An October short story

I thought I’d surprise you with a story to put you in the mood for Halloween. Who doesn’t need a nice witch or two for the holiday?

October Magic

(Muddy River short story)

by

Judi Lynn

Rowan leaned across the wooden work table in our kitchen, watching me add the last ingredients to my stew.  I gave it a stir, then turned to swipe carrot tops and onion skins into the trash.  It was chilly outside, nearing the end of October, but the kitchen was warm with steam rising from the simmering pot on my six-burner stove.  She fidgeted with the hem of her long-sleeved sweatshirt. 

“Thanks for seeing me on your day off, Hester.  I hate to bother you, but I don’t have very much witch magic like you and your coven.  And I think I need help.”

“What kind of help?”  I poured us each a cup of coffee and motioned for her to sit down.  I needed to add a few seasonings to the pot before I joined her.

“The thing is, I don’t know if I’m losing my mind or if someone’s sneaking into my house in the middle of the night.  I put up wards, but. . .”  She sighed.  “They’re not very strong, maybe not strong enough.”

One more stir and I turned to her with a frown.  “What does this someone do?  Does he take things?”

“No, nothing’s missing, but for a while now, I’ve felt like someone was watching me when I sleep.  That’s just weird, right?  I mean, why would anyone do that?  But then, when I opened my eyes last night, a man was standing over me.”

I started to the table to sit across from her, but she gripped her coffee cup so hard, I thought she might break it.  I made her nervous, so I’d kept my distance, trying to put her at ease.  She still needed space, so I leaned against the kitchen counter instead.  “Was this man someone you know?”

She shook her head.  “The room was dark, and I couldn’t see very well.  He wore a hoodie, and the hood shadowed his face.  He scared me so much, I leapt out of bed to run away.  He followed me and then . . .disappeared.”

“Disappeared?  How?” 

“I don’t know.”  The poor girl looked embarrassed just talking about it.  She had to be desperate to come to me.  We weren’t even acquaintances.  She hadn’t attended my school for witches, and we rarely passed on the street. 

I knew her parents.  They lived in the north suburbs of Muddy River.  Her mother was only one-fourth witch, and her father had so little magic, he wouldn’t have been able to shift if I hadn’t laid hands on him to help him survive the change.  They’d passed on even less magic to their daughter, so she’d attended Muddy River’s public school.  She was a pretty girl in a fresh, wholesome way with silky light brown hair and hazel eyes.  “

“Did you see the man disappear?” I asked.

She looked confused.  “He was there one minute and gone the next.”

“Did he touch anything?  Make any motions with his hands?”

She tilted her head to the side, thinking.  “He was standing by my bookcase, facing away from me.  But maybe. . .”  She shook her head.  “I can’t be sure.”

I turned on the oven and transferred my stew to it to finish cooking.  “What if I follow you to your house so you can show me where the man stood?”

“Now?  When you’re in the middle of making supper?”

“It’s stew.  It will be hours before it’s ready.  Raven should be home by then.”  My fire demon was helping Toothy, a shape shifter friend of ours who had a poultry farm on the north side of town.  A fox-shifter was sneaking inside our borders to steal chickens from him. 

Every fall, there was some sort of mischief when it got close to Hallows Eve.  Samhain brought out the wild side of some supernaturals.  Rowan still hesitated, so I went to grab my sweater.  “Come on.  I need to see where this man disappeared.”  As I walked out the door, Claws—my ocelot familiar—fell into step beside me.  If a stranger was popping in and out of Muddy River, he meant to be beside me when we met. 

Rowan drove a compact, gray car, and I followed her to the suburbs where her parents lived.  She turned on a street a few blocks from theirs and pulled to the curb in front a cozy, one-and-a-half story bungalow.  It was painted a spice color with pale gold trim.  Pumpkins lined the steps that led to her front door.  She kept wiping her hands on her jeans as we walked up the sidewalk and fumbled with her key to let me inside.

“I don’t bite,” I assured her.

Her cheeks reddened with a deep blush.  “Sorry.  It’s just that I’ve heard so much about you.”

