It has always been an interest of mine to consider the nuances involved in my encounters with others, those that are nourishing and even those that are more distasteful for some reason. In recent years, my interest has broadened to include encounters with animals, nature, books, movies and now, online conversations with people who I treasure yet may never meet.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Griffins are flying high! Free: THE GRIFFIN'S BOY

I am very pleased to have the opportunity to assist a favorite author in her launch of a FREE promotion, March 1 - 5. Julia Hughes is the author of some of my top-shelf novels yet also, she is an avid supporter of other indie authors. I count it a privilege that Julia has also graced me with an interview.  

Readers met The Rider in Julia Hughes’ extraordinary tale, The Griffin Cryer, yet were left with many unanswered questions as to his past. Book two of the Griffin Rider’s series take us back in time, as Julia reveals the young Rider’s earlier years. In the second thrilling tale of this series, the story is set on Ella Earth, our world’s twin in most respects – except, both evolution and science have taken a different path. On Ella Earth, an elite troop known as the Griffin Riders patrol the spiritual conduits known as ley lines; they separate the two worlds.  

The Rider, whom we learn to be a boy named ‘Neb,’ seeks to find his place amongst those who work with griffins. Instead of attaining a low status position, though, Neb is thrust into challenge after challenge, striving to survive what ends up becoming the adventure of a lifetime.
Neb will risk his life, then his soul and, finally, his heart in a quest to become, ‘The Griffin’s Boy.’

Julia is offering a special promotion of this masterful tale, March 1 through March 5. Download The Griffin’s Boy FREE from Amazon using this universal LINK

Special Bonus Offer: Book one, ‘The Griffin Cryer,” is an award-winning urban fantasy and can be downloaded during the promotion for $.99 (US) or 99p (UK). This highly rated novel has received over 85 reviews, averaging 4.7 stars. Click on this universal LINK to nab a copy of one of my all-time favorite tales!

SYNOPSIS: The Griffin’s Boy is The Rider’s story and is set on Ella-Earth – our world’s twin in an alternative universe. Evolution has taken a different path and mythical beasts exist. Britain remains an island of mists, populated by Celtic tribes and governed by a strict feudal hierarchy. Only noblemen’s sons are recruited into an elite troop known as the Griffin Riders. The best a nameless nobody like Neb can hope for is to become a griffin’s lad. But then his fate becomes entwined with the mischievous grey griffin, Balkind, who everyone knows is trouble….and sure enough, Balkind disgraces himself on recruitment day and is rejected by Griffin Master Romulus. But Neb is determined to change Romulus’s mind. Telling himself and anyone who will listen that Balkind deserves a second chance, Neb steals the beast and flies off on the adventure of a lifetime. He quickly realizes that riding griffins isn’t for the faint-hearted and girls are complicated beings, best treated with respect.

My interview of Julia:

I am an avid reader of Julia’s novels, loving the thrills of adventure in settings that are so vividly described that it feels as if I am there, in the stories themselves. She graciously agreed to answer of few of my questions.

Q: After finishing book one in the series, ‘The Griffin Cryer,’ I fell in love with griffins and have had a series of amazing griffin riding dreams. In ‘The Griffin’s Boy,’ the second tale you’ve created that features a griffin as a central character, there are some extraordinary griffin scenes. How did the idea to use a griffin in a tale come to you, and what is it about griffins that make them special?

A: I've always loved the statues that litter London – griffins are my home town's traditional guardians. I remember reading a story called "The One Eyed Griffin" as a kid, and of course, I wanted a griffin of my own. It's fairly surprising that they don't feature more in fantasy stories. However, that made them even more appealing for me. My ambition is to become an authority on griffins!

In my opinion, Julia, your ambition has been fulfilled. The griffin flying scenes are phenomenal and Balkind's griffin-affectations always make me laugh!

Q: There is a new character in 'The Griffin’s Boy’ that I find to be quite compelling. You’ve been masterful in the way you have scripted Samara; she is cast as somewhat of an enigma and I am curious as to how she will be featured in a third book (hint, hint!). Where did this character spring from?

A: Samara's self-contained and unafraid. She's realized early on that knowledge is power, and has also learned how to charm at will. She's looking pretty dangerous to me – and I've no idea from where she sprung!

NOTE: Take a free peek at this new character! ‘Samara’s Salvation’ is a short story that can be downloaded free on Smashwords or on Julia's site.

