I haven't read your book. But kill any idea that a blurb is a synopsis. Stake that sucker right through the heart, burn it to ashes, and bury them at a crossroads.

A blurb is a sales pitch.

A *short* sales pitch. No more than 30 seconds read aloud in a conversational voice. Shorter if you can.

Keep in mind two rules:

KISS: keep it short & simple. Make it to the point. Don't confuse the reader with multiple threads at this point. Pick the easiest or best and sell that plot or subplot.

AIDA: Attention Interest Desire Action. You have their Attention. Grab their interest *fast*. Stir a desire to tell more of the story. And then tell them how to take action to fill that desire - usually implied or indirect, rather than 'buy this book to find out!'

Remember this and you'll write good blurbs.

Tales of Magic and Destiny Amazon link

Begins well, falls off at the end, still four star material overall

I'm generally hesitant to read multi-author short story anthologies, because so few are worth reading, but I was asked to accept an Advance Review Copy of this one. and was pleasantly surprised as the stories near the beginning were solid stories with decent twists and characters who think.

Stars Above Shadows Beneath by Maria Haskins - a guardian awakened. Little bit of a rocky start as it was kind of deus ex machina, but kept me reading.

The Rogue of Averrath by Tom Jolly - puzzle solver who turns magic back on the wielder, very enjoyable

Chanter by Tawa Wood - A student's plan to overcome his shortcoming fails, and doesn't. A teacher helps surreptitiously.

Virtue's Blade by Rob Edwards - Cute little short about accepting a charge laid involuntarily and the difference a willing choice makes.

Fortified by Hall Jameson - AN uninvited guest earns a welcome.

Wolf Scout by Jeannette O'Hagan - tale of forbidden romance. A little long, but enjoyable.

Out of the Dust by Leo McBride - A desert village, a sandstorm and a very dangerous man.

A Sword of Bone by Aaron Emmel - disappointing. A natural talent discovered - and discarded.

The Fearsome Lambton Worm by Kerry Buchanan - This was where quality took a nose dive. Mary Sue squared.

The Heroine's Journey by Brent A. Harris - A sidekick steps out from the shadow of her heroic partner. Enjoyable enough.

It's Always Sunny at the Fortress of Bones by Jaleta Clegg - Nothing remarkable here. Okay, yet derivative.

Asherah's Pilgrimage by Ricardo Victoria - An original story yet I had trouble feeling sympathetic for anyone, and the smart-aleck dragon with a modern attitude kind of spoiled any chance the story had to attain a real mood or point.

Just then he moved. And I don't mean lazily like he'd done with the gangbangers last night. I think this was really the best he was capable of. "Ahhh!" I started, frightened, but bit down on my tongue. I actually did poop my panties a little, it was so sudden and so fast. I wasn't even certain of the direction he'd moved, but my guess was correct. The sword I'd seen last night was in his hand. I saw a blue swirl start to form over the dining table, three dimensional, the dirty ugly dark greyish blue you sometimes see between small gaps in storm clouds when it's getting to be really late in the afternoon. By the way ScOsh reacted, I could tell the gangbangers were a day at Disneyland.by comparison. A body started to coalesce, a body like nothing seen on Earth except maybe drawings from some demented horror artist somewhere. It stood mostly upright, and it was kind of symmetrical but that was where any semblance to anything Earthly ended. It had five arms, three on its right side and two on its left, and they were offset by apparently random small amounts from the line you'd think of as the appropriate 'side' - as if a man had an arm sprouting from near his nipple, and another from back near the shoulder blade. It had four legs, but the arrangement wasn't anything like square or rectangular pattern of Earth animals. It was more like a trapezoid, large side to the creature's right. Each arm had a different arrangement or implement or both on the end, and most of them were large nasty-looking claws. As far as I could see, the legs were solid and club-like, no toes or hooves or even feet. There was no neck and the head was weighted heavily to the creature's left. The ugly blue that had marked the swirl was its primary color, shading to a sandstone reddish color at the end of the limbs, with ridiculous bright green fluorescent tufts of something that looked like a cross between feathers and hair here and there based upon no scheme I want to figure out. I'm pretty sure I screamed somewhere in there and finished the job I'd started in my panties, and I'm not at all ashamed of it. You think you can do better in equivalent circumstances, be my guest, but don't get me involved. Then it opened its mouth - a gaping maw that hadn't been visible before then at the bottom edge of its head - and I saw a nightmare of teeth and I'm not sure what. It stood a bit taller the ScOsh and about five times his mass, by which I mean it crushed my dining room table without me even having a chance to hope it would trip over the pieces. It made the start of a noise that can only be called a scream crossed with a roar at about 160 decibels. ScOsh stood waiting behind it until it started moving, then calmly and without wind-up cut it into two from side to side just above mid-"torso", then reversed his cut and cut through the head in a downwards motion, pulling out when he met his first cut. As I have said, he was fast when he wanted to be. The thing just about had time to realize it was dead as it crumpled, bleeding two colors, the ugly blue and an equally ugly color that reminded me of a dull forest green.

I was standing there mesmerized by the spectacle trying to process what had just happened and ScOsh said, "The rules of the game just changed"

This was an author interview I did that asked me about a character in my WIP. She's not the viewpoint character, but she's one of the two main protagonists.

1. Go ahead and introduce yourself.

My name is Asina di Bernard, or following the customs of my husband's family, Asina Bernard.

2.Tell us where and when were you born.

I was born in Yonskarr's Hold on the Karnel Peninsula of Hashiboor Continent, Calmena approximately two prime fortytwo Imperial years ago in terms of personal duration. That's four sixty-fours, three eights and six in local reckoning.

3. How would you describe yourself?

My husband describes me as naturally short and petite. Two ififths twentyone, weight about fiftytwo prime, hair about half a shade on the sandy brown side of blonde, blue eyes. Even in the circumstances of my youth, I was shorter than most. But my physical characteristics change when I want them to. The most important thing about my husband and I is that we are married. The second most important thing is that I am a Second Order Guardian, trained on Earth after I was rescued from the circumstances of my birth, and nothing can ever take that from me. The third most important thing is that I intend to liberate my homeworld from the fractal demons and the agaani so that nobody will ever again have to endure what I almost couldn't.

4. Tell us about where you grew up.

An agaani hold, barely keeping the fractal demons at bay. Primitive, dirty, and brutal. Starvation was an omnipresent threat. The fractal demons could descend upon us at any moment, and the accommodations we made to forestall that were soul-crushing. I was a slave, but in reality, we were all slaves; slaves to the situation and to the needs of the community. Men were expendable workers or soldiers, women were child-bearing machines who were also responsible for some work or some training of the warrior boys. My parents died when I was young, I did what work I could until my woman's courses started to flow. Thereafter, I still did what work I could but my primary function was childbearing.

5. How old are you?

I am not certain, and Yonskarr certainly kept no records of the slave children. We think I was six eights and two or three in local reckoning when I was rescued, but that's simply a best guess based upon my memories. In Imperial terms, about twentyeight. In Earth terms, probably nineteen or twenty. That was two prime fourteen years ago standard Imperial years personal duration. I've lived roughly 113 Earth years in all.

6. Did you have a happy childhood? Why/why not?

No, I did not. My parents died when I was young, and even before that, I was a slave working the fields and anything else the shagra-ma needed us to. As soon as I became fertile, repeated rapes were a fact of life for me. I'd had a miscarriage before my daughter, and another after. My daughter tested as agaani, which boosted my slave caste to shagra-my and made me a caregiver for children, but it also meant I was raped even more often because they knew my children could be warriors or mothers of warriors. I would not have been permitted to see my daughter after her she achieved the age of two eights - they would have taken her from me for training. I was battered, malnourished, and fading. I had accepted that I would probably soon die as my parents had. Only the threat to my daughter Tellea posed by the fall of Yonskarr's keep forced me to protect her.

7. Past/ present relationships? How did they affect you?

Basically every male shagra-no and some of the shagra-ma in Yonskarr's keep treated me like a sexual plaything. It wasn't something they really chose; it was required of them by the situation. When I was rescued, the Imperial charity that sponsored me paid for a series of healing sessions, both body and mind. The body was much easier. For the mind, I was offered a choice, and I chose to want a normal life. I wasn't going to let my experiences on Calmena keep me from being happy, keep me from being a normal wife and mother as well as anything else I wanted. Their healer, a wonderful man named Jelaar, healed my mental and spiritual pain, and helped me put it in perspective against the fact that those people and that situation no longer had any power over me. I occasionally dated although I wasn't sexually active while I was being trained on Earth - I knew who I really wanted. Unfortunately, the characteristics of survival I'd absorbed on Calmena meant I was damaging my daughter Tellea and her ability to adjust to Imperial society, so I gave her up for adoption to a clan family associated with the Imperial military on Earth, although we have maintained a relationship since then.

When I was offered a position on Calmena helping them learn what they needed to know, I encountered Joe almost immediately upon arrival. We were married soon after and have been married two prime twelve years, or in Earth duration, a little over 92 years.

8. What do you value above all else in life?

My husband and four children. Next to that, who I have become. I have led nations of Calmena and their armies. I have helped push back the fractal demons away from most of Calmena. I have learned things no Calmenan would have dreamed when I was born, and I will continue to grow in the years to come.

9. What are you obsessed with?

Before I am killed, this I vow: I will eliminate every single agaani hold and eradicate every single fractal demon of any caste from the face of Calmena.

10.How do your beliefs make life better for yourself and the people you care about?

The Empire doesn't just talk about people being as important as they make themselves; they live it. One day Calmena will be an Imperial planet, where the people are free to become as much as they care to work for.

11. Biggest fear?

That the rulers of the Empire have miscalculated and the fractal demons will win the next war and all of humanity will be plunged into a never-ending night of slavery and torture.

12. What line will you never cross?

With the stakes as high as they are, I haven't encountered anything that I can promise I will never do. But I will never harm another human more than there is need for.

13. What is the best thing that ever happened to you? The worst?

My husband was the best. From the moment he helped rescue me, beaten, battered, and slowly dying, I knew I wanted to be worthy of him. The second best is that nothing even close to what I endured will ever happen to me again.

14. Most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you?

The day I accidentally let slip to my mother-in-law that I'd been shagra-my, and discovered she actually knew what it meant. Mrs. Bernard has definite opinions. Joe had to intervene with an ultimatum to his mother, and if I hadn't already given her a grandson, even that might not have been enough.

15. Biggest secret?

My husband and I have been in mental rapport for most of two prime since he went operant; I'd be dismayed if there were anything either of us hasn't discovered about the other.

16. What is the one word you would use to define yourself?

Improving. I am better than I used to be, and I will be better still sixty years from now.

17. What is your current goal?

My husband and I are teaching the Calmenans about marine diesel engines. I have a little bit more developmental work to sponsor in the petroleum and aluminum industries, then we are going to teach our people to fly.

From my first draft for Setting The Board, which will be number three in the Preparations for War series:

"Dammit, was this some kind of suicide pact you idiots made?"

We'd just had the first fatality in our new facility. A workman named Kodos had been killed when his team neglected to secure the mobile crucible before opening the sluice to fill it. The crucible had been pushed off station by the force, and Kodos had taken the stream of molten metal full on, with predictable results. Not only did I have a dead workman, I had my only operational furnace out of service until we could clean up the mess, which involved the time for the spill to cool as well as the actual clean up. There were blood and charred remains mixed with cooling steel all over the area, and the less said about the smell of burnt human, the better. "It could just as easily have been all of you! Do you want your wives to be widows? If so, please don't make it happen in my factory!"

I was pretty sure Kodos' short, blood-curdling scream had scared them more than my rant, but there was no way I was letting this violation of safety pass without driving the lesson home. "You're all going to come with me to break the news to his widow, and after it's all cleaned up, you're each going to spend an entire shift unpaid, practicing the safe operation of moving the metal from the furnace to the forms while the furnace stays cold! No shortcuts! You idiots thought you'd save five breaths it took to secure the pot, and instead it's going to take three days to get this line back into action! I even painted nice big pictures so you could see what had to be done if you forgot! Breaking the safety rules doesn't help things go faster - it brings the line to a complete halt! If I have to replace you to save your lives and my factory, I'll do it!"

Eyes downcast, the foreman of the gang, Vodran, apologized for his failure, "I'm sorry, sir. It won't happen again!"

"It better not!" I told him, "It's expensive to train a whole new crew, but if you boneheads can't remember a few short, easy steps, I'll be saving myself money! That goes for all of you! Watch each other, make sure the steps are done in the proper order! Saving five breaths doesn't help when it shuts the line down for three days! Both your lives and your jobs are in each other's hands!" Their wages were significantly above most workmen in Yalskarr; losing their jobs would be painful.

I'll follow, bringing the widow our death benefit, Asina told me. That way it would remain our little secret - if thinking their families got nothing in the event of their death made them work safer, it was worth the deception. Eight gold wouldn't replace her husband, but it would keep her and whatever children from starving for a while. It was better than a year's pay for most people.

The inciting event in the prolog of The Man From Empire brings an Imperial human (Osh Scimtar di Baryan, informally ScOsh) to Earth, where he discovers some failed rebels from a long time ago have taken up residence on Earth, intending to use it as a base or springboard for attacks on the Empire.

He meets an Earth native, Graciela Juarez, a non-traditional college student with a troubled past who gets caught in the crossfire. Together, they discover that the rebels have a hand in most of the problems Earth has had for quite some time, as the rebels are able to do things for their stooges that cannot otherwise be done on Earth. After a climactic scene in which they discover just how screwed up the rebels have been in their handling of events on Earth, Grace is left alone.

The events of A Guardian From Earth begin seconds after the conclusion of the first book, as Grace tries to put her life back on track. But she gets an invitation to travel to the Empire to train her newfound abilities, where she spends approximately two years Earth time as the foster child to one of the Empire's more important families, learning how best to harness her new gifts. When she returns, she discovers that her parents have been murdered and that although the rebels against the Empire are gone, their organization is still active on Earth, and there are some very hostile aliens as well.

In Empire and Earth, events are causing governments on Earth to fall apart - but Grace has a plan to preserve some sense of order - until China and Russia go to war against each other, and the fallout from that conflict tilts the balance towards a resolution that accomplishes more than Grace had hoped.

Finally, in Working The Trenches, Grace and her husband join the Imperial military - but the military will not let their unique talents to to waste.

PS: The four book series is available all together in one collection here

Yet another novel hijacked by a character who thought of something better. 17k words in, and now all of the careful planning that got me to this point is out the window. The original plot is basically gone from this point on.

Not complaining - this is better, despite the extra effort I'm going to need for a new plan now. But it does make me wonder why I bothered.


"Why don't we arrange the revolution ourselves?" Asina asked, "that would moot any worries about Jammont working with the demons."

In the third installment of Preparations for War, Joe and Asina deal with the downsides of trying to deal with the agaani rather than founding their own community. The agaani are trying to preserve a system that no longer functions, and has a laundry list of problems in the changing world of Calmena


Which was why I was in the fortress' creymal as darkness gathered. Since Jammont had claimed us for the local shagra-no, that gave us the right to socialize with the local warrior caste when the work day was over. In the gathering gloom of the short summer nights, we were exercising that right so that we could figure out how popular treason such as Jammont's would be with the warriors. If we were lucky, we might get a few opportunities to sound out the other shagra-ma, lesser officers of the garrison who would be especially important in any treasonous endeavor.

The creymal was a tradition thousands of years old. Calmena wasn't wealthy enough for taverns, inns and the like. There were two such establishments in Yalskarr now, but they were a recent addition, near the docks. Traders and travelers had always been rare, and still were on the continents that had not been cleared of demons. But the shagra-no developed their alternative - a partially sheltered outside area where the fighting caste could gather after the working day was over. Basic benches and rough tables, leather jacks, and a small ration of bad local beer, tended to by an older slave or two. The slave pens for female slaves were nearby. The main concession to change was that the light was a dim electric, rather than a torch. You could tell that changes were starting to hit Yalskarr by the fact that half the inhabitants were neither fighting caste nor slaves, but the creymal was for the fighting caste only, both men and women. The women were almost as randy as the men; it being expected of both sexes that they would breed as many children as possible. It was less common for women to rape the men of the slave castes but it was far from unknown.

Asina hadn't come along because of the customs of the creymal. I could plead having a beautiful woman at home who was waiting for me; if she appeared in the creymal it would be notice of availability (and likely of dissatisfaction with me). The mores were what they were; we were still some time away from the notion of sexual equality on Calmena, and we had too few missionaries on the planet to waste time trying to make changes the society wasn't ready for. When the technology advanced far enough, the mores would follow. In the meantime, female agaani had enough latitude of action for the female halves of our teams to control their own choices.

The Demon Always Wins (Touched by a Demon #1)The Demon Always Wins by Jeanne Oates Estridge

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good interplay between characters

The characters are the star of this book, the plot of which could almost be lifted from a twelfth century passion play. They are all well defined characters who do the things they do for reasons which are or become apparent over the course of the book. Nobody steps out of the character they really are in order to advance the plot. The research into the infernal is mostly good, although there are a couple of surprising holes.

The reader should be aware there are some explicit descriptions of sex acts - this book is not advised for anyone who is not an adult. In my opinion, it would be a better story if the author used the sexual chemistry less and other mechanisms for achieving the same end more, but it's a worthwhile and enjoyable story as it sits.

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