Thursday, May 24, 2018

Feature: FORGIVEN, Tabor Hts. Novel

From Desert Breeze Publishing


The hardest thing Nikki has ever done is go home to Tabor Heights, to the people who know how far she fell, and the hearts she broke. Working for the Arc Foundation, she is to assess the Mission for funding. She refuses to fail the God who has forgiven her, and let down her home church.

Released from prison, Brock follows Nikki home. Now that he is right with God, he wants more than anything to win her back, and make sure their love is the right kind. Nikki knows she won't find full healing until she forgives Brock, but she discovers she has to forgive herself, first.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Feature: FIRESONG, Tabor Hts. Novel

From Desert Breeze Publishing

Dani has known all her life that God called her to ministry and music. Her life revolves around her brother and their band, Firesong.

Kurt returns to Tabor to prepare for a crusade and reunite with old friends. He never expects Dani to capture his imagination, and then his heart. How can he convince the girl who once disdained him as an arrogant jerk to open her heart to him -- especially when she believes ministry leaves no room for romance?

Between the crusade, concerts, a new CD, and her brother's wedding, Dani doesn’t have time for Kurt's nonsense … but sometimes he gives her those looks that make her doubt everything she knows and believes.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Off the Bookshelf: OTHERKIN, Nina Berry

Dez already feels like a freak in school. Scoliosis requires she wear a back brace, so she's pretty sure any guy who ever tries to get close will be immediately repelled.

If only that were her biggest problem.

Frustration and fury and teen angst finally combine to trigger what the Tribunal (a brutal, arrogant, secretive organization) has been waiting for: Dez's first shift to her Otherkin form, and proof that she is indeed a dangerous, demonic creature. "Fortunately" (read sarcasm here) they're ready and waiting with a big old tranquilizer dart before she even knows what's happened to her.

As Dez learns from Caleb, the boy trapped in the cage next to hers, the other side of the story is very different from the self-righteous lies the Tribunal  operates under. (Why do the nasty jerks always try to blame God for their cruelty and stupidity?) There are many tribes of Otherkin out there in the world. Or at least there were. They don't work together, because the beastly forms the Otherkin take pretty much influence their personalities and their interactions. Wolves don't get along with rats don't get along with bears don't get along with tigers ... etc.

Except for the school Dez and Caleb flee to when they escape the Tribunal. There, an irritating, mysterious, secretive, frustrating old man trains Otherkin teens to survive, and understand their dangerous heritage. When Dez and Caleb arrive, the tension and danger go through the roof, but the tides might just be turning for the Otherkin in their slow side to extinction.

Fascinating angle on the teens-discovering-secret-magical-heritage trope. A keeper.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Feature: DETOURS, Tabor Hts. Novel

From Desert Breeze Publishing

A year in the life…

Roommates Bekka, Kat, and Amy had a lot in common: Theater students, pursuing writing careers, supporting each other in crises and heartaches. Amy kept breaking up with her boyfriend. Kat never dated a boy more than twice. Bekka was too busy with part-time jobs and writing to even want a relationship. Especially seeing how miserable her roommates were

So she thought, until Shane showed up, but Kat saw him first, and once she dumped a boyfriend, he never came back. Bekka couldn't help hoping, though.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

ALL THAT WE SEE OR SEEM, by Kristina Mahr

As promised, more information on this fascinating, dark fantasy published by Uncommon Universes Press:


Every night, seventeen-year-old Reeve Lennox finds herself under a noose.

By day she is a lady of Acarsaid’s royal house, daydreaming of adventure and love. But every night in sleep she wanders through a nightmarish city, an invisible witness to the screeches of monsters and the screams of their victims. Her only consolation is Bran, a battle-torn young man with a selfless heart and eyes that reflect the stars. 

Yet while Reeve falls deeper into her dreams, in truth she is engaged to Arden, a mercurial nobleman who has long been cured of his belief in love and breathes fire and flattery like other people breathe air.

Torn between two lives, Reeve struggles to remember what’s real. Until night and day collide, with a revelation that threatens all of Acarsaid.




Kristina Mahr devotes her days to numbers and her nights to words. She works full-time as an
accountant in the suburbs of Chicago, where she lives with her two dogs and two cats, but her true passion is writing. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, reading, and waking up at the crack of dawn every weekend to watch the Premier League.


I'm serious, folks. READ this book!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Feature: BEHIND THE SCENES, Tabor Hts. Novel

From Desert Breeze Publishing

Absence makes the heart... see clearer.

Tony and Max were best friends, writing partners. People swore he didn't know she was a girl and she didn't know he was a boy. When Tony went away for a few months, he realized that empty place inside was Max-shaped. Every idea to tell her how he felt sounded like the plot for a book they would never write.

Then Max's parents were seriously injured.

Tony dropped everything to come home and be there for her and her brothers. He would just have to wait until things calmed down before he confessed his love, and pray Max felt the same way. Before the new guy in the tech crew made his move.

Max tried not to dream that she and Tony could be more to each other. As she held together her parents' theater and dealt with the invasion of paparazzi when Hollywood discovered where her mother had hidden years ago, she couldn't help wishing...

In one crisis after another, dealing with spoiled actors, gossips, and secret nightmares, Tony was her rock. After all the answered prayers, would God answer this one, too?

Monday, May 14, 2018

Off the Bookshelf: ALL THAT WE SEE OR SEEM, by Kristina Mahr

You know what's the mark of a really well-written story? When the main character makes a choice and you cringe, because you've come to be so invested in her story, you know she's going to get hurt, it's the wrong choice, and you just want to reach through the pages and grab her shoulders and shake her until her eyes rattle and she changes her mind.

Yeah, Reeve, the main character in this book got that reaction from me.

And did you hear me last night when I got to the last page and I didn't want it to end? (Attention, Kristina Mahr, there better be another book following up on this one, and right quick! You cannot leave Reeve and Bran where you left them -- at least, not permanently. Please?) Okay, I didn't shout, I didn't scream, because it was after 11 at night and the rest of the household was sleeping, but there was some mental agony involved. Close to the destruction of Alderaan.

There were a number of cringe-worthy moments in the story. No, Reeve, don't!
And when I ached for her.
And I held my breath, hoping the short moment of sweetness and hope would last.

