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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Second Look Book Review: Walking in the Dark: (Ollie Wit Series Book 2) by Donna Augustine

Walking in the Dark: (Ollie Wit Series Book 2)
by Donna Augustine
May 25, 2017
Pages: 346
Some people find power in the light. Others are meant to walk in the dark.

Ollie Wit left it all behind: a new home, friends who saw her as something more than a fragile shadow walker and a budding relationship with Kane. She did it all in an effort to shield Asher, who should’ve never been able to escape the Shadowlands.

Now her money is gone, her hopes of saving other shadow walkers has slipped through her fingers, and Kane won’t speak to her. She’s been abducted by leprechauns, who think she has committed an unspeakable crime. The vampires want her dead and there’s a crawler blowing up End of the Rainbows. Kane might not want to work with her, but he’s going to have to because all hell is breaking loose in Boston.

Ollie had everything she ever wanted: a new home, friends and a possible relationship with Kane but she gave it all up to help Asher, her new friend who helped her in the Shadowlands and somehow escaped.

I can almost guarantee that any book I read by Donna will get a 5 star rating from me. This one was no exception.

I was hooked on Ollie's character, a shadow walker, in the first book "A Step into the Dark" and carried that same feeling through this one. Sometimes the sequel doesn't measure up to the first book but this was seamless for me. I even went back and reread book 1 before we starting this one.  I wanted to solidify the story line in a seamless manner since it had been a while (6 months) and many books ago since I read the first. I wanted to savor it all over again.

I may sound like a broken record but the read is flawless, the characters well defined and entertaining and the story so well planned you just can't help but put Donna on your favorite author's list!

I would summarize the story but that has already been done in a previous review and on the websites. I will just add my 2 cents and say...pick up this series. You won't be disappointed!

Check out JeanieG's 5 sheep review of A Step into the Dark
Check out DeniseB's 5 sheep review of: A Step into the Dark
Check out DeniseB's 5 sheep review of Walking in the Dark

Getting 5 sheep.





Jeanie G

About the Author:
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Donna Augustine was an odd child, had a brief moment of conformity in early adulthood and then decided to embrace her craziness as the years rolled by. It's her inner crazy that she credits with coming up with the ideas for her books. One part hypochondriac, a few dashes of paranoia, topped with a sliver of uptight and delivered with a relaxed flair, she kicked the proverbial box down the yellow brick road a couple years ago to embrace her true self.

She can be reached by a carrier pigeon, set free in a south by north direction, where she resides in Neverland with her two Siberian cats. Cats who, by the way, aren't as hypoallergenic as she believed they'd be.

For the conventional minded, and those of you without a pigeon on hand, she can be reached at donna@donnaaugustine.com. She responds to most emails within three dusk periods.

P.S. For those of you looking for the discarded box, it was sitting beside the road for a while but has since disappeared completely.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Book Review: The Dragon's Playlist by Laura Bickle

The Dragon's Playlist 
by Laura Bickle
June 1, 2017
page 219
From the author of THE HALLOWED ONES and NINE OF STARS comes a new novel blending the magical and the real…

“This is war,” the dragon said. And she believed him.

Di fled rural West Virginia to study music and pursue a bright future as a violinist. But when a mining accident nearly kills her father, she is summoned back home to support her family. Old ghosts and an old flame emerge from the past. When Di gets a job as a bookkeeper at the same mine where her father worked, she is drawn into a conflict pitting neighbor against neighbor as the mine plans an expansion to an untouched mountain.

If the mining company’s operation goes forward, there will be more at stake than livelihoods or the pollution of the land: Di has discovered a dragon lives deep within Sawtooth Mountain, and he is not happy with this encroachment upon his lair. When catastrophe strikes, Di must choose between her family’s best interests and protecting the dragon – the last surviving bit of magic in Di’s shrinking world.

In every fight, sides are chosen. And there can be no yearning for what has been left behind.


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I always enjoy a normal human story with just a touch of myth and magic. It makes it a little less fantasy and entertains the possibility of being real. Don't we all enjoy fairytales? I, for one, desperately wish for "magic" to be a possibility in this sometimes stark and cruel world.

Di, short for Diamond, returns home from college to help her mother after a tragic accident occurred and her dad was injured at a mining site where he worked. Her home town was rife with stories of mythical flavor. One particular caught her interest. Always wanting to believe in magic, Di was caught up the myth and like those that believe in "Big Foot" set out to find the real answer. 
Add an ex-boyfriend and a charismatic newcomer to the mix and you have a well rounded fairytale! 

