Tag Archives: Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

The Lady in the Loch…

27 Mar

Another GSP release from Author of the Week: Elizabeth Ann Scarborough.

The Lady in the Loch by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

When a woman’s bones are found in the icy dregs of the noxious Nor’ Loch, newly appointed sheriff of Edinburgh, Walter Scott, is called upon. Are these the remains of a drowned witch or religious heretic, or are they perhaps linked to something more recent and sinister? For although Edinburgh is known to be the center of literature, science, and medicine, it is also the haunt of body snatchers who prey upon the living and the dead alike, selling their victims for study by the student physicians at the medical school. 
     When a band of Travelling People is forced to winter near the city, two young women are taken, one from her bed while she sleeps near her family. Justice from the settled people is rarely accorded to gypsies and the Travellers fear they will be murdered one by one by the ghouls stalking their people.
     A young gypsy named Midge Margret is sure that Scott will care.  He befriended her family before and once more he promises to help find the murderer who prowls the snowy forest in a black coach. 
When a patchwork woman with supernatural strength begins hunting the streets as well, Scott and Midge Margret know the crimes are rooted in bloody dark magic. In order to catch the killer, the butchered victims themselves must testify.

Excerpt:

The mother of the corpse wore solid black as she danced round and round the room to the lamenting coronach of the pipes. With her danced the father of the corpse, also in black. The attire of both showed signs of having been recently, hastily dyed for the occasion. Phantoms of the plaid fabric swam beneath the dye of the mother’s gown. The mother wept as she danced and the father scowled. The corpse lay in the middle of the room, her claes deid, her funeral garments, concealing the thirty stab wounds in her chest and the dishonor her killer had subjected her body to before she died. All around the coffin, her brothers and sisters-in-law, her sisters and brothers-in-law, her fiance and her grandmother, all of them weeping, shuffled in their own awkward dancing. The neighbors danced and wept as well. And close by the coffin, the bound and gagged tinkler man was weeping too, less for the murdered lassie than for himself, he who was the accused.
     The time was one minute until midnight by the grand-father clock standing in the candle-cast shadows draping the walls, festooning the ceiling and carpeting the floors. The flickering of these same candles lent astonishing expressions to the corpse’s face and deepened the dread on the faces of the other celebrants, dancing, singing, eating, drinking, and weeping for the dead lass.
     A danse macabre if ever there was one, Walter Scott mused from his chair in the center of the room, close to the girl’s open coffin. Scott was excused from the dancing both because of his semi-official status in the investigation and because of his lame leg. In a way, it was quite thrilling, this lyke-wake, for it was the first he had attended. Lowlanders and Borderers such as himself, people raised in the strictness of the Kirk, did not practice such rituals, but the girl’s family, the MacRitchies, were transplanted Highlanders. So on the one hand, this gave Scott a wonderful opportunity to observe a ritual of which he had previously only read. But on the other hand, there was the girl in the coffin, and though he had never known her, never heard her name, she was touchingly young, younger even than his own eighteen years. She should have been beautiful too, an Ophelia, a Lily Lady of Shalot, but she was actually rather ordinary-looking, robust even in death, the freckles standing out like blemishes on the waxiness of her skin, her eyes, at present, closed with coins, her red hair too festive for her own funeral.
     The sheriff-depute of Selkirk, Scott’s old friend Adam Plummer, stood beside him, both of them shivering, for the room was chill for more common reasons than the eldritch atmosphere that gripped it. The fireplace was cold, as it must be until the body was removed, and the door was still wide open for the moment.
     As the clock gonged the first of its twelve notes for midnight, the dancing wound to a shuffling halt and the piped lament died a wheezing death. Plummer crossed the makeshift dance floor in two long strides and closed the door so that it was barely ajar. The mourners hushed, except for one man who continued, unheeding, to gnaw on the drumstick of a goose. As Plummer returned to the corpse’s side, the clock struck its second gong. The mother, Mrs. MacRitchie, let loose with her eerie keening cry, the hullulu, as the Irish so accurately termed it, for that was the way it sounded, a long mourning-dove yell.
     The MacRitchies’ large, pleasant stone farmhouse was wrapped in the boughs of the Ettrick Forest, and both forest and farmhouse kitchen could be entered from the kitchen door. The house was not too far from that of Scott’s old friend James Hogg, and his mother. Hogg had been with the search party that discovered the lass’s poor body and also with the party that had flushed the tinklers from their camp in the woods and chased the young man through the trees. The murdered girl’s fiance and her brothers had assumed, as had all the neighbors, that the tinkler lad, since he was in the area, was of course the perpetrator of the crime. Had it been left only to them, the young man would by now be hanged. But Hogg, who had some connections with and sympathy for the tinklers, told the accusers that if they proceeded, the current laws of this district would call them murderers as well, that it was best to send for the sheriff-depute and allow him to conduct a proper investigation. Recalcitrant as the younger laddies were, the elder MacRitchies prevailed and allowed Hogg to send a servant with a message to the home of Scott’s aunt Janet in Sandy Knowe. Scott was visiting his aunt and uncle for the summer, far away from his studies at the university in Edinburgh. He and Plummer had been whiling away the early afternoon playing chess when the MacRitchies’ servant knocked on Aunt Janet’s door and told him of the lass’s death (never calling her by name. One never called the deceased by name unless in court or kirk or on one other occasion, as the sheriff was soon to demonstrate). Plummer evidently was acquainted with the family, however, and had some idea that the lyke-wake was in order. He told Scott that this might prove a more interesting experience than most and urged the younger man to accompany him.
     Riding hard, they had reached the farmhouse shortly after sunset, when the forest shadows gave way to the mist rising from the creeks and ponds, and that was joined by the smoke from the kitchen chimney, blowing a solemn ring around the house.
     Plummer questioned Mrs. MacRitchie, who had laid her daughter out, about the girl’s wounds. Scott was relieved his friend had felt no need to remove the funeral linens to see the wounds for himself, but he wondered why. Plummer questioned the tinkler lad as well, but the man refused to say anything except that he had done nothing wrong, and to shake his head stubbornly. The brothers and the girl’s fiance, one Robert Douglas, the son of an even more successful farmer than the girl’s father, wanted to “bate the truth oot o’ the knacker,” and in fact, it looked as if they had already made progress toward that goal before Plummer and Scott arrived. Hogg too bore a couple of visible bruises, although no apparent malice toward those who had inflicted them.
     The clock gonged for the fourth time. Plummer began, “By the power vested in me by the Sheriff of Selkirk and through him the King, I will noo commence interrogatin’ the victim of this heinous crime.”
     “What does he mean, interrogate the victim?” Scott asked Hogg, who had drawn near.
     Hogg shrugged. “Used to be done whenever there was foul play, according to Mither,” he whispered back. “Nowadays nane but the law know the way.”
     “Why’s that?” Scott asked, but just then, one of the men screamed.
     “No! Let her rest in peace! We hae Ma—my bride-to-be’s murderer there. We should hang him and be done wi’ it!”
     “Haud yer tongue, man,” Plummer commanded. “Let nane speak but her whose foremost business it is, the last witness to this crime. In the pursuit of this investigation, once more I invoke thy name, Mary MacRitchie,” he said, in appropriately sonorous tones. “Rise up, lass, and accuse thy slayer.”
     Though he had never seen such a thing before, Scott had read of the dead accusing their slayers, but had thought it only superstition. He, with the other occupants of the room, held his breath, waiting, to see what would happen, what, if the victim indeed rose up, she would say.
     Even the gnawer of the goose bone had finished all the flesh and, putting away his bone, realized that the room was now completely still except for his ever-more-cautious chewing and the echo of Plummer’s invocation, and the heartbeats and expirations of all of those who were not now allowed to speak. The first sound other than those was a slight slipping, like jewels against a lady’s velvet dress, and then a hollow clink as the coins fell from the girl’s eyes and dropped into her coffin as if it were a wishing well.
     Even the tinkler was still, as with a sussuration of the claes deid and a long, pain-wracked groan, the body raised itself, hands still bound across its chest, to a sitting position.
     With the raising, Scott caught the stench of corruption emanating from her, washed and freshly dressed as she was. On such a warm summer day as this had been, her body had already begun to decay.

Links;

http://www.gypsyshadow.com/ElizabethScarborough.html#LadyExc

Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Lady-Loch-Elizabeth-Ann-Scarborough-ebook/dp/B0041KKM0S/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1395946520&sr=8-1&keywords=lady+in+the+loch

 

Cleopatra 7.2

26 Mar

Another GSP release from Author of the Week: Elizabeth Ann Scarborough.

Cleopatra 7.2 by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

Cleopatra’s back (again). This time she brought friends.

“A science fiction thriller that feels like a futuristic James Bond. . . The idea of two minds inhabiting one body is a fascinating premise. The way they blend together and respect each other’s personality makes Elizabeth Ann Scarborough’s latest work a fascinating, often humorous speculative fiction.” Midwest Book Review

“Scattered throughout the narrative, Scarborough provides amusing asides from the viewpoints of the Cleopatras. The modern day is filled with marvels from the viewpoints of the ancient queens, and Scarborough does a marvelous job of giving the world we take for granted a new angle of understanding . . . [She] has done a fabulous job of researching the past, and through the observations of the two Cleos paints a heartrending picture of loss and yet at the same time presents awe-inspiring descriptions of wonders that have managed, despite war, neglect, and outright vandalism, to survive for millennia to the modern day.” SF Revu

“[An] exciting speculative thriller . . . Scarborough deftly weaves her suspenseful web and then untangles the threads with her clear and concise prose, preventing a plot with dual-identity characters from spinning out of control. The DNA-blending concept is fascinating . . . retains the breathless action, frenetic pacing, and dry wit, [of its predecessor] with homages to Elizabeth Peters and Indiana Jones, and will appeal to a wide audience.” 

Excerpt:

PROLOGUE
                      
                                           The Book of Cleopatra’s Reawakening

     Herein do I, Cleopatra Philopater, Queen of Upper and Lower Egypt, the seventh Cleopatra of the ruling house of Ptolemy, set down the circumstances pertaining to the discovery of my tomb. This I do at the behest of my soul’s companion in this life, Leda Hubbard, who asks it so that a play may be made of it and the story told to the world thereby. For this we are to be endowed with, if not a queen’s ransom, at least the price of a modest palace.
     To begin with, I was awakened from the dead.
     This was done by means of a magic uncommonly known even in these years of miraculous happenings. Quite simply, a portion of my body still connected to my ba, or body spirit, was used to connect my ba to another body, that of Leda Hubbard, a woman of low birth but high intellect. This magic is called a blending. Leda and I first blended as we dreamed. I learned that she, like myself, grieved for her father and had suffered betrayal. I knew of her love of books and words, her search for knowledge. But I also knew, even as she slept, that we were in immediate mortal danger. We awakened to our peril aboard a ship owned by our enemy. With the aid of Leda’s allies and our combined strengths, we prevailed and vanquished our enemy.
     When we were safely ashore in what had once been my beloved Alexandria, I began to understand that, although I once more breathed and tasted, saw and smelled, was able to touch and to feel touch, the life I had ended with the cobra would in no way continue. No longer would I be concerned with the fate of the Egypt I knew, for it was either gone or buried beneath many generations of sand and captivity.
     Octavian, who continued his dominion of both my lands and his as Augustus Caesar, this viper who murdered Caesar’s own son, my Caesarian, is dead. That Marc Antony is lost I knew before my own death. His son, my Alexander Helios, was murdered like his half brother by Octavian. My other children, Selene and Ptolemy Philadelphus, were banished from Egypt and died in foreign lands without the benefit of an Egyptian burial. Thus I had no hope that they might enter into this afterlife as I have with the aid of that odd little magician, Chimera.
     Alas, Leda’s body is not capable of childbearing so there will be no more children for me, even if there are in this new age men worthy of fathering them. All that I loved, all that I lived for, is gone. Thus is my life ended, and so it begins again, without husband or children, title or lands or wealth of any consequence, great beauty or great power.
     Still, Leda’s loyalties are as strong as my own, and I find some comfort that the people whose fates concern her do seem to be worthwhile.
     However, she has not been a queen and was not reared believing she was born to greatness. Her goals are as modest as her means, and this I must change.
     We made a beginning by changing history as Leda’s contemporaries have known it. We had no tension within us at this time, for our thoughts and longings were in unison. Both of us wished to revisit my tomb and learn what remained.
     I imagined I would be able to go straight to it. During my lifetime, I had visited it clandestinely for years, secreting the most precious of the scrolls I saved from the burning of the great library. Later, when Antony gifted me with scrolls looted from the library in Pergamum, I had them copied and personally deposited the originals in the vaults within my second tomb.
     Why a second tomb? Leda asked. But she answered her own question almost immediately. Grave robbers, of course, were the first reason I chose to have a secret place of interment as well as my public mausoleum. Anyone who has strolled through the marketplace has beheld the property that was supposed to be taken into the afterlife with long-dead pharaohs and other people of substance. Their tombs were built more for grandeur than for security. Looters broke in and stole their funeral goods and dismembered the mummies so carefully and expensively laid to “eternal” rest. I value my privacy and my dignity far too much to allow that to happen to me.
     So, though no one knew but myself and one old childhood friend who became my most trusted priest, there was concealed within my mausoleum an underground passageway.
     I have now watched many films and read many books and articles that claim to be about my life. Some of them say that I am a traitorous and disloyal person. They base their evaluation on the evidence that I had my brothers and sisters killed, disregarding the fact that my beloved sibs would have done the same for me had I not, as Leda says, “beat them to it.” The truth is that I have always been a very loyal person and a true friend to those who do not try to murder me or betray me.
     And Anoubus was always, if unobtrusively, loyal to me. He understood my true nature. I wonder what became of him under Octavian?
     Ah well. Anoubus and I discovered the passageway and the tomb when we were children of perhaps eight and six years. It was within the palace quarter, naturally, or I would not have been allowed there. We found it while playing in a disused part of the harem. Father did not keep as many concubines and wives as his forebears, perhaps because he loved wine and song far better than he loved women, with the possible exception of me.
     The passageway was exciting for us, a secret to be shared, but even more exciting was the tomb at the end of it. I knew in my heart it had been one of the early tombs of my own ancestor, Alexander. Of course, it was empty then, but by the light of our lamps the marble walls still gleamed, and the spaciousness of the rooms rivaled that of my father’s own private chambers. We scuffed away the sand to reveal a fine mosaic on the floor, the colors of its tiles bright even by our flickering lights.
     Throughout my childhood, I escaped there often from my older sister, who hated me because Father preferred me, and my brothers. When I thought of it, I held my breath, fearing that some new building project would clear the entrance to my private haven, but this did not happen. When I assumed the throne, I myself cleared the area and had my mausoleum built over it; under the supervision of my friend.
     As intimately as I had known it, when Leda and I tried to find it again, I doubted we ever would. My beautiful white-columned city, with its wide streets and its great monuments, might never have been. Now it lies buried beneath tall and ugly buildings, short and ugly buildings, and the streets are filled with noisy machinery, tearing along at speed far greater than that of any chariot or natural animal I have ever seen in all my life before I awakened with Leda.
     I knew approximately where the palace quarter had been only from the shoreline of the Eastern Harbor, and even this was much altered. Leda and I pored over maps from many time periods. None was more than someone’s guess at the layout of the city of my birth, my youth, my reign, the city I gave to Caesar and to Antony, the city whose people, treasures, institutions, customs, and monuments I protected with every skill and wit I possessed.
     Leda showed me the artifacts retrieved from the harbor when it had been drained for excavation. Soon the sponsors of this excavation and the current government will attempt to reconstruct the shore line as I knew it, to rebuild some semblance of my palace and the monuments of the time. This will be done not to house a new pharaoh or even a president, but for foreign visitors called tourists. It is a worthy project and I approve of it and mean to have Leda and myself consulting so that we may instruct the builders on the correct installation of each feature and structure.
     But I digress. We examined these artifacts, most of which were large chunks of stone that were mere suggestions of the intricately carved and colored statuary and columns, building blocks and fountains that had once adorned my home. These items, more than any other thing, including the monstrous modern city, made clear to me how much time has passed since last I walked these streets. Not that I can walk them now without risk of being crushed by one of the speeding conveyances.
     I saw a blunted and water worn statue of myself I had commissioned as a gift for what we hoped would be Caesar’s coronation. The cheeks were pitted, the tip of the nose and part of the chin chipped off. The details of hair and crown, clothing and jewels were mostly lost, however. It looked, it was, thousands of years old. Many pieces of the colossal statues of my Ptolemy ancestors whose images had lined the harbor and stood sentinel beside the great Pharos Lighthouse hulked among the cases and explanatory plaques. The bones of my past.
     They saddened me, caused me to shudder. Though I had coolly faced the enemies who were my kin and the enemy who was the death of my family, as well as the cobra who was my ultimate deliverer, I was shaken with disorientation, with vertigo. How strange it was to be there viewing the scene of my former life as if from the wrong end of a telescope that saw through the distance of time rather than space.
     Even so, another part of me, the part my father had trained in the ways of all of the pharaohs and satraps before us, was reading the plaques. I mentally restored and replaced the objects to their original installations. Seeing where they had been found from the maps and plaques, I calculated how far they might have tumbled during the mighty earthquakes that were my city’s ultimate conquerors.

Links:

http://www.gypsyshadow.com/ElizabethScarborough.html#Cleo72Exc

Amazon:

http://www.gypsyshadow.com/ElizabethScarborough.html#Cleo72Exc

Author of the Week: Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

24 Mar

Congratulations to GSP Author of the Week: Elizabeth Ann Scarborough.

Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

Of herself she says: ‘You may know me best as a long-time collaborator with the great Dragonlady of Pern, Anne McCaffrey. However,  I’ve been writing professionally (about fantasy and the future) for the last 32 years, including 22 solo novels and a number of collections of short stories I’ve written for over 50 anthologies, most with Martin H. Greenberg and associates at Tekno Books.  I’ve also edited several anthologies, including Space Opera, with Anne McCaffrey and Warrior Princesses. My book The Healer’s War won the 1989 Nebula award for best novel.

 

Over the years, I have worked with many of the major publishers, starting with Bantam, on to Doubleday, then Ace/Berkley which became Putnam/Penguin, took a slight detour to Harper Collins with the Acorna books and then back to Random House/ Del Rey to write more books with Anne McCaffrey.

 

In the last three years all of my solo books have been made into e-books with the assistance of Gypsy Shadow Publishers, I’ve written two new novels and a novelette in the Spam the Cat purrnormal mysteries, Spam vs. the Vampire, Father Christmas, and The Tour Bus of Doom. Three of my solo books, The Healer’s War, Nothing Sacred and Last Refuge have also become audio books from Audible.com. Most recently I’m working on a graphic novel with Karen Gillmore, who also has created the new covers for most of my books (and she’s working on the others).

Please watch this space during the week for other releases from this author.

 
 
 

NEW NEW *** Shifty *** NEW NEW

14 Aug

Congratulations to Elizabeth Ann Scarborough on her new GSP release: Shifty.

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What you see (at first) is not what you get in this collection of nine previously published tales of shape shifting and transformation. An Alaskan student of wildlife biology finds it difficult to write convincingly about what she knows. A proud and beautiful princess loses her popularity when cursed (in a way probably familiar to many readers) by a wicked enchanter. A lonely Cajun fiddler has a close encounter with his royal but scaly ancestor. In the secret story of the railroad that transformed the American West, Chinese and Irish workers compete to complete the job with a little help from supernatural friends. A lowly jeweler creates a wondrous bauble for the sultan’s favorite, but his reward, an exalted royal elephant, eats him out of house and home until he unlocks her secret. An Irish nurse discovers the identity of the lone fiddler who plays at the bedside of a critically ill patient. A middle-aged woman, suddenly invisible, improves her love and social life during Mardi Gras. And a predatory bill collector meets his match in a story so dark that the author even changed her name. In these shifty stories, you’ll be wondering who happens next!

Excerpt:

 WOLF FROM
                                                               THE DOOR

I wrote this story for Werewolves, an anthology edited by Jane Yolen. I was attending the University of Alaska Fairbanks at the time, as you can probably tell from the content. Later in the book is another story that was published under a very similar title so I kept the title for this one and changed the title of the other one.

“Come in, Ms.—um—Garou,” Professor Forrest said, checking the name on his appointment calendar. “Have a seat. I could have left your paper with the secretary, but she said something about you wanting to talk about your future.”

“Right!” the girl said as she bounded in and pounced on an unsuspecting chair. “I’ve wanted desperately to talk to you about it for just the longest time. And, oh yeah, of course, I want to talk to you about my paper, too.” She shot him a sly look. Her brown eyes looked like dark holes in her fair-skinned face. Her eyelashes and brows were both almost white, lending her an expression of bald astonishment.

He was somewhat taken aback. She seemed insufficiently nervous about her term paper, which was the one and only basis for her grade. And he didn’t remember her as being one of his brighter students, the sort who had nothing to worry about. In fact, he barely remembered her at all. But then, his classes were large and full and his memory for two-footed vertebrates was not as keen as it was for the four-footed variety. Still, those startling white braids should have caught his eye at some point.

“Ms. Garou, perhaps you’ll refresh my memory. Which of my classes did you attend?”

“Life Cycle of the Wolf,” she said. “I was there the first two classes and got the assignment and when I saw it, I rushed right out and started my research. That’s what I wanted to talk to you about, Professor Forrest. You’re supposed to be the best furbearer biologist in the state of Alaska. And I just have to be the very best wolf biologist there ever was.”

This last announcement was accompanied by a rise in the pitch of her voice that elevated it to an irritating whine. “I sort of figure you could be, like, my sponsor.”

“That’s what you figure, is it?” Forrest really had no time for this, not now. He had already put in a long day and was ready for his Christmas vacation. He was not spending this one in the field as he had found necessary to do early in his career. No, this Christmas he would be studying on the beaches of Hawaii, where he would forget the cold (25 below zero!), the darkness (it was scarcely four p.m. but already the full moon was the only illumination in a pitch-dark sky and he would have a long, cold, dark walk to his car on lower campus), the University of Alaska, and students like this girl.

The biology department was full of earnest young persons who lived in wood-heated, waterless cabins on the outskirts of town. Like this one, they all dressed like lumberjacks and smelled like forest fires.

As he shuffled through his stack of unclaimed papers, the girl pulled off her ratty, duct-tape-patched parka with the matted fake fur ruff. Sparks of static electricity jumped between it and the chair. Underneath, she wore overalls over a multi-colored wool sweater that spoke less of good taste than Goodwill. Her blue and white stocking cap remained pulled tightly over the tops of her ears, covering her brow and making her long, plain face look even longer. A blonde, yes, but hardly a glamorous one, he thought. A bit of a dog, really.

He wasn’t finding the paper. “What—uh—what makes you so interested in our department and in wolves particularly, Ms.—?” he asked, stalling while he continued to hunt.

“Just call me Lucy, sir. I guess you could say my whole family has always been into wolves. Why, I remember even when I was little, Mama couldn’t bear to read me fairy tales without changing the endings. The other youngsters used to think I was strange when I’d do book reports about ‘Little Red Riding Hood and the Big, Beautiful Wolf.’”

Links:

http://www.gypsyshadow.com/ElizabethScarborough.html#ShiftyExc

Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Shifty-Tales-Shape-Shifting-Transformation-ebook/dp/B00CMMYN9I/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1376458942&sr=8-1&keywords=shifty+elizabeth+ann+scarborough

 

Nothing Sacred…

21 Jun

The two releases from Scarborough on the GSP Legends Promo, Nothing Sacred and it’s sequel Last Refuge.

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In a world where unemployment is obliterated by putting all jobless people in the military to maintain the endless ongoing warfare, Warrant Officer Viveka Vanachek finds herself in a weirder place yet. Captured, raped, and interrogated she is finally exiled to a remote snow-bound prison camp where she is placed in solitary confinement. It seems like the end of the world when she also becomes too sick to eat and starts seeing ghosts and hearing mysterious chanting within the noises of the camp. But her dreams tell her there is more to her prison than there seems to be and soon her delusions and reality start trading places.

Excerpt:

PART ONE

                                                KALAPA COMPOUND, TIBET.
                                                                Late September,
                                                                         2069.
                                                                     DAY 11?

