Guest Post: Riftmaker by Phoebe Darqueling

You could say that Jeremy was “lost in the system,” if Excelsior did in fact have a system for dealing with homeless kids. He spent a few years being passed around between disinterested relatives until finally finding his way to the orphanage at a rooftop settlement called The Kaleidoscope. Jeremy’s sticky fingers got him caught, but his Grace took pity on him and folded him in to her collection of kids. It didn’t take long before he became part of the ‘Scope’s extended family, and he met his best friend, Adam.

To makes ends meet, Jeremy started to venture down to the Grand Market and sing in the hopes that passerby would spare a few coins. Though he had a beautiful voice, the ‘crats didn’t have much of a taste for vocal music at all. It’s considered the realm of paupers and those who can’t afford to attend the Guild of Musicians and learn “proper” music. Evenso, Jeremy was so talented that he caught the ear of one of the maestros. The city’s elite would sometimes sponsor kids from the kitetowns in order to look generous, and soon Jeremy was an apprentice.

As much as the ‘crats liked having a few charity cases around to stroke their egos, it was hard to rise through the ranks regardless of his talent. So at 17, the age when kids in the ‘Scope have to strike out on their own, he still hasn’t reached the rank of journeyman. He may be bullied for being poor and the other students make veiled accusations that he’s really a Traveler, but maybe, just maybe, he can change his stars tonight.

Though anything that comes from the other side is technically illegal, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few Artefacts around. This includes a coveted amplified violin in the collection of Lord Corvid, the city’s most important figure. The aging lord is throwing a party tonight, and Jeremy will get to play a solo in front of all the lords and ladies. If all goes well, he’ll be promoted to journeyman and be able to afford a little place for he and Adam to share when it’s his turn to graduate.

Things seem to be coming up roses, but Jeremy has no idea that just as he lowers his bow to the strings, a stranger arrives in Excelsior and ruins everything…

I discovered Damien Escobar after I had already created the character of Jeremy, but when I saw this video of this passionate violinist, my heart nearly skipped a beat. He reminded me so much of Jeremy, I wanted to include the video so you could see him as clearly as I do.

Here’s a taste of Jeremy and his violin from Riftmaker.

Jeremy stood in the center of a Guild practice room, one of the only places he could ever be alone. He raised his bow and held it poised above the strings of the violin.

The air vibrates with anticipation. The storm gnashes its teeth. The sky above turns smoky and thick, and in the distance, the first patter of raindrops can be heard. The temperature drops ever colder. The thirsty earth stands ready.

Bile churned inside of his guts. His anger rumbled on the horizon like the threat of thunder. He inhaled deeply and stood on the precipice a moment longer before his bow plunged downward, breaking the storm in his mind with the first piercing note.

Lightning flashes across a patchwork of swirling clouds and the roar of their explosions follows seconds behind. The sky is torn apart, and the heavy drops of the lazy drizzle give way to the stinging pelting of rain. Muddy water streams in rivulets, exposing hidden colors in the stones.

All of Jeremy’s turmoil poured from his body and into the melody. The Guild violin was nothing compared to the exquisite instrument of the evening before, but the music in his mind was beyond anything either violin could have produced at the best of times. He’d worried that he wouldn’t get permission to use the school’s violin at all, but news of his warm reception had already reached the maestros, and they were glad to foster his interest.

The trunks of mighty trees groan with the force of the battering wind, the smaller branches cracking in the wake of its violence. Leaves of emerald, chartreuse, and jade shudder and glint in the moments the world is illuminated by the shattered heavens.

His eyes were closed, but the images were vivid in his mind. He gritted his teeth and swayed in and out of the crescendos of a melody of his own design, the lament only his shattered heart could utter.

Find out the rest of Jeremy’s story in Riftmaker.

Riftmaker is available for $3.99 from Amazon and a variety of other e-book retailers. Print price is $18.99 from Amazon and the Our Write Side store.

Find more character spotlights, book reviews, guest posts, and interviews with Phoebe Darqueling during the Riftmaker blog tour, Jan 24 – Mar 6.

Do you like free books? Sure you do! Get a FREE COPY of The Steampunk Handbook right now.

You can find more of Phoebe’s antics on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Book Review: Patrick’s Chocolate Cake for Dinner Diet

I love love love this! It is a book of poetry but not stuffy or formal poetry in any sense. It is a collection of Patrick’s writings and thoughts in a very real and immediate way.

Patrick uses words like a kaleidoscope uses colours. He has the words twisting and spinning and soaring in all sorts of unexpected ways to wonderful and creative rhythms. I am in awe of his control of language.