I read this in one sitting. Easy read and addicting. Even with the incidents involving danger and heartbreak, it speaks to the young generation trying to "do the right" thing even under the pressure of not being the easiest.

Treat yourself to this cute little fantasy!

Getting 4.25 "tree hugging" sheep!





Jeanie G

About the Author:
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Laura Bickle grew up in rural Ohio, reading entirely too many comic books out loud to her favorite Wonder Woman doll. After graduating with an MA in Sociology-Criminology from Ohio State University and an MLIS in Library Science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she patrolled the stacks at the public library and worked with data systems in criminal justice. She now dreams up stories about the monsters under the stairs. Her work has been included in the ALA’s Amelia Bloomer Project 2013 reading list and the State Library of Ohio’s Choose to Read Ohio reading list for 2015-2016.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Book Reviews: A Ghost in the Glamour: (A Linx & Bogie Story) by Elizabeth Hunter

A Ghost in the Glamour: (A Linx & Bogie Story)
by Elizabeth Hunter
June 21st 2017

Pages: 99
Living. With ghosts.

Linx Maxwell is on the verge of greatness. She’s finally graduated from street fairs and hopping chain-link to making art that pays the bills. Her family life is… not dull. And it looks like her van might just be able to exist on hope and duct tape.

If only she could get rid of the ghost who’s plagued her since the eighth grade.

Frank Bogle is a detective who lost his life in the line of duty. Everyone on the other side knows that the Maxwell women are the best mediums in the business, but did he have to get attached to the one whose hair had been attacked by a Weedwacker?

Frank doesn’t like his afterlife any more than Linx does. He just doesn’t know how to leave.


Linx is a budding artist and the women in her family are all known to be the best mediums in the business. Each woman comes into the gift at a different time in their lives. Linx wished hers had never shown up. Her ghost is a former detective, Frank Bogle, who died in the line of duty. They have nothing in common, yet he has been stuck with her for a really long time. She is able to both see and hear him, whether she wants to or not.

Great little short story by Hunter that is both charming and funny. The characters are well developed even though the stories are short. I hope that Hunter chooses to explore the lives of these two a little more in the future.

Getting 5 sheep





Denise B


About the Author:
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Elizabeth Hunter is a contemporary fantasy, paranormal romance, and contemporary romance writer. She is a graduate of the University of Houston Honors College and a former English teacher. She once substitute taught a kindergarten class, but decided that middle school was far less frightening. Thankfully, people now pay her to write books and eighth-graders everywhere rejoice.

She currently lives in Central California with her son, two dogs, many plants, and a sadly dwindling fish tank. She is the author of the Elemental Mysteries and Elemental World series, the Cambio Springs series, the Irin Chronicles, and other works of fiction.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Sheep Interview: Gail Z. Martin (Scourge: A Darkhust Novel book tour) + giveaway and excerpt

Today Gail Z Martin visits the flock to talk about her next epic fantasy release Scourge. We also talk about Supernatural, comic strips, and social media advice...also sandwiches.

Sharon: Welcome back to I Smell Sheep! You’ve had a busy year. Many book releases and convention appearances. Did you get a vacation in there?
Gail: I’m going to be sneaking in some vacation time over the summer, with time at the pool and drinks with little umbrellas in them!

Sharon: You’ve got a new book coming out, Scourge: A Darkhurst Novel. What can you tell us about it? Is it another epic fantasy?
Gail: It’s epic fantasy with medieval monster hunters!

Sharon: What's Scourge about?
GailSupernatural meets Game of Thrones.

Three undertaker brothers in a medieval trading town battle monsters to protect their family and neighbors, only to discover that the monsters have masters and the stakes are higher than they dreamed.

Sharon: Where did the idea for “grave magic” come from? Is this something you would like to have?
Gail: I definitely don’t want it! In Scourge, professions/trades are hereditary, and each one has its own enabling type of magic. Our heroes, Corran, Rigan and Kell Valmonde, are undertakers, so it makes sense for their magic to banish restless spirits and help them cross over to the After. Rigan inherits additional, unsanctioned magic, which enables him to hear the confessions of the dead—and do other, more dangerous things!

Sharon: Were there any alternate titles that didn’t make the cut?
Gail: Well, ‘monster slayers’ sounded a little silly…..

