Friday, October 20, 2017

Halloween is for Trolls

The entire Witches of Galdorheim series has a few characters featured in all the books. I thought introducing the stars of the series a good setup for the Witch Extravaganza month of October. Oh, yeah, it's going to be BIG! All three main books in the series are free on Smashwords.

Trolls in the Witches of Galdorheim

Trolls. What do you imagine? Maybe something like the big ugly pictured here. In my Witches of Galdorheim series, I wanted a cave-dwelling bunch of uglies, but dwarves didn’t seem right for my book. Then I started hearing music inside my head. You know how that goes, right? It builds and builds until it has you screaming in frustration, willing to even listen to some other music to at least swamp the tormenting sound.

But before I could find a MP3 file of "Henry the VIIIth" by Herman’s Hermits, I stopped and listened. My muse was whacking me in the head via earworm. The music was Grieg’s Hall of the Mountain King from the Peer Gynt Suite. Duh. Trolls.

Despite the canards on trolls from the likes of Artemis Fowl or Pratchett’s Discworld, I thought they could be heroic if given sufficient ale.

From the Free Dictionary/Encyclopedia:

A troll is a fearsome member of a mythical race from Norse mythology. Originally more or less the Nordic equivalents of giants, although often smaller in size, the different depictions have come to range from the fiendish giants – similar to the ogres of England – to a devious, more human-like folk of the wilderness, living underground in hills, caves or mounds.

Hey! They’re not all flesh-eating giants who turn to stone in the sunlight. Some are devious little guys who live in wilderness areas (no doubt protecting endangered magical species).

In Bad Spelling, Kat and her smart-aleck half-brother, Rune, (also happens to be a vampire, but has absolutely no resemblance to the Twilight guy except they’re both cute as hell) are directed by Kat’s flash-frozen dad (Rune calls him a pop-sicle) to visit the Troll King. At the Hall, she requests assistance from King Ole, the Norwegian Troll King. He arranges for her and Rune to ride the Trollercoaster, which starts in Norway and ends up in the Ural Mountains. From there Kat, Rune, and a changeling troll named Andy travel to Siberia to find Kat's family.

Clearly, trolls are good. They are nice, helpful, cheerful, and sing fairly well too. Yet aspersions continue to be cast upon these misunderstood creatures. Shame on all of you for making them the bad guys all these years!

Excerpt from Bad Spelling

Chapter Fifteen - Three Trolls on a Bridge

Kat ran to where her brother and the three trolls faced each other. The trolls stood shoulder to shoulder, their big, splayed feet firmly planted in front of the footbridge. They bared their chunky yellow teeth and growled at Rune. Although hardly reaching Rune’s shoulder, they each outweighed him. Clearly, the trolls did not intend to let him cross. Looking up and down the streamlet, Kat wondered at their careful guarding of the bridge. Kind of silly, she thought, since anyone could easily step across the rivulet without even getting wet feet. She wondered if these were children, given their short stature. However, their long knives looked very grown up.

Enunciating each word, Rune held his hands out to show they were empty. Kat had no idea what her brother was saying, since Rune was speaking Old Runish. Except for a few spell words, Kat didn’t understand the ancient tongue.

Evidently, neither did the trolls. Rune spoke again, louder this time, and took one slow step forward. At this move, the troll on the left lunged at them, jabbing at Rune with his knife. Rune sidestepped the rush, and the troll, taken off balance, stumbled and fell flat on his face. Kat stepped over the troll and grasped his arm but only caught hold of his sleeve. He screamed and pushed her away. The other two trolls ran at her with their knives raised, yelling as they advanced.

Rune stuck out his foot and tripped the middle troll. The last troll standing went after Rune. The young warlock threw up his hands, arms crossed to fend off the attack. A bright red light arced from his hands to hit the charging troll in the face. The troll dropped his knife and fell to the ground, screaming and rolling around with his hands pressed over his eyes. Rune snatched up the knife and held it to the middle troll’s neck. Kat sat on the one she grabbed, pulling the knife from his flailing hand. The recipient of Rune’s flash attack kept his hands over his eyes.

Rune spoke again in Old Runish, shouting to make himself heard. It didn’t do any good; the trolls all continued screaming and squealing at the top of their lungs.

Kat jumped up from the troll’s back and grabbed Rune’s hand, pulling the knife away from the troll’s neck. “Rune,” she yelled, “tell them we won’t hurt them!”

The thrashing troll froze then turned his cumbersome head toward her.

“You can speak our language!” He slapped the troll nearest to him, who abruptly stopped screaming. The one whose neck Rune held the knife to spread his fingers to peek at Rune and Kat.

Rune released the troll and stood up, looking a little sheepish. “I just assumed—” He stopped then shook his head.

Kat crouched on her knees next to one of the trolls lying on the ground and patted him on the shoulder. “We mean you no harm. We’re Wiccans from Galdorheim. Maybe you’ve heard of it?”

Slowly, the trolls climbed to their feet, looked at Kat, then at each other. The three trolls huddled, conferring together. Kat heard a murmur but couldn’t make out what they said.

Kat continued, searching for something to say. “My Aunt Thordis…” Three pairs of troll eyes turned to her and opened wide. They stared at Kat. The middle troll elbowed the one on his left, who giggled. The troll on the right gave a great whoop of laughter then slapped the middle troll on the back. All three trolls broke into huge guffaws and ended up leaning on each other, wiping tears from their eyes. Rune and Kat stared open-mouthed.
* * *

BAD SPELLING (Free at Smashwords)
A klutzy witch, a shaman's curse, a quest to save her family. Can Kat find her magic in time?
Follow the adventures of Katrina and her half-vampire brother, Rune, as they chase down an evil shaman. Dodging the shaman's curses on a dangerous trip across the ice-bound arctic seas, they meet both friends and foes. Kat and Rune must find the shaman and stop him before their beloved island home is destroyed.

Shipwrecked on a legendary island, how can a witch rescue her boyfriend if she can’t even phone home?
Traveling with her newly-found grandfather, a raging storm catches them unawares. Kat is tossed into the icy seas, while her brother and grandfather travel on to find help. Kat is rescued by an unlikely creature, and Rune is captured by mutants. Only the magical Midnight Oil can save her brother, but an evil forest elemental is trying to stop her.

A magical trip to Stonehenge lands a witch in the Otherworld where an ancient goddess is up to no good.
Kat is on her way to an exciting trip to Stonehenge but is led astray by a jealous rival. Caught in the Otherworld within the Scottish Highlands with a has-been goddess trying to kill her, Kat has to defeat the goddess and rescue her brother from the hag's clutches.

