Friday, April 26, 2019

Giveaways, Excerpts, Free Audiobooks and Pretzels!!!

Good morning!
How is your Friday shaping up? So I've been totally neglecting my blog for the past...um...few years? I'm going to start trying to post on it some more. I used to post mostly for writers, and I'd like to continue that somewhat. But I'll probably only do articles for writers once or twice a month. The rest will be more like book news for my books and fun things for my readers.
First, let’s not neglect our National Pretzel Day! That's right! Today, the nation celebrates pretzels, lol. Now, being paleo, I can't eat regular pretzels, but this worked out really well because, even before going paleo, my favorite kinds of pretzels were the soft variety.

And guess what? I just happen to have a great recipe for keto soft pretzels. I'd been planning to make these for dinner one night this week anyway. So I guess tonight's the night. Wish me luck! What's your favorite kind of pretzel?
Book news:
Historical Romance:
I’m giving away two copies of Citadels of Fire on Amazon. So if you haven’t yet, click HERE to enter. The winners will be chosen today (giveaway ends at midnight) and announced in the next newsletter.
If you don’t win, no worries. I will be doing another promotion on this book in the next month or so and you’ll have another chance to get a copy. But why not try for one of these two in the mean time?
Also, if you’re a big historical romance fan, join THIS FACEBOOK GROUP! It's called the "Loving Historical Romance: Readers Group."

Lots of historical romance authors post in there, and they do tons of giveaways and promos. Might be a great place to win more free books! And it’s just lots of fun in general!
Crime Fiction:
So I FINALLY got The Botanist audiobook out. You can see it HERE. The narrator, Larry Oblander, is super great!
Remember, if you don’t have an audible account, you can get this book for free. For any new account, they give you a free book. So you can open an account with a new email address and then get the Botanist for free.
If you already have an audible account, I do need some reviews, specifically on Audible for the audiobook. (They’re separate from Amazon reviews on the ebook). So if you’re interested in getting a free copy of The Botanist audiobook, put your information in HERE. I have a handful of free codes to give out. Keep in mind, the codes will be first come, first served. I only have a limited number to give away, so get yours now!
Dystopian:
Still working hard on Event Horizon (Interchron #4). I’m looking at 4-6 weeks for the new release date. Stay tuned. But today, I have a funny transcription story for you from Event Horizon.
Most of you know I used Dragon Software to dictate my writing. I find I can write faster using this software. I basically just speak my chapters into a recorder and then the software transcribes it for me. Though this method is faster for me, it comes with its own challenges. Often the software doesn’t pick up what you say correctly, so you definitely have to go through and edit the transcription even before you edit the writing. I’ve had some seriously hysterical transcription errors. I wanted to share this one with you.
The line was meant to say:
“This spying method is new to all of us.”
The software transcribed it as:
“This spanking method is new to all of us.”
I swear I didn’t say that into the recorder. (That would be a completely different kind of dystopian novel, now wouldn’t it? 😉)

Story/Writing Tip:
I don’t know if you’ll all find this interesting, but I suppose you could say it goes to my process for writing stories.
I’ve had some interesting experiences lately involving a member of my family. For the sake of privacy protection, we’ll call him Bob and call him a “good friend.” He and his girlfriend—we’ll call her Julie—had a very tempestuous relationship and after hearing a few of their fights (not the most fun thing to listen to) I started to overanalyze their relationship and interactions with each other. (I’m a writer. I do that.)
By analyzing their behavior, I drew some interesting conclusions. Julie had stronger feelings for Bob than he had for her. How could I possibly know this from outside observation, you as? By analyzing their outside behavior.

  1. Bob always seemed angry when Julie was around, and especially if she showed up without calling. He seemed reserved and tense around her. When she wasn’t around, he was much more laid back and casual.
  2. He often treated her badly—just got angry and had mean words for her. That told me that he didn’t truly like spending time with her and didn’t really want her around.
  3. She kept coming back, despite the negative treatment, and despite others around her admonishing her that she didn’t need to put up with that type of treatment.
  4. Anytime they were alone together, they were almost instantly fighting, screaming, swearing at one another. I’m sure they didn’t do that in the presence of others in order to not make a scene in front of others, but it really shouldn’t b that way. Anyone in a healthy relationship knows that time alone should be the best of the relationship. Sure, everyone argues sometimes, but it shouldn’t be a screaming fight EVERY time it’s just the two of you.
  5. Bob started to engage in destructive behavior that had nothing to do with the relationship. Things like spending time with friends and not letting Julie know, not holding down a job, drinking more, etc. The conclusion I drew from this was that he was trying to drive her away. I couldn’t be sure until the relationship ended, but I felt like he wanted her to leave so he kept doing things he knew she wouldn’t like. I got some validation on this point when the relationship ended (and not particularly well) and suddenly Bob held down a job with no problem, drank less, and became a born-again responsible dude.
So why I am I telling you all this? I get a lot of questions about my process and how I come up with things. Obviously this relationship wouldn’t be a template for a romantic relationship in a romance novel, but I still learned a lot about unhealthy relationships from it.