Sharon: You have a lot of experience with social media and just released The Essential Social Media Marketing Handbook: A New Roadmap for Maximizing Your Brand, Influence, and Credibility. And wow, that is a long title… Other than buying your book (which everyone should do) what is one of the first things a person needs to do to maximize either their brand, influence or credibility online?
Gail: Yes, it’s long. Publisher looooove subtitles! To maximize branding—be consistent in what you say and do and in the kind of things you post. To maximize influence, don’t just talk about yourself. Post and tweet about the successes of other people, and help them rise. To maximize credibility, live up to what you say you’re going to do!

Sharon: Can you give any hints about new projects you have coming up? (genre?)
Gail: Salvage Rat is a new space opera series that will be coming out under Larry’s name. (At this point, we both work on everything). It’s like Bonnie and Clyde meets V for Vendetta in a Firefly-esque universe. The Assassins of Landria is a new buddy flick epic fantasy series also coming out later this year (think Butch and Sundance as medieval assassins).

There are sequel novels in the works for Deadly Curiosities and Iron & Blood as well as a new start to the Chronicles of the Necromancer series (full novels, picking up 17 years after The Dread), a media tie-in novel I still can’t talk about that will come out in 2018, and three other new series that aren’t far enough along yet to reveal, but should show up either late this year or in 2018. Oh, and Larry and I are doing four novellas in John Hartness’s Bubba the Monster Hunter ‘verse with original characters in an original setting as part of his spin-off project.

http://www.katzsdelicatessen.com/
Sharon: What is your favorite type of sandwich?
Gail: A Reuben, with really good rye bread, homemade Thousand Island dressing, and crisp sauerkraut…

Sharon: Do you have a favorite comic strip?
Gail: The Phantom. Is that even running anymore? I loved it when I was a kid. Also For Better or Worse.

Sharon: You are a major Supernatural fan. What is it about the show that attracts you? What is your favorite episode?
Gail: I love the chemistry and love between the brothers. Sam and Dean are broken and scarred, but they always come back to each other. And because they have a core group of good friends—as the series taught us, ‘family don’t end with blood’. Favorite episode? So many to choose from! I love In My Time of Dying (the first episode of Season 2), The French Mistake (Season 4), and I really liked Who We Are (the next to last episode in a Season 12), in no small part because we FINALLY got our overdue bro hug and ‘bitch/jerk’ thrown in too!
Sharon: How excited are you for the upcoming Supernatural/Scooby Doo crossover?
Gail: Words cannot adequately express my fangirlishness and excitement! 


Rapid Fire: 
Sharon: Mustache or beard?
Gail: Both!

Sharon: Blood magic or Earth magic?
GailEarth!

Sharon: Wonder Woman or Black Widow?
GailBlack Widow!

Sharon: travel through space or travel through time?
GailTime!

Sharon: tea leaves or tarot cards?
GailTarot cards!




by Gail Z Martin
July 11, 2017
400 pages
Publisher: Solaris

Epic new fantasy from the bestselling author of The Summoner. In a city beset by monsters, three brothers must find out who is controlling the abominations.

The city-state of Ravenwood is wealthy, powerful, and corrupt. Merchant Princes and Guild Masters wager fortunes to outmaneuver League rivals for the king’s favor and advantageous trading terms. Lord Mayor Ellor Machison wields assassins, blood witches, and forbidden magic to assure that his powerful patrons get what they want, no matter the cost.

Corran, Rigan, and Kell Valmonde are Guild Undertakers, left to run their family’s business when guards murdered their father and monsters killed their mother. Their grave magic enables them to help souls pass to the After and banish vengeful spirits. Rigan’s magic is unusually strong and enables him to hear the confessions of the dead, the secrets that would otherwise be taken to the grave.

When the toll exacted by monsters and brutal guards hits close to home and ghosts expose the hidden sins of powerful men, Corran, Rigan and Kell become targets in a deadly game and face a choice: obey the Guild, or fight back and risk everything.

An Excerpt from Scourge: A Novel of Darkhurst 
By Gail Z. Martin 
Chapter One 
A HEAVY IRON candleholder slammed against the wall, just missing Corran Valmonde’s head.

“Son of a bitch!”

“Try not to make her mad, Corran.”

Rigan Valmonde knelt on the worn floor, drawing a sigil in charcoal, moving as quickly as he dared. Not quickly enough; a piece of firewood spun from the hearth and flew across the room, slamming him in the shoulder hard enough to make him grunt in pain.

“Keep her off me!” he snapped, repairing the smudge in the soot line. Sloppy symbols meant sloppy magic, and that could get someone killed.

