Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Iron? What iron?

So, this is kind of a medical update type of thing. I mentioned the knot on my leg that sent me to the dr earlier this month. That led to blood tests and blah, blah. I swear, they're like vamps. They all want my blood.

Anyway, my cholesterol level was bang on normal so the dr took me off that med. Yay! Blood pressure was a bit on the high side so she put me on a mild diuretic. Oh goodie lol. I've spent way too much time in the bathroom lately. (I *could* say something here, but... naw lol.)

Anyhow, my iron count is low. Like waaaaaaay low. Like the dr freaked and ran the test again low. *sigh* And off to the hematologist I go. Spent all day Monday there. I finally get to see the dr... and she tells me my iron count is bad low.

Reeeeeealy? I had no idea.  My iron is low? Wow. Please, tell me more. 

I mean come on. I spent five hours there just to be told that? That I already knew! Grr. I was not a happy camper. So the next step was to set up an IV injection of iron. IV... as in needle in your arm. Oh fuck me, I had enough of that in the hospital after the stroke. 

So Tuesday was spend in the dr office again getting the IV. This is why I hate going to the dr's. Once you start, it never ends. 

The infusion went well, except for the nurse who put the damn needle in my arm. She must've been pissed at someone or just just plain mean because she threw that needle in my arm like she was playing darts and this was her last chance to win a million dollars. Fuck it hurt. And it hurt going out. 

Now that arm looks like it's been beat with a wet noodle. Lovely bruises showing up and it's still sore and swollen. Some of it is side effects of the iron. They gave me a sheet a mile long with what *could* be showing up later. 

Oh, fun times.

And... if you're craving ice, you're probably anemic, like me. That's a sign according to the dr. I had no idea. Anyway, the only saving grace was Face Off started last night.  As y'all know I love that show. I already have my favs picked out lol.

So that was my past two days. I got nothing done on the writing front either. Thank God I didn't have edits. Yes, my arm still aches and that annoys me. I might have to go kill a character lol for revenge. 

Love you guys! I'll keep y'all updated. I have to go back in a week for another round. Grr again.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Pride Promotions presents Surrounded by Crimson by Lexi and a Giveaway!

Author Name: Lexi Ander

Book Name: Surrounded by Crimson
Series: Sumeria’s Sons
Book: Four
Series should be read in order for maximum enjoyment.

Release Date: July 1, 2015


Tristan has agreed to bond with Ushna but there is still much to do and returning to Tribe Enkidu puts everyone on edge. Tristan is being stalked like prey all the while fighting depression as he mourns the loss of Nikita and enduring a battle of wills with the Elder Council over his birthright. The pleading of his adoptive daughter only adds still more stress to the situation.

Stumbling onto a secret prison while searching for Ushna leads Tristan to risk everything to free a lost God. But breaking the tie to his Flame has more repercussions than Tristan knew and the assistance of a forgotten Goddess and a centuries old lover may not be enough to save him.

Pages or Words: 48,000 words

Categories: M/M Romance, Menage/Poly, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy

Ushna was out of the car and greeting his parents before I unbuckled the seatbelt. Hami wasn't as tall as his son but he was wide, very wide, barrel-chested with a set of deltoids on him the size of small children. His dark hair was cut above the ears and I'd never seen the man without at least three days growth of facial hair. It looked good on him. That kind of scruff made me resemble a bum.

Donya was tall and lean, one of those women who had a natural sway when she walked. Her blue-black hair fell to her waist in thick glossy waves. Her skin was a deep almond, darker than her husband's or son's, and her bright, emerald-green eyes were large and expressive.

They both greeted Ushna with festive exuberance, and why not? I'd kept him away from them for a very long time. I observed them for a moment over the hood of the SUV. Hami picked his son up in a bear hug, laughing loud and boisterous. Donya took his face between her palms as she gazed deeply into his bi-colored eyes—eyes that were forever changed by me. At that thought, I wondered how they truly perceived me. My stomach rolled with anxiety-induced queasiness.

With all the grace of someone my size, I made my way into the house, leaving Ushna to his family reunion. I had hoped we wouldn't see them until after the children were born. I'd entered the home stretch of my pregnancy. Even with the ring of illusion, I had a hard time hiding my condition. Early in my pregnancy, Gregori had fashioned a ring of magic, creating the illusion that hid my continually growing stomach and constructed a normal appearance.

A pregnant male wasn't something we wanted to explain to humans. With the looming threat of assassination, if my identity was discovered, we thought it best to continue to keep my birthright a secret until after the children were born. So I'd continue to wear the illusion even though the ring wasn't much help now. The giveaway was in the walk and the way I stood. People could see there was something different by how I held my body and it couldn't be helped. I was able to hurry, in spurts, and then I lumbered like an elephant—very National Geographic.

Neesie followed me into the kitchen. She was dressed differently than what I'd become accustomed to. Gone were the combat boots, black jeans, and white tees. She wore a pale blue silk blouse, a pinstriped pencil skirt, and knee-high black stiletto boots. She appeared fierce in a whole new way.

"Why didn't you wait and greet Ushna's parents?" she asked.

