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Friday, July 19, 2024

Blitz Sign-Up: Reluctant Hero by Vanessa MacLellan


Blitz Sign-Up: Reluctant Hero by Vanessa MacLellan
I’m organizing a release blitz for Reluctant Hero by Vanessa MacLellan, an Adult Sci-fi/Superhero novel. The blitz will run from July 16th to July 20th, 2024, you can post on any day during this window. There will be excerpts available for your post, and every participant will be able to post the blitz-wide giveaway if you wish – giveaway prize(s) courtesy of author. Social media sites are welcome. ARCs are also available for blitz participants.

An email with the complete post info including promo items and giveaway details will be sent to all participants on July 12th.
HTML will also be provided.


Out from Under You

Reluctant Hero
Vanessa MacLellan
(The Seeded Saga, #1)
Publication date: July 16th 2024
Genres: Adult, Science Fiction, Superhero

Goodreads Amazon

Someone is taking the Seeded.
Can a psychic hacker crack the digital world and unearth the conspiracy before it’s too late?

The Seed grants extraordinary powers to a select few—the Seeded.

For Nekoka—a genius catgirl blessed with multiple Seeded powers, cool tech, and loyal friends—every day is Mardi Gras. But her carefree days in the Big Easy come to an end when her best friends decide to bind their New Orleans Seeded group with rules and duties by going official. Nekoka, a free-range hedonist, rebels against any leash, and she storms off to Portland. She’s nobody’s hero.

But she’s soon caught performing heroics when she saves lives in a freeway pileup involving abducted Seeded. As she hacks secure networks about the mysterious incident, she uncovers a sinister plot to gather low-powered Seeded, and she’s faced with a choice: confront the sadistic horrors head-on and risk capture, or hightail it to safer pastures. But the situation is critical. If Nekoka leaves, friends and frenemies could die.

Journey through the shadows where friendship, sacrifice, and determination forge heroes in the face of impending darkness.

Monday, July 15, 2024

Book Review: The Lost Story by Meg Shaffer

The Lost Story
by Meg Shaffer
July 16, 2024
Publisher: Ballantine Books
ASIN: ‎ B0CL65K16X
ISBN: 9780593598870
As boys, best friends Jeremy Cox and Rafe Howell went missing in a vast West Virginia state forest, only to mysteriously reappear six months later with no explanation for where they’d gone or how they’d survived.

Fifteen years after their miraculous homecoming, Rafe is a reclusive artist who still bears scars inside and out but has no memory of what happened during those months. Meanwhile, Jeremy has become a famed missing persons’ investigator. With his uncanny abilities, he is the one person who can help vet tech Emilie Wendell find her sister, who vanished in the very same forest as Rafe and Jeremy.

Jeremy alone knows the fantastical truth about the disappearances, for while the rest of the world was searching for them, the two missing boys were in a magical realm filled with impossible beauty and terrible danger. He believes it is there that they will find Emilie’s sister. However, Jeremy has kept Rafe in the dark since their return for his own inscrutable reasons. But the time for burying secrets comes to an end as the quest for Emilie’s sister begins. The former lost boys must confront their shared past, no matter how traumatic the memories.

Alongside the headstrong Emilie, Rafe and Jeremy must return to the enchanted world they called home for six months—for only then can they get back everything and everyone they’ve lost.

It has been a few years since teenagers Rafe and Jeremy return to civilization after vanishing in a West Virginia state park. Rafe never remembered where they were or what happened and Jeremy never said a word. Until one day, a young woman named Emilie, whose adopted mother had died, wanted to fined her older sister, who had vanished too. She hired Jeremy who found lost people as a job.

If you enjoyed the Chronicles of Narnia and the Witch World series by Andre Norton, then you will enjoy this story, a modern take on fairytales and classic fantasies. For it is more than two lost boys, but about lost stories, the one we hold in our hearts.


I gave The Lost Story 5 sheep.

Reviewed by Pamela K. Kinney

 About the Author:
Meg Shaffer is a part-time creative writing instructor and a full-time MFA candidate in TV and Screenwriting at Stephens College, Columbia, Missouri. When not watching Hitchcock films, she's reading Star Trek novels. When she's not reading Star Trek novels, she's napping. Her debut novel "The Wishing Game" is available now from Ballantine.

Sunday, July 14, 2024

A Tale of Something New (A Tale of Series Book One) by D. S. McColgan

A Tale of Something New (A Tale of Series Book One)

by D. S. McColgan
March 22, 2024
Genre: paranormal fantasy, romantic, gaslamp
ISBN: 978-1-7385050-0-5
ISBN: 978-1-7385050-1-2
Number of pages: 242
Word Count: 69’522
Cover Artist: Lukas Lauener
Saving a mysterious stranger might come back to bite her.

