Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Samantha Combs

Today we are excited to have a remarkable, multi published author Samantha Combs in to chat about books, genres, and what keeps her surging forward.

Tell us about yourself. I’m a Southern California author, with 8 published books, 4 paranormals and 4 horrors. I’m a wife, a mom, a Risk Manager, a sister and a daughter. I’m a life-juggler. My blog is a hodge-podge of it all and a great place to get “aspiring writer” tips. I also have a muse; a cocky, arrogant, diva-like entity named Musina. Her greatest delight is making me stay up writing till 3am without giving me a clue where the story is headed. She’s an evil bitch, but I kind of love her.  

Tell us about your book. More than any other book or story I have written, Waterdancer is the most autobiographical. While there are parts of “me” in all my works, this book takes the biggest pieces from my teenhood. And I am more like Bailey that I would care to admit. New to the area, the school, and in a new marriage of her mother’s, Bailey is just trying to find her place in the world. It doesn’t help that as she approaches her 16th birthday, a super secret family trait begins to show itself. The story is about how she deals with that, and rebuilds relationships in her life she felt long past resurrection.
Here's the blurb for your reading pleasure.:)

For Bailey Wasserman, being Bailey has recently become an incredible challenge. It's not enough that she must come to terms with her mother's new husband, their new life, and a new surfer boyfriend. When she meets her real father for the first time, she discovers a secret family trait that will alter the course of her own life and those she loves…maybe forever.

Bailey and her mom have always met life’s challenges as a team of two, more like best friends than mother and daughter. But her mom’s recent marriage has changed all of that, and having her little brother Landry is the only good Bailey can find in that union. The move to wealthy Del Mar from their humble beginnings has turned Bailey sour, until a chance meeting with surf hottie Jack West. Then Bailey's father, with his annoying Zen-surfer lingo and a talking turtle he claims is no less than her spirit guardian, reenters her life and threatens the only relationship Bailey thinks is working in her world. She soon finds out that’s not all his arrival will do. His presence and their shared family trait could ultimately force Bailey to make a decision that will alter the course of her own life and those she loves…forever.

To read an excerpt from WATERDANCER, please click HERE.  

If you could only have one vice what would it be? Gluttony. I would like to be able to eat anything I want and not have any repercussions.  

Who is your favorite character from one of your books and why? I am partial to a cocky, confident chick in my 2nd book. Sixx is the main character’s best friend, but she has a reckless passion for life and not caring what anyone else thinks of her. Her confidence is intoxicating. She reminds me of a friend from my teens.  

What are you working on now? My 9th book, The Deadlies, is with a publisher, hopefully to be accepted. My 10th book, Wingspan, is a departure from what I normally write. Dystopic in a way, of course paranormal, with lots of action, I am writing my first car chase, my first government conspiracy and *gasp* my first sex scene. It is a challenge. It was a NaNoWriMo project but I abandoned it when my father-in-law fell ill. Back at it, I am more than 2/3 through and shocked daily by the plot twists and turns my Musina is taking me on.  

What’s your favorite quote? An old Persian proverb: Now that the barn has burned down, I can see the moon. It’s a take on the “silver lining” thing and has sailed me through more of my own Bermuda Triangles than I can name.  

Where do you find inspiration? I find inspiration as soon as I open my eyes in the morning. I am a marinater. This means I roll things around in my head until they gel. Like jello. Liquid at first, but given time and patience, super tasty jello. And diamonds, hiding inside the rock. Get it?  

What are the titles of your books and links so we can read excerpts? Thank you for asking.:) Here they are: SPELLBOUND EVERSPELL GHOSTLY THE DETENTION DEMON TEETH AND TALONS WAY PAST MIDNIGHT WATERDANCER HELLOWEEN  

Samantha Combs is a Southern California author with eight published books that include a Global Ebook Award-winner. Her genres include YA paranormal, middle grade horror, and adult horror, and YA fantasy. She loves writing and is in awe of the technological advances of our lives. Ereaders and similar gadgets are bringing the written word to a generation that might never have discovered books otherwise and every time she sees a kid pick one up to read something it fills her with joy to be a small part of that process. If a child can connect with literature because he or she did so electronically, a connection still was made. She is excited to see what our world has in store for literature and thrilled to be along for that ride. When Samantha isn't writing, she works full time and enjoys spending time with her husband and two children. Her guilty pleasures include reality television, the Food Network channel and shoes. She truly believes she can accomplish anything if she has the right pair of shoes.

