Interview with Merrie Haskell, Author of Handbook for Dragon Slayers

Merrie Haskell dropped by the virtual offices this morning to chat up her latest MG release Handbook for Dragon Slayers.  Check out what she has to say about it.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

@merriehaskell: author, library paraprofessional; obsessed with herbs, blacksmithing, office supplies, alternate universes, anthropology

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Handbook for Dragon Slayers?

[Merrie Haskell] It’s a 12th century adventure story that takes place along the Rhine, in which a runaway princess with a clubfoot who joins forces with two dragon slayers-in-training; she runs into the Wild Hunt, an evil knight, and several dragons along the way.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Merrie Haskell] The broadest part of the concept, a girl who writes a handbook for dragon slayers, actually came to me in drips and drabs over the years.  In college, for a history class, I had to read a wonderful book called A Handbook for William, which was a 9th century German woman’s advice for living at court for her son.  The concept of medieval handbooks actually became a bit of an obsession for me at that point.  How on earth do you make something like that exciting in a fiction book, though? Many years later, I ran across the concept of book curses–notices put at the beginning of books that promised dire consequences for book thieves (explored in an interesting book called Anathema: Medieval scribes and the history of book curses).  I’m not entirely sure when dragons wormed their way in there, other than dragons are so much fun.  When I learned Old English in college, the Anglo-Saxons were sort of obsessed with dragons–it was a big insult to call someone a dragon, because you were a hoarder of gold and treasure, the opposite of what a noble and valiant Anglo-Saxon should be.  Being a giver was important–a ring giver, a bread giver.  It’s so the opposite of how we look at dragons now.  So, these three concepts sort of came together, and I found myself scratching out a book curse:

Whosoever steals this book

shall burn in the

fiery conflagration of a DRAGON’S BREATH

and will ALSO LOSE THEIR NOSE

TO PUTREFACTION.

It is advised, therefore,

that you take your nose home intact,

and leave this handbook

for the study of proper DRAGON SLAYERS

It suddenly seemed very clear to me, that a handbook could be very interesting if it were for dragon slayers.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Tilda?

[Merrie Haskell] This is actually something I do while I write: have the main characters and their key character traits written on post-its along my monitor.  Tilda’s said: RESILIENT. 

I would also add either "Dutiful/Rebellious" — this is her main conflict in the book, as she is duty-driven but rebelling against that.

And finally–"Intelligent."

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Parz had a theme song, what would it be?

[Merrie Haskell] Great question!  I would say it’s probably "Good Life" by OneRepublic.  That song just reeks of Parz–a sort of easy happiness and optimism, combined with the joy of adventure and travel.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Judith is never without.

[Merrie Haskell] A personal knife to use for eating.  You always had to bring your own knife to dinner in the Middle Ages.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Tilda’s pockets?

[Merrie Haskell] Well, since she lived in an era in which pockets didn’t exist, this list is sort of endless!  But she has a few pouches and purses and things like that, so I’ll say she’d never carry embroidery needles, thread, or any sort of thimble.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Judith’s greatest regret?

[Merrie Haskell] Judith loves animals, especially baby animals; she comes to regret being a dragon slayer pretty quickly when she realizes that baby dragons are affected!  Otherwise, though, she is not a girl who holds herself back except when prudence demands, so she doesn’t have too terribly many regrets.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Merrie Haskell] I would say learning has the biggest influence on my creativity.  When I’m learning new things, I almost can’t stop the flow of story and character ideas–it just rains down.  The most perfect example of this was recently when I started to learn blacksmithing–knowing that I wanted to write about a blacksmith, of course.  I started seeing the world in the colors of heated metal. I would drive over bridges and think about the wealth of rebar embedded in the concrete beneath me.  I was on a long plane flight with a copy of The Art of Blacksmithing and started to read–in 30 seconds, I had a notebook open next to me as I scribbled scene idea after scene idea, just from reading about the details of the things I had learned in a more hands-on setting.  I think that’s my most perfect learning experience, doing followed up by theory. I am similarly stimulated when I travel or learn languages. I love going to a place and then reading about it in detail.  It feels backward–wouldn’t it be better to learn before you go somewhere?–but I think that gives me preconceptions that aren’t helpful for the stimulation of creativity.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Merrie Haskell] A reasonable night of sleep behind me, a writing tool (pen & paper or computer), and ideally, a notebook or a stack of notecards so I can document the things I don’t want to include in the manuscript.  I have been a creature of ritual and habit from time to time, but so often these things get in my way.  Deadlines which are attached to money have a way of clearing a lot of mental fluff from your process, I’ve found.  I occasionally worry that my process is still too dependent on peripheries (really, a computer AND a notebook?), but whenever I forget the notebook, the process suffers, so I think I really do need it. Jotting notes to myself on the computer helps me very little; the notes just get lost in the shuffle. Having that other thing to look at on the desk beside me while my book is still up on the screen is great. And if I need the physical act of writing with a pen to get me out of my typing-mode brain, it’s right there.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Merrie Haskell] I couldn’t put down WHEN WE WAKE by Karen Healey, which is about a girl that wakes up from a cryogenic sleep a hundred years after she died and has to deal with all the grief and loss of her old world.  I read most of it during my time on the elliptical trainer at the gym, and it’s incredibly awkward to be brought to tears on an elliptical machine. Other people tend to think you’re having an asthma attack or… who knows.  "Sorry, I’m just reading a very affecting book, go back to your treadmill!"

