Saturday, December 22, 2012

SSP's Christmas Week Amazon Kindle Open House! ALL WEEK!


Editor's Note:  The Blogger Spotlight Series will resume the first week of January!  We wish everyone a wonderful Christmas week and want to be sure all of you who have Kindles are able to get a free gift from us!


From December 24-28th, SSP has an open house on Amazon Kindle including all of its authors who have eBooks available! Many genres and styles available!

All books include cover art and interior artwork from the award-winning artists Matthew Perry and Bonnie Wasson! The free books include the following (along with additional titles available for sale from each author):

Spook House by Michael West (horror, a Harmony, Indiana Novel. Other Harmony Indiana tales include the novel Cinema of Shadows, and the short stories Goodnight, and For the River is Wide and the Gods Are Hungry. Michael's urban fantasy series The Legacy of the Gods includes Book One, Poseidon's Children)
http://www.amazon.com/Spook-House-ebook/dp/B009SS33VS



Redheart by Jackie Gamber (YA Fantasy, Book One of the Leland Dragon Series. Book Two, Sela, is available)
http://www.amazon.com/Redheart-Leland-Dragon-Series-ebook/dp/B004VFNJIA



Haunting Obsession by R.J. Sullivan (Paranormal Thriller, A Rebecca Burton Novella. Also available from R.J. is Backstage Pass, a Rebecca Burton Short Story)
http://www.amazon.com/Haunting-Obsession-ebook/dp/B008Y2SVS4



The Brotherhood of Dwarves by D.A. Adams (YA Fantasy, Book One of the Brotherhood of Dwarves Series. Book Two, Red Sky at Dawn, Book Three, The Fall of Dorkhun, and Book Four, Between Dark and Light are also available)
http://www.amazon.com/The-Brotherhood-of-Dwarves-ebook/dp/B0076OCAKG



Angelkiller by H. David Blalock (Urban Fantasy, Book One of the Angelkiller Triad. Book Two, Traitor Angel, is also available)
http://www.amazon.com/Angelkiller-The-Triad-ebook/dp/B006CR84AI



Overkill by Steven Shrewsbury (Sword and Sorcery, a Gorias La Gaul Story. Other available Gorias La Gaul tales include the novel Thrall, and the short stories Author and Finisher of Our Flesh, Beginning of the Trail, and Insurmountable)
http://www.amazon.com/Overkill-ebook/dp/B007X0G9IW



Crown of Vengeance by Stephen Zimmer (Epic Fantasy, Book One of the Fires in Eden Series. Book Two, Dream of Legends, and Book Three, Spirit of Fire, are also available, as well as the short stories set in the same world, including Lion Heart, Land of Shadow, and Into Glory Ride. Stephen's urban fantasy series, The Rising Dawn Saga, includes Book One, The Exodus Gate, Book Two, The Storm Guardians, and Book Three, The Seventh Throne, as well as the short story set in the same world, Temples Rising.)http://www.amazon.com/Crown-Vengeance-Fires-Eden-ebook/dp/B0039PU8EQ

The seven titles spotlighted above are free on Kindle the entire week from Monday through Friday! Spread the word and load up your brand new Kindles!


Sunday, December 16, 2012

12 Day’s of Christmas: Holly and Ivy Blog Tour

It is with great pleasure that I bring you Selah Janel today, a really talented author who is in the midst of her 12 Days of Christmas Blog Tour (brought to you by our friends at Jitterbug PR!).  We have an excerpt, synopsis, and a bio of Selah for you to check out today.  We highly recommend you connect with Selah on her social media links and that you give her books a try!  Don't forget to enter the big giveaway too! 
-Stephen



About Holly and Ivy by Selah Janel


After losing her job and her boyfriend, Holly returns to her parents’ farm. Embarrassed and hopeless, she doesn’t expect to bump into a forgotten childhood friend that wasn’t supposed to exist. Ivy is not only a dryad, but she lives in the pine trees Holly’s family grows to sell at Christmas. As the old friends reconnect, Ivy not only shares her strong opinions, but gives Holly a charm that will change both their lives. As days melt into weeks and the seasons change, Holly’s life magically turns around. Christmas not only brings surprises, but a choice for the human woman. What’s more important: stability, success, and love, or keeping a promise to an old friend?

