce that the 2nd book in the Excalibur saga has finally been submitted to my publisher for publication.  YEAH!!  I’m hoping it will be out in June, which will be 1 1/2 years since The Secret of Excalibur came out. 

The Revenge of Excalibur was a real challenge, as most of the outline had been lost over the years.  I really didn’t know if I could ‘write’ all the parts that were missing.  But I did, and it came out really well.  This one feels more like my baby than any of the other stories I’ve published.  I eel like I’ve really grown as a writer. 

Now that I’m done with the 2nd book, I can focus all my attention on the next one.  I’m currently on Chapter 5 of the 3rd book, so, if you haven’t read the 1st one yet, now’s the time.

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Speaking of the 3rd book, I thought I’d share parts of the first three chapters.   These are still in rough draft form, so please excuse any misspelled words or wrong punctuation.

KARRIN: Warrior Child

Chapter One


The Year 2516 – Planet Earth – London, England


“And this one’s name?” a high, whinny voice demanded impatiently.

“Ah, it’s Karen Number 1685,” stammered a woman as she peered down at the reader in her hand.  She licked her lips, glancing up at the woman who overshadowed her slight frame.

“Damn, another number,” said the whinny voice in a huff.  “Don’t people have last names anymore?  Where is her damn family?”

“Well, it says here this one’s family don’t want her, Matron.”  Her eyes darted to the little girl standing next to her.  Her head was bowed, a curtain of dark, curly hair obscuring her face.

The girl’s head jerked up, defiance flashing in her strange blue/silver eyes.  “They weren’t my family,” she retorted, chin held up high.

With a loud slap, the towering, pudgy Matron backhanded the little girl.  She smirked with glee as the unwanted waif bounced off the gray wall, into a cabinet, then fell, face-down on the cracked, green tiled floor.

Hands on beefy hips, Matron yelled, spit flying, “You, little bitchy.  You don’t talk unless I tell you to.  You don’t move unless I tell you to.  You fucking don’t even breathe unless I tell you to.”  She violently nudged the small, limp body with her steel-toed shoes.  She paid extra credits to have them made just for this purpose.  “Now, get your ass up here on this line, and keep your mouth shut.”

As the small child slowly pulled herself to her feet, Matron rubbed her right hand with a grimace.  Damn!  Either I’m getting soft, or these little bitches are getting harder.  She grinned when the child pushed her hair off her face, revealing blood running from her nose, and the right side of her mouth.  The red welt of a hand print was clearly visible against the pale skin on the girl’s cheekbone.  Matron chuckled.  Looks like I haven’t lost my touch after all.  Twenty years of backhanding insolent, little bitches had given her a lot of practice.

“Guard!” Matron yelled, making the other people in the room flinch.  “Take this useless piece of shit to a cell, and read her the rules of the Home.”  Glaring around, she continued, “And if I see any of you pansies going soft with her, you’ll be doing the sewer detail for a year.”  She snatched the reader from her cowering assistant’s hands, and slowly read the information displayed there.  “This one’s a real loser,” she said with a sneer.  “Even her own family don’t want her.  Says here she’s also retarded. Carp!  Another dummy.  I hate dummies.  Go on, get her out of my sight.”

An evil smile broke out on her pasty, pockmarked face as Matron watched the frail girl being hauled down the hallway by her collar.  As the helpless child stumbled along, trying to keep up with the longer strides of the female guard, she was body slammed from doorway to doorway.  That’ll teach the little bitch.  No one talks back to me.  In all her years as Matron, she’d only had one bitch that tired it twice.  Matron fingered the trusty nightstick at her side.  That mouthy little twerp had met her end with a hard whap up along the side of her head.  Since these bitches died all the time, one more was no big deal.

Matron stomped back into her office, where she noticed her assistant cowering in the corner.  God, how I hate weaklings.  Of course, if Mavis weren’t, scared of her, she would’ve already been transferred to another Home.  Matron stared down at her secretary.  Mavis had been an orphan here herself, and she’d learned early how to make herself useful.  Matron had a taste for young boys, and occasionally, young girls, so when a fresh, perky Mavis had offered herself in exchange for special privileges, she’d jumped on her.

Once she hit puberty, Mavis no longer appealed to her, so she’d trained her to be her assistant.   A job she performed very well.  Now, with her wrinkled skin and premature graying hair, she looked sixty instead of thirty-five.  She’s a constant reminder that age is creeping up on m, as well.  Matron signed.  Well, there were plenty more where she came from.  She’d contact Warden, and see if he wanted her for his boys.

Chapter Two

Sniffling, head bowed, the battered girl sat on a cold, metal slab, staring at her bare feet.  She still didn’t understand why she was here.  She peeked out between her mass of dark hair, peering at the tall, thin, coffee-colored Guard sitting across from her.  She had a reader in one hand, with an electronic prod lying across her lap.

