BRAVING THE ELEMENTS: Get your fantasy fix today!

HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY TO
BRAVING THE ELEMENTS!

Braving the Elements
A Fantasy Anthology
By Various Authors
Publisher: Roane Publishing
Release Date: September 4, 2017
 
Claire Davon – The Dragon, the Witch, and the Swordswoman
Michael Siciliano – Forging Mettle
Kelly Said – The Myth of Mount Agony
Terri Rochenski – Mist Weaver
Rebecca Hart – Alice and the Egg
 
 
The Dragon, The Witch, and the Swordswoman
By Claire Davon
As the person responsible for calling the bronze dragon that destroyed her village, Losha is tasked with killing it. Failure to do so means she will be outcast from everything she has ever known. Yet one she is on the road, two local women in tow, she finds that she is strangely reluctant to harm the beast that lurks in her mind.
After an encounter with an oddly familiar old woman and a knight in a small hamlet Losha is more confused than ever. On one hand, failure to slay the dragon means she cannot return to the promise of marriage from a local boy yet the more she learns about the dragon the less she wants to harm it.  It, like the bronze sword that is her only defense, speaks to her in a way nothing else has.
The stage is set for a final showdown between knight and beast when the knight’s true quest is revealed and Losha must choose between all she has ever known, or the companionship of an old woman…and a dragon.
Forging Mettle
By Michael Siciliano
Xander, a teenaged street thief in the grimy slums of Low Town, discovers he has an innate magical talent on the same night his father is killed. Intent on getting revenge, he attempts a risky robbery which goes bad. Rather than face the hangman’s noose, Xander agrees to accompany a group of soldiers intent on finding a powerful magical artifact. But the Beggar’s Hand isn’t what the King’s sorcerer thinks. Deep in the mountains, Xander must make life and death decisions, not just for himself, but the Kingdom he calls home.
The Myth of Mt Agony
By Kelly Said
Meadow’s mere presence ensures the Morningstar farm produces with preternatural abundance. A dirt-dusted foster-child, she hungers for harmony with Auric’s lands.
Valcone is the reclusive prince of Auric. Confined to his room—for the safety of his subjects—he craves control over his persuasive powers.
The prince and the farmgirl’s powerful personalities will collide with epic force when a war erupts between Auric and a neighboring kingdom. With Auric’s fate on the line, Valcone tests the limits of his ability. He amplifies his steady push into a forceful shove against Meadow’s gentle Nature. The Earth-shaper finds herself between a rock and a hard place, literally, where the only choice to save her family may lie in surrendering to the destructive force of her ground-breaking ability.
Mist Weaver
By Terri Rochenski
Dolan wants nothing more than to escape his village for the big city where his small stature and unpleasant features won’t make him the recipient of constant ridicule by the lord of the manor and his heir, Gilroy. The mist that dances to the sweet notes of Dolan’s flute is his only camaraderie and the only beauty in his life—except for Keavy.
When the kind milkmaid is faced with unwanted attentions, Dolan must defend her honor with a choice that will ultimately change his life.
Alice and the Egg
By Rebecca Hart
Alice would do anything for her father, the only parent she’s ever known since her mother’s death in childbirth. When he falls ill, Alice doesn’t hesitate when the opportunity to barter her life for his is presented by Jayden, the prince and only heir to the Dragorean throne.
It doesn’t take long for Alice to realize the palace has secrets. Ones that relate to her own past more than she could ever have imagined. If she can find a way to play the game of secrets well enough, not only could she save her father, she just may manage to save herself as well.
 
~~~oOo~~~
 
 



Blog Tour Schedule
September 4th
Release Day Blitz
Scribbler’s Sojourn – Top Two List
Jennifer M. Eaton – Favorite Five List

September 5th

Mythical Books – Ebook giveaway 

September 6th

Reviews by Crystal – Author Interview 

September 7th

Liz’s Reading Life – Author Interview
Sharon Hughson, Author – Author Interview 

September 8th

~~~oOo~~~

GIVEAWAY!!

A $50 Amazon Gift Card

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use a RoanePublishing.com Gift Code.  No purchase necessary, but you must be 18 or older to enter. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter, and announced on the widget. Winner well be notified by emailed and have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. The number of entries received determines the odds of winning. This giveaway was organized by Roane Publishing’s marketing department.

More Dragons By Nicole Conway

Dragons are awesome. Dragons inspire me to create a world (or twelve) where they aren’t evil. And Nicole Conway is the author of a fantastic series featuring Dragons.

The Dragonrider Chronicles.

Now, she’s beginning a new series. Lovers of dragon tales and fantasy quests will surely rejoice over this new addition to their book shelf.

Savage begins the Dragonrider Legacy series, a thrilling companion to the international bestselling Dragonrider Chronicles.

Never send a hero to do a monster’s job.

Forty years have passed since Jaevid Broadfeather brought peace to Maldobar and Luntharda. But that fragile truce will be tested as darkness gathers on the horizon. The vicious armies of the Tibran Empire have crossed the far seas and are threatening to destroy Maldobar completely. Not even the dragonriders can match the Tibran war machines. And after an attempt to awaken Jaevid from his divine sleep fails, the fate of Maldobar is looking grim.

Reigh has never known what it means to be a normal human. Raised amongst the gray elves in the wild jungle of Luntharda, he’s tried everything to fit in. But the dark power within him is bursting at the seams—refusing to be silenced. And while his adoptive father, Kiran, insists this power must be kept secret, Reigh knows he’s running out of time.

As Maldobar burns, the world is desperate for a new hero. Destiny has called, and one boy will rise to answer

Meet the Author! J. Keller Ford talks about her characters

IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING eBook Cover 2700x1800The awesome J. Keller Ford joins us today to talk about her first novel, In the Shadow of the Dragon King.

I’m beyond thrilled to host Ms. Ford because she is more than a fellow writer. She’s a friend (even though we’ve never met in person) who helped me place my first published fiction. We’ve also traded manuscript critiques (mine were on the second book in this series of hers).

And we both ADORE dragons (enough said, right?)

Without further ado. Here’s Jenny!

Me: How did you come up with the background for David and Eric?