Okay, what's so special about this book? I really don't want to give it all away. But here are the basics:
Reeve is the niece of the king, lives in the palace, and very realistically, the luxuries she enjoys don't make up for her restricted, somewhat lonely life. And yeah, she's expected to make a marriage to benefit the throne. Her choices all have drawbacks. Some bigger than others. Some, she doesn't discover until it's too late, and turn near-deadly. The only real friends she has are her bodyguards and her ladies maid, and even they aren't close enough for her to tell her biggest, strangest, scariest secret.

Every night, for her entire life, Reeve goes to another land in her sleep. A horrible place, full of darkness and fear and pain and blood. She wakes under a gallows, and often there is a body hanging there. Sometimes she's lucky and it's a fresh body, other times she's not lucky, and these horrible, warped falcons have started to feed. The falcons are also the nighttime security forces in this awful land, where only those with a death wish go outside. Fortunately, Reeve seems to be entirely invisible in this land, so she's safe. But lonely. And unable to stop visiting this awful place in her dreams. Every night.

A few months before the story starts, she discovers a young man whose presence turns the nightmare into a dream, and gives her a sense of company, even though he can't see or hear her.

The story, of course, is what happens when Reeve becomes visible. To the young man and to the falcons and to the evil in that dream land.

READ this one.

Want to learn more about the author and the book and the publisher? Come back on Thursday. Or just go to Uncommon Universes Press, the publisher. There's a big promotional blast going on right now, a blog tour, to celebrate the release of the book.

Note: the publisher provided this book in exchange for a review.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Feature: A QUIET PLACE, Tabor Hts. Novel

From Desert Breeze Publishing

Jeannette Marshall married Brody Evans despite the in-laws. Their love was deeper, stronger than what she felt for Nathan Lewis, her orphanage "big brother". They planned on seminary and a big family -- but a year later, Jeanette returned to Tabor Heights widowed and pregnant, and driven away by her hateful in-laws.

But Tabor Heights was home, her quiet shelter. With the love and support of her friends, she prepared for the birth of her son. With Nathan to be uncle to BJ, she had all she needed. Even if she sometimes wondered if she should have let Nathan persuade her to marry him instead of Brody.

Nathan realized too late he loved Jeannette as more than a little sister. When she returned, he put aside his hopes for a second chance, positive she would never heal enough to love him that way.

All that mattered was that she and BJ were safe and happy.

Then the Evans clan comes to town, scheming and telling lies to get custody of BJ. Nathan would do anything to protect Jeannette -- but everything he tries seems to drive them further apart. Can he convince Jeannette what she means to him before it's too late?

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Feature: THE FAMILY WAY, Tabor Hts. Novel

From Desert Breeze Publishing

Everything is going right for Lisa. Her comic strip is becoming a book, and she is pregnant -- finally, her critical father-in-law will admit she is a good wife.

Todd comes home in a foul mood and destroys her happy announcement with: "Is it mine?"

He tries to make things right, but everything he does only worsens Lisa's pain because he has never learned to apologize. Their marriage disintegrates, until his own sisters urge Lisa to leave him. Todd slowly, painfully learns to face family secrets, and break free of his father's poisonous influence.

Lisa knows she must forgive and learn to love Todd again, even as she wonders why. Todd never loved her, so why try to make their marriage work?

Monday, May 7, 2018

Off the Bookshelf: THE WITCH'S VACUUM CLEANER AND OTHER STORIES, by Terry Pratchett

If you haven't guessed by now, I love Terry Pratchett's stories.

This is a collection of his early works, short stories, bits of testing out the waters, learning his voice and style. Fascinating from just a fan perspective, but also as a writer, seeing the roots of the amazing creations of people and places and the magic system that became  Disc World. Plus a story that was probably the basis for the Bromeliad trilogy. Fun!

This could be a good introduction just to the magic and humor of Terry Pratchett, especially if you're leery of investing in a world that spans dozens of books, and marvelous inspired silliness and slaps at popular culture and politics.

I wished that he had written more about the Welsh town with the unpronounceable name that was set up like a Wild West town in the U.S. I have another book like this waiting to be read, with more shorts and unpublished or early works, and I really hope some more of those stories are in there. I don't know if anyone would even dare try to imitate Sir Terry's voice and style and wild imagination, but maybe a tribute book, following the crazy adventures of the sheep farmers and coal miners in this mythical Old West/Wales? Please?

Read it. You'll have a lot, lot, lot of fun.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Feature: COMMON GROUNDS, Tabor Hts. Novel

From Desert Breeze Publishing

Hannah Blake had given up on being anything more to Xander Finley than his Gal Friday and partner in running Common Grounds legal clinic. Other than attending the same church, what else did they have in common?

Then the process of opening up a branch office in Tabor Heights became ... complicated. First they faced resistance from a local judge and another lawyer who was a member of their church, and should have been supporting them. Then they found the body of the 3rd victim of the White Rose Killer in their new office.

When the White Rose Killer seemed to have chosen Hannah as his next 'true love', Xander's attentions became warmer and more personal. Hannah knew better than to hope it would last beyond the crisis. Foxhole love wasn't any more real than foxhole religion, was it? Xander, on the other hand, was glad his eyes had finally been opened. The problem was convincing Hannah that he was for real. It was time to pray for more than her safety. After all, in the final analysis, what good was his life without Hannah in every part of it?

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Feature: THE SECOND TIME AROUND, Tabor Hts. novel

From Desert Breeze Publishing:


Daniel Morgan's past returned to haunt him when a freshman girl showed up wearing his college sweetheart's face.

Lynette Tyler was determined not to face her past, when she learned her daughter's favorite new teacher was the man she had forced out of her life when she got pregnant.

When Daniel learns that Kat is his daughter, he dares to ask God for the dream he had let go years before... to finally be a family. He pursues Lynnete's love through tragedy and shame, learning to forgive each other and themselves. The biggest hurdle isn't whether Kat would forgive them when she finally finds out the truth, but whether Lynette can let go of the past long enough to let them have a future together.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Off the Bookshelf: FAIRIES: MYTHS, LEGENDS AND LORE, by Skye Alexander

Sometimes research can be fun. And frustrating. Especially when you're looking for books in the library, and the search function of the computer index doesn't want to cooperate. Most of the books I found on fairies, faeries, the fair folk, and such *sigh* were fiction, mostly romance, some kids' stories. That's not what I was looking for.

