Pick up Fractured: essays on love, friendship, and the nightmares in between on sale now at Smashwords.
The sale only runs until 3/13, so don’t wait too long. (There are others on sale, too.)
Check out more #OneLineWednesday posts
Pick up Fractured: essays on love, friendship, and the nightmares in between on sale now at Smashwords.
The sale only runs until 3/13, so don’t wait too long. (There are others on sale, too.)
Check out more #OneLineWednesday posts
Don’t you love it when entirely disparate bits come together and spin themselves into a whole book?
This scene from my fantasy romance BLOODSTONE began as a scene for a graduate class in creative writing. I don’t remember the exact prompt, maybe someone doing something in nature, but I called on an experience my father had recently related.
In midlife, my father was recruited to join a 2-week expedition to Alaska to work a gold claim. Being a midwestern high school geography teacher and retired military officer, roughing it to pan for gold was catnip to him. Over the years he made several return trips to the Alaskan bush. His tales of working the dredge and panning the residue to find garnets and gold flakes, accompanied by a slide show and tiny sample vials, were the topic of many family get-togethers.
Ah-ha, I thought. I can write about that. But I didn’t want to deal with the dredge; I wanted something more historical, solitary, and focused on the act of panning. A scene with a man panning isn’t much of a scene without some sense of conflict and resolution, so I added a mountain lion. Ah, danger! Then I drew on my own experiences in the mountains of Colorado and Montana (I hadn’t yet been to Alaska.) and created the setting. Done. Handed it in, plus other work, and aced the class.
Then…I couldn’t stop thinking about that scene, that man and lion, that idea of gem-hunting. In a wilderness. A strange and unfriendly wilderness, filled with danger. And magic. And a gem that wasn’t merely a gem. A man, haunted by a memory, in search of redemption. And thus, BLOODSTONE was born.
What if looking at the face of the man you loved meant death?
Years ago, warrior Durren Drakkonwehr was cursed by a mage. Now feared and reviled as the Shadow Man, he keeps to himself, only going to town to trade rare bloodstones—petrified dragon’s blood—for supplies. Though he hides his face, he can’t hide his heart from the woman who haunts his dreams…
Needing bloodstones for a jewelry commission, Mirianna and her father journey across the dreaded Wehrland where the beast-men roam. When their party is attacked, only the Shadow Man can save them. Strangely drawn to him, Mirianna offers herself in return for her father’s rescue.
Living in the ruined fortress with the Shadow Man, Mirianna slowly realizes that a flesh-and-blood man—not a fiend—hides there in hoods and darkness. But are love and courage enough to lift the curse and restore the man?
The stone glinted, a red-black clot amid the usual sand-and-pebble slurry in the panning dish. The man peering at it through the eyeholes of his face-covering sucked in a breath.
At least fifty-five grains, said the Voice in his head. Enough to be quit of this place.
Only if it proves true. He closed his eyes, mastering his breathing, until his hands steadied and his concentration focused. Then, with deliberate care, he tilted the dish. Water dribbled out, leaving only quartz chips, flecked granite, and sand particles clustered around the thumbnail-size stone.
With a gloved fingertip, he nudged the stone from its sandy nest and rolled it into the center of the dish. Perfectly oval. He blew out a breath, fluttering his face covering. Color and shape—good. There was but one more test. His gut knew the stone was true, but his gut had fallen for an illusion before, and he had to be sure.
Pinching the stone between thumb and forefinger, the man picked it up. Blood hummed in his ears, but his hands were steady as he set the dish aside on a flat rock. He placed the stone in the center of his gloved palm and pushed out of his mind all thoughts of what a find like this could mean. This was the Wehrland after all; nothing was ever as it seemed. With another breath, he stretched out his arm and opened his hand and its contents to the sun.
When only the black glove warmed, his muscles tensed. This is taking far too long. It’s not—
The stone flared into translucence, transforming his palm into a pool of deep, glossy red. “Bloodstone,” he breathed.
“Let Ulerroth find the flaw in this,” he announced to the gray horse grazing on the opposite bank. The animal’s ears flicked, but it did not raise its head.
