Today’s Guest: Allison D. Reid

Today marks the last day of the Magic of Solstice Fantasy Writers Tour. Our final visitor is Allison D. Reid. She cut her teeth on may of the classic fantasy writers and traveled around Europe, getting a feel for the atmosphere so often found in fantasy literature. Give Allison a warm welcome.


AReker Author Photo



Allison D. Reid’s passion for medieval history and fantasy was sparked by writers like C.S. Lewis, J.R.R Tolkien, and Lloyd Alexander. She also spent years living in Europe, captivated by its ancient towns, cathedrals, and castles. She received her B.A. in writing from Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. Her first published work, Journey to Aviad, is a Christian Fantasy novel—the first in The Wind Rider Chronicles book series. Many of her short stories relate back to the world of her books. Allison has two young daughters, runs a small business with her husband, and also provides editing services to other independent authors.


 Journey to Aviad Synopsis:

Threatening clouds and fierce storms besiege the city of Tyroc. More frequent and powerful than ordinary storms, young Elowyn, a weaver’s daughter living in the outskirts of the city, senses something disturbing and unnatural about them. She soon realizes that the storms are but a warning sign of much more frightening things yet to come.


Terrifying wolf-like creatures emerge from the depths of the wilderness at the bidding of a dark master. His name found only among the crumbling pages of ancient texts, the re-appearance of Alazoth and his Hounds is a dark omen for the people of Tyroc and beyond. Only legends remain of the heroes and prophets whose blood was shed ages ago to banish him into the abyss, which should have remained his prison for all time. How he has been released is a mystery, but all the old stories agree that death and destruction are sure to follow.


With the Hounds inching closer each day, the city of Tyroc caught up in religious and political turmoil, and her home life no less turbulent, Elowyn has nothing left to rely on but her meager courage and a budding faith in Aviad, the Creator. She and her sister, Morganne, set out on a remarkable journey that challenges everything they have ever known about themselves, the world, and the path that Aviad has laid out for them.


New JTA Cover


Available at Amazon, The Learned Owl Bookshop, Createspace and B&N

Journey to Aviad


Allison D. Reid

Excerpt from Chapter 3: Vision of Darkness


… They traveled the road together in an uncomfortable silence, each focused their own thoughts. Adelin was too young to know what was happening. She bounced contentedly on Morganne’s hip, pointing and babbling to any bright object that caught her attention. Morganne’s expression was solemn and somewhat tense. Elowyn could not guess what her thoughts were, but that was nothing unusual. Morganne usually kept to herself. Elowyn felt a kind of fluttering in the pit of her stomach and was dragging her feet, hoping somehow they would arrive too late. However, the end result was that their mother kept barking at her to hurry up, and each time she said it, she became more irritable.

There were others traveling with them, flooding in from the outskirts of Tyroc. Even laborers from the southern farming villages were given a reprieve by their lords so that they might attend. People flocking in on the smaller roads continued to join together like streams flowing into a river, until they became a massive flood of humanity surging forward. The main road took a sharp curve and sloped upward, running along the colossal eastern wall of the city. Rows of strategically placed guards stared down at them from the battlements, bows in hand. Elowyn could sense the tension in their muscles as they stood ready to shoot at the least sign of trouble. As the procession drew closer to the city gates, the crowds increased to an unbearable level. They were jostled along, pressed closer and closer together until one could only move forward, swept along in an unrelenting current.

Elowyn felt as though she were riding amidst a sickening sea, a swirl of men, women, carts, and livestock. There were other children too. The youngest ones clung to their mother’s skirts as shipwreck victims might cling to floating bits of wood. The whole mass swelled and moved along the wall in a gigantic wave, pushing, pulling, and roaring with an incomprehensible cacophony of shouts, laughter, jumbled conversations, and the groans of overburdened carts. The closer they came to the gates, the hotter and more foul smelling the air became. Elowyn felt as though she were being smothered. Every sound seemed louder than it really was, adding layers to the nervous ball that was beginning to form deep down in her stomach. One of the carts near her had a squeaky wheel. Though it was such a small sound in the midst of all that chaos, it completely unnerved her. She held her ears trying to block it out, but it only seemed louder with the dampening of the other sounds. It was like a tiny, desperate scream for help that went ignored.

Every once in a while a faint whiff of fresh air brushed Elowyn’s face, and she drank it in greedily as though it might very well be her last. She closed her eyes and tried to calm herself, hoping that once they were all squeezed through the gate into the city, there would be more room on the other side. But in that she was greatly disappointed. When they finally approached the gate, and were shoved through by the pressing mob behind, the inner city was just as crowded. She continued to push forward, through narrow streets lined with corbelled buildings that leaned out precariously over them. The doorway of every shop was jammed with buyers haggling over goods. The rest of the crowd attempted to converge in the central square where the execution was to be held. Not only was the square packed with eager spectators, but merchants had set up their carts any place they could, not willing to miss the opportunity to sell their wares to such a multitude. It was almost like faire time.

Elowyn was tired of being jostled and elbowed and nearly run over by carts. She felt trapped in a prison of legs and long dresses, and was not tall enough to see what was going on ahead of her. A heavy-set woman with an edgy basket on her shoulders was pushing her way through the crowd. She shoved full force into Elowyn, nearly toppling the basket.

“Now then,” the woman said gruffly, “watch where you’re going.”

Never mind that Elowyn had been standing perfectly still, and it was the woman who should have been watching. But Elowyn knew better than to say anything. As the woman and her basket moved forward, a throng of people tried to follow in her wake. The result was that Elowyn found herself being separated from Morganne and her mother. There was no way she could help it. Soon she would be swallowed up by the mass of people around her.

To Elowyn, who never came into the city unless she absolutely had to, and who avoided even the smallest of crowds as a general rule, this whole venture was a complete nightmare. She looked around desperately for a way to break free. The only things she could see were the tops of nearby buildings, and one lone tree standing above the crowd to the east. Gritting her teeth, she made her way toward the tree, not caring whose leg got pushed out of the way, or whose toes got stepped on. After what seemed like an age, she finally reached it and scrambled up the trunk with experienced ease. A few people looked at her strangely, and a group of rough-looking boys pointed at her and laughed, but she didn’t care. She was relieved to be above the fray and felt safe in this small bit of nature amidst the ugliness of the city.

