Tag Archives: Quintspinner

July Rafflecopter – The Great Give-Away

6 Jul

 Fussy Rafflecopter double_logos_04BAD3A669288

Ever hear of a “Snake Gun”?

snake gallery-thumbnails.php 

Ever seen one?

quetion mark gallery-thumbnails.php

Me neither.

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But I am fortunate enough to have been accepted into a rather elite group of authors “eNovel Authors at Work

(and by “elite” I mean authors who have proven to have

a very high standard of writing and publishing).

 

How did I earn such an invitation you ask?

? ? ?

 

No idea actually, but I’m eternally grateful to

one awesome lady of the pen and best-selling author, Jackie Weger,

who is both founder of the above mentioned group

AND owner of the legendary Snake Gun.

(Authors can be SUCH a rowdy bunch and sometimes deadly force

needs to be threatened and even enacted to keep us in line…)

 

Anyhoo, I digress.

In less than two years, eNovel Authors at Work has grown to 44 members from all around the world – members who write in all genres and offer fabulous reading choices to readers

(also from all around the world).

 

HOWEVER,  for the month of July,

all you lucky readers are getting daily chances

to win our BOOKS AND GIFT CERTIFICATES

(for FREE, FREE, FREE!!)

(Yup! – ahem … my little ol’ QUINTSPINNER – A Pirate’s Quest

is in the offering…)

This all happens during our promotional partnership

with another awesome site,

The Fussy Librarian.

Fussy librarian_homepageThe Fussy Librarian Rafflecopter

July 2 – 31, 2015

Oh my Gawd!

This is excitin’ stuff!!!

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And it’s only a couple of clicks away to get an entry for yourself for a chance to win books as well as gift cards!

(How easy is that, I ask you??)

 

Just click the icon or URL below for a direct link to the month’s activities.

G’wan – you know you wanna …

Who knows?

Might even be a Snake Gun in the offerin’ …

Fussy Rafflecopter double_logos_04BAD3A669288 

http://www.thefussylibrarian.com/for-readers/giveaways/

 

 

To learn more about eNovel Authors at Work,

please visit our website:

http://enovelauthorsatwork.com/

or follow us on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/eNovelAuthors

 

An Angry Rant from a (Very) Dissatisfied Customer

14 Jan

Hey Bell Media! And The Source! And Apple! Well actually, here’s a call out to Mr. George Cope , CEO of Bell Media Canada, and Mr. Tim Cook , present CEO of Apple. (You gentlemen DO have a Google alert set up on your names and companies, right?) You look like very nice men and obviously you are both very savvy computer/tech/ business guys to have gotten where you are, so I’m hoping you will see past my “mad” in this rant, and take notice of my complaint therein. This may be of some interest to you ….

Here’s the scoop: I am a confirmed PC user who over the past 2 years has been slowly converting to Apple, via my iphone (gift from the kids), and MacPro laptop (gift from Hot Stuff Hubby). All through this past Christmas, I was receiving emails from The Source (and I’m not gonna link that, ‘cause I’m mad at The Source, too, so won’t be sending any readers to that site via ‘the Source’s’ link!). Anyhoo, the emails were advertising the Apple 16 GB ipad mini 3 (in the new color of gold, no less) for $99! My books to this point had been available exclusively on Amazon, but I was toying with the idea of also putting them in Apple’s online store, intending to write my next book directly on my ipad mini.

I tried to order one online. Nope. Stores only.

I phoned my local ‘The Source’ store (2 of them, actually) only to be told that the special was only for a handful of select stores in all of Canada (and we’re a damn big country). However, I was told that I could have my local store order one in, as long as I agreed to sign a 2 year contract with Bell for the device. Hell, yessiree, I’ll do that!

Three weeks later, (yesterday actually) I got the call from a very nice employee at ‘The Source’ store, telling me my ipad mini 3 had arrived and that I should come on down to sign up for the Bell contract. Now, apart from my job as a writer, my day job is that of a self-employed sole charge physiotherapist in a busy clinic. This means that I had to clear my schedule of patients for a one and a half hour slot (mucho lost income) to go do this. No matter. I wanted the mini. No more lugging the comparatively HEAVY Macbook Pro around on holidays with me so I could continue to write whilst away.

Well, jumping to the conclusion of this sad story, after several attempts, the nice man at The Source was unable to get me signed up. He put in a call to some kind of Help line and was told that he would be unable to sign me up for a contract with Bell because I had not had a cellular contract with Bell within the last 90 days.

HUH???

Well, says I, I have NEVER had a cellular contract with Bell, let alone within the last 90 days, but hey, that’s why I’m here – I WANT to become a Bell customer and I’m fricking frothing at the mouth to sign a 2 year contract with them so I can have my wonderful, light-as-a-feather, portable-as-hell ipad mini 3.

C’mon, C’MON, GIVE ME THE CONTRACT – WHERE DO I SIGN??

Help line guy says, yeah you can sign her up but only for the full purchase price of the mini 3 – an outrageous sum of just pennies under $600 CAD). Not available no way, no how, for the advertised price of $99. And apparently ‘The Source’ is only allowed to sell Apple products in conjunction with Bell contracts.

Besides seeming to me, to be just short of a fraudulent marketing ploy (as there was no disclaimer or restrictions policy outlined anywhere other than to say “see local store for details”), this is an EPIC MARKETING FAILURE. Not only did Apple and The Source and Bell fail to make a sale (albeit a small one, but still…) but they now have an unhappy customer who writes. And blogs. And who has followers who will share. (You will, right?)

Now I want to compare this to Apple’s biggest competitor, AMAZON and the amazing marketing move of Jeff Bezos . Amazon has sold its tablets AT COST to customers, who then become Amazon converts and buy a bazillion dollars worth of stuff from Amazon, more than making up for the mark-up loss incurred with the sale of the tablet.

PURE. MARKETING. GENIUS.

(Hey Jeff, if you’re reading this, feel free to leave a comment!)

Just thought I’d share this tip with you Bell Media, The Source, and Apple. Give it some thought.

Oh, and if any of you afore-mentioned three want to make amends and make the $99 purchase with 2 year contract happen for me, well, I’m willing to bury the hatchet. And I’d blog about that, too.

In the meantime, I’m feeling as snarly and revengeful about this whole thing as Mrs. Hanley was when she made her infamous stew, which revolted some readers (“Eeww! I can’t believe she did that!”), and enthralled others (“OMG! I just LOVE Mrs. Hanley and this story! I can’t believe she did that!”).

The stew scene is in Chapter 73 in QUINTSPINNER – A PIRATE’S QUEST.

Quintspinner - A Pirate's Quest

Quintspinner – A Pirate’s Quest

 

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, why not buy the book? (C’mon, you KNOW the suspense and the curiosity is now gonna drive you crazy, don’cha?)

It’s $.99. On Amazon everywhere.

That’s 99 cents, not even $99 (dollars) like the mystical, non-accessable-to-me-ipad mini 3 offer. And I bet you’re gonna LOVE Mrs. Hanley’s stew scene!

There. I feel (slightly) better now. I’m going to charge up my little ASUS PC netbook (which is pretty portable and which has a wonderfully responsive keyboard) and then I’m off to compare Amazon tablets because I have a reading/writing holiday coming up …. Thanks for listening.