“This here’n is your room now.” She patted the hard, metal slab she was sitting on.  The bed was bolted to the wall, with no mattress.  “This is your bed.  And don’t you be whining for a pillow or blanket.  You be an unwanted, and a retard at that.  Matron don’t hand out frivolous amenities to dummies.  You gotta earn em.”

The Guard resumed her reading from a list, her finger trailing across the screen.  “If I ask you a question, you gotta answer quickly.  And you better be a putting ‘Guard’ behind your answer, or you gonna get a whopping.  You understand?”

The girl quickly looked up.  “Yes. Guard.”  Her bottom lip quivered as she plucked at the hem of her ill-fitting, gray dress.  She wasn’t going to cry.  She clenched her fists into the thin material.

The Guard looked back up with a curled lip.  “Good.  If you follow the rules, you might actually live until dinner.  Now,” she said, as she flipped backwards with her finger on the screen, “it says here your name is Karrin, not Karen.  Spell you name for me, dummy, if you can.”

Gazing down at her shoes again, the small child said softly, “K. A. R. R. I. N, Guard.”

“Humph,” the guard snorted.  “You think you’re pretty smart for a dummy, don’t you?  But it don’t matter.  Here, you’re just Karen 1685.  I don’t see a last name here.  Do you have one, or can you even remember it.”

Karrin bit her lip.  Why am I being picked on? “Yes, Guard,” she replied with a touch of defiance in her voice.

The Guard glowered at the girl, her fingers tapping the handle of the electric prod.  “Well?  What is it?” With snake like reflexes, she snatched up the prod, flicked it on, and slammed it against Karrin’s bare foot.

“Ow!” the little girl screamed, her body convulsing from the shock, the back of her head striking the wall.

“I didn’t tell you you could scream, did I?” snarled the guard.  She smashed the prod into the unprotected foot again.  “What’s your last name?”

Karrin bit her tongue, trying not to cry out again.  Tears were sliding down her face.  Taking a deep breath, she muttered, “Felney.  The family I was with were named Felney, Guard.”  Tossing her head back, she glared at the black woman.  “But they weren’t my real family.”  Karrin watched with terror as the guard slowly reached out, then slapped the tip of the prod against her knee.  As the electric shock coursed up her leg, causing her muscles to twitch, she clenched her fists even harder, trying not to move or show pain.

Chapter Three

Karrin was jerked out of a fitful sleep with the clanging of the cell door, and a gruff voice.  “Hey, Yol.  You got yourself a roommate.”

Karrin slowly opened her eyes and saw an older girl with a shaved head.  “Yes, Guard,” she quickly mumbled, as her brown eyes stared back at Karrin.

“Looks like you got the short straw, Yol,” the guard mocked.  “Too bad for you.”  With a mean laugh, she turned and proceeded down the corridor, banging her electric prod on the cell doors as she went.

With slumped shoulders, Yol stepped to the toilet, hitched up her dress and sat,  “Shit,” she mumbled, leaning forward, resting her elbows on her knees.  “What did I do?  Why’d they put a dummy in with me?”  With a heavy sigh, she dropped her head in her hands.  “That means no sleep, and less food,” she mumbled, so softly Karrin barely heard her.

Lying on her side, staring straight ahead, Karrin watched the older girl out of the corner of her eyes.  She was wearing a blue dress with a white collar, her bald head gleaming under the harsh lighting.  Rising, she punched a gray button on the wall, causing the toilet to flush.  She sat on the empty bunk, hands between her knees, staring at Karrin.  Her pouting lips turned into a smirk when she saw the growing bruise on Karrin’s cheek.  Her smile widened when she noticed the burn marks on the younger girls foot, knee, and legs.

Leaning sideways, she made a big show of peering up and down the hallway, looking for any guards.  Sitting back, she whispered, “I see you’ve met Matron, retard.”  With a quirked brown, eyebrow, she pointed at the burn marks.  “Looks like Cassie’s been here too.  She likes to leave her mark, the bloody, fucking cow.  Now, listen up, dummy.  When dinner comes, I get your share too.  You hear me, retard?”

If I act like a retard, maybe  the girl will leave me alone, Karrin thought, so she laid unmoving, staring straight ahead, eyes unblinking.

“Crap,” Yol moaned.  “Hey, half-wit, can you at least talk?”

Even though her nose itched, and her eyes were burning, Karrin still laid motionless, her face expressionless.

“Fuck!  You’re not even a half-wit.  You’re a no-wit.  I bet all you do is eat and shit.”  Sliding off her bed, she leaned over Karrin, staring into her vacant eyes. In a forced whisper, she hissed, “You’re nothing but trouble for me, you little, retarded bitch! At least I’ll get a shot at the Yacht or the Farm ’cause I be the best fifteen year old Heroin Processor in the sewers.  I even get favors from guards.  But you, you’ll end up in a Prison.”  A sly smile crossed her thin face.  “I heard they do all kinds of nasty things to retards in Prison.”

