Tag Archives: New Release

Children’s Illustrated Books

I have joined 28 authors to promote the Children’s Books and Art on Book Funnel. Check them out to find some fun and delightful books for your kids, grandkids, or relatives.

Click the link to browse. I hope you’ll find some interesting books.

https://books.bookfunnel.com/moreillustratedbooks/rrevjw42o3

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If you’re interested in promoting your children’s books, here is the link for the sales promotion. There are other promotions also on the left panel of this page.

https://dashboard.bookfunnel.com/bundles/board/hbxp5c30k5

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The Making of Tina Lost in a Crowd – Recap

During the New Release Tour last week, I shared a segment of The Making of Tina Lost in a Crowd on each day. Even though I had produced children’s literature as a full-time job in the past, making this book was the first time I orchestrated the entire production by myself with online services along the process. It was an adventure and a valuable experience. I recorded when and how things were done and documented it each step of the way. When I planned for the book release tour, I wanted to share something about the book with you. By the time I finished preparing, it covered the writing, editing, illustrating, formatting, and publishing.

My wonderful hosts not only hosting the tour but also reviewing the book. I’m so grateful for your tremendous support. Many of you had followed along the tour to cheer on. Some of you related your experiences about being lost as a child or losing your child briefly when he/she was a kid. I shared with you I got lost in a cathedral on a Spain tour a few years ago. Every tour group looked the same to me. I was afraid that they left without me. Fortunately, I spotted my 6’4″ husband and hurried to rejoin the group, pretending nothing had happened.

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I would like to share with you this recap of the seven parts of Tina Lost in a Crowd with an introduction.

Why I Write Children’s Book?

My experience of writing the children’s books was when, at age 26, I worked in Hong Kong as the Director of Children’s Department at Asian Outreach, which was a Christian literature publication company. They hired me to design and write children’s magazine for the fourth to sixth grades students. I modeled after a well-established local children’s magazine and wrote stories with Christian values.

This was the process we went through to publish the children’s magazines:

It was exciting to see my first magazine in print coming back to our office. I published four children’s magazines before leaving the office to come to the US.

The experience of working at the Asian Outreach was a great asset to my current publication of the children’s books.

The Making of Tina Lost in a Crowd

Part 1 – When Did I Write the Tina Lost in a Crowd?

In 2006, I took an online writing course at the Institute of Children’s Literature for a year. An instructor corresponded with me to provide feedback and suggestions on my assignments and revisions. The Institute also provided the marketing tools and an annual catalogue of 800 magazines accepting submissions. The goal of the course was to have my essays published.

The Institute suggested the children’s literature writers to observe the children. If the writers were not teachers or adults with young children at home, they could volunteer at the organizations such as library or Boy/Girl Scouts to get a first-hand experience to understand their behaviors and language.

At the time of taking the writing course, my interaction with the elementary school students was still fresh in my mind.

There were many fun memories of activities with my daughter, Mercy. I combined one story about Mercy, my understanding of the children’s behaviors, and the writing skills to write my first assignment entitled “Tina Goes to Hollywood Bowl.”

I kept the stories written during this course in a folder for many years. Early in year 2020, during the lockdown, I revised the Tina story to prepare for publication.

Part 2 – The Story Behind the Story Tina Lost in a Crowd

The story of Tina Lost in a Crowd is partly based on fact. When my daughter Mercy was eight years old, my sister Yolanda, her husband Patrick, and their son Enoch, who was Mercy’s age, came from Hong Kong to visit us. We took them on tours in northern and southern California. One activity was going to a concert at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. I drove the five of us to Rowland Heights Regional Park, then we took the Park & Ride bus to the Hollywood Bowl.

The sky was dark with bright stars when the concert started. Mercy and Enoch swayed side to side when they listened to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and smiled at each other. During the intermission, Patrick left his seat to buy some popcorn. Mercy and Enoch wanted to use the restroom. Yolanda and I urged them to catch up with Patrick.

Later, when Patrick came back without them, I panicked. Imagine losing 8-year-old kids in a crowd of 18,000 people. How would I find them? Yolanda and Patrick stayed in their seats while

I followed the descending steps between the sections of seats to where I thought they could had gone.

I found them standing against a wall! It was such a relief, but I was curious about what made them stand there. “Were you scared?” I asked them.

“Not too scared,” Mercy said, “I learned from the Girl Scouts that if I get lost, I should stay at one spot to wait for the adults to find me.”

This was one of my fondest memories. I asked Mercy, “Should I write a story about this experience?” She answered me with no hesitance, “Of course!”

Part 3 – The Ideas and Messages of the Story

Did you like Aesop’s Fables? I did when I was a child. When I read them to my students, they would shout with me at the end of the fable “the moral of the lesson is…”

Other than Aesop’s Fable, most of the children’s books don’t spell out the lessons. In fact, even when the story has a message for children, it doesn’t need to make it loud and clear. The children are reading the story to have fun.

There are ideas and messages in Tina Lost in a Crowd: Tina took part in decision making for the summer activities such as swimming and a sleepover. She asked permission to invite her friend to go to the concert. She made a right decision when she and Erica got lost in a crowd, which was a safety issue.

Children are smart, they read for fun, and they learn the messages on their own term. It would be interesting to have a discussion with the children after they read a book.

Part 4 – Fine Tuning the Text for a Read-Aloud Book

When I revisited the Tina story, I wanted to do a picture book for easy readers of age five to nine. My research shows the word count for this grade-level range is 50-2,500 words. The final word count for this book is 2,000 words.

Tina Lost in a Crowd is a dialogue-based story. I used dialogue to show the plot, the relationship between all the characters, the actions, and emotions of the speakers.

Writers write picture books in a series of scenes, and each of which can be illustrated. Initially, I divided the content into sixteen scenes for the illustration, and the final story has twenty scenes. In this book, the text coordinates with the illustration. In fact, I wrote detailed descriptions to my illustrator so that even the gestures of the characters reflect the content. For instance, the character points at the sky in the illustration, and the text says: “Look at the stars…”. When reading the story, the readers can also refer to the details of the illustration.

The main character, Tina, finished third grade going to fourth grade. I remember my third-grade students with different reading levels. Among the third-grade students, there are easy to advance readers. Many of my students at this grade level still read picture books. According to grade level standards, they should have mastered the skills of “learning to read” and ready for “reading to learn” in the upper grades. Many third-grade students would find fun reading this book with perhaps a couple unfamiliar words such as Tchaikovsky and silhouette.

When I sent the manuscript to my editor, I let her know this book is for “reading to” and “reading with” children by the adults, as well as “reading by” the children independently. The flow of the text is good for a read-aloud book.

Part 5 – Finding an Illustrator

I’m a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). On one blog post, it featured an illustrator and her work. I liked the style of her artworks, so I contacted her and got an idea of how much she would charge for the number of pages in my book and how long it would take to complete the job.

