THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Eden at the Edge of Midnight (The Vara Volumes), John Kerry {$0.99}

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Description of Eden at the Edge of Midnight (The Vara Volumes):

The Vara of Yima, the original Garden of Eden, sealed from the rest of the world and populated with the fittest of men and women. A secret paradise that 150 years ago became ravaged by smog that choked out the skies.

Now the Vara exists in a permanent state of darkness and its people need a champion, a chosen one to save them from the smog that threatens to fill the realm and poison its inhabitants.

That’s what they needed. They got Sammy Ellis instead. She isn’t important enough for her dad to stick around for, never mind saving a realm or junk like that. Her only responsibility was to help the chosen one open the gateway into the Vara, but not only has she entered the realm in their place, she’s also locked them out in the process.

Stuck in a twilight land of giant mushrooms, pursued by dark forces and still in her pyjamas, being unimportant back in the real world is starting to seem way more attractive.

 

Accolades:

“Eden at the Edge of Midnight is by and large the best book I’ve received from the First Reads Program thus far. It features an incredibly complex and vibrant universe reminiscent of Howls Moving Castle, Game of Thrones, Labyrinth and The Neverending Story, which the blurb on the back doesn’t begin to do justice. The writing is slick and polished, as if this were a bestseller I plucked off the shelf at a major bookstore franchise.” – Janelle – Goodreads.com

“Kerry has created a lush, rich and amazing universe that rivals all the likes; Oz, Wonderland, Labyrinth, etc. It was both beautiful and scary and had that touch of humor to the world, that silliness that provides the perfect blend to attract both adults and a younger audience” – Valen – Amazon.com

“OMG I love this book!!! One of the best books I’ve read in a long time…was a long read, but I couldn’t put it down” – k&r.w – Amazon.com

Reviews:

Eden at the Edge of Midnight (The Vara Volumes) currently has an Amazon reader review rating of 4.4 stars from 18 reviews. Read the reviews here.

 

An excerpt from Eden at the Edge of Midnight (The Vara Volumes):

Few sixteen-year-olds could claim to have a stalker. Typically they were reserved for celebrities, rock stars, maybe even reality TV rejects, and conventionally, ‘popularity’ was a prerequisite. A commodity not in abundance in Sammy Ellis’s existence. Not that she really cared. She was cool with it. But if she had to have a stalker, did it really have to be a crusty old woman? As opposed to, say, a buff Sheffield University student?
In the margin of her maths book she absent-mindedly doodled an odd-looking terminator blasting an old woman in the face with a twelve gauge auto-loader. Boom! Headshot!!! she scrawled over the top, underlining it several times.
Rat-a-tat-tat. A fist rapped on the corner of her desk. It was Miss Armatage.
“The square root of X does not equal death by machine gun,” she said with a straight face. It was a bored, depressed face that had seen a thousand students come and go. An assembly line of kids that she regurgitated the same information to before pushing them back out the door. She was a desiccated husk of a woman, probably in her fifties, but she could’ve easily been a few centuries old.
“It’s not a machine gun, Miss. It’s…”
“I don’t care, Miss Ellis. You’re a tick in my register, a GCSE mathematics grade. A grade B is what I expect from you. And I’ll be disappointed if I don’t get it.”
Sammy wondered whether it was possible for Miss Armatage to look more disappointed with life than she already did. A bloodhound that had been neutered on his birthday would look happier.
Miss Armatage drifted out of focus, replaced by the clock above the whiteboard. 3.15pm. Sammy raised her hand.
“I’m right here, Samantha.”
“Right. Can I be excused, Miss?”
“There’s only half an hour before the bell. Can’t you hold on?”
“Not really. I was dehydrated after PE, so I drank loads of water. Maybe I drank too much, but I was so thirsty I kept drinking…”
Miss Armatage held up her hand to stop her. “Look at my face.”
“Do I have to?”
Miss Armatage stared back, devoid of emotion. “Just go.” She turned and walked back towards the whiteboard, then as Sammy reached the door, added, “Hurry back, my little statistic.”
Sammy ran for the gates, zigzagging across the uneven tarmac outside the science block, dodging puddles while clutching her backpack to the top of her head to stop the icy rain stinging her face. She’d gone straight to the staff room after leaving class, as she had done every night so far this week. Thankfully, this time the room had been empty, so she’d phoned the police and sacked off the last fifteen minutes of school. Tonight she wouldn’t be creeping across the football pitch and over the fence.
She slowed as she approached the school gates. A glimpse of powder blue shimmered through the grey sheets of rain. The old woman stood in front of the houses across the street, the same spot she stood every night, wearing the same pale blue headscarf and dressed in bedraggled brown clothes that resembled a heap of threadbare carpets. Her clothes were heavy, waterlogged and probably freezing. But there she waited, soaking up the rainwater. She must have picked Sammy out as a loner because no one ever came to pick her up. So, then, why hadn’t she made her move yet? This had been going on for weeks and the old woman always stood outside, in plain view.
The dark eyes fixed on Sammy’s. The woman smiled. Then her head snapped to the side and she tensed. Sammy smiled this time. She couldn’t see past the school wall, but she knew what was coming.
The old woman raised her palms as two men in black trench coats came into view. The school gates framed a picture-perfect movie scene of two cops picking up a criminal. One carried an umbrella above both their heads, the other held out a badge. End of the line, old bag.
Voices clamoured behind Sammy. The lower school cloakrooms were emptying. A river of slate-grey bodies accented by flapping red ties came sweeping towards her. She sidestepped, but not quickly enough, and an errant satchel caught her in the face, knocking her down. She landed on all fours and pain spiked in her knees. She sucked in air through her teeth and closed her eyes while the other kids trampled past, kicking her satchel as they jostled to get to their parents’ cars.
Sammy remained where she was, facing the floor, the water streaming from her blonde hair. No one stopped to help. Typical. No one had noticed her since she’d started at this new school, and no one noticed her now, even though they had to run round her to get out of the gate. She was invisible. Only the satchel that tugged at her arm as it got booted around served as a reminder that she still existed in their world.
She waited until the traffic became lighter and flicked her sopping hair back from her face. The two policemen and the old woman had gone.
She had sore knees, sleeves saturated with puddle water, and she’d missed the action. That was probably the most – maybe even the only – exciting thing that was going to happen this term, possibly all year. And it was over.
Miss Armatage stood at the corner of the science block monitoring the stragglers. She peered at Sammy with an expression of exaggerated indifference and motioned for her to get up. She should get up. Her tights were soaking up rainwater and the longer she stayed down, the heavier and colder they’d get. But then, if she got up, she’d have to start walking and she’d have damp, heavy fabric chafing back and forth across her skin and sucking in cold air at the edges.
As she considered her options a hand grabbed her under the arm and jerked her to her feet. She came face to face with a boy sporting a black eye and his tie knotted round his forehead like a Rambo headband. Wayne Grubby. They had maths and science together. He was less unpleasant than most of the other boys in her year, but that wasn’t saying much.
“You all right?” he asked.
Sammy stared down at the wet patches around her knees. “Yeah,” she said.
“You should be careful,” he said. “The playground is proper lumpy, you know. You new?”
“I joined at the start of the year. So… no, not really.”
“Yeah. Well, I haven’t seen you before, but whatever. Bye.” And he ran off.
They had maths and science together! She sat between him and the whiteboard. How could he not know her? Maybe he should spend more time paying attention and less time setting his mates’ books on fire with Bunsen burners. She didn’t care anyway. He was a moron.
She watched him go. Cars crawled along the street outside the gates, their windows fogged with warm breath, smiling faces drawn in the condensation. Perhaps she’d stand where she was one more minute. If she kept perfectly still with her legs spread and her arms out then she could minimise the amount of wet cloth in contact with her body. Miss Armatage had gone, so there was no one left to shoo her away, and if she waited long enough the rain would stop and her body temperature would dry her clothes enough to stop them chafing.
On the street the last car pulled away. The rain wasn’t going to let up and her clothes weren’t going to get any drier. She should start on the long walk home. She took a step towards the gates and stopped.
The old woman was there, barring the way.

