WRITER GEOFF NELDER IS BACK WITH A NEW ONE–XAGHRA’S REVENGE–& IT’S DIFFERENT

 

Sci-fi thriller fantasy author Geoff Nelder is back on the blog with a new release from Solstice Publishing and it’s sooo different. XAGHRA’S REVENGE incorporates historical fiction, social commentary, adventure and revenge–all the things this blogger absolutely LOVES. Welcome back, Geoff!

I had a number of questions lined up for him, but in the author’s own words, he got a tad “carried away” and decided that one–and only one–question got to the heart of what he was trying to do this time out.

Here we go…

 

1.

XAGHRA’S REVENGE is an historical fiction piece focusing on something that, sadly, continues today–slavery. What is it in your past or psyche that facilitated the need to obtain social justice for the island’s inhabitants?

 

Geoff-IOM-12Never mind the past, I am a slave now! I don’t just mean marriage (Ed.- He dabbles in dry humor); I mean a slave to the economic system; a slave to society’s cultural mores and laws. I am a slave to my damn brain.

It’s a writer’s lot to own a rabid imagination and mine gets into the being of my characters so much so that I can’t escape. Of course, it’s not like the physical slavery of people being brought by force from one country to another to work.

I hadn’t come into contact with an actual slave or knew much about them before I went on a family holiday to Malta. There, I learnt with horror about the 1551 mass abduction by pirates of the entire island of Gozo. I couldn’t believe that cultured and intelligent people such as those pirate leaders could do that. We’re not talking about uncouth Hollywood pirates, but well-educated Muslims (Rais Dragut, who had himself been a galley slave to a Christian Templar Knight!) and Jews (Pasha) who have big, loving families at home. Yet, it was acceptable to them to abduct whole towns and islands, separate families, torture and kill for their meagre wealth, and then go home to their people. It’s another culture and history completely removed from what I was brought up with. Of course Dragut had religion on his side. If the abducted were righteous, their God will see them.

On Gozo, I discovered that not many people knew about the 1551 abduction. It gozocropsdidn’t happen to them or their ancestors because the emptied island was looted and reoccupied by people from Italy, Sicily, and Malta. The pirates were cunning enough to steal property deeds and sell them to the rich in Tripoli and Constantinople.

I found direct descendants of those Gozo abducted, but over in Tarhuna, Libya. They are still there! I could not find many people who felt strongly about that abduction so I had to do something on the victims’ behalf. My Xaghra’s Revenge is for those 5,000.

 

Excerpt from XAGHRA’S REVENGE

frontcoverXaghra is a real town on the small Mediterranean island of Gozo. I chose it to begin the story because I’ve been there many times. It’s the site of one of the world’s oldest buildings, The Ggantija Temple – older than the pyramids and Stonehenge! I’ve hugged those huge limestone blocks and the vibes touched me. I’ve stood in the spot where Stjepan hears the alarm bell, where he sees his friends chased by pirates, and outside his house. It’s personal.

This opening sets the story with a contrast and conflict: an idyllic rural and family scene versus a worrying incursion threatening to disrupt everything.

 

CHAPTER ONE from XAGHRA’S REVENGE

Published 15th July 2017 via Solstice Shadows, imprint of Solstice Publishing

 

The Mediterranean island of Gozo 1551, July 24th

 

Stjepan leaned on his hoe and listened. His beans needed rescuing from the bindweed, but they’d have to wait if that was the warning bell coming from the city.

Five… He stepped up onto a low limestone wall and scanned the horizon. A flock of starlings created an air sculpture – God’s chariots chasing each other. It always lifted his heart.

Six… The Citadel topped the hill to the west; the clock tower visible, but he couldn’t see if people were running up the lanes to the city walls.

Seven, eight… He strained to see, but hills prevented a clear view of the ocean even though Gozo was less than a day’s ride across.

Nine… Perhaps a pirate ship had been seen again. The damned Turkish corsairs raided more often these days. Pirate dogs. He spat at the soil. His short sword lay under his cot at home.

Ten… In spite of the heat, he shivered at the thought of his wife and four-month-old son thrown into the dank belly of a corsair galley.

Eleven, twelve… He held his breath as if that aided hearing. The starlings swirled around the citadel as if they knew something. His heart sank.

Thirteen, fourteen… curses.

He drove his hoe into the stony soil, wishing it was Dragut’s black heart. Stjepan picked his way through berry bushes and olive trees until he reached his village, Xaghra. Karlu, his neighbour, called as he walked in the opposite direction towards the capital, Rabat.

“Ho, Stjepan, you’ll get fined again.”

“I’m not going without Lidia and my son. Your wife?”

Karlu stopped, scratched his head and twitched his moustache. “In Rabat, staying at her mother’s. She’s been coughing up hairballs.”

“That’s cats. Ah, you never liked Senora Angelina. I’ll see you there.”

In spite of the humour, panic tightened his chest as he ran across the central square. Stjepan saw his marmalade cat, its tail upright. She possessed a sense for trouble. “Heket, you’re supposed to be Lidia’s guardian.”

He frowned pushing past neighbours then saw Lidia waving at him outside the church.

“Father’s tripped on the steps. He can’t walk to Rabat.”

“He’ll have to go on the priest’s cart.”

“Already gone.”

Stjepan gnawed on a knuckle while his brain raced. He couldn’t afford another florin fine, yet the alert was probably another false alarm.

“I’ll carry your father.” Blood seeped through Alfredo’s grey robe from his knee. His eyes apologised.

Stjepan crouched before the old man. “Come on, I’ll carry you on my back.”

They crossed the wide village square. Stjepan found the old man lighter than he expected. Nevertheless, he stopped.

“What about Calypso’s Cave?”

“No.” Lidia breathed heavily carrying infant Pietru. “It’d be too obvious a hiding place. Keep going.”

He did, with increased pace until he reached the top of the steep scarp slope. The lane wriggled as it fell to the valley floor before climbing the Citadel’s slopes an hour’s walk away. They could see the exodus along the most direct route from Xaghra to Rabat.

Lidia stopped. “No.”