Laughing, she raised her hand, getting ready to slap Karrin across the face when she froze, brows knitted in thought.  “Why’d they put you with me?”  She sat back on the bed and started biting the nail on her thumb.  “Matron never sticks little bitches with us older ones.  So one of us must be leaving.  Either you’re going with Cook, or, or, they picked me for the Yacht.”  Her brown eyes lit up with excitement.  “Yeah, that makes sense ’cause I’ll be turning sixteen in a few months.  Oh, I can’t wait to get out of this dump.”  Yolanda squealed with delight, hugging herself.

Karrin had no idea what the bald-headed girl was talking about.  She just wanted to be left alone.  Trying not to fidget, her eyes involuntarily blinked.

“Ah ha, you’re not dead after all, dummy,” Yolanda exclaimed.  “At least not yet.”  Her head jerked up at the sound of squeaky wheels echoing down the hallway. Jumping to her feet, she ordered, “Stand up, dummy, it’s dinner.”

Karrin sat up, swinging her legs over the edge of the slab, hands clasped together in her lap.

The grating noise stopped and started, getting closer and closer, until a cart stopped in front of their barred doorway.  A woman as round as she was tall, with long, greasy, brown hair stared with hard eyes at Karrin. She motioned to Yolanda, who stepped up to the bars.  “Who be the other girl?” she whispered.

Yolanda looked sideways at her new cell mate, shrugging her thin shoulders.  “I’m not sure, Ginny.  I don’t think she can hear or talk.”

Leaning closer, talking softer, the guard said, “I ain’t supposed to be atellin’ you this, but girl, you’re gonna be a leaving in a few days.”

Yolanda grabbed the bars, jumping up and down.  “I knew it, I knew it,” she squealed.  “As soon as I saw the retard, I knew I was going to the Yacht.  Am I, Ginny?”

“Shush, girl!” Ginny admonished, as she nervously glanced up and down the corridor.  You ain’t sixteen yet, Yol, so I ain’t sure.  Let me do some checking.  Here, I got to get busy,” and she pushed one, small silver tray through the horizontal slot in the bars, then took off, pushing the squeaking cart to the next cell.

Yolanda took the tray and sat cross legged on her bed, cradling the tray in her lap. 

As the smell of the food drifted to Karrin’s nose, her stomach growled.  There were two pieces of white meat, a large slice of bread, and some gooey stuff splattered in the center of the tray.  Her mouth started drooling and she licked her lips.  Karrin hadn’t eaten all day.

Yolanda stuffed a large chunk of the bread in her mouth, chewing furiously.  “This is mine, retard,” she mumbled around a mouthful of food.  “I’ll leave a small piece of rat, and some of the rice, but the bread’s all mine.”  She shoved another piece into her mouth. 

Karrin sat very still, tiny hands pressed against her rumbling stomach.  She wasn’t used to dealing with hunger.

“Ummm,” Yolanda signed in pleasure, tearing off a piece of rat meat with her teeth.  “The rat tastes so good today.”  She continued making uhing and ahing noises until the tray was empty.  Looking down with a smirk, she said “Oh, I’m sorry, retard.  Looks like I ate it all.  You should’ve grabbed a piece when you had the chance.  Here, you can chew on the bones.”  She held out a leg bone, laughing maliciously.

Karrin lay on her side, curled in a ball, facing the gray wall, Yoland’s cruel laughter echoing in her ears.  Why is everyone so mean here?  What did I do to make everyone hate me?  She just wanted to go home.  With a sigh, she remembered she didn’t have a home.  Not anymore.

******

It’s quite a bit darker, and I’m sure I’ll get dinged for not being politically correct.  But, stories have a life of their own.  So, what do you think?  Let me know in the comments. 

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My #bookreveiw of GRAN-SDUR: The Games by Jan Raymond

My #bookreveiw of GRAN-SDUR: The Games by Jan Raymond

BLURB:

 

“Gran-sdur: The Games” is the second book in the Pha-yul trilogy.

Millions of years ago, people from Padim, a planet in another galaxy took refuge on Earth. They still live among us. Children, born with the Padimite gene, sometimes, manifest superhuman abilities.

Sam, Cassie, Ryan, Sebastian and Maya who discovered their powers during a freak lightening storm, are still discovering their potential, in Pha-yul, where they are guided by new mentors – experts in the particular power that each kid possesses. Training with other youngsters of Padimite origin, they realize how little they know and how much more they must learn. Between their training and classes, they explore Pha-yul, the beautiful and isolated location that their ancestors had chosen as their home.

Adding to the pressure, they find out that they are to participate in the Gran-sdur, a competition that is held annually in Pha-yul. Here they would face the best and most skilled teams from communities around the world. With Mr. Harris’ guidance, the youngsters train hard, but will they be good enough to hold their own against equally or more talented contestants? Mr. Harris thinks they will, but the five are not so sure.

