Saturday, August 31, 2019

Storytime Saturday Presents: "Muliebral the Bold" by Nav Logan

Lannau was in the process of a long-winded, and over-exaggerated story of one of the battles she had fought in. 

“…We raced down the hill towards where the Romans had made camp, shrieking and hollering like a bunch of demented banshees….” 

“Didn’t your dresses get tangled up?” asked Chastity. 

Todhmhii rolled his eyes heavenward, knowing what was coming next. 
“Oh, no child! Most of us were as naked as the day we were born.” 

“What about Boudicca?” interrupted Muliebral. “Surely the Queen wasn’t naked?” 
Lannau considered her answer, as if dragging up the memory from the dusty depths of her addled brain. “You are quite right, child, she wasn’t. Boudicca, as I recall, was dressed in a skimpy chainmail outfit, that covered her feminine parts, if barely, but left her unencumbered.” 

“Ram droppings!” muttered Todhmhii, into his mead. 

Despite her aging years, there was nothing wrong with Lannau’s hearing. “May the sky fall on my head if I tell a word of a lie. I swear it by all the Gods… In fact,” she added, “I believe I still have the garment in one of my chests. I’ll go and fetch it, if you like.” 

An image flashed through Todhmhii’s brain; one of the wrinkly near-naked Lannau, prancing around in an alluring fashion, dressed in a two-piece chainmail outfit that was both impractical as armour and left little to the imagination. In fact, Todhmhii concluded, the only benefit of such an outfit being worn on a battlefield, was that it would be very distracting. Perhaps, it was for that very reason that Queen Boudicca had worn it… if indeed she had! The image of Lannau in such an outfit would haunt Todhmhii’s dreams for days to come. More so because, to his horror, he discovered that his loins had become disturbingly aroused by the vision.

Look for "Muliebral The Bold" in the upcoming anthology, Dreamtime Damsels and Fatal Femmes, by the Dreamtime Fantasy Authors!

More Excerpts:

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Reader's Review: "Rise of the Firebird" by Amy Kuivalainen

Synopsis from Amazon
Travelling from the battlefields of Skazki to the Underworld of Tuonela, Anya and her companions encounter the vicious dark goddess Louhi and gain two magician's, the mad hero Kullervo and Eldon Blaise - apprentice of Merlin himself. As devastating secrets of history and the heart are revealed, Anya must fight the darkness within her and rise up to be a symbol for the Neutral rebel army that rallies under the banner of the firebird. Ready to restore the balance at any price, the final battle of the three armies will shape the worlds forever.

In the concluding chapter of The Firebird Fairytales Anya must choose what she is fighting for and what she's willing to sacrifice to save those she loves.

My Review:

Hoo, boy! What a ride!

Yanka is busy amassing power after the havoc she wrought in Cry of the Firebird, and Anya is done running and cowering. After recovering from everything that happened to her in a protected space among the Alfr, Anya learns that she must go to yet another unexplored realm beyond the real world and Skazki--the Underworld. Only there will she meet the last few allies and acquire the weapons she needs to stop Yanka once and for all.
Meanwhile, the sorceress' game against Baba Yaga shifts into its final moves...

Kuivalainen has really established herself as a literary force to be reckoned with. I can't tell where the old folklore ends and her own spin begins--it all feels very ancient and grounded in myth, giving rise to legends of its own! The magical sequences, the drawn-out emotions... Everything just pulls you along... I spent several nights thinking "just a chapter or two before bed" and then finally calling it quits when I realize that it's been three hours and I can hardly keep my eyes open! It's the deep, rich, awesome storytelling that keeps you in its grasp and doesn't let go. It's the unique, vivid characters that come to life in your mind and are walking and talking with their own mannerisms and interaction styles. It's the dramatic and surreal settings that become as much characters in their own rights as the people who inhabit them. Everything ties together and lifts up into a glorious symphony of words that feels positively spellbinding every time I open the cover!

When it ended, I was just about beside myself. The rush of the emotional rollercoaster, its highs and lows, just left me adrift. The story came to a close, and I knew I was going to miss everyone, both the "old" characters that I'd been familiar with since the beginning, and the "new" ones just introduced here in the final act of the trilogy--highly entertaining ones, and yet in such a short time, they were given their due moments to shine in the final battle, so I didn't feel like they got "gypped" in any way, for not even "existing" till the very end!

On the whole, Rise of the Firebird was a supremely satisfying close to a fantastic trilogy. I give it a *****5 STAR***** rating, and add to that the Upstream Writer Certified TOTALLY Recommended endorsement. It's been quite an experience growing and learning and changing with these characters, and I am absolutely ready to read more Kuivalainen and experience more of her awesome world-building, as it really does feel like there would be so much more to explore in the world she's crafted, beyond just Anya's story. And that's the best kind of world-building there is!

