Thursday, May 28, 2015

Writers Software Programs

Do you use a software program? Which one? Have you tried one that didn’t work for you or one that was wonderful?
I was thinking about this because I have a couple of them. The first one I got was WriteWay which I did use. It seemed fairly easy but I had trouble finding some things and as I remember there weren’t great instructions. (but that could have been just me)
Then I tried Dramatica but I never even gave it a fair chance. I wasn’t up to the learning curve.
And I have Scrivener. Now I like Scrivener and I’ve taken several classes and once I finished editing my two novels I am going to start my next book in Scrivener.

But what other programs are out there? I thought I’d list a few more that I found with a short description and the cost. I’m not recommending any of them.
Microsoft Word – We all know this one. I still use it even though some days it drives me crazy, but I’m used to it.

WriteWay - Now, get the tools you need to take your story ideas from initial concept and characters through completed manuscript — all in one powerful     
easy-to-use product                                          It’s $35 with a free 30 day trial

Scrivener It’s a word processor and project management tool created specifically for writers of long texts such as novels and research papers. It won’t try to tell you how to write – it just makes all the tools you have scattered around your desk available in one application     It’s $40 with a free trial

Storyboarding - Storyboarding is a great way to try out ideas and see where a particular thread of a project is going. Mindmappng is something of an extension of this idea, letting you riff off your own ideas and see how things unfold.   I believe it’s $9.95 a month
Storyweaver - focuses on the creative process, boosting your inspiration and guiding it to add depth, detail and passion to your story. It’s built around more than 200 Story Cards - each an interactive screen designed to help you develop a single dramatic element of your story.  You simply read and follow the instructions on each card and then enter the information requested and move on to the next card.                                 It’s $29.95

Dramatica - is a tool to help you build a perfect story structure. It focuses on the underlying logic of your story, making sure there are no holes or inconsistencies. It helps you pull it all together into one cohesive powerful work. By offering you suggestions that mesh thematically with what you already have, Dramatica helps plug plot holes, solidifies character interactions and helps complete your story in such a way that it will resonate with your audience long after they've left the theater or long after they've put your book down.         
It costs $149.95, but you can get it on sale.

Final Draft - is the number-one selling application specifically designed for writing movie scripts, television episodics, and stageplays. It combines powerful word processing with professional script formatting in one self-contained, easy-to-use package. There is no need to learn about script formatting rules – Final Draft automatically paginates and formats your script to industry standards as you write.’s listed at $249.99 but you can get it on sale.     
yWriter - Windows only - is a word processor which breaks your novel into chapters and scenes. It will not write your novel for you, suggest plot ideas or perform creative tasks of any kind. It does help you keep track of your work, leaving your mind free to create.  It’s free

StoryMill - Mac OS X only - The latest release in Mariner Software's long line of writing and creativity software. StoryMill introduces aspiring authors to multi-level writing methods of tracking characters, scenes, and locations, while professional writers will appreciate StoryMill's time-saving ability to oversee and manage the full creative process with Smart Views.   It’s $39.95

I’d love to hear what you use and why.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Tuesday Tips and Tweaks with Kelly Heckart

This week author Kelley Heckart joins us with her tip. Kelley Heckart’s stories are steeped in myth and magic, filled with fierce warriors, bold women, otherworldly creatures, and romance.

Kelley’s Tip on Deepening the POV

Deepening the POV (Point of View) in a story can bring readers closer to the characters and draw them into the story. This is especially important in a romance novel where readers expect to feel the same emotions as the hero and heroine who are falling in love.

By eliminating most telling phrases like ‘she/he knew,’ ‘she/he felt,’ ‘she/he heard,’ ‘she/he wondered or ‘she/he thought’ can be helpful in deepening the POV. For example, instead of writing, ‘She wondered why he always showed up late,’ use this: ‘Why did he always show up late?’ or instead of writing, ‘He felt her hand slide up his back,’ use this: ‘Her hand slid up his back, causing him a pleasant shiver.’ Notice I said “eliminating most.” Sometimes these phrases are necessary and there is nothing wrong with using them. The key is to know when and when not to use them.

Another technique when writing in one POV at a time is to write observations and descriptions only that character would notice and point out. For example:  The hero notices the heroine for the first time and she is wearing a tight red dress designed by some popular designer. A man, unless he is a designer or gay, probably won’t notice or care who designed the dress or any details other than how it enhances her body.

Men in general are also less introspective than women. They show more through their actions. Their inner thoughts would probably be short and sometimes this is also true of their dialogue. Also, while women react with tears, men usually respond with anger. These are just general guidelines since not all men and women are stereotypical in their emotions, but this is a good place to start when deepening character POVs.

These techniques not only help to deepen the POV, but they are also helpful aids for showing rather than telling.

