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Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Here Be Magic Boxed Set, by Various Authors, Post No. 5

And, finally (albeit wrapping around from last week, the last of the Boosting the Signal feature posts for the Here Be Magic Boxed Set! I’ve got one more doubleheader today for you all. The first of the two posts features yet another prior Boosting the Signal guest, and yet another bestselling Carina author: Cindy Spencer Pape. Cindy’s story in the set is Devil of Bourbon Street, and she’s offering up an excerpt to tease your fancy. Her hero, Detective Quinn Carling, has a nicely understated goal in this scene: doing a good turn for a street busker. Or at least, on the surface. Check out the scene for what he’s really after!

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Here Be Magic Boxed Set

Here Be Magic Boxed Set

“Come into the café and I’ll buy you lunch—no strings attached.” It was something Toni would have done, and it seemed a good way to honor her memory today.

Her lips, devoid of makeup, quirked. “They won’t let me in—I have a dog.”

He brushed aside a vine and peered through the fence. Sure enough a big mutt—Labrador sized, maybe, but with something long-haired and spotted in its background—thumped its tail by the street singer’s feet and grinned up at Quinn. A battered plastic bowl near its head was half full of water.

Quinn smiled back at the dog. “Doesn’t he scare away the customers?” He noticed her guitar case was on a concrete bench, a good four feet to her left—probably just out of reach of the big guy’s leash.

“Nah, Olaf’s pretty mellow.” She continued to strum her guitar as she chatted, nodding her thanks to a couple who dropped some change into the guitar case. She was sort of ordinary-looking for a street performer in NOLA—no fake vampire makeup or voodoo beads, she wore faded jeans, a yellow T-shirt and battered canvas sneakers.

“Well, tell me what you want, and I’ll bring you out your meal.” Now that he’d gotten the idea of feeding her into his head, it wouldn’t let go. He could sit on the bench out there and listen, as well as in here.

“Why?” she asked easily, as if the answer didn’t much matter. There was no accusation in her tone, just simple curiosity. Tiny smile lines around her eyes suggested she was older than she’d looked at first—maybe in her mid-to-late-twenties. “Am I your good deed for the day?”

He shrugged. “Maybe.” The truth was that he had no idea and didn’t really care to analyze his own thought process too deeply. “It’s been a day. I suppose I wouldn’t mind having someone to talk to while I finish my lunch. We’re on a public street, so I’d guess you’re pretty safe.”

“Fair enough.” Giving him that same, crooked smile, she asked for a coffee, two ham sandwiches, and an order of beignets.

Quinn doubled the order, in case she intended to share with her dog. If not, she could stash the extra away and have dinner tonight as well. He’d almost swear he heard Toni’s voice in the back of his head, urging him on. Then he took the singer’s food and his refilled coffee and wandered out to sit on the bench beside her guitar case. “Been doing this long?”

“Playing guitar, or singing on the street?” She moved the case to the ground, laid her guitar inside, and slid it under the bench. The dog moved with her, plopping his shaggy butt down on the ground in front of the center of the bench—making sure he was between Quinn and his mistress.

“Either. Both.” Quinn sipped his coffee and watched her tear off a big chunk of the first sandwich and feed it to the dog. “Name’s Quinn. And you two?”

“Darcy,” she said with a mouthful off bread and ham and cheese. “And Olaf.” After another bite, she added, “Nice to meet you, Quinn. Thanks for the food.”

It might have been a polite brush-off, but Quinn decided not to take it that way. He leaned back against the fence behind the bench. “I was enjoying your music. Seemed like a fair trade.” Quinn snitched a beignet from the second basket and bit into the hot, fried dough, dripping with powdered sugar. God these were amazing. He’d never been able to duplicate the flavor back home, no matter how hard he’d tried, despite the fact that he was a pretty decent cook.

“Works for me.” She split another chunk of the sandwich with Olaf. “I’ve been playing guitar—just not very well—since I was a kid. I’ve only been trying to make a living at it for the last few months.”

“What’d you do before that?” Quinn had no real idea why he found her so fascinating. He just did. And it wasn’t only because she was a pretty young woman, though he’d have to be blind to not notice that. He was honestly curious.

“I worked at a day care center.” One of the sparrows chose that moment to land on her shoulder, and rather than recoil, Darcy laughed, making her deep brown eyes sparkle with an amber glow. “I love these guys, but dude, you are not getting any of my beignets.” To Quinn’s surprise, Olaf seemed to completely ignore the birds.

