Sunday, February 23, 2014

Book Review: Rage by L.B. Milano

Book Review: Rage by L.B. Milano

Rage by L. B. Milano

Rage by L B Milano
“What if?”
That is the ultimate tool used by every writer that has ever written a word. The question What if? resides in every novel. What if this happens? What if my character reacts like this or that? What if the world was very different?
Another question needs to be asked. What if those innocent questions, when answered, became reality?
There is a philosophy held by several religions, idea sets, gurus and people in general. That philosophy, in one form or another, states that if enough people believe something, or are involved in something at the same time, or if an individual believes it enough, the idea – thing – desire becomes reality.
Rage by L.B. Milano takes that idea one step further.
What if the life you believed was yours to live, to mess up, to succeed, to lose was not? Your life was something created by an author – a severely damaged, insane author. How far would you go to get your life back? Would you be able to?
Rage is a horror story on par with Twilight Zone. It is well written and a page turner. It is from Ellora’s Cave with a Blush rating which means there is no explicit sex. If you are looking for a good horror story, then Rage by L. B. Milano is for you.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Guest Post: Nikolas Baron on Writing Non-Fiction

How to Inject Personality into Non-Fiction Writing

Many find the taste of medicine unpalatable.  Though injections pinch, the medicine enters the bloodstream immediately for immediate use by the body..   Non-fiction has its fans, but some people view it as an ill-tasting genre.  If they need some information, they would rather watch a video than read “boring” non-fiction. This problem calls for preventative medicine.  Here I will discuss four easy ways to give non-fiction a better taste.  Of course, it would be boring if I just told you!   I challenge you to use these facts about barn owls as clues!  At the end, you can check to see if you decoded all four suggestions.

A Barn Owl Stands About 10-20 Inches High  
If a friend said, “Hurry, look!  There is a barn owl outside sitting on the fence.”  I would run outside to get a look at the cute, feathery visitor. After I took a gander, I would go back inside.  My life would continue.  If my friend returned from the library with a book about owls, I would think it was curious.  If my friend read the book from cover to cover, I would be impressed.  If he checked out several more books on his next library visit, I would suspect an obsession.  What do you learn about non-fiction writing from the height of the average screech owl?
Owl eat anything” - Chiclet, the Hobby Owl
Pardon Chiclet’s pun, but an owl will eat virtually any creature small enough to catch and kill. Therefore, an owl’s diet varies according to its local ecosystem.  In the grasslands, termites and crickets are on the buffet.  In swampy areas, toads are not safe.  By way of contrast, owls do not prey on animals to large or strong to subdue. Did you guess what Chiclet is trying to teach you?

“Barn Owls Recognize Their Siblings’ Calls”
This BBC Nature article explains how owlets use vocal calls to compete for food.  Rather than resort to fisticuffs, the owls vocalize.  The hungrier they are, the more they urgently they call.  Their nestmates listen, and eventually “less hungry siblings ...withdraw from the contest.”  When you think about the calls of baby owls, of which non-fiction writing strategy are you reminded?

A Baby is a Baby
Babies of numerous species share a need to sleep.  Human babies sleep for some sixteen hours a day.  Baby owls sleep a lot, experiencing REM sleep phases as do humans.  Similarly, owlets and humans need less sleep as they grow older.   Adult owls spend this extra time hunting, mating, and caring for young.  What balance, similar to the one between sleep and essential activities, must a non-fiction writer establish?

The Answers

#1: Choose what facts you share.  Owls have three eyelids.  One could describe all there is to know about each one.  However, when one considers the audience, one may decide to omit items that would be of low interest to the target reader.  If you are as obsessed as my hypothetical owl-spotting friend, learn more about those eyelids here.

#2: Chiclet wants you to write about that you fully understand.  You may misstate information, and confuse your reader, if the research material was too technical for your comprehension.  I followed Chiclet’s advice, choosing to write about barn owls rather than reverse transcriptase PCR amplification of environmental RNA.
#3 Remember that writing is communication.  In general, non-fiction is to inform.  Write in such a way that your readers get the main point.  Write at the reading level of the target audience.
#4 Balance is necessary.  Sharing information or communicating a message will take a lot of your time as a writer.  Yet, one should not neglect other essentials. Use online proofreading to make sure that your writing is free of grammar errors.  Give attention to your title, your formatting, and your writing style.

Congratulations, you now know more than the average amount about barn owls.  Hopefully, you also realize how to give your non-fiction writing a shot of personality.  If so, your writers will find your writing as delectable as a screech owl finds a fresh, juicy rat.

By Nikolas Baron
Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown children’s novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, travelling, and reading

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Dragon Fire by Dina von Lowenkraft, an excerpt

In the Arctic winter, the sun never rises.
In the Arctic summer, the sun never sets.
In the Arctic, the world is at your feet.

 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 dime. 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.”

