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

Category Archives: Characters Welcome

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.

Characters Welcome: The Gods of Garran + $25 Amazon Gift Card

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MEDIA KIT Book CoverOnce the Borrai, the Gods of Garran, walked among the people, taming the wind and the fiery mountains. Then invaders came from the sky and killed the gods–destroying all who opposed them. A hundred years have passed since the Invaders came from the sky–an advanced alien race known as the Chanden. Now, having suffered many grievances at the hand of the aliens, the tribesmen rise up to find the god-stones and revive the ancient powers of the Borrai–and reclaim their world.

When the Chanden learn of this, they send a spy to infiltrate the Garrans–a young woman named Asta, who has her own reasons for hating the Garrans. She begins to realize that they are dealing with a real power and not a superstition when they get close to finding the god-stones. Can the Chanden be in the wrong?



    Moorhen never fit in with his numerous other brothers and sisters in the Sand Plain Clan. He was never much of a hunter; even his little sister, Crysethe was a better hunter than him, though he could be a fair shot with a bow.

   The others in the tribe did think him odd at times. He had too much curiosity, questioning the world. And secretly, he would read books. Chanden books, since the Garran natives had no written language, prior to the invasion by the Chanden. 

    He found simple pleasure in increasing the productiveness of the crops they grew and finding ways to preserve the food to last longer, decreasing hunger among the tribe.

    But the others talked of war and revenge on the Chanden for the wrongs of the past—a lot of talk but no action. Yet.

    Moorhen’s own father, Ashtan, chieftain of the tribe, was too sensible a man to give in to rash action. Though some said in his younger days, that was not true. Long ago, he had killed his share of Chanden.

    But all actions against these technologically advanced invaders had failed, and the Garrans had given in to their rule. What power could they bring against them that could possibly prevail, now that the gods of Garran were dead?



    Asta was determined to take hold of her own destiny. She’d grown up in her father’s shadow: Koethe, the Commander of the colony on Garran. Neither her mother nor Asta had wanted to come to this remote planet. Powerful and wealthy, Koethe usually got what he wanted, though that had not been enough to keep her mother from being murdered by Garrans during the rebellion when they had arrived, years ago. And no amount of apology would bring her mother back.

    Powerful as Koethe was, did her father think he could command her? Now that Asta was of age, she had joined the Stealth Unit, working to stop Garran rebellions, without telling her father. He’d be furious. The work was dangerous. And he had already told her he’d support her, but he wanted to arrange an “advantageous” marriage for her to some rich family or diplomat back home.

    All he thought about was being appointed governor of Garran one day.

   Well, she wouldn’t let him marry her off. And now that she was of age—he couldn’t force her. Though working in the Stealth Unit, he was technically her boss. 

    But once her field training was complete, surely he wouldn’t humiliate her by demoting her back to a desk job once he found out what she was doing. Would he? Already, she was so upset with him that she had scarcely spoken to him in years.

    Once she’d made enough money, she’d leave this deserted rock and move back to the capital. The Garrans were smelly, ignorant barbarians who had no gratitude for the efforts the Chanden had made help provide an education, doctors and the technology that they had tried to share with this indignant race.

    They preferred to live in the desert in their lava caves, hunt for food, wear rags and live like their ancestors had lived rather than accept the help that the Chanden were trying to offer them. If they chose to be miserable, let them be!

    But the things she saw in the field training disturbed her, the way the Garrans were occasionally treated by the Chanden Enforcers. Was that right?


Slowly, Moorhen made his way toward the group. It sounded like ten or more people. He readied his bow.
The band of men stopped moving, perhaps to camp for the night. Moorhen heard raucous laughter. Would expert warriors be foolish enough to get openly drunk in an unprotected place, even if their spirits were high because of a good hunt?
As Moorhen peered out from a new vantage point, he froze. These men were no clansmen. They weren’t even Garran–but Chanden. His heart pumped faster. What were they doing so far from any city? Men like that seldom ventured this far out, except to seek out trouble.

They hadn’t seen him. He’d make his way back to the ravine–then he could leave unseen. The Chanden were not good hunters, but their weapons were deadly.
As Moorhen started back, he heard a cry amidst the laughter, a word or two in Garran. Moorhen turned, recognizing his brother Norbi’s voice. Quickly Moorhen climbed to a vantage point where he could see the men clearly. In their midst Moorhen saw his little brother struggling against them. Two of the Chanden men hit Norbi and kicked him. From the shape his brother was in, the Chanden must have had him for awhile.
Moorhen’s blood grew hot. Without stopping to think, he aimed his bow at the tallest man who was tormenting his brother and shot. The arrow hit and the man fell. Realizing they were not alone, the Chanden looked around.

Moorhen shot again. Another Chanden fell.


MEDIA KIT Author Photo

Meredith Skye began writing fiction in elementary school and always wanted to be a novelist. She was fascinated by tales of the fantastic and bizarre.

She loves to travel. She has a fascination with the Middle Ages and loves swords, medieval costumes, castles and ancient lifestyles. She enjoys Celtic art and music.

She’s a vivid dreamer and many of her dreams come back to life in her novels.

Meredith Skye has a B.A. from the University of Utah in Film Studies.

Gods of Garran Amazon ASIN: B00FGLUI00
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Book Review + Characters Welcome: Guarding Poppy + $100 AGC Giveaway

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Thanks for having me here today at Into the Dreaming to talk about my newest release, Guarding Poppy, featuring one of my favorite characters, Alec Lambert.

Characters are the most important element to any good story and, as a writer, I feel I’ve grown up right alongside Alec. We initially meet him in the first book of my first series The Charmed. He is young, impetuous, charmingly witty and most of all confident, a confidence that borders on arrogance. He has been raised since boyhood knowing he would someday ascend to Elder, the highest ranking position within a secret organization called The Brethren. That confidence/arrogance (a trait I firmly believe someone has to have to be a good leader) will serve him well in the future. Yet, in many ways, the reader can see Alec is not ready for the responsibility. The difficult experiences and ultimately the final battle scene that occurs in The Charmed Trilogy change Alec. He grows up fast, but not all of the changes are good.

He witnesses the death of his best friend at the hands of his now vampiric uncle, and his anger and grief have hardened him as a leader. He is completely driven towards his goal of protecting humans and would do anything to protect the people with whom he’s charged . . . but he is also grieving. He just refuses to acknowledge it.

That is where Guarding Poppy starts.

Guarding Poppy is the second book in my Men of Brahm Hill series and my very favorite reason to write connected series is so I can have the opportunity to build a strong, fleshed-out backstory for a character before they are front and center in their own story. My hope is when the reader starts Guarding Poppy they see Alec’s flaws but they are also routing for him to find balance and happiness.

