Saturday, July 26, 2014

Saturday Snatch: Delilah Dusticle's Transylvanian Adventure by A.J.York

Delilah Dusticle has special powers, she can completely eradicate dust. With her quiver pouch of special dusters Delilah can run up walls and reaches places others just can’t. As a maid in the Fenchurch-Whittington house Delilah’s unusual skills soon lead to her being promoted to Chief Dust Eradicator and Remover. Until one day a broken heart leads to her powers taking an expected turn. 

This is the first in a series of touching and funny stories about Delilah Dusticle. Follow her on a journey of self-discovery, friendship and adventure.

In this illustrated instalment, Delilah and the Dustbusters are invited to Transylvania to cater for the Hallow Eve Ball. All is not what it seems and Count Dracula has a very unusual request for Delilah.

Excerpt from Delilah Dusticle's Transylvanian Adventure:

Delilah Dusticle has a special gift; she can wholly and completely eradicate dust. Using a duster from her special quiver pouch, she can run up walls, duster in hand, reaching all the cracks and crevices others just can’t. However, if she wasn’t concentrating or if she felt sad, the opposite would happen and dust would fall from her like heavy snow.
A sad story on the radio could start the shimmering shower of grey. Or if she was daydreaming about her boyfriend Duncan, the vacuum cleaner would simply start to wheeze silvery dust all over the floor instead of sucking it up.
Fortunately this happened very rarely as Delilah had lots of fun with her best friend Abi building up their business, Dustbusters. Since the war, grand houses could no longer afford live-in staff, and Dustbusters filled this void by offering a mansion cleaning service and staff for fancy parties. Their reputation had grown so much that they were being called on from all over Britain. Even by royalty.
Photos of Delilah and Abi were appearing on all the newspapers’ front pages, alongside interviews about Dustbusters and Abi’s line of very beautiful feather dusters. On a giant billboard at Piccadilly Circus was an advert of the Dustbusters dressed in overalls with vacuum cleaners in hand, posed and ready to clean. On the back of London buses the Dustbusters were dressed in tuxedos holding trays of cocktails. A Dustbuster could easily be recognised by the company badge, which was a shield with a duster crossed with a cocktail glass. Engraved below were the Latin words, Pulvis et servitium, meaning Dust and Service.
Delilah would sometimes pinch herself to make sure it was all real. She had come a long way from being a maid in the Fenchurch-Whittington house, where a broken heart led to her talent taking an unexpected turn. From the day Charlie Fenchurch-Whittington the third brought home his fiancée, Delilah began to lose her ability to eradicate dust. In her melancholy, she showered soft grey powder wherever she went. She made more of a mess than she could clear away and was asked to leave the Fenchurch-Whittington house.
Delilah eventually found a room and lived in solitude until a chance meeting with Abi, now the wife of the man who had broken her heart, changed everything. They became close friends, sharing their fears and joys. Over time Delilah began to feel like herself again, and together they created Dustbusters.
After Delilah had left the Fenchurch-Whittington’s household, others in their service were also let go. The family business in Music Halls was in steep decline, and they could no longer afford so many servants. This meant the whole family had to pitch in with the cooking and cleaning, and even drive their own car. It was Abi’s elegant feather dusters and her share in Dustbusters that ensured that the Fenchurch-Whittington’s were able to keep the family home, as well as their house keeper, Mrs Finch.
Dustbusters had grown so much that they even had a headquarters based in one of the Fenchurch-Whittington’s disused theatres. It was a beautifully ornate theatre, with powder blue and gold leaf cornices and paintwork. The dressing rooms were used by staff to change into their uniforms. The back offices and old workshop were used as design rooms, a repair shop for old hoovers and administration.
It certainly was an exciting and busy time. However, during quiet moments Delilah could be found sitting alone with small particles floating woefully around her, like a silent snowstorm in the forest. Secretly Delilah felt like there was something not right. No one else could do what she could do with dust, and she had started to find out that she could do more than just eradicate it.
Once, while cleaning a particularly dirty sitting room, Delilah’s eye was caught by an exceptional painting of a storm and a boat being tossed around by the waves. She began to think about Cockles, the seaside town where she had grown up, and recalled how the waves would crash over the seawalls in a storm. She stirred from her thoughts as the dust around her formed into a huge wave, roared across the room and submerged her completely. Her head emerged from the wave, and she spat out dust in astonishment.
These occurrences were happening more and more, and she did her best to conceal them. What if someone saw what she could do? How could she explain what she was doing when she did not understand herself? She felt people already thought she was unusual, and she did not want to stand out any more than she already did. As these thoughts ran through her mind, soft grey powder would settle mournfully around her. At least until she forced herself to snap out of it and eradicate the dust into thin air.
Delilah also could not shake the feeling that she was being watched. Sometimes when walking home a shadow would appear beside her shadow. This always surprised Delilah as she could not hear any footsteps, nor did she sense that anyone was behind her. She would turn to see who it was, but there would be nobody there, and the shadow would melt away as quickly as it had appeared. Perhaps it was a trick of the light or a silhouette of tree branches blowing in the wind, Delilah would think to herself.
Sometimes when alone in her house, she would feel the sensation of being observed. She would go to the window and peer out, but the street was always deserted. Delilah felt that if she told Abi or Duncan they would think she was mad, or worse they would worry unnecessarily. Delilah decided to keep all these fears to herself. At least until she could start to control her dust making episodes, and catch the person whose shadow would sometimes skip beside her own.

