The Vale of Leven, Strathclyde, Scotland 1071
Catrìona stepped to the edge of the crag perched high above the vale. Wind whipped her auburn hair and umber cloak behind her as she raised her gauntlet and let the falcon fly free.
Spreading his long wings, Kessog soared into the air over the blue waters of Loch Lomond.
Her heart soared with him.
This land of tall peaks and deep lochs was her home. Gray clouds might hover over the tops of the mountains, but bright yellow wildflowers graced the steep slopes and the foothills were clothed in the green velvet of spring.
In the distance, the falcon shrieked as he arrowed toward the loch’s crystalline waters, then flew in tight circles over a flock of teals, seeking his prey. The clouds parted and a golden shaft of sunlight reflected off the ducks’ wings and shimmered in the waters of the loch.
Thoughts of her future filled her mind and her excitement rose in anticipation of the arrival of her intended, Domnall mac Murchada. This very day he would come by ship from his family’s lands in Leinster to meet with her father and seal their betrothal. Domnall’s home in Ireland was a place she had heard much about, but had never seen.
In her mind Domnall appeared a most handsome man, except for his nose, which was thin with a high ridge. His wavy light brown hair was always neatly combed and his darker beard invariably neatly trimmed. His eyes were pale blue. But it was not his appearance that had made her father choose Domnall. It was his noble Irish lineage and the trade between Leinster and the Vale of Leven.
During Domnall’s visits, she had been keenly aware of his pale blue gaze following her. In his eyes, she had glimpsed desire, flattered he wanted her and not just the trade with her father. Her cheeks flushed to think that one day she would bear his children.
In the distance, Kessog streaked toward a duck, but missed his strike.
Catrìona watched the falcon for a while until a sharp gust of wind made her shiver. She had a sudden urge to return to her father’s hillfort.
Bognor, West Sussex, England, April 1784
Except for the small waves rushing to shore, hissing as they raced over the shingles, Bognor’s coast was eerily bereft of sound. Lady Joanna West hated the disquiet she always experienced before a smuggling run. Tonight, the blood throbbed in her veins with the anxious pounding of her heart, for this time, she would be dealing with a total stranger.
Would he be fair, this new partner in free trade? Or might he be a feared revenue agent in disguise, ready to cinch a hangman’s noose around her slender neck?
The answer lay just offshore, silhouetted against a cobalt blue sky streaked with gold from the setting sun: a black-sided ship, her sails lifted like a lady gathering up her skirts, poised to flee, waited for a signal.
Crouched behind a rock with her younger brother, Joanna hesitated, studying the ship. Eight gun ports marched across the side of the brig, making her wonder at the battles the captain anticipated that he should carry sixteen guns.
She and her men were unarmed. They would be helpless should he decide to cheat them, his barrels full of water instead of brandy, his tea no more than dried weeds.
It had been tried before.
“You are certain Zack speaks for this captain?” she asked Freddie whose dark auburn curls beneath his slouched hat made his boyish face appear younger than his seventeen years. But to one who knew him well, the set of his jaw hinted at the man he would one day become.
Charles Carfagno Jr
Changing a book cover is often a big decision for an author. They may have spent a lot of time thinking about the design process, and letting go of something you’ve worked hard on can be difficult. However, the importance of a good cover can not be underestimated, and sometimes it may be the thing that’s holding back your sales.
Charles Carfagno Jr takes here about his thought process when changing his book cover for A Demon’s Quest: The Beginning of the End
Changing the cover was something that I’ve toiled with for some time. I picked Katara as a character to feature, because I wanted the readers to know there was a strong female character coming in the next book and she was the perfect candidate.
A little background about Katara’s story. She was sent to the town of Mirkin on a training mission and while there strange things began happening and it involved her mentor. During her investigation, she has a random encounter with another main character named, Torhan. Together, they begin to unravel the strange occurrences, and what they discovered leads them into an adventure on all on its own.
The original cover depicted a very intense battle, between a band of adventures, led by their leader Gilex, and a giant bug called an Earwig. I designed the cover for a few reasons. First and foremost, I wanted to pique the reader’s interest by showing them a fight scene that was actually in the book. The other reason was because the story of Gilex, was the first chapter I had ever written, so it was an homage to my labor. And lastly, the bug is cool.
Katara officially enters the Demon’s Quest series in volume 2 and is one of my favorite characters throughout the story. She is strong willed yet vulnerable, determined, curious, resourceful, and not afraid to oppose injustice. In addition to those traits; she’s proficient with weapons, a master healer, and has the ability to conjure a Tirip to fight by her side (Tirips are spirts from another dimension.)
Ultimately Charles decided that it was more important for him to showcase this main character than the fight scene, and I think you can agree that the result is more emotionally gripping. Something to think about when trying to figure out how to represent your story in the best possible way.
On The Edge of the Window
I stood at the edge of the window in my family’s fifth-floor apartment and wondered if I could fly. Just a few hours earlier, after enjoying yet another dream with my beloved and beautiful brown eagle, I made up my mind that today would be the day. Today I would finally be brave. Today I was going to fly away.
Most of the time, I considered Sundays to be my favorite day of the week. I would spend them alone watching over my baby brother which I felt was a wonderful way to spend a weekend. I always cherished Sundays the most because unlike the rest of the week, we were left alone and we were able to do the fun things that we weren’t allowed to do on any other day.