 

The 12 Blogs of Christmas

13 Dec
The 12 Blogs of Christmas

The 12 Blogs of Christmas

Hello everyone! This holiday season I’m honored and excited to be one of a group of 12 authors who have come together to offer you up some great reading. This special project, titled “The12 Blogs of Christmas”, has been organized by my friend and best selling author, Martin Crosbie.

Here’s how it works: between now and Christmas, each day we will be hosting and posting a different bio, author picture, and a blog post from one of this group of very talented and hand-picked authors: R.J. Crayton, Jamie Lee Scott, Heather Haley, Jennifer Ellis, Helga Zeiner, Laurie Boris, M,L. Gardner, Roberta Kagan, Sarah Lane, and Wendy McClelland, and Martin Crosbie.

I know! What a fab group, right? So here is my contribution. Thanks for dropping by!

Getting Into The Christmas Spirit …

Bah, Humbug!

To steal that popular line, it is Hot Stuff Hubby’s summation of what he also refers to as “a Hallmark Holiday”. The rest of us call it Christmas.

For anyone who has anything for sale, the Christmas retail season is like bottled oxygen to an astronaut in a Space Station – absolutely necessary in order to survive the rest of the year.

Not a particularly religious man, Hot Stuff nevertheless laments the overshadowing of the original intent of fellowship and gratitude of the season, with that of a glut of retail activity.

Personally, I love the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. I think I must have been a magpie in a former life because I love all things sparkly – twinkling lights, reflective ornaments, the ropes of flashy tinsel, diamonds (ahem, are you reading this, Hot Stuff?), and such.

I love Christmas music, especially the more traditional carols and hymns perfectly harmonized and performed by choirs – I feel no shame in humming along out loud as they are pumped out of the speakers in the mall stores; I thrive on the smells of Christmas baking – sugar and cinnamon, butter and raisins, warm gingerbread – and can often be seen hanging out around the local bakery counter until the clerks get a little nervous at my continuous presence; and I take personal pride in decorating my home and yard as though it were a marker for NASA to be easily seen from outer space.

But this year is a  little different.

  • My family is grown and gone and have moved away to the farthest points possible. They won’t be home to appreciate my normal decorative efforts.
  • An early Arctic vortex unexpectedly moved across the Canadian prairies where I live and parked itself over top of my house, and as much as I want to have my yard lit up in a display that rivals a summer fireworks display, I am loathe to be out there in -25, tying strands of lights to my trees.
  • And finally, sinking into a twinkle-deprived depression, I didn’t feel the need to haul my pre-lit tree up from the basement, rearrange the furniture to accommodate it, and transform my living spaces into a picture of perfect Yuletide-ness.

I curled up in front of my fireplace with my own Grumpy Cat, Sergio, for the practical warmth of it, rather than to immerse myself in the contentment of the holiday season.

Sergio: Anyone ready for a cuddle with me by the fire?

Sergio: Anyone ready for a cuddle with me by the fire?

 

Christmas was creeping up on me and I had not done any preparation, including getting my own writing ready for a Christmas push. I avoided visiting the mall and the bakery, and my playlist was a jumble of Country rock and techno.

Until the phone call.

Hot Stuff’s side of the family phoned to say they would be coming to stay the entire Christmas WEEK with us for the first time ever. The parents, their two grown children, and … their two Border collies.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love these relatives. They are FUN people with deadly senses of humor and the week with them will be non-stop entertainment with plenty of culinary pleasures, liquid refreshments, and laughter. I was delighted to hear they were coming, although the news that there would be two hyperactive dogs in my house for the entire week left me a little less joyful (but believe me, I am not as distressed about that news as is Grumpy Cat Sergio…).

TWO dogs?? For a WHOLE week?? You gotta be kiddin’ me! I think I’m gonna be sick…

And so the phone call galvanized me into a furious whirlwind of action. I rearranged my furniture like I was a set of triplet interior designers, I relieved my local hardware store of their entire supply of exterior extension cords with which to light up my house and yard, and I brought in a two week supply of food, drink, and baking goods. I even have my Christmas playlist wired so that the music fills my house AND yard. (Gotta love those wireless speakers.)

I may have permanently injured my Achilles tendon hauling that damned tree up from the basement in such a hurry, but no worries. It’s a small price to pay for having rediscovered my Christmas spirit. The busy preparation is done and I have only to sit at my laptop, rear glued to a chair, nostrils filled with the sweet scent of fresh cinnamon sticky buns baking in my oven, and get to work on my next manuscript in my Quintspinner series. Too late for Christmas sales, but maybe for the post-Christmas slump in late January when there is not so much competition? I’m sure I read a post somewhere claiming that there is such a thing.

And I think my Christmas spirit may be infectious. Hot Stuff Hubby has mentioned that the tree does look kinda empty, that maybe we should go shopping, and oh-by-the-way did I know that there are a couple of neighbors who will be spending Christmas alone – do we have room at the table for a few more?

You bet.

I love Christmas. Best wishes to all of you. May you be filled with the feelings of joy and friendship that is Christmas, however you see it. And in case you need a cheap-like-borsch last minute gift for a loved one, well there you go. Hit that link.

Merry Christmas! Ho, Ho, Ho!

Blog – Adventure #3 – Is that a Snake you’re wearing?

19 Oct


When I was still in High School, I volunteered to be the biology lab assistant. Our biology lab was an interactive one and hosted many animals such as a rabbit, cages of white mice, aquariums full of tropical fish, salamanders, mealy worms, and most notably, a cage for a 6 foot long snake.

 
A six foot long Bull Snake to be exact.

 
Bull snakes are members of the constrictor class of snakes and therefore not poisonous. This snake was pretty docile (read: well fed) as far as snakes go, and she would routinely completely ignore me as I lifted the lid of her cage to lift her out and put her in another container while I changed her water source and dumped clean wood chips into one corner of her cage. In reality, I had no idea if she was in fact female, but I nicknamed her Heidi because for the most part she liked to burrow under the wood chips and thus was completely camouflaged and hidden for most of the time.

 
On another biology corollary – stay with me because these two plot lines are going to intersect – one day, I decided to impress a boy who had caught my eye. He was, in my teenaged eyes and opinion, a ruggedly handsome fellow with a bad-boy personality that I found irresistible. I needed something to catch his interest. Something that would make me stand out from the crowd of the much more physically attractive females that flocked around him. And before you judge me, let me point out that this desire to be attractive and noticed is a pre-wired, basic biological reaction in all juveniles of all animal species, humans included, so lacking a pretty plumage or beautiful singing voice, I substituted.

 
My idea: I would “wear” the snake around my waist, and casually walk past the object of my intended affections as he was at his locker which was conveniently situated right outside the door of the biology lab. How cool would that be??
Heidi co-operated and wrapped herself a couple of times around my waist. I think the warmth of my midsection was attractive to her and once in place, she traveled contentedly there without any further movement from her. Thus wrapped and strapped with said fashion accoutrement, I casually strode out into the hallway and past Bad Boy at his locker.

 
Heidi had the intended effect.

 
Bad Boy spun on his heels as I walked past and called out to me. I stopped. I turned. I smiled. He smiled back. We talked. He was visibly impressed. We made plans to meet in the biology lab the next day after classes.

 
Hoo boy! This was gonna be good. As I returned to the lab to continue with my animal caretaker duties, my head was swimming with romantic thoughts. I was daydreaming so hard that lust had made me careless.

