Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Juli Caldwell's Secrets of the Mine



Welcome to The Gates of Atlantis Book Tour! Today I'm spotlighting and reviewing Juli Calwell's book from the series, titled Secrets of the Mine (come back on Friday when I'll be reviewing Mikey Brooks' book from the series). Juli was also kind enough to answer some interview questions because I was very curious about how this series came to be, so be sure to read that. Then at the bottom find a giveaway entry to win copies of these books, a gift card, or even an Atlantian necklace!

Secrets of the Mine by Juli Caldwell

Adam Alfaro daydreams about magic, myths, and becoming famous for discovering the lost city of Atlantis. The only problem? He has to spend spring break in Africa while his mom works. To make it worse, everyone expects him to be friends with the annoying Clancy Pitt while he’s there. It’s dislike at first sight...until he realizes she might know a few secrets about Atlantis.

Then he meets Nef, a spirited sea kelpie who needs help rescuing naiads kidnapped and left to die in an ancient mine. Suddenly the strange creatures Adam dreamed of become all too real. And they’re after him. Can Adam, Clancy, and Nef fight their way through the maze of tunnels in the mine and reach the naiads before it's too late?

Secrets of the Mine:

Paperback | Kindle | Nook | Kobo | iBooks

My review: Caldwell has painted a world of mythical, fantastical creatures within a story so unique and creative you'll be sucked into the magical whirlpool she's created. Her descriptions and ingenuity will entertain and delight young and old alike. So jump in and hold on for the ride of your life—many times on the back of a kelpie!
Adam, a boy who believes in all the myths and fairytales he reads while on digs with his archaeologist mom, and his new, unlikely friend Clancy find themselves thrust into a world that has only previously been told in stories, with sea creatures that people can only imagine. But Adam’s belief in those things enable him to help the kelpie, Nef, on a rescue mission.
This book is MG (middle grade) and while I completely believe that it will more than entertain and delight kids that age, I also recommend it to anyone of any age. It’s a great, fun read with so much going on and such clear, vivid descriptions that I myself couldn’t put it down!
My original ending to this post was: "I’m looking forward to the sequel—because trust me, there will be a sequel." Then I read Mikey Brooks book from this series (which I'll review on Thurs) and realized he basically ties up ALL the stories in the series, so I'd suggest reading all the others before his.

The Interview:
1. How did this project come to be? Whose idea was it?
I'm honestly not sure who had the original idea. I saw a post on a Facebook writers’ forum saying some people wanted to put together a fantasy series. I'd just published a clean romance novella entitled Arms Wide Open and wanted to try something new. Fantasy for kids the age of my two daughters (who are avid readers) just sounded like fun, so I jumped aboard!

2. Did you all discuss what you were going to write to make sure your worlds didn't conflict with one another?
The other five authors and I started a private group on Facebook to start throwing out ideas and discuss it all. The six authors also Skyped to plan things out. During the first Skype session, someone brought up something called the vile vortices. The web page talked about how these were potentially doors to other dimensions. Those became our gates to Atlantis and a guiding theme.

When we decided this would be a young YA/mid-grade series, we wanted to keep it fun without spending too much time worrying about tiny little details that could mess up a timeline or ruin someone else’s story. We decided that, instead of telling a story along a linear timeline, things could happen at the same time and our characters would run into each other and share in their adventures. Some scenes from the series appear in more than one book. When this happened, we created scenes together.

In Secrets of the Mine, for example, Seven from Banshee at the Gate shows up to help Adam. Wendy sent me her idea for the scene, I added what I thought would be consistent with the characters I created, and sent it back to her. When I then put that scene in my book, I added, deleted, and revised so we could see how it all went down from his perspective.

3. How did you come up with the idea for Adam's grand adventures? Is this idea something you've been floating around in your head for a while?

