The Midnight Clock

“Wake up Maddie, we’re making relish today.”

Maddie groaned and glared at her stepmother. She dragged herself out of bed to begin a long day of chopping, grinding, and stirring, then pouring the mixtures into hot jars. How much relish do we need?  Maddie pushed her long, damp hair out of her face.

Before the relish had been pickles; before that had been jams. Since my father vanished, I’ve become a slave to the mad queen of preserves.

“I think we are done for the day,” her stepmother said, “I would like….” but Maddie had grabbed her cloak; one of the the last things she had of her mother and run from the house before her stepmother could ask yet more work of her.

The sun was out, but the air was cool enough to make her glad of the cloak. She wandered down to the market. She had no money, but liked the busy atmosphere. Then there were the young men standing around as well. She’d got to know them a little. Jonas, a muscular blond, was the obvious leader. He smiled and flattered her. He even bought her a treat when her stomach growled. Over the last few weeks whenever she could escape she had run to the market and to walk with Jonas and the others, wishing she had her own money to spend..

If Mom were alive, if Father hadn’t married a stranger, then left; if life was fair… But life wasn’t fair, She understood that now; life was sharing home and anger with her stepmother, but no understanding

Maddie decided to go to the Midnight Clock with her aching heart. She would wish for Jonas to carry her away from her miserable life. She lit the match with the first strike. The warm glow of her lamp showed the clock peeking through the vines on the wall. It was one minute to midnight on the full moon – magic time. The minute hand moved and she touched the face of the clock to make her wish. But all the carefully prepared words deserted her, leaving an inchoate longing in their place. The hand moved again. It was done. She climbed down the ladder and walked home.

The next day she went to the market and laughed and talked with Jonas. Something was different, she thought, he was paying much more attention to her. She flirted with him, laughing and teasing. They would fall in love, get married and live in a house with no jars to fill. At noon they walked over to the food side of the market to buy a snack. Maddie’s stepmother was there in a tiny booth with jars lining the walls.

“No,” Maddie whispered, “You’re selling them? All that work just so you could make money?”

“Maddie, wait,” her stepmother called, but Maddie had already fled, running through the streets until she was completely lost.

Evening came and the streets had emptied. Tired and hungry, Maddie tried to find her way home. Jonas and his friends leaned against a wall. He’ll save me. Jonas smiled at her and her heart thumped. Not until he pulled her into an alley did she recognize it as fear. The other boys followed licking their lips.

“Just a poor market brat,” Jonas sneered. “There’s only one thing you’re good for. If you behave I may even pay you for it.”

Maddie twisted and pulled, but the heavy cloth of her cloak had become a trap. He pushed her against the wall and fumbled at her dress. In rage and panic Maddie stomped on the top of his foot. Jonas yelled and let go of her to strike her. Maddie stepped close and kneed him. His yell became a gurgle as he fell to the ground.

She glared at the others until they hung their heads and melted into the shadows. Maddie walked out of the alley. She knew  where she was now. Time to visit her mother. The almost full moon lit the graveyard, but Maddie borrowed a small lantern to read the letter that was the only other thing her mother had given her. She read it through as she had so many times – her mother’s promise that all would be well, that her mother would always look after her, that she would always love Maddie.

“You lied to me,” Maddie cried as the clock struck twelve, “There is no love, no hope.”

“She didn’t lie, Maddie.” Her stepmother walked across the grass to kneel beside Maddie.

Maddie turned to look at her stepmother ready to scream her anger, but tears flowed down the woman’s face.

“But promises are like wishes, they change shape as we hold them.” Her step-mother sighed and put her arm around Maddie. “I thought I would find you here.”

“What do you know about it?”

“I married your father so I would have someone to take care of me. Instead I’m alone trying to be a mother to a girl who hates me.”

“I’m scared,”  Maddie admitted as much to herself as her step-mother.

“So am I.”

“What do we do now?”

“I don’t know. We will have to find out together,” her stepmother handed her some coins. “Your share of the sales today.”

“People liked our relish?”

Her stepmother smiled, “It was the best seller.”

Maddie handed the coins back to her stepmother, “Maybe you could hold on to these for me.” She picked up her mother’s letter. “I’ll help you at the booth tomorrow.”

“Let’s go home.” They stood, and Maddie touched her mother’s tombstone.

“She isn’t you,” Maddie said to her mother. “But I think she will be a good friend.”

Short Shorts

There was a song some time back extolling the virtues of short shorts. These aren’t that kind of shorts. These are stories, most of them under a thousand words. I have a rather extreme number of them. So I decided I would post one of them occasionally.