“What?” He followed her free arm pointing to the north. A dozen men ran along the valley floor lane. Their scimitars flashed in the midday sun, and their white turbans gave them away as Turkish corsairs.

*  *  *

 

To read more of this chapter head over to Amazon Kindle

http://myBook.to/Xaghra

 

Free on Kindle Unlimited

 

Paperback

http://hyperurl.co/y953ga

 

There’s another excerpt from Chapter two where two modern young lovers have their inauspicious and suspicious first meeting.

 

Facebook page

http://www.facebook.com/xaghrasrevenge

Website

http://geoffnelder.com

Twitter

@geoffnelder

Amazon Author Page

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Geoff-Nelder/e/B002BMB2XY/

 

 

About the author

Geoff at Marton July2015Geoff Nelder has one wife, two grown-up kids, and lives in rural England within easy cycle ride of the Welsh mountains.

Publications: One humorous thriller Escaping Reality in 2005;
one award-winning science fiction, Exit, Pursued by a Bee in 2008;
another thriller, Hot Air, published in 2009 after receiving an award from an Arts Academy in the Netherlands; a science fiction trilogy, ARIA – starting with Left Luggage with an original premise, was published in 2012 by LL-Publications; and a fantasy, Xaghra’s Revenge, published by Solstice Publishing in July 2017.

Having had around 50 short stories published, Geoff was chosen to be the short fiction judge for the Whittaker Prize, 2009.

Geoff was a co-editor of science fiction magazine, Escape Velocity, and is a freelance editor.

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PRESENTING NATIONAL TREASURE AUTHOR SUSAN SOLOMON

Fall leaves and magic in the air. This is the season of Susan Solomon. Author, jurist, practitioner of the possible. Today on the blog she answers questions about her latest MAGIC OF MURDER as well as her penchant for snowy places. Welcome, m’ lady.

 Q & A

 

From Manhattan to Niagara Falls; Susan Solomon: please explain to our readers what draws you to snow? Describe for us your snow plow.

Actually I came to Niagara Falls from Long Island (pronounced Lon Gisland by those of us who lived there). In 1999, The VMC Group, the efficiency consulting firm I work for moved to Niagara Falls, and invited me to relocate with them. You can imagine the angst: leaving everything and everyone I knew. But at that time in my life I was ready for a new adventure. I remember the day I flew here to set up the new offices. A major snow storm hit the East Coast early that morning, and the puddle jumper that carried me was delayed for hours (oh, I just recalled a story to write about that flight). When we landed in Buffalo, I immediately learned about “white-outs”. It snowed during each of the 12 days I was here, and I remember thinking, This is another fine mess you’ve gotten us into, Ollie (yes, I’m old enough to remember Laurel and Hardy). This is the kind of snow storm described in Magic of Murder.

Funny, though. It didn’t take long for this place to feel like home. It’s the people, you see. So different from the big city in which I grew up. Here folks have time for each other. And the landscape: when spring, that coy mistress, finally unpacked her bags and moved in I drove around. Some of the places I saw were so beautiful, I had pull to the side of the road and cry. I think this is what pushed me to at last begin writing. It was then that I knew this was, and always would be my home.

But it’s the snow you asked about. Yeah. Through the years I’ve learned to enjoy even that—that is, until February when scraping snow and ice off my car every morning becomes old real fast. But at least I don’t have to plow. I have a lovely townhouse in a condo complex, so I don’t even need to own a shovel. My snow plow is big, noisy, and wielded by a couple of good-looking hunks (through my window, I get to watch then go at it—yum). One of those guys became the model for Roger Frey, the Police Detective in my novel. As to the roads…well, up here we know how to deal with the white stuff.

Your 2015 release MAGIC OF MURDER captivated me right off the bat in that it tugged at my inner girl ambition: having magical powers. Did you share the same dream/fantasy growing up?

I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of magic—not the kind seen on stage, but that which people have practiced since the days of the Druids. I hadn’t begun to learn about, though, until somewhere around 2010 or 2011 when I began to write my short story, “Witches Gumbo”—you’ll find the link to this story on my www.susanlynnsolomon.com website. When I presented an early draft to my writers group, someone suggested that if I wanted the story to ring true, I should research witchcraft and herbalism. So, I got a few books on the subject, then a few more. In a matter of days I was hooked. Everything I read made sense to me. Within weeks, I decided I would become a Wicca and practice the craft. That lasted only until my Cousin Robin (who’s always been more my sister) found out what I was up to. She yanked me aside, and explained in simple words even I would understand that with my personality and sense of humor, I’m the last person who should know how to do such things.

By the way, how Robin found out and, “Second Hand”, the story that led to is also on my website.

The thing is, though, I’ve since learned where my fascination with the craft has its roots. Researching another story that still sits someplace in my mind, I engaged in a past-life regression session. If what shocked me about that is true, I actually practiced the craft in the distant past—and paid the price for it in a prior life. I suspect this shows up in my empathy for Emlyn Goode’s (my book’s narrator) ancestor, Sarah Goode, who was hanged in Salem in 1692.

Of course, I haven’t given up the idea of practicing the ancient craft. Every once in a while during a time of a new moon… Uh, maybe this is a story better left untold. Anyway, perhaps this is why I’ve always looked forward to Halloween.

 

I hear you have a ghost in your house. Fact or fiction? Give us an anecdote.

Ohhh, yes. A ghost definitely shares my home. If theories I’ve heard are correct, I invited her in a number of years ago when I wrote “Abigail’s Window”, an as yet unpublished novel about a woman haunting an old house in the Canadian town, Niagara-on-the-Lake. So, I call my ghost Abigail, though I can’t be certain that’s her name. I know she’s here, because there are middle-of-the-nights when I wake to hear someone walking at the foot of my bed. And there are times things disappear and show up later somewhere else, or as something else. As an example (and only one of a number), one evening I was doing a crossword puzzle while watching TV. I remember clearly, I was using a green pen—not the ink, but the pen itself. I put the puzzle and pen down on my end table, and went to make a cup of tea. When I returned to my chair, the pen was gone. I pulled the cushions from my chair, moved the chair, shook the cover I’d had on my lap. I moved tables. No pen. Then, the next morning while straighten up my living room, I found a green plastic guitar pick on the carpet near the end table. A.b., the pick couldn’t have been there. First, I hadn’t played my guitar in weeks; second, I had never owned a green or a plastic pick. I have no explanation for this—except Abigail.