Excerpt from “The Bear Goddess:

He should have killed her, but his bronze dagger was powerless against such a being. Only silver could kill a nymph. As soon as he distracted the boar, the giant beast would go after her. That boar with its silver-tipped tusks had been created to kill a nymph.

She opened her eyes and stared outside the opening.

A sudden realization about nymphs came to him. “Why am I being used as bait when you can change into a bird and fly to your spear?”

Her lips tightened. Had she thought he was so stupid he couldn’t tell she was a nymph?

“Not that it is any of your business, but in this instance I cannot use magic.”  

He raised one eyebrow. “Why even have such magic when you cannot use it when you need it most?”

She sent him a disapproving look. “You do not have to distract the boar if it frightens you.”

He bristled. “It does not frighten me in the least. In fact, I find it quite a thrill.” Bending, he grabbed a couple of fist-sized rocks, straightened, and looked to Callisto for the signal, unable to believe he was taking orders from a nymph.

She unsheathed her dagger, her eyes taking on a serious, determined look that oddly excited him. “I am ready.”

They exchanged quick, encouraging smiles, like the ones shared between him and his companions before a dangerous hunt or battle. In that moment, he sensed an unexpected bond between them, slight though it was.

He stepped through the opening, hoping the gods smiled upon him, and made a silent promise to give them a generous offering later.

Moving at a deliberate pace, he waited for the boar to see him. Gods, the creature was huge, about the size of a bear. He made sure to walk toward the forest, away from the cave.

The boar looked at him and lowered its head, snorting, a stance Kasin was familiar with. He took a deep breath to calm his racing heart. To make sure the boar would chase him, he threw the rocks in a quick succession, hitting the beast.

Letting out a ferocious snort, the boar charged. 
Buy Links:

Kindle Buy Link:

Trade Paperback Buy Link on 

You can find Kelley at:

Thanks Kelley, for dropping by and sharing that great marketing tip.

Don’t forget to check back next week for another tip or tweak.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Changes in Romance in the Last Decade

Robin picked an interesting topic for this month. What changes have you seen in romance novels in the past decade? Is there a change in romance novel direction? Is there still a market for non-explicit sex stories?

I think the biggest change in the last decade has been the Kindle, followed by other e-readers. There were eBooks before published by small publishers and in different format read on small palms and phones Kindle made it so easy to buy download and then to publish your own book.
Once this opened up authors could now write the stories they wanted. The book didn’t have to fit into a specific format – hero and heroine must meet in the first three pages. While some books were thrown up there, many have great covers, good editing and proof-reading.  And erotica is so easy to buy online and down to your e-reader. Erotica has exploded over the last decade. Anything  goes. LBGT is popular. A decade ago, I don’t think you could find any on a book shelf.

Steampunk had never been heard of ten years ago and has built a strong following. Sci-Fi is another genre that has become popular and so has Christian romance. The sweet romance has been pushed aside.


Is there still a niche? Yes. I believe there is still a readership that enjoys the well written, happily ever after romance with a great relationship and little or non-explicit sex.  Maybe check out the meta tags for sweet romance. That's how I found this book below.


I'm looking forward to hearing what all the other authors have to say on this a topic. It should be interesting. lease check out the other authors:

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Good Bye David Letterman

I stayed up late last night so I could watch the end of an era.
I haven't always been a Letterman fan. I used to watch Jay Leno, but switched over to Dave a few months before Leno left his show, for various reasons. And I've been watching him ever since.
I loved Dave's Top 10 Lists. And last nights The Top Ten Things I Wanted to Say To Dave with Barbara Walters, Peyton Manning, Alex Baldwin, Bill Murray, Tina Fey and others was wonderful.
They all showed up to share their funny comment in person
Dave welcomed Stephen Colbert as is replacement and thanked all of the staff that worked on his show.
Dave's wife and his son were in the audience, which was really nice.

And he ended it with   "That's pretty much all I got ... thank you and goodnight." 

Goodnight and thank you Dave for 33 years of a late-night TV host.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tuesday's Tips and Tweaks

This week author James J.J. DiBenedetto joins us with his writing tip. James enjoys suspending disbelief with suspenseful paranormal tales that are a perfect blend of reality meets fantasy.
James Tip on Writing - Start at the End
As a writer who definitely doesn’t outline or plot out my books in detail before I start writing them, one thing that’s helped me quite a bit is simply giving myself the freedom to jump ahead and write the ending first.

Even when I have no idea what the book is going to be about, sometimes I have a very clear vision for how the climactic scene will play out, and writing that scene first does two things for me.  First, it gives me a goal to work towards.  Knowing that I have somewhere to go, even if I have no idea what road I’ll take to get there, is a big motivational thing.  And, second, once I have the climax, it often gives me ideas to figure out what the story needs to be in order to end up there.

