Friday, April 30, 2010

Eagle Quest - Search Inside Now Available

A good selling technique on Amazon is the Search Inside feature. Eagle Quest's SI is now available. Go take a look.

If you like what you see, you'll feel better about putting out $7.99 for the print version. Still not sure? Maybe try the Kindle edition for only 99 cents.

Don't have a Kindle? Did you know you can get the Kindle for PC reader free from Amazon?

Hey, I'm going to tempt you in any way I can.

If you've been following my blog (or just look down a couple of posts), you know where to get the ebook free in multiple formats. Sheesh, people, don't make me lead you by the hand!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

How Maui Created the Hawaiian Islands

Guest poster Rick Kirkam (Sensei J. Richard Kirkam) provided this Hawaiian legend for the Myths and Legends series. Thanks, Rick!

Maui was a demigod in Hawaiian folklore. His father was a god and his mother human. Maui had three brothers though not much is mentioned about them as individuals. Though Maui was a trickster he was also always trying to help humankind.....

Maui went to his father and came back with a fishing hook. He told his brothers to take the canoe and paddle out to sea. They went out so far they became nervous and wanted to turn back. Maui told them to continue to paddle. When it seemed they would never stop Maui finally had them halt.

He took a fishing pole and line, attaching the magic hook to it he's gotten from his father. It was the longest fishing line Maui's brothers had ever seen. Maui threw the hook into the sea and told his brothers to begin paddle and not to turn around.

Paddling was hard on the brothers and they could hear Maui grunting as though he'd caught a huge fish. Finally one of the brothers couldn't fight his curiosity any longer. He turned to see what his brother had caught on the fishing pole. The line went slack and broke.

Maui scolded his brothers. Telling them he wanted to raise a continent and all he pulled up were these islands.

About the Author
Sensei J. Richard Kirkham is an in home tutor for poor grads, behavioral problems, self-defense and computers in Honolulu Hawaii. Recently he updated a backup program he wrote based on the needs of his very basic computer students to preserve their precious digital photos and important work files. Please support his efforts by visiting his web page and even subscribing to his free study and computer tips

You may post this article in its entirety including the About The Author Section

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Eagle Quest Now on Amazon

Now released at Click on over and tag it, please.

Set in the Klamath Wildlife Preserves of southern Oregon. Appendix has information on the Preserves, the annual bald eagle nesting, and Native American lore.

Fiona, Hap, Billy, and Mitch make an odd set of friends, as different from the usual junior high school crowd as they are from each other.

Mitch, the oldest of the four, is a half-breed Native American, adopted by white parents. Troubled that he doesn't know his tribe, he avidly studies Native American history and lore. Learning the nearby Bear Valley Wildlife Refuge is a bald eagle nesting site, he wants to add an eagle feather to his medicine bag and explore the refuge as a site for his Vision Quest, a Native American rite of passage.

Review for "Quest for the Simurgh" in Tales of the Talisman

Volume 5, Issue 4 of Tales of the Talisman
Hadrosaur Productions
Ed. David Lee Summers

Rating: Four talismans

Set in the pre-Islamic Middle East, Quest for the Simurgh opens with a kindly village magician named Wafa teaching a group of teenage students about magical beasts. However, when the students arrive for the next day’s lesson, they find Wafa missing and his house ransacked. In the house, a book called Magicalis Bestialis is open to a page about mythical birds called Simurgh who possess all the knowledge of the universe. Marked with a chalk X, the students think their teacher has left a clue. Wafa’s star pupil Faiza believes their teacher was trying to tell them to seek out the Simurgh for help.

Faiza along with the three boys that are her classmates set out on a journey into the mountains in search of the birds and Master Wafa. The students soon meet a strange little man who becomes their guide. As they travel, Faiza and the boys encounter demons and gods and it soon becomes apparent they are being pulled into aconflict of cosmic proportions. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the climactic battle quite lived up to my expectations based on the solid character and storydevelopment before that point. Even so, it was well worth continuing on to learn the quest’s penultimate conclusion.

