Archives for November 2014

Spotlight: Impossible by C.A. Gray (excerpt)

ImpossibleImpossible (Piercing the Veil #3)
written by C.A. Gray
published by Wanderlust

find it here: (affiliate links) AmazonGoodreads

About the book: Impossible is the final installment in the Piercing the Veil trilogy.

The Shadow Lord has the Philosopher’s Stone, and therefore an army of invincible penumbra. He also possesses the fragments of Excalibur, the legendary sword prophesied to be the instrument of either his own destruction, or that of the Child of the Prophecy. The sword, he knows, requires blood to be reforged… and he knows exactly whose blood he wants.

Meanwhile, the Watchers are desperate to steal back the fragments of Excalibur and find out how to reforge them before the Shadow Lord does. Isdemus places Peter and Lily in Carlion’s sister cities for safe-keeping until the war begins. But Peter and Lily have an idea that might enable the Watchers to steal back the fragments, in spite of the Shadow Lord’s invincible army. Their plan requires them to travel halfway across the world, to an island largely believed to exist only in Greek mythology. Along the way, however, the Shadow Lord uses a pawn to convince Peter and Lily that they are powerless. Without their gifts of the Ancient Tongue, will either one of them stand a chance?

In this gripping conclusion of the Piercing the Veil trilogy, the Watchers and the Shadow Lord both amass their ranks, the battle begins, and the true identity of the Child of the Prophecy is revealed—to the shock of all.

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Prologue

Sargon stood on the edge of a precipice. He was somewhere in the Andes mountains, thick fir trees at his back and sheer rock descending to a ravine below. He could not even see the bottom.

In one hand, Sargon held the Philosopher’s Stone. It was blood-red, and cut in a spherical shape. In the other, he held the fragments of a golden sword: Excalibur. He closed his eyes, a blissful smile curling his cruel lips, creasing the jagged scar across Kane’s right cheek.

You’re going to lose, Kane snarled. Peter will destroy you.

You know that is a lie, Kane, Sargon replied calmly. I have the Philosopher’s Stone, and the fragments of Excalibur. I am invincible.

But you don’t know how to reforge Excalibur. As long as they are fragments, you have no hope of fulfilling the prophecy!

Sargon shook his head, still smiling. Kane was right, of course: he did not know how to reforge the sword. Yet. But he knew how to find out.

In a ringing voice, Sargon cried out, “An sprioc, inis dom do speisialta!”

Instantly the Andes disappeared, and the world became silent and luminous. Kane felt himself locked in a rigid lattice structure of purest, deepest red, the light of the sun bouncing all around and through him.

A thousand flashes of the Stone’s memory bombarded Kane at once: the impossible, dizzying, unimaginable heat from the inside of a volcano; the crushing pressure; the explosive force, propelling him down the edges of a mountain amidst running lava.

Excalibur must be reforged, Sargon told the Stone. How can this be accomplished?

Kane felt, rather than heard, the Stone’s answer. He watched without eyes as men slaughtered one another, their blood running like the lava had done seconds before. It was both a memory and a reply.

Blood, thought Sargon with satisfaction. Of course. It is so simple. Had not the Stone required him to spill his own blood in exchange for his immortality?

The red luminescent world disappeared, and Sargon blinked, again standing on the edge of the precipice. Of course, he thought again. He consulted Kane’s memory of the prophecy with a flash: Both shall fall, but the One who holds the blade that was broken shall emerge victorious.

In order to reforge Excalibur, someone must die.

There are three candidates, Sargon thought. I have already taken the body of one; only two yet remain. One will serve the blood sacrifice. Then, with Excalibur restored, I shall kill the other.

Sargon felt Kane’s quiet despair. A cruel smile curled his lips once more.

It is a beautiful symmetry, Kane. Is it not?

 

CA GrayAbout the author: C.A. Gray is a Naturopathic Medical Doctor (NMD), with a primary care practice in Tucson, AZ. She has always been captivated by the power of a good story, fictional or otherwise, which is probably why she loves holistic medicine: a patient’s physical health is invariably intertwined with his or her life story, and she believes that the one can only be understood in context with the other.

She still wants to be everything when she grows up.

She moonlights as a college chemistry teacher (she has a degree in biochemistry, with minors in Spanish and Creative Writing), does theater when she gets the chance, sings, plays piano, was once a personal trainer and in coffee shop management. She is blessed with exceptionally supportive family and friends, and thanks God for them every single day!

Find Ms. Gray here: web, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

 

 

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Chrissy’s Review: Your Life Isn’t For You by Seth Adam Smith

Your Life Isn't Your OwnYour Life Isn’t For You: A Selfish Person’s Guide To Being Selfless
written by Seth Adam Smith
published by Berrett-Koehler Publishers

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Book Depository, Goodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange  for an honest review.