So when I found this one, as I prepare to start a new series of books, it was a major relief. And a treasure trove.

Dealing with fairy lore from around the world, it discusses different classes of fairies, legends, their functions within the magical realms as well as dealings with lowly mortals, and what was really fascinating, a discussion of how the legends have changed through the years, as society changed. This is one I really think I need to find in print, rather than ebook, so I can flag pages for future reference, because I can see going back to this again and again, for inspiration.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Excerpt: THE RIFT WAR


From Uncial Press
Book 5 of the Zygradon Chronicles

Excerpt:

Grego was somewhat relieved that the white-haired man didn't levitate a bottle of juice over to him. Now wasn't the time for amusing tricks. He gathered his thoughts as the three served themselves.

"It's happened," he said, after considering and tossing aside a dozen different ways of breaking the news. "The next phase in my project. They'll load the ships with the power siphon equipment in the next few days, to sail to the Death Zone."

"But how?" Emrillian said, slowly shaking her head. She put down the bottle of juice and leaned forward, elbows on her knees, hands clasped together, as if that would help her concentrate and understand. "The next step is to get the sensors working."

"They are working." Grego swallowed hard. "Working too well. I'm thinking someone else has been working on the programming and adding it to mine. The first test went spectacularly well. Today. Kayn was in my office, watching practically over my shoulder, when an enormous deposit of star-metal was found right here on the coast."

"The tunnel," Mrillis said. He stroked his beard, lips pursed in thought.

"They'll come right here, before they go out to the Death Zone," Emrillian said. "How could they resist all that star-metal, here for the taking? Grandfather, we're not ready."

"Since when does prophecy require that we be ready?" he responded, shaking his head. "And you are partially wrong, my dear. The star-metal is not here for the taking. They must penetrate quite a few defensive spells to find the tunnel."

"And if they think to bring Grego's power siphon? If they decide to activate it, to help them find the star-metal when your spells block the way? How long will the defensive spells stand against them when the Threads are attacked and drained?"

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Excerpt: THE RIFT WAR


From Uncial Press
Book 5 of the Zygradon Chronicles

Excerpt:


With star-metal, the streamers of light and the slight movements of her fingers were Emrillian's tools, rather than the forge, the anvil, the tongs, and hammer.

"Grego!" She lowered her hands. The cuff floated gently down to the granite surface of her worktable and the sphere of light surrounding her faded to nothing. She wiped sweat off her face and then wiped her hands on the seat of her loose trousers. "What a nice surprise. It's more than a moon since you visited."

"Is the armor finished?" He nodded to Mrillis as the man stepped out of the shadows at the other side of the workshop to join them at the table.

"Why?" She laughed and raked her hands through her sweat-damped hair, white and gold touched with red highlights. It had come loose of her braids in the strenuous work and the gusts of air and thrashing of the Threads, as always, and hung past her waist. Her silver-blue eyes sparkled with the euphoria of the energy she always gained while working star-metal.

"You're going to need it. I assume since you're working on bow guards, the armor is done?"

"Done, and ready for a celebration party," Mrillis said. He nodded at the cuff. "That is a gift for Shalara. I anticipate great things from her, when her imbrose is awakened."

"What's happened?" Emrillian gestured across the workshop, to the corner where a coldbox and padded benches formed a resting place amid the multiple work stations and projects in various stages of completion throughout the large, one-room building. The three settled down in their usual places for one of their long, intense, rambling talks.

"Something dire, I fear," Mrillis said. He gestured at the coldbox. The door swung open.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Excerpt: THE RIFT WAR


From Uncial Press
Book 5 of the Zygradon Chronicles

Excerpt:


The construction of a suit of armor entirely made of star-metal, for Emrillian to wear in hand-to-hand combat with Edrout. She had sworn at the age of twelve to destroy the enemy enchanter so her father would not have to face the man again.

Grego stepped out of the forest and into the intricate gardens surrounding the main house of the Rakkell estate. The lights swirled and spun in a dome around the large workshop that sat a good hundred meters away from the manor house. Mrillis' voice came from the workshop, answered a moment later by Emrillian's rich alto. Relieved to be able to share this perilous news as soon as possible, Grego pushed through the barrier of light and came out the other side, feeling as if he had taken several whiffs of pure oxygen. His skin tingled all over as if scrubbed clean. He pushed the door open, and knowing how Emrillian worked, he moved quietly and slowly. It was not wise to distract or startle her while she worked star-metal.

Emrillian stood in the center of a globe of silvery-blue light, eyes closed, hands spread midway between shoulder and waist. A glowing, molten mass of silver-blue metal, almost the same color as her eyes, churned in mid-air, suspended by green and white streaks of light coming from her fingers. She moved her left hand out, and the metal streamed out and flattened into a sheet. She raised her right hand, just a little, and pointed with her index finger, twirling it, and the sheet of glowing metal folded in on itself, again and again, as if it were a paper being compacted into a packet. Then she flattened it into another sheet, and again folded it. Flattened and folded.

Grego remembered to breathe. He had watched her do the exact same thing not two moons ago to a piece of fine steel, working it and tempering it and folding it, then shaping the hot metal with a stone hammer until she formed it into a thick cuff to protect an archer against the snap of the bow string. Emrillian had quite a reputation as a metalworker among their Archaics friends, and the bow guard, engraved with the image of a drakag, had been a gift for a friend of theirs when she graduated to Valor rank.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Excerpt: THE RIFT WAR


From Uncial Press
Book 5 of the Zygradon Chronicles

Excerpt:


"It's happening too soon," Grego muttered, as the upper towers of the Rakkell estate became visible through the thick forest. He had no idea how he would slow the progress on the star-metal reclamation project, now that the sensors he had developed were operational.

Dangerously operational. He hadn't expected them to work so well, or so soon.

The irony was that Emrillian and Mrillis had encouraged him to stay involved in the project. They felt it would be better for him to be at the center of this threat to the integrity of the dome of Threads that protected Lygroes and kept it safe in far distant history. If he had resigned his position, he could have come under suspicion of treachery by the Science Directorate and Kayn's paranoid compatriots, and he wouldn't be in a position now to warn Emrillian and Mrillis when their worst fears came true.

Which he was about to do.