Some blogging friends recommended some websites with illustration services, and I checked them out. The illustrators charged by hours. They didn’t have a portfolio with sample artworks, so I couldn’t tell if I liked their style.

After much search and consideration, my decision was to search for an illustrator on fiverr.com. I could see the services they provide and their sample work. Some would provide limited, and some unlimited revisions.

I do watercolor painting and wish to illustrate my book, but I don’t do portrait painting. There are thousands of gigs out there, and it would take forever to scroll through all the pages to find one. I narrowed it down to watercolor, and children’s illustration, and got 660 services. It took me six months to find one I liked. I paid for one sample page and when I ordered the rest, it became part of my entire book.

After I accepted the sample page, I sent the story summary and the description of each page to her. Usually, she sent me a few sketches at a time. I gave her my feedback and suggestions. She revised them and sent them to me. Sometimes I respected her creativity and approved them. But if they didn’t correspond with the story, I asked for revisions until they were done to my satisfaction. It was a pleasant experience working with Victoria Skakandi.

Part 6 – Formatting a Picture Book, Illustrated Children’s Book

There are boxes of children’s books in the storage from my teaching days. I picked about ten books to study how they positioned the images and text. Some have bleed (the images flow over to the margin) and some without bleed. Some pages have text without images, and some have text layered over the images. My conclusion was to have the book fully illustrated with bleed, and have the text inserted over the images.

Formatting a picture book with bleed is a different story than without bleed. So, I hired a designer to do the job. He could insert the text for me, but I had a preference of the appearance.

After I received the pages of illustration from Victoria, I inserted one layer of white rectangular shape with round corner, then inserted another layer of text over the shape.

When I finished inserting the text, I created a file with the pages in a correct sequence for the designer to use as a reference. Then I sent this reference file and all the pages of the illustration to him to format for eBook and print book according to the requirements of Amazon and Barns & Nobel.

Note: I skipped many technical details. I can answer your questions if you’re interested.

Part 7 – Publish the Book on Amazon and Barns & Nobles

Amazon and Nobles have different formatting guidelines to publish the books. I would have been happy to have the book on Amazon alone. But I wanted to have a hardcover version. It’s good to have a hardcover version for young children, for the school libraries and public libraries. Personally, I wanted to have a hardcover version of this book.

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) only has eBook and paperback, doesn’t have the option to publish hardcover books. Barns & Nobles has eBook, paperback, and hardcover. For this reason, I published the eBook and paperback on Amazon, and eBook and hardcover on Barns & Nobles. I may inquire if the local B&N would carry my book.

Will I Write More Children’s Book?

As I mentioned on the first day of this Book Tour that I took a writing course at the Institute of Children’s Literature and wrote many stories. Tina Lost in a Crowd was the first story I revised and published. There are several stories based on my daughter Mercy’s activities as a child. I’ll revise them as the “Tina” stories.

There were other children’s stories in my folder, as well as new ideas for the children’s books. I’ll keep these options open.

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Thank you for reading this recap.

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Tina Lost in a Crowd – #3 on Amazon Hot New Releases

I woke up with this exciting news. My debut children’s eBook Tina Lost in a Crowd was #3, then #2 and now is #1 on the Amazon Hot New Releases! It’s from #50 to #22 on the Top 100 Paid Best Sellers. Thank you for your pre-order (I think the pre-order counts)!

I just received the proof copy of the paperback from Amazon. It looks good. It’ll be ready for purchasing on April 15.

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My First Children’s Book and Cover Reveal

I’m excited to announce that my debut children’s book Tina Lost in a Crowd will be published on April 15 and is available for preorder. The paperback will also be available. I’ll share with you the making of the book during the book release.

On Amazon, the eBook is $1.99 from preorder to the end of April. The paperback will be $6.95 from April 15th to the end of April.

The Hardcover and eBook will be available on Barns & Noble later.

I’m grateful for Bette A. Stevens, Pete Springer, Robbie Cheadle, and Denise Finn who were tremendously helpful in the process. They generously gave me detailed feedback and suggestions beyond my expectations.

The Book Release Tour will be from Monday, April 19 to Sunday, April 25. I’m thankful for the friends who will help to host the tour. I will post their links and invite you to visit the tour.

If you are interested in helping me to host a tour, please email me at mhurdle7@gmail.com, or comment below with your preferred date.

Here is the book cover of Tina Lost in a Crowd.

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Why I Write Children’s Book

My experience of writing the children’s books was when, at age 26, I worked in Hong Kong as the Director of Children’s Department at Asian Outreach, which was a Christian literature publication company. They recruited me to design and write children’s magazines for the third grade and higher students. I modeled after a well-established local children’s magazine and wrote stories with Christian values.

This was the process we went through to publish the children’s magazines:

  • I set the themes of each issue and wrote the stories, games, word puzzles, and riddles.
  • My boss, David who was the Director of Asian Outreach edited the contents.
  • I worked with the supervisor, Martin and the illustrator, Isaac in the Art Department on the illustration design. It was exciting to see the pages from sketches to the completed products. They were creative and artistic. On one story about the farm animals, they took the stuffed animals to a village area, used the village as the background to film the sequence of the story. I had fun going to the darkroom watching the photos being developed.
  • I worked with the typesetter who did the typesetting in Chinese.
  • Back in the late 1970s, there was no digital design. When the artists finished with the drawings, the typesetter would type according to dimension of space for the text and printed out the words. Isaac cut and pasted them to flow with the artworks. Then he took photograph of each page and sent the negatives to the print shop to ordered the “blueprint” which was the same size with multiple pages as the blue print for buildings.
  • When the blueprint came back, I proofread the text, the artists proofread the artworks, and the manager ordered the printing of the magazines.

It was exciting to see my first magazine in print coming back to our office. I published four children’s magazines before leaving the office to come to the US.

The experience of working at Asian Outreach was a great asset to my current publication of the children’s books.

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Welcome to Day 9 of “THE ENIGMA THREAT” Release Blog Tour! @enigmaseries @1rburkey @4WillsPub @4WP11 @RRBC_Org #RRBC

I’m delighted to Welcome Breakfield and Burkey to Day 9 of “THE ENIGMA THREAT” Release Blog Tour! @enigmaseries @1rburkey @4WillsPub @4WP11 @RRBC_Org #RRBC

Please leave a comment to win:

(1) $25 Amazon Gift card

(10) e-book copies of the “shorts” in the Enigma Series

I invited my guests to introduce themselves and their book to you.

We want to talk about our inspiration for writing.

The paradox about being a writer is that you must be a reader as well. Inspiration for Breakfield and Burkey comes from the daily consumption of written words for work and pleasure, as well as thoughts from other writers and podcasters. 

Each of us receives a daily stream of material for blog posts, correspondence from colleagues, technical presentations from vendors, and books from other authors. We read, listen, and see a great deal of material during our work week. We use these three media types then aggregate the data onto the idea conveyor belt that feeds our imaginations. Current events from streaming media, voice actor audio reviews, reading reviews on our work, and non-technical publications discussing world economics or security are all excellent sources of ideas for our storylines.

