Wednesday, May 31, 2017

In Honor of Canine Varieties 3

If your dad is in the same generation as my father who grew up in the 20's and 30's, experienced WWII as an adult, and is fond of stories set in rural America, this is a book he will enjoy. Also, if he's sight-impaired, it's available in a Large Print paperback and audio book.

These are stories about my father, which also plays into the "great gift for Fathers Day" concept. He's passed now, but he took great pleasure reading his almost true tall tales. Many of the stories feature my grandfather, who Eddie looked up to and admired. I think you'll enjoy them too.*
Here are the buy links:
Ebook:  Kindle Ebook
Large Print Paperback Amazon $8.99
Audiobook (also available through AmazonAudible.com $6.95

BLURB
How do you handle a crazy jackass? Eddie knows. If you ask Eddie, he'll tell you pigs can fly and show you where to find real mammoth bones. Take his word for it when he tells you always to bet on the bear. These are things he learned while dreaming of becoming a cowboy in West Texas during the Depression. Through Eddie, the hero of "Tales of a Texas Boy," we find that growing up is less about maturity and more about roping your dreams. Hold on tight. It's a bumpy ride. A wonderful read for anyone who enjoys books like "Little House on the Prairie" or "Tom Sawyer." A great bit of nostalgia for seniors, too.

EXCERPT

One Fine Dog

Dogs weren’t just pets, but working members of the family. Sometimes, they could do amazing things and perform feats that were almost like magic.

Ma yelled loud enough for me to hear into the next state. “Edward Preston! Get yerself in here right now!”

I wondered what it was I done now. I didn’t recall any particular mischief I’d been up to. At least, not today. I finished throwin’ the hay into Beau’s corral and went on the run up to the house.

“Yes’m,” I said soon as I got to the porch where Ma was standin’ with her fists planted on her hips. I reckon you know the look she was givin’ me. If’n your mother called you by your first and middle names, then you know exactly what I’m talkin’ about.

Then, she surprised me ‘cause she smiled. Now, that sure weren’t the normal expression she’d have if she was about to give me what-for. I thought maybe she was just havin’ some fun with me.

“Your Pa is goin’ to pick up the ewes from the Braddock’s place, so go help him get the truck out of the barn.”

I grinned myself and almost shouted “Yes’m!”  But, I caught myself in time as Ma doesn’t like us to be yellin’. I took off to the barn to find Pa. He was already pullin’ the tarp off the truck, so I went about helpin’ him finish up. We got behind the truck and pushed ‘er out of the barn. I jumped in behind the wheel. Like Pa taught me, I checked to make sure the hand brake was on, then I checked the spark and gas levers on the steering column. I pulled up on the spark and pushed down on the gas. Pa gave a mighty pull up on the crank. When the engine roared, I pushed the gas lever up a little more.

“You gotta give it more gas a little faster, Eddie.” Pa was tryin’ to teach me how to operate the truck as I was goin’ on eleven, which is plenty old enough to drive. He was takin’ it slower than I’d like. I thought I had the basics down already. Brake. Spark. Throttle. Crank. Throttle. Take off the brake and go!

“Yessir, Pa.”

Then, I got my second surprise of the day when Pa went to the passenger side and got in. Now my grin was gettin’ even wider, but I tried to tuck it down and act growed up. Pa was goin’ let me drive!

I steered out to the road half expectin’ Pa to only let me take the truck that far, but he waved me ahead and we turned left toward the Braddock’s.

I should explain what we were doin’. We have some ewes, but we don’t have a ram. So, in the fall, we bring the ewes to the Braddocks, who do have a ram. We’d just let them winter over with the Braddock flock. Now, it was spring and the hijadores, who came round to help with the lambing, had finished their work. It was time to put the ewes back into our own pastures.

* * *
I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from "Tales of a Texas Boy" and consider purchasing an ebook, paperback, or audio book.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

In Honor of Canine Varieties 2

He Ain't Nothin' But a Hound Dog

Researching Celtic mythology, I knew I wanted to use some of the lesser know magical creatures. I a
Also decided that they needed to be “like” animals, but not quite. The reason for this is obvious to readers who’ve been following Kat’s story from the beginning. Kat’s magical ability is to talk with animals. She has greater or lesser success depending on the innate brain-power of a natural animal. For example, she chats along nicely with Salmon the Orca since a killer whale is the largest of the dolphins and are at the top of the IQ charts. I believe the ability to communicate to others shows greater intelligence. Sorry. Don’t want to offend any fish out there, but you guys just aren’t that bright.

I found two mythic creatures who met my criteria. Sianach, a huge stag (possibly a Red Deer) and Cusith, a giant-sized green dog with a braided tail. Here's a bit on both of these critters who have major roles in "Scotch Broom" Book 3 of the Witches of Galdorheim.

From my favorite source, Encyclopedia Mythica (http://www.pantheon.org/areas/folklore/folklore/articles.html).

Cusith

An enormous hound of the Scottish Highlands. It is said to be a dark green in color, with a long braided tail and the size of a bullock. Whenever his baying was heard on the moors, farmers would quickly lock up their women because the hound's mission was to round up women and drive them to a fairy mound so they might supply milk for fairy children.

I’m a bit leery of that rounding up women part, but decided that was just an ancient attempt to keep women close to home. Clearly, not much has changed except for the mythological excuses.

Sianach

"Monster." In Scottish Gaelic oral tradition, a large, malevolent, predatory deer.

That’s to the point. Other research indicated that the basis for Sianach might be the Irish Elk, which is now extinct.

Now that I’d identified a couple of mythical critters, then all I had to do is get them together with Kat. Since she was tricked into entering the Otherworld (land of fey), she has been searching for the hall of the Trow King. She meets Sianach first and he agrees to guide her to King Connor’s hall. What Kat find strange is that she can’t look into Sianach’s mind; he can close off his thoughts from her. This makes Kat a bit nervous since Sianach, while seeming to be amenable to helping Kat, is also very vague as to his reasons for doing so.

The two begin their search for the Trow Hall, although Sianach claims, reasonably, that in the Otherworld, there is no such thing as a map to anyplace. They’ll have to seek the Hall in other ways. Apparently, Sianach’s method is to simply wander around through the swamps.

They camp for the night, and the next morning, Kat meets another denizen of the Otherworld, the giant green hound, Cusith.