Book Excerpt


“What do I do with it?” I asked. I told myself I was just playing along, suspending reality to make Ivy feel better. Although if that was the case then perhaps I should have really examined the fact that Ivy was real and not me suspending reality to make myself feel better.

“You hold it now until it gets to know you. You keep it safe in your possession and it shall bring you ease and grace,” the tree sprite giggled.

“And that really works?” No matter how I tried I couldn’t hide my skepticism.

She turned up her pointed nose. “How else would I have survived so well with murderers on the loose? It’s worked for a good long while.” I raised an eyebrow as a sly grin spread just a little too far across her face to make the smile look human. “Do you remember when I snuck to school with that sapling you took for show and tell?”

The next smile didn’t hurt quite as much as I traced the delicate edge of the tiny plant with the pad of a finger. The petaled head shivered and softly brushed against my calluses.  “I thought everyone was going to have a heart attack when you burst out of the thing and started singing to everyone! Mrs. Robinson finally played it off as the whole class playing a trick on her. We had to go without milk time for a week.” I’d gotten in so much trouble with my parents for lying in school and saying that I had a magic plant. Given that I was adamant that I’d been telling the truth, it was a hell of an ordeal for a six-year-old.

“’Twas so much fun!” Ivy paused mid-pirouette. It was downright disgusting that she could hold the arabesque for so long and not even wobble or suffer a leg cramp. “Though I would not want to live in such cold halls all the time.” She paused and took a long breath, much longer than I or any other human could possibly inhale. Before my eyes her skin became greener, infused by the crisp clean air. “You need to be in the trees, Holly. Mortals refuse to understand that they must live where things grow. Now that you’re home, let’s play!” She leapt over my head and landed effortlessly beside her home tree, staring at me expectantly.

Maybe it was being back home or maybe it was just being back in the good fresh air, but her suggestion made me giddy. It suddenly sounded like the exact prescription I needed, the one thing I’d been missing through all those frustrating years. My fragile mind and heart demanded an escape. They couldn’t take any more disappointment, any more expectations or responsibility, and they especially couldn’t take any more reality. I nodded and tucked the strange clover deep in my pocket. The breeze had dried my tears and the heavenly scent of grass and pine put the sudden urge to run in my feet. Suddenly the heavy air and the blazing sun didn’t matter so much and my anxieties were willing to take a momentary backseat to the chance to goof off for an afternoon.  “Are you sure you’ll be okay?” I hesitated, hand still at my pocket.

Ivy flashed a bold grin and stretched up on her toes; her fingers wiggled over her head, making her resemble an odd, scrawny plant. “With you here? Of course! Just remember to come look after my tree when the murderers come around the winter harvest time. You can even help me choose which tree will be my final home so you’ll know where I’ll be.” The words were no sooner out of her mouth when she tore off, dodging branches and bark as quick and swift as a deer. I groaned as I pulled myself to my feet and tumbled after her, muscles screaming at the sudden exercise. Still, I found myself laughing the entire time.


 

Author Bio


Selah Janel has been blessed with a giant imagination since she was little and convinced that fairies lived in the nearby state park or vampires hid in the abandoned barns outside of town. Her appreciation for a good story was enhanced by a love of reading, the many talented storytellers that surrounded her, and a healthy curiosity for everything. A talent for warping everything she learned didn’t hurt, either. She gravitates to writing fantasy and horror, but can be convinced to pursue any genre if the idea is good enough. Often her stories feature the unknown creeping into the “real” world and she loves to find the magical in the mundane.
 She has four e-books with No Boundaries Press, including the historical vampire story ‘Mooner’ and the contemporary short ‘The Other Man’. Her work has also been included in ‘The MacGuffin’, ‘The Realm Beyond’, ‘Stories for Children Magazine’, and the upcoming Wicked East Press anthology ‘Bedtime Stories for Girls’. She likes her music to rock, her vampires lethal, her fairies to play mind games, and her princesses to hold their own.


