My Book Rating System

My book rating system is based on 5 stars. The book must be rated at least 3 stars for a review.

3 Stars: Good story, good plot, good writing.

4 Stars: I was wowed, but something about the story fell short of perfection.

5 Stars: I was either drooling, on the edge of my seat, or falling in love.

If you would like me to review your book, please contact me at 00ibitz@charter.net.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Check out some new stuff!

Couple of things you should check out. Look over to the right. See? My book trailer is up and running! Take a click and check it out.

Okay, now look over to the left. See? I'm hosting a giveway! Take a click (on the book cover itself...that'll take you right to the enter and win page), check it out and enter to win.

This could be your lucky day.

:)

Sample Sunday: Fire in the Blood

Good Sunday Morning! We are sitting here waiting for Irene to come on shore...category one for the shore here in Connecticut...but I'm inland so am only expecting a tropical storm. However, there's always the chance of losing power like thousands in the sate already have, so here is my sample!

Last week, Haley overheard Tuggin receive orders to do her in, but she's alone on Eyidora and history has proven that Tuggin is pretty hard to escape from. So she decides to play along, leave with him from Given Hall, try to get him to trust her, and then jet at the first opportunity.

Enjoy!

CHAPTER ELEVEN


I squealed and tumbled out of bed like I’d been caught doing something naughty when there was a knock on the door. I rubbed my eyes and blinked at the morning light invading my room.

“Yeah?” I croaked.

Adrana’s voice came from the other side. “It is time to depart, yes?”

“Yup. Just a sec, I’ll be right out.”

I threw my clothes on, packed my stuff, and scooted into the hallway. I’d have to act normal around Tuggin, pretend that I was a team player, pretend that I liked him. Enja said I could be distracting. I wrinkled my nose. Somehow I didn’t think flirting would work on Snarky Boy. It would take an emotional earthquake to crack that stony exterior.

Adrana chattered like an excited squirrel; I responded like a robot, saying “uh huh” or “hmm” whenever she paused. It seemed to work. When we passed the Great Room doors, the guards glowered at me.

“Aren’t we going out the front door?”

“Non.”

I pursed my lips. It had never occurred to me to find another way out of here. At the end of the Great Room, Adrana plucked a torch from the wall, and I tread down a winding staircase behind her, the air getting colder and damper. I’d lost count of the number of stairs by the time we’d reached the bottom.

I gasped. “Oh!”

We were in an underground cave. A lake rippled in the torchlight, and row boats bobbed in a line along the rocky beach. It was too dark to see the other side, but water crashed in the distance and echoed off the walls.

“What’s that noise?”

“The falls. They enter Given Hall, filling our water cistern.”

A hunchbacked man limped up to us. “Greetings, Adrana.”

“Greetings. We may have a boat, yes? My mother waits at the orchards.”

“Ah, Enja and that man, Tuggin, they passed this way earlier. That Tuggin, he has a sour look about him, does he not?”

I silently agreed, but Adrana laughed. “Tuggin is not sour! Surely you tease me, boat-keeper.”

A sinking feeling wrenched my gut. Adrana and Tuggin could fall in love, get married, and fly to any one of the ridiculous moons on this globe. I could care less.

The old man chuckled, stepped into the water, and pulled a boat closer to shore. “Step in, ladies, yes? I will give you a proper shove.”
He held the boat steady when I stumbled over a rope and fell onto a narrow bench. I straightened myself out, and Adrana sat on the bench across from me. She picked up the oars and the boat-keeper pushed us off.

“I am grateful, boat-keeper,” Adrana called as we drifted away from the shore.

“Should I help?” I asked, rubbing my bruised knee.

Adrana didn’t pause in her rowing. “Non.”

A metal lantern hung from a pole. It wasn’t very bright, and it was impossible to see anything beyond the little circle of light. The water looked dark and cold. The air was, too. It sounded as though the waterfalls crashed all around us.

We hit the opposite shore with a little bump, the bottom of the boat scraping the ground. Two other boats were parked along the beach. A torch bobbed through the dark, and a guy about my age waded into the water and pulled our boat to the shore.

“Greetings, Adrana,” he said, giving her the torch and taking her free hand.

He held his hand out to me, so I took it and let him lead me to solid ground. When I tried to twist my fingers away from his, he held me tight.
“This is the strange one, Adrana, yes?”

Adrana clucked. “Mind your tongue! Haley is a guest of Given Hall, is she not?”

“Please my forgiveness,” the guy mumbled. Then he couldn’t seem to help himself as he said to me, “It is true, yes? You can change your eye color? Do it now.”

“No!” I jerked my hand away.

“Silence!” Adrana ordered.

“Please my forgiveness,” he repeated, but I didn’t think he sounded sorry at all while he checked me over with bright eyes. “Your mother awaits you.”
“I am grateful.”

Adrana strode away from the lake, and I hurried to catch up with her. I looked over my shoulder to find the guy staring after us, so I stuck my tongue out at him before turning a corner. Adrana’s torch light danced on a staircase.

“Follow me.”

I didn’t know how long we’d been climbing before my legs went numb. “Give me a minute.” I plopped down on a cold step. “How much further?”

Adrana waited on the step above me. She dipped her head and drew her hair over her face. “We are almost to the top, are we not?” After a moment she asked, “You are ready to continue?”

“Yeah, let’s go.”

I grabbed the wooden handrail, using it to haul myself up when my legs quivered. I had no clue what Adrana was talking about…we were nowhere near the top. I had to make her stop three more times before finally getting there.

Adrana pushed open a door and we were outside near the orchard. Farther ahead, the rolling hills turned empty and dirt-colored. Behind us was a lake, and a forest on the other side stretched to a mountain. Even from this far away I could see the river’s dirt bottom as it leapt the edge into the lake below.

“Is this lake the same as the underground one?” I asked.

“Non. This is Lake Anala. The water cistern below catches the run-off from the waters above, yes?”

“I see.” I turned and looked back over the hills.

“You see the Du Kesan, or the Dry Hills, yes?” Adrana swept her arm. “The hills run from the east, turning here to continue south, marking the territory of the Fire Eyid. It is very flat and dry on the other side, yes? With much sand.”

“Like a desert?”

“Yes.”

“We don’t have to go through there, do we?”

“You will travel the Du Kesan for a short while, but you will then go north, yes?”

“How long will it take?”

Adrana shrugged. “I believe you should arrive at your home on the seventh day.”

A week. Excitement tickled my nerve ending at the thought of being alone with Tuggin for a whole week. I clenched my teeth. Bad Haley. I was escaping Snarky Boy the first chance I got.

I had no idea I’d been frowning until Adrana said, “Do not concern. Tuggin will find you safe passage through the Fire Eyid’s territory.”
I smiled, but I really had to work at it. Adrana apparently wasn’t in on the whole let’s-neutralize-Haley deal.

Tuggin and Enja led two curly-haired horses our way. I blinked and counted again. One, two, three, four, five…eight legs? First mutant talking birds, now mutant eight-legged horses.

Tuggin adjusted a strap on a gray horse. “You are able to ride?” he asked without looking at me.

“I’ve ridden horses.”

Tuggin didn’t respond.

The dark brown one gazed at me with pale blue eyes. I decided that it looked tame enough, especially when Adrana slipped the animal what looked like a lump of sugar and it gave a happy little snort.
“His name is Sorrel. He is one of my favorites.”

