These are four of the books I read this month that I just couldn’t help but share here.
Come check them out!
Note: All images here were taken from Goodreads.
Wicked Bleu by E. Denise Billups
This is a story about love, murder, jealousy, friendship, among other themes, all mixed and woven into a complex storytelling.
Author E. Denise Billups has a unique writing style that captivates and fascinates. There hasn’t been a book by this author that I haven’t enjoyed.
Simone’s compassionate and kind, a tough lady, and she’s protective of her friends. Her abilities to see ghosts might be new, but she goes into things with an open mind. For that, she wants to puzzle out a 100 year old murder to give a ghost the peace she lacked in life.
I enjoyed watching the budding romance between Simone and Mitchell, the support among her friends, and unraveling the murder mystery alongside Simone.
This is the second book in this series and as great as the first one. Although I’d recommend reading them in order, you don’t have to.
The Necromancer’s Daughter by D. Wallace Peach
D. Wallace Peach has a writing style’ that’s always fascinated me. It’s vivid and it’s captivating, and this book is no different.
I came into the story expecting a wonderful read, and I wasn’t disappointed.
The world building is fantastic, and so are the characters.
You can’t help but feel for Aster, for the hand she was dealt and the quest she’s facing, and even fall a little in love with Barus. I enjoyed the tension between Aster and Joreh, and watching the romance subtly evolving, not taking over the plot.
And the dragons…. It’s such a plus in this story, making it richer. My only wish was that we saw more of them.
I didn’t want the book to end, but couldn’t help but devour the pages, wanting to know more and soon, too soon, I was reading the last scene.
If you enjoy tales of compassion, of evil vs. good, of impossible odds – and of course, fairy tale retellings, this book is for you!
Mistaken Identity Crisis by James J. Cudney
I’ve had this book for a long while, and for no particular reason, just kept putting it off for later. But then I picked it up and just couldn’t put it down. The pages kept flipping, and before I knew it, I was turning the last page. It helped that this wasn’t a very long book, so I was only up until 1 in the morning.
Intrigue, mystery, humor, and a touch of romance make this a great read.
Kellan is sleuthing again, but this time, he may be in way over his head.
Another murder and an old, unsolved case has Kellan searching for clues. I was almost sure I had things figured out, but ouch, that twist – I didn’t see it coming!
And then we have the mystery of his supposedly dead wife, the mob and their rivalry, and in this fourth instalment, things are finally revealed.
If you haven’t yet read any of this author’s books, you have no idea how much you’re missing out!
PS: Nana D is still my favorite. Go, Nana D!
Bloodstone by M.J. Mallon
This is my first book by this author, and what an amazing surprise it was!
Bloodstone follows the story of Amelina, a 15 year old girl with a complex life, a dysfunctional family, and a curse.
From the beginning, I was caught by the steady, descriptive flow of the words. There’s poetry at the start of the chapters, adding charm and imagery to the scenes.
There’s a bit of everything in this book – teenage angst, romance, magical pets, friendship, broken relationships, as well as some scenes verging into the darker side of depression.
Some things were resolved in this book, but not all, leaving the reader satisfied, yet wanting more.
Today is my stop for Jacqui Murray’s blog tour for her latest book, Natural Selection.
The concept of how humans evolved is a curious and complex one, with not enough books on the topic. Kudos to Author Jacqui Murray for setting up these characters in such a time period, and basing them on true events! In this installment, Jacqui tackles a topic dear to me, because I can relate: an almost blind character, Ahnda. Having suffered an unfortunate series of event, Ahnda finds himself alone and almost blind. He has two options: give up and die, or keep going and achieve his goal (Finding Lucy and her tribe).
Read on to the end and find out what Author Jacqui Murray has to say about this character.
Title: Natural Selection
Series: Book 3 in the Dawn of Humanity series
Genre: Prehistoric fiction
In this conclusion to Lucy’s journey, she and her tribe leave their good home to rescue former-tribemembers captured by the enemy. Lucy’s tribe includes a mix of species–a Canis, a Homotherium, and different iterations of early man. In this book, more join and some die, but that is the nature of prehistoric life, where survival depends on a combination of our developing intellect and our inexhaustible will to live. Each species brings unique skills to this task. Based on true events.
Set 1.8 million years ago in Africa, Lucy and her tribe struggle against the harsh reality of a world ruled by nature, where predators stalk them and a violent new species of man threatens to destroy their world. Only by changing can they prevail. If you ever wondered how earliest man survived but couldn’t get through the academic discussions, this book is for you. Prepare to see this violent and beautiful world in a way you never imagined.
A perfect book for fans of Jean Auel and the Gears!
Could an almost-blind person survive primordial Africa?
There’s a fascinating character in the Dawn of Humanity trilogy, with a big part in my latest book, Natural Selection, named Ahnda. Ahnda is a normal early man youth, growing up with his tribe, looking forward to hunting and knapping stone tools with the adults, until a series of mishaps land him alone, in an unknown area, and almost blind. Ahnda would like to give up, but then he would die so he makes the decision to keep moving toward his goal–to find Lucy and her tribe–until he can’t. He learns to rely on senses other than sight, to be furiously aware of his surroundings, to trust his ability to solve problems, and to never give up even when his journey seems impossible.
