Tag: magic

THE CRIMSON CURSE: Beauty & the Beast Like You’ve Never Imagined

This week’s new Novella Niblets release…

The Crimson Curse
Romance / Fantasy
By Melissa J. Crispin
Release Date: Feb 7, 2017
Cursed and disfigured, Calliope must find true love before the final leaf falls from the Enchanted Tree. Being bound to her mansion on the outskirts of town leaves her with little hope.
 
Abandoned by his wife for a wealthy man, Bastian only needs one female in his life, his five-year-old daughter, Yareena. When she goes missing during a raging fire, fate brings him to a strange place where he encounters a woman wearing a golden mask.
 
An attack by rogues puts Bastian in Calliope’s care. As he struggles against pride and prejudice, Bastian can’t ignore his growing attraction to the kind soul behind the mask.
Yareena and the mansion staff do their best at matchmaking, but Calliope can’t reveal her darkest secret. Will Bastian discover her true beauty before it’s too late?
 
~~~oOo~~~
 
 
~~~oOo~~~
 
EXCERPT:

Calliope returned her attention to Bastian, grasping his shoulder with a gentle hand and giving him a small shake. When he didn’t stir, she considered how she could clean the wound without undressing him as he slept. She had never taken off a man’s clothing before, and she hardly wanted her first time to be when he wasn’t even aware of her actions. But, no other options seemed available. She started at the bottom button of his shirt, working her way up with trembling fingers, and spreading the fabric apart when the last of the buttons slipped free.
 
Her eyes roamed his upper body. While she was supposed to be assessing the extent of his injuries, she couldn’t deny the flash of heat that blasted through her at the sight of his bare skin.
 
She dipped a washcloth in the basin that Mrs. Widdleworth left on the night table, wringing out the excess water. As she dabbed at the gash near his naval, his vulnerability in that moment struck her in a way she had not expected. After their first encounter, she would have predicted his ego to get in the way, choosing to bleed to death in the cold rather than accept anything from her.
 
Although he suffered a serious injury, his daughter seemed to remain his utmost concern. Could his earlier ill-temper have been an unusual display? A behavior born out of fear for his daughter’s safety?
 
Maybe she had been wrong about him.
 
She pressed her lips together, allowing the notion to sink in as she dropped the bloody fabric off to the side, and proceeded to stitch the wound with shaky fingers. When the task was complete, she picked up a fresh cloth to use as a dressing. Relief washed over her as she inspected the area before covering it up. The slice in his flesh went deep, but not nearly as deep as she initially feared. She positioned the bandage and fixed it in place, her gaze catching a thin trail of hair that started under the center of his chest, following the way it continued lower down his body, and even further yet where it dipped beneath his trousers.
 
“It’s been a long time since a woman has laid her hands on me,” Bastian said, his voice rough.
 
Calliope jumped, heat infusing her cheeks. “My apologies if this offends. Marcus doesn’t fare well with blood. I had to care for your injury myself.” Her eyes met his, and to her surprise, no anger seemed to stir there.
 
“I was only teasing.” He swallowed hard, appearing to bite back the immense discomfort he had to be feeling. “Thank you.”
 
She inclined her head. “You’re welcome.”
 
“I shouldn’t have been so terse with you earlier. Yareena is my life, and when I couldn’t find her, well…” He reached for his face, pressing the heel of his hand against his jaw. “I lost my sense for a short while. I apologize.”
 
 
~~~oOo~~~
 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
MelissaJCrispin-AuthorPicMelissa J. Crispin lives in Connecticut with her husband, two kids, and an adorable Siberian Husky. She spends her days in the corporate world, and pursues her passion for writing in the late nights and early mornings.
 
From micro-fiction to novels, Melissa loves to write stories in varying lengths. But, no matter the story, it’s almost always about the romance.
 
LINKS:
~~~oOo~~~

GIVEAWAY!