Ms. Ford: I always wanted my two main characters to come from wealth but not have a clue of how they got it or why or even what to do with it. I also knew I didn’t want them to be spoiled brats in the sense that they knew they had all this wealth and always used it to get what they wanted.

Eric and David are “spoiled” for different reasons than being wealthy. They’ve been coddled, sheltered, had things done for them all their lives because of who they are. Both are tired of it. Both are driven to achieve something more than being pretty boys with status. They want their lives to mean something.

We all read stories of poor people wanting to come into wealth. I thought I would turn it around a bit, and take someone who had everything at their disposal, but still their lives were missing important things. Something that couldn’t be bought with money or status such as peace of mind. Honor. Respect. It’s a long process for them get others to see them differently, to be taken seriously.

I hope readers connect with both Eric and David on a personal level because of this struggle. Having wealth isn’t a bad thing. Losing touch with yourself when you do have it is totally another ball of wax.

Me: That’s an interesting twist on the wealth thing. I enjoyed reading about these boys, although I’m Team Charlotte all the way (For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, guess you’ll need to read the book so you can find out).

I really enjoyed the pace of the action in your story. What’s your favorite scene in the book?

Ms. Ford: I have so many favorite scenes, but there is one in particular that I really like, and it’s the one with David and Trog sitting on a balcony in Gable. David is wrestling with an issue and Trog tries to help him through it, but David doesn’t want to hear. This scene totally took me by surprise as I had no plans to write it. It just came out.

I think it adds immeasurable depth to my knight, Sir Trogsdill and I know personally, I think that’s where I fell in love with him as a character. I mean, like really fell in love with him. I reacted to Trog differently in every scene after that. It was a pivotal moment for me as the author of this book. In that one scene, Trog changed before my eyes. It really affected me. I hope others will feel the same.

Me: I love when minor characters are potent and likable. I admired Trog throughout the story, but I know what you mean about that conversation adding a depth we hadn’t seen before (funny that his creator hadn’t even seen it. That’s what I love about writing).

And for my last question, which character surprised you most?

Ms. Ford: I have to say Trog surprised me the most. I went into this trilogy with a certain vision of Trog. He was knightly, chivalrous, a defender of the universe. But he also has flaws, weaknesses. I wasn’t sure what they were until I started writing the story.

Even in the initial draft, he wasn’t flushed out well. He needed more depth, so I went back and re-wrote scenes. That is when the scene above flowed out of me. I gripped my heart and said to myself, “That’s it.”

As the novel progresses we see scenes that show Trog as a man, not a legend. Not a myth. Not a god. And then we discover a secret, and the explanation for that secret took my breath away.

Trog became larger than life to me, not because he was a warrior or legendary knight, but because he was human. Totally blew me away.

Me: I love that Trog is a valiant knight in the truest sense of the word. His secrets make that even more apparent.

I’m excited to see where the story takes us in the next two books.

Thanks for stopping by today!

Readers, don’t forget to scroll down and enter the contest for a book charm or a digital copy of the book.

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InTheShadowCover

 In the Shadow of the Dragon King by J. Keller Ford
Release Date: May 31, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books

Seventeen-year-old, Eric, is a kick-butt squire to the most revered knight in Fallhollow. Well he would be if Sir Trogsdill allowed him to do anything even remotely awesome. Determined to prove his worth, Eric sets out to find the mythical paladin summoned to protect the realm from the evil lurking nearby.

Sixteen-year-old, David, spends his days collecting school honors, winning archery tournaments, and trying not to fall in love with his scrappy best friend, Charlotte.

Right when things start to get interesting, he is whisked away to the magical realm of Fallhollow where everyone thinks he’s some sort of paladin destined to fulfill a two-hundred-year-old prophecy. He’s supposed to help kill a dragon with some sort of magic key. The same key that happens to adorn the neck of an annoying squire who’s too wrapped up in proving himself to be much help to anyone.

With egos as big as the dragon they need to destroy, Eric and David must get over themselves, or watch everything they know and love, burn.

Google Play | BAM | Chapters | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | TBD | iBooks

Add it to your Goodreads list

Meet the Author

J. Keller FordJ. Keller Ford (known to all as Jenny) is a scribbler of Young Adult and New Adult speculative fiction. As a young Army brat, she traveled the world and wandered the halls of some of Germany’s most extraordinary castles in hopes of finding snarky dragons, chivalrous knights and wondrous magic that permeated her imagination. What she found remains etched in her topsy-turvy mind and oozes out in sweeping tales of courage, sacrifice, honor and everlasting love.

When not torturing her keyboard or trying to silence the voices in her head, Jenny spends time collecting seashells, bowling, swimming, screaming on roller coasters and traveling. Jenny is a mom to four magnificent and noble offspring, and currently lives in paradise on the west coast of Florida with a quirky knight who was silly enough to marry her, and a menagerie of royal pets. Published works include short stories, The Amulet of Ormisez, Dragon Flight, and The Passing of Millie Hudson. IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING is her debut novel and the first installment in the Chronicles of Fallhollow Trilogy.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest |Goodreads

Giveaway Information:  Contest ends June 17, 2016

  • One (1) winner will receive a scrabble tile book cover charm (US ONLY)
  • Five (5) winners will receive a digital copy of In the Shadow of the Dragon King by J. Keller Ford (INT)

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Click the button to join the rest of the tour

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Favorite Fantasy Species: Meet the Authors of Masked Hearts

Masked_heartsToday, I welcome my fellow authors to the blog.

In honor of our latest release, Masked Hearts: A Fantasy Romance Anthology, each of my co-authors will talk about their favorite fantasy creatures. Since we read fantasy (as well as write it), I took our penchant for the genre into consideration when I worded the question.

So, fellow authors, what are the top two fantasy species you love to read (or write) about? Why?

Dana Wright says: “I love shifters and fae. They have a hidden pulse of energy that transcends the mortal world and I can never get enough. Nature and the call of the moon resonate through the mythologies behind them both and I love that. Witches too. They all give us a spark that can be missing from the day to day and I live for that.”

It’s no surprise then when you discover what her story Affinity is all about.