Quest for the Simurgh gives us a glimpse of life and mythology in the Middle East beyond that of The Arabian Nights. The characters were engaging and I enjoyed following them on their journey. I would recommend Quest for the Simurgh to readers of all ages seeking new and exciting fantasy realms.

-- David Lee Summers, Ed. Tales of the Talisman

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Ghosts fall into the area of legends. I asked friends if they had a ghost story where they actually felt the presence of or met the ghost in question. My good friend, Liz, sent me this one.

True: There's an old school house built around 1890 in Papillion, Nebraska where I grew up/went to high school. It still stands today and is known as "Hatchet House" to locals.

Story: The story goes (never verified) that way back in the early 1900's, there was a school teacher named Mary who couldn't have children of her own. Everyone in town knew she didn't quite have all her marbles, but she was harmless. Or so they thought. This was back when Omaha, Papillion, etc...were only farm houses and a main street here and there.

One winter, there was a surprise blizzard during the day while the kids were in school. This particular school house that year had 22 students of all ages, and Mary the school teacher. The blizzard was so bad they all got snowed in. They couldn't leave for days and no one could get to them for days. The boys would venture out just a few hundred yards for firewood for the woodburning stove, and they survived on what lunches the kids had brought for school that day.

At some point, Mary started to lose it, commanding all the kids to pray at first, finally scratching her own face up and beating the kids, screaming for no reason. Some think the claustrophobia got to her, others think she just went nuts. In any case, she took the wood hatchet out to the outhouse, called the children out one at a time, and hacked them to pieces. When she'd killed the last child, she posed their bodies and body parts around the desk, then curled up in a ball at the front of the room, which is where they found her.

True: "Hatchet House" still sits empty (as of the time I left Omaha, 2000). It's way out in what little is left of the farm country around Papillion.

Teenagers drive out there and get drunk in the house. Stories have been circulating since my Grandparents were teenagers that if you're in Hatchet House at night, you can hear the faint screams of the children, the sound of the hatchet chopping something, and Mary's sobs.

Friends and I stayed there overnight when I was 16 (on a dare). I awoke in the middle of the night to what I would swear was the sound of a child crying. That's all I experienced firsthand, though.

You can find Liz on Facebook if you want to be friends (do you dare!?)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Eagle Quest Released

Publication is proceeding apace on Eagle Quest. It's available in a variety of ebook formats and in print. Here are the links so far:

These PDFs are identical to the print version. Much prettier than the ebook formats at Smashwords.

PDF at Off the Bookshelf. $2.99

PDF at MonkeyJohn's Bookstore. $2.99

Ebooks in five flavors at Smashwords. Use this coupon code: FB44J for a freebie until 5/31/2010. After that they'll be $1.99, but I'll have 1/2 off coupons for my blog readers June 1st.

Flavors: EPUB, MOBI, LRF, PDF, and PDB.

Print at CreateSpace. $8.99 (will be up on Amazon soon).


Fiona, Hap, Billy, and Mitch make an odd set of friends, as different from the usual junior high school crowd as they are from each other.

Mitch, the oldest of the four, is a half-breed Native American, adopted by white parents. Troubled that he doesn't know his tribe, he avidly studies Native American history and lore. Learning the nearby Bear Valley Wildlife Refuge is a bald eagle nesting site, he wants to add an eagle feather to his medicine bag and explore the refuge as a site for his Vision Quest, a Native American rite of passage. He and his three friends get far more than an overnight camp out as they encounter a black bear, a retired forest ranger living in the refuge, and a pair of eagle poachers. Bringing the poachers to justice, they test their courage and gain confidence in themselves and each other.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Gypsy Woman

Lorrie Unites-Struiff researched like a mad woman for her paranormal mystery romance, "Gypsy Woman," published by Eternal Press (Buy the Kindle edition on Amazon). I asked her to fill us in on Gypsy lore. Take it away, Lorrie!