Abbie isn’t the first ghost to share my space. Years ago there was another far less friendly one that tossed eggs at me. That episode is recorded in a scene I wrote for the short story, “Captive Soul”, that appears in Volume 1 of Solstice Publishing’s anthology, “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep”. The link to this is also on my website if you’d like to see a more horrific scene.

Your short stories are published in journals and you’ve won honorable mention. What inspired you to jump into novel writing?

Actually, I started out to write novels. The Niagara-on-the-lake house I mentioned earlier?—it was a bed & breakfast owned by the man for whom I work. One year, as Halloween approached he asked me if the story I written about the ghost in his B&B was true. You see, he wanted the local ghost tour people to stop by on Halloween night. I knew there really was a ghost in that house—friends and I had heard it roaming around—and had done research to learn who it was. I couldn’t find an answer, so I did what so many writers do: I made her up. Still, to please the man I work for—always a good idea—I broke the novel down to a short story, and sent it to the ghost tour people with a letter in which I swore the story was gospel, and I had witnessed the ghost (the Devil has me by the collar, and I’m headed south as soon as I die). Now I had a short story in hand—my first short story. So, I submitted it to the Writers Journal’s short romance competition, and it won an Honorable Mention. My first published piece of fiction—go figure.

Since that time I’ve stopped worrying whether something I start to write will result in a short story or a novel—in fact, I’m never sure of the length until I’m done. Also since that time I’ve had a number of short stories published. Often they result from a cue in an online journal I follow. Creative on-demand is something I learned during the years I worked at the quarterly magazine, SunStorm Fine Art where, as press-time approached I would be handed a group of slides of an artist’s work, and told to create an article of anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 words about the artist.

As a cat owner, I’m immediately drawn to your Elvira character. Does this comely feline resemble a real life kitty?

I adore cats. Dogs, too. Elvira’s look and personality is a combination of many of the cats I’ve known, both real and fictional. And her attitude—every cat I’ve met certainly struts around with a bit of ’tude. As to Elvira being hefty (she hates being called fat) and albino…well, that part I invented because it so fits the animal I envisioned for The Magic of Murder.

As a working lawyer, did you bring any magic from your profession to the novel? (Be honest, have you ever binge watched Law and Order?)

Law and Order? Hmm. Being a writer, I lie for a living. I can’t about this because too many people know. Yes, I’ve binged on Law and Order, both the original and SVU. And I know the channels on which every day reruns of these shows can be found. Damn! I love these episodes because so much about them rings true.

Now, you asked about whether I’ve brought any magic from my profession to The Magic of Murder. Although I’ve had a lawyer narrate other stories—in particular “Kaddish” which was published by the “Tampa Review Online” on 2014, and “Yesterday’s Wings” which is in the October issue of the online journal, “Imitation Fruit”, Emlyn Goode, who narrates “The Magic of Murder” isn’t one. Still, when I write I’m constantly aware of my legal training. There’s a difference, you see, between legal writing and fiction. When I draft a contract, everything must be spelled out—the logic must be A, B, C, D, and therefore, E. On the other hand, in writing fiction leaps of logic—the things left unsaid—allow a reader to fill in the blanks, draw their own conclusions. This is part of what makes a story sing. It allows a story to ring true to different people, each in their own way. In a contract, leaving something to interpretation makes for disaster.

What’s next?

I’m currently engaged in what, for a writer, is sheer insanity (but—to use a bridge metaphor—sane has never been my strong suit). I’m about half-finished with a sequel to The Magic of Murder—in this new story, Emlyn Goode’s mother returns to Niagara Falls for her 42nd High School Reunion (a 42nd reunion should give you an idea that nothing will be as it seems). At the same time, I’m working on a fifth or sixth draft of another novel called “Search for Stonemaiden”, in which I’m having a wonderful time reliving my past as a ‘70s songwriter and rock musician. Also, I’m in the middle of a new short story, a fictionalized version of learning well after his death that my father was actually a hero in WWII—the things one doesn’t know about ones parents. And with my writers group, I’m working on a mystery short story about a group of young people who’ve formed a group they call The Holmes Society (it’s been suggested I turn this into another mystery series). All this, while I continue to be in-house counsel to an efficiency consulting firm. Does this explain why my mind seems to have taken an extended vacation?

For every writer, getting the word out is key. What events do you have planned in the coming weeks and what is your all-time favorite social media tool?

The Magic of Murder is still in pre-release mode, by which, as you know A.b., means it’s on Amazon and on the Solstice Publishing websites as available for pre-order in a Kindle version. However (oh, my, that’s such a lawyer word), I don’t yet have paper copies of the book, so actually scheduling events has to wait a few weeks. Yet, a number of friends and acquaintances—and several of my firm’s customers who’ve become friends over the years—have asked to schedule private readings and book signings as soon as the paperback is available.

Beyond this, I’ve begun to post about the novel on Facebook, and several friends (including, Robin) have begun to twitter about it. Twittering would be an impossible medium for me since on twitter one is limited to about 120 characters and, as you know, A.b., I’m incapable of saying good morning in less than 500 words. So, besides the wonderful blogs that have been done about my book, my social medium is Facebook. On it I’ve met some beautiful people who share my sense of humor, my love of cats, and my passion for a good mystery. I’ve learned so much from and about these Facebook friends—laughed with them, cried with them—I think of them as family. A number tell me they’ve already pre-ordered The Magic of Murder, and I can’t wait to hear whether they have as much fun reading it as I had in the writing.

Share with us your most inspiring witchcraft vehicle from any medium? (The old WB show ‘Charmed’ is a guilty pleasure of mine, while WITCHES OF EASTWICK by John Updike is my high brow pick).