“They are pretty persistent,” Quinn stopped himself from wiping a dot of mustard from her upper lip. When she flicked out her tongue and got it, he nearly groaned. Yeah. As soon as he got home, it was time, past time, to get his sorry ass back into the dating pool.

“But they add character—something that’s very important here in the Big Easy.” She winked at him. “Mind you, I’m a Detroit girl by birth, but I’ve been here long enough to have figured out some of the basics. Where are you from? Your accent is hard to place, but you don’t strike me as a tourist.”

“Philadelphia, now” he said. “Maryland, originally. But I lived over in Metairie for a while in my misspent youth, then here in the Quarter for oh, five years or so.”

“Just here visiting old haunts?” Her eyes widened and warmed. He could have sworn she was sensing his pain.

“You could say that, I guess.” He closed his eyes and inhaled. Haunts, indeed.

“No, really. Whatever brought you here wasn’t a happy thing.” She reached over and brushed some powdered sugar off his knee. The intimacy of the touch sent a jolt through his system. “Sometimes it helps to talk to strangers—and I’m as strange as they get.”

Quinn chuckled at that, but under her determined gaze, he caved in and sighed. “My late wife is buried here. After three years of beating myself up day in and day out, I’ve finally realized that her death wasn’t entirely my fault. So I came down here to make my peace. I took flowers to her tomb today—and after all this time, I really said goodbye.”

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Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Here Be Magic Boxed Set, by Various Authors, Post No. 4

The Boosting the Signal special feature run for the Here Be Magic boxed set continues! With this post, I welcome back yet another previous Boosting the Signal guest: Veronica Scott. Veronica’s story in the set is Healer of the Nile, and she’s sent in a character interview to highlight her heroine’s goals as well as her general personality! Check it out.

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Here Be Magic Boxed Set

Here Be Magic Boxed Set

1550 BCE

When Pharaoh sends injured warrior Tadenhut home to die, his noble family asks Mehyta, the local healer, to ease his path to the Afterlife. Mehyta discovers he’s trapped between Life and Death, caught in the dreamspace. Touched by his fighting spirit and will to live, Mehyta vows to use all the powers Shai, god of fate, gave her. Together Tadenhut and the brave healer battle to overcome his injuries, as well as threats from devious family members. While struggling to rescue her patient, Mehyta comes to realize he matters more to her than any man ever has before. But even if his life can be saved, what do the omens say about a match between a highborn soldier and a simple healer?

Today we’ll interview Mehyta, but without giving away any spoilers!

What is your idea of perfect happiness? As an Egyptian, I subscribe to the principles of ma’at, that if truth, order, law, morality and justice can be kept in balance, then the world is in harmony. For myself, I’m happy at the end of the day if I’ve done well using my healing skills to benefit others. And if I can have a peaceful dinner with the man I love each evening, talking of the events of our respective days, that’s ideal. He’s my best friend! Sometimes we go for a sail on the Nile, which is a rare treat as well.

Which living person do you most admire? Pharaoh, of course! May the gods grant him life, prosperity and health.

What is your greatest extravagance? Buying special herbs and plants from other lands, that I may try new remedies and methods of healing. I have a garden where I grow as many as possible but some foreign plants fail to thrive in Egypt, despite the bounty of the Nile and richness of our soil.

On what occasion do you lie? I misled many people when I was trying to save Tadenhut’s life, not by telling outright lies, but by not explaining everything I was doing. Allowing people to think what they wished and not correcting their misunderstandings. I always told Tadenhut the hard truths, however, about his injuries.

Which talent would you most like to have? I’d like to know how to run the estate effortlessly, to know all the proper protocols for entertaining Pharaoh and his nobles. To know how much food and wine to order for a dinner, how many entertainers there should be, how to ensure the entire house is ready at the appointed hour. Fortunately there are others I trust to arrange these things on the Hunting Cat estate, leaving me free to concentrate on using my healing gifts. I’m a very shy hostess!