Did I enjoy this book: 
It was alright. It was a quick read with a good message.

However, I don’t think I am the target audience. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m by no means a completely selfless person. But I understand that my life isn’t all mine. I’m a mom, a wife, a daughter, etc. And I’m not in my late teens or early twenties. That is the age range for this message. I think those who are just becoming adults and going out on their own would benefit from this book.

At first–and this sounds awful–but I couldn’t feel that bad for Mr. Smith. (I know, that sounds horrible.) It just felt like he was a kid who was very blessed but just wasn’t happy. Kind of a woe-is-me tale. However, once I learned more about his depression and what he was going through, I started to feel more compassion toward his situation. Once we got into his story about coming back to “life,” it really took a turn for the better. I found it uplifting and promising. I enjoyed hearing his stories about his times in Russia, both before and after his suicide attempt. These stories depicted the selfless aspect of Mr. Smith’s message. And I really appreciated the story of “The Selfish Giant” by Oscar Wilde being woven throughout Mr. Smith’s tale. It worked. On the other hand, I wish the story about Prometheus (being a light) wasn’t included in this book. It didn’t seem to fit with the the theme for me. I thought it would be better suited for a different subject.

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Would I recommend it: I think so.

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About the book – from Goodreads: 
In this book, Seth Adam Smith expands on the philosophy behind his extraordinarily popular blog post “Marriage Isn’t for You”—which received over 30 million hits and has been translated into over twenty languages—and shares how living for others can enrich every aspect of your life, just as it has his. With a mix of humor, candor, and compassion, he reveals how, years before his marriage, his self-obsession led to a downward spiral of addiction and depression, culminating in a suicide attempt at the age of twenty. Reflecting on the love and support he experienced in the aftermath, as well as on the lessons he learned from a difficult missionary stint in Russia, his time as a youth leader in the Arizona desert, his marriage, and even a story his father read to him as a child, he shares his deep conviction that the only way you can find your life is to give it away to others.

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Seth Adam SmithAbout the author: Seth Adam Smith is an internationally acclaimed, Alaskan-born writer whose blog posts have been shared worldwide and translated into over twenty languages. He frequently writes about relationships and self-improvement on Huffington Post and his website, SethAdamSmith.com

Find Mr. Smith here: web, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

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Spotlight: Return to Oakpine by Ron Carlson (giveaway)

Return to OakpineReturn to Oakpine
written by Ron Carlson
published by Viking (Penguin)

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Smashwords, Book Depository, Goodreads

About the book – from Goodreads: In this finely wrought portrait of western American life, Ron Carlson takes us to the small town of Oakpine, Wyoming, and into the lives of four men trying to make peace with who they are in the world.

In high school, these men were in a band. One of them, Jimmy, left Oakpine for New York City after the tragic death of his brother. A successful novelist, he has returned thirty years later, in 1999—because he is dying.

With Carlson’s characteristic grace, we learn what has become of these friends and the different directions of their lives. Craig and Frank never left; Mason, a top lawyer in Denver, is back in town to fix up and sell his parents’ house. Now that they are reunited, getting the band back together might be the most important thing they can do.

Return to Oakpine
is a generous, tender look at friendship, family, and the roads not taken, by a writer at the peak of his craft.
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“Carlson’s new novel, with its themes of male friendship and second chances, hoes much the same furrow as his lovely previous books Five Skies and The Signal . . . Carlson’s crafted an emotive yet pellucid prose style that conveys the profound spiritual satisfactions of homecoming.” The Wall Street Journal

“As stirring and memorable and utterly rejuvenating a novel as you’ll read…Carlson infuses these pages with such conviction, such perfectly orchestrated pathos…the book is as lean and structured as a sonnet, and it has a split-focus climax as sharp as an ax.” The Washington Post

“Carlson excels in small-town Western Americana, in both embracing and interrogating nostalgia in quiet, controlled prose . . . a humane portrait of the lives we lead and leave behind, peeling back nostalgia’s gold veneer with grace, empathy, and a pragmatic sense of optimism.” Kansas City Star

About the author: Ron Carlson is the author of five story collections and four novels, most recently The Signal. His fiction has appeared in Harper’s, The New Yorker, Playboy, GQ, Best American Short Stories, and The O. Henry Prize Stories. He is the director of the writing program at the University of California at Irvine and lives in Huntington Beach, CA.

