Saturday, September 23, 2017

Saturday's Blurbs featuring Books by Stuart West #MFRWauthor #mystery #humor

Peculiar County BLURB:

Growing up in Peculiar County, Kansas, is a mighty...well, peculiar experience. In 1965, things get even stranger for Dibby Caldwell, the mortician's fifteen year old daughter. A young boy's ghost haunts Dibby into unearthing the circumstances of his death.

Nobody—living or dead—wants her to succeed. James, the new mop-topped, bad boy at school doesn’t help. Dibby can’t get him out of her head, even though she doesn’t trust him. No, sir, there's nothing much more peculiar than life in Peculiar County…except maybe death in Peculiar County.

Chili Run BLURB:

When Wendell Worthy decides to blow off laundry for the day, he has no idea he'll soon be running across downtown Kansas City in his tighty-whities.

But a murderous, psychotic drug dealer has his brother and the ransom's a cup of chili that has to be delivered within two hours. The catch? There are rules in place: no rides, no money, no help. And Wendell has to do it in his underwear. Regardless of the rules, he knows he can’t go it alone.

The only person downtown who might help is Alicia. Too bad their one and only date ended in disaster. Wendell can run like the devil’s on his tail, and he’s gonna’ need to, because all sorts of hell’s about to break loose.

Chili Run: The perfect thriller for the reader on the go.

Bad Day in a Banana Hammock BLURB:

Zach wakes up with no memory, no phone, and no clothes except his stripper g-string. And oh yeah! There’s that pesky naked dead guy in bed next to him. Problem is Zach's not gay. Or a murderer. At least, he doesn't think so.

Only one person can help him, his sister, Zora. Of course Zora's got problems of her own—she has three kids at home and is eight month's pregnant with the fourth. So she’s a bit cranky. But that’s not going to stop her from helping her brother.

With kids in tow, the siblings set how to find the true killer, clear Zach's name, and reassure Zach he's not gay.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Friday's Guest - Stuart West #MFRWAuthor #writing #YA

We all know there are six elements of fiction. Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. I believe the first five lead to the sixth which for me is plot. What's your take on this?
Janet, for me it varies for each different genre. For instance, for my latest book, the YA ghost story, murder mystery, Peculiar County, I had a very specific time and place in mind--a small Kansas town in the mid-sixties. And I had an idea for the lead character, a fifteen year old tomboy, daughter of the local mortician, torn between other-worldly happenings around her and her father's starkly scientific approach to life. Once I had that set, the plot unravelled on its own. So, yes, this book definitely followed the theory you laid out.

Other books? Not so much. For instance, in the Zach and Zora comic mystery series (the third one, Nightmare of Nannies, out in October) started with a dare to write the dumbest, most vain and vapid lead character ever. Everything fell into place after that.
1.      How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific method?
 No method. As I said above, I'm not beyond creating a character out of a dare. (Oddly enough he's a lotta fun to write, too!). Other characters I crib from taking traits here, inserting habits there, eavesdropping on people, dreams, random thoughts, lots of "What If" questions. You name it.
2. Do your characters come before the plot?
Most of the time. Not in Chili Run. Chili Run was hatched from a silly nightmare, the kind that seems deadly serious at the time, and one probably born from a particularly potent batch of chili consumed the night before. I had no idea what my lead character would be like until I started writing (in the dream, of course, it was me). But Chili Run was the exception to the rule. Once I get a solid character, they practically write themselves.

3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?
Never! Just like the reader, I'm along for the magical mystery ride! During the course of the book, I'll get a better idea, but a lot of times, that changes. I've saved many a character from the gallows and have even changed the identity of mystery murderers before book's end. The fun part of writing!
4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?
Nothing's planned, at least to the point of being put down on paper. Although, for Dread and Breakfast (my psycho-thriller taking place in a bed & breakfast joint), I actually had to sit down and chart out a blueprint of the building. The place was so integral to the interconnected plot-lines, practically a character in itself, I had to have it firmly in mind at all times.

5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?
On line, of course! I don't know how in the world ye olde writers used to do it! For my one historical paranormal tale, Ghosts of Gannaway, I actually researched through a stack of books. Took more time than the writing! Never again.

6. Are you a draft writer or do you revise as you go along and why? Do you sketch out your plot or do you let the characters develop the route to the end?

Draft writer! The first draft flies by, practically a subconscious race toward the end. Lots of fun and always surprising as the characters dictate what happens. Then comes the drudgery of going back through (Ugh. Did I actually write that?) and trying to make sense of it (Ye gads! What was I thinking?).

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Thursday's Third Scene featuring Havens - Affinities Book 2 #MFRWauthor #fantasy #teen


With a burst of speed Jay turned from the hut and raced toward the camp where his siblings waited.  Ky’s call had held an urgency that spurred him to hurry.  The path he took wound in a serpentine manner around clusters of firs and stark stands of hardwoods.  Towing the sled through the maze would be difficult.

