Friday, March 28, 2014

Cover Reveal for Huw the Bard by Connie J. Jasperson

Image courtesy of Wikipedia
I'm beyond pleased to feature the incredible work of Connie J. Jasperson on my blog again. She's showing off a sparkly new cover for a spanking new book, one I can't wait to read.

The book is Huw the Bard, and she's bringing us back to her bawdy, bittersweet medieval universe.

First, a taste of what's in store for the lucky readers:

Despite his best efforts, he’d become rather seedy-looking, and his clothes now sported stains he couldn’t remove. Few people would give him work much less a meal, thinking him a ne’er-do-well who might rob them of their valuables.
At last, he managed to make his way to the town of Lumley, which marked the nearest border between the duchies of Grefyn and Weyllyn. Lumley answers to the Grand Duke Weyllyn. I should be safe enough here, he thought. But just as he was about to step out of the hedge and onto the high road, a troop of mail-clad Crows appeared riding down the road in the distance, all bravado and noise. Ah. This is why game has been scarce the last week. The Grefyn saves his gold by making his Crows live off the land and the poor must starve. I remember hearing he makes them sleep in the stables when they come to an inn. They have to buy their own ale and because of his parsimony, they bully everyone and take what they want rather than pay for it.
Settling back into his hedge, Huw waited until long after dark before finally making his way to the backdoor of the Spotted Dog, an inn where he’d spent many an evening with his harp while traveling from house to house in the old days as a journeyman. Knocking quietly, he waited in the dark, hoping Glyn had heard his tap.
When the door was opened, it was with shock he saw his host. Glyn’s face bore many fresh bruises, and his left eye was swollen shut. “Who is it?” The cleaver in his hand gleamed in the light of the kitchen.
“It’s me, Huw Owyn,” Huw replied, horror tingeing his voice. Someone had beaten Glyn mercilessly.
Glyn’s fist reached out and pulled him into the light. “You’re not welcome here,” he whispered, upon seeing it was truly Huw standing there. “There are Crows nesting in this town, looking for your sort, and they’re not being gentle about it.” Abruptly releasing him, Glyn said, “Wait a moment. I’ve a bite to spare for you.” The man turned back to the kitchen and returned with something in his hand. Thrusting a trencher of bread filled with stew at Huw, Glyn firmly shut the door in his face.

Huw vanished into the darkness. Crouching under shrubs in the shadows outside the city walls, Huw said a quick prayer of thanks and a blessing for poor Glyn, who’d tried to help him despite the presence of Crows in his common room. Then he ate every last scrap, feeling the pain of hunger diminish with each mouthful. He’d never tasted anything so good in his life. When he finished, Huw ghosted among the piles of refuse and the privies in the alleys of Lumley, making his way out of town as silently as he was able.
And here's what the book is about:

Huw Owyn is the last true bard in Waldeyn.

Fleeing a burning city,
Everything he ever loved in ashes behind him,
Penniless and hunted, no place is safe.
Abandoned and alone, eighteen-year old Huw the Bard must somehow survive

It’s two-hundred leagues to safety,
And then two-hundred more.

A lot can happen to a man on a journey like that.

Without further ado, here is the lovely cover:

Connie J Jasperson, Author
Connie J Jasperson lives and writes in Olympia, Washington.  A vegan, she and her husband share five children, eleven grandchildren and a love of good food and great music. She is active in local writing groups, and is the Olympia area municipal liaison for NaNoWriMo. Music and food dominate her waking moments and when not writing or blogging she can be found with her Kindle, reading avidly.