I am also in awe of his subject choices and the determination he shows to positively portray love and the struggle to get by in a difficult word. Here is an extract from on of his poems, ‘Ode to Damaged Souls’:

‘Running too fast, trying to change the dye that’s been cast, I’m trying to make a positive energy and doing the write thing last. Maybe I need some chocolate cake for dinner… sounds good to me, sounds like a winner, you… see this writing thing, I’m just a beginner, an artistic chain of consciousness spinner. Sometimes I am a sinner, but I try to learn something new every day. I try to be versed in the art of play…….’

Patrick covers more than just self description. He promotes love, an open minded attitude to life and an enthusiastic acceptance of the difficulties of life, even though he admits that sometimes that life is a struggle. I feel a surge of positive energy reading his work.

You can buy ‘Patrick’s Chocolate Cake for Dinner Diet’ on Amazon and you can find the author Patrick Wardell on Facebook where he often shares his writing, and I recommend you do both.

Just Coffee

I am defined by coffee.

So long ago as I rushed back from college and whirled into the kitchen before whirling out again I scooped the instant granules and boiled the kettle and added a slurp of milk from the fridge as I shocked my mother with my latest stories.

Then it was the cafetiere, feeling sophisticated as I took my one treat, the slowly savoured french blend, mild roast with warmed milk as my darlings napped.

I remembered how grown up I felt, sitting at the dinner parties, discussing the different pods to the machines and lacing my frothed cup with brandy to keep me numb.

I got the fancy machine and stack of pods in the divorce, but I threw them out. Now I look down at my solitary cup, custom roast and slow dripped, encased in elegant china and wonder what I am defining.


Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Glass and Ashes: A Sparkling Character Spotlight

This week’s Fairy of the Hour is none other than Cinderella’s own Fairy Godmother, Sabine Cantrelle.

Sabine is not your ordinary Fairy Godmother, though some on the Fairy Tale Council wish she was. She can’t help it if she has a mind of her own. To be fair, it’s due to that ability to think for herself that she has so much success. Once slated to be the worse Fairy Godmother in history, she was able to turn a difficult job into a life changing opportunity and has become a leader among her kind. Let’s get on to the questions.

  • So, Sabine, what’s it like being a Fairy Godmother? I imagine it’s totally grand and fantastical?

– *snort* “Fantastical, my foot. You mortals always think that because we have magic life is…well a fairy tale every day, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Magic has restrictions. We can’t bend wills, or change minds. We can persuade, but even then, it’s not always what you intend. Magic is a tool, and like any other tool, it alone can’t fix everything. As for being a Fairy Godmother, honestly?” *She leans in and whispers* “I love it. But don’t go around shouting that I told you. I have a cool and detached reputation to maintain.”

  • Cool and detached? Can you explain?

– “Well I’m not the pink tutu wearing, always smiling, ‘happy to serve you’ kind of Fairy Godmother. This job’s work. A lot of work. Especially the way we do it now. After working with Cinderella, it all changed. So, I have to appear to be aloof, unattached if you will, or everything just gets more complicated.”

  • You say you helped Cinderella with her Happily Ever After. We can only assume you‘ve been influential to the story of many different protagonists, but I’d like to know who was your favorite?

– “Favorite?” *laughs* “I could get fired for answering that question! Not supposed to have favorites. Let’s just say Cinderella taught me an awful lot, and I’m very grateful.”

  • Alright, so tell us how do you get into the Fairy Godmother business?

-“Ugh, it’s a long story. Some grow up wanting it. Others are coerced into it because of ‘family business’ and all that. Then you have those who just kind of accidentally find it—I’m the latter. It’s a great story actually, but to tell it would take up more time than we have, so I think I’ll just say this: curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.”

  • One last question. Cinderella? You guys still talk?

– “Ya know, us Fairy Godparents are just supposed to do our job and then move on, but there are a few charges I keep in contact with. A genie named Juan, this poor soul known as the Big Bad Wolf, and Cinderella are definitely in that group. Last I heard she’s happy as can be. Even named a kid after me.  Not a human one, one of the goat variety. I’m pretty sure it was that dang Innkeeper’s idea—oops, spoilers. I better stop before I give it all way.

  • Wait, wait, wait, one more…. Those who read the story will want to know…Can a Fairy Godmother get a Happily Ever After too?

– “Let me tell you something I’ve learned after four hundred years of initiating Happily Ever After’s. There is only one constant I know for sure: anyone can get a Happily Ever After—even me.

 

Sparrow

Flit through the branches, bounded by brambles, nimble witted

Squabble and scatter, chatter and chase, dawn clatter and dust-baths

Tiny not timid, tenaciously territorial, quicksilver to the seed heads

Singing from gutters, pattering on pavements, defying the traffic

Unruly urchin birds, diminutive, darting and dashing

Yet cousins to swans

Photo by Nastya Kvokka on Unsplash

Souls of the Dark Sea: A little something to keep you warm

A guest post by AF Stewart, author of the compelling Saga of the Outer Islands series

Bottles of Rum and Drunken Sailors

Now, what seafaring story would be complete without the rum?