“What are they?” I stroked Sorrel’s neck, and he nudged me with his nose. He acted just like a horse, except with a few extra legs. I thought I could deal.

“They are sleipnir, do you see? They travel great distances by sea, land, or air.”

“Oh, please. Horses can't fly.”

Adrana tickled the sleipnir’s shoulder. Feathery wings fluttered for a moment before settling back on its sides.

My mouth made a small “O” of surprise. “Cool!”

“It is quite warm for the cooling season, is it not?” Adrana asked. “Do not worry. You ride a sleipnir as you would a horse, only sometimes not across the ground.” She lifted her chin toward the sky.

“Oh.” I looked up.

“I trust you to care for him, yes?”

“Sorrel shall be safe within my care, Adrana,” Tuggin said.

I scowled. She was talking to me, not him. And had he said Adrana’s name with a note of tenderness?

“I shall return the sleipnir,” he said.

It felt like my bladder was going to give out. Did this mean he thought I wouldn’t be around to bring Sorrel back? “We both will,” I added.
Adrana smiled and gave me a hug. “Safe journey.”

I nodded. “Thanks.”

Adrana went to stand next to her mom. The wind tugged Enja’s hair away from her face; she had a beaded earring, just like Tuggin, including that little black bead. Maybe it was a symbol of that Eny thing. Maybe the Eny was their club, but what kind of club? A club that sounded like it didn’t want Haley around, that was for damn sure.

Enja dipped her head. “Safe journey.”

I grabbed Sorrel’s reins and we mounted our sleipnir.

Tuggin held his right fist to his left shoulder. “Unity to the Eny.”

I nudged Sorrel with my heels, waved to Adrana, and set off after Tuggin. It took me two seconds to discover that sleipnir were not comfortable to ride. Sorrel’s choppy stride made it feel like my eyes were jiggling in my head. I tried to relax enough to flow with the rhythm, which was impossible because there was no rhythm. I pressed my lips together and hoped I wouldn’t bite my tongue.

We walked through orchards of apples, pears, and strange banana-shaped purple things. People climbed ladders with bags slung across their shoulders, picking fruit. After a while, we left the fruit trees behind and hit fields of corn and wheat. Birds raced the clouds across the blue sky, calling to each other, diving and wheeling while they did their bird things. I kept an eye on them, hoping none of them planned on giving me another present from Nomer.

After leaving the fields behind, the land dipped steeply. It was rocky, so we had to let the sleipnir take their time, picking their way. When we stopped for a break, Tuggin tied rope between the sleipnirs’ front legs. They hobbled around, sticking their noses in the brown grass. Holding his personal Haley hobble, Tuggin glanced sharply around him before resting his gaze on me.

“I’m not going to run,” I said, trying not to use a snarky tone. “Trust me.”
“It would be wise not to attempt so.” Tuggin rested his hand on his knife as if to seal the threat.

“I won’t. I promise.”

I sat cross-legged on the ground with the cheese and bread Tuggin gave me. I didn’t talk while we ate, figuring it was best not to annoy him.
He stretched out on the grass, using one of the packs as a pillow. I leaned back on my elbows and studied him. He really was beautiful, especially when he was relaxed and not scowling. I hated using that word—beautiful—for a guy, but it fit in this case. Uncomfortable with the direction of my thoughts, I checked out the landscape.

I pointed to a mountain range ahead of us. “What’s that?”

Tuggin opened one eye. “The Aerie Mountains,” he said, closing his eye again. “Our destination lies in its northern peaks.”

Encouraged by Tuggin’s good mood and needing to score some points, I asked, “That’s in the air region, a laka something, right?”

“Yes. Lak ‘Nurr.”

Drawing my legs to my chest, I rested my chin on my knees and gazed at the northern point of the distant mountains. The highest peaks were covered in snow, which stretched so high they seemed to poke the bottom of the sky. It looked cold.

Sabina was in those mountains. Home. They seemed remote to me, distant. Should I feel something? I squinted, holding my breath as I focused on the mountain. Nothing happened; I didn’t feel a thing.

I looked back the way we’d come. “What’s that mountain?”

Tuggin sighed and sat up. “Mount Xenia.”

I flinched. “Did you say Xenia?”

Tuggin watched me. “Yes. What means this to you?”

“Nothing.” I bit my lip. It was easier to lie when I wasn’t looking at him. “If I’m from the Aerie Mountains, how come the gateway I came through isn’t there?”

“Mount Xenia. Home of the gateway.”

“There’s only one?”

Tuggin shrugged.

“What were you doing there, if you’re from Sabina?”

“Mentas go there to meditate.”

“The dudes who can brain wash people?”

Tuggin’s gaze sharpened. “Where have you come by this knowledge?”

I wasn’t about to admit Nala had mentioned Mentas and their mind tricks. “Can’t remember. Adrana maybe?”

Tuggin’s gaze didn’t weaken.

I hurdled on. “What exactly do these Mentas do? Go around bewitching people?”

Tuggin’s lip curled. “You are ignorant, tenya. Mentas have a task of great importance.”

“And what’s that?”

“They protect and enforce.”

I plucked a blade of grass and chewed on it. “Are you a Menta?”

Without answering, Tuggin picked up the pack he’d been using for a pillow and strapped it onto his sleipnir.

I sighed. My plan to get on his good side wasn’t off to a good start. Tearing my gaze away from him, I shaded my eyes and looked at the Aerie Mountains. I wondered what my home was like…and if I would ever live to see it.
********************
We didn’t stop again until the sun was about to set. I slid off Sorrell with a groan. I took off his saddle then limped with my packs toward the stack Tuggin had piled up.

“Your feet have pain again?” he asked.

“Not this time.” I rubbed my butt and picked up my saddle. “Ooh!”

“I must say,” Tuggin said, lips pressed together as though he were trying not to laugh, “you do not surrender. Perhaps Eyidoran blood runs through your veins after all.”

A glow warmed me from the inside and spread to my cheeks. Tuggin winced, and rubbing his temple, turned to unsaddle his sleipnir without another word.
********************
After dinner, I stretched on my blanket. Stars twinkled around the two strange moons, one white, and the other red. Tuggin hadn’t tried hobbling me yet, though he watched me like a highly trained guard dog. I shivered when he moved toward his pack.

“Please, don’t tie me.” I sat up and waved toward the dark horizon. “I promise I won’t try to run.”

Tuggin paused before squatting beside me. He held my gaze for a very long moment, and I couldn’t look anywhere but the depths of his blue eyes, as though my gaze had been welded to his. His sultry scent pulled me toward him.

His gaze flicked very briefly to my lips before tracking back to my eyes. “Do not let me regret trusting you. I do not forgive easily.”
I swallowed, nodded, and lay back down. Clamping my eyelids closed, I squeezed the image of Tuggin from sight and let Ian’s face fill my thoughts, same as they did almost every night. I slipped into my usual daydream, the one where Ian held my hand as we walked through the halls, stopping at my locker to give me a spine-tingling kiss before I skipped off to class…

Ian’s hotty green eyes were replaced by a pair of cool blue ones. Yikes! How’d Tuggin get into my daydream? I shot a glance at him, and our gazes met across the campfire. I rolled over and sent my thoughts into safer territory.