He was so busy with his thoughts, trying to frame the right words to share the news, that he didn't notice the streamers of gold, silver, and blue light swirling around Emrillian's workshop until he ran into them. They were as tangible as streamers of spun sugar, brushing against his skin and startling him out of his thoughts.

Grego 's bare skin prickled a little where the light had touched it. Amazed as he always was, even after all these years, he reached out one hand, brushing his fingers against a particularly vivid streak of royal blue. Sparks fizzed and spun around his fingers where they penetrated the light. Still moving forward, he pressed his hand deeper into the light, enjoying the somewhat pleasant, faintly ticklish sensation. Such a strong reaction among the Threads protecting the Rakkell estate meant only one thing: Emrillian was at work at the forge in her workshop, taking another step in the project she and Grego and Mrillis had shared for three years now.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Excerpt: THE RIFT WAR


From Uncial Press
Book 5 of the Zygradon Chronicles

Excerpt:

Grego staggered to his feet and took a deep breath. He stretched out his right arm, snapped his fingers, and held his hand out, palm up. Blue sparks danced across his fingertips, and answering sparks opened a panel in the stone pillar of the arched opening in the raw stone wall that surrounded the Rakkell estate. A thumb ring of woven threads of star-metal, glowing softly blue and silver, flew through the air to land on his palm. He inhaled deeply, feeling another missing piece of himself had come home, as he slipped the ring onto his thumb. His inborn imbrose flared to life.

"By the grace and mercy of the Estall," he whispered, renewing his vows as he turned to continue down the path. "By the imbrose in my blood. I do swear my life, my strength, my honor to the Warhawk, and to his daughter, my queen."

Grego's euphoria vanished with the force of a house collapsing. He usually didn't mind the physical reaction when Mrillis' mind-shield spell went dormant, every time he crossed onto the property. The wonder and awe of sharing such a world-shattering secret made up for the price he had to pay. After all, he had requested the mind-shield when he earned his position at the Science Directorate.

Illis Rakkell and Emmi were in actuality Mrillis the enchanter and Emrillian Warhawk, daughter of Athrar. Sixteen years ago, the spell that protected Emrillian and let her sleep through the ages had been attacked and destroyed by Edrout, son of Megassa and the Nameless One. Mrillis had brought Emrillian to Moerta, to raise her in the modern world and prepare her for the day she would return to Lygroes, to lead the Valors of Quenlaque in defending their land against Edrout and his Encindi barbarians, and prepare for the return of Athrar.

Grego had met them only a few days after coming to live with his grandparents, just an old man and a little girl, five years old, having a picnic in the forest. He might have continued exploring the forest, lost in the haze of pain from the death of his parents, but Mrillis had been drawing pictures with light, making Emrillian laugh and the Threads dance. Grego had seen the light and the Threads and felt the humming of power in the air that enclosed the clearing, and he stayed, fascinated, pulled out of his misery.

By seeing the lights that day, he had proven he had imbrose, and that had been enough for Mrillis to listen to his heart, to his sense of destiny, and take the lonely, hurting boy under his wing. Grego had been included in Emrillian's lessons about the history of Quenlaque, the Rey'kil, magic, and warfare. He had investigated the Archaics, devoted to scholarship, delving through the many false legends Mrillis and Meghianna, Queen of Snows had sown through the centuries, to protect the truth. It had been the natural thing to join the Archaics and search for others who had imbrose, and when he was sure they were trustworthy, to introduce Mrillis and Emrillian to them. The plan was to recruit from those trusted friends among the Archaics who had proven themselves honorable, skilled, and devoted to Quenlaque, and take them down the tunnel beneath the sea someday, to help in the defense of Lygroes.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Excerpt: THE RIFT WAR


From Uncial Press
Book 5 of the Zygradon Chronicles

Excerpt:

An hour later, as the sunset painted the tall trees with gold and crimson, Grego finally escaped out the back door, with a detour to the kitchen. His stomach had settled enough to remind him he hadn't eaten since breakfast, caught up in his work to the point of ignoring the rumbles and pinching. Probably part of his headache and nausea could be blamed on low blood sugar. He snatched up a couple meatrolls to eat cold, with a large dollop of fire paste, as he followed the path through the forest. He had changed his clothes to dark, worn-comfortable, casual tunic, trousers, and heavy boots, suitable for long walks through the woods at night or riding bareback, if Emmi was in the mood for a moonlight ride. He never knew what sort of adventure would occur while he visited Master Illis and his granddaughter. Whatever had been tormenting him, it was almost gone by the time he reached the boundary between his estate and the Rakkells'.

The fiery taste in his mouth turned to real heat, shooting through his entire body, freezing him as he put one foot over the imaginary line. Grego choked, spat out the last of his meatroll, and dropped the half-roll still in his hand. He went to his knees, crossing completely into Rakkell property. Dangerous memories shot up from the dark, locked regions in the back of his mind, colliding with a sense of urgency that explained the faded headache and nausea.

The half of his life that he left behind when he went to the Science Directorate to work had awakened, rising to reclaim his mind and heart.

"I hate this," he growled. Then he grinned at the incredible feeling of freedom and exhilaration that shot through him, the same every time the locked doors in his mind slammed open and the secrets he carried returned to his consciousness.

All the wonders of being a person of power and influence at the Science Directorate and the knowledge he was a certified genius were nothing, compared to the knowledge that magic was real, and the Estall had granted a small portion to him to use.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Excerpt: THE RIFT WAR

From Uncial Press
Book 5 of the Zygradon Chronicles


Excerpt:


Before the ending of all things worthwhile and strong, there will be three drops of blood born to the bloody sword.
The daughters shall walk in light and be strong, but the son shall overstep them.
One shall serve and one abominate and one will triumph.
One will sleep and one shall wait and one shall suffer.
They shall do so forever, and yet even to forever there is an ending.
The blood drawn from the third shall open the doors and smooth the road and waken the sleeper.
Protect the strong and vigilant, so that the three drops of blood may come.
Though you look for the abomination, you will not find her until she has destroyed innocence. Keep her from the blood drawn from the blood, or all is lost.


Monday, April 16, 2018

Book of the Week: THE RIFT WAR


Today we move on to the last book in my Arthurian fantasy series, The Zygradon Chronicles. All published by Uncial Press.