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Merrie Haskell] Without a question, it was Little House on the Prairie.  I was starting to read a lot already, but when I got that for Christmas in first grade, and it seemed like such a *large* and important book and then I read it all, all by myself, I not only realized how much I enjoyed reading, but I felt smart and capable (no one else was reading books that big in my first grade class).  The escape of reading and the increase to my self-worth? A combination impossible to escape.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Merrie Haskell] I like to read, of course.  I was a huge YA reader when I was a young adult, and never stopped reading YA along the way. I like TV–my Tumblr is pretty much reblogged gif sets from sitcoms and Avatar: The Last Airbender, and not much else.  Oh, and Revenge.  I dabble in a variety of hobbies, like the aforementioned blacksmithing, gardening, calligraphy, drawing…  

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Merrie Haskell] I have a Facebook page, but most of the action is on Twitter (@merriehaskell) and my blog (blog.merriehaskell.com).  

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can purchase Handbook for Dragon Slayers and The Princess Curse from your favorite bookseller or buy clicking the links below:

About the book:

When a runaway princess throws her lot in with a couple of would-be dragon slayers, before long she is facing down the Wild Hunt, befriending enchanted horses, battling fire-breathing dragons, and learning more about herself than she ever expected…

About the author

Merrie Haskell grew up half in North Carolina, half in Michigan. She wrote her first story at age seven, and she walked dogs after school to save for her first typewriter. She attended the University of Michigan, where she graduated from the Residential College with a degree in biological anthropology. She works in a library with over 7.5 million volumes.

Her first book, the Middle Grade historical fantasy The Princess Curse, was a Junior Library Guild selection. Her second book is Handbook for Dragon Slayers.  Her short fiction appears in Nature, Asimov’s, and various anthologies. Merrie lives in Saline, Michigan.

Waiting on Wednesday – Sleeping Beauty’s Daughters by Diane Zahler

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

I adore Diane Zahler’s fairytale retellings, so I had a major geek out when I saw the cover for her next release.  So pretty!  So magical!!  So I must read you now!!  Sleeping Beauty’s Daughters will be in stores August 2013 – I can’t wait!

 

 

Princesses Aurora and Luna have grown up in a cliff-top palace by the sea, where they are carefully protected by their parents, the king and queen. No one visits, the girls cannot stray beyond the castle walls, and, curiously, all sharp objects are forbidden from the castle.

But accidents will happen—particularly when an old curse still has power. Soon, in spite of all precautions, Aurora is struggling not to slip into an enchanted sleep.

Frantic, the princesses accept the help of a young fisherman named Symon and embark on a daring ocean voyage to find their aunt—a fairy who may be able to break the spell. From fearsome beasts to raging storms, many dangers befall them, yet they must not give up…for if Aurora sleeps, she will not wake for one hundred years.

 

What are you waiting on?

Review: Dweller on the Threshold by Rinda Elliot

 

Title:  Dweller on the Threshold

Author:  Rinda Elliott

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

On a hunt to save her sister, the last thing Beri O’Dell needs is love. Aren’t demons bad enough?