With a plate in hand, I inspected the cold cuts tray that sat on the kitchen counter. I was starved and wanted something quick to eat before everyone came in. When I didn't answer Neesie, she took the plate from me and started placing fresh vegetables on it.

"I thought I'd give them some time to catch up," I finally replied. It wasn't a complete lie. "They haven't had their son to themselves in quite some time. They don't need me hanging out in the background."

Neesie pinned me with her golden-brown gaze. "That is such bullshit and you know it. What's the real issue?"

I quirked a smile at her. "You know I love ya?"

"Yes, and you're the one who called me for dating advice because you suck at subtle. Your 'hey moron, get your hands off my sister' ranked right up there."

"I can't help it if Mr. Octopus Arms was oblivious to his audience."

"Go ahead and keep playing that song because I know you still refer to him as Lonnie Fucking-Fowler. Before you walked into the house, your face turned green and you practically sprinted in here."

"Ahh, stampede!" I gave mock crowd screams. Neesie was not impressed.

"Spill, jackass." She shoved a full plate into my hands and a chair under my ass. Neesie glared at me but her expression was filled with concern.

"Fine, you tyrant. I wanted to make a good impression. I wanted to be able to show them that I am a strong partner and worthy of their son's love and devotion. But right now I'm huge, and miserable, and swollen, and hungry. Why did you give me carrots? You know I hate carrots. You're trying to torture me, aren't you? I'm an elephant, not a rabbit. I get like peanuts or something, not Bugs Bunny hand-me-downs." I threw the carrot at my cackling sister. The woman was not remorseful.


I threw another carrot at Neesie before turning to see who called for me. I swallowed a curse as I faced Donya. She stood in the doorway, her large green eyes soft and liquid as she searched my expression.

"Ma'am?" Embarrassingly, my voice cracked like I was fourteen years old.

"How can we not be proud of you, son?" Donya crossed the room in a smooth glide and gently took me in her arms. "We've always been proud of you, Tristan, don't ever believe differently." Tentatively I embraced her in return and ignored Neesie's sniffles.

About the author:

Lexi has always been an avid reader, and at a young age started reading (secretly) her mother’s romances (the ones she was told not to touch). She was the only teenager she knew of who would be grounded from reading. Later, with a pencil and a note book, she wrote her own stories and shared them with friends because she loved to see their reactions. A Texas transplant, Lexi now kicks her boots up in the Midwest with her Yankee husband and her eighty-pound puppies named after vacuum cleaners.

Where to find the author:

Cover Artist: Londen Burden

Tour Dates & Stops:











Rafflecopter Prize:
1.      Prize offered: $20 Amazon Gift card, $20 All Romance Gift card, hard copy of Surrounded by Crimson, swag (pens, bookmarks)
2.      $20 All Romance Gift card, hard copy of Surrounded by Crimson, swag (pens, bookmarks)
3.      hard copy of Surrounded by Crimson, swag (pens, bookmarks)
4.      e-book copy of Surrounded by Crimson
5.      e-book copy of Surrounded by Crimson

Rafflecopter Code:

And now for the interview!!!

*waves* Thank you for having me on the blog today!!

What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?
In my opinion, the most important element is knowing how to put heart into your story. You can have perfect writing mechanics but if you can't put into words the heart that draws the reader in, then it becomes a book that is easy to put down and forget to pick back up again. When I'm reading, if the author doesn't set that hook in me that drags me along after page ten, I'll get distracted. Nine times out of ten, I'll put the book down and look for something else to read. I remind myself of that every time I sit down to pen the beginning of any story. Plot holes, bad grammar, fixing a plot arch, missing or thin world building—most everything else can be fixed through beta reading and editing. The world can be engaging and different, but if the reader is disinterested in the welfare of my characters, then I've failed.

Are you working on anything at the present you would like to tell us about? 
Ruby Red Booty Shorts and a Louisville Slugger is what I'm working on now. It's slated to re-release in September but there are several changes that I'm making to the original manuscript. It had been written for a holiday Submission call with a word count limit. It didn't qualify for the call but was accept for general submission. It wasn't on the market long before it was pulled off (publisher issues). The feedback that I received from the new publisher and editor seriously helped. Ruby Red is being expanded and the order of events rearranged. I did a lot of telling in the story, which will be fixed, and the relationship elements between Diego and Beck are being addressed. Because seriously, readers were plopped right down in the middle of the story and then sped right on through without seeing the relationship growth between the two. I'm a bit nervous about the changes because I've read the story one way for so long that I'm second guessing all of the rearranging. ^_^

How do you come up with the titles to your books?    
Sometimes I choose the title of the story before I start writing. That allows me to write incorporating the meaning of the title into the story. If I don't select the title before I begin, then usually I'll have it before I'm half way finished. That was what happened with Alpha Trine. But with Striker, I had the title before I wrote the story. That title was actually hinted at in Alpha Trine. Surrounded by Crimson was selected before I started writing the story because I knew what would happen to Tristan, but as I wrote I unintentionally wove it in to other elements of the story. The red tunics Tristan wears. What Tristan espied in the caldron. The one time I finished a story with having a title was Ruby Red Booty Shorts and a Louisville Slugger. That one my husband helped me with, taking two elements from the main character and shoving them together. But damn, it's a long title to write.