 
$25 Roane Publishing Gift Card, Bracelet with charm from Sweet Inspiration, Hot cocoa mixes and mug from The Crimson Curse
 
 
 

a Rafflecopter giveawayOpen 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.

Get Some Elven Magic FREE Today

Do you love elves? Magic? Maybe a little romance?

I know you love FREE stuff.

Today you can download a short story from Roane Publishing that will give you a glimpse at one of the characters from “Duty or Desire.”

To whet your appetite for that, here’s a snipped to introduce you to the hero of ONE SAVORY SUMMER, Holt d’Wyrden.

An Excerpt from “Duty or Desire” part of Masked Hearts:

Masked_heartsA strip of trees and grass added charm to the brick and wood monstrosity. Alyona slithered up an elm on the north side of the walled-in estate, then a maple located east of the ten-foot mortared wall. As she scaled an oak tree on the western edge, the amulet throbbed between her breasts. A slow, hot pulse, reminiscent of an elven heartbeat.

Holt is here.

Late spring foliage offered cover to her dark-clad form. Not that she worried about being discovered. Although three guards paced the grounds in odd rotations, meant to keep intruders off balance, they looked bored. Handguns similar to the one pointed at her chest on her very first day on Earth rode their hips. A club and another black-handled, wide-barreled item fitted in slots at the other hip.

Twilight curtained her position. New guards with large, sleek-bodied dogs relieved those who traced the perimeter. Alyona studied the windows, hoping to catch a glance of her brother. She wasn’t close enough to attempt telepathy, which worked best within fifty paces. A niggle in her mind assured her Holt resided within this compound. As a guest or a prisoner, she didn’t know.

Light flickered in a third story window. A covering whisked back. Doors opened onto a narrow, iron-railed balcony. A woman with auburn hair pushed through them, her twittering laughter preceding her. Behind her glided the lithe form Alyona knew as well as her own.

Holt pinned the woman to the railing, pressing his body against her. His hands rested on her voluptuous hips. He bent his face toward her neck. His black hair flowed across his shoulders, shielding his actions from sight.

The woman flung her head back. Her laughter broke into a sigh of desire.

Of course he’d be with a human woman. Women should be sampled like fruits in an orchard. His words and a sentiment many elves shared. After all, who wanted to spend centuries bound to a single person?

No one from Alyona’s generation chose a mate. Even her parents had waited until they were nearly in their third century of life before entering into a matrimonial covenant, considered essential if reproduction was planned. Many such contracts were for a specified length of time, perhaps until offspring reached maturity at age forty. Her parents, their bonding stretching well beyond 150 years, were unique in the elven society.

Alyona narrowed her eyes. Holt seemed to be a willing occupant of the fortress. Or this earthen prison offered a brand of permissiveness she’d never witnessed. Once the couple disappeared inside, the door pulled shut behind them, Alyona scanned the wall, grounds and house.

****

I hope it makes you want to read more.

Check out the purchase links for MASKED HEARTS. Get your FREE reads here.

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Did you collect the Scavenger Hunt clues yet? If not, follow this link to get started. And don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter before Friday, September 23 to be entered for a chance to win TWO eBooks. All the details for the contest are here.

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.

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

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 and Giveaway: SCEPTER OF FIRE by Vicki L. Weavil

I’m pleased to offer you a peak at another book to be released by my publisher, Month9Books. In fact, this novel hits the market only a week or two before the anthology IN THE BEGINNING gives me my young adult fantasy debut.
Today Vicki L. Weavil and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for SCEPTER OF FIRE, a companion novel in the CROWN OF ICE Series! Which releases October 18, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive an
eGalley!!

Here’s a message from the author.

Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Ugly Duckling” and “The Steadfast Tin Soldier,” SCEPTER OF FIRE is a companion book
to CROWN OF ICE, my retelling of “The Snow Queen.” It takes place a few years later, in the midst of an invasion by a power-mad foreign emperor, and includes most of the characters from CROWN OF ICE.
 