What is your most treasured possession? My pouch of omen stones. They were passed down to me from my grandmother, who was a true daughter of Shai, god of Fate. I don’t have all the powers she possessed, but I can read the stones and tell people their fortunes. I have beautiful spheres of many precious and semiprecious stones and usually when someone asks a question, I put my hand into the pouch and withdraw five or six stones. The right ones will come to my hand, whether the answer is going to be favorable or ominous. Then I cast the chosen stones onto the ground and interpret the pattern. When it came to Tadenhut’s fate, however, I had to cast all the stones, more than once, and seek the counsel of Shai himself.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Being separated from Tadenhut for more than a day!

What historical figure do you most identify with? It is said in the time of the pyramid builders there lived a wise and beautiful female physician, Peseshet, whose knowledge of cures and spells was unparalleled. She was lauded in her son’s tomb as having been the “lady overseer of the female physicians.” I would so love to sit under the palms with Peseshet for an hour, asking questions. The scribes keep much knowledge from the past in the scrolls but I never learned to read. And often one can glean more by talking to someone anyway, rather than merely reading the dry accounts. Tadenhut has put forth word that he will pay dearly for any papyrus related to her teachings but as yet none have been located. Even Pharaoh’s library fails to provide anything more than her name and reputation.

What’s your personal motto? The ancient proverb, “There is no one who can ignore Shai.”

What is your most marked characteristic? I think most people, including Tadenhut, would say I’m stubborn. Once I decide on a course of action, I won’t give up, no matter how many obstacles are placed in my path. I’ll find a way.

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Books

Final book acquisition post of 2015

The Day the World Came to Town

The Day the World Came to Town

Forgot to get this posted in a timely fashion, so here it is at least to finish off my book acquisitions for the previous year.

Acquired in print:

The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland, by Jim DeFede. Picked this up from the gift shop at the Seattle Rep, the night I saw the play Come From Away. Because I figured a) reading this was obligatory to better appreciate the play’s context, and b) the purchase would help support the Rep!

Acquired from Kobo:

The Force Awakens, by Alan Dean Foster. This is the official novelization of the new Star Wars movie, which I wanted to pick up despite the ebook being pricier than I usually like. (The wait list on the library queue was unacceptably long, and I wanted to read it NOW.) I have in fact read this now as of this writing, and can report that while it was generally a straightforward adaptation of what we all saw on screen, there are a few additional details that I wish would have made it into the final theatrical cut.

And that puts me at 79 total for the year. Which is pretty low for me, historically!

Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Here Be Magic Boxed Set, by Various Authors, Post No. 3

The second post of today’s Boosting the Signal doubleheader features fellow Here Be Magic author Rebecca York. I’m quite honored to have her on my column tonight, given that I’ve got a few of this lady’s paperbacks on my shelf! Her entry in the Here Be Magic boxed set is the novella Terror Mansion, and she’s sent me an excerpt from same to run for you all here now. Her character Wyatt Granger’s goal? Find the mysterious woman he’s certain needs his help.

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Here Be Magic Boxed Set

Here Be Magic Boxed Set

This wasn’t Wyatt Granger’s routine nightmare. Usually he had a clear vision of some unfortunate future event that he might or might not be able to alter.

Instead he saw a confusing swirl of murky images with shadowy figures appearing and disappearing, mostly at an old building near the dock in a seaside town. More confounding were the scenes in what looked like a house of horrors, filled with distorted mirrors, a laughing but menacing clown and places where the floor dropped out from under your feet, sending you to the depths of hell.

But always at the center of the whirlwind was a beautiful young woman with terror in her wide-set blue eyes and her blond hair in a tangle around her heart-shaped face.

When his own eyes blinked open, he lay with his heart pounding, fighting his way back to reality. But the here and now kept slithering away. What he saw instead was the woman’s face floating in his mind, the most indelible image from the nightmare.

“Who are you?” he whispered as he sat up and thrust aside the tangled bedsheets.

Although she wasn’t there to respond, he had no doubt that he was going to meet her soon, and the encounter was going to change his life.

A dramatic way to put it? Maybe, but he knew to the marrow of his bones that the dream had been about his own future—even when his prescient nightmares had never been personal before.

“Crap,” he whispered under his breath. He stood up, pressed his feet against the cold floor and walked naked to the window of his condo, where he stood clenching and unclenching his fists as he looked toward the glimmer of dawn on the horizon.

He ached to shake off the vivid confusion of the dream.

But instead of the bare tree trunks outside, he saw the woman’s face, pale and intense and beautiful.

“Who are you?” he asked again, but he heard only the throbbing of the blood in his veins.