You can find her blogging at: Life in the Realm of Fantasy

Tower of Bones Series – Book I, Tower of Bones takes the reader to the world of Neveyah, where the Gods are at war and one man holds the key to winning that battle. Book II, Forbidden Road is the follow-up, and picks up the story six years after the end of Book I, Tower of Bones.
Tales from the Dreamtime, a novella of new fairytales told in a traditional style, consisting of two short stories and one novella.
Billy’s Revenge Series Huw, the Bard takes you to the world of Waldeyn, and a medieval alternate reality. Fleeing a burning city, everything he ever loved in ashes behind him, penniless and hunted, Huw the Bard must somehow survive.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


image courtesy of Flickr
Off I go to sit in a tilt-a-chair and get my teeth scraped. I don't seem to get cavities any longer, since every tooth that could be filled is now silver. However, that scraping thing... the old gums have receded, apparently, and the tech doesn't seem to heed my cries of pain when her torture device dental tool goes for a big flake of tarter or whatever it is called.

So, waah and whine. Yes, I know I'm lucky to have access to regular checkups and I'll be happy when I'm old gumming my apple crisp, but right now I dread several things:

Loss of time on my new novel. I want to edit that thang. Waah!

The taste of dentist in my mouth. It's going to linger for several hours; I can already feel it. Blech!

The free little pack of floss destined to sit in a drawer with all the other free little packs of floss. Note - must clean out that drawer after I edit the novel.

Hunger - dentist appointments always seem to come at lunchtime. Boo!

Toy chest - maybe I would like an eraser or styrofoam plane too??? Just sayin

Boredom - nothing to do but listen to the hygienist and not talk back, what with the glaved fingers in my epiglottis and all.

Oh, I guess she might put on the Chew for me, but that returns us to the hunger issue.

No, look - I'm being a big old baby here, but I've had to physically restrain myself from canceling this appointment for those reasons. Nothing to do but suck it up (along with a lot of saliva) and suffer through.

Next on the fun to-do list : Boob squish day!
ONE of them is smiling. (Wiki commons)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Incredible Thaumaturge - Flash Fiction

This post is a response to Chuck Wending's Flash Fiction Challenge: Write a 1000 word story that is 'SomethingPunk', but it can't be steam, diesel, or cyber.

My punk is Tattoopunk (tattoos give the energy powering Natasha's world) and I offer it here. Thanks so much for taking a look.

The Incredible Thaumaturge

Natasha touched her palm to the base of the thaumaturge device. With a whine it clicked on; she counted the seconds as it booted up and the screen flickered to show the familiar visage of Nix, her best friend. The machine was running by the time she counted to nine – five counts faster than a day earlier.

Her ink strengthened at an alarming rate.

Colors, lines, and strange symbols swirled within the tattoo. At thirteen she was taken to the Energy Artist, and after several hours of thirst, hunger, and having to pee, she had her tat.

Officially she was an adult as a result, and thus she and Nix could enter a courtship ritual if they desired. Neither of them willed it: he was in love with the dark-eyed machinist on the second level, and Natasha had no thought for romance. She was too busy in a search.

Her thaumaturge was old, but she knew how to boot in memory and power from surrounding devices. As she twiddled the knobs and plucked the strings, keyed in words and numbers, her palm flamed as the energy surged within the tat. She hated to admit it, but the sensation was incredibly pleasurable.

Natasha’s search led her back in time. A desire for knowledge, a thirst to discover what happened before consumed her, and she searched the recorded stories beyond what was taught in her schoolroom at the side of her governess. The manuscript she found a day earlier looked promising; its kodachromed pages ('graphed before they crumbled to dust) hinted of forbidden secrets and an age no one remembered any longer.

‘There were those whose ignorance had no bounds, and they discharged voltage will-nilly, with no thought of their children. Although we know little about them, it is said they were able to harness their inner power through use of graphics, numbers, and colors, and amplify it…’

“Child.” A slim hand, framed with hand-sewn frills, slid over hers and stopped the frantic search. Her governess was silent as she walked through the manse, and often she had surprised Natasha thus.

A turn of the wrist and the thaumaturge clicked Off. Natasha wrestled down her frustration and forced a bland smile of compliance onto her face. She had come so close! Still, now she had a promising lead, and she could return to it easily.