I suppose you could say that by people-watching and people-analyzing, I learn a lot about human behavior and incorporate it into my writing.

Excerpt:
(From my WIP, Dragon Magic)
Following Zendu down the staircase, she wondered if he meant to walk through the water below. He didn’t. A sharp right turn through a doorway at the base of the stairs led them into a second garden room, this one much smaller than the first. Tamilla doubted more than twenty people could fit comfortably here, and not more than one small dragon.
Here, water did not cover the floor. Rather, black soil reached all the way into the corners, with a variety of plants and shrubs shooting out of it and reaching for the ceiling. From the doorway where Tamilla and Zendu entered, a stone path, made of lovely round flagstones, all with dragons carved into them, wound through the soil and plants in a zig-zagging pattern.
On the far side of the room lay a strip of stone floor where nothing grew. It led to a larger stone staircase than the one Tamilla descended to reach this room. At its top sat a pair of heavy-looking, wooden double doors.
“May I ask where that leads, Master Zendu?” Tamilla asked pointing to the double doors.
“To the Dragon Council Chamber, where the Dragon Council conducts all their official business.”
Tamilla frowned. She saw wide double doors leading to that chamber when she first arrived. How did this lead to the same place?
Seeing her expression, Zendu smiled. “This is a back entrance. The bigger entrance is needed mostly for when the Companions wish to be present for the meetings.”
As though his words were a summons, the sound of a door opening reached Tamilla’s ears. She turned toward the sound but saw nothing other than a thick wall of green foliage. If a door lay behind it, she could not discern where.
Three men appeared on the stone path leading to the Dragon Council chamber. The first wore the armor of the Dragon Vigil guard. Tamilla recognized Sir Heatherhart, whom she met and spoke with her first night in the Roost. He kept his eyes straight ahead now, not appearing to notice her or Master Zendu.
The third man wore the same armor, obviously another guard. The man between them, whom they seemed to be escorting, had white hair and wore dusty, travel-stained clothes. He looked short—not more than a hand taller than Tamilla—and so much dust covered his shirt, britches, and cloak, he might have recently ridden through a dust storm.
A small bald spot adorned the apex of his head. His leather boots reached to above his knee and his shirt strained across his slightly rounded belly. Deep lines covered his face and he walked slowly, as though exhausted.
Tamilla wondered who he was.
The three of them reached the base of the staircase leading up to the Dragon Council chamber before the short, white-haired man froze. Frowning, he turned slowly to survey the room.
His eyes struck her as strange, though she didn’t know why. Wisdom and knowledge stared out from his face, though, heightening her curiosity. His gaze quickly fell on Zendu and Tamilla, and he scrutinized her. Not Zendu. Only her. He frowned as if studying some oddity on the road.
Tamilla dropped her eyes, and shifted her weight from one foot to another, uncomfortable being the object of such focused scrutiny.
Sir Heatherhart stomped up three of the stone steps before seeming to realize his charge no longer followed. He turned to stare down at the older man, then followed his gaze to where Zendu and Tamilla stood. When his eyes focused on Tamilla, they widened in recognition and surprise.
Without a word, the white-haired man turned and ascended the stairs. When he moved up them, Heatherhart turned and continued as well, casting one more curious glance in Tamilla’s direction. The three of them disappeared through the door and into the Dragon Chamber without a word.
Feeling distinctly unsettled, Tamilla glanced at Zendu, who frowned after the three men as well. "Odd," he murmured.
Tamilla didn’t know whether to feel better or worse, given Zendu’s reaction. If he thought it strange too, she wasn’t crazy. Then again, why did the man stare that way? Why did all these strange things keep occurring?
“Who was he, Master Zendu?” she asked meekly.
“Rider Hanley,” Zendu answered. “A dragon rider of legend. He’s traveled in the Order’s name since he was few years younger than you. Since he first bonded with his Companion. In his old age, he keeps mostly to the headquarters of the Dragon Vigil in the city. I wonder what he’s doing here.”
Zendu’s voice trailed off and she recognized genuine curiosity in it.
Zendu shook himself a moment later and turned to her. "Well, no matter. Let's begin, shall we?”
Time for the test. Time to prove herself. Tamilla’s butterflies returned with a vengeance, along with the thoughts from this morning.
“What’s the point of all this? You aren’t good for anything else.” She tried to squash them.
"I will first show you what to do and you will try to replicate it,” Zendu said. “Very simple."