Beri O’Dell is investigating paranormal creatures because she wants to know what she is. Taller and stronger than most men, she astral projects and can peel through dimensional layers to see the creatures and spirits beyond.he once helped her foster sister, Detective Elsa Remington, track down killers in Jacksonville, Florida, but stopped when a nasty fire elemental turned her strength against her. Now, she finds herself pulled back when something steals Elsa’s soul and puts her into a coma.

With little time to spare, Beri searches for the reason behind her sister’s coma. She has help in her spirit guides Fred and Phro, but others come along for the ride, including a pyro-nervous witch, and an androgynous necromancer.

The last thing Beri needs is to fall in love with a mysterious stranger. But the handsome Minoan warrior Nikolos knows what creature she’s after because he’s battled it before.
It’s bad.

Really, really bad.

He calls it the Dweller on the Threshold.

Warning:
Contains a worried heroine with no time, a witch with fire problems, a pissed-off necromancer, a trapped goddess, and a damned sexy, but scary, warrior. Throw in bloody battles, mass-murderer history lessons and a bit of sexy time and you get the start of Beri’s new life.


Review:

After my success with Erica Hayes Redemption, I decided to dive into another Paranormal/UF book.  Dweller on the Threshold looked like an interesting blend of creepy and magical, and it was.  The romance is kept on the back burner, and instead the focus is on finding and taking down the dreaded Dweller on the Threshold.  There are people dropping like flies as their souls are sucked out of their bodies, demon battles galore, and an ancient Minoan warrior who possesses both brawn and good-looks.  I liked the Greek mythology that was incorporated into the story, as well as the concept of guardians, ghostly protectors who watch over their charges, usually invisible and undetected for normal people.  Beri, the protagonist, isn’t normal.

I found Beri an interesting protagonist.  She knows that she’s different, but she doesn’t know why.  She can see her guardians – the serious Fred, who was killed in a fire when he was on the cusp of manhood, and Phro, who claims to be the Goddess of Love.  Yes, that Goddess of Love.  Beri wonders what motivates both of them to stay with her, especially the beautiful Phro.  Surely she has better things to do than follow a towering, streaky haired freak of a woman around year after year.  I am still wondering what Fred’s deal is, because it’s obvious there is more to him being with Beri than meets the eye.  Maybe we’ll find out what’s going on with him in the next book of the series?  Where does he keep disappearing to, and can he be completely trusted?  With so many dangers popping up to threaten her life, I believe these are questions that Beri needs to have answered  stat.

Beri has been searching for other answers for her entire life.  Who is she?  What is she?  After being bounced around from foster home to foster home, she’s developed a thick skin, and she prefers to keep others at a safe distance.  The only person she is close to is Elsa, whose parents took Beri in before weird things started happening and they became too terrified of her to keep her round.  Now, the two women consider themselves sisters, and when Elsa interrupts a paranormal hunting trip in the swamp, Beri is obligated to help her sister, a police detective, with the case she’s working on.  Even though things ended disastrously the last time she tried to help, and Beri ended up bathed in blood and detached body parts.  Ugh.

Back in the city, Beri learns that Elsa is in a coma, and things don’t look good.  When she can’t see Elsa’s soul, Beri knows that she has to figure out what she was working on.  As danger mounts, and more mysteries are revealed, Beri has no choice but to trust Blyth, a flaky witch, and Nikolas, an old, old being who is surrounded with the darkness of hundreds and hundreds of trapped souls.  And, oh, yeah, even though he’s older than dirt, he’s a handsome, hulking warrior, and Beri can’t help but be attracted to him and all of his secrets.

I loved Nicolas’ tragic past, and all of the references to Greek mythology.  While some of the world-building was confusing or non-existent, there was enough demon slaying and demon attacking action to distract me from most of my hang-ups about the world Beri resides in.  Just throw some magic, some ugly monsters, and a kick-ass heroine into the mix, and I’m a pretty happy camper.  The action and the quest to find  and defeat the Dweller drive this story, more so than the romance or any other element, and I didn’t mind one bit.  What did kind of bug me?  The non-ending! 

Grade: B

Review copy provided by author

Waiting on Wednesday–Handbook for Dragon Slayers by Merrie Haskell

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

 

When a runaway princess throws her lot in with a couple of would-be dragon slayers, before long she is facing down the Wild Hunt, befriending enchanted horses, battling fire-breathing dragons, and learning more about herself than she ever expected…

 

What are you waiting on?