 

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Chrissy’s Review: A Mother’s Choice by Kristin Noel Fischer

A Mother's ChoiceA Mother’s Choice
written by Kristin Noel Fischer
published by Kristin Noel Fischer

find it here: (affiliate links) Amazon, Goodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange  for an honest review. Although I was compensated for editing work on this title, it in no way affected the outcome of my review. My review is my honest opinion of the book.

Did I enjoy this book: 
I really did enjoy this book. I was engrossed from beginning to end.

This story is told in alternating points of view, Nadine’s and Autumn’s. Nadine and Autumn are mother and daughter, but the story isn’t just theirs. This story involves their entire family and a few close friends.

I can’t say too much about the plot of this wonderful story. Not because I don’t want to, but because I don’t want to give anything away and spoil it. But I will say, A Mother’s Choice is well worth the read. It has love, family, drama, secrets. It will make you want to cry. It will make you happy. It will make you second guess what you think is going on. You will get caught up in this read. And it will stay with you long after you close the cover. At least, it is still with me.

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Would I recommend it: Absolutely!

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About the book – from Goodreads: 
For thirty years, Nadine Kingsley has kept a heart-wrenching secret. When a letter arrives threatening to reveal the truth that could destroy her tight-knit family, Nadine embarks on a difficult journey to explain her painful decision, especially to her youngest daughter, Autumn.

Meanwhile, Autumn Anderson, Speech Pathologist and mother of two, is struggling in her marriage. The discovery of a troubling letter addressed to her mother disrupts her already complicated life, leading Autumn to question what she’s always believed.

When the unthinkable happens, Autumn digs deeper into her family’s past and unravels a tangled web of lies and deception surrounding her own birth. Meeting the one person her mother entrusted with her secret brings Autumn face-to-face with an unexpected and shocking revelation.

A Mother’s Choice is a fast-paced, uplifting, emotional read, full of family drama, love, hope, and forgiveness.

 

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Boost It Tuesday! – November 25, 2014

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Have you noticed that despite ALL of your Facebook “Likes” you are only “reaching” a very small portion of those followers? Does that bother you? It bothers us, and we want to boost each other up. Link up with Every Free Chance, Candace’s Book Blog, and Gin’s Book Notes for Boost It Tuesday.

 

What is Boost It Tuesday, you ask? Well, we want to help each other out. We are a great community of bloggers and authors, and we should be supporting each other. Share your Facebook address below, then visit the Facebook pages, like 3-5 posts, share or comment on 1 or 2 posts. That’s it. You don’t have to “like” the page if you don’t want to, just “like” some posts. Let’s help expand each other’s page reach. Who knows! You may find a new blog or author to follow along the away. Please be aware that any non-Facebook links will be deleted.

 

As an added bonus, Candace, Ginny, and I will be hosting a giveaway each week just to say thanks for the boost!

For this week’s giveaway, head over to the Gin’s Book Notes Facebook page and answer the question in the Boost It post!

 

Remember: Like, comment, and share!  Let’s all give each other a boost!

 


 

Gin's Book Notes
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Guest Review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven

Station Eleven 
written by Emily St. John Mandel
published by Alfred A Knopf, 2014

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Book Depository, Goodreads

Did I enjoy this book: I love to plunge right into the worst case scenario, so, in these Ebola-shadowed days, I  got a kind of dark, chilly enjoyment from Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven.

In Station Eleven, it’s not Ebola that rips through the entire world–it’s a virus called the Georgian flu.  It lands in Toronto via a flight from Russia.  Within days, many of the people we meet in the first chapter are dead. The virus tears through the entire world, decimating 99 per cent of the population.

But we meet again the characters St. John Mandel introduces early on in the book; she takes us back and forth, from the Time Before to the Time After. Arthur, Kirsten, Clark, Jeevan, Miranda, Tyler . . . they may never see each other again–they may not even survive the plague– but they’re connected.

St. John Mandel makes us think about how things intertwine; she makes us think about how small gestures can have a big impact down the line. A kind word; a book given to a child.  These things last, she suggests, even when civilization has been gutted and those who remain are forced to protect themselves in unforeseen ways.

St. John Mandel presents a cast of flawed humans, and she makes them largely lovable; and, if not lovable, they are certainly believable.  And she gives us the opportunity to ponder what life would be like if the lights flickered out, the jets stopped flying, and what we knows as civilization fell quietly into an abyss and died.

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Would I recommend it: I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys playing with the idea of a post-apocalyptic catastrophe.  What would I be like if I survived the great event?  It’s kind of a thrilling question to consider.

The narrative does jump, though–if you like your story line in a straight and linear progression, this book might not appeal to you. And if the whole possibility of an Ebola-riddled world is making you nervous, this account of a modern-day plague might not be the best choice for reading right now . . . It might be better to wait until a time when ‘quarantine’ is not a real and present topic of conversation.