Further Reading: (Folklore/Fantasy/Fairy Tales/Supernatural War)
The Firebird Fairy Tales--Amy Kuivalainen
       -The Cry of the Firebird
       -Ashes of the Firebird
The Fair Folk Chronicles--Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins
        -Foul is Fair 
        -Street Fair 
        -A Fair Fight 
        -All's Fair
The Vemreaux Trilogy--Mary E. Twomey 
       -The Way 
       -The Truth 
       -The Lie 
The Untamed Series--Madeline Dyer
Lord of the Wyrde Woods--Nils Visser
     -Escape From Neverland 
     -Dance Into The Wyrd 
The Shaudrey Universe Series--J. E. Mueller
       -Fire's Song
The Runespells Series--Sarah Buhrman
       -Too Wyrd
Tales of the Fallen--Katika Schneider
The LouisiAngel Series--C. L. Coffey
        -Angel in Training 
        -Angel Eclipsed 
        -Angel Tormented 

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Storytime Saturday Presents: "A Wizard's Quandary" by Jaq D. Hawkins

Lesana wrapped her cloak over the little dragon and leaned back against the boulder where they had sheltered. "We should sleep now and hope it doesn't rain. There was no time to pack a folding shelter, and it would have slowed us to carry so much."
They slept curled up together, though every noise in the night caused Lesana to wake enough to identify the noise before drifting off to sleep again. At first light, they awoke and prepared to continue their journey. They ate sparingly of their remaining provisions, knowing they would have to crest the first peak before risking a fire. They hiked ever upwards, speaking little.
Eventually they came to a large crystal boulder that stood taller than the others around them and Lesana stopped, stroking the smooth quartz rock.
"This is the one!" she announced. "The crystal I hid behind... where I found your egg!"
Khadri regarded the massive rock, reflecting the late morning sunlight. "Then this is where my story began..." Lesana heard a wistful note in Khadri's voice, but the next words they heard were considerably coarse and loutish.
"And this is where it ends. I reckon the king'll reward me plenty when he sees what I found here!" The kingsman whom Lesana had left sleeping off her drugged soup looked at Khadri with the gleam of pure greed in his eyes. "You didn't think I'd really drunk your soup, did ya? Why, that's the oldest trick in the book. I poured it out as soon as you was in the door and pretended to sleep so's you'd try to get past me. Only you never came out. How did you slip by, I wonder? And where did you find that young fella?" He gestured towards Khadri, probably mistaking him for a baby dragon, Lesana speculated, worth a small fortune as no one was mad enough to breach the realm of the dragons, even for greed.
"Wizards have their secrets," was all Lesana offered in response.
"Not for long," the man growled. "The king wants all your secrets and he has his ways of getting them."
Torture! Lesana kept the thought to herself. There was one way out of this. She drew her sword. He was one man, though others would no doubt follow soon. Lesana was tall for a woman, but chances were the trained swordsman would underestimate her skills for no other reason than that she was a woman. It might even the field for a self-taught swordswoman.

Look for "A Wizard's Quandary" in the upcoming anthology, Dreamtime Damsels and Fatal Femmes, by the Dreamtime Fantasy Authors!

More Excerpts:

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Dreamtime Fantasy Authors Presents: 20 Facts About "Nicole Falling: A Southwestern Horror Story"

  1. The diner in the story was once a real setting. The train car idea came from a restaurant my sister and her husband owned, which I worked at during summers when I was a teen.
  2. There are so many deserted towns in the southwest, any of them could have been the setting.
  3. My wife and I nearly ran out of gas, on a stretch of highway between Vaughn and Roswell New Mexico. That lonely stretch of highway was in my mind when I wrote the story.
  4. In the desert, darkness is real. With no source of light and a cloudy sky, the night is near absolute.
  5. The stars in the desert make for an inspiring view, if you ever have the chance to see the night’s sky in the clear desert air, I highly recommend it.
  6. For me, the horror of the setting was more in the characters’ mind. The unknown was the greatest threat.
  7. What some might consider supernatural normally has a mundane source.
  8. People should not be judged by their outward appearance. Given a certain set of circumstances, all hell might break loose. The monster can lurk in anyone’s heart.
  9. I wrote the story while living in China.
  10. I’m certain the feelings of solitude I felt in China played into the story.
  11. The car, at the beginning of the story, is my wife’s dream car.
  12. I borrowed Nicole’s name from a relative.
  13. The characters don’t represent any one person, they are an amalgamation of different people I have encountered over the years.
  14. The idea of a seemingly mundane setting turning into a crazy place filled the death seemed like an outstanding location for a horror story.
  15. I’m writing these 20 facts while in Bali for two months.
  16. My wife and I are living out of suitcases while trying to travel around the world.
  17. I release at least one novel per month, while also working on short stories and other future projects. I write a lot…
  18. Often when I start a story, I have no idea of the ending. It isn’t until the middle that it comes to me.
  19. The darkness represents the unknown we all have in our lives.
  20. Technology fails the people stranded in the diner.