He passed the first place he’d noted as a possible shelter.  The fallen trees and bushes formed a space resembling a cave.  Dead leaves lay in a thick mat on the ground.  There was room to pitch the tent but he was glad he’d continued past.  The abandoned hut could shelter them for days while they decided where to go.

Jay sighed.  If only Ash would search the winds for signs of people they could have formed an idea of where they were.  He understood her fear.  With the twin bond he had experienced some of Ky’s panicked reaction when she’d been Dom Senet’s prisoner.  Being separated from her siblings had been hard, but when the two-way conversation had been cut off, her hopes must have vanished.  His had.

He caught the scent of burning wood and then saw a great cloud of smoke.  Finally he was close enough to see leaping flames.  Why had they built the fire so high?  If there were people nearby they would come to investigate and they might be enemies.  He stretched his legs into longer strides.  “What happened?”

Bran looked up.  “Ash … Ash.”

Ky put her hands on Bran’s shoulders.  “She broke through the ice on a pond and was soaked and chilled.  She needs a warm place.”

“The abandoned hut isn’t far.”

“What kind of hut?”

Jay shrugged.  “Made from logs.  Could be a woodcutter’s place.  There’s a big stack of cut wood and a fireplace.  Took a glance inside.  Saw some bunks.”

Ky rose and walked to the sled.  “Then let us hurry.”  She dropped the folded half of the tent inside.

Jay nodded.  “We’ll be there before midday.”

“Come and help.”  Bran reached for the head of the sleep saque.  “We need to lift her into the sled.”

Jay and Ky joined him.  They carried Ash to the sled and managed to lift her over the high side.  Jay heaped snow over the fire while Ky and Bran made sure they’d left nothing behind.

While Bran and Ky pulled the sled, Jay followed and stirred the snow to obscure their trail with a fir branch.  Light flurries had begun to fall.  Jay smiled.  With luck, the snowfall would continue until all signs of their passing vanished.

They wove a path around bushes and trees.  When they passed the tangle, Jay pointed to the way the growth formed a cave.  “We could have used that but the hut is better.  Not much further to go.”

“Good,” Bran said.

Soon the dark structure appeared.  Jay dropped the fir branch and began to push the sled.  He studied their destination.  Gaps between the logs had been sealed with yellow clay.  Once they had the fire started the small structure would soon warm.  He ran ahead and opened the door into a square room.  “How will we get Ash inside?”

“On the sled,” Bran said.

“Will it fit?”  Ky asked.

Without spilling Ash, Jay wondered.  He moved to help.  Bran pulled.  Jay and Ky pushed.  The runners squealed on the wood.  Then like a cork pulled from a bottle, the sled popped into the room.  Jay and Ky landed in a tangle on the floor.  He freed himself and lay back to gulp deep breaths of air.

“Jay, help us lift Ash onto one of the bunks,” Bran called.

He pushed to his feet and took hold of the foot of the sleep saque.  The three struggled to lift Ash onto a lower bunk closest to the fireplace.  Jay rooted in the sled, found the brazier, the firebricks and the flasks of tea and broth.

“Ky, light the bricks.” 

“Be right there.”  She emerged from behind a door he hadn’t noticed before.  “The necessary,” she said.  “Kind of small.”

Once his twin lit the fire, Jay found two pans and emptied the flasks into them.  He placed journey bread and cheese on a cloth and set them on the small table.  There were only two rickety chairs so they would have to take turns.

Bran sat beside Ash and opened the sleep saque.  “Just as I feared.”

“What?”  Jay asked.

“Come and see.  I fear her feet are badly frost-bitten.  Her hands, too, but not as bad.  She could lose her toes.”

Jay stared at the blanched skin of his sibling’s feet.  He gently touched one.  “I feel a faint pulse.  How can we help her?”  He couldn’t imagine Ash being crippled.

Bran looked up.  “Find Ky.  I need her help.  We have to warm Ash’s hands and feet and bring more blood to them.  I’m glad she’s sleeping.  The restoration will be painful.”

“What can Ky do?”

“Remember what she did when we healed Zand?”

Jay nodded.  “I’ll get her.”  He ran to the door.  “Ky.

“Here,” she called.  “By the woodpile.  The top layer and some of the sides are covered with ice but the rest is all right.  There’s enough for at least a sevenday, probably longer.”

“Bran needs your help with Ash.  He wants you to bring fire sort of like you did with Zand.”  Jay walked to where she stood.  “I’ll fetch the wood.”

Ky thrust the logs she held into his arms.  She sprinted to the house.  Jay followed.  He piled the logs beside the fireplace and returned with two more loads.  Finally, he laid a fire and with his knife shaved some scraps for kindling.

Bran and Ky stood beside the bunk.  Curiosity drew Jay across the room to watch and add his strength if needed.

“The hands were easy,” Ky said.

“We should have done her feet first,” Bran said.  “What if we waited too long?”

Ky shook her head.  “We had to be sure we knew what we were doing.  I’m ready.”

Bran cradled one of Ash’s feet in his hands.  Ky placed her fingers over his.  As Jay watched, the skin color changed from near-white to pale brown and finally to bronze.