 

A magic mirror and a houseful of ghosts await Kristen when fate leads her to Wanderly House. Secrets and spirits consume her days, but one look in the magic mirror and her heart falls fast. 

Connor is trapped in Faery. With only a view through a bewitched mirror to the real world, his attention is nabbed by a curious cat shifter with a ghostly following.

When the forces of Faery and Wanderly House collide, will Kristen and Connor’s love be enough to save them?

Clair Devon says: “When I was a teenager I was fascinated by Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern so dragons have long been my top fantasy species of choice.  To this day if given the opportunity I would gladly be a dragonrider. After that it is a little clear although I love the idea of were creatures that are not werewolves, were cats in particular. I’m currently revising a fantasy Christmas story involving a were mountain lion and a Polish fairy.”

You won’t find any dragons or dragon riders in Clair’s story Water Woman. I met some new-to-me magical creatures here.

Sparks fly when a Spanish water woman, and an African two-horned horse shifter meet at a masquerade. Kimoni has gone to ask Isidora to use her skills to aid him with his ailing grandfather. When strangers claiming to be Isidora’s relatives try to force her to share her powers, the pair is plunged into danger. Can love between them blossom? Can a water woman and a horse shifter find happiness together?

Nemma Wollenfang answers: “Top species? Dragons! Of course. Those flying, fire-breathing, scaly monsters have it all. As to my second top fantasy species, that’s hard to say, there are so many great ones. But I think it has to be… mermaids. There aren’t enough stories about those – especially when they come with fangs. *Toothy grin* I’d like to read many more romantic stories about both species but I’ve found literature of that type to be a little thin on the ground. Which is a shame. But, you know what they say, write what you’d like to read! So that’s what I’m doing.”

A kindred dragon-lover. There’s no big mystery that the one title with the flying force of fantasy is Nemma’s, Dragon Law.

The kingdom of Baelin is under attack. A terrifying dragon rains fire down on the capital city, burning all in his path. The people’s one hope lies with the Princess Draxa, who – in accordance with an ancient rite – must willingly sacrifice her future to sate the beast’s wrath.

For her kingdom, Draxa will do it. She will leave Andre, the fierce soldier she loves with all of her heart, don her red cloak, and make the treacherous trip into the heart of the mountain, to face the monstrous Lord Siouxlian in his lair. 

Sheryl Winters says: “I’m a dragon lover. Shifters in particular. I wrote Skydreamer with Dragon-shifters in mind. Lately, though, my interest has shifted to Swan shifters. Brooke from Masked Hearts isn’t able to switch to her swan form. I researched Tundra Swans to see what they might normally eat in the wild and the more I read about them, the more I enjoyed writing Brooke and finding unique solutions to her shifting problems.

I’ve read Skydreamer, but I was equally thrilled to read  Feather Fall. Ms. Winters does a fabulous job of bringing her characters to life.

Brooke Adair’s autism has turned the world into a constant puzzle, especially when it comes to men. When she meets fellow swan shifter Blake Landen in a dream, though, Brooke feels a potential connection to someone who could understand her. But trusting in Blake takes a whole lot more courage than Brooke has. Can Brooke overcome her fears and take the leap?

My top two: 

Dragons are my number one because…dragons. You can do so much with them, including different species, different abilities, making them good or evil, having them as a beast carrying a rider or as an independent and magical species of dominance.

The second is more difficult, but I think I’m going to go with Pegasus. Mostly because I love horses and the idea of a flying horse is awesome beyond measure. I’ll admit, though, I haven’t written a single story featuring one of these magnificent beasts and can only remember one series I read that included them – in a mostly minor way.

And, no, my fantasy romance doesn’t include dragons. Sorry. Someday, a publisher will fall in love with my young adult dragon story. Here’s the blurb for Duty or Desire:

Alyona Wyrden dwells contentedly in her elven realm, but when her brother disappears, she travels to Earth to bring him home. Camden Kerr hunts down magical artifacts, keeping them out of the wrong hands. The amulet that draws Alyona to her brother is just the sort of object Cam’s after. The way his flesh responds to the lithe, blonde necklace-wearer is a different matter altogether. When their paths keep crossing, Cam decides they can work together-until he discovers her elven heritage.

Can their attraction defeat prejudice? Which will rule—duty or desire?

As you can see, there’s magic and fantasy creatures galore in Masked Hearts. The stories are the perfect length for a fiction reading break.

Need to add a little fantasy to your life today? Pick up a copy of Masked Hearts at your favorite online retailer. Here are some of the links:

Amazon | AmazonUK | ARe | B&N |Bookstrand Createspace  | Roane  |  Smashwords

Also, don’t forget to enter to win a $10 Amazon gift card – perfect for all your reading (or other shopping) purchases.

Enter the Giveaway

Check out the rest of the tour, too. Today, you can read an excerpt from Feather Fall at Bookgirl Knitting.Masked_hearts_tour_button And here is the rest of the schedule:

May 27th

On the Broomstick  –  Author Interviews
Written Love Reviews  –  Review

May 30th

Red Penn Reviews  –  Author Interviews & Review

May 31st

A Moment with Mystee  –  Review / Ebook Giveaway
Scribbler’s Sojourn  –  Promotional  /  Exclusive Excerpt #4 from Duty or Desire by Sharon Hughson

June 1st

Liz’s Reading Life  –  Author Interviews
Musings about the Writing Life  –  Author Interviews / Ebook Giveaway

June 2nd

Books, Movies, & Wine  –  Promotional  /  Exclusive Excerpt #5 of Dragon Law by Nemma Wollenfang
Alpha Book Club  –  Review / Ebook Giveaway

June 3rd

Book Reviews Virginia Lee  –  Review / Ebook Giveaway

Cover Reveal: In the Shadow of the Dragon King

 I am thrilled, excited, overjoyed, ecstatic and delighted to show you the cover of J. Keller Ford’s debut novel, IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING.

In fact, I was pulled away from my review copy to put this post on my blog. It’s true. I’ll be posting a full review here when the book releases in May.

