Sibling Rivalry: guest post by Julia Knight

SwordsAndScoundrelsMy latest series (beginning with Swords and Scoundrels) deals with a brother and sister who are best frenemies. And when I was asked to write this post Erin said “Why siblings?” I had to stop and think. “Because it seemed like a good idea at the time” probably wouldn’t cut it! But then I thought back and, well, there were reasons, even if they weren’t conscious at the time.

The book starts with the statement “They say an ounce of blood is worth a pound of friendship”. And family is one of those things – even if you run away to the other side of the world, they are still a part of you. Shared memories, why you distrust men whose eyebrows meet in the middle, why you think X about Y, all these and many more are all bound up in you, from your family when you were growing up. It doesn’t even matter whether you like your family or not, you’re stuck with them, even when you’re a thousand miles away. But often – not always but often – even if you don’t like them, you do grudgingly love them. You can call your mother/brother/uncle that scum-sucking bleep, but woe betide anyone else who dares to. The people who were around when you were growing up are the bones of your view of the world.

Of course siblings can have a particularly complex relationship. Brothers who are friends and rivals by turn. Sisters who spent their teens giggling over boys together who then compete for the best behaved children or the most glittering career. Most children who have siblings compete for their parents’ approval in one way or another, and that doesn’t stop when we grow up.

And that’s in normal families. If you add in some disfunction….

All of which seemed like a great source of conflict for my two main characters! Their formative years were a hotbed for a strange kind of love/rivalry/jealousy between them. And even though they leave home to join the Duellist’s Guild at an early age, those early experiences shape them, make them who they are and the intervening years only add to those emotions. As the book begins they’re still trying to impress the parents they haven’t seen in years. “Look at me, Ma!”

Add in the clashing personalities that are a feature of some families, the sense of duty towards someone who is your polar opposite, resentment that you seem to be lumbered with them no matter what….

Given all that juicy conflict and mixed emotions the question is why not siblings?

If this sounds like fun to you, be sure to check out Swords and Scoundrels (which was just released yesterday) and its sequels (Julia’s books are being released one per month!). And follow Julia on Twitter: @Knight_Julia

Clockwork Cookie Blog Tour: Double Chocolate Irish Cream Cookies

Today’s special guest is Beth Cato, author of the forthcoming Clockwork Dagger. In addition to being an author who does wonderful steampunk cosplay, Beth cooks and posts marvelous recipes once a week on her blog.
Clockwork Dagger cover

Hi! I’m Beth Cato. I’m here to share some chocolaty delight and to introduce you to my book.

My debut novel, THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER, comes out September 16th from Harper Voyager. It’s a steampunk novel with airships, espionage, and a world tree that seriously plays favorites. Here’s the back cover summary:

Orphaned as a child, Octavia Leander was doomed to grow up on the streets until Miss Percival saved her and taught her to become a medician. Gifted with incredible powers, the young healer is about to embark on her first mission, visiting suffering cities in the far reaches of the war-scarred realm. But the airship on which she is traveling is plagued by a series of strange and disturbing occurrences, including murder, and Octavia herself is threatened.

Suddenly, she is caught up in a flurry of intrigue: the dashingly attractive steward may be one of the infamous Clockwork Daggers—the Queen’s spies and assassins—and her cabin-mate harbors disturbing secrets. But the danger is only beginning, for Octavia discovers that the deadly conspiracy aboard the airship may reach the crown itself.

You can also read the full first chapter over at It can be found at Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and most any independent bookstore.

Now, on to the cookies!

I’m an author, but I’m also somewhat infamous for my baking. Every Wednesday over at my site, I post a new recipe in my Bready or Not series.

These cookies use the Irish cream-flavored creamer you can find in the refrigerated section of most any grocery store in the States. Creamers are a secret weapon in all sorts of baked goods–just substitute them for milk, and amp up the texture and flavor!

Double Chocolate Irish Cream Cookies
modified from Irish Cream Triple Chunk Cookies at Something Swanky

Double Chocolate Irish Creamer CookiesIngredients
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 C Irish cream creamer
1/4 C butter, room temperature
1/4 C shortening
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, room temperature
2 1/4 C all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups mixed chocolate chips OR chopped up candy bars

1) Preheat oven to 350-degrees. In a bowl, beat together the butter and shortening. Add the sugars and beat until creamy. Add the egg, creamer, and vanilla and mix well.

2) Mix in the flour, baking soda, and salt, just until a dough forms.

3) Add the chocolate chips and/or candy pieces. [If you want a thicker dough, chill it for a few hours or overnight.]