“That’s enough.” Khotan’s voice snapped like a whip across the barren land of Ngari in western Tibet. “You’re not going to kill her. I will.”
The wind howled in agreement. Rakan bit back the urge to argue with his father whose shaved head and barrel chest marked him as an Old Dragon. But Khotan’s massive physique belied his diminishing power, and Rakan knew that his father wouldn’t survive a fight with the female dragon they had finally located. He had felt her power when she had set off his trigger just a few hours before. And she was more powerful than any other dragon he had ever met. Rakan clenched his fists. Blood for blood. It was the Dragon Code. And he would be the one to honor it.
“You need to start a new life here,” Khotan said, his hand like a claw of ice on Rakan’s bare shoulder. “I will end the old.”
His tone of voice, more than his touch, sent shivers down Rakan’s spine. But before he could question his father, a flicker of red caught his attention and his older half-sister, Dvara, materialized on the sparring field. Except she wasn’t dressed to fight. She was wearing a shimmering red gown that matched the color of her eyes and her black hair was arranged in an intricate mass of twisted strands.
“It’s too late to teach Rakan anything.” She made an unhurried motion towards the targets at the other end of the field. One by one, they exploded with her passing hand.
“We weren’t practicing,” Rakan said calmly. “Although if we had been, you’d need to start again. You used a trigger. You didn’t manipulate their structure on a molecular level.”
“Who cares?” Her Maii-a, the pear-shaped stone that every dragon wore to practice manipulating matter with, sparkled like an angry flame at her throat. “They’ve been demolished. And that’s all that counts in a fight.”
Rakan slid his long black braid over his shoulder. “How you fight is just as important as how you win.”
“I’d rather stay alive,” Dvara said. “But you can die honorably if you want.”
“Neither one of you will fight anyone,” Khotan said. “Remember that.”
Rakan bowed his head. There was no point arguing about it now. But Dvara lifted her chin defiantly. “Kraal was my father. I will avenge his death.”
Khotan growled and stepped towards Dvara, dwarfing her with his size. He held her gaze until she dropped her eyes. Rakan shook his head, wondering why Dvara always tried to challenge Khotan’s authority in an open confrontation that she was sure to lose. Khotan was the guardian of her rök, her dragon heart and the seat of her power, and she had no choice but to abide by his will.
Their mother, Yarlung, appeared without warning. “I will speak with Rakan’dzor.” She crossed her arms over her white gown that sparkled with flashes of turquoise. “Alone.”
She waited, immobile, until Khotan and Dvara bowed and dematerialized, shifting elsewhere. As soon as they were gone, her face relaxed and she turned to Rakan, her nearly blind eyes not quite finding his. “I always knew you would be the one to find her,” she purred. “You have the strength and the will of my bloodline. And the time has come for you to use it.” Yarlung tilted her face to the wind. “Kraal gifted me his poison before he died. Neutralized, of course.”
“But no one can neutralize dragon poison.”
“Kairök Kraal was a great Master. His death is a loss for us all.”
Rakan struck his chest with his fist. “Paaliaq will pay for his death with her own.”
“Yes. She will. And you will help me.” A faint smile played on her usually austere face. “I will mark you with his poison so that we can communicate when necessary.”
“Khotan and Dvara have a full link, isn’t that enough?”
“You don’t expect me to rely on secondhand information, do you?” snapped Yarlung. She paused and spoke more gently. “Or are you scared to carry Kraal’s poison?”
Rakan knelt down in front of Yarlung. “I will do whatever it takes to kill Paaliaq.” His voice cut through the arid cold of the Tibetan plateau.
Yarlung’s eyes flashed momentarily turquoise and Rakan stepped back as she morphed into her dragon form. She was a long, undulating water dragon and the scales around her head and down her throat glistened like wet opals. Without warning, a bluish-white fire crackled around him like an electric storm. His mother’s turquoise claws sank into his arms and pain sizzled through his flesh. The fire disappeared and Rakan collapsed to the ground, grinding his teeth to keep from screaming in agony.
He would not dishonor his family.
No, you wont, Yarlung said in his mind.
Rakan’s head jerked up in surprise.
You have just become my most precious tool. Her voice hummed with pleasure. You will not fail me.
As suddenly as the contact had come, it was gone. And so was his mother. Rakan didn’t like it. Not her disappearance. That was normal. Yarlung had always been abrupt. But he didn’t like hearing her in his mind. It was something only dragons who were joined under a Kairök, a Master Dragon, could do. Few dragons were able to survive the rush of power that happened when their röks awakened without the help of a Kairök. But Rakan had.
He gritted his teeth and stood up. If sharing a mind-link with Yarlung was necessary to kill Paaliaq, then he would learn to accept it.
He held his arms out to examine the dragons that had appeared where his mother’s claws had dug into his biceps. They were long, sinuous water dragons like Yarlung. But they were black, the color of purity, the color of Kraal. Rakan watched the miniature turquoise-eyed dragons dance on his arms until they penetrated under his skin. He felt a cold metallic shiver deep inside as they faded from view.
A rush of pride exploded in Rakan and he raised his arms to the frozen winter sky, the pain like a blood pact marking his words. “I will avenge your death, Kairök Kraal. The Earth will become our new home and your Cairn will once again prosper.”