There are 5 books in the series:
ZYGRADON
BRAENLICACH
THREE DROPS OF BLOOD
LADY WARHAWK
THE RIFT WAR


THE RIFT WAR

Awakened from magical sleep, Emrillian Warhawk grew up in the modern, technological world of Moerta, 2000 years away from Quenlaque and Lygroes. There, the legends of Athrar Warhawk and Quenlaque, Braenlicach and the Zygradon were nothing but fanciful tales warped beyond all recognition. Raised by Mrillis the enchanter, she knew the truth, and sought out friends among the Archaics, who believed in the promise and prophecy of Quenlaque and the return of Athrar. Only they had access to star-metal, the Threads, and the magic of the Rey'kil. 

Then the authorities threatened their sanctuary to confiscate star-metal to use in weapons of war. Emrillian and Mrillis fled back to Lygroes through the tunnel under the sea, accompanied by Grego, a friend with inborn magic who had sworn loyalty to Athrar and Quenlaque. In Lygroes, where only 200 years had passed, they joined forces with Baedrix, descendant of Lycen, and prepared for the awakening of Athrar, the dismantling of the dome of Threads that kept Lygroes hidden from the modern world, and the final battle with Edrout, son of the Nameless One. 


With the help of Archaics who crossed to Lygroes and awakened their own inborn magic, Emrillian, Baedrix, and Grego set out to retrieve Braenlicach from hiding and find the lost Zygradon to heal and awaken Athrar. Time was their enemy as Edrout gathered his forces and armies from the modern world surrounded them -- and failure could mean the destruction of the entire world.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Excerpt: LADY WARHAWK



Excerpt:

Yes, there is treachery in the Court, and you are part of it. Did you believe you could lie to the Queen of Snows, and not be punished? You were judged false from the moment you walked through the stone gates. Your own lies have wrapped death's cords around your throat.

If the man had fled the moment she accused him of lying, he would already be in the maze of caverns that surrounded and guarded the Stronghold, and he would live to tell about his adventure. But like every self-righteous, lying traitor, he stayed to argue and lie more.

Meghianna felt a little pity when he shook and his face grew a little paler as he spoke, shaking his head and holding out his hands in a gesture of pleading. She didn't listen to his words, as she gathered up her will.

Just a few nights ago, Kaldar had brought the boys a deliciously horrifying tale of a ship that had sailed too far north at the worst of the winter storms. All its crew had been found encased in ice, standing at their posts on the deck of the ship. Meghianna had found the story just as horribly fascinating as her boys.

It would certainly be a new and novel punishment, and would preserve the body for other liars and traitors to see. It might warn away those who still had a conscience.

You ignored the warnings and you came to lie, she said, breaking into the man's denials. You refused to leave when you could. Very well, then. Stay here forever.

Gathering up the frigid air and water from below the ice, she wrapped them around the man, encasing him in a pillar of glistening ice, as solid as crystal, without even an air bubble to escape his nostrils or lips.

Meghianna shivered a little in sympathy, even knowing the man had died instantly. She was glad she felt some horror at his death--it meant she hadn't become completely hardened to such drastic measures.

Rubbing her hands against the chill that came through the enchantment, she hurried down the stairs to Ector and her boys, praying she was in time to prevent a wedding she was far too busy to escape with any courtesy.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Excerpt: LADY WARHAWK



Excerpt:

What do you seek, that you come to the Lake of Ice? she asked, and didn't flinch when her impatience made her voice snap and boom across the ice.

The enchantment brought the image of a man in the Warhawk's brown and gold livery to her mind's eye. He dropped to both knees on the pebbly edge of the Lake of Ice.

"The Warhawk has sent me to ask you to bring his heir to him, Queen of Snows. Treachery rises in the Court. He is ill, and his enemies will trick him into naming one of them heir unless his son comes to him now."

The man, far too handsome to be trusted, in Meghianna's opinion, was an unfamiliar face. She pegged him as a Moertan, or of the new generation of Rey'kil Valors who hadn't trained at the Stronghold. She pushed a little against the enchantment, to test the harmonies of the Threads wrapped around him.

Her impatience turned to anger when she found the Threads too tight, held with an iron fight so they didn't chime at her testing touch. He couldn't tell that she had tested him, and that was a foolish trick she would never have allowed one of her students to use.

Liar. She gripped the arms of her chair to keep from leaping to her feet or reaching out physically to slap him. I am well aware of the health of Efrin Warhawk, who knows his heir is not in the Stronghold.

Her voice crackled and snapped across the ice and made the pebbles of the shore vibrate. The false messenger jumped to his feet, visibly trembling now, and looked around him in all directions. Meghianna's magically produced voice rang off the surrounding high walls of rock, the boulders, and shredded the mist that clung to the shore of the Lake of Ice, so that the bodies of the enemies of the Stronghold were revealed. She thought it particularly gruesome to leave skeletons scattered all around the shore in their rotting shreds of finery and rusting fragments of armor and weapons, but Meghianna had learned never to cast aside any tradition of her predecessors. There were plenty of places along the Lake of Ice where the inhabitants of the Stronghold could walk in undisturbed tranquility and enjoy the landscape. The only places visitors would ever see were filled with the fragments of cruel punishments and death.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Excerpt: LADY WARHAWK



Excerpt:

Mrillis...you said they're looking for Thrarin at the castles of minor kings? Are Pirkin and Ynessa and their family all right?

I'm going to Goarlotte now to bolster our protective spells. What more logical place to hide the Warhawk's heir than in the kingdom of his most loyal ally? Especially someone related by blood to the Warhawk's Enchanter? Mrillis' mental voice sounded utterly weary with that last admission.

Meghianna ached for him. If any harm ever came to Pirkin and Ynessa, their three sons and five-year-old Ynfara because of their connection to him, he would never forgive himself.

Mrillis broke the connection through the Threads. Meghianna was still running their conversation over in her mind when her link with the Lake of Ice opened. She nearly snarled her anger aloud. When she chose to abandon the Stronghold for her false identity in Quenlaque, she and Mrillis had woven the enchantment that blocked everyone from entering the Stronghold, and let her speak to all visitors standing at the Lake of Ice. The lack of any visible proof that the Queen of Snows still lived discouraged visitors and requests for aid. Visits to the pebbly shore of the Lake of Ice had gone down to just a trickle, maybe three in a year, by the time Thrarin was ten years old.