SPELLSLINGER - A Witches of Galdorheim Story (Free at Smashwords)
What does a teenage half-warlock, half-vampire do to have fun? Why build an old west town on a glacier in the Arctic. There he can play at being the good guy sheriff up against mean old Black Bart.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Halloween is For Sorceresses

Mordita the Witch (She Prefers Sorceress)

Hands down, readers' favorite witch on Galdorheim is Mordita. She's powerful, all right, but it's her wicked sense of humor that makes her a fan fav. She also has some secrets, which are revealed in Book 2 of the Witches of Galdorheim, Midnight Oil.

Kat meets Mordita in Bad Spelling. In Midnight Oil, the two have become close friends. Even Aunt Thordis gets along with the sorceress since Mordita helped rescue Kat and Rune. Well, they pretty much rescued themselves in Bad Spelling, but Mordita's skill with a scrying crystal helped greatly.

While Mordita has tons of magic, she prefers to maintain her old hag appearance just to keep the Galdorheim witches from stopping by to visit. Mordita is alone, and she likes to keep it that way. She's not quite alone if you want to count a fat orange tiger cat named Kudzu.

Mordita is a mystery. Why did she come to Galdorheim if she doesn't want to consort with the witches and warlocks? Simple. She's on the run, hiding from her evil sister, the elemental forest spirit Ajatar.

Many years before, the two sisters fought over a man. Not that he was all that special, but neither sister wanted to concede anything to the other. Sibling rivalry at its worst, and most dangerous.


Excerpt from Midnight Oil:

Kat sprinted up the cobbled pathway to Mordita’s door. She remembered the first time she’d come to the old witch’s home, she’d gotten zapped by the spike and horseshoe doorknocker. She learned fast—don’t use the knocker. She rapped on the wood instead.

The door swung open. Kat walked into the dimly-lit living room, and the door closed behind her. Glancing around, she waited for her eyes to adjust. She didn’t see Mordita, but her familiar, a fat orange tiger cat, curled on one of the damask-covered chairs by the fireplace.

“Kudzu, where’s your mistress?” The cat opened one eye a squinch and nodded toward the door leading to the kitchen.

“Thanks.” Kat hurried over to the kitchen door. “Anyone home?” One never walked through a closed door without an invitation from the home’s occupant. The door swung inward, and Kat stepped into the tiny kitchen. Mordita leaned over the stove and pulled a tray from the oven.

“Ah, Katrina, I’m glad you stopped by. I made cookies for your trip.”

“So, you heard already?”

The old woman chuckled. “You know I hear everything.”

Kat smiled. No doubt Mordita kept track of current events. “Thanks for the cookies, but I have to hurry. We’re just about ready to leave.”

The sorceress tossed the cookie sheet into the air. The cookies flew off, circling the kitchen twice. Kat ducked to avoid the flying disks, which grouped into a neat pile and dropped into a waiting basket. The lid slammed shut, and the basket jetted over to Kat, who caught it on the fly.

“Quick enough for you?” The old woman cackled. Kat knew Mordita’s patented cackle was worse than her bite, so she just grinned. She stepped in front of the witch and threw her free arm around her shoulders.

Mordita raised one hand and patted Kat on the shoulder. “Now, now. We’ll see each other again soon.”

“You promise?” Kat asked, hoping she might know for certain.

“Just an educated guess,” Mordita replied, slipping out of Kat’s hug. “But I have something else for you.” The crone reached into an apron pocket and withdrew an amulet hanging on a silver chain. She slipped it over the young witch’s head.

Plucking it up from her chest, Kat looked down at it. It, too, was silver, but tarnished so heavily it seemed almost black. “What is it?” She squinted at the dim shapes and symbols etched into the silver disk.

“It’s a good luck coin. I know it’s hard to see, but that’s Medusa. I got it from her…um, that is, my family passed it down to me. Medusa personally handed it to a great, great, great something-or-other relative of mine.”

“Wasn’t Medusa evil?” Kat asked, a frown tugging at her mouth.

“Not all the time, dear. Mostly, people just misunderstood her. Don’t you worry. The amulet protects against snakes.”

“Snakes?” Kat’s voice rose an octave.  “Why will I need protection against snakes? Will I run into snakes?”

Mordita frowned and then made shooing motions with her hands. “Now, now. I don’t see anything like that. It’s just a gift.”

“Thanks.” Kat gave the witch another hug. The old lady squirmed from Kat’s grasp.

“Enough, girl. Run along and find the boy.”

“I’ll try. See you later.” Kat sprinted to the front door, and it opened just in time for her to pass through. Pausing, she looked back, wishing she’d said something more, but she had no idea what.

Bolting down the walk, Kat was glad she’d cleaned the slime off the stones, even if Mordita didn’t appreciate it. I still owe her a three-fold favor.
BAD SPELLING (Free at Smashwords)
A klutzy witch, a shaman's curse, a quest to save her family. Can Kat find her magic in time?
Follow the adventures of Katrina and her half-vampire brother, Rune, as they chase down an evil shaman. Dodging the shaman's curses on a dangerous trip across the ice-bound arctic seas, they meet both friends and foes. Kat and Rune must find the shaman and stop him before their beloved island home is destroyed.

Shipwrecked on a legendary island, how can a witch rescue her boyfriend if she can’t even phone home?
Traveling with her newly-found grandfather, a raging storm catches them unawares. Kat is tossed into the icy seas, while her brother and grandfather travel on to find help. Kat is rescued by an unlikely creature, and Rune is captured by mutants. Only the magical Midnight Oil can save her brother, but an evil forest elemental is trying to stop her.

A magical trip to Stonehenge lands a witch in the Otherworld where an ancient goddess is up to no good.
Kat is on her way to an exciting trip to Stonehenge but is led astray by a jealous rival. Caught in the Otherworld within the Scottish Highlands with a has-been goddess trying to kill her, Kat has to defeat the goddess and rescue her brother from the hag's clutches.

SPELLSLINGER - A Witches of Galdorheim Story (99 cents at either Amazon or Smashwords)
What does a teenage half-warlock, half-vampire do to have fun? Why build an old west town on a glacier in the Arctic. There he can play at being the good guy sheriff up against mean old Black Bart.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Halloween is for Werewolves

HALLOWEEN IS FOR WEREWOLVES

Werewolves: An Alternative Transportation

Werewolf from New Moon
The most well-known werecritter is the werewolf. At this time in the cycle of what’s hot, what’s not, werewolves are getting great press via the Twilight books and movies by Stephanie Meyer.

I have to admit it. Werewolves can be totally sexy guys (gals) in human form. Meyer finally got one legendary being right. Well, she agrees with my concept, which I used before I read any of the Meyer saga. To tell the truth, I still haven’t read any of the books, because the first movie put such a bad taste in my mouth. OMG, Edward loves Bella because she SMELLS good?!?!? Gimme a break.

