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Friday, November 29, 2019

Prairie Rose Publications’ 2019 Black Friday Giveaway

Well, it's that time of year--the first day of our BLACK FRIDAY SALE has arrived. To make it simple all of them are free for your Kindle or Kindle app. The following titles will only be free for 3 days, so be sure and grab them quickly for some wonderful reading hours this winter!

Free Books

Starts:Friday, November 29, 2019, 12:00 AM PST        
Ends: Sunday, December 1, 2019, 11:59 PM PST 

Kathleen (Trinity Hill Brides Book 1) by Celia Yeary
Myra’s Escape (The Barlow Wives Book 1) by Agnes Alexander
Pushed Too Far (James P. Stone Series Book 1) J.L. Guin
The Case of the CatWalk Saint (A P.I. Berger Mystery Book 1) by Harol Marshall
The Reluctant Debutante (Cotillion Ball Saga Book by 1) by Becky Lower
The Snow Bride (The Knight and the Witch Book 1) by Lindsay Townsend
Dark Moon Rising (The Unborn Galaxy Book 1) by Michael Gonzales

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Winter Solstice

Next month those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere will experience the Winter Solstice, i.e. the shortest day of the year. On this day, the North Pole will be at its maximum tilt away from the sun. Since before written history, the Winter Solstice (also called Midwinter) has been observed with rituals and celebrations, as it marks the beginning of lengthening daylight.

In The Legacy, Anna is a Danish immigrant. She and the other Danes refer to Christmas as Jul. The word derives from an ancient twelve-day Midwinter holiday celebrated by pagan Scandinavian peoples. Jul is currently used to denote Christmas in Nordic countries. Many of today’s Christmas traditions, including Christmas trees and wreaths, originated in this pagan holiday.   

Although the Winter Solstice is also referred to as Midwinter, many countries including the United States consider it the First Day of Winter. The actual date is usually December 21 or 22 in the Northern Hemisphere. (In the Southern Hemisphere, the Winter solstice occurs in June.) 

However, the December Solstice date and time will vary, depending on geographical location in the Northern Hemisphere. This year’s December Solstice will occur on Sunday, December 22, 2019 at 04:19 UCT (Universal Coordinated Time). But in Omaha, Nebraska USA, where I live, the official local time for the Solstice will be Saturday, December 21, 2019 at 10:19 PM Central Standard Time.
The length of daylight on the shortest day of the year also varies by geographical location, ranging from least at the North Pole to most at the Equator.

For those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere, the opposite of the Winter Solstice is the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. This occurs in June, and in the USA it is the first day of summer. The difference in the number of hours of daylight between the shortest and longest days of the year is similarly related to geographical latitude.

My second book, tentatively titled The Claim and scheduled for release late spring or summer of 2020, is mostly set in the Yukon Territory at the time of the Klondike Gold Rush. Consequently, the photoperiod (length of daylight) at different times of the year is a major consideration. These wonderful maps by Brian Brettschneider were of great assistance. His blog is filled with fascinating North American maps and data, very helpful in researching unfamiliar geographical areas.

As the December Solstice approaches, consider a small celebration of the beginning of lengthening daylight in nature’s march toward summer. (I’ll probably indulge in my favorite chocolate.)

Ann Markim

    Buy Links:      Paperback at Amazon    Amazon Kindle 

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Rites of Winter - a Medieval Christmas

Make we mery, both more and lasse,
For now ys the tyme of Chrystymas
(From a 15th century carol)

When Christianity developed in the ancient Roman world, the winter solstice was already marked at 25th December. Followers of Mithras believed in the ‘unconquered sun’ and also held a feast-day for the sun on December 25th.

Pieter Breugel the Elder - 'The Visit of the Magi at Christmas'
The gospels did not give a date for the birth of Jesus, but ancient beliefs in the Roman Saturnalia, the solstice and sun-worship led to the church choosing December 25th as the time of his nativity.

‘Christmas’ means ‘Christ’s Mass.’ In England in the Middle Ages three masses were celebrated on December 25th - the Angel’s Mass at Midnight, the Shepherds’ Mass at dawn and the Mass of the Divine Word during the day.

Before the three masses of Christmas there was the forty days of Advent. Advent was similar to Lent, a time of spiritual reflection and preparation for the coming of Christ. Feasting and certain foods such as meat and wine were meant for be abstained from during advent (something the evil Denzils ignore in my historical romance, The Snow Bride, set at this time).