Connect with Samantha Combs on her Fan Page, blog and Twitter.
You're always welcome to email Samantha.

Liz DeJesus

I get asked this question pretty often (all the time actually). Why do I write? And there are a lot of reasons why I choose to be a writer, why I pour my heart out day after day. It really depends what mood I'm in because the answer changes. So because I feel like telling's a list of reasons why I'm a writer. 1. My mom is a writer and I wanted to be just like my mom. This is very true. I remember waking up every morning to the sound of my mom tapping her fingers against her keyboard (back then it was a typewriter). The gently click clack of the keys was the best thing to wake up to. I kinda miss that sound. Anyway, one day my mom gave me her typewriter (she bought a new one) and I felt as though I had been given the greatest gift of my life. At ten years old I felt like this moment would be forever etched in stone. I've been in love with the written word ever since. :) 2. I was lonely. Actually...I was a lonely, shy, nerdy, introverted girl with only a couple of friends. The rest of the time I was at school being bullied by the students (and some of the teachers) because I was different. So I spent most of recess hiding in the library where no one could find me. I felt safe surrounded by books. They never hurt, or insulted me. Never told me to shut up. So it was only natural that I would gravitate towards the one thing in life that made me feel safe. Books. 3. I loved books. I remember this one book that I read over and over again when I was twelve. It's titled The Curious Clubhouse by Christine Govan. It was my very first grown up book (it had a lot of chapters). It was another important moment for me. This was the one book that made me feel as though I wasn't the only one that was being picked on or pushed aside. I wanted to write a book for that girl that was lonely just like me. I wanted to write a story that would let that person know that he/she wasn't alone in the world. That they matter. That they're important. That it's okay to be different 4. I have a very overactive imagination. I'm pretty sure if I didn't write my brain would literally explode. And I mean....KABOOM! Brain chunks everywhere. 5. I once had a boyfriend tell me that my manuscript would be dipped in red ink if an editor ever got a hold of it. So I wrote another novel out of revenge. And it got published and I'm still getting royalty checks. So it's okay to write out of revenge. (And yeah....I dumped his sorry, un-supportive ass). 6. Because someone told me I couldn't write in a specific genre. A long time ago someone left a comment on my blog saying that I would never be able to write a horror novel. Challenge accepted! I wrote a horror short story and a novel and both got published (under my pen name, I recently got the rights back to that novel and I'm revising it to submit it to another publisher). 7. To impress a boyfriend. When I was thirteen I got into poetry to impress my first boyfriend. He was cute. Don't judge would've done the same. Turned out I was actually pretty good so I stuck with it. 8. Another boyfriend told me that I would never amount to anything (yeah...I had a really bad string of boyfriends, I had to kiss a lot of frogs before I found my prince) and I told him that one day he would see my name in lights. Still working on that. And knowing me the way I do...I'll make it happen. ;-) 9. Because I heard an awesome song and all of a sudden a scene popped into my head that was begging to be written. 10. Crazy dreams. Trust me, that's how I get my most amazing ideas. And these are some of the reasons why I write. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my little blog post.

Now here's a little from my latest release First Frost. Happy reading!

Fairy tales aren’t real…yeah…that’s exactly what Bianca thought. She was wrong.

For generations, the Frost family has run the Museum of Magical and Rare Artifacts, handing down guardianship from mother to daughter, always keeping their secrets to “family only.” Gathered within museum’s walls is a collection dedicated to the Grimm fairy tales and to the rare items the family has acquired: Cinderella’s glass slipper, Snow White’s poisoned apple, the evil queen’s magic mirror, Sleeping Beauty’s enchanted spinning wheel… Seventeen-year-old Bianca Frost wants none of it, dreaming instead of a career in art or photography or…well, anything except working in the family’s museum. She knows the items in the glass display cases are fakes because, of course, magic doesn’t really exist. She’s about to find out how wrong she is.

To read an excerpt from First Frost, please click HERE.

To purchase First Frost, please click one of the vendors below:  

Musa Publishing
Barnes and Noble

Glass Frost 
Coming from Musa Publishing July 19, 2013

When joined together, Cinderella's slippers grant the wearer her heart's desire. But whose wish will be granted?