When the Games begin, the kids realise that they are not just trying to win, but are actually fighting for their lives. Will they win, or will they go down fighting? Will all five make it to the end? Or will the circle shatter?

Circle of Five, the first book of the Pha-yul trilogy is available on Amazon.

MY REVIEW:

This is book 2 of the Pha-yul triology.  If you haven’t read the first one, Circle of Five, you’d most likely be lost.  This isn’t a series you can just waltz into the middle of. Read my review HERE.

Now that the kids have spent over a year with Mr. Harris honing their special abilities, he takes them to Pha-yul for the summer to continue their training for the upcoming Gran-sdur.  Here, the children learn they’re descended from a race called Padimites.  Through their eyes and lessons, the author fills in the background of whom the Padimites are and why they came to Earth.  Their teachers paint a rosy picture of their race, and most of them look down at the mere humans they inhabit Earth with.  The kids take pretty much everything told to them at face-value, except Sam, the doubting Thomas.  If the Padimites are so peaceful and superior to humans, why did Pha-yul splinter into different communities and factions?

The kids become friends with some of the other children training for the Gran-sdur.  And once the games begin, it’s every team for itself.  Faced with betrayal and possible death, Sam, Cassie, Maya, Seb & Ryan bond together as never before just to survive the games.

There’s a lot of world-building in this book, so it’s slow going for over half the book.  But once the games started, I couldn’t put the book down.  There were a few questions I didn’t think were addressed, like the recessive Padimite genes.  What are the odds of the gene showing up decades later in siblings?  This story takes place in our modern world, so why haven’t the different communities of Padimites been discovered?  I realize they find the most remote areas to hide at, but our technology would find them.  If they’re using some type of cloaking technology, that’s something we as the readers have to assume.

In my review of The Circle of Five, I criticized the author’s lack of editing.  It has improved somewhat in this book and I know she’s working at correcting her mistakes.

All in all, I loved this book and can’t wait for the final installment.  Where are Seb and The Book?  I highly recommend this story for all ages.  I give it 4 feathers.

CLICK ON THE COVER TO READ A PREVIEW, OR TO BUY YOUR COPY TODAY:

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My #bookreview of SOULS OF THE NEVER by C.J. Ruitheford

SOULS OF THE NEVER by C.J. Ruitheford

BLURB:

All life ends. All souls pass on. But what if yours was ripped from your body to serve the darkness?

Eons ago, the universe teetered on the brink of destruction, as the evil Tenybris and his armies consumed the galaxies. They were unstoppable, fueled by magic and the voracious darkness of the pit– until a heroic sacrifice changed everything, causing Tenybris’ defeat, and hiding the source of all magic behind an impenetrable Veil.

Now, after thousands upon thousands of years, the Veil is falling, and magic is leaking back into the universe.

In Belfast, Ireland, young Katheryne’s dreams descend into nightmare. Can she overcome her uncertainty and accept her role in the upcoming war?

As she struggles to survive against Tenybris’ renewing power, a desperate warrior searches through time and multiple realities for the face from his dreams. Can he find her in time? If not, all will be lost.

MY REVIEW:

This is the first book of a series, but there is a free prequel called ORIGINS OF THE NEVER which I already reviewed.  You can read my 4 feather review HERE.

This book starts lifetimes after ORIGINS OF THE NEVER.  The prequel helps the reader understand what Sanctuary is and who Tenybris and Olume are, and the ensuing conflict between them.

Katheryne thought she was just a mere, mortal human, but she was that, and so much more.  Lately, she’s been having these terrifying nightmares where she’s on an island surrounded by an evil, fiery beast that is consuming everything around her in fire, until she too is gone.  Then one night, a man steps into her dream and saves her.  And the same man actually steps into her real life.  Through Derren and his twin sister Kista, Kat discovers what fate really has in store for her.  And it comes with some life-changing consequences. 

I really liked the characters and could easily identify with them, as C.J. does a fantastic job making them real.  I related more to Perri, the best friend and roommate, than I did with Kat, and I can’t wait to see what part she plays in the second book. 

I also enjoyed the fantasy world that Rutherford is building.  I’ve always believed in alternate/parallel universes. so this fits right in with my beliefs.  He just puts his own unique spin on it.  And, of course, the good against evil.  And it doesn’t have to be a God or Devil as we are so brainwashed to believe. 

The reason I’ve lowering my review down a notch, is because of the confusing jumping around at the beginning.  Probably due to my brain getting older.  It does all mesh together at the end, and leaves questions to make me want to read the next installment, which I already have on my TBR list.  Also, I thought some of the world building and action was too vague.  Especially the action.  I guess I’m more of an action type reader. 

Anyway, I really loved the story, I highly recommend it and I give it 4 feathers.  Can’t wait to read the next book.

CLICK ON THE COVER TO READ A PREVIEW, OR BUY YOUR COPY TODAY:

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#Coverreveal THE REVENGE OF EXCALIBUR

GREAT NEWS!