Ms. Ford is one of my writing associates. If not for her, I don’t know if I would have published my short stories or found the courage to rewrite DOOMSDAY DRAGONS. She is a huge inspiration in my world.

So without further delay, I’ll give you the amazing cover and intriguing sample chapter of this young adult fantasy novel.

Today J. Keller Ford and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING! Book 1 in the Chronicles of Fallhallow Series releases May 31,  2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive an eGalley!!

Here’s a short intro from the author!

Hi there! I’m so excited to share this cover with you. I love the stunning blue background with the silver accents, and the dragon medallion totally captures the personality of the book. I knew I wanted the cover to be classic, timeless, yet dark and enchanting, and boy, did the designers deliver! I couldn’t be more thrilled. Thanks so much for stopping by!

 On to the reveal! 

Title: IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING (The Chronicles of Fallhallow #1)
Author: J. Keller Ford
Pub. Date: May 31, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook
Find it: Amazon | B&N| TBD| BAM| Kobo| GooglePlay Books | iBooks|Goodreads

 Seventeen-year-old, Eric, is a kick-butt squire to the most revered knight in Fallhollow. Well he would be if Sir Trogsdill allowed him to do anything even remotely awesome. Determined to prove his worth, Eric sets out to find the mythical paladin summoned to protect the
realm from the evil lurking nearby.
Sixteen-year-old, David, spends his days collecting school honors, winning archery tournaments, and trying not to fall in love with his scrappy best friend, Charlotte.
Right when things start to get interesting, he is whisked away to the magical realm of Fallhollow where everyone thinks he’s some sort of paladin destined to fulfill a two-hundred-year-old prophecy. He’s supposed to help kill a dragon with some sort of magic key. The same key that happens to adorn the neck of an annoying squire who’s too wrapped up in proving himself to be much help to anyone.
With egos as big as the dragon they need to destroy, Eric and David must get over themselves, or watch everything they know and love, burn.
Excerpt

“War is a necessary evil. There is not a day or time when each of us does not battle some sort of enemy either within or around us. The true test of our character lies in the instant when we choose to either ignore or defeat that which seeks to destroy us. It is the same in our kingdom. Hirth has seen its share of battles and this great province has ridden the wings of freedom for many an age; however, there will come a day when an evil so immense will seek to threaten our very existence. It is then the knights of Gyllen Castle will rise to the aid of Hirth and defend all that is dear – our families, our land, and our right to survive. When such a time comes, I will fight with honor and for glory and give my life, if my forfeiture of it will allow Hirth the chance to endure in peace. And while I know that the enemy may prevail and my life be extinguished from this body, my death will not be in vain for what is more honorable than giving one’s life for love of family, country…and freedom.”Sir Trogsdill Domnall.

Chapter 1

If Eric had known what the daylight would bring after the nightmares ended, he would have remained in bed, the covers pulled over his head.

Instead, he waded through the puddles of the castle’s upper courtyard, each gong from the clock tower further coiling his stomach into knots. Sloshing along beside him, down the aisle of topiaries and statues, was his best friend, a devilish lad with unkempt hair the color of dirt and a cock-eyed grin.

“I don’t know why you’re in such a hurry,” Sestian said, polishing an apple on his sleeve. “Weapons class began fifteen minutes ago. Master Mafi won’t allow us in.” The apple crunched in his teeth.

“You don’t understand, Ses. I have to try.” Eric swatted at the spindly arms of a willow tree. “This will be the third day in a row I missed. If I don’t go, word will get back to Trog and he’ll flog me. You know how he gets.”

“You worry too much. He’d never physically hurt you, however, I do have to admit, he is quite an odd fellow. I saw him make another midnight trek to the fountain last night. He sat there all hunched over like he’d lost his best friend, then he stood, dropped a rose in the water, and left.”

Eric’s muscles bunched under his light shirt, his brow pinched. “That is bizarre, even for him.”

“Want to hear something even more bizarre?” Sestian paused, took another bite of the apple and buried the core in a potted plant. “I overheard Trog and my own headache of a master talking this morning. I believe the exact words out of Farnsworth’s mouth were, ‘Fallhollow is under attack’.”

Eric came to a stop, his eyes wide. “Attack? From who?”

Sestian shrugged. “Don’t know, but members of the Senate and the Mage’s High Council arrived an hour ago, including the Supreme Master himself. They’re meeting with the Order as we speak.”

“What?” Eric’s pulse quickened. “Jared’s here? You saw him?”

The grand mage of all magical beings never involved himself in the affairs of men. Ever.

“No, but I plan to change that.” An impish twinkle glistened in Sestian’s eyes. “Are you game?”

“What? You want to—you mean—you’re joking, right?”

The puckish grin on Sestian’s face answered his question.

Eric shook his head. “Oh, no. There is no way you’re going to get me to eavesdrop on a secret council meeting. I’d rather get hit by lightning than suffer the punishment from anyone sitting in that room.”

“Aww, come on, Eric. Must you always be so dull? Aren’t you the least bit curious?”

“That sort of curiosity will land us in the pillory at best.” Eric pushed past his friend through the carved citadel doors. Sestian darted in front of him and stopped.

“Your point?”

“My point is that I value my life.”

“And what of Fallhollow? Don’t you value our home?”

“Of course I do, but—”

“Then what are you waiting for?” Sestian punched Eric’s arm. “Let’s go.”

“Ses, no!” Eric’s protest fell on empty ears. His friend was gone.

Eric brushed past the lapis columns of the marble vestibule into the Great Hall, a wide-open space topped by a domed ceiling so high its ornate detail was almost lost in the darkness. Nobles and servants milled about, coming and going out of the many rooms, laughter echoing off the walls speckled with massive tapestries and oiled paintings. A flock of girls dressed in aristocratic finery stood upon the majestic staircase, twittering like excited canaries. One of them, Lady Emelia, a startling girl with red hair and striking features, waved at him and winked. Eric rolled his eyes and scurried down the hall past the stairs. The last thing he wanted or needed was a flighty girl choking his freedom.

He passed several lavish rooms before spotting his friend at the far end of the music room, leaning on a harp.

“What took you so long?” Sestian grinned, then pushed aside a wall tapestry and vanished through a secret door.

