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

Friday, September 30, 2011

Wednesday Welcomes JA Clement!!

Okay, okay, I effed up JA's interview. Well, not the interview, but her name! When you have 2 authors whose initials are JA, that can't be hard to do, right? I mean, I can't be the only one who mixes people up, can I?

Um...maybe you shouldn't answer that question!

Anyway, both the authors took the mix-up very graciously and with good cheer and humor...or it could be that they were being nice about so I'd get my head out of the oven...

Let's not go there.

I'm not totally over my shame and embarrasemet, but let's move on!

Welcome JA Clement, who is just as mah-velous as that "other JA".

1. If you could be any character from any novel for a day, who it would it be and why?

Oh, I’d love to be Jane Eyre; my all-time favourite book. Obviously the happy ending is a bonus, but her journey from being “little, poor and plain” to a fully confident and independent woman in her own right is such a joy to read and experience, especially if you consider the time in which it was written – full kudos to Charlotte Bronte, on several counts!

The poise and self-knowledge Jane has achieved by the end of the book is wonderful; she has been through a lot and discovered her own strength and self-worth in the journey, but has also kept her joy in people and her sense of what other people are worth. I wish it were possible to say the same for all of us! Oh, and I’d quite like to have some words with St John Rivers on the difference between priggish bad manners and what it means to be a good person. I’ve been itching to slap his self-righteous face since the age of seven.

2. Do you plot your novels in advance, or write by the seat of your pants?

Elements of both! I know the start and the end, and a couple of pertinent points in between, but the action has to evolve out of the characters or it doesn’t work for me. I can make them do things but then they go like puppets and all the life comes out of it. No good at all, that. After a while you have to let them do it their own way and sometimes they go somewhere else completely; so I know where I think the story is going to go – but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is going to!

3. What is the first book you remember reading that totally took your breath away?

Jane Eyre, again – such vivid emotions and images! I couldn’t believe it. After that, maybe LOTR because I’d never read anything so long and all-engrossing. It wasn’t so gripping and vivid, but I loved the more formal storylines, and the landscapes, which seemed so familiar and like the hills of my childhood. Turns out that Tolkien’s son went to school really near where I grew up, so it’s not impossible that the hill my family refer to as The Lonely Mountain might actually have inspired The Lonely Mountain!! Though I’m not sure that The Hobbit wasn’t already written when the boys got to that school.

4. If your novels were adapted for the silver screen, who would you cast?

Hmmm, interesting. That’s difficult to answer because I don’t have full visuals of their faces in most cases. The characters are too much themselves for me to put someone else’s face on them, I think.

However, I do know where they would need to film.

Although Scarlock itself is a melange of many places, a bit of landscape from Cornwall, a street I saw in Hampshire, a pier and docks from the Yorkshire coast etc, the mood and the feel of it is based on a little fishing village in Northumbria where I’ve spent a bit of time. There’s this beautiful, bleak coast; some of the beaches are smooth white sand, and others dark, pocked pebbles. The village has a little curved harbour, built out of great blocks of stone and huge old beams of wood, all be-greened by the sea. The houses are long and low to the ground, grey limestone walls and roofs of dark purplish slate that shines like silk in the rain.

It’s a landscape of greys and blues and greens and purples, all cloud-colours and sea-colours and harsh grass on the sand-dunes. There’s one particular house whose garden gives onto the beach; when it’s sunny and warm, it’s so beautiful - but mostly it’s misty and a bit chilly and beautiful in an entirely different way. The beach curves round and at the far reach of it, a red stone castle is silhouetted against the silver of sunsparkling water, and there isn’t anything else for a couple of miles at least.

If I could pick up that house and that stretch of beach and the empty fields behind, the harebells on the sand-dunes and the little hardy ponies that wander along the shore; if I could pick all of that up and put it down somewhere less far from my family, that would be my ideal house. The writing I could do there! It would be wonderful...

But I would have to situate it so that the sea didn’t come into the kitchen in the winter storms – I guess that could get old fast!!

5. Nereia is a character who seems to speak to a lot of readers. Will she feature in future books?

Goodness yes! Nereia (pronounced Ner-RAY-a in case you were wondering!) is the pivot on which the whole series swings. She was the character who first came into my mind along with that initial emotion, and “On Dark Shores” is partly the story of her progress from hopelessness to her full potential. There are a lot of other stories going on at the same time, of course – many characters are making their own journey to a better or worse life – but primarily she is the kingpin.

In the first book of the series, “The Lady”, we see Nereia scrabbling to provide a living for herself and her lovely younger sister whilst paying a significant amount of what she earns to the ruthless Copeland, who dominates the entire town and beyond. Nereia’s life is hard and desperate, and Scarlock is in many ways a fairly merciless little town, so it’s all rather bleak and complex at the beginning.

Oddly, although I always knew that there would be a lot of characters and the action would range over a wide area, I never planned that this was going to be such a bleak little book; it was quite a lot darker than intended, by the final edit. The idea is that though Nereia has a long journey to undertake before she reaches fulfilment, that at each stage her circumstances will get a little better in one way or another, so I’m hopeful that future books will have more lighter parts than “On Dark Shores: The Lady”. There is one part in particular, which at the current rate of writing will probably be about Book 5, which will be moderately frothy in places, so I’ve a bit of work to do in order to graduate the mood so that that isn’t too sudden a transition!

But on the plus side, feedback so far is that though book 1 is bleak, it’s intense but not without hope or too dour to read, which is something of a relief!

6. Who is the “On Dark Shores” series written for?

I hope it will be accessible to everyone; but if I had to specify an audience, I’d say it’s written for people who have fairly wide tastes and read in a lot of genres but have never read any fantasy because they think it’s all elves and dragons and magic wands. I’ve tried to make it as gritty and “true” as possible, and I’m hoping that if these readers realise that there is a much wider range of tales in the genre and a much greater variety than basically fairy-tales for grown-ups (which seems to be the predominant stereotype), then maybe they’ll try some of the superb authors whose books are firmly on my shelves, and who have given me so many hours of happy reading.

The idea of introducing people to something new that they wouldn’t otherwise have tried really appeals to me – it’s like opening the door to a treasure-house and saying “Help yourself!” My Mum said for a long time that fantasy just wasn’t her thing. I was reading Robin Hobb’s “Assassin’s Apprentice”, and it was excellent – it felt so visceral and real, that I figured it might appeal to her. Mum agreed to read the first 30 pages, with the proviso that that if she didn’t like it, I wouldn’t be in the least offended if she then left it. Nine books later, she was on Amazon trying to find when the next one was due out, and since then has read and really enjoyed all sorts of stories that she would never have picked up before.

Though I make no claim to be as accomplished a writer as Robin Hobb, I’d love “On Dark Shores” to be one of those stories; and so far I’ve had some very pleasing feedback along those lines. A lot of people have said lovely things about it (and some have hated it, of course) but three or four of my reviewers have said that before they picked up mine they didn’t think they liked fantasy but that having enjoyed “On Dark Shores: The Lady” they are thinking of exploring that genre a little. If 3 people edge into new literary territory because of something I wrote, then I’m over the moon!

