Into the Dreaming Imaginative Fiction from Author, Reviewer, and Writing Coach Christine Amsden

99 Cent Sale!

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PLUS …

Every book in the Cassie Scot series will be discounted through the end of November!

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Read the First Chapters Here

Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective (Book 1)

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Cassie Scot is the ungifted daughter of powerful sorcerers, born between worlds but belonging to neither. At 21, all she wants is to find a place for herself, but earning a living as a private investigator in the shadow of her family’s reputation isn’t easy. When she is pulled into a paranormal investigation, and tempted by a powerful and handsome sorcerer, she will have to decide where she truly belongs.

  • *Winner of the 2013 Global Ebook Award for Fantasy
  • *Finalist in the 2014 Next Generation Indie Awards

Buy now in print, ebook, or audio…

Secrets and Lies (Cassie Scot #2)

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 Cassie Scot, still stinging from her parents’ betrayal, wants out of the magical world. But it isn’t letting her go. Her family is falling apart and despite everything, it looks like she may be the only one who can save them.

To complicate matters, Cassie owes Evan her life, making it difficult for her to deny him anything he really wants. And he wants her. Sparks fly when they team up to find two girls missing from summer camp, but long-buried secrets may ruin their hopes for happiness. Sequel to Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective.

  • Winner of the 2014 Global Ebook Award for Fantasy

Buy now in print, ebook, or audio…

Mind Games (Cassie Scot #3)

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Beware your heart and soul…

Evan broke Cassie’s heart two months ago, and she still doesn’t know why. She throws herself into family, friends and her new job at the sheriff’s department, but nothing helps. The only thing that finally allows her heal and move on is the love of a new man, mind mage Matthew Blair. Cassie finds him…irresistible.

Matthew may also be the only one who can help keep the non-magical residents of Eagle Rock from going crazy over the murder of a beloved pastor’s wife. It looks like a sorcerer is to blame, but while Cassie tries to figure out who, others take matters into their own hands. With tensions running so hot, a single spark might set Eagle Rock ablaze. Book 3 in the Cassie Scot series.

  • *Winner of the 2014 Global Ebook Award for Fantasy

Buy now (Print, Ebook, Audiobook)

 Stolen Dreams (Cassie Scot #4) 

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Edward Scot and Victor Blackwood have despised one another for nearly a quarter of a century, but now their simmering hatred is about to erupt.

When Cassie Scot returns home from her sojourn in Pennsylvania, she finds that her family has taken a hostage. Desperate to end the fighting before someone dies, Cassie seeks help from local seer Abigail Hastings, Evan Blackwood’s grandmother. But Abigail has seen her own death, and when it comes at the hand of Cassie’s father, Victor Blackwood kills Edward Scot.

But things may not be precisely as they appear.

Evan persuades Cassie to help him learn the truth, teaming them up once again in their darkest hour. New revelations about Evan and his family make it difficult for Cassie to cling to a shield of anger, but can Evan and Cassie stop a feud that has taken on a life of its own? Conclusion to the Cassie Scot series.

Buy Now in Ebook and Audiobook

Trade Paperback: November 15, 2014

Praise for the Series:

“When sorcerers call the shots, what’s a girl without powers to do? Get ready for a ripper of a murder mystery full of romance and intrigue, where magic potions bubble, passions spark and vampires are definitely not your friend Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective grabs you by the heart and won’t let go until the very last page. Well written, immersive and unputdownable. This is urban fantasy at its best. More please!” – Kim Falconer, bestselling author of The Spell of Rosette, Quantum Enchantment Series

“Amsden continues the story of the only mundane member of a supernaturally-gifted family in this middling sequel to Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective. Cassie, stubborn and proud, is bravely trying to live on her own after her family disowns her. Struggling to make ends meet, she accepts a case involving a pair of magical girls who disappeared from summer camp. With the aid of the handsome Evan Blackwood, to whom Cassie is attracted despite her family’s disapproval and her own better judgment, she follows the trail of the missing girls. What she finds is a dark side of the magical world, and the hidden depths of her family’s past force her to reconsider long-held assumptions. The growing complexity of Cassie’s world makes this an entertaining installment, focusing as much on the will-they, won’t-they romantic chemistry between Cassie and Evan as on the primary mystery. An inconclusive ending is clearly intended to feed into the next volume.” – Publisher’s Weekly 

About the Author

Author_2013Christine Amsden has been writing fantasy and science fiction for as long as she can remember. She loves to write and it is her dream that others will be inspired by this love and by her stories. Speculative fiction is fun, magical, and imaginative but great speculative fiction is about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations. Christine writes primarily about people and relationships, and it is in this way that she strives to make science fiction and fantasy meaningful for 
everyone.

At the age of 16, Christine was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, a condition that effects the retina and causes a loss of central vision. She is now legally blind, but has not let this slow her down or get in the way of her dreams. In addition to writing, Christine teaches workshops on writing at Savvy Authors. She also does some freelance editing work. Christine currently lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success. They have two beautiful children.

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Holiday Parade: Fires of Nuala by Cat Kimbriel

Today, in preparation for holiday gift-giving, we’re going to hear a bit from Cat Kimbriel‘s book, Fires of Nuala! Enjoy!



On the planet Nuala, the scam that beguiling free-trader Silver has come to join has just been blown to the skies, along with the throne lines of three separate sovereign nations.

The last male heir of one throne line, Sheel Atare, is unprepared to rule, but he’s quick to seize allies wherever he can—like the beautiful and dangerous Silver.

Now Silver has to choose: stick to the scam, or get sucked into the struggle to save Nuala—and Sheel Atare’s life.