Liliana is shocked to find a dying man in the middle of the forest, surrounded by the remains of a brutal fight. She brings him home to her father’s farm to nurse him back to health. However, when the stranger regains consciousness, he doesn’t remember who he is or how he came to be there.

Intrigued by the mystery of it all, Liliana sets out to discover who this handsome, well-mannered stranger is. Could he be the man who whisks her away and shows her the world? Or will whatever happened in the forest put her and everyone she loves in grave danger?

This is the start of a new supernatural fantasy series focusing on the decisions one woman has to make in her effort to balance love, morals, ambition and responsibilities as her world expands from her little cozy village to the events that span her continent.

At dinner, Liliana repeated what the stranger had said. After all, he now had a name.

Then the weather was discussed, and the whole table agreed that they were expecting another cold snap. Grandmother felt it in her bones, the farmhands and Cedric observed it in the animals’ behaviour and Father smelled it in the air. The chicken broth was well received.

Armed with a portion of said broth, Liliana ventured to the stranger’s bed after dinner. He awoke immediately and swallowed greedily, his gaze fixed on the bowl. There were so many questions swirling around in her head that she didn’t quite know where to start. If he was missing his memories, he couldn’t answer most of them, and she didn’t want to overwhelm him.

‘Do you remember me?’

He looked up briefly. ‘Yes.’

The fact that he could remember newer things was a good sign.

‘How’s the pain?’

‘Don’t ask.’

Liliana would’ve liked to know if his curt manner was part of his personality or due to the pain he was in. To wake up in a strange environment, in this agonising state and unable to recollect anything … No, she didn’t envy him.

Once the bowl was empty, she gave him the medicine, and Grandmother came to look at his wounds. She loosened the bandages in some places, careful not to damage the skin that had already healed. She rubbed on some of the ointment containing the resin Liliana had collected.

The stranger grimaced but made no sound.

‘That’s my grandmother,’ Liliana said. ‘She’s nursed many people back to health.’

Since he lay there quietly afterwards, Liliana stayed in the room. She was eager to talk to him more, but he kept his eyes closed, exhaustion on his face. So she sat down with her book, in front of the wardrobe. It was a precious, carved piece of furniture that Father had given to her mother after their wedding.

‘How did I get here?’

Astonished, she looked up. His eyes were still closed, but it seemed he felt her presence in the room. ‘I found you half-dead in the woods and brought you here.’

A pause followed, during which Liliana watched him over the edge of the book. What a peculiar way of speaking he had … Although she understood him clearly, the melody of his sentences sounded strange to her ears. His lips formed the words with precision, as if every single one of them deserved to be heard.

‘Be honest, what are my chances?’

‘The fact that you survived the first few days is amazing. If you keep going like this, I’m sure you’ll make it.’

A hint of a smile appeared on his lips. He opened his eyes and slowly turned his head to look at her, quietly grunting with pain. ‘What … are you reading?’

The bronze colour of his eyes still fascinated her. ‘Oh, this? A collection of fairy tales.’

Another pause followed while they studied each other.

‘You like books?’

‘I do. Would you like me to read you one of the stories?’

‘Yes, please.’

Liliana cleared her throat. ‘Most farmers struggle with reading. While I am by far the best reader in the family, it probably still sounds bungled to trained ears.’

The stranger gave her another smile to acknowledge her efforts and closed his eyes.

Liliana began to read. She hadn’t read out loud in a long time. No one here shared her enthusiasm for books. Why would they? There always seemed to be gossip to share, and after a day of hard work, most people in the village didn’t want to overexert their tired brains. For them, books were an expensive and superfluous possession. When Cedi had been younger, she’d taught him to read. As with many other activities, her little brother started on it with great zeal, only to lose interest after the first few strides. Reading to someone who may be well educated made her nervous. But she soon found her rhythm. As intended, the stranger relaxed. Distraction was a good antidote to pain.

About the Author:
D. S. McColgan emigrated
from the Swiss mountains to Wales, where she now writes her stories surrounded by green hills, countless sheep and castles. She writes in German and English, and her short stories reside in the realm of fairy tales or magical realism. This year, she has published the first two books of her fantasy series: A Tale of Something New & A Tale of Something Red.

If you are not afraid of blood and fancy a historical tale with slow-burn romance, secrets, authentic characters and atypical twists, you will love her series.

In A Tale of Something New Liliana finds a mysterious, injured stranger in the forest. Could he be the man who whisks her away and shows her the world? Or will whatever happened in the forest put her and everyone she loves in grave danger? #ato #ataleof #ataleofsomethingnew


Thursday, July 11, 2024

YA Fantasy Author E.P. Bellows's character, Roman, has questions... + giveaway

Roman has questions ~
Here’s the thing, Lizzie; I can certainly understand my less-than-pleasant disposition. It suits me, honestly. I’ve had it rough… raised by human types who used me for my powers then abandoned me as yesterday’s smoor. I was just a fledgling after all! These humans are downright awful and have no place in the realm. I have been satisfied to hold that point of view close to my dark void of a heart.