“Poor tree,” Elowyn said as she examined it. She was accustomed to the beautiful, healthy trees growing freely in the wilds. This one was bursting forth like an unwanted weed, stunted and sickly. Its roots strained at the cobbles, forcing them to bubble upward in rolling swells. Its trunk was full of nails, and holes, and deep scars from carts being rammed into it. She fingered a pale, listless leaf. The city was choking it, and yet it defiantly lived, even in this place where it surely didn’t belong. Or perhaps, she thought, the tree was the only thing that really belonged, and it was the city that was encroaching.

Down below, something was starting to happen. First came a crier, announcing the royal procession. Guards with long spears began to shove through the crowds, holding them back to make a wide pathway up to the platform in the town center. Then came members of the Circle—the late Sovereign’s most trusted personal guards. A mysterious bunch they were, with their faces always covered. They were supposed to be the best fighters anywhere in the Sovereign’s realm, and they guarded the Sovereign with their lives. Elowyn supposed now that the Sovereign was gone they belonged to his sons.

Sure enough, the two brothers appeared next, along with a figure she did not recognize who was wearing a rich black cape. The Sovereign’s sons wore gold circlets on their heads, and held royal scepters in their hands. Long brilliant red robes trailed behind them, the ends held up by servants. The extravagance of their clothing and jewelry was like nothing Elowyn had ever seen, even on the wealthiest of her mother’s clients. But Elowyn found that instead of making them look majestic and powerful, the excess of their attire only appeared gaudy and overbearing. After the brothers came the remainder of the Circle, and then the prisoner; a hooded figure bound around his chest, arms and wrists. Following the prisoner were more guards like the kind she had seen on the walls of the city. They carried short spears that were pointed at the prisoner’s back…


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Today’s Guest: Renee Scattergood

Please welcome back Renee Scattergood. She’s here to catch us up with what is going on in her world – or is it worlds?



Renee Scattergood


Renee Scattergood lives in Australia with her husband, Nathan, and daughter, Taiya. She has always been a fan of fantasy and was inspired to become a story-teller by George Lucas, but didn’t start considering writing down her stories until she reached her late twenties. Now she enjoys writing fantasy. She is currently publishing her monthly Shadow Stalker series, and she has also published a prequel novella to the series called, Demon Hunt. Aside from writing, she loves reading (Fantasy, of course), watching movies with her family, and doing crafts and science experiments with her daughter. Find out more about her, and sign up for her newsletter on her blog:




Shadow Stalker Cover 3 JPG

Shadow Stalker is an ongoing monthly serial about a young shadow stalker, Auren, who, according to the emperor of the Galvadi Empire, will enslave the people of the Serpent Isles if she is not stopped. It’s a story about how she comes to learn the truth of who she is and what she will have to do to put a stop to the emperor’s tyranny.


So far there have been nine episodes published. Each episode is generally released on the last Saturday of each month.


“This was an emotional episode, one which hooked me so deeply I felt part of the story itself. I was anxious to discover Auren’s fate since we were left on a cliff hanger and in the middle of a storm no less. Like any series, where the characters are familiar, I couldn’t wait to spend time with them again.” ~ Melissa Barker-Simpson on Episode 4, Forbidden Love


Shadow Stalker (Episode 5), by Renee Scattergood, simply blew me away. It is an awesome episode that is full of action, betrayal, emotion, love, pain, punishment, and regret. Author, Renee Scattergood, has a way of pulling the reader into the story where he/she feels what the characters are going through.” ~ Debra Mauldin


“Renee Scattergood, once again, orchestrates her engaging story-telling skills with the continuation of her series in Episode 7, Bound by Fate. Renee has enlisted the venerable 19th Century custom of serial novels such as Dickens employed to great effect except now it is the digital eBook format that tantalizes her audience.” ~ RJ Mirabal



Episode 9 Cover

Shadow Stalker: Turning Tides (Episode 9) Excerpt

By Renee Scattergood


“We have to go now, Auren. We’ve already been here too long,” Makari said, releasing me gently.


I wrapped my arms around my father, reluctant to leave. It wasn’t enough time, not after all these years of waiting.


“He’s right ageiyu, we will see each other again in the evening,” my father said, giving me one final squeeze and kiss on the forehead.


I nodded, smiling as I recognized the word for beloved in the shadow language, and allowed Makari to pull me to my feet. It was hard not to hold his hand as we walked through the corridor, but I knew it would raise suspicion. It took great effort to appear dejected when all I wanted to do was smile and dance. Makari loved me, and he was on my side. I knew he would help me. He would help my father too.


It shocked me when we entered the cleansing room, and for a moment I was scared he might go through with it to keep up appearances. But his mind was open to me now. The thought never entered his head. As soon as the door closed, he locked it and led me to the middle of the room. Before we sat, he grabbed one of the shock wands.

“Just in case someone comes,” he said, then took my hands in his.


We sat for a time, just looking at each other. Makari’s eyes were full of wonder as though he were seeing the sun for the first time.


“What?” I asked, feeling a little self-conscious.


“Don’t you feel it?”


“Yeah, I do, but Makari—”


He squeezed my hands. “Wait. Before you say anything, Auren, I need to apologize. You have no idea how sorry I am for what I did to you.”


“Actually, I do. I saw it in your mind.” I smiled.


“I saw in yours too.” His grin disappeared. “I should have seen it from the beginning.”

I stroked his cheek. “It’s done.”


“No, don’t dismiss it. My heart and my instincts were telling me my father was wrong, that I was wrong. Despite the fact that I was careful, I still could have killed you, Auren.”


“But you didn’t, and you know now. I have you as an ally, and we can escape. You can help me rescue my father so he can return to the shadow stalkers and make everything right again.”


Makari frowned. “I’m not sure what I can do to help. What I’m doing is already dangerous for both of us. We can both leave now, and it’s probably the better option, but to try to rescue your father too? The recinder prevents him from escaping through the shadow world, and the only way to remove it is with a special tool. There’s no way I can retrieve it without raising suspicion because it’s kept in the palace under lock and key. My father holds the key.” He signed, a furrow marring his brow. “We would have to escape on foot, and I’m not sure you father is up to the journey. If we’re caught, we’ll be killed, or worse, we could be placed in recinders and tortured for the duration of our lives.”


“Like my father.” I reached out to his mind so he could feel my desperation. “I can’t leave him here, Makari. I won’t leave without him.”


He rubbed a hand over his face. “Okay, I’ll think of something. In the meantime, we have to keep up appearances. We have to be careful.”


“I know.” The last thing I wanted was for something to happen to Makari. It would devastate me if he were captured or killed because he was helping me.


