Friday, January 29, 2021

PROMO: "Quotes" Humbled but, Yet Eloquent



Motivational Quotes, Inspirational

Published: December 2020

Publisher: PageTurner Press and Media

"Quotes" Humbled but, Yet Eloquent contains several informative quotes, colorful photographs, special writing features, poems, scriptures list, songs and an autograph page. The book’s focus is to share Encouragement, positiveness and uplifting words to everyone worldwide.

About The Author

Winifred Lee Richardson resides in the Southern California area with her son and dear family. She inherited the love of writing from her mother.

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PROMO: Taming Wild Horses



Book 2 of Wild Horse Ranch Series

Contemporary Romance

Date Published: January 29th, 2021

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He’s ready to be a better man…

Chase Collins started the summer a brooding, broken man. He was content keeping to Wild Horse Ranch, where he could tend to horses and stew in peace. When Samara Grant reentered his life, she changed everything, and now he wants to prove to her—and himself—he can be the good guy he always hoped to be. What he doesn’t know is that it’s darkest before the dawn…

She’s done running from the past…

Only a summer in Lutton, Texas. That’s what Samara Grant told herself when she arrived. Now months into living in the small town, she’s carved out a life for herself managing her grandma’s B&B, riding horses and falling in love for the first real time in her life. After so many years spent running, she wants happiness, but unfortunately her tragic past is back to haunt her…

He’s not letting things go that easily…

Reed Ward is supposed to be the guy who has it all. He comes from the most prestigious family in Lutton. He’s handsome. He’s charming. He always gets the girl—so why is it that he’s on the sidelines watching his life go up in smoke? His family’s torn apart, his ranch is no longer his, and the woman that’s supposed to be his wants his best friend. One things for sure: he’s not going down without a fight…


About the Author

Mila Nicks is on a mission to pen heartfelt and entertaining love stories featuring women of color.

When she isn’t writing diverse love stories, you can find her globetrotting, sampling new cuisines, and spending quality time with her spunky pet Chihuahua, Zayden.

For more on Mila, including news on upcoming releases and story freebies, check out her website and subscribe to her newsletter:


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Thursday, January 28, 2021

PROMO: Mrs. P., Who Stole My Keys?


Mrs. P Series, Book 2

Middle-Grade Book

Published Date: January 29, 2021

Publisher: INtense Publications LLC

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Mrs. P. and her students return to school from their holiday break only to find more pranksters on the loose in her classroom. Mrs. P. is pranked with a hologram of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Ghost of Avery Middle School and with the mother of them all--her keys mysteriously disappear for weeks. Ella, Lennox, Stella and Austin team up to investigate and uncover the identity of the secret prankster who is constantly disrupting Mrs. P.’s class.


What a sham,” Stella whispered to Lennox, Austin, and Emma.

You’re telling me,” Lennox replied.

Are we the only ones who know the truth?” Emma whispered.

Preston, Tristan, and Mason know, but I guess the other classmates think he hung the moon,” Austin said.

And now’s not the time to tell them,” Stella whispered back.

Principal Abbott placed a lanyard gold medal and held a large cardboard check in his hands. He began to speak as the cameras rolled, and the microphones were shoved into Kelile and Mr. Abbott's faces.

Kelile Anderson, you are a hero in everyone’s eyes. Your invention of a portable digital scanning device to analyze blood samples inside the arteries and detect cancer in the body has caught the Intel Foundation’s attention. You have made a significant breakthrough discovery to help in the fight against cancer and to save lives. I present to you today this gold medal and a check for $50,000 for winning the top prize of the Intel Foundation Young Scientists Award,” Principal Abbott said.

Everyone in the auditorium stood and cheered with thunderous applause. Kelile’s face beamed with pride and accomplishment. Even if half the school knew Kelile was the anonymous prankster and did all the pranks he was accused of; it didn't matter now. He was the celebrated hero, who canceled out everything he ever did to Mrs. P. and the students. Principal Abbott handed Kelile a microphone to say a few words.