 
I was in the mouse room, chopping up cheese and chunks of apples for the mice when a piece of apple shot away across the counter. As I reached out to grab it, there was this blur of movement and color that snaked out (bad pun, I know) across the counter in pursuit of that same piece of apple. It was Heidi!

 
In my mind it happened in slow motion but in reality, it happened in a micro second: I reached toward the piece of apple and she sprang towards it, her mouth unhinging and opening clear back into her body, fangs poised. Although non-poisonous, constrictors of all sorts still come equipped with a set of fangs for capturing and holding their prey while they first constrict and then devour their meal. She and her fangs reached that piece of apple a fraction of a second before my fingers did.

 
It was with shaking hands that I unfurled her from my waist and deposited her back in her own cage.

 
Although I’m pretty sure bull snakes don’t eat apples, I had completely forgotten that I still had her wrapped around my waist there in the mouse room, and as anyone who has ever been close to many mice can attest to, there is a definite STRONG mousey smell around them. The combination of intense mouse odor and the sight of a small object skittering across the counter had activated her hunting reflex. My hand had nearly become her unintended target.

 
The next day, Bad Boy showed up, but I could not bring myself to handle Heidi, and without my snake fashion statement, my attractiveness was lost upon him. Just as well. Snakes smell, too.

 
There have been a few times, while on holiday with my family, that we have come across photo ops to handle exotic animals. When it comes to having a large constrictor in the picture, I prefer to be the photographer.

My stepson and snake; I'm the photographer...

My stepson and snake; I’m the photographer…

 

Oh yeah, and for those of you still reading this far, I used that close-up-and-personal experience of a snake attack in my second novel, DEADLY MISFORTUNE, with the event expanded to be bigger and badder, of course. Curious?

You can get a copy here: http://authl.it/B00KYUAZCY

Deadly Misfortune

Work, Work, Work … (or “Getting Research Material For Your Novel – Part One”)

25 Sep

Hiya! Those of you who follow me on Facebook, Twitter, here on this blog, or who have read my novels in my Quintspinner series (you’re my – ahem –  favorites by the way) will know that the series is set in the historical setting of the West Indies of the early 1700’s.

Tropical sunset - Romance at its best.

Tropical sunset – Romance at its best.

Tropical islands. Shipwrecks. Pirates.

All of those things that bring to mind to romance and excitement of Pirates of the Caribbean or of the old Errol Flynn movies.

 
When I considered writing the series, that’s about all that I had in mind. I didn’t realize that the historical genre is considered by many in the writing sphere to be one of the hardest genres to write in, as it requires not only a great story and captivating characters, but also an accurate portrayal of life in the time era in which the writer has chosen to set his/her story. And what did a prairie girl like me know about sailing the seven seas? Well mostly that I liked being on the water and that I wasn’t particularly prone to sea sickness. However, it did soon occur to me that I had had more than just a few real-life adventures of my own to draw from, and since I am frequently asked about such events, I’m going to share these stories in a mini-series right here!

 
ADVENTURE #1 – THE ORCA ENCOUNTER (Or “A Whale of An Adventure!”)

 
“Whale Watching off the Sunny Coast of Vancouver Island” the glossy brochure proclaimed. I thought that sounded like the perfect blend of holiday and excitement, and of course, it promised to provide the mandatory (in my mind) educational component. Our family of eight and a friend of my stepson’s were all going to be on Vancouver Island for a week in July, and I was looking for quality ways to spend our time there.

 
“Quality,” in my mind, meant something new and different, usually something that the kids would never have done on their own. Whale watching from a dinghy seemed to fit the bill.

 
Pods of Orcas, commonly known as “Killer whales,” swam around the tip of Vancouver Island, a few miles off shore, every summer, and enterprising sailors turned the opportunity into a summer tourist bonanza. Pictures in the brochure showed a boat tethered at the pier, full of smiling people looking up at the camera — it certainly was no action shot, but it was something that all of us could do together, given that there was a wide range in the children’s age from eight to sixteen.

 

 
My sons groaned and rolled their eyes when I handed out the tickets. “Do we have to do this?” they whined, “Couldn’t we just meet you back here in a couple of hours? What fun is sitting in a smelly boat all afternoon going to be? I betcha’ it’ll stink like rotting fish. You won’t like that, Mom. And look, it doesn’t even look like there’s enough room in it to get up and move around.”

 
“Attendance is not optional,” I replied, “These are not ordinary whales, you know. These are Orcas.”

 
“Yeah, but there’s no guarantee we’ll even see any,” my son pointed out, “It says so in this stupid pamphlet right here.” And he stabbed his finger at it.

 
“I don’t see why we had to get up so early just to come here,” my stepson complained, “when we’re just going to fall back asleep during the boat ride anyway.”

 
“If nothing else, time together in this small, smelly boat will allow all of us to bond, my darlings,” I replied with a tight smile, hoping that the look in my eyes would tell them that the discussion had ended.

 
At the dock, the oversized Zodiac raft looked safe enough. It was no more than a glorified dinghy with a couple of small motors attached to the back and four wooden seats spanning its width. We were fitted with bright orange full-body life preserver suits by the “captain” and his helper.

The family gathered to embark on "Whale Watching. " The body language just screams "excitement " doesn't it?

The family gathered to embark on Whale Watching.
The body language just screams “excitement”, doesn’t it?

“Phew!” my daughter gasped, “These smell worse than the boat, and they are way too hot!” She pulled hers off her shoulders and peeled it down to her waist.

 
“No one goes,” the captain bellowed, “until everyone has their suits on, right up to the last snap and zipper!” My daughter reluctantly pulled hers up again.

 
“Thank God, no one will see us in these things,” my stepdaughter, pouted.

 
This “Whale Watching” expedition was quickly turning into a teenager’s nightmare – being forced to wear really uncool clothes, having a crabby guy in charge who yelled at them, and having absolutely nothing to do but sit still, crammed together shoulder to shoulder while listening to him for the next two hours.

 
The nine of us, as well as three strangers, climbed into the boat, all decked out in the snazzy, tangerine full-body life preserver suits. We joked about being “astronauts” and “Pillsbury Dough boys in Hallowe’en costumes,” and the boys jostled for the outside seats on the benches.

 
Outside the harbour, the captain opened up the motors and we tore into the ocean waves, all of us bouncing wildly about in the boat. This part of the ride was exhilarating enough that even my teenagers, who were usually too “cool” to get excited about much, hung on for dear life.

 
We were about a half an hour into our boat ride, with the shoreline having disappeared from sight, when our captain yelled, “There they are!” He pointed to the ocean horizon where we could just make out several spouting geysers amid tiny points of black dorsal fins.

 
He carefully maneuvered our boat through the four-foot waves, to a spot just ahead of the traveling pod and then killed the motor. He explained that it was provincial law that boats had to maintain a certain distance from all known marine life when their motors were running. Sitting with “dead” motors allowed us to be legally closer to the whales.

 
Even the boys were paying attention now. One Orca surfaced about 20 feet from our boat, spouted and dove. Everyone in the boat cheered with excitement. Even from 20 feet away the Orcas looked enormous.

Whale #2
It dawned on me that Orcas were fierce carnivorous predators, known to hunt in packs, and here we were, sitting a mere two and a half feet above the ocean’s surface in an inflatable boat!

