Scavenger of Souls Blog Tour with Joshua David Bellin

I’d like to welcome Joshua David Bellin back as his blog tour nears its end. Joshua is the author of Survival Colony 9 and now its sequel, Scavenger of Souls. I’ve only read the first few pages of Scavenger of Souls, but it’s looking at least as captivating as Survival Colony 9. Click on the Rafflecopter link after the except for a chance to win an autographed copy of Scavenger of Souls. (Check back here for a review soon!)

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About the book:

 

Querry Genn is running out of time. He may have saved his survival colony and defeated a nest of the monstrous Skaldi, but that doesn’t mean he has any more answers to who he is. And Querry’s mother, Aleka, isn’t talking. Instead, she’s leading the colony through a wasteland of unfamiliar territory. When they reach Aleka’s destination, everything Querry believed about his past is challenged.

 

In the middle of a burned-out desert, an entire compound of humans has survived with plenty of food and equipment. But the colonists find no welcome there, especially from Mercy, the granddaughter of the compound’s leader. Mercy is as tough a fighter as Querry has ever seen—and a girl as impetuous as he is careful. But the more Querry learns about Mercy and her colony, the more he uncovers the gruesome secrets that haunt Mercy’s past—and his own.

 

With threats mounting from the Skaldi and the other humans, Querry must grapple with the past and fight to save the future. In the thrilling conclusion to the story that began with Survival Colony 9, Joshua David Bellin narrates a tale of sacrifice, courage against overwhelming odds, and the fateful choices that define us for a lifetime.

 

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Age: 12+

Release date: August 23, 2016

For order links, visit http://joshuadavidbellin.com/my-books/

Available in hardcover and e-book

 

Praise for Survival Colony 9:

 

Tantalizing mysteries abound among the human and inhuman inhabitants of the bleak landscape, and the post-apocalyptic plot is satisfyingly full of twists.—Booklist

 

Joshua David Bellin brings serious game in a post-apocalyptic thriller that collides breathless action with devious world building and genuine heart. A terrific novel!—Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of Rot & Ruin and V-Wars

 

Set in a gritty post-apocalyptic world, Survival Colony 9 is both an adventure and an exploration of what it means to be human.—Margaret Peterson Haddix, New York Times bestselling author of the Missing Series

 

Scavenger of Souls

© 2016 by Joshua David Bellin

 

 

Chapter One

 

Aleka looked out over the land and frowned.

 

She stood at the crest of a low hill, squinting in the sunlight, the lines deepening around her mouth. I tried to read her expression, but as usual I failed.

 

This was Aleka, after all. Her close-cropped, graying blond hair framed a face she could turn into a mask at a moment’s notice. I’d been studying that face for the better part of a week, and I still had no idea what was going on behind her deep gray eyes.

 

Aleka. My mother. And as much a mystery to me as my own past.

 

After a long minute she spoke the name of her second-in-command. “Soon.”

 

Soon, a big guy with what might have been called a pot belly in a different time, came up beside her.

 

Aleka surveyed the unforgiving landscape, the lazy glint of river the only sign of movement in the waste. “How long?”

 

“A week. Maybe two if we’re extra careful.” He searched her face, but he must have come up empty too. “Why?”

 

She didn’t answer. The others had edged closer, listening. Any conversation that hinted at our dwindling supply of canned goods got their attention.

 

But after another long look over the barren land, she turned and strode back down the hill, refusing to meet any of our eyes. Everyone watched her go in silence, until she disappeared behind a clump of rock that stood at the base of the hill.

 

“Well, that was enlightening,” Wali said.

 

There were sixteen of us, the last survivors of Survival Colony 9. Five grown-ups counting Aleka, Soon, our camp healer Tyris, our craftswoman Nekane, and the old woman whose name no one knew, a wraith with wild white hair and a threadbare shift the same drab gray-brown as our uniforms. For the past week we’d been carrying her on a homemade stretcher, while she gripped her late husband’s collection container, a scuffed, bottle-green jar overflowing with scraps of hair and fingernails. She was amazingly heavy for a woman who’d dwindled to skin and bones.

 

The rest of us were teens and younger. Wali, with his shaggy hair and bronzed muscles, the oldest at seventeen. Nessa, the only teenage girl left in our colony since the death of Wali’s girlfriend Korah. Then there was Adem, a tall skinny awkward guy who communicated mostly with gulps and blushes. And the little ones, seven of them total, from ragged five-year-old Keely to knowing Zataias at age ten, with straggly-haired Bea in the middle.

 

And that left only me. Querry Genn. Fifteen years old last week, and thanks to an accident seven months ago, with no memory of the first fourteen.

 

Only my mother held the secret to who I was. But she wasn’t talking.

 

She hadn’t said a word to me the whole week. That entire time, we’d been creeping across a desert landscape of stripped stone and yawning crevices, the scars our ancestors had cut into the face of the land. For six of those seven days we’d been carrying the old woman. Aleka had driven us at a pace unusual even for her, with only short rests at the brutal height of day and long marches deep into the night. What she was hurrying for was another thing she wouldn’t talk to me about.

 

When we’d left our camp by the river, the old woman had babbled on about mountains somewhere to the north, licking her lips while she talked as if she could taste the snow-fresh air. She’d described green grass as high as our knees, wind rippling across it so it seemed to shimmer like something she called satin. She’d told us about yellow flowers and purple ones, trickling water so clear you could see brightly colored fish darting among the submerged stones. Clouds, she said, blanketed the mountain peaks, cool and white and soft, unlike the oppressive brown clouds that smothered the sun but almost never rained in the world we knew. At first I refused to believe her, told myself that half of what she said had to be exaggerated or misremembered or just plain crazy. But like everyone else, I’d fallen in love with the picture she painted. None of the rest of us had seen mountains, not even Tyris, who’d been two or three years old when the wars started. After a lifetime in the desert, the prospect of mountains rearing up out of nowhere, white and purple and capped with gold from the sun, was irresistible.