Excerpt:

Sianach grazed near the edge of the small clearing. When the lean-to disappeared, he raised his head. “Good morning. I thought you were going to sleep all day.”

“You sound just like my mom.” Kat let out an exasperated snort. “Besides, it can’t be past eight o’clock.”

“I do not carry a timepiece.”

“Of course, you don’t.” Kat opened her pack and rummaged through it. “Cool. I’ve still got the granola bar.” Her head snapped up when she heard something large crashing through the underbrush. Sianach stood stock still, staring toward the ruckus.

“HHHHRRRRROOOOOWWW!”

“Omigosh, what’s that?” Kat’s voice trembled as she looked to Sianach for an answer. The hairs on her neck and arms stood at attention.

Sianach turned toward a nearby tree and struck his antlers against it. The clash of antler against bark rang like a warning bell. Kat didn’t expect the loud clang coming from horn against wood.

“HHHHRRRRROOOOOWWW!”

“Hide,” Sianach said in a breathy whisper. His head raised now and pointed toward the howl that sounded closer than before.

Kat did as he told her but had to ask, “What is it?” just before she crouched behind a bush.

“The Hound from Hell,” Sianach replied. He dashed into the woods with antlers thrust forward to meet the howling canine. Kat heard a sharp yip from the dog. Sianach must have scored the first strike. Sianach bugled, and the hound yowled. Thuds punctuated the vocalizing, when one or the other creature struck a blow.

“I have to help,” Kat muttered. She jogged across the clearing and pushed her way through the saplings and undergrowth blocking the way. She followed the battle sounds—bugling stag, baying hound, splintering of small trees being knocked aside. She darted around another large tree and saw the combatants squared off in an area beaten down by their fighting. She stopped still, her eyes widened. A huge green dog faced Sianach, its fangs exposed from under snarling lips. Kat gulped and stood frozen with fear.

Sianach’s head lowered, and he charged the hound with out-thrust antlers. The dog jumped aside at the last second and leapt on Sianach’s back. The monstrous creature bit down hard on the stag’s neck. Kat heard the sickening crunch of breaking bones. Blood gushed high, and Kat gasped at the sheer volume. Kat screamed. “Sianach!”

The hound jumped off Sianach and stood aside, panting and watching the deer fall to the ground on his side. Sianach’s head dropped, held up only by his antlers, then the mighty rack shrank, and his head hit the ground with a thud.

“No!” Kat screamed and raced toward the two. The dog looked away from the dying stag toward Kat. His lips peeled back in a slathering snarl. His muscles tensed to leap on her, and she cast her eyes around trying to find a defensive weapon. “Of course!” She cast a defense spell around herself. The hound lunged toward her and smashed into the fragile shield. It shattered and pale yellow splinters like glass scattered through the air. However, it protected Kat for a moment. The hound rolled aside yelping in pain.

Gathering her strength, she blasted the dog with a clear message: “Sit! Stay!” The hound rose to his feet then plopped his rear end on the forest floor. His tongue lolled from the side of his opened mouth, and his tail thumped on the ground.

Kat’s jaw dropped. “Oh! Um, that’s better.” Kat was amazed her command worked at all. “You stay. That’s a good dog.” She stepped slowly toward Sianach but kept her attention on the dog, watching for any change in his now friendly demeanor.

“Oh, no! Sianach?” She dropped to one knee by the deer and placed her hand on his brow. Eyelids fluttered and then opened. Sianach looked up at her. In a weak voice, he said, “That was fun.” He then jerked himself upright and stood. Kat jumped back, astounded as she watched the wound close, the blood slow, and then stop.

Kat glanced at the dog and saw that he stayed put. She didn’t know whether to keep watch on the mutt or try to do something to help Sianach. However, the stag was rapidly healing and soon seemed unharmed, except for the drying blood on his neck.

“What? How?” Kat stammered. But Sianach was not your average, everyday red deer; he was a creature of magic. It shouldn’t surprise her he couldn’t be killed.

Turning her attention back to the dog, she looked him over with interest. His shoulder was as tall as her own. The dog’s shaggy fur coat was a startling, and quite attractive, forest green, and he sported a long, braided tail. By the shape of his blocky head and the size of his jowls, Kat thought he must be a mastiff.

“Just what is going on here?” she asked, planting her fists on her hips and glaring at both creatures.

Sianach stepped toward Kat and pointed his rack toward the dog. “Our apologies, Kat. We did not mean to frighten you.”

Kat looked back and forth at the two legendary beings. She closed her mouth when she realized she’d been gaping. “You scared the stuffing out of me!”

“I would not want to do that. I imagine you need your stuffing.

* * *

SCOTCH BROOM: Book 3 of The Witches of Galdorheim
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.

The entire series is available on Amazon as individual books and a boxed set. On Smashwords, you can get any of the books for whatever price you choose to offer (including free, if you want).


Monday, May 29, 2017

In Memoriam

Everyone has lost someone in war. Go back far enough, maybe it was the Civil War, Revolutionary War, War of 1812, maybe even the Hundred Years War. It's good to take a moment to honor them.

There are also those who go without remembrance even though they gave their lives, not voluntarily, but because others just had to shoot, bomb, and kill. We don't know many of their names, but I'm pretty sure my grandfather did.

My Memorial Day remembrance is for the horses and mules who were absolutely essential to and died because of war. WWI. My grandfather was a veterinary in the Expeditionary Forces in France. This is what he recalled (loosely interpreted by me).

Pa’s Story
From Tales of a Texas Boy - Stories by and about My Father

World War I took many young men away from their homes and sent them off to foreign shores. Eddie’s Pa was one of those young men. He has his own tale to tell.

In 1916, I was still a young buck and not yet married, so I signed up with Black Jack Pershing to go after Pancho Villa. Ol’ Pancho and his banditos had come into US territory and killed a bunch of folks in Columbus, New Mexico.

I was real good with horses, so soon I was the veterinarian. This was just as well, as I didn’t take well to using a gun. I’d never studied vetting in school, but I’d grown up on a farm in Nebraska and knew just about all there was to know about horses and mules. We chased Pancho and his gang just about all over Mexico, but never did catch up with him. A couple years later, I was still in the service, so I ended up goin’ to France with Black Jack when he got to be a General. I could have decided not to go as I’d done my time, but I knew Black Jack could put me to good use.