I hadn’t planned on Ahnda’s sight challenges when I started writing Natural Selection. I developed Glaucoma and suddenly, unbidden, Ahnda’s mishaps ended him in near-blindness as though the Universe was telling me to stop whining. Others have it worse. At first blush, I didn’t believe it was possible for him to survive, and then I read Enos Abijah Mills’ story, The Adventures of a Nature Guide. He had been exploring the peak of the Continental Divide, alone as was his norm, when he lost his vision to snow blindness. In the late 1800’s, there were no phones, compasses, or any other technology to help him out of this trouble. Most of us would ponder our mortality, but Mills rationally and calmly found his way back to civilization by employing his remaining senses:
“[Blindly, trudging through endless snow, I shouted] … listened intently … and noticed the direction from which the reply came, its intensity, and the cross echoes …”
The farther he traveled, the less Mills cared what nature threw at him. Each problem presented an opportunity to learn about the natural world and himself. That became the model for Ahnda. Today’s world has lots of sight-challenged individuals who function well with canes, seeing-eye dogs, and clickers, but Ahnda has none of those. Is it reasonable that he could survive? Let’s look at the science.
There is a lot of evidence backing up the ability to navigate one’s environment via sounds.
One: Bats fly in dark caves and find insect prey using a skill called echolocation. They produce sound waves outside of the human ear’s ability to hear to locate objects around them. You can do an Internet search for details.
Another: Sight-challenged people can learn to move around well using a combination of sonar, echolocation, and “clicking”. If you didn’t know they were sight-challenged, you wouldn’t know. Interested? Search “Daniel Kish” and “Perceptual Navigation” for more information.
I bet all of you know at least one physically-challenged individual that doesn’t let that stop them at. all. Share those stories in the comments!
About Jacqui Murray:
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular prehistoric fiction saga, Man vs. Nature which explores seminal events in man’s evolution one trilogy at a time. She is also author of the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers and Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. Her non-fiction includes over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, reviews as an Amazon Vine Voice, a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics.
The Canis’ packmates were all dead, each crumpled in a smeared puddle of blood, Upright killing sticks embedded where they should never be. His body shook, but he remembered his training. The killers’ scent filled the air. If they saw him—heard him—they would come for him, too, and he must survive. He was the last of his pack.
He padded quietly through the bodies, paused at his mate, broken, eyes open, tongue out, pup under her chest, his head crushed. A moan slipped from his muzzle and spread around him. He swallowed what remained in his mouth. Without a pack, silence was his only protection. He knew to be quiet, but today, now, failed.
To his horror, a departing Upright looked back, face covered in Canis blood, meaty shreds dripping from his mouth, the body of a dead pup slung over his shoulder. The Canis sank into the brittle grass and froze. The Upright scanned the massacre, saw the Canis’ lifeless body, thought him dead like the rest of the decimated pack. Satisfied, he turned away and rushed after his departing tribe. The Canis waited until the Upright was out of sight before cautiously rising and backing away from the onslaught, eyes on the vanished predators in case they changed their minds.
He had planned to descend into the gully behind him. Sun’s shadows were already covering it in darkness which would hide him for the night, but he had gauged his position wrong. Suddenly, earth disappeared beneath his huge paws. He tried to scrabble to solid ground, but his weight and size worked against him and he tumbled down the steep slope. The loose gravel made gripping impossible, but he dug his claws in anyway, whining once when his shoulder slammed into a rock, and again when his head bounced off a tree stump. Pain tore through his ear as flesh ripped, dangling in shreds as it slapped the ground. He kept his legs as close as possible to his body and head tucked, thankful this hill ended in a flat field, not a river.
Or a cliff.
When it finally leveled out, he scrambled to his paws, managed to ignore the white-hot spikes shrieking through his head as he spread his legs wide. Blood wafted across his muzzle. He didn’t realize it was his until the tart globs dripped down his face and plopped to the ground beneath his quaking chest. The injured animal odor, raw flesh and fresh blood, drew predators. In a pack, his mate would purge it by licking the wound. She would pronounce him Ragged-ear, the survivor.
Ragged-ear is a strong name. A good one.
He panted, tail sweeping side to side, and his indomitable spirit re-emerged.
But no one else in his pack did.
Except, maybe, the female called White-streak. She often traveled alone, even when told not to. If she was away during the raid, she may have escaped. He would find her. Together, they would start over.
Hi peeps. I’ve decided to start a segment in this blog by introducing other indie authors I know and enjoy.
I’m opening it with a dear friend and author, Tyler Colins. We met a few years back here in the blogosphere, and have been friends ever since.
So, without any further ado, let’s start.
A brief bio:
Tyler Colins is primarily a writer of fiction and blog posts, and a sometimes editor and proofreader of books, manuals, and film/television scripts. She’ll also create business plans, synopses, film promotion and sales documents.
Fact-checking and researching, organizing and coordinating are skills and joys (she likes playing detective and developing structure).
Her fiction audience: lovers of female-sleuth mysteries. Her genres of preference: mysteries (needless to say), women’s fiction, informative and helpful “affirmative” non-fiction.
She aims to provide readers with smiles and chuckles like the ever-talented Janet Evanovich and the sadly passed and missed Lawrence Sanders, the “coziness” of Jessica Fletcher, and a few diversions and distractions as only long-time pros Jonathan Kellerman and Kathy Reichs can craft.
And now, the interview (read to the end for an excerpt of Can You Hula Like Hilo Hattie)
Q: What inspired you to become an author? And why Hawaii?