4) With a tablespoon scoop, place cookies on baking sheet. [If the dough is firm from being chilled, flatten the cookies with the bottom of a glass.] Sprinkle some sea salt on top, if you want, to contrast with the chocolate.

5) Bake for 10 to 13 minutes, until the tops are slightly tinted in color.


Beth CatoBeth Cato’s the author of THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER, a steampunk fantasy novel from Harper Voyager. Her short fiction is in InterGalactic Medicine Show, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Daily Science Fiction. She’s a Hanford, California, native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cat.

The Freshwater Fishmen of Tucumcari, New Mexico

Today, I’m happy to welcome Tex Thompson, whose book One Night in Sixes comes out next week.

One Night in Sixes

The thing is, I grew up in Texas. Or as it’s colloquially known, “miles and miles… of miles and miles.” In the eastern part around Dallas, where I’m from, the miles are mostly green:

miles of green

While as you head out towards the panhandle, they turn a kind of rugged brown, like slowly oxidizing guacamole:

rugged brown miles

My love of sci-fi and fantasy was born somewhere in between. When I was growing up, our epic family road trips practically required epic novels to pass the time. I hung out with hobbits in Houston, Narnians in Nacogdoches, and androids in Abilene. (And somehow, you can always tell when you’re in Texas…)

You can tell you're in Texas

But when part of my family moved out to Albuquerque, the road trips got longer and more lateral – and I was introduced to a whole new world.

You can tell as soon as you cross the border that something is changing. That trademark Texas flatness starts to wrinkle and rumple and rise up, and the sky seems to get lower and heavier, until the only space between the two is what the rivers have carved out of the rock. It’s a heck of a thing.

What the rivers have carved

So there’s a real sense of geologic time there – not only in the land, but in the marks that human beings have left on it. There’s a fantastic place called El Morro — an oasis sheltered by a huge sandstone cliff, where for literally hundreds of years, travelers have left inscriptions as they passed. Look close, and count how many hands and scripts you can see in just this one snapshot:

El Morro and the messages left

That’s not “and in 1854, when the first pioneers…” That’s not even “in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” That’s called “carbon-date it and give it your best guess, because some of these must be damn near a thousand years old.” I tell you what: it is SO EASY to walk into adulthood with a solid public-school education and think that on the eighth day, God made the Alamo. But out there, it is even easier to stand up in the Sandia Mountains, or look out over the edge of the Acoma Sky City, and feel so small that if you were to fall, you might not even have enough mass to hit the ground.

if you were to fall . . .

And this isn’t, like, fusty curated museum stuff, either. These are living places. People still live up in Acoma, as they for the last nine hundred years. (Well, the Chevies are a bit newer, but still.)

Acoma (with a newer Chevy)

And in the “ghost town” of Cerrillos.


And in downtown Santa Fe.

downtown Santa Fe

And I absolutely love that sense of continuity with the past – of so many living human layers, with neighbors organized not only by houses and streets, but also by cultures and centuries.

So while I myself am firmly rooted in Texas, my “rural fantasy” books were born in New Mexico. Like Tolkien’s Middle Earth and C.S. Lewis’s Narnia, One Night in Sixes lives in its own world with its own rules. But if you want a real-world analogue for the town of Sixes, look no further than Tucumcari, New Mexico. And if a few fishmen come crawling up out of the river for a game of cards one night… well, one wrong turn off I-40 would probably net you just as much excitement.

Tex ThompsonTex Thompson is a “rural fantasy” author and editor for the DFW Writers Conference. Look for ONE NIGHT IN SIXES, the first book in her epic fantasy Western series, on July 29th – and find her in the meantime at and on Twitter as @tex_maam!

Margaret McGaffey Fisk on Researching Beneath the Mask

As promised, today I have for you a guest post from Margaret McGaffey Fisk, talking about the research she did for Beneath the Mask. If this sounds interesting to you, check out the excerpt she’s posted on her blog and enter to win a copy of the e-book or one of two copies of her fantasy short story. (Deadline is Thursday, October 31!) Thank you, Margaret! Continue reading

Karina Fabian’s Mind Over . . .

Karina Fabian has a new book out, this one the sequel to Mind Over Mind. No Faerie Catholic Church or dragons here, but still interesting material.

Deryl isn’t crazy; he’s psychic. Desperate to escape the insane asylum, Deryl teleports to Kanaan, a world of telepaths who regard him as an oracle. The Kanaan expect their oracle to teach them to wage war. He falls in love, but to be with her means to share his psyche, which could drive her insane. Most dangerous of all the Master, enemy of the Kanaan, would will forge Deryl’s powers into a weapon to kill all he loves or destroy his mind trying.