Before he could close his fingers, could tuck the stone safely away, spears of scarlet light burst from the bloodstone, slashing red across the solid black of his tunic and sleeves. Without thinking, he stared at it. Into it. And the world shifted, wrenched itself inside out, and went dark…
He saw himself crouched, as always, in a rock-hewn tunnel lit by a distant torch while smoke oozed from crevices around a massive oaken door. Tendrils spiraled upward, feeding a thick yellow haze overhead. He coughed. Sweat dripped from his hair, stinging his eyes. The sound of rushing footsteps brought him swiveling to his feet, shield up, heart pounding. His fingers gripped the hilt of the ancient double-edged Sword of Drakkonwehr, where the large bloodstone embedded in the intersection of hand guard, blade, and hilt glowed softly, a dark, deep red…
In the meadow, in the late afternoon sun and fresh mountain air, the man snapped shut his fist, sealing the stone inside, quenching its fire, stopping the nightmare before it began. Again. If only he’d moved faster to secure the gem.
He inhaled a cleansing breath, clearing lightheaded specks from his vision, before he focused his thoughts on the stone, hot in his gloved palm. “Some fool will pay a pretty price to dangle this between his whore’s breasts.” His fingers tightened at the image, but he forced them to relax. He would trade with Ulerroth, as usual. Nothing else.
I’m beyond such needs. He stared at the trampled moss between his boots. I have to be…by now.
Your dream woman would disagree, said the Voice in his head. Or don’t you remember her in the daylight?
He did, all too vividly. She was not the form of woman that usually filled his dreams when this body—this cloaked and hooded shell—grew hungry, but one particular woman whose face had begun taking form a scant two months ago—as soon as he entered the Wehrland. That his mind had conjured a complete stranger disturbed him as much as the vision itself.
All the more reason to leave as soon as possible, said the Voice in his head.
On the bank above, his horse shook its bridle and huffed.
“Steady, Ghost.” Rising from his crouch, he followed the animal’s pricked-ear gaze. At the edge of the upland clearing, a stone’s throw away, a large, yellow-gray shape slipped through mottled shadows. “It’s only that she-lion again.”
He dropped the gem into a pouch at his waist. Climbing to the top of the bank, he watched faint movements of foliage as a Wehrland lion traversed part way around the clearing’s edge. When it reached a spot upstream of the man, it paused in a pool of sunlight and stood, black-tipped tail twitching, and rubbed its cheek against a sapling.
The man snorted. “Don’t think you’re fooling me, she-cat. I’ve been watching your every move, too.” Two mornings ago he’d first noticed the huge feline lying on a sun-drenched outcrop overlooking the stream he was panning. It had done nothing then, nothing but watch him collect garnets, gold dust, and jet. He’d seen it in the afternoon, too, a flash of yellow-gray glimpsed between bushes. And at night, the scream and the sudden flare of cat’s eyes—too close—while Ghost plunged at the end of his tether. He’d brought the horse nearer and slept with his knife beside his hand. Today, the animal had followed him here.
Being stalked irritated him. Almost as much as traveling this far into the Wehrland for a handful of gems.
“Go fill your belly elsewhere,” the man said, stooping for a rock to throw.
The big cat dropped into a crouch. Flattening its ears, it stared.
The man froze in mid-reach. His mind told him something else had startled the lion. His senses, reporting over the sudden roar of his blood, told him the animal’s gaze was fixed on something beyond him. Under his hood and face-covering, the back of his neck prickled and he listened.
Bees still hummed in the clover near his boots, but the meadowlarks had ceased their calling. His hand moved stealthily toward the knife at his belt.
At the scrape of gravel, he spun. The Krad was on him in a split second, a dark blur of matted fur. The man had only enough time to dodge the down-swing of the creature’s flint blade, to pivot sideways and thrust his own knife upwards. His knuckles hit ribs, and he jerked the weapon back. The beast-man crashed into the panning dish, flipping it into the stream. A few stones followed the dish down the bank to the water’s edge.
