Cover reveal: Two new books coming over the next three weeks



I’ve told you about Echoes, my new Lei Crime Kindle World mystery featuring FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm. This full-length novel appears on May 12, and I think it’s my best mystery, yet.

But two weeks before then, one week from today, on Thursday, April 27, a new Sydney Rye Kindle World adventure launches, too: The Three-Way, featuring your favourite, scruffiest, most irresistible and stubbornly independent secret agent, Van Freeman, along with his mysterious, ingenious partner, Earl LeBrun—the characters I introduced in Jet: Stealth, and featured again in The Wife Line.

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In The Three-Way, Van and LeBrun take on Daesh, also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.  Van, as usual, gets himself in way over his head. How he gets out has delighted beta readers so far.

Characters from the Sydney Rye universe created by Emily Kimelman include the smooth businessman and all-round enigma, Robert Maxim, as well as the Kurdish woman warrior from The Girl with the Gun, Mujada Taib.

Here’s a short sample

Chapter 2: Meet Van Freeman

Van swallowed the last of his espresso when he heard a voice that exuded confidence bordering on condescension. “Well, if it isn’t Van Freeman.” 

Deep, assured, relaxed. Van twisted toward the back of the café, nearly falling out of his chair. A tall man who looked to be in his late fifties sat in a chair against the wall. He leaned back, one ankle on the other knee, a hand on his raised thigh and his other holding an espresso cup. He had short brown hair, cut expensively, with silver at the temples. He wore dark travelling pants, a khaki-colored shirt and a light grey blazer that appeared to be poured onto him. 

Who is this guy? He wasn’t sitting there when I sat down. How did he get in without my noticing? Van thought. 

“Heyyy,” he said, smiling broadly. “Wow. It must be … How long since we’ve seen each other? And what brings you … Here, of all places?” He felt a tingle as the short hairs on the back of his neck stood up. He controlled his breathing and kept smiling. Without moving his eyes from the strange man, he scanned the room with his peripheral vision, looking for other threats, possible allies of the strange man and fastest escape route.  

“Relax, kid,” the stranger said, gesturing toward the chair across the table from him. “You’ve never met me, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with your memory.” 

Van moved so the table was between them. “Then how do you know my name?” 

“You stand out, especially here: a six-foot surfer dude with blond hair past his shoulders, and no beard. You’re hard to miss.” 

“That doesn’t explain how you know who I am.” 

“I read the report that Sydney Rye wrote.” 

Van’s chest tightened. He breathed out slowly. “Sydney wrote a report about me?” 

I have several people to thank for helping me get this book out so fast: my wife, Roxanne, for putting up with long silences as I wrote this furiously over a month; my elder son, Evan, for inspiring the character of Van and polishing his dialogue so it seems more realistic for a Millennial; Roger Eschbacher, Gary Henry and Joy Lorton for advice, insight, editing and proofreading; and Emily Kimelman for inviting me to the Sydney Rye Kindle World, and for creating the characters of Sydney, her dog, Blue, Bobby Maxim and Mujada Taib.

If you’re willing to leave a review on the Amazon page on release day, email me at contact@writtenword.ca and I’ll send you an advance review copy.

 

 

A sneak peek and a big giveaway just for you



Do you remember songs that made you think, “This tells a story that would make a great book or movie”?

There are a few from my youth that made me think that. Songs with great music and lyrics that evoke a story that echoes in my mind for decades.

So I finally did something about it—I wrote Echoes, based on two of those songs from my youth, songs whose lyrics immediately gave me a plot and gripping scenes.

A new Lei Crime Kindle World novel—yes, this time it’s a full-length novel—featuring FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm, Echoes will be published on Amazon on May 12.

And I’m giving you a free sample, and a chance to win not only the full book when it comes out, but all of the Vanessa Storm e-books:

Torn Roots by Scott Bury

PTAS-800x500 Dead Man Lying - 529x800

What it’s about

Echoes is different from all my other books. Yes, it’s another Hawaii mystery featuring Vanessa, several characters from Toby Neal’s Lei Crime series, drugs, crime and action, there are several chapters that describe Vanessa as a young woman in her senior year of high school, and her first serious romance and her coming of age.

How to get your free sample

All you have to do is subscribe to my email newsletter, which comes out roughly four times a year so you won’t be drowning in Scott Bury emails. To do that, fill out the form at the top of the right-hand column of this blog and Click Subscribe.

Once you confirm your subscription, you’ll get a link that will allow you to download the prologue and first chapter of Echoes in the format of your choice: .pdf, .mobi (for Kindle e-readers) or .epub (for all other e-readers).

Of course, you can unsubscribe at any time—even immediately after downloading the free sample. But then you won’t get advance information about my new writing projects before everyone else, nor new contests and giveaways.

How to win four free e-books

Read the introduction and deduce which two rock songs from the 1970s Echoes is based on. There are plenty of clues in the text. Some of it is in the descriptions of Vanessa at 17, some of it in the depiction of her boyfriend and his homies. And some of it is in the dialogue, interior and spoken, of the characters.

There. That’s enough hints. Want more? Read the introduction.

When you think you’ve figured it out, send your response to me by email: contest@writtenword.ca. Every correct entry gets the four free ebooks, and one will also win a signed paperback of my first novel, The Bones of the Earth.

And if you have thoughts or questions about some of the hints, leave them in the Comments section.

Good luck!

 

A new book walks closer



Cover-WOOW-500x800 (1)Walking Out of War, the third book in the true-story trilogy about Maurice Bury, the Canadian in the Soviet Red Army in World War two, launches in two days. I’m excited. It’s already received three excellent early reviews that you can read on Goodreads. and I’m giving you another free taste of what’s coming.

There are going to be several special online events on and around launch day:

  • Army of Worn Soles, the first book of the trilogy, is FREE on Amazon from February 21 to 25.
  • Under the Nazi Heel, the second book, is on sale at 99 cents for the same period.
  • launch event on Facebook will feature giveaways of electronic and print books from the trilogy as well as other works.
  • A blog tour will feature excerpts and images from Walking Out of War. Watch this space for details and links.

And now, your taste of Walking Out of War:

Donbass, summer 1944

“How did you learn to break down a rifle so quickly?” the drill sergeant asked.

“I grew up on a farm,” Maurice answered. “You have to have a gun on a farm.”

“A shotgun, yes. Not an automatic rifle. I come from a farm, too,” said the drill sergeant. He was a small man with a round face and earnest brown eyes.

Maurice shrugged, hoping the sergeant would not hear his hammering heart. “I guess I’m just a fast learner.”