There’s some debate among writers whether it’s best to “plot it” or “pants it.” I’ve always been a fly by the seat of my pants kind of girl, so I just decided I wanted to tell a story boys could enjoy along with my daughters, and I ran with it. I’ve read quite a bit about the need for diversity in literature so I wanted to create characters any kid could identify with; Adam and his mom both have brown hair and eyes with no mention of their ethnicity. He could be any kid on any continent. He loves to read, and his favorite books are about mythology. Adam is a dreamer whose dreams come true.

I didn’t want to leave any girls out, though, so his sidekick is very much like Hermione. Clancy is the smart one he really needs to get things done, although I made her tall with hazel eyes like my oldest daughter. I started to write this book write around the time author Tom Clancy died, so I named Clancy for him. She was a challenge for me to write, though, because the protagonists in my other books are sassy smart alecs. Her character needed to be more thoughtful and a little bit neurotic to provide some balance for Adam.

Adam and Clancy are both misfits, but they find friendship with each other and Nef along the way. I had a ton of fun writing Nef, the sea kelpie who came to the mines searching for naiads whom the series’ bad guy, Phoibos, kidnapped, imprisoned, and left to die. I made Nef the smart alec! Nef is everything I always wanted to be as an insecure kid—funny, confident, with no care at all what others think of him—and his friendship with Adam and Clancy helps them build their confidence in themselves.

When I chose the Zimbabwe vortex for the gate my characters are near, it made sense to use African mythology for some of my bad guys. I’ve always loved archeology, so I made Adam’s mom an archaeologist on a dig to get him there, and the story took off in my head from this point. When I had writer’s block moments, I just opened up a search engine and looked for images related to African mythology until I got inspired again. This is the best part about my job, I think—because I don’t outline and plan my books out, I’m just as surprised as my readers with the twists and turns.

4. What's up next from Juli Caldwell?

I’m busy writing a sequel to my clean paranormal YA novel, Psyched. Freaked continues Aisi’s story and fight against the demon who kidnapped her sister (I guess kidnapping seems to be a central conflict in my books, doesn’t it?). I introduce a new “bad guy” who makes the demon from Psyched look like a pansie. I’m also revising a romance I wrote many years ago loosely based on Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Stay tuned! 


Juli Caldwell

This is where I tell you about how amazing and interesting my life is. Sorry to disappoint you with my non-glamorous life, but I'm a normal person who loves to read and loves to write. I've written romance, YA paranormal, and mid-grade fantasy--who knows what I'll try next? I just listen to the voices in my head and let their stories out. I'm married to my favorite person, and together we're raising two hilarious daughters and a dog who dances gangnam style for treats. La vie est belle!

You can find Juli's books here:
www.amazon.com

Find out more about Juli here:
twitter.com/ImJuliCaldwell
julicaldwell.blogspot.com


Below are the rest of the books, their blurbs, and authors so you can see what else is included in this set.


Banshee at the Gate by Wendy Knight

Thirteen-year-old half-breed banshee, Seven, likes her life. She leads souls safely to Death and she has the planet’s most awesome dad and little brother. But a cryptic message from Atlantis asking for her help changes all that. And then there’s Death, who has decided it’s time to take her brother’s soul. Now she’s racing across the world, trying to stay one step ahead of Death.

Unfortunately, getting to Atlantis from Ireland isn’t easy, and there are evil minions determined to keep her away every time she turns around. But fighting for their lives teaches Seven one very important lesson—she isn’t human, and she isn’t a banshee. She has to be both if she wants to save her brother and make it back home alive.

Banshee at the Gate:

Paperback | Kindle | Nook | Kobo | iBooks

Wendy Knight is the bestselling author of the young adult series Fate on Fire and Riders of Paradesos. She was born and raised in Utah by a wonderful family who spoiled her rotten because she was the baby. Now she spends her time driving her husband crazy with her many eccentricities (no water after five, terror when faced with a live phone call, no touching the knives…you get the idea). She also enjoys chasing her three adorable kids, playing tennis, watching football, reading, and hiking. Camping is also big—her family is slowly working toward a goal of seeing all the National Parks in the U.S.