As we all know, werewolves are shape-shifters. When the full moon rises, your normal guy (or gal) changes into a werewolf. Sometimes, they are portrayed as mindless beasts who’ll rip the throat out of anybody they come upon. Other portrayals show that the maintain their human intelligence when shifted. Since the legends vary so wildly, I decided to not only have my werewolves remain intelligent, but also able to shift from human to wolf form at will.

How do I justify this turning away from the legend? I don’t need to. Some folks will howl in disgust with my tampering with the myths. Let ‛em whine or even bark. I’ve seen authors do just about everything with the tropes: weres, vampires, demons, fairies, angels, ancient gods. That, I believe, is perfectly okay. You want a half-vampire, half-demon? I’ve seen that in paranormal more than once. Gods less than god-like? Yup, been done.

Anyway, I have a six-pack of werewolves in “Bad Spelling.” Here’s a taste (ha ha, get it?) of my werewolf mashup.

EXCERPT

Rune joined them. “Are we going to stand around here all day? Where’s the alternative transportation you told us about?”

Andy tore his gaze from Kat and scanned the slope. “There it is.”

Kat looked where Andy pointed and gasped. “What—?”

“Don’t worry. They won’t hurt us,” Andy said with a confidence Kat didn’t quite trust.

“But werewolves?” There was no mistaking them for regular wolves. Besides being twice the size of the largest of the wolves, the eyes gave them away. Even from a distance, Kat could see them gleaming with intelligence.

“Look behind them,” Andy said.

The big wolves loped along easily; they were harnessed to a sled, bouncing along behind them. The speed with which they approached told her they would have no problem pulling a heavy load.
The wolves came up the slope and stopped in front of them. The lead werewolf looked at each of them with some interest. Kat felt like an item on a menu, like when they faced the polar bear.

The lead wolf said, “Good morning. Hmm. Humans, not trolls. Interesting.” The wolf looked over his shoulder at the others. “Remember, King Olaf hired us to deliver these people to where they want to go. You are not to eat them.” The other wolves nodded, but their long tongues hanging over gleaming, razor-sharp teeth was not a reassuring sight; their mouths dripped saliva in a most disconcerting manner.

The lead werewolf turned his pale yellow eyes back to Andy. “So, where are we going?”

Andy briefly explained what they wanted. The werewolf nodded and said, “If I understand correctly, we are looking for the Sami tribe. Do you realize they’re nomadic?”

“Sort of. All I know for certain is they spend much of their time on the northern coast.” Andy glanced at Kat. “Anything else?” She shook her head.

The wolf stared at Andy for a moment and then said, “Well, come closer so I can smell you. The girl, too.”

Kat hung back. “Why do you want to—? Oh, I understand. You can find the Samis through our scent.”

“Very good, young lady,” the werewolf answered and sniffed at her outstretched hand. He licked it once. Kat jerked her hand back. “Taste helps, too,” the werewolf answered, with a hint of humor in his gruff voice.

“What’s your name?” Kat asked.

“I call myself Mazi in my wolf form. I try to keep my human life separate.” The werewolf raised his head and howled. The other wolves joined in the chorus. Goose pimples rose on Kat’s arms. Then, they all fell silent and pricked their ears, turning their heads this way and that. From off in the distance, Kat heard a faint answering howl.

“Hop on the sled. It’s time to go,” Mazi said.
* * *
BAD SPELLING - Book 1 of The Witches of Galdorheim Series (FREE ON SMASHWORDS)
A klutzy witch, a shaman's curse, a quest to save her family. Can Kat find her magic in time?

MIDNIGHT OIL - Book 2 of the Witches of Galdorheim Series (Free with Smashwords Coupon BA36E)
Shipwrecked on a legendary island, how can a witch rescue her boyfriend if she can’t even phone home?


SCOTCH BROOM - Book 3 of the Witches of Galdorheim Series (Free with Smashwords Coupon TH89T)
A magical trip to Stonehenge lands a witch in the Otherworld where an ancient goddess is up to no good.


SPELLSLINGER - A Witches of Galdorheim Short Story

What does a teenage half-warlock, half-vampire do to have fun? Why build an old west town on a glacier in the Arctic. There he can play at being the good guy sheriff up against mean old Black Bart.

That things will go horribly wrong is a given. But how does Rune get into and out of the predicament?

This prequel story to the Witches of Galdorheim series gives the reader a chance to get to know the smart-aleck kid, Rune, before he got his magic down pat.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Halloween is for Vampires

HALLOWEEN IS FOR VAMPIRES

Glaistig the Scottish Gray Lady

I Scotch Broom, I present Glaistig as a vampire woman who has entered the Otherworld because she no longer wants to live off the blood of humans. Within the magical realm, she can safely feed on the various magical creatures without killing them. Once I discovered her, I knew she had to be part of the Scottish story. While a vampire, she’s got a soft side that appeals to Rune. In other words, she’s not all bad; she’s just been fabled that way.
n

I discovered Glaistig at Monstropedia, a must-have link for paranormal and fantasy writers. The picture is from that site so it might be misuse of copyright. But they started it! (http://www.monstropedia.org/index.php?title=Glaistig)
According to one legend the glaistig was once a mortal noblewoman, to whom a fairy nature had been given or who was cursed with the goat's legs and immortality, and since has been known as The Green (or Gray) Lady.
In most stories, the creature is described as a beautiful woman with dusky or gray skin and long blonde hair. Her lower half is that of a goat, usually disguised by a long, flowing green robe or dress.
In the diverse and changing traditions of the Highlands, the Glaistig was seen as both benevolent and malevolent towards humans. In one aspect she even takes the role of the Banshee, wailing at the death of important people.
The glaistig may take the form of a beautiful woman, especially one already known to the male victim; after offering sexual favors like a camp follower, she leaves her male victim with his throat cut, every drop of blood sucked from him. Other such tales have her casting stones in the path of travelers or throwing them off course.
In some variant stories the glaistig may be seen as benevolent, fond of children and a protector of old people. Libations of milk were poured for her, especially on selected stones; this veneration may be linked with older fertility customs. The glaistig has been described in some folklore as watching over children while their mothers milked the cows and fathers watched over the herds.
The glaistig frequented the lonely lochs and rivers in the Highlands of Scotland, such as Ardnacaillich, Donolly Castle, Loch Fyne, Crathes Castle and in Wales at Caerphilly.
Excerpt

Rune, Kat’s brother, is searching for his sister while Cailleach is searching for both Rune and Kat by sending one or more of her minions to find them. Glaistig’s job is to find Rune, determine whether or not he’s a vampire, and to bring the boy to the goddess.