 

By now, though, it seemed even the old woman had forgotten where we were headed. She’d lapsed into silence, except for the times she stroked her collection jar, mumbling to it. She slept most of the time, sometimes beating her hands against her chest and mouthing words no one could make out. But even when her eyes opened, her glassy expression showed no awareness of anyone or anything around her.

 

We set her stretcher down in the best shade we could find and stood there, waiting for Aleka to return. Nessa held the old woman’s gnarled hand and sang softly, something the old woman had sung to her when she was a kid. I tried to organize a game with the little ones, but they just flopped in the dirt, limbs flung everywhere in postures of dramatic protest. I’d learned the hard way that you couldn’t get all seven of them to do anything at once, but occasionally, if you got one of them doing something that looked interesting enough, the others couldn’t stand to be left out.

 

Today, though, it wasn’t going to happen. A fossil hunt usually got them going, but this time even Keely wouldn’t bite when I told him an old, rotting buffalo skull was a T. rex.

 

“I don’t want to play that game, Querry,” he managed weakly, before putting his head down and closing his eyes. “It’s boring.”

 

Without warning, Aleka stalked back to the group. To my complete surprise, she took my arm and pulled me away from the others. I stumbled to keep up with her long strides. When we reached the rock where she’d hidden herself before, she stopped, so suddenly she just about spun me around.

 

“Querry,” she said. “We need to talk.”

 

“We’ve needed to talk all week,” I said under my breath.

 

She heard me. She always did. “That will have to wait. This is priority.”

 

“Something else always is, isn’t it?”

 

We faced off for a moment.

 

“I’m asking you to be patient,” she said. “And to believe I’m working on this.”

 

“Fine.” I wished for once I could meet her on even ground, but she had a good six inches on me, not to mention at least thirty years. “Let me know when you’ve got it all worked out.”

 

If I thought I’d get a reaction from that, I was wrong. Her face went into lockdown, and I was pretty sure the conversation was over. But then she asked, “What is it you want, Querry?”

 

“Answers,” I said. “The truth.”

 

“Answers aren’t always true,” she said. “And the truth isn’t always the answer you want.”

 

“Whatever that means.”

 

She glared at me, but kept her voice in check.

 

“It means what it means,” she said. “For one, it means that Soon’s estimate is wildly optimistic. I’ve checked our stores, and we have only a few days of food left. If we’re even stingier than usual. Which is a risk, since there’s nothing here to supplement our supplies.”

 

“Why would Soon. . . .”

 

She ignored me. “And it means the old woman is failing.  Earlier today she asked me if she could talk to Laman.”

 

“You’re kidding.”

 

“I wish I were.”

 

I stared at her, not knowing what to say. Laman Genn had led Survival Colony 9 for twenty-five years. But like so many of his followers, he’d died a little over a week ago, just before we set out on our journey.

 

Died. Been killed. I tried not to think about it, but I remembered the nest, the bloody wound in his side, the creature that had torn him open.

 

The Skaldi.

 

The ones we’d been fleeing all our lives. Monsters with the ability to consume and mimic human hosts. It was hard to believe anyone could forget them. Even though we’d destroyed their nest, I kept expecting them to reappear, like a second nightmare that catches you when you think you’re awake and drags you back under.

 

“Any more good news?” I said, trying to smile.

 

She didn’t return the offering. “The children are failing too,” she said. “Keely and Beatrice especially. If we run out of solid food. . . . We forget how fragile they are. And how many of the little ones simply don’t make it.”

 

I turned to look at the kids, lying on the ground like so many dusty garlands. “What can we do?”

 

She didn’t say anything for a long time, and her gaze left mine, drifting to the desert beyond. I thought she wasn’t going to answer when her voice came again, as far away as her eyes.

 

“I know this area,” she said. “Or at least, I did. None of the others has been here—Laman seems to have avoided it assiduously. But I was here, once upon a time. So long ago the details are fuzzy. Either that or it’s . . . changed.”

 

I glanced around us, as if I expected to see something I hadn’t noticed before. “Why didn’t you tell anyone?”

 

Her shoulders inched in the slightest of shrugs. “I didn’t want to give anyone false hope. They were excited enough about the mountains. And I wasn’t sure I could find it again. I’m still not sure.”

 

“What is it?”

 

She waved vaguely toward the northwest. “A sanctuary, or as much of one as we’re likely to find in this world. Not mountains, but a canyon. Shaded, protected from the worst damage of the wars. The river gains strength as it flows through, nourishing what grows on its banks. If we could only reach it, there might be a chance for the most vulnerable members of the colony.”

 

I studied her face, as still and remote as the surface of the moon. This time, though, I thought I caught something there.

 

“If this place is so great,” I said carefully, “why did Laman stay away from it?”

 

Her eyes snapped to mine, and for the briefest second I imagined I saw a glimmer of fear.

 

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About the author:

 

Joshua David Bellin has been writing novels since he was eight years old (though the first few were admittedly very short). He taught college for twenty years, wrote a bunch of books for college students, then decided to return to fiction. Survival Colony 9 is his first novel, with the sequel, Scavenger of Souls, set to release on August 23, 2016. A third YA science fiction novel, the deep-space adventure/romance Freefall, will appear in 2017.

 

Josh loves to read, watch movies, and spend time in Nature with his kids. Oh, yeah, and he likes monsters. Really scary monsters.