I’m thrilled to show-off the cover for my #comingsoon in June 2016 book. 

YEAH!!

See below for the blurb and to read a free chapter.  I’m really proud of this story. 

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BLURB:

Twenty-seven years ago, Pamela’s father vanished with a mysterious, alien female. Recently, she’s been having disturbing dreams that he’s in danger. Not only that, but Pamela’s also been contacted by a living space ship who tells her Arthur has been imprisoned on a distant planet, and only she can rescue him. To do so, she must release the evil entity trapped within the famous sword, Excalibur. If she trusts the strange ship, and releases the terrifying Shalit from its confinement, Pamela could be endangering Earth and all the other planets in the Universe. Will she be strong enough to control the Shalit, save her father, and protect everyone she loves? Can she risk destroying all life if she’s not?

CHAPTER ONE:

Army boots: stomping, smashing the daisy with the blue center.

Arthur Merlin jerked his head back. He’d been so entranced with the fathomless, turquoise eyes of the breathtaking female before him he’d lost all track of time. He blinked his eyes several times, shaking his head, trying to clear his mind. The surrounding noises caught his attention, the dripping of water into the small, inner cavern lake, the shuffling of equipment being set-up, and the echoing of voices off the distant walls.

The image flashed through his mind again, more forcefully. Army boots: squashing, grinding the daisy with the blue center into the cavern floor, until all that remained were small, unidentifiable pieces.

Oh, shit. Major Breckenridge and Alpha Team. He’d forgotten about them. Arthur had a lot of respect for the Major, especially after everything they’d gone through at Heathrow Airport and Lake George, but he couldn’t let Daisy fall into their hands. If she did, who knew what would happen to the evil entity trapped in the legendary Excalibur? Daisy was the only person who could control it. Just thinking about the Shalit escaping its prison made Arthur break out in a cold sweat. He’d already had his confrontation with the alien being, and lost. If it hadn’t been for Daisy, he’d be dead. Arthur had to find a way to save Daisy, and keep the Shalit contained.

He glanced at the tunnel entrance where Major Breckenridge and Dr. Tober were striding purposefully toward him. He peered back down at Daisy. She gazed up at him with such love and trust. His breath caught as he found himself falling under her spell. He shook his head. No, I can’t let myself get mesmerized again. She’s in danger, I have to save her.

Gray eyes over daisy with blue center and then they disappeared.

*Yes, baby, I’m getting you out of here,* he mentally reassured her.

But to where? Daisy needs medical treatment. Who can I trust? Ruth. Ruth will help us. She knew about the Shalit and the need to keep it contained. Remembering Ruth fleeing the cavern, clutching her necklace, made his heart wrench. Arthur sighed. I hurt Ruth. I didn’t mean to. He hadn’t meant to fall in love either.

During Vietnam, too many of his friends died in his arms while bleeding to death, or he watched as they disappeared in showers of blood and gore. He learned the mantra of ‘It don’t mean nothin’,’ and hardened his heart to everyone and everything. Even after the war, those walls stayed firmly in place. Until he met Ruth. She waltzed into his life, ripping through his shackled heart, liberating the man he’d hidden away. Because of her, he felt love again.

Arthur peered down at the alien woman in his arms. If I never met Ruth, would my heart be as open to Daisy? He shook his head. He had no way of knowing, but he was starting to feel like a pawn in a game of kismet. He gave a frustrated sigh. It didn’t matter right now. He had to get Daisy to safety. I’ll deal with the emotional side of my heart later. He gathered the injured Daisy into his arms, focusing on Ruth’s home in White Water and the beautiful garden behind the house. Locating the bench where Arthur had stolen his first kiss from Ruth, he BLIPPED!

With a startled cry, Arthur stumbled back a few steps, falling on his rear end, clutching Daisy tightly to his chest. A second later, a loud clattering drew his attention, an ornate, silver sword sliding from Daisy’s limp hand. What the hell? Why am I sitting on a cold, metal floor instead of the stone bench? Where the hell are we? How did we get here?

His gaze fell on the sword. He tried scooching away from it, heart thundering in his chest, palms breaking out in sweat. Why is Excalibur here? He hadn’t brought the sword with them. He had no reason to. Why would I bring something I’m terrified of?

Confused, Arthur peered down at Daisy. Her face paler than normal, she appeared to be unconscious and barely breathing. With concern, he lightly stroked her cheek. What happened to her? She was awake a few moments ago.

Hearing loud gasps from above him, Arthur looked up, seeing three women wearing matching silver uniforms with black piping. They were aiming weapons at him that looked like ray guns from sci-fi movies. He shook his head in disbelief. Did we end up on a movie set somewhere?

“So, who are you with?” Arthur asked jokingly, “Hans Solo, or Darth Vader?” He inspected the threesome further, noticing they had the same seashell ears Daisy did. Oh, shit. Are the guns real?

