Against All Odds (Crossroads 03) by Jacqui Murray

 

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.

Cover

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!

Available digitally (print soon) at: 

Kindle US: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08C9KLP56

Kindle UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08C9KLP56

Kindle CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B08C9KLP56

Kindle AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B08C9KLP56

Jacqui Murray pic

Author Bio:

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.

Social Media contacts:

Amazon Author Page:        https://www.amazon.com/Jacqui-Murray/e/B002E78CQQ/

Blog:                                       https://worddreams.wordpress.com

Instagram:                             https://www.instagram.com/jacquimurraywriter/

LinkedIn:                                http://linkedin.com/in/jacquimurray

Pinterest:                                http://pinterest.com/askatechteacher

Twitter:                                   http://twitter.com/worddreams

Website:                                 https://jacquimurray.net

 

Book Excerpt:

Chapter 1

The foothills of the Pyrenees

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.

Wind motioned, arms inclusive, “It’s beautiful, Xhosa.”

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.

Author Interview: Jina S. Bazzar

Peeps, I’m over at Biyai from RovingBookwormNG for an interview. Come and check it out! And readers, poets, travel lovers, take a look around, Biyai has an interesting blog.

***

What one thing will you give up to become a better writer?

Jina: Now that’s a hard question. Let me see – my free time, I suppose, could be a fair exchange.

Come and read all ten questions: https://rovingbookwormng.com/2020/04/30/author-interview-jina-s-bazzar/

The Quest for Home

Earlier this year I posted about Jacqui Murray’s prehistoric book, Survival of the fittest, book 1 in the Crossroads series. Today I’m happy to announce that part two, Quest for Home, was released earlier this month. Here’s a little about the book and the author. And don’t miss the excerpt at the end!

 

Driven from her home. Stalked by enemies. Now her closest ally may be a traitor.

***

Blurb: Chased by a ruthless and powerful enemy, Xhosa flees with her People, leaving behind her African homeland, leading her People on a grueling journey through unknown and perilous lands. As they struggle to overcome treachery, lies, danger, tragedy, hidden secrets, and Nature herself, Xhosa must face the reality that her most dangerous enemy isn’t the one she expected. It may be one she trusts with her life. 

The story is set 850,000 years ago, a time in prehistory when man populated Eurasia. He was a violent species, fully capable of addressing the many hardships that threatened his survival except for one: future man, the one destined to obliterate any who came before.

Based on a true story, this is the unforgettable saga of hardship and determination, conflict and passion as early man makes his way across Eurasia, fleeing those who would kill him. He must be bigger-than-life, prepared time and again to do the impossible because nothing less than the future of mankind is at stake.

Author: Jacqui Murray

Genre: Prehistoric fiction

Print length: 356 pages

Available at:

Kindle US; Kindle UK; Kindle CA; Kindle Au.

 

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, In the Footsteps of Giants, Winter 2020, the final chapter in the Crossroads Trilogy.

Social Media contacts:

Amazon Author Page:        https://www.amazon.com/Jacqui-Murray/e/B002E78CQQ/

Blog:                                       https://worddreams.wordpress.com

Instagram:                             https://www.instagram.com/jacquimurraywriter/

LinkedIn:                                http://linkedin.com/in/jacquimurray

Pinterest:                                http://pinterest.com/askatechteacher

Twitter:                                   http://twitter.com/worddreams

Website:                                 https://jacquimurray.net

 

Book Excerpt:

Chapter 1

Northern shore of what we now call the Mediterranean Sea

Pain came first, pulsing through her body like cactus spines. When she moved her head, it exploded. Flat on her back and lying as still as possible, Xhosa blindly clawed for her neck sack with the healing plants. Her shoulder screamed and she froze, gasping.

How can anything hurt that much?

She cracked one eye, slowly. The bright sun filled the sky, almost straight over her head.

And how did I sleep so long?