* * * * * * * * *


Mailan had reached the terrace when she heard the crash. Instinct took over; dropping her assorted bundles, she drew her cat knife and threw herself through the open doorway.

A jumbled scene littered the floor. Seeking Sheel first, Mailan found him on his knees, a cat knife gripped tightly in one hand. He had the tip of the blade pressed into the throat of a guaard. A guaard? Glancing around quickly, she saw Jude crouched, both knives held in throwing position, her gaze on—

“Crow?” Mailan’s surprise sounded shrill. Vision widened, taking in the entire room. Pressed against the inner door, the off-world woman waited, the color of her face rivaling alabaster. Crow was almost as pale—and confused. He clearly had no idea—

“Seri?” Mailan ventured, wondering if she should speak, and if so, what were the proper words. Sweet Mendülay . . .

“Did you send him here?” Almost conversational, Sheel’s tone.

“No. I sent him to the palace to speak to your sisters.”

“Did you tell him where we were?”

“No.”

“Then what” —Jude, rising now, her exasperation evident— “were you doing creeping around in the bushes?” Her voice easily rose an octave from start to finish, even as she gestured for Mailan to close the terrace doors.

Afraid Jude would lunge at the young man, Mailan quickly said: “Crow . . . how did you ever guess? . . .”

“Common sense. I checked a few other places on my way. Where you spent the night was not important—the current location was the major thing. And unless you went to the Ragäree’s retreat—”

The knife pressed closer, and Crow stopped his careful recitation. “I doubt anyone else would guess. I have met you after duty before, Mailan. I knew where to look.”

“Why were you creeping around the windows?” Again, that gentle speech pattern, which always meant Sheel was fighting anger.

Crow actually rolled his eyes. “Because I did not want anyone to see me sneaking around the temple grounds, of course. I did not intend for the entire guaard and local enforcers to find the place. Mailan wanted it kept quiet.”

“Then why did you come?” There was no way for Mailan to warn Crow that his life depended on the answer to her question. Why Sheel was acting this way was unimportant. To those who knew him, he was on the edge of violence.

“Because . . . whatever you were doing, you needed help. You were—are—a mess, and one alert guaard on an heir is not enough.” The youth was completely relaxed as he directed the last to Mailan; he had even dropped his knife, drawn instinctively when he was jumped, if his story was true. If? Could she doubt him? Why had she not confided in him? In more lucid moments she would have known he would read her worry.

“Seri . . . what do you need?” Mailan started, still afraid to move.

“The oath will do.”

All three guaard stared at him a moment. Mailan was lost. . . . What oath? Did he . . .

Glancing over at Jude’s defensive posture, Sheel drew his steel away from Crow’s throat and reversed the blade, holding it point down between them. Crow did not risk looking away; his gaze still meeting Sheel’s, the young guaard reached to wrap his right hand around the offered hand and hilt.

“On this I swear,” Crow began, the whisper slowly gathering volume, “by life and honor, by blood and trust, that with this oath I will serve the son and daughter of Atare, obeying all words and following all leads, shielding their line and prizing their secrets as Mendülay guards mine own, for so long as they hold to their charge.”

Mailan’s knees felt weak. That oath—the sharing of oaths, the duty accepted by each at the feet of their Atare, the moment they were chosen to become guaard.

Sheel responded by folding his left hand over Crow’s. “On this I swear, by life and honor, that I will take you as a guaard to serve Atare within the bounds of your oath, holding your trust as I hold to my charge—head, hand, and heart of the heirs, now and forever.”

The group remained frozen in their tableau for several moments. Finally Mailan moved, reversing her grip on her cat knife. Noticing her action, Sheel sat back on his heels and shook his head.

“No, Mailan. I only ask for that oath once. And you . . . ‘spoke’ . . . for Jude.” Grinning suddenly at Crow, he released his grip and added: “You did not have time to speak for him.” Standing and turning his back to Crow, Sheel stretched, loosening massively constricted muscle. Glancing at the off-worlder, he said in Caesarean: “It is all right. No one is going to die.”

~~~

Katharine Eliska Kimbriel reinvents herself every decade or so.  The one constant she has reached for in life is telling stories.  “I’m interested in how people respond to choice.  What is the metaphor for power, for choice? In SF it tends to be technology (good, bad and balanced) while in Fantasy the metaphor is magic – who has it, who wants or does not want it, what is done with it, and who/what the person or culture is after the dust has settled. A second metaphor, both grace note and foundation, is the need for and art of healing.  Forthcoming stories will talk about new things that I’ve learned, and still hope to learn … with grace notes about betrayal, forgiveness, healing and second chances.”  A Campbell Award nominee.

Get Cat Kimbriel‘s Fires of Nuada at AmazonBarnes-NobleKoboApple iTunes, and Book View Cafe! It makes a great gift!

Happy Holidays!

Holiday Parade: Dragon Fire by Dina von Lowenkraft

Today, in preparation for holiday gift-giving, fellow author Dina von Lowenkraft will tell you all about her book, Dragon Fire!

 

Some choices are hard to live with.

But some choices will kill you.

When seventeen-year-old Anna first meets Rakan in her hometown north of the Arctic Circle, she is attracted to the pulsing energy that surrounds him. Unaware that he is a shapeshifting dragon, Anna is drawn into a murderous cycle of revenge that pits Rakan and his clan against her best friend June.

Torn between his forbidden relationship with Anna, that could cost them both their lives, and restoring his family’s honor by killing June, Rakan must decide what is right. And what is worth living – or dying – for.




The Story Behind Dragon Fire



The funny thing about Dragon Fire is that it didn’t start out as a book on its own. It started out as a subplot in another manuscript. After writing Call, the first book in a planned four book series, and thinking it was market-ready, I began to query it. And no one was interested. All I got, if I got anything at all, were form rejections. I gathered my courage, read several craft books, and re-wrote it before querying it again. But my second batch of queries had no better results than the first.


Frustrated and a bit stumped as to how to improve my manuscript, I once again stocked up on craft books. A few months later, after reading Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel and analyzing several YA books with his ideas in mind, I began to understand where tension was lacking in Call.


Unfortunately, I still didn’t know how to fix it — especially since it would mean cutting about 40-60 thousand words. And yet I wasn’t ready to leave the world I had created and loved. So I decided to pull out a subplot fromCall’s sequel and write that. That subplot, about a young shapeshifting dragon named Rakan and the human he falls in love with named Anna, became Dragon Fire.


While writing Dragon Fire I signed up for Jordan Rosenfeld’s class, ‘Building Tension’. Taking this class was essential to my growth as a writer and it made Dragon Fire a better manuscript. I would take scenes from my work-in-progress and apply the lesson to it, improving it a first time. Then I’d get feedback and I’d re-write it again, improving it even more. All of this before rewriting one final time to produce the ‘first’ draft.


Once Dragon Fire was complete, I queried it and got several requests for fulls. In the end, I had the good fortune of being able to choose between three publishers, and I chose Twilight Times Books. And now, finally, I’m ready to go back to Call and re-write it!