Thinking about Mom was safer, but depressing. I hoped she was all right. If she’d forgotten me, as Tuggin said, then she wasn’t feeling what I was feeling. What really sucked was that I didn’t have a picture of her. What if I forgot what she looked like?

I shuddered, intending to focus on my escape plan. I had to admit, Tuggin had his nice moments, and I thought that, given the chance, he might not be such a tool. The thought that I could be happy on Eyidora slipped into my mind. As my eyelids drifted closed I reminded myself to be careful. I almost found myself liking Tuggin, for crying out loud.

Dangerous, beautiful Tuggin.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Book Review: Angel, by Nicole "Coco" Marrow and Laura Hayden

Angel
by Nicole "Coco" Marrow and Laura Hayden

I'm usually wary about reading books written by celebrities because many times the talent doesn't extend beyond the name. This book was different.

Angel begins with a woman waking up on a plane right before it crashes. The twist is she has no idea who she is. No clue. Nada. Nothing. Then the plane crashes, she's rescued, and is hoping that something--anything--will spark her memories. She is dubbed "Angel" because not only did she survive the crash, but she saves the only other survivor...a baby. While nothing about her past surfaces, she learns something about herself. She can read mens' minds, she can ferret out their deepest desires, and she can transform herself in order to meet those desires and become the object of a man's dream. But the question still remains...who is she and *what* is she?

The opening to the book is riveting. You get Angel's confusion, and fear, when the plane is crashing. You discover her "talents" as she does, and the reader is as befuddled and alarmed as Angel is over her seemingly slutty nature as she tunes into men's thoughts and reacts to their inner desires. She seems to want what they want, and is horrified. This is all the more scary to Angel because she can't remember any detail of her life...is this something that has occurred because of the plane crash? Has she always been like this? Who--and what--the heck is she?? The answers to these questions slowly unravel in a gripping read, and the mystery of her life and what she is becomes clear. It kept me turning the pages to see how it all ended.

There are some elements of the story that didn't quite work for me. Saving the baby seemed an instrument to giving Angel her nickname..."Angel" and was a tad contrived. There is no other angle for the baby, and I expected there to be more significance given the high profile of the baby in the beginning of the book and even on the book jacket. The story escalates about 3/4 of the way through as Angel and her friend, Dante, work together to settle a score...but then dips for quite a while as they work to help Angel channel her "talents". For me it takes too long to get to the end where the tension works its way up again to a climax.

Except for this minor flaw in pacing toward the end, this book was an overall good read, and the put-downability factor was a solid 2!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Book Review: The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins

Let me start by saying that it's been a long while since I've picked up a book that I couldn't put down...and that includes my own! That being said, I started reading The Hunger Games yesterday morning while my husband was having hernia surgery, and I was annoyed every time I had to put it down. When we got home from the hospital, I sat down and read it straight through.

The Hunger Games take place in a future world where the US is divided into 12 districts that are ruled by the Capitol. Food is scarce, people are poor, and most are hungry. As a punishment for rebellion ages before, every year the Capitol forces each district to select 2 kids between the ages of 12 and 18 (one boy and one girl) to participate in the Hunger Games. This is not an olympic style event...this is a game to the death...winner take all. In The Hunger Games, 16 year-old Katniss is the 12th district's female tribute to the games. Peeta is the male tribute, and while they share a somewhat distant but life-changing past together, only one of them can leave the games alive.

This story tightens its fist from the first page and never loosens its grip. The world is so realistically pathetic in its poverty, yet you find goodness beneath the grit and grime. Katniss presents a tough exterior to the world, though inwardly she's still a 16 year-old girl who misses her mom, loves her sister, and fears for her future, yet she yearns for more than she can ever have. The depth of the characters is so well drawn, you can easily picture them. This author knows how to draw vivid scenery and characterization. I'm not usually an emotional reader, but I can count two scenes that had me wiping my eyes.

I'm eagerly looking forward to reading the next book from Suzanne!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sample Sunday: Fire in the Blood

Good morning! It's Sunday, and that means sample time! Last week, Haley overheard Tuggin getting an order to kill her. Now, Haley has to come up with a plan to save herself.

Enjoy!







I paced my room, hurling every swear I knew at Tuggin and Enja. They’d put those guards at the doors to keep me from escaping, I just knew it. I groaned, remembering how I’d tried to breeze past them and scoot out the front door. Apparently, they had orders to stop anyone trying to leave without Enja’s specific permission and had escorted me back to my room like I was an escaped monkey from the nearest zoo. 

Adrana knocked and poked her head in. “It is time for raha. You will come with me, will you not?” She held up a dress, this one a pretty coral color.

I really wanted to wear that dress. “I’m going to skip raha tonight, okay?”

“If you wish. I shall have food brought to you, will I not?"

“Yeah, that would be okay.”

Adrana nodded, and then shut the door. I picked up my pacing. And the guards weren’t the only issue I had with Tuggin, I mean, other than the death threat and the tying up stuff. He’d lied about my brother. The thought that I wasn’t completely alone made my stomach twist with happiness and then twist with anger at Tuggin for lying to me.

I dropped to the bed. What was that Eyids’ force deal? Maybe my brother knew how to use those stones to stop the war. Maybe that’s why Tuggin had been happy that my brother wasn’t around. Maybe he didn’t want the war to be stopped.

It wasn’t like I could log on to the nearest computer and Google my brother’s name—I didn’t even know it. It would be cool if I could find him and we could find the stones together then go back for Mom. I would find those damn stones and bounce from this world as soon as possible; Tuggin could kiss my Earth-kin ass good-bye. A knock at the door interrupted my venomous thoughts.

“Come in,” I said.

When Tuggin strolled into the room, my heartbeat accelerated, but whether from fear or excitement, I didn’t know. I escaped onto the balcony. Through the filmy spray, I could see a lake far below.

“What is wrong?” His voice sounded colder, as if he hated me more than ever.

I edged to the other end of the balcony. “Nothing.”

“What are you concealing?” When I didn’t answer he snapped, “Look at me!”

I glared at him.

“What do you conceal from me?”

Swaying, I grabbed the railing to keep from keeling over. Tuggin’s words seeped into my brain while his lips moved in slow motion. His silky smooth voice brushed my thoughts, prodding, searching for the answer. What do you conceal from me?

I stepped toward him. “I like your voice,” I whispered, one minute wanting to fight the dizziness, the next longing to ride the wave.

A breeze threw a spray of mist on our faces; he jerked his gaze away and I shook my head. Had I actually said that…out loud? I glanced at Tuggin, forehead creased while he studied me. Shit, I did.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“I would protect you.”

I’d meant to ask what he was doing to me, but his answer made me laugh, unless he was trying to protect from someone else who wanted to kill me. “From what?”

“Death.”

“No one wants to kill me.” Except him. The fact that he’d tried to convince Enja that I wasn’t worth giving the time of day was no comfort, because he still agreed to follow orders in the end. I pressed my lips together, just in case they decided to betray me and tremble.

Tuggin white-knuckled the railing. “Tell me everything from your dream.”

“Why don’t you tell me everything that’s going on with you first?”

Tuggin ran his hand through his hair. “Jahme.”

“What’s that word mean anyway?”

“There is no Earth-kin translation. You would not understand.”

“Try me.”

“It expresses irritation. Or rage.”

Oh nice, all this time the jerk had been swearing at me. Kidnapping, swearing, plotting, keeping secrets. Fine. Two could play that game. “There’s nothing to tell.”

