Tag Archives: Gyspy Shadown Publishing Company

The Lady in the Loch…

1 Jun

Another Scarborough release from GSP, on the Legends Promo.



 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.

     By Nebula Award winning author Elizabeth Ann Scarborough.
     Publisher’s Weekly says, ”  Skillfully cross-stitching history, mystery and old-time urban legend. . .tension mounts steadily. . .an artful work.”


 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.                       

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.





Taming the Weald….

19 Mar

Today we have the pleasure of welcoming Lindsey Duncan to the GSP Fireflires Promo.


LINDSEY DUNCAN is a life-long writer and professional Celtic harp performer, with short fiction and poetry in numerous speculative fiction publications. She feels that music and language are inextricably linked. She lives, performs and teaches harp in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Visit Lindsey’s Website at: http://www.lindseyduncan.com/writing.htm

Her book that we are highlighting today is Taming the Weald.


Timid Keryn wants nothing more than to be a mother. Within the Wealdthe last bastion of nature on the space station that serves as her homeshe encounters Verdant, a daughter of that forest who has somehow survived without parents or community. Keryn tries to prepare the girl for life in the station, but Verdant has strengths and secrets of her own.


     Keryn pressed her back against the wall under the ventilation pipe and tried to make herself smaller as the three gossips wandered up the space sta-tion corridor. Common sense—even the fringes of the Weald were dangerous—warred with the hot flush of embarrassment working up from her stomach.
     “. . . third time she has requested a child.” The voice belonged to Nila, a cloth-constructor.
     “Of course. The matchers have no time for her.”
     “And she still wants to try?”
     Of course she did. Keryn didn’t mind if it was a boy or girl, from her genetic stock or not—who would want big feet, a flat face, and coarse, almost colorless hair?—she simply wanted a child.
     Hearing Nila’s derisive laughter, Keryn pushed off the wall and rounded the corner. An ominous spectre of green swept out before her. Sneaking tendrils of grasses and flowers gave way to crouching shrubbery and then the trees: dark, deadly giants whose leaves cast shadows more treacherous and uncertain than the comforting black of space.
     The fence was perfunctory. Station denizens knew better than to enter the Weald. She scrambled over, hearing the weird crunch of grass under her feet. The smell was acrid, unpleasant. The ground seemed to wobble underfoot, con-stantly out of sync with what she expected. She was thankful she didn’t have far to go to take cover behind a bush.
     Keryn pulled her arms in, protecting herself from the leaves. She knew the greenery was poisonous to eat, not whether it was harmful to touch, but why take chances? If nothing else, it might cause a rash. She felt a surge of wistful-ness. These were wisdoms a mother passed on. Safety, care—not attributes she displayed now.
     The gossips meandered into view. “I heard the matchers told her that her work quality needed to be higher,” Nila said, “but she won’t—or can’t—improve it.”
     Keryn flushed, pressing against the unsanitary dirt before she remembered herself. She was dedicated to her work with food-synth machines. Nothing broke down on her watch—ever. That was more than many operators could say.
     As the gossips moved on, she became aware the Weald was not silent, as she had originally assumed. The noise was not the familiar thrumming of the pipes, but a crackling, rustling, the whistle of air movement. Could there be creatures living here? Surely the station leaders would have plundered the Weald had there been any evidence of uncontrolled organic life.
     Then she heard it: a cry of pain.
     Keryn leapt up, flashing a look towards the gossips, but they were too far away. The voice sounded young and fearful, and that was enough to impel her over a log and into the inky-green shadows.
     The Weald resisted her: branches reaching for her face, the ground swerving away from her feet. She stumbled, drawn on by the voice even as the rest of her panicked.
     She broke through the trees into an open patch. Two massive thorn bushes twined together as if fighting, and twisted up in their martial embrace was a girl.
     At first, it was hard to tell where foliage ended and girl began. Leaves and vines clothed her form, woven as neatly as Nila’s work, and her skin betrayed a faint green flush, as if lit from within. She couldn’t have been older than ten or eleven, and Keryn felt a surge of protectiveness before questions set in: who was she? How had she gotten here? It couldn’t be recent, not with the clothes and the way her body seemed to harmonize with her surroundings.
     The girl twisted, whimpering. As she did, Keryn noticed a spindly branch had pushed its way into her calf, blood flowing.
     “I’m going to help you,” Keryn said, approaching with her hands spread. “You need to stop struggling.”
     The girl started, head snapping up. Her body went still, quivering with nerves. Dark, animal eyes watched Keryn as she knelt down, unwinding branches and pulling other thorns free. Keryn winced when a branch snapped back and stabbed her. Poison! She pushed down the panic.
     “You’ll be fine,” she continued in what she hoped was a soothing tone. “Just a few scratches. Give me a moment and you’ll be free, I promise.”
     The girl regarded her, the puff of her breath slowing. She still didn’t speak—could she speak?
     Keryn soon untangled the leg except for the embedded branch. She gazed up at the sweet, smooth face and swallowed.
     “I need to pull this out,” she said. “It will hurt. Trust me?”
     Those deep feral eyes widened. The girl nodded.
     She understands me, Keryn thought. I hope. She braced her hand on the branch and pulled.
     The girl shrieked. The sharpened end slid out, slick with blood. Keryn sank back, hands shaking. She daubed the blood away with her sleeve.
     “It’s all right,” she said. “It’s out.” Her heart smacked against the inside of her chest. “What’s your name?” She didn’t expect an answer.
     “Verdant.” The girl’s voice was clear, unwavering. “Thank you for helping me.”
     “We’re not done,” Keryn said, “I need to free your arms.”
     Verdant shook her head. “Now that it’s not hurting as much, I can think,” she said. “I can do—this.”

Links: http://www.gypsyshadow.com/Lindsey%20Duncan.html#TamingExc



A Dozen Dreadfuls…..

18 Mar

Today on the GSP Fireflies Promo we welcome Charlotte Holley.