7. If you get stuck when writing, how do you get past the problem?

Firstly, sleep on it; you’d be surprised just how much the subconscious mind can sort out when you’re not getting in the way, angsting about not knowing what to do next. It may be a cliché but often I wake up thinking “Of course, the answer is [blah]”.

However, if that doesn’t work I’ll probably go and write something else, or cook something complicated or do some gardening or something of the sort; it has to be slightly complex and require concentration and creativity but not really be mentally taxing. If you go do something creative, it somehow frees up your mind a bit and when you go back to it, the problem will have sorted itself out while you weren’t looking.

Lastly, if it’s a real stinker of a problem and I’m truly stuck, I’ll sit down and discuss it with someone. Usually these are the “why would they do that” problems where a character has to do something which is a vital plot point but it just doesn’t quite chime correctly with their character. As the author it’s very easy to get fixated on the fact that it has to happen in just such a way, but you can’t make the character do something they just wouldn’t or the reader will throw the book across the room in disgust. Either there has to be some kind of human, understandable reason for it; or the plot point needs to go. I’ve had both of these happen. One time, my sister suddenly said “What if he was in this situation?” which then threw everything into a new light and solved the issue – I had to go back to the beginning and rewrite some sizeable chunks to insert that trait, but it enabled a whole new plot strand later on. The second time, I had to scrap the plot point and let the characters do their own thing, but that took it to a really interesting place too, so as long as you follow your instincts it seems to sort itself out and often the problem bits end up being the most fruitful, a little further down the line.

8. Do you write in any other genres?

Yes, I do. I write a lot of poetry, some short stories, and have ventured upon texts of varying lengths (and indeed varying readability) in sci-fi, modern fic and humour. I did try writing romance once but I really am no good at that – you have to be able to do the melodramatic bits without sniggering. In real life it’s the same; I have to make a real effort to not turn a romantic gesture into something a bit embarrassing by making some daft joke about it. Fortunately my partner has a very good sense of humour, so we laugh a lot together. I love that.

I do have several projects on the To Write list though; the next most likely one is fairly gentle village humour, though there’s going to be a lot of “On Dark Shores” to write before I reach the end of the storyline, so I shouldn’t hold your breath waiting for that one... Various odds and sods of my other stuff is up on my Wattpad page at though, so if you can’t imagine me writing something less bleak and gritty, there is at least one humorous short on there. You’ll know which from the cover, I’d imagine! (There’s also a snippet of Chapter 2 of “On Dark Shores: The Lady” that you won’t find anywhere else, as it happens).

So check out JA, and applaud her for her good humor and graciousness for giving me a second chance to make things right!

Here are the links...except my "links" don't seem to be functioning today:

Link to Amazon is

Link to Website:

Friday Funnies

Well, I don't know about all you babies out there, but I definitely need a laugh today! My day started out in the crapper. I'm just kind of waiting for the flush to take me away.....down the drain.

Happy Friday!

Actual Excerpts From Classified Sections Of City Newspapers

Auto Repair Service. Free pick-up and delivery. Try us once,you'll never go anywhere again.

Our experienced Mom will care for your child. Fenced yard, meals, and smacks included.

Dog for sale: eats anything and is fond of children.

Man wanted to work in dynamite factory. Must be willing to travel.

Stock up and save. Limit: one.

Semi-Annual after Christmas Sale

3 year old teacher needed for pre-school. Experience preferred.

Mixing bowl set designed to please a cook with round bottom for efficient beating.

Girl wanted to assist magician in cutting off head illusion. Blue Cross and salary.

Dinner Special -- Turkey $2.35; Chicken or Beef $2.25; Children $2.00

For sale: antique desk suitable for lady with thick legs and large drawers.

Now is your chance to have your ears pierced and get an extra pair to take home, too.

We do not tear your clothing with machinery. We do it carefully by hand.

For sale. Three canaries of undermined sex.

Great Dames for sale.


My apologies to author JA Clement, whom I interviewed, and then slapped another author's name on the interview. Ay yi yi! Some people are so not meant to multi-task.

Seriously, who would have thunk that there were 2 authors with the initials J.A. that I know?

So, as I sit here with my thumb up my butt and my face heating up so fast I could probably launch the next space shuttle just by looking at it, I have to apologize. Again.

I will rerun the interview next Wednesday and give credit where credit is due.

For now, I will go slink under my desk and wish back time.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Melting Glaciers

I saw a very interesting program on the T.V. over the weekend about how the ice caps and glaciers around the world are melting. Some have already vanished completely, forever. Most people might think, "What's the big deal? Antartica's got plenty of ice!" But the ice isn't melting just in Antartica. Even here in the US the glaciers in Glacier National Park in Montana is melting rapidly.

You still might think that none of the places with glaciers or ice caps are near you, so what's the big deal? It is a big deal. To everyone.

Here's the deal. Unlike the Little Ice Age, this rapidly decreasing melt-down is not due to natural cycles...but due to the greenhouse effect.

So now you're thinking, "Blah, blah, blah, get off your soap box." That's ok, don't deny it, I can hear you! But here's a list of some of the effects of the melt-down:

1. Many downstream areas from glaciers and ice caps depend on seasonal melting for most, if not all, of their water supply. If this disappears, they will either have to find a new source of water, or migrate.

2. Ice melt keeps streams and rivers cool for salmon and wildlife.

3. The melt-down is causing sea levels to rise. The rise in sea level impacts every coastal town in the world as they lose coastal land.

4. In Asia, the sea is pushing into fresh water rice fields, where rice will not grow (some places have adapted by switching their rice fields to shrimp farms).

5. Flooding. Ponds, lakes, rivers, streams...any body of water fed by a glacier or ice cap expands and may not recede.

So now for a little projectional theory and alarmist news: In some of the scientists' computer projections, based upon the documented recordings of ice melt, seas can rise enough to move the shoreline in some places not just feet, but hundreds of feet.

Even if we could stop the Earth's temperature from rising today, right now, ice will continue to melt for another 50 years. As I said, it was interesting stuff. We can't reverse it or stop, but maybe we can slow it down by acting responsibly toward the Earth.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Story Arc

I recently had a discussion with another author about whether a book had a true story arc. When I had read the book, it seemed to me the story arc was missing, and rather, the book was merely a series of events strung together. The story was a basis for establishing the main character's development from boyhood to manhood. While interesting, I kept waiting for the climax and resolution to the story...which, in my opinion, never came. The events in the story happened to the character, and the character never made one critical choice that brought the story to climax.

So, what's a story arc? The best explanation comes from Nigel Watt's Writing a Story and Getting Published. Nigel describes the 8 point story arc. In summary:

1. Stasis, the every day life in which the story is set. This is the setting in which the character lives, whether it be with an adoptive family, the mean halls of high school, a bored princess.

2. Trigger, which is something beyond the main character's control and which sparks the story. In a fantasy, this could be your main character falling into a portal into another world.

3. The quest stems from the trigger. If your main character fell through a portal into another world, his/her quest may be to get back home.