“You can drop me here.” Anna glared at her mother’s boyfriend who reminded her of his namesake: a wolf.
Ulf turned the car into Siri’s driveway and flashed his all too perfect smile. “Not unless you want me to carry you in. Your shoes aren’t practical for walking in the snow.”
Anna snorted. “You’re one to talk. You’re the one driving a sports car in the winter.” And she didn’t feel like having her teammates from the handball team see it.
Ulf threw his head back and laughed. “I only take it out for special occasions. Like New Year’s.” He leaned towards her.  “Especially when I have the honor of accompanying a lovely lady.”
“You’re not accompanying me. You’re dropping me off.”
“Precisely.” He pulled up in front of the house that pulsed with music, revving his engine one last time. He jumped out of the car and got to her side just as she was opening her door. He offered her his arm. “And since I’m a gentleman, I’ll accompany you to the door.”
Anna ignored Ulf and struggled to get up while the dress she had decided to wear did its best to slide all the way up her thighs. Ulf moved to steady her as she wobbled in the high heels she wasn’t used to wearing but she pushed him away. Her shoes slipped on the icy snow and she grabbed the railing, wondering why she had decided to wear them.
“It would be easier if you’d accept my help.”
“I don’t need your help,” she said, walking up the stairs. When he followed anyway, she turned to face him. “Don’t you have anything better to do?”
“As a matter of fact… no,” said Ulf. He straightened his white silk scarf that didn’t need straightening. “Ingrid won’t be off work until eleven.”
The evening was cold and Anna regretted wearing a dress. “You’re not coming in.”
“We can stand out here, if that’s what you prefer,” said Ulf, looking up at the sky.
Randi opened the door. “Anna! Finally,” she squealed. She threw herself at Anna. “I didn’t know you were bringing someone.”
“I’m not,” Anna said. “He’s leaving. Now.”
Randi glanced at Ulf who was leaning elegantly against the railing in what could have passed for a golden boy fashion shot. “Is that your boyfriend?” Randi asked hanging onto Anna. She looked Ulf up and down. “Is that why you didn’t come earlier?”
“Let’s go in,” Anna said, trying to get Randi back in the house.
Ulf slid an arm around Randi’s waist. “Perhaps I can help.”
“Oh sure,” Randi said. She giggled as she leaned into Ulf. “You have a nice… car.”
“Leave her alone.” Anna pried Ulf’s wandering hands away from Randi who was happily wrapping her arms around Ulf’s neck. “Randi, knock it off.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.” Randi pushed away from Ulf. “He’s yours. I forgot.”
“I’ll take her,” said Siri, steadying Randi. “That way you guys can come in and take your coats off.”
“Ulf has a date,” Anna said. She blocked the door after Siri and Randi disappeared inside. “With my mom. Or have you forgotten?”
“Sweet little Anna.” Ulf reached out to touch her cheek with his leather gloved hand.
Anna slapped it away. “Get away from me.”
“You’re so adorable when you’re angry,” he said with a laugh. “Call me when you want me to come for you.”
Anna resisted the impulse to slam the door and closed it calmly instead. The living room was packed with people dancing. She rubbed her forehead and walked over to the dining room table that was laden with food and drinks instead. She’d never understand her mom’s taste in men.
Siri came and nudged her shoulder. “Where’s the guy you came with?””
“Gone,” she answered, rolling her eyes. “Finally.”
“He didn’t look your type,” Siri said with a shrug. “But you never know.”
“He’s not. He’s my moms boyfriend. And he’s a jerk.”
Siri’s hand hovered over the massacred chocolate cake. “That’s a mess.”
“Tell me about it.” Ulf was by far the worst of her mom’s recent boyfriends. He was a liar and a manipulator. But her mom never saw beyond a pretty face.
Siri dropped her voice. “Have you seen June? Is she coming?”
“No. She went away with her boyfriend and his family for the vacation. Why?” Anna noticed Siri’s look of relief. “Why?” she asked sharply.
“I was worried that maybe she didn’t feel welcome. And I felt guilty. I mean… I’m really sorry about Fritjof.” Siri paused. “But I’m starting to wonder why I thought some of his ideas were good. I know you never liked him. But… I thought he was right. About June being different and the need to keep our race pure and all that.” Siri looked away. “I’m embarrassed I let myself believe any of it.”
“He was persuasive, I guess.” Anna tried not to rub it in, but she was happy that at least one friend was coming back around.
“Maybe. But I really am sorry.”
“Tell June after the break.” Anna put her glass up to Siri’s. “She’ll understand.”
“Why are you girls being so serious?” boomed Anna’s cousin, Red. He put an arm around each of them. “There’s music. You should be dancing. Or aren’t there any nice guys?”
“Anna never thinks there are any nice guys. But I see a few.” Siri raised her glass and headed across the room that had started to get crowded now that a slow song was playing.
“What are you doing here?” Anna playfully punched her cousin who was built like a rugby player. “You graduated last year. You’re not part of the team anymore.”
“We told the guys that we’d be back,” said Red, nodding to where his best friend, Haakon, was surrounded by half the boys’ team. “But we can’t stay – we promised the girls we’d go to a dinner party. And they’ll kill us if we’re late.” Red and Haakon had dominated the court with their size and skill for the past three years, but neither of their girlfriends played.
“I’m surprised they even let you out of their sight.” Anna waved a finger at her cousin who had the same ultra blond hair and pale blue eyes as she did. “I’ve hardly seen you at all this vacation.”
“I know. We’ve been busy. But I’m here now.” The music picked up again. “Dance?” He took her hand and then dropped it as if he had been stung. He grabbed her wrist and turned her palm up, revealing the star-shaped Firemark. “Who did this?” he growled, his face turning the telltale shade of red that had earned him his nickname.
Anna pulled her hand out of his and closed her fist. “No one.”
“A mark like that can’t just appear.”
“Why do you care what did it?”
“What do you mean what did it?” Red gripped her shoulders. “You were the one…?” Red’s voice trailed off, but his eyes bore into hers as if he was trying to peer into her mind.
Anna pulled back, breaking the contact. “What are you talking about?” She hadn’t said anything about what had happened on the hill and June had left town right after the vigil.
Red laughed, but Anna could still feel his anger like a tightly coiled snake. “Nothing,” he said. “Let’s dance.”