Fractured memories hit her—the raging storm, death, and helplessness, unconnected pieces that made no sense. Overshadowing it was a visceral sense of tragedy that made her shake so violently she hugged her chest despite the searing pain. After it passed, she pushed up on her arms and shook her head to shed the twigs and grit that clung to her long hair. Fire burned through her shoulders, up her neck and down her arms, but less than before. She ignored it.

A shadow blocked Sun’s glare replaced by dark worried eyes that relaxed when hers caught his.

“Nightshade.” Relief washed over her and she tried to smile. Somehow, with him here, everything would work out.

Her Lead Warrior leaned forward. Dripping water pooled at her side, smelling of salt, rotten vegetation, mud, and blood.

“You are alright, Leader Xhosa,” he motioned, hands erratic. Her People communicated with a rich collection of grunts, sounds, gestures, facial expressions, and arm movements, all augmented with whistles, hoots, howls, and chirps.

“Yes,” but her answer came out low and scratchy, the beat inside her chest noisy as it tried to burst through her skin. Tears filled her eyes, not from pain but happiness that Nightshade was here, exactly where she needed him. His face, the one that brought fear to those who might attack the People and devastation to those who did, projected fear.

She cocked her head and motioned, “You?”

Deep bruises marred swaths of Nightshade’s handsome physique, as though he had been pummeled by rocks.  An angry gash pulsed at the top of his leg. His strong upper arm wept from a fresh wound, its raw redness extending up his stout neck, over his stubbled cheek, and into his thick hair. Cuts and tears shredded his hands.

“I am fine,” and he fell silent. Why would he say more? He protected the People, not whined about injuries.

When she fumbled again for her neck sack, he reached in and handed her the plant she needed, a root tipped with white bulbs. She chewed as Nightshade scanned the surroundings, never pausing anywhere long, always coming back to her.

The sun shone brightly in a cloudless sky. Sweltering heat hammered down, sucking up the last of the rain that had collected in puddles on the shore. Xhosa’s protective animal skin was torn into shreds but what bothered her was she couldn’t remember how she got here.

“Nightshade, what happened?”

Her memories were a blur—terrified screams and flashes of people flying through the air, some drowning, others clinging desperately to bits of wood.

Nightshade motioned, slowly, “The storm—it hit us with a fury, the rain as heavy and fierce as a waterfall.”

A memory surfaced. Hawk, the powerful leader of the Hawk People, one arm clutching someone as the other clawed at the wet sand, dragging himself up the beach.

He was alive!

It was Hawk who offered her People a home when they had none, after more than a Moon of fleeing for their lives through lands so desolate, she didn’t know how anyone survived. Finding Hawk and his People, she thought she’d found a new homeland.

Her last hunt with Hawk flashed through her mind—the stone tip they created like the Big Head’s weapon, how she had hung by her ankles from a tree trunk to cross a deep ravine. How he grinned when she reached the other side, chest heaving but radiant with satisfaction. He told her many of his warriors shook with fear as they crossed. His pride in her that day glowed like flames at night.

For the first time in her life, she felt Sun’s warmth inside of her.

She looked around, saw quiet groups huddled together, males talking and females grooming children. Pan-do bent over a child, whispering something in her ear but no Hawk.

Where is he? But she didn’t ask Nightshade. The last time she’d seen the two together, they had fought.

She couldn’t imagine a world without Hawk. They had planned to pairmate, combine their groups into one so strong no one could ever again drive her away. She hadn’t known there were enemies worse than Big Heads until Hawk told her about the Ice Mountain invaders. They attacked Hawk’s People long before Xhosa arrived. Hawk had killed most and chased the rest back to their home, icy white cliffs that extended from Sun’s waking place to its sleeping nest, bereft of plants and animals. When he saw where they lived, he understood why they wanted his land.

The children of those dead invaders grew up and wanted revenge.

Someone moaned. She jerked to find who needed help and realized it was her. She hoped Nightshade didn’t hear.

