Wednesday, September 18, 2013

D20 Girls Review

The Order of the Four Sons Book I and Book II got a review today on The D20 Girls Magazine, a quarterly publication that focuses on community and promoting females in nerdy industries-- which, I'm pretty sure I qualify.  Coyote would too except for, y'know, the whole XX thing he's got going on.  But we don't hold that against him.

Anyway, check out the review here

Thanks so much to the lovely Tara Watson, a.k.a. Sairin, for the write-up, and thanks especially for capturing the essence of these books! 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Catching a Sorcerer by Sara Walker


Title: Catching A Sorcerer
Author: Sara Walker
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Formats: Paperback and E-book
Publisher: Sara Walker
Cover by: Melody Simmons
Pages: 198
ISBN-10:  1491049804
ISBN-13: 978-1491049808
ASIN: B00CTLG5A2
Date Published: May 2013

About the Book
After a sorcerer kills her mother, fifteen year old Melantha is asked to help catch him. She wants nothing to do with it, but then she learns one of her classmates is the son of the sorcerer. With her spell-turner powers not yet developed, the mission will be dangerous, but it will be downright deadly if the sorcerer figures out who she is and decides she will follow in her mother's footsteps. 

Book Links

Reviews
"Well balanced in plot and not too dramatic, touch of humor. Very satisfying, great writing, i loved the characters. Would recommend for fantasy lovers." – Barnes & Noble Reviewer

"Quite a different book and I enjoyed it. Interesting spins and enjoyable" – Barnes & Noble Reviewer

"Solid writing and strong world building. Pacing was a little slow towards the second half of book. Overall, I recommend this book and look forward to more from this writer." – Barnes & Noble Reviewer