Thank you for this special recognition. I am humbled and honored to receive this award today. Thank you, the Intel Foundation, for seeing the potential in me. Thank you, Principal Abbott, students, and teachers for putting up with all my geeky and crazy ways. I especially wish to thank Mrs. P. and my parents.”

He’s finally admitting to his pranks,” Stella whispered.

Yes, but in a strange, vague sort of way,” Lennox replied.

After the awards ceremony, several reporters asked for photographs of Kelile with his science teacher, Mrs. P.. She obliged and smiled proudly with her arms around Kelile even though Mrs. P. knew in her heart of hearts that Kelile was the prankster who annoyed her during the semester with crazy pranks.

When the reporters had finished their photos, Mrs. P. threw her arms around Kelile to congratulate him.

I am so proud of you, Kelile!” Mrs. P. exclaimed.

Thank you, Mrs. P.,” Kelile replied.

Mrs. P. paused for a second and looked at Kelile as if she knew he was the culprit who stole her keys.

Even heroes make mistakes too,” Mrs. P. said.

At that very moment, Kelile knew she knew, but Mrs. P. was the kind of teacher that would forgive and look past his mistakes. Kelile had a feeling he and Mrs. P. would get along just fine in the near future.

About The Authors

Lacie Carpenter

With a love for music, literature, and the obscure-Lacie Carpenter finds joy and solace in writing. With three degrees, working on two more, and several Fiddler of the Year awards; her passions lie in music and writing. Her performances and writing reflect her zest for excitement and intrigue. She is a published author with Hal Leonard and INtense Publishing. Carpenter is a music specialist, psychology professor, avid YouTuber, Vlogger, and has a love for baking and travelling. An award-winning fiddler, multi-instrumentalist, and singer/songwriter, Lacie enjoys passing on her knowledge to others. She has spoken on and moderated many panels at conventions such as NAMM and Music Cities Convention in Chengdu, China. She calls Nashville, TN her home and is grateful to be able to live out her dreams as an artist.

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Thornton Cline

Ever since his mother signed him up for piano lessons at age five, Thornton Cline has been writing non-stop. With over 1,000 published songs, 150 recorded songs, 32 traditionally published adult, children’s and YA books published, Thornton Cline has been nominated multiple times for Grammy and Dove Awards. In 2017, Cline won a first-place Maxy Literary Award for “Best Children’s Young Adult Book”. Thornton Cline’s books have appeared at the top of the Amazon bestselling charts. Cline has been honored with “Songwriter of the Year” twice-in-a row and has received a platinum award for certified sales of over one million units in Europe.

Cline continues to mentor, speak, teach, and inspire aspiring authors and songwriters around the world. He resides in Hendersonville, Tennessee with his wife, Audrey and their cat, Kiki.. You can follow all the latest updates on his books and songs at his website,; Thornton Douglas Cline on Facebook, @ClineThornton on Twitter, and @ThorntonCline on Instagram. Mrs P: Who Stole My Keys is Cline’s second book of the Mrs. P. series on INtense.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

PROMO: 7 Minutes to Freedom



7 Minutes to Freedom: Simple Writing Meditations to Liberate Your Writing and Your Life

Self-help, creativity, personal growth, writing prompts, journalling, personal transformation

Date Published: January 28, 2021

Publisher: North Spirit Publishers

Have you always longed to express your innermost thoughts in writing but thought it impossible because you’re not a writer? Do you wish you could quiet the voice in your head, lose the self-doubt, and write to your heart’s content? What if you could let go of limiting beliefs, build a joyful daily writing practice, and discover your authentic voice and your authentic life?

Freedom is closer than you think. Freedom to write and rewrite your life. Freedom to write yourself happy, clear, and free. Seven minutes at a time.

7 Minutes to Freedom offers a roadmap for writers and nonwriters to find their voice, embrace their creativity, and radically transform their writing and their life. It is a practical guide to summoning your courage, writing through challenges to create a dream life, boosting your creativity, gaining insight, and improving your relationship with yourself and your writing,

This book is written for experienced writers, novice writers, nonwriters, those burnt out by the creative process, and those who have struggled to share their thoughts, ideas, and voice. It is meant for anyone interested in self-discovery, creativity, and deep spiritual insight.