“Then you know I help people who live here.”

She gave a quick nod.  “I never thought I’d have to come to you.”

“I’m glad you did.”  I looked around the room.  “Your home is adorable.”  Antiques mingled with overstuffed furniture in a warm, comfortable décor.

She smiled, pleased, then jammed her hands in her jean pockets.  “Thank you.  I’ve redone everything except the upstairs.  I’m going to start on that next year.”

I walked closer to the bookcase on the far wall.  “Is this where he stood?”

She nodded.

Claws hunched on the floor by my feet, ready to pounce.  He felt the same vibes I did.  “Have you bought anything new to decorate it lately?”

Her eyes flew wide in surprise.  “The black cat bookend.  I found it at Muddy River’s market.”

“One of my coven’s booths?”

She frowned.  “No, three weeks ago, an old woman was selling things out of the trunk of her car.”

Not good.  Raven usually patrolled the area, but Drago had called him to help with a problem at the voodoo settlement that weekend. 

“There was only one bookend?”  I stepped closer to study it.

“Yes, but it fits perfectly where it is.”

It did, but I was betting there was a matching mate somewhere in someone else’s house.  “It’s possible you have a stalker.”

“Why would anyone do that?  They could just say hi to me when we meet.”

“I doubt it’s someone from town.  You work for Karnil at the gravel pit, don’t you?”

“Answering phones.  Filing.  Things like that.”

“He thinks the world of you, and if anyone messed with you, they’d have to answer to him.  I don’t know too many supernaturals who’d like to risk that.”  None of us wanted to anger an incubus.

She looked down, a blush staining her cheeks.  “He’s a wonderful boss.”

He would be.  He might be powerful, but he was every bit as nice.  I pursed my lips, trying to decide the best way to help her.  “I think your bookend is a portal that connects with its mate, wherever that one is.  Someone’s using it to travel here to spy on you.”

She laughed.  “Then they’re going to get really bored.  I don’t do anything exciting.”

“That’s why I think the man’s a stalker.”

“But how would he even find me?  I never leave Muddy River except to go to the market on Saturdays.”  We’d closed the booths on October first.  The weather was too unpredictable once the fall solstice passed.

Had the man found her there?  Or had he bought the other bookend and been whisked here on accident?  We’d built the market far enough from town that we allowed mortals to shop there.  Was it possible a mortal was visiting our town?  We’d put up wards to keep them out, and the Fae had spelled an illusion so they couldn’t see Muddy River.  Had one found a portal that brought him here?  Not to harm us.  No enemy could pass our wards.  But to gaze at Rowan in her sleep?

That seemed likely to me, and I knew what I wanted to do about it.  “Would you mind if Raven and I came here tonight, and I reversed the portal to take us to the other bookend?”

She gripped the edge of the bookcase, licking her lips nervously.  “You mean, to where the man lives?”

“I hope so, but we won’t be able to identify him without you.”

Her grip tightened.  “I have to go with you?   What will you do to him?”

A fair question.  “We’ll take away his portal, and then he can’t find or enter Muddy River again.  He can’t sneak into your house to watch you sleep.”

She worried her bottom lip.  “You won’t hurt him, will you?  Raven won’t turn him to ashes?  He’s never tried to harm me, hasn’t even touched me.”

“We’ll just take his portal and pop back home.”

She straightened her shoulders, trying to summon her courage.  “When should I be ready?”

“Midnight should be late enough.  He should be home.”

“I’ll be ready.”  Her voice shook.  She’d fret about going with us for the rest of the day, but if we got lucky, when we returned to Muddy River, she’d own both bookends and wouldn’t have to worry about a stalker ever again.

###

When I pulled into the drive of our three-story, yellow Victorian home, Raven’s Lamborghini was already parked in the garage.  He’d left the door up for me, but I closed it and parked close to the kitchen door.  We’d take my SUV when we went to Rowan’s tonight.

My mate was waiting for me when I walked through the door.  He tugged me into a hug and leaned down to nuzzle my hair.  “You smell delicious.  So does the house.”