Charlotte Holley has an inborn love of all mysteries and the supernatural, and has been reading and writing about the paranormal for more than forty years. A mass communications major, she has written and published newsletters, magazine and newspaper articles, as well as poems and short stories since receiving her bachelor’s degree in 1980. As a beaded jewelry designer, she has also self-published twenty-two pattern collections on CD and in eBook form and has produced almost 400 individual original patterns. 

Having spent several years as a professional psychic, she has had extensive experience with the spirit world and has observed supernatural dramas that defy all rational explanation. Charlotte uses her expertise and story-telling ability to weave a powerful tale of mystery and horror, of love and deceit and of the overpowering desire of the human nature to make things right. 

Check out Charlotte’s website at: http://charlotteholley.com/

Congratulations to Charlotte for her cover design of Born in Sarajevo by Snjezana Marinkovic, which finished in the top ten of the 2011 Preditors and Editors Readers Poll for Cover Art.

Her book that we are highlighting today is A Dozen Dreadfuls.


It’s been said if two or more people strongly agree on any one thing, no matter how unlikely, that thing will come to pass. When art lovers and critics alike unanimously acclaim Sam Forbes’ monsters in his Dozen Dreadfuls series as real enough to step right off the canvas and into the world, they unwittingly unleash a rash of gory killings and a plague of terror as well.
   As the only living human who knows what is happening, Sam sets out to make up for the damage his work has caused at the risk of losing his first and best claim to fame. Can he save the world from the horror in time, and what will he have left if he does?


  He was alone; the streets, deserted. The city lay sleeping in the sultry hush of the summer’s night. He trudged along, kicking the debris at the edge of the pavement, stopping now and then to rifle through the trash for anything that might be worthwhile. Here, he found a dime; there, a perfect silver chain someone had lost when the clasp came unfastened, freeing it to slide unnoticed into the piles of refuse. He smiled as he held the gleaming silver treasure up in the luminance of the streetlight before he stuffed it greedily into the crumpled paper sack he carried. The pickings were slim tonight, but he was grateful for what he did find.

     Rounding the next corner, he stopped cold. Two men were arguing in the alley. The heavier of the two grabbed the other by the collar, nearly jerking the man off his feet. “I said, give me the rest of it, punk!”

     “Quinn, I already told ya. This is all I got, man,” the smaller man squeaked.

     Quinn let go and shoved his companion to the pavement. “Sure you did, Amos. Sure you did. Okay . . . fine. So give me the rest of the goods then, and we’ll be square.”

     Amos squirmed at Quinn’s feet, looking like he’d puke when Quinn asked for the drugs. “Uh—no can do. See, my mark—well, he done stole the rest of it from me.”

     “Is that so?” Quinn demanded, kicking Amos in the gut.

     The tramp ducked farther into the shadows, fearing the two men would spot him. This whole affair was no concern of his, and to tell the truth, he knew he should go on his way. He should be making tracks as far from here as he could, as fast as he could, but something made him stay glued to the spot, fascinated by the real-life drama unfolding before him.

     Amos was doubled over in pain from Quinn’s assault.

     Quinn grabbed the writhing man by the hair of the head and jerked him to his feet. Amos screamed, but Quinn just laughed. “How many times do I have to tell you? You’re supposed to take your mark for all he’s worth; not the other way around, stupid. This is—what? The third time your mark has made off with the payload, leaving you with only crumbs? Does that seem right to you?”

     “No,” Amos managed to say between gritted teeth.

     “And does it seem right to you for me to let you live when you are such a screw-up?”

     Amos’ breaths were coming in short gasps now. He tried to escape from Quinn’s steel grip, and the tramp thought he actually heard the sound of the punk’s hair ripping from his scalp as Amos staggered free, leaving a handful of his hair in Quinn’s hand. “Aw now, come on, man. Surely you don’t mean that.”

     “Of course, I mean it. You didn’t lose the goods to your mark, did you? Did you?


     Quinn threw Amos’ hair to the pavement in disgust and reached inside his jacket, bringing out a .45 and aiming it at the other man in one fluid movement. He brought the gun to bear on Amos so fast the tramp could hardly believe his eyes.

     “No!” Amos wailed. “Please, man. I got a wife and two kids. Don’t kill me. Please!”

     “I’d be doing them a favor, punk,” Quinn spat. “You’re a loser. Why don’t you admit the truth? You sold a little of it for more than you should have and took the rest of it yourself. I know your kind. You’re not just a loser; you’re a junkie to boot. Probably beat on your wife and kids, you filthy—”

     Amos stared down the barrel of the .45, his hands shaking, his gasps a mixture of hysterical sob and wheeze. The front of his pants turned dark with the stain of urine that traveled down his leg and pooled at his feet. He didn’t say another word, unable to pull enough air into his lungs to expel the utterance. He swallowed hard, and then closed his eyes, perhaps hoping if he couldn’t see when Quinn pulled the trigger, it wouldn’t be true.

     Quinn cocked the revolver.

     Amos winced and steeled himself for the shot that never came.

     At that exact instant, the tramp saw movement in the alley behind Quinn. He was still trying to decide what it was when a ten-foot tall monster took two giant steps from the shadows and knocked the gun from Quinn’s hand. Another second was all it took, and pieces of Quinn flew all over the alley before Quinn even had the chance to react.  





Jacob and the Gnome….

14 Mar


Today on the GSP Fireflies Promo we welcome Joel Plue.


Joel Plue is a Producer/Writer whose work includes Silent But Deadly, starring Jason Mewes, William Sadler and Jordan Prentice; as well as Mineville, starring Paul Sorvino, William Sadler and ABC’s Nick Wechsler. Joel has appeared on several National Television shows such as MTV’s TRL, Nick News, Hardcopy and Talk Soup. Joel is the CEO and Founder of Plue Entertainment, Inc., an independent production company/distributor which will be producing The Fallen Kingdom and Antarctica.