With one hundred simple and powerful seven-minute writing meditations to use as guideposts to creative freedom, this book will help you rediscover the joy of writing, build new daily habits, and embrace the freedom that comes with knowing you can write and live without fear.

Use the powerful meditations in this book to learn exactly how to:

  • Overcome writer’s block and develop your authentic voice
  • Quiet your inner critic and build a joyful daily writing practice
  • Abandon limiting beliefs and self-judgment
  • Unlock your creative potential
  • Reconnect to parts of yourself you’ve neglected
  • Cultivate gratitude and focus, and change the course of your life
  • And so much more!

If you’re ready to make powerful discoveries about yourself and improve your writing life forever, the writing meditations in this book are the perfect tools to help you find your way to writing and living without fear. Get your copy today to discover just how far freedom, clarity, and inspiration can take you!


­Is this book for you?

If you are reading this book, you are ready to get curious about yourself. By using the prompts in this book, you can gain direct access to your wisdom and intuition, discover your secrets, and find your authentic voice.

You don’t have to be a writer to benefit from this book. In fact, this book will help you discover your voice and liberate your writing process. If you are a writer, this book can help you strengthen your creative muscle and deepen your relationship with yourself and your writing. It will give you newfound clarity on the habits of mind that separate you from the life you want to be living.

Why this book?

Each of us knows the difference between flying and feeling stuck. This book invites you to fly. Writing is a form of flying. It’s a deep meditation on the meaning of your lived experience - a way of exploring your external and internal worlds. Writing is a wonderful tool for self-discovery. It invites you to access your soul and its guidance. It keeps you honest and teaches you how to grow by paying attention to each moment. What does this moment want to tell you? What questions does it contain? Where are you stuck? What can you learn there so that you can break free and fly again?

This book invites you to explore yourself by responding to simple writing invitations. It offers a hundred ways to write yourself free and fly again in your writing and your life. It contains a hundred invitations to write yourself clear, write yourself well, and write yourself home. This book will help you cultivate focus, attention, and clarity. It will help your writing become effortless and spontaneous. It will help you discover an authentic voice and an authentic life by attuning to your thoughts and feelings. It will make your relationship with yourself and your writing more true. It will show you how to experience each moment of your life more fully.

Writing is a form of meditation. It is also a form of prayer. You can write to ask, and you can write to hear the answers. You might not know the answers yet, but you have the power to ask powerful questions. And if you ask, life always answers.

Writing is not separate from life. The same beliefs that inhibit our writing inhibit our living. Writing is a great tool for seeing through these unhelpful beliefs. Gaining clarity on our beliefs makes our writing clearer, and in turn, writing adds clarity to our lives. While we’re working on our writing, writing is working its magic on us. It’s a win-win.

As the famous author Julia Cameron writes, “We should write because humans are spiritual beings and writing is a powerful form o­­f prayer and meditation, connecting us both to our own insights and to a higher and deeper level of inner guidance as well. We should write because writing brings clarity and passion to the act of living.”

Last wishes

I have a few last wishes as you embark on your journey towards yourself. Writing often becomes a place for self-judgment and perfectionism, but it doesn’t have to be. Writing is a form of flying. Honour your own way of flying. Don’t judge what you have written. I hope you use this book to spread your wings and fly.

In the last chapter, I include my own freewriting explorations of the topics in this book. I’m sharing my own raw unfinished writings to inspire you to write freely. Notice how imperfect my writing form is. Notice how I digress and leave the prompt behind and follow my pen and my heart wherever they take me. Feel free to do the same. Playfully. Without a concern for the form.

Try writing with the attitude of playfulness and self-care. Be curious and courageous. Be accepting of your words and your thoughts. Be honest. It is for your eyes only. Don’t worry about writing correctly. Step boldly into the fire of self-inquiry and get ready for some powerful insights. Be spontaneous and fresh, and don’t rush. It’s all there to be discovered and revealed in due time. What you force won’t be true, but what you discover might change your life. As an experiment, trust your hand to reveal what your head might not know.