When Cinderella’s glass slipper is stolen, Queen Felicia sends her faithful steward Terrance to the real world to retrieve his love and witch-in-training, Bianca Frost. The power of the glass slipper, when paired with its mate, and in the wrong hands, could ruin peace in Everafter. Bianca must gather every bit of magic she has learned in the past few weeks to find the slipper and protect her new love. Together, Bianca, Ming, Prince Ferdinand, and Terrance venture deep into the heart of Everafter to seek clues as to who has stolen the slipper and why. Along the way, they uncover what happened to the Seven Dwarves after Snow White married the prince, but also learn the awful risk of tampering with black magic and the high price that must be paid for magic, even when used for good.

Bianca and Terrance’s relationship is put to the test. Through the pain of suffering and loss, Bianca must determine if following her gallant boyfriend into his faraway world is in fact her heart's desire.

Learn more about Liz DeJesus on her website and visit First Frost on Facebook.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Bianca Swan

Author Interview
For those who may not know, will you tell us a bit about yourself?

I began writing just after the invention of the wheel—seriously in about 1992 and started on a long journey to publication. One Christmas, when I lived in Miami, I stripped the tree of its decorations (a silk tree) and left it up all year, decorating it instead with rejection letters. Now, I live in Texas, don’t have horses and have a piano I can’t play (more on this in another question). I’m very into sports cars and love my black-on-black convertible.

What is the tag line for On Wings of Desire, your latest release from Double Dragon Publishing?

Heaven reviles him. Hell loves and hates him. The demon Salseph looks like an angel and is trapped between perdition and the mortal world unless he can redeem himself with lust and revenge. I thought of a new one though: Forbidden love—one man, one woman—one heart, one soul…only together can they be complete.

If your book was turned into a movie, who would you want to play your protagonists? 

Johnny Depp could play Seph, and maybe Cameron Diaz could be Gloria. 

What are three quirky facts about you that no one would know or assume otherwise? 
1. I own a baby grand piano I can’t play (my mom gave me piano lessons but I wanted a horse so I learned to play by the finger numbers. The piano was sold, and I got my first horse.) Now I wish I could play! But at least it has a PianoDisc player.
2. I love licorice and Pellegrino. I drink bottles of the stuff while I’m writing. I also eat licorice while I write. Not at the same time as the Pellegrino.
3. My male friend and I often drink Mimosas early on a Sunday morning for breakfast (w/o the brunch!)

What wisdom about writing do you wish you could share with fledgling writers? 

Don’t try to write for the market. Write each book for yourself—as if it were the book of your heart. Love your characters. Accept advice from professionals but don’t lose your voice.

What do you have in store for readers next? 

My muse and I are working on a new idea but she took a vacation to Belize without me.

Where can we find you?

My website  or blog 

by Bianca Swan

The fallen angels have again risen against the Light, and the Second War in Heaven is raging. Paimon, General of Hell, yearned for a lover with the beauty of an angel and created a demon the exact replica of a celestial. He presents his creation with a powerful sword and appoints him commander of the demon forces. If Salseph returns to Hell with the sword in victory, Paimon vows to end Seph's demeaning missions of seducing human women and destroying their lives. The promise is a double-edged blade. The demons under his control abhor Salseph as much as he reviles them.

In battle, the angel Ophiel disarms Salseph and humiliates the young demon. Seph vows revenge against his foe and strikes upon the perfect plan for vengeance. He will seduce the guardian angel's charge, Gloria Landry, and at the Battle of Armageddon present soiled goods to the arrogant Ophiel in exchange for the stolen sword. When he rescues Gloria from a violent storm, she believes Salseph is her guardian angel. On their journey to the apocalyptic war, Salseph and Gloria discover that lust can become the purest love and that a bad boy can be good.