~ Pam, guest reviewer & EFC Short Story Contest Winner ~

 

About the book – from Goodreads: One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time-from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains-this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet. Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.

 

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Melissa’s Review: A Gazillion Little Bits by Claudia Brevis

A Gazillion Little Bits

A Gazillion Little Bits 
written by Claudia Brevis
published by Claudia Brevis

find it here: (affiliate links) Amazon, Goodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange  for an honest review.

Did I enjoy this book: 
I was impressed. Ms. Brevis’s research alone knocks this book well outside the first novel fence, and though I think she spent a bit too much time language-decorating early on, her story was well organized and enjoyable. I was especially pleased with what is increasingly more rare – well-executed dialect. As an EFC reviewer, I rarely have the luxury of reading books slowly, but for A Gazillion Little Bits I found the time.  I haven’t read anything quite like it.

GOLDEN LINE(S):

“She woke, confused, and stared blankly out at the dark gray waters, and when she remembered, her head split and her heart broke and her arms flew out to clutch at hunks of fallen cement on the forty-seventh floor of the tower that was her home.”

“It was a cemetery. The whole of Riverside park a cemetery.”

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Would I recommend it: Yes. Even if you’re not a huge fan of post-apocalyptic novels, you’ll enjoy discovering just how many (dare I say ‘a gazillion’?) little thoughts Ms. Brevis spent dreaming up her novel.

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About the book – from Goodreads: 
New York City. 2256.

Isolated by shifting lands, fire and beasts, fewer than thirteen thousand people live in the ruins and rubble of Manhattan without technology, government or any connection to the world from which they’ve descended…

Until the mysterious whispers arrive, followed by a stranger who holds what may be the key to the city’s ultimate survival.

 

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DNF: Edge of End by Suren Hakobyan

Edge of End

Edge of End
written by Suren Hakobyan
published by Suren Hakobyan

find it here: (affiliate links) AmazonGoodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange  for an honest review.

Where I stopped reading: location 380 of 3108 on my Kindle app (about 12% of the way through the book)

Why I stopped reading: There were too many grammatical mistakes and editing misses.  What a disappointment.

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What others have rated this book: According to Goodreads, the average rating for Edge of End is 3.52 stars. It looks like a majority of readers gave this book 4 stars. There were four 2-star reviews on Amazon.  Just because I didn’t finish this book doesn’t mean you won’t.

About the book – from Goodreads: Jonathan wakes up in a desert, his past wiped from his head. He’s alone having no clue who and what he is, where he has come from and where he should go. There is only one way – forward when he spots a little town in the distance.

Empty streets, old houses, the town seems abandoned. There’s no one to ask for help, there’s nowhere to go. Jonathan wanders the town in search of any sign of life trying to bring his lost memories back, but odd visions haunt him from time to time. Soon Jonathan comes to the realization that he’s moments from death as absolutely evil dwells in the town seeking fresh souls to suck up. The seemingly dead town is only outwardly empty.

Grey skies, no sun, no days and no nights. The town is stuck in time. With only one entrance and one exit, but the way leading to the exit is filled with creations that Jonathan has never envisioned, even in his worst nightmares.

Who is he? Who brought him here? With a female resident – Elizabeth, Jonathan has to work his way through the horrendous town, figure out his past and find the exit.

 

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Blog Tour: Miss Spelled by Sarah Belle (spotlight, giveaway)

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miss spelledMiss Spelled
written by Sarah Belle
published by Escape Publishing

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Goodreads

About the book: Magic realism mixes with romantic comedy in this new novel from Sarah Belle about the dangers of internet shopping – and using magic to solve real world problems.

Lou’s life is perfect. She loves her job, her renovated house, and most of all, her gorgeous fiancé, Aidan. But when her old flame and Aidan’s school yard nemesis turn out to be the same person, Hunter Wincott, Lou’s life is blown apart. She must divulge her secret past, or have Hunter give it away. Either way, she runs the real risk of losing Aidan.

In desperation, she turns to Google. A quick search turns up Majique, the Internet Witch, and a spell that will delete herself from Hunter’s memory. But something goes wrong in the casting process, and Lou deletes much more than just a memory. She deletes herself from her life completely.

Luckily, there’s a one-week window for Lou to get back to the life she loved. One week to win back Aidan, before he walks down the aisle with the wrong woman, and damns everyone to a lifetime of misery. It would be easy, if only Aidan had any idea who Lou actually is.