The feasting and revelling time of medieval Christmas began on Christmas Eve and lasted 12 days, ending on Twelfth Night. There was no work done during this time and everyone celebrated. Holly, ivy, mistletoe and other midwinter greens were cut and brought into cottages and castles, to decorate and to add cheer.

The most important element of the revels was the feast. Christmas feasts could be massive – Edward IV hosted one at Christmas in 1482 when he fed and entertained over two thousand people. For rich medieval people there was venison or the Yule boar, a real one, and for poorer folk a pie shaped like a boar, or a pie made from the kidney, liver, and other portions of the deer (the umbles) that the nobles did not want – to make a portion of ‘umble pie'. Carefully hoarded items were also brought out and eaten and other special Christmas foods made and devoured. Mince pies were made with shredded meat and many spices. ‘Frumenty,’ a kind of porridge with added eggs, spices and dried fruit, was served. A special strong Christmas beer was usually brewed to wash all this down, traditionally accompanied with a greeting of 'wes heil' ('be healthy'), to which the proper reply was 'drinc heil'.

There were also other entertainments apart from eating and drinking – singing, playing the lute or harp, playing chess, cards or backgammon and carol dancing. (I show carol dancing in my novel, Sir Conrad and the Christmas Treasure)

Presents and gift giving was originally not part of Christmas but of New Year. Romans gave gifts to each other at Kalends (New Year) as well as a week earlier at Saturnalia, and by the twelfth century it seems that children were already receiving gifts to celebrate the day of their protecting saint, St. Nicholas, and the practice soon began to extend to adults as well, initially as charity for the poor. As the Middle Ages wore on, the custom grew of workers on medieval estates giving gifts of produce to the estate owner during the twelve days of Christmas - and in return their lord would put on all those festivities.

Wes heil!
Lindsay Townsend

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Book review: Every Girl's Dream by Cheryl Pierson



Forced to leave home, after being shamed, Sheena McTavish is surprised by the kindness of a stranger. Callen Chandler, a U.S. Army scout, is unexpectedly stricken with compassion for the lonely, green-eyed young woman he discovers being sick behind the stage office.

After Indians attack the stagecoach carrying Sheena west, an injured Cal and a terrified, but determined, Sheena find themselves thrown together in a struggle for survival.

My Review:

I adored this short and sweet story!! Of course, it was so good, I would loved to have had it be longer, but then it wouldn't have been the short story I was needing, either!

Sheena impressed me with her grace and softness and accepting nature. She carried a heavy burden, and yes, she struggled with it, as anyone would, but she also wouldn't let it fully define and control her, either. Her spirit matched Cal's perfectly and she was able to give him what he needed: empathy, acceptance, and love.

Cal didn't shy away when he saw a woman in need, or from the hard stuff. He kept being her rescuerer every time she needed it, and the way he claimed Sheena melted my heart!

There was so much in the book that I love to experience in my stories: low drama, high on connection/spark, fun and dangerous adventures, swoony heroes and charming heroines. Definitely loved my time with Cal and Sheena!

Purchase Link:

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The Gardens at Monticello

By Becky Lower

My father, being the enterprising man that he was, planted a vegetable garden every year, in order to help feed his growing family. My mother grew the beautiful flowers that surrounded the vegetables and entered her award-winning irises each year in the township fair.  It’s from them and their early instruction on how to care for and grow things that I became familiar with the joy of sinking my hands into the dirt. 

I already had a love of roses, having spent several years in Texas and paid annual visits to the Antique Rose Emporium (
 Then, I moved to Virginia and discovered Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, near Charlottesville, VA. (

I especially loved the fact the plantings on Jefferson’s estate produced seeds and cuttings that were available to the public. I took a bit of Thomas Jefferson home with me each year. Over time, my backyard grew into a miniature version of Jefferson’s, with roses, hyacinths and bottlebrush plants, as well as seeds from a myriad of plants. I carefully cultivated each, calling them my “TJ” collection, after Thomas Jefferson. I cried more at leaving my plants than I did at leaving my house, when I moved away.
Thomas Jefferson

I’ve relocated again, this time to balmy North Carolina, and am trying  to find new roses that are heat-tolerant, to brighten the little spit of land surrounding my condo.  After eight years of suffering through the harshness of Ohio winters, finding roses that prefer warmth is a welcome challenge, but a challenge, nonetheless. My first two attempts have been unspectacular. Maybe I need a TJ rose instead of an Antique Emporium one. 

