New covers!!

     New Covers by Nicole Cardiff

Book 1

Alexander Drake’s Extraordinary Pursuit

Book 2

The Return of General Drake

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Yay! It’s GIVEAWAY Time!

I love giveaways! Inspired Kathy is kind enough to host an interview and giveaway at her wonderful blog,  I’m a Reader, Not a Writer.
Please stop in and say hello! While you’re there, enter to win a free copy of “Alexander Drake’s Extraordinary Pursuit”. Hope to see you there!


Click here to see the interview and giveaway

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The Runaways

A snippet from “The Return of General Drake”
The runaways
Alexander and Logan ran up the mountainside until they were certain the wolf was not behind them. A heavy snow storm caught up to them making each step more challenging.
“Stop here,” said Logan, gasping for air.
Alexander put his hands on his knees to catch his breath. “Thank you ― you saved my life.”
“It’s okay, friend,” Logan smiled. “Come on, I will take you to the cave. We have food and shelter.”
“No, I can’t go. I have to keep moving,” Alexander answered with a distant gaze and continued walking up the mountain.
“Huh?” Logan stood shivering in the snow as Alexander marched off. “Are you crazy?”
Alexander did not even turn around.
“Hey! Wait a minute! I don’t know where you are going; but you won’t get far in this weather.”
Alexander continued his pace.
Logan stumbled and skipped to catch him. “You need to come with me, friend. You won’t survive the night out here.” He grabbed Alexander’s arm.
Finally, Alexander stopped to acknowledge Logan. His teeth were chattering so hard he could barely speak. “I am a bit numb.”
“This way…,” Logan clutched Alexander’s shirt with his dirty fingers pulling him in the opposite direction. “It’s not far from here.”
They walked in silence for a couple minutes, until reaching a curve on the mountainside.
“Squawk…!” Logan let out a high-pitch cackle.
“Squawk-hueey!” A similar cackle sounded off from behind a rock.
Out stepped another boy just as filthy as Logan tightly gripping a sling-shot. He looked Alexander up and down. “Blake is not going to like this,” he said, frowning at Logan.
“Cozmo was getting ready to eat him for dinner. I had to do something.”
“You know how he feels about strays….”
“I know…,” replied Logan rolling his eyes. “This way, friend ― what’s your name?”
“My name is Alexander. You’re not in trouble for bringing me here… are you?”
Logan shrugged his shoulders, “Blake doesn’t scare me. He’s just trying to protect us.”
Hidden behind a dead tree was a hollow black hole that looked like it was carved into the side of the mountain.
“This is it; don’t say anything. Just let me talk,” whispered Logan.
They shuffled in; after the first turn the cave was illuminated by candle light. The whispering started once Logan and Alexander’s shadows came into view.
“Logan…?”
Logan poked his head in to the opening; followed by Alexander.
The whispering ceased.
A very tall boy; appearing to be the oldest of the bunch marched over and blocked the opening. “You know the rules ― no strangers.” He whispered sternly at Logan.
Logan stood tall, “Well, he’s here now, Blake. He knows how to find us if we turn him away.”
Blake glared at Alexander with his hands on his hips. “Just what we need; another mouth to feed,” he grumbled. “Keep quiet and stay out of my way.” He turned in a huff mumbling to himself.
Alexander stood quietly looking around the cavern. A group of about twenty kids varying in age huddled together for warmth staring back at him.
“Don’t worry, you fit in just fine.” Logan gave him a nudge as they entered the cavern.

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Cozmo the Wolf

Suddenly, the support of the mountain under his legs disappeared.  Alexander had reached the edge of a cliff.  Over went his stomach, then his chest.  He scuffed his chin and nose on the sharp edge of the rock, which stuck out enough for his fingers to grip. Alexander dangled over the precipice, listening to rocks hit the ground far below.

His hands trembled as he clenched the rigid lip of the cliff. Bit by bit, his fingers slipped over loose gravel until only the tips remained exposed on the surface.

“Help!” His cry bounced off the mountainside; then there was only a silence that left Alexander hopeless. His hands trembled. Something cold and damp squished up against his fingers. Alexander was being sniffed.

“Help me! Please!” he gasped. “I can’t hold on much longer.”

“One might say that my timing is nothing short of miraculous,” a deep and clever-sounding voice said from the surface above.  Alexander strained to look up toward his fingers.

Just over the edge was a black nose with a drip hanging in a taunting manner off the tip, and a pair of dark, hollow eyes peering down at him. It was a wolf with matted, ashy-gray fur, and a bleak disposition.