 

To find out more about Josh and his books, visit him at the following:

 

Website: http://www.joshuadavidbellin.com

Blog: http://theyaguy.blogspot.com/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/TheYAGuy

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/joshuadavidbellin

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7393959.Joshua_David_Bellin

 

If this excerpt interested you, and you’d like to have more information about Joshua David Bellin and Scavenger of Souls, check out the other stops on the blog tour:

8/16     Dianne Salerni: Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction

http://diannesalerni.com/blog/

8/17     Stephanie Keyes, Author

www.stephaniekeyes.com

8/18     Margo Kelly

http://www.margokelly.net

8/19     Kat Ross

http://katrossbooks.com/index.html

8/20     Christina Farley

http://christinafarley.com/blog/

8/21     JeanzBookReadNReview

http://jeanzbookreadnreview.blogspot.co.uk/

8/22     Gold from the Dust

http://www.darlenebeckjacobson.wordpress.com

8/25     Yvonne Ventresca’s Word Pop

http://yvonneventresca.com/blog.html

8/26     Strands of Thought

https://kaistrand.blogspot.com/

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Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud: Chapter Three

While you decide which student versions of Chapter Three have earned your votes, here’s the version I wrote as it appeared in the book. Enjoy!

If you like what you’ve seen and what to read the rest of Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud, Muse It Up Publishing and Amazon both have it on sale for $2.75 (USD). It’s $5.50 everywhere else.

Here are the links to the other posts involving this project:

Intro and Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud: Chapter One:
Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud: Chapter Two:

Student Versions of Chapter Three

Group 1
Group 2
Group 3
Group 4
Group 5
Group 6
Group 7
Group 8
Group 9
Group 10
Group 11
Group 12
Group 13
Group 14
Group 15

Voting open from September 18-24

Winning submission(s) announced September 25 (Link will go live on the 25th)

****

Chapter Three
Wizards

The thick forest surrounding Innes Village blocked out any moonlight. An owl screeched in the distance, as if it were mocking the inevitable use of magic. A wolf howled again, much farther away than the last time.

“Listen here, wizard!” Owen snapped. “I will not be learning any magic.”

Cedric walked on. “Of course not. That’s why I had you bring your sword. Diversity—the key to many of life’s challenges.” Cedric turned his head, his brow furrowed and his eyes narrowed leaving slits as black as the surrounding woods. “But I’m not a wizard, and I would appreciate you not calling me one. I have denounced them and their ways. The Wizard Rebellion tainted the word for all those using magic for good purposes.”

“Diversity may be key, but magic has caused me more pain and hardship than it will ever aid me.”

What good could come of magic? Owen didn’t like the idea of depending on magic to survive the desert, regardless of who cast the spells.

Cedric’s voice called out from deeper within the woods, “The hour draws late, and I can scarcely see in this forest. If my memory holds true, a clearing lies just ahead. We can set camp and build a fire there.”

When Owen caught up, Cedric had already started gathering firewood. Owen helped, happy to end the conversation about magic. The trees parted above the clearing, and the sky shown bright with stars and the waxing gibbous moon. The huge star that had shown through the window in the dining hall, much brighter than all other heavenly bodies save the moon, now twinkled just over the tall peaks of the western tree line.

They piled the wood, and Owen went in search of food. He returned with three frogs from a nearby stream, their backs speared by his blade. Another trip to the stream resulted in a full lambskin canteen. He came back to find the fire roaring.

Cedric spun the frogs on a skewer made from a small branch. He removed the meat from the fire and distributed portions. “I know you hold magic responsible for what happened to your mother. You’ve made no effort to hide your hatred of magicians. It’s no secret you blame me. I can tell you what really happened the night your mother died, if you’ll listen.”

Owen almost swallowed the frog’s leg bone from which he sucked the meat. “No! I’m not talking about that with you. If not for you, she would have never learned magic. If not for you, the Wizard Rebellion would have never shown up at Innes Castle. If not for you, my mother would still be alive!”

“The Wizard Rebellion would have attacked Innes Castle had I been there or not.” Cedric pressed his palms against his eyes. He shook his head, and hair fell over his fingers. “Owen, there’s so much you don’t understand. Magic is neither good nor evil. Evil people using magic, and their intentions, are what instill magic with evil. If you won’t let me tell you what happened when your mother died, at least let me explain the Wizard Rebellion. You need to know how they began.”

Owen thought about Cedric’s offer for a moment. Without knowing where they needed to go or how long it would take to get there, he guessed several days constituted a conservative estimate. He may as well let the crazy old man tell his story. The magician wouldn’t likely let it rest until he did. He took the last piece of frog meat from the skewer and poked the fire with a long branch before adding it to the fire. Embers sparked and floated away in the zephyr, burning out one by one.

“All right,” Owen said. “Tell me about the Wizard Rebellion.”

Cedric leaned back on a tree stump and talked. Owen listened with rapt attention to the story of how the Wizard Rebellion really started.

* * * *

The pitch black of the starless night sky violently erupted with lightning. The humid air had felt electric all day with the pending storm on the horizon. Now, nature would release all of her fury in a matter of hours. Trees would fall, and lands would flood. A gust of wind blew in through the cracked cabin window, snuffing out the lantern for the third time.

Tired of relighting it, as well as struggling to keep his newly acquired fire magic under control—a singed wall and scorched cuff on his robe accompanied the first two relights—Cedric fell back on easier magic. He took up a staff with a small sphere at the end, and he made the sphere glow a brilliant white-blue twice as lustrous as the lantern.

The light gave a purple hue to the face of the man sitting at the table reading a letter. Shadows formed in his sunken cheeks. He was lean but not unhealthy. The trick of the light made him resemble a skeleton. He ran a hand through his short hair.

“Thank you, Cedric,” Argnam said. “I think I’ll soon retire for the evening. Follum says the Western Domain passed a law restricting magic users to practice only within the confines of their own homes. He says he will journey to their land to discuss the foolishness of the law.”

Cedric moved around the table to better see the note over Argnam’s shoulder. Over a year ago, he had suggested they try establishing communication with those fearful of magic, but his mentor hadn’t thought they would listen. “Have you changed your mind about reaching out to non-magic users?”