 

Eden at the Edge of Midnight (The Vara Volumes) is available for purchase at:

 Amazon Kindle for $0.99

 

Connect with John Kerry:

Website: http://eateom.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/EatEoM

Twitter: https://twitter.com/EatEoM

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Disciple, Part II, L. Blankenship {$2.99}

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L. Blankenships Frugal Find Under Nine:

Description of Disciple, Part II:

The prince first kissed Kate Carpenter for fear of missing the chance if they didn’t survive the journey home through the monster-prowled mountains.

Now that kiss seems like a fever dream. It’s back to work for her, back to the fellow physicians jealous of her talents and the sneers of an infirmary director who wants her shipped off to some tiny village. Kate means to be on the front lines to save lives. She’s worked too hard to overcome her past to let them deny her the chance to serve her homeland when the enemy’s army reaches their kingdom.

The grand jousting tournament is a chance to prove she can manage combat wounded, and at the royal Solstice banquet Kate means to prove she isn’t an ignorant peasant girl anymore.

But the prince’s kiss still haunts her. Their paths keep crossing, and the easy familiarity they earned on the journey home is a welcome escape from their duties. It’s a small slip from chatting to kisses.

This is no time to be distracted by romance — a vast and powerful empire is coming to slaughter anyone standing between them and the kingdom’s magical fount.

Kate ought to break both their hearts, for duty’s sake.

 

Accolades:

“I don’t deliberately read any kind of romances, but this fantasy romance is such a logical continuation of the first part of the story that the addition of love to the stew makes the characters all too human in a world where the rules are subtly different… I can’t wait for the next episode.”

- Maridebarr (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/667771672)

“[Kate's] attempts to carve out a career for herself as a healer provides fodder for a good fantasy story — and one I haven’t heard before… I am excited for Part III and I’ll be sure to let you guys know what I think of it after its released. In the mean time, check out Disciple Part I and II for all the jousts, feasts and romance that you can handle.”

- Michael Panush (http://panusher.wordpress.com/2013/08/09/a-friendlier-fantasy-l-blankenships-disciples-part-ii/)

Reviews:

Disciple, Part II currently has an Amazon reader review rating of 4 stars from 1 review. Read the reviews here.

 

An excerpt from Disciple, Part II:

(After spending the day debriefing the king on the results of their mission, Prince Kiefan leads Kate into a quieter part of the castle…)

He still held my hand. No voices, nobody nearby to see us. I swallowed a nervous lump in my throat, wondering where he meant to take me. And what he meant to do there. Surely I didn’t have to worry whether anyone would hear me scream… was there anything he could do that I’d need to?

My cheeks warmed.

Slim pillars held up a graceful stone arcade. Between them, we walked onto frost-burnt grass. A gnarled apple tree, leaves golden and half fallen to the ground, stood ringed by a waist-high juniper hedge. Beyond, the castle wall rose sheer and seamless. To either side, the watchtowers bulged from its face and spiked up like smooth horns. I had to crane my neck to find the tips, and in doing spotted the catwalks that connected each tower to the roof of Castle Kaltkern. The garden lay below the keep, hemmed in by saint-cut cliffs on both sides.

A crescent garden, I saw now. To either side, more fruit trees dropped their leaves, and the rose bushes had gone bare for the winter, but the juniper hedges held their green. Under the central apple tree waited a broad wooden bench. By my hand, still warm in his grip, Kiefan led me toward it and a tangle of hopes and fears snapped tight around my heart.

He didn’t sit, though. He stood under the tree and looked up. “Sometimes I can get some quiet here,” he said. “When Mother isn’t seeking solitude herself.”

I looked up, too, into golden leaves and dark branches. Blue, beyond. “It must be lovely in the spring.” I could imagine the trees hazed by white blossoms.

“And in the summer, when the roses are out, the scent hangs like a fog between the walls.”

He still held my hand. My nerves eased, I sidled closer to his shoulder. He smelled of sweat, under his layered woolens. “You spent the afternoon at swordplay?”

He nodded, bringing his gaze down to me. “I thought he would send for the captain, but Woden tossed me a sparring sword himself. I nearly dropped it when he chose one and stood at guard.”

“You sparred with a saint?”

Kiefan shook his head, disbelieving it himself. “I saw him spar with Captain Aleks, once. She said it was her most valuable lesson.”

“You lived to tell. You didn’t ask him to give you quarter?” I risked a smile.

A chuckle. “He gave none, that’s true. I won’t know how many bruises I have until morning, I’m sure.” He tugged out the collar of his cote to feign checking inside. “We spoke about the lamia, and he told me I was using my kir to keep their teeth off me despite the close quarters. The beginnings of a kir-shield. With training, I’ll be able to control it more.”

“We all learned something out there.” I looked up as a chilly breeze sent a few more leaves spinning from the branches and caught a wince on Kiefan’s brow. “Are you hurt? A headache?”

“A little.”

I knew what that meant. I put my hand on his fresh-shaven cheek and turned his head toward me to call his kir. It glowed in answer, revealing a few tangles on his meridian, but I got no further in checking him.

Kiefan leaned over and kissed me, wrapping me in both strong arms. Coaxed my mouth open to spar with his tongue. He left me breathing harder with my palm still on his face.

I combed my fingers over the ridges of his Blessing at the back of his neck and pulled him down for another. His arms tightened on me. His lips made their way to my throat and his tongue tracing the hollow there stabbed a shiver into my spine. My pulse surged.

With a hard breath, he buried his face against my neck and squeezed me till I squeaked. I clung to his shoulders, my feet lifted an inch off the ground. He held me warm and safe, despite the cold breeze.

“You must come to Prohzgrad with us,” he said against my neck. “Cure me with a kiss each night.”

I swallowed a sudden lump. “You’re going away?” I managed to ask through his grip.

 

Disciple, Part II is available for purchase at:

 Amazon Kindle for $2.99

 

Connect with L. Blankenship:

Website: http://discipleofthefount.blogspot.com/

Facebook: www.facebook.com/louise.blankenship.1

Twitter: www.twitter.com/LBlankenship_sf

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: The Silver Sphere, Michael Dadich {$3.99}

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Description of The Silver Sphere:

Shelby Pardow never imagined killing someone. That’s about to change.

While hiding from her troubled father in the local library, Shelby stares at a flashing instant message on her computer: YOU ARE NEEDED. She discovers a portal that opens and teleports her to the planet Azimuth, where soldiers await. Here, she is not a child but a warrior, Kin to one of the six Aulic Assembly members imprisoned by Malefic Cacoethes, the daunting leader of the Nightlanders.

Malefic, the evil spawn of the demon Biskara, razes towns and cities in his quest to rule Azimuth, and yearns to turn his forces against Earth. Yet every time Biskara gets close to achieving his malevolent goals, the Assembly uses the Silver Sphere, a sophisticated armillary device, to thwart him.

With the Assembly deposed, Biskara directing Malefic’s conquests, and the Silver Sphere out of reach, Shelby is thrust into an unforgettable quest with her fellow Kin. She must learn to kill and lead an army into battle, or Azimuth—and Earth—will fall.

