Monday, 6 July 2020

Guest Post: History - the Most Important Timeline of All by Carol Browne...

Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels
Covid-19 is a game-changer in so many ways. It is making people rethink their lives, their jobs, their relationships, their aspirations, even their diets and the way they treat the planet they live on. The virus landed like a bolt out of the blue, illuminating the dark places in our lives and altering our perceptions. Many things that were thought of as important are now shown to be superficial and shallow. The way we structure our days has also come under intense scrutiny. Two areas of human activity in particular are undergoing a much-needed overhaul, and they are employment and education. People who can work from home during the lockdown can see the benefits of making this permanent. Meanwhile, many parents who have been home schooling their children are wondering if they should continue with it.

I was discussing this with a close friend of mine who has been working from home and is considering home schooling. She was concerned about peer pressure at the school one of her children attends and how it has had a detrimental effect on the child’s self-esteem. It is always hard to be different. It’s equally hard for an adult to do something different from what is considered normal. We often stick with the status quo for fear of being criticised. But, as the memes insist, the virus has shown us that normal wasn’t working. It’s time to create a new paradigm for living and my friend has seen the beneficial effects that home schooling has already had on both her children.

But this isn’t a blog about home schooling! When my friend and I were discussing different ways of educating her children, I reminded her of how we used to be taught history. We started as far back as the dinosaurs and moved forwards incrementally to the present day. As a result, I have had a mental image in my mind of every century down the ages with major events recorded on this timeline of history, so that I know where I am in the great scheme of things. I can see how mankind got to where it is today. It is like belonging to the timeline of humanity where everything makes sense, even the bad things, because wars have causes that can be traced back and great transitions, like the one we are experiencing now, can be anchored in time and better understood.

Do children still learn history this way? I meet so many young people who have no idea what happened before World War II (and don’t see the socio-economic and political factors that brought about that global conflict). Yes, they know about the Romans and perhaps the Ancient Egyptians but can’t pin them down to a particular era.

Photo by Fauxels from Pexels
And here in the UK how many of the people who are so proud to be British know anything about the history of the British Isles? Why do we use the words British and English; what’s the difference? We were a nation of immigrants long before the Roman occupation, during which time we really were British but not English. If everyone understood that we have all migrated here from other countries, would we rethink our current attitude to immigration? And if we knew more about our imperialist past with its horrors of slavery and oppression, would we see how racism developed and be better able to reject it?

Everything that happens is a lesson and the lessons of history will keep repeating on the timeline until we decide to take a stand and say no more. Only by understanding the timeline of the past can we see the need for change in the present. Allowing children to grow up without reference points or connections to ancestral knowledge, is not giving them freedom. It leaves them adrift in the modern world not knowing why things are the way they are. To teach children the lessons of history is to give them the tools they need to make their world a better place and create a brighter future.

History is important. In my book Being Krystyna – A Story of Survival in WWII I showed how intolerance for other people’s differences can lead to persecution and conflict. Krystyna herself always feared the Nazis would return, and looking at world events today I think she was right. One way to stop the resurgence of such evil is to make sure that the lessons of history are never forgotten. But first we have to learn them.

Here is a brief introduction to my book. Thank you for reading it.

It’s 2012, the year of the London Olympics, and for young Polish immigrant Agnieszka, visiting fellow countrywoman Krystyna in a Peterborough care home is a simple act of kindness. However, the meeting proves to be the beginning of a life-changing experience.

Krystyna’s stories about the past are not memories of the good old days but recollections of war-ravaged Europe: The Warsaw Ghetto, Pawiak Prison, Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, and the death march to freedom.

The losses and ordeals Krystyna suffered and what she had to do to survive, these are horrors Agnieszka must confront when she volunteers to be Krystyna’s biographer.

Will Agnieszka find a way to accomplish her task, and, in this harrowing story of survival, what is the message for us today?