     The guards gave me this paper with instructions to write about my career as a war criminal, starting with my life at age eight. This is fairly standard practice in these places, according to what I’ve read, and to what the Colonel told me when I first got here. He also said they “haf vays off” not only making you talk, but making you believe it after a while. So before my brain gets too well washed, I am saving out some of this paper to keep a true record of what happened, just to keep it straight in my own mind and give me something to fill up the time. The Colonel and the others told me some of the jargon the interrogators like to have included in a confession and I think I get the drift. It behooves the smart prisoner to indulge in a lot of verbal self-flagellation before the authorities decide to flagellate said prisoner in a more literal sense. There’s a very strict prose style involved. No problem, though. I’m a good mimic and can write the most incredible bullshit as long as I don’t have to keep a straight face.
     My name is Viveka Jeng Vanachek. I am currently, albeit reluctantly, a warrant officer in the North American Continental Allied Forces, 5th Cobras, attached to the 9th New Ghurkas at Katmandu. I was captured September 15, 2069, following a plane crash near the Kun Lun Mountains while on a mapping mission. Not that I am this great cartographer, but I do know the section of the file in the program that allows the computer to reconfigure existing maps while scanning the countryside from an eye in the bottom of an XLT-3000 high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft. Anyway, I’m trained to use that knowledge, although that flight was the first actual mission I’ve been on. Right up until the crash, I’d been having the best day since I sold out and joined the military.
     Major Tom Siddons was a very nice guy, and I think he must have enjoyed working with me as much as I did with him. I suppose he got as far as he did in the military just by being relatively good-natured and an exceptionally good pilot. Unlike the other pilots, he could express himself not only in words rather than in long strings of symbols and numbers, he could even express himself in words of more than one syllable. He also liked poetry, and I think he liked me chiefly because he was impressed with my ability to recite dirty limericks in Middle English and translate Chinese verses.
     I hadn’t been in Katmandu very long, but I had already told him over a beer how much I hated the monotony of knowing one section of one file of one program. Each of the other warrant officers in Katmandu with the same rating knew another section of the same file of the same program. If anyone was transferred, died or committed suicide, he or she was replaced by a brand-new specialist in the same section—specialists were never cross-trained, so the left hand never knew what the right hand was doing. It made me feel like a not-very-expensive microchip. Here I had spent almost twenty years, off and on, studying the humanities and what do they do with me? Stick me in computers, because I’d once taken a class to fulfill a math requirement. My art history background and the one drafting class I’d gotten a C in qualified me for the mapping section. I told Siddons all of this and he sipped his beer slowly and nodded in most of the right places.
     I forgot all about griping to him until one morning when he strode into the hangar office, decked out in a silver suit with so many pockets he looked like a walking shoe bag.
     “Grab a flight suit and your kit, Ms. Vanachek,” he told me. “We have us a mission.”
     It didn’t occur to me to bring a weapon. I’d been in what was technically considered a combat zone for the best part of six months and had yet to see more than a fleeting glimpse of an indigenous civilian, much less an enemy.
     I gawked through the canopy as we climbed to 19,000 feet, then settled down to the keyboard and punched up my section. Siddons had explained that the plane’s computer would do just as mine did back at the hangar, except that while the computer in the hangar usually had to make do with adjusting data, inputting new topographical information from a graphic mock-up to existing map data, this one had a special adapter that translated the terrain passing through an eye in the bottom of the plane into a graphic image and instantly altered the corresponding map data accordingly.
     We need map updates frequently because the terrain constantly changes so that it no longer conforms to earlier maps. And while our hangar-bound graphics adjustments are fine for recording the changes our own side wreaks on the local scenery, our allies and our enemies are not so conscientious about informing us of all of their destructive activities. Furthermore, the war precipitates natural disasters; earthquakes, avalanches and floods that also make unauthorized and, worse, undocumented alterations.
     We overflew the pass, into the Tibetan Autonomous Region. The more heavily populated areas had been kept up to date, but the whole central plateau was still a battleground. New valleys are dug daily and mountains of rubble make strategic barriers that need recording.
     The problem with fast travel through or over any country, of course, is that it so thoroughly objectifies what you’re seeing that you might as well be looking at a holovid screen. The landscape of Tibet, vast plains with mountains pinched up all around the edges like a fancy piecrust, seemed highly improbable to me and I returned to my screen after about fifteen minutes of admiring the view.
     Siddons wasn’t about to let me ignore it. His voice crackled into my headphones saying, “Nah, don’t bury your nose in your goddamn graphics yet. Take a gander out there at the real world.”
     I stared down over and through a swath of cloud. The tail end of the cloud snagged on the ragged snow-splattered tops of raw-rock mountains, but beneath it spread a lake covering—I checked my screen—twenty square miles. It cupped the plane’s shadow in waters that looked like a huge opal, milky with shots of blue and red fire reflecting off the surface. “Gorgeous,” I said. “What makes it look like that?”
     “Poison,” he said. “Check your coordinates. This is where the PRC dumped its toxic wastes before some of our forces helped India shoo the bastards back behind the border again. The lake’s Tibetan name is Lhamo Lhatso. It was sacred. The holy men saw the birthplace of their last spiritual leader in it.”
     With an innocent-looking twinkle, the lake passed under our starboard wing and away.
     “We’re going to veer over India way now, toward Karakoram Pass. Between the avalanches the saturation bombing triggered and the floods this spring, the area is useless to ground troops.”
     “Not to mention a little tricky for the local inhabitants,” I said.
     “There aren’t a hell of a lot of those left, except guerrillas,” Siddons said. “And they’re tough bozos who play their own game and don’t kiss anybody’s ass.”
     “Sounds like you admire them.”
     “Well, hey, when you have been in the service of our beloved organization as long as I have, little lady, you too may come to admire anybody who doesn’t basically sit back and leave all the fighting to our troops wearing their patches. The Tibetan guerrillas have to be about the only people on the face of the planet fighting anything worse than a hot game of Parcheesi who don’t have NACAF allies specifically assigned to them, evening up the odds manpower and firepower-wise.”
     “Major, I had no idea you were such an idealist.”
     “Doesn’t mean I won’t blow the little buggers off the face of the earth if I get a chance, you understand. There’s no need to get sentimental about it. If we blow up our fellow AmCans who are working for the PRC or the Soviets, I see no particular reason to extend professional courtesy to anyone else.”
     I watched the high wild mountains sweep past our belly and noticed how often the bomb pocks and avalanches showed up on the screen as a major change in the landscape. I remembered that before NACAF entered the three-sided conflict among China, India and the USSR, with all the territory in the middle, including Tibet and the Himalayas, as the battleground, Mount Everest had been the highest mountain in the world, instead of the fourth highest. I told the major, “I once took a course in myth and folklore. Did you know that in the old days, Tibetans never climbed their mountains much? They were afraid of disturbing the demons of the upper air.”
     “Well, we got those demons good and stirred up now,” he said.
     Soon we were past one range and once more flying over a vast flattened plain, flyspecked with the ruins of villages and monasteries, the jagged hills bursting from the plains at times like the work of some giant gopher. The flatlands were as pocked as the mountains, the earth blasted and sickly tan, the whole thing treeless. NACAF-made planes, NACAF pilots or pilot trainers, NACAF defoliants and NACAF bombs made it all possible.
     “Hey, maybe they meant us,” I said to Siddons. “Maybe they foresaw us.”
     “Who?”
     “The old-time Tibetans with those myths. Maybe we’re the upper-air demons.”
     “Don’t let the scenery give you an attitude now, Warrant Officer. We didn’t do all of that by our lonesome, you know. This little old country’s been a stompin’ ground for a good hundred years now for all kinds of people who didn’t like the way the local pope ran things.”
     “Dalai Lama,” I corrected, remembering Comparative Religion and Central Asian Soc.
     “Yeah, I knew that,” he said, grinning back at me. His grin was as jerky as a stop-motion film clip as the aircraft hopped from air pocket to air pocket in a series of stomach-churning dips and bumps. I took a deep breath. My digestive tract preferred ground travel.
     “Anyhow,” he continued, “one thing good ol’ NACAF does do is keep it all a clean fight. You got any idea what we need all these updated maps for?”
     “Making sure whichever rock the enemy hides behind doesn’t move before our side finds it?” I asked.
     He ignored that. I think he began to feel at that point he was setting a bad example for a junior officer. So he said, “Nope, so we can still locate any possible covert nuclear devices, no matter when or where they were hidden, and send crews to disarm them. Fighting for Peace, just like the recruitment ad says.”
     I would like those words to be remembered as the major’s last.
     The XLT-300 model aircraft we were in flew very far, very fast and changed altitudes with very little difficulty. Ask a pilot why and how, or an engineer. All they paid me to know was that my Ground-Air-Geocartography program, or GAG as it was affectionately called, was specifically designed to keep up with the plane. We covered the plateau within about an hour and when we took the hit, were on the far side of the Karakoram Pass, headed east for the Kun Lun Mountains. Radio transmission this far from base was damn near impossible, satellites or no satellites. The mountains didn’t get in the plane’s way, and they didn’t get in the satellite’s way, but they sure got in Ground Control’s way.
     The wind was fierce that day, and blew the little jet around as if it was a paper airplane instead of a real one. So when we took the hit, I thought for a moment it was just another gust of wind.
     Siddons caught on quicker, and I saw his hands fly across the switches and buttons on the control panel.
     Suddenly the canopy popped and all those upper-air demons I’d been thinking about roared in and snatched us from the plane. Something kicked me in the rear. My seat bucked like the barroom bull-riding machine they keep in the Cowboy Museum my grandparents once took me to in Tacoma. Except that this bronco didn’t come down again but blasted me through the shrieking wind, up and over the body of the jet. I screamed, not of my own accord but as if the scream was ripped from my vocal cords by the velocity of my plunge to earth.
     When I haven’t had worse things to dream about, I still see the bolus of flame spewing from the underside of the geometrically precise angle of the starboard wing, and I spin to face a maw of rock and snow yawning like a fast forward of some boa’s jaws as it swallows prey. I bolt awake as once more the feeling of the automatic chute opening reminds me of being plucked from midair by a giant bird and I try to come fully awake before Siddons’s body, twisting beneath a burning chute, plummets past me.
     But my actual landing must have been a testimony to the parachute maker’s technology. For though I had a bad case of vertical jet lag, my mind skipping a few beats between ejecting and landing, when I came to myself enough to take inventory, everything was intact—no broken bones or missing teeth. Encouraged, I attempted to stand, but the force of the wind complicated matters, billowing my chute against me so it molded to my face, blinding and smothering me within a wave of blue, red and white silon. I yanked the suffocating fabric from my head. The stench of burning metal, wiring and flesh pricked my nostrils before I focused sufficiently to visually locate the smoke.
     Pulling off my helmet, I divested myself of the yard or so of chute attached to it and scanned the horizon for a telltale plume, but it was as if I was still swathed in some larger, grayer fabric, a bolt of wildly swirling gauze that obscured everything.
     The ground on which I stood was indistinguishable from the air in front of me. I was standing on some mountain plateau then, shrouded with cloud. Vaguely, near the toes of my boots, ghostly tufts of grass emerged and vanished as the wind whipped the ground cover. But I saw no sign of Siddons.
     I’ve dreamed of his death since then, so I must have seen it, but I honestly don’t remember seeing him die other than in the dreams. Shock probably. I tried calling to Siddons, but my words vanished in the cloud before they were out of my mouth.
     As I gathered up the chute and uncoiled it from my legs, the wind whipped away a corner of the mist and I saw four people jogging down a mountain path toward me, carrying rifles. They all appeared to be Asian but I wasn’t alarmed by that, since many of our NACAF troops are American or Canadian of Asian origin, or Asian allies. I even felt a small surge of relief, thinking perhaps we were being rescued. The rifles didn’t alarm me either. There’s a war on. Of course they carried weapons.
     I waved a cautious greeting and would have shouted at them but they didn’t return my wave. That was when I began to realize that the crash might be more than a temporary setback. Even if these were our people, I didn’t know any passwords. They pointed their guns at me and one barked an order. He must have been used to talking over the wind or else the wind had died down because I heard him very well. He was speaking in Han Chinese, of which I had learned a smattering in Intro to Chinese Dialects 101. Before I could try to puzzle out exactly what it was that he’d said, the man who’d spoken pushed me down while a woman rapidly scooped up my helmet, then gathered the rest of my parachute. When she finished, the first man prodded my ribs with his rifle, forcing me to stand again, while a third covered me with another rifle, presumably to make sure I didn’t overpower the guy with the gun in my ribs. A fourth man trotted through the mist toward us carrying two winter kits, slightly charred and smoky around the edges. A pair of jump boots were slung from his shoulder by their laces and bounced in rhythm with his gait.
     Siddons’ helmet—I could read his name in black block letters across the front—dangled from one hand.
     The woman tied my wrists together. I stared at them stupidly. Right then the tangible evidence that I was a prisoner cut through the shock of the crash. We had had a frightening little lecture about enemy torture in basic training, but the only advice about getting captured I was able to recall was “Don’t.” Each of us knew so little about each piece of equipment that almost everyone was expendable. People in my grade who got captured fell into the category of “acceptable losses.”   