The man whirled, but the mountain meadow behind him was empty of anything more threatening than a quail flushed from a blackberry bush. He spun back to the creature lying in a heap on the stream bank. Its mouth was open and spittle clung to the furred chin. Under heavy brows, deep-set black eyes stared at nothing. The flint knife had broken, but the man still kicked the pieces away from fingers caked with dirt. One scratch, one nick from even a fragment of the poison-smeared blade was enough to kill, and even though the creature looked dead—
The stench hit him full in the face. “Filthy, stinking Krad!” Leaping to the stream, he plunged his gloved hand and knife into it and scrubbed away every trace of the beast-man’s blood. He had been lucky. This was the first Krad he’d encountered since entering the Wehrland, and this one was alone. Grabbing his panning dish and gear, he mounted his horse. Where there was one Krad, there was sure to be a pack.
Helen C. Johannes writes award-winning fantasy romance inspired by the fairy tales she grew up reading and the amazing historical places she’s visited in England, Ireland, Scotland and Germany. She writes tales of adventure and romance in fully realized worlds sprung from pure imagination and a lifelong interest in history, culture, and literature. Warriors on horseback, women who refuse to sit idly at home, and passion that cannot be denied or outrun—that’s what readers will find in her books.
Author Central: https://www.amazon.com/Helen-C-Johannes/e/B003JJDQWS
Contact email: email@example.com
I learned something new on this #MusicMonday – There is more than one version of Money (That’s What I Want). I don’t know why I’m surprised, but there you have it.
Before I get to that, though, 4 of my books are on sale at Smashwords, if you’re interested in picking them up: Anatomy of an Excuse, Using Images to Create Basic Storylines, Fractured: essays on love, friendship, and the nightmares in between, and Weeping Ash.
Anatomy, Images, and Fractured are 25% off their regular price, while Weeping Ash is free. The sale lasts until March 13th. Click on over
Now… back to the regularly scheduled program. Which version do you like best? I can’t decide…
Who was your first book boyfriend/girlfriend?
My very first book crush was Legolas from The Lord of the Rings. I started reading really, really early, and thought elves were the most amazing beings. Now that I’m older, I’m all about Aragorn, though.
What is the most interesting topic you’ve researched?
One of my series features a serial killer who is killed by one of his victims as she’s escaping. That wasn’t the end of him, though (because paranormal romance). I needed to know what would happen to his body when the dust settled. Would he be buried in an unmarked government grave? Cremated? Could his family claim his remains (there were reasons one of them would want to)? I was sure researching this would get me on at least one watch list, and was bemoaning my fate to another writer friend. Lucky for me, at the time she was working at a mortuary science library and had just finished cataloguing a series of articles on a very similar subject. She was able to tell me everything I needed to know, and I didn’t have to fill up my search history with…unsavory subjects.
What is your favorite book, song, and/or movie guilty pleasure?
My favorite guilty movie pleasure is the Baywatch movie starting Dwayne Johnson. It’s hilarious and I absolutely loved him in that role. When I tried to tell my husband about some of my favorite jokes, he just stared at me like, “Are you serious right now?” I’m still trying to get him to watch it!
You’re trying to find a brand-new author to read. No recommendations allowed. What’s your decision process?
I definitely judge books by their covers, which has burned me a few times before. There was one series with the most amazing artwork, and I kept buying them and trying to read them just because I liked the look of them. Finally, my husband asked me if I’d heard of the expression, “Throwing good money after bad,” and I stopped picking them up. I gave them to a friend who loved that author’s writing style, so that was a win! Now I’m a little more focused on the blurb and if I’m still on the fence, I read the reviews. Reviews are so important!
You have to move somewhere you’ve never been. Where would you choose to go and why?
I would choose to move to Japan, preferably within walking distance of a café that has cats, street food vendors, and some really great sushi places. I love Japanese cuisine and culture, and have been working on learning the language off-and-on for several years.