This is from way back and was one of the first winning entries on the now defunct Worth1000.com


“I’m the King of the Castle, you’re the dirty rascal!”

The ancient challenge rang out across the schoolyard. The hill was the result of last week’s snowfall, gathered and piled at the edge of the parking lot. The crier of the challenge was, as always, Michael, named appropriately after the archangel of war.

With a howl the challengers scrambled up the hill only to be tumbled again to the bottom. One would think that twenty challengers would easily topple the King from his Castle, but Michael was impossibly agile, and massively built. No one could move him. I dodged feet and hands and bodies as I scrambled to the top, only to be caught by an avalanche of childhood and dragged again to the ground. All through recess the battle raged.

Recess was all but over and even Michael’s immense strength was fading. The only thing that kept him on that hill was that we were fading faster. From twenty we were down to ten, then five, then it was just Michael and me, just like every battle this week. I wasn’t strong, or quick, or smart, but I was stubborn. Michael grinned at me, sure in his victory. He was, like Achilles, invincible.

Invincible except for his heel. It was my last wild charge to the top. Gasping painfully, I slipped. Instead of landing a clean shove to my chest Michael missed completely. Of course, he recovered instantly and jumped back, but his left foot landed on my hand. I pulled at my hand and overbalanced the hero just enough to send him tumbling down the hill. I had won. Climbing to the top I screamed my victory song.

“I’m the King of the Castle, you’re the dirty rascal.”

I had done the impossible. I had tumbled the hero King. I, Felix Abercrombie, was the King of the Castle. I was…..flying. Michael had hit me with everything he had left. The bell rang as I sailed through the air. I saw Michael’s face at first delighted, then terrified. I landed in the drifted snow accompanied by awful silence. Then the screams of my classmates brought the teachers. Covered in blood and snow I smiled and the world went dark. It would be spring before I returned to class.

We never again played King of the Castle. But Michael and I, we were legends.

Vision of the Griffin’s Heart Blog Tour

7bcfc1_8e02b2c450564fbe8c6d2d2c3e279e68JUST RELEASED! Vision of the Griffin’s Heart, Andy Smithson, Book 5

Four years ago, Andy Smithson discovered he is the Chosen one to break a 500-yr-old curse plaguing the land of Oomaldee when he unexpectedly and mysteriously found himself there. To do so, he must collect ingredients for a magical potion. Thus far he has gathered the scale of a red dragon, venom from a giant serpent, a unicorn’s horn, and the tail feather of a phoenix. Now he must ask a griffin for one of its talons. There’s just one problem…humans have poached griffin treasure, causing these mythical creatures to attack on sight. Complicating matters, the evil Abaddon, sovereign of Oomaldee’s northern neighbor, is turning more and more citizens into zolt in his ongoing campaign of terror as he sets in motion the final steps of his plan to conquer the land. Things really start to heat up in book five! If you loved Harry Potter, you’ll love the Andy Smithson series chalk full of mythical creatures, newly invented animals like zolt, herewolves, and therewolves, a complex plot with evolving characters, and positive themes including responsibility, diligence, dignity, friendship and more

 

 

7bcfc1_8a24bc7f0b474b758ec4a0ea0e375d1a (1)L. R. W. Lee credits her love of fantasy with her introduction to C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. Later on, she enjoyed the complex world of Middle Earth brought to life by J. R. R. Tolkien in Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. The multiple dimensions of the worlds mixed with a layer of meaning, captivated her and made her desire to invent Young Adult Fantasy and Epic Fantasy worlds others could get lost in, but also take meaning away from. More recently, L. R. W. Lee has found inspiration from J. K. Rowling and her Harry Potter series as well as Brandon Mull and his best selling Fablehaven, Beyonders and Five Kingdoms series. L. R. W. Lee writes to teach her readers principles that can transform their lives – overcoming frustration, impatience, fear and more. She also shows why responsibility, diligence and dignity are the keys to true success in life. She lives in scenic Austin, TX with her husband. Their daughter is a Computer Engineer for Microsoft and their son serves in the Air Force.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Email

 

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L.R.W. LEE INTERVIEW

1. How did you come up with your main character, Andy Smithson? Did he just pop into your imagination or did you specifically develop him? Andy is patterned after my son. After our first child who was what I would call compliant and seemed to need little to no correction, our son arrived on the scene. As with most 2nd children, he was polar opposite and provided much fodder for an engaging main character.

