Banner

Banner

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Interlude: Kindred Rites, A Guest Blog by Katharine E. Kimbriel

by Stephanie Osborn
http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

Today we're going to hear from Kat Kimbriel, as she presents an excerpt from her book, Kindred Rites!

~~~

"...we are all Death’s pupils, we practitioners—students of the great healer." 
When magic broke free in my blood, I chose to follow our ancient family path and become a practitioner. I'm learning to heal, and to protect innocents. I dip into minds, stalk vampires, and set wards by the light of the moon. I can hear the children of the night calling. But there are other families...and other paths. Families with twisted ambitions and frightening powers. On the frontier, folk whisper that one clan is the most dangerous of all. 
Chief among those dark sorcerers is a man known as the Keeper of Souls. 
And now he wants to keep mine.





* * * * * * * * *


“Ready for a lesson?” Marta said suddenly.

I blinked, surprised by the question. “Tonight?”

Marta lifted her head to meet my gaze; a half smile flitted across her lips. “No time like the present,” she offered, tugging her thread back through. “Between fetches and poltergeists, I think it is time for you to learn the first of the major arcana.”

Suddenly I was wide awake, and there was an ache in my chest, like I couldn’t catch my breath. Between fetches and poltergeists, I’d been feeling a bit ragged, truth to tell. I wasn’t sure I was ready just then for any more surprises.

“Christmas Eve?” I clarified. Marta had conducted a ritual on the solstice a few days past, but as a neophyte, I had not actively participated. Christmas was also a good time for ceremonies?

Marta looked amused. “’Tis said that ghosts walk on Christmas Eve. Can you think of a more appropriate—or safer—time to look beyond the borders of our world?”

“Ghosts?” Well, now...spirits were interesting. I straightened up.

“Actually,” Marta began, pinning her needle in place and setting aside her square, “the first major arcana you must learn is how to call upon Death.” Turning to smile at me, she added, “Nothing else is truly frightening after you have faced Death.”

I just stared at her, a sinking feeling in the hollow of my stomach. “Death isn’t really a person, is it? I thought that was just poetry, in the Bible....”

“Death is a spirit,” Marta said softly, her hands folding in her lap. “Some claim it is Azrael, the angel of death. Most people never see Death—or never know it is Death they see at the last. Death can wear many faces—Death can be anyone you have ever loved or known who has gone beyond. The face chosen is usually whomever the failing person wants most to see. And so the dying are comforted as they step over into the next life.”

The angel of death. Lord and Lady, these were deep waters, now. “Do we find those people over there?” I finally whispered.

“We may. Death is ambiguous when answering questions about the other side of life.” Marta looked a little evasive herself.

“Death will answer questions?”

Marta nodded as she stood up. “That is why a practitioner calls upon Death, to ask questions. But it is not done lightly. You do not ask Death anything that can be answered by anyone or anything else. You have to work at the answers—Death does not make things simple.”

As she started for the kitchen, Marta added, “And you never, ever ask about your own death. That is the one question Death will not answer.”

Rising to my feet, I threw the big pillow over on the pile and started after her. “What are you going to ask Death?”

“This is the only time that you call upon Death when you have no questions. When you begin learning the major arcana, you must introduce yourself to Death.” Looking back at me as she lit a single taper from the kitchen fire, Marta went on: “All apprentices learn this spell first. Once you have cast it, Death will know your call, and may choose to answer it.”

I thought about it, and shivered. “May choose?”

Marta smiled and went into the stillroom. “When Death is invited, Death may choose whether to come.” Her voice grew lower as she continued. “The only way to guarantee Death’s arrival is to kill something. Soldiers do it all the time, and rarely see Death passing by. But if a practitioner kills to demand Death’s presence, it changes the relationship.”

“Changes?” I hesitated at the doorway of the stillroom. Relationship?

Marta returned to the kitchen holding the candle and her carpetbag of wands, wards and beeswax candles. “Death is a friend to a practitioner, Allie,” she said solemnly. “Death is the last, great healer, who takes away the pain we cannot ease. It’s not Death people really fear—it is suffering. Death will answer specific questions concerning healing.” She stopped before me, her expression grave. “Once you shed innocent blood to summon Death, you are no longer perceived as a healer. You become...something else. You become an enigma to watch, and perhaps a danger, a black sorcerer.”

“Death no longer trusts you?” I asked slowly, watching her eyes.

Her brows lifted slightly, and she said, “Perhaps. I try not to attach emotions or attributes to Death. Death is not human, and helps us for obscure motives. Death never volunteers information—but Death always answers.” Setting down the bag on the table, she began to take out things. “Sometimes the answer is no,” she added.

“Is Death male or female?” I asked quickly, more to hear someone speak than to know the answer...which was a good thing, because Marta was done answering questions.

“Both, and neither. Get your coat.” As I looked at her in surprise, she said, “We do not need ritual robes for this ceremony. Just fire and water, tobacco, blood, and honesty.”

I was halfway into my coat before I realized Marta had said blood.

Might as well have not bothered with the coat. No mere sheepskin was going to warm my body, much less my soul.

Not this Christmas Eve.