Interview with Claire M Caterer, Author of The Key and the Flame

Claire M Caterer is our special guest today.  Please welcome her to the virtual offices!  Claire is here to chat about her MG release, The Key and The Flame, which hits shelves in April.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Claire M Caterer] I love great stories in all forms; music I can sing to; animals of all sizes; travel & nature. Mostly introverted, sometimes a showoff.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about The Key and the Flame?

[Claire M Caterer] Eleven-year-old Holly Shepard, who leads a very ho-hum kind of life, receives a strange gift from an elderly British caretaker. The gift is just an old iron key, but when Holly discovers an ancient tree that contains a keyhole, she finds that her key unlocks the portal to a medieval world of danger and magic. Along with her brother Ben and their new friend Everett, Holly travels there, and the kids find themselves locked in a battle for their lives as a ruthless king attempts to wipe out all the magic in the land. It’s the first in a five-part series, the second book of which will come out in summer 2014.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Claire M Caterer] The forest is a magical place to me—huddled in its own ecosystem, cut off from the world, quiet and green. One day on one of my favorite walks, I came upon an incredible tree and thought, “I wouldn’t be surprised if this were a portal to somewhere fantastic and magical.” Holly as a character grew naturally out of the plot, because she is a person who can be very quiet in the natural world and listen for the things that other people miss. She shares some qualities with me, including her eyeglass prescription. I identify with Ben in other ways, particularly his allergy to horses.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Holly?

[Claire M Caterer] outsider, adventurous, honorable

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Holly had a theme song, what would it be?

[Claire M Caterer] The best I can come up with is an old Cole Porter song—“Don’t Fence Me In.” Holly’s not a cowboy, but that is her ethic. She just wants to be free to be herself, not to be hobbled or tied down to convention.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Holly won’t leave home without.

[Claire M Caterer] Her compass. Holly needs to know where she’s going, and she trusts science and nature to get her there. It takes her quite awhile to trust her magic in the same way.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Holly’s most prized possession?

[Claire M Caterer] Her magic key. What this key opens, and what the key becomes, makes it her most prized possession. It is her power.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Claire M Caterer] As a kid I read and reread The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I also loved Roald Dahl, J.R.R. Tolkien, E. B. White, and Madeleine L’Engle. And there are so many others!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Claire M Caterer] Ideally I need quiet, my cup of coffee, and my computer. While I can write longhand, I love the convenience of having the delete key! The coffee is more of a crutch than a tool. I like to have the cup next to me, but if I really get going it just sits there and gets cold. As for quiet, some noise is all right, but I absolutely cannot write if there’s music playing. I get caught up in the music and can’t get immersed in my imaginary world.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Claire M Caterer] A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness—I read it last summer. I was able to crawl right inside that character and feel what he was feeling. The pencil drawings are exquisite—so evocative. I loved that marriage of illustration and text. The writing is sharp, beautiful, horrifying. And it made me cry, which most books don’t.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Claire M Caterer] That’s tough, because I’ve been a reader as long as I can remember. But there was a marvelous book that’s out of print now called The Hidden Cave by Ruth Chew, about some kids who found a cave in an old sewer pipe in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. In the cave they found Merlin the magician, who led them on some interesting magical adventures. Ruth Chew was a wonderful writer of short middle-grade fantastic fiction, and she drew her own illustrations, which I liked. I probably started reading her books in second grade and couldn’t get enough of them.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Claire M Caterer] I read as much as I can. I don’t watch a lot of television but am very devoted to the shows I do watch, especially British comedy and drama. I also love going on outings with my daughter. We go to parks and nature trails and the arboretum and botanical gardens whenever we can. I like to wander.

I love to travel, but don’t do as much as I’d like. Otherwise, I’m home with my dogs. I crank up something like the soundtrack to Mamma Mia! and dance around the house.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Claire M Caterer] I love talking with readers, and they can find me at my new-fangled website and blog, my Facebook and Twitter pages, and on Goodreads. They can also email me to ask questions or just to chat at readerchat [at] cmcaterer.com.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can pre-order The Key and the Flame from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the links below:

 

About the book:

Eleven-year-old Holly Shepard wants nothing more than to seek adventure outside of her humdrum American life. She gets her chance at last when her family travels to England and Holly receives an unusual gift: an iron key that unlocks a passage to the dangerous kingdom of Anglielle, where magic is outlawed and those who practice magic are hunted. When her friend Everett and brother Ben are captured by Anglielle’s ruthless king, Holly must rescue them. But that means finding—and using—the magic within herself and learning which magical allies she can trust.