Zendu walked to a nearby shrub and picked two small leaves off it. Returning to where Tamilla stood, he knelt on the ground in the dark brown soil and motioned for her to do the same.
Using his index and middle fingers, he dug a hole. Though only the size of a small coin, Zendu made it nearly a hand deep. He dropped one leaf into it—placing the other on the ground beside him, as if in reserve for a later time—and covered the first with soil.
Placing his palms, one on top of the other, atop the soil, he closed his eyes.
"One gifted with the Dragon Spark for Gardening helps the plants grow and nurtures life within the Garden,” he said, eyes still closed. "You must simply will the seedling to grow.”
“Forgive me, Master Zendu,” Tamilla ventured, feeling confused. “But it isn’t a seedling, or even a full cutting. It’s only a leaf.”
Zendue opened his eyes with a smile. “Ah, but that’s the point. It would be difficult to get such a thing to flower by conventional methods. If you can use the Spark of Gardening to do so, then you’re fated to spend your life in this garden.” He closed his eyes again. “Send your love, your positive thoughts, your nurturing, and call to it in your mind and your heart. Simply say to it, ‘grow for me.’" He opened his eyes with a smile and lifted his palms from the ground.
Tamilla, concentrating on his face and words, took a few seconds to look down. She gasped. Sprouting from the ground where Zendu’s hands rested a moment before stood a tiny green sapling. Its thin, green arm reached up from the soil perhaps three fingers in height. Tamilla even identified offshoots where it would form leaves.
"You see?" Zendu said. "Very simple."
"Simple and miraculous," Tamilla muttered, feeling awed.
Zendu smiled warmly at her. "Very true."
"So," Tamilla ventured. “If it doesn’t grow, I fail the test?"
Zendu nodded his approval. "Yes. Anything planted in the rich soil of this garden will grow anyway, in a more conventional time frame. If you have the Spark, it will respond to your call. If it does not, you simply do not have the Spark for Gardening."
Tamilla nodded. "Must I shut my eyes?"
Zendu nodded. "I recommend it, yes. Those who become master Gardeners do not do so. Eventually, you hone your magic until small tricks like this are unnecessary. I recommend it for those taking the test because it will help you to focus, feel the magic of the Garden and interact with it without visual distractions."
Zendu picked up the second leaf from the ground by his knee and handed it to her. Tamilla took it gingerly in her hand. Doing exactly as she’d seen him do, she dug a small, yet deep hole and dropped the leaf in, covering it with soil afterward. Then she placed her palms gently onto the soil.
Zendu sat back on his knees and folded his hands in his lap. Obviously, he didn’t plan to walk away from Tamilla as Brinave did during the Coin test. Tamilla supposed she needed to wander for that test, which she didn’t for this one.
"You may begin," Zendu said.
Taking a deep, calming breath, Tamilla closed her eyes.
The sound of another door opening reached her ears, followed by slow, heavy steps making their way down the stone staircase.
When she opened her eyes, Zendu frowned at something above and behind her. Tamilla turned to follow his gaze.
The old man—Rider Hanley—made his way slowly down the staircase, this time without either of his guards.
"Master Zendu,” the old man’s voice sounded gravelly, but not overly deep. “Might I observe the administration of this test?"
Tamilla looked askance at Zendu.
He frowned in confusion. "Of course, Rider Hanley. May I ask why you wish to?"
Hanley made it to the bottom of the stairs and stepped off the pathway and into the soil. “I'm visiting from the Order's headquarters to speak with the Council. They aren't ready for me yet. Spending some time in the Garden will do me good, and it’s been some time since I watched this test be administered.”
Zendu turned to Tamilla. "You're the one being tested. If you are uncomfortable, you can say no. What do you think?”
Tamilla studied Rider Hanley. A grandfather of a man, his eyes held wisdom and gentleness. If someone told her this morning a Dragon Rider would watch her take the test, Tamilla might have collapsed in a bundle of nerves. Now, staring into Hanley's eyes, she found he did not make her nervous in the least. She didn’t know why not.
"He may observe. I don't mind."
She sent all the love and nurture and positivity she could muster into the leaf hiding beneath the soil.
Grow for me. Please grow for me. I want to see you. I want you to pop up and show your lovely green face. Please grow for me.
What if this didn’t work? What if she failed this test too? Tamilla struggled to force thoughts of inadequacy from her head. They clawed their way back in. With them came Petryn’s stinging words.
“What’s the point of all this? You aren’t good for anything else."