~~~


Born in the US, Dina has lived on 4 continents, worked as a graphic artist for television and as a consultant in the fashion industry. Somewhere between New York and Paris she picked up an MBA and a black belt – and still thinks the two are connected. Dina is currently the Regional Advisor for SCBWI Belgium, where she lives with her husband, two children, three horses and a cat.


Dina loves to create intricate worlds filled with conflict and passion. She builds her own myths while exploring issues of belonging, racism and the search for truth… after all, how can you find true love if you don’t know who you are and what you believe in? Dina’s key to developing characters is to figure out what they would be willing to die for. And then pushing them to that limit.


Dina is now repped by the fabulous Kaylee Davis of Dee Mura Literary Agency.

A Chocolate Snob’s Favorite Winter Drink

Hot Chocolate Taste Test

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The leaves have almost left the trees, cold fronts are on their way, and the news is predicting snow in the next couple of weeks. That can mean only one thing — It’s time to stock up on HOT CHOCOLATE!

As a chocolate snob, I disagree that Swiss Miss or Nestle should even be called hot chocolate. More like chocolate flavored water. And don’t even get me started on the “light” varieties. (See “Mindful Eating: 5-Star Desserts“)

Land O Lakes has been my go-to chocolate for many years now. It is readily available at most grocery stores (which is one of my biggest challenges as a chocolate snob). It is rich, creamy, and delicious. A little  piece of heaven on a cold winter’s night that satisfies even my most urgent chocolate craving.

But last weekend, while perusing chocolate at the new Hy-Vee on 151st street, we ran across Stephen’s hot chocolate. The price was similar, and it had a guarantee: “The best hot chocolate you’ve ever tried or your money back!”

Blind taste test time!

My entire family participated — my discerning husband and my enthusiastic children, a six-year-old girl and a nearly nine-year-old boy. We put stickers on the bottom of 4 identical mugs so we wouldn’t know which mug was which until after the test. Then we made the cocoa, mixed them up, and started tasting.

The first thing I should note, out of a sense of honesty, is that the blind taste test didn’t work as well as it should have because even me (I’m severely visually impaired) could tell that Stephen’s was a darker chocolate than Land O Lakes. But I went forward, trying to be as honest as possible.

I began with my tried-and-true Land O Lakes, which tasted just as delicious as I remembered. One counter-clockwise shift later, I had a mug of Stephen’s in my hand. And … I LOVED it!

Since Land O Lakes is the richest hot chocolate I’ve ever had (I did grow up on Swiss Miss and Nestle), it was hard for me to imagine a richer hot chocolate. But Stephen’s is. The margin isn’t staggering or anything, but Stephen’s topped Land O Lakes on richness.

Land O Lakes is slightly sweeter than Stephen’s, and even now I am not entirely certain which one I like better. I think Stephen’s by a hair. These are both EXCELLENT hot chocolate options that I highly recommend for the upcoming winter. For my part, I plan to buy whichever is on a better sale.

My son, almost 9, seemed to think Stephen’s was quite a bit better. After our initial taste-testing we checked which was which; he grabbed both Stephen’s mugs and refused to give them up! My 6-year-old daughter didn’t have a preference, she just wanted marshmallows already. :)

In conclusion, I am pleased to report that there are excellent hot chocolates in the world. Buy them because I can’t support the industry all by myself!

TV Series: The 100

Listen up post-apocalyptic scifi fans, because this may be a great new show for you! I just finished watching the entire first season in one go (available on Netflix Instant Viewing) and after a rocky start, I am a fan.

The premise is this: Almost a hundred years ago there was a nuclear war. A few humans in orbiting space stations survived by coming together to create an arc. There they plan to stay until the radiation levels on Earth are safe once again — in another one hundred years. But something has gone wrong. Life support won’t keep them all alive much longer, and they’ve got to figure out what to do. So they send 100 juvenile delinquents to the ground to see if they live or die.

I have to admit, I was very iffy after watching the first episode. I had to turn off a lot of credibility censors to enjoy it. And the next few episodes were only marginally better as I got to know the characters.

But something kept me watching, and I’m glad I did, because at the end of season 1 I felt like it was a strong show overall. A lot of elements are gradually introduced that keep tension levels high and keep you guessing — internal conflict, external conflict, people who survived on the ground (they thought everyone had died), and the people in the space station struggling for their own survival. Put together, it made for a captivating show. Season 2 has begun on the CW on Wednesdays. I definitely plan to watch!