What did you want to be when you grew up?   
What did I not want to be? Imagine my disappointment when I discovered I couldn't really make a living riding horses. I wanted to be a history teacher, an archeologist, an author, a NASCAR driver, child psychologist, an author, a nurse, a football player, a choir teacher, a cartoonist, an author, beach volleyball player, a mom, and the list goes on. I hated that they said I had to choose just one occupations.

When writing descriptions of your hero/ine, what feature do you start with? Eyes, hair?
I just noticed this about myself. I start with the eyes, and I'm not sure why. Maybe because I pay attention to someone's eyes. They're so expressive.

If you had to do your journey to getting published all over again, what would you do differently?
Pick a different publisher to start with… LOL! Hindsight, I would have worked on my manuscript more, got a better handle on the mechanics, and completed the series before submitting the first book. Here lately, it feels like I'm always playing catch up on my own series because readers would like to have their story--now please. :D

Ebook or print? And why?
Both. Ebook because it's easy to store. Although I've been scared that I'll lose data and I'll have books that aren't recoverable. Some places like Amazon and All Romance have my bookshelf, but not all places are like that or they've gone out of business.
Print because I love getting author autographs. I don't care if I have the ebook, if I can get a signature I'll buy the book again. I also like print because I can easily get my friend addicted to my favorite stories just by handing them my copy. They can thank me later and hide from their spouse when they too become addicted to the author and then buy the back list.
If I really like the author or the book I will also buy the audiobook. No joke. I could have both ebook and print and still buy it to listen to. I'm a huge re-reader. So being able to have access to my favorite reads regardless of where I am is awesome. ^_^

Thank you for stopping by and reading. Good luck with the giveaway!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Pride Promotions presents The Sidhe by Charlotte Ashe and a giveaway

Author Name: Charlotte Ashe

Book Name: The Heart of All Words, Book One: The Sidhe

Release Date: July 21, 2015

Since his childhood, Brieden Lethiscir has admired The Sidhe, the beautiful and magical beings native to the Faerie world outside his homeland of Villalu. Though he grew up in a culture accepting of Sidhe enslavement by Villalu’s elite, Brieden finds that he can no longer tolerate the practice when he becomes a steward to Prince Dronyen, who is viciously abusive of his sidhe slave Sehrys. Captivated by the handsome and mysterious sidhe slave, Brieden vows to free and return Sehrys to his homeland.
As they escape the capital and navigate a treacherous path to the border, Breiden and Sehrys grow close. Breiden soon learns both the true power of The Sidhe, and that the world that he thought he knew is not what it once seemed. If they survive to reach the border, he will have to make a choice: the love of his life, or the fate of his world.

Pages or Words: 442 pages

Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Gay Fiction, M/M Romance, Romance

The sidhe was tall, supple and lithe, as all sidhe tended to be, with milk-pale skin that glowed like moonlight over lean, taut muscles. Like all the others before him, he was naked, giving potential buyers a full picture of what they were bidding on.
And he was extraordinary, head to toe.
His chin-length hair was violet-red and it gleamed in the afternoon sun. His lips were pink and delicate with a pronounced bow, his nose had a narrow, smooth slope and his eyes...
His eyes.
It wasn't that they were the most incredible color imaginable: a storm of deep, contrasting, impossible greens unlike any Brieden had ever seen. And it wasn't that they were large and almond- shaped beneath a fan of plum-colored lashes.
It was that they were full to the brim with life.
Never before had Brieden seen a sidhe slave with such lively and expressive eyes, even as he stood for auction. Those eyes were not dull or defeated in the slightest. Wary, yes, and utterly devoid of trust, but also blazing.
Blazing like the eyes of that sidhe Brieden had seen at the riverbank when he was twelve years old— the only free sidhe Brieden had ever had the chance to behold.
The elf stood on that platform as if he owned it. As if he were judging every human man before him, and not the other way around.
He tucked a lock of hair behind a delicately pointed elfin ear, then jutted his chin to reveal a chiseled jaw that contrasted beautifully against his tender features.
And though he knew it was insane, Brieden was quite sure that he was in love.

Sales Links:

About the author:
Charlotte Ashe is a social worker by day and a writer of romantic fantasy by night.  A long-time fan of speculative fiction that skews feminist and features LGBTQ characters, Charlotte loves writing stories that are sexy, heartfelt, and full of magic and adventure. She has put her B.A. in literature and creative writing to use over the years as a writer of online fan-based fiction, and her most popular work has drawn more than one million readers worldwide, been translated into several languages, and been featured in online publications including The Backlot.

Charlotte lives in Portland, Maine and can be found sleeping at the beach all summer and clomping along the cobblestones in her Bean boots all winter, writing fairytales in her head to distract from the cold.