“Drat you, Ses. How do you find these things?” Eric glanced over his shoulder and followed.

Inside, Sestian struck a wooden match against the stone wall and lit a torch he plucked from an iron sconce. They climbed a set of narrow steps. The guttering flame of Sestian’s torch cast shadows on the walls. More than once the passageway twisted and turned as they ascended.

“Are you sure you know where you’re going?” Eric asked.

Sestian laughed. “We’re in the heart of the castle and you’re going to ask that question now?”

They continued upward. After what seemed an eternity, the steps emptied onto the landing of a dark corridor filled with cobwebs. Sestian stopped and thrust the torch at Eric. “Hold this.” He spun a wall sconce in a combination of left and right turns until a latch popped, and a hidden door opened inward, exposing a small room filled with wooden crates.

“What the—?” Eric stepped inside, his mouth open.

Sestian placed his finger to his lips and motioned to a jagged hole the size of a man’s fist in the wall.

Curious, Eric squatted and peered through a banner of delicate silk.

“Dragon’s breath,” he whispered. “That’s the king’s arbitration room!” He flicked a sideways glance at Sestian. “How did you find this?”

“I don’t sleep much, remember?”

“Good heavens, you are crazy.”

A chair scraped across the wood floor below. Four mages, recognizable by their golden skin, turquoise eyes, and sapphire–blue garments, sat on one side of an immense oval table. Four senators clad in similar garments of purple and gold sat across from them. At one head of the table sat Trog and Farnsworth. At the other, a sojourner shrouded in black with silver rings upon his fingers and tattoos etched upon his hands. And at one of the five arched windows stood the sorceress, Slavandria, her thick lavender hair plaited in a single braid to the floor.

“Jared,” Eric said under his breath.

“Yep,” Sestian said. “That’d be my guess.”

Below, Trog leaned forward, his massive hands clasped together, and addressed the cloaked figure opposite him. “We will heed your warnings, Master Jared, and dispatch a legion to His Majesty’s entourage. I also think it wise to notify our neighbors to the north of the encroaching threat. If this enemy’s intentions are to see Hirth fall, he will attack our allies first to render our kingdom helpless.”

“Agreed.” Jared’s voice resonated deep within the chambers, and into Eric’s core. “Master Camden, see to it the kingdoms of Trent and Banning are informed of the possible threat. Also, instruct the shime to dispatch regiments and secure the borders of Hirth.”

“Do you feel that necessary?” replied the bald man clad in blue. “There is no proof the kingdom of Hirth or the realm of Fallhollow, for that matter, is under attack. There have only been a few isolated incidents of bloodshed, nothing that could be construed as acts of war.”

“Master Camden,” Jared said, “several families of barbegazis, nine unicorns, and over a hundred humans are dead all in the course of four days. This morning, patrols rescued a herd of pixies from a crow’s cage in the Elmwithian Marsh. They were swathed in dragon’s blood. Might I remind you a single act of brutality, especially one steeped in black magic as these incidences are, is one violation too many. Our job is to protect this world, and more so this kingdom, from any dark sorcery that may threaten it. If this directive is in any way unclear, I will be more than happy to personally instruct you in the importance of upholding your defensive role.”

A chill crept up Eric’s spine.

“Oh, come on. Instruct him,” Sestian said, a grin stretched across his face.

A palpable silence fell over the room. Master Camden shifted in his seat and wiped the beads of sweat from his forehead. “Personal instruction is not necessary, Supreme Master.”

“I find that to be a wise decision.”

Eric exhaled. “Yes, so do I.”

Jared stood and pulled the hood of his cloak forward. “Since we are in agreement, I believe we can dismiss. Sir Trogsdill, if I may, I’d like to speak with my daughter alone.”

“Of course,” Trog said, standing. “The rest of you, follow me to the dining hall where you can feast before your journey home.”

“I don’t believe this, Sestian whispered as Trog ushered the last of the visitors out and closed the door behind him.

“Shh,” Eric said.

Down below, Slavandria, said “What is on your mind, Father?”

Jared strolled past her, his hands tucked into his voluminous sleeves. “I have given this a great deal of thought and I have reached a decision. Considering all that has happened, I am left with no other choice. As queen of the Southern Forest and protector of this realm, you must summon the paladin.”

Her gasp could have ripped leaves from their stems.

“Father, no! I can’t! The paladin is only to be summoned in the direst of circumstances. While these attacks are horrid, they are far from extreme.”

“Daughter—”

“Father, please. The ramifications will be devastating to all those involved. Together with the shime, we’ll find this enemy and bring him into the light. I beg you. Please do not do this.”

“If that were true, they would have done so by now. As such, your arguing is futile. My decision is made. By sunset within three days, you must fulfill your duties. I will have the document drawn and sealed. Have Mangus deliver it. So it is said?”

Slavandria’s jaw tightened. “You’re being unreasonable.”

“And you are bordering the line of punishment.”

Eric shuddered at the menacing tone.

“Do I have your word?” Jared said.

Slavandria straightened her back and steadied her voice. “Yes, Father. So it is said. So it shall be done, but don’t think for one-minute I won’t improvise when the time presents itself.”

“You have always been my challenge child. I would expect nothing less from you. Now, if you will forgive me, I must go.”

“Where this time?”

“Home, to Felindil for a day. Afterwards, I will be in seclusion, communing with the heavens before taking to the sea.”

“What? And leave me here to set the world right once the paladin arrives?”

Jared’s full-bodied laughter filled the room. “You sound as if the demon of the underworld will rise, spewing fire and ash.”

“And how do you know he won’t?” She paused, her fingers steepled to her lips before continuing. “Father, please. All I ask is for once, in your long, stubborn life, you listen to me. The people of this kingdom and all of Fallhollow are innocent. They need our protection. I fear what the paladin’s presence will do. You can’t bring such devastation upon Fallhollow and then leave me to salvage whatever is left.”

“I bring nothing upon this realm; therefore, I leave you with nothing to clean up. The course of the world is set. Events will unfold as they will. The paladin will not change that which is set in motion.”

“You’re wrong, Father.” Slavandria brushed past him.