My latest book, Fever Dream (out this Friday!) is a perfect example.  These are the first words I wrote for the book:

The deputy taking me doesn’t speak the entire time, and I don’t look up at him.  What would be the point?  He’ll only have the same dead, empty eyes the rest of them do.  There won’t be any compassion for me, or even recognition that I’m a fellow human being. 

Because I’m not one.  I’m just a prisoner, and that’s all I’m ever going to be from now on.  We’re back at – I guess it’s the holding cell.  He opens the door, and then removes my handcuffs and gives me a hard shove.  I barely keep my feet, and before I can even turn around, the door is slammed shut, locking with a click that keeps echoing in my mind, over and over…

 “Mom!  Mom!”  Stephanie is shouting at me.  What’s she doing here, in jail?  She’s just a toddler, not even two years old yet!  Why would they put her in…?  Did Brian bring her to visit me?  To see me locked up like an animal, trapped in this cage I’m not going to leave until my trial next…

No.  That’s not right.  That was nine years ago.  And I did get out, the next day.  And I never went back.  Why did I go back there?  What…?

Oh, God, I’m in the car!  I’m driving – I’ve been driving, obviously for a while, because I don’t recognize anything I can see outside.  And – Stephanie is with me.  We were – that’s right.   Visiting Aunt Mindy.  And then I got a call.  It was Megan, back at the hospital.  She said that the police were there, looking for me.  And – and then I went back.

“Mom!”  She’s still shouting at me.  How long have we been driving?  How long has she been shouting at me?  I can’t even imagine what she’s thinking.  My daughter – how could I freak out this way when I’m supposed to be taking care of her?  I take a deep breath, then another and then a third, and I glance over to her.  From her look of surprise, obviously it’s been a while since I’ve reacted to her.

The first two paragraphs, in italics, are a flashback.  Sara, my heroine, is reliving something that happened to her way back in the fourth book of the series, when she was wrongfully arrested and suffered a traumatic experience during her brief stay in jail.  Then she comes back to her senses and realizes where she is: in the car, driving somewhere, with her ten-year-old daughter screaming at her to stop. 

The excerpt from "Fever Dream" is included in the writing tip above.
Fever Dream will be released on Friday, May 22nd, but it is available for pre-order now, at:
Amazon(Kindle or Paperback) 
SmashwordsBarnes & Noble (Nook or Paperback)
Apple iBookStore

You can find James at:
my website,
on Facebook and on
Twitter, as well as at his
Amazon Author Page.

Thanks, James  for dropping by and sharing that great writing tip with us.
Don't forget to check back next Tuesday for another tip or tweak.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Victoria Day is a federal Canadian public holiday, celebrated on the last Monday before May 25, in honour of Queen Victoria’s birthday. The holiday has been observed in Canada since at least 1845, originally falling on the sovereign's actual birthday, and continues to be celebrated in various fashions across the country on the fixed date. When Queen Victoria dies in 1901, Parliament made her birthday an annual holiday.

The date is also, simultaneously, that on which the current reigning monarch celebrates their birthday. It is also Queen Elizabeth 11s’ official birthday, although her actual birthday is April 21st. It is sometimes informally considered as marking the beginning of the summer season in Canada.

The holiday has always been a distinctly Canadian observance.

 Happy Victoria Day to all Canadians!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Blackfoot or Blackfeet?

In my latest book, Targeted, Ky is a member of the Blackfeet Indian tribe. When I was in Calgary, Alberta awhile ago I went through the Glenbow Museum and read about the Blackfoot tribe. Now being a native Calgarian, I knew there were always four Indian -now “First Nations” - tribes in and around the area: the Piegan, the Blood, the Sarcee and the Blackfoot. These were different nations of the Blackfoot. When I started to research tribes in Montana I found the Blackfeet tribe. So which is it?

Blackfoot is the English translation of the word ‘siksika’ which means black foot. It refers to the dark colored moccasins the people wore. For some reason, when the English translated the name in Montana it became plural – Blackfeet. Most Blackfoot people accept both terms. Blackfoot is more common in Canada and Blackfeet more common in the United States.

There are four Blackfoot bands: three in Canada (the Northern Piegan, Kainai {Blood} and the Siksika {Blackfoot proper} and one in the United States (the Southern Piegan or the Blackfeet tribe).

Historically they were a nomadic tribe of bison hunters and trout fishermen and roamed the Great Plains on both sides of the border.
There’s a little background on Ky and the Blackfeet nation.  I hope you enjoyed it and will enjoy Ky’s story when it comes out in July.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Tuesday’s Tips and Tweaks - Ruth

This week author Ruth A. Casie joins us with her tip. Ruth writes about strong women and the men who deserve them. 