Enter Poppy Honeywell . . .

Poppy, an incredibly clumsy woman, enters Alec’s life and he finds his whole Brethren world turned upside down. This man of confidence, who is used to having everything under control, suddenly begins to see he doesn’t have everything under control and that scares him more than any supernatural being. That loss of control and the unraveling that follows makes Alec the best kind of character for me. He is layered, he is complicated and he won’t always do what the reader wants him to do. And isn’t that great? Who wants to read about a Hero who does everything you expect him to? Characters are only characters if they are flawed and frustrating and real . . . just like we are. That’s how we relate to them as a reader. And when you see them make the turn in the right direction you just want to cheer because you are invested in that character.

And that’s the way it should be.


VBT Guarding Poppy Book Cover Banner copyONE NIGHT . . . ONE VIOLENT, SUPERNATURAL BATTLE . . .


Alec Lambert was born to lead. He’s a ruling Elder of The Brethren, possessing steely confidence, natural smarts, and decisive problem solving abilities . . . and he’s not too bad on the eyes, either. Everything in his life has gone exactly according to plan—until the night of Brahm Hill. Alec loses his best friend at the hands of the uncle he trusted like a father, along with his previously unshakable faith to lead those with whom he’s charged. Despite this, he continues to press ahead, and for his next assignment he’s asked to protect a very beautiful but very clumsy Dhampir who’s being hunted by a powerful warlock. Suddenly, he finds his whole Brethren world is turned upside down . . . and he finds himself harboring a desire for her he can’t explain.

Poppy Honeywell knows she’s far from perfect. Bad things tend to happen when she’s around. She’s more than a little clumsy, with a phobia or two mixed in. Not to mention that her name is certainly unusual. But she doesn’t have time to worry about all that because she’s on the run and not about to back down from the arrogant Elder who’s just been assigned as her protector, claiming he has all the answers to her problems. The real problem, though, is . . . she’s irresistibly drawn to this man who faces constant danger and takes charge so naturally. But Poppy also sees that taking charge of others helps Alec mask his own very deep pain.



My Review

Poppy is on the run for her life, being hunted by a warlock who killed her mother before her eyes. Now Alec is charged with keeping her safe, and he is determined to do it with or without Poppy’s cooperation!

There was a lot to like about this book. Alec was a strong, likable character who made for a terrific romantic hero. In fact, I think he made the book. He was dealing with a terrible loss — the loss of a friend he himself sent into battle. I was immediately drawn to him both as a man and as a human being.

There was a world full of magical creatures, secret organizations, evil arch nemesises (nemesi? 🙂 ) and complicated relationships between more than just the main two characters. I am always drawn into stories with complex relationships. World building in urban fantasy these days offers a lot of sameness; IMHO overcoming it requires well-developed characters.

The writing style was easy and smooth, largely getting out of the way of the story. It did hit a couple of my pet peeves — the dreaded !? and the use of “questioned” in place of “asked” — but that could just be me. I did notice some typos and a few awkward phrases.

I did have some reservations as I read, largely involving the title character Poppy. She spent her whole life thinking she was cursed but cursed in what way? It was all very vague, even knowing it was going to turn out all to be in her own head. Part of the problem may have been that her unwillingness to interact with people was inconsistent. And her protestations that she needed to be alone were weak. All in all, I vastly preferred Alec’s viewpoint.

The pacing had some ups and downs, with a solid start and some great, immediate scenes that kept me turning pages. In between these scenes I did feel some drag, but overall this was an enjoyable read.

If you like magic, romance, vampires (and other magical creatures), you may like this book!



Sovereign Elder Joseph Davin stepped forward to embrace Poppy. “You’re not safe here, little flower.” Now Alec really felt like he was intruding on a private conversation. “I must protect you the best way I know how. I promised your mother.” He then motioned back to Alec. “I trust Alec. He’s a former Guardian—and a very good one. You yourself said that you can feel Irina getting closer. Let Alec take you someplace where he can protect you and you can know what it feels like to be safe. In the meantime, I will find a way to deal with Irina.”

Poppy dropped her head quietly, and for a moment it seemed she wasn’t going to answer him. “I feel safer here with you than I will with a stranger.”

He’s right,” Alec finally said as he came slowly to his feet, realizing he needed to do something to gain this woman’s trust—though he could hardly blame her for being guarded after spending a lifetime on the run. “I may be a stranger to you, but I can protect you. And more importantly, I can give you all the tools at my disposal so you can protect yourself. If you have a sense for recognizing the warlock who’s threatening you, your Dhampir instincts are telling you that you’re in danger. You need to start trusting those instincts.”

Those huge gold eyes of hers locked on him fully with a look of utter determination as she walked right up to him—thankfully, straight this time. He had to admit, he flinched just a bit with the possibility she might trip again. “I don’t want any part of witchcraft, Dhampirs or vampires. That’s not who I am.”

Yes, it is,” he challenged her without hesitation. “That’s exactly who you are.”

Her eyes narrowed as if she were preparing to blast him with a thousand different reasons why that was not true, but instead she replied, “I will agree to go with you on two conditions.” Alec simply crossed his arms in front of his chest. What was it about women and their conditions? Why couldn’t they just agree? “One, you’ll agree to never disagree with me again.” Alec’s brows arched high at that rather impossible request. “And two, I will only go with you if it doesn’t require us crossing an ocean in an air-”

Poppy’s words were cut off by her small squeal when Alec caught sight of Joseph sticking a needle into her arm. Her eyes widened in shock and she tried to turn to Joseph, but her limbs gave out from under her almost immediately. Alec reached out and caught Poppy when she would have otherwise collapsed to the floor. “What in the world did you do that for?”

No worries,” Joseph assured him. “It’s just a little something to help her relax for the trip.”

Alec blinked at him. “Relax? She doesn’t like flying?”

Joseph shook his head. “Terrified of it, actually. Unfortunately, Poppy lacks an appreciation for the severity of her current situation. We need to get her out of London tonight—hence, something to relax her. But once she’s someplace safe she’ll be no trouble at all.”

Alec’s gaze narrowed shrewdly. By what he had already witnessed in the few scant minutes he had been in this woman’s presence, she was the very definition of the term high maintenance.

So he doubted that very much.

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

MEDIA KIT Author PhotoChristine is a graduate of Washington State University where she received a BA in Interior Design. And true to form of using mostly her ‘right brain’, she splits her time between her commercial design career and her imaginary world of writing. She lives in the scenic Pacific Northwest where she enjoys hiking, camping and photographing many of the wonderful places that served as inspiration for her writing. Her biggest reward in life is any given day when one of her books connects with a reader because she herself is such a lover of reading. Some of her favorite authors include Lisa Kleypas, Julia Quinn, and Kimberly Derting.


