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

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sample Sunday: Fire in the Blood

OK, petty babies, I've been absent a little as I had business in NYC, so not much blogging but plenty of reading. See my review of Anna Dressed in Blood which was *awesome*.

But it's Sunday, and I'm here, and I have my coffee which is getting cold as I sit here and type, and even my tootsies are a little cold on this beautiful, cool fall morning, and I have to get back to Haley's story. It's time.

So, Haley's dumped that dick Tuggin and went off into the desert on her own, and now she's kind of lost, kind of hungry, and kind of scared. She's starting to regret her kind of impulsive move to run away. Oh Haley, chin up! Things can't get worse...right?


The next morning, the sun washed the endless dull desert in brilliant red. The sunrise held me hypnotized until the sun rose over the horizon; then it became the usual every day yellow, and the boring desert sand became boring again.

My head buzzed as if a swarm of angry locusts were munching my brain cells. There had to be water out here somewhere…there were trees; scrubby and shriveled, but alive. Using my cup, I dug in the sand, hoping to find an underground spring. Nothing. I sat back, scraping my tongue over my cracked lips.

Could I suck my own sweat off my skin? But it looked like my body had run out of water, too, because I wasn’t even sweaty. I tapped my forehead with my cup, watching sand drift back into my hole.


Sorrel snuffed the ground, sneezing and spraying sand. I rubbed his face. Did the people on Eyidora pray to the Eyids? I’d never prayed before…Mom had never even talked about religion. What the hell…it was worth a try.

“Nala? It’s me, Haley. Look, I’m really thirsty, and I made a huge mistake, and it’ll be all my fault if Sorrel dies. Can you help me out a little? Send a little rain? I would, um, really appreciate it, okay?”

I blinked at the horizon, half-expecting to see rain clouds coming at me, but the Eyids weren’t listening. Sure, they came prancing into my dreams so that they could boss me around, but neglected to care when I needed help.

“Why are you doing this to me?” I yelled at the sky.

After a few minutes of desert silence, I tossed my cup into my pack. I shook the water sack.

“Not much left, big guy.”

I skipped eating breakfast. The last thing I wanted was to need a drink of water to wash down my dry food. After giving Sorrel a few drops, I packed camp.
I swore the day was hotter than any others so far. I rocked to Sorrel’s uneven rhythm. My head ached so much it hurt to lift it, so I just let it hang to my chest. My swollen tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth. I was turning into one of those dead people, the ones I’d seen in that town with Tuggin.

I didn’t want to die.

The landscape shimmered in front of me. My chest tightened. The sun was overhead, but the moons were to my right. Had they been in front of me the day before? I couldn’t remember, and no matter where I looked, I couldn’t find those freaking hills anywhere.

“Nomer,” I whispered. “A little help would be nice. Just give me some kind of signal, show me where to go.”

I halted Sorrel and slipped down his side, landing on my knees. I shuddered violently and threw up, but there was nothing in my stomach, though I half expected to see my guts spilled across the sand.

“Stick a fork in me, Sorrel, I’m done.”

I got to my feet and, swaying, gave Sorrel a few gulps of water. It was almost gone.

“Nala, I’m begging you. I’m sorry if I was mean to you. Please, please, please give me water.”

I fell on my side and closed my eyes. My Eyidoran parents had died in this nature war. Had they felt like this just before they died? Had they withered into death, slowly and painfully? I wanted to cry, but there was no moisture in my body. Nature could be beautiful, but I was finding out nature could be mean.

“I hate you,” I told the sky.
“I sss-ustain life.” The voice lingered on the “S,” drawing it out in a hiss.

“No you don’t. I sustain life. I’m the life-blood of nature.”

“Nala?” I opened my eyes. The horizon blurred.

“It’s me dat supports life,” a different man said.

“Nomer?” I searched, but no one was there.

“I give life,” said the first man.

“I give life,” snapped another woman. “Do not for a moment think I will surrender my high place in the Web to you, Soltar. You cultivate life.”

“Of course, Sss-ylpha,” he replied.

“Are you the Eyids?” I croaked, squinting, but I was alone, except for Sorrel, who lay in the sand. The flies buzzing around his head pissed me off, but I didn’t have the energy to shoo them away.