The sergeant’s eyes narrowed, but he moved on to the boy beside Maurice, who was fumbling with his weapon. “Get that magazine back together in the next sixty seconds or you’re on double guard duty tonight!”

I have to be more clumsy. And more careful, at the same time, Maurice thought.

Compared to his experience as an officer three years earlier, this training camp for soldiers was brutal. In August 1944, the Red Army had reached the outskirts of Warsaw and was within sight of the Gulf of Riga. They had pushed the Germans out of Russia, Ukraine and Belorussia and were throwing every man they could find into the drive to destroy Hitler’s Germany.

In June, the Red Army had launched Operation Bagration. Two million men, thousands of tanks, heavy assault guns and airplanes, attacked in a coordinated series of attacks along a front that stretched from Estonia to Romania, accompanied by 220,000 trucks from the U.S., with tanks and guns from Britain, tonnes and tonnes of food and ammunition from the West. In two months, they pushed the Germans out of Belorussia.

The Soviets annihilated the German Army Group Center. Hundreds of thousands of German soldiers were killed, wounded and captured, including thirty-one generals—a quarter of the German strength on the Eastern Front gone in two months.

The Red Army’s losses, while not as severe, were still huge: 800,000 casualties, including over 180,000 killed and missing.

What Walking Out of War is all about

Ukraine, 1944: After the Soviets burned the Ukrainian city of Ternopyl to the ground to crush the stubborn Nazi occupiers, they rounded up every remaining Ukrainian man around for the Red Army’s final push on Germany. Maurice Bury, Canadian citizen, Ukrainian resistance fighter and intelligence officer, is thrust once again into the death struggle between Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s USSR.

Fighting across the Baltics in the autumn of 1944 is tough and bloody. Then the Red Army enters Germany, where they’re no longer liberators—they’re the long-feared Communist horde, bent on destruction, rape and revenge. The Communists are determined to wipe Nazism from the face of the earth. And the soldiers want revenge for Germany’s brutal invasion and occupation.

Maurice has determined his only way out of this hell is to survive until Nazi Germany dies, and then move home to Canada. But to do that, he’ll have to not only walk out of war, but elude Stalin’s dreaded secret police.

What the early reviewers are saying 

“Full of heart and indomitable spirit”—Joy Lorton 

Walking Out of War is a well-written and powerful read, and a difficult one. The violence and war crimes are startling, and Bury, being a master at his craft, effectively paints mental pictures. He doesn’t linger on vile acts, however; he isn’t gratuitous. But he is a vivid writer and skilled at choosing the right verbs and adjectives to bring his prose to life, where the reader can visualize scenes as if watching them on film. “—Elise Stokes 

“A very compelling read.”—Frederick Brooke 

You can pre-order Walking Out of War for a special price until launch day.

Walking Out of War: the countdown begins



Walking Out of War, the third book in the true story trilogy about the wartime experiences of a Canadian in the Soviet army, launches on Febraury 22—a little more than a week from now. You can pre-order it for a special price, exclusively on Amazon, and it will download to your Kindle account automatically.

In the meantime, here’s a taste:Cover-WOOW-500x800 (1)

The Red Army returns

Nastasiv, Ukraine, August 1944

Maurice stepped outside onto his mother’s front doorstep. He lit a cigarette, drew a lungful and turned his face upward. He closed his eyes to exhale and savoured the feeling of the sun on his face. It felt like the first day of peace after his nightmarish journey from Kalush.

We have to find somewhere else for Maria to stay. People will notice two extra residents in this house, and we don’t want anyone to ask questions. 

The air smelled sweet with hay and growing sugar beets. He looked out at his mother’s fields. They’re doing well, he thought. We’ll have a good crop this year. He crouched, digging his fingers into the rich black soil. He pulled a few weeds out from between the beets.

He stood again, leaned against the fence and closed his eyes. How much longer will this war last? Germany lost the war in 1941, when they stopped outside Moscow and Leningrad. Now they’re gone. And now, Ukraine has to fight Stalin’s USSR to be free.

The Soviets had pushed the Germans out of almost all Ukraine by the end of spring. In June 1944, they had launched Operation Bagration, which had swept the Germans out of Belarus and pushed them away from Leningrad. By August, the Red Army was on the Vistula River in Poland, and the Polish Home Army was fighting the Germans to control Warsaw. Meanwhile, the Americans, British, Free French and Canadians were penetrating deep into German-occupied France. Germany won’t just surrender, though. Hitler is too stubborn.

Maurice wondered about Ukraine’s chances of independence from the USSR. It would be a political question, he knew, dependent on the will of the countries of the West.

And Poland. A free Poland will claim western Ukraine, Russia the east.

Maybe I should go back to Canada when this is over.

Something clamped his left arm, and then something else grabbed his right. He looked up and felt cold terror when he saw the red stripes on the uniforms on the men holding him by the arms: NKVD, Stalin’s political police.

“Come with us, comrade,” said one as they pulled him toward a covered truck. They threw him in the back, where a handful of other fearful-looking young men sat on the floor under the watch of another soldier with a machine gun ready. The engine roared and the truck lurched. One of the young men fell face down as the truck jolted along.

Maurice knew what this was about. The Red Army needed more men to make up some of the incredible losses of men its victories brought.

Walking Out of War

Ukraine, 1944: After the Soviets burned the Ukrainian city of Ternopyl to the ground to crush the stubborn Nazi occupiers, they rounded up every remaining Ukrainian man around for the Red Army’s final push on Germany. Maurice Bury, Canadian citizen, Ukrainian resistance fighter and intelligence officer, is thrust once again into the death struggle between Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s USSR.

Fighting across the Baltics in the autumn of 1944 is tough and bloody. Then the Red Army enters Germany, where they’re no longer liberators—they’re the long-feared Communist horde, bent on destruction, rape and revenge. The Communists are determined to wipe Nazism from the face of the earth. And the soldiers want revenge for Germany’s brutal invasion and occupation.

Maurice has determined his only way out of this hell is to survive until Nazi Germany dies, and then move home to Canada. But to do that, he’ll have to not only walk out of war, but elude Stalin’s dreaded secret police.

“Full of heart and indomitable spirit”—Joy Lorton, reader and reviewer

“A well-written and powerful read”—Elise Stokes, Goodreads

“A very compelling read.”—Frederick Brooke, Goodreads

Walking Out of War is available for pre-order now on Amazon.

New release coming: Imperfect Harmony—a rock’n’roll romance



Imperfect Harmony Teaser #4House of Archer #1

By Raine Thomas

A few minutes into his wait, there was a knock at the door. Archer stopped his pacing and smiled, anticipating Lily’s arrival. His smile faded when Trey opened the door and carried in a large vase full of red roses. Archer knew that Lily found red roses incredibly clichéd, so he figured they couldn’t be for her.