Once they finished, Ky slumped and nearly tumbled to the floor.  Jay caught her and pushed her beside Ash.  Bran slumped at the foot of the bunk.  “Jay, some tea.  Add a lot of honey.”

Jay rushed to the brazier and scooped tea from the pan.  He added a liberal amount of the sweetening and carried the mug to the bunk.  After helping Ky sit, he held the cup so she could drink.  With a grin, she finished the tea and dangled her legs over the side.

Jay fixed a second cup of tea.  Bran drank, then left the bunk and searched in his pack.  He sprinkled herbs in a cup of tea.  Ash groaned.  Jay supported her while she drank.

Though they were protected from the wind, the hut was cold.  Jay searched for the fire starter Dragen had given them.  He sat on the stone hearth and struck sparks until one caught.  He blew on the spark and added shavings.  The flame grew.  Carefully, he added larger scraps and then a small log.  He groaned.  Instead of the smoke flowing up the chimney, it eddied into the room.  Jay’s eyes watered.  Ash began to cough.

“Do something,” Bran cried.

“Something’s blocking the chimney.”  Jay grabbed a poncho and dropped his cloak on the chair.  “Leave the door open.  Most of the smoke will escape.”

Jay went outside and stared at the roof.  Only a thin plume of smoke rose from the stone chimney.  He studied the trees around the hut and saw one of the hardwoods had a branch that hung over the roof and nearly touched the shingles.

He jumped, caught the lowest limb and pulled himself up.  After sliding to the trunk, he climbed until he reached the branch he wanted.  Several times his feet slipped and he clung to the bole until his heart steadied.  He straddled the limb and inched forward.  The branch narrowed and he hoped it would hold his weight until he reached the chimney.

As he prepared to drop to the roof, the branch cracked.  He sprawled on the roof.  Snow slid toward the edge threatening to take him along.  His breath exploded in a cloud of vapor.  He grabbed the stones.  His heart thundered.  He felt tears on his cheeks.

Once he caught his breath he pushed to his knees and peered into the chimney.  A ragged bird’s nest plugged most of the opening.  He tore the straw and twigs away.  Smoke poured from the opening and spiraled into the air.

Jay slid to the edge of the roof and lowered himself to the ground.  He saw Ky carrying in an armload of fir branches and went to cut more.  When he entered the hut the smoke had dissipated.  He hoped the vapor rising from the chimney wouldn’t betray them.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Wednesday Hooking Seducing the Attorney #MFRWBookHooks #MFRWauthor #attorney #romance

Seducing the Attorney (At First Sight Book 5)

Lauren Grant’s first meeting with Tony Carlin happened four years ago at her sister’s wedding to his older brother. There’s been an attraction but a wary one. The handsome arrogant attorney had showed disdain. At that time Lauren had been a troubled teen with streaked hair and piercings. Now, she’s working toward her Master’s in OT and has no time for more than school and her infant nephew. The death of Jamie’s parents has left Tony and Lauren as joint guardians of the baby.

Tony makes assumptions about Lauren’s current life-style. He’s as attracted to her as he was four years ago. But he’s a player and has no thought of making any commitments other than having sole custody of his nephew. He is grieving for his brother. Lauren grieves for her sister and Tony’s brother. A moment of mutual comfort sends them on a spiraling course.

Will they solve the problem of the custody and come to admit their feelings for each other?

Attempting to control the gushing grief she gulped deep breaths. She cried for her nephew deprived of the parents who had adored him. The tears turned bitter when her own loss hit. Carrie and Jim had dragged her from a slide into self-destruction and helped her become a woman with a future. The sobs morphed into mourning for the couple who would never reach their potential and never see their son become a man.
As she wiped her eyes thoughts of Tony rose. He had as little family as she did. Only Jamie belonged to both of them. Her body shook. He was determined to shove her from their nephew’s life. His vision of her was based on a single meeting four years ago in California, a few months after Carrie and Jim had helped straighten her life. A few of her rebellious quirks had remained.
Not now. Not for a long time.
Two years ago she had returned to the area where she and Carrie had grown up. She’d started college. When Jim had accepted a position at a nearby research laboratory she’s been happy. Carrie had found a position teaching English at one of several local colleges. Since their arrival she’d seen them several times a week.
Grains of resentment abraded her thoughts. In the five months Carrie and Jim had lived here Tony had never visited once. Her sister and brother-in-law had trekked to the city maybe three times to see him. They hadn’t wanted to intrude on his busy work and social life.
What was wrong with him? Didn’t he care?
Stop it.
She didn’t know why Carrie and Jim had named Tony and her as co-guardians for Jamie. She didn’t know what kind of relationship Jim had with his brother. She only knew she missed them. Fresh tears began.
The doorbell rang. She blew her nose and blotted her eyes, a useless gesture. Tears continued to drip. The glass panel of the door and her tears blurred the man’s face but she knew the dark hair and broad shoulders meant he had arrived. She opened the door.