     The stench of Hell burned Salseph’s nostrils.  Lost Souls¸ how he hated to return home.  For all his trials on Earth, he preferred the human realm to this insufferable place.  In the mortal plane, he could, with considerable effort and pain, divest himself of his wings, and feel as if he belonged—at least for a time.
     Evolerzzal, a slimy glob of green flesh, grabbed Seph’s shoulder as he passed into the gloom of the Demon Realm.  “Well, if it isn’t Salseph the Beautiful.  What are you doing here amongst us humble creatures?”  A clawed hand beckoned Charzzel, a demon of the Second Order.  “Look who’s come home.”
     Seph shrugged free, arched his wings.  The dim, smoky light refracted on his feathers, and the movement immediately drew the attention of every demon in sight.  His jaw tightened, a muscle twitching.  He yearned to drive his fist into the grotesque face and take to the air, but it wasn’t Evolz’s fault the demons hated Seph.  Paimon had insured that Salseph was an oddity, a freak.  His appearance and the majestic wings set him apart from the others of his kind.  Hell, there were no others of his kind.  In all of Perdition, he was the only demon who looked like an angel.  His face was handsome, his body lean and muscled—the body of a man, not a monstrosity—his blond hair thick and silky.
    “I smell angel,” a low-ranking atrocity shouted, his high-pitched voice rasping on Seph’s nerves.
     The demons stank of brimstone and ash.  Salseph’s Creator had only missed one detail in replicating a celestial being.  Like an angel, Seph possessed an individual, mysterious scent, the airy fragrance part of his allure.  Unlike an angel, Salseph had no sigil.   A sigil, the angel’s name in Malachim script, was branded in his palm at his creation.  Paimon did not have the ability to bequeath a sigil to his demon son.  The fallen angel had, however, created Seph with an irresistible sexual magnetism.
     A disgustingly ugly brute bared his fangs.  A laugh rumbled from the creature’s slavering maw.  He stumbled into Seph, crushing one of the long white feathers trailing the ash-gray ground.  “Hello, Salseph.”  Two taloned fingers drifted down the feathered arch.  “Wish I had pretty wings.”
     Seph flinched from the malicious caress, folding his wings in a tighter arch.  The creature chuckled, and anger ground Salseph’s good intentions to dust.   When he landed, he’d planned to hurry to his cave, avoiding another senseless confrontation with his brethren.  The fiends detested him as much as he abhorred them.  It was an effort of will to resist a scathing retort.
     “I think he’s hideous,” a demon in the shadows called.  “Angels are our enemies.  Every time I look at Paimon’s favorite, I want to draw sword.”
     Jealousy and envy gleamed in Evolz’s yellow eyes.  The demon reeked of the Pit.  Sulfur wasn’t an enticing perfume.  “Now, who would want to spit our lovely Salseph on a sword?”
     “Let me pass.” Seph would have shouldered by Evolz, but touching the creature repulsed him.
     “Coming home from another assignment?” Evolz smirked.
     Seph refused to give the other demon the satisfaction of a reply.  He was returning from another demeaning mission with his stomach in a knot and his heart bleeding for a poor human woman whose only sin was falling in love with him.
     “Did you eat her baby or pump a little half-demon into her womb?”  Evolz leered, his glob of a head tilted to the side, his hairy ears wagging.
     “I don’t consume human flesh.  Now, step aside.”
     “Or you’ll do what?  Report me to Paimon?”
     Seph flared his wings, striking the demon and sweeping Evolerzzal into a stumbling retreat.  “Sorry, Evolz.”  He drove his wings down hard, rising straight into the sultry, close air.  Voice dripping sarcasm, he said, “I forget how powerful I really am.”
     He hovered above the gross blob, his condescending smile goading Evolz to react.  The demon glared at him but said nothing, a quick comeback beyond his limited mental capacity.  Why were they all so fiendish?   One of the monsters tried to capture his ankle.  Laughing, he flew higher and, still chuckling, soared toward home.  The place I hide.  He’d never thought of the dim stone cavern as home.  His heart stuttered over a painful beat.  He had no home and belonged nowhere.

ON WINGS OF DESIRE is available in print or in ebook format:


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Juli D. Revezzo

CAITLIN'S BOOK OF SHADOWS (Antique Magic) by Juli D. Revezzo

Something terrifying stalks Caitlin and her beloved Trevor. Something the bits and pieces she left claimed she had to make sense of--or so legend says. When the curator of their collection finds Caitlin's long forgotten diary, she wonders will it tell the whole tale? Will it tell why Caitlin seemed so determined to tell the difference between reality and nightmare even as she continued the fight to defend her family from evil? Will it explain why she thought her world twisted? If she really became a witch?

Perhaps the answer lies between the lines of her story, one of lessons, struggles, and the hopes she carried like a warrior's shield.