He glanced at her and then away. “All the rafts were destroyed.”

She shook, trying to dislodge the spider webs in her brain. Hawk’s homebase was squashed between a vast stretch of open land and an uncrossable pond. They should have been safe but the Ice Mountain invaders attacked in a massive horde. Her People—and Hawk’s—were driven into the water. The rafts became their only escape. Floating on a log platform to the middle of a pond too deep to walk across was something no one had ever done but they must or die. The plan was the rafts would carry the People to safety, away from the Invaders.

That hadn’t worked.

“There were too many enemy warriors, Xhosa,” and Nightshade opened and closed his hands over and over to show her. “More than I have ever seen in one place.”

Images of warclubs slashed through her thoughts, flying spears, the howls of warriors in battle. Many died, beaten until they stopped moving, children dragged screaming from mothers. The giant female—Zvi—sprinting faster than Xhosa thought someone her size could, the children El-ga and Gadi in her arms, a spear bouncing off her back. Her size stunned the enemy, immobilized them for a breath which gave Zvi the time she needed to reach safety.

Almost to himself, Nightshade motioned, “I’ve never seen him this brave.”

Xhosa didn’t understand. “Him?” Did he mean Zvi?

“Pan-do. His warriors attacked. They saved us.” Nightshade locked onto the figure of Pan-do as he wandered among the bedraggled groups, settling by an elder with a gash across his chest and began to minister to the wound. 

“I remember,” Xhosa murmured. When the People were trapped between the trees and the water, prey waiting to be picked off, Pan-do’s warriors pounced. That gave Xhosa precious time to push the rafts out onto the water. It seemed none of the enemy knew how to swim. Pan-do sliced through the Ice Mountain invaders without fear, never giving ground.

Nightshade motioned, “He isn’t the same Leader who arrived at our homebase, desperate for protection, his People defeated.”

Xhosa’s hands suddenly felt clammy. “Is Lyta alive?”

Since the death of his pairmate, before Xhosa met him, Pan-do’s world revolved around his daughter, Lyta. He became Leader of his People to protect her. When he arrived at the People’s homebase, Lyta stood out, unusual in an otherwise homogenous group. First, it was her haunting beauty, as though she shined from within, her hair as radiant as Sun. Awe turned to shock when she walked, her gait awkward on malformed feet. She should have been destroyed as a child but Pan-do said he had never considered it. He explained that in Moons of migration, before joining Xhosa’s People, Lyta had never slowed them down. He didn’t expect that to change if the two groups traveled together.

And then she spoke. Her voice was like bird’s song and a gift to People exhausted from the day’s work. It cheered up worried adults and put smiles on the faces of children, its melodic beauty convincing them that everything would work out.

It was more than a Moon after his arrival before Pan-do told Xhosa what he valued most about his daughter. Lyta could see truth simply by watching. No one could hide a lie from her, and she never hid it from her father. Pan-do kept it secret because the people it threatened might try to silence her. He only told Xhosa because Lyta had witnessed a conversation about a plan to kill Xhosa.

One of the people Lyta didn’t recognize but the other, he was someone Xhosa trusted.

When Nightshade nodded, Yes, Lyta lives, Xhosa relaxed but only for a moment.

“Sa-mo-ke?”

Nightshade nodded toward a group of warriors. In the middle, eyes alert and hands energetic, stood Sa-mo-ke.

She sighed with relief. Pan-do’s Lead Warrior was also Nightshade’s greatest supporter outside of the People. When he first arrived, Sa-mo-ke spent Moons mimicking her Lead Warrior’s fighting techniques until his skill became almost as formidable as Nightshade’s with one critical difference. While Nightshade liked killing, Sa-mo-ke did so only when necessary.

Nightshade motioned, “Escape came at a tremendous cost, Xhosa. Many died, the rafts were destroyed, and we are now stranded in an unfamiliar land filled with nameless threats.”

It doesn’t matter, she whispered to herself. We are good at migrating.