A: As an only child with a mother and father who didn’t really have time or support for me as parents tend to, I had to find my own source of “play”. I started drawing and writing. My grade 7 teacher, Mr. Kennedy, loved a short story I had written and read it to the class. I had no idea I had any talent. That afternoon made me look at myself as something more than a friendless, lonely kid. Little ’ me was actually good at something. I started writing . . . and writing . . . and writing. The rest, as the saying goes, is history. 😊
I fell in love with Hawaii the first time I stepped foot on Oahu. It wasn’t that I saw “Paradise” there (because, off the tourist track, it has its issues as most places do), but that I felt a connection to the history and spirituality. I felt like I belonged. There wasn’t anywhere I wouldn’t go; I felt no fear or anxiety. And when I began the sequel to The Connecticut Corpse Caper, which was initially intended to be a stand-alone, Hawaii seemed the perfect place to have my three private eyes move to. Even if I can’t live there—given laws and finances and all that—Hawaii is my home . . . in heart and soul.
Q: What do you think is the most difficult part about writing, and how do you motivate yourself to continue?
A: For me, the most difficult thing about being a writer is finding the time to write. Mom-care still takes up a few hours, most days, and the full-time job isn’t your usual eight-hour day. Freelance editing also detracts (but I’d not give up editing for anything because I do so love it). One day, hopefully, I’ll find a way to juggle time more constructively.
I can’t say I “motivate” myself. 😉 I simply do.
Q: It’s a strange and tough world out there. Do you find that it hinders or improves your writing?
A: It is indeed. The state of affairs around the world can be daunting and/or depressing. Some days, it can weigh heavily; you wonder (worry) that those state of affairs will never improve but, then, bursts of hope and faith—like a double Hawaiian rainbow—take over. And you think, believe, hey, maybe things will turn out all right after all. I wouldn’t say exterior forces hinder my writing, nor improve it. But they may provide ideas for scenes or twists in plots.
Q: What is your favorite way to relax?
A: LOL – I haven’t found one yet. Well, I shouldn’t say that. When I get to Hawaii, that’s where I find ways to relax . . . strolling along a beach, splashing in the ocean, finding a fun farmer’s market, or enjoying shave ice while sitting on a rock by the water’s edge.
Q: Do you read your own books after they’re published? If not, why not?
A: I haven’t read my books after they’ve been published per se. But when I require an excerpt for a post, then I will scan one or two of them to find the perfect one. I think the reason I’m not inclined to read them from front to end is that I might discover typos or something that didn’t gel. Then I’d spend the week or month kicking myself repeatedly. 😉
I believe one of my favorite excerpts is from Can You Hula Like Hilo Hattie? when JJ and Cash’s budding “relationship” starts to take off . . . or not . . .
Q: If you were to become the mc of the last book you read, who would you be and where?
A: I edit a lot of books, but I don’t read a lot of books . . . save for, believe it or not, the odd Nancy Drew book. I pick one from the pile in the closet if I’m going to ride the stationary bike in the fitness room. It’s an easy read and it takes me back to simpler times—when I was kid living in (escaping to) my little world. I always wanted to be Bess or George, never Nancy. She always seemed so perfect and privileged, and for a little kid being caught up in a not so perfect or privileged world, I couldn’t relate to it. But I’d love to be involved in one of their mysteries. My favorites were The Haunted Showboat and The Secret of the Wooden Lady, so the setting of either one would be very “Keene”. LOL
Excerpt for Can You Hula Like Hilo Hattie
“No stitches required, fortunately.”
Linda propped Cash’s head on a fit thigh and continued to dab a tiny sponge on an open cut above the right eyebrow. “But he’s going to have one big headache, a knob on his temple, and probably a scar. Perfect timing, me stopping by. If Makjo hadn’t taken the afternoon off, you’d be the one administering medical aid.”
He stirred twice, but was having difficulty opening his eyes.
“Fortunately, you’re here,” I smiled wryly, “and you have first aid certification.”
“So will you and Rey after next month.”
Linda had taken first aid and CPR training last summer while still in California. Rey and I had discussed doing something similar upon arrival on Oahu. As professional private investigators, first aid was at the top of the list, but other courses like investigative techniques and interviewing methods were also on the agenda.
“Who is this guy? I don’t think you’ve mentioned knowing someone this hunky.” Digging through a kit, she located antiseptic cream and a large bandage.
“He has different names. Cash. Richie J. Richard. He’s a drug dealer.”
Linda stopped and searched his face. “Really?”
“He doesn’t look like one?” I asked drolly.
“I’ve never met one before.”
“Damn.” He winced, and brought a hand to his forehead. “What happened?”
“You got beaned by our favorite beaner,” Linda explained merrily, gently applying cream to the wound before applying the bandage. “She can pack a mighty wallop.”
He squinted upward. “Who are you?”
“Linda Royale.” She peered so closely, they were nearly nose to nose. “I hear you’re a drug dealer.”
A flummoxed gaze shifted from her face to mine. I was standing behind Linda, looking down, hoping the damage was minor enough not to do any serious or permanent damage, but major enough to make him think twice about entering the condo uninvited again. “Did I deserve that? Bitch.”
If looks could kill. “Watch the name calling,” I trilled, getting a glass of water and passing it to Doctor Linda.