I laughed.  “Stew.  And I baked an apple pie this morning.  Did you catch the fox-shifter?”

“We did.  For recompense, he’s helping Toothy clean the poultry pens right now, and Paws invited him to stay for supper.”

Toothy’s wife, a cat shifter, was a softy, but cooking for the man who stole your chickens seemed a bit much.  “Is she getting lonely out there since their kids grew up and moved out?”

“Empty nest is hitting her hard, but mostly, she felt sorry for the guy.  A rogue werewolf attacked him and he’s in pretty bad shape, barely escaped alive.  Can’t really hunt until he heals.  He was stealing because he was hungry.”

I rolled my eyes.  “Don’t tell me.  They’re letting him stay with them until he’s better.”

He grinned.  “They have a small house where a handyman used to live, and I’d lay odds it’s going to have a new occupant from now on.  They really can use the extra help, and the shifter can use a safe home.”

“A win/win.” 

He raised a dark eyebrow, studying me.  “When I left this morning, you were planning on staying home today.  Where did you get off to?”

I told him about Rowan and my plan to use her portal to find out who was visiting her during the night. 

He glanced at the kitchen clock.  “It’s almost six.  You can fill in all of the details during supper.”

Which meant he was hungry.  We made a quick salad, and I took the stew out of the oven.  The meat was fall-apart tender.  Raven grabbed a loaf of crusty bread, and we sat down to eat.  By the time we’d finished, he wore a deep scowl.

“Some old woman came to our market and sold enchanted items out of her trunk?”

“That’s where Rowan bought the bookend.”

“From now on, when I’m out of town, I’ll have Brown or Strike watch over things there.”

“Probably not a bad idea, but my coven and I warded the entire area, including the parking lot and the road we take to get there.”

Raven stood to help me carry dirty dishes to the sink.  I rinsed them, and he loaded the dishwasher.  “Are you saying the old woman couldn’t be an enemy?”

“She must have been harmless or she couldn’t have gotten in.”

He shook his head.  “I’m going to be interested in whom we find and how the portals work.”

“So am I.”  And in five more hours, hopefully, we’d know.

###

We had to leave Claws at home.  It would be too easy to lose him when we transported.  Rowan was pacing back and forth past her front window when we pulled in her drive.  She hurried to the door to let us in, and then swallowed hard when she looked up at Raven.  My fire demon was six-five of pure muscle with ebony hair and amber eyes.  If I made the girl nervous, he intimidated her.

“Are you ready?” I asked.

“How does it work?”  She pulled the sleeves of her heavy sweater over her hands, hiding them. 

I shook my head.  “We have to be holding hands when I touch the portal and say my spell.”

Raven reached for my left hand and then for hers.  For a minute, I thought Rowan was going to turn and run, but she pushed her arm out to him.  Once we were all connected, I put my hand on the black cat bookend and chanted. 

Wind rushed by us, and the world blurred.  All we could feel was motion.  And then it stopped.  We found ourselves in the study of an old, tall and narrow house.  Dark walnut bookshelves lined its walls, filled with tattered books with yellowed pages.  A desk sat near the far end.  The matching bookend sat on its corner.  A black cat was curled on the cushion of a well-worn wingback chair lit by a floor lamp.  A tiger cat sprawled on one book shelf.  It blinked its yellow eyes at us.  An orange tabby stretched across papers on the desk.  Another cat licked its paw on the rag rug in the center of the room.

Comfortable surroundings, but then I smelled a gush of magic and raised my palms.  An old woman stepped through the door, wearing a long, black robe.  A witch.  She grinned when she saw us and focused on Rowan.  “Hello, dear.  So good to see you again.”

Raven dropped our hands to let sparks skitter across his skin.  The woman watched him, delighted, then said, “You have no need for that.  I have no desire to harm any of you.  I might have gotten a bit too zealous playing matchmaker, though.”

“Explain.”  She might look like an innocent old thing, but I wasn’t going to let my guard down.

