Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Hopes 2016

I'd thought I'd take a shot at doing a New Year's list for 2016...but instead of wishes, this list is about hope.

I hope that 2016 brings all of you perfect moments, when joy is in your heart, a smile is on your face, and all is right with the world.

I hope that when 2016 brings you trouble and turmoil you find the strength and inspiration, and the friends and family and loved ones, to get you through.

I hope that in 2016, you create something, a drawing or a song or a story or whatever form of art, that inspires someone, or that something creative done by someone inspires you.

I hope that 2016 brings you pleasant surprises, happy discoveries, and little miracles, and that some of those come from you taking a chance.

And I hope that 2016 brings a little more peace to the world, a little more understanding to its people, and a little more love to all of you.

Happy New Year.

The Troll And The Garter: A new short story!

Here's the New Year's Eve surprise I promised: A new short story! This one has major spoilers for Redblade, so be warned, and read on after the cut!

It had been a long Saturday for Abigail Main-Drake, but in a good way. She had returned to Nortonville for the first time since she had toured Cooper College and met Beth McGill, fought against and then alongside Michiko Koyama, the Monkey Queen, and helped to defeat the sorceress Lady Midday. In the end, Abby had been invited to work with Michiko and Beth to watch and protect the Emigre communities once she had graduated from high school, and she had happily accepted.

Spring break had begun, and Abby's parents had been pleased with her progress in swordsmanship and sorcery, so they had allowed her to spend her break in Nortonville. Abby had arrived bright and early Saturday morning, suitcases in hand, where she was met for breakfast at the Wonderland Diner and Tavern by Michiko and Beth. They had dropped off Abby's stuff at the apartment Michiko and Beth shared after they ate, and had spent the day catching up as they visited some of the Emigres in and around town.

As night had fallen, the three women had returned to Michiko and Beth's apartment. Pizza had been ordered and eaten, and they were now sitting on the old but comfortable couch in the living room, waiting for Gregor, the cantankerous sorcerer who had been reincarnated as a guinea pig, to fall asleep so they could watch a DVD in peace. Abby had picked out Brave, and the others happily approved.

As they waited, Beth had been scrolling through the image gallery on her tablet, showing Abby the photos she and Michiko had taken during their adventures. "This is from when you two were on a...pirate airship?" Abby said.

"Yep!" Michiko said. "We had to be careful not to get caught taking the selfie!"

"She had a very cute outfit there," Beth added. Michiko nodded as she looked at Beth's tablet, smiling as she saw the red vest and pants, the white blouse and the high leather boots.

"I thought you said she didn't cosplay!" Abby laughed.

"I work on her when I can." Beth grinned as she scrolled through the gallery. "Speaking of..." She tapped her tablet.

The screen was filled with a selfie Beth and Abby had taken several weeks back, and it was quite the contrast. Beth was wearing her green army jacket over a Gandalf t-shirt. Abby wore a light blue coat with lavender trim over a black top and pink leggings, brown leather boots, and a matching brown hat adorned with a blue feather. "I still can't believe you sewed that coat!" Michiko said.

"I'm glad she lost that scarf," Beth added.

"Literally." Abby grinned.

"I've been meaning to ask you..." Beth tapped the photo near Abby's right leg. There was what appeared to be a small belt wrapped around her thigh. "What's that?"

"It's a garter."

"Kinky!" Michiko said with a big grin. Beth threw her head back and laughed.

Abby rolled her eyes. "Not that kind. Pervert." Michiko giggled.

"Is that like the ones the members of the Order of the Garter are given?" Beth asked.

"Yes," Abby said. "It's more of a badge of honor than it is lingerie."

"So you were...awarded that one?"

"You could say that." Abby blushed. "It wasn't an official thing."

"There's a story behind it, huh?" Beth said.

"Tell us!" Michiko said.

"All right." Abby folded her hands and rested them in her lap as Beth set her tablet aside. "It happened last summer, when I went with my parents to see Mom's family back on Annwyn…"

* * *

Abby blinked, her hazel eyes adjusting to the sun as she stepped outside of the Drake family house. It was morning on Annwyn, and unlike her home in San Francisco, all was quiet except for the occasional distant cluck or moo.

Usually there was some small pleasure to be found in the summer vacations Abby took to her grandparents' farm with her family. There would be a relative she hadn't seen in a while, a neighbor with stories to tell, a chance to sneak off to the village an hour's ride away, swordplay lessons from Uncle Nico, even quiet time with her mom or dad.

Today had turned out different. A dignitary from several kingdoms over had insisted on meeting the legendary Theresa Drake, the farmgirl turned Bureau of Interdimensional Policing agent who had brought down the infamous sorcerer Kraimorg, and her husband Charlie Main, the Earthling with no combat skills or magical ability who still talked himself out of trouble time and again. Her extended family had been drafted into helping prepare for the visit, the horses were off limits as they might be needed for a tour of the farm, which meant no riding to town, and Uncle Nico had been delayed by business matters. Abby was on her own.

She idly wandered towards her grandparents' barn, feeling the faint summer breeze rustle her wavy red hair. She welcomed it. Even though it was early, and she was wearing a blue sundress and white leggings to try to keep cool, the morning sun was already quite warm, promising a hot afternoon to come.