If you found these facts interesting, be sure to look for "Nicole Falling: A Southwestern Horror Story" within the covers of Dreamtime Damsels and Fatal Femmes, by the Dreamtime Fantasy Authors!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Upstream Updates: How is it August Already??

Life Stuff

Yep, there's definitely a change in the view of my reading nook! I've moved bedrooms in the home--and this one I got to design myself, hence the profusion of PURPLE! I love my new little space, with it's view of the window (since the windows in the other bedroom were too high to enjoy much!) and the fact that this is really the first time I got to design a whole room myself (the little-known struggles of living with many siblings!) and I'm especially proud of my bookshelves--going from one overflowing bookshelf to TWO with room to spare is pretty nifty!
Needless to say, this bedroom project is where most of my summer went, so there wasn't a whole lot to be said for how much I was writing... or not writing, as the case may be...
Word count totals for June: 18,700
Word count totals for July: 20,803

So I'm still staying abreast of things... Just not as much as I anticipated! Maybe working full time was better motivation to prioritize my writing, and thus I was able to consistently turn out the word totals I wanted. Who knows? I'm dreadfully behind this month, but we still have a couple weeks to go, right?


The Last Inkweaver

I tell you what won't be taking up a whole lot of my writing time anymore: THE LAST INKWEAVER, because I am finally ready for the last chapter! No more subdividing chapters, no more agonizing over tricky parts--now it's just tying up the loose ends for this story, and setting up for Book 2! (If you don't remember me saying how the Wordspinner Chronicles is going to be a 4-book series... Head over to THE SHELF and scroll down till you see this mock cover!)
Yes, this is going to be a 4-book series. Don't know how long it would take me to publish them, whether I'd wait till I write them all, or just publish this one, work on other half-finished projects and get those running before starting a new project, or say "sorry my dudes!" to those projects and start the new book anyway!
Certainly The Last Inkweaver has a while to go before it's publish-ready. At over 270 pages and more than 170K words, I know it's hefty, and there will be things that my beta team will tell me need to change or go away... but at least it's done, and it is indeed better than the first draft! I'm not like those writers who can self-beta and write many drafts back to back--I need some feedback first, and then I can move forward.

speaking of moving forward....

Anthology Update: Dreamtime Damsels and Fatal Femmes AVAILABLE for Pre-Order!

Yep, you read that right!
The anthology for which I started writing "Red, The Wolf" is currently live for pre-ordering on Amazon, and the official release date is September 25--so get yours and don't miss a moment! I've still got a bunch of teasers to post--more fun facts and excerpts headed your way! Once those finish up, though, it will FINALLY be time to get back to the serial! If you've missed out on the promo posts so far, you have the choice of either scrolling down to see them, or you can follow these helpful links!
"Red, The Wolf": [Excerpt] [Fun Facts] "Dangerous": [Excerpt] [Fun Facts]
"Nicole Falling: A Southwestern Horror Story": [Excerpt] [Fun Facts]<--*will be posted tomorrow!

Next Up: Anthology No. 6!

That's right! Just like the Dreamtime Fantasy Authors who brought you Dreamtime Dragons wanted to do a second anthology--guess who else opted to do the same? The Tapestry Group, the ones responsible for the anthology Cracks in the Tapestry! The new anthology (working title is "Warping The Tapestry") is more of a sci-fi theme than the fantasy theme of the last one, so I had to do some quick thinking to figure out what I was going to use for it--but thanks to the Flashes of Inspiration series, I had at least one idea that would fit the theme, already started! The inspiration for my short story is going to be the flash fiction "The Legacyof Heroes"! I will be expanding and tweaking the story since the word count limit would be higher, so stay tuned for more info on that one! I'm so excited! Story deadline is October, so by the time of my next update, I should have it submitted so I will be able to tell you more about it by then!

Wattpad Updates

Speaking of Flashes of Inspiration--I've been posting them on Wattpad for a while now, but they don't seem to be attracting as much attention as I hoped. I will say that there was a new flash fiction that I wrote back at the beginning of July, but since I kind of "ended" things on here, I'll be posting it on Wattpad, not here on the blog... so if you want to read a couple new "Flashes of Inspiration", you best head on over there!

THE DRAGON'S MARK, the story I submitted for the Watty's contest, is doing fairly well--I just had somebody read it in a single sitting and she really enjoyed it! So that gives me hope... meanwhile, there are stories still in-progress there, and ones I want to share as soon as I've finished them... 
What should I do next? Maybe I'll start posting "The Prince and The Rose" on there, see what people think of that fairy tale twist. OR... I can start posting my contemporary adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac, which I wrote a very long time ago... What do you think? Let me know in the comments!