“What’s that?” Archer asked as Trey placed the roses next to the pink plumeria on the dressing room vanity.

“A delivery for Miss Lily.”

“What?”

Archer didn’t pause for a moment to consider Lily’s privacy. He strode over to the elaborate arrangement and yanked the card off the plastic stick. It read, Here’s to launching your career, Montgomery. I love you and I hope you’ll say yes. XOXO, Wingerson.

By the time Archer read the rather girly XOXO sign-off, his upper lip was curled in disdain. It was all he could do to jam the card back on the stick rather than crumpling it up and tossing it into the trash.

He hadn’t considered the fact that Johnathan might do something romantic for Lily. What was up with using their last names in his message? It had to be some kind of inside joke or pet name. Archer didn’t like how that made him feel…like an outsider on the fringe of Lily’s life.

And what did Johnathan mean about Lily saying yes? Yes to what?

The unanswered question gave his already foul mood another punch to the face. Trey paused before going back out the door. He cleared his throat as if uncertain whether to speak. Archer waved at him to spit it out.

“Mr. Donovan asked when you intend to return to your green room, sir.”

Archer figured Christopher wanted to rehash the performance problems they’d had that evening. Not wanting to deal with it, he gave Trey a shrug. “Let him know I’ll get there once I’ve seen Lily.”

“Yes, sir.”

Trey gave him and the flowers a knowing look before stepping back out of the room. Archer followed his gaze to the roses and felt irrational anger building in his gut. He shook his head at himself and resumed his pacing. Why did the flowers piss him off so much?

You know why, he thought.

He knew it made him selfish, but he wanted Lily’s attention focused on him, damn it. He wasn’t prepared for serious competition for her affection. It hadn’t ever been an issue before. Encountering it now was throwing off his game.

He had to do something to get her attention, and he had to do it now.

The sound of laughter and voices reached him from the other side of the door. His heart started beating faster and he turned towards the door as it swung open. At least ten different greetings ran through his mind as he tried to decide what to say to Lily.

She walked in and her entire face brightened when she spotted him. All of the greetings faded from his thoughts. In their place rose a demanding need he’d never felt before, especially for Lily.

He met her halfway into the room and, as naturally as if they’d done it a hundred times, he pulled her against him and captured her mouth in a passionate kiss.

About Imperfect Harmony

This is a New Adult Novel appropriate for ages 16+.

Imperfect-Harmony_ebooksmA rock band. A reality show. The opportunity of a lifetime.

As the front man for The Void, lead singer Dane Archer has yet to achieve the success he craves. He hopes that will change when he’s approached about filming a reality show called House of Archer. All he and the band have to do is get some juicy footage while on their upcoming tour.

The problem? Archer’s life is a snoozefest. His parents are happily married, he’s never done drugs or gotten arrested, and he doesn’t get into fights with his band mates. He knows the show will fizzle and die before it ever hits the air, taking his dreams of worldwide fame along with it.

Unless…

If Archer can convince his best friend Lily to be on the show, he’s sure they’ll get all the compelling footage they need. Her life is filled with drama. Hell, she’s practically a reality show in her own right.

Archer’s willing to do whatever it takes to get Lily on board, even if it means charming her into being more than just friends. But when he finds himself falling for her, his seemingly simple plan gets complicated. Soon the line between reality and Reality TV begins to blur, leaving him wondering if achieving his dreams is worth all it might cost him.

PRE-ORDER THE BOOK FOR $1.31 BEFORE 1/31: 

About the author

Raine Thomas Headshot (small)Raine Thomas is the award-winning author of bestselling Young Adult and New Adult fiction. Known for character-driven stories that inspire the imagination, Raine has signed with multiple award-winning producer Chase Chenowith of Back Fence Productions to bring her popular Daughters of Saraqael trilogy to the big screen. She’s a proud indie author who is living the dream.

Raine is a hopeless romantic with a background in the fields of mental health and wedding planning…two areas that intersect far more than one would think. Her years working with children and young adults with emotional and behavioral challenges inspired her to create protagonists who overcome their own conflicts. When she isn’t writing or glued to e-mail or social networking sites, Raine can usually be found vacationing with her husband and daughter on one of Florida’s beautiful beaches or crossing the border to visit with her Canadian friends and relatives.

Raine loves to hear from readers! You can connect with her here:

And follow her on Twitter @Raine_Thomas.

Best post-writing tip: Use Styles



Want to publish your writing more efficiently? Make sure you use the Styles function built into your word processor when you write your manuscript.

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Wikipedia

I have just finished editing or proofreading two manuscripts by fellow authors in Independent Authors International. And while both are excellent novels, both were just typed in, with all formatting applied individually to each chapter title.

This is inefficient. I took the time to apply Styles from the word processing program. This has three main effects:

  • automating the production of a table of contents, required by some e-book publishing platforms
  • ensuring chapter titles, sub-headings and body text remain consistent
  • making it faster to make changes and convert your word processing file into e-book format.

It’s easy to do, and there are lots of extra functions that make the whole process even easier, and it really pays off in the re-writing, editing and publishing processes. Here’s are my favourite post-writing tips.

Styles in your word processing program

Microsoft Word is the word processing program I know best, so I’ll use it as an example. It’s also the most popular, and most other programs work in analogous ways.

For example, let’s say you want the title of each chapter to be in big, bold letters, centred on the page. Most people write the words, then format them with

  • typeface
  • size
  • case — upper/capital letters or lower-case
  • weight — bold or lightface
  • style — italic or roman, strikethrough, etc.
  • alignment — justified; flush left, ragged right; flush right, ragged left; or centred
  • colour

You can save all these characteristics in a Style in Word. Then all you have to do is select your subheading, for example, and then click on the Style in the menu. One click to set all those characteristics. Faster, easier and consistent.

There’s more you can save in a Style, though.

  • indent — for example, whether you want the first line of each paragraph to be indented
  • line-spacing — you can control how much space should appear above and below each paragraph, or chapter title, or heading or subheading
  • borders—whether you want a box or a border around the paragraph
  • Shortcut Key — you can even set up a Ctrl- or Alt-character for a swift shortcut to invoke your style without taking your fingers from the keyboard.

For example, I like to have each chapter start on its own page, with the first line of text about half-way down. So that means I want about 8 lines of space above the title, which in my case is 24-point Futura Medium, flush left.