Q: I’ve read all of the books in your Celtic Cousins’ Adventure series and the two in the Griffin Rider’s series. Aside from the fantastical roller-coaster rides of adventure those reads have taken me on, an unexpected pleasure is your wonderfully vivid weave into the story of British history, culture and terrain. Which seed for a story comes first: the characters, the essential storyline or a snippet from history, a vision of place?

A: Thank you Dody. :-) I'm very grateful for your kind words. I think I was lucky to grow up surrounded by adults who lived to a great age. It wasn't unusual for three or four generations to live in the same house. You learn old legends, old songs, and then your – or my – mind just goes sleepwalking.

Q: I’m an American reader who can hardly wait for the next book from Julia Hughes to hit the shelf. An unexpected delight for me during my reads is coming upon an arcane, obscure British term (and thank you for expanding my vocabulary!). In keeping with the historical references, are these terms used because they add a unique flair to the tale?

A: I don't consciously set out to use arcane or obscure words. They present themselves and appear to me to sit well on the page – apart from "The Griffin's Boy". In this story, set in a parallel universe because the Norman Conquest never happened, certain French terms don't exist in the English language (beef, pork, etc. spring mainly to mind). At the risk of making dialogue appear stilted, I also imagined that the “old-time” speech would be more formal. It's good to know that you're enjoying the odd ‘odd’ word. J 

Q: I have to ask! I’m hearing whispers that a new DI Crombie story (from the Celtic Cousins’ series) might be in the works. Can you offer a few crumbs of storyline – please?

A: Of course – anything for you Dody! :-) It's really about time that the story of Crombie and The Great Elephant Stampede was told – do you think the world's ready for it though?

Indeed, I am always thirsting for more of DI Crombie, Julia. To me and anyone who asks, he is 'my Crombie!' I’m quite sure that many others agree with me.

A word from Julia: As a Londoner, I’m enchanted by the legend that griffins are the guardians of this ancient city. In my mind, they combine the characteristics of two of our most beloved animal companions: horses and dogs – with an added bonus, of course, as griffins have wings. As anyone who has read The Griffin Cryer knows, if you believe in yourself against all odds, help arrives from (very!) unexpected sources. If you have self-belief, then you have the will to succeed – and you will succeed! So dream big and fly high – the only limits are the ones we place on our imaginations.

Visit Julia on her website by clicking on her photo at the top right of this page.

Follow Julia on Twitter: @tinksaid

Words Unlimited is a wonderful site to visit as it's purpose is to help indie authors launch and promote their work. If you have a promotional event or Back Story for your novel, memoir or short story that you'd like to be featured, it is easy to complete a request. "140 Little Words" is a fun page where authors can tantalize us with fascinating snippets.
Here is the Link.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Reverie - a short story by Kathy Jensen

After a bit of arm-twisting, my sister, Kathy, allowed me to post her short story. The story poignantly portrays a slice in time out of a young girl's life. The names have been changed to protect the 'not-so-innocent.'