4. The surprise is the whole middle of the story. These could be nice surprises, but usually involves conflicts, obstacles, complications and trouble for your main character. After all, if your character found it easy to get back home after falling through the portal, that would be a pretty boring story. The writer shouldn't throw in random "surprises"...they all should be linked and make sense. Going with our falling through the portal theme, a surprise could be that after falling through the portal, the character discovers he/she plays an important role in that world's political structure. There may be forces at work that do *not* want the character to go back home.

5. Then comes the critical choice. This is where the character's true colors shine. This can't be something that happens to the character, this has to be an event that shows the character making a crucial decision. Should the character jet back home, or should the character stay and fight to save the world he/she has become a part of? The critical choice is usually the most difficult choice for the character to make. Yeah, it would be easier to go back home, but the harder choice would be to stay and fight. If your character has mettle, he/she will make the *right* critical choice.

6. So, your character makes the critical choice to stay and fight, and that brings the story to its climax. What happens after this choice is made should be dramatic, building tension so that you can't wait to see if the character wins or fails. Your character's critical choice could be facing some inherent evil overlord, someone who is stronger than your character, and maybe your character (or others close to the main character) feels he/she has little chance of winning.

7. Your main character is afraid but moves forward into battle...and then comes the reversal. The main character is stronger than anyone realized, and the evil overlord has underestimated his opponent. The evil overlord is defeated by the main character.

8. It's time to bring your story to its resolution. Your story returns to stasis, and your main character should have undergone a change and has learned through his/her ordeal. The story should be resolved (and this is important) but could also end with another trigger for a sequel. Your character won the battle with the evil overlord, but didn't kill him. The evil overlord has vowed vengence and will return.

So, not only is it vitally important to have a story arc, it's also vitally important to have resolution. Don't leave the story suspended at the end hoping to titillate your readers to wait for the sequel. That's just mean!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Book Giveaway - YA

Hey Babies! More giveaways of some very awesome books. I know I entered! So hop on over to Laine's blog and enter!

Banned Book Makes a Comeback

There's just something about banned books. I hear a lot of people, other than the arguement over whether books should be banned from libraries or schools, go out of there way to read books on the list. It's the forbidden fruit mentality...if you can't have it, you want it.

Interesting article today from the Associated Press:

CHARLTON, Mass. (AP) — A Massachusetts library has put the Mark Twain work "Eve's Diary" back on the shelf more than a century after it was banned.

The Charlton Public Library's trustees this week unanimously voted to return the book to circulation, reversing the board's 1906 decision to ban the 1905 short story.

Trustee Richard Whitehead said the move was made to coincide with the American Library Association's Banned Books Week.

The book was written from the perspective of the biblical Eve. It was banned because trustee Frank Wakefield objected to nude illustrations of Eve. Whitehead tells The Telegram and Gazette ( he considers the illustrations works of art.

The 1906 decision drew attention from The New York Times, which reported that Twain was not particularly concerned.

Charlton is 40 miles southwest of Boston.


Information from: Telegram & Gazette,

Sample Sunday: Fire in the Blood

Good Sunday Morning, babies! Yes, I'm back with sample Sunday...I've been away the last couple of Sundays (and a lot of days in between) but life should be settling down to a more scheduled chaos! LOL

Sooooo, where we left off with Haley. It's getting harder for Haley to ignore some feelings for Tuggin as they set off for home. They witness a battle between the Fire and Water gods, and after discovering human collateral damage, Haley seriously begins to wonder if she really is the one with the power to stop the war...and if she could actually do something about it.

Let's roll on to the next chapter!



I was vaguely aware. I heard murmuring, and my hands and feet were cold, but I wasn’t really awake. I rubbed my eyes and tried to bring the blurred edges of the cafeteria into focus.

Elana sat next to me at a table. Ian stood in front of us, looking at Elana as though he’d just asked her a question. Where was Tuggin? And Eyidora?

“For crying out loud,” I blurted. How could I have fallen asleep right there in the cafeteria? And I’d been having a weird dream. I hoped I didn’t talk in my sleep.

“Excuse me?” Elana asked.

“I said, for crying out loud,” I said at the same time that Ian said, “I asked you about Haley.”

He smiled, very slowly. I didn’t care that he didn’t seem to notice me sitting there, or that he’d just talked right over me…his smile was beautiful enough to forgive such trivial offenses. I smiled, too.

Then it hit me: Ian knew my name. The excitement filling my chest just about pushed my heart through my ribs. Maybe I’d fallen and knocked myself out and he was worried about me. Couldn’t he see that I was okay, grinning at him like a dweeb?

“Leave Haley alone.” Elana jumped up and turned away.

Ian grabbed her shoulder and whirled her to face him. “Don’t you think we’d make a good couple?”

“No.” Elana jerked free from his grip.

I frowned. What was Elana doing? Was she mad that Ian had finally noticed me? Was Elana jealous because he’d dumped her?

“Elana!” I snapped, trying to get her to shut up before she screwed my chance with Ian. I didn’t think I’d get more than one.

They ignored me.

“What’s the matter, Elana?” Ian asked.

I waved my arm. “Hello! Are you guys listening to me?”

Ian continued. “Are you afraid I’m going to spill your little secret?”

“If my secret is blown, then so is yours,” Elana said.

“Come on you guys.” I leaped to my feet. “Why are you ignoring me?”

“Doesn’t matter. See, Haley’s in love with me.” Ian laughed softly. “She’ll take me just the way I am, don’t you think?”

My mouth dropped open and my face erupted with heat, like a volcano blowing its top. Had I been that obvious about him?

“But you,” Ian continued, “you, she trusts completely and she will never forgive you.”

“Shut up.” Elana’s lips were pressed into a thin line.

I blinked. “What’s your problem, Elana?”

Elana wouldn’t look at me. She glared at Ian.

“Oh, no, you little witch,” Ian said. “You’re going to listen to me.”

“Hey! Don’t call her that.” I wanted to scream, grab them by the necks, make them look at me.

“What’s she going to think of her…friend…when she finds out you’ve lied to her? Spied on her?” Ian leaned close to Elana. “Pretended to be her friend?”

“Stop it.” I felt cold. Sick. “Tell him it’s not true.”

“You obviously don’t care about her the way I do.” Ian wore a smug smile.

“Liar. You do not care about her.”

“Says who? You?”

“Haley will believe me,” Elana whispered, though her face had gone white, and she slowly sank into her seat.

I’d never seen anyone pass out before, but it looked like Elana was about to keel over. A small snake of fear wiggled in my chest. It coiled around my heart and gave a gentle squeeze, enough to cause me a jolt of pain.

“I’ll bet that, as we speak, that brother of yours is spinning a web of lies so thick she’ll never see through the darkness shadowing her mind. What does she see when she looks at his eyes? Hmm?”

“He is not like that,” she whispered. “He would not hurt her.”

Ian laughed. The crowded lunchroom faded. Elana didn’t have any brothers. Except Tuggin. That had been a dream, hadn’t it? The shadowy room spun. That meant Tuggin was real…Eyidora was real. And Elana and Ian were talking about me right there in my high school cafeteria and Ian was worried that Tuggin was going to hurt me, and all of this meant that they hadn’t forgotten about me, like Tuggin had said. No. No!