We were on the troop ship for weeks. Everybody was seasick for the first few days. The horses seemed to fare fine in that regard, but I was worried we couldn’t exercise them enough. We brought them up from the hold, a few at a time, and let them stretch their legs. We’d lead them in a quick walk around the deck. With the metal decks, we didn’t want them to move very fast for fear they’d slip and fall. I’d hate to have to put down a horse with a broken leg, so we took it real easy. As a result, the horses were not in good fightin’ shape by the time we landed in France.

It took some time, but me and Joe, who got assigned to be my assistant, got them in shape again. Mostly the horses were used to pack gear, but a few officers still rode them. Black Jack Pershing liked to ride on occasion, as did Captain Patton. I thought we should only have mules, since they make better pack animals than horses, but there were never enough mules to go around.


We weren’t in too many battles directly as we were the supply line for the army, but in 1918 it turned pretty bad when we went into the Argonne Forest. They called this an ‘offensive.’ I can see why as it offended me a lot. The fighting went on for nearly two months and only ended in November when the big guys signed the Treaty at Versailles.

In that short two months, it was hell on earth. Thousands of men died. One whole division, the 77th, was cut off for near a week and held out surrounded by the German forces. It was some battle, I can tell you. Almost all day long, I could hear the shells bursting and the sharp reports of rifle fire. And I heard the screams of dying men and horses.

The worst part for me was the horses being swept up in the middle of the battle. It broke my heart to go out on the fields after the fighting passed by and after the dead and wounded men were collected. Sometimes the ground was so soaked with blood that my boots were covered before I got back. A horse with an artery torn open bleeds gallons of blood; men only a few pints. It angered me when I thought how much the horses gave. They didn’t even have a say in goin’ to war. Men, at least, had a choice.

I carried a sidearm and had to shoot more horses than I can count. Those we could save, we’d bring back to the line and see if we could treat their wounds. It was a second heartbreak when they wouldn’t heal proper and we’d take them out behind the tents to put them down. We dug a deep trench to bury them for health reasons and we kept digging every day to hold them all.


While we treated the horses, close by we could see the wounded men being brought back from the battlefield. Legs and arms were already gone or had to be cut off by the doctors right there in the field. From the history I’d read about the Civil War, this was just about as bad. If the choice was amputate or die, then they had to do what was necessary. We dug another trench to hold the arms and legs the doctors cut off; the dead soldiers we wrapped in oilcloth to be sent back behind the lines, where we hoped to send their bodies back home to their families.

All told I spent twenty months in France. It was the worst part of my life and I hoped and prayed we’d never see another war like this again.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

In Honor of Canine Varieties 1

Excerpt from Tales of a Texas Boy about an encounter Eddie had with:
Ma 'Yote and Her Cubs

Bein’s it was a fine day, I took a walk to the sandstone canyon that runs near our farm. In the summer, it gave up a good stock of lizards and horny toads. I always hoped to find a horny toad, but there be plenty of other interestin’ lizards, too. The schoolhouse has a big book of critters by some scientist. I’ll admit that the man knew his stuff, even if he lived back east. I’d look up what I found in his book so I’d know next time if I spotted the same kind again.

Anyways, the canyon starts out on one end real shallow and gets deeper as it runs west. It ends up runnin’ into a bluff that turns it into a box canyon. Through spring, it had water in the deep end, but by high summer it was all dried out. I’d walk down it from the shallow end, keepin’ my eyes peeled on the walls where the critters lived. This particular day was frustratin’ ‘cause I didn’t see a single thing until I got near the end. 

I stopped dead in my tracks. Three of the cutest little coyote cubs you’d hope to meet were rompin’ around near the end of the canyon. I looked every which way for their mama, but didn’t see her. I suspected she might be out lookin’ for dinner.

The cubs looked my way, but didn’t spook. They just looked interested for a bit, then they went back to bitin’ each other’s tails. I had to grin at the squeaky lil’ growls they let out as they played at huntin’.

I sat down partly hid by a big boulder no more’n twenty feet from ‘em just to watch. I commenced to thinkin’ that I might catch one of the cubs and raise him up like a dog. Coyotes looked like dogs, but I’d never heard of anyone who brought one home. I decided I’d try to tame one of the cubs, but I’d wait until their ma weaned them. They’d still be small enough for me to wrangle, but not so big as to be dangerous.

Somethin’ moved atop the canyon wall and caught my eye. Mama Coyote hung her head over the edge and bared her teeth. Even from twenty feet up I could hear the growling. I stood up slow and commenced to backin’ away. She jumped down and I nearly fell on my backside. I don’t know to this day how she done it, but that coyote found footholds to scramble down that rock wall what looked like a lizard might not get a grip.

She hit the bottom lickety-split, so I backed up a mite faster. Not too fast, or I knew she’d come after me. Lucky for me, she weren’t inclined to do that, so I turned around and took off. I kept alookin’ over my shoulder, but she stayed with her cubs, sniffin’ them to make sure they were alright. In that way, she reminded me of my own ma. She can sound mean enough to shake you right outta yer boots, but I know it’s generally for my own good.
* * *

Read the rest of the story and more in Tales of a Texas Boy.
Tales of a Texas Boy is available in Large Print paperback for $8.99 on Amazon. It's also in ebook format on Amazon ($2.99) or $0.99 if you buy the paperback. And if your family or friend has vision issues beyond the help of large print (as my father did), the audio book is available at audible.com for only $6.95 and only $1.99 on Amazon if you buy the ebook.


Saturday, May 27, 2017

In Honor of Flying Horses

HORSEFEATHERS

That archaic term means something is unbelievable, nonsense, hogwash, bull puckey.

What does that have to do with myth and legend? Flying horses, of courses. In legend, Pegasus is a gorgeous black horse with ebony wings. Feathered wings. This has been the tried and true formula since Grecian myth. From the Encyclopedia Mythica:
Pegasus
In Greek mythology, Pegasus is the winged horse that was fathered by Poseidon* with Medusa. When her head was cut off by the Greek hero Perseus, the horse sprang forth from her pregnant body. Percy Jackson’s father does get around. A lot.

I’ve never been convinced that a winged horse would also have feathers. In “Setara’s Genie” I introduce not one, but two! flying horses.