“Nay, Follum believes fear spawns from ignorance, and he thinks people can learn to trust magic. I don’t share that optimistic world view. I’ve used my magic to heal fatal wounds, just to have the recovered person spit in my face for using magic on them.” Argnam finished reading the letter. “Follum is right about one thing, we have to do something to stop the persecution of wizards. I’ve thought about organizing a rebellion. Give me another night to think on it, and we can discuss some ideas I’ve developed tomorrow.”

That night, Cedric dreamed of a great battle. Older, and now a true magician, he fought for his life. Others fought in the battle as well; some of whom he knew well, others he didn’t. Yet in the surreal world of the dream, he knew everyone. And he understood where his loyalties lay.

A blue flash of light hurled toward Cedric. He jumped aside just in time. The magic slammed into the interior castle wall, causing it to crumble. In mid-dive, he charged his staff with strange magic he didn’t yet understand. He rolled to his feet and propelled his staff like a spear at the familiar wizard who stood before him. The spear landed home and pierced the center of his former mentor’s chest. Argnam had time to look down at the staff embedded in his chest before the staff exploded, killing him.

The next day, Cedric told Argnam of the dream.

Argnam fixed Cedric with a gaze that seemed to penetrate his inner spirit. “You know some wizards are dreamers. They can see the future in their dreams, but you’ve never had a seeing dream before, have you?”

“No.”

“Then I wouldn’t worry about it. I’ve never heard of a dreamer gaining the power as late in life as you.”

“I’m only twenty-four,” Cedric said.

“Yes, but you’re almost ten years older than the typical age. Only once have I heard of a seer gaining the gift as late in life as sixteen. It just doesn’t happen.”

“I started my training in magic later than most. Do you think that could affect the onset?”

Argnam placed his hands on Cedric’s shoulders. “Listen, I’m not going to worry about it, and neither should you.”

Cedric closed his eyes and shook his head. “I’ll try, but the dream seemed so real.”

Argnam released the young man and took a seat. He gestured for Cedric to sit as well. “I’m sure it’s nothing. Now I’d like to tell you about my plan.”

They discussed forming a band of wizards with the purpose of traveling the world, seeking more wizards to join their ranks and attempting to convince non-magical people not to fear those who could wield magic.

As he thought over the plan, Cedric scratched at the stubble of the beard he had decided to grow a week ago. It itched so much. He didn’t know how long he’d be able to keep at it. “And how do you suppose this…what should we call it, this Wizard Rebellion, should convince those who fear magic to trust it? I know you don’t believe in talking sense into them like Follum does.”

“We could hold demonstrations, public displays of magic. We could hold mass healing ceremonies. Anything to show people what good can come from magic.”

Cedric shook his head. “When people hear wizards are banning together, they will pass laws to make our congregations illegal.”

Argnam stretched his hands behind his head. A smug arrogance washed over his face, making it look more rigid than normal. “I’ve thought of that. We’ll have to organize the wizards in secret. Keep our presence as quiet as possible. When we emerge in numbers, they won’t have time to make laws.”

A vision of Cedric’s dream flashed in his head. He blinked to shake off the memory. “Some people may become violent. Fear is a great motivator.”

Argnam rose and walked to a window. “If anyone raises a hand against us, we can use our magic to defend ourselves. Of course, a non-magic user couldn’t do much to defend against one wizard, let alone many. So we’d have to be careful. Use our defensive spells sparingly. If anyone were to get hurt, it would set our cause back a great deal.”

Thus the Wizard Rebellion started. The next day, Cedric made the first recruit when Necrose came to see if they, too, had received the letter from Follum.

A year passed. Many wizards in the Western Domain and Southern Domain joined the Rebellion. Argnam wanted to gain an alliance in the Eastern Domain before moving into the Northern Domain, due to the Northern Domain’s geographical isolation. He intended to leave the political juggernaut of the Central Domain for last.

“Cedric,” Argnam said, “the time has come for your Endeavor.”

Cedric’s mouth fell agape, and he dropped the goblet of water he carried. He had hoped to take on his Endeavor soon, but the mentor always determined the time, place, and event.

“I have received another letter from Follum. Remember a year ago when he went to the Eastern Domain to convince them their laws had to change? Well, it appears they prosecuted him, and he has spent most of the last year in prison. Your Endeavor is to rescue him, and, of course, find new recruits for the Wizard Rebellion while you’re in the east.”

Cedric made haste from the swamplands of the south to Echion, the capital city of the Eastern Domain. Once there, he bypassed the barracks and headed for the rocky cliffs of the seashore. One of the wizards he met along the way, and successfully recruited for the Rebellion, informed him the prison stood on a plateau that hung over the ocean.

Looking at the fortress, Cedric thought escape was too easy for a wizard. The rocky cliff and the ocean would deter a normal person from breaking out and leave them incapable of breaking in. With magic, he scaled the rock wall and made his way to the top of the prison, only to find it completely unguarded.

Inside, he didn’t know where to start looking, but he didn’t have to wander long. He held out his hand, and a fireball ignited and floated just above his fingers. The illumination showed an elderly man on a bunk in the cell straight ahead. Follum. Cedric extinguished the fire and charged the end of his staff. The faint glow it gave off reminded him of a dream he had forgotten long ago. What had the dream been about? Had he used his staff to kill someone? He snapped back from his memory and used the staff to pass the energy to the bars of the cell. They each gave off the same glow. He stepped back, and the bars exploded.

Follum sprang from the bed much faster than seemed possible for a man of his age. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Rescuing you,” Cedric said.

Follum didn’t act old at all as his tongue tore into Cedric. “You can’t be serious. I am a master wizard. You are an apprentice. Do you think me incapable of breaking out of here if I so desired.”

Cedric stood confounded.