“Without any one of us, life dies,” said the second woman. “We need your help.”

Even though I didn’t have the strength to get up, anger coiled in my chest like a snake. “Help you? Why can’t you help me? My sleipnir’s dying!”

“We should have known better.”

"Don't wallow in self-pity, child. You can, and you must."

I said, “I’m not wallowing.”

“The nerve of the rude little mortal,” Nala stated.

“Leave her alone. Git up, girlie.”

“If only her sss-pirit had the sss-ame strength as her mouth.”

The statement was followed by giggles. Nala.

I laid my arm over my eyes. “I'm too sick and tired to care. Just leave me alone.”

“Will you leave all the globes to perish, as those who have already perished in the desert?”

“You can accept that fate, or ya can git up off yer rump an’ do somethin'.”

The image of the dead people flashed through my mind. Was my face shriveling up already? Had my gums turned black and were my teeth about to fall out?

“Maybe we’re asking too much. She’s a mortal, after all, and a child at that.”

“She ain’t quittin’.”

“You don’t know everything, Nomer.”

“Child, would you have others die due to your selfishness?”

Witch. I shuddered and opened my eyes. “I’m not.”

“You planned to use the sss-tones for your own sss-elfish purpose.”

I opened my mouth to deny it, and then clapped it shut. Hot shame crept over my skin and I turned my head away.

“Nah, I believe in her. She won’t fail us.”

“Child, we need you. We need harmony.”

My stomach cramped. “I need water.”

“The people of this globe need your help. The people of all globes in the planetary chain need your help. Do you understand the consequences of your inaction?”

Nala said, “I showed her, and she didn’t care. She probably doesn’t even remember.”

I did remember, but seeing death in a dream wasn’t the same as feeling how real death was. I thought I was saving Mom by taking the stones and going home…but what fate was I saving her for? Mom. Elana. Ian. I couldn’t let them suffer this torture. Groaning, I pushed myself to my knees.

“You will help u-sss?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Told ya. Hee, hee, hee! Git her some water, Nala.”

“Fine. Soltar, let me give her an oasis.”

“It’s too late,” I murmured, glancing at Sorrel. “I’ve killed him.”

“There’s an oa-ssiss already. Even the desert needs water to sss-urvive.”

“I told you.”

I lifted my head. “Where?”

“Follow the sss-un.”

I couldn’t bear to look at the sun. My willpower drained away with the last of my strength and my head splat into the sand. I was being buried in nausea. “You guys are killing me.”
When my eyes opened, I saw sand. Not just sand, but every single grain, up close and personal as I lay flat on my face in the desert. My mouth hung open, and there was even sand on my lips and tongue. I wiped my tongue with the back of my hand then crawled to Sorrel.

His side heaved, and I rested my head on his neck. It was very dry and very hot. “I’m so sorry. Please get up.”

I tugged on his bridle. Sorrel lifted his head with a snort, then struggled to his feet and shook the sand out of his hair.

“Good boy.”

I followed the path of the setting sun, and when my gaze rested on the sand I saw…a tree. My lips cracked painfully when I smiled. I wasn’t sure if I’d been in dreamstate, or hallucinating, but there was my oasis.

My body ached with fever. My feet burned inside my shoes. I tried remembering the last time I peed. Was it a day ago? Two days? Whatever, it couldn’t be good that I wasn’t going at all.

I hated to think the Eyids were right, but I had been thinking only of myself and what I wanted. Dying of thirst was painful, and I didn’t want anyone to die that way. I hauled myself to my feet. It was all connected: land, air, fire, and water. None could live without the other. There had to be harmony, or else everything would die.

Me included.
“We made it.”

I sloshed through the sand, dragging Sorrel. When we reached the shade of the tree, I fell to my knees. I would have kissed the ground, but my mouth already had enough sand in it.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

I tried bracing myself against one of Sorrel’s legs, but I kept missing. Finally, I grabbed his leg and hauled myself to my feet. Unbuckling his saddle and bridle, I let them fall to the ground.

Sorrel trotted around a large rock. I crawled after him then splashed into a small pool. The water cooled my burning skin. I turned my head and gulped several large swallows. Then, taking a mouthful, I just held the water in my mouth for a long time before swallowing.