The pale women didn’t seem amused as they frowned down at him. “Earthman, you hold our leader. Place her on the floor and back away, or we will fire and end your Human existence,” the tallest one demanded in accented English, her weapon pointed unwaveringly at Arthur’s forehead.

Even though the ray guns looked like toys to Arthur, he had no idea what they might do to his force-field.  Just my luck. I jumped from the frying pan into the fire. He gently lifted Daisy from his lap and laid her on the cold floor. He scowled at the space women as he slowly stood with raised arms, then backed up a few steps. He glanced over the round, metal room, and his mouth dropped open. Holy Shit! We’re in one of the spaceships that escaped from the cavern.

Loud alarms started blaring, and orange lights were flashing from the domed ceiling. A women sitting at a console, swiveled around in her chair, yelling, “Attack! Seven Calen ships have surrounded us. They demand our surrender, and the release of Emeara and the Earthman to them, or they will open fire. What shall we do, Commander Tigget?”

The tall space woman’s pale lips tightened as she peered down at her leader, lying helpless on the floor.

Daisy’s eyelids fluttered as she slowly opened them to regard her best friend. She’d used most of her mental energy to redirect Arthur’s teleportation to this Calen ship. She could not allow the Humans to capture her, or the Excalibur/Shalit would’ve endangered the whole universe. She looked up at her Gray Eyes, the only man powerful enough to save them from the seven Calen ships.

*Tig, you must trust this Human,* she said, in a weak mental voice, reaching out to Tigget and Arthur. *He is the one foretold by our ancestors.*

Commander Tigget glanced back and forth from her leader, and friend, to the Human male, but she never lowered her weapon.

*Tig, if we wish to survive, you must turn the battle over to him,* Daisy said telepathically. *Arthur, we cannot allow ourselves to be taken. We will die before we surrender. You two must join forces, to protect and save us.*

With a slight nod to her leader, Tig holstered her gun, and then strode to a row of screens. She punched a button and they turned on, displaying seven ships.

These are the aliens that have been watching Earth, Arthur thought, as he stared open-mouthed at the classic style of UFOs, seen for centuries all over his planet.  Since there were still two women with guns aimed at him, Arthur carefully lowered his arms then knelt next to Daisy, cradling her head in his lap. He wiped the sweat from her brow with a trembling hand. What do they expect me to do?

Tig looked at the two space women holding ray guns. “Holster your weapons. Upon our leader’s request, we must trust this Human.” As they complied, she spoke to the woman at the console, “Inform the Commander of the Calen ships that we will never surrender. If they wish to die in battle, we shall accommodate them.” While her message was being relayed to the Commander of the opposing fleet, Tig turned to Arthur, looking him up and down with cold, blue eyes. “I know not what you can do, if anything, to save us, but you must act fast. If they fire upon us, we are dead.”

Arthur tried swallowing the lump growing in his throat. I’m so out of my element here. Using his powers on Earth was one thing, but trying to take down seven spaceships was an entirely different matter. There’s no way my powers are strong enough. Hell, nobodies would be. He rubbed his forehead, feeling overwhelmed. Everything was happening too fast for him to keep up. We’re supposed to be in Ruth’s garden, not in the middle of a stupid space battle. Arthur knelt there, unmoving, not knowing what to do.

Daisy weakly raised her arm, pointing toward the silver sword. *Arthur, all you need do is touch the tip of Excalibur, and you shall destroy the ships. You must hurry.*

Arthur recoiled back in fear. Touch Excalibur? Is she nuts? He still hadn’t fully recovered from the mental contact he’d had with the Shalit in the cavern. Heaven knows what would happen if I actually touched the damn thing. No way. In his mind came an image: a white daisy with a blue center, and over the middle of the flower, a pair of gray eyes floated down. The picture infused Arthur with such warmth and joy, tears of happiness welled in his eyes. A white beam flashed out, touching the daisy, leaving it burnt and wilted. Okay. Okay. I get the picture. If he didn’t try, Daisy would die. They all would.

Peering down at Daisy, he said, “I have no idea what’s going on, or how we got here, but I trust you, baby. I’ll destroy the ships for you.”

He took a deep breath, preparing himself for the worst kind of pain imaginable. Concentrating hard on the seven Calen ships, with creases around his mouth, and forehead, he reached out and grabbed the tip of the sword. His eyes widened in surprise, all he felt was the chill of the steel blade.

“Cigsbah!” Tigget yelled, pointing at the screens. “They have fired upon us, my leader.”

The room became deathly silent as all eyes followed the white beam heading toward their ship. Abruptly, the screens lit up as the seven ships exploded into bright, molten balls of fire. Arthur threw up his arm to shield his eyes from the sudden glare.

Cheering and yelling broke out in the small, round room as the crew celebrated their victory. Arthur wasn’t cheering as he watched that thin, white line continue to advance toward them. He had no idea what it was, but he knew it meant trouble. He shook his head. How did I destroy those ships? I’m not powerful enough. At least, I don’t think so.