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Twitter: @CWenrick




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Characters Welcome: Logan Finley + $25 AGC Giveaway

I am pleased to welcome author Kimber Leigh Wheaton, along with the hero of her new novel, Logan Finley.

Kacie Ramsey’s Interview of Logan Finley

Hi! My name is Kacie Ramsey. Kimber Leigh told my story in Tortured Souls. Since I was kind of the star in that book, I’d like to introduce you to my boyfriend, Logan Finley. He’s my rock in Tortured Souls and in life (lately anyway). As I become more involved with the Orion Circle, he keeps me from becoming completely lost. He’s also responsible for my training. See, the Orion Circle is more than just ghost hunts. I’m learning Tae Kwon Do on a rather intense schedule—one year to black belt. Crazy, huh! Weapons training is also a must. Wooden stakes are so 1700s. I chose silver daggers. They work on vampires and werewolves. Yep the myths are true, werewolves are weak against silver. With vampires, destroy the heart and they’re toast. A sharp dagger works better than a wooden stake—though I’ve only practiced on a dummy.

K: Thanks for agreeing to the interview, Logan.

L: Anything for you, Kacie.

K: You’re a physical medium like me. Tell our audience what that is, exactly?

L: On the most basic level, I can see, hear, and communicate with ghosts.

K: What do the ghosts look like?

L: Well that depends on how powerful the spirit is, and how they wish to be perceived. The newly dead tend to appear in their death state, as a translucent image. I think it takes a while for a ghost to realize that they’re capable of changing their appearance. Residual spirit energy normally appears as wispy, silver images. Every once in a while I come across a spirit powerful enough to manifest so thoroughly that they appear human.

K: How old were you when you saw your first ghost?

L: I don’t remember, but my mom said I was babbling at the spirits when I was still a baby.

K: Your mom and dad are both clairvoyant as well. What are their abilities?

L: My mom is a sensitive, which means she can feel energy and emotions around her. Even if she can’t see a spirit, she can feel its presence through the energy. She’s also a Wiccan high-priestess descended from a long line of witches. Mom has a natural affinity with plants. They speak to her, and she instinctively knows how to mix the most amazing potions. My dad is a physical medium and prolific author.

K: You have another psychic ability you tend to keep a secret. Will you share?

L: As you know, I’m nowhere near as strong a physical medium as you are, Kacie. I believe it’s because I possess a second ability that pulls on my energy. I have little control over this ability, which I find infinitely annoying.

K: It’s nothing to be ashamed of. I think it’s really cool!

L: Fine… I’m a diviner. I have visions of the future, sometimes just by brushing up against someone. I never know when it’s going to happen. Not to mention, the visions aren’t always clear. Remember when I had that one about you when we were at The King’s Ransom Inn. I knew you were in trouble but had no clue why or how to help. I hate feeling helpless.

K: You have an awesome car— a Mustang Shelby GT500 that sports an equally impressive price sticker. Tell us how you managed to snag that car.

L: I tell fortunes…

K: What was that? I couldn’t hear you.

L: I read Tarot cards for the rich and famous. My client list is secret, so don’t bother asking.

K: Are your predictions accurate?

L: Yes… almost always. I seem to be skilled at channeling my divining ability through Tarot cards.

K: Will you do a reading for me?

L: What, now??

K: Yep.

L: Fine. But with your ability to attract trouble, I don’t know if this is a good idea. Do you have a deck… of course you do. Okay, normally I use a Celtic Cross layout, but I want to make this quick, so we’ll use the 3-2-1 spread. I’m going to shuffle these nine times, then you’ll pick six.

K: Okay, now what?

L: The three cards at the top set the scene, where you are now. So this is all normal… you’re content with the present, but feeling anxious about the future. There is also a hint of indecision.

K: So that’s good?

L: Does it sound like you right now?

K: It sounds like everyone at our high school, Logan.

L: Hmm. These next two cards represent the near future—where you’re heading. This isn’t as good. I see strife and hard work. Looks like we’ll snag a case soon.

K: Par for the course. Next?

L: This last card is the projected outcome of the middle two cards. And this is… fine. The Tower card is perfectly fine.

K: You don’t look like you think it’s perfectly fine. What’s wrong Logan?

L: You’re going to start practicing your daggers an extra two days per week.

K: But that’ll make it five days a week! When will I find the time?

L: You’re also going to start training with Blake using regular steel daggers.

K: Logan, what did you see? You’re scaring me! Why Blake?

L: He’s a werewolf, and you need to learn to fight one. You need to get used to the speed… they move pretty fast in human form too.

K: Calm down! This Tarot card thing was a bad idea.

L: No it was a very good idea. I should’ve known with the fourth anniversary coming up.

K: Fourth anniversary of what? Logan, where are you going?

L: To talk to Blake and set up your training.

K: Logan it’s just a Tower on the card. How bad could that be? Logan? It isn’t even upside down. I thought upside down was bad…

Well, ah, thanks for joining me for the interview of Logan Finley. I guess it’s over now since he just ran from the room. It looks like there’s going to be excitement for the Orion Circle on the horizon. But werewolves… why did it have to be werewolves?


Tortured Souls

The Orion Circle #1

Kimber Leigh Wheaton

YA Paranormal Romance

June 29. 2014

Sea Dragon Press

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Sometimes Rest in Peace isn’t an option.

Kacie Ramsey sees ghosts—and it’s ruining her life. Her mother left, her father blames her, and no matter how hard she tries, she can’t keep the ghosts away. Now a new power has emerged. Nightly visions of grisly murders and a relentless predator draw her to the brink of insanity.

When the phantom appears at a party, Kacie’s longtime crush, Logan, saves her. He invites her to join the Orion Circle, a group of supernatural hunters with chapters in schools all over the country. Through the Circle, Kacie learns to embrace her spiritual powers, and for the first time in her life she feels in control rather than a victim.

But the Foxblood Demon will not give up so easily. A demented serial killer in life who trapped the souls of the thirteen children he murdered, imprisoning them within the walls of his mansion. Now in death, he plots his return while drawing power from the pure souls of the children. He recognizes something in Kacie he’s never seen before—a medium powerful enough to provide a vessel for his tainted soul.

Kacie can’t ignore the tortured souls of the children crying out to her every night. With Logan at her side, she will fight the Foxblood Demon. But can they banish this powerful phantom, or will Kacie lose not only her body, but her eternal soul to the monster.