2. How did your experience with building a business help with your writing? It has been invaluable for I understand that writing is only 50% of the writer’s success equation. Unlike Field of Dreams, with so many good books available today, just launching it, even on a well trafficked platform like Amazon, does not get recognition. Because of my corporate background, from day one I began working to build a platform – Twitter and Facebook primarily and now also Book Nerd Paradise. As well, I understand the importance of the author community, for no author can succeed these days without the support of fellow authors. My background has also helped in understanding the need to optimize my books to rank well on the variety of sites they are listed on. There’s much more, but those are the biggest helps I would say.

3. Was there any particular book or author whom you feel had the most influence on your work? I have to say JK Rowling. The imagination she revealed, the strength of her characters, the world building, the depth of plot over multiple books…she definitely shaped how I think about writing.

4. What do you love the most about writing for young people? Young people are moldable. My passion for writing is to share with readers principles that from my experience can help them live more peaceful lives. A few of these principles include overcoming fear, frustration and impatience as well as understanding that true success in life is not from riches, fame or power, but rather responsibility, diligence and dignity. If they can finish any of my books closer to understanding these principles, I feel very fulfilled.

5. Which part of the creative process is your favorite? Least favorite? Designing the story arc is my favorite part of the creative process for you can take a story anywhere your imagination can go. My least favorite part is editing/revising. Even though I know the narrative gets much stronger as a result, it’s still my least favorite part.

6. How long does it usually take you to write one of your stories from when you get the idea to when it’s finished? Usually about 6 months.

7. I know that most authors love all their characters but which of your many “children” is your favorite (besides Andy) and why? I have to say Mermin, the kindly old wizard who speaks with a lisp. I love him most after Andy because he’s so warm, humble and approachable. He’s fallible and he knows it, which is why he doesn’t apologize for his mistakes, rather he is comfortable in his own skin.

8. Do you ever plan to branch out into other genres besides middle grade/young adult fantasy? Funny you should ask. Yes, I’m actually noodling with a story arc of a YA Sci Fi story.

9. How do you feel your writing has evolved since your first novel? I can see how much I’ve changed and improved in showing rather than telling my readers what’s happening. I want them to engage and to show – providing sight, sounds, touch, smell, and taste cues is a big part of that. I was particularly thrilled when my editor came back a full week sooner than expected with this current book because I had improved so much between book three and four. My pocketbook also appreciated that.

 

 

Against the Oaks of Bashan – Guest post by Julia Starling

Against the Oaks of Bashan cover

The best way to rule a populace is from behind the scenes. Let people think they control their opinions and actions, and you can lead them anywhere.

So believes Professor Litvac, who dreams of engineering the “perfect consumer”, creating a populace living a life of mediocrity, anxiety, and malleable opinions. And in the turbulent political climate of 1970s Buenos Aires, he’s got plenty of opportunity to experiment. Any young adults who disappear are assumed to be the victims of ongoing political unrest.

Trapped in one of Litvac’s torture camps are Lucas and Vera Freund. Brilliant scientists, the Freunds hold the key to Litvac’s success, but they’re not talking. With the backing of a powerful Catholic sect, Litvac puts a plan in motion that will transcend generations. He’ll have what he wants–no matter the cost.


 

Who are you and how did you start writing?

I am a medical doctor and psychotherapist, born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

I started my career as a med student in Buenos Aires, and then moved to England to complete my studies. After acing the US Medical Licensing Exams (99th percentile in all of them), I interviewed for Psychiatry programs in the US and decided that the field was not for me—not here in the US. So I went back to school, after moving to California, and completed another degree to become a licensed psychotherapist in the States.

After a forced sabbatical (for health reasons), I began to write more intensely. ‘Against the Oaks of Bashan’ came after a year of soul searching.

How did you come up with the concept of your story? 

People are living a fast-paced life nowadays, a life that does not let them stop to think what they truly want to do with their lives, to ponder over existential issues, to chose their own path rather than following what everybody else is doing.

It looks like the norm is to go for as much distraction as possible, blindly following collective opinions, with no time to think for our selves—until one day we just die.

How did you come up with the title?

It is an Old Testament allusion about the idea of God severely punishing all that is extraordinary and “lifted up”. The Oaks of Bashan, mentioned in the sermon in the first chapter of the book, were the most beautiful oaks of the ancient world of the Old Testament. The Christian church and all Abrahamic traditions routinely emphasize the need to be cautious of anything extraordinary and keep our heads low, promoting mediocrity and punishing independence, freedom of thought and those who are brave enough to stand up and shine, be their own person.

A mediocre herd that is suspicious of intelligence and anything extraordinary is a perfect malleable group, ready to absorb the values and ideas that the elites in power want them to profess and live by.