            I was getting ready for the party at my friend Sara’s house, and as I gazed at my reflection in the mirror, I noted with approval my striking cat eyes; they were a light green, edged with a darker green around the rim, giving them an intensity that my grandmother used to say “talked.”  For most of my life, I had felt embarrassed about my beauty, and couldn’t receive compliments gracefully.  Somehow, I didn’t feel that I deserved them, and perhaps I just didn’t want to be singled out in any way; it felt safer to simply blend in with everyone else.  As I grew older, I began to see myself one-dimensionally; my outer appearance seemed to me to be the only attribute worth mentioning, and I watched with envy the girls who had witty personalities, who seemed at ease with themselves, and who were the life of the party.  Admittedly, I was the one responsible for limiting myself, but at the time of puberty, I couldn’t see that, and it was very painful.  Somehow, I managed to grow up, and now, at forty years of age, divorced, and full of more self-knowledge and wisdom, I am beginning to enjoy myself in all of my aspects.  
            As I continued applying the makeup that I now used for enjoyment, rather than to cover up, I grinned at my reflection, auburn hair tinged with red, and flying in all directions, due to a perm that took really well.  After my divorce, I had experimented with different hair styles and clothing, and as I ducked my head down, shaking my hair, I emerged looking like some kind of wild animal-I loved it!  For energy, I chose a pair of red canvas tennis shoes, and topped off my khaki pants with a bright red sweater.  I felt wonderful, and free to be myself.
            Sara was a good friend.  We had both been in relationships that had, for various reasons, not worked out.  This had been very painful for me, because I still loved Steve, and had wanted to marry him; however, I had taken the time to mourn the loss, and was now ready to open myself to other men.  As I contemplated how I had changed, how I had grown, I felt comfortable with my new-found sense of inner strength, and I looked forward to meeting the single man Sara had told me would be at the party.  It’s amusing to me how my approach, and my taste in men have changed; where once, I actively sought them out, now, if they happen to be in my space, I gingerly observe them for awhile, and then gravitate towards the quiet, unassuming ones.
            As I made a final check in the mirror, I looked into my eyes and felt myself slipping back in time; I saw the little girl who first noticed boys and actively pursued them.
            It was during the summer of my tenth year, and my sisters and I were packing for our summer vacation to a nearby springs resort area.  I had one thought, and one thought only; to find a boyfriend, and I knew that I had to be quick about it, to catch him before any other available females had a chance!  But I had confidence in myself, even though I always managed to look and act so innocent.  In reality, I was a hawk, eagle eyes always on the lookout for prey, and full of ferocious intensity to swoop down on my innocent victims.
            This particular spring was a favorite of mine, and as we all squeezed into the car, I was excited, and even the usual fight over who got to sit next to the window failed to dampen my spirits.  It took us about an hour to get there, but back then, it seemed like an eternity, and by the time we drove down the dirt road leading to the spring and the cabins, we were all spitting and clawing like a bunch of cats.  My mother screamed at us, “If you kids don’t behave, this is the last time we ever take you anywhere!”  This served the immediate purpose of getting us to be quiet, but we knew that she didn’t really mean it; she needed to get away as badly as we did, and didn’t have any other choice but to take us along with her.
            As I looked out the window (I had won a coveted window seat), my adrenalin was surging, and I took in the familiar sights:  on my right, the crystal water of the spring, shades of blue and green mingling; carpets of green forming where the grasses joined together to provide hiding places for the crabs we would later catch and eat; the blue, where the springs bubbled up
from underground caverns.  On my left, I could see the cabins dotted here and there amidst a generous cover of trees, providing privacy and shade.  Not only was the beauty of the area breathtaking, but the feeling I most remember was one of peacefulness, for we were far away from the daily reminders of work and survival.
          As we pulled up next to our cabin, I could barely contain my enthusiasm, and jumped out exuberantly, intending to make a mad dash for the water; however, my parents had other plans for me, and I reluctantly joined in on the tedious job of unloading the car.  I didn’t need to change into my bathing suit, because, as usual, I had worn it underneath my clothes.  Gleefully now, when we were finally given the go-ahead signal to take off, we kicked off our shoes, dug into the Florida sand, and bounded down the hill, racing madly to see who would be the first one to dive into the water.  As we neared the swimming area, I decided to slow down and let someone else win-I wanted to check out the “scenery.”  Slowly now, I began my shy approach, noting that there were, indeed, some fine looking prospects.  As I dreamily looked around me, I was jarred out of my reverie by my sister, Jody, who shouted at me, “Hey, Katie, aren’t ya comin’ in?”  And with that, she bravely executed a racing dive from the end of the dock.  I say bravely, because the water was so cold, it took your breath away the moment you entered.  Not one to be the cow’s tail, I took off in a sprint, momentarily forgetting about boys; I wanted to get the agony over with right away, for I always had to talk myself into going in.  “Geronimo,” I yelled, as I, too, showed off with a perfect racing dive.  We were all members of the AAU; that stands for the Amateur Athletic Union, and meant that we spent our summers swimming with the local swim club, traveling to nearby towns for swim meets.  We were very proud of this fact, and showed off whenever possible; however, my prowess as a swimmer was diminished, as I came up sputtering and shivering, and made an immediate exit from the cold water.  “Wow, that was fun,” I exclaimed, while running for my towel.