Ruth's Writing Tip - The First Page Checklist

I remember the first draft of my first story. I eagerly read it at literary group meeting to three well published authors. I had worked hard on the story especially the opening. I saw it as a movie. The first thing I see in a movie is the setting. So, I diligently, and meticulously, described the scene.
Are you laughing? It wasn’t close to ‘it was a dark and stormy night’ but it didn’t belong as the opening. They loved the description. They told me to save it for someplace else but to come up with something more compelling.
I asked them what would be compelling. Action? Conflict? Inciting incident? I was told to make sure you connect with the audience, establish your unique voice. I was taking notes so fast that when I got home I could hardly read my own handwriting. After a lot of thought I replaced the opening with a fight scene.
I’ve just released my seventh story. Again the first page took a lot of thought and planning. In this story there isn’t any fight scene until the end of the story. I knew that it was the first page that grabbed the reader. Many times it’s the first sentence. Here some things to consider for your first page:
·         Make certain you protagonist connects with the reader with an opening hook.
·         Make certain you introduce the main character in opening
·         Start your story at a turning point or right before. You want the reader to see what’s changing.
·         Establish the setting (not go on like I did *smile*) and time period.
·         Establish your unique voice.
·         Give some indication of the character’s motivation.
·         Begin with the present action, not back story.
For the opening of my new release, KNIGHT OF RAPTURE, I chose… well instead of telling you, here it is for you to read.
September 22, 1605 — Early Morning
Visions of his warm bed and even warmer wife lit Lord Arik’s face. A deep, rich chuckle rumbled in his chest at the vivid images of how he’d wake Rebeka.
Who would have thought the great druid Grand Master was a besotted bridegroom? The summer had been warm and all the sweeter with Rebeka by his side.
He stood on the open terrace at the back of the manor, surveyed his domain and swelled with pride. Fayne Manor was a thriving estate that had been the family home for eleven centuries and it would stand for eleven more.
While he waited for the sun to rise, he prepared for the ritual. He took off his linen shirt and braced himself for the crisp September air. The morning breeze stirred, sending the red and orange leaves racing across the garden, twisting and tumbling like rowdy children at play.
Out of the corner of his eye he sensed movement but nothing was there. It sobered him. The Shade, an otherworldly thing, was an old acquaintance begging for an audience. Like an old woman with aches and pains predicting bad weather, the Shade’s shadow warned him of trouble. What did it bring this time? He had learned long ago to listen to it. The warning was accurate, most of the time. He glanced at the manor door. A little longer. He wanted more time to love her before he began her training. Dark Magick. Faith. She wouldn’t be the same when they were done. He didn’t want any changes. She was fine the way she was.
In five paragraphs (on most devices this is the first page), I’ve…
·         set the stage with the era (Ok, I blatantly told you the date and place),
·         introduced you to the hero, Lord Arik and the heroine, his wife Rebeka  (newlyweds and he loves her very much),
·         alluded to danger with the Shade and
·         explained some of the conflict the hero faces—training his wife in Dark Magick.