Author Info:
Goodreads: Delilah Dusticle and Delilah Dusticle's Transylvanian Adventure
Facebook: dusticle
Twitter: @delilahdusticle

Friday, July 25, 2014

Interview & Giveaway: David Ciccarelli

        David Ciccarelli began his writing career working in the film industry. His award-winning screenplay, "Hospitality," was made into a short film. His science fiction script,"The Alpha Six," ranked first on Kevin Spacey's Triggerstreet Production contest. He reached the semifinal round in back to back years in the AMPAS Nicholl Fellowship and the quarterfinals of the Chesterfield screenplay contest. He has also had scripts in consideration at several studios and production companies before turning to novels. 
        Mr. Ciccarelli has also worked as a film editor, background actor, video store clerk, production assistant, and high school history teacher.
        He lives in Massachusetts with his wife and two sons.
Favorite reads?
Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury, David Sedaris, Kevin J. Anderson

Inspirations for the book?
        As a U.S. history teacher, I tried to make allusions to exploration, colonization, and westward expansion without getting too heavy handed about it. I am not trying to write an allegory or a moral message, but I like a story to have layers. I also re-read several books in the process of writing Mesh, not all science fiction. I was inspired by Puzo’sThe Godfather and Brown’s The DaVinci Code for structure, pacing, and use of multiple perspectives. For sci-fi inspiration, I re-read several Arthur C. Clarke novels, Niven’sRingworld, and Walter Hunt’s Dark Wing series. 

Did you know you wanted to be an author when you were little?
  I always knew I wanted to be a storyteller of some sort: make movies, plays, novels, something from the imagination. 

Any Pet Peeves?
Anything that wastes my time.

Chocolate or Peanut Butter?
Chocolate. Does anyone ever say peanut butter? Dark chocolate with red wine, to be exact. 

The weirdest thing you've ever done?
        I don’t know about weird, I’ve done some unique things: I’ve been animated into a “King of the Hill” episode, bowled next to Weird Al, and strangest of all, chose to teach history to teenagers

Is there a soundtrack to the book/Favorite music?
I listen to a lot of Hans Zimmer, John Williams, early Maurice Jarre. I’ve also been on a big Scala & the Kolcany brothers kick lately. 

Do you need anything to write?  
Caffeine, Snacks, no distractions (no kids around)

How long do you write on any average day?
With a full time job, and two little boys, “average day” is not an applicable term for me. I try to write for one hour a day, even if it’s just outlining or editing. 

Give us the number one reason to read your book.
It’s a fast paced read with engaging characters and a multi-layered world. 

Author Info: 
        Twitter: @scifi_writer

Forty-four years after the disappearance of her father, Simi Duan has turned his ambitious vision into a corporate empire. Her main business is constructing space station. Her latest station, the Duan Gardens, is set to orbit further from Earth than any other outpost. This risky venture makes her the target of politicians, competitors, and militants who feel the Simi Duan is pushing society too far too fast. Zahir Bard is a recently retired diplomat for a government rapidly becoming obsolete. The United Earth Administration coaxes him back to public service to supervise the burgeoning frontier, especially the operations of Simi Duan. He agrees, as much to protect his own legacy as to protect the bureaucracy that employs him. Skulking in the dark corners of man’s prefabricated outposts is mercenary Cyril Tarsi. He has spent his adult life running from the mistakes of his youth, each contract possibly his last. He wants to find a life where he can be just a normal, anonymous citizen. His latest target might take him to that goal, or might get him killed. Desmond Colson is a twelve-year-old boy who has bounced along humanity’s path into deep space. His family’s nomadic lifestyle has left him isolated and weary. But the family’s next move is to the Duan Gardens, the literal edge of human civilization. Dez hopes that this move will finally bring the Colson family to a place they can call home. The entrepreneur. The politician. The assassin. The child. All pioneers moving deeper into the Solar System, and closer to the Mesh. ** Mesh: Book 1 consists of the previously released e-novellas: The Pioneers, The Other Side, and Horizons **