You can usually find her with at least one Pepsi nearby, wearing ridiculously high heels for whatever the occasion. And if everything works out just right, she will also be writing.

You can find all of Wendy's books here:
www.amazon.com

You can find more about Wendy here:
Blog:http://www.wendyknightauthor.blogspot.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorWendyKnight
Twitter: https://twitter.com/wjk8099Instagram: http://instagram.com/wendyjo99
Wattpad:http://wattpad.com/WendyKnight

Guardians of the Gate by Laura D. Bastian



Thirteen-year-old merman Exander wants to leave Atlantis to mingle with the humans and explore the world above. Talia, his best friend, wishes she was a guardian of a gate leading to the surface. She'd keep those nasty humans out of her beloved city of Atlantis. When Talia accidentally short circuits a gate, Exander is trapped on the wrong side, getting a crash course in navigating the human world. As Talia fights to help Exander come home, she learns someone is closing the other gates, and it’s destroying the magic of Atlantis. If they can’t convince the magical creatures of the world to save the gates, the destruction of Atlantis will only be the beginning.

Guardians of the Gates:


Laura Bastian grew up in a small town in central Utah and now lives in another small town in northern Utah. She always loved stargazing and imagining life outside her own little world. Though they grew up only thirty miles apart, she didn’t meet her husband until they went to college. A graduate of Utah State University with a degree in Elementary and Special Education, Laura has been using that training as she raises her children and writes make believe worlds. You can usually find her on her laptop either typing away, or on social media interacting with friends.

Buy her books here:
www.amazon.com
www.barnesandnoble.com
www.smashwords.com

Visit Laura's website at:
www.lauradbastian.com


Magicians of the Deep by Jaclyn Weist

Thirteen-year-old Colin knew nothing of the magic world until he is bitten by a mischievous pixie. He meets thirteen-year-old Alleya on a secret website devoted to magical creatures. Before he knows it, Colin finds himself thrust into a whole new world.

Alleya has been hidden away from the rest of Atlantis because she’s half-mermaid, half-Atlantian. Her father tries to ease her boredom by getting her a computer and finally allowing her to go to school. She accidentally lets slip a dark secret —the gates to Atlantis are being shut and it's destroying magic. Alleya is exiled to Indiatlantis.

There, she learns mermaids are getting sick because of the lack of magic, and the tunnels are beginning to collapse. Together, Colin and Alleya must find a way to bring back the old magic and fight to save Atlantis.

Magicians of the Deep:


Jaclyn Weist is an Idaho farm girl who grew up loving to read. She developed a love for writing as a senior in high school, when her dad jokingly said she was the next Dr. Seuss (not even close, but very sweet). She met her husband, Steve at BYU and they have six happy, crazy children that encourage her writing. After owning a bookstore and running away to have adventures in Australia, they settled back down in their home in Utah. Jaclyn now spends her days herding her kids to various activities and trying to remember what she was supposed to do next.

You can purchase Jaclyn's books here:
www.amazon.com

Find Jaclyn here:
http://jaclynweist.blogspot.com


Madness Behind the Throne by JR Simmons

Callidora is an Atlantian noblewoman and member of an elite guard whose purpose is to keep Atlantis pure...until her life is turned upside down by the birth of a son.

Phoibos, bullied and taunted by other kids, is sure of one thing: something is wrong with Atlantis. Impure, Atlantian-Human hybrids are ruining his city, and he'll stop at nothing to rectify that. Callidora is the only one who knows the truth of who her only son really is, and how dangerous he can be. Can anyone stop Phoibos before his need for purification brings Atlantis to the very brink of destruction?