“This is some kind of sick joke, right?” I said.

Ian went on. “He holds secrets in his eyes, secrets that even you don’t know about. You were raised together, but how well do you really know your brother?”

Elana made a strangled sound. Forget fainting, Elana looked like she was about to puke.

Ian rested his hands on the table and leaned toward Elana, his face inches from hers. “Your brother’s been trained by the best there is, trained in the art.” He leaned even closer, so close it looked like he was about to brush her cheek with his lips. “And Tuggin, as you well know, is quite the master.”

Elana leaped up, knocking her chair over, and then turned so fast her hair flung away from her shoulder. A hoop earring with colored beads flashed from her ear before she ran down the hallway.

“Elana!” I shouted.

The pounding of Elana’s heels echoed when she ran.

“Elana!” I called again. “Come back and talk to me. Elana!”
I bolted upright, gasping and shivering in a frosty field. I threw my head back only to see twinkling stars winking at the moons. No Ian…no Elana…no school.

“What is wrong?”

I turned to find Tuggin standing over me. I rubbed my hands over my face. “Nothing.”

“You do not speak truth. You called my sister-mate’s name.”

“You mean Elana?”

Tuggin nodded.

I pulled my knees up to my chest. “Oh, wait. That’s right. You told me your family was dead.”

Tuggin had the decency to bow his head. “Please to forgive.”

“Whatever. I just had a nightmare, that’s all.”

Tuggin squatted beside me. “What meaning is nightmare?”

“Bad dream. It seemed so real.”

“You dream of Elana?”

I nodded.

“Another was in this dream as well?”

I couldn’t shake the feeling that it hadn’t been a dream. Impossible. Earth had to be, what, a gajillion miles away, for all I knew.

“Disclose who was in this dream,” Tuggin demanded.

I flinched. “A guy from my school on Earth. They were arguing.”

“What did they argue of?”

My thoughts tumbled like a combination lock. Suddenly, the pins all hit and the connection opened. Elana’s earring. Enja had one and, of course, so did Tuggin. My mouth dried up like the parched land. Elana was a Menta. Had she only pretended to be my friend? Was she part of the plot to “neutralize” me?

“Haley?” Tuggin prodded. “What did they argue of?”

I faced him. “Me.”

His brow creased. “This is curious. Why do the Eyids send a message of my sister-mate and an Earth-kin boy?”

I swallowed loudly. I’d been duped into forgetting about my plan to escape. Duped by Tuggin’s good looks. Duped by Tuggin’s pretend niceness.

Duped by my own stupidity.

“I don’t know.”

Tuggin stood. “Or will not reveal to me?”

“I…I don’t want to talk about it right now.” I used a fingernail to remove some dirt beneath my thumbnail.

Tuggin blinked and the soft lines in his face hardened. “Very well.” He strode back to his blanket and lay down with his back to me.

I balled my hands into fists. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Tuggin didn’t want to be with me; Enja had forced him be with me. Maybe the truth had been hiding behind a pair of baby blues, like Ian had said. Eventually, Tuggin would hurt me, just as Enja ordered him to. I’d been fooling myself; I didn’t mean a damn thing to Tuggin.

Why wasn’t he killing me? Or maybe, if I was a Seer, he was taking me to the Eny, planning on torturing me so I’d tell them what was in my dreams. Maybe I wasn’t going to Sabina at all.

I bit the knuckles on my fist so I wouldn’t scream. I wished this whole nightmare would end. But should I be afraid of the sleeping nightmares—or the waking ones?
A rose hue glistened on the frost as the sun climbed over the horizon. While Tuggin slept I thought about what I knew about Mentas, the whole emotion-reading and mind-control thing. And Ian had given me a clue, something about the eyes.

Tuggin shifted in his sleep. I gave the sleipnir water and grain while my mind raced. Mutant talking birds and mutant eight-legged horses were one thing…but mutant people with mind powers? I dropped the grain bucket.

Oh no.

If I was a Seer, was I mutant, too?

I took a deep breath so I could push that thought down and focus on my dream. What did I see when I looked at Tuggin’s eyes? Nothing. They were pretty, of course, but lifeless. Tuggin had been trained in something he was really good at. Had Ian been talking about lunta, or the other power that Nala wouldn’t talk about?

“Morning greetings,” Tuggin said.

I’d been stroking Sorrel’s neck, deep in thought, and started at the sound of his voice.

“Morning.” I took a plum from him and sat.

“You are…competent,” he said in a stiff voice, watching the sleipnir.

He didn’t look at me when he spoke, and he seemed pissed about the night before. I could only imagine the Herculean effort it was for him to pretend to be nice. He must have a big plan to get me to trust him, which was funny considering my big plan to trick him into trusting me.

“Yeah, it’s amazing what can be accomplished when you’re not tied up,” I said.

Tuggin darted a glance at me and I cleared my throat. “So, I was wondering, how do Mentas do that lunta stuff?”

Tuggin studied his plum’s purple skin for a moment. Smoothing it with his finger, he said, “Through the eyes.” He glanced at me. “Earth-kin say that the eyes are the windows to the soul. It is very astute, that Earth-kin should understand this.”

All the spit in my mouth evaporated. Had Tuggin been brainwashing me?

“Un-like your own,” he said.


“They do not remain of one color. You see through different colored eyes.”

I locked gazes with him. Tuggin broke the connection, taking a bite of his plum. Beads of sweat crawled down my back. If those earrings were the Menta’s symbol, maybe a group of Mentas was a coven that forced people to do stuff against their will.

I fought the urge to look at him, afraid he’d put me under a spell or whatever it was lunta did to someone. “You never told me what they protect or enforce.”

“Most enforce the laws of the laks. Others protect the Council.”

I rubbed a spot on my plum, and then asked, “Like your leaders?”

“Indeed. Each lak selects four Council members.” Tuggin glanced at me, as if he were going to say more, but then looked away.

I nibbled my fruit. “What do they need protection from?”


I jerked my head up. “People try to kill the Council members?”

One side of Tuggin’s mouth lifted in a fake smile that didn’t even come close to reaching his eyes. “It is war, tenya. Eyidora is weak. There are some who would stop at nothing to control this globe’s destiny.”

“Do you think an Eyid descendant wants to control the globe’s destiny?”
Tuggin blinked. “You know of the Eyid-emos?”

I shrugged.

He ran his fingers through his hair. “There is a tale of the Eyid-emos, if you desire to hear it.”

It was my turn to blink. “Sure.”

“Centuries ago an Eyid-emos, Tomas, desired control over the Eyids. Tomas stole the Stones of Power from the Web of Harmony, and the Eyids went to war.”

“So where are those stones now?” I asked, casually biting my plum though my stomach felt like I’d swallowed the pit.

“It is not known. The other Eyid-emos also lusted for power, and there were many betrayals amongst the Eyid houses. Tomas hid the stones before his death. It is said that Tomas’s descendants guarded the location of the stones, awaiting the birth of the next Eyid-emos, though that knowledge has been lost over the centuries.”