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Interview: Chess Desalls

         Chess Desalls recently authored the first installment of the YA time travel series, The Call to Search Everywhen.  She’s a longtime reader of fantasy and sci-fi novels, particularly young adult fiction.  She can’t resist a good fairy tale or fable.  When she’s not writing or reading, she enjoys traveling and trying to stay in tune on her flute.

Favorite reads?
          I absolutely love Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn and Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet.
Inspirations for the book?
          One morning the idea for the story title and the otherworldly time traveler, Valcas, popped into my head.  To counter Valcas, I wanted to create a female lead who was strong and relatable. That's how Calla entered the story. Calla and I met the other characters together during her journeys through time and space.  
          I never planned on writing a time travel book. Travel Glasses started out as a short story. Then it turned into a novel. It wasn’t until I got to the last third of the first book that I realized Calla and Valcas' story would become a series.

Did you know you wanted to be an author when you were little?
          Yes, I did. I knew that I wanted to write a book. I just didn't know what it would be about.
Any Pet Peeves?
          Repetitive beeping or tapping drives me bonkers, especially if it's the only sound in the room.
Chocolate or Peanut Butter?
         Chocolate :o)
Is there a soundtrack to the book/Favorite music?
          Nope. I haven't listened to music while writing for years.  
Do you need anything to write? 
          Oddly enough, I like to have background noise when I'm writing. Coffee shops, bowling alleys and pool halls are my favorite places to write. Being around other people energizes me, and the background noise helps me to focus.
How long do you write on any average day?
          I'll write for one to seven hours depending on how the ideas are flowing. Some days it feels like the characters are being lazy and quiet. Then there are those days where I feel like they follow me around until I sit down and pay attention to them.
Give us the number one reason to read your book.
          Travel Glasses is a breezy read that will have you wondering what will happen next.
Author Info:

When an ethereal being knocks Calla to the ground near her family’s lakeside cottage, Valcas helps her to escape by traveling to another place and time.  At first, Calla is as intrigued by the otherworldly Valcas as she is by his method of time travel:  an altered pair of sunglasses that enable the wearer to search for anyone or anywhere in the past, present or future.  That is until she suspects that his search for her was no mere coincidence. 

With her trust broken, Calla sets off on her own, taking the Travel Glasses with her.  Torn between searching for her estranged father and reuniting with the rest of her family, she tracks down the inventor of the Travel Glasses in hopes of discovering more about Valcas’ past and motivations.  With Valcas hot on her trail, Calla hopes to find what she’s looking for before he catches up.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Interview & Excerpt: Austin Pierce

          Austin Pierce is a senior at Washington & Lee University, where he studies economics, philosophy, and East Asian language & literature. Although his university does not have a creative writing major, Austin has maintained a strong presence in the field, serving as the co-founder and managing editor of the Spanish-language literary magazine Pluma. His short story Depths - building on the world introduced in Shards in the Darkness - will be published in the American Mensa Association's Calliope later this summer. Aside from literature, Austin spends his time singing, dancing, studying languages, working with multicultural groups, and running "murder mystery" style games for his friends and fellow students. After graduating, he plans to continue writing while pursuing an advanced degree.

Favorite reads? 
          As for fantasy, my favourites are His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, the collected works of C.S. Lewis, the Silmarillion and the Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, the Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander, The Dark is Rising Series by Susan Cooper, and The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott. I'm also a large fan of Jane Eyre and the collected works of Thomas Hardy.

Did you know you wanted to be an author when you were little? 

          Actually, no. I thought I was going to go into politics or science, but I had been enamored with many great books as a child - the Just So Stories of Rudyard Kipling; the myths of the Greeks, Egyptians, and Nords; and the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis to name a few - and with time, I found myself writing. Other figures, such as Octavio Paz and Kahlil Gibran, helped me to exercise my pen as a poet, and I eventually expanded that skill in the form of short stories and novels.