~~~

Katharine Eliska Kimbriel reinvents herself every decade or so.  The one constant she has reached for in life is telling stories.  “I’m interested in how people respond to choice.  What is the metaphor for power, for choice? In SF it tends to be technology (good, bad and balanced) while in Fantasy the metaphor is magic – who has it, who wants or does not want it, what is done with it, and who/what the person or culture is after the dust has settled. A second metaphor, both grace note and foundation, is the need for and art of healing.  Forthcoming stories will talk about new things that I’ve learned, and still hope to learn … with grace notes about betrayal, forgiveness, healing and second chances.”  A Campbell Award nominee.

Now THERE is a rather interesting Christmas Eve...

Make sure you check out K. E. Kimbriel's Kindred Rites this Christmas Eve!

-Stephanie Osborn
http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Interlude: Dragon Fire, A Guest Post by Dina von Lowencraft

by Stephanie Osborn
http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

Today we read a bit from Dina von Lowencraft's book, Dragon Fire! Dina told us a bit about her book earlier in this holiday promotional interlude, and it sounded exciting! Today she's giving us an excerpt from the book! Have fun! I know I am!

~~~

Some choices are hard to live with. 
But some choices will kill you. 
When seventeen-year-old Anna first meets Rakan in her hometown north of the Arctic Circle, she is attracted to the pulsing energy that surrounds him. Unaware that he is a shapeshifting dragon, Anna is drawn into a murderous cycle of revenge that pits Rakan and his clan against her best friend June. 
Torn between his forbidden relationship with Anna, that could cost them both their lives, and restoring his family’s honor by killing June, Rakan must decide what is right. And what is worth living – or dying – for.








Chapter 1 The Circle Tightens



The candle flickered in the subzero wind but Anna made no move to protect it. She stopped on the hill in front of Tromso’s three-year high school and watched the water of the fjord shimmer below. Even though it was mid-afternoon there was no sun, just the luminous reflection of the moon. The procession of students continued on without her, leaving only the fading sound of crunching snow in their wake.

“You seem as eager to go to Fritjof’s memorial vigil as I am,” June said, startling Anna with her sudden appearance.

Anna fingered the oval piece of bright orange coral that she had carried around like a talisman since she was a child. She usually kept it in her pocket, but today she wanted to feel its soothing energy closer and had it in her glove. She had never liked Fritjof, and even though she wasn’t glad he had died, she wouldn’t miss him.

She turned to face June whose cobalt blue eyes were at odds with her otherwise Asian features. June and her boyfriend had also been out on the mountain when the avalanche claimed Fritjof. “I’m glad it’s not yours too,” Anna said. “I’d really miss you.”

“It would take more than an avalanche to kill me,” June said, trying to smile. But Anna could feel her friend’s pain lurking under the surface.

“Hey.” She wrapped an arm around June to comfort her. But as soon as her hand touched June’s shoulder, a burst of energy exploded from her stone. Anna ripped off her glove and the piece of coral went flying. “What the—”

June spun around, pushing Anna behind her as if to protect her from an attack. She scanned the area, her body tensed for a fight.

“Who are you looking for?” Anna pressed her palm to dull the pain as she glanced around the deserted hilltop. “Whatever it was, it came from my stone.”