Now Meghianna had to think back to the last time someone had come to the Stronghold. Maybe eight moons? Why did they have to seek the help of the Queen of Snows now? Especially when she needed to get downstairs and interrupt what looked like a plotting session between her boys and Captain Ector? Meghianna didn't trust the way they kept looking up at the window into the loft, as if all three had guilty consciences. If she wasn't careful, she would come downstairs and find out that she was not only betrothed to Ector, but the three men had already contacted a Star-Mother to perform the vows at the ceremony. Worse yet, Bethian, the inn's cook and manager, would be involved in the plot, providing the feast for the festivities.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Excerpt: LADY WARHAWK



Excerpt:

We might be wise to change our plan, Mrillis said. Our enemies constantly watch all the castles of the highest ranking nobles on Lygroes, and the most loyal of the minor kings here on Moerta. And I fear for you, my dear.

Me? Now Meghianna could laugh, more in surprise than anything else. Why?

It has been fifteen years since anyone has seen the Queen of Snows. The enchantments we wrapped around the Stronghold, to keep out visitors and permit communication are still strong--but someone must suspect the enchantments, because I have heard a dozen rumors in the last moon that the Queen of Snows is dead.

How many of our enemies spread rumors of my death to force my hand? How many of them have decided I'm not there at all, and are looking for me throughout the World?

Exactly. Someone who remembers you originally had red hair, before power bleached it white, may have an idea of what you should look like, and eventually find you.

Do we leave our life behind, then? Move the boys to the Stronghold for a few years?

Give them a strong foundation in magic. Lycen needs to explore his heritage. And Athrar certainly has more magic in his blood than Efrin, from living with you, Mrillis added.

Meghianna opened her eyes and looked around the tiny loft room, where she kept the account books and tallies of supplies. It let her look out over the main room of the inn and keep watch over all the traffic. Someone was bound to come looking for her soon. It was a law of nature that she couldn't have more than ten minutes of privacy at a time. She got up and leaned against the window in the wall.

There were her boys, two fair heads, Lycen with his curls and Thrarin with his straight, coarse locks, their crossed arms resting on the table, their shoulders hunched as they listened to Captain Ector tell them about his latest adventures while out on patrol. The Encindi rebels were more active and destructive than usual, meaning the winter illnesses and starvation hadn't decimated their numbers. Meghianna welcomed Ector's visits because he made a point of emphasizing the darker aspects of a soldier's life--wounds and long hours in the saddle and danger. If only he wouldn't insist on asking her at least twice a year to marry him.

She admired Ector, and loved him as a good friend, but he always smelled of sweaty metal and sour leather, belched too often, and ate with his fingers. Meghianna knew those were ridiculous reasons to refuse a man, but she couldn't find any reasons to accept him. He didn't make her heart sing. Until her heart sang for a man, she wouldn't give it to anyone.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Excerpt: LADY WARHAWK



Excerpt:

Her disguise as an innkeeper and healer brought the world to Athrar/Thrarin. People knew who he was, knew he was there, and yet ignored him when he was underfoot, running errands, listening to stories. From Kaldar and Ector and the soldiers and sailors and tradesmen who frequented the inn, Lycen and Thrarin learned about the world, about warfare and danger, about swordplay and the tricks of the wind and weather, tracking and wounds, treachery and heroism, through the stories the men told on long, cold or rainy evenings. When Lycen wanted to learn to handle sword and bow and to ride something more spirited than the carthorse that hauled the inn's supplies, Ector snuck him into the garrison for lessons on the sly. And of course, where Lycen went, Thrarin was his shadow.

By the time their life of simplicity and safe anonymity ended, Lycen and Thrarin were toughened by short trips along the coast with trustworthy men like Kaldar, and hours of swordplay and helping tend the horses of the garrison. They were restless, eager to spread their wings and explore the world beyond the streets of Quenlaque and the harbor and the garrison.

What am I to do? Meghianna complained to Mrillis that morning when prophecy and destiny caught up with them. She sat in her inn in Quenlaque while he rode through a midnight forest in Moerta. My little boys are growing up. Does every mother feel this way?

Every parent, Mrillis told her. I know we planned to wait until Athrar was seventeen, but the boy is good with weapons, alert, agile--and he has his brother constantly watching over him. The Estall blessed us when he put Lycen into your care. Most older brothers would consider their little brothers a burden and punish them for it daily. He doesn't make Thrarin chafe against his leadership, either.

Hmm, yes, that's true. I keep forgetting my boys are a little unusual, Meghianna responded, earning laughter from the enchanter.

Such talk depressed her. She didn't look forward to the day her boys were too big for snuggling together on the big, broken-legged, lumpy couch in the front room of their quarters, telling stories and laughing together. Truthfully, her boys had outgrown the need to cuddle with their mother, but she hadn't outgrown that need to cuddle them, to smooth their hair out of their faces and tug their clothes straight and hug them, pretending that was all she needed to do to protect them from the bumps and scrapes of life.

Not even her power and authority as Queen of Snows would be enough to protect her boys when they took their destined places in front of the world and prophecy swept them up in its current.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Excerpt: LADY WARHAWK

From Uncial Press

Excerpt:

Time ran out for them, the summer that Meghianna's sons turned fourteen and fifteen.

To the rest of the world, she was the Widow Ianni, who ran a small, clean inn in a quiet, respectable quarter of the growing port city of Quenlaque. Her dark-dyed hair had a strong reddish cast, which neatly explained her healing talents to her neighbors and friends, and her two suitors, Kaldar, a merchant sailor captain, and Ector, head of the garrison in Quenlaque.

Technically, only one of her sons was her son--Lycen, the elder. The younger boy, Thrarin, was Ianni's little brother, orphaned when he was three years old--at least, that was the story Meghianna told her friends when Mrillis, disguised as a horse trader, brought the little boy to live with her one blustery winter night.

In truth, Thrarin was Athrar, Warhawk's heir. The attempts on the boy's life had grown severe enough to prompt Efrin Warhawk and his queen, Glyssani, to send the boy away into hiding, just as Meghianna had predicted nearly four years before.