Instead of hitting the Return key eight times before typing the chapter title, I set up a style I called “ChapterHead.” I wrote the first chapter title, defined it with the cursor and set it for 24-point Futura Medium, flush left.

stylesribbonIn Word, I selected the heading, then selected the New Style button from the Styles pane. (Click the tiny arrow that points down and to the right in the lower-right corner of the Styles section of the Home ribbon to open the pane. The button I mentioned is the bottom-left icon of that.)

That opens up a window called Create New Style from Formatting. This will show the type characteristics of the selected text: 24-point Futura Medium, Bold, flush left with single-line spacing.

stylesmenuNote the Format button with the little arrow in the bottom left corner of that menu. Clicking that allows you to choose different controls, including Numbering and Paragraph.

Paragraph is the next one to choose. Here, you can decide how much spacing you want between lines. It gives you choices like 1.5 and double spacing, but you can pretty much choose as much as you like, like 1.1 or 1.2 lines. That opens up the spacing between lines in a paragraph — what typographers at one time called “leading” (pronounced “ledding”). I like to set my display text, like headings, at single, and my body text at 1.1 or 1.2 because it improves readability.

So, to get my chapter title to begin half-way down a new page, under Spacing (third section of the menu), I set Before to 96 points. With 12-point line spacing/leading (1.1 spacing for 11 point type), that’s eight lines. On a 5 x 8-inch page, that’s about right. You can play with it until it looks the way you like.

After is 0, but in my case, I like to have a subheading, like this:

firstpage

I called the Subheading “Subhead,” and set it to be 14 point Futura Medium, bold, flush left with no space above, and 12 points or 1 line below.

And you may have noticed that the first line of the first paragraph of that chapter is not indented, but the next one is. That’s deliberate, but the subject of another blog post. (By the way, if you prefer to double-space between paragraphs, all you have to do is edit the style so that there is 6 or 12 points of space after the paragraph.)

Then, at the end of every chapter, I insert a New Section break. That forces the program to create a new blank page, and when I type the chapter title and set it for ChapterHead style, I get exactly that white space above it that I wanted. Easy-peasy.

In a future post, I’ll write about how to use Sections to help get exactly the format you want in your book.

Efficiency

The problem with doing all of this to each individual chapter heading, sub-heading, first paragraph and so on is that it’s time-consuming and, worse, invites errors. You could easily forget to add the right amount of space above or below the heading or to not indent the first line of text, or to indent every following paragraph.

Another advantage is that, if you want to change the typeface for your chapter title or subtitle, or the amount of indent for each paragraph of text, or any other characteristic, all you have to do is go to the Styles pane (or the ribbon), right-click on the style in question, select Modify, make the change, and the program will apply it automatically to every instance in your document, no matter how long.

There are lots of cascading benefits of using Styles intelligently. I’ll write about them in the next blog post.

Till then, happy writing!

Get your leash ready to walk the big dog — on Facebook



Get to more about your favourite books, characters and their authors

Sydney Rye and her big dog, Blue, are among the most popular characters in fiction today. They’re the stars of eight novels and one novella by their creator, Emily Kimelman, as well as six novellas by other authors in the Sydney Rye Kindle World — including me.

Sydney Rye has also shown up in the Jet Kindle World in Emily Kimelman’s It Takes Two. The popularity of these titles shows that readers love Sydney and Blue and can’t get enough of them.

And now’s your chance to get more. The authors in the Sydney Rye Kindle World have teamed up with Book Rhythm to bring you the Walking the Giant Dog Book Party.

Come to the Facebook book party next Monday, November 21 between 7 and 9 p.m. Eastern Time, where you can win books, gift cards and other prizes. Chat with Emily Kimelman and the other authors in the Sydney Rye Kindle World. Get to know more about Sydney, Blue, Mulberry, Dan, Merle and all your favourite characters.

Who’s going to be there?

Emily-author-photob648f-delshereegladdenJulie Gilbert 2013 (5 of 25)bev

And of course, you!

Be ready to answer some tricky Sydney Rye questions:

  • Other than Sydney, who’s your favourite character in the Sydney Rye Kindle World?
  • If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
  • What breed do you think most shares Blue’s personality?

You can post a picture of your “Blue” and win e-books and Amazon gift cards.

Come to the Facebook page now and click “Going” just under the top graphic.

See you then!

sr_unleashedWifeLine-final-smallCatalystCoverFatalInterestWOWalkSoftlyLargerNemesisCoverStrangeBehavior 600x900

Who are Sydney Rye and Blue?

Sydney Rye is a woman who remade herself — with a lot of help from Merle and Mulberry — as a strong woman, dynamic and determined person after a series of traumatic events told in the first book, Unleashed. Sydney is fit, blond with gray eyes and two distinctive scars on her face.

Blue has the body of a wolf but the size of a Great Dane, the markings of a Siberian Hustky, the long, elegant muzzle of a Collie and the instincts of a German Shepherd. Also, he has one blue eye and one brown. He’s taken a bullet for Sydney and saved her life countless other times over the course of eight books.

They appear in eight Sydney Rye novels by their creator, Emily Kimelman. Sydney and Blue also appear in Emily’s JET Kindle World novella, It Takes Two.

 

A Hallowe’en treat: A free short story



The Graveyard

A few years ago, I published a short story called “The Mandrake Ruse,” which is the first instalment in Dark Clouds, a novel that I would write as a series of episodes or short stories. The story of the witch queen and her son, the only man immune to magic, it became minor hit, which I followed with “What Made Me Love You?” This is the fourth chapter, which appeared on my old blog in 2012. For a Hallowe’en treat, here it is on this blog for you, my faithful readers.

Happy Hallowe’en!

Sundial Butte Medicine Wheel, Alberta,
photo courtesy travelingluck.com

“Did we have to arrive at sunset?”

“What’s wrong, Matt — afraid of the dark?” Julian turned off the ignition and let the clutch out at the same time, making the gears grind and the whole jeep shake.

“I have no reason to be afraid,” Matt said.

“I’m not afraid, either,” Teri said and got out of the back seat. Matt knew she had very good reason to be nervous about cemeteries, but she strode with long steps and swinging arms to the fenced graveyard, her ponytail swaying. The failing light made her brown hair look black. She pushed the waist-high gate hard as if she were picking a fight with it. Matt saw her jump just a little when the gate squeaked loudly, but she strode through, looking at headstones.

The driver’s door slammed shut much too loudly for Matt’s liking, and he scowled at Julian. But the pudgy warlock did not notice and followed Teri into the cemetery.

Matt twisted in the bucket seat and fumbled to get a flashlight from the bag in the back. Teri or Julian may not have needed one to see in the dark, but he did.