Winner of the prestigious Mom’s Choice Gold Award for Young Adult Fantasy.

Winner of the Wise Bear Books Gold Award including best in category for Young Adult Fantasy-Adventure and Young Adult Fantasy-General.

 

Accolades:

“A vivid mind has most definitely brought back the Technicolor that’s been missing since Potter made his last stand.” ~ Feathered Quill Book Reviews

“This is definitely a book to watch as it has all the right elements to be the next Hunger Games-type phenomenon.” ~ Wise Bear Book Reviews

“This fresh twist on the quest fantasy novel is done with charm and humor.” ~ Foreword-Clarion Reviews

“As a warrior, Shelby must learn how to kill, and how to lead an army to preserve the light of hope, in this captivating and highly recommended saga of life and death on the battlefield.” ~ Midwest Book Review

Reviews:

The Silver Sphere currently has an Amazon reader review rating of 4.7 stars from 91 reviews. Read the reviews here.

 

An excerpt from The Silver Sphere:

“Your world will be over soon, won’t it, dear Bianca?”
The cloaked creature rasped out the syllables one at a time, and each sound pushed Bianca closer toward the cold stone floor. Moonlight splashed across the room from a wall of windows. Even if she could have yelled, no one would have heard her. Pain made her dizzy.
As the assault on her consciousness raged, she struggled to her feet against the heavy stupor overtaking her body. Her limbs shook. The long table in front of her provided only a moment of support before she collapsed upon the solid oak board.
Her vision blurred from the pressure, and a murmur gurgled from her throat as she tried to call out to the Assembly members hunched in their chairs. The maroon wine spilled across the table told of their downfall. Were they unconscious or dead? She couldn’t begin to guess. Her goblet remained almost untouched.
“How easy this was….”
The din of his words made her gaze upward, where a hood surrounded his darkened features. Screams echoed in her head, though no sound broke from her lips.
He knelt beside her and whispered, “Dear Bianca.” His hands caressed full chunks of her raven hair, and he started pulling the strands through his fingers.
Horror traveled down her spine and numbed her. She felt the escape of fainting descend upon her, fogging her mind; how she wanted to drift off and shun the maddening fear. Yet he would not let her. She tried in vain to pull away, but his power over her was too great.
“Don’t.” She must have said it aloud because his grip tightened and he jerked her head back, forcing her to look at him. She gasped as he pulled the cowl away.
Her tormentor had a pallid complexion and a high forehead. Long, wiry auburn hair framed his narrow face, at the center of which sat a nose snubbed like a snout. It was the piercing glare of his eyes that caught her, though. Their intensity made her skin crawl.
“Malefic,” she mouthed, her breath releasing in a terrified wheeze.
He loosened his grasp and eased her to the floor. Then he stepped over her body and slithered to the head of the table, admiring his handiwork.
Bianca’s legs and arms stiffened. Malefic oozed power, and as she watched him, her mind reeled. What had led to such laxness in their security? Where had he come from?
We were betrayed, of course, she thought, as unconsciousness bid her closer to blackness.
Malefic turned and glared into her eyes, a sneer twisting his expression into a grotesque mask. “The Aulic Assembly is mine.” His harsh voice pulled her to the brink. “Father will be pleased.”

 

The Silver Sphere is available for purchase at:

 Amazon Kindle for $3.99

 

Connect with Michael Dadich:

Website: www.thesilversphere.org

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMichaelDadich

Twitter: https://twitter.com/michaeldadich

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Call of the Herald (Godsland Series: Book One), Brian Rathbone {FREE!}

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Description of Call of the Herald:

Echoes of the ancients’ power are distant memories, tattered and faded by the passage of eons, but that is about to change. A new dawn has arrived. Latent abilities, harbored in mankind’s deepest fibers, wait to be unleashed. Ancient evils awaken, and old fears ignite the fires of war. When a Catrin Volker, a teenage horse trainer, inadvertently fulfills the prophecy of the destroyer, she becomes the most feared and hunted person on all of Godsland. With the help of her friends, she must convince the world that she wants only peace.

The World of Godsland fantasy series includes:

The Dawning of Power trilogy (Omnibus Edition available)
Call of the Herald
Inherited Danger
Dragon Ore

The Balance of Power trilogy (Omnibus Edition available)
Regent
Feral
Regal

 

Accolades:

“I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I would recommend this book for all ages.” Linda Weaver Clarke, author of the new mystery series The Adventures of John and Julia Evans.

“…kind of like a cross between The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter…I honestly could not stop reading this book. I completed it in two days, it was that good.” Cheryl’s Book Nook


Amazon Reader Reviews:

Call of the Herald currently has a Amazon reader review rating of 4.1 stars, with 290 reviews! Read the reviews here!

 

Call of the Herald is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for FREE!


Excerpt from Call of the Herald:

Outside the lesson hall, Chase ducked into a darkened recess and waited for Osbourne. Roset came first, and she cast him a haughty glance, but he was grateful that she said nothing. Using the darkness for cover, he held his breath as Peten stormed by, followed by a mob of agitated townies. Minda and Celise walked by, and Osbourne seemed to be trying to hide behind them. Hoping no one noticed, Chase grabbed Osbourne by the shirt and dragged him into the alcove. Osbourne let out a small yelp before he realized it was Chase who had grabbed him, and he looked over his shoulder more than once.

“Looks like Edling held Catrin after class,” Chase said.

“I told you he looked boiled,” Osbourne said, but there was a tremble in his voice, and he looked nervously over his shoulder. “Are you going to wait around for Cat?”

“I can’t. I promised my dad I’d help with the afternoon deliveries.”

“I can’t either,” Osbourne said. “I’ve chores to do, and I should probably study for the test we have coming up.”

“Bah, who needs to study?” Chase asked with a grin. “Just remember everything Edling says; that’s all.”

Osbourne shook his head. “That may work for you, but my father’ll tan my hide if I bring home bad marks. I’d better get Patches saddled and get going, or I’m going to run out of light.”

Chase peeked around the corner before walking back into the light, half expecting to find Peten and the rest of the townies waiting for him, but the stables were eerily quiet. Only Patches remained in her stall, and Chase stayed with Osbourne while he got her saddled.

“Never seen everyone clear out so quickly,” Chase said.

“I’m starting to think the snake was a bad idea,” Osbourne said as he tightened the girth. “Feels like I’ve got squirrels in my guts. You don’t think they’ll do anything to Cat, do you?”

“You worry too much,” Chase said, but he secretly wondered if Osbourne was right. It seemed strange that Peten and the others had left so quickly, and letting Osbourne and Catrin travel home alone suddenly seemed like a very bad idea. There was nothing he could do about it, though, no way to take back what was already done, and he tried to drive the worry from his mind. “I’m sure everything will be fine.”

“I hope you’re right,” Osbourne said as he mounted. Patches, who was a well-mannered mare, must have sensed Osbourne’s nervousness, for she danced around the stable, her ears twitching as she spun. Osbourne soothed her with a hand on her neck, and she trotted away with her tail tucked. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” Osbourne said with a wave.

“Be careful,” Chase said, betraying his own fears, and Osbourne rode away looking more nervous than ever.

Checking around every corner as he went, Chase made his way to the mill. At each turn he expected to find the townies waiting, and their absence only increased his anxiety. “I wish they would just get on with it,” he mumbled to himself as he passed the market.

When he saw his father waiting with the wagon already loaded, though, he forgot his fears. They had enough work to keep them until nightfall, and he would have time to think of little else.