She held up a finger for us to give her a moment and turned to call, “Rhys!  I need you.”

Footsteps sounded in the hall and a young man stepped into the room.  When Rowan saw him, she blinked.  “It’s you.”

A blush crept all the way to his hairline and he looked down.  He wasn’t handsome, but he was attractive with brown hair and soft brown eyes.  In a low voice, he mumbled, “I’m sorry, Astra.  I’ve caused trouble for you.”

“Nonsense, boy.  I’m the one who sold the bookend to the girl, and then I asked you to bring me the bookend in my study.  I’d spelled it so when you touched it, you’d go to her.”

He jerked up his head to stare at her.  “But why?”

“You talked about her every time you came home from that market.  You’ve had a crush on her from the first time you saw her.”

I was growing impatient.  I turned to Rowan.  “You know this man?”

Her blush matched his.  “That’s why I’ve been going to the market every Saturday, hoping to see him.”

“Are you his mother?  Grandmother?” I asked the woman.

She shook her head.  “Some poor young witch left him on my doorstep when he was hardly a month old.  By the time I found her, she was already in her grave.  Her father was furious she’d gotten pregnant and blasted her.  She’d brought Rhys here to hide him.”

Raven’s sparks disappeared, and he studied Rhys.  “You raised him?”

“He’s been such a joy to me.  Such a good boy.  I’ve tried to teach him our ways, but he didn’t get his mother’s magic.  It’s like that sometimes with boys.  It’s latent, but it’s there.  Without magic, though, he can’t pass your wards.  They reject him as a mortal.”

I was more confused than before.  “Do you want him to move to Muddy River?”

“I hadn’t thought of it until he came home each Saturday with stories of the beautiful girl he’d met.  The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea.  You transported here, so you can’t know, but I live two towns over from you.  Close enough for him to visit me, but he’d be safe inside your borders.  With so little magic, his safety worries me.  And if he mates and has daughters, they’ll inherit his mother’s gifts.”

His children would probably have stronger magic than him or Rowan. . .if the old woman’s matchmaking worked.  But when I looked at Rowan, the way she glanced at Rhys, and the way he looked at her, I thought Astra might be right.  They liked each other, and they’d make a good pair.

Raven let out a sigh of resignation.  “Just tell me this, Rhys.  If you could transport to see Rowan, why didn’t you wake her?  Talk to her?  Why just look at her while she slept?”

Rhys’s gaze rested on Rowan as he answered.  “Because she lives in Muddy River, and your wards rejected me.  I didn’t think I had a chance of winning her.  And even if I did, I didn’t want her to leave there—to give up her family and friends.  And she doesn’t have very much magic either.  She’s safe there.  She might not be if she lived with mortals and rogues.  It felt hopeless.”

I liked him better for that answer.  He was willing to put Rowan first.  There was nothing for it but to remedy this problem.  I reached out and placed my hand on Rhys’s arm, then pushed magic into him.  He winced and yanked his sleeve up.  A small black cat stained his arm.  It looked like a tattoo.

“That’s your entry mark,” I told him.  “You can cross our borders now.”

He blinked, surprised, then turned to Rowan with a wide smile.  “I’d love to see you again.  Do you mind if I drive to visit you?”

Her grin was wider.  She reached for his hand and then held out her other hand to Raven.  “Do you mind if I take him home with me tonight?” she asked Astra.

I blinked, surprised.  “Aren’t you moving awfully fast?”

“We talked for hours at the market.  I know him.  I haven’t met anyone in Muddy River who makes me feel like he does.”

All righty then.  No more arguments from me.

The old lady chuckled.  She pointed to the bookend.  “Come and go as you please.”

Rhys opened his lips to thank her, but she waved him off.  “Go.  Have fun, boy.  Stay as long as you like.  I’ll be here when you come back.”

That was a dismissal if I’d ever heard one.  I took Raven’s hand and laid my other hand on the portal.  After a swoosh of air, we were back in Rowan’s living room.

The two young people turned to each other, and Raven shook his head.  “We’re out of here.  You two have a lot of things to discuss.”