However the protagonist in SCEPTER OF FIRE is someone new—17-year-old Varna Lund, an ugly duckling among swans, who’s certain her destiny lies in taking on the mantle of village healer after the death of her aged mentor. But when a young soldier enlists her aid to care for his injured friend, Varna and her sister, Gerda, are catapulted into the war that has engulfed their country.
Forced to flee enemy troops with her sister and the two soldiers, Varna must also evade her mentor, Sten Rask—revealed to be a
powerful mage seeking the enchanted mirror hidden by a former Snow Queen.
 
To protect the mirror, and their country, Varna, Gerda, and the soldiers join forces with a sorceress, an enchanted reindeer, a
brilliant scholar, and a young woman traveling with a wolf. But Varna faces a terrible temptation. Promised beauty and power by the devilishly handsome Rask, she must choose—achieve her own desires, or protect a society that has never embraced her.
The Cover:   I love how this cover matches the cover of CROWN OF ICE, and yet is different enough to set the books apart. Both feature
striking young women, but whereas CROWN is glazed with icy blue tones, SCEPTER is saturated with reds, golds and other fiery hues. If you look closely, you can even see flames reflected in the girl’s eyes—very appropriate for a book that deals with sorcerers who wield fire. Although the cover model is not an “ugly duckling,” she does accurately reflect the protagonist during one portion of the book, which I will not reveal at this point due to “spoilers”! 

 

Title: SCEPTEROF FIRE
Author: Vicki L. Weavil
Pub. Date: October 18, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook
Find it: Amazon | B&N | TBD |Goodreads
Sharp as pine needles, and twice as bitter, seventeen-year-old Varna Lund’s determined to become a healer. At least patients don’t care about her looks, unlike the young men who spurn her for eighteen-year-old Gerda or even  her younger sisters. An ugly duckling among swans,
Varna hopes to bury her passionate nature in useful work.
Her healing skills are put to the test when Varna encounters Erik Stahl, a young soldier who’s deserted the battlefield to carry his
injured friend, Anders Nygaard, to safety. Varna, enlisting the aid of Gerda, cares for Anders in secret.
But a brutal betrayal catapults the four young people into life on the run, where Varna discovers her old mentor is actually a powerful
wizard. Seeking the enchanted mirror hidden by a former Snow Queen, the wizard hopes to use  Gerda as a pawn in his plan to aid the invading emperor.
Other forces ally against the wizard, including an auburn-haired sorceress, an enchanted reindeer, a brilliant scholar, and a  young woman traveling with a wolf. Along with the soldiers and Gerda, they vow to prevent the  mirror from falling into enemy hands. But tempted with promises of beauty and power from her now devilishly handsome mentor, Varna must choose between her own desires and the good of
a society that’s never embraced her.
Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Ugly Duckling” and “The Steadfast Tin Soldier”,
SCEPTER OF FIRE is a companion book to CROWN OF ICE.

 

 

Vicki L. Weavil was raised in a farming community in Virginia, where her life was shaped by a wonderful family, the culture of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and an obsession with reading. She holds a B.A. in Theatre from the University of Virginia, a Masters in Library Science from Indiana University, and a Masters in Liberal Studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. After working as a librarian at the NY Public Library at Lincoln Center, and the Museum of Television & Radio (now the Paley Center for Media) in NYC, she is currently the Director for Library Services at the University of North
Carolina School of the Arts.
Vicki loves good writing in any genre, and has been known to read seven books in as many days. She enjoys travel, gardening, and the arts. Vicki lives in North Carolina with her husband and some very spoiled cats. A member of SCBWI, Vicki is represented by Fran Black at Literary Counsel, NY, NY.
Where you can find Vicki:  Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Tumblr

 

 
ONE winner will receive an eBook of CROWN OF ICE & an eGalley of SCEPTER OF FIRE (when available), International.

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Third Time Charm…is a Fantasy

You heard it here: the third time’s a charm. I’ve sold my third short story to Roane Publishing, and at last, it’s in the fantasy genre.