 

Call of the Herald is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for FREE!


Connect with Brian Rathbone:

Website: http://brianrathbone.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/brianrathbone

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/worldofgodsland

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Helga: Out of Hedgelands (Wood Cow Chronicles), Rick Johnson

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Description of Helga: Out of Hedgelands (Wood Cow Chronicles):

Twelve-year-old Helga has more danger in her life than most beasts her age—Wrackshee slavers after her, a vicious attack by bandits that nearly kills her, a race against dragons pursuing her, and leading a daring rebellion to save her life and rescue friends and family from the insidious WooZan. And that is just the beginning. But what do you expect when you are a young beast who just can’t see the stupid rules of the world making any sense? Helga can’t accept things as they are and ends up taking on not just one, but two all-powerful, supreme tyrants in two different realms.

Helga never intended to lead a revolution. It just sort of happened because she wouldn’t go along with the “rules of normal” that keep tyrants in power and entire societies enslaved. Beginning on a dangerous quest to solve some mysteries in her own past, Helga leads her quirky comrades on a journey that will not only forever change them, but upset ancient civilizations.

As an author, I’m drawn to eccentric, unexpected characters: those who surprise because they hear a distant galaxy, see a different music, create their own fragrance rather than get hooked on a soundtrack; the child who has her own ideas about how the emperor is dressed; the lunatics and rebels who tell stories on the boundaries. Helga’s unusual story will take readers to worlds they never imagined—definitely a whole new ride.

Time and again, the unconventional heroine and her eccentric comrades overcome ominous tyrants and black-hearted slavers, not by battling to the last beast standing, but by being the first beast to think differently.

Helga: Out of Hedgelands is divided into three books which introduce the epic saga of the Wood Cow clan and their role in overturning centuries of slavery and tyranny. This story will continue in additional volumes of the Wood Cow Chronicles now in development. Over the series of current and future volumes, the entire history of the Wood Cow clan, the fall of Maev Astuté, and the coming of Lord Farseeker to the Outer Rings, will be told.

 

Accolades:

Amazon 5-Star Reviews:

STEP ASIDE FRODO Since completing the Lord of the Rings trilogy in college, I’ve looked forward to a fantasy series that exhibited the potential to keep me up reading well past my bed time. Helga, Out of Hedgelands, did just that. Mr Johnson has created a fascinating world full of vivid landscapes and characters wise and courageous enough to inhabit them. Helga is a tale for young and old alike. Pour yourself a hot cup of Peskee tea and gather round your children or grandchildren. You’re in for a treat. I am eagerly awaiting the next installment.

HELGA IS A NEW CLASSIC! Absolutely phenomenal book . . . J K Rowling step aside!! I can’t wait to read Book Two!! Creativity abounds, excitement rips through each page. It doesn’t get better than this! Helga needs to become a classic!

Helga, the wood cow, is the essence of a courageous woman, a true role model for any young person. She solves difficult situations in her life through steadfast belief that she will be assisted and she can do it, no matter what it is. This book has the most creative characters, environments, even food descriptions, of any story for children that I have read. It meets the standard set by the classics, and it is even about cows, lizards, otters, and every animal imaginable. Don’t miss this great book.

WONDERFUL FAMILY READ Helga: Out of Hedgelands is a perfect family book for evening read aloud — or individual reading for ages 10 to 100.
It is an amazing story. Not only does it provide adventure, mystery, charming – and not so charming – characters, delightful descriptions and a truly warm story – but it also provides the reader with many areas that are perfect for discussions about discrimination, class systems, peer pressure, and other life issues using the animals as examples. The author has provided a master piece with his story telling and has also given the readers many things to think about on topics that can be easily understood and discussed by all ages. I highly recommend reading Helga: Out of the Hedgelands and hope the author soon comes out with his next book.

 

Amazon Reader Reviews:

Helga: Out of Hedgelands (Wood Cow Chronicles) currently has a Amazon reader review rating of 4.3 stars, with 10 reviews! Read the reviews here!

Helga: Out of Hedgelands (Wood Cow Chronicles) is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $0.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!

 

Excerpt from Helga: Out of Hedgelands (Wood Cow Chronicles):

Tangled snags of fallen trees and piles of debris littered the riverbank. Floating along, exhausted, half-submerged, Helbara grabbed a protruding branch to rest a moment. Remaining low in the water with her small daughter, Helga, clinging to her back, she pulled herself in among the dense reeds and willows surrounding the fallen tree. Except for the soft gurgling of the Deep Springs River—its water colored bronze in the light of the orange moon overhead—the warm night was ominously quiet. Struggling to control the harsh rasping of her ragged breathing, Helbara knew she could not rest long. “Help us, Ancient Ones,” she breathed, as the glint of moonlight caught on more and more points of polished metal rounding the riverbend not more than a hundred yards away. Her mind worked in frantic desperation as she watched what almost seemed to be clouds of ghostly fireflies approaching from up the river.

She hardly had time to think, however, before Helga’s grip on her neck tightened. Their pursuers were drawing near. “Snake-bloods, Mama! Now what?” her five-year-old daughter whispered urgently.

“Shee’wheet, Helga, Shee’wheet,” Helbara whispered. “Yes, I see them. The Wrackshees will soon be here. Be still. Ever so quiet.”

Six heavily-armed Wrackshees, kneeling in individual kayaks made of tightly-woven reeds, paddled silently toward them. The once-faint outlines of the Wrackshee slave hunters steadily grew more distinct as they approached. Their beeline course on the wide river seemed to be zeroing in on Helbara’s hiding place. She realized she could not risk further movement above water—the Wrackshees were now too close.

Shaking the reeds as little as possible, she pulled herself and Helga further back among the reeds until only small cracks were left to peer through. Sensing Helga’s rising terror, Helbara softly whispered an old lullaby to her daughter, trying to calm her: “Shee’wheet, Sweet-Leaf, Shee’wheet…Shee’wheet, Sweet-Leaf, Shee’wheet…”

Her own heart banging in her chest, Helbara watched the Wrackshee kayaks approaching relentlessly. Moonlight clearly revealed the albino Wolf in the lead kayak—small in stature, abnormally flattened face, thick-necked, with a large moustache. She shuddered. Six kayaks. One Wolf and five Weasels. Somewhere behind them, many more. If she and Helga were discovered, what resistance could they offer?

Suddenly the kayaks slowed, pausing about twenty yards away—close enough that the Wrackshees’ awful stench covered the area with a suffocating blanket. Using only hand signals to communicate, the slavers silently peered here and there for any sign of their prey. The razor-sharp tips of dozens of small throwing lances, carried on bandoliers slung over the Wrackshees’ shoulders, shone red in the moonlight. Helbara knew that terrible things happened to beasts hit by those poisoned tips—going mad with thirst, eyes bugging, bleeding the color of grass. Each time the gaze of a Wrackshee seemed to fix on the spot where they were concealed, Helbara trembled on the edge of panicked flight. To do so, however, would mean certain capture or death. They were trapped. With every ounce of inner strength, Helbara held her panic in check.

“Shee’wheet, Helga, Shee’wheet…We must be very still. Do not say anything unless I ask you to.” As she uttered these words, she attempted to shift Helga’s weight on her back and slipped on the loose sand. Her boot seemed to suddenly drop into a hole. Catching herself before she made a complete fall, she feared the Weasels might have observed her misstep. For the moment, however, their pursuers seemed to be absorbed in their sign language consultation.