Author Links

Facebook Author Pagehttp://www.facebook.com/authorSJ






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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Blogger Spotlight: Sheila Deeth

Welcome to the latest edition of Blogger Spotlight, where today you will have a chance to meet Sheila Deeth, one of SSP's favorite bloggers who we love to have on our tours!  Sheila is one of those individuals who is a very dedicated blogger and reviewer, as well as being a wonderful author!  I think this interview contains some nice insights from someone who has a good perspective on both the blogger side of things as well as the author one.  When you are finished, be sure to check out both Sheila's blog as well as her works as an author! 
-Stephen




Blogger Spotlight #16


1. Tell us a little about yourself, and your background.

I call myself a mongrel Christian mathematician--that covers most of it, but I'm also an English American, Catholic Protestant, addicted to reading and writing, with three grown-up sons, and no dog (I really miss my dog).

2. What kinds of books do you like to read for pleasure? Any favorites?

Those grown-up sons spent many years explaining to me that I have no taste. I'll read and enjoy almost any kind of book, listen to and enjoy almost any kind of music, and I can't list favorites because the page is never long enough.

3. When did you start your blog?

I started blogging 4 years ago. I'd just been to my first (and only) writers' conference (a present from my Mum) where I kept hearing how you'll never get published if you don't have an internet presence. A blog seemed like the easiest way to get started, especially since those sons were policing each other and wouldn't allow me on facebook. Luckily now they've grown a little older they've relaxed their restrictions--I'm just not allowed to friend them.

4. What motivated you to participate as a reviewer and host guest posts and similar activities from other authors and presses, in addition to your own pursuits as an author?

I have a really bad memory, so I never know what I've read or whether I enjoyed it (but I can always reread). Writing book reviews started as an effort to get more organized, but the wonderful side-effect was I began to meet authors and publishers on the internet and get review requests, which led to hosting guest posts and enjoying the help and encouragement of lots of new friends.

5. What kinds of genres do you feature on your site?

I've featured writers in lots of different genres--that "no taste" thing as the sons used to say. I probably avoid erotica though.

6. Do you have any regular features on your site?

I'd struggle to host a regular feature. It would devolve too quickly into "when I remember."

7. What is the hardest thing about being a blogger?

Remembering to blog.

8. What are your favorite things about being a blogger?

Seeing those numbers of pageviews go up when I host someone--I feel like I've done something of value for my guest. Connecting with so many new friends has been great too.

9. What do you think being an author yourself brings to your coverage and reviews of other authors and presses? Do you feel it gives you some additional insights?

To be honest, I think it's the other way around. Writing book reviews, reading in different genres, getting to know different presses and authors through their guest posts... all those things give me new insights into writing and make me (I hope) a better author.

10. Has being a blogger been helpful in your own outreach and participation with blog sites when representing your work?

Being a blogger has helped me a lot. It introduced me to ebooks and the possibilities of being epublished. It helped me meet lots of authors and publishers. It showed me what I could (at least try to) do in terms of marketing and finding readers. And it's given me lots of blogging friends who've been kind enough to host me on my blog tour.

11. If you could give a piece of advice or two to authors looking to work with a blog site or particular blogger, what would you say?

Visit the blog beforehand so you can tailor your post to fit. Then remember to send as much information as possible (pictures, links etc) in one big email so your host can set the post up easily.

12. Any last thoughts or things you might want to say to readers who are finding out about your blog for the first time?

Well, there's a coffee cup waiting to welcome you, and I include coffee recommendations with my mini-book-reviews, but no book ratings--integers are far too restrictive to be used in describing words.




Connect with Sheila and her blog at the following links!




Friday, December 14, 2012

D.A. Adams New Brotherhood of Dwarves Series Novel: Cover Reveal

Editor's Note:  This week's Blogger Spotlight will be posted tomorrow, as today we have a major press release in regards to the new D.A. Adams novel.






