Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Five Magic Spindles: a Collection of Sleeping Beauty Stories


I loved this book! 

Like all of Anne Elisabeth Stengl's anthologies, Five Magic Spindles is a collection of five very different novellas that all involve events and themes from one fairy tale - in this case, the Sleeping Beauty story. I highly recommend this fun anthology! Here's a little information about each of the individual stories.

The Man on the Buckskin Horse
Emma, a good-hearted midwife, rushes to warn a neighbor about the hired gunman headed to his ranch but can't prevent the catastrophe in store for his daughter.

A fairy tale retold as a Western? How fun! The author makes it work entirely without magic. This story was also unique in that the main character was neither Sleeping Beauty nor the prince.

Guardian of Our Beauty
Palli, the prophesied daughter of a king, is fated to rescue her people from the destruction called forth by a vengeful priest. 

Talk about an unusual part of the world to set a re-told fairy tale in. But the author pulled it off! I enjoyed Palli's personality and abilities.

The Ghost of Briardale
Roselee, a ghost with a faulty memory, flits through the halls of an insane asylum in search of the mortal boy who can help her save the day. 

I thought this one was quite clever. True Heroes in this world are people who have either saved a kingdom, slain a dragon, or moved a mountain, and only a True Hero can get through the enchantment around Sleeping Beauty. How is an ordinary boy with a hero's heart supposed to manage?

Spindle Cursed
Arabella, a living spirit trapped in her own comatose body, helplessly watches from the realm of dreams as her usurping cousin plots to destroy her once and for all. 

This story is unique in that it's told largely from the fairy godmother's point of view. Unlike most of the others, it begins shortly before the prince sets out to rescue Sleeping Beauty instead of before she falls into her enchanted sleep.

Out of the Tomb
Tanza, a tomb raider on a distant planet, struggles to make a living and doesn’t need a long-lost prince to complicate her difficult life. 

I have to say, this one is definitely my favorite out of the five. The author has done an amazing job of worldbuilding, perhaps the best I've ever seen in a story of this length. Her descriptions give a vivid picture of the planet's history, technology, plant and animal life, and culture. In many cases, this is done with just a few well-placed words and phrases here and there that blend seamlessly with the action. I definitely want to read more by Ashley Stangl!

In summary, this is an exciting and entertaining book that is definitely worth the $3.99. Grab your copy today!

Download your Kindle copy here!

Order your paperback copy here!


Monday, August 29, 2016

Realm Explorers Part XCXIX: Visit Drako with Diane Rapp

Welcome to Realm Explorers!  In this weekly series, we visit a variety of unique worlds created by talented science fiction and fantasy authors.  Enjoy your travels!  And don't forget to read to the bottom of the post to find out more about each author and see how to purchase the featured book. 


Author’s name: Diane Rapp

Title of book and/or series:

HOWL OF THE WOLF, Book 1 of Heirs to the Throne Trilogy (I also have a prequel to the trilogy titled THE ALPHAS)  The whole series is reasonably clean and violence is not graphic.

Brief summary of the story:

This science/fantasy novel takes place in a distant future.  When a human colony ship lands on the distant planet Drako, the occupants of the world…telepathic wolves…try to communicate with the two-legs.  The wolves decide there are no intelligent creatures to speak with them.  They wait, hoping a two-leg might acquire enough intelligence to finally speak with them.

Meanwhile in civilized space, the process of Transfer is developed by a team of four scientists.  They save lives and correct genetic conditions by sending the mind of a patient into a clone, creating virtual immortality.  Unfortunately, the scientists turned the process over to clerks in the Institute that they established to handle the paperwork and lost power over the invention.

Hundreds of years later the medical spaceship Zebulon flees from Institute assassins, who were sent to kill all the scientists and their teams.  Captain Donovan chooses the remote planet Drako to hide with his crew and protect the scientist leader, Dr. Alexander.  (They don’t know that an evil assassin stowed away on their ship.)  After landing and destroying their ship, they discover that Donovan must compete for the crown of the dying king to secure sanctuary for his people. 

Faced with superstitions, hatred, and eminent danger, the spacers must adapt to a feudal society without using modern tools or weapons.  Fortunately centuries of Transfer enhanced the natural talents of each crew member which might give them an advantage on the backward planet.  (The evil villain has the power of mind control.)  

An intelligent wolf leader, Kriegen makes telepathic contact with Donovan and must decide if he will help protect the pack of the two-leg commander.  The wolves’ Council of Elders might be difficult to convince, but Kriegen knows an evil human lurks nearby with plans to kill his targets and gain control over the pastoral world of Drako.  Mind control is against the code the wolves live by, so Kriegen believes the Council must act.