Certainly not my Saga of the Outer Islands series.

Rum, or alcohol in general, and sailors (or pirates) is fairly synonymous, as is the scenario of sailors having a bit of a tipple on shore leave. The tradition arose with the old sailing ships keeping men at sea for months at a time, and alcohol becoming a ship ration to ease the trip. However, early stores of liquor for the lowly sailor were wine and beer, (that often went bad) not rum. It was about 1650 that rum become the drink ration of choice, due in part to economics, a surplus of rum, and the durability of the liquor to not go off. The rest is history and good movie lines.

Which leads me back to my book series. Of course, as a seafaring fantasy, the crew of the Celestial Jewel and her Captain like a good drink from time to time. And my books, Ghosts of the Sea Moon and Souls of the Dark Sea, do have plenty of flowing booze, with not only rum but port and other wine, cordial, beer and ale. Even the traditional grog. So here’s a little insight into some of the characters and their favourite drinks.

Captain Rafe Morrow: He can most often be seen with either a glass of wine in his hand or a glass of rum. As a god, alcohol doesn’t affect him significantly, so he drinks quite regularly.

Elliot Blackthorne:  His tastes are a bit more refined with his preferred alcoholic beverage being a good wine or port, though he will take rum with his Captain when asked, or indulge in an ale with the crew at the local tavern. Rum and other spirits tend to go to his head quickly though, so he generally does not imbibe much.

One-Eyed Anders: He likes his ale (and boasts he can drink any man save his captain under the table) or a good glass of rum.

Pinky Jasper: The preferred drink is grog, though he won’t refuse an ale at the tavern.

Lord Merrill: More of a social drinker, he drinks almost exclusively wine, port, or cordial, but has been known to sip whiskey or rum on occasion.

 

Now for a couple of drink extras.

What is Cordial?

By definition, cordial is a sweet fruit or floral flavoured syrup, but can also refer to a low-alcoholic liqueur or other alcoholic beverage that uses cordial syrup. In my book, a cordial refers to a fruity liqueur.

Here’s a site with a recipe for a berry cordial made with vodka: Berry Cordial

And one for a cordial syrup: How to Make Cordial

 

What is Grog?

Grog began as a way of keeping sailors from over inebriating from the highly intoxicating rum and for spreading out rations by simply watering down rum. As one might expect, sailors were not happy with this, so later they were allowed to add lime juice, spices and sugar to make it more palatable.

 

Here’s a good basic grog recipe:

2 OZ DARK RUM

0.75 OZ LIME JUICE

0.5 OZ DEMERARA SYRUP

1 OZ WATER

Add all ingredients to a mug with ice and stir to combine.

And another one:

2 ounces dark rum

1/2 ounce fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon brown sugar

4 ounces hot water

Slice of orange and a cinnamon stick

Mix the rum, lime juice, brown sugar, and hot water in a mug. Garnish with an orange slice and a cinnamon stick.

 

I hope you enjoyed a little insight into my sailors and rum. Please come join me on the high seas.

Set sail on a new adventure with gods, ghosts and sea monsters. You can find ‘Souls of the Dark Sea in all amazing book shops including Amazon, and it is currently at an offer price of 99p.  Check out the YouTube here and for further wonderful tidbits, check out AF Stewart’s website here 

Protection from Fairies

If someone talks about fairies nowadays, many people think of cute, diminutive female figures.  They may have lacy wings and possibly a hat in the shape of a foxglove flower.  Some people may think of wise and beautiful nature spirits, or perhaps they may think of a coin left under the pillow in exchange for a tooth.  It wasn’t always that way.

Before The Flower Fairies

If we go back before Tolkien and Enid Blyton, there is a long tradition of dark stories about what can loosely be called fairies – spirits of the countryside.  These were spirits who were capricious and not always friendly.  They were blamed when the crops were affected by blight, the butter wouldn’t come and sheep and cattle died.  And worse – they were blamed for changelings.  These were children that didn’t thrive but who were sickly and ill.

Will o’ the Wisps led travellers astray.  Stories were told of people who would disappear and then reappear years later believing that they had only been away three nights.  Creatures like the kelpie would drag helpless passers by down into the water to drown.  Sudden afflictions like strokes were attributed to fairies.  The stone arrowheads that were found near the old stone circles were ‘elf shot’.  They were considered physical evidence of a magical attack that could leave you crippled or dead from what would now be called a stroke.    Some stories even said that fairies paid a tithe of human souls to hell.  Fairies were scary!

They were also tricky.  You couldn’t accept food or drink from a fairy.  It might whisk you away for a hundred years or bind you as their servants.  You couldn’t trust payment from a fairy.  Fairy gold had a habit of turning into dead leaves.  They would look like one thing, then another.  And you had to watch every word you said.  The slightest hint of a promise and you were bound to them.  They were elusive and mutable, and in a difficult world, they were best avoided.