The characters are all kinds of shades of gray, which is nice. These are people who have made bad decisions — sometimes because they had to and sometimes when they should have known better. Still, there are a lot of 3D players in here. And I have a feeling that season 2 has more surprises in store.

If you like scifi, especially dystopian, then check this out. Give it a few episodes; you won’t regret it!

Holiday Parade: Barb Caffrey

My holiday parade continues today with another fellow Twilight Times author,  Barb Caffrey.

Like fantasies? Like mysteries? Like comedy? Put ‘em together and you have Barb Caffrey‘s An Elfy On The Loose. Bruno is a young Elfy, a creature from another dimension, and he’s been dumped into our dimension with little to no preparation. While here, he encounters young Sarah, a human who is not what she seems, and Sarah’s parents, who are not nice people at all…

Excerpt

Bruno watched Sarah run through the grass while still carrying the backpacks, and wondered why she had so much energy when he had none. Could Roberto have been right? Could she be draining my energy and using it for herself? Although if she is, she can’t possibly know it…maybe she needs training. Although he didn’t know how Elfy girls got their training in magic, much less how a Human girl would get any.

Bruno knew that girl and boy Elfys were sent away to separate schools at the age of twelve. Bruno himself had been held back and home-schooled by his parents, not for being slow, but rather because they hadn’t trusted the school system. Bruno had never been sent to a segregated, all-boy Elfy school until he turned sixteen. That was right after his parents had died in a fiery aircar crash, after he’d become a ward of the state.

Many Elfys used magic frivolously, almost as if it was going out of style, and they didn’t want to use technology. Yet his people had aircars, while Sarah’s realm, the Human-Earth Realm, didn’t. Elfys would use toasters, light rail, and buses, when they wouldn’t use electricity to heat their homes (why pay for electricity if the magic was free?) and only used modern plumbing for elaborate, sybaritic layouts. He wondered if the Humans had those, too. He simply hadn’t had enough time on Sarah’s Earth…he needed to know more!

If the Elfy High Council was going to just send him out, why allow him to be so woefully unprepared? This was just silly!

Bruno rubbed at his head, and frowned. He felt a headache coming on; surely, this meant he should stop thinking so hard. He vowed to ask as many questions of Roberto, providing Roberto found them anytime soon (wherever they were), as he needed in order to make the headache go away.

This avowal immediately made him feel better.

But he still had no idea where he was. He didn’t recognize anything, except green grass, yet he had the oddest feeling. He wasn’t sure, but he thought they somehow had made it back to the Elfy Realm after all, and the not-knowing made him dizzy.

Sarah had stopped and appeared to be weaving on her feet. Bruno jogged the equivalent of three city blocks to get to her, hoping she’d not fall before he made it.

“Bruno, I feel…sick,” she gasped when he was only a few steps away. He sprinted toward her and turned her around; her greenish-white face was alarming. He told her to let the packs fall, then gently helped Sarah lay down on the ground.

“Will you two help me? I need a pillow for Sarah,” he asked the backpacks. Before he could feel too silly about asking backpacks, of all things, for help, a fluffy white pillow appeared in the air by his right hand. Maybe the packs had more power here for some reason? Bruno reached out and caught it before it hit the ground. “Thanks,” he said over his shoulder to the backpacks, as it never hurt to be polite.

He went to Sarah, knelt on the grass, and put the pillow under her head.

He started stroking her long, black hair, just to soothe her. He remembered, distantly, that his mother had used to do the same thing when he was a wee small Elfy and ill from eating some herb he wasn’t supposed to…anyway, he stroked. He talked, mostly nonsense, and tried not to think about the two of them in the middle of nowhere, one very ill and one mildly so. After all, considering Sarah’s sudden illness and his own headache and dizziness, wasn’t it more likely than not that they’d both been exposed to something? He wasn’t a completely stupid Elfy.

“Sarah, hold on,” he said as he continued to stroke her hair. “Somehow, Roberto will come. I know he will!”

“Why are you so sure, Jonny-wonny?”

“Please don’t call me Jonny-wonny, Sarah, or I’ll start calling you Daisy again,” he threatened, smiling to take the edge off his very real threat.

“All right…Bruno,” she gasped, and tried to smile. It was a feeble thing, like to her real smile as a tiny birthday candle on a cupcake was to a candelabrum.

“Don’t try to talk, Sarah,” he soothed, and continued to stroke her hair. This was very like petting a cat, he mused. Except Sarah didn’t claw when she was done with the petting.

He tried not to panic, but he had no way to treat her illness, and no way to get her any help. He felt completely useless, as he had no healing magic…very few did outside of the clerical orders, and even Roberto himself had very little.