            Now that I had proved my bravery, I took the time to continue my search for “the One,” the lucky boy who was destined to spend the next two weeks as the object of my fantasies.  I spread my towel out on the grass in front of the water, locked my arms around my knees, and nonchalantly scanned the area.  To my right, I noticed a couple of boys who I could tell out of the corner of my eye were checking me out.  Now, I must add that I am very picky, and neither of them were what I had in mind.  One of them was a veritable beanpole, with a shock of blond hair that he continuously flicked to one side as it fell over his eyes, and on the end of his nose I could see a ripe and ready pimple-yuk!  As for his buddy, I knew he was too young to be drinking beer, but from the looks of that white belly hanging over his bathing suit, I could have sworn that he was belting it down every day!  I also knew that he was too young to be in the army, but someone had taken a buzz saw to his hair, and if he didn’t lather it up with suntan oil, he would get a sunburn that would rival the one he was sure to get on that white belly of his!  Now, to my horror, they were approaching me with their best swagger.
            “Hi,” the pimply-faced one began, trying to put his hands in the nonexistent pockets on his swimming trunks.
            Now, I am not a heartless person, and was not about to make fun of him or his buddy, but I was faced with the dilemma of getting out of engaging them in conversation, and subtly letting them know that I was not interested.  Understand that I was an inexperienced ten year old, myself, and didn’t know how to get out of this sticky situation, so I did the only thing I knew how to do;  I simply stared straight ahead of me and pretended that they did not exist.
            “Hey,” the beer belly insisted, “My buddy here is talking to you.  Ain’t you got any ears?”
            I sat rigidly in my space, staring intently at the water, praying that they would get the message and leave me alone.
            “Ah, she ain’t worth it, George.  What a stuck up little creep,” he said disgustingly, and with that, they shuffled off to the store.
            Slowly, I began to breathe evenly again, but I was still somewhat irritated at their rude interruption, when Carla, another sister, teasingly called to me, “Hey Katie, all of the fish are here in the water.  Better come in before I catch all of them!”
            After glancing around one more time, I resignedly decided to cool my heels for awhile.  I liked to tease Carla as she was such a good sport, so I took a running start and did a jackknife right in front of her face.  With that, she grabbed my leg and jerked me under.  I came up sputtering and laughing at the
same time, only to be joined by Jody and Mary, the fourth and youngest sister.  Then it became a free-for-all, bodies tumbling and thrashing about, creating whirlpools of frothing water.  Well, at least I wasn’t cold anymore, and I was glad to see that it was going to be lots of fun, even if I didn’t find Mr. Right.
            There was a new addition to the dock this year-a diving board, and I was thrilled, because I had been working on some new dives at home.  For awhile, we took turns playing “Jump-Dive,” a crazy game whereby as one person made his approach, and bounced once on the board, another person called out to him either “jump,” or “dive.”  It was soooo tempting to cheat just a little, and as Mary took her turn at the board, I waited until she was in mid-air before calling out the signal, whereupon she proceeded, with a look of shear panic, to land flat on her face!  I laughed so hard it brought tears to my eyes, but Mary’s response was to pull herself indignantly out of the water, yelling, “That wasn’t funny, and I’m not playing anymore!”
            Well, I apologized, but she had had enough, and the game wasn’t quite as much fun after that, so I turned over and floated on my back.  The warmth of the sun on my face was relaxing, and I lay there looking at the clouds, taking pleasure in finding different shapes in each one.  I thought, “ Wouldn’t it be fun to just think myself up there, and in the blink of an eye be walking on air?”  My head was still in the clouds when I heard a voice say, “Wanta ride on my raft?”
            Hastily, I turned over, practically drowning myself in my hurry to identify the mystery voice.  I found myself looking into the most gorgeous chocolate brown eyes I had ever seen; it was him, “the One,” and here I stood, mouth agape, wet hair streaming over my eyes, and I was speechless-again!  Somehow I managed to sputter at tentative, “Yes,” and climbed aboard.
            For the remainder of the two weeks I ate, slept, swam, and played with only thoughts of Seth.  He had an older sister who alleviated her boredom by playing Cupid’s assistant, encouraging us to hold hands, sneak kisses, and take long rides on his raft.  We were Tarzan and Jane, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, inseparable partners, exploring new territory and storing up memories which would last for a lifetime.  It was a wonderful time in my life, and I cried when we had to leave, promising to write to one another; and we did, for a short time, but as our tans faded, so did our love, and I never saw Seth again.
            A deep sigh escaped my lips as I came out of my reverie, and once again gazed at my reflection.  The big difference between then and now was that I no longer felt the need to impress, hoping to be found desirable and pretty; I was no longer looking for “the One.”  I was simply having fun just being me, and as I applied the final touch of red-my lipstick, I took one last look in the mirror and smiled.  It was going to be a great party…because I would be there.

Kathy Jensen can be contacted on Facebook.

The first photo of Silver Glen Springs is courtesy of the St. John's River Water Management District.

The second photo of Silver Glen Springs is courtesy of Harley Measn/FDEP.