His book that we are highlighting today is Jacob and the Gnome.


Every night before she tucks young Jacob into bed, his mother reads to Jacob from a peculiar book of fairytale creatures. While listening to the stories Jacob will truly part the text and go on many adventures with his newfound fairytale friends on a quest to find the land of the Dragon King.




The Garden Gnomes,” Jacob’s mother began, reading aloud from a most peculiar book of fairy tales.

“Gnomes?” asked Jacob.

His mother continued, “Garden gnomes are known to be very sneaky, pesky little creatures. They spend their time tending to gardens and playing tricks on helpless human beings.”

His mother read on until Jacob slowly drifted off to sleep. She carefully placed the book on the bedside table, pulled the blankets gently around her son and then bent to kiss him softly on the forehead. At the door, she reached to turn down the lights and paused sadly to look about Jacob’s room, making note of the various medical equipment sustaining her son’s life. She quietly exited the room, leaving the door open to hear him in case he needed her in the night.

Jacob’s mother walked to the kitchen where her husband sat at the table, staring blankly into his cup of coffee. She placed her hand comfortingly on his shoulder. Looking up with tear-filled eyes, he spoke in a low tone, “I can’t believe his illness has progressed this quickly.”

Jacob’s parents continued to talk softly to one another. Their voices trailed off through the hallway and into Jacob’s room where the boy lay asleep in his bed.

Suddenly, Jacob’s eyes opened. Had he heard something? He was astonished to see a little garden gnome standing at his window, looking in at him. Unable to believe his eyes, Jacob closed them tightly. When he reopened them, the gnome was no longer there. Feeling relieved with the thought that it was just his mind playing tricks on him, Jacob leaned back against his pillow, staring up at the ceiling.

Moments later, tiny footsteps scurried across the bedroom floor. Jacob squinted about the darkened room, focusing on the foot of the bed. The little gnome he’d seen at the window was now standing there, staring him directly in the face. Startled, Jacob let out a yell. The gnome quickly retreated under the bed. Jacob looked around the room, wondering why his parents hadn’t come running in to check on him.

After hesitating for a moment, Jacob cautiously looked under his bed and to his relief, saw no sign of the creature. Jacob raised back up, moving to the center of the bed. Almost immediately, he felt a tapping on his shoulder, followed by the small, high-pitched voice of the gnome. “Um . . . excuse me.”








A Twist of Luck…..

13 Mar


Today on the GSP Firefiles promo we welcome Olga Godim.


Olga is a freelance writer and journalist. Her articles appear regularly in local newspapers. Her short fiction credits include Lorelei Signal, Sorcerous Signals, Aoife’s Kiss, Silver Blade and other magazines.

OTHER: http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/7438487-olga-godim


Her book that we are highlighting today is Twist of Luck.


Cranky octogenarian Agatha urges Nelly not to fly to her Caribbean vacation, but Nelly dismisses the old woman’s carping. When the next day, Nelly’s purse with all her documents and tickets is stolen and she can’t board the plane, she is furious. Did the old witch curse her after all?





The Caribbean Singles Cruise shimmered in Nelly’s head: the sun, the palms, the martinis. She could hardly wait till tomorrow. Folding the last shirt into her already stuffed suitcase, she pressed the lid down and pulled the zipper closed. Stubbornly, it cracked open. Drat! The miserable zipper was breaking. She had to redo it three times before she finally zipped it shut. Her matching carry-on, navy-blue with a pattern of gray waves, was already packed. Tomorrow morning, she would be gone for two weeks. Hooray!

When the phone rang, she grabbed the receiver and dropped into an armchair across from the mirror. She liked the reflection, liked the silvery-gray eyes and the smooth skin. Not bad for a thirty-year-old teacher, she thought smugly.

“Hi, Nelly. I need your help,” the phone said in her sister Clem’s voice.

“Hi, Clem. I’m leaving tomorrow.” Nelly smiled in the mirror.

“I know.” Clem sounded soothing. She was a head nurse at the retirement home, Five Birches. A soothing voice was in her job description. “I need an escort for Agatha. She wants to go shopping, and all my girls are busy. She asked for you.”

“That lesbian termagant? She wants to torment me. Again. And fondle my breasts.”

“She is old and disabled, and she adores you. Please, sis. It’s only for a couple of hours. You’ll have time to pack afterwards.”

Nelly sighed. “Yeah, she adores me. Sure. I’m packed already.” She could never say No to her sister.

“Lovely. Thanks.” Clem hung up.

An hour later, when Nelly stepped into the lobby of the nursing home, Agatha was waiting for her. She was already prepped for her shopping trip: her remaining white hair arranged in a neat coiffure, lipstick and rouge applied. A long string of pearls circled around her sagging, wrinkled neck in three uneven loops. She sat in her wheelchair regally, holding an ancient black umbrella in one hand and an equally old, threadbare purse, covered with frayed beaded embroidery, in another.

“You took your time, missy,” Agatha grumbled.

“Maybe we should buy you a new purse.” Nelly pushed the wheelchair into a minivan with the Five Birches logo.

“It was very expensive and chic,” Agatha said coldly.

“During the Second World War, no doubt.” Nelly snorted. She insulted the old shrew on purpose, because she knew Agatha enjoyed their bantering much more than the frightened cosseting she usually received from the staff. Agatha taunted everyone, but it seemed only Nelly fought back. So the contrary woman always asked for her.

“You don’t possess a fashion sense,” Agatha spat. “Not an iota. You wear these abhorrent sweatpants everywhere.” Her carmine lips twisted in disgust. She would’ve resembled a bloodthirsty vampire, but for her toothless gums.



Links: http://www.gypsyshadow.com/OlgaGodim.html#TwistExc





Craig Allen speaks out…

9 Mar

Straight from the pages of Through the Flames, Craig Allen, eldest son Robert Allen, speaks about his family and feelings. Robert being the professional star quarterback for the Marauders while Craig was growing up.