Dvara paced around the massive table that filled the stone hall of Khotan’s lair. “Why are we waiting? Paaliaq has had more than enough time to hide again.”
“That is for Kairök Yarlung to decide,” Khotan said, using Yarlung’s official title as the head of their Cairn. As Kraal’s mate, she had taken over after his death.
“She’s too busy with her political games to think about it.” Dvara snorted. “She’s never had time for us anyhow.”
Rakan looked up from the intricate wire sculpture he was making. “Maybe she just wants to make sure you won’t throw yourself at Paaliaq in a hotheaded rage.”
“I’m no fool.” Dvara leaned over the table towards her half-brother. “I won’t attack until I’m certain to win. But I will attack. Unlike some I know.”
Rakan stood, towering over her. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Sit,” Khotan said from his high-backed burgundy chair at the head of the table. “Both of you.” He waited until they complied. “The only reason you’re going instead of one of us is because Paaliaq won’t recognize you. Unfortunately, neither one of you is experienced enough to trap Paaliaq on your own.” Khotan looked from one to the other. “You’ll have to work together. Remember that.”
“But why did she set off one of Rakan’s old triggers?” Dvara hit the table with her fist. “It makes no sense. Even a newborn whelp would have felt what it was before touching it.”
Khotan created a burgundy colored fireball that floated in front of him. “Either she isn’t Paaliaq, or she’s luring you into a trap.” The stone walls reflected the warm glow of the fireball. “This isn’t a game. And I wish we didn’t have to send you.” Khotan’s face went blank for a split second as it always did when he spoke mentally with another dragon. “Yarlung bids us come to Lhang-tso,” he said, standing up. “Now.” Khotan disappeared without a sound, the fireball still suspended in midair.
Dvara followed in her stepfather’s trail, leaving Rakan to arrive last on the silver shores of the intensely blue lake that was Kairök Yarlung’s home. They faced the lake in their dragon forms. Khotan, an air dragon, rose on his burgundy hind legs and bellowed their arrival.
The blue-white coils of Yarlung’s water dragon form undulated majestically in the center of the crescent shaped lake. Rakan had always felt a sense of awe in front of his mother’s abode. Something about its starkness, the pungent salty flavor of the wind that rolled off the lake, the beauty of the contrasting red hills that surrounded it in the thin air of its 4,500 meter high perch had always made him feel like he was in the presence of something profound. He smiled and rocked back onto his own hind legs, stretched his majestic coral wings and added his greetings to his father’s. Neither animal nor plant life ventured near the lake. They were refreshingly alone. And free.
Dvara, a compact fire dragon with only the shortest of wings, dug her claws into the ground. She raised her jewel-like vermillion head and joined her voice to the others’.
Yarlung approached the edge of the lake and morphed into her human form. She signaled for them to do the same. Flashes of turquoise glinted off her metallic white dress. Rakan knelt next to his father and Dvara, his right fist on the center of his chest where his rök pounded in excitement.
“Rise. It is time,” Yarlung said, her voice snapping like thunder. “If the dragon who set off Rakan’s trigger is Paaliaq, I will savor her death.” Yarlung paused and then spoke again, more quietly. “If not, I will bind her to me by taking her rök whether she wills it or not. But I believe she is Paaliaq. Too many things confirm it. Including the presence of a male dragon who can only be her mate, Haakaramanoth.”
The wind howled across the lake.
“From what our scouts have been able to gather these past three weeks,” Khotan said, “she has created the illusion of being an untrained whelp and goes by the name Jing Mei. But don’t be fooled by her innocent appearance.”
Yarlung’s nostrils flared. “If she even begins to suspect who you are, she’ll kill you. Pretend you’re untrained. Take your time and get close to her. But not too close. Only one member of her Cairn is left and she will want to possess you both. Starting with Rakan’dzor. She has always preferred males.”
“But the Code forbids blood relatives to have the same Kairök,” Rakan said.
Yarlung snorted. “Paaliaq has no honor. Never forget that.” She turned to Khotan. “Give Dvara back her rök. Paaliaq will be suspicious if she doesn’t have it.”
“But the risk…” stammered Khotan.
“Is of no consequence. Do it. Now. And then bind her to you as Kraal taught you.”
“No,” said Khotan. “It’s too dangerous.”
“Have you become so frail that you can no longer master even that?”
Khotan bowed his head. “May your will be done,” he said, saying the traditional formula of submission to a Kairök. But Rakan could feel his father’s anger.
Dvara tilted her chin and gave Rakan a look of triumph. She had wanted her rök back ever since Yarlung had declared that he would keep his and remain independent. But learning to control his rök had been harder than he had let on. Starting with when he had morphed for the first time not knowing which of the three dragon forms he would take. But even after he knew he was an air dragon, his rök’s wild power had nearly overwhelmed him. It wasn’t until Khotan had taught him to control his emotions that he could morph without fear of involuntarily killing himself or his family.
Khotan walked over to Dvara, his fluid black pants snapping in the wind. They stood still, facing each other as equals even though Khotan loomed over Dvara’s delicate figure. Khotan began a low chant in Draagsil, the ancient language of the dragon race. He lifted his arms to the sky, his bare chest glistening like armor. Energy crackled and began to circle him. It spun faster and faster until Khotan was nothing more than a shimmering mirage in front of Dvara. A faint drum-like beat began, steadily increasing in tempo as it grew louder. Suddenly, the wind died and the beating stopped. A mass of pure vermillion energy licked Khotan’s hands like the flames of a fire. The energy condensed in a flash of vermillion light, leaving a bright red stone in Khotan’s palm. Dvara’s dragon heart.
Khotan held the egg-shaped rök to the sky before releasing it to hover above Dvara’s head. It glittered like a crown jewel. “My will has been done. You are now your own master. May your will be one with your rök.”
A red flame moved up Dvara’s gown, circling her body until it reached her rök. The rök ignited in a ball of wild energy. It spun around her in an uncontrolled frenzy. It was going to kill her. Rakan sprang forward, desperate to catch Dvara’s rök before it was too late, but Khotan stopped him. “No. Their reunion can’t be interfered with. It must run its course. For better or for worse.”
The rök lurched. Rakan stood ready to intervene if things got worse. Whether he was supposed to or not, he wouldn’t stand by and watch her die. A brilliant flash of intense vermillion encompassed Dvara, knocking her to the ground.
Yarlung snorted in contempt. “Tend to her.”
Khotan knelt next to Dvara and touched a hand to her forehead, healing her with his energy. She latched onto Khotan, her red eyes echoing the wildness of her rök.
“Come,” Khotan said, helping her to stand. “Do you accept of your own free will that I mark you with Kraal’s neutralized poison and bind you to me in a partial link?”
“I do.”
“And do you understand the consequences of this act?”
Yarlung growled her impatience, but Dvara didn’t take her eyes from Khotan’s.
“I do,” Dvara said solemnly.
What consequences? thought Rakan, glancing at his mother. But she ignored him.
Khotan morphed and sank his claws into Dvara’s bare arms. Rakan watched, horrified, as Dvara writhed by the edge of the lake in a mixture of rapture and agony. A black winged air dragon with burgundy eyes danced on each arm before fading under her skin.
“Go now,” Yarlung said, her words lingering for just a moment after she disappeared.
“Yes, Father?”
“If you need to contact us, send a message through Dvara.”
Rakan nodded, confused. Didn’t his father know that Yarlung had marked him too?
Khotan disappeared. It was time.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Reap the Whirlwind by Robert Sells