Each of these informational feeds provides a level of research snippets into the real world. These are not like deep-dive research with cross-checking you might require for a historical novel, but they often capture our imaginations and drive us to research further. This is especially true with emerging technologies we are exposed to for solving our customers’ problems. 

A perfect example of real-world input that impacts one of our novels was the buzz around cryptocurrencies, built on the underlying blockchain technology. This is a complex subject that is applied in multiple ways. However, we were interested in all the speculation of the various currencies, which made us do some more in-depth research into the history of it and how each operates.

As this was in progress, we started looking at the vulnerabilities blockchain has around cryptocurrency applications.  Finally, we explored how their adoption in different locations around the world would affect our global economy.  After we completed that research, we launched into the fictional aspects of what could happen when the cyber bad guys drive toward their specific agenda of power and greed. 

We then took this research a step further to create an intriguing story of competing cryptocurrency providers. We introduced bad actors from the Darknet that had motives of corruption, power, greed, and control. Voilà, you have the concept of our TechnoThriller, story The Enigma Source.  See how easy that was? J

Admittedly cryptocurrency is an easy technology to find greed lurking nearby. Money and materialism tend to work together. The whole focus of artificial intelligence and machine learning captured our attention as more vendors were offering solutions with those technical capabilities at the foundation. The promise of we’ll do that for you sounds the alarm bells in our minds. The evolution of technology takes aspects and then builds upon them to be more and do more.

Machine learning is best accomplished with oodles of data to learn from. We have that in bulk with social media today. Think about the content of social media. If this is being used as the classroom for artificial intelligence, what is it learning? If the computer creators using these capabilities goals are misaligned to societal norms, then the end game could be unexpected.

We took this as the foundational basis for our newest story, The Enigma Threat. This book has cyber heroes battling cyber thugs from the Darknet, both with supercomputers as resources doing their bidding. It is a battle of wits from machines, some have guardrails, and some do not. You’ll need to read to learn all the details or listen as the ebook, paperback, and audible will be available on January 8th, 2021. We also have launched a Kickstarter campaign to help start work on a screenplay for this book. We invite you to check it out to support or share it with your friends. The campaign has additional information about the story and a book trailer you might enjoy.

Make no mistake, we are inspired by the world around us and the technology we use to live, work and play.

Book Information

BLURB:

In the new digital world, there is no tolerance for privately owned supercomputers. Globally, computers are hunted and destroyed for the greater good, by the new cyber police CESPOOL. The information this group receives is manipulated by subversive hidden machine learning devices, the MAG running on the dark net.

Judith and Xiamara are freebooters who steal machine time for their PaaS, porn as a service business. The machine they chose for delivery is the last untapped supercomputer not in the hands of a sovereign. Their activity is spotted by the MAG, but the renegade R-Group steps in to alter the outcome. Leroy teams up with Zara to help these opportunists escape prosecution. They are drafted as reluctant participants in the fight.

Jacob and Quip are trapped in the Chihuahuan Desert trying to reconstruct the base of ICABOD’s logic core. The stress of their isolation is taking a toll. Their wives and children are safe in Brazil for the time being, but Interpol is prowling for answers.

The R-Group has assembled a way to communicate with orphaned satellites. While the next R-Group plans the ultimate honey pot to trap their nemesis who is driving their corrupted agenda. The odds are against R-Group’s success, but they have creative surprises on their side.

The stakes have never been higher. The R-Group young and old must rise to defeat the MAG.

Video Teaser

About the Authors

BIO:

Breakfield is a 25+ year technology expert in security, networking, voice, and anything digital. He enjoys writing, studying World War II history, travel, and cultural exchanges. He’s also a fan of wine tastings, winemaking, Harley riding, cooking extravaganzas, and woodworking.

Burkey is a 25+ year applied technology professional who excels at optimizing technology and business investments. She works with customers all over the world focusing on optimized customer experiences. She writes white papers and documentation, but found she has a marked preference for writing fiction.

Together they create award-winning stories that resonate with males and females, as well as young and experienced adults. They bring a fresh new view to technology possibilities today.

Contact the Authors

Email:            Authors@EnigmaSeries.com

Website:       www.EnigmaBookSeries.com

Blog:              https://EnigmaBookSeries.com/the-enigma-chronicles/category/blog-statement/

Connect and follow on Social Media: 

LinkedIn:      https://www.linkedin.com/in/charlesbreakfield  and

https://www.linkedin.com/in/roxanneburkey

Twitter:        https://twitter.com/EnigmaSeries  

and https://twitter.com/1RBurkey

Facebook:    https://www.facebook.com/TheEnigmaSeries/

YouTube:           https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6Vz4x5ctTnx3yUhZk1OJkw

Pinterest:     https://www.pinterest.com/enigmseries/

Instagram:    https://www.instagram.com/enigmabookseries/

Bublish:         https://bublish.com/author/breakfieldandburkey

RRBC:            https://ravereviewsbookclub.wordpress.com/about-breakfield-burkey-enigmaseries-rrbc-rrbc_community/

To follow along with the rest of the tour, please visit the authors’ tour pageon the 4WillsPublishing site.  If you’d like to book your own blog tour and have your book promoted in similar grand fashion, please clickHEREThanks for supporting these authors and their work!

New Release – Ghostly Interference by Jan Sikes

Hello! My friends and visitors! Welcome to my blog!

I’m excited to have Jan Sikes here today. It’s my pleasure to share with you the great news of her new release. The holiday is upon us and her book is the best holiday gift ever! Please join me to welcome Jan.

Hi Jan! What an honor to have you as my guest today. Please tell us about your new book.

Hi, Miriam! Thank you for sharing your blog space with me today so that I can talk about my new book. I deeply appreciate it!

One of the scenes in Ghostly Interference included Jag Peters purchasing a book of poetry for Rena Jett. He wanted something that would help comfort, and start the healing process after losing her brother, Sam Jett, in the war in Afghanistan.

As I am sure you know, you cannot quote someone else’s work within your own body of work. So, I had to create a poem to include in a specific scene.

I had to do the same thing with song lyrics as you also cannot quote someone else’s song lyrics within your work without their written permission. With the song lyrics, I only had to create lines, not the whole song.

Excerpt 1: Poetry

She filled her coffee cup and sat down at the table. The poetry book Jag had bought her lay at one end and she reached for it, lightly running her fingers over the cover.

The book fell open to a poem entitled “Next to You.”

          You cannot see me or touch me

          But I’m standing next to you

          Your tears can only hurt me

          Your sadness makes me blue

          Be brave and show a smiling face

          Let not your grief show through

          I love you from a different place

          Yes, I’m standing next to you.

As she read the words, tears flowed. “Oh Sam,” she whispered. “You’re here. I just know it. But I can’t help but wish your body was here too. You’d get along great with Jag, even though he’s very different from us. He said he loves me and I think I’m falling for him too.”