June relaxed her stance. “Are you okay?”

“I think so.” Anna gestured towards the coral-colored sparks that crackled in the darkness of the Norwegian winter. “What do you think it’s doing?”

“Don’t know.” June crouched down to get a better look. Her hand hovered as a bright green light flashed around the stone.

“Don’t touch it,” Anna said sharply. Her stone had always had a special energy, but never coral-colored sparks. Or green flashes of light.

“It’s okay now.” June pulled her hand back. “Look for yourself.”

Anna knelt next to June. The stone was dark and lifeless and she felt a sudden pang of loss. She prodded it gingerly with her good hand, but felt nothing. She picked it up. It was just a pretty bit of coral. The gentle pulsing energy that she had liked so much was gone.

“Can I see it?” June asked.

Anna nodded, her throat constricted. The stone had always reminded her of her father. Its energy was something he would have been able to feel too. The only other person she had met so far who was open to that kind of thing was June. Everyone else got freaked out, or thought she was crazy. So she had learned not to talk about it.

June closed her fist around the stone. “Where did you get this?” Her voice wavered.

Anna’s attention flicked back to June. She never wavered. “I found it in the mountains. Years ago. Why? What is it?”

“A trigger.”

“A trigger for what?”

June returned Anna’s searching look. “I have no idea.” She handed the stone back.

“So how do you know it’s a trigger?”

“I just feel it.” June picked up the candles that lay forgotten in the snow. “If you’re okay, we should go.”

Anna picked up her discarded glove and froze. In the middle of her left palm was a star-shaped scar. She stretched her hand to get a better look. It was about the size of a half Krone. She touched it. Like an echo under the fading pain, she could feel the energy of her stone pulsing faintly in her palm.

“Here,” June said, offering Anna a candle. She stopped mid-motion. “What is it?”

“I don’t know. The stone…” She held out her palm. “Look.”

June dropped the candles and took Anna’s hand in hers. Gently, she ran her fingers over the slightly raised ridges of the scar. “A Firemark,” June said as if talking to herself. “But how…?”

“What’s a Firemark?” Anna examined the scar. It was almost silvery in the moonlight.

June looked up, her fingers still on Anna’s palm. “It’s like a living connection between two people. But… there was only the stone.”

“It always felt alive,” Anna said. She touched the Firemark one last time before putting her glove back on. It was warm and smooth.

June shook her head. “But even if it felt alive, it shouldn’t have left a Firemark.”

Anna shrugged. “Maybe. But I like it.” Anna closed her hand around the Firemark. It felt like she was holding her stone. She smiled. She’d never lose it now.

June re-lit the candles again and handed one to Anna. “Ready?”

Anna hooked her arm through June’s. “I think so.” They walked silently through town and across the bridge that straddled the green-black fjord.

“Do you think it’s over?” Anna eyed the Arctic Cathedral that sprawled like slabs of a fallen glacier on the other side of the fjord. It was lit up like a temple of light.

June shook her head. “It’s only just begun.”

~~~

Born in the US, Dina has lived on 4 continents, worked as a graphic artist for television and as a consultant in the fashion industry. Somewhere between New York and Paris she picked up an MBA and a black belt – and still thinks the two are connected. Dina is currently the Regional Advisor for SCBWI Belgium, where she lives with her husband, two children, three horses and a cat.


