Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I'm It ~ Tagged In The Writing Process Blog Tour

I don't usually do blog tours, but the on-the-edge-of-your-chair, don't-turn-out-the-lights suspense writer, Polly Iyer tagged me for the Writing Process Blog Tour.  Lucky me.  

If you haven't read Polly's books, check out either of these links and find an awesome new author you'll love.  Goodreads and Amazon

The Writing Process Questions

Q: What are you working on? 

LA: Two new books, both part of their series. VIKING GOLD, set in Norway, the second book in the Carswell Adventure Series, this time featuring Abby Carswell and Hermann Weiss, whom you met in The Stone of Heaven, Book 1.  Viking Gold is about betrayal, sacrifice, greed and of course, love.  Oh, yes, and there is treasure.  Due out this summer.  

And my other book, untitled as yet, is the second in my Christmas Series, Star Light ~Star Bright and feature's Annie's best friend Jen.  Due out around or before Thanksgiving.  

Q. How does your work differ from others of its genre?

LA: All my books have romance in them in varying degrees, but I do my best to make the romance resonate as an integral part of the story, not as an add on.  Some say romance is formulaic to which I respond, if a HEA (Happily Ever After) is formulaic, then yes, but how they get there...isn't.  I work hard to craft a story that pulls you in and leaves you wanting more.  Thus the series.

Q. Why do you write what you do?

LA: I love HEA's, with the added caveat, I love them if they feel real.  Love is one of the most powerful emotions we feel. It can lead to incredible feats or deep darkness. Love isn't silly, or weak or only feminine.  It's universal.  

Q. How does your writing process work?

LA: I have an office, a wonderful space in which I craft my stories, a space that is dedicated to the process I go through.  I hate it when it's messy, because it distracts me.  I write for an hour or two or three if I can, usually M-F.  I have a life outside of writing that feeds my other desires. Walking, nature, a garden, travel, sitting in the sun. But all that feeds my writing as well. And I have a husband who understands that I must, I have to do this. Writing is a part of me. It sounds simple, and maybe it is.  But if I don't do this, I feel the loss.

You can find my books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iBookstore.  And if you'd like to receive my newsletter announcing release dates and special deals, please use the Contact Me page at my website.  I hope to hear from you.

I'm so pleased to tag two more wonderful authors; Rogenna Brewer who has an incredible mix of romantic genres. And Audra Harders who makes tears and laughter come in the same page.  
Take it away ladies.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Easy Bake Cheesecake From Author Audra Harders ~ Yum...I've Had Some

Let me tell you, I've had this cheesecake (she made one for my Birthday) and it was beyond good.  Better than the Cheesecake Factory, honest.  And you'll see, this recipe practically comes with a video. You'll see what I mean...keep reading.

Thanks for having me back for your last Friday Of The Month Recipe series, Leslie! I’ve printed off some great recipes from some of your fascinating guest authors. I’m honored to be able to share my family favorite cheesecake with your audience. Baking a cheesecake from scratch sounds daunting, but really, it isn’t. It takes time to cool and chill, so allow yourself some leeway before taking this tasty treat to a party or serving it to your family.

Easy Bake Cheesecake
(that tastes like you brought home from the bakery!)

You’ll need:

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup granulated white sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, melted

32 ounces cream cheese, room temperature (use full fat, not reduced or fat free cream cheese)
1 cup granulated white sugar
3 Tbs all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 Tbs lemon zest
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 cup sour cream
2 Tbs granulated white sugar
½ tsp pure vanilla extract

The process begins…

Spray with a non-stick pastry spray, a 9-inch springform pan (I use two 6-inch spring form pans so my family gets to keep one cheesecake and I can give the other one away). Place the springform pan on a larger cookie sheet to catch any leakage while the cheesecake is baking.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with the rack in the center of the oven.

For the crust:
In a medium sized bowl combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter.

Press the crumbs evenly over the bottom and about 1 inch up the sides of the springform pan. Cover and refrigerate while you make the filling.

For the filling:
In the bowl of your electric mixer place the cream cheese (make sure the cream cheese is room temperature or else it will stick to your beaters and you’ll be fighting it constantly), sugar, and flour. Beat on medium speed until smooth (about 2 minutes), scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Add the eggs - one at a time – beating well (about 30 seconds) between each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the whipping cream, lemon zest, vanilla extract and beat until well blended. Remove the crust from the refrigerator and pour in the filling. Place the cheesecake pan(s) in the oven.

Bake for 15 minutes and then lower the oven temperature to 250 degrees F and continue to bake for about another 60-90 minutes or until firm and only the center of the cheesecake looks a little wet and wobbly. (The baking time can vary due to the differences in ovens and how many cakes you’re baking at one time. It’s very important to check that the cheesecake is firm with only the center being a little wet and wobbly.) Remove from oven and place the pans on a wire rack.

While the cheesecake is baking, in a small bowl combine the sour cream, sugar, and vanilla extract. Spread the topping over the warm cheesecake(s) and return to oven for about 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and carefully run a knife or spatula around the inside edge of pan to loosen the cheesecake (this is supposed to help the surface from cracking as it cools, but my cheesecakes tend to crack while they’re baking. The cracks don’t hurt the taste at all. I think they make the cheesecake look homemade.)

Let cool completely before covering with plastic wrap. Refrigerate several hours, preferably overnight. Serve with fresh fruit or fruit sauce.

Makes one 9 inch cheesecake or two 6 inch cheesecakes.

To freeze: Place the cooled cheesecake on a baking pan and freeze, uncovered, until firm. Then wrap in aluminum foil and place in a freezer bag. Seal and return to freezer. Can be frozen for several months. Thaw uncovered cheesecake in the refrigerator overnight.

Enjoy while reading Second Chance Ranch on your Kindle App or, now available, in paperback!!

Buy Links:

Pediatric oncology nurse, Jennifer O’Reilly returns home to Hawk Ridge, Colorado to establish a mountain recreation camp as a safe adventure for children battling cancer. Her path to ownership depends on developing a profitable business plan to convince the bank she can manage not only the camping facility, but the entire Trails’ End Ranch operation.
Generations earlier, one misplayed hand of poker lost part of the family ranch, and Zac Davidson, youngest son and financial genius of the Circle D, wants it back. Intrigued since childhood by the legend of his great grandfather, Zac is the only family member who holds out hope that one day the ranch would become Davidson property again. When the ranch goes on the market, money is no object, only Jennifer O’Reilly stands between him and his dream.
High school sweethearts, Jennifer and Zac have wounded each other, and the scars run deep. Jennifer is forced to reveal a secret she’s protected for twelve years. Will past mistakes jeopardize the future of both of their dreams or give them a second chance?

 Award-winning author, Audra Harders, writes "rugged stories with heart" featuring cowboys who haven't a clue about relationships rescued by ladies who think they have all the answers. In real life, she's married to her own patient hero, has two adult children, and is surrounded by everything conducive to writing about farming, ranching and cowboys at her day job in the county Extension office. She began writing right after her son was born and sold her first book to Steeple Hill Love Inspired mere months before that same son graduated from high school. Surviving those years in-between reminds her God does have her plan for her life...and that He has a tremendous sense of humor.

You can visit her at www.AudraHarders.com. Readers and writers alike are invited to visit Seekerville, a group blog where Audra, along with twelve other inspirational authors, share wisdom and ideas about writing, life, and of course, food!

Find Audra:

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Movie Bytes Helps You Find Screenwriting Competitions

I've been on their email list for quite awhile and find it really handy, and now (or at least I've just discovered it) they have a queue for checking up on your contests/deadlines.

Sign up for FREE here: http://www.moviebytes.com

 Here is a snippet from them:
Trending: MovieBytes Contest Queue

The following competitions are the "most queued" upcoming contests on MovieBytes:

  1. PAGE International Screenwriting Awards
  2. Creative World Awards
  3. Austin Film Festival Screenplay & Teleplay Competition
  4. WriteMovies Writing Contest
  5. Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting.
  6. Hollywood Screenplay Contest
  7. New York Screenplay Contest
  8. Script Pipeline Writing Competition
  9. Acclaim Film
  10. Beverly Hills Screenplay Contest

The MovieBytes Contest Queue is a quick way to keep track of the contests you've entered or are considering for the future:

Monday, April 21, 2014

Monthly News From My Guests...Keep Informed

~Audra Harders New Release: Second Chance Ranch, Book Two of the Circle D Series Now in Amazon's top 100 for contemporary inspirational romanceAMAZON

~L.A. Sartor Best Seller: Be Mine This Christmas Night made it to #1 on Amazon's Best Seller list for nearly a week. AMAZON

~Kayelle Allen New Release: Trailing Kaiwulf.  Find an invisible man in another dimension? All in a day's work at TRAIL. AMAZON

~Ally Shields New Urban Fantasy Release: FIRE STORM (Guardian Witch #5) has been in Amazon's Top 100 Witches & Wizards for four weeks!  Sometimes you just have to stay live to fight another day.  AMAZON

~PJ Sharon Cover Launch: Join me for the Cover Launch of my fourth contemporary YA novel, PIECES OF LOVE, due out June 21st. FACEBOOK

~Meredith Bond New Release: A delicious twist on the Arthurian legends
Water: Excalibur's Return, 2nd book in the Children of Avalon Series from Meredith Bond, available now. AMAZON

~ Terri Osburn New Release: The third book in Anchor Island Series is now available in the Kindle First program on Amazon. If you're a Prime member, you can download the Kindle version for free. Check out KINDLE FIRST for all the details.

~Kayelle Allen New fantasy Release: The Last Vhalgenn Duty to king and country has shaped Raik's life since birth, but to protect them, she must perform a ritual that betrays all she holds sacred. AMAZON

~Kaye George Award Winner: This Musical Mystery was a Silver Falchion finalist! Aspiring conductor Cressa Carraway hopes to finish her symphony in peace. Instead, she finds her grandmother’s corpse in the lake. BARKING PRESS

~Elaine Cantrell Recommended Read: Blue 52 by Elaine Cantrell is a Recommend Read at Harlie's Books. Read the review at HARLIE'S BOOKS

~Pam Hillman Giveaway: Pam, author of CLAIMING MARIAH, is giving away a Kindle Fire HD. Giveaway ends April 30th. Check it out here: PAM HILLMAN GIVEAWAY

~Beverley Bateman New Book: A Murder to Forget, second in the Holly Devine series, now has a great cover. Available in all the e-reader stores late April. For cover & links, check BEVERLY BATEMEN WEBPAGE

~Julie Eberhart Painter Blog Hop: Through May 9 Get Lost In A Mystery tour featuring my novel, A Mortal Coil HOP PAGE 

~Karen McCullough Sale:  The ebook version of the  Eppie-award finalist romantic suspense novel, A QUESTION OF FIRE, is on sale for the month of April for just $1.99 for Kindle, Nook, and other formats through Smashwords FIND BOOK LINKS HERE

~Cindy Vallar Upcoming Workshop: Journey back to the Scottish Highlands of yore with her blog post and upcoming workshop. Link available 4/21 WORKSHOP

Remember you can repost this blog article by using the REPOST button in the footer.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Excerpt from The Scottish Thistle by Cindy Vallar

As promised, here is the excerpt from The Scottish Thistle, enjoy.

Loyalty and honor. A Highland warrior prizes both more than life, and when he swears his oath on the dirk, he must obey or die. Duncan Cameron heeds his chief’s order without question, but discovers his wife-to-be is no fair maiden. Although women are no longer trained in the art of fighting, Rory MacGregor follows in the footsteps of her Celtic ancestors. Secrets from the past and superstitious folk endanger Rory and Duncan as much as Bonnie Prince Charlie and his uprising to win back the British throne for his father. Rory and Duncan must make difficult choices that pit honor and duty against trust and love . . .

Earlier, Thistle had blessed the torrential rain. Now, the smuggler cursed it. A lightning bolt slashed the ink-black sky. The shadows of the night blurred, and Thistle shuddered. The premonition descended with the finality of a coffin lid being nailed shut.
Thistle stood at the left hand of a dark-haired man. Swirls of mist curled around their feet and shadowy forms rose up between them, separating Thistle from the stranger. A flash of steel pierced the darkness. The white mist turned bright red, then faded to nothingness.
The smuggler’s eyes flew open! Thistle strained to hear, but thunder and wind obliterated other sounds.Lightning flashed, but in the instant it illuminated mountain and glen, Thistle glimpsed the peril.
A lone rider spurred his mount along the rough Highland track bordered by tall firs. He stiffened, then toppled from his horse. Two caterans emerged from the trees and crept forward. While one searched their unconscious victim, the other rifled his satchel.
As the smuggler’s four companions surrounded the caterans, Thistle stepped onto a wind-smoothed boulder. With an arrow nocked taut against the string of the black longbow, Thistle aimed the lethal missile at one cateran’s heart and waited.
A flash of white light followed by a jarring thunderclap startled the thief. He raised his head and screamed. His companion dropped his pilfered booty. He fell to his knees and crossed himself. “Please, Thistle, spare us!  We meant no harm.”
The smuggler’s sudden and surreptitious appearance unnerved the caterans. Thistle smelled their fear and snickered beneath the mask. “Are ye saying the man sprawled in the mud is after taking a wee nap during such a fierce storm?”
They cried out, each trying to shout down the other.
“We found him here!”
“He is dead!”
The rider moaned.
 “Dead, ye say? Then he comes back to haunt ye.” Thistle stepped closer and spoke words laced with menace. “Truis! Be gone! If ever I find ye in these bens again, I willna be so forgiving.”
The caterans scrambled over each other in their haste to escape. Thistle waited until the darkness swallowed them before jumping from the boulder to kneel beside the stranger. The short wooden hilt of a sgian protruded from the man’s upper back. Thistle extracted the knife, then bandaged the wound with a piece of black cloth ripped from the smuggler’s own shirt.
The stranger moaned. Easing him onto his back, Thistle braced the stranger’s head and shoulder against a thigh. The man’s eyes fluttered open.
 “Can ye ride?” Thistle asked. Time grew short. If the Watch discovered them, they would all hang.
The rider nodded.
Thistle gave him over to the other smugglers and went to collect the stranger’s stallion. When Thistle reached for its reins, the horse flared its nostrils and snorted. Its hooves clattered on stones. Thistle grabbed its halter, stroked its neck, and whispered soothing words in Gaelic. The stallion whinnied, ceased its clawing of the earth, and grew calm. After the others helped the rider remount, Thistle swung up behind him. The two men who took the van wove their way through the rocks and into the woods. Thistle followed while the remaining pair brought up the rear.
Fallen pine needles muffled their footfalls. Firs towered over them, providing some respite from the rain. They climbed the mountain in a zigzag fashion. When they reached the northern edge of the pine canopy, Thistle nudged the stallion onto a rough dirt track along a bluff of jagged cliffs. Immense sea waves crashed against the rocks below, forcing white spume high into the air. The crescendo rivaled the beating of a thousand war drums, while the roiling tempest matched the frenzied turmoil that churned within Thistle.
The Watch, who safeguarded against further rebellion, kept a lookout for outlaws and smugglers, especially those with bounties on their heads. By rescuing the stranger, Thistle compounded the danger faced on their occasional midnight sojourns. Yet, having suffered injustice at the hands of others, the smuggler refused to ignore the stranger who had needed help.
Aware that it was foolhardy to remain in the vicinity any longer, Thistle prodded the stallion toward the ruins of a stone tower. When they reached the broch, two men lifted the stranger from the horse and carried him inside.
Thistle turned to the remaining smugglers. “Take the horse to Andrew. He will see to its keeping. Keep a sharp lookout.”
They nodded, then hurried on their way. Thistle stooped and entered the narrow passageway of the broch whose ancient builders had constructed the high circular walls of stone without benefit of mortar. Continuing past a tiny guard chamber on the left until reaching a spacious center courtyard, Thistle straightened and looked heavenward. Instead of a sloping thatched roof, the tower opened to a purplish pink sky. The deluge of the past two days had ended; the sun would again shine on the Highlands.
The windowless broch consisted of two tapering concave walls with a staircase between them. Hundreds of years ago the steps had led to wooden galleries, but the timbers had long since rotted away, leaving stairs that led nowhere. The entryway into the staircase was several feet off the ground. After clambering inside, Thistle felt along the outer wall. There was a soft click, then rumbling echoed through the ruin as a stone slab opened.
The small group descended the hidden steps added by smugglers many years after the original inhabitants of the broch had disappeared. Thistle extracted a burning torch from its holder on the wall, and the secret entrance to the stairs closed. They wound their way through a tunnel to an underground chamber where the men propped the stranger against a damp wall.
Thistle doffed a tricorn hat and squatted to examine the man’s face in the flickering light. Thistle gasped. The face in my vision! The crooked nose indicated that it had been broken more than once. A small scar creased his chin. Dark brown curls fell across a brow bloodied by a ragged gash several inches in length. When Thistle dabbed at the dried blood, the stranger’s hand encircled Thistle’s wrist and held tight.
“Who?” the stranger whispered.
“Who am I?” Thistle asked, transfixed by the man’s purple eyes. The same hue as in the vision.
The stranger nodded.
Surprise, then pain, flashed across the man’s face. His hand fell to his side.
“Ye must wait a wee longer before I tend to your wounds. Until then, perhaps ye might be after answering a few questions.”
The man gave a slight nod.
“’Tis unusual to find a stranger riding alone in these parts. Caterans prey on unsuspecting travelers, especially those daft enough to travel at night. If not daft, then perhaps ye are a spy sent to ferret me out for the excise men.”
“I search for a man.”
“What man?”
“He calls himself Angus.”
“Of what clan? ’Tis a common enough name among Highlanders.”
“The nameless clan.”
“The outlawed Clan Gregor.”
It was a statement, not a question. Thistle despised the necessity of hiding behind a mask, but the law had left little choice. The king had handed down a royal edict against the MacGregors during the previous century, and while other clans had been forgiven for past wrongdoings, Thistle’s had not.
“Mayhap I can help, stranger. What business have ye with Angus?”
“I bring a message from Sir Donald Cameron of Lochiel. Angus will understand.”
“And have ye a name?”
Duncan of Clan Cameron.”
“How do I ken ye are not a spy come to harm the MacGregors? Can ye prove what ye say?”
The man grimaced. Thistle waited until the pain passed from his face before repeating the question. “Can ye prove what ye say?”
“Rannoch Moor.”
Festering memories assaulted Thistle. Baying hounds. Bloodied swords. Tormented wails. The stench of death. Thistle’s throat constricted. Gasping for air, unable to breathe, Thistle yanked off the dank, woolen mask.
Duncan’s eyes widened and he drew a sharp breath. His lips moved, but no words came. His eyes closed and his head sank onto his chest.
Thistle’s companions drew near.
“Dead?” Thistle asked.
“No, I think he fainted,” one answered, in a voice laced with amusement.

Buy links:

A Tall Ship, a Star, and Plunder: Amazon
A Tall Ship, a Star, and Plunder: Barnes and Noble

About the authorA retired librarian, Cindy Vallar writes feature articles and book reviews for the Historical Novel Society’s Historical Novels Review. She also pens the biannual “The Red Pencil” column where she profiles authors and compares a selection from their published historical novels with an early draft of that work. She is a freelance editor, the Editor of Pirates and Privateers, and a workshop presenter. Aside from The Scottish Thistle, she has written “Odin’s Stone,” a romantic short story of how the Lord of the Isles settled the medieval feud between the MacKinnons and MacLeans on the Isle of Skye; and “Rumble the Dragon,” a historical fantasy that appears in A Tall Ship, a Star, and PlunderRumble is a young dragon, a misfit whose intelligence gets him into trouble. When a sacred chalice is stolen, Rumble must work with outlawed Vikings to recover the chalice before the thieves endanger the world. She invites you to visit her award-winning web site, Thistles & Pirates, (http://www.cindyvallar.com/), to learn more.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Scottish Thistle – Inspiration and Passion From Author Cindy Vallar

I happy to introduce you to Cindy Vallar. I know I'm going to fall in love with her books. And don't forget her excerpt from The Scottish Thistle on Saturday.

Hey, L.A., thanks for having me as your guest today.  

I’m a big fan of The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh, The Lone Ranger, The Shadow, and Zorro. Why? They have a common thread – secret identities and masks. So, of course, I had to include a masked character with a secret identity when I decided to write my historical novel, The Scottish Thistle. Thistle helps the poor, who would never accept the assistance if they knew the smuggler’s true identity.

When I began writing about Thistle, I was simply “doodling.” As the librarian at a school for severely emotionally challenged teenagers, I attended weekly staff meetings on Wednesday afternoons. I often brought a tablet along so I could write. (That’s how I doodle when bored.) At one of these meetings, I wrote of a man on horseback riding across a moor during a thunderstorm. The English teacher, who read over my shoulder, whispered, “Write more!”

I sensed the story should take place in Scotland, but knew only three things about that country: men wore kilts, people spoke with a brogue, and it had a Highlands and a Lowlands. Not nearly enough to write a novel. Doing the research wasn’t a problem – after all, I was a librarian – and I did tons of it. This permitted me to decide on the time, the historical events, and the people who would populate the tale.

Time: 1744 – 1746

Event: Rising of 1745, the last civil war fought on British soil

Characters: Rory MacGregor and Duncan Cameron (and a cast of forty others)

Why choose this historical period? Queen Anne outlived her children, so the English Parliament decided her heir would come from the German House of Hanover, descendants of Protestant side of the British Royal House of Stuart family. But the Scottish Parliament still recognized the Catholic branch of the family as the rightful rulers of Scotland. At the time of the third Jacobite uprising, known as the ’Forty-five, King James III lived in exile and his elder son, Prince Charles Edward Stuart, led this final attempt to reclaim the throne. The last encounter in the ’Forty-five was the Battle of Culloden on 16 April 1746, and was equivalent to the battle fought at Gettysburg or Antietam during the American Civil War. The devastation at Culloden and in the aftermath of the war had a profound impact on Highland life and society.

Why choose Rory and Duncan as my protagonists? Although outlawed and persecuted, the MacGregors were tenacious, brave, and never forgot their heritage even though they were forbidden to use the name MacGregor. The Gentle Lochiel, the chief of Clan Cameron, supported Bonnie Prince Charlie in his attempt to return the Royal House of Stuart to the British throne. Historians believe the ’Forty-five would never have happened had Lochiel not lent his support.

After doing a lot of research and writing the initial draft of my story, my husband suggested we visit Scotland. Tom felt I should visit the places I had written about, and he was right. This special trip provided numerous inspirations for scenes in The Scottish Thistle. On our way to the Highlands, we stopped at a castle I discovered on a tourist map. Doune Castle served as a temporary prison during the rising. In the cellar, there was a display about the castle’s role during the ’Forty-five. Gregor Glengyle was governor of the castle and since he was a MacGregor chieftain, he became Rory’s kinsman. After the Battle of Falkirk Muir, Duncan brings several prisoners to Doune where, during the festivities to celebrate the Jacobite victory, the Fairy Washerwoman appears in the courtyard, singing a dirge as she washes bloody shirts.

Our next stop required Tom to drive on the “wrong” side of the road, sometimes going backwards, over a mountain, just so I could visit a broch. Brochs are unique to Scotland and Dun Telve is one of the best preserved of these Iron Age towers. The broch consists of two tapering concave walls with passageways to upper galleries. Its true purpose is unknown, but it may have been a fortified house lived in year round rather than a place where the folk sought sanctuary when sea raiders came. In The Scottish Thistle, Thistle seeks refuge in a broch after rescuing Duncan from caterans, thieves.

At Culloden, the Old Leanach Cottage is the only surviving structure from the ’Forty-five. When we were there, the interior showcased an eighteenth-century home with a woman dressed in period costume. Rory, who has Second Sight, has a vision of Duncan and Gregor Glengyle outside the cottage. The woman who resides there invites them inside and offers Rory soothing tea. Although old and blind, the woman has heard “the frightsome moaning” of the battle to come.

While visiting Achnacarry, the estate of the Cameron chief, I purchased a history of the clan. As I read the chapter on the Gentle Lochiel, I came across a brief description of his house. (The current one was built after the Hanoverians burned the original Achnacarry following the uprising.) The book mentioned a stone gable as being the only portion of the house that still remained. After The Scottish Thistle was published, I received an invitation to attend the international gathering of Clan Cameron in 2001. I didn’t notice where Tom parked until we returned to the car. That’s when I saw the remains of a stone fireplace. Suddenly, a light dawned. The stone gable I had read about! As I walked around the estate, a chill went up my spine several times. I stood on the same ground where the Gentle Lochiel, Rory, and Duncan had walked in my story. It was an eerie, yet compelling, moment and whenever we fly over the Highlands, I always feel as if I’ve come home.

The Scottish Thistle
Loyalty and honor. A Highland warrior prizes both more than life, and when he swears his oath on the dirk, he must obey or die. Duncan Cameron heeds his chief’s order without question, but discovers his wife-to-be is no fair maiden. Although women are no longer trained in the art of fighting, Rory MacGregor follows in the footsteps of her Celtic ancestors. Secrets from the past and superstitious folk endanger Rory and Duncan as much as Bonnie Prince Charlie and his uprising to win back the British throne for his father. Rory and Duncan must make difficult choices that pit honor and duty against trust and love . . .

Buy links:

A Tall Ship, a Star, and Plunder: Amazon
A Tall Ship, a Star, and Plunder: Barnes and Noble

About the author: A retired librarian, Cindy Vallar writes feature articles and book reviews for the Historical Novel Society’s Historical Novels Review. She also pens the biannual “The Red Pencil” column where she profiles authors and compares a selection from their published historical novels with an early draft of that work. She is a freelance editor, the Editor of Pirates and Privateers, and a workshop presenter. Aside from The Scottish Thistle, she has written “Odin’s Stone,” a romantic short story of how the Lord of the Isles settled the medieval feud between the MacKinnons and MacLeans on the Isle of Skye; and “Rumble the Dragon,” a historical fantasy that appears in A Tall Ship, a Star, and Plunder. Rumble is a young dragon, a misfit whose intelligence gets him into trouble. When a sacred chalice is stolen, Rumble must work with outlawed Vikings to recover the chalice before the thieves endanger the world. She invites you to visit her award-winning web site, Thistles & Pirates, (http://www.cindyvallar.com/), to learn more.

Don't forget to come back Saturday for her excerpt from The Scottish Thistle.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Air: Merlin's' Chalice ~ Excerpt from Meredith Bond

As promised, today I bring you Meredith Bond's excerpt from Air: Merlin's Chalice.  Got to tell you, I love the title.  This is book one in the Children of Avalon Series. Book two will be released shortly. Read on. 

In one day Scai has gone from being considered just unusual by the people of her little Welsh village to an outcast fleeing for her life. Left on the church steps as a baby, she knows nothing of her history—or her abilities. Did she really stop the rain just by wishing it to stop? But she is determined to learn all she can. Travelling alone to find her family seems to be the only way she’s going to find the answers she seeks.
Her journey leads her to the comical old knight Sir Dagonet, who tells her that she is one of a magical people called the Vallen. Together they continue on, joined by the handsome Dylan and the fiery Bridget on a new quest—to find the fabled Merlin’s Chalice, said to hold all the power of the entrapped wizard. Together, Scai, Dylan and Bridget discover that they are the long awaited Children of Avalon, destined to save the world from power-hungry Lady NimuĂ«—unless she kills them first. 
Along the way, Scai finds magic—both in the wind and air that she can control at will, and in the sweet ache of a first love that she cannot.

“Hiyah!” Galloping hooves raced toward me from behind. “Hiyah!”
I turned and stood frozen with shock. I knew I should get out of the way. I was about to get run down, but my legs wouldn’t move. My mind refused to believe that what I saw was real.
A knight in full, gleaming armor was bearing down on me, his horse coming at me at a full gallop.
I opened my mouth to scream, but nothing came out. I couldn’t breathe.
The knight continued to race toward me, his hand raised above his head clutching an enormous sword. He came closer, faster, raising his sword even higher, ready to strike me down.
I was dead. There was no point in moving because I was dead.
I just stood in the middle of the path as my death came closer and closer. At the last second, I closed my eyes and clutched my arms against my body.
The heat and the smell of horse invaded all of my senses. Galloping hooves came within inches of me. My hair flew in the gust of air. And then he was behind me.
He had gone straight past!
I spun around and watched as, with a great war cry, the knight struck his sword into the side of an oak tree. The sword wobbled up and down with the force of the blow as the knight let it go. He continued past until his horse slowed down enough to safely turn about and return.
Ignoring his sword, the knight rode straight up to me. “You all right? Tell me you aren’t hurt, wot?”
“What, wot?” replied the knight.
“I…I’m sorry?” I looked past the knight at the tree where his sword was still waving gently.
“I’ve just saved your life; have you nothing to say?” the knight said, puffing out his chest.
“You have?”
The knight pulled up the visor on his helmet to stare at me.
Behind the shining metal were pale brown eyes crinkled with the lines of one who had spent a great deal of time smiling.
“I…I’m sorry. I didn’t…I mean, I hadn’t…er, thank you,” I said. Remembering my manners, I dipped into a deep curtsey. “Thank you, good knight, for saving my life.”
The knight gave me a small bow from atop his horse.
“Er…” I began, glancing back at the sword. “May I ask exactly what you saved me from?”
“What was it that you saved me from?”
“Oh. Er, that, er…” The knight gestured randomly toward the tree. “That, er, oak.”
“The oak?”
“Yes. It was reaching out toward you and, er, oh, hobnobbit!”
A laugh burst out of me, releasing all the fear I’d pent up just a moment ago. For a minute there, I hadn’t been entirely certain that the knight was in his right mind, but clearly even he couldn’t keep up the pretense.
There had been nothing attacking me. 

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Meredith Bond is an award-winning author of a series of traditionally published Regency romances and indie-published paranormal romances. Known for her characters “who slip readily into one’s heart,” Meredith’s heart belongs to her husband and two children. She loves knitting and traveling, but isn’t too sure she’d like to actually travel back in time to the eras she writes about. She enjoys her creature comforts much too much.