Excerpt

Sunday night and I was learning to turn a summoning spell. Though I'd spent most of my life being home schooled, I had a feeling this was not a normal family activity for other fifteen year old girls.
"Gran, when I told you I wanted a cell phone, this wasn't what I had in mind," I said.
Gran picked through a handful of wheatberries, looking for just the right one to add to her pot. We stood at opposites sides of the round table with a copper pot in front of each of us and a host of ingredients filling the table between.
"Cell phones don't work for members of the magical community," she said.
"What community? It's just you and me."
Dumping ingredients into a pot had nothing on the convenience of electronic communication. Kids at school were constantly using theirs to call each other, text, watch videos. But not me. I wasn't allowed to have one. I had to learn the "old ways."
Gran sighed, and I knew by the way her lips were pursed that she didn't intend to elaborate. She'd been trying to get me to learn spells every night for weeks now. I'd finally caved in hopes she would back off, but that plan hadn't worked out quite like I'd hoped.
"I have to go to the library tonight," I said. I dumped a handful of crispy dried lavender flowers—for devotion so the line of communication would stay clear— into my pot.
In another time we might have been called witches. But now that term was considered derogatory. We were spell-turners. Well, Gran was. I wouldn't be a full spell-turner until I turned sixteen and came into my full powers. In all my fifteen years, in all the time I'd spent in Halifax and my current residence in Ottawa, I'd never met another turner, not another magical creature of any kind, until the day my mother died.
If there was a magical community out there, I wouldn't know it.
I hadn't been out of the apartment except to go to school in six weeks. I needed to get away, to hang with some friends— even just for a little while.
"We have books here," Gran replied in a stern tone. This was an old argument.
She was right— we had books here. Every wall of the living room was filled to the ceiling with shelves, every shelf filled with books. All had belonged to my mother.
Without coming right out to say so, Gran was subtly reminding me of the reason I was confined to the apartment. My mother had been killed by a black-spell sorcerer— that is, a sorcerer who chooses to use death to fortify his spells. For some reason Gran thought he would come after me. But I wasn't a full turner yet. I had only partial powers. Until my sixteenth birthday, every spell I turned would dissipate the moment it came together. "Learning powers," Gran called them. "Just enough juice to see what you're doing, but not so much as to harm yourself or anyone else."
She seemed convinced I had these learning powers, but for some reason my spells never seemed to turn out right no matter how carefully I followed her instructions. And that was bad news. Even though they didn't want me to know, I'd heard my mother and Gran fighting about me. Gran thought I was either a late blooming white turner or a null— a turner's daughter born without powers. My mother refused to believe I was a null. So Gran was on a mission to prove one way or another I had learning powers or I was deliberately faking not having them out of extreme laziness.
"Your mother was a good white turner," Gran said. "She loved turning spells with me when she was your age. Couldn't get enough of it."
Her mention of my mother hit me square in the gut.
"Didn't she like to do anything else? Anything normal?"
Gran pinched her lips together again. She didn't like to speak about my mother beyond her gifted spelling abilities.
I directed the conversation back to the topic at hand.
"I really need the books at the library," I said. I followed her actions and, using a wooden spoon, swirled in two cups of diluted bay leaf extract for strength. I turned the spell clockwise, same as she did. We were on opposite sides of the small round kitchen table, so I had to think for a minute which way to turn my spoon.
"Why?" Gran asked suspiciously, narrowing her eyes. Everything was suspicious to Gran.
I barely kept myself from rolling my eyes. "I have homework." 
"What homework?"
"What do you mean? I go to high school now. I get homework." I used to be home-schooled. Right up until 52 days ago when I lost my mother. Then Gran had to take over as my teacher. She used to be able to teach my lessons for the few months of the year when I went to live with her in Halifax, but now that I was in grade ten, my studies had advanced to the point where she didn't understand anything in my textbooks. So she marched me down to the nearest high school. She would have signed me up right then, but they were closed for winter holidays. Imagine that.
"The new semester starts tomorrow, February second, according to the literature I received from the school," she pointed out.
Crap. "I'm catching up from last semester," I said, carefully examining a handful of calendula. I felt more than saw Gran carefully examining me.
"Who's the boy?" she asked.
"There's no boy," I answered quickly. Too quickly. Double crap.
"I might not know much about quadriplegic equations or—"
"Quadratic equations," I corrected.
"Or, what goes into a good Theseus statement, but—"
"Thesis statement. Theseus killed the Minotaur."
"But," she said again with emphasis, ignoring my corrections, "I know my granddaughter."
This time I did roll my eyes. "Whatever."
His name was Rory Macdonald. But I wasn't about to tell Gran that. I met him in the principal's office on the morning of my first day. It was his first day, too. A drunk driver had killed his parents and now he was living with his aunt. I met him again later in the day at the guidance counsellor's office. A special grief counsellor had been brought in to meet with us. Neither of us wanted to meet with her, but nobody asked us. His aunt was almost as controlling as my Gran.