“Charmed”, of course. Today being a day off from work, while I had my morning coffee and worked on crossword puzzles, an episode of “Charmed” was on TNT (as you can tell from my description of the stories I’m working on, I’m incapable of doing just one thing at a time). And yes, I enjoyed Witches of Eastwick (but then I’d devour anything John Updike wrote). I’m also fascinated by a series of made-for-TV films Hallmark did about “The Good Witch”—a few seasons ago this was turned into a series and, loving the characters, I try not to miss an episode when it’s on. I’m also ancient enough to recall watching the TV show about Samantha wrinkling her nose. And when Anne Rice dove into witchcraft—ohhh!

Any last words?

Someone once said if you survive childhood you have enough to write about for the rest of your life. I’m learning this is true. In everything I write is a smattering of me, what I’ve seen, how I grew up and things I experienced, family, teachers, people I’ve known. I believe we all have stories aching to be told, and I love hearing those stories. With all I’ve been through, I began telling mine later in life, and now that I’ve begun I can’t stop. For me, reading what I’ve written is a bigger thrill than passing the bar exam or my first job as an entertainment business lawyer. Bigger than the nights my band opened shows in front of crowds gathered for Lovin’ Spoonful performances. It’s second only to having seen my children grow. Had I been given a choice as to the life I’d lead, I can think of none I’d cherish more than that of a writer.

The Magic of Murder

magic of murder coverWhen his partner is discovered in a frozen alley with eight bullets in his chest, Niagara Falls Police Detective Roger Frey swears vengeance. But Detective Chief Woodward has forbidden him or anyone else on the detective squad to work the case. Emlyn Goode knows Roger will disobey his boss, which will cost him his job and his freedom. Because she cares for him more than she’ll admit, she needs to stop him. Desperate, she can think of but one way.

Emlyn recently learned she’s a direct descendent of a woman hanged as a witch in 1692. She has a book filled with arcane recipes and chants passed down through her family. Possessed of, or perhaps by, a vivid imagination she intends to use these to solve Jimmy’s murder before Roger takes revenge on the killer. But she’s new to this “witch thing,” and needs help from her friend Rebecca Nurse, whose ancestor also took a short drop from a Salem tree. Also in the mix is a rather hefty albino cat (Elvira detests being called fat). Rebecca’s not much better at deciphering the ancient directions, and while the women and the cat stumble over spell after spell, the number possible killers grows. They’d better quickly come up with a workable spell: when Chief Woodward’s wife is shot and a bottle bomb bursts through Emlyn’s window, it becomes clear she’s next on the killer’s list.

What people are saying

This book pulled me right in. I think it must have been the fact that Susan Lynn Solomon puts her characters first. The story revolves around the murder of a Niagara Falls Police officer… The adventure that ensues is absolutely entertaining and well-written. It is funny, exciting, and fast-paced. Every character has depth and is…believable. The Magic of Murder is one fun read and is definitely worthy of all 5 stars.

—Frederick Crook, author, Of Knight & Devil

Suspense, humor, compelling characters, a dash of the supernatural dating back to Salem, a powerful sense of place, and Emlyn Goode, a passionate and determined woman new to witchcraft and murder. Susan Lynn Solomon captures both the city of Niagara Falls and its quirkiest resident, an unusual sleuth. The magic of Murder is a winner and, we hope, only the first appearance of Emlyn Goode.

—Gary Early Ross, author of Blackbird Rising add the Edgar Award—winning Matter of Intent

Links Image

www.susanlynnsolomon.com

www.facebook.com/susanlynnsolomon

http://www.amazon.com/Magic-Murder-Susan-Lynn-Solomon-ebook/dp/B015OQO5LO/ref=sr_1_1?s=boo ks&ie=UTF8&qid=1443212271&sr=1-1&keywords=the+magic+of+murder+solomon

http://www.solsticepublishing.com/the magicofmurder

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Susan author photoFormerly a Manhattan entertainment attorney, and then a contributing editor to the quarterly art magazine SunStorm Fine Arts, Susan Lynn Solomon now lives in Niagara Falls, New York, where she is in charge of legal and financial affairs for a management consulting firm.

After moving to Niagara Falls she became a member of Just Buffalo Literary Center’s Writers Critique Group, and turned her attention to writing fiction. Since 2009, a number of her short stories have appeared in literary journals, including, Abigail Bender (awarded an Honorable Mention in a Writer’s Journal short romance competition), Witches Gumbo, Ginger Man, The Memory Tree, Elvira, Second Hand, Sabbath (nominated for 2013 Best of the Net by the editor of Prick of the Spindle), and Kaddish.

Her latest two short stories are, Yesterday’s Wings, about a woman searching for the courage of her past, appears in the October 2015 edition of, Imitation Fruit; and Captive Soul, which is included in Solstice Publishing’s Halloween anthology, Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep.

Excerpt from The Magic of Murder

March brought a worse storm than the one we were hit with in December. It seems that’s how we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day around here. When it ended after four days, a reserve unit from the Niagara Falls Air Base declared war on the snow. With military precision, the reservists piled the stuff into dump trucks and carted it to Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, and the Canal. They might have hauled it to the top of the mountains if their trucks’ tires could get enough traction. Since they couldn’t, it appeared as though they shoved what was left to the shoulder of River Road and into my driveway. When I gazed through the kitchen window at gray heaps so high my mailbox was buried, I was certain the dunes would still be there in July. They weren’t, of course. In two days the streets had been plowed and salted, and cars crawled past. Thanks to my neighbor, Roger Frey, even my driveway had been cleared. In Western New York we know how to deal with the white stuff.

My preferred way of dealing with it is to turn up the thermostat and remain inside, comfy and warm. At least until the sun pokes through the clouds. This is why, still in my robe and flannel pajamas with thermal socks pulled up to my knees, I was snuggled on the sofa under my grandmother’s grey wool afghan. I still wondered about the runes Grandma had sewn into the afghan. Maybe one day Rebecca Nurse would find a book to help me interpret them.

From a corner of what had become her wingback chair, the hefty albino cat—Elvira detested it when I referred to her as fat—glared at me. She seemed annoyed I was wasting the morning on a made for TV movie.

“What?” I said to her.