Hasib the Sultan’s Horse

Setara finds a talking, flying, fire-breathing horse named Hasib hiding in her father’s stable. He’s trying to look casual, but Setara notices that he’s whistling and hiding his head in the corner of the stall. Highly suspicious behavior. When Setara approaches, an eagle flies through the stable at head height scaring the horses, including Hasib. He levitates a foot into the air and spits fire out of his mouth, setting the hay on fire.

Setara rushes to the rescue and beats out the flames. She and Hasib have a little chat while he explains that he’s a cross-blood horse, mostly horse, but just a wee touch of dragon blood. This means he can fly (without wings) and breathe fire. However, he’s not very good at either talent. Setara helps Hasib gain control over his magic.

Not exactly Nasreen, but a flying
horse from 1001 Arabian Nights.
Nasreen the Non-Feathered Winged Flying Mare
With the dragon attacking the Sultan of Semidor’s palace, Setara and Basit have got to get off that mountain fast. Basit gives wings to Setara’s mare, Nasreen. But we all know that horses don’t have feathers, so Nasreen’s beautiful wings are covered with the same lovely hair as the rest of her body. The little mare takes to her new appliances immediately, carrying Setara to the Sultan’s Palace to save Hasib.

There we have it. Two flying horses, but not a one with feathers.


EXCERPT

At the far end of the corridor, she saw Hasib with his head stretched as far as he could through the stall window.

Here. I’m here!” Hasib slammed his front hooves against his stall door. Basit was within reach of the stall. “The groom locked me in and then ran off. I have to get out. I’ve heard Azhi Dahaka is here, and he’s burning people!”

Not taking time to use magic, Basit fumbled with the latch and swung the stall door open. Hasib stepped out, immediately turned left and trotted down the long corridor to the outside door. Basit, Setara, and Sheik kept pace with him.

What will you do?” Basit asked.

I’ll have to fight him, I’m afraid. I’m the only one who can. The blood of Azhi Dahaka runs in my veins.”

The four reached the door and stood looking up at the awesome figure of the dragon demon spouting flame. People ran screaming in all directions. The soldiers were having no luck with their arrows. Trying to shoot straight up to Azhi’s perch on the tower slowed the arrows too much to do any good. The barbs bounced off the dragon’s tough scales with no effect.

Setara saw a crossbow lying on the ground, probably discarded by an escaping soldier. She picked it up. A few feet further on, she saw a quiver with bolts. She grabbed it, too. “Let me on your back. I’ll go with you!”

Basit reached for her arm. “No! I cannot allow you to come to harm.”

She twisted away and jumped on Hasib’s back. “Let’s go, Hasib!”

The flying horse sprang into the air. He needed no wings since he flew by magic. To Setara’s surprise, Nasreen took flight beside Hasib. Setara admired the mare’s bravery but wished she could tell her to go back.

Basit also took flight. Setara knew he wouldn’t let her face Azhi’s flames alone. She hoped he knew some spell to protect her and Hasib from the spouting fire. Glancing at him, she saw the familiar look of concentration on his face when he was making up a new spell.

As the two horses and the djinn soared upward, some people stopped in their tracks to stare. Setara almost laughed. As if a dragon demon perched on the palace tower wasn’t enough, the sight of a winged horse, another flying horse with a girl on his back, and a genie was more than they could stand. Those who were not already running away from the tower decided now would be a good time to do so.

The ground around the tower was littered with fallen arrows and men. Some brave souls attempted to save the wounded men. However, the flames were pouring down so fast they had to weave and dodge to reach them.

She gripped Hasib’s mane with one hand and worked to load a bolt and get the crossbow in position with the other. It wasn’t working, so she let go of the mane, gripping tight with her legs. She didn’t even think about looking down. Her whole attention was focused on the roaring demon wrapped around the tower. They flew directly into the path of its flames.

Hasib fought back with flames of his own. However, he was much smaller than the dragon, and his flame was not big enough to have any effect. Setara fired a bolt toward Azhi, but it fell far short. “We’ll have to get closer!” she yelled over the roaring of the dragon. Hasib spiraled upward, taking a path around the tower. Azhi twisted his body to face the flying horses, the clearest threat to him.

Setara managed to reload the crossbow and turned the winch to draw back the bolt. She held the crossbow up, aiming along its shaft. The dragon demon’s head reared up directly in front of her. She fired. The bolt shot through the air, hitting the dragon’s head. It seemed to stick for a moment, then fell off. Setara groaned. She didn’t think she’d get another chance.

My blood!” Azhi Dahaka cried out. Setara looked to see if the bolt had done some damage, but she couldn’t see even a scratch on the dragon’s shining scales. Of course, while Hasib circled and soared, getting a close look wasn’t easy.

She saw Nasreen turn in mid-air and begin to circle the tower in the opposite direction from Hasib.

Good girl!” Setara called out. The mare was exposing herself to distract the dragon’s attention away from her and Hasib. The dragon twisted toward the mare and drew his head back to spray flames at Nasreen.

With the dragon’s attention elsewhere, Setara loaded another bolt into the crossbow and pulled it back. Hasib drew his legs up and shot toward the dragon. As he brought her next to the dragon’s side, Setara loosed the bolt. It bounced off his scales to no effect.

Azhi Dahaka’s snake-like head whipped around toward Hasib. His eyes widened as Hasib halted in mid-air right in front of the dragon’s nose.

**** and then what happened? Read the book to find out.


Friday, May 26, 2017

In Honor of Ships of the Desert

THE CAMEL is an extremely minor character in the book, "Setara's Genie." It's just a bit part, so the poor guy doesn't even have a name.

The camel is known as the ship of the desert and is one of the most common draft animals in the middle east. A 1001 Arabian Nights style story like Setara's Genie must have a camel somewhere in the mix.

In one chapter, Setara is attempting to learn to ride a camel. She doesn't see the purpose since she had a perfectly wonderful horse, Nasreen.

We looking in from the outside know something Setara doesn't. A tradition of the Sultan of Semidor (the area in which Setara lives) says young girls coming to a marriageable age (sixteen) ride into the city on the back of a pure white camel. Sort of a Debutante Coming Out Party.

Setara doesn't add two plus two and realize that the ceremonial arrival marks her as a woman ready to be wed to some merchant or even the Sultan's son (who's in the market for a bride).