Author Bio: Amazon best-selling author Becky Lower has traveled the United States in search of great settings for her novels and picking up a love for plants along the way. At various times, she’s cultivated bonsai plants, cacti, roses and various herbs she’s never found a way to use. She loves to write about two people finding each other and falling in love amid the backdrop of a great setting, be it in America on a covered wagon headed west or in Regency England. Winning Violet, her first Regency, is mildly spicy, but what else can be expected when discussing the propagation of roses? And Thomas Jefferson's love of them? Becky loves to hear from her readers at Visit her website at

Monday, November 18, 2019

When Characters Just Won't Let Go . . . .

Last week I went to the book release event for my author friend Leanna Renee Hieber's latest, The Spectral City.  And just as Leanna had served as my conversation partner for the Courting Anna launch event a few months ago, author Zoraida Cordova partnered her here.  Both Leanna and Zoraida write in the realm of the fantastic, so most of their books come in series . . . and they both talked about how attached they get to their characters over time.  Some just won't let go even when their own stories are done, and occasionally pop up as secondary characters in new series, too.

I'm currently working on a historical mystery which isn't directly connected to Courting Anna.  But I find myself chatting with friends -- one in from out of town over drinks, another during a reception, another at work -- about the characters in my first novel.  Courting Anna was intended as a standalone, but the inhabitants of Carter's Creek, Montana, keep telling me what happens next.

I've lived with these characters, and I know them -- I know what books they read, what they like to eat, the furniture in Anna's home and office.  I know how the various characters would react in situations that never made it to the page. And as it turns out, they won't let go.  I have a pretty clear idea that while Anna and Jeremiah have their Happily Ever After, there might be a few bumps along the way.   After all, Jeremiah fell in love with an unconventional woman -- a practicing lawyer in the 1880s -- and he loves that about her, but occasionally he must half-wish for a wife who does normal wife things.  And while the curious-minded, silver-tongued storyteller ended up running the local newspaper, will that keep him happy in the long run?

But it's Sarah, Anna's former ward, who I think about most.  At the end of Courting Anna, we know Sarah has managed to get a divorce from her abusive husband, and that a new love is hovering on the horizon.  But we haven't yet seen the emotional consequences of all this, or the social stigma of being a divorcee at that time.  Also, I've hinted that her parents had a romantic story of their own, that Sarah is half-Native.  But what I know and Sarah doesn't, is that her father is still alive but he has no idea that he has a daughter. . . yet.   I think a lot about what will happen when they finally meet.

So, Prairie Rose authors -- which of your characters have lingered for you?  Have you given in, and continued their stories?   Prairie Rose readers, is there a story you wish would continue?   Which characters have become real to you? 

Connect with Cate:
Website & Blog:
Newsletter:  Coming Soon
Twitter: @CateSimon3

Buy Courting Anna :

Thursday, November 14, 2019

New Release — A Summer Bewitchment (The Knight and the Witch Book 2) by Lindsay Townsend

When a shadowy piper kidnaps seven beautiful girls, can a wounded knight and his witch-wife save them? Will Sir Magnus and Elfrida find them in time—and at what cost?
Magnus, the fearless, battered crusader knight, and his fey wife, Elfrida, are happily married, but each of them carries a secret. Elfrida believes that being peasant-born will one day undermine her husband’s love for her. Wounded and scarred, Magnus fears nothing—except, perhaps, that he will not be able to give Elfrida her greatest wish—children.
Their fears are sharpened when high-born Lady Astrid appears at their manor and demands their help to find the seven missing girls. Though the lady clearly regards low-born Elfrida beneath her, why has she truly sought out Magnus, a ruthless knight? Which one of the kidnapped girls does she really want to recover so badly—and to what hidden purpose?
In the scorching summer heat, Magnus and Elfrida search together for the missing girls. Will they be able to rescue them in time? And can their own marriage survive?