Buy Links

Born in Stafford in the UK, Carol Browne was raised in Crewe, Cheshire, which she thinks of as her home town. Interested in reading and writing at an early age, Carol pursued her passions at Nottingham University and was awarded an honours degree in English Language and Literature. Now living and working in the Cambridgeshire countryside, Carol usually writes fiction and is a contracted author at Burning Willow Press. Being Krystyna, published by Dilliebooks on 11th November, 2016, is her first non-fiction book.

Stay connected with Carol on her website and blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

Monday, 29 June 2020

Recipe and a Read: Summer Smoothie and Self-Care by Certified Nutrition Consultant Gina Briganti...

After trying every protein powder in the health food store and in my Urthbox delivery for the last three years, I know this is the best. Why? It’s organic. It’s hemp, which is a known superfood for its complete protein profile. It’s 100% hemp protein, no sugars or flavors added. I love the grind they use, which isn’t too fine, the way you often see with rice protein powder, which means that it blends well and has a nice texture. More bonuses – widely available, gluten-free, dairy-free, and there’s no bitter taste like you see with rice protein powder or pea protein powder.

Here’s an easy recipe to try out. Once you know the basics, you can take your smoothies as far as your imagination will go.

Freeze the strawberries if you want a chilled smoothie and freeze the banana, too, if you want an icy smoothie.

Banana Berry Smoothie

1 banana
1 cup strawberries
1½ cups milk of your choice, but one with protein*
¼ cup Nutiva Organic Hemp Protein Powder

Put the fruit into the blender cup. Add protein powder. Then add milk. If you like a thinner smoothie, you may want to add more milk at this point.
Blend for 45 seconds. Enjoy!

*We use Trader Joe’s Simply Almond and Good Karma + Protein. Both are unsweetened. If you use animal-derived milk, buy organic, grass-fed, and raw, if the laws where you live allow for it. If not, get as close to that standard as you can.

One handy reason why smoothies became and stayed popular is how versatile they are. You can put supplements in and never taste them. I use MSM powder (known for its bitter taste and for its effectiveness) for inherited arthritis. It helps me use my hands all day long without painful, forced rest breaks. Another supplement I put in my smoothie is liquid iodine, which I personally have a high need for to keep my thyroid happy.

Smoothies are fast, easy, and delicious. Pro tip: use only the best ingredients. The fewer toxins you take in, the fewer you have to detox. This way all the good stuff works extra well to give you longevity, happy taste buds, and the freedom to satisfy your cravings.

I have a delicious mocha smoothie recipe. If you want to see it, comment and I will share.

Do you have a favorite smoothie combination?

Nutrition is one of my greatest passions and it’s important for every living being. That’s why I love sharing easy, tasty ways to nourish yourself.

You know what else is important? Having lots of organized tools to turn to when you’re figuring out new parts of your life. Like the ones in this workbook.



One reviewer called it “A personal blueprint for happiness.” You can get your copy here.

I include a monthly workbook exercise in my newsletter, which you can sign up for here. You’ll get 6 Fast Vitality Boosters delivered to your inbox immediately.

In closing I have two questions for you.

What are your dreams?

How can I help you live them?

Thanks for the time we spent together today ~ Gina

Gina Briganti is a Holistic Health Consultant, Reiki Teacher, graphic designer and author. You can find her in Dallas, TX enjoying life, following my passion, and helping others do the same.

But it’s called The Reiki Cafe. Where’s the food? Gina is writing a book with fabulous healthy recipes in it. She will share all the good food in her newsletter, which you can sign up for here.

Reiki class retreats are forming now in north Texas, where the food is done for you, and you receive a copy of all the recipes you ate during the retreat. Get on the list for the next retreat by signing up for the newsletter.

Connect with Gina through e-mail, on Facebook, her Amazon Author Page, YouTube channel, InstagramTwitterBookbub, and Goodreads.  There are exclusives and announcements that she shares only in her newsletter, which you can sign up for right here.