 **This is a side (or supplemental, if you will) story in the Antique Magic series, a companion to The Artist's Inheritance (Antique Magic, Book One).

FREE on Smashwords until May 31st
OR for only .99 cents, support an Indie author on  or Barnes and Noble's Nook 

THE ARTIST'S INHERITANCE by Juli D. Revezzo can be purchased here:

Juli Revezzo, author of paranormal romance and supernatural horror, can be found HERE

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Clare Dargin

Cold Warriors
by Clare Dargin

Left in cryogenic stasis for nearly a century, Caitlin Driskoll is awakened and drafted into a war she knows nothing about. Expected to defend a world where her kind is despised and expendable, she discovers love and respect from the one man who can’t be associated with her.

Lieutenant Colonel Medoro Keegan has spent a lifetime in the Marines. With no family to speak of, the Corps and his ship, the USS Blanchard, are all the loved ones he needs…until Caitlin sparks a fire within, that threatens to consume him if he doesn’t walk away.

Will he choose a life of certainty in the only world he knows or give it all to Caitlin and run the risk of losing someone, yet again?


He didn’t know what to say. His first clash with her had distracted him to the point of madness. It had been some time since he’d had such a powerful encounter with a woman. The last one to push his buttons that hard, he wound up marrying.

Caitlin was stubborn, mouthy, somewhat insubordinate, and filled with an innate force he had not seen in sometime. She had no problem in standing up for who or what she believed in. He didn’t like the feelings she stirred in him. He dare not consider them. Especially with her. She was a subordinate and a cryo. It was against regulations for him to even think of starting anything with her.

He shifted his stance. His heart pounded in his ears and breaths quickened. “Ms. Driskoll. I don’t know what you expect from me.”

“Nothing more than I expect from myself.”

Before he knew it, he crossed the distance between them and swept her into a searing kiss. He caressed her body, touching every curve. 

He was ready to slip off into oblivion when he remembered himself. It was the middle of the day; they were in a briefing room and would be caught. Breaking off the kiss, he raised his hands in surrender.

“Jesus,” he said in between breaths.

“What?” she panted, as she straightened her uniform.

“Please leave. Just go.” He closed his eyes, wrestling his feelings into submission. Holding them down, he shuddered. Dear God, help me. He needed her so badly. His breathing slowed to a normal rate. When he opened his eyes, she was gone.

“Sir, you’re needed on the bridge,” the voice on the com said.

“Be right there,” he replied, grateful for the distraction.

Author Bio

Clare Dargin is a an author of Science Fiction and Military Science Fiction Romance.  She has been writing stories all of her life before being published in 2007.  She is a great fan of all things science fiction and romance and loves promoting the genre.  

She is an educator by profession and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English from a major mid-western university.  She presently resides in the Midwestern United States and is pursuing a graduate degree.  In the future she hopes to expand her writings to include non-fiction, historical romance, and contemporary novels.  

Friday, April 26, 2013

Marci Boudreaux

Me, Myself and I

One question I am asked quite frequently is why I use various names instead of just sticking with one. I think my reasoning reflects that of many author’s so I thought I’d share. When my first book, The Rebound, was purchased, it was completely unexpected; it was awesome, but unexpected. I was a non-traditional student (that’s nice speak for old person in college) and working as a journalist/editor, yet I’d just sold an erotic novella. Did I really want my fellow students, most of whom were a dozen or more years my junior, reading a sex book with my name on it? If someone liked my article in the magazine I write for and decided to look me up to see my other work, did I really want them to immediately find The Rebound and forever associate my journalistic work with sex? Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t in the least bit embarrassed. In fact, I was and am very proud of my first release. The problem was what others would think about it and how it would impact my career, volunteer work, and the work my husband does. So I thought long and hard as I stared at the pseudonym line on my contract. Before the papers were signed Emilia Mancini, my erotic writing sidekick, was born.
When Musa contracted Unforgettable You, a sweet romance, I again had to decide if the name I was making as a journalist was going to be tied to my fiction writing or if I was going to give Emilia credit for this one as well. I considered several pros and cons, including the fact that I’d already started building an identity for Emilia and that my lifelong dream was to see my name on the cover of the book. While Emilia was me, it just isn’t the same as seeing my name on there. In the end I decided to use my maiden name, Marci Boudreaux, for romance. This would serve several purposes; fulfilling that dream of seeing my name on a cover, letting people know it was not an erotic work like what Emilia would write, and keeping my day job separate from it all. I put everything in its own little box on the professional shelf; erotica, romance, and day job. I have three names, three genres, three personas that have completely different reasons for existing. I also have three work e-mails, Facebooks (plus two author pages), Twitters, websites, and three different sets of people I network with. It is confusing, insane, and sometimes overwhelming, but it helps me keep my head on what I’m doing without worrying who is going to see it. My alter egos and I can all be tied together because, in the end, we are all public figures in different areas. We’re all proud of the other’s work and more than happy to tell anyone who will listen. We all help each other out when we can. I cross promote my authors so if you see Marci you will probably find Emilia not far behind and vice versa, but you will know what you are getting into depending on the primary persona. The real me, however, is a bit more hidden in the shadows, never completely in the dark and always happy to take credit for the hard work of the other two.