My favorite part about traveling is that I get to spend as much of that travel time and the ensuing "down time" reading! I managed to finish three ebooks and four print books in the last two months alone!

I started State of Fear byMichael Crichton with high hopes--I've really enjoyed just about everything he's written (except Disclosure... but for content reasons, not quality...) and I have to admire the meticulous quality of his plots--but this one almost felt too meticulous at the beginning! People making references to tsunamis, environmental groups and big corporations going at it over global warming, people going here and there and making plans and purchases... Nothing too big and flashy, so I worried it would be slow going.
I should not have worried. Crichton is not a flashy author, and that is a Very Good Thing. Once it narrowed down to a couple characters actually coming in contact with the antagonists' plan underway, it got really intense really fast and I finished it in a couple days! Epic win.
Then after that I got to read the second MYST book, The Book of Ti'ana. It became really fascinating and I understood what was going on a bit more after I actually watched a YouTube video explaining the whole birth of MYST as an interactive and largely "open world" computer game when such things didn't really exist, and the way the Miller brothers went about developing the stories and such. Very enjoyable!
Next up was another Baldacci book, a stand-alone called The Simple Truth. As always, I found it gripping, intense, and extremely well-done! Can't go wrong with Baldacci. He really knows his stuff!
The last book I read was Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistle Stop Cafe. Yes, the one that the film Fried Green Tomatoes is based on. I'd heard of the film, that's why I casually picked the book off the shelf of the lending library in the staff room at work on the last day of school. As for the story inside, I found it way more entertaining and intriguing than I thought I would! I just kept reading it whenever I had a nice long chunk of time, right until I finished it. Sweet story, and a good small-town-y feel to it.

Which brings us to the ebooks. I have some great news! I have finally reached 10 ebooks read this year, which means I can finally spend that Amazon gift card and get 10 more books beyond the ones I already have! I'm excited. The three books I read were: TYR by N. R. Tupper--a fantastic intergalactic adventure that had my Firefly-loving soul just rejoicing the whole time! Also, I mentioned at the last update that I was nearly finished with You Left Me No Choice by Kelly Blanchard--it did not disappoint! The third ebook (and the one that became the 10th book this year) was Notna by J. D. Cunegan. He's been a pull-no-punches kind of writer, I've noticed, especially in his "urban fantasy crime thriller" series, featuring Jill Andersen, driven cop by day, cyborg vigilante by night--but this full-on supernatural/paranormal adventure took things to a whole new level! As with Mark Lawrence, the gore level had me cringing and skimming through some scenes, but the compelling story and the delightful characters held me and enticed me till the very end!

What's next for my writing escapades? Well, on my nightstand I have: Prey and The Lost World (the sequel to Jurassic Park) by Michael Crichton, Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (aka J. K. Rowling--I am definitely a fan of this crime thriller series!), and my first library check out in what feels like FOREVER... Pride: A Pride and Prejudice Remix by Ibi Zoboi, which I've wanted to read ever since I saw it announced!

That's all I have for now--How about you? What have you read over the summer? Did you encounter anything new and exciting? Let me know in the comments! And as always...

Catch You Further Upstream!

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Storytime Saturday Presents: "Nicole Falling: A Southwestern Horror Story" by Greg Alldredge

*Edited for language

Nicole woke to the steady purring rumble of the cherry stock ‘68 Mustang Convertible. The tires made a steady thud-dump, thud-dump, thud-dump, like a heartbeat as she drove. She took a quick glance at her mutt sleeping on the floor, the bag on the passenger seat, and the rearview mirror to look for any pursuers. Satisfied she wasn’t being followed, she pulled her eyes back to the mesmerizing flash of the amber lines on the road’s surface racing past the car.

“Where the h*** are we?” she muttered to the sleeping dog. The heartbeat sound of the tires coupled with the hypnotic nature of the passing flares of yellow tried to drag her back into a trance-like state. She shook her head, attempting to clear her thoughts.

“I still can’t believe his woke a** called me a dirty slant to my face…” Anger worked well to wake her up. She hadn’t fought her way to America for that racist crap.

Her eyes glanced in the rearview mirror again. The glow of the city had disappeared. Her mind raced. D***… must be out of it… Need some rest. I left the city. Ditched the a****t in the dust… two days ago? Must’ve blacked out… Last thing I remember was dusk and the circling vultures. How long ago?

“D*** clock!” The clock in the dash pointed straight up and down. It might have been saying either six AM or PM, but either way, the sun should be up. It was pitch-black outside, and she was certain now the clock was broken.

