Attention Readers! The Wizard’s Gambit Kindle Countdown Deal Starts Monday!

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Attention Readers!

symbol colorFor those of you who haven’t gotten your hot little hands on a copy of my latest release, The Wizard’s Gambit, now’s your chance to get it at a discount! From February 22nd to February 25th  you can get a kindle copy for 0.99! Then until February 26th the book will be available for $1.99! After that, it goes back up to $2.99, which is still less than the price of a small coffee at Starbucks!

Can’t wait until then?

Follow the link here to the Amazon sales page. Available in both paperback and electronic formats! (BTW, sale applies to both Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk)

Already have a copy?

If you already have your copy, not only do you rock, but you can also help me out by spreading the word. I’m still a new author and can use all of the help I can get. I’ll be posting on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday this week as well as on Saturday next week on my Twitter, WordPress, and Facebook accounts if you want to share promotional material I’ve already created. I would be eternally grateful.

What is the book about:

Wizard White Beard had a plan, but destiny had something else in mind . . .

After 1,001 years of hostilities among the six—er—seven kingdoms, Wizard White Beard proposes a non-violent alternative to war—a scavenger hunt—to determine the fate of all! The rules are clear: no weapons and no bloodshed. Just clean, honest competition. Simple enough, if only the contestants would follow them. With the fate of the world at stake, it’s up to Mongrel, an orphan with an unconventional upbringing, to intercede. Joined by a hodgepodge group of misfits, including a gentle giant, a magically challenged elf, a feisty female dwarf, and a reluctant wizard’s apprentice, Mongrel just might stand a chance of winning—if he can survive!

A hilarious tale of magic, mayhem, and misadventure that turns the classic fantasy universe on its head. A must-read for anyone who enjoys comedic fantasy.

“Middle Earth meets Rudolph’s The Island of Misfit Toys.”

-Random Reviewer

Hungry for more?

Here’s a snip-it from chapter one to wet your whistle:

In the middle of a magical land stood, in a liberal sense of the word, a kingdom . . . or the ruins of one anyway. It had a wall—on two sides at least—and a castle, for lack of a better word. At the most it had potential. Not that anyone noticed. There, in the dusty remains of the castle’s throne room, Wizard White Beard and his apprentice, Margo, waited in anxious anticipation for the arrival of some very important guests. Well, Wizard White Beard was at least. Margo, it seemed, was quite content to just sit there on the edge of the dais while her mentor paced the length of the room, each impatient step echoing off the walls. All the while he stroked his beard and mumbled to himself, periodically pausing in his tracks to glance at the doorway before resuming his pacing.

Margo followed him with her eyes, the most movement he’d seen out of her all morning. After a while, she said, “Pacing isn’t going to bring them here any faster. You might as well just have a seat . . . unless you’re worried.”

He stopped and faced his apprentice, staring at her under the brim of his conical hat.* She shriveled under his critical gaze. He said, “A wizard, Miss Margo, has nothing to fear. He knows exactly what he’s doing and what needs to be done. It’s everyone else who’s fighting against destiny. If anyone should be worried, it’s them.”

“By them do you mean the leaders of the six kingdoms?” Margo was, of course, referring to the seven or so guests summoned by Wizard White Beard on this particular day for an intervention of sorts. After 1,001 years of war and hostilities among the kingdoms, Wizard White Beard decided he’d had enough. Of course, he hadn’t been entirely up front about the reason for this meeting or who was going to be in attendance either. He figured those details were best glossed over if he wanted anyone to show up at all. He only hoped they wouldn’t be too upset when they realized they’d been bamboozled.

“Six kingdoms?” He stared at his apprentice as though she were a grade-schooler and not a fifth-year apprentice. “Don’t you mean seven kingdoms?”

“No,” she said. “There are only six kingdoms. One of elves, one of dwarves, and four kingdoms of men: north, south, east, and west.” She counted off her fingers. “That only adds up to six. I believe you added one for the ogres by mistake.”

“I made no mistake,” he said indignantly. “There can’t just be six kingdoms, not when there could be seven.* Everyone knows that. Shows what you know.”

“Anyway . . . don’t you think the leaders of the six kingdoms—”

“Seven kingdoms.”

“Fine, seven kingdoms. Whatever. Don’t you think they’re going to be upset when they realize you’ve lured them here under false pretenses?” Margo asked. Her violet eyes bore into him like a termite.*

He managed not to shudder; in fact, he offered her an encouraging smile.

“Trust me, Margo. I’m a Master Wizard.”

Margo returned his gesture, but the smile did not reach her eyes, and it slid away quickly. He did not blame Margo for her unease. This was the first time she’d accompanied him outside of the city walls—the university, even. A “field trip” he’d called it, though it was anything but. A little nervousness was to be expected, even justified. But more likely, it was just her typical melancholy and had nothing to do with nerves.

“I just don’t see how you expect them to go along with this.”

“I don’t,” he said. “That’s why we’re here.”

“To do what exactly?”

“To fulfill our roles as wizards.”

“Which is what specifically?”

He thought for a moment and said, “Well, according to The Complete Dullard’s Guide to Wizardry, which you have yet to read, the role of a wizard is to ensure that all predetermined or inevitable courses of events are fulfilled as prophesized.”

It was clear by her vacant expression a simpler explanation was in order. He cleared his throat and tried again.

“Consider these events: the crowning of a king, the dethroning of a dark lord, and the invention of the fish taco; what do they all have in common?”

“. . . Nothing.”

“Wrong! All of these events occurred, by will of destiny, with the help of a wizard. You see, wizards orchestrate all great happenings in this universe so things turn out exactly as they should. That is the role of a wizard. Does that make sense to you?”