Chocolate or Peanut Butter? 

         Oh I have to pick? Dark chocolate smothered in peanut butter is so good!

How long do you write on any average day? -

          Well, I'm still in school, so my time for writing is stretched pretty thin. However, on days when I can write, I generally write for two or three hours.

Give us the number one reason to read your book. 

         The world. In reading this book, you'll meet new races of creatures. And the humans are divided into rich cultures replete with history and complex relations. I've been told that the world is absolutely engulfing for the reader.

Author Info:

You can find Austin's website, with links to Shards in the Darkness and several of his other works, at (a work in progress!). You can follow him on Facebook at

The first book in Austin Pierce's Shards in the Darkness epic fantasy series is set in an engulfing world sure to ensnare and entrance any reader as they follow Tauryn and Eilyn's journey. 

Perfect for fans of the Prydain Chronicles or Lord of the Rings, Shards in the Darkness transports the reader to a world rich in cultures, creatures, intrigue, and long-ignored histories. And that world is on the brink of radical change. 
Tauryn is chasing the mystery of a set of shards only to be chased in turn by those who might actually hold the answers. A foundling raised by a village smith, Tauryn has always longed to see the world. However, his chance comes only when an attack forces the local noble to send an age-old artifact to his cousin in the capital. Although waylaid several times, Tauryn finds himself joined by several allies on his journey. 
But they aren’t the only ones on the move. Several groups accost Tauryn on the road. Primordials are resurfacing with frightening regularity. And most threatening of all, great shadows have once again infiltrated Tauryn’s homeland of Praelia. Powers from all directions are trying to obtain the shards, and at any price.


Chapter 1 – A Glimmer of Change

Glints of light flashed in the darkness; a storm was brewing, but even the streaks of lightning and roars of thunder could not incite the same terror as the rising scream. A cloaked figure ran down the corridor, a bundle clumsily wrapped in the folds of cloth. The shadows of angry caretakers took form behind her. It was from here that the grating screeches emanated. They were clawed, with wrinkled skin and hair as black as midnight.
“After her!” one of them yelled.
The cloaked figure desperately tried to pick up her pace, her hood flying off to reveal a mass of bouncing, curly brown hair as she raced down the twisting corridors.
Her feet held steady. It was her long cloak that finally betrayed her strides, catching her beneath its folds.
As she fell, the item she had been carrying broke loose, a disk of silvery-white. The disk started to roll beyond the woman’s clutches, but she grabbed it just before it could slip out of reach.
Her hunters, however, howled triumphantly, “We have you now!”
The gloating could not last long. At that moment, the cloaked woman raised the disk above her head, mumbling incoherently. The disk caught the attention of the gathering clouds, bolts of lightning lashing towards it and licking it as the woman dashed the disk onto the ground.
A cacophony of sparks and fury erupted, but it was too late. The cloaked woman had vanished. And even as the hunters stooped to gather the pieces of the broken disk, the shards vanished beyond their senses.
The fragments spun in the dark, casting glints of light in their own blackness. One of them began to fall. Reflected on its surface, the cloaked woman stumbled through a torrent of snow. She was older now, her frizzy hair gone white and her skin having taken on a pale grey tone. She cried out, but the sounds were quickly lost in a flurry of the blizzard.
Another shard followed the first. On its face, a red-headed woman tried to comfort a man who was crying relentlessly.
“There there,” she said in a matronly tone, “I told you there was no chance of it.”
As they stood, the shard began to turn over on itself, and without a moment’s hesitation, the other shards plummeted as well, until the whole mass was swarming downwards.
Myriad images flashed across their surfaces. Deep ocean currents spurned the waves into battle with the land. Clans of giants destroyed each other on mountain peaks. Patterns of sigils accompanied an incessant droning. These and more flickered in the glimmers until the shards fell so far that even their light was swallowed in the yawning darkness.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Interview & Giveaway: Suren Fant

Favorite reads?
          I love reading. My favorite genres are fantasy, sci fantasy and paranormal. I enjoyed Stephan King’s book, especially The Shining and The Mist. I love several Armenian writers – William Saroyan and Paruyr Sevak.
           Also one of my favorite writers is James Dasher with his The Maze Runner series.

Inspirations for the book?
          Writing is my nature. I can’t imagine myself without writing. When I finish one book my mind begins to muse about the next story, starts seeking an idea. The life surrounding me, the books I read, the movies I watch inspire me.