“I would if I could see her.” Corran stepped away from the wall, raising his iron sword, putting himself between the fireplace and his brother. His breath misted in the unnaturally cold room and moisture condensed on the wavy glass of the only window.

“Watch where you step.” Rigan worked on the second sigil, widdershins from the soot marking, this one daubed in ochre. “I don’t want to have to do this again.”

A small ceramic bowl careened from the mantle, and, for an instant, Rigan glimpsed a young woman in a blood-soaked dress, one hand clutching her heavily pregnant belly. The other hand slipped right through the bowl, even as the dish hurtled at Rigan’s head. Rigan dove to one side and the bowl smashed against the opposite wall. At the same time, Corran’s sword slashed down through the specter. A howl of rage filled the air as the ghost dissipated.

You have no right to be in my home. The dead woman’s voice echoed in Rigan’s mind.

Get out of my head.

You are a confessor. Hear me!

Not while you’re trying to kill my brother.

“You’d better hurry.” Corran slowly turned, watching for the ghost.

“I can’t rush the ritual.” Rigan tried to shut out the ghost’s voice, focusing on the complex chalk sigil. He reached into a pouch and drew a thin curved line of salt, aconite, and powdered amanita, connecting the first sigil to the second, and the second to the third and fourth, working his way to drawing a complete warded circle.

The ghost materialized without warning on the other side of the line, thrusting a thin arm toward Rigan, her long fingers crabbed into claws, old blood beneath her torn nails. She opened a gash on Rigan’s cheek as he stumbled backward, grabbed a handful of the salt mixture and threw it. The apparition vanished with a wail.

“Corran!” Rigan’s warning came a breath too late as the ghost appeared right behind his brother, and took a swipe with her sharp, filthy nails, clawing Corran’s left shoulder.

He wronged me. He let me die, let my baby die— The voice shrieked in Rigan’s mind.

“Draw the damn signs!” Corran yelled. “I’ll handle her.” He wheeled, and before the blood- smeared ghost could strike again, the tip of his iron blade caught her in the chest. Her image dissipated like smoke, with a shriek that echoed from the walls.

Avenge me.

Sorry, lady, Rigan thought as he reached for a pot of pigment. I’m stuck listening to dead people’s dirty little secrets and last regrets, but I just bury people. Take your complaints up with the gods.

“Last one.” Rigan marked the rune in blue woad. The condensation on the window turned to frost, and he shivered. The ghost flickered, insubstantial but still identifiable as the young woman who had died bringing her stillborn child into the world. Her blood still stained the floor in the center of the warded circle and held her to this world as surely as her grief.

Wind whipped through the room, and would have scattered the salt and aconite line if Rigan had not daubed the mixture onto the floor in paste. Fragments of the broken bowl scythed through the air. The iron candle holder sailed across the room; Corran dodged it again, and a shard caught the side of his brother’s head, opening a cut on Rigan’s scalp, sending a warm rush of blood down the side of his face.

The ghost raged on, her anger and grief whipping the air into a whirlwind. I will not leave without justice for myself and my son.

You don’t really have a choice about it, Rigan replied silently and stepped across the warding, careful not to smudge the lines, pulling an iron knife from his belt. He nodded to Corran and together their voices rose as they chanted the burial rite, harmonizing out of long practice, the words of the Old Language as familiar as their own names.

The ghostly woman’s image flickered again, solid enough now that Rigan could see the streaks of blood on her pale arms and make out the pattern of her dress. She appeared right next to him, close enough that his shoulder bumped against her chest, and her mouth brushed his ear.

’Twas not nature that killed me. My faithless husband let us bleed because he thought the child was not his own.

The ghost vanished, compelled to reappear in the center of the circle, standing on the bloodstained floor. Rigan extended his trembling right hand and called to the magic, drawing on the old, familiar currents of power. The circle and runes flared with light. The sigils burned in red, white, blue, and black, with the salt-aconite lines a golden glow between them.

Corran and Rigan’s voices rose as the glow grew steadily brighter, and the ghost raged all the harder against the power that held her, thinning the line between this world and the next, opening a door and forcing her through it.

One heartbeat she was present; in the next she was gone, though her screams continued to echo.

Rigan and Corran kept on chanting, finishing the rite as the circle’s glow faded and the sigils dulled to mere pigment once more. Rigan lowered his palm and dispelled the magic, then blew out a deep breath.

“That was not supposed to happen.” Corran’s scowl deepened as he looked around the room, taking in the shattered bowl and the dented candle holder. He flinched, noticing Rigan’s wounds now that the immediate danger had passed.