In an instant his arms enfolded her. She pressed her face against the gray wool of his overcoat. As he stroked her back Lauren fought the desire to allow the comfort he offered make her forget they weren’t friends.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tuesday's Writer's Tip - More on Scenes Go Wrong #MFRWauthor #amwriting #scenes

I've probably had scenes go wrong in every book I write. Though I've made many of the mistakes, there are some I haven't.

The villain is weak - I really like villains and I love developing their dastardly natures but the villain must be the same strength of character, motivation and goals as the hero or heroine. Let your hero show his or her metal against an equally strong character.

The scene is trivial. We've all done this. Written a scene and then realize what happens does nothing to advance the plot, develop the characters or give information. Either fully develop the scene or drop it. You don't want to bore the reader.

The monotonous scene. The characters say or do the same things as they've done in previous scenes. Unless something different happens there's no reason for the scene. A twist or turn will enliven this scene.

The disaster in the scene that hopefully drives the action forward isn't strong enough. Bring your characters to their knees. And maybe hint to how they can solve the dilemma.

Or the disaster doesn't belong in that scene. This is rather like the gods stepping down from outside the story to produce a disaster. The disaster in a scene has to be logical.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Meandering On Monday with Janet Lane Walters #MFRWauthor #poem #Driveway

Meander 1  - Poem - Summer Haiku

Goldfish in the pond.
Water lilies spread their wings.
Lush season arrives.

Meander 2 - The New Driveway - We're having our driveway resurfaced and there are noisy machines working. Now only our driveway but the one next door. The place will look great when we are finished. Crumbled blacktop wasn't fun to walk over.

Writing - Still working on the last writing of Sweet Tea. Then once all is typed, all I will have to do is go over make corrections and add anything that needs to be added and to re-work several scenes and the book will be done. Then it will be on to the next. But that's a month or more away.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sunday's Book - Havens Book 2 of Affinities #MFRWauthor #Fantasy #Teen

Havens (Affinities Book 2 - Young Adult fantasy, Books We Love)

The four teens, led by the mysterious birds they believe are their parents seek a place of safety where they can learn to control their affinities. They find a place of refuge with Doma Jandia, grandmother of their friend Zand. The doma plans to take them to the highlands but news of the capture of two of their friends by Dom Senet, sends them on a rescue mission. Their powers are not strong enough to defeat the evil dom. They must find a way to succeed or their friends will be corrupted forever.

on March 8, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Saturday's Blurbs featuring Books by Rosemary Morris #MFRWauthor #Historical #Romance

Yvonne Lady of Cassio

When Yvonne and Elizabeth, daughters of ruthless Simon Lovage, Earl of Cassio, are born under the same star to different mothers, no one could have foretold their lives would be irrevocably entangled.
Against the background of Edward II’s turbulent reign in the fourteenth century, Yvonne, Lady of Cassio, contains imaginary and historical characters.
It is said the past is a foreign country in which things were done differently. Nevertheless, although that is true of attitudes, such as those towards women and children, our ancestors were also prompted by ambition, anger, greed, jealousy, humanity, duty, loyalty, unselfishness and love.
From early childhood, despite those who love her and want to protect her, Yvonne is forced to face difficult economic, personal and political circumstances, during a long, often bitter struggle.

Tangled Love

Tangled Love is the story of two great estates. The throne has been usurped by James II’s daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange. In 1693, loyal to his oath of allegiance, ten- year-old Richelda’s father must follow James to France.

Before her father leaves, he gives her a ruby ring she will treasure and wear on a chain round her neck. In return Richelda swears an oath to try to regain their ancestral home, Field House.

By the age of eighteen, Richelda’s beloved parents are dead. She believes her privileged life is over. At home in dilapidated Belmont House, her only companions are her mother’s old nurse and her devoted dog, Puck. Clad in old clothes she dreams of elegant gowns and trusts her childhood friend, a poor parson’s son, who promised to marry her.

Richelda’s wealthy aunt takes her to London and arranges her marriage to Viscount Chesney, the new owner of Field House, where it is rumoured there is treasure. If she finds it Richelda hopes to ease their lives. However, while trying to find it her life is in danger.

Sunday’s Child

Georgianne Whitley’s beloved father and brothers died in the war against Napoleon Bonaparte. While she is grieving for them, she must deal with her unpredictable mother’s sorrow, and her younger sisters’ situation caused by it.
Georgianne’s problems increase when the arrogant, wealthy but elderly Earl of Pennington, proposes marriage to her for the sole purpose of being provided with an heir. At first, she is tempted by his proposal, but something is not quite right about him. She rejects him not suspecting it will lead to unwelcome repercussions.
Once, Georgianne had wanted to marry an army officer. Now, she decides never to marry ‘a military man’ for fear he will be killed on the battlefield. However, Georgianne still dreams of a happy marriage before unexpected violence forces her to relinquish the chance to participate in a London Season sponsored by her aunt.
Shocked and in pain, Georgianne goes to the inn where her cousin Sarah’s step-brother, Major Tarrant, is staying, while waiting for the blacksmith to return to the village and shoe his horse. Recently, she has been reacquainted with Tarrant—whom she knew when in the nursery—at the vicarage where Sarah lives with her husband Reverend Stanton.
The war in the Iberian Peninsula is nearly at an end so, after his older brother’s death, Tarrant, who was wounded, returns to England where his father asks him to marry and produce an heir.
To please his father, Tarrant agrees to marry, but due to a personal tragedy he has decided never to father a child.
When Georgianne, arrives at the inn, quixotic Tarrant sympathises with her unhappy situation. Moreover, he is shocked by the unforgivably brutal treatment she has suffered.
Full of admiration for her beauty and courage Tarrant decides to help Georgianne.