Did you know you wanted to be an author when you were little:
          When I was ten years old, I didn’t. But I started writing when I was already 16 years old. At first I preferred short stories, then poems and several plays. My first novel I wrote at age 19 which called “He”. It has never been published and it is in Armenian. Then my next work was The Godless which has been published twice, the first publication was in 2011 and the second in 2014.
I daresay I had a feeling I was going to be an author. I was always attracted by books.

Chocolate or Peanut Butter?
          Funny. Chocolate.

The weirdest thing you've ever done?
          Oh, I’ve done several. I don’t know which one to tell. I don’t like planned life, my life is always unplanned and filled with a lot of surprises. I’m a fan of football. Sometimes I wake up and decide just put down everything and make a journey out of the country to watch a good football match.
           I think the wildest thing I’ve ever done was my trip from Germany to Armenia by car crossing seven countries. I don’t mind to make it again though.

Do you need anything to write? 
          Music. I always put my headphones into my ears and write. Not just a random music. It must suit the scene which I write about. For intense the music must be fast, hard to describe the fighting scene or a fantasy situation. Writing about love I must listen to a slow and romantic music. Music brings the words I need to write down on paper.

How long do you write on any average day?
          I usually write at least two hours in a day, when I’m working on a novel. When the idea comes I try to write about it as soon as possible. I just grab on it and don’t let it go. Sometimes I can write almost the half of the novel in a day, just not to let the idea out of my hands.

Give us the number one reason to read your book.
         If you want something new, then try my books. There are a lot of similar books nowadays, there is almost the same meaning with different names heroes and heroines and in different places. Also the end of a lot of books disappoints. I try to finish my stories in the way that the reader would never expect in time of reading my book. This is intriguing.

Author Info:
Twitter: @surenfant.

Jonathan wakes up in a desert, his past wiped from his head. He’s alone having no clue who and what he is, where he has come from and where he should go. There is only one way – forward when he spots a little town in the distance. 

Empty streets, old houses, the town seems abandoned. There’s no one to ask for help, there’s nowhere to go. Jonathan wanders the town in search of any sign of life trying to bring his lost memories back, but odd visions haunt him from time to time. Soon Jonathan comes to the realization that he’s moments from death as absolutely evil dwells in the town seeking fresh souls to suck up. The seemingly dead town is only outwardly empty. 

Grey skies, no sun, no days and no nights. The town is stuck in time. With only one entrance and one exit, but the way leading to the exit is filled with creations that Jonathan has never envisioned, even in his worst nightmares. 

Who is he? Who brought him here? With a female resident – Elizabeth, Jonathan has to work his way through the horrendous town, figure out his past and find the exit.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Interview & Giveaway: C.M. Skiera + Saturday Snatch

          C.M. Skiera grew up in Michigan and now lives in California with his wife and two rescue Chihuahuas. He works as a professional environmental engineer to pay the bills and has been writing since the mid 1990s. Crimson & Cream is his debut epic fantasy novel. He started writing Crimson & Cream in 1999, and after lots of twists and turns, 15 drafts, plenty of rejections, the arrival of the 21st Century and the advent of online self-publishing, Crimson & Cream has finally arrived. C.M. Skiera is currently finalizing Mirrors & Mist, book two of The Oxbow Kingdom Trilogy, due for release in late 2014.

Favorite reads? 
          I enjoy reading just about anything, although I lean more toward fiction than non-fiction, especially speculative fiction. Some of my all-time favorite authors are Elmore Leonard, Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut, and George R.R. Martin, to name just a few.

Inspirations for the book? 
          Basically, there were three inspirations for The Oxbow Kingdom Trilogy: The Lord of the Rings, the original Star Wars movie and Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice (A Game of Thrones) series. All three of those inspired me in different ways, and I suspect a reader could spot the influences if they looked closely enough.

Did you know you wanted to be an author when you were little? 
          I enjoyed telling stories and being artistic from a young age, and do recall participating in an event called Young Authors & Illustrators when I was in grade school. I think being a writer of some kind was always in the back of my mind.

Any Pet Peeves? 
          I could write a book on them! Telemarketers and drivers failing to use their turn signal are right near the top, but there are too many to list.

Chocolate or Peanut Butter? 
          Chocolate, with no disrespect to peanut butter, which is delicious, too.

The weirdest thing you've ever done? 
          That’s a tough one. I don’t want to reveal any incriminating evidence, so I’ll go with something rather tame (yet it still feels weird to me): Becoming a self-published indie author.