Without warning, our boat shuddered and the starboard side shot out of the water. Grabbing the seats to keep ourselves from sliding sideways, we screamed as a mountainous wall of glistening black dorsal fin rose out of the water, tilting our boat and pushing the starboard side even higher.

One second later, a waterfall of freezing ocean water crashed down upon us, nearly swamping our boat, as the huge Orca spouted and then dove under the boat, bumping it again as it passed beneath.

“BAIL! For God’s sake, BAIL!” the captain roared at us, and we desperately grabbed for the plastic containers tied to the seats. Ocean water sloshed up to our knees. The captain started the motors and we bailed as fast as we could.

He steered the boat back in the direction that we had come from and we roared away from the spot. We were all still shaking from the adrenaline rush when, a few moments later, the motors whined, sputtered, and died.

“Oh no! We’ve sucked in kelp! The motors are plugged!” the captain yelled. He radioed our position to the coast guard while we continued to madly bail out the boat.

Drenched as we were, and in the ocean wind, our hands soon cooled to the point that it was difficult to hold onto the bailing containers. The orange suits that we had earlier joked about were now conserving our body temperatures, as we sat huddled together, awaiting rescue.

As the captain continued to work feverishly on the motors, we were blown towards a rocky crag that rose out of the water. Land! Even though it was covered in sea bird droppings and smelled horrible, it looked good to me, but not so to our captain. “If we hit that, it’ll puncture the boat and likely capsize us,” he warned. “Be ready to jump into the water!”

As we veered towards its edge, a seeming miracle happened: one motor sputtered back to life. Ever so slowly, we made our way around the rocky crag and back towards the shore.

An hour later, we spilled from the Zodiac and onto firm dry land, our eyes stinging and our faces coated white from the ocean salt. Back at their office, as we wearily hung up our orange suits, I noticed their motto printed in large black letters on a wall poster. It said, “Our Adventure Tours – More Than You Could Ever Hope For!” No kidding.

Stay tuned for next week’s installment:

Up Close and Personal With Creatures of the Deep

 
(Ahem, attention please: the above is a true story. You’ll find several similar adventures in my Quintspinner series, most of it fictional, except of course, for the parts that are real. You’ll have to figure out which is which for yourself. And you can get started on that adventure right here! http://amzn.to/1kLuqi9

G’wan. You know you wanna’. It helps me fund my next fishing trip. Thanks for reading.

How to Meet Deadlines and Remain Sane

4 Apr

I meant to post these thoughts some time ago, but am only now getting around to it. Oh and by the way, this post was also posted over on http://fabulosityreads.blogspot.ca/2014/03/how-to-meet-deadlines-remain-sane-by_11.html#.Uz8L1VdnA2s. (A fabulous blog, true to its name!) Somehow I met the deadline for that… 😀

My name is Dianne and I am a procrastinator – a busy one, but nevertheless I am an authentic procrastinator. Image
Yet somehow I manage to work at a fulltime day job, assist Hot Stuff Hubby with a part-time endeavor, direct an annual 2 week stint of dinner theatre, take care of two very large yards year round, sit on three community boards, keep in touch with 6 grown children and dispense motherly wisdom on a daily, sometimes hourly basis (yes, I am, as well, a hovering helicopter parent with 30 plus years of experience), and I write novels. Sandwiched in between all of this big stuff is the little stuff – the “crack filler stuff” that holds my life together. (More on this later.)

 

Know this truism and Rule of The Universe: WORK EXPANDS TO FILL THE AMOUNT OF TIME ALLOTTED TO IT.

It always has and always will.

This is actually an unwritten law from the higher realms of Quantum physics. (C’mon, stick with me as I ramble on here – it will soon make sense, and you will be able to brag to your friends about your literary choices by casually saying something to the effect of, “Yeah, so I was reading this blog post on Quantum physics the other day ….” Now how impressive would THAT be?)

Model, Science, Mike, Symbol, AndrewBut I digress. It’s all about the energy not being able to be created or destroyed. Which means there will always be stuff to get done. Always. You will never get caught up. All the great minds in physics realize this. Just ask them – physicists like Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking. Ok, well maybe it’s too late to chat up ol’ Albert but Steve, if you’re reading this post, feel free to leave a comment at the end.    Science, People, Einstein, Cartoon The point of the Rule of The Universe is that in order to meet deadlines, you must put your tasks on The List (see point #1 below), and assign a start and stop time to each one. Do this and It. Will. Get. Done. The trick is to get through The List without bleeding every last drop of energy out of you.

Here’s how I manage to meet deadlines in view of the aforementioned rule, while remaining calm and a little bit shy of crazy:

1.Make THE LIST. Here’s how. Get a calendar. No, not just the one in your phone, although that’s a dandy way to get audible reminders of how much time you’ve got left. Get a paper one as well, or at least a piece of paper and write down the deadlines in the spaces of the appropriate days. Estimate, realistically, how many minutes/hours/days it will take you to do the task and, working backwards from the deadline date, write the start time down.

Oh, and seriously? Capturing all of the things/events/issues/meetings/promised outcomes on paper makes them much easier to keep track of. This in itself relieves an unbelievable amount of mental stress. You no longer have to attempt to lasso all of those thoughts and mental memos racing and banging around inside the old noggin, which is kind of like trying to herd an armload of cats into your car for a trip to the vet for yearly vaccinations. (Cats instinctively know what you’re planning. Think only kind thoughts towards them.)

Brown, Cat, Kitten, Kitty, Illustration

2.Stay focused and devote the time solely to the task at hand. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you finish something if you have only a set amount of time in which to do it, and you’ll be surprised at how good the wash of relief feels when you can tick a task off your list of things-to-be-done.

Ever get a phone call from friends who want to drop by in 15 minutes? Suddenly you can do the sink full of dishes, or at least hide them in the dishwasher, vacuum the cat hair off the couches, wipe the last meal’s crumbs from your kitchen counters, sweep the floors, toss the smelly bag of garbage into the outside can, and put your feet up, looking like you have nothing else to do for the evening, before the doorbell even rings. Under normal circumstances, those household tasks could have eaten up an entire afternoon.

Home, Education, People, Lady, Woman3.Break up overwhelming tasks into manageable bits and set a goal for yourself with a time limit. One hour. One day. Maybe one week, although that’s almost too big – it leaves lots of squirming room for those of us who have an issue with staying on task. Hoping to write your next novel and get it finished in this decade? (I speak from personal experience in trying to get Book Three in my Quintspinner Series done.) How about writing 100 words at every meal? That’s not asking a lot. How many times have you been asked to fill in an online form for your book and in doing so, must leave a 100 word description? All of a sudden 100 words fly onto the page in a matter of a few sentences, and before you know it, you’re OVER your allotted limit. (Take this #3 point for example. It’s 143 words up to this point, not counting this sentence. How easy was that?)

Pencil, Happy, Jumping, School, Writing4.Learn to say “No.” And practice saying it out loud. There IS a practical limit to how many tasks a non-super-human being can take on and still retain some semblance of sanity. Pass that limit, and unmet deadlines will fall by the wayside like heat-struck guards at the palace gates. 