Brief description of the world or location you created for this story:

Drako is a pastoral planet located on the fringe of civilized space.  Although the planet proves suitable for colonization, a society of telepathic wolves already occupies the lush world.  The wolves try to make contact with bad results and decide to wait.  They watch two-legs clear the land and develop Drako into a recreation planet for wealthy tourists.  Settlers become feudal lords, desert sheiks, oriental samurai, and ordinary peasants depending on a level of investment.  After several generations the monarchy revolted against technology and closed Drako to off-world visitors.  Distaste for technology eventually mutated into superstitious hatred.  Anyone caught with spacer tools or weapons could be executed.

The planet is part of a two-sun system.  The main sun is like our own.  From ground-level the second distant red dwarf sun looks like a red moon at night and provides extra warmth to grow lush plants.  The pastoral planet is perfect for people hoping to escape modern technology and live a simple life.  Peasants, knights, and kings become common-place and scientific knowledge is shunned and soon forgotten.

If we were to visit Drako as tourists, what would you recommend that we see or do there?

Should tourists be permitted to visit Drako once more, they would be immersed in life from bygone eras.  Kings and castles, sheiks and desert riders, peasants and merchants can be found living a simple existence without modern conveniences.  There are telepathic wolves in the shadows (if you can find a pack) and tales about dragons by the seaside tantalize visitors. 

What dangers should we avoid in Drako?

Don’t whip out a camera or cell phone as use of forbidden instruments of technology warrant death.  Superstitions mark technology as witchcraft, so you wouldn’t want to burn at the stake.

What types of weaponry or fighting styles are common in Drako?

Medieval weapons like bows and arrows, as well as swords, knives and spears, are used by trained knights and desert riders.  Gigantic war horses are an integral part of any soldier’s weaponry.  The Samurai are trained to kill with their bare hands but archery skills are learned as well.

What types of vehicles, animals, technology, etc. are used to travel in or in Drako?

People travel on foot or by horseback, however, by the end of this series Dragon Riders make air travel across the world much easier for lucky young people.

What types of plants, animals, or sentient races might we encounter in Drako that we don’t see on Earth?

Earth-type plants grow on Drako but night-blooming varieties thrive in the red light of the distant second sun.  A society of telepathic wolves occupied the planet before the arrival of humans.  Separate wolf packs are ruled by a combined Council of Elders, who “host” the minds of many ancestors to provide wisdom and a living history.  A wolf host voluntarily accepts the minds of a dying pack member and those minds give advice until the wolf’s death.  The host hears ancestor voices but any final decision is left to the living host.  The Council of Elders does not believe that two-legs are intelligent creatures, so it does not interfere in the society of lower animals.  They protect forests and the holy structure on the Bloody Lake by scaring two-legs away.

What role, if any, does magic or the supernatural play in the lives of people in Drako?  If there is magic, please give some examples of what it involves or how it’s used.

There is not actual magic on Drako, however, centuries of Transfer left spacers with special abilities that have been magnified over time.  Telepathy, healing powers, incredible speed, visions of the future, and mind control talents might seem like magic to superstitious natives.  Using these abilities give the spacers an edge if they do not allow the skills to brand them as sorcerers.

Tell us about any sports, games, or activities that are available for entertainment in Drako.

A sporting tournament to choose the successor for the dying king includes archery, horse racing, and various matches in a ring (hand-to-hand combat, saber, foil, and sword contests) help contestants win points.  In the final two combatants face off to win the crown.

What is the political or government structure in Drako? Who is in charge there at the moment, and what kind of leader is he/she?

The government is a monarchy, but the ruling king’s entirely family was recently poisoned.  King Halder is also dying from the same strange poison.  He secretly sends an interstellar message to summon a distant heir.  Captain Donovan returns to Drako, unaware of his lineage, but agrees to compete for the crown.  King Halder has his own “special mental skills” and plans to use Donovan to ferret out his family’s killer and take a revenge.

Are there any other unique cultural practices that we should be aware of if we visit Drako?

Mullahs who rule with an army of Desert Riders are descendants from colonists migrating from Middle East region on Earth.  They follow their own traditions and religious beliefs.  The Mullahs plan to gain power on Drako by winning King Halder’s throne.  A separate region is ruled by Marasuta, an Oriental Samurai who pledges allegiance to the King.  He trains his soldiers in the Samurai code and traditions, making sure they are skilled warriors.

What, if any, “hot-button” or controversial topics do you touch on in your book?