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In NOTHING SACRED, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough took a detour from her humorous classic and contemporary fantasies to write her “obligatory science fiction writer’s end-of-the-world book.” The bad news is the world has ended. The good news is LAST REFUGE is the sequel.

Why does the end of the world seem so much more dire than the end of our own lives, since, according to modern non-theology based theory, we won’t know the difference one way or the other. Using the Tibetan Buddhist background of NOTHING SACRED, the answer to that was, if the Buddhists are right, when the end of the world comes not only will our own present lives be ended, but there will be no life forms left into which we may reincarnate. 

The children of Kalapa compound, safe from the war and the aftermath as it is felt in most of the world, discover that the problems work in reverse in Shambala. Babies are born there at a deliberately amazing rate but no one dies within the borders. Consequently, in time, there are no unembodied spirits in Shambala left to inhabit the babies, cursing the poor children with a spiritual birth defect.

Heir to the duties of Ama-La, young Chime Cincinnati, as the guide to Shambala, cannot rest until she leaves the safety of the compound to lead refugees to it. She is helped in this by Mike, a young man who has always been like an older brother to her.

These two face all of the standard fantasy characters, but with a Tibetan twist——there is an evil wizard who is king of his own compound, a hideously evil demon who is enough to give anyone nightmares, a yeti, an American princess, and far too many ghosts, not to mention Mu Mao the magnificent, a reincarnated wise man who was good enough to finally be allowed to ascend to life as a cat
 Excerpt:

Section One KALAPA

     On the morning of the last birthday Mike would ever celebrate, the first changeling was born.
     That day, Mike was officially twenty-one years old and an adult. He awoke before dawn and slipped out of the communal housing compound. The soft gray light of morning outlined the onion-shaped dome of the chorten against the snowy backdrop of the horned peaks of the guardian mountain, Karakal.
     Prayer flags fluttered from lines strung between the chorten’s dome and nearby buildings, the wind carrying the prayers to the heavens. Mike bowed to the chorten, in memory of the heroes it represented, and turned to walk down the steep path winding from the uppermost point in Kalapa—the chorten—through the compound built on the ruins of the ancient mystic city. The old city and the current compound were located on a small mountain set within a valley ringed by ranges of larger mountains, the largest of which was the horned guardian Karakal.
     From the dining hall and kitchen issued muffled cooking noises and the aroma of baking bread and yak butter tea. Farther down the path the open walls of new stone buildings being constructed from the boulders of the Great Avalanche waited for the day to begin and workmen to come and add more of the raw-cut boulders and boards lying nearby. Beyond the buildings, the lushly planted terraces of the communal garden stepped down the mountainside.
     Mike loved this time when the moon, as if waiting for the sun to give it permission to set, hovered just above the mountains. Even on ordinary days, when he was not having a birthday and had no momentous events to look forward to, Mike usually rose early to enjoy this quiet time and take long walks before the paths were thronged with people. He loved feeling the wings of Karakal rising behind his back, even when he was not looking at the mountain. He savored the sweet damp smell of the mist rising from the waters of Kalapa’s sacred lake, the sight of the lake’s blue-green waters lapping the lower garden and nourishing the roots of the rhododendron jungle.
     Mike stood by the lake for a moment, watching the water shimmer and listening to the breeze in the branches of the rhododendrons, making them clack softly like tiny looms at work. The lake was fed by artesian springs and hot springs, and bled off down the valley in a pretty stream winding through the grove. The trees foamed with pink, purple, and white flowers snowing petals into the stream and carpeting the ground beneath whenever the softest breeze tickled the air.
     His ears picked up the cry of the eagle owl and the distant grumbling of one of the snow lions musing to itself as it retired to the den for the day. And always, any time of the day or night, if you listened closely you could hear the cracking and creaking of snow and ice shifting on mountainsides, punctuated every so often by the boom of an avalanche.
     This morning there was another sound as well, a low murmuring that had a distinctly human note to it. Rounding a bend in the stream, Mike saw the source, sitting cross-legged by the bank, dark fingers describing little O’s as they poised against bony knees, tight black curls thrown back as the childishly rounded golden-brown face sought the dawn through the upper branches of the trees. “Ooooom,” she said one more time, closed her eyes, lowered her head for a moment, then calling him by his childhood name said, “Hi, Meekay,” and sprang to her feet, brushing away petals that had fallen onto her face. “Happy birthday. Are you on your way to see Nyima too?”
     “Yes, of course. She’s supposed to give birth to her new baby any time now. Have you heard anything, Chime Cincinnati?” he asked, hiding his dismay at her unexpected interruption of his journey.
     “Not yet,” she said.
     He accepted her company with as good a grace as he could muster. She was a weird kind of girl, but his sister Nyima seemed to like her, and more important, so did her beautiful friend Isme. Thoughts of Isme had kept Mike lying awake nights, thinking of things he could say or should have said, things he could do or should have done, presents he might yet offer to convince her that she should take him as her first husband.
     Although Isme and Chime Cincinnati were the same age, both nearly eighteen, they were as different as night and day, and not just because Isme was gracefully tall and blond like her mother, the mountaineer Tania Enokin, while Chime was short and dark. Isme was already a desirable grown woman, with gentle, womanly ways, and Chime—well, Chime just got odder all the time. She didn’t go to school with the other kids, or play the same games. Instead, she studied and meditated and mumbled to herself and made odd remarks.
     The other kids had not ever been unkind to her, but they hadn’t wanted much to do with her either. Mike, who was three years older than Chime, had tried to look after her when they were both younger, before he went to work with his father in the underground excavations of the buried portions of Kalapa. He’d always felt kind of sorry for her, but he’d felt perplexed too. How could anybody grow up in such a great place as Kalapa, lucky enough to be one of the last surviving people on earth, and seem so—well—unsettled? Dissatisfied. He couldn’t figure her out.
     “I didn’t know you meditated here,” he said.
     “I don’t usually,” she told him. “My favorite place is just beyond the chorten, facing Karakal, but I thought this morning I’d wait and walk with you to Nyima’s. I knew you’d want to check and see if the baby might be coming in time to share your birthday.”
     “Yes, she promised to name the baby for me if it’s born today,” he said, pleased but a little daunted by the thought of having a niece or nephew born on his birthday, carrying his name. This child would have a special bond with him and would require a special gift from him. The only thing he possessed that was special enough was the set of hand-copied books he had hoped to trade for a bride gift, a certain silver necklace with blue enameled birds, and a length of blue silk that would reflect blue eyes.
     “Isme’s already there,” Chime teased, with a sly note in her voice and laughter in her sideways glance up at him.
     “What are we waiting for?” he asked, prodding her to her feet. “They’ll be needing someone to help keep my other nieces and nephews out from under foot.”
     “It’s good to see so many new babies after all the years of destruction,” Chime said, falling in beside him though he had quickened his pace a little to keep the heat in his own face from betraying his thoughts. She sounded as if she personally had witnessed the world’s destruction, although he knew she had lived her whole life in Kalapa, as he had. It was one of the things that he and everyone else found so strange about her. Some of the adults, including his own parents, treated such remarks with respect—but then, his father at least treated every utterance of every resident of Kalapa with respect. Other people found Chime’s pronouncements strange and a little frightening, sometimes annoying. Mike tried not to be annoyed, to ignore the implication and just respond to what she actually said.
     “Yes, and more are being born all the time. It’s a very good thing, of course, all of this new life, but I’m worried about the haphazard way new families are filling up the valley. We need to make plans so that people don’t cut into the rhododendron grove to make room for more houses. After all, people can live in the next valley over too, can’t they? Everybody doesn’t have to live right here in Kalapa.”
     “The elders were so busy coping with having our generation,” Chime mused, “that they didn’t think ahead enough to what would happen when their children grew up and started having children. Since any woman who comes to Shambala before her childbearing years are ended may continue to have children here, between our mothers and ourselves we have been doing a good job of repopulating at least our small corner of the world.” She took his hand and swung it back and forth in hers, as if they were still children. “Don’t worry, Meekay. I remember when Kalapa was much more crowded than this.”
     Oh boy. There she goes again, he thought.
     His thought must have showed on his face because she quickly added, “I mean, I don’t remember exactly, but that’s what your father tells me that my previous incarnation told him anyway.”
     “Chime Cincinnati, you’re just thinking of the story Auntie Dolma tells the children.”
     “You’ll hear a different version tonight, Meekay, at your birthday celebration,” she said, suddenly very serious. On a person’s twenty-first birthday, after the general festivities were over, the adults held a private initiation ceremony. During it, Mike knew, the elders retold the story of how Shambala, Kalapa, and the world came to be as they were now. In the ceremony, however, they added all of the personal memories, histories, predictions, and insights that pertained particularly to the person being initiated into adulthood, sharing all of the information they possessed about his or her heritage and the circumstances of his or her birth. More than the presents or the special meal, Mike was looking forward to this ceremony.
     What would they add about him particularly to the basic story?
     “Know, O best beloved, that you are privileged to be the children of Shambala, which connects heaven and earth and which is located at the precise joining of the two.”
     Auntie Dolma, who was the one who told the story best and who loved the works of Rudyard Kipling, insisted on the “O best beloved” part. Mike thought it added something reassuringly cozy to the story, which was otherwise rather too sweepingly grand and timeless for comfort. 

Links:

http://www.gypsyshadow.com/ElizabethScarborough.html#LRefugeExc

http://www.gypsyshadow.com/ElizabethScarborough.html#NothingSacred

Amazon:http://www.amazon.com/Nothing-Sacred-Elizabeth-Ann-Scarborough/dp/055329511X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1371784476&sr=8-1&keywords=Nothing+Sacred+Elizabeth+Ann+Scarborough

http://www.amazon.com/Last-Refuge-Bantam-Spectra-Book/dp/0553370316/ref=sr_1_sc_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1371784529&sr=1-1-spell&keywords=Last+refuge+Elizabeth+Ann+Scarborugh

Channeling Cleopatra…

20 Jun

Another release, well two actually, from Scarborough on the GSP Legends Promo.

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“Get the past life of your dreams!”

Leda Hubbard, a forensic pathologist, gets the job of her dreams when an old school friend hires her to collect and authenticate the DNA of the famous Cleopatra. It’s all great fun for Leda until, during a massive disaster, her colorful dad, the dig’s security specialist, is killed by a group trying to hijack the precious material for a “blend,” a process in which the queen’s DNA is used to import her memories, personality, and character traits to a new host. They screw up, however, and get Leda’s dad’s DNA instead. To keep the queen from going to the murderers, Leda blends with Cleopatra herself, learning a lot more about Egypt than she ever wanted to know.

“A bright, sometimes humorous, often dark, but always innovative speculative fiction. . . Elizabeth Ann Scarborough is always a treat to read but with this novel, she takes readers where nobody has gone before.” BookBrowser

Excerpt:

    PRELUDE

Cleopatra looked at the snake. The snake, its tongue flicking, stared back at her. She apologized to the creature, the emblem of her queenship and the end of it. “My lord, if only Octavius were as trustworthy as you are, there would be no need to disturb you with our concerns. But alas, my protectors are all dead, my beauty faded, and even my hairdresser and handmaiden have offered their flesh to your fangs for my sake, so I have no choice. If I live and flee, Octavius will avenge himself upon my children. If I live and submit, he will degrade and humiliate my person and position in his accursed Roman triumph, dragging me in chains through the city where I should by rights have ruled as empress. Then he will kill me and destroy my body and my hope for the afterlife. Oh yes, my lord,” she said in her tender, singsong voice, the voice of a natural-born snake charmer. The snake swayed, half uncoiled to strike, its hood majestically fanned around its face.