She jerked her head around, and then motioned, “Where’s Spirit?”

The loyal wolf had lived with people his entire life. He proved himself often while hunting, defending his packmates, and being a good friend. An image flitted across her mind, Spirit streaking toward the rafts, thrusting his formidable body like a spear through the shocked hordes. The enemy had never seen an animal treat People as pack. Then, the wolf swimming, paws churning the water into whitecaps, gaze locked onto Seeker. Endless Pond was too deep for him to touch the bottom so his head bobbed up and down, feet paddling like a duck’s as he fought to stay above the surface.

Nightshade gestured, “The attackers almost killed Spirit.”

She bit her lip, concentrating. “I remember Mammoth’s trumpets.”

The rare hint of a smile creased his mouth. “Another of Pan-do’s tricks. It saved Spirit and probably all of us. He brayed like a herd of Mammoth thundering toward the shoreline. The invaders fled for their lives.”

Pan-do is clever.

Nightshade grimaced. “But the storm worsened and the rafts foundered. Many of the People managed to cling to logs long enough to crash onto this shore. Then, they saved others. But many died.”

He opened and closed his hands to show how many.

A stillness descended as Nightshade’s gaze filled with a raw emotion he never showed. It shook Xhosa. Nothing frightened her Lead Warrior.

She gulped which hurt her insides. Shallow breaths worked better. Rolling to her hands and knees, she stood which made her head swim and she threw up.

Finally, the dizziness subsided and Xhosa asked, “Hawk?”

Nightshade peered around, hands fidgeting. He examined something on the ground, toed it with his foot. “When the tempest destroyed the rafts, he dragged many to shore, to safety. The last time, he did not return. I tried to find him.”

Soundless tears dampened her face. Nightshade touched her but Xhosa focused on a trail of ants and a worm burrowing into the soft earth. Her vision dimmed and she stumbled, fell, and then crawled, happy for the pain that took her mind off Hawk. When she forced herself up, everything blurred but she inhaled, slowly, and again, until she could finally see clearly.

How dare Hawk die! We had plans. Xhosa shoved those thoughts away. Later was soon enough to deal with them.

“His People—do they know?”

We don’t forget our first

No matter good or bad, we never forget our first.

Today I’m here to share two first reads for me – plus a Friday 13th bonus.

 

Let’s start with non-fiction:

Fishnets in the Far East – Michele E. Northwood

Now this one is a resounding first. It’s a memoir! That’s right, I’m reading non-fiction!

Though I’ll admit the antics this author’s suffered in the hands of Korean chauvinistic men would make an excellent movie. It’s almost like fiction, the drama, misadventures, the humor – they all boil down to a fantastic, somewhat frightful, six months in Korea. I could never tell if the next scene would grip me with tension or laughter.

 

“Here,” said Louise throwing me an empty coffee jar, “Trap it under there, then we can slide some paper underneath it and throw it out of the window.” After a couple of failed attempts – because I lost my nerve whenever it moved – it was finally trapped inside the upturned coffee jar. I then began the process of sliding a folded piece of paper underneath. I was hoping that the cockroach would facilitate the procedure and oblige by stepping onto the stationary, but this one had other ideas. “Oh My God! It’s eating the paper!” I screamed. Sure enough a sizeable chunk had gone from the folded piece of stationary and we could actually hear it munching! This made the thought of actually picking it up decidedly more daunting! “I vote that we just leave it where it is for now!” I said. “We can think about moving it later!” It was unanimously agreed that the cockroach was going nowhere, so we kept it in our room, under the coffee jar and named him Clive. Even the cleaners seemed to respect his position on the carpet and hovered carefully around him. Maybe they thought that Europeans were decidedly weird to want to keep a cockroach as a pet, but they played along.”

Neither of the three dancers – Michele and her two mates, spoke Korean, or were savvy enough to deal with the rudeness, forwardness, and all the declarations of love they received, but they learned, as the saying goes, by the seats of their pants.

