Community – Anne Barwell

I live in Wellington, New Zealand. Just over two weeks ago we experienced a 7.8 earthquake centred in Kaikoura, which is on the east coast of the south island, 180km north of Christchurch. Although the aftershocks have lessened, I swear I can still feel the earth swaying on occasion.

One day later the region was hit with a bad storm, and houses were evacuated and roads closed due to flooding.

As I write this post we still have malls closed, and there is a growing list of buildings that need to be demolished in the city because they aren’t safe if another earthquake hits.

One thing that came across very clearly through these crises was the sense of community amongst not only those hit by these natural disasters, but people further afield. Everyone rallied together, neighbours checking up on each other, and helping out where they could. On particular poignant story was of a couple who had been in Christchurch when the big quake had struck there in 2011 and resettled in Kaikoura for a fresh start. The news story showed them using their experience of one earthquake to help out in another, rather than dwelling on the fact they’d lost everything yet again.

A sense of community is also one of the things I love about being online. Writing isn’t the solitary occupation it used to be. Not only are there writing communities online, but people who understand and listen to when we need advice or help us find the reassurance to pick ourselves up and keep going after a setback. Although I love writing and I couldn’t imagine my life without it, it’s not all smooth sailing. There’s a lot of hard work and disappointment. Not all stories find their audience or are even given the opportunity to do so, nor does it pay that well for the amount of work put into it.

Being able to talk through stuff with someone, or just make a post on a mailing list to ask for suggestions when things don’t pan out the way we’d hoped makes a big difference. Getting back on that figurative horse isn’t easy—whatever the situation. Sometimes I’ve doubted I have the resilience to do it yet again, and probably would have given up if not for the support of others.

Thank you to everyone who makes a difference, whether it’s knocking on a neighbour’s door after an earthquake, or listening to someone let off steam when they need to, and everything in between. We might not see much of each other when things are going well, but I wouldn’t be without any of you.

Still time to enter our “Bunch of Books” Giveaway—win 9 ebooks from 9 authors!

Hi readers! If this post sounds repetitious, that’s because it is. We here at Authors Speak set up this fabulous opportunity for some lucky person to win an ebook from each of us—that’s right, the prize is nine books, one backlist book from each Authors Speak blogger. But then, the world went a little crazy and we all kept forgetting to tell people about it. So we’ve extended the time to enter until November 30th.

For more info about each author, check out their posts here on Authors Speak, or click on the menu tab above to go to the author’s personal blog.

  • Charley Descoteaux clouds-birds-library-425730_1280
  • Grace R. Duncan
  • Sarah Madison
  • Anne Barwell
  • Rebecca Cohen
  • Elizabeth Noble
  • Tempe O’Reilly
  • Lou Hoffmann
  • Lou Sylvre

Thanks for playing, and may luck be with you!
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Why I write (and read) fanfic


Fan fiction, other wise known as fanfic has been around for a long time. The first official use of the term happened in 1939 and referred to amatuer science fiction as opposed to professionally written stories. The original Star Trek televison series was the source of this particular aspect of fandom.

For those of you who might not know, fanfic is just what it sounds like. It’s pieces of fiction written by fans. Today it’s spread beyond televison shows to movies, books, games, bands…just about anything really.

I wrote fanfic and I still read fanfic.

So, what’s the allure?

As often is the case, the short answer is: I like it.

The longer answer has been written about and the subject of a number of studies. Yeah, it’s that big of a thing.

As a reader fanfic offers a way to express love of your favorite characters, maybe put them in a situation not presented in the cononical version of the TV show, movie, book, whatever. There are communities dedicated to certain fandoms and the fanfic produced. People organize awards and large events to showcase stories and art. Fanart is just as big a thing as fanfic and often the two are paired together.

There are people who think this type of writing is second rate or beneath them.

I say not so.

First let’s look at the fact this promotes reading and writing. Any kid with a paper and pen can write a story or draw a picture. It’s easy when they already have an established world and characters they know to work with. It doesn’t have to be good. The point is those who that might not otherwise pick up a book, let alone try to write one, do just that. If one really becomes active and participate in certain events they learn to write on a deadline, edit and deal with critism.

All very valuable life tools.

Why did I write fanfic?

The short answer is: I could.

Becoming involved in a fandom and writing fanfic did a lot for me. First, and foremost it was fun. I rediscovered my love of writing and that writing came very easily because certain aspects of the story were already laid out. I made friends I still have today. I was given valuable experiences with editors when my work was published in fanzines. I eventually made the jump to writing original fiction professionally, but for many people it remains a creative outlet and hobby. In general it’s an excellent learning ground.


Feed back from those who read my fanfic is in part what gave me the courage to take the next step and begin submitting manuscripts again. After trying for years and never quite making it I’d given up. It also opened up a whole new genre to me. M/M fiction. While working on various stories, some M/M, some not, I honed my writng skills in a safe, supportive place.

Since I know someone will ask, I wrote in the Supernatural fandom. If you’re curious here are links to two of my stories.

Slash: Crystal Bulls of Thera this story was written for something known as a Big Bang. Many authors and artists come together to create works of fanfic that are then posted on one site. The theme was taking Disney movies and re-tell that story. It’s M/M romance.

Not Slash: What You Feel this story was written as a fundraiser. A group of fans auctioned off fanfic writers who’d then create a story for whoever ‘bought’ them. The money went to charity.

Both of these events are pretty popular in the fanfic world.

Today I have sixteen published novels (and three more in various stages of development) and a couple of short stories in anthologies. I owe a debt of thanks to the world of fanfic and those who love it. Fanfic was an important stepping stone to realizing my dream of becoming a published author.


We have a rafflecopter give away going on, the winner gets books! We’re writers, of course we give away books.

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I have a special sale going on at Dreamspinner Press this weekend. Three of my books, Electric Candle, Run for the Roses and Gone Away, are 99c. You can purchase them HERE.

Little known fact, Jonas Forge from The Sleepless City and The Vampire Guard started out as a supporting character in a series of Supernatural fanfic stories. Back then he was Tim Forge, I think he liked the name change! I know I do.

I also have a newsletter that I put out three or four times a year. If you’d like to sign up you can do so HERE. And if you want super-secret uber updates I have a private Facebook group On the Patio with Elizabeth Noble. It’s low-key and fun and I occasionally give stuff away.

Until next month, happy reading!



Why We Need Our Storytellers Now More Than Ever by Sarah Madison


This isn’t the post I intended to write.

I’d originally planned a lighthearted piece about the value of play in stimulating creativity, but that was before the results of the Presidential election. While this is not going to be a political post per se, it was written in reaction to the elections.

Suffice to say, I am horrified, shocked, and yes, terrified. And one of the side effects of this is that I’ve had to take a long hard look at whether I can afford to continue writing.

I know, that seems like such a trivial consideration when you look at the impact this election will have on our country, our citizens, and our planet for decades to come. But it is, I think, a valid one. Writing takes up a significant portion of my time. Yes, it’s a passion, but it is frequently a source of frustration as well. It’s time spent doing something I hope will also help pay the bills, but let’s be realistic: a second job would do that more reliably and efficiently.

Not to mention, I find it incredibly difficult to write when I’m stressed. This past year hasn’t been particularly productive for me, since I have been fretting about this election for at least that long. Now that my worst nightmares have come true, I am facing, at minimum, four years of high-level stress. That’s what I tell myself in order to make myself feel better, mind you. In reality, it will be worse for years to come. Possibly the rest of my life.

Then there is the feeling right now that writing is a frivolous waste of time. How can I occupy myself writing fluffy romances where there are so many battles needing to be fought? Wouldn’t it be a better use of my time putting that energy into other areas? At the very least, something serious and worthy?

So yes, for a period of about 48 hours, I felt as though all hope was gone. I literally did not know how I would continue in a country I no longer recognized as my own. And then I began reading messages of support and encouragement. They came from my friends at first—reminding me how much pleasure writing gives me, but also how much pleasure my stories give other people. For years now, I’ve said my main goal in telling stories was to make someone’s crappy day a bit better—to provide a few hours entertainment, to let someone lose themselves in another world for a little while—so they could forget the stressful job, or their chronic illness, or the burdens of their daily life. My dear friends reminded me of that, and I deeply thank them for their unwavering support and belief in what we do as creators. What I do as a creator. Now, more than ever, we are going to need relief we get from reading stories that make us happy.

But it’s more than that. A Finnish friend of mine, a wonderful writer, penned this statement as a means of encouragement to us all:

“We are the people who create. And I don’t just mean that we’re creative, I mean that in no matter how big or small a way, we bring something good into this world, make it better. We build instead of destroy, make things move forward instead of back. We create friendships and fandom families that stick together. We create positive thoughts and energy that will always spread farther than we think. We create better versions of ourselves, and help others grow that way too. We create stories, crafts, art, discussions, pictures, and so much more, and bring joy to others through what we do. We create love. So many times this place, the fandom, all you people, have saved my day when I have needed it the most. And every time I hear that something I did or created did the same for someone else, I feel a little surprised that I had such power, but also very happy that I could shine some light on a day that might have been anything between mildly grey and near dark.”

Her words came into my darkness like a shining beacon.

Chuck Wendig, an author who posts kick-ass blogs about being a writer, posted a list of constructive things we as creators can do, titled Mourn, Then Get Mad, Then Get Busy. I found this post heartening as well. In particular because it acknowledged my fear and despair, and then gave me practical things I could do about it.

My BF, God bless him, sent me this link, which also inspired me. It’s from the comic, Oatmeal, entitled It’s Going To Be Okay. I confess, I didn’t want to read it at first because I didn’t want someone trying to persuade me things aren’t going to be as bad as I fear, but I was very glad I did. You should read it too.

Last night, long after I should have been asleep, I came across this tweet from George Takei:

The Ministry has fallen. Death Eaters are about. But, my wizards, together we can defeat the dark tides of bigotry and intolerance. #WandsUp

It made me smile in a painful sort of way, but it also reminded me the power of the written word. The magic of stories that makes us not only see similarities between world events and books we grew up loving, but it makes us want to be better people. We want the Ring to get to Mordor. We want to see Voldemort vanquished, the Empire defeated and Palpatine destroyed. We want to believe that one day, ignorance, hatred, and intolerance will give way to the kind of society that creates Starfleet, and that people of all races, genders, nationalities, and species can serve together—as a team—on the greatest starship of all time. Because otherwise, we’ll all be living in Panem, and the Hunger Games will begin soon.

I won’t kid you. I’m terrified for the future of my planet, for society as a whole, for my personal health and safety. And I’ve been wondering what one exhausted, frightened, middle-aged woman can do. The answer is, I can continue to write. My stories might not change the world. I probably won’t create the next Harry Potter series, or write something that catches fire like the Hunger Games. I write romances, and heck, I probably won’t even write the next 50 Shades of Gray. But what I can do, in my own quiet way, is tell stories where diversity and acceptance aren’t dirty words, and where love wins in the end.

If I make someone fall in love with a character who is not like them—if I humanize that person for them and make that reader want what is best for them—then I’ve taken steps that might make them stop viewing ‘different’ as ‘other’. And if the only thing I achieve is that I make one other exhausted, frightened person feel a little bit better, a little bit calmer, even for a few hours, then I’ve done a good thing. If I can make one person say, “Whoa, that isn’t right, and we need to change that,” then I have done a great thing.

Let’s all go out there and do great things.



I completely forgot about the Rafflecopter giveaway! All of us here at Authors Speak have donated a prize to the contest. Nine free stories to the winner!
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Heartifact by Aisling Mancy is Now Available for Preorder! A book for a good cause, and a chance to win…

heartifact cover Heartifact is now available for preorder!

Men Over the Rainbow, Amazon, Amazon UK, All Romance eBooks
Barnes & Noble, Smashwords

en français
Men Over the Rainbow, Amazon FR, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords

Releases November 24th!

As many of you know, Ash advocates for abused kids. The net proceeds of this book benefit those kids.

Net proceeds benefit the The Trevor Project in the US,
le Refuge in France, and Arcigay in Italy

Lire cet article en français.

About Heartifact

Harper Kidd is a highly respected marine archaeologist. Yet, with the economy in a slump, he’s trapped working in an oil company’s exploration division. heartifact-quote-always-want-what-we-cant-have Now, at the ripe age of thirty, Harp is disgusted with his employer’s damage to the undersea world he loves, tired of his ATM-card-filching ex, and tormented by beautiful dreams of an undersea lover. It’s time for a change and when his best friend, Stick, pleads with him to assist on a deep-sea dig in the Mediterranean, he jumps at the chance.

Harper’s sprits are high when they discover the ruins of an ancient civilization, and soar to the heavens when they discover a statue of an ancient pelora, a mysterious hybrid creature said to mediate between the worlds of reality and fantasy—and the very lover who holds the starring role in his dreams.

When the crew discovers the site is teeming with unexploded ordnance from the conflicts in the Middle East, and the excavation turns deadly, Harper must choose between saving his best friend and saving the pelora he’s fallen in love with.

Read an excerpt on Love Bytes Reviews!

About Aisling Mancy

Ash is an author who lives, most of the time, on the West Coast of the United States. Ash writes mystery thrillers, fantasy, science fiction, romance, and fiction for gay young adults as C. Kennedy.

Raised on the mean streets and back lots of Hollywood by a Yoda-look-alike grandfather, Ash doesn’t conform, doesn’t fit in, is epic awkward, and lives to perfect a deep-seated oppositional defiance disorder. In a constant state of fascination with the trivial, Ash contemplates such weighty questions as If time and space are curved, then where do all the straight people come from? When not writing, Ash can be found taming waves on western shores, pondering the nutritional value of sunsets, appreciating the much-maligned dandelion, unhooking guide ropes from stanchions, and marveling at all things ordinary. Ash does respond to emails because, after all, it is all about you, the reader.

Find Ash on blog, Twitter @AislingMancy, Facebook, Google+, Goodreads, Booklikes, Dreamspinner Press Author Page, and Amazon.

Heartifact blog tour rafflecopter:

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Looking Backward with Charley Descoteaux

2015-rainbow-rose-facebook-iconHello, Charley Descoteaux here, welcome to my monthly column at Authors Speak. The column below was written last week and doesn’t feel appropriate today. I’ll leave it up, though, with the hope that it will do a little good to someone, somewhere.

Take care of each other out there~tough times are ahead but we can make it through, together.


This month I’m going to talk a little about success.

While pursuing goals sometimes it’s easy to overlook our successes. I know, that sounds strange, but please bear with me. Failures are often impossible to overlook, which is okay as long as we learn something. In my opinion, overlooking success is often worse than not learning from our mistakes. It’s impossible to overemphasize the importance of taking the time to reflect on our successes.

Recently I had the privilege to join a group of LGBTQIA+ Romance authors for a reading at a local Barnes & Noble. An amazing experience, it was something I’ve dreamed of since I first began writing with the goal of publication—way back in the mid-1990s. A reading at a real bookstore was one of the lines I drew in the sand. I told myself that that’s what successful authors do, and if I ever did it then I would officially be Successful.


I’m not going to say I didn’t have a blast or that I don’t value the experience, because that would be lying. However, it did reframe a few things for me. For one, I don’t feel any more “successful” than I did before that reading, and am still battling the same burnout I felt before the reading. Secondly, if my monetary rewards are doing the talking, they’re saying success is still more of a concept than a reality where my career is concerned.

Since my books aren’t burning up any bestseller lists and I’m not busy buying a new home or taking exotic vacations, I thought a look backward at all I have accomplished was the way to go.

  1. In the past four years I’ve published fifteen works of fiction: 5 short stories, 7 novellas, and 3 novels, with another novella due out next month and another novel early in 2017.
  2. I’ve been paid for all but one of the works listed above. (And not only a nominal acceptance fee or contributor copies, which is what I earned on all the fiction I’d had published prior to 2013.)
  3. I appeared on two panels at Gay Romance Northwest Meet-ups: as moderator of panel on kink and panelist on bisexuality in Romance.
  4. I’ve met some truly wonderful people who I never would have met otherwise. Despite the fact that #3 is true, I’m the stereotypical introverted writer—much more comfortable with words than people. Becoming a Romance author has helped me expand my comfort zone to include this amazing tribe that’s accepted me and my odd little stories.
  5. I’ve received some lovely emails and messages from readers. This is probably my favorite of all; taking everything into account the main reason i sought publication in the first place was to engage readers, to tell the stories only I can tell and connect with people.

That felt really good.

I knew it would, and yet I didn’t even consider looking backward until I was searching for an idea for this column. It’s not easy to take a break from striving to move forward—building momentum is important in any career. But we all need a break sometimes. Taking those breaks, basking in the glow of our accomplishments, is an important part of reaching goals and being successful. At least it is for me.


What’s on your list of accomplishments? What is your definition of Success with a capital “S”? How do you remind yourself of all the little victories you’ve had in your career, or just in life?


Thanks for stopping by! Before you go I want to tell you about two fun giveaways you can enter. The gang at Authors Speak is holding a group giveaway—one backlist book from each of the nine authors! Enter the Rafflecopter here:

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I’m starting a newsletter and the first edition will go out on November 16th with an announcement, exclusive content, and a giveaway. Since it’s short notice I’m offering a free ebook to all subscribers through Nov. 16th. Click the rainbow rose to sign up.

onlytheroseSee you next month!

Not All Characters are Flesh and Blood by Rebecca Cohen


This is my first post for Author’s Speak and I’m very happy to be here. Those of you who have read my stories know I’m not one to stick to a particular genre, but today I’m wearing my historical hat. I’d like to share my obsession with one of my favourites characters, not one of flesh and blood, but Crofton Hall, the stately home belonging to my Earls of Crofton (the Redbourn Family), and the inspiration behind it.

So without out further ado let me introduce you to Hatfield House, the home of Lord Salisbury – isn’t she magnificent?


Built in 1611 by Robert Cecil, Hatfield House is a smidgen too young to exactly be the original Crofton Hall (since Crofton Hall was built in the 1570s and later extended) but Hatfield House’s architecture and design still fits the bill and is certainly what I envisage for the stories that will be set after the original Crofton Chronicles series.

Like any great character, Hatfield House has changed through the years. Each generation added to the sumptuous décor which set my imagination racing with what could have happened within the walls of the manor house and how the lives of those who lives there were moulded.

Here are three of the many photos I took on my last visit. I bet you can see why Hatfield House inspires me so much!

The Long Gallery
rc1Here I imagine the flash of blades and the shuffling of feet as swords clash and a gentleman’s honour is defended. Did a miss-spoken word lead to bloodshed? Were friendships forged and lost at the tip of a rapier?




The Gardens
rc2Hiding behind hedges were sweethearts wooed? Breathy trysts undertaken away from the ever- watching eyes of the house? How many tears were shed? How many hearts were broken? Were lovers once put asunder reunited in a secret space?




The Victorian era kitchen

20160910_141053The kitchens of any large house are busy, loud and chaotic at times. Hatfield House’s kitchen were remodelled in the Victoria era and the same for Crofton Hall, but for Crofton Hall they were updated for a very different reason. I imagine the earl dabbling too much with his new-fangled science experiments, pushing the limits of his knowledge one step too far and the resulting explosion leaving him with the need for new kitchens.


I hope you can see from this brief insight into this beautiful building why I might be more than a little bit in love with Hatfield House, and why the Crofton Hall I created from it is more than just a structure but a character in her own right.

Are there any building that inspire you?


REBECCA COHEN is a Brit abroad. Having swapped the Thames for the Rhine, she has left London behind and now lives with her husband and young son in Basel, Switzerland. She can often be found with a pen in one hand and a cup of Darjeeling in the other.







Put on Your Traveling Pajamas and Let’s Go (A post by Lou Hoffmann)

Lou Hoffmann Icon-logo-square Hi! I’m Lou Hoffmann, happy to be here (one day late) with my November post, and I’m glad you’re here, too!

I don’t get to travel much. I’ve always wanted to, but just when I thought I was getting to the point in my life where I was ready to start committing resources and time to the cause, stuff happened. Kind of a bummer, but it would be so much worse if I couldn’t travel by book!

As an author, I get a double dose of book adventure, because I research and then I write. Both activities involve “going there, doing that.” Most of my research I can do via the web, these days, and oh, the places I’ve been with Google Street View! There’s a drawback there, though. Street View can’t help me travel through time. So, for instance, when I wanted to write a story (in-progress, The Harp and the Sea which my fellow pseudonym is co-writing with Anne Barwell) involving 17th century Scotland, I read websites, reproductions of historical documents (some of which were quite shocking), and scholarly books as well as lighter things. As this bit was set in the Borders, I learned bout families of reivers, March Wardens, King James, and the witch of Hermitage Castle. Then I applied my best mode of travel transportation—imagination—and went there.

On a rain-soaked day in autumn, 1605, the rough men who served Ker of Cessford and James Stuart, the King, shoved Robbie Elliot into a damp prison cell beneath Hermitage—a stark and haunted castle located almost dead center in the Middle March, a place he’d once called home. When he heard the heavy oaken door thunk shut behind him, rattling the rusty iron chains and window bars, he fell to his knees in the filthy straw that lay scattered over the stone floor. He and a half-dozen others had been force-marched sixteen miles from Hawick, bound, handled rough, and prodded with sticks. Now, Robbie tried in vain to find a few square inches of his body that didn’t cry out in pain.

“There’s water, Robbie.” The weak, high-pitched male voice came from the darkest corner of the cell, and it gave Robbie a start for he’d thought himself alone. “In the barrel there,” the man continued. “It’s clean enough.”

Robbie’s legs obeyed him after only a brief argument, and he stood and walked to the barrel. Dust and chaff floated on the top, but when he dipped the single iron ladle and brought the water to his lips, it had no foul smell. “I’ve had far worse,” Robbie said, and drank.
When he’d slaked his thirst enough, he turned to his cellmate, a man he knew. “How’d you come to be here, Keithen?”

“Same as you, I’d wager. I’d heard the Warden’s men were on the march, and I meant to hide at my old da’s holding, east of Kelso. But I was caught no more than ten miles from Hermitage castle and strung along with five others—including your stepbrother Jem. We’d thought we’d go no further than the gallows on the hill, but they brought us here.”

“Jem? He’s here?”

“Alas, Robbie, he was a lucky one, for he fell on the trail, and the Warden’s man kicked his head a mite hard. Snapped his neck.”

Robbie piled up some straw and sat, slumping back against the wall, his own head pounding as if he’d been the one kicked. Keithen, who tended to prattle on most of the time, stayed blessedly silent until Robbie spoke up a few minutes later. “Yes, probably lucky to die then, quick like that. Do you ken why they brought us here? What they’re planning for us?”

A sudden rattle of heavy keys beyond the door interrupted the prisoners’ conversation, and a single, crusted pot was pushed inside, it’s contents warm enough to steam in the perpetual cold of the keep below ground.

Keithen said merely, “Porridge, or what passes for it,” and then got up and lumbered stiffly to fetch the pot.

Robbie realized all at once that his insides had gone so hollow he’d be happy to fill them with a brick, and he wasted no time. Given no utensils, the two men scooped the thick, sticky oatmeal with their hands, minding neither the slight burn or extra flavor of the dirt and blood on their own skin. By the time they finished, Robbie had forgotten his last question entirely until Keithen answered it.

“I heard a couple English talking yesterday, their voices come down clearly through the shaft, just there.” He stopped to point at a corner of the ceiling, a black, empty rectangle amid the gray stone. “They said we’ll be marched to Carlisle, and wicked James himself, the King, travels there too. They’ll hang us all at once, for his entertainment.”

But even those resources can’t help one travel to fantasy worlds. Although, I admit, one can now visit Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in a number of places, when J. K. Rowling was writing it, she had only herself to guide her to the particulars. But that doesn’t quite say it all. I’m not privy to her process, but surely she learned all she could about medieval castles in order to create her fantasy. Similarly, when I knew that in Wraith Queen’s Veil poor Han Shieth was going to be stranded on an ice floe in a freezing sea, I had to expand my knowledge base about the landscape, how the sea and the ice floes act in that type of location, and what happens to humans exposed to frigid temperatures for any length of time. It was, in some ways, an awful place to visit, but I traveled there anyway, so readers could join the adventure too.

Han opened his eyes. The single gift freezing to death offered was the warm, drowsy feeling that came over the victim as body temperature dropped. Han had recognized that gift when it came and let himself fall asleep, feeling little pain at the time and knowing that in minutes he’d feel none at all. But now… something had changed. Someone sat beside him on the ice, someone wearing a hunter’s kilt and a cloak of soft leather. ice-for-isa-goo-ftuos-4319305297_286f24ddd8

Not enough, Han nonsensically thought. That’s not enough to keep him warm. But the man stripped the cloak from his shoulders and threw it over Han. Shivering under its faint warmth, Han fought to make his eyes work and registered the deep chestnut shade of the man’s unruly curls, the deep brown of his eyes.

“Lohen,” he said, “is that you? It can’t be you. You’re dead. Or am I dead too?”

“It is me, Han.” The man chuckled. “I’m dead, and you’re not. And you won’t be.”

“I will. No help for it. If you can save anyone, choose Luccan. Save the three of them on the trail. Take your cloak. Let me go.”

“Luccan is not near death at the moment. I would know. You are much closer to that state, but you will live, little brother.”

“I… I don’t think I want to, please,” he said, starting to shiver harder. “Let me go back to sleep until I’m gone. It’s so cold. Hurts so much to be awake.”

“Stop, Han! You’re not going to give up. I won’t let you.”

Han willed his eyes to focus once more. Lohen’s face loomed over him very near, his countenance right down to the minutia of pore and lash and stubbly beard. But where an empty socket had been at the end of his life, he now gazed at Han with both of the watchful brown eyes he’d been born with.

“You can’t stop it, Lohen. This is too much for me.”

“Who do you think you’re talking to, brother? I remember the last time you decided not to live—after the fire, the day our parents died. I made you live then. I’ll do it again.”

“Cruel, Lohen.” Han had intended to growl the words out with venom, but they dribbled forth in a raw whisper. “Why bring that up now. Why put the vision of that horror in my mind? Can’t you let me have a little peace on my last breath?”

“You aren’t taking your last breath anytime soon, brother. Think about that fire. See it in all its hideous glory. Hear it crackle and pop as it burned our mother’s flesh.”

“Stop.” Han’s shallow breaths came a little faster, whipped by anger and remembered fear. A small warmth crept out to his chest from the cavity where his heartbeat quickened, and adrenaline thinned his sluggish blood.

“Stop? No, I’m not going to stop. You will not be dying on my watch, Han Shieth. On the day you were born, I was sworn to protect you, and I’ll do it.”

“You’re dead.”

“I don’t care! And don’t change the subject.”

The corners of Han’s mouth stung as he tried to curve them into a smile. Tears froze in the outside corners of his eyes. A wind came up and the floe beneath him rocked, spilling some water onto the ice and against his body. Neither wind nor water felt cold. Han knew what that meant—the blessed warmth had returned. He welcomed it, willed himself not to breathe.

Travel-via-book has much to recommend it, I think. For instance, it’s the only kind of trip you can take to the distant past, another dimension, your own home town with significant changes, or the far future. And it costs not a penny more to take the trip over and over again—and when I read, though the words remain the same, the places I see are a little different every time. But do you know what the best thing about this kind of adventure is? You can do it in your pajamas. Snuggled under a blanket. With two cats, or your dog, or your best friend. And you stay warmand dry while the storm rages outside your window and the landscape in your pages is 16th century Scotland, or desert, an ice-encrusted sea coast, a restaurant in Boca Raton, or a starship. How cool is that?

Hope you enjoyed our little jaunts out of town here. Before I sign off, I just want to say my Wraith Queen’s Veil Rafflecopter giveaway ended, and all four winners have been notified. But in case you missed, Authors Speak has a stupendous giveaway going right now. Win 9 ebooks from 9 different authors! You can enter right here. Just click the link. 🙂

a Rafflecopter giveaway