If you’d like to read a bit more, here’s the rest of Chapter One. It sets up the rest of the story.
He placed his shirt on the stone railing as the sky brightened. Any moment the small sliver of golden sun would crest the rim of hill then he would ask the Great Mother to grant his people a good day.
His nostrils flared. The trace of a sweet pungent metallic smell sobered him. He tried to push it aside but it remained at the edge of his mind stealing the last of his pleasure. Lightning. The smile slid off his face. For everyone’s safety he needed to take action—he recognized the signature.
He cleared his mind for the ritual and thoughts of Bran faded—for the moment.
“Hail and welcome,” he declared to the east as fingers of sunlight stretched over the hill. His body warmed as the tattooed runes draped across his back and chest, thrummed and brightened. They were a sign of his station as the druid Grand Master. Each rune strengthened his power and had been earned as he progressed in the Order from Druid to Master to the ultimate title of Grand Master. “Thank you, Great Mother for giving us another day, a day of peace…“
And, he murmured, for giving me Rebeka.
The lingering mist faded with the morning sun. Like a cozy down blanket pulled from a bed, the retreating haze revealed the thriving village and farms.
Soon the quiet valley would come to life. Farmers would set off on their daily chores, the villagers would open their shops, and his soldiers would take to the practice fields. His chest swelled. Was it a sin to be proud of what he, together his people, had accomplished? He’d do anything for them, anything to protect their hearths and homes.
He closed his eyes for the morning blessing. “As above, so below. As within, so—.“ He took a deep breath and caught the faint scent of lavender and roses. The teasing fragrance announced Rebeka was near. Her morning appearance, with his tankard of watered ale, had become part of his ritual. “…so without,” he continued the rite. “May guidance and love mark our way. And bring success for our clan today. So mote it be.” He opened his eyes.
“The day appears promising.” Rebeka’s voice brought a smile to his lips. She tugged her shawl closer around her shoulders. “M’lord.” Soft puffs of breath surrounded her mouth. There was indeed a chill in the morning air. She gave him his discarded shirt and waited while he shrugged into it before handing him his ale.
She had little on beneath her great shawl. It made his mind wander. “Yes. It will be a good day.” It was always a good day when it began with her at his side. “Almost as good as last night.” They drove each other mad with their verbal banter and soft touches yesterday until she surrendered to him. His reward was to tease her until she yielded last night. Who knew who would yield today? Either way they both won.
Her gaze slid from his chest to his face. Her searing expression brought back the warmth of their passionate evening. Her flushed skin was her silent response.
He returned his gaze to the valley pretending to be interested in the smoke now rising from a distant chimney. He turned his attention back to her.
Faith, how he loved sparring with her.
Out of the corner of his eye he caught her blank stare. But the challenge was given and he understood it had been accepted. With a long pull on his ale he returned his attention to the curling smudge in the sky and like a game of chess waited for her to make the next move.
She rose on tip toes and bathed his ear with her soft breath. “But not as good as tonight will be,” she whispered. “We celebrate Samhain tonight.”
He didn’t try to hide his arousal. He set the tankard on the wide stone railing before the ale sloshed over its rim.
“Happy thoughts for the day, husband.” She laid her hand on his chest and bent to kiss his cheek.
He caught her around her waist and brought her face to his. How he adored the passion in her violet eyes. They asked for more. He answered with a searing kiss and teased her mouth open with his tongue. She didn’t protest. Instead she moved closer molding her body into his, fitting like a key in a lock. Encouraged, his tongue swept her mouth and he reveled at the sweet taste. When he released her she stood in the crook of his arm, her head on his chest with his cheek resting on her hair. Quiet and content, he savored the last few moments while the sun rose over the edge of the hill.
“Wife, you surprise me with the… thoughts you put in my mind.” His blood heated at the mere idea of his musings.
“I didn’t…”
“Yes, I know… But if you did mind touch and put thoughts in my head I know what they would be.” Mind touching was a special skill. No Druid would trespass another’s mind. It was a grave violation. She would never abuse her ability.
The sound of footsteps from the Great Hall interrupted them. “Arik? Ah, here you are.” Logan, his younger brother peeked out the terrace door. “Are you ready to leave? The sun rose hours ago. I thought we’d breakfast with the men and start maneuvers today.” Logan gave Rebeka a devilish nod. He casually filched Arik’s forgotten tankard and took a deep swallow.
Arik observed the bottom of the sun clear the eastern hill. “Hours?” He shook his head and let out a snort. Threading his fingers through Rebeka’s he gave them a tender squeeze. He had wanted more time with her. He always wanted more time with her. But for now their game was over, at least until tonight. “Hours,” Arik muttered while he released her then took the tankard out of Logan’s hand. “And get your own ale. Better yet, get yourself a wife to bring it to you,” he told Logan in feigned aggravation before he drained the tankard dry.
“Ah, but where will I find one like Rebeka?” Another nod for his sister-in-law. Rebeka bobbed a quick curtsey and tried not to laugh.
Find one like Rebeka, indeed. There was no one like her, but good sense told him Logan would find a love of his own. He earned that. A cool morning breeze stirred the bottom of Rebeka’s thin night dress and she shivered.