     Before Magnus could move away from the shadows, Elfrida seized his arm. “I must come with you, sir. You and I alone, I think, until we are sure we have found Silvester’s lair.”     “Indeed?”
     She did not quail under his frown though it was a near thing. “Please,” she almost said, but she was done with beg­ging.
     “I have a plan,” she began as he shifted. When he strode into the sunlight, the rest of her words withered inside her mouth.     He hooked his hand into his belt. “I will not have you as bait.”
     He understood part of her idea, then. This would be only gos­sip-bait, she wanted to say, but Magnus’s growl stopped her.
     “So small you are,” he said. “So slender, still. If I were only more a man, this caper of yours would be impossible.” His fingers whitened on his belt and he fell silent.
     “What?” Magnus’s frustration raked through Elfrida’s mind like claws. As she stared at him, horrified, he jerked his head aside, checking no one was close. Her own feelings now raging, and even with all her magic she could not sense the rest of his thought. That was always the difficulty with magic and  thought sensing. She needed a cool, calm head to do such things and at present her thoughts and feelings were in tumult, with fear uppermost.
      “My lord?” What does he mean? “Please, Magnus.”
     They marched across the yard in the same arrow-straight diagonal that Tancred had taken toward the steps of the great hall. Magnus snatched her hand and veered left to the stables, acknowledging the smith coming the other way.
     “Are we leaving?” she ventured.
     “Let me think.”


Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Rodeo Songs by Kaye Spencer - Part 3 of 4 - Countdown of Kaye's 7 Favorite Rodeo Songs #rodeo #rodeosongs #prairierosepubs

This is Part 3 of my four-part series about my favorite rodeo songs, which came about because July 4, 2019 was the 150th anniversary of the Deer Trail Rodeo in Deer Trail, Colorado. It was a rodeo from my younger days that I didn't miss.

In Part 1, I promised pictures of me as the Brush Rodeo Queen c. 1970 before this series is finished. I STILL haven’t located those pictures… :-(

To remind you where I’ve been, you can read Part 1 HERE  and Part 2 HERE. 

So far, my seven favorite rodeo-related songs are:

7 – Bad Braham Bull by Chris LeDoux
6 – Strawberry Roan by Marty Robbins
5 – Bandy the Rodeo Clown by Moe Bandy
4 – All Around Cowboy by Marty Robbins

As with the other song pairings, my Numbers 2 and 3 share a similar theme (not sure what that says about my personality…).

Country music artist Lynn Anderson, released Rodeo Cowboy in 1969. She re-released it in 1989. In 1969, the lyrics to Rodeo Cowboy *spoke* to my 14-year-old self as heartbreakingly, knee-weakingly romantic. This song inspired the first novel I ever wrote—hand-written on narrow-lined notebook paper. I lost this story somewhere, somehow along the path of my life’s travels, which isn’t a bad thing. It was an awful story. ;-)

Chris LeDoux covered this song and changed the lyrics to the cowboy’s point of view. You can read those altered lyrics HERE.

Glenn Sutton, who was married to Lynn Anderson from 1968 to 1977, wrote Rodeo Cowboy. As an aside, he also wrote or co-wrote songs for Tammy Wynette and David Houston. Sutton also served as producer for Lynn Anderson’s albums.

The theme of Rodeo Cowboy and two of George Strait’s rodeo songs, Amarillo by Morning and I Can Still Make Cheyenne share similar stories of the obsession with the rodeo and the impossibility of a lasting relationship.

According to Wikipedia (HERE), Amarillo by Morning is listed in the Top 100 Western Songs of all time by the Western Writers of America. This song was written and recorded in 1973 (reaching #37 on country music charts), but it didn’t become the iconic rodeo song until George Strait covered it in 1983. It is typically considered his signature song.

On to my countdown…

Number 3 – Amarillo by Morning

Number 2 – Rodeo Cowboy

Part 4 (December 11th) will include my list of honorable mentions along with my number one favorite rodeo-related song.

Until next time,
Kaye Spencer

Writing through history one romance upon a time

Stay in contact with Kaye

Amazon Author Page | BookBub | Blog | Twitter | Pinterest | Facebook

Images courtesy (photographers: xandert and talisin)

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Write A Novel In A Month #NaNoWriMo

By Kristy McCaffrey

If you’ve been on Facebook or Twitter, then you might have seen posts about National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. During the month of November writers from around the world collectively put their butts in the chair and pound out a novel. There’s a website where you can register your project, track your daily word count, and interact with your friends and colleagues who are also participating. To win NaNo, you must write 50,000 words by November 30. If you’re a writer, you know how tough this can be. And if you’re a reader, you might wonder what all the fuss is about.

I’ve successfully completed two previous NaNo’s—the first was for my western romance THE BLACKBIRD (2014), and the second was my romantic suspense novel about great white sharks titled DEEP BLUE (2016).