The spice girl, Najda, who is the listener to Abu Nuwas's tales about Setara, is in the same predicament. She's on the verge of a forced marriage to an old man. As a fourth wife, she knows she will not be treated very well by wives 1, 2, and 3. But she's stuck in a society which gives her no choice on her potential bridegroom.

This all comes back to the camel Setara must ride the camel to display herself as a possible member of some man's harem.

Excerpt

Setara screamed and flung herself from the saddle. “Ow! Ow! Stop! Whoa! Stop!” She dropped six feet, right on her tailbone, screamed again, and burst into tears. Setara’s faithful companion, Sheik, ran circles around her, alternately barking at the camel and whining at his mistress.

Dukak, the camel driver, rushed over and grabbed the dromedary’s reins. He tapped the big camel’s knee, and the beast obligingly folded its long legs. On his knees, the camel turned his head to face the crying girl. He drew his head back then snaked it forward, spitting a huge wad of cud between Setara’s shoulder blades.

Mistress, you should wait for the camel to kneel. You fell from so high, no wonder you are hurt.” The camel driver pulled out a handkerchief and plucked the wad from her back.

Setara stopped crying and struggled to her feet. Dukak offered his hand, but she ignored him. She glared at the camel, which continued chewing his cud. “He stinks, too!”

Are you injured?” Dukak’s brow furrowed with concern.

Not much,” Setara said, rubbing her abused backside. “A horse is a much finer means of transportation, Dukak. I fail to see why I need to learn to ride a camel. They sway and bounce around too much and that saddle! Why is it made of wood, not padded leather?"

Dukak ignored her question and waved his hands as if fending her off. “It’s expected, Mistress Setara. Women must enter the sultan’s palace grounds on the back of a pure white camel. So it is written, and so it shall be.” Dukak spoke as if this explained it all.

* * *
Setara's Genie is available in ebook and print formats on Amazon and on Smashwords in all ebook formats. Name your own price at Smashwords.

A girl, a genie, a few demons. What could go wrong?





Thursday, May 25, 2017

In Honor of Jackasses

In have only one book featuring jackasses. Hm. Maybe there are some human jackasses, but in this case, I'm talking about the equine variety. Same book has mules, too. And horses. And cattle. And... yeah, lots of animals.


The star of "Tales of a Texas Boy" (KU/KOLL) is a kid named Eddie growing up on a farm in West Texas. The notion there'd be plenty of critters in these tales isn't too hard to swallow. Let me see. Eddie loved animals so when he told me his stories to write up for him, the stories that came to his mind almost always had an animal featured. Let me think here (and cheat by looking at the book) to give a list of the animals Eddie included in his almost-true tall tales: jackrabbits, rattlesnakes, horses, mules, cattle, coyotes, fish, bears, hogs, dogs, hens, eagles, sheep, mammoths (of the elephantine variety).

From TALES OF A TEXAS BOY (Lare Print Paperback), I introduce you to Bucephalus, a mammoth jackass, bought at auction by Eddie's Pa.

The Auction Excerpt

There weren’t no beef cattle for sale, as they are sold in herds not one animal at a time. They did have milk cows, though. Pa and me was looking over a Holstein, just about the biggest cow I ever did see. The auctioneer went from pen to pen auctioning off the animals.

The crowd of buyers followed him around and bid on the ones they wanted. When they got to the Holstein, Pa and me were already in the pen inspecting the cow. The auctioneer come into the pen and pushed on the cow to move her aside. The cow stepped right on my foot. I didn’t think it polite to yell out, so I just tried to shove on the cow to get her to step off.

“You move aside, boy,” the auctioneer said.

“Yessir. I’m tryin’ to,” I answered.

Pa walked around from the other side of the cow and saw I’m stuck, so he gave the cow a big push so she’d step off’n my foot. I’m glad I wore my cowboy boots or she woulda broke my foot for sure. I decided I’d stay out of the pens from there on out.

The auctioneer bid up the cow and she went for the nice price of thirty-five dollars. The bunch of us moved on to the next pen. Pa and I watched as they sold off a heifer, then a nice-sized sow.

After awhile, we reached the pens where they stabled the mules. I knew Pa wasn’t interested in the mules as we breed them ourselves, so we just waited through the bidding until it got to something interesting.

We came to an empty pen and we all walked by. Then, another empty pen and we moved on past that one, too. Finally, we came to the end of the line of pens and lined up in front of the one holding an animal. There weren’t a single horse, cow, mule, or pig within three pens of the one where we found ourselves at last.

I looked in and my jaw dropped like a rock. There stood the biggest, blackest, and meanest looking jackass I ever did see. Two men were holding lead ropes tied to his halter. His head was up and he was puffing his nostrils as he stood there stiff up against the back of the pen. The lead ropes were stretched to their fullest and the two men didn’t look too happy to be in the pen with this critter.
He were at least eighteen hands, so he was near as tall as Pa. His head reared up another three feet. Maybe you’ll think I’m exaggeratin’, but I swear it’s the truth. He was the biggest Mammoth Jack I ever did see.

The bunch of men standing outside the pen were mumbling to each other and looking at the auction book. Pa was holding a copy, so I asked for it and read about the farm he come from in Georgia and other such information.

The auctioneer started up, “What am I bid for this fine jack?”

“Ten,” I heard from the other side of the crowd. All a sudden, the jackass reared up against the ropes and one of the men holding him got flung up on the fence. The other one dropped the rope and scrambled over the side of the pen.

The Jack threw his head down and went for the man who was on the ground. The beast’s mouth was gaped open and he was clearly trying to do some serious damage. Men outside the pen jumped up and grabbed the hands of the man in the pen and jerked him right out. The Jack reared up and slammed his front hooves against the side of the gate.

Crack! The gate splintered and the Jack came tearing out. A brave man grabbed hold of the ropes but he just got hauled behind the jackass like he was no more’n a sheet flyin’ in the wind. Another in the crowd with some presence of mind opened the gate across the alleyway and the Jack went into the next pen. A bunch of the fellas slammed the gate shut.

“Aw, c’mon folks, this Jack is only four years old. He’s worth a lot more’n that. Who’ll give me fifteen?”

Nobody said anything for a bit, then Pa held up his auction card and said “Fifteen.”