Moving her boot gently, Helbara explored the apparent hole where she had stumbled. The opening was large—the submerged end of a long-decaying fallen tree. In the moonlight, Helbara’s eyes struggled to see evidence of the rest of the tree. The dense reeds and willows made it difficult to be certain, but the position of the hollow end she had discovered seemed connected to a massive upended root clump visible further down the bank. How much of the tree was hollow?

“Sweet-Leaf,” Helbara whispered very softly, “I need you to explore something for me. Slide quietly off my back, take a deep breath, and duck underwater—see if you can tell if this tree beside us is hollow.” The request immediately dampened Helga’s fear. Action was an antidote to terror. As quietly as the reeds waved in the soft evening breeze, she disappeared below the surface.

In a few moments she was back. “Not hollow very far,” she whispered, “but there’s a big opening at first. Then the hollow part ends, but there’s a hole in the bark at the end that’s above water. It’s small but a beast could breathe there.” Pausing and looking deeply into her mother’s eyes, she concluded with a tone of sorrow, “But only room for a small beast.”

As she listened to her daughter’s report, a plan rapidly formed in Helbara’s mind. It was none too soon. The albino Wrackshee made a quick sign with his paw. The gesture was at the same time purposeful and sinister. The Weasels were no longer waiting. Two of the kayaks turned and glided directly toward the Wood Cows’ hiding place. Pressing her daughter close to her chest in a comforting embrace, Helbara calmly gave Helga instructions.

“The hollow space in the tree is large enough,” she said, “to conceal you well for some time. The Wrackshees will not likely think to look there for you. They may not even know you escaped with me. I want you to quietly—just as quietly as you did before—duck under again and hide in the hollow space in the tree. Be absolutely quiet no matter what happens.”

Helga immediately understood she was being asked to play a serious game of Hide-n-Seek with their pursuers. Long moments seemed to drag by. Helga knew there had been no mention of what her mother planned to do.

Then Helbara urged Helga underwater and whispered, “Sweet-Leaf, Mamma’s going to talk to those Snake-bloods to make certain they don’t harm you. I won’t be long. You wait in that hollow place and stay as quiet as you can.” She gave Helga a squeeze and handed her a pronghorn flute she had always played for her back in their home. “Take this, Sweet-Leaf, it is my promise that I will be back soon.”

Helga’s eyes met her mother’s in a deeply moving, but silent, farewell as she slipped the flute in her pocket. “Don’t worry, Mama. I will do as you say,” the look said to her mother as surely as if it were spoken.

Then Helbara stood up. “Sweet-Leaf,” she whispered after Helga silently ducked under the surface, “no matter what, wait in that hollow place. I will be back to you soon.” Whether Helbara actually believed this or not—six heavily-armed Weasels awaited her—whatever “talk” Helga’s Mamma had in mind would not be pleasant conversation…

Suddenly, the replay of her experiences from ten years earlier shifted. The silhouette of a large canoe now filled her misted vision, looming before the same young Helga, who was now sloshing miserably through the river shallows during the deepest dark of the night.

A beast crouched low in the canoe grabbed her with long, brawny arms. Captured in the strong grasp of this unknown powerful stranger, Helga’s sense of panic surged. In a desperate effort to escape, she was almost ready to bite the beast that held her, when the whisper of a gruff voice stopped her struggles.

“Hey-hey, ya lee’tle Bungeet! Stop da chop sputter, or those Wracker’mugs will b’a back at ya ’gin frighter t’en ever. Shee’wheet…Shee’wheet…Shee’wheet…”

The softly whispered “Shee’wheet” calmed Helga. The gentle, soothing tones, so reminiscent of her mother, marked this rough stranger with a kindly manner that made her feel safe. Settling the small Wood Cow in the bottom of the canoe, her rescuer—Pickles DiArdo as she later learned—continued his soft soothing lullaby and patted her gently on the back in assurance of safety, as his partner began paddling again.

“This’n Bungeet has had some stinkin’ Wracker’mugs b’itin at her,” Pickles said to the other Trapper Dog paddling in the prow. “Go for Mianney’s, Lupes—the Healer will s’nd her pain t’way.”

The canoe traveled about another two hundred yards and turned into a small, nearly invisible side channel flowing into the main river course from among the willows. Paddling with gentle determination against the current, the canoe glided toward a rough shack perched high above the water on stout poles. Giving one final hard push with their paddles, the Trapper Dogs bent low as the canoe glided under a dense thicket of wild thorn trees growing around the shack. The thorns, tough as steel and with points so sharp and fine they made marvelous sewing needles, ringed the cabin like sentries. No one would attempt to approach the shack through such ferocious thorns except those invited to come and shown the way to pass.

The thorns did not deter Pickles and Lupes, who often visited Mianney Mayoyo. Tying their canoe to one of the thorn trees, Lupes unrolled a bark mat and threw it up over the lowest branch of the tree. Using the mat for safe passage over the outermost thorns, the three travelers reached the interior of the tree where they were able to drop to the ground. Branches on the rear of this particular tree had been trimmed away to allow exit to the shack.

They had hardly reached Mianney’s shack and called out to her when she was instantly with them. The old River Cat, who was rumored to be ancient—some said she had always lived—had long, jet black hair that was smooth and shining from the walnut oil she rubbed into it each day. Dangling far down in front of her was an ornate necklace of beads, and on each wrist she had broad woven bracelets, decorated with copper sunbursts.

Mianney carried a small basket. Without any word of greeting to her visitors, she pulled a bundle of dried herbs and two green-colored balls of thorn tree pitch from the basket. Arranging the herbs and pitch balls in a ceremonious pile before them, with seeming magic she produced a glowing coal from her jacket pocket and lit the pile. A sudden burst of flame, and the herbs and pitch balls sent up a sharp pillar of fire.

As the small fire flamed, Mianney’s deep brown eyes darted here and there gleefully. Her bubbling wild intensity frightened some superstitious people, who said she was a demon in disguise. Mianney did seem to do things that were supernatural. The flames that burned so furiously for a few moments, suddenly died down, leaving a dense pungent cloud of smoke. Still without speaking, with lightning quickness Mianney lifted Helga to her arms and ascended the ladder to her shack. In the blink of an eye she and Helga were gone. A whisp of pungent smoke, swirling where Mianney had stood, was all that assured Pickles and Lupes that she had actually been with them a moment before…

As Mianney held Helga close through that long-ago night, flute music, rising and falling from a more distant cabin, was a safe and soothing sound in the dark.

That flute music—so comforting, such a balm on her terror—was, for Helga, a symbol of her deliverance. The peaceful imprint of the flute melody wafting to her during the darkest part of the night struck Helga in the heart as powerfully as the shafts of yellow sunlight that illumined Mianney Mayoyo’s shack the next morning. It was as if her mother’s promise to return soon had been fulfilled.

Helga: Out of Hedgelands (Wood Cow Chronicles) is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $0.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!


Connect with Rick Johnson:

Website: www.woodcowbooks.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/WoodCowBooks

Twitter: www.twitter.com/WoodCowBooks

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: The Exemeus, Folami Morris & Abeni Morris {$0.99}

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Folami Morris & Abeni Morris’ Frugal Find Under Nine:

Description of The Exemeus:

Hyalee Smith is dead. She just doesn’t know it yet.

Her short life was devoted to love and to hate. Love of the man who stole her heart, hate for the man who stole the world. Murdered by the government she swore to destroy, she’s been given another chance to make it right. But to save the planet, she needs the help of the most powerful mystic the world has ever seen—unfortunately he hasn’t been born yet.

In a world where fear is the only currency, Dephon has committed the ultimate crime: inspiring hope.