Follum approached him with anger in his eyes. “I’ve remained to show the people of this land that I respect them and their laws. I hoped in time they would come to understand that I intend them no harm. Did you even face any guards getting in here? I bet not. And they moved me to this cell earlier today. Someone set you up. Let’s go. We have to leave now!”

Cedric stared dumbfounded as Follum walked away. How could he have fallen for such an obvious trick? He followed Follum, and the two men hurried down the cliff wall and back toward the village.

“We’ll follow this path toward Echion and hide in the forest.”

Cedric still pondered who could have set him up. “Argnam sent me to rescue you as my Endeavor. No one else knew the plan.”

“Congratulations! You’re one of the craft now. You saved me.” Follum turned on Cedric. “You’re also a fool. He must have sent word of your coming. Let’s take this path and hide in the forest.”

Cedric felt like a fool. He thought he needed to explain himself. “We formed a rebellion to fight the injustices wizards face. We want to show people that magic can help them. I had hoped you would join us after I rescued you.”

“Peaceful demonstrations have been tried before. They never work. At some point, they get out of control. The peace turns to violence, and the original cause looks worse than it did before the demonstrations. No, I will not join you. Argnam should have known I would refuse. I think your whole Endeavor is a test of your loyalty to Argnam.”

Could Argnam have set me up to test my convictions?

Just before they reached the canopy of trees, countless soldiers emerged from the forest.

Follum made no effort to take a defensive stance. “An hour of judgment has come. Decisions made now will determine not only our fate, but the fate of all magic users in the eyes of the people of the Eastern Domain. I am prepared to wait out my days in prison. Yet we have come this far, and I will aid you in escape if you so desire.”

Cedric considered his options. He could stand down with Follum. But he’d have to spend time in prison. He didn’t share all of Follum’s beliefs. While a fight could set back what little progress had been made over the past few years. “As long as we don’t kill any soldiers, I say we fight. I don’t believe rotting in prison will convince anyone to trust magic.”

Cedric waved his staff, and the front line of soldiers flew back, knocking over the next two rows. Follum joined in the attack, and the two wizards worked their way into the forest and out of the Eastern Domain.

* * * *

By the time Cedric finished, the large, bright star in the west had progressed east to light the night sky directly overhead. He claimed exhaustion and settled down to sleep.

Owen lay awake pondering the tale. The information confounded him. This fool just told him he started the Rebellion, yet the rebellion from the story didn’t seem at all like the one he remembered. Cedric even gave the Rebellion its name. And helped recruit new members. I wonder how many of the members he recruited were involved with the bombardment of Innes Castle?

To clear his thoughts, he reminisced about his mother while he watched shooting stars burn across the clear night sky. Before long, his eyes grew heavy. Sleep overtook him.

****

Want more of Owen, Cedric and the rest of the characters from Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud? Find the link to your favorite retailer here.

Guest Post: Antje Hergt author of Darinel Dragonhunter

Today I am pleased to welcome fellow Muse It Up fantasy author Antje Hergt. Darinel Dragonhunter, book one in the Reluctant Dragonhunter series, came out in June. What else can you tell us about the book, Antje?

DarinelDragonhunter

Amazing cover art by Karen Phillips

Prince Darinel is traveling–for what feels like forever. Expelled from his father’s kingdom, he just wants to find a new home. When a shadow lures him to a wealthy kingdom, he stays to discover more about the darkness, but the citizens are tight-lipped.

Their king welcomes the foreign Prince hoping that he will solve his two problems: the dragon and his strong-willed daughter. Coming from a warrior kingdom, Darinel despises violence, but charmed by Princess Tuskja’s dare, he sets out to confront the beast. Instead of finding a fierce dragon, he finds a friend. The dragon’s malicious humor and his love of fairy tales entangle Darinel in a summer of adventures, while danger stirs in the East, the Dark Prince. Being refused by the Princess and humiliated by the dragon, this proud prince seeks revenge.

In compliance with the king’s decree, Darinel is torn between his friendship with the dragon and his love for Princess Tuskja, whom he can only marry if he kills his friend. Before he can make a decision, the kingdom is under attack. Now it is up to the dragon to either help his friend or respect his wish to not interfere.

Excerpt:

The prince sighed. “Yeah, you’re right. Do you mind if I take a break here?”
“Oh no. Be my guest,” the voice replied, cheerfully.
Darinel dismounted and reached to tie Tibor’s reins to the trunk of a tree, when a dark shadow swished over him. The horse bolted in panic and disappeared. Dumbfounded, he stared down the path they had just travelled.
“Oops!” The voice sounded a bit regretful.
“That was not supposed to happen.” Still shaking his head, he turned to a little sparkling stream at his feet and knelt beside it. He took off his helmet and splashed water onto his face and over his head.
“It is a bit inconvenient, isn’t it?” the voice said. “But don’t worry, the way down always seems faster,” it added cheerfully.
“Yeah, right!” the prince said with a smirk as he slid back to lean on a big boulder behind him. “Now you see I am no threat to you, won’t you come out and sit with me?” He ruffled his hand through his wet hair.
“I’d love to, but don’t you know, there’s a fierce dragon in these mountains?” the voice pointed out.

About the Author:
Antje Hergt

Born and raised in Germany, I came to explore the Canadian Rockies in Canmore, Alberta in 2003. Taking part in the Writing-with-Style Program at the Banff Centre for the Arts in 2007 encouraged me to follow my passion: writing for children. Darinel Dragonhunter is my first novel, which was inspired by my deep love for classic children literature and fairy tales. My thrill for science fiction/fantasy movies and television shows had an outlet in various genre short stories. I am a member of the Alberta Writer’s Guild and graduated from the Justus-Liebig-University in Giessen with a degree in Modern Languages.
Currently, I live in Germany with my snoring cat, Sally, but I miss the magic of the Rocky Mountains. When I am not in Canmore, you can find me in Germany.