Why write?

This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment.


Why write? Why express anything when silence is already perfect? Why fly towards a secret sky? The truth is I don’t really know. Perhaps to reveal another shade of silence, another note, another breath. To cause the veils of untruth to fall.

Writing is like a fountain. The heart doesn’t ask where the fountain gets its water—it opens to the flood of writing coming in. Writing is like air. I breathe it in so I can go on living. Have to take another breath, write another line, forgive the line before for coming out awkward, silly, or incomplete. Writing teaches forgiveness, compassion, humility, and acceptance. Nothing needs to be perfect. It already is, in all its imperfection.

I fell in love with writing as a form of revelation, a tool for honesty and self-disclosure. Whatever is hiding beneath the surface can be seen. There is no power in the little me to cause the veils to fall, but writing, on the other hand, is a mystical force that reveals its power to those who can appreciate it. I have written almost daily for thirty years and found that the more I understand myself, the more authentic my voice is. Writing has been my prayer. It has been my teacher, and I forever remain its apprentice. I hope you, too, never stop exploring your heart.

About The Author

Natalya is an award-winning writing and dissertation coach with over two decades of experience teaching writing. She has coached professional writers and university writers of all skill levels–students, staff, and faculty. Natalya currently runs Writing and Graduate Student Support at Ryerson University in Toronto, where she also teaches Writing for Wellness to staff and faculty and acts as a dissertation coach for graduate students.

Her passion is helping writers become more courageous, authentic, and kind to themselves. Through individual coaching, writing groups, and writing retreats, she has helped hundreds of writers to break through blocks and find inspiration, a more authentic voice, and a greater freedom in their writing and their life. Her doctoral research also focused on the intricacies of the writing process, exploring the relationship among the poetic, the feminine, and the sacred.

She lives in Toronto, Canada, and when she is not writing or meditating, she loves to play tennis, practice yoga, or sit by the water and cloud watch for hours. In her own writing practice, spanning three decades, she discovered that beliefs we have about our writing are not different from the beliefs we have about ourselves, so a new way of writing often translates into a new way of living. What was impossible becomes probable and even likely when we learn to write and live without fear.

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Blog Tour: Friday Nightmares



YA Urban Fantasy

Date Published: January 19, 2021

Publisher: FyreSyde Publishing

For generations, the wizards of Candle Paranormal Investigations have helped the people of Boston with everything from garden-variety poltergeists to Eldritch abominations. Sixteen-year-old Henry Candle, however, has no interest in taking over the family business and would much rather spend time hanging out in cafes with his human friends. But when his father is brutally murdered while working on a case, Candle Paranormal Investigations magically falls into Henry’s possession — and so does a warning: “BEWARE, HENRY. HE’LL COME FOR YOU, TOO.”

Henry does some digging and discovers that two other wizards have been killed in the past month, both of their bodies found with the same symbol scrawled into their chest as his father. He decides to reopen the case so he can discover who (or what) is murdering Boston’s wizards before he's next. Aided by his pug familiar, a witch and a group of human friends, Henry must stop a supernatural serial killer and find an evil spell book that could end the world.


The first thing most outsiders noticed upon coming to New England was the sheer enormity of the trees. And it’s true: they’re huge. Bigger than monsters in childrens’ nightmares and just as inescapable. Sometimes — on cloudy October nights like this one — it felt almost like they were watching you, warning you to stay away. Sometimes, it was worth listening.

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Corey Edward is a lifelong lover of books, learning, and coffee. Although he is easily spooked, he lives for a good scary story, so perhaps it is fitting that he finally decided to start writing them. He lives in Ohio, where he works as a ninth grade English teacher.

He received his BA in Integrated Language Arts from Youngstown State University and went on to later receive his MA in English.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Blog Tour: The Book of Bastards



Date Published: January 14, 2021

Publisher: The Intoxicating Page

Welcome to The Gold Piece Inn, where you can drink, gamble, and play!

Or hide.

Cursed on the day the king is assassinated, Dewey Nawton is compelled to protect the widowed queen, but protection means different things to different people (and different curses).