Dina loves to create intricate worlds filled with conflict and passion. She builds her own myths while exploring issues of belonging, racism and the search for truth... after all, how can you find true love if you don’t know who you are and what you believe in? Dina’s key to developing characters is to figure out what they would be willing to die for. And then pushing them to that limit.


Dina is now repped by the fabulous Kaylee Davis of Dee Mura Literary Agency.

Everybody go check out Dragon Fire!

-Stephanie Osborn
http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Interlude: A Guest Post by Barb Caffrey

by Stephanie Osborn
http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

With Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa approaching fast, here's Barb Caffrey to tell us more about An Elfy On The Loose!

~~~



The Importance of Ghosts in AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE
By Barb Caffrey



When Stephanie Osborn and Aaron Paul Lazar approached me regarding holiday guest blog opportunities, I wasn't sure what to say. What haven't I talked about yet with regards to my comic young adult urban fantasy/romance novel AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE?

And then it hit me. Ghosts. I haven't talked about them, and they play an important part in the ELFY duology (AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE is book one, with book two scheduled to come out in April of 2015).

"But Barb," you protest. "Your book sounds like it has so much going on as it is. It's a comedy. It's a romance. It's a mystery. It's an urban fantasy. It has alternate universes—" (I wrote a blog about this for Stephanie a while back, and it's a good one.) "And now, it has ghosts, too? How do they fit in?"

Yes, AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE has ghosts. Specifically, there's a ghost character named Egbert who takes an inordinate amount of interest in my hero Bruno the Elfy and his romantic companion Sarah (formerly known as Daisy). And it's partly because of Egbert the ghost that Bruno and Sarah have a chance to win the day.


But he's not the only ghost in play. (Nope; that would be too easy!) There are other ghosts alluded to in AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, including Bruno's parents and possibly a few of Sarah's relatives…and they all matter.


You see, Bruno can communicate with the dead. (Me being me, I called him a Mage of Communication, the shorthand for that being—you guessed it—a Communicator.) And that's why these ghosts can help him out…or at least interfere in his life.


The reason this intrigued me initially is simple: Bruno had no idea he could communicate with the dead before he came to our version of Earth. He also had no idea that he was an Adept of an unusual kind, that his powers were both formidable and dangerous, and that he had many enemies—nor did he understand that the aircar accident that had badly injured him and killed his parents had been engineered by a high-ranking member of the Elfy High Council in his home Elfy Realm…someone who has some rather unusual ties to Egbert.


So here he is; a short, magical Elfy in the Human Realm (otherwise known as our Earth). He doesn't know what's happened to him. He doesn't even know why he's there. But he meets Sarah, he's immediately drawn to her— and she to him—his teacher Roberto the Wise tries to rescue him (with disastrous results), Sarah hides Bruno, a Dark Elf shows up…


And then we meet Egbert. We don't know why he's there, either, as he doesn't identify himself right away. But we know he's friendly, we know he has taken an interest for some reason in both Bruno and Sarah, we know he understands the Elfy Realm (even if we don't know why), and we know that he, too, has power. So he can, indeed, affect the outcome—years after his own death—and he can help Bruno figure out exactly why Bruno is in the Human Realm at all.


Now that I think about it, there are some few parallels between Egbert and Charles Dickens' character The Ghost of Christmas Past. Like Dickens' ghost, Egbert knows what happened in the past. And he wants a better outcome for the living…while they still have time.


Granted, my characters Bruno and Sarah are being threatened by a Dark Elf, a being inimical to Elfys and humans, not their own past as is Ebenezer Scrooge. Bruno in particular is under immediate threat due to Sarah's parents' hostility toward all Elfys. And there's a reason Egbert cares about these two—a pressing, compelling reason that I refuse to spoil.


But there are parallels nonetheless, because in AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE (as in Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL), ghosts matter. Only a few remain able to make their wills be known and their wishes understood, but those few continue to be important and influential.


In our world, of course, the only way a person can matter after his or her death is in our memories. Or, if you believe in the positive Afterlife, perhaps our deceased loved ones can do something there that helps us out in some way we'll never understand until we rejoin them.


But in my conception, ghosts—at least some of them, like Egbert—can still do things to bring about positive change. That creates more drama, more suspense, more surprises…and sometimes, more laughs as well. Because in AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, some people are so irrepressible that even death itself cannot keep them down.


In conclusion, if you've been looking for a magical, heartwarming, suspenseful, romantic, and riotously funny story—with ghosts—that's like no other this Christmas season, look no further.

Because AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE is here.