Tuggin seemed to know an awful lot about the story. I thought about how electric the air felt when I was near him. Did everyone feel that way around Tuggin? Could Tuggin be the descendant of the Fire Eyid? That would be a hell of a secret.

Tuggin…two-timing player. The realization snaked from my head to my chest, twisting and biting and filling me with its numbing poison. Was Tuggin playing the Eny, pretending to go along with their plans, while using me to find my stone and keep it for himself?

“Sounds bad,” I whispered.

“There are some who believe the Eyid houses are corrupt. There are some who believe Eyidora fares better without the Eyid-emos in power.”

“Do you believe that?”

Tuggin didn’t answer.

I ignored the tingling in my fingers. “What’s this have to do with Mentas and the Council?”

“Eyidora fell into chaos. Council members were killed. They beseeched the Mentas to protect them and maintain order.”

“What’s your job?”

I hadn’t meant to whisper, but my throat had tightened. I wondered if it would piss him off that I asked about his job as a Menta, but he didn’t seem to notice. Or he didn’t care. Maybe I was already a goner no matter what. My swallow stuck in my dry throat, and I coughed.

Tuggin had finished his plum; he turned the pit in his fingers. “It is difficult to explain.”

“You don’t know what your job is?”

“I am aware of my duty,” he snapped.

Forget what Nomer had said. Forget the bee in his bonnet. Tuggin had a bee up his ass.

“Please to forgive,” Tuggin tossed the pit. “It is difficult to…”

“Why, if you told me, you’d have to kill me?”

Tuggin glared at me, his face a shade paler than white. My gaze swerved to his knife, and I wished I hadn’t brought up the whole killing subject.

“Why would you speak such a thing?” he snapped.

“It was a joke.”

“Death is not to laugh at.” He ran his hand through his hair and took a deep breath. “The sun rises.”

Silently, we broke camp. I spent the rest of the day considering how Tuggin was playing me; as far as I knew, I’d been telling him things that I wasn’t even aware of saying, maybe I’d already told him I had a stone. I had to escape before I was totally brainwashed.

We were going north, so I couldn’t go that way. To the east was that Rally place or whatever Tuggin had called it. Crossing the desert to some smoke-filled town gave me the creeps, and I told myself that it had nothing to do with Tuggin’s warning to stay away. Behind me was that mountain Nala had told me to go to, but I didn’t like the idea of chancing a run-in with Enja while I passed Given Hall.

I turned my gaze to the south, a whole lot of nothingness—deserted and lonely. The Region of Fire. Only an idiot would go out there alone. I didn’t want to go out there alone, but I couldn’t follow Tuggin any longer.
I sighed, considering the dead land shimmying in the heat. When the moons rose, I’d jet.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Funnies

Good morning, babies!

Oh, I have been absent awhile, haven't I? Work is crazy busy and I've been too exhausted to sit at the computer. Lately, I just light my candles and get my drink and go to my happy place.

So that's why I'm here in the morning!

So, let's end the week on a happy note, and then later we can all go to our happy place...where ever that may be.

Happy almost weekend!

These are actual comments made by 16 Police Officers. The comments were taken off actual police car videos around the country:

1. "You know, stop lights don't come any redder than the one you just went through."

2. "Relax, the handcuffs are tight because they're new. They'll stretch after you wear them a while."

3. "If you take your hands off the car, I'll make your birth certificate a worthless document."

4. "If you run, you'll only go to jail tired."

5. "Can you run faster than 1200 feet per second? Because that's the speed of the bullet that'll be chasing you."

6. "You don't know how fast you were going? I guess that means I can write anything I want to on the ticket, huh?"

7. "Yes, sir, you can talk to the shift supervisor, but I don't think it will help. Oh, did I mention that I'm the shift supervisor?"

8. "Warning! You want a warning? O.K, I'm warning you not to do that again or I'll give you another ticket."

9. "The answer to this last question will determine whether you are drunk or not. Was Mickey Mouse a cat or a dog?" (for a split second I was confused by that one!)

10. "Fair? You want me to be fair? Listen, fair is a place where you go to ride on rides, eat cotton candy and corn dogs and step in monkey poop."

11. "Yeah, we have a quota. Two more tickets and my wife gets a toaster oven."

12. "In God we trust; all others we run through NCIC." (National Crime Information Center)

13. "Just how big were those 'two beers' you say you had?"

14. "No sir, we don't have quotas anymore. We used to, but now we're allowed to write as many tickets as we can."

15. "I'm glad to hear that the Chief (of Police) is a personal friend of yours. So you know someone who can post your bail."


16. "You didn't think we give pretty women tickets? You're right, we don't.. Sign here.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Giveaway YA Paranormal

Check out Amanda's blog, Stuck in YA Books: 400 follower giveaway! 3 books are up for grabs, so hop on over to Amanda's blog and enter!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Fire in the Blood Giveaway

This is the last day to enter the giveaway for Fire in the Blood, on


Friday Funnies!

It's Friday! It's Friday! Are you ready for Friday? I am!

Let's end the week and start the week-end with a chuckle. Hope you enjoy these as much as I did.

Happy Friday!

These are actual comments made on students' report cards by teachers in the New York City public school system. All teachers were reprimanded (but, boy, are these funny!)

1. Since my last report, your child has reached rock bottom and has started to dig.

2. I would not allow this student to breed.

3. Your child has delusions of adequacy.

4. Your son is depriving a village somewhere of an idiot.

5. Your son sets low personal standards and then consistently fails to achieve them.

6. The student has a 'full six-pack' but lacks the plastic thing to hold it all together.

7. This child has been working with glue too much.

8. When your daughter's IQ reaches 50, she should sell.

9. The gates are down, the lights are flashing, but the train isn't coming..

10. If this student were any more stupid, he'd have to be watered twice a week.

11. It's impossible to believe the sperm that created this child beat out 1,000,000 others. (my favorite)

12. The wheel is turning but the hamster is definitely dead.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Welcome Wednesday welcomes Haley Allaire, from Fire in the Blood

Today I have a guest interview with Haley Allaire, from Fire in the Blood.

In celebration of the release of my book, Fire in the Blood, in paperback, I globe-hopped to Eyidora and pressured a shy and somewhat resistant Haley Allaire into giving me an interview.


I tap my pen on my desk, sip my coffee, and glance at my watch. Haley’s a few minutes late, but I’m not worried that she’s bailing on me. I know that she’s doing some last minute packing for her mission to find another lost Eyid stone.

Haley flings open the door and rushes inside in a burst of winter air, dropping into the chair across the table from me with a loud sigh. Her cheeks are rosy from the cold, but her eyelids droop and her hair looks like she’s just run through a tornado. She tosses her coat onto a chair, not seeming to notice that the cream-colored tunic she’s wearing over black leggings is wrinkled. She drags another wooden chair closer to her in order to prop her knee-length fur-lined boots on it. She runs her hand through her hair and masters a small, tired-looking smile.

Dale: Glad you made it.