I was lazing in the pool, nibbling crackers to ease my cramping stomach, when the ground shuddered. Crap. Would the Eyids interrupt my siesta with a battle? I mean, seriously, was that necessary? Lifting my head, I saw something move in the distance.

I staggered onto the sand. Squinting, I focused on what looked like a parade. Animals, and people!

“Hey!” I croaked. “Hey! I’m over here!” I grabbed my backpack and waved it.
The people-animal line stopped.

I sank to the ground. “Sorrel, we’re saved.”

There was a faint hissing, then silence. Sand trickled out from under my butt. Paused. Shifted again. The ground trembled like quivering lips, then parted, then widened. Sand swirled into its gaping mouth, spinning like water down a drain.

“This can’t be good.”

The sand whirled faster, caving in, dragging me down. Sand pressed against my chest so I couldn’t breathe. I clawed, but I kept sinking until my arms were wedged to my sides, trapping me inside a sand-cyclone.

I drew a final breath and clamped my mouth shut. The last thing I saw before slipping below the surface was Sorrel eating leaves off the tree.

There was a loud humming in my ears, and the sand kept squeezing until I thought I’d pop like a zit. Yellow spots flared behind my closed eyelids. My chest shuddered with the strain of holding my breath…how long? One minute? Two? Three? It felt like hours…it felt like forever.

Suddenly, the pressure let go of my legs. I kicked my feet, and then wiggled my hips. With a final hiss the sand spit me loose and I crumpled to the ground, feeling like a used piece of gum. It was completely dark, warm, and smelled musty, which I could taste as I sucked in air. When I had my breathing somewhat under control, I rubbed the sand out of my eyes and spit sand out of my mouth.

I waved my hand in front of my face but couldn’t see a thing. I crawled, my hand brushing against something stiff. I pulled back, and then warily patted the ground until I felt my backpack. I looped one of the straps around my wrist.

I kept crawling then rammed my head into something hard. “Ow! Damn it!” My fingers felt around in the dark. “Stupid wall.” My words fell like bricks in the heavy air.

Panting, I leaned against the wall. I must be in an underground tunnel. My heart beat drummed in my head. I’d been buried alive.

Something feathery tickled my arm, followed by a sharp pinch. I leaped up, rapped my head, but ignored the skull-pain while I swiped at my clothes. Spiders! Ew!

Red-hot pain seared my arm just below elbow, and I rubbed it, but that only seemed to fire up the heat, traveling down my arm until it hit my hand. At the same time it spread to my shoulder. Burning, itching, blistering my skin.

Fire spread through my veins. My chest burned. I fell to the ground, pawing at my clothes. Moaning, I dimly heard a voice calling me from the dark. It was too late. No one could save me now. I gave up, and let the darkness take me.


Wait better way to start a day. Random, surprise, totally cool giveaway for FREE stuff. Yup, I said it. Free, as in no beanos, no cabbage, no greenies, no nothing. Can't win if you don't hop on over to Carol's blog and check it out.

Reading Under the Moonlight: Surprise giveaway with a surprise prize!: H ey every one so as the title says I'm having a surprise giveaway with a surprise prize. The reason for the giveaway is mostly because, 1....

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Book Review: Anna Dressed in Blood, by Kendare Blake

Anna Dressed in Blood
Kendare Blake

Cas is a high school kid who travels around with his mom, who's a witch, and kills ghosts. It's a tough business, bopping from home to home, killing ghosts, no friends, a loner...a Sam or Dean type from Supernatural. But Cas has purpose. He's in training, doing jobs and getting better and stronger, cuz he's going back to get the thing that killed his dad when he was 7 years old. Then he meets Anna, and a cast-load of kids who think they're going to channel the gang from Scooby Doo, and the shit hits the fan.

I have one word for this book.


Okay, that's three words, but really, this book is by far the best book I've read this year. I loved it.

First, let me gush a little about the voice. I loved the voice of this book, kind of reminiscent of Scott Westerfield and Peeps (yeah! Scott rocks!) with tight, solid writing, and a witty smart-ass style.