AHP: Craig, thank you so much for agreeing to be be interviewed. I know you family has avoided the glare of the media at times in the past.


CA: You’re welcome. Glad to be here.


AHP: I know you family has been through more than their fair share of tragedy but you could tell us what is was like growing up with a famous Dad?


CA: Growing up with a famous dad, especially an NFL football player, kinda warps your perspective. I’ve never had to worry about money and some people treat me nice in hopes of getting in good with my dad. You definitely learn to act differently than your friends do. I tried really hard to do my best, be the best, make the best grades, I guess driven is a good word for it.

When I was a kid, I took my computer apart, went down and bought parts and built another one like it, but with some extra features. I won the state science fair in the fourth grade with that computer. They put me a year ahead in school and when I got to high school, I was offered a full four-year academic scholarship.

So, I was able to do something that set me apart, but didn’t create a life like my dad’s.

I saw the bruises and the aches and the pain and the heartache just as clearly as I saw the accolades, the achievements, the money and the joy.


AHP: Did you feel any pressure at school from your coaches or classmates expecting you to be like him?


CA: My coaches demanded a lot of me, but I’m not sure they demanded more of me than my dad and I did. I lettered in baseball, football and track all three years of high school. Dad was really overbearing when he was home; he was one of those dads that wanted to see his son playing on a winning team and being the most valuable player on that team. I was always thankful during the football season that he had his own games to worry about.


AHP: When your sister Sharon died you went through a particular bad time. I understand that the two of you were really close. Could you tell the readers how you felt? How did you cope?


CA: I was devastated. I felt like my whole world crashed down. I didn’t cope well at all. I guess I’d have to say I crawled in a bottle.


AHP: I believe your mother moved out of the house just after your sister’s death. Did you feel responsible for your brothers, being the eldest son? How did the change effect you?


CA: Those rumors get around, don’t they? No one has talked to me directly about it, but I know most everyone knows. On the other hand, I think a lot of people understand how my mom felt, although that doesn’t make it right for her to run from it and leave us at home.

I guess I pretty much just wasted any opportunity to being the one running the show by drinking the alcohol my mom brought me. That wasn’t right, either. I don’t have very good judgement when I’m drunk, so it ended up that Larry took over the checkbook and paying the bills and I kinda just moaned and groaned.


AHP: Your brother Larry, who was the star quarterback for his school, and your Dad, a pro football player, had some athletic injuries which prevented their playing football for a while. How did you see your role as a caregiver and what part was the most challenging?


CA: Interestingly enough, my brother and Dad being injured pulled me out of my slump. I hate thinking about being a caregiver, because my sister, Shari, died at home when I was taking care of her. I wore down and fell asleep and when I woke up, she was dead.

I’m not good at the caregiver role, so I guess that’s why I get forced into it. I don’t mind babying my mom and trying to help her through the rough spots, but I don’t want to be nursemaid to my brother or my dad. So in answer to your question, I guess the most challenging part is to take on that role at all.


AHP: Both your parents have had indiscretions. Did this change your opinion of love and marriage?


CA: I guess I never really thought much about the problems brought on by not being faithful and sticking to one person. The vows of marriage are sacred, but I guess I kind of thought that mean you vowed to stick with them through thick or thin.

I still don’t think much of marriage. I guess my opinion was formed early in the game, when I became aware of my dad’s limitless opportunities and really didn’t think about how his taking advantage of those opportunities could wreck his marriage.


AHP: Your brother Larry seems concerned that others see him as being a violent man. Knowing all sides of Larry, the footballer, brother, Christian, how would you describe him?


CA: He’ll make it through. I’m a boxer and I love exchanging blows and tossing people around. I love the dance and game of boxing, as well as the dance of the wide receiver on the football field. We hit each other, but hurting each other is not the point.

Larry’s girlfriend hates football because people smash into one another. She won’t even come to the games.

He plays one of the defenseless positions—quarterback. So he gets hit. And he knows how to hit, but that isn’t his job on the field when he plays that position. On the other hand, when he is at the center of the offense, he is in the middle of a very violent collision-filled game.

As quarterback, he expects the offensive line and the other players to do whatever it takes to protect him. So the violence surrounds him and he enjoys the game. He’s really not into hurting others, but he doesn’t walk away from a fight either.

If there’s a fight, I’d like to have him on my side, I’d consider him an asset.

Dang. I guess that’s a hard question for me to answer, Ms. Petzer. He’s my brother. He cares a great deal about other people and he tries to do right by others, whether they are involved in the churchy thing with him or not. I don’t know what else to say.


AHP: Craig again thank you so much sharing on my blog. All the best for you college studies.


CA: Thanks, Ms. Petzer.

For a further interview with his brother Larry, please go to:


About the author:


Denise Bartlett began writing short stories when she was nine. Pen and paper gave way to word processors and typing, printing, reading and perfecting. A dreamer, she has always searched for deeper meaning and more vivid experiences in her everyday life. From hypnosis, training with mystics and spiritual people of many walks to tax preparation and gardening, her interests vary widely. The thread that runs through her life is imagination. Denise has written a variety of poetry, short stories and novelettes, as well as columns and articles on gardening and income taxes. Her website is http://www.silvervalkyre.com and her email is Denise@silvervalkyre.com/. She’d love to hear from you





Bagonoun’s Wonderful Songbird…..

8 Mar

Today the GSP Fireflies Promo welcomes author John B Roseman.


John is an English professor at Norfolk State University where he designed and teaches a course in how to write Science fiction and Fantasy. He is a former Chairman of the Board of the Horror Writers Association and has published over 300 stories in places such as Weird Tales, Whitley Strieber’s Aliens, Fangoria, Galaxy, The Age of Wonders, and Hot Blood. John has published eleven books, including SF action-adventure novels such as Beyond Those Distant Stars, Speaker of the Shakk (Mundania Press), A Senseless Act of Beauty (Blade Publishing), Alien Dreams (Drollerie Press), Dax Rigby, War Correspondent (Lyrical Press), and Here Be Dragons (Eternal Press).