She supported his head and got him to drink a third of the glass. “Do you deal locally or on the Mainland, as well? Do you hobnob with guys who have the status of the once-super-rich-and successful ‘Freeway’ Rick Ross and Amado ‘Lord of the Skies’ Fuentes?”
He eyed her as if she were as demented as Norman Bates’ mother.
“Oh, sorry. You probably don’t want to share your criminal life with us. That’s okay.” Linda smiled and he closed his eyes in a give-me-strength cast. “Let’s get you upright.” She assisted him into a more vertical position.
He noticed her dressing. “Did she bean you, too?”
Linda instinctively touched the binding on her head. “This is courtesy of a creep I had the displeasure of not meeting last night.”
As a binge reader, I often come across many great books that are, for the most part, overlooked by the majority of readers. It’s disappointing to tell a friend, “Hey, I read so and so book,” only to realize the other person not only never heard of the book, but has no idea who the author is.
So, I wanted to start sharing some books I enjoyed very much, but that I think don’t get enough credit.
For this post, I will be introducing The Guild Codex Universe by Annette Marie.
There are four series in this urban fantasy world and one magic system. I’ve read them all and enjoyed each equally.
First, let me introduce you to the series, where the characters are interwoven:
The Guild Codex: Spellbound
The Guild Codex: Demonized
The Guild Codex: Warped
The Guild Codex: Unveiled
And here’s the first book in each one, as well as a goodreads description and a brief thought:
Starting with Three Mages and a Margarita, this series is complete at eight books, all of which are amazing.
“Mages, psychics, sorcerers, druids, demons—and a human with a feisty attitude, no magic, and one last chance at gainful employment.”
I loved the fact that Tori is one tough kick ass human, no hidden powers, no magic at all, but she stands equally to all the supernaturals and is just as badass – and sometimes more.
This was the first book I read by this author, but not the last.
Starting with Taming Demons for Beginners, this series is complete at four books.
“When shy bookworm Robin found a hellish creature imprisoned in her uncle’s basement, she never intended to make a contract with the rare, deadly demon. And their contract? His protection in exchange for… cookies. There’s no way that could go wrong.”
Between this one and Spellbound, the two series really come alive. I read them in their reading order, which you can find here.
Starting with Warping Minds & Other Misdemeanors
There are three books in this series, though there are more to come, and I can’t wait!
“When psychic conman Kit is arrested, all he wants to do is escape. Instead, he finds himself partnered with by-the-books MagiPol agent Lienna and tasked with bringing down his ex-partner-in-crime. That might make escaping custody a tad more difficult.”
Narrated from the pov of a male character and a convict as well, this is, by far, the one to make you laugh in the middle of the night. You can’t help but root for the underdog – and yes, it’s action packed as well.
Starting with The One and Only Crystal Druid, there are four books published in this series, and like Warped, there are still more to come.
“When ex-convict and incompetent witch Saber encounters the notorious Crystal Druid, she tries to kill him. Then she discovers a mysterious fae on a deadly rampage. Together, they have a chance to stop it—if she can resist stabbing her new ally.”
I’ll admit that after reading about Zach as a secondary character in the other three series, I was so excited to finally read his story, that when I finally picked it up and found it told in the female’s pov, I was disappointed. I wanted Zach as the lead character, and for that, my enjoyment dimmed. That doesn’t mean that this series isn’t awesome, because it is, only that I felt betrayed when I picked up the first book and found the story told in someone else’s pov.
So that’s it. Have you ever read any of the above?
There are other books by this author in other worlds – Steel and stone, and they’re great reads as well – yes, I’ve read them all. But to keep this post short, I’ll stop here, for now. Next week, I’ll come back with a new post and a new author.
Do you know any similar books overlooked by the majority? Let me know in the comments below!
I’ve lost a third of my ratings on Goodreads overnight. According to Goodreads customer services, they’re experiencing a bug. It’s got full priority, but they have no idea when it’ll be fixed. Meanwhile, I’ve dropped from 4.41 average rating to a 4.09 – because most ratings that disappeared were 5 and 4 star ratings.
1. Phone NASA. Their phone number is (713) 483-3111. Explain that it’s very important that you get away as soon as possible.
2. If they do not cooperate, phone any friend you may have in the White House–(202) 456-1414–to have a word on your behalf with the guys at NASA.
3. If you don’t have any friends in the White House, phone the Kremlin (ask the overseas operator for 0107-095-295-9051). They don’t have any friends there either (at least, none to speak of), but they do seem to have a little influence, so you may as well try.
4. If that also fails, phone the Pope for guidance. His telephone number is 011-39-6-6982, and I gather his switchboard is infallible.
5. If all these attempts fail, flag down a passing flying saucer and explain that it’s vitally important you get away before your phone bill arrives.
(Taken from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams)
Liars and Thieves is the new enthralling release by fellow blogger and prolific author D. Wallace Peach. It’s the first installment in a new trilogy, and today is my stop at the launch tour.
Behind the Veil, the hordes gather, eager to savage the world. But Kalann il Drakk, First of Chaos, is untroubled by the shimmering wall that holds his beasts at bay. For if he cannot cleanse the land of life, the races will do it for him. All he needs is a spark to light the fire.
Three unlikely allies stand in his way.
A misfit elf plagued by failure—
When Elanalue Windthorn abandons her soldiers to hunt a goblin, she strays into forbidden territory.
A changeling who betrays his home—
Talin Raska is a talented liar, thief, and spy. He makes a fatal mistake—he falls for his mark.