And by fantasy, I mean elves. And magic. And enchanted objects. Oh, and there’s romance, too because this anthology is filled with fantasy and romance. Because everyone has a romantic fantasy…or is that the same thing?

On to the awesome cover – and story blurbs for this collection of shorts which will be released on May 23, 2016 (just in time to be my anniversary gift to myself).

Masked_heartsMasked Hearts
A sweet romance anthology
By Various Authors
Publisher:
Roane Publishing
Release Date: May 23, 2016

What secrets do the Masked Hearts hold?

Dragons, elves and shifters abound in these five sweet, romantic fantasy tales. But, no matter the realm of origin or the race of the species, one theme resonates throughout. To find a love that’s lasting, one must be willing to take off the mask and reveal their true heart.

Affinity by Dana Wright

Behind the shadows lies the truth…
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. A mask, a cloak, and a key leading her to an enchanted evening in the faery garden might be Kristen’s end as all that glitters may well have sharp teeth.
Magic mirror on the wall…
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. Can he find a way to break the spell that binds him so he can reach the girl that haunts his dreams?
When the forces of Faery and Wanderly House collide, will Kristen and Connor’s love be enough to save them?

Water Woman by Claire Davon

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. Isidora and Kimoni look for a way to fight the ruthless intruders, while also saving his grandfather.
Using their combined powers, they meet the challenge, all the while conscious of the growing attraction between them. It has been a long time since Isidora has met a man who calls to her as Kimoni does. The strong, handsome horse shifter sings to her senses, and she sees a matching spark in his eyes. Can love between them blossom? Can a water woman and a horse shifter find happiness together?

Dragon Law by Nemma Wollenfang

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.

Feather Fall by Sheryl Winters

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, Brooke feels a potential connection to someone who could understand her. If she lets him.
But trusting in Blake takes a whole lot more courage than Brooke has. After all, if she doesn’t take this leap, Brooke might miss out on meeting the one man she could actually learn to understand.

Duty or Desire by Sharon Hughson

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, Camden decides they can work together-until he discovers her elven heritage.
Can their attraction defeat prejudice? Which will rule—duty or desire?

Dragons, elves, shifters…magic mirrors, cursed amulets, spells. Sounds like these stories will satisfy any lover of fantasy tales.

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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.
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads

Giveaway Details:  1 winner will receive an eGalley of IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING. International.

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The Storyspinner

Magical realms call to me. You know it. You’ve seen what I like to read – and write. It’s no surprise that Becky Wallace’s The Storyspinner has been on my Goodreads to be read list for many months.

In fact, each time I see the cover and read the blurb, I want to open the book. This is why I’m thankful for Amazon wish lists (note to self: add that to your 365 days of gratitude list).

I added the book to my wish list. One of my children purchased the book for me at Christmas. Of course, the pile of books I hauled in that day (which doesn’t include the electronic versions) will take a few months to devour.

(On a side note: I love the title to this book. As a spinner of stories, it set my imagination on fire. Kudos to the author for writing a story worthy of such a compelling title.)

I should have started with The Storyspinner. It is an epic fantasy (even by the definition given be fantasy faction) and I loved it anyway.

Yes, you read that right.

Usually, epic fantasy doesn’t float my book boat. There are too many characters that I don’t like, but I have to be in their heads for the sake of the story sprawl. The author generally kills off the ones I do like (yes, George R.R. Martin, I’m looking at you). And there’s too much description bogging down the pace.

Why am I giving five stars to this book that is the first in a new young adult epic fantasy series then?

The Blurb

StorySpinner CoverIn a world where dukes plot their way to the throne, a Performer’s life can get tricky. And in Johanna Von Arlo’s case, it can be fatal. Expelled from her troupe after her father’s death, Johanna is forced to work for the handsome Lord Rafael DeSilva. Too bad they don’t get along. But while Johanna’s father’s death was deemed an accident, the Keepers aren’t so sure.