She had prepared for that need, establishing herself as a healer and innkeeper and widow with a son. Enemies would expect the Warhawk's heir to be hidden at the Stronghold. They would waste resources, magic, and years trying to break through the protective spells enfolding the Rey'kil fortress. Meanwhile, Athrar would grow up believing himself the orphaned brother of an innkeeper, safely hidden in Quenlaque.

Meghianna had adopted Lycen, the orphaned infant son of Lysette, one of her ladies who had left the Stronghold to set up a school in the foothills of the Wayhauk Mountains. She and her Valor husband, Syndal, had died defending their Encindi and Rey'kil students from pureblood fanatics who preferred murder to cleanse the land, rather than allowing Encindi and Noveni 'invaders' to pack up their possessions and leave. They justified the murder of the Rey'kil students by calling them traitors to Rey'kil purity. Meghianna planned to tell Lycen the truth of his parents' identities and lives and deaths someday. She wasn't sure when. It was the sweetest joy in her life to have the fair-haired toddler follow her about the inn, determined to help with little chores, asking for stories and calling her Mama.

When Thrarin joined their household, Lycen was duly impressed with the responsibilities of being an older brother. He made Meghianna want to laugh and cry at the same time when he immediately took Thrarin under his wing and insisted she was to be called Mother, not Sister.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Realm Award Finalist!

I'm delighted to announce that MUSIC IN THE NIGHT, part of the Guardians of the Time Stream series (steampunk) published by Desert Breeze Publishing, has been named a FINALIST in the Realm Awards competition.

Winners will be announced at the end of July at the Realm Makers convention in St. Louis.

I'm so excited!!!

Ess and Carmen are childhood friends who only met in dreams. Orphaned and destitute, Carmen flees enemies she doesn't understand. Ess desperately seeks for her friend, knowing their enemies all too well.
Brogan is a creature of the darkness, his music stolen and his face scarred by tragedy. He leads an underground community of people left destitute by injustice and tragedy. Crystal in his flesh and bone allows him to hear Carmen sing in the night. When she takes refuge in his world of tunnels and shadows, she brings him hope that he isn't going mad after all.
Ess and Carmen finally meet, resolving puzzles more than twenty years old. A future of possibilities open before them, but only if they can defeat the Revisionists who will destroy them all to control crystal's power, the future, and rewrite the past.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Book of the Week: LADY WARHAWK


Today we move on to the next book in my Arthurian fantasy series, The Zygradon Chronicles. All published by Uncial Press.

There are 5 books in the series:
ZYGRADON
BRAENLICACH
THREE DROPS OF BLOOD
LADY WARHAWK
THE RIFT WAR


LADY WARHAWK

Raised in hiding, Athrar Warhawk emerges to claim his place and destiny as Warhawk's Heir. Guided by Mrillis and Meghianna, supported by his foster-brother, Lycen, Meghianna's adopted son, he tries to hold the alliance together as rebels and traitors fight for dominance. Young love turns to betrayal and loss, made worse by the political games of court and a growing schism between Noveni and Rey'kil. 

When Athrar finds his soul-mate, traitors and politics try to tear them apart, and magic tries to force her to betray him with Lycen. A new prophecy emerges, speaking of the Lady Warhawk, promising sorrow and hope for the future–even as the Nameless One emerges from hiding and begins his final campaign of destruction. Mrillis and Meghianna risk all to protect the defenseless thousands who have fled to Moerta, and in so doing lock the defenders in with their enemy, for all time. Only the Lady Warhawk will hold the key to the future, and to freedom. 

Monday, April 2, 2018

Off the Bookshelf: A YEAR WITH ASLAN, C.S. Lewis

Start off every day with a short visit to Narnia.

Oh, if only ........

This book of daily readings from the Chronicles of Narnia is best when shared -- each selection ends with a question to ponder or discuss.

Instead of devouring each book of the Chronicles in one lump -- what Free Narnian can resist? -- the nibbles of different scenes offer a chance to consider aspects of Narnia and the adventures of the children who visited there from different angles. Pieces instead of the whole.

Of course, you can do like I did, and read five or six or ten selections at a sitting. Who can resist? This will have to hold us until we can step through the Wardrobe for ourselves. This is a great way to have daily devotions or just family time with children, and explore Narnia all over again.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Excerpt: THREE DROPS OF BLOOD


Book 3 of the Zygradon Chronicles
Excerpt:


"You've had your lessons about the Nameless One." Nalla waited until Meghianna nodded. "He was your great-grandfather. His evil came down through two of his three children, Endor and Triska. Nainan, your grandmother, broke free of the magic he used to control her. Triska's daughter is Trevissa, and she used magic to trick your father, to think she was Belissa. And so Megassa was born."

"Oh. Papa must be very uncomfortable when he sees Megassa." She frowned and chewed on her next thought a moment. "Or doesn't he see her ever?"

"I'm not sure. She's been living somewhere else, and only came to the fortress last fall. Most of what I know about your sister, I have only heard from others. But show your father some mercy, and don't ask him. Let him tell you what he thinks of your sister when he chooses, all right?"

Meghianna nodded, and slipped her hand back into Nalla's as they continued down the long, shadowy hallway of smooth, golden stone.

She had heard enough people say Efrin Warhawk was far too young to carry the burden of the throne. It prompted her to step back and look at her father as if she had never seen him. That was easiest to do when she came to the Warhawk's fortress in the spring, after being separated from her father all fall and winter. When she walked into the council room that afternoon and saw him sitting at the far end of the long council table, she noted the touch of silver in his oak-colored hair and short beard, and new lines around his mouth and eyes. She hoped those lines would go away when he stopped frowning. Efrin was only twenty-eight. She supposed older people would think that was very young to be the High King, charged with keeping the entire World safe. From her very young age of six, twenty-eight seemed enormously ancient.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Excerpt: THREE DROPS OF BLOOD


Book 3 of the Zygradon Chronicles
Excerpt:



"Where is Megassa's mother?" she asked, when she and Nalla had reached the bottom of the staircase and she could see no one else in the hallway either behind or ahead of them. Meghianna had learned long ago the necessity for speaking with caution.

"No one knows for sure."

"Is she my aunt, or my cousin?"

"She's no one and nothing to you, my dear. And you'd be wise not to ask your father about her, either. It's hard enough for him to admit Megassa exists. Other men would think themselves justified in having such painful reminders removed from sight. Permanently."