When I think of gypsies, I think of a nomadic people. I imagine colorful caravans, mystical fortune tellers and beautiful violin music. All romantic, don’t you think?

Researching for my modern Roma family depicted in my novella “Gypsy Crystal,” I found some interesting material.

For instance, one school of thought is that gypsies originated from Egypt, and were called, among other things, Egyptians, or ‘Gyptians, which is how the word “Gypsy” originated.

Today, there are over twelve million Roma living across the world. Many of them are living in the United States and Canada.

They tell many myths about their beginnings. I particularly like the one that tells of, one day while celebrating a holiday around a campfire, a stranger wandered into their camp, and as the usual way of a generous and happy people, they invited him to stay. Oooh, what a mistake.

This was the start of a curse, for this man was a necromancer and insisted the people serve him. The people refused, they loved life and refused to cheat death and serve chaos.

The necromancer raged and cursed them, saying they would forever wander the earth, never to settle and forever be outcasts. He disappeared into the night. The next night an army of the undead stormed and destroyed the land and their homes. Many died--or worse.

The survivors fled, regrouped, drew a circle in the dirt, drew their knives and shed drops of their blood into the earth. They vowed to serve balance and protect the land. When the last droplet fell, a strange feeling overcame them, like the land had embraced them. They heard a voice telling them they were to forever wander the land to preserve life at all cost and they now had the ability to curse their sworn enemies. And their greatest enemy of all was--the undead.

A chilling folktale, no doubt, and had shivers sneaking up my spine.

The Roma people like many others hold certain beliefs and superstitions. You may recognize some of them. I’ll only mention a few.

Good luck charms, amulets, and talismans are common among the Roma. They are carried to prevent misfortune or heal sickness.

How about that rabbit’s foot you carry in your pocket or the horseshoe nailed above your barn? Knock on wood? Throw salt over your shoulder?

Ceremonial events such as christenings, marriages, and religious festivals are occasions for community activity and sharing. They consume enormous quantities of food and drink during these celebrations, and the preparation is long and enthusiastic.

Ahem. I think most of us still go along with this one.

According to traditional Gypsy beliefs, life for the dead continues on another level. Sound familiar?

Gypsies put coins into the deceased’s coffin to help with their journey into the afterlife. Another familiar belief many share.

There are many more, but let’s save them for another day.

I remain the romantic. I still imagine the colorful caravans, the mystical fortune tellers and the sweet violin music under a moonlit sky. How about you?

Lorrie Unites-Struiff
Author of the paranormal romance “Gypsy Crystal”
Amazon Kindle Edition
Eternal Press Edition

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Fairies, Faeries, Fae, etc.

Many many, many, many writers are in love with the Celtic myths. I’ve delved into them, too. However, I’m not a big fan of the flitty little cute faeries (or fae or fairies). In Celt mythology, there’s a fairy (or fae or faerie) for just about any purpose. The “serious” fantasies love the idea of the fairy troupe. More than a few equate fairies to Arthur legends, more specifically Merlin.

The third book in the Witches of Galdorheim series, Scotch Broom, is set in the Scottish Highlands. Of course, I had to include at least one fairy in the mix or I’d be violating some unwritten fantasy rule.

If you write Celtic fantasy, then you know that Sidhe is pronounced Shee in Ireland and Sith in Scotland. I wonder where George Lucas got Sith lords? Hmm.

Anyway, I found a particular sidhe I liked. She’s a big black cat with a white chest. Aha! I happen to have the model for said cat (in a much reduced size) sitting at my door every morning demanding a handout. We call her Bitch Kitty. Yes, she has attitude in spades. So, there’s my model for Cait Sidhe, a companion to my erstwhile heroine, Katya.

My Mashup

Katya has already found two companions: Sianach a stag and Cusith (another sidhe) a giant, green hound. They’re tromping through the swamps trying to find the Trow King’s hall in the middle of the Otherworld (the alternate magic world in the Scottish Highlands).