To read an excerpt from Marci Boudreaux’s latest release Unforgettable You, please click HERE.

Check out the trailer for Unforgettable You HERE.

Learn more about Marci Boudreaux on her website.
Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

E. Rose Sabin

My full name is Elenora Rose Sabin. I chose to write as E. Rose Sabin because Elenora is so frequently misspelled.  My family and nonwriter friends call me Elenora, but my writer friends and acquaintances call me Rose. I live in Pinellas County, Florida, and share my home with two dogs: Kira, a beagle, and Juliet, a pit bull mix. I retired from teaching Spanish and English to middle school students to become a professional writer of fantasy and science fiction. I've had many short stories published and have won several awards, including, in 1992, Andre Norton’s Gryphon Award for the then-unpublished manuscript of A School for Sorcery, a novel inspired by my teaching career.

Stay connected through my website , Facebook and blog
I am on Twitter , Goodreads, and LinkedIn
My book covers are all posted on Pinterest

My most recent book is the fantasy novel Mistress of the Wind, set in the same world as my earlier Young Adult books published by Tor. Mistress, however, is aimed more at adults or that recently added category "new adults" rather than being YA.

Mistress of the Wind is the story of Windspeaker Kyla Cren, who gathers news from the wind and passes on to her village its warnings about mindstealers, creatures that rob human minds and leave their victims insensible and helpless. Because Kyla’s parents were victims of mindstealers, the need for revenge consumes her. She attacks two mindstealers and rescues their victim, but gets no satisfaction from the act. The ungrateful victim, a powerful mage, thrusts upon her the care of Claid, who appears to be an appealing young child. He’s not a child, the Mage Alair declares, and challenges her to discover what Claid really is. That challenge sends her from her native village on a journey of discovery that takes her into the wider world beyond her isolated valley, a world in which machines have replaced magic. Harrowing experiences teach her more about herself than about Claid and eventually bring her back to Mage Alair, whom she joins in a scheme to destroy the mindstealers, a plan which might result in tragedy but which could also lead Kyla to the full truth about Claid’s nature and her own.

Here is an excerpt from Mistress of the Wind, from just after Kyla has restored the mind of the mindstealers' victim:

Kyla knelt beside him. "Good sir, are you well?"
At the tentative query he lowered his hands and glanced frantically from side to side. "Claid? What—? Where—?"
His gaze fixed on Kyla. "You—you're not Claid."
He stood with a look so wild Kyla rose and backed away. "Please," she said. "You should rest."
"Who are you? What's happened?" He ran his palms over his wet clothes. An angry crease deepened between his eyes. "Where's Claid?"
"I'm Kyla." She edged farther back, poised to run if he headed toward her. "I saved you from the mindstealers. I don't know who Claid is."
"Saved me from the mindstealers!" His roar made it sound like a crime. "What about Claid?"
His mind was still unsettled, no doubt of it. Kyla spoke in a slow and soothing voice. "Mindstealers caught you. I killed one and declawed the other. It promised to restore your mind in exchange for its freedom. It tried to trap me, but I got the brainstone with your mind in it. The mindstealer got away before I could bring you around."
As she spoke, he grew calmer, and the gaze he turned on her seemed more focused. "Tell me your name again?"
His eyes widened as if in recognition, though she was positive they'd never met. He regarded her thoughtfully and said, "Kyla, eh? And Kyla traded my life for that of a single mindstealer—a maimed one." She couldn't tell whether the glint in his eyes signaled anger or amusement.
He gathered the brainstone fragments and regarded them curiously. "So my mind shattered the stone, did it? It couldn't withstand the power of a mage mind."
"Mage!" Had she heard correctly? "You're a mage?"
"Mage Alair." He dropped the fragments and dusted his hands.
"Mage Alair!" Kyla's shocked outcry caused the man to stare at her.
"You didn't know?" he asked as though his identity should have been obvious.
Too awed to speak, she could only shake her head. The villagers spun tales of Mage Alair of Starwind Peak, northeast of Nine Falls. Folks whispered of a tropical garden on the summit above the snowline. Of white birds fashioned of snow and sent forth to fly errands. Of sticks shaped into men and animated to be his servants. It was even rumored that he could bend Dire Lords to his bidding.
But this tall, attractive man was too young to be the legendary Mage Alair. No one had ever described his physical appearance; she'd pictured an old white-beard with wrinkled face and ancient eyes. This man must be mad from the shock of having his mind stolen.
"You've been through a terrible ordeal," she said. "Please sit and rest awhile."
"No time." He shook out his cloak and stared in consternation at the ragged edge of the damp and muddy garment. "My cloak! What happened to my cloak?"
"I cut a strip off it to bind the mindstealer's hands after I chopped off its claws."
"You cut— Woman, youYOU tore a mage's cloak for wound bindings?" He made it sound like a crime that she in particular should have avoided.
"It was all I had. I didn't think you'd need it again."
"You didn't think! You should know a mage's cloak is a reservoir of power. You could have— Never mind. We must find Claid." He caught her wrist and, giving her just enough time to snatch up her pack, dragged her roughly after him.
She tried to pull free. "Let me go. I need to get back to my village."
His grip tightened. "Sorry, but saving a man's life puts you forever in his debt."
Mad. No doubt about it. She raised her knife. "I owe you nothing. Let me go."
He laughed, a rich, warm laugh she might have enjoyed under other circumstances. "Feisty, aren't you? Come on. We'll search Martyr's Pass." He strode on, yanking her with him.
She drove her knife at his wrist.
The steel blade crumpled like paper. His swift steps never faltered. "Foolish to try that on a mage," he said, not sparing her a glance. "Hurry, can't you?"
"No, I can't! Slow down. Tell me who Claid is."
 "Claid is…" He hesitated, finished with, "my familiar."
The rocky entrance to the pass loomed ahead. Kyla had to run to keep up with Alair's long strides. Angry tears blurred her vision. This won't do. Blubbering like a child because of this ungrateful wretch. Call the wind.
The mage pulled her after him into the pass. The wind sharpened its claws like an angry cat and roared through the narrow passage, a wild beast caged between high slick walls of banded rock. She had only to sing it to her bidding.
Alair pushed ahead, shouting, "Claid, you traitor, where are you?"
Panting with the effort of keeping up, she had only enough breath for a brief wind call, scarcely audible above his shouts.
Yet he heard it. He halted so suddenly that she plowed into him, stubbing her nose on his outthrust elbow.
"You windspeak," he said. "Excellent. What else?"
She dropped her ruined knife and rubbed her nose. "What do you mean, 'What else'?"
"What powers? What magic do you have?" His voice was eager, his attention finally focused wholly on her.
"Magic? None. I'm a windspeaker, not a mage. And you might remember you have me in tow and be a little considerate."
"Sorry." He tendered the offhand apology while continuing to regard her thoughtfully. "Wasn't thinking. Not a mage, eh? No magic? But you're a windspeaker."
Puzzled by his odd reaction, she said, "A windspeaker isn't any kind of magician. Windspeaking's a talent, developed through training."
"And your parents trained you only in windspeaking?"
"My parents were victims of mindstealers when I was twelve," she said curtly. "I was trained by Mistress Forythe, the Weaversville windspeaker."