I’m impressed Michele didn’t break down and run back home. No, despite all the mistreatment she and her group endured, they went on, auditioning for the next dance, and the next and the next, enduring all the poor quality of the clubs they had to perform in – even in strip clubs!

And then they had their agent, Mr. Lee, so frugal, they had to haggle every time they wanted to get paid – and hunt him down too. I believe he was taking advantage of their ‘free audition’ too.

I had wondered at the end if Michele had had enough and if she’d ask to go home before the six month’s contract was over, but she held on and I could totally relate when she felt nostalgic leaving Korea at the end. It was a chapter of her life where she learned so much, despite not all being nice.

I can’t wait to read this author’s next book, currently at the making, somewhere in Japan.

Totally recommend this one!

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43587835-fishnets-in-the-far-east

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07MLQ1WVQ/

Where the wind blows – Simone Beaudelaire

 

“The irresistible harmony between musicians creates a passionate symphony, but past discords and present clashes sour the melody. Can their love finally ring true?”

99.9% of the books I read has a romantic aspect. Romantic suspense, PNR, thriller/mystery, fantasy/sci-fi; chick lit. No matter what, almost all my reads have some sort of romance. But I can honestly say this is the first time I read a romance where the guy is African American. An African American woman and a white man, yes, biracial couples, yes. A guy with mixed heritage, yes. But a romance where the woman is white and the guy African American, this was a first for me. And so refreshing! It reminds me of a favorite movie from my teen years – Save the last dance.

This is a romantic story between two musicians attracted to each other, but with a lot of baggage in their background. Brooke has her demons to contend with, but a supportive and psychic sister. Kenneth has his family’s and his insecurities about their relationship, but he’s ready to adjust his life and settle down. His mother doesn’t want a white woman for her son, but the rest of his family didn’t stand in his way. I’m glad to say Brooke put Kenneth’s mother in her place, and she came around to their romance later.

The writing is done exceptionally well, the mood dark at times, light at others, the style easy to read.

There are some graphic sex scenes – adds up to the romance, but, again, they’re graphic, so I wouldn’t recommend it for ages less than sixteen. Otherwise it’s a great and fast read!, great for the end of the weekend, or a getaway read.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/46543852-where-the-wind-blows

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1073590232/

And now a Friday 13th feature!

Monstrosity: Tales of Transformation – Laura Diaz de Arce

Blurb:

Dear reader,

When we were children, we dreamed of being heroes. We wanted to slay dragons and defeat the monsters that scared us.

As we grew older, we were forced to try and find our monsters. We had been told they would be easy to spot. Monsters had too much teeth, too much fur, too much size.

These were lies. We stopped wanting to be heroes. We started to want to be more, to be too much. We wanted, needed, more than the world could give us. We wanted more than what we were told we should be. We wanted to become monsters. “If you love well-crafted short stories with unexpected twists, this is the collection for you! Laura Diaz de Arce has a writing style that pulls you right in. Her characters are lively, and I can guarantee that when the twist hits you, you won’t see it coming!” – R. S. Penney, author of Symbiosis and Desa Kincaid

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45158396-monstrosity

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07PNP1Y9H/

Just a beggar

Hey peeps, today I’m here to beg, again, for your vote for my book.

Most votes last time didn’t go through due to their precaution (against cheating) system, and the votes are about to close on august 20th. I’ve been on the lead since April, and I wasn’t going to post about it again, but today I discovered I’m in a tie with another book.

Please help!

Here’s a step by step instruction on how to vote:

1- Click on the link below

2- Go to page 8, fantasy category (there’s a 1/16 with arrows to go back and forth through the pages. Click on the arrows until you get to 8/16)

3- Click on my book, Heir of ashes by Jina S. Bazzar

4- Choose which platform you want to use to vote – Twitter or Facebook

5- Confirm your vote by clicking on your account name

 

Once you’ve done those steps, your vote should’ve gone through. There’s no need to create any accounts or sign up for a newsletter.