Where to find the author:

Publisher: Interlude Press
Cover Artist: Sarah Sanderson

Tour Dates & Stops:










Rafflecopter Prize: Grand Prize: $25 Interlude Press gift card; also, five multi-format eBoook editions of THOAW: The Sidhe

Rafflecopter Code:

And now for the interview!

Tell us about how you do your world-building.

It happens in layers. I pick a starting point and then I think about what layers it needs to support it. What historical events helped to mold the culture the reader is introduced to? How important is religion to the culture in question, and how does the predominant religion(s) shape the culture’s view of morality? What are the rules the characters must live by, both those that are flexible/socially constructed and those that are inflexible, such as the rules of magic? Then I look at the world I’ve build as if I were a reader, and try to tear it apart and find inconsistencies and weak spots, and then I work on those inconsistencies and weak spots until I have something that feels tight and solid. When I’m really lucky, mending inconsistencies can lead me to some of my best ideas.

What is your take on the future of Science Fiction/Fantasy in general? Do you see it expanding and vibrant, or derivative and stale?

Expanding and vibrant, for sure! The beauty of speculative fiction is that not even the sky is the limit. The sky is just the beginning. There is no law, no rule, no convention, no assumption that needs to be a given in fantasy/sci fi. There are some stale and derivative books out there, sure, but this genre really lends itself to blazing one’s own path. I think that speculative genres by their very nature will always be expanding and vibrant, because so many of the people drawn to write in them are so incredibly imaginative.

Do you write in multiple genres or just one? If just one, do you ever consider straying outside your genre?

I love writing romantic fantasy, but I definitely plan to write outside the genre in the future. Not terribly far outside the genre, mind you—I could happily write fantasy without a concentration on romance, and I definitely plan to write science fiction in the future, because I absolutely adore sci fi. I would also love to write YA fantasy featuring LGBTQ characters eventually. Some of the best speculative fiction being written right now is YA, in my opinion.

What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you ever received?

The best, always and forever, was “kill your darlings.” It hurts like hell, but it’s so important. Learning to let go of content that I love that simply doesn’t work for the story has helped me develop a thicker skin, and it’s made me a better writer. The worst was “don’t write junk.” In this context “junk” meant things like romance and sci fi and fantasy. But especially romance. I majored in literature and creative writing in college, and I learned to feel ashamed and frivolous for the kinds of things I loved to read and write about. It took me a long time to really overcome the damage that this “advice” from a well-meaning but clueless professor did to my dreams of becoming a writer. What I’ve come to realize is that if you write something you love, it is not junk. And if you’re lucky enough that even one other person loves it too, it becomes treasure.

Ebook or print? And why?

It really depends on what I’m reading. I have an e-reader that I carry with me in my purse and I read most books that way. But I have learned that books with strong visual components don’t really work this way, and that I hate reading cookbooks in digital form. If the words alone are enough to carry the story, I love ebooks. They also take up a lot less space on my bookshelf.

What is your work schedule like when you are writing?

These days I’m never not writing! If I were a full-time writer I would probably start right after breakfast, but I have a day job that needs my full attention for most of the day. So I generally spend my evenings writing during the week, and my mornings writing on the weekend. 

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

Writer’s block is the worst! And unfortunately, the only way to deal with it is to power through it. I have time set aside to write each day, and I force myself to write during this time. I even installed a program on my computer that blocks the internet during my writing time so that I can’t procrastinate. If there’s something I need to look up, I just highlight it and go back to it after my allotted time is up. If I do take a break, I have rules: I must do something active (like take a walk or do some dishes) so that my brain can have a break, and I must make it very strictly time-limited, like 10 minutes. Those types of breaks can actually help, as long as they’re used sparingly. Overall, I’ve found is that if I force myself to keep writing—however slowly—when it’s hard, I usually break through and hit my stride at some point during the process. I think discipline, practice and routine are the only remedies for writer’s block, which sucks, because when you’re blocked the last thing you want to do is exercise discipline.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

A bit of both, but more of a pantser, definitely. If I plan too much out ahead of time, I just end up scrapping a lot of it when I’m into the nitty-gritty of writing anyway, so I usually don’t bother. I always have a general idea of what’s going to happen, but I like to give myself the freedom to veer off course if it will lead me to better material. Ideas often come to me while I’m physically writing, sometimes even ending up on the page before I’ve consciously thought them through. I write fast and messy and then I go back and edit within an inch of my life. I’ve tried other methods, but this is the one that works best for me.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Pride Promotions presents Buchanan House by Charley Descoteaux and a giveaway!

Author Name: Charley Descoteaux

Book Name: Buchanan House

Release Date: August 19, 2015

Eric Allen, thirty-three-year-old line cook, moved in with his grandmother, Jewell, after a disastrous coming-out when he was in middle school. She raised him, and he cared for her when she fell ill. When Jewell died she left everything to Eric—angering his parents and older brother. The inheritance isn’t much, but Eric and his bestie Nathan pool their money and buy an abandoned hotel on an isolated stretch of the Central Oregon Coast. The hotel isn't far from Lincoln City—a town with its own Pride Festival and named for a president—so they christen it Buchanan House after James Buchanan, the “confirmed bachelor” president with the close male friend.
Eric and Nathan need a handyman to help them turn Buchanan House into the gay resort of their dreams. Eric finds Tim Tate in the local listings and over the months leading to opening weekend Tim reveals himself as a skilled carpenter with many hidden talents. Eric falls hard for Tim, but before he can see a future with the gorgeous handyman he has to get over twenty years of being bullied and shamed by his birth family. It would be much easier if Eric’s brother Zach weren’t trying to grab part of the inheritance or ruin opening weekend.