Madness Behind the Throne:

Paperback | Kindle | Nook | Kobo | iBooks

JR Simmons lives in Northern Utah with his wife and 4 boys. He loves spending time with his family and coaching his kids in all of their different sports. He is an avid gamer and is very excited that his boys are picking up on his hobby. JR was recently introduced to triathlons and has since found that he loves the sport. Most nights he can be found either sitting down with a good game or hunched over his iPad writing.

You can purchase his book here:
www.amazon.com

Find J.R. here:

twitter.com/jrsimmons_3
jrsimmons3.wordpress.com


Battle for Acropolis by Mikey Brooks
Thirteen-year-old Talon is in trouble...again. He didn't mean to burn down the school library. It just happened. Things like that always happen to Talon. His life is a mixture of the weird and bizarre. No one else he knows can shoot fire from their hands or cause anearthquake...but he can.

Every night the same dream haunts Talon: the destruction of an underwater city. He doesn't have a clue what it means but he feels like fate is trying to warn him. It's not until he runs away with his foster sister Hattie that he discovers his trouble-making powers and strange nightmare are connected. Together they are the key to saving magic...to saving Atlantis.

Battle for Acropolis:


Mikey Brooks is a small child masquerading as an adult. On occasion you’ll catch him dancing the funky chicken, singing like a banshee, and pretending to have never grown up. He is the author/illustrator of several picture books including the best-selling ABC Adventures: Magical Creatures and Bean’s Dragons. He is also the author of the best-selling middle-grade fantasy The Stone of Valhalla as well as the exciting series The Dream Keeper Chronicles. His art can be seen in many forms from picture books to full room murals. He loves to daydream with his three daughters and explore the worlds that only the imagination of children can create. Mikey has a BS degree in English from Utah State University and works fulltime as a freelance illustrator, cover designer, and author. As a member of the Emblazoners, he is one of many authors devoted to ‘writing stories on the hearts of children’. He is also one of the hosts of theAuthors’ Think Tank Podcast. You can find more about him and his books at:http://www.insidemikeysworld.com/.

GO CHECK OUT WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING ABOUT THESE BOOKS AND SOME FABULOUS INTERVIEWS AND REVIEWS:


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And don't forget to come Join the launch party Here



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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Husband Maker Blog Tour

Husband Maker Tour


The Husband Maker by Karey WhiteThe Husband Maker by Karey White Charlotte’s a girl with nicknames. She may not love being called Charles or Chuck, but the hardest nickname to take is the one she was given in college, the one that’s followed her now for too many years. They call her “the husband maker” and sadly, it fits. Every guy she’s dated since high school has become his next girlfriend’s husband. Not hers. Not three girlfriends down the road. The next. Is she doing something wrong or is she just cursed? When Kyle Aldsworth enters the picture and sweeps her off her feet, Charlotte begins to hope that maybe she's not destined to be single forever. A senator’s son with political aspirations of his own, Kyle's wealthy, handsome, and in need of a wife. Will Charlotte be disappointed yet again, or will she finally be able to make a husband for herself?

Get your copy of The Husband Maker for just $3.99!


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My review: I'm a fan of Karey's. I loved both The Gift and My Own Mr. Darcy. So I was really looking forward to her newest book. I wasn't disappointed. Karey has a way of writing these characters that throw you into a maelstrom of emotion because you're not sure who you're rooting for - or even why, sometimes. I thought I knew where this story was going and I was wrong. I can't tell you who I wanted Charlotte to end up with because it will give away the story. I am looking forward to the sequel to see how Charlotte's life plays out. I really want to see this character happy, and that shows how powerful Karey's writing is, that I care about this woman who is fictional. Great, true-to-life, contemporary romance. Another winner for Karey White.

Karey WhiteAuthor Karey White Karey White grew up in Utah, Idaho, Oregon, and Missouri. She attended Ricks College and Brigham Young University. Her first novel, Gifted, was a Whitney Award Finalist. She loves to travel, read, bake treats, and spend time with family and friends. She and her husband are the parents of four great children. She teaches summer creative writing courses to young people and is currently working on her next book.  