The Key & the Flame is the first in a brand-new fantasy adventure series for ages 8 and up.

Interview with Gina Lamm, Author of The Geek Girl and the Scandalous Earl and Giveaway!

Please welcome Gina Lamm to the blog today!  She is celebrating the release of The Geek Girl and the Scandalous Earl, which blends video games, time travel, and blistering romance.  After the interview, enter for a chance to win a copy of the book!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Gina Lamm] Gina Lamm is a writer, a gamer, a geek, and a kickass female. She does everything too passionately, and is trying her best to learn control.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about The Geek Girl and the Scandalous Earl?

[Gina Lamm] I’d love to! Jamie, a modern-day gamer girl, gets ported through a mirror into 1816 London. She tries her best to adjust to the rigid rules, but it doesn’t always go well. Micah Axelby, Earl of Dunnington, has decided to settle down with a nice proper miss, but Jamie’s arrival in his home completely screws that up. Through misadventure, passion, and true love, Micah and Jamie find where they truly belong.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Gina Lamm] I wrote what I liked! I’m a gamer and a Regency fan, and the contrast between the two really made me happy. I got to blend two of my favorite things!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Jamie?

[Gina Lamm] Independent, Clever, Passionate

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Micah had a theme song, what would it be?

[Gina Lamm] Something like the Moonlight Sonata, I think. Deep and strong, but full of feeling.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Jamie is never without.

[Gina Lamm] Her cell phone. Even in 1816 England!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Micah’s bedroom?

[Gina Lamm] A laptop, a light bulb, or a USB cable. :) Much to Jamie’s dismay, none of these things are available.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Jamie’s greatest regret?

[Gina Lamm] Believing that her ex was the one. She wasted too much time on him.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Gina Lamm] Books. When I fall into other people’s worlds it makes me remember why I do what I do.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Gina Lamm] A screen, my fingers, and determination! :) I’m not picky other than that.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Gina Lamm] Oddly, Mister Monday by Garth Nix. My brother recommended it, and I really loved it. It was odd and complex and weirdly wonderful.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Gina Lamm] Oh gosh, I can’t remember that far back. I’ve been reading voraciously since I was a little kid!! But I do remember the first romance I fell in love with. Scarlet Butterfly by Sandra Chastain.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Gina Lamm] Game! I play both PC and PS3 games. I love to read, to play with my two crazy dogs, to snuggle with my hubby, and go fishing with my family. My life is so full and wonderful, and I’m very lucky!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Gina Lamm] Tweeting me is always good! I’m @GinaLamm. They can connect with me on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/GinaLammAuthor, my website www.ginalamm.net , and Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5278879, too!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

Giveway Time!!!

Ready for a chance to win The Geek Girl and the Scandalous Earl? Just fill out widget below. Earn extra entries by following. US addresses only, please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Didn’t win? You can order The Geek Girl and the Scandalous Earl from your favorite bookseller or clicking the links below:

 

About the book:

The Stakes Have Never Been Higher…

An avid gamer, Jamie Marten loves to escape into online adventure. But when she falls through an antique mirror into a lavish bedchamber—200 years in the past!—she realizes she may have escaped a little too far.

Micah Axelby, Earl of Dunnington, has just kicked one mistress out of his bed and isn’t looking to fill it with another—least of all this sassy, nearly naked woman who claims to be from the future. Yet something about her is undeniably enticing…

Jamie and Micah are worlds apart. He’s a peer of the realm. She can barely make rent. He’s horse-drawn. She’s Wi-Fi. But in the game of love, these two will risk everything to win.

Excerpt: The Geek Girl and the Scandalous Earl by Gina Lamm

 

Thanks to Sourcebooks, here’s an excerpt from The Geek Girl and the Scandalous Earl by Gina Lamm. 

 

EXCERPT:

Her sword glittered as it swung in a wide arc, whistling as it cleaved the air. She smiled as the goblin bolted.

“Jamie, I need heals.”

Ignoring the call for help, she advanced on another goblin. The tide was turning now. Her allies had almost annihilated the threat.

“Jamie?”

With a wild cry, she loosed a spell on the disgusting creature. It staggered backward before recovering and charging on her in a berserk rage, eyes wild and fangs extended. Her next swing missed, and she took a critical hit.