What are your favorite and least favorite words? (in any language…)
How do I say this here… So I write romance, and I don’t use metaphoric prose usually. But there are certain words that I really don’t like using in certain scenes, and those words are pretty commonly used and even expected in my genre. I also have to keep in mind that the characters I’m writing don’t have the same opinion of these words as I do, and I want to stay true to their internal (and external) voices. What I usually do is use the words I like, and then do a global replace if it’s appropriate. That has led to some interesting typos…
What is the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done while sober?
The “while sober” part of this is easy, because I so rarely drink. I even had someone ask recently if I drank wine, and I said, “I’m trying to start.” I need my brain active to catch all the story ideas that come up! It’s the “adventurous” part that’s hard. I’m a stay-at-home type. When I was a kid, I used to play search-and-destroy in a swamp near our house in Florida. There were poisonous snakes and alligators and all kinds of bugs and reptiles. I’m not sure if I’d call that adventurous or foolhardy, though!
Would you ever jump out of a perfectly good airplane?
Not unless I absolutely had to.
White chocolate, milk chocolate, or dark chocolate?
Dark chocolate, always. And lots of it!
Which movie without a sequel needs one? Which movie should have never had a sequel?
The A-Team movie with Bradley Cooper absolutely needs a sequel. I loved that movie so much! The prologue felt like an entire movie experience to me, and then I got to enjoy a whole other adventure! In terms of movies that shouldn’t have had sequels, it has to be Highlander. After watching the sequel, I had to ask myself if the people who made it had ever seen the first one.
If you could witness any event past, present or future, what would it be?
I’m a perennial optimist, no matter how hard it can be. So, I’m going to say, I would want to witness the future moment when Earth unifies into a single, egalitarian government, where everyone’s basic needs are met, the environment is treated with respect, our resources are managed in an ethical and sustainable manner, and humankind finally achieves their ultimate potential of working together in harmony. (This is where I expect my most popular optimistic Scifi Romance series to land eventually.)
If you could speak a second language, what would it be and why?
Japanese. I have several favorite anime (Japanese cartoons) that I’d love to be able to watch without subtitles or dubbing. Cardcaptor Sakura is my all-time favorite, and I’m always ready to argue the point that Li Syaoran has one of the greatest character development arcs ever.
What is the most unusual conversation you’ve ever had?
This is another hard one. I’ve had so many unusual conversations. There was the time I tried to explain to my preschool teacher that I was an android from the planet Mars sent to Earth to observe humans (one of my earliest memories—she had no idea what to do with me). Or the time I described a bunch of different creative ways you could write about assassins trying to kill people to a woman who slowly backed out of the room while staring at me in horror (I used to watch lots of 007 movies with my dad growing up—I guess she…didn’t). Or trying to convince my husband to have a traditional Klingon ceremony for our wedding. There are too many to choose from!
Spiders, friends or foes?
It depends on the species. I adore jumping spiders. They’re so cute! Growing up in a new development in Florida (meaning that the animals were not ready to leave, and there was still lots of undeveloped land right next to our lot), I would occasionally wake up to find giant spiders on my pillow. That is not how you want to wake up. We moved to Kansas when I was sixteen, and the teeny, furry jumping spiders were such a change, I found them cute. They’re also really curious, and will watch you and kind of wave the little feet under their eyes at you. And yes, I know I’m anthropomorphizing them. We all need hobbies.
What is one motto or philosophy you consistently live by?
“There’s plenty of awesome to go around.” I love helping people and try to do what I can for others. I’ve encountered people who seem to want to hold onto knowledge or potential possibilities, seeing others as competitors for limited resources instead of fellow living beings sharing the same world. I just can’t do that. If I help someone and good things happen for them because of it, that’s to be celebrated!
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Cassandra-Chandler/e/B00V5713T4
Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/cassandrachandler
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/CassChandlerAuthor/
Facebook Reader Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1562856810451659/
Twitter Author Page: https://twitter.com/CassChandler
USA Today Bestselling author Cassandra Chandler uses her vivid imagination to make the world more interesting, spawning the ideas she turns into her whimsical Science Fiction romcoms and darkly evocative Paranormal and Urban Fantasy Romances. Fast-paced and funny, lighthearted or dark, her stories will introduce you to characters you want to be friends with and worlds where you’d like to build a vacation home.