“Child, you radiate too much. Temper your power, or Senator Flux himself will knock on our doors.” The governess smoothed Natasha’s black braids with her frilled hand. “Mind me, now. I want no midnight abductions – you deserve a dull life.”

Natasha nodded again, and with a heave of the bosom her governess withdrew her fingers and slipped out of the room.

The thaumaturge blinked with an incoming message from Nix: “Let’s meet at the greenhouses after midnight.”

“Very well,” she wrote, and sent her response with a careful surge of energy from her palm.


“How was Willa?” Natasha handed Nix a cucumber sandwich stolen from the kitchens earlier.

He bit into the stale bread with a slight wince. “Uninterested. She knows I’m infatuated, but there are several others after her kisses. Bloody sons of diplomats and earls!” With a burst of fury, he hurled his sandwich into the dead plants inside the dark building.

Natasha put her head on his shoulder. “She’ll see your loyalty and vision in the end – I’m sure of it.”

Nix blurted a rude word, tucked his arm around her, and they nestled together for warmth in the ruined glass. “And your search?”

“Getting closer. And…” She was uncertain whether to tell him about her tat. “I – I powered the Thaumaturge in nine counts today.”

His arm dropped and Nix withdrew. “Nine seconds! It takes my father three-quarters of an hour to get the screen to flicker, and he thinks he’s brilliant when it does. Nine?”

“Puffy is worried the Senator will discover it.” That was their name for her governess, due to the woman’s leg-of-mutton sleeves.

“Gosh.” Nix rose and helped Natasha to her feet. “I must go to bed, and you must as well. Tomorrow?”

“Of course.”


‘Once the connection between hypothalamus and ink is made, power increases exponentially to the point of giving the user any ability, even when contact is not established…’

Natasha’s reading was interrupted again by a frantic message from Nix. “Willa said Yes!” he enthused. “Dancing and dinner tomorrow under the stars. I won’t be able to meet at the greenhouse, though.”

No, I suppose not, she thought with a grin. Her search had yielded ripe fruit, and it looked as though Nix found his as well.

Those musings were cut off as the door burst open. A man with silver hair and eyes strode in, seized her wrist, and pulled Natasha to her feet. “This is the wench?” he snarled.

Puffy shook her head; the governess's chipped nails plucked at her starched frills. “Senator Flux, please do not hurt her!”

“Hurt? Why, Madam, this little slice will be the star of my collection.” The silver man held Natasha’s palm to his nose, sniffed her skin, and licked it.

“What?” Natasha was bewildered.

“Nine seconds. Is it true?” His silver eyes flashed, and white dents appeared beside his flared nostrils.

Nix. Willa. Nine seconds. With a heart full of lead, Natasha realized why her friend was able to secure Willa’s hand for dinner and dancing, and how he was able to fund his pursuit. “I found a way for everyone to harness my powers!” she screamed. “Give me three days – we will all have that conduit for the asking!”

The Senator snorted. “And do you think I would allow such knowledge to be freely given? No, small one. You will be mine.”

No arguments would serve, then. Natasha held up her tattooed palm and closed her eyes. With an inner click, her nerves and the colors in her skin combined as she called up the energy galloping within and spent it in a long, furious blast.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Review of 'The Pre-Raphaelite Seamstress'

Part romance, part cozy mystery, The Pre-Raphaelite Seamstress by Amita Murray was a thoroughly enjoyable read. The author has done a great deal of research for the book, and this showed in a number of colorful details as well as rich settings and backgrounds, glowing with life.

Rachel Faraday is forced to make her own living by painting fabrics; her influences are Dante Gabriel Rossetti (and yes, the painter does appear in the novel a lot, and he is wonderful.) She tangles at the start with Harry Twyfold, brother to one of her customers, and an instant will-they-or-won’t-they attraction is set up.

However, Twyfold is arrested under suspicion of murder, and Rachel spends the rest of the novel trying to solve it before Harry is hanged as a killer. This makes for a bit of a problem for the romance, since the scenes between the two are in prison and few in number. Murray makes them count, however, with just the right amount of anger and tension.