For Immediate Release
December 14, 2012

Seventh Star Press is proud to reveal the new cover art from Bonnie Wasson for the highly-anticipated Between Dark and Light, D.A. Adams' fourth book in the acclaimed Brotherhood of Dwarves Series.  The editor for the new fantasy novel was Philip Hopkins, who handled the editing duties for the previous title in the series, The Fall of Dorkhun.

Between Dark and Light continues the adventures of the dwarf Roskin, and the stakes have never been greater.  The Great Empire has surrounded the Kiredurks and are preparing to conquer the kingdom, but unknown to them, Kwarck, the mysterious hermit of the plains, has his own plan in action. To the east, he has summoned an elven army and charged Crushaw with leading them into battle. To the south, Roskin will gather an army from the fractured Ghaldeon lands. But to the west, an ancient and powerful evil stirs. The Great War is about to errupt, if Roskin can overcome the Dark One...

The character-driven fantasy series which begins with The Brotherhood of Dwarves, and was continued with Red Sky at Dawn and The Fall of Dorkhun, has seen a steady growth in its international readership, becoming one of the best-selling franchises at Seventh Star Press.  Between Dark and Light will be released in eBook, softcover, and limited hardcover editions.

All editions will include interior illustrations from the award-winning Bonnie Wasson, whose cover art for the first book in the series, The Brotherhood of Dwarves, won the Artist Choice Award for Best Warrior at the 2012 Dragon*Con Art Show.

The eBook version will be available on Kindle and Nook in the coming week, followed by the softcover edition.  A pre-order window for the 75 copy limited hardcover will be announced shortly.

A blog tour in support of Between Dark and Light will be taking place in February/March of 2013.

For further information on the Brotherhood of Dwarves Series, Seventh Star Press, and its titles, please visit www.seventhstarpress.com, or the author’s site at www.daadams.com




Contact: C.C. James
Public Relations, Seventh Star Press
ccjames (at) seventhstarpress.com

Seventh Star Press is a small press publisher of speculative fiction located in Lexington Kentucky

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Blogger Spotlight: My Seryniti (also part of Worlds of Wonder Author Hop)

Today I have the pleasure of bringing you a special edition of Blogger Spotlight, which is also a part of the Worlds of Wonder Author Hop.  Most of the stops are being hosted at my own author site, but since this first day fell on a friday, and it involved a blogger interview, we thought it would be perfect to exhibit the interview here as well.  It was a pleasure interviewing Christina from My Seryniti, and I hope all of you enjoy this special Blogger Spotlight!  There is a Rafflecopter giveaway to enter, for a chance at some pretty big prizes too!
-Stephen






Blogger Spotlight #15:

1. How long has your blog been around, and what motivated you to start it in the beginning?


I actually started as a gaming blogger. I really enjoy the idea of bringing people the ins and outs, normally secrets or puzzles that I found and thought others might be looking for. I LOVE to game or did before I renewed my love of reading! My first venture into blogging really helped me to feel secure about getting a different kind of blog going. I actually switched to My Seryniti in March of 2012 with my daughter's help. We introduced all of her poetry and added a few book reviews. Then I found the wonderful book review community! That's when I felt like I really started.
 

2. Have your reasons for doing your blog changed in any way, now that you have done book blogging for awhile? 

My idea was the same from the beginning, bring everyone that reads my blog something! Whether it is a review or a cover reveal, something that makes their lives better or easier or just more fun! It's all about the customer service for me. I just love to help others and if my little corner of the internet touches someone, then I've done my job!


3. Since becoming a blog reviewer, has there been any changes in your reading preferences, as far as genres? 

Funnily enough I've read a lot more YA than I normally would. Now having a daughter who is in that young adult age she would let me know if she found something fantastic, like The Hunger Games and Twilight. Both she introduced me to! But I've really tried to stay open. I just love to read! And I'll read anything even if the genre sounds a little off to me. You never know when you'll find something you love! I'm still not into Contemporary but I'm trying to keep my mind open and I found that I absolutely LOVE Dystopian! Who knew!!?