She reached for her bag, glancing over long enough to unzip it slightly. Inside lay piles of twenties wrapped and neatly stacked. Reaching in, she felt around the stolen Beretta until she pulled her cell out. The phone had no signal and still read six PM. “D***!”

She flung the cell back in the bag and reached for the tuning knob on the classic radio. Twisting it, the selector glided over the various frequencies, finding only static. “D***, and double d***! I must be way out in the sticks.”

She rolled her head, attempting to crack her neck and failed, then looked out the windshield up at the night sky. The Milky Way blazed overhead, the lack of light pollution evident by the number of stars visible. There was no glow of civilization on the horizon. Upon checking the gas gauge, it showed three-quarters of a tank. Nicole figured enough for 250 miles. Of course, she had no idea where she was or how long until the next station, though she had a feeling she traveled south.

There must be a storm following behind, no light, no stars. The night was black as a lawyer’s heart. The sagebrush flashed by, washed in the glow of the headlights. The calm of the desert outside was an inverse reflection of the storm of thoughts inside Nicole’s head.

Look for "Nicole Falling: A Southwestern Horror Story" in the upcoming anthology, Dreamtime Damsels and Fatal Femmes, by the Dreamtime Fantasy Authors!

More Excerpts:

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Dreamtime Fantasy Authors Presents: 10 Facts About "Dangerous" by Morgan Smith

Enjoy an excerpt of "Dangerous" by following the hyperlinked text!

1 – I never take the straight route in stories, I guess. I know the theme was meant to encourage lots of swords and sorcery stuff, or at least, courage and derring-do of some kind, but, well, I wound up finding my own definition of “dangerous”.

2 – My novels are based on a lifetime of research into medieval northern European countries/cultures, but I’ve been encouraged by other writers and readers to incorporate other, less “white-bread” settings and characters. This one is based on nomadic tribes in North Africa and the Middle East.

3 – The city of Huna, which is where Sami, the main character, is headed to, will undoubtedly make an appearance in a novel someday, because flash fiction (which I do as a kind of writing exercise, like musicians practice scales) revealed that:

“Huna is an old city, made up of twisted, narrow streets, crowded with the ghosts of long-dead rogues and heroes. At every corner, there are the shivering memories of past sins and forgotten glories. You don’t visit Huna, it visits you, like the demon that sits on the footboard of your bed and tells you how worthless you are.”

4 – I actually have a very hard time writing short stories – much harder than writing novels, really. Apparently, I need a lot of room for error.

5 - I used to be an archaeologist. Sometimes, it shows.

6 – I had to do a lot of reading and research for this story. I mean, I travelled across North Africa and the Middle East, all the way to India, back in the 70s, and I worked in Ethiopia in 2015, but there’s a lot of history and nuance about these cultures that I needed to understand before I could write about them, even if I was creating a fantasy version of them. 7 – That’s the thing about fantasy: if it isn’t grounded in solid fact and reality, the reader will simply disbelieve, and that’s fatal.

8 – Sami as a character is one of my favorites. She’s so darned determined….

9 – Did you know that back in the earlier part of the 20th century, there were tribes/family-based groups traveling all over Afghanistan and southern parts of the USSR, a pastoral herding culture stretching back hundreds, if not thousands of years, and that they were far more egalitarian and less gender biased than some parts of Europe and North America are right now? They still existed, when I traveled there in ’74. Very interesting people, and much given to random hospitality. They were excited by the fact that this teeny Canadian girl knew how to spin yarn on a drop spindle – apparently, this made me good marriage material!

10 – Dreamtime Damsels and Fatal Femmes is a charity anthology! As with Dreamtime Dragons, the Dreamtime Fantasy Authors continue to support the Abbington Ferret Refuge in Northamptonshire, England.

If you found these facts interesting, be sure to look for "Dangerous" within the covers of Dreamtime Damsels and Fatal Femmes, by the Dreamtime Fantasy Authors!

More "Fun Facts":
-"A Wizard's Quandary"/"Muliebral The Bold"
-"Nicole Falling: A Southwestern Horror Story"
-"Red, The Wolf"

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Storytime Saturday Presents: "Dangerous" by Morgan Smith

My first attempts to learn the way of the blades had been seen as just a step along a learning path. I was too small, in the beginning, to do much damage.
You’ll get better if you practice, my mother said. Pay attention. Try harder.
But this had been, I saw now, just wishful thinking. Bladecraft would be the same as everything else in my life.
If I was set to help secure the herds at dusk, some always got loose, and very often, found injured.
If I carried anything fragile when we stopped to make camp, it invariably got broken.
Once, during the dry season, when we’d been staying at the way-station at Samaal, I’d tried to turn off the cistern tap after filling a bucket for the cooks, and instead, the thing had broken, and most of the water had poured out uselessly on the parched earth below it before anyone could fix it.
I’d messed up everything I’d ever attempted. The harder I tried, the greater the damage seemed – and the outcomes were always the opposite of what I had intended to do. The harder I worked to do a thing right, the more it all went wrong.
When I was small, it was treated as a joke, and put down to a clumsiness that I would surely outgrow.
But here I was, rising sixteen, and as far as I could tell, my life was over. I was good for nothing, and in all honesty, I could see that I was nothing more than a liability – a drag on the well-being of my clan.