“Jamie, for chrissakes, we’re dying here!”

Some quick spellwork took care of the goblin, and Jamie reluctantly turned her attention back to her allies. Whoops. Three of the guild’s portraits were glaring red, signaling their imminent deaths.

“Hang on, guys. I’m here.”

Targeting the leader, she cast her most powerful healing spell. The computer screen flashed: OUT OF MANA.

“Eeep!”

She fumbled in her bags for her mana-restoring potions. She’d just managed to find one, clicking to activate it when the screen went gray. YOU HAVE DIED. RESURRECT NOW?

The guild’s groans sounded through her headset as she slumped back in her seat.

“Jamie, where the hell were you?”

“Worst. Healer. Ever.”

“I wouldn’t use your heals for a paper cut, Jamie. That was pathetic. Haven’t you ever run this level?”

She shoved her long highlighted brown hair over her shoulder, glaring at the computer screen. “Of course I have. I can heal this run in my sleep. I just got a little carried away with the mobs. It won’t happen again.”

Kurt, the guild leader, let out an audible sigh over the chat channel. “Fine. One more run. Everyone ready?”

Jamie readied her character’s potions and spell rotation. Typical. They figured since she was the only girl in the guild, she should be the healer. She didn’t mind healing, especially in the more difficult dungeons, but she wanted to do her part to take down the bad guys too. It wasn’t fair. Men never took her seriously. That’s why she played these games. It was supposed to be a level field. But the game, like her life, was rarely ever exactly what she thought it should be.

The Lords of Discord guild cleared the dungeon run easily that time, with Jamie focusing on healing alone. She picked at the chipping mauve polish on her fingernails between fights, only needing to keep half an eye on the large computer screen.

“Great job, Lords.” Kurt’s voice held a ton of relief as he divvied up the loot.

After securing her share of the rewards, Jamie said her good-byes to her guild-mates, logged out, and switched to her other character, Killaz. A hulking Amazon melee class in a chain-mail dress with a huge two-handed sword, Killaz was how Jamie saw herself in her mind’s eye—kick-ass, tough, and more than a little bit intimidating. As she cut a swath through the forest full of giant spiders, she wished that she was anything like that in real life. If I was as tough as Killaz, then that jerk Logan wouldn’t have broken my heart and walked all over me like a dollar store welcome mat.

After an hour of grinding out daily quests, a vibration in the front pocket of her shorts made her jump. Her groan echoed through her junky living room when she saw the text: “Go help Pawpaw Milton with the antiques or I’ll sell your Comic-Con pass. Love, Leah.”

Jamie slogged up the stairs with a huge sigh, studiously ignoring the piano with half-written songs strewn across the bench. The last thing she wanted was to move dusty furniture and knickknacks in the triple-digit heat. But her best friend, Leah, had had enough of Jamie’s post-breakup isolation and had put her foot down where it hurt—right on the pop-culture fan’s trip to the Holy City.

As she drove downtown to the storage unit she was helping Pawpaw Milton clear out, she tried to believe that everything would go back to normal. Well, before-Logan normal. With Leah’s help and this part-time job, maybe she could get there. Maybe even start writing music again. And besides, she’d grown up a lot since the last time she’d worked at the antiques store. Her first summer job there had ended after only three days. The antiques were probably way less fragile now.

***

“Damn!”

The resounding crack of glass echoed through the storage unit, making Jamie flinch. Pawpaw Milton had left her alone in the unit to go to an estate auction. The hundred-degree heat had her dripping with sweat—not the best condition for handling two-hundred-year-old crystal.

Jamie hoped that Pawpaw hadn’t noticed the pretty bowl tucked away in the corner. She carefully shoved the evidence of her klutziness into a large black garbage bag. What he doesn’t know won’t get me fired, she figured, though she couldn’t exactly shake the guilt.

Holding the end of her ponytail atop her head, she gulped from the giant bottle of water like a frantic desert survivor. This was hell.

Jamie pulled her phone from her pocket: 2:00 p.m. Another three hours to go before she could escape to her cave and take a shower. Oh well. It would be worth it in two months when she got to Comic-Con. Hopefully.

She unknotted the bottom of her tank top and dried her face and hands with the tail of it. Even in her thinnest tank top and shortest shorts, she still felt overdressed for this weather.