4. Has reviewing books generally been rewarding or has it been disappointing? Do you often find yourself discovering hidden gems?

Wonderfully I have found a ton of gems! I've gone so far out of my comfort zone that I've read wonders and met some great authors! Years ago I would stick only to my favorite few authors. I've tossed that idea right out of the window and I'm loving every minute of it! My hubby has this issue currently and I'm slowly introducing him to authors that I think he'll like.
 

5. I see where you and your daughter EJ are both involved on My Seryniti. Do the two of you like the same type of books in general, or are there some distinct differences in your preferences? 

Ohhh... she reads Shakespeare! She is very much into Jane Austen also. Our genres are so totally different but it's great. She's in college so she also will let me know, like for Twilight and Hunger Games, what she's read that she's died over and I do the same for her. But my favorite genres stay around the paranormal and horror. When I need a break from reading horror I will delve into some chick lit and romance. I have yet to read Jane Austen or my daughter's current favorite, Wicked!


6. Has the blog become a fun mother/daughter activity? Any comments on this aspect? 

When she's not completely involved in college, yes! Not only does she write but she is in theatre, so needless to say she's very busy but when we can get together, like for our upcoming Zombiepocalypse, I absolutely love every minute! That's one sub genre we just can't get enough of. Zombies!


7. Young adult books have become very popular with all types of adult readers. Why do you think they’ve had such an appeal? 

Because a LOT of them are just so much fun to read! Sadly with some adult books you have wonderful plots but you may also have the heaviness of being an adult. My teenage years weren't all peachy but when you think back it's like wow, what if I could go back and do this again? These YA books do just that! And honestly that's what reading is all about, bringing you into another existence and letting you hang out for a while. I've read some seriously amazing YA this year and I honestly didn't really think that was my thing. Boy was I wrong.


8. Are there any particular kinds of characters that appeal to you? 

Strong characters! People that fight for what they believe in, no matter what the belief. Characters that learn something! I really love seeing a character grow. It just makes me happy and when you see someone grow I feel like we grow with them. 


9. Do you see any voids out there right now, in terms of a kind of character not often encountered in today’s releases that you would like to see more often? 

What a great question! Honestly I'm all for the strong woman character! Go girls!! But it would be nice to read about some more men that are the lead characters. Where did all the guys go? I've read so few where the lead character was a male. Not that I don't love strong females but my favorite character right now is Rick on Walking Dead. Can we see more like this please!? ;) Of course I haven't read much romance lately... 


10. As a blog reviewer, what do you see as the current trends in indie or traditional publishing, and using your crystal ball do you see any signs of what’s ahead in terms of popular sub-genres? 

I really enjoy fairytales. I'm sort of hoping that this trend really picks up. A good fantasy is always lovely to read! Dark Fantasy is even better but I'm thinking the emphasis may continue with the Supernatural. I've read a few Angel stories lately. I'm hoping if the trend continues then these Angels and Gods can get out of their boxes!! I'd love to see more about demons too. I haven't seen very much out there lately with demons and they also need to come out of their proverbial boxes.
 

11. If you had to give advice to authors in regards to working with book bloggers, what would you tell them?

Hmmm advice... I've received a few perfunctory emails with hardly any information on the book and no information about the author. This is the first impression! My first impression is my website and I want it to look its best! Shouldn't those emails as well? Want I enjoy is when an author really tells me about themselves, why they think I may like the book and then of course about the book! Now I realize we're all too busy to get a ton of info into each email but something that says this is who I am, this is my fabulous book and this is why I think you'd like it! All that time on that book and I get an email that doesn't have anything in it! I want to be enticed!! 


12. What have been some of your least favorite things about book blogging? 

HA! I always bite off more than I can chew!! I went from reading two books a week, to about seven! It was dragging me down. So I backed off and remembered this is for me and for the fabulous authors I've met. If I push too much nobody is going to get a good review! That's certainly not what I'm here for! AND saying no. It's so hard for me to say no but I'm learning that I have to be honest with which genres I really like and when I can have a review done! I really hate saying no... 