What makes someone dangerous? It’s not necessarily themselves, but the effect they have on the world around them.

And sometimes, it’s not even their fault.

Look for "Dangerous" and more of Sami's story in the upcoming anthology, Dreamtime Damsels and Fatal Femmes, by the Dreamtime Fantasy Authors!

For a character interview featuring Sami and other "Dangerous Damsels", check out Mary R. Woldering's Blog!

More Excerpts:
-"Nicole Falling: A Southwestern Horror Story"
-"A Wizard's Quandary"
-"Muliebral The Bold"
-"Red, The Wolf"

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Dreamtime Fantasy Authors Presents: 20 Facts About "Red, The Wolf"

1. This story is loosely based on "Little Red Riding Hood"--it's got a girl in a red cape named Red, a Granny character (the old woman who raised Red from a small child), a wolf, a "hunter" who pursues a wolf...

2. I first got the idea from watching the show Once Upon A Time which presented Red (or "Ruby") as a werewolf, but she had to keep her identity a secret.

3. The series of comments Red delivers to the Wolf disguised as her granny ("Oh Granny! What big eyes you've got!" and so on) find their way into this story, with three different characters commenting on her "keen nose", her "shrewd eyes", and her "sharp teeth"--keep an eye out for these references!

4. The title came first, from an author I follow producing an urban fantasy novel called "Red The Wolf Tracker"; I began thinking "What if, instead of tracking the wolf or having a wolf as a pet... what if she was the wolf?"

5. I've noticed that whenever "Little Red Riding Hood" featured the main heroine having the ability to change into a wolf, the wolf was still always a threat to the people around her, therefore it became dangerous for anyone to ever discover her secret. I didn't want that. I decided to twist it around by exploring how the dynamics might change if there were people who knew Red was a lycanthrope (wolf shifter), and trusted her in either form.

6. The hardest part? The very beginning. It took me at least two months longer than it should have to get this story rolling because I couldn't figure out how to begin it! I tried three different beginnings, then I attempted another that was a combination of two of the ideas... And the final submission that I ended up going with included none of those opening scenes.

7. This is actually the fifth fairy tale/fantasy story I've twisted! So far in my writing I've done re-tellings of "The Little Mermaid", "Cinderella", "Beauty and The Beast", "Jack and The Beanstalk", and I even wrote a flash fiction once that played around with the connection between Dorothy and her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry from The Wizard of Oz!

8. The name Red was a placeholder at first... but I couldn't come up with a reasonable substitute that wasn't vastly overplayed! So "Red" stuck.

9. The town name "Queston" is also a placeholder. It's "question" without the "i." That's often a convention I use when coming up with place names on the fly--just take a common word and tweak it a little. In my Little Mermaid re-telling, for example, the merfolk kingdom is called "Undersea" because it's under the sea, and the human kingdom is called "Overcliff" because it's situated on a cliff that rises up over the water. (And there's a kingdom on the other side of the channel from Overcliff--across the way, as it were--so I called it... what else? Crossway.)

10. There is more to the story! "Red, The Wolf" will become a serial on my blog, after the anthology is released.

11. I went with a different ending in the anthology version, to better keep the "short story" integrity--but it is only a small part to a much longer serial, so there will be plenty of room for shenanigans and twists!

12. Red's skin as a wolf isn't quite the same as her skin when she's a human. She can be wounded as a human and as long as the wound is bound, her skin is whole as a wolf. It does affect her strength though; the weakness and soreness is still the same, no matter what form she is in.

13. Along that logic, she doesn't shed her clothes when she changes form. There is a scene when she was carrying something in the pocket of her cloak as a human, but in wolf form she cannot access it.

14. Her fur as a wolf takes on a reddish tint. All the families of Queston know what the Red Wolf looks like. They teach their children what to look for, and train them to trust her and only her. There are a few who know of her shifting capabilities, but most of the villagers believe that the Red Wolf is the familiar of the red-caped Guardian. She doesn't correct them.

15. There is a particular flower that only grows high in the mountains above Queston. It's red in color and the blossoms look like a little hooded cape, so they're called "crimson hoods." Crimson hoods can be boiled to release the essence, which carries spectacular healing properties for just about any ailment. Most often, people like Deborah Garrity will mix the concentrated essence with oil and beeswax into a salve for wounds and sore muscles--something Red experiences quite often, in her line of work!