A halfbreed goblin with deadly secrets—
Naj’ar is a loner with a talent he doesn’t understand and cannot control, one that threatens all he holds dear.
When the spark of Chaos ignites, miners go missing. But they won’t be the last to vanish. As the cycles of blame whirl through the Borderland, old animosities flare, accusations break bonds, and war looms.
Three outcasts, thrust into an alliance by fate, by oaths, and the churning gears of calamity, must learn the truth. For they hold the future of their world in their hands.
Read on to find out more about the author, watch a book trailer and read an interesting tidbit about Naj’ar The Halfbreed Goblin.
Let’s start with a Q & A
Q: Naj’s weapon of choice is a glaive. What’s that?
A: Originally, I made up a word “tarik” to represent Naj’s goblin weapon. But it was a glaive (sort of), so why not call it a glaive. Duh?
A glaive is a pole with a long, curved blade on one end, so it has a longer cutting reach than a sword. The goblin version of the weapon is bladed on both ends. It can be used like a scimitar, a quarterstaff, or spear, but is designed for sweeping cuts.
There’s some argument among weapon’s experts that holding two weapons is probably more realistic and flexible, but Naj’ar is quite skilled with his double-bladed glaive. His mate had it made for him, and he’s quite attached to it.
D. Wallace Peach started writing later in life after the kids were grown and a move left her with hours to fill. Years of working in business surrendered to a full-time indulgence in the imaginative world of books, and when she started writing, she was instantly hooked. Diana lives in a log cabin amongst the tall evergreens and emerald moss of Oregon’s rainforest with her husband, two dogs, bats, owls, and the occasional family of coyotes.
Against All Odds is the third and last installment in the Crossroads trilogy, Jacqui Murray’s pre-historic fiction.
You might remember when I posted about the first book, Survival of the Fittest, or the second, The Quest for Home – if not, check them out, you wouldn’t want to miss them! I’m amazed at the depth Jacqui Murray went with her research to get this story out. Kudos!
Let’s start with a trailer:
Xhosa’s extraordinary prehistoric saga concludes, filled with hardship, courage, survival, and family.
A million years of evolution made Xhosa tough but was it enough? She and her People finally reach their destination—a glorious land of tall grasses, few predators, and an abundance that seems limitless, but an enemy greater than any they have met so far threatens to end their dreams. If Xhosa can’t stop this one, she and her People must again flee.
The Crossroads trilogy is set 850,000 years ago, a time in prehistory when man populated most of Eurasia. He was a violent species, fully capable of addressing the many hardships that threatened his survival except for one: future man, a smarter version of himself, one destined to obliterate all those who came before.
From prehistoric fiction author Jacqui Murray comes the unforgettable saga of a courageous woman who questions assumptions, searches for truth, and does what she must despite daunting opposition. Read the final chapter of her search for freedom, safety, and a new home.
A perfect book for fans of Jean Auel and the Gears!
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice, a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Laws of Nature, Book 2 in the Dawn of Humanity trilogy, Winter 2021.
They came out of the mountains, hair frozen in sparkling strands, hands and feet wrapped in shredded pelts, ribs etched against their skin under ragged hides white with snow, faces haggard with fatigue. Blood crusted scrapes and gashes, many recent, others almost healed, reminders of the violent struggles endured on their journey.
Though their steps flagged, not one of these upright creatures exhibited a hint of defeat. All males and a few females carried at least one spear, some two, many with warclubs strapped to their backs. Despite the anxiety and fear of entering this foreign land, hope energized them today, that their migration might be at an end.
All of them—Xhosa and her tribe, Pan-do and his, Wind, Zvi, and Seeker—had been chased from their homes by enemies. In their flight, they found each other. It took time to work through their differences but now they traveled side by side, respected ideas not theirs, and called themselves the People.
Their charismatic Leaders—Xhosa, Wind, and Pan-do—were known as reliable friends to those who earned their trust and dangerous enemies to those who opposed them. Two wolves—Spirit and Black Wolf—journeyed with them. Though the People lacked the animals’ sharp claws, dense fur, and piercing teeth, each considered the other “pack” and would defend them to death.
The exhausted group straggled down the gently sloping flank, feet shuffling carefully over the slippery scree. The ground changed from talus to stunted tufts of grass, sparse and brown which made walking easier. Optimism shone from their faces even as their tired eyes flicked side to side in search of unexpected movement, ears strained for out-of-place noises, and noses sniffed.
Rather than continue across the meadow, Xhosa led the People into the shade of the edging forest.
“Do you smell it, Wind?” Anticipation filled her gestures.
She and Wind, pairmates as well as Co-Leaders, stood quietly, absorbing their surroundings. Light filtered lazily through the canopy, the shadowed ground dappled with patches of warmth. She sniffed in the essence of wet earth and rotting leaves, the mustiness of moss, and something else much more enticing.
“It’s there.” She pointed and strode forward, lengthening her stride.
An icy gust whipped down the hillside through the shadows and raised bumps on her arms but she ignored it. The forest gave way to open sky and searing heat. It was too hot for her thin pelt but she didn’t stop to remove it. Green stalks swayed as far as she could see, edged on one side by more mountains and the other by some sort of leaves and branches. Sunlight glinted off the rippled surface of a distant river as it curled over the terrain.
“Dung!” The scent overpowered every other odor.