Available at Amazon and Smashwords




Synopsis of Shadow Stalker Episodes


Episode 1: The Hidden Truth


A young shadow stalker is destined to enslave the people of the Serpent Isles, and the Galvadi Empire want this child of prophecy dead. Auren Trasks perfectly normal life is disrupted when the Galvadi invade, and she learns a startling secret about her past. A secret that will change her life forever.


Episode 2: The Delohi-Saqu’s Fate


Auren is being targeted by the Council of Elders, and the only one who could put an end to their corruption is her father. But leaving the Dark Isle would turn Kado against her.


Episode 3: Shadows’ Betrayal


After seeing the monster she will become, Auren swears not to leave the Dark Isle. Despite that, the elders are conspiring against her. To escape their scheming, she and Kado decide to explore the Dark Isle. But worse things await them in the forests.


Episode 4: Forbidden Love


Kado and Auren survive a deadly storm, but when Auren is forbidden from pursuing love with another young shadow stalker, will it be enough to drive a wedge between her and her foster father?


Episode 5: Destiny Reconciled Part 1


Auren and Kado accept that they may not be able to avoid her leaving the Dark Isle. Now they have to prepare for that eventuality. Will the training be more than Auren can handle?


Episode 6: Destiny Reconciled Part 2


Cathnor has been arrested and is facing a death sentence. The Dark Isle is out of control, and Kado is the only one who can help his people. So he prepares Auren for the possibility that she may have to leave the Dark Isle without him and face her destiny alone, but can she leave him and do what must be done?


Episode 7: Bound by Fate


Auren’s best friend was captured during the Galvadi invasion, and her rescue attempt goes awry. Now she finds herself in the hands of an enemy who knows her true identity…one who has the power to be either her destroyer or her salvation.


Episode 8: Broken


Auren doesn’t succumb to Makari’s torture, so he decides his father was right about her being the delohi-saqu. Now he resorts to more sadistic methods to extract information, which could doom the Coalition if Auren fails to resist.


Episode 9: Turning Tides


Now that Makari knows the truth about Auren, he has sworn to protect her and help her escape. But when the other guides become suspicious, Makari’s loyalty is tested, and he is forced to do something he swore he’d never do again.



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Today’s Guest: Ali Cross

Please give a warm welcome to Ali Cross. Aspiring ninja, writer and turtle wrangler, she does it all. Enjoy!

aliauthorpiclowresAli Cross grew up watching Bruce Lee movies and dreamed of being a kick-butt martial artist like Cynthia Rothrock. Well, she never became the kind of ninja she envisioned, but she does hold a black belt in awesome. She lives in Utah with her kickin’ husband, two sparring sons, one ninja cat, one sumo dog and four zen turtles. And a cache of nunchucks, staffs, kamas and other dangerous ninja-weapons.

Ali moonlights as Alex Banks where she writes wild middle grade adventures set in the faraway places of her imagination.

ali books2 - CopyBecome (Desolation #1): It’s never too late to choose.

Sixteen-year old Desolation Black wants nothing more than to stay in Hell where it’s cold and lonely and totally predictable. Instead, she’s sent back to Earth where she must face the evil she despises and the good she always feared.
When Desi is forced to embrace her inner demon, she assumes her choice has been made—that she has no hope of being anything other than what her father, Lucifer, has created her to be. What she doesn’t count on, is finding a reason to change—something she’s never had before—a friend.

Available at Amazon

Desolate (Desolation #2): Where darkness lives, all will become desolate.

It’s been two months since sixteen-year-old Desolation Black chose Earth over Hell and her friend Miri over her eternal love, Michael.

Desi goes through the motions of life: school, training, remaining vigilant against the forces of darkness, but her dreams are full of the choices she wishes she could change. When she’s injured by a strange demon, old temptations arise, and the lines between good and evil blur. Desi discovers those choices aren’t so final after all.

And this time, the power of love—for a friend, for a lover—may not be enough to save her from the darkness that lurks within.

Available at Amazon

Destined (Desolation #3): Destiny isn’t fate, it’s choice.

Choosing is a bad idea, because Desi always makes the wrong choice, and sometimes there are no do-overs. Certainly not this time, when all has been lost and Desi can’t even save herself, let alone her friends. For Desi, the hardest thing is letting someone help her, to accept their sacrifice on her\behalf. But that’s exactly what she’ll have to do in order to save the worlds from Helena’s destruction.

The goddess of Helheimer, long imprisoned by Desi’s father, Loki, is free at last, and she’s bent on reclaiming what once was hers. The nine worlds will be drawn into war, over Hell, over Earth, with innocent humans as meaningless collateral.

While Michael and the Gardians of Asgard, along with the golden-armored Valkyrie, lead the battle for freedom, it’s Desi who holds the destiny of all the worlds in her hands.

Can she set aside her doubts, once and for all, and claim the gifts that are hers to bear? Can she accept the sacrifice that is made for her and Become all that she was created to be?

Available at Amazon

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Today’s Guest: Melissa Barker-Simpson & Gina Briganti

Please welcome back Melissa Barker-Simpson. This time she brings along a friend, Gina Briganti. The two put together a two-book anthology called ‘Changing Worlds’.



MelMelissa Barker-Simpson

I’ve been writing since, well…since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. I often look back on those earlier stories, and apart from laughing at the heavy-handed drama, or cringing at my inexperience, I am reminded that I have always lived in other worlds.

My first novel was published in 2008, and I love nothing more than working on a new project. The voices inside my head invariably pull me in different directions, so although I try to work on one thing at a time, those who know me would tell you it doesn’t always work!

I have a full-time job which, though does not involve writing per se, incorporates my love of language. As a British Sign Language Interpreter, I get to translate information between two languages which is (mostly) fun.

I have two beautiful daughters who bring me great joy. They also keep me grounded, because otherwise I would have my head in the clouds permanently!



Gina Pic 2 head 300ppiGina Briganti

Gina Briganti is a Holistic Health Consultant, Reiki Teacher, and author currently in private practice. She lives with her family, a special soul who masquerades as a dog, and the beautiful desert.

She welcomes you to visit her blog,, for entertaining inspiration.

She is enjoying writing several new books and being inspired!




Changing Worlds 2



The Contract

Prequel to the Fractured Series

By Melissa Barker-Simpson




After the Demonic War, a battle which devastated the mortal realm, humans now stick to the world’s major cities. To even the score, and to protect those cities, hunters joined together to establish cells across the globe. Maddison Wood is part of an alpha cell within the north of England.