He propped the backpacks behind him and asked them to stay put. They did. Then he fell asleep, her cradled on his lap (with the pillow between) and his arms around her. Lost on a sea of too-green grass, with no way out in sight.

~~~


An Elfy On The Loose would make a great gift for anyone — adult, young adult, or older child. Check it out for YOUR holiday gift-giving!

Holiday Parade: Special Shuttle Explosion Edition

In honor of the recent shuttle explosion (thankfully unmanned), Stephanie Osborn is selling her own shuttle-disaster scifi book at a discounted rate. For a limited time, the ebook is FREE if you buy the print book. After November 7, that deal ends, but the ebook will be 99 cents.

From Stephanie …

How do you react when you discover that the next Shuttle disaster has happened…

…right on schedule?

 

Burnout is a science fiction mystery about a Space Shuttle disaster that turns out to be no accident. As the true scope of the disaster is gradually uncovered by the principal investigators, “Crash” Murphy and Dr. Mike Anders, they find themselves running for their lives, as lovers, friends and coworkers involved in the investigation perish around them. What happened to the Shuttle? Who is responsible and why? Why is the government calling it an accident? Why is someone willing to kill to keep it a secret? And how big is the conspiracy?

 

They say, “Write what you know,” and I did. I finished the first draft and gave it to my writing mentor, Travis S. Taylor…and then Columbia went down. And I found that I pretty much nailed it in my fictional disaster scenario: orbital inclination, incoming trajectory, overflown states, intended approach to the Cape, region of breakup, debris field, I nailed it all. The only difference was a slight extension of the debris field into the Gulf of Mexico off the Texas coast, and this was due to the fact that my fictional scenario was no accident.

 

And right now, Burnout is on sale in all ebook formats! More, if you buy the print book at Amazon, for a limited time you can get the ebook too, for only $0.99! 

 

Why is this happening, you may ask? Simple. The December issue of Analog magazine, on store shelves right now, carries an article I co-authored with my partners, detailing our SPEARED concept and materials research — a concept that was inspired by the Columbia disaster, killing a friend of mine aboard her, and my having just completed the Burnout rough draft when the disaster occurred. 

 

So in honor of my friend Kalpana Chawla, and SPEARED, which I hope will prevent anyone else from dying like she did, Burnout is on sale until the end of November.

 

Here. Have a “taste.”

 

~~~

 

 

 

…Overhead, the sky was a deep, rich, star-spangled Prussian blue; along the western horizon could be seen the faintest hint of deep teal. “Lessee…” he glanced at the TV, to the ground track Mission Control was displaying on the big front screen, then looked at the night sky, trying to correlate the two. “She oughta show up… somewhere over in there.” He waved a hand heavenward, in a vaguely northwestern direction.

 

Conversation in the back yard of the ranch house ceased as everyone clustered together in the darkness, searching the west-northwestern sky. The only artificial illumination came from the TV screen, and the NASA Public Affairs Office Commentator could be heard in the background as he delivered general remarks about the landing.

 

“…and this is a somewhat unusual re-entry pattern over North America, due to the successful efforts to retrieve the multi-million-dollar Next Generation Tethered Satellite, dubbed NexGen or NTS, which was co-manifested on STS-281 with the Mission to Planet Earth payload, Gaia-1. This nighttime landing will make for spectacular observations by residents of California, Nevada, southern Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Coastal residents of the Gulf States may also be able to observe…”

 

“Hey, big brother,” Jimmy remarked curiously, “isn’t the commander of this flight an old friend of yours?”

 

“Yup,” Crash replied, still scanning the star-strewn, blue-black sky. “Lawrence Jackson. Jet. He and I flew in the same squadron in ‘Nam. Been buddies ever since. There’s almost nothing we wouldn’t do for each other—except give up a slot in the astronaut corps.” Crash pulled a wry face.

 

“Yeah, that’s right,” Ham Carter remembered. “He beat you out for the slot, didn’t he?”

 

“Uh-huh, he did—only because Jackson comes before Murphy in the alphabet.”

 

“Look! There it is!” Sally exclaimed, pointing into the western sky, and all but jumping up and down. “Crash! Isn’t that it?” she urged her brother-in-law.

 

“Yeah, Sally, I—” Crash did a double take and surveyed the blazing spark as it shot through the black velvet sky, then gave a swift glance at Hamilton Carter. “Ham, have they got a re-entry DTO on this flight?”

 

“No, Crash—I see it, too,” Ham acknowledged, forehead creasing with worry. “Listen… can I use—”

 

“Cell phone right here,” Crash scooped the instrument off the corner of the picnic table and shoved it into Carter’s hands as he looked back up. “Damn, Jet, get it in gear, old buddy!” he exclaimed with increasing concern.

 

“What’s wrong, Crash? What’s happening?” Jimmy asked his suddenly worried brother, as the flaming speck, growing larger and larger, flew almost straight overhead. Smaller sparks could now be seen peeling off the main object.

 

“Dammit! Jet, flare out, man! Shit! Break it out! NOW!!” Crash began shouting into the sky. Tracy, the “fourth team” relief FAO, was frozen, staring upward in shock, and Ham stood stiffly, head tilted back, listening to the cell phone he held to his ear. They all watched dumbly as the white-hot streak shot by overhead and disappeared behind the house, trailing flaming sparks in its wake.

 

Crash ran around the house to the front, trying to keep the airborne conflagration in view, and the others followed. “Damn, Jimmy, she’s comin’ in hot,” he belatedly answered his little brother. “Jet’s not bleeding off velocity in the roll reversals like he’s supposed to…” Crash paused, horrified. “Not that it looks like it would do much good, anyway…”

 

The gathered celebrants watched in stunned disbelief as the fireball plunged toward the southeastern horizon, flickered, and burned out.