Monday, 22 June 2020

Book Tour: Ruins of Sapphire Vol. 1, YA Science Fiction Trilogy Crimson Winter by Justine Alley Dowsett...


About the Book:

When Japanese high school student Yukari Namikoya finds herself suddenly and inexplicably on another planet, she must quickly come to terms with the fact that she may never see Tokyo again. With a sun that never sets, the desert world of Crimson Winter is on the brink of extinction and day-to-day survival can be difficult; especially for someone used to the modern-day conveniences of Earth.

Following the only clue she has to a way home – a cryptic message from a woman long dead – Yukari heads into the desert searching for the Temple of Sapphire. There, she finds the temple in ruins, but what waits there for her is her destiny as a Chosen of the gem god Sapphiros.

Stranded on this new world and hunted by the Vile Emperor and his vast forces simply for being what she is, Yukari has no choice but to learn how to fulfill the role she’s been cast into and become the long-awaited saviour of a dangerous planet she doesn’t yet understand.

Follow the Tour to Read Exclusive Excerpts, Reviews, and Guest Posts. Make sure to enter the giveaway, too!!


Book Details:

Publisher: Mirror World Publishing
Publication Date: June 17, 2020
ASIN: B088DHBLG4

Purchase Links:

Mirror World Publishing


Read an Exclusive Excerpt:

A clawed metal foot stepped out from the pillar of light and I stood riveted by this strange new horror, unable to react as more of the creature revealed itself. Shaped vaguely like a man, it was covered in armour so deeply purple it might have appeared black except for the otherworldly red light bathing everything in the park. The armour was pointed, with spikes on the arms, knees, and shoulders. The helmet was the most grotesque and frightening of all, with great curving metal tusks and an alien cast to what features there were. Not an inch of what might lie beneath the armour showed, not even in the eyes, which glowed a sinister red, exactly like the crimson rubies used by its followers to trap us here. 
“This is impossible…” I breathed. “Impossible…”
The police sirens snapped me back to reality as nothing else could have. The police were here! They would see this, and we would be believed and saved – possibly. I had hope the police could drive off at least the four that surrounded us – if not the armoured monstrosity – so we could run and maybe break free of this horror. 
I turned to let Yue know the police were coming – I hadn’t yet told her about the call I had made – but I hadn’t counted on her temper. She was already riled up from being unable to lay a finger on the blonde guy behind us, and now something was in the ring with us – so to speak – so she was gearing herself up to face it head on. 
“Yue, no!” I screamed as I watched my friend charge the armoured menace. 
It watched her approach impassively and I wondered if it truly saw her. Yue leapt full force at the last moment, and tried to grab hold of the armoured suit, not nearly careful enough to avoid the spikes. It was as if she didn’t care if she got hurt; she only wanted to stand in the creature’s way so it would fight her and leave the rest of us alone. 
My heart went out to her for her bravery, even though her actions were foolish and dangerous. Yue managed to wrap herself around one of its armoured arms with only a minimal amount of scratches and bruises, and she was screaming at the thing to get its attention. 
Suddenly the arm of the suit of armour lifted; Yue had not been expecting this, so her hold slipped. She scrabbled for purchase, but that smooth metal must have been fairly slick. Her leg flailed, catching on a knee spike, and she screamed, but miraculously she managed to hold on for whatever good it would do her. 
I couldn’t watch Yue throw her life away. I knew this thing, whatever it was, wasn’t yet trying to hurt or kill her. It was doing her body damage just by being what it was and if it decided to get serious, I knew that Yue – and possibly the rest of us – wouldn’t stand a chance. 
I turned away and was almost surprised to see that the police had indeed arrived. To my dismay, however, the police were not paying any attention to us or the metal monster in the playground; they were talking – seemingly calmly – to the blonde teenager. 
They were asking him questions and he was answering them in a very open and non-threatening way. Could they not see us here? I realized then I couldn’t hear them. The invisible barrier…I remembered Yue throwing herself against it. It must have been concealing us, somehow.
My theory made about as much sense as any of this did. I tried yelling, to no avail. I thought about trying to get through to the woman on the phone, but I had to admit I had known I hadn’t actually been speaking to anyone in a while – perhaps even since the barrier had been erected. 
We were well and truly trapped.