His only goal is to make it safely through ninth grade, but on a post-apocalyptic Earth run by the Treptonian government, it isn’t that simple. Heir to a legendary power, Dephon Johnson is the only threat to the government’s rule. And on Trepton, all threats must be eliminated. When hundreds of assassins are dispatched to neutralize him, Dephon is forced to fight back. His only chance of survival is to enlist the aid of the greatest warrior the world has ever known. The only problem is, she’s been dead for 13 years.

 

Accolades:

“The relationships in this book were done well and I had a lot of fun reading about Hyalee and Singleton.” -Myra

“If you choose one YA novel to read in January and you like fantasy, choose this one.”- the eclectic reader

“This is a great read. A dip into a dystopian world with a fantasy twist”- Dustykatt

 

Amazon Reader Reviews:

The Exemeus currently has a Amazon reader review rating of 4.2 stars, with 32 reviews! Read the reviews here!

The Exemeus is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $0.99

 

Excerpt from The Exemeus:

A scream rippled through the emerald-green sea. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” Singleton groaned. I sighed deeply, trying to remain composed. Another scream pierced our ears, this one coming from a different direction. Within seconds the horizon was filled with no less than twenty of the slug-like creatures traveling with chilling military-style precision towards us. They were all swimming from different directions, their eyes flickering in the distance.
“Hyles, leave.”
“No,” I said firmly.
“I’m losing too much blood as it is. I’ll never make it back and who’ll avenge my mother? Get out of here. I will not watch you die too! Do it now, Hyles!”
“Would you leave me?” I challenged him, racking my mind for a course of attack.
I gripped my sword awkwardly in my hand as I tried to keep Singleton afloat with the other one. “Hyles, just go or we’ll both die.” The creatures were close enough for us to see their rattling teeth. The combined effect of their screams was enough to shatter our eardrums. “Hyles, go!” he said again. The creatures were no more than eight feet away, and it was clear that neither of us was getting out of here alive.

 

The Exemeus is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $0.99


Connect with Folami Morris & Abeni Morris:

Website: www.theexemeus.blogspot.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/theexemeus

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheExemeus

Castles in the Air, Ilana Waters {$2.99 or borrow FREE w/ Prime!}

Ten-year-old Wikkley McStag and his family are born farmers, happy to work the land. But then they—and other royal subjects—are forced to buy strange, useless machines. Money starts running out. Now the McStags have two days before they lose their farm. As the eldest child, Wikkley must journey to the palace and ask for the king’s help. His loved ones only hope his reckless nature won’t get him in trouble once he’s there!

When Wikkley arrives at the palace, he finds an unnecessary castle being built right into the sky. The same thing is happening in a neighboring kingdom. When royal foolishness leads to disaster, it’s up to Wikkley to save several lives. Will his recklessness finally come in handy? Or will it mean the end of his family, his farm, and possibly . . . his life?

From the fantasy world of THE ADVENTURES OF STANLEY DELACOURT, Ilana Waters brings you another alternate-medieval adventure. If you like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, don’t miss meeting Wikkley McStag!

(This novella is approximately 21,000 words, or 70 pages).

What readers are saying:

5.0 out of 5 stars A Magical Adventure! March 3, 2013
By Helene
Wikkley McStag is an honest, hard-working boy, determined to save his family’s farm. It’s easy to sympathise with his his innocent, ever-optimistic view of the world. This is a magical, quirky, fast-paced read and I’m sure readers of all ages will love it!

5.0 out of 5 stars An Adventure for All Ages February 26, 2013
By Diba
This book is appropriate for any age group even though it’s geared toward young adults. It is really an enjoyable read for all ages! The main character is a young man with a lot of love and heart and you end up rooting for him from beginning to end. The author gives a good amount of background as to how Hartlandia came about. Excellently written!

5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful fairytale!, February 21, 2013
By Dr. S. Drecker – See all my reviews
My kids (5+7) loved this story! It starts out with a nice farmer boy, who only wants to help his family. So he travels into the wide world, totally unaware of what he’s about to get himself into. His ‘simple’ and practical way of looking at things bring him from one humorous situation into another. My kids laughed and cheered for him the whole way.

And when he reaches his goal, the king, things really get silly. Even when the story was done, my children continued to ask questions as to why the kings did what they did. They really got into this imaginary world.

The main character is easy to relate to and it’s a pure joy to accompany him on his adventures. This is definitely a story we’re going to read a second…a third… several times. 

The average Amazon reader review rating is currently 5 stars, with 5 reviews.

Click here to read more about and purchase Castles in the Air for $2.99 or borrow FREE w/ Prime!

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Helga: Out of Hedgelands (Wood Cow Chronicles), Rick Johnson {FREE!}

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Rick Johnson’s Frugal Find Under Nine:

Description of Helga: Out of Hedgelands (Wood Cow Chronicles):

Twelve-year-old Helga has more danger in her life than most beasts her age—Wrackshee slavers after her, a vicious attack by bandits that nearly kills her, a race against dragons pursuing her, and leading a daring rebellion to save her life and rescue friends and family from the insidious WooZan. And that is just the beginning. But what do you expect when you are a young beast who just can’t see the stupid rules of the world making any sense? Helga can’t accept things as they are and ends up taking on not just one, but two all-powerful, supreme tyrants in two different realms.

Helga never intended to lead a revolution. It just sort of happened because she wouldn’t go along with the “rules of normal” that keep tyrants in power and entire societies enslaved. Beginning on a dangerous quest to solve some mysteries in her own past, Helga leads her quirky comrades on a journey that will not only forever change them, but upset ancient civilizations.

As an author, I’m drawn to eccentric, unexpected characters: those who surprise because they hear a distant galaxy, see a different music, create their own fragrance rather than get hooked on a soundtrack; the child who has her own ideas about how the emperor is dressed; the lunatics and rebels who tell stories on the boundaries. Helga’s unusual story will take readers to worlds they never imagined—definitely a whole new ride.

Time and again, the unconventional heroine and her eccentric comrades overcome ominous tyrants and black-hearted slavers, not by battling to the last beast standing, but by being the first beast to think differently.

Helga: Out of Hedgelands is divided into three books which introduce the epic saga of the Wood Cow clan and their role in overturning centuries of slavery and tyranny. This story will continue in additional volumes of the Wood Cow Chronicles now in development. Over the series of current and future volumes, the entire history of the Wood Cow clan, the fall of Maev Astuté, and the coming of Lord Farseeker to the Outer Rings, will be told.

 

Accolades:

Since completing the Lord of the Rings trilogy in college, I’ve looked forward to a fantasy series that exhibited the potential to keep me up reading well past my bed time. Helga, Out of Hedgelands, did just that. – Amazon Reviewer

Absolutely phenomenal book . . . J K Rowling step aside!! I can’t wait to read Book Two!! Creativity abounds, excitement rips through each page. It doesn’t get better than this! Helga needs to become a classic! – Amazon Reviewer

Rick Johnson has created a new world, filled with characters whom I would love to meet, to watch, to emulate, and to avoid! His descriptions of the “animals,” so human in their behavior and emotions, made it possible to visualize every scene, every exchange of dialogue, and to yearn for a screenwriter to take the next step so this book might someday be made into a big-screen movie. – Amazon Reviewer

 

Amazon Reader Reviews:

Helga: Out of Hedgelands (Wood Cow Chronicles) currently has a Amazon reader review rating of 4.6 stars, with 8 reviews! Read the reviews here!

Helga: Out of Hedgelands (Wood Cow Chronicles) is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for FREE!