Tuggin clenched his jaw. “We depart after sunrise on the morrow.”

“Where?”

“Sabina.”

“Fine.”

He left without another word. While I watched the door close behind him, it occurred to me that, despite his golden hall god looks and sweet voice, Tuggin was a very dangerous guy.

I wasn’t sure if I could believe that Tuggin was really going to take me home. He said he wanted to protect me, but he’d been ordered to “neutralize” me. Which was the lie?

I yanked my necklace from under my shirt and stroked the milky surface. The necklace had to be why Tuggin and Enja had kidnapped me. They had to suspect what I had, and they wanted it. Would they go so far as to kill me for it?
            Were they trying to kill my brother, too? Had they already gotten Mom? I pinched my bottom lip. Tuggin was impossible to run from, so I had to be sneaky about planning my escape. I would pretend I was on board with this whole going to Sabina thing, play along so that Tuggin trusted me. Then the second he let his guard down, I’d make like an egg and scramble.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Book Review: Imperial Hostage, by Phil Cantrill

Imperial Hostage
by Phil Cantrill

This is an epic fantasy, spanning the life of Prince Erech from age 12 through 25 while he serves as a hostage to Poseida. In the world that the author has created, Poseida is the capital of the Empire. The vasal states of the empire are required to send hostages to Poseida in order to teach them their ways and their religion. Poseida has competing temples, each struggling for power. When 12 year-old Erech reaches the Temple of Bel, he is identified by an old crone, a seer, as the doom of the high priest of Bel, Al-Jinn. The priests of Bel spend the next week torturing and degrading Erech and then try to sacrifice Erech on the alter. He is saved by the high priest of the Temple of One, where he is taken in and cared for. Thus starts a series of events over the next 13 years of numerous failed assissination attempts on Erech's life, instigated by Al-Jinn.

The author has done an incredible job of building a fantasy world with a complex society, differing religions, and deep depth in detail. The story immediately sucks you in with tension without being graphic as to the treatment of 12 year-old Erech...the author gives you just enough information for your imagination to fill in the blanks. The characters are well-developed and three dimensional. The author spends a great deal of time showing Erech's growth throughout the years through trials, tribulation, love, and death until, finally, Erech reaches age 25.

My only complaint about this story is that there is no true story arc. While there are many scenes that show conflict and resolution, the story as a whole is a series of scenes without a true "critical choice" for the main character to make and therefore no "resolution" to the story. There are numerous references to Erech's ability to be a great leader, and hints of a cataclysmic event that is never achieved in this story. I believe that the author is setting up for a sequel, however, it leaves the ending to this story a little flat for me and leaves it no ability to stand on its own.

Overall, a nice read and the story rates a 4 out of 5 in its wonderfully graphic writing and attention to detail in its world-building. On a scale of 1 - 5, however, the 'put-down-ability' factor for me is a 3.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sample Sunday: Fire in the Blood

Good Sunday Morning! It's time for the next installment of Fire in the Blood. Last week, Haley learned that her dreams are really messages from the nature gods. Today, she overhears some devastating news about Tuggin...his secrets are starting to come out.

Enjoy!







The next morning, a tray of fruit and nuts sat on my nightstand untouched. Dinner the night before had sucked, with everyone staring at me and whispering. And then I’d had to apologize to Adrana for ripping her dress. I groaned and shoved my head under my pillow.

I couldn’t breathe, so I lifted a corner to get a little air—not only for my lungs but for my head, too. I felt bad for the people here, but did I care enough to get involved in a war that had nothing to do with me? And those stones of power…I couldn’t stop thinking about them. Couldn’t stop thinking what it would feel like to have power. Couldn’t stop thinking about finding them and using them to go home.

A knock at the door interrupted my thoughts. I peeked from my pillow when Adrana poked her head into the room.

Adrana said, “I shall show you our city, would you like?”

“Sure. Is it far?”

Adrana chuckled. “Non.”

“And ‘non’ means…”

“Please my forgiveness. This means ‘no.’”

“Tuggin says ‘net’.”

“Ah, that is true, is it not? All tribes speak their own tongue, but we all use the shared tongue. To understand? As do you.”

“I see.”

Adrana took me along the balcony above the room where Tuggin and I had first come in. She pointed down. “That is the Great Room.”

Instead of heading for the stairs leading up from the Great Room, we turned right. While we walked, Adrana pointed to wall hangings of rivers, lakes, oceans, and waterfalls.

“These hangings represent Lak ‘Neynu, yes?”

“What’s that?”

“Lak ‘Neynu means Region of Water. Given Hall is a border city between two laks, yes? Neynu and Nurr.”

“What region is Nurr?”

“Air. Lak ‘Nurr is your home, yes? Sabina rests in the mountains of Lak ‘Nurr.”

My step faltered at the mention of my home. I hadn’t considered where I might have lived if I’d stayed on Eyidora. “I was born in Sabina?”

“Yes, as was Tuggin.”

“Seriously? We come from the same town?”

“Yes.” Adrana pushed open a thick, wooden door. “There are four laks to represent the Eyids. There is also Heika, meaning land, and Toom, meaning fire, yes?”

Adrana led me down tunnels where we passed rooms with people arguing, women making baskets, and even classrooms. It seemed half the people wore tacky purple robes.

We trudged up a staircase that twisted high into the rock. At the top, I followed Adrana through a narrow passage toward the muffled sound of a crowd. As we neared the end of the hall, it grew wider and the noise got louder. We spilled out onto a balcony, and I gasped. The room below was so big it made the Great Room look dinky.

“Here is the market,” Adrana said.

“This is awesome. Who’d ever know that a whole city was inside this mountain?”

“It is a great stronghold, is it not? I fear that even this sanctuary will not withhold the coming storm.”

I frowned while I checked out the shoppers. Stony faces peered out from stalls of baskets, pottery, clothes, and food. The food baskets were half empty: dried fish, breads, nuts, and wrinkled fruit and vegetables. I watched two old ladies argue over a skinny fish. The fish lady, a leather-faced woman with sunken cheeks, picked at her teeth.

“No one seems very happy,” I said.

“There is drought. Finding food is difficult.”

“It was pouring rain yesterday, and there was a ton of food at dinner.”

“That is so, but we need many moon cycles of rain to fill our water cisterns. The lakes and rivers, they do not rise, yes?” She dipped her head toward me. “Our pantries do not willingly give of their fare.”

I studied the people with their tattered clothes, slumped shoulders, and who looked as skinny as that fish. I murmured, “The Fire Eyid’s descendant really is killing this globe.”

Adrana gasped. “What have the Eyids told you?”

Whoopsy. My conversations with the Eyids were going to be my secret for now. I sucked my lips between my teeth.

Adrana shook her head. “The great ones always know when to stay silent, yes? I understand why you are paired with Tuggin.”

I halted, unable to stop a snort exploding from the back of my throat. “I’m not paired with Tuggin.” I felt a funny twist in my stomach, and part of me—a sick part—wished it was true. I squashed that part down because it was just a random, temporarily insane thought. “He forced me to come here, there was no pairing involved. Why would you even think that?”

“Tuggin is not a typical Eyidoran as well.”

I rolled my eyes, but I couldn’t help asking, “What’s so special about him?”