“I think so,” said Margo, but her tone was uncertain. “I just don’t see how it’s possible to shape a deterministic universe governed by fate. I mean, if a course of events was meant to play out, wouldn’t they do so with or without the aid of a wizard?”

“Yes—er—no—er—oh, just look it up in The Complete Dullard’s Guide to Wizardry next time you’re in the library!”

“All right, all right. Don’t get your hat all bent out of shape.”

And now she was having a go at the hat. He doubted, as much as she mocked the hat, she even wanted one of her own.

“So why are we here, anyway?”

Finally, a new topic. “Ah, the age-old question that every person—”

“No, Wizard White Beard,” Margo cut him off. “I mean why are we here in this decrepit, old throne room?”

“Oh, right.” He cleared his throat. Even he had to admit the dusty old room didn’t inspire awe. But, according to record, it had once served as a meeting place for the great kings and queens of the seven kingdoms. Now only dust gathered here, apart from rats and spiders. A few birds built nests in the decorative beams above. Cracks climbed the walls like vines, and plaster crumbled to the floor. The rest of the castle was no better for wear and neither were the surrounding buildings for that matter. In fact, the whole city had fallen to ruin. A shame, Wizard White Beard thought, since so many hands had aided in its construction. Now it lay in ruins, much like the alliance among those who had built it.

He smirked. “I thought it fitting, considering this city used to be the great capitol and cultural hub of the six—er—seven kingdoms. That is, until everything turned sour. Also, this is the only place that has the sufficient space to host such a meeting and doesn’t require a reservation. Not to mention I saved a small fortune not having to rent out a conference room. Those can be rather pricey—”

“So, what broke up the alliance?” she asked him, pulling his derailed train of thought back on track. Her own attention wandered to the empty throne atop the raised dais. “Was there a fight for power or an argument over magical jewelry?”

“That’s just it! No one remembers. Yet after 1,001 years, they’re still fighting it out like cats and dogs, the fools.” He snorted. “This intervention was a long time coming.”

Margo was quiet before she scrounged up the courage to ask, “Are you sure this plan is going to work?”

“Of course I’m sure,” he said, heat rising to his cheeks. “How many times do I have to tell you before you’ll trust me?”

“Once or twice more might help.”

The nerve of that girl, baiting him when there were serious matters at hand. And if she had reservations about his plan, why had she waited so long to speak up? Sometimes he wished he’d never taken her on as his apprentice. Now was one of those times.

“Who’s the Master Wizard here, you or me?” He loomed over her like a foot over an ant, threatening to come down.

“Whatever.” She sighed, closing the hair in front of her face like a curtain, shutting her mentor out. “When your plan fails, don’t say I didn’t try to warn you.”

Although they were mumbled, the words were as clear as day—well, not day, really—water more like, though not the water back in the city. It was more of a murky brown color. But anyway, her words stung. If ever he questioned his apprentice’s faith in him, it was now. Though he couldn’t honestly think of a time when she’d ever trusted him. Now would be a convenient time for her to start.


 

Footnotes:

* Upon the completion of wizard training, a wizard receives not only their hat and celestial robes but a moniker relating to the color of their beard—or fake beard for those incapable of growing their own (e.g. women and prepubescent teenage boys).

* All things—kingdoms, heavens, and hells—must come in sevens; it’s an unspoken rule in most fantasy realms.

* Violet-eyed people are invariably special, prone to possessing strange or mysterious talents. Those with black or red eyes, however, are always evil.


 

I hope you enjoyed the sample, if you have not already read the entire book. I hope you enjoy your visit to the six—er—seven kingdoms.

 

 

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Let the Online Scavenger Hunt Begin! And May The Odds Be Ever In Your Favor . . .

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Hello everyone, and welcome to the 75th Annual Hunger Games–wait, what? I mean, welcome to the opening of the online scavenger hunt! Whoo hoo!

For a refresher on rules and prizes click here.


The Questions:

#1. Where is the most unusual place I’ve had a book-signing?

#2. Name all 4 song titles my editor thinks should be on my novel’s playlist.

#3. What song best describes me?

#4. Which character in The Wizard’s Gambit is my favorite?

#5 Who is the main character in The Wizard’s Gambit?


symbol colorNeed a hint? Remember, the information containing the answer will be marked with a sword, axe, and bow crossed over a ring just like the image to the right. Each one will note which question it pertains to, just to make things a little easier.

So, what is the significance of the image, anyway? Does it have anything to do with the story? Or is it totally random? What could it possible represent? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

The Wizards Gambit ebook coverYou can order the Kindle edition today for $2.99 at Amazon.

Or, if you prefer paperback, you can order your copy of the paperback version on Amazon for $13.50.

Want the book for free? Be one of the first 3 participants to complete the scavenger hunt! Winners earn Amazon gift cards and/or free copies of my book!

Happy hunting! And may the odds be ever in your favor!

The Kindle Countdown Deal for “Quest” Begins!

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I’m counting down the days until the release of The Wizard’s Gambit, and what better way to do so with a Kindle Countdown Deal! From today until the 17th of October my debut novel, The Quest for the Holy Something or Other, will be on sale for $.99! That’s less than the cost of a cheeseburger at McDonald’s or a small coffee at Starbucks.


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Skip the drive-thru! Get a book instead!

The Quest for the Holy Something or Other is a Pythonesque romp through the Realm of Camelot that is sure to have your sides splitting. The story centers around a young gong farmer named Pig who dreams of the glories of Camelot. Her dreams become reality–or so she thinks–when she becomes Sir Kay’s page. What starts off as a joke soon becomes the adventure of Pig’s life when Merlin sends the knights on a quest for the Holy Gift Box–er–Bread Basket–whatever it is! On their quest, they face many knight-worthy, and some not-so-knight-worthy, foes: an insane pond dweller, several greedy salespeople, and an overzealous cache seeker, all the while fighting against time, mostly each other, and the most infamous villain of all—change. The Quest for the Holy Something or Other is a fresh and funny take on a well-known legend, with engaging characters, some rather good jokes, and something that starts with S, but it isn’t important.