The characters. We have a strong, snappy main character who ain't afraid of no ghosts. Okay, maybe a little, sometimes, but he's also not afraid to admit it when a girl ghost kicks his ass. The other characters have depth, are true to life, though maybe just a tad sterotypical. You have your dick jocks, popular girl who has more between the ears then she lets on, and your geek loner that no one notices (who also happens to be a black witch), and you know what? I loved them all, cuz they were so realistically drawn.

The dialogue is smart and smooth. The plot didn't have any holes that I noticed...I didn't find myself tripping through the book. And 3/4 of the way through the book we're wading through dead bodies and thinking we're winding this bad boy up, and the author throws in an OMG-I-didn't-see-that-coming moment. I love OMG-I-didn't-see-that-coming moments. Because basically I love saying OMG-I-didn't-see-that-coming when I'm reading. The more times I say it, the better.

You have a bad-ass ghost that's whacking people as a matter of purpose, and bodies are dropping faster than snowflakes, but there are two sides to every coin. The author paints this picture as deftly as a double-edged sword...there's more to this ghost than your evil slasher-type from a B horror movie. No one is evil just to be evil. There's a purpose to the evil here, and it's not the ghost's fault.

So, bottom line. Get the book. Read it. I hope you love it as much as I did.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Book Review: Give Me, A Fairy Tale, by L.K. Rigel

Give Me, A Fairy Tale
L.K. Rigel

Lilith Evergreen is ready to start the rest of her life with her man Greg, who is an up and coming hot shot lawyer, even having a laugh together over her "psychic" ability, when she discovers that a place she's been dreaming about is depicted in a travel brochure. But that same night, the night Lilith is expecting a proposal for marriage, her hot shot man turns into a hot shot dick, and dumps her. With the pay-off money he gives her, Lilith travels to the place of her dreams, where they are looking for the next wyrding woman to help break the curse over the Tintagos land.

This is a short book and a quick read, but wow, it has everything. Love, lust, betrayal, deceipt, mystery. Let me see...did I leave anything out? Yeah, let's throw a few ghosts into the mix. A perfect recipe.

In a short time the author whips up characters that are well-drawn, motivated, and with purpose. Tintagos is a place that needs a wyrding woman, and has had one for centuries, and the wyrding woman's only task is to break the curse. That's it.

So, as it happens, waaay back in the day, the Tintagos wyrding woman wiggled some magic that had long-lasting not-so-desirable effects on the land, and sapped her life. Her two daughters fight and scheme and manipulate to be the next wyrding woman. But everything goes wrong. Horribly wrong. Tragically wrong.

In the present time, Lilith trundles her pert little butt to England and takes a train to Tintagos, then settles in to watch the Handover, where the next wyrding woman will be named. She thinks it's nothing but a tourist attraction, a show, with actors. She gets a laugh at the girls flocking to Tintagos hoping to be named. What goofs!

Though Lilith has sworn off men since Dick Greg, she can't help being attracted to Cade Bausiney, who happens to be Lord Tintagos. But here's a surprise! Cade isn't devilishly handsome, or drop dead gorgeous, or super rich, or a super hero with ungodly strength (minus the tights). But he is a lovable and funny and a sometimes kinda goofy character. He does, however, have a killer sexy voice.

All the signs point to Lilith being the next wyrding woman, but she doesn't believe in all that bull crap, and settles in for a lovely vacation.

Remember one of those desciptors I used above? Yeah, deceipt, and lots of it. Maybe I should add manipulation, too, because there's a lot of that going on. But who's doing the manipulating?

Now on to the complaint list, but let me tell you right now, it's short. Very short. So short you probably can't call it a list.

Here it is. There are differing POVs and even some time shifts...which are not signaled to the reader that they're coming in any way. It was a little confusing at first, especially when you're not expecting it, and sometimes I had to re-read a bit to figure out whose POV I was in. A small thing, really, but worth a mention.

This is a great little book, a quick read, and highly recommended.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Kiss Me Dead Book Progress

Carolrhoda books had a call for one month only (the month of September) for manuscript submissions to their lab. There was a list of don't-send-me's, so I analyzed the list and decided that my urban fantasy, Kiss Me Dead, wasn't on the don't-send-me list. I was, like, cool, I'm gonna send in my manuscript.

So I spent the month of September re-reading, re-editing, and re-tuning my manuscript. I was oh so pleased with myself when I looked at the calendar and saw I still had a whopping 3 days left in September to send that baby in.