Visit him on the web at his website,
www.johnrosenman.com, or at:


Facebook and

Check out one of his interviews

His book that we are highlighting today is Bagonoun’s Wonderful Songbird.


An old man and a young girl are unlikely lovers, but what happens when a magical bird starts to sing? Bagonoun’s Wonderful Songbird is an improbable love story that takes place on the island Nauru in the South Pacific. Sometimes miracles come true.




Bagonoun, at first they were glad I came here, if only to be rid of me. But now they say . . .”

   He could have finished it. Oddly, there was a time when he would have agreed. Now he raised his hand and stroked her hair, gazing into her beautiful dark eyes. “You must keep coming,” he pleaded. “The bird will not sing without you.”

   “That is all you care about, Bagonoun, winning the competition. You don’t care about me at all.”

   “That’s not true. I do care.”

   “But not as I do.” She sighed. “At least you no longer think me disgusting.”

   He made himself smile. “Child, I have grandchildren older than you.”

   “I told you before, even if you were ugly, I would love you for the beauty inside, which is ageless. I would know it at once, no matter how others saw you.”







Secret of Wolf Island….

5 Mar

Today on the GSP Fireflies Promo we welcome Teel James Glenn.


A native of Brooklyn, he’s traveled the world for thirty years as a Stuntman/ Fight choreographer/ Swordmaster, Jouster, Book Illustrator, Storyteller, Author, Bodyguard and Actor. He’s over two dozen books contracted and in print and sold poetry to T-Zero, Athena Sidhe, Blazing Adventures, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly and others.

He has choreographed action for over 300 plays, 50 Renaissance Faires and 60 films.

His greatest achievement however, is his awesome daughter Aislin Rose.


Learn more about Teel here: http://theurbanswashbuckler.com/

Teel’s Blog: theurbanswashbuckler.blogspot.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/teeljamesglenn

Twitter: Teel James Glenn 


Congratulations, Teel, for your Short Story collection Of Swords and Sorcery, in the top ten finalists of the 2010 Preditors and Editors Readers Poll!


His book that we are highlighting today is Secret of Wolf Island.


Jonathon Shadows is a private investigator who specializes in undercover assignments. He learns his friend and former Marine Corps colleague Danni Shaw is dead in a mysterious accident on the island of the video game mogul Barret K Wolf.
     Danni worked for Wolf, portraying the Amazon warrior Suprema in highly successful video games shot at the island’s castle and jousting fields. Emily, Danni’s widow is sure there is more to it than a simple tragedy and comes to Shadows to ask him to find out what really happened.
     What follows is a twisted trip into a deadly medieval realm with the detective, like Alice, sliding down the rabbit hole, only with live ammunition and sharp broadswords!
     Can Shadows find out what the Secret of Wolf Island is before it claims him as another victim? 