About the Author

Kimber Leigh Wheaton is a bestselling
YA/NA author with a soft spot for sweet romance. She is married to her soul
mate, has a teenage son, and shares her home with three dogs, four cats, and
lots of dragons. No, she doesn’t live on a farm, she just loves animals. Kimber
Leigh is addicted to romance, videogames, superheroes, villains, and chocolate—not
necessarily in that order. (If she has to choose, she’ll take a chocolate
covered superhero!) She currently lives in San Antonio, TX but has been
somewhat a rolling stone in life, having resided in several different cities
and states.

Website Twitter * Goodreads Author Page

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Characters Welcome: Aaron Drake + $25 AGC Giveaway

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I am pleased to welcome Aaron Drake, a dragon shape shifter, to my blog today. Aaron is the hero of Bound by a Dragon, a debut fantasy novel by Linda K. Hopkins. She has chosen to introduce Aaron to us through a special bonus scene that takes place shortly before the start of her novel. And now, in her own words …

* * *

Aaron watched the girl with narrowed eyes as she ambled along the path, oblivious to the danger lurking just a few yards away. She was pretty, with long hair that swung as she moved and bright eyes not yet shadowed by troubles of the world. She hummed as she walked, a soft tune that stirred a long-ago memory in Aaron’s mind. He pushed it roughly aside and continued to watch the girl as she drew closer. Her scent wafted on the breeze, fresh, young and sweet, and he could see her pulse just below her skin, vibrant and healthy. He drew in a deep breath, savoring the fragrance of her, and his eyes grew a little brighter. The girl, this creature, was the perfect prey. Young and innocent, she would be mourned when she did not return to her village. People would miss her, just as he missed his parents. Her people were no different to the ones who had killed his. His parents had been murdered in cold blood. And the murderers had congratulated themselves. Now he would return the favor. He would kill this girl and leave her family mourning just as he had mourned. It was a worthy sacrifice. After all, what was one more dead human? The fact that these were not the same people did not trouble him. All humans were the same, after all, and just as inclined to wrong-doing as another.

So then. He shifted slightly, not making a sound despite his size. He wanted to watch this girl as she walked towards her doom. Wanted to savor her innocence for a few more moments before he pounced. She was drawing closer, still completely unaware of the threat to her life. She lifted her hand to her face as she walked, pushing a stray strand of hair out of her eyes. Aaron watched the movement, mesmerized. It has been years since he had been this close to a young woman without her features being twisted with dread. There was something about this girl that seemed almost familiar. He cocked his head slightly, trying to figure it out. The movement made the leaves rustle slightly, and the girl glanced around, interest alighting her features as she looked for the source of the sound. It was clear she felt no fear, and when she saw nothing to relieve her curiosity, she shrugged with a very slight movement before turning back to the path. She had stopped humming for a brief moment, but as she continued on her way, she started to sing under her breath:

Summer has come in, loudly sing Cuckoo,’

The words hit Aaron full in the chest, and he pulled back slightly, as though struck by a physical force. The sound didn’t reach the girl, and she continued to sing, the volume growing.

‘The seed grows and the meadows bloom …’

Memories assaulted Aaron, blinding him to his surroundings. Instead of the girl, it was his mother’s voice he heard, her lilting voice singing the same words as she walked with him through the woods behind the castle, his small hand secure in hers. He closed his eyes, the memory transporting him back through time, before snapping them open again, pulling himself back to his surroundings. He pushed at the memories, willing them away. This girl was not his mother. She was dead and cold in her grave while this creature walked through the woods in the sunlight. But the sound of her voice had reached into his soul, twisting through his need for revenge. He pulled at the memories – other memories – of his mother dying as she lay in the dirt, his father being killed, slowly and painfully, but instead of his usual anger he felt only a deep sense of weariness weighing against his heart. Dimly he heard Favian’s voice warning him that he was turning into a monster, but it wasn’t that that made him pull back. It was the thought of his mother, the look of horror she would wear if she could see Aaron now. And with a flash that left him gasping, he realized that he was no better than those monsters who had killed his parents. If the thought had occurred to him before, he had pushed it aside, driven by his need for revenge, but this young girl, this snip of humanity, had forced something into his soul that nothing else had done. Slowly, so as not to startle her, he pulled himself back, gently easing himself through the trees. He saw the girl turn around, once again looking for the source of the sound, before her eyes widened with shock as her gaze came to rest on him. For a brief moment he saw her horror, before he turned around and launched himself through the trees.

* * *

Bound by a Dragon

Bound by a Dragon


Linda K. Hopkins

The dragon turned its head and seemed to look straight at Keira. Pulling her arm out of her sister’s, she drew herself upright and stared straight back, meeting the golden eye of the dragon before it turned its enormous body in a slow, fluid motion and lazily flew towards the mountains.

A dragon has moved into the neighborhood of Keira’s small, medieval village, unsettling the residents as they fear for their safety. All except Keira, who is fascinated by the creature, both dangerous and beautiful. But when Aaron Drake decides to take up residence in his ancestral home of Storbrook Castle, set deep in the nearby mountains, Keira finds herself unsettled by the handsome stranger. Why did he decide to move to Storbrook, almost eighty years after it was last inhabited, and does the dragon really live in the caves below the castle?


 Keira watched as the great beast circled slowly through the sky, blocking the sunlight for a few seconds on each turn. Fire spewed occasionally from its mouth, dissipating in the cool air before it could set anything alight. All around her people were shouting, grabbing their children and running for their homes, slamming the doors shut behind them before barring them from the inside. Keira shook her head in amusement. A mere door wouldn’t stop a dragon – it could just burn the house down! Anna was tugging on her arm, shouting at her to come, but Keira shrugged her off.

The dragon had taken up residence in the mountains some six months back, and although it was regularly seen soaring above the village, it had yet to kidnap and devour a single innocent maiden. And there were no reports of girls snatched from the other villages, either. Keira knew the stories about the last dragon that had lived in the area. For many years it had peacefully inhabited its mountain lair, until one day it had suddenly turned on the village, burning down half the homes before being killed by some brave soul. But the only questionable thing this dragon had done was to take a few head of cattle and a couple of sheep. And since the dragon always left some form of payment for the animal taken – a small bag of gold, a few precious stones – the villagers didn’t complain too loudly. These payments always far exceeded the worth of the animal. But still, stories about dragons abounded, and the villagers were convinced that it was just a matter of time before the dragon set the village alight and snatched the village girls.