~~~

BARB CAFFREY is a writer, editor and musician from the MidwestShe is the author of the humorous urban fantasy/romance AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, and is the co-author of the Adventures of Joey Maverick series (with late husband Michael B. Caffrey). Other stories have appeared in HOW BEER SAVED THE WORLDSTARS OF DARKOVERand BEDLAM'S EDGEBarb is a huge baseball fan (Go, Brewers!), reviews books at Shiny Book Review, follows politics, is mystified by the Maury show, and wonders when her little dog will ever stop doing "the paw trick."  Find her at ElfyverseFacebook, or Twitter.

Folks, I'm responsible for seeing to it that Barb connected with my publisher to get An Elfy On The Loose into print -- I can say without doubt it is a fun romp! Go have a look, and seriously consider it for a holiday gift for friends, family -- and yourself!

-Stephanie Osborn
http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Interlude: The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival by Stephanie Osborn

by Stephanie Osborn
http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

This is not your father's Sherlock Holmes...

The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival is a science fiction mystery in which brilliant hyperspatial physicist, Dr. Skye Chadwick, discovers there are alternate realities, often populated by those we consider only literary characters. Her pet research, Project: Tesseract, hidden deep under Schriever AFB, finds Continuum 114, where Sherlock Holmes was to have died along with Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls. In a Knee-jerk reaction, Skye rescues Holmes, who inadvertently flies through the wormhole to our universe, while his enemy plunges to his death. Unable to go back without causing devastating continuum collapse, Holmes must stay in our world and adapt. Meanwhile, the Schriever AFB Dept of Security discovers a spy ring working to dig out the details of - and possibly sabotage - Project: Tesseract. Can Chadwick help Holmes come up to speed in modern investigative techniques in time to stop the spies? Will Holmes be able to thrive in our modern world? Is Chadwick now Holmes' new "Watson" - or more? And what happens next?

~~~



"...This is a really bad time for me to leave console at the moment, hon.”

Caitlin shot her a hard, annoyed look.

“You can’t be considering it,” she said flatly. “All hell is breaking loose here. I don’t care if the President needed you five minutes ago! You have to stay here!”

“Chill, Cait,” Skye tossed an aside to her friend, phone held absently to the side of her face with her shoulder as she tried to read the scribbled note Timelines handed her, around annotating her clipboard. “I’ve got more to do than I can shake a stick at now. I’m…what?” she said, staring at the note. “Software! Check the focus subroutine! Make sure it’s initiating at the correct point in the program! The last thing we need now is a software glitch causing a delay in timing. If that’s happening, no wonder the induction element’s hosed! Hardware, make sure the circuit’s clear! Holmes, I’m sorry, I can’t make it right now. I don’t have time to catch my breath down here.”

* * *

Holmes listened closely, not only to Skye’s direct comments, but also to her asides and commands, and to what he could hear of the remarks made to her. He covered the mouthpiece with his hand and informed Jones and Smith.

“It appears matters are not going well in the Chamber.” He punched the speaker button on the phone so the other men could hear. Then he returned his attention to the sounds coming from the phone. “Skye, what is happening?”

* * *

Skye watched as her teammates fought with the recalcitrant apparatus. One of the Hardware console members, Chad Swann by name and a longstanding friend of Skye’s, moved into the center of the room to check the circuitry of the monoliths. Skye grabbed her clipboard, flipping to the malfunction shutdown checklist, where she scanned the list, trying to determine the seriousness of their
situation.

Vaguely she heard Holmes’ query, but didn’t have time to devote to it. Still, she managed to find two spare brain cells to rub together, and replied abstractedly, “We’re having a malfunction in the induction element system. We can’t keep it focused…”

“Skye, we need you to make a call! Shut down, or put it in a holding pattern and troubleshoot?” Caitlin interrupted. Skye juggled phone and clipboard, trying to assess the checklist for priority red malfunction modes.

“Holmes, I’ve gotta go,” she said into the phone. “I need to figure out how serious this is—”

“DR. CHADWICK! We’ve got a GRAVITON SPIKE!” Sequencing shouted.

* * *

Smith and Jones watched as Holmes’ expression grew more and more grave as he listened to the sounds on the other end of the line. They heard Skye’s attempt to break the conversation, and Holmes was about to answer in the affirmative when they overheard the exclamation from Sequencing.

Holmes paled as they heard Skye shout, “Chad!! Get out of there! NO! EMERGENCY SHUTDO—”

The line went dead.

Instantly the entire building shuddered hard enough to knock books off shelves and send Skye’s chalk tumbling from its rack on the blackboard, smashing into dusty white shards on the tile. The three men grabbed for heavy furniture to avoid being flung to the floor.

* * *

When the quake subsided, the three men sat staring at each other, shaken. Holmes felt almost lightheaded, his grey eyes wide.

“What happened?” Jones demanded. “Did that earthquake have anything to do with Project: Tesser—”

“Emergency shutdown,” Holmes snapped out, leaping to his feet. “Graviton spike.” He didn’t fully understand the significance of the graviton spike, but from his reading of Skye’s quantum mechanics text, which perforce contained a significant amount of particle physics, he knew what a graviton was, and strongly suspected it was connected to the quake. “I am going down to the Chamber,” he declared in a tone brooking no argument. “The two of you may come, or stay.”

* * *

“Is your authorization in?” Jones turned to Smith.

“Your duty officer entered it into the system when I arrived this morning,” Smith observed.

“Good. We’re coming, Holmes,” Jones declared.

But Holmes was already out the door and down the hall, headed for the elevators at a dead run.

Jones and Smith sprinted behind.