Pages or Words: 45,000 words

Categories: Romance, Bisexual, Contemporary, Fiction, Gay Fiction, M/M Romance

Timothy Tate knocked on the front doors at eight o’clock sharp. Eric had barely been up long enough to start coffee, and Nathan had yet to emerge. They’d slept in one of the rooms on the first floor. The official reason was to avoid having to clean two rooms, but the unofficial reason was to talk into the night like they had back in middle school. Slumber parties for thirtysomethings. Somehow that didn’t make Eric feel any better about meeting this Tim person.
But opening the door sure did.
Tim Tate was as tall as Nathan, so six one, and he had curly black hair and eyes so dark you could get lost in them.
“Morning.” He wasn’t much for smiling, though.
“Good morning. Please come in. I’m Eric.”
Tim nodded and seemed to be looking at something behind Eric’s right shoulder. As soon as Eric remembered to step aside, Tim came in. “You bought this place?”
“Yes. Isn’t it lovely? The inspector said the bones are solid, and someone did amazing work on the rooms. Right now, we need help with the kitchen and some reno on the public areas.”
“Should tear it down and start fresh.”
“I beg your pardon. That’s a horrible thing to say. You don’t discard something just because it’s not perfect. With a little love—maybe this isn’t going to work out.”
Tim shrugged and looked around the room. His face seemed to soften into… nostalgia? It held a wistful quality, of that much Eric was certain.
“Have you been in this room before?”
Tim had turned away a little, so the left side of his face pointed toward Eric.
Is that his best side?
He didn’t answer, so Eric repeated the question, a little louder.
“Huh? Oh, yeah. When I was a kid. Sometimes the local clubs would use it for summer camps. It’s been empty for over ten years.”
“Why? I mean, did something happen here?”
“No. The owners died, and their kids didn’t want to live out here. Can’t blame ’em. Entertainment isn’t easy to come by.”
Nathan chose that moment to enter, in his pink robe with the ostrich-feather trim. He spoke quickly, almost dancing through the room and toward the aroma of coffee. “Good morning. You don’t mind I borrowed your robe? And this must be Tim. Lovely to meet you, sweetheart. Coffee, then business.” He flounced into the kitchen.
Eric and Tim watched him go. The silence in his wake stretched out a little too long for Eric, mortified by the thought Tim might believe the robe belonged to him.

Sales Links:

About the author:
Charley Descoteaux has always heard voices. She was relieved to learn they were fictional characters, and started writing when they insisted daydreaming just wasn’t good enough. In exchange, they’ve agreed to let her sleep once in a while. Charley grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area during a drought, and found her true home in the soggy Pacific Northwest. She has survived earthquakes, tornadoes, and floods, but couldn’t make it through one day without stories.

Where to find the author:
Goodreads Link:
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: LC Chase

Tour Dates & Stops: July 17, 2015
Rafflecopter Prize: Backlist book of choice from Charley
Rafflecopter Code:

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Trouble Comes in Threes is coming out in audiobook!

Whoot! The cats of Trouble are coming to audio! OMG I'm so excited. *bounce* This is my first audiobook.

 I just got the email today so I have no date yet. In fact, I'm still listening to voices lol.  Which is so cool. But it *is* coming! So just as soon as I know something, y'all know something. ;)


Sunday, July 12, 2015

ARe Best Seller - Bad Boys Club box set

Whoot! My bad boys made it on the Best Seller list at ARe! Okay, it just barely squeaked on there, but hey, I'll take it lol. And since this is basically a rerelease, I'm thrilled. So big hugs to all that bought it! *tosses glitter*

Friday, July 10, 2015

Pride Promotions presents Obsidian Sun by Jon Keys and a giveaway!

Author Name: Jon Keys 
Book Name: Obsidian Sun 
Release Date: July 10, 2015

Differences must be put aside when vengeance becomes all-consuming.

Anan, a spellweaver of the Talac people, returns from a hunting trip to find his village decimated, his mate dead, and everyone else captured by Varas slavers. The sole survivor is Terja, a young man without the velvet that covers most Talac, marking him as a spellspinner. Since Talac magic requires both a weaver and a spinner, Anan and Terja must move beyond their ingrained mistrust. All that remains is revenge and a desperate plan to rescue their tribesmen before they are sold to Varas pleasure houses. A goal Anan and Terja are willing to die for.