“Come on, Keira.” Anna’s words broke through Keira’s thoughts, reminding her that her parents shared the same fears as the other villagers. “Mother will be furious if we don’t get back to the house now!”

“Stop pulling me! I’m coming!” was Keira’s annoyed response. She glanced back at the sky one more time, admiring the way the scales of the dragon caught the light, throwing back a thousand rainbows against the sky. The dragon was heading away from the village, but before Keira looked away, it turned its head and seemed to look straight at her. Pulling her arm out of Anna’s, she drew herself upright and stared straight back, meeting the golden eye of the dragon before it turned its enormous body in a slow, fluid motion and lazily flew towards the mountains.


Linda K. HopkinsLinda K. Hopkins lives in Calgary, Canada, with her husband and two great kids. When she’s not writing, she’s usually reading (a great pastime when you are trapped in a snowbound landscape eight months of the year!), tinkering on the piano or just living life!






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Characters Welcome: Kaida

Year of the Demon (Fated Blades, #2) You could call Kaida’s life a Cinderella story, if Cinderella had a psychopath for a stepsister and a ninja master instead of a fairy godmother.


Kaida is an ama, a pearl diver, living in a tiny speck of a town that clings like a barnacle to the coast of Japan. She has no last name; only nobles and samurai warrant surnames, and in any case Kaida’s village is so small that everyone knows everyone else on sight.


This is how I first met her: as a nobody among nobodies. In that sense she’s totally unlike the other protagonists in Year of the Demon. Detective Sergeant Oshiro Mariko is the only woman in Tokyo’s most elite police unit. Respect is something she has to fight for day in and day out, but Mariko certainly isn’t a nobody. Neither is Okuma Daigoro, a young samurai who must defend his clan against the most powerful warlord in the empire. Daigoro may be outmatched, but he’s still the lord of his house and the head of his clan.


Year of the Demon is three stories in one; it sees Kaida, Daigoro, and Mariko all bound together over some 500-odd years of history. Given the fact that Mariko and Daigoro are anything but nobodies, I’m not sure why Kaida introduced herself to me in the way that she did. But as soon as I met her, I liked her. She’s tough, curious, inventive, thoughtful, but I think what I like about her most is that she’s not content to be a nobody.


Not long ago, Kaida had a very simple life: her father was a fisherman, she and her mother were ama, and together they went to sea every day and returned home every night. Kaida herself can’t explain why she wants more. Most of the girls in her village aspire only to getting married and having children. This is 1533, after all; women are not allowed the luxury of ambition. But for Kaida, even when her life was at its best, it was still a good life in a cage.


Now the good days are gone. Her mother was killed when their family’s boat was dashed against the rocks in a storm. The same accident claimed Kaida’s left hand; now her forearm ends in a scarred stump. She was only twelve when it happened. Now, at thirteen, learning how to dive and fish one-handed is the least of her worries. Her father has remarried, and his new wife seems to have a hypnotic power over him to keep him in her bed. This leaves Kaida alone to contend with her three stepsisters: Miyoko, the ringleader; Kiyoko, always a follower; and Shioko, smallest and youngest of them all, always striving to prove herself.


On their own, Kiyoko and Shioko might have been harmless, but as Miyoko’s lieutenants they are anything but. Miyoko is a sociopath, as Kaida learns when she becomes the object of Miyoko’s obsession. Now more than ever, Kaida needs to escape her village. Miyoko cannot be reasoned with and she doesn’t know when to quit. Being doomed to an average, insignificant life is depressing enough, but Kaida isn’t interested in making a name for herself as the girl who was murdered by her own stepsister.


But getting out seems impossible. Kaida’s village is a cage without bars. Steep cliffs wall it in on three sides, and the fourth wall is the sea itself: cold, relentless, infested with sharks. No thirteen-year-old girl can contend against nature itself, not even one as resilient and resourceful as Kaida.


I think that’s all the introduction I’ll give you for now: Kaida the nobody, desperate to leave her circumstances but unable to see a way out. I know, I know: I haven’t explained how she gets a ninja master instead of a fairy godmother. You’ll have to read Year of the Demon to find out.


Year of the Demon

Bein’s gripping debut is a meticulously researched, highly detailed blend of urban and historical fantasy set in modern Tokyo. Det. Sgt. Mariko Oshiro is fighting an uphill battle against sexism and tradition in the narcotics division of the Tokyo police. Her antagonistic boss assigns her to a mundane case involving the attempted theft of a sword, but it gets a lot less boring when Mariko winds up on the trail of a ruthless killer. As she learns the hidden history behind a trio of ancient magical swords, she discovers that she may be destined to wield one of them. Alternating segments switch between Mariko’s present-day adventures and other owners of the swords throughout history. Bein’s scrupulous attention to verisimilitude helps bring all the settings to life, respectfully showcasing Japan’s distinctive cultures and attitudes. 


Steve Bein B&WSteve Bein is philosopher, photographer, traveler, translator, climber, diver, and award-winning author of fantasy and science fiction. His short stories and novellas have appeared in Asimov’s Science FictionInterzone, Writers of the Future, and in international translation. His first novel, Daughter of the Sword, was met with critical acclaim, and his second novel, Year of the Demon, comes out on October 1st. You can read more about Steve’s work at, and like Steve at facebook/philosofiction. You can find all of his books on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.







Characters Welcome: Mariko Oshiro

Daughter of the Sword (Fated Blades, #1)I didn’t exactly meet Mariko Oshiro. Better to say she forced herself on me.


I never intended to write a book about her, but Mariko tends to get what she wants. She’s the only woman in the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department to have earned the rank of Detective Sergeant, and that means she’s exceptionally talented, exceptionally ambitious, and exceptionally stubborn. Her commanding officer doesn’t mind having women in his police force, but he thinks they ought to be pushing paper and making coffee, not contending for a top spot in the Narcotics Division. The only way Mariko can get by is to be the best there is at what she does.


She also has to work hard for me as a writer. Daughter of the Sword is really four stories in one. It traces the history of the greatest swords ever forged, all of which are said to have supernatural forces hammered into their steel. One of these blades is used in a homicide in Mariko’s Tokyo—i.e. the Tokyo of the modern day—but this is just the most recent incident in a series of murders stretching back nearly a thousand years. Three of the four storylines in Daughter of the Sword are historical, revealing the history of this sword and two others in the 1300s, the 1500s, and WWII. I wrote those three stories first. Then I needed someone to tie all of them together.


It was a tall order. To unite the historical pieces, I needed a character who was in position to investigate the homicide case and look into the history of the Fated Blades. An intrepid historian could do the job, but I’ve always been skeptical of the academic-turned-adventurer. (I’m an academic myself, and I’ve never known a single colleague to leave the safety of the ivory tower to go investigate a crime.) A journalist could do the job too, but I wanted a more exciting book than a reporter working the police beat could give me.


