The Legacy – Chapter One, etc.

If you want the moon, don’t hide from the night.

If you want a rose, don’t run from the thorns.

If you want love, don’t hide from yourself.

Rumi

Photo by Peter Lewicki on Unsplash

I’ve chosen these three lines as the beginning of each of the three parts of Guardian of the Realm, the second book of the Red Cliffs Chronicles. They fit the story perfectly, but I’m mentioning it now because I’m up to my eyebrows in formatting the e-version of the Guardian. It’s a tad easier than my first project, The Legacy, true, but it’s still maddening.

I did the Draft2Digital formatting of The Legacy as well, and the Kindle version is now available for preorder. It’ll be published on June 30th.

To give myself a break from formatting, I’ll be working on the translation of a beautiful poem, My Brother’s Hands, written by my high school friend, an ER doctor and writer, Jasmina Hanjialic.

And now,

Chapter One

Three weeks earlier

JACK

 

THE PHONE ON THE NIGHTSTAND made a hum, jerking me upright. I glanced at the display and felt a prickle at my nape. A call from Tristan Blake at 1:35 a.m. could only mean trouble.

I pressed the answer button. “Is Astrid okay?”

“She’s fine,” Tristan said. “We’ve just got a call from Copper Ridge. The same woman who phoned us before. She says a month ago Seth sent a couple of his people to look for Astrid.”

“A month ago? Why didn’t she tell us until now?”

“Because she didn’t know until now. Seth’s up to something again.”

I rubbed my chin. “That’s what we heard, too. Did his people come close to Astrid?”

“No,” Tristan said. “They looked for her in the wrong place. Dallas.”

“Dallas? Hmm. I wonder what made them go there. She’s never had any connections to Texas.”

“A smokescreen? Perhaps they wanted us to believe they had no clue where she is.”

“It’s possible,” I said. “Or perhaps someone sent them on a wild goose chase. But who? That lunatic Seth must be stopped. The sooner the better.”

“Copper Ridge may need some help to take him down.”

“I know. We’ll help them.”

“We can keep Astrid safe as long as it takes,” Tristan said. “Between Liv, me and your people here, she’s well protected, but it’s a band-aid solution.”

Brother and sister team, the Falconers, had been sent to Rosenthal a while ago to watch over Astrid.  Not that Tristan and Livia Blake needed help; their job was to monitor her surroundings for anything unusual. They’d been told to keep a distance so that she didn’t know about them, but to stay close enough to protect her, if necessary. It was time, however, for a more radical move.

“She should come to Red Cliffs,” I said. “She’s too precious to us to risk anything happening to her. I’ll talk to James. If he agrees, I’ll come to Rosenthal and talk to her. Convince her to come with me to Red Cliffs.” I let out a frustrated sigh. “Stubborn little mule. She should’ve come long ago.”

“Astrid’s been reluctant to go to Red Cliffs, true, but she had reasons to be. Try to understand.”

“She’d better come this time.”

“That depends on you, Jack,” Livia Blake said in her slow, sensual drawl. The voice came from somewhere behind Tristan. With her sharp hearing, could hear all of our conversation. With my sharp hearing, her voice was as clear as if she were talking on the phone.

I smiled. Some of the tension caused by Tristan’s call eased. Livia Blake could have such an effect on people. “Hey, beautiful. I was wondering where you were.”

“Hey, handsome. Haven’t seen you in ages.”

“Okay, that’s it,” I heard Tristan again. “I am not teleconferencing again. Livia, if you want to talk to Jack, keep the phone pressed against your ear, not mine.”

I heard Livia sigh. “Okay. Pass me the phone, love” Then, a moment later, “Jack, Astrid’s a sensible person. She’ll listen to you. By the way …” She let her voice drift off. I knew Liv long enough to know what was coming. I could picture the spark in her eyes and a hint of a smile in the corners of her mouth. “She’s beautiful, you know.”

“She’s pretty, yes,” I said. “I saw her pictures. Liv, darling, if this is one of your little matchmaking schemes, you shouldn’t bother. You know they don’t work with me.”

“Should I remind you that your last girlfriend was your own choice, yet it didn’t work either?”

She was right there, I’d give her that.

“Astrid is exquisite, you’ll see,” Livia said.

“I believe you. Liv, listen, don’t tell Astrid Seth’s people were looking for her. I’ll talk to her. Keep her safe until I take over.”

“Pfft, a piece of cake,” Liv said. “They can only get to her over our dead bodies, and that won’t be easy, you must admit.”

“Next to impossible,” I said with a chuckle.

“Are you coming alone?” Tristan asked, half joking, half serious. “Maybe we should have two guest rooms ready? Knowing James, I won’t be surprised to see him, too.”

“It’s understandable. She’s his niece, and he worries about her.” Liv said.

“I’m going to bring her to him.” This time she was coming with me even if I had to tie her up, toss her over my shoulder and carry her to Red Cliffs. “See you soon, then. And don’t worry about the room. James’s not coming with me if I can help it. And I plan to stay at Astrid’s. I need to know her better.”

Before Livia could make a comment, I finished the call.

***

TWO DAYS LATER, I STOOD behind an old spruce tree in Astrid’s backyard, waiting for Tristan.

She’d just returned home. I watched as she unlocked the door, turned the light on and stepped in. One by one, the other lights went on.

I followed her aura—the clear outline of the body heat some of us were able to see—as she moved through the house. It was bright blue, unlike the deep red of typical wolf-peoples’ aura. From the hallway to the kitchen, to the living room, bathroom, bedroom and back to the living room again, where she walked to the window and closed the blinds.

Did she find my scent inside the house?

Probably not. The search seemed to be over. She was back in the kitchen, opening the fridge and bending over in front of it.

***

I HAD ARRIVED IN ROSENTHAL earlier that morning. Astrid had been already at work, so I’d taken the opportunity to look around her house. I wasn’t proud of it, but I wouldn’t apologize either. The Falconer siblings’ reports were focused more on her surroundings and the potential dangers than on the things I needed to know: what kind of person the young surgeon Dr. Astrid Mohegan, alias Dr. Rosalie Duplant, really was.

The reason was simple: unbeknown to her, Astrid, the daughter of a wizardess and a werewolf, was a rare, precious, powerful ellida, the mighty force of good and the highest authority of a werewolf clan. That’s why I had to bring her to Red Cliffs. She belonged among us and we needed her as much as she needed us.

The other reason for this incognito visit was more mundane—I’d wanted to look for traces and scents of other people in and around her house—werewolves, wizards, Tel-Urughs, humans. Anyone who could do her harm. I knew Liv checked her place twice a day. It’d be hard to imagine anything slipping her attention. Still, another pair of eyes—or better, another nose—wouldn’t hurt.

Astrid’s house was small and had only two bedrooms. The interior was clean and simple: modern, dark brown furniture, plenty of free space, sliding doors dividing the kitchen from the sitting area and her small office. Natural colors prevailed: butter-yellow walls, a beige sofa and armchairs, dark parquet floor. It would’ve appeared gender neutral if it hadn’t been for the decorative accents in different shades of pink: the cushions, the carpet under the coffee table, the lampshade, the woolen blanket on the sofa, a big bouquet of pale pink roses in a vase.

Hanging on the wall there were several Japanese ink paintings with a four-season theme: orchards, bamboo, chrysanthemums and plum blossoms. More sumi-e artworks of misty landscapes, flowers and small animals adorned the opposite wall.

When I stepped into her tidy, almost spartan bedroom, the floor made a high-pitched squeak. I nodded in silent approval: a nightingale floor, designed to make a sound when walked upon. The dry boards creaked under the pressure of footsteps and the flooring nails rubbed against clamps, producing chirping noises. A simple and efficient security device assuring nobody could sneak into her room. I’d heard about it, but never seen one. Smart girl.

She loved music. I’d heard she had an exceptional singing voice, trained for years. It was so beautiful that she could be an opera singer if she wanted. Or rather, if she could afford the fame and publicity that would come with such a voice.

I checked a pile of CDs in front of her stereo: Guns’n’ Roses’ Use Your Illusion was the last one she’d listened to. The jewel case lay open, and the disc was still in the player.

I shook my head, smiling. Who on earth still listened to CDs?

Besides heavy metal and hard rock, the recordings that had been recently played contained Amy Winehouse, Queen, Santana. Dire Straits’ Sultans of Swing. I smiled—my all-time favorite. Then I’d opened a big box on the bottom the the bookshelf, filled with classical music: Bach, Beethoven, Handel, Haydn—symphonies, concertos, operas. Several different productions of Mozart’s The Magic Flute.

I browsed through her books, hundreds of them packed tightly on shelves that covered a whole wall. Her literary tastes were also interesting. “Tell me what you read, and I’ll tell you who you are.” Hmm. In Astrid’s case, it wouldn’t be so easy. She seemed to like everything from Aristotle to Asterix. Classic titles stood side by side with contemporary bestsellers and graphic novels. A lot of supernatural romance fiction. On the floor beside the sofa, with a bookmark tucked somewhere in the second half, lay a signed copy of The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, read numerous times, judging by the condition of the book.

Lots of medical books and magazines, but that was hardly a surprise.

Astrid’s neat, modest little nest didn’t reveal much about her except that she was a down-to-earth young woman who loved books, music, movies. And the color pink.

At least I was sure about two important things: no one had looked for her here, and she wasn’t in a relationship. The only scents in the house except hers were Liv’s and Tristan’s.

It didn’t seem right to further invade Astrid’s privacy. I looked around to make sure everything was as I’d found it. I’d only leave traces of my scent outside her house. I was curious to see if she would notice it.

***

I KEPT MY EYES ON the house, following her from the fridge to the kitchen table. She pulled out a chair and sat.

I expected her to start eating, but the blue outline of her body was still, like it was frozen.

Something is wrong, flashed through my mind only a second before her scent reached me from behind and her cold fingers closed around my throat in a strong grip.

At the precise moment when her hand touched my neck, a gentle, warm wave washed over me, reaching every cell of my body and every corner of my soul. She winced, and I knew she’d felt it too. Her grasp first loosened then tightened again.

Oh, God.

“Who are you and why are you watching me?” Her voice was soft, alluring. A tell-me-the truth-and-I might-let-you-live kind of soft and alluring.

Before I could answer, Tristan appeared in front of me seemingly out of nowhere.

“Wrong time to be late,” I said to him.

“Tristan.” Astrid acknowledged his arrival.

“It’s okay, Astrid,” Tristan said with suppressed laughter. “You can let him breathe.”

My attacker released my throat and I turned. She took a step back and, tilting her head, studied me with open curiosity.

***

“SORRY YOU TWO, TRISTAN SAID. “I see you’ve already met but let me make a formal introduction. Astrid, this is Jack Canagan from Red Cliffs. Jack, this is Astrid Mohegan. Why don’t we go inside the house?”

Her eyes narrowed. “Jack Canagan. I’ve heard of you. You’re my Uncle James’s stepson.”

With a curiosity that matched hers, I took in the tall, slender, golden-haired and blue-eyed young woman I knew only from photographs. They didn’t do her justice.

I cleared my throat. It didn’t hurt, but her grip had been strong. Good. She was nobody’s fool. “It makes us some sort of family, doesn’t it?”

Posted in Home | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Two-blood Legacy – Chapter Zero

Or, in other words, the Prologue.

(You’ll find it further down.)

The publishing industry seems to have something against prologues and epilogues. However, many bestselling authors, including the top names in their genres, use them. I would say that nothing is black and white, and that sometimes they are not necessary for the story, and some other times they make sense.

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

As a reader, I usually don’t mind them; when I did, it was often because I didn’t like the book itself. On the other hand, Julia Quinn, one of my favourite romance authors, has gone so far as to write the second epilogue for each novel of her Bridgertons series. Written in the form of short stories, they tell us what happened to the main characters a few years after their first happily-eve-after. It worked, and her readers welcomed them.

They might not be officially popular, but prologues and epilogues are more common than they appear to be, and not only in fiction.  What are all these prequels and sequels of Star Wars (1977) if not an endless parade of more or less meaningful prologues and epilogues?

I believe that the prologue/epilogue feature works well in the Legacy. The narrative alternates between the two main characters. The Prologue is Astrid’s chapter; Chapter 27 is Jack’s, and it describes the same event from his perspective. I tweaked the epilogue a bit, turning it into a bonus story, “The Wedding Gift”, which also serves as a bridge between book 1 and 2.

The legacy has two parts, Asanni and Ellida, which correspond not only with Astrid’s inner metamorphose from a reluctant wizardess (asanni) to a blaidd benywaidd and the powerful leader of her clan (ellida), but also with the two settings, both fictitious — Asanni happens in a small town of Rosenthal, and Ellida in Red Cliffs.

At the very end of the Legacy is the glossary of uncommon terms, in case that the readers need additional explanation. The supernatural inhabitants  of my world have adopted human languages for their everyday communication, but they also use a number of words from their native tongues: Mál (M), Hen Iaith (HI) and High Akkadian (HA).

Some of the terminology is inspired by real languages, some invented. Among them are these few used in the Prologue:

asanni, pl. asinjur (M)—wizardess, female wizard in Mál (M), the wizard tongue. Asanni and related words are derived from the Old Mál word Asair/Æsair, which means life force, life light, but it also was the name of the territory they once occupied.

blaidd benywaidd (HI)—she-wolf, female wolf, the female counterpart of blaidd. Also, the wolf form of a she-wolf, as opposed to her human form called dynes.

dynes—woman (HI). The human form of a blaidd benywaidd, or she-wolf. Also, her human spirit.

ellida (M)—“the one of the two bloods”, a firstborn daughter of a wizard and she-wolf, or a wizardess and a he-wolf. She is a symbol of the ancient alliance between the two peoples. A powerful force of good, she is the highest-ranking member of her werewolf clan and its ultimate authority.

Tel-Urughs (HA)—the oldest of all Langaer, the descendants of ancient gods, demigods and heroes originated in Mesopotamia. Humans wrongly call them vampires based on Tel-Urughs’ feeding habits.

So, without further ado, I present you the Chapter Zero:

                    Prologue

Cover design by Srdjan Filipovic

Astrid

FEAR SWEPT OVER ME LIKE a tide.

Trapped in my wolf body that didn’t know how to fight and was too weak to run, I watched my stepfather’s four mercenaries closing in on Jack and me.

May Jack be safe. I prayed. May Jack be safe.

“No time for prayers!” A different voice inside my head snapped, startling me. The voice of my dynes, my other spirit. “We have to fight them.”

A miracle I didn’t have time to dwell upon.

I growled in approval, the feeling of dread evaporating like mist in the morning sun. My muscles tightened, my mind cleared. Strength replaced weakness, hope overlaid despair. “Tell me what to do,” I said.

“Let me take over!”

I chuckled, despite the grim reality. “The stage is yours, wizardess.”

Sensing something had shifted, Jack, also in his wolf shape, turned to me and paled, taking in my blue, wizard eyes instead of the amber of my wolf’s.

“The asanni has joined the team,” I said in my wizard voice, a tad less deep and husky than that of my wolf.

“No! Astrid, no. Run toward the forest! You must run!” Jack yelled, his voice thick with dread. Not for himself. For me. Jack was a great warrior, but I was his great weakness.

“Forget it, Jack! I’m not leaving you. Where is their weak point? Where should I aim?”

“Astrid, listen! The blond one at the front is the leader; the one on his left is the strongest. I’ll go after them. You try to outrun the other two. You can do that. Run now!”

“No! Where are they weak? Tell me!”

“Oh, God! Neck! Break the neck! And watch out for weapons!”

I murmured a spell in my old wizard tongue and found Jack’s eyes. “Jack, jump and roll over me!”

“What?!”

“Just do it!”

Jack knocked me down. We rolled several times, moving away from our enemy.

When we separated, two identical werewolves stood in front of them.

“What? What’s that? I told you to grab him first!” the leader screeched. “She’s a witch! Look what she did! They both look like him! Which one is she? Take them both! Take them both!”

“The hell you will!” I closed my eyes and cast a spell.

“Moðir Eldær vara hlíf … Moðir Eldær vara hlíf.”

Mother Fire, be my shield.

“Astrid, no! No!” Jack was shouting at the top of his lungs.

My big, powerful body burst into flames, charging toward the enemy with a speed I hadn’t dreamt I possessed.

My first prey dropped on the ground even before I reached him. I jumped over him and followed the other one, who pulled out a knife and bolted toward the woods, faster than a shadow.

Still not fast enough. A few long strides and I was in front of him. Our eyes met. His were filled with fear. Mine, I supposed, with anger.

“Drop the knife. I don’t want to kill you,” I said, but then remembered we couldn’t communicate telepathically. He was a Tel-Urugh, an ancient blood-drinker.

With a flick of his wrist, the knife flew low from his hand, catching a sunbeam on its curved edge, before its tip pierced my leg.

The world compressed into a single particle and I drowned in darkness.

 

Posted in Home | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Welcome to Red Cliffs!

I’m adding the finishing touches to the e-book version of The Two-blood Legacy, the first book in The Red Cliffs Chronicles series. Once published, it’ll be free to download, if Amazon allows me this little generosity.

Cover design by Srdjan Filipovic

In any case, I plan to offer it here as well, chapter by chapter. I can’t afford any marketing and promotion, so maybe The Legacy can find its readers this way.

I’m taking this opportunity to express my gratitude to those who, one way or another,  were with me during this long journey. First of all, I’d like to thank the person I always call first when I’m stuck. Thank you, JP McLean, for helping me with the blurb(s) and the title, as well as for your continuous support. I’d like to mention Susan M. Toy and thank her for her tireless promotion of the work of her fellow authors, including mine. And of course,  Meredith Bond, another fellow author, who taught me how to do formatting in the middle of this pandemic madness. “Instead of paying me,” she said, “let me show you how to do it.” So she did, and that’s why I’m now formatting The Legacy.

Incidentally, two very special gals became part of this story: Judy Munos from Winnipeg, and Callie Jones from Glamorgan, Wales. I met them both through Voracious Readers Only, a free book platform. I had offered my Best Friends and Other Lovers (contact me if you want a free pdf. copy) to its readers in return for an unbiased review. Both Judy and Callie liked the book and asked me if I had anything else written. Did I ever! Callie and Judy ended up reading two unedited, raw, messy and huge Red Cliffs manuscripts. And they loved them!

The origins of my gwerin y blaidd, my wolf-people, is in Wales and I wanted to use some Welsh words and phrases. Beautiful as it is (I’ve fallen in love with Welsh; it’s so obvious in my books), Welsh is not an easy language system to grasp, not even for someone with a linguistic background like me. When I was just wondering how to make sure that I wouldn’t make a fool of myself  or, worse, offend Welsh speakers (and the language itself) with my well-intended but surely not competent use of their language, Callie burst into my life, like a shooting star. Maybe it was a coincidence — although I don’t believe in them, and I rather think it was one of these wonderful, mysterious connections between seemingly unconnected things — but it happened that Callie’s mother tongue was Welsh and she offered to help me with the terminology. Thus Callie became my Welsh language consultant on a purely voluntary basis (on her categorical insistence). Her assistance was beyond valuable; it was priceless.

Cover design by Srdjan Filipovic

And then, the covers. A few years ago — by pure chance — I came across a very, very talented but unknown young designer, Srdjan Filipovic. I commissioned two covers, which were beautiful, but I’d never used them because, in the meantime, I changed the titles of my books and many other things. I’m not sure if it was my review that set things in motion (it would happen sooner or later anyway, because he’s that good), but now Srdjan is one of the top cover artist on Upwork, with many wonderful projects in his portfolio, and, I believe, many, many ahead.

When, a few weeks ago, I asked him to do the covers for me again, he said he would, but only if I accepted them as gifts.

And finally, I want to thank my editor, Kristin Muraki, who had to go multiple times through almost 1,500 pages of the manuscripts and catch all sorts of my English-as-a-second-language mistakes, as well as some others, of course.

The first chapter, a prologue, will be here in a day or two.

Posted in Home | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

FREE DOWNLOAD – Best Friends and Other Lovers

Best Friends and Other Lovers is now available and it’s FREE on Amazon Kindle. If you have a Kindle reader, or a phone, or a laptop, please download it between March 29 and April 2.  

Cover design by Meera Thakore

This is a collection of three love stories — two quite hot and the third one, being a Christmas story, more sensual than spicy. It’s March, I know; I’d hoped to publish it for Christmas 2019. Alas. Now I don’t want to wait until the next Christmas. Beside, the cover is not very Christmasy. Just plain sexy 🙂

The stories are connected through the characters. The Cinderella-like Once Upon a Night is a modern fairy-tale about two ‘strangers in the night’, Nick and Angela. A bizarre and quite literal Blind Date happens two years later to Edward and Nick’s ex-wife, Hannah (how has a cameo appearance in Once Upon). Fast-forward one year, and we learn that Cupid’s job hasn’t been done yet. It’s Christmas time, and his arrow is aimed at Nick’s twin sister Deanna and her BFF Ted (Best Friends and Other Lovers), who we both briefly see in the first story.

Anyway, here are the blurbs:

ONCE UPON A NIGHT

At first glance, Angela and Nick don’t seem to have much in common: she’s a young widow trying to make ends meet, and he’s a successful businessman in his mid-thirties. He’s confident, well-educated and eloquent; she’s shy, has struggled through school and communicates more easily with horses than with people.

But they share an aching loneliness and the need for a brief escape – Angela from the ghosts of her past, and Nick from his uncertain future.

When the clock strikes midnight, will it bring the end or a new beginning?   

BLIND DATE

Two years after her divorce from Nick, Hannah is ready to move on. But when her friend pushes her to go on a blind date with a gallery owner, Hannah is hesitant. She’s attracted to Edward, an architect who works in the same building.

Edward also has a blind date. The woman he’s about to meet, according to his friend, is “brilliant and gorgeous”. Edward would be intrigued if only he could stop thinking of the quiet, shy and sexy-as-hell Hannah, the book editor from the top floor.

BEST FRIENDS AND OTHER LOVERS

Deanna is on a mission. Her best friend is about to propose to a wrong woman and Deanna has a few precious days over Christmas to save him from the worst mistake of his life.

Ted, a long-time bachelor, has decided to settle down. A ring in his pocket, he’s ready to pop the question. He just needs to be sure that his future wife loves him as much as he loves her. A relaxing holiday is an opportunity to get his answers.

With a dash of Christmas magic, Deanna and Ted’s wishes may come true.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Home | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Island in the Clouds

This painting is named after the murder mystery written by Susan M. Toy. Long ago, I wrote posted my review here on my blog.

Island in the Clouds by Susan M. Toy

If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it.

Susan, thank you for the inspiration!

Posted in Home | 4 Comments

Winter is coming.

Posted in Home | Leave a comment

…but Max stepped into his private boat…

and waived good-buy

and sailed back over a year and in and out of weeks and through a day and into the night of his very own room

where he found his supper ready for him

and it was still hot.

Posted in Home | 3 Comments

Shapes and colours… for the time being

My world of words is still pretty much silent.

I guess I’ll stay in this alternative artistic reality of shapes and colours until I come out of the emotional void I’ve been struggling with for months.

It feels strange. I’m not a painter; I’m a writer. I’ve been one since I learned how to read and write, and started making stories in my head. On the other hand, even though I studied art history and learned how to appreciate art, I don’t know how to draw, and I don’t understand perspective. And now, I feel like a cheater, a stranger in a strange land trying to blend in.

Fluid art is therapeutic and relaxing, though, and I hope I’ll continue to play with paints and canvases once my true self re-emerges.

I apologize to my fellow bloggers for this recent lack of communication.

The good news – I spent several hours yesterday writing.

So I’ll be back, I promise.

   

Posted in Home | 2 Comments

Where is ammonite found in Alberta?

Posted in Home | Leave a comment

Back to Spring

I made another Spring, with a touch of green. (Thank you, Audrey 🌸)

Green is a neglected colour in my personal palette, unless it’s mixed with blue.

Posted in Home | 2 Comments