Available in Kindle, epub or Amazon:

Read on below the cut for a personal interview with Karina. Continue reading

Sweet like raspberries

Valerie Comer photo

Today’s guest post is from Valerie Comer, author of Raspberries and Vinegar, which I blogged about earlier this month.

Raspberries are a soft fruit made of individual drupelets clustered together and filled with teensy bursts of sweet flavor. Unlike some fruits, they don’t continue to ripen after being picked. They only last for a few days before beginning to spoil, which allows them to command a high price on supermarket shelves.

I’ve been lucky enough to have access to a robust raspberry patch for most of the last 30-plus years. One house we lived in had an overgrown patch about the size of one parking space. No rows, no supports, just a jungle of canes and grass and weeds.

In early spring I’d go through with a pair of pruners and cut down the previous year’s dead wood (raspberry canes fruit the second year, then die). I’d also trim off the new growth at about chest height for easier picking.

As the raspberries began to ripen in mid-July, I’d crawl through on my hands and knees, ripping out grass and weeds by the handful, leaving them on the ground. This gave the berries air and me some sort of (wending) path through the patch. In the five years we lived in that house, we’d get about 12-15 gallons of raspberries every year.

Raspberries like a lot of water as they’re fruiting. A soaker hose works better than a sprinkling system. You don’t want the berries themselves wet as they turn mushy. You just want the canes to be able to pull up enough moisture for large, lush berries.

While the season is in progress, about 2-3 weeks, you need to pick every other day as the canes will stop producing if the old berries are allowed to remain. Berries are ripe enough to pick if they come off easily in your hand, leaving the cone behind. If they don’t pluck easily, leave them for the next picking. Make sure to reach in from underneath to find hidden berries.

raspberry bushes
My current patch is mostly ever-bearing berries of several varieties. This means I’ll get a decent run from mid-July to the first week of August or so, then nothing until about mid-September, when I get another run, albeit smaller, until frost. This can be anywhere from a week to a month of additional berry picking here in southeastern BC, Canada.

What do I do with so many berries? While they’re fresh, I love them with homemade granola and vanilla yogurt (I usually buy or make plain yogurt and add some honey and vanilla). We also enjoy raspberry shortcakes.

I freeze most of the berries, though. These I’ll crumble into whole-grain pancakes (à la blueberries), add them to smoothies, and make a few Raspberry Chocolate Chip Coffee Cakes over the winter.

Once I’ve set aside a gallon Ziploc or two for those uses, I usually make Raspberry Vinegar out of the rest. We drink a lot of this refreshing punch-like beverage all summer instead of the pop/soda or powdered iced tea we used to buy. Yep, it’s sweetened, but you control how much goes in.

This video shows how I make a small amount, but I usually make a much larger batch in a 5-gallon bucket (or two) and can it into quart jars to store for the next summer.

Ah, yes. Because I love raspberries so much–as well as the Raspberry Vinegar I make from it–it seemed apropos to put both in my newest release, Raspberries and Vinegar.

Cover of Raspberries and VinegarSweet like Raspberries. Tart like Vinegar

Josephine Shaw: complex, yet singleminded. A tiny woman with big ideas and, some would say, a mouth to match. But what does she really know about sustainable living as it relates to the real world? After all, she and her two friends are new to farming.

Zachary Nemesek is back only until his dad recovers enough to work his own land again. When Zach discovers three helpless females have taken up residence at the old farm next door, he expects trouble. But a mouse invasion proves Jo has everything under control. Is there anything she can’t handle? And surely there’s something sweet beneath all that tart.

Valerie Comer’s life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary inspirational romance. Like many of her characters, Valerie and her family grow much of their own food and are active in the local foods movement as well as their creation-care-centric church. She only hopes her creations enjoy their happily ever afters as much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters.

Valerie writes Farm Lit where food meets faith, injecting experience laced with humor into her stories. Raspberries and Vinegar, first in her series A Farm Fresh Romance, released in August, 2013.

She also blogs at, where she offers a free course via email on planning, plotting, writing, editing, publishing, and marketing fiction.

Guest post: Alice M. Cole

Thank you for having me on your blog!

Castella of the Hedges, heroine of Bad Fairies, is a halfbreed in the fairy world. Her father is the dashing dramatic King of Roses, but her mother is a plain garden fairy. Cassie was the fairy equivalent of a teenager when her father’s wife, the Rose Queen, adopted her as the legitimate heir. But Cassie has never been fully successful at pretending to be fully a flower fairy.

What’s the difference, you ask?