Lizzie, you had me pinned as the bruting partner to Celeste, the light and beauty of all things - my opposite, yet still, my absolute match. In my opinion, existence in Azra’s Pith does not get much better.

My big question, Lizzie… as the one soul in control of MY fate, why did you have to go and give me a soft side? I could have gone for centuries as an Empyrean not caring for anyone except Celeste. I don’t need “friends” or anyone caring about me. Was I not adequate as a sinister, scheming architect of mischief?

Now I feel conflicted. I’m complicated. I have angst. I feel pain to the extent of rage when others I care about (humans, no less) are in trouble. I’m, I’m… vulnerable! What happened to plotting John William Drake’s demise? Remember?

From the author ~
Fear not, Roman. You are still my dark, bruiting Empyrean Wizard. You are quickly becoming my favorite. While complex, you are loyal and brave. Your fate is bittersweet and your journey only grows more captivating as the layers reveal themselves. I can't wait to write your journey and watch it unfold on the screen. As for John William’s demise… we shall see ūüĖ§

Quest for Copia (John William Drake Book Two)

by E.P. Bellows
Genre: Children’s Fantasy
Publisher: Azra’s Pith books
ISBN: 979-8865821205
Number of pages: 197
Word Count: 38,000
Join John William Drake and his friends on their Quest for the Lost City of Copia… but beware, something evil lurks in the shadows.

John William Drake believed there was something special about the medallion Celeste found. It chimed and sparkled in the sunlight. He was right; the medallion was from Copia, a lost city masked in time. Legendary tales were repeated of a golden city inhabited by Empyrean Wizards until it was plagued by dark sorcery when a meager fledgling magician by the name of Imperious the Great wandered in.

Some did not believe the city ever existed; others who knew better wanted it to stay lost. How did it all start? How would it end? The answer simmered for hundreds of years waiting for the right moment to escape.

John and Celeste were more than ready for another adventure. The journey to Copia was also a search for his missing father. They were unaware of just how dangerous their quest was until it was too late. The medallion’s power could bring the lost city to life again, unlocking the dark past dormant within its walls. The young explorers were in the middle of a battle of ancient sorcery that could end with an evil capable of destroying the realm and they held the key.

Book Trailer:

Excerpt Unearthed:
~The Copian Mediallion is discovered after being buried for years by layers of the realm.

Come on, wings! Don't fail me!" Gusts of wind blew the little bird in all directions. Her vivid red feathers stole the sun’s beams from the sky.

This was not an ordinary bird. This was a young Empyrean wizard named Celeste. Empyrean wizards lived in an extraordinary place where fantastic creatures and magic were a part of every day. All Empyrean Wizards have a bird form appropriately coordinated with their personality. This particular Empyrean was fearless and kind. She also had a knack for finding
adventure and the inevitable trouble accompanying it.

"Made it!" Her small but determined wings descended into the trees below. There was a peculiar tree she heard whispers about, and she was on her way to see it for herself. The tree was believed to be a passageway to the other side. Of course, she had no idea what the other side was, which only drove her curiosity. She perched on a boulder next to a single dead tree that boasted the broadest tree trunk in all of Copious Forest. The tree was surrounded by a blanket of thriving greenery. Celeste cautiously glanced around and gave her feathers a ruffle. A young girl emerged through the feathers with wild hair the same shade of vibrant red.

“Incredible!” she gasped and scuttled over to the tree. She poked her fingers out of the sleeve of her cloak and ran them along the rigid bark on the trunk. The bark chimed a soft melody as her fingers went along.

“So it is real.” Her eyes beamed. She stepped back and pulled a scroll out of her cloak. As she unraveled the scroll, the verses of an ancient spell were revealed. “The Tunnel of Light Enchantment ...

Cuniculum lucis incantationis tempus sit, electi ingrediantur. Cum tempus est, electi per cuniculum lucis relinquere possunt.

When it is time, the chosen may enter. When it is time, the chosen may leave through the tunnel of light." She gazed at the dead tree, waiting for even a small flicker of magic. The trunk looked like it had not been seen or touched in years. “Hmm ..." Celeste raised her brow.

A prickly chill traveled down her spine. She squeezed her arms across her chest to soothe her goosebumps. "Hello? Is-is someone there?" Celeste frantically glanced around.

An angry groan rumbled through trees.

“I'm not afraid of you!" she declared. “Come out and show yourself!”

Twigs and bits of forest flew past her curls. She scrambled behind the boulder. Sharp whispers buzzed through the gaps in the trees.

“The moan went from a groan to a vicious roar. A wind funnel shaped like a pair of long, wretched claws appeared.

“Oh, no—it’s the Rive.” Her body tensed.