“Disagree if you must. You always do. For now, go home. Wait for my summoning papers and prepare the traveler. I will come to you in Chalisdawn three days hence.”

Jared snapped his fingers. White shards of light crackled and zapped around him, and he was gone.

Slavandria shook her head. “You have no idea what you’ve done, Father.” She gathered her cloak from the back of a chair and incanted some strange words. A swift pale-blue mist rose from the floor, swirling, engulfing her in a vortex. The air sizzled and splintered, and she, too, disappeared.

“Whoa,” Sestian said. “This is worse than bad.”

“No kidding,” Eric stood and brushed the dust from his breeches, “and I have a feeling it’s going to get a lot worse.”

Sestian withdrew the torch as they left the room and shut the door. “You do realize we’re going to have to find out who this paladin is, right?”

Eric walked down the steps. “Why is that?”

“Come on. Are you that daft? How else are we going to prove to Trog and Farnsworth that we’re deserving of becoming knights? Right now they think we’re nothing but a pair of imbeciles worthy of nothing more than polishing armor and performing duties of a valet.”

“We’re squires, Ses. That’s what we do.”

“And it’s all we’ll ever do if we don’t prove ourselves. Don’t you get it? When was the last time Gyllen Castle or Hirth saw battle, hmm?”

“You sound as if you want war.”

“No, but I haven’t trained all my life to become a knight only to end up as a fat, lazy, well-paid manservant.”

Eric turned a corner and continued downward, his voice hollow in the muted dark. “I don’t think you’ll ever be fat or lazy.”

“Eric, come on. Why must you be so difficult? Without a skirmish or two, acts of heroism for us are limited to rescuing girls from over-zealous drunkards and protecting the royal dinner from the palace dogs. I want more than that. When I die, I don’t want to be remembered for how well I polished a sword, but for something grand and heroic. Don’t you want the same?”

“Of course I do, but I don’t sit around thinking about what legacy I want to leave behind when I die.”

“Liar. All you ever talk about is how much you want to be a knight like Trog.” Sestian shoved past Eric and blocked his descent. “Think about it. You know as well as I we’ll be relegated to the stables to saddle horses and pack rations and bedrolls if there is the slightest hint of a conflict. They won’t let us anywhere near a battlefield, especially you. It’s like you’re some kind of poster boy for squire school.”

“I know, but—”

“No, there are no buts. Don’t you see? Now is our chance to show our mettle. If we team up with this paladin, we have a chance to prove ourselves. Trog and Farnsworth will have to take notice.”

“Yeah, after they flog, tar and feather us. Besides, what makes you think this paladin will want us, huh? He’s probably some powerful sorcerer like Jared.”

“No one is as powerful as Jared, but I’ll bet you a rooster against a duck this savior dabbles not only in white, but black magic, too. That’s why Jared needs him.”

“Which is all the more reason for us to keep our distance.”

“No! It’s all the more reason for us to find him. He’ll need guides to help him maneuver through our lands. We’ll be heroes for saving Fallhollow from a murderous foe. King Gildore will praise us. Songs will be written about us.”

Eric rolled his eyes.

Sestian snorted. “Don’t think I can’t hear your eyes flipping around in their sockets. You know I’m right. We know every crack in the earth Fallhollow possesses. We’ve been trained by the very best knights in the world. On top of that, I have a knack for getting us in and out of places unseen. You’re extraordinary with a blade. Together, we’re dangerous. We can be his eyes and ears. And when we defeat whatever is out there, Trog and Farnsworth will have no choice but to admit our accomplishments and recommend us for knighthood.”

Sestian’s stance and the set of his eyes conveyed an intensity Eric admired and feared. He sighed aloud. “All right. You win, but we say nothing. If Trog and Farnsworth found out, they’d roll us in dragon dung and set us on fire.”

Sestian punched Eric playfully on the arm and smiled, wide. “Ha! I knew I could break you.”

They hurried from the music room and fell in with other students leaving classrooms. In the sunlit courtyard, Eric stopped short. Sestian plowed into him from behind.

“What’s wrong?”

Eric gritted his teeth. “Do you not see who is standing in front of us?”

Sestian turned his gaze to their masters leaning against the balustrade, their arms folded to their chests, waiting. “Great. Let me handle this.”

Trog stood upright and adjusted the sword on his hip, flexing the intersecting scars on his arms—reminders of dozens of battles fought. He took a step forward, and a gust of wind blew his dark hair back from his weathered, sun-darkened face, exposing a high forehead, square jaw, and intense peridot eyes. Eric gulped as a childhood tale about a sly mouse captured by a blind owl scampered through his brain.

“You’re late,” Trog said, tossing Eric a suede satchel weighed down with sheathed knives. “Where have you been?” He spoke softly, but his voice reverberated through the crisp morning air.

“Listening to Magister Timan’s lecture on ceremonial magic,” Sestian replied. “Did you know there are magical portals that allow us to travel between realms?”

“Did you know I have a magical foot that can disappear up your backside if you don’t get down to the stables right now?” Farnsworth asked. His brow furrowed beneath a curtain of wavy straw-colored hair. He walked toward Sestian, the seams of his green tunic strained over his wide shoulders, his eyes as brown and penetrating as a wolf’s.

“So I’ve heard. Several times.” Sestian grinned and tapped Eric on the arm. “We’ll get together later and go over what we learned today, eh?”

Eric nodded and shuffled his feet under the weight of Trog’s stare. He waited for Sestian and Farnsworth to get far enough away before lifting his head and meeting Trog’s gaze. The knight lifted a brow.

“Are you going to tell me where you really were, or are you going to hold to your story that you were listening to a lecture that ended this time yesterday?”

“Which one will get me in the least amount of trouble?”

Trog placed his hand on Eric’s back and edged him down the stone steps to the lower courtyard. “The truth, Eric. Always the truth.”

“What if I promised not to tell?”

“Secrets are grave burdens to bear.”

“I can’t betray his confidence, sir. I promised.”

Trog nodded. “Then you’ll sleep in the stables tonight as punishment.”

“What? How is that fair?”