“What do you think?” the wolf asked.

“Um, if you help me up I will certainly have an answer for you… Mr. Wolf, sir.” Alexander gave the wolf a desperate half smile.

“My name is Cozmo,” said the wolf, just before sinking his teeth into Alexander’s arm.

“Ouch!”

Cozmo snarled and groaned as he tugged Alexander’s lanky body up the cliff.  His hind legs slid over loose gravel, drawing him to the edge.

Alexander braced his other arm around Cozmo’s neck and pulled himself to safety. Cozmo let out a vicious growl and threw Alexander away from the cliff’s edge. They both sat, breathless for a moment.

“Thank you, Cozmo. You saved my life.”

Cozmo shook the dirt off his fur. He snarled and sniffed while looking Alexander up and down. “Do you think I did all that work for nothing?”

Alexander stumbled backwards. “Are you going to eat me?”

“Well, yes, of course I am. If you don’t run, it will make this much easier.” Saliva dripped from the gaps in his teeth as he let out a sinister laugh and began his approach on Alexander

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The Ravens

In the very early hours of the morning, it was still dark in
the forest around his grandmother’s cottage. Twigs and
leaves crunched under his shuffling feet. The forest was
quiet, convincing Alexander that he was alone. He peered
into the darkness. The cold air brought color to his cheeks.
Suddenly, the branches just ahead of him rustled.
“Who’s there?”
A wicked cackle broke the silence.

Alexander’s eyes grew wide.
“Stop playing games! You’re not funny!” His chest
tightened like a fist.
The trees surrounding him rattled, and several sets of
beady yellow eyes pierced the darkness pointing directly at
him. One set of eyes narrowed, giving Alexander an evil
stare—
“Screech!”
Alexander darted through the trees, knocking a few of
the creatures out of the way. They flailed about, exposing
their raven-like silhouettes. Wings flapped inches from the
side of his face. He tried to run faster, kicking up the dirt
with his large feet. The ravens yanked at clumps of hair with
their curved beaks.
Specks of light appeared out of the air, quickly
surrounding him. There were billions of them tickling his
spine and bustling through his hair. The lights were playful
and buzzing with energy. Alexander was breathless. He
stopped running and allowed them to shield him from the
ravens.
His innocent investigation was quickly becoming a
strange and terrifying adventure….

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If Hoppers Ran the World…

What is a hopper, you ask? At first sight you might believe you were looking at an ordinary old frog; but hoppers are extraordinary creatures. It is true that to some a hopper’s appearance leaves something to be desired. From a hoppers perspective there is nothing more handsome than a pudgy, well fed belly and a decent pair of long gangly legs.

The world would be a much different place if hoppers resided here. For starters, the average age would be 217. Hoppers have been known to live to see their 471st birthday (which they consider to be yet another splendid reason for a party). Instead of gas stations and coffee houses on every corner you would find dense bunches of weeping willows inhabited by hoppers doing what they do best; eating, laughing and leaping. Hoppers do love to eat; so what’s on the menu? Vegetable stew, of course—morning, noon, and night… and anytime in between.

Hoppers love to have fun and what better way than a good lily pad leap? Nothing against football or baseball; the most popular sporting event would likely be lily pad leaping. Any hopper would travel far and wide to catch Ferdinand (a very well known and likable hopper) displaying his impeccable posture and grace in a lily pad leaping tournament. He has been known to plunk his round mid section into the calmest water with out making even a tiny splash. He is also a great talent when it comes to belly flopping.

On the topic of travel, how would a hopper get from here to there, or anywhere? In Azra’s Pith soaring through the air on the back of a friendly empyrean wizard is the fastest and most exciting way of getting around. Realistically speaking, I don’t know how accommodating an owl or hawk would be to a hopper jumping on its back and asking for a ride.

Hoppers like to be courteous and consider it bad form to exclude anyone for any reason. That said there would be one exception to this rule – murks. I think the name says it all. Murks are giant, stinky, sloppy, black birds with terrible manners. If you invite a murk to dinner, they might take the liberty of putting you on the menu. I imagine a “no murks allowed” law would be strictly enforced at all times.

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A Glance at my Wandering Mind…

Featured at My Reading Table…

I was sort of a space cadet as a kid― always in my own little world. I had stories running through my head all the time. The main presence in all my adventures was this lonely, wandering soul on a never ending journey of great importance.