Kings have dictated every role Queen Dafina has ever played. Now, a halfling innkeeper assigns her the role of serving lass. But is The Gold Piece Inn just another tavern? Could it be an orphanage? … surely, it’s not a brothel.

Oh yes, she’s fallen from grace, but will that stop her from leading a handful of pirates and a dozen bastards to avenge her king and rescue Glandaeff’s faeries, elfs, and mermaids (and merbutlers!) from a brutal tyrant?

Dewey has a secret. Dafina has a secret. The Bastards have two secrets.

Is there even a sip of moral justice in all this bawdiness?

Early Reviews

The Book of Bastards combines a riveting, intense plot of righteous vengeance with tongue-in-cheek banter that will keep you turning the page with eager anticipation. With settings that make you wish they were real, characters you can't help but cheer for, and twists that keep you guessing, Ransom Stephens has crafted an engaging tale that makes every minute of reading, time well spent. I don't often reread a book, but I think I'll make an exception. Loads of fun. Highly recommended. – Brian D Anderson, million-selling author of The Bard and the Blade

A delightful, detailed tale about morality, being honest with yourself, and self-reflection, even when you don’t like what the glass has to show. A perfect treat for lovers of rich fantasy worldbuilding, gory battles, and the kind of thoughtful, character-driven stories that make your brain whirl, your imagination dance, and your heart surge.” -J.M. Frey, bestselling author of The Accidental Turn Series


Daffy ran down to the wharf with scores of elfs and leprechauns. Baertha helped her board a tender. She took a seat near the stern where she could look back at Crescent Cove. Leprechauns jumped aboard and elfs took their time, stepping from the dock to the little boat in time with the rolling swells. Rustin jumped aboard and lifted her into a tight hug that reminded her of his mother. She told him it was time for her to leave and he accepted that, though he made her promise to visit.

Daffy grew up among ships in the sheltered harbors of Nantesse. Good harbors are calm like lakes, but violent ocean waves threaten the shelter of Crescent Cove. The tender climbed up the front of swells and fell down the back of them. She wondered if she’d ever get to dub Rustin a knight. A deposed queen dubbing the rightful king? No, never. And she wondered what Kaetie would become. The tender finally bounced against Avarice’s bumpers. Baertha boosted her up, and she climbed the rope ladder.

Seagulls swooped over the deck. The smell of wet wood, tar, and dead fish, the sounds of sails flapping in the wind and sailors calling to each other, and the constant roll of the deck brought Daffy face to face with the reality. She was finally going home.

She went below deck to claim a hammock. The elfs stood in separate families, so motionless and silent that they seemed to be in a different world. Daffy put her things in a hammock that stretched from the base of the mizzen mast to a cleat on the underside of the deck where the roll of the ship wouldn’t bother her too much. She followed cackles of laughter to the lower hold and discovered that leprechauns had claimed it. Before she made it to the bottom of the ladder, a lassrechaun, offered to cut her hair. The lassrechaun wore white tights, a green dress, and had apple-red hair. She held up huge scissors that had a transparent quality that convinced Daffy they were an illusion. She declined the haircut, and, in an instant, her short hair assembled itself into braids.

“Better, ma’am?”

Daffy made the mistake of laughing and her fingernails turned a bright shiny purple. A ladrechaun cart-wheeled past and while she was distracted, another ladrechaun reached into her empty purse. She watched a juggler, declined several marriage proposals, and sang along to a ballad about rainbows and pots of gold. By the time she heard the windlass lifting the anchor chain, the leprechauns’ boundless energy had exhausted her.

She climbed back to the deck. The crew stood at their stations, holding their lines, some taut, some slack. She found Baertha and Madog at the helm, a few steps behind the ship’s wheel where the pilot stood. The anchor chains went silent and Baertha issued a command. Her voice bellowed over the wind, the waves, the birds, and the constant chatter of leprechaun pranksters. For a few seconds, the canvas sails clapped in the wind, and then the sails were trimmed, and Avarice pulled forward. Daffy watched little whirlpools form off the port gunwale and saw the wake form at the stern.