The Keepers, a race of people with magical abilities, are on a quest to find the princess—the same princess who is supposed to be dead and whose throne the dukes are fighting over. But they aren’t the only ones looking for her. And in the wake of their search, murdered girls keep turning up—girls who look exactly like the princess, and exactly like Johanna.

With dukes, Keepers, and a killer all after the princess, Johanna finds herself caught up in political machinations for the throne, threats on her life, and an unexpected romance that could change everything.

My Review

This book has the main ingredients any fantasy novel needs to grab my interest: an interesting magical system and a strong heroine (or hero, preferably both).

The books starts off with only a few pages from Johanna’s normal world. We get to meet her father and see inside her idyllic family life. By the end of the prologue, all that changes.

I’m intrigued by The Keepers. The small glimpse we get inside their government makes me think of wizards only more political. The magic they wield is elemental magic, but accessed in a unique way. In fact, much about the magic was left to my imagination (which I prefer), but it will be interesting to learn more about its origin and adaptation as the series continues.

There is romance – two of them even. I’m usually not a fan of the “hate each other at first sight” trope, however, Wallace uses it effectively. The first meeting between Rafael and Johanna can’t help but create some animosity. It took me longer to understand and accept Rafi’s negative responses, but in retrospect I see this as well-written by the author.

Action piles on top of action. There are sword fights, magical fights, and tension on every page.

If you like the bard character in medieval literature, you’ll enjoy this story since that’s Johanna’s performing strength. Although some stereotypical Gypsy performer elements were present, there was a new element infused into it that made those characters more than that.

I’m interested to see where the author will go with the idea of The Keepers being considered deities among some of the people. I like that the “good guys” are appalled by this idea, while the “bad guys” use that reverence. They twist it into fear and use it to enslave people.

Johanna didn’t act like a typical teenager. She’s older and thrust into a position of responsibility, which explains part of it. Most of the time I forgot I was reading about a sixteen-year-old.

Still, all the characters were well-drawn and pulled me further into the story. I enjoyed jumping between the different perspectives, not finding any of them tedious to read.

My Recommendation

There are a few thematic elements and scenes of violence that might be difficult for younger readers. I would suggest this book for mature teens only (I won’t put an age because some are more mature at thirteen than others at eighteen).

This novel is perfect for a fantasy lover (like myself), someone who enjoys action and adventure and even those who like historical fiction. Yes, this is set in a different world, but it has many elements associated with the medieval time frame. Apparently, that’s a requisite for epic fantasy (see this post).

The romantic elements are present but not overwhelming. The adult romance toes the line of becoming too descriptive, but it isn’t a book that needs disclaimers about sex.

Upon finishing, I raced to Amazon to purchase the sequel. Sadly, it isn’t available until March 22.

And, yes, it’s on my Amazon wish list.

Because sometimes those wishes are granted.

Magic Ex-Libris Series Review

Normally, I don’t read tons of adult fantasy. Usually it has too much sex and profanity, which isn’t my thing. The Magic Ex Libris series by Jim C. Hines is a delightful exception.

I don’t remember where I first heard about this book now. I think it was from one of my Facebook writing friends. They were geeking out about how cool it was for books to generate magic.

Because that’s the heart of libriomancy, which is the unique form of magic used by the hero of the series, Isaac Vainio.

I always knew books were magical. The idea of them generating actual spell-casting power, however, was new. And intriguing.

The Libriomancer

Isaac Vainio is a librarian in small town, Copper River, MI. But he’s also a researcher for a secret

Books are magical! I knew it!

society that regulates the appearance of magic in the world.

Sure, he might be slender and wear glasses, but if Isaac has a book in his hand, watch out. A group of vampires discovers this in the very first chapter of the series opener.

The pace never slows. You’ll meet the tough, bokken-weilding dryad, Lena, whose motorcycle isn’t half as cool as the magically enhanced car Isaac drives.

Do you like pets? How about a flaming spider? Smudge is one thing Isaac pulled from an obscure work of fiction years ago. Now the spider acts like an early warning system for trouble.