~~~

The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival is available in print and ebook (all formats), and the first four books of the series have been released in a collected ebook edition, The Case of the Displaced Detective Omnibus. Book 5, A Case of Spontaneous Combustion, is a 2014 new release. All of them are suitable for gift-giving!


-Stephanie Osborn
http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Interlude: Islands, A Guest Blog by Sara Stamey

by Stephanie Osborn
http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

Today I present to you an excerpt from Islands, by Sara Stamey, for your consideration as you do your holiday gift shopping! Also Sara and I have arranged to give you a sneak peek into the cover art for her NEXT book, The Ariadne Connection!

~~~



“Arrogant jerk.” I was rooted on the dark path among shadowed trees, staring into the night, hands fisted as I recalled the meeting with my “host.” I shook my head and pushed impatiently on, picking my way along the twists of the narrowing trail in the gloom, ducking under boughs. Laura had given me “the spiel” about the Caribbean plantation’s history and the restoration of the eighteenth-century Great-House by her employer’s grandfather, but not much about Leon Caviness himself. He was a dealer in rare art, who often entertained visiting clients. Laura hadn’t been very informative about her own role as social secretary for the bachelor’s estate.

Pat MacIntyre’s Cheshire Cat grin floated on the darkness.

I thrust past it, through a curtain of sweet-flowering branches. The shrouded path ended in an open expanse of black volcanic rock dropping away over a steep cliff. A nearly-full moon sailed above low cloud drifts, spilling white light and black shadows over the cliff, repainting the night in stark otherworldliness. Darkness seemed to ooze from the rock itself to absorb the moonlight. The narrow point dropped in fissured fault blocks, giant stairsteps down to the surf. To the right, a sheltered bay mirrored the shimmering trail of the moon, and to the left, the open stretch of ocean hurled wind and waves to crash in white foam against black rock.

Something held me motionless in the wild spot, breathing the salt wind, soaking in the night. The place gave me neither welcome nor warning. I was only an insect perching there. The sheer mass of rock, imbedded in water and moonlight, reduced the nearby presence of lights and cars to a fitful dream.

Almost. I belonged to that smaller, civilized world.

In another existence, I might have thrown off my clothes and danced homage to the moon, embraced the stones and flung myself into the cool arms of the sea, seeking their magic release from my grief.
Turning brusquely back to the path, I stopped short, then dropped to my knees near the rocky cliff edge and brushed a vine aside from a flat shelf of the stone.

A glass jar tipped and rolled over the rock with a clatter and the scent of rum. I caught it reflexively, staring down at what looked like a freshly-severed chicken head lying on a mound of grainy flour. Beside it, a crude face stared out of the stone.