When they cleared Crescent Point, Avarice keeled to port under a harsh wind and took off.

“Braided like that, you can really see the black roots, love.” Baertha stood next to her. “Going home then?”

Daffy went cold and silent.

Madog stood on her other side and said, “Hard to believe that a queen has been holding court at The Gold Piece Inn.”

“Harder to believe that she’s been holding court with scurvy muvs the likes of us.”

Daffy stepped away. The pilot’s eyes stuck to her.

Baertha caught the wheel and gave it back to the pilot. “You’re safe here, you have nothing but friends on this ship.”

“We always wondered,” Madog said. “Your accent should have given you up.”

“Serving-lasses don’t read and write seven languages.”

Daffy said, “Are you going to turn me in?”

“Love,” Baertha said, “if we were going to collect your reward, we’d have done that a year ago.”

“Aerrol wanted to, the stupid farqer.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“You don’t know much about Dewey, do you?” Madog said. “People who get on his bad side have a way of, umm, suffering.”

“Naw,” Baertha said. “I’d have not let them take you from me, I love you so.” She let out a big hearty laugh that Daffy could feel through the deck below her feet.

“Did you know then?”

“Well, love, with that much money on your head and not being able to access it without—” Baertha exchanged a sidelong glance with Madog, “what did you call it? Right, suffering—it was easier for me to convince myself that you were just another wayward lass in Dewey’s collection.”

“Until Aerrol drank the usurper’s bilge water.”

Daffy said, “It will be nice to go home and, I assure you, you’ll be welcome in my court anytime.”

“Which reminds me,” Baertha said, “would you prefer to bunk in the mate’s cabin?” She winked. Madog laughed and walked to the bow.

Daffy smiled and batted her lashes. “A hammock among the elfs suits me fine … for tonight.” She curtsied to Baertha and walked to the stern. A cloud accumulated at the knuckles of The Fist of God, and the low-pitched wail of the foghorn reached out. The roll of the ship gave her the first drowsy sign of seasickness. She sat against the gunwale and pictured Dewey sitting in his chair reading tiny messages with his Truth Faery on his shoulder. The roll kept tugging her in different directions. She got up and ran to the poop deck to unleash her last meal.

* * *

Avarice sailed into the wall of fog that accumulated off the coast on summer days. A Compass Faery stood on the wheel pointing due west.

When Avarice emerged from the cloudbank, she headed straight at a gaelleon with the red and black Flying Anvil.

The gaelleon sat in irons, waiting, facing Avarice. Baertha pushed the pilot aside, grabbed and spun the wheel. The rudder groaned under the force. The masts complained and Avarice turned downwind, south.

Avarice rode high on the water, her faer cargo lighter than the freight she usually carried and made the turn in half the distance she normally would have. Baertha gave orders to tighten some sheets, loosen others, and the sails trimmed to the new direction in seconds. They had the advantage of speed and maneuverability but were way behind on preparation. Still, in the time that it would take the gaelleon to raise sails, catch the wind, and come about to give chase, Avarice would be over the horizon.

But there was one thing that they could never have expected, much less prepared for.

Avarice completed the turn less than a quarter mile from the gaelleon, still well out of bowshot or catapult range, now aligned with the gaelleon’s starboard side. The crew cheered and offered the gaelleon a variety of obscene gestures.

Eight large portholes opened along the side of the gaelleon. Seconds later, eight cones of fire blasted out of those portholes.

“Dragons!” The warning screams reached all the way to the poop deck where Daffy emptied her gut into the sea. She caught her breath. Her first thought was confusion—she didn’t believe in dragons. After all, “no one had ever seen a dragon and lived to tell about it.”

The streams of sparks were followed by a great pronouncement of might that echoed from the ship, roaring thunder and a splash off the starboard side of Avarice’s bow. Steaming water blew hundreds of feet in the air. Ten-foot swells rocked Avarice. Seconds later, another jet of flame and sparks, blasts of thunder, and this time the tremendous splash aligned with Avarice’s stern. The splash rained on Daffy.