With the blessing of the Talac gods, they discover new and surprising ways to complement each other’s power. But as they race through terrain full of enemies and dangerous creatures to reach their people before they pass into Varas lands, they must take drastic steps to face the overwhelming odds against them. Understanding their connection might be their only hope.
Pages or Words: 200 pages

Categories: Alternate universe, Fantasy

ANAN EASED into bow range. He’d been hunting for a fingercount of days and stalking this daggerhorn since the early gray of predawn. He waited until the animal turned away before rising to a crouch. The lethally armed grazer would feed him and his mate for days. He brought his bow up slowly and drew the bowstring to his cheek.
His body convulsed with pain that felt as if he’d been stabbed with a red-hot iron blade, and his arrow shot several lengths above his quarry, which disappeared into the deep grass.
In the next instant, Anan knew. His mating-bond with Silbre had snapped. Agony filled him, sending him to his knees as the bow slipped from his numb hands. Gasping for air, he dropped forward onto his hands as waves of loss and pain overwhelmed him.
I have to find Silbre. What happened? Our mating-bond can’t be broken. Unwilling to believe the horrible truth, Anan had to find his mate.
He staggered to his feet, looping the bow over his shoulder as he took the first stumbling steps toward home. The surety of his pace came back to him, and he gained speed until he was sprinting toward the clan’s encampment. Time became irrelevant. He walked when his legs refused to run and ate when his body demanded it.
Dusk came on him stealthily, but he refused to stop. Silbre can’t be gone. We’ve been together since our adult velvet. Anan’s chest tightened at the thought of losing his mate. His mind swirled with fear, horror, and anger. If their teachers hadn’t sent him on yet another hunting trip, maybe he could have saved Silbre. No, he refused to believe he’d lost Silbre. There must be another explanation. He pushed down the rush of emotions and focused on the run as night deepened. With the rise of the moons, he picked up speed, desperate to reach home.
Anan neared the last of his endurance when he saw the familiar featherleaf trees that lined the river bend where the Kuri clan spent its summers. He topped the river embankment and dropped to his knees at the sight before him. Complete devastation. The warm morning breeze carried the scent of death. The raucous voices of carrion birds as they fought over bits of his clan reinforced his horror.
He struggled down the steep embankment to splash through the shallow river that circled most of what had been the Kuri’s summer encampment. As he waded to shore, he found the eyeless face of a childhood friend. Anan stumbled to one side and emptied his stomach. He retched again and again as he surpassed the limit of his emotional endurance until each twist of his stomach yielded nothing.
Silbre! Where’s Silbre? Anan renewed his headlong flight to find his twining mate.
He ran through the devastation, sending flocks of birds into the air. With each heartbeat his desperation grew as he ran to their tent. He has to be alive. I can’t survive without him. He rounded a pile of debris and found the familiar woven pattern of their summer lodge. His world died. Entangled in the remains, Silbre’s body bristled with a fingercount of crossbow quarrels. Varas slavers. Those are their bolts. The iron heads and spiral fletching left no doubt. But they had never come this far into Talac territory.
Anan dropped to his knees and pulled Silbre tight against him. Anan’s breath rasped between clenched teeth, his chest tight with grief as he rocked with his mate in his arms. A freshet of tears rolled over the plush hair covering his face. The dull drone from hordes of green burrowing flies and the cries of carrion birds surrounded him. But grief paralyzed Anan.
His sorrow merged with anger, and he screamed toward the implacable sky. “Why have you let this happen? Why did you cut his threads so short?”
Anan dropped his chin against his chest and sobbed. He rocked his mate slowly, tracing the tips of his fingers along the swirls of a spellweaver created in the short tan and brown hair covering Silbre’s face while he fought to ignore the fatal wounds. Anan’s throat tightened as more tears rolled down his cheeks. He lowered Silbre gently, as if he were sleeping.
The aftermath of the attack must be dealt with. He had no choice. He steeled himself to the carnage around him and struggled to understand. How did the Varas unravel the protective web that surrounded the village? Especially those of the Kuri clan, who have some of the most skilled spellweavers of the Talac people. Even if they had broken the spell, a warning would have been felt, and people would have boiled out like stingers from their nest. Something in the web of Anan’s reality shifted as he wondered how the Varas were able to decimate a Talac village.
Anan called on his spell vision and tried to trace any threads, but they were gone. If there were survivors, they were no longer connected to the village weaving. He began moving in a haze of disbelief.
All the people he’d grown up with were gone. Saritua who taught him his first weavings, Trebea who knew the perfect day to harvest wood for bows that wouldn’t wrack in the fall rains—gone. He’d never hear Poza talking with her imaginary friends as she toddled from one rug to another pretending at grownup, or her wonder when the spring gliders migrated across the savanna.
He’d seen the carrion birds pecking the flesh from their lifeless bodies. The horrors no longer registered, as his surroundings became part of an unending cascade of atrocities. At some point he would break and mourn. But not now; he was too numb, too overwhelmed. The bits of his being that weren’t focused on what he had to accomplish in this moment hid in the corner of his mind, gibbering in near madness. Silbre couldn’t come to the rescue this time. The task fell on his shoulders. There was no one else.