Arthur watched the displays as the menacing white line crept closer and closer, until it was too close to their ship to be seen on the screens anymore. Bracing for he knew not what, he watched the beam breach the hull and enter the room.

Arthur stared, speechless, as the beam traveled soundlessly across the room, hitting his hand where it still gripped the tip of Excalibur. Upon impact, a flash of light shot out from the end of the sword. As Arthur stared open-mouthed at the deep gouge on the back of his hand, the beam passed through the opposite wall, penetrating the adjacent side of the hull. 

What the hell was that? Arthur wondered, terrified. It had infiltrated his force-field. His stomach clenched in fear, and his hand throbbed in pain. I’m not longer invincible, at least not in space.

Daisy’s voice screamed into his mind, *Remove us from here, Arthur, before we implode!*

Arthur didn’t need to be told twice. Once again, he focused on Ruth’s garden, wanting to get back home where he knew he was safe. Concentrating on everyone in the room, he BLIPPED!

NOW is the time to buy and read the first book in the series, The Secret of Excalibur.

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Bitter Bonds Preorder Blitz

Bitter Bonds Preorder Blitz

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♥♥♥ Preorder now! Dark secrets, black magic, and forbidden love…Heather Osborne takes us to 1830s Louisiana in her new historical romance, Bitter Bonds. 99 cents for a limited time. bit.ly/BitterBonds ♥♥♥

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Blurb:

Brutally torn between duty and his heart, Henri Du Cormier never expected to be completely enraptured with Adrienne Beaumont, the sister of his betrothed. As the new owner of St. Esprit, Henri knows he must work his way into a tight-knit society, and spurning his fiancée will do the complete opposite. However, there are hidden secrets, black magic, and voodoo entwined like poisonous vines into the Louisiana plantation. Will Henri end up cursing himself in life and love?

Adrienne Beaumont is anything but ordinary in a world of demure, Southern belles. Desiring little more than to be rid of a vengeful older sister, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to the mysterious Henri Du Cormier. As their lives grow increasingly entangled, will Adrienne give in to the burgeoning attraction, or will fate play another card?

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Excerpt:

May, 1834

Jefferson Parish, Louisiana

“A commoner? Father, you do realize our family can be traced back to the echelons of European royalty? You still correspond with relatives in England and France.” Francine Beaumont was hardly ready to lay down her virginity for a man who bought his way into high society.

“What a despicable thing to say about a man you do not know. Besides, he can offer you a large plantation, slaves, and wealth. We are faltering, my dear. Certainly you have seen how household expenses have been cut in the past year,” Lord Arnaud Beaumont admonished his eldest daughter.

Francine had spurned nearly every suitor placed in her path, but now it was time to marry off the bane of his existence. How had something so vicious spawned from such a gentle-born woman as Francine’s mother? If only she were living now. Perhaps genial Marie would have been able to calm their daughter’s ire.

“It is tantamount to selling me off to the highest bidder, Papa!” Francine attempted to use the childhood endearment so often uttered by her much more pliable sister.

“The matter is settled!” Lord Beaumont pounded his fist on the top of the polished desk, causing Francine to flee the room in tears, past her younger sister, Adrienne. She watched the retreating form of Francine for a few moments, before creeping into her father’s study.

Arnaud was relieved to see his sweet, patient daughter appear in the doorway. Her pleasant face was encircled with golden ringlets, her clear, blue eyes full of love and concern. Adrienne, his pride and joy, so much like her mother in every way, would never have protested an arranged marriage. She would have considered it her honor, and duty, to oblige. She was the opposite, in every way, to her tantruming sister.

“Papa, you mustn’t let Francine trouble you. Remember your constitution…” Adrienne had always been aware of the troubles plaguing her father. They had caused him to suffer horribly with stomach pains, only recently diagnosed as ulcerous. She knew Francine had no idea, nor would she care.

Ma petite, you are too kind. If only it were you who Henri Du Cormier sought.”

Seventeen-year old Adrienne was already well-versed in the matters of arranged marriage. However, she knew she had more chance of marrying for love than her titled, elder sister. Francine looked upon Adrienne with contempt, envying her freedom, however minute.

“Papa, if I could, I would gladly take her place. Why does Monsieur Du Cormier seek a bride with a title? Surely such things do not matter here anymore.” Louisiana was a part of the United States. The French Revolution had dispatched with the monarchy, and the British held no control over them. Titles were obsolete relics of the past.

Arnaud rubbed the bridge of his nose, removing his silver-rimmed spectacles, and closing his doleful chocolate brown eyes. His graying, dark brown hair only betrayed his age. “I wish I knew, ma petite. He came into this money suddenly, only able to buy St. Esprit through sheer luck! I wish it were different. My title, therefore Francine’s, is useless.”

Adrienne crossed the room, kneeling at her father’s side, no care that she wrinkled her carefully pressed silk gown. “Mayhap we could speak to him? Surely he would not want such a wife as Francine, once he sees her ways.”