“You’re hurt.”

Rigan shrugged. “Not as bad as you are.” He wiped blood from his face with his sleeve, then bent to gather the ritual materials.

“She confessed to you?” Corran bent to help his brother, wincing at the movement.

“Yeah. And she had her reasons,” Rigan replied. He looked at Corran, frowning at the blood that soaked his shirt. “We’ll need to wash and bind your wounds when we get back to the shop.”

“Let’s get out of here.”

They packed up their gear, but Corran did not sheath his iron sword until they were ready to step outside. A small crowd had gathered, no doubt drawn by the shrieks and thuds and the flares of light through the cracked, dirty window.

“Nothing to see here, folks,” Corran said, exhaustion clear in his voice. “We’re just the undertakers.”

Once they were convinced the excitement was over, the onlookers dispersed, leaving one man standing to the side. He looked up anxiously as Rigan and Corran approached him.

“Is it done? Is she gone?” For an instant, eagerness shone too clearly in his eyes. Then his posture shifted, shoulders hunching, gaze dropping, and mask slipped back into place. “I mean, is she at rest? After all she’s been through?”

Before Corran could answer, Rigan grabbed the man by the collar, pulled him around the corner into an alley and threw him up against the wall. “You can stop the grieving widower act,” he growled. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Corran standing guard at the mouth of the alley, gripping his sword.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” The denial did not reach the man’s eyes.

“You let her bleed out, you let the baby die, because you didn’t think the child was yours.”

Rigan’s voice was rough as gravel, pitched low so that only the trembling man could hear him.

“She betrayed me—”

“No.” The word brought the man up short. “No, if she had been lying, her spirit wouldn’t have been trapped here.” Rigan slammed the widower against the wall again to get his attention.

“Rigan—” Corran cautioned.

“Lying spirits don’t get trapped.” Rigan had a tight grip on the man’s shirt, enough that he could feel his body trembling. “Your wife. Your baby. Your fault.” He stepped back and let the man down, then threw him aside to land on the cobblestones.

“The dead are at peace. You’ve got the rest of your life to live with what you did.” With that, he turned on his heel and walked away, as the man choked back a sob.

Corran sheathed his sword. “I really wish you’d stop beating up paying customers,” he grumbled as they turned to walk back to the shop.

“Wish I could. Don’t know how to stop being confessor to the dead, not sure what else to do once I know the dirt,” Rigan replied, an edge of pain and bitterness in his voice.

“So the husband brought us in to clean up his mess?” Corran winced as he walked; the gashes on his arm and back had to be throbbing.

“Yeah.”

“I like it better when the ghosts confess something like where they buried their money,”

Corran replied.

“So do I.”

The sign over the front of the shop read Valmonde Undertakers. Around back, in the alley, the sign over the door just said Bodies. Corran led the way, dropping the small rucksack containing their gear just inside the entrance, and cursed under his breath as the strap raked across raw shoulders.

“Sit down,” Rigan said, nodding at an unoccupied mortuary table. He tied his brown hair into a queue before washing his hands in a bucket of fresh water drawn from the pump. “Let me have a look at those wounds.”

Footsteps descended the stairs from the small apartment above.

“You’re back? How bad was it?” Kell, the youngest of the Valmonde brothers, stopped halfway down the stairs. He had Corran’s coloring, taking after their father, with dark blond hair that curled when it grew long. Rigan’s brown hair favored their mother. All three brothers’ blue eyes were the same shade, making the resemblance impossible to overlook.

“Shit.” Kell jumped the last several steps as he saw his brothers’ injuries. He grabbed a bucket of water and scanned a row of powders and elixirs, grabbing bottles and measuring out with a practiced eye and long experience. “I thought you said it was just a banishing.”

“It was supposed to be ‘just’ a banishing,” Rigan said as Corran stripped off his bloody shirt. “But it didn’t go entirely to plan.” He soaked a clean cloth in the bucket Kell held and wrung it out.

“A murder, not a natural death,” Corran said, and his breath hitched as Rigan daubed his wounds. “Another ghost with more power than it should have had.”

Rigan saw Kell appraising Corran’s wounds, glancing at the gashes on Rigan’s face and hairline.

“Mine aren’t as bad,” Rigan said.

“When you’re done with Corran, I’ll take care of them,” Kell said. “So I’m guessing Mama’s magic kicked in again, if you knew about the murder?”

“Yeah,” Rigan replied in a flat voice.