Rosemary Morris’s Romantic Historical Fact Fiction is published by Books We Love. Her novels are available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and Smashwords.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Friday's Guest - Rosemary Morris Genres #MFRWauthor #romance #historical

 Question. Do you write a single genre or do your fingers flow over the keys creating tales in many forms?
Do your reading choices reflect your writing choices?
Are there genres you wouldn’t attempt?

Answer. I only write Romantic Historical Fact Fiction. Writing, researching and my interest in history keeps me too busy to write in other genres. Reading historical non-fiction inspires me. I am reading Set in A Silver Sea, Volume One, A History of the British People, by Arthur Bryant and intend to read Volumes 2 and 3. His description of the Dark Ages and the successive invasions of Britain has stirred my imagination.

I wouldn’t attempt erotica or novels with explicit sexual content. I might write contemporary short stories but not novels.

 Question. Heroes. How do you find them? Do pictures, real life or plain imagination create the man you want every reader to love? Do they come before the plot or after you have the idea for the story?

Answer. Imagination creates the heroes in my novels but their lives, not their appearance or character, are based, are influenced by biographies.  Sometimes they evolve in unexpected ways. For example, I dreamt about a young man called Justin who lived in Queen Anne Stuart’s reign, 1702-1714, who asked me to take him shopping at The Royal Exchange in a novel. If he is lucky he might be the hero in a future novel.

The themes for my novels are derived from reading historical non-fiction.

I choose a name appropriate for the era. Next, I create him by writing a detailed character profile, so thorough that I get to know him as well as I know a close family member.

Question. Heroines. How do you find them? Do pictures, real life or imagination create the woman you want the reader to root for? Do they appear before the plot or after you have the idea for the story?

Answer. My heroines are products of my imagination dependent on the eras in which they lived. I don’t write about 21st century women dressed in costume with 21st century attitudes. I read biographies, base my imaginary heroines on them and decide on the theme. Next, I write a detailed character profile. From this the plot emerges. Illustrations and painting help with descriptions of hair styles and costumes as well as books on these subjects.

Question.  Villains or villainesses or an antagonist, since they don’t always have to be the bad guy or girl. They can be a person opposed to the hero’s or heroine’s obtaining their goal. How do you choose one? How do you make them human?

Answer. They evolve according to the plot and are used as devices to create conflict. To avoid stereotypes, I give them a redeeming quality, love for someone or a pet or a moral boundary they would not cross. For example, in Sunday’s Child, the villain kidnaps a little girl but he would not cause her bodily harm.

Question. What is your latest release? Who is the hero, heroine and or the villain?

Answer. My latest release is Yvonne, Lady of Cassio, set in the reign of Edward II which begins when Yvonne, daughter of Simon, Earl of Cassio is born. This novel has many twists and turns so I won’t reveal the hero and the villain.

Question. What are you working on now?

Answer. I have finished Wednesday’s Child, Heroines Born on Different Days of the Week, Book Four and am writing Thursday’s Child, Book Five, also set in the popular Regency era. It is unnecessary to read Sunday’s, Monday’s and Tuesday’s Child to follow the stories, each of which have strong themes modern day readers can sympathise with. For example, the heroine in my Regency novel, False Pretences is desperate to find out who her parents are.

Question. How can people find you?

Answer. On my website, at Books We Love, my publisher’s website and Facebook.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Thursday's First and Second Scenes - Discovering the Jewel's Secret #MFRWauthor #fantasy #teens

The Yellow Jewel

Seven Jewels and seven threads. Find them, twine them, bind them into a braid to discover how to unlock the secret of the Jewels. What was pale becomes dark and dark changes to light. Sometimes destruction is the way to end a cycle of tyranny.  Blazing sun and icy moons unite in the Yellow Jewel. You must go over land, across the sea and back again. Seek the thread and learn this lesson. What makes a home does not have to be a place. Fears may lurk and fears are faced when one learns to trust.

Disa turned and waved farewell to the Holders and their Chosen who remained at the wizards’ stronghold. All but she and Brader stayed to tend to the living and the dead. Just days ago, the elderly healer had appeared and had given prophecies to all. The moment Disa had heard those words she knew she and Brader had to leave. Their role in the destruction of the wizards’ lair had ended. The overland journey to Quato where they would board a ship to Thanis would take a seven day.