If you want to talk to her, head over to Twitter (@CassChandler), Facebook (CassChandlerAuthor), send her email at AuthorAtCassandra-ChandlerDotCom, or, of course, leave a review. Remember to sign up for her newsletter (cassandra-chandler.com/newsletter) to receive exclusive content!
The Wild Rose Press Website: https://www.thewildrosepress.com/books/yours-truly
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/yours-truly-k-j-pierce/1126326413
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Welcome NYT/USA TODAY Bestselling Author S.E. Smith for this week’s Tell Tale Tuesday.
Characters that Reflect Real Life
By S.E. Smith, NYT/USA TODAY Bestselling Author
There are times when you have met, or know about, someone that is larger than life. It is hard as an author to ignore what a great character they will become in a story. Can you imagine Mark Twain writing about Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn without either reflecting on his own life’s adventures or about someone he knew? Me, neither!
Since the beginning of time, storytellers and authors have used the people they meet and the things they see and experience to create characters who stand out. I have many different fictional characters who are a reflection of real people. One of my most memorable is Riley St. Claire from Denver, Colorado from my story Choosing Riley.
Everyone has met a Riley. When she walks into the room, people gravitate toward her. She lights up the room with her smile and her personality. In my story, Riley is a plus-size bail bondswoman who embraces her feminine curves, loves to dress stylishly, and has an acid tongue that she welds with precision. Her heart is as huge as her purse, and she has learned how to disable her fiercest opponents with a smile and some pepper spray.
My character is loosely based on my best friend growing up. My friend lights up the room when she enters. Her hair is perfect, her purses have everything including the kitchen sink in them, and she was a kick-butt bail bondswoman who could bring in the bad guys with a siren’s whisper of her Southern drawl. While Riley ends up in outer space dealing with aliens and living a fantastic adventure with a certain, clueless cat-shifting King, she is the embodiment of my friend.
When you hear the old saying that fiction often imitates life, it isn’t far from the truth. Whether it is Ms. Riley St. Claire from Denver, Colorado serving up a hilarious adventure in outer space or Ariel Hamm with her menagerie of animals, there is always a hint of real life hidden among the pages of my stories. If you are looking for a wild, laugh-out-loud adventure, check out Choosing Riley and discover that not all Science Fiction Romance stories are the same!
A smart-talking bailbond’s woman and an alien king clash in a hilarious battle of the sexes while on the run. All’s fair when it comes to love!
“Choose!” the tall creature growled out loudly.
Riley cleared her throat before turning to the stick-figured alien dwarfing her. “Choose what?” she asked, unable to hold back the slightly crazed giggle that had been threatening to escape her.
She giggled again at finally making the creature’s blank face break into a frustrated scowl. The creature slowly fisted its clawed hands before its shoulders actually drooped.
“Choose a male,” Antrox 785 said wearily.
Riley raised her perfectly arched eyebrows at the creature before turning to look at the selection of men who had been paraded in while she had been reflecting on how her attitude might have played a part in her present predicament. She had been watching haphazardly as a different female—at least she thought they were female—had been led to stand where she was now.
She was told—in a rather rude manner if you asked her—that she was being given the last choice because of her being so disagreeable, unpleasant, and downright ugly. She had, of course, taken it all in stride until the last comment and had to be restrained again after she‘d punched the stickman guarding her in what she hoped was his balls. Whatever the creatures had under their tunics, it laid the guy out cold.
Now, she was staring at one eight-foot-tall glob of green, oozing snot, something resembling a two-foot, two-headed lizard, and three six-foot-four or more drop-dead gorgeous hunks. Riley’s eyes widened. If it wasn’t for the fact that she was thirstier than hell, so she didn’t even have the capacity to produce enough spit, she would have sworn she was drooling.
She could tell by their build and their eyes and maybe the markings on their arms, chest, and shoulders, oh and did she mention their sharp teeth as they growled at the stick-alien, that they weren’t human, but man-oh-man did they look yummy! Riley thought dreamily for a moment before perking up again.
“What happens to the males that aren’t chosen?” Riley asked curiously, never taking her eyes off the three males.