Seconds accumulated. Avarice rocked but didn’t lose her grip on the wind. And then the thunder returned. Had anyone possessed the wherewithal, they’d have heard eight distinct concussions within the thunderous orchestra.

The destruction came in a small fraction of the time it takes a heart to beat. Daffy heard the crushing sound of a hundred-fifty-foot redwood mast snap like a twig, the rending tear of molten iron balls punching through the hull—two above the surface and one below—the searing blast of boiling iron ripping into the starboard gunwale and exploding the deck in flames, and then a series of three more hits, one after another, cleaving Avarice at midship. Bodies flew, people screamed, faeries swarmed. The bow dove and the broken mast marked its grave. The stern lingered, bobbing on the surface.

In Daffy’s experience, ships had crews that ushered royal passengers to lifeboats in an orderly fashion. Avarice’s tenders doubled as lifeboats, but Daffy had no notion of where to board one.

Baertha and her crew launched the starboard tenders. Madog moved across the remaining deck. He called below, and elfs and leprechauns streamed up. He directed them to starboard where Baertha pushed them into transports. But Avarice was going down fast.

For all his rambunctious ways, his lusty approach to life, Madog respected the code. He knew the risks when he pushed Aerrol overboard and asked the crew to accept him as captain. Searching the failing stern, he pulled mangled crew members from beneath broken masts, and encouraged them to swim with what limbs they had. He didn’t see anyone down in the hold. Water boiled up through the hull and showered down from the deck. He climbed up what should have been flat decking and saw Daffy swept into the sea seconds before the hull shot to the sea floor, minutes too late for her to swim to safety.

Madog, comfortable with his fate, felt a surge of sorrow that he would never again fall into the generous, welcoming arms of that gregarious ginger, Loretta of The Gold Piece Inn.

* * *

Daffy waited on the poop deck for someone to rescue her. It wasn’t a conscious decision, just training. She saw Madog just as a wave pushed her overboard.

She swam for all she was worth but didn’t know where to go. This business of the sinking ship pulling everything down with it didn’t occur to her until she experienced it. The cold knocked the breath from her lungs. The hull reared above her. She pulled herself to the surface and sucked in a big breath.

She could have reached out and touched the rudder. Treading water in that instant of balance when the hull came to a stop, she saw a tender on the horizon. She took another breath and Avarice’s stern came down. She might as well have been tied to the rudder. The vacuum that trailed it sucked her down, ever farther, deeper. Her ears felt like they’d explode. She held that last breath even as she collided with chunks of redwood that had formed gunwales, masts, and decks. A shredded sail caught her foot and flipped her over. Now diving headfirst, she experienced those last lucid thoughts. Rather than memories of joy or regret, she felt raw, unadulterated panic. She kicked and pushed away the flotsam. She held that last breath for nearly two minutes, even as the water pressure tried to collapse her ribcage, she clung to that air.

Something scraped her back. She tried to push off but got caught in it. Something else collapsed around her chest and tugged her down. The bubbles finally exploded from her nose and mouth.

The reflex to breathe overwhelmed her.

Whatever she’d gotten stuck in had a soft side and when she began to inhale seawater, something gentle pushed against her mouth, blocked out the water, and blew air into her lungs.

Daffy tried to push away, to break the grip, but she held on to that new breath. She exhaled a stream of bubbles and that soft warmth covered her mouth again and blew. It blew air into her, and this time she trusted it. She tried to exhale without disconnecting from the source of air, but the source pulled away. She exhaled bubbles and, in time with the rhythm of her lungs, the source blew into her again. It became a dance. She inhaled, exhaled, and soon caught her breath. She was conscious and, as far as she knew, alive.

The depths of the sea are too dark to see. With full lungs, she tried to swim to the surface, but it wouldn’t let go. It pulled her down, ever deeper, providing breath the whole way.

Daffy felt a rhythmic pumping, powerful strokes. She stopped pushing and held on. Something scraped her. She breathed again, and now she recognized it. She ran her hands along the sides of the creature and felt strong shoulders and arms. The forearms had sharp edges from elbow to wrist. She breathed again and put her arms around its neck.

She yielded to the creature and continued deeper. Exhaustion eventually overwhelmed her.