How does NaNo benefit a writer? It forces the internal editor to take a vacation. Believe me, this is far harder than it sounds, and is probably the biggest battleground an author will face in trying to complete NaNo. The internal editor not only encompasses good sentence structure and proper grammar, he/she also wants fully-fleshed characters right out of the gate, will insist on researching the name of the road in that western town in 1877 before allowing any more forward movement in the story, and wants to investigate every Irish surname for a secondary character who only appears in one scene. The internal editor can be the harshest of critics, and many a writer has succumbed to crippling self-doubt as a result.

But if an author has already published several novels, he/she must have found a way to work with this ridiculously overbearing boss, right? Excuse me while I laugh hysterically. Okay, I’m back. The short answer is, no. But all is not lost, and that’s where NaNo helps writers to shine. It forces us to push past the persnickety side-commentator and get the story down. NaNo is all about the first draft—those random and sometimes illogical beginnings of our stories. As a reader, all you’ve ever seen is the spiffed up final version of a project, so it’s hard to understand that it didn’t always look that way. Most first drafts would shock the spit right out of you. Just kidding. They’re not that horrifying, but they can be quite the hot mess.

To write 50,000 words in one month (and November only has 30 days), a writer must punch out 1,667 words per day. I usually round up to 2,000, because life doesn’t stop for me to write, so there will be days when I don’t hit that goal. Since my novels tend to be 75-85K in length, writing 50K won’t be the entire book. This leads to the most important advice I can offer about NaNo—make sure you get to THE END. This means that some scenes will be skipped, heavy description and backstory will be lightly touched upon, and character development will be invariably sketchy. But this is a good thing. Getting to the end offers insights that can’t be found any other way, and it will make the first revision pass much more fruitful.

One quirk I’ve learned during NaNo is that my scenes end up out of order. Since I know this about myself, I don’t spend too much time in my transitions from one incident to the next, because I’ll likely be moving them around later. I simply try to find the interior energy of a scene and expound on that as best I can. Then I move on. You can’t dilly-dally during NaNo.

And while it’s true I’ll be forced to discard large chunks of my preciously speed-written prose during the refining stages of the manuscript, it’s never wasted. I almost always learn something from the misstep, either about my characters or a plot direction that wasn’t going to work. I’ve also had delightful surprises. I didn’t find the great white shark star of my suspense book until the very end of the first draft. Her name was Bonnie, and when she arrived she changed the whole tone of the story. That’s why it’s important to get to the end. Once I knew about her, it was clear how I needed to lay the groundwork for her presence earlier in the book, and it completely informed the direction of my revisions.

This year, I’m unofficially participating and I won’t lie, it’s stressful. Some days I just can’t figure out what should happen next, and my mind’s innate tendency to wander off—online Christmas shopping! Let’s do that!—must be held in rigorous check. The manuscript (ANCIENT WINDS, the third book in my suspense series) is unfolding in a choppy and somewhat haphazard way, and it’s downright maddening. But … I’m finding those little gems along the way. (I have a fabulous scene in the Amazonian jungle with my hero and heroine and an anaconda that quite surprised me.) And this is because NaNo doesn’t let up; it forces you to write something. Anything. It inspires innovation.

So, if you’re a writer and haven’t given NaNo a try, consider it. You might astonish yourself. And if you’re a reader, have sympathy for those participating. We won’t be grumpy lunatics for long.

Connect with Kristy

Monday, November 11, 2019


 Just north of Dodgeville, Wisconsin, atop a rocky bluff with a view of a tree-filled valley, sits an architectural marvel of unique rooms, streets and gardens called “House on the Rock.” Envisioned, designed and mostly built by architect Alex Jordan Jr., this house is an amazing combination of talent and whimsy. Built, literally, into the rock, with trees in many places growing through the floor and ceiling, the rooms wind around the natural landscape, creating wonderful vistas and cozy, cushioned nooks just begging for someone to build a fire and snuggle in with a good book.
The house isn’t one structure. It’s a complex of buildings surrounded by gardens and forest, including the Gate House, the Organ Room, the Doll House Room, and the world's largest indoor carousel, which boasts 269 handcrafted animals, 20,000 lights and 182 chandeliers. The most incredible (and mildly unsettling) space is the Infinity Room, a steel and glass “needle” that extends 218 feet out over the scenic valley and 156 feet above the forest floor, with 3,264 windows overlooking the valley. More than 140 of those 218 feet are unsupported, hanging in mid-air.
Based on a short piece on the either the History Channel or Discovery Channel, I expected a grand house with sweeping rooms and awe-inspiring views. Instead I was completely charmed by the hobbit-house feel with low ceilings with natural rock walls, the glow of dozens of tiffany-style lamps, and tiny spaces crammed full of art and books and thousands of whimsical creatures either made by Mr. Jordan or commissioned by him to fill a particular spot in the house. All the while we were walking through the structure, I kept wanting to settle in and talk or debate with friends.