She rolled her eyes—well, that’s what it looked like to me.

“Give me a break, will you?” I said. “I was up half the night writing.”

She snorted.

“What do you mean I didn’t write anything that mattered?”

She tilted her head.

I shifted on the sofa and bent toward her. “I’m not bullshitting you!” My voice went up an octave. “You were there. You saw what I was—”

At the very moment I realized the cat had again drawn me into an argument, I heard a knock on my front door. My face hot—from anger at Elvira or embarrassment at letting her get the better of the argument?—I jumped from the sofa and yanked the door open.

“What?” I demanded with a sharp edge to my voice.

On my door stoop stood a black quilted jacket, green rubber boots laced over baggy jeans, a flannel scarf wound around the little I could see of a face, and a knit cap pulled so low on a head the figure looked like a cartoon character with no ears. The man on the stoop might have been a predator who intended to break into my home, ravish my body, and make off with my treasures. Okay, I’ve already admitted I have an active imagination. There are no treasures in my home, and my body—well, let’s just say it’s been a long time since anyone would risk jail for ravishing me. Besides, I knew who this was. Earlier, while I poured my coffee, through the window I’d watched my neighbor ride his snowplow like it was the mechanical bull at Flannery’s Bar.

On the frigid side of the storm door, Roger Frey swiveled his head from side-to-side, as if searching for who I hollered at.

At times, I’ve stood before a mirror, arguing with myself, and seen what I look like when I blush. My neck gets as red as my hair, then the color dashes uphill past my face to my forehead. So, I knew what Roger saw when he looked at me.

“Sorry,” I mumbled to what I could see of his face. “Cranky. I was up half the night.”

His voice muted by the scarf covering his mouth, he said, “No need to apologize.” He knew the hours I kept when the muse plopped down next to me.

The glass door misted when he leaned close to peer past my shoulder.

I looked behind me. Elvira had followed me to the door. She stared at us, head slightly tilted. The pale pink of her eyes darkened as if she’d decided something.

Roger nodded at her. “At least you’re not alone anymore.”

“Me or the cat?” I said.

“Both, I suppose.” When Roger pulled down the scarf, his grin showed the small gap between his front teeth.

“I prefer being alone,” I said. “If you want company, feel free to take the cat.”

My friend and neighbor had been alone since his wife took off for a warmer place three years ago.

Elvira sniffed once. Then she turned abruptly, wiggled her large derriere at me, and curled up on the floor at my feet.

Roger laughed out loud.

As if loosened by the laughter that exploded from deep inside him, a sheet of snow skidded off the roof. He must have heard the rumble, because he took a quick step backwards. He wasn’t fast enough, though. While half the snow thudded to the ground, the rest flattened his wool cap and spilled down his face. His hazel eyes rounded in surprise.

Now I laughed. With snow all over his body, it looked as though Frosty the Snowman was on my stoop. I opened the storm door and brushed the snow from his cheek. “Come in here,” I said. “Let me dry you off.”

He stamped his feet on the mat to rid himself of most of the snow.

As I stepped aside to make room for him to pass, I stumbled over the cat.

Roger moved faster than he had to avoid the snow drift from my roof. His arm shot out. “Careful!” he said, and grabbed me around the waist just as I began to flop like a rag doll to floor.

The man is certainly strong. In a single motion, he lifted me from my feet then set me down. His arms still surrounded me.

“You okay?”

I nodded, but couldn’t speak, not even to say yes. I’m sure it was because I was a little bit in shock.

At last he released me, and bent to stroke the cat. “That wasn’t nice, Elvira,” he said. “You could’ve hurt Emlyn.”

I also leaned down to stroke her. “This beast probably intended to do it.”

When I glanced at Roger, his face was precariously close to mine. The look in his eyes told me he might not mind being nearer still.

“Uh, yeah,” I mumbled, and pulled back to put a safe distance between us. “She probably did it on purpose…” My words drifted into a crimson haze.

His cheeks also a bit red—I told myself this was probably from the near-zero temperature outside—he straightened up, and unwound his scarf. His chin and upper lip were dark. The morning stubble enhanced rather than detracted from his chiseled cheekbones and slightly cleft chin. This was a handsome man by anybody’s reckoning. More than that, he was kind. He looked after his neighbors, and made sure we were safe. I’d often wondered why Judy, his ex-wife, would leave such a man.

“I, uh, stopped by to, um…” he said.

I looked down. I had nothing on but my pajamas and robe, and the robe had fallen loose when I nearly fell. Trying not to be obvious about it, I tied my robe closed.

Roger took a deep breath. “Yes, uh, the UPS guy brought this.”

He pulled off his gloves, unzipped his jacket, and took a cardboard box from a large inside pocket. Holding it out, he said, “It came yesterday afternoon. All the snow, the UPS guy couldn’t get to your door, so he left it with me.”

The box was about nine inches wide, a foot long, and maybe two inches thick. I turned it over in my hands, examined the label. The return address said the package came from Naples, Florida.

“It’s from my mother,” I said.

“What is it?” Roger asked.

I shrugged. “I’d have to open the box to find out.”

“So, open it.”

Glancing sideways at him, I smiled. “Later.”

“Come on,” he said, and reached for the package. “I hauled it all the way over here. Plowed out your driveway while I was at it. You gotta show me what’s in there.”

“All the way over, huh?” I laughed. “You live next door.”

“Yeah, well.” He took off his jacket, and draped it over the back of a kitchen chair. His black hooded sweatshirt barely made it to his hips. “I had to wade through three feet of snow to get here. That’s gotta be worth something.”

I laid the package on the kitchen counter. “How about some coffee?”

I yanked the wet knit cap from his head, and tossed it into the sink. Snow clinging to the fibers sprinkled onto his dark brown hair, and melted into the gray that had begun to invade his temples. While I brushed the wet beads from his curls, I said, “A gentleman takes off his hat when he comes inside.”

He picked the box up and handed it to me. “Don’t try to change the subject. I know you, Emlyn Goode. You’re dying to look inside.”