The coils of its body lay still upon the folds of the yellow, red, and white linens of the Isis robes covering Charmion’s corpse. Iras lay beside the altar containing the body. Charmion also wore the Isis crown and what was left of the crown jewels. Iras had dressed her fellow handmaiden’s head in the black Isis curls Cleopatra customarily wore when assuming the guise of the goddess. The queen herself had employed her considerable skill with cosmetics to change faces with her look-alike maid. Now, dressed as Charmion, she explained herself to the cobra. The cobra did not mind her humble robes. It knew who she was. She was Egypt, its home, its mother, and finally, its prey.

She spoke to it to clarify her own mind before her death and to delay that same death, for she had long loved life and was loath to leave it, even under the circumstances.

“Yes, it’s true. I have it on the best authority. Isis in her compassion has sent me a dream so I may save my body and thus my immortal soul. Whatever lies he tells my people, Octavius intends to burn me after my death—before it, if he is given the opportunity, I’m sure. So I have chosen my own time. My eldest son has fled the country, and as for my younger children, I am unable to protect them, and moreover, I provide cause for Octavius to do them harm. Perhaps without me to spite with their suffering, he will spare them. And so you must give me my last kiss, my lord. My priests, who know our little secret, will do the rest. In exchange, I grant you your freedom from your duties as guardian of this tomb and temple.”

She took a deep breath, broke eye contact, and quickly, so as to startle the fascinated snake, thrust her arm at it. Having had its part so considerately explained to it, the cobra performed its last state service and struck her with a force that staggered her back, away from the altar.

Unhooded and blending with the dust, the snake then slithered out through an open window.

The pain subsided, quickly replaced with numbness. Soon she knew paralysis and death would follow. By that time, Octavius would have received her message begging him to bury her with Antony. She knew he would not, but the message would serve to seal in his mind that the body in her robes was her own. He would expect to see her there, and dead, and that is what he would see.

The stage was set to perfection, except the cobra, in striking, had pulled Charmion’s wig askew. Slowly, with a sense of detachment and amusement, as if she had had too much wine, Cleopatra rose and stretched out her other hand to adjust it.

Which was how Octavius and his soldiers saw her when they burst into the room.

She felt Octavius staring hard at her, and she thought for a moment the ruse had failed. Then he said, puzzled, more to himself than to her, “Is this well done?”

The bastard was trying to figure out if her death was to his advantage or not.

She felt herself ready to fly to the afterlife, but she had never been able to resist a good exit line. “It is well done,” she said, her voice unrecognizably husky with the dying, “and fitting for a princess descended of so many royal kings.”

And so it was that the body of Charmion, dressed in the robes of Cleopatra, was displayed to the people as proof of her death. Later, as Cleopatra’s dream had warned, Octavius publicly said she would be interred with Mark Antony but privately, to his lieutenant, he said, “Burn the bitch. The brats may watch.”

The bodies of the handmaidens were removed afterward by the priests. Cleopatra’s public tomb, stripped of its glories by Octavius, lay empty, as she had somehow always known it would. But it secretly connected, through a long and twisting passage with many stairs and a maze of tunnels, with a private tomb concealed deep beneath her palace. In some ways, the tomb was very bare, her special coffin, sealed within three others, the simple alabaster canopic jars with her cartouche and titles and seals of gold, some clothing and toiletries, a prettily carved inlaid table and chair, a bed, a wealth of lamps. The tomb was for one person only. No place for husbands or children or even trusted servants. Iras’s body had been removed to her family’s crypt. Instead, the side rooms held Cleopatra’s greatest treasure, one that Octavius and other conquerors lacked the wit to covet. But to the queen, for whom the love of erudition was more fundamental than her love of either of her Roman husbands or even her kingdom, her burial hoard was of the most valuable nature possible. It contained the originals to the best, the rarest, the most informed and fascinating of the manuscripts collected by her own great Museon, the Library of Alexandria.

                                                                  CHAPTER 1

For Leda Hubbard, attending the International Conference of Egyptologists was the next best thing to personally participating in a dig. When she found a ticket in her mailbox, she was giddy with joy but curious and also suspicious about who would treat her to such a thing. For the cost of one of those tickets, you could almost buy a plane trip to Egypt.

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Cleopatra’s back (again). This time she brought friends.

“A science fiction thriller that feels like a futuristic James Bond. . . The idea of two minds inhabiting one body is a fascinating premise. The way they blend together and respect each other’s personality makes Elizabeth Ann Scarborough’s latest work a fascinating, often humorous speculative fiction.” Midwest Book Review

“Scattered throughout the narrative, Scarborough provides amusing asides from the viewpoints of the Cleopatras. The modern day is filled with marvels from the viewpoints of the ancient queens, and Scarborough does a marvelous job of giving the world we take for granted a new angle of understanding . . . [She] has done a fabulous job of researching the past, and through the observations of the two Cleos paints a heartrending picture of loss and yet at the same time presents awe-inspiring descriptions of wonders that have managed, despite war, neglect, and outright vandalism, to survive for millennia to the modern day.” SF Revu

“[An] exciting speculative thriller . . . Scarborough deftly weaves her suspenseful web and then untangles the threads with her clear and concise prose, preventing a plot with dual-identity characters from spinning out of control. The DNA-blending concept is fascinating . . . retains the breathless action, frenetic pacing, and dry wit, [of its predecessor] with homages to Elizabeth Peters and Indiana Jones, and will appeal to a wide audience.” 

Excerpt:

 PROLOGUE
                      
                                           The Book of Cleopatra’s Reawakening

     Herein do I, Cleopatra Philopater, Queen of Upper and Lower Egypt, the seventh Cleopatra of the ruling house of Ptolemy, set down the circumstances pertaining to the discovery of my tomb. This I do at the behest of my soul’s companion in this life, Leda Hubbard, who asks it so that a play may be made of it and the story told to the world thereby. For this we are to be endowed with, if not a queen’s ransom, at least the price of a modest palace.
     To begin with, I was awakened from the dead.
     This was done by means of a magic uncommonly known even in these years of miraculous happenings. Quite simply, a portion of my body still connected to my ba, or body spirit, was used to connect my ba to another body, that of Leda Hubbard, a woman of low birth but high intellect. This magic is called a blending. Leda and I first blended as we dreamed. I learned that she, like myself, grieved for her father and had suffered betrayal. I knew of her love of books and words, her search for knowledge. But I also knew, even as she slept, that we were in immediate mortal danger. We awakened to our peril aboard a ship owned by our enemy. With the aid of Leda’s allies and our combined strengths, we prevailed and vanquished our enemy.
     When we were safely ashore in what had once been my beloved Alexandria, I began to understand that, although I once more breathed and tasted, saw and smelled, was able to touch and to feel touch, the life I had ended with the cobra would in no way continue. No longer would I be concerned with the fate of the Egypt I knew, for it was either gone or buried beneath many generations of sand and captivity.
     Octavian, who continued his dominion of both my lands and his as Augustus Caesar, this viper who murdered Caesar’s own son, my Caesarian, is dead. That Marc Antony is lost I knew before my own death. His son, my Alexander Helios, was murdered like his half brother by Octavian. My other children, Selene and Ptolemy Philadelphus, were banished from Egypt and died in foreign lands without the benefit of an Egyptian burial. Thus I had no hope that they might enter into this afterlife as I have with the aid of that odd little magician, Chimera.
     Alas, Leda’s body is not capable of childbearing so there will be no more children for me, even if there are in this new age men worthy of fathering them. All that I loved, all that I lived for, is gone. Thus is my life ended, and so it begins again, without husband or children, title or lands or wealth of any consequence, great beauty or great power.
     Still, Leda’s loyalties are as strong as my own, and I find some comfort that the people whose fates concern her do seem to be worthwhile.
     However, she has not been a queen and was not reared believing she was born to greatness. Her goals are as modest as her means, and this I must change.
     We made a beginning by changing history as Leda’s contemporaries have known it. We had no tension within us at this time, for our thoughts and longings were in unison. Both of us wished to revisit my tomb and learn what remained.
     I imagined I would be able to go straight to it. During my lifetime, I had visited it clandestinely for years, secreting the most precious of the scrolls I saved from the burning of the great library. Later, when Antony gifted me with scrolls looted from the library in Pergamum, I had them copied and personally deposited the originals in the vaults within my second tomb.
     Why a second tomb? Leda asked. But she answered her own question almost immediately. Grave robbers, of course, were the first reason I chose to have a secret place of interment as well as my public mausoleum. Anyone who has strolled through the marketplace has beheld the property that was supposed to be taken into the afterlife with long-dead pharaohs and other people of substance. Their tombs were built more for grandeur than for security. Looters broke in and stole their funeral goods and dismembered the mummies so carefully and expensively laid to “eternal” rest. I value my privacy and my dignity far too much to allow that to happen to me.
     So, though no one knew but myself and one old childhood friend who became my most trusted priest, there was concealed within my mausoleum an underground passageway.
     I have now watched many films and read many books and articles that claim to be about my life. Some of them say that I am a traitorous and disloyal person. They base their evaluation on the evidence that I had my brothers and sisters killed, disregarding the fact that my beloved sibs would have done the same for me had I not, as Leda says, “beat them to it.” The truth is that I have always been a very loyal person and a true friend to those who do not try to murder me or betray me.
     And Anoubus was always, if unobtrusively, loyal to me. He understood my true nature. I wonder what became of him under Octavian?
     Ah well. Anoubus and I discovered the passageway and the tomb when we were children of perhaps eight and six years. It was within the palace quarter, naturally, or I would not have been allowed there. We found it while playing in a disused part of the harem. Father did not keep as many concubines and wives as his forebears, perhaps because he loved wine and song far better than he loved women, with the possible exception of me.
     The passageway was exciting for us, a secret to be shared, but even more exciting was the tomb at the end of it. I knew in my heart it had been one of the early tombs of my own ancestor, Alexander. Of course, it was empty then, but by the light of our lamps the marble walls still gleamed, and the spaciousness of the rooms rivaled that of my father’s own private chambers. We scuffed away the sand to reveal a fine mosaic on the floor, the colors of its tiles bright even by our flickering lights.
     Throughout my childhood, I escaped there often from my older sister, who hated me because Father preferred me, and my brothers. When I thought of it, I held my breath, fearing that some new building project would clear the entrance to my private haven, but this did not happen. When I assumed the throne, I myself cleared the area and had my mausoleum built over it; under the supervision of my friend.
     As intimately as I had known it, when Leda and I tried to find it again, I doubted we ever would. My beautiful white-columned city, with its wide streets and its great monuments, might never have been. Now it lies buried beneath tall and ugly buildings, short and ugly buildings, and the streets are filled with noisy machinery, tearing along at speed far greater than that of any chariot or natural animal I have ever seen in all my life before I awakened with Leda.
     I knew approximately where the palace quarter had been only from the shoreline of the Eastern Harbor, and even this was much altered. Leda and I pored over maps from many time periods. None was more than someone’s guess at the layout of the city of my birth, my youth, my reign, the city I gave to Caesar and to Antony, the city whose people, treasures, institutions, customs, and monuments I protected with every skill and wit I possessed.
     Leda showed me the artifacts retrieved from the harbor when it had been drained for excavation. Soon the sponsors of this excavation and the current government will attempt to reconstruct the shore line as I knew it, to rebuild some semblance of my palace and the monuments of the time. This will be done not to house a new pharaoh or even a president, but for foreign visitors called tourists. It is a worthy project and I approve of it and mean to have Leda and myself consulting so that we may instruct the builders on the correct installation of each feature and structure.
     But I digress. We examined these artifacts, most of which were large chunks of stone that were mere suggestions of the intricately carved and colored statuary and columns, building blocks and fountains that had once adorned my home. These items, more than any other thing, including the monstrous modern city, made clear to me how much time has passed since last I walked these streets. Not that I can walk them now without risk of being crushed by one of the speeding conveyances.
     I saw a blunted and water worn statue of myself I had commissioned as a gift for what we hoped would be Caesar’s coronation. The cheeks were pitted, the tip of the nose and part of the chin chipped off. The details of hair and crown, clothing and jewels were mostly lost, however. It looked, it was, thousands of years old. Many pieces of the colossal statues of my Ptolemy ancestors whose images had lined the harbor and stood sentinel beside the great Pharos Lighthouse hulked among the cases and explanatory plaques. The bones of my past.
     They saddened me, caused me to shudder. Though I had coolly faced the enemies who were my kin and the enemy who was the death of my family, as well as the cobra who was my ultimate deliverer, I was shaken with disorientation, with vertigo. How strange it was to be there viewing the scene of my former life as if from the wrong end of a telescope that saw through the distance of time rather than space.
     Even so, another part of me, the part my father had trained in the ways of all of the pharaohs and satraps before us, was reading the plaques. I mentally restored and replaced the objects to their original installations. Seeing where they had been found from the maps and plaques, I calculated how far they might have tumbled during the mighty earthquakes that were my city’s ultimate conquerors.  