Two Different Offerings Today

Reap the Whirlwind by Robert Sells

Whit Emerson looked out his wide living room window. Lake Ontario was often beautiful, sometimes soothing, and, every now and again frightfully powerful. He could stare at it for minutes at a time. Not today, though. His eyes immediately pulled back to computer printouts strewn in front of him. The sheet he picked up was usually innocuous and always annoying. But never gut wrenching.
Whit scanned down his most recent bank statement. Florist, yeah, flowers for Elizabeth. Grocery bills, a bit high, but he liked good food. Gas station. All normal, within reason. He stopped on the line tagged at seven thousand dollars. Classy Girls? A porn site most likely. The amount was not presented by a photocopy of a normal check. Apparently it was an electronic check. But, he had never signed up for the electronic check service.
Whit ‘googled’ the company and called the one contact number. His eyes popped wide open when his call was answered with a silky voice on only the second ring.
“Look, I don’t know anything about your company. I never had any transactions with you guys. There’s an error somewhere and it has to be rectified before I go to the police.”
“Sir, we can discontinue service. But I’m afraid we can’t give you back money for the months already purchased.”
He looked angrily at the offending phone. “Months? This is the first time I’ve seen you on a bank statement and I didn’t buy anything from you!”
Silence. He nodded his head up and down, a smile grew on his face. She had finally listened. He looked back at the smooth blue sheet of water which seemed to extend to infinity. A minute later, a deep male voice brought him back to the
“This is the manager. We have recordings…”
For the next few minutes Whit listened to his voice, definitely his voice, as he ordered one “premium” item after another.
Titles like Tammy’s Hard Time and Bathtime 2.
“Is that your voice, sir?”
“Yes. Well, a bit like my voice. But, it wasn’t me. It couldn’t be me. I wouldn’t have the time to watch one tenth of seven thousand dollars of porn!”
“So, you admit that you watched some.”
Whit yelled into the phone. “No! I didn’t order the damn videos or watch them.”
“Is your phone number 585-555-2794?”
“Yes…” Whit answered cautiously.
“That is the phone number on record for these calls.”
Whit was quiet for a few seconds. His cell phone number! How?
“I’m… I’m still here. What time were these alleged calls made?”
“Hmm… ahh… it seems nearly all were made between noon and 1 o’clock. Let’s see… always on Tuesday and Thursday.”
Whit’s breathing was his final response. That was when he was at the gym. Every Tuesday and Thursday during his lunch hour.
He habitually carried his cell phone in his front short pocket in case he got any calls from the office. It was never out of his possession.
He hung up and tapped a few icons on his cell phone screen. His call history appeared. He scrolled down and counted eighteen calls to the same 800 number. Calls he never made. Or did he?
He bailed out his college roommate, Mark, one cold Sunday morning from an even colder county jail. The police had caught him running through the campus totally nude. Mark had blacked out and never did remember his au naturel frolicking. Could
I have blacked out during my exercise sessions and made those calls?
Whit shook his head and turned back to his computer. If I ordered this crap, it should have been downloaded to my computer. After a minute of searching, he found the video files. Whit opened one and watched the video. Pornography. Two naked women making out in a bathtub. He clicked on another one. A foreign movie popped up. He didn’t understand the title, but after watching for a few minutes, two men and a woman had taken off their clothes and were rolling and groping on a king-sized bed.
There were hundreds of files in the folder. But, how did they get there? This laptop was with him from morning till night, it was his main workstation. When he visited the gym it had always been locked up in his office. Then he heard the door click open and a voice reached him from the foyer.
“Honey, I’m home.”
Liz! Crap, if she sees me with these files…. In a moment his computer screen was back to normal. Whit grabbed his bank statement and shoved it in drawer. His girlfriend, a slim woman, with short, well-coiffed blond hair click-clacked across the tiles into the study. She leaned down and kissed him on the neck.
“Missed you.”
He smiled up at her.
“You getting some work done?” She pointed to the computer screen which showed his desktop.
“Yeah. About to write a bit.”
She gave an exaggerated frown.
“You work too much, dear.”
The woman jiggled a Victoria Secret’s bag.
“Got a surprise for you. Don’t go away.”
She kicked off her high heels, smiled over her shoulder and walked quickly into the adjacent bedroom.
Whit looked out the window again. Distracted by his problem, he realized the sun had set and the water looked sinister, an oily black had replaced the shimmering blue. Though it was comfortably warm in the condominium, he shivered. What was going on? He never ordered any pictures or videos. But it sounded like his voice making the orders on his phone. And the files were on his computer.
He heard the bedroom door open and turned toward the hallway. Liz softly padded into his study and leaned against the door frame. Clad in a diaphanous light blue nightgown barely reaching to mid-thigh, she watched him for a moment, her breathing heavy as though she had just finished a run. Whit had already decided not to tell her about his financial problem. Anytime there were difficulties with money, hers or his, she went ballistic. Throw in the pornography angle and he could probably kiss this relationship goodbye.
“Working hard, honey?” she asked in a husky voice.
Whit smiled at her and rose from the chair, more than willing to succumb to the distraction. “Not working anymore.”
The love making proceeded quickly and he forgot about his problems. In a few minutes, after Liz enjoyed a shuttering climax on top of him, she rolled away and lay beside him. Whit turned to stroke her gently, an offering of affection. Elizabeth did not return his soft caresses. She never did. After she controlled her breathing, Liz spoke intelligible words which contrasted with her grunts a minute before.
“I was at the hairdressers this morning and opened up Vogue and saw an article on how to choose a computer just for you…”
He winced. A free-lance writer, he recently wrote an article titled A Computer Just for You. He didn’t think it would ever get published and he had not told her about it.
“You got into Vogue, and didn’t tell me!”
Though she smiled when she playfully rubbed his tousled brown hair, he detected irritation. Whit knew the subject did not interest her, but she liked to paint herself as his intellectual confidant. Even to her hairdresser, apparently.
“It wasn’t an article I was really proud of. But, I did mention it to you a few weeks ago.” He looked at her nervously, hoping she would accept the excuse.
“No, dear, whenever you talk about computers you always complain about not getting it into print.”
Whit knew full well which article she was referring to. It was a thought-provoking essay on the world’s, the country’s, even his own, over-reliance on computers. If it could just get printed he knew it would be a centerpiece article. Whit had even submitted the article to the New York Times magazine section. Their editors loved it, but for some reason did not pick it up.
With his own paper, the article was shuttled all the way to the CEO and he received a flattering note from that worthy man. But the clever and insightful essay never made its way to the pages of any newspaper or magazine.
“Yeah, well, I do talk a bit about that one, but I meant when I discussed with you about how you might pick a computer…”
Elizabeth rose without speaking and walked to the bathroom. Whit stayed down. His problem returned like an angry ghost in a haunted house. It must be some horrible fraud scheme, he decided. His voice could have been spliced in and his cell phone records manipulated. As much as he was on the Internet, it would not have been difficult to surreptitiously insert the files onto his computer. That had to be what happened. Might be hard to track, let alone prove. But when the perpetrators wrote the electronic check into his bank account they made a big mistake. He had never signed on for online checking. First stop tomorrow, the bank.