Though a skilled fighter and powerful witch, Maddison can be brash, and unpredictable. She has a penchant for trouble, and is usually the first to volunteer in battle. When she accepts an assignment to protect the Hympe King, Tobias Locke, Maddison’s fate becomes bound to his. As the stakes change, and she finds herself trapped inside the bowels of an enemy camp, Maddison must fight for her freedom, her independence, and for a prisoner who has not seen the light of day for almost a century.




Saunders’ Choice

A Natural Gifts Novella

By Gina Briganti



Saunders finds himself in a plane of existence called the Dreaming, where he encounters Velvet, the most exciting creature he will ever meet. The answer seems obvious, but Saunders’ life has never been easy.


Available at Amazon and Smashwords



Excerpt from The Contract by Melissa Barker-Simpson


The smell registered first. Slapping her awake like a handful of salts; strong enough to make her eyes water and her stomach heave in protest. The aroma of death and decay clawed at her throat. She had no idea if her captors were close by and didn’t care. Her lips moved instinctively, the chant increasing with every jagged breath until she was clear of the rancid stink assaulting her nostrils.

She didn’t open her eyes right away. Instead, she took stock of her injuries. Her head hurt, which was a given – she had been struck from behind. Her hair was sore too, which meant someone had tried to cut it. The result was a burn she felt as strongly as she would along her skin. It wasn’t the first time someone had tried to disable her power, and it wouldn’t be the last.

Reaching out with her senses, she tried to locate Tobias. It worried her that she couldn’t feel him, until she used her connection to search out Zachariah and also came up blank. It had to be some kind of cloaking spell. Testing her magic, she used second sight to explore her surroundings. The image was strong and clear; she was in a six by eight foot cell. Aside from the pit in the centre, she found nothing out of the ordinary.

Her hands were bound above her head, connected to a thick, coiling chain which linked to matching cuffs at her ankles. There was something odd about her binds. For one, she could feel the low hum of power in her hands. Her hair stretched reflexively, winding around the chains and testing the cold metal.

Someone was bound to the restraints. She felt it like a punch to the gut, and for an awful moment thought it might be Tobias. She pushed out, seeking the energy, feeling the pain. The connection jolted through her, momentary and yet stronger than anything she’d felt before.

Her eyes blinked open. It took a moment to adjust to the darkness. As she waited, she chanted softly, her hair still curled around the chain. She felt the moment the metal gave way. The cuffs on her hands and feet went with it and she was free.

A man crouched beside her. She could see an outline but nothing more. Taking one of the gold rings from her hair, she tossed it between them and waited for the soft glow to reach him.



Creatures Velvet Meets Vector

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Today’s Guest: Nichole Giles

I can’t believe it’s the 21st already. The month has flown by. Not to worry, though, we have lots of interesting folks still stopping by the rest of June. Case in point, today Nichole Giles is our featured guest. She has lots of interesting fun facts to share about herself, as well as three books to show off.

1smaller head shot

Nichole Giles had early career plans that included becoming an actress or a rockstar, but decided instead to have a family and then become a writer.

She was born in Nevada, the oldest of seven—a number which increased to eleven with the addition of four step brothers—and has lived in Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and South Texas.

Her future aspirations include owning a home on a tropical island, even if it’s just a vacation home. For now, she plans to travel to as many tropical locations as possible, scouting for her future paradise.

Currently, she lives with her husband, one of her two sons (the other is in college), two daughters, two golden retrievers, and one lucky bunny rabbit.
Writing is her passion, but she also loves to shop, spend time with her family, travel to exotic destinations, drive in the rain with her convertible top down, and play music at full volume so she can sing along.

13 Random Facts about Nichole Giles

  1. I am the oldest of eleven children: two biological sisters, four biological brothers, and four step-brothers.
  2. I don’t like to read books that don’t involve some kind of romance, kissing scenes included.
  3. I must have lived during the regency period in a past life, because I love corset-style dresses and costumes. For Halloween, I’ll probably dress up, even though my kids won’t.
  4. My favorite ice cream flavor was discontinued over 10 years ago, but I still hold out hope that Ben and Jerry’s will bring back their Island Paradise flavor.
  5. My favorite food in the world is steamed snow crab.
  6. Whenever I struggle with creating or writing, I like to go for a drive with my convertible top down. I’ve even been known to do this with snow flurries in the air.
  7. Nichole’s ultimate dream house: on a white-sand beach, with lots of windows, palm trees in the yard, a huge patio, and within walking distance to a number of friends’ homes. Also near great shopping. It should also have a dedicated library where I can write.
  8. I have a growing collection of fairies. Statues, paintings, etc. And I’ve started picking up mermaids as well. I love to be surrounded by fantastical creatures.
  9. I have four kids. Two boys, two girls, all nearly grown.
  10. When I was in high school in Arizona, my friends and I haunted a local hangout, where I became highly proficient at playing air hockey.
  11. During my junior year, I had the opportunity to go to New York with my choir, where we sang in Carnegie Hall. We also toured the city, largely without supervision.
  12. My favorite candy includes Kookabura licorice and Black Forest gummies. All varieties of both.
  13. I have kissed a stingray, petted a shark, high-fived a sea otter, and hugged a dolphin, but I have never wrestled an alligator or tried to housebreak a lion—and I don’t think I ever will.

Thanks for hanging out with me for thirteen random facts. You can learn more about me and my books at

jack5.500x8.500.inddWater So Deep

Seventeen-year-old Emma Harris is drowning on dry land.
No one knows what’s happening to her, and she’d like to keep her evolution from human to mermaid a secret, but the truth is getting harder and harder to hide. From her adoptive family, from her friends, and especially from the irresistible James Phelps.

Her time in the ocean is spent dodging a possessive merman, while her time on land is split between caring for her special-needs brother and squeezing in every last possible moment of human life. She soon realizes falling for James is unavoidable when he constantly comes to Emma’s rescue and somehow manages to see through her carefully constructed icy facade to the vulnerability she lives with every day. Everything about James makes Emma yearn for a life on land she just can’t have.

When Emma’s brother disappears on her watch, James is the only person she trusts to help her save him. But even if they can save her brother, nothing can prevent her return to the sea. Whether she likes it or not, Emma is changing—unable to breathe without yielding to the tide—and it’s only a matter of time before she’s forced to surrender forever.

Available at Amazon



Two months ago, Abigail Johnson saved the life of the boy she believes is her destiny and defeated an army of demons that have pursued her ancestors for centuries. Now, she and Kye should be taking their place as leaders of the new generation of Gifted, but the curse they thought was broken has returned, and every minute together brings them closer to death.