Meet the Author:


Justine Alley Dowsett is the author of nine novels and counting, and one of the founders of Mirror World Publishing. Her books, which she often co-writes with her sister, Murandy Damodred, range from young adult science fiction to dark fantasy/romance. She earned a BA in Drama from the University of Windsor, honed her skills as an entrepreneur by tackling video game production, and now she dedicates her time to writing, publishing, and occasionally role-playing.
Connect Justine:

Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/mirrorworldpublishing

Twitter:
http://www.twitter.com/mirrorworldpub

Amazon:
https://amzn.to/2UMkqjj

Goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/28439132-mirror-world

Blog:
http://www.mirrorworldpublishing.wordpress.com/

Publisher Website:
http://www.mirrorworldpublishing.com/

YouTube: 

Enter the Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Monday, 15 June 2020

A Behind the Scenes Look at Creating a Book Series…


Did you ever wonder what goes through an author’s mind when trying to create a book series? Doesn’t matter the genre, there’s still so much planning around building a series’ premise, creating the main (and secondary) characters, doing all the needed research, plotting the stories, and finally sitting down to write the books. Actually, it’s exhausting just thinking about all those steps, but truly worth it if you want to leave behind a piece of your soul to the world.

I thought I’d give you a peek at the process of writing a series, so I decided to compile a list of questions I was asked by different interviewers about my teen psychic mystery series, Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls. I follow up each answer with a ‘behind the scenes tip’ to drive home the messages I want to convey, and to help writers get a sense of what I went through to develop this particular book series.

What inspired you to write Lost and Found?

During my year-long stint as an animal care attendant, I learned so much about the procedures and daily routines of working in an animal shelter. Then, one day, I found myself wondering what the animals would say if they could talk? How they would act and sound? What did they really think of humans? So, chasing down the animal voices frolicking in my head, I decided to write their story. The result is, Lost and Found, the first book in my teen psychic mystery series, Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls.

All the shelter animals in Lost and Found are based on an animal I cared for in some capacity at the shelter. Now, trying to come up with each animal’s unique voice wasn’t that hard for me, since I went by the personality of the cat or dog. I observed certain quirks, how each animal behaved, what were they afraid of, what they liked, and so on. What I found was that every animal (even kittens born in the same litter) was different. Just. Like. People.
When I was ready to sit down and write their story, I compiled a list of shelter animals that readers would emotionally relate to and connect with. Many came to me as a surprise, while others were firmly planted in my imagination from the very beginning.

Behind the Scenes Tip: Write what you know. Yes, you’ve heard that old song before, but I knew the ins-and-outs of how an animal shelter operated, so I applied that knowledge when it came time to plot the story and create the setting.

On Blackflies and Blueberries, how did you decide to bring blueberries and blackflies into the story?

We lived in Ontario’s cottage country for almost twelve years, and each May we had to deal with those pesky blackflies. In fact, I owe the experience of living in a small, tourist town environment to creating the Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls teen psychic mystery series. The second book in the series, Blackflies and Blueberries, came about while I volunteered to be a tutor at the local literacy council. I’ve always be drawn to the occult, paranormal, and supernatural, so I got the idea of a teen psychometrist (the psychic ability to discover facts about an event or person by touching inanimate objects associated with them) who could ‘read’ objects, but was essentially illiterate and couldn’t read most words.

I wanted the book to span through a summer season in the fictional tourist town of Fairy Falls, so I started with blackfly season (May) and ended with blueberry season (August). The title fit in so well with the theme of blackflies pollinating blueberry bushes to yield fruit, so I went with my intuition. Plus, I absolutely love blueberries!