She prodded her horned horse and caught up with her companion. “Must we race like prisoners released from a dungeon?”

He slowed his steed. “Why not? I wish to reach my home as soon as I can.”

Home, she thought. Hers had been a peddler’s wagon and then the tavern in Pala. She didn’t understand his being drawn to a place. “Thy home won’t run.”

He laughed. “Thee are right, but some inner yearning pushes me to hurry to High Sanctuary. What if the wizards have established a refuge there?”

She made a face. “Didn’t Andalor mention a ship filled with Queen’s Guards and wizards that arrived in Quato around the time when thee did?”

“One or more might have remained. I need to find out.”

She supposed he was right but that wasn’t his real reason for the rush to return to his home. He wanted to visit his mother’s grave to bid her farewell. Did he really believe her spirit lingered on this plane waiting to hear of the success or failure of Liara’s quest?

At dusk they arrived in Desert’s Edge where they purchased enough supplies for the journey. She nearly suggested they stop at the Healers’ House for medicinals, but could think of none they would need before they reached the market in Quato.

Eight days of traveling from dawn to dusk brought them to the seaport town. On the outskirts they passed the villa where she had received her Jewel. “Remember our time here?” she asked.

“Clearly. What a pompous fool I was. Attacking Valmir when he wasn’t the enemy. Angering Liara and thee.”

She reached for his hand. “Thee feared someone would harm her and keep her from the quest.” She sighed. “I wonder how the others fare.”

“If there were problems couldn’t they reach us on the inner path?” Brader asked.

“I don’t know. I’ve listened every night and the voices have grown fainter. Should we stay here or go directly to the docks?”

He prodded his horse. “This is too far from town. We’ll find an inn. Word of ships leaving for Thanis will be heard at one, but we can’t leave for a day or two.”

She nodded. “We have to sell the horses.”

“And arrange for passage. We’re too late for today’s animal market.”

Once inside the town Disa led him to the inn where she and Andalor had stayed. They were in luck and one of the suites on the third story was available. After leaving their packs in the suite’s central room, they ordered a meal to be brought as soon as they finished in the baths.

A short time after returning to the suite, Disa opened the door for a serving woman bearing a large tray of food. Disa inhaled the aroma of brewed chokla and grinned. She slipped the woman a coin. Brader entered from his sleeping chamber. He fastened his amber colored hair at his nape with a thong.

“What of our plans for tomorrow?” Disa filled a mug with her chosen drink.

“Sell the horses. Find a ship. Purchase some extra food for the journey. Ship’s food is plain and sometimes not tasty.”

“Will we have to wait long?” Though they’d taken coins from the wizards’ treasury, if they were forced to stay too long their coins would vanish.

He shrugged. “Who knows? I’ll slip down to the common room. Someone there will know about sailings.”

Disa lifted a banta leg. “No tragon.”

He laughed. “Guess Liara told thee how little tolerance I have for spirits. I’ll stick to ale.”

Though Disa had planned to stay awake until Brader returned, the soft mattress lulled her to sleep.

In the morning as soon as they broke their fast, they led their steeds to the animal market. After selling the horses and gear they had enough to buy passage on the ship Brader had heard about the evening before.

Disa walked to the dock with him. While he boarded to arrange for berths, she sat on a bench. She stared at the ship. Seemed sturdy but she had no knowledge about boats. As she watched, burly men carried crates and bales up a wooden ramp to be stowed in the holds.

Her thoughts drifted to the prophecy.   Did it mean they would remain on the isle? Would they find more danger in Thanis? In two seasons she’d been part of two arcane battles. One to destroy the Black Jewel and the other to destroy the stronghold of the wizards. Would the changes she, Liara and Stilenta had spoken about ever come to fruition?

For an instant, she pressed her hand against the Yellow Jewel she wore beneath her tunic. Did she control the gem or did it play subtle games with her thoughts? She rubbed her arms and felt as though the sun hid behind a cloud. Until she knew the answer she would be cautious about using the Jewel.

“Ho, Disa.”

Brader’s deep voice broke into her thoughts. He descended the long ramp from the ship. His broad grin spoke of success. She ran to him. “When do we leave?”

“The ship sails on the morning tide.” He made a face. “I don’t like the idea of sailing but there’s no other way to reach High Sanctuary.”

“Will there be storms like the one that stranded Stilenta on that isle? Or nearly drowned thee?”

“This isn’t the season. I’ve just no liking for the sea.”

“When thee came this way thee had wound fever. Liara feared for thy life. She said the sea water aided thy healing.”

He nodded. “All wasn’t ill. We found Valmir and Stilenta. Do thee think the Jewels played a role in the shipwreck?”

Disa looked away. If she admitted her concerns about the Jewels they might become true.

He grasped her arm. “Do they?”

She heard fear and curiosity in his voice. “I don’t know. Tell me what else troubles thee.”

He stared at the ground. “When the wind fills the sails and the waves roll, the motion of the ship is unsettling. My gut complains and my appetite flees.”