 

~~~

 

Interested? Have a go at it on Amazon, then! (Here’s Barnes-Noble and Books-A-Million too, if you’d rather.) Remember, I spent over two decades working in the civilian (NASA) and military (DoD) space programs, and put my knowledge to good use in this book. 

Judicial Retention

Vote buttonLocal (Kansas) friends listen up! :)

 

Judicial retention is one of those things that many voters either skip, vote all yes, or vote all no. But it’s an important aspect of our democracy, and it deserves due consideration. Alas, it is difficult to find good information on judges. I think this is primarily because there is rarely a political incentive to retaining or failing to retain a judge.

 

At any rate, I’ve done my homework. And if you like, you may copy my answers. (Uh oh, I think I just had a high school flashback! :) )

 

Short answer – vote to retain all judges currently on the ballot in Johnson County.

 

Long answer…

 

The duty of a judge is to uphold the law. They must employ wisdom, and at all times remain impartial. They may deal with emotional cases, but they must follow the law at all times.

 

I am not a lawyer. And I certainly don’t have the time to read through endless court decisions to determine if the judges are doing their jobs. (You can – just check out Judgepedia http://judgepedia.org/Main_Page.) Instead, I rely on the opinions of lawyers and judges who have worked with the judge in question. You can find their survey results summarized here:

 

2014 Judicial Review Survey

 

The above link is to the summary page, but more detailed results are available.

 

Two state supreme court justices are up for retention, Rosen and Johnson. You may have heard that there is currently a push to get them taken off the bench, arguably due to a recent decision they helped hand down. I say arguably, because this may also have been politically motivated. When I dug deeper, I discovered a few important truths: First, that this decision was handed down at a 6:1 margin by the current supreme court and only these two have the misfortune to be up for retention at the moment. It also struck me that both judges have good reviews by lawyers and fellow judges. Were they right about the actual decision in question? No one has said that the judges were wrong, only that they are angry over an understandably emotional situation that they had thought was behind them. The decision, FWIW, was that each of the two convicted rapists and murderers should have received separate sentencing trials, and that the judge at the sentencing trial gave incorrect instructions to jurors. As a result, their death sentence was suspended. There was also something about overturning redundant/overlapping convictions. As I said, I’m not a lawyer. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but at least 6 of the 7 experts whose job it is to know says it is. I also know that these two felons are still in jail and that they will probably have new sentencing hearings … hopefully done according to the law this time. (Maybe the push should be to fire the judge responsible for the sentencing fiasco? Assuming this is a pattern, and not a one-off mistake.) In the meantime, I will vote “yes” to retain these judges.

 

The Kansas City Star had an excellent article on the topic you may want to peruse:

 

http://www.kansascity.com/opinion/editorials/article3356404.html

 

And as sad as it may be, that Kansas City Star article is just about the only clear information I could find on the question of whether or not to retain the district judges. The Kansas Review only does supreme court and appellate judges. If anyone has additional information regarding district judges that they would like to share, I’m happy to hear it.

 

In the meantime, I believe that the judges up for retention at the moment are doing their jobs and deserve to keep them. I will vote “yes” to retain all judges.

Holiday Parade (Halloween Edition): Stephanie Osborn

Today’s Holiday Parade features an excerpt from a paranormal horror novel by Stephanie Osborn — perfect for Halloween! But of course, it would also make a great gift idea. :)

Interlude: El Vengador, by Stephanie Osborn

by Stephanie Osborn
http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

Deputy Sheriff Michael Kirtchner gets an “unknown disturbance” dispatch call to a remote house trailer in the swamp. There, he discovers an old woman and a dog, terrorized by a mysterious beast, which he takes to be a bear. But when he contacts Game Warden Jeff Stuart to come trap the animal, Stuart tells him to get out if he values his life – this is no ordinary animal. Is Kirtchner up against a Swamp Ape ― a Florida version of Bigfoot – or something more…sinister?

 

Based on a true story.

~~~

 

“Ma’am?” he ventured. “Ma’am, could you please put down the shotgun?”

“What? Oh ― oh, yeah. Ah’m wavin’ it ever’where, ain’t Ah? Ah’m so sorry. Ah know better. Ah…it scared me, ya see, and Ah didn’…”

She put the shotgun aside, just inside the doorway. It was then that Kirtchner noticed she was weeping.

“Ma’am… are you okay?”

“NO! Ah’m not okay! Ah’m scared out of muh mind, officer! Why do ya think Ah called ya?” she exclaimed in a thick rural accent.

“Why are you crying?”

“’Cause Ah’m just so glad you came! Somethin’ attacked mah house, an’ Ah thought Ah was gonna die!”

“What was it?”

“Ah dunno. But it was big, an’ it was fast. An’ it stunk t’ high heaven!” Her voice, already pitched high from stress, cracked and became whiny halfway through this speech, and upon its completion, she began trembling. Kirtchner came to her, sat her on the steps, and worked on getting her calmed down.

“Shh, it’s okay. I’m here now. I’ve got my gun,” he patted his holster, “and you’re safe. What’s your name?”

“Elsie Moore,” she sniffled, glancing about in apprehension, studying the foliage past his squad car in considerable trepidation. “Uh, Missuz. Ah’m a widder-woman.”

“Do you prefer Mrs. Moore, or Miss Elsie?”

“Ah dunno as it matters. Don’t nobody ever come out here nohow.” She shrugged. “Call me Elsie, Ah reckon.”

“Fine, Elsie. So, someone attacked your mobile home?”

“NO! Weren’t no some one! It were a something!” she blurted.

“Shh. It’s okay. How long ago was this?”

She glanced at a battered old men’s wristwatch, then muttered, “’Bout an hour, hour-fifteen, afore you showed up, Ah reckon. Ah called right aft’r Ah shot at th’ thang. It musta run off inta th’ woods.”

“And what happened?”

“Ah be damned ‘f Ah know,” Elsie answered, running the last three words together. “There’ uz this turr’ble smell, wild animal smell ya know, like a skunk, onliest it ‘uz worse’n any skunk Ah ever heared tell of. Ah got plumb nauseous, an’ lost mah dinner inna trash can. Then there ‘uz a horrible ruckus right a’most up unner me ― unner th’ trailer, that is. Metal skreechin’ an’ bendin’ an’ somethin’ roarin’ an’ howlin’ fit to kill. Ah looked out th’ nearest winner, an’ there ‘uz a big ol’… thing… clawin’ at th’ back.”