The dark spell was strong enough to twirl her straight into the air with one dizzying burst. It plowed through trees and shot rocks in all directions. Celeste's cloak whipped around in a frenzy. She crouched behind the boulder and gripped her hands around the base. Then her body lifted off the ground. Inch by inch, her fingers slipped from the boulder. "Oh no!" Her head throbbed from intense pressure as the wind consumed her.

"Where is it? I must find it," the Rive whispered sharply, bringing a sting to Celeste's ears.

"Where is what? What are you talking about?" she shrieked.

"Where is it? I must find it!" the Rive's whisper was now at a rattling shrill.

Celeste closed her eyes and fisted her trembling hands. She felt herself drifting into a dizzying slumber. “I have to channel the √©lan. Come on, Celeste ... concentrate. I can do this!"

She took a deep breath. "Azra lucem tuam ostende. Azra tua industria illuminet …

Azra lucem tuam ostende. Azra tua industria illuminet."

A warm, vibrant energy burst through her cloak. The dark spell released its grip. It hissed and hurled rocks at Celeste. She stood her ground and
extended her hand. “Azra lucem tuam ostende. Azra tua industria illuminetet,” she shouted. The intense light shot out of the palm of her hand like a laser beam, piercing the spell. The Rive let out a hiss and vanished.

Celeste collapsed to the ground, breathless. “I just did that.” She examined the palm of her hand in astonishment.

The Rive’s vicious wind removed layers of dirt and debris from the forest floor. Celeste pulled herself up to the boulder and adjusted her cloak. A glimmer shining through the loose dirt caught her eye.

She scooped up the shimmering clump and scraped the forest coating off it until all that remained was a medallion with strange markings and feathered wings carved in the center. It chimed and sparkled in her hands. Celeste stuffed it in her cloak and cautiously looked around. An excited giggle slipped out just before she morphed back into a little red bird and flew above the trees.

About the Author:

A little about me…

Let's see... When I was eight, I had a pet turkey. I used to take it with me on my short-lived paper route. Needless to say, I was terrible at delivering the paper. No one wanted a "Dollar Saver" with turkey poop splattered across the best coupons on the front page.

Books... "Treasure Island" is a fantastic pirate tale. I love just about anything by Roald Dahl. Who could ever leave out Tolkien? I would also like to thank C.S. Lewis for sending me on an unrelenting childhood quest for portals to amazing worlds.

I write fantasy stories for children. Yep - proud fantasy geek here. It's pretty darn awesome to escape to another realm with sorcerers and wizards for a chunk of the day. The underlying theme in my stories is empowerment and living purposefully. We all have that spark inside just waiting to shine ;)

When football is on I turn into a cookie-eating pottymouth. I have a theory that avocados are the Jedi of all foods. I also believe the aroma of garlic and butter sizzling in a pan is pure magic.

Last random nugget… few things make me smile more than chocolate, cheese, and a nice splash of vino... AND, if the Chargers would make it to the Super Bowl again - just once

Grab your invitation to leap through the passageway and join John William Drake and his friends on their wild quest for the lost city of Copia. See you in the adventure #azraspith #thepassageway #followthefrog #bewareoftheshadowjumpers #copia #medallion #lostcity

Tour Giveaway
5 $10 Amazon gift cards

Monday, July 8, 2024

Diego the cat (Space Cats) shares his Top 10 Cat Songs + excerpt (Middle grade, Sci-fi)

Top 10 Cat Songs

Hello, my name is Diego. Yes, I know. I am world famous. You probably read about me in Space Cats. Today, I would like to present to you my top 10 cat songs. I know what you’re thinking… there cannot possibly be that many songs about cats? Are all of these really about cats? Well, some humans seem to think they’re about them, but I tell you that they’re dead wrong.

10. "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" by The Tokens is a classic cat song. I mean, who hasn’t watched Lion King? It is probably one of the most iconic songs about a cat and a great one to start out my list with. 

9. "The Lovecats" by The Cure is an interesting song about people who recognize that cats are better, and how it’s much better to love like cats than love like people. It’s good to be recognized. If you disagree, well, it’s because you’re just a human. 

8. "Roar" by Katy Perry is a song about an amazing journey about a human who realizes they need to become a cat to be a stronger person because cats are way awesomer and stronger than humans. 

7. "Soft Kitty" by Sheldon Cooper is an excellent song to encourage our youth of today. The innocence of kittens is so sweet, that they must hold onto that warmth for as long as possible before exploring the galaxy.
6. "The Siamese Cat Song" from Lady and the Tramp is a song about how crafty and intelligent cats are, and Siamese are some of the craftiest! 