Yeah, like that was what they were going to do.  We headed to the door and let ourselves out.  I waved my hand over it to lock it.  On the drive home, Raven gave another shake of his head.  “Well, in all my years, I’ve never had an experience like that.”

Neither had I, but I was glad it had happened.  Rhys and Rowan would be mated before Muddy River celebrated Samhain.  And they’d have something special to remember every year at this time.

Mystery Musings

I read a twitter post that made me happy.  Lynn Cahoon is coming out with a new series, The Kitchen Witch.  I’m a fan of her Tourist Trap mysteries.  Add a witch to her whodunnits, and I’m in.  I have a soft spot for nice witches and magic.

Way, way back when I wrote urban fantasies as Judith Post, I wrote a lot of Babet & Prosper short reads.  Babet was a witch, and Prosper was a bear shifter and a detective for supernatural crimes.  They lived in a city with a feel a bit like New Orleans.  I wrote them mostly for fun, like I write Muddy River now as Judi Lynn.  When I signed with Kensington to write romances, though, I left all of my urban fantasy behind.

After I wrote six Mill Pond romances, my editor let me try writing a cozy mystery, and that’s how the Jazzi Zanders mysteries came to be.  But I missed the world of magic, and I noticed there were a lot of witch and wizard mysteries making their way onto Amazon.  I bought and enjoyed quite a few of them–witches who worked in chocolate shops, in bakeries, in small towns.  A lot of them had art for covers instead of models.  Paintings of witches with black, pointy hats and black dresses.  A lot of them were fun, light-hearted mysteries, and I enjoy them.

That’s not what I wrote when I started Muddy River, though.  And that’s probably a marketing mistake, but I don’t have a lot of confidence in my ability to write humor.  I used it in my first romance–COOKING UP TROUBLE, because I didn’t have much confidence that I could write romance either:)  I’m still not sure either is my strong point.  Mae Clair, who wrote the Hode’s Hill suspense series that I love, turned to humor for her short read, IN SEARCH OF McDOOGLE, and she nailed it.  McDoogle was the perfect read for the end of a long, tiring day.

I like humor.  Sometimes, I’m even funny.  I’m just not a natural at it.  But I’ve noticed that it works really well with good witches.  And when Lynn Cahoon’s book comes out late August, I’m looking forward to see what her witch is up to.

 

Are you lucky if you have a warrior monk as a mentor?

I’m so happy to invite C. S. Boyack to my blog today. I’ve visited his blog many times: https://www.facebook.com/ColdhandBoyack and consider him a friend, even though we’ve never met. He’s recently released a new novel, SERANG, and I’m halfway through it right now. I loved SERANG in the novel, VOYAGE OF THE LANGERNFISH, a fantasy/pirate/adventure novel, and I’ve been waiting for this prequel that tells her beginning story.

He hasn’t disappointed. The daughter of a fisherman, when her father dies on his ship, her mother can’t support her and takes her to a temple to be raised by warrior monks. If you haven’t read VOYAGE OF THE LANTERNFISH, no problem. This story can easily stand alone.

  1. Welcome, Craig. And now that I have you here, I’m curious. How did you decide on the life lessons Serang must learn to develop into her full potential? And how did you develop a wise tone and philosophy for your various masters?

First of all, thank you for the invitation, and I consider my online connections to be true friends. We may never meet in person, but I have many online friends.

Serang is a child when the story begins, and she’s about to embark upon training that takes a lifetime to master. This isn’t just a physical skill, but emotional and spiritual as well. She comes pre-packaged with her own problems, and a child would dwell upon those issues. I focused upon her issues as a point for her growth.

Serang’s masters are older, more mature versions of herself. They all have a tragic history, but rose above that to find a quality of life beyond the traditional orphan or beggar. Basically, I took a wise man/woman character, then pointed that character at Serang’s problems.

 

  1. I’m enjoying the character of Yong, who eventually becomes her master. Why does he befriend a rat? Is it perhaps because you, like me, were born in a year of the Chinese rat?