“Francine would never disgrace herself by behaving poorly at a public function, especially with the height of society attending.” Arnaud shuffled some papers aside. “It would alleviate my anguish greatly if you were to find a husband, someone to make you completely happy beyond your wildest dreams.”

Smiling warmly, Adrienne gazed up at her mother’s portrait above the fireplace. Her mother, Marie, was captured in the prime of youth and beauty. She saw her mother’s features in herself, knowing this was why her father favored her so. “You mean like how you were with Mama?”

Arnaud lifted his gaze, peering up at his beloved. They had grown up in a tumultuous world in pre-revolutionary France, hiding their aristocratic upbringing. When Arnaud had prospered in the shipping business, the young couple made their way to the French-owned Louisiana territory. How they celebrated when the United States bought it, knowing their daughters would grow up in a free country.

Adrienne was three when their mother passed away from consumption. She vaguely remembered the tender-hearted woman, who soothed her nightmares with soft, French lullabies. Often, her dreams were full of the music, as she twirled her small fingers into the woman’s blonde ringlets. She felt cheated not to have spent more time with her mother, but guilty for those feelings at the same time.

Finally, Arnaud spoke, “Yes, like how I was with Mama. I wish she were here. She had a way with Francine. Francine would throw the most violent tantrums, sending nannies and maids running from the nursery. Marie walked in, composed, and quieted the storm.”

Before melancholy could descend over the pair, Adrienne changed the subject. “Helene says everything is prepared for this evening. All the silver is polished, and the ballroom floor has been swept and cleaned. She wanted me to ask your approval on the canapés for the hors d’oeuvres.”

Patting his daughter’s hand, Arnaud left the final touches to Adrienne. “I am sure what you decide will be scrumptious. Is she preparing a full course meal, or a buffet?”

“I believe she thought it best to provide guests with titbits of food, right in the ballroom. It’s very new-fangled. I believe I will ask for the salmon and dill. It is my favorite, after all.” Adrienne rose, brushing the fabric of her pale pink dress.

“I leave it all in your more than capable care, ma petite. Now, hurry along and reassure Helene. I am sure she will be beside herself, wondering what my decision shall be.” Arnaud winked and stood, placing a doting kiss on his daughter’s brow.

“I will, Papa.” Adrienne exited the room in a rustle of skirts, her heels clicking delicately on the wooden floor.

Arnaud sat down again, pressing his hand to his stomach to find some relief from the gurgling sensation building there. He slid open a drawer in his desk, and took a dose of the prescribed laudanum. Reclining back in the chair, he waited for the pain to recede, praying to his long silent God that Francine would do something for the family, for once in her life.

~

“Helene?” Adrienne poked her head into the kitchen, breathing in the smell of freshly baked honey bread. “Mmmm!” She crept over to the place where the bread was cooling, and reached to break off a chunk.

“Mademoiselle Adrienne! That is for the midday meal! I have a fresh pot of stew bubblin’ away.” Helene bustled from the pantry, wiping her hands on her worn apron.

Snatching her hand back, Adrienne smiled warmly at the old cook. Helene had been there as long as she could remember, with her kind, brown eyes and work-worn features; always stern but kind. “I am sorry, Helene. Papa asked me to come down, and say the salmon and dill will be fine for the canapés.”

“Well, it’s about time! I’ve been frettin’ for hours! Now, shoo. You’ll want to have a rest before the guests descend on us like a holy plague!” Helene ushered Adrienne out of the kitchen, but not before slipping a fresh, honey bread roll into her hand. “Don’t you say I’m never good to you, missy!” Her eyes crinkled as she smiled.

Adrienne felt the warm confection in her hand, and ascended the stairs, only to be met at the top by Francine, green eyes red-rimmed from her heart-wrenching sobs. “What were you doing down there?”

“I was delivering a message from Father about the hors d’oeuvres for tonight,” Adrienne spoke carefully, knowing her sister was quick to anger. She still felt the sting of many hair pulls from their childhood. She secreted her prize in the folds of her skirt with subtle movements, knowing Francine would steal it, if given the chance.

“Tonight? You mean the evening where my life comes to an end? Where I am forced to marry a man I know nothing about?” Francine, ever the expert in dramatics, slumped delicately against the wall.

Drawing in a shaky breath, Adrienne strove to soothe her sister. “Have you met him yet? Perhaps he is devastatingly handsome.”

“How could he be? He is not from our class of people!” Francine flounced off down the hall, punctuating her flight with more sobs.

Adrienne shook her head. Francine would surely bring the entire mood of the house to a head. Everyone would be on edge, worried about upsetting their volatile charge. Bringing her treat once more back into sight, Adrienne pressed her nose to the top, breathing in the sweet smell and biting into it, letting the flavors fill her senses. Maybe this marriage to Henri Du Cormier would be good for all of them, if it got Francine out of their lives.

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