Please provide some insight into or a secret or two about your story.

Why is it that the door of a secret vault in a New Mexico scientific institute can only be opened by Frances Fons, a young Argentine scientist born 9 months after the vault was last opened?

If you reflect on this question while you read the novel, you’ll be ahead in understanding the clues that lead to the shocking and juicy end.

What was the most surprising part of writing this book?

My natural literary style drifted seamlessly toward a psychological thriller that has elements of science fiction. I always assumed that my first novel would be a heady soliloquy of memoirs and reflections—but, instead, I created an exciting, thrilling, rather dark story packed with action scenes and suspense. I surprised myself along the way.

What was the hardest part of writing your book, and how did you overcome it?

The editing process: chopping the manuscript from almost 80,000 words to the current 68,000. I just spent seven consecutive days, from morning to night, focused and slashing. It was sad to see some great literary elements and poetical excerpts go…but very necessary to keep the plot focused, smooth and moving along.

 

Given unlimited resources, what would be your ideal writing environment? 

Exactly where I am right now: a north-facing studio with huge windows and direct views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, with only a typewriter and my painting materials around. I paint as a way of inspiration. The cover art in my book is my artwork.

When I am done with the first draft, I move to an office with a computer and do the rest. It’s a great balance.

Name one entity that you feel supported your writing, outside of family members. 

Nobody. But then again, I did not look for help outside family and friends. My husband, an artist, has been an incredible source of support. And many friends have provided me with feedback and encouragement.

What is your advice to writers?

Base your stories and character development on what you know. And don’t get too distracted with what others are doing. This is your voice and your creation—don’t let anyone bully you into conforming to their norms. Protect your uniqueness.

If you met Stephen King on an elevator, how would pitch your book to him?

In all honesty, in that situation I would keep quiet and not approach him. I am not good at soliciting contacts because of my personality. I don’t like depending on favors to achieve my goals. I like my work to speak for itself. It’s a harder, lonelier, and sometimes gruesome path. But I’d rather walk it alone than grovel over any famous person that I meet in order to get something out of it.

 

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Julia Starling is a medical doctor and psychotherapist. Born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, she spent five years in the UK finishing her clinical studies and then moved to California to complete her psychotherapy training. She currently lives in northern New Mexico with her husband Alex.

The Heron Master and other stories is live!

I’ve released my sixth book, The Heronmaster and other stories with an amazing cover by Wil Oberdier. Check out samples of a couple of the stories on the page link above. If you sign up for my Newsletter, the first twenty people will get a free ebook of the Heronmaster in the format of their choice. The Newsletter will contain a story, a book review and some writing tips and some other goodies. All of this will be exclusive first release to the members of my newsletter list. Sign up by clicking the Newsletter link above.

 

Cover Reveal for The Heronmaster

leaperalex2015leaperstale10My newest book is a collection of stories. The title story follows the life of a frog who must do the impossible to protect his pond. We also follow the adventure of a wolf who is forced to play detective to learn the fate of a bull moose. Two other stories round out the book bringing meteors and red balloons into character’s lives with unexpected results. Look for it Novemember 10th on Amazon and other ebook sellers. The hard copy version will be available by the end of November through Lulu.

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Stay in touch and get a chance to download The Heronmaster for free. Sign up for my email newsletter. Just click ‘Newsletter’ in the banner above and fill out the form.

The Conspiracy of Silence

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Title         –        THE CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE

Genre      –        Mystery/thriller

ISBN        –       978-1517190316

Excerpt link: http://goo.gl/kYhj92

Book trailer link: https://goo.gl/wZ4F3g

Synopsis    

The conscience of a town steeped in sexism, vanity and hypocrisy is pricked by the brutal murder of a mysterious woman in a park in Los Angeles. But the shock is transformed into a steamy, seductive scandal when the body turns out to be that of Susan Whitaker, the flamboyant wife of the governor of California.

Soon, a dazzlingly intricate shuffle of volatile links leads the police to the delicate theory of secret lover/blackmailer, and to the indictment of Benjamin Carlton, Hollywood’s most influential black celebrity.