Excerpt 2 – Song Lyrics:

The years of working at Granite Technology seemed like an eternity ago. Quitting that job was perhaps the best thing he’d ever done.

Almost colliding with Rena had been totally out of his control and yet a life changing event so big he could never have imagined it.

How could he not have known he needed something more than just the job security and safe circle of family and friends? And yet someone somewhere in the Universe knew.

Knew that he and Rena Jett needed each other. He was grateful that their two worlds had collided. Grateful for divine intervention.

Inspired, he reached for pen and paper. With one hand on the keys and the other holding the pen, he composed the beginning of a tender love song.

“I didn’t know I needed you. I didn’t have a clue. I imagined I was happy, but my window had no view…”

Hours passed before he stopped and stretched. He flipped the switch and covered the instrument.

Excerpt 3:

“Let me hear you sing something. I’ve got a feeling you have a good voice.”

“Okay. I’m more than a little nervous, but I’ll give it a shot. I’ll sing something I wrote just the other day.”

Damien raised his eyebrows. “You write too? That’s fantastic. Let me hear it.”

Jag avoided looking at Damien while he played and sang the song he’d written for Rena. He tagged the ending. “And you can’t see tomorrow through yesterday’s eyes.”

Damien clapped. “Oh hell! That was great! Do you have more? I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging, but I can get them heard by some heavy-hitters if you’re interested.”

“I’ve written quite a few over the years. I hadn’t thought of trying to do anything with them. I just write to express my feelings.”

“That’s all any of us do. With every song I write, every guitar lick I play and every performance, I give a little of myself away. That’s what music is. And the key to the whole deal is making people feel it. Then they become a part of the song and a part of you.”

“That’s beautiful, Damien.” He stared at the man who’d walked into his life.

Damien laughed. “Don’t get too serious on me. But it’s true. Hey, let’s play some more.”

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Have you ever had to create poems or song lyrics to weave into your stories? I’d love for you to share it in the comment if you have.

You’re so talented, Jan. You not only write books, but poems, and song lyrics also. I loved the excerpts you included here.

Here is the book information.

Book Blurb 

Jag Peters has one goal in his quiet comfortable life—to keep his karma slate wiped clean. A near-miss crash with a candy apple red Harley threatens to upend his safe world. He tracks down the rider to apologize properly. Slipping into a seedy biker bar, he discovers the rider isn’t a “he”, it’s a “she”, a dark-haired beauty.

Rena Jett is a troubled soul, who lives in a rough world. She wants no part of Jag’s apology, but even while she pushes him away, she is attracted to him. When he claims to see a ghost—her brother—can she trust him? And could her brother’s final gift, a magical rune stone with the symbol for “happily ever after” have the power to heal her wounds and allow opposites to find common ground—perhaps even love?

Book Trailer

Book Purchase Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Ghostly-Interference-White-Rune-Sikes-ebook/dp/B08KW1KFMW/

Barns & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/ghostly-interference-jan-sikes/1137871003?

About the Author

Jan has an impressive writing history. Here is a nippit of her accomplishment.

Social Media Links

http://www.jansikes.com

https://jansikesblog.com/

https://www.twitter.com/jansikes3

http://www.facebook.com/AuthorJanSikesBooks

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00CS9K8DK  (Author Page)

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New Release of Lords of Chaos by Diana Wallace Peach

Hot off the press! I’m excited to let you know that Diana W. Peach has a new release of Lords of Chaos (Unraveling the Veil Book 3).

A New Novelist's Dream Come True - Almost An Author

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First, Diana shared with us the story behind the journey of writing this series:

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When I started this series, back in July of 2018, I had no idea that I’d be finishing it up in late October of 2020, a year later than planned.

I couldn’t have imagined that my parents’ health would take a nose dive with E.coli, heart attacks, and a stroke. Nor that the world would be dealing with a rampaging virus and all the associated anxiety. Who knew that Chaos would become the order of the day – on and off the page?

But writing is about perseverance, determination, patience. Those who’ve finished books, regardless of the everyday chaos in their lives, know what I’m talking about. There’s no easy path up the mountain, and sometimes the journey becomes strenuous. There are cramps. There are blisters. We’re grubby and worn out when we get to top. But what a breathtaking view!

So here I stand at the top of my little summit, enjoying the sunshine and leafing through the latest book. Lords of Chaos finishes up the Unraveling the Veil series. I wonder what awaits me on the other side.

Now, let’s learn more about Lord of Chaos.

Amazon Purchase Link


The Blurb

In this thrilling conclusion to the Unraveling the Veil series, tensions mount and war looms.

After saving the changeling queen from a savage death, a second sworn oath sends Naj, Alue, and Talin to the mine where the first disappearances set the wheels of anarchy in motion. But it’s not the renders of Kalann il Drakk, the First of Chaos, who confront them in the blackness of the collapsed tunnels. It’s another foe, no less deadly.

When brutality strikes in the stone cells of the Authority, accusations and blame splinter trust. The fragile threads of loyalty that once bound the companions together on an impossible mission fray. The alliance finally breaks.

Naj, a goblin mage and traitor, returns to Jad’ra, determined to defend his home. With nothing to lose, Talin retreats to the changelings’ jungle to find his queen a stranger and his city on the verge of burning. Alue journeys to the Riverlands on a hopeless quest to enlist the aid of the elfin king.

All the while, the First of Chaos gloats. For only as allies will his three adversaries prevail. Above the hall of the First, the Veil vanishes before the truth. The hordes of chaos descend on the known land, and the final battle begins.

Continue to read more about the series at Myths of the Mirror

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Allies and Spies by Diana W. Peach Released

Allies and Spies, Book 2 of the Unraveling the Veil Trilogy is now available on Kindle.

Allies and Spies

Trust is as thin as a blade’s edge. Secrets abound. And no one is who they seem. Kalann il Drakk, the First of Chaos, makes a bargain with his brethren, in which the future of civilization hangs in the balance.

Thrust together by a sacred oath, a halfbreed goblin, a misfit elf, and a changeling spy unite in an uneasy alliance. But their mission to learn the truth of the strange disappearances must wait—for they owe a blood debt to the changeling queen.

In the Raveen Mountains, the cornerstones of Naj’s life crumble. Goblins assemble a massive shipment of crystals for the Borderland—enough to power Ka Radiff for a decade or, with a single spark, blow it apart.

In the elfin Riverlands, Alue learns of the clandestine Coalition. Rumors whisper of a vast conspiracy. But that knowledge pales in comparison to a startling revelation that shatters the foundations of her life.

When a dead goblin turns up on the slopes beneath the Veil, Talin has no choice but to admit to changeling crimes. The tenuous alliance falters. Treachery runs deep and wide. And in the changelings’ jungle, the queen releases her venom. The ground fractures. And only the truth about il Drakk’s cruel designs has the power to spare their lives.