Old, Sign, Stop, Office, People, Man

5.Set rewards for yourself, to be enjoyed at the end of tasks. Rewards are the crack-filler stuff that stops me from fragmenting. (See? I promised that I would get to this part.) Rewards can be as decadent as a glass of wine, some white chocolate, and a soak in the hot tub, or as practical as watching a favorite TV show, reading for pleasure, or indulging in a hobby.

Woman, Tan, Watering, Garden, Spring

However you choose to time-manage your commitments, make sure that they leave you with a feeling of enjoyment, or at least some level of satisfaction upon completion.  Otherwise it’s just an expenditure of energy on matter that doesn’t matter. But that’s another lecture on a subset of Quantum physics, best saved for another time. I’d love to hear from you on how you effectively meet YOUR deadlines.  Now go get that calendar.

School, Black, Notebook, Icon, Note

A 12 Step Program for Authors

3 Mar

Image

Hello, my name is Dianne Greenlay( remember me from my last post, way back, last fall?) and I am a techno-nimcompoop.

Well, I have just released another novel (released three new books, actually, but more about that further on.) and I have not been gone far, just been quietly in the background, soaking up all of the good advice from other authors’ blogs. And now it’s time to pay back.

One of the topics that is often discussed in the online world of authors is whether KDP Select has lost its effectiveness or not. I have used KDP’s free days twice in the past for my novel, QUINTSPIINNER  http://amzn.to/SvbVyx and had lukewarm success with that. There were 2100 downloads the first time and slightly less than that the second time. These results may have been due to my aforementioned state of nincompoopedness about such things, or maybe the type of story (but who, I ask you, who wouldn’t be interested in an edge-of-your-seat historical action novel with some hot romance thrown in?)However, never one to say “Whoa” in a tough spot, I have just come off of a two day promo ( my remaining 2 days) and THIS time I had over 14,000 downloads of QUINTSPINNER, and for the time it was free, it ranked #1 in the Free list for Fantasy, #3 in romance, #3 in action/adventure, #1 in Sea Adventures, and #1 in Teens. In view of this, I offer to share the following:

What I did:

  1. Read about successful authors and their thoughts on their blogs, like Debbie Young http://offtheshelfbookpromotions.wordpress.com/2013/02/21/how-to-sell-more-books-write-more-books/ and those who had amazing numbers of downloads with KDP (ie Martin Crosbie, BEST-SELLING author of MY TEMPORARY LIFE http://bit.ly/13yMhDE) , and Joel Friedlander’s one stop shopping advice blog Carnival of The Indies  http://bit.ly/XMMgs1 , and I often asked their advice.
  2. Followed said advice (mostly). I looked up an extensive list that had been passed on to me, of links to promo sites, and made my own list of notes as to which ones would be a good fit. Some sites require at least eighteen 4 and 5 star reviews (had that J), some require a couple of weeks’ lead time while others only a day or two.
  3. I did a promo push about 2 weeks before my KDP days, registering my free days on a mixture of free exposure sites, and also spending $150 on the paid-for sites. Some of this money went towards booking a couple of upcoming paid-for spots for book two in the Quintspinner series, DEADLY MISFORTUNE http://amzn.to/SvbVyx .
  4. Tweeted and retweeted the free announcement and links over the two days, probably annoying everyone of my twerps, but what the heck – I really wanted to make this work.
  5. Checked my download numbers compulsively. (I am a great believer in the power of positive thinking and I think I may have actually willed the numbers to keep going up.)

What I didn’t do:

  1. I didn’t do much Facebook connecting. I know there are many lovely and kind authors out there but it seems that most of my FB connections are just that – authors, not readers – and we all try to buy each other’s books, but really, my Kindle is nearly maxed out with books that I struggle to find the time to read, and I’m sure that I’m no exception (in between my day job, my writing time, and book marketing time, reading time for myself is a very guilty pleasure these days).
  2. I didn’t blog (it had been so long since I had been on my own blog that I forgot the darned username/password combo.)
  3. I didn’t have an email list. This is one thing that EVERYONE says is a “must-do” so I hopefully will have one built up for next time. (If you are reading this, there’s a ‘follow me’ button on the right hand side of this page. Go on. Sign up. You know you wanna’ …)

What I should have done:

  1. See afore-mentioned email list.
  2.  I wished that I had had more consecutive days to run the promo, but I didn’t want to commit to another 90 days with Amazon exclusively. The number of downloads built slowly at first, but rose faster, the longer I was into the 2 day promo. I wonder what the final numbers would have been if I had run it for 3 or even 5 consecutive days. I would recommend trying a long stretch of being free.
  3.  I wanted to change my book’s description through Author Central but couldn’t do it during the promo (system won’t let you). It did let me edit when the promo was over (better late than never I guess) and I added what I thought was a more engaging and intriguing style of description, and I also broke the former description into 3 smaller paragraphs. Way more inviting to the eye.

What I’m going to do:

  1.  I’m going to drop a quick thank you note to all of those who tweeted and posted on my behalf, even to those whom I paid (Hey, I’m Canadian. We’re polite to a fault.)
  2.  (Baker’s dozen here) I am going to move on. This means promoting my one act script (it’s a comedy) A One Act Script and short story form of THE CAMPING GUY Short Story Version in a new genre for me (humor) and get busy writing the final book (Book Three) in the Quintspinner series. Hit those links and maybe have a gander, would ya? (I said I was polite but not necessarily humble…)

Next post, later this week: I will post all of those clickable links that I used in my promo, for you. Right here. I promise.

Deadly Misfortune – Chapter 4 Preview

12 Sep

Chapter Four

Warm as it was, the damned wind on the island blew to some degree every day. William’s nostrils twitched as a wisp of breeze carried with it, the definite aroma of swamp rot. The morning rains saturated everything.

William, Smith, and the ship’s one-legged carpenter, Mr. Lancaster, had done what they could to reinforce their own pitiful huts, making do with the basics of nature that surrounded them.

But in fact, everything was in short supply–food, clothing, medicines, and weapons. In spite of the double thatching, both the swampy winds and the driving sheets of rain had managed to invade their primitive shelters. Lost in his own thoughts, William startled when a voice sounded behind him.

“It’s the swamp fever, ain’t it? It followed us back here. Can ya’ not smell it?” Smith spoke of the obvious odor.

William raised his face to the sky and sniffed. “I can. It’s been on the wind a week or more.”

With a sudden push, Smith lashed out and shoved William’s head facedown. “Ya’ crazy bugger!” Smith’s brown eyes were wide with disbelief. “Don’t be suckin’ that evil air into yer body on purpose!” He semi-crouched in fear of the unseen sickness. Releasing his grip on William, he nodded toward the outermost row of huts.

“Didcha’ not notice that them what’s most sick are the ones stayin’ in the outer rows?” He snorted in disgust. “That’s where the poison wind settles first. That’s what’s got me Cassie ill. Would’a been safer to be on an inside one,” he grumbled. “She didn’t even come to the swamp yet she’s got the fever anyhow.”

“Yeah, well, we’re lucky that these Maroons let us stay anywhere at all,” William reminded his friend. “If you remember, both of us would have been killed on the shore right where they found us washed up in that storm if it hadn’t been for Mambo taking a liking to Tess’s ring.”

“Yeah, that and Cassie’s brand matching the one that that friggin’ pirate captain burned into Mambo’s arm, too,” Smith recalled with a scowl. “It’s a damned right thing he’s dead, that’s all the good I can say about that one.”