Then Mariko came along. As a female cop under a misogynist lieutenant, she gets stuck with the least promising cases—in this instance, not the homicide case mentioned earlier but the attempted theft of different samurai sword. The blade’s owner, Dr. Yasuo Yamada, is a retired history professor with black belts in every sword style that Japanese martial arts have to offer. He tells her his weapon is possessed, and though Mariko doesn’t believe in that sort of thing, she’s a detective, and that means she’s willing to go where the evidence leads her, even if that makes her revise her opinion about the existence of magic.


So there she was: a strong woman who was curious enough to get to the bottom of a mysterious sword murder, tenacious enough to stick with it even when magical elements threaten to crumble her understanding of the world, and fearless enough to see it through even when the Japanese mafia gets involved. From there it was a question of getting to know her better. As a writer, you just have to ask yourself why the character is the way she is, and then allow the answers to develop organically, flowing out of what’s authentic for the character.


In Mariko’s case, she’s bright enough to recognize that as a female cop in a predominantly male profession, she’ll be an outsider for her entire career. Why is she willing to put up with that? And why compete for the Narcotics job when there are easier assignments? When she meets Dr. Yamada, is she going to start studying swordsmanship with him? Why? What does she do on the weekends? Did she play sports in high school? What kind of music is on her iPod? As a writer I think you have to know these details about your character, even if they never make it into the novel. (For Mariko, it turns out they did matter. Once I discovered she’s a triathlete, I came to understand why she’s so stubborn, and why she’s willing to put up with self-inflicted misery so long as it leads to self-betterment.)


Initially her role in the novel was simply to tie all the storylines together, but she ended up doing more than that: she commandeered the whole book, making this a police thriller instead of a pastiche of historical fantasy. I suppose I should resent her for stealing my book and making it her own, but I can’t. I like her too much. I hope you will too.


Daughter of the Sword

Bein’s gripping debut is a meticulously researched, highly detailed blend of urban and historical fantasy set in modern Tokyo. Det. Sgt. Mariko Oshiro is fighting an uphill battle against sexism and tradition in the narcotics division of the Tokyo police. Her antagonistic boss assigns her to a mundane case involving the attempted theft of a sword, but it gets a lot less boring when Mariko winds up on the trail of a ruthless killer. As she learns the hidden history behind a trio of ancient magical swords, she discovers that she may be destined to wield one of them. Alternating segments switch between Mariko’s present-day adventures and other owners of the swords throughout history. Bein’s scrupulous attention to verisimilitude helps bring all the settings to life, respectfully showcasing Japan’s distinctive cultures and attitudes.


Steve Bein B&WSteve Bein is philosopher, photographer, traveler, translator, climber, diver, and award-winning author of fantasy and science fiction. His short stories and novellas have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Interzone, Writers of the Future, and in international translation. His first novel, Daughter of the Sword, was met with critical acclaim, and his second novel, Year of the Demon, comes out on October 1st. You can read more about Steve’s work at, and like Steve at facebook/philosofiction. You can find all of his books on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.




Characters Welcome: The Curse Giver

Hi, my name is Dora Machado and I’m doing something a little bit unusual but very fun today. I’m interviewing one of the characters of my new fantasy novel, The Curse Giver.

But first, let me tell you a little about the story. The Curse Giver is about Lusielle, an innocent healer who is betrayed and condemned to die for a crime she didn’t commit. She’s on the pyre and about to die, when Bren, the embittered Lord of Laonia, rescues her. He’s not her savior. On the contrary, he is doomed by a mysterious curse and Lusielle’s murder is his only salvation. Stalked by intrigue and confounded by forbidden passion, predator and prey must band together to defeat not only the vile curse obliterating their lives, but also the curse giver who has already conjured their ends.
For my interview today I’ve invited the villain of the story, the curse giver herself, to answer my questions. Please forgive me if I seem a little on edge. The curse giver is very devious and mysterious and I’m not necessarily comfortable having her around. So don’t expect any kindnesses from her and beware: You don’t want to attract the curse giver’s attention.
Let’s begin:

DM: Welcome curse giver. Perhaps we can start with the basics. What should I call you?

CG: Curse giver is fine.

DM: Don’t you have a name?

CG: Why would you want to know my name?

DM: Well, for easy reference, I suppose.

CG: Have you been cursed lately?

DM: Me? No. Don’t look at me like that. Why do you ask?

CG: People who want to know my name usually have an agenda.

DM: What do you mean?

CG: Do you think I’m a fool? There are people who say that one way of defusing a curse is to learn the name of the curse giver.

DM: Is that true?

CG: Like I would tell you.

DM: Well, if it isn’t true, then you shouldn’t have any trouble telling us your name, should you?

CG: You think you know everything, don’t you? Well, you don’t. My given name is Jalenia.

DM: Jalenia, how old are you and where do you live?

CG: I’m ageless, but you know that. As to my lair, I’m not sharing any of that with you. Suffice to say that I travel the land of the Thousand Gods, east and west of the great river Nerpes.

DM: Okay, well, do you want to tell us a little about your occupation?

CG: I make my living casting curses in the human realm. That’s all you need to know.

DM: Curse giver—I mean, Jalenia—I’m curious. Why did you agree to do this interview?

CG: As you know, I don’t do interviews often. More like never. But I was curious about you. After all, you wrote me. You must have some redeeming qualities. Also, I’m looking for work. Who knows? Maybe you or one of your readers needs my services?

DM: Let’s not cast any curses today. Remember? You promised.

CG: I’m just saying, if somebody needs a casting . . . .

DM: How about we talk about the book? Do you feel like I did a fair job portraying your character?

CG: Me? Fairly portrayed? I don’t think so. Creatures like me are never fairly portrayed. We are secretive, devious and mysterious by nature. We don’t like the spotlight. We believe in wickedness over goodness. We enjoy doing evil. We have to cast curses to exist, and yet people fear us because we do our job so well. Face it, villains never get fair press.

DM: So you felt like I was unfair in the way I portrayed you?

CG: I fault you for leaving a couple of situations up to the reader’s interpretation, but overall, I think you did okay. I mean, I like being evil, and you got that part down. Oh, yes, you wrote me devious and powerful, just the way I am. You didn’t make excuses for me. You didn’t make me good, friendly or caring. So what if the readers loathe me?

DM: In the story, why did you curse the Lord of Laonia with such a virulent curse?