Wind huffed to her side. “It’s been a long time since we smelled dung that wasn’t frozen.”
“We did it, Wind.” Her eyes glistened with relief.
For most of a Moon, dread gnawed at her courage and left her wondering if following the guidance of Seeker—a boy barely a man—was a mistake. But Seeker assured her in his ebullient way that once out of the hills, their new homebase would welcome them. Xhosa wanted to believe him because she wasn’t sure what else to do. Nor did she know what to do if it didn’t work.
Siri, Pan-do, Ngili, the wolves Spirit and Black Wolf, and the rest of the People gathered around Xhosa and Wind, eyes locked on what lay in front of them.
Pan-do whispered, “We made it.” His eyes were moist, mouth open.
Ngili, the People’s Lead Hunter, motioned, hands close to his body. “With all this grass, Gazelle or Mammoth must be nearby.”
Dust, the Lead Scout, trotted up, coming from a tall cliff far ahead on their forward path. “I think there are caves there.”
The People hadn’t slept in a cave since leaving Viper and the Mountain Dwellers. It would be a treat if true.
Xhosa looked behind. Shadows already stretched as far from the bottom of the rocky slopes as sunlight to the top. Daylight would soon end.
“We don’t have much time. Let’s rest and then see if those are caves.”
Ngili, the People’s Lead Hunter, motioned, fingers spaced out, palms up, “I’ll go with Dust to check.” He added a swift spread-fingered swipe with first one hand and then the other, followed by a quick bob of his head and a puff.
Xhosa brushed both hands down her sides. Go.
The People spoke with a complex combination of hand motions, facial expressions, body movements, and sounds augmented with chirrups, snaps, hisses, and whistles. By the time Ngili finished talking, Xhosa knew how many would join him, where they would go, and how long they’d be away. The People’s communication was sophisticated but quiet, a precaution especially in unfamiliar areas. Unusual sounds—voices, for example—stood out. All animals made noises but few as varied as the People’s. Why alert Others who lived here to their presence? Xhosa would do that in her own time, in her own way.
Dust, Ngili, and two scouts soon receded into the landscape, the only evidence of their passage a slight disturbance in the slender waving stalks. Despite the dung scents, the abundant plant food, and the glisten of a faraway river, Xhosa crossed her arms over her chest and paced.
Something is wrong.
She searched the forests and the rippling field that had swallowed up Dust and Ngili . Xhosa possessed the ability to see great distances in sufficient detail to find trails, footprints, movement, or the glitter of sun off eyes.
She saw none of those and that made her more uncomfortable.
With this wealth of food and water, Others should be here.
Wind motioned, palms flattened against his chest, “The mountains we crossed touched Sun. They’re cold and barren. Few can do what we did to get here, Xhosa. We are safe.”
Xhosa could hear in his voice, see in his gestures, that despite his bravado, Wind too felt uneasy about what they didn’t see and hear.
But she grinned. “I don’t know how I survived without someone being able to read my thoughts.”
She trotted over to a stream that fed into the river she had noticed. She stretched out on her belly, flat on the soft grass at the water’s edge, and took a long, satisfying drink of the sweet liquid. Thirst quenched, she collected handfuls of the tender shoots of new plants growing along the shore, ate what she wanted and tossed the rest into a communal food pile that would be shared with all the People. It was already filling up with fat fish speared from the slow-moving pools beside the river, tasty reeds and cattails, and even a handful of eggs plucked from nests not hidden well enough along the shore and in the roots of trees. The wolves snapped birds from the air and swallowed them almost whole, coughing up feathers.
Xhosa leaned back on her hands, sniffing the unique fragrance of each groupmember. Zvi was sweaty from wrestling with Spirit. Siri smelled sourly of hunger but she wouldn’t eat until Honey’s bleeding foot was wrapped in mulch and leaves. The females with new babies exuded the pleasant aroma of milk. Some scents jumbled together making them impossible to identify. When Xhosa became Leader of the People, before it merged with Pan-do’s and Hawk’s, the People had been small enough that she could recognize everyone by their odor. Now, she kept track of her tribe while Pan-do did the same with his. Wind helped everyone.
Done eating, the People sprawled on the warm ground, soaking up Sun’s remaining rays, chatting contentedly with gestures and the occasional sigh. Water dripped from their thawing bodies, soaking into the thirsty ground, as the remaining ice and snow on their pelts and in their hair melted away.
Xhosa and Wind sat apart from the others, on a log long ago softened by rot. She uprooted handfuls of grass and wiped the sweat from Wind’s body, as he did hers. The soft scratch felt good and the earthy fragrance reminded her of times long gone. When he finished, she harvested chunks of green moss from the log’s decaying bark and stuffed them into her neck sack. All the People wore one of these around their necks. Even the wolves did when they were migrating.
Finished, she leaned against Wind and closed her eyes. In a group of Others, her pairmate stood out. A Big Head, the People’s traditional enemy, the ones who drove Xhosa and her tribe from their long-established home, Wind had earned Xhosa’s trust by saving her life more than once and then, as a member of her People, sharing Big Head spear tricks and warrior skills with her Leads. Before long, each of them individually told her that thanks to Wind they could now defeat an attack which they couldn’t have done in the past. Whatever distrust her People harbored toward him faded away.
“Xhosa!” Dust panted up to her. “I found a cave. And we found trace of a herd. Ngili is tracking it.”