When I began writing this series, I asked a series of “what if” questions and imagined how society might develop from potential answers. 
1.     What if cloning provided doctors with the ability to transplant a patient’s mind into a new body free of genetic problems?  What if the expense of such immortality caused people to work as virtual slaves to pay off the debt?  How would society develop?  Would people finally decide that freedom in a short life is better than slavery? 
2.     What if telepathic creatures occupied a world ripe for colonization?  How would humans make “first contact” with telepathic creatures?  What if everything went wrong?  Would those creatures destroy humans or wait until we developed enough intelligence to properly communicate?  Could the creatures become allies to telepathic humans and help save lives?

Author Autobiography:

Diane Rapp became an entrepreneur when she started her own dog grooming salon in Santa Barbara, California. She spent the next thirty years as a small business owner; she sold real estate, started an office supply/copy center, and performed free-lance advertising design. During all those years Diane wrote stories for herself as a cure for insomnia.  She imagined distant planets and mysteries set on Earth.

After writing a tour guide book to the Caribbean together, Diane’s daughter gave her the idea of writing a mystery/romance set on cruise ships in the Caribbean. She got serious about publishing her books.  "Murder Caribbean-Style" and "Murder on a Ghost Ship" are the first two novels of a High Seas Mystery series. Readers meet the main characters of the series and learn about life aboard a ship while solving murders. There is danger and romance mixed in with the action. The third book in the series, "Murder for Glacier Blue" takes the reader on a cruise to Alaska with an art heist, murder, and a wedding on Glacier Bay. 

Diane’s first love has always been science/fantasy.  "The Alphas" is the prequel to the Heirs to “Howl of the Wolf”.  The story is a mystery blended with science/fantasy.  The heroine tries to solve the murder of an old friend and discovers why her beloved German Shepherd was stolen. The novel also introduces telepathic dogs and the wolves who eventually travel to the planet Drako.

"Howl of the Wolf" is the first book in the Heirs to the Throne Trilogy.  The novel introduces the planet Drako, telepathic wolves, and the crew of the space ship that took sanctuary with people who banned technology from their world.  In "The Havenshire Resistance", the second book of the series, Queen Krystal's three teenage daughters learn to use inherited powers to help rescue their father. Krystal leads an army of Samurai women, telepathic wolves, and ragtag commoners against an evil usurper in a dramatic battle. In "Dragon Defense", the third book of the trilogy, the planet is under threat from space when an Institute battleship arrives. King Donovan must train bored teenagers to operate forbidden defense technology while his daughters befriend a flock of wild dragons.  Will the crazy defense tactics save Drako from destruction?

Diane took a break to write a fractured fairy tale for her granddaughter.  "Dragon Knight: and the Heart's Blood Curse" is a humorous fantasy that adults will enjoy reading to their kids. When a witch turns a magnificent dragon into a puny human knight, Dragon must complete a quest to regain his powerful dragon form. A demon steals dead musicians from the mundane world and forces them to perform songs that change people into evil creatures. He plans to steal a living musician, Jimmy Buffett, and use his songs to destroy the barriers between the worlds.  Dragon is the only creature who could destroy the demon and save the day.  Wizards in the mundane world use smart phones as wands to protect Buffett from capture while Dragon and a young sorceress, Robyn, fight the demon in the magical realm.

Last year Diane added a new mystery to her growing catalog.  The characters from her High Seas Mysteries travel to Colorado to find a family gold mine.  “Golden Legacy” features a journal written in 1888 by Kayla’s ancestor, a woman traveling alone from San Francisco to Ouray, Colorado.  Kayla reads the journal to uncover clues to fine the gold mine and prove herself worthy of inheriting the family legacy.

What is next? 

I am currently working on a new science/fantasy novel.  When Dr. Alexander and his team arrived on Drako, the three other scientists who invented Transfer fled to other planets.  Now readers can explore what happened to these talented men, what kind of worlds they chose to inhabit, and what interstellar threat might bring them all back together.  If you enjoy character-driven science/fantasy, start reading the first series today.  The next book should be ready by the end of this year.

Where, and in what formats, can we purchase your books? 