Protection from the Fair Ones

Fairies were seen as a risk to your food, your family, your life and even your soul.  Of course people were going to try and protect themselves.  The first thing anyone turned to was iron.  Horseshoes were nailed over the door, but it had to be the right sort of horseshoe.  It had to be a horseshoe that had been used and in most districts it had to be nailed with the points up.  If you couldn’t get a horseshoe (and iron was expensive) then iron nails could be hammered in to the lintel, the mantelpiece or even the bed where a woman was giving birth.

A stone with a hole in it was also considered a good protective charm.  It couldn’t be a hole which had had a hole drilled in it.  Instead it had to be a stone that was found to have a hole in it naturally, from somewhere like a river bed.  These were often hung in stables and byres to keep fairies from knotting manes and tails into ‘elf locks’ and drying up the milk.

Salt was also a good source of protection.  It could be sprinkled across thresholds and lintels if the family felt threatened.  Rowan wood was another source of protection.  Rowan was known as a magical tree, both dedicated to fairies and used as a protection against them.  St John’s Wort was another remedy against fairy attack.

If an unlucky traveller had to travel and feared fairies and being led astray, they could turn their coat inside out and carry a piece of bread in their pockets.  And it was not uncommon for church bells to be rung when there was a storm to frighten away the evil spirits and any fairies that were affecting the weather.  Although as stories evolved in the Christian society of the Middle Ages, fairies respected churches.  Indeed, in today’s Iceland, elves are thought to have a bishop and their own churches.  A road was diverted to accommodate an elvish church in Iceland only recently, though I feel that this isn’t a belief in fairies, but a tolerance of a belief in fairies, which is to be encouraged.

Conclusion

All in all, fairies are not all sparkle and shimmer.  In folklore they are dangerous, duplicitous and difficult.  So slide an iron nail into your pocket, turn your coat inside out and beware!

 

Keep away from the wall, my child,

It keeps us from the faeries wild.

It keeps us from their faerie fear.

Keep away, my child, come here.

 

They blight the cows and cost us money

They steal the bees and take the honey

They spoil the butter in the churn

They cause the cakes and bread to burn

 

They steal our children, blight our wheat,

Ruin pigs and taint the meat.

Keep away from the wall, my dear,

Keep away, my child, come here.

For more wonderful things from the October Frights blog hop, have a look here and dip in!  There are great stories, amazing giveaways and lots of scary fun!  

October is Awesome!

In the last few months, I’ve managed to connect to some really awesome indie authors.  They are doing some great stuff, and I’ve been encouraged and inspired.  I’ve taken the chance to sign up to some great online and blog events.

Of course, October is a great month for those who write about ‘things that go bump in the night’ in all their flavours.  This means that there are a gazillion blog posts, articles, giveaways, book reviews and articles sloshing around the web.  I’ll be taking the opportunity to share some of these.  It also means that I have committed to far too many things – but that is par for the course!

I will be posting most days.  Not only will I be linking to other authors during October, but I’ve committed to posting quite a few bits from me.  So, if you like a supernatural flavour, keep an eye out!  Today I’m sharing the link to Timothy Bateson’s blog, and the post which kicks off his amazing ’31 Days of Halloween’.  In case you don’t notice, I’m on 24th, but, to be honest, I’m really looking forward to reading all the great stuff that’s scheduled.

Also coming up is October Frights which is an intensive five days of all things Horror and Paranormal.  I will be posting and sharing a lot so brace yourself for loads of links and some original fiction from me.

In other news, I’m still working on the newsletter.  I have the content, but I’m getting bewildered by the legals.  The first edition will go out as soon as I can manage.  The link to subscribe is here, if you are interested.  And for anyone who missed it, here is the latest instalment from the White Hart.  Happy reading!

Sea God Calling

 

He stood between the land and sea.

He cocked his head and beckoned me.

I shook my head, ‘You let me be.

You’ll get no power over me.’

His hair waved dark, his eyes sparked blue.

He raised his hand and the cold wind blew.

I will not bow nor bend the knee,

You’ll get no power over me

Strong he stood, the clouds hung low.

I wanted him but dare not go.

A mortal woman’s not for thee,

You’ll get no power over me.’

The waves dashed high where the sea god stood.

I bit my lip and I tasted blood.

I wanted him, ‘You let me be,

I’ll give no power over me.’

He beckoned me, I felt the call,

The sun shone warm on the sea god tall.

I whispered, ‘Do not call to me,

I daren’t give power over me.’

He strode across the warming sand

And knelt to gently kiss my hand.

Lady, at your whim I be

You have love’s power over me.’

Originally published May 8th 2016