When remaining shadow demons attack again, the Dragons send Abby to Mexico. But she isn’t any safer here than she was back home. The shadows have tracked her, the locals expect her to help with their own demon problems, and the more time she spends away from Kye, the more she doubts the destiny that ties them together.

When the demons destroy her safe house, Abby has no choice but to take the fight to them. The arrival of an old nemesis throws their careful plans into disarray, and Abby and her friends find themselves facing new adversaries in a battle that turns fatal. This time, not everyone will make it out alive. 

Available at Amazon



Seventeen-year-old Abigail Johnson is Gifted.

Blessed—or cursed—with Sight and Healing, Abby lives an unsettled life, moving from place to place and staying one step ahead of the darkness that hunts her. When she arrives in Jackson, Wyoming, she is desperate to maintain the illusion of normalcy, but she is plagued with visions of past lives mixed with frightening glimpses of her future. Then she meets Kye, a mysterious boy who seems so achingly familiar that Abby is drawn to him like he’s a missing piece of her own soul.

Before Abby can discover the reason for her feelings toward Kye, the darkness catches up to her and she is forced to flee again. But this time she’s not just running. She is fighting back with Kye at her side, and it’s not just Abby’s life at stake.

Available at Amazon

Water So Deep

Excerpt One


Nichole Giles

“It’s okay, Emma. It’s just school.”

“Yep. And Everest is just a mountain.” She glanced at her younger brother, Keith, wondering again if it was a mistake for her parents to enroll him in regular high school. The district classified him as “special needs,” and Emma agreed with that label. He was special, and for whatever reason, he thought he needed to attend school with her.

What if people were mean to him because he was different? What if bullies picked on him? What if he came away traumatized for life? Hoping he was still this excited about school at the end of the day, she nudged him with her bag. “Let’s go, you grown-up high schooler.”

Keith’s grin split his face, lighting his eyes with excitement and pressing a wrinkle into his prominent forehead. The look melted Emma’s heart. If they were mean to him, she’d destroy them. Destroy them completely.

“You’ll find me at lunch, right?” He started toward the building, twisting the bottom of his T-shirt into a ball. The first nervous gesture he’d shown since they’d left the house.

“Yep. And we can eat outside on the grass if you want.”

“Okay, ’cause I know I’m going to be hungry. It’s my first day of high school, and Gran says teenage boys are always hungry.”

Smiling at his eagerness, Emma saw Keith to his first class, where a petite woman with dark, spiked hair introduced herself. “Hello, Keith,” she said. “I’m Mrs. Long, the aide. I’m here to help you learn everything you need to know about high school.”

“Hi, Mrs. Long.” Obviously embarrassed, Keith pulled the collar of his shirt over his face, hiding his pink-tinted cheeks.

“Is this your sister?” Mrs. Long asked, trying to force him to engage. “Are you going to introduce us?”

Hesitant to leave until she was sure Keith would be okay, Emma said, “Why don’t you be a gentleman and introduce me to your teacher?” Nothing. She kept her voice light, despite the nerves buzzing along her skin. “Keith, I’m going to be late to class. You don’t want me to get in trouble, do you?”

“No.” He shook his head, still hiding.

“Remember what we talked about?” she asked, tugging on the wrinkled bottom of his shirt and trying not to curse her parents. “How it’s polite to look at people when you talk to them?”

He nodded.

“How if you’re going to high school, you have to have manners and pay attention to what your teacher says?”

This time, he let the shirt down enough that his eyes peeked over the top. “Yes.”

“And do you still want to go to high school, or have you changed your mind? Because if you’d rather go home, I can take you.” And she would, even if it meant missing her entire first-period class.

He let go of his shirt and smoothed it over his torso, biting his lip. “No, I’m big. I want to stay.”

Pride filled the empty spaces in her chest. Keith was so much stronger than she would ever be. “Then hurry and introduce me before I’m late.”

Scuffing his shoe on the ground, he muttered, “This is my sister, Emma.”


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Today’s Guest: Louise Findlay

We are over halfway through the Magic of Solstice Fantasy Writer’s Blog Tour. No fear, though, we still have plenty of interesting authors to showcase. In fact, today’s guest, Louise Findlay, writes poetry. She’s provided a lovely poem complete with illustration for her post today. Please welcome Louise and enjoy getting to know her.


Louise Findlay Books Logo


Louise Findlay writes fantasy (generally short stories) and inspirational poetry. She enjoys reading and writing about mythological creatures such as angels and demons but has a soft spot for vampires. Louise is currently in the midst of writing a vampire novella about two vampire clans whose deputy’s clash in a big way, entitled A Spy in the Sagax Vampires.


She generally writes ebooks but she’s a part of a few anthologies which are in print and plans to release a print version of a collection of poetry at Christmas time this year.


Front Cover


The Magic Christmas Dragon & Other Poetry Tales

There was a dragon that hated Christmas because Santa never gave him any presents. Every year he tries to ruin it for everyone in Wintaru. Read the tales about fairies, elves and goblins who try and thwart this dastardly dragon.

Available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Smashwords and Kobo








Dreamless Roads Anthology

Join us on the Dreamless Roads where we step across the threshold into the unknown to discover words that have turned into worlds of imagination, legend and, of course, fantasy. Commune with your inner elf, or dwarf, quest with heroes and warriors, and cross the borders into the land of gods and dragons ~ and the past and future realms of possibility and adventure.

Available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon





Rogues Odyssey


The Rogue’s Odyssey

(Also included in Dreamless Roads anthology)

Heroes with an edge are always fascinating and when the métier is poetic, the romance tends to rise exponentially because, after all, everyone loves a rascal who’s only a heartbeat away from being on the wrong side of the tracks, but who somehow always battles on to win the day, whether that’s fleeing from dastardly henchmen, or fighting a terrifying dragon.


“Certain parts of the poem flowed B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L-L-Y where the commas were utilized to perfection” Review quote by Mr. Controversy at The Review Board

Available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon,iBooks, Smashwords and Kobo



The Fey Save the Day

A Magic Christmas Dragon Tale

Dragon and Fey4

The dragon that lived in Winta Cave, had another Christmas to rue.

The fey planned to save the day but did he know that too?


With their magic they had a plan, it was quite cunning too.

The dragon never stood a chance, oh this day he’d rue.


They snuck behind him in his cave, careful to avoid him.

With bated breath, they wait to strike, oh how they abhorred him.