Is there a soundtrack to the book/Favorite music? 
          I used one of Kevin MacLeod’s royalty-free songs (Truth of the Legend) for my book trailer and I think his thematic instrumental music would make an excellent soundtrack to Crimson & Cream.

Do you need anything to write? 
          I always have music on, something I’m familiar with that doesn’t distract me.

How long do you write on any average day? 
          I would estimate on average, an hour a day, which is about all I can manage considering I have a day job. Some days I’m fortunate enough to string several hours of writing together, but that’s more the exception than the rule.

Give us the number one reason to read your book. 
          It’s a wild, entertaining ride through a fantastical realm with a lovable hero!

Author Info:

Hounded by watchmen, trolls, goblins, and a relentless bounty hunter, 13-year-old Jetsam dreams of the day he’ll no longer have to run for his life. 

In the mountain city of Dwim-Halloe, Eidryn and Elvar were born twins to teachers at the city’s revered School of Magic. When the new king outlawed magic, the boys’ parents were murdered. Their deaths forfeited the twins' magical birthright and made them homeless fugitives. 

Rescued by an orphan gang, the fleeing twins were nicknamed Flotsam and Jetsam. To survive as outcasts, the orphans scavenge and pilfer nightly. Their last risky foray sent them fleeing for their lives into an unfamiliar cavern. Now the boys are lost deep underground where they encounter a strange beast that will change their lives forever and begin a harrowing journey for their ultimate survival. 

Crimson & Cream is a classic swords & sorcery, coming-of-age adventure that recounts Jetsam’s adventurous tale of flight and discovery as the fugitive orphan unravels his tortured past while securing his tenuous future.

An excerpt from Crimson & Cream:

“Jetsam!” his twin brother Flotsam whispered. “Get down! We shouldn’t be here.” Jetsam’s ragged pant leg tightened from his brother’s pull. The second-hand breeches were ill-fitting for the growing youth. Jetsam’s trousers, and his wrinkled tunic, were swiped from a peasant’s clothesline. With a grunt, Jetsam jerked his leg free of his brother’s grasp.
Jetsam hung from the stone wall, transfixed on a maiden strolling in the garden below him. With the tip of his nose resting on the ashlar, his aching fingers clung to the bulwark’s lip. Jetsam’s nostrils flared at the fragrances rising in the warm night air. The toes of his shoddy boots wedged into the cracks between the blocks.
Upon first glimpse, Jetsam noticed the girl’s eyes. Her crystalline orbs drew him in, mesmerizing Jetsam. Sallow moonlight danced in her locks, shimmering like waves. Willowy and angelic, the somber lass displayed a regal air. She meandered the flagstone path amidst flowers and shrubs, drifting like a leaf on the wind. Surrounded by low hedges, she moved out of earshot.
“Jet-sssam,” Flotsam hissed again. “Stick to the alleys. This is too dangerous!” he whispered. “Can’t believe you sodding talked me into this.”
Jetsam snorted. Only had to pester you about it every day for weeks, he thought. If only you’d relax, then we could enjoy our birthday! Jetsam was amazed he convinced his brother to go this far. For months he envisioned this special adventure for their special day, but convincing his cautious twin was another hurdle. Swimming the moat was hazard enough, but creeping inside the castle through a narrow drainage chute was risky indeed. Must be the full moon, he rationalized.
“Sheer lunacy, sneaking into the Citadel—birthday or not,” the pragmatic Flotsam warned, whispering his brother’s thoughts while maintaining his sense of reason. “Turn back while we can.”
Despite the plea, Jetsam didn’t budge. Logic fell on deaf ears. Captivated by the lass, Jetsam ignored his twin’s urging.
“Seem rather fond of that wall,” Flotsam teased. “Find a soft spot?”
“Always the jester,” Jetsam replied with a smirk. “Come have a look,” he whispered.
Visibly flustered, Flotsam scaled the rough surface alongside his brother. Inside the yard, trees rustled in the midnight breeze while their branches shaded flowers and bushes from the lunar radiance.
“Let’s go inside!” goaded Jetsam, blue eyes flashing with enthusiasm. He glanced at Flotsam’s stern face. Bet he’s hungry, Jetsam connived. “Look at those apples!” Jetsam exclaimed in a high whisper. “Can you imagine eating one? Fresh and juicy—not some chewed-up core. Fill our sacks and not a one’ll be missed.” The trick to getting his brother over the wall was to convince him of the garden’s bounty. A meeting with the mysterious girl would be Jetsam’s secret birthday present.
“You’re not looking at apples,” Flotsam retorted, “and she’ll holler for the stinkin’ guard. We’ve done just fine filchin’ in town. Always enough for both of us, and then some.”
“She won’t rat us out. She looks lonely.” Jetsam turned to his twin. “How long’s it been since we talked to a girl? Can’t even remember.”
“Don’t want to get dragged to the mines over a stinkin’ lass!” Flotsam snapped with a scowl. “Just ‘cause she looks lonely don’t mean she won’t go screamin’ bloody murder when she spots our dirty hides.”
“We’ve outrun the stinking guards before and will again,” Jetsam countered, while remembering a few close calls. “Can’t ignore that fruit.” Jetsam even began to sell himself on the succulent produce. “Look, pears!” It was the girl, however, that drew him in. “I’m going over!”
With both hands grasping the wall’s top, Flotsam could only object with a grunt. Jetsam scampered to the top, hunching cat-like before dropping on all fours into the grass on the other side. Jetsam crouched and watched the lass, who remained oblivious to him. Now he wavered, as uncertainty raced into his head. With her radiant hair and immaculate gown, she looked so clean. With his greasy locks and tattered clothes, he felt ashamed. Although he acclimated to his own odor, he was certain she’d smell him. Flotsam’s right. I don’t belong here. He considered sneaking back over the wall.
“Hello?” the girl said in a melodious voice, slightly above a whisper.
Too late. Jetsam’s heart raced. He didn’t dare glance at Flotsam.
The lass kept her distance, her head tilted. Jetsam surmised she was a few years younger than he and his brother, but he had little experience with the fair sex.
“Who art thou?” she snapped, standing hands on hips, a dozen paces from Jetsam, who was still frozen on hands and knees. He noticed her drawn lips and furrowed brow. Oh, no—Flotsam was right.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Excerpt: Sleeping Beauty & the Beast by Melissa Lemon