He pulled the satchel’s strap over his shoulder as he climbed out of the Jeep. He closed the passenger door as quietly as he could, but the clunk echoed off something he could no longer see. He felt tingly all over and walked as quietly as he could toward the fence.

The light was failing fast. He looked to his left, where the sun had left behind an angry red smudge along the horizon. He marveled again, briefly, at the prairie’s flatness. His thighs connected with something and he bit back a curse: he had bumped into the iron fence around the cemetery while admiring the sunset. He could now barely make out Teri’s slight form and Julian’s rounded silhouette among the headstones, but for a reason he could not express, he did not dare to turn on the flashlight. He groped until he found the gate and jumped, too, when it squeaked.

“What are we looking for?” he asked in as low a voice as he could when he came up to Julian.

“What?” said Julian, in a normal tone, which made Matt jump again. “Why so jumpy, man?”

“What are we looking for?” Matt repeated, a little louder. “And I’m not jumpy. I’m just trying to be careful, that’s all.”

“Careful? Careful of what? Who do you think is way out here in the middle of nowhere at dusk?”

“I don’t know, but neither do you. So let’s just be careful, okay?”

Julian shrugged. Just as Matt was about to ask “what are we looking for” again, Teri said, “I think this is it.”

Matt followed Julian to the darkest corner at the very back of the graveyard where a stand of trees, now almost completely bare of leaves, leaned over the back fence, casting a shadow that blocked out what little light filtered through the ragged clouds. Matt stumbled three times until Julian took his elbow.

Teri was looking at the trees. Matt had to shine his flashlight at the ground in front of her before he realized that there was no fence here; the trees marked the cemetery’s boundary.

Teri pointed to two whitish rocks on the ground in front of her. “Look at the inscriptions,” she said.

Even with the flashlight, Matt had to bend down close to see what she was talking about. On the rock on the right, he finally made out: “A bird?”

“A Thunderbird,” she said. “And look at the other.”

Matt moved the light. “A cross?”

Something about it bothered him. It was worn, yes, the way only crumbly century-old carved stone can be worn, but …

“Someone’s defaced the cross,” Julian said, his voice as low as Matt’s now. He was right: it looked like someone had scrawled some kind of carving tool across the symbol several times in an attempt to erase it from stone.

“Why would someone carve these two symbols in rocks on the ground, then deface one?” Matt said. He raised the light to see a gap in the trees, an opening to a path lined with a row of white stones on the ground on each side.

Together, Julian and Teri walked down the path marked by the white stones, drawn by something that Matt did not feel. He followed, afraid for and exasperated by his wife at the same time.

He shone the flashlight left and right. As they walked down the path between the white stones, the trees became more and more stunted, more and more twisted.

“These trees aren’t just bare for winter,” Teri whispered. She had to force the words out. She felt her throat constrict until it was hard to breathe in the chill air. “They’re dead.”

Julian snapped off a branch. “They’ve been dead for centuries.”

“Then why are they still standing?” Matt asked.

Teri had to stop and drag breath into her lungs. Julian was having trouble breathing, too.

“It’s a spell making it hard for you to breathe,” Matt said. He took his wife and Julian by the arms and pulled them along the path until their breathing became normal again.

Julian stopped suck air into his lungs. “It was a gateway spell,” he said. “Put there to convince anyone who’s not serious about coming here to turn back. We’re through the gate, now.” He tilted his head slightly. “Do you hear that?” he whispered. He started down the path again, a look on his face suggesting he was following a sound that Matt could not hear.

“What language are they speaking?” Teri whispered back. A sibilance drifted by her ear, words at the edge of hearing and comprehension. She followed Julian.

“Well, I don’t hear anything, so they’re not natural,” Matt growled. Julian and Teri didn’t slow down, so he added, “They’re supernatural.”

Teri and Julian still ignored him. Somewhere, far away, a coyote’s howl made the skin on the back of Matt’s neck tingle.

The moon disappeared behind a cloud and the flashlight dimmed. “Damn. I just put in fresh batteries,” Matt muttered.

Teri did not the same light to see that Matt did. She saw the trees shrinking, being replaced by dead bushes that merged into the prairie. She could see that the grass was dead, too.

Matt shone the dying flashlight around. White stones on the ground receded on either side in curving rows. “We’re in a circle.”

“It’s a medicine wheel,” said Julian. “I didn’t think there were any this far north.”

“What’s a medicine wheel?”

“They’re rings or circles marked in stone on the grasslands,” Julian said. “They were made by the Cree thousands of years ago on sacred or important sites all over the prairies. As I recall, there are more in Alberta than anywhere else. But I thought the northernmost was well south of here. I’ve never heard of this one.”

“How do you know so much about medicine wheels?”

“Shut up, you two,” said Teri. In the centre of the wheel was a cairn of grey stones, as high as Matt’s head, set on a patch of gravel and sand.

Matt caught her arm just before Teri touched the cairn. “Haven’t you noticed that everything here is dead?”

The flashlight went out completely. The wind whispered in Teri’s ear again, but she could not make out the words. It was maddening — she felt like she should understand them, as if she once had, but could not longer remember. The sound faded like a dream in the morning, then circled her head to come at the other ear.

“Can you understand what the voices are saying?” asked Julian.

“No.”

Matt fought to keep his voice down. “I told you, they’re not real!”

“They may not be natural, but they’re definitely real,” Teri said sharply. “Look, there’s another Thunderbird inscription on the rock.”

Without the flashlight, Matt could not see any inscriptions. “Just don’t touch anything,” he said.

Teri walked around the cairn, Julian at her side like a dog. “I’m afraid…” he said.

Teri stopped. “Me, too.” An unaccountable fear chilled her from the inside out. Both Teri and Julian began to tremble.

Julian fell to his knees. “Yes, yes,” he whined. “Just stop whispering.”

“It’s a trick,” said Matt. He pulled Julian to his feet. “It was one of my mother’s favourites. She used to do it to my dad all the time.” He put his arm around his wife’s narrow shoulders to quell her trembling. “Don’t worry. Nothing here can hurt you.”

“Nothing here can hurt you, maybe.” The weight of Matt’s arm chased some of the fear away. At least her hands weren’t shaking anymore.

“I won’t let anything hurt you.”

Teri shook his arm off her shoulders. “Matt, you may be immune to magic, but you’re not invulnerable.”

A gust revealed the moon and at the same time brought a new sound that did scare Matt: a deep growling that came from all around them, all at once, rising up from the hostile ground itself. The sound woke memories deep in the ancient, back of his brain, memories he never imagined he ever had, ancient, undeniable. His skin was suddenly covered in a thin layer of sweat from his scalp to his toes.