Please head over to congratulate Diana W. Peach for her new release…

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New Release of War of Nytefall: Ravenous by Charles Yallowitz

It’s with great pleasure I welcome Charles Yallowitz to my blog today to celebrate his new release of War of Nytefall: Ravenous.

I’ll let Charles tell you all about Volume 5 of the War of Nytefall series, and more.

The world of the Dawn Fangs is about to explode into chaos thanks to Desirae Duvall.

Cover Art by Alison Hunt

Blurb:

In the shadows of Windemere, fangs are sprouting from the least likely of maws.

News is spreading that wild beasts with vampiric natures have been attacking mortals and carrying off random victims.  With the Dawn Fangs still a secret from mortal society, Clyde fears that these strange creatures will reveal his peoples’ existence before they are ready.  Old enemies and trusted friends begin to disappear as the investigation goes deeper into a business that has been lurking in the shadows of Windemere for decades.  Those who return are beholden to a new master whose cunning is matched only by her primal desires.  As his allies disappear, Clyde is left with the one he trusts the most in all of the world to help him solve this mystery.  Too bad Mab has her own secret that can cause more damage to Nytefall than any vampiric beast.

Is this how the Dawn Fangs will be revealed to Windemere?

Still need more to wet your appetite? Then enjoy this excerpt:

Titus shrugs the girl off his shoulders and grips his blades, but refuses to draw them to avoid causing a scene. The warriors around him are on edge from overhearing Lost’s words and seeing his reaction, but they follow his example and keep their weapons sheathed. The Vengeance Hounds know that it is only a matter of time before the mortals with weaker wills lose control and drive the others into panic. They can hear the rumors of a deadly beast stalking the hunting party ripple through the crowd, each telling more gruesome and bone-chilling than the previous version. Several warriors ignore the warnings of their companions and draw their weapons, but keep them out of sight. Two of the casters begin to chant, which is revealed by the sparkle of magic on their lips. One by one, the lines of warriors stop walking and assume various defensive formations. Frustrated by the collapse of her army, the priestess turns around and tries to assure everyone that they are safe. Standing in the middle of the blossoming chaos, the Vengeance Hounds can only watch as the woman loses her temper and shouts at the archers who were supposed to maintain control.

The warriors go silent when a booming roar erupts from above and a large shadow passes over the area. With a gurgling scream, the priestess collapses in a heap and stares unblinking at the sky. The archers move away from the drooling woman, whose breathing has stopped as if she has been instantly turned off. Landing in front of the hunting party, a crimson-scaled Verenstone Dragon unfurls its muscular tails with one to each side and the other arching over its reptilian head. The thick ridge of black hair going down its back rustles and shivers in the breeze, which heats up as the monster bellows once more. Curled against its side are wings composed entirely of blue flame that licks at the trampled grass, but they are not hot enough to ignite the emerald blades. Leaning forward, the terrifying predator sniffs at the braindead priestess and chuckles before swallowing the body whole. In the brief moment that its mouth is open wide, the Vengeance Hounds notice that two of its teeth are changing as if they are stretching out of the gums. The plaque-covered ivory is curved in a way that makes it clear that they are fangs and the beast is in desperate need of a fresh meal. Its eyes scan the mortals and stop on the three Dawn Fangs for a moment, but it is enough to tell them that the cunning creature recognizes their true nature.

“A vampiric dragon,” Titus mutters under his breath.

Get War of Nytefall: Ravenous on Amazon for $2.99!
Add it to your Goodreads To-Read Lists!

*****

Need to catch up? Then, check out Volumes 1-4 of War of Nytefall!

Cover Art by Alison Hunt

Interested in more Windemere?  Then don’t forget to check out Charles E. Yallowitz’s first series: Legends of Windemere

All Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

About the Author:

Charles Yallowitz was born and raised on Long Island, NY, but he has spent most of his life wandering his own imagination in a blissful haze. Occasionally, he would return from this world for the necessities such as food, showers, and Saturday morning cartoons. One day he returned from his imagination and decided he would share his stories with the world. After spending many years fiddling with his thoughts and notebooks, he decided that it was time to follow his dream of being a fantasy author. So, locked within the house with only pizza and seltzer to sustain him, Charles brings you tales from the world of Windemere. He looks forward to sharing all of his stories with you and drawing you into a world of magic.

Blog: www.legendsofwindemere.com
Twitter: @cyallowitz
Facebook: Charles Yallowitz
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cyallowitz/

Enjoy the adventure by clicking here!

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Book Launch: Against All Odds by Jacqui Murray

My dear friends, please help me welcome Jacqui Murray, a prehistoric fiction author, to my blog.

Jacqui and I haven’t officially met but we may run into each other on the same beach when the pandemic is over. It is my pleasure to host the book launch party for Jacqui’s new release of Against All Odds, Book 3 in the Crossroad trilogy.

 

1.Against All Odds

I’m glad you all are here for the party. Help yourself with some drinks and dessert!!

                             A surprise book launch party • A Subtle Revelry    Summer cocktails: 10 party drinks for a crowd | Food | The Guardian

Glorious Layered Desserts Book Launch Party - Glorious Treats

I invited Jacqui to share with me about the prehistoric people.

How do you know Xhosa’s People are as smart as they seem in this book?                 

A study published in the journal Nature Human Behavior places the appearance of human-like ways of thinking with the emergence of Homo erectus. The complex thought required to create their stone tools (called Acheulean) and their functional variety (which includes cutters, choppers, handaxes, cleavers, flakes, and scrapers) have long inspired many paleoanthropologists to believe Homo erectus was smart. A 2017 study that mapped student brains while they recreated these tools revealed that this work required the ability to “hold in mind” information—much as you and I do to plan complete complex tasks. “The fact that these more advanced forms of cognition were required to create Acheulean hand axes … means the date for this more humanlike type of cognition can be pushed back to at least 1.8 million years ago …” [Indiana University. “‘Humanlike’ ways of thinking evolved 1.8 million years ago.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 May 2017]                   

Not definitive but interesting!                                                                                                           

Convince me they communicate effectively with gestures, body movements, and facial expressions.                        

I get this a lot. Let me give you two examples. First, have you ever been around someone who doesn’t speak your language and still, the two of you communicate? It’s probably via hand gestures, body movements, and facial expressions. Much can be said without voices.

Second, think of sign language. Sophisticated ideas are communicated with hands and facial expressions around the world daily. That’s how Xhosa and her kind did it.

I’m surprised by the sophistication and cleverness of some of their actions. Would you tell me more?             

Homo erectus could pass as a modern man dressed properly and if the viewer carried no precognitions about what he expected. But he lacked many of the social constructs we take for granted. Because these traits don’t fossilize, we extrapolate what life was like from artifacts like their sophisticated tools.                                                                   

A recent study out of Gesher Benot Ya’aqov (in the Levant) provides evidence that in that part of Eurasia, Homo erectus lived in a camp—called a homebase—with divided work areas for toolmaking and consumption located near a hearth. These are traits associated with our modern lifestyle and now are found over half a million years ago.