I was. But it was just so much fun to tease him. A girl’s got to do that now and then, just to stay in practice. I turned my back, and refilled my mug then poured coffee into a second mug.

He pushed the box in front of me.

“You’re a big snoop, you know that?” I said.

He let out the laugh that never failed to disarm me. “Of course I am. I’m a cop. Snooping is what I do.”

“Yup, and I’m your good buddy. Like in novels, it’s the sidekick’s job to give the cop a hard time. That’s in my job description.” I pointed at the package. “And see, it’s written right here.”

Another deep, resonant laugh burst from him.  “You’re definitely a piece of work,” he said.

Elvira seemed to grow impatient with my stalling. She leaped onto the counter and pawed at the package. How the devil did she manage to move her large body so lithely?

“Okay, okay,” I said. “I can’t fight both of you.”

I took the box to my dinette table, and sat, glancing around.

“What now?” Roger asked.

“I need something to slice the tape with.”

He tilted sideways in his chair and pulled a Swiss army knife from his pants pocket. As he flicked open the smaller blade, he said, “I was a boy scout, I’m always prepared.”

Settled on Roger’s lap, the cat smacked his hand with her paw. Then she glared at me. C’mon, knock off the flirting and get to it, she seemed to say—well, that’s what her growl sounded like.

I slit the tape and raised the cardboard flaps. Inside was what appeared to be a very old book. Without removing it from the box, I carefully lifted the leather cover. The words on the first page were faded. Still I was able to make some of them out.

“What is it?” Roger asked.

“Seems to be someone’s diary.” I suspect I sounded puzzled. Why would my mother send me something like this?

Between the next two pages was an envelope addressed to me. Inside was a note. I’ve been holding onto this, Mom wrote, hoping the line that’s led from Sarah Goode would end with me. Apparently it hasn’t, so I’m sending you this. Please, Emlyn, try to make better use of this than some of our ancestors have.

Elvira sniffed the book and purred.

Quickly, I refolded the letter.

Roger leaned over, peered into my eyes. “What is it?” he said.

“It’s…um, it’s…” I stammered as I searched for a lie he might believe. I didn’t want to tell him my mother had sent me Sarah Goode’s Book of Shadows. A guy like Roger—his life was built on the belief every mystery could be logically explained, and magic is nothing but sleight-of-hand. He’d remarked about that the night we saw David Copperfield perform at the Seneca Niagara Casino. The fastest way to end our friendship was to tell him I’m the latest in a 350-year line of witches. If I said that, he would stare at me as though I’d winked at him from a third eye in the center of my forehead. Then he’d leave and not come back. Oh, he’d be polite about it—Roger’s always polite. But our friendship would be over. I mean, if it ever got out Detective Roger Frey of the Niagara Falls Police Department had a witch for a friend, he’d die of embarrassment. Or maybe he’d have to resign his position or even move to Rochester or something. If he did, who would plow my driveway then knock on my door to share my morning coffee and help me with the Sunday crossword puzzle?

What? I already said I have a vivid imagination.

As if Sarah Goode’s book was catnip, Elvira dropped her head on it, mewed, and rubbed her paw across her face. Roger shoved her aside, and leaned over to see, I supposed, what caused my concern.

Before he could remove the book from the box, I closed the flaps.

“It’s, uh…um, just an old family diary,” I said. It wasn’t much of a lie. A Book of Shadows is a diary of a sort. Witches record their herbal mixtures in it, and the words they chant to work their magic. My friend, Rebecca Nurse, had explained that when she showed me hers.

Thank you so much for dropping by Susan. We’ll keep an eye on The Magic of Murder, a perfect Halloween read!

ABF

TEN AUTHORS, TEN DAYS: DAY TEN: MEL MASSEY

Welcome to Day Ten. Rounding out the line up is Solstice Shadows author Mel Massey, whose penchant for things otherworldly is proved once again. Her latest, SERVANT OF THE BLOOD, is exceptional. If the play is the thing, then the creature is the écoulment.

Bravo, Mel!

Servant of the BloodThe Servant of the Blood, Allatu, will always come when called and has for generations. She will fulfill wishes – for a price. Set in Tunisia, an ancient creature is called to do her master’s bidding but nothing comes without a price.

Release date:

September 15, 2015

Buy link:

http://www.amazon.com/Servant-Blood-Mel-Massey-ebook/dp/B014JMYW5S/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

ExcerptPrologue

Two covered figures, one bent with age and the other a child, quietly made their way from the main house into the night. The older of the two pulled the smaller one along in the dark by the hand as they walked further and further into the shadows.

This was the night of the new moon. It was the perfect chance to see the deed done. If what her son, Samir, told her was true, this would be the last chance she would have. She could not let her son and his family fall to ruin. She would not allow it. They thought her an old and feeble woman. True, the years have taken their toll on her body – but not her mind. Her mind was as keen as it ever was.

She remembered many things. Many lost and forgotten things handed down to her by her own grandmother. For many years, she had forgotten them all. Her marriage, her duties as a wife, and then motherhood whisked those tales away as if a hawk swooped down and carried them off. Only as she lay in her birthing bed, laboring to bring her sons into the world, did pieces of the tales return. They gave her strength. She was a wife, mother, and now a grandmother – but once she was Luja who knew the family’s secrets.

Now, after so many years had passed, she turned once again to those memories of her grandmother. The new moon was when one did this sort of thing, she remembered. Her granddaughter, Hala, was her ever-present shadow and she meant to share this thing with her. She pulled the sleepy child along in the dark, headed for the farthest corner of the gardens.

“I’m tired, Grandmother.” Hala whispered.

“Hush, child. We have things to do, you and I.” She looked once more over her shoulder and pushed on, past the unkempt and dying gardens to the farthest corner beside the stone wall. “I think this will do.”

She handed Hala a small bundle wrapped in cloth before kneeling on the ground. She felt around until she found a stick big enough to suit her needs.  With more force than she knew she still possessed, the old woman began to dig a hole beneath the olive tree. Her arthritic hands ached, but her spirit soared. She would see this thing done. It had to be done. No one else knew what she did. She would save her family.