 

If your vote went through the last time, two things may happen when you click on my book:

 

1- You’ll be sent to page 9 to vote in that category.

2- You’ll be shown the number of votes I have.

Link: https://www.tckpublishing.com/2019-readers-choice-voting-page/

 

I really appreciate any support I get at this stage.

Thank you very much!

Marika (Chronicles of Tonath #3) by Mari Collier

Blurb: Tonath is a planet in danger of being torn apart. Only one can inherit the knowledge to one day save the Tonathian people, and her name is Marika.

It’s been seventeen years since her father passed.  Coming of age, she inherits a cattle hold, a trust account, and many gifts. One special gift is a chest, which comes with instructions that will guide her to the Bergman Mountains.

With a spaceship and the knowledge of three ancient civilizations, will she have time to access it all.. or will the Star Shifts hide the information, and drive her into the arms of her childhood love?

My review: A great read! An emotional journey of a half-alien girl with ambitions and wisdom in a failing planet ruled by men.

This is the third installment in the Chronicles of Tonath by Mari Collier. I didn’t read the first two books, and although there were times in the book where I wondered what was behind the scene – with Jack Donald and with The Silver and the Green – I didn’t need to reference back to understand.

This story follows the life of Marika, a half human, half alien girl with big ambitions in a world falling apart, a world ruled by men.

Because of Tonath’s proximity to a black hole, shifts happen that cause shattering earth quakes as well as the planet to burn every so many years.

Marika’s journey is the kind to elicit all kinds of emotion from the reader. There were times I couldn’t put the story down, needing to know what was going to happen next, others when I had my teeth gritted, others when I was biting my nails. And then there were the times where my eyes pricked – though I assure I’m woman enough to keep those tears from falling in front of my kids.

It’s a slow burn story, but the pace remains steady throughout the entire book, with plot twists, ups and downs I couldn’t predict.

The writing was good, the visualization vivid, the tone captivating. I recommend ages 15+.

 

Add it to your Goodreads

Or get a copy on amazon

Uh, I can’t do that

A while back, I was talking to this guy and I let it escape *coughs bragged *  that I’m a published author. He was impressed, asked me if he could read it, and of course, I forwarded him both books + the short story, with the promise to gift him with an early copy of the final book when it’s completed.

While we talked, and he checked the books and the reviews on goodreads, he said he’d like to arrange a small gathering for me to introduce myself and my books to help with marketing.

I, of course, introvert that I am, said no way.

My mom said I was a fool (gotta love family bluntness), that there was nothing to be shy about, and that I was letting a great opportunity go.

And I know that.

But I’m just not wired that way. I can be the joker in the room filled with friends and family members, I can be outgoing whenever I meet someone new by accident. But put me in a situation where I’d be questioned by a room filled with strangers about a particular subject and I’d simply blank. I know, because that actually happened to me before – at work when I was presenting a project to half a dozen donors. Granted, it wasn’t my project or my presentation, but the fact remains that my mind simply disconnects and I can’t, for the life of me, grasp a coherent thought when I’m put on the spot.

I’ve been asked by family members “what’s your book about?” and my answer is always, “Hmmm. It’s fantasy.”

“Yeah?” they’d ask, “What kind?”

And I’d say, “Urban fantasy?” Are they asking because they’re trying to be polite? I always wonder.

And when I’m asked to elaborate, I go on about this girl who’s maybe half human and half fae, but she isn’t really half human but something else. And she’s taken to a facility where scientists conduct all kinds of experiments on her but she manages to escape nine years later. But the book opens after that. And she’s being attacked by hired mercenaries that the scientists send after her and she’s trying to find her mother to find out why they’re all trying to capture her, but her mother, well, she isn’t who she thought she should be.