They marched on in a straight line, having no better idea of which direction to go, while Cusith zigzagged ahead of them with his nose close to the earth. Suddenly, the green hound raised his head and bayed. A moment later he galloped across the moor, water splashing when his huge paws hit the tiny pools.

“What’s up with him?” Katya asked.

Sianach lifted his chin for a better view. “He appears to be in pursuit of an animal of
some type.”

“I hope he’s not hurting some little swamp creature.”

“If he is, then the beast is making Cusith pay for the privilege.”

Katya and Sianach walked faster after Cusith, the dog’s trail marked by flying grass and water. When Cusith finally stopped, Katya and Sianach trotted to catch up. The hound was standing over something furry and black that lay on the ground beneath his huge paw.

“No, don’t!

Don’t hurt it,” Katya called out. Cusith turned his head toward her, tongue lolling.

“I won’t. It’s not food.”

Katya reached Cusith’s side and knelt down to examine the raggedy clump of ebony fur. It leapt up, scrabbling for a foothold, but Cusith clamped his paw down harder to hold it still.

“It’s a cat!” Katya said. She reached out with her mind, but met the same blank wall she had with Sianach and Cusith. So, she tried the old-fashioned way. “Here kitty, kitty. Nice kitty.” An ear-splitting yowl almost knocked Katya back on her rear.

“I am not your ‘nice kitty,’ you rude thing! I am Cait Sidhe, I’ll have you know. Surely, this stag . . . and mutt . . . have heard of me.”

Sianach, who stood to one side to stay out of the fray, nodded his elegant head. “Yes, I know you. Not that it is a pleasure.”

The cat hissed and swiped a pawful of razor sharp claws across Cusith’s foot. The big dog quickly released the black cat. “Sorry, Cait,” Cusith said. “Just having some fun.”

Cait sat up and licked a couple of swipes over the white spot on her chest. “Now you’ve covered me with mud. It’ll take hours to get clean again.”

Like I said, this cat fairy's got attitude.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Wee Ones

Besides the big ol’ gods, legends, and spirits–the ones that get all the press–myths are populated with a myriad of often tiny, more often unmentioned beings. Their job as minor characters in the mythos is not always mentioned, but they exist (well, in the mythical sort of existence) nonetheless.

While writing the Witches of Galdorheim series (heads up to any agents or publishers; it’s available), I delved into western European mythos finding the supporting cast for my books. Like bit players everywhere, they often ended up on the cutting room floor.

For example, in the opening scene of Bad Spelling, I mention tussers and tomtes. Raise your hand if you can tell me what they are. No peeking at the book OR the internet! Right, you’ve never read the book (except for a couple of you), so you’d not have a clue. Please note in the comments if you already know. Anyone? Go look it up in the Encyclopedia Mythica.

My Mashup

In the third Witches of Galdorheim book, Scotch Broom, I elevate one such small-time player to the exulted role of minion. If you watched the Ice Age animated films, you might be familiar with the proto-squirrel (with fangs) named Scrat.

The screenwriter either made the name up or also hit the Encyclopedia Mythica like I did. If the latter, then he simply used the name because a skrat is not a proto-squirrel at all.

One of the many creatures that are said to move into the farmhouses from time to time is the skrat. He usually lives in a beech tree or a cave and looks like a chicken that has been caught in a downpour. His wingtips and tail drag on the ground. He may also transform himself into a small bird, a goose, a dog or cat, or even a hair-covered man. Any family he lives with becomes rich.

Here’s a brief scene on how the skrat plays its minion role.
A scratching at the door caught her attention. Walking over, she peered through the peephole, but didn’t see anyone there. "Oh, bother. Is some spoiled brat trying to play tricks on the old woman?" She grabbed the handle and jerked the door open, screaming, "I’ve got you!"