Ha! That could be part of it, and I am really focusing on that in a completely different book. It will come out in the Spring sometime. This is about Serang, so I’ll concentrate on her.

Master Yong is a wandering monk. This means he is a complete package, and an older reflection of what Serang is expected to become. In my mind, monks do not hold anything in particular in reverence or disdain. They seek to understand it, and its place in the world.

As a “wandering” monk, the wilderness can be lonely at times. It made sense for Yong to adopt a pet. The rat is portable, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t choose him from the Chinese Zodiac.

 

  1. What gave you the idea for the giant catfish that can kill a person while he/she tries to reel it in for supper?

The goonch catfish is an actual creature swimming in Asian waters today. He has a reputation for taking the occasional child swimmer.

This is a fantasy, and while reality is a good start, I ramped him up a bit.

It’s rather amazing, but this story uses a lot of actual creatures. There are actual orchid mantises, camel spiders, and saiga antelope. In some instances, I used them as they are, in others I powered them up as needed.

 

  1. This is, essentially, a fantasy coming-of-age story. What made you choose to write about a kick-ass female protagonist? (And I have to say, so far, all of the women in this book are intelligent and strong.)

I’ve been told I write good female characters. (I hope I do justice to my male characters, too.) Serang was pure dumb luck, if I’m to be completely honest.

When I wrote Voyage of the Lanternfish, I wanted an international cast to make up my crew. My vision was a grouping of society’s downtrodden people taking the world into their own hands.

Serang walked down the dock and joined the crew. At this time, she was fully formed and came with her own baggage, even a minor addiction to alcohol. Fleshing those things out in small doses, led me to the idea that she deserved her own story.

 

  1. You write a few different genres. What are some of your other ones?

I refer to myself as a writer of speculative fiction. This is a big field, and includes science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, and all the sub-genres of those.

You could find any of those genres in my back-catalog. What I try to do is include that speculative element in all my stories.

Sometimes that element is fairly strong, like in my stories about Lizzie and The Hat. Other times, it’s present, but in a lesser form. Serang kind of fits that style. This isn’t to say there aren’t fantasy creatures and magical elements in this story, but it’s more about her personal growth.

 

  1. On the blog Story Empire and your own blog, you’ve talked about how you develop your novels. You use a storyboard. Can you give a brief idea how that works?

I don’t know how brief I can be, but it’s worth a shot. I like a good challenge.

I use an app, but it’s basically just a cork board. Someone could tape things to the garage wall and do the same thing. I make one index card for the theme, almost like a mission statement. Then I make four columns to divide the three act structure of my story. (Act two gets two columns.) The tops and bottoms are major turning points in a story.

I fill out cards to mark all of those turning points, then give it some time. I add index cards to the board depending on each column, but aiming from the top of the column to the bottom. Think of it like driving from one town to another, but there are several routes to choose from. As long as you get where you’re going it works.

While the turning points keep my acts in order, the entire board keeps my writing in order. I free-write from card to card, and it tends to work for me.

I used to add photos and even checklists with things I want to include. Pinterest has replaced part of this for me, but sticky notes and checklists are part of the equation. As an example, I had a character once who had to go through the stages of grieving. I made a checklist and marked them off as he moved from step to step.

I still prepare a storyboard for each book, but they are getting more minimal with each outing. Maybe that comes from experience. One real advantage is I have half-a-dozen of them going at any given time. It isn’t hard to end one story and dive right into the next one. As ideas pop up, I add a card to that board.

 

Thanks so much for visiting. Before you leave, would you share a short excerpt from your book? And any other information you’d care to share with us?

Hmm, a short excerpt:

“I haven’t seen a single river monster. No crocodiles, gigantic snakes, nothing. I’m supposed to be exercising, so I’m going for a swim. The current is slow and steady here. If it works, you can try it, too.” She stripped off her hat, boots, and leggings, then dove over the side.

By swimming hard, she was able to keep pace with the boat. It had more area for the river to push, so she had to work to keep up. Eventually she fell behind, so she veered toward the rope and kept swimming.