Here I’d stop, because the room’s gone quiet and I can feel everyone’s eyes on me – and I have this sense that the ones who don’t think I’m a little loony (there’s not one single reader among my friends and family) are actually wondering if the book is as bad as I make it sound.

And remember, those are the friends and family who consider me the joker of the bunch

 

So when this guy said he could put together a small gathering of readers to help me out, my answer was a resounding no.

I can’t do that, even though I know it’s a great opportunity passing by.

Is it a necessary step for an author? A quick internet research said that it’s a great tool one should explore – and that’s actually sad. I just want to write and be read, I don’t want to be famous, and I don’t want to make a lot of money – though the latter would actually be nice.

Would you do it – stand in front of a bunch of people and answer their questions about something that took you years to complete? Or, better yet, have you ever attended a book event where the author made the story sound uninteresting and boring?

Do you believe in magic?

Words are magic, simple scribbling’s on a page that can conjure worlds, dragons, murderers, love, laughter, tears.

Sometimes, we string thousands of words together to send the message across, sometimes a paragraph will do. Other times, a simple phrase carries the power of an entire book – like the title.

Sometimes when I’m writing, my brain conjures up a title from the deepest recess of my mind and sends it to the forefront like an offering. Other times, the deep lake is silent, a foe who’s given me the pinky finger.

Who cares, I’d fume, it’s just a phrase, and as long as the content of the writing is good, the title doesn’t matter. And then I remember the countless books I’ve put aside just because the title was less than appealing.

Do you believe in magic?

It’s real. Words have power.

I believe there’s something about titles, a certain magic to either attract or repulse the mind. Short, long, suspenseful, humorous, frightening. No matter what, titles have the power to trigger recognition and stir emotion.

A weak title could repulse the reader, cause him/her to leave the book be. A strong title, on the other hand, has the power to entice a reader to pick up the book, even if for no other reason than to thumb through the pages and take a second look. Sometimes a second look is all a person needs to decide if the book deserves the title or not, other times, the reader may just go on reading to find out the reason for the title.

I, for one, have put aside countless books, despite positive reviews, just because the title didn’t appeal to me. For one, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is one book I’ve read nothing but positive reviews for, but that title keeps shoving me away. Other books, like The Cruel Prince, have enticed me to pick it up, only to realize later that the title sounded better than the book itself (apologies to the fans).

Some titles can be non-descriptive, a neutral phrase or word that don’t really tell us anything, but for some reason (maybe the author’s name) gives us pause nonetheless. That’s when the reader may flip to the other cover and read a blurb (another bunch of words strung together) to see what the fuss is all about.

Words have magic, be it a short phrase, a paragraph, or a string of thousands of words put together to paint an image. Like a drawing on a canvas, sometimes simple strokes can do wonders.

Putting one word after the other to form a sentence is a simple task – but the result, to tease the reader’s imagination into seeing what the writer wants the reader to see is what causes the magic to happen.

Do you believe in magic?

Let’s prove wordpress is the best – and a book review in the mix

Today, mixed in with my latest book review, I want to introduce a friend and a fellow author, who just started blogging. We’ve all been there – the new kid in the block – so we all know how frustrating and weird blogging can get.

Let’s give Sean a welcome here to wp and prove to him I was right and wordpress is the best community out there – he’s eager to connect!

Welcome Sean!

author profile

Sean Robins is the author of The Crimson Death Bringer (read my review below), a science fiction / space opera book, to be released on May 3rd 2019.

Here’s a little about Sean:

Sean is a fan of Marvel, Game of Thrones, Star Trek AND Star Wars and Jim Butcher. He’s a university / college level English professor originally from Canada, but has lived in various countries all over the world.

Blog: https://thecrimsondeathbringer.home.blog 

book cover

 

Book title: , The Crimson Death Bringer

Genre: Science fiction / space opera

Target audience: Teen and young adult

Publisher: Creativia

Print length: 354 pages

 

Book blurb:

 

The Akakies, a peaceful, technologically advanced alien species known as “the galaxy’s pranksters,” are under attack by the Xortaags, a vicious military race bent on conquering the universe. The Xortaags are deadly, but Tarq, the Akakies’ chief strategist and legendary shadow master, has a plan.