All nine books are available in e-book and print formats exclusively on Amazon.com.  My author’s page can be found at http://Author.to/DianeRapp

Please include links to the books:

Science/Fantasy Series:
The Alphas, Prequel to Howl of the Wolf:  http://viewBook.at/TheAlphas   
Howl of the Wolf:  http://viewBook.at/HowlWolf
The Havenshire Resistance:  http://viewBook.at/Havenshire
Dragon Defense:  http://viewBook.at/DDefense

Mystery Series:
Murder Caribbean-Style:  http://viewbook.at/HighSeas1
Murder on a Ghost Ship:  http://viewBook.at/HighSeas2
Murder for Glacier Blue: http://viewBook.at/HighSeas3

Fractured Fairy Tale:
Dragon Knight and the Heart’s Blood Curse:  http://viewBook.at/DKnight

Where can readers connect with you online? 

Visit www.quicksilvernovels.com to learn more about all of Diane's books.  Contact Diane from the website.  You may also find Diane's posts at https://www.facebook.com/quicksilvernovels and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DianeRapp.

I hope you all enjoyed the trip to Drako.  Questions about the world or the book?  Ask them in the comments and the author will get back to you!  

Click here to read other posts in the Realm Explorers series.

Please join us again next Monday for a trip to another world world, in Realm Explorers Part XCXX!
-Annie Douglass Lima

Friday, August 26, 2016

Blessed Assurance: a Mail Order Bride Novel with a Giveaway



Who doesn't like a good mystery? I'm sure there are a few, but most people do like mysteries. What about a mystery within a mystery. Faith Blum's new novella is just that. First there's the mystery of who tried to dupe five mail order brides. Then Adelaide finds out someone is claiming she's a runaway bride. What happens to her? Find out in Blessed Assurance.

About the Book

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

Adelaide lost her parents a year before and now a rich man in town is making unwanted advances toward her. Desperate, she writes to two men and quickly accepts the one from Cheyenne, Wyoming. On the final leg of her journey, in a stagecoach with four other mail order brides, her suspicions are confirmed. Will she ever find a man she can truly trust?

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01IIU5XPK

 About the Author  

Faith Blum started writing at an early age. She started even before she could read! She even thought she
could write better than Dr. Seuss. Now that she has grown up a little more, she knows she will probably never reach the success of Dr. Seuss, but that doesn’t stop her from trying.

When she isn’t writing, Faith enjoys doing many right-brained activities such as reading, crafting, playing piano, and playing games with her family. One of her dreams is to visit Castle City, Montana, someday to see the ghost town she chose for her characters to live in. She currently lives on a hobby farm with her family in Wisconsin.
There are many ways to connect with Faith online. All of them can be found in one convenient place: http://FaithBlum.com. On her website you can find links to her various social media sites and both of her blogs as well as learn about any events she has coming up. 

Excerpt



Detective Bradley Connor stepped off the train in Cheyenne and gathered his horse, saddle, and saddlebags from the cattle car. After stabling his horse at the livery and finding a hotel, he headed to the sheriff’s office.
“Are you the sheriff?” he asked the man behind the desk.
“I am. What can I do for you?”
“Bradley Connor. I’m a Pinkerton detective and I need some information from you.”
The sheriff sat up straighter. “Sheriff Leland Granger. I’ll certainly help in any way I can. What do you need to know?”
“Do you know of an Adelaide Brown?”
“Yes, I do. Surely she isn’t a criminal!” Sheriff Granger’s face was filled with horror.
“No, nothing like that. She simply ran away from someone and that person is looking for her. Could you tell me where she is staying?”
Sheriff Granger gave him an assessing look. “Why?”
“I need to speak with her alone. I have an uncomfortable feeling about the person who is looking for her and need to hear her side of the story first. Is she married?”
“No.”
Bradley leaned forward. “But she came out here as a mail order bride.”
“Yes, but she, and four others, were lured here by those ads. They were meant to be sold to saloons, but the outlaw’s plans were thwarted. Four of the five have now married. Adelaide is the only one who has not.”
“Why not?”
Sheriff Granger shrugged. “I don’t know. As for where she lives, she lives with Allen Reese and Edward Harris.” He gave Bradley the address. “But I would be careful about approaching her.”
Bradley nodded. “I will. Thank you.”
Bradley found the house and watched it carefully. It only took a few hours before he caught his first glimpse of her. She was truly as beautiful as his client had said she was. So why had she run away?

Giveaway



Faith’s sister, Naomi, graciously hand painted two beautiful bookmarks for this giveaway. There will be one lucky winner. The bookmarks are made with Adelaide in mind. Aren’t they gorgeous?


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule  


August 26
BookishOrchestrations-Tour Introduction

August 27
Blue-Brown Books-Author Interview

August 29

August 30

August 31

September 1
Writings, Ramblings, and Reflections-Character Interview (Adelaide)

September 2
Bookish Orchestrations-Tour Conclusion and Winner