His eyes had adjusted to the moonlight. He could now see rows of small white stones radiating out from the central cairn to the stone ring, like spokes of a wheel.

“That’s why it’s called a ‘medicine wheel,’ said Julian.” Then he caught his breath as he looked beyond the ring. “Oh my, are those coyotes?”

Matt could not see past the rock ring, but the ancient part of his brain knew: “Those are wolves.”

Unconsciously, Matt crouched a little, feet seeking security on the dead grass, muscles loose, every sense alert. He felt as if he was confronting an ancient enemy.

Then he saw them with senses adrenalin-sharpened: wolves standing just beyond the ring of white rocks—at least a dozen, big, calm. None of the grey shapes had bared its teeth, but a constant growl came from the pack, steady as surf on a beach. Matt, Teri, Julian and the wolves all knew: there could be no escape for three humans from their oldest competitors.

“It’s time to get out of here, Teri,” said Matt.

“You’ve always said that wolves don’t attack people,” she answered, but she wasn’t looking at them — she seemed to be studying the cairn.

“What if these wolves don’t know about that,” said Matt.

“Look: something is missing,” said Teri, pointing at a spot on the north side of the cairn.

“Come on, Teri.”

“No, look — there’s a place for something there. This cairn, this whole medicine wheel, was made to hold something, and now it’s gone.”

Teri pointed to a flat spot half-way up the north side of the cairn. Matt couldn’t be certain in the dark, but Teri and Julian could see clearly a flat stone, obviously chiseled, and other carved stones arranged on three sides: a kind of stone box, almost like a trophy case in a school.

“That’s very interesting, Teri, but something doesn’t want us here,” Matt insisted. “Those whispers were a warning, and now they’ve sent the muscle!”

“I thought you were immune to magic,” Julian said.

“I’m not immune to teeth and claws.”

“Give me the drumsticks,” Teri said, holding out her hand but still looking at the cairn.

“Teri, never mind that — we’ve got to go, now!”

Teri just held out her hand like a queen, eyes intent on the cairn. Matt fumbled with the satchel’s flap and pulled out the decorated Cree drumsticks. The wolves growled louder.

“Matt, Teri, they’ve crossed the ring,” Julian whined. He grabbed Matt’s arm in both hands, and even Matt could see his wide eyes darting. “Come on!”

Teri ignored them. Matt wondered if she had been hypnotized — no, enchanted by the cairn. She carefully put the drumsticks on the flat stone in the side of the cairn. Immediately, the wolves stopped growling. They stepped closer, but they did not seem as threatening anymore. Matt took the chance to look away from them, toward the cairn.

The sticks’ placement on the cairn seemed somehow just right. Despite the presence of a pack of gray wolves at his back, Matt felt calmer when he looked at the sticks on the cairn.

“Matt, Teri, can we get out of here? Now? The wolves are getting closer all the time!” Julian whined.

The wolves had formed a semi-circle and stepped forward, closer, deliberately and slowly. To Matt, they looked calm, almost … well, not friendly, he thought. How could a wolf look friendly? Not immediately threatening.

“I don’t want them any closer than they are,” he said, and pulled Teri by the arm around the cairn, away from the pack and toward the trees.

“The path is gone,” Julian said.

They had entered the medicine wheel by a gap in the ring, but where the parallel rows of stones intersected the wheel, the ring continued, unbroken, around the cairn as far as they could see.

Pulling Teri by the hand, Matt stepped over the stone ring toward where he thought the path was. Teri fell back as if she had hit a wall.

“Teri, what the hell?”

She rubbed her forehead. Julian held his hands in front of him and pushed like a mime at a make-believe barrier. “Matt, we can’t get past the ring. We’re stuck in the medicine wheel!”

Matt stepped back into the ring, then out again, unhindered. “This is ridiculous.”

Teri shook her head. “We can’t get out, Matt. That’s what the gap in the stones was for.”

Matt ran several steps along the ring in one direction, looking for a gap, until he could see the wolves near the cairn. He turned and ran back in the other direction until he saw the wolves from the other side; no gap either way. He wrapped his arms around Teri’s slim body from behind and pulled. He could step over the stones, but as soon as Teri’s shoulder came even with the stone ring, he felt something stop her. He pulled harder until she cried out.

“It hurts, Matt!” She pulled out of his grasp and rubbed her shoulder.

Matt stepped back into the medicine wheel. “Okay, Teri, get us out of here your way. Can you take us back to the Jeep?”

Teri pulled off her jacket and dropped her pants. “We all have to be naked.”

As she unhooked her bra, Matt looked nervously at Julian.

“Don’t worry about me getting a cheap thrill from this,” said Julian, already down to his boxers. Every inch of his skin was covered with dark hair, even his back. “Now get your britches off.”

Matt scrambled to take off his clothes, feeling the chill of the October night. Teri lifted her arms over her head. Despite the situation, Matt could not help but watch her breasts rise as if to follow her hands up. She closed her eyes, concentrating on the transportation spell. Minutes went by; clouds shrouded, then revealed the moon. Teri’s brow furrowed, but nothing happened. She could not find the energy, the place where she had found the power before. “It’s not working,” she said.

“What’s wrong?” Matt wasn’t sure whether he should be afraid or relieved; he hated traveling by Teri’s spell.

“I don’t know. I cannot see the Jeep, or anything beyond this … this place.”

“I can’t help you, either,” said Julian.

Matt looked at Julian, at his wife, at the cairn. Were the wolves coming closer?

There was no flash, no bang, no smoke. One moment, Matt was looking toward the cairn; the next, a woman stood in front of him. It was hard to see her features in the dark, but she wore a toque with long tassels on the sides and what looked like a shawl.

Teri and Julian could see better than Matt: the colours in her woolen shawl, the beads, four bands thick, around her neck. She was young, beautiful, with smooth skin and long dark hair hanging from under her hat.

“What the hell are the three of you doing out here in the middle of the night, naked?” she demanded in the flat tones of a First Nations accent. “Didn’t you see the No Trespassing signs?” A wolf nuzzled the woman and Matt, Teri and Julian knew what she meant by “No Trespassing.”

Matt’s hands went in front of his crotch and he shivered. But neither Teri nor Julian was embarrassed to be naked in front of the stranger.

“I was trying to cast a spell,” Teri said, as if it were as common as “I was looking for my watch.” “Something is blocking me.”

“Why did you come out here to cast a spell?” the stranger asked.

“Who are you?” Matt demanded. He wondered if he should pull his clothes back on. He could barely suppress shivers, but would that be a sign of weakness in front of a stranger? Would he be vulnerable with one leg in his pants and one out if the wolf beside her suddenly rushed him?