The auctioneer pointed at Pa and grinned. I believe he thought the bidding was just getting started.
“Do I hear twenty? Twenty. Twenty. I’ve got fifteen. Who’ll give me twenty?”

Nothin’ but silence.

“Gentlemen, I can’t believe you won’t bid on this fine animal. Just look at the hip on this outfit. He weighs in at over fifteen hundred pounds.”

The auctioneer looked around at the silent crowd. He tried one more time.

“He’ll be a fine stud. Your mules will be big, strong fellas. C’mon now, I’ve got fifteen. Give me seventeen, seventeen. Alright, give me sixteen.”

It didn’t do no good. The crowd figured any jackass that could break down a two by twelve board gate was more’n they wanted to deal with.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

In Honor of Eagles 3

These posts are supposed to be about eagles, so how does a giant fit into the story. In "Bad Spelling (Book 1 of the Witches of Galdorheim)," the main character and her brother are on their way to the hall of the Mountain King and run into a cranky jotun (rock giant). A few eagles show up to assist the kids. Bad Spelling is on Amazon in Ebook and Print formats. Or, go get a free copy at Smashwords.

First, however, here's some information on jotuns.

Grind Your Bones

Giants aren’t the most popular neighbors. They tend to be a little selfish, keeping golden-egg laying geese and magic harps to themselves. In Norse mythology, a giant called a jotun (or J├Âtunn) is literally made of ice or stone (depending on the season, I guess). Frost giants are far more popular in games and fantasy books. They got a big screen treatment in the movie, "Thor," and the uncoming sequel. We discover that Thor's brother, Loki, is half-jotun. There’s just something chilling about a giant made of ice. Since the scene which has the jotun is spring, I went with the stone giants. They could also use the press.

Originally, in Norse mythology, the jotuns live in Jotunheim (well, duh!). The Encyclopedia Mythica (http://www.pantheon.org) says:

Jotunheim is one of the nine worlds, the homeland of the frost and rock giants. Situated in Midgard, on the middle level of the Norse universe, Jotunheim is separated from Asgard by the river Iving, which never freezes over. It lies in the snowy regions on the outermost shores of the ocean. Mimir's well of wisdom is in Jotunheim, beneath the Midgard root of the ash tree Yggdrasil.

I’m not much more enlightened, but who doesn’t love a big, bad giant roaring in to cause havoc? When Kat and Rune meet up with the jotun, she finds that her ability to communicate with animals grows stronger the further away she travels from Galdorheim Island.

Excerpt from Bad Spelling:

The path was clearly magical. The foliage, although wild and unkempt, glowed with greenery and flowers. Giant mushrooms, some the size of dinner plates, sprouted under the bushes. Birds twittered in the trees. Kat ducked as a bumblebee as big as her fist droned past her head on its way to another blossom. Here it was spring, just like on Galdorheim under the shield.

Kat pulled off her parka and draped it over her knapsack. Rune soon did the same, even though his tolerance for extreme temperatures was usually much higher than Kat’s. They were strolling along, enjoying the warmth, the flowers, and the buzz of the bees, when Kat looked up to see an eagle riding an updraft in a lazy circle above them. “Look!” Kat pointed. Rune glanced up at the bird.

“Interesting…not! C’mon, Kat, it’s just an eagle,” he replied.

Kat looked down at her feet and mumbled, “I thought it was interesting.”

A few moments later, Rune stopped abruptly, holding up his hand.

“Shhh! Do you hear something?”

Kat listened but heard only chirps and buzzing. “No, but your hearing is better than mine.”

Rune turned slowly in place, trying to home in on the sound. Kat watched, puzzled.

The hillside by the path trembled then heaved upward. Dirt and rocks flew through the air. The shaking earth knocked Kat backward. She plopped onto her behind with a yelp, ducked her head, and covered it with her arms to fend off flying gravel. Peeking out from beneath her upraised arms, Kat's eyes widened, and her mouth dropped open. In front of her, the shaking earth rose and unfolded. Then a monstrous glob of rocks and dirt rose higher and higher into the air. Two huge boulders blinked at her. Kat screamed. A gaping mouth appeared beneath the eyes, and a monstrous nose jerked and wriggled its way to a place between the eyes and mouth.

Rune grabbed her arm, jerking her to her feet. “It’s a giant! Run! Run!”

Kat sprinted after Rune, who quickly outpaced her, as the giant continued to grow and take shape from the rocks and earth. Kat risked a quick glance over her shoulder. A horrendous, rocky fist swung in a downward arc, its target appallingly clear. She tried to force her flying feet to move even faster, hoping to outrace that ponderous, clenched hand. She looked up to see the eagle plummeting downward, its wings folded against its sides. Kat aimed a thought at the eagle. “Help me!” The eagle flared its wings and stopped abruptly in midair. It then turned and flew away. She was disappointed but not surprised when the eagle left. No use. She picked up her feet and raced after Rune.

Vultures standing in for eagles since eagles don't flock.
A wild, high-pitched screech split the air. Kat looked back again. She gasped in surprise, stumbled, and almost fell. Flailing her arms and digging in her heels, she managed to stop upright. She stared with unbelieving eyes as a flock of eagles, dozens of them, circled the monstrous form. The birds dived at the thing’s head, distracting it from its intended victims—her and Rune.

The giant swung its huge hand, batting at the eagles, trying to drive them away. The big raptors easily evaded the lumbering blows. Kat watched as the eagles dove again and again, buffeting the creature’s head with their wings, pecking at its eyes and threatening with their outstretched talons. She wondered how they could possibly hurt stone eyes, but the giant seemed to think they could. It shriveled downward, shedding rocks and dirt as it collapsed. Down and down it went, melding back into the earthen hillside that spawned it.

The eagles flew in a wide gyre around the hillside, preventing the giant from reforming. One of the birds veered away from the flock and flew down to Kat. It landed gracefully on a boulder beside the path. Folding wings and settling feathers, it cocked its head and regarded her with a fierce, yellow gaze.

“Thank you,” Kat gasped, fighting to catch her breath. “Thank you so much!” The great bird dipped its head in what could only be an acknowledgment. Then it spread its wings, uttered a soft “Kkkreeeee,” and launched itself into the air, climbing away with long, powerful beats of its wings.

Rune shut his open mouth and then gasped, “You did it again! Do you believe me now?”