Furthermore, the painter Rossetti meets Rachel and takes her as a student. They develop a relationship of their own, an original combination of teacher/student and seducer/seduced. It was in those scenes Rachel flowered as a character; she is forthright, upfront, and bold. The painter himself is perfect, with a combination of self-assured sensuality and genius, versus a fleshy air that repels and attracts the artistic Miss Faraday.

When she’s not studying with Rossetti, Rachel is on the case with Gil, her cousin, and later some new characters she didn’t know were alive at all. (Spoiler alert – I’ll add this at the bottom under the stars, so don’t read the final paragraph if you don’t want to spoil the surprise.) Gil spars perfectly with Rachel, and the scenes in her kitchen with her companion, Magda, are really funny.
Image Courtesy of The Telegraph
There were a few chapters that were info dumps, serving up indigestible chunks of backstory in long paragraphs, but they were necessary to the story and not mere filler. Anyone who has read and enjoyed Pride and Prejudice or any Georgette Heyer novel won’t have a problem with those.

As Heyer herself has done, Murray carefully adds real background, and in a delightful way. One of my favorites was Rachel moving through a marketplace, speaking to the owners of the stalls:

I dodged chickens, stilt-walkers, girls dancing the hornpipe egged on by a crowd of engorged men, a Happy Family hand barrow, and shoeblacks sitting in the middle of it all, oblivious to the threat of getting crushed in the melee. The crowd forced me to slow down, and vendors stood in my way, showing off their wares and haggling, and I kept saying, “Sorry, sorry! This way, please. Sorry, right behind you! I do apologize. I don’t need a laudanum tincture or battered halibut! Just, please let me pass!” (2014). The Pre-Raphaelite Seamstress (Kindle Locations 1063-1067). Amita Murray. Kindle Edition.

There were a few notes that didn’t quite ring true: Gil apologizing to a stall keeper – a woman at that. Since he is higher in society, I can’t imagine that happening in the nineteenth century. Furthermore, the comfortable conversations between Rachel, Gil, and Magda would never happen in that rigidly structured society. However, I can see those conversations add to the plot, so if you’re willing to overlook some faults of accuracy, you will really enjoy the book.

Another example is Rachel’s “sunflower yellow” teapot. I’ve had tea poured from many a pot in England, and I’ve never seen a yellow one. So I did some extensive research of my own to look at typical pots of the period, and they were mainly brown, like my own Brown Betty pot. Also, a character invites Rachel to look through her own bedroom upstairs – something I just can’t imagine happening today, let alone in Victorian England.

But look at me, niggling over details… in doing so I’m definitely missing the forest for the trees. Just taste the way the author describes the area of London near Rossetti’s studio:

The lights mingled with the chimes of St. Paul’s, and the calls of the barges near London Bridge, scuttling coal and bricks, sand and timber. The grime, the soot, the pickpockets, the stench, the prostitutes with peeling skin and a dry pain between their legs – these didn’t disappear in this new London, but merged into it. I would watch a mudlark trawling through the rubbish down in the street, picking out lost pieces of coal from between the rats, the broken china, the refuse, and even that seemed like a natural part of the life that made up the city. I would watch an urchin scavenging for a piece of bread. A cat staring at me with its green-amber eyes before disappearing into the fog. It was magical. It was real. For those hours that I spent in Rossetti’s studio, I could reconcile to living in London and not have the constant feeling of wanting to be elsewhere. (2014). The Pre-Raphaelite Seamstress (Kindle Locations 1280-1286). Amita Murray. Kindle Edition.

…With writing like that, I can afford to ignore the yellow teapot and the ersatz boudoir visits.

In the end, there are a few chapters that felt ‘off’ to me. One was with the spoiler I mentioned before: it is so dramatic it falls into maudlin category. Overall, however, I was captivated by the book and thoroughly enjoyed it. I give it a solid four stars and recommend it as a lovely novel for those who love the era, the art, and original romance.