About the author:

Of herself she says:

I’m a former R.N. and spent time with the Army Nurse Corps in Vietnam and in several stateside posts including Alaska. I’ve also worked for the Indian Health Service, run my own handweaving shop (Howling Woof Weavers in Fairbanks, Alaska), lived on what was then pretty much the edge of civilization for about 7 years outside of Fairbanks, have been a guest writer at the 2nd Annual Feminist Book Fair in Oslo, Norway, after which Julian May and I crossed the Arctic Circle to do research for one of her books. Of course, there were the three years of going back and forth to Ireland to write the Petaybee series with Anne McCaffrey too. I received the Edgar Wolfe Award from the Kansas City, Ks. Friends of the Library, which pleased my late mom. Otherwise, I love folk music, cats, chocolate, beading, good books, good conversation and a good laugh.

I’m a terrible punner (and have been known to have punning duals with Todd McCaffrey, which he usually wins).
Anyone wanting to buy books, make movies of my books or offer me pots of money for any of them, please contact me here or through my lovely current publisher, Gypsy Shadow Publishing, who also have great books by other writers including themselves. 
 
Links:
 
Amazon:
 
 

The Godmother’s Apprentice …

12 Jun

Another exciting release from Scarborough on the GSP Legends Promo.

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“Dear Rosie,
Being an apprentice fairy godmother is complicated. Not only do I have to go out and find good deeds to do, but for a sidekick I have that hit man that Felicity changed into a toad. I wanted to take the cat but she seems to have had a big funeral to attend. Felicity isn’t around much. She keeps disappearing through a door in the guestroom that opens on the side of a hill. The swimming pool is weird too, and I could have sworn I saw someone dancing on the bottom. I am enjoying riding the flying horse and helping a boy who plays squeezebox and talks to swans though, so things are—you should pardon the expression—looking up.” 

“SIMPLY ENCHANTING.” Publisher’s Weekly
“CLEAR AND ENTERTAINING. . . LOTS OF FUN.” Locus
“CHARMING. . .Scarborough mixes folklore, adventure, atmosphere, psychology, and whimsy into a thoroughly absorbing plot.” Booklist
“AN ENCHANTING BOOK.” Affaire de Coeur

Excerpt:

   The Princess and the Toad

    Once upon a time there was a princess who refused to live happily ever after. Having survived a difficult childhood, the death of her mother, an arrest for possession of illegal substances and the perpetual adolescence of her father culminating in his marriage to a woman who made three attempts to murder her, Snohomish Quantrill felt far older than her fourteen-going-on-fifteen years. She decided that instead of marrying a prince, which she was too young to do anyway, she wanted to be a fairy godmother when she grew up.
    Marrying princes was not all it was cracked up to be. She knew that. Her father, Raydir Quantrill, had been the Prince of Punk before he became the King of Rock, and she definitely was not ready to take on somebody like him. Besides, she had been through enough counseling to know that you had to get your own shit together before you interfaced with somebody else’s kingdom and all of its headaches.
    The way she decided to become a fairy godmother before she was even a mother was through a counselor friend of hers, in fact.
    Almost being murdered, once by a hired hit man, twice by your own stepmom, made you ponder on the meaning of your existence in a way that was difficult to communicate to most people.
    Her classmates at Clarke Academy had welcomed her back with girlish squeals and touchy-feely hugs. They were so sorry she’d been hurt and were so genuinely glad she was back, and had the hit man, like, raped her or anything? It was too creepy the way they drooled over the details they’d gleaned from the media. Some of them, she knew, were really, truly pissed at her because they’d been looking forward to attending her funeral and giving tear-choked statements for the six o’clock news. They acted like what had happened to her was some lurid splatter movie instead of her own life for the last month or so. But she had very real scars to remind her of the last attempt on her life, which had landed her in the Harborview ICU for two weeks.
    Her dad wasn’t exactly a pillar of strength either. He’d extracted his head from his ass long enough to join the search party looking for her, but in the process had found someone else as well. He fell in love with his fellow searcher, Cindy Ellis, hired her as his own stable manager to keep her around, and lately had spent most of his time trying to convince Cindy that he could change, he really could.
    Cindy was nice, and she too had had a wicked stepmother, but Sno couldn’t help being less than thrilled with her for taking up so much of Raydir’s attention.
    She didn’t know what to do or where to turn. She was what they called marginalized. Way marginalized. On the surface, she seemed okay, even better. Her testimony, at her stepmother Gerardine’s trial, was clear and unshakable enough to swathe that fashion slave in prison coveralls long enough for her wardrobe to go out of style and in again.
    Meanwhile, Sno’s grades improved because she didn’t have any real friends anymore. Drugs had almost killed her, and she had no use for them. What she longed to do was to go back into the woods with the seven Vietnam veterans who had tried to protect her. They understood what it felt like to have your life threatened, to be wounded, hunted.
    There was just one problem. They weren’t in the woods anymore. They’d returned home to their own lives and their own wives and daughters, who would take no more kindly to some outsider like Sno horning in on their relationships than she took to Cindy Ellis. So she spent a lot of time writing reports on World War II concentration camp victims, Vietnam, Cambodia, Bosnia, Somalia and the new gulag in Uzbekistan, until her teachers stopped being delighted by her industry and became concerned about her thematic choices.
    The teachers spoke to Raydir, who in turn sent forth an invitation summoning Sno’s former social worker, Rose Samson, to dinner one night. Rose brought along Felicity Fortune, a woman with long white and silver hair and a shimmery, floaty, asymmetrically hemmed, much-scarved outfit that looked like something the ghost of a 1930s movie star would wear to dinner on Rodeo Drive. Felicity was, Rose said, a bona fide fairy godmother.
    Rosie went on to tell her a fairly complicated account of what she and Felicity had been doing while Sno was hiding out in the woods. They had helped a street kid, Dico Miller, by giving him a talking cat, Puss, which helped him get more handouts. Rosie and Felicity had also confronted the Asian gang harassing Dico and turned the gangbangers into helpful citizens. The gang leader, Ding, and Dico had even become friends and had discovered a mutual musical talent. Dico was supposedly pursuing his studies of the flute in Waterford, Ireland, while Ding wrote an account of his parents’ experiences in the Vietnam War. Rosie and Felicity had helped Cindy Ellis when her wicked stepmother and stepsisters tried to take all her money and make her lose her job. They’d been instrumental in Cindy’s meeting Raydir and rescuing Sno. And, while trying to help two neglected children who had been picked up by a child molester, Rose had renewed her acquaintance with a nice cop named Fred, and they had fallen for each other. Rosie and Felicity had been very busy and had done so much and helped so many people that Sno lost track of all the details, except that now Rosie was her own department head and there was a big shake-up in the state and city government and social services organizations because of what she and Felicity had done.
    This was all a revelation to Sno. Before she was kidnapped, she had classed fairy godmothers with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Given her recent experience, however, all it took was Rose’s word and a peek at the creature Felicity carried in her pocket, and she was a believer.
Admittedly, it was all a little surreal.
    “You recognize him, then?” Felicity Fortune asked, as if asking her to identify some microscope slide for an oral exam in microbiology.
    Sno peered carefully into the pocket Felicity held open and looked into the popped eyes of the toad staring back at her with an extremely in-your-face expression. She hadn’t actually seen the face before, of course, or the expression, but the attitude behind it was frighteningly familiar, even on a toad. “Nooo . . .” she said, taking a quick step backward.
    “How about if she puts a little teeny motorcycle helmet on me, kid? Could you finger me then?” a voice said inside her head, a voice unlike her own, one she would never forget, menacing and mocking. Of course, all she heard the actual toad say was “Reedeep.”
    Still, she stumbled over an end table in her haste to back away.
    “I’m sorry, my dear,” Felicity said, quickly closing her pocket again. “No need to be alarmed. As you have so sensitively perceived, your original assailant, the “executioner” Robert Hunter, has been rendered harmless and now inhabits this toad’s body.”
    “Yeah? What happened to his own body?”
    “It currently houses the toad-body’s original personality and is safely hopping around the psychiatric unit at Harborview Hospital, though I suppose a more long-range institution may be necessary at some point.”
    “Cool,” Sno said.      

About the author:

Elizabeth Ann Scarborough is the author of 22 solo fantasy and science fiction novels, including the 1989 Nebula award winning fantasy novel, Healer’s War, loosely based on her service as an Army Nurse in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. She has collaborated thus far on 16 novels with Anne McCaffrey, six in the best selling Petaybee series and eight in the YA bestselling Acorna series.

Links:

http://www.gypsyshadow.com/ElizabethScarborough.html#ApprenticeExc

Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Godmothers-Apprentice-Elizabeth-Scarborough/dp/0441003583/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1371011296&sr=8-2&keywords=the+godmother%27s+apprentice

 

The Godmother’s Web…

11 Jun

Another Scarborough release from GSP on the Legends Promo. The Godmother’s Web.

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Cindy Ellis knows about fairy godmothers. Her almost-stepdaughter is studying to be one and she is a close personal friend of Felicity Fortune, an Irish godmother. But she didn’t suspect when she picks up Grandma Webster that the elderly, seemingly lost American Indian woman in traditional dress was a magical godmother too. When a self-serving skinwalker/witch inflames tensions between neighbors and pits sisters against each other in the best fairy tale fashion, Grandma enlists Cindy’s help, along with that of a Navajo doctor, a Hopi rancher, and an unlikely champion, a dude who is related to coyotes and dreams of a home shopping network empire. Together they must defeat the evil that is threatening to destroy their world forever.

“Characterization, pacing, and folkloric expertise are all up to the series’ high standards, so Godmother-followers and others should greet this book joyfully.”—Booklist

Excerpt: 

 ONE

                                                          Beauty and the Menagerie

    From the North comes the sun-haired maiden. She is changed from a mouse. She is changed into a far-flying she-eagle. She lands in Flagstaff and is changed once more into a maiden.
    Her skin is made of white shell. Her eyes are made of deep waters. Her mouth is made of cornelian. Where the sun kisses her cheek, the white shell changes to cornelian. Her hair is the color of rabbit brush blooms. Her hair is the texture of rabbit fur.
    Her body sits straight as a lance. Her touch on the rein is gentle as a warm breeze, but firm as the red rock rising around her. A valuable blanket made of soft wool and rainbows cushions her saddle. She is riding the sun’s own blue horse.
    In beauty she rides along the flowing highway. The cars flash like wish-granting fish among the eighteen-wheeled leviathans. The darting minnow motorcycles weave it into a single undulating fabric of noise and motion, this highway along which she rides.
    The highway’s banks are studded with turquoise and silver placed on bright blankets in flimsy wooden stalls by sleepy Native Americans. They have just left hogans and trailer houses down rutted paths from the stalls. Signs of painted wood that say “Half price!” “Buy here!” “Navajo made!” “You’ve Gone Too Far” and “Nice Indians” fish the highway for silver and green tourist money.
    To the south are the cities of Flagstaff and Sedona, and the land where the blue horse was born. To the west are the sacred mountains. To the Anglos and the Mexicans, they are called the San Francisco Peaks. To the Navajos they are the Sacred Mountains of the West, Light Always Glitters on Top, and are made of abalone. To the Hopi they are the place from which the kachinas dance, bringing rain and corn and other good things to the Hopi, who by and large say nothing of such matters to those who are not Hopi. To the north lies Seattle, whence the maiden came.
    To the north also lies the Grand Canyon. Within it are the Colorado River, the images on many postcards, the footprints and less fleeting reminders of many tourists, and the place where the Hopis originally came into this, the Fourth World.
    To the east are what is left of the lands of the Navajo, the Dinéh, the People and what remains of the land entrusted by the gods to the Hopi.
    To the east the maiden is looking with her deep-water eyes. To the east she is guiding her blue horse with her warm-breeze touch.
    Then from the west, where the abalone peaks stand sentinel, an old woman strides across the desert.
    She is dressed in velvet, despite the heat. Her skirt is like yellow corn pollen and does not show the dust of the desert at its bright hem. Her moccasins and her silver-trimmed blouse are the red of the canyon walls. Her hair is black obsidian and streaked with strands of white shell. With white yarn bindings it is tied into the shape of a bumblebee. At her ears, wrists, waist, fingers, and neck are strands and nuggets and beads of the purest sky-colored-turquoise. A rainbow-colored blanket is folded over one of her arms and in her hand she carries a spindle.
    Across the shimmering sands she walks, and her small moving draws the attention of the sun-haired maiden on the blue horse. The sun-haired maiden thinks the woman from the west must be nuttier than a piñon stand in Santa Fe, for, although it is late autumn, the air is hotter than a red chili ristra.
    However, the maiden has learned that some old women are not what they seem. Some of them can change Harley Davidsons into horse trailers. Some of them can create from thin air crystal horseshoes that cure a favorite pony’s lameness. And besides, the sun-haired maiden is a kind girl. She does not like to see someone’s grandmother walking in the heat like that, and she worries.
    Later, she knows she was right to worry. The old woman is a great deal of trouble, even for a sun-haired maiden on the sun’s own blue horse.

                                                                        TWO

    The sun-haired maiden’s name was Cindy Ellis. She was neither Navajo, nor Hopi. She was not a citizen of the state of Arizona, the state of Utah, the state of New Mexico or the state of Colorado. Nor, strictly speaking, was she a maiden.
    In the lore of the dominant culture, her story might begin: Once upon a time there was a young woman who was as good as she was beautiful. It probably would not say that many people found such a person damned annoying, and sometimes so did Cindy. She was blessed with both a modest disposition and an embarrassment of riches of the nonmaterial sort that, in the olden days, it would have taken an entire fleet of good fairies to bestow upon her at her christening.
    It was not just that she was a good rider, a fine artist, had perfect pitch and sang like an angel. It was not merely that she was graceful as a doe, gentle as a dove, kind and thoughtful. She was good at other things too. She had a gift for languages and no math block. She could wire a house, fix the plumbing, put up sheetrock, make a cake from scratch and a wedding dress by hand.
    She also had a handsome prince. Princes don’t get where they are by being dummies and Cindy’s beauty, courage, versatility, good humor and intelligence had drawn the attention and affection of Raydir Quantrill. He was not only a prince but the King of the Alloy Rock.
    Her beauty and goodness did not annoy Raydir, of course. He was far too self-involved to be annoyed by anyone who didn’t, for instance, screw up his sound system during a recording session. But some of the less lovely females in his entourage found his new stable manager-sweetheart a bit hard to take.
    “Cindy,” said the young woman’s social worker friend, Rose Samson, when they met for lunch to discuss Rose’s bridesmaids’ dresses for her forthcoming nuptials, “it’s a classic case of you reliving your family drama, except now that your wicked stepmother and stepsisters are out of the picture you’re doing the same thing with the women in Raydir’s entourage—trying to please them instead of making them look at their own stuff.” Rose could sometimes be very firm about what other people needed to do.
    But Cindy had to admit her friend probably had a point. Trying to get her stepmother and stepsisters off her back was how she had acquired so many of her skills. There was no need for them to hire anything done when they had a live-in slave to torment.
    Cindy’s love of horses and counseling from Rose had eventually helped her escape their clutches, but she was beginning to feel she’d jumped out of the barbecue and into the four-alarm chili, as her old stable boss, Pill, used to say.
    She had no friends at Raydir’s estate except Raydir, and though he had many good points and made her heart pound like Silver’s hooves when the Lone Ranger was riding to the rescue, he could also be a major pain. Plus he was gone a lot.
    One morning after her second riding lesson, she tripped lightly between the rows of rhododendrons, madronas and weeping willows that lined the palatial estate. In her hand was a posy of wildflowers for her love, who surely would be awake by now, as it was well past his usual crack of noon rising time.
    Raydir was indeed awake. Bejeaned and bare-chested in their bower, he was hastily stuffing leather pants and T-shirts into a piece of luggage with lots of pockets. “Hi, babe,” he said, tossing in a hand-beaded vest and a pair of custom cowboy boots.
    “You’re leaving?” she asked. “I thought your gig wasn’t until the sixteenth.”

About the author:

Elizabeth Ann Scarborough is the author of 22 solo fantasy and science fiction novels, including the 1989 Nebula award winning fantasy novel, Healer’s War, loosely based on her service as an Army Nurse in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. She has collaborated thus far on 16 novels with Anne McCaffrey, six in the best selling Petaybee series and eight in the YA bestselling Acorna series.

Links:

http://www.gypsyshadow.com/ElizabethScarborough.html#GWebExc

Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Godmothers-Godmother-Series-ebook/dp/B004DCB62C/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1370921974&sr=8-1&keywords=the+godmother%27s+web

The Drastic Dragon of Draco Texas…

4 Jun

We salute another Scarborough release on the Legends Promo from GSP. 

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  Determined to become an author of western penny dreadful novels like her idol, Ned Buntline, a young San Francisco newspaper editor christens herself Valentine Lovelace (after a floozie acquaintance of her father’s) and heads east for the Wild West. 
     She finds it in spades in the Texas Big Bend when she is kidnapped from a mule train by Comanches and ends up the guest of a ruthless comanchero, a sort of wild west warlord, after the Comanches are distracted by a. . .dragon?
     Fort Draco, as the comanchero fort is known, is as full of intrigue and nighttime carryings-on as a modern day romantic novel, but Frank Drake, the owner, is no hero. If Valentine wants to save herself and the less-guilty if not entirely innocent folks who live there, she must defeat heat stroke, gunslingers, a couple of fake rainmakers and their camel, hostile Indians, the voice haunting her dreams (not in a good way) and a dragon who not only is gobbling all the livestock and transportation in the area but is guarding the only water hole in fifty miles of drought-ridden desert. And she must do it all while taking good notes, of course.
     This is a western but not as we know it and a fantasy set where we’re not used to it.

Excerpt:

Paladins of the Prairie may very well exist on the prairie, but they have clearly drawn the line at carrying the Code of the West into the Texas desert. I know for a fact that muleskinners bear no resemblance whatsoever to either Saint George or to any of those other gallant knights who traipsed about rescuing damsels in distress. When I was abducted by wild Indians and subsequently menaced by a dragon, none of the fifty teamsters with whom I was traveling lifted a finger to rescue me.
Of course, forty-nine of them weren’t aware I needed rescuing, since the wagon in which I was riding had bogged down behind the others just before midday siesta and of course the mules had to be rested before we were dislodged and reunited with the rest of the train.
     Not that my traveling companions were being intentionally neglectful. They were simply more accustomed to dealing with mules than with ladies. Had it occurred to them that I might be in some danger, one of them would undoubtedly have insisted that I join a wagon further up the trail in a more protected position. But, as usual, they were so intent upon their own routine they forgot me. I believe that they did so not so much because I am unmemorable as because my presence presented them with something of a dilemma. A frontiersman curses in front of a lady only at peril to his life and immortal soul. Unfortunately, cursing is an absolute requirement in the practice of the mule-skinning profession.
     Since my objective was to sample the true flavor of the Wild West, I willingly accommodated myself to this benign neglect. Though but three days away from the cavalry outpost, I had already grown accustomed to the teamsters’ priorities. First animals, then equipment, and then people were tended to. When I inquired of Mr. Jones, the driver of my wagon, what might be a human ailment sufficiently severe to halt the caravan, he gave the various personal insects inhabiting his chin whiskers an affectionate scratch and replied, “Oh, I don’t know, ma’am. Indians—though there ain’t been that many bad raids since the menfolk got back from the War. But if there was, we’d stop, I reckon. Indians steal mules. And mebbe a panther”—(he said “painter”)—that’d be bad for the mules too. But strictly human—I don’t know, a bullet in the belly maybe, specially if a fella was bleedin’ real messy.”
     I remained skeptical about the negligibility of the dangers of the despoblado, the great Texas desert. The cavalry wives at Fort Davis were also less blase’ than the muleskinners, especially regarding Indians. The tenth night I stayed at the fort, a minor earthquake shook the ground. While the men ran to their soldierly duties and the comfort of their horses, the women clustered together in one room and talked of how the earthquake had to be a sign from God that no decent person should live out here among the heathen, after which the conversation degenerated into morbidly grisly and graphic descriptions of past Indian raids.
     Current style dictates that I should claim I was gathering wildflowers or something equally genteelly frivolous when the Indians captured me. Nonsense. I had awakened from my siesta half-melted despite the shade of the wagon above me, nauseated by the stench of mules and Mr. Jones and, by now, myself, begrimed and annoyed to have to stray from my nest even as far as the closest cactus large enough to provide a modest concealment.
     I scanned the ground for snakes, not wildflowers, of which there are none in the middle of the desert in late September. Finishing my necessary errand behind the only sort of greenery around—the prickly kind—I stood, adjusted my skirts, and was about to return to the wagon when I saw the Indians.
     I cannot report that I was instantly terrified. My first instinct was to shoo them away. There were only three of them, riding around our disabled wagon, poking through the canvas, and pawing through the contents. Earlier in my journeys I had encountered several members of the pacified tribes around Tombstone and Santa Fe, folk with a distressing penchant for examining other people’s property and begging a portion of it, when possible. My brain was still so befuddled with sleep and heat that I failed to make the distinction between those curiosity-seekers and the three painted, armed, and mounted warriors before me.
     Therefore, I felt less alarm than vexation at Mr. Jones for being remiss about guarding his cargo. I fancied he was still enjoying his afternoon nap beneath the wagon. Though several hours past noon, the day was still far too hot to travel. At least for civilized folk. The Indians didn’t seem to mind, having adjusted themselves to the climate by wearing very little but scraps of skin, beads, and eagle feathers.
     While I was fuming over Mr. Jones’s supposed laziness and contemplating native haberdashery, one of the braves rounded the wagon and spotted me. Those who fancy that Indians have no sense of humor should have seen the delighted grin on his face as he galloped his horse straight toward me. I had never heard of Indians killing victims by simply trampling them, but evidence seemed immediately forthcoming.
     I would like to testify that it is not necessarily one’s life that flashes before one when death seems imminent. I saw nothing of my previous pallid existence. Neither my childhood nor the most stimulating of the duties I performed while ensuring that our newspaper functioned when my father did not intruded on my consciousness at that time. What I saw were the gruesome mental pictures my fertile brain had conceived while the cavalry wives were scaring each other silly with the histories of literally hair-raising Indian savagery.
     I stood frozen for a moment, then flung myself down to one side, twisting to avoid a nasty patch of Spanish dagger. The grinning savage scooped me up beside him, clasping his hand over my mouth so that I could not scream and alert the wagons in the mule train preceding us.
     My middle did not take kindly to being scooped. The air went out of me and my limbs flailed so that I bore some resemblance to a landed fish as I was hauled onto the horse. I squirmed in my captor’s grasp enough to straddle the animal, backwards, as it turned out, my seat facing the horse’s neck, my face buried in the Indian’s breathtaking chest, which reeked of rancid something or other and dead something else besides the natural odor of a very active man on a very warm day.
     My new position amused the Indian further, for he now could gag and strangle me at the same time simply by holding my face against him with the crook of one arm. Only my eyes were free to stare across his shoulder as he and his fellows plundered the packs, extracted as many as they could carry of the whiskey bottles comprising a large portion of our cargo, and galloped back into the desert. As I was spirited away I saw the craven Mr. Jones, who had saved his own neck by feigning his absence while huddled between the wagon wheels. Now he peered out from beneath the wagon, his mouth working silently. I almost forgave him, knowing that I probably would have hidden too. As soon as we were far enough away that he could run to the other wagons, I prayed that he would engineer my rescue in time to save me from death and whatever it was that was supposed to be worse.
     Meanwhile, of course, I had this splendid opportunity to apply my ability as a trained journalist and learn all I could of Indian ways.
     Sad to say, the only Indian ways I was able to observe from my unusual vantage point were entirely too similar to the white men’s ways with which I was already more familiar than I wished to be. My captors broke the necks of the whiskey bottles on convenient boulders and proceeded to get very drunk.                                      

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Amazom: http://www.amazon.com/The-Drastic-Dragon-Draco-Texas/dp/0553258877/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1370367877&sr=8-1&keywords=the+drastic+dragon+of+draco+texas

The Goldcamp Vampire….