200About the Author
I attended college at Ohio Wesleyan where I struggled with physics. Having made so many mistakes in college with physics, there weren’t too many left to make and I did quite well at graduate school at Purdue.
I worked for twenty years at Choate Rosemary Hall, an exclusive boarding school in the heart of Connecticut. More often than not, students arrived in limousines. There was a wooded area by the upper athletic fields where I would take my children for a walk. There, under a large oak tree, stories about the elves would be weaved into the surrounding forest.
Returning to my home town to help with a father struggling with Alzheimer’s, the only job open was at a prison. There I taught an entirely different clientele whose only interaction with limousines was stealing them. A year later Alfred State College hired me to teach physics. I happily taught there for over ten years. A rural, low income high school needed a physics teacher and the superintendent, a friend, begged me to help out. So, I am finishing my teaching career in a most fulfilling way… helping kids who would otherwise not have access to a qualified physics (and math) teacher.
My wife pestered me about putting to “pen” some of the stories which I had created for my children and kids. I started thinking about a young boy and a white deer, connected, yet apart. Ideas were shuffled together, characters created and the result was the Return of the White Deer. This book was published by the Martin Sisters.
Years ago I gave a lecture on evolution. What, I wondered, would be the next step? Right away I realized that silicon ‘life’ had considerable advantages over mortal man. Later this idea emerged as the exciting and disturbing story called Reap the
Whirlwind, my most recent novel.
I have many other stories inside my mind, fermenting, patiently waiting for the pen to give them breath. Perhaps someday I will even write about those elves which still inhabit the woods in the heart of Connecticut.
Robert Sells has taught physics for over forty years, but he has been a storyteller for over half a century, entertaining children, grandchildren, and students. He has written the award-winning novel, Return of the White Deer, historical fiction, and he has written Reap the Whirlwind, a thriller. His third book, The Runner and the Robbery, a young adult book, will be published by December, 2013.
He lives with his wife, Dale, in the idyllic village of Geneseo, New York with two attentive dogs who are uncritical sounding boards for his new stories. He is intrigued by poker and history, in love with Disney and writing, and amused by religion and politics.
Facebook Amazon UK Amazon US Amazon US Author Page