Hala sat heavily on the ground, her head resting in her hands as she watched her grandmother dig. That was good. Let her see each step. Let her understand there are ways beyond those of the modern world to get what one needs. Tonight, she was herself again. She imagined herself the young and beautiful Luja who had a wild spirit and a quick temper.  In the morning, she would be Grandmother again… but not yet.

Satisfied with the size of the hole, Luja reached for the bundle in Hala’s arms. She snatched it from her and anxiously unwrapped the contents.  The girl’s curiosity roused her from her fatigue. She leaned forward to see the objects of the bundle laid out in the dirt. A precious bowl of honey and two figs sat beside another, longer item.

Luja carefully began unwrapping linen from around it. It was sacred to her family, her grandmother told her. It was only to be used in the direst of circumstances. How to use it was only taught to the daughters of the family, for men were not permitted to touch such things.

“What is that, Grandmother?” Hala whispered.

“Our salvation, sweet girl.” From the folds of aged linen, a statue emerged. It was carefully made. The age, Luja did not know. She knew it was delicate and priceless. It was made from clay but held together by a thin layer of gold. It was the image of a woman, naked but for carvings on the body. She did not know what they meant but she showed Hala the statue reverently. It was as shiny as the day Luja’s own grandmother showed it to her. She remembered her voice shook as she told Luja of the power in the statue and how it worked.  Luja asked her grandmother if she would ever use it. “I would not dare,” she told her. Well, Luja dared.

“Who is it? Why is she naked?”

“She is the one who will help our family.” Luja told her.

“How? Papa says we have no money and soon we’ll be living on the streets.  Are we going to sell this, Grandmother? Sell it to pay the money Papa owes?” Hala’s words drove a knife into her heart. No child should know of the woes of her parents. Samir was foolish and selfish to say such things where the children could hear. But his foolish and selfish ways were the reason they were in such dire straights. He gambled what they had and risked everything on dreams that never came true.

“No, my child. We will not sell her. She is priceless and too powerful to sell, but she can help us in other ways. Give me your hand,” Luja carefully placed the golden statue in the hole and reached for Hala. “It will only hurt for a moment.” Before the child could understand, Luja pulled a knife from the folds of her dress and made a small cut in the palm of her hand.

“Ouch, Grandmother!” Hala tried to pull her hand back but Luja kept it firmly grasped over the gold statue.

“She only requires a little blood, child.  When you come of age, you will bleed every month. Blood is nothing to women. Men like to think they know of blood and pain but we are the ones who truly know.  Now, you know the power of your blood. It is precious because you are a virgin, unspoiled by men. Mine would not do for this. There,” she released her grip on the girl’s hand and watched as the crimson droplets painted the gold surface. “That is enough.”

“Who is she?” Hala asked, holding her injured hand close to her chest.

“She is the servant of the blood. She is the giver of desires and the force of the Mother. I do not know her name. She is what she has always been to our family – our salvation and our curse.”

“What do we do now?”

“We bury her, Hala. Then leave the offerings. If they are pleasing, if we are pleasing, she will hear them and come to answer our prayers.”

“Is it right what we are doing, Grandmother? I’m not sure Papa will approve,” Hala said as she stood.

“Certainly, he wouldn’t. If he did, I should question my actions.”

“I don’t understand–”

“Never you mind, my dear. Come, help me cover her and set these offerings to right.”

“How will we know? How will we know if she will help us or not, Grandmother?” Hala asked as she scooped dirt back into the hole.

“I am not certain. We women must do what we can to save those we love. Here, hand me that bowl.” Luja placed the bowl of honey directly above the buried statue. “There, we have done what we can. It is out of our hands now.”

Luja and Hala covered their heads once again and silently made their way back through the garden toward the house. The girl still held her injured hand close to her chest and her grandmother pulled her along in the dark. It had been years since Luja felt so alive. She committed a great sin tonight. This sin was one she would not apologize for. She was a woman and women must do what they can in the shadows to see their families prosper in the light of day.

Social Media Links:

www.melmassey.com

@melmmassey

Amazon author pagehttp://www.amazon.com/Mel-Massey/e/B00ID9Z9D8/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

TEN AUTHORS, TEN DAYS: DAY FOUR: GLORIA WEBER

Short story maven and speculative fiction spécialiste Gloria Weber joins the blog today with an insightful interview as well as a tasty glimpse at what she’s getting up to. Don’t be fooled by the brevity of her bio: she uses her words with precision and packs ’em with pow! Oh, Gloria……

 

biography

Gloria Weber lives in Ohio with her husband, son, daughter, and many pets. She has been writing for publication since March 2006 with over a dozen titles published. Her favorite color is purple.

 

 

 

 

  1. Congratulations on your recent story success with Solstice Shadows short story contest. What was that Q & Alike?

I didn’t enter thinking, “I’m so gonna win this thang!”  Horror isn’t my go to genre.  So, I was a bit nervous and did my best to forget about it!  So, it was a complete surprise when I placed.  And that day I was having such a bad day that it really lifted my spirits.

  1. Both SUNLESS and ALICIA feature protagonists trapped into a silence that threatens their existence. Where does this theme come from?

Coincidence.  It wasn’t intentional in the slightest.  Though, I do tend to lean toward dark ideas/stories, sosolstice publishing that could be the root cause.

  1. You are a self described writer of speculative fiction. For you, what does that encompass?

To me speculative fiction is all about a or a set of “What if…” that changes our world.  It could be an CoverSunlessalternate societal structure or alternate history.  Though, more specifically for me it is the stuff genre fiction (Horror, Fantasy, and Science Fiction) is made of.

  1. Short story writing can be challenging for many of us. What draws you to this literary form?

I started in short stories.  Now a days, most people jump into novels feet first.  I tried that and never finished a bunch of them.  The first thing I finished was a short story.  It was also the first thing I had published.  It’s where I can lick my wounds and feel a sense of accomplishment.  It is what keeps me going.

  1. The color purple. Why?

purpleI was in 10th grade, months shy of having a driver’s license, before I decided I had a favorite color.  I like that it is made of warm and cold. It can be delicate and bold.  There isn’t a shade of it I hate, which I can’t say about other colors.