I never thought about it then, but I’ pretty sure the wandering hero (sort of) was a reflection of me, and the magical adventures I wanted to take. When I read THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE by C.S. Lewis, I turned into a tireless seeker of portals. The thought of entering another realm through my closet was fantastic! The ideas for the Azra’s Pith series were always there, I just never thought to write them down until my son was born. Alexander Drake became crystal clear – he was my wandering hero.

A couple of the characters are loosely based on personalities that have stood out in my life. Of course, I exaggerated or understated them depending on the personality. Beatrice (Alexander’s Grandmother) is based on my grandmother. She lived in an old yellow house in the woods. Some of my fondest childhood memories were created during my visits there. Ferdinand, the fearless hopper, and Julien, the wise and somewhat silly empyrean wizard are both part of my imaginary cast of characters that have been with me for years.

I started out with the intention of writing short stories to read to my son and the series evolved from there. When I finished the final chapter of part one, I already knew how the entire series would unfold. I’m on part three and trying my best to take my time. I don’t know how I will feel when it all ends.

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The Rolling Boulder…

The other day I was scrolling down my facebook newsfeed (my morning ritual) when I stumbled across a picture of a man pushing a boulder up a mountain. I had to laugh out loud because that was the exact example I had been using to explain the process of promoting! The picture was attached to Luke Roman’s blog post about rejection. Does every writer have the same feeling?

The actual writing is the blissful part. I can escape into a world that I created every day. Submitting to publishers, polite rejection letters and getting critiques to improve your craft can be a test of emotional toughness. In other words… being told how terrible your writing is over and over again until your skin is thicker than that leather jacket in your closet from the 80’s. If you continue to write after being run over by a snow plow in a gravel pit the passion must be there.

If you do get published, the mountain only gets bigger. Now you have to promote your work. What the heck! I write fantasy stories about giant bird/wizards and talking frogs. What do I know about promoting? The day my book was released I felt sick to my stomach. Wait… now I have to actually sell books? How am I going to do that? Half my neighbors don’t even know I exist. How in Gandalf’s name am I going to tell the world to buy my book?  The mountain just kept growing; and so did the nausea.

Then came the reviews. Yeah, that whole sick to my stomach thing… I felt like all my vital organs were doing the Macarena through my ribcage after only slightly skimming through one review. Don’t get me wrong, I can handle criticism. It comes with the territory; but now the snow plow is running me over in front of an audience.

On the other hand, when someone has something nice to say… now, this is where the boulder can really hurt. I don’t dare take a moment to enjoy a good review in fear that the boulder will roll right over me smashing my face in the dirt. I imagine the fun factor in chasing a rolling boulder down a mountain with dirt in my eyes is low.

I’m still learning about the publishing world. It can be frustrating, demoralizing, and a crushing blow to the ego. I have scraped my dignity off of the pavement so many times, I’m pretty sure it is paper thin and full of holes. Nothing wrong with a few holes… right? The funny thing is I am actually enjoying the experience. Meeting other writers and doing guest posts like this one are a lot of fun! Most of all, I take comfort in the fact that I can still escape all of the craziness and write my fantasy stories.

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The Task of Embracing Porcupines

Featured on Ms. Martin Teaches Media

Everyone has porcupines. You encounter one, if not several just going about your day. It’s that kid at school you always try to avoid because he or she loves to make jokes at your expense… poke!  I used to envision myself curling into a ball like an armadillo hoping the wind would help me roll away. I think that is why I look like I’m hunching in all of my pictures.

I absorbed all the pokes like a sponge, and even found truth in them; which is a huge no-no! Does my hair really weigh two tons?  Can you imagine trying to haul two tons of hair around? Though, now that I think of it I did use a lot of conditioner at an attempt to control the frizz… but two tons? Puleazze.

What about the well meaning sibling offering… um, should I refer to it as constructive advice? Double poke!  More often than not, these pokes come from a place of love; even when they are hidden by “Hey, booger-face… your zipper is down!”  Gee, thanks.  Those pokes (and there were many) made me stronger.

I believe bullies carry around just as many insecurities as the rest of us. It is so easy to pick on someone who appears weaker at an attempt to feel some sort of superiority. I resembled a hamster scurrying through the halls with my head down looking for my wheel. Hoping to go unnoticed made me an easy target. I’ve learned to hold my head high and smile… yes, even those who aren’t so nice.

The jokes and teasing only have as much power as you give. Can you love yourself enough to see the pokes for what they really are? Just fluff… meaningless, insignificant fluff; and fluff does not poke.  You’ll know you are on the right path when the porcupines don’t affect you anymore, not even a little.

“Anger cannot be overcome by anger. If someone is angry with you, and you show anger in return, the result is a disaster. On the other hand, if you control your anger and show its opposite – love, compassion, tolerance and patience – not only will you remain peaceful, but the other person’s anger will also diminish.”

Dalai Lama

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The Hills and Valleys of a Newbie Writer…

featured on Literal Exposure…
2006, late August, early, early morning… I groaned and rolled myself out of bed. My six month old son could be heard shifting in his crib through the baby monitor. He was finally starting to sleep through the night. I shuffled to his room wiping the sleep out of my eyes.
“Good morning, little man!”
He looked at me with his adorable toothless smile while clutching the ear of his tattered, stuffed Mickey Mouse. I scooped him out of his crib and grabbed a book of classic fairytales we bought when he was a week old.
“Which story should we read this morning?” We snuggled on the couch with a ba-ba (bottle). “Well, it looks like we’ve read every story.” Just like every other morning, I though about writing my own stories. I certainly had plenty of ideas; and have since childhood.
The little man took an extra long nap that day and I parked myself in front of my computer screen. I just started typing; the story was spilling out through my fingers. It was therapeutic – like I was releasing my bottled up imagination.
I finished the rough version of ALEXANDER DRAKE’S EXTRAORDINARY PURSUIT and wanted nothing more than to keep writing. So I continued on to part two. I also considered submitting to publishers with a “why not” attitude.
I knew nothing of the publishing world. After submitting to a handful of publishers and agents, I received a handful of rejections (mostly polite and generic). Hmm, I suppose I won’t be rubbing elbows with J.K. Rowling after all… oh well. Lesson number one for a newbie writer: humility. After that experience I thought it best to continue writing simply because I really enjoy it.
I joined Authonomy, a sort of online community for writers which I found to be very supportive. I reluctantly put bits of THE REALM OF AZRA’S PITH (Alexander Drake’s title at the time) up to be critiqued. Lesson number two for a newbie writer: you need a thick skin – when I say thick, I mean tough, and leathery – no sissies allowed!
Trudging through comments like “you couldn’t write a letter to your cat”, and “your title sucks”; I received some very helpful feedback and learned a lot about my writing. The “letter to your cat” statement is an exaggeration. I don’t think anyone would be that cruel; but I did change the title if that tells you anything.
2007, mid June, late afternoon… I sat in my squeaky desk chair checking my email. Let’s see, “become a millionaire working from home” – spam, “meet singles in your area” – spam, “The Realm of Azra’s Pith Submission”… huh? I clicked on it expecting a late rejection letter – but it wasn’t. Someone actually wanted to publish my story!
After running around the house like a headless chicken I submitted my contract to Rain Publishing. The release date was set for October of 2008… a very long year and a half away. Lesson number three for a newbie writer: patience – because the process take’s f.o.r.e.v.e.r.
For a few months I skipped around basking in the glow of my newfound title: “Published Author”, giving myself mental high-fives … Yes! I’m a published author… yes!
2008, late March, mid-morning… I was spinning around in the same squeaky chair checking my email. The fist subject line read “To all authors – very important please read”. As I read everything went a bit fuzzy. I did manage to finish half the email before my stomach started doing back flips. “Rain Publishing is closing…,” I suppose I needed a dose of lesson number one (humility). It certainly was humbling every time someone asked how my book was doing – the book? It’s doing… okay, I guess.
After a month of wallowing around in self pity, I climbed back on the old saddle and pulled my files up. I decided to start at square one with Alexander Drake, and pretty much rewrote the entire manuscript. I was happy with the updated version; so out it went. Yet again, I submitted to a handful of publishers and agents. You’d think I would have learned my lesson the first time.
With the rejections came some slightly more positive feedback from a polite and extremely patient submissions editor at Wild Child Publishing. She let me know that I need to make a lot of corrections before she could consider it any further. Lesson number four for a newbie writer: proofread. If you think your work is perfect… have someone who knows what they are doing proofread it for you.
I took a month, bought some editing software and allowed the authonomites (members of Authonomy) to rip it to shreds. Then, I resubmitted it.
2009, early October, early evening… YES!!! A publishing contract! This time I took a pass on the basking, and the self proclaimed title. Of course, I had to revert back to lesson number three (patience)… Alexander Drake did not get released until June of 2011.
The biggest lesson I learned through the ups and downs of the last five years is to detach from the outcome and just do what I love… write.

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