We didn't have plans for tonight, so I didn't have to worry about calling him to cancel. He'd mentioned he'd found this place, where he liked to go on Sunday nights to play bass guitar for a band. I'd only hoped to stop in and hear him play.
"You may invite him to come here," Gran said, ignoring my denials. She released three drops of cedar oil, for dedication, into the liquid swirls in her pot. "But you won't be going out."
I bit back a scream. It used to be my mother and Gran had no trouble keeping friends out of my life, what with shipping me off to Halifax twice a year and homeschooling me. I never got to go to birthday parties, Halloween parties, camping trips or any other fun thing that normal girls did.
"Friendship is dangerous," Gran would say. My mother would agree. She would even agree when they were having that big fight that lasted for weeks.
I tried a new angle. "I need to use the computers at the library."
"What do you need those confounded contraptions for?" she asked. Her tone was one of surprise, even though this wasn't the first time we'd talked about my needing a computer for schoolwork. She just didn't get the concept of computers. Ever.
I listed the reasons on my fingers. "Research, report presentation, statistical analysis—"
"Hmph. In my day we had to do all of that by hand." She peered down her nose at the runny swirls in my pot. While mine was little more than a pathetic soup stock, hers had taken on shimmering hues of purple and green. I didn't have to see her face to know she was disappointed.
Still, I pressed my case. "Look, it's not a big deal. I can take care of myself."
"Hmph." She tapped the wooden spoon on the pot rim.
"Please? Can I go for an hour?" Oh, man. That sounded so desperate.
"No," she said simply, placing her spoon on the table next to her pot. She carried the empty vials to the sink and turned on the hot water. 
"Gran—" I cried.
"I cannot permit it, Melantha. If you do not go outside this apartment with me, then you do not go outside this apartment at all."
I rolled my eyes and groaned. "You are completely impossible!"
If my words stung even the slightest, she didn't show it. She carried on with washing the dishes. "I'm sorry, Melantha. But I promised your mother."
"Promised her what? Promised you would keep me a prisoner and never talk about her?"
I slumped into a chair with my arms crossed. This was hopeless. Gran was super stubborn. I needed a new approach.
Temporarily abandoning my potion, I snagged the tea towel on the way to the sink. Unexpected helpfulness always put Gran in a good mood. I hoped it would be good enough to let me out.
She cleared her throat. "Your potion is incomplete."
"My potion is nothing but water with twigs and leaves in it." I noticed she didn't tell me not to dry the dishes. Nor did she tell me to start over and make the potion again. We'd been down that road before. It always resulted in the same thing: failure. Whatever it took to make a potion, I didn't have it. My mother and Gran had been convinced my spells would come together the closer I got to my sixteenth birthday, but so far they always amounted to nothing.
"Did you project your light into it?" she asked in that snippy tone that said she already knew the answer.
"Yes." I hated it when she said "light" instead of "magic".
"And?" Gran prompted.
"And what? Nothing happened." I shrugged. I felt my power, my magic. It flowed through me, the same as blood and oxygen flowed through me. It was there. I could feel it the entire time we put together these spells. But magic also dredged up too many memories of my mother. And there wasn't much light there when I thought about how she died. It was more like a choking sensation. I hated that feeling.
"You're not trying hard enough," Gran said. That was what she always said. I didn't answer. There was no point. She'd already made up her mind.
Maybe the truth was, I could have tried harder, but turning spells just felt wrong. If my mother had been killed by bullets, would I still be expected to attend target practice?
"I don't understand what's so bad about having friends," I said, plucking a soapy plate from the drain board.
She shut off the water. "You know the reason. They can be used against you. And you against them. It's better for everyone if you just don't have them to begin with."
Yeah, I'd heard that part before. It was stupid. For some reason my mother and Gran thought I would be kidnapped and held for ransom. I couldn't understand why. We didn't have anything of value. It wasn't like we were millionaires.
So who were they protecting me from?
"As for going out alone," Gran continued as she washed a pot, "there are many kinds of evil out there. You are not safe on your own."
"But I won't be on my own. I'll be with friends!"
"Together you'll be on your own."
"But that makes no sense at all!"
An eerie wind howled outside the windows. If the weather was getting worse, I was sure to lose this argument. I crossed the apartment to the living room windows and used the tea towel to clear away the condensation on the cold glass. Snowflakes swirled under the streetlights below. Even the weather wanted to keep me inside.
There was a sharp knock at the door. I met Gran's gaze. She appeared as surprised as I was, but where I welcomed any and every visitor, I knew she would send away whoever was on the other side of that door. By the expression on her face, she suspected I'd invited a friend over without permission. I hadn't, but knowing Gran, that wouldn't make a difference.
I dove for the door, but Gran beat me to it. She leaned cautiously up to the peephole.
"Open up, Alberta. I'm here to speak to the girl." It was a man's voice— muffled, old and tired. The voice of someone older than Gran, someone ancient.
The girl? I hoped for his sake, he wasn't referring to me. There was something familiar about the voice, something that sent a nervous sense of foreboding all the way down to my toes. This was one visitor I didn't want to see.