Thank you for stopping by, Antje. Your book sounds fantastic. Darinel Dragonhunter is available now from Muse It Up Publishing or Amazon. Please use the comment section below to let Antje know what you think of her book.

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Guest Post: Margay Leah Justice author of Sloane Wolf

I’m honored to have Margay Leah Justice join me and give us some insight into her book, Sloane Wolf, Book One in The Wolves of Destiny Falls. In this paranormal romance from Muse It Up Publishing, a one-hundred and fifty year old legend comes to fruition and brings together Micah, the protector of the legend, and a gifted young girl named Shiloh.

Margay has started work on the second book in The Wolves of Destiny Falls, Piper’s Dream. For now, read on for a supplemental letter from Micah to Shiloh.

How do you like the wolf’s snarl in the background?

Shiloh,

            I’m not sure how I should start this. I’m not one for spilling my feelings, even on paper, so I don’t even know if I started it right. Should I have said ‘Dear Shiloh’ instead of just ‘Shiloh’ or is that okay? Does it make it sound like just a note? Is it too informal? I don’t know, I don’t usually do this – any of this. I’m not the heart and posies kind of guy, I don’t make the outlandish gestures to tell my woman how I feel, so this is really awkward for me. So I guess you’re kind of wondering why I’m even doing this, then, huh? Well, Raven told me to. Now before you get all huffy about why I’d let my sister talk me into something like this, just listen – or read, in this case. Raven knows me – sometimes too well – and she knows how I have a hard time expressing things (I know you’re laughing right now, so don’t), so she thought this might help. If I could just write it down, I could figure out the best way to tell you how I feel. So this is it, this is how I feel. About you.

            Before I met you, I was just going through the motions of life, but never really living. But I didn’t know that until I met you. When you first came riding into my life in that flashy Hummer, it’s like it kick-started something inside me – something I didn’t even know was lying dormant – and I really began to live. I became aware of you in a way I was never aware of any other person and I didn’t know how to deal with that, especially when all that stuff went down with Haines and Ava. But then, when I thought I lost you, none of it mattered. That night in the woods, trying to find you – it was the worst time of my life and I never want to go through anything like that again.

            You are the first breath I take every morning, the lifeblood I need to survive. You are every beat of my heart. Without you, my life would cease to have meaning and I’d be back to just going through the motions like I did before I met you. It was a lonely existence then – it’d be a hellish one now. I know we haven’t known each other very long and it seems impossible that I could feel this strong about you so soon, but there it is. Without you, there is no me so, please, say you’ll stay with me. Say you’ll take a chance and stick around and see where this might take us. I won’t force you but know this, if you decide this is all too much for you – if you decide to go – you’ll be taking the better parts of me with you. No matter where you are or what you do, I will always love you.

                                                                                    Micah

Buy Sloane Wolf here:

Muse It Up

Amazon

Author Bio:

 
Descended from the same bloodline that spawned the likes of James Russell, Amy and Robert Lowell, Margay Leah Justice was fated to be a writer herself from a young age. But even before she knew that there was a name for what she was doing, she knew one thing: She had a deep and unconditional love for the written word. A love that would challenge her in times of need, abandon her in times of distress, and rediscover her in times of hope. Through her writing, Margay has learned to cope with every curve ball life has thrown her, including the challenges of single parenting, the harsh realities of living in a shelter, coping with the diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, and the roller coaster ride of dealing with a child who suffers from bipolar disorder. But along the way she has rediscovered the amazing power of words. 

 
Margay currently lives in Massachusetts with her two daughters, two cats, and a myriad of characters who vie for her attention and demand that their own stories be told. In her spare time, she is an avid knitter, knitting her way through a stash of yarn that almost rivals her tbr pile!

 

Links:

 
 
Thank you, Margay, for joining me.

 
Please leave a comment below to tell Margay what you think of her book. If you’ve already read the book, please tell other readers what you thought of it.
 

12 Random Facts

If anyone missed my 12 random facts when they appeared on Erin Albert’s Blog Wednesday, June 5, here they are again.

1.       My first name isn’t Eric; it’s Stanley. I’m not sure why my parents decided to call me by my middle name (I don’t know if I’ve ever asked them), but I certainly feel more like an Eric than a Stanley. I’m surprised by the number of people I’ve met who go by there middle names. But it does make for confusing conversations.

2.       Maybe it’s from my own confounded name, but I put great care in picking names. Both for my children and the characters in my stories. I didn’t want week names for my boys, so I named them after rulers. I have an Alexander (after Alexander the Great) and a Marcus (after Marcus Aurelius). I later learned Marcus was derived from Mars, the war god. And with his occasional catastrophic temper tantrums, I wonder if more research could have helped. Their middle names are Richard and David: family names, but also famous kings. We call them by their first names.

3.       I have donated close to four gallons of blood at blood drives, but I’m sure I’m well over ten gallons if you count what mosquitoes have taken from me without asking. For some reason they love me. I can sit around a campfire with ten other people, and I’ll be the only one with bites. My luck is exactly the opposite when it comes to fishing.

4.       This brings me to why I do everything I can to avoid killing spiders, snakes, and cats. They eat things I do not like.

Cover of "Bull Durham"

Cover of Bull Durham

5.       I watch Bull Durham at the start of every baseball season. And I agree with Crash Davis: “I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter.”

6.       I think the World Cup is the most important sporting event. One of my greatest accomplishments came during the 2002 Cup in Japan/South Korea. I adjusted my sleep schedule to watch the games live. To stay awake during the downtime between games, I decided to check out the first four books of this series called Harry Potter everyone was raving about—maybe you’ve heard of it. I enjoyed it and the cup.

7.       I am a recovering comic book addict. Now I satisfy my fix with The Walking Dead and Locke & Key. I get them from the library to avoid buying them, which leads to collecting, which is the true problem of the addiction.