By the time Sun settled into its night nest, the People were ensconced in the cave Dust found. They had to squeeze together to fit but all were thrilled to sleep without waking to frozen toes and numb fingers. Stone and Zvi—the burliest of the People—lugged rocks in and Siri built a fire that quickly warmed the interior. The subadults gathered kindling to feed it and arranged who would be responsible throughout the night for keeping it lit.
Usually, the wolves slept scattered among the People but with Black Wolf close to delivering her pups, she dug out an opening in the back and claimed it as her den. Then she settled to her belly, one leg forward, the other bent back, eyebrows twitching.
Xhosa strode toward the nest she would share with Wind but stopped at the sight of Seeker, weight on his bottom, legs crossed in front of his body in the uncomfortable position he preferred. His pairmate Lyta curled next to him with their best friend, Zvi.
Xhosa approached Seeker. “You are not outside.”
Every night as long as Xhosa could remember, the enigmatic male lay on his back, gaze fixed steadily on the star-dotted sky, spouting what to Xhosa sounded like gibberish to whoever listened. Intermittently, he leapt to his feet and spun dizzying circles or bounced from one foot to the other, huffing and chirping. Lyta and Zvi would either join him or watch. He once explained to Xhosa that this was how he studied the changes in the night sky—the appearance and disappearance of particular stars or their movement in relation to each other—so he could guide the People accurately. This nightly process was how they had moved from the distant start of Endless Pond to this cave where Endless Pond seemed to end.
He didn’t respond to her statement, didn’t even acknowledge her. That worried Xhosa. She hadn’t been able to shake the feeling that danger lurked around them, somewhere. Seeker’s anxious look didn’t help.
She squatted at his side and added a question to her declaration. “The stars aren’t talking to you?”
To the side, Lyta wriggled, not comfortable in the seated position Seeker preferred but determined to try because Seeker liked it so much. Zvi crouched on the balls of her feet, the more traditional pose. She’d tried to sit on her bottom, legs crossed in front, but kept falling backward. Besides, it took her too long to rise from that position which meant if Lyta needed help, she couldn’t respond quickly. Squatting, for her, made more sense. Seeker didn’t care. He expected all to do what worked for them. Both his best friend and his future pairmate were long accustomed to his eccentricities.
Finally, Seeker offered Xhosa only a confused frown.
That’s not a “Yes they are,” and that raised the hair on her neck. Before she could ask more, Ngili scrambled through the thistle barrier the youngsters had placed around the cave’s mouth to prevent the entrance of intruders and hurried toward Xhosa.
He motioned, “I lost the herd’s trace in the dark. I’ll try again tomorrow,” and then raced toward where the hunters had gathered. They were all tired. Some would mate before sleeping but not Ngili. He hadn’t given up hope that his pairmate, Hecate, would come back.
After a final glance at Seeker, Xhosa joined Wind in their nest. She squatted behind him and teased the dirt and debris from his long head hair, occasionally focusing on a difficult tangle until her fingers could move easily through his hair. When she finished, he did the same for her.
As he groomed, he said, “I’ll join Ngili tomorrow. If there are herds, we will find them.”
“Pan-do and I will continue with the People.”
They said nothing more, both enjoying the calming feel of nails scratching on their skin and the intimacy of someone they trusted implicitly. Done, both fell asleep.
The first rays of daylight filtered into the cave. Black Wolf was already outside, padding back and forth restlessly, huffing uncomfortably. Wind left with Ngili and a handful of scouts, knowing Xhosa would leave a trail to wherever they settled when Sun’s light ran out. Though Spirit usually went with the hunters, today he stayed with Black Wolf.
Xhosa and Pan-do led. Dust copied their pace and direction but a distance away. With Ngili and Wind searching for meat, Xhosa focused on finding a cave large enough for the People. They strode onward, gaze sweeping the landscape, everyone grazing on berries, roots, and worms as they walked. Sporadically, Xhosa heard a faraway squawk or glimpsed a covey of birds as they exploded into flight, fleeing an unknown threat. It was the direction Ngili and Wind had gone, and told her how far they’d gotten.
The People rested by a waterhole. They searched its shoreline for prints but found none. Wherever the herds lived, they didn’t drink here so the People moved on, through copses of young saplings and around a bed of haphazardly-strewn boulders. The air tasted of flowers, warm earth, and the mild tang of salt, but the dung they found was hard and old.
Xhosa touched Pan-do’s hand and both stopped, eyes forward. “Do you smell that? It reminds me of Endless Pond.”
He pointed to his strong side and the direction they were walking. “From there and there. How can it be on two sides?”
Xhosa tingled. One of her People—Rainbow—had abandoned them long ago, taking many males and females with him. Others she and her People ran into while migrating here told her Rainbow traveled the same route she did but along the opposite shore of Endless Pond. For him, as for her, this was as far as he could go without folding back on himself.
If they got this far. If any survived.
She pushed aside those thoughts. Before searching for whatever remnants remained of Rainbow’s group, the People must find a homebase. All they suffered to get here—the interminable walking, the loss of Hawk, the death of groupmembers, Nightshade’s treachery—was for naught if they didn’t establish a home.
Spirit bumped her leg. Black Wolf panted at her mate’s side, her belly almost touching the ground.
Xhosa motioned, “Your mate’s pups won’t wait much longer. We will find a den for her.”
Spirit took off, his movements graceful and fluid with Black Wolf lumbering after him.