Undertaking, like all the trades in Ravenwood, was a hereditary profession. That it came with its own magic held no surprise; all the trades did. The power and the profession were passed down from one generation to the next. Undertakers could ease a spirit’s transition to the realm beyond, nudge a lost soul onward, or release one held back by unfinished business. Sigils, grave markings, corpse paints, and ritual chants were all part of the job. But none of the other undertakers that Rigan knew had a mama who was part Wanderer. Of the three Valmonde brothers, only Rigan had inherited her ability to hear the confessions of the dead, something not even the temple priests could do. His mother had called it a gift. Most of the time, Rigan

regarded it as a burden, sometimes a curse. Usually, it just made things more complicated than they needed to be.

“Hold still,” Rigan chided as Corran winced. “Ghost wounds draw taint.” He wiped away the blood, cleaned the cuts, and then applied ointment from the jar Kell handed him. All three of them knew the routine; they had done this kind of thing far too many times.

“There,” he said, binding up Corran’s arm and shoulder with strips of gauze torn from a clean linen shroud. “That should do it.”

Corran slid off the table to make room for Rigan. While Kell dealt with his brother’s wounds,

Corran went to pour them each a whiskey.

“That’s the second time this month we’ve had a spirit go from angry to dangerous,” Corran said, returning with their drinks. He pushed a glass into Rigan’s hand, and set one aside for Kell, who was busy wiping the blood from his brother’s face.

“I’d love to know why.” Rigan tried not to wince as Kell probed his wounds. The deep gash where the pottery shard had sliced his hairline bled more freely than the cut on his cheek. Kell swore under his breath as he tried to staunch the bleeding.

“It’s happening all over Ravenwood, and no one in the Guild seems to know a damn thing about why or what to do about it,” Corran said, knocking his drink back in one shot. “Old

Daniels said he’d heard his father talk about the same sort of thing, but that was fifty years ago. So why did the ghosts stop being dangerous then, and what made them start being dangerous now?”

Rigan started to shake his head, but stopped at a glare from Kell, who said, “Hold still.”

He let out a long breath and complied, but his mind raced. Until the last few months, banishings were routine. Violence and tragedy sometimes produced ghosts, but in all the years since Rigan and Corran had been undertakers—first helping their father and uncles and then running the business since the older men had passed away—banishings were usually uneventful.

Make the marks, sing the chant, the ghost goes on and we go home. So what’s changed?

“I’m sick of being handed my ass by things that aren’t even solid,” Rigan grumbled. “If this keeps up, we’ll need to charge more.”

Corran snorted. “Good luck convincing Guild Master Orlo to raise the rates.”

Rigan’s eyes narrowed. “Guild Master Orlo can dodge flying candlesticks and broken pottery. See how he likes it.”

“Once you’ve finished grumbling we’ve got four new bodies to attend to,” Kell said. “One’s a Guild burial and the others are worth a few silvers a piece.” Rigan did not doubt that Kell had negotiated the best fees possible, he always did.

“Nice,” Rigan replied, and for the first time noticed that there were corpses on the other tables in the workshop, covered with sheets. “We can probably have these ready to take to the cemetery in the morning.”

“One of them was killed by a guard,” Kell said, turning his back and keeping his voice carefully neutral.

“Do you know why?” Corran tensed.

“His wife said he protested when the guard doubled the ‘protection’ fee. Guess the guard felt he needed to be taught a lesson.” Bribes were part of everyday life in Ravenwood, and residents generally went along with the hated extortion. Guilds promised to shield their members from the guards’ worst abuses, but in reality, the Guild Masters only intervened in the most extreme cases, fearful of drawing the Lord Mayor’s ire. At least, that had been the excuse when Corran sought justice from the Undertakers’ Guild for their father’s murder, a fatal beating on flimsy charges.

Rigan suspected the guards had killed their father because the neighborhood looked up to him, and if he’d decided to speak out in opposition, others might have followed. Even with the passing years, the grief remained sharp, the injustice bitter.

Kell went to wash his hands in a bucket by the door. “Trent came by while you and Corran were out. There’s been another attack, three dead. He wants you to go have a look and take care of the bodies.”

Rigan and Corran exchanged a glance. “What kind of attack?”

Kell sighed. “What kind do you think? Creatures.” He hesitated. “I got the feeling from Trent this was worse than usual.”

“Did Trent say what kind of creatures?” Corran asked, and Rigan picked up on an edge to his brother’s voice.

Kell nodded. “Ghouls.”