Screaming birds took off and revealed the burned arms of a spellspinner. With this final revelation, the last warp threads of Anan’s reality snapped. All the Kuri spinners would be dead. When spellspinners in battle ripped the matama from the attackers, they condemned themselves to death. Akhir gave their attackers a painful end, but the backlash left the spellspinners burned and dead. He moved closer and saw the velvetless skin that marked them from birth as spellspinners. But the curse, or gift, of akhir created the final separation between the Talac spinners and weavers.
Anan’s questionable skill at spellweaving didn’t matter any longer. Without a spinner, there was no one to take the deathspinner eggs and harvest silk for the matama threads he needed for his weavings. Only the spinners knew how to combine matama with silk harvested from the most feared animals of the savanna. Without spun threads, Anan’s years of training didn’t matter.
Lucid thought came to an end with yet another gruesome discovery. His mind rebelled, and the final threads of his former life broke one by one. He locked away his emotions to sort through them when he could take the luxury.
Anan recognized the end of his second day when the sun’s deep red orb rested on the treetops, covering his world in the color of fresh blood. Darkness would come soon and with it the possibility of larger predators. With the clan spell webbing gone, nothing would keep them out.
He knew his duty. He must gather the dead and perform the most sacred of weavings. He would create the final unraveling ceremony for most of the village.
Anan struggled to his feet and began his task. Taking Silbre first, he carried his mate’s body to the center of the camp. He ran the back of his fingers over his twining’s face, the cold ache of loss constricting around his chest until his breath came in gasps and tears rolled down his cheeks again.
Hesitant at first, Anan carried the remains of each member of his clan and laid them side by side. Lastly he moved to the spellspinners’ tents. He understood their importance in the clan, but their aloof manner and vanity over their birthmark velvetless skin had been reason enough for him to avoid them in the past. But his duty was to the village, and his personal disdain had no place. Following the sense of duty hammered into him by his parents, he afforded the spellspinners the same reverence as the other lost.
As he moved toward the final dwelling, and its content, he couldn’t help but note the remains of Varas attackers littering the encampment. Some resembled colorless grubs, the sign of a spellspinner calling akhir. The pale Varas bodies also meant there would be a burned spellspinner close by. Akhir extracted a horrible toll. Only in the legends of First Spinner and First Weaver did anyone survive calling akhir.
He grabbed the wrists of a spinner and found the touch of bare skin against his palms… odd. Anan had never touched a spinner before. There had never been a reason to do so. They didn’t encourage contact. After steeling himself, he squatted to gather the last of the bodies, when he heard a moan.
Anan spun, knife in hand. When he realized the sound didn’t come from attacking Varas, he sheathed his knife and waited, listening for signs of life. A few heartbeats later another barely audible sound leaked from the wreckage. Anan dug through a pile of tent cloth and found a storage cache. Another groan drifted from inside the partially exposed opening, followed by rustling as if a mouse ran across a stretched kuri-skin drum.
Anan eased himself forward, peering into the opening. At first he could see nothing but darkness, but then two brilliant blue eyes peered up at him.
He waited, recognizing the color of a spellspinner’s eyes. How did this spinner survive? Why did he hide? Compassion returned to Anan. Regardless of how this spinner survived, he is also Talac.
“You hurt?” Even to Anan’s own ears, his words sounded brittle and desolate of emotion. He waited for a response, but when none came, he reached inside.
“Here. Let me help.”
Smooth skin slid under Anan’s palms, the first time he’d touched a living spinner. Surprise raced through his system when he found the contact… pleasant. As he helped the slender figure, he recognized this spinner, but not for a reason he might have hoped. The spinner standing before him was the most reclusive. He always avoided contact with any of the Talac who were normal. Who were velveted.
He studied Anan with the suspicion of a young night-hunter, complete with the twitch of his nose. He took the offered hand and scrambled up the side of the cache.
The tension between them grew as their gazes locked. This isn’t about my feelings for the spinners. I must perform the unraveling. He waited a moment, took in a breath, and calmed himself.
“Can you walk?”
The spinner wiped a grimy arm over his forehead, leaving streaks of filth as he tucked his dark hair behind his ears. An instant later he nodded silently.
“I’m Anan.”
This time the young man trembled. “Terja. I am a spinner.”
Anan’s brow lifted. “Yes. I see you.” He considered asking the questions swirling through his mind, but waited.
Terja shuddered again and turned his head slowly. He seemed lost, but Anan granted him time to adjust and waited until the spinner’s focus returned. “Where is everyone?”
“Dead. Or taken as Varas slaves. I found only a few bodies from Kuri our age.”
Terja’s eye’s widened. “Slavers? The screams. I heard… it was….” He stared at Anan.
Anan wondered if this spinner still functioned or if the trauma had overwhelmed Terja. Regardless, he continued. “Varas slavers attacked the village. Everyone is either dead or captured. I don’t know why the web didn’t sound an alert. The herds are scattered. All the Talac clans are in jeopardy.”
“Our kuri and herdweavers? Gone?” Terja’s voice broke at the news.