Trapped in a cursed sleep, the only experiences Princess Eglantine has are the ones in her dreams. There she meets Prince Henry of Fallund, a neighboring kingdom on the brink of war.

Meanwhile, Prince Henry's brother Duncan discovers a vicious beast imprisoned for murder. Captivated by her, he works to free her from both the prison bars she's locked behind and the ones surrounding her heart and mind. Sleeping Beauty and the Beast reinvents and seamlessly intertwines the classic fairy tales Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast.

I watch his face, a mystified far-off look in his eyes. He must be working it out on his own since my answers cannot satisfy him. Finally a look of recognition spreads over his brow, calming the wrinkles, settling the confusion.
"You're the princess? Of Cray?"
"Yes," I answer.
"The sleeping princess?" He is pointing at me now with a finger from his right hand.
"How did you know?"
I stare at him a moment longer. Who is he? What is actually happening inside this dream? I don't like his eyes so intently focused on me, blazing into my own eyes it seems.
"I used to know you when we were children," he admits.
A bustle of bodies and commotion bursts through the door.
"You'll have to excuse me," he says. "We have a meeting. Duke will show you down to the entry room where you may wait for me. I'd be happy to speak with you after our meeting."
"No, wait," I protest. "Are you actually a person? Can you really see me? And hear me?"
"Yes, of course I can. I'm not an invalid."
The men begin taking their seats around the table. A plump, curly-haired maid pushes a cart and begins to set tea cups in front of them. Steam rises from a teapot and the clanking and filling up of cups alerts me to the fact that I do not belong here.
"Who are you speaking with, Prince Henry?" the stout man beside him asks.
I've been talking to a prince. He didn't act very much like a prince. He holds out his hand toward me, answering the question with a nod of the head in my direction.
The man looks over to me, near my shoulder, about my hip, finally settling his eyes to the side of me, where on the wall just behind hangs an oil painting of the sea. The green and blue do not blend well, but crash into one another. It is noisy, like the ocean. Never once did he look me straight in the eyes. I have never in my life felt more like a tiny insect than I do in this moment. I may as well be a fly on the wall, or the moth flitting about the window, or the spider spinning its web in the corner of the floor where nobody would notice. I feel swallowed up by a sense of loneliness, nothing but a dreamer, a spectator to events that don't exist, an inventor of people and places.
"I do not see anyone in the room besides the men who entered with me, and you were having a conversation before we entered. Who was it you were talking to?"
"It was her, I tell you," he said. I feel grateful that he is no longer irritated with me, or at least if he is, I am not the one he is yelling at.
All of the men exchange glances now, not understanding the prince means me, who they cannot see.
"Did you get much sleep last night?" One of the men asks. His greatest feature is his large, pointed nose. "There is no one in the room but those of us sitting at this table and your maid."
"Oh, how can you be so impossible?" the prince asks. "Now is not the time for playing pranks."
"Ask your maid then," the stout man says. "She will have no reason to prank you, and her job would be on the line if she did."
"Oh, fine. Marie, do you see a young woman standing before the sea painting?"
She looks in my direction, her eyes closer to the mark than any of them, but I know instantly that she too cannot see me.
"No, your majesty." She immediately continues her work, setting places for others they must be expecting.