 

Coming Fall 2014 - Charlotte's Story continues in The Match Maker

The Matchmaker final ebook cover
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$25 Blog Tour Giveaway $25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 8/15/14 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the publisher. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Christmas in July

Christmas in July Giveaway Hop

It's that time again - time to celebrate the fact that it's not Christmas! Haha. For this hop, sponsored by I Am A Reader and Laurie Here, I'm giving away a copy of A Fantasy Christmas, a collection of fantasy stories revolving around Christmas written by myself, Sherry Gammon, and Stephanie Fowers. I may be biased, but I still think it's a great collection of stories, no matter the time of year.

Halfling  by Cindy C Bennett
Banished from the South Pole, Kara tries to carve out a new life among the elves of the North. It’s not easy with a secret to protect—a secret she's cursed with by the unusual circumstances of her heritage: half-elf, half-fairy. In the North, she’s assigned to work with Seb on a special project. He's the most gorgeous elf she’s ever seen - and the orneriest. 

As if being banished wasn’t punishment enough. 

Seb introduces her to Trystin, a fairy from the nearby fairy forest. Trystin discerns her secret right away and promises to teach her how to use the powers given to her by the very thing she’s fighting to keep hidden.

Aphrodite by Stehanie Fowers
Nothing is simple for Aphrodite’s daughter, especially love. 
Scorned by society in regency England, Affry longs for romance. Upon encountering a dashing nobleman at her aunty's Christmas' ball, Affry gets caught in a lovely intrigue with disastrous results. Worse, she wins the interest of the gods. 


Now the furies of the underworld and Hades himself are after her. When all is fair in war,  Affry must use love as her weapon—but only for the one who’s stolen her heart.


Loving Marigold by Sherry Gammon
Young Marigold Yarrow has a secret. She’s also in love with Jack Mahoney. In the middle of her ninth grade year, Jack's family up and moves to Port Fare, New York, leaving the small town of Sugar Maple, West Virginia - and Marigold - far behind.

Nine years later Jack and Marigold meet again. They join forces to weed out the shady Abbott boys. The unscrupulous brothers are illegally selling moonshine near her home on Sugar Maple Ridge. And they'll do anything to get Marigold to leave the ridge. Anything.

This time it may be magic that tears Jack and Marigold apart.

Enter below, then click on a link in the linky list to go to other blogs with fun Christmas in July giveaways.


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Monday, July 21, 2014

A Collection of Books for a Great Cause



“We all know how fragile life is, especially when faced with a life threatening illness.” ~Nic, Flirty and Dirty Book Blog.

Fiction introduced us. Reality binds us together.

Stephanie Thomas—co-founder of The Indie Bookshelf—has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer called glioblastoma. Stephanie isn’t only a blogger; she’s a loving wife, and mother to three young boys.

In the independent author community, we have an extraordinary network of fellow authors, and readers. A special group of people who bridge this gap—helping authors connect with readers—is book bloggers. These men and women dedicate hours upon hours to reading and reviewing our works, and spreading the word to help us reach new readers.

Now, one of these women needs our help.

100% of the proceeds of the Rise Up anthology (volumes one and two) will go directly to Stephanie and her family to help them on this unexpected leg of their journey together.

Inside the pages of this collection, you’ll find amazing works of fiction. But please remember the reality, and help support Stephanie and her family.

Included in Volume Two of this collection are the following novels:

* 1. Always There - Carol Ann Albright-Eastman
* 2. Republic - Charles Sheehan-Miles
* 3. Seeds of Hate - Melissa Perea
* 4. In The Fields - Willow Aster
* 5. Bar Crawl - Andrea Randall
* 6. Totaled - Stacey Grice
* 7. Running from Forever - Ashley Wilcox
* 8. Crossing Paths - Melanie Stinnet
* 9. Going Home - Rhonda Dennis
* 10. Never Goodbye -  Kerri Williams
* 11. Without Boundaries - CJ Azevedo
* 12. Binds - Rebecca Espinoza
* 13. The Forgotten Ones - Laura Howard

Purchase your copy today to help support this amazing woman as she goes through this journey.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Dreamospere



What if dreams don’t disappear when we wake up? 