8.       I am also a recovering video game addict. This was easier to get over than the comics. The financial and time commitment required phased it out when I started college. I’ve had occasional relapses, but for the most part I can control it if I limit my play time to Lego Star Wars with my sons, and maybe an occasional hit of The Legend of Zelda.

9.       At the end of my senior year of high school, one of my teacher gave everyone in the class a certificate with a single word on it he felt best described the student. My word was “DREAMER.” To this day I’m not sure if he meant it as an insult or compliment.

10.   If you count summer elective courses, it took me four colleges and six years to get my bachelor’s degree. I don’t have a degree in English, creative writing, or anything else which may be useful to an author. I majored in biology. I would have had enough credits to minor in chemistry, but the college I finally graduated from didn’t offer a chemistry minor.

11.   I’m a self proclaimed technophobe. Eventually society catches up with me, and I’m forced to give in. Although I have found the practical value of things like Facebook, Twitter, and smart phones, a part of me still believes the internet is inherently evil, and social media, games, and apps are time wasters developed as part of a deep, dark conspiracy to retard our sociological advancement. But maybe it’s just me. I have started using an eReader. I thought it appropriate as my book will be released as an eBook. I’ve found it helps me stay focused on what I’m reading, which brings me to my final point.

12.   I have a strange attention problem which makes it difficult for me to complete a book. I struggle reading just one book, so I tend to read eight to ten books at a time. I’m working on the issue. I try to limit myself to one book of fiction, two of nonfiction (a biography/history/etc. and a book about writing), and one of poetry. I don’t completely understand poetry, but I’m learning. Sometimes I’ll slip in a short story or two just to feel like I’ve accomplished something. So far my attempt at “limiting” myself seems to help. I read Katie Carroll’s Elixir Bound last week without stopping to read anything else. Katie is the content editor of my book, Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud, at MuseItUp Publishing. I recommend it to anyone looking for a young adult fantasy not about vampires. Do I hear crickets? Please, don’t let me hear crickets! I don’t have anything against vampires, it’s just YA used to be about so much more, and it will be again. It will. I promise.

And here is the excerpt from Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud included with the original post:

Chapter One
The Festival

The setting sun glared in the young warrior’s eyes. Squinting, he could just make out his opponent’s outline. His ever tightening leg muscles cried for a reprieve with each step; yet he continued to circle, waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. After a long day of sword dueling, with little downtime between rounds, Owen’s whole body needed a rest. But he wanted nothing more in the world, at this precise moment, than to win the championship bout.

Owen knew Edward must also be tired. They had each fought four previous matches, and every contestant entered in the tournament presented a worthy challenge. Edward, Shield of the King—the commander of the King’s Sentry, the strongest army in all of Wittatun— received continual praise for his skill with a blade. Owen, already defeating two Sentrymen earlier in the day, hoped to beat one more. But to overcome the King’s Shield would require more skill than besting a Sentryman.

The fighters continued to circle one another. Sunlight gleamed off Edward’s brilliant metal chest plate and helm. Now facing the westering sun, Edward squinted; Owen saw his opportunity and sprung. He feinted a slash attack toward the commander’s shield hand. When Edward raised his shield and braced for impact, Owen redoubled his attack.

He spun and sliced his blade at his opponent’s neck. The loud clang of steel on steel resonated throughout the courtyard as Edward raised his sword to parry. The vibration transmitted up Owen’s arm, but he finished his compound attack by kicking the Sentryman in the chest plate. The judge blew a whistle to signify the landing of the first blow in the best-of-three veney.

Edward wasted no time mounting his counterattack by gaining the measure and reestablishing just distance. He made several quick jabs at Owen’s head and chest, which the defender parried away with ease. Owen countered with a testing jab. Edward sidestepped, moved back in line, and raised his sword to the en garde position. Owen noticed Edward’s shield drop ever so slightly. The tiny gap in defense may have provided the opening needed to finish him.

Owen lunged. But his forward motion could not be stopped when he recognized the move as a mistake. The tip of the sword slid between the hinge where the chest plate met the shoulder guard and dug into the muscle. Sharp pain shot through Owen’s left shoulder, and he barely heard the judge blow the whistle through the anguish. Edward lowered his shield as an invitation for Owen’s attack. When the younger fighter took the offering, the elder’s stop-thrust found the only week point of the armor.

Owen, large for his age, still stood six inches shorter than Edward. The Shield’s muscular forearms resembled Owen’s thighs. The chainmail armor on his forearm, formfitting on most solders, clung tight to Edward. His muscles rippled as he pushed the sword tip a little deeper into the meat. A thin stream of blood trickled down the blade and dripped to the ground.

Edward sneered as red drops splattered the trampled grass. “I wish we fought to first-blood. I hope the king doesn’t put me to death for injuring his son.”

How Eric Price became a YA fantasy author; plus an excerpt

The following is a re-post that originally appeared on the MuseItYoung & MuseItYA Blog on May 1. In case you missed it, here it is again.

How did I get here? I ask myself that same question several times a day, both in my fiction writing and in real life. We’ll focus on real life for now, and mix in the fiction when it fits.

I was born and raised in central Illinois, about thirty miles north-east of St. Louis, Mo. I lived there until I graduated high school and moved to St. Louis for college. Somewhere between birth and graduation, probably about seventh grade, I decided I wanted to write a story (I hadn’t decided I wanted to write a lot, that comes later. For now, just a story). Up to that point I was a reluctant reader. I read slowly, and I didn’t read aloud well, so I didn’t like reading. You may wonder how a reluctant reader became a writer. Two important events happened around this time which made me like to read, a friend introduced me to Stephen King, and my English teacher introduced me to Edgar Allan Poe.