CG: Wouldn’t you like to know? I’ll tell you this: The Lord of Laonia’s father did me wrong. He deserved to be cursed. He and his entire line deserved to suffer, all the way to the last of his sons, Bren, whose tragic story you tell in The Curse Giver. He was a fighter, that one. He wasn’t willing to lay down his sword and wait for my curse to kill him like other reasonable men might have done. His sense of duty was as impressive as his endurance.

DM: It almost sounds like you admire the Lord of Laonia.

CG: Admire him? I don’t know about that. I really enjoyed stringing him along. He waged a good fight. You must understand. I relish what I do and I enjoy a worthy opponent every so often. Heroes like Bren are hard to come by in my business. Fear usually neutralizes the cursed. Not Bren. He refused to be neutralized. He made it interesting for me.

DM: Did you ever feel any compassion for him?

CG: Compassion? That’s a joke, right? I don’t feel compassion and I relish suffering. Death is nourishment, craft is breath, work is life, grief is gold. You wrote those words into my dialogue. You ought to know better.

DM: Did you have any positive emotions towards the Lord of Laonia? Did you at any time regret his suffering?

CG: I treasured the man’s hatred for me. Loathing, hatred and revulsion are thrilling, satisfying emotions worth living with and for. I cherished the Lord of Laonia as my enemy because he refused to forget and forgive. He knew that I was dangerous and would always remain so. He was a creature after my own heart and I will forever relish the scent of his scarred soul.

DM: Did you at least feel bad for all the suffering you caused Lusielle?

CG: The remedy mixer had it coming. She thought maybe she was going to be able to defeat me with her potions, to heal the curse from the very man that was trying to kill her in order to save his people from destruction. Little did Lusielle know about how foul and terrible her death would be at the hands of the man she tried to heal. Little did she know about the terrible secret that the Lord of Laonia kept from her until the very end.

DM: What are your virtues?

CG: Virtues? I want nothing to do with virtues. I’ve got none.

DM: Okay, let me rephrase the question. What are your strengths?

CG: I’m powerful, more powerful than any other curse giver that has ever existed. I’ve got potent blood lines, excellent training, and I’ve lived a long time, which means I have the skills and expertise to cast a virulent curse. I can command the elements, travel swiftly through astonishing means, and kill the strongest man with but a twist of my wrist. I’m persistent, oh yes, tenacious like the Goddess herself. And I’m a planner. My curses are impregnable, carefully crafted to address contingencies, anticipate disruptions, and ensure my victims’ demise. Finally, I’m merciless, selfish and wicked beyond redemption. These are the traits that make me the most powerful curse giver in the realms.

DM: What are your weaknesses?

CG: I don’t have weaknesses. I’m the perfect curse giver. Shudder when you hear my name.

DM: Did you fall in love in the book?

CG: Love? Yuck. There’s enough of that from Bren and Lusielle in the story. Those two fought off the forbidden attraction growing between them almost as hard as they fought their enemies and me. I never understood. What did Lusielle see in the bitter, wretched lord fated to die by my hand? Why would she want to heal the very man who was destined to kill her? I mean, what kind of madness fuels that type of compassion? I never did figure all of that out.

DM: So I guess you don’t believe in love?

CG: If you ask me, love is a pretty disgusting ailment. It makes the heart weak and the mind feeble. Lust, on the other hand, is a bit more interesting, something that perhaps I might consider to ease my boredom from time to time.

DM: Are you interested in anyone in particular?

CG: Interested? No. There’s this creature that I had to work closely with there at the end the story, a traveler of the dark realms like myself, a soul chaser who claims the souls of the cursed when I’m done with them. To satisfy a fit of lust, he wouldn’t be bad. But love? Please.

DM: Was there a point in the book when you were afraid that your curse was going to be defeated?

CG: Afraid? Me? Ha. I’ll admit that Lusielle gave me a few surprises along the way. She ended up being stronger, more skilled and resilient than I had anticipated. Perhaps I should have taken care of her early on. Lusielle’s wits turned out to be more impressive than most.

Until he found Lusielle, the Lord of Laonia was all brawn, wrath and desperation, easy to tease, mock and mislead. But together, they tried to defeat my curse. Fools. She gave him hope. Hope is another disgusting emotion, a dangerous delusion. Have I told you how much I relish tearing people’s hopes to shreds? It’s extraordinarily fun. You ought to try it sometime.

DM: Um, no thanks. I think I’ll pass. Moving on. Spoilers aside, did you like the way the story ended?

CG: Some might think the ending curious, but I think that it reflected the true measure of my power and strength. Doomed and damned are the souls of the cursed. Useless are their struggles. I’m the curse giver and you, you will always be my prey.

DM: Do you have any words of wisdom for me, if I decided to write another book with you in it?

CG: Embrace the wickedness within and you will find me; relish it and you will understand me.

DM: Thank you for this interview, curse giver Jalenia. Will we ever see you again?

CG: Perhaps if The Soul Chaser has a story to tell, you will include me in it, for cursed souls rarely live for long and the soul chaser must come.

Dora Machado is the award-winning author of the epic fantasy Stonewiser series and her newest novel, The Curse Giver, available from Twilight Times Books, July 2013. She grew up in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a fascination for writing and a taste for Merengue. After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories. She lives in Florida with her husband and three very opinionated cats. To learn more about Dora Machado and her novels, visit her website at or contact her at For a free excerpt of The Curse Giver, visit
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Characters Welcome: Elisha Barber

I’m pleased to have E. C. Ambrose here today to talk about Elisha Barber, the hero of a brand-new historical fantasy novel by the same name. Author and hero have known one another for ten years, and it began in blood…

Characters Welcome

About Elisha Barber

England in the fourteenth century: a land of poverty and opulence, prayer and plague, witchcraft and necromancy. Where the medieval barber-surgeon Elisha seeks redemption as a medic on the front lines of an unjust war, and is drawn into the perilous world of sorcery by a beautiful young witch. In the crucible of combat, utterly at the mercy of his capricious superiors, Elisha must attempt to unravel conspiracies both magical and mundane, as well as come to terms with his own disturbing new abilities. But the only things more dangerous than the questions he’s asking are the answers he may reveal…

From E. C. Ambrose…

I first met Elisha framed by sunlight streaming through a doorway, his hands dripping with blood, saying, “My God, I’ve killed them all.”

I wanted to grab him and shake his arm and demand to know whom he had killed and why and what would come of it. He wouldn’t tell me everything right away. Instead, I had to follow him through the dirty streets of medieval London, back to the hospital he despised, an incubator for disease where poor patients went to be ignored by the physicians until they died or were cured of their own accord.