"But Megassa didn't do anything wrong." Meghianna stumbled as the implications of Nalla's words sank in. The woman meant other people would think it justified if Megassa died. What evil had her mother done, that someone would want a little girl dead to pay for it?

"Exactly. But there are those who think a child's innocence is no justification for mercy." Nalla sighed and stopped and went down on one knee in front of the girl, so they were nearly eye-to-eye. She rested both hands on Meghianna's shoulders. "Sweetling, you're far too young to hear such cruel things, but considering who you are to be someday, I wouldn't doubt you're wise enough already to understand. It's said Lady Ceera was wise ahead of her time, as well."

"Lord Mrillis' dead wife."

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Excerpt: THREE DROPS OF BLOOD


Book 3 of the Zygradon Chronicles
Excerpt:



"And you must be Captain Gynefra." Nalla reached for Meghianna's hand. "This one is my charge. This one must be yours. She claims her nurse told her to go away."

"She's telling the truth. The girl is the laziest little tart I've ever had the displeasure of--well, none of that matters. She wanted to spend time chasing one of the new Valors in training, rather than her duty. Little Megassa isn't half as much trouble as her former nurse wants people to think." Her smile turned rather grim as she looked at Megassa and nodded for emphasis. Gynefra held out her hand again. "Come along and we'll find someone much nicer, shall we?"

Meghianna opened her mouth to ask why her newly discovered sister couldn't stay with her, but Nalla stopped her, tugging on her hand.

"Thank you, Captain. It's time for Meghianna to make her appearance, and I wouldn't want to ruffle anyone's feathers so early." Nalla waited only until Megassa let the soldier take her hand, then headed for the door to the enclosed, spiraling staircase that led from the royal family's private quarters, still holding Meghianna's hand.

"Considering everyone's feathers are ruffled all the time nowadays, we thank you." Gynefra chuckled and bent to scoop up Megassa, so the child straddled her hip. "Let's see what the cooks can spare us for a treat, shall we?"

Meghianna looked back just long enough to see the smile on the other girl's face, then let Nalla hurry her along. It was time to see her father--and Lord Mrillis. Even anticipation couldn't drive the questions from her thoughts.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Excerpt: THREE DROPS OF BLOOD


Book 3 of the Zygradon Chronicles
Excerpt:


"So... Megassa?" She waited until the other girl raised her head and looked at her, silvery-green eyes big and glossy with tears. "We're half-sisters, and we're cousins both, yes?"

"I guess so." Megassa nodded. "You're the princess, just because you're older than me?"

"We should both be princesses, shouldn't we?" She turned to Nalla.

"That's a subject best left for later, when you're better able to understand." The woman sighed and raked her long, elegant fingers through her silver hair. "Let's find your nurse, little Megassa, shall we?"

"She told me to go away." The younger girl pouted as Nalla put her back down on her own two feet. She followed readily enough when the woman led the two girls out the door.

Before they took more than three steps down the hallway, a woman in the brown and gold uniform of the Warhawk's personal guards, with a captain's triple knots on her shoulder, hurried up the nearest staircase. Amusement lit her wheat-colored face when she saw Meghianna, walking down the hall next to Nalla with her hands clasped behind her back, deep in thought. Shaking her head, she sighed and reached to take hold of her hand.

"Come along, troublemaker. You've had your fun, but now--" Then she saw Megassa, who had ducked behind Nalla. Her mouth dropped open and she looked back and forth between the two girls. "I think we're headed for years of trouble," she muttered. "You're Nalla, aren't you?"

Monday, March 26, 2018

Off the Bookshelf: HARDCORE TWENTY-FOUR, by Janet Evanovich

Book 24 in the Stephanie Plum series.

If you haven't read this humorous series about the misadventures of Jersey girl accident-prone bounty hunter Stephanie Plum ... Why not???

I love the insanity, I love the characters, all their quirks and foibles and just how much more silliness can Grandma Mazur and Lula produce?

This time... wow. Zombies. There are zombies on the loose in Trenton. For real. As in bodies are vanishing -- fortunately, they're already dead -- and when they're found, either their heads are missing or their brains are missing.

Weird, huh? To make things more complicated, it looks like one of the fugitives Stephanie has to hunt down is involved in the whole zombie mess, or wants to be involved. And then for the cherry on top, Deisel shows up, and he seems to be involved in the zombie mess. How? Read it and find out.

Are the zombies real, or is this just a nasty trick? And just why is homicide cop Joe Morelli getting into hunting down zombies? Poor Stephanie -- looks like the zombies are after her brains. Well, at least someone values her for her brains ... or her incredible weird, twisted luck.

Read it and be ready to laugh. And groan. And go "ewwwww!" a few times.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Excerpt: THREE DROPS OF BLOOD


Book 3 of the Zygradon Chronicles
Excerpt:



"I wouldn't do that," Meghianna said, following her nurse further into her suite. "Lord Mrillis said it isn't polite to go into people's heads without their permission. And anyway, I'm not strong enough, even if I thought I needed to."

"There you go again, talking like a girl twice your age." Nalla didn't smile, like she usually did when she made that complaint. She settled on the nearest couch and used a corner of her apron to wipe the stranger child's face. "Here now, little Megassa, there's no need for tears. We're the last ones in this place to want to hurt you."

"But--but--why does she look like me?" the other child wailed.
Meghianna frowned as a thread of dislike curled through her belly. She had learned long ago that whining and wailing didn't do her any good, and was ugly and irritating. She wondered if this girl acted that way deliberately, or only from fear. She reminded herself to ask Mrillis why she had that idea, the next time she spoke with him.

That thought made her smile. The prospect of seeing the Rey'kil enchanter every day, to learn more about magic and the women who were Queen of Snows before her, was almost as wonderful as being able to see her father every day for the entire spring and summer.

"To be totally correct, you look like her. Meghianna is your elder by three moons. And you look alike because you're sisters. Half-sisters, anyway," Nalla corrected quickly. She sighed. "And, because your mothers are cousins. Were cousins, because sweet Queen Belissa is dead."

And your mother most likely killed her, but that's not your fault, so I won't say it.

Nalla's thought rang loudly through Meghianna's head, startling her. The girl yanked her mental fingers back from the Threads, feeling a little queasy at the strength of the thought, as well as the guilt of trespassing. A moment later, curiosity overrode everything.