“You’ll have to stop before you run out of rope,” Yong yelled.

“I know… but it feels good… to move lazy muscles,” she puffed between the words.

An extra puff sounded off to her left, and a strong odor of fish drifted over her. Another sounded off to her right. A series of rapid clicks were answered on the opposite side. A large grey fin broke the surface beside her.

Serang redoubled her efforts and gained slightly on the boat. A bulbous grey head broke the surface on her right. It had a long snout with a row of peg-like teeth the size of her little finger. She grabbed the rope and started pulling herself toward the boat. “Help me, Master.”

Yong laughed hysterically. “Hurry, before they eat you.”

How could her master be so cruel? The creature on her left passed underneath to join the other one. The clicking increased. More of the creatures surrounded her until there were a dozen or more. They started jumping, splashing water over her head. It sounded as if they were laughing at her.

Hand over hand, she finally reached the rope. Her muscles burned as she pulled herself above the water then groped for the railing.

Yong caught her wrist, pulled her onto the deck, then dropped her like a wet sack. “Thank you, Master. They could have killed me.”

“No doubt, but they never would.” One of the creatures leaped high above the water and looked at her. “These are river dolphins. They are benevolent creatures. Sometimes they help downing boatmen. They were checking to see if you needed help.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because it was too funny.” He pushed his hat toward her. “Take the tiller. My turn.” He dove over the side.

***

Monastic life is all about duty, service, harmony. For Serang, a young girl abandoned at the temple by her mother after the death of her father, that life becomes all she knows. The monks give her purpose, and become her new family.

 

When political upheaval causes chaos throughout the land, Serang again loses everything and everyone she loves. Alone, she struggles to survive. She convinces a wandering monk to take her under his wing and complete her training. Thus begin her adventures through strange lands and her trials to become a confident, capable, independent adult.

 

This is a coming of age story set in a fantasy world. It’s filled with monsters and martial arts, difficulties and dangers. The serious situations preclude the story from the levity of its predecessor, Voyage of the Lanternfish, but it provides a compelling look at the origin of one of the saga’s most fascinating characters.

 

Purchase Link http://mybook.to/Serang

Serang cover

 

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It’s not all about the writing

If you’ve read my blog much, you know that I’m a sucker for writers who can mesmerize me  with their use of language.  I’ve said it before, but Theodore Sturgeon’s The Silken-Swift (a short story in his anthology E Pluribus Unicorn) still stuns me with its lyrical beauty.  I reread it off and on just to remember how beautiful words can be–  (available here: http://www.baen.com/Chapters/9781625791177/9781625791177___2.htm).  Alice Hoffman and Sarah Addison Allen feel poetic to me when I read them because of their what-feels-simple-but-isn’t, visual, almost magical quality.  Elizabeth George’s mysteries…well, what can I say?  I idolize her writing.  It makes me work, it has so much depth, so many layers.  She’s NEVER a fast read for me.  I savor her.

All that said, to my shame, I’ve discovered that I can be had with almost any magic and abandon, even if the writing’s just passable.  Sometimes, I just want something FUN.  If word repetition and misplaced commas are only occasional, I go with the characters and the story.  I’m reading The Crystal by Sandra Cox right now and absolutely enjoying it.  Yes, once in a while, commas are in the wrong place.  Do I care?  For about half a second.  I’m too busy trying to keep up with all of the characters’ shenanigans.  And there’s MAGIC.  Kathy Palm would be proud of me.  Her book series, which someday I’ll gladly announce and promote because she belongs to my writers’ club and she’s read us chapters that are AWESOME, is a fantasy series.  She loves magic, but I might love it just as much.  My magic taste runs to fun and games, though, like When Demons Walk by Patricia Briggs and Firelight by Kristen Callihan.  And Sandra Cox delivers plenty of fun.  There’s a crystal ball–that was bespelled–by a fairy.  Gabby Bell buys it before Christopher Saint can steal it, and the mayhem begins.  (I found this book on Mae Clair’s blog:  https://maeclair.net/blog/).   I’d read three romances in a row–all good–but I was ready for something fun and frivolous.  And so far, this book is really delivering.  The writing is solid–(no, it’s not up to Elizabeth George, but neither am I).  The star of the book is the STORY.