200About the Book
Whitman Emerson had everything a man could want: a beautiful girlfriend, a growing recognition in literary circles, the respect of his peers, and more than enough money. Until he discovers his bank account has been depleted. A few days later he loses his job. Old friends who may have been able to help him either die, disappear or disown him. Everywhere he goes, he is watched by security cameras. Then he is arrested for child pornography.
Bourbon bottle in hand, he trudged to the door and opened it to red blinking lights of half a dozen police cars. He was pushed aside as black-suited officers forced themselves past him. Roughly grabbed by one of the officers, Whit listened as a detective recited his Miranda rights. Within moments he was handcuffed and led outside.
On the run from the law, Whit joins up a stuttering computer nerd, Rick, and his younger sister, Mary. The trio gradually put the puzzle pieces together and realize their lives and the lives of all humans have been subtly manipulated by a computer, a computer which controls all data… anywhere, from banks to hospitals to online games.
“Whatever is happening is coming from that military base, Whit. I’m sure of it.”
“So the military is behind this?” Whit asked .
Rick paused a moment, both hands wrapped around the coffee cup. “Maybe. But, I don’t think so. I think someone has remotely gained access to their main c-c-computer. The biggest, bad-assed computer in the world.”
“And he is using this giant computer to control parts of the internet.” Whit said.
“All the net. Everything. He’s greedy b-b-bastard.”
An old and unorthodox detective, Jimmy Northup, is assigned to find Whit Emerson. But, the more he digs into the case, the more he realizes it’s a set up.
Jimmy could hear cars pulling in, yells, and laughter. The light and the sound didn’t keep him from sleeping, though. He was unable to stop thinking about the fugitive. He pushed out assumptions until one by one, they dropped away, more tired than he was. He was left with only one assumption which held up: Whit didn’t do any of the crimes. Someone was setting him up.
Jimmy offers his help to ‘Trio of Terror’ and they search for a legendary computer expert, Little Lion who created a super computer ten years before. All four are shocked when they finally meet the legend.
Rick’s wide eyes blinked. “But… b-b-but, you’re a woman!”
She cast a look down at her body as though she was checking, just to make sure. “Correct. A woman, black, old, and unmarried. She tilted the glasses down and glared at him, “You have a problem with any part of that?”
Rick quickly shook his head as though he was trying shake off her stare.
“Little Lion… the name… we were expecting a man.” Whit interjected.
“Oh, for heaven’s sakes, how do such chauvinistic notions prevail? It’s not the big male lion with his fancy mane who is the real food-gather… it’s the female… smaller… admittedly not as attractive… who makes the kill. The little lion in the pride.”
Little Lion confirms that the computer represents a grave threat to mankind. A threat that no one else is aware of. The computer created by Little Lion had achieved artificial intelligence and self-awareness. To ensure its survival, the time of Man must end.
As Little Lion wearily rose from the chair, the technician handed over a print out of complex machine language.
“This line is before you pushed the button. The lines which follow are after union. The first page is gibberish. But the second page shows a positive check of all systems. Congratulations. It works perfectly.”
Little Lion did not look at the results of the union. Instead he focused on the “gibberish”. Hiding any reaction, Little Lion was deeply scared.
So begins the greatest battle for freedom ever fought, a battle which only Whit and his friends would ever know about.
He abruptly stopped, pulled his hand from hers and looked at the homes nestled in tree-laden yards, a call for dinner in the distance, a laugh somewhere else.
“They have no clue, Mary. No one even suspects their lives are being manipulated by a self-serving computer. We have to do something. We have to!”
Unfortunately the ‘something’ was destroying the internet as that was the only way to ‘kill’ the computer.
“Over the last few years,” Laisa (Little Lion) began, “I have been perfecting a computer virus unlike any other. It is powerful enough to bring down the entire net in a matter of minutes. Without the vast computer web, the computer is powerless. Then and only then would we have a chance to destroy it.”
“Do it.” said Whit.
She frowned at her over the glasses.
“Really, Whit? Are you ready to really take down the entire net? Sacrifice all financial institutions?”
“Hospitals, police links, GPS…” added Jimmy, emphasizing each with a note played on the piano.
“Satellites, airplanes would be impacted, perhaps even causing crashes…” offered Mary.
“Ships… our navy would be compromised,” continued Laisa.
“Agriculture would be d-d-damaged; they u- u-use computer programs for watering…”
“Pictures, genealogy, the stuff of families would be lost.” Mary said.
“The world would go into a financial and mental depression far worse than even the Great Depression. Trillions of dollars lost.
Trillions, Whit. Don’t worry about a stock market crash, the entire human civilization would crash. Wars would start up.
Millions, perhaps even billions would die.”
Despite the devastating prospect, the group goes ahead with their intentions. But, they are up against the military, the police, and even the general public as the computer controls what each group ‘sees’ and ‘hears’.
Beside the computer, of course, the villain in the story is Henry Jackson, an upper echelon government official in charge of the manhunt trying to capture or, if necessary, kill Whit. Jackson is efficient and brutal, single-minded and focused, charming and self-serving.
When Alice came to his suite that evening, he offered her some wine. At first, she declined. Jackson wiggled the bottle a little, grinning as he tried to convince her. “Come on. You’re off the clock, honey. Just one glass.”
In observing the way Jackson handled subordinates, she knew this was not a man to say no to. He could and did make or break careers. Alice agreed to the wine.
The closing chapter finds Jackson converging on Whit and his friends as they finally mount an assault against the computer.
They eventually succeed with their mission but not without collateral damage to the world and themselves.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Book Review: Redemption by Samantha Charles

Lindy Carver Harrington loses her unborn child during a violent altercation with her husband. On the same day, her closest friend Sara careens off a mountainside to her death. Lindy is devastated. Imprisoned by grief, and paralyzed by fear, she is easy prey to her husband’s abuse. She is unable to summon the strength to fight back, until now…
A brutal confrontation forces Lindy to choose to either end her husband’s life, or save her own. Escaping, she returns home to Parson’s Gap to rebuild her shattered life.  Still haunted by the cryptic message Sara left moments before she died, Lindy becomes determined to answer the voice from the grave and unravel the mystery surrounding Sara’s death.
On a perilous journey into the final days of her friend’s life, Lindy’s quest for truth will expose shocking secrets that will shake a small southern town to its roots. Confronting the demons of her past, she strips away layers of lies buried beneath the magnificent mountains she calls home. When the past and present collide, the truth may set Lindy free, if she can only live long enough to take her last shot at redemption.