Haley: Yeah, sorry I’m late. Uncle Sal was getting all kinds of annoying. He’s still not cool with me leaving.

Dale: Why?

Haley: He thinks I’m too young.

Dale: You are only seventeen. Most kids are still in school at that age.

Haley snorts: Yeah, well, after the last few months on Eyidora, I’d say that honestly, school is the least of my worries. And I’m old enough to take whatever crap is chucked at me. I’ve had people lie to me, kidnap me, and try to kill me. I think I proved I can kick ass, don’t you?

Dale: Touche. Anyway, are you okay?

Haley rubs the back of her neck: Just tired. I had a dream last night and, you know, those dreams kind of drain me.

Dale: Want to tell me about it?

Haley glances at the table: Maybe later.

Dale: I thought we could break the ice a little by playing a game. I say something, and you say the first thing that comes to you mind. Ready?

Haley nods.

Dale: Eyidora.

Haley: Beautiful.

Dale: Earth.

Haley: Danger.

Dale: White or milk chocolate.

Haley: Milk.

Dale: Beach or mountains.

Haley: Mountains.

Dale: That's enough ice-breaking for me. So you grew up on Earth. Do you miss it?

Haley: Some of it. Not all.

Dale: What don’t you miss?

Haley lifts one shoulder in a half-shrug: It’s hard to explain. I just never felt like I belonged.

Dale: Don’t a lot of teenagers feel that way?

Haley: It’s different for me. I felt like I was playing a part, you know? I did my hair like the other kids, dressed like the other kids, talked like the other kids, but it never felt natural to me. And no one really noticed me no matter what I did, even though I was trying to emulate everyone else. It just didn’t seem to work.

Dale: You sound as though you’ve had an epiphany.

Haley gestures to her clothes: I don’t know about that, but this feels right. I don’t feel like I’m pretending to be someone I’m not.

Dale: You’re saying you feel more comfortable as an Eyidoran?

Haley nods, slowly: Yeah, I think I am.

Dale: What do you miss the most from Earth?

Haley laughs: Chocolate. Got any?

Dale: Sorry, I’ll bring some next time. So on your 17th birthday you get the surprise of your life when you’re tumbled to a parallel globe called Eyidora. How did you feel when that happened?

Haley: It was unreal, I honestly thought I was dreaming, or that I’d somehow been drugged and was hallucinating. I mean, seriously, who would believe that parallel worlds actually existed?

Dale: If it had happened to me, I’m pretty sure I would have thought I’d gone just a tad off my nut.

Haley: Exactly. It took me a while to figure out my life had totally changed.

Dale: Tell us about the Eyids. What are they like?

Haley: They’re a strange bunch. They’re these gods of nature, right? And they’re supposed to act all goddy, but they don’t: Nala acts like she’s twelve, Nomer’s kind of blunt, Soltar has a big head, and Sylpha’s bossy as hell. And they argue like kids. You’d think they’d be a little more respectable, being gods, but they’re kind of not.

Dale: Sounds bizarre.

Haley: I know, right?

Dale: Is the war getting worse?

Haley: It really depends on the day. You never know when the Eyids are going to get into it. It’s not like a regular war, where you know which side you’re on and who the enemy is. With the Eyids, they’re not even enemies…they just don’t have any harmony between them. A battle can happen at any time, anywhere, and people are collateral damage. If you’re around, say, when Soltar starts throwing lightning at Sylpha because she’s done something to piss him off, you can get zapped in a heart beat…wrong place, wrong time kind of thing…but yeah, the battles seem to happen more often.

Dale: Speaking of the Eyid descendants, how does it feel like to be a descendant of the Air Eyid?

Haley pauses for a long moment before answering: It’s hard to explain how it feels. I mean, it’s sort of like me asking you how it feels to have hazel eyes. It’s just a part of who you are. At first, I didn’t believe I had any kind of power, but when I started actually using that power…well, let’s just say it’s easy to see how people can let power go to their heads.

Dale: What are your thoughts about the Fire Eyid descendant?

Haley: I’m…conflicted.

Dale: Seriously? He tried to kill you…among other things.

Haley: I know, but…part of me thinks that there’s good inside everyone. No one can be all evil all the time. Can they? I mean, maybe there’s bad stuff going on that I don’t know about. Maybe he’s a good guy that bad things have happened to, you know?

Dale: You mean nature vs. nurture?

Haley: Yeah, that’s it.

Dale: Are you saying you want to save him? Some people just can’t be saved.

Haley shrugs and studies her boots. By the set of her mouth, I’m thinking she’s not going to say more. Time to move on.

Dale: What about the mentas? Good or bad?

Haley’s shoulders relax: That’s the question of the century. When someone has the power of persuasion, it’s hard to trust them. How can you be sure a menta isn’t bending your mind into doing something you don’t want to do? It’s all kinds of scary. Personally, I think they started out good, but then like most political parties, the power went to their head and their good intentions got twisted.

Dale: Do you think mentas and Eyid-emos struggling for power is like Earth’s politics?

Haley: Well, yeah. First you had the Eyids running the show, until they corrupted themselves with greed and power. And then their descendants…the Eyid-emos…took over, and ditto the corruption. And then the mentas took over, and they’re not exactly jumping up and down now that they know some of us Eyid descendants are back, and they don’t seem eager to give up any of that power. In fact, some people think the Mentas started the war in the first place so they could take control.

Dale: Do you?

Haley shrugs: Who knows? Everyone from that time is dead.

Dale: What’s your gut tell you?

Haley licks her lips: That the mentas did start the war.

Dale: Part of the Eyid-emos power is the power of persuasion, like the mentas have.

Haley nods.

Dale: Do you ever worry that the same power that corrupted the gods, your ancestors, and the mentas will corrupt you?

Haley: Of course. Anyone would be lying if they said they didn’t.

Dale: Elana’s a menta. Do you trust her?

Haley: Absolutely. Even though she’s a menta, she’s very open and I don’t think she has a secretive bone in her body. She’s my best friend. She has my back, you know?

Dale: Any romance in your future?

Haley raises her eyebrows: You’re kidding, right?

Dale shrugs.

Haley runs her hand through her hair: First, I’ve never even had a boyfriend because of that whole invisibility shield kind of thing I had going for me on Earth, and second, I don’t seem to be a great judge of character when it comes to guys…they always seem to want to kill me…so I’d say definitively that there’s no romance in my future.

Dale: It’s getting late and you have to finish getting ready for your trip, so we’ll just end it at that. Can we talk again when you get back?

Haley pauses at the door: You seem to think I’ll be coming back.

Dale: I should hope so.

One side of Haley’s mouth lifts in a tired half-smile: Not everyone hopes I do.

Dale nods: I know. Have a safe trip, and good luck.

Haley: Thanks. I’ll need it.


Haley’s full story can be found in Fire in the Blood, available now. You can read about her next adventure in Strong Blood, coming out in 2012.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Book Review: Going to California, by Janice Grove

Going to California
by Janice Grove

The book jacket says that this book picks up right where the first book, The Rain Song, ended. Well, this author wasn't kidding. If you haven't read the first book, my suggestion is to put this book down, go get the first book, read it, and only *then* should you pick up this book. Otherwise, like me, you will feel like you picked up a book and just started reading in the middle.