And there’s plenty of that. There’s also allusions galore to literature and history, perfect for the book nerd in me (and you).

Magic. Battles. Strange varieties of supernatural creatures. In fact, you’ll never see a vampire sparkle again after meeting the dark family of them in this novel.

There’s even a little romance. This book garnered five glaringly brilliant stars from me.

Codex Born

Book Two

In the second book, Isaac and Lena have become an item. However, because of the way Lena saved him at the end of the first book, she’s become a target for some nefarious magic users.

Right away, we have a vampire who can talk to ghosts helping Isaac get the scoop on his murdered friend. But when that unique individual meets his demise, things with the vampires sour.

And they’re not even the big, bad guy. You’ll learn early on that Isaac finds his way onto the hit list of more supernaturals than the rest of us have even dreamed up.

Somehow, he manages to find the right books and work the right spells to save the day. In the end, his boss isn’t impressed because a dark entity is trying to possess Isaac, using his links to books to trap him.

The boss’ solution seems to say “the end” to the magic. But how can this be? There’s another book.

The non-stop action and amazing character development in the sequel helped it score another five stars.

Unbound

This is the Christmas gift that made it to the top of my “to be read” pile. I wouldn’t normally spring

Book Three

for a hardback, but I happily put it on my Amazon wish list.

Isaac is fighting depression. He can’t cope with his loss of magic. Or the fact that a teenager he’d promised to protect has gone missing.

Books used to be magical. Now they’re meaningless. He’s determined to use his non-magical brainpower to track down the kidnappers.

Fortunately (or probably unfortunately), the kidnapper wants him to find her and learn all about her. So she can manipulate him into pulling her prison into reality so it can be destroyed.

Isaac is a resourceful guy. His years of research have equipped him for this task. But in order to meet the challenge, he’s going to need his magic back.

When the one person who can grant this wish is killed, who will be able to save the world? And it is the world that is at risk in this book. The other books threatened the secrecy of magic, but now magic is about to be unleashed on innocents.

If you read my review on Goodreads, you’ll see that I found the new leap in libriomancy fascinating, but couldn’t quite swallow that Isaac was the one to wield it. After all, he’d been unable to work magic for months. Wouldn’t his skills have diminished?

This one only earned four out of five stars from me. I enjoyed it, sure, but there were times when I couldn’t suspend my belief. The stretches in imagination were too great and I got kicked out of the story world.

All in all, though, this is my new favorite series. For complexity and ingenuity, the magic system rivals what Brandon Sanderson created in Mistborn. And you know what a fangirl I am for Brandon’s magical imaginings.

Coming February 2, 2016

And there’s more to come. This will be a series that can continue as long as Hines can come up with new problems that only libriomancy can solve. I’m excited about that.

My bookshelves? Not so much. “It’s getting crowded in here,” they whine.

Silly, bookshelves.

The Vanished Knight by M. Gerrick – 3.8 of 5 Stars

In the interest of promoting independently published authors, I often agree to review new releases. In the case of The Vanished Knight by M. Gerrick, I agreed to review the first book in her series The War of Six Crowns in exchange for a free eBook copy.

For those of you new to book publishing in the Amazon paradigm, the goal is to build chatter about your existing titles so that when a new title is released, people are excited to snap it up. I admire the indie authors who willingly put themselves out there with minimal support because they believe in the story they have to tell.

I read this book between July 6th and 9th but waited to post the review on my blog until today. Why? Because today, the second book in the series, The Heir’s Choice, releases on Kindle today. Get your copy by clicking here.

Story Summary

The Vanished Knight CoverCallan, orphaned at the age of eleven, is a foster child with a strange entity living within her. (Don’t get too intrigued by this entity because we learn NOTHING about its origin or real purpose in this book.) She also is plagued by strange dreams of knights and murder.

She lands into a new foster home, where her wealthy “brother” is less than pleased to have a new sister. Apparently, he had a sister who died (but there are mere hints about how and when) and his parents should have sought his permission before trying to replace her with this mousy girl.