Adrana stopped at a fruit stall. She picked some wrinkled apples, and then turned to me while the vendor put them in a bag. “Tuggin has a sister-mate.”

I searched through the apples, trying to find one that wasn’t so wrinkled. Adrana took her bag from the vendor and handed him some dull, yellow coins.

I’d forgotten about the paying part. I set the apple back down. “What are those?”

Adrana handed me a coin. “Eyidoran currency. These yellow coins are heken.”

The coin had a funny marking on it—four little circles in a weird comma-shaped formation. “How much is it worth?” I handed it back.

Adrana held up a blue coin. “Five nenu equal one heken. Five heken equal one toma,” holding up an amber coin, “and five toman equal one nura, yes?” She waved a silver coin and dropped it back in her pouch.

I said, “I see,” and then bounced back to the subject of Tuggin. “What’s a sister-mate?”

Adrana continued to stroll through the market. “Tuggin and his sister were born together, do you understand?”

“Twins?”

“Yes. Tuggin’s sister-mate is called Elana. It is very rare, is it not?”

“I knew someone named Elana on Earth. Elana Sorba. Isn’t that weird?”

“Elana is Tuggin Sorba’s sister-mate.”

I grabbed Adrana’s arm. “No way. She can’t be Tuggin’s sister.”

“Why not?”

Tuggin told me his family was dead. As in not living dead. As in not breathing dead. As in I’m-going-to-kill-him-for-lying dead. “We can’t be talking about the same girl.”

“Tuggin’s sister-mate on Earth. Elana Sorba.”

“What’s she doing there? Does she know she’s Eyidoran?”

“I do not know much. Tuggin does not impart information freely, yes?”

“Tell me about it.”

Adrana giggled. “I only know these things from listening to Tuggin and my o’ma speaking, yes? Through a door.”

I checked out a basket, brushing my fingers over the rough surface. “It doesn’t matter, because Tuggin hates me.”

“Hmm,” Adrana said.

That sick part of me wanted to hear Adrana say that Tuggin liked me. “We’re not together.”

“Hmm.”

I crossed my arms over my chest. What was wrong with me? Tuggin was an ass, I didn’t care whether he liked me or not. I’d wasted enough time following Snarky Boy around. I had to escape so I could get my butt home and find Mom. Adrana was small; I could probably take her out and make a run for it. No, I’d tried running before and failed. I had to be sneaky, check out the place and plan an escape.

“I think I’ll go to my room for a while,” I said. “I’ll see you later, okay?”

“You need me to show you the way, do you not?”

Was she supposed to spy on me? “That’s okay. I think I can find it.”

Adrana gave a wave then disappeared into the crowd. I headed up the stairs. At the top, I couldn’t remember if we’d come from the left or right. Most people seemed to be going left, so I picked out a safe-looking person to follow, a woman in a purple robe carrying books.

I followed her until we were the only ones in the hall. She disappeared through a door, and I peeked inside. A library.

I breathed in the smell of dust, books, and leather. This wasn’t like the library at home. The ceiling was at least two stories high, with shelves crammed with books. Intersecting aisles of more books blocked my view of the room. Long, skinny ladders climbed to the highest shelves.

I wandered between the rows, gazing at the titles, but they were written in a language I couldn’t read. I pulled one off a shelf. It had a red leather cover with gold lettering. I ran my fingers over the markings on the top, the same markings that were on the coins: four circles in a comma formation.

“You have permission papers, yes?” croaked someone behind me.

I whirled to face a man with a raisin-shriveled face. He was mostly bald, but that didn’t seem to stop the gray hair in his nose and ears from growing, and it didn’t hide the black bead earring he had in each ear. His arms seemed to be lost inside his purple robe.

I shifted from one foot to the other. “I need to ask before coming in?”

“Yes. This is the Records Room. Permission is required.”

I bit my lip. “Sorry. I’ll go.”

“Wait.” He studied me while he rubbed his chin then grinned. “You are the strange one, yes? The visitor.”

I stiffened. Then I crossed my arms. He glanced at the book in my hand.

“Honest, I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to be in here, and I wasn’t trying to steal it.”

“Permission granted.”

The tension in my shoulders melted.

He took the book from me and stroked the cover. “You know the Tamoorian tongue?”

“No.”

“Ah, Eyidora’s Histories and Legends. Interesting choice. You know of the Legend of Truhaan, yes?”

“No.”

“Old Piel will help, yes? This book speaks of the legendary savior who will bring harmony back to Eyidora.” He flipped through the pages then read out loud:

“Gathering strangers of two globes born,

come together with the truhaan dawn.

Who sees through the dark with many eyes,

To amass Eyids’ force, on truhaan’s rise?”

Piel studied me. I studied him. He raised his eyebrows.

“Wait,” I said, and I instinctively touched my necklace through my shirt. “You don’t think…that I…”

Piel shrugged. “What does old Piel know?”

“Apparently not much, if you think I’m the stuff legends are made of.”

Piel laughed and put the book back on the shelf before shuffling off. “Take care you do not lose what is precious to you, Haley,” he called over his shoulder before vanishing around a corner.

The people on this world were insane. Shaking my head, I made tracks out of the library. I rambled up and down halls, looking for something familiar.

Gathering a massive sigh, I leaned against the wall. Muffled voices echoed from the other end of the hall. Then someone spit out my name like a piece gum that had lost its taste. I crept down the hall and stopped outside a slightly open door. Enja’s voice came from inside.

“The Legend of Truhaan tells us of the one.”

“What would the Eny have me do?” Tuggin asked.

I felt a tickle in my nose. I pushed my tongue against the roof of my mouth.

“You know of our plans, yes? Legend speaks of Quadralune. Quadralune befalls us in two more phases. We must neutralize her.”

Tuggin’s voice drifted back and forth, as if he were pacing. “Who do you mean?”

The tickle grew stronger. I pinched my nose closed and held my breath.

“You are not focused,” Enja snapped.

Silence, and then, “Tenya?”

Hey. I was tenya. He’d better stop calling me that or I’d smack him.

“Yes, Tuggin. She is a Seer.”

Tuggin muttered, “Jahme!” Then let loose a string of words I couldn’t understand, though by his tone it sounded like a lot of swearing.

Enja scolded him like a little kid. “Lanu! Think this through.”

“She is weak. She is Earth-kin.”

I clenched my jaw. What an ass.

“She is Eyidoran.”

Tuggin said, “The Eny should focus on her missing brother. Perhaps he is already dead, which would bode well for the Eny.”

I clapped my hand over my mouth, leaning my cheek against the cold wall. Freaking shit! I had a brother? A brother?! Enja started talking again. I pushed the thought out of the way so I could focus on what they were saying, vowing to kick Tuggin’s lying ass.

“Non, we must focus on her. Your task is well laid. If she is the one, she must be neutralized. You have your assignment. Do not fail.”

“Haley is not the one. The Eny should not waste effort on her.”

There was a drawn out silence, and I wondered what was going on in there.

Enja said, “Do you have emotions for this girl?”

Tuggin laughed, but the sound was dead. “I have no emotion. I have been trained well.”

“Drop your shield.”

I’d never seen Tuggin carry a shield. Were they about to fight?

“The girl is a distraction. It is imperative you meet with the Mavens, today, yes?” said Enja after a very long silence.

“As you wish.” Tuggin sounded as if he were speaking through clenched teeth.

“Very good. You will do as ordered, yes?”