“Go get something warmer on before you catch your death,” Arik whispered in her ear. She nodded and scooted into the house.
“Maneuvers today?” Arik glanced at Logan and observed his pleasure turn to concern. “The winter’s coming. We should make sure the farms are prepared, there’s enough food stored, and the necessary repairs have been made before the snow.” He had hoped the calm that his valiant soldiers fought to achieve in August would last longer. “There’s still more to teach Rebeka. She’s not ready to face Bran.”
“She came through the portal to return to you. She’s strong. We need her skills to defeat Bran. We can’t do it without her.” Logan didn’t hide his impatience. “Yet you haven’t taught her about Dark Magick. Instead you hide it from her. And I know why.” Arik almost sneered at Logan. This was an old argument. Logan would have had him start her training after their wedding night.
“You’re afraid she won’t be able to control it, that she’ll become like Bran. Don’t you see she’s made of stronger stuff?” Arik waved him off. He stepped away to put space between them. But space wouldn’t help.
Who did he fool, certainly not Logan. Arik glanced at his brother and recognized his silent strength. The only fool here was him. He couldn’t continue with this idyllic illusion. Logan was right. He had been delaying teaching her. He knew Dark Magick would test her, change her. And he wanted her just the way she was.
“After years of being battle ready the men have earned more than a two month furlough,” Arik said in one last effort to put Logan off. The air was alive with Logan’s unspoken objection. He was losing this battle. He glimpsed at Rebeka. Faith, he didn’t want anything to change. She signaled him with a slight nod. He was lost. He couldn’t fight them both. “We’ll recall the men.”
“I put out the word. Many of the men arrived last night. I’ve told them to meet us at the garrison this morning.” It was Logan’s turn to find the smoke from the distant chimney interesting.
“You haven’t forgotten about the portal,” Logan said. Rebeka returned in her morning dress and shawl.
Ah, this was the crux of the matter. Maximillian’s last time travel portal still existed. Arik had sealed all of the others except this one in order to leave Rebeka one opportunity to go back to the 21st century. She valued her independence and ability to determine her own destiny. It challenged him but he loved her for it. He couldn’t seal it, trap her here. It had to be her choice.
“We’ve spoken about closing the portal on Samhain,” Logan said. Magick was strongest on the first day of spring, with its balance of light and dark. He needed that magick to finish the former Grand Master’s work.
“I agree with Logan. Seal the portal and begin my training.” Arik stood next to Rebeka she had no idea what she asked.
He brought her around to face him and peered into her eyes. “I can’t undo the magick once it’s done. You must be sure.” Would she regret not returning? He needed her to be certain.
“My father took me to the future to protect me. All my life I’ve been searching for something without knowing what it was. When I came to Fayne Manor, your Fayne Manor, I knew I had found what I had been searching for.” She held him close. “You. Here is where I belong. Why would I want to be anywhere else? Seal the portal now, forever, before anything happens.”
“She’s right. Seal the portal before Bran finds a way to use it.” Logan echoed before he started took to the terrace steps on his way towards the manor gate.
“Wait,” Arik called after him. “I’ll go to the garrison with you.” He trotted down the steps and caught up with Logan.
“So, you recalled the men. You were certain I’d agree.” He had considered calling the men after Samhain. A few days earlier were fine with him. But he hadn’t wanted to start Rebeka’s training. He glanced back at her standing on the terrace. Logan was right. They needed his sorceress wife’s strength.
“Of course you would agree. Once you reviewed the situation from every angle. Besides, you’ve sensed the Shade, too. We both know it’s time.”
Arik threw his arm around Logan’s shoulder. When had the adoring younger brother become a knowledgeable man, a good friend and soldier? “I thought I heard them gathering when I prepared for the morning ritual. While you organize the men I’ll see to the portal. I’ll meet you at the practice field when I’m done.”
Rebeka watched the brothers leave through the garden gate and marveled at their similarities. People moved out of their way to let them pass. Their self-confidence and air of authority was obvious to everyone. Arik gave the appearance of one who demanded instant obedience. Logan was quick to learn the skill. From the back they were difficult to tell apart. But she would recognize Arik anywhere. He moved with a smoothness and grace that excited her.
She took the empty tankard then entered the Great Hall ready for breakfast. Maybe later, when she finished harvesting herbs, she’d take the trail from the meadow that passed by the practice field. She pursed her lips at the idea. It was more than watching her sweaty husband half undressed practicing with his men.
No, she set a wicked smile on her face.
It was all about watching her sweaty husband half undressed.
“Are you going to gather herbs in the meadow?” Skylar said while she spread jam on her morning bread. “If you don’t need help, I thought I’d cheer the soldiers on while they practiced.”
“And how did you know the men would gather today? You shouldn’t eavesdrop.” Skylar’s scarlet blush flashed up her neck to her checks. Rebeka bit her lip to keep from smiling while she took her seat at the table. Skylar’s embarrassment told her she was right.
Cheer on the men? Rebeka was more inclined to believe that Skylar meant to cheer on her Robert. And how different was that from her watching her Arik?
“Rebeka.” Aubrey, the younger of the two girls, interrupted, oblivious to her sister’s discomfort. “I can go with you. I’m sure Elfrida wouldn’t mind.”