Abby knew the farm well. Her mother had been bringing her and her father there for summer vacation every year since she'd been born, and she and her cousins had used to play there often when she was younger, exploring the fields, enjoying the lazy afternoons. She didn't miss those days, but she suspected she might as she grew older.

Abby was close to the barn when she noticed that the door was ajar. That's odd, she thought as she stopped. Usually, Uncle Elson closes it himself last thing.

She heard footsteps coming from inside the barn, heavy ones. She quickly stepped behind a tree, glancing out as someone emerged carrying two chickens, one tucked under each arm. She held back a gasp.

The trolls of Annwyn were different from those that haunted the forests and back alleys of Faerie. On Annwyn, trolls had small horns growing from their foreheads, hairy limbs, and reddish skin. This one seemed shorter and scrawnier than others Abby had seen, but she knew not to underestimate them. She had heard the tales of the Troll Wars from thirty years ago. Some had been told to her by one of the heroes of that war, a retired knight named Sir Gareth, who owned the estate next to the Drake farm and had become friends with her grandparents.

The troll glanced about nervously as he hurried away from the barn. Abby thought for a moment about going back to the house and telling her grandparents and Uncle Elson, but she didn't want to embarrass them in front of Lord Muckety-Muck. She set off after the troll, keeping some distance between them, glad she was wearing sneakers and not boots as she ran after him.

* * *

The small cottage stood at the far end of a wheat field. In the distance, if one squinted, a large manor house and a nearby barn could be seen. The troll slowed down as he reached the cottage, glancing quickly left and right before he went inside.

"You're back!" said one of the men who were sitting at an old, battered table near the door. The men were coarsely dressed, in clothes that reeked from the previous night's ale. "What took you so long, eh?"

"Now, now, Rupert." The other man got up from the table and walked over to the troll. "He knows he has to be careful. If he's not, he gets the stick." He scowled at the troll, baring his teeth. The troll cringed.

"Well, Roscoe, let's see what he brought." Rupert joined the other man and pulled one of the chickens from the troll's grasp. "Nice plump layers!" he chortled. "One for each of us, huh, Roscoe?"

"I can taste them now! How far did you have to go to get them?" Roscoe said to the troll.

"Just—just down a ways." The troll shivered. "The next farm over."

"Not from Gareth's?" Roscoe glared at the troll. "Too many people milling around, eh?"

"The next farm over," Rupert mused. "Whose is that again?"

"The Drake farm." The men and the troll all jumped at Abby's voice from the doorway. "My grandparents'. And those are two of their layers your troll friend has there."

The humans glanced at each other and smiled. "And what are you going to do, little girl?" Rupert said with a sneer. "Run back to your granny and cry?"

That might work, a small part of Abby thought. It is three against one, after all. She ignored it as she said, "I'm going to ask you politely to give those hens back."

"Oh, are you now?" Roscoe stepped towards Abby.

"Now, hold on," Rupert said. "She's with the Drake family. Maybe we should—“

Roscoe moved closer to Abby. "Here's some advice, girl," he hissed; Abby winced at the smell of sour ale on his breath. "Go home and forget what you're seeing here. If you don't—" He pointed at the troll, and Abby saw the bruises and welts on the troll's arms and legs. "I'll do you like I did him."

Abby could see the troll cower, see the pain in his face, and something inside her said, That's enough. Her eyes narrowed as she stared down Roscoe. "You don't know who you're dealing with, do you?" she said quietly.

"Course I do!" Roscoe laughed. "What we've got here is a stupid little girl who is—"

"The daughter of Theresa Drake." Abby's hands glowed. "You've heard of my mom, I'm sure."

Rupert stepped back quickly. "Sorceress," Roscoe said, swallowing nervously. "Maybe we should—"

"I'm not letting any little witch scare me!" Rupert grabbed a butcher knife from the table. "I'll teach her something!"

Abby spoke softly, drawing on and channeling the magical energy that flowed through Annwyn like a brook in the forest. A green eldritch shield sprung up, attached to her left arm, as Rupert brought his weapon down.

The knife bounced off the shield. Rupert staggered back, and Abby pointed at him with her right forefinger. The spellbolt, a simple blast of pure magical energy, shot from her fingertip and struck Rupert in the stomach, knocking him back. He fell to the floor, his knife flying from his hand.

In the corner of her eye, Abby saw Roscoe closing in on her. She spun and grabbed his arm, using his momentum to push him past her. He smashed into the cottage wall and slumped against it, dazed and in pain.

Abby glared at the two humans as Rupert slowly got to his feet. "Get out," she said.

"This is our cottage, missy!" Rupert clenched his fists. "And I'm not going to—"

The spellbolt shot between the two men, leaving a black scar on the wall behind them. "I said, get out!" Abby snapped. "Now!"

Rupert shot out the door. Roscoe glared at Abby as he followed, and she knew, even as she closed the cottage door behind them, it wasn't over. She looked at the troll, who had curled up in a corner. "Are you all right?" she asked.

"Go away." The troll tried to squeeze against the wall.

Abby walked over to him. "I just wanted to know—"

"No!" The troll jumped to his feet, towering over Abby, raising a fist. "I won't let you hurt me like they did!"