The woman held his gaze for a long pause. “Who are you?”

“We’re from the government,” he answered. It’s not really a lie. He tried not to be obvious about looking for his clothes on the ground.

“Canadian government has no say here. This is Grizzly Bend Nation land. First Nation land. Nêhiyawahk land.”

“We brought back the sticks for the medicine drum,” said Teri.

You shouldn’t have said that. Too late, now, Matt thought. He remembered that they had left the drumsticks on the cairn, where they looked so right.

The woman in the shawl looked almost impressed. “Really? Who told you to bring anything here?”

“We put them on the flat stone on the cairn,” Teri said.

The woman disappeared, just as she had arrived: no flash, no smoke. Matt blinked and stared at the spot where the woman had been standing.

“Where did you find it?” she said from behind him. “How did you bring it here?” Matt turned and stumbled over his own heaped clothes on the ground.

Teri stepped up to face the woman directly. Julian summoned all his courage and stood beside her while Matt tried to find his footing in the dark. “We took it from Ottawa,” she said calmly.

The woman turned to Matt. “You look strange. The other two, I understand why they are here. But I do not like you.”

Matt did not know what to say.

“Go,” the woman said.

“But we brought the drumsticks back,” Julian protested.

Matt could not believe what Julian and Teri did then: they stood absolutely still, staring at the woman in the shawl, mouths slightly open until Julian fell onto his bare butt.

But what Teri saw was very different. She felt as if she had no more control over her own body. She could do nothing but watch the woman change. The shawl became fur, thick and shaggy, the hat disappeared, the hair became a mane that reached over her head, animated by a will of its own. Her face morphed, jaw stretching into a snout, mouth gaping, long fangs drooling.

And she grew, legs and arms and torso lengthening and thickening. She grew until she towered above them, reaching toward them with claws that glimmered in the red light from her eyes.

Julian fell onto his naked butt on the cold ground. Teri’s knees shook, but she could not will her feet to move even as the claw came toward her and touched her bare chest. The tip traced a red line from her collarbone down to her navel, but all Teri could do was to look into the beast’s red eyes.

The beast’s head came closer. Its jaws opened impossibly wide, but Teri still could not move as it took her hand in its mouth and slowly closed its jaws. Pain flashed up her arm, replaced immediately by a blank numbness. The beast drew its bloody snout away and Teri saw her hand between its teeth. Blood, her blood, dripped from the beast’s jaws. She watched, unable to make a sound, as more blood spurted from the stump of her arm, bright red in the dark night.

Matt watched the strange woman step closer to his trembling wife, and realized they were the same height. When the woman lifted Teri’s hand in her own and lifted it to her face, Matt decided that was enough. To hell with the wolves, he thought. He stepped between the women. “What is the medicine drum for?” he demanded.

The woman stepped back, outrage on her face. Now that he was close, he could see she was middle-aged, with creases from her nose to the corners of her mouth and deep crinkles at the corners of her eyes. She was as short as Teri, but stouter, and there were strands of grey in her long black hair.

“Go,” she said again. She stepped aside and a wolf took her place, and Matt was suddenly conscious of its mouth at his crotch level. He backed away, pushing Teri farther behind him.

To Teri, the beast vanished, replaced by the familiar sight of her husband’s naked back. Beyond him was a huge gray wolf, teeth showing. Behind it were the rest of the pack and the woman in the shawl. She could hear the wind again, as if she had not heard it for a long time, or as if she had become aware of a different sound only after it had stopped.

Teri gasped when she looked at her arm: her hand was intact. She flexed her fingers, fascinated by the way the little scar on the back moved. She looked down: no scratch on her chest, no blood. “It was an illusion,” she whispered.

Matt wondered whether the wolves would really attack or were just putting on a show, a display to scare them. The question became moot as Julian scrambled to his feet and ran as fast as he could.

“Go away. Go now,” the woman screamed and the wolf snapped its jaws. Wolf spit hit Matt’s genitals. Matt grabbed his wife’s elbow and ran. She pulled out of his grip to pick up a piece of clothing from the ground. “Never mind that!” Matt snapped and hauled her away. He pushed Teri ahead of him to follow Julian as fast as they could go. Stones and twigs scratched their bare feet, but there was no more barrier at the stone circle for Teri.

Somehow, they found the path through the forest and tried to move their feet even faster. Teri stumbled but Matt held her up and willed his feet to move faster as they heard wolves growling at their heels.

This path was not this long on the way here, he thought.

Something sharp cut into Matt’s foot. He fell, gasping. Teri shrieked a little and stopped beside him, but Matt pushed her farther down the path. “Go!”

He pushed himself back up to his feet and tried a step. Pain shot all the way up his leg and out his mouth in a hoarse cry. He heard the wolf pack behind him and fear overrode pain. He ran at top speed, catching up with Teri. His foot felt like it was on fire, and flamed hotter every time it hit the ground.

If I’m immune to magic, maybe my blood will slow them down, he thought. The wolves bayed louder. Great. They smell blood, and now they’re excited.

Which means they’re real wolves, not magical.

His bare toe hit something and he went down again, hard, naked skin scraping over the rough ground.

Teri ran back to him, fumbling with something: his jacket, which she had picked up when they ran from the medicine wheel. She reached his side seconds before the first wolf and thrust Matt’s open knife at its snout. It yelped and sprang back. Hot wolf blood splattered Matt’s legs.

The wolf hesitated only a second and sprang, sinking fangs into Matt’s forearm. Matt screamed and thrashed but the wolf held on and Matt could feel its teeth sinking deeper into his flesh. The wolf shook its head. Matt hit the wolf’s head with his free hand and kicked with no effect. He could feel the fangs hitting bone. A deep fear filled him.

He felt a thud. The wolf let go and fell sideways with a yelp. Julian stood over them, holding a big rock. “Come on!” he panted. Teri helped Matt up and he stumbled behind them. His forearm throbbed and the sole of his foot stung with every step. Scrapes stung his skin on his legs, his side and his back. Blood tickled his skin as it ran down his arm. The smell of the wolf’s musk stuck in his nostrils and sweat stung his eyes despite the cold air on his naked skin. But Teri held his side and pushed him forward, and her hands warmed his skin.

Something scratched his shoulder, then the opposite side. “The path’s getting narrower,” Teri panted behind him.

“The trees are closing in on us,” Julian exclaimed ahead of them. “We have to move faster.”

Somehow, they made their legs move faster. Matt saw Julian hesitate, and then they were out of the little forest and back in the cemetery. They stopped, hands on knees, panting, searching for enough breath. Julian fell to his knees, then onto his back, chest heaving up and down.