Fast asleep, it was time, time to destroy him.

Oh how the fey adored, heroes of a whim.


“Sprash na dah” the spell cast, ready to kill him.

The dragon awoke and started to sneeze, he was allergic to them.

“Oh no, we’d better retreat” for the fey were small in number.

“Oh yes, flee now” they skedaddled on out of there.


The dragon then thought to stop, not such a great idea?

“Next Christmas” he thought.

He’d sneezed and fought, it was time to sleep now.







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Today’s Guest: Rebecca Jaycox


Rebecca Jaycox is the author of the debut novel, ‘The Other Inheritance’. She’s so well-traveled, it’s amazing she has time to write. Please enjoy Rebecca’s visit.

Rebecca in Greece
Rebecca Jaycox grew up in the tiny town of Berryman, which borders the Mark Twain National Forest and the Courtois River about 70 miles south of St. Louis. The beautiful landscape fed her imagination, and she began writing stories at age 10 and never stopped. Always seeking adventure, Rebecca moved to France after she graduated college with a journalism degree to teach English at a French high school. Bitten by the travel bug, she has recently visited Italy, Greece, Austria, Spain, and finally made it to her bucket-list destination of Istanbul last summer. Rebecca now lives in New York City with her husband, Gregory. She is the curator and program director of the YA Lit Series at the 92nd Street Y–one of New York’s premier cultural centers. She enjoys reading and writing fantasy, urban fantasy, steampunk, and science fiction. ‘The Other Inheritance’ is her first novel.


Books of Wonder 6


The Other Inheritance: Seventeen-year-old Reggie has been having a tougher time than usual. As if dealing with her alcoholic mother and fighting school bullies isn’t enough, this biker dude shows up in her dreams, babbling about magic and a world called the Other. Then, in biology class, her finger brushes a dead frog set out for dissection and it leaps off the table, scaring everyone, including her. Reggie’s life is changing, and she has no idea why. Or whether she should believe the man in her dreams, who claims she’s in danger and that someone is coming to take her to a safer reality. But if there’s one thing she’s learned, nowhere is safe.

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble



Excerpt from ‘The Other Inheritance’


Rebecca Jaycox

The alpha wolf swung its shaggy head around, looking at Asher, who raised his hands in the air. “I’m not here to hurt you, brother. Please take the hunt from here and let us go.”

Reggie held her breath as the wolf and Asher stared at each other, ignoring the violence around them. Suddenly the wolf turned from Asher, leapt onto the boar and tore its throat out. Cringing, Reggie closed her eyes to block the sight, but she couldn’t block the smell. Death. She felt the life drain from the boar. Growls rose again. She opened her eyes. The other wolves had taken notice of Asher, but the alpha jumped in front of him. The alpha growled and snapped, and the other wolves cowered in obedience. Reggie blinked as the alpha started changing. Fur disappeared. Bones made a sickening crack as they rearranged themselves into a new shape. Fluids flowed onto the ground. A few moments later, a tall, naked man stood, long wheat-colored hair flowing down his back. He turned and faced Asher, blood staining his face and chest. Reggie saw he had long, pointy ears. An Elf. A very naked Elf. “Way too much information,” she whispered.

“You’re not a Changeling,” the Elf said.

“No,” Asher said, and then he fumbled with his shirt. His back was to Reggie, so she couldn’t see what the Changeling was looking at.

“Ahh, I see. And who is your companion? She smells delicious.” The Changeling closed his eyes, sniffing the air. The pleasure on his face made her blush.

“You can smell her, or the beast?”

“I can sense her magic, but the beast knows there’s something special, something different about her. He likes it.”




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Today’s Guest: KJ Hawkins

KJ Hawkins joins us today to tell us about herself and her writing. Her first published work is out in an anthology. Please enjoy getting to know KJ and enjoy the excerpt she was kind enough to share with us.

Bio: KJ Hawkins is a young fantasy author making her way into print. She has had a strong love for fantasy since she was nine years old.

As an adult the magic stayed with her inspiring her to write stories of adventure and magic. Hawkins, at her best, brings personality to every word she writes, exciting her readers with every page.

Fun Fact:  KJ Hawkins is actually a pen name taken from the initials of her real first and last name. Hawkins came from her favorite childhood film, Treasure Planet, the lead character is James Hawkins!

The Magical Muse: A Collection of Fantasy Stories

The Magical Muse 72

Story Blurb:

Trisha finds herself in the clutches of a monster like know other. She has to fight her way to freedom only to find herself looking at death’s door. Will she survive the fight or will a secret hidden from her past be her saving grace?

Book Synopsis:

Stories of fantasy ranging from dark, to light and inspiring, bring life to this anthology.  The creatures featured throughout, both good and evil, display the devastating or wonderful personalities they were given by the authors who created them for your enjoyment.

Available at Amazon and Smashwords

Excerpt: Trisha’s Escape


KJ Hawkins


The train’s wheels screeched as the brakes were thrown up and the storage car came closer to the camp. Trisha could barely stand in the rail car as the mass of bodies standing around her slammed into her. After such a long voyage, the smell in the car was intense from sweating bodies, urine, and other bodily fluids.

If someone had told her three days ago that this was going to happen to her, she wouldn’t have believed them. Just thinking about how those soldiers had broken down the living room door while Gram brushed her black hair was frightening enough. Then to find herself separated from the only family she knew, and thrown among these other women and children who were considered useless, was nerve-racking.

Trisha didn’t even want to turn her thoughts to what could possibly be happening to Gram right now. Her health wasn’t the best and she could barely make it around on her good days. She knew the only reason Gram still was alive was because Trisha needed her to survive in this world of war.

Her mind was racing with so much dread and worry Trisha hadn’t even noticed that the train had slid into a stop. She had pretty sharp hearing for a kid; at least that was what her Gram had always told her. Trisha could slowly hear the yells of men outside the sliding doors. Her heart started to race faster as the doors to the car began to screech open…

A large muscular man appeared in the center of the door frame. He stood with a frown on his face and his arms crossed over his chest. His golden hair was shining in the sunlight. What really frightened Trisha to the core were his eyes.

The eyes that bore into her soul weren’t human, at least from what she could see. They were smoldering red holes that made her feel like she was in the presence of death.

“Welcome…Jewish scum,” he spat. “This is Ravensbruck—the place to throw you worthless women and children. I am Sergeant Smith, and if you are lucky, you might make it out alive.”

Sergeant Smith locked eyes with Trisha as she began to tremble under his devilish gaze. He smiled, showing his razor-sharp teeth, and she knew in that moment that she was going to die there.