“As always.” Then he murmured so low I had to strain to hear, “Haley is alone, and there is none to mourn her when she does not survive.”

I had to stifle the gag bursting from my throat. I tiptoed down the hall then bolted. I skidded around a corner, falling and scraping my knee. I ignored the pain and jumped down the steps two at a time. When I reached the Great Room I collapsed on the stairs.

I sucked in large amounts of air through my teeth, willing myself not to puke. Yeah, Tuggin could be a tool, and he’d kidnapped me and lied to me and tied me up, but he’d also saved my life…twice. Had he just been ordered to kill me? Why?
            I was jetting this place. Now. I was halfway down the stairs when I stumbled to a halt. The doors to the Great Room were guarded by two guys that were totally jacked, their muscles desperately trying to pop the seams in their purple vests, which were sharply bright against black leggings. The guards’ clothes may have brought on a chuckle; their sharp swords didn’t.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I got Spammed!

Hey my pretties, I have a migraine today, so not doing too much on the computer but...

Yeah, I got spammed. Who knew? A spammer left a comment on one of my posts, from India no less. Selling, oh, I forget, iron or something? While blogger does have a spam-wall, one got through. I'm not complaining though...who knows how many spam comments actually have been blocked from coming through?

So, which begs the question...why would some iron seller spam me? I'm not a manufacturing company, I don't buy iron, I don't work with iron...quite frankly, I could care less about iron. I read books. I write books. And nothing I've read or written has anything to do with iron.

Ah, well, it was easy enough to delete.

Now, back to my migraine.

Cheers!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Book Review: Ghosts of Coronada Bay, by JG Flaherty

Ghosts of Coronada Bay
JG Flaherty

This book is a more edgy YA paranormal. 16 year-old Maya is living a pretty ordinary teen-age life: she has a horny best friend with an over-active libido, deals with the sterotypical mean cheerleaders, and has an over-possessive ex-boyfriend who can't seem to take 'no' for an answer. But there's more to Maya than meets the eye, because not only can she can see ghosts, but her close proximity makes them solid. When a 100 year-old ship is dredged from the bottom of the bay, the explorers bring up more than a ship. They bring up a band of ghosts, an evil sorcerer, and a dark secret that's been hidden underwater that can destroy the world.

I liked the premise of this story, though the edgy nature is not for younger readers. There's not only the constant references to sex and teenage libidos, but a couple of death scenes that while not overly graphic, might cause some younger readers a few tense moments.

Maya and her best friend, Lucy, are fairly memorable characters and seem to be natural best friends. The cheerleaders are sterotypical in their cruelty, though the basis for their cruelty is never really defined, except the state of Maya's virginity seem to be their main focus. The description of Stuart, Maya's ex-boyfriend, is almost scary in its real-life portrayal.

I had a couple of problems with this book. Maya has known she can see ghosts since an early age, yet she doesn't seem to realize when she's talking to one until it's laid out for her in black and white. It would seem to me that someone who knows about ghosts and who can talk to ghosts, would at least recognize ghosts when she meets them.

The other problem I had with the novel is that, while expertly portrayed, for the first 2/3 of the book, Stuart is a total dick. There's not one redeeming quality to this guy. And because the author uses multiple points of view, you know what he's thinking in his head, and his thoughts aren't redeeming either. Then, suddenly, within a page or 2 toward the end, he changes his ways, helps to save the day, and becomes great friends with Lucy, Maya, and her new ghost friend that, up until then, Stuart has despised. No one changes that fast, especially if the character is not set up for change earlier on. It's just not believable.

I also would have rather seen this book in one point of view. While there were some surprising twists, due to the multiple points of view, the elements of mystery and suspense were missing, and I like to have a little guesswork going when I'm reading a book.

Overall a nice read.

Work, work and more work!

So, now that Fire in the Blood is up and running, I *guess* it's time to start marketing my baby. Currently, I'm working on a book trailer. I never would have thought to do a book trailer 10 years ago, but now it almost seems like a necessity. We'll see how it goes, but let me tell you, it is *not* easy. I haven't had to be this creative since I wrote the damn book. :) I figure once I get that done, creating a poster and some bookmarks will be cake.

I'm readying Racing the Nightmares, my mid-grade novel, for print. I'm on much more solid ground in that department, so that's going fairly well. The cover is finished, but there is a little formatting kink that I didn't have with Fire in the Blood. My lack of techie prowess is showing, but I always figure out these things in the end. Will it take a day or 2? Yup. Will I lose a few more hairs? Yup. Will it get done? Yup.

And I'm finalizing my draft on my new work in progress, Kiss Me Dead, before its transformation into a real novel: first my fabulous critique group will have its way with it, then my new editor (who insists she doesn't mind sloppy seconds) will take a stab (or several stabs) at it in November. A shout out to Katy! I have every hope that we'll like each other and work well together. (titter titter)

But, before I finish all those wonderful projects, it is Monday after all, and now I am off to my day job.

Cheers!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sample Sunday: Fire in the Blood

Good morning, my pretties! Let's pick up where we left off, shall we? Haley and Tuggin have arrived at Given Hall, where she meets a pretty snarky lady who all but snubs her. Of course, Tuggin is always snubbing Haley so that's no surprise when he continues to ignore her. Things start to ratchet up as Haley discovers something...odd...about herself at Given Hall.

Read on!







I leaned against the railing when I reached the top of the stairs. The muscles in my thighs burned, so I took a minute to catch my breath. Cobwebs wove through the iron chandeliers dangling from the ceiling, with maybe a couple dozen little candles sputtering in each one. I pulled away from the railing and looked down the hall. One of the girls waved to me, so I hurried toward her.

Giggling, the girl led me into a large room. Quilts covered the stone walls and a glass door opened up to a balcony behind a waterfall. I crossed the room to the fireplace and stuck my hands toward the fire. 

“You may wash over there, do you wish?” The girl pointed to a steaming tub.

“Okay.” I glanced around, my teeth chattering. “Where’d Tuggin go?”

She pulled a gold robe from a drawer in a spotted dresser. She dipped her head and hid behind her curtain of dark hair, but not before I saw her blush. “You have known Tuggin long, yes?”

Oh, for crying out loud, was she into Tuggin? “No, we just have this kidnapper-kidnappee kind of thing going on. He’s not much fun, let me tell you.”

The girl giggled, and then laid the robe on the bed and sped from the room without saying another word. I studied the closed door then the bed then the tub. What did I want more? A hot bath, a nap in a real bed, or escape? I debated another minute then grabbed my pack and crept into the hall.

“Going somewhere?” Tuggin leaned against the wall with his arms crossed.

“Looking for a bathroom?” My lie turned into a question.

“With your pack?”

“You never know what you might need.”

“Indeed.”

“Yeah, indeed.”

Tuggin approached me the way a tiger closes in on its wounded prey. I backed against the wall, Tuggin stopping only inches from me so that our personal space clashed with a surge of intense heat.

“There is no escape from me.” He raised an eyebrow. “Do you prefer being tied?”

I swallowed, loudly.

“Take your bath and behave like a proper tenya,” he said.

I ground my teeth, but then dashed into my room.

“You suck!”  I blurted, and had the satisfaction of seeing Tuggin’s blank stare before slamming the door in his face.