Abby stepped back, keeping her breathing steady. "I won't hurt you," she said, trying to keep her voice from shaking. "I won't."

"Humans always hurt me!" The troll took a step towards Abby. "The one who killed my father tried to kill me too! Those two said they'd take care of me, but they called me names and they made me steal food for them and they beat me with a stick!" He pointed to a wooden rod leaning against the wall. "I won't let them hurt me again!"

Abby looked at the troll and saw his fist trembling, saw him swallowing. He's scared, she thought. He's more scared than I am. "Neither will I," she said softly. "I can help you, but you'll have to trust me."

"How can I?" the troll growled.

"The same way I'm going to trust you." Abby spread her arms wide. "You can leave if you want. You—you can hurt me if you want. But I won't fight you. I want you to stay. I want you to trust me." She closed her eyes and held her breath.

Abby heard a thump and opened her eyes. The troll had fallen to his knees, hiding his face in his big hands. She could hear him sobbing. She knelt next to him and placed a hand on his shoulder. "It's all right," she said gently. "Everything's going to be all right."

After a minute, the troll lowered his hands and wiped his eyes. "I'm sorry if I scared you," he sniffled. "I'm sorry."

Abby smiled. “I forgive you,” she said. "My name's Abby. What's yours?"

"Toby."

"Well, Toby, we don't see many trolls in these parts. How did you wind up here?"

Toby stared down at his hands. "My father was killed in a raid a few years ago, and me and my mother barely got away. We wound up with another troll clan, and one of them married my mother, but he thought I was in the way, so they threw me out."

"How old are you?" Abby asked.

"Ten." The troll kept his head lowered.

Abby shook her head. "That's not right," she said. "Not at all."

"I wandered through the woods for a while, and then those two humans found me. They seemed so nice at first, but then they started using me to do all their work and steal from people. And when I told them I didn't want to do that, they beat me with that stick and said I had to or they'd have me arrested and the soldiers would kill me."

Abby looked at Toby, at the cruel welts that covered his limbs, at the ragged clothes and the sad eyes. She stood and walked over to the stick. "Toby..." As the troll looked up, she picked up the stick and broke it in half. "They'll never hurt you again," she said. "I swear it."

Toby nodded. "But they'll be back. I don't want to stay here."

Abby tossed the broken stick aside, thinking quickly. She knew that she couldn't take Toby to her grandparents' house; there might be trouble with their visitors. She couldn't risk leaving the troll by himself, so she was left with just one option. "Toby?" she said. "We'll need to go to Sir Gareth's estate."

"Sir Gareth?" The troll recoiled. "But those men told me he'd cut my head off!"

"They were lying to keep you from leaving." Abby kept the worry out of her voice. She wasn't actually sure how the knight would react to having a troll dropped in his lap, but she had to do something. "Come on."

Abby walked to the door and opened it. Toby slowly stood up and headed outside. Abby could see him trying not to shake or whimper as she followed him, closing the door behind her to keep the chickens from escaping. "Do you think they waited for us?" he said.

"I don't know," Abby whispered, "but let's play it safe. We'll cut through the wheat field. Stay low." She moved away from the cottage, crouching as she ran. She could hear the troll panting behind her.

"There! That's them!" Abby looked up and saw Roscoe and Rupert heading towards her and Toby, followed by four farmhands carrying rakes and scythes. "That's the troll!" Roscoe shouted. "And the stupid little girl who wants to protect him."

Abby swallowed. "Toby?" she said. "Run. Get to the manor."

"No!" Toby said. "I can't leave you here!"

Rupert laughed harshly. "A brave troll is a dead troll. Get him, lads!"

"Stand down," Abby said. "You won't hurt him any more. I won't let you." Her hands started to glow.

The farmhands looked at each other. "What are you waiting for?" Roscoe hissed.

"But I know her!" One of the farmhands pointed at Abby. "She's one of the Drake grandchildren!"

Another farmhand scowled. "Look at all the bruises on the troll. Something's not right." He lowered his rake.

Rupert spread his arms. "Come on lads!" he said with a phony smile. "Who are you going to believe?"

"That's quite a good question."

Everyone turned to see the four men riding towards them. The one who had spoken had a gray beard and a face lined with age and caution, but his eyes were sharp and he rode as if he were born in the saddle. He wore a white robe, emblazoned with a lion and a phoenix, over black tights. "Who should I believe?" Sir Gareth asked. "The men who keep poaching from my barn and squatting on my property, or the daughter of a hero and granddaughter of an old friend?"

Roscoe cleared his throat. "Sir Gareth? If I may—"

"No, you may not." The knight turned towards the farmhands. "Men? Guard these two. I suspect the magistrate will be quite glad to see them. Dwight?" he said to one of the other riders, who was dressed the same as he was. "Would you head over to the Drake house? I know they have important visitors, but I'm sure that Master Charles could be spared for a few minutes."

* * *

Abby was no stranger to Sir Gareth's study; she had spent the waning hours of many summer days there as the knight spun his stories. It was cozy, lit by windows along two walls, with a stuffed bookshelf dominating another wall, next to a desk with a shelf that held trophies, medals and mementos. “I was right about the magistrate,” Gareth said as he settled into his large cushioned chair, a cup of tea on the small table next to him. “Those two have been poaching from farms for miles around, not just here.”