3 Jun

Next from Scarborough on the Legends Promo from GSP .

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 Pelagia Harper, aka Valentine Lovelace, published her memoirs of her time in Draco, Texas and became an established writer—at least in her own mind. But when her father dies and her stepmother steals her royalties, she finds herself destitute. Also haunted. The ghost of her papa keeps popping up everywhere. When her father’s old flame, Sasha Devine, offers her a way out of her poverty, Pelagia jumps on it before she knows what’s involved. In 1897, the two ladies must travel North to the Klondike (the Wild West is a relative term as far as V. Lovelace is concerned) escorting the coffin of a man said to be Lost-Cause Lawson, a prospector.
     It turns out the man beneath the coffin lid is not as dead as he was supposed to be and somehow, Pelagia ends up being accused of murdering a Mountie. Apparently the sensible solution to that is to fake her own suicide. The upshot is that when she finally does arrive in Dawson City with Sasha, she is obliged to take employment as a dance hall girl and a flamenco dancer (Corazon, the Belle of Barcelone). Her boss seems nice though. Very sociable, especially with all of his new female employees. It isn’t long before Pelagia learns that Vasily Vladovitch Bledinoff is giving the biting cold some competition. It isn’t until her friend Captain Lomax receives a new book from England, written by a fellow named Bram Stoker, that she begins to get a clue what exactly is going on with the mode for black velvet neck bands the girls are all sporting. Then there’s all of those really smart wolves, the threat of starvation and disease, and other strange and unusual wildlife.
     This book is about what life was like for a female artiste in Dawson City as it was during the Gold Rush—when everyone was there to strike it rich—except for the vampires, who were there for the night life.

Excerpt:

 Three days after my father’s funeral, his former mistress summoned me to her place of employment and proposed that the two of us distract ourselves from grief by accepting a rather bizarre proposition. “Meet me backstage at 12:15 and you will, as they say, learn something to your advantage,” her note read.
     As very little had been to my advantage lately, I roused myself to accept.
     It would be inaccurate to say I had been prostrated with grief. My father’s death was hardly unanticipated. He had been deliberately drinking himself to death since the demise of my mother thirty years ago, and since his second marriage to the sanctimonious Widow Higgenbotham, he had speeded up the process appreciably.
     Considering his inclinations, the manner and location of his passing were as he would have wished it. When found, he wore a blissful smile upon his face as if he had discovered some new and particularly potent elixir that had carried him straight to heaven—assuming that was his destination. I felt guilty when I saw him to note how pale and drained he looked, for I so despised his new wife that I had seen him very seldom. But his happy expression and the fact that he had died just outside his favorite haunt, the Gold Nugget Opera House, consoled me.
     Nevertheless, as I made my way to the backstage door of that establishment, I averted my eyes and held my skirts away as I passed the spot where he had been found.
     With the mist creeping up to conceal the garbage and broken bottles, and the drizzle descending like unceasing tears, the alley was a depressing place to be. Even the pearl-handled derringer in my bag was cold comfort. This was a night the poet Poe might relish, except that ravens seldom frequented the alleys or San Francisco anymore. Pigeons perhaps. Pigeons with uncannily direct gazes, for as I turned back toward the lamplight flickering in from the main street, small eyes glittered down at me, then swooped aside. I grasped the knob of the backstage door and shoved.
     The strains of the final chorus act met me even before I entered, but Sasha Devine’s numbers were over for the evening. It was her policy always to “leave them wanting more.” Her dressing room door was cracked open, for despite the midsummer fog and damp, the air was warm.
     Sasha saw me reflected in her mirror even before I spoke. “Vahlenteena,” she said effusively, twisting in her chair to face me. “How kind of you to come to see me in my bereavement. You alone know how very dear Patrick was to me. And you, my dear Vahlenteena, have always been the daughter I never had.”
     I would have been more moved by this declaration were it not for the fact that it was only since my novels began to sell that Sasha had learned my name—and at that she chose to learn my nom de plume, Valentine Lovelace, not my given name, Pelagia Harper. Although to be perfectly fair, I do recall that at times while I was in my teens, she was wont to refer to me as “Peggy.”
     “Because of this sentiment I bear you and your dear departed father,” she continued, “and because you are a fellow artiste in what I understand are straitened circumstances, I have selected you to be my traveling companion on my grand tour of the Klondike. Expenses will be paid, of course, but you must wait for your salary until we arrive.”
     My spirits rose immediately. I was, in fact, so elated by the chance to see the Klondike, that dazzling repository of gold of which everyone was speaking, that I failed to note Sasha s tone. It was identical to the one I had once heard her use when she parted my father from the subscription money that was supposed to support our newspaper for a month.
     Instead, my previous caution vanished and I saw in her my deliverance from my problems. No matter if Jade Fan, Wy Mi’s grieving sister, sold her laundry—and my lodgings—and moved back to China. No matter if the Widow Higgenbotham refused to pay me the monies that Papa had promised me for the serialization of my latest saga in the Herald. No matter that the West was now all but won, and I had to dredge my dwindling memories of Texas for material for my popular-but-un-lucrative epistles. No matter that I would never again see Papa slumped over his desk, or hear him singing as he stumbled from his favorite saloon. Long since he had ceased telling me the stories of Cuchulain and Maeve. Wy Mi had not mentioned the Wind Dragons of his native China since I told him I’d met one. Life had become quite dull. And now lovely, kindly Sasha Devine, in all her beneficence, was going to take me away from all this.
     My face must have betrayed my emotion. With a complacent smile, she turned away from me and began removing her stage makeup, smoothing the cream below the high ruffled collar of her dressing gown, which kept tickling her chin and threatening to get makeup and grease on its lace. I had never realized her complexion was so fair-pallid, one might even say. When she removed the whitening under her great green eyes, dark hollows appeared. When she turned back to me, her collar flopped away, revealing an angry insect bite on the left side of her still almost-perfect throat.
Even without the makeup, however, Sasha looked no older than I, though she had to be at least ten years my senior. Her hair really was that blond, but without the false curls of her fancy coiffure, it hung long and straight. She looked delicate when unpainted, rather like a fairy princess who might, with that sharp determined chin and those acquisitive green eyes, turn into a wicked queen with the least encouragement. Hadn’t I heard a rumor somewhere, no doubt started by Sasha herself, that she was descended from the royal house of some long-defunct Balkan country?
     “I have been working very hard, and your father’s death has distressed me greatly,” she said. “Also, until departure time, I must continue to fulfill my contract here. You will be in charge of the practical details, booking the passage for me, yourself, and Mr. Lawson’s coffin . . .”
     “Mr. Lawson’s what?” I asked.
     “His coffin,” she said, slowly and distinctly, as if to the deaf. “Mr. Lawson is dead and requires one.”
     “Excuse me,” I said. “Unacquainted with Mr. Lawson as I am, his demise had escaped my notice. If he is dead, why does he require not only a coffin, but passage aboard a steamer to the Klondike?”
     She turned again, her actress’s eyes entreating me tragically. “Because Mr. Lawson’s partner is a man not only of exceptionally good taste, as he is an admirer of mine, but also of considerable sentiment. He and Mr. Lawson worked their Alaskan claim for many years without success. Even when my admirer temporarily gave up mining for bartending in order to earn a further grubstake, Mr. Lawson, it is said, worked with commendable determination throughout the winter in an attempt to find the mother lode. To no avail. This earned him the cruel soubriquet of Lost-Cause among his associates. Finally, his partner insisted that he come to San Francisco to recuperate from exhaustion and the illness that consumed him as a result of his efforts. When the gold strike was made in the Klondike, my admirer abandoned his bar, after standing a drink for the denizens in order to get a head start on them, and headed for Canada. The day Mr. Lawson died, my admirer made one of the richest strikes in the Yukon. But he is guilt-ridden about it. His partner must at least see the wealth that eluded them both for so long, he feels. The gentleman in question remembers me fondly from a night—a performance—two years ago, and dispatched a message containing a retainer and promising that if I would see to it that his poor partner was escorted to the Yukon, he would make me owner of my own establishment, which is somewhat better than a gold mine.”
     “I see.”
     “And you, you will get the experience of traveling to the most exciting place in the world. Later, when I have earned my reward, you may be my agent to summon my girls to come join me.”
     “It’s a very kind offer, Miss Devine,” I said. “But I fail to understand exactly why you need me . . .”
     “Because I certainly cannot be expected to do everything. You must see to collecting the body from the undertaker’s, to booking the passage, to acquiring certain papers assuring Mr. Lawson’s corpse of entry into Canada.”
     She rose and faced me, one hand extended dramatically. “Vahlenteena, I ask you because I know that you are a person of integrity, and in my line of work one meets all too few of those. Do you think I failed to see how you kept your newspaper running when dear Patrick was unable? You are rather young, of course, and a woman, but I thought you might be—”
     She needed to say no more. I was hooked without hearing any of the particulars, which is, of course, always a mistake.
     I asked to see the letter from her admirer, so that I might get a list of the tasks to be accomplished. I thought, from all the details in her story, that it must certainly have been a very long letter, or perhaps an entire series of correspondence. However, she responded that she had received just a note and she thought she had left it in her suite. She remembered it quite well, however, and went over with me the prodigious list of chores I needed to perform to secure our passage. The oddest of these was arranging for the disinterment of Lost-Cause Lawson from his tomb and his transport to the steamer.
     This I determined to tackle the following day. I got a rather late start. I left Sasha Devine during the wee hours Sunday morning, when it was not yet light and the fog made the alley look like the smoking aftermath of a great fire. I have traveled the streets of my native city in what I fondly believed was perfect safety for most of my life, but in these early hours, I felt ill at case. The rain finished its demolition work on my mourning bonnet, which had not been especially crisp to begin with. My one good woolen coat had used the warmth of Sasha’s dressing room to finish permeating its fibers with damp, so that I was now chilled through. My spine was already curling itself into tight ringlets when the black carriage flashed past the alley entrance, drenching me to the waist as the wheels splashed through a puddle.
     I shouted a few of the more colorful epithets I had learned in Texas at the denizens of the carriage, little expecting response, for half of my remarks were in Spanish, the vernacular being particularly suited for self-expression of that sort.
     To my dismay, the carriage stopped abruptly and swung around in the middle of the street, the lamps gleaming off the coats of the horses and the polished ebony of the coach. Shadows shrouded the interior, but as the vehicle drew even with my dripping form, a low and melodious voice from within said softly, ‘Se lo reuego usted que mi disculpas con todo sinceridad, señora.”
     “Oh, dear, excuse me,” I sputtered, wringing out my hem. Evidently, I had just had the honor of being splattered by a member of our local Spanish nobility. “I mean, I didn’t think you’d under—oh, never mind . . .”
     “Ah, you are American, despite your bilingual fluency.” The voice sounded pleased. Its accent was foreign but not, I thought, Spanish after all. “Please, madam, permit me to offer the services of my carriage to conduct you to your quarters, where you may change your attire and present your other clothing to my man for cleaning or replacement, if the damage is too extensive.”
     I peered into the shadows and alternated between feeling like a perfect fool and feeling very cautious about this disembodied voice. The man sounded like a gentlemen, but many gentlemen, I had found, were anything but gentle and had attained their wealth and high station by taking the position that everyone else was inferior to themselves and, therefore, fair game.
     “Don’t trouble yourself, sir,” I said, inching away. “My lodgings are not far and my landlady and her family, who are waiting up for me, operate a laundry. Jade Fan will have my costume good as new tomorrow at no expense to me.”
     And before he could say any more or possibly leap from his carriage and drag me in, as my overheated imagination began to suggest, I sprinted—or splashed—away.

 

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