I heard Tuggin growl on the other side and I flung my backpack at the door. Fine. I’d really wanted a bath anyway. I wiggled out of my dirty clothes and folded myself into the tub. I laid my head back against the rim. My bones soaked up the heat from the water, and my muscles melted. I’d had no idea my body had been so clenched.

I lifted a foot out of the water and pointed my toes. What a mess of broken toenails and red callouses. My pedicure was shot, but at least it matched my disintegrated manicure. I plunked my leg back into the water. Enja seemed like a witch on a queen hall goddess level, and obviously didn’t like me much. The girl seemed a little na├»ve if she had a thing for snarky Tuggin. Something gnawed my stomach at the thought of them together. It didn’t matter. I didn’t care.

When the water turned cold, I left the tub and slipped on the robe; it felt silky smooth, gliding over my skin, and smelling faintly of flowers. Yawning, I lay on the bed, stretching my arms as though to hug it. My God, a bed! All I girl needed was some bitchin’ clothes and a soft bed and she could be happy.

Watching the dancing flame from the candle on the dresser, I let the sound of the rumbling falls outside sing me to sleep.

*********************

“Haley.

I stretched. “What?”

“Get up. I want to talk to you.”

My head ached, feeling like I’d eaten a bowl of ice cream too fast. I peered around the room. It was damp, and shadows crept from the walls. Too dark, too cold. I snuggled deeper into my pillow.

“Haley,” the pouty voice insisted. “Come on!”

Groaning, I lifted my head. A woman stood in the waterfall and waved to me. I checked the room then tumbled out of bed and opened the balcony doors.

Her long, blonde hair drifted like silk around her pale face. Her iridescent blue gown merged with the water, so that I couldn’t see where her gown ended and the water started.

“I’m Nala.” Her low voice wavered as though she spoke under water. She smoothed her dress. “Do you like my dress?”

“Uh huh.”

“I like your robe. It’s very pretty.” Nala inspected her image in the glass door. “The waters are disappearing. Did you know?"

I wiped water from my eyes. “I heard something about it.”

Nala smoothed her hair, and then turned her head to study her profile. “The Eyids need harmony for the globes in the planetary chain to survive. When the Eyids fight, it affects nature on all the globes.” She turned to study the other side of her face. “Was nature on Earth affected by us?”

Crazy things were happening on Earth, like ravaging tornado outbreaks, one devastating hurricane after another, out of control wild fires, tsunamis, earth quakes, and global warming.

Nala smiled as if she could read my thoughts. “The Eyids have been at war for thirteen generations, when some of our power-hungry descendants broke the Web and shattered the harmony amongst us. Greedy, vain little brats.” She patted the moss crown on her head. “Do you like my crown?”

I nodded.

“It is pretty, isn’t it?” Nala shifted her crown. “It’s bad enough that Soltar is making life for the rest of us so difficult, but now his descendant wants to take away all the water! Can you believe it? The planetary chain will burn.”

“What about Earth?” I shivered. So much for my warm bath.

Nala stuck out her lower lip. “Well, of course! Earth’s part of the planetary chain. Anyway, everything will be destroyed if the Eyid descendant isn’t stopped. I know Nomer told you about him.”

Cold fear cramped my stomach. I bent over, wrapping my arms around my waist. “I thought that was a dream.”

“It was a dream, silly. How else are we Eyids supposed to talk to you mortals?”

“I’d like to wake up now.”

“It doesn’t matter what you want. How can you be so selfish?” Drops collected on Nala’s lashes. She blinked, and they swept into the mist. “Many generations ago the Eyids had mates and babies.”

Nomer had mentioned something about them having families, but I hadn’t really thought about it. What would the kid of an Eyid be like? A demi-Eyid, like the demi-gods in Greek mythology?

“Eyid descendants have more power and longer life than other Eyidorans, even more than the Mentas.” She slid a glance at me then back to her reflection. “Not as much power as the Eyids, of course.”

“What are Mentas?”

Nala clucked her tongue. “They’re supposed to be protectors, but they’ve become twisted with power and greed. They can persuade your thoughts, and…” She hesitated, sliding a look my way. “There’s more they can do, but they’re not allowed, because being mortal they become addicted to the power.”

“What’s that?”

“I will not talk about it. It’s bad.” She touched my arm, leaving my skin cold and clammy. “Oh! And they can sense emotions, so don’t bother lying to Tuggin.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

Nala rolled her eyes. “Are you even listening to me?” She fiddled with her crown again. “A firestorm is coming, and Eyidora’s growing weak. Something has to be done, before the whole chain falls. Descendants of the Eyids need to rise together and restore harmony to Eyidora.” She splashed her hand through the waterfall. “Did you know?”

“Seriously, I don’t know what you expect me to do about all that.”

Nala pouted then pressed her lips together. Lifting her chin, she placed her fingertips against my temples.

Images burned into my head like a wild slide-show that I couldn’t stop: Eyidora engulfed in a roaring blaze; trees burning like matchsticks; flowers crisped; Mom screaming with her clothes on fire; Elana shriveled like a corpse, her face purple and wrinkled and her eyes bulging. I gagged, and Nala released me.

I sagged against the balcony door. “What the hell was that?”

“A glimpse of your future if you don’t fight to save this globe.”

“I can’t fight this war.”

“Neither can the Eyids. We live in the spirit world, not the mortal world, so you have to do it.”

“But…”

Nala interrupted. “It centers on the fourth truhaan phase, so you must hurry.”

“You mean, like, four moons?”

“Four truhaan. You already have one stone; you must find the others before he does. You must take them to the Caves of Xenia. That’s where harmony is found.”

“Are you out of your freaking mind?”

Nala pursed her lips. “Are you ever rude. I haven’t spoken to a mortal in ages. I’d forgotten how difficult it is. We should’ve known you were too immature to handle this.”

Nausea clenched my gut and my head reeled, but I sputtered, “Hey, watch who you’re calling immature.”

“You don’t have to use that tone with me.”

I leaned against the wall and slid to the floor. Clutching my stomach, I pulled my knees to my chest and rested my forehead on them. “I’m going to puke.”

Gross. I have much more fun things to do than argue with you anyway.” Nala’s shape shimmered, melting into the falls. Then she evaporated into the mist, her final words trailing after her. “Did you know?”

********************

A rapping noise filled my head. I tried to tell whoever was making the racket to shut the hell up, but my lips felt too heavy to move.

“Haley?”

Someone was knocking on my door. Groaning, I rolled out of bed, landed on the floor, rested on my hands and knees for a minute, and then stumbled across the room to open the door. The same, nameless girl held a green dress.

“It is time for raha. I have brought you clothing.”

“What’s a raha?” I asked, yawning and checking out the girl. She wore a silvery gray dress that draped to the floor. She looked pretty cute.

“The evening fare. Eyids be!” The girl dropped the dress in order to clap her hands over her mouth, looking at me as if she’d just found out I was a serial kitten killer.

“What’s wrong?” I stooped to pick the dress up, an excuse to look away from the girl’s horror-struck face and secretly sniff my arm pit.

“Your eyes.” Her hand muffled her answer. “They are strange, dilated with blue sprinkles. I do not understand.”

I lurched to the mirror and confirmed her words. What the hell? Did I get some freaky Eyidoran disease? Was I going blind?

The girl edged toward me. “It is peculiar, is it not?”

I gripped the dress, wrinkling it in my sweaty hands. “Maybe I’m contagious. I probably shouldn’t go to this raha thing.”