Stupid Chink Bastard,” Morgan, the tallest of the Aryan brothers said as he and his buddy Deek advanced on me. The third one, the fat one, stayed at the doorway looking out into the hall to watch for guards. “You had to know we’d find a way to get you to ourselves before you were sprung.” He grinned showing two missing front teeth.
     I’m a white supremist’s worst nightmare; an uppity breed Asian who won’t take their crap and who can pass. In that respect, I take after my dad at six foot four, just a bit shy of his height, but with his broad shoulders. He was of Scots and Norman French background, so I had his hand-me-down Viking features and premature silver hair with my mom’s dark eyes.
     A kid in grammar school once called me Race Bannon after the old cartoon character and I almost punched him out until I found out it was a compliment.
I’m a sort of all purpose ethnic––most people aren’t sure what mix I am––Mexican, Asian, Israeli, Eastern European . . . or something else.
     In fact, Mom was Korean-Japanese, though the Japanese community pretty much shunned her as a half-breed as well. I got a lot of my uppity from Mom. The rest was from Dad and The Corps, in that order.
     So when the three white brothers cornered me in the Rikers Island prison laundry room I was compelled to do a major uppity on them.
Morgan’s sidekick added his two cents with, “It was worth paying the guard to look the other way for ten minutes.”
     I grinned back at the two of them, and I could see this puzzled the Rover Boys considerably.
     “First off, “I said, “I’m not a whit Chinese, Morgan. Secondly, Mom and Dad were married five years before I came along; and thirdly, the only really smart guy in all this is the guard you paid. I paid him to give us a little privacy as well; double dipping bastard.”
     The dim-witted son of Arrays didn’t get the implications of my statement, even as he drew his shank and brandished it.
     The prison knife was made from a sliver of Plexiglas-glass sharpened to a needlepoint and wrapped with cloth and tape for a grip. It was purely a stabbing weapon and as such he had to extend it to do me any damage.
     Normally a shank is a backstabber’s choice, not a knife fighter’s; so I knew he was counting on his buddy Deek to occupy me so Morgan could stick me in the kidney.
     Not on my agenda, however.
     Deek circled left while Morgan waved his plastic poker in what he imagined a menacing way.
     Before Deek could get into position for the piñata party I did the one thing their race-clouded brains were sure an inferior would never do––I attacked.
I went straight at Morgan who reacted by trying to stab me in the left side of the neck.
     I double blocked with a left knife hand to a nerve cluster near the elbow of the hand holding the knife, my right striking and breaking his collarbone.
There was an audible snap and Morgan groaned.
     I wrapped my right hand behind his neck and pulled his face down at the same time I brought my right knee up to meet his nose. I heard a second, wetter sounding snap.
     From the chamber of my knee near my chest I shot back my right leg to ram my heel into Deek’s breadbasket. The blow was right on the money and knocked him out cold.
     Morgan was on his knees moaning, half out of it. I bitch slapped him twice to wake him up to full alertness, and then leaned in close to stare eye-to-eye with him. He had pretty blue eyes and if hate could kill, his gaze would have incinerated me.
     “Listen good, you anachronistic piece of crap,” I said, “I could kill you and you know it, but I’m not going to; not now, not ever. You know why?
He stared at me and said nothing so I slapped him again, this time hard enough to leave a hand print on his face.
     “I asked you a question, you pecker-wood loser. Do you know why I won’t kill you?”
     “No,” he hissed. Blood was cascading from his shattered nose. “Why won’t you kill me?”
     “Because, like my old Hwa Rang Do instructor used to say, if I kill you, you won’t suffer anymore. So here’s the deal instead; if you or any of your White bread monkeys ever bother me again inside or out of this can, I––or one of my mother’s family who specialize in this sort of thing––will find you and with a carefully aimed blow to your seventh cervical vertebrae, leave you paralyzed for life.” I smiled that evil smile my ex-wife used to hate when I was playing pool with her.
     “Think about it, Morgan, A nice long life lying in your own waste with a catheter up your ever limp dick. Nothing to do but think about what a total wash-up you are as a human being, and what a waste of flesh your useless body is.”
     I stepped away from him and let my words sink in. I watched the virulent hate in the depth of his eyes slowly transform into realization and then fear. He knew my reputation, but like most who had not encountered me one-on-one, he’d thought it was exaggeration and brag until that epiphany moment.
     “And I swear on my father’s grave,” I continued, “I will piss on your limp-ass body and laugh till I cry if you even try to contract out a hit on me. This ends here, capish?
     His race hate flared up and I saw his eyes widen with hope as Fatso from the door––who thought he was being slick––tried to bushwhack me.
I snapped back a right fist and punched butterball in the throat just hard enough to take the starch out of him. My eyes stayed locked with Morgan’s.
     The Aryan genius registered his friend dropping to the floor and gasping for air. I saw the last vestige of defiance melt away from him and his worldview reorient
     “Capish?” I repeated.
     “Capish,” Morgan whispered and I could hear in his voice the thought that his surrendering to me was like barbed wire in his guts.
     I turned my back on him dismissively and stepped around Fatso, who was still making choking noises on the ground.
I grabbed a bottle of liquid laundry detergent and poured it on the linoleum floor of the room near the door.
     “Gentlemen,” I said cheerfully and stepped out into the corridor.
The guard, a shaved-headed Puerto Rican name Lan, was standing about five yards down the hall trying to look disinterested in the laundry room proceedings. His face lit up when he saw me but not with surprise; it was joy.
     “Some of the Aryan brothers had a little accident in the laundry room. Slipped on some soap, I think.”
     He nodded. “I kind of expected that to happen to them putas.”
     “Really?” I asked.
     “Only reason I took those pricks’ money,” he said.
     “Don’t suppose I get a refund from you then, huh?”
     He shrugged. “Business is business,” he said philosophically.
     “Thought as much,” I didn’t look back as I walked back toward my cell, even when I heard Lan exclaim,” My-my, guys; a little clumsy, weren’t we?”
I resisted the urge to laugh maniacally, because Mama-san had always said to be humble.
     I laughed so hard I almost pissed myself.  








Seer’s Destiny……

3 Mar

Next in the Fireflies Fantasy GSP Promo is another release in the Carnival of Illusions series from the lovely Aubrie Dionne.


Aubrie Dionne is an author, flutist, and teacher in the New England Region. Her young adult fantasy novel, Dreams of Beauty, is published by SynergEbooks. Her work will be showcased in the fall issues of Niteblade and Silverblade magazines, Wyvern Publications Dragontales Anthology, and Nightbird Publishing’s Night Bird Singing in the Dead of Night Anthology. Her science fiction space opera, Nebula’s Music, was recently contracted by Lyrical Press and is coming out in 2010. Her short story collections are published by Gypsy Shadow Publishing.  Her pirate story will be published in Bedazzeld Ink’s Skulls and Crossbones anthology in January, 2010 and her short story, Song of the Bard, will be featured in Mindflights ezine in 2010. She currently teaches flute at Plymouth State University and a local community music school. 


Her book we are highlighting today is Seer’s Destiny


Vira’s crystal ball only shows bleak and harsh truth. Visions of her own destiny haunt her, an inevitable night where ecstasy and horror are intertwined. In her future, she is reunited with her long lost love and then viciously murdered, her limp form stained in blood. Logic screams at her to flee the carnival and challenge fate, but her heart keeps her on a steady path, longing for a last chance with the man she loves, even if it means her own demise. Can Vira change her fortune?


I need to know if she’ll be famous someday.”
    Vira’s eyes fluttered, her long, black lashes batting in the air. She tilted her head back, the rhinestones and beads glinting on her head scarf as she swayed precariously before focusing her energy and gazing into the fathomless mists of her crystal ball. Her voice seemed to resound from another dimension, solemn as an effigy.
    “There is an old farm house with chipped white paint and bricks of clay veiled in weeping willows. I see a rusty blue pick up truck and a red checkered tablecloth hanging from a clothes line, wafting on a summer breeze.”
The couple sat before her, huddling together. They leaned forward with keen eyes, eager for more. “But what of her career as an actress? What about all of the money we’ve invested in her lessons?”
    Vira peered deeper into the glass, sifting through the wisps of time. She sensed movement inside the house, a flickering motion in front of the master bedroom window and could smell the sweet tang of apple pie baking in the kitchen. Was that the outline of a woman carrying an infant?
     She pressed forward until her temples throbbed from the pressure, but the scene remained unchanged. She was losing contact with the tenuous strand of thought. As she pulled the vision closer toward her, the very boundaries that held it threatened to tear.
    “I’m sorry, there is no more that I can tell you.”
    “But you didn’t tell us anything.” The man’s eyes flared and his neck bulged with irritation like an angry bullfrog. His wife covered her face with her hands.
    Vira stifled a frustrated sigh, long black nails tapping on the crystal. People only wished to hear their fondest dreams, and never the looming reality. Other tellers would stoop so low as to feed them a delusional future in order to squeeze an extra tip. Not Vira. She prophesied the truth, whether it was invited and embraced or not.
     “I warned you before we started that my visions are not complete. I can see glimpses of her future and nothing more.”
    “You’re not a true fortuneteller, then, are you?”
Vira swept one long, ebony curl away from her eyebrow and underneath the scarf. Her blue eyes filled with a sad wisdom beyond her years. “Has it occurred to you perhaps she wants a different life?”
    Sometimes she felt like more of a counselor than a fortuneteller, persuading people to accept the futures awaiting them. The frequent disappointments were the reason she had people pay up front.
    The man stood up quickly from his chair, taking his coat in one arm and pulling his wife up with the other, “Come on, honey, we’ll try someone else. This woman is obviously a fake.”
    They stormed out the front flaps of her tent, velvet curtains swishing behind them. Outside Vira could hear the toot and chime of the rickety carousel mingling with children’s laughter as it spun around another turn, gilded horses gliding over trampled grass. Although the sky verged on sunset, the festivities just began. The carnival blossomed, —even reveled in the twilight hours of the night.
    The light of the crystal died slowly until it was only an ember of white radiance, sparkling in the center and casting shadows on the billowy awnings that shut the world out. Vira tried to shake off the unpleasant encounter. Years of dissatisfied customers did not curb the sting.
    Deep down in her gut Vera knew her powers were far from fake. In fact, she was the only true seer of the carnival, her visions disturbingly real. Oftentimes, she cursed the fact her crystal ball failed to portray the world through a rosy glass. But in the end, she’d rather know the truth than paint some dreamy picture of a future that could only exist in a fairytale.
     Vira moved to check for another customer when the crystal called her back, pulsing a warning of faint light. She took her seat reverently, placing her small hands on the table beside the bronze dragon claws sprouting from the wood, holding the crystal gently in serpentine talons.
    She knew what the crystal had in store. The scene was all too familiar, yet every time she watched it run its course, her heart raced as if it were happening in that very moment and not some distant future. Every vision began and ended the same: she beheld her wildest dreams betwixt her most frightening nightmares. Worse yet, the visions were getting more frequent, occurring daily.
    Each time she found her true love, the young man who had eluded her for almost a decade. And each time she witnessed her own death, the blood running rampant until the crystal blotted red. The vision mesmerized her, turning her to stone as she observed with her eyes wide open. She wished that somehow the chain of events would magically be broken.
    And now the crystal would tell it again.
    Vira leaned in and watched, powerless. When the mists cleared, she saw a night with a crescent moon overhead, a glossy scythe dressed in wisps of black clouds. It stared at her with a bleak, covered eye, indifferent to the scene transpiring below. Beams of light shone down on the board walk, merrymakers sauntering from stall to stall. She could make out Jimmy’s dart booth, followed by the wishing well. Behind the teetering rides loomed the cage of the mythical beast captured for display, the last one of its kind. It was the true draw of the Masquerade Carnival, for in the barred depths of the prison paced the hunched-feathered aging harpy.
    A man emerged from the crowd. His face was stronger now, leaner, with crisp angles. But his vibrant green eyes held the same brilliant luster. She remembered his name, savoring it slowly on the tip of her tongue. Bravian. One night, a decade ago, when she was a young teenager, he had asked her to run away with him.
    “Trust me,” he said, pulling her hand. His hand was hot with excitement and passion. “We can escape all of this and live a normal life.” She had refused. Tempted by lust, but not convinced. The carnival was the only home she’d ever known. It embraced her talents and cherished her with a quiet dignity. The real world would mock and shun her abilities. She would be forced to stifle them or branded witch evermore. The decision was one she would ponder these ten years, rolling it around in her mind like a loose marble, eternally unresolved.
    Now there he was in her crystal ball ten years later with the nerve to stroll her boardwalk in a calm and confident stride. More importantly, he searched, scanning the grounds. Vira’s heart wondered if he searched for her.
The vision played out like a movie she’d watched a thousand times. She saw herself meet him, fall into his arms as if the past were yesterday. She could almost feel his heat against her body as she watched the mists unfold her destiny. The two of them nibbled on caramel popcorn and frizzy cotton candy, rode the Ferris wheel and kissed underneath the stars.
    They enjoyed a wonderful night until the gunshot and the sheets of red. As always, the mists of the ball were ambiguous, blotting out the murderer’s face. She could make out the gun, a shiny steel cylinder glinting in the moonlight, movement around her, and then the pop of the explosion.
    The last image that surfaced from the murky orb was of blood. She was covered in it, lying on the ground with a grimacing mask on her face. It soaked into her billowy white seer’s shirt until the fabric was a dark scarlet. There was so much blood on her limp body it could fill the dipping tank.
Vira leaned back, her head reeling. The vision had come and gone and now the crystal lay silent. She could leave the carnival, pack her bags and attempt to change her fate. But a quiet resignation and gnawing hunger, bordering on madness, kept her here night after night.
    She craved Bravian’s touch. She yearned to see him again, to feel his arms hold her tightly. Even if it meant her own demise. Part of her feared her future, wishing it would never come, but a greater part of her beseeched it each and every day.
    Logic dictated that her destiny was unavoidable. Every future she’d ever told came true. Even if she’d try to run away, fate would wind its web together and she’d find herself back in Bravian’s arms on the appointed evening at the predestined time. Why fight the inevitable when half of your soul had already sold itself to come true?
    A hopeless romantic, that’s what I am. Vira chided herself as she stepped out into the emerging night. She swung her gold painted tarot sign of the sun and the moon commingling around from Seer’s Welcome to Temporarily Unavailable. She’d had enough disenchantment for one night and was in no mood to torture another customer with the truth. A full moon hovered over her head, predicting this night would bring only more of the same. She was safe until the next crescent moon pierced the midnight sky. Her crystal ball showed no other in each vision of her future.
    Vira walked around the rides, skirting the dank cage that held the feathered harpy. The sight of the mysterious beast always unnerved her, fear and pity creeping in like ghoulish ghosts. She had too big of a heart for such complicated emotions. It was far easier to ignore and deny rather than pity.