Flower fairies are the ones you probably visualize when you think of fairies: pale and golden, with gossamer wings, devoted to drinking nectar and dancing amid the roses in the moonlight. They are adept at spells of illusion — at glamour — and spend much of their time absorbed in dresses, banquets, and riding to the hunt. They are prone to casual cruelty and random pettiness.

Garden fairies are muich more low key. They are fond of growing things and are not afraid to get down on their hands and knees in the mud. Their wings are shorter and sturdier. Their magic is of the sensible sort, communicating with the plants they grow and understanding the ways of nature.

All fairies are tightly tied to the green world. Many of them can enter into a flower or tree and live in its form for a time. Cassie’s half-sister Ash is especially adept — hence her name — and has gained great power through roots that reach deep into the earth.

There are other kinds of fairies as well, living in all corners of the modern world: brownies, house fairies, kelpies, water sprites, nymphs and sylphs, tommyknockers. I wouldn’t be surprised if by now some of the mine fairies have evolved to be automobile fairies and airplane fairies — and in a few hundred years, spaceship fairies as well!

You can find Alice online at The House At the End of The Road, on Twitter as @AliceMCole, and on Facebook.

Her debut book, Bad Fairies, is available directly from Torrid Books, from Amazon (Kindle), and from Barnes and Noble (Nook).

On villainy

Today, it’s my pleasure to have Sarah-Jane Lehoux here on the blog to talk about villains. Sarah-Jane is doing a blog tour for her Sevy trilogy. (Aren’t those covers gorgeous? Click to view at full size.) At the end of the post, I’ll tell you how you can enter to win the trilogy as e-books.

Continue reading

Vern’s Warehouse Dogs

Greater Treasures book tour banner

As promised earlier this month, today, I’m spotlighting Karina Fabian’s latest DragonEye story, the novella Greater Treasures.

Being a private detective in the border town of the Faerie and Mundane worlds isn’t easy, even for a dragon like Vern. Still, finding the wayward brother of a teary damsel in distress shouldn’t have gotten so dangerous. When his partner, Sister Grace, gets poisoned by a dart meant for him, Vern offers to find an artifact in exchange for a cure. However, this is no ordinary trinket—with a little magic power, it could control all of mankind. Can Vern find the artifact, and will he sacrifice the fate of two worlds for the life of his best friend?

And now for a few words from the dragon himself:

Vern’s Warehouse Dogs
By Karina Fabian

I have dogs. I know that sounds weird for a dragon. I never had dogs before I came to the Mundane world. Even among humans, dogs don’t have the status in Faerie that they do here. But I’ve found them to be useful creatures.

While my warehouse is a reasonably comfortable lair, it’s not what I’m used to. Too many entrance points, too exposed. Too many humans–even worse, too many Mundane humans who don’t know how to respect the dragon. Sneaking in for a photo, hoping to swipe a scale, or thinking I’m going to leave my treasure nice and exposed–seriously? (Not that it’s not a good idea, but since my run-in with St. George, I’m not allowed to trick and eat treasure-hunters.) Nice thing about a mountain cave is I can find a quiet spot where I can let my guard down. Not so with the warehouse, but with a dog to keep watch, I can relax knowing that they’ll sound the alarm should any Mundane try to sneak around.

Hot Dog came with the warehouse. He was a nasty piece of work, made meaner by the months of neglect that followed the death of his master–the only human able to control him. The owner’s wife gave the warehouse and all its items to the Church in part because she didn’t want to deal with the mongrel, but couldn’t bear to have it “put down.” Guess she hoped for a miracle. She got me. A few minutes with his neck between my jaws and we came to an understanding. After that, he picked up fast that any human I respected, he’d better respect, too. We had a good year together before I ate him. (It was early in my career and cases were few and far between. Like I said, Hot Dog and I had an understanding.)

Now I have a couple of Labradorish mutts, Riff and Raff. They have a big bark, but friendly temperaments. Back when I didn’t have reliable heat, we kept each other warm on winter nights. More prosperous times and the fact that Grace loves them mean they’ve stayed off my menu for the past ten years. They’re getting gray around the muzzle. I may have to eat them someday, but when I do, it’ll be an honor and not just a luncheon.

If you haven’t already become acquainted with Vern and his human partner, Sister Grace, you can find Greater Treasures in Kindle and print formats.

Information on the novels in the series can be found at the following links:
Live and Let Fly, which is discussed here on my blog.
Magic, Mensa and Mayhem, which is also reviewed here on my blog.

Stay tuned later today for my review of Greater Treasures!

If you’d like to see more of Vern and Karina’s posts, as well as enter drawings for e-books, check out the rest of the book tour.