They head off to an elite boarding school that is situated near a supposedly haunted castle. Callan likes to blend in, hide in plain sight, in order to cope with new situations. Unfortunately, several things happen the first day of school to prevent that.

In what should have been a pleasure trip, Callan falls into the hands of kidnappers from an alternate world. She is rescued by a boy from school, who apparently is a knight in the other realm.

Soon she discovers that her family might not be as dead as she always believed. This world is on the edge of war (as the title of the series suggests), and Callan appears to be caught between two powerful races who despise and distrust one another.

My Review

Does my summary end abruptly? So does the book. This is one of the reasons I give this book a 3.8 out of five stars on my rating scale.

The author created a winning character with Callan. The girl is compelling and sympathetic. Although she seems too passive at first, readers quickly realize the reasoning for this. Just enough of her history is given to us to help us understand her while yearning to find out more.

The three male characters aren’t nearly as compelling. Although Darrion comes across like a jerk, his strong personality fits his station and background. Due to the sparks that fly between him and Callan, I imagine there will be a romance between the two of them in later books.

Of course, Gawain already fancies himself in love with Callan. His easy-going personality makes him quite likable, but he’s not as well-rounded as he should be if he’s going to be a major player in the story.

The foster brother, James, is my least favorite character in the story (even above Callan’s kidnapper and the unhelpful museum curator). He has zero redeeming qualities. When bad things happen to him, I feel no sympathy. He’s simply a spoiled rich kid who feel entitled to whatever he wants (and that is not relatable to me or any of the young adults I know).

Apparently, he will play an important role in future stories because the sample chapter of the second book features him. His part in this story was minor, and his journey into the alternate world didn’t feel like natural story progression (another strike against this book and why it didn’t quite earn four stars).

Too much time is spent in our world since the actual “story” takes place in Nordaine. Even the title speaks to events happening in this other reality. Most of the events at the boarding school, which took up chapters, could have fit easily into two or three scenes. I did like the arrival scene, but most of the other byplay didn’t add to the depth of story or characters.

What was the problem in this story? Callan has an entity (still a mystery at the end of the book) that keeps her from developing close relationships, but she wants those. In the end, she discovers she might have family alive and well in the alternate world. I’ve read the book, contemplated what it was “really” about, and I’m still coming up blank (thus the lowered rating).

The beginning was confusing, jumping between three perspectives, dreams and reality, this world and that world. I feel like some young adult readers would have closed the book before things started happening.

All this book offers are more questions. Who are Callan’s parents? Why did someone want to kidnap her? What is the entity? Why does the book promise me a vanished knight when that is an underlying issue but not the heart of Callan’s story?

Because this is Callan’s story. Sure, it might also be a little bit of Darrion’s story, but that felt like an introduction to the magical otherworld more than something important. It hints that James has a story, but most readers will be happy when very little time is spent with the rich brat.

In short, this is one of those first books that irritates me. It doesn’t have it’s own story. It is nothing more than set-up for the rest of the series. It says, “Here are the characters. This is what’s going on that’s about to change everything. And we’ll get to that in the next installment.”

A Recommendation

I clicked over to pre-order the second book as soon as I finished this novel. Do you need more of a recommendation than that?

My biggest recommendation is to WAIT to read this until the second book is available. Lucky for you, that’s today. Your appetite will just be whetted for this universe Gerrick creates and this novel will end.

Overall, I believe this book will entertain lovers of all fantasy genres. I had a hard time putting it down after the first three of four confusing chapters. The medieval setting of the alternate universe will captivate those who love historical fiction from that era.

Love knights? You’ll meet some good and bad ones here. Think elves are out of this world? Right again. But they belong to the alternate reality created by Gerrick in this novel.

The scope isn’t quite epic because the cast isn’t too huge to keep straight. Maybe this is why I enjoyed the book (even though this review may give a conflicted recounting).

Pick up your copy of this book and it’s sequel today.