* * *

When she came to, she was accepting another breath, and saw enormous eyes, iridescent as abalone shells, looking back from the distance of a kiss. She held her breath, and the maermaid pulled away. The creature’s skin was green-tinted blue, the color of ocean water at about twenty feet—the very golden-haired miracle who had pulled her out of the Adductor River the day the King died.

She looked around and saw more of them, three maermaids and two maerbutlers. They smiled back and made all sorts of noises. They sounded like dolphins, but their voices were deeper and their clicks and whistles longer, almost like humming a tune.

At the end of another breath, before pulling away, the maermaid said, “Welcome to our home!” The words came directly into Daffy’s mind. She tried to reply, but it came out in bubbles and meaningless syllables. The maermaid leaned in and she pulled away on impulse. The maermaid canted her head and smiled. Daffy needed to breathe, so she leaned in and took a breath of fresh air. Fresh might not be the right word. The kiss tasted like the ocean, like fish just caught, but warm and soft, a kiss.

They were in an underground cave, a sort of grotto covered in luminous plants that shed different colors of light that added up to a bluish shade of white. Smooth stones formed benches, sea anemone and starfish attached to the walls, floor, and ceiling. A wave flowed in from somewhere, jostling them about and cooling the water.

The maermaid made a genuine sound through the water, not telepathy. Daffy wrapped her mind around the sound, Zelda, a name. She tried to reply with her own name, but it came out as more bubbles and then she had to pull Zelda close to get another breath.

The maermaids and maerbutlers carried on a conversation. Every ten seconds or so, Zelda would lean over and share a breath. Daffy held out her hands and shook her head in what she hoped was a universal signal for, “What are you talking about?”

Zelda kept her eyes open and her tongue ran across Daffy’s teeth. Daffy heard her say, “When the tide recedes, our grotto will fill with air.”

Zelda pulled away and made sounds in that dolphin song that expressed joy. The next time she gave Daffy a breath, she put words in her mind, “We’ll rest here, sharing air, until the tide ebbs. When you’re all better, I can take you back to the world above the sea, if that is what you desire. Or you’re welcome to stay with us as long as you like.” She tugged Daffy to a giant green anemone, soft as a slick pillow. Daffy tried to sit, but her buoyancy pulled her away with every wave. She felt exhausted and, the next time Zelda gave her a breath, she yawned into Zelda’s mouth.

Zelda pulled her close and carefully matched their lips together. Daffy inhaled and then started dozing, her lips against Zelda’s.

When she awoke, she was still below water, still attached to Zelda like lovers swimming in the rush of affection at the dawn of a new romance. Zelda pulled Daffy up and they broke the surface. A good three feet of air filled the top of the grotto and the tide was still going out.

Daffy took a fresh breath, introduced herself, and asked where they were. Zelda leaned in to kiss her, but Daffy no longer needed help breathing. Zelda laughed—squeaks and dolphin-whistles. This time, Daffy accepted the kiss and, noses touching, eye-to-eye, Zelda conveyed the story: the maer had been dining on a school of tuna when they heard dragons. Other schools of maer had rescued many of the elfs and leprechauns. The elfs demanded to be returned to land, and even the maer didn’t relish bringing leprechauns into their grottos.

Zelda put pictures in Daffy’s mind of the rocky outcroppings that lined the Glomaythean coast and told her of the maer grottos and communities beneath every rocky crag. With another kiss, she said that Daffy was welcome in every one of them.

About the Author

Ransom Stephens has searched for the Holy Grail in Cornwall and Wales but settled for a cracked coffee mug. He’s won several awards, but they’ve all been named after people he’d never heard of which made for awkward acceptance speeches. The author of four previous novels on simple, non-controversial topics like science vs religion in The God Patent, technology vs environmentalism in The Sensory Deception, oligarchy vs anarchy in The 99% Solution, and love vs money in Too Rich to Die, in his latest, The Book of Bastards, he offers readers what they really want, a story of bawdiness washed down with a sip of moral justice.

I’m a fairly accomplished scientist and technologist, all the details at

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