“You know the rules as my squire, and you still choose to withhold the truth. Therefore, you shall be punished accordingly.”

“But the rules of knighthood require I not reveal confidences or secrets under any circumstance to anyone at any time, even under pain of death.”

“Nice try, lad, but the last time I looked, you have not been captured nor are you under pain of death.” Trog placed a heavy hand on Eric’s shoulder. “I’m going to give you one more chance. What will it be?”

Eric clenched and unclenched his fists at his sides. “With all due respect, sir, I cannot and will not betray my friend.”

Trog removed his hand. “I commend you on your loyalty, son, but you have made your choice. Therefore, you will suffer the consequences of it. Now go on and get busy with your chores. I want each of those blades in your hand sharpened and polished by morning—”

“But, sir—”

“And for protesting when you should not, you will also sharpen and polish Sir Farnsworth’s blades. I’ll see to it they are dropped off.” Eric opened his mouth to speak, but changed his mind when Trog dipped his brow in warning. “Would you like me to add Sir Gowran’s and Sir Crohn’s weapons to your load?”

Eric bit back the irritation boiling below the surface. “No, sir.”

“Very well. Bring the blades to the farrier’s stall in the morning around eight. It will be a dual-fold meeting as you can visit your father at the same time.”

Trog paused for a moment, his expression thoughtful, then turned and strolled across the courtyard. He hoisted a young page from a game of marbles and lectured him on the pitfalls of wasting time. Eric snorted at the boy’s bewildered expression and the speed at which he ran once set down upon his feet. Been there, boy. He cursed beneath his breath. What am I talking about? I’m still there.

Eric’s boots clicked on the cobblestones as he plodded toward Crafter’s Row. He passed beneath the archway connecting the cathedral to the knights’ quarters and turned left down the tree-shaded lane toward the royal stables. After informing the stablemaster of his upcoming sleeping arrangements, Eric returned the way he came. At the crossroad, he turned and made his way toward the smithy. Horses clomped and wagons rattled over the pavers while thick clouds gathered overhead, suffocating the sun. A light drizzle set in as he entered a stone building marked by a metal plate engraved with a hammer and anvil. The blacksmith wiped the sweat from his brow and motioned Eric to a table set with vials of oils, and various whetstones.

Eric sighed. Lovely.

He settled into the monotonous task of sharpening and polishing, taking on Farnsworth’s load a few hours later. He finished his arduous task just after dusk. Cursing his sore muscles, he packed up the satchels and shuffled to the stables where a plate of bread, cheese and a pint of goat’s milk waited for him.

Great. Is he trying to starve me, too?

He ate what was given and settled into the hayloft, his stomach a knot of protests. He sighed. Who was this paladin, and from who or what was he destined to save the realm? There was only one way to find out. Tomorrow he and Sestian would devise a plan, and it would be worthy of a knight’s tale. When all was said and done, Trog would have no other choice than to see him as a worthy knight instead of an incompetent fool. An image of Trog groveling for forgiveness appeared in his mind. Eric snuggled into a bed of hay and fell into a blissful dream, a wide grin on his face.

 

About J. Keller Ford: 
J. (Jenny) Keller Ford grew up as an Army brat, traveling the world and wandering the halls of some of Germany’s
most extraordinary castles. From the time she was old enough to hold a crayon, she wove fantasy tales of dragons, warriors, and princesses.  A former paralegal, she’s the author of several short stories including The Amulet of Ormisez, Dragon Flight, and The

Passing of Millie Hudson.  When not at 
her keyboard breathing new life into fantasy worlds, Jenny spends time
overloading on coffee, collecting seashells, bowling, swimming, riding roller coasters and talking plot-lines with anyone who will listen.  She lives on the west coast of Florida with her husband, two sons, two dogs, and a pretentious orange cat.  Her two daughters and grand-daughter make their homes in Seattle, WA.
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Training my Dragon during NaNoWriMo

During NaNoWriMo, I trained my Dragon. I know you are thinking: “NaNoWriMo is supposed to be about writing words.” Silly you.

I got Dragon Naturally Speaking software a couple years ago. My husband knew I wanted to try speaking my writing. The next year, he bought me a new computer which had the Microsoft version of voice control, whatever it’s called.

To this day, I don’t use either of these tools.

Hey, it’s not my fault! I tried to train this silly Dragon, but not as regularly as I should have. I let it import my emails, my documents, and anything else it wanted in order to help it learn my writing style. Too bad it didn’t learn too much from that.

Several people recommended that I just read some of my writing to it. Because, yeah, I’ve got lots of time for recreational reading aloud. Don’t they know I’m supposed to be writing?

A few weeks ago, I saw this book titled 5000 Words per Hour. I thought the author must be crazy insane. But no, he had even managed 6000 words in an hour to add to his manuscript-all using Dragon software.

Okay, I write 1000 words per hour. I know this is a professional writer pace because I know professional writers who tell me that’s how much they write per hour. Shouldn’t I be happy with a thousand words per hour?

And then I remember that I have this awesome tool. The same tool Chris Fox, the amazing 6000 words per hour man, uses to do so much incredible writing. Shouldn’t I use this tool?

Obvious answer: yes.

So I decided to give it another try. That was on October 29. Yes the same October 29 that is exactly THREE days before National Novel Writing Month.

I must be insane. And why not? November, when I’m participating in NaNoWriMo, is all about insanity, isn’t it?

As soon as I got done with my Skype meeting with the amazing Chris Fox, I tried to use the Bluetooth headset that came with my Dragon Naturally Speaking. I never actually used it before, and apparently my computer did not recognize it.

So I pulled out my old Logitech headset and plugged it into the USB port. Aren’t Í cute?

And then I started talking. These are the words I said. Can you tell this by looking at them?

I think not.

While they were coming up on the screen, I felt so foolish. Shouldn’t I be typing? Isn’t that the way I get my words on the page?

While I speak, Dragon pad doesn’t tell me how many words I’ve spoken. I tend to think that I don’t know how long I’ve talked, but I could’ve typed it all faster.

dragonsRrealIn any case, I agreed with the masterful Chris Fox to give myself a goal every day during November and use Dragon.