He might not know her name, but he had to find her. He could have fought the feeling of urgency that threatened to choke off his breath, but the truth of the dream was burned into his soul, even when he had no way to cope with it on a logical level. All he knew was that he had to go to her. And then he had to take her in his arms and protect her—even when he knew she was going to mount a savage denial that she needed his aid.

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Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Here Be Magic Boxed Set, by Various Authors, Post No. 2

This post was supposed to go up yesterday, but this is what happens when you spend most of your workday dealing with computer crankiness. But my delay is your gain, because this means y’all get to have a doubleheader today in the week-long Boosting the Signal feature on the Here Be Magic boxed set! Today’s post brings a new name to the Boosting the Signal author list: fellow HBM member Linda Mooney. Linda’s contribution to the boxed set is the story Tall, Tall Trees, and she’s offering up a deleted scene from that tale for you today. Her characters in that story have the very straightforward goal of surviving to save their lives and their love, while in this piece, the medicine woman Aunty Vo has a more immediate goal: withstanding the wrath of Pellera’s father.

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Here Be Magic Boxed Set

Here Be Magic Boxed Set

Aunty Vo stared at the collection of personal items she’d managed to gather to take with her. Her old bones told her the upcoming rains would result in a flood unlike anything anyone had ever witnessed or survived. To say she was frightened would be a mistake. She was terrified beyond words, and almost beyond thought.

“Old woman! Where are you, old woman? Answer me!” A voice bellowed from the front room. She immediately knew who it was.

She took her time making her way through the curtain to find Maton and two of his cronies standing by the fire. They were armed with clubs and axes. By the expressions on their faces, she could tell they had a more sinister purpose for being here than asking for a hunting spell. She knew why they’d sought her out, and hardened herself.

“Watch your tongue, Maton. I do not like your tone,” she informed their leader.

“I demand to know where my daughter has gone,” Maton ordered. “Give me the information I seek.”

“I do not know where she’s gone,” the medicine woman replied coolly. It was the truth. She had only given Pellera and Oron her blessing and advice. She had no knowledge of what they did after they left. However, Maton refused to listen.

“You do know, old woman. Cortab saw them leave here not long ago. Where were they going? To the treeber home compound?”

Aunty Vo did not attempt to hide her disgust. “I did not say I hadn’t seen them. Only that I do not know where they went after they left.”

“Why were they here in the first place?” The man continued to irritate her.

“You know I am not obligated to tell you anything. What I do or say to those who seek my help is sacrosanct. But this one time I will tell you they were seeking my blessing on their union. Something you had no intention of giving. Now go away and leave me in peace.”

She turned to exit the room. She never expected Maton to lunge for her and grab her arm with bruising fingers.

“Tell me what I want to know!” he hotly demanded.

She narrowed her eyes at him. “Let me go, Maton. I am telling you nothing more, and bullying will not work on me.” She glanced at the other two, who’d retreated to the front door flap to watch in uncomfortable silence. “If you continue to follow this man, you will be met with death. Heed my warning.”

The fingers squeezed more tightly, making her wince.

“You are a cruel and unjust man, Maton. Your forthcoming death will be beneficial to this tribe’s welfare.”

The man paled but he remained absolute. “Are you threatening me?”

She never flinched. “Are you? Don’t forget, Maton, I have the ears of the gods, and they have mine. They’ve whispered of your demise, and they are taking delight in it. Go look for your precious child…before it’s too late.”

“What do you mean by that? Before it’s too late?” He gave her arm a shake.

“Maton?” One of the men by the doorway interceded. “Maton, we need to hurry if we’re going to make any sort of headway before dark.”

Aunty Vo gave him her best shadowy smile. One she knew struck fear in men’s hearts whenever she graced them with it. “Yes, Maton. You’d best hurry. Your hours are numbered.”

Her soft prophecy had the effect she was seeking. The man shuddered, and he removed his hand.

“Hours? You mean years,” he tried to correct her.

“No, Maton. You heard me correctly the first time. Your time among the living is being measured in hours. I strongly suggest you to put them to good use, beginning with trying to make amends with your own flesh and blood before it’s too late.”

Jerking her arm from the man’s grasp, she left the outer room where she soon heard the men depart. After wrapping the few precious items she could not bear to leave behind, she bundled them in a sling and placed it over her head where it rested on one shoulder and across her body. Tying a flask of water and a bag of food around her waist, she grabbed her bowl of light and began her journey through the deep recesses of the caves where she would find shelter.