“There are herbs that can help. I’ll buy some.”

“And food, too. The trip can be as long as a lunar and a half or as short as two tendays.  Thee can shop and I’ll trade some of the gems from the stronghold for coins.”

Disa linked arms with him. They left the booming shouts and grunts of the stevedores and entered the noisy market square. The aroma of food and spices, the colors and varieties of the wares enchanted her. Brader headed to a shop with a wide selection of jewelry glittering behind the glass window. She strolled along the booths and made choices.

The last time she’d visited this market, wizards had made dark blotches to gloom the atmosphere. Today there were none and only a few Queen’s Guards.

What would she and Brader find when they reached the isle where he and Liara had been raised? 

With a sigh, Disa thought of the friends they’d left at the wizards’ stronghold. How did they fare? What secrets had they discovered?

She bought a mug of cider and sat on a bench beneath a canopy. As she sipped the cool liquid she sought her friends on the inner path. She heard faint buzzes but no words. Was the distance too great or was Brader’s help essential? She finished the drink and returned the mug. Had the choice to scatter been wrong?

Worrying about what couldn’t be changed wasted time. She stopped at a basket maker’s stall and purchased two lidded containers. At the herbalist’s she filled the compartments of one with a selection of herbs, spices and medicinals.

The aroma of chokla drew her across the square. She indulged in a powder for beverages, some candies for the voyage and two large pastries for the evening meal. After choosing other treats she carried the baskets to the inn.

When she reached the suite, she found Brader rolling their blankets. Their packs sat on the floor along with two sacks. “When are we off?” she asked.

Brader looked up. “After the evening meal we’ll board the ship.”

“But they don’t sail until morning.”

Brader chuckled. “The tide goes out at dawn. We need to be aboard before then.”

“Why? We’ve paid them. Wouldn’t they wait?”

“Not for a moment. Days from now we would find another ship and have no coins to spare.”

Disa reached for her pack, blanket roll and the two baskets. “Then we’ll do what we must. I wish we didn’t have to go.”

He gathered his share of the baggage. “We must. I need to tell my mother what occurred so she can leave this plane for the next.”

Did he really believe his mother’s shade lingered? She reached for the door. “We’ll need a cart to carry these things to the ship.”

“Agreed.” Brader followed her into the hall. “Just pray the sea sickness doesn’t grab me.”

“I have medicines for that.” They walked downstairs and entered the common room. Brader laughed at the chokla pastry and gave her part of his. When they finished the meal they hired a barrow boy to cart their belongings to the ship.

As they boarded Disa noticed the name painted on the ship’s side. The Amber Lady. She turned to Brader. “With that name and my Jewel we should have a pleasant journey.”

Her prediction proved true. With sunny days and clear nights, brisk breezes filled the sails. The ship seemed to dance across the waves. Eighteen days after their departure from Quato the shores of the isle appeared in the distance.

Disa stood at the rail beside Brader. Large gray birds swooped through the air and dove toward the water. They emerged with fish dangling from their beaks and circled the small fishing skiffs. “What are they?”

“Lorns,” Brader said. “Fishermen train them to catch the fish.” He pointed to one of the boats as they glided past.

Disa watched as a bird dropped the fish and flew away. A man placed the fish in a tub. “Enterprising but what about the poor birds being robbed of their catch?”

“They’re given the heads and entrails.”

Disa shook her head. “Each to his own. When will we leave for thy home?”

He grinned. “First we have to dock. Won’t be today or even tomorrow. I’d like to see if any merchants are headed toward the mountains.”


“If there are we can travel part way with them.”

She met his gaze. “Do thee expect trouble?”

He shrugged. “I’ve a feeling I can’t explain. On our way here, Liara and I ran afoul of some Queen’s Guards. They might still be around.”

Disa sucked in a breath. Could he be right? But Liara was the queen now and any of the Guards should be sworn to her. Disa shouldered her pack and blanket roll. She lifted the nearly empty baskets and followed him down the ramp. Uneasiness settled in her gut.

They walked away from the wharfs and paused outside a large inn. Brader pushed open the door. “Looks as good as any.”

“There’s one of the merchants from the ship.”

Brader dropped the things he carried. “See to the rooms. I’ll discover what he plans.”

A short time later he returned. “He journeys in our direction and would be pleased to have us join him. He leaves in three days. We’ll have time to purchase hill ponies and camping gear.”

Disa nodded. “Having our own supplies is a good idea.” She looked around to see if anyone was near. “We need to keep silent about the Jewel I wear.”

He looked away. “Thee are right.”

* * *

Brader sat at the window of his room in the inn and gazed at the newly risen moon. Lunars had passed since he’d left the isle. He’d grown, not only in stature but in knowledge and experience. When he and his foster sister had reached this port town they’d been fleeing evil men and had barely escaped capture. Had that happened, the Black Jewel would still rule and the land would be ruined. Until the ancient Healer had arrived at the wizards’ lair he had believed the evil wrought by the wizards had ended. Not so.