By all accounts, Mr. Jordan loved to do just that. He enjoyed company and hosted many parties.

I think my favorite spot was the room where a small organ, a harp and a piano were crowded together and overshadowed by a great winged dragon.

If you haven’t seen this delightful architectural marvel, add it to your bucket list. I will definitely be going back.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

New Release — Theda's Deception by Agnes Alexander

When her gambler husband, Farley, is killed, Theda Plunkett takes his winnings and leaves town to find a new life. Along with her newfound friend, Nellie Mae Culpepper, the two decide to head west for a new start.

But the train they’re traveling on is involved in a serious accident, killing one of their traveling companions—another woman who is also named Theda. Theda Morrison, the dead woman, was on her way to a teaching position in Montana—and Theda Plunkett decides to take her place, assuming her identity.

“Miz Morrison” and Nellie Mae arrive in Thornbrook Flats, Montana, to a mixed welcome. In a few short days, they’ve settled in and know this is a good place for them to make their home—but someone else has other plans for them. Theda and the town sheriff, Leif Cavanaugh, barely start a relationship when Theda’s life is threatened by an unknown person, and her house ransacked. But why?

Theda must make the wrenching decision to move on from the only happiness she’s known, and a future with the decent man she’s falling in love with—her past is sure to catch up with her. But can she outrun the person who is determined to see her dead? And will Leif be able to find her before she’s killed? Can Leif still love a woman who has kept so many secrets? Or will THEDA’S DECEPTION ruin their last chance at happiness?


     “I won’t bother you but a minute or two Miz Plunkett. I know you’re in mourning.” Her voice was apologetic.
     Theda closed the door behind her and motioned to one of the two chairs in the room. “Please, sit down.”
      Nellie Mae sat and began fumbling in the pocket of her faded dress. She came out with a wad of crumpled money and handed it toward Theda. “This here is most of what your husband won afore he was shot. I figure it’s yours now.”
      Theda stared at her. “I don’t understand.”
     Nellie Mae looked puzzled. “What do you want me to say?”
     “Just tell me what happened and why you’re saying this is my money.”
    “Well, whenever Plunkett was shot, they yelled for me cause I’m purty good at patching up somebody with a bullet wound, but I seen right away there weren’t nothing I could do for him ‘cause he was already dead. When he fell, he knocked over the table and the money on it was around him on the floor. I heard somebody say the money belonged to the man who shot Farley Leroy Plunkett, and he kept saying it was his, cause Plunkett had cheated him. He might have got the money if’n somebody hadn’t shoved him against the table with the lamp on it. The cloth on the table caught fire, and afore they could put it out, the whole place was catching fire. I gathered up the money and put it in my pocket, so I could bring it to you. I follered you here from the funeral since out there in the graveyard weren’t no place to bother you and give it to you.”


Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Let’s Build Some Monsters by Sarah J. McNeal #BuildingMonsters

The Niamso in The Witch-Queen

I love fantasy writing, creating worlds, beings, and, oh yeah, monsters. Even as a kid I was fascinated by monsters. Lord knows, I experienced enough nightmares about them. Most kids have had the belief that a monster is lurking under the bed ready to bite if a foot or hand many dangle down past the mattress into their lair. It is my understanding that every self-respecting closet has its monster.

Myths and Legends are crammed full of monsters, wild things, and creatures of another realm—usually one invisible to humans. From these myths and legends writers can pull up a monster and add or subtract from its original creation and form a completely new being with the magic of imagination.

The Demon, INX in Witch-Queen

I looked up a few of these creatures from “The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference” from Writer’s Digest Books. Here are just a few of these monsters and fantasy creatures:

Kraken: a sea creature big enough to be mistaken for an island

Leprechauns: the little people of Irish lore who love to trick people

The Minotaur: a creature half man-half bull who lived in a labyrinth and devoured 7 sacrificial maidens ever so often

Nemean Lion: a gigantic lion that devoured people but could not be killed because its impenetrable hide.