Even though this was the fifteenth day in a row and I hadn’t been allowed to go outside, I still felt strangely happy and joyful from the moment I woke up that morning. In fact, I somehow knew that this day was going to be different and unique even though I hadn’t yet figured out what it was that made me feel that way. After all, I was only a little over eight-years-old, and I did not understand everything in this world so easily. Despite my predicament, and despite the distractions of my one-year-old baby brother who was needy and quite a handful, my mind was still so full of hope. I yearned for brighter days.
It was now 11 a.m. and my regular morning routine was finished. It usually took about three hours to complete my chores, but on Sundays, they always took longer because I would pause to play with the baby and have fun. It felt better to be doing things around the house at my own speed without the pressure of adults watching over my shoulder. And now even my baby brother was happy, sporting a set of fresh, clean clothes and a rounded belly full of food.
I looked down from the window and could see my friends and classmates playing outside as they usually did on the weekend. I, on the other hand, couldn’t go outside. It wasn’t just be-cause my parents had forbidden it, but it was also because I didn’t want to leave my brother alone. So all I could do was watch everyone from my balcony window and enjoy the bright summer sunbeams as they shone through the glass and warmed my face.
Chapter 1 – 8th Grade is Over
The light from the windows are very soothing. The sky is bright blue and it is getting warm outside. The room seats about 30, or 40 students and the classroom is very modern and very high tech. There is a 70 inch plasma screen mounted on the wall behind the teachers desk. In the background the school bell is ringing and it is the last day of school for the summer. The teacher tells the students to have a great summer and congratulation’s us on passing the 8th grade and she also says, “you students are now freshman in high school”. All the students cheered and grabbed our belongings and headed out the door.
I hurry out the door and out into the hallway. The hallways of the school are packed with students and they are happy that it’s the last day of school and summer time is here. I am walking pretty fast to get outside and get down the steps to get out to the bike racks so I can hurry and unlock my bike. There are a lot of students at this school that rides their bikes, so if you don’t get there before everyone else does you can be standing there for 5 to 10 minutes longer waiting on everyone to get out of your way. I made it to the bike racks before a lot of students do and unlock my bike. My bike is a hybrid type that you can ride it on the street, or you can ride it off road. Now when I say off the road I mean you can ride it on some dirt trails, but not like you would with a mountain bike. I get on my bike and I start peddling my bike home. I can’t wait to get home and get on my computer to start working on building my first computer game, I have been working on it for a few months, but I am having trouble coming up with ideas
That woman smelled of trouble the first time I saw her. If I’d known just how much trouble that’d be, I probably would’ve cut and run right then. Probably.
Truth be told, I probably wouldn’t have noticed her at all, except it was eight bells, station day. That was too early for my evening crowd, and too late for the poor sots who’d been in here when Bayliss and his Sec team arrived. The usual run of deckhands and pickpockets hadn’t made it up from Hell yet, because dockside shifts on Bogue Dast Station didn’t change for another hour. So both my bar and the corridor outside it were close to empty when she stopped to read the ‘Rick’s Bar’ sign flashing above my hatch.
The in-draft wafted her scent to me clear as good air: worry, tinged with fear. Nothing unusual in that kind of scent, not down here on V Deck. Nothing unusual in her, either. Her graying hair looked home-cropped, her face gray-tired. Not at all the kind of woman who usually starts gin joint blood matches. She was wrapped in one of those big black greatcoats, the kind favored by quacks and faith healers all across the Commonwealth rim. That coat could mean trouble – folks on the wrong end of quackery don’t usually live long enough to finish paying their station fees. And another unexplained death in my vicinity was the last thing I needed just now. Only that wasn’t what got my attention. What perked my ears was that somehow she made me think suddenly of warm kitchens and sweet smells and my wife’s good cooking.
“You want help with the clean up?” Calhoun, the younger of my two visiting clansmen, lifted a silver-tipped ear in question. Thanks to Bayliss, my bar was empty except for them. Well, them and a couple of shipless drunks snoring on the counter.
The sound of his voice made the woman squint in at us. Maybe it was the way we all three perked ears at her that put her off. Or maybe it was the amber gleam of our eyes in the dimness of the bar. Lupan night eyes always make human-onlys nervous for some reason.
Whatever the cause, she moved on. But I had a feeling she’d be back. I wasn’t sure I liked the feeling. I told myself it didn’t matter. Calhoun was right. I needed to get the place cleaned up before the evening crowd showed. I shook my head and ruffled the mane between his ears to let him know I appreciated the offer.
“You sure?” That was Khouros, elder clansman and Exec on the Orpheus, one of the few Lupan ships that still put in here at Bogue Dast Station. Beneath the silver sweep of his ears, his eyes took in the tumble of chairs and glassware littering the floor. The fine mane covering his head and shoulders had thinned since last I’d seen him, and the silver tips of his wolf-ears had dulled to gray, but his amber eyes were still clear and his fangs as sharp as ever.
“Yah, I’m sure. Thanks, but I’ve got it.”
“Wasn’t asking about the clean-up.” Khouros’ ears dipped in warning. “Word is that maintenance found another slaver drifting outside one of the locks.” He lifted an ear, questioning. “You sure you don’t want a berth out on Orpheus?”
There was a thought that made the hairs in my under-mane tingle. I shot a glance at the lumps slumped over the counter. They were still snoring, but that didn’t mean they were asleep. Or that they weren’t Bayliss’ spies. In case they were I made a show of studying the ragged scars along the backs of my fingers, mementos of where my captors had ripped my talons out