Matt looked back. The woman in the shawl stood under the trees at the entrance to the path, a wolf on either side of her. “Never forget how I let you go,” she said in her flat tones. “Now leave and never come back.”

“Who are you?” Teri stammered. Julian was already across the cemetery, heading for the jeep.

“Tell your people that Jessica Piyesiw has warned them,” she said, and vanished as she had before. The two wolves looked briefly at the naked trio in the cemetery, then turned and disappeared under the trees as only wolves can.

Teri put her arm around her husband to try to support him as he limped to the jeep. “You always think so clearly, Teri,” Matt said as she fished the keys out of his jacket pocket. She and Julian helped Matt into the car; Julian checked for a first-aid kit while Teri took Matt’scell phone from his jacket pocket.

“Call Racine,” she said.

“And tell him what? That we’ve lost the drumsticks as well as our clothes?”

“Tell him you need emergency medical help.”

As usual, Matt could not argue with his wife. He pressed the speed dial button.

This is going to hurt, he thought. Julian brought out a bottle of peroxide and some cotton swabs. And so will that. But not as bad.

Happy Hallowe’en!

Author’s note:

When I first wrote Dark Clouds, I thought it would be the first chapter of a novel called The Mandrake Ruse, which would be the first instalment in the series called The Witch’s Son. Since then, I have come to understand that The Mandrake Ruse is the title of the first chapter of the novel, Dark Clouds.

So far, I have published five chapters:

When I have more chapters ready, I’ll publish all of Dark Clouds as a serial. Watch for it!

 

Stories from the War: Friends of my Enemy, Book 1



StoriesFromWarBy Autumn Birt

An independent book review

I was a little nervous as I read the first chapter in Stories from the War. I like Autumn Birt’s writing and I enjoyed her fantasy series, Rise of the Fifth Order. So I was intrigued by her shift from epic fantasy to dystopian military thriller with Friends of My Enemy.

Hopes high, I was a little put off by the opening of the first Story from the War, First Meeting. It’s a lunch meeting between two main characters: Arinna Prescott, a military attaché from the USA and an EU diplomat who happens to be a baron. I thought, “Oh, no. She’s trying to evoke some kind of Regency romance here, but set it in the future.”

I was also a little afraid that Stories from the War would follow the worn path of the military dystopian future, where an ex-soldier’s military training and discipline is the only thing that ensures the survival of a small group while civilization deteriorates into rival warlord territories.

But while this book starts with the U.S. under military law and Europe renews aristocratic ranks and privileges. As I read on, I felt myself drawn deeper and deeper into Autumn Birt’s universe. I really could not put it down.

Stories from the War is not a novel.

It’s a set of 11 stories about a small group of realistic characters. First are Lieutenant Arinna Prescot, who meets a diplomat, Baron Bryan Vasquez, in Spain. Their conversation, which opens the story, skillfully sets the stage of the whole series. We learn that by 2055, the United States is under military law, beset by famine and riots. Climate change has brought storms that even the Americans could not recover from. Arinna’s and her husband, Air Force Captain Michael Prescott, have been sent to Europe in order to help rebuild the diplomatic relationship between the “New States” and the united Europe.

The characters are the best element of this very strong book. Sure, some of them are pretentious blowhards, some are conceited jerks, and some are hopeless romantics. But we all know some people like that. I don’t like all the characters, but I believe in all of them.

The stories are episodes in the lives of these characters, and each episode develops their relationships. These relationships drive the plot, or rather, its exposition. We see this new war that develops and how it affects each individual.

One of the few weakness is that the “enemy” is never clearly identified.

The U.S. was destroyed by repeated storms and famine, but soon after the Prescots’ arrival in Europe, a mysterious organization called the Freedom Liberation Front strikes the U.S. and completes its destruction. The Prescots calculate their chances and join the EU, rising in NATO’s military as the FLF turns on Europe.

Throughout the book, the FLF remains distant and shadowy. It’s not until probably four-fifths of the way through the book that the POV characters come face-to-face with the enemy, and even then they’re not that close. It helps to make the enemy that much more sinister, but it is frustrating not to know what they really want.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book.

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Author Autumn Birt

The characters, particularly Arinna, who becomes known as “The Lady Grey” are strong and very well drawn. The reader sees through their eyes, feels what they feel. The descriptions are so vivid I can practically smell the smoke and feel the heft of weapons in my hands.

Congratulations to Autumn Birt on creating another vivid fictional world to explore.

4*

Get Stories from the War on

Find out more about the author

And follow her on Twitter @weifarer.

 

What book reviewers want: An interview with Janie Felix



bookstack

Once again this week, Written Words turns the tables on the book reviewers by asking them questions. In this instalment, Janie Felix agreed to let us in on the secrets of book reviewing.

What genres do you review?

I review most all genres — whatever I read, because I find it helpful when I read others reviews.

I like mystery/police/ action genres.  They challenge my mind, hold my interest and allow for escape from normal life.  I like some romance, but not ” bodice ripper” types.  I like reality in romances, not necessarily happily ever after … realism.  I enjoy some sci-fi if it is relatable.

What do you look for in a book that you review?

What I look for in books is believable character development by the author.  I like surprise twists.  I also look for good beta reading (I really hate misspelled words, poor grammar and bad syntax.)  When I find an author whose style I enjoy, I veraciously read their books.

What is the worst mistake that an author can make in a book?

The worst mistake and author can make: boring, long convoluted explanations by a character.  And shabby proofreaders.

What is the worst mistake in your opinion that an author can make when trying to promote a book?

Promoting a book can be tricky. I’m not sure I dislike most book promotions. I really LIKE when an author of e-books offer their first one free. Very often if I like their style or characters, I will continue to follow them and buy more just by the “credit ” of their name alone.

Which is more important to you: the plot/story, characters, or the writer’s style?

Characterization is probably the most important part of a book for me.  If the characters become real, you can put them in most any plot and they survive.  ‘Course that all goes back to the author. So it is circular.

Name a classic book in the genre you favour most that you think today’s writers should aspire to equal.

The Stand is a book with great characters the writers can aspire to.

Desert island question: name three record albums you would take with you if you were stranded on the island from Lost (where they had vinyl records and diamond-stylus record players).

Albums: David Brubeck’s Take Five,  the 1812 Overture or any Tchaikovsky work and anything by James Taylor.

All about Janie

 IMG_1051Janie has been married for 52 years to her best friend, Gary. She is a mom of four a grandmom of seven, a Wiccan High Priestess, a clinical herbalist and an avid reader.  She is 72 years young and loves to quilt, preserve what her husband grows and teach others about her knowledge of Wicca and herbs.