The girl slipped her face behind her hair. “Non, O’ma has ordered your presence. I shall wait for you in the corridor, yes?”

She slipped out of the room. I fumbled with the dress, trying to figure out how the straps were supposed to cross my shoulders and back, and then had to undress to take off my bra because the straps were showing. I hid the herb in my backpack.

Time and again I checked myself in the mirror. My eyes were still dilated with those bluish specs around the edges, but the effect seemed to be fading a bit. I tried to smooth the wrinkles out of my dress, finally gave up, and opened the door.

“Oh,” the girl said.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, looking down. Maybe I had the dress on backwards.

“I will help you, yes?” She pushed me onto the stool in front of the dresser, picking up a black stick.

“What’s your name?” I asked, while she ran the stick over my eyelids.

“Adrana.” Adrana did a bunch of stuff with my face and hair, and then made a clucking noise when she spied my ragged, dirty fingernails. She cleaned and buffed them, and then stepped back and grinned. “There.”

My rain-kinked hair was glossy smooth and pushed back with hair combs with embedded green stones. My eyes looked rounder from the dilation and eyeliner, and my cheeks flushed rose to match my lips.

“Wow. Thanks.”

Adrana nodded, looking pleased. “You look pretty.”

I snort-giggled. “Thanks.”

Adrana swept her hair over her face. “Come. We do not wish to be late.”

When we reached the dining room, I searched the men and women seated in high-backed chairs around a long wooden table. Thin candles flickered in iron chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, casting long shadows that crept into dark corners.

I tripped when I saw Tuggin. His deep blue jacket intensified the blue of his eyes, which were even more noticeable now that he’d tied his hair into a pony tail with a black cord. Gold buttons trailed up his chest to disappear into the soft folds of some kind of white collar-scarf wrapped around his neck.

Wow. I’d never be able to hold a coherent thought when he looked like that. Half of me hoped I could sit next to him; the other half was petrified at the thought.

Adrana pointed to the empty chair next to Tuggin. I stepped carefully so I wouldn’t trip again. I skooched my chair closer to the table then tried sitting up, but the hem of my dress was pinned under a chair leg. Hopping in my seat, I used both hands to lift the chair while I kicked my dress clear. I was pretty sure I heard a faint tearing sound.

“Are you all right, dear?” asked the woman sitting on my other side.

“I’m good.”

I pretended to be interested in my silverware, not relaxing until Tuggin wrenched his gaze from me to talk to Enja, seated at the head of the table. I let myself drop into a daydream. One where Tuggin’s hand grabbed mine under the table; his thumb lightly traced a pattern on my palm; the tickling sensation chased goose bumps up my arm to my neck; he leaned close and whispered, “You are so beautiful”; his warm breath skimmed my ear; trembling waves of heat exploded in my chest, dripping into my stomach, lingering there before traveling further down, melting me…

“Haley?” Tuggin said.

I snapped my head toward him. He looked as if he was waiting for an answer to a question. I stared, wishing I could stop the heat spreading from my neck into my face, and his eyes widened.

“What?” I asked, my face getting even hotter.

“Greetings, Haley,” Enja said. She glanced sharply at Tuggin, who lowered his gaze to his plate.

“Hi,” I said. I had the feeling that I’d made Enja repeat her greeting. I had the feeling that Tuggin, as well as Enja, could read my mind. Was Nala right about that sensory-reading trick?

“You are rested, yes?” Enja asked.

“Yeah, thanks.”

“You have met my daughter, Adrana? Tomorrow she will show you our city.”

“Sure, okay,” I answered.

I pushed around my pale pink shrimp and flaky fish wrapped in wide green leaves. I was sure everything tasted great, but I had that groggy feeling again and wasn’t hungry. The fires blazed, and each time Tuggin brushed against my arm I almost choked. How’d it get so hot? My head started to spin. I felt as though I’d been drugged.

I couldn’t get the images from the dream out of my head, the burning, and the screaming…it had seemed so real. Were my dreams real, on some kind of level? Like when I dreamt about that Nomer guy, and woken up with a scratched face.

I touched my necklace through my shirt. Both Nomer and Nala had talked about those power stones…how many were there? If I found them all, maybe I’d have enough power to jet this insane world and go home.  I rubbed my neck and shifted in my chair.

“Haley, you are well, yes?” asked Enja.

“Yeah, I’m good.” I forced a laugh, searching for something to say, and latched on to the one thought in my head. “I was just thinking about a strange dream I had.”

I was answered by silence. The kind of silence you hear right before a witness screams, “She did it!” in a trial for murder. Whispered rustling broke the silence as everyone shifted in my direction.

Tuggin ran a hand through his hair. “Jahme.”

“You had a dream?” Enja asked.

“Uh huh. I mean, yeah.” I wiped my sweaty palms on my dress.

I flinched when Adrana dropped her fork with a clang. Her eyes looked as though they’d pop out of her head, shoot across the table, and use my face for target practice.

“What’s wrong?” I asked her.

Adrana blurted, “Eyidorans do not dream.”

I leaned back in my chair. “Seriously?”

“Tell me of this dream,” Enja commanded.

“Well, hmm, it was…” My throat was so dry that my voice cracked. I sipped my drink, not sure I should say anything, but not knowing what else to do but answer. “I dreamt that there was a lady in the waterfall, and she, you know, talked to me. No biggy.”

Enja leaned her elbows on the table. “What message did she bring to you?”

I shifted from one butt cheek to the other. “She said something about a firestorm, and four moons. And we, you know, talked about the whole global warming thing.”

“Four moons?” Enja asked, tilting her head.

“I have told you. They are truhaan,” Tuggin murmured.

Enja asked slowly, “You are speaking of the fourth truhaan phase?”

I nodded. “Yeah, I think that’s what she said.”

A serving girl flung a platter of roasted potatoes onto the table and ran out of the room. One potato bounced off the platter and rolled to a stop against Enja’s plate. 

“You’re sure about this no dreaming thing?” I asked.

“There have been dreamers, yes? Seers from ancient days.” Adrana’s gaze swung from me to her mother. “Haley is a Seer.”

“That is absurd.” Tuggin spoke softly, but his face could have been chiseled from granite. “She is tenya.”

I ignored Tuggin, and asked Adrana, “What’s a Seer?”

Enja spoke. “Tales speak of Seers communicating with Eyids in a dreamstate. They were rare, yes? A Seer has not lived on Eyidora in many generations.”

“What does a Seer do?” I wanted to know.

Enja folded her hands in her lap. “A Seer heeds the call of the Eyids. Whether the message is conveyed, and to whom, is a path chosen by the Seer, yes? The entire path of Eyidora depends on what the Seer does.”

There was a ton of stuff I’d been told. There were stones of power that would stop the war, and Nala wanted me to find them and bring them to those caves. Nomer said my necklace was one of them. There was a guy who wanted to steal the water, and he had to be stopped. I didn’t like Enja’s attitude, but she seemed like she was in charge. Then again, knowing something Enja didn’t gave me a twisted sense of satisfaction.

Enja bowed her head when I didn’t say anything. “Have you come to save our globe, Haley Allaire?”

My scalp tingled when Enja lifted her gaze. I had the feeling her next words were meant for me…some kind of warning, or omen.
           “Will you save it…or destroy it?”