SPOILER - Highlight this bit if you want read it: The novel became somewhat banal when Rachel’s mother entered the scene. Her appearance was so extraordinary and led to events which simply didn’t flow for me. I see she introduced some key plot elements, but I wish the author could have found a more natural way of doing it.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Nate Rocks the City Book Blast and #GIVEAWAY

I'm happy and sad today - Karen has a new Nate Rocks book out, so yay! But it is the final one in the series - boooooo. However, she's offering up a real treat for middle grade readers as well as an amazing giveaway:

Join my friend Karen Pokras Toz for one last adventure with Nathan Rockledge and his alter ego Nate Rocks. And if you haven't read any of the books, check out the entire series from her Amazon page.

Nate Rocks the City

About the Book:

Hey New York! Are you ready for Nate Rocks?

Fifth grader Nathan Rockledge has been counting down the daysóand mealsóuntil his class trip to New York City. Now that the big event is finally here, he can barely stand the excitement. After all, isnít this what being a fifth grader is all about? Oh sure, his Mom is one of the chaperones, his annoying sister Abby is tagging along, and that know-it-all classmate, Lisa, will be there as well. However, none of that matters. Not when heíll be with his best friends, Tommy and Sam.

While seeing the sights, his teacher wants his class to take notes, but Nathan has other ideas. With paper and pencil in hand, Nathan prefers to doodle, transforming himself into Nate Rocks, boy hero. Amid ninja pigeons to fend off, aliens to attack, and the baseball game of the century to save, will Nate Rocks be able to save the day one more time?

Buy the Book:

About the Author:

Karen Pokras Toz writes middle grade and adult contemporary fiction. Her books have won several awards including two Readersí Favorite Book Awards, the Grand Prize in the Purple Dragonfly Book Awards, as well as placing first for two Global E-Book Awards for Pre-Teen Literature. Karen is a member of the Society of the Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI). For children, her books include the Nate Rocks series, Millicent Marie is Not My Name, & Pie and Other Brilliant Ideas. For adult readers, Karenís books include Chasing Invisible, and her soon to be released, Whispered Wishes series. A native of Connecticut, Karen now lives outside of Philadelphia with her husband and three children. For more information, please visit

Follow the Author:

Follow the Tour:

For reviews, interviews, and more fun, click for the full tour schedule.

Enter the Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A GWR Publicity event paid for by the author. YOUR BLOG NAME received no compensation for the post. The giveaway is sponsored by the author who is responsible for the delivery of the prize. 

Monday, March 3, 2014


Well. I was going to write a nice blogpost today, but the Creeping Crud is making the rounds of my town, and last night it attacked me. I refuse to go into details; trust me, you don't want to know.

So, I'm just going to list a few random thoughts and let you know what I'm working on at present:

1. I'm reading The Pre-Raphaelite Seamstress by Amita Murray. It's a rousing book filled with color and detail, including romance and a murder mystery. Expect a review soon. 

2. There's more snow on the ground, but I've got pasta ready to go for tonight. At least I will do if the people who are going to instal our new kitchen counters show up, what with the snow and all. Right now we have no counters: none. You can walk into my kitchen and look right into the drawers. Great.

3. How about those Oscars? I wasn't a Jennifer Lawrence fan, but she's so real and funny she turned me into a fan. Her tripping on her gown seems to be an annual event now. 

4. Movies I really must watch now: Nebraska, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity. MUST see them.

5. My kid is home from school for the 7th time this year. Wow, just wow.

6. I'm working on a writing project that's so close to being done I can almost taste it. And I'll finish it, too, as soon as MY KID RETURNS TO SCHOOL. Writing with a child is interesting... Picture writing a kissing scene. You're really into it, describing the couple and their conflicted angst and then..."Mommy I need more toilet paper!" What a buzzkill.

7. No, I've decided - we're ordering pizza for dinner. I refuse to cook without counters.