I would think that their bigger crime is how they treated that poor troll,” Charlie Main said as he sat on a sofa next to Abby. Her father had been pressured into dressing up for the royal visit, so he was wearing a doublet with the Drake crest on the back, over a white top and blue tights. Abby considered it a small triumph that she had not laughed herself silly at the sight.

Not just physically,” Abby added. “Toby said they insulted and threatened him.”

And they also starved him.” Gareth shook his head. “The boy hasn't had more than one meal a day in ages.”

Monsters,” Abby said, clenching her fists. “They deserve to be locked away.”

And they will be, for a good long time.”

Where's Toby now?” Charlie asked.

Dwight took a liking to him,” Gareth said. “He insisted on taking him to the kitchen.”

Lunch?”

And dinner. Have you ever fed a hungry troll?” The knight smiled. “There may not be anything left for Dwight and myself.”

Abby chuckled. “We may have to bring over some of our leftovers for your farmhands!”

Even so...it's a good thing you spotted him.” Gareth sipped his tea.

Charlie scowled. “I still think you should have gone for help instead of facing those grifters by yourself.”

Dad...” Abby blushed. “You and Mom were busy. And if I'd left, Toby would have been beaten for getting caught.”

Maybe. But if you hadn't been able to stop them...” Charlie shook his head. “Anyway, we should get back to the house.” He rose from the sofa.

Master Charles...” Sir Gareth looked at Charlie. “Before you go, might I have a word with your daughter in private?”

Charlie looked back and forth between his daughter and the knight. “Sure,” he said. “I'll wait out front.” He left the study, closing the door behind him.

He seems to be a bit upset with you,” Gareth said to Abby, a hint of sadness in his voice.

He's very protective,” Abby said. “He doesn't want me to be hurt.”

I can understand that.” Gareth stood up and walked over to the desk. “Abby...why did you do it?”

Help Toby?”

Yes. No one would ever have known if you let it be. Many would say that after all, he's just a troll.”

Abby looked at her hands. “He...he was a boy. He was beaten. He was alone and scared. I saw how much he needed help, troll or not.” She looked up at the knight. “I couldn't leave him there,” she said softly. “I had to help.”

Gareth nodded. “You did the right thing, my dear. I think your father is secretly proud of you for that, and I'm sure your mother will be.”

Thank you.” Abby blushed.

Abby…” The knight gestured towards the desk, the trophies and awards displayed there. “I've told you the stories behind all of these, right?”

You have. Several times.” Abby tried not to grin.

I do hope I haven't bored you.” Gareth tapped a small sculpture of a knight on horseback, riding at full gallop. “This one was when I had to ride fifty miles to warn of an attack.”

And then you insisted on riding back with the reinforcements!”

And this one—” He pointed at a large seven-pointed gold medal on a stand. “Dwight and I held off the clan of assassins on the palace grounds until help arrived.”

The saving of the Infant Prince!” Abby said.

Have I ever said what my strongest memory of that day is?” Gareth idly toyed with the medal's ribbon. “It was when Dwight jumped in front of an archer to take an arrow for me. Luckily, it only caught him in the arm.” He smiled. “I never knew until then how much we meant to one another.” He looked back at Abby. “I have other medals. They're the ones I choose not to display.”

Why is that?” Abby asked. She could see that there was room on the desk.

Because of how I earned them.” The knight sighed. “All the fighting we did in the Troll Wars, and it only ended when we finally sat down and talked to them and reached a settlement. All the lives lost on both sides...”

Gareth opened a desk drawer and pulled out a small, plain wooden box. “This one, I was given for defeating a squadron of trolls.” He shook his head. “My company ambushed them in their tents as they slept.”

Oh no,” Abby said softly.

It wasn't a battle, it was slaughter. Murder. This award? I only accepted it to be polite. I don't deserve it.”

Gareth walked over to Abby and opened the box. Inside, Abby could see what appeared to be a small leather belt. “What is that?” she asked.

It's a garter,” the knight said. “It was meant to be ceremonial, not functional.”

They used to do something similar on Earth,” Abby said.

Gareth took the garter from the box. “I do like the message etched on the inside,” he said. He held it up for Abby to see.

'Character is how you act when no one is watching',” she read. “That's nice.”

Abby...” Gareth returned the garter to the box and closed the lid. “You could have abandoned Toby. You could have walked away, and no one would have ever known. But you stood by him and helped him.” He knelt before Abby. “For doing the right thing, with courage and bravery,” he said solemnly, “I want you to have this.” He placed the box in her hands.

Abby had a tear in her eye as she looked down at the box, then back at Sir Gareth. “I...I can't accept this,” she whispered.

Yes, you can. You've earned it.”

But it was yours.”

The knight stood up and smiled. “It's not doing me any good stuck in a drawer. And as you can see...” He slapped his thick thigh. “It never would fit me anyway.”

Abby laughed. “I see your point!” she said. “Thank you, Sir Gareth.”

* * *

Beth glanced at Gregor's cage as Abby finished her story. “Looks like he's finally gone to sleep,” she said.

He really doesn't like soppy stories!” Michiko grinned.