Elfrida, the oldest person in the village, lived alone in large house on the path to the lake. She had been Skylar and Aubrey’s nurse, and even Rebeka’s nurse. Some said the woman was so ancient that she had been the nurse for the Ancients who lived in the Otherworld.
Her nurse. She hadn’t remembered Elfrida when she returned. She hadn’t remembered anyone. When her father took her to the 21st century to protect her from Bran and his Dark Magick he clouded her memory with an enchantment.
Skylar’s head rose. “It’s not that I don’t want to go with you.” The bread in Skylar’s fingers was poised in midair. The pleading expression on her face melted Rebeka. It was obvious to her that Skylar wanted to do both but who could compete with the handsome Robert. The boy searched for any opportunity to spend time at the manor house.
Young love.
Rebeka laughed. “Go ahead to the practice field but don’t stay too long. Jeannie and the other women will need help with the tables and food.” Skylar popped the last of the toast into her mouth then got to her feet. “How do I look?” She brushed imaginary crumbs and wrinkles from her skirt.
“Don’t shine too much or you’ll blind Robert.” Rebeka shook her head then realized that being older and in love wasn’t much different.
“I’ll be back in plenty of time.” Skylar rushed from the room.
Rebeka’s gaze slid to Aubrey. “What wouldn’t Elfrida mind?”
“We’re making sachets for the festival. I can tell her I’m coming later.” A frown settled on Aubrey’s face. “I do like helping her. She always tells old stories about the family.” Aubrey licked the jam from her fingers. “Skylar likes to listen to them too. She pretends she’s grown up but you should see her when Elfrida starts. Her face gets all dreamy.” She wiped her hands on her napkin.
Elfrida, a born storyteller, held everyone’s attention with her tales of the different families. She’d been a source for Rebeka, helping her fill in some of the spaces to recall the past once the enchantment was broken. “I’m helping in the village when I’m finished in the meadow. You make your sachets with Elfrida. When you’re finished meet me by the baker. We can volunteer to sample the meat pies.”
Aubrey’s face broke into a broad smile. Rebeka was glad to see the young girl happy and animated. It had been a few months ago that Cousin Katherine had bullied and harassed her. A distant cousin of Arik’s, Katherine arrived for a visit and stayed on after Arik’s sister Leticia death. Without a woman in the house, Katherine had taken on more and more household control until she ran Fayne Manor.
But Katherine was gone.
Now Aubrey’s face was bright and she chatted almost as much as her sister, if that was possible. The change had been startling. She had been withdrawn and almost never spoke. Everyone in the manor and the village had been concerned. Katherine had found Aubrey’s vulnerable spot, Leticia. The more Aubrey tried to hold on to her mother’s memory, the more Katherine bullied her.
Katherine, the witch. The very idea of the woman made her blood boil. Katherine had tried to keep Arik under her power and isolate him from everyone.
It wasn’t all Katherine’s fault, it was Bran’s. It had taken little for him to manipulate the woman’s already jealous and spiteful mind—giving her the tools to plot against her family. When she realized Arik would never be a part of her twisted dream, to be the true mistress of Faye Manor, she used the tools Bran gave her for he own purposes. With murder in her heart she was determined to see her dreams fulfilled.
Memories of what happened at the standing stones and portal filled her mind. She had been caught in the magick gateway. Arik had been intent to get her out. He didn’t see Katherine attacking him from behind. But she did.
She threw her dirk and hit her mark. Arik got her out of the portal. But while Katherine lay wounded she taunted them. She admitted she had killed Leticia. The pain that had crossed Arik’s face had broken her heart. The woman had kept on laughing until Arik swung his sword and silenced her forever.
Rebeka glanced at Aubrey finishing her meal. No regrets. She’d do it again to save those she loved. But when would Arik understood the man behind everything, Bran, was beyond saving?
There was no way he could turn back.
She understood the devastation that Bran suffered when his wife, Cay, died but that was a long over used excuse. He was aware of the consequences of using dark magick before he began. Everything had consequences and some couldn’t be avoided. Arik knew that better than most in his capacity as Grand Master and lord of Fayne Manor.
“Rebeka, is something wrong?” Aubrey asked.
“Nothing’s wrong. Reminiscing.” She pushed Bran out of her mind and concentrated on her breakfast.
“You’d better hurry and get over to Elfrida,” Jeannie told Aubrey when she came in from the kitchen, carrying an empty tray. “I left some scraps of material in a basket by the garden door. You can take those with you to make your sachets. And don’t forget the flower petals you gathered.”
“I won’t.” Aubrey dusted the toast crumbs off her hands and rose. She leaned over to Rebeka. “I’ll meet you in the bakers as soon as I’m done.” She hurried off through the kitchen.
Jeannie set the tray on the table and collected the dishes. “And you’d better hurry, too. I’ll need those herbs. I’m making the herb goat cheese you’re fond of.” Jeannie gave her a sideways glance.
Rebeka licked her lips thinking about the creamy cheese. It was a recipe she’d made for Jeannie, one she learned in the 21st century. “Yes, ma’am,” she said as she too left the room.
       The day was bright and mild, a good day for a festival. Not a cloud in the sky. A breeze carried the hint of cooler days to come. After the hot summer, the day was a perfect relief.
The aroma of fresh baked bread wafted up to the manor and drew Rebeka into the village. Happy and content, she leaned against a table in the market square, eating the last bite of the warm crusty bread slathered with sweet creamy butter.
“You approve?” Mary’s voice grabbed her attention. “You told me you were eager to see everyone.” Rebeka had a special place in her heart for Mary.

“This is perfect. The aroma of the hot bread,” she lifted hers in salute, “is better than any alarm bell. My mouth watered as soon as I stepped outside the gate.” She leaned her head towards Mary.” And I’d already eaten.”
Rebeka glanced past Mary at the crowd milling around the table and the clutches of chattering neighbors who had been hard at work with the harvesting and preparing for winter. It reminded her of the 21st century coffee wagon.
“The loaves were set out to cool when Lord Arik rode through the village with Doward. I gave them a large slab for their ride.” Mary pulled Rebeka around to face her. “Is it true he goes to seal the last portal? You’re not going back?”
“Yes. This is where I belong and where I want to be.” All those early concerns about how she had arrived at the manor. The irony was laughable. The Lord Knight of Fayne Manor was the Druid Grand Master—the ultimate magician. And she’d worried his people wouldn’t be able to accept that she’d traveled through time. Yet when he’d tried to explain his magick she considered him to be primitive. How absurd and narrow-minded.
“Mary.” One of the other women waved her over to another table.
“I’ll be right there,” she called out. She turned back to Rebeka. “Wait until you see what we’ve planned. I know I shouldn’t say anything but it’s your first fall festival as lady of the manor and we have a surprise for you.” The woman was excited she couldn’t stand still, but hopped from one foot to the other.
Rebeka laughed. “You don’t have to do anything special. Not because I’m lady of the house.”
Mary took Rebeka’s hands. “You’re right but being lady of the house isn’t why everyone wanted to do something special for you. You are an inspiration. You lead by example. You’re smart, fair minded, and yes, maybe a bit strong willed. To me, you’re my valued friend.”
Rebeka paused, “You know you mean as much to me.” Mary was the first in the village to befriend her, an outsider. All her life she shied away from attachments with a sense of not belonging. But she didn’t retreat from Mary.
“Mary.” The woman’s call grew more insistent.
“Coming,” Mary shouted. She squeezed Rebeka’s hands. “Of course I do. And understand I am not the only one who recognizes the good and caring person you are. Everyone does.” One final squeeze and she hurried off. Rebeka stared after her.
In the 21st century she and her father, an authority on Celtic history, lived near a rural college campus. It was only the two of them. She surmised that her parents must have been very much in love. He never spoke about her mother nor did he have any pictures of her. She asked questions but got short unsatisfying answers. Over time, she stopped asking. They stayed to themselves most of the time. He died when she was a freshman in college and believed she had no family and belonged nowhere until she discovered her place and her people. She only had to travel back in time four centuries to find them.
“They need more bread.” Marcus, Arik’s captain stood next to her. “Skylar and the older girls set a table by the practice field to serve the men. She mentioned the villagers were gathering here. I came to see. Was this,” he motioned to the people in the square, “your idea?” He nodded his thanks to the young boy who handed him a tankard.
“No, the morning gathering was Mary’s idea.” Her eyes moved from one group of people to the next. The villagers greeted the arriving tenants and their families with shouts and laughter. The small children ran about while the older ones chatted, the boys on one side and the girls on the other. More bread came out of the ovens and barrels of ale from the brewer.
Marcus’ gaze spanned the crowd. His satisfaction and approval was apparent from the broad grin on his face. “Most of the men have arrived. The practice field is filled to capacity.” He brought his tankard to his lips but before he took a sip he gave her a teasing smile. “Lord Arik will be wrestling later. You may want to watch.” He drained his tankard.
How did Marcus know she enjoyed watching Arik?
“Don’t look surprised. You’re secret is safe with me.” He had a pleased expression on his face. Marcus, too, was a good friend. He was the second, after Logan, to pledge himself to her after she married Arik. “My soldiers have found their ale and are taking a few kegs for the field.” He nodded towards a knot of men hefting barrels on their shoulder. “If you’ll excuse me I have to get back. This was a fine idea. Everyone’s looking forward to the banquet tonight. I hope you and Arik will sing for us. You were the highlight of the summer celebration. What was the song you sang?”
     She reflected for a moment. “Row, row, row your boat.” She had taught Arik, Logan and the girls to sing the song in a round one evening after dinner. They taught the song to the villagers at the summer bonfire. She saw a different side of him at the festive. Not the warrior but the man. That was when she realized she loved him. “I’m certain if you ask him he won’t say no.” Marcus titled his head in salute then followed his men. She observed him exchange his empty tankard for a piece of bread when he passed the last table.
She glanced around and absorbed the warmth and closeness of family and friends and her love for Arik. How could he think she would ever want to leave? She slipped on her empty backpack and took her staff. If she hurried, she could harvest the herbs then watch Arik on the field. That would still leave her time to meet Aubrey by the baker.
I hope you enjoyed the first chapter. Any idea what happens in chapter two?
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