As the sun eased down to hide behind a mountain range to the west, a movement to his left caught his attention. It looked like a tendril of smoke rising from the swamp. Since it was unlikely anything could burn in the bog, he watched the gray mist with interest. He notched up his vampire vision to watch. The smoky mist grew opaque then solid. A figure formed, but as if a statue made of granite, it was solid gray. Watching closely, Rune waited to see what this might be. He had studied all types of magical beings and couldn’t recall one like this.

The smoke woman, for he now recognized the shape as female, wafted toward him on the air. When it stopped a few feet away from him, it slowly gathered color from the moors. Heather green, water blue, dried grass yellow. The colors mixed and swirled and finally settled on the figure, giving her the approximate colors of a woman with blonde hair, a pale, gray face, and dazzling blue eyes staring at him in silence. She wore a long dress and cape, both the color of morning mist.

Rune ventured a greeting. “Hello?” The woman didn’t speak, but she moved again, this time circling him. Rune turned to keep her in his sight.

“I am Glaistig.” Her voice was as soft as the smoke from which she formed.

Without his vampire hearing, Rune wouldn’t have been able to hear the whisper. “Ahem. I’m Rune. Nice to meet you.” Rune wondered whether to offer his hand to shake and decided not to risk it. He’d heard some magical beings poisoned those who touched them.

The pale woman looked him up and down and then nodded slightly. “You are vampyr?”

“Um. Is that a problem?”

“Not at all. I am also.”

“Oh. I should have guessed. Night. Smoke. Oh! I remember who you are!” Rune snapped his fingers. “Glaistig, the Gray Lady. But you’re not a true vampire, are you?”

“It depends upon my mood and how a person treats me. If I meet a man on the road, and he tries to grab me, I dance away and let him follow. I lure him to my lair. Then, I take his blood. But if a man tips his hat and wishes me a good evening, I leave him with a smile.”

“That’s a relief. My name is Rune, and I’m here looking for my si—” Rune stopped and considered that if Glaistig was a vampire and thought he was too, he shouldn’t mention he had a witch sister. “Uh, a female friend. Have you seen a girl with black hair?”

“I have not, but Cailleach may be able to help you.” Something darker than the blackest shadow lumbered out of the night. Glaistig glanced at the giant coming up behind her. “It’s all right, Bodach. This man is a vampire.”

The giant halted by her side and glared down at Rune, who swallowed hard and craned his neck to look up at the ugly face on top of the nine-foot tall body. The giant sniffed. “As you say, Glaistig. We take him to Cailleach?”

“Yes, we do.” Turning to Rune, the Gray Lady beckoned with her index finger. “Come, Rune. We shall visit the goddess.”

“Well, that’s okay. I’ll just look over there,” Rune replied, pointing in the opposite direction of where Glaistig appeared to be headed.

Bodach took two long strides and grabbed Rune’s arm before he could react.

“Uh, since you put it that way.” He pulled his arm away from the giant and followed Glaistig.

The Gray Lady smiled at him. “I’m so happy you agree. Bodach is Cailleach’s very faithful servant. I doubt he would take no for an answer.”

Rune nodded glumly. It looked like he was stuck for now. Still, it might be a good thing. This Cailleach might be able to help find Kat. But why would being a vampire all of a sudden be a good thing? He could sense that if he had not been a vampire, Bodach the giant, would now be crushing his skull between his two gigantic hands. And who was this goddess Cailleach? The name didn’t ring any bells.

Rune followed Glaistig, with Bodach close on his heels. Over the thumps of Bodach’s heavy footsteps, he heard the skittering sound of a small animal in the grass as they walked away.

* * *

SCOTCH BROOM: Book 3 of The Witches of Galdorheim
#FREE at Smashwords to the end of October with Coupon TH89T
A magical trip to Stonehenge lands a witch in the Otherworld where an ancient goddess is up to no good.
Kat is on her way to an exciting trip to Stonehenge, but is led astray by a jealous rival. Caught in the Otherworld within the Scottish Highlands with a has-been goddess trying to kill her, Kat has to defeat the goddess and rescue her brother from the hag's clutches.

BAD SPELLING: Book 1 of the Witches of Galdorheim is permafree on Smashwords.


Sunday, October 08, 2017

Halloween is for Warlocks

HALLOWEEN IS FOR WITCHES WARLOCKS

The Witches of Galdorheim series is all about witches...and warlocks. While some people insist warlocks are always evil, and think that's as nonsensical as saying all witches are evil. Or all people. Or all puppies.

One warlock in the series plays a major role in all three novels and has his very own prequel story about his own experience growing up on an island full of witches and magic. You don't just perform magic without a little practice, or things might get very out of control.

Rune: Kat's younger brother is the offspring of a witch and a vampire. Don't give me any grief about vampire's not being able to breed yada yada. This is my fantasy book, and I'll write it any way I want to.

Anyway, Rune has a double-dose of magical ability since he has inherited his witch mother's spellcasting talent, but also can call on his vampire side for some benefits. His biggest problem is keeping his vampire side in check. The slightest hint of blood sets him off. He struggles with his blood craving and hopes to overcome it someday. In the meantime, everybody makes sure Rune doesn't see so much as a pricked thumb.

Kat asks Rune for some packaged spells to help her in her scheme to run away from home. Always loving an adventure, Rune decides he has to come along with his sister. Not only does he love her, but he also finds her clumsy spelling a source of infinite amusement.

Excerpt from Spellslinger

Rune stuffed his hands into his jeans pockets and stomped down the street, his shoulders hunched. A clump of dandelions hugging the white picket fence leapt out at him, their squeaky little growls and slashing petals pulled a grin from the eleven-year-old warlock for a moment until he remembered he was in a bad mood.

He punted the attacking flowers with a transforming spell turning them into a tumbleweed rolling along the street. Rune sprinted after and gave  it a kick with a Beckham bend. The shrub careened out of control over a picket fence and into a yard. Lilac, a witch who lived in the cottage, stepped out on her porch. “Rune, get that thing out of my garden!”

“Yes’m.” Rune felt his cheeks redden. He pulled out his wand and flicked it toward the offending bush. The shrub shook, then hopped in the air. When it landed, it sunk its brand-new roots into the ground on the edge of Lilac’s koi pond. The rose buds adorning the stems burst into full bloom and a few petals dropped and floated on the water.

Lilac smiled. “Congratulations, Rune. You charmed your way out of a telling-off.” The witch walked back into her home.

Rune continued on his way, his shoulders settling, a frown tugging the corners of his mouth back down. His friend, Dalton, had joined the Wolf Pack and seemed to forget that Rune was his best bud. The Wolf Pack wasn’t exactly condoned in the witch community, but as long as the transformed boys didn’t actually eat anybody, the warlocks turned a blind eye. Rune had promised his mother and aunt that he’d not get involved in the group. As a half vampire, the only vampire, he already had plenty to worry about without also taking on a wolf form. The boys’ play sometimes drew blood. No way could Rune keep from going mega-vampire at the sight of blood.