 

Meanwhile on Earth, Jim, a wise-cracking, movie-quoting, OCD-suffering fighter pilot, is about to propose to his girlfriend Liz when his childhood friend Kurt shows up at his house, injured and covered in blood. Kurt is a freedom fighter/super- assassin hunted by a brutal military dictatorship’s security forces. Soon after, Jim, Liz and Kurt’s lives are set to crash with a galactic war that threatens the very existence of the human race.

 

Can our heroes save humanity from the wrath of an overwhelming enemy?

 

The Crimson Deathbringer seamlessly blends breathtaking action sequences with mischievous humor. If you are a science fiction/space opera fan, this book, with its memorable characters, formidable antagonist and Game of Thrones style shocking moments, is written especially for you.

 

Want an e-copy of The Crimson Death Bringer? It’s your lucky day! Sean is giving a limited number of books away in exchange for an honest review, if you’re interested, let me know and I’ll arrange it for you.

 

My review:

 

When I started this book, I had 0 expectations, no idea of what I was going to find.

And man, was I surprised.

The Crimson Death Bringer is a mix of funny and clever dialogue, action packed adventure, with scenes that made me chuckle, bite my nails, and provoked a tear or two.

All while it kept me at the edge of my seat, trying to guess what would happen next. And no, most times I guessed wrong.

 

In this book, Sean Robins takes us into a futuristic adventure where aliens have come to conquer earth. Seems familiar? Add another alien race who decides helping humans will benefit them in the long run, and there you have it: A ruthless species who wants to conquer earth and treat humans as their slave-poppets vs. another alien race who are technologically advanced…. but are dubbed the galaxy’s pranksters and will need the humans to pilot and fight the enemy.

The result? Well, a complete disaster!

 

There are multiple pov’s in this book, something I know isn’t easy to write, but Sean pulled it off perfectly. His characters are well drawn, his descriptions clear and easy to envision.

And the ending will make you wish for more!

 

The Crimson Death Bringer is a compelling, thrilling and fun read that will keep you at the edge of your seat. Totally recommend it!

*****

Get a copy:

Amazon: Mybook.to/crimsondeath

 

Or add it to your goodreads list:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44594838-the-crimson-deathbringer

 

Warning: Writing is bad for readers

Aside from cutting my free time short, writing has affected my reading habits in a lot of different ways, and they aren’t all nice.

Back in the day, I’d pick up a book and just read until I reached the other cover – I’d even read the copyright statement, acknowledgement, biography and, if included, the bonus chapter from the next book.

When my time got shorter and books got available with a bigger variety, the only thing that really changed was the fact that I got pickier. Back then, I didn’t mind if there was a typo, a plot hole (small one) or if some paragraph didn’t make much sense. I simply ignored the mistakes – because they happen, we’re human after all – and went on with the story. My rating of that book was the result of my overall enjoyment, meaning, I didn’t try picking the book apart – writing style, plot, character and so on; if I enjoyed the story as a whole, it meant that was a good story and that’s it.

Then I started writing. And so, I began paying attention to other author’s style, the way they described things, the tone of the story… you know, big and small things that appealed to the writer within. Now, everything’s changed.

For one, I’m always on the lookout for mistakes. The grammar, the spelling, the formatting – any typos. That should be a good thing, being able to identify others mistakes. For a writer, that is, and I like that I can tell the difference.

But, for my reader? It kills the reading mood. I still rate a book by my overall enjoyment of the story, but sometimes, if the typos are many, my enjoyment of the story dims, especially if I find a plot hole.

And when I find any typo on a best seller? I’m crazy enough that I do a happy dance.

What about you? Do you rate a book by your overall enjoyment of the story, or do you take note of the typos and then deduce stars from your rating?