Going to California is about a family, the Remingtons, who are trying to protect their 8 year-old son, Micah (or Mickey). Micah and his older brother, David, are separated from their parents, and are on the run from demons, hunters, and hit men...all with their own agenda in capturing Micah and using him for their own purposes...or to just plain out-right kill him. Nick and Angela, along with a cast of friends, are trying to find and protect the boys and bring them home. But not only are they dealing with adversaries coming at them from every direction, they have to deal with a traitor within their own group.

This is fact-paced, action-packed novel that hardly stops to take a breather. The various points of view approaching each scene is interesting and intriguing. You would think that, with the various points of view, that there would be no way the author could slip in a traitorous member because you kind of know what everyone is thinking, but Janice does this with ease and I found myself wondering throughout the whole book who the traitor was going to be. The ending pulled at my heartstrings. Each character is developed in 3-D, though sometimes I felt the actions/dialogue of Angela Remington, the mom, a little over-dramatic and not quite realistic. I liked every character in the ensemble cast.

Now, let's get to the nasty.

There is no explanation of things, people, places or events that took place in book one, so you are left with a cast of about 10 characters, some with aliases, going in different directions with different thoughts and agendas and feelings and none of it makes sense. I think about 1/3 of the way into the book there is some backstory revealed, but that's far too late. I didn't even know how old David was until about that time (13, by the way). The first third of the book I didn't know if he was an immature 18 or a very mature 10.

There are terms used with no explanation. For example, David is a Guardian. Now, that could be an angel, a demon guardian, or a human with a fancy title. Couldn't tell you.

There are also Seers and Warriors, and The Other Realm. What are these? Haven't a clue.

Micah is a demon, but I can't tell you what kind of demon (or if there are various kinds of demons or if they are all the same). He has some powers...we see him use some kind of protection shield, and he thinks he can hurt people by blowing them up, but don't know if that's true or not since he never does blow anything up. And though he's a demon, he's being protected by hunters, David the Guardian, and a priest. Why is he being protected? Haven't a clue. I don't know if he's a good demon, or if it's because he's only 8 years old, or because he's innocent until proven guilty.

Also, while the writing *style* is great...the writing in and of itself is not. The book could use a good editor to help clean up the punctuation so that there aren't a lot of run in sentences, or sentences that don't quite make sense. Too often the action was stalled when I had to stop to re-read sentences to try to figure out what was meant.

So, now you know why you have to read the first book first. My review may have been better had I known what was going on half the time, because it definitely has potential.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sample Sunday: Fire in the Blood

Good Sunday Morning, with most of us having tomorrow off, it's good indeed!

Okay, my pretties, let's move on with Haley's story, shall we? Last week, Haley and Tuggin have left Given Hall. Supposedly he's taking her home...but that remains to be seen, in Haley's mind. She has no plans to trust him, given the whole death threat thing. But...hmmm...out on the road again, things start to change a little. There's glimpses of...dare I say it?...actual humanity in Tuggin. Haley is feeling more comfy with Tuggin, and suddenly finds herself not so anxious to run away...



A couple of days later it was good bye to the occasional shady tree and hello to rock gullies. There were hardly any plants at all. The ground tore the sleipnir’s hooves, and Sorrell stumbled a lot. I gripped every leg muscle around his sides so I wouldn’t be chucked off his back.

“I can see where this place got its name,” I said one afternoon. “It’s hot.”

“Indeed,” Tuggin replied, bending over to inspect his sleipnir’s hoof.

“And dry,” I added, touching my tongue to the roof of my mouth, where it stuck.

Tuggin straightened. “Water is scarce and the sleipnir cannot withstand this terrain. We must ride faster.” He mounted his sleipnir.

I got on Sorrel. “What’s the plan, Stan?”

Tuggin’s brow wrinkled. “I am Tuggin.”

“Never mind. What are we doing?”

“Give Sorrel this command, and hold on.” Tuggin leaned toward his sleipnir’s head and ordered, “Nas’tar!”

His sleipnir galloped off. I gripped my reins, watching the eight-legged klutz run. Its narrow wings flipped out and the sleipnir lifted off the ground, tucking its legs beneath its belly. I held my breath until Tuggin landed beside me.

Amazing. And better yet, sleipnir in the air looked a lot more comfortable than sleipnir on the ground. “Cool.”

“Yes, it is the cooling season. Now give the command.”

I took a deep breath. “Nastare!”

Sorrel didn’t move.

“You do not speak correctly. It is nas’tar.”

I tried again. “Nas’tar!”

I almost somersaulted over Sorrel’s butt when he galloped off. I grabbed his mane while my butt pounded the saddle, with me grunting in time with my butt-pounding. Then he lifted into the air. My stomach was gone; my heart pounded in sync with my panting when I saw the ground fall away. I stretched over his neck, hugging him while we whizzed over the ground, gliding like skaters over glassy ice.

My butt stayed in the saddle, and I gained enough confidence to sit up. Tuggin nodded and almost smiled, I thought, and together we flew across the hills.
By the afternoon we were flying alongside the edge of the desert; not sand, as I’d expected, but dry plains with brittle grass and withered-looking trees. And dirt. Lots and lots of dirt.

As we neared a clump of buildings, Tuggin ordered, “Stop here.”

I tugged the reins and Sorrel tucked in his wings, stretched out his legs, and hit the ground running. My head snapped back, and the reins disappeared from my fingers.

“Gah!” My hands went up in the air, my feet were up on Sorrell’s shoulders, and I somersaulted through the air.

The ground blurred as I rocketed toward it. I tucked my head in my arms and rolled across the ground once, then slammed onto my back.


Tuggin dropped to my side and touched my ribs. “Are you injured?”


I took a breath, which hurt, and filled my lungs with much-needed air…just not enough. Tuggin leaned over me, his face just inches from mine. I noticed, for the first time, that little black flecks mingled with the brilliant blue of his eyes.

“I’m okay.” My gaze flicked to his lips, then back to his eyes. I couldn’t catch my breath, and I didn’t think it was because of the fall, though I did feel a little dizzy. I must have hit my head, too.

“You bleed,” he said, gazing at my lower lip.

Tuggin was so close, he was like, right there, and I couldn’t get my shit together. My brain worked enough to order my eyes closed, save me from the simple distraction of his face, but I could feel his breath on my cheek, and his hand resting on my side made my muscles quiver.

I said, “Just lit my bip.”

“Is this an Earth-kin expression?”

“I mean I bit my lip.”

“I do not believe bones have broken.”

“Just got the wind knocked out of me.” His fingers were warm, their heat penetrating my shirt. I tried to remember that I was supposed to hate him, but I felt…warm, and tingly.

“Are you able to rise?”

“Sure, no problem.”

Tuggin pulled me to my feet. My foot twisted, and I almost went down again. His arm shot out and wrapped around my waist. Heat raced across my skin where he touched me, and my heart pounded so loudly I was sure he could hear it. I know I could. I glanced at him; our gazes met, and I licked my lips. Just as quickly as he’d reached for me, he snatched his arm away and rubbed his temple.