16. In the course of the serial version, it comes to a point when Red shifts into a wolf to track another wolf that has been causing trouble in the village, but when she tries to shift back, she is unable to do so.

17. I made the other wolf white because I had written an opening scene where the wolf actually hid among the sheep and escaped detection until "the Red Wolf" showed up... I canned that scene, but kept the color of the wolf.

18. While she's stuck as a wolf, Red is going to encounter someone who can see she is a wolf, but is unable to do anything about it... while the person who is able to help her change forms cannot perceive that she is a shapeshifter.

19. I even referenced another fairy tale in the midst of this one! Red gets wounded in wolf form, and a stranger encounters her. He takes her in and tends her wounds, and calls her "Beauty." Guess which fairy tale that is?

20. Dreamtime Damsels and Fatal Femmes is a charity anthology! As with Dreamtime Dragons, the Dreamtime Fantasy Authors continue to support the Abbington Ferret Refuge in Northamptonshire, England.

If you found these facts interesting, be sure to look for "Red, The Wolf" within the covers of Dreamtime Damsels and Fatal Femmes, by the Dreamtime Fantasy Authors!

More "Fun Facts":
-"A Wizard's Quandary"/"Muliebral The Bold"
-"Nicole Falling: A Southwestern Horror Story"

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Reader's Review: "Notna" by J. D. Cunegan

Synopsis from Amazon:

History’s most peaceful race created one of its deadliest weapons.

Forged in the Living Flame by a long-extinct alien race, The Gem of Notna is the stuff of legends, on par with Pandora’s Box or the Holy Grail. But once archaeologist Dr. Jack Corbett stumbled upon the crystal deep in the Amazon, he triggered a whirlwind of events and found himself neck-deep in a centuries-old holy war. The Divine and the Underworld have been locked in a virtual stalemate for the past three hundred years, and the Gem of Notna could be the key to breaking it.

With the gem in his possession, Jack discovers a world of monsters and gods, as well as an entirely different plane of existence that watches over our own. Old grudges resurface, fallen warriors are reborn in the most violent of ways, but at the end of the day, the fate of the world may well rest in Jack’s hands.

J.D. Cunegan (Bounty, Blood Ties) introduces Notna, a supernatural fantasy epic that will leave readers flipping through the pages with every twist and turn. Grand in scale and steeped in the very comic book lore that lured Cunegan to writing in the first place, Notna proves that anyone can save the world – or die trying.

My Review:

Cunegan doesn't mess around!

He takes a break from the intriguing adventures of cyborg vigilante/police officer Jill Andersen, and drags us readers straight into the Underworld--literally!
I appreciate the straightforwardness. I suppose I have Mark Lawrence's grimdark fantasy trilogy The Broken Empire to thank for the fact that I don't shy away from gratuitous gore in my books--provided the story is good. If the gore is just there to please people who enjoy the horror of mangled bodies and slasher films, that's not me! But there are few things that will keep me away from a genuinely compelling story, especially if said story can induce me to care for the characters!

NOTNA won me over completely, from that first scene that threw me right in the midst of the climactic battle before I even realized what was going on, or which side to actually root for! Then the story snapped back to a different block of time, and Cunegan's skills are on full display as he slowly builds the mystique and the emotion. He, like the gem, lures his readers in with promises of rich adventures and cool stunts featuring two plucky history professors well versed in archaeology--and then the first demon attacks and you know this is no ordinary tale!

The balance between the human and the superhuman element is spectacular. I don't mind a bit of religious aspect in my supernatural fiction, provided said aspect isn't blatantly flying in the face of one belief or another (such as the whole "good guys are Darwinists and bad guys are Luddites" aspect of Scott Westerfield's Leviathan... no thank you!) and Cunegan does this very well, presenting a foundational belief system that uses various religions and gives credence to the way his supernatural forces function, while at the same time remaining totally fabricated. Like the show Supernatural, it remains solidly in the realm of "influenced by" religious beliefs and parameters, instead of barreling squarely into the mire of "overriding the concepts of" said beliefs, devoid of both tact and evidence of sufficient research. NOTNA excels where THE DAVINCI CODE missed the mark!

On the whole--for a book full of demons ripping bodies apart, a possessed gem that either protects or kills with living, writhing, branch-like vines, and lots of blood--NOTNA is pretty dang awesome. I would certainly deem it worthy of a *****5 STAR***** rating, and add to it an Upstream Writer Certified Highly Recommended endorsement. At its core it's a genuinely good story, an excellent take on the battle of Good Vs. Evil--and the subtle/not subtle references to a certain other author whose paranormal investigator series is among my absolute favorites(*) are really worth everything that comes before them, if you've read the aforementioned series!