So far, the novel’s received only 4 and 5 star ratings and some rather flattering reviews:

“There is a gentle humour running throughout the book . . .The author hasn’t gone solely for cheap laughs; If you like your comedic fantasy funny, subversive and free of get-out-of-jail-free magic, this is the book to start 2015 with!”

“Kylie Betzner should be congratulated on finding her own voice where she could quite easily have copied another’s. As a debut, this bodes well for the future.”

“Fresh, funny, inventive, irreverent. Well worth a read! It’s an original and comic take on the Arthurian legend, subverting every trope found along the way.”

“This debut by Kylie Betzner is a great first book and should keep you chuckling all the way through.”

Now is your chance to join the quest today! Just follow the link here to the Amazon sales page to get your copy today!

And stay tuned for more updates on the release of my newest title, The Wizard’s Gambit, coming this month!

7 Essential e-Publishing Tips: A Guest Post by Author M.J. Moores

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What day is it? C’mon! Say it! Say it! It’s Hump Day! Whoo-hoo! And I have a treat to get you through the mid-week hump, a guest post by author, editor M.J. Moores, OCT. Today, she’s going to share with you 7 essential e-publishing tips. Take it from here, M.J.!


It’s hard to imagine being an author today and not having an e-version of your book available for sale. In fact, with ½ of all books sold (on a yearly basis since 2012) being eBooks, that’s a market you don’t want to be left out of. However, I still come across many self-published authors who haven’t taken that next step. And whether you’re just starting into the e-publishing game or you’ve been making your way alone through the quagmire here are 7 essential tips to consider.

ONE – Get to know the players.

Kindle generally claims ½ of all eBook sales and the other half go to a variety of mid-sized and small niche markets: Apple’s iBook, Barnes & Noble’s nook, Google Books, Kobo and many more. Depending on your prowess and comfort with being a small business owner and managing your books, there are 3 standard options to consider: Just going with 1 platform (e.g. Kindle Unlimited); going with 2 or 3 distribution platforms (Kindle Direct & Smashwords or Draft2Digital); or going direct with as many companies as you can (Kindle, Kobo, Nook, Google Books, etc.) and then finding 1 or 2 multi-platform distributors to get your book into the smaller niche markets. No one option is the right one and none of them are wrong.

TWO – Do your market research.

Check out what demographic buys where, to hit your optimal sales figures. If you’re writing for the teen or YA market (we all know that adults love YA just as much as teens!) then putting in the time and effort to have a solid presence on WattPad could be a substantial benefit to your e-industry. You need to realize that getting into this business on a wing-and-a-prayer may work some of the time, but more often than not first-timers get discouraged and frustrated when their expectations do not become a reality.

THREE – Make sure your eBook is as nicely formatted as your print book (if you have one).

The ease with which anyone can publish online today often leads to hasty uploads to the marketplace. Either do your research and study the style guide for your chosen distributor(s) or hire a professional to simplify the process. There are a number of authors who offer services like editing and formatting at discounted prices to supplement their income. Chat in writing forums online or ask around at a local writers meeting to see who might “know someone” to help you out. You want your readers to have the best possible experience with your text so that it disappears from the screen and simply becomes alive in the mind.

FOUR – Get yourself a nice cover image.

If you happen to be a graphic artist and you’d like to build a book cover using a design program you’re comfortable with, go for it. You can easily find the dimensions for the cover that your preferred distributor uses and then get creative. If you happen to dabble with graphic design or you’re using a cover page template provided by your distributor (or a 3rd party) then you’ll need to do your research. There are proven complimentary visual elements of style that are necessary for you to understand about the art of cover art and how that differs from print to digital imaging the size of an icon or postage stamp. You also need to know what your target market likes. If your cover looks amateur and doesn’t accurately represent your niche genre then you’re trying to hit a home-run with a Nerf baseball bat at Fenway.

FIVE – Make sure the price is right.

Yes, you have your print book listed at $16.99 but that doesn’t mean you automatically list your eBook for that price. For print you have to consider the cost of physically creating and then shipping your book to your reader. On a 350 page book you’re looking at costs between $8-$12 on average. Immediately take that away from your $16.99 price tag – eBooks are published with the click of a button and sold with one too. Suddenly your book is sitting around $4.99-$6.99 – much more comfortable numbers… but are they your numbers? The facts are that most eBooks gain their highest sales (depending on your genre of course) around the $2.99-$3.99 price bracket. If you’re a relative unknown in your publishing market then the better bet is to start on the lower end. If you’re well-known then go with the mid-range pricing since you already have a solid readership. And if you happen to be Stephen King, go for broke and sit at the high end as you continue to rake in the cash for your literary offerings 😉

SIX – Work the system.

Whatever e-publishing platform (or distributor) you happen to go with, they will have a means by which you can place your book on sale, do a limited time discount, participate in %-off days or other promotional opportunities. Bottom line – if someone thinks they’re getting a good deal, they’re more likely to buy. This goes across the board with print publishing too, but take advantage of sites where you can list your book for free (because it’s discounted or naturally sits at a certain price range) as there are always bibliophiles on the hunt for a great buy.

SEVEN – Give it away for FREE.