Haunted by her younger sister’s death, and her unwitting role in the incident, 11-year-old Gwenevere Stoker takes solace in the Dreamosphere—a dimension where all dreams still exist. But when someone begins destroying her dreams, Gwen must find the culprit—or risk losing all her happiness forever. Bask in the mystery and imagination of dreams in this touching, funny, mind-bending children’s tale that encompasses themes of grief, friendship, family, healing, and grand adventure!

EXCERPT
"What do you think happens to your dreams after you wake up?"
Gwen shrugged distractedly, too disoriented by her sudden arrival in the remarkable setting to focus. "I dunno. They disappear?"
The unblinking gray eyes of her young companion flashed as she leaned forward. "Incorrect. Every dream you've ever had still exists. All of them. They reside in a dimension called the Dreamosphere. It's where we are right now, as a matter of fact. Each dream basically exists as its own world, or dream-orb. There are thousands and thousands of them, connected like drops of dew on a gigantic spider web. Every dream you've ever had, Gwen. They're all up here. And you can visit them any time you want."
Tabitha, the enigmatic child who shares this information, has some even more shocking news. Gwen’s dreamosphere is in danger. Someone has been hacking into it—destroying her dream orbs, erasing pieces of her past, and affecting Gwen in more ways than she realizes. Together, Gwen and Tabitha travel through the outlandish landscape of Gwen’s dream worlds to find the person responsible. What will happen to Gwen when all her dreams are gone? What critical clues lie within the pages of her dream journal? And what does Edgar Allan Poe have to do with it all?
My Review: Let me first give kudos to this cover. It's gorgeous! It's even cooler in real-life than it looks in the picture, and the book's interior layout is fantastic. The cover was designed by Kristen Reeves and the typesetting by Melissa J. Caldwell.
As for the book, the blurb I was given for this post lists the MC as 11 years old, but the book itself doesn't list that in the blurb, so I accepted reading it with the idea that Gwen was going to be a teen. Not so, and hopefully the publisher (Sweetwater books which also publishes two of my books) will reconsider and make that clear. The description on the book and the cover feel more YA. This book is firmly MG, so if you like MG books, then read on.
Some of the things I found very cool about the book were Gwen's trips into her dreams, or dreamosphere. Stoddard was creative and very descriptive in these passages. She also did a great job of hiding her villain's identity - I didn't guess it was him until around the time he was revealed. Gwen's recollection of her sister's death was heart wrenching and brought tears to my eyes.
I only had one issue, and hopefully this book I received was an ARC and it will be fixed in the final product, and that's the POV  switches that are randomly thrown in where they shouldn't be. That's most likely the editor in me coming out, and probably won't even be noticed by most readers if left in place.
Overall, a fun read, and seems to be the beginning to a possible series, or at minimum a sequel since the ending leaves that possibility wide open. Great read if you have an MG reader who isn't easily scared by the possibility of having someone haunt their dreams.

Author Bio: Laura Stoddard was born in Idaho and spent her formative years running amok in the great outdoors. She received her bachelors degree in English Literature from Arizona State University. After being rejected from the masters program for creative writing she decided that she didn't need a masters degree to tell her she could write, so she started really dedicating her time to finishing the story she'd started months earlier, with the goal of writing a complete novel, and getting it published. The result is her debut novel, The Dreamosphere, for which her own vivid, bizarre, and incomprehensible dreams provided the inspiration.  Laura is an adrenaline junkie and will try anything once--or twice--or maybe three times. She can already check whitewater rafting, going down in a shark cage, and skydiving (three times) off of her list. Oh, and getting Lasik. It was five minutes of terror. She enjoys hiking, rowing, reading classic literature, embarking on new adventures and hobbies, volunteering regularly, and spending time with family. She currently resides in Phoenix, Ariz.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Shaman's Curse