Nobody stood on her porch. A clucking made her look down. A scraggly, wingless chicken, looking as if it’d been out in the rain, crouched at her feet. The skrat stood on four wobbly legs, staggered around Cailleach’s legs and into the house. It squatted by the fire and ruffled its feathers.

Cailleach glared at the scruffy creature. She never could tell one from the other, but they had their uses. "What do you want, Skrat? I’m busy--"

Skrat spoke in a high-pitched, ragged tone as if he was gargling pebbles. "I have news."

Cailleach stepped closer. The skrats didn’t bother her unless they had something good to report. "Tell me."

"Witch is near."

The hag considered for a moment. "Is it one of the Wiccans? They’re harmless. Always collecting plants for some potion or another."

"Wiccan, yes, but witch, not wannabe."

Cailleach narrowed her eyes and plucked at the hair growing from her chin. "Where,

"In bogs."

"Why would a real witch be there? Staking out territory?" The crone pondered a moment, then looked down at the skrat, which had not dried out at all. "You watch. Bring your brothers with you. Report thrice daily to tell me what she’s up to."

The skrat nodded its featherless head. "What you pay?"

Cailleach aimed a kick at the skrat, but it scuttled out of the way. "Bother! You’re always asking about pay. Have I ever shortchanged you?"

"No. Want to tell brothers."

Cailleach glared at the creature. "A month’s grain for each of you."

"Done. I go now."

The skrat wobbled to the open door and departed. Cailleach closed it behind the creature, then returned to her fireplace. She swished the brew in the cauldron a few times.
Note: Cailleach is the Scottish Celtic goddess of winter fallen on hard times in the present day world. She’s tired, aging, a mere vestige of her former glory, but a scheming old bitch like her won’t ignore opportunities when they fall from the sky. Which is exactly what Katya does.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Guest Post: Using Local Myths & Legends by E.J. Ruek

Today, E. J. Ruek is filling in for me. E.J. is the author of To Inherit a Murderer.

Using Local Myths & Legends, 1
by author E. J. Ruek

A bed-and-breakfast called Cassidy House has a ghost. All the locals know about it. What no one can agree on, though, is who the ghost could be, and why it’s there. You see, Cassidy House has never had a murder or suicide; it hasn’t even had someone die there of natural causes. It’s a relatively new house, built in the 1960s, and, as ghost-infested homes go, it is a pretty boring, single level, six-bedroom rancher. Never the less, the stories persist…as does the ghost.

Read the rest of the article at The Deepening.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

PDF Editions Available

I've uploaded the PDF editions of two of my books to Off the Bookshelf. For sales for $2.99 each on my storefront at OTB.

Tales of a Texas Boy: The PDF contains all the great old timey photos I used to illustrate the stories. No other ebook edition has the photos. This PDF is exactly how the printed edition looks.

Eagle Quest: I wrote this book several years ago. No, it didn't find a home with a "regular" publisher or an agent. Looking back on my records, I see that I just didn't have a good query letter. Live and learn, right? This is a perfectly good book for middle-graders.

Fiona, Hap, Billy, and Mitch make an odd set of friends, as different from the usual high school crowd as they are from each other.

Mitch, the oldest of the four, is a half-breed Native American, adopted by white parents. Troubled that he doesn't know his tribe, he avidly studies Native American history and lore. Learning the nearby Bear Valley Wildlife Refuge is a bald eagle nesting site, he wants to add an eagle feather to his medicine bag and explore the refuge as a site for his Vision Quest, a Native American rite of passage. He and his three friends get far more than an overnight campout as they encounter a black bear, an old man living in the refuge, and a pair of eagle poachers. Bringing the poachers to justice, they test their courage and gain confidence in themselves and each other.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Elemental, My Dear--

Earth, Wind, and Fire. Wait for it .... Water. The four classical elements have been part of mythologies since the first time a smarter than average Cro Magnon decided to cash in on his superstitious tribe claiming to have a direct hot line to the somewhat amorphous deities.

Deities and demons have proliferated over the intervening 20,000 years or so, with the winners being those smarties who knew how to cash in on fear.

Earthquakes: Uh oh, the earth god is ticked. If you’ll just give me your hard-won haunch of mammoth, I’ll intercede on your behalf.

Windstorm: Boy, are you in trouble for holding back on my share of the cave bear hide. Ol’ Wind is mighty pissed.

Fire: See what happens if you don’t listen to what I say. Your whole forest burns because you all are bad people. Just lay a pile of pretty shells at my feet and I’ll see if I can placate the Fire Demon.

Water: Oopsie, a flood. Well, wasn’t I the smartie for building that big boat. Did I mention the fare? All goes to the Water God of course.

The natural elements wreak havoc and a clever guy makes out like a bandit.

As time marched on, the elementals took on different names and personalities. The shyster’s way of collecting for multiple personalities for those four basic elements.

Before a caveman could count, um, one. The world was littered with all sorts of mythological beings lined up by the wise shaman to collect trade goods from the fearful masses.

My Mashup

Besides a plethora of gods and demons which I have mentioned some of already, I selected a lovely forest elemental (notice how the element population is dividing and growing) named Ajatar. She happens to be a Finnish spirit and is the main troublemaker in my second book of the Witches of Galdorheim, Midnight Oil.

Ajatar was known as the Devil of the Woods (click the link for a very cool illo), so I set her in a magically protected forest glade. She controlled her local flora (writing tree roots, fast-growing brambles) and snakes to protect her cache of boxes, bottles, pots, a bent bicycle tire, laundry detergent, dried flowers, old tennis shoes, and Andy.

Oh, right, Andy happens to be a changeling, a human who spent much of his life in the Troll Kingdom and is now Katya’s main squeeze. Ajatar kidnapped him to draw out her sister, Ilmatar, an air spirit who had been hiding out on Galdorheim disguised as the old witch (she prefers sorceress) Mordita.

Lots of stuff happens, but the sister finally come together in an epic battle (they’re fighting over a man, wouldn’t you know). Ajatar takes her dragon form, while Ilmatar becomes a giant white roc.

A little excerpt for your reading pleasure:

Ilmatar spun, danced, and dived. It had been too many years since she had taken her true form. She was the wind, the hurricane, the tornado. Air she was, air she would be. She sighed, and a tree bent with her breath.

She rose with the heat, dropped low and sped across open fields when clouds blocked the sun’s rays. Yet, neither heat nor cold drove her. She flowed over or around as she pleased. When she was in the mood, she flattened everything in her path.

She laughed, and earth-bound creatures cringed at the booming thunder. She smiled, and a gentle breeze danced over hills and valleys. She reveled in her freedom, then grew angry when she thought how Ajatar had stolen this from her. She’d almost forgotten the power and glory that was Ilmatar.

Now, she’d get payback. Ajatar, she vowed, would regret this day for the rest of her life–her brief life, if Ilmatar the air spirit had any say.

But enough reveling for now. She had a job to do. Gathering free air to her as she flew, she coalesced into a cutting shaft, sharp and deadly as any arrow, and one thousand times as large. She swooped up, down, and sideways, leaving a vortex of spinning air in her wake.

Increasing her speed and the velocity of spin, she smashed through the tops of trees and touched down, a whirling cyclone in the center of Ajatar’s glade. Moss and branches whirled through the forest clearing and trees bent away from her, howling, cracking and snapping, with the thunder of rustling leaves.

Ajatar heard her coming; she could hardly miss Ilmatar’s roar. Ajatar grew taller, rising above the treetops, spreading her vast scaled wings. Her mouth gaped and fire roared out. With a single downward thrust of her wings, she soared upward. Ilmatar’s tornado followed close behind.

Note: My buddy Kevin Robinson, who also writes YA fantasy, provided the white roc illustration for me. Thanks, Kevin!