I grabbed Sorrel’s reins and inspected the tilted old buildings with crooked rows of blank windows. Wind whistled through cracks in the wood, and pushed sand along the empty streets.

I peeled off my jacket and checked out my scraped arm. “Where is everyone?”

“Desert overtakes our globe. These people have moved on, or death has taken them.” Tuggin led his sleipnir toward a well. Looping the reins over one hand he grabbed the rope and hauled up the bucket. He tipped it, but instead of water, sand trickled out.

“We must conserve.” Tuggin dropped the bucket, and it clanked against the sides of the well. He unsaddled his sleipnir.

I said, “Can’t we keep going? This place gives me the creeps.”

“Net. The sleipnir are tired, and you are bruised. We shall find shade from the buildings.” He glanced at me. “Rest. I will see to Sorrel’s care.”

Slipping my jacket back on, I sat as far from the tilting buildings as I could. Tuggin opened a sack made out of animal skin that was filled with water, holding it while the sleipnir drank. When Tuggin offered me some, I noticed the water in the pail was low. After we each took a few sips, he grabbed a pack for a pillow, dropped to the ground, and closed his eyes.

The pain in my side wasn’t so bad anymore, and I found breathing to be a normal function now that Tuggin wasn’t touching and breathing all over me. The town made the back of my neck tingle with goose bumps. Disturbing. I watched Tuggin instead, and a different kind of goose bump had me shivering with a delicious quiver. Equally disturbing…if not more so.

I had to think of something else besides how good Tuggin looked laying there. He was like a puzzle piece that didn’t know where it belonged in the puzzle…if he was going to kill me, why didn’t he just get it over with? At the same time, he seemed compelled to help me. His actions were a study in conflictions.

“Can I ask you something?” I asked.

“Yes.” He tucked his hands behind his head, but kept his lids closed over his gorgeous baby blues.

“When those dryads had me, how come you didn’t leave me there?”

“You are my charge.”

I fingered the hem of my pants, playing with the frayed edges. “You said that when the dryads take someone, they don’t come back. Why didn’t you assume that I wasn’t coming back and just leave?”

“Your fate was not certain. I feel…responsible for you.” He shrugged, murmuring, “I must remain with you, until our time together concludes.”

I rested my cheek on my knees, watching him. Sitting there, with the sun touching Tuggin’s beautiful face and him acting half-way normal, I wondered if, maybe, I’d imagined that whole death threat thing back at Given Hall.

Two birds circled the sky, soaring above the Dry Hills. Off to the east, smoke smudged the sky.

“Something’s on fire,” I said.

Tuggin sat up and squinted. “Net, that is Ralos.”

“What’s a Ralos?”

He lay back down. “You will not journey there. Danger dwells in Lak ‘Toom, and we are as far into the territory of the Fire Eyid as I care to travel.”

I rolled my eyes. I wished Tuggin would stop telling me what to do. “You know, I heard there was a plot that killed my parents.”

Tuggin raised an eyebrow. “It seems you hear many things.”

“Do you know anything about that?”

He studied me for a long time. “I was but a benyo then.”

“Oh. Okay.”

My arms tingled, and a second later a boom split the air, echoing through the town. We jumped to our feet, the sleipnir leaping sideways, nostrils flaring.

A white flash streaked across the sky. It slammed into a building, the weathered wood bursting into flames. It seemed like the lightning was alive, picking off buildings in a systematic way, starting from the far end of the street, hunting for us. Fear grabbed my feet and anchored them to the ground.

“Haley!” Tuggin yanked at the hobble and freed his sleipnirs’ legs. “Move!”

My feet unlocked. I ripped the hobble from Sorrel, just as three streaks of lightning torpedoed the town. Three more buildings went up in flames.

Smoke filled my mouth and nose. I coughed, and sucked in more smoke. Another flash of light, and another building exploded. I ducked as pieces of burning wood flew by my ear.

“Follow me.” Pulling his sleipnir, Tuggin ran through the burning town.

Dragging Sorrel, I trotted after him. Tuggin halted to stare at the horizon, and my feet slipped when I tried to stop Sorrel. Thick, dark clouds raced toward us as if all they wanted to do was reach the town and swallow it. And us.

“Are those rain clouds?”

“Indeed.” Tuggin’s face tensed. “In there.”

I followed Tuggin into one of the buildings. The sleipnirs’ hooves clomped over the wooden floor. The sky grew eerily dark with clouds, and then ripped apart. Rain fell so hard I could barely see through the dirty windows.

Wind threw rain at the building, shattering a window and spraying us with glass. The rain hammering the roof sounded like the sky was falling, and we spent our time between ducking and trying to calm the sleipnir until, finally, the fires hissed as they slowly died out. Within minutes the sun disintegrated the clouds, and wet smoke stuck to everything. Sweat left bright trails through the soot on Tuggin’s face.

“The weather around here is kind of freaky,” I said.

Tuggin ran a hand through his hair. Half smiling, he said, “It is the war of the Eyids. You have witnessed a battle between the Fire and Water Eyids.”

“Seriously? They fight, like, in the real world?”

“There is no harmony in nature.”

Well, damn. I’d imagined their fights taking place far away, like in heaven.

Sorrel snorted and backed across the room. “Easy,” I murmured, patting his neck. “The storm’s over, so what’s freaking you out?” Maybe the smell; it stunk. I checked the room. “Oh, shit.”

Tuggin turned from the window. “What is wrong?”

I stared at the bodies in a corner of the room. Skin shrunk around bones, their lips peeled back in jack-o-lantern grins of missing teeth and black gums. Their purplish-gray skin splotched with darker purple streaks. Their eyes stuck out from their faces, surrounded by black rings, staring in a death-trance.

They reminded me of Nala’s vision of Elana.

Tuggin drew up beside me and muttered, “Jahme.”

I buried my face in Sorrel’s mane, swallowing with a lot of noise. “What happened?”

“Death by thirst.”

I’d seen stuff on the news where animals had died because of droughts, always in faraway places, but it had never occurred to me that people could die that way.

Tuggin brushed my arm. “We must depart.”

I followed him outside, keeping my gaze riveted on the back of his head. “Does it hurt to die like those people did?”

“Yes,” he replied.

I shuddered, gazing at the wasteland and wishing I could get the memory out of my head and the smell out of my nose. What if they had been people I knew, like Mom, or Elana, or the brother that I’d never met? The brother I’d never meet if the Eyid descendant got his way and killed everyone off. What kind of sick person would do that?

I had the power to stop it, or so I was told. Could I let someone devastate the globes and murder innocent people? I wanted to say yes, not my problem, all I’d wanted for my seventeenth birthday was some nice clothes and a hot boyfriend.

It could have been Mom or Elana laying there. According to Nala, it would be.

I touched the stone through my shirt. It seemed warm, alive, a part of me. With power came duty; what if someone like Enja got my stone? I doubt she’d help people, or the globes.

But could I?