Not much later, Pan-do squinted ahead. “I think Spirit found a cave.”
Xhosa leaned forward, narrowing her gaze, and finally saw where Spirit stopped. He sat on his haunches at the base of a cliff, facing her, nose twitching, tail swishing the dirt behind him.
It took the rest of the day to cross over the craggy scrubland, up and down the deep ravines, and around the occasional spot of slippery ice. The cave proved too small for the People but not for Black Wolf’s needs. With much scuffling and panting, she created a nest for her pups and disappeared into the cool dark hole. The People settled outside, under an overhang that would protect them from rain and predators, and far enough away to not bother the new mother. As soon as Ngili and Wind arrived, shaking their heads that they hadn’t found a herd, they left again to search for signs of a trail left by former inhabitants of this cave.
Xhosa’s chest squeezed and her stomach knotted. Spirit padded up to her side, hackles puffed, nostrils flaring. He agreed. Something about this area made her tingle but for now, until Black Wolf finished, they must stay.
I’m revealing today a new release coming soon by author James J. Cudney. Some of you have seen my reviews of his amazing books here, some of you are already a fan of his writing and his blog.
So, first, let me introduce you: Hiding Cracked Glass is the highly anticipated sequel for Watching Glass Shatter, which is James Cudney’s debut novel, a highly recommended family drama (if you haven’t read it, go ahead and check it out, it’s an amazing read!)
Here’s a little something about the book:
Hiding Cracked Glass, a contemporary fiction family drama, is the sequel to Watching Glass Shatter and part of the Perceptions of Glass series.
An ominous blackmail letter appears at an inopportune moment. The recipient’s name is accidentally blurred out upon arrival. Which member of the Glass family is the ruthless missive meant for?
In the powerful sequel to Watching Glass Shatter, Olivia is the first to read the nasty threat and assumes it’s meant for her. When the mysterious letter falls into the wrong hands and is read aloud, it throws the entire Glass family into an inescapable trajectory of self-question. Across the span of eight hours, Olivia and her sons contemplate whether to confess their hidden secrets or find a way to bury them forever. Some failed to learn an important lesson last time. Will they determine how to save themselves before it’s too late?
Each chapter’s focus alternates between the various family members and introduces several new and familiar faces with a vested interest in the outcome. As each hour ticks by, the remaining siblings and their mother gradually reveal what’s happened to them in the preceding months, and when the blackmailer makes an appearance at Olivia’s birthday party, the truth brilliantly comes to light.
Although everyone seemed to embrace the healing process at the end of Watching Glass Shatter, there were hidden cracks in the Glass family that couldn’t be mended. Their lives are about to shatter into pieces once again, but this time, the stakes are even higher. Someone wants to teach them a permanent lesson and refuses to stop until success is achieved.
Hiding Cracked Glass will be available for pre-sale very soon. It will officially be published on October 8th, 2020, which is the three year anniversary of Watching Glass Shatter,
About the Author
James is my given name; most call me Jay. I grew up on Long Island and currently live in New York City, but I’ve traveled all across the US (and various parts of the world). After college, I began working in technology and business operations in the sports, entertainment, media, retail, and hospitality industries. Although I enjoy my job, I also want to re-focus on my passions: telling stories and connecting people through words.
In 2017, I published my debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, a contemporary fiction family drama with elements of mystery, suspense, humor, and romance. From there, I wrote another family drama novel, Father Figure, and created the Braxton Campus Mysteries, a light investigation series about a humorous guy dealing with murders and the drama of a small town. I am currently writing a sequel to Watching Glass Shatter, a co-authored book with a surprise writer, and the next Braxton Campus Mystery, all set to be released in late 2020 and early 2021.
Most of my books are available in hardcover, paperback, electronic, and audiobook formats. We’ve begun translating into Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian for some of the books too. To see samples or receive news from my current and upcoming books, please subscribe with your email address at my website: https://jamesjcudney.com.
Outside of writing, I’m an avid genealogist (discovered 2K family members going back about 250 years) and cook (I find it so hard to follow a recipe). I love to read; between Goodreads and my blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, I have over 1,000 book reviews which will give you a full flavor for my voice and style. On my blog, I share several fun features, including the Book Bucket List, Tips & Advice, Author Spotlights & Book Alerts, and the 365 Daily Challenge, where I post a word each day that has some meaning to me, then converse with everyone about life. You’ll find tons of humor, tears, love, friendship, advice and bloopers. Lots of bloopers… where I poke fun at myself all the time. Even my dogs have segments where they complain about me. All these things make up who I am; none of them are very fancy or magnanimous, but they are real and show how I live every day.
A bit of humor: Everything doubles as something else when you live in NYC. For me, it’s the dining room, my favorite space in the apartment, where more than just my cooking is on display! As I look out the windows onto a 12th floor terrace, various parts of nature (trees, bushes, flowers, bugs & animals) inspire me to write. Baxter, a two-year-old shiba inu, constantly tries to stop me from writing so I can play with him and keep him amused. How else can you pen the best story possible without these things by your side?
*Comments here are closed, but if you’d like to know more about this amazing writer and his books, reach out to him:
Websites & Blog
Next Chapter Pub: https://www.nextchapter.pub/authors/james-j-cudney
All of James Cudney’s books come in multiple formats (Kindle, physical print, large print paperback, and audiobook) and some are also translated into foreign languages such as Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and German.