Fast-forward to college (I know that’s an old term from the days of VCRs. Younger readers, I mean scan or skip ahead). This is when I decided I wanted to be a writer. OK, we need to backtrack a little. I wrote some stuff in high school I thought was pretty good. For assignments, I mean. I even wrote a speech which won third prize in a VFW contest. At this time I had also started reading a lot of comics, so I started writing comics. This was my first step into fiction, but I did it for my own entertainment with no intent of publishing. That changed in college.

In my Freshman English class I had a professor whose name I no longer remember. I wrote for him what I thought was the masterpiece of my academic life. He returned it to me full of red ink contrasting my black font. I don’t remember everything he wrote on it, there was too much, but he did tell me I was a horrible writer. You may find it hard to believe a college professor would tell a student something like that, but if you knew where I went to college, you’d know I’m not writing fiction now.

Maybe it’s the romantic in me (I can use that term when I don’t mean candles and flowers, right?), but part of me thinks he thought I had talent, and he wanted to push me to reveal it. The realist part of me thinks he was another name for a donkey. But the comment did motivate me, and I did start writing more, just not complete works.

I had a notebook full of comic strips, story ideas, and first pages by the time I transferred to a much better college, where the professors cared about the students, to finish my degree in biology. While at this new school I wrote a lot more, but I still never finished a story.

Fast-forward a couple more years (there’s that term again), until after I met my wife, Allison. On the bulletin board of the grocery store I saw a flyer for the Institute of Children’s Literature. I took it home, talked it over with Allison, and we decided I should at least take their admissions test to see if they liked me. I did and they did. I took their “Writing for Children and Teenagers” course and learned a lot about writing and marketing. One of my assignments became my first published short story, “Ghost Bed and Ghoul Breakfast.” Of course it was a horror story, remember that bit about King and Poe? But I kept it PG as I wrote it for kids.

Just before I sold that story I applied and was accepted to write a quarterly column for the county paper where I lived in St. Louis. I also started entering stories into contests. Three of them have won honorable mention in the CrossTIME Short Science Fiction Contest. Yes, I switched from horror. But not to worry, the story I started a few weeks ago scares the socks off of me. And it’s aimed at adults, so no more PG.

I went on to write the column for two years before my wife and I decided to move away from the city. We both grew up in small towns and wanted to raise our two sons in a like environment. An opportunity came up to move into the house my wife grew up in, and for me to work with her father on the family farm. We took it.

After moving to the farm, I started writing agriculture advocacy articles to do my part to combat all the anti-agriculture groups out there. If you’ve never looked into it, there are a lot of people who want to shut down agriculture as we know it. You’d be amazed. Similar groups have worked their black magic even more successfully on the EU. Although these articles seemed the right thing to do, they also became WORK. I want to write for fun. I want to write to escape reality for a few hours. So I gave it up.

Instead I started writing new stories and going through my old ones. I came across a young adult fantasy I wrote for the second course I took from the Institute of Children’s Literature, “Writing and Selling Books.” “The Stargazer’s Son,” as it was then called, was good, but not great. I had meant to revise it and submit it to publishers, but much like George McFly in Back to the Future, I had a fear of rejection. Instead of wasting time rewriting it, Allison suggested I send it to some publishers and see if anyone is interested first. I gave it a quick coat of polish, renamed it “Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud,” and sent it to Muse It Up. They essentially replied, “It’s good, but not great.” I used their suggestions, rewrote it, resubmitted it, and got it accepted. So here we are, and that’s how I got here.

Thank you for putting up with my ramblings for this long.You can find me on the web at authorericprice.com and Twitter @authorericprice. I guess you deserve a reward for reading my life’s story, so here’s a brief excerpt from my upcoming release, Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud.

CHAPTER 1: THE FESTIVAL

The setting sun glared in the young warrior’s eyes. Squinting, he could just make out his opponent’s outline. His ever tightening leg muscles cried for rest with each step he took; yet he continued to circle, waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. After a long day of dueling, and what felt like each battle starting as soon as the previous one ended, Owen’s whole body needed a rest. But he wanted nothing more in the world, at this precise moment, than to win this championship bout.

Owen knew Edward had to be equally tired. They had each fought four previous matches, and every contestant entered in the tournament stood a chance of victory. Edward, Shield of the King (the commander of the King’s Sentry, the strongest army in all of Wittatun), constantly received praise for his skill with a blade. Owen had defeated two Sentrymen earlier in the day, but to hold the position of Shield, Edward would surpass them in skill.

The fighters continued to circle one another. Sunlight gleamed off Edward’s brilliant metal chest plate and helm, and as Edward began to squint due to the shine of the westering sun, Owen saw his opportunity and sprung. He feinted a slash attack toward the commander’s shield hand. When Edward raised his shield and braced for impact, Owen redoubled his attack. He spun and sliced his blade at his opponent’s neck. The loud clang of steel on steel resonated throughout the courtyard as Edward raised his sword to parry. Owen felt the vibration transmit up his arm, but he finished his compound attack by kicking the Sentryman in the chest plate. The judge blew a whistle to signify the landing of the first blow in this best-of-three veney.

Edward wasted no time mounting his counterattack by gaining the measure and reestablishing just distance. He made several quick jabs at Owen’s head and chest, which the defender parried away with ease. Owen countered with a testing jab which Edward sidestepped. Edward stepped back in line and when he raised his sword to the en guard position Owen noticed his shied drop ever so slightly. But this tiny gap in defense may have provided the opening needed to finish this battle. Owen lunged and instantly recognized the move as a mistake, but his forward motion could not be stopped. Sharp pain shot through Owen’s left shoulder, and he barely heard the judge blow the whistle through the anguish. Edward had lowered his shield as an invitation for Owen’s attack, and when the younger fighter took the offering, the elder’s stop-thrust found the only week point of the armor. The tip of the sword slid between the hinge where the chest plate met the shoulder guard and dug into the muscle.