Petryn came after Randall. She’d thought him a potential future-husband as well. Their relationship lasted less than one turn of the moon. Far shorter than her relationship with Randall. It ended abruptly the night he kissed her under the poplar tree. It was their first kiss, but he immediately wanted more, running his hands over her hips and reaching for the ties on her skirt.
At first, when she pushed him away, he laughed and simply tried to cajole her. When she rebuked him more sternly, saying she wouldn't do that until they were married, he grew angry. Putting his hands on her shoulders, he shoved her backward into the trunk of the tree. Bruises sprouted on her hands and arms the next day. "If you won’t give up your maidenhood, what's the point of any of this? You’re not good for anything else,” he’d grated.
“I…” she sputtered. “I know how to thatch roofs.” Even to her, it sounded silly.
Petryn’s laugh dripped with scorn. “The Thatchers have other children to do that. Boys with large hands. You’re too pretty to have any skill with your hands. Die an old maid, for all I care.”
He left her in the moonlight and she slid down the tree’s trunk, sobbing.
No! The entire point of coming here was to change her world, which included her thoughts. Petryn didn’t bother to address—or probably even consider—the power of Tamilla’s mind, which still angered her.
Unpleasant though the experience had been, it proved a large part of what brought her to this moment. There must be a reason life led her here.
She refocused on the leaf beneath her palms. Please, grow for me. I want to see your face. Please grow for me. Push your way up here and see the sun.
The energy of the Garden abruptly changed. Rather, it grew more intense, almost as though a wind blew through the Garden, yet it didn’t.
A soft whisper reached Tamilla’s ears. It sounded faraway and faint. Tamilla strained to hear what the whisper said. The more she strained, the louder the whispers became, as though she called them closer by sheer force of will.
She is one of them, one whisper said.
One of them is in the Garden, another exclaimed, sounding shocked.
Tamilla wondered who or what they meant.
Can she hear us? asked a third, slightly higher pitched whisper.
I don’t know. She thought that came from the second voice again.
"Tamilla."
Her eyes snapped open. Zendu’s hand rested on her shoulder. Both he and Hanley watched her closely. Tamilla peeked down at her hands, which still rested on the soil. She didn't feel anything different, but she'd been completely absorbed in listening to those voices. Surely the voices she heard proved she harbored the Gardening Spark. Looking down expectantly at her hands, she drew them away.
Nothing.
No green sapling sprouted from the brown soil. Tamilla’s heart fell.
Zendu gave her a sympathetic look. "I'm sorry, my child. It seems you do not have the Gardening Spark."
Tamilla's shoulders slumped.
"Oh, do not be so discouraged," he smiled encouragingly. “You have three more tests to take. I'm sure you'll do better on one of them."
Tamilla nodded, noting he’d used the same phrasing Brinave did. Perhaps they always said it to candidates who didn’t pass.
"Come,” Zendu said gently. “I will take you back to Bertome. He will escort you to your quarters."
Feeling bitterly disappointed, Tamilla rose to her feet and followed Zendu as he led her toward the door to the larger garden room.
"Curious," Hanley said from behind her.
Tamilla and Zendu turned together.
"What is it, Rider Hanley?" Zendu asked.
Hanley’s palm rested on the ground where Tamilla's had been a minute before.
"The ground is frozen."
Tamilla frowned. “How?" she asked. The fleeting thought ran through her that perhaps he referred to something beyond her control and they’d allow her to retake the test.
"I don't know," Hanley admitted. "It must have been something you did."
Tamilla realized her hopes of being allowed to retake the test made her overlook something obvious. At the start of her test, she dug into the soil to bury the leaf. The ground hadn't been frozen then. So why did it freeze by the end?
Both Hanley and Zendu studied her speculatively, much the way Brinave did several days before. Tamilla became self-conscious.
“I shall think on it,” Hanley finally said. He looked at Tamilla. “For now, you may go.”
Zendu shrugged and turned to lead Tamilla out. Tamilla followed him. As they reached the staircase and turned, she cast a glance back at Hanley. He still knelt on the ground, watching her go.


Featured Review: (on Dark Remnants)

That’s it for today. Make sure to get your free Botanist Audiobook to review, join the Historical Romance Readers Facebook group if you feel so inclined, join the Citadels of Fire giveaway, and check out the free book links below. (I know that's a lot for one email. Sorry. 😉)

Also, can you let me know if you enjoyed this Story/Writing Tip section? Would you like to see more snippets like this…or not so much? Hit reply and feel free to be honest! Have a great weekend!