It sucked. Since he wouldn’t join the pack, they all stopped letting him hang out with them. Now he was stuck in the 'so not cool' group to which his older half sister already belonged. She couldn’t cast a spell that didn’t blow up in her face, and since Rune couldn’t join the other boys in the Pack, he felt like an outcast. His mind pinged, and the word “outlaw” blazed in his head. Yeah, that’s what he’d do, spell up a place of his very own. To heck with Dalton and those other boys turning themselves into werewolves. He’d become an outlaw, a real gunslinger. Or how about a spellslinger? That had a nice ring to it.

That’s it. He’d go old west, old U.S. west. He’d watched about a zillion westerns, so he figured he could conjure a proper old west town and he’d be...what? The leader of a bandit gang? The Sheriff of a little town taking on the bad guys? Yeah, he’d be the hero.


* * *
Spellslinger, Rune's own story is free on Smashwords (also free at Smashwords, first book in the series, Bad Spelling) and you can listen to the Spellslinger audio book free on SoundCloud.


Thursday, October 05, 2017

Halloween is for Classy Witches

HALLOWEEN IS FOR CLASSY WITCHES

The entire Witches of Galdorheim series has a few characters featured in all the books. I thought re-introducing the stars of the series a good setup for the Witch Extravaganza month of October. Oh, yeah, it's going to be BIG! All four of the books in the series are available in Audio format.

To set things up for the big month, here's a bit on two more Witches of Galdorheim characters who play a major role in all four books.

Ardyth; Kat's and Rune's mother is one of the three most powerful witches on Galdorheim Island. You wouldn't believe it from her somewhat scatter-brained demeanor. Kat's pretty sure she behaves like a flibbertigibbet just to irritate her older sister, Thordis. When writing the books, I always pictured Ardyth as looking like Candice Bergen.

Prior to the events in the series, we learn that Kat's father Boris, a Siberian fisherman who was stranded on Galdorheim, is frozen between life and death from a ice cave collapse. What was he doing in the ice cave? Ardyth is mum on the subject.

After Boris' semi-demise, Ardyth visits Transylvania to meet an eligible warlock. Unfortunately, Drakos had been attacked by a vampire and was turned himself. Ardyth escapes with her life, but pregnant with Rune.

Throughout Kat's adventures, Ardyth steadfastly supports her daughter, even if it must be from afar.

Thordis: Ardyth's elder sister and Kat's aunt, Thordis is the top witch on Galdorheim. Most of her duties are administrative, but she rules over all of the witches and warlocks on the island. Still, her gruff exterior and nose-in-the-air attitude hides her love for her niece and nephew. Her take-charge attitude and powers allow her to assist Kat in her adventures.

Kat's mishaps force Thordis to tolerate Mordita since they must work together to keep the kids from sure death at every turn. In my mind's eye, I always see Endora from the Bewitched TV series (are you old enough to remember watching it?)


Spellslinger (99 cents everywhere)
All books in the series are available in Audio Format.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Halloween is for Klutzy Witches

Katrina the Klutzy Witch

Tap tap tap squeal!!

Is this thing on? Oh. I don’t need a microphone? Alrighty then.

My name is Katrina Galdorheim, but I'd rather you call me Kat. Try to convince my mother and aunt of that and you’d most definitely bring on one of her lectures. Especially if you try to argue with Aunt Thordis about ANYTHING! She’s the chief administrator and de facto mayor of our little island village full of witches and warlocks.

So when she implies I’m a L-O-S-E-R, everybody pretty much agrees with her. Oh, most of the other witches are nice enough to me, but the whispers behind my back are none too subtle.

A couple more people to introduce for this story.

My mom seems like a ditz, but her magic is just as powerful as Aunt Thordis’s. I think Mom just likes to be the total opposite of her overbearing sister. Don’t tell Aunt Thordis I said that.

My only real friend is Rune even if he is my brother (half) and crazy good at magic. Everything comes so easy for him and it’s enough to make me insane. The only thing he does have trouble with is keeping his vampire half in control. I know how hard it is for him. If he sees even a drop of human (well, witch or human) blood, he totally freaks. Eyes go blood red, canines grow. Yeah. Seriously. But he’s working on it, and will beat the blood-sucking monkey on his back someday.

What else can I say? This book is about me mostly, though mom, Aunt Thordis, and Rune all play a big part in it. So my problem is that I can’t cast spells without them going wrong. Not just little, teensy so-what wrong, but big, gigantic, totally outrageous wrong.

When you’re living on an island populated by witches, and the island runs on magic, being magic-challenged doesn't just suck, it's downright dangerous.

This excerpt makes clear just how much of a klutz I am. Don't worry, though. Things get worse, but eventually they do get better.

Bad Spelling - Chapter 1 Excerpt

Kat ran up the steps of the schoolhouse as a flash of red light pulsed from the space beneath the front door. A screech of girlish laughter followed by shouts of “yes!” and “whoa!” got louder when she pulled the door open. Her heart sank. Dang it. Late again.

A muffled bang accompanied by puffs of red and violet smoke billowing out from the back of the room gave her cover to rush to the last available seat. When the smoke cleared, Kat rolled her eyes, barely controlling a snort. Her brother Rune’s used-to-be vampire bat now clung to his finger chirping angrily while his best friend’s was-a-rat now stared with hungry eyes at it in the temporary form of a scruffy gray cat.

Unfazed, Miss Mariah cleared her throat and glared at the boys. “Would you please wait for everyone else?” Rune and Dalton grinned at each other and transformed their respective familiars back to their original forms.

Grow up, bro. Really! Kat thought, but a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. She was proud of Rune’s mad skills, since she couldn’t spell herself out of a beanbag chair. She knew she had the power; everybody knew it. What she lacked was control. Every spell she tried to cast went wrong in the most disastrous way.

Rune’s bat flapped to the rafters and hung upside down, glaring down at his owner. Rune dodged a drop of guano, picked up his wand, and tapped it on the desktop. With a high-pitched squeak, the bat dropped to the desk and folded its wings, but it didn’t look happy.

Miss Mariah muttered, “Fiksu aasi noita.” She watched Kat as she hunched over and dropped her book bag on the floor. “Nice of you to join us, Katrina. See me after class about your tardiness.”

She faced the class. “Now then, please take out your chalk and wands for today’s lesson, which is,” she shot a semi-annoyed look at Rune and Dalton, “transformation.” The Wiccan students rustled bags and whispered to each other while they did as told.

When the witches and warlocks in training looked up, she continued. “Although some students can transform without benefit of pentagram and wand, those of you who are beginners, or less motivated—” she paused and gave Kat a hard look, “must practice first with the proper equipment.”