If you love intrigue, full-on battles, and worthwhile heroes, and you don't mind violence and gore and a fabricated theology--then NOTNA is waiting for you!

Further Reading: (Also By The Author/Supernatural Battles/Paranormal/Angels Vs. Demons)
The Jill Andersen Series--J. D. Cunegan
       -Blood Ties 
       -Behind the Badge 
The Grave Reports--R. R. Virdi(*)
        -Grave Beginnings 
        -Grave Measures 
        -Grave Dealings 
The LouisiAngel Series--C. L. Coffey
        -Angel in Training 
        -Angel Eclipsed 
        -Angel Tormented 
The Shaudrey Universe Series--J. E. Mueller
       -Fire's Song
The Books of Winter--R. R. Virdi
       -Dangerous Ways
The Firebird Fairy Tales--Amy Kuivalainen
       -The Cry of the Firebird 
       -Ashes of the Firebird
Alexi Sokolsky: Hound of Eden--James Osiris Baldwin
        -Burn Artist 
        -Blood Hound
Tales of the Fallen--Katika Schneider

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Storytime Saturday Presents: "Red, The Wolf" Excerpt

*AUTHOR'S NOTE: All right, this next part is actually (mostly) going to be featured in an anthology, releasing mid-September: Dreamtime Damsels and Fatal Femmes! In light of this, there's a good portion that I've kind of skipped over... You'll find it in detail within the anthology, which I'll link when it's released. 

For now, here's a small sampling from the portion of the story that's going to be included in the anthology! In the ensuing weeks, I will be providing samples from the other stories in the collection, so tune in every week to get excited for what's coming! 

Red's nose twitched as she picked up a whiff of something important. "What about you, Mrs. Garrity?" she began casually. "How are things at home? You seem quite a bit more tired than usual.

The blue eyes came up twinkling. "How did you--oh! Never you mind!" Mrs. Garrity waved a hand and let her trembling hands fidget with her apron. "I'm all right, the house is just as lively as ever!”

Red smiled, and took the matron by the hand. "Deborah," she chided her as a peer, not a parent, "I can smell your fatigue. Don't try to hide it from me."

Mrs. Garrity gave a nervous giggle. "My, my!" she clucked her tongue, "What a keen nose you have there, Lady Red!" She pulled away and returned to the basket on the table, carefully counting out each item she retrieved.

Red came to stand next to her, placing a gentle hand on her shoulder. "The better to sniff out signs of distress or danger, my dear," she murmured softly. "Tell me, why do you push yourself so hard?

The older woman set down the silver cruet in her hands and gave a sigh that weighed on her whole body. "If you must know," she said softly, "it's Henny. She's not a problem, don't look like that! It's just that... Well, you know how she was always my right hand, always waiting at my side and helping with absolutely everything I did--oh, it gave her such pleasure to be working along with me! But since she graduated from the Schoolmaster's lessons, last harvest season, she applied for an apprenticeship at Bethany's dress shop. learning about designing and materials and all manner of sewing and tailoring."

Red's brow creased. "And this troubles you?" She didn't see anything wrong with a young woman learning the skills for a profitable trade.

"Not at all," Mrs. Garrity wagged her head. "It's just that she spends so much time at the shop, and I don't want to interfere with this good work she is doing, but at the same time, I've got the young ones to tend to, as well as the duties of the house, and all the other things--I really miss her sometimes!"

But she said this last with a small laugh, letting the younger woman know that it really wasn't a terrible situation, but a frazzled one.

“Ah, here we are!” the goodwife cried, pulling out a small crock of a thick, golden paste made from boiled petals of the crimson hood blooms. She handed it to Red. “There, dear--that will keep you right as rain till after the festival, when I can get more for you.”

Red took the crock and tucked it away in the pocket of her cloak. From the way her side was beginning to ache again, she would need to reapply soon. “Thank you, Deborah,” she murmured. “I hope all goes well for your party.”

Mrs. Garrity’s mouth bent into a small frown. “Why, aren’t you going to stay?”

The cloaked young woman chuckled. “Only you could ever convince me to forget my disdain for socializing!” she mused. “But I think it would be best for me to rest and heal while everyone is happy and peaceful, so that I can be ready for the next time danger strikes.”

Mrs. Garrity gave a wistful sigh. “Oh, you and your Lone Wolf ways!”

Red reached out and took the old woman’s hand. “At least I always know exactly where to go when things get too lonesome.”

Her words brought a smile to Deborah Garrity’s face, and Red took her leave.


Look for "Red, The Wolf" in the upcoming anthology, Dreamtime Damsels and Fatal Femmes, by the Dreamtime Fantasy Authors!

More Excerpts: