Wednesday, 24 May 2017

#bookreview: Seeing Red | Lina Meruane

Seeing RedSeeing Red by Lina Meruane
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When the veins in Lina's eyes burst, filling her sight with blood, she struggles through months of blindness, wavering between attempting to be independent and being reliant on her partner, Ignacio, and her family.

In Seeing Red, she narrates her experience, filled with asides to Ignacio. It reads like part-diary, part-rambling, an autobiographical novel of a writer's relationship with sight. It's one of those books that need to be read in one sitting--not because it is particularly enthralling, but because the webs that she spins and the tangents she veers into in her narrative are easily lost once you take your eyes off them.

There's a taste of her Hispanic background that rolls off the page in the words used and the way she phrases her thoughts; the story starts in New York but soon steps into Santiago, Chile, where she explores her family dynamics and prods at the differences between her Chilean self and Ignacio's Galician background, ending back in New York where her eyes are operated on by Doctor Lekz, a Russian doctor born in Galicia who forgets Lina's name every time she comes in but remembers the state of her eyes and what's wrong with them.

It took some time for me to get into the story--I started it twice, pushing through past the 25% mark until I reached a point where the narrative emerged strong enough to pull me along its very scattered path.

Note: I received a review copy via Edelweiss.

View all my reviews

Sunday, 21 May 2017

North Star

Sometime in the distant past, you've fixed your North Star; in your heart, your mind, your soul. Every fibre of your being knows who it is--but somehow you've lost sight. Your compass broke. You don't know where true North is anymore.

And you don't know if you should care.

But you do.

---



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So you run.

You run because nothing is as it should be, nothing is as you thought it would be, nothing is. Everything is ashes. Ashes and smoke. The bitter tang of defeat.

Because one day you woke up, and everything broke.
You made choices. The choices you felt were right. And are right. Maybe.
But your choices rub it in over and over again.
So you push yourself. Get over it.

But you can't.
I can't.

---

From the need to be understood
From the need to be accepted
From the fear of being lonely
Deliver me O God
Deliver me O God

---

And you fear you will always be alone.
As you watch everyone moving on.
Building a life you will never see. You know not to hope.

Yet it always comes back to that one question, doesn't it?

---

Why am I always alone?

---

On your lips; you mouth: further up and further in!
In your heart, you dig in your heels.

---

You've forgotten what he looks like, that North Star of yours, for all that you say you pursue him. You forget why you chose him, what resonated when you sealed the deal. So you wander, your restless heart leading you, searching but not finding. Looking but not seeing. Listening but not hearing.

So your compass spins.

Friday, 19 May 2017

#Fridayflash: Dongeng (an excerpt)

... when Sara woke up early one Sunday to find a bird perching at the foot of her bed, she was shocked. She stared mutely at the animal, wondering how it had gotten in. It wasn’t any bird she remembered seeing before; pigeons and crows were what she was used to, not great big birds in bright golden plumage with a flaming horn.

“Hai, Penglipur Lara,” the bird said.

“What the—” She bolted upright. Rubbed her eyes. Stared.

“Yes, I’m here.”

“Who—what—”

The bird chuckled. Sara slapped her face lightly, wondering if she was awake.

“You’re awake, Sara,” the bird said. “Let me introduce myself. My name is Garuda. Ah, I see a spark of recognition there. You have heard of me, yes?”

Sara nodded mutely. Why is this happening? She tried to pinch herself.

“I am a legend. Everyone knows of me. Which is why I have been chosen to come and speak to you. Again.”

Sara pulled the blankets up around her body, as if building a wall between the mystical bird and herself. “Again?”

“Well, the Orang Bunian tried—and failed. Thus, again.”

Realisation dawned upon her. “Oh!”

“Right now, I deem that you are not sufficiently awake. If you could wash up and maybe make a cup of your preferred caffeine fix, that would be great.” He started to fly off, then settled down again, staring at her with piercing eyes. “I assure you I am not a dream.”

Garuda flew out of the room without a backward glance leaving Sara staring at the open door. In a daze, she stumbled out of bed and into the shower, where she took an extra-long, extra-hot shower. She left feeling refreshed and comfortable, having quite forgotten about Garuda. She was boiling water to make instant noodles and tea when Garuda re-materalised and perched on one of the dining chairs. Surprised, she threw the hot water at him, screaming.

“What was that for?” Garuda said in annoyance as he flapped frantically out of the way.

She stared at him. “You’re not a dream!”

“I told you that already,” he huffed, settling on a dry chair.

“Okay. Yes. You did. I forgot. Sorry.” She hurried to wipe up the spilt water and then stopped to stare at the bird.

“Go on, you were in the middle of making breakfast.”

Sara opened the packet of Maggi Kari, noting distractedly that her hands were shaking as she poured the flavouring powder into the bowl. She managed to pour hot water into the bowl and into her tea cup without spilling anything. When she was finally settled at the table with food and drink, she took a deep breath, grateful that she hadn’t dropped anything.

She looked expectantly at Garuda. “So…”

“Go ahead,” the bird said politely, cocking his head to one side. “I’ll talk while you eat.”

He waited until Sara had started eating before he cleared his throat. “You read fairy tales, don’t you?”
Sara looked up at him and nodded.

“And you know Tinkerbell’s story.”

“The Barrie version or the Disney version?”

A smile crossed his face. “Ah, most people would not even think to ask that. The Disney version.”

“Well, yes.”

“At that tragic moment when Tinkerbell is dying and Peter is trying to save her, what does he do? He asks all the boys and girls in the world to clap for her. The more that clap, the more that acknowledge her existence, the faster she recovers. It’s the same thing. Your belief and your stories fuel our continued existence.”

Sara swallowed. “The NeverEnding Story.”

“Ah yes, yes, something like that.”

“So, you are being forgotten and you want me to be like him and save your world?”

Garuda’s grin looked almost mischievous. “Yes and no. You see, we’re in this unique position of being part of stories told in a language that is confined to these borders. And as much as we can try to keep ourselves alive in the Kisah Dongeng, hikayat and folklore of these people, we won’t get very far. Once our language dies out, we will die too.”

“Your language? Dying out? Malay is the official language of Malaysia. It’s not going to die out. Not like all the other little dialects and tongues used here. I mean, if you were saying that Iban legends or Dayak legends were dying out, I’d believe you. But Malay? I mean, everyone in this country of 30 million people knows the language.” It was true. She spent eleven years in school learning it. She may not be fluent… but at least she knew it.

---

Dongeng is now up for pre-order! Check out the landing page here! :)

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Super lovely cover commissioned from Charis Loke features Sara, Helmi, and Garuda. Check out her site if you want to commission her art.

Monday, 15 May 2017

#Musicmonday: What it should have been



I sing because You are good
And I dance because You are good
And I shout because You are good
You are good to me 
Turn it around 
Open the windows of heaven
Pour out Your spirit
Overflow
So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name
It is well with my soul
This is how we overcome:
You have turned my mourning into dancing
You have turned my sorrow into joy
Pull me a little closer
Take me a little deeper
I want to know Your heart
I want to know Your heart
And nothing formed against me shall stand
You hold the whole world in Your hands
I'm holding on to Your promises
You are faithful
You are faithful
Whom shall I fear?

---

And so it goes, a full circle.

---

As it should have been.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

#bookreview: Improvising Out Loud: My Life Teaching Hollywood How to Act | Jeff Corey

Improvising Out Loud: My Life Teaching Hollywood How to Act (Screen Classics)Improvising Out Loud: My Life Teaching Hollywood How to Act by Jeff Corey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Every once in a while I decide to read something useful. Like Improvising Out Loud, due to my sporadic interest in acting and amateur theatre. Okay, I have a bunch of drama books that I should get round to reading... which I will get round to one day, after I read the bunch of writing books that I should get round to reading...

Anyway, Improvising is Jeff Corey's fascinating (mostly) memoir .

Part I: How to Live, Corey's memoir, is mostly easy reading and accessible to all. Corey's story is captivating as well as relevant, reminiscing about the good old days which segue into the bad old days, and finally into the better new days of film in America. Blacklisted from acting jobs in the 1950s after being offered up as a scapegoat during the HUAC's witch hunt for communists, Corey pressed on, refusing to name names, leave America or his love for acting. Instead, he diverted his energies into teaching acting, gathering luminous students, including James Dean, Kirk Douglas, Jane Fonda, Rob Reiner, Jack Nicholson, and Leonard Nimoy. He is frank and open, talking about his experiences as a photographer during World War II, his bitterness at the blacklist and how it changed his life and the lives of countless other hapless actors, the unfairness of the House Un-American Activities Committee, as well as the hope and the excitement of working on stage and in the burgeoning American film industry.

Part II: How to Act rambles on about different acting techniques, styles, theory, and ideologies. Corey offers fascinating thoughts about acting, improvisation, and text which might need some prior knowledge of acting (at least theoretically, if not practically), but is still pretty much accessible to the layman. I'd rather like to re-read this part and chew over some of the thoughts here (I highlighted a bunch of quotes in this section).

The final part, Part 3: Etudes - The Acting Exercises, is the most technical part of the book and is probably only relevant to actors & acting teachers themselves. I have to admit, I skimmed over parts of this.

All in all, I'd recommend this to film & acting students as well as anyone who'd like an insight into acting.

Note: I received a free digital ARC of this book for review via Edelweiss.

View all my reviews

Monday, 8 May 2017

#musicmonday: The More | Downhere



Because I've been on something like a nostalgia trip, playing old compilation CDs of stuff from past free music fridays.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

#bookspotlight: The Water Cave by Rachel Lopez


Today we're hosting Rachel Lopez's book, The Water Cave.

Rachel is celebrating the release of The Water Cave with a Facebook party on May 4th at 8PM EST. Prepare for a fun night of chat, games, and giveaways not only with the author, but with special guests Desiree Williams and Sara Baysinger!

About the Book
A sinister experiment gone wrong has come to haunt the life of an innocent girl sixteen years later. Injected with a serum developed by Satan himself, Meadow Fields discovers she is a transporter (a person with the unique ability to transfer their soul between hell and earth).

Unaware of her special gift until the day her soul transports to hell Meadow saves a tall, pale, handsome young man from drowning in the lake of the Water Cave (the outskirts of hell). This striking young man, Mark Angel, has a deep connection with Meadow and wants to help her explore her new found ability.

An unfortunate accident forces Meadow to transport to hell where she is unable to make it back home. Alone and frightened she is faced with the horrors of Satan and his fiends. Time is not on Meadow’s side, the longer she is stuck in hell the more demon like her soul becomes. In the nick of time—and with the help of a newfound ally—Meadow’s soul makes it back to Earth with moments to spare. However, her world is torn apart once more when she is faced with the reality that her loved ones are not who she believed them to be.


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Rachel has generously offered to give away a signed paperback of The Water Cave, a $15 Amazon gift card, and a book mark (one winner). Open to US only.


About the Author
Rachel Lopez is a Respiratory Therapist by day, a Family Coordinator for her church on the weekends, and a writer by night. Rachel lives in Hardin County, KY with her husband and three children. She loves to read, write, and to collect new hobbies.

Rachel is the author of a series of books in the Transporter Series: The Water Cave, The Cave of Darkness, and The Fire Cave.

Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram




(Also, if you're curious, I did review it here.)

Monday, 1 May 2017

#musicmonday: Let The Heavens Open | Kari Jobe



I had the hardest time figuring out what it was.

Let the Heavens open
*(No Heaven locked up, let it open)
Let Your Kingdom move
*(No Kingdom stand still, let it move)
All our faith and hope
*(Our faith, our trust, our hope in our great God)
Our great God
*(Our Great God)

---


Sunday, 30 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Zany Zebra

Princess Zeva stood before her easel, a slight frown on her face. She wasn’t sure what to do next. It was all too strange. She’d invited a few zebras over because she wanted to practice drawing portraits and patterns, so why not do both at the same time? However, one of the zebras, Zee, was acting really weird. More than weird. She had no idea what Zee was doing and none of the other zebras knew either.

Right now, Zee appeared to be prancing around with a bouquet of flowers in his mouth. What for? No one knew.

“I can’t draw your portrait if you’re running all over the place,” Princess Zeva said again.

Zee just smiled and continued prancing.

Princess Zeva looked at him again. Had he really put a flower behind his ear? How did it even stay there? She turned to look at Zee’s sister, Zen. Zen just rolled her shoulders in something like a shrug. She’d already finished Zen’s portrait, and the other zebras’ (she couldn’t remember all their names; for some reason they all started with Z) but Zee hadn’t been still long enough for her to get the patterns right. And he had pretty patterns. She had originally wanted to do a full body painting, but that obviously wouldn’t happen. Not right now, with that zany zebra prancing… had the crazy animal somehow managed to paint hearts over his rump without her noticing?

Zee danced a little in front of her, his mouth a wide grin, with the flowers now sticking out at odd angles.

Princess Zeva wondered what he would do next.

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Head over to Yuin-Y's for today's illustration.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Yodelling Yak

She woke up to the sound of singing. Well, yodelling, actually. Princess Yvette rubbed her eyes and yawned. It was cold high up in the mountains. Not what she was used to. Waking up to the sound of yodelling wasn’t what she was used to either. She slid out of bed and crossed over to look out the window.

The mountains were white with snow. It looked fresh, untouched, except for a spot of brown. Princess Yvette narrowed her eyes at the spot and rubbed at the window a little to make sure it wasn’t something on the glass. It wasn’t. The brown spot moved a little and the princess’s eyebrows lifted in surprise.

Curious, she dressed up in her warmest clothes and headed out of the castle. She looked around for a while to get her bearings, then gasped in surprise when she noticed that the brown spot was much nearer now. The yodelling was also getting louder. Wading through the knee-high snow, she soon found herself face to face with a shaggy, four-legged animal—which also happened to be the source of the singing.

“Uh. Hello?” she said, before stopping herself. Why on earth would she say hello? It was an animal. Well, it was a singing animal but—

The singing stopped. “Who are you?” the animal said.

“Uh. I’m Yvette,” she said. “Who are you?”

“I am Yasmin.”

Princess Yvette wasn’t sure if they were supposed to shake hands—the animal didn’t have hands—so she did the next thing she could think of, which was bob a little curtsy. “Uh, pleased to meet you. Um. What are you, if I may ask?”

“Pleased to meet you too. I’m a Yodelling Yak,” Yasmin replied. “The only one of my kind.”

“Uh. Okay.”

Yasmin gave her a look. “Do you start every sentence with ‘uh’?”

“Uh,” Princess Yvette said before covering her lips with her hands. “It’s just a very bad habit. I’ve been trying to stop for ages.”

“I see. Anything I can do to help?”

The princess shook her head. “Uh, I don’t think so. I only do it when I’m nervous and you’re making me nervous.”

The yak frowned. “Why is that?”

“Uh, well, I’ve never spoken to a speaking animal before.”

“I did say I was the only one of my kind.” Yasmin smiled. “Actually, I used to have the same problem. I found that it can be trained out of you fairly easily. If you want to.”

“Uh, how?”

The yak smiled. “By yodelling.”

Princess Yvette gave her a confused look. “Uh, I don’t know how to yodel.”

“It’s fairly simple. But you don’t really need to know how to yodel. You need to think about it.”

“Think?”

“See, you’ve already stopped.”

“I, uh, what?”

“The idea is to keep your mouth shut until you know what to say. And when you yodel, you have to do that. You have to know precisely where you start, even if you don’t know where to end.”

There was a very long silence before Princess Yvette said, “I am very, very confused.”

“You need confidence to yodel.”

“Uh…”

“Yes, if not your ‘Oh-di-lay’ will not come out perfectly! It will be an ‘uuuuoh-di-lay’ which totally breaks the mood and the tone.”

Princess Yvette scratched at her head, which was suddenly very heavy and very confused.

“Don’t worry. It will come with time.” Yasmin the Yodelling Yak grinned at the princess and then went prancing up the mountain, still yodelling all the way.

---

Head over to Yuin-Y's for today's illustration.

Friday, 28 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Xeroxed Xylophones

First there was one. Then, there were two. And then three, and four, and five and…

The machine wasn’t stopping. It kept popping out xylophone after xylophone, each one perfectly identical to each other, down to the little scratch on the left that Princess Xanthia had made when she was six. The princess wasn’t sure if she should cry or laugh.

~

The xerox machine was a large silver box. Princess Xanthia knew that in the non-magical world she’d taken the thing from, all the machine did was create a flat image of whatever you put face down on its shiny glass on a piece of paper. That was all she wanted! To make an image of her old xylophone to give to the toy-maker. Not a gazillion copies of her xylophone!

She’d expected that bringing the machine back home might change it in some way or other, but she hadn’t expected this. Though, now… she didn’t actually need the toy-maker to create a replica of her xylophone anymore… because she had more than enough.

Oh, it was all so very confusing.

She sat down, buried her face in her hands and groaned. Around her, xylophones multiplied like bunnies.

~

He’d said it would be simple. Put it face down on the glass, close the lid. Press start. She’d seen him do it. And it had been simple. He pressed the button and after a short mechanical whine, a paper came out with a picture on it. ONE sheet of paper. So… what had happened?

She’d put the xylophone face down on the glass. She hadn’t been able to fully close the lid, because the xylophone was bulky, and the lid could only cover flat items. She did everything he said! Why was it doing this? She looked at the screen which had strange numbers and words on them, and the xylophones that were still spewing from the machine, and then she gave up.

With a blast of magic, she destroyed the machine, incinerating half the xylophones along with it. Well, at least she had her replica. Quite a few of them.

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Head over to Yuin-Y's for today's illustration.

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(Sorry, X is a difficult alphabet)

Thursday, 27 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Winking Whale + Willoughby the Narrator launch!

Princess Winnie was upset. It wasn’t her fault that the whale had winked at her, but now everyone was saying that she’d been acting stupid.

“What did I do?” she protested. “I just smiled.”

“You were flirting!” Sally Stingray said. “You don’t just smile at random whales.”

“He wasn’t random! He was with Ricky and he smiled first. What if I’d met him before?”

“Well, you didn’t recognise him, did you?” Elora Eel asked.

Princess Winnie shook her head. “You know I’m terrible at recognising faces. Especially whales. They’re so big that it takes a long time to see the whole of them!”

“Which is why you shouldn’t smile at random whales!” Cally Clownfish said. “You can smile at random clownfish. They just smile back, not wink.”

“What’s wrong with winking anyway,” the princess said sullenly, crossing her arms in front of her.

“It’s creepy,” Elora Eel said.

“Weird,” Sally Stingray added.

Dangerous,” Cally Clownfish hissed. “You don’t know what he means by a wink. What if he wants to be your friend? Or he wants to take you on a date? Or what if he… what if he…”

“Girls… he’s a whale. What would he want to do with a mermaid?” Princess Winnie rolled her eyes. “Now, if a merman decided to wink at me, I’d be cautious.”

Sally Stingray flicked her barbed tail. “It’s still not safe.”

“Look, anyway, Ricky’s coming back. And the whale’s still with him. So you girls had better be nice.”

The three other females turned to follow the princess’s gaze. Ricky was swimming up to them, with the whale in tow. The latter was still winking.

“What’s wrong with him?” Elora Eel whispered.

“Hey girls, what’s up?” Ricky greeted them. “Saw you passing by earlier. Willy and I were just doing some sightseeing.” The merman introduced his friend to the girls.

“Nice to meet you,” the whale said softly.

“Nice to meet you, Willy,” Princess Winnie said politely, Elora and Sally echoing her.

Cally just glared.

“What’s wrong, Cally?” Ricky asked.

“What’s wrong with your friend?” Cally spat.

Ricky looked at Willy. “Is there something wrong? Willy’s from far up North. He doesn’t come over Reefside that often.”

“Why’s he winking at us?”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Willy said. “It’s not intentional. I’ve been having a twitch in my eye for ever so long. That’s what I’m here for, actually. To see if any doctor can cure my wink.”

“You poor whale. I do hope they can help you,” Princess Winnie said sympathetically. She watched as her friends looked mortified.

---

Head over to Yuin-Y's for today's illustration.

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So today, Jemima's launching book 7 of the Princelings of the East series, titled Willoughby the Narrator.


Just where did Willoughby, who first appeared in the Talent Seekers (book 5), learn his ninja skills?  How did he come to be a Narrator?And what happened after he fell from the high tower at Castle Deeping?  Discover Willoughby’s origins, his big secret, and follow his adventures as he travels around, telling stories and acting as an undercover agent for the rich and powerful, as dark deeds start causing big trouble between the rival castles.

As might be expected from a Narrator, Willoughby tells his story with style and panache, starting with his somewhat surprising arrival in the Realms.

Lovers of the series will enjoy this latest tale, but newcomers may find it easier to start with book 1 or book 5. It’s a mystery adventure in a world not quite like ours, suitable for age 11 and upwards.


Excerpt

In which Willoughby tries out the sport of wall-running (running around the vertical inner sides of the castle walls) for the first time

I wasn’t laughing now. We moved to the windowsill and crouched on it, ready to jump out.  The starter yelled ‘go’ and dropped a flag, and I let Prince Kevin get away first, since he was due to start behind me. He’d been eyeing me up and strutting a bit, and I didn’t feel the need to take him on. He was about my age, and if I did this another time, I reckoned we’d meet then. I wasn’t wrong.

I swung myself out on the window ledge and let the fall forces take my body down and then around, with momentum to fly up to the next floor. I let go of one ledge and turned upside down to grab the ledge below with my nails, and swung again, sideways this time, to the next window. I got a real swing on and made it to the brickwork on the corner. Then I leapt sideways high onto the second wall, sliding a little to the third level, where I thought I saw Diesel’s face pull back as I arrived at the brickwork bar dividing the central glass panes. I brought my back legs around to the bar and sprang off it, leaping horizontally but with my tummy to the castle wall, to catch the next window’s bar and repeat the manoeuvre. I couldn’t do it a third time as a competitor was already on the next window, but I swung down a floor and passed another coming up from the first floor as I made the edge there. I think she slipped, but I ignored her and bounded for the next window and then onto a pole that stuck out. Someone had said it was for banners on feast days. There would be another one opposite. Bearing that in mind, I quickly rounded the next corner, which was a shorter side, flicked myself along three windows, and leapt for the pole matching the one I’d left behind.

Every now and then the crowd roared, but I barely noticed; I was concentrating on the next move.  I suddenly realised Champion Christopher was in front of me, and I wondered if he was leading again. I went to overtake him by a double swing from the third floor ledges, but he ducked beneath me and I slipped right to the ground floor window. The crowd below me scattered so I didn’t touch them and disqualify myself.  I got through a loop of swinging to wind myself back up to leap for the last wall, but collided with Prince Kevin, and we both fell to the ground, caught by the crowd and set back on our feet. He glared at me; I felt his anger in more than just the heat of his eyes. I had a feeling that Kevin and I would meet again. Probably often. I bowed to him, and he bowed back. I wasn’t sure that meant anything, but I turned away and made my way through the crowd to the centre where the announcer was commentating. Huge cheers rang out: Champion Christopher had won again. I was right not to put him off his line, since one of the visitors I’d met in the practice was a close second. I joined in the cheering with the rest of them, and I’m sure he gave me a special wave.

Wall-running.  My new favourite pastime!

© J M Pett 2017  Willoughby the Narrator, Ch 3.

Buying Links

iTunes | B&N | Kobo | Smashwords | Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.ca | Amazon.com.au
Paperback: Amazon.com | Book Depository

About the Author

Jemima wrote her first book when she was eight years old. She was heavily into world-building, drawing maps, building railway timetables, and dreaming of being a champion show-jumper, until schoolwork got in the way and she went down the science path, writing research papers, manuals and reports, as well as editing the newsletters for her sports clubs. Forty years on she started writing stories about her guinea pigs and their adventures in a fantasy world where everything ran on strawberry juice. Eventually the Princelings of the East took shape, originally intended as a trilogy, but the characters just wouldn’t lie down.  The planned ending will now be with book ten.

Meanwhile, Jemima continues to enjoy the company of new guinea pigs in her home in Norfolk, UK. Only Kevin is left of the ones in the stories to date, and he runs their blog ‘George’s Guinea Pig World‘. Check out their posts for the A to Z Challenge, too!

Blog | Amazon | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Smashwords

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Wednesday, 26 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Valiant Vicar

The church shook. The Vicar stopped mid-sermon and looked up at the ceiling. The congregation was already screaming and running out as fast as their legs and lungs could carry them.

“Wait—”

Nobody heard the Vicar’s call except the young girl who sat calmly in the front pew, watching him.

“They won’t hear you,” Princess Victoria said primly as she got to her feet. “They’re too frightened.”

“Are you not?”

“It’s only a little shaking.” But she too looked up to the ceiling and watched the chandelier swing. “What was it?”

The Vicar opened his mouth, only to shut it again a few seconds later. Then he shrugged. “Earthquake? I can only hazard a guess.”

“I suppose I shouldn’t be afraid of a little seismic activity.”

The church was empty now—except for the unlikely pair. The Vicar was a thin rake of a man at seventy, with a sharp face and short, thinning white hair. Princess Victoria was just seventeen, with a happy, round face and thick violet hair that hung past her shoulders. She held out a hand and he took it, leaning slightly on her as they walked down the aisle to the door. She could still feel slight tremors, and she looked at the Vicar.

“Aftershocks are perfectly normal,” he said, stumbling a little at the unsteady ground.

Princess Victoria nodded.

“That, however, is not quite normal.” The Vicar stopped walking.

She turned to look in front of her again, her eyes widening in surprise at the sight of a large dog with three heads. “Oh!”

“Stay back, Your Highness,” the Vicar said, pushing himself in front of her.

The dog growled.

Behind the old man, the princess moved. “Be careful!” he shouted. “He may hurt you.”

“Oh, don’t be silly, dear Vicar. Cerby won’t hurt me.” She held out a hand to the dog. “Come here, boy. What are you doing up here? Did you cause that shaking?”

The dog whined and wagged its tail. Then it nuzzled one of its heads into Princess Victoria’s hand, astonishing her companion.

“You know him?”

“Belongs to a cousin of mine.”

“A cousin…”

“A very distant cousin,” she added, seeing the look on the Vicar’s face.

“It’s a myth—”

Princess Victoria smiled. The Vicar wasn’t sure if it was intentional, but the smile didn’t exactly seem pleasant. “I’m sorry to have shaken up your view of the world, Vicar.”

“Oh, no, no, my dear princess. I know Hell is real. I just don’t understand what you have to do with it.”

~

“You want me to what?”

They were sitting in the Vicar’s study. Princess Victoria had a hand on Cerby’s middle head. The Vicar was pacing.

“Oh, just take care of Cerby for a few days while I find out where my cousin went. He’s in trouble.”
“You want me to dog sit while you walk into Hell.”

“Hades, Vicar dear.”

“Same thing.”

The old man was silent for a long time. “I will go with you.”

The Princess looked surprised. “You? But you belong in Heaven!”

“As do you.”

“You don’t know that.”

“I know it in my heart,” he insisted. “And it’s not safe for you to go alone! You can’t face all the powers of darkness on your own.”

“I’m quite well equipped, Vicar.”

“I must insist that you let me protect you.”

She smiled. “I don’t think anything you can offer will protect me. At any rate, they wouldn’t let you in. You’re very definitely His.”

“And you’re not?”

She sighed. “It’s complicated.”

He sat down opposite her. “So tell me about it.”

~

It was a strange thing to be sitting alone in his parish, stroking a three-headed dog from He—no, Hades. It was not something the Vicar had ever thought he’d find himself doing ever since dedicating his life to God and the church. Princess Victoria had been very convincing though.

“You’re the most valiant vicar I’ve ever seen,” she’d said. “No one else would be able to take care of Cerby, or even look at him without freaking out.”

“You’re just saying this so that I’ll give in to you.”

“Look, you’re even valiant enough to want to come with me.”

“It’s not about being valiant—”

“But believe me, Vicar, this is not a place you can go. So be a darling and take care of Cerby, please?”

He’d given in, after giving her reams of advice.

Both the Vicar and Cerby looked up when the place shook. Cerby whined a little and got to his feet, prompting the Vicar to stand as well.

“I guess we should see what’s happening, eh?” the man said as they headed towards the front door.
Princess Victoria stood in the doorway, a triumphant grin on her face, and an injured young man leaning on her for support. She gripped him around the waist with her left hand.

“Found him. Now we can go,” she said, clicking the fingers of her free hand at the dog. “Thank you so much Vicar.”

“You’re… you’re very welcome,” he replied.

They turned to go.

“I’ll see you both in church next Sunday?” the Vicar called as they approached the gates.

“Oh definitely,” Princess Victoria replied, turning her head to flash a cheeky grin at him. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

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Head over to Yuin-Y's for today's illustration.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Unexceptional Umber

Picking out curtains was a chore. Princess Undine felt it was a complete waste of time. Her room was white, because she didn’t want to pick a colour. Her furniture was brown because they were made of wood. Her sheets were pink because her mother insisted. And now, she had to pick a shade of colours for her curtains?

It was ridiculous. She didn’t care and would never care.

But Mother insisted.

“You must pick a colour, dear. It’s your room. It should look how you want.”

“Just take whatever colour we already have.”

“That won’t do. It must be unique.”

“What colour’s Udolf’s curtains?”

Mother tsked. “That has nothing to do with you. Your rooms, your curtains, your colour.”

Princess Undine sighed. “It’s not as if anything in my room is colour-coordinated.”

“It should be.”

That was when the Talk started. About how dear young Undine should learn how to keep house. She would be married soon and what would her husband think if she didn’t know how to run a house? (I doubt he’ll care about the colour of the curtains, she thought.) And what would the servants think if Undine didn’t know how to make her own choices? They’d run riot over her and undermine all her authority! (I’ll just ask them to pick any colour that suits them.) And what would her new family and friends say if she let her house run to ruin? (It’s my house. I can do with it anything I like.)

In the end she gave in. There was no point in arguing with Mother when she was in that state, so she scanned the different fabrics that were hanging in the room, all the different colours and materials and patterns making her head spin. She walked up and down poking at the samples the servants were showing her, her mind wandering to other more exciting topics, such as where she’d seen that unassuming moth and whether she’d be able to spot it again.

After a suitable time period had passed, she pointed randomly at a brownish fabric. The furniture was brown, after all, and she wouldn’t have to waste her time with her mother’s protests.

“Oh, that’s such a beautiful burnt umber,” someone exclaimed.

Beautiful? Princess Undine just shrugged. She didn’t even know what umber was. It was just an unexceptional brown in her head, something that she wouldn’t have to notice at all. She ignored her mother as she walked out of the room.

Really. Curtains. 

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Head over to Yuin-Y's for today's illustration.

Monday, 24 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Time-Travelling Teaspoon

There was a teaspoon on her dresser. She didn’t know why. Or where it came from. Had it been there yesterday? She thought hard, scrunching up her face, but couldn’t recall. She picked it up and scrutinised it. It didn’t look familiar. At all. It wasn’t the usual type her mother favoured when buying cutlery—too ornate, too heavy, too… silver looking? But it was just a teaspoon. Probably some kind of prank. She put it back down and forgot about it.
Three days later, the same teaspoon showed up beside her teacup. Which was normal, probably. That’s what teaspoons were for, wasn’t it? It looked like the same teaspoon. There was that same pretty design… which had her initials on it? She ran her thumb over the engraving.
TSP.
Tanya Sofia Petrina.
There was a number beside it. 2037.
She put the teaspoon down on the saucer and sipped at her tea.
“That’s the year I was made,” a voice said softly.
She looked down at the table. Princess Tanya picked up the teaspoon again.
“Impossible. It’s only 2017 now.”
“Nothing is impossible.” The teaspoon fell silent as she stirred her tea.

~

“Why do you want to go back?”
“To make sure the timeline is secure.”
“What if you change something?”
“I won’t.”
“How sure are you?”
“Because I was already there, wasn’t I? You remember me. From before.”
Queen Tanya’s assent dropped from her lips reluctantly.

~

“You were made in 2037. When I am 36. And Queen.”
“Yes.”
Princess Tanya paced her room. “What message do you bring?”
“Message?”
“There’s always a message. Something the future wants the past to remember.”
“I have no message.”
“I’m crazy. I’m talking to a teaspoon from the future.”
“You’re not. I’m real.”
“Why are you a teaspoon? And not a robot or something?”
There was a long pause before it answered. “The tech was small enough. And Timmy thought it would be humorous. Besides being functional.”
“Humorous?”
“A play on your name and all that.”
“Timmy made you? Stupid stare-in-space Timmy?”
Another long pause. “Yes. Another thing that changes in the future.”
“Oh.”
“You don’t show me to him.”
“What do I do with you?”
The Princess stared at the teaspoon. The teaspoon didn’t stare back due to its lack of eyes. Time ticked by.

~

“What do I do?”
“You insist on going back but you don’t know what to do?”
“You’re the one with the memories. It’s your past but my future.”
“What if what I tell you messes up the integrity of the timeline?”
“Just tell me what to avoid.”
“Timothy should never have made you.”
“If he hadn’t, you wouldn’t be Queen.”
Another grudging assent.

~

“I don’t know.”
“You… don’t know.” Princess Tanya’s voice was flat. “You’re from the future.”
“She wouldn’t tell me.”
“She—future me?”
“It would mess up the timeline if I went in knowingly. She claimed. I’m just a teaspoon. I wouldn’t know.”
“What did Timmy say.”
“Timmy is dead in my time. I didn’t get to ask.”
Princess Tanya stirred her tea.
“Tanya! You have to run!”
Princess Tanya looked up at the young man who barged into her room, panting.
“Move, Tanya. They’re coming.”
“Who?”
“Rebels.”
She stared at him. Timmy is dead in my time, echoed in her ears. But Timmy lives until at least 2037. She followed him.

~

“I miss him.”
The Teaspoon was quiet.
“I’ve been Queen for thirty years. Because of him.”
“You’ve grieved him for five.”
“It’s not long enough.”
“I miss him too.”
“You’re a teaspoon.”
“I’m still sentient.”
She releases her grip on the teaspoon. “Go.”

~

They ran through corridors, crawled through vents and climbed over walls, making it out of the palace as the sounds of shouting built up.
“Where to?” Princess Tanya asked, leaning over to catch her breath.
“There’s a safe place in the mountains. We can lie low for a while.”
“Let’s go.”
He gave her a funny look. “All that running and you smuggled out a teaspoon? Really?”
She stuffed the teaspoon in her pocket without looking. “It’s… nothing.”
Gunshots in the distance spurred them on.
When Tanya next looked, the teaspoon was gone.

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Head over to Yuin-Y's for today's illustration.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Strawberry Scone

“Mum! Mum! It’s Saturday morning!” Princess Shari jumped on her parents’ bed.

“Yes. go back to sleep,” King Stephen mumbled, pressing his face into his pillow.

“Mmmph,” was all Queen Sharon managed.

Princess Shari pulled at her mother’s shoulder. “But muuuuuummmm! You said you were going to teach me how to bake strawberry scones today!”

“Mmmmmmmmph,” Queen Sharon tried again.

“Not at five in the morning, dear,” King Stephen interpreted, grabbing hold of the seven-year-old’s hand and pulling her to lie down. “Give us another two hours.”

Princess Shari wiggled under the blankets and said, “Okay,” before promptly falling asleep again.

~

Three hours later, Princess Shari was down in the kitchens, excitedly tying on an apron with the Cook’s help. Queen Sharon leaned against the doorway, rubbing her eyes.

“We have everything here on the table ready for you, luv,” Cook said.

Shari stared at it. There was flour and eggs and cream and butter and… other flour? She didn’t know what it was. She identified sugar and something that looked like salt, but she wasn’t sure why scones needed salt. Something was missing. “Where are the strawberries?”

“The strawberries…” Queen Sharon looked guilty.

“Oh, we must have forgotten them. I’ll go look in the fridge. Don’t you worry, luv,” Cook said breezily.

“I’m sorry I ate them,” the queen whispered as the cook passed by.

“We’ll find some, no worries,” Cook whispered back.

Queen Sharon walked up to the table. “Come on, Shari, let’s start while Cook is looking for the strawberries.”

“What do we do?”

The queen lifted her to stand on a stool before handing her a bowl. “First, we mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.”

Princess Shari looked at the assorted items laid on the table. “Okay, this I know is flour, and sugar… and salt… what’s a baking powder?”

Queen Sharon handed her the previously unidentified ‘other flour’. Then they added in the butter as they stirred, followed by the eggs and cream. By the time they were done with that, Princess Shari’s arms were tired and Cook had returned with strawberries.

“Ah, just in time!” Queen Sharon exclaimed.

They added in the strawberries and another tablespoon of flour.

“I’m tired, mum,” Princess Shari complained.

“Nuh-uh. You dragged me out of bed to make this so you’re going to finish it!” Queen Sharon wagged a finger in her face.

“Anyway, the fun part’s coming, luv,” Cook said with a twinkle in her eye. “We need to flour this table.” Cook threw a handful of flour on the table. It fluffed up in Princess Shari’s face, catching her by surprise.

“Flour fight!” Princess Shari declared, throwing a handful of flour back.

Soon, the table, the kitchen, and the three women were covered with flour.

Queen Sharon cleared her throat two minutes later. “I think… the table is floured enough.”

Cook gave the dough in the bowl a final stir to make sure that everything was well mixed before dumping it out on the table. “This one’s my job, luv. You don’t have the strength yet,” she said as she rolled the dough with her rolling pin. Once she was satisfied, Princess Shari and Queen Sharon cut the pieces of dough into small triangles and place them on the baking tray.

“Alright, we’re almost done here,” Queen Sharon said, handing a little brush to her daughter.

“What’s this?”

“We need to paint the scones with egg wash before we put it in to bake.”

Princess Shari brushed each scone carefully and sprinkled sugar liberally at Cook’s instruction.
“And we’re all done!” Queen Sharon said.

“But it’s not ready…”

“Now, I put it in the oven, luv, and you can come back in twenty minutes when they’re done.” Cook took hold of the tray and put it into the hot oven.

“Can’t I stay here and watch?” Princess Shari asked.

“Nope. You’ll get bored staring at the oven and besides, you need a bath. You’re covered in flour!” her mother replied.

“So are you,” Princess Shari retorted.

“Yes. So we are going to take a bath and when we're done, we’ll sit done for scones and tea. How does that sound?”

“Great!”

~

Princess Shari slathered her strawberry scone with lemon curd and cream. She shivered with delight as she bit into the warm scone. It was the best scone she had ever eaten.

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Head over to Yuin-Y's for today's illustration.

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Found this recipe online. Don't know if it works. You can test it out.

Friday, 21 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Rambling Rill

Princess Rei sat in the bamboo garden, hugging her knees. Her parents had been at it again—this was the 12,874th fight she’d counted (who knew how many more there were before that?), and she was sure—absolutely, definitely sure—that they were going to separate soon. They probably couldn’t divorce—what would happen to the country?—but they would most likely decide to live at opposite ends of the Kingdom, sending angry letters to each other… and Rei would have to decide. Who would she stay with? Who would she side with? She didn’t want to take any side at all.

(Rin, her older brother, would take sides. Rin had probably already chosen a side and say she was silly for not wanting to choose. But how could she choose?)

There were footsteps in the garden. Muffling a sigh, she got to her feet. She didn’t want to talk to anyone just yet. She followed the path for a while, picking random turns at each junction. She eventually stepped off the path and headed deep into the enticing shade. She really didn’t want to be found and she couldn’t get lost anyway, even if she tried. It was, after all, an enclosed garden.
Finally, she stopped by the rill that wound through the garden. It was bubbling merrily, making a little racket of its own. She sat down beside it and stared into its watery depths. She figured this would be safe. She could cry all she wanted, and the sounds of the rill would just mask hers from any prying ears.

“Wait, you’re not crying are you?” a voice startled her.

Princess Rei’s head shot up. She looked around with wide, frightened eyes.

“Shh, shh, it’s just me. Your friendly little rill. Why don’t you come here and wash your face with some nice, fresh water, hmm?”

She leaned over the water, a little wide-eyed, but then squeezed her eyes shut and washed her face. “Who are you?”

“Me. The rill.”

“How come you can talk?”

“Ummmmmmm… I don’t know. I just do.”

Princess Rei fell silent. “I didn’t really want to meet people, you know.”

The rill chuckled. “I’m not exactly people.”

“I’m tired.”

“Why don’t you lie down and rest?”

The princess eyed the rill dubiously, but lay down anyway, curling on her side and resting her head on her arm. A sob escaped her.

“There, there. Calm down now. I don’t know what you’re upset about, but let me distract you okay?”

“Okay.” The word came out in a whisper.

“Let me see. Oh, did you hear about the Legendary Lemonade? That was a chuckle, that one. Perfectly lovely jingle. Bewitched an entire generation. The Egalitarian Eel is still making waves with her Coalition for Companion Equality. CCE, they call it nowadays. The name is just too long to remember. And the Charmed Chandelier is taking singing lessons from the Quail Quintet! Isn’t that amazing! I hope he manages to improve. There’ll be a lot of money in that. I hear that Blueberry Country’s starting to use other berries too, due to Princess Barbara’s influence. There’s a picky eater for you! Freda still wears multiple layers of jewellery and Princess Felicia really can’t do anything about it! They never found who grew the Ginormous Grape, so I’m thinking it’s like James and the Giant Peach. Princess Harmony and Princess Jemma are now close friends, did you know that? I know they were cousins, but not everyone is good friends with their cousins. Joyanne’s also friendly with that herring… I don’t remember his name… Princess Amanda’s doing alright—she’s a distant relation of yours, isn’t she? The funeral was just grand, I heard. Did you know Princess Diana was saved by Loki? That’s a shocker, wasn’t it? Well, conspiracy theories say it was Loki, though they’re probably wrong…” The rill stopped rambling as Princess Rei’s breathing slowed. “And that Inglenook is perfect for people trying to hide, better than a Bamboo Garden anyway...”

The young princess had fallen asleep.

“Well, isn’t that just like kids these days. Ignoring everything you say. Anyway, as I was saying, Princess Katie had better watch out with her kite. He’s learnt some rather nasty habits. Morty got Berty to be friends with Princess Mary now and Princess Nurul is still grounded. Oliver’s decided he hates oatmeal, so Princess Opal really can’t understand what he was so outraged about and Princess Penelope’s still trying to get the potato to talk to her…”

The rill continued rambling until quiet footsteps approached them. Prince Rin smiled at his sleeping sister, bent down, and carried her back to her bed. Tomorrow, he’d tell her that Mother was going to stay in the North and Father was going to stay in the South, but he’d decided that the two of them would stay right where they were in the heart of the Kingdom. Because he had taken a side. Rei’s.

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Head over to Yuin-Y's for today's illustration.

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That was a lot of linking to do. Simply because I decided to ramble. haha. Or, the rill did.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Quaffing Quintet

It had been a good night. The Quail Quintet had been top-notch all night, entertaining everyone in the Castle with their wonderful songs. Now, the feast had wound to an end and the hall was almost empty. Princess Qing leaned back on her pillows and smiled at the five quails.

“Good job, boys,” she said. “Is there anything we can do for you?”

“Thank you, Your Highness,” the Lead Tenor replied. “Could you point the way to your… uh, fountain?”

Princess Qing quirked an eyebrow. “Fountain? There’s one outside, but surely… you don’t mean to…” She stopped, unsure what the quails would intend to do with or at the fountain.

“We’re just really thirsty,” the Bass rumbled in his low voice.

“Oh! Yes! Drinks!” Princess Qing waved a servant over and asked him to set up a new drink dispenser. “Um, is wine alright for you?” she asked the quintet.

The quails bobbed their heads.

~

Princess Qing was filling up the dispenser for the third time, feeling rather amused. The quintet had been quaffing the wine for at least an hour now. As the night wore on—it was past midnight now—the quintet had gone through various stages of drunkenness.

At first, they were mellow. During those initial twenty minutes or so, they’d spoken to each other in soft voices, discussing their performance for the night, noting down improvement points, before falling silent.

During the second refill, Princess Qing thought that the First Soprano had fallen asleep. The quail was laid out on his back, looking like he’d died. The tenor had kicked him though, eliciting a grunt. Not dead then.

Now, the quintet looked fully awake. They were starting to warble, breaking out in scattered pieces of song. And they were quaffing the wine faster and harder. All it took was the Second Soprano to start the first line of Green Finch and Linnet Bird for the whole quintet to join in heartily and drunkenly. Despite the garbling of the words, the quaffing quintet were still in tune and managing to harmonise—they were professionals, after all.

At the end of the song, all five birds sighed heavily and then fell down, snoring. With a wave of her hand, the princess summoned the servants, who carried the birds up to their assigned rooms to sleep off the wine. Next time, she’d give them grape juice.

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Head over to Yuin-Y's for today's illustration.

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Here's random research of the day: BIRDS DO GET DRUNK!

And here's mentioned:

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Potato in Peril

Princess Penelope had a soft heart for vegetables. She didn’t like people murdering them. After all, she’d grown up on a good dose of Veggie Tales, meaning that Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber were close friends—at least in her mind. So she’d styled herself as a protector of vegetables. Of a sort. She tended them, taking care of them amidst the flowers that her sisters planted, mourned their passing by burying them, and being generally very happy with every new growth spurt in her garden. And she very absolutely did not eat them. That would be terrible. Hypocritical!

~

The first inkling Princess Penelope had of trouble was the frantic whispering. She stopped in her tracks and strained to locate the source. The voices seemed to be coming from the adjoining hallway, so she tiptoed as quietly as she could to where the passages connected. She still couldn’t make out what they were saying, but she could make out a few scattered words:
Perilous… it’s only a potato… No blood… What can it do? The princess… boil it… no, fried!
A face settled into a scowl. There was someone threatening the safety of a potato and she would have to do something about it! Without thinking, she barged down the hall to find two boys huddled over something.

“What are you doing?” she growled.

The two boys screamed in fright, throwing something small and brown in the air as they ran away.
Instinct kicked in. Princess Penelope dove for the potato, catching it in midair before crashing to the ground.

“There you go,” she said, alternating between a smile and a wince. “You’re safe now, little potato.”

The potato didn’t say a word.

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Head over to Yuin-Y's for today's illustration.

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Here's a story about potato (crops) in peril, because sometimes the world lands coincidences in your lap.

Also, here's Veggie Tales because THEY ARE A THING, YO.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Outraged Octopus

As things went, it wasn’t unusual for Oliver the Octopus to be upset. He was usually upset about something or other anyway. But what Princess Opal didn’t get was what he was upset about. He’d been fed and exercised as usual. Someone had refilled and cleaned out his tank. They’d even decorated it for Christmas. But still, Oliver sat staring at her, an accusing look on his face, tentacles knotted in frustration.

“I don’t know what you want,” Princess Opal said, staring at the octopus. It wasn’t as though she spoke Octopi, or whatever language octopuses spoke in. She highly doubted Oliver understood her either.

Oliver unknotted his tentacles and waved them about in the water.

“I don’t know what that means,” she repeated. Ten minutes of staring and waving later, she gave up.

Princess Opal shook her head and headed down to the kitchens. It had been a long day, and arguing with Oliver was tiring. She hugged the cook, snagged a plate of oatmeal cookies and headed back to her room.

That was when Oliver started screaming. At first Princess Opal ignored him, sitting down to eat her cookies. When the noise started to annoy her, she finally turned to look at him. She had never seen the octopus so outraged in all his life. He was halfway out of the water, leaning out of his tank and stabbing a tentacle in her direction.

“What?” she asked.

The octopus jabbed with his tentacle again.

She looked down at her plate. “This?”

Another jab.

“You… want a cookie?”

There was a frenzy of tentacles and more jabbing.

“Okay… though I’m not sure if you can actually digest this.” She reached over and handed him an oatmeal cookie.

The outraged octopus started to calm down, something almost like a… smile… crossing his face. Oliver sank back into his tank, tentacle wrapped around a soggy cookie that was starting to disintegrate into the water.

Princess Opal stared at him for a while before shrugging her shoulders and munching on her own cookie. She had no idea what that was all about. And she didn’t really want to know.

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Head over to Yuin-Y's for today's illustration.

Monday, 17 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Never-Night

Enough was enough. Princess Nurul was tired. This brightness had been fun while it lasted, but now it was just too much. She tried to sleep; she’d dozed off a couple of times, but kept waking up to the full sunlight that never went away. As much as she hated to admit it, she missed the night. She missed the setting of the sun that threw up pretty pictures of pink and gold into the sky. She missed the coolness of the dark and its soothing calm. This… perpetual daylight was annoying.

 The sleep mask helped—a little. The blackout curtains worked—to a point. But the knowledge that the sun wouldn’t set and the night wouldn’t come burnt circles in her brain—because it had all been her fault. She was the one who made that stupid dare with the crazy magician. And now the magician was gone and his spell was still in effect.

Princess Nurul threw the curtains open and stared out the window. If the sun never set, there would be no more beautiful sunset or sunrises. People would adapt—she was sure of it; after the initial grumbling and complaining, they’d find ways to get around the perpetual sun. She had, after all. She’d managed to hide in rooms dark enough to fall asleep. It was only guilt that kept her awake. She wondered briefly if she should confess. The King had been growling instructions all week, sending out hundreds of men to “find the perpetrator, find the crazy madman who did this!

But no, what would she say? ‘Father, I’m sorry I challenged a magician and now we’re stuck with perpetual Never-Night and I don’t know how to fix it because my magic is not strong enough—’

She cut her own thoughts short. No, her magic wasn’t strong enough, but she knew the spell. She knew what would break it. She just had to find someone whose magic was strong enough. And who had stronger magic that the King? She sighed. It was time to ‘fess up.

“Father?” she said softly, tentatively, as she peeked her head into his study.

The old man looked up, his frown gradually softening when his tired eyes recognised her. He waved her in.

“I’m sorry, Father.”

“What?”

“It was the Never-Night spell. And it was a dare. And… and now I don’t have enough magic to undo it.”

He frowned at her from beneath bushy brows. “Who did it?”

“Magician Hashim,” she replied.

“On a dare.”

“Yes.”

“From you.”

“Yes.” She dropped her gaze. “I’m sorry.”

The King sighed. “You know how to undo it?”

“Yes.” She pushed the sheet of paper where she’d written down every step of the reversing spell across the desk.

He picked it up and squinted at it. “Hmph. That should do it.” He glanced at the clock and nodded his head.

Princess Nurul looked at it too; it was near midnight. Near midnight and still as bright as noon outside. And then suddenly, it was pitch-dark. With a wave of her hand, Princess Nurul called up a lamp. In the dim illumination, she saw the exhaustion and satisfaction warring on her father’s face.

“There. That’s done,” the King said, pushing the paper back to her.

“Thank you, Father.”

He nodded briefly. “Thank you for the spell.”

She smiled, letting relief wash over her. It was over. The Never-Night was done with. Then her smile dropped when she heard her father’s next words:

“You’re grounded. For the next month.”

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Head over to Yuin-Y's for today's

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Happy Easter!



Feel the darkness shaking
All the dead are coming
Back to life
Back to life
Hear the song awaken
All creation singing
We're alive
Cause You're alive

You called me out of the grave
You called me into the light
You called my name and then my heart came alive

Saturday, 15 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Maudlin Monster

He was at it again. Princess Mary groaned.

“What’s wrong now?” she asked, bending down to look under her bed.

“No—nobody loves me,” the monster wailed.

Princess Mary leaned back, rolled her eyes, and sighed. “Again?” she mumbled to herself. She slid off the bed, locked the door and drew the curtains closed. Then she knelt by her bed and peeked under it. “Okay, come on out.”

The monster was small—about the size of a teddy bear—and covered in soft brown fur. In fact, if Princess Mary were being kind, she’d say he did look rather like her teddy bear, except that he had four black eyes, three hands and one foot. Oh, and six wings that were now folded and drooping down the monster’s back.

“What happened?” she asked as she held the monster in a tight hug.

“Naga said I was ugly. Cos… cos I have fur,” the monster said in between sobs.

“What’s wrong with fur?”

“S’posed to ’ve scales. Like my brothers.”

Princess Mary rubbed the monster’s back. “But I like your fur.”

“You… you do?” The little thing blinked up at her with big puppy eyes.

“Yeah, it’s nice and soft. Good to hug.”

The monster squirmed a little. “Not s’posed to be huggable.”

“Oh.”

For a long while, the only sound in the room was the sound of the monster’s sniffling.

“I’m… I’m supposed to scare you,” the monster finally said.

“Yes.”

“But I’m such a terrible monster I can’t even do that one thing right.”

Princess Mary continued to rub his back. “Do… do you really want to scare me?”

“No… but… but it’s what I’m supposed to do.”

“Oh, well. I’m supposed to call on my knight to slay the monsters, but I won’t.”

The monster blinked. “You have a knight?”

“Yeah. I don’t like him. He’s big and shiny and horrible.”

“Mmmm… do you think I can try scaring him? Though he’ll probably just laugh at me ‘cos I’m just a small little monster.”

“You want me to call him?”

The monster thought for a while and then nodded.

“Very well.” Princess Mary unlocked the door and got back into bed, shooing the monster off it.

“Ready?”

He nodded. She pulled the bell.

~

“For goodness’ sake, Morty, were you drinking again?” Berty asked as he patched up the little monster.

“Sorry.” The monster winced.

“What happened?”

“Princess likes me when I’m all sad and maudlin,” he mumbled.

“That doesn’t explain why you’re all ripped up.”

“Uh, I volunteered to scare her knight.”

Berty groaned. “You do know that you’re going to get into trouble for this, right?”

Morty nodded.

“Then?”

“Nobody loves me anyway. And the princess is nice. She gives me hugs.”

“Morty, you’re a monster! You’re supposed to scare people, not ask for hugs.”

“Didn’t ask.” He stuck out his lower lip in a defiant pout.

“I really don’t know what to do with you.”

“Can’t do anything. I’m going drinking again.”

“You can’t!”

“S’only way, Berty. Princess don’t like me otherwise. ‘N she’s all I got.”

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Friday, 14 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Legendary Lemon

“What’s so legendary about him?” Hattie asked as she leaned back on a recliner chair under the hot sun.

“I don’t know. But it’s the Legendary Lemon,” Princess Lina replied. She was sitting under the shade with a tall glass of cold lemonade. She didn’t want sunburn, unlike Hattie who was still ‘working on her tan’. “So do you want to go see him or not?”

Hattie turned to look at the princess. “Why do you want to see him again?”

“He’s… legendary.”

“You’ve said. But you haven’t said why.”

Princess Lina shrugged. “It’ll be fun. Everyone who goes down that way goes to see him. It’s like meeting a pop icon.”

Hattie huffed. “Fine. Sure. We’ll go see the Legendary Lemon the next time we head to town.”

Princess Lina smiled as she sipped at her lemonade. Her summer vacation was turning out just fine.

~

Visiting the Legendary Lemon turned out to be a bit of a let down. To be honest, Princess Lina was hoping for something extraordinary. After all, with a name like Legendary Lemon, the guy should have been someone special, right? No, other than being a talking lemon, the Legendary Lemon was really quite… normal.

“Uh, here, have a lemonade,” the Legendary Lemon said, pushing over two glasses of cold lemonade. “It’s my legendary lemonade. A special brew.”

The two girls sipped on the lemonade politely.

“It’s rather normal,” Hattie whispered to Princess Lina.

The princess could see the tips of the lemon’s side lumps growing red. He’d heard that.

“Well, it’s very nice. Very refreshing,” she murmured back.

“Is there anything else I can do for you?” he asked, turning his back as if to hide his face.

“Err… well, I actually wanted to know what you were legendary for,” Hattie blurted before Princess Lina could stop her.

“Oh! Didn’t you know?” the lemon asked, turning back to them with surprise written all over his face.

Both girls shook their heads. “We just knew that you were supposed to be legendary.”

The Legendary Lemon’s face lit up. “You’re in for a show then!” he exclaimed.

With a wave of his non-existent hand, music blared in the house. The lights started twinkling and the Legendary Lemon, dressed in sparkling spandex, started an intricate tap-dance routine, singing at the top of his voice. His song and dance was so captivating that Princess Lina soon found herself on her feet, dancing along to the tune and singing with the Legendary Lemon…

And so, listen up, children
When the Legendary Lemon
Stops and puts his feet up
There’s Legendary Lollipop
For me and you and you!

Princess Lina sat down with a bump, tired out. “Wait… that song didn’t make any sense at all,” she said, waving the lollipop in her hand in time with the slowly fading music.

“Uh, it isn’t supposed to,” the Legendary Lemon said bashfully. “It was just a jingle to sell my lollipops.”

Princess Lina looked at the lollipop and then up at the lemon. “It’s a lemon lollipop.”

“Yeah. The Legendary Lemon and his Legendary Lemon Lollipops.”

“A marketing gimmick,” Hattie said, squinting her eyes.

The lemon sighed. “Yes. I’m sorry.”

Princess Lina burst out into giggles. She laughed so hard that Hattie and the Legendary Lemon started to laugh along too. “Oh dear! All this time, I thought the Legendary Lemon was a superhero and all it was was you trying to sell lollipops?”

The Legendary Lemon shrugged and smiled. “A lemon’s gotta do what a lemon’s gotta do.”

“Well, these lollipops are great,” Princess Lina replied. “I want a lifetime supply of them.”

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Thursday, 13 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Killer Kite

This was it. This was the year Princess Katie would win the Kite Fight. She knew it down in her bones with an unshakeable certainty. After all, she had the best kite in the country this year. And she’d trained with the best kite fighter all year.

“How are you feeling?” Matt, her trainer asked, handing her the kite.

“Pretty good. Confident,” she replied with a smile.

“Good girl. Go get ‘em,” he replied with a thumbs up. She returned his positive sign and went down to the field where all the other competitors were milling about.

The wind was strong today, and the skies were clear—a very good day for the fight. Then they were running and the wind was picking up and—there they went! The kites soared in the sky, flying higher and higher, until they were almost little dots in the sky. Princess Katie gripped her spool, fixed her eyes on the little green dot her kite had become, and allowed a smile to spread across her face. This was the year she’d win the Kite Fight.

~

Up in the sky, Princess Katie’s green kite smiled an eerily similar smile. It surveyed the kites below him, noting which ones were flying high and which ones were struggling. Then with a quick swoop, it lunged against a bright blue kite. Instead of pushing at the kite’s body, like all the other fighters were doing, the green kite used its enhanced string to slice through the blue kite’s string.

“Hey, what was that?” the blue kite shouted. But it was too late—without its anchor, the blue kite was whipped away to who-knows-where.

“Not against the rules, buddy,” Katie’s kite shouted back. Again and again, the killer kite repeated his manoeuvre until there were less than ten kites left in the air. Now, the real battle began.

~

Princess Katie smiled proudly. Her green kite was the last one standing, still flying high in the sky when every other kite had fallen. She let it roam the skies freely for a few more minutes before slowly reeling it in.

“You got them good,” she whispered to her kite, holding it close. “You’re such a smooth killer.”

The green kite shivered with the praise, but Princess Katie didn’t notice.

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Wednesday, 12 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Jilted Jellyfish

“You’ll be fine, dear,” Princess Jemma murmured, carefully wrapping her hands around the bell of the jellyfish, taking care to avoid her tentacles.

“But… but he left me,” Joyanne the Jellyfish wailed in despair. “He doesn’t love me anymore.”

“Well that just means he is an idiot,” Princess Jemma said viciously. “A stupid idiot who doesn’t know what he’s let go of.”

Joyanne still sniffled. “I loved him so much. It hurts.”

“Don’t worry, Joyzie. You just keep your head up and we’ll show that lousy jelloboy where he can stick his tentacles.”

“Jem!” Joyanne stared at her with shock all over her face. “You’re swearing!”

“What? Can’t a princess swear?”

“But—you… I…”

A smile spread across Princess Jemma’s face. “There. Now you don’t look so sad. Come, forget about Liam for a while. We’ll go to the spa and the salon and then you’ll feel much, much better. I guarantee it.”

~

After getting all her tentacles massaged, Joyanne did feel much better. She smiled gratefully at her friend.

Princess Jemma smiled back. “Feeling much better?”

“Very much, Jem.” A few moments later, she sighed again. “It still hurts, though. Being jilted really hurts.”

“I know.”

The jellyfish looked at her skeptically. “You do? You’ve never been jilted in your life.”

“True. But I do know what it feels like to always be rejected. To be the odd one out. I think… I think it’s kinda the same, though maybe it doesn’t have quite the same intensity.”

“Who would dare—” Joyanne didn’t finish the sentence as realisation hit her. It was true. She’d always thought Princess Jemma, beloved of the merkingdom, had everything an aquatic creature could ever want. But she didn’t. In school, Jemma had always been alone. She hadn’t been dazzling enough to be part of the popular crowd—her status hadn’t mattered because they’d enjoyed the power of being able to turn a princess away—and the “normal” students had kept out of her way in hopes of not drawing unwanted attention to themselves. Joyanne and Jemma had become friends because… because Jemma had looked lonely and Joyanne was an extroverted jellyfish who couldn’t bear swimming alone.

“Have you… have you ever had a boyfriend?” Joyanne asked, not because she didn’t know, but because she wanted Jemma to confirm.

The princess shook her head. “I won’t even have the chance to be jilted, Joyzie, because no one even wants me.”

“But you’re the princess.” She said it as if it should matter, as if it should make a difference.

“A princess. One of many. And why should any poor merman come and court me only to be told no by my father?”

Joyanne stared at her in horror for a long time. “Oh, my dear Jemma,” she finally said, nuzzling the mermaid princess as she murmured, “You’ll be fine, dear.”

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Tuesday, 11 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Infinite Inglenook PLUS #IslandDeception Launch!

There was nothing Princess Inai loved more than a good book. The problem was that there was nowhere quiet enough for her to read.

The library had been the obvious choice, of course, but there were always servants wandering in and out, fetching a book for Mother, or for Father, or for one of her siblings. And if they weren’t fetching books, they were dusting the books, which usually set her off in a fit of coughing.

She tried reading in her room. After all, it was her room, her private space to do whatever she liked. But no, her maids walked in and out, straightening things, fussing with things, putting things away… it drove her mad. Even when she told them to stay out, they could never leave her alone for more than an hour. And an hour just wasn’t enough for her to finish reading the long epics that she really loved!

Nowhere else suited her. The kitchens was obviously out, as was the dining room. The gardens were too cold, and sometimes too wet (and smelled of dog). The ballroom was too drafty even if you ignored the Charmed Chandelier who kept interrupting with stupid observations. The princess stomped her way into the drawing room, hoping that she would find peace to read at last.

Princess Inai stretched out on the couch and opened her book. It was too exposed. The drawing room was quiet, but she could feel people watching her, even if they were silent when they passed by. Someone had lit a fire, and the little inglenook looked warm and inviting. Maybe there—maybe she could hide there and no one would find her. She closed the book on her index finger, marking her place, and headed toward the cozy corner. The warmth of the fire enveloped her.

The inglenook was small, yet large enough for her to stretch out her legs. She settled on the cushioned seat and leaned her back on the wall, wriggling a little to get comfortable, and then yelped. There was a dizzying moment. When the world settled again, she found that she was still hidden in that tiny space beside the fireplace, but the place had gotten a lot bigger. Infinitely bigger. She gasped in surprise.

Stretched out beside her on her left was what seemed to be a hidden library, filled with all the books that could sate her. Thick tomes full of words. Thousands of them. She turned her head to the right to find that everything there was perfectly normal. She could see the wall where it jutted out beside the fireplace, acting as a pillar to block everyone’s view of her private little nook. It was perfect.

She slid into the magical space on the left, running fingers down the spines of the books, promising herself that she would read them all. One day, she would finish every single book in this infinite inglenook. But for now, she was going to finish—finally finish—reading The Island Deception. Before she settled down again, her eye caught something new. A little kettle sat whistling merrily, indicating that the water had finished boiling. Beside it was a teapot, a dainty teacup, and a wooden box. She opened the box to find rows and rows of tea bags.

In amazement, she made herself a pot of tea, took the pot and teacup back to her seat, and wriggled until she found a comfortable position. Then she opened her book again, took a sip of tea, and settled down to read.

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Hey, so Dan's book, The Island Deception launches today and since it also begins with an I, here's a review!

The Island DeceptionThe Island Deception by Dan Koboldt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As everyone knows and agrees, second books suck. It's all about moving plots and pawns, getting into position for the final battle, the final showdown. Like The Two Towers, The Island Deception is no different: You're moving, but you're not getting there. Yet.

Quinn finally gets his big break in Vegas, but immediately after, he's thrown back into Alissia, because who can keep him away from real magic, really, after he's been throwing himself whole-heartedly after the scam?

And the mission is going to hell in a handbasket. Quinn is keeping mum about Enclave secrets just as Kiara is keeping hers hidden behind security clearance levels, even from Logan. The recovery mission is pushed up without warning, not giving Mendez a chance to recuperate from the last one.

There's a bit of romance--is this just a fling? Is he trying to use her? Or is he actually serious?--amidst plans and strategising, foils and counterfoils. The team is up against an adversary who seems to be able to read their minds, if only because he was the one who told them how to think in the first place. The plots and cross-plots are getting more intricate. Should I root for Quinn? Or is he doing the wrong thing? Should I root for Veena--but no, I'm sure Holt's up to no good, even if he says he knows better.

And then you get to that bit where you go aww yes, this is it and you hit the realisation (again, all too often nowadays), that no, there's only 10 minutes left and this is just going to...

Hello, cliffhanger.
It's all good. I just need to wait for The World Awakening (or whatever the title turns to) next year.
Good job, Koboldt. I both love and hate you now.

Note: I received an ARC for review via Edelweiss
View all my reviews

Interested? Check it out on Amazon.
Book one, Rogue Retrieval, is available too. (Read my review here.)

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GIVEAWAY TIME!
Dan has graciously offered a couple of ebooks to readers of this blog! We'll be picking two winners via rafflecopter to win their choice of Rogue Retrieval or Island Deception. Rafflecopter's up for the week! :)

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