 

sarah belleAbout the author: Sarah Belle started her professional life in the hospitality industry, working in some of the roughest hotels in Melbourne in the late Eighties, surrounded by drug dealers, prostitutes, pimps, and undercover police. Tiring of the inherent dangers of her working environment, Sarah completed a business degree and went on to work in the recruitment industry and the Department of Defence, where she met and married the man of her dreams: a dashing, Army Blackhawk pilot. They have four young sons and live on the beautiful Queensland coast, where Sarah’s days are spent being a frazzled mum, writer, Bikram Yoga devotee and the only woman in a house of five males.

Sarah is a proud member of the Romance Writers of Australia and the Australian Romance Readers Association. She is also an RWA volunteer and writes the Author Spotlight for the RWA Blog.

Find Ms. Belle here: web, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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Blog Tour: The Tree of Water by Elizabeth Haydon (spotlight, excerpt, interview, giveaway)

Tree of WaterThe Tree of Water (The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme #4)
written by Elizabeth Haydon
published by Starscape

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Goodreads

About the book – from Goodreads: The epic voyages continue in The Tree of Water, the fourth adventure in bestselling author Elizabeth Haydon’s acclaimed fantasy series for young readers, The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme.

As Royal Reporter of the land of Serendair, it is the duty of young Charles Magnus “Ven” Polypheme to travel the world and seek out magic hiding in plain sight. But Ven needs to escape the clutches of the nefarious Thief Queen, ruler of the Gated City, whose minions are hunting for him. His friend, the merrow Amariel, has the perfect solution to his dilemma: Ven and Char will join her to explore the world beneath the sea.

As they journey through the sea, Ven finds himself surrounded by wonders greater than he could have ever imagined. But the beauty of the ocean is more than matched by the dangers lurking within its depths, and Ven and his friends soon realize that in order to save thousands of innocent lives, they may have to sacrifice their own. For everything in the ocean needs to eat. . .

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To Go, or Not to Go

The human boys had an expression back in the faraway city of Vaarn where I was born. It went like this:

Curiosity killed the cat

Satisfaction brought him back

I am a curious person. I was just as curious back in my early days in Vaarn as I am now, perhaps even more so, because my curiosity had not yet been given a chance to be satisfied.

The first time I heard this expression, I was very excited. I thought it meant that my curiosity could make me feel like I was dying, but it would let up if I discovered the answer to whatever was making me curious.

I told my mother about the rhyme. She was not impressed. In fact, she looked at me as if I had just set my own hair on fire on purpose. She patted my chin, which was woefully free of any sign of the beard that should have been growing there.

“That’s very nice,” she said, returning to her chores. “But just in case nobody told you, you are not a cat, Ven. Unlike you, cats have whiskers.”

My pride stung for days afterward.

But it didn’t stop my curiosity from growing as fast as my beard should have been.

My name is Charles Magnus Ven Polypheme, Ven for short. Unlike the human boys in Vaarn, I am of the race of the Nain. Nain are somewhat shorter than humans, and grumpier. They live almost four times as long as humans, and tend to be much less curious, and much less adventurous. They hate to travel, don’t swim, and generally do not like other people. Especially those who are not Nain.

I clearly am not a good example of my race.

First, I am very tall for a Nain, sixty-eight Knuckles high when I was last measured on the morning of my fiftieth birthday. I’ve already mentioned my uncontrollable curiosity, which brings along with it a desire for adventure. I have been blessed, or cursed, with quite a lot of that recently.

But as for the curiosity, while I’ve had a lot of satisfaction for the questions it has asked me, it doesn’t seem to matter. As soon as one burning question is answered, another one springs to mind immediately. As a result, I am frequently in trouble.

So now I am about to lay my head on a chopping block, on purpose, and a man with a very sharp knife is standing over me, ready to make slashes in my neck.

I’m wondering if in fact instead of being a live Nain, I am about to end up as a dead, formerly curious cat.

Because now I have three whiskers of my own.

Ven Polypheme had two sets of eyes staring at him.

One set was black as coal. The other was green as the sea.

Neither of them looked happy.

The green eyes were floating, along with a nose, forehead, and hair on which a red cap embroidered with pearls sat, just above the surface of the water beneath the old abandoned dock. The brows above the eyes were drawn together. They looked annoyed.

The black ones were in the middle of the face of his best friend, Char, who stood beside him on the dock. They looked anxious.

In the distance a bell began to toll. Ven looked to his left at the docks of the fishing village to the south of them, where work had begun hours ago. Then he looked behind him. The sleepy town of Kingston in the distance was just beginning to wake up.

Ven looked back down into the water.

“Come on, Amariel,” he said to the floating eyes. “I can’t really go off into the sea without him.”