Every once in a while, I get so absorbed in word choice, plot, and pacing that I forget to just have fun with my characters.  Yes, every book needs a BIG question that drives the story. It needs tension and pacing.  But some books, every once in a while, have a SPARK.  And that spark can make me stay up past midnight and risk turning into a pumpkin to see what happens next.  It’s just plain FUN.  And inbetween serious books, romances with angst, and characters buried under problems, a little fun is sometimes welcome.  Can’t wait to finish this book!

The Crystal, by Sandra Cox:  https://www.amazon.com/Sandra-Cox/e/B002BM3AKC/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1483562143&sr=1-2-ent

By the way, I put up chapter 3 of VERDANTA on my webpage if you like nymphs, sprites, and mortals.  http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/

Twitter:  @judypost

Chapter 9’s up

I’m going to start posting chapters faster, or we’ll be into the holidays before we finish this book.  I don’t want to pester you with a message every time a chapter goes up, so I’ll only mention them occasionally.  But if you want to keep up with the story, you might want to check my webpage more often.  For this chapter, Zoey learns the truth.  And it’s ugly.

 

http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

 

Planets And Runes

I’m hooked.  I’m an astrology junkie.  I faithfully read Jonathan Cainer every day and Susan Miller once a month.  And I know that astronomers think of the planets’ movements in a scientific way (to the point that they demoted Pluto, drat them), and I know that science would snort in disdain that I think of the planets as influencing my life, but I don’t care.  Science aside, if our Creator positioned planets and their movements to exert influences over the ups and downs of my destiny, I can only admire Him for that…even though I’d like a lot more ups and a few less downs.  I mean, if Life is growth…and that’s a big IF, (I haven’t figured out anything better yet), then having it programmed with challenges and blessings seems like a great idea to me.  And each planet rules something different, so when my finances hit the skids, the planet of love might make my home life warm and fuzzy.  When Mercury is retrograde, Venus might transit the sun.

I’m always happy when I read my weekly horoscopes and get happy predictions.  Not so thrilled when I found the horoscope that said, “Well, too bad, but you seem to have a crappy twelve year cycle coming up.”  …And the damned thing was right.  But at least, forewarned is forearmed, right?  Either that, or it’s just easy to get depressed.  Anyway, the thing is, even though I say that I don’t want to know the future, a tiny part of me does.  Or at least, the trends of the future, because everyone’s specifics are different.

But when I go to my sites to get my horoscope fix, most of them have all sorts of other things available too.  Tarot readings.  Now, I am transfixed by the beauty and mysticism of Tarot cards.  I bought a deck once, but I was too afraid to try them.  What if they told me something specific that I didn’t want to know?  What if I need to cling to a small bubble of hope to hang on to my dream?  And the Tarot tell me that I’m never going to achieve my goal.  Do I want to know?  Or do I want to keep trying?  And what if I give up, and I misinterpreted the hand I was dealt?  Aaargh.

Anyway, long story short, the Tarot and I Ching and palm reading, etc. made me think about runes.  One of my favorite movies (and now you’re going to know what a genre junkie I really am) is The Thirteenth Warrior.  I make someone watch it with me once a year.  And I love the scene where the old woman throws the bones and chooses the thirteen men who will fight the “fire worm.”  Come to think of it, this movie is probably what got me back on my Norse binge too.  But besides studying the skies, lots of early cultures tossed bones and studied entrails to predict the future.  Entrails don’t appeal to me all that much, so bones were my weapon of choice.  And that’s how I came up with my  goddess, Diana, tossing her runes to discover her destiny.  And it felt right.  She has runes.  I have planets.  And we both believe in them, even when we don’t like what they tell us.

http://www.amazon.com/Empty-Altars-ebook/dp/B007EW75Y6/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1340482619&sr=1-1&keywords=Empty+Altars