Behind the Scenes Tip: Setting is important. Build your series world from the ground up using what you’ve experienced in real life. Use your interests and opportunities as background information for your characters. Being a volunteer for a charity or cause can give your story great bones and authenticity.

What was the biggest mental/writing challenge you faced along the way while writing Lost and Found?

I’ll give you three:

First—could I pull this book off, and make the animals sound authentic?

Second—did I do enough research on what it was like to be an animal communicator (the psychic ability featured in this book) to make my main character (Meagan Walsh) believable to readers? Then, I realized that after doing the needed research on animal behaviors and finding enough facts on animal communication, I was well on my way to writing what my heart so desperately wanted me to share with the world. I learned that animals are so empathic. They feel our energy. And sometimes, they know us better than ourselves.

Third—to create the small, tourist town of Fairy Falls—the setting that would glue this entire teen psychic mystery series together. I didn’t have to stretch my imagination that hard since I wrote what I knew based on where I was living at the time—in the heart of cottage country. So I took in the sights, smells, sounds, tastes, emotions, and feelings of this beautiful place, and added the challenges and obstacles of what it would be like for an uprooted teenager possessing a psychic ability to adjust to the day-to-day living in Fairy Falls.

Behind the Scenes Tip: Self-doubt will always creep in from time-to-time. It’s normal. Feel it, let it go, then imagine what it would be like to walk in other people’s shoes. You’ll create some awesome characters if you can do that.

Aunt Gertie is such a colorful character in Blackflies and Blueberries. Will we see more of her in Fairy Falls?

Definitely! She’s such a unique character, and is loosely-based on my mother-in-law. Since each book is set in Fairy Falls, but with a different cast of characters dealing with a psychic ability, I write in cameos for the characters of my previous book. After all, it takes many characters to create the essence and environment of a small, tourist town like Fairy Falls, so I want readers to expect the unexpected every time they pick up one of my books.

Behind the Scenes Tip: Become an observer of people. Aunt Gertie’s character was based on my deceased mother-in-law (with a few quirks added), and if you do it right, readers will want to continue seeing them throughout the series.

How did writing Lost and Found change you as a person?

Realizing that we (including animals) are all here to serve in some capacity. Whether that’s through our experiences, creative expressions, careers, professions, being parents or caregivers, we’ve all got something to contribute to this world while we’re alive. It doesn’t matter if it’s in a big or small way, we all matter, we all have voices, and we need to be brave enough to use them.

Behind the Scenes Tip: Writing and publishing a book is a humbling and exhaustive experience. Every book you write will change you in some manner. That’s the beauty of creating something from nothing, of becoming a butterfly from a caterpillar.

Diana MacGregor's little sister Nancy is a perfect sidekick in Blackflies and Blueberries. Her addition was truly brilliant. Were you as curious as Nancy when you were a child?

Yes. I always wondered what went on beneath the surface. Once a guidance counsellor suggested that a career as a detective might be a good fit. Can you imagine? LOL! I guess I was always an intuitive child, but didn’t realize this as an adult. It took me a long time to uncover this ability again, and thankfully I found it when I started writing in my mid-thirties.

Behind the Scenes Tip: Never underestimate the power of your intuition. It will lead you to create amazing characters that readers will relate to.

What have you found has been the most effective marketing technique for Lost and Found so far?

I reached out to couple with two animal rescue organizations at a few of their events when Lost and Found came out, and gave a portion of my book sales to help with the care and needs of the dogs and cats they had rescued. In a way, I felt by writing this book, I was being a ‘voice’ for the underdogs/cats in shelters everywhere, bringing awareness to the plight of animal shelters, and the continual need for fundraising, adoption, and spay and neuter programs.

I’ve also managed to get my book into a pet food store chain, and attended a literary event to promote Lost and Found, while sharing the spotlight with the manager of our local Humane Society. Of course, never underestimate the power of social media, and all those animal lovers out there!