He groaned. A handful of wizards had escaped the destruction. From Corin he had learned about the hidden wizards. Did any remain on the isle? He and Disa had come to help his mother leave this plane. Even if the prophecy hadn’t hinted the thread they sought was here, he would have returned. Where would they find this thing? What was it?

He yawned. Practical plans for the trip would take a day or two to accomplish. With lists of what they would need circling in his thoughts he went to bed.

In the morning he joined Disa in the common room to break his fast. Her amber hair had been braided into a single plait and she had dressed for traveling. After the serving girl brought a platter of eggs, shoat and ryn cakes, he ate and listened to the conversations of the other diners.

“Bandits be bold these days,” one man said.

“They be too organized to be ordinary thieves,” a second added.

“Heard they was Queen’s Guards who rebelled when she called them to Pala,” came from a third.

Brader scraped his plate and finished the kaf. He rose and gestured to Disa. “While thee are at the market keep thy eyes open for anyone who shows too much interest in us.”

She nodded. “Do thee think anyone suspects who I am?”

“Why would they?” Had he answered too quickly? He trusted others more easily than she did.

“Does the merchant we’re joining know of the rumors? Will he heed them?”

“To do otherwise would be foolish. All merchants have armsmen.”

“Are thee sure we must travel with them?”

He nodded. “Until we reach the highlands. When the road splits they’ll go their way and we’ll go ours.”

Disa pushed her chair back. “I’m ready. Do we go to the market together or separate?”

“Thee can buy the food. Enough to last two tendays. I’ll select the hill ponies and the camping gear.”

Three mornings later Brader finished loading the panniers on the pack pony. He tied the lead rope to his mount. Disa sat on her pony. Once he was on his steed, they left the inn and joined the merchant’s caravan.

The leader hailed him. “Come and meet the armsmen.”

Disa trailed behind him. She wore the long knife she’d used when she’d faced the fanged apes. 

Brader eyed the dozen men the merchant presented. One seemed vaguely familiar. Where had he seen him? Was he one of the Queen’s Guards he and Liara had encountered lunars ago? Brader decided to point the man out to Disa.

Following the introductions the merchant gave the order to depart. The five wagons moved slowly and would add to the time before they reached the crossroads. Brader wondered if he’d chosen the wrong way. His fear of encountering one of the large bands of bandits said to prey on small groups of travelers had swayed his decision. The road he and Disa would have taken was shorter, but along the way there were too many chances for ambushes. For now safety meant traveling with the merchant.

During the first four days the caravan covered less distance than he’d expected. Each night they set their tent apart from the others and took their turn standing watch with the armsmen.

Brader watched the man who had raised his suspicions but he had never made a wrong move. Brader scratched his head. He must have been mistaken. In two or three days he and Disa would leave the caravan. He’d kept their plans a secret even from the merchant.

Disa edged her pony closer. “Are thee sure all is well? I thought I saw someone lurking in the forest.”

Brader scanned the tall trees and the tangled undergrowth. He saw nothing. “Perhaps thee saw sunlight through the canopy or the wind shifting the branches. Look at the dense growth and the narrowness of the road. There’s no room for an attack unless the attackers are archers. Even then the wagons would give protection.”

“Are thee sure?”

“Fairly so, but there’s no harm in remaining alert. We’ll be leaving soon to take a different route.”

“What if we’re followed?”

He drew a deep breath. “Then we’ll fight.”

“Can we win without me using the Jewel?”

“Depends on how many men we face.”

At dusk they reached a large camping place. As usual Brader set their tent apart from the others. A short time later a large covered wagon arrived from the opposite direction. Disa began preparing their meal. Brader strode toward the pump to fill buckets of water. The man who had raised his suspicions stood at the trough and spoke to the driver of the newly arrived wagon.

Brader halted. He knew the driver. He had fought that sargon during his and Liara’s flight. Brader turned to warn Disa. Then he saw a double hand of men jump from the rear of the recent arrival. 

“Ware.” He drew his sword.

The sargon leaped the trough and confronted Brader. “We meet again. This time I know your tricks. I will win.”

Brader raised his sword and countered the other man’s attack. Did the sargon still fight in the manner of the Queen’s Guards or had he learned to modify his actions? Soon Brader was too busy to think of anything but the fight. The sound of steel sliding and clanging against steel, the shouts, grunts and screams of the fighters filled the air.

With a lunge Brader knocked the sargon’s sword aside and thrust his knife into the man’s belly. The former Queen’s Guard staggered and fell. Brader turned to help the caravan armsmen repel the attackers. The man he’d suspected of being a traitor was gone. Had he been killed or had he fled?
Brader engaged in another duel. Finally the last of the attackers had been subdued or had fled. Brader returned to the tent he shared with Disa. Empty. He found to trace of her. He grabbed one of the wounded attackers. “My companion. Where is she?” Rage filled him. He shook the man. His hands grasped the man’s throat. “Tell me.”

“Wizard paid for her.”

Brader clenched his jaw. Though he felt the need to kill, he couldn’t. “Where is your camp?”