Author Newsletter

Today’s Guest: Cheri Schmidt

Cheri Schmidt

Bio: Cheri is the bestselling author of Fateful. Think “The Vampire Diaries meets Jane Austen.” Fateful is followed by Fractured, Forever, and The Order of Curse-Bound Knights. And she has one other book in another series out entitled, Fair Maiden.

Her Fateful Series has been a bestseller ever since she published it, and well over a 150 thousand copies have been downloaded worldwide.

Cheri will say that her head is a very crowded place, and she wishes she could write faster. She will also tell you that if you do not like glittering fairies, hot vampires with British accents, knights in shining armor, the dashing Mr. Darcy, girly-girls who wear skirts, modern-day vigilantes, or large amounts of snogging, then perhaps her stories are not for you.

Currently she is working on The Trapping Club, a sequel to Fair Maiden, a contemporary/spy romance series, and a Steampunk series.

Two of Cheri’s Books


Fateful, book one in the Fateful Series, is available for Free download and Whispersynced. This means you can pick up Fateful for free for Kindle and then get the audiobook for only $1.99!!!

Short Blurb:

For Danielle Darcey, when the sun sets in London the magic begins, but just as that magic begins, Danielle’s fairytale romance ends…because the hero of her story is a vampire.

Praise for Fateful on audio:

First, I am usually wary about listening to the audible version of books especially because I love to leave the character’s personalities to my own imagination. Schmidt (author) and Tristan (narrator) definitely changed my opinion for this book as I both read and listened to the story. I can’t express enough my unexpected surprise at how well the audio version portrayed the story SO closely to what I envisioned. ~The Book Stalker Reviewed

Tristan Hunt is, in my opinion, THE Jim Dale of Romance. ~Cassandra

The writing was thrilling and engaging all the way through! The narrator did an outstanding job with presenting emotions and mood of each character. Oh la la for sure! ~A. C.

It’s so romantic, and the narrator does a great job! Tristan brings emotion to the story. I love reading the book, but having a real person narrate the story really brings it to life. It makes it a lot more exciting. ~Heather

The narrator was great! I love when he switched to his “American Girly” voice! Great plot, Great characters, Great Narrator. What else can I say but GREAT! ~KSWilde

Which character – as performed by Tristan Hunt – was your favourite? Danielle’s uncle Nick, there was a part where he was telling a story and Tristan spoke in such a perfect tone that even I felt shivers. If you could sum up Fateful in three words, what would they be? Emotional, beautiful and soulful. If you prefer audio books then get the first book right now, narrated perfectly by Tristan Hunt. Definitely a 5 star rating from me. ~Beks in the UK

What does Tristan Hunt bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book? I loved the way Tristan brought Max’s character to life in exactly the way I imagined it. Tristan told the story in a wonderful hybrid of watching a movie and listening to a friend that was easy and comfortable with the perfect amount of expression and performance… So beautifully written and performed that I shed a tear or two. ~Leanne in the UK

04-Order of Curse-Bound Knights-Cheri-reduced

Most current book release:

The Order of Curse-Bound Knights (book 4 in the Fateful Series)


Available at Amazon



A dying knight, the infamous Sir Maximilian…

A curse saves him. That curse makes him even more dangerous…and he likes it. To him, a new life as a vampire is an appealing thing.

The man who turned him into this great, fearsome warrior tasks him to watch over and protect his mortal daughter, Nadia. But the beautiful Nadia puts Max’s skills as a knight to the test, captures his heart, and bewitches him with eyes of emerald green. A power more potent than any magical curse.

Inspired by ballads of Robin Hood, Nadia is a bit too rebellious for her own good. And with a kind heart, she is much too trusting and forgiving for Max’s peace of mind, because those attributes get her into a great deal of peril. Deadly creatures surround her—some of them are there to protect her and some want to lure her into a trap—and she has no idea…

But can a knight in shining armor heal a lady’s heart when her love for the legend of Robin Hood is used against her?

Excerpt from The Order of Curse-Bound Knights by Cheri Schmidt

Chapter One

Poisoned, Twice

“Why can’t you just let me die in peace?” rasped Max, using up a large measure of his waning strength and resenting the men standing beside his bed for making him force out the words at all. Drawing a breath that wheezed into his failing lungs and rattled on its way back out, Max closed his eyes again.

The rancid flesh around his wound had stopped throbbing at least, and was now a dull tingle. But the poison had leeched into his bloodstream. He could feel the toxic infection work its way to his heart, slowing it. From the inside out it sapped the life from his body.

Max was more than ready and more than willing to die from such a battle wound. He just wished his death had been instant instead of drawn out like this. A wave of new pain lanced through his insides and the surge caused him to cough violently. The contraction of his abdomen forced his head up and away from his pillow. Cool air swept across his sweaty hair and scalp. A hand caught his head, cradling it. Max resented that too. He didn’t want to be bothered even with kindness right now.

“Sir Maximilian, will you please join our order of knights?” The strongly spoken query drew his attention from the pain-filled jumble of barely coherent thought.

Max forced open his eyes and aimed a scowl at the man intruding on his efforts to welcome death so he could finally be released from this torture. The action took a lot more energy than he’d anticipated. His vision blurred instead of focusing on the man who’d said his name was Beon. Another called Seth stood by his side. They looked like a pair of wavering blobs, one dressed in green, the other in blue. Max had met them, but only briefly a while back on his most recent visit to London. “Leave me be,” he managed in a raspy voice.

Fingers grasped the sleeves of his sweat-soaked shirt and gave him a shake. The laces at his neck loosened and cool air snapped at his feverish skin. “Listen to me, Max. You don’t have to die!”

Max wanted to growl, Have you lost your bloody mind? and emphasize his frustration with a creative string of vile curses. Instead he wrinkled his brow in anger again because that’s all he had the strength for. How could the fool possibly say he didn’t have to die? The idea was pure lunacy. He knew how he was feeling. He was dying, and there was no doubt about it, no escaping it, and no cure for the poison creeping through him.

“Hmm. Is he scowling at us?”

Seth nodded. “Indeed, I believe he is.”

“I’ll admit I’m impressed he can do it so fiercely on his deathbed. He is going to make a wonderful knight for the Order,” Beon said, pride and admiration in his tone.


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Today’s Guest: RJ Mirabal

A few months ago, RJ Mirabal stopped by for a visit. He’s back again with some new items and some special deals. Please make him feel welcome.