 

Excerpt from Helga: Out of Hedgelands (Wood Cow Chronicles):

The Drownlands wharf, shrouded in one of its legendary fogs, swirled with activity in the first pale light of dawn. Fish oil lanterns cast a faint, but serviceable, glow through the fog. Swarms of boats and canoes rocked and swayed on mooring ropes along the docks. Odors of musty canvas and damp wood mingled with pungent smells of fish, crayfish, and frogs being unloaded from fishing boats. Traders haggled with peddlers or bet their luck against cardsharps. Coins rattled in the tin cups of vendors hawking frog-fritters and hot Stinger Cider.

On the landside of the wharf, galley beasts in the station house scurried about making breakfast for dockworkers and wayfarers. The aroma of frying catfish, simmering beans and baking cornbread attracted sweaty dock laborers, whooping and hollering as they collapsed into chairs around tables to take a break. A crude Otter ferry pilot, little used to niceties and finery, lifted his bowl and dribbled the last of his corn mush into his mouth, licking the bowl out with a loud slurping. Wiping his mouth on his coat sleeve, the Otter looked wildly about for a galley beast to bring him more food. Banging his bowl on the table, he roared, “Yawp! Yo, Hollos! Where’s ma fish on’a plank? Where’s ma muff and crusts? Raise me some Tabasco and galley cheer! Ha! The bell will be tollin’ for me afore I’m full, at this rate. Yo, Hollos! Jump it over here!”

The rowdy Otter, howling and hollering to be served, flicked out a sharp skinning knife and sent it flying across the room. THWANNG! The blade buried itself in the timber just above the galley door. “Yawp! Yo, Hollos! That’ll be a kindly request for ma galley cheer! Ho! Ho! Ho!” Galley beasts dashed under the quivering blade, rattling plates and bowls as they scrambled to bring him his breakfast.

But the Drownlands wharf—the frontier gateway between the rough Drownlands wilderness and the tidy settlements of the Rounds—was a place of mixing and transitions of many kinds. Not all were rubes and roughnecks. At a quiet table in the corner of the room, a party of travelers calmly finished breakfast and left to catch the running-wagon that was about to leave the station.

Just outside, Livery Rats scrambled to prepare the Drownlands Weekly for departure. Travelers loaded quickly as burly Dock Squirrels tossed bags and trunks into the rooftop luggage rack. As soon as the baggage was loaded, the Weekly rolled away from the station with creaking timbers and rattling brass, its freshly serviced wheels smelling strongly of snake grease.
Bouncing along the bare track leading away from the Drownlands station, the Weekly rumbled through the sparsely settled frontier of the Rounds. Except for the Weekly and a few cargo wagons, the bone-jarring road was little used. A river of mud when it rained and a dust-choked washboard of ruts in the dry season, the many stones in the Cutoff road gave its only predictable surface.

Three of the passengers in the Weekly on this particular spring day were creatures we will hear much about in this account of former days. There was a strongly muscled young Wood Cow with soft, thick hair and a lively face. Dressed after the manner of her clan—long barkweave jacket and leggings, lizardskin boots, forest green linen shirt—Helga dozed fitfully, her head lolling against the jostling headboard. Although exhausted by her long journey, a smile played across her face. The sound of the rumbling wagon assured her that she was, indeed, at long last coming home.

Helga’s father, called Breister, bounced and swayed beside her. He had strong proportions, but was somewhat short for a Wood Cow, being barely taller than his daughter. His broad-brimmed hat, tilted forward, hid his face somewhat. The bushy beard and long tangled hair flowing over his shoulders somehow seemed to amplify the keen, proud look in his eyes. Peering out from under his hat brim, he watched the countryside passing outside the window.

Leaning against Breister sat a powerfully built female Wood Cow. Fine lines and strong features gave her face a handsome look and ample hair spilled out from under her hat. Her eyes were astonishingly black, like polished obsidian, but with red flecks seeming to sparkle within them. A spirit of pugnacious determination seemed to be written everywhere in her manner, even as a kindly smile betrayed the softness of her heart. This was Helbara, Helga’s mother.

As the running-wagon proceeded, little by little Breister noticed more and more creatures gathering, lining the road on both sides. Farmers, laborers, shopkeepers, peddlers and traders, old and young—Roundies of every size and age crowded the roadways, surging around the running-wagon, shouting their welcome to Helga.

“He-ho, Helga! Mampta-He-O! Jurrah!”

On every side, there were cheers and shouts of greeting. Breister had expected a warm welcome back to the Rounds for Helga, but nothing like this.

“What’s going on?” Helga asked, blinking sleep from her eyes.

“Look!” Helbara pointed. “In the name of the Ancients, see what is happening.”

The running-wagon gradually came to a stop amidst the immense crowd surging around it, blocking the road.

Dismounting, Helga climbed to the top of the luggage rack where she could see her friends more fully. Taking off her wide-brimmed hat, she waved it high over her head in greeting. As her eyes scanned across the welcoming crowd, she caught sight of old friends and memories flashed through her mind…

There was Mianney Mayoyo; her two pet lizards perched on her shoulder. A tough and wild-eyed River Cat, Mianney lived alone in a shack perched high on poles in the Deep Springs River. Thought to be half-savage, with strange-smelling smokes always drifting from her cabin, some avoided Mianney. But despite her fierce appearance and hermit-like ways, many called her a healer. To Helga she was a savior. Ten years before, Mianney had wakened in the middle of the night to the loud shouts of two Trapper Dogs. They had found five-year-old Helga, sobbing and lost, thrashing through the shallows near Mianney’s shack.

Standing behind Mianney was Picaroo “Pickles” DiArdo—one of the Trapper Dogs that had pulled Helga from the river that night ten years before. It was almost surprising for Helga to see him standing in the crowd. Pickles nearly lived in the long birch bark canoe with the high vaulted prow that he and his partner, Lupes Lupinio, used for travel in the backwoods, checking their snake traps. Helga well remembered the smell of the cool, damp canoe bottom where she sat among the musty-sweet bales of snakeskins. She remembered Pickles’ long brown arms, scarred from poisonous snakebites he had survived, paddling the canoe with a gentle rocking of his shoulders. He still wore the loosely tied kerchief around his neck, and was even more a bushy mass of whiskers than Helga had remembered.

“Ra-Zoo, Helga! Huncha to mi round!” The shout was from Neppy Perquat, her old friend from school days. Helga smiled as she recalled staying with Neppy and his family when she first arrived in the Rounds. Such kindness they had shown: the flatcakes for breakfast…the Old Bunge accent in the family’s speech, so unusual in the Rounds…the bright red carpet bag Neppy’s mother gave Helga to carry her things in when she left the Perquat’s to move in with the Abblegurt’s who adopted her.

Even Miss Edna Note, Helga’s old flute teacher, who had never been satisfied with Helga’s playing on the pronghorn flute, was among those welcoming Helga home. Pausing at the edge of the crowd, the graying Badger waited as if uncertain whether Helga would notice her. Helga, however, immediately recognized the figure in the familiar brightly flowered calico dress and matching bonnet. Wrinkled and thin, but still vigorous, Miss Note waved softly at Helga as their eyes met.