Anan stared at him. The herds were the least of his concerns. The herdweavers had either died fighting or were captured. But he knew they hadn’t deserted the kuri. They took their role as guardians seriously. But he needed to finish his task, and Terja acted too overwhelmed to help.
Though he moved toward the nearest body, Anan couldn’t stop staring at Terja. The irrelevant question wiped out the last of his restraint. “Why were you hiding? The Varas attacked. Why’d you do nothing?”
Tears flooded from Terja’s eyes. With his breath coming in gasps, he tried to explain. “I tried. Had my staff. People dying. Father put me—” Terja broke into inconsolable sobbing. Anan knew he would get no more information from the spinner.
“At nightfall we’re doing an unraveling for the dead. You’re helping.”
Terja looked shaken, as if it had never occurred to him a spellweaver would address him in that manner. He began to speak, but when Anan glared at him, Terja pressed his lips tightly together.
Anan motioned to the body of one of the older spinners, and Terja moved to stand at its feet. He clamped his eyes shut as he groped for the ankles, shuddering when the tips of his fingers made contact, and hesitated. Anan allowed him what time he could, but before he had to jar him into motion, Terja clenched his teeth and grabbed the dead man’s ankles.
He opened his eyes and glared at Anan, but Anan was far past being affected by anything so minor as the anger of a young spellspinner. With Terja’s help, the last bodies were gathered. Exhausted mentally and physically, he still refused to allow Terja to perform any of the ceremony.
“We need to make a final check. It’s close to nightfall. I don’t want to leave—” Anan stopped and swallowed hard to regain his control. “I want to be certain we’ve taken care of everyone. We can go opposite directions and meet back here. Hopefully, there’s nothing to find.”
Anan waited for Terja’s nod, then started through the encampment. Hesitant at first, he covered the area with speed and resolve. I don’t know how many more victims I can deal with before my mind snaps like a weak warp thread. As he worked through the smoldering remains, he began to think they’d recovered all the bodies.
He returned to the center of the encampment and found Terja hadn’t arrived. Anan moved to locate the spinner. Close to the spinner’s lodges, Anan found him, crumpled into the dust, holding the body of a small child.
His heart cracked when Terja’s eyes met his, tears running down his red cheeks. He held the broken body like a precious jewel, cradling the kit who was long past the issues of this world. The spinner ran his fingers over the deep brown velvet covering the kit’s face as if he were sleeping. He reached down to touch Terja’s shoulder.
“He’s gone, Terja. Add him to the ceremony so his strands can rejoin the others in the Great Weaving.”
Past reason now, Terja’s sobs echoed across the scene of desolation. The darkness flowed over the pair, its edges seeming to ripple in response to Terja’s grief. “You don’t understand!” he yelled, his face contorted with anger. “Akra and I were friends. His father died when a longtooth pack attacked him. We broke fast together each morning. Why would they kill a kit?”
Anan hardened. “You know why. Akra was nothing more than an animal to them. They don’t follow the teachings of First Twining, and we are nothing more than mating slaves to feed their addiction.”
“Akra was a sweet kit. Just a toddler.”
Anan squeezed his shoulder. “Come. It’s time.”
He forced Terja into motion. They came to the central area, and Terja turned to Anan. “Clean him. Please. I know it will take some of the spinnings you have, but please. I cannot stand to think he’s going to the Great Weaving like this. He worried so much about how he looked.”
“Please. I’ll replace the spinning. The spell panels on your kilt are close to full. You have enough matama to do this.” Terja turned ashen. “Please. This will be the last thing I ask of you.”
Anan sighed and ran his hand over the complex matama patterns stored on his kilt. Although his state of exhaustion diminished his focus to the point where he had to touch the threads. He deftly created the weaving in the air from the matama stored in his kilt panels. Soon he had the simple weave completed. Once he did, Anan struggled through the ritual steps drummed into him to release the spell and clean the lifeless body. The small weaving dissipated, and Anan let his vision slip away.
The kit before them now could have been sleeping. Anan normally would have refused to use a spellweaving on someone beyond its reach, but he admitted, if only to himself, this final visage of the kit was much preferable to the blood- and gore-splattered toddler that had lain before him a short time earlier. He stared at the kit, then at Terja.
“It’s time to do the unraveling.”

About the author:
Jon Keys’s earliest memories revolve around books. Either read to him or making up stories based on the illustrations, these were places his active mind occupied. As he got older the selection expanded beyond Mother Goose and Dr. Suess to the world of westerns, science fiction and fantasy. His world filled with dragon riders, mind speaking horses and comic book heroes in hot uniforms.
A voracious reader for half a century, Jon recently began creating his own creations of fiction. The first writing was his attempt at showing rural characters in a more sympathetic light. Now he has moved into some of the writing he lost himself in for so many years…fantasy. Jon has worked as a ranch hand, teacher, computer tech, roughneck, designer, retail clerk, welder, artist, and, yes, pool boy; with interests ranging from kayaking and hunting to drawing and cooking, he uses this range of life experiences to create written works that draw the reader in and wrap them in a good story.
Where to find the author:
Twitter:  @Jon4Keys
Goodreads Link:
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Paul Richmond

Tour Dates & Stops: July 10, 2015
Rafflecopter Prize: E-copy of  ‘Home Grown’ by Jon Keys
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