Behind the Scenes: There’s always a way you can promote your book series through your community, especially at fund raisers or charities that your characters are invested in. Go deep, and pull out those promotional golden nuggets.
  
What advice would you give other writers now that you’ve been through this process?

Trust that inner voice of yours that’s telling you to write her/his/their/your story. Write what’s important to you, what you want to say, in whatever genre you’re compelled to write in. Don’t follow trends, they change. Know that you’ll be in it for the long haul if you want to make it as career writer, so don’t give up on your dreams. And the most important: please, please, please don’t compare yourself to other writers. They’re on their own journey, and you’re on yours, so put your blinders on and follow your heart.

Behind the Scenes Tip: Be authentic in every story you pen, and remember that patience is truly a virtue. You’ll get there, word by word.

Is there one thing you'd like readers to know about you?

I love to uplift people, even if I just get a smile out of a person. I use humor in all my books as a way of connection, and to hopefully make a reader’s day better and brighter. I guess it’s the way I can serve authentically and just be myself!

Behind the Scenes Tip: Always add value to others. After all, we’re built to serve.

I hope you’ve gleaned some value from this Q&A, and if you have any further questions about developing a book series, please leave them in the comments section, and I’ll answer them in a timely fashion. Cheers and thank you for reading my blog!


Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls Teen Psychic Mystery Series:
Lost and Found, Book One Buy Links:
Blackflies and Blueberries, Book Two Buy Links:

Monday, 8 June 2020

Book Tour: In The Double Agent's Service by Annie Douglass Lima...


In the Double Agent's Service
a fantasy novel by Annie Douglass Lima
Book Description:

Erik would give his life to protect King Jaymin. However, when an old enemy shows up with new schemes, that may not be enough.
Anya longs to be noticed by the king’s handsome bodyguard. But as she finally gains Erik’s attention, the notorious spy and double agent Dannel blackmails her into fulfilling a favor she has owed him for years. Anya is forced into a terrible choice: save Erik’s life, or protect her homeland.
Can Erik and Anya thwart an assassin and prevent a war before Dannel destroys everything that matters to them and to the kingdom?
In the Double Agent's Service is the final book in the Annals of Alasia. Here's a glimpse of the rest of the series!

An orphaned prince and his young bodyguard must disguise themselves and go into hiding after the kingdom of Alasia is overrun by invaders.  Can Prince Jaymin save his kingdom - and himself?

In the Enemy's Service (just 99 cents through June 14th!)
Enslaved by invaders, Anya spies on the enemy to help her captive people – but when her own father is implicated in the betrayal that led to the Invasion, can she save him?

Prince of Malorn (FREE through June 11th!)
Can Prince Korram recruit an army from among the elusive Mountain Folk and claim his rightful throne before power-hungry Regent Rampus crushes them all?

The Nameless Soldier (just 99 cents through June 14th!)
The lone survivor of a brutal attack, can teen warrior Tarvic reclaim his honor and find a way to fight for his crippled kingdom under enemy occupation?