Helga smiled as she returned her old teacher’s uncertain gaze. Under that gaze, however, Helga’s eyes filled with tears, altering her sight. Through her blurred vision she seemed to see Miss Note playing her flute far away…long ago…

~ ~ ~

Tangled snags of fallen trees and piles of debris littered the riverbank. Floating along, exhausted, half-submerged, Helbara grabbed a protruding branch to rest a moment. Remaining low in the water with her small daughter, Helga, clinging to her back, she pulled herself in among the dense reeds and willows surrounding the fallen tree. Except for the soft gurgling of the Deep Springs River—its water colored bronze in the light of the orange moon overhead—the warm night was ominously quiet. Struggling to control the harsh rasping of her ragged breathing, Helbara knew she could not rest long. “Help us, Ancient Ones,” she breathed, as the glint of moonlight caught on more and more points of polished metal rounding the riverbend not more than a hundred yards away. Her mind worked in frantic desperation as she watched what almost seemed to be clouds of ghostly fireflies approaching from up the river.

She hardly had time to think, however, before Helga’s grip on her neck tightened. Their pursuers were drawing near. “Snake-bloods, Mama! Now what?” her five-year-old daughter whispered urgently.

“Shee’wheet, Helga, Shee’wheet,” Helbara whispered. “Yes, I see them. The Wrackshees will soon be here. Be still. Ever so quiet.”

Six heavily-armed Wrackshees, kneeling in individual kayaks made of tightly-woven reeds, paddled silently toward them. The once-faint outlines of the Wrackshee slave hunters steadily grew more distinct as they approached. Their beeline course on the wide river seemed to be zeroing in on Helbara’s hiding place. She realized she could not risk further movement above water—the Wrackshees were now too close.

Shaking the reeds as little as possible, she pulled herself and Helga further back among the reeds until only small cracks were left to peer through. Sensing Helga’s rising terror, Helbara softly whispered an old lullaby to her daughter, trying to calm her: “Shee’wheet, Sweet-Leaf, Shee’wheet…Shee’wheet, Sweet-Leaf, Shee’wheet…”

Her own heart banging in her chest, Helbara watched the Wrackshee kayaks approaching relentlessly. Moonlight clearly revealed the albino Wolf in the lead kayak—small in stature, abnormally flattened face, thick-necked, with a large moustache. She shuddered. Six kayaks. One Wolf and five Weasels. Somewhere behind them, many more. If she and Helga were discovered, what resistance could they offer?

Suddenly the kayaks slowed, pausing about twenty yards away—close enough that the Wrackshees’ awful stench covered the area with a suffocating blanket. Using only hand signals to communicate, the slavers silently peered here and there for any sign of their prey. The razor-sharp tips of dozens of small throwing lances, carried on bandoliers slung over the Wrackshees’ shoulders, shone red in the moonlight. Helbara knew that terrible things happened to beasts hit by those poisoned tips—going mad with thirst, eyes bugging, bleeding the color of grass. Each time the gaze of a Wrackshee seemed to fix on the spot where they were concealed, Helbara trembled on the edge of panicked flight. To do so, however, would mean certain capture or death. They were trapped. With every ounce of inner strength, Helbara held her panic in check.

 

Helga: Out of Hedgelands (Wood Cow Chronicles) is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for FREE!


Connect with Rick Johnson:

Website: www.woodcowbooks.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/WoodCowBooks

Twitter: www.twitter.com/WoodCowBooks

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Phoebe Pope and the Year of Four (A Shapers Novel), Nya Jade {$0.99}

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Description of Phoebe Pope and the Year of Four (A Shapers Novel):

The students of Green Lane Academy roam their halls unaware that below their manicured campus exists a prestigious school of an entirely different kind . . .

Sixteen-year-old Phoebe Pope has enrolled at the Campus Below: a spy academy for shape-shifters hidden deep beneath the grounds of a boarding school whose humans unknowingly protect it. There, thanks to a carefully planned schedule, she leads a double life: spy trainee Below and normal teenager Above.

As if two course loads, concealing a secret power she alone wields, and coping with her father’s recent death weren’t enough, Phoebe finds herself developing major feelings for actor and teen heartthrob Colten Chase, who attends the Campus Above and appears to be majoring in winning Phoebe’s heart. But when officials learn that Phoebe may be at the center of a startling prophecy, she becomes the target of shape-shifting assassins who will stop at nothing to suppress the truth.

Now Phoebe’s lessons about Shaper’s enemies and spycraft take on great importance as a menace stalks the campus, with Phoebe as its target. Meanwhile, what began as an unlikely relationship with Colten, quickly morphs into heartache when she suspects that something sinister lurks beneath this movie star’s glitter and fame. Suddenly, Phoebe’s caught in a mesh of lies, betrayals, and danger where she doesn’t know who to trust, and needs to rely on herself—and her secret power—to get to the truth and to stay alive.

Watch the amazing trailer below!

 

 Accolades:

“This book has it all, betrayals, romance, action, adventure, mystery and magic, oh and don’t forget the hot celebrity, Colten. This is such a creative read and I couldn’t help but fall in love with the story and the characters. I really need book two now! I highly recommend this to all readers, it is such a fun and addictive read.” 

 .”..If you love fantasy and edge-of-your-seat suspense — with a soulful and enigmatic heroine and a vicious, conniving villain (or — SPOILER ALERT — two, or three!!) — this book is for you.”  

” …This may be categorized as a YA novel, but I’m considerably older than that particular demographic and I still loved this book…It is very easy to lose yourself in the world of Phoebe Pope!”

“I could not put this book down! The suspense, action, and thrill of young romance in this book forced me to finish in two sittings. A quick, fun read for tweens-teens-adults. I am excited for Phoebe Pope and what’s yet to come, please publish the sequel ASAP.” 

 

Reviews:

Phoebe Pope and the Year of Four (A Shapers Novel) currently has an Amazon reader review rating of 4.6 stars from 34 reviews. Read the reviews here.


An excerpt from Phoebe Pope and the Year of Four (A Shapers Novel):

Excerpt from:

PHOEBE POPE AND THE YEAR OF FOUR

A SHAPERS NOVEL

Copyright © 2012 by NYA JADE and published here with her permission.

One

Phoebe was too far away to sense whether the boy had one heart or two. Through the maze of trees with clattering leaves, she could see him moving with purposeful speed. He was headed toward her destination—a brownstone chapel perched at the top of a small hill. Not knowing the boy’s nature made Phoebe hesitate. Then came the sound of tower bells. Eight o’clock. There was no time to think of an alternate route. She was officially late for the Conversion.

A loud, echoing crack quickened Phoebe’s pace as lightning slashed the indigo sky above her. She had barely reached the base of the hill when rain began pounding down. Clutching the camera that hung from the strap around her neck, she sprinted the final stretch, arriving breathless.

Phoebe wiped the rain from her face, and then entered the chapel. Inside, light from moon-facing windows cast a misty glow across the sanctuary, the air redolent with the smoke of a blazing fireplace. She glanced around the heart of the nondenominational Green Lane Academy. It seemed so ordinary, so quiet, even peaceful. Rows of pews with velvet cushions ran the width of the room. She moved between them, taking care to remain in the shadows. An irregular shape in a dark corner caught her eye and Phoebe could just barely make out the outline of the boy. He knelt with his head between his hands, his body huddled against a pew. Praying.

Phoebe paused several feet away and waited. After a moment she felt energy seeping from the boy’s skin, raising the hairs on hers. Cold and electric, it meant one thing: the boy had only one heart. She couldn’t risk him seeing what she had come there to do. That meant waiting. Just then, something stirred behind her.

Phoebe Pope and the Year of Four (A Shapers Novel) is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $0.99

 

Connect with Nya Jade:

Author Website: www.nyajade.com

Author Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/nyajadefriends

Author Twitter Page: @TheNyaJade

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Dark Application: TWO – Available Now on Amazon.com
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What readers are saying:

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The average Amazon reader review rating is currently 4.8 stars, with 46 reviews.

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