“A thing? What did it look like?” Kirtchner wondered.

“Ah couldn’ tell ya,” Elsie tried to explain, “on ‘counta it ‘uz half up unner th’ trailer. Ah could only see its hind end.”

“…Which looked like?” Kirtchner prodded.

“Like a big ol’ furry butt,” Elsie retorted. “Long shaggy brown, or maybe black, fur, with some green.”

“Green?” Kirtchner straightened up, raising an eyebrow.

“Green,” Elsie reiterated, a hint of defiance in her tone now. “Like… you ever read ‘bout them jungle critters, them whadda they call ‘em… sloths?”

“Oh. Yeah, I think so.”

“Ah caught part of a show on th’ tee-vee,” she said. “Th’ sat’lite dish ain’t worth much, an’ Ah didn’ see all of it. But they showed ‘em, an’ th’ fur ‘uz kinda green, an’ ‘ey said it ‘uz ‘cause moss an’ algae an’ shit grew in it.” She nodded sagely. “It ‘uz like ‘at.”

“Oookay,” Kirtchner remarked, pulling out his tablet and swiping across its pad, taking notes. “Do you think you’re settled enough now to show me where it was?”

Mrs. Moore drew a deep breath, then popped to her feet as if launched. She reached inside the door of the trailer and retrieved her shotgun. It was a Winchester model 1897, he noted absently; a 16-gauge, to judge by the barrel length, and anything but new. It looked to need cleaning, too. He restrained a frisson of anxiety with an effort.

“Yeah,” she averred, “but we ain’t goin’ nowheres until you git yer shotgun, too. Ah knows as yew po-lice types carry ‘em, so yew jus’ go gitchers right now.”

“You don’t need that. And I have my pistol.” Kirtchner was less than thrilled with this development. If she gets antsy and shoots that thing, no telling what will happen, he thought. It doesn’t look like it’s been maintained in a couple of decades. I wonder when this husband of hers kicked it.

“’At little pop-gun? Agin the beast what attacked mah trailer?” She gestured at his holster. “Ah don’ think so.”

“It’s a forty-five,” Kirtchner pointed out. “It’ll handle the situation. Please put down your weapon.”

“Ah ain’t puttin’ it down, mister. Yew ain’t seen ‘at monster. Ah did. Now, yew git y’r shotgun, or Ah ain’t a-goin’ nowheres ‘ceptin’ inta th’ house, an’ lockin’ th’ door behind me. Yew kin take yer chances.” Elsie tilted her head up, setting her jaw, determined to stare him down.

So to placate the woman, he got his Mossberg, set up for 12 gauge, out of the cruiser. He made sure the magazine was fully loaded with magnum shells, and followed Elsie around to the back of her trailer.

* * *

The scene that greeted him when they got in the back yard looked like somebody had attacked the rear of her trailer using some kind of giant, multi-pronged steel fork. The heavy gauge aluminum siding was torn to hell and back, and it was peeled away in several places starting from the bottom of the trailer and curling up its side. There were great long gouges, some longer than 2 feet in length, which looked like nothing so much as giant claw marks torn into the aluminum siding of the trailer. Even the insulation had been pulled out in places. Some of the gouges had what was obviously fresh blood smeared along the edges.

Holiday Parade: Aaron Paul Lazar

I’m doing a new feature this year — the HOLIDAY PARADE! Basically, each week between now and the holidays (choose your own favorite variety), I’m featuring an author whose books would make excellent holiday gifts.

The first one is a particular favorite of mine, who writes mysteries with a dash of paranormal. He’s been at this for a while and has quite an inventory, so check him out! If you like his stuff, you’ll have reading material to entertain you for months. :)