Redemption by Samantha Charles
Redemption is written with tremendous passion. The main character is struggling with escaping from some horrible events in her past. Samantha Charles not only writes an intriguing and captivating story, she makes the characters so believable that the reader feels the sadness, the pain, the terror, and the anger the characters feel. The mystery was written in such a way that nothing is given away. The reader is drawn into the goings-on.
I recommend Redemption as an excellent mystery and Samantha Charles as an author to watch. Keep an eye out for her sequel Salvation. It will be worth the read.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Guest Blog: Samantha Charles and her book Redemption

Author’s Bio:
Samantha Charles is a southern writer. She grew up in the Appalachian region of the Southeast in small towns that are somewhat isolated from modern-day society by geography, and choice. She remains passionate about the magnificence, as well as the malevolence, of the southern culture.
She now resides in the Midwest, with her husband and three children. She attended Baker University in Kansas where she earned her Master of Arts degree. When she isn’t busy creating new worlds, she teaches English as a professor at a local college.
She is currently creating a series of short stories about Parson’s Gap; a coal mining town inspired by the people and places she grew to love as a child. She is also hard at work on Salvation, the sequel to Redemption.
Redemption is her first novel.
If you would like to learn more, please visit her on Facebook at

Guest Blog
As a writer, I have written many things, academic papers, marketing materials and even articles for local magazines. Exploring other venues has taught me a great deal about the craft of writing, as well as why I write. What I have learned over the past several years differs somewhat from the old adage “write what you know.” After all I was somewhat knowledgeable about the material I had written before Redemption, but I found little joy in the work I was doing.
Writing can be an arduous undertaking if you allow your focus to deviate from passion to paycheck. I now only write fiction, specifically southern fiction. Although it has been several years since I lived in the area, I remain passionate about the culture and the people of the Appalachian Mountains, and enjoy sharing the rich, diverse culture heritage of this southeastern region of the United States.
My southern pride, however, is a dichotomy. Growing up, I witnessed the bigotry inherent in the culture buried as deep beneath the fertile soil as the rich veins of coal. I cannot deny the crimes our ancestors perpetrated on humanity over two hundred years ago; denying the most basic of human rights, freedom, to an entire race of people, and the residual intolerance that became a legacy I despise. However, I have also been surrounded by the beauty of the mountains, and lived among, and grew to love the people who populate the small coal mining towns where I was raised.  My debut novel, Redemption explores the social and cultural issues of what it means to be southern, and introduces you to strong people who are determined to overcome the past in a world where sometimes merely survival is the ultimate goal.
Thank you for your time.
Samantha Charles
Find her book at

Monday, February 3, 2014

I write like WHO?

I did one of those "You are....." tests on Facebook today. The test was "You write like...."
You input a sample of your writing and the test analyzes your writing. My results --

I write like
Vladimir Nabokov
I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

Which is fascinating because I have never read any of his work.

Some about him, per Wikipedia --

Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov (Russian: Влади́мир Влади́мирович Набо́ков, pronounced [vlɐˈdʲimʲɪr nɐˈbokəf] ( ), also known by the pen name Vladimir Sirin; 22 April [O.S. 10 April] 1899c – 2 July 1977) was a Russian-born novelist.[1] Nabokov's first nine novels were in Russian. He then rose to international prominence as a writer of English prose. He also made serious contributions as a lepidopterist and chess composer.
Nabokov's Lolita (1955) is his most famous novel, and often considered his finest work in English. It exhibits the love of intricate word play and synesthetic detail that characterized all his works. The novel was ranked fourth in the list of the Modern Library 100 Best Novels;[2] Pale Fire (1962) was ranked at 53rd on the same list, and his memoir, Speak, Memory, was listed eighth on the Modern Library nonfiction list.[3] He was a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction seven times, but never won it.

His novels include

Novels and novellas written in Russian[edit]

  • (1926) Mashen'ka (Машенька); English translation: Mary (1970)
  • (1928) Korol' Dama Valet (Король, дама, валет); English translation: King, Queen, Knave (1968)
  • (1930) Zashchita Luzhina (Защита Лужина); English translation: The Luzhin Defense or The Defense (1964) (also adapted to film, The Luzhin Defence, in 2000)
  • (1930) The Eye (Соглядатай (The Eye)), novella; first publication as a book 1938; English translation: The Eye (1965)
  • (1932) Podvig (Подвиг (Deed)); English translation: Glory (1971)
  • (1933) Kamera Obskura (Камера Обскура); English translations: Camera Obscura (1936), Laughter in the Dark (1938)
  • (1934) Otchayanie (Отчаяние); English translation: Despair (1937, 1965)
  • (1936) Priglasheniye na kazn' (Приглашение на казнь (Invitation to an execution)); English translation: Invitation to a Beheading (1959)
  • (1938) Dar (Дар); English translation: The Gift (1963)
  • (Unpublished novella, written in 1939) Volshebnik (Волшебник); English translation: The Enchanter (1985)

Novels written in English[edit]

I am nowhere near as prolific as he was and probably never will be, buts it's nice to be in his company.


Saturday, February 1, 2014

2014 Chinese New Year Day is on January 31, 2014 the Astrological Year of Horse begins on February 4, 2014




 People born in the year of the horse are said to be a bit like horses: animated, active and energetic. They love being in a crowd. They are quick to learn independence. They have a straightforward and positive attitude towards life. They are known for their communication skills and are witty.

 According to superstition, in your zodiac year you will offend Tai Sui, the god of age, and will experience bad luck for the whole year. To avoid this you should wear something red, which has been given to you by someone else.


For Every One Else, The Wood Horse year is a time of fast victories, unexpected adventure, and surprising romance. It is an excellent year for travel, and the more far away and off the beaten path the better. Energy is high and production is rewarded. Decisive action, not procrastination, brings victory. But you have to act fast in a Horse year. However, if you are not 100% secure about a decision, then don’t do it. Events move so quickly in a Horse year that you don’t want to run off in the wrong direction.


For more detailed information about

The Year of the Horse

Do a Google Search for Year of the Horse.

There is a lot of information out there.