“They will be used as food,” Antrox said with a frown. “Choose! All mated males will be kept to work in the mines. Mated males are easier to control as they are protective of their female. Now choose your male!”
“What if I don’t want to choose a male?” Riley asked sarcastically as she turned to face the tall creature next to her. “What if I don’t feel like choosing a male? What if I don’t even like males?” Riley added.
Right at that moment, she honestly believed she might not ever like any male ever again! After all, it was men who had started this whole hateful series of events starting with her no-good, dim-witted boss. Now, this overgrown toothpick expected her to just pick one of the bastards and mate with him?
That is so seriously not going to happen. Restraints or not, I will beat the shit out of any guy who tries to mate with me, she thought fiercely.
She wasn’t going to mate with any alien, no matter how cute they looked. She had watched enough science fiction movies to cure her of ever wanting any alien booty! What if those things decided to do some body snatching or exploding out of her? A shudder went through Riley at the thought.
Antrox 785 looked back and forth between Riley and the men on the platform below him with a confused expression on his face. “Why would you not want to choose a male? You are female! All of our data points to you being the weaker of your species and in need of a male for protection.” Antrox looked from the males back to Riley again. “Why would you not like males?”
Riley let loose a slightly hysterical laugh. Okay, maybe she was still just a little terrified. “Why don’t I like males? Now, that is the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question, isn’t it? How about we go get a bottle or two of your strongest booze, get good and drunk, and I’ll tell you why I don’t like males anymore!” Riley’s voice was growing louder with each word. “Let’s start with you!”
You can find Riley’s story at the following distributors:
S.E. Smith has sent along a fun coloring sheet to go along with Choosing Riley! Download it now! Choosing Riley Coloring Sheet
S.E. Smith is an internationally acclaimed, New York Times and USA TODAY Bestselling author of science fiction, romance, fantasy, paranormal, and contemporary works for adults, young adults, and children. She enjoys writing a wide variety of genres that pull her readers into worlds that take them away.
One of these days I’m going to share the story of why “Strangelove” by Depeche Mode is one of my heartsongs – and how it’s connected to the one time I met Depeche Mode and made a complete idiot out of myself in front of Martin Gore, who’s my man (Ha!).
In the meantime, it’ll work to tell you that this is one of those songs that always reminds me that no matter what happens – not disagreements or fights or headbutting – I am lucky enough to have people who love me and who will always have my back.
So, enjoy “Strangelove” today and know that no matter what, there are people who love you and who will always have your back.
This edition of #ThreeForThursday is so weirdly perfect for this week. Mostly because I’ve been saying it all. Dang. Week.
So, join me, won’t you? 🙂
And just for S&Gs, here’s a bonus
What are some wtf things you’ve seen or hear of recently?
I think getting caught in the rain and having to sit in the car or make the mad dash inside is fairly universal… 🙂
(and now I have Rupert Holmes – Escape (The Piña Colada Song) stuck in my head… join me won’t you? You’re welcome… lol)
Read more about Yours Truly and find he purchase links
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I can’t remember whether “Welcome to Paradise” or “Headhunter” was my first introduction to Front 242 – I also couldn’t decide initially which one to go with today, so I closed my eyes and pointed. Obviously “Welcome to Paradise” won… 🙂
Both songs, however, bring back some great memories – I’d moved down to Florida after high school and didn’t really know anyone. It took me a little bit. I first met Beverly McClellan (who you might remember from the first season of The Voice and who unfortunately passed away since – she was an amazing talent). We lost touch early on, and so I lay no claim of being friends after 199o or 1991. Through Beverly I met LF, who’s one of my best friends to this day. And both told me about JE, who I met after walking the neighborhood day after day waiting to catch a glimpse of him. (You didn’t often catch all black-wearing freaks out during the summertime heat in Florida… and I use “freaks” and an absolute term of endearment.)
It was JE who started me down the clubbing road – back before I even had a job and had to pay my first cover charge with rolled up change – and by extension the introduction to Front 242.
So, here’s to JE!
Happy Monday, y’all!
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