  1. Where can we find SUNLESS and ALICIA?

You can get both at Amazon, or more specifically SUNLESS at http://amzn.com/B014FVNRUE and ALICIA AliciaCoverathttp://amzn.com/B01417P1GA.

  1. What senses are most important to you when crafting a scene? (mine is sound)

Seeing is believing.  That is the one sense I never neglect in a draft.  The others… Poor things.  Thank goodness there are revisions.

  1. In short story writing, we are told that every word must count. Do you know how it ends before you begin?

Most of the time, I don’t have a clue.  Sometimes I might know what happens two years in these characters’ futures, but that doesn’t always equate to knowing when the story ends.  That’s what happened with ALICIA.  However, there are times I know how it ends, like with SUNLESS.  I knew the ending and the beginning, just not the middle bits.  My stories seem to stem from one point (if I’m lucky two) and I flesh out around it, until the story is whole.

  1. What’s next?

Well, SUNLESS releases the 15th (though, you can pre-order now).  Aside from that?  I have a few things in edits. I have a few things in slush piles.  I have something on the verge of being started.  Nothing definite.

  1. What and who do you read when you aren’t creating your own?

murder she wroteI’m not going to lie, first thing I reach for to start any reading session is a comic or graphic novel.  I’ve got a few Marvel Comics subscriptions and a pull list at my not-so-local comic store.  I tend to hold very little loyalty to authors, but am loyal to genres.  I’m a Romance junky, especially historical.  I have a Cozy Mystery love that I blame on MURDER SHE WROTE.  I tend to read more Fantasy than I do Science Fiction, but I get those in there, too.  As a special project, I try to keep a “classic” nearby to read when I have extra time, in order to fill in some of my “reading holes.”  Currently, for that, I’m reading Ray Bradbury’s R IS FOR ROCKET and before that it was George Orwell’s ANIMAL FARM.  Also intended audience doesn’t bug me.  I’ll just likely read an adult book as I would a Middle Grade one.

 

Thanks for the share Gloria. To know more about the author and her work visit her website. Now, tell us about ALICIA and SUNLESS…

 

AliciaCoverLeon has decided it is better to remain silent and accused of Alicia’s murder than admit the truth. The truth, well… that’s so unbelievable it’s crazy.  Not that Detective Dorndorf believes a word that comes out of Leon’s mouth. Dorndorf just wants a confession and figures dragging Leon to the last spot Alicia was seen might just pry it out of him.  Will the detective’s plan work or will the truth come out?

ALICIA Trailer: https://youtu.be/x1bS7xHoZZg

Price: $0.99

Sold At: Amazon (http://amzn.com/B01417P1GA) and Solstice Publishing’s website (http://solsticepublishing.com/alicia/)

 

CoverSunlessThe dark hides things. Threatening things. Dangerous things. Sitting in the windowless box of the detention room, Madison’s worst fears are realized as darkness grips her school.

SUNLESS Trailer: https://youtu.be/lzAt_Y2rb4U

Price: $0.99

Pre-Order At: Amazon (http://amzn.com/B01417P1GA)

Releases: September 15, 2015

 

 

Links Image

Website: http://gloriaweber.wordpress.com/

Twitter: @GloriaWeber ~ http://twitter.com/GloriaWeber

G+: http://plus.google.com/107706782152210234267/posts

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

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/GloriaWeber

 

Thanks, doll. Keep us posted!

 

“It ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way atcha write it.”
—Jack Kerouac, WD

TOMORROW:

Author Howard Gleichenhaus will hold you in thrall with a thriller of a globe trotting, high stakes, spy v. spy boiler called SUBTERFUGE.

Howard Gleichenhaus
Howard Gleichenhaus

WOOT! WOOT! AUTHORS: SOLSTICE SHADOWS WANTS YOU!

CONTEST

First time authors have a hard time getting their first contract. Many of us have been there and it is discouraging to say the least.  Solstice Publishing has published many first time authors and are actively seeking fresh new writers to add to our Solstice family. Many authors got their foot in the publishing door by writing short stories.  This is a great way for authors to build their catalog while they work on their longer novels. At Solstice, we believe every book has a home. It may or may not be with us but we invite you to see if we’re the right home for your story.

Solstice Shadows publishes Fantasy, SciFi, Paranormal, Horror, and all sub-genres therein.  If you have a short story that falls into one of these genres, we welcome you to read on and consider entering our short story contest.

Official Contest Information:

Solstice Shadows wants to read your short stories!

Do you have a short story collecting dust?  Are you an aspiring author who wants to be published? Are you an established author who is willing to take risks? Are you a self-published author who wants to see what it’s like working with an Indie Publisher?

Solstice Shadows is hosting a short story contest starting June 1st through July 6th  2015.

* Accepted genres: Fantasy, SciFi, Horror, Paranormal, and all sub genres therein. (We do not accept non-fiction/overtly religious stories/pornography)

* Story length: Up to 20K words.

* The story cannot be currently for sale on any platform.

To Submit:

  • solsticepublishing.com/submission
  • Click on ‘Solstice Shadows’
  • Type “Shadows Short Story Submission” in the ‘Title’ box.
  • Your cover letter should tell a little about your story and a little about you.
  • Follow the directions for submitting your story.

Prizes:

1st place – A 3 year contract for the short story, A promotional video highlighting the book and author, and a FB release party hosted by Solstice Publishing.

2nd Place – A 3 year contract for the short story, a promotional video highlighting the book and the author.

3rd Place – A 3 year contract for the short story.

Winners will be notified by August 1st,2015 via email.

How will the stories be judged? Here’s what we’re looking for in no particular order:

  • Submission guidelines followed
  • A social media presence
  • An exciting first scene.
  • A clear and organized plot.
  • Interesting characters.
  • Engaging dialogue.
  • Correct grammar/punctuation
  • A satisfying conclusion to the story
  • A unique voice.

We hope you decide to enter and look forward to reading your stories.  If you have any questions, feel free to email us (solsticeshadows@gmail.com) or catch us on Twitter (@solsticeshadows)

Happy writing!