"Ah, I see. Well, then …" He turned back to scanning the rocks and high walls of the narrow passage. "I've got to find Claid."
The object of his search must be dead, slain by the mindstealers, but it would be unwise to point that out. That he didn't realize it himself was added evidence of his disordered reason.
She needed to get away. The wind should sense her plight even without a windsong. But the wind had no word for her as it rushed past, tugging at her clothing, chilling her flesh. After all the help it had given earlier, it now blew against her with no touch of recognition.
Still holding her wrist, Alair shaded his eyes and surveyed the area where they stood. Perhaps his distraction would give her a chance to free herself. She looked for a rock she could reach. She would have to strike quickly, before he had time to neutralize the weapon.
"Claid! Show yourself. I know you're near," he shouted.
She spied a stone that might serve her purpose. About the size of her fist, rounded on one side but broken and jagged on the other. Alair was scrutinizing the rock wall beside them. She gauged the distance to the stone. Watching Alair from the corner of her eye, she extended her foot, worked the rock loose with the toe of her boot, and flipped it toward her.
Where the rock had been, a snail-sized object uncurled, sprang to its feet, and expanded to the size and form of a young boy.
In terror Kyla jumped back against Alair, who swung around and roared, "Claid! So there you are, you rogue!"
The slender lad leaped away from the mage, hands raised as if to ward off a blow. "I was trapped, master, truly." He spoke fast, his voice high, a child's piping. "I'd have answered if I could. I was following you as we planned. I shrank so the uglies wouldn't see me, and they smashed that stone down on top of me. Lucky they didn't kill me."
The Mage scowled. "You can't be killed, you scapegrace."
"I can be caught. You know that. I couldn't get out from under the stone until this fair lady so kindly moved it off me." He bowed to Kyla.
In her amazement she could think of nothing to say. She caught herself massaging her wrist. Alair had released her. Fascinated by the strange, boyish creature, she made no effort to flee.
"You're lying, of course," Alair said, then turned toward her. "I was right, you see? This ingrate had no doubt set a spell to hide himself from me, but the spell wasn't designed to protect against you."
The mage gathered the torn fringe of his cloak over one arm and took a menacing step toward Claid. "Wicked, Claid, to break your word and take advantage of my helplessness."
The willowy lad vaulted away. "Save me," he begged, sheltering behind Kyla.
She thrust her hands out in front of her to halt Alair's advance. "Leave this poor child alone!"
The mage stopped and burst into laughter.
Claid crept out from behind Kyla and looked up at her with an engaging grin.
Still chuckling, Alair said, "Claid's no child. And in no sense is he poor."
"No matter what he is, he doesn't deserve to be punished for hiding from mindstealers."
"Ah, but he does," Alair insisted, keeping his gaze fixed on Claid. "My plan was to let myself be captured and my mind stolen while Claid watched and kept my body safe. He was to rescue my mind and restore it to my body after I accomplished my purpose. Instead, when I was taken, he hid and abandoned me."
"I don't blame him." Kyla stared at the mage in disbelief. "What could you hope to accomplish with that harebrained scheme?"
Beside her Claid gave a little gasp. His deep blue eyes widened with admiration.
Alair's eyes narrowed. "It was no harebrained scheme. It was a way of locating the mindstealers' hive. If this ne'er-do-well had done as instructed, I'd have been safe enough." He reached for Claid.
The boy jumped back behind Kyla. "Please, master," his high voice quavered, "I couldn't help it. I told you, I was trapped."
Alair circled Kyla, his hand poised to grab Claid. Kyla pivoted, keeping herself between the mage and his familiar. "Whatever he did, you ought to forgive him. Mindstealers are terrifying creatures. I don't know what you thought you could do when they'd taken your mind."
"I'm telling you, Claid was supposed to keep me safe." He lunged, but she was quicker.
"That was too much to expect of him. You'd have died if I hadn't restored you. For which you haven't bothered to thank me."
Alair halted and studied her speculatively. "So!" he said. "You want gratitude, do you? And no punishment for this miscreant. Hah!" He lifted both arms. "I'll show my gratitude. You may return to your home, and I give you a gift to take with you."
Suddenly remembering the reputed powers of this man, Kyla shrank back. The mage raised his hand and traced an invisible sign in the air. Behind her Claid whimpered.
Alair pointed a finger at the cringing boy. "False one, I bind you to this woman. Until I revoke that binding, you may not leave her side."
"Woman," he said, aiming his finger at Kyla, "I give you this being whom you have called a child. Learn what he really is. If you can teach him to do your bidding, you will find your good deed bountifully repaid."
He raised his arms over his head and brought his palms together in a resounding clap. His cloak swirled about him.
Claid's wailing cry went unanswered. The mage vanished.
High overhead a large crow flapped away from the pass.


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-Elenora Sabin