But what about the child Cassie bore, sired by him? The son you now call your own? William didn’t dare ask out loud. There was no reason to bring up the baby’s parentage. Smith seemed as devoted to the child as he was to Cassie.

The three pairs of shipwrecked survivors–he and Tess, Smith and Cassie, and Tess’s grandmother, Emma, and the ship’s carpenter, Brigham Lancaster–had been ‘married’ by Mambo, shortly after their assimilation into the Maroon’s camp. They had substituted the priestess’s ceremony for the church ceremony that they would never have.

The marriage ceremony, if it could be called that–Crikey, it was a weird thing!–had been, at the same time, both frightening in its strangeness, and exhilarating in its ferocity. It had taken place under a shimmering canopy of stars, when the sky had been under the dark influence of a new moon. Each couple had been bound, tied face to face, in the centre of a circle, its boundaries outlined with a collection of fruits, giant seed pods, shells, and flowers. Led by Mambo, the Maroons chanted in a foreign tongue, and had begun to dance around them, with feet and hands keeping time to a steady rhythm played out by a trio of men who had clicked their tongues and pounded on a collection of hollowed out logs and dried stems.

Having grabbed a stick from the ever burning fire pit, Mambo had held it high over head and whirled around them, spraying the helpless couples with a shower of sparks and chunks of glowing embers. It had been unsettling for the three brides to say the least, but their screams had been drowned out by the increasing volume of the chanters. Instinctively wrestling against their tethers but helpless to escape them, the grooms had bellowed out some very un-churchlike phrases.

Heedless of their dismay, Mambo had then produced a dried seed pod containing a smoking wad of herbs, and she had blown the smoke into the faces of each betrothed couple. The rest of the ceremony was hazy to William’s recollection except for the sharp poke of a wooden splinter into his lower lip and the salty taste in his mouth of Tess’s blood from her own freshly pricked lip, as their faces had been forced into an awkward kiss.

Without warning, their bonds had been slashed and they had collapsed to the ground. William vaguely recalled that several pairs of hands had gripped him, and each couple had been carried into the dark interior of a hut.

Stark naked. That’s how we were carried in. I remember that part. Never did figure out how that happened though….

William smiled at the memory of it. Primal as it had been, he was sure their matrimonial ritual had been as powerful as a church’s and certainly as binding as any on earth. Literally. And the first few weeks with Tess as his new wife, or had it been months–he didn’t know and it didn’t matter–had been wonderful. Sensuous. Full of their warm bodies intertwining, slippery with passionate desire.

William loved lying beside Tess. The nighttime air of the island’s mountainous interior was chilly and the two of them slept curled up together, as much to share body heat as anything. However, having her wrapped up in his arms, with his body in full contact with hers, her firm backside pressed back against him and his top arm draped across her breasts–the position was just not conducive to sleep. No matter how tired the rest of him was, his manhood was always eager and, he thought, considering their spooned position, impossible for Tess not to notice.

When he kissed her neck and nuzzled his way down to the soft spot above her collarbone, her soft moans and gooseflesh announced her willing interest in him, too. Tess would turn towards him and slip her hand between his legs, and suddenly the chill of the night would be a forgotten concern as she straddled him. Her touch, her nearness–it was sheer pleasure and William never tired of it.

And then something had happened. Was it that there was absolutely no privacy here? Was it Tess’s strange dreams that scared her and occupied her thoughts? Or was it his greatest fear–that Tess was becoming tired of him as well as their life on this island? Whatever the reason, their intimate nights had nearly disappeared.

He replayed a favorite moment in his head. He and Tess had been walking along a high trail, hiking up the side of the island’s extinct volcano. On Mambo’s instruction, Tess had been looking for special herbs. They had picked handfuls of one already, a broad, glossy heart-shaped leaf that grew on a tuberous vine low to the ground.

“What’s this one for?” William had inquired.

“Mambo needs it for the women at the camp.”

“Women?” William knew intuitively that he should ask no further, but sometimes his intuition didn’t seem to shout loudly enough. “Heart-shaped. Must be to make a love potion with, eh?” He’d grinned his dazzling smile that he knew she loved to see.

“Actually, no,” Tess had replied. “This herb, contrary to its shape, is called the baby stopper. The Maroons don’t want to go through the heart-break of having children suffer the life of a slave as they have done, so ….” Tess had shrugged and at that moment, had tripped and fallen into him, sending both of them tumbling back down the precarious pathway. He’d wrapped his arms around her and shielded her as best he could, as they rolled and crashed down the jagged surface of the hardened lava pathway. They’d come to a sudden stop in a collision with a rather large boulder.

Breathless, she’d asked, “Are you alright?” There was a moment of relief when he’d realized that neither of them had suffered serious injury. Up there, they were completely alone. It had been a bit frightening. Help would have been a long time coming. Still, having had Tess in his arms with her heart beat pounding so intimately against his own chest, he’d barely noticed his bleeding cuts and scrapes.

And then, to his delight, Tess had lifted her sweet lips to his and had kissed him. Delicately, at first. She’d run the tip of her warm tongue over his own. Had sucked his lower lip into her mouth and then released it, before trailing her soft mouth past his ear and down the side of his neck, lifting his skin in goose bumps as her wet lips made their way across his skin. William had felt his body respond and he’d traced the outline of her breast and hip with his fingertips. Softly. Just the way he knew she liked to be touched.

“I’m fine,” he’d reassured her. He’d kissed her neck and shoulders, had lingered as he’d drawn his own lips across the soft swell of flesh below her collarbone, pleased and further aroused to have her breathing increase with his touch. “I think we should lie here a bit, though, just to make sure.”

And completely alone on that trail, but now awash in gratitude for that solitude, with their bodies in perfect rhythm and sunshine splashing on their naked skin, they’d needed no help from anyone. No help at all.

Deadly Misfortune – Chapter 3 preview

4 Sep

Chapter Three

William let out a slow aggravated breath. Trapped, with no plan in place for change, he felt a dangerous level of tension building up inside of him. He looked around the Maroon camp, its semi-circle of huts made nearly invisible by the camouflage of the surrounding tropical vegetation.

How long have we been here anyway? It was hurricane season when we were shipwrecked in the first place, but since then? Tess would know. She kept rough track of time with her woman’s cycling. Not that it mattered. Time seemed to stand still here. Every day was the same as the one before it. Except for the day they had gone to collect the croc teeth. Now that had been a break in the monotony. William sighed again.

So often, like now, he missed his family back in England so badly that he couldn’t ignore the burning in the pit of his stomach. And then the horrible weight of reality would come crashing down as it always did–his mother and little sister had been abandoned, forced to fend for themselves after both he and his father had been abducted by the British Navy’s press gang. A fresh bolt of pain seared through him–his older brother had not survived the gang’s attack.

William clenched his eyes shut in a useless attempt to stop the next memory from forcing its way to the forefront–that of the bloody escape from that captive pirate ship, the Mary Jane, and the ensuing fight in which William’s father had given up his own life to save William’s. Another one lost. The only person that he had left now was Tess.

Tess.

He fumed. She was the only good thing to have come out of the damned sea voyage from England to these islands of the West Indies. And, William had to admit to himself, that violent journey stripped her of her family as well. Tess all alone now except for her grandmother, known to most as Emma, and Cassie. Sometimes, however, it was hard for him to share Tess’s attention with the others.