Beth giggled as she got up from the couch. “I'll make some popcorn,” she said as she headed for the kitchen.

Michiko nodded. “So, Abby?” she asked. “What happened to Toby?”

He's working on Sir Gareth's farm now,” Abby said.

Is that going okay?”

Well...he has his moments.” Abby pouted. “Sometimes, he has bad dreams. He acts up a little. But he's getting better. And he's learning basic math, and how to read and write.”

That's great!” Michiko smiled.

And he keeps asking about how I'm doing.” Abby smiled slightly. “If I can get back to Annwyn this summer, I'm hoping to see him.”

Abby looked down at the photo on Beth's tablet. “That's why I wanted to wear Sir Gareth's garter,” she said. “I needed to remember what was important. I don't want to be a hero just for the glory or the sake of battle or to follow someone's orders. I want to help people, to give them a chance.”

Like the chance you gave Toby,” Michiko said.

And like you and Beth are giving me.” Abby smiled. “Everyone was telling me today about everything you two have done to help them. I'm glad I'll be working with you.”

Awww.” Michiko returned Abby's smile. “Thank you!”

I can't wait for the chance to help you and Beth!”

Well...” Beth walked out of the kitchen and handed a bowl filled with fresh buttered popcorn to Abby. “Like they say, be careful what you wish for.” She grinned as she sat on the couch next to Michiko and picked up the remote. “Let's just hope we get through Brave before the phone rings.”


When I sent someone an early sketch Willow had done of Abby for the cover of Redblade, she sent me a passage about the Order of the Garter from Wikipedia, which led me to wonder why Abby would wear a garter, which led to this story. So, many thanks to “M” for providing the inspiration.

© 2015 Robert Dahlen. All rights reserved, except for those granted by fair use laws where you live.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Les Dieux du Blog 2016 calendar

Raphie and Djy, a pair of French bloggers, have released a 2016 calendar, Les Dieux du Blog. Calomiel, the artist who drew my new avatar, invited me to take part, so I wrote a caption to accompany a lovely drawing she did for October. You can download the PDF of the calendar here; be advised that the text (except for my caption) is in French, and it is NSFW (nudity, mostly female). Thanks again to Raphie and Djy for letting me take part!

Willow Wednesdays: Falling

Welcome to Willow Wednesdays! Featuring art by Willow, the cover artist for the Monkey Queen series, with her kind permission! Read on after the cut!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

so you better get ready, we may be blogging to your town

It's our last Sunday catchup before the New Year's! I wanted to take a moment to thank all of Michiko and Beth's fans, casual or die-hard, those who are just discovering the Monkey Queen and those who have been with us from the start. Thank you! If you're not busy New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, check back here; there may be a surprise or two for you!

After the cut: We get timey-wimey and Peanutty, and there'll be some Monkeeing around.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Hello there!

(Welcome to new readers of this blog! Feel free to skip this post if you're a regular reader.)

Hi, I'm Robert Dahlen. I'm the author of the Monkey Queen series, in which Michiko (teenage hero with a wisecracking streak) and Beth (fangirl college student) team up to "save the world" (they're starting small). It's fantasy adventure with heroines, humor and heart, and a friendship that may be leading to something more.

There are five books available so far - Of Introductions And Abductions, The Brigadoon Boondoggle, Under The Stars Of Faerie, A Tiding Of Magpies, and Redblade - and three more planned for 2016. You can see all the books in the series on my Amazon Central page. Also, if you click on the "sneak preview" tag, you can read the opening chapters of the first five books. And the "short story" tag leads to five standalone short stories and a story-within-a-story that's from A Tiding Of Magpies.

Michiko, Beth, and many of the concepts and settings in these books came from a proposal I had written many years ago for a comic book series. I had set it aside due to lack of interest, but I found what I had written in March 2013 and started writing the first Monkey Queen book the next day. I've been influenced by everything from Miyazaki to Doctor Who, Pixar to Pratchett, Phil Foglio to Bugs Bunny, and many more.

I live in northern California. I work full-time, but luckily I can still squeeze writing in. I have a really nice hat, a growing Disney Infinity collection, a knack for baking cookies, a joke for many occasions and a fondness for penguins. You can find me on Facebook, DeviantArt, and Twitter as @monkeyqueenbks, but I tend to put more time in on this blog than anywhere else. Feel free to follow me at any of those places, or sign up for the mailing list!

You may notice that I talk about Willow a lot. She's an artist from France who does the covers for the Monkey Queen books; she also published her first BD / graphic novel, The Journey Of Earth, earlier this year. I discovered her on DeviantArt, and I think her work is amazing...and she's also very friendly and funny. The best place to see her completed work is on DeviantArt. She's also on Facebook, where she posts updates and works in progress. And she has a Society6 webstore where you can buy all sorts of goodies, including Monkey Queen merchandise!

(And the avatar you might have seen on my social media is by another talented French artist, Calomiel. Find out more about her at her blog, where you can also read her delightful BDs/comic strips and see her GIFs and process posts!)

If you have any questions or need more info, feel free to leave a comment here or wherever. I'm always glad to hear from visitors and readers. And thanks for dropping by!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Disney Infinity: The Twelve Parsecs Of Christmas

Season's Greetings, Merry Christmas and all that! I wanted to remind everyone that there's still time to read "Best Christmas Ever", the short story about Michiko and Beth's first Christmas as roommates, before all the snowman cookies are gone. Pour an iced peppermint mocha and enjoy!

And I realized that we haven't heard from the little gold milk chocolate bear in a while. Well, remember when Han Solo and Chewbacca made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs? Have you ever wondered what they were smuggling when they did that?


Now you know.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Willow Wednesdays: Happy Holidays!

Welcome to Willow Wednesdays! Featuring art by Willow, the cover artist for the Monkey Queen series, with her kind permission! Read on after the cut!

Here's another drawing of Willow's original character, Anya, ready to celebrate Christmas!


Art © 2015 by Willow. All rights reserved; used by permission. You can view Willow's extensive gallery on DeviantArt, see her works in progress by liking her Facebook page, follow her on Twitter, and buy prints and much more at her Society6 webstore, including exclusive Monkey Queen items!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Redblade: The paperback is here!

The proofs for the paperback edition of Redblade have arrived, and have been approved. They look great!



The paperback is now up on Amazon. It still needs to be linked to the ebook edition, which should happen in the next day or two; until then, use this link to buy a copy. If you're interested in buying paperback copies of Redblade or any other Monkey Queen book directly from me, let me know.

And in related news...I am a very very happy writer.


Speculative Fiction Showcase: The Blog Awakens!

Thanks to Cora and the Speculative Fiction Showcase for featuring the new Monkey Queen book, Redblade, as their book of the day! Bookmark their blog for author interviews, previews of new indie sci-fi and fantasy, and their great Friday Links of the Week posts!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

If we could make this feeling last forever, what a beautiful place this blog truly would be

Forgive me for starting the Sunday catchup with a blatant plug, but I know a lot of you have been distracted between a certain holiday and a certain movie. So, if you missed it - Redblade, the fifth Monkey Queen book, is out now! This post has all the links to buy it at Amazon stores worldwide (and it's free to read for Kindle Unlimited members or Amazon Prime members with Kindles)! And this post is where you can preview the first two chapters!

And while I have your attention, the first Monkey Queen book, Of Introductions And Abductions, is still on sale for 99 cents US, and will stay on sale through New Year's weekend! Grab it now if you haven't read it, and remember that ebooks make great gifts!

After the cut...we head to a galaxy far, far away.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Redblade: All the Amazon links!

Monkey Queen fans! After the cut are all the links to where you can buy the new book, Redblade, at all the Amazon stores worldwide! (If you don't live in a country with an Amazon store, use Amazon.com!)

Redblade: It's here!

The fifth Monkey Queen book, Redblade, is now available to buy at Amazon.com! Check back later for links to all the other Amazon stores worldwide! (I'm working on the paperback edition, and I'll post here as soon as it's available.) It's been a longer wait than anyone expected, especially me, but it's over! I hope you enjoy it, and I'm looking forward to hearing what you think!


“I want to be a hero. Like the Monkey Queen.”

Michiko Koyama, the hero known as the Monkey Queen, and her partner in adventure Beth McGill are happily adjusting to finally being more than friends. But Beth has made a new friend, student and fellow geek girl Abigail Main-Drake, and Michiko is trying very hard not to be jealous.

Meanwhile, a rise in assaults by ogres is putting Emigre communities in danger. A hero has risen to help defend them, the swashbuckling sorceress who calls herself Redblade. Michiko is thrilled to have a new ally, but Beth is feeling left out, unneeded.

But what Michiko and Beth don't know is that Abby is Redblade. And that secret, and the magic sword Abby carries, could spell doom for the Monkey Queen.

Join the adventure with Michiko and Beth in this fifth book in the Monkey Queen series, written with new readers in mind! Fantasy with heroines, humor and heart!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Willow Wednesdays: Christmas Is Coming

Welcome to Willow Wednesdays! Featuring art by Willow, the cover artist for the Monkey Queen series, with her kind permission! Read on after the cut!

Here's some lovely art by Willow of one of her many original characters, Anya! She mentioned in the original post on DeviantArt that she might draw a comic about her. I hope we get to see it someday!

Art © 2015 by Willow. All rights reserved; used by permission. You can view Willow's extensive gallery on DeviantArt, see her works in progress by liking her Facebook page, follow her on Twitter, and buy prints and much more at her Society6 webstore, including exclusive Monkey Queen items!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Redblade: Chapters One and Two!

I'm skipping the Sunday catchup post this week; look for it next week when the Force will hopefully be with us. Instead, since Redblade, the fifth Monkey Queen book, should be going on sale sometime this week, I'm pleased to present the official preview, with Chapters One and Two, after the cut! Be advised that this is a long preview, over 10,000 words, and that it spoils the ending of A Tiding Of Magpies. I hope you enjoy this, and feel free to let me know what you think in the comments!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Redblade: The final cover!

Here's the final cover for the ebook edition of Redblade, the upcoming fifth Monkey Queen book, with Willow's art and Keri Knutson's design work! Hold on to your hats - it won't be long now until the book comes out!


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Willow Wednesdays: Santa Willow's coming to town!

Welcome to Willow Wednesdays! Featuring art by Willow, the cover artist for the Monkey Queen series, with her kind permission! Read on after the cut!

Well, it's still Wednesday here in California. And it's not too early to start thinking about Christmas and the holidays. I just hope Santa Willow knows I haven't been all that naughty...



Art © 2015 by Willow. All rights reserved; used by permission. You can view Willow's extensive gallery on DeviantArt, see her works in progress by liking her Facebook page, follow her on Twitter, and buy prints and much more at her Society6 webstore, including exclusive Monkey Queen items!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Redblade: The cover is here!

The 99 cent sale on the first Monkey Queen book, Of Introductions And Abductions, is still going on, but there's even bigger news: Willow has finished the cover art for the fifth book, Redblade, and it's as wonderful as always! Take a look, and sit tight, because if the cover is done...can the book be far behind?


Sunday, December 6, 2015

early morning blogs and greens

Late Sunday catchup today, and that's because I'm starting to take the final steps towards a big announcement later this week! Stay tuned! And don't forget that the sale is still going on; more after the cut (including spoilers).

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The sale is on! Monkey Queen book 1 and many more, just 99 cents each!

The big science fiction and fantasy sale has started! More than 80 books have been marked down to 99 cents US, and most of those are on sale worldwide! Click the link to head to the page, and pick out the books you like! (We recommend Awakened by Shei Darksbane for some geeky urban fantasy adventure, but really, it's hard to go wrong with any ebook for just 99 cents!)

And don't forget that one of those titles is the first Monkey Queen book, Of Introductions And Abductions! Just 99 cents US at Amazon! (Also 0.99 at Amazon UK, 0,99 € in European Amazons, and marked down elsewhere worldwide!) If you haven't read Michiko and Beth's first adventure yet, today is a good day to get it! And if you have, ebooks make great presents, and you can skip the bows and ribbons! Give someone an early gift, and spread the word about the Monkey Queen!



Friday, December 4, 2015

Happy National Cookie Day!

Just thought I'd take a break, and give you a break, from promoting the 99 cent sale. It is National Cookie Day, after all, so grab some cookies and celebrate! Just like Princess Merida...



Thursday, December 3, 2015

Big sale this weekend! 99 cents! Monkey Queen book one and many more!

This weekend, December 5-6, there will be a big science fiction and fantasy sale! More than 80 books will be marked down to 99 cents US, and most will be on sale worldwide! Click the link to head to the page, and pick out the books you like! (We recommend Awakened by Shei Darksbane, but really, it's hard to go wrong with any ebook at just 99 cents!)



But Michiko couldn't wait, so her fans get a head start. The first Monkey Queen book, Of Introductions And Abductions, is already on sale! Just 99 cents US at Amazon! (Also 0.99 at Amazon UK, 0,99 € in European Amazons, and marked down elsewhere worldwide!) If you haven't jumped on board, now is the time to read Michiko and Beth's first adventure! And if you have, ebooks make great presents, and you don't even need to wrap them! Give someone a gift, and spread the word about the Monkey Queen!


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Willow Wednesdays: Not lost and gone forever

Welcome to Willow Wednesdays! Featuring art by Willow, the cover artist for the Monkey Queen series, with her kind permission! Read on after the cut!


When I first discovered Willow's work on DeviantArt, this was one of the pieces I tagged as a favorite. Although Willow hasn't done much else with Clementine, I remember seeing this and thinking, "She can design characters!" And yet, I was surprised when she gave Michiko her scarf. Go figure.



Art © 2015 by Willow. All rights reserved; used by permission. You can view Willow's extensive gallery on DeviantArt, see her works in progress by liking her Facebook page, follow her on Twitter, and buy prints and much more at her Society6 webstore, including exclusive Monkey Queen items!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Redblade: closing in!

I don't usually post twice in one day, but this is too cool to wait on. Willow has just completed the line art for the cover for the next Monkey Queen book, Redblade, and has kindly allowed me to share it with you! I hope you enjoy it, and like you, I can't wait to see the final cover!


you and I, we've seen what time's blogged, haven't we?

So, have you read "Best Christmas Ever!", the newly expanded (and more festive!) version of the short story that tells about Michiko and Beth's first Christmas as roommates? If you haven't, scroll down to the post right below this! (There's also a "Behind The Scenes" post below that, with lots of nifty background info). More after the cut!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Best Christmas Ever! (a Monkey Queen short story, revised and reposted)

It's the unofficial start of the holiday season! To celebrate, here's "Best Christmas Ever!", a short story about Michiko and Beth's first Christmas as roommates! This was originally posted in 2014, but for reasons detailed in the post below this, I've revised and expanded the story. Hopefully, this will make your holidays a bit happier! Read on, after the cut!

Behind The Scenes: Best Christmas Ever!

As promised, here is our Behind The Scenes look at "Best Christmas Ever", the Michiko and Beth holiday short story! If you haven't read it yet, scroll up; if you have, it's been revised, so you may want to read it again! There are spoilers ahead, so read on after the cut!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Willow Wednesdays: off to adventure!

Welcome to Willow Wednesdays! Featuring art by Willow, the cover artist for the Monkey Queen series, with her kind permission! Read on after the cut!

Monday, November 23, 2015

I'm a GIF!

I mentioned the wonderful new avatar that Calomiel, the French artist and comic creator, drew from me on this blog last week. What I didn't know was that as she worked on the avatar, from sketch to ink to final art, she saved each stage, and used them to produce this marvelous GIF!



It's nice to see Calomiel's art as it progresses. And I'm thrilled; I've never been a GIF before! You can see the original on her blog here, and other work-in-progress GIFs (and so much more) as well. Merci, Calomiel!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Blognolia Simms

First off, with Christmas starting to loom in the distance like a giant commercialized monster hungering for your attention and money: You might want to check here on the 27th ("Black Friday" to Americans) for the Monkey Queen short story "Best Christmas Ever!"...in its new, slightly revised version, along with a "Behind The Scenes" post! Grab some candy canes and a white chocolate mocha and come back Friday! More (including spoilers) after the cut!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Willow Wednesdays Extra: The Journey Has Ended!

As regular readers of this blog no doubt know by now: A few months ago, Willow ran a crowdfunding campaign for her debut graphic novel, The Journey Of Earth. I backed it as quickly as I could, and I've been waiting like a kid at Christmas for the final book and the goodies to get here. Well, guess what showed up today? Let's see what's in the package after the cut!

Friday, November 20, 2015

little gold bear in big trouble

So what happened with our little milk chocolate gold foil bear after he escaped from Halloweentown? Find out after the cut.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Willow Wednesdays: Bubbline!

Welcome to Willow Wednesdays! Featuring art by Willow, the cover artist for the Monkey Queen series, with her kind permission! Read on after the cut!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

they blogged for war, and nobody came

This is not going to be your usual Sunday catchup post, and I apologize for that. (Last night's Doctor Who wasn't that good anyway.) Feel free to skip this one...but I hope you won't.

I still have the attacks on Paris on my mind. I keep hearing and reading all these people who want to respond in kind. It seems sad to me to answer hate with hate and fear with fear. It's tragic that we should condemn those fleeing war to live in camps, or try to send them back to homes that no longer exist, out of fear that one of the hundreds of thousands might harbor ill will. Yes, we should stop the terrorists. But the overwhelming majority of Muslims are not terrorists and have condemned these horrible attacks.

And attacking France, saying that they somehow deserved this for daring to have a multi-cultural society, is vile. If you're a Christian, think twice before saying this to anyone. Jesus would never have said such a thing.

I sometimes wonder what I can do about this wave of hatred that's sweeping the globe, that's threatening to drown France, that's trying to swallow the US. Comic book writer Mark Evanier, and others, have posted this quote from Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets:

At some point in my life I decided, rightly or wrongly, that there are many situations in this life that I can't do much about — acts of terrorism, feelings of nationalistic prejudice, Cold War, etc. — so what I should do is concentrate on the situations that my energy can affect.

I'm just a writer, with a very small audience; Henson created characters that are loved by millions. But I know Jim Henson and I have the one thing in common: We tried, in our own way, to inspire people and make the world a little bit better. (Of course, Jim Henson did that far better than I ever could.)

Maybe the answer is for all of us to try that, to show that there is joy out there, that the world can be a better place. Maybe just...be kinder to each other. If the alternative is to let the hate and fear consume us, then bring on love and kindness.

Take care, one and all, and thank you for reading.


Saturday, November 14, 2015

sorrow

Willow posted this sad drawing earlier today in reaction to Friday's tragedies in Paris. All I can add is my hope that someday, we won't need to create these tributes and mourn the dead and comfort the wounded. Someday, may there be peace on Earth at last.


Friday, November 13, 2015

Paris

Like so many other people, I am shocked and saddened by what's happened in Paris. My thoughts are with the victims and their families, and with all the good people of France.

In case anyone was wondering: Willow actually lives in western France, a good distance from Paris. However, she has family in Paris, and she was worried about them for a while. Thankfully, they're okay, but she's quite shaken.

I was concerned about Calomiel, the artist who drew my new avatar, because she lives in Paris. I contacted her as soon as the news broke, and she was actually at home that evening, so she's fine. I hope her friends and family are okay too.

May the French people stay strong, and not let fear and hate dominate their thoughts and deeds. May the ones who planned this horrible night be brought to justice. And I hope we someday learn, once and for all, that no cause is worth spilling innocent blood for, now or ever.

little gold bear on Friday the 13th (eek!)

So what happened to our little gold foil covered milk chocolate bear? Find out after the cut!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Willow Wednesdays: Art To Play!

Welcome to Willow Wednesdays! Featuring art by Willow, the cover artist for the Monkey Queen series, with her kind permission! Read on after the cut!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

introducing...the new me! (sort of)

I said this would be happening on Sunday, and here it is! Calomiel has finished the art for my new avatar!



If you missed Sunday's post: Calomiel is a talented French artist and photographer! We've been interacting on Facebook recently, and I thought her style would work for my avatar. I was right! (And I should also add that she's very nice and lots of fun to work with!) Find out more about her at her blog, where you can also read her delightful BDs/comic strips and see her GIFs and process posts! It's in French, but it's worth the effort to translate, and you can enjoy her art regardless; as she says in her header, "Comics are the universal language". And Calomiel? Merci pour ce merveilleux nouveau avatar!