5. "Kirby" by Aesop Rock is an incredible song about how truly awesome cats are and how they help with mental health. Everyone should have a friend who is a cat.
4. "Smelly Cat" by Phoebe Buffay is a great song about cats needing the proper cat baths for hygiene.
3. Stray Cat Strut by Stray Cats is a fun song about the life of a bachelor cat and how their composure and style impresses all those around them.
2. "Ev’rybody Wants to Be a Cat" from The Aristocats is the brilliant song that speaks more truth than any other song. People have come to recognize that not being a cat is a shortcoming. The truth is that everybody wants to be a cat!
1. "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor is hands down one of the most iconic songs ever. We cats are strong survivors who have the thrill to fight. As cats, we have done it all. We made life better for humans, and now we’re making the galaxy better. We are survivors with the Eyes of Tigers.

Honorable Mention: "Cat’s in the Cradle" by Harry Chapin. This one fell off the list because many people may not be directly related to cats. However, it is an important lesson for all of us cat fathers about the significance of spending time with our kittens.

Space Cats: Making Enemies (Space Cats Series Book One)
by Craig A. Price and Shayne Price
Genre: Sci-Fi, Middle Grade, YA
Publisher: Claymore Publishing
ISBN: 9781946968111
ISBN: 9781946968128
Number of pages: 162
Word Count: 27,223
Cover Artist: Shayne Price with Craig’s typography.
Cats are out to explore the galaxy… dogs are ready to protect it.

In the vast expanse of the galaxy, feline explorers from the Cat Exploration Corporation, led by the ambitious Blake, yearn to make their mark and unveil the secrets of uncharted space. All Blake desires is to honor his father's legacy and contribute to the endless curiosity of catkind. Meanwhile, Shadow, a loyal canine under the banner of the Tofferis Empire, is determined to pass his trials and stand as a stalwart guardian, protecting the very galaxy the cats seek to explore.

At the forefront of the Mineral Mining Corporation, Jade, a charismatic catsplorer, spearheads daring expeditions into uncharted territories. His mission: to unearth valuable minerals crucial for advancing feline exploration. Little do they know that their individual aspirations will intertwine in an unexpected political showdown, where cats and dogs are at the center of a cosmic power struggle.

As Blake, Shadow, and Jade navigate the complexities of interstellar politics, allegiances are tested, and the line between friend and foe blurs against the backdrop of unexplored galaxies. In "Space Cats: Making Enemies," the first installment of the series, these unsuspecting heroes find themselves entangled in a captivating space opera with a feline twist. Will they emerge victorious, or will the clash of paws and claws reshape the destiny of the cosmos? Embark on a thrilling journey that combines cosmic curiosity, canine loyalty, and the indomitable spirit of feline explorers.

If you're a fan of space adventures where the stakes are as high as the humor is charming, "Space Cats: Making Enemies" awaits your cosmic companionship.

"I have a bad feeling about this," Ryan muttered.

"Don't be ridiculous," Jade replied, leading the way toward the temple. "We came here for the minerals, and we're going to find them."

As they approached the temple, they could see that it was ancient, with large stone columns and carvings covering the walls. They made their way inside, and the mineral finder began to beep rapidly.

"There it is," Jade said, pointing to a door at the end of the chamber. "That's where the scanner is leading us."

They cautiously approached the door, which was adorned with strange symbols and carvings. Jade hesitated for a moment, but then pushed the door open.

When the door creaked open, they saw a blinding light emanating from inside the chamber. They shielded their eyes and cautiously stepped inside, drawn toward the powerful energy source.
Jade and his team crept through the temple. The air grew colder, and they felt a sense of unease.

The mineral finder beeped louder as they approached the large chamber door. Ryan, the team's technician, examined the door and found that it was heavily secured.

They noticed strange markings etched on the walls. The markings resembled scratches, as if claws or sharp objects made them. Upon closer inspection, Jade realized the markings were actually a form of language, but one that he had never seen before.

Ryan, who had some expertise in ancient languages, inspected the markings. "This isn't any language that I recognize," he said, furrowing his brow in concentration. "It looks like some kind of primitive tool made it, like a claw or a rock."

Jasper, who had been scanning the temple with his handheld device, interrupted. "Guys, I'm getting some strange readings here," he said, pointing to his device. "It looks like there's some kind of energy emanating from the walls themselves."

Jade walked over to Jasper. "That's strange." He looked at the device. "There's definitely something here, but I can't quite make out what it is."

"It seems to radiate from behind this door." Jade touched a door at the end of the hallway with strange markings.

Jasper, the team's muscle, stepped forward and used his strength to force the door open. Inside the chamber, they found a glowing orb emitting a powerful energy. Jade approached the orb and scrutinized it, trying to identify its properties.

As he did so, the orb suddenly flared up with a blinding light, knocking the team off their feet.

When they regained their senses, they found the orb had disappeared and the chamber was now empty.