Tuesday, May 23, 2017

In Honor of Eagles 2

In my fantasy worlds, animals are rather chatty at times. In Setara's Genie, an eagle hawk with a bad attitude, shows up a few times. Sometimes, he can be helpful. Most of the time, he just criticizes what everybody else is doing.

Sulawesi the Eagle

Sulawesi shows up when Setara is setting out to assist Hasib (the Sultan's flying, fire-breathing horse) when his mate, Habiba, is stolen by pirates. Setara and her friends soon learn that Sulawesi is the servant (he says "invaluable assistant) of the Great Vizier. His task is to watch over Hasib to make sure he's safe. When Hasib has left the confines of the Sultan's stables to find Habiba, Sulawesi follows the stallion surreptitiously. If, of course, you think surreptitious means scaring the Hasib into short flying hops accompanied by pitiful sparking flames. We never said that Hasib was a successful flying, fire-breathing, talking horse, only that he had these skills embedded in his DNA. It takes a genie's boot in his behind to force Hasib to fully take charge of his magical skills.

Setara's Genie is on Amazon in both ebook and print formats. If you need another efile format (and want a cheaper ebook), you can get it at Smashwords.

Excerpt

Basit held the eagle upside down by his legs and gave it a shake.

“Squawk, skreak, urk!”

The genie shook the eagle one more time. The eagle turned a beady eye upward. “All right. Just put me down, you big lummox.”

Basit inverted the eagle and set it gently on the ground. The eagle ruffled its wings and preened the right one a couple of strokes before turning its attention back to Basit. “You caught me fair and square, I guess. I suppose I can’t complain.”

“So, eagle, why are you following my friends?” Basit asked.

“If you must know,” the eagle replied, glancing around at the group, “I’m supposed to be watching out for Hasib. So far, he hasn’t landed into any bad scrapes, so I just watch. If he gets into trouble, then I will help him get out.”

“And you’re doing this why?” Basit asked with suspicion in his voice.

“The Great Vizier sent me, of course, balloon face. He doesn’t want to see his investment harmed.”

Hasib snorted. “What do you mean investment? The Great Vizier hasn’t paid much attention to my welfare in the past.”

“Not that Great Vizier, jackass, the vizier who created your bloodline.”

“Isn’t he long dead? That was hundreds of years ago,” Hasib exclaimed.

“Oh, viziers come and go, but they seldom really die. They have to move on after so many years with a sultan, or people begin to wonder about them–whether or not they are immortal. Well, they’d be close to right. Only a few viziers exist, and they go to a different sultanate every thirty or so years to keep up appearances.”

“That’s a relief!” exclaimed Hasib. “I thought you were an agent of the thieves attempting to stop me from looking for Habiba.”

“Even so, why would the vizier care about Hasib?” Basit asked.

“Because of his talents, of course. The vizier still hopes that Hasib, the last of his line, will be able to control the fire breathing and flying. The Great One does not give up easily.



Monday, May 22, 2017

In Honor of Eagles 1

I like eagles. I've spent a little time up close and personal at the Wild Raptor Center located in Eugene, OR. It's for rehabilitating and releasing all sorts of raptors including eagles, hawks, owls, and other predatory birds. If you're in the area, you should go visit.

Eagles appear in at least three of my books. Most likely, they got at least a passing reference in a couple others. Today, I'll feature the book with "eagle" right in the title. 

Eagle Quest - MG/YA Adventure Listed $8.99 at Amazon for Print, $2.99 for the ebook. If you want to pay less ($1.49) or get a different file format, then go get it at Smashwords.

Set in the Klamath Wildlife preserves in Southern Oregon, this book is about the Bald Eagle flyout area in Bear Valley. Yes, we have Bald Eagles like they were pigeons in the park around Oregon. And we're danged proud of our big birds. The cover shot was taken by Coralie, a professional wildlife photographer and my long-time friend. See her work on her website at http://www.mrsroadrunnerphotography.com/

Book Blurb:

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.

Want an excerpt?

“Hey, you guys!” Billy called out, “Look up ahead.”

“What is that?”

“It looks like feathers. Maybe they’re eagle feathers.”

As the kids walked nearer the pile of feathers, their smiles dropped away as they could discern the body of the large bird. There were feathers scattered around the body, but someone had removed the wings and cut the talons from the legs.

“Oh, man. That’s disgusting. Did something get it, like a bear?” Billy said as he looked down at the remains of the large bald eagle.

“No, it wasn’t an animal. Look at how they removed the wings. Done with a knife,” Mitch said through teeth gritted in anger at the desecration of the beautiful bird.

The stood in silence, looking down at the pitiful remains.

“Should we take some feathers?” Billy asked.

“No. It wouldn’t be right. That’s not how you’re supposed to get your feathers. You find one on the ground because the eagle has left it for you. To do this...this is horrible, just wrong,” Mitch said, feeling tears brimming in his eyes. He gave them a quick swipe, but saw that Fiona’s cheeks showed rivulets of the tears she was shedding.

“Poachers. It has to be poachers,” she said through her tears. “We’ve got to do something.”

“We could go back to the old man’s place. He must know the people in charge and can contact them,” Hap suggested.

The others were nodding, ready to turn around and head back to the old man’s cabin.
Mitch stopped. “No. We should find the poachers first. The eagle hasn’t been dead very long. 

Look,” he said as he pointed toward the pitiful bird, “Blood is still seeping from where they cut off the wings. I think the poachers are close by. If we can find them, we’ll have more information to give the people in charge.”

The others didn’t look too excited about the idea of tracking down poachers.

“I think it’s enough just to tell them about the eagle,” Hap said.

“That’s fine. You guys go back to the cabin, but I’m going to find the poachers.” Mitch began looking at the ground around where the eagle lay.

“Footprints. They head off in that direction,” he said and started following the trail. The others looked at each other, then one by one followed Mitch.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

In Honor of Cats (both normal and fae)

CAIT SIDHE 

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 Celtic 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 Arthurian 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 used to have the model for said cat (in a much reduced size) sitting at my door every morning demanding a handout. We called her Bitch Kitty. Yes, she had attitude in spades. So, she's my model for Cait Sidhe, a companion to my erstwhile heroine, Kat.

In the third book of the Witches of Galdorheim series, Kat 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).

Excerpt from Scotch Broom:

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?” Kat 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.”