Starting Monday, I will speak into this dictation box for ten minutes (slightly less time than it took me to speak this blog post). Then I’ll copy and paste my lovely words into Scrivener. And I’ll start the real writing (a.k.a. typing).

Depending on how well it goes, I will increase the number of minutes that I use Dragon every day. After all, I can’t get better if I don’t use it, right?

What’s your bet on this situation, reader? Will my Dragon be well-trained enough by the end of November that I can use him for my regular writing?

Maybe you already use Dragon. If so, give me your advice. It’s pretty apparent that I need it.

Waiting for News? Write on!

By the time you read this post, it will have been four weeks since I mailed out my queries for Doomsday Dragons.

The first week after they were gone, I was still combing through the manuscript. I read it aloud. Strengthened the sentences with stronger verbs and more precise nouns and descriptors. Tried to polish it to a sparkling gem.

Then I closed the Scrivener file and moved on to a different project.

What? Did I check my email every ten minutes looking for manuscript requests?

Not really. But I didn’t need to.

Early Responders

Shock of all shockers, I had answers to some of the queries in the very first week.

In fact, within six days, three agents responded with “no thanks.” I was impressed by this because all of them requested between four to eight weeks to get through their queries.

One of these only allowed query letters. Their only taste of my story came from the query description. Obviously, they weren’t impressed by dragons.

The others? I guessed they also probably weren’t piqued by a dragon story. It takes a very specific sort of person to imbibe the myth and fire.

The fourth response was a notice of an undeliverable mail. So even though I checked all the links and double-checked all the email addresses, one of the agencies was no longer receiving mail at the address they advertised on their website.

Four of twelve responses within one week. Not too shabby.

Except they all amounted to 100 percent rejection.

Non-Responders

There were just as many who made no promise to even respond to every query.

Of the twelve, four of them said that hearing nothing after a certain time frame would be equal to a “no thank you” email.

The surprise? The amount of time given before drawing this conclusion ranged from two weeks to twelve weeks.

Talk about holding out hope.

Or maybe it would be more accurate to assume dashed hopes. And then if an email magically appears, it can only be good news.

People I Pitched

Of course, the two people I pitched my idea to at the writer’s conference will get the full 90 to 120 days before I begin to assume the worst.

At least they’ll respond.

I hope they’ll remember me favorably enough to offer advice if they decide the project isn’t for them. Don’t I deserve at least that much?

The Rest of the Pack

That leaves only two out of twelve agencies that will still respond to me sometime during this lengthy waiting period.

Fortunately, I’m not holding my breath.

I’m not sitting on my hands or biting my nails.

I’m following the professional writer’s prescription for winning this waiting game: write something new.

In fact, I had to polish a novella that’s coming out in a month or two and deliver it to an editor. Then I nibbled on the idea for another short story.

And, of course, the women’s fiction novel I’d begun writing while waiting for the last of the beta edits on Doomsday Dragon still needed finishing.

The best way to insure a watched pot boils is to walk away.

In writing terms: write something else without constantly checking your in-box.

What about you? What are your tricks for making waiting bearable? Please share. Not that any of us our impatient or anything…

Talon by Julie Kagawa

Kagawa’s story of dragons living among us has been on my to be read list since I first read its description. Yes, I’m talking about Talon.

When it came, it appeared on my Overdrive app just in time for the weekend. *sigh*

Summary

Ember and her twin brother are on the last leg of their training. If they can successfully assimilate into human society, they will earn their position in Talon, the international organization of dragons.

Ember wants to taste freedom. She befriends the locals and finds a love of surfing. Not as good as flying above the waves-which is forbidden-but enthralling nonetheless.

Her summer is cut short by the arrival of adult dragons to train her and her brother. Separately. Wait a minute! They’ve done everything together for their entire sixteen years of life.

Soon, Ember is chomping at the restraints Talon places on her. Encouraged to defy their rules by a rogue dragon, she finds herself doubting everything she knows about dragons and drifting further from her beloved brother.

Enter the spies from St. George, the dragon hunter’s organization. Garret is known as the Perfect Soldier, but when Ember pushes him to embrace living, unexpected emotions – and doubts of his own – emerge.

Review

Kagawa creates two complex organizations with ideologies that diametrically oppose each other. She throws a teenager from each together. Conflict results. This conflict is central to the story and really the best part of the book.

The two secret societies battling each other is a perfect backdrop for this novel. What do teenagers care about some remote war?

Ember wants freedom. She’s not going to find it in Talon. Ever.

For Garret, he’s been a soldier his whole life. He learned to kill dragons at 14 and has more kills than anyone his age. But is there more to life than hunting the beasts that killed his family?

Some reviewers complained about the ease with which Dante and Ember fit into human society since they’d lived in isolation for sixteen years. Ember’s inner thoughts made it believable to me. Dragons have a natural chemistry for soothing people, easing in, making people trust them.

I enjoyed viewing the dragon society through the different eyes of the three narrators. Is Talon the evil organization the rogue dragon believes? Is there a greater purpose behind their disguises? Those answers must wait for the sequel.

Usually, I’m not a fan of love triangles. In this case, it didn’t bother me (as much) because it was obvious that Ember had a duality – dragon and human. Each side of her preferred the guy from its race.

I wasn’t thrilled with the ending because, while the story question was resolved, it introduced the problem for the sequel. Was she afraid we wouldn’t read the next book unless she wrote it this way?

It still earned 4.5 out of five stars from me because I loved the characters, the conflict, and the constant tension. Were there unbelievable moments? Not enough to throw me out of the story.

But I predicted the outcome fairly early on (although I didn’t guess every angle). And the ending could have been stronger.

Recommendation

If you love dragons, you want to read this book. They are everything you expect while being unexpected in their human disguises.

If you like snarky heroines, you will enjoy this book. Ember Hill has attitude. Being inside her head made for a great ride.

This book has violence but it’s handled with taste and delicacy, so the story is suitable for younger teenagers. The romantic element is secondary to the character development. A PG read in that respect too.

The biggest drawback of this book – the library didn’t have a copy of the sequel available for me to check out.

Rogue, consider yourself added to my TBR list.