Yes, this is a controversial topic in-and-of itself but hear me out. There are three ways to do this and I’ll guarantee you’ll like at least one of them 😉 The first and most widely practiced is having a “free day” or days for your full-length book. Why go free? The general rule of thumb is that for every 30 books sold you’ll gain 3 reviews. If your book is downloaded 300 times on its free day, then you’re looking at a potential 30 reviews to help hype up and sell more books for a profit. However, there are other ways to get reviews (reaching out to book bloggers one-by-one or paying review services like NetGalley or ChooseyBookworm to make your book available to their network of reader-reviews – this is not the same as paying for reviews, which you should never do) which leads me to option two; free teasers. By making prequel chapters available for free or writing ‘extra’ material that can act as a reference or introductory text of some kind you are providing a hook for potential readers to get to know you, your style and content. Options three is making use of giveaways during your pre-launch and launch days to help spread the word about your new book. Who doesn’t like winning something for free? Goodreads is a great platform to help with this or you could go solo and work with Rafflecopter and run your own giveaway.

Getting into the eBook game might strike you as anything from exciting to nauseating depending on how self-assured you are when branching out and trying something new. Just remember, the writing and publishing community (both on and off line) is here to help you. Yes, we’re all in competition for that almighty buck but ultimately we know that if we can help you succeed there’s a chance for us out there too.


picM.J. Moores began her career as an English teacher in Ontario, Canada. Her love of storytelling and passion for writing has stayed with her since the age of nine. M. J. relishes tales of adventure and journeys of self-realization. She enjoys writing in a variety of genres but speculative fiction remains her all time favourite. M.J. is a regular contributor to Authors Publish Magazine and she runs an Emerging Writers website called Infinite Pathways where she offers editing services and platform building opportunities. Her debut novel Time’s Tempest is currently available in print and e-format.The 2nd book in the series will be coming out early in September!

Connect with MJ on her website, her blog, or on Facebook.

Happy Hump Day, everyone!

Some Humor to Brighten Your Monday Morning. You’re Welcome;)

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Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00030]Happy Monday, everyone! Or should I be perky at my own risk? Let’s face it, Monday’s suck. Especially when it rains. So, I’ve decided to share a short excerpt from my new novel, The Quest for the Holy Something or Other to brighten your day.

In this excerpt, our heroes Pig and Kay meet the famed Lady of the Lake. Before their encounter, Kay advises Pig to lower her expectations. The reader is welcome to keep theirs high;) Please enjoy:)


The seconds turned into minutes, the minutes into hours, and the hours stretched out into what to Pig felt like an eternity, though it was only midday. The farther they traveled, the denser the forest grew, and the thinner and muddier their path became. To Pig’s dismay, this only slowed their progress all the more.

“Are we there yet?” Pig threw back her head and wailed.

Kay turned and glared at her from the corner of his eye. “What did I tell you the last twenty times you asked me that dumb question?”

“You said I would know,” said Pig, mocking his tone.

“And do you think we’re there yet?”

“No.”

“Then we’re not there yet.”

“I’m sorry, Sir Kay, but I’m just so excited! I’ve never met a real celebrity before . . . except for you and Sir Lancelot—and King Arthur, of course. Oh, then there was Merlin and Sir Gawain—oh, what if she comes from the water and holds aloft the Holy Bread Box? It would mean God chose you to have it!”

“No, it wouldn’t mean that,” said Kay, swatting the mosquitoes that swarmed about his face. Like the foliage and the minutes, they, too, were increasing in number.

“Have you met her before, Sir Kay?”

“More times than I’d care to admit,” he said, frowning. The mosquitoes were relentless.

They did not bother Pig. She was immune to them by now, having spent so much time with them at the pits. Even a swarm of hornets would have little effect on her at this point. “What is she like? Can she breathe underwater?”

“She’s . . . unique.”

“Does she live in the pond or near the pond?”

“I’ve never actually seen her home,” said Kay after a short pause. “She’s always splashing around in the water.”

“Is she beautiful?” Pig assumed so. She just wanted to hear Kay say it.

“I’d imagine she’s a specific type.”

This did not sate Pig. “Is she kind? Can she sing? What is her favorite color?” The questions were just spilling out of her mouth as they formulated in her mind. She could not control herself.

“Just save your questions for when you meet her, Pig,” said Kay. “Just don’t waste her time with the silly ones.”

“I just can’t help it. I’m so excited!”

“So I gathered.”

“I just wish we’d get there already—what’s that terrible smell?” Pig’s nose picked up a familiar scent, but it was only similar to that of gong, not exactly the same. It was . . . more watered down.

“That would be our destination,” said Kay as he brought his horse to a stop and dismounted. When Pig did not follow immediately, he turned to her. “Are you coming? I thought you were impatient to meet her.”

“Yes, of course.” She hopped down from the saddle. After securing her pony next to Kay’s horse on a tree branch, she followed him to an old willow tree and waited as he parted the draping branches. Pig’s heart beat wildly in anticipation of the sparkling waters that would surely be revealed, but when the branches parted, they exposed a dank marshland.

“Here we are: the domain of the Lady of the Lake,” said Kay, allowing Pig to step through before him. “Of course, the term lake is being used liberally in this case.”

“Where is the lady?” Pig scanned the waters for movement, nearly tripping as she stepped back into a mushy spot of land. She pulled her foot out and gagged at the slimy substance clinging to her shoe.

“Come now, Pig. It can’t be worse than the sites and smells you encountered at your last job.” Kay chuckled.

“Yes, but one expects the pits to be unpleasant,” she said. “This is the mystical realm of the Lady of the Lake. It should be beautiful and enchanting. Where are the sparkling waters? The mystical fog? The baby ducklings?”

“You need to start setting your expectations lower,” said Kay.

Splash.

They both turned to face the pond. Pig’s eyes peered into the scum-covered water. Sure enough, someone or something was paddling over.

“Sir Kay, is that you?” It was the voice of a woman that spoke between gargled breaths as she came to the shoreline and pulled herself onto land.

Pig was shocked to see that aside from the stray foliage, shells, and pond scum that clung to her skin, she was absolutely naked. Thankfully, all of the naughty parts were covered by unimaginably long blonde hair* that reached down to her buttocks. Caught in the nappy tangles was an assortment of water life, some of which were still alive and flopping. Pig could not help but stare. The woman smiled as she came before Pig’s knight. “Kay, it is you.”

“Aye, it’s me,” said Kay, keeping his distance.

“My God,” she gasped as she looked him up and down. “You’ve gotten fat.”

“It’s taken me years to become so,” said Kay. His eyes ping-ponged about the marshlands, searching for something—anything—to look at other than the naked woman standing before him. Meanwhile, she smiled expectantly at him, waiting for a compliment in return. Coughing into his hand, he managed. “I see you’ve grown your hair out—a good decision.”

“Oh, thank you.” She smiled, fiddling with the ends. “I was actually thinking of cutting it.”

“I wouldn’t.”

Her smile widened. Then she turned her large blue eyes on Pig. “Who’s this?”

“Oh, that would be my new page, Pig.”

“Pig,” she said, a bit unsure, and then beamed as though a light bulb had gone on in her head. “I have just the thing for you in my waters, Pig. Be back in a jiff.”

Before either one could stop her, the lady was back in the lake, diving to the bottom of the water. Within minutes, she arose with a dagger, encrusted with jewels and a thick coating of rust.

“I present to you, young Pig, this gift,” said the lady as though she were speaking at an important ceremony rather than standing in the middle of a filthy pond. “Here take it.” She offered the dagger to Pig, who reached out for it in haste.

“No, she can’t have it.” Kay swatted Pig’s hand away and pushed the rusty thing back towards the lady.

“But, Sir Kay!” Pig watched in horror as the lady chucked it back into the waters.

“Quiet, lad.” Kay shot her a look of warning.

Pig slumped in defeat.

Turning back to the Lady of the Lake, Kay said in a more gentle tone, “Actually, if you don’t mind, I came for a specific item.”

“What is it Sir Kay seeks?” The lady tilted her head. “Perhaps I have it. There are all sorts of mystical treasures hidden in the waters. It’s God’s little treasure chest down there, and I am its keeper.”

“Er, right,” said Kay, avoiding her eerie gaze. “Well, I’m looking for a breadbox of sorts, possibly holy. Would you happen to have one of those floating about your pond?”

“I must consult with the powers that be,” she said, gaze drifting off. Then she stepped back into the center of the lake. “Be right back.” Sucking in a large chest full of air, she plugged her nose and sank to the bottoms of the water. Air bubbles popped at the surface of the water until there were no more. For a second, both Pig and Kay were sure she had drowned until, at last, she resurfaced, cradling an object in her arms.

“Sir Kay, I bestow upon you this.” She handed him a square metal item covered in holes. It too was rusted.

“A cheese grater?” Pig turned to Kay.

“It’s very nice, I’m sure,” said Kay to the lady. “But didn’t you find any holy bread baskets while you were down there?”

“I was not meant to give you this breadbox, nor do I know what one is,” she said, a little indignant. “It seems you were meant to carry out your quest.”

“That’s why I came here!” Kay groaned. “So I wouldn’t have to go questing.”

The lady took on a hurt expression. “And here I thought you missed me.”

“Oh, aye, that too.” Kay rubbed the back of his neck and turned away quickly as the lady leaned forward for a hug. “Well, better shove off, quest and all.”

“Farewell, Sir Kay,” The lady waved to him as she stepped slowly back into the lake, falling back into the waters with a loud splash. Pig and Kay watched her flail a bit before regaining her composure and sinking into the waters. Then they turned back.

“So, was she all you expected?” Kay asked Pig as he untethered his horse and led it back onto the path.

“She was more nautical than I imagined she would be,” said Pig after some thought. She waited until they had mounted their steeds and were back on the path before asking, “Why didn’t you let me have that dagger?”

“You’re not ready for one,” said Kay without missing a beat. “Besides, you won’t need one for this journey, as short as it will be.”

“Short?” Pig frowned. “What is our new destination?”

“The City of Un’Named,” said Kay after a moment’s thought. “The city hosts a huge market. There, we’ll purchase some supplies and one of those holy something or others.”

“Holy Breadbox,” said Pig. “And you can’t just buy a breadbox and call it holy.”

“Come on, lad. Do you think it actually exists?” Kay laughed. “It’s just some ridiculous vision that Merlin had. There’s no truth to it.”

“What about the Holy Grail? He also envisioned that.”

“Also a fake,” he said. “This is why the other knights are going to be finding their grails at a market as well. If they’re smart, they’ll split the cost.”

“But—”

“What did I tell you earlier?” said Kay. “It’s time for you to start lowering your expectations.”

*Blond being loosely used to describe her hair color.


The_Quest_eBook_coverThat’s it for now! I hope you enjoyed it. Knowing I brought a smile to someone’s face definitely brightens my rainy Monday morning.

If you’re interested in downloading a larger sample, click here to visit the Amazon sales site, no purchase necessary.

The book is available in both paperback and e-formats for those of you who would like to purchase it.

Again, Happy Monday to everyone!

Reflections on Thursday’s Live Facebook Chat and Weekend Reading Recommendation: “The Eyes That Moved” By Rachelle M. N. Shaw

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Friday is here at last! But before we head into the weekend, I want to take a step back to reflect on last night’s Live Facebook Chat – All About Self-Publishing hosted by Author Rachelle M. N. Shaw.

This was my first online author event (not including my online book release party) so I was surprised how much I actually enjoyed the format. Sure, it was a little confusing at first the way the posts got out of order when people would comment to them, but after a few minutes I got the hang of it.

Technical details aside, the event was worthwhile for me. Even though there weren’t a lot of participants–maybe 6 or 7 tops–the ones who did attend were actively engaged in the conversation. One even suggested she’d be purchasing a copy of my book soon, which made my evening. Mostly, it was just rewarding sharing my experience with other authors. That’s what being an indie published author is all about!

If you missed the event but would like to check out the questions/answers at your own time, click here. I’m not sure how long the event will be accessible so I wouldn’t put it off too long.

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Author Rachelle M. N. Shaw


One more thing to mention before you solidify your weekend plans! Author Rachelle M. N. Shaw, host of the event, is offering her short story, “The Eyes That Moved” for FREE on Amazon right now! Sale ends today actually, so if you’re in the mood for some spine-tingling weekend reading, definitely get your copy today. After today, the book goes back up to its original price, which is only 99 cents.

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For fans of horror/paranormal

Blurb: Kendra is a young girl who has a knack for spotting unusual trinkets and abandoned houses that hold treasures of their own. When she meets Adam, a fellow sleuth and collector, they decide to embark on their biggest adventure yet: the Whitson house. The house is a marvel, and its secrets are even juicier than Kendra had imagined. The third and final floor of the house holds something Kendra has been waiting a lifetime for. But she may have signed on for more than she bargained. There’s a darkness in the house that wasn’t there before, a pair of eyes in every corner, watching, waiting for her time to come. And Adam isn’t at all who he claimed to be.

Connect with Rachelle M. N. Shaw via her social media sites:

Website: http://rachellemnshaw.com
Blog: http://rachellemnshaw.com/blog/
Tumblr: http://fmtpextended.tumblr.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RMNSediting
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13929660.Rachelle_M_N_Shaw

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Here Goes Nothing! Entering the Royal Nonesuch Humor Writing Contest

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8300I’ve never had much luck with writing contest. The most I’ve ever accomplished was third place in my high school writing contest, winning myself a whole whopping five bucks. But today I took it as a sign from the celestial bodies up above when I saw a post regarding an international writing competition geared towards humorous writers. When I discovered it raises funds for the Mark Twain House and Museum in Connecticut I was sold.

After some consideration, I decided to submit the prologue from my Arthurian parody, The Quest for the Holy Something or Other. This section introduces the main theme of my work which deals with change and several pivotal characters who either drive or oppose change. The prologue can easily be enjoyed on its own but entices readers to read on with its originality and whit. Hopefully, the judges enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.


Here’s my entry for those of you who are curious:

From his throne atop the raised dais, King Arthur observed the Great Hall with all the smug satisfaction of a cat on a high perch. Below him, servants bustled about, clearing the Round Table and cleaning up after the knights, who had feasted with Arthur earlier that night. Dinners in the Great Hall were raucous affairs, and it was never an easy task putting the room back in order. Arthur grimaced as the last of the dishes were removed from the table, revealing a new stain. A servant took a rag to it, but it was no use. The stain had already set in. She was about to give it a spit shine when Arthur told them all to leave.

Alone, Arthur considered the table. But rather than face it head-on, he angled his body away and scrutinized it from the corner of his eye. The Round Table had seen better days. The oak surface, once polished and smooth, was now dull and covered in scratches and stains. He dared assume if the seats were ever moved, the knights would still be able to find their prior places by the rings left from their drinking glasses. But worse were the gouges in the wood as though the knights had used the table for weapon practice or for a demonstration of proper wood chopping techniques, practices not fitting the famed table of legend. A giant chunk of wood was missing from one side of the table. His brother Sr. Kay liked to whittle—perhaps he was the culprit.

Arthur closed his eyes against the sight of the table, but its creaking served as a constant reminder that it was, in its own way, suffering. He almost believed the table could feel pain the way it carried on some nights.

He reopened his eyes and dared another glimpse at the table. There was no denying it was in desperate need of repair. Minor rigging kept the table standing, and coasters had been wedged under several of the legs to stop it from wobbling. Still, the chairs squeaked, parts came loose, and bugs continued to eat away at it. Soon there would be nothing left of the once glorious symbol of Camelot’s pride. The very thought made him as cold as a corpse’s kiss.

He had addressed the issue with his wizard, Merlin, on several occasions, because it was the duty of the wizard to advise the king; however, Merlin kept insisting he replace the table with a newer and, dare he say, “better” one. Once he had even recommended removing the table all together. When asked where the knights would sit, Merlin had suggested there be no knights to dine with the king. Disband the knights? Ridiculous, Arthur scoffed. Sometimes he believed his wizard truly was insane.

On cue, Merlin entered the Great Hall and made his way to Arthur’s throne. Even from the other end of the room, Arthur recognized his wizard; there was no mistaking him for anyone else. Merlin was the only one foolish enough to cavort himself in wizard garments, complete with conical hat and fake beard. In one arm, he carried his crooked staff, in the other—Arthur narrowed his eyes—a carryout bag that left a trail of dripped grease in its wake. The stench of fried meat reached Arthur before Merlin did. It was all he could do to keep his supper down when Merlin came before him and bowed.

“Welcome back, Wizard Merlin,” he said between clenched teeth. “Did you just now return? Tell me, how was your trip? I pray you found everything you set out for.” He stifled his laughter behind his velvet sleeve, already knowing the answer. Two weeks ago, he had approved Merlin’s travel request to Cornwall to see the supposed wall made of corn, for which Merlin had assumed the city had been named.* Arthur knew the wizard would only be met with disappointment but had sent him anyway.

“The title of the city was somewhat misleading. Not worth the blisters on my tired feet,” Merlin replied. “I did find time to stop at the Deep Fat Friar before my return. I was told it was the local favorite.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Arthur remarked with a smirk as his eyes followed the meandering trail of dark stains across his newly swept floor. “Hopefully you were able to come away from the experience with more than just a carryout bag.”

“I did actually,” said Merlin eagerly. “At the restaurant, whilst eating my meal, I overheard the man at the table next to me inquire on directions to Camelot. Of course, none of the other patrons knew the way or could point him in the right direction. Then inspiration struck me like an iron skillet to the back of the head—I would solve the conundrum myself!” He made a grand gesture, splattering grease every which way. “So, using the only materials available to me, I created this!” Merlin set aside his staff and carryout bag to produce a rolled up parchment from his satchel. He presented it to Arthur, who took it with much hesitation.

Slowly, he unrolled it. At once his eyes were affronted by hand-drawn illustrations of snakes, cows, and what appeared to be an eight-armed sea monster named Steve. All of these things were difficult to make out around the soiled spots, but it appeared as though Merlin had incorporated them into the drawing with the appropriate labels. A large coffee ring in the upper right corner of the page became a sunspot, and a streak of meat sauce was transformed into a murky rainbow. One spot of grease near the bottom of the page caught Arthur’s attention. The shape reminded him of a squirrel. He leaned down to inspect the stain more closely, and sure enough, Merlin had scribbled on the eyes, nose, whiskers, and tail.

Where did you get this parchment?” Arthur finally asked, a little uneasy.

“The waitresses laid them out at each table setting.”

“I see,” said Arthur absentmindedly. “But what is it?”

Merlin chuckled. “It’s a map, or ‘placemap’ according to the waitresses.”

Arthur looked more closely at it. All he could decipher were a few animals, the location of the first Deep Fat Friar, and the words “my favorite spot in the world” scribbled beside a large red dot. “A map to what?”

“A map to Camelot.”

Arthur shook his head.

“Allow me,” said Merlin as he stepped up onto the dais directly left of where Arthur sat. Leaning over the arm of the throne, he planted one gnarled finger near the center of the map and led Arthur’s eyes to a large circle. To the side of the circle, he had made a note. Arthur read it aloud, “Camelot: somewhere and nowhere in particular.”

“The trouble with trying to map a legendary kingdom is that it is so elusive,” Merlin explained. “Not to mention, the task of creating a map in a busy diner proved to be more challenging than I had anticipated. First, there were the frequent interruptions of the waitresses asking me if I wanted more to drink or condiments, or what have you. It also didn’t help that dishes were constantly being placed upon and removed from the map. But worse! Worse was when the contents of the dishes sloshed over onto the map, muddling my work.”

“I see.” Arthur stared blankly at the map as he searched for the right words to say, finding it increasingly difficult. At last he rolled up the map and handed it back to Merlin, saying, “Well done.”

“Thank you, my king.” Merlin bowed and backed off the dais, tripping as he did so. Arthur tried again to hide his amusement behind his sleeve. There was no need for a court jester as long as he had this lunatic in his charge. Yet, he hired them anyway. After all, Merlin was not there to amuse him; he was there to provide council, and council he did—even when it was unwelcome.

Creak. Crack. Snap.

Both men turned just as one of the Round Table’s chairs collapsed into a pile of splinters on the cold stone floor.

Arthur narrowed his eyes. It was easy to dismiss a chair breaking beneath the weight of a full-grown man, but there was no excuse for one to collapse without provocation. This would only fuel Merlin’s argument to replace the table.

Sure enough, Merlin turned to face him, one eyebrow raised knowingly.

Arthur swallowed. “It seems there are ghosts among us, wouldn’t you say, Wizard Merlin?”

“I would say the table is on its last leg so to speak,” said Merlin, chuckling. Then he became deadly serious. “Your majesty, have pity on it. It begs to be made into firewood. That is how tables pass on, you see.”

And here it began. Arthur sighed and said, “How many times do I have to tell you, wizard? The table will not be replaced.”

“It is past its prime. Its glory days are over,” Merlin pressed. “It is time for a new table. It is time for change.”

Change. Arthur recoiled. He hated that word. Glowering at Merlin, he said, “I cannot simply change the table when it serves as the very symbol of chivalric code.”

“If that’s the problem, then maybe we need to get rid of the code.” Merlin met Arthur’s challenging gaze. For several minutes they stared at one another, neither man moving a muscle. Merlin, of course, could not remain still for long, and to Arthur’s annoyance, began pulling faces, all the while, never breaking eye contact. At last Merlin’s eyes began to stray, wandering in opposite directions until Arthur could no longer hold.

“The code stays, and the table stays,” said Arthur firmly.

“Yes, milord, of course.” Merlin lowered his head. When he lifted his gaze to meet Arthur’s, his eyes were bright with mischief. “Perhaps I might be able to make some repairs to the table so that it might last longer.”

“That sounds reasonable enough.” Arthur stroked his bearded chin then nodded his consent. “Very well, you have my permission.”

“Thank you, your majesty.” Merlin retrieved his staff and carryout bag. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some business to attend to in my laboratory.”

“Of course,” Arthur sighed with relief. “You are dismissed.”

“Your majesty.” Merlin bowed and turned away.

Was that a smile? He could not be sure. It was hard to tell with Merlin, which was why Arthur could never fully trust him.

When at last the wizard was out of sight, Arthur slumped in his throne and resumed his quiet contemplation of the table.

 ***

Merlin was indeed smiling as he made his way out of the Great Hall, down the long, dark winding staircase to his private laboratory. Once inside, he took off the conical hat* and exchanged his traditional wizard garb for more sensible attire. Feeling more like a regular man, he took a seat at the large wooden desk in the center of the room, cleared some space, and opened his “spell book” to a blank page. There, by the dim and odorous light of burning rutabagas, he jotted down notes on Cornwall’s military, their armory, and their battle tactics, periodically pausing to take a bite of cold leftovers from his carryout bag.

 “Wall made of corn,” he scoffed. He still could not believe Arthur had fallen for that pitiful excuse. “What kind of a lunatic travels hundreds of miles to see a wall made of corn?”

Surrounding him, illuminated eerily in the feeble glow, were one hundred or more inventions on display: wings made from old broom handles and paper sacks, wizard hat sharpeners, and plague-away spray, to name a few. Discolored parchment covered in scrawls of inventions littered the floor, adding to the ambience. Of course, he had no intentions of ever building that ridiculous flying contraption, nor did he really believe the goat translator would work; these projects were only meant to create the illusion of insanity. Sometimes he wondered if the inventions were too ludicrous.

A devious smile spread across Merlin’s face as he glanced at the closet door in the back of the room. Behind that door was no mere closet, but a storage area where Merlin kept his actual inventions: weapons to be tried on the training yard. He thought of his newest invention, an arrow-launching device he had yet to name. Surely, a certain knight wouldn’t mind testing it for him.

Finishing his notes, he set the pen back into the inkwell and left the book open to dry. He wasn’t worried about anyone seeing it. The notes were all written in code. To the untrained eye, it appeared to be the ingredients for a magical spell, but to Merlin, it was the recipe for change.

“Change,” he spoke the word aloud now that Arthur was not present, a small act of defiance that left a pleasant aftertaste on his tongue. “Such a tiny word to invoke so much fear in a king.” He would never say this to Arthur, of course, but inwardly he knew the king was holding onto that worn table for fear of change. That same fear kept alive every outdated tradition, including the chivalric order. Merlin snorted. That table was no more capable of supporting a feast than the knights were of defending the kingdom if ever it fell under attack.*

As Arthur’s advisor,* he had tried to convince the young king to adopt the technologies and advancements being made in other kingdoms, but his ideas were always rejected. Fed up, he tossed aside his council robes in exchange for ones with little moons and stars on them, taking on the guise of Wizard Merlin. Only then was he able to get things done. Whereas Steve couldn’t even convince Arthur to change the tapestries in the Great Hall, Merlin had completed all of the preparations necessary to amass an army worthy of Camelot, his largest project to date.

Leaning back in his chair, Merlin folded his hands behind his neck and went through his mental checklist. Uniforms, check; weapons, check; potential recruits, check. The only item not taken care of was, well, the knights.

Merlin frowned. He couldn’t build a new army with the old one still standing, now could he? Certainly, the knights would oppose it. Merlin couldn’t imagine them just standing idly by while he threatened their job security. He would have to get rid of them. But how?

He could always go the traditional route—let loose a white stag in the Great Hall and insist they pursue it. But usually, only a handful of the knights chased after the wild game. Sir Bedivere, for one, did not eat meat, and Sir Kay was always complaining about having a bad back. No, he needed all of them to leave at the same time. A beautiful maiden in distress was certainly more enticing, and hiring a girl to belt out a sob story wouldn’t cost much.* But maybe only one or two knights would answer her call. He needed a bigger, grander reason to get them beyond that wall and miles away. Amassing an army could take weeks, even months. It was going to have to be important.

In the bottom drawer of the desk was a bottle of mead. Merlin took it out and poured himself a cup. Sometimes, when he had trouble getting in touch with his inner lunatic, he would turn to the bottle, and sure enough, he’d know what to do.

Halfway through the bottle, it came to him. Send them on a quest, the mead told him—after an important object, perhaps something holy. Merlin searched his mental catalog for holy items in need of searching: spears, swords, chalices—they all passed through his mind. But they were too easy to replicate. A sword could be purchased from anywhere, taken to a smithy, and made holy; the same with a spear. What he needed was an item more elusive, more difficult to come across.

He stared at the goblet in his hand. The cut was rough and misshapen. If only he knew a good grail maker. He smiled. The Holy Grail.

“A quest for the Holy Grail,” Merlin gasped. That was just the sort of thing to get all of the knights out of Camelot. Then he thought of the knight who tested his weapons. It didn’t seem right sending him on the same quest as the others; after all, he was the only one brave enough to test his inventions, some of which could be rather dangerous.* But he would still need to be tested . . . he would need his own quest. Surely, with a little more mead, he could think up another holy item, one worthy of a quest. He drained the goblet while brainstorming everything from holy kettles to sacred coat racks. At last the mead provided the answer.

He refilled his goblet and raised it to a portrait of Arthur that hung opposite his desk. The portrait was covered in holes; so many, in fact, one could barely recognize the king’s face. When questioned on the condition of the portrait, he just shrugged, blaming it on the moths.

“To progress.” He offered a toast to the dart-laden king before draining his cup. He licked his lips. “And to a never-ending supply of mead.”

Footnotes:

* Everyone knew the dominant crop was wheat.

* The beard was attached.

* Even from herring-wielding fishwives.

* At the time, he went by Steve.

* Six pence, tops. Seven for tears.

* The self-propelled rotating duel blade had nearly taken off the knight’s head.


The_Quest_eBook_coverHope you enjoyed it. If you’re interesting in reading the rest of the story, it can can purchased on Amazon in both paperback and e-formats.

For those of you who would like to know more about the contest, please follow the link to Bridget Whelan’s blog. You can enter the contest by clicking “Submit” at the bottom of page.

Happy Hump Day, everyone!