"But you can see me?" I ask, a strange, hopeful sort of nervousness arousing inside of me, as well as a longing to stay here. If only he can really see me, I want nothing more than to stay. He does not answer, but he does not need to. His dark hazel eyes stare directly into mine. After clearing his throat and looking away from me, he sits down.
"Let's get started, shall we?" he says.
"Oughtn't we to wait for Prince Duncan?" I do not know who said it exactly, someone to my right. I cannot take my eyes off of him—Prince Henry if that is his name. I do not ever want to take my eyes off of him. He can see me!
"Can you hear me as well?" I ask.
He pauses for a moment, halting the pen in his hand which had previously been scratching something on the parchment in front of him. He keeps from glancing up at me, but I know he heard.
"Is something wrong, Prince Henry?" Again, I don't know who said it. I keep my eyes locked on his nut-brown hair, lying straight on top of his head, cut short, spreading in two directions from an off-centered part. The door opens. The maid steps out, taking the noise of the cart with her.
"Henry?" another asks.
"We do not need to wait for Duncan," he replies.
I don't mind that he chose not to answer my question. I know my dream could end at any moment, so I persist, walking around the table and to the side of Henry. Prince or not, he can see me. I know he can. And if he thinks to ignore me, I plan to make that difficult for him, maybe even impossible. Now that I think of it, I should have just walked through the table and sat down on top of all the parchment. I'll try being tactful first.
"Okay, let's get started," the stout man says.
"What is your meeting about?" I ask the prince, leaning in close to him from behind.
He jumps back.
I must have startled him.
"Is something the matter?" one of the men asks. There are only three of them besides the prince: the stout one next to him, pointed nose closest to the door, and a man with nearly perfect posture across from Henry. It appears there is actually a stick in his back keeping any curving over at bay. He is the one who had spoken.
"No, of course not," Henry said.
"Are you sure?" I ask, plopping in the chair on his free side.
He grits his teeth. Impressed with how still and collected he seems, I watch his face redden. His eyes meet mine, and they hold a warning of sorts.
"I'm sorry," I say. "Is there something you would like to say to me?"
"Get. Out." It comes softly, but clearly.
"Out of what?" I ask. "The chair? Oh, sorry."
"Prince Henry, are you sure everything is satisfactory? Shall I call the maid for more tea?" the man with the pointed nose inquires.
"No," the prince says. "Charles, please continue." Prince Henry rubs his forehead and I almost feel poorly for behaving so cruelly. Almost, but not quite.
"Shall I call the maid for hotter tea? Is it hotter tea you need?" I ask him. "Or a doctor perhaps? Are you feeling unwell?"
"That's it," he says, slamming his quill onto the table and rising to his feet. He stomps to the door and exits the room. Naturally, I follow.
"What on earth are you trying to do? Make a fool of me?"
"No, of course not."
"Then why are you acting that way?"
"Because I've never met anyone who could see me before."
He stands there facing me, and for a moment I think I can feel his hot breath on my face. Perhaps I am mistaken, but there is no mistaking that he can hear me or see me, which gives me an idea. I reach out my hand toward him, all my fingers pointing at his chest. Wondering if I will be able to feel it beneath my fingertips in only a moment, I breath in deep, a distant crashing of waves sounding beyond the two of us.
And Stella's voice. I can hear Stella. I force my hand to close the remaining distance but it is no use.
I cannot feel him.
"What are you doing?" he asks.
I don't understand. Why is it that he can see me and hear me when the others can't? Why does he seem so real? I study my hand, disappointed that it was unable to do what I wanted. Ashamed, I cannot look at him. Stella's voice grows louder. The ocean calls me back home.