Sasquatch (Bigfoot): Well here’s one of my favorites. This creature is known throughout Native American lore as a big, hairy, humanoid creature who lives in the deep woods. Some honor the creature, but never speak of it while others believe it steals and eats children.

Vampires: Humans who have died but have revived due to a bite from another vampire. They continue to “live” only by consuming human blood.

Zombies: the undead who must consume human brains in order to continue “living”

Medusa the Gorgon: A monstrous woman with snakes for hair who can turn humans to stone by a mere glance at thus hideous specter.

Fairies: magical human-like beings with wings. Some are kind and good, while others are evil

Dragons: huge lizard-like creatures that breathe fire. They are often assigned to guard some type of treasure.

Clowns: thought to be human and humorous except, every once in a while, an evil clown comes around with diabolical intentions.

Well that’s just a few of the many creatures from myth and legend. There are so many to choose from to build an original monster to delight readers.

In my new release, THE WITCH-QUEEN, Legends of Winatuke, book 1 (completely revised from the previous DARK ISLE), I used several monsters. 

I named the creatures the Niamso, creatures who were part human and part Dark Blood Clan who were evil beings from the Dark Isle ruled by a particularly wicked queen named Mahara. The Niamso look somewhat like Big Foot with thick, hairy bodies, huge teeth and a rapacious appetite for human flesh. They have an uncanny sense of hearing, which is also their weakness. All in all, they are formidable creatures. 
The Evil Dragon OBYOS from The Witch-Queen

Do you write about monsters? How do you build them? Do you give them both a strength and a weakness? What is your favorite monster?

THE WITCH-QUEEN, Legends of Winatuke, book 1

The legend begins when love and evil collide.


The Dark Isle has been a refuge for evil since time began in the world of Winatuke, and the most depraved and wicked of them all is the witch-queen, Mahara, who rules over the malignant kingdom of darkness.

Mahara has taken a captive, a prince of the Nimway people, and she plans to use him for the revenge that burns in her soul. By forcing her own daughter, Isadore, into marriage with Prince Gabriel, she hopes to gain the power she craves over the Nimway—especially her ex-lover and Isadore’s father, Raven.

Her scheme goes awry when love begins to grow between Isadore and Gabriel. Isadore realizes the only way to save Gabriel is for them to escape together, but at the last minute, that plan fails. Separated from Gabriel,  Isadore is forced to continue to the Nimway kingdom of Valmora alone to seek help from her mother’s enemies.

Once Isadore gains their trust, Gabriel’s brother, Raphael, volunteers to travel to present-day Earth to get help. To save his brother, he must bring Raven back to the world of Winatuke, and ask him to risk his own life in the battle against Mahara’s evil forces.

It seems an impossible task. How can they ever defeat Mahara? With the evil forces she can summon at will, it seems Gabriel’s life will be forfeit. But Isadore refuses to allow that, risking her own life to save him. Forced to follow her heart, Isadore wonders if she can ever win her father’s trust or Gabriel’s love. She only knows she must defeat her mother’s evil vendetta for all time. No matter the consequences she must vanquish THE WITCH-QUEEN


 "You think you can fool me, Isadore, but you should know by now that is impossible." Mahara's eyes glowed like two red hot coals of anger as she faced her daughter. "What were you doing with my prisoner yesterday, that arrogant Nimway brat?"

     "Nothing, Mother, I swear it. I only wanted to see what the filthy Nimway looked like." Isadore could not quite look her mother in the eyes. She bent her head to avoid facing her, and stared at the floor. "I did talk to him just a little." She whispered her confession.

     Mahara whirled around, her black gown whispering and swirling around her as if it had a life of its own. She lifted Isadore's chin with her long, thin finger so Isadore would have to look at her. "And what did you two converse about? Be very careful that you tell me the whole truth," she warned, "I shall know if you lie, or omit anything." There was a nasty tone in her voice.

     Isadore shook visibly in her fear. She knew her mother's powers. There was reason to be afraid…very, very afraid. She swallowed the lump in her throat. "We talked about my father."

     Mahara's eyes grew black with rage. "How could you talk with a child of my enemies about the very thing for which I hate them?" She dug her fingers into Isadore's shoulders and shook her. "Why? Why would you do such a thing?"

     Isadore could barely look at her mother so great was her fear. She didn't want Mahara to see this weakness in her. Her words stumbled from her lips, "I...I wanted to know if...if..."

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Sarah J. McNeal

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