I'm helping Meredith Mansfield spread the word about her new release, The Shaman's Curse

INTRODUCTORY SPECIAL: $0.99 for the month of July only

Vatar risked his life to try to save his friend--and failed. Now he has an implacable enemy in the vengeful shaman, who blames Vatar for the death of his only son. In his isolation, Vatar finds some comfort in daydreams. He knows the strange girl he sometimes imagines is just that--a dream. She’d better be.


Because, if she’s real things could get even worse for Vatar. The accepted magic of Vatar’s plains tribe wouldn’t enable him to see or communicate with a girl he doesn’t even know--or know where to find. That would be more like the magic passed down in certain, closely-guarded bloodlines among the ruling class of the coastal cities. And that’s bad. Very bad.

Unlike their own, Vatar’s people think the city magic is evil. If the shaman ever found out, it could be the weapon he needs to destroy Vatar. And yet, finding a way to accept the other side of his heritage may be the only way Vatar can ultimately defeat his enemy.

The two kinds of magic have always been totally separate. Until now.

Excerpt:

Vatar reined his horse back behind his friends and turned his head slowly to scan around the endless circle of the plains that merged with the sky at the far horizon. The earth was all golden brown now, the grasses prematurely dried up by the lack of rain. Here and there, the green smudges of trees dotted the savannah, marking the waterholes. The darker blue-green line of the Great Forest marked the eastern horizon. Another line of trees, much closer, marked the course of the river. Everything seemed normal, but that spot between his shoulder blades still itched with a premonition of undefined danger that grew stronger the closer they got to the river.
Ariad slowed down to match Vatar's pace, allowing the other two boys to go ahead. "Lions?"
Vatar shook his head. That was one danger he could dismiss out of hand. His connection to the Spirit of the Lion told him the nearest lions--in the shade at a distant waterhole--were sleeping off a full meal. "None we need to worry about."
"What then?" Ariad asked.
"I don't know. Something . . ." Vatar caught himself before he said too much. It was one of his mother's oldest admonitions--almost as old as "Don't touch the fire!" From the very first time he'd tried to describe that infrequent feeling of danger, she'd warned him not to mention it to anyone but her and Pa. Even his little sister Kiara didn't know about it.
Vatar was already different enough--dark-haired and strongly-built among the tall, lanky, fair Dardani. Though she was Dardani now, his mother had come originally from a far-off city on the sea coast. The Dardani would accept his hair color and height, but not anything that even hinted at forbidden magic. Other than a few old stories, Vatar had no idea why his people had such deep-seated superstitious fear of magic, but he knew full well that it was one of the few things they'd never forgive.
Vatar didn't think the itch between his shoulder blades was magic, any more than his ability to sense lions. That was his connection to his clan's totem spirit--just like Ariad could sense eagles. But Mother's caution was second nature by now. He forced one corner of his mouth up in a half-smile. "Maybe I've just heard one too many of Pa's stories about Themyri ambushes."
Ariad barked a laugh. "Haven't we all? To hear our fathers tell it, the river is almost as dangerous as the Great Forest." He shuddered a little at the reference to the one place all plains-dwelling Dardani feared most and made a surreptitious sign against magic and evil spirits. Being Eagle Clan, Ariad's hand curled in an imitation of an eagle's talons.
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The related short story "Becoming Lioness" is free in all those places and more.

Author bio:

Professionally, I've been a financial analyst and a visual basic programmer. I also have a paralegal certificate, although I've never worked in that field. It's anybody's guess what I'll be when I grow up.

Imagining stories and writing have always been an important part of my life. It's one I finally got to spend a significant amount of time on while I cared for my mother who had Alzheimer's disease. 

Connect with me on my blog: