Wednesday, July 30, 2014


by Michael Weitz

Growing up in a small rural community has its charms though we rarely appreciate them until we’ve grown up. One of the things I enjoyed was looking for deer, badgers, coyotes, birds and whatever else might be wild and not on a farm. It passed the time while my dad drove us through the surrounding agricultural fields on our way to a movie or to the home of a friend who happened to live seven miles out of town and surrounded by acres of wheat fields.

Today I live in a larger city that, if they’re smart, animals of an untamed nature tend to shy away from. After all, a raccoon driving a minivan around town to pick up his forest pals just doesn’t wash unless it’s in a Pixar movie, right? Besides, even though a raccoon has “hands” that could grasp the steering wheel, it lacks the size to reach the gas pedal and still be able to see where it’s going. That being said, my neighborhood surrounds a pond that is home to a number of creatures and my wife and I feel very lucky to be able to sit and watch their activities while we relax after a long day.

There are Canada geese, but the Canada moniker seems dicey because every spring we watch the newly-hatched goslings form a maritime train behind their parents in our pond so there is obviously some dual citizenship agreement; frogs and toads perform a nightly chorus that sounds more like broken fog horns than anything of the “ribbit” variety; Mallard ducks build their nests and receive an occasional visit from a colorful Wood duck, and there’s a turtle or two who are only seen when they sun themselves on a rock. We’ve even spied a fox trotting through our neighbors yard, but my favorite is a Blue Heron that appears nearly every day to stand majestically along the shore. It’s all very serene.

We’d recently bought our house and had been living in it for a few months before I finally dug out our binoculars in order to get a better look at the heron we’d arbitrarily dubbed “Simon.” The bright yellow eyes glared down his saber-like beak seemingly fixed in a permanent scowl of concentration. His grayish blue plumage smoothed back as he slowly stepped into the water of the pond. “Honey, come check out Simon!” I called to my wife. “The binoculars really bring him in close.”

She’d just poured a glass of wine and came outside to enjoy the warm weather. I handed her the optics and pointed to where the bird was standing stock-still. She looked through the binoculars and said, “Ooh, he’s so neat. He’s looking at something under the water. I wonder if-Oh! Blegh! He got a frog!”

“What? Let me look!” I said. She handed me the binoculars and I quickly focused on Simon. Sure enough he had a frog the size of a football dangling from the end of his beak. No sooner had I seen this, though, than the bird dropped the frog onto the grass and stared as it leapt twice and back into the water. Two giant steps and a flap of his mighty wings brought Simon to the water’s edge just as fast and with a lunge he snatched the frog and brought it back ashore. Again he dropped it and again he caught it and brought it back from the water.

“Do you want to look somemo…” That’s when Simon cocked his long neck into an S and with Bruce Lee-like speed, unleashed his beak of fury. In a flash Simon stabbed the frog, reared back and stabbed it twice more. That frog was dead, yep, no question. “Never mind, honey,” I mumbled and tried not to retch. The swift and bloody violence was shocking and worthy of a Scorsese film.

But I kept watching. The prey was dead, the predator victorious, now it was time to dine. If you’ve seen a heron, you know their necks are about as wide as a champagne flute and there are no knives and forks available at the pond side restaurant. I was genuinely, if somewhat morbidly, curious to see how Simon intended to down his dinner. In fact, it was a gluttonous scene of maneuvering the carcass into his mouth head first, lifting his head high and swallowing the frog whole. Through the binoculars I was awarded a splendid view as Simon’s neck swelled to near bursting as the night’s menu slid down into his stomach. No sooner had his neck retuned to its slender, graceful state than he knocked back a quick sip of pond water. If he had lips I swear he would have smacked them.

That was the first time we’d witnessed Simon dining on the local wildlife and it was the last time my wife took up the binoculars to look upon his beauty. But we still feel blessed to live here on the pond. Simon has grown fatter and the number of frog voices singing the nightly song has diminished, but we’ve seen other birds and been visited by the occasional mammal. Oddly enough though, no raccoons. Although now that I think about it, there were some unaccounted for miles on the car after I left the garage door open the other night...

Here is a short intro to Micheal's mystery novel for your reading pleasure.

Making house calls or meeting people in public places is how Ray Gordon makes his living. He’s not a doctor. He’s not a prostitute. Ray Gordon is a chess teacher.

When one of Ray’s students, Walter Kelly, is found dead in his shop, the police and his family let it go as an accident. Ray, however, doesn’t buy it. As a former cop with a lingering curiosity, Ray snoops around and stumbles into the murky world of methamphetamine, the worst drug epidemic of our time.

The problem? Walter Kelly was sixty-five years old and his only addictions were woodworking and chess. How does a sixty-five-year-old man become involved with illegal drugs? Why is a neighbor glad Walter’s dead? And just how do dead men play chess?

To take my mind off the task at hand, I thought about Brian Kelly. Was it just the cabin going to waste that rubbed him the wrong way or was it the land value he was afraid of missing out on? Real estate assessments had been big news over the last month or two. Housing prices and land deals had gone berserk and sellers were making massive profits. Maybe Brian was in trouble financially and he just couldn’t take it anymore? Walt refused to sell and Brian killed him for it, knowing the cabin would eventually come into his hands or he would at least be able to talk his mother into putting the land up for sale.

Outside, I heard Ed Carter’s back door creak open and closed. I poured fresh water over the floor and started mopping it up. If Ed planned on being neighborly again, I didn’t think he needed to witness the clean-up process. But after several minutes passed without an appearance from the Kellys’ neighbor, I began my attack on the table saw with a scouring pad.

Just as I got into a nice scrubbing rhythm, Morphy growled low in his throat and raised his head off of his paws. I stopped and watched him. His ears were erect and his gaze was on the window behind me. Goose flesh erupted on my arms. To hide the shiver that ran down my spine, I resumed wiping down the table saw with calm casualness. I kept my attention focused on Morphy, though, and he growled again. This time, the hair over his shoulders stiffened and rose up as his emotions kicked in. Someone was watching or trying to look in the window. Morphy wouldn’t get so angry over something like a skunk or a cat.

I twisted around just as Morphy leapt to his feet and barked. Someone ducked down before I could see a face. I ran to the door and pulled it open. Morphy tore around the corner, barking after the intruder and I followed as close as I could.

In the darkness of Margie Kelly’s backyard, I saw Morphy’s blond fur disappear into the black shadow of Walt’s shop. He chased a dim figure, which ran toward the back of the property, to Helen Parker’s house. I ran full out once I saw the shadowy form of the person who had been spying through the window. Gone were the trepidations of twisted ankles and bloodied shins from unseen objects lying hidden on the grass.

I ran.

Musa Publishing

Watch the You Tube video HERE.

Michael Weitz is an award-winning author who grew up in the Pacific Northwest, usually reading anything he could get his hands on. He wrote his first novel in the 6th Grade -- an eight page rip-off of Star Wars.

A variety of jobs including waiter, gas station attendant, truck driver and a host of others, helped shape his world. After college he landed in the television industry where he wrote and produced a multitude of award-winning commercials, two documentaries about Mt. St. Helens and various other projects.

After a few years in Phoenix, AZ, Michael, his wife, and their dogs are back in the Pacific Northwest. Currently working on the next Ray Gordon mystery, Michael may also be found reading, playing chess or shooting pool. As an avid photographer, he enjoys traveling anywhere picturesque with his wife.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Looking for a Fresh Taste this Summer?

from Dominique Eastwick

Citrus Chicken
2 oranges
2 limes
2 lemons
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 boneless chicken breasts, halved**
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. seasoned pepper
1 (15oz) can apricots, halved
1 tbsp. butter
dash of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Juice 1 orange, 1 lime and 1 lemon together.

Lay chicken in an ovenproof dish. Pour juice over chicken. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Cover and bake for 30 minutes.

While chicken is baking, puree apricots.

Melt butter, brown sugar and nutmeg in a small saucepan. Add apricots and heat to a low boil. Simmer until chicken is ready, stirring frequently.

Uncover the chicken after 30 minutes. Pour glaze over it and bake uncovered an additional 10 minutes.

Serve over rice. Use extra glaze as gravy.

**For frozen chicken, thaw over night. Follow above directions, while chicken is cooking reheat the apricot sauce

How about a hot read while your chicken is baking?

Even the big mistakes can be forgiven if you love enough.

If you love something...

Riley Sherman knew when to cut her losses. Although she loved Barret, he never seemed ready to commit. His business would always be his first love.

If it doesn't come back...

Barret Briggs grew up poor and would be damned if anyone he loved ever went hungry again. Too late he realized that hunger can eat at the heart too.

But what if loves bumps back into you?

When fate throws them together again, can he prove to her he is now worthy of her love? And can she open herself up enough to let him back in?

To read an excerpt from Kissing the Tycoon please click here.

Dominique Eastwick currently calls North Carolina home with her husband, two children, one crazy lab and one lazy cat. Dominique spent much of her early life moving from state to state as a Navy Brat, because of that traveling is one of her favorite past times. When not writing you can find Dominique doing her second love…photography.

Learn more about Dominique Eastwick on her website, blog, and Amazon author page.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Ode to The Root Beer Float

by SS Hampton, Sr.

So, how long has it been since you’ve had a Root Beer Float?

You know how to make one—it’s not rocket science. Just take a tall glass or a big, heavy mug, and scoop in vanilla ice cream, followed by a careful pouring of Root Beer so that the foam doesn’t trickle down the sides or the ice cream suddenly rockets to the surface. And voila, Root Beer Float! Cold, tasty ice cream with fizzy, tasty root beer.

Ah, by the way, no careful measurements needed. Just eyeball the amount of ingredients you want. Even better, as the ice cream melts, add more or add more root beer, or both.

Now that the “measurements” and mixing instructions are out of the way, what is the real meaning of a Root Beer Float?

That depends on you.

To me it is a memory of being a little kid growing up in a Kansas town, sitting at the counter of the café my grandparents owned, and reading comic books. I loved comic books when I was little. Besides pestering my grandparents for a dollar so I could buy a big bag of plastic soldiers (I once had over 1,000 I think) I also asked for quarters to buy comic books. I loved going across the street to the corner drugstore with quarters jingling in my pocket, wondering what prizes, what new worlds I would find there (I liked fantasy, science fiction, horror, and war comic books). I could spend hours sitting on the floor and checking out the comic books on a spinning magazine rack until I decided which ones I wanted to buy. I could have had a Root Beer Float there too because the drugstore had a counter with all of the accoutrements.

But no, I wanted to go back to my grandparents’ café and read the new comic books there while having a Root Beer Float. Ahem—besides, I liked one of the waitresses. Her name was Lois, she was in her 20s, with big dark eyes and long red fingernails. Anyway…

The memory of Root Beer Floats include making them for my daughter and sons—and me too—and then of us sitting around making happy, satisfied sounds while spoons clattered against the sides of the glasses while we scooped out the last drops.

Even better are the eager wide-eyed looks of my grandchildren when I set out glasses and a carton of Vanilla Ice Cream and a bottle of Root Beer. The intensity with which they track my every move can’t be equaled even by an astronomer who’s discovered a meteor about to crash into the Earth. And the smiles when I hand them a Root Beer Float—can life get any better?

You know, maybe it’s time we all have a Root Beer Float…and then I’ll tell you about the real meaning of a having a Fruit Smoothie for the first time in my life…

Here's a little from my paranormal book to enjoy along with your Root Beer Float.

As a result of war, technology often makes great progress by leaps and bounds – but sometimes the progress of technology can bring complications…

Halloween Night, 2006 – a resupply convoy commanded by the Air Force and escorted by Army gun trucks, is leaving Kuwait for Baghdad. The lonely desert highway north is MSR Tampa, a bloody highway along which for years the convoys suffered insurgent attacks. And on MSR Tampa there is a particular wooded bend that no one speaks of, though many know of its haunted reputation, a reputation given new life by a gun truck crew testing a new generation of enhanced night vision goggles…

It wasn’t long after the safety briefing that the crews mounted their gun trucks. Purple Dog led the way out of the CMC, past the camp, past a small civilian parking lot and a mosque with a tall graceful minaret, and across the highway. They paused at the border control point while Cordova presented all of the required customs documentation for the convoy. Border control was manned by Iraqi Police that no one trusted.

A hot night wind moaned across the desert. They sat behind closed ballistic windows, shrouded within engine heat, and the claustrophobic grip of the hot IBA.

Harland stared out the narrow, dusty window at the large closed gates in front of him. The gates were made of heavy wood beams with diagonal cross-beams overlaid with layers of darkly gleaming razor wire. Strangely, the razor wire was all on the inside of the gate, facing the moonlit desert ahead of them. A shudder went through him as he realized each gate was decorated by the large bleached skull of a ram. The empty eye sockets above the pointed, splintered snouts stared at him; large ridged horns curled backward from the skull before flaring outward in another curl into deadly tips. Like a mythical doorway that was built to keep people out, or keep something in, the gates spanned the dusty, rutted road that led to the dimly lit village of Safwan up ahead.

“Damn, Sarge,” Bonner said over the intercom. “I love these Cyclops. The night almost looks like day. And…more.”

“More?” Harland answered and looked up through the opening in the roof of the gun truck. Bonner, with the ENG/NVG lowered to his face, looked like an alien with a deadly snout. Where his flesh was visible, it looked ghostly white. Every time he moved there seemed to be a faint, colored ripple in the air.

“Yeah,” he chuckled and looked down at Harland. The eyepiece in the center of the ENG/NVG glinted. “I don’t know. It’s hard to describe. It’s like you’re so damned white, your face, and I see colored ripples all around you like, like, when you throw a rock in a pond.”

Harland grunted. He remembered the faint ripples when he had tried Cyclops back in Boston. Matherson had said there were minor software problems with Cassandra that would soon be fixed.
Puffs of sparkling windblown dust tumbled toward them through the thin desert brush.

“Hell of a time to go out on a mission,” Bonner said. “It’s Halloween night.”

“No shit,” Stewart replied.

“Feels damned spooky,” Bonner said. “Feels like the headless horseman is gonna come riding out of the night any second now. These Cyclops don’t help any, either.”

Harland chuckled.

“Hey, Sarge, you believe in ghosts?” Stewart asked.

Moonlit dust washed over them, and the sand scratched against the ballistic window and the metal skin of the gun truck like skeletal claws on a blackboard.

Harland grunted. “Anything’s possible. I think.”

“People say there’s ghosts where people die violent deaths,” Bonner said. “A lot of battlefields are supposed to be haunted. People see things there.”

Harland watched the swirling dust blowing across the desert and thought of the many bright, smoky explosions of IEDs, burning trucks, and shattered bodies, along MSR Tampa. He thought of the violent IED that had clawed at his own gun truck as if hungrily seeking him out.

He shuddered as he stared at the silent, sightless horned skulls that trembled in the desert wind. He had a sudden deep and primeval feeling that the gates were built to keep something in…


Stan Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13 wonderful grandchildren, and a published photographer and photojournalist. He retired on 1 July 2013 from the Army National Guard with the rank of Sergeant First Class; he previously served in the active duty Army (1974-1985), the Army Individual Ready Reserve (1985-1995) (mobilized for the Persian Gulf War), and enlisted in the Nevada Army National Guard in October 2004, after which he was mobilized for Federal active duty for almost three years. Hampton is a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle (2004-2006) and Iraqi Freedom (2006-2007) with deployment to northern Kuwait and several convoy security missions into Iraq.

His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and as stand-alone stories in Horror Bound Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others.

In May 2014 he graduated from the College of Southern Nevada with an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Photography – Commercial Photography Emphasis. A future goal is to study for a degree in archaeology—hopefully to someday work in and photograph underwater archaeology (and also learning to paint).

After 13 years of brown desert in the Southwest and overseas, he misses the Rocky Mountains, yellow aspens in the fall, running rivers, and a warm fireplace during snowy winters.

As of April 2014, after being in a 2-year Veterans Administration program for Homeless Veterans, Hampton is officially no longer a homeless Iraq War veteran, though he is still struggling to get back on his feet.

Hampton can be found at:
Dark Opus Press - Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing - Melange Books -
Musa Publishing - MuseItUp Publishing - Goodreads Author Page
Amazon Author Page - Amazon UK

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Three Minutes with S.G. Rogers

Where did you get the idea for Tournament of Chance?
Originally, Tournament of Chance was a short story about Heather of the Jagged Peaks, who tries to break through the glass ceiling between commoners and royalty by entering a state-sponsored archery contest. She doesn’t realize the contest is rigged, and exists only to keep the lower class in its place. As I lengthened the concept, more magical elements, romance, and adventure crept in.

How did you develop your lead characters?
I envisioned Heather as a young, hopeful, and naive girl. As a result of the king’s betrayal, she is forced to become a weapon. When I began to fill in the backstory regarding King Chance’s rise to power, the other characters almost shaped themselves. In the beginning, hero Prince Dane is bitter and shell-shocked from the loss of loved ones and his kingdom. Over the course of the story, he becomes more sensitive, kind, and grounded in what’s truly important in life.

What drives you to write fantasy?
Life can be stark and hard. Reality bites, as they say. So I enjoy creating magical worlds, wizards, dragons, and all manner of creatures that spark the imagination. I like to think of fantasy as escapism for the soul.

~ S.G. Rogers

A hunter’s daughter becomes the spark that ignites a revolution—in time.

When a beautiful commoner enters the Tournament of Chance archery competition, her thwarted victory sparks a revolution in the oppressive kingdom of Destiny. Although Heather never believed the legends about the restoration of Ormaria, after three shape-shifting Ormarian wizards awaken from a long magical slumber, she joins their perilous quest to regain the throne. Heather battles vicious predators and angry trolls to free the wizards’ magic, but at a horrendous cost. She is unexpectedly torn from the arms of the man she loves and hurled back in time to fulfill a prophecy not yet written. The ensuing maelstrom tests Heather’s survival skills, wits, and endurance. Will she become an unwritten footnote in history, or can she trust the magic to lead her back to her one true love?

To read an excerpt from Tournament of Chance, please click HERE.

To read excerpts from other books by S.G. Rogers please click a vendor's name.
Musa Publishing - Amazon

S.G. Rogers lives with her husband and son in romantic Savannah, Georgia, on an island populated by deer, exotic birds, and the occasional gator. She's owned by two Sphynx cats, Houdini and Nikita. Movies, books, and writing are her passions.

Learn more about S.G. Rogers on her blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Goodreads.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Mary S. Palmer Reports

by Mary S. Palmer

The Alabama Writers' Conclave was held in the quaint artsy town of Fairhope the weekend of July 11-13. It hosted people from all over Alabama, some from Tennessee, Mississippi and other states. For the first time, I had the honor to attend.

In her introduction Jeanie Thompson, Founding Director, Alabama Writers Forum, pointed out that Alabama was twenty-third in funding for the arts. That's a good position. Other speakers included presentations on both prose and poetry, fiction and non-fiction and play writing. All were impressive but one point that stuck with me was literary agent Katharine Sands' statement that all novels need a person, a place and a pivot. Having all three start with a "p" makes it easy to remember.

Other speakers included the passionate Michael Martone, witty Jim Murphy, amusing T.K. Thorne and Linda Busby Parker, and Scott Wilkerson, Barry Marks, Terri French and Keynote Speaker Pulitzer Prize Winner Rick Bragg, Rob Gray, Susan Luther, P.T. Paul, all who gave eloquent and informative presentations.

President Sue Walker and Vice President P.T. Paul made sure everything, including the food, was first class. If you didn't learn something from the experience, you weren't listening. One particular thing I learned would have justified attending. It was simple, it was obvious, but it took a new reader to spot an easy change that may make the difference in whether my mystery novel is accepted for publication. When I read the opening paragraph, the speaker suggested moving one sentence to the top and opening the novel with that line. I could then see that sentence as the grabber which would set the scene and the tone for the entire book.

Such conferences are truly worthwhile. As one speaker pointed out, you may not be told anything you don't already know, but we don't always do what we know we should. And we forget. Reminders serve us well. These events do, too. They also reinforce our belief that we can write and encourage us to write on and write right. We may have a message only we can give to the world.

Here is a brief introduction to Mary S. Palmer's fiction work for your reading pleasure.

When aliens try to take over the world—starting with an attempt on the life of the President of the United States—can photo-journalist Mona Stewart Parker prevent the unthinkable from happening?

Mona's marriage to Rob appears to be perfect. They share many interests: Their jobs at the newspaper, a very bright son, and a home peers might envy.

Space creatures invading Earth change everything. Secrets are unveiled when Mona and Rob become their captives. In the middle of a conflict where the Aliens are trying to force the Svarians to reveal cures for fatal diseases and the key to immortality, Rob has other issues to deal with. Since illegal activity involving high-ranking politicians is about to be unveiled, he has to decide what to do about his implication in it.

To read an excerpt please click here.

To read excerpts from other books by Mary S. Palmer please click a link below.
Musa Publishing
co-authored books

Award-winning author Mary S. Palmer earned a Bachelor of Arts (Cum Laude)in English from the University of South Alabama.She now holds a Master of Arts Degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing from the University of South Alabama. Mary currently teaches English at Faulkner State Community College and Faulkner University.

Mary is also a great collector. Be sure to check out her website and blog.

Friday, July 25, 2014


Musa Publishing is excited to announce The Sun God's Heir, a speculative fiction novel by award winning international playwright Elliott Baker, is now available for purchase.

When an ancient evil awakens, one young pacifist is all that stands between the world’s freedom and the red tide of slavery.

In 17th century France, a young pacifist kills to protect the woman he loves, unwittingly opening a door for the reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian general determined to continue a reign of terror begun three thousand years ago.

Taking up the sword will not be enough. Rene must reclaim his own ancient past to stop the red tide of slavery from engulfing the world.

Joined by a powerful sheikh, his sword wielding daughter, and a family of Maranos escaping the Spanish Inquisition, they fight their way through pirates, typhoons, and dark assassins to reach Morocco, the home of an occult sect that has waited for Rene through the eons.

The boatswain, a large man with scars on his arms and face, walked over to stand in front of René. “Chain him to the mast.”

Their gazes met.

“Don’t look at me, boy,” he said, backhanding René in the face. “Look down at the deck when I talk to you. You’re some over-fed nobleman’s kid thinkin’ you make the rules. I’m surprised you ain’t cryin’ for your mama. You got a mama, boy?” he asked and laughed. When René didn’t answer, he hit him again. “I asked you a question, boy. Don’t try my patience, cause I ain’t got none.”

“My mother died when I was born,” René said, watching the man’s feet to see how he moved. He was cataloging everything he could see out of the corners of his eyes.

“Well, not to worry, you’ll be seeing her soon.” The boatswain turned to walk away and then turned back and hit René again. “I had to do that,” he said, and walked away laughing.

Though they had chained him in a way that didn’t allow him to sit, René had enough slack to turn and see most of the ship. He was aboard an English slave ship. She was an older carrack in design, still with the large forecastle. She had seen better days, though. The fact that she was still on the seas suggested either a cutthroat reputation or an experienced captain. Under the wear, the ship was surprisingly clean, her ropes and sails newly repaired and in good order. Second rate though she might be, she was seaworthy. This was a veteran crew, competent in their tasks. It wouldn’t be easy getting free, and even if he could, where would he escape to in the middle of the ocean? Don’t rush fate. One thing at a time. Do what you can do, he heard the Maestro say. It was clear he would have to pick a fight, and hope he could survive long enough to begin creating allies. The next time the big boatswain walked by, René laughed.

“What are you findin’ so funny, boy?” The boatswain stuck his face within inches of René’s.

René had noticed the boatswain had one leg shorter than the other, and was certain the big man would be touchy on that point. “You walk funny, that’s all,” said René, raising his voice. It was of no use to him if he got beat up and no one knew why.

All work within the sound of René’s voice crashed to a complete stop. Silence reigned. René had guessed right. Now he could only hope he would survive his insight.

The boatswain stood in absolute disbelief, his face turning redder by the moment. “What did you say?” Spittle flew from his mouth.

Even the captain had turned to watch. René counted on the fact Gaspard’s agent had given the captain a great deal of money, along with explicit instructions that didn’t include throwing a dead boy overboard. What he didn’t know was how close to dead the agent considered acceptable.

“I said you walk funny,” René said—louder this time, so there would be no mistaking it.

“Do you know what a cat is, boy?” the boatswain said, clearly beyond rational thought. René could see the veins standing out in his neck and temples, his eyes shot red with blood.

“A small animal?” René asked.

There was a laugh from the men standing around the mast. The boatswain took one look around, and the laugh died.

“You, James, bring me the cat. I don’t think this boy has ever seen a real one. Your education has been sadly incomplete, boy. You’ll be thankin’ me for this. I promise you.” The boatswain’s voice was a rough whisper.

James walked over and handed the Cat-O-Nine-Tails to the boatswain. As he caught René’s eye, he sadly shook his head. The cat had nine long thongs of blood-encrusted leather dangling from a handle, knots tied along the length of each thong.

“This here’s a cat, boy. As you can see, it ain’t no small animal. Now, there’s a skill and a talent to usin’ a cat, both of which I’m proud to say I have. You see, you need to take care the thongs don’t get all stuck together with blood and skin, which they’re wont to do. If that happens, the cat’ll take yer organs right out, and that’s always a bad thing. So you need to run your fingers between the thongs every couple of strokes, to keep ‘em separate. I gotta tell you—as much pride as I take in usin’ the cat, sometimes I’m forgetful. I try to keep count, but before I know it, I plumb forget to clean the damn thing. I surely hope that don’t happen today.”

“I also have a skill and a talent, and I will kill you with it,” René said quietly.

For one second, the boatswain paused, confusion written across his face. “Turn him around, and chain him up. You there, strip off his shirt.”


Award winning international playwright Elliott B. Baker grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. With four musicals and one play published and done throughout the United States, New Zealand, Portugal, England, and Canada, Elliott is pleased to offer his first novel, The Sun God’s Heir. A member of the Authors Guild and the Dramatists Guild, Elliott lives in New Hampshire with his wife Sally Ann.

Learn more about Elliot Baker on his website. Stay connected on Twitter and Facebook.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Don't Have A Fit Over IT

Take a Tip from Helen #8

by Helen Hardt

The lovely Jen Murphy asked me to talk a little about "it."

So here goes!

Honestly, I'm not fond of "it"-- the expletive "it", that is. I'm okay with the pronoun "it" if it's not used repetitively.

What is the difference?

The expletive "it" is not a pronoun. It has no antecedent. It's basically structural support in a sentence.

For example: "It" is raining.

Here, "it" does not refer to anything, so it's not functioning as a pronoun. Try to avoid the expletive "it." "It is raining" (which is classic telling, by the way) can easily be re-written to "show" the reader the rain.

For example: Light rain pattered on the roof.

The pronoun "it" can't be avoided. It is the pronoun in English to refer to a singular thing rather than a person. But always make sure it has an unmistakable antecedent to avoid reader confusion.

For example: Be sure to add your phone number to your profile in Delphi. We need "it" in case of an emergency with your release.

"It" refers to phone number, which is its antecedent.

Just for fun, go through this email and count the times I've used "it" without quotations marks. You'll find them highlighted, and you'll also find that each use has a clear antecedent.

To read excerpts from Helen Hardt's books please click a vendor's name.
Musa Publishing - Amazon

Helen Hardt is the Head Line Editor for Musa Publishing and a freelance editor. She is also an award-winning author. Helen writes contemporary, historical, paranormal, and erotic romance for several publishers. Her non-writing interests include Harley rides with her husband, attending her sons’ sports and music performances, traveling, and Taekwondo (she’s a blackbelt.)

Learn more about Helen Hardt and her editing service on her website.