After carting out and cataloging a number of fragile items without incident, all that remained was the large furniture on the opposite side of the unit. Well, other than the big sheet-covered monstrosity behind the table. What is that, anyway?

Reaching up, she stood on tiptoes to toss back the corner of the dust cover for a quick peek. But she tugged just a little too hard, and the white fabric billowed as it floated down on top of her, dust and cobwebs coating her sweat-slicked skin. Arms flailing, she fought free of the cover, stomping it in a fit of frustration when it lay on the concrete at her flip-flopped feet.

“What the hell is your problem?” Jamie yelled at the innocent-looking mound of fabric. It said nothing, just laid there looking smug.

She turned her back on it to see what it had been covering.

The piece was a tall bureau, made of a rich mahogany that almost glowed gold from deep within the wood. It sloped outward in the middle, wider at its drawer-filled base than the top. Mirrored doors covered the upper portion.

She touched the wood lovingly. It was beautiful, cool to her skin even in the sweltering heat. When she’d reached up as high as she could, she sighed and trailed her thumb down the center of the shiny mirror on one door.

Her thumb dipped into the center of the glass.

With a gasp, she pulled, trying to free her hand. It wouldn’t move. She was stuck.

She yanked backward with all her strength. The mirror pulled on her hand, drawing her farther into the glass. She braced against the bottom of the bureau, using her legs to give her leverage. She was in up to her wrist now.

“Help!” she yelled, frantically scrabbling against the mirror’s hold. “Somebody, please!”

Using all her weight, she jerked backward, nearly dislocating her shoulder in the process. The mirror refused to release its hold. She whacked the slanted middle with the flat of her free hand in frustration.

With one last effort, she braced her feet against the bottom drawer and pulled with all her might. Without loosing its grip on her, the furniture tilted dangerously, almost tipping before she hit the floor to right it again.

Well, this sucks, she thought, slumping against the bureau. Her right ear was traveling through the mirror now.

So much for Comic-Con. So much for her place in the Lords of Discord guild. So much for showing Logan she could be fine without him. She hadn’t really been doing a good job of that anyway, but dammit, she deserved better than being consumed by antique furniture!

Once she gave up fighting, the pull went much faster. Within moments, the glass had swallowed her entire head.


 

If you enjoyed this excerpt, you can order The Geek Girl and the Scandalous Earl from your favorite bookseller or clicking the links below:

About the book:

 

The Stakes Have Never Been Higher…

An avid gamer, Jamie Marten loves to escape into online adventure. But when she falls through an antique mirror into a lavish bedchamber—200 years in the past!—she realizes she may have escaped a little too far.

Micah Axelby, Earl of Dunnington, has just kicked one mistress out of his bed and isn’t looking to fill it with another—least of all this sassy, nearly naked woman who claims to be from the future. Yet something about her is undeniably enticing…

Jamie and Micah are worlds apart. He’s a peer of the realm. She can barely make rent. He’s horse-drawn. She’s Wi-Fi. But in the game of love, these two will risk everything to win.

Cover Shot! Summerkin by Sarah Prineas

 

Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café. I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share. More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents. There is an allure to a beautiful cover. Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?

I loved Winterling by Sarah Prineas, and I am so looking forward to reading the follow up, Summerkin.  The cover just rocks!  In stores April 2013.

From now until 2/4/2013, you can purchase Winterling (digital) for $1.99 from most booksellers.  Buy it!  It was one of the best books that I read in 2012

 

Down through the Way she fell, feeling the wind and the pressing darkness, the dizzy thump when she landed on the bank. She was through. The air felt softer here, the shadows deeper—and the pull of her connection to the land settled into her bones.

In the Summerlands, time moves slowly, roots grow deeply, and change is not welcomed. But change is needed.

After defeating the wicked Mor and freeing her kin from deadly oaths made to this false ruler, Fer is now the rightful Lady of the land. Yet her people don’t know what to make of their new Lady’s strange ways, and neither do the High Ones, the rulers of the magical realm, for Fer is an outsider—half human.

To prove herself worthy of the Summerlands crown, Fer is summoned to compete in an epic contest where her strengths and skills will be tested and her loyalties challenged. Can she trust Rook, the puck she calls friend? Can she trust herself? If Fer fails, she will lose her land and the Way will be closed to her forever.

With stunning prose, Sarah Prineas weaves an enchanting adventure in which Fer must decide if she’s ready to rule and just how far she’ll go to protect her kin.