A glorious tail of colorful scales emerged from below the surface, splashing both boys with cold salt water.

“Why not?” a girl’s voice demanded from the waves. “He’s a pest. And he isn’t nice to me.”

Char’s black eyes widened.

“I—I’m sorry ’bout that,” he stammered. “When I first met you, Ven didn’t tell me you were a mermaid—” He shivered as another splash drenched him again. “Er, I mean merrow. I’m sorry if I made you mad.”

“Hmmph.”

“Please let him come,” Ven said. “Captain Snodgrass gave him orders to keep an eye on me. So if I’m going to explore the sea with you, he kinda has to come along.”

Char nodded. “Cap’n’s orders.”

“He’s not my captain,” said the merrow. “I don’t take orders from humans. You know better, Ven. My mother will fillet me if she finds out I’m traveling with a human male. Especially if we are going to go exploring. There are very clear rules about not showing humans around the wonders of the Deep. And besides, it’s dangerous. You have no idea how many sea creatures think humans are tasty. I don’t want to get chomped on by mistake.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Ven watched Char’s face go white.

“We’ll be careful,” he promised. “Char will be on his best behavior.”

“I’ve seen his best behavior. I’m not impressed.”

“Look,” Char said. “If you get sick of me, you can always cover me with fish guts and toss me out as shark bait.”

The merrow stared coldly at him.

“Oh, all right,” she said finally. “But remember, there’s a reason they call bait for sharks chum. ‘Chum’ is another word for ‘friend.’” Her eyes stayed locked on Char. “And if you make a bunch of sharks angry, Chum—”

“I’ll be chum,” Char said. “Got it.”

“So if you’re coming, we have to find a fisherman named Asa with a red-bottomed boat.” Amariel pointed south to one of the far docks. “He’ll cut your gills, and we can get going.”

Both boys grabbed their necks.

The merrow rolled her eyes. “Oh, come on. Do you want to be able to breathe underwater or not? Gills are the only way I know of to do that. I’m tired of waiting. Decide whether you’re coming or whether I’m leaving.”

“We’re coming,” Ven said as he let go of his neck. “Sorry—it’s just instinct. Let’s go.”

Char nodded, but did not remove his hands.

The merrow disappeared below the surface of the water.

The two boys hurried south over the packed sand along the shore.

“Ya know, it’s not too late to change your mind, Ven,” Char muttered. “We could get a boat or somethin’, and follow her out to sea, like we did when we were chasing the Floatin’ Island, and then dive down to see whatever she wants to show us—”

“You can stay on shore if you want to, Char,” Ven said, trying to see the merrow in between the waves. “But I promised her a long time ago that I would explore her world with her. It’s now or never.”

“Have it your way,” Char said gloomily. “You always do anyway.”

They followed the pebbly path in the sand south until the fishing village came into sight. Several long piers led out into the harbor, with docks along each of them. Small boats lined the docks. At each boat fishermen were hauling nets filled with flapping fish and cages with crabs and lobsters onto the piers. Seagulls flew in great wide circles above, screeching and crying, then diving for food.

“So how did she happen to find this Asa, and how does she know he won’t just cut our throats?” Char asked as they picked their way among barrels and pieces of rope on the slats of the pier.

Ven shrugged. “No idea. But sailors and merrows have a pretty good connection.” He pointed about halfway down the pier, where a small green fishing boat with a red bottom bobbed lazily in the morning tide. A wrinkled man in a wrinkled hat sat on a barrel at the edge of the dock, cleaning his morning catch of fish. “Could that be him?”

Char squinted. “I guess so.”

“Come on. We may as well ask. If it’s not Asa, he probably knows where to find him. Fishermen all know each other.”

The two boys walked along the pier, stepping out of the way of men dragging lobster traps and heavy netting, until they got to the red-bottomed boat. They stopped behind the elderly fisherman, who did not seem to notice they were there.

Ven coughed politely.

“Excuse me, sir—are you Asa?”

The fisherman looked up from his work, his sky-blue eyes twinkling in the sun.

“Who’s askin’?”

“Er, my name is Ven, sir. I was told I might find a fisherman at this dock who could, uh, cut gills.”

The wrinkly man nodded. “Well, Ven, you’ve found ’im. But I can’t say as I’ve heard of any recent wrecks.”

Ven blinked. “Pardon?”

“Shipwrecks,” said the fisherman. “That’s the only reason I know of for a man to risk a slice in his neck—to salvage the treasure from the bones of a shipwreck.”

“Oh.” Ven and Char exchanged a glance, then looked off the edge of the dock.

In the water behind the boat, the beautiful tail of multicolored scales was waving at them from beneath the surface.