There, she would wait out the aftermath of the flooding rains, and the devastation they would bring.

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Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Here Be Magic Boxed Set, by Various Authors, Post No. 1

Welcome to the first of the special Boosting the Signal run of posts featuring the Here Be Magic boxed set! This is a digital release put out by the blogging group I’m in, Here Be Magic. And while I’m not actually in this boxed set myself, I wanted to give it some signalboosting love, so I invited the participating authors to send me pieces to promote the release. The first of these is from previous Boosting the Signal guest Shawna Reppert, whose story in the set is from her Ravensblood universe. Raven’s Song is set between books 1 and 2 of that series. If you’ve read Book 1, you might have a good idea already of what her protagonist’s goal is: to prove that he is capable of goodness. Here’s Corwyn Ravenscroft on that very topic!

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Here Be Magic Boxed Set

Here Be Magic Boxed Set

I thought the hard part was over.

No, I can’t say that. It is over. I would never want to live those last dark months again. Watching William descend further and further into blood-soaked madness, terrified all the time that he would discover my duplicity. Terrified that he would win, and that all of the Three Communities would be forced into the hell that his followers had walked into of their own accord. Betraying both my master and my students to keep that from happening, never knowing whether I was buying back my soul or damning it further.

At the risk of tempting fate, I will say that nothing I face again in my life could be worse than those months.

But at least then I fought with weapons I knew. My skill with magic, which is both my birthright and my life’s study. The guile and dissembling gleaned from years of survival within William’s inner circle.

I confess that I hadn’t had any thought then of what lay on the other side of defeating William and gaining my pardon. Perhaps, deep down, I hadn’t expected to survive. In my darkest moments, I hadn’t believed I deserved to.

Now here I am, back in the world. A free citizen. With an agent of Guardian International Investigations for a lover, gods help us both.

I’ve been a dark mage for all of my adult life, minus the last half-year or so. I’m not sure I know how to be anything else. ‘Normal’ isn’t as easy as it looked from the outside. I can pick up the piano again, easily enough. There’s sheet music to remind me of where my fingers go. I can find no guide to making acquaintances not built on alliances and advantage.

As far as anything beyond acquaintance, well… Under William’s tutelage I learned how to seduce, when urge or occasion arose. When the mood struck, I’ve allowed myself to be seduced. When it comes to the sort of long-term relationship that normal people have, the sort based on love and trust and honesty, I can only say that I’m willing to try, for Cassandra’s sake. For my own sake, to be truthful, because I can’t imagine walking into this new life without her at my side.

There are still plenty of people waiting for me to fail. To smile and nod and tell each other that they knew it all along. That there’s no way that a Ravenscroft could be anything other than dark.

I refuse to prove them right. Not only because I can be as arrogant and stubborn as I’ve often been accused of being. But because I’ve fought too hard for this new life to let it go. I have far too much to lose.

And because there are a small number of people who believe that I might succeed. And they matter more.

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Boosting the Signal

New Boosting the Signal special feature: the Here Be Magic boxed set!

I hope y’all enjoyed the special run of Boosting the Signal feature posts that I did for the 2015 NIWA anthology, Asylum! Since that seemed to do pretty well overall, I’m going to do a similar one for another recent release by a group I’m involved with: i.e., the newly released boxed set by my fellow bloggers at Here Be Magic.

This is a digital boxed set, and you can read up about it right over here on participating author Linda Mooney’s site. I’m not actually in this boxed set (I was going to be, but was not able to finish a novella for it in time), but since this is a release by my Here Be Magic peeps, I wanted to give it some signalboosting love regardless. And if you’ve been following my periodic HBM posts, or the HBM blog in general, you’ll know that the authors in this group are a mixed bag of paranormal romance, urban fantasy, and fantasy. The boxed set reflects this!

What’s the difference between a boxed set and an anthology, you might be asking? Fundamentally speaking, not much, actually. This is one gigantic ebook that contains multiple stories, but in this case, the stories are longer than the short stories you’d expect to find in an anthology. We’re talking novellas here, folks.

I’ve got a few pieces from participating authors that I hope will boost your interest in checking the release out, so stick around. These posts will start TOMORROW.