Corran swore under his breath and looked away, pushing back old memories. “All right,” he said, not quite managing to hide a shudder. “Let’s go get the bodies before it gets any later.

We’re going to have our hands full tonight.”

“Kell and I can go, if you want to start on the ones here,” Rigan offered.

Corran shook his head. “No. I’m not much use as an undertaker if I can’t go get the corpses no matter how they came to an end,” Corran said.

Rigan heard the undercurrent in his tone. Kell glanced at Rigan, who gave a barely perceptible nod, warning Kell to say nothing. Corran’s dealing with the memories the best way he knows how, Rigan thought. I just wish there weren’t so many reminders.

“I’ll prepare the wash and the pigments, and get the shrouds ready,” Kell said. “I’ll have these folks ready for your part of the ritual by the time you get back.” He gestured to the bodies already laid out. “Might have to park the new ones in the cart for a bit and switch out—tables are scarce.”

Corran grimaced. “That’ll help.” He turned to Rigan. “Come on. Let’s get this over with.”

Kell gave them the directions Trent had provided. Corran took up the long poles of the undertaker’s cart, which clattered behind him as they walked. Rigan knew better than to talk to his brother when he was in this kind of mood. At best he could be present, keep Corran from having to deal with the ghouls’ victims alone, and sit up with him afterward.

It’s only been three months since he buried Jora, since we almost had to bury him. The memory’s raw, although he won’t mention it. But Kell and I both hear what he shouts in his sleep. He’s still fighting them in his dreams, and still losing.

Rigan’s memories of that night were bad enough—Trent stumbling to the back door of the shop, carrying Corran, bloody and unconscious; Corran’s too-still body on one of the mortuary tables; Kell praying to Doharmu and any god who would listen to stave off death; Trent, covered in Corran’s blood, telling them how he had found their brother and Jora out in the tavern barn, the ghoul that attacked them already feasting on Jora’s fresh corpse.

Rigan never did understand why Trent had gone to the barn that night, or how he managed to fight off the ghoul. Corran and Jora, no doubt, had slipped away for a tryst, expecting the barn to be safe and private. Corran said little of the attack, and Rigan hoped his brother truly did not remember all the details.

“We’re here.” Corran’s rough voice and expressionless face revealed more than any words.

Ross, the farrier, met them at the door. “I’m sorry to have to call you out,” he said.

“It’s our job,” Corran replied. “I’m just sorry the godsdamned ghouls are back.”

“Not for long,” Ross said under his breath. A glance passed between Corran and Ross. Rigan filed it away to ask Corran about later.

The stench hit Rigan as soon as they entered the barn. Two horses lay gutted in their stalls and partially dismembered. Blood spattered the wooden walls and soaked the sawdust. Flies swarmed on what the ghouls had left behind.

“They’re over here,” Ross said. The bodies of two men and a woman had been tossed aside like discarded bones at a feast. Rigan swallowed down bile. Corran paled, his jaw working as he ground his teeth.

Rigan and Corran knew better than most what remained of a corpse once a ghoul had finished with it. Belly torn open to get to the soft organs; ribs split wide to access the heart. How much of the flesh remained depended on the ghoul’s hunger and whether or not it feasted undisturbed. Given the state these bodies were in—their faces were the only parts left untouched—the ghouls had taken their time. Rigan closed his eyes and took a deep breath, willing himself not to retch.

“What about the creatures?” Corran asked.

“Must have fled when they heard us coming,” Ross said. “We were making plenty of noise.” Ross handed them each a shovel, and took one up himself. “There’s not much left, and what’s there is… loose.”

“Who were they?” Rigan asked, not sure Corran felt up to asking questions.

Ross swallowed hard. “One of the men was my cousin, Tad. The other two were customers.

They brought in the two horses late in the day, and my cousin said he’d handle it.”

Rigan heard the guilt in Ross’s tone.

“Guild honors?” Corran asked, finding his voice, and Ross nodded.

Rigan brought the cart into the barn, stopping as close as possible to the mangled corpses.

The bodies were likely to fall to pieces as soon as they began shoveling.

“Yeah,” Ross replied, getting past the lump in his throat. “Send them off right.” He shook his head. “They say the monsters are all part of the Balance, like life and death cancel each other out somehow. That’s bullshit, if you ask me.”

The three men bent to their work, trying not to think of the slippery bones and bloody bits as bodies. Carcasses. Like what’s left when the butcher’s done with a hog, or the vultures are finished with a cow, Rigan thought. The barn smelled of blood and entrails, copper and shit. Rigan looked at what they loaded into the cart. Only the skulls made it possible to tell that the remains had once been human.