Thank you, Jacqui!

I’ve read your interesting post about writing, Jacqui. Thank you for sending it to me to post it here.

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Writing Quirks That Suck the Energy Out of Your Writing By Jacqui Murray

Writing

An efriend writer originally published this as a guest post on their blog to help me launch Against All Odds August 2020. In case you missed it there, here are my anecdotal thoughts on how to add drama to your story:

Keeping your fiction active and engaging is as much about how you tell the story as it is about plot and setting. You must write sentences that pull readers in, keep them engaged while you maintain a reasonable pace and are clear enough that the reader doesn’t find himself/herself re-reading or trying to figure out what you’re saying.

When my novel bogs down, here are five constructs that are often the culprit. I keep each discussion short. If you would like to dig deeper, there are many great writing websites and books that make that possible:

Passive voice

According to Grammarly:

“Passive voice is when the noun being acted upon is made the subject of the sentence.”

Passive voice moves readers out of the action and puts them in a safe place to the side of the action. They become unaffected by the action and the plot, more of an observer. That’s deadly for a story. We want readers sitting in the middle of events, worried everything will blow up around them. Plus, passive voice often weakens the clarity of what’s being written.

Solution: Rephrase the sentence so that the action noun becomes part of the subject. For example:

Wrong: The grass has been scorched by the wild fire.

Right: The wild fire scorched the grass.

Too many prepositional phrases

Prepositional phrases add interesting information to the story but must be managed. If you have too many in a sentence, 1) the reader loses track of what you’re trying to say, or 2) the sentence becomes unnecessarily convoluted.

Look at these examples from the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Writing Center:

Unnecessary phrase: The opinion of the manager
Correction: The manager’s opinion

Unnecessary phrase: The obvious effect of such a range of reference is to assure the audience of the author’s range of learning and intellect.
Correction: The wide-ranging references in this talk assure the audience that the author is intelligent and well-read.

Do you notice how the prepositional phrases make the text wordy and choppy? It’s worth noting that the Chicago Manual of Style recommends the use of only one preposition per ten-fifteen words.

Solution: 1) Delete the prepositional phrase. Does the story lose anything? 2) Break the sentence into multiple sentences. 3) Use active voice instead of passive. 

Qualifying words

According to The Writing Center at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill:

“Qualifiers… are words or phrases that are added to another word to modify its meaning (He was somewhat busy; the dog was sort of cute). Qualifiers give … clues about how confident you feel about the information you’re presenting. …excessive use of qualifiers can make you sound unsure of your facts….”

Qualifying words include a bit, little, fairly, highly, kind of, mostly, rather, really, slightly, sort of, appeared to, and seemed to. They don’t draw a line that when crossed, creates drama. They equivocate which weakens your story and your message.

Solution: Replace these words with decisive ones. Take a stand.

Had

The past perfect tense is a menace to the creation of drama in your writing. It can be spotted, most of the time, by looking for the word had:

“She had been frightened and then had run away.”

We find out that she once was frightened but now she isn’t. It removes the stress of whatever frightened her because we know she’s safe. But as writers, we want readers to wonder if she’s going to fall off that cliff. ‘Had’ just sucked all that drama from the story.

Solution: Let readers feel the drama and then the solution. 

Participles and Gerunds

According to Purdue’s Online Writing Lab, “a gerund is a verb that ends with -ing (such as dancing, flying, etc.) and functions as a noun.” … A participle also ends in -ing but forms the progressive tense of a verb. When you have too many of either in one sentence, readers lose track of the action and the meaning.  As a writer, I know they sap the energy from my writing but I couldn’t find a grammar rule to explain why. Susan B. Weiner did offer this:

“Shorter sentences are easier for readers to absorb.”

That’s part of it. Gerunds also make sentences less direct so harder to comprehend. Geist explains:

“They will not take you to the simplest, strongest, most beautiful prose. …[They] make the sentence less direct and harder to comprehend than it can be…”

Solution: Figure out what you’re trying to say and then say it directly.

Long sentences

I had a colleague in my critique group tell me not unkindly that she had become used to my long sentences.  What she could have added but didn’t was that at times, they made it difficult to remember how the action started. Here’s an example:

Writing 1

The many independent clauses makes it easy for readers to get lost and miss what is being said.

Solution: Break the sentence into manageable pieces that stand on their own.

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You gave so many important tips in a short post. This is very helpful to many writers.

Now Let me share the information about your new release.

 

Against All Odds (Book 3 of the Crossroads Trilogy) by [Jacqui Murray]

Against All Odds

Xhosa’s extraordinary prehistoric saga concludes, filled with hardship, courage, survival, and family.

Summary

A million years of evolution made Xhosa tough but was it enough? She and her People finally reach their destination—a glorious land of tall grasses, few predators, and an abundance that seems limitless, but an enemy greater than any they have met so far threatens to end their dreams. If Xhosa can’t stop this one, she and her People must again flee.

The Crossroads trilogy is set 850,000 years ago, a time in prehistory when man populated most of Eurasia. He was a violent species, fully capable of addressing the many hardships that threatened his survival except for one: future man, a smarter version of himself, one destined to obliterate all those who came before.

From prehistoric fiction author Jacqui Murray comes the unforgettable saga of a courageous woman who questions assumptions, searches for truth, and does what she must despite daunting opposition. Read the final chapter of her search for freedom, safety, and a new home.

A perfect book for fans of Jean Auel and the Gears!

Book information:

Title and author: Against All Odds by Jacqui Murray

Series: Book 3 in the Crossroads series

Genre: Prehistoric fiction

Available digitally (print soon) at: Kindle US   Kindle UK   Kindle CA   Kindle AU

Okay, I don’t want to forget to introduce you properly… Here’s Jacqui: 

 

Author bio:

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Laws of Nature, Book 2 in the Dawn of Humanity trilogy, Winter 2021. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

Social Media contacts:

Amazon Author Page:       https://www.amazon.com/Jacqui-Murray/e/B002E78CQQ/

Blog:                                       https://worddreams.wordpress.com

Instagram:                            https://www.instagram.com/jacquimurraywriter/

LinkedIn:                              http://linkedin.com/in/jacquimurray

Pinterest:                              http://pinterest.com/askatechteacher

Twitter:                                 http://twitter.com/worddreams

Website:                                https://jacquimurray.net

 

Now please enjoy this fabulous trailer and the excerpt.

 

 

Excerpt:

Chapter 1

The foothills of the Pyrenees

They came out of the mountains, hair frozen in sparkling strands, hands and feet wrapped in shredded pelts, ribs etched against their skin under ragged hides white with snow, faces haggard with fatigue. Blood crusted scrapes and gashes, many recent, others almost healed, reminders of the violent struggles endured on their journey.