Rubbing my hands with excitement, I logged back onto the editor's blog to check how he wanted it submitted. With heart stopping and stomach dropping, I re-read the blog again. Then a third time.

Oh. My. God.

He had a *maximum* word limit. I frantically went back to my manuscript and ran the word counter again.

I repeat.

Oh. My. God.

I was 7,500 words *over* the limit.

I got out the power tools. I sharped every blade I could get my hands on and then spent two days speed reading, chopping, hacking, sawing, and down-right slashing my manuscript. Every two point five seconds I'd re-check the word count, which moved backwards at about the same speed as a time machine going back in time. If you've ever been in a time machine to try to go back in time, you know what I mean. Impossible. Time doesn't go backwards. At all. Okay, so I'm exaggerating, since the word counter *did* move backwards, slowly. It just felt like it wasn't moving. At all.

With a day to spare, I made the word count.

Here's what I didn't do:
a) Re-read the manuscript.
b) Decide not to send it in because, well, I didn't re-read the manuscript.
c) Sweat the small stuff because I didn't re-read the manuscript and decided to go ahead and send it it anyway.

I mean, seriously, all he can do is take a pass. I've had worse done to me!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Book Review: The Body Finder, by Kimberly Derting

The Body Finder
Kimberly Derting

Violet Ambrose is just starting her junior year in high school. It's a year of change for Violet: she's starting to appreciate her best friend, Jay Heaton, in a girly kind of way (totally foreign to Violet), her closest girl friends have all seemed to not only grow up but grow boobs, and her gift has been activated into kick-ass mode by a series of murders. Her gift, that only her closest family and Jay know about, is to hear, feel, and see the echoes of the dead. When the killings get too close to home, Violet gets too close to the truth.

I really liked this book. And here's why.

The book was about more than finding dead bodies. The relationship between Violet and Jay was so real, so refreshing, and so well written that every step they make, every thing they say, and every thing they do is believable. Even how they became best friends in the first place is funny and cute.

The approach to Violet's gift is subtle and smooth. Violet has always had her gift and she finds mostly animals (note, I said 'mostly'), and Jay and her family support her and never judge her or make her feel like a freak.

Violet's circle of friends is an eclectic mix, but each one is drawn vividly with their own characteristics and personalities and imperfections that make them seem all the more human to the reader.

You get glimpses into the killer's head. His hunting skills, his driving needs. Those glimpses add a sense of creep-factor to the story, and while the murders are brutal, they are not gruesomely depicted in the story.

Here's what I didn't like, but it ain't a big list.

I was a little disappointed that I figured out the one twist. I can't say what it is because I don't want to spoil the plot. Just saying I figured it out. Bummer.

I found Jay's over-protectiveness toward the end a tad annoying. Actually, what I found annoying was that while Violet did resist to some extent, she also found herself liking it to some extent. I don't like men thinking women can't--or shouldn't--think for themselves.

I would have liked to spend more time with the whole murder mystery and less time in the high school life and "coming out" of Violet and Jay's relationsip. While I did like watching this aspect of the story, I picked up the book for the whole "I can find dead bodies" thing. Not enough of that for me. Oh, wait. That's not a reflection on it?

Overall, I would highly recommend this book. That moves right up my list of top books of the year.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Friday Funnies

Do you need a laugh today? I mean, seriously, who doesn't? But it's Friday! So start the pre-weekend celebration with a chuckle.

Lawyers Should Never Ask a Mississippi Grandma a Question If They Aren't Prepared for the Answer!

In a trial, a Southern small-town prosectuting attorney called his first witness, a grandmotherly, elderly woman to the stand. He approached her and asked, "Mrs. Jones, do you know me?"

She responded, "Why yes, I do know you Mr. Williams. I've known you since you were a boy, and frankly, you've been a big disappointment to me. You lie, you cheat on your wife, and you manipulate people and talk about them behind their backs. You think you're a big shot when you haven't the brains to realize you'll never amount to anything more than a two-bit paper pusher. Yes, I know you."

The lawyer was stunned. Not knowing what else to do, he pointed across the room and asked, "Mrs. Jones, do you know the defense attorney?"