“Uh, we weren’t really planning to dive for treasure,” Ven continued, trying to block the sight of the merrow’s tail. “We just want to do some exploring.”

The fisherman’s eyebrows arched.

“The sea’s no place to explore without a good reason, lads,” he said seriously. “Lots of bad stuff down there—believe you me. The only reason a man takes his life into his hands on a daily basis by going out there is to make a living for his family. Otherwise, we’d farm the land.” The blue eyes twinkled. “If we knew how.”

“Well, we’d really like to have gills, nonetheless,” Ven said. “We’ve been told you know how to, er, cut them without too much pain—and safely. Is that true?”

Asa exhaled, then nodded.

“I suppose that depends on how much is too much where pain is concerned,” he said. “That’s really up to you. It’s not my business what you’re doing. We mind our own business on the sea. If you want gills, and you’re willing to take the risk, I can cut ’em for you right quick.” He held up a thin silver filleting knife. “Then I have to get back to cleaning my catch. So, what’ll it be? Make haste, now.”

Char and Ven looked at each other once more, then nodded at the same time.

“We’re in,” said Char.

“All right then,” said Asa. He reached into the boat and took hold of the top of a small sea chest that held his tackle. He slammed it closed and put it on the dock in front of them. “Kneel down and put your heads on this chest, your left ears down.”

The boys obeyed.

“Well, ’s been good to know you,” Char whispered as they positioned their heads on the chest.

“Shhh,” Ven whispered back. “We’re not being executed, for pity’s sake.”

“You hope we’re not. You never know.”

Asa wiped the filleting knife on his trousers, then came and stood over Ven.

“Hold very still, now.”

Char winced and put his hand over his eyes.

Ven started to close his eyes as well.

Suddenly, from the end of the dock near town, a bright flash of rainbow-colored light blinded him.

And the world seemed to stop around him.

Copyright © 2014 by Elizabeth Haydon

efcinterview

Little is known for sure about reclusive documentarian and archanologist Elizabeth Haydon.

 

She is an expert in dead languages and holds advanced degrees in Nain Studies from Arcana College and Lirin History from the University of Rigamarole. Her fluency in those languages [Nain and Lirin] has led some to speculate that she may be descended of one of those races herself. It should be noted that no one knows this for sure.

 

Being an archanologist, she is also an expert in ancient magic because, well, that’s what an archanologist is.

 

Being a documentarian means she works with old maps, books and manuscripts, and so it is believed that her house is very dusty and smells like ink, but there is no actual proof of this suspicion. On the rare occasions of sightings of Ms. Haydon, it has been reported that she herself has smelled like lemonade, soap, vinegar, freshly-washed babies and pine cones.

 

She is currently translating and compiling the fifth of the recently-discovered Lost Journals when she is not napping, or attempting to break the world’s record for the longest braid of dental floss.

 

We had the chance to ask her some questions about the latest of Ven’s journals, The Tree of Water. Here is what she shared.

Dr. Haydon, can you give us a brief summary of The Tree of Water?

 

Certainly. Ven Polypheme, who wrote the, er, Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme, lived long ago in the Second Age of history, when magic was much more alive and visible in the world than it is now. His journals are very important finds, because they tell the story of ancient magic and where it still may be found in the world today.

 

In the first three journals we saw how Ven came to the mystical island of Serendair and was given the job of Royal Reporter by the king of the island, a young man named Vandemere. The Royal Reporter was supposed to find magic that was hiding in plain sight in the world and report back about it to the king. As you can imagine, this could be a fun but dangerous job, and at the beginning of The Tree of Water, we see that Ven and his friends are hiding from the evil Thief Queen, who is looking to find and kill him.

 

Amariel, a merrow [humans call these ‘mermaids,’ but we know that’s the wrong word] who saved Ven when the first ship he sailed on sank, has been asking Ven to come and explore the wonders of the Deep, her world in the sea. Deciding that this could be a great way to find hidden magic as well as hide from the evil Thief Queen, Ven and his best friend, Char, follow her into the Deep. The sea, as you know, is one of the most magical places in the world—but sometimes that magic, and that place, can be deadly.

 

The book tells of mysterious places, and interesting creatures, and wondrous things that have never been seen in the dry world, and tales from the very bottom of the sea.

The main character in The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme series is Charles Magnus “Ven” Polypheme. Tell us about him.

 

Ven was an interesting person, but he really didn’t think so. He and his family were of a different race than the humans who made up most of the population where he lived, the race of the Nain. Nain are an old race, a little shorter and stockier than most humans, with a tendency to be on the grumpy side. They live about four times as long as humans, are very proud of their beards, which they believe tell their life stories, don’t like to swim or travel, and prefer to live deep in the mountains.