Though their steps flagged, not one of these upright creatures exhibited a hint of defeat. All males and a few females carried at least one spear, some two, many with warclubs strapped to their backs. Despite the anxiety and fear of entering this foreign land, hope energized them today, that their migration might be at an end.

All of them—Xhosa and her tribe, Pan-do and his, Wind, Zvi, and Seeker—had been chased from their homes by enemies. In their flight, they found each other. It took time to work through their differences but now they traveled side by side, respected ideas not theirs, and called themselves the People.

Their charismatic Leaders—Xhosa, Wind, and Pan-do—were known as reliable friends to those who earned their trust and dangerous enemies to those who opposed them. Two wolves—Spirit and Black Wolf—journeyed with them. Though the People lacked the animals’ sharp claws, dense fur, and piercing teeth, each considered the other “pack” and would defend them to death.

The exhausted group straggled down the gently sloping flank, feet shuffling carefully over the slippery scree. The ground changed from talus to stunted tufts of grass, sparse and brown which made walking easier. Optimism shone from their faces even as their tired eyes flicked side to side in search of unexpected movement, ears strained for out-of-place noises, and noses sniffed.

Rather than continue across the meadow, Xhosa led the People into the shade of the edging forest.

“Do you smell it, Wind?” Anticipation filled her gestures.

She and Wind, pairmates as well as Co-Leaders, stood quietly, absorbing their surroundings. Light filtered lazily through the canopy, the shadowed ground dappled with patches of warmth. She sniffed in the essence of wet earth and rotting leaves, the mustiness of moss, and something else much more enticing.

“It’s there.” She pointed and strode forward, lengthening her stride.

An icy gust whipped down the hillside through the shadows and raised bumps on her arms but she ignored it. The forest gave way to open sky and searing heat. It was too hot for her thin pelt but she didn’t stop to remove it. Green stalks swayed as far as she could see, edged on one side by more mountains and the other by some sort of leaves and branches. Sunlight glinted off the rippled surface of a distant river as it curled over the terrain.

“Dung!” The scent overpowered every other odor.

Wind huffed to her side. “It’s been a long time since we smelled dung that wasn’t frozen.”

“We did it, Wind.” Her eyes glistened with relief.

For most of a Moon, dread gnawed at her courage and left her wondering if following the guidance of Seeker—a boy barely a man—was a mistake. But Seeker assured her in his ebullient way that once out of the hills, their new homebase would welcome them. Xhosa wanted to believe him because she wasn’t sure what else to do. Nor did she know what to do if it didn’t work.

Wind motioned, arms inclusive, “It’s beautiful, Xhosa.”

Siri, Pan-do, Ngili, the wolves Spirit and Black Wolf, and the rest of the People gathered around Xhosa and Wind, eyes locked on what lay in front of them.

Pan-do whispered, “We made it.” His eyes were moist, mouth open.

Ngili, the People’s Lead Hunter, motioned, hands close to his body. “With all this grass, Gazelle or Mammoth must be nearby.”

Dust, the Lead Scout, trotted up, coming from a tall cliff far ahead on their forward path. “I think there are caves there.”

The People hadn’t slept in a cave since leaving Viper and the Mountain Dwellers. It would be a treat if true.

Xhosa looked behind. Shadows already stretched as far from the bottom of the rocky slopes as sunlight to the top. Daylight would soon end.

“We don’t have much time. Let’s rest and then see if those are caves.”

Ngili, the People’s Lead Hunter, motioned, fingers spaced out, palms up, “I’ll go with Dust to check.” He added a swift spread-fingered swipe with first one hand and then the other, followed by a quick bob of his head and a puff.

Xhosa brushed both hands down her sides. Go.

The People spoke with a complex combination of hand motions, facial expressions, body movements, and sounds augmented with chirrups, snaps, hisses, and whistles. By the time Ngili finished talking, Xhosa knew how many would join him, where they would go, and how long they’d be away. The People’s communication was sophisticated but quiet, a precaution especially in unfamiliar areas. Unusual sounds—voices, for example—stood out. All animals made noises but few as varied as the People’s. Why alert Others who lived here to their presence? Xhosa would do that in her own time, in her own way.

Dust, Ngili, and two scouts soon receded into the landscape, the only evidence of their passage a slight disturbance in the slender waving stalks. Despite the dung scents, the abundant plant food, and the glisten of a faraway river, Xhosa crossed her arms over her chest and paced.

Something is wrong.

She searched the forests and the rippling field that had swallowed up Dust and Ngili . Xhosa possessed the ability to see great distances in sufficient detail to find trails, footprints, movement, or the glitter of sun off eyes.

She saw none of those and that made her more uncomfortable.

With this wealth of food and water, Others should be here.

Wind motioned, palms flattened against his chest, “The mountains we crossed touched Sun. They’re cold and barren. Few can do what we did to get here, Xhosa. We are safe.”

Xhosa could hear in his voice, see in his gestures, that despite his bravado, Wind too felt uneasy about what they didn’t see and hear.

But she grinned. “I don’t know how I survived without someone being able to read my thoughts.”

She trotted over to a stream that fed into the river she had noticed. She stretched out on her belly, flat on the soft grass at the water’s edge, and took a long, satisfying drink of the sweet liquid. Thirst quenched, she collected handfuls of the tender shoots of new plants growing along the shore, ate what she wanted and tossed the rest into a communal food pile that would be shared with all the People. It was already filling up with fat fish speared from the slow-moving pools beside the river, tasty reeds and cattails, and even a handful of eggs plucked from nests not hidden well enough along the shore and in the roots of trees. The wolves snapped birds from the air and swallowed them almost whole, coughing up feathers.

Xhosa leaned back on her hands, sniffing the unique fragrance of each groupmember. Zvi was sweaty from wrestling with Spirit. Siri smelled sourly of hunger but she wouldn’t eat until Honey’s bleeding foot was wrapped in mulch and leaves. The females with new babies exuded the pleasant aroma of milk. Some scents jumbled together making them impossible to identify. When Xhosa became Leader of the People, before it merged with Pan-do’s and Hawk’s, the People had been small enough that she could recognize everyone by their odor. Now, she kept track of her tribe while Pan-do did the same with his. Wind helped everyone.

Done eating, the People sprawled on the warm ground, soaking up Sun’s remaining rays, chatting contentedly with gestures and the occasional sigh. Water dripped from their thawing bodies, soaking into the thirsty ground, as the remaining ice and snow on their pelts and in their hair melted away.

Xhosa and Wind sat apart from the others, on a log long ago softened by rot. She uprooted handfuls of grass and wiped the sweat from Wind’s body, as he did hers. The soft scratch felt good and the earthy fragrance reminded her of times long gone. When he finished, she harvested chunks of green moss from the log’s decaying bark and stuffed them into her neck sack. All the People wore one of these around their necks. Even the wolves did when they were migrating.