She again replied, "Why yes, I do. I've known Mr. Bradley since he was a youngster, too. He's lazy, bigoted, and he has a drinking problem. He can't build a normal relationship with anyone, and his law practice is one of the worst in the entire state. Not to mention he cheated on his wife with three different women. One of them was your wife. Yes, I know him."

The defense attorney nearly died.

The judge asked both counselors to approach the bench and, in a very quiet voice, said, "If either of you idiots asks her if she knows me, I'll send you both to the electric chair."

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Book Review: Crossroads, by Mary Ting

Mary Ting

Claudia Emerson, who has just turned 18, keeps dreaming of a place where heavenly bodies (literally, this place is draped with drop dead gorgeous men and women) reside. These life-like dreams turn out to be the real thing, as Claudia is drawn over and over to a place called the Crossroads, a place between the living and dead, heaven and earth. Here she meets an angel, Michael, who's at first rude, but then grows on Claudia when he becomes her guardian angel.

I was eager to start this book based upon the premise, and when a Goodreads group I belong to had it as an October monthly read, I moved it up to the top of my TBR list. I loved the concept which, at least to me, was a fresh idea in a flowering field of YA urban fantasy being choked by the weeds of vampire love.

Unfortunately, that's where the love fest ended. This story just is not up to par. I don't like books where I'm constantly looking at the page numbers, hoping I'm getting closer to that magical last number, only to find I have, sigh, 100 pages to go....95 pages to go...90 pages to go. I looked at the page number countdown, it seemed, every 5 pages. Let me break it down for you.

Pacing. Slow, slow,slow...burdened with the pontificating internalizations of the main character. The action and dialogue were continually interrupted as Claudia asked herself question after question. Rather than letting the scene play out, we had to put up with Claudia's constant internal chatter.

Story arc. I'd like to say I could find one, buried in all the needless prose, but to have a true story arc, the main character has to go through change, be faced with a critical choice, make that choice, and hopefully learn from it. Claudia, however, didn't really do anything except stand around and have other people protect her and fight for her. Claudia just kind of went for the ride as events happened *to* her. It was very reminiscent of Bella Swan in Twilight, with a "family" of drop-dead gorgeous stronger beings (angels) that she had to keep secret and who were all-powerful and went out of their way to protect her at the risk of their own lives because she's the weak mortal who can't seem to do anything for herself. Seriously...I think one Twilight is enough for me, and at least in Twilight you were drawn in to the story and the characters. The funny part is, there is a glowing recommendation near the beginning of the book from...wait for it...the owner of the

Dialogue. Unrealistic, boring, and some of the lines, especially the romantic lines, are just down-right goofy. Much of the dialogue just didn't come off as "real". Not to mention the needless chatter that does nothing for the story or the plot or...well, or anything.

Plot. Pretty flat. No sub-plots. No twists. No "OMG! I didn't see that coming!" moments. Pretty predictable.

Writing. Abysmally amatuerish. There is no connection with the characters, or what they're going through. Most of it--and for some reason it seemed to get worse as we neared the end--was just painful to read. I don't think Ms. Ting painted *one* visceral emotion. Not one. If there's any in there, it's so buried in the adverbs and telling that it's quickly forgotten. The writing also sets the reader apart from the main character. Told in first person, Claudia "feels" or "sees" things instead of the author putting Claudia right into the action. "I could feel my body levitating off the bed." Or "I began to feel anxious." Or "I was in complete shock." I'd rather read how that feels, not be told she's feeling it.

And let's not forget the adverb-itis:

"I'm in danger?" I asked frantically.
"But it's not as fun," David said lightly.
"Leave the fun part to yourself," Michael said seriously.
And on...and on...and on...
It makes you want to pull your hair out.

Then there are the POV shifts. Just saying.

And of course then there are lines that just don't make sense, like:
My eyes set into his beautiful eyes.
Wha-huh? What does that even mean?

Overall, I'm disappointed and extremely frustrated that I paid $8 for this eBook. *$8!* That's highway robbery for a story that reads like it was written in Jr. High School.

Ms. Ting is writing a sequel. I think Ms. Ting would be better served if she took a couple of years off and focused on mastering her craft and invest in some writing classes before publishing any further works.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sample Sunday: Fire in the Blood

Good morning, my pretties. I'm not in a favorable mood this a.m., but still, it's Sunday and I am here! I hope you enjoy today's installment.