The moonlight suddenly rippled in dizzying waves, my heartbeat echoing in my ears. No, it was a drum, beating out an urgent rhythm, overriding my pulse. The stone beneath me throbbed like a tautly-stretched hide, and the beat shuddered through me, demanding, my blood pumping to its rhythm, not my own. An indignant protest rose up in me, but there was something, some blind force in the night, in the echoing rhythm, that brushed this logic aside.

*the pounding beat is a live being. It takes my senses, the pores of my skin, opens them wide to greedily drink in the heat and the moonlight and perfumes of rum and flowers. It dances my feet to the driving rhythm*


I jolted back from the carving, skin crawling with irrational fear. I shook my head and took a deep breath, let it out. “Get a grip, Doctor Dunne,” I muttered.

Leaning forward, I studied one of the carved stones I’d come here to research. Moonlight and shadow highlighted grooves scored into the rock, a very basic petroglyph, one of the common designs found from Australia to Africa to Alaska. Nose and eyes, an elemental watcher looking out to sea. My hand felt oddly detached from my will, reaching down to trace the lines of the carving. The ancient face almost looked ready to find its tongue and speak.

“Wha you do here?” The harsh voice came from behind me.

I lunged on a burst of adrenaline to my feet, spinning around, startled into clumsiness as I stumbled backwards. A man clutched my arm and yanked me from the verge, a glimpse of boulders pawed by the sea below.

The face revealed by the bright moon was not reassuring. It was broad, black, and scowling. Long woolly hair hung over his brow and down to his shoulders in unkempt dreadlocks. His clothes were patched together from multi-colored rags of shirts and cutoff trousers, and he had thick legs and arms and big hands. A scar ran across his left cheek and pulled his upper lip into a sneer.

“Wha you wan here?” It was a slurred, single-word burst. “You wan trouble?”

Pulse thrumming in my ears, I remembered Pat MacIntyre’s warnings about the violent “Dreads.” There was no place to go except the path the man was blocking. He stepped closer, the whites of his eyes glimmering.

A crooning noise in his throat. “Liddy missy scare?” He chuckled nastily.

“Mr. Caviness is waiting for me at the Great-House.” I cleared my throat, injected some authority. “Now please move.”

“Huh.” A contemptuous thrust of the hand. “You go. Stay way!”

I needed no urging. The man stepped aside and I hurried through the bushes onto the path, fighting the impulse to run, the back of my neck prickling. I managed to retrace the twists and turns in the dark, tripping over roots in my haste. I stopped at the edge of the pool terrace, heart galloping.
Movement and voices inside the Great House, and a muted progression of piano counterpoint. Bach. Intricate harmonies, impossibly cool and civilized amidst the humid air and riotous foliage. Chords spilled through the night, pebbles dropping into a moonlit pond.

~~~

And now for the surprise. Sara and I proudly present to you the cover art for her next book, The Ariadne Connection!



AND -- Don't forget to pick up a copy of Islands by Sara Stamey for your friends and relatives today!

-Stephanie Osborn
http://www.stephanie-osborn.com