Jade, Ryan, and Jasper looked at each other, stunned by what had just happened. They realized they had stumbled upon something beyond their understanding and knew that they needed to report their findings to their superiors. Before they could head back to their shuttle, the darkness faded once again, and the center of the room gleamed with a small object. A crystal. It flickered slightly.
Craig A. Price Jr. is a USA Today bestselling author of Claymore of Calthoria Trilogy, Dragon's Call Trilogy, Dragonia Empire Series, Space Gh0st Adventures Series, and several other titles available in alternate realities. He loves to read, write, cast spells, and spend time with his beautiful wife and three children. He dreams to one day become a full-time wizard, but until then, he'll settle for being an author. With more than a dozen novels under his belt now, it's only a matter of time before he settles for world domination, but until then, you can follow his author journey as he takes over one reader's soul at a time.

Craig lives on the Alabama Gulf Coast, among the ravenous mosquitos, humidity, and deadly predators. If you spot him in the wild, he can be dangerous, but will often be tamed by a Mountain Dew and Reese's.

Shayne Price is the son of Craig A. Price, and hopes to one day become a Geologist. He likes to play sports and video games. He was behind all the plot in this book. He is a sophomore in high school and attends classes at the University of Alabama.

Cats are out to explore the galaxy… dogs are ready to protect it.
#catbooks #catsofinstagram #cats #childrensbooks #bookstagram #cat #catlover #catbook #catlife #kidsbooks #kittycat #catlove #kitty #catlovers #books #reading #catbookclub #catstagram #booklover #instacats 

Saturday, July 6, 2024

Fantasy Author: Jean Marie Ward - Something Old, Something New – Assembling a Collection from the Inside + excerpt

Something Old, Something New – Assembling a Collection from the Inside
by Jean Marie Ward

When I received Ginger Blue Publishing’s offer to publish a collection of my short fiction, I thought I’d landed on the publishing equivalent of Easy Street. After all, I have published A LOT of short fiction. How hard could it be to copy and package the highlights in a single document?

There were the three Lord Bai stories. Who doesn’t love a shapeshifting foodie dragon scouring Imperial China in search of dim sum, sweet buns, and the occasional dancing girl? There was the science fiction story about the quantum-enabled refrigerator that was an Asimov’s Award finalist and translated into Chinese. There was the good-time god navigating his way through a pandemic with a little help from a brand ambassador in sneakers and a tutu, and that one scifi con guest of honor who was stranger than her fiction. There were contemporary stories of romance, mystery, and one about a young girl trying to save her best friend’s dog, all set in the real world. Together, they amounted to more words than contained in most supermarket paperbacks.

“Not enough,” decreed my editor. “You put cats in the title.”

I put cats in the book. A cat named Pandora plays her part in that dog story I mentioned. The collection also boasted a flash fiction about my cat’s price for saving me from a really bad dream, and two stories about a paranormal investigating team of…cats. They weren’t enough for my editor or, apparently, anybody else on the production team. So, three more, never before published cat stories made their way into the mix, including two about a kitten who’s a real demon. But adorable. Of course he’s adorable. How could he be anything else?

New and never-before-published material turned out to be A Big Deal. By the time we were finished, ten of the twenty-seven stories in the collection were brand new, including a high-stakes dragon adventure in medieval Mongolia, a small nod to The Arabian Nights, and a vampire story set in 1723 New Orleans that had been kicking around inside my head since my first visit to the Crescent City in 1997. That last one is my editor’s favorite. I think she would have asked for more stories about the protagonist, but the book had entered production, and my brain was already panting like it had run the equivalent of the original Marathon. In hoplite armor.

In short, the process was a lot more challenging than I ever imagined. But I think the results justify my aching typing fingers. It doesn’t hurt that every one of those twenty-seven stories is adorned with its own illustration. Some of my characters are getting swelled heads. Perhaps my head expanded a little bit too. The introduction to the collection by Jody Lynn Nye is everything a writer could ask for. But my editor will never let my head get too big. Several hundred miles from their desk, I can hear their foot tapping impatiently.

The writing never stops. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Dragons, Cats, & Formidable Femmes
By Jean Marie Ward
July 16, 2024
Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Romance, Mystery, Dragons, Cats, Vampires
Meet Lord Bai, a very classy dragon, two cats who channel a top paranormal investigative team, very spiritual flies, a kitten who’s a real demon, a dedicated lover of gold, some wild Greek demi-gods, and many more fun, fierce, and fascinating characters, including a refrigerator that is far more than it appears to be.

This witty, gritty, and whimsical collection brings together a plethora of offbeat and unexpected tales, some never-before published, to entertain and amuse. Flash fiction, short stories, novelettes, and novellas all combine to create a collection that’s perfect for whatever reading mood you’re in.

Don’t delay – flights of fancy, daring deeds, and all manner of exploits and adventures await you. Curl up with this collection and your beverage of choice and enjoy your travels into the imagination of Jean Marie Ward. (With an introduction with Jody Lynn Nye.)

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Read an excerpt

 Animate paper centipedes and shape-changing foxes aren’t standard fare at a government conference. But then, neither is Lord Bai.