Kat and Sianach walked faster after Cusith, the dog’s trail marked by flying grass and water. When Cusith finally stopped, Kat 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,” Kat called out. Cusith turned his head toward her, tongue lolling.

“I won’t. It’s not food.”

Kat 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!” Kat 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 Kat 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. 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.”

* * *

SCOTCH BROOM: Book 3 of The Witches of Galdorheim
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.

At Amazon in ebook and print.
At Smashwords (all ebook formats). Name your own price, including free.


Thursday, May 18, 2017

In Honor of Orcas

Not All Tall, Dark, and Handsome Heroes are Human

Heroes don’t need to be human or even a sexy male alien. When a witch’s power is speaking to animals, a hero can turn up anywhere, even in the middle of an icebound arctic sea.

In the Witches of Galdorheim series, Katrina the teen witch, has the ability to speak with animals. She doesn’t even know she has this ability until she leaves her home, Galdorheim Island. Since the island is somewhere in the middle of the Barents Sea above the Arctic circle, leaving home isn’t a walk in the park. Crossing iced over water in bitter cold weather is hard enough, but when the ice starts to break up and some dangerous creatures appear, it becomes a life-threatening situation. Kat and her brother, Rune, confront an angry and sleepy polar bear. He wasn’t in the mood to chat.

Fortunately for the kids, a HERO appears. Just because he happens to be an orca (killer whale) makes him no less heroic.

I’ll let the whale tell his own tale.

Salmon the Orca Hero

Chchchchch skreak! That be hello in human people talk. My name be Salmon Hunter because I so good hunting the fish. My friend Kat Witch call me Salmon.

When I meet her for first time, I save her from a white tooth she say human people call polar bear. This first time, I save Kat Witch from sinking too deep in the ocean. I think she should learn swim better, but I not blame her since she without fins or flukes. Funny thing the whitetooth awake. Should be in den this season. Too early to wake up. I think some bad magic wake him up to kill Kat Witch. She says that's truth. A shaman, she says.

Other times I save Kat Witch when she in trouble. All these savings written in books, but I never learn to read human words. Besides, books get too wet in the ocean. Soon fall apart.

The others of my pod don't speak to Kat Witch. They be what human people call stuck up. Think they're too good to speak to her. I think it best thing ever! It like getting new toy. Orcas love play. Spend most of time hunting, but playing is important too.

She a lucky Kat Witch to have me be her friend. I think she die many times if me doesn’t save her. She say I be her hero. Me say I’m just Salmon Hunter, the smartest and best looking killer whale in the seas.

Someday I visit Kat Witch home. It island named Skeckkeeech. It mean witches’ home. It way north and hard to find, but Salmon can find anything! Salmon is a hunter, after all. Here be part of the story showing me saving Kat Witch's life for first time.

Excerpt from Bad Spelling

Over the cracking and groaning of the ice breaking up, Kat heard a loud chitter, and then a high-pitched whistle. She stopped so suddenly Rune ran into her. Catching him before he fell, she moved him to one side and turned back toward the orca, her eyes wide with surprise.

“What did you say?” she asked.

“Chchchchch skreak!” the orca answered.

Rune looked at the orca; then his sister; then back to the orca. He leaned close to Kat’s ear. “You understand it?” he whispered.

Kat nodded, edging back to the orca, careful of her footing on the slippery ice.

Kakkakakkak cheechee,” the orca screeched.

“Thank you. I didn’t think the bear seemed very friendly either.”

Kat looked over at her brother, who stood staring at her open-mouthed. “Better shut that, little brother, before your teeth freeze.” Her eyes sparkled with delight. Rune closed his mouth and zipped the hood up over his face.

In a muffled voice, he exclaimed, “You can… You really can talk to animals!”

“Excuse me a moment, Mr. Orca,” she said to the big dolphin. She turned to Rune, her face lit up with a delighted grin. “I guess I can. But why so surprised? You were the one who suggested I could.”

Kat turned back to the killer whale. “I think it’s because he,” she nodded at the orca, “is a highly evolved being. At least, that’s what he’s telling me.” After a pause, Kat giggled and said, “Must be why you can’t understand him, Rune!”

Rune slapped a glare on her then suppressed a smile. “Very funny, Kat. So funny, I forgot to laugh.”

She chatted happily with the orca when several more huge black and white heads popped up through the gaps in the ice. Rune and Kat had to step back again as the ice splintered with sharp cracking sounds.

“Back up, Kat, back up,” Rune said. For the first time in her life, Kat heard fear in Rune’s voice.
“You don’t need to be afraid.”

“I’m not. At least, I’m not afraid of the whales—”

“Orcas.”

“Orcas, then. It’s the ice breaking up. We could get dumped in the water.”

As if saying it made it true, the ice split once more. The crack exposing the frigid sea raced toward Rune and Kat. Before they could get traction to run, the ice floe created by the splintering tipped up and both of them fell into the water.

Kat’s parka filled with the icy water, and she sank. The sudden, intense cold knocked the breath out of her. She tried to claw her way back to the surface, but the weight of the parka kept dragging her down. Looking up, she could see Rune above her, thrashing toward the air. Blackness clouded the edges of her vision, and her struggles weakened.

Strangely, Kat felt warm. This is nice, she thought. Her arms floated out from her sides as she sank deeper.

Something big and black came up under Kat, and she rose up through the frigid water. She reached out with one hand and grasped a rubbery fin with all the strength she had left. The orca pushed her to the surface and shoved her out of the water. She landed face first on the ice.

About the Book

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?

Buy Sites: Ebooks 
Free on Smashwords (all ebook formats)

Blurb:

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.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Happy Constitution Day, Norway!

Today (yesterday from my Oregon POV) Norway comes together to celebrate syttende mai (17th of May), the anniversary of the signing of the Norwegian constitution. Norway is a Constitutional Monarchy. King Harald V has competed in several Olympic Games (in sailing). Like Queen Elizabeth II of England, King Harald has a symbolic and representational role as sovereign. Parliament makes the laws. Even a king knows his place in a democracy.
Although Norway didn’t become fully independent until 1905, the Eidsvoll agreement of 1814 was nevertheless a pivotal moment in Norway’s history, declaring Norway independent from Denmark. Just a few months later an independent union with Sweden began, so celebrations to mark the constitution were muted for years to come.