New Release New Release New Release New Release New Release

16 Feb

Hot off the press, new release The Extortions of Stiffani Voydalle by Stanley Bruce Carter.



Stan Carter lives in Bellevue, Nebraska. He has been in the newspaper business for nearly 30 years, serving as a reporter, copy editor, columnist and typesetter at various publications. He currently is a paginator with the Omaha World-Herald.

The Extortions of Stiffani Voydalle


Hot off the press, new release The Extortions of Stiffani Voydalle by Stanley Bruce Carter.


The Extortions of Stiffani Voydalle


The Ballingers’ maid is very good at finding dirt—not just dust and grime, but the dirty little secrets the Ballinger clan desperately wants to hide. And she’s more than happy to keep those secrets—for a price. But the handsome Ballingers soon learn it takes more than money to seal the lips of Stiffani Voydalle.




“I’ve come to clean up your dirt, sir.”

Narando Ballinger stared incredulously at Stiffani Voydalle. “At this time of night?”

Stiffani smiled. “Yes, sir. I saw the light under your door, so I figured you hadn’t gone to bed yet. May I come in?”

“There’s no dirt in here. The room is spotless. And even if it weren’t, this is hardly the proper time to be tidying up. Come back in the morning.”

“Oh, but there is some dirt in here, sir. And I’d be neglecting my duties if I didn’t tend to it right away.”

“I think you’ve been working too hard, young lady. I suggest you get a good night’s sleep. Now if you’ll excuse me . . .

He started to close the door.

“If you say so, Foster Lee,” she said.

He froze. “What did you just call me?”

She put her fingers up to her mouth. “Oh, I am sorry, sir. Slip of the tongue. I got your name mixed up with your partner’s.”

His eyes narrowed. “I have no partner.”

“Not anymore. But you did. Before that unfortunate . . . accident.”

Narando studied her face. It had been pretty once—before someone cut a big scar into it, running jaggedly from her forehead clear down to her chin. But it was her eyes that captured his attention now—green eyes, feral and hungry, like those of a jungle cat stalking its prey.

He quickly swung the door open. “Get in here,” he said gruffly.

He was a handsome man, with swarthy skin and brilliantined hair and a pencil mustache, and he was nattily attired in cream colored silk pajamas with gray trim, and maroon slippers. The glowstone lamp next to his roll-top desk was alight, and a workbook full of blank music sheets lay on the blotter, with a fancy gold-plated fountain pen next to it. Some musical notes had been jotted down on the first page of the book, with a few lines of lyrics scribbled below the staves, marred by lots of cross-outs. But most of the page was empty.

Stiffani strolled toward the desk, humming a tune—Rubber Boot Blues. It was one of Narando’s compositions, perhaps his most famous.

She sat down in the dark green swivel chair and crossed her legs. Narando inspected her shapely shins, then returned to her flawed face. He licked his lips. She picked up the workbook.

“What’s your latest song about?” she asked.

He marched to the desk and snatched the book away from her, snapping it shut.

“Look, Miss Voydalle, I don’t know what you’re up to, but I wish you’d get to the point. Why did you really come up here?”

She swung around to face him, folding her hands in her lap. “To talk about Foster Lee. A remarkable lad. Earned his living scraping the barnacles off the hulls of fishing boats down in New Orleans. Used to sing little tunes he made up on the spot while he worked.”

“What does that have to do with me?”

“Isn’t it obvious, sir?”

“No. It’s not. What makes you think there’s any connection between myself and Foster Lee?

Stiffani reached into a pocket of her white apron and took out a deck of cards.

“I understand you’re good with cards,” she said. “Ever played with a deck like this?”

His eyes slitted. “Your Mumler deck. So that’s it.”

“Correct, sir. The little scrying session I held in the parlor the other night went so well, I decided to gaze into my water bowl again and see what else I could dredge up. I’ve captured it on this card, and I thought you might like to watch it, just in case your memory needed a bit of a jog.”

“How kind of you,” he said acidly.

She riffled the cards, then fanned them out. “Pick a card, any card—as long as it’s this one.” She pushed up one of the cards with her thumb.

His hand trembled as he pulled the card from the deck. It had a black back embossed with a pentagram, and the front was white, the border decorated with Celtic designs in thistle-colored ink. But the picture in the middle was not a king or queen or joker, it was Narando Ballinger himself—not a drawing, but a sepia toned photograph. A very special kind of photograph.

Stiffani traced a magical glyph in the air with a forefinger and said, “Visions of water, in cardstock sealed, come alive now, the past reveal.”

The surface of the card glowed with soft light, and the sepia image blossomed into color—and began to move. The focal point zoomed out, revealing more of Narando’s surroundings, and sounds began to play—the plinkety-plink of a piano, the thrum of a powerful engine, the wush-wush of a paddle wheel churning through water. Narando was sitting at a round table, playing poker with three other men, all clad in gentlemen’s clothing. Two of the men were smoking cigarillos, while another had a big stogie crammed into his mouth.

Everything seemed quite amiable at first—until one of the other players suddenly grabbed Narando’s left wrist, twisted it, and plucked an ace of spades from the sleeve of Narando’s green suede jacket. Everyone stood up. A brief argument ensued. Narando was seized by his fellow players and forcibly escorted out the door onto the deck of the riverboat and hurled over the railing. He splashed into the moonlit waters of the Mississippi and shook his fist at the receding boat, then began swimming toward shore. But he tired long before he reached the bank, and began to cry out piteously, begging for help. A cry no one heard.