13. What have been some of your most rewarding aspects of book blogging?

Meeting fabulous people! I was very shy at first and didn't want to email an author! How presumptuous! They are busy people. But I realized having a blog is a way to get the word out about them and their books! Plus I'm kind of addicted to reading challenges! Another great way to get out of your comfy zone! The blogging world has such a great set of diverse people. I learn from everyone I meet and I love every minute of it!


14. And for a fun question: I see where you love spiders. (I think you would love the Sentinels (also called Aracha) in my Rising Dawn Saga, who are essentially heavenly guardians in various giant spider forms. I also was inspired by Native American lore, as well as some Germanic lore, in regards to my development of these creatures for my books.) Comment a little on the positives you find in spiders, whether from lore or real life observations. 

 Definitely sounds up my alley!! I started dreaming about spiders quite a few years ago. Some people may be a bit squeamish about that but I really like bugs so I looked them up. Although I'm not Native American that's the lore I found. The fact that they are the mothers, the creators of the universe, just struck a chord with me! I paint, write a little, scrapbook, play in paintshop, anything to keep my creative juices going and when I'm not doing something my little spiders let me know! I just feel better when I'm creating. When anyone finds a spider they come tell me. It is gently pushed outside, or if it's in its own cubby somewhere I normally leave them alone. The symbol of mystery, power and growth really resonates with me and I'm definitely not going to squash that under my shoes!!



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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Book Trailer Reveal: Gwen Perkins' The Jealousy Glass


Today I have the pleasure of sharing the brand new trailer for Gwen Perkins' new novel The Jealousy Glass, the follow-up to her indie press hit The Universal Mirror!  These titles are from a press we consider family here at SSP, Hydra Publications, a great indie press spearheaded by that maverick and all-around good guy Frank Hall.  Below you will find the brand new trailer, information on the book and author, an international giveaway, AND and excerpt!  So get acquainted with a great author from a wonderful press and enjoy!
-Stephen








About The Jealousy Glass

"We came to stop a war before it came to Cercia. And it seems the war has come to us."

Responsibility and patriotism spur Cercia's new leader, Quentin, to protect his beloved country at all costs and he assigns Asahel and Felix to serve as ambassadors and secret agents to Anjdur. Their journey quickly turns awry and Asahel and Felix barely escape a devastating shipwreck, walk a tightrope of political tension, and rescue an empress before they learn they must face an enemy closer to them than they thought.

Will they be able to uncover an assassin's plot before it's too late? Will Asahel be able to unearth a secret that is vital to their mission? Will Cercia survive its own revolution? In The Jealousy Glass, Perkins boldly continues a series of unforgettable characters and events that will leave you begging for more.

AMAZON PURCHASE LINKS:

The Jealousy Glass: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AFESVVQ

The Universal Mirror: http://www.amazon.com/Universal-Mirror-Gwen-Perkins/dp/0615596517



GIVEAWAY: (International prize)

In conjunction with the release of The Jealousy Glass, Gwen is running a giveaway for an autographed, first edition paperback of The Universal Mirror through Goodreads at: http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/37726-the-universal-mirror

The giveaway officially ends on December 21, 2012—the author's birthday and supposed date for the oncoming apocalypse!




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Gwen Perkins has always regarded the deep rainforest of the Olympic Peninsula as the one place that she feels most at home. Gwen grew up in small towns across the Pacific Northwest, going to slug races and strawberry festivals when she wasn't scribbling on any scrap of paper she could come by. She boasts the dubious distinction of going to a public school with only eight students, learning Irish sea chanteys from a man who sang with the Clancy Brothers, and catching tadpoles during classes.

Her adult life is generally just about as much fun.

She lives in the City of Destiny (better known as Tacoma, Washington). Her hobbies include wandering beaches, baking pies and lampworking. In between all of this, Gwen has written two novels in the Artifacts of Empire series: The Universal Mirror and The Jealousy Glass. The Universal Mirror has been nominated for a 2013 Endeavour Award.