Then curious things begin to happen when Carlton’s ambitious girlfriend, Rita Spencer suddenly unearths the shocking secret that Susan Whitaker did not, in fact, exist. She little realizes however that her discovery of this colossal fraud is a mere curtain raiser to a chilling world of ugly skeletons dating back to the assassination of a U.S. senator in a Washington hotel sauna, skeletons connected to riveting sex scandals in high places, skeletons the FBI and political kingmakers will kill for…

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Author bio   –

Augustine Sam is a bilingual Italian journalist and an award winning poet. A member of the U.K. Chartered Institute of Journalists, he was formerly Special Desk editor at THISDAY newspapers, an authoritative Third World daily first published in collaboration with the Financial Times of London. He later became correspondent for central Europe. His poems have been published in two international anthologies: The Sounds of Silence & Measures of the Heart. One of his poems, Anguish & Passion, was the winner of the Editors’ Choice Awards in the North America Open Poetry contest, USA.

Augustine’s debut novel, Take Back the Memory, a contemporary Women’s fiction, received a Readers’ Favorite 5-star medal. His second book, Flashes of Emotion, a collection of poems, was the 2015 International Book Award Finalist. Augustine lives and works in Venice.

Social media:

Author website             –           http://goo.gl/A5jRnj

Author’s blog                –          http://goo.gl/VIRVmM

Twitter                            –          http://goo.gl/Yzan2G

Facebook                         –          http://goo.gl/W7W1Ta

Goodreads                      –           http://goo.gl/NjAxV9

Google +                          –          http://goo.gl/yruj3D

Amazon author page    –         http://goo.gl/osU1VZ

Beyond the Wail: 12 Grave Stories of Love and Loss

Here is a cover release with my name on it! Xchyler Publishing presents Beyond the Wail: 12 Grave Stories of Love and Loss. This collection is the result of one of their quarterly competitions. I managed to squeak a story in there some how. Don’t blink and you’ll see my name come up on the video.

These stories are paranormal, but they represent a wide variety of views of what paranormal is and how to write it. It is going to be a book well worth reading.

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Sigil of the Wyrm Blog Tour

Xchyler Publishing has released Sigil of the Wyrm, the first book of the Into the Weirding series. It is Urban Fantasy in the best kind of way, not just introducing elves and such into the modern world, but creating its own unique universe which is a step sideways from where normal people live.

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Interview with A.J. Campbell

  1. What is your advice to writers?
  2. a) Read, read, read, read, read. Develop your taste. If you don’t have a feel for what makes a good book, how are you going to be able to write one?
  3. b) And write. Write all the time you’re not reading. You wouldn’t expect to sit down at a piano for the first time and play Rachmaninov just like that – so why expect your first scribblings to be your best? Writing is a skill like any other, and you have to practice if you want to get good.
  4. c) And don’t be too precious about your work. Some of the best advice I ever had was that if there is ever a paragraph or a section of your story that you are particularly attached to, cut it. It will start to warp the story around itself like a black hole or a space-time anomaly. Always remember that your prose should be serving the story, not the other way around.
  5. What’s up next for you?

I’ve already started on book 2, which will be the next in the Into the Weirding series. It’ll be drawing a lot on Arthurian legend this time, especially the Excalibur stories. I’m about as far as chapter outlines and a few first-drafts of scenes, so watch this space…!

  1. What is your favorite snack while writing?

Does coffee count as a snack? Tea?

  1. If you had three wishes, what would they be?

I’m far more practical than people think, so I’d probably go for some variation on the standard “Health, Wealth and Happiness”. I’d like to be earning enough from my writing that I’d never have to worry about money again, I’d like 20/20 vision again so I could stop faffing around with glasses and contact lenses, and I’d quite like to play the violin.

  1. Is there anything else you’d like your readers to know about you?

I’ve been listening to the 1812 Overture recently, and I think more pieces of music should be scored for artillery.

Pinterest: Fantasy casting call

https://www.pinterest.com/galacticteabag/fantasy-casting-call/

 

 

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Book Release Blog Tour August 29-September 5

Saturday, Aug. 29

Alex Campbell

Perpetual Chaos of a Wandering Mind

Sunday, Aug. 30

Lurking Musings

Slithers of Thought

Monday, Aug. 31

The Deep, Dark Library

Cobblestone Scribe

Tuesday, Sep. 1

Lucy Ayrton, Performance Poet

T.N. Payne, Author

Wednesday, Sep. 2

Richard A. Usher, Media Creative

Alex McGilvery’s World

Thursday, Sep. 3

Scott E. Tarbet, Author

Are You Afraid of the Dark

Friday, Sep. 4

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Danielle E. Shipley

The Author Visits

Saturday, Sep. 5

R. A. Ridley

Didi Lawson, Author

Musings, Amusings, and Bemusings

 

No blog tour would be complete without a Rafflecopter giveaway

Watch the trailer here: 

or on YouTube

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Buy the book on Amazon

For more information on Sigil of the Wyrm and Xchyler Publishing check out their web page.