###




About the Author:
A former bookkeeper, Sara always preferred books to numbers, and finally put aside her calculator to write stories and work part-time in a library. She is the founder of UrbanFantasyLand.net, a website established in 2008 that specializes in promoting urban fantasy and speculative fiction. Her articles and fiction have been published in anthologies and online. She is the author of Catching a Sorcerer, an urban fantasy for teens.

Author Links  Website / Blog / Facebook / Goodreads / Amazon Page

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Free Book Binge Week

You like free books?  I like free books.  Today, I’m pleased to bring you 10 permanently free science fiction and fantasy reads. Don’t forget to leave the author a review on his/her download page!


 
 
 
This is the epic tale of Kirin of House Dar’Shiel, the elfish daughter of an exiled priestess who must travel to the elfish high city to serve the goddess Alorana. Upon her journey she must learn what it is to be a Namari. This goddess-given gift of foresight makes her an invaluable commodity in a war between two elfin goddesses, one of whom will have her death, or her service. Her path crosses that of an injured harpy, a creature thought to exist only in myth, who is upon a quest save her tribe from extinction. Together, they must find a way to thwart a dark goddess and save their homeland from destruction.
 
Download this fantasy novel from Smashwords.





Lucy van Dusen has a problem… and it’s not Georgi and Elsie, her beloved over-zealous lesbian friends who are preparing for Pride Week celebrations. It’s the summer equinox, a time when the moon is irresistibly powerful, even two nights before the full moon. Tonight might be a night of unspeakable terror. To prevent the horror, Lucy confines herself to her flat, but will standard locks and bolts keep the world safe from the werebian deep inside her, lusting for release?

  
 
The Clements Academy was established, somewhere around the year 2045, to train the best and brightest orphans from around the world into the perfect agents. Weapons training, martial arts training, and small unit tactics are just a taste of the curriculum for Clements students. Mark Eblin is one graduate who's never been amazing...and now he's been had.

Download this free science fiction short story from Smashwords.





They say the time will come for the darkened sky to violate our Earth with her tears of blood. The legend foretells of a blood-thirsty race being born from these tears; Mother Nature’s punishment for our evil deeds. They say that day will come when mankind’s thirst for the blood of his own consumes him. They say that day is near.

 
 
 
With so many humans focussed on snakes on July 16 each year, World Snake Day, the snake god Calebius gains more power. Power that builds over the years until one day, 16 July 2013, he’s finally powerful enough to free himself of the curse that, millennia ago, rendered him incapable of achieving physical form. Now, he seeks revenge on those who trapped him, but they are long dead, so their descendents will have to do… Only one person can quell his thirst for blood, but can Lily learn to trust her heart in time to save the human race?


Download this fantasy romance short story from Smashwords.




How many were there? Enough. Over the centuries they had evolved to satisfy their needs with a more passive source of the nutrients they required; after all, blood was blood. But not for all. Some could not resist the ancient urge to satisfy their blood lust with the warm, flowing liquid of a living being. In those instances, errant members of the Network were tracked by the death squad known as the Shield, from whom there was no escape. Jordan lived within the guidelines of the Network, as did most of his kind, in present day Baltimore. But his friend, Cam, could not resist the stirrings that drove him to unspeakable acts and attracted the attention of the Shield. When he turned up on Jordan's doorstep asking for help--would he get it? Would Jordan, warned that he himself was under surveillance by the enforcement arm of the Network, dare violate the rules by which his kind had managed to secretly co-exist with the Others? Or would he abandon his friend to his fate? He didn't know, and time was running out. 

Download this fantasy short story from Amazon.



 
 ...Love and other man-made disasters... A woman looking for a new life gets trapped in a commuter tube, and manages to find love and herself in the aftermath of the disaster.
Download this sci-fi romance short story from the author’s website.





Alien hunters invade a dying Earth in search of a saviour, and an ancient prophecy predicts a golden child who will save a galactic empire. A mysterious black ship is Rayne’s guide and a masked outlaw known as the Shrike her guardian. Others want to slay her and prevent the prophecy from coming true. In the midst of two great empires’ strife, the Shrike holds the power to save or destroy her.
Download this sci-fi fantasy novel from Smashwords.





When Tammy Miller is forced to live in Ashville Manor, she quickly learns that nothing is quite as it seems.
Download this paranormal romance short story from Smashwords.





A mysterious Immortal is jumping through time. He's harvesting heads and causing incalculable damage to the web of time. Trapped on their homeworld the Time Lords are powerless to intervene. In desperation, they disregard the first law of time and allow seven of The Doctor's incarnations to join forces to combat the threat and save all causality. If he can find a way. Doctor Who/Highlander Xover.

Download this sci-fi adventure novel from Smashwords.

 

If these free books whet your appetite for more, visit the other participating blogs below:







Sunday, September 1, 2013

Under Julia - now on Amazon & Smashwords

Under Julia is now available as an ebook on Amazon and Smashwords.





Description:

Miami law prohibits sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of a school or daycare.  Halfway houses, hotels and homeless shelters will not accept them. 

Which leaves them with only one place to go: under Julia.

In this devastating new novel, Lauren Scharhag explores questions of guilt and redemption, of dignity and exile.  Whether they were convicted of relatively minor crimes such as having sex with an underage girlfriend, or true predators nursing unspeakable desires, society considers them the worst of the worst, less than human. 

In their struggle to survive, they form a community, working together with surprising wit and tenacity.  With the help of caseworkers, doctors, clergy and family, they can overcome the worst of themselves.    

Together, they discover that hope is still possible, and while they can’t undo the damage they’ve done in the past, they can move forward—into absolution. 



Be sure to check out the excerpts here and here.