Kat’s face warmed, and she sank lower into her chair. Heaving a sigh, she set her brown bunny, Teddy, on her desktop and fumbled in her bag for her spell book, yew wood wand, and chalk.

Merry, the curly-haired blonde witch sitting next to Kat, waved her arm in the air.

“What is it, Merry?” Miss Mariah asked.

“Can you make Katrina sit somewhere else? Whenever she’s near me, my spells don’t work right. She’s a jinx.”

The class snickered. Kat grimaced at Merry. If I got my hands on her…aw, what’s the use? 

“No, everybody stays right where they are,” Miss Mariah snapped. She pasted on a fake smile and continued in a treacle-sweet voice. “Now, class, draw the pentagram on your desktop and place your familiar in its center.”

The younger students practicing their first transformations looked to the board where, under Miss Mariah’s control, the chalk drew a practice pentagram stopping short of completing the last of the five points.

She tapped the board. “An unattended pentagram can cause all sorts of problems, the least being a tusser or  tomte taking advantage of an open gateway. They’re harmless for the most part but like to play tricks. So be  prepared with your spell before completing the pentagram.” More than one kid smudged an opening in their already drawn star. “Children, you must focus. Don’t let yourselves get distracted.” Miss Mariah adjusted a child’s grip on his wand as she walked by.

Merry curled her lip and hissed, “You’d better not screw me up. If I can’t work this spell right, it’ll be your fault.”

“Tough luck, Merry,” Kat snarled. “If you’re such a great witch, my being here shouldn’t make any difference.”

Turning away from Merry, Kat finished the final leg of her pentagram and set the bunny in the center. “Stay right there, Teddy,” she whispered to her little brown rabbit, setting a chunk of carrot in front of him. He made a dash for the edge of the desk. Kat hauled him back. “Cut it out. You’ll smear my chalk lines.” She stroked his soft fur for a moment. “Hope this works.” He twitched his nose twice, closed his eyes, and hunkered down.

Kat checked her spell book one last time, took a deep breath, and completed the spell with a loud “Fullgerður!” and a dramatic sweep of her arms, just missing Merry’s head with her wand. Merry shrieked and jumped out of her chair. She glared at Kat while wiping green goo off the side of her face. “Your rabbit stinks. Just like your spellcasting!”

Kat’s mouth hung open for a moment; then she clamped it shut when she glanced down at what was left of Teddy sitting in a pool of slime dripping onto the floor. Merry was right about one thing. The goo smelled like pond scum.

Teddy looked up at his witch with sad, bulging eyes, the top half of a frog’s body floating in the green glop. Kat groaned. Poor, long-suffering Teddy. Green and slimy—that was the good part. The pink nose and floppy ears—not so good. If she couldn’t master transformation and the other mid-level junior spells, she’d be left behind again.

BAD SPELLING - Book 1 of The Witches of Galdorheim Series (FREE ON SMASHWORDS)
A klutzy witch, a shaman's curse, a quest to save her family. Can Kat find her magic in time?


MIDNIGHT OIL - Book 2 of the Witches of Galdorheim Series
Shipwrecked on a legendary island, how can a witch rescue her boyfriend if she can’t even phone home?


SCOTCH BROOM - Book 3 of the Witches of Galdorheim Series
A magical trip to Stonehenge lands a witch in the Otherworld where an ancient goddess is up to no good.


SPELLSLINGER - A Witches of Galdorheim Short Story

What does a teenage half-warlock, half-vampire do to have fun? Why build an old west town on a glacier in the Arctic. There he can play at being the good guy sheriff up against mean old Black Bart.

That things will go horribly wrong is a given. But how does Rune get into and out of the predicament?

This prequel story to the Witches of Galdorheim series gives the reader a chance to get to know the smart-aleck kid, Rune, before he got his magic down pat.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Mabon - The Autumnal Equinox

The four major annual events include two Solstices (summer and winter) and two Equinoxes (autumn and spring).

September 22nd is the official first day of autumn and is celebrated in the Pagan/Wiccan tradition as Mabon, the time of harvest, gratitude, and sharing. No doubt, the pagan tradition had a lot to do with the celebration of Thanksgiving in Canada and the US. However, the day divided into equal parts of dark and light, is an excellent marker for any tradition and, most countries to have some kind of harvest celebration.


The Autumnal Equinox is the basis for the myth of Persephone's return to the Underworld after a half year of growth and greenery. If you recall your Greek mythology, you'll know that Persephone was kidnapped by Hades (god of the underworld) to become his wife. Demeter, Persephone's mother and goddess of the harvest was understandably peeved. After a period of mourning and struggle, Demeter eventually got her daughter back from Hades, but only for nine months of the year. Every fall, Persephone would return to the underworld to spend three months with Hades. During these months, Demeter refused to use her divine skills to make plants grow, explaining why we have three months of winter every year.

In Christian tradition, the equinox is Michaelmas Day. Did you know you've been missing a reason to party? These days, Michaelmas is a minor festival mainly observed in the Catholic church. Centuries ago in England, the time around Michaelmas also had a business side. Servants were paid their wages after the harvest, and workers looked for new jobs at employment fairs which also became a place for celebrations.

And let us not forget The Mayan Snake of Sunlight. At the precise moment of the equinox, when the Sun shines directly on the equator, an enormous “snake of sunlight” slithers down the stairs of the main pyramid at Chichen Itza, Mexico. The Mayans who constructed this ancient temple used advanced astronomical calculations to determine the exact angle of the staircase.

Japan has the Higan Festival, China and Vietnam celebrate the Moon Festival, Indian parties for several day for Havaratri, a celebration for the divine feminine Devi.

So, you have lots of good reasons to celebrate September 22nd (1:02PM PDT, 20:02 UTC). Why not at least lift a glass of grog to say goodbye to summer and hello to the beginnings of winter.


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Cruise Photos at Google Photos

Uploaded photos from my phone from our recent cruise through the Adriatic and Aegean Seas. Figured I'd go sort them out later. Came back to find Google had created an album from a good chunk of the pictures. A lot are redundant and not such great shots, but I can edit this album if I wish.

I think this is a nice feature to offer for lazy cell phone camera photogs. Heck, we don't know what they're doing, so I'm glad somebody else takes up the slack.


Here are a few shots from Santorini. They have an interesting cable car system to take folks to the top of the cliffs OR you can go by muleback.





Friday, August 25, 2017

Our Hotel in the Mediterranean

The SS Westerdam of Holland America Lines. 8/25-9/9. A vicious cat and about 10 neighbors will be watching our house, so don't bother to rob us. We spend all our money on travel anyway.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

KWL Advice

No, that's not a new, hip way of indicating goodness, but the initials of the Kobo Writing Life blog. Since a lot of writers self-pub on Kindle, they may not be aware that Kobo also has a self-publishing platform. Introducing their blog, here's a bit of one of their latest tip posts and the link to the site.


The 6 Most Common Writing Mistakes That Are Missed When Editing
(Shared by implicit permission from the KWL blog site)
By Freddie Tubbs
Grammar and punctuation can be tricky subjects to master, even for the most experienced writers and editors. But they can make a huge difference in the impact your writing has and the authority you demand. If you’re highly knowledgeable about a topic, but the grammar is not spot-on, your credibility on the subject can suffer overall. Ensure you aren’t making these common writing mistakes by keeping a close eye out for them while editing.

Incorrect prepositions

Prepositions are those words used to describe the relationship between two words in a sentence, and they often confuse writers and editors. To the untrained eye, these errors may go unnoticed. But for someone with knowledge of their use, they will be picked up on immediately. If you’re unsure about which preposition to use, State of Writing can be an excellent resource to tap for some help.
Incorrect: Mary was unable to download her photos, because her phone wouldn’t connect with her computer.
Correct: Mary was unable to download her photos, because her phone wouldn’t connect to her computer.
Freddie Tubbs is an eLearning project manager from Fort Myers, Florida. He works as a language researcher at UK Top Writers and is a contributing author at The Atlantic.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Writing Tips: Starting Off with a Bang

A few posts back, I talked about prologues. One thing I didn't mention about prologues and should have is that they're often big piles of telling the reader background stuff. Snooze city.

Even if you have a prologue, you will need to make your opening page exciting enough to make the reader turn the page or punch the Page Forward button on their e-reader. In the case of presentation on e-readers, you don't even have a traditional length first page. A half page, maybe. With my larger font use, you've barely got a middle-sized paragraph to grab me.

As the world moves faster, so must your magnum opus. Less on the magnum and more on the opus.

Here's my favorite first sentence of all time. Three little words:

"Call me Ishmael."

Melville grabbed the reader in three short words, one of them a name. Maybe not as pop musical as "Call Me Maybe," but I'm not quite sure who Maybe is. Of course, I don't know Ishmael yet either, but his name alone gives me a lot of information. To the original audience in 1851, the name was immediately recognizable. With few books around, and stern parents, kids had read the Bible from cover to cover (something evangelicals don't do or they might realize how stupid they are). If for nothing else than the Song of Solomon (how about those two breasts like two young roes?). Yup, the Bible was the book hidden under the bed like a stack of Playboys with certain pages worn and smudged with ... well, very well worn.

So, who was the Bibical Ishmael and why did Melville decide to use the name for his main character? I'll make this brief, since we're talking about opening pages, not literary or Biblical history.

Ishmael was a bastard born to Abraham and his wife's maid servant Hagar. An angel informed Hagar that Ishmael would be a wild man, and he'd hate everybody and they'd hate him right back. Abraham sent Hagar and her son away when Sarah, his wife (at 90 years old!), got pregnant. You can read all the soap opera details in Genesis around about chapter 16-20. It's also got all that smutty stuff about Sodom and Gomorrah too.

Ishmael, then, was an outcast from the favored tribe of Abraham which is the lineage of all the holy folks in all three major religions based on a unitary god.

The readers in the 1850s immediately recognized Melville's main character as an outcast and a wanderer. Indeed, Ishmael continues, "Some years ago--never mind how long precisely--having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world."

No explosions, car crashes, sword battles, or any other action. Just a disaffected young man at odds with his life who decides to try working on a ship. However, I'm hooked, lined, and sinkered. I was when I was twelve, and I am now re-reading that opening and want to read it again. Yay, for Amazon's free Kindle books!

Okay, I've completely lost my thread now because I want to go snuggle on the couch and see what happens to Ishmael next.

I would like you to write a comment with the best opening sentence you can recall. It can even be one of your own books. That's a dare. Make me want to read your book with one smashing opening sentence.

* * *

Okay. Should sell books with each post, so here's the link to my author page on Amazon and my book list page on Smashwords. Plenty from which to choose.





Monday, August 14, 2017

Prologues: Pro or Con

I've seen plenty of discussions on prologues. Whether they're a good idea or not. Arguments may be made in either direction, but I'll come down firmly on the side of ... maybe.

For what it's worth, I think prologues can be useful, but I have some definite rules:
  • A prologue shouldn't run more than a couple of pages.
  • If the prologue concerns events immediately before or simultaneous to the first chapter, then it's the first chapter. Realize that a prologue reeks of literary pretentiousness, especially in a genre novel. 
  • Prologues are good for background set way before the events of the book and, if possible, with completely different characters.
  • Background information in the prologue should be difficult to deliver by a character without it sounding like a lecture.
You can see I followed my own rules in this example excerpt, and this prologue works (if I do say so myself). It's set 400 years in the past. It has no cross-over characters. It quickly explains why the witches are living on a remote arctic island. In chapter one, I can move ahead with the specific problems facing my main character, and nobody is wondering why the heck she's living on an ice-bound island. 

Go ahead. Tell me why I'm not right. Or, give me an example of how a prologue can work when it breaks my (arbitrary) rules. Don't argue against my rules. They're mine, and I'm keeping them. What are your rules? If you don't have any rules, then you'd better do a bit of soul-searching. That's the premise of jazz. Know the rules, then you can break them.

Now to the prologue of Bad Spelling, Book 1 of the Witches of Galdorheim series.

Prologue from Bad Spelling, Witches of Galdorheim Book 1

November, 1490—Somewhere in Germany

“They took Helena,” Edyth whispered, grabbing John’s arm the moment he walked through the doorway.

Wide-eyed, John looked at Edyth. “But she has never–”

She shushed him. “I know, I know. They’ve cast a wide net. It shan’t be long before they suspect us.”
John gazed around the one-room, thatched hut they called home. “I’m afraid ‘tis nothing else we can do. We must flee.”

Tears welled in Edyth’s eyes. “What they are doing to us, ‘tis hateful. Why cannot they just leave us be?”

He took Edyth’s shoulders, pulling her to his chest. “‘Tis not just us. The inquisitors condemn many not of the craft. They find black magic where it does not exist.”

His eyes darkened. “‘Tis the fault of that wretched Heinrich Institoris and his cursed Malleus Maleficarum. Even the Church has banned it, yet the so-called citizen courts use it to condemn any who disagree with them.”

Edyth shook her head, her face grim. “You speak the truth. ‘Tis shameful they accuse whoever dissents, be they witch or not!”

John nodded. “We shall have one last coven gathering. All true witches must leave this place soonest.”

“But where will we go, John?”

“North. So far north that no mundanes could live there. If we move away from their grasp, we can make our own way in the world.”

John dropped his hands from Edyth’s shoulders. “Come. We’ve messages to send. I do not think it wise to wait any longer.”

The witch and the warlock gathered foolscap and invisible ink. As they penned each word, it faded and disappeared from the paper. They wrote in the Old Runic language as an additional safeguard from prying eyes. Only a true witch could read it.

That very night, the ashes of the messages flew up the chimney, carried by incantation to the far corners of Europe, to all known witches and warlocks. Within the month, the trek northward began. The Wiccans reached the ends of the earth then went further. Finding a tiny island, completely removed from any other piece of land, they stopped and laid their claim. They named their island Galdorheim: Witches’ Home.

* * *

BAD SPELLING - Book 1 of The Witches of Galdorheim Series
A klutzy witch, a shaman's curse, a quest to save her family. Can Kat find her magic in time?
If you’re a witch living on a remote arctic island, and the entire island runs on magic, lacking magical skills is not just an inconvenience, it can be a matter of life and death–or, at least, a darn good reason to run away from home.  

Katrina’s spells don’t just fizzle; they backfire with spectacular results, oftentimes involving green goo.  A failure as a witch, Kat decides to run away and find her dead father’s non-magical family. But before she can, she stumbles onto why her magic is out of whack: a curse from a Siberian shaman.

The young witch, accompanied by her half-vampire brother, must travel to the Hall of the Mountain King and the farthest reaches of Siberia to regain her magic, dodging attacks by the shaman along the way.


Friday, August 11, 2017

The Village Magician - Faizah's Destiny

The Village Magician

The four teen adventurers in "Tales of Abu Nuwas 2 - Faizah’s Destiny are all students of the village magician, who also serves as teacher for the children who have some time to expend on schooling. Master Wafai is an all-round teacher, covering the academic topics such as mathematics and writing. As a magician with minor skills, he also loves to impart his knowledge of magical beasts that roam the earth.
* * * 99 cents on Amazon and Smashwords ***
Master Wafai wants more than anything to meet the elusive, all-knowing Simurgh. He feels it’s very important for his students to learn about magic, even though there is very little to be found around their tiny village. Of the Simurgh, he says:

“The Simurgh is a tutelary creature. It is so old, according to legend, it has seen the world destroyed three times over. Many believe it has learned so much that it possesses the knowledge of all the ages―a great teacher and a guardian. The Simurgh simply are. In the past for all of eternity and in the future for all of eternity.”

One day, Master Wafai isn’t at his little school. His four pupils are puzzled and concerned. Why is their teacher gone without leaving word? A possible answer is found on a page of the Magicalis Bestialis. The book was left open to the text describing the Simurgh.


Faizah, a farmer’s daughter and Wafai’s favorite pupil, knows how much the Master loves the Simurgh, she immediately believes the open page is a sign that she and the boys who are also students must seach for the home of the Simurgh.

The boys scoff at the silly idea, but agree to searching the nearby mountains for signs of Wafai’s whereabouts. They only decide to go on the search when they find the adults in the village are content to send word to the Sultan and have troops sent to search for the missing teacher.

Excerpt:

Master Wafai sat at the small table that served him for both dining and desk. One of his prized books, the Magicalis Bestialis lay on the table before him, open to the section on the Simurgh. If only they were real. Wafai sighed. His advancing years never dimmed the hope that someday he would know for certain such magical beasts truly existed.

The stories he had heard of the flying, fire-breathing horse stabled in the Sultan’s palace, helped to keep that hope alive. Still, he longed to meet such a creature, to see it with his own eyes.

He sighed again and stood. He moved into the bare kitchen and carried a bowl of fruit back to the table. In this tiny village, there was not much chance of seeing anything magical. Wafai had long ago accepted the fact he would never be a great or powerful mage. A competent magician in an average sort of way, he could cure most common ailments, cast a spell to clear the air after a sandstorm, find lost livestock, and sometimes water. He could even generate a few small curses, though he seldom chose to do so.

Peeling an orange, he stared, unseeing, at his whitewashed walls, smudged with ochre chalk. His students provided the greatest joy in his life. A mediocre magician though he might be, Wafai was a born teacher. His pupils made jokes about him ‘putting on his teaching voice,’ but when he did, they listened. Although Wafai had always longed to meet a magical creature or two, what he really wanted was for one or more of his students to have the opportunities he had missed.

He thought about his three students and wondered about the new boy. Would any of them become adept? Would any of them ever meet a flying horse, a demon, or a Djinn? Most of the village children came to his school only until they were eight or nine, and then family duties called them away.

Harib, the son of a rich merchant, was the only one free to do as he pleased. He attended school to be with his friends. Left mostly to his own devices when his mother died, Harib had come to the school out of curiosity and boredom. He met Faizah and Bahaar there, and the three of them soon formed a close friendship. School was easy for Faizah and Harib, however Bahaar struggled a bit. They had all mastered the basics of reading and arithmetic and were now engrossed in learning what they could of the magical arts.

Wafai looked down at the Magicalis Bestialis and picked up an orange pip he had dropped. He closed the book and put it aside.

Bahaar, too, lived mostly on his own. Although an indifferent student, he preferred staying in Wafai’s classroom with his friends to begging in the streets. Still, he had his strengths―the fastest runner in the village, he could easily outdistance the bullies, but his bravado made him face them instead.

Faizah neared the age when Wafai would reluctantly release her to help take care of her father’s household, although he knew the girl really wanted to continue her education. He thought it most unfair that just because she was a girl, her parents expected her to stay home and help raise her younger siblings. Soon, it would be time for her to marry and have children of her own.

With her almond eyes and long dark hair, she was pretty enough to attract a prince, but with her parents’ low standing, the best she could do would be to marry a merchant. Particularly sad, Wafai thought, because of his three students, Faizah was the only one with a real talent for magic.

This talent provided the reason she was still in school. The herbs and simple cures she had already learned from Wafai earned a few extra coins for her family, so her parents considered Wafai’s classroom a better use of her time than doing laundry...for now. All too soon, they would take her out of his school and marry her off to some merchant or farmer.

Such a waste.

* * *

The gods are at war and only a farmer’s daughter can save the world from Armageddon.

The village magician has gone missing. His four pupils think he has left a clue to his whereabouts in the Magicalis Bestialis--the book of magical creatures. They must seek the help of the elusive Simurgh, the mythical birds who know all the secrets of the universe.

However, this is not an easy camping trip into the mountains. Spirits, gods, and demons confront the four friends, who are not aware they’re being set up by otherworldly forces for a much larger task.

A farmer’s daughter, Faizah is chosen to lead the humans in the battle. She must persuade a slave, an orphan, and a rich merchant’s son to join in the battle on the side of good. Although divided by Dev, the evil god of war, the teens must band together to find the Simurgh, rescue their teacher, and stave off Armageddon.