She is presently at work on future novels in the Artifacts of Empire series while working on another series in collaboration with Wilson Fabián Saravia.




Excerpt from The Jealousy Glass

From Chapter 1

The white monster swooped down.
           
All that Asahel could see was a cloud of pale feathers as the Rukh lashed out at the cannon that had fired.  Screams throbbed around him as the Rukh lifted, golden talons now rusted with blood.  Broken bodies lay on the wood, ribs smashed by the weight of unearthly claws.  The men were too distant for Asahel to put faces to as he fell to the deck, heart pounding at the sound of the wings beating once more.
           
The Rukh dove again, its beak rending the ship's prow.  The heavy timbers cracked like bones against the pressure.  A slow tearing sound cut through the haze of chaos settling over the ship as panic took hold.  Spice spilled out of the hold the beast had torn open.  Pungent scents of oil and cedar clouded the air as chests smashed against the bow, breaking apart into the water below.
           
Asahel crawled on his knees toward the heart of the battle, his eyes stinging red from the spices in the air.  The Rukh thrashed as another cannon fired its shot, black powder belching into the fading light.  Angry cries from the monster above filled his ears as it lurched down, plucking a sailor off the deck and squeezing its talons tightly around the man's midsection.  Another series of screams began as the ship's port side blazed into flames, but he kept moving toward starboard, trying to reach the first cannon that had been fired.
           
"Zuane!"  He called, hoping that the captain was near.  When that failed, Asahel shouted out for others.  "Felix!  Nicolas!"  His knee edged forward as he crawled, the coarse wool of his trousers suddenly damp.  He looked down to see the blood of the fallen pooling in the cracks of the boards.
           
He was near the side of the Serenissma.  Asahel stood, crouching each time the Rukh let out another shriek.  Black smoke surrounded him, choking his lungs as he turned.  The white beast had grown dim as the wall of fire leapt up, flames feeding on the ship's planking.
           
"Soames—" 
           
Asahel turned but did not see who could have called him.
           
"Where are you?"  He whispered, afraid to raise his voice.  He saw a pair of hands gripping the railing.  He reached out, his own strong fingers clutching them and pulling the man toward the deck.  He could feel Felix shudder as he came up over the rail, his thin body battered.  The older man began to cough almost immediately as Asahel helped him back to the deck.  They stared through the flames at the carnage.
           
The Serenissma wrenched sharply to the right.  The Rukh cawed as it rose, white wings blotting out what was left of the sun.  Water splashed across the wood, shooting up from the hold as the lower decks flooded.
           
"We've got to get out of here," Asahel said.
           
"There's no rafts." Felix coughed and leaned back against the rail.  His eyes were bright with a fear the other man had never seen. 
           
"Aye."  The fire was close enough to warm them both.  Which will it be?  Asahel thought.  Burning or drowning?
           
"I can't swim."
           
"Sure, and now you tell me."  Asahel steadied his expression for Felix's sake, more nervous than he let on.  The Soames family had been merchants and traders for generations.  Unlike Felix, Asahel had been raised at water's edge.
           
"I never expected it to come up."  Felix grimaced.  "I know.  We're on a boat.  Clearly, I was being an optimist."
           
"Ship," Asahel corrected gently, looking over his shoulder at the waves.
           
"Grave—if we don't do something shortly."  Felix inhaled, his body clenched as he turned his back on the flames.  The Serenissma was moving downwards rapidly.  The remaining sailors leapt from the deck, disappearing into the churning tides as they plummeted through the darkness.  He looked at Asahel, his mouth twisting into a crooked grin.  "No time like the present."
           
Felix climbed back up on the railing, sweat trickling down his forehead, his skin mottled with bruise and shadow.  Asahel followed, his own ungainly body slower to take action.  The two men looked at one another a last time, then back at the burning ship.
           
With one breath, they jumped.

*  *  *


You can find an audio-only dramatization of the entire first chapter for your use at: https://www.box.com/s/a997c064d4539c929739




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