“I’m sorry about this, but I need to do it—to keep them from rising as ghouls or restless spirits,” Rigan said. He pulled a glass bottle from the bag at the front of the wagon, and carefully removed the stopper, sprinkling the bodies with green vitriol to burn the flesh and prevent the corpses from rising. The acid sizzled, sending up noxious tendrils of smoke. Rigan stoppered the bottle and pulled out a bag of the salt-aconite-amanita mixture, dusting it over the bodies, assuring that the spirits would remain at rest.

Ross nodded. “Better than having them return as one of those… things,” he said, shuddering.

“We’ll have them buried tomorrow,” Corran said as Rigan secured their grisly load.

“That’s more than fair,” Ross agreed. “Corran—you know if I’d had a choice about calling

you—”

“It’s our job.” Corran cut off the apology. Ross knew about Jora’s death. That didn’t change the fact that they were the only Guild undertakers in this area of Ravenwood, and Ross was a friend.

“I’ll be by tomorrow afternoon with the money,” Ross said, accompanying them to the door.

“We’ll be done by then,” Corran replied. Rigan went to pick up the cart’s poles, but Corran shook his head and lifted them himself.

Rigan did not argue. Easier for him to haul the wagon; that way he doesn’t have to look at the bodies and remember when Jora’s brother brought her for burial.

Rigan felt for the reassuring bulk of his knife beneath his cloak—a steel blade rather than the iron weapon they used in the banishing rite. No one knew the true nature of the monsters, or why so many more had started appearing in Ravenwood of late. Ghouls weren’t like angry ghosts or restless spirits that could be banished with salt, aconite, and iron. Whatever darkness spawned them and the rest of their monstrous brethren, they were creatures of skin and bone; only beheading would stop them.

Rigan kept his blade sharpened.

About the Author:
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he Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures and the Deadly Curiosities Adventures.

Gail’s work will appear in at several new anthologies in 2014: Clockwork Universe Steampunk vs. Aliens, Athena’s Daughters, Dreams of Steel 5, The Big Bad 2, Dance Like a Monkey, plus an illustrated story in Icarus: A Graphic Novel, Heroes (stretch goal author) the British Fantasy Society’s Unexpected Journeys and With Great Power, a superhero anthology. Other US/UK anthologies include Magic (Solaris), The Bitten Word, Rum & Runestones, Spells & Swashbucklers, and The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women.



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Spotlight: Gravestones and Wicked Bones Shadow Creatures (Book One) by D.D. Miers and B. Crow

Gravestones and Wicked Bones Shadow Creatures (Book One)
by D.D. Miers and B. CrowJune 2017
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Number of pages: 175
Word Count: 40,000
Cover Artist: Fantasy Book Design
Half Fae. Half Demon. 100% Badass Bitch.

My sisters and I weren’t born with magic. No, we were forced into it. Betrayed into it by the one person who was supposed to protect us. Now we’re living in a shithole desert town at the mercy of a sexy-as-hell Fae named Bastian.

So far, I’ve been able to buy Violet and Jade time to live freely, without being held to Bastian’s constant call. I’ve been doing his dirty work for five long years, but my sisters’ freedom is wearing thin. Soon he’ll summon them, just as he did me—and I can’t let that happen.

Bastian’s latest assignment offers an escape for my sisters, and I’d be a fool not to take it. But my target is more powerful than any man I’ve faced before, and doubly seductive. He draws out my inner demons—literally—and evading this attraction might prove more difficult than finishing what I started.



First book in a New Series by Award-Winning Urban Fantasy & Paranormal Romance Author D.D. Miers & B. Crow. Perfect for fans of Mercy Thompson, Jane Yellowrock and Alex Craft!

About the Authors:

D.D. Miers is an ardent book lover, coffee enthusiast, and die-hard romance fan. When she's not writing, she can be found snuggling on the couch with a good book in hand, planning a Harry Potter themed party, or dancing very badly to music. She currently resides in beautiful Southern California with her wonderful husband, a crazy toddler, and the many different characters in her head.


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B Crow has held multiple positions, but now manages the best one--Mommy.

When she isn't wrangling in her three monsters, she is creating worlds of magical mayhem, romance, and paranormal activity.

After years of ghostwriting bestsellers, she's decided to pursue her true calling and step into the limelight, hoping to share a little of her magic with the world.