Nanjing, 1421

“What do spells, copying, and writing have to do with pirates?” Lord Bai, White Dragon of the West, whined—no, repined in a light baritone befitting his human form.

It was a reasonable question for a gathering that billed itself as China’s First Imperial Conference on Magic Piracy. But he could have misunderstood the conference’s keynote speaker. Professor Yeoh was orating at the front of the hosting restaurant’s second floor banquet hall, while Bai hid among the sorcery students at the back.

“Not ‘copying and writing’—copy rights,” whispered the student beside him. “Like Professor Yeoh said: All magicians are endowed as creators with certain unalienable rights, including the right to profit from all original spells, amulets, and charms.”

“Even if somebody else does the copying?”


But didn’t writers pay printers to publish their work? Or was it the other way around? Who knew with humans? The longer Bai spent at the conference, the more at sea he felt.

Based on the invitation sent to Master Lao, Bai’s self-appointed human teacher, Bai assumed the conference concerned pirates and magic treasure—subjects dear to every dragon’s heart. When Lao forbade him to attend under threat of several exceptionally creative dooms, Bai had grown even more excited, certain it was one of those conferences—a four-day, Mandarins-only orgy of dim sum and dancing girls. But Bai had searched the venue from foundation to rafters and found no pretty women, no pirates, no treasure.

No food.

None for the students anyway. The attending scholars lounged around capacious tables, feasting at the Emperor’s expense on every delicacy on the restaurant’s menu. But between the professionals’ gourmet paradise and the students’ hellishly hard benches lay a wide aisle patrolled by waiters more vigilant than soldiers on the Great Wall. Bai couldn’t even savor the aromas thanks to the mages’ fondness for patchouli and the absence of anything resembling a breeze. The sliding doors to the loggia had been shut for “security reasons.” In the middle of summer!

Concealed within his perspiring human form, the spirit of Bai’s dragon tail thrashed irritably. He was experiencing a growth spurt and overdue to molt, magnifying his discomfort. He longed to depart, only he couldn’t risk drawing attention to himself. Lao didn’t look like much, but his sorcery could boil a dragon’s eyeballs in their sockets.

That’s when Bai saw it: the answer to his unspoken prayer. A fat red centipede—his favorite treat from the time he was a little wyrm—wriggled into the aisle.

Another steam basket-laden waiter barreled toward the door. Caution fled. Lunging off the bench, Bai snatched his prize from under the very shoe of doom. He popped it into his mouth.

It tasted like paper. He spat it into his hand. The centipede was paper—cheap red paper covered in smeared black ink. What was a paper magic centipede doing crawling around a magicians’ conference? Was it some kind of joke?

Bai glanced at the students. As far as he could tell, they were all enraptured by Yeoh.

Could it be a message? Bai scanned the tables for a likely sender. Officials of the Department of Rites, their blue-violet robes emblazoned with the embroidered panels of their respective ranks, fanned themselves with painted silk paddles. Shaven-headed Buddhist monks traded superior looks with Daoist priests in crimson coats. Women physicians from the Imperial Palace held court behind latticework screens. At the foreigners’ table, Arab scholars and Delhi astrologers scribbled notes with reed pens instead of brushes. No one was looking at the back of the room, not even Lao. The scrawny old reprobate rested his cheek on his upraised hand. Faint snores ruffled his wispy moustache. From the platters and wine pots massed around him, he had, as usual, consumed enough for three.

“That’s the least of what we can expect if this deplorable state of affairs is allowed to continue,” Yeoh warned. The silver gilt designs on his wide purple sleeves flashed as he thrust a pearl-ringed forefinger overhead. “The criminals engaged in the unlicensed reproduction, distribution, and sale of our spells, philters, and talismans are pirates as surely as the Wokou marauders of the Eastern Sea. Magic piracy is not a victimless crime. These spells are our livelihood. Every unauthorized copy is theft and should be punished as such. By stealing our intellectual property, they steal the rice from our mouths, strip the altars of our ancestors, and beggar our children. They must be stopped!”

Applause thundered in the closed room. Conferees jumped to their feet, including several at Lao’s table. Lao jerked awake. Bai lowered his head and clapped furiously.

Another red centipede crawled into the aisle.

“Thank you, Professor Yeoh, for your brilliant summation,” the master of ceremonies boomed as the centipede inched across the floor. “Friends and colleagues, the issues are clear. The stakes couldn’t be higher. Now, let’s hear some solutions!”

A wizened scholar jumped from his seat. He jerked a brass wand from his sash and sliced the air in a wobbly arc. “There can be only one!”

Everybody ducked, including the students. Bai bisected the centipede with a discreetly extended claw, hoping to learn its origin. The halves reverted to paper. Each scrap sported the partial outline of a centipede and the characters of a basic animation spell, which only established it wasn’t made by Lao. His perfectly scissored paper servants needed no ink.

“Close the printing presses!” the old scholar bawled.