Pursued by assassins, can Princess Kalendria help her brother reclaim his throne and prevent a war - and catch the handsome neighboring king’s attention while she’s at it?
Annals of Alasia: The Collected Interviews (available for FREE here!)
An orphaned prince. A devious double agent. A well-meaning merchant who may have just doomed his kingdom. Meet the citizens of Alasia and Malorn and prepare to be drawn into a tangled web of war and intrigue.
With the first six books ALL free or discounted, this is the perfect time to grab the whole series! Click here to see the Annals of Alasia series on Amazon.
Meanwhile, here is the first scene from In the Double Agent's Service!
Pain.
Cold.
The smell of dry dirt.
A hard, gritty surface beneath his cheek.
Erik mentally catalogued the sensations in order of their intensity. He opened his eyes, blinked, and added another to the list.
Darkness.
Where am I? He struggled to sit up, and his pulse spiked at the realization that he couldn’t use his hands or feet. His ankles were bound together, and his wrists were tied behind his back.
What’s going on? Erik forced himself to a sitting position, noting the dirt floor beneath him, a rough wall at his back. Brushing his fingers over what he could reach of it, he discovered that the wall seemed to be made of the same hard-packed earth as the floor. 
Am I underground? Though not completely smooth, the surfaces were too flat to be natural. Not a cave, then, but perhaps a cellar of some sort.
Or a cell.
He held his breath, straining his ears for any sound in the darkness. “Hello?” he whispered. 
There was no response. 
“Hello?” he said, a little louder. The acoustics hinted that he was in a small room. His head, already sore, throbbed anew at the sound of his own voice. 
Erik leaned against the wall behind him, trying to keep calm. What happened? And where’s Jaymin? 
Jaymin. Erik’s pulse started racing again. Had something happened to Jaymin?
Calm down, he ordered himself. He couldn’t afford to give in to panic. Instead, he would investigate his surroundings. Perhaps Jaymin was lying unconscious nearby.
Erik struggled to his feet and promptly smacked his head on a low ceiling. Dropping to his knees with a grunt of pain, he drew in a deep breath while a wave of dizziness rolled over him. When it passed, he shifted to a sitting position, bound legs in front of him. Moving slowly because every movement set his head throbbing, he began to crawl crab-like on his backside, feet, and hands. Keeping one shoulder against the wall, he scooted forward. 
It didn’t take long to discover he was in a circular room, the walls curving back around toward where he had started. After eight steps, if he could call them that, his toes bumped something hard. Feeling with his feet, he discovered a stair in front of him, perhaps eight inches high. Shifting his weight, he leaned forward and took a little crouching jump into it. Another stair lay above it, and another. When he jumped onto the third stair, he winced as his injured head bumped the ceiling again.
Craning his neck and brushing an uninjured part of his forehead lightly back and forth against it, Erik discovered that the ceiling was made of wooden boards. Ducking lower with every hop so as not to bump it again, he made his way up the rest of the stairs until they ended at the wall. Twisting around, he hunched over awkwardly and ran his elbow back and forth across the low ceiling. As he had expected, a rectangular trapdoor lay just above him. He could feel the seams where its edges didn’t quite meet the surrounding boards. The hinges must be on the other side, but he thought he could detect a keyhole at one end. Nothing happened when he pushed up against the door with one shoulder, not that he had expected it to open for him.
Descending the steps again, Erik felt his way around the rest of the room. Eleven shuffling steps took him all the way around its circumference and back to the stairs. Criss-crossing the middle several times, he discovered it was completely empty.
If Jaymin wasn’t in here, where was he? Erik sat down and leaned against the wall, his head pounding from the exertion. Bending to brush it gently against his raised knees, he could feel a lump on his right temple. In addition, his upper lip was swollen and tasted like blood. It felt as though he had some bruises on his arms and torso, as well.
Erik closed his eyes — not that it made any difference in the complete darkness that surrounded him — and strained to recall what had happened. Had he and Jaymin been on a trip? He thought he remembered something about embarking on a journey. Where were they going? Was there an ambush? What happened to the palace guards who always accompanied the royal carriage?
Surely Jaymin couldn’t be dead. No one would kill the king but take his bodyguard captive. Would they?
And why would anyone take a bodyguard captive in the first place?

About the Author
Annie Douglass Lima considers herself fortunate to have traveled in twenty different countries and lived in four of them. A fifth-grade teacher in her “other” life, she loves reading to her students and sparking their imaginations. Her books include science fiction, fantasy, YA action and adventure novels, a puppet script, anthologies of her students’ poetry, Bible verse coloring and activity books, and a fantasy-themed cookbook. When she isn’t teaching or writing, Annie can often be found sipping spiced chai or pomegranate green tea in exotic locations, some of which exist in this world.