Tess was already a survivor. Courageous. Strong for a woman, William thought, and beautiful. He’d been attracted to her as soon as he’d first laid eyes on her–her copper ringlets curling deliciously over her shoulders, and her eyes as green as the emeralds in the peculiar ring that she wore–life in this wild place was so uncertain that it seemed to magnify every feeling that he had. Was it possible to care too much?

It was time to begin planning. Time to leave. Time to escape this island and make our way back home to England.

“Well begun is half done.” Emma’s words danced in his head. The older woman seemed to have an endless supply of folksy advice, but she was right–William knew that a change in events in his favor wasn’t going to happen unless he made it happen. Made a start.

So what the hell am I gonna do? He’d have to give it some serious thought. And Lord knows, there’s nothing much else to do here other than think.

His thoughts were interrupted by a piercing shriek that shattered the air.

***

Tess scrambled out of the hut’s open doorway and tried to place from where the outcry had come. Her heart thudded in her chest as her eyes came to rest on the scene at the foot of the path that led into the camp.

There, Mambo lay collapsed in a heap on top of something, and a strange keening wail throbbed through the air. Whether it came from her or from Jacko, who was kneeling beside Mambo, Tess couldn’t tell. The sound was raw, primal, and every nerve ending in Tess’s body fired in alarm. Even worse, as though the sound had awakened an omen of impending peril, the itch under her blue tourmaline ring, flared.

With no memory of having broken into a run, Tess stumbled to a halt only a few steps away from Mambo. Tess dropped to her knees, her eyes widening,

The heap that Mambo had gathered in her arms was the bloodied corpse of a young woman.

Turning his grief-stricken face towards Tess, Jacko held the squirming sling out and ordered, “Take to dat young one. To save.” At that moment, a strident squeal erupted from within the sack, and Jacko roared, “Take baby now!”

Cradling the squalling infant, Tess remained rooted to the spot, immobilized by her confusion. Take this one to Cassie? What is happening?

The sweat on her neck turned to ice as the band of blue stones burned on her finger, demanding her attention.

Not a good sign.

There would be a terrible vision soon.

***

The silver moon hung just above the horizon, draping her milky-white light over the small group that gathered in the small clearing further up the mountain. The rhythm of the wailing, a low moaning that alternated with bursts of high pitched trills, raised the hair on Tess’s arms. The woman’s corpse, lowered into the grave, settled on the bottom with a soft whumph.

The sigh of the dead, Tess thought as she watched the others gently toss in a selection of fruit, a roughly hewn spear, and finally the leafy amulet bag into which Mambo had put a short curly clipping of the baby’s hair.

This is how they bury their daughter. Not so different from us. The baby will be raised by Mambo now. His grandmother. Like I was … Tess watched as Jacko stepped forward once more and knelt by the pit’s edge. He reached up to accept the bundle offered to him by Mambo and held a dagger high above his head, its blade reflecting the moon’s silver sheen. A frightful noise escaped his lips, escaping in one strangled swoosh of air.

Raw grief. Tess recognized the sound. The intensity of his pain tore at her, but the sight of the knife blade hovering above the bundle gripped her with fear. The baby! Before Tess could move, or even call out, Jacko’s hand fell and the baby screamed.

Oh my Christ! Tess’s breath stopped, her own scream strangled in her throat. She stared, helpless. Reaching out, Mambo collected the crying infant and, bending forward into the pit, she held his tiny hand close to his mother’s face.

Crying! The baby’s alive? And then, clearly illuminated by the plentiful moonlight, Tess watched as the child’s hand bled from a tiny knife nick, dripping onto the small indent at the base of his mother’s throat. The drops made a small, dark circle, and although the actual intent was lost on her, Tess suspected that the circle represented a completion of sorts. She reached out and grasped William’s hand. He nodded ever so slightly as though agreeing with her thoughts.

It’s done. At that moment, the sky darkened as the silvery orb slid behind a layer of clouds. Jacko spun on his heels and slipped away from the gathered people. His torment was palpable, even in the dark and Tess shivered in spite of the evening’s warmth.

Deadly Misfortune – Chapter 2 preview

28 Aug

Chapter Two

There were many ways to die on an island. Boredom was surely one of them and Tess had thought it would be a most terrible way to die.

Until now. Now she was sliding though slime-coated water in which, she was sure, lurked invisible horrors.

The hand-gutted canoe, being nothing more than a fired and carved out rotting log that she and the three others sat in, floated low, its gunwale dangerously close to the swamp water’s surface. The opaque water through which William and Smith paddled was a thick, sludgy green, and the canoe left a dark cleft in the algae layer as it slid along the swamp’s edge.

It had been decided that the four of them would go. Mambo, the Maroon’s priestess, would navigate their way overland, from the camp down to the foul-smelling swamp and the waiting canoe. The two young men, respective mates of Cassie and Tess, would be needed to push, paddle, and steer the craft, and Tess had insisted in coming along, desperate to free herself from the boredom that she loathed.

Tess gazed at her husband, William, who sat in front of her. They had been together for a few months on this island, dirty and hungry most of the time, but if anything, life here had improved William’s appearance. His sun-bleached locks glistened in a mass of unruly curls mostly refusing to be held back in a loose plait of sorts that laid down the back of his neck. His shoulders and torso were tanned to a dark caramel and were etched with the contours of hard muscle. Only the jagged white strips of his whipping scars broke up the broad expanse of his back.

His eyes are just as blue as the day we met, though. Tess smiled to herself, remembering how polite William had been in the presence of her overbearing father. And she remembered how attracted she had been to the young press-ganged sailor even then. He’s changed since then, she nodded, but then so have I. She no longer wore her thick copper waves in a left sided plait. The birthmark on her neck – an acorn shaped brown mark with a trail of tiny teardrops beneath it–had been a thing of shameful imperfection to her family, but it did not have to be kept hidden here on the island.

Now she watched the muscles in his arms ripple in a smooth dance under his skin as he poled their precarious and quite water-logged vessel along. She had the sudden urge to reach out and touch those arms but at the last moment, the presence of the other two people made her blush with embarrassment that she’d even had the thought of doing so.

Instead she closed her eyes and let the sunshine splash down on her face and she replayed another use for those powerful arms. In her mind, they were wrapped around her, one hand locked in her hair and the fingertips of the other trailing so lightly down her neck and onto the small of her back that her skin buzzed with excitement. Her breathing deepened as his hand slid deliciously further down–

“Tess!” William had twisted around and was smiling his dazzling smile. “This is no time to fall asleep. Look!” He pointed straight ahead. Startled, Tess blinked and then stared. The canoe had stopped. Tess stiffened with alarm and sucked in a breath.

Twenty-five feet away, life and death played out before them. Crouched on an overhanging branch, two tree-dwelling rodents munched contentedly on the leaves of their chosen tree. Cat-sized and covered with coarse brown fur, the plump hutias seemed oblivious to the danger that had gathered in the watery mess of mangrove roots below them.

The attack came with stunning fierceness and speed. Without warning, a crocodile exploded from the water and, launching itself upward, snapped at the branch, narrowly missing its target. Beside it, a second reptile burst out of the turbid water and seized a doomed hutia, crashing back into the mucky liquid below, with the rodent captured and crushed in its tooth filled mouth.