The crowd shifted. The papers skidded away on the draft. Not good.

“Professor Deng,” the master of ceremonies soothed, “we want to protect legitimate printers, not close them down. We need printers to publish our books. More importantly, we need them to print the money for our salaries.”

“Paper money! Bah!” Deng flapped his wand. “Silver was good enough for my daddy, and it’s good enough for me.”

“I hope your daddy’s silver was good enough,” Lao drawled. “He ran the Imperial mint.”

Deng squawked as laughter burbled across the room. The master of ceremonies bleated, “Gentlemen! Gentlemen…and ladies!”

Phantom spines rippled uneasily under Bai’s human nape. Paper servants had no will of their own. Someone directed those centipedes his way. But who? The why was easy. Many magicians coveted a dragon’s abilities—to fly, to summon storms and disperse them, to speak any tongue—and the medicinal value of their individual parts.

Maybe he owed his tutor an apology. Maybe Lao’s threats were a misguided attempt to protect him. From paper centipedes? They were spelled for motion, not poison.

Besides, how would anyone know there was a dragon to find? Other than a faint smoky tang to his perspiration, practically imperceptible amid the patchouli-pickled primates, there was nothing to distinguish Bai’s current guise from that of a young human man. Unlike lesser species, dragons transformed completely, including their shadows. A powerful mage might detect the subtle difference in his aura, but only if they concentrated. But who, other than Lao, was strong enough and knew to look?

Engrossed in a quarrel about the cost of astrology manuals, none of the assembly seemed aware of his presence. Then again, anyone using something as inconspicuous as a paper centipede was trying hard not to be noticed. They wouldn’t reveal themselves if they thought anyone was looking. Bai needed to act oblivious.

He pretended to stifle a yawn and slumped forward. Several overlong moments later, a russet-robed wizard with a fat topknot of white hair eased a bamboo tube from his sleeve. Shielding his face with one hand, he angled the tube under his mustache and inflated his cheeks. A red pellet dropped to the floor, unfurled into a centipede, and crawled toward the aisle.

The dragon waited until the centipede was a hairbreadth from his shoe before “accidentally” grinding it into the floor. The wizard’s shoulders fell. Color drained from his face. One of his companions mouthed a question. Bai retrieved the centipede and snuck across the aisle.

He hadn’t realized the aisle acted as a metaphysical barrier as well as a physical one. Once he crossed it, a dozen powerful magical auras blazed in his dragon sight like New Year fireworks. Crap. That changed everything. If the owners of those auras trained their occult senses on him, magic centipedes and Master Lao would be the least of his problems.

He was considering a strategic retreat when Deng hoisted his wand again. Suddenly everyone was too busy dodging the professor’s swings to notice the dragon in the middle of the room. Bai hurried to the wizard’s table. There was something odd about the group’s magical auras—not strong, not bad, just…musky.

Bai could handle musky. He bowed.

“Did you lose something?” He dropped the centipede on the table.

The wizard squealed and sprang from his seat. The master of ceremonies called for order, Bai peered at the wizard’s incongruously delicate hands. He didn’t smell like an old man, either. Bai seized the wizard’s whiskers. Beard and mustache came away in his grasp, revealing a smooth, sweetly rounded face with lips too pink and ripe for any man. The wizard was a woman. A very pretty woman.

All thoughts of danger and centipedes fled from Bai’s head. “Hel-lo,” he purred.

The young woman screamed. Her voice rang like a giant bronze bell, vibrating through muscle, bone, and brain. Bai’s vision blurred. Humans rocked in their seats. Some lost control of their bladders.

Hoisting her robes over her shapely legs, the woman darted toward the paper-screened doors to the loggia. Bai gave chase, muscling aside the dazed magicians staggering from their seats. The woman burst through the latticed panels and leapt onto the railing overlooking the street.

He lunged. She jumped. Her robe grazed his fingertips as she plunged out of reach.

Hair spilled from her topknot, darkening to black as the strands swirled around her shoulders. Her robes billowed. For an instant she seemed suspended midair. Then she vanished. Her garments crumpled against the road in front of the restaurant. A three-tailed fox scuttled from under the pile. She dashed between the feet of the nearest sedan-chair driver, lashing her tails against the man’s bare legs. He started. The poles on his shoulders pitched dangerously.

The woman was a fox? That made no sense. Foxes were masters of illusion, but even the strongest was no match for a dragon. Why tease him with centipedes, then run away?

Behind him, Lao yodeled, “Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiii—”

About the Author
Jean Marie Ward writes fiction, nonfiction and everything in between, including novels (2008 Indie Book double-finalist With Nine You Get Vanyr) and two art books. Her stories have appeared everywhere from Asimov’s to the anthologies of Zombies Need Brains. The former editor of Crescent Blues and currently author interviewer for, she co-edited the six-volume, 40th anniversary World Fantasy Con anthology Unconventional Fantasy. Learn more at