Aaron Paul Lazar!

~~~

 

So I Broke the Rules – Go Ahead and Shoot Me!

 

©2014 Aaron Lazar

 

I didn’t intend to write a series when I created the rather kooky and slightly paranormal mystery, For the Birds. I knew it would feature a pretty little red bird on the cover (see below), because I’d just had a vivid dream about her. Out of the wild blue yonder, Ruby came to me and insisted on a book of her own. I’d never owned a bird, never even known anyone with a feathered pet, but this dream was so vibrant I couldn’t get Ruby out of my mind.

 

Marcella and Quinn “Black Eagle” Hollister came upon the scene as Ruby’s owners, and Marcella’s mother, Thelma, popped out of nowhere. Before I knew it, I had created a dynamic and diverse family and their pets. True to my dream, I set the story in the Adirondack Mountains, which set me craving for the mountains, woods, lakes, and rivers that I’d come to love. I just had to get up there again.

 

Fortunately, or unfortunately, as the case may be, I was laid off from my engineering job at Kodak right around the same time. So, with lots of free time on our hands, we headed up to the mountains and discovered the cabin where the story takes place. Tall Pines is a rustic, wonderful cabin situated on seven acres of pines above the Sacandaga River in Hope, NY. We fell in love with it, and it has become the center of the series that grew from For the Birds.

 

When Marcella Hollister’s prize parakeet gets zapped by a wayward power line in the same pool as her mother, the ensuing psychic link helps Marcella chase her mother’s kidnappers through the Adirondack Mountains, where she unearths a fifty-year-old secret about her dear father with shocking links to a hidden treasure.

 

I really didn’t plan to include paranormal or spiritual elements in For The Birds, either. I just went ahead, guns blazing, and let the story blast out of me.

 

You can’t exactly call me a planner. But I have a hard time trying to keep up with myself. I know, that sounds nuts. But it’s how I write.

 

When I finished this book, I was in love with the characters. My readers wanted more of Marcella and her gorgeous half-Seneca husband, and they seemed to enjoy our jaunts to the Adirondacks. At the same time, I’d recently become infatuated and obsessed with essential oils. There was no question that my characters would also discover them, and it came as no surprise that I used the healing power of essential oils as one of the main themes in the second Tall Pines book, Essentially Yours.

 

Strangely enough, however, this book was a bit different. Although it’s dubbed a mystery, it had more suspense and action than the first book. If I had to give it a genre on its own, I would have called it romantic suspense.

 

Hey! Where’s the consistency?

 

If push came to shove, I’d say it’s in the characters and the telling of a great story set in the same locale.

 

Marcella’s first love has been MIA for eighteen years. Callie, her best friend and Sky’s sister, flips out when a mysterious package from Sky arrives on her doorstep. Inside his old backpack are bottles of precious essential oils, a memory stick, and a bag of emeralds. Are these his final effects? Or is Sky alive?
Drug company goons want the data on the memory stick, because it links a newly discovered essential oil with a leukemia cure. They kidnap Callie, hoping to lure Sky into the open. Marcella and Quinn track her to the wilderness of the Adirondack Mountains, where against all odds they fight to save Callie and preserve the proof that could change the world.

 

The characters screamed at me to write more, especially Marcella’s newly introduced old flame, Sky Lissoneau, and his damaged, but adorable, sister, Callie. I thrived on the tension between Marcella’s husband and her first love, who showed up after eighteen years with a whole gang of villains chasing him through the Adirondack woods. Quinn—usually a quiet and passive soul—is insanely jealous of Sky. After all these years, Sky still adores Marcella, and can’t get that look of desperate heartache out of his eyes. I let all hell break loose in Marcella’s family and in the mountains where the scientific medical studies were being held to prove that a common lake week held the key to curing leukemia. Mix together some nasty drug company thugs and a bit of mysticism with crystals, oils, and the love of a big old Bernese Mountain Dog, and you have Essentially Yours.

 

When I wrote Sanctuary, book three, I was obsessed with what I called “my Indian soul.” With the help of a Cherokee historian friend, I wove substantial elements of Native American traditions into this mystery/suspense. Using mystical elements of crystals, smooth river stones, essential oils, and a haunted mountain top, I pushed the psychic barrier a bit here and allowed a bit of mind-melding.

 

This doesn’t belong in a mystery, does it? You’d really expect it more in Star Trek. But hell, like I said, I didn’t care. I just forged ahead.

 

Marcella’s husband, Quinn “Black Eagle” Hollister, severed ties to his family and friends on the Seneca reservation years ago. He rarely mentions his past—until his young cousin Kitty collapses on the couple’s doorstep in the dead of a rainswept night. After two Seneca men break into their home with intent to kill, the Hollisters flee with the mute and injured girl to Tall Pines, their cabin in the Adirondacks. Marcella, unable to bear a child of her own, unleashes her motherly instincts caring for Kitty. As the girl slowly recovers, they start to piece together who wants them dead, and why.

 

When it came time to write Betrayal, which flowed out immediately afterSanctuary, I wanted to create a winter mystery full of threats, sexual upheaval, and plenty of chase scenes. I didn’t expect to introduce a pair of serial killers who left bodies on the icy shores of the Sacandaga, but that’s what happened.

 

I also introduced some pretty dark relationship issues into Marcella’s marriage. She feels Quinn betrays her, and flees to Tall Pines to escape for a while. Trouble is, Sky is waiting there for her, and it’s all she can do not to let herself fall into his arms. The old passion is still there, and it tortures her to look into his sea green eyes.

 

Marcella Hollister realized a lifetime of hopes and dreams when she was given custody of a child. A cousin of her half-Seneca husband, Quinn, the baby’s mother was murdered in a political plot—and Marcella, who’s never been able to have children of her own, formed an instant bond with little Kimi. Then a distant relative comes forward to claim Kimi—and Quinn, who Marcella thought understood her pain better than anyone, allows them to take the baby without a fight. Confused and deeply wounded, Marcella takes off for Tall Pines, their secluded Adirondack cabin. She hopes the peace and natural beauty of the mountains will help clear her head and decide whether to forgive Quinn…or leave him. But the situation at Tall Pines is anything but peaceful. Her high school lover, Sky, arrives to help out—and Marcella discovers her old feelings may not be as distant as she thought. Worse, a serial killer is stalking young women in the area. And when a teen girl whose mother works with Sky goes missing, Marcella and everyone she cares for wind up dead center in the killer’s sights.

 

If I were to read Betrayal on its own, I might classify it as a romantic thriller.

 

Uh huh. Not a kooky, paranormal mystery like For the Birds. Not a romantic suspense, like Essentially Yours. Not a Native American spiritual mystery, likeSanctuary.

 

I know, I know! Where’s my consistency? Where’s my platform planning?

 

That said — I must tell you my Tall Pines fans and readers don’t give a darn into which official genre my books fall. You could certainly still classify them as mysteries. But they don’t care, and frankly, neither do I. It’s the characters we care about, and they are going to be here for the long haul.

 

So, yeah. I broke the rules. Please don’t shoot me.

 

 

Aaron Paul Lazar

www.lazarbooks.com

~~~

 

Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. A bestselling Kindle author of 22 books, including three addictive mystery series, writing books, and a new love story, Aaron enjoys the Genesee Valley countryside in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys. Visit his website athttp://www.lazarbooks.com and watch for his upcoming release, UNDER THE ICE. Aaron has won over 18 book awards for his novels and finds writing to be his form of “cheap therapy.” Feel free to connect with him on Facebook or his website; he loves to connect with readers!