RJ face original hi resBio: RJ Mirabal loves the Middle Rio Grande Valley having lived there for most of his life. Los Lunas High School 2006 Teacher of the Year, author RJ Mirabal, went on to win the Excellence in Education Award for NEA-New Mexico in 2007, having taught English, speech, drama and computer literacy. Now happily retired, he purses writing and music while volunteering with a motorcycle club and teachers’ organizations. RJ enjoys exploring New Mexico’s wilderness areas on his four-wheeler and traveling with his wife, Cheryl. The Tower of Il Serrohe is his debut novel.


RJ Mirabal Promo_BookCover





The Tower of Il Serrohe and Extreme Dust Storms May Exist (Books 1 & 2 of the Rio Grande Parallax Series)

Author:     RJ Mirabal


  • Don Vargas, a man who has lost his way.
  • A rundown casita near the Middle Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico.
  • Nightwing, a bat offering an unlikely hero a formidable quest.
  • A Portal to another valley, the Valle Abajo, where lifestyles are primitive.
  • Clans in the Valle Abajo begging for help to overcome the Soreyes, a wily clan terrorizing the valley for generations.
  • A Tower erected by the Soreyes which seems to be a mysterious source of their power.

All this leads to a unique modern fantasy involving curanderas, an alcoholic looking for escape from the failures of his life, an enigmatic bat who manipulates events behind the scenes, adventures, a beautiful woman, and more surprises in this contemporary New Mexico-based tale.


Though the book ends, the story doesn’t. Book 2 of the Rio Grande Parallax: Extreme Dust Storms May Exist is now available. Many familiar characters from The Tower return along with new exciting personalities to spice up the adventure:


Extreme Dust Storms May Exist (release date coming up in mid-July 2015):

It is five years after the final events of The Tower of Il Serrohe and Esther, a sixteen-year-old honor student and athlete, suffers a mysterious accident and dreams of a valley much like her Rio Luna home, yet ominously different. Next, a bat repeatedly slams its body against her window during a powerful wind storm and she hears a whispering in the darkness.


It is the bat, Nightwing, who persuaded Don to take on his mission in The Tower. Nightwing begins to persuade Esther, Don’s younger cousin, to use her intelligence and resourcefulness to drive away the Soreyes from the Valle Abajo—the valley of her dreams. As she shares these disturbing details with her best friend, Markey, they both worry Esther is going insane.


However, new dangers threaten when word reaches the Valle about a murderous clan in the far away Mountains of Sky east of the Valle while in the west there lives another band of Soreyes. Meanwhile, a mysterious presence lurks in the background as the saga of the Rio Grande Parallax continues.


Both the epub and mobi version of The Tower of Il Serrohe, are available on Black Rose Writing’s web site for FREE as of now: Black Rose Writing


Chapter one from Extreme Dust Storms May Exist, Book II of The Rio Grande Parallax Series:


(Monday, May 7, Rio Grande Valley)



Esther scanned the western horizon of Luna Mesa trying to catch sight of her father’s missing cattle when a turbulent cloud of heat and fine dust washed over her from behind. Turning to look for the source, she was struck full body—as if by a huge fist—and collapsed to the ground, unconscious.

Not the best way to get ready for softball practice.


Esther hadn’t wanted to be on the mesa in the first place. Throwing on her practice uniform, she had grabbed her duffel bag and rushed out the door when her father, John, called out to her.

“Esther, where the hell are you going?” he asked, wiping his hands as he entered from a back room. “You have to take hay up to the cattle before you leave.”

“I’ll be late, Dad. Got a big practice for the district playoffs on Friday. Besides,” she said, “it’s Joshua’s turn. Coach will kill me if I’m not there in twenty minutes!”

“It’s not my fault you put off getting ready for practice until you barely have time to get there. Joshua had to stay after school, so—”

“Right. Little turd’s probably doing detention again for being late five times—”

“The cows can’t wait while you work out your schedules or personal problems,” he added, tossing the towel on the table.

“I’ve worked all afternoon on the front ten acres,” John continued, “and it’s time for me to pick up a load to take to Amarillo. You have to do it. Joshua can do the next four days in a row so you’ll have time to get ready for the big game.

“Satisfied?” he asked, flashing his bashful little boy grin despite his forty-five years.

Resisting an urge to smile back, Esther turned on her heel and dashed out the door, throwing her duffle on the bales of hay in the back of the old Ford pickup. Once it groaned to a start she floored it, leaving her father laughing in a fury of dirt and wounded teenage pride.

The old F-150 bounced and rattled its way up the rocky road to the mesa where they had a small herd of Angus cattle on a hundred acres of range land. Fortunately, it was only a mile and a half north of the high school baseball field. Esther could run across the field, jump the fence, and still be on time, provided she wasn’t delayed while unloading the hay.

But when she topped the mesa, her hope faded. The cattle should have been there waiting for their daily feeding, but the water trough sat forlorn on the empty plain. The little herd always passed the time filling up on cool water from the old earth-mover tire embedded in a pad of cement.

“Dammit,” she muttered, as if her parents were sitting beside her. She left the truck to walk around, searching the horizon for her favorite cows and their spring calves. They were nowhere to be seen.

It was odd the cattle weren’t there, but Esther began to think they might have good reason to avoid the place. She could feel a strange sensation in the air, as if static were building up before a lightning strike. But the deep blue sky was clear of all but a few puffy clouds to the south.

She had just started scanning the western horizon toward the busy Interstate traffic a half mile away when a ferocious dust devil crept up behind, striking her down.

It seemed like hours, but Esther began to come around in under ten minutes. She lay on her side, her upper body aching fiercely. Spitting dirt, she sat up and almost blacked out again.

What the hell was that? She wondered, only vaguely recalling what had happened.

Looking around for “Piss-Ant,” the young bull who feigned attacks whenever Esther or her mother looked him in the eye, she again saw she was alone on the mesa. So she couldn’t blame that little devil for a sneak attack.

Great, now I’ll have to take a shower before practice!

Esther could barely move her throbbing head, neck, and back as she dropped the beat-up tailgate and winced when its rusty hinges shrieked in protest. Grabbing the bale hook, Esther began pulling the bales off the bed onto the ground. She cut the baling wire and kicked the tightly packed hay loose so the cows could get big mouthfuls when they got around to coming for dinner.

The back of her head felt like it was splitting open as she dragged herself back into the truck, started it up, and swung around to head back down to the house.

Somehow, no matter how important, she didn’t feel like going to practice today.








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