Finished, she leaned against Wind and closed her eyes. In a group of Others, her pairmate stood out. A Big Head, the People’s traditional enemy, the ones who drove Xhosa and her tribe from their long-established home, Wind had earned Xhosa’s trust by saving her life more than once and then, as a member of her People, sharing Big Head spear tricks and warrior skills with her Leads. Before long, each of them individually told her that thanks to Wind they could now defeat an attack which they couldn’t have done in the past. Whatever distrust her People harbored toward him faded away.

“Xhosa!” Dust panted up to her. “I found a cave. And we found trace of a herd. Ngili is tracking it.”

By the time Sun settled into its night nest, the People were ensconced in the cave Dust found. They had to squeeze together to fit but all were thrilled to sleep without waking to frozen toes and numb fingers. Stone and Zvi—the burliest of the People—lugged rocks in and Siri built a fire that quickly warmed the interior. The subadults gathered kindling to feed it and arranged who would be responsible throughout the night for keeping it lit.

Usually, the wolves slept scattered among the People but with Black Wolf close to delivering her pups, she dug out an opening in the back and claimed it as her den. Then she settled to her belly, one leg forward, the other bent back, eyebrows twitching.

Xhosa strode toward the nest she would share with Wind but stopped at the sight of Seeker, weight on his bottom, legs crossed in front of his body in the uncomfortable position he preferred. His pairmate Lyta curled next to him with their best friend, Zvi.

Xhosa approached Seeker. “You are not outside.”

Every night as long as Xhosa could remember, the enigmatic male lay on his back, gaze fixed steadily on the star-dotted sky, spouting what to Xhosa sounded like gibberish to whoever listened. Intermittently, he leapt to his feet and spun dizzying circles or bounced from one foot to the other, huffing and chirping. Lyta and Zvi would either join him or watch. He once explained to Xhosa that this was how he studied the changes in the night sky—the appearance and disappearance of particular stars or their movement in relation to each other—so he could guide the People accurately. This nightly process was how they had moved from the distant start of Endless Pond to this cave where Endless Pond seemed to end.

He didn’t respond to her statement, didn’t even acknowledge her. That worried Xhosa. She hadn’t been able to shake the feeling that danger lurked around them, somewhere. Seeker’s anxious look didn’t help.

She squatted at his side and added a question to her declaration. “The stars aren’t talking to you?”

To the side, Lyta wriggled, not comfortable in the seated position Seeker preferred but determined to try because Seeker liked it so much. Zvi crouched on the balls of her feet, the more traditional pose. She’d tried to sit on her bottom, legs crossed in front, but kept falling backward. Besides, it took her too long to rise from that position which meant if Lyta needed help, she couldn’t respond quickly. Squatting, for her, made more sense. Seeker didn’t care. He expected all to do what worked for them. Both his best friend and his future pairmate were long accustomed to his eccentricities.

Finally, Seeker offered Xhosa only a confused frown.

That’s not a “Yes they are,” and that raised the hair on her neck. Before she could ask more, Ngili scrambled through the thistle barrier the youngsters had placed around the cave’s mouth to prevent the entrance of intruders and hurried toward Xhosa.

He motioned, “I lost the herd’s trace in the dark. I’ll try again tomorrow,” and then raced toward where the hunters had gathered. They were all tired. Some would mate before sleeping but not Ngili. He hadn’t given up hope that his pairmate, Hecate, would come back.

After a final glance at Seeker, Xhosa joined Wind in their nest. She squatted behind him and teased the dirt and debris from his long head hair, occasionally focusing on a difficult tangle until her fingers could move easily through his hair. When she finished, he did the same for her.

As he groomed, he said, “I’ll join Ngili tomorrow. If there are herds, we will find them.”

“Pan-do and I will continue with the People.”

They said nothing more, both enjoying the calming feel of nails scratching on their skin and the intimacy of someone they trusted implicitly. Done, both fell asleep.

The first rays of daylight filtered into the cave. Black Wolf was already outside, padding back and forth restlessly, huffing uncomfortably. Wind left with Ngili and a handful of scouts, knowing Xhosa would leave a trail to wherever they settled when Sun’s light ran out. Though Spirit usually went with the hunters, today he stayed with Black Wolf.

Xhosa and Pan-do led. Dust copied their pace and direction but a distance away. With Ngili and Wind searching for meat, Xhosa focused on finding a cave large enough for the People. They strode onward, gaze sweeping the landscape, everyone grazing on berries, roots, and worms as they walked. Sporadically, Xhosa heard a faraway squawk or glimpsed a covey of birds as they exploded into flight, fleeing an unknown threat. It was the direction Ngili and Wind had gone, and told her how far they’d gotten.

The People rested by a waterhole. They searched its shoreline for prints but found none. Wherever the herds lived, they didn’t drink here so the People moved on, through copses of young saplings and around a bed of haphazardly-strewn boulders. The air tasted of flowers, warm earth, and the mild tang of salt, but the dung they found was hard and old.

Xhosa touched Pan-do’s hand and both stopped, eyes forward. “Do you smell that? It reminds me of Endless Pond.”

He pointed to his strong side and the direction they were walking. “From there and there. How can it be on two sides?”

Xhosa tingled. One of her People—Rainbow—had abandoned them long ago, taking many males and females with him. Others she and her People ran into while migrating here told her Rainbow traveled the same route she did but along the opposite shore of Endless Pond. For him, as for her, this was as far as he could go without folding back on himself.

If they got this far. If any survived.

She pushed aside those thoughts. Before searching for whatever remnants remained of Rainbow’s group, the People must find a homebase. All they suffered to get here—the interminable walking, the loss of Hawk, the death of groupmembers, Nightshade’s treachery—was for naught if they didn’t establish a home.

Spirit bumped her leg. Black Wolf panted at her mate’s side, her belly almost touching the ground.

Xhosa motioned, “Your mate’s pups won’t wait much longer. We will find a den for her.”

Spirit took off, his movements graceful and fluid with Black Wolf lumbering after him.

Not much later, Pan-do squinted ahead. “I think Spirit found a cave.”

Xhosa leaned forward, narrowing her gaze, and finally saw where Spirit stopped. He sat on his haunches at the base of a cliff, facing her, nose twitching, tail swishing the dirt behind him.

It took the rest of the day to cross over the craggy scrubland, up and down the deep ravines, and around the occasional spot of slippery ice. The cave proved too small for the People but not for Black Wolf’s needs. With much scuffling and panting, she created a nest for her pups and disappeared into the cool dark hole. The People settled outside, under an overhang that would protect them from rain and predators, and far enough away to not bother the new mother. As soon as Ngili and Wind arrived, shaking their heads that they hadn’t found a herd, they left again to search for signs of a trail left by former inhabitants of this cave.

Xhosa’s chest squeezed and her stomach knotted. Spirit padded up to her side, hackles puffed, nostrils flaring. He agreed. Something about this area made her tingle but for now, until Black Wolf finished, they must stay.

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Thank you so much for coming to the party. I love to hear how much you’ve enjoyed Jacqui’s post and her new release.