The first crocodile leapt again, having re-estimated the branch’s height, and its eight foot long scaly body was propelled into the air by the enormous strength of its tail. Like its companion, the croc splashed back into the swamp, this time its bloody jaws full with its intended victim. In only a moment more, the two crocodiles and hutias sunk from view, the marshy water’s surface closing over them.

Sweet Jesus! Tess’s heart pounded in her chest. And we’re here to collect crocodile teeth! Why on earth does Mambo think that Cassie is in greater danger from a pirate’s spirit than we are from these ravenous, horrible creatures? And a dead pirate at that! Thank God, Cassie didn’t come! She doesn’t have the stomach for something like this.

Cassie, Tess’s adopted sister, had stayed behind at the hidden Maroon camp, high up in the island’s mountainous interior. Tess couldn’t blame her. Being a pirate’s captive as Cassie had been, had destroyed her sister’s confidence. Had nearly destroyed her life. Besides this was no place for a baby and Cassie never let her son out of her sight.

He has marked us both. Only something stronger can protect can protect from such evil, Mambo had insisted. It was either cut the pirate’s brand from both Cassie’s and Mambo’s arms so that they could not be tracked by the pirate captain’s spirit, now that he was no longer tied to a physical body, or wear an amulet containing the crocodile’s teeth which would hold a power greater than the brand. And Mambo was taking no chances on the pirate’s spirit tracking her and Cassie down.

Such strange beliefs. Tess shook her head. But who am I to judge? She glanced at her left hand at the three spinner rings that she wore. All of them had been fashioned by long ago forgotten crafters, to have moving bands or spinning parts. The one with blue tourmalines supposedly brought on prophetic visions, the emerald spinner healed in ways that were beyond normal explanation, and the third ring, the one with tiny ruby encrusted vanes was the ring of persuasion. That one had been the one she had obtained– no, taken–from Edward, but the words that he had used to activate the ring as he spun it had died with him.

The canoe bumped against something and Tess was brought back to the moment. She lashed out, groping for a handhold in the canoe. God! I hate being on water! She felt her chest tighten. I don’t think I can stand this much longer. I hope Mambo knows what she’s talking about.

The African priestess had explained that the “cocodrilo” as she called them, constantly shed their teeth–the crocodile teeth would be easy to find and collect from bits of logs and roots, or perhaps would have washed up along the swamp’s margin–but she hadn’t gone into detail about the giant reptiles’ actual presence. Tess thought that she would have rather taken her chances being back with the pirates. At least they were only six feet in length.

But now her chest was aching with apprehension and remorse. Nothing, in her short life of nearly eighteen years, not even in her wildest imagination, could have prepared her for this situation. She tightened her grip in an effort to control the shaking she felt and she snapped her head around to speak to Mambo.

“What in the hell have you gotten us into?” Swiveling around to face forward, she pleaded, “William! Please get us out of here!”

White knuckled, William poled the canoe slowly forward, his paddle being no more than a long branch. “Tess, sit still. We really don’t want to capsize.”

“Closer.” Mambo pointed to a half-submerged log to their right.

The log had an indent in its midsection. A large indent. Bumping along side of it, the canoe tipped to one side as Mambo leaned over to run her hand along the log’s surface.

“Hah!” Mambo cried out. “Cocodrilo bite here,” she explained.

She pulled and tugged, digging at the log’s depression with her fingertips. Water slopped over the canoe’s edge, pooling along its bottom. Tess looked down, horrified to see small, undulating bodies in it.

“Can we please go? There are worms in this water!” she shrieked, scrambling to raise herself up out of the collected water. It was one thing to plant fly maggots in wounds to harvest decaying and dead flesh, which, when he was alive, she had once helped her physician father do, and quite another to purposely sit with one’s unprotected bottom amongst a colony of probable burrowing parasites.

“An’ I’m guessin’ there’s plenty more in this swamp, if ya tip us,” Smith warned from the back of the canoe, his voice tight. Mortified at the thought, Tess sat back down.

“See?” Mambo cackled with delight. She held out her hand. Two long, pointy, hollow triangles lay in her palm, their white tips blending into a deep grey near the bases. “Now we go,” she announced, her fingers curling into a protective fist over the teeth. Satisfied and smiling, she nodded and remarked, “This be good trip.”

A good trip? Because none of us were eaten alive? Tess didn’t even want to know what would constitute a bad one.

This island is a giant death trap.

She mentally listed off the dangers–the things, that until now, she had purposefully tried to ignore–the swamp fever, the scarcity of safe water to drink, as well as there never being enough food. Then there was a different classification of dangers including the spotted wild cats in the jungle, the slithery things on the ground, and god-only-knew what other predatory creatures lurking around in the shadows. And now she could obviously add the monsters that cruised in the waters under them.

And it wasn’t just that. There was the strange plant life–trees growing along the beach, that oozed poisonous sap, and those in the jungle coated with thorns large enough to pierce a man’s hand.

From Mambo, Tess was learning to identify both the plants that had medicinal value and those that were deadly. Anything in between was just decoration for now. Tess needed to learn only enough to keep her alive until they could get off this damned island and back to some kind of civilization. And being stuck here revived the ever present fear she had, that before long that pirates would land and would somehow recapture them all.

Of course there was the plantation on the island’s other side, with its Big House. But it was run by slave owners. Owners whose overseers had found Tess’s grandmother and her husband, Brigham, washed up on the shoreline after the hurricane, and who had brought them back to the Big House as indentured workers. No, going to the Big House was not an option for escape from this island.

At first, having been washed up on its shore during the same hurricane, she’d felt only immense relief. After all, she had escaped impending slow death at the hands of the pirate crew of the Bloodhorn. Her skin prickled with the memory of it. And I escaped the clutches of Edward Graham. The man she had been forcibly betrothed to. The same man who had killed the Crone, a defenseless old woman, in an effort to steal the woman’s ring. Even he, a royal courtier, had believed that the ring had ancient prophetic powers when its inner band was spun by the wearer.

Well it’s my ring now. And good riddance to him.

The canoe’s nose bumped into the soft mud, jarring her once again from her thoughts.

“Well, that’s this trip done,” Smith said. “Everyone out.”

William slipped over the side and sank in the muck to mid-calf. He extended his arms out to Tess and smiled. She gathered up the tattered remains of her skirt in one hand and took hold of one of his hands. She was standing and debating about how and where to best step into his arms when the skin under her blue ring began to itch fiercely.

Oh my God! This is not a good sign! Tess jumped into the muck and screamed, “Hurry! Get onto the shore!”

The four of them scrabbled through the ooze and onto firm land just as the tremor hit, knocking them all to their knees. The swamp water rose and crashed against the shore as though trying to capture them and suck them back in.

Tess lay gasping on her back and was mentally adding this island’s increasing tremors to her list of dangers, when William, incredibly, began to laugh.

“So you chose the mud route rather than my arms, eh? That was the fastest exit I’ve ever seen anyone do, Tess. You’re getting braver by the day. Didn’t know you had such speed in you.”

Neither did I. Tess wondered about the itch. It was less now. Definitely less, but still there … and then her grandmother’s voice whispered in her head.

Ya never know what ya can do till misfortune comes nippin’ at yer backside.

 

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