Other men would say the prayers of the nuns aided these cures, but Elisha is skeptical of God and those who serve Him. His unguarded tongue in matters of religion and medicine has brought him the ire the master physician. At the same time, hundreds of citizens owe their health and that of their children to Elisha.

Unfortunately, that skill has lead him to arrogance—as we so often find in medical practitioners of any era—he listens to his patients, but ignores the advice of the learned in favor of more practical knowledge. He can’t read, of course. That surprised me at first, although it’s common enough in his time and place where very few are literate. Sometimes I worry about introducing him to my friends. Will he seem dim-witted, uncouth? Will they be put off by the blood that always edges his fingernails? Cleanliness is not a high virtue, though he does try.

Elisha came to his profession after he watched an angel burn. Well, he claims it was an angel, and sometimes others confirm they saw it, too, but most know that it was just the illusion of Satan trying to deceive the pious citizens who gathered to watch the execution. Just a boy at the time, Elisha didn’t understand why the guards shot the angel with arrows rather than freeing her from the stake, and he vowed that he would be prepared next time, with the skill to heal, and perhaps, with the will to defy those who claim to be his betters.

The trouble is, and I’m not sure that Elisha knows this about himself, he possesses a certain uncanny clarity of thought, an understanding about the body which guides his medical knowledge and gives him a high success rate, and a low tolerance for much of the foolishness that passes for learned medicine. There’s a point in his story where “uncanny” becomes something more—more meaningful, and much more dangerous—and he’ll have to choose how much he’s willing to risk, before he truly knows the rewards or the dangers.

That moment when I first met him changed everything for both of us. For me, it gave me a story to tell, a person to understand and challenge. For him, it ruined the life he knew and shook his confidence, even in the skill of his hands which had guided him for so long.

I’ve known Elisha for more than ten years now. I’ve seen his struggles, his rare victories, his persistence disregard for personal safety if someone else’s life is involved. It’s exciting and somewhat intimidating to introduce him to others for the first time. He’s like the brother nobody knew that I had.


E. C. Ambrose is a newly minted history buff, adventure guide and accidental scholar. In addition to the Dark Apostle series, published works include “The Romance of Ruins” and “Spoiler Alert” articles in Clarkesworld, and “Custom of the Sea,” winner of the Tenebris Press Flash Fiction Contest 2012. The author spends too much time in a tiny office in New England with a mournful black lab lurking under the desk.

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The Creation of El Vengador

El Vengador400The Creation of El Vengador

By Stephanie Osborn

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?

El Vengador ( is my first deliberate foray into the paranormal and horror genres. I’ve had numerous friends try to convince me to do so in the last few years, but never was able to get hold of the right story idea. So I waited and let it “percolate” in the back of my mind.

But when a Facebook friend (who wants to remain anonymous) told me the story of his encounter of a mysterious “Florida Swamp Ape” during his tenure as a deputy sheriff, I was fascinated. And when he gave his permission for me to fictionalize the story, I knew I had found my paranormal horror story.

So I took his basic story from his own words and I transformed it. I cleaned it up, couched it in proper writer’s grammar, changed the point of view. I changed the deputy’s name, added the perspective of other civilians who encountered the creature…and then I twisted the knife.

Because, you see, I have some Cherokee in me. Oh, the family can’t prove it, not after the way the Cherokee were ejected from their properties during the Trail of Tears; any Native American who could pass as white in those days, did, and all records of their heritage were lost. But because I have several distinctive genetic expressions of that heritage, I am accepted by most elders I know as Cherokee. And my curiosity being what it is, along with my sincerity in wanting to know, I’ve been taught numerous things that most people don’t generally know.

Like the fact that the Cherokee (along with the Seminole and the Iroquois Confederacy, among others) are purported to have been offshoots – colonies, if you will – of the Maya peoples. It’s interesting to note that, just as the “Cherokee” are a group of tribes [Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, etc.], the Seminole are a group of tribes [Seminole, Creek, Miccosukee, etc.], the Iroquois Confederacy are a group of tribes [Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Seneca, Cayuga, and later Tuscarora] ― so too are the Maya really a collection of tribes [Yucatec, Tzotzil, Tzeltal, Ch’ol, Kekchi, Mopan, and more]! The Maya comprised, and still comprise (oh yes, they’re still around ― they were laughing their butts off at the white fear of the “end” of their repeating calendar), more than 25 different peoples. The notion of splinter groups of this huge nation (it covered a substantial portion of Central America, butted up against the Aztec/Olmec empire, and expanded out into the Caribbean) moving up into Florida, then up the East Coast of North America, isn’t hard to believe at all.

It’s also true ― as I mentioned in the story ― that the medicine people and elders hold that the Maya, in turn, came from some place across the Great Sea to the East. Depending on who you talk to, this means we/they originated in Ancient Egypt, Phoenicia, Greece, the Biblical traders of Tarshish, or even Atlantis!

So it seemed to me that it would put a fun spin on things if I had this swamp ape, this mysterious unknown creature, be something other than pure animal. As it turned out, my research into the Maya turned up a mysterious “Howler Monkey God,” Hun-Batz, and an entire mythology in which this god was set. Monkey = simian, and ape = simian, so it wasn’t a huge jump for me to proposing a curse invoking the Son of Hun-Batz. And suddenly the whole thing congealed into this amazing, suspenseful, paranormal horror story.

How amazing and suspenseful? Well, let’s just say I literally creeped myself out. I’m a night owl, prone to insomnia and getting up in the night to putter around until I can fall back asleep. And I immediately discovered that I didn’t enjoy that anymore; I had a constant feeling that there might be something outside, in the yard, in the dark, watching through the windows and doors. When I did go back to bed, it was only to have lucid nightmares about the creature and the events in the book! I took to closing the curtains and blinds, avoiding the windows at night. Finally I gave up writing on the story after sundown, choosing to write only in the light, and hoping to get the imagery out of my head by bedtime.

I was more or less successful in that. I find that I still do better not to think about the book at night, and I still have the blinds and curtains closed at night. But our neighborhood is well lit with street lights, and the birds cluster in the trees around the house and sing cheerfully. So I know there’s nothing out there that they think is unusual. And that is comforting.

I don’t know that I’ll regularly write horror. I’m inclined to think, from my experiences with El Vengador, that I might not be cut out for that! Still and all, much of the science fiction mystery I do write tends to have strong elements of both paranormal and thriller, with the occasional seasoning of horror concepts thrown in for good measure. So I think I can take what I have learned from the experience and fold it back into my other works. And I think they’ll be the better for it.

And you never know. After all, my friend really did encounter…something…in the swamps of Florida…