 

Ven was nothing like the majority of Nain. He was very curious, loved to travel, could swim, and longed to see the world. He was actually a pretty nice kid most of the time. He had the equivalent of a baby face because only three whiskers of his beard had grown in by the time The Tree of Water took place, when he was fifty years old [around twelve in Nain years]. He had a great group of friends, including the merrow and Char, who were mentioned earlier. It is believed that his journals were the original research documents for two of the most important books of all time, The Book of All Human Knowledge and All the World’s Magic. The only copies of these two volumes were lost at sea centuries ago, so finding the Lost Journals is the only way to recover this important information.

 

  1. What kind of research do you do for the series?

 

I go to places where Ven went and try to find relics he left behind. Usually this is with an expedition of archaeologists and historians. I am an expert in ancient magic [an archanologist] so I don’t usually lead the expeditions, I’m just a consultant. It gives me the chance to learn a lot about magic and lets me work on my suntan at the same time, so it’s good.

What is/are the most difficult part or parts of writing/restoring the Lost Journals?

 

Here’s the list, mostly from the archaeological digs where the journals have been found:

 

1] Cannibals

2] Crocodiles

3] Sunburn

4] Sand flies

5] Dry, easily cracking parchment pages

6] The horrible smell of long-dead seaweed

7] Grumpy members of the archaeological expedition [I could name names, but I won’t]

8] Expedition food [when finding and retrieving the journal for The Tree of Water, we ate nothing but peanut butter and raisin sandwiches, olives and yellow tea for six months straight]

9] When salt water gets into your favorite fountain pen and clogs it up. This is very sad.

10] Unintentionally misspelling a word in the Nain language that turns out to be embarrassing [the word for “jelly” is one letter different from the word for “diarrhea,” which caused a number of my Nain friends to ask me what on earth I thought Ven was spreading on his toast.]

What do you enjoy about this series that cannot be found in any of your other books?

 

Getting to write about a lot of cool magic stuff that used to exist in our world, but doesn’t anymore. And getting to travel to interesting places in the world to see if maybe some of it still does exist. Also getting to show the difference between merrows, which are real, interesting creatures, and mermaids, which are just silly.

What do you hope readers take away from this book?

 

I hope, in general, that it will open their eyes to the wonder of the sea, which takes up the majority of our planet, but we really don’t know that much about it down deep. There is a great deal of magic in the sea, and I hope that if and when people become aware of it, they will help take care of it and not throw garbage and other bad stuff into it. I have a serious dislike for garbage-throwing.

 

Probably the most useful secret I learned that I hope will be of use to readers is about thrum. Thrum is the way the creatures and plants that live in the ocean communicate with each other through vibration and thought. As Ven and his friends learn, this can be a problem if you think about something you don’t want anyone to know about when you are standing in a sunshadow, because everyone gets to see a picture of what’s on your mind. Imagine how embarrassing that could be.

Are there more books coming in this series?

 

Well, at least one. In the archaeological dig site where The Tree of Water was found was another journal, a notebook that Ven called The Star of the Sea. We are still working on restoring it, but it looks like there are many new adventures and different kinds of magic in it. The problem is that it might have been buried in the sand with an ancient bottle of magical sun tan lotion, which seems to have leaked onto some of the journal’s pages. This is a very sad event in archaeology, but we are working hard to restore it.

 

As for other books, it’s not like we just write them out of nowhere. If we haven’t found one of Ven’s journals, there can’t be another book, now, can there? We are always looking, however. We’ve learned so much about ancient magic from the journals we have found so far.

You are a best-selling author with other books and series for adults. What made you want to write books for young readers?

 

I like young readers better than adults. Everyone who is reading a book like mine has at one time or another been a young reader, but not everyone has been an adult yet. Young readers have more imagination and their brains are more flexible—they can understand magical concepts a lot better than a lot of adults, who have to deal with car payments and work and budget balancing and all sorts of non-magical things in the course of their days.

Besides, many adults scare me. But that’s not their fault. I’m just weird like that.

I think if more adults read like young readers, the world would be a happier place.

Tell us where we can find your book and more information about where you are these days.

You can find The Tree of Water anywhere books are sold, online and in bookstores. There are several copies in my steamer trunk and I believe the palace in Serendair also has one. I also sent one to Bruno Mars because I like his name.

At the moment, I am on the beautiful island of J’ha-ha, searching for a very unique and magical flower. Thank you for asking these interview questions—it has improved my mood, since I have only found weeds so far today. I am hoping for better luck after lunch, which, sadly, is peanut butter and raisin sandwiches, olives, and yellow tea again.

 

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