Last week, Haley figured out Tuggin's game. What a tool. Or a dick. Call him what you will, but he can't be trusted. She's decided to jet and take her chances with the unfamiliar, hostile terrain.


Tuggin said, “It is time to prepare for the night.”

I slipped off Sorrel and looped the reins over a shriveled juniper tree.

“You would gather…”

“I know, I know,” I interrupted.

Trying my hardest not to look at Tuggin, because he’d for sure know something was up, I took the knife he’d given me and hacked at the tree. While wrinkled bark piled up at my feet, I made a list of everything I’d need to take: food, water, my backpack, grain, and of course, Sorrel.

“Here,” I said, laying some of the bark next to Tuggin’s fire-pit.

Tuggin laid the bark in the hole he’d dug and lined with rocks. When he tapped his knife against his flint rock to spark the kindling, I mentally added flint rock to my list.

After a third glance from Tuggin, I stopped spying and separated the rest of the bark into two piles to use for beds. Not the most comfy, but lumpy bark beds were warmer than lying on the ground. Who would have known the desert could get so cold at night?

While I nibbled my dinner, I kept looking over my shoulder at the desert. Would I find water? People? I swallowed. Wild animals?

“What is wrong?” Tuggin asked.

“Nothing.” I’d been gnawing on my thumbnail instead of my bread. I stuffed the bread in my mouth.

Tuggin reminded me of a hawk, staring me while I plucked a heated rock from the fire pit and sauntered to my bed. I curled around my hot rock, focusing on not looking to see if Tuggin was still watching me…but I was too tweaked for focusing and I looked. He was watching me. I quickly averted my gaze.

I lay there, not looking at Tuggin and listening to the sleipnir snore. I peeked when his bed crinkled. He lay on his back, his hands locked behind his head. I squeezed my blanket in my fists and brought it up to my chin. I had no clue what was out there. I just knew that I’d rather face wild animals than be taken prisoner by the Eny and be tortured or killed, or be used by Tuggin so he could steal my stone.

I pulled in slow, steady breaths, exhaling softly while I pretended to sleep. I even threw in a finger-twitch and a couple soft sighs for good measure, just in case Tuggin was watching. I peeked at him again; did Mentas sleep? He looked like he was sleeping—the hard lines of his face had softened, which I knew he could never fake, being such a hard-ass lying traitor. He was very still, corpse-like, except his eyelids spasmed as though he was having a nightmare.

“Tuggin?” I whispered.

He didn’t move, except for his crazy-ass eyelids. Crawling from my blanket, I tied my blankets to my pack and tiptoed to the supplies. I took most of the fruit and bread, and then swiped cheese, wafers, and honey, leaving Tuggin the disgusting leather strips. I dug deeper into the food pack.

Score! I slipped a flint into my pack. Next, I took the full sack of water and left Tuggin the one that was almost empty. I had no idea when I’d be able to find water again. Tuggin could always go back to Given Hall. I was sure na├»ve Adrana would welcome him with open arms…not that I cared, of course, where Tuggin went and to whose arms.

I saddled and bridled Sorrel, tied on the pack and the water sack, and untied the hobble from his legs. I glanced behind me, then forward. I could do this. I could do this. I could do this. Before I lost my nerve, I slipped from camp.

I checked over my shoulder every minute or two. When our campfire looked no bigger than a firefly behind me, I mounted Sorrel, and then searched the dry plain, glowing in eerie white-red light. I considered, for one second, going back to Tuggin, but then I took a deep breath, squared my shoulders, pressed my lips together, and rode into the desert.
It was so freaking hot, and sand was everywhere. It had only been a few days, but sand was in my backpack, my water, my food, my clothes, my nose. My face was killing me; I didn’t need a mirror to know that it had been fried by the sun.

Stopping for a break, I lurched toward Sorrel with the open water sack. The sand rippled in front of me, like ocean waves. I stumbled and dumped half the water.

“Shit, shit, shit.” I clawed at the sand, but the water disappeared beneath my fingers. I got to my feet and swayed, pressing my palms to my temples as darkness pummeled my eyes.

I leaned against Sorrel’s sweaty neck and patted him. The poor animal was as drenched as I was, his curly hair plastered in tight ringlets against his body.

“What the hell was I thinking?” I asked him.

I should never have left Tuggin. I didn’t know jack shit about surviving the desert. I looked back at the way we’d come. Nothing but dunes, dunes and more dunes. Where had the Dry Hills gone?

“You know, big guy, I thought we’d see some people by now. I don’t think this is working out. We’ve got to go back.”

Sorrel nudged my chest. I managed to give him a drink from the water sack without losing any more. Licking my cracked lips, I put the sack away without taking any myself. I’d better save what I could for Sorrel…if he collapsed, I was done for.

I turned Sorrel and headed back in the direction of the Dry Hills. I hoped.
Later that day, when the sun hung just above the horizon, I reined in Sorrel. My muscles were weak, and my head was spinning, and when he stumbled I pitched face-first into the sand.

With sand sticking to the sweat on my face, I dragged myself to my feet and gave Sorrel water. I waited on my knees until Sorrel finished before taking my turn. I gulped several large swallows and then forced myself to stop. God, it wasn’t enough.

“Think about something else,” I croaked to the air.

Firewood. No juniper trees, but there were knee-high scrubby dead-looking trees. I grabbed my knife and set to work.

Sitting cross-legged in front of my wood pile, I started the long job of trying to make a fire with my flint rock. I’d seen Tuggin do it a gazillion times, but I hadn’t been able to master it, and the last few nights had been cold without a fire. I’d tried snuggling up with Sorrel, but spent most of the night dodging all those legs. Not to mention that the desert quiet seemed to amplify Sorrel’s snoring.

I kept at it; the sun dropped below the horizon, and so did the temperature. Teeth chattering, I almost didn’t notice when a spark hit a dried flake of bark and a tiny red dot appeared. I scrambled to my knees and blew until a little crackle was followed by the tiniest flame. I added pieces of bark until the fire caught.


Sorrel snorted.

I gave Sorrel a scoop of grain and a few more drops of water. “Sorry, big guy,” I said when he’d sucked it dry. “That’s it. We’ll find more when we get back to the Dry Hills, okey dokey?”

Sorrel nosed the empty water bucket. “I’m really sorry,” I murmured.

I smoothed my blankets over the sand and searched my pack for food. I’d been giving Sorrel the juicy fruit because I felt bad for him, and I’d pigged out on the cheese just because I liked it; now all I had left were dry wafers. I struggled to swallow one, but it hurt my dry throat. I had to steal a drop from my water stash to wash it down.

The white and red moons shone and a yellow moon slowly rose; I could see the tip of it just over the horizon below the red moon.

“The third moon,” I whispered to Sorrel, who snorted.

The two moons looked powerful, lighting up the night sky and out-shining the stars. I couldn’t remember Earth’s moon ever making me feel so small; even the huge desert seemed to shrink beneath them.

“What do you think’s going to happen when that fourth moon rises?” I asked. Sorrel, still nosing the water sack, ignored me. “Do you think there’ll be a big explosion, or will it just stop raining or something?”

Sorrel stomped a hoof and flicked his tail.

How much longer before the last moon rose? One week? Two? My heart beat accelerated, the pounding rhythm sounding like a clock ticking down the time. How would I ever find those stones, and my brother, and jet this place before the world exploded? I felt as small and powerless as the twig hidden in my backpack.

I froze in the middle of brushing crumbs off my shirt and stared at the sky. Had the moons been to my left when I’d first started out across the desert? Had the sunsets been more to my right?

I stood, twisting to check out my surroundings, but there were no landmarks. “Crap. I have no clue where we are.”

I tossed more bark onto my fire then huddled under my blanket and thought about Tuggin’s story of the Eyid descendants. It was a no-brainer to assume Tomas was the Fire Eyid’s descendant, and now his descendant wanted to pick up where Tomas had left off…but no one knew where the stones were anymore, including him.

I shivered.

Or did he?

It suddenly seemed very dark outside my circle of light. I clutched my blanket to my chin as I strained to see. I hadn